2:00PM Water Cooler 3/8/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am going to throw out some red meat, then post my piece on the latest in Venezuela, and then return here to add more. –lambert


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune


Brown: “Trump must be dancing for joy at Sherrod Brown news” [Paul Begala, CNN]. “Here’s why Mr. Trump is doing the Humpty Dance on the Truman Balcony: Sherrod Brown could have beaten him, and I bet Trump knows it. Why? The math is simple. Trump got 46% in 2016. He has not been over 50% in the national polls for a single day as president. Brown, a Midwestern economic populist, would have eaten into Trump’s working-class support — a loss Trump could not offset by gaining ground among, say, people of color, or younger voters. With Trump in a cul-de-sac, unable to expand his appeal beyond working-class whites, a Democrat who could pry away some of those Trump voters looked like a winner to me. After all, Brown won a resounding re-election in November, winning his native Ohio by 6%. Hillary Clinton lost Ohio by 8% in 2016. You don’t need to be a math major to know that a 15-point improvement over Hillary’s razor-thin losses in the Big Ten states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan means the moving vans would be rolling up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” • I dunno if Trump is that cornered. He’s working hard to win the more reactionary segments of the Latin vote in Florida (Venezuela), and when he went into Beto’s district to rally and whipped him, his crowd was quite diverse.

Harris, wearing her favorite cologne, eau de performativité:

A statue. Really?

Hickenlooper: “Hickenlooper kicks off campaign with fiery ode to pragmatism” [Associated Press]. “‘This isn’t about unity for unity’s sake,’ Hickenlooper said. ‘America stops working when we work against each other….It’s time to end this American crisis of division. It’s time to bring all Americans together. And that’s why I’m running to be President of the United States.'” And nothing brings Americans together like drilling for oil near public schools! More: “Echoing in the background of Hickenlooper’s address were chants of a few dozen activists protesting Hickenlooper’s reluctance to stop hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking.’ Activists for years have seethed at Hickenlooper, who remained close to the energy industry while he was governor.” • Colorado readers may wish to comment on “remained close.”

Sanders (1): “Nearly 40 percent of Sanders 2020 donors so far appear to be new supporters: report” [The Hill]. “There are also more than 48,000 donors who have agreed to give Sanders recurring donations. Those recurring donations will be worth more than $1 million in total per month, the Times reported, citing statistics provided by the Sanders campaign. According to the Times, the average contribution was less than $26.” • Sanders is not generally seen as a strategist. But in 2016 he built (as we see here) a fundraising apparatus bypassing the Democrat party and its donor class. In 2018 he built a media apparatus bypassing the mainstream press, whose commanding heights are, in the main, controlled by Democrats. If, in 2020, his canvassing operation of volunteers bypasses the Democrat Party at the district and precinct level, he will have built a competing structure to the Democrat Party within the Democrat Party (think, well, Alien-style chestbuster, if you’re a liberal Democrat loyalist). In the primaries, that’s the way to give Kamala Harris a run for her money without running an air war of costly television advertising (see ya later, Tad “Creative Differences” Devine). In the general, that would give Sanders an organization with the discipline — sadly lacking in today’s “big tent” Democrat Party — to tack left (to pick up those voters who flipped to Trump from Obama in the midwest, for example), having previously tacked right in the primaries (more emphasis on identity politics as a rhetorical stance). If this picture is correct, 2020 should be very interesting indeed. Oh, and the press won’t notice any of this, because it’s outside their visual spectrum. But if you see attacks on Sanders that one might have expected, in the past, to succeed, mysteriously failing, the structure I have just laid out might be a place to look for the cause. It would be irresponsible not to speculate…

Sanders (2), in contrast to Hickenlooper:


Warren (1): “Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google and Facebook” [CNN]. “The proposal was greeted with a cheer from New York State Sen. Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialist ally of freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a vocal opponent of New York’s deal to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Queens… The plan would pose existential threats to the business models that turned certain giant tech firms into money spigots…. Separating Google’s ad business from its Search function, for example, would make Google ads — on which the company depends for nearly all of its revenue — much less valuable. So would requiring Google to divest DoubleClick, the company it acquired in 2008 that vastly expanded the reach of its advertising network.” •  I think this is good policy. But I also would like Warren — and The New Trust-Busters™ generally — to take their case one step further from fixing gamed markets to concrete material benefits for citizens. Until that’s done, this is an academic, and not a political, question. (I believe Austin Frerick has done this in Iowa for Big Ag vs. farmers, but the practice really needs to become second nature for the entire school of thought.) Warren’s actual proposal:

Warren (2): “Here’s how we can break up Big Tech” [Elizabeth Warren, Medium]. “In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps: First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform… Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers.” A quote:

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.

Warren probably thinks she’s throwing red meat there, but she’s not. Where are the concrete material benefits? (Clue stick: “innovation” doesn’t cut it).

“The Democrats’ Dilemma” [Politico]. “The Minnesota congresswoman, along with the likes of Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, represent the unapologetic new guard of progressivism, pushing the party’s establishment to embrace tactics and positions that have heretofore been considered outside of the mainstream. Yet they face resistance not just from party elders but from many of their fellow freshmen, centrists who campaigned as fixers not firebrands, moderates who are watching warily as the Democrats’ brand is being hijacked by the far left. One of these members is Omar’s neighbor in Minnesota: Dean Phillips, a wealthy businessman who represents the 3rd District.” • Well worth a read. More: “Fifty years old and fabulously wealthy, with black-rimmed glasses and waves of toffee-colored hair swept neatly back and behind his ears, Phillips looks the part of an industry mogul. His family is corporate royalty in the Twin Cities, with a liquor distilling empire that he took over after finishing his MBA and various properties scattered across the metro area.” Omar, on the other hand…


“Democrats in 2020 Race Rally Around Ilhan Omar Amid Anti-Semitism Flap” [Bloomberg]. “Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand denounced anti-Semitism in separate statements Thursday, while also saying Omar was being unfairly targeted by those who want to muffle criticism of Israel’s policies.” • Good. And the sequence was Sanders, Harris, Warren, and Gillibrand, at least on the Twitter.

UPDATE Sanders:

Health Care

“The Senate’s rules will make it really hard to pass Medicare-for-all” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]. “Medicare-for-all has plenty of obstacles standing in its way — the price tag, tax hikes, American aversion to disruptive change [like, you know, the Civil War or the Sixties or…] — but none might be as intractable as the Senate’s procedural rules…. I’ve spoken with former and current Senate aides, academics who follow congressional procedure, and a former Senate parliamentarian over the past few weeks, and this was the unavoidable conclusion: The rules attached to budget reconciliation would make it nearly impossible to pass the Medicare-for-all bills being proposed by Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Reconciliation comes with serious fiscal constraints, and the provisions in those single-payer bills that prohibit private insurance and that expand the services covered by Medicare may not be allowed under the rules that govern the process.” • So there’s a Rules Fairy as well as a Norms Fairy. Good to know.

Obama Legacy

From “The Democrats’ Dilemma,” cited above, Ilhan Omar:

As she saw it, the party ostensibly committed to progressive values had become complicit in perpetuating the status quo. Omar says the “hope and change” offered by Barack Obama was a mirage. Recalling the “caging of kids” at the U.S.-Mexico border and the “droning of countries around the world” on Obama’s watch, she argues that the Democratic president operated within the same fundamentally broken framework as his Republican successor.

“We can’t be only upset with Trump. … His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was,” Omar says. “And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.”

That should put the cat among the pigeons…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Economics After Neoliberalism” [Cory Robin, Boston Review]. “The intrinsic links between moral and economic life as well as the intractability of moral conflict, the incommensurability of our moral views, were the kernels of insight that animated Hayek’s most far-reaching writing against socialism. The socialist presumes an agreement on ultimate ends: the putatively shared understanding of principles such as justice or equality is supposed to make it possible for state planners to conceive of their task as technical, as the neutral application of an agreed upon rule. But no such agreement exists, Hayek insisted… Hayek translated moral and political problems into an economic idiom. What we need now, I would argue, is a way to uninstall or reverse that translation… Karl Marx attempted just such a project, but his answers were notoriously elusive. In a fascinating, but little-known 1927 essay, “On Freedom,” Karl Polanyi also attempted such a project, giving us a stylized rendition of what it would mean for a political collective, rather than a firm or a consumer, to make an economic decision—not in the marketplace, where price helps determine our decisions, but in a deliberative assembly, where other considerations are at play. ” • Hmm. A deliberative assembly. Sounds like debate! (Maybe that would be a better framework for an updated framework of HR40 than a truth and reconciliation commission (commissions being biased toward presentations by subject matter experts, and thus giving a head start to the professional classes).

“Liberals and the left fail to notice – and celebrate – the intellectual death of conservatism” [Real Economics]. “Economic justice is basic to a republic because, for civic virtue to operate effectively, all citizens must be fully independent from the largess, benevolence, or tolerance of others. It is unacceptable, for example, having employers trying the coerce or even tell employees who to vote for. This concern over dependence in economic relations was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship — the fabled “yeomanry” of Jefferson’s ideal society. In fact, Jefferson wanted to delay as long as possible the advent of industrialization because he viewed subservient factory labor as being unable to exercise the independence required of citizens by civic virtue…. The individual with direct access to the productive resources of nature need not rely on other men, or any man, for the basic means of existence. The Revolutionaries believed that every man had a natural right to this form of property, in the sense that he was entitled to autonomous control of the resources that were absolutely necessary to his existence. The personal independence that resulted from the ownership of land permitted a citizen to participate responsibly in the political process, for it allowed him to pursue spontaneously the common or public good, rather than the narrow interest of the men – or the government – on whom he depended for his support. Thus the Revolutionaries did not intend to provide men with property so they might flee from public responsibility into a selfish privatism; property was rather the necessary basis for a committed republican citizenry. What we have here is a strong rebuke to conservatives’ fixation on property rights. Those rights were intended by the founders not to protect untrammeled avarice and unprincipled acquisition, but to provide as wide a basis as possible within the citizenry for the maintenance of republican civic virtue.” • This article is a long response to an article by the Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey in National Affairs. It’s interesting for, among other things, citing to Radical Republican Charles Sumner discussing the Fourteenth Amendment. Why is it that we have an enormous work of scholarship, The Mind of the Master Class, by the Genoveses, on slaveholders, but nothing on the nearly forgotten Radical Republicans? Perhaps they would be a good place to start looking at the wrong turning the country took with the defeat of Reconstruction, and the subsequent rise to dominance of the noxious “Last Cause” ideology, Jim Crow, etc.

“Movement Visions for a Renewed Left Politics” [Law and Political Economy]. “A generation of organizers and activists who have come of age post-Occupy are articulating visions for transforming the United States, including the relationship of the state to its constituents, and of human communities to each other and the planet. We should all—politicians, professionals, students, engaged community members—embrace the challenge posed by social movements rather than seek to deflect it, as Feinstein did in the meeting with her young constituents. For too long, the agendas of politicians on the center-left have been dominated by top-down, expert-driven, single issue forms of lawmaking supported by sporadic popular mobilization. Think of the Center for American Progress or MoveOn.org as the prototypical institutions oriented toward liberal legislative action in the last two decades. This was the approach used by the Obama Administration to pass its two historic legislative achievements, the Affordable Care Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That formula—supported in part by corporate donors to the Democratic Party— tamps down anger with the way things are and prevents people from calling out their enemies in the new American oligarchy. The D.C. “policy-industrial complex” co-opts popular sentiment, demands specific policy proposals, embraces and internalizes public austerity values, and advances their own non-universal half-measures that do not threaten donor interests on Wall Street or in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, for example.” • Note thta “prevents people from calling out their enemies in the new American oligarchy” and “bringing the country together,” a la Gillibrand et al., are diametrically opposed.

“On Amazon, a Qanon conspiracy book climbs the charts — with an algorithmic push” [NBC]. “‘QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening,’ which has no stated author, ranked at No. 56 at press time, was featured in the algorithmically generated ‘Hot new releases’ section on Amazon’s books landing page. The book claims without evidence a variety of outlandish claims including that prominent Democrats murder and eat children and that the U.S. government created both AIDS and the movie Monsters Inc…. Adherents of the Qanon conspiracy theory falsely believe that the world is run by a Satanic cabal helmed by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are secretly working in tandem to eliminate the cabal.” • Woo woo. Civic virtue this is not.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, February 2019: “Wages in today’s report are another indication of labor market strength” [Econoday]. “But payrolls are definitely weak with construction down… Winter is traditionally the most difficult period to seasonally adjust data and related questions are certain to come up to help explain away the volatility in payrolls so far this young year. Though the drop in February may well be cited at the coming FOMC this month as a reason for caution, there is still little question that strong demand for labor, underscored by the rise in average hourly earnings, is the central strength of the U.S. economy.” And but: “Pretty ugly report and well under expectations. The way I look at this is that last month was outrageously high and this month was outrageously low” [Econintersect]. “The establishment and household surveys seem to have come from different dimensions. The household survey shrunk the workforce causing lower unemployment. Most use employment data to validate the strength of the economy – and if you do, you might think the economy hit a wall. I would not get excited about this poor data – but if it happens again next month…”

Housing Starts, January 2019: “December and wild fires in California look to have been an aberration for housing starts which jumped back to trend in January” [Econoday]. “Wrinkles aside, today’s report is good news for a sector that needed some and it rebalances the housing outlook, offering the prospect that 2019 will be a better year than what was a very weak 2018.” And: “The headline residential building permits improved and construction completions improved relative to last month. But we keep our eyes on the rolling averages which also improved” [Econintersect]. And: “Note the relatively low level of single family starts and completions” [Calculated Risk]. “The ‘wide bottom’ was what I was forecasting following the recession, and now I expect some further increases in single family starts and completions.”

Retail: “The key factors behind K-pop’s global success” [Quartzy]. “Hybridity is a distinguishing element of K-pop as it draws on other genres, like R&B, hip hop, pop, EDM, and more. K-pop labels have also assembled groups with members from places like China, Thailand, Japan, the US, even India to target specific powerful music centers. They even have manuals dictating how to craft videos or present the most optimal group to a specific market. No matter who you are, or how much Korean you speak, K-pop is built to be accessible and sound familiar. These labels are playing the game and it’s working because K-pop has gone from being a niche genre to a $5 billion global industry. You haven’t heard the last of it.”

Apparel: “The apparel supply chain is struggling to stem pollution from synthetic textiles. The ocean is awash in tiny plastic particles shed by fleece jackets and other garments… highlighting how new concerns over pollutants are growing as production of polyester and other synthetics expands” [Wall Street Journal]. “Textiles contribute 35% of primary microplastics released into the ocean, and research funded by companies like Hennes & Mauritz AB and Patagonia Inc. found that how the fibers are woven and clothes are washed matters. Prewashing garments before they are sold could capture a big share of pollution. H&M is looking at whether clothes can be designed to minimize shedding and says it’s monitoring the development of biodegradable fibers. Some state regulators are weighing labeling requirements, to the dismay of one industry group that says more study is needed.”

Shipping: “Maritime industry woes are crashing down on Japan’s “K Line” shipping company, the country’s third-biggest liner. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. is shrinking its fleet as it faces an estimated $895 million in losses” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company hopes to save $90 million by canceling some container ship charters and trimming its bulk-vessel count, changes that come as the maritime sector struggles with weak freight rates and a capacity glut in major trade lanes. The shipping line also plans to slim its car-carrier network and focus on bigger dry-bulk vessels. “K” Line’s problems stem in part from its stake in Ocean Network Express, the joint venture with Japan‘s two other shipping lines formed to respond to broader shipping industry woes. ONE had a troubled launch last year, and stresses could grow next year as new emissions rules take effect.”

Shipping: “Port Tracker cites seasonal factors and tariff hold for low U.S.-bound retail container volumes” [Logistics Management]. “An annual lull between seasons and previously planned tariff increases on hold represent two main reasons for United States retail container port import volumes to fall to their lowest level in nearly a year, according to the Port Tracker report… Authors of the report explained that cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.” • Yes, but a metal box is a metal box, and where is the philosopher who knows what “value” is, anyhow?

The Bezzle: “OneCoin Leaders Charged in Multibillion-Dollar Pyramid Scam” [Bloomberg]. “The leaders of an alleged multibillion-dollar international pyramid scheme that involved the marketing of the cryptocurrency OneCoin were charged by U.S. prosecutors with fraud and money laundering…. OneCoin generated 3.4 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in revenue from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016, prosecutors said. The alleged value of OneCoin rose from 50 euro cents to 29.95 euros in January and the company claimed to have more than 3 million members worldwide, prosecutors said.” • Prosecution futures, just as Yves said.

The Biosphere

“Wettest Winter in U.S. History” [Weather Underground]. “Across the three months of meteorological winter (December-February), the nationally averaged precipitation was 9.01″, just above the old record of 8.99″ from 1997-98. That winter’s precipitation was goosed by a record-strong El Niño event, as was the case in 1982-83 (the fifth wettest winter on record) and 2015-16 (the fifteenth wettest). This past winter saw only borderline El Niño conditions, though… This winter’s moisture was well distributed, with most of the nation wetter than average. Leading the pack were states east of the Rockies, where heavy snows and torrential rains fell time and again on the north and south sides of a persistent storm track from the Southern Plains to New England…. On the plus side, drought concerns are at a low ebb across the contiguous United States. Despite periods of intense drought in recent years, especially toward the Southwest—with the impacts worsened by rising temperatures—the overall trend over the last century has been toward wetter U.S. conditions. The 48-state annual precipitation average is now around 31″ compared to 29″ a century ago.” • Maybe we won’t have to invade Canada for their water after all!

“Polar melting: ‘Methane time bomb’ isn’t actually a ‘bomb'” [Yale Climate Connection]. “This month’s “This is Not Cool” video explores a frightening scenario that scientists began exploring in earnest about a decade ago. They worried that warming in the Earth’s polar regions soon could lead to a meltdown of frozen methane deposits, causing an enormous release of that potent greenhouse gas to the atmosphere…. ‘It’s not a situation where we trigger breakdown, and that that breakdown is going to suddenly — like the whole deposit’s going to release its methane all of a sudden,’ says geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel of the U.S. Geological Survey. ‘That is not a scientifically sound worry.’ Though a near-term bomb-like methane release is unlikely, it is true, and concerning, that the Arctic is gradually releasing methane as permafrost melts. That’s still dangerous, and it’s time to take action, scientists in the video suggest. ‘If we mitigate, or reduce, human emissions, [it] looks like you can avoid 70 to 80 percent of the permafrost climate feedback,” Abbott says.”

UPDATE “An ambitious infrastructure project is spurring violent resistance in Indonesia. A new highway to connect ports in western New Guinea with the Papuan rainforest has fanned fears that timber and palm-oil companies will destroy the newly-accessible wilderness” [Wall Street Journal]. “The 2,700-mile project is part of a development effort the government says will lower transport costs and consumer prices in one of Indonesia’s poorest regions. The country is the world’s largest palm-oil producer, and some Papuans who depend on the rainforest worry it will be cleared and replaced with plantations, accelerating deforestation. Armed separatists have skirmished with road workers and the military, which is now overseeing highway construction. Forty-one percent of West Papua’s land has already been granted to the palm-oil and timber industries, by one analysis, though much has remained undisturbed because of the difficulty of getting products to market.” • The Papuan’s aren’t dummies, are they?

“Proof of a 2,000 kilometre polar trade route in volcanic glass dating back at least 8,000 years” [The Siberian Times]. “Valuable obsidian travelled during Early Holocene times from Lake Krasnoe in Chukotka to Zhokhov Island deep in the Arctic…. This Great Ice Road was in operation four times as long ago as the famous Silk Road in Central Asia, and it was twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids… The conclusion is that ancient people used dog sleds to cover these remarkable distances ‘at the ends of the earth’. ‘The archaeological data from Zhokhov therefore indicate a super-long-distance Mesolithic exchange network,’ conclude the international team of researchers in the Antiquity paper.” • Makes sense, especially in the Arctic. Obsidian is the onlly substance that can kill White Walkers.

“How to Have a Useful Conversation About Climate Change in 11 Steps” [Medium]. “This 11-step approach is not for confronting trolls or deniers. It’s for talking with regular people who just aren’t used to talking about climate change. So choose a friend and set yourself up for a win. This is your time to build communication skills and enhance your confidence.” • Do we have any #fieldwork experts who can comment on this approach? It seemed a little creepy to me, but maybe that’s just the introvert in me talking. Readers?

Our Famously Free Press

“Hiding in Plain Sight: PAC-Connected Activists Set Up ‘Local News’ Outlets” [Snopes]. “On 6 February 2017, a website of uncertain origin named ‘The Tennessee Star’ was born. At the time, it was unclear who funded or operated this ‘local newspaper,’ which was largely filled with freely licensed content from organizations tied to conservative mega-donors. After some prodding by Politico in early 2018, the Tennessee Star revealed its primary architects to be three Tea Party-connected conservative activists: Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill, and Christina Botteri. Now, a Snopes investigation reveals in detail how these activists used the appearance of local newspapers to promote messages paid for or supported by outside or undisclosed interests…. But this story is about more than just the Tennessee Star. Leahy, Botteri, and Gill have been expanding their version of journalism to other battleground states in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. They are, they say, co-founders of a new, Delaware-registered company, Star News Digital Media, Inc., whose explicit strategy is to target battleground states with conservative news. So far, Leahy, Gill, and Botteri have added The Ohio Star and The Minnesota Sun to their network of purportedly local newspapers. These papers are effective carbon copies of the Tennessee Star.” • [Family-blogging] creeps.

WSJ to close Jakarta bureau, will restructure SE Asia Talking Biz News. The largest economy in Southeast Asia? What are you thinking, WSJ?

“WSJ to close Jakarta bureau, will restructure SE Asia” [Talking Biz News]. WSJ is creating a Singapore hub. But: “We will be closing our Jakarta bureau.” Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the sixteenth largest country in the world by GDP. I understand that an English-speaking reactionary city state might be more comfortable for some, but doesn’t it make sense to have reporters on the ground? Am I missing something here>

“A tax on digital ad spend (*cough* Facebook and Google) could bring in $2 billion for journalism” [Nieman Labs] (original). Quoting the Free Press: “Think of it like a carbon tax, which many countries impose on the oil industry to help clean up pollution. The United States should impose a similar mechanism on targeted advertising to counteract how the platforms amplify content that’s polluting our civic discourse.” • If carbon taxes are a good idea, this is a good idea. Readers?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The Black Radical You’ve Never Heard Of” [The Nib]. • T. Thomas Fortune, printer, newspaperman, and founder of the New York Globe, among other things. (The article is in comic book form, so it’s hard to pull quotes from.)

Fascinating thread:

If we have any data visualization experts in the readership, perhaps they can comment.

Class Warfare

UPDATE “Lordstown’s Last Bell” [Industry Week]. “Then on Wednesday, right around closing time, a cluster of GM workers punched out for the last time. Instead of going straight home or to a restaurant or local bar, they joined a vigil across the divided highway with union leaders, friends who were laid off in earlier cutbacks, retirees. A Bernie Sanders delegate who had no connection to the plant beyond being a member of the community was there, too. He had been protesting the plant’s closure for the past 40 days, standing out in the cold, usually alone.”

UPDATE “Deal reached at Wabtec; strike ends in Erie” [GoErie]. “Wabtec, which absorbed GE Transportation as a wholly-owned subsidiary on Feb. 25, and the union, which represents about 1,700 employees at the Erie plant, have agreed to a 90-day deal that’s intended to give the two parties time to negotiate a longer collective bargaining agreement. Signs of the strike — tents, burn barrels, piles of firewood and stacks of strike signs — were quickly cleaned up Thursday morning by union workers who had spent nine days patrolling the vast perimeter of the Lawrence Park locomotive plant…. Wages are high on that list. While Wabtec has agreed to continue paying existing workers at their current pay scale — an average of $35 an hour — the company’s earlier proposal called for paying new employees and those called back to work what “a competitive wage scale” of $16.75 to $25 an hour.” • No two-tier. Never never never never never.

News of the Wired

Useful tips for crippling Google’s algos so it does what you want it to do, instead of what it thinks you want to do, or what advertisers want to make you do. Thread:

“When does one of the central ideas in economics – equilibrium – actually work?” [Oxford University] (original, too dense for me). “The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy to climate change, trade policy and the minimum wage. But is it a good assumption? In a recently-published Science Advances paper, Marco Pangallo, Torsten Heinrich and Doyne Farmer from the University of Oxford, investigate this question in the simple framework of games, and show that when the game gets complicated this assumption is problematic. If these results carry over from games to economics, this raises deep questions about when economics models are useful to understand the real world.” • “What, never?” “No, never.” “What, never?” “Well, hardly ever!”

For International Women’s Day 2019:

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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 (Angie):

Angie writes:

I’m a faithful daily NC reader, thanks to everyone at the site for all you do, I love love love NC!

Please find attached a pic of my winter dooryard / garden. I live in the Cuyamaca mountains in the eastern suburbs of San Diego, California. Down in the city it is sunny and warm; up here at 4100′ altitude we’ve been getting snow the last few days.

