2:00PM Water Cooler 4/10/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“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


Gravel (D)(1):

Gravel (D)(2): “Why I Gave a Buck to Mike Gravel” [Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs]. “Mike Gravel is running for president, thanks to a group of Twitter-savvy teenagers—David Oks, Henry Williams, and Elijah Emery—who somehow convinced him to run… the Mike Gravel Twitter account has a consistent message: The United States has failed to hold itself accountable for crimes committed around the world, its bloated military is a global empire, and a serious presidential candidate must be willing to call out the bipartisan embrace of the defense establishment, the construction of terrifying new autonomous drone technology, and the embrace of human rights abusers like Saudi Arabia and Israel. When Current Affairs talked to Oks and Williams about their campaign, they did not joke around at all. The Democratic Party, they said, needed an antiwar voice. Someone needs to be pushing for a foreign policy agenda that moves toward peace with all nations. Bernie Sanders, they said, had been a ‘fairweather friend’ to the antiwar movement, and has shamefully remained silent on serious issues of justice, such as the imprisonment of Chelsea Manning. If Mike Gravel could get on the debate stage with the other candidates, he could do what he did in 2008, and confront them directly.” • “Needed an antiwar voice” probably grates on Gabbard supporters, but surely two is better than one?

Harris (D): “Kamala Harris Takes Her Shot” [The Atlantic]. Another embed reports. Note that the magazine publication timeline means that this was written some time ago (just after the “pot-smoking joy seeker” eruption). “By harris’s side, on the road, is not her husband, Doug Emhoff, a Los Angeles lawyer she married in 2014, but her sister, Maya, who was a top policy adviser for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign and, before that, the vice president for democracy, rights, and justice at the Ford Foundation and the executive director of the ACLU of Northern California.” • So.

Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders, Now a Millionaire, Pledges to Release Tax Returns by Monday” [New York Times]. “Mr. Sanders — whose trademark on the campaign trail is his attacks on the ‘millionaires’ and the ‘billionaires’ — had consistently ranked among the least wealthy members of the Senate. But since his 2016 run for the presidency, Mr. Sanders’s financial fortunes have improved. His 2017 Senate financial disclosure forms show he earned roughly $1.06 million that year, more than $885,000 from book royalties. His most recent book, ‘Where We Go From Here,’ was published last year.” • Highly inefficient, when you can make a full quarter of that amount in a couple of hours speaking at Goldman.

Sanders (D)(2): Point, from the New Yorker:

Sanders (D)(3): Counterpoint, not from the New Yorker:


Presumably Sanders’ new staff will deal with this…

Trump (R): “Trump calls Mueller probe an ‘attempted coup'” [Politico]. “‘This was an attempted coup,’ [Trump] continued. ‘This was an attempted takedown of a president, and we beat them.'” • It remains to be seen whether Trump will bluster, or start declassifying documents that will prove his case. If the latter, pass the popcorn.

Warren (D): “Elizabeth Warren releases 2018 tax return, revealing $900,000 in income” [Los Angeles Times]. “Warren and her husband, Bruce Mann, jointly reported a gross income of about $900,000 on their return, with Warren reporting income of $176,280 for her job as senator and about $325,000 from her writing career. Warren has penned 11 books, including several as a law professor before she entered politics. Mann, a professor at Harvard Law School, earned more than $400,000.”

Yang (D): “Longshot 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang is using an online meme army to raise millions” [Business Insider]. “But thanks to appearances on the Joe Rogan Experience and the Breakfast Club— one a hugely popular podcast and the other a highly-rated radio show, both with diverse audiences — the political newcomer gained traction and a large following across social media, seemingly overnight. And since then, Yang has made multiple appearances on Fox News and on conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s podcast — neither of which are usually frequented by Democratic presidential contenders. Those appearances helped expose Yang to audiences who might not have otherwise heard of him, namely, the so-called “meme masters” of Reddit, 4Chan, and other forums… This unexpected windfall of contributions driven almost entirely by the Internet, which no other 2020 candidate has experienced, helped Yang secure the required 65,000 individual campaign donations to guarantee him a spot on the stage for the first Democratic primary debates in June in Miami.”

IA: “How Iowa floods have become a 2020 presidential campaign issue” [Des Moines Register]. “‘At the end of the day, I think we’re going to pass a disaster relief bill that will protect Iowa, Nebraska, Puerto Rico and every other community that needs protecting,’ Sanders said in an interview with the Des Moines Register…. Sanders said Puerto Ricans deserve aid just as much as any other Americans suffering from disasters. ‘They are American citizens — you know, a lot of people don’t know that,’ Sanders said. ‘They have got to be treated with respect in the same exact way we treat the people of Vermont and the people of Iowa.'” • Not a lot of pandering there, eh?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Trump has one big advantage heading into 2020. Here’s a progressive response to it.” [WaPo]. “A new national poll finds that 58 percent of Americans approve of Trump’s economic performance, and one Democratic pollster is warning of ‘serious jeopardy’ for the Democratic Party if it fails to articulate a ‘bold, compelling economic vision.'” • And coincidentally, there’s a Democrat think tank with just such a vision: The Roosevelt Institute. “At the core of [the Institute’s] blueprint is a fundamental idea: ‘Our economy rewards those who have power.'” • At least on this column, the unasked question is: What is the source of power?

“Dem activists eye a 2020 focus beyond ‘getting rid of Trump'” [Associated Press]. “Leaders of a prominent liberal group are urging Democratic presidential contenders who are pitching massive policy changes to also focus on more fundamental ‘structural reforms’ to American democracy. In a book set for publication this fall, Ezra Levin and Leah Greenberg — who founded the activist group Indivisible in 2017 — plan to outline a vision for the future of liberal organizing that goes beyond simply fighting President Donald Trump. In their book ‘We Are Indivisible,’ they aim to zero in on issues such as the overhaul of Senate rules, which they see as necessary to achieve the sort of big policy shifts that Democratic presidential candidates are campaigning on.” • Odd, “structural reforms” that have nothing to do with capital, class power, or heck, even identity politics.

“Meeting Needs” [n+1 (DB)]. “The Philly Childcare Collective (PCC) is a group of activists that provide free childcare to racial and economic justice groups in Philadelphia. Their system is similar to that of other radical childcare collectives: coordinators offer free childcare trainings for those who want to support movements throughout the city by caring for kids during meetings, trainings and events… Social reproduction is often forgotten along with the people who perform it. This forgetting has serious political consequences… Political meetings rely upon social reproductive labor: washing dishes, caring for children, feeding participants. But the meeting itself also presents a reproductive challenge: how do participants sit, in what sequence do they speak, how do they address one another? The stakes of these questions are high, and can ultimately sustain or destroy us. These sorts of high stakes are why Silvia Federici lifts up movements that “place at the center of their political project the restructuring of reproduction as the crucial terrain for the transformation of social relations.” • Such efforts are, to me, a better use for DSA resources than electoral politics. Go out and serve the workers! (I’d also add that running a meeting that respects attendees time, as well as their views, is a skill, and well worth learning (and being taught). That’s why I’m a Roberts Rules advocate, instead of whatever it was Occupy did. Of course, people’s experience on the ground may differ).

“The Rightwing of the DSA Left: A Quick Look at r/stupidpol” [Medium]. “The About section features a quote from Adolph Reed, a political scientist who most recently gained a spotlight for his critiques of Ta-Nehisi Coates reparations arguments circa 2015 as well as critiques of college campus ‘call out culture’ and identity politics. Much of his takes come across [to whom?] as blatantly class reductionist.” • I don’t follow Reddit at all, so I have no idea where the irony in all this lies. But if you’re going to throw words like “Strasserite” around, let alone “blatantly [hoo boy] class reductionist” — then it might make sense to do a little research on Reed, who’s a political scientist at the University of Pennsylvania, and was an advisor to the 2016 Sanders campaign. I dunno what “recently gained a spotlight” even means, but if you’ve done your homework, you know that Reed made his call on Obama quite early: In 1996. So Reed’s worth paying attention to, agree or disagree (see e.g., here, here, and here). Reed’s [x] black, too, if identity politics matters to you.

“Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax.” [Pro Publica]. “Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system…. Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa. In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing.” • Thanks, Democrats!

“Nancy Pelosi and Cheri Bustos Take Sudden Swipes at AOC” [The Intercept]. “Despite the dismissive approach to social media from Pelosi and Bustos, Ocasio-Cortez has been able to circumvent traditional political gatekeepers partly because of her online fluency. And she has used the platform to benefit other Democrats. Following the rebuke to the House campaign arm’s policy, Ocasio-Cortez raised $50,000 each for three other lawmakers — Reps. Jahana Hayes, D-Conn., Katie Hill, D-Calif., and Mike Levin, D-Calif. — in a matter of hours.” • Paying them back in their own coin.

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, March 2019: “Higher energy costs drove the consumer price index [higher-than-expected] but when excluding energy and also food, core prices inched up [lower-than-expected] [Econoday]. “Economic data may be slowing in general but inflation remains stable; and though the core may be moderating slightly, overall inflation is rising slightly. For the Federal Reserve, annual CPI rates run several tenths below the PCE price indexes which points to slightly softer-than-target inflation. Nevertheless the direction, which is flat, is favorable.”

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, April 2019: “Inflation expectations at the business level are unchanged for a third straight month” [Econoday]. “This morning’s consumer price report, though mixed, was flat on net which does hint at stable though subdued inflation expectations in the months ahead.”

Banks: “Singapore Bans Former HSBC and UOB Bankers for Fraud and Dishonesty” [Bloomberg]. • Shocking. And, oddly, this hasn’t happened to Chinese banks (though to be fair, I’m not sure if mainland banks do much international business).\

The Bezzle: “China wants to ban bitcoin mining” [Reuters]. “China’s state planner wants to eliminate bitcoin mining in the country, according to a draft list of industrial activities the agency is seeking to stop in a sign of growing government pressure on the cryptocurrency sector…. State-owned newspaper Securities Times said on Tuesday the draft list ‘distinctly reflects the attitude of the country’s industrial policy; toward the cryptocurrency industry.” • A draft, however.

The Bezzle: “Tesla Opens a New Quarter With Another Round of Sales Staff Cuts” [Bloomberg]. “The cuts made last week affected teams known internally as “inside sales,” which were tasked with reaching out to potential customers and inviting them to test drive cars, the people said. After the retail strategy revamp, these employees were reassigned to tasks such as taking inbound calls, helping with deliveries and even washing and detailing vehicles, the people said.”

The Bezzle: “Revealed: the cash cost of WeWork’s global expansion” [FT Alphaville]. “Yet WeWork is not a exactly an infant business either. It is now the largest corporate office tenant in London and New York. And it carries a market valuation of $47bn, 16 times rival Regus, which, according to S&P Capital IQ data, generated $3.3bn of revenues, and $493m of ebitda, in 2018. So at some point, to justify the faith of its investors, it will need to turn off the investment taps and mature.” • “Failure to launch,” it seems, is not merely a slur directed at millennials; it’s the reality for many VC-backed business, including not just WeWork, but Uber, etc.

