2:00PM Water Cooler 10/4/2019

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Normally, China material goes in Links, but this breaking news is attested to by a South China Morning Post reporter:

The link is to a China-language source. Can any readers interpret? Also, “Dual sovereignty and parallel government” is #198 — the last and most heavy-duty — of Gene Sharp’s 198 Methods of Nonviolent Action. The protests against the Hong Kong government’s ban on masks are dominating the news, but this is potentially much bigger if it gets traction.


“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

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Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart. Here is (are) the latest Dem Primary Polling as of 10/1/2019, 1:00 PM EDT:

Biden up, Sanders (up) trades votes with Warren (down). All together now: “It’s just one poll!” And here are the poll results:

And a C+ poll with a small sample size, as well.

I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”

UPDATE 2019-09-24: These screens are from a revised version that now includes Undecided-Refused, which is in grey.

UPDATE 2019-08-30: Now the polls aggregated (all available) are shown at the bottom of the poll. We also give more detail about each poll than RCP, and allow candidates to be selected or deselected. That’s three reasons what dk is doing beats RCP, and if we can make the individual polls selectable/highlightable, that will be four reasons. With more to come, grid willing.

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Q3 fundraising:

Drop out, Bernie!

Biden (D)(1): “Biden’s Most Formidable Opponent Is Not Another Democrat” [Politico]. “[T]here is an entire cohort of Biden supporters for whom his age—actual and perceived—is the very thing that recommends him. After the tumult of the Trump years, these voters crave the experience and order and stability Biden promises. For them, Biden is the beneficiary of shifting social and cultural notions that make it harder to pinpoint what it actually means to be old. Federal law protects workers from age discrimination starting at 40. People can join AARP at 50. They’re usually eligible for Medicare at 65 and Social Security at 66. Scientifically, though, a half-dozen aging experts I talked to for this story told me, there’s such vast variability in how people age that it’s ill-advised and even irresponsible to try to draw conclusions about an individual based on a date of birth. “There are people at 80 who perform better than 20-year-olds,” said Christopher Van Dyck of Yale University, “even on these cognitive speed, memory-type tasks.” Furthermore, beyond decades of a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, a significant, intangible, practically mysterious part of the nature of anybody’s aging, said Tracy Chippendale of New York University, is just … luck. Genes. Joe Biden’s father died at 86. His mother died at 92.”

Biden (D)(2): “Biden Says Son Hunter May Join Him on the Trail: Campaign Update” [Bloomberg]. “In an interview with the Reno Gazette Journal on Thursday, Biden was asked whether Hunter would campaign with him. ‘Yes,’ he answered. But when pressed, Biden said that Hunter Biden lives in the West, and that they hadn’t worked out any specifics.” • Count the spoons!

Harris (D)(1): “Kamala Harris’ poll numbers tumble in her home state of California” [CNN]. “In yet another sign of trouble for Sen. Kamala Harris in the 2020 presidential race, the California Democrat has slid from an enviable front-runner position in her home state into the single digits in a new poll of likely voters in the Golden State. As the state’s March 5 primary draws closer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts (23%), former Vice President Joe Biden (22%) and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont (21%) are now tied as the leaders in the field among likely voters who are either registered as Democrats or identify as Democratic-leaning independents in the new Public Policy Institute of California poll.” • Still, I wouldn’t put it past the California Democrat establishment to orchestrate a comeback for Kamala; look at what they did at CalPERS.

Sanders (D)(1): California cross-tabs, again from the PPIC:

Drop out, Bernie! Your supporters are all white!

Sanders (D)(2): Salty:

Sanders (D)(3): This won’t be so funny of Hong Kong goes pear-shaped:

(Duss is Sanders’ foreign policy advisor.)

Warren (D)(1): “It Is Time for the United States to Stand Up to China in Hong Kong” [Elizabeth Warren, Foreign Policy]. “The United States must send a clear message that it and its partners expect China to live up to its commitments—and that they will respond when China does not. To send that message over the situation in Hong Kong, the United States should take two steps. First, it must stop exports of police gear to Hong Kong…. Second, it should provide temporary protected status or deferred enforced departure to Hong Kong residents [as] the country did following Beijing’s 1989 crackdown on Tiananmen…. The current situation must be resolved peacefully through dialogue. And China needs to know that the United States has options if it resorts to force in Hong Kong.” •

Warren (D)(2): “Warren Tries Again With Corporate Legislation: Campaign Update” [Bloomberg]. “Elizabeth Warren reintroduced her Accountable Capitalism Act on Friday, a measure that would require companies to allow employees to select at least 40% of a corporation’s board of directors…. Warren accompanied the announcement with letters to the CEOs of multiple companies — including Amazon.com Inc., General Motors Co., Walmart Inc., United Airlines Holdings Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., BP PLC, AT&T Inc., Comcast Corp., Cigna Corp., and Union Pacific Corp. — asking what they intend to do to serve their workers.” • See NC here and here on the Accountable Capitalism Act

Warren (D)(3): “The Two-Income Trap Stuff Is Clearly Incorrect” [Matt Bruenig, People’s Policy Project]. From May, still germane: “The bogus aspect of the analysis is driven by confusions about inflation…. In footnote 9 of chapter 2, she explains that, by “inflation adjusted,” what she means is that she took the nominal dollar amounts from the 1970s consumption and income survey she used and adjusted them up by plugging them into the BLS inflation calculator. There are two problems with doing this. First, the BLS online inflation calculator uses the CPI-U index. But she should be using the CPI-U-RS index. Under the CPI-U-RS, the income of the 1970s family is actually about 13 percent lower than she reports it as, and so they clearly have less discretionary income than the early 2000s family even if you accept everything else about Warren’s analysis. Second, everything else about Warren’s analysis is technically mistaken. She takes each category of expenditure and adjusts it by the overall CPI-U instead of the CPI-U for that particular category of expenditure. So the home mortgage column is adjusted by overall inflation rather than housing inflation. The same is true for health insurance and cars: they are adjusted for overall inflation rather than health care and car inflation.” • I’d welcome comments from readers on this; I’m not an inflation maven.


“Trump formally objecting to probe, won’t say he’ll cooperate” [Associated Press]. “President Donald Trump said Friday the White House is preparing a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi formally objecting to the Democrats conducting their impeachment inquiry without an official vote. The letter is expected to say the administration won’t cooperate with the probe without that vote — but Trump also said he believes it will pass…. In announcing that the House was beginning the probe, Pelosi but didn’t seek the consent of the full chamber, as was done for impeachment investigations into former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton…. Trump allies have suggested that without a formal vote, the House is merely conducting standard oversight… Where courts have generally required congressional oversight requests to demonstrate a legitimate legislative purpose, impeachment requests could be wide-ranging.”

“Trump reportedly discussed Biden and Warren in call with China’s president – as it happened” [Guardian]. “Though it’s unclear whether Trump actually asked Xi to investigate his rivals, it seems he was willing to trade favors — and look the other way while China violently quashes protests in Hong Kong, so long as Xi continued to negotiate on trade. The Guardian has not independently verified CNN’s reporting. Given the revelations from CNN, however, it’s worth noting that Trump has kept mostly quiet on Hong Kong.”

“BREAKING NEWS: Whistle-blower is a registered DEMOCRAT, new leak reveals – and that was why inspector general said CIA agent had ‘arguable political bias’ against Donald Trump” [Daily Mail]. “The unidentified whistle-blower who filed a complaint against Donald Trump is a registered Democrat – the basis for an inspector general’s claim that the person may have had an ‘arguable political bias’ against the sitting Republican president…. In 31 U.S. states, plus the District of Columbia, Americans identify themselves as members of specific political parties when they register to vote. The other 19 states dont require it. If the whistle-blower is in fact registered to vote as a Democrat, then, he does not live in Virginia – one of the two states that surround D.C.” • Virginia voters do not register by party. Otherwise, this could matter, or not!

2016 Post Mortem

2016 Post Mortem

“Did Russian Interference Affect the 2016 Election Results?” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball (barrisj)]. ” I conducted a multiple regression analysis of the election results at the state level. The dependent variable in this analysis was the Trump margin. My independent variables were the 2012 Mitt Romney margin, to control for traditional state partisanship, state ideology measured by the Gallup Poll (the percentage of conservatives minus the percentage of liberals), the percentage of a state’s population made up of whites without college degrees, the estimated turnout of eligible voters in the state, the state unemployment rate in November 2016 (to measure economic conditions), the number of Trump campaign rallies in the state, the number of Clinton campaign rallies in the state, a dummy variable for the state of Utah to control for the large vote share won by an independent conservative Mormon candidate from that state, Evan McMullin, and, finally, a dummy variable for swing states….. The regression equation proved to be extremely successful in predicting the election results, explaining a remarkable 98% of the variance in Trump vote margin in the states… I find no evidence that Russian attempts to target voters in key swing states had any effect on the election results in those states. Instead, the results were almost totally predictable based on the political and demographic characteristics of those states, especially their past voting tendencies, ideological leanings, and demographics.” • I missed this at the time, so thanks to barrisj for the link. So, we have interference that didn’t interfere. Swell. After three years of hysteria and gaslighting.


More gutsy than a working class woman holding down three jobs? I don’t think so.

Our Famously Free Press

“Warren Raises $24.6 Million in Third Quarter, Eclipsing Biden” [Bloomberg] v. “Warren’s third-quarter haul falls just short of Sanders’s” [WaPo]. • TFW WaPo’s headline is more honest than yours…

Realignment and Legitimacy

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, September 2019: “Is there slack in the labor market or isn’t there? Judging by September’s 3.5 percent unemployment rate, a rate that falls below Econoday’s consensus range, there may not be much available capacity at all. Yet wage pressures, as measured by average hourly earnings, eased significantly in September” [Econoday]. “Payroll growth itself is running a notch or two below last year…, but it is still very solid as well as steady and would look to further test the labor market’s available capacity…. But the other half of this report’s theme is strength, that is steady demand approaching limited supply. The pool of available workers fell [to] an eight-year low. Included in the pool are the number of unemployed which fell… Yet the drying up of this pool has yet to trigger sustained wage inflation.” • Sounds like nobody understands the labor market either.

International Trade, August 2019: “Global trade is on the edge of contraction, evident in many trade reports across Europe and Asia and that includes the US” [Econoday]. “The steady rate of the US deficit has been masking structural improvement in the petroleum deficit, which used to be of the greatest significance but has become, due to domestic oil production, marginal… A conclusion not hard to draw is that cross-border trade is constricting which poses risks to the US manufacturing base, a risk the Federal Reserve has targeted specifically and has been attempting to offset through rate cuts.”

Retail: “Japan firms fight the frugal retail psyche with AI-driven pricing and other tricks” [Japan Times]. “Despite many rounds of stimulus, policymakers have failed to jolt households out of the deflationary mindset that followed the 1990s property crash, which meant businesses refused to raise prices for fear of losing customers. Demand-based dynamic pricing, however, has allowed some Japanese retailers to discretely bump up prices without triggering the kind of customer backlash seen in more blatant attempts at repricing in the past…. Dynamic pricing, or surge pricing, is common among data-driven businesses such as ride-hailing services but is a relatively new concept for most traditional Japanese firms.”

Banking: “Credit Suisse Contractor’s Suicide Probed by Zurich Prosecutor” [Bloomberg]. “The suicide of a Credit Suisse Group AG contractor amid a spying scandal that has rocked Switzerland’s banking scene is being investigated by Zurich prosecutors and police….. The man took his own life last week after the private investigator he’d hired to track star banker Iqbal Khan became front-page news in Swiss tabloids. The bank hired detectives because of fears Khan would poach employees after moving to crosstown rival UBS Group AG. Chief Operating Officer Pierre-Olivier Bouee is stepping down over his decision to order detectives to shadow Khan, the former head of the wealth-management unit, Credit Suisse said.” Every star banker is a policy failure.

The Bezzle: “Young People Are Starving for Classes on Finance, Tips on Taxes” [Bloomberg]. • That’s not why they’re starving…

The Bezzle: I wonder how this would translate to unicorn IPOs:

The Bezzle: “There’s Unicorn Blood in the Streets” [Bloomberg]. “Much like the so-called bond vigilantes of the 1980s and ’90s—they started selling when they saw signs of inflation, pushing up interest rates even before the Federal Reserve could act—analysts, fund managers, and other investors are showing signs of increased vigilance about all the new equity being pushed onto the stock market. They’re casting suspicious looks at the unicorns (the nickname used for startups with private valuations of $1 billion or more) that are losing large amounts of money. And at those with convoluted corporate ownership schemes and plans for multiclass share structures that water down the voting power of ordinary investors. And at those that present themselves as tech companies, deserving of Silicon Valley valuations, when in fact their businesses are more mundane.” • Now we have unicorn vigilantes. Took long enough.

The Bezzle: “Can the New York State Liquor Authority cap delivery fees at 10%?” [Nation’s Restaurant News]. “The New York State Liquor Authority is reviewing Tuesday a proposal that would increase regulation of third-party companies such as Grubhub and DoorDash that take more than a 10% cut of a licensee’s profits.” • That’s quite a cut.

Tech: “Musk broke the law with anti-union tweet, judge rules” [Ars Technica]. “Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, violated federal labor laws when it tried to hamper union organizing at its Fremont factory, a federal administrative law judge in California ruled on Friday. Among other things, Tesla security guards repeatedly ordered union organizers to stop leafletting in Tesla’s parking lots and fired one union organizer for allegedly lying during a company investigation. Elon Musk was also dinged for a tweet that suggested employees would no longer receive stock options if they voted to form a union.”

Tech: “Microsoft’s Surface Laptop 3 Signals That ‘Right to Repair’ Is Working” [OneZero]. “On Wednesday, Microsoft unveiled its Surface Laptop 3, a new device with a detachable keyboard that should allow for easier repairs and adjustments to internal components…. Microsoft was not totally clear about which specific components of the Surface Laptop 3 will be repairable or replaceable, although it did say the device’s hard drive, at least, will be removable.” • Good for Microsoft, and I don’t say that lightly!

Supply Chain: “Target’s back rooms are becoming unsafe, overcrowded ‘nightmares’ as the company cuts shifts and hours, workers say” [Business Insider]. “Target’s move to cut overnight and backroom shifts in stores across the US hasn’t just inconvenienced workers. In some cases, it’s put them in dangerous situations. Business Insider spoke with 28 former and current Target workers, 13 of whom said they felt that the shift changes made their back rooms an unsafe work environment. Without people working those overnight and backroom shifts, the back rooms in many Target stores have become overcrowded and, in some cases, unsafe, some workers said. As a result, the daytime workers, whose responsibilities also include helping customers, have been expected to pick up the slack.”

Mr. Market: “Chaos Scientist Finds Hidden Financial Risks That Regulators Miss” [Bloomberg]. “Today, in a more bucolic setting—the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School—[Oxford University professor Doyne Farmer] is drawing on decades of complexity research that began with roulette. After winning acclaim as a pioneer of chaos theory, which helps explain the unpredictability of complex systems such as the weather, he jumped into markets, co-founding one of the early quantitative investment firms in the 1990s. Now, Farmer and a band of central bank researchers are focusing on the tangled web of global finance, using a tool of the natural sciences called agent-based models to find dangers lurking in the system and uncover ways to avoid them. Agent-based models, used in fields from biology to sociology, are bottom-up, simulating the messy interactions of hundreds and even millions of agents—human cells or attitudes or financial firms—to explain the behavior of a complex system. The nonlinear interplay can produce unexpected phenomena, such as economic booms and busts, providing insights into the causes of events and the best responses.” • With a shout-out to INET. Well worth a read!

Honey for the Bears: “Leading indicators are suggesting recession” [Bill Mitchell]. • Analysis of German, Japan, and the United States (but not China).

Honey for the Bears: “Gauging the extent of contagion” [Financial Times]. “Contagion is a loaded term for investors and markets. But investors are now on notice that the global economy is looking increasingly vulnerable as data for Europe and the US on Thursday appeared to confirm that weakening manufacturing activity had infected their respective service sectors… The US is by no means heading for a recession yet, but the direction of travel is worrying.”

Honey for the Bears: “De Beers Diamond Sales Fall 39% in a Year” [Bloomberg]. “The latest sales data from De Beers reinforces why this is one of the worst years for the diamond industry in a long time…. The crisis in the diamond industry stems from an oversupply of polished gems, which has depressed demand for rough stones. Much of the polishing and trading industry is based in India, where companies have been squeezed by tight bank financing and currency fluctuations. However, it’s unlikely that shoppers will see much change in jewelry prices at the retail level. Those prices tend not to fluctuate and reflect other costs, like marketing and labor.” • And the pricing power of a cartel.

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 31 Fear (previous close: 29, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 4 at 12:33pm.

The Biosphere

“Lufthansa to use Neste sustainable aviation fuel in Frankfurt” [FlightGlobal]. “Neste says its aviation fuel is produced from renewable waste and residue raw materials, and is fully compatible with existing jet engine technology when blended with fossil fuels. The company adds that sustainable aviation fuel has up to 80% smaller carbon footprint compared to fossil jet fuel. In the US and Europe, the company’s renewable jet fuel capacity is currently 100,000 tons annually…. In September, Delta Air Lines said it is investing $2 million to research the feasibility of developing biofuel products from forest floor debris. Partnering with Northwest Advanced Bio-fuels (NWABF) in Washington State, the airline is studying alternative fuels as a means to help reach a goal of reducing carbon emissions 50% by 2050.”

“5 people tackling aviation and shipping emissions” [Politico]. “Neither shipping nor aviation were included in the Paris climate agreement, and the U.N. bodies responsible for both sectors are still discussing how to cut emissions. That’s a slow process, and the EU plans to move much faster. European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen is promising her European Green Deal will be a policy ‘hallmark’ that will include shipping and aviation.” • With potted bios of the five people.

“‘War for survival’: Brazil’s Amazon tribes despair as land raids surge under Bolsonaro” [Guardian]. “Brazil’s indigenous peoples – who numbered upwards of 3.5 million when Portuguese explorers arrived in 1500 – suffered a wretched start to the 20th century. As outsiders pushed deeper into their traditional homes, illness and violence reduced their total population to as little as 70,000. During the 1970s they faced further pain as the dictatorship bulldozed roads through the Amazon and lured migrants with the slogan “a land without men for men without land”. But the return of democracy brought hope. Brazil’s 1988 constitution gave indigenous communities the exclusive right to vast areas, and protected reservations such as the 1.9m hectare Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau territory were born. By the turn of the century Brazil’s indigenous population had rebounded to some 350,000.” • Too bad the Obama administration collaborated with the Brazilian right to cripple Lula and bring on Bolsonaro.

“Sprinklers and gadgets won’t save your home from a wildfire. What your neighbor does might” [Los Angeles Times]. “Embers should be viewed as a contagion that can spread like an airborne virus…. Safeguarding homes individually is nowhere as effective as what communities can do together, Cohen said. Events in Santa Rosa and Paradise, Calif., show that perceived protections such as freeways or firebreaks are no match for wind-driven conflagrations. The key to avoiding the next catastrophic fire, experts say, is a term used by public health officials: group immunity.” • Embers, embers, embers. Stop embers!

The dreaded life-style changes:


“For 30 years, Georgia and Florida have been fighting over water” [Scalawag]. “For 30 years, Georgia and Florida have been entangled in legal battles over water rights in the Apalachicola Chattahoochee Flint (ACF) river basin. The Chattahoochee River winds through Georgia before joining the Flint River near the Florida state line, and Florida argues its seafood industry — a critical part of its economy — has been crippled by the lack of water coming through the river basin to the coast, largely because of Georgia farmers’ irrigation practices. Florida sued Georgia in order to get it to cap its water use, but Georgia argues such limits would destroy its agricultural economy.”

Our Famously Free Press

“The ‘Sports Illustrated’ Layoffs Are What Happen When We’re Ruled by Vampires” [The Nation (JB)]. “Now Sports Illustrated is being taken from all of us in an ugly and ruthless manner. The organs of the magazine are being harvested by a private equity firm that is out for blood and taking no prisoners. Half the staff has been laid off by the new owners, a consortium of of vampiric thugs called The Maven Group. TheMaven cut a deal to license SI in June after Meredith Corporation, the magazine’s previous owner, sold the brand to Authentic Brands Group for about $110 million. According to Jacob Bogage of The Washington Post, ‘Close to 40 percent of the publication’s editorial staff is set to be replaced by an army of low-wage freelancers. The CEO of the SI’s ownership group calls it ‘awesome.” As Pulitzer Prize–winning writer David Maraniss put it, ‘The corporate dismemberment of Sports Illustrated is more than an unfortunate sports story; it’s an unforgivable crime against a living legacy of literate writing.’ After a chaotic Thursday morning during which the layoffs were expected and then delayed, followed by a plea from three-fourths of the staff to call this deal off, the ax came in the afternoon.” • “Authentic Brands Group.” Love it.

Class Warfare

“GM Strikers Settle In For The Long Haul” [HuffPo]. “The warehouse in Langhorne is a case study in how union members are holding it together now that GM has dug in and the burst of initial headlines has passed. The facility, which sends parts out to GM dealers along the East Coast, employs about 80 union members ― a tiny fraction of the nearly 50,000 on strike around the country. But they drew hundreds of supporters to a rally at the picket line over the weekend, a show of solidarity that stunned some strikers. Food arrives at the Langhorne picket site every day ― bags of hoagies and boxes of doughnuts ― so much that the strikers can barely get through it all. The pizza came courtesy of some sympathetic steelworkers. Local members of the Democratic Socialists of America dropped off a load of wood to keep the fire burning. As Shoemaker reheated the pizza, a worker from a nearby Boeing plant showed up with another bundle of wood. He’s been stopping by ever since the strike started. ”

“Antiracism: a neoliberal alternative to a left” [Adolph Reed, Dialectical Anthropology]. “Antiracist activism and scholarship proceed from the view that statistical disparities in the distribution by race of goods and bads in the society in which blacks appear worse off categorically (e.g., less wealth, higher rates of unemployment, greater incidence of hypertensive and cardiovascular disease) amount to evidence that “race” remains fundamentally determinative of black Americans’ lives. As Merlin Chowkwanyun and I argue, however, disparity is an outcome, not an explanation, and deducing cause simplistically from outcome (e.g., treating racially disparate outcomes as ipso facto evidence of racially invidious causation) seems sufficient only if one has already stacked the interpretive deck in favor of a particular causal account (Reed and Chowkwanyun 2012, 167–168). We also discuss a garbage in, garbage out effect in studies that rely on large-scale aggregate data analysis; gross categories like race may mask significant micro-level dynamics that could present more complex and nuanced understandings of causality.”

“What People Hate About Being Managed by Algorithms, According to a Study of Uber Drivers” [Harvard Business Review]. “However, our research reveals that algorithmic management is also frustrating to workers, and their resentment can lead them to behave subversively with the potential to cause real harm to their companies. … Drivers have responded to their various frustrations with these algorithms by identifying clever ways to work around them… They are also angry enough — and feel disempowered enough — that they are finding creative ways to make their displeasure known; for instance, drivers are gaming the system by artificially causing surge pricing. They are also getting political; especially in the gig economy, drivers of ride-hailing services and couriers seek to compensate for the social isolation they experience in their every-day routine by actively engaging in online communities, but companies themselves aren’t involved in those platforms. Instead, more-adversarial union-type organizations have sprung up as drivers or couriers look to support each other.”

“iPhone workers today are 25 times more exploited than textile workers in 19th Century England” [Monthly Review]. “[Under globalization,] There are, in fact, more people working, and they are not able to earn enough of the total surplus produced to lift them sufficiently above the established poverty line. Why is this so? The arsenal of Marxist analysis provides us with a simple concept–the rate of exploitation… There are, in fact, more people working, and they are not able to earn enough of the total surplus produced to lift them sufficiently above the established poverty line. Why is this so? The arsenal of Marxist analysis provides us with a simple concept–the rate of exploitation.” • Hmm.

News of the Wired

I am not feeling wired today. I am feeling unwired, or perhaps de-wired.

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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 and coral 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 (PS):

PS writes: “These are deep-sea corals that live below the depth that light can penetrate. Consequently, unlike their shallow-water cousins, they have no photosynthetic algae symbionts and so have to rely exclusively on what they catch to feed themselves.”

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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. ptb


      Pelosi does have the votes tho for an investigation (but not yet the articles of impeachment in the house). She already made nearly all house Dems publicly state their support for an investigation. For some tactical reason she hesitates to formally start it. Possibly because she prefers the intelligence committee as the venue for the public debate, possibly because it’s still a trial balloon or there is a backdoor negotiation w/ the Trump Admin for something (like Trump agreeing to not interfere with the Dem primary, or agreeing to do interfere with it but interfere for or against someone Pelosi wants, or simply to pass some legislation)

      1. Carolinian

        Apparently they thought they’d start an impeachment investigation and then dig up the real dirt rather than silly Ukraine charges. However as McCarthy points out it’s not an official impeachment investigation unless the house so votes. Nancy doesn’t get to wave her magic wand and just decide.

        Therefore the courts are likely to dismiss any subpoenas which so far haven’t appeared in any case. In a real impeachment investigation the Republicans would also get to dig up the dirt–on the Dems! Can’t have that. The entire imbroglio seems to hinge on the assumption that the press will attack Trump no matter what. But the clumsy execution is making it look bad even as a tactic.

        Of course the Trump administration is also a clownshow so we have a two ring circus. CNN delighted.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Recalls the comments made by the FBI early on in Russia FBI Gate, to the effect of “normally we receive evidence of a crime and then we investigate, this time around it’s a little different because we’re starting the investigation first”. Yes, Mr. Orwell, it really has come to that.

          I suspect that people’s’ BS detectors are more powerful than they think, grandstanding liars fumbling about some phone call in some faraway land risks being a very damp squib indeed. And are we really saying a president may no longer have private conversations with other world leaders? Tell it to FDR and Stalin; tell it to JFK and Khrushchev. I for one am very glad they had lots of private conversations. And if we’re going that route: release the transcripts of all of Biden’s Ukraine ((and China) phone calls, per the MSM he’s pure as the driven snow and that would surely prove it once and for all, no?

          In my view this is nothing short of the FBI/CIA versus the presidency. I don’t care if we have Vlad the Impaler as president, the Executive Branch *must* win that battle or we are finished. (I know, I know, we’re already finished but we can try and slow the blood-dimmed tide until the center really cannot hold).

        2. dcblogger

          You can’t blame Pelosi on this one, she has been dragging her feet on impeachment. All over Democratic comment sections, Twittersphere, etc. people are furious with Pelosi for dragging her feet. I would not be surprised if she and Hoyer lost their primaries partly because of their reluctance to push impeachment.

            1. MichaelSF

              I’ve been doing my part by voting for her leftish challengers for a decade or two, but it hasn’t done any good.


            2. Librarian Guy

              Well, not her rich district in SF. And with the TechBro triumph, except for maybe the Tenderloin-inclusive district, there are no longer any that aren’t at least near averaging 7-figure income for Earning class.

          1. Carey

            Get out much? No way either of those folks™ are losing their (pro forma) primaries.

            deluded blueTsunami

        3. Plenue

          “Apparently they thought they’d start an impeachment investigation and then dig up the real dirt rather than silly Ukraine charges.”

          They’ve had things that they could impeach Trump on since the start, chiefly the emoluments clause. This whole thing is pure virtue signaling theater.

          1. Eustache de Saint Pierre

            I believe to call that which is occurring both in the US & UK as theatre is to assign to it a certain amount of dignity, as the reality IMO is that they have long since descended into farce

          2. Procopius

            This is just speculation on my part, but could their idiocy be because they know they can’t prevent a leftist (Bernie, Warren, Tulsi) from taking the nomination, so they’re making sure no matter what happens Trump will be reelected in 2020? The Iron Law of Institutions rides again!

    2. Chris Hargens

      Check out this link — https://www.lawfareblog.com/volker-texts-what-quid-pro-quo-looks

      To be sure, the Democrats are trying to gin up public opinion in support of impeachment. And it makes sense. It’s likely that they’re betting that as more dirt on Trump comes out the greater the likelihood that public support for Trump will further drop and there will be a greater outcry for impeachment (it’s already happening, though not dramatically). The hoped for end result will be a peel-off of Republican support in the house and senate. It there are “betrayals”, this will likely result in more unhinged Trump behavior, more mistakes, a kind of snowballing down the drain.

      1. Carolinian

        You are arguing for impeachment as a political tactic. But that’s what Andrew McCarthy in the link says it is as well. And it’s because the Dems are using this solemn Constitutional provision to try to win an election that the Dems deserve no respect. After all, who is abusing the democratic system here? To be sure the Repubs tried it against Clinton but even they put it to a House vote first. Pelosi is so unsure of her caucus that she doesn’t want to risk a vote that must include the Red State Dems.

        Surely the last three years show that trying to scandal Trump out of office isn’t going to work unless he is literally voted out of office by the Senate. And that is a pipe dream. So it’s nothing but a tactic, and one so poorly executed that they are already giving the Repubs an opening for a counterattack.

        1. Chris Hargens

          I’m not arguing for the impeachment process as a political tactic to win the 2020 election; rather, I’m attempting to present at least a partial explanation for what the Dems are doing. Given that the Repubs hold a majority in the senate and given that they continue to support the president, it makes sense that the Dems would try to use public pressure to gain traction in the senate. As it stands right now, the process is political inasmuch as the Repubs appear to reject impeachment even if Trump is guilty of crossing the line[s]. Further, if it is indeed the case that Trump’s actions warrant impeachment (and, again, the Repubs don’t care), then the Dems are not abusing the system but, instead, trying to move tactically toward a win.

          1. Carey

            “Dems” don’t want to “win”, they want to avoid talking about people-benefitting policy.

            Thus, this week’s UkraineGate.

            1. EricT

              Hence, the political argument supporting impeachment. The DNC’s target hasn’t changed. They still want moderate republicans to switch over. Just like in 2016. Funny how they made it look like they embrace progressive ideas in 2018, and ended up regaining some power.

          2. notabanker

            I think it’s a brilliant play by Trump. The Dems fire up their blue drone voters, Trump fires up his anti-establishment base, and the same ‘independents’ that voted against HRC and her corruption now have Biden in their sights.

            Pelosi is the idiot leader of the loser mafia, proving her worth with yet another fatal decision.
            Pharma authored health care, check.
            We Work for Israel, check.
            The green dream, check.
            Impeachment, check. And mate.

        2. VietnamVet

          I can’t help it. The appearance of Adam Schiff on the screen immediately raises my hackles. The last person to do that was Lyndon Baines Johnson. He has been dead for 46 years. Danger is near once again. Globalists want Donald Trump gone now. Democrats are just following their donors’ orders no matter the consequences. With the conflict between globalists and nationalists visible, the divide cannot mend while Impeachment and the 2020 election are ongoing. Corporate Media in the UK and USA are doing their best to splinter the nation states. Peace is the only alternative.

    3. Titus

      ‘From the Hill’? Not noted for their unbiased approach. There was a demo caucus vote 218 for the inquiry. There is a process, goes from committee to the floor. Nothing weird going on. Is it possible to see what is going on, before a theory of all is applied?

      1. Robert Valiant

        Practically all I ever see in the MSM are partisan rants, as though I get a binary choice of realities, and my job is to pick one and fight. They can take that job and shove it.

      2. Carolinian

        There’s quite a lot weird going on. The “whistleblower” is reporting only rumors of what happened and had contact with Schiff’s office before even doing as much as that. And without an official house vote–not a caucus vote–the Republicans have no right of response or ability to issue their own subpoenas. If you read the piece you’ll see that Schiff is already using this dubious basis to demand fishing expedition testimony from the State Department (which was refused). McCarthy says without a House vote for an investigation the courts will see even actual subpoenas as political, not Constitutional. The article says that to the courts precedents matter even if the House majority party is able to make its own rules.

    4. ewmayer

      Yah, thanks to flora for posting that over in Links today – it’s simply brutal, and not just in terms of opinion (it’s an op-ed) but on the legal facts and applicable precedents.

      As with the RussiaRussiaRussia 2-year gaslighting campaign, absolutely the last thing the Team D partisans running this dog and pony show want is any kind of evidentiary legal “discovery” which would highlight the “we got nothing” lacking fundamentals of their (non)case – as the author of the above puts it, “Democrats want to have an impeachment show — um, inquiry — on television; they do not want to defend its bona fides in court.”

      1. Acacia

        Ah, so it comes to this: they think they should be stars in a TV show but they expect the producer should just cast them without an audition.

    1. petal

      I can’t remember if I’ve seen that before, but thank you for making me laugh today-it was needed. That was great.

  1. Duck1

    I wonder if the thinking in China, perhaps after assessing that the movement in Hong Kong will remain contained there, is to let the movement trash the place until the movement dies out. Trashing Hong Kong weakens the bourgeois system there, while setting an example of anarchy for the larger population of China. Eventually the protests will weaken and a new status quo will emerge, damaged and less prosperous by its dissenting populations own hand.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Trashing Hong Kong weakens the bourgeois system there

      I’m not so sure. The Hong Kong protests are not 1917. They’re also not 1789. They might be a winning version of 1848. We’ll have to see. Remember, however, that the protesters and the professionals and the older population all seem to support the protests. That is a powerful alliance. Could they cut a deal with the billionaires? Perhaps so.

      1. Duck1

        Just to be clear, I meant weaken the bourgeoisie within Hong Kong. Not sure I understand parallels with ’48, my understanding of the dissenting aspiration is an independent city state aligned with the west. (CCP as ancien regime?) Realistically I don’t think that independence will happen.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          In The Proclamation of the Provisional Government of Hong Kong, quoted above (link from lihkg dot com), we note:

          1. It’s in traditional Chinese script, and not Simplified Chinese.
          2. It’s composed in Classical Chinese, it seems, and is not something Hong Kongers in the Internet Age would easily understand.
          3. There is something in there that sounds like ‘ancien regime.’
          4. The composition reads like something Dr. Sun Yi Xian (who was Hakka, and spoke the belittled Cantonese) would have written in Hong Kong back in 1911. Dr. Sun was accused of being too ‘Western’ by the conservatives in general and by reactionaries in the Qing Court. In contrast, Kang Youwei, a noted reformer at the time of Hundred Days’ Reform, favored preserving the imperial dynasty and protecting the young Guangxi emperor.

          Perhaps the intelligence agencies in Taibei can say more about this. Either that, or they have very good CIA operatives there.

    2. jo6pac

      Agree, they can seat back and watch HK unravel as the banks, investors and others move.

      So the cia two govt. plan of Venezuela has worked so well they have moved it on to HK.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > So the cia two govt. plan of Venezuela has worked so well they have moved it on to HK.

        This is lazy thinking and writing. The HK protests are organic. They are not CIA-driven. Please stop repeating this.

        Adding, it would be really helpful to have someone who can read Chinese text give that text a look…

        1. Titus

          There’s a lot to read, but it is a – the Declaration of Independence , a manifesto, of government by, of, for the people, and call to the people to create a provisional government. All views expressed are intense and emotional. Most posts are flat out calling for the right of self rule. Some say this is madness. Some say, if China comes down hard, world wide trade should, should dry up. They want to be free. They will die for this. Many feel betrayed by the mainland or have had enough.

          Not sure what your looking Lambert, all I say is I find it heart breaking because as so often stated here the blunt truth of the neolib world is nobody least of all, Trump is coming or cares. My thoughts. I lived in Hong Kong for three years, spoke Chinese (Hong Kong dialect) everyday. Was a minister back then. This is not a CIA thing.

          1. The Historian

            I am sure someone has already said this as I am an intermittent lurker, and if so, please ignore.

            I think it would help you understand what is happening in Hong Kong if you understood some background: In 1997 China and Great Britain signed a treaty wherein Great Britain gave back the New Territories and China agreed to allow Hong Kong to rule itself administratively for 50 years – the “one country, two governments” principle. As usual, no one asked the people of Hong Kong what they wanted. That agreement was supposed to end in 2047 and then China could take full control. But China decided to move too fast and it tried to impose an administrative regulation onto Hong Kong in direct violation of that treaty. That is the incident that started the protests in Hong Kong. Carry Lam later apologized for that behavior but it was too little, too late. Hong Kong protests, as major protests usually do, grew into a list of all their grievances against China and it is more like a revolution now.

            I think that Victoria Nuland and others miss the nuances here. OWS, the Yellow Shirts, etc., were not trying to remove the government, they were only trying to change it to better address the needs they considered important. In Hong Kong, it is a whole different story – Hong Kong wants to remove China from any involvement in its government and I am not sure they mean only until 2047. This seems more like the American Revolution rather than it does any protests that have gone on in this country, or for that matter, lately in France.

            Was it acceptable for the American Rebels to see aid from France during the 1770’s? Why is it not acceptable for Hong Kong to seek aid from the US if this is turning out to be a battle for independence, which it is beginning to sound like at the moment? The CIA is not a cause nor an instigator of this mass uprising, but they may be someone who can provide them aid like the French did for the American Revolution – and I think that is all Hong Kong wants from them – nothing more – and I would not read anything more into it than is already there.

        2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          HK is interesting to me on so many levels.

          1. Ground Zero for hyper-Capitalism, the free-est and most open economy in the world. So we get to see the Capitalist end game played out there first. Yes, the billionaires get all of the money in the end.

          2. Safety valve and funnel for ill-gotten gains from the mainland. Let’s be honest, the CCP major and minor leaders would have had a much harder time buying Vancouver office towers and Sydney mansions without HK.

          3. Place where China gets the US dollars they need to run their dollarized economy. See Kyle Bass for an explanation of China’s two-currency system and how desperate they are for USD.

          4. Of course in the context of global public opinion and what nations should and should not do to their citizens. Hilary Liz Warren’s Foreign Policy article jawboning and threatening China is laughable: America no longer has *any* standing to criticize another nation’s foreign policy, that really is a relic from another age. (When JFK was murdered Hunter Thompson wrote “they’ve killed the myth of American decency”. Bush/Iraq Obama/Hilary Trump put it in its coffin.)

          5. The face mask ban is insidious and very telling. Normally in times like these the state will ban public carrying of pitchforks, carrying of steel bars, or other measures to stop physical mayhem. Banning face masks allows the state to do violence to your identity and your privacy. In the past the state knew who Jean Valjean was but the rest of the mob was unidentified and so could continue to foment, this has massive implications for those sociologists studying revolts.

        3. The Rev Kev

          Gee, this is like the “sovereign citizen” movement but for a mob of people that hang around together. Out of two hundred odd counties in the world, name me one that would be totally cool with a section of one of their cities deciding to rule themselves and ignore their own country.
          Do they also ignore paying their taxes as well? Do they set up their own courts to judge themselves with? What about the rest in Hong Kong that want nothing to do with them? Do they get a say?
          Going by Warren’s ideas, perhaps a small port can be found in the US where all these protestors could find a new home away from the Beijing regime. I’m sure that Trump would green-light the whole project. Sorry but I have far more sympathy with the protest movements in Iraq and Papua.

              1. Acacia

                My first thought was Port of San Francisco. S.F. has been eclipsed by Oakland and Los Angeles, but why not hit home? ;)

        4. upstater

          IIRC, the largest US consulate in the world in Hong Kong and has 2,000 employees.

          I find it implausible that all 2,000 employees are involved in commercial and normal consular activities with the city-state.

          There is no doubt that most of the Hong Kong demonstrators are “organic”. So were most of the people involved in the Gilets Jaunes, Maidan, Tahrir, Caracas or the many color revolutions. There is considerable anger at elites everywhere. Likewise, there can be little doubt of US involvement, at least at some level, in all of these situations.

          It is not “lazy” to have this belief, there is plenty of history available to inform us.

          1. Acacia

            If you have evidence of US involvement in the Gilets Jaunes uprising, I’d be curious to see it. Frankly, am skeptical.

          2. Plenue

            The consulate thing really makes me laugh. Because if the CIA (or any other agency) were going to do anything, they wouldn’t do it through known embassy staff who I can guarantee are under 24/7 surveillance.

            Of course the US is poking around and doing whatever it can (and of course that includes the media happily going into ‘crap on China’ mode, which isn’t hard to do). But claiming it isn’t fundamentally organic denies agency to the locals, and also displays a complete ignorance and disregard for the history and culture of Hong Kong. These people don’t even speak the same language as the mainland; they are very much their own thing and have plenty of reasons to be anti-CCP without foreign agitation.

            It also denies agency to the CCP. Saying the US is doing major stuff in Hong Kong presumes that China would allow us to do stuff, and not have the ability to stop us. The disintegration of US spy operations in mainland China at the start of the decade not only casts serious doubt on US competency, but testifies to the competence of the Chinese. Also, I can guarantee you that whatever operations we had in Hong Kong were seriously degraded by the mainland operation collapsing.

        5. Acacia

          Regarding the Chinese text, I’m not an expert on this, but notice that the second paragraph begins with a quotation from the United States Declaration of Independence: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. The first paragraph of the Chinese text also feels a bit like a gloss on the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

          If somebody could find a Chinese translation of the Declaration of Independence, it might be interesting to compare the two texts.

          1. Chris G

            A rough translation of the Hong Kong Interim Government proclamation. (Note no info on who/how new Interim Leader will emerge):


            Para 1 ) Based on US Declaration of Independence
            Para 2 )
            At present the government of the HKSAR is controlled by the PRC government and CPC, and appears blind to the demands of the HK people. It incessantly cuts away at human rights, fails to establish laws that benefit the people, on the contrary takes further steps to reduce human freedoms. The HKSAR government today used the Legislative Council to pass the law against wearing masks in public, intending to further limit the rights of the people to assemble and failing to acknowledge the opinion of the great majority of HK people. We believe the HKSAR government has already lost the approval and authorization of the people, and therefore today we proclaim that the HKSAR government has lost its legitimacy and the heads of administrative bureaus and offices have with immediate effect lost the powers of their positions.
            The Interim HK Government proclaims:
            1. All departments of the former HKSAR government now come under the administration of the Interim Government.
            2. The heads and deputy heads of all HKSAR bureaus and departments with immediate effect relinquish their office and official position, and hand over to the Interim Government.
            3. Each government office shall immediately rescind all new policies promulgated by the HKSAR government since 2018, all official staff shall retain their posts and maintain the daily activities of the bureau/department, until further notice.
            4. The Interim Government shall retain in being for five years or until a government and head of government have been nominated and elected by universal suffrage (whichever date is earlier). The Interim Government must prepare for elections within one year of its establishment, and complete the election process within three years.
            5. The head of the Interim Government and every official holding an interim appointment shall not, for the rest of their lives after leaving office, be allowed to hold any remunerated or policymaking position in any HK government or public body.
            6. The Laws of HK shall remain in effect until the Interim Government promulgates new laws.
            7. The HK Legislature is disbanded. A new Interim Legislature shall be elected within three months, and a new Legislature within one year. The Interim Legislature shall have 70 seats: 12 seats each for HK Island and Kowloon West; 10 seats for Kowloon East; New Territories West and NT East each 18 seats.

    3. It bites but the truth always has

      While the peaceful protestors are organic movement, those who are violent show signs of training, which many on the interwebz say is CIA backed and done in Ukraine, ala Joshua Wong and his buddies attending camps run by the CIA and neo-Nazis there (Wong’s attendance in Ukraine well reported).

      Yes, torching public commons like MTR, that everyone uses, instead of torching The Peak, Repulse Bay Road, and other property of the rich is a great way to send the wrong message. Pretty much confirms CIA is steering the violent factions because the strategy is so stupid and protects paying CIA clients. If China cracks down on violent protesters while allowing peaceful protests to continue, it’s probably a great winning formula to stuff the CIA actions, and separate them from a public more willing to negotiate.

      1. dcblogger

        just because that is the sort of thing the CIA does is NO evidence that the CIA is at work here. It is entirely possible that there is a yeasty mix of player involved in Hong Kong.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Apparently, someone mentioned that, these days, anyone could master, or learn to make color revolutions on youtube.

          That would make the CIA not very exceptional.

  2. fdr-fan

    Since talking to foreign leaders is now an impeachable offense, I guess the Dems are hoping to elect a pure isolationist who will halt all discussions and trade with foreign countries.

    1. notabanker

      Since talking to foreign leaders is now an impeachable offense,

      That’s what American Board Members are for.

      1. Christopher Fay

        The dems seem to be objecting to an insider complaining about another insider’s grifting. Trump came to D. C. and trashed the place and might expose the insiders’ grifting to indignity. If the leadership of China can understand one thing it’s the right of princelings to enrich themselves so Hunter, Heinz, and the provincial Bulger slip right in.

  3. ambrit

    Hong Kong. A direct challenge to the political primacy of the CCP. Peking cannot allow this challenge to ripen. Expect the Mandarins to tell the HK straw bosses to crack down hard. I would not be surprised if thee were not a hard date for “local” management of this before the troops are sent in. Remember, this is an internal affair of China’s. The Peking government will not care one iota about the demands or threats of ‘foreign devils’.

      1. ambrit

        True. A misconstruction. I should have said; “….before the troops are sent out onto the streets.”
        I find it sort of funny to mention the downtown Honk Kong army building when we live in a country that has similar facilities, but presently only holding the ‘secret police’ of America.
        The cynic in me, not really a separate identity, but somewhat alienated from the ‘official’ perceived “reality” of America, remembers what happened to ‘Occupy’ in America and wonders how much of that lesson the CCP in Peking has absorbed.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Taibei can get involved without being foreign devils, and she has not problem agreeing with Beijing that this is indded an internal affair of the Republic of China (ROC).

      Over the last 70 + years, both sides have been in more fierce struggles with each other.

      1. ambrit

        True, one being an all out civil war.
        Is there a peaceful way out of this present dilemma? I feel certain that Peking and Taibei both don’t want a return to a “Warring City-States Period.” The Great Leap Forward was bad enough.

  4. wolf

    “So, we have interference that didn’t interfere. Swell. After three years of hysteria and gaslighting.”

    So, we have interference that didn’t interfere [because the popular vote doesn’t matter in the first place]. Swell. After three years of hysteria and gaslighting.

    there fixed it for you. We Have An Electoral College. Popular vote is interesting but irrelevant.

    AND the TWO faithless electors switch From Clinton TO Trump.

    1. ambrit

      Any elector faced with the choice between Trump or Clinton would be said to be facing a dilemma. Either choice can be described as a “bad” choice.

      1. Quentin

        The only best outcome would have been the defeat of both Clinton and Trump in that order—or in the reverse.

        1. John

          It is 13 months to the 2020 election. Why are we still agonizing about 2016 or 2000 for that matter? You want to elect your candidate of choice? Get out there and politick. I cast my first vote for president in 1960. I have seldom been enthusiastic about the choices. We have muddled through up to this point. This near future is exceptionally murky and once again the likely choices are uninspiring. Focus on now.

          1. ewmayer

            “Why are we still agonizing about 2016 or 2000 for that matter? You want to elect your candidate of choice? Get out there and politick.” — Hey, man, tell it to Team D, because blameshifting and gaslighting and electoral-college-blah-blah and impeachment-noising about Trump is *all* they’ve been doing since their historic butt-hurt in 2016.

          2. pretzelattack

            the near future is dark, and part of the reason is the candidates become worse. this isn’t just uninspiring choices, both biden and trump are bad choices. and if the primaries are rigged, again, going out and politicking isn’t going to fix it. it helps to highlight the corruption, in 2016 and 2000.

      2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Hunter S. Thompson was driving with an expired license in a car full of drugs and got pulled over by a Nevada State Trooper. He had two choices:

        1. Give the cop the expired license and get busted.
        2. Tell the cop he had no license and get busted.

        But he realized he had a third choice. So he blew his nose all over the license and handed it to the cop.

        Citizens/Voters can always choose Option 3. Turnout is on a downslope (after our saintly melanoderm in 2008 that is)

  5. dearieme

    everything else about Warren’s analysis is technically mistaken

    Even if nobody on the Harvard faculty could have helped her surely she could have pottered off to MIT. Hell, she could just have hired a competent grad student to help.

    What an odd business. I remember seeing a criticism of her book on medical bankruptcy that stated it was full of technical mistakes.

    Perhaps it’s not just her Cherokee-iness that’s fake.

      1. dearieme

        Can’t find the original; sorry. But google has turned up these:






    1. Fern

      Warren’s policies and analyses deserve deeper scrutