2:00PM Water Cooler 6/7/2019

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

“2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination” [RealClearPolitics] (average of five polls). As of June 6: Biden down 33.5% ( 34.9%) and Sanders down 16.7% (16.9%) stabilize. Warren up 8.2% (7.4%), others Brownian motion. Of course, it’s absurd to track minute fluctuations at this point.

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Biden (D)(1): “How Biden’s Campaign Confronted Him on Abortion” [The Atlantic]. “For 2016 Clinton campaign alumni, this Biden episode felt familiar. Clinton came out against the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal she helped negotiate while serving as secretary of state—a switch in positions, as it happens, that she made in part because of worries that Biden was going to enter that year’s primary and sap her union support. “Hillary coming out against TPP—after having championed it for years as a necessary counterbalance to China for years—was a microcosm of our fatal flaws,” an aide who worked on the Clinton campaign told me, comparing the candidacies. “I actually think the perception of inauthenticity poses a similarly existential threat to Biden, albeit from the opposite direction: for Hillary, it reinforced the most detrimental narratives about her, whereas for Biden, it undermines his core appeal as the deeply principled straight-talker.” The Clinton aide added: “Hillary and Biden suffer from the same contradictory impulses—you can give an impassioned defense of your record or you can convince people you’ve legitimately evolved on an issue, but it’s pretty hard to do them simultaneously.'” • The article credits the change to Symone Sanders and Alyssa Milano…

Harris (D)(1): “‘Everyone is used to relatives that are doofuses’: Kamala’s sister breaks tradition” [Politico]. “Since launching her White House bid, no figure in Kamala Harris’ orbit has loomed so large [as her sister Maya]. A regular presence on the trail, Maya has been involved in virtually every facet of the race, from soliciting donors and recruiting the most diverse staff of any Democratic hopeful, to helping draft policy and talking up early state politicos…. Aside from standing in for Kamala at fundraisers, Maya can be seen at campaign stops posing for pictures with selfie seekers who recognize her from social media and her time as an MSNBC talking head — a gig she landed after advising Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.” • Quite a resumé….

O’Rourke (D)(1): “Democrat O’Rourke unveils voting rights plan to get 35 million more to the polls” [Reuters]. “Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke issued an ambitious plan on Wednesday to revamp the U.S. voting system by cracking down on voter suppression and getting an additional 35 million people to the ballot box by the 2024 elections. O’Rourke, a former congressman from Texas, a state with tough voter ID laws that critics say disproportionately affect the ability of minorities to vote, said his proposal would also allow the registration of an additional 50 million U.S. voters.” • No mention of cost, but I assume it’s trivial by the side of campaign spending. But O’Rourke also wants term limits. No! Avert! We tried them in Maine, and all they do is ensure that the only legislature-adjacent people with institutional memory are the lobbyists!

Trump (R)(1): “Trump Bets on More Black Support in 2020. (He Might Need It.)” [RealClearPolitics]. “Trump managed 8% black support in 2016. And despite the GOP’s unpromising history, his campaign manager thinks the president can more than quadruple that number next year…. Trump managed 8% black support in 2016. And despite the GOP’s unpromising history, his campaign manager thinks the president can more than quadruple that number next year…. “At the end of the day, Democrats know this is the one voter base they cannot afford to have fractionalized,” [Ken Blackwell, a former Republican mayor of Cincinnati and Ohio secretary of state,] told RCP. ‘We know they have to get a 93%-7% split, but a win for us, a technical knockout for us, would be something like 88%-12%.'” • Blackwell is a thoroughly bad man, but he’s right on this. And oddly, criminal justice reform didn’t happen on Obama’s watch.

Trump (R)(2):

Only one poll, but this is Luntz…

Trump (R)(3): “Are Voter Opinions on Trump as Stable as They Seem?” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “[The Democracy Fund Voter Study Group] found that while opinions of the president have been very consistent since 2016, ‘Obama-Trump voters have had a significant change in their view of President Trump over the last two years. In the 2016 VOTER Survey, more than 8 in 10 (85 percent) Obama-Trump voters held a ‘favorable’ view of the president — 19 percentage points higher than in 2019 (66 percent).’ In other words, while Obama-Trump voters still overwhelmingly approve of the president, that support is a lot softer than it was back in 2016. They did not find any significant movement among any other group of voters (like those who supported Romney in 2016 and Trump in 2016, or those who voted Romney 2012 and Clinton in 2016). And, while these Obama-Trump voters remain supportive of the president, ‘even small movement among these voters — who represented 5 percent of voters in 2016,’ writes the authors of the report, ‘may prove significant heading into the 2020 presidential election.'”

“Young voters have Buttigieg and Beto. So why do they prefer old socialists?” [Elizabeth Bruenig, WaPo]. “Older politicians have more opportunities to build track records, and those might be more important to the young than to voters of other ideologies and age brackets. Why? Strong left-leaning track records — shared by Sanders as well as Gravel — offer two major benefits. First, they bespeak a certain authenticity. When Sanders showed it was possible to rake in young votes with staunchly left policies, plenty of center-oriented Democrats began to show interest in things such as Medicare-for-all. Roast young lefties for naivete if you must, but they seem to realize that a fight such as universal health care is going to require somebody truly invested in the idea, who’s willing to take enormous flak over it and suffer a few defeats without giving up. In short, endurance counts. Johnnies-come-lately inspire much less confidence on that front…. But aside from authentic commitment, candidates with long track records suggest they have developed a personal politics with a deeper historical scope — they don’t think the problems in American life began when Trump was elected. Nor do they believe that, before that moment, America was already great. If your belief is that what’s rotten in American politics stems from capitalism itself, then those sudden explanations of what went wrong don’t make sense. The explanations that ring true go back decades….” •


“Democrats Learned the Wrong Lesson From Clinton’s Impeachment” [Ronald Brownstein, The Atlantic]. “Matthew Dowd, a senior strategist for Bush’s 2000 campaign, told me that Democrats today ‘are learning the wrong lessons’ from Clinton’s impeachment by neglecting to consider how it shaped both election cycles, especially the presidential race. In January 2001, almost exactly two years after House Republicans defied public opinion to impeach Clinton, the GOP controlled the White House, the House, and initially the Senate. (Within months, the Republican Jim Jeffords of Vermont would switch parties, shifting control to the Democrats.) ‘Having gone through all that,’ Dowd said, ‘I think the Democrats are way too skittish on impeachment.'” • “Skittish” is nice…

“The Political Costs of Not Impeaching Trump” [GQ]. “I don’t know how else to say this: getting impeached is bad. It is not something you want to happen to you, especially if you’re president. You do not want to go down as one of only four presidents in history to be impeached. This is a bad thing. Only Democrats, bless our hearts, could convince ourselves that it is good for a president to be impeached.” • It is true that scandal is one of Lichtman’s keys. It is also true that in 2018 and subsequently, the Democrat leadership bet the farm on winning over suburban Republicans.

Identity Politics

Peak idpol (1):

Peak idpol (2):

“America’s White Saviors” [Tablet]. “A sea change has taken place in American political life. The force driving this change is the digital era style of moral politics known as ‘wokeness,’ a phenomenon that has become pervasive in recent years and yet remains elusive as even experts struggle to give it a clear definition and accurately measure its impact…. Over the past decade, the baseline attitudes expressed by white liberals on racial and social justice questions have become radically more liberal. In one especially telling example of the broader trend, white liberals recently became the only demographic group in America to display a pro-outgroup bias—meaning that among all the different groups surveyed white liberals were the only one that expressed a preference for other racial and ethnic communities above their own. As woke ideology has accelerated, a growing faction of white liberals have pulled away from the average opinions held by the rest of the coalition of Democratic voters—including minority groups in the party.” And:

The woke elite act like white saviors who must lead the rest of the country, including the racial minorities whose interests they claim to represent, to a vision of justice the less enlightened groups would not choose for themselves.

Consider, for instance, that black and Asian Democrats and liberals are significantly more supportive of restrictive immigration policies and less positive toward racial/ethnic diversity than their white counterparts. Black and Hispanic Democrats and liberals are more sympathetic toward Israel than the Palestinians (likely due in part to the fact that they tend to be more religious). They are also more likely to part ways when it comes to contemporary social and gender-identity issues, including views of the #MeToo movement. In all, though they do converge on some issues, the attitudes and policy preferences of the woke white left are unrepresentative of the “marginalized communities” with whom they are supposed to be allies. And as woke liberals play a leading role in party politics, the Democrats, who are increasingly defined by their embrace of diversity and progressive stances on issues of racial justice, appear to do so, at least partly at the direction of a small white elite.

Whatever “allies” might mean. Identity politics groupings aren’t sovereigns, after all.