The Bezzle: Lol:

Love the way Musk is encouraging drivers to take their hands off the wheel…

The Bezzle: “Facebook is hiring someone to tell politicians it’s not a monopoly” [Quartz]. “Facebook, Google, and Amazon control 80% of the US online advertising market with virtually no regulation, in addition to mediating much of the world’s communications and commerce.” • The new hire has their lobbying work cut out for them, ka-ching, ka-ching.

Tech: “The Design of Apple’s Credit Card” [Arun Venkatesan]. “The essence of the design of Apple Card is reduction. Some high-end credit cards move many markings to the back of the card. Apple has gone one step further. The usually present card number, expiration date, security code (CSC or CVV) and signature blank are completely gone…. This level of obsession with the details is nearly expected from Apple. It’s an obsession that requires taste, wealth, expertise and an extensive supply chain, a combination unique to Apple.” • I wouldn’t have thought there’s be a genre for credit card porn; but there is! There is! Also, as the writer hints at, the Apple credit card is really what Apple would like all its “high touch” products to become: Thin, titanium, no user input, no ports, extracting rent with every use, and revocable by Apple at any time for any reason.

Tech: “A Brief History of Porn on the Internet” [Wired]. “John Tierney, a fellow at Columbia University who studied the cultural impact of technology, traced what he called the ‘erotic technological impulse’ back at least 27,000 years—among the first clay-fired figures uncovered from that time were women with large breasts and behinds. ‘Sometimes the erotic has been a force driving technological innovation,’ Tierney wrote in The New York Times in 1994, ‘virtually always, from Stone Age sculpture to computer bulletin boards, it has been one of the first uses for a new medium.'” • Given the puritan and Bowdlerizing tendencies at Google, Apple, and Amazon, I wonder if there is a new medium to which porn is gravitating.

Honey for the Bears: “The Global Economy: A Delicate Moment” [International Monetary Fund]. “A year ago, economic activity was accelerating in almost all regions of the world. One year later, much has changed. The escalation of US–China trade tensions, needed credit tightening in China, macroeconomic stress in Argentina and Turkey, disruptions to the auto sector in Germany, and financial tightening alongside the normalization of monetary policy in the larger advanced economies have all contributed to a significantly weakened global expansion, especially in the second half of 2018…. After the weak start, growth is projected to pick up in the second half of 2019. This pickup is supported by significant monetary policy accommodation by major economies, made possible by the absence of inflationary pressures despite growing at near potential. The US Federal Reserve, the European Central Bank, the Bank of Japan, and the Bank of England have all shifted to a more accommodative stance. China has ramped up its fiscal and monetary stimulus to counter the negative effect of trade tariffs. Furthermore, the outlook for US–China trade tensions has improved as the prospects of a trade agreement take shape.”

The Biosphere

“The trouble with the urban farming ‘revolution'” [Anthropocene Magazine] (original). “The rise of commercial controlled-environment agriculture (CEA)–comprised of large scale rooftop farms, vertical, and indoor farms–is a bid to re-envision cities as places where we could produce food more sustainably in the future…. the predominantly grown foods–such as lettuce–aren’t of great nutritional value for the urban population, especially those threatened by food insecurity. Most produce from CEAs is sold at a premium, something that partly reflects the cost of the real estate used to grow the food. Consequently, that produce is typically grown for high-end food stores and restaurants, meaning it’s unlikely to reach low-income urban populations who need it most. The researchers also think it’s unlikely that CEA–which currently occupies just 3.09 acres in New York City–could expand into the roughly 1,864 acres they estimate is still suitable for urban farming in New York City.”

“Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for Banana Leaves” [EcoWatch]. “Thailand and Vietnam are two of the five countries that account for 60 percent of the plastic in the world’s oceans, according to a 2015 study. Now, Vice reported Friday that supermarkets in both countries are going back to nature to find an alternative to plastic bags: banana leaves.” • Not merely back to nature, back to past practice.

“Toni Kuraga documents the experiences of workers in Almeria’s ‘Sea of Plastic'” (photos) [It’s Nice That]. “Following a previous project in the Adra region of Almería, which follows the expeditions of local fisherman, Toni decided he wanted to tackle a different kind of sea in his subject matter – ‘a sea that cannot be found on any nautical chart; a plastic ocean that covers the whole territory of Almería.’ He is, of course, referring to the 35,000 hectares of greenhouses which the area is famous for. Visible from space, the intensive agriculture of Almería is the largest of its kind. Reportedly producing over half of Europe’s fruit and vegetables, food exports from the greenhouses were valued at €1.4 billion in 2012. With such a wealth of worrying yet impressive figures, it’s easy to overlook the people behind them. Not those at the top of the chain, reaping the rewards of this gigantic harvest, but the ones at the bottom, toiling in the fields for a pittance. Working in temperatures of up to 45-degrees, the labourers that keep the farms running are paid as little as £30 a day.” • The photographs are interesting, but this gives me pause: “In an attempt to counter their suspicions, Toni spends much of his time trying to build a relationship with the workers, eventually finding a few that are willing to be involved.” • It’s not possible to exploit a thing, but it is possible to exploit a person…

“Hidden agony behind our craze for cashews: How thousands of Indian nut processors on £2.15 a day are left with ‘unbearable’ burns from acid in the shells of the superfood” [Daily Mail]. “The rise in veganism is thought to have played a part in our increasing consumption. Cashews are in energy bars, butters and salads as well as vegan alternatives to milk, cheese and creamy puddings. A good source of protein, magnesium, potassium, iron and zinc, the monounsaturated fats they contain help protect against heart disease. But there’s a catch to cashews. The nuts — nearly all processed in India or Vietnam — are difficult to extract and are therefore shelled by hand. A cashew has two layers of hard shell, between which lie caustic substances — cardol and anacardic acid — that can cause vicious burns. Burns are a fact of life for up to 500,000 workers in India’s cashew industry, nearly all women. They are employed without contracts, with no guarantee of steady income, no pension or holiday pay. Many don’t even get gloves, and if they did, they probably couldn’t afford to wear them. Gloves would slow their shelling down, and they are paid by the kilo. When their pain becomes unbearable, they need medicine — and, of course, they must pay for it. So they soothe the acid burns with ash from their fires.” • Oy. And I love cashews.

“Glencore wins $520 million deal to sell coal to Mexico” [Reuters]. “The utility said in a statement that by offering the best price, Glencore won all 12 auctions held to supply a CFE plant in the southwestern state of Guerrero with the coal, for delivery between May and December of this year.” • Leave it in the ground, or at least make it harder to extract.

Neoliberal Epidemics

“The Impact of Student Loan Debt and Student Loan Delinquency on Total, Sex‐, and Age‐specific Suicide Rates during the Great Recession” [Sociological Inquiry]. ” The results of the present study found one aspect of the Great Recession, student loan delinquency, contributed to higher suicide rates in the United States. The results support past research that showed economic indicators such as financial debt and foreclosure was associated with negative mental health outcomes… The results of the present study suggest that increasing student loan delinquency during the Great Recession increased the total, male, age 20–24, and age 35–44 suicide rates within states, but had no effect on any type of suicide between states. Thus, unobserved factors not related to variables in the statistical models are needed to explain differences in suicide rates between states. Examples of these factors could be gun availability, culture, and protective resources related to mental health treatment. Nonetheless, the results reported in this study support past theoretical and empirical studies that explain suicide rates as a function of economic frustration related to the inability to achieve desired social and economic outcomes (Durkheim 1951; Henry and Short 1954; Yang 1992). The study establishes an association between student loan delinquency and suicide rates during the Great Recession.” • So maybe all those [glass bowls] snickering at “economic anxiety” can STFU now?

Guillotine Watch

“Actress Lori Loughlin, 15 other parents indicted in college admissions scandal with conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering” [WaPo]. “Actress Lori Loughlin, her husband and 14 other parents are facing additional charges in the national college admissions scandals, including allegations of money laundering, prosecutors announced Tuesday…. Lara Yeretsian, a criminal defense lawyer, wrote in an email, ‘Loughlin and other parents who are now facing the additional money laundering conspiracy charge are definitely feeling the weight of the government and the mounting pressure to plead guilty or cooperate.’ The additional charges were in no way a surprise, Yeretsian added, ‘considering the hard-hitting and tough posture of the prosecutors in this case.'” • One might wonder, for example, whether “college consultant” William “Rick” Singer’s operation was the only one such, or whether he had competitors that the parents either considered or used for others of their children.

Class Warfare

“John Oliver tackles mobile homes, their pitfalls, and the big investors killing their 1 advantage: affordability” [The Week]. “Recently, private equity firms and other large investors are jumping in, [Oliver] added. ‘So the homes of some of the poorest people in America are getting snapped up by some of the richest people in America, and luckily, there have been no problems whatsoever — except I’m obviously kidding, it’s going terribly.’…. “The rise of big-money investors in mobile homes has led to a corresponding spike in rents, fees,” and other costs, Oliver said. High-interest financing by leading manufactured-home seller Clayton Homes, controlled by Warren Buffett but advertised by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, is one reason mobile homes are a great investment for big investors, and a lousy one for buyers, Oliver said, but it’s not the only reason. About a third of mobile home dwellers own their house but not the land it sits on, and the large investors snapping up mobile home parks tend to jack up rents or tear down the parks.” • Oh, man. Duck Dynasty. Yuck.

News of the Wired

“A realist takes on quantum mechanics” [Nature]. “Like Einstein, [Lee] Smolin is a philosophical ‘realist’ — someone who thinks that the real world exists independently of our minds and can be described by deterministic laws…. This view of the world is incompatible with the conventional interpretation of quantum mechanics, in which key features are unpredictability and the role of observers in the outcome of experiments. Thus, Einstein never accepted that quantum mechanics was anything but an impressive placeholder for a more fundamental theory conforming to his realist credo. Smolin agrees… One thing on which every physicist in Smolin’s field can agree is that there is a crying need for more juicy clues from nature. There have been no surprises concerning the inner workings of atoms for some 20 years. It is experimental results that will decide whether Smolin is correct.” • Quantum mechanics will not be overthrown in prose….

“The True, Complicated Story of the Ayahuasca Murders” [Men’s Journal]. “Ayahuasca tourists, who have been arriving from North America and Europe since at least the 1960s, have long been accused of appropriating and dishonoring indigenous tribal culture, by using the brew, an important part of local religious ceremonies, for recreation. The recent boom in ayahuasca-seeking outsiders owes, in large part, to scientists’ speculations that DMT, the drug’s primary psychoactive substance (which is illegal in the U.S. and Canada), may help treat addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress, and other disorders.” • An interesting and ugly story, which reminds me of that Christian missionary’s fatal trip to the Andaman Islands…. Of course, we might ask ourselves why our own culture is so efficient at producing “addiction, depression, post-traumatic stress” and other disorders.\\

“Smooth taste”:

I’m not at all sure this is right. But it’s an intriguing hypothesis!