The tree in the foreground is a Chinese Lantern tree, have to keep it in a planter as gophers live in the hill above us and they love tree roots, they’ve killed every tree planted up there. : ) Behind and above us are manzanita, scrub oak and oak trees. On the ground the California poppies have started pushing up here and there with some iris mixed in.

I love garden projects, and this looks like a really interesting use of that slope. Perhaps Angie will send us an update when everything is in full bloom!

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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. Big River Bandido

    Paul Begala is a perfect example of “failing upward”; he always gets it wrong.

    That said, Sherrod Brown not running means less mud in the water and less opportunity for the Democrat Establishment (like Begala) to confuse voters into thinking Brown is actually on the left. So I’m glad this is how it’s going down.

    1. edmondo

      Sherrod Brown was against M4A, voted for every war appropriation since he’s been in Congress and was almost Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate. He’s everything Trump ran against and beat in 2016. Brown offers NOTHING to anyone who hasn’t contributed to his campaigns or is currently a DNC super-delegate.

      Paul Begala is an ass.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        and was almost Hillary Clinton’s vice-presidential candidate.

        Its much funnier. HRC “promised” Brown the VP slot but always planned on Kaine per the Podesta emails. Podesta had a memo about broaching the topic with Hillary to keep her from dangling the prize in front of Brown.

  2. Samuel Conner

    re: watching warily “as the Democrats’ brand is being hijacked by the far left”

    Not happy with that framing.

    Is it really a “hijacking” if the aircraft is in a terminal nose-dive and the pilots are partying with the cabin crew in the rear of the passenger compartment?

    1. Enquiring Mind

      Dem version of the Flight 93 Election theme, with their own added dysfunctions, alliances and determination to, yet again, snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      “fighting 40 years of rightward lurch to re-orient the Overton Window toward something resembling a livable society” is too long

    3. Grant

      Yeah, I would like to know what the social democrats are far to the left of. Popular opinion? No. Their policies are popular, right in the middle of popular opinion. Far to the left of what exactly, and how can anyone hijack something that never existed anyway? The Democrats don’t have any coherent policy vision, they offer no alternatives as a party (members might, the party doesn’t). It is a pretty thoroughly corrupt party too. So, what brand did they have? Seems that their brand to this point has been based around the Pelosi/Schumer/Clinton/Obama model of politics, which is what exactly?

      If these “moderates” want to moderate a party, why not go for the party in need of actual moderation, the other major party? I don’t think our society or political system would be harmed by these people leaving the Democratic Party, and even if it was, they don’t own the party, and the party has no real core philosophy or on policy. Since it is a blank slate, seems to be up for grabs. If these “moderates” don’t like it, leave, moderate the party in need of moderation.

      1. polecat

        Oh, come on now ..

        Corpserate Democrats DO have a policy vision .. it’s called $GIMMIE$ !

      2. albrt

        But do they eat children? That’s what I want to know about the leaders of the democrat party.

        I don’t have any first hand information, but I can’t see any reason to believe they don’t eat children based on everything else I know about them.

    4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Not happy or very happy?

      Is the goal not to take over the party, the brand?

      Is it due to the word ‘hijacked’ instead of ‘taken over?’

  3. Isotope_C14

    “Makes sense, especially in the Arctic. Obsidian is the only substance that can kill White Walkers.”

    Lambert. You have taken the water cooler to an entirely new level.


    1. polecat

      Don’t you mean Whithaired Walkers.. of the Congressional kind

      And let’s not forget about the Valerian Steel …
      Perhaps some enterprising young bastard can be found who would be willing to forge some fine impliments for us lowly villagers.

      1. ewmayer

        I think it’s a Game of Thrones reference. Not being a premium-cable-payer-for-er I finally got round recently to watching S1 and S2 of GoT on used DVD … sorry, GoT fans, but *this* is what the hype is about? Personally I thought History Channel’s Vikings was rather better, if for no other reason that it’s at least remotely plausible, not just a bunch of made-up fantasy crapola of ever-increasing ridiculousness (the Red Witch giving birth to scary black-mist CGI-monster-incubus, gah! I wanted to claw my eyes out after watching that bit of raging inanity), written by the now-seemingly-obligatory-for-the-genre “guy with two middle initials R.R.”. Oh, but lots of gratuitous nekkidness and kink and rapine – so awesome!

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      2 real dragons + mercenaries VS 1 undead ice dragon + army of undead: WHO YA GOT?

  4. Linden S.

    RE: 11 steps to talk about climate change

    This isn’t backed up by any surveys or data, but I have a firm belief that most people who would be considered ‘deniers’ or ‘skeptics’ intuitively or intellectually understand that *most climate solutions are bunk and do not even attempt to match the scale of the problem.* You go to a super depressing talk where someone says “you can buy solar panels, buy an EV, recycle” and you are expected to say to yourself “yeah we got this!” Whereas when people are honest about how ambitious you need to be to confront the threat (i.e. sunrise movement/AOC/etc.) people respond to it. I think most ‘regular people’ understand this better than policy nerds or many academics..

  5. Shonde

    Kamala Harris’s bill to have a statute of Shirley Chisholm placed in the capital building will impress me if she were to state it will be dedicated to the courage of Ilhan Omar.

    1. Cal2


      “Shirley Chisholm had guts. She had guts to oppose the Vietnam War.”

      But you didn’t have the guts to vote against Trump’s defense budget and sending more bombs to Saudi Arabia to blast Yemeni families to bits.

      1. Wukchumni

        Harris didn’t exactly go down the Chisholm trail, another warmonger pantomiming for gold.

    2. RopeADope

      A Chisholm statue is perfect for the establishment Dems. She left in 1983 just as the right’s racism was being hid within a bifurcated Dollar. This way the establishment Democrats can pretend that they are not Reagan racists even though they push Reagan policies. Because the statue.

    3. Tom Stone

      A statue of Shirley Chisholm would provide concrete ( And bronze) material benefits to the local pigeons.
      What’s not to like?

      1. polecat

        I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Kamala and Co. outsourced the casting and mounting of said statue to non-citizens on the cheap !

    4. Henry Moon Pie

      I think Harris’s proposal is great. Sixty or seventy years from now, when some human remnant comes upon the ruins of the Capitol a’ la “Logan’s Run,” there will be a statue of Shirley Chisolm there (not that Ms. Chisolm doesn’t deserve a statue).

  6. Another Scott

    Why can’t Warren say something like this? “By breaking upon the tech monopolies, we’ll lower advertising costs for business, small and large, and help creators earn a living off their writing, music and videos through the elimination of rent-seeking middle men.”

    Although we can’t tell whether it true or not, this statement would have something for almost everyone. Small business owners would like to see claims that their advertising costs go down, marketing staffs at large companies might like the claim that they’ll have less powerful buyers, and the content creators are the “creative class” that liberals are in love with. Even the mainstream media might benefit if Google and Facebook capture less of the advertising money.

    She could even go a step further and tie their business practices to privacy violations and the need for more energy to power the data centers.

    1. Chris Cosmos

      I don’t see breaking up big IT companies as a good idea. Rather, a better idea is to redefine a corporation and make it more liable to public interest law suits and responsible for criminal actions like avoiding taxes.

      For starters going to the law should be a free service provided by the state. Today the justice system has become more corrupt than useful by making justice, largely (but not always) equal to the money you have. All law-firms should be public interest firms hired at fixed fees by the State depending on particular competence and partly financed by fines and penalties.

      Second, corporations should, by law be required to act in the public interest and their charter should be reviewed every seven years by a board chosen by lottery where pro- and con- testimonies could be given on the nature of that corporations activities along a broad scale of criteria.

      In the meantime we should start with taxing these companies heavily and stop the off-shoring that they typically do.

      1. polecat

        Yes ! This !
        But not until the geriatric whitehaired congress walkers are defeated, will any such legislation be forthcoming ..

      2. Jeremy Grimm

        I believe we need to re-examine our society to identify natural monopolies and nationalize them. Forget about big IT companies, corporations, Corporatet Cartels, and BREAK them. Your idea of “going to the law” given our present courts and prosecutors … ARE YOU SERIOUS?

        Before corporations are “required to act in the public interest” at law I want a much more exhaustive examination of Corporate Law, AND Corporate common law. We do not need big corporations as they currently exist. They are an alien lifeform devoted to the destruction of all Humankind.

        If you like laws — we might start enforcing existing anti-trust laws against Corporations, and existing laws against corporate mergers like ATT and Time Warner.

        1. Chris Cosmos

          As I said law courts should be a public utility where decisions are not a result of money.

            1. Chris Cosmos

              We start right there. We start assuming a just world and change the culture–we can do it and have to do it.

      3. GimmeEcclesPlease

        YES! The ability to hold companies and wealthy people accountable for their actions has been eroded to pointlessness. When a justice system can’t find ways to convict what are dictionary definitions of classic criminal behavior that has existed since prehistory which anyone with a 2nd grade education can understand then what’s the point of the legal system other than to enforce hegemony.

        America losing its dominate position in tech and other key industries will lead to far worse outcomes than abusive monopolies like Google. I don’t trust the tech illiterate federal govt to start ripping tech companies to pieces without making things worse.

        We need better police on the corporate beat. The reason companies are robbing us blind is because we let them get away with it. We’ll need campaign finance reform and newly elected officials on a mission to fix this situation but if we get willing representation then accountability with real consequences is the only solution to corporate overreach and criminality. When a prison sentence is a probable outcome it’s shocking how fast the market self corrects from companies choosing to moderate their own behavior. The James Carville campaign slogan our economy needs now is “Its the rule of law stupid!”

        1. Carla

          “We’ll need campaign finance reform and newly elected officials on a mission to fix this situation”

          We’re gonna need more than that. We’re gonna need the “We the People Amendment” HJR-48 — just re-introduced in the 116th Congress by Rep. Jayapal. So new it doesn’t have its own web page yet, but it had a total of 66 cosponsors in the 115th Congress and you can check it out here:

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            That’s pretty good. From the Resolution:

            The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only. Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law, and shall not be construed to be inherent or inalienable.

            “ Section 2. Federal, State and local government shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, to ensure that all citizens, regardless of their economic status, have access to the political process, and that no person gains, as a result of that person’s money, substantially more access or ability to influence in any way the election of any candidate for public office or any ballot measure. Federal, State, and local governments shall require that any permissible contributions and expenditures be publicly disclosed. The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.”.

            Common sense! It’s important to call out the insane doctrines developed under neoliberalism, like “corporations are people, my friend” and “money is speech.” Just goofy stuff, looked at for thirty seconds.

            Only one Republican co-sponsor (Walter Jones) but a spectrum of Democrats, from Seth Moulton to Ro Khanna.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > help creators earn a living off their writing, music and videos

      In my coffee shop, I heard one man explain how his daughter created a video that got millions of views, for which she recieved a paltry sum. And the money would have meant something.

      The forces of production are in contradiction with the relations of production, as the Bearded One would say.

    1. Tyrannocaster

      One wonders if any of the Trump folks who were sent letters this week and have said they will not respond will follow through…and if they do, how many of them will be jailed. Any bets?

    2. Chris Cosmos

      This case, though sad, helps us understand who the real fascists are, i.e., the National Security State that includes creeps like Mueller and associated prosecutors–they are, to me, worse than Trump because they are way more tightly networked.

  7. Chris Cosmos

    I find the fact “pragmatism” is brought up in the campaign it implies that it means being pro-war, pro-corporate, anti-egalitarian and all the rest of the so-called “centrists” in the Democratic Party who aren’t centrists, they are conservatives, i.e., the oppose change other than making sure the current oligarchy stays in power. But it’s not pragmatism at all. When I’ve looked at dozens of creative solutions to most of our collective problems the ones favored by these “centrists” are always utterly ridiculous, anti-scientific and highly illogical. If there are pragmatic solutions, i.e., solutions that would work and get the desired ends, they are automatically excluded from conversation in all areas.

    I’m a pragmatist. If socialist ideas actually work, like funding a fire-department then I’m for it. If capitalistic ideas work, like having free-markets, I’m for it–if they don’t work and become “managed” and tilted markets then I’m against it as in health-care and financial services. Imperial wars are an example and Trump mentioned it–if there’s no advantage to the United States then why fight a war? Our wars aren’t pragmatic in any way particularly when our military performs so poorly.

    What these clowns on the DP right actually mean as pragmatic is whether or not a policy will pass muster by passing through the half-dozen or so major powers in Washington. Those of us who oppose these a-holes should be very upfront about redefining pragmatism.

    1. jsn

      What congress critters mean by pragmatic is, “what it takes not offend the donors and still get reelected.”

      “Pragmatic” is highly determined by who’s interest are at issue, voters, donors or politicians.

    2. Jeff W

      …whether or not a policy will pass muster by passing through the half-dozen or so major powers in Washington.

      “Pragmatic,” in the US political context, always sounds to me like “staying within the constraints of this completely corrupt, oligarchic system, which we normalize as ‘just the way things work around here.'”

      Said to the voters, e.g., “You have to be ‘pragmatic,'” it’s like “Shut up and don’t even think of anything outside the status quo.”

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


      Another word is realism, mentioned in Links today (The Case for Green Realism).

      Pragmatic, realistic, instead of, I don’t know, ivory tower?

      Like many other words, the meaning of each can be elastic.

      1. polecat

        Who, in the vanted halls of CONgrease, doesn’t like a big heaping rice bowl of Pragmatism ..

    4. tegnost

      ok you can call yourself a pragmatist, but a few lines up from here you propose making “law” (wouldn’t it have to be the justice dept?) into a public utility. If it’s the justice dept. then it’s already a public utility in a sense. If it’s lawyers who become utilities…how do you do that? Where’s the pragmatism? Corps, who according to the above comment are not the problem, have been trying to kill off the trial lawyers for a long time and this idea may be pragmatic from their point of view? I have to add, corporations avoid paying taxes completely legally, they brag about it. Cheaper lawyers won’t change that…
      “Rather, a better idea is to redefine a corporation and make it more liable to public interest law suits and responsible for criminal actions like avoiding taxes.” In what pragmatic way are you planning to redefine the corp? Public interest lawsuits are one of the few things they are afraid of, see whistleblower prosecutions for proof.

  8. laughingsong

    “. . . a fundraising apparatus bypassing the Democrat party . . . a media apparatus bypassing the mainstream press . . . [a] canvassing operation of volunteers bypass[ing] the Democrat Party . . . he will have built

    1) a competing structure to the Democrat Party within the Democrat Party,
    2) a stealth third party.

    Well played, Senator, well played…

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      The revolution…is coming from inside the house!

      Sanders 2020 – because Down With The Oligarchy, that’s why

    2. Carey

      I like #2, and wonder if there could be coordination with the Movement for a People’s
      Party. Maybe there already is?

  9. Jerry B

    ===Until that’s done, this is an academic, and not a political, question.===

    I like Liz Warren a lot. She reminds me of a pit bull in that she is determined and will not let go once she decides to sink her teeth into an issue. I think she has been a thorn in the side of Wall Street and the oligarchs.

    That being said, my frustration with her is the above statement, in that she is an academic policy wonk and she does not go far enough in pushing for universal concrete material benefits for citizens. All that academia ivory tower talk is nice Liz, but how does it help me and us??? I also believe that Warren’s nerdy (in this case a compliment), academic , and policy wonk personality is not a fit to be President.

    Ambitions and dreams are great but sometimes a person has to know their limitations and stick to what they are great at doing.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      +1 I want Liz in the Senate being a bulldog for President Sanders’ anti-trust push, which one hopes will be the first one with teeth since Teddy Roosevelt over 100 years ago. See screen name.

          1. allan

            In fact, there have been many female Treasurers of the United States,
            whose signatures appear on paper currency next to that of the Secretary of Treasury.

            Back to Warren: I’d rather have her in the Senate for another 6 or 12 years than SoT for 4.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Or SEC (but that might not be a step up from the Senate).
          Though I can think of another excellent candidate for SEC.

        2. bassmule

          Yves, didn’t you once describe Warren as an alpha dog, or something like that? As she is actually not from Goldman Sachs, I think this would be an essential qualification for the post.

    2. Chris Cosmos

      I agree with you. But I have a different take. My problem with Warren is she seems to have no overall vision and is clearly not a leader. As a cabinet secretary of domestic policy advisor she would be marvelous. I’ve been a fan of her for years.

      She seems to live in the past in an America that is no longer here. Old-time breaking monopolies just won’t do–it may have made some sense a century ago but is pointless today. I’ve given my solution to that problem in another comment.

  10. Wukchumni

    “Proof of a 2,000 kilometre polar trade route in volcanic glass dating back at least 8,000 years”

    What an amazing distance to go in order to procure obsidian!

    All they had here on the western slope of the Sierra to make arrowhead points, was chert, which was quite inferior in comparison, but the east side of the Sierra has obsidian, so the Indians walked from 1,000 feet to around 10,000 feet and down to 4,000 feet, 50 miles later to procure it.

