2:00PM Water Cooler 2/8/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I must again make this an open thread, since I am finishing up a post on yesterday’s Green New Deal action. However, I do want to hoist and extract some comments from yesterday:

From Amfortas the Hippie:

My cousin in law’s husband(!?) is a right wing business repub…dyed in the wool…now retired, and older and sicker(and comfortable…and has rediscovered Weed!).We never got along, at all, until last year.

I got high with him over 2 days this week and rode around our place and the neighbors bigger place(so, the whole little valley), looking at trees and grass and the too early flowers… and talked about everything from taxing the uberrich to medicare for all to a new new deal to killing Big Ag to a pox on both parties….and he agreed without reservation! Him: ” I don’t need a billion bucks…and I can’t see why anyone does…”

This is an extreme and extended version of a thousand tiny symposia I find myself in, everywhere from the feed store to the produce aisle to the mom and pop gas station where I get beer.

And again from Amfortas:

I do it out of long habit…thinking of myself as an anthropologist embedded with a hostile tribe is how I learned to cope with being a weirdo smart kid in rural Texas…and I wasn’t always so circumspect…almost forgiving…of these often violent morons as I am now, lol.

it hit me around the second iraq invasion:”who are these people? and why do they believe these things?”
answering that entailed listening, rather than preaching.

This is not always easy (see: Tea Party, Hillary=”Socialist”, etc), but it has been eye opening.
If I put on my tinfoil hat, I can’t help thinking that the lack of such close fieldwork (and the evisceration of the Humanities, in general) is intentional…like Nixon killing his own marihuana(sic) report because it negated everything they were trying to push as “reality”.

To which Jerry B responded:

As much as I love NC one of my issues with blogs and the internet in general is that it lends itself to more preaching than listening. To listen IMO requires at minimum phone calls (i.e. not texting or emails!) and ideally face to face human contact. Which leads to:

I can’t help thinking that the lack of such close fieldwork

We need more “fieldwork”. Like an army of anthropologists, social workers, activists, etc. doing fieldwork and listening.

I would be very interested to hear from readers about more such fieldwork; I can think of two other commenters off the top of my head — please don’t feel slighted if my memory has failed, here– who are doing this: ArizoneSlim and CritterMom. But I bet there are others.

Adding, as a moderator/contributor, it would be great to search for and hoist such fieldwork comments, but they’re hard to find, because posts are oriented by topic. If fieldworkers want to make this a project… maybe invent a hashtag and put it in comments?

* * *

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 (via):

“GHOST APPLES: After freezing rain in Michigan, apples that hadn’t been picked got coated in ice. Many fell off the tree. Some had their insides turn to mush as apples have lower freezing points. The mush and skin fell, leaving these ‘ghost apples.'”

* * *

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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.

137 comments

    1. Monty

      That book sounds like it’s agenda driven. Better to study the underlying work and make your own mind up. His ideas about morality are different to our society, but he does make sense.

      Neitzche’s sister was a Nazi (He was not) and posthumously dragged his reputation into the gutter.

      https://partiallyexaminedlife.com/ is a great podcast where they read and discuss philosophical works in fantastic detail. I recommend you listen to their shows about Nietzsche, and all the others too.

      Reply
    2. Unna

      I agree one should read some of the original works first because they have philosophical value in themselves. And only then to read the agenda driven books, if for no other reason, in order to discover the agenda. The problem of our time is the increasing, and increasingly perceived, failure of liberal ideas. These ideas in the political world are today represented by politicians like Macron, Obama, Trudeau, etc, and despite their fake rhetoric, Trump-Bannon.

      Capitalism, Liberalism’s economic system, is in fact a totalitarian system since it totalizes and rationalizes all relationships and modes of “being in the world” into economic ones defining all value only as economic value. It therefore dissolves all social relationships including all social identity – and I imagine something like “identity politics” should be useful to Capitalism only so long as it furthers the breakdown of larger social identities because no social identity ultimately has economic value except the “individualist” identity of “economic man.” Is “economic man” really the Last Man? And who wouldn’t want to escape this?

      Which is a long way of saying that the so called alt-right poses a potential danger so long as the present political-economic system remains in place. So it’s a good thing to understand these people. They are neither liberals nor capitalists. They, for example, describe Libertarianism as the logical economic expression of liberal individualism which they hate. How much is enough money, they ask. I am my brothers keeper, they claim. They’re friendly to the environment, and why wouldn’t they be. Social relationships exist in a physical and social ecology. But make no mistake, they are very much fascists with all that entails.

      My fear is that the Bernies and the Corbyns may fail. And after that, how long will it take for the Deplorables to finally understand Trump to be a fake in the same way the “progressive left” eventually understood Obama to be a fake. The failure of Obama and the loss of Clinton opened the possibility of Bernie, et al. The failure of Trump will open the possibility of what?

      Reply
      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > no social identity ultimately has economic value

        Au contraire, identity is the driver for enormous industries for producing class and cultural markers (including extremely expensive and intense body modification).

        Reply
  1. DonCoyote

    OK folks, I’m going to really digress and talk about Distraction, a 21 year old SF novel by Bruce Sterling (which is set in 2044 in the US). I recently finished re-reading it, and I highly recommend it.

    I think I originally read this not long after publication, and may have reread it once since then. But this is a novel that seems more prescient the farther from publication and the closer we get to its setting. It’s an SF novel about politics and the political process (among other things–the protagonist is a political consultant, and he US in 2044 has 16 political parties) and so it seems relevant to WC as well as of potential interest to this audience.

    As an example of its prescience, let me offer the following quote:

    It had never occurred to the lords of the consumer society that consumerism as a political philosophy might one day manifest the grave systemic instabilities that Communism had. But as those instabilities multiplied, the country had cracked. Civil society shriveled in the pitiless reign of cash. As the last public spaces were privatized, it became harder and harder for American culture to breathe. Not only were people broke, but they were taunted to madness by commercials, and pitilessly surveilled by privacy-invading hucksters. An ever more aggressive consumer-outreach apparatus caused large numbers of people to simply abandon their official identities. It was no longer any fun to be an American citizen.

    That sounds like a pretty fair summary of America circa 2019. It was published in 1998.

    Here’s an extended review/plot summary in Slate from a few months back

    It’s very easy for science fiction to say that things are bad and they’re only going to get far worse… It’s radical for science fiction to say “times are bad, they’re getting weird, yet people will survive by political organization” without resorting to deus ex machina like aliens, or A.I., or a superhuman messiah. This optimism, even in the face of entirely reasonable cynicism about the political process, is why it’s important to read Distraction now.

    Here’s a review from Cory Doctorow, written eleven years ago

    Every single chapter — every one! — has at least enough material for five great speculative short stories…But that’s only one of its three signal virtues. The other two are: the insight Sterling brings to the nature of politics and the political process in the age of networked economies and systems; and the vivid, larger-than-life characters who populate this book.

    And now, some more quotes from the book itself:

    One of the great beauties of politics as an art form was its lack of restriction to merely standard forms of realism.

    You’re too straight, you just don’t understand these guys’ priorities. They don’t expect any law or justice from the U.S. government. They don’t even expect the government to be sane. The whole federal system just detached itself from them and floated off into deep space. They think of the government as something like bad weather. It’s something you just endure.

    Someday soon, the whole world is gonna be just like Louisiana. Because the seas are rising, and Louisiana is a giant swamp. The world of the future is a big, hot Greenhouse swamp. Full of half-educated, half-breed people, who don’t speak English and didn’t forget to have children. Plus, they are totally thrilled about biotechnology. That’s what tomorrow’s world is gonna look like—not just America, mind you, the whole world. Hot, humid, old, crooked, half-forgotten, kind of rotten. The leaders are corrupt, everyone is on the take. It’s bad, really bad, even worse than it sounds…but you know what? It’s doable, it’s livable! The fishing’s good! The food is great!

    America hadn’t really been suited for its long and tiresome role as the Last Superpower, the World’s Policeman. As a patriotic American, Oscar was quite content to watch other people’s military coming home in boxes for a while. The American national character wasn’t suited for global police duties. It never had been. Tidy and meticulous people such as the Swiss and the Swedes were the types who made good cops. America was far better suited to be the World’s Movie Star. The world’s tequila-addled pro-league bowler. The world’s acerbic, bipolar stand-up comedian. Anything but a somber and tedious nation of socially responsible centurions.

    Now, for the first time, the President began to look genuinely powerful, even dangerous. This was a classic political coalition: it had worked in Medieval France. It was the long-forgotten bottom of the heap, allied with the formerly feeble top, to scare the hell out of the arrogant and divisive middle.

    Like a sorcerer slamming swords through a barrel, the President began to bloodlessly reshape the American body politic.
    The Normalcy manifesto was a rather astonishing twenty-eight point document. It stole the clothes of so many of America’s splintered political parties that they were left quite stunned. The President’s national plan for action bore only the slightest resemblance to that of his party platform, or that of his supposed core constituency in the Left Tradition Bloc. The President’s idea of Normalcy had something in it to flabbergast everyone.
    The dollar would be sharply devalued and made an open global currency again…America’s eight hundred and seven federal police agencies would be streamlined into four. There was a comprehensive reform plan for the astoundingly victorious American military.
    There was also a new national health plan, more or less on a sensible Canadian model. This would never work. It had been put there deliberately, so that the President’s domestic opposition could enjoy the pleasure of destroying something.

    Reply
    1. Christy

      >DonCoyote,
      While your contributions are very much appreciated, I must ask that you keep them shorter in the future in order to have them posted.

      What you revealed of the book does make it sound interesting, but a shorter ‘tease’ may, in fact, encourage others to want to read it even more. ;)

      Reply
        1. Yves Smith

          Do not undermine this site, which is what you do when you argue with a moderator. I would have said the same thing but more harshly. We don’t approve long comments and made an exception because this is an open thread. So she is simply informing him of our long-established policies.

          Reply
  2. crittermom

    I’m hoping that other readers are staying warm & dry–especially those in the midwest & further east–during the recent weather in which Mother Nature has reminded us once again she always rules.

    I’ve been trying to get a photo that includes both flora & snow for Lambert, but alas, the snow has been very scarce here in west-central New Mexico.

    We got a little yesterday but it was quickly gone. We’re still in drought conditions here, while the eastern US appears to be getting much more moisture than they need.

    I did manage to get out & take a photo of cactus under snow, but IMO it’s a pretty dull picture. Doesn’t ‘pop’.

    Guess I’ll have to dig into my archives.

    Stay warm & be safe everyone!

    Reply
    1. Catman

      Seattle’s going to be whalloped today – 2 inches knocked us out of commission for a few days. Now we’re looking at 6 or so.
      Grocery stores out of stock. Dispensaries with lines around the block.
      It’ll be interesting!

      Reply
    1. voteforno6

      Indeed. Not only did she call out her own colleagues (some of whom were probably on “call time” during this hearing), but pointed out, as bad as that is, the President has even fewer restraints. On top of that, she did it in language easy enough for the layman to understand.

      Reply
  3. Arizona Slim

    Fieldwork? I’m all over it!

    My latest foray into the field involves taking the bus. Due to a slowly healing back injury, I’ve been off the road since last October. The good news is that the bike is now attached to an indoor trainer, and I can ride it for about 10 minutes. And then the boredom factor kicks in.

    Anyway, back to the bus. Here are my observations:

    1. Tucson’s SunTran system goes everywhere I need it to go. Most of the time.

    2. From my exalted spot in the the standee area at the front of the bus, I see a lot of fumbling with fares. Which makes me wonder why the bus can’t be free.

    3. Our city’s bus drivers are the unsung heroes of the local mental health care system. If you can even call it a system. I’ve seen many a driver dealing with passengers who, shall we say, are not all there. And the drivers do it without losing their cool. Ever.

    Reply
    1. DJG

      Arizona Slim: Fieldwork on public transportation. An anthropological goldmine. I always sit at the back of the bus, even the back of Chicago’s double-long articulated buses.

      In December, I was coming back from a conference for work. I was sitting way in the back when two guys got on who had been selling things on the street–maybe at a sporting event. They may have already dipped into the cups, and there was another man in the back row who was sneaking beers out of paper bag. You can tell that I was on the Clark 22, the bus of mystery. The two men, who were Hispanic, one ostensibly straight, the other his gay cousin with jewelry, engaged the black man with the beers in conversation. They used some, errrrr, ethnic slurs that seemed to push things over the edge. Yet the conversation continued–a kind of rumble of race, sexual orientation, liquor, and ways to make money. The black man kept reminding them, You shouldn’t use that word. They’d respond, But we don’t mean anything…

      When I got up, having ridden the bus from the Loop to my neighborhood some 7 miles north, the straight Hispanic said something as I made my way to the back exit door. I said, “What?” He said, “You look like a lawyer.” I said, “I’m not a lawyer. I’m a writer.” Exiting with a flourish, natch.

      Meanwhile, because of the loudness emanating from the back seats, some of the millennials were kind-a crouching down in their seats.

      So: A participant observer.

      Next up: What happens when you take a long-distance train like the California Zephyr and people have lots of time to tell stories over lunch, like the woman who traveled long ago at the age of 22 to meet her father, for the first time, in Chicago.

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        had a similar experience taking my dad to a working class bar and grill near the hospital. they have a patio, where one can sit with beer and a cig and read.
        this time, a bunch of uber drivers were hanging around, waiting for calls.
        white, black, hispanic, asian. under 30, I’d guess
        got to arguing/prancing/testifying about something to do with san antonio sports…friendly heated like,lol.and very loud. lots of mixed jargon that I didn’t fully grok(especially sports stuff)
        dad was nervous as a cat(upper middle class, small executive. doesn’t rub elbows with the riff raff) Thought a barfight was fixin to erupt.. I was happy as a clam.
        prolly 70% of my observations are from eavesdropping like this….people in their own little worlds, holding forth.
        all our delusions of great monolithic social/idpol groupings are as dried grass in the wind.
        it’s a rainforest out there, gloriously fecund.

        Reply
      2. ElectricMiniVanGuy

        Back in the 90s – the Clark 22 was the domain of the giant purple Jesus. He carried an actual cross all over the city (or at least north and south on Clark street).

        Reply
    2. Oregoncharles

      ” And then the boredom factor kicks in.” That’s why people mount a TV or computer in front of the bike. Podcasts or music might work, too. Ideally, the bike procudes the power for said entertainment.

      The bus is free in Corvallis. There was a “fee” (disguised tax) increase to pay for it, authorized by the voters. they keep pretty busy, and I imagine the driver’s job is a lot easier. Must be a safety advantage, too, from less distracted drivers.

      There’s a sad history to our mental health “system.” I think it was in the 70’s people realized that the mental hospitals were mostly bad for people, and created a real danger of false commitments. So they were mostly shut down, supposedly to be replaced with community-based services. I think we all know what happened to that idea. Now the jails serve as emergency mental “hospitals.”

      Reply
    3. Left in Wisconsin

      On free public transit: https://freepublictransport.info

      So I’m teaching Contemporary American Society to college freshmen this semester and this is one of the things we talk about. The class is structured around collective action problems and externalities, which would not be my preferred framing but you play the cards you are dealt, and there is a very strong economic case to be made for free (no fare) public transit. The public benefits are substantial. The problem, of course, is that public transit costs money and so you would need to get the money some other way. Should be a solvable problem but obviously there are interests and politics.

      Here in Madison, the university gives every student a bus pass (of course they simply add it to tuition) which has been a god send to the bus system – stable funding and lots of riders, which is one of the things federal funding is based on. The local community college has chosen to do the same (perhaps only for full-time students) and state government and the university (for employees) have schemes in place to encourage workers to take the bus rather than drive (state gov still subsidizes downtown parking but the UW makes employees pay through the nose for a parking space). Madison is ideal for public transit – the core of the town/city is an isthmus with limited land and makes downtown a convenient transfer point – and even so the public transit system is fragile.

      Free public transit needs to be a central part of any Green New Deal.

      Reply
      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Yep, our berg has free buses for anyone with a student ID. But not free buses for anyone working minimum wage. Great schedules for students. Not so great if you come in to the University to work at 4 a.m.

        Reply
    4. Procopius

      As to your point number 2, the short answer is “capitalism.” A longer answer is the philosophical stance, “If I don’t use it I ain’t gonna pay for it,” followed by, “Those who use something should pay for it.”

      Reply
    5. Cal2

      Try this, ask the person next to you if the think we need national health care. Make sure others can hear you. Ask in a joking manner so that people don’t feel cornered:

      “Anybody here happy with our healthcare payment system?”
      People will interject and I have yet to find anyone willing to defend the current system.

      Reply
    1. Pat

      They are getting so big! And nice to see Dad!

      Thank you so much for the update! It is always a better day with Freya’s puppies!

      Reply
  4. Isotope_C14

    Since the United states of (Family Blog) decided that neo-liberal austerity was the reason that scientists weren’t worth exploiting, I’m now in Berlin, training their (German mostly, some other EU students) MD’s and MD/PhD students to question everything (including bad data). [Note, scientific exploitation, I’m fully aware, is nothing like real exploitation, though the 20k/year salaries in some areas of the US are pretty insulting]

    I *do* some preaching, primarily anti-cap, and lots of listening, and discussing scientific ideas. It’s amazing to see how many are now deeply distrustful of a system that says:

    “Well, I’m the head PhD of the lab, and because my MD/PhD works with you 5% of the time, we get to be the lead and corresponding author, and you get a middle authorship”.

    The kiddos are being taught real quick that academia is theft. Theft of work, theft of ideas. One of the brightest students we have early-on said he likes capitalism. 1 year later, he despises it. The blinders are coming off faster for the young now that the internet is around, and no one watches TV here to get mindless propaganda drilled into their head that hard work always results in reward.

    These kids, and I call them kids not as an insult, I just could be their dad if they were my first-born, are some of the smartest people I’ve ever met at their age. When I was 20ish, people were just not as sharp. The Germans speak better English than Americans half the time. It’s a real crime what the austerity capitalists did to the US.

    It’s no secret here that the Germans are known for their engineering, but their medical students, as far as I can tell, are the cream of the crop 90% of the time. On a related note, they love to travel, and EVERY single one of them says they have no interest in going to the US. That’s a fascinating change, not only will we perhaps see the dollar dropped as the world reserve currency in the near future, but it sure isn’t thought of as a travel destination.

    I mean, some flint lead-water, some school shootings, and some crumbling infrastructure, sounds like an adventure!

    Reply
    1. Sanxi

      As a PhD-MD and PhD in Engineering, I run Siemens medical. Came by it sorta by accident, I’m from Ann Arbor by way of Boston. We’re setup like Stalag 13 except no-one wants to be the Germans. The board pretends to tell us what to do and we pretend to do it. It’s nice actually to be someplace where intelligence is seen as valuable. My guys do however want to travel to the USA but then I have very special itinerary – urban and eco abominations. Change the perspective to change the experience. Solidarity, my brother.

      Reply
  5. prodigalson

    For fieldwork the American Conservative gives a view into ideology realignment in conservative circles based on the ongoing civilizational crisis that is late stage capitalism.

    TAC published two different articles in the last week with boiler-plate Randian, CATO approved free market gibberish as the solution to various ills in society and both were roundly demolished in the comments sections by conservatives of all stripes.

    As I’ve said before, when you’ve lost Tucker Carlson on the glories of hyper-capitalism then your ideology is well beyond its sell date. It’s impossible to hide the carnage, corruption, and society-wide grinding down taking place cross spectrum based on our “greed is good” decisions since the 80’s.

    I’m a conservative evangelical and I’m pretty much fine with AOC and a Socialist-capitalist hybrid approach going forward on purely economic issues. Like Dreher at TAC i’m nervous about the IdPol aspects of moving left, and IdPol taking supremacy over actually delivering real world tangible benefits when push comes to shove over prioritizing legislation between the two. Having said that I’m generally willing to risk it, and support AOC types given the current dumpster fire of trying to live in America.

    Reply
    1. Carolinian

      Meanwhile the Trotskyites at the World Socialist Web Site think AOC is a fake socialist and another sheepdog to boot. So perhaps fieldwork should also include what mid 20th style leftists–those few that are around–are thinking. It’s great that many conservatives are giving up on what Bush the elder once called Voodoo economics, but that likely means they want to return to the warm embrace of Rockefeller Republicanism and an era when Eisenhower could proclaim the New Deal to be eternal. If capitalism itself is the problem then we are still a long way from a solution or much public and private conversation about it.

      http://www.wsws.org/

      Reply
      1. Plenue

        Fortunately that type of leftist is utterly irrelevant these days. They can be extremely good for analysis, but they’re useless for actually getting anything done.

        See also the weird smugness places like CounterPunch have about Sander’s ‘failed revolution’. Sanders has managed to irrevocably change the political landscape in this country by forcing genuine left-wing ideas back onto the public’s radar. The Democratic Party spends much of its time and effort these days in a desperate holding action. What has CounterPunch ever accomplished?

        Reply
        1. jrs

          Ideas yes and a lot more activity but the verdict is out, because you can’t eat ideas, you cant take shelter in ideas, etc. So not failed, but not yet born.

          Reply
        2. Partyless Poster

          I’ve been reading Counterpunch for forever and it seems like its really going downhill.
          St.Clair likes to diss on both parties which is good, but then pushes Russia hysteria and Idpol.
          Very disappointing since I thought he was more of a big picture type and both of those things are obvious misdirection to help Dems
          Plus a lot of the editorials are about 2 paragraphs long and say nothing.

          Reply
          1. Carolinian

            The passing of Cockburn was a blow to the site and St. Clair is no Cockburn (he’d probably be the first to say that himself). But perhaps he should get credit for hanging in and keeping it going on the view that a diminished Counterpunch is better than no Counterpunch. The leftysphere needs all the help it can get.

            Their articles do vary in quality and some of the best contributors have moved elsewhere.

            Reply
            1. jrs

              many of the articles now are downright bad (more often than not), but some are good, even quite good. St Clair himself always writes a good editorial.

              They keep an ember burning when noone else does. But there’s more than an ember burning Right Now.

              And one can attribute it to people like Sanders, and they have definitely played their part, but are we really truly going to say economic factors (and other events like environmental events as well, but economics is probably the biggest factor) have had no part in where we are now? That’s why getting lost in what someone has accomplished is kind of neither here nor there. Could Sander’s have caught fire in 1993 or in 2005? I’m not a hard Marxist, I don’t believe in historical inevitability, but stuff factors in.

              Reply
              1. Plenue

                “That’s why getting lost in what someone has accomplished is kind of neither here nor there.”

                Is it though?

                Regardless, the real problem is that someone like Sanders is ultimately a force for good, and Counterpunch seeks to undermine him at every opportunity. He is pushing for and bringing attention to policies that will demonstrably make people’s lives better, especially in the short term. Yet he gets smeared as a sheepdog etc. by people who have literally nothing else to offer in his place. I know they want The Revolution™ to happen tomorrow, but I seriously doubt it will. And even if it does, that’s no reason to sabotage attempts to improve things through the currently existing system. And however much some may poo-poo them, Sanders New Deal ideas are radical by the standards of the current ‘acceptable’ political landscape.

                Reply
      2. jrs

        it’s good to be skeptical, those with power generally do compromise with the power structure, sometimes too much.

        Capitalism itself is the problem depending on what one is defining as the issue. Global environmental crises? Well yes then yea really hard to imagine capitalism and sustainability working together.

        Reply
        1. Carolinian

          hard to imagine capitalism and sustainability working together

          Indeed. And re the above, I’m not endorsing the WSWS point of view, but if a breadth of perspectives is needed then then there are some well to the left of Sanders or AOC and they have their points. It’s not just the conservatives who are seeking different paths.

          Reply
      3. Left in Wisconsin

        One way we will know we have a revived left is a large range of opinions on the left, lots of internal squabbling, lots of people calling each other doctrinaire or sell-outs, political candidates of the left calling each other out and trying to undermine each other, etc. We are nowhere close to that yet but certainly have made substantially progress in the last couple of years (which I attribute primarily to Sanders and websites like this one). One helpful thing is the doctrinaire demand of the neoliberal DP for strict adherence to the neoliberal playbook. That can only serve to open people’s eyes. It seems amazing to me that they don’t see this. OTOH, it’s impossible to see what you are incapable of seeing.

        Reply
    2. Darthbobber

      One author, whose name I don’t recall or I’d credit them, said that every tenable system historically operated on at least 3 different logic’s, a social one, an economic one, and a political one, which operated in a fairly flexible creative tension with each other. He opined that the neoliberal variant of globalism proposed to let the economic logic simply dictate everything, leaving the social and political structures to accommodate it as well as they could. He didn’t offer a good prognosis for the longevity of a system operating like that.

      Polanyi and several other authors make the point that a consistent “pure” capitalism as espoused by some economic theologians, is as much a Utopian vision as any work of Utopian fiction, and that attempts to realize it in practice always bring social and political devastation in their wake. (also economic devastation, when viewed from any social perspective.)

      Reply
    3. Amfortas the Hippie

      ^^”…I’m a conservative evangelical and I’m pretty much fine with AOC and a Socialist-capitalist hybrid approach going forward on purely economic issues….”^^^
      I’ve seen this a lot out here…it looks analogous to “Coming Out”…which is both touching and somewhat amusing.
      no one is shouting “New Deal” from the rooftops, and there’s still plenty of thought police(preachers and party agitators and angry uncle or fierce grandma), but the fever, operative since the afternoon of 9-11, seems to be breaking.
      the thought police avoid me, aside from when they hafta say hello to be polite. They don’t engage me.
      people who haven’t come to the “Coming Out” juncture…one woman in particular comes to mind…it’s like they’re trying to convince themselves when they say things like “maybe trump will pull us out of it…”….and the weird thing is that you can see in their eyes that they KNOW that they’re trying to convince themselves….maybe even fishing for some wink or nod that it’s OK to have lost one’s sociopolitical faith.
      That’s entirely different from even 5 years ago, when True Belief and assuredness and Orthodoxy (st Hannity, et alia) was the order of the day.
      I reckon that the Stages of Grief comes into play, here…it’s a psychological and spiritual process…like someone said, the orthodoxy is become more and more obviously moribund, so folks are rudderless, and don’t know any more how they fit into this confusing world.
      That’s both a great danger as well as a great opportunity.

      Reply
        1. Isotope_C14

          CO2 dictates we are well over the edge.

          Wouldn’t be a bad idea in my humble opinion to put a few metal plaques in space that are written in a number of languages, with a few equations on them.

          One that shows all the elements in their simplest forms, one that shows Hydrogen with one valence electron, Carbon with 4, and the shapes of all the molecules for the final equation:

          (as a sample for the complete equation)

          C9H20 + 14O2 -> 9CO2 + 10H20 = XXX
          ^^^ = XXX

          Though, I may be wrong. Jesus saves they tell me.

          Never seen evidence for it, but I’m pretty sure CO2 kills.

          Reply
      1. Sanxi

        “don’t know any more how they fit into this confusing world.”, You got that right, and with that and not being too much of a jerk one can float some ideas out, like maybe no matter where you are we just can’t keep this whole arrangement we currently have with reality going. Keep up the good works, play it forward.

        Reply
  6. XXYY

    We need more “fieldwork”. Like an army of anthropologists, social workers, activists, etc. doing fieldwork and listening.

    Needless to say, the original New Deal included the hiring of armies of social scientists to do things like collect oral histories and write histories of towns and obscure biographies. This all used 1930s technology of course.

    It’s easy to imagine a Green New Deal doing something similar, though of course with present day recording technologies and the internet, the work product could be phenomenal. Unlike the 30s, workers could participate at a distance, providing work across the country to anyone with the need for work.

    Mind boggling to think about.

    Reply
    1. polecat

      But to keep the IT giant’s big, dirty, greasy, insidious mitts from contaminating the well of good ..
      Now, That’s the rub, ain’t it .. how to separate the good technology, and I say that with not some little reservation … from the bad techologists ??

      Maybe using pencils, paper notepads, and an oldfashioned non-hackable tape recorder is the better strategy.

      Reply
    2. Left in Wisconsin

      It’s easy to imagine a Green New Deal doing something similar

      This is a fantastic point. Along with free public transit, it is now a core element of my GND. I would argue that, as in the 30s, it would be important to meet people face-to-face.

      Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Needless to say, the original New Deal included the hiring of armies of social scientists to do things like collect oral histories and write histories of towns and obscure biographies. This all used 1930s technology of course.

      As did Mass Observation in the UK in the 30–50s, and as the GND could do.

      Reply
    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      In fairness, Jeb! had a plan of sorts and is a proper Republican. Schultz suffers from the delusion libertarianism (with obviously no freedom for women or minorities or else it would be libertarian) would be popular. Jeb! knew he needed sheepdogs and probably expected HRC to not meet expectations. With a little bit of the old Katherine Harris magic, there was a way. I feel Rufio caught him off guard. The “none of the above” vote stayed with Trump instead of being split three ways. Carson was way too weird (and not right for the GOP or Virginia’s Democratic Party), and Carly Fiorino seemed to not be ready for a campaign. Rand Paul didn’t work hard enough to keep his weirdos from drifting to Trump. Without a solidified Florida, I think Jeb! couldn’t hold together his needed voters who started to look for alternatives to Trump including an obvious sheepdog in Kasich.

      Schultz’s plan seems to be to convince people libertarianism is awesome.

      Reply
  7. Lee

    The kindness of strangers

    How an economist’s idea to create kidney transplant chains has saved lives
    https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/how-an-economists-idea-to-create-kidney-transplant-chains-has-saved-lives

    The altruistic impulse of donors willing to give a kidney to a complete stranger is deeply touching. It sparks glimmers of hope for the future of our species. Not to be a buzz killer but I do wonder what what role one’s insurance status may play in these arrangements.

    Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      ‘Thank you for donating your kidney. Please pay the $40,000 to take it out. kthnxbye’

      I actually tried to read the transcript. Then actually watched a minute of video to figure out wtf was going on. I did not figure out what was going on. I never made it to where they said “charity organ donation gala type thing.” I gave up after recognizing the News Hour’s version of John Stossel. It’s been fifteen years, you’d think they’d hire someone fresh.

      I bet one pays a lot more for insurance once one gives away a kidney.

      Reply
  8. polecat

    It’s snowing on the Olympic Peninsula as I type, not much now, but later the amounts are to increase, make a mess of things … traffic wise, at the least !! Here’s hoping the city has it’s act together to de-ice and plow the arterials so people, including polecat’s better half, doesn’t get stuck ! Fortunately, we have a stove, and enough cordwood to keep the abode warm, and have stocked up on food as well. Hoping the power doesn’t crap out, as this would be really awful for those who rely on e- juice for heat.
    Now, while it’s true the we western Washingtonians don’t experiance the kind of blizzard conditions futher east, we do get hammered at least once every decade or so …
    We’ll have to wait just a bit longer for Spring to hop forward.

    Reply
  9. Clive

    Failed Fieldwork I’m ‘Fraid

    In my town this week, much excitement about a blaze on the industrial park, where a “fulfilment centre” (which I don’t suppose is very fulfilling) went up in smoke https://www.andoveradvertiser.co.uk/news/17415364.firefighters-work-through-the-night-to-bring-ocado-blaze-under-control/

    Now, before any of you smart arses chime in with “yeah, righty-ho Clive, film at eleven”, this facility was one of those new fangled fully automated robotic operations. Inside, was apparently, just 100,000 sq. ft. of containers, merchandise for grocery home delivery and robots doing the fetching, sorting and packing.

    Which was all very fine and dandy. Until there was, reportedly, a small fire in a corner of the plant. This should have been easily dealt with by firefighters. But unfortunately no one seemed to have considered what happens if you build an autonomous robotised facility designed specifically to not accommodate people. ‘Cos they just get in the way, don’t they? The firefighters could not get beyond the perimeter to tackle the blaze. They tried cutting holes in the middle of the roof to gain access, but to no avail. There was no other options apart from letting the thing just burn itself out.

    Anyhow, I walked to the other side of town to do some on the spot reportage. About half a mile before I got there, the police politely told me to go away. I sat and had a coffee nearby and watched the fire trucks go by. Unfortunately that’s the limit of my fieldwork.

    Sorry everyone, I tried to grab a Naked Capitalism exclusive on this tech flame out. But I failed miserably.

    Reply
    1. Lee

      Since the Andover Adervertiser doesn’t regularly show up on my news feed here on the left coast of the USA, this is a story I otherwise would not have come across. Could this represent a robot revolt? Are there any robot suspects?

      Reply
    2. Darius

      Do you suppose the owners just wrote off the loss for the insurance and will just move on? I suspect this won’t be catastrophic for the oligarchs. Just another transaction.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        The thought certainly occurred to me, hence my thwarted attempts at field reporting. Ocado, the building owner, is a former tech unicorn that’s reinventing itself and has a shall we say interesting financial history.

        Reply
        1. Earl Erland

          I wonder how hard it would be to slip “Greek Lightening” code into a robot. And, would it/could it ever be discovered?

          Reply
    3. crittermom

      Hey, we applaud your efforts nonetheless!

      You brought up an interesting point, that of the firefighters not being able to access the fire.

      I suppose since robots don’t have to use a restroom or leave their station, perhaps to keep overhead down the company attempted to use all available space, never considering what would happen in the event of a fire?

      I suspect insurance companies may now be scrambling to come out with ‘regulations” about that now to protect their own bottom line when insuring factories using them.

      Reply
      1. Oregoncharles

        Britain doesn’t have fire codes? Oh yeah, that Grenfell tower that burned. Maybe they don’t.

        I hope a large building the fire department can’t get into would be illegal here. Maybe there, too, in which case their insurance has a handy out.

        Reply
        1. crittermom

          Oh, my! I didn’t mean to sound like I thought they didn’t have fire codes.
          What I was referring to was the fact the warehouse was apparently fully automated with “robots doing the fetching, sorting and packing” as Clive said.

          Since actual people used to do this work, I was wondering how quickly insurance companies have kept up with such changes.

          Thinking that comment over more, however, insurance companies have probably been ahead of it since the first Ford rolled off the assembly line.

          I hope Clive will keep us posted of the final outcome, as to whether they broke fire codes. Should be interesting.

          Reply
          1. Procopius

            Interesting that the Doonesbury comic strip just showed the series of strips from when Duke torched Club Scud for the insurance. Chinese New Year in Thailand used to see an epidemic of warehouse fires, until Field Marshal Sarit decreed arson is a capital offense and had a couple of people shot. Warehouse fires are no longer a seasonal occurrence. Anybody heard about QuadrigaCX?

            Reply
      2. Grebo

        IT server rooms tend to have fire suppression systems that fill the room with snuff gas. You’d think a robot warehouse would do the same. Perhaps the fire brigade should carry a bottle of the stuff too, for when they know no-one is inside.

        Reply
    4. lambert strether

      That’s the second distribution center fire story I’ve seen in the last few weeks; the first was in Ontario, Canada, I think.

      Reply
      1. Painter's Drunk

        Some interesting notes on automated storage and retrieval warehouses

        Back in the 70’s in a large manufacturing operation used 4’X4′ lugs of parts that were shuttled in and out of such a warehouse. Except if you had had a bit of a hang over it was possible to throw some cardboard into the lug, curl up and have the operator shuttle you back in to the racks for a snooze. This was taking a chance since the computers of the day often lost lugs. Since the rack were some 50′ high it could be a real adventure to get out.

        At that time the flatness of the warehouse floors was paramount since a little bit of tilt on the floor slab could put the lift mast way out of position. A good bit of effort, engineering, and money went into making a flat floor.

        As far as fire goes many U.S. warehouses carry fire insurance which includes a requirement for sprinklers. Not to say fire risk is eliminated but it is greatly reduced.

        And for insurance claims – The old rule of thumb used to be that if the losses were greater than
        $ 100,000 arson was very likely.

        Reply
  10. Timmy

    “Fieldwork” is a useful euphemism describing what “engagement” used to mean before it was co-opted to be a description of what you do on a social media platform (i.e., liking someone else’s post) because the platform wanted to be the intermediary for all your “engagements”.

    Reply
    1. willf

      Doesn’t “fieldwork” have connotations of an academic studying a community (or a people) rather than listening to (or learning from) them? One is reminded of all the myriad stories of NYT reporters sitting in diners in rural America, talking to Trump supporters, and the way that their smugness comes oozing out between the paragraphs.

      Reply
  11. Robert Hahl

    Some great guitar players.

    Mark Knopfler – Speedway at Nazareth
    https://youtu.be/QYtU1GfqjZ0

    Courtney Hartman and Taylor Ashton – Dead to Me
    https://youtu.be/C832OUXGkWc
    Courtney Hartman is famous around D.C. for making guitar look easy.

    Liz Carroll, John Doyle – The Chandelier / Anne Lacey’s
    https://youtu.be/2A1yG-DIkGk

    Cynthia Gooding – La Llorona
    https://youtu.be/EK2n7Hd7zTU

    Tony Joe White – Tunica Motel
    https://youtu.be/BkxZ1D9BDqU

    Reply
  12. Darthbobber

    So Amfortas talks to people instead of delivering condescending set piece lectures. There’s a novel concept, and one that a lot of SJWs of my acquaintance would do well to take on board.

    There were many among the cognoscenti of Occupy Philadelphia who dealt with arrivals from outside the walled garden portion of what called itself the Philadelphia left as if they were in a role of bringing true enlightenment to the heathen. This had the predictable effect.

    Reply
    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      aye. the 30% of these encounters where I actually talk to folks, it’s still mostly listening. subtle socratic method to draw out, and/or coax down a productive/innerestin path when it looks like they’re veering into sports talk or something.(honed this with my boys).
      again, 70 or so % of these anecdotes are from simply eavesdropping in the checkout line or the elevator.
      large dumbo ears come in handy, it turns out.
      and people readily and unwittingly oblige.

      Reply
  13. Roy G

    Re: fieldwork, I have taken myself offline from most political discussions because I can’t stand anymore the across the board ignorance and delusion from most people. It really slid downhill during the 2016 election, when I had enough of the Bernie bashing and status quo sheepherding from establishment Dems. It managed to get worse, what with the Russian hackerz coverup to the Dem Party corruption to throw the nomination to Hillary and then the Trump Derangement Syndrome, which cured me of the illusion that Democrats were above ‘Obama is a seekret Muslim’ delusions. Nowadays, I still keep up, but mostly in ‘read only’ mode, and save my powder for the few substantial conversations that occassionally happen.

    What I am noting in my online ‘fieldwork’ is how the Propaganda just jumps off the page for me, especially in non-political forums like Tech or Automotive sites (I work in those industries). Today’s example came from Ars Technica, which is normally a pretty solid tech site, but in one of today’s Jeff Bezos dick pic articles, this putrid little gem jumped out at me:

    “Government entity” could also refer to a foreign government. In his Thursday post, Bezos alleged that Pecker had ties to the government of Saudi Arabia and is “sensitive” about having them revealed. The Russian government has a history of stealing private communications from antagonists of Donald Trump, including Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign chairman John Podesta. Either government might have reasons to want to embarrass Bezos.

    I just can’t even respond to that kind of crap since it is so ingrained by the machine, and it is depressing that it shows up everywhere these days, and makes me realize anew how propagandized people are in our culture, even as they cluck cluck about the poor brainwashed people of Russia, North Korea and China.

    I’d like to end by saying Thank You to NC , Yves, Lambert et al for providing some real substance and sanity in these trying times. At least some people get what’s really going on.

    Reply
    1. RMO

      The way that statement is slipped into an unrelated story is even more jarring that the blithe manner in which it is asserted as fact. Right up there with Maddow: “Hey, it’s really cold this winter WHAT IF RUSSIA CUT OFF YOUR POWER?!?!?”

      Reply
      1. Roy G

        Great example RMO, she is one of the top exhibits of seemingly rational/liberal figures who completely spun their heads and showed their true colors. I would venture to say that we got at least one benefit from Trump, and it was revealing these charlatans among us. It is like the movie ‘They Live’ https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0096256/ where if you get the right glasses, you can see them.. and they are everywhere.

        Reply
    2. sleepy

      Much of the “fieldwork” discussed here seems to focus on talking to people who identify as conservative or rightwing. I generally don’t have near the difficulty discussing politics with those people as I do with the Russiaphobic type of democrat that you allude to.

      I would like to engage them, but I’m not sure how to since their default position is Russia, Russia, or some other deflection such as the primacy of racial or gender diversity as the key solution to our problems.

      I’m happy to go more than halfway. Maybe I should just listen and not actively engage. But that seems pointless. Any suggestions?

      Reply
      1. Amfortas the Hippie

        I have little real life experience with democrats. the few that exist out here are elitist and their meetings consist of sipping wine in hill top ranch houses. everyone else is either a repub, or a lean repub apathetic.
        ergo, my efforts have been focused on those folks…the “deplorables” who don’t regularly vote(hard core gop partisans shun me as much as our local hillfort dems)…specifically, how to talk to them about things like M4A or GND or trust busting or an end to stupid wars.
        if one avoids trigger words(“socialism!”), there’s acceptance of these broad things among this cohort….something a party that cared about regular folks might want to capitalise on.
        sadly, texas dems apparently don’t have phones or working emails(to be fair, I gave up on them years ago,lol…but I somehow doubt they’ve improved)
        I wish I had real life dems to try all this on. that might be enlightening.
        the one’s i do know have swallowed the party line, and become like so many geese…so :https://theintercept.com/2019/02/05/nancy-pelosi-medicare-for-all/

        …sounds “progressive” to them.

        Reply
        1. sleepy

          I live in a small working class city in northern Iowa, pop. 27,000 The background in Iowa is very different from Texas. You have rural counties of 20,000 that have voted dem for ages. My county has been resolutely democratic since the 80s with the exception of 2016 when it went for Trump. It also went heavily for Sanders in the caucuses. Those dems and many repubs that voted for Trump are easy to relate to.

          Unlike Texas, there still is a strong mainstream dem contingent here and it’s not just elites, but ordinary middle class voters who have been dems forever and loved Hillary. Those are the folks I’d like to address.

          All I can do is give it a try. And I promise not to lecture!

          Reply
    3. Laughingsong

      Very much agreed. I have tried “fieldwork” too, and have tried different methods. The best results, such as they are, start with listening as mentioned here, just asking what people think and why first. Even there, though, I guess that there’s so much acrimony and polarization that even the question of why they – usually phrased “I don’t have a TV service, what have you seen to come to that conclusion?” – seems to set off suspicions and then it’s downhill from there.

      One co-worker really surprised me a while back: he and I talk all the time about economics, religion, history, past current affairs, etc. We definitely have different perspectives but the conversations are cordial with a little pleasant ribbing. But one day he was holding forth about how the Mueller Report was going to show collusion and be this big game changer, and all I said was that I didn’t believe the whole Russian collusion story. And that was that. I was accused in quick succession of being:

      Cynical (true that)
      A Trump lover
      A MAGA supporter

      A Fox News watcher (I was gobsmacked as I’ve mentioned many times to him that I don’t watch TV – maybe he meant online)

      He even asked why I didn’t buy it, but never let me finish anything, and repeatedly accused me of Trump love, Putin love, etc.

      I also am not a very quick thinker so it’s not unusual for me to be overwhelmed and flustered. So I don’t really get into it much anymore.

      Reply
      1. pretzelattack

        i don’t know how to deal with this crap, either. i know otherwise intelligent people who just go batshit on the russia russia russia dementia.

        Reply
        1. Donald

          I have liberal friends I have to tiptoe around. One had picked up the “ purity pony” insult you find from online Democrats. Supposedly concern about little things like war crimes in Yemen distracts our attention from the truly world historical importance of Russiagate. He really blew up at me a couple of times and I yelled back at him. Not helpful.

          Last week I reported my experience at church coffee hour ( it is a politically liberal church) where two highly educated people, one a local politician who I like, were saying that everything Trump does is for Putin. Venezuela is on the front pages, but sure, it is all for Putin. I kept my mouth shut. I have to figure out what to say, but as someone said upthread, the mindset is not that different from conservatives who thought Obama was a secret Muslim. Oh, have a friend who thinks that too— obviously at the other end of the cable news spectrum.

          Reply
  14. Adam Eran

    Fieldwork:

    Waiting in the doctor’s office, one old guy excitedly tells another that socialism is taking over the country. Sure, AOC is a socialist (“And how will we afford all that free stuff?”), and certainly Obama was a socialist.

    …so there are evangelists of the Fox news variety too. Me? I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

    As important as conversations are, I’m not sure they help even with my liberal friends. Explaining how Clinton and Obama have been betraying the Democrats’ FDR constituencies makes them pause, but the hand-wringing over Trump continues, in my experience.

    I did have an online interaction with one of my conservative brethren that was mutually respectful. I made it clear that I held no personal animus for his beliefs…and still disbelieved them. I told him I prayed for his health…. and I literally do.

    As long as this is team blue vs. team red, the animosity will override any sensible conversation. If you search for “Motivational Interviewing” you can find a well-researched set of guidelines for dealing with those who disagree with you (originally put together to help doctors deal with intransigent patients who would not do their diet/exercise/meds).

    The conservative mantra he told me was this: “You liberals want the government to solve all your problems. Conservatives are happy getting government out of the way, so it stops meddling in the [perfect] free market.”

    This is a truly amazing statement, of the “I believe so I can understand” variety. Jared Diamond says absurdity is an essential element of all religions since shared madness makes for solidarity when defending the city wall. Hey, at least we’re all the same kind of crazy together!

    But notice how the left is marginalized here. Conservatives are the adults in the room! Get responsible you nanny state ninnies! (great name for a band, BTW).

    The truth is that few people I know have spent more time looking in the mirror, or advising my offspring, to say “take responsibility for your own life” than me. And as for that notion that conservatives don’t want meddlesome public policy…that’s laughable. They want government regulation to prohibit gay marriage and abortion, among other things. “By their fruits shall ye know them.”…says Jesus. Prohibition isn’t such a hot strategy. Even the libertarian Kochs who don’t care about drugs or gays or abortion want draconian property rights. Those hundreds of millions in fines paid the EPA by their refineries says so.

    The truth is that the left understands there are systemic problems, that can only be addressed by collective action. If you throw nine bones out your back door, and release ten dogs to retrieve a bone…no matter how responsible, or well-trained, etc. the dogs are, one’s going to come up short. The problem is with the bones, not the dogs.

    Systemic problems are the big ones now. Healthcare, immigration, unemployment, etc. are not amenable to individual solutions. So…I doubt I persuaded my conservative friend, but he has at least got some food for thought, and knows one lefty is praying for his health and safety.

    Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      ‘government meddling in the free market’

      I love that one! So, you’ve got a hundred iPhones you want to sell. Well I have one hundred people who would love to get their hands on an iPhone. Let’s all meet out in the badlands, where government can’t interfere, and everyone* will realize incredible profits!

      *on average

      On the unexamined life: Up until about 7-8 thousand years ago your best bet for passing on your genes was trusting people you found trustworthy. I feel that our subsequent sawtooth record of embracing civilization has been all about whether a particular civilization maintains the effect of reflexive trust. Historical records indicate a that a few zebes effing the ineffable don’t do anything in particular to change that dynamic. If the Huns create markets that give you more bang for your corn, people sign up with the Huns. Meanwhile, if we screw up Holocene climate stability so hard we can’t capitalize new civilizations, trust who you trust will come back into its own for the next hundred thousand years.

      On the talking cure: Conservatives believe they are fighting a rearguard action against Liberal domination. Liberals believe that this is the situation as well. They are both getting screwed. Going lateral and seeing what they think of something like Graeber’s ‘Are You an Anarchist’ essay can tell you whether someone values sticking with the herd for group protection over ‘Let’s go take out the wolves.’ Do not forget that both types are always needed in a functioning civilization where power means power.

      Reply
  15. nippersdad

    So we will finally get to clear the air on the Israel situation:

    https://www.rollcall.com/news/congress/mccarthy-vows-action-democrats-anti-semitic-remarks

    Probably not something that Pelosi is looking forward to in the House, which is why McCarthy is pushing it so hard. “When the opposition is drowning, throw them an anchor.” One of the few things Marcos got right.

    There was a funny interchange in comments in The Hill on this story.

    One man questions why, if Israel is a state and not an ethnicity, we can’t criticize their actions without hating Jewish people.

    Second man points out that that is where evangelicals think the Rapture is going to start, and feel we must defend them at every opportunity.

    First man asks why they want Israel to be destroyed in the rapture.

    Second man says it is so that they can save on future taxes.

    Elsewhere it is observed that Israel had a really bad real estate agent.

    I’m looking forward to this debate; it is going to be a lot of fun.

    Reply
    1. Oregoncharles

      I didn’t see any comments. Where?

      I don’t really expect a debate in Congress to “clear the air” – more like intensify the fog. Should be entertaining though.

      Reply
    2. Carolinian

      Thanks for the link. And just to be clear: the evangelicals want Israel to be defended so it will still be around to be destroyed at the Second Coming? This doesn’t sound like that good a deal for Israel unless they are just cynically making use of people they secretly regard as wackos.