Though if I were a citizen of the UK, I might reconsider.

The Lidless Eye:

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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 (IM):

IM: “West coast forest in the spring, with lovely translucent vine maple leaves and sword fern fronds. Everything is trying to absorb light before the big leaf maples shade them out.”

Readers, despite several contributions yesterday, I’m still a little bit stressed on plant inventory. Maybe time for some shots of spring? Or at least mud?

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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. JohnnyGL

      Bruce Dixon and Glen Ford often write some excellent stuff and are very astute observers and critics of the Democratic Party, but they also seem to think EVERYONE’s a sheepdog, no matter what good they’ve done along the way.

      Among the weirdest things I’ve seen from them is openly hoping that the democrats rob Bernie of the nomination (rather than, you know, actually winning it) because they think that would destroy the Democratic Party and they think that is THE most important political goal.

      I don’t read them very often, but I’ve come away with the impression that if you gave them a choice between A) Medicare for All (via a Bernie presidency) and B) a split and collapse in the Democratic Party, along with a Trump 2nd term, they might choose B. They really think killing team dem is THAT important.

      I’m happy to be corrected if others think I’m being too harsh.

      1. Plenue

        Marxism is ultimately a cult, and its adherents will at some point or other act silly. If it isn’t The Revolution™, they’re opposed to it.

        Ford at least I more or less stopped paying attention to once I heard him peddling the ludicrous claim that the Rwandan Genocide was actually aimed against the Hutu and that Kagame and the Tutsi perpetrated it.

        1. pjay

          I’m a long-time reader (and general fan) of BAR, though I don’t agree with Dixon or Ford on everything. Dixon’s article on Gabbard is a case in point. I think her voice on foreign policy is very important at the moment. However, given the realities of Democrat politics over the last 50 years, I can’t say their cynicism is entirely misplaced.

          On the other hand, “Marxism is ultimately a cult” is a ridiculously broad statement. There are many varieties of “Marxism” (and “Marxists”); not all of them are cultists. And some of their ideas can be downright useful in understanding our f**ked up political economy – at least I’d argue so.

          Finally, the official narrative on the Rwandan genocide leaves out a lot of the story. The story did, indeed, begin with Tutsis – Paul Kagame and his Rwanda Patriotic Front (along with Uganda and — surprise — U.S. special forces). Plenty of atrocity on all sides, but it is definitely *not* ludicrous to challenge the official story. Like Yugoslavia, Rwanda was another case where I personally swallowed the liberal media “humanitarian” propaganda hook, line, and sinker in the 1990s. I’ve been trying to wise up ever since. Perhaps that’s why I’m more sympathetic to Dixon and Ford’s cynicism.

          1. Plenue

            Marxism is inherently a cult. It makes what are essentially metaphysical claims about the nature of society and history. It also has abundantly demonstrated a capacity for the worst aspects of religion, its history being replete with endless cases of heresy, excommunications, and schisms.

            Marxists are often fantastic for analysis, but I wouldn’t even trust putting them in charge of a lemonade stand.

            As for Rwanda, Kagame and the RPF are terrible people, who may have killed up to 40,000 people during their invasion of the country. However, this doesn’t at all change the fact that the better part of a million people, predominately Tutsi, were butchered by Hutu Power nutjobs in a premeditated attempt at genocide. Just like, since you mentioned Yugoslavia, NATO needing something to bomb to justify its continued existence doesn’t change the reality that Milosevic was a piece of human filth bent on committing ethnic cleansing.

            Actually, comparing Rwanda to Yugoslavia is quite ridiculous, given how the Clinton administration and Europe bent over backwards to ignore what was going on in Rwanda.

            1. pjay

              The truth of your first paragraph depends on what we mean by “Marxism” and who we call “Marxists.” I’ve known many in my day, called myself one too (though I probably wouldn’t today), and *none* of us made metaphysical claims about history or insisted on a one true “Marxist” dogma. Admittedly, I would have been considered a “heretic” by some who did. But I have no energy or interest in replaying debates from my younger days. As you imply, there are more important things to discuss.

              On a more empirical note, I disagree — I think — with what you are implying about both Yugoslavia and Rwanda. I agree that there was atrocity on all sides. But I do not think Milosevic was bent on ethnic cleansing; that is part of the Western narrative used to justify our own actions. Rather, I believe he was a nationalist trying to preserve his country against its multi-pronged Balkanization by the West. Regarding Rwanda, I don’t know what Clinton himself actually knew. But some U.S. intelligence and special forces operatives knew exactly what was going on, because they were in the middle of it. In both countries a set of pro-Western rulers ended up empowered through the mechanism of vicious inter-ethnic hatred and violence to divide and rule, with all sides ending up being manipulated by Western interests. Far from being ridiculous, I think the comparisons between the two cases are striking.

              1. Plenue

                “I agree that there was atrocity on all sides.”

                One side was butchered by the other in the hundreds of thousands, in large part with large numbers of Chinese made machetes deliberately imported expressly for that purpose. There is not remotely any kind of equivalency between the sides involved.

                The idea that Yugoslavia was deliberately sabotaged by the west is a meme, one especially beloved by Serbian nationalists seeking to excuse their faction. Not good company to be in. No credible historian buys it for a second. Yugoslavia was ultimately undone by regional nationalisms elevating local identities about any sense of national unity, enabled by a breakdown of the old Tito values of brotherhood. The idea that Yugoslavia was broken by western propaganda is amazing; it basically completely removes the agency of anyone actually living there.

                It wasn’t something made up to justify western action, instead it was something made up to defend Milosevic. He was never defending Serbia; instead he was deliberately attempting to expand it into a Greater Serbia. There’s literally footage of him, the JSO Kula Camp video, in a paramilitary camp being thanked for helping establish the Red Beret group and being given an accounting of their various actions in Croatia and Bosnia. He not only knew about the armed thugs committing ethnic cleansing, he was actively supporting them.

                1. pjay

                  I’m tempted to wade in, but when I hear that “no credible historian buys” what is pretty well-known history, I know it would be fruitless. “Regional nationalisms” and ethnic tensions were of course factors; they were factors consciously exacerbated by the West. We know about the behind the scenes machinations between the U.S. and Croatia; the conscious use of economic sanctions to increase regional tensions; the aiding and abetting of illegal arms (and jihadists) into Bosnia and Kosovo, supported by Western intelligence; the ignored opportunities for truce before the bombing of Kosovo, etc. Yugoslavia was definitely not broken by Western propaganda. It was Balkanized by a very successful hybrid warfare campaign that used existing tensions, clandestine intelligence operations, economic pressure, and finally, brute force. The role of Western propaganda was to provide the completely one-sided bullshit explanation for why our “humanitarian” intervention was needed (I guess Camp Bondsteel was part of this effort), and keep good “progressives” like me from asking questions. None of this makes Milosevic a saint. But to call this, the first of many such hybrid war efforts by the U.S. and its allies (in fact a model for future efforts, using some of the same people) a “meme,” is beyond…

                  Damn it. I waded in. I didn’t want to.

                  1. Plenue

                    I’m sorry, but that the west deliberately broke up Yugoslavia is ‘well-known history’? What crap excuse for history have you been reading?

            2. urblintz


              “Dr Cees Wiebes, a professor at Amsterdam University, now says there is no evidence linking Milosevic to the worst atrocity of the Bosnian war, the massacre of 7,000 Muslims at the town of Srebrenica.

              “‘In our report, which is about 7,000 pages long, we come to the conclusion that Milosevic had no foreknowledge of the subsequent massacres,’ he says in a radio programme, The Real Slobodan Milosevic, to be broadcast by BBC Five Live tonight. ‘What we did find, however, was evidence to the contrary. Milosevic was very upset when he learnt about the massacres.'”


              “The International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Hague has determined that the late Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic was not responsible for war crimes committed during the 1992-95 Bosnian war.”

              As for the ridiculous statements on Marxism, I’ll let the contributions of Adorno, Brecht, Gramsci, Marcuse, Lukacs etc speak over your emotion-laden and less than insightful screeching.

                1. Olga

                  Sorry, but you’re wrong both on Marxists and Milosevic. Just stating something does not make it true. That Marxism is a cult is just a goofy comment (and I am being polite) – unless, of course, there’s some other Marx you’re referring to. Have you ever picked up anything written by Marx – or better yet, read anything? As for Milosevic, read the court’ decision – his exoneration is quite clear (although the western press did not report it at the time).

                  1. Plenue

                    No, his exoneration isn’t clear. Again, a lie. The guy was literally on video with the paramilitaries. But knowing that would require you to read.

            3. scarn

              It makes what are essentially metaphysical claims about the nature of society and history.

              Marxism quite literally does the opposite of this, across the board. You can argue that Marx’s (or Marxist) arguments about history do not match material reality, or that Marxists are otherwise bad materialists, or that Marxists draw unsupported conclusions from evidence. To argue that they are essentially metaphysical is nonsense. Materialism is at the center of Marx’s work.

              1. Plenue

                No, I used the word deliberately. Marxist materialism is sweeping generalizations that are mostly bad history. He definitely intended it to be science, but it wasn’t, and since his death things only got worse, as the assholes in search of a body to attach themselves to that were the various generations and flavors of his disciples variously took hammers to reality in an attempt to bash anything and everything to fit within his faulty framework. It stops looking like actual history or anthropology and more like Biblical apologetics or hermeneutics.

                1. scarn

                  I think this is just an assertion that Marxist arguments about history do not match material reality, and then labeling that assertion “metaphysics”.

                  Marxism is nothing like you describe. You seem like a person who wants to know how things actually work in the world. I suggest that you take the time to engage with Marxism as it actually is. After all, it liberated the bulk of the colonized world, beat the Nazis, remade the face of Eurasia, and was the very material antithesis of Imperial liberal capitalism for a century. Even today, Marxism animates politics in the PRC. Want to hear Marxism used to justify Chinese billionaires? Watch Xi’s speeches to the party congresses. Marxism is in fact so anti-dogmatic that this is a real thing that happens. Truth is so much more interesting than sweeping generalizations, and holds so much more utility for understanding the world around us and human behavior, than sweeping generalizations like “Marxism is a cult”.

                  1. Plenue

                    I never said there was nothing worthwhile in Marx. What I said is that its adherents behave like a cult, which they very, very often do. Again, the absurd spectacle of the history of endless Marxist infighting and schism speaks for itself. It looks like nothing so much as a religion.

                    And it beat the Nazis? If you really want to try and play that card, yeah, with a regime that was at least nearly as bad as the Nazis themselves, killing and expelling a vast number of people both during and after the war. Remade Eurasia? I’m sure the 60 million Chinese corpses Mao left behind really appreciate that.

                    I personally wouldn’t be eager to play that card though, and would just happily shove everything from Lenin on over a cliff.

                    There’s good stuff in Marx There’s also complete crap, that many Marxists spend inordinate amounts of time either misguidedly attempting to apply to the real world, or attempting to fix. Sorry, the Labor Theory of Value was just nonsense woo, no amount of tweaking it is going to make it not retarded.

      2. Carla

        I agree with Ford and Dixon that killing Team Dem is very, very important, AND I think that we have to have some wins for the people along the way. Hence, while I suspect that Bernie is trying to save Capitalism for the Democrats (or maybe he thinks he’s trying to do it for the Independents, I dunno) — actually enacting Medicare for All would be a sea change for the country. A healthier, more hopeful populace might then be able to get the 28th amendment passed, and THEN we might have a stab at recovering some semblance of the Common Good. Here’s the proposed 28th Amendment:


        Jayapal sponsored; Tulsi Gabbard was an original co-sponsor; total of 33 co-sponsors so far.

        For some strange reason, AOC is not yet onboard; if you’re in her district, let her hear from you.

        1. Carey

          I think the main thing that’ll come out of the 2020 campaign will be
          human re-connection, hopefully coalescing into real people-power for
          the Common Good. I don’t see the Democrat Party being part of
          that movement, and think that’ll be very clear by their Convention.

          Just a guess.

          1. ambrit

            The first round of voting at the convention will be “defining.”
            If the “fix is in” becomes clear early on, it might benefit Sanders and his associates more to focus on organizing a ‘down race’ coalition. Better to leave a legacy than a legend.

            1. Carey

              That’s the kind of thing I have in mind, too. Sanders has apparently signed up a million volunteers; imagine the possibilities, especially if many are not primarily self-interested.

        2. Plenue

          Ford and Dixon don’t seem to get that people can’t eat ideology. They make the perfect the enemy of the good. If I could snap my fingers and replace the entire Democratic Party with a new party filled with Henry Wallace clones, I would. But I can’t, and no one can. What we can do though is support politicians who are eminently decent and would bring real tangible improvements to peoples lives. I don’t consider Sanders to be some savior figure; instead I consider him to be the compromise candidate. The same goes for someone like Gabbard, who if nothing else might restrain American Empire a bit.

          What do Ford and Dixon have to offer in practical terms as an alternative? Anything that actually stands a realistic chance of succeeding? All I see from them is a whole lot of nothing while smearing the first genuinely decent US politician to see real success in decades. Fortunately, in this instance, they have exactly zero real-world influence, so their opinions frankly don’t matter much.

  1. Angie Neer

    I have always been under the impression that auto safety equipment was tightly regulated. So, seriously, is it legal to just put a robot on the road like that? Or is it just another illustration that Musk doesn’t know what a law is? Even if he doesn’t, his giant industrial corporation has some lawyers who do, right? I’m seriously confused.

    1. diptherio

      His company does have lawyers and Musk does have a court order to consult them before tweeting about Tesla, so I’m sure they signed off on this and it’s all totally legal and no one with a Tesla will ever have to touch a grubby steering wheel ever again…really.

      1. Carey

        I’m amazed that they can have something called “Autopilot” and then blithely
        claim, “but it’s not an autopilot!”; that this tech has killed a number of people,
        and still, nothing happens.


        1. Anon

          Yes, between “autopilot” and “texting”, I’ve stopped riding my road bicycle on the road.

    2. JohnnyGL

      I think Musk’s treatment of the SEC, catalogued pretty effectively by watercooler here, is wonderfully clarifying. And their inexplicably deferrential attitude towards him is even more clarifying.

      It seems he basically ignores laws he doesn’t like and, so far, he’s been allowed to continue doing so.

      1. Carla

        As someone else pointed out before I thought of it: you can’t spell “felon” without “elon.”

  2. Synoia

    Love the way Musk is encouraging drivers to take their hands off the wheel…

    Shhh..He’s culling the herd.

    1. Watt4Bob

      I used to think that the play was either meant to;

      1. Do away with those expensive truck drivers, or,

      2. To goose the IPO price, by doing 1./\

      Lately I’ve been wondering if it isn’t just rich people looking for a way to avoid DUI infractions?

      Does having a self-driving car immunize the owner occupant from liability in the case of an accident?

    2. XXYY

      Unfortunately, the “herd” includes people who have nothing to do with Tesla or Musk, and who may just be unlucky enough to be nearby when a Tesla car goes ape. In fact, Tesla drivers seem to be pretty well protected in crashes so the likeliest victims are probably other drivers, pedestrians, people sitting in sidewalk cafes, kids crossing the street, and so on.

      It’s outrageous that half-assed experimental tech can be tested on an unwilling and unwitting public. This is no different from pharma companies testing their drugs by putting them in the municipal water supply.

  3. Arizona Slim

    Interesting that you should mention WeWork. As mentioned here before, I am a member of the only surviving coworking space in Tucson. Said space recently lost one of its staff members to the allure of …

    … WeWork.

    And not just any part of this company, but the mothership in San Francisco.

    I could see this move coming last summer. I started seeing WeWork-worshipping posts in her LinkedIn feed. Uh-oh, I thought. I’m Arizona Slim, an NC-er through and through, and I feel a duty to warn her about this unprofitable, cash-burning, investor-propped up company.

    So, in response to one of those awestruck posts, I responded with a link to something that Wolf Richter wrote on Wolf Street. Y’know, something like this:


    Suffice it to say that a certain distance formed between the two of us. And, now that she’s in the Bay Area, she’s no longer in touch with Yours Truly.

    1. Trent

      So much of the “money” floating this economy is an illusion. But for a brief shining moment you can have a taste! San Francisco! A company that makes the news! A higher paycheck! All fleeting. The only thing real will be the tears at the end.

      1. a different chris

        Well wait a second, who cares? She has a job, she is excited about it, they will keep her on for probably as long as any other job the prevaricariate (sp?) can get a grip on. Although the cost of living in SF will probably squeeze her a bit, I suspect living there is a big part of her excitement and she will manage. I also suspect she wasn’t exactly living a hi-rise luxury condo dream life in Arizona.

        I would be happy for her.

        Tears are part of life.

        1. Trent

          And how! Accept things for the way they are and say a prayer at night that they change for the better.

    2. Summer

      Slim, are we going to have to drug you?
      Anything other than brain-dead cheerleading makes you a negative thinker who is not a team player.

      1. Arizona Slim

        True story: One of my friends was kicked out of the coworking space because he said negative things about an oh-so-innovative startup that had just moved in.

        I didn’t have to do much online research to find that this company was in all sorts of legal trouble throughout the country. Federal regulators were also investigating.

        Any-hoo, this company abruptly left the coworking space after just 8 months.

  4. JBird4049

    Lambert, those links on Reed are not working.

    But if you’re going to throw words like “Strasserite” around, let alone “blatantly [hoo boy] class reductionist”

    Those are just fancy ways of calling someone alt-right racist, or too class focused on poor people, or both.

    Nice to see the circular firing squad in action.

    I will have to keep the term Strasserite in mind. I have heard of him, but using a fairly obscure Nazi who had been expelled, I guess for being a class reductionist, is interesting.

      1. Situation Normal

        I had never heard of r/stupidpol before today and I typically don’t use Reddit but someone on Twitter posted this interesting AMA with Jesse Singal that occurred on r/stupidpol. I would recommend reading it but, having done so, it certainly leaves me with the impression that the Medium article is largely a hit piece though, again, I don’t know enough about the subreddit to say that with certainty. The comments and questions are well thought out and are not obviously bigoted (I did not read every last one, admittedly).

        On the other hand, the Medium article is, on the face of it, problematic though it does make some valid points. The author does not disclose that he is an antifascist activist. Roundly dismissing defenses of right-wing free speech, which the author puts in quotation marks, is suspect. Legitimate defenses of free speech surely also include defenses of right-wing speech. There have been numerous instances of open anti-Slavic racism, including from prominent pundits and political leaders, that have resulted from the irresponsible reporting around Russiagate but the author dismisses claims of such racism as “white persecution theories”. These are just a few examples.

      2. JBird4049

        Reduced and Abandoned

        The politics thus advanced is profoundly race-reductionist, discounting the value of both political agency and the broad pursuit of political alliances within a polity held to be intractably and irredeemably devoted to white supremacy. This fatalistic outlook works seamlessly to reinforce the status of racial voices who emphasize the interests and concerns of a singular racial collectivity. Central to these pundits’ message is the assertion that blacks have it worse, in every socio-cultural context that might be adduced.

        Reeds take-down of identity politics is good.

    1. Plenue

      Otto Strasser was expelled and exiled. But Gregor Strasser was murdered during the Night of the Long Knives. They wanted the Nazis to actually live up to the Socialist part in their name, and were purged when the leadership no longer considered them useful.

      Attempting to compare leftist dissidents against liberal identity politics is ludicrous for a number of reasons. ‘Class reductionism’ is the core of the left. If you don’t make economic class your central pillar, you aren’t a leftist, period. And the Strassers were the left most wing of a right wing movement, not the right wing of the left, which is what this asinine contrived conflict is trying to paint us as.

      1. Plenue

        “Attempting to compare leftist dissidents against liberal identity politics to the Strasser brothers is ludicrous” is what I meant.

    2. Donald

      Nina Illingworth uses that term Strasserite a lot. The circular firing squad metaphor doesn’t fully capture what is going on–it’s more fractal like, with ever-increasing numbers of positions with ever-decreasing numbers of adherents all shooting at each other on all scales.

      I sometimes visit my old centrist lib blogging hangout (won’t name it) and it is adorable how those folks mostly think in terms of just good Democrats (meaning Clintonites) vs evil Republicans. One person thinks Putin is infilitrating the Democrats. She means Sanders. Those tax returns, you know, are concealing Russian payments.

  5. JerryDenim

    A million dollars probably sounds like an insane amount of money to a struggling 20-year-old college kid from a poor family with mountains of debt; But a very modest home in any of the more expensive US metros plus a small retirement fund would qualify almost anyone as a millionaire these days. Here in California lots of hard working people with very little education or advantage who bought homes thirty or forty years ago have been able to cash out their homes, and sail off into the sunset of cheaper state retirement as millionaires or almost millionaires. If you’ve worked your whole life, achieved success in your chosen line of work, and you’re 77 years old, still working full-time, but not a millionaire, then you’re doing something horribly wrong.

    1. Isotope_C14

      Yeah, my Dad worked for Arthur Andersen in downtown Chicago. When the idiots in charge there, helped Lay cheat and sacrificed my Dad’s gravy-train to retirement in what was that, 2002?

      They were told they were fired by a voicemail, my dad was already older, and IT, not accounting.

      Yeah, blame the individual working stiffs for what they are doing wrong.

      Now he probably will never retire, he’s over 65 now. It was 100% his fault.

      He should have known that as a pretty high up cog in the IT department, that the CEO’s were crooks, cooking the books, and helping Bushey’s buddy, Ken Lay.

      A million dollars would be an insane amount of money for my Dad right now too. I guess it depends on pulling yourself up by your boot-straps. Some rugged individualism might help. It’s not a calcified system of austerity for the poor, and socialism for the rich.

    2. zagonostra

      ” If you’ve worked your whole life, achieved success in your chosen line of work, and you’re 77 years old, still working full-time, but not a millionaire, then you’re doing something horribly wrong.”

      JerryDenim Are you serious?

      I guess my friends who live in small towns where they haven’t been able to cash-out on appreciated home values and work as teachers did something horribly wrong – like helping kids get a college education, helping with parents’ home healthcare, paying for ever increasing local taxes, etc…

      This is not to begrudge anyone, including Bernie his millions…but this isn’t the case for the vast majority of Americans who have been doing what they could to get by.

      1. Summer

        That’s why they financial sector has to keep propping up stock prices and home prices that don’t match the fundamentals of the economy.
        If that fantasy dies, invest in funeral homes – suicides will be off the charts.
        This is one of those big lies that has to keep getting bigger.

      2. JerryDenim

        “…but this isn’t the case for the vast majority of Americans who have been doing what they could to get by.”

        Did I say that it was? My statement was incredibly prefaced and qualified. My intent was to point out Bernie Sanders exceptional life and career story, and how lots of regular Americans of regular means have been fortunate enough to amass a net worth of a million or more by the time they’re seventy-seven, it was not my intent to disparage anyone who wasn’t a millionaire. I’m certainly not and one bad break could do me in financially. Sounds like I hit a nerve, but that was not my intent. Of course in addition to his hard work Bernie has had some good luck. Apologies to any highly successful 77-year olds out there still working at the top of their fields who haven’t had to good fortune to amass a net worth over a million. I know there’s plenty of ways that could happen to a hard working honest person. To everyone else, especially people born after 1950, calm down. My comment was not addressed to you or your dad, friends, etc. Best to all and perhaps lighten up a bit. If some random stranger on the Internet defending Bernie Sanders net worth is all it takes to get you inflamed then perhaps you are going to burn yourself out prematurely.

    3. jrs

      yea, yea and I don’t care if Bernie has a million, it’s expected, they need to come back if they find any real dirt, but does any of that really apply to people who aren’t baby boomers or older?

      They aren’t going to accumulate that money and it’s not all because “they are doing something horribly wrong”. The debt, the rent (the rent!), the gig jobs, the being single later in life, the childcare expenses (however people are not having kids as much so there is that), the almost inevitable periods of unemployment, the lack of jobs with benefits (I mean employer healthcare or paid sick days, as for pensions or employers who even contribute to 401ks – that’s almost fantasy land for many!), eventually the age discrimination in employment (for some always other discriminations), always the chance of sickness and medical bills, eventually always the chance of taking care of aging parents and taking that financial hit etc.

      And the young people definitely can’t afford homes in California, “modest” or not (and yes there are modest homes built in 1950 or 1930 or 1920 and 100 years old, they are modest, but they are unaffordable on ordinary incomes). The only way non-boomers are going to do this well is if they inherit, and if not: oh well sucker, you should have chosen the right parents!!!

    4. JohnnySacks

      Popular politician writes popular book, makes a lot of money on it. Why all the noise? I guess something has to be found to use as a weapon, but he’s certainly not getting it the old fashioned way – inheritance.

      1. polecat

        Then again, as another example, there’s in/out/maybe in again Bloomberg ….. but all I hear, wealth wise, is ………………. crickets

    5. John

      I have been teaching for 58 years and I am 82 years old and still working. So I guess that makes me a failure and stupid.

      1. sd

        I am in a different profession, if you are taking team mates, I will happily join you on the stupid failure team.

    6. Plenue

      The thing that always gets me with attempts to smear Sanders as rich (and there’s been multiple waves of this: house, coat, car), is that, really, what’s the point? At most you’d prove he’s a poser or hypocrite. That he doesn’t walk the talk. Okay…and? Even if that were true, he still comes out looking better than basically every other politician in the US, most of which can’t even be bothered to do the talk part. If Sanders is a villain for owning a half a million dollar summer home, what does that make the Clintons with their multiple million dollar abodes?

      1. The Rev Kev

        It’s know as ‘Playing the man, not the ball’ and comes from soccer originally. They can’t argue against his policies so they attack Sanders personally to divert attention away from his policies.

  6. mrsyk

    Well, another click on the mortal odometer today. Instead of sending me a good bottle of wine or the pony I never got, think about sending Gravel a dollar and qualify him for the debates. Lambert has kindly provided the link up at the top of the campaign laundry pile. I feel like he’s the closest thing that the good people here will ever get to a personal ambassador on the stage. How about it?

    1. Pat

      Congratulations. Many happy returns.
      Have to wait to the end of the week, but it is top of the list of ‘bills to pay’.

      1. Carla

        Me, too. $3 to Gravel yesterday and $3 to Tulsi a couple weeks ago.

        Gave $27 to Bernie a while back, but his daily emails begging for more are now being marked SPAM and sent to my Junk folder before they can annoy me further. Stupid to piss off your early supporters at the beginning of the campaign. I still support Bernie’s candidacy, but it will be a long while before I send him any more bucks. He doesn’t seem to need my $ anyhow.

        1. Carey

          I got an interesting email from Gravel’s campaign earlier today, with a
          header of “Fuck You, Tucker Carlson” (!). I’m not at all sure that’s the
          right approach to being offered an MSM spot for a fledgling campaign.
          Carlson has been hitting some of the same targets as Gravel, and
          doing a pretty good job of it. Also, I’m guessing many of Carlson’s viewers
          have guns, know how to use them, and are potential allies against
          the real enemy.

          1. anon in so cal

            I received the same email, from David Oaks.

            It was immensely annoying so I replied to the email, saying that Tucker Carlson is about the only MSM pundit who condemned US regime change in Syria, criticized the Russiagate psyops, regularly hosts Russia-expert Prof Stephen Cohen, regularly hosts Michael Tracey and Glenn Greenwald.

            The email was almost enough to make me stop supporting Gravel.

          2. anon in so cal

            Have just learned that Mike Gravel has always supported open borders, and still does, according to David Oaks.

        2. notabanker

          I unsubscribed to Sanders. 5 emails in one day telling me how critical it was in March 2019 was way over the top.

  7. Tim

    “passed the Taxpayer First Act”

    In DC everything means the opposite of what is inferred..without technically being wrong.

    So proper interpretation is Taxpayers are first to get fleeced.

  8. Kurtismayfield

    RE: No free online tax prep anymore.

    Now that the IRS got everyone to do online filing they want to have everyone pay for it. We all need to go back to paper and mailing it in.. make the IRS work for every tax filing.

    1. John Zelnicker

      April 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Don’t blame the IRS. This is not their idea. They would much prefer that people use a program from the existing Free File Alliance in which software companies, including Intuit and H&R Block, provide free programs for anyone making less than $66,000 per year. Unfortunately, the agreement with the software providers does not allow the IRS to publicize the Free File Alliance, so few people know about it.

      You also may have some misconceptions about electronic filing. The IRS does not allow any tax preparer to charge a fee for e-filing since they don’t charge one.

      Mailing in paper returns is not a solution, it’s punishment of low-level IRS staff who have to key punch the data. It can also have negative effects on taxpayers as the error rate on keypunched paper returns is in the 0.7-0.8% range and the error rate for e-filed returns is about 0.0002%. In addition, refunds can take up to 12 weeks instead of most going out within 21 days.

    2. Phil in KC

      Obviously H & R Block, Jackson Hewitt came a’callin’ with some campaign checks from the c-level execs and their wives.


      How can you tell the Dems from the Repubs these days without a scorecard?

  9. barrisj

    Re: Mike Gravel…“No more palling around with war criminal George W Bush”…that alone was worth a $10 donation!

    1. Big Tap

      MSNBC has been palling around with the likes of David Frum and the always repulsive Bill Kristol for years. Hopefully Mike Gravel keeps that network in mind and boycotts them not just Tucker Carlson.

  10. diptherio

    Re: Meeting Needs

    Robert’s Rules is confusing for most people, in my experience. Occupy didn’t have clue, I now know. Plain vanilla Consensus has a lot of well known drawbacks and hasn’t been in vogue with the non-hierarchical cognoscenti for some time now. Different types of modified consensus have been developed for a range of different situations. Others have forgone consensus all together and aim for consent, which is a lack of objections, rather than consensus, which is the presence of support. I like Sociocracy, for this reason, and different flavors of it have been gaining popularity with cooperative and non-hierarchical orgs for the last 5 years or so.

    But no matter how you run your meetings, you’ll almost always want a good facilitator on hand to keep things on track and productive. You’ve run one of Laird Schaub’s articles on “key facilitation skills,” and they’re all very good primers on meeting best practices. Here’s the most recent entry.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Robert’s Rules is confusing for most people, in my experience

      I put that down to lack of education. (Something some DSA chapter might take up.) Much depends on the caliber of the chair. What I like about Roberts Rules is that there’s a book. If there’s another book with simpler rules, so be it. (The origin of Roberts Rules was in 19th century America, where there were a lot of meetings being held, and most badly run. So the author sensed the opportunity, and wrote the book; which makes me dubious that the rules are intrinsically complex. Perhaps if we reverted to the first version, things would be simpler!

      1. Shonde

        When I was very active in politics and social justice movements when I was much younger, I had a Robert’s Rules cheat sheet that I copied over and over and handed out to everyone I knew in my activist group. Wish I still had that cheat sheet.
        However, isn’t there a Dummies book on Robert’s Rules? If not, producing one could make one a millionaire?
        Learning Robert’s Rules is absolutely mandatory for anyone who wants to get involved in either D or R party politics at anything past the local level.

      2. diptherio

        First there’s a motion, then there’s a second, then discussion, during which someone offers an amendment, which then requires discussion, and maybe a vote…but on the amendment first and then on the motion as amended (or not)…but not before another amendment is offered, etc.

        I’m sure you’re right that the caliber of the chair makes a big difference, but it’s always seemed a tad arcane to me, and I’ve been in plenty of groups that have used it more or less successfully. It’s definitely better than nothing.

        What I mainly dislike about it, though, is the way that it seems to turn everything into a debate…or at least makes it easy for participants to do so. Sociocratic practices are all geared towards avoiding that, and when people get the hang of it, it can be very empowering. I prefer to leave voting for a last ditch way to make a decision.

        Here’s an article a group of cooperators wrote about the benefits of using sociocracy in collective projects:


      3. Redlife2017

        The UK labour movement has the “ABCs of Chairmanship”, which is a good read. Very practical, but you have to do a bit of diagraming in your mind around what steps to take when.

        As the Fabian Society notes:
        “The ABC of Chairmanship has long been the bible of the Labour movement: the basis on which standing orders have been drafted, arguments resolved and procedures defined…This is a book that can be used for all groups and not just for trade unions; it is as handy for secretaries and lay members as it is for chairs. It remains an essential pocket book for all attenders at meetings, whether they have to keep order or want to use the procedures effectively and correctly.”

        May my UK brothers and sisters continue to use the little red book of Citrine!

    2. Judith

      Perhaps a bit esoteric, but…

      Here is a link to a discussion of Quaker Business meeting practice, which is not about reaching consensus, but about finding the sense of the meeting. This process, as I have experienced it, can take a very long time. But the core values behind the process are, I think, worth exploring.


      And a discussion on Jacobin, on real-time difficulties with the consensus process, as was seen in, for example, Occupy.


      1. flaesq

        Not intending to disagree, only for the anectdata. My Friends school in a NYC borough construed the consensus requirement as true consensus: A single dissent was enough to deep-six a proposal. It worked surprisingly well in practice even though the meetings were often large and involved more than 100 participants from elementary through high school grades and non-Quakers vastly outnumbered actual Quakers.

        Related in the thread, Jefferson’s Manual came highly recommended by my beloved but departed torts & non-profit orgs professor for NPOs as a less confrontational, saner organizing manual. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jefferson%27s_Manual . RIP Howard Oleck

      2. BoyDownTheLane

        35 years ago, I was the sole staffperson for a statewide medical specialty society that was split 8-7 on a contentious issue, but the President (a Quaker) employed this, along with the power of his office and his personality, and would not allow the group to proceed until it had hammered out a 15-0 acceptance. Similar agreeement on the future of the society’s direction was achieved during a facilitated retreat but destroyed by the incoming dictatorial-style of the President-Elect.

      3. Oregoncharles

        I have long experience with consensus decision making, in the Oregon Pacific Green Party. It’s shockingly efficient – unless there’s no consensus. Our advantage is that the party is quite ideological, so we have a strong tendency to agree – most of the time. It’s extremely important to have adequate discussion before the decision stage, and a “block” (hard no) or “stand aside” (don’t agree, but won’t stand in your way) restarts discussion – or we defer it to another day.

        We can overcome a “block” – but in my experience, it’s disastrous to do so. It’s better to do nothing, unless you face a real deadline – which tends to evoke consensus pretty quickly. The process can be odd, especially over the phone, since silence – no objections – indicates consent. In person, we use hand signs to indicate consent. They look silly, but work.

        We do vote on some things, such as nominations if they’re contested. If they aren’t, we can agree to use consensus – saves a lot of time.

        I don’t think I’ve ever had to operate under Robert’s Rules, but I gather it’s quite a thick tome. I think elaborate rules would be in the way, most of the time, and empower those who study and manipulate them. We have enough trouble with our bylaws.

        HOWEVER: All that applies where there’s a good level of prior agreement. That did not apply to Occupy, which was a very wide coalition; their agreement was mostly on negatives. And they had decisions to make that could put people in danger. The same would be true of, say, a legislative body. There’s no expectation of prior agreement. I suspect that in those cases, politics are the only real solution, and for that, almost any reasonable rules are better than none.

        1. Gaianne

          Whether or not you can actually use Robert’s Rules in your group, it is a good starting point. The Rules are aimed directly at clarifying issues and making well-thought decisions without much extraneous nonsense. Robert was well aware of the bad-faith tactics that some meeting participants might use to derail a meeting, or even reverse the sentiment and outcome, and provided in the Rules means for overcoming such diversions so that a meeting might continue fruitfully.

          Robert’s Rules are cumbersome? Well, they do force you to think in an organized fashion, and many people hate that. But can your meeting actually afford disorganized thinking? If there is a goal to be accomplished, or anything real at stake, probably not.

          Consensus works well when people share an over-arching goal or value and are seeking to implemented it, and when options are inherently unlimited.

          Consensus fails horribly when options are limited. I kid you not: I have been in meetings that tried to decide by consensus whether to take a half-hour or an hour break for lunch, and spent fully forty-five minutes doing so.

          Consensus is utterly vulnerable to sabotage and bad faith. One clever, badly intentioned member plus a few naive newbies can hang up a group until there is nothing to do but walk away!

          Almost as dangerous as saboteurs are the people with no group experience or skills who cannot help themselves but try to turn the group into a therapy experience, with their own emotional issues at the center.

          Consensus encourages exploration and testing of thoughts, but does not allow for actual disagreement. If you do not know what you will do when people actually disagree you are lost.

          Well run meetings will typically encourage the co-operative mood of consensus while actually maintaining organized procedures, such as Robert’s Rules provides.

  11. Jason Boxman

    No healthcare section today, but I have an anecdote from an Australian coworker who went to the ER while in the US. During treatment, when he was completely out of it due to being quite ill, a staff person came to ask about insurance. When he said he didn’t have any, he had travel insurance, her demeanor became chilly.

    She wanted him to put up money immediately… in the middle of his treatment! She apparently was going over his travel insurance policy in front of him while he was in a hospital bed, sick. He had a card with a $1k limit and he offered her that.

    Thankfully, his travel insurance did ultimately pay for it all, but the bill was originally $7,500.

    Contrast that with an experience he had in Australia when one of his children was sick, and they went to the doctor and simply got care. Done.

    Actually hearing one of these stories in real life from a person you know makes it chillingly real.

        1. WheresOurTeddy

          There are 2 kinds of people: People who think healthcare is a human right, and people who think a small group should profit off the suffering of the rest of us.

          The 1st group is getting angrier at the 2nd group every day.

          – Member of 1st Group

      1. Kurt Sperry

        That’s the business model, get phony “consent” when it can’t possibly be voluntary, then move in for the killing. There is no way legal consent can be sought or given in a serious medical situation, and within a for-profit system, there is no solution to that.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      The most important vital sign in the US is in your wallet. US citizens need to see how the rest of the world does medicine to realize how awful we treat people.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        The walletectomy is a newish procedure that did not exist in the 70’s.
        It is simply amazing how much healthcare has changed in the last 40 years.
        The whole profession has morphed into a piranha feeding frenzy.
        Even our local non-profit UTexas supported hospital is nothing but a pack of jackals gnawing whatever meat is left off the bone.
        Absolutely disgusting.

  12. Cal2

    On Kamalot…

    From the Atlantic:
    “Nevertheless, in her first three years as DA, San Francisco’s conviction rate rose from 52 to 67 percent….”
    Sure, she only took the easy cases.

    Before Kamala became DA, the violent crime rate in SF was just 58% of the rate of Los Angeles

    By the end of her disastrous reign as DA, SF violent crime was:

    26% HIGHER than LA

    64% higher than San Diego

    17% higher than Fresno (SF was previously safer than Fresno)

    SF went from the 6th to the 4th most violent city in the state (behind only Oakland, Stockton and Sacramento).

    A superior court judge heavily censored Harris for ineptitude:


    While Kamala Harris was a County Deputy District Attorney in the 90s, she was in a relationship with Willie Brown the Speaker of the California State Assembly. She then got three appointments to three state committees which she was in no way qualified. She received $750,000 salary over her tenure on these committees.

    Harris received the first of three donations to her campaign for the U.S. Senate from Heather Podesta, the powerful Washington lobbyist whose ex-husband Tony’s firm, then called the Podesta Group, had worked for Herbalife since 2013. Heather Podesta’s own lobbying firm, Heather Podesta and Partners, would soon be hired by Herbalife, too. Attorney general Harris did not pursue an investigation against Herbalife…”

    Munuchin donated to her senatorial campaign after she as attorney general failed to prosecute his OneWest Bank and it’s 36,000 foreclosures in California.

    Her brother in law is chief council for Uber. Saudi Arabia is the major investor in UBER pre IPO. Kamala voted to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia and voted for Trump’s defense budget.

    “She’s part of the “resistance”…Let’s select and maybe elect a real Democrat, like Bernie+Tulsi, instead of this Republican in black sheep’s clothing.

    1. Shonde

      “instead of this Republican in black sheep’s clothing.” My thoughts exactly as a California resident until mid 2018.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      but did you hear Sanders is a millionaire from writing a book? Oh wait we’re supposed to respect self-made bootstraps narratives….so confusing…

    3. Anon

      …and her older sister (also an attorney) was a member of the HRC coterie.

      Kamala Harris is a female Obama with history.

  13. Sanxi

    “No one needs a million dollars to live well.” That’s not the point. Sometimes you have to take the money. The best case of taking it and still being screwed is the NFL. The owners are the very definition of greed, so the players should do what? It might be argued that the owners are brain dead to treat their employees so poorly, but many of their players surely will leave brain damaged.

  14. Sanxi

    “Highly inefficient, when you can make a full quarter of that amount in a couple of hours speaking at Goldman.” As a C level executive, you make that every single day.

  15. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    So ive been browsing Reddits front page, and stuff from r/politics seems to be mostly neoliberal DNC talking points, r/HistoryMeme posts a disturbing amount of Nazi/Hitler/Fascist facts, and finally r/worldpolitics…seems legit in that i remember it not being overtly NeoCon/Neolib.

    Gotta say im itchin to get my feet wet and radicalize deez youthz with some sick memes. If theyre all fed garbage than my working class memes will taste delicious!

    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Ok, so i read the article and WOW r/stupIDPOL is def my can of diet coke (or Cup o Tea)!

      Read the article. Its like everything he writes is the opposite. Is he a Corporate Globalist?! Wow gotta say reading the posts this guy critiques is like looking in the mirror. Ziszek? is right!!


  16. a different chris

    >The usually present card number, expiration date, security code (CSC or CVV) and signature blank are completely gone

    Explain to me how then I order something over the phone? Oh, that’s right I will get completely enmeshed in Apple’s selected world of purveyors and like it. But in that case why do I have a physical card at all?

    And how is having no discernible details at all “attention to detail”? How can I tell if it’s my credit card or my wife? Details do actually matter, you know….

    1. jonhoops

      “Explain to me how then I order something over the phone?”
      Uhh… you look at the number for the card stored on your phone.

      “How can I tell if it’s my credit card or my wife? Details do actually matter, you know….”
      The user name is still on the card.

      If you are going to criticize something, at least find out how it actually works. Here is the site so you can educate yourself.

    2. ChrisS

      I guess the “attention to detail” was making sure to get rid of all of the details? I had the same thought when I read it had no number, CVV, or expiration date – how do you use the damn thing other than in a physical scanner?

      1. Lepton1

        You can use it electronically online or in person. If you need the actual numbers then you, as the owner of the iPhone, can read them out of the Wallet app. Maybe not perfect but more secure than carrying a physical card.

  17. a different chris

    > the predominantly grown foods–such as lettuce–aren’t of great nutritional value for the urban population, especially those threatened by food insecurity.

    Sigh. Yeah, this is all true. However every square inch of urban-grown fancy food means it isn’t grown and shipped from somewhere else. So that farmland and that shipping channel will be not be dominated by the rich, but instead freed up (willingly or not) for more accessibly priced products.

    This isn’t so hard.

  18. Lambert Strether Post author

    As readers may or may not know, my workflow involves mailing myself links I find on the Twitter using my iPad, and I then work through my various mailboxes to aggregate the day’s material on my laptop.

    Well, periodically, iOS decides I don’t know how to run my own goddamn machine, and holds up a day’s worth of mail in my Outbox without telling me, a miserable UI/UX experience characteristic of the software Apple designs. Well, that happened today. So I re-sent all my mail to myself and then aggregated it. Please refresh your browser, there are some gems. [snarl].

    1. Acacia

      If your laptop runs OS X and you use(?) Safari, what about the “Reading List”?

      You can add links to it from Twitter, Safari, etc. on the iPad, they will sync through the cloud, and you can immediately see them all neatly organized in a sidebar.

  19. dearieme

    “No more palling around with war criminal George W. Bush.”

    Quite. Nor war criminals Slick Willie, O, or Hellary either. I presume their names were inadvertent omissions.

  20. Plenue

    “It’s an obsession that requires taste, wealth, expertise and an extensive supply chain, a combination unique to Apple.”

    Apple has never had taste in its style, either hardware or software. The only thing exceptional about Apple is its ability to convince people that its pretentious, candy coated bullshit is sophisticated.

  21. Nat

    “A realist takes on quantum mechanics”

    Sorry realists, its hard to remove the observer from the fascinating oddity of the “delayed choice quantum eraser” that effectively rewrites the past* based on the perspective of the observer:


    *and even more conceptually staggering, it manages to do so in a way that it can’t be exploited to disrupt causality, like by say sending messages back in time.

  22. Roger Smith

    “Needed an antiwar voice” probably grates on Gabbard supporters, but surely two is better than one?

    I agree and very much want to see both Gabbard and Gravel in the debates (donated to both). It speaks loudly that Robinson, the progressive arbiter that he fashions himself as, doesn’t mention Gabbard at all in the article.

  23. barrisj

    For all of us who view “gig economy” IPOs jaundicely, LYFT down to $60, 12pts below opening price, and ca. 28pts off its opening-day “pop”, that caught all the retail suckers piling in…caveat emptor and all that. Heavy volume, and more downside in sight.

  24. Summer

    “Also, as the writer hints at, the Apple credit card is really what Apple would like all its “high touch” products to become: Thin, titanium, no user input, no ports, extracting rent with every use, and revocable by Apple at any time for any reason.”

    I have the perfect tagline for their new line of products:
    “The only human agency you need to have is to choose Apple.”

    1. nippersdad

      He has been doing great work! I wonder what Thanksgiving dinner is like at the Blumenthal place.

  25. Jax

    RE ‘5G May Never Live up to the Hype’

    Let us hope that 5G is stillborn. It’s my understanding that it will require transmitters roughly every 500 feet, bathing us all in electromagnetic radiation whether we have the smart devices looking for such wizarding speed or not. The city of Brussels recently declined to become “guinea pigs” for 5G until and unless potential health effects are researched by *independent bodies.*

    I suggest we take the tip.

    1. Cal2

      Copy and paste this where appropriate:

      According to Physicians for Safe Technology, risks from 5G include:

      Damage to the eyes- cataracts, retina
      Immune system disruption
      Metabolic disruption
      Damage to sperm
      Skin damage
      Collapse of insect populations, the base of food for birds and bats
      Rise in bacterial resistance and bacterial shifts
      Damage to plants and trees


      The bushes next to our neighbor’s ‘Smart Meter’ withered and died. They get to go online and see a nice graph of their energy usage. Of course, they now are subject to Time of Use profiteering from PG&E, PG&E can sell their data, to and including the electric signatures of various types of motors, Hair dryer at 8, vibrators at 11?, a hacker can figure out when they are home and the device puts out high frequency interference back into their house wiring.

      1. Shonde

        Learned this weekend that my new home state, Minnesota, passed a law in 2018 that “caps the amount of rent a city can charge a company to install cells on any city-owned infrastructure in the public right of way and prohibits cities from an outright ban on it”. Apparently Verizon installed some 5G for the Final Four which was held in Mpls. this last weekend and the city was oh so proud to be one of the first. Guess I am now literally going to be toast.

        Oh, and Tulsi hit 65,000.

    2. Carey

      Especially since the 5G-enabled IoT crap would very likely be used by the few to micro-govern us, along with Cashless™.


  26. nippersdad

    I thought that this was funny.:

    “Hundt, who served as Federal Communications Commission chairman under President Clinton, said that if Democrats want a chance of beating Trump in 2020, they should avoid neoliberalism…’Don’t be neoliberals,’ he advised 2020 candidates.”


    Seems like he is a few years too late. I wonder which candidates he is advising; most of them don’t seem to have gotten the message.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I wonder if Hundt comprehends the “middle class” he dreams of winning back was killed by neoliberal policies. First, they wanted moderate Republicans, and now they want to win a group of people who don’t exist anymore.

    2. Andy Raushner

      I don’t think beating Trump will be that hard if the Democrats run a common sense campaign with a neutral candidate. He barely made it through the first time and that was with Reagan Democrats still liking him…………and going against a challenger who’s support waved and weaned due to her likeability issues that every little move she made was over analyzed.

      The debt cycle looks to have topped and most of the Trump era economic growth has been like Obama’s,Bush’s,Clinton’s,Bush’s,Reagan’s,Carter’s,Ford’s and Nixon’s. All to big city metros. You could see the support in smaller towns ebb a bit for Trump in the 2018 election, I suspect it will be back to 2012 levels soon enough. Trump’s crappy trade deals are nothing more than personal enrichment on a system that simply doesn’t care and is abused by capital flows.

      You just need to run a candidate that won’t complain about domestic production and just think some nominal trade deficit matters, instead focusing on industrial policy and supporting domestic industry creation like you know…………..all the other countries do. Let the Republicans whine Socialism…………we cry like Patriots for the American system. I think a Warren/Ryan ticket could be a good move. Warren is a bit old, but just young enough compared to Sanders/Biden, who need to hang them up. She doesn’t have the unlikeability problems that Clinton had despite being likewise a hoe hum campaigner. Will push for industrial policy and ending rich man schemes. Won’t be a huge culture warrior either, which is simply not that large(despite being noisy) a part of the electorate, which is why Ryan is a good running mate and pusher.

      I will change 1000 times before next winter, but that is where I am at now.

  27. Hameloose Cannon

    The term “Gravelanche” is so much stronger [healthier?] than the actual candidate; it’s a punchline in search of a joke. It’s Nihilist Arby’s meets C minus in Social Studies. Yet, I suspect the PAC will last for about as long as the high school brain children’s sexual inexperience lasts. [Could be tomorrow. Could be *Gravel 2036*, the first AI candidate upload to run without a corporeal presence.] But for now, the “Gravelanche” is burying donations that could otherwise help the people the campaign purports about which it cares, Red Cross, Medecins sans Frontieres. [The last bit is unfair, but nonetheless, a true statement.] The whole project is almost a grotesque mockery of a peace movement.

    The flip-side to trying to pull left the anti-war conversation during the debates with a Gravelanche is that now no candidate can stake these positions with a straight face. Ambiguity can be a strength. Thought experiment, what if someone were running a twitter campaign, Scrooge McDuck for President? Lex Luthor? Ross Perot? It gives cover for the president’s [& friend’s] pecunious huckster behavior; makes DJT look downright humble, salt-of-the-earth. The US two-party electorate is a not left, right, or center spectrum, it’s an inside-outside, ideological *Klein Bottle*, a one-dimensional plane that creates a three-dimensional object / electorate opinion space.

    1. jrs

      I do wonder: if you thought Trump wasn’t good for our democracy (such as it is) and being such a joke he’s not (and he also has horrible policies of course, but that’s a separate issue as they are standard R policies) is this really? I don’t know …

    2. ambrit

      You miss the point that all those NGO’s aren’t really solving problems. They are cleaning up the symptoms of the problems.
      Ralph Nader didn’t lose Florida for Al Gore in the 2000 election. Al Gore lost the election.
      If it comes down to another Transactional Triangulating Democrat versus Trump in 2020, it won’t be Gravel who loses the election for the Democrats. It will be, yet again, the Democrats who lose the election.
      Also, we have already had a cartoon character as President. Hint: He “acted” as President from 1981 to 1989.
      Perot? I voted for him. He might be smeared as being some sort of Right wing loony, which I doubt, but he has character. He also actually built himself up from next to nothing, and he was dead on about NAFTA.
      More ‘Gravelanche’ please.
      To get a subject into the category of “permissible speech” politically, it first has to show that it has non trivial public support. One way to demonstrate such is to show that a significant portion of the public knows enough about something to consider it funny. In this instance, the old Hollywood quip is determinative. “There is no such thing as ‘Bad Publicity.”‘

  28. howseth

    John Oliver’s report on Mobile Homes strikes me as astonishingly accurate!

    We owned a mobile home in a mobile home park in Coastal California for 8 years. (2002-2010 in Capitola.)
    California state legislature attempted to pass some laws to protect mobile home owners – but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger simply vetoed any of the effective sensible reforms. The mainstream press hardly mentioned the vetoes – oh, they talked about cutesy things like a law preventing cow tails from being cut short. Maybe the Governor passed that.

    Mobile home life can be fine – but the residents MUST own the land underneath, (as a co-op type park or condo arrangement)… Or else!

    Kudos to Jon Oliver and his staff. He is telling it like it is.

    1. John k

      If you don’t share land ownership, a mobile home owner got nothin.
      On the plus side, in Ca, if the residents get together and buy the park, they can continue to pay the previous land owners low property tax… this is a mod to prop 13.
      We did this about 8 years ago… best to get experienced lawyer, and prerequisite is to form homeowners ass.

      1. howseth

        Yes. We tried getting together a homeowner association. We even got a non profit to sponsor us. The owner of the park – wanted outrageous $$$$. He was always in bad faith, just dicking us around. Meanwhile there was rent control in Capitola, but the owners of the mobile home parks banded together to attack the rent control ordinances – all over California. They kept suing the cities – and the cities ended caving due to the legal costs – such as Santa Cruz a few years earlier. Bad scene.

        We ended up selling our double wide and moving. I must say the trailer (circa 1965) had good feng shui. Really.