    We were at some hot springs in the area a little south of the Mammoth airport last summer, and an interesting rocky ridge was calling out our name to go explore it, and when we got to the top, there was a level area that must’ve been a knapping factory, as we found hundreds of pieces of worked obsidian, the not quite good enough leftovers that fell where the Indians had worked on them.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Humans traded for things not locally available.

      Thus, we are not likely ever to find bottled (or otherwise) mineral water from Germany in, say, India, 8,000 years ago.

      Today, we drink beer from the Bohemia, when there are many local brewers.

  11. XXYY

    Some really nice analysis mixed in with the links today, Lambert.

    Wheaties for breakfast?

  12. Ranger Rick

    Hickenlooper: So popular in Colorado that Jared Polis returned from Congress (despite having a guaranteed safe district!) to run for governor.

    1. Wukchumni

      In the western part of the state, we saw fracking wells hundreds of feet away from the Colorado River, which seemed oh so very wrong.

    2. Knifecatcher

      Other than fracking the most important thing that happened in CO during Hick’s tenure was MJ legalization.

      He opposed it. So good luck riding that issue.

      Nobody here seems too excited about him one way or another – more of an “oh yeah, that guy” kind of feeling.

      1. polecat

        Hickenlooper is to Inslee .. what Harris is to Sanders

        Not that Inslee is some great gob of potus potential … but Hickenlooper soulds like quite the twit !

    1. pretzelattack

      maybe they’ll save money by sending us a text message. “you’re going to die in 6 months. regards, dr. x”

    2. EricT

      Could you imagine after getting the diagnosis, you are swamped with pop up ads for lawyers, funeral homes, and other such things? Google commercializes the end of your life. Don’t go into the light, oops, don’t worry, its just the Google search page.

    3. False Solace

      Seems like a step up from the Aetna doctor who rejected insurance claims without even checking the medical records. He testified this was in accordance with his corporate training.

  13. PKMKII

    Reading Hickenlooper’s drivel, I realized when politicians talk about bringing Americans together to work together, they never mean actual Americans. They don’t want farmers in Oklahoma advising on New York state government proceedings, or vice versa with NYC public housing residents. What they mean is, Americans need to vicariously experience such via DC politicians “working” across the aisle. Which, in a weird way, explains the cult-like “I’m With Her” rhetoric and Mother-mindset among the Hillary campaign and its followers. You do not vote for them in order to get concrete material gains, you vote for them so that they can be your political avatar, like a video game character you can’t actually control.

    Speaking of concrete benefits, simple way to amend that onto Warren’s plan: Every time we post something on Facebook, search something on Google, or buy something on Amazon, that information gets parsed, packaged, and sold off as marketing data. Our labor, so to speak, is being commodified without us receiving a cut of the earnings from said labor. So include a provision for a data-generated dividend that platform users receive.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > You do not vote for them in order to get concrete material gains, you vote for them so that they can be your political avatar, like a video game character you can’t actually control.

      “I want to be your champion.”

      > Our labor, so to speak, is being commodified without us receiving a cut of the earnings from said labor. So include a provision for a data-generated dividend that platform users receive.

      Rather like Green Stamps, back in the day.

  14. pretzelattack

    per the moon, trump wants germany and japan to pay the us for having military bases there.

    1. Harold

      Excerpt from the article: “Trump’s extortion racket will make it more difficult for Merkel and Abe to ally with the U.S. on other issues. That is a sound reason to welcome it.”

    2. Oregoncharles

      Shades of the Athens empire, back in Classical times.

      These dynamics never really go away.

  15. Cal2

    “Now, a Snopes investigation reveals in detail how these activists used the appearance of local newspapers to promote messages paid for or supported by outside or undisclosed interests…”

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

    “…Here was the one of the world’s most respected fact checking organizations, soon to be an ultimate arbitrator of “truth” on Facebook, saying that it cannot respond to a fact checking request because of a secrecy agreement.

    In short, when someone attempted to fact check the fact checker, the response was the equivalent of “it’s secret.”

    It is impossible to understate how antithetical this is to the fact checking world, in which absolute openness and transparency are necessary prerequisites for trust. How can fact checking organizations like Snopes expect the public to place trust in them if when they themselves are called into question, their response is that they can’t respond.”



    1. Darthbobber

      The part of your post that’s in quotation marks I’m unable to find in the text of either of the articles you link to.

      These articles are from 2017, btw. I know that Snopes had prevailed in the tentative ruling. I see from their site that Mikkelson remains the editor in chief, and that nobody associated with Proper Media (the antagonist in the ownership battle) seems to be on board, so I assume that thats how things went.

      Which would imply that a judge somewhere preferred Mikkelson’s version of the facts to the unsubstantiated lawsuit allegations flogged by the Daily Mail.

    2. Carolinian

      Perhaps the whole notion of a “fact checker” is dubious although it could be a good business model for creating a website. Therefore the more obscure and non commercial the site the better. Dean Baker does a good job of debunking the WaPo and NYT on economics but it is not, I believe, his day job. Moon of Alabama seems to have similarly started as a sideline by someone interested in ferreting out the truth. As web consumers we do better to follow our instincts on who to trust rather than depending on a site’s supposed credentials.

      1. notabanker

        In corporate life, “checkers checking the checkers” was a pure sign of waste and spelled doom for the bureaucratic fiefdom from which it emanated. In reality, the corporate system had already found a way to bypass it, so getting rid if it was a rather straightforward task. Just sayin.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Perhaps the whole notion of a “fact checker” is dubious

        See, we used to have this thing called a “news room” and in it, there were not only journalists but editors, including copy editors.

    1. Cal2

      So?, felons can’t usually vote for president. It’s a throwaway line for Old Joe.

      Far more student debtors, who can vote, in America than criminals:

      Apparently Biden decided recently that not enough people hated him so decide to change that. Saw a Jimmy Dore video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VdmeV0GJ-oE) on him talking about Millennials who will be potentially 40% of voters in 2020. When asked about Millennials he says, and I quote: “The younger generation now tells me how tough things are. Give me a break. No, no, I have no empathy for it. Give me a break.”


      1. polecat

        In a just world, Biden would out on the prison grounds with the rest of the Congreasesional chain gang, breaking rocks !

  16. JohnnyGL

    Re: “How to have a useful conversation on climate change”

    I actually think this is somewhat misguided. Individual beliefs and actions are just tinkering around the margins. The questions actually sounded like attempts at religious converstion. Just replace ‘climate change’ with ‘god’ or ‘jesus’ and think about how they sound.

    I think what’s more important is to take the Bernie message.

    Talk to people who are already stressed out and concerned about it and ask them, “Have you called your congressional rep. and asked, ‘what’s the plan to save all the cities on the east coast from sinking underwater?’ or maybe ‘That new rep AOC wants to come up with a plan, what does the rep think?’

    If you don’t like what you hear from your rep, say “that’s not good enough to tackle the problem, we need stronger, bolder leadership on this issue”.

    Town Halls, activist groups, letters to editor of newspapers, that kind of stuff is more important than having a ‘useful’ conversation with someone who’s climate curious, or just wants to talk. If everyone believes in climate change, but no one demands action from leadership then we’re all going to be anxious for years while doing nothing and watching civilzation get upended.

    1. JohnnyGL

      The comparison on the level of mobilization needed aroudn climate change has been compared to WWII, on this site, as well as in other places.

      Think of the absurdity of applying the approach of ‘having a conversation’ to a war mobilization….

      “Do you believe the Japanese attacked our battleships at Pearl Harbor? Have you thought about this issue?”


      “Have you called Congress and demanded an immediate declaration of war and that we should build a dozen aircraft carriers to bomb the crap out of the bad guys!?!?!?”

      Bottom line….it’s government….government…..government….NOTHING ELSE MATTERS besides what government does about the problem. You can buy a hybrid car and give up meat or whatever….won’t matter!!!

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        What will matter is a radical change in our government. What will matter is categorical rejection of Neoliberal economics in all its many forms. What was unthinkable must become policy. That is the level of mobilization the Great Depression and World War II demanded. That is the level of mobilization we need now.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I am open to the idea, and would like to be convinced, but I am not sure government, government, government can

        1. Make us love the planet
        2. Make us love one another (see the news about a guy picking up trash in his own front yard)

        Instead, I think it will take a mixed bag of approaches.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Unless of course the individually mind-changed new climate-realist that you have talked to decides the thing to do is all the political reach-out and pressure-things that you have described as being part of the Bernie message.

  17. Stanley Dundee

    Interesting salvo from Ken Silverstein today on AP/propublica prize-winning reporter Hannah Dreier over reporting on Venezuela.

    1. Olga

      While I appreciate KS’ takedown of yet another journalistic shill, I do find i very curious that he’d see it necessary to mention that he “intensely dislikes Maduro.” How can one intensely dislike someone one never even met? Did Maduro do something to KS or his family for which he could be disliked? Intense dislike implies something very personal – and I just find it strange.

      1. Stanley Dundee


        How can one intensely dislike someone one never even met?

        Silverstein has long reported on VZ so he might have justified opinions on the character and competence of Maduro. I can think of some people I’ve never met that I intensely dislike, quite a few, in fact. How about Bezos for starts, just to pick one. Rubio. Pence. Need I go on?

        1. Carolinian

          That’s right. Your link is interesting.

          Any critique of Dreier must begin with her class background, and the fact that a wealthy, credulous, patriotic U.S. citizen may not be the best person to write about a country that’s overwhelmingly poor, and has been on the receiving end of U.S. imperialism for a long time. Dreier graduated from Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where the present annual tuition is $71,764, or the equivalent of minimum wage in Venezuela for about 892 years.

          Silverstein has a long and distinguished lefty journalist history including founding the original Counterpunch newsletter with Alexander Cockburn.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Perhaps he’s trying to pre-empt accusations that he is a Maduro fanboy. Such accusations would be used to pre-discredit his writing on the subject.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s very good. Again, the tell on local conditions in Venezuela is that after two days of power failure, there hasn’t been an orgy of looting and violence, as we would expect if conditions were so desperate (as, e.g., in Haiti) as to make people go feral. The opposition hasn’t even been able to gin anything up for the cameras!

  18. Adam1

    I sent Bernie money multiple times in 2016, but have yet to send him a cent. Nothing wrong with Bernie 2020, I’m just keeping my powder dry until I can see the whites in their eyes.

  19. Elizabeth Burton

    Sanders was, indeed, the first to back up Ilhan Omar—all the way back to 15 February. That, of course, didn’t make it into the media, but those of us on the Sanders bandwagon are already prepared for the the media to be the public mouthpiece while the DNC chooses its Anointed in that smoky back room.

    Which makes one ponder Rahm Emmanuel’s abrupt decision not to seek another term as mayor, doesn’t it?

    1. richard

      Did anyone else look through the comments on that tweet? Every single clinton dem was out of the woodwork, and dripping with senseless bitter hatred. None of them responded to the point of the tweet, that Sanders has steadfastly supported Omar. Most concentrated on the word “frontrunner”, or “he’s not even a democrat!”. What has happened to these people? Did they ever used to be left? Trump has without doubt broken their brains. Well, trump and hillary.

  20. remmer

    “Liberals and the left fail to notice – and celebrate – the intellectual death of conservatism” (Real Economics) is very good. The author is very well-read and his economic history is illuminating. I was especially glad to see his explanation of how Alexander Hamilton went about building a national economy in the 1790s. Hamilton tends to get such respect only from economic, not political, historians. He treats Jefferson gently, too, saying only that he didn’t understand what Hamilton was doing.

    1. Plenue

      What is dead may never die. I wasn’t aware conservatism, of any flavor, was ever intellectually alive to begin with.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I see the world as multi-facted, reality multi-dimensional, and life full of contradictions, with many often oppposing, and not privileged, ways of looking the same phenomenon.

        As for all -isms, they are what they are…and if unborn, they are never dead.

  21. bun

    In a fascinating, but little-known 1927 essay, “On Freedom,” Karl Polanyi also attempted such a project, giving us a stylized rendition of what it would mean for a political collective, rather than a firm or a consumer, to make an economic decision—not in the marketplace, where price helps determine our decisions, but in a deliberative assembly, where other considerations are at play. ”

    Years ago when living in Boston I was exposed to “Participatory Economics” through Robin Hahnel and Michael Albert’s book “Looking Forward: Participatory Economics for the Twenty First Century Paperback – Jul 1 1999”. Still on my shelf. Interesting read. and just noticed there is a website on this idea http://www.participatoryeconomics.info so the idea seems to have stuck around.

    Always struck me as one of those ideas where how to go from there from here is not at all obvious, given the massive societal and institutional inertias at play

    1. Eric Patton

      I think one of the first steps is just raising awareness about parecon. Most people have never heard of it. It is, though, a necessary and sufficient condition for the liberation of the working class.

      And participatoryeconomics.info is a great site.

  22. WobblyTelomeres

    “WSJ to close Jakarta bureau, will restructure SE Asia”

    Why, one asks.

    Anecdotally, a company I worked for 20 years ago hired a new CEO who rapidly decided that the thing that was needed most to grow the company was a brand spanking new fiber optic research facility in Boston. Made no sense to anyone but him. Turns out, he wanted a reason to fly to Boston every weekend. Boston meetings every Friday afternoon and Monday morning. Annnnd, he had a girlfriend there. Then we went bankrupt.

    Might just be something equally asinine. I no longer give business leaders credit for thinking, or anything, really.

  23. Katy

    “The Democrats’ Dilemma” [Politico]

    Ilhan Omar vs. Dean Philips is basically the progressive wing left vs. Thomas Frank’s professional class liberals. Phillips represents Minnesota’s rich people. Omar’s constituents are the working class and the uber-left/DSA.

    This is the exact same divide that will decide Minnesota’s 2020 DFL primary. It’s Bernie Sanders vs. whomever the establishment Democrats choose. Bernie won here last time!

    1. Shonde

      Great article. As I was reading the Omar quotes, I started to think, “Doggone, she’s been reading Naked Capitalism!.

  24. Wukchumni

    Santa Anita racetrack has made the news lately, with 21 thoroughbreds dying and the surface conditions of the oval being the culprit.

    In a dying sport, the land on which it stands is worth a ton more as residential/retail, than as it has been utilized the past 85 years. There’s enough parking for 25,000 cars in a sport that’s lucky to get 2,500 horseplayers each racing day.

    I wonder if they’ll use this as a way to shut down the finest facility of it’s kind in these United States, and go with plan B?

  25. Oregoncharles

    “So there’s a Rules Fairy as well as a Norms Fairy. Good to know.”
    Senate rules are set by the party in control at the beginning of the session, so that’s when we know how serious they are.

    Then there’s the veto. Remember: the “major” parties trade the presidency back and forth, TWO FULL TERMS at a time. So in 2020, it’s still the Republicans’ turn.

    1. Carey

      “It’s all so complex! and confusing!! yes, confusing, too!!.. and expensive, did I mention expensive?”

      Odd that that’s not the case for War spending, or, indeed, any of the stuff that benefits only the Few.

    2. Darius

      Republicans never seem to have much trouble using budget reconciliation to ram through whatever they want. The big tax cut for the rich last year was a budget reconciliation bill. Repealing Obamacare also was budget reconciliation. It would have worked if McCain hadn’t voted no. The majority can write whatever budget assumptions they want to justify it. Republicans just lie. Democrats pull out their smelling salts.

    3. polecat

      Well, it Is a two-headed Club, afterall … and you know the ol’ saying – “We ain’t init !”

      How to establish parties that can’t game ( read ‘cheat’ …) the election process .. Now, That’s the rub ! It would almost seem that there would be a need for a constitutional amendment that explicitly laid out the ground rules that All political parties (as many as will register) had to abide by, so as to make for fair and honest elections. No more of this opaque wheasely white-shoe-lawyerly party shenanigans.

  26. Darthbobber

    The Politico article on Omar, Philips, and the Democrats’ “dilemma”.

    First, this: “fixers not firebrands, moderates who are watching warily as the Democrats’ brand is being hijacked by the far left.” This is about the half-dozenth piece I’ve seen on Politico in the past few weeks to sandwich “brand”, “far left”, and “hijack” into a single sentence.

    I couldn’t help noting that in terms of income Omar’s district looks more like the nation as a whole than Phillips’s does. The bar chart indicates that nearly half of the households in his district make more than a hundred grand a year, He represents the kind of affluent district that the DCCC targeted with its focus on well-to-do Republicans who didn’t care for Trump personally. And his time in office thus far indicates that he’s just what you’d expect from such a guy.

    All this “hijacking” goin’ on. Of course, those like Phillips are welcome to showcase their positions and tout the sort of thing they’re willing to push for (for some value of “push”), but if it resonates not much of anywhere whose fault is that?

    And its hard not to notice that the 2020 Senatorial map contains few Republican states that have enough upscale suburbs for the 2018 DCCC strategy to work for the DSCC. (This is what centrists at places like TPM subconsciously reference when they call that map “daunting”. Because their frame of reference has just written off a host of voters as incorrigably deplorable, and bold action isn’t part of the playbook.)

    On what sort of things does the Phillips centrist contigent find those partners across the aisle to facilitate their fixing and problem solving? Financial deregulation? Sticking up for payday lenders? Further expansion of the surveillance state? Most of what such people CAN accomplish in the present environment is the sort of thing it doesn’t pay to advertise nationally. For those who feel that the state of the nation is fundamentally sound and just needs a bit of wonkish tinkering here and there to be perfect, people like Phillips may fill the bill. But what percentage of the populace feels that way?

    1. jsn

      Why would the Democrats want to appeal to people like Omar’s district? Most places like that are Republican and if you flipped all those districts you’d actually have to govern.

      Thats’ hard work.

      Better to just keep fighting for what you’ve always been handsomely paid to fight for without winning.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Things have been bad so long many people don’t grasp they could be better. I told an older neighbor (i knew him from high school) of my parents about my old running routes over the holidays. He remarked about how those rich p****s (he lives down the street from my parents, he shouldn’t be broke)managed to get two one way roads with a nice median. It’s where the trolley use to run. The nearby grocery store was once a commuter lot for the trolley.

      The guy’s house is less than a quarter of a mile (if that) away from an old trolley line. He had no idea it was there. He thought it was some rich person thing. Given how long this guy has lived there, it raises questions about how many people even know it was once a trolley line.

  27. Stephen V.

    Thomas Fortune also “saw” and wrote at the time that BTWashington was “our Douglass ” after his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech.
    Which speech was dubbed (derisively ) by DuBois The Atlanta Compromise.
    The Sears bankruptcy has raised interest in Julius Rosenwald. The story of his partnership with BTW is told in Deustch’s book YOU NEED A SCHOOL HOUSE.
    I was drawn to it in part to explore the contrast between BTW’S educational (Tuskegee founder) vision and WEB Du Bois’ Civil Rights strategy. Thanks Lambert!

  28. Summer

    Re: Biosphere

    Is there any agreement about what a green job or economy looks like?
    Realizing that it’s a start from 0 green jobs since the ramp up of the industrial age. It didn’t create any green jobs. Not a one.

    What is the best source for showing what a green job or economy looks like?

    Cause right now I see more talk about what looks like a way toward charging people for the air they breathe – more than anything else.

      1. Summer

        Maybe, maybe not.
        Early agricultural and engineereing techniques weren’t all environmentally friendly just because they didn’t use electricity.

  29. Mark K

    On microfiber pollution: ” H&M is … monitoring the development of biodegradable fibers.”

    Wool? Cotton? Linen? Not sure what development is needed.

    1. Huey Long


      As an AFL-CIO affiliated union member I can definitely attest to this; UE is a horse of a different color.

  30. Wukchumni

    All of those photos of the madam MILF (Mandarin Immigrant Living in Florida) with the first family @ Mar-Lago are funny, but par for the course.

  31. Hameloose Cannon

    “[Sanders] built a media apparatus bypassing the mainstream press, […]. If, in 2020, his canvassing operation of volunteers bypasses the Democrat Party at the district and precinct level, he will have built a competing structure to the Democrat[ic] Party within the Democrat[ic] Party”.
    In a winner-take-all, two-party system, is this a sound strategy, the US without Parliament or coalition governments? Faulty logic, to me, this program resembles the type of over-leveraged, “naked” positions, risk without the ability to deal with the consequences of failure, an idea of which this site is critical. [Right on.] I can dig taking measures to force the party to spine-up on issues. But a political insurgency, which is what is described, sounds more like the CIA Man, training guerillas to fight their cousins. Can Sanders Bull-Moose it on charismatic daring-do mania like my doozer, Theo Roosevelt? *Inhaling through teeth.*

      1. integer

        One has to be obscure if one’s positions are indefensible. In the above commenter’s case, those positions include endorsing Russiagate and extolling the virtues of the F-35, among others.

  32. The Rev Kev

    Ilhan Omar does it again. She has now accused Obama of being a smiling murderer. Saint Obama, we all know, is he-who-must-not-be-criticized. The funniest thing? If the Democrats start calling her out on that, all she has to do is give Obama’s words where he says that he found that he was really good at killing people. But surely she would never do that. Would she? I mean that is an IED just waiting to go off. Story at-


    1. Darius

      How are the liberals going to handle the identity politics of Omar vs. Obama? The cognitive dissonance is paralyzing. A black Muslim immigrant woman vs. Mr. Smooth. Hmm.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I think there is a desire to forget Obama ever happened. The Obama supporters don’t even bother to shout Lily-Bedletter anymore. They just rant about looking forward. Obama isn’t helping his case with his drive for a Ziggurat and giant FU to the people of Chicago.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Omar and AOC also present another problem with the Obama era. Omar isn’t being destroyed despite near universal bipartisan condemnation. She’s a force all of a sudden. Obama was President and always had to be worried Republicans would be mean to him. What would John McCain say? Omar, an actual Muslim, is demonstrating the excuses for Obama’s right wing politics were excuses.

        Omar has people falling all over themselves to embarrass themselves. See the McCain Spawn’s claims of being personally hurt by anti-Semitism because she didn’t have a bagel during Passover.

        They will settle on her district as an excuse.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Considering that it was Hollywood that made the term ‘casting couch’ notorious, I find the use of the term an ‘oral history’ to be an unfortunate juxtaposition. David Niven’s books certainly give you a good idea of what was really going on in old Hollywood as in nothing has really changed.

      1. Carolinian

        Glass always half empty for you when it comes to Hollywood? They were also quite prejudiced when it came to black people–as were most whites at the time. Think I’ll still watch their movies.

        And the actress/patron scenario goes back long before Hollywood ever existed. Think I’ll still watch plays/ballet/opera as well.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Glass half empty? No, not at all. I too enjoy a lot of Hollywood’s films. But just because I eat sausages, that does not mean that I should not know how it was made. I really like it when you have great acting and a solid script in a film but that is becoming rarer these days as Hollywood plays it safe with offerings like “Transformers #23” or “Bewitched – the Prequel” all of which depend on CGI to make the film watchable.
          Ask yourself this. In today’s climate in Hollywood, how far would you get doing a film like the 1947 “Gentleman’s Agreement” or perhaps the 1945 “The Lost Weekend”? Not very far I suspect. That is why some of the most imaginative films are Indie films. The talent and ability is there in spades but corporations have taken over Hollywood and you can see the results. It gets worse when you have a J. J. Abrams or a Paul Feig trash previous films with their own ideas of what gimmicks work or what social attitudes they must have featured.

          1. Carolinian

            Gentleman’s Agreement–a film released in 1947 by a certain company named 20th Century Fox. Casting couch may have been involved since director Elia Kazan was quite a lech (by his own admission–he wrote a book). Still not quite seeing the relevance of your comment to my link.

            There are still good films coming out of Hollywood (and plenty of bad ones back in the day). Also artists, not to mention studio heads (then and now), are often not very nice people.

            1. polecat

              I and the Fam watched “The Dressmaker” not long ago. I know nothing regarding Australian casting couch, ahem, ‘standards’ .. but thought the film was very well acted, with a decent script .. And where NO cgi was required !
              As to that mickey mouse outfit cited as per The Rev Kev above :

              Disney ibnae horridnae

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > with offerings like “Transformers #23” or “Bewitched – the Prequel” all of which depend on CGI to make the film watchable.

            Globalization enters in as well. Imagine trying to translate the dialog in, say, His Girl Friday into any other language.

  33. KimberStormer

    As many people care about Facebook and Google as care about RussiaRussiaRussia: nobody. She should go after Comcast and Verizon, who everyone hates.

  34. Ford Prefect

    I am interested in “Hickenlooper” just because its such a great name. It may even be better than “Eisenhower.”

    No more one syllable last names for presidents please.

  35. jcmcdonal

    The data visualisations are interesting, but… Not overly readable. I mean, they probably didn’t know it at the time, but anything in a circle or pie chart is *the worst*. And those graphs crossing each other with vertical and horizontal bars? I have no idea what that ends up saying.

    Visualization is ideally supposed to make data easily understood, where the numbers can obscure what’s happening. The charts on free vs slaves did exactly that, as a data table with the numbers wouldn’t have been easily annotated with what happened over different time periods to cause the subtle shifts.

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