      Perhaps the two targeted representatives should respond with a resolution condemning McCarthy for his lack of respect for the Constitution. Meanwhile the anti-BDS resolution did finally pass the Senate but all the 2020 Dem contenders opposed it. It could be that McCarthy’s brand of McCarthyism is past it’s sell date.

      Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        Hey now, we’re talking about my congressman, who has really nothing for over a decade in office, aside from the renaming of 3 post offices in Bakersfield.

        Reply
      2. nippersdad

        I think that is why I have been reading, virtually everywhere, that Pelosi is determined to prevent the BDS bill from coming up in the House. She doesn’t want, as Lambert would say, any clarifying moments before 2020. Were I Pelosi, I would be seeking out airfares to Palestine post haste. The Democratic Party has enough problems within their progressive ranks without exacerbating them by openly siding with the likes of Trump’s evangelicals. Although I have also seen interviews with political analysts saying that the Progressives will fall in line because they all hate Trump, and, anyway, if not they should be ignored.

        They need to ask him how that worked out for Hillary and the thousand seats lost during the Obama Administration.

        Re your whacko’s point, that is exactly what they are doing. If they can consort with Nazis in eastern Europe then cultivating evangelicals is a no-brainer. I have often seen the argument made by evangelicals and it never really made much sense to me, either. Apparently the Jewish nation, whatever that might be or by whom it is composed, is a prerequisite for the next coming as described in Revelations. But the tax cut thing was a stroke of brilliance!

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          there’s a megapreacher in san antone(hagee) who is heavily involved in a cattle breeding program that has as it’s sole purpose to have always on hand a perfect red heifer like is mandated in revelations as a sacrificial requirement, sometime during the whole rapture thing.
          and yes…they want to save israel so it can be the site of the last battle(armageddon is apparently a field(once a field) outside of jerusalem)
          i’ve been reading for years that the kids aren’t getting on board with their parent’s weird religion…so there may be hope,lol.
          I grew up around those folks, in east texas. they are unpleasant to be around…especially if they’re a majority.
          after the scopes trial, american evangelicals/fundamentalists slunk out of public life and abandoned politics…it took a lot of effort(see: wyrich, et alia) to motivate them enough to re-enter the fray.
          i look forward to that phenomenon running it’s course.

          Reply
          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            and let me please clarify my snarky attitude towards a certain religious-y cohort:
            practically everyone i know, and have known, is a Christian of one flavor or another(including my wife and kids).
            I’ll defend their rights to worship as they like with my last breath.
            it’s the pseudochristian political movement, that hijacked christianity in the 70’s, that i have big problems with.
            That lot has infected every denomination to one degree or another…save maybe the Quakers and Unitarians(IDK)….but especially evan/fund/charismatics…to their obvious detriment, and the detriment of the rest of us.(certainly made my growing up a living hell)
            Hagee is my poster boy for that pseudoreligion. he embodies it.
            that’s what I see trying to die in the places i go, and I welcome it’s exit/enfringement.

            Reply
          2. nippersdad

            “I look forward to that phenomenon running its’ course.”

            I kind of wonder whether it ever will. Religious fundamentalism only seems to be exacerbated in bad times, and the economic forecasts are for rain for the indefinite future.

            Some of the evangelicals can be kind of creepy, but I would argue that Pentecostals are much worse. I once worked in an office with the worst kind of evangelical, and when she got really bad I would change the subject by asking her if the snakes were in a bad mood that weekend. That would enrage her, but after having done it several times she learned to evangelize elsewhere. Point being, it could be worse.

            Reply
          3. Grebo

            Tel Megiddo is an ancient ruined city near Haifa where Russia and Israel will fight the final battle before Jesus returns to take the born-again to Heaven leaving the rest of us to enjoy some peace and quiet 1000 years of tribulation under the Antichrist.

            There are people in positions of power helping to bring this about. Trump will probably hire them when he runs out of Neocons.

            Reply
    3. Darthbobber

      Like an increasingly large fraction of such articles, the Roll Call piece can’t be troubled to quote the comments being complained of, so that a reader can judge for themselves without having to go to other sources to find out the most basic thing.

      Reply
    1. Lee

      Some pundit on PBS Newshour just said that if something like this can happen to someone like Bezos that it is an indication that we need national privacy laws. So, it’s only a problem when it happens to a squillionaire. Good to know.

      Reply
    2. nippersdad

      That was a great article. For one that is less so see here: https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2019/02/bezos-wins-praise-for-his-essay-in-the-wapo-newsroom

      On the one hand, great headline! On the other, “Whatever one thinks about Amazon’s predations in other areas, Bezos has earned a reputation as an exemplary newspaper owner and staunch defender of journalism.”

      Well, if he says so. I guess this is the establishment story, and they are going to stick with it.

      Reply
    3. Craig H.

      Greenwald nails it. Bozos is hoisted on his own pike and it could not happen to a nicer guy.

      Dick’s picks are not so good but I would think the mash notes a couple weeks ago would be far more embarrassing. I am pretty sure billionaire’s penises are not exceptional.

      Explanation of the joke as I know most of you hate the Grateful Dead:

      Dick’s Picks

      Reply
      1. Craig H.

        I ran out of time hand editing my html; something seems goofed with the link widget.

        Also I own every single D. P. that was recorded in ’85 or before. Every one. Most of the jewel boxes are double wides and it’s like three feet of shelf.

        Reply
  16. Jerry B

    In reading the comments I wanted to add what I believe fieldwork means. If you read the comment thread that Lambert pulled Amfortas and my comments from I mentioned the idea of the old term Flaneur which means according to the Wikipedia page:

    ===A gentleman stroller of city streets / recent scholarship has also proposed the flâneuse, a female equivalent to the flâneur. A flâneur thus played a double role in city life and in theory, that is, while remaining a detached observer. This stance, simultaneously part of and apart from, combines sociological, anthropological, literary, and historical notions of the relationship between the individual and the greater populace.====

    IMO opinion the above excerpt applies to suburbs and rural as well.

    In my view the Flaneur is ONE aspect of fieldwork. However by fieldwork I mean what Timmy mentions as “engagement”. Amfortas made another comment in the thread that Lambert linked to that mentions Arlie Hochschild. Her work in Strangers in Their Own Land is what I really mean by fieldwork. In other words taking what we have learned on NC, and spreading the word i.e. educating, advocating, teaching. IMO the meetups that Yves and Lambert have all over the country are a form of fieldwork.

    ===We need more “fieldwork”. Like an army of anthropologists, social workers, activists, etc. doing fieldwork and listening===

    My above statement was directed at myself as well as outward. Like many I have different selves. I am somewhat of an introvert and a schizoid personality but I can also be very outgoing, social, and engaged and will approach almost anybody and say hello and try to engage them on their level. So while I love NC and other blogs, I realize that, along with reading blogs and commenting on blogs, in order to accelerate other people’s learning curve and “move the needle” to a more socially just future I need to get away from my computer and “spread the word” but also listen and empathize.

    IMO I think one of the many reasons AOC was successful in getting elected was she did A LOT of canvassing i.e. fieldwork on her own going door to door.

    So commenters do you agree with how I see fieldwork? Also what has been your experience in discussing the posts/topics on NC and the things you have learned over the years on NC with others?? If you have met with resistance how have you dealt with it??

    Reply
    1. notabanker

      So commenters do you agree with how I see fieldwork? Also what has been your experience in discussing the posts/topics on NC and the things you have learned over the years on NC with others?? If you have met with resistance how have you dealt with it??

      Yes, I do. This is what I took it to mean.

      Reply
    2. Lunker Walleye

      “. . . a female equivalent to the flâneur. A flâneur thus played a double role in city life and in theory, that is, while remaining a detached observer. This stance, simultaneously part of and apart from, combines sociological, anthropological, literary, and historical notions of the relationship between the individual and the greater populace.”

      Je suis une flaneuse et je ne le savais même pas.

      Using a sort of Buddha-ish “watching my own response” and remembering that people are probably parroting msm, it is difficult for me to say anything. But the visceral reaction is to want to scream at them and hit them over the head with a frying pan, which I do in a thought cloud. I am psyched about AOC and hope to learn something from her.

      Reply
    3. Ampeliska

      Jerry, for a schizoid person your argument is awfully cogent.

      I fully agree with you seeing field work as engagement and connecting, and for me that means finding a connection with the “other” who’s not necessarily like me. It’s easy to engage with people when they’re like us and share our opinions and we get to preach to the choir.

      I also find public transportation a rich research ground and have been “collecting” quite a few “encounters with strangers.” Unlike Europe which has a much better transportation system and where people of all backgrounds mix easily, public transportation in many American towns is often for those too poor to own a car, ie. black, Hispanic and old people. Since ditching my own car a year and a half ago I’ve been riding the bus/train and it’s been kind of an education. I find it supremely interesting what you get to see if you pay attention. There’s no reading on the bus for me, I’ve become a people watcher or flaneur. For instance, there’s those people who try to get past the bus driver swiping an expired bus card, and some bus drivers let them through. Others call them back insisting on full payment. While they’re fumbling forever in their pockets to retrieve some crumbled bills, I realize that the bus fare cuts far deeper into their pockets than mine. Or I notice that there’s quite a few people who get on the bus and get off the very next stop. I would’ve walked the distance and then I realize they may have health issues (and maybe one of these days I’ll be doing the same).

      What I mean is what you see when you get on the bus is poverty, after all there’s something off-putting about poverty when you sit right next to it. Most people I know prefer to look away (and not ride the bus in the first place) but for me it’s like a little game. I intent to take every bus line into every corner of every neighborhood of my town. It’s a way of getting out of my comfortable middle class bubble and open my eyes to what’s really going on in my community (and how pervasive poverty is). And then, when I come back into my nice little tree-shaded neighborhood I see it with completely different eyes.

      So much for city adventures.

      Reply
      1. Jerry B

        Ampeliska == for a schizoid person your argument is awfully cogent===

        Hmm. Thanks for the compliment, sort of. I am not sure how much exposure you have had to schizoids but many do not fit the DSM of psychology version. BTW by schizoids I am not referring to schizophrenics. Entirely different. Many therapists/psychonanalysts are of the schizoid bent. Schizoids are also found among highly creative people like writers and artists.

        The psychoanalytic author Nancy McWilliams has written a lot about schizoids. Here is a pdf of a paper she wrote on schizoids.

        https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7142775_Some_Thoughts_about_Schizoid_Dynamics

        I personally love riding mass transit for the people watching and the rich cultural and anthropological observations.

        Reply
    4. dcrane

      I’ll stick my neck out and say that although the term “fieldwork” does make some sense, it may not be the best choice. While I enjoyed the hoisted comments and I completely agree about the need for much more engagement – of approaching people as citizen-equals and potentially friendly acquaintances, and listening to them in extended conversation despite major differences in political values – this term taken from science/research brings along some baggage. First, to me it’s a term from academia, and academia has a poor reputation among some areas of the working class today, at least partly deserved because too many academics openly disparage the uneducated, the religious, etc. The term fieldwork also implies a deliberately positioned distance (the researcher must maintain an objective stance and keep emotion out of the process), when I think what we’re after here is bringing people together and even increasing their emotional bonds of civility and common purpose. We’re part of the civic architecture that we seek to repair. Finally, since most of the time (in biology at least) fieldwork is conducted on a subject species that isn’t Homo sapiens…well I’m just afraid that the wrong connotations might be taken – the intellectually superior scientist coolly examines her unwitting subject, etc. Maybe “open-minded engagement” is good enough?

      Having read what I just wrote above again, I guess I can see where some may view the term as applying within a specific environment like the NC website. Commenters go out, engage in fieldwork, and return to report new insights that we all might put to use. But that does limit the value of this process to one context. Our society will be better off if everyone participates in this “fieldwork”, whether or not they take the intellectual perspective applied here.

      Reply
  17. Anonymous Coward

    Here’s a little fieldwork.

    Recently flew back into Austin, arriving at midnight. Apparently a few flights arrive at that time simultaneously, and uber’s surge pricing had kicked in. They wanted $37 for an under 15-minute trip. I chose a cab instead, thinking it had to be cheaper and faster, and it was.

    First thing is that Austin has recently changed the pickup zone for rideshare and cabs. It used to be you get picked up at the curb and cabs had their own queue point near the airport exit. Now, you have to cross a couple of lanes of traffic, find just the right elevator, and descend to a pickup area below a parking garage. Not nearly as convenient for passengers. Maybe it cleared up congestion, and I’m told this is just a temporary situation, but it’s significantly more hassle. I asked the cab driver if the arrangement was better for drivers at least. He said no, worse for them too. So one wonders if the airport authority has now inconvenienced passengers and drivers, who have they convenienced?

    Been awhile since I’ve taken a cab, so my line of questioning to the driver was largely about uber and cab driving in Austin. He was from Morocco. Said he’d been in Austin 6 years and driving a cab basically the entire time. He rents the cab by the week. What a piece of junk. Every dashboard light possible was lit up. I pointed it out, and he said it was all malfunction with the sensors. I guess he should know, but it didn’t feel particularly safe. Far far shabbier than an uber. The whole thing was a creaky bucket of bolts.

    My cab driver said he now makes between 1/3 and 1/4 of what he previously did in fares in a month, looking back about 4 years or more to when he started. Barely enough to live on. He wanted to bring his wife and children over, but he can’t afford to. Said he is a few months away from moving to Missouri and getting his CDL. He is more optimistic that he can make money driving trucks than he can a cab. Probably so. He had no ill-will towards uber. He called the company smart, especially with surge pricing. He said he understands why women would prefer to take it, just from a safety perspective. He said he waited at the airport for over 2 hours before picking me up in the queue and has plenty of time to observe the uber passengers. He finds it most odd that people who seemed to be in a hurry would wait 20 minutes for their uber to show up when there is a queue of cabs right next to it ready to go. If you’re going downtown from the airport, most times of day it’s not more than a 20-minute ride. It is odd. The cab driver said not infrequently uber will surge price a ride to downtown Austin from the airport to between $40 and $50. This is a 35-minute bus ride that costs $1.25 on Capital Metro.

    Reply
  18. Darthbobber

    Hard to get the anti-3rd Party Rock in the sausage to pass any kind of smell test.

    And mandating a less tamper-friendly voting system is vastly more to the point than a witch-hunt.

    Reply
  19. dcblogger

    One of the things that strikes me about National Enguirer vs Bezos is the ridiculous way Trump went about his method of revenge. Were I president and I wanted to get Bezos I would launch an anti-Trust investigation, or maybe investigation into labor practices and wage and hour violations, or a half a dozen other things. Billionaires are peculiarly vulnerable to governments, they have all manner of interests and are usually skirting the law in one way or another. Trump could have gone about this that would have had the public on his side.

    Reply
    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The problem is, is that Trump believes in “Trusts” and violating wages and hours and so forth. So he can’t have anyone investigated in a spirit of being against these things, because what if that investigation led to action against Trusts and Wage-and-Hour violations elsewhere beyond Amazon?

      Reply
  20. Ampelisca

    Jerry, for a schizoid person your argument is awfully cogent.

    I fully agree with you seeing field work as engagement and connecting, and for me that means finding a connection with the “other” who’s not necessarily like me. It’s easy to engage with people when they’re like us and share our opinions and we get to preach to the choir.

    I also find public transportation a rich research ground and have been “collecting” quite a few “encounters with strangers.” Unlike Europe which has a much better transportation system and where people of all backgrounds mix easily, public transportation in many American towns is often for those too poor to own a car, ie. black, Hispanic and old people. Since ditching my own car a year and a half ago I’ve been riding the bus/train and it’s been kind of an education. I find it supremely interesting what you get to see if you pay attention. There’s no reading on the bus for me, I’ve become a people watcher or flaneur. For instance, there’s those people who try to get past the bus driver swiping an expired bus card, and some bus drivers let them through. Others call them back insisting on full payment. While they’re fumbling forever in their pockets to retrieve some crumbled bills, I realize that the bus fare cuts far deeper into their pockets than mine. Or I notice that there’s quite a few people who get on the bus and get off the very next stop. I would’ve walked the distance and then I realize they may have health issues (and maybe one of these days I’ll be doing the same).

    What I mean is what you see when you get on the bus is poverty, after all there’s something off-putting about poverty when you sit right next to it. Most people I know prefer to look away (and not ride the bus in the first place) but for me it’s like a little game. I intent to take every bus line into every corner of every neighborhood of my town. It’s a way of getting out of my comfortable middle class bubble and open my eyes to what’s really going on in my community (and how pervasive poverty is). And then, when I come back into my nice little tree-shaded neighborhood I see it with completely different eyes.

    So much for city adventures.

    Reply

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