2:00PM Water Cooler Martin Luther King Day 2019

Dear patient readers, since this is both a travel day for me and Martin Luther King Day, I’m going to be lazy and put up some MLK material only. Tomorrow I will return at full force. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

That was then:

This is now, or not:

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Gamers who get the importance of the Oxford comma:

Those bright young gamers really are crying out for a political figure to enter their maze of twisty little passages, all alike. Who will be the first? Granted, “austerity” is not a verb, at least not yet (and why indeed not?) But they have demands! We know what they are! More verbs! And this is a good demand, the best demand: You don’t take power with adjectives, for pity’s sake.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):

TH writes: “Rosemary and some sort of Agave cactus at the Centennial Farm area of the Orange County Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa, California.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. skippy

      I would point out Chicago school proponents of a UBI perceived the need to limit democracy, so the mopes just don’t elect on the basis of increasing it or how those mentioned in the link above will just extract more rents off increased supply. Worst part is how some on the so called left take the bait and make it a human rights [tm] issue.

      I think some of this might have been lost on MLK not to mention the changes post his death.

      Just the idea that the right wing economic camp is so fixated on inflation – in money terms – makes any suggestion of a UBI something to be seriously concerned about. I mean its nothing new that inputs are sticky due to bargaining power and international price mechanics, which leaves labour as the only game in town to fiddle with [see Hudson], throwing a UBI at it does nothing to sort the fundamental problems which has manifested since wages and productivity diverged.

    1. Chauncey Gardiner

      In a speech televised on C-Span this weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said:

      “The truth about this shutdown is that it is actually not about a wall, it is not about the border, and it is certainly not about the well-being of the American people. The truth is that this is about erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”


      Bigger stakes in play in this engineered “crisis” than seem evident at first blush IMO.

      1. Eureka Springs

        While I would agree with her on the first part…. the end is both misleading for all (what democracy?) and meaningless to many. I’ve hardly heard people discuss the shutdown. In fact if I didn’t read places like NC and relied upon word of mouth I wouldn’t have known of a shutdown until about a week ago. And when I do hear talk it’s basically contempt for all of them. Contempt by all for all is the closest thing to “norm” around here.

        The truth is that this is about erosion of American democracy and the subversion of our most basic governmental norms.”

        1. BCD

          The government being shutdown isn’t normal, never has been normal and never should be considered normal because a government can’t be effective if it can’t agree to be open. That’s pretty close to the definition of a broken government.

          More importantly, a voting public who doesn’t understand why keeping the government open is critical to the proper functioning of a government or care to find out are even bigger issues than a government that can’t stay open.

          1. Eureka Springs

            Not disagreeing with you, but you will have to wait more than a month for most around here to notice, much more feel life is not norm.

            It’s as if the norm which you speak drowned in a bathtub so long ago, few could even imagine it.

      2. False Solace

        People who use the word “norms” are our enemies because the norm in D.C. is our enemy. The normal economy is inimical to the 99%. Let’s get really obvious and agree that civil war or whatever would be worse than what we have now. Sure, but declining life expectancy. This is not a good tweet by AOC.

        1. False Solace

          Let’s motivate everyone to restore “norms”! Yeah! What a rallying cry. Sort of like “inequality”. Yeah, let’s get rid of that… What motivates people is precarity in their personal lives. Not the billionaire on TV.

          Universal concrete material benefits or bust!

  1. shinola

    Perhaps not the quintessential quote from Dr. King, but one that shows his concerns went beyond just racial inequality (from 1967):

    “The problem of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without radical redistribution of racial and economic power.”
    (h/t to David Horsey of the Seattle Times).

    The good Reverend was concerned with poor people of every race; an aspect of his legacy too often left in the shadows.

    1. JBird4049

      The good Reverend was concerned with poor people of every race; an aspect of his legacy too often left in the shadows.

      That’s not an accident. His blank check speech and Poor People’s Campaign is inconvenient for many. I am sure that the Black Misleadership Class along with the then nascent NeoLiberal Counter-Reformation’s theologians were happy to ignore it.

  2. Clive

    Cacti in January! Now, that’s enough to make me wistful.

    Here’s to the end of winter, which unlike in Game of Thrones is, one hopes, going rather than coming.

    Here in southern England we’ve not (yet!) had anything remotely describable as severe winter weather (hardly any days much below 40・F and only a handful of night frosts). So there’s plenty of snowdrops (Galanthus) and, for some reason, the Hebes are still flowering.

    Hope ya’all toughing out the cold there are staying safe. We Brits are (like the Japanese, it has to be also said) are just hopeless in bad weather. An inch of snow falls south of Watford and the next day or so later there’s no milk in the supermarkets. After a week, you wonder if you’ll be reduced to strip searching mice for pieces of cheese.

    1. crittermom

      > After a week, you wonder if you’ll be reduced to strip searching mice for pieces of cheese.

      Your description of experiencing snow there still has me chuckling.
      Thank you.

    2. Dwight

      Tokyo isn’t prepared for snow. On the Sea of Japan side, it takes at least a meter of snow to slow people down much.

    3. NotReallyHere

      just had a foot of snow here and is bitter cold …. BUT would be very reluctant to swap for a wet, dark insipid winter in Northern Europe.

      Well insulated wood framed houses, wood burners and a healthy investment in road clearing equipment allows us to fully enjoy those bitter cold sunny days with a daylight moon and the crackle of snow underfoot without hardship.

      … while greasy Joan doth keel the pot ..

  3. Skip Intro

    Austerity – verb (tr.) To deconstruct and loot public assets under the guise of fiscal responsibility.

    “The troika austeritied Greece into the stone age to encourage other countries to feed their people to their banks more obediently.

    1. JBird4049

      Granted, “austerity” is not a verb, at least not yet

      Not a verb, however I do like the word “austericide” which I have heard before.


      Maybe we already have a new verb.

      I wonder if and when it appears in the Oxford or Webster’s dictionary?

            1. JBird4049

              I never liked Def Leppard, but man, that Debt Leppard group I really don’t like. Too bad I can’t turn off my aids or “lose” the LPs to get rid of them!


      1. Enquiring Mind

        Auster* search possibilities

        Larry Auster
        Nor’auster (destructive storm that flies in from the Right?)

      2. jrs

        there’s always good old: aus-terrorism. Like when Bernie Sanders talked about the real terrorism being what people are experiencing economically everyday. Yea, no kidding there.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      A. Tommy Emmanuel
      Q. Alex, what is the Venn Diagram intersection of pickin’ and grinnin’?

    2. MichaelSF

      That was great, I’ll definitely listen to some more of his videos. It is nice to find a new artist like him. With the percussion it reminded me a bit of Martin Denny’s “tiki lounge” music.

  4. Fiery Hunt

    Am I the only one who thinks Kamala Harris’ announcement (today) on MLK holiday was absolutely dumb strategy/tactics? Talk about getting no play, no buzz, no boost…lost on a day no one, and I mean NO ONE, is paying attention.

    Whoever is advising her is either a rank amateur or from the DNC. It smells ripe of Clintonesque hubris and tone-deafness to me….
    Good luck with that campaign, neoliberal darling… I lay 4-1 odds she won’t make it past California’s primary.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I think there are two issues at play:

      -one, the Democratic elite haven’t really grasped how wealth inequality has changed the electorate. What was once tolerable is no longer tolerable. The circle around those elites are protected and protect the elites in turn, but you have people who can rest easy because there have been slight improvements to the healthcare system as they won’t have a problem with healthcare or don’t believe they will.

      -the other issue is the key to Obama’s victory over HRC. What Democratic elites have ignored all these years is it was HRC, Bill, or both depending on your perspective. It wasn’t Obama’s “soaring rhetoric” as much as he was new and openly challenging the Clintons and didn’t have a pro-Iraq War vote to his credit. Even in 2016, what was the key to Sanders? The answer is HRC not having a response to her hideous foreign policy and her husband’s Presidency. Sanders started way behind Obama, but it was the same problem.

      The trash in the Democratic elite was never purged, and gerrymandering leads to safe seats where election victories over the other party are so easy. The “strategerists” of the Democratic Party who are connected to long term incumbents are never really tested, and you get the Peter Principle in politics. In a way this is a neat little date, like Obama announcing in Springfield, but Obama had a point (he wasn’t HRC who was a problematic candidate as confirmed in 2016). Harris is just there, but I’m sure she has hired the best people in the biz who didn’t see AOC coming but have figured out the key to her popularity. Expect Harris to share her trip to the dentist with us.

      1. John

        Here in California seats are not gerrymandered and the a Democrat’s have a supermajority in both houses. Hillary won the popular vote over Bernie and Donald. Hillary won the national vote by some 3M votes so she wasn’t all that terrible. I get it that you and some others don’t like her, but she did win the popular vote.

        1. nycTerrierist

          If I recall correctly, wasn’t the Dem primary called for
          Hillary the day before California voters went to the polls?

    2. NotTimothyGeithner


      Harris had a small inner circle of political staffers that micromanaged everything the AG’s office did, and every decision was funneled up to her. This could leave even simple decisions unmade for weeks if Harris left town, as she frequently did on fundraising/political trips.

      If this is accurate, well, break out some pop corn.

    3. integer

      CNN to host Iowa town hall with Kamala Harris CNN

      I’m becoming more and more convinced that Harris will end up winning the D party primary, no doubt with some “help” from the DNC. She has the full-throated support of the liberal media establishment and impeccable identity politics credentials. She also has support from Netanyahu (which means Haim Saban, AIPAC, etc. will support her), Soros (he met her in the Hamptons to discuss 2020, and she declined to prosecute OneWest), CAP, etc. I also think she will end up choosing Biden for VP.

      1. RMO

        Remember their defense when they were brought to court (briefly) by people upset about them rigging the last primary? They didn’t deny the charges they simply claimed that they were under no obligation to follow their own rules and a handful of members could just meet in a closed room and choose whoever they liked as the presidential candidate. Unless the consequences of giving the nomination to someone like Sanders are perceived as so extraordinarily dire that they dare not do just that you’re going to have another “centrist” on the ballot. I believe you’re right and she probably has a good shot… unfortunately for us all.

        1. integer

          Yeah, regardless of people like Sanders, Gabbard, Turner, and AOC, I think the D party is irredeemable. If Harris does end up nominating Biden as her VP it will be spun as the D party beginning the transition from the old guard to the new, and if Trump is the R party candidate, which is almost a certainty, the election is going resemble a civil war.

  5. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    Happy Martin Luther King Jr Day!!!!!!!

    Heres to a new year organizing class not identities…

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      Figured it would be a good day to visit the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, also known as the National Lynching Memorial. Powerful stuff. Also, free admission today – FedEx sponsored.

    1. Carey

      I thought the Taibbi piece on AOC was very good:

      >The Beltway press mostly can’t stand her. A common theme is that, as a self-proclaimed socialist, she should be roaming the halls of Rayburn and Cannon in rags or a barrel. Washington Examiner reporter Eddie Scarry tweeted a photo of her in a suit, saying she didn’t look like “a girl who struggles.”

      High priest of conventional wisdom Chris Cillizza, with breathtaking predictability, penned a column comparing her to Donald Trump. He noted the social media profiles of both allow them to “end-run the so-called ‘media filter’ and deliver their preferred message… directly to supporters.”

      Thanks for the link.

      1. False Solace

        If you’re a commoner advocating for the poor, they call you greedy. If you’re rich they call you a hypocrite.

    2. JCC

      An excellent article. Taibbi nails it, as usual.

      As we’ve seen over and over with these swipes on Ocasio-Cortez, the people defending those ideas don’t realize how powerful a stimulant for change is their own negative attention. If they were smart, they’d ignore her.

      Then again, if politicians were smart, they’d also already be representing people, not donors. And they wouldn’t have this problem.
      AOC’s new theme song

  6. Synoia

    Who will be the first? Granted, “austerity” is not a verb, at least not yet (and why indeed not?)

    Because there is already a good verb: “To Impoverish.”

    It also come complete with Subject: Impoverisher and Object: Impoverishee and History: Impoverished.

    For example: The Walton family are Impoverishers, along with Jeff bezos, all of whom of whom extracted much wealth from the now Impoverished.

    Notice the change in focus and meaning from “Rich” to “Impoverisher”.

    1. woof

      Unearned Income

      Is a term that should be used as often as possible. It will change the way average people understand these arguments. And, it happens to be true.
      (it’s also been known to really hurt the feelings of rich people)

  7. Plenue

    I can’t help but notice that the FBI letter misspells ‘behavior’. In the very first sentence.

    America’s finest.

    1. aletheia33

      could be just a typo.
      they may have had to hire a mafia type to type it (for security reasons)
      who didn’t have the patience (or dexterity) to use the wite-out.\
      those were tough times back then,
      when the FBI was just proving its usefulness in our democracy.
      the good old days…

  8. Briny

    In other news today, a 100 megaton thermoironic event was detected at FBI headquarters today. Casualties are yet to be reported.

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