  29. Carla

    Tulsi made it to 65,000 donors today and sent out this email:

    Dear Carla,

    Thank you! Today, we hit our 65,000 donor goal!

    Hitting this goal means that I will be able to stand on the debate stage in June and bring our campaign’s vision for America — with peace and prosperity for all — to an even larger audience. We could not have done it without you and every volunteer and supporter who has chosen to stand with us.

    In a few days — on my 38th birthday, April 12 — campaign volunteers around the country are finding opportunities to serve in their communities. It’s the best birthday present I can think of and the way I want to celebrate reaching this historic milestone of 65,000 donors to our campaign.

    Will you join us? Click here to pledge to make April 12 a day of service wherever you live.

    I’m excited to see you in action, and share your photos and stories of service. Be sure to sign up, then tag your photos on social media #ServiceAboveSelf.

    When we first heard about the DNC’s requirement of 65,000 individual donors to make it to the debate state in June, we had a small list and a bootstrapped team. The fact that we have reached this goal now, hailing from Hawaii and refusing to take any money from PACs, is huge.

    We don’t have many of the built in advantages of other candidates in the race. But we are succeeding because we stand strong for what the American people want and need: leadership free from corruption and warmongering, that puts people before profits; leaders who will not drag us into one regime change war after another, inflaming the new Cold War and nuclear arms race that has been and will continue to drain trillions of dollars from our economy and threaten our communities, nation, and planet.

    The American people deserve leaders that put service before self. So this weekend, let’s put that attitude of service into action in our communities. Let’s be examples of the spirit we need in this country, whether that’s by cleaning up a neighborhood park or beach, volunteering for the day at a senior citizen center or animal shelter, starting a community garden, or organizing meals for the houseless.

    Please join us on April 12 in serving our communities or others in a practical way so we can live the values we want to see in the world, which are the reasons we began this campaign.

    Thank you for all you do,

    1. richard

      Way to go tulsi!
      She will have so many bought voices against her
      more than bernie even
      I would be WILDLY happy if she did well
      I love her first for her enemies

      1. Cal2

        Darn, I didn’t make the 50 envelopes with postage handed to people I met mark. (Got 48 though).

        Some reason you can’t carry some stamped envelopes for donations to Tulsi?

        How we and 14 of our family and friends are going to vote. (Informal poll)

        Bernie Sander President,
        Tulsi Gabbard, Vice President,


        Donald Trump, President,
        Pence, Vice President

        It’s not up to the voters, it’s up to the Democrats to choose to win, or to lose again.

  30. ewmayer

    o “Consumer Price Index, March 2019” — Typical lying-liar-economist garblespeak: “but when excluding energy and also food” – as in “when excluding the stuff you have to buy every day to live and work”, kinda like “when excluding the need to breathe, humans can survive without oxygen for a surprisingly long time.” “inflation remain[ing] stable” and “the direction [being] flat” are contradictions in terms. As long as that nasty bugbear, *wage* inflation, remains zero or negative, all is well in the ongoing neoliberal immiseration-of-the-masses project.

    o The Bezzle: “China wants to ban bitcoin mining” [Reuters] — If Bitcoin mining is banned, how will humanity provide for itself? Where oh where will genuine wealth creation occur? Ooh, I got an idea: Maybe the world’s central banks could fill millions upon millions of jars with new-printed money and pay people to plant them in fields for the rest of us to go dig up. The planters would get a nice steady wage and the rest of us would get fresh air and exercise on our way to all getting instantly rich. Genius!

    1. Yikes

      Yep, bitcoin sh*tcoin! further China Southern Grid Company was one of the big movers behind proposed ban. Electricity subsidize to poor rural areas to promote industry to move to remote areas, but bit coin does nothing to improve employment, and agrivated corruption among local party cadres who were to manage uses of electricity.

  31. Jeff W

    The headline of The Intercept article now reads “Nancy Pelosi and Cheri Bustos Continue Dividing Democratic Party, Take New Swipes at O’Casio-Cortez”—which, I thought, frames the issue rather nicely.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Given Pelosi’s crucial support for immunizing and impunifying AT & T for its phone-spying collaboration with the Cheney/bush Administration, I suggest the following chant for demonstrators to meet her with. (Somewhat strained, but hopefully on point enough to rattle her personally).

      Hey! Hey! Pel – o- say! How many phones did you tap to day?

        1. nippersdad

          …Until she finds out that her phones have been tapped, goes all Feinstein and wants hearings about it. As with that Capitol lounge lizard Kashoggi, the political is always personal. Nothing really matters as long as it is only happening to the little people.

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          So what? The point is to hound Pelosi in public and keep hounding her. Destabilize her. Through her off her stride. It doesn’t matter that she sees no issue with this.

          Enough such chanting and picketing and some onlookers, either direct or mediated, might decide to learn just what the issue “is” and how it “emerged” in those far-off Obama Campaign days.

          Anyway it is just a thought. If nobody finds it useful or interesting, that’s all right too.

  32. drumlin woodchuckles

    Q: ” What’s the difference between a million dollars and a billion dollars?”

    and A: ” A million dollars lets you buy some nice things. A billion dollars lets you buy some nice people.”

    And James Surowiecki was exactly and precisely clear on the difference when he pretended not to be. I hope Sanders doesn’t feel he has to defer to people like Surowiecki and the New Yorker he rode in on.

    1. jrs

      did he release his “wisdom of crowds” book under creative commons? No then …

      but he’s a straight up advocate of capitalism so it’s ok? Well that doesn’t make him a better person, quite the reverse really …

    2. ewmayer

      Yah, kinda interesting how we didn’t hear the “millionaire” framing w.r.to any of the candidates the DNC donor class luvs, luvs, luvs – “millionaire Barack Obama” enriching himself from book sales (and what was Michelle’s advance for her autohagiography again?), “million-dollar-a-week Wall Street fluffer Hillary Clinton”, where were they in the headline-writers’ product? And in housing markets like SF bay area, DC and NYC, a mere one million really does not make one ‘rich’ in any meaningful sense of the word. At least the attempted hatchet jobs are becoming ever more obvious, as the establishment folks cling ever more desperately to their privileged existence.

  33. Hamford

    I get a kick out of the “Bernie is a millionaire, how dare he call out billionaires?” trope, because they are counting on people’s general inability to comprehend the scale of large numbers.

    To scale, here is an analogy. “Sally says noone should make a thousand dollars an hour, she just made one dollar from her lemonade stand, how dare she?”

    1. KLG

      Yes, scale. My response to such things is to ask a scientist who should know better but says his result is correct within an order of magnitude:

      Would you rather have ten thousand dollars or a million dollars? Both are $100,000, within an order of magnitude.

  34. Expat2uruguay

    Ayahuasca article: thank you for posting this. I have been considering an experiment with this stuff, but after reading the article I’m no longer interested. I’ll just stick to my marijuana and LSD thank you very much.
    The whole story of the murders is crazy. TLDR: The Gringo was demanding money when he panicked and shot a grandmother shaman, twice. He wasn’t on Ayahuasca at the time, but he was a regular user of Ayahuasca and other Pharmaceutical drugs. At the end of the article they interview some expat ayahuasca providers, who assure us that business is still booming! :(
    An international version of Guillotine Watch?

  35. Rob T

    Re: Tech: “A Brief History of Porn on the Internet”

    If you’re wondering about new mediums, consider the VR environments being created, as well as the ‘imput’ devices being developed in conjuction with them.

    I’ll let you people do the necessary googling on this one

    1. Arizona Slim

      Ummm, Lambert, you beat me to it. That double post is gone. Thanks for doing the deletion honors.

    1. Carey

      Good link! I subscribed.

      I wonder again how well the #resistance Dems are going to take being so easily parodied.

  36. kareninca

    The WSJ has gotten rid of their comment section. Not entirely, but close enough. They are now only letting readers comment on a few articles.

    They – Our Benevolent Masters – really hated the comments. The commenters are mostly a bunch of old well-off well-educated cynical white business dudes. They often call out BS in the articles; they are very articulate for the most part. First the WSJ made commenters comment under their own name. But the didn’t do the trick; readers were actually willing to do this. So now they’ve just killed it.

    I’m thinking of cancelling my subscription, but what else can I get in paper form for my 94 y.o. father in law?

    1. JBird4049

      I never liked the WSJ or its comments section, but when you had stories about not being to hire enough people at the wages and wasn’t that awful because the lazy people were hurting business, the very conservative commenters piled on with “why don’t you pay them more?” each time.

      I think that the columnists didn’t like the strong pushback even though the wages were about starvation levels at start.

  37. Oregoncharles

    ““Supermarkets in Thailand and Vietnam Swap Plastic Packaging for Banana Leaves” ”
    There is a hardy banana, at least Zone 7. It’s called Musa Basjoo. It does fruit sometimes; the fruits aren’t considered edible – whether because they’re nasty or because they don’t ripen here, I don’t know. It’s used as a fiber plant in China, as it has gratifyingly huge leaves. The stems are hard to cut without a very sharp knife. It’s huge – 7 or 8 feet high, and spreads slowly to that wide, or wider. The one I take care of I’ve been digging back for years; have several in pots. So you, too, can grow your own wrappers.

  38. Briny

    The really sad part around “The True, Complicated Story of the Ayahuasca Murders” is that you don’t have to travel to get DMT. While a bit complex, and tedious, you can extract it yourself for far less money from at least 11 different plants. It can be synthesized as well but that’s something I wouldn’t trust most anyone to get right.

    [I’m a digital packrat and have been collecting since 1975.]

  39. scarn

    I really dislike almost all of Reed’s analysis, but that Medium article is a ridiculous hit piece. Left-liberals like Soeller used to call us non-Anarchist Marxist activists Stalinists. Now I guess we are Strasserists, and somehow we too get lumped in with non-Marxist DSA people who think class within a national unit is something material and important. Which, all things considered, I’ll take as a compliment. Those dem socialists who lever everything around class are rad. Perhaps I can be a Stalino-Strasserist for Bernie. If r/fullcommunism wasn’t moderated by the reddit admins I think it would make Soeller’s head explode.

  40. VietnamVet

    B and B (Bayer and Boeing) have trust issues. This is the heart of the problem of monopolization and privatization. The government’s approval process was flushed down the toilet. How can corporations be trusted if they are not regulated? You can’t. After buying Monsanto, Bayer is left to the tender mercies of the American Justice System. How long will that continue? China is joining the FAA 737 Max Review Panel. Boeing and the affected Airlines will bribe and plead hardship. Will a flight critical system be approved with only two sensors? If Donald Trump and corporate Democrats have their way, companies will do whatever in the hell they want until all of America resembles Appalachia.

    1. wilroncanada

      Astronomers/astrophysicists have just taken the first pictures of a black hole.
      They pointed their telescopes at the White House and found the room where Presidents have been secretly meeting lobbyists for eons.

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