“Listening at the Great Awokening” [Areo]. “Colleges and universities across the English-speaking world are caught up in the enthusiasm of a Great Awokening. Its dogmas are structural violence, systemic racism, racial stress, white privilege, white fragility, implicit bias and microaggressions. From the University of Missouri to Evergreen State College to Sarah Lawrence College and beyond, faculty and students are ablaze with the fire of social justice.” • And never, ever class of economics.

“‘I Can No Longer Continue to Live Here'” [Jill Filopovic, Politico]. • Remarkably, Filopovic manages to write an entire article on violence against women in Honduras, without mentioning the role of the United States, or how [x] woman Secretary of State Hillary Clinton militarized our policy there. Quite an achievement!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Koch network floats backing Democrats in revamp of influence operation” [Politico]. “The Koch network is shaking up how it tries to influence Washington heading into 2020, starting with plans to spend money to reelect lawmakers from either party who back its issues and are facing primary challenges….. Some — but definitely not all — of the group’s policy plans may intrigue Democrats. For instance, one of the Koch network’s top priorities is extending protection to Dreamers; its stance on that issue has sometimes been met with pushback from its own donors.” • I seem to recall a good deal of liberal Democrat pearlclutching and yammering when Sanders said “open borders” was a Koch Brothers proposal. But he was right, wasn’t he?

“The New Deal Worked” [Living New Deal]. ” Today, many skeptics similarly view the Green New Deal initiative as hopelessly pie-in-the-sky. Nonetheless, the experience of the New Deal proves that big government programs can reap big rewards, if done right.” • With lots of data.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, May 2019: “Move up the rate-cut plans is the theme of the May employment report which shows declining growth in the labor market and topping pressure for wages” [Econoday]. “The unemployment rate remains very low, unchanged at a lower-than-expected 3.6 percent with the pool of available workers low and holding steady at 10.9 million. Subdued wage gains won’t help to pull up the participation rate which is also unchanged at 62.8 percent… For the Federal Reserve, open talk of a near-term rate cut is likely to pick up force at the mid-month FOMC. Against a backdrop of soft inflation, stalling employment growth at a time of trade risks and also Brexit risks point to the need, at least for the doves, for policy insurance.”

Wholesale Trade, April 2019: “Wholesale inventories shot…. higher in April which will be a plus for second-quarter GDP yet may raise questions of near-term overhang” [Econoday]. “Sudden economic slowing, as suggested by this morning’s employment report, may be pointing to another heavy wholesale build in May as well.”

Commodities: “The 24-Million Barrel Question: Where Is All That Missing U.S. Oil?” [Bloomberg]. “U.S. Energy Information Administration data Wednesday showed a crude supply adjustment factor — the difference between reported stockpiles and those implied by production, refinery demand, imports and exports — of more than 800,000 barrels a day. While that doesn’t seem like that much, it’s added up to more than 24 million barrels over the past four weeks, and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in trading opportunities….. ‘We go through each component of what’s reported to us,’ [Robert Merriam, director of the office of petroleum and biofuels statistics at the EIA] said. ‘There’s something more systematic going on that our surveys aren’t capturing. We have some theories on what that may be and we’re trying to look into it.'” • Hmm.

Banking: “$17B gone: The biggest-ever advisory team exit and the bank that lost it” [American Banker]. “Nearly 50 members of [First Republic Bank’s] wealth management division have left, following the five top advisers on their team. Those $17 billion in client assets are expected to evaporate with them. If it were classed as a breakaway, which typically refers to brokers who bust out of their wirehouse firms, it would be the largest in history…. With so many top advisers gone, can First Republic maintain growth in its wealth management division? If the first three months of this year are any indication, it would seem so. In that time, it has added $14 billion in assets in management.”

Banking: “Where is dead Bridgeport banker’s yacht?” [Chicago Sun-Times]. “The 46-foot yacht, usually moored at Chicago’s Burnham Harbor, goes by the name Expelliarmus — a word Harry Potter exclaims when he wields his magic wand. But, like magic, the pleasure craft with two bedrooms and two bathrooms seems to have disappeared — the latest mystery to emerge as federal agents investigate the failure of Bridgeport’s clout-heavy Washington Federal Bank for Savings 18 months ago, the hanging death of bank president John F. Gembara and millions of dollars in loans he gave his friend Robert Kowalski, a Chicago lawyer now charged with bankruptcy fraud.” • Seems a little frothy…

Retail: “Here’s how many stores need to close across the US before the retail apocalypse ends, according to analysts” [Business Insider]. “Auto parts: 60; clothing: 20,700; consumer electronics: 9,800; grocery: 7,310; home furnishings: 8,400; home improvement: 620; office supplies: 1,930; sporting goods: 5,900. • That’s a lot of stores, a lot of malls, and a lot of downtowns (if any such still exist).

The Bezzle: “Facebook will reportedly announce cryptocurrency this month, allowing employees to take it as salary” [CNBC]. “Facebook will announce its cryptocurrency later this month, and will allow employees working on the project to take their salary in the form of the new currency, according to a report.” • Oh, look: scrip.

The Bezzle: “Behavioral advertising: The mirage built by Google” [Digital Content Next]. “The comprehensive study was conducted over nearly five years by Veronica Marotta, Vibhanshu Abhishek and led by Alessandro Acquisti, who is globally recognized for his work studying behavioral economics and the impact of privacy on digital society. The bottom-line: Acquisti’s team found that behavioral advertising, as measured and delivered based on third party cookies, increased publisher revenues by a mere 4%. If you’re nodding your head unsurprised by this statistic, then you’re likely in the 67% of publishers surveyed recently by Digiday who answered that behavioral advertising doesn’t help their business. But make no mistake, the findings are profound as to how they inform the future of digital advertising. They will also have a strong influence on the next steps in US privacy legislation. Put simply, nearly all of the growth touted by the industry benefits intermediaries rather than the publishers who provide the news and entertainment. And for the first time ever, there is empirical research to dismiss long-touted industry arguments that privacy rules will kill the golden goose that pays for free content…. Put another way. Google is the largest buyer, seller, and transaction vehicle for digital ads that leverage personal data. And Google has by far the most personal data. At this point, it should hardly be a question whether this is a rigged market.” • Readers, please note that as matters stand today, we need our digital advertising; no ads, no NC. And we don’t use Google as a transaction vehicle.

Tech: “Amazon’s Home Surveillance Company Is Putting Suspected Petty Thieves in its Advertisements” [Vice]. “Amazon’s home surveillance company Ring is using video captured by its doorbell cameras in Facebook advertisements that ask users to identify and call the cops on a woman whom local police say is a suspected thief. In the video, the woman’s face is clearly visible and there is no obvious criminal activity taking place.” • Who needs the Stasi when we’ve got Facebook and Amazon?

Manufaturing: “The Car Industry Is Under Siege” [New York Times]. “The major auto companies will spend well over $400 billion during the next five years developing electric cars equipped with technology that automates much of the task of driving, according to AlixPartners, a consulting firm. They must retool factories, retrain workers, reorganize their supplier networks and rethink the whole idea of car ownership.” • And it’s not clear that consumers will eat the robot car dogfood, especially when they’re not really “self-driving” anyhow (and use pedestrians and other drivers as unrenumerated debuggers).

The Biosphere

“Ladybug swarm detected by weather radar over Southern California” [NBC (Furzy Mouse)]. “When National Weather Service radar picked up a giant blob moving swiftly over southwestern San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, around 8 p.m., forecasters at the agency’s San Diego office called spotters on the ground, who told them it was an enormous swarm of ladybugs… [T]he ladybug ‘bloom’ appeared to be 80 miles by 80 miles, flying at 5,000 to 9,000 feet…. ‘This is actually something you’ll see pretty often,’ Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said last month when radar captured a huge swarm of bugs over southern Illinois, southern Indiana and western Kentucky.” • It is?!

“Social group signatures in hummingbird displays provide evidence of co-occurrence of vocal and visual learning” [Proceedings of the Royal Society B]. “Vocal learning, in which animals modify their vocalizations based on social experience, has evolved in several lineages of mammals and birds, including humans. Despite much attention, the question of how this key cognitive trait has evolved remains unanswered…. We tested for geographical variation consistent with learning of visual displays in long-billed hermits (Phaethornis longirostris), a lek-mating hummingbird that, like humans, has both learned vocalizations and elaborate visual displays. We found lek-level signatures in both vocal parameters and visual display features, including display element proportions, sequence syntax and fine-scale parameters of elements. This variation was not associated with genetic differentiation between leks. In the absence of genetic differences, geographical variation in vocal signals at small scales is most parsimoniously attributed to learning, suggesting a significant role of social learning in visual display ontogeny.” • Neat!


“Human Consumption of Microplastics” (PDF) [Kieran D. Cox, Garth A. Covernton, Hailey L. Davies, John F. Dower, Francis Juanes, and Sarah E. Dudas, Environmental Science and Technology]. “Evaluating approximately 15% of Americans’ caloric intake, we estimate that annual microplastics consumption ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles depending on age and sex. These estimates increase to 74000 and 121000 when inhalation is considered. Additionally, individuals who meet their recommended water intake through only bottled sources may be ingesting an additional 90000 microplastics annually, compared to 4000 microplastics for those who consume only tap water. These estimates are subject to large amounts of variation; however, given methodological and data limitations, these values are likely underestimates.” • Yikes.

“Towing an Iceberg: One Captain’s Plan to Bring Drinking Water to 4 Million People” [Bloomberg]. “[Marine-salvage master Nicholas Sloane] is working on a solution [to Cape Town’s water supply problem] that might sound absurd. Making use of his unusual skill set, he plans to harness and tow an enormous Antarctic iceberg to South Africa and convert it into municipal water. ‘To make it economically feasible, the iceberg will have to be big,’ Sloane says. Ideally, it would measure about 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) long, 500 meters wide, and 250 meters deep, and weigh 125 million tons. ‘That would supply about 20% of Cape Town’s water needs for a year.'” • Wouldn’t be simpler and cheaper to wait for the ice sheets to melt?

“Carnival Cruise is being fined millions (again) for massive pollution cover-up” [Grist]. “Carnival Corporation, the world’s largest cruise line and owner of ten cruise subbrands, was slapped with a $20 million fine earlier this week after it was caught dumping pollutants into the ocean, again. ‘You not only work for employees and shareholders. You are a steward of the environment,’ U.S. District Judge Patricia Seitz told Carnival CEO Arnold Donald. ‘The environment needs to be a core value, and I hope and pray it becomes your daily anthem.'” • Lol, “core values.” A judge says this.

The 420

“Oregon Has So Much Extra Weed it Could Take Years to Smoke it All” [Time (Furzy Mouse)]. “Oregon has one of the highest such imbalances among the 10 states that have legalized recreational marijuana since 2012, in part because it had a big head start in the weed business. With its moist climate and rich soil, Oregon has a long history of pot growing. When it became legal, many outlaw growers went legitimate, and others jumped into the business, too. They are now all cultivating weed in a multitude of fields, greenhouses and converted factories, with 1,123 active producer licenses issued by the OLLC over the past three years.” • Why not just legalize it at the Federal level?

Guillotine Watch

“Measles cases hit 1,001 as anti-vaxxers hold another rally of disinformation” [Ars Technica]. “Prominent anti-vaccine advocates and conspiracy theorists held another rally of misinformation in New York Tuesday as the national tally of measles cases ticked passed 1,000…. The rally—the second of its kind in New York in recent weeks—is part of a pattern of anti-vaccine groups targeting vulnerable communities that are grappling with outbreaks. Like the previous rally, Tuesday’s event featured Rabbi Hillel Handler and Del Bigtree, both prominent anti-vaccine provocateurs known for fear mongering and spreading myths about lifesaving immunizations.”

Class Warfare

“A striking, joyful portrait of America’s greatest divide” [The Week]. Review of Chris Arnade’s new book, Dignity: “[T]he most fundamental division in American life is not partisan or geographic or, except incidentally, racial or religious. The real gap is between what Arnade calls “front-row” and “back-row” America, that is, between the sort of people who accepted the sinister logic of credentialism and took their places in our globalized meritocracy and those who, for any number of reasons, remained behind. Many members of the former group are, like Arnade himself, committed liberals and progressives, who believe that by supporting the right political candidates and donating money to the appropriate causes they will improve the lot of the former. They despair of the violence, addiction, and exploitation visited upon back-row America, assuming they are aware of them. But they do not, on the whole, question the division, which they accept as a natural consequence of their education.” • My copy is coming soon….

“Too much money (and too few places to invest it)” [Axios]. “A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it.” And:

How we got here:

  1. The Fed’s quantitative easing program pushed the cost of borrowing money to next to nothing for nearly a decade, allowing companies to splurge on debt for mergers and acquisitions and to boost revenue.
  2. At the same time, globalization allowed them to reduce labor costs, meaning that gains effectively were returned as profit and used by public companies to boost stock prices.

“Class of 2019” [Economic Policy Institute]. “The members of the high school Class of 2019 who enter the labor market right after graduating have better job prospects than young people who graduated from high school into the aftermath of the recession, a result of the steady (if slow) progression of the economic recovery. However, compared with those who graduated into the strong 2000 labor market, the Class of 2019 still faces real economic challenges, as demonstrated by elevated levels of underemployment as well as low wages and worsened wage gaps for black workers.” • That’s not a bug.

“Getting poorer while working harder: The ‘cliff effect'” [Boston Business Journal]. “Because so many American jobs don’t earn enough to pay for food, housing and other basic needs, many low-wage workers rely on public benefits that are only available to people in need, such as housing vouchers and Medicaid, to pay their bills. Earning a little more money may not automatically increase their standard of living if it boosts their income to the point where they lose access to some or all of those benefits. That’s because the value of those lost benefits may outweigh their income gains. I have researched this dynamic, which experts often call the “cliff effect,” for years to learn why workers weren’t succeeding at retaining their jobs following job training programs. Chief among the one step forward, two steps back problems the cliff effect causes: Low-paid workers can become reluctant to earn more money due to a fear that they will get worse off instead of better.” • That’s not a bug, either. Complex eligibility requirements are much beloved by liberal Democrats.

“Sex, lies, and surveillance: Something’s wrong with the war on sex trafficking” [Violet Blue, Engadget]. “According to a new paper from Fordham Law School, FOSTA’s conflation of sex work with trafficking makes it “A Hostile Law with a Human Cost.” It states: ‘Within one month of FOSTA’s enactment, thirteen sex workers were reported missing, and two were dead from suicide. Sex workers operating independently faced a tremendous and immediate uptick in unwanted solicitation from individuals offering or demanding to traffic them. Numerous others were raped, assaulted, and rendered homeless or unable to feed their children. These egregious acts of violence and economic devastation are directly attributable to FOSTA’s enactment.’… Turns out, anti-trafficking organizations are a lucrative growth market riddled with charlatans who’ve fooled companies as big as Google for years, and gotten away with it. ll three — IJM, Polaris Project, and Not For Sale — were utterly taken apart for using invented facts and falsified data in Truthout’s 2015 Special Report: Money and Lies in Anti-Human Trafficking NGOs. Truthout wrote, ‘in the world of anti-trafficking organizations, money and lies are deeply – perhaps inextricably – tied. The false claims, forwarded as fact, are big. So is the money that’s spent and received in the service of those claims – more than half a billion dollars in recent years. That we know of.'” • Grifters gotta grift. And half a billion dollars is real money, even today.

News of the Wired

Bright lights, big strip mall:

I dunno. Tokyo’s Ginza is pretty neat. If the signage was in an exotic (to Americans) script?

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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.

Friday Mystery Plant (eurekasprings):

Description: “Wild deep woods mid summer mystery flower. Ozark mountains.” So, readers, what is it?

Eurekasprings kindly sent in a number of mystery plants. If you have any mystery plants, feel free to send them along to the address below, with description including location, and I’ll put them up. Please put “Mystery Plant” in the subject line.

And in other welcome news, the cat has returned to its summer residence under the church parish house porch next door:

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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. Cal2

    “Harris (D)(1): “‘Kamala’s sister breaks tradition” [Politico]. “Since launching her White House bid, no figure in Kamala Harris’ orbit has loomed so large [as her sister Maya]…”

    Maya West’s husband, Tony West, is general counsel for Uber.
    Saudi Arabia is Uber’s biggest investor.
    Kamala votes to send more weapons to Saudi Arabia.

    It’s a family affair.


        1. RMO

          “posing for pictures with selfie seekers who recognize her from social media and her time as an MSNBC talking head — a gig she landed after advising Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign”

          So… at some point do they provide any evidence that Maya isn’t a doofus?

      1. polecat

        Yeah, as likely she woke up to Saudi $$$$ as Yemeni’s woke up to dawning bombs early light !

    1. Cal2

      Clarification: Note the years

      She voted “Yes” on

      HR 2810 – National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018,

      and voted “No” on other weapons sales. Overall, the 2019 NDAA will hike military spending by $82 billion. The Intercept’s Alex Emmons has noted that with $80 billion a year, you could make public colleges and universities in the U.S. tuition-free.”

      Here are the ten senators who voted against the spending measure: Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah.), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).”

      1. pricklyone

        Startpage buys it’s results from Google. ( I use it myself, BTW)
        It is a (supposedly non-tracking) frontend for Google.
        See the ‘learn more’secton at Startpage.com..

        ++”How we made search private
        You can’t beat Google when it comes to online search. So we’re paying them to use their brilliant search results in order to remove all trackers and logs. The result: The world’s best and most private search engine. Only now you can search without ads following you around, recommending products you’ve already bought. And no more data mining by companies with dubious intentions. We want you to dance like nobody’s watching and search like nobody’s watching.”++

  2. Arizona Slim

    Slim checking in from Tucson. Where it’s 90 degrees in the shade.

    I’m sitting in front of the main library, canvassing for Bernie Sanders with six other volunteers. Been here for an hour, and we have been getting a very positive response.

    Tucson for Bernie is the local organization, and it’s having twice monthly meetings at Borderlands Brewing. Details at TucsonforBernie.org.

      1. Arizona Slim

        Or, as our event organizer said today, “It’s hot outside! And we are feeling the Bern.”

        Tip for others who might be interested in organizing Bernie events: Bring LOTS of campaign buttons. They were a big hit with the people we talked to.

  3. bsg

    From a quick glance, that picture appears to be one of the “oasis” areas off of the pennsylvania turnpike. Rather than the typical interstate arrangement of a few gas stations and fast food outlets every few miles surrounding every exit, the turnpike is relatively exit free and offers a fairly scenic drive through the appalachian mountains. the trade off of course is when there is an exit you get scenes like this. I kindof like it this way.

      1. Zagonostra

        A speed trap I go through every Friday going home from RestonTo Hollisdayburg…

      2. DJG

        Jim A. and bsg: Yes, the Pennsylvania Turnpike is remarkably well cared for, and it even has farmers markets at some of the rest stops.

        Although from Chicago, I recognized Breezewood immediately. There’s nothing quite like Breezewood as one twists and turns down from the Turnpike. And Perkins Family Restaurants aren’t so bad. The comments to the tweet are not happy about the original.

    1. mle detroit

      That’s a good point. The photo is Breezewood, PA. There are quite a few who complain about the extra 5-7 minutes to move from the Turnpike to I-70, but building a standard interchange would cost big time. Besides, all those jobs! I will also say that two of the worst deluges I’ve ever driven through happened in the last two years on either side of Breezewood.

      1. Darius

        Drive through Breezewood four or five times a year. It’s a surprisingly complicated and confusing mess. I’m surprised other states don’t make you endure a half mile of suburban strip commerce to continue on your way. Breezewood is not the Ginza. It’s pretty much like any modern suburb. Six or seven lanes of traffic sewer and a bunch of drab chain businesses fronted by parking lots. Nobody knows how to do that like we do. USA! USA!

    2. The Rev Kev

      The whole place is still ugly. There are places like it near where I live. There is nothing much there that you can point to and say that it looks and makes you feel good.

  4. JohnnyGL

    Listening to NPR talk show earlier today since I was on the road.

    It’s really amazing to listen to democrats talk themselves into accepting Biden. The overwhelming urge to get Trump out of office, combined with learning all the wrong lessons of 2016 is a very toxic combination.

    There’s a sizable segment of people that think Hillary lost because she was a woman and not a very charming one, at that. That’s it….nothing else.


    Does anyone think it might have helped? I suspect his polls are going to start taking a dive pretty soon. He’s almost inconceivably bad.

    1. nycTerrierist

      Looking forward to the debates. He’s low-hanging fruit, I hope
      his rivals make short work of him.

      1. polecat

        Biden is to Durian (quite the unacquired .. uh .. ‘taste’), what Sanders is to Guava !

        1. rowlf

          May I recommend an image search using the keywords Durian and Sign?

          It may lead to a useful campaign logo,,,

          1. rowlf

            Dammit, now I am thinking Biden is more akin to a Drop Bear.

            (Durians have killed more people and caused multitudes to run away from them in fear and disgust than Drop Bears though…)

        1. polecat

          THAT would be a gauranteed hoot ! Kinda like the visiting familial black sheep, who shows up at Thanksgiving, only to tell the relatives what they don’t want to hear !
          …. assuming, that is, that they’d actually let him do something other then just stand there and not be able to get a word in edge-wise ..

          You never know with the likes of cRATf#ckDNC !

    2. pretzelattack

      being inconceivably bad is the goal, all those things you list, the only important thing is he isn’t in any way a leftist, and he is an indefatigable donor hound.

    3. Clive

      I’m pushing 50 and I think my earliest political memory is from my teenage years — Biden running for President (sometime in the 1980’s, and the hoo-haa over the Neil Kinnock speeches plagiarism).

      Isn’t there some kind of congressional medal they could give him, just to make him shut up and go away? Or carve his likeness into Mount Rushmore and then y’all could make out like he’d actually been President already, but he’d got a bit of amnesia and had forgotten doing it?

      1. pretzelattack

        biden’s core appeal is purportedly as “a deeply principled straight talker”. i’m going back to bed.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I assumed his core appeal was his name is widely known as VP but he was largely ignored as he wasn’t deemed a threat to become President and was out of the Senate. Without that acrimony, it seems like a compromise for the people who want a false unity and false optimism.

          1. Tvc15

            Since he’s another “straight talker”, and doesn’t have any qualms borrowing ideas/speeches, I bet he can get a good deal on McCain’s “Straight Talk Express” bus. Maybe his buddy Cheney is ready for another round as VP.

        2. dearieme

          his core appeal as the deeply principled straight-talker: that induced a peal of merry laughter from me.

    4. Carey

      I’ve been thinking for awhile now that the elites and ten-percenters might
      well fabricate an utterly counterfactual narrative, similar to Russia Russia Russia, such that *whatever happens* the answer will be “we need more ‘centrism’, now!”. Still looks that way to me. Stay tuned…

    5. DJG

      JohnnyGL: No. Don’t call in. I recall that the reason that I stopped listening to WFMT was their news during the 2016 elections. The primaries were reported as, “Glorious Qualified Leader Hillary Doesn’t Reach Majority Losing to Nameless Grump from Vacation-Home State.” When Trump then won, WFMT’s “news” apparatus went into a meltdown. “Person Ineligible to Subscribe to Classical Radio Station Wins Presidency.”

      What is remarkable is that the DNC continues to operate the same way, regardless of human experience: The controlling interests and the looters who control the Democratic Party are determined to drag Uncle Handsy Joe across the finish line. They tried to do so with Clinton–but they were outfoxed by that daredevil Vladimir “Boris & Natasha” Putin.

      As Lambert Strether has reminded us, even a week is a long time in politics. Nevertheless, I am seeing indications that the Liberalburo controlling the Dems wants to remain in power (and you seem to seem them, too). And the Restoration will happen, whether you like it or not. (Unlike the French, Americans are too craven to riot in the streets over such matters as the decline of democracy.)

      Mayor Pete Buttigieg (does he speak Bokmal or Nynorsk?) will be named Secretary of State.

      1. Jen

        How credible are those polling agencies in RCP? Heard they’ve been overpolling older dem voters skewing the results for uncle Joe.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          An average is more credible than a single poll. That said, the averages were wrong as to outcome in 2016; the poll that was correct was the Los Angeles Times Daybreak poll, which accidentally oversampled rural voters.

          One hears the “you can’t poll cellphones” argument a lot, but I don’t think the methodological controversy has been settled one way or another.

          1. John k

            Probably some young are missed, which didn’t used to matter because they didn’t vote. More woke now. Well, I hope so.
            The other thing… expecting people to vote because they did last time maybe erred in 2016 because former Obama voters, while responding to pollsters, couldn’t see a reason to get off the couch on voting day.
            Maybe different this time if this same group is enraged at trump. But are they? He’s fighting the good fight against What many see as Chinese unfair trade, and doing what he can to keep out illegals. I’m not sure former Obama types would be fired up by Biden.

      2. JBird4049

        (Unlike the French, Americans are too craven to riot in the streets over such matters as the decline of democracy.)

        Just you wait. I remember the Rodney King Riots. And my family could have given me some stories on the 60s and early 70s riots. If we get President Handyman or President Orange One has a second term because Sanders was robbed again, I think enough Americans will get “woke” enough for some exciting times.

        1. Procopius

          I think the gilets jaunes do not actually riot. Of course the PTB and MOTU claim that they do, but I think that’s just occasionally antifas and black blocs take advantage of the crowd to vandalize stuff. Most of the protesters are quiet and just want attention to their problems.

    6. WheresOurTeddy


      40+ year career. He was voting against desegregation when Bill and Hillary had barely crossed the picket line on their first date (true story)

    7. Procopius

      It’s still a long time to the primaries. I think he’s gonna be gone by Labor Day.

  5. ptb

    Re: Luntz poll, trump approval by state

    This is the rolling morning consult national poll. Large sample of Registered Voters. Important caveat:

    * The per-state approval numbers are generated by correlation – applying per-state census and RV demographics against the demographic questions in the poll itself. I don’t believe this poll actually samples each state, or even tracks the actual state of each respondent. It’s still one of the best public approval data out there.

    Other thoughts:
    * Jan2017 was the irrational high point of freshly inaugurated president. Compared to Nov2016, different story.
    * Focus on states. I like PA as the pivotal state. Compared to March and April 2019, Trump’s approval in PA is up a point (noise of course).
    * Also, that -6 RV approval in PA implies 47:53 among registered voters. Going from RV (registered) to LV (likely) almost always moves further republican, so the 47:53 is more like 49:51 — perilously close.
    * I’m starting to think in the next year, we have to expect both Republicans and Democrats to both repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot, with the race depending on who manages to inflict less damage on themselves.

  6. Cal2

    “Facebook will announce its cryptocurrency later this month, and will allow employees working on the project to take their salary in the form of the new currency, according to a report.”

    Is it taxable at the time it’s “deposited” in their account? If so, can they get a refund on taxes paid if it drops, say to zero, before they cash it out to dollars? Or, is it only taxable when converted to dollars?
    Does state disability want dollars now? Or, do they delay collection when cashed out?

    What would happen of a company hired based on paying people one gold coin per week? How would tax authorities handle that?

    1. Tim

      Facebook will report all taxes and withhold appropriately and timely. There is no way Facebook screws with the IRS; I doubt Mark would be that stupid.

    2. todde

      it is wages and will be taxable when the employee has ‘constructive receipt’ of it. The amount of wages will be the FMV of the coin at the time of receipt.

      ie, when it is deposited into their account, or they receive the a check, it is ‘received’.

      They will have a gain or loss on sale when they covert the ‘coin’ into dollars.

      the amounts reported on the W2 will be in dollars and taxes will be withheld just as if they were paid in dollars

      1. todde

        constructive receipt is a tax term, and it basically means when you were able to use the money.

        If Zuck doesn’t direct deposit it into an account, it will be when the ‘check’ is received.

    3. drumlin woodchuckles

      Would Facebook employees be perMITTed to take their pay in Facebucks? Or would they be PRESSured into taking their pay in Facebucks? I suspect they will end up being pressured, step by slow step. This would appear to be a carefully ratcheted-up control and isolation mechanism such as one sees in cults.

      Perhaps Zuckerberg hopes to turn his workforce into a Cult of Believers, who will defend and protect Facebook until the bitter end; through every crime, outrage and abuse.

    4. Darius

      I love the idea that this is scrip. Company issued “money” is company controlled. Good at all the special new Facebook websites selling inflated goods.

    5. flora

      and will allow employees working on the project to take their salary in the form of the new currency,

      oooh, company scrip. The coal mine owners used to do that. (How god awful are fb’s finances that they have to offer using company scrip to pay employees?) heh.


      1. flora

        adding: same singer, same song, recorded a few decades earlier when the audience had personal memories of ‘company stores’ and worker abuse.
        Oh yeah, fb is innovative and disruptive and changing the game…. or not.

        The new (data) mining operations and (digital) manufacturing operations are starting to look like the old mining and manufacturing operations before the New Deal reined in the economic abuses. imo. “Everything old is new again.”


      2. cnchal

        > . . . (How god awful are fb’s finances that they have to offer using company scrip to pay employees?) heh.

        Probably not too awful, yet. Give it time though and who knows?

        Facebook and Google have been selling digital snake oil after all. Advertisers have been paying a massive premium for the insertion of aggressive tracking cookies by the “ad broker industry” into publisher’s webpages and the results are at best, marginal. When that realization comes home to roost, there should be a re-balancing of advertising dollar allocation, which leads to the question, are current stawk prices for them merely stratospheric or ionospheric?

        1. Procopius

          This finding, that behavioral advertising is not very effective, affirms my feeling that the hysteria over Russian tweet farms is overblown nonsense. Of course the Russians wanted Trump to win. Hillary is their mortal enemy, as she demonstrated by promoting Victoria Nuland, approving the coup in Ukraine, and hiring Robert Kagan as a campaign adviser. The whole, “… but they interfered in our sacred election!!!” thing is in bad faith. What, the Republicans don’t? AIPAC doesn’t? MI5 doesn’t? The CIA doesn’t? We didn’t blatantly interfere in Russia’s election trying to get Boris Yeltsin reelected?

    6. Wukchumni

      What would happen of a company hired based on paying people one gold coin per week? How would tax authorities handle that?


      The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the criminal conviction of Robert Kahre, the man who incurred the wrath of the IRS by paying his employees in gold coin. Since the face value of the gold coins was significantly below the legal threshold that triggers withholding taxes, the Court held that Kahre didn’t do his duty to serve as tax collector for the U.S. welfare-warfare state by withholding income taxes from the monies paid to his employees. He’s now serving a 15-year sentence—yes, 15 years in a federal penitentiary!


  7. Sushi

    Views from afar:

    The US ruined much of Central America and treated its subjects as disposable. Shades of Smedley Butler 2.0. Those (second and third generation!) victims have an equity argument to make for compensation in some form. No wonder they climb on La Bestia to go to El Norte try to collect.

    Ring ads show petty thieves now? Some could observe with only a hint of cynicism that the Ring neighborhood network reporting model could include some shilling to induce greater fear and purchasing. My cousin’s neighbor, or was it my neighbor’s cousin, saw an alert in the middle of the night about an attempted break-in. I better buy now before they are all gone.

    1. Cal2

      Mexico may (re) absorb Guatemala as it’s 33rd state. Everyone wants it.
      Changes the immigration and tariff dynamic, no?

  8. Expat2uruguay

    This first episode of the new series that On the Media is doing on evictions should be of interest to several people here.

  9. dk

    Chris Arnade embedded and commented on the “If this is culture, I prefer being a barbarian” tweet:

    Like half my book is explaining that is indeed very much culture — which the elites have constructed & profited off of and then don’t use and mock those who do.

    followed with a pic of 6 men engrossed in chess in a McD’s.

    1. jrs

      However the front row kids who in some ways, should have succeeded, but for whatever reason missed the boat (even graduating into a recession can be a reason if one is unlucky, success is a lot more contingent than we imagine, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that ..) … They are *socialists*.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      followed with a pic of 6 men engrossed in chess in a McD’s.

      McDonald’s breakfast and chess! Growing old sounds amazing!

      1. todde

        We’re in training here for the future when we sit around at the local eateries and debate the days events with our fellow old timers

      2. Carolinian

        I’m at McDonald’s right now. No chessboards in sight.

        And realize Water Cooler doesn’t take editorial stances but there seems to be an implication that impeachment would be a good thing if only the Dems weren’t such wimps.

        One problem with impeachment is that it gives the press, who totally control our elections already, even more power to go hog wild.

        1. jsn

          Our entire politics, so far as MSM is willing to report, has been reduced to a game of strip poker played by repellent, corporatulent, grasping geezers.

          If your information inputs are broadcast media, you deserve what’s coming your way!

          Impeachment is nothing but a coverup of the accelerating bipartisan, post constitutional crime spree.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > And realize Water Cooler doesn’t take editorial stances but there seems to be an implication that impeachment would be a good thing if only the Dems weren’t such wimps.

          I think impeachment would be a bad thing. It would split the country far worse than it’s already split, and to no good purpose, since the Senate is very unlikely to convict. It would also look like the sourest of sour grapes. Because it is. Impeachment would also cement the veto power of the intelligence community over Presidential selection; given the results of Volume I of the Mueller report, it’s hard to see RussiaRussiaRussia as anything other than a domestic disinformation campaign.

          1. flora

            And, the Dems should win on policy ideas not grievance studies. imo. But that might mean talking about Main Street economics.

          2. Carolinian

            Thanks for the clarification. Guess I thought I was at Counterpunch. St. Clair favors impeachment.

            Personally I think it would be deja vu all over again. The Clinton impeachment was a zoo.

            1. richard

              I left counterpunch for this site. It was during that wapo attack on alt. media that singled out nc and consortium and BAR (propornot?) so I went to all those sites because fu wapo, and settled here. Counterpunch was never the same after alex died. St. Clair, he’s hit or miss, but he tends to miss big when he misses. Impeachment is one area; I also got a strong sense of tactical repositioning after the russia red scare attacks on his site, more digs against Putin, against anyone who gets news from RT or isn’t sufficiently skeptical of rushya. “How pure is your hatred, Jeffrey?” someone might ask him.

      3. pretzelattack

        well some chess clubs have taken to meeting at barnes and noble or various all night restaurants; cheaper than renting a space. and of course there are the parks, but if you’re there after midnight you may be rounded up by the cops for violating a park curfew.

        1. todde

          Night chess at the park, like they did with ‘Night Basketball”.

          I wonder what programs they will teach for old retirees.

    3. KLG

      Sat down very late last night and read half of Chris Arnade’s book. Highly recommended. And worth being tired all day.

    4. Copeland

      Re McDonalds: My in-laws in their 70s absolutely love McD’s breakfast, and even more the social interaction. They go for breakfast almost every day in Mesa, AZ and meet with the same group of retirees. They like it so much that they gave my wife and I a gift card so that we could experience the same “thrill” up here in Cascadia. They love bargains but do not need bargains, meaning they don’t have to go there to save money, they choose it, day in and day out. So, yes, for them I guess it’s culture.

      1. Carolinian

        What you say is true all over the country but someone should tell McDonald’s that. The newer model restaurants shrink the dining room footprint in favor of double drive thru. Of course the original McD–as recounted by the MIchael Keaton movie The Founder–didn’t have indoor seating at all. The menu was short and everybody walked away with a bag.

      2. polecat

        Oh Come On ! Mr. Rogers scoped this out on his show, years ago !! *


        *well, ok …. maybe not the real Mr. Rogers … but still….

    5. Darius

      Americans have to pay a car ownership tax. In that owning a car is the price for participating in society. This hits the poor hardest of all. As I keep saying, Americans think a car is a vital organ and don’t even realize there is anything different. The paradigm is hardwired into the psyche. That’s why public transportation, which benefits the poor most of all, is despised and chronically underfunded pretty much everywhere.

  10. lyman alpha blob

    RE: Democrat O’Rourke unveils voting rights plan to get 35 million more to the polls

    Disenfranchising voters is a major problem to be sure, but I sincerely doubt that a whole 35 million are not going to vote because their rights have been suppressed. The more likely scenario is 35 million won’t go to the polls because they only have a choice of [family blog]ing charlatans like Beto O Rourke.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      This is a point Obama made (except felons). There is no way to stop a determined voter, but many voters don’t care until October 15th. What this means is their registration is out of date, especially renting populations, young and city dwellers (this isn’t meant as euphemism for black; whites who rent are often in rural areas and harder to organize). A person who cares in the Summer will vote (for foreign readers, the U.S. is just awful. We don’t make voting easy).

      Its a two fold battle because resources spent on registering willing but not enthusiastic are resources not spent on less willing voters or voters who have a harder time reaching out. Then of course by making organizing urban areas difficult, you have to direct resources there instead of theoretically building on lasting organization and enthusiasm and moving out to rural areas where ROI will be lower because of distances.

    1. John

      I am relying on the evidence of the picture when I say that wherever the cat spent the winter, it did not miss any meals. I regard that as evidence of its good sense.

  11. UserFriendly

    I should have posted this yesterday about the debates. Funny how they only had like 5 debates last primary and managed to make the one in Miami Foreign Policy based, an issue the public couldn’t care less about and just so happened to be Clinton’s ‘strong suit’ in their delusional eyes, and this cycle they have one a month till its over so at least like 9 but can’t be bothered to do a debate on the number 2 issue for Democrats that just so happens to be a weak point for Biden.

  12. Riverboat Grambler

    Interesting Aero article RE: Idpol on campuses. I live in the thick of that in Madison WI and while I am not the type to whine about how campus liberals are ruining society (or are an equivalent threat to something like Fox News), it is disappointing to occasionally leaf through campus newspapers and find it’s all idpol, all the time. Lots of “Minority person X wins spot on campus organization Y” and “Campus will put together a committee to address minority concerns”. I wonder how many students read stuff like that and recognize it for the kabuki that it is. Did I at that age? I don’t think I was paying attention to that, even if I was watching the news.

    And of course, idpol issues are important and the protection of vulnerable groups should be core to the left. But I always look in vain for an article about how to make sure your boss isn’t cheating you out your wage, or the necessity for employees to organize for better pay and conditions, or really anything that would agitate towards policy that would help people on a class basis. However I am not a student; I’m sure there’s a DSA or equivalent chapter somewhere around. Campus idpol can be obnoxious and there is clearly a semi-organized ideological element to it but at the very least it is getting pretty widely negative reception and coverage even within its own academic environment.

    Love the dig at Marxist’s at the end of the article. Gottem!

    There is a link in that article to another called “A Defence of Social Justice” that is also worth reading. Essentially about how some of the core truths of the SJW dread-horde (the world is full of unfair power unbalances, listen to people and learn from their experience) are worth hanging onto. https://areomagazine.com/2019/05/22/a-defence-of-social-justice/

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The question of how to fight back and then lift the poison gas-fog curse of Woakism from the Academy ( every Academy) is a good one. It would require giving up appeasement and the craven crouch and launching a counteroffensive. Part of that would be crafting words and phrases of power to use against the Woakists. ( Respelled to preserve pronunciation).

      I will again offer the acronom COW for Coalition Of Wokeness. ” You COW! That’s mighty WOKE of you. etc.” I also offer the phrase ” Red CommuNazi Pig”. When they are insulting you, insult them back and harder. They want to claim “hurtness?” Make them hurt.

      I may be going farther than the nice people on this thread would care to go. I frankly consider the people being described in The Great Awokening to be vicious scum, radioactive human waste, dregs and filth. I would give them no respect, no ear, nothing. There should be a countermovement counterloud enough to destroy every Safe Space they have, and drive this filth off the campus.

      The longer this infection persists, the more nice people will become not nice anymore . . . and the more people will begin to think like me in this regard.

  13. EarlErland

    The Cliff effect is evil. Following the passage of the ACAhhhhhhh (think vocalization MPython dying actor; the Wilhelm scream also works as long as you have a mental pic of a room full of capitalist bi partisans working out the ACA regs, Obama in his slightly elevated chair, silent and being pleasured by the experience). The eligibility for Medicaid is determined by a criteria named Modified Adjusted Gross Income. Acronym: MAGI. As if created by three wise men on the Camel express to Bethlehem.

    The neoliberals are always in the details. MAGI is based on the tax code. Let that sink in. In all of the years since the creation and implementation of the IRC, has there ever been a single person in Washington in the last 40 years interested in public policy who would think it appropriate to use the IRC in connection with the actual in a room with a doctor receipt of health care.

    I gotta run. To be continued.

    1. Wukchumni

      Jim sells his plasma for $20 in order to buy a gift of a nice waterproof holder for his fetching better half Della’s smartphone, and unbeknownst to him, she pawned her smartphone for $20. The hope is that Jim can sell more plasma soon, and she can get her black rectangle out of hock.

  14. Tim

    “A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it.”

    Well, they most definitely know what they DON’T want to do with it: share.

    1. todde

      and put their money to work in the Cayman Islands where it sits on a beach earning interest/dividends.

      The wealthy’s money has better working conditions then their people do!

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Money is only “worth” what it can “buy”. In the absence of anything to “buy”, money would not have any “worth”.

      The Upper and Over Classes keep money in the hopes of being able to bankrupt and buy every person and every thing on the planet which they don’t already own. Perhaps a way to deprive their money of some of its “worth” is to deprive them of some of the “investing opportunities” they hope to buy with their money.

      Preventing the privatization of any more public things might be a good battleground. Perhaps if the Overclass was deprived of half of all its investment opportunities, half the Overclass’s money would die on the vine, and become functionally worthless. This would make the Overclass weaker and less rich.

      1. Inode_buddha

        IMHO the thing to do, is to be “un-buyable” and encourage others of similar ilk. And oust those who have sold themselves at the altar of Mammon. IMHO a good start would be to bring back the 1986 tax reform, permanently harmonizing capital gains with labor. I should yell very loudly at the various campaigns, to incorporate this as a plank.

    3. polecat

      I’ll add a scowsh G of T to the mix, just for fun:

      “If I was a Bolton, and you were a Wealthy

      “You’d be stretched out crosswise, flayed and un-healthy ..

  15. PKMKII

    Regarding wokeness: it was my perspective that when that term first started getting traction, it was to describe becoming aware of ingrained, systemic roots of institutional bigotry and economic injustices and a rejection of the lib idpol tokenisms offered up as fixes instead of tackling the system itself. Seems like it’s been co-opted by the same people it was meant to critique.

    Although I think using Israel-Palestine isn’t the best example, as that’s really two different, competing kinds of wokeness: anti-semitism wokeness versus islamophobia/european colonial-settlerism wokeness.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      I limit my definition of woke to becoming aware that a systemic situation exists, or put differently, going from clueless to tuned in. Taking any remedial action based on awareness – that is something else – not woke.

      Case in point: Some of my Jewish friends demand that I become woke to the plight of Israel’s survival as a nation or accept that I am anti-Semitic for not supporting the violent and inhumane way the Israeli leadership is going about it. Other Jewish friends join me in my concern.

      As the Aero article describes, being woke can create double binds.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Wokeness is about the Woakist getting to strut the Woakists’s own Moral Superiority Stuff. It is a cover for psychological extortionism.

      And now, it is also about being part of a Political Warrior Cult, acting for the Red CommuNazi Pig Revolution on every campus in America.

      Wokeness should be smashed, crushed and destroyed.

      ” De-Platform the De-Platformers!”

      1. Chef

        First time I heard the term woke was by the more Hotepish elements of the black community some years back.

        As hip urban liberal whites typically do, they co-opeted it.

        As ridiculous as the former was, the latter is way worse.

    3. ChiGal in Carolina

      If you’re right, that’s pretty damn quick for a corrective locution to be coopted. If only everybody read Adolph Reed…

    4. jrs

      It’s very elitist, it might mean having taken just the right classes in college to be “woke” because you know the exact arguments of wokeness. It’s very elitist, very front row kid.

      To come at things with good will, with curiosity, with intellectual honestly, with life experiences (even if they aren’t fancy and academic), and sometimes with humility, is much more admirable IMO.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        It has occurred to me that wokeness, idpol and all the rest of it is really about enabling the credentialed to operate in a “diverse” business environment without creating too many gaffes, and especially globally. So it would really be about good manners (for some definition of good) and not much more.

    5. anon in so cal

      Wokeness will come in handy in classrooms where progressive stacking is practiced:

      “Essentially, students who are members of marginalized groups are given priority over non-marginalized students when determining speaking order. I argue that progressives stacking is both pedagogically and morally defensible in the philosophy classroom. Progressive stacking is pedagogically defensible for two reasons.”


  16. Pat

    I’ve found myself in the role of older than dirt on a couple of things in recent days. Both in that it took a long time for the majority to hate the war in Vietnam (young people got there much sooner than the generations that grew up before or during WW2), and still remember when the mainstream Democrat position was abortion was a woman’s choice but she had to pay for it (aka support of the Hyde Amendment). For me Biden’s statement was just his being stuck in the political past and that his support of women’s reproductive rights was, like both Clintons and most of the Democrat establishment, an inch wide and not even that deep. And this wasn’t even an area where the Democrats broke with their traditional base, sad as it is to say.

    Similar to Clinton, one of Biden’s biggest problems as a candidate is that he is truly out of touch with anything outside the Beltway. The political ground shifting, both there and in the dreaded ‘fly over regions’ is something he is just realizing. IF his staff is as stupid as NTG (IIRC) said earlier today, he is truly screwed. The problem is that outside of the early caucus states, who do take their role as first in the nation very seriously, I’m not sure he will be covered in unremovable dreck earlier enough to be able to avoid his ability to split the vote enough to throw the convention to the super delegates. There is some part me that actually wonders if there won’t be a superdelegate battle as well = Biden vs. Buttigieg. (I’m still gobsmacked by all the people who have bought the image hook, line and sinker and don’t call him Obama Jr. for no reason.)

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Buttigieg and Obama have different bases. I know its been 10 years, but Buttigieg is a quest for a candidate to solve the problem of Democratic disunity marked by large scale numbers of people not voting for Hillary if they were 30 and under in 2008 and 38 and under in 2016.

      There is some Obama carryover, but I feel “Mayor Pete” is supposed to clearly find a suitable Hillary without addressing the problems with Hillary. A good deal of “liberals” believe they are leftist revolutionaries because they think maybe gays shouldn’t be crucified. The idea HRC isn’t a radical doesn’t make sense to them because she’s a woman. “Mayor Pete” even has a friendly, approachable nickname. He’s not an old fogey or pretending to be your “Abeula”!!

      Liz Bruenig is trying to explain to newspaper readers why aren’t young people attracted to Buttigieg instead of Sanders guy,”trying” mostly because I’m not sure the people with this question at this point can get it.

      1. Darius

        It all comes back to identity and coding. But that’s not politics. Or it’s class politics masked by virtue signaling. The only people doing straight up politics are people like Sanders on one side and the Kochs on the other. It’s all about defending and promoting class interests.

      2. Pat

        I am pretty sure that Obama and Buttigieg’s donor bases have a lot in common, but don’t entirely disagree regarding the voter bases. That said for me the thing they most share is this image of young accomplished well spoken men saying vaguely appealing and reassuring things that make the public think these men want the same things as they do and will work for them. This despite backgrounds that are disturbing and past actions that counter that image. Buttigieg is this seasons empty suit who reflects voters desires back at them, as Obama did.

      1. jrs

        WSJ opinion places, oh great paranoid right wing conspiracy theories (yea in the words of Hillary Clinton, although hard to call this stuff “vast”, but the right does love to indulge in Clinton derangement syndrome long after it matters).

        How inept Biden is he *might* be a placeholder, but they would probably go with Harris, I guess on an off chance Buttigieg or even Warren, but Harris seems the least principled and yet has a resume.

          1. Big River Bandido

            Penn is a right winger. What’s hard to imagine is a situation where he’s correct. His predictions are always 180 degrees off.

  17. ewmayer

    “Young voters have Buttigieg and Beto. So why do they prefer old socialists?” [Elizabeth Bruenig, WaPo] — Note the legerdemain of the headline: They use candidate names for the “young, non-socialists”, versus a derisive candidate-name-omitted characterization.

    Let’s try flipping things around:

    “Young voters have young status quo neoliberals. So why do they prefer Bernie Sanders?”

    Oh, look, now the question pretty much answers itself, doesn’t it, my dear Pravda-on-Potomac scribblers?

  18. ewmayer

    “Measles cases hit 1,001 as anti-vaxxers hold another rally of disinformation” [Ars Technica] — Recently read a biography of the late recreational-mathematics guru Martin Gardner, who was also a famously active pseudoscience-debunker. This reminded me that the anti-vaxx movement got a lot of early impetus from a famous Hollywood “woke liberal”. Wikipedia:

    The last thing he wrote in the spring of 2010 (a month before his death) was an article excoriating the “dubious medical opinions and bogus science” of Oprah Winfrey—particularly her support for the thoroughly discredited theory that vaccinations cause autism; it went on to bemoan the “needless deaths of children” that such notions are likely to cause.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Can you imagine an anti-vaxxers rally – but with the presense of several people with measles?

  19. Dr. Robert

    Re: Woke

    The term woke has referred to explicitly class-based and anti-imperialist politics from when I started hearing the term among supporters of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016. That these dimensions would be erased by media coverage of the term or eclipsed by association with academic identity politics is not surprising, but I don’t think it’s worth throwing the baby out with the wokewater.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      I never knew about that. Supporters of Sanders’ 2016 campaign were using that word? I hope they come to realize what a chunk of depleted uranium that word really is.

      If the baby in question is Satan’s Little Hell-spawn, then throw it out along with the bathwater.

    2. ChiGal in Carolina

      See my response to PKMKII making the same point above. It seems in the present social/mass media age it doesn’t take long to co-opt the language of the opposition.

      Problem is, we need language with shared meanings. Maybe we should take back our words by paying closer attention to their trajectory and educating ourselves and others on it.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > among supporters of Bernie Sanders’ campaign in 2016.

      I have to say I’ve never seen this on the Twitter, FWIW. Can you say where you heard it?

      1. Dr. Roberts

        Facebook groups like “Bernie Sanders dank meme stash” and my brother’s undergrad friends at a big state school. They were actually the stereotypical “Bernie Bros” and a couple of them voted for Trump, which was baffling to me. So definitely anti-idpol people and they were using it to refer to a general awareness of the corruption of the political system and the economic inequality and dysfunction it created. I got the impression the term was pretty popular in their discourses and it’s easy to see how its subversive context would be applied more broadly.

    4. Massinissa

      As a previous Sanders supporter myself I’ve never heard the word ‘Woke’ used by anyone other than SJWs, so do you have any source or reference to prove it was in use in at least some circles of serious leftists?

  20. Darius

    I have inchoate thoughts about SESTA FOSTA. The harm to sex workers sounds like a feature not a bug. They are despised pariahs so harsh treatment by everyone else is encouraged. It is a boon for law enforcement. It suppresses a trade that finance can’t dominate. It’s online so it brings the technology angle. It has the hallmarks of neoliberal shock doctrine.

    1. JBird4049

      The connection to the suppression free speech is also a part of it. Sex, religion, economics, and politics all invited suppression and once outré ideas are labeled socially unacceptable, they can be labeled bad or even evil, which then makes easy to deem them necessary for suppression by the authorities.

      Then this makes actions that can be connected to the ideas easy to criminalize.

      Pornography to sex work to sex trafficking to abortion; whatever the reasons, however good and even necessary the criminalization and suppression, it is the most vulnerable or different that will be punished. Both the left and the right do this.

    2. Procopius

      Turns out, anti-trafficking organizations are a lucrative growth market riddled with charlatans who’ve fooled companies as big as Google for years, and gotten away with it.

      This has been true in Thailand for the 37 years I’ve been living here, although in recent years the publicity has been more about trafficking Burmese (i.e. Rohingya) to Malaysia. Maybe it’s just that I don’t read the English language newspapers much any more, but there used to be monthly stories about trafficking. More recently it’s been under-age Cambodian girls “rescued” from a Thai pub or tea house. The local sex workers don’t want the competition so turn them in. Thailand has a complicated attitude. It’s illegal, but also an accepted part of life. When they passed the current law, in 1996, some NGO worker said, “We have to be able to arrest them in order to help them.” There used to be NGOs claiming that two million Thai women were forced to work as prostituted. Thailand had a population of 65 million at the time, making the claim implausible.

  21. Joe Well

    Re: “White Saviors” at Tablet

    1. the link is https://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/284875/americas-white-saviors

    2. I do not trust that publication. It always seems to get around to the idea that any criticism of the current Israeli government by Americans is inherently illegitimate and probably antisemitic.

    In particular, the above article that pretends to be about the excesses of “woke” culture is really about how Americans who criticize Israel are just plain awful:

    One quote:

    “But the seismic attitudinal shifts of those years have implications that go beyond race: They are also tied to a significant decrease in support for Israel and—perhaps more surprisingly—a rise in the number of white liberals who express negative attitudes about the perceived political power of American Jews.”

    I have met a number of Israelis and I wish the best for them, including that they can live peacefully in the country where they were born, but the last 25 years of Israeli political leadership has been beyond horrible and in the long run risks the country’s future existence by having turned it into a rogue apartheid state that has earned the hatred of all its neighbors and much of the world.

    The most infuriating misuses of identity today is to say that Americans cannot criticize the Israeli government, and to try to equate Judaism with that government.

    And also as an American I am not happy when interest groups advocating for foreign governments back publications such as The Tablet in order to insinuate that government’s concerns into our domestic issues, a lot worse than anything Putin did.

  22. JBird4049

    “Too much money (and too few places to invest it)” [Axios]. “A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it.”

    Why I thought that “The Job Creators” would be the investing in more apartments, businesses, or research companies. Perhaps they already have a different yacht for day of the week?

    Hozzabout investing in tumbrel makers?

  23. John

    Gleaned from my strolls through various websites. There will be no debate on climate change. Joe Biden is the heart throb of the nomenklatura of the Democratic Party. Mayor Pete is all over MSNBC. Kamala Harris’s name has resurfaced from whatever depths into which it had descended. Hillary was robbed. Iran is an existential threat as is Russia as is China. Israel and Saudi Arabia are buddying up to one another. Israel and Saudi Arabia are, despite all evidence to the contrary, important and trusted allies. (That defies both common and uncommon sense as both are dependent client states, but who pays attention to sense when dogma is involved … not to mention money … great gobs of money.

    Having said all this, why would I who have different views, vote for any Democrat with the exception of Tulsi Gabbard with whom I share a community of belief. This is not to say that I would vote for Trump. I would prefer being stood up before a firing squad to voting for Small Hands. (Oh, you didn’t know that that is the name under which he was adopted into and imaginary native American tribe or so he may say someday only to deny the evidence in whatever form it might exist.)

    Seriously folks, the Democratic nomenklatura is wholly owned by money in whatever form and from whatever source and money grubbers and finance weenies and monopolist billionaires and corporate greed heads are turning this country into a squalid version of Airstrip One with better surveillance tech.

    The Republicans are pursuing a place as the only Party and were they to succeed, we would have dictatorship. (Actually the “two” parties are wings of the “one-big-party” which is run by the afore mentioned money grubbers and finance weenies and monopolist billionaires and corporate greed heads with the able assistance of the war lovers.

  24. dcrane

    “Ladybug swarm detected by weather radar over Southern California” [NBC (Furzy Mouse)]. “When National Weather Service radar picked up a giant blob moving swiftly over southwestern San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, around 8 p.m…. it was an enormous swarm of ladybugs… ‘This is actually something you’ll see pretty often,’ Ari Sarsalari, a meteorologist for The Weather Channel, said last month…” • It is?

    Yes, pretty common. E.g.,


  25. Summer

    Too much money (and too few places to invest it)” [Axios]. “A truly bizarre trend is having an impact on the economy — wealthy people and corporations have so much money they literally don’t know what to do with it.”

    So why come up with cryptocurrency?

    The problem is hoarding and the grift is trying to make people think there is something wrong with the currency.
    Crypto-currency would be the same problem.

    Are they that f’in greedy and evil? How can anyone be so stupid as to not understand what happened to “growth opportunities”?
    Everybody is getting eaten alive with housing and health care costs. How f’in blind are people????

    1. John k

      Fed is ok with asset inflation, but hates wage inflation… they identify with capitalists, not workers.
      Problem is one without the other.

    2. Acacia

      I gather cryptos are serving several different needs: (1) tech and branding for cashless society; (2) vehicle to evade capital controls and general auditing (e.g., getting money out of China, or CIA solution to sending payoff money around in slimline briefcases); (3) asset class for those who have lost confidence in fiat currencies and want to explore alternatives other than shiny; (4) speculators.

      Note that these groups don’t completely overlap with the über-wealthy individuals and corporations who don’t know what to do with all their money.

  26. Antoine LeBear

    Re : measles.
    France did a very french thing : they made the measles vaccine mandatory in 2018.
    No vaccine? No kindergarten, no school.
    I’m all for choice but the thing with vaccine is we all do it or it doesn’t work. And it’s an area of science – unlike say diets – that is very clear-cut : there are very very few side effects, no autism.

  27. Adam Eran

    The dying malls are not the end of the line. We need lots of affordable housing. The land is, in effect, free, especially if the housing is a second or third or fourth story above the stores. These “lifeystyle” centers that mix housing with commerce reportedly make more money than the standard, single-use (all commercial) malls, and certainly save commutes, would provide nice, affordable housing, especially for the elderly, etc.

    So…standard sprawl mall developers, when confronted with this alternative at a planning hearing, practically writhe in disgust. It’s like pouring salt on a slug. If it’s true, then they have done a crappy job if they haven’t proposed housing among the stores. They’ve left money on the table…and everyone knows their only job is to maximize profit, right?

  28. Big Tap

    Very interesting article about FedEx not renewing Amazon’s delivery contract expiring at the end of the month for domestic express service. Finally someone realizes that Amazon isn’t any different in some ways than the Mafia. First they are your partner than they directly compete with you if they like your product or service. Amazon now delivers some of its own packages which could become a competitive threat to FedEx in the future. Product deliveries are an expanding business of Amazon. FedEx says Amazon’s business is a small percentage for them so dropping them is no problem.


    1. cnchal

      I’m surprised anyone does business with Amazon but this division of FedEx has seen the light. Amazon rips everyone’s face off and are the biggest tax suck this side of the military.

      From this link. https://www.yalelawjournal.org/note/amazons-antitrust-paradox

      As Amazon expanded its share of e-commerce—and enlarged the e-commerce sector as a whole—it started comprising a greater share of delivery companies’ business. For example, in 2015, UPS derived $1 billion worth of business from Amazon alone.329 The fact that it accounted for a growing share of these firms’ businesses gave Amazon bargaining power to negotiate for lower rates.330 By some estimates, Amazon enjoyed a 70% discount over regular delivery prices.331 Delivery companies sought to make up for the discounts they gave to Amazon by raising the prices they charged to independent sellers,332 a phenomenon recently termed the “waterbed effect.”333 As scholars have described,

      [T]he presence of a waterbed effect can further distort competition by giving a powerful buyer now a two-fold advantage, namely, through more advantageous terms for itself and through higher purchasing costs for its rivals. What then becomes a virtuous circle for the strong buyer ends up as a vicious circle for its weaker competitors.334

      To this two-fold advantage Amazon added a third perk: harnessing the weakness of its rivals into a business opportunity. In 2006, Amazon introduced Fulfillment-by-Amazon (FBA), a logistics and delivery service for independent sellers.335 Merchants who sign up for FBA store their products in Amazon’s warehouses, and Amazon packs, ships, and provides customer service on any orders. Products sold through FBA are eligible for service through Amazon Prime—namely, free two-day shipping and/or free regular shipping, depending on the order.336 Since many merchants selling on Amazon are competing with Amazon’s own retail operation and its Amazon Prime service, using FBA offers sellers the opportunity to compete at less of a disadvantage.

      Notably, it is partly because independent sellers faced higher rates from UPS and FedEx—a result of Amazon’s dominance—that Amazon succeeded in directing sellers to its new business venture.337 In many instances, orders routed through FBA were still being shipped and delivered by UPS and FedEx, since Amazon relied on these firms.338 But because Amazon had secured discounts unavailable to other sellers, it was cheaper for those sellers to go through Amazon than to use UPS and FedEx directly. Amazon had used its dominance in the retail sector to create and boost a new venture in the delivery sector, inserting itself into the business of its competitors.

      I use USPS and the price increases on long distance shipping, something Amazon doesn’t do, have been astronomical over the last decade while in close shipping has either remained the same or dropped slightly for regular retail counter shippers, and I suspect Amazon is the major reason for that. The post office makes nothing or loses money on every Amazon package they deliver and make up for it by goosing prices into orbit for the tiny pin pricks of capitalism attempting to survive without getting eaten by Bezos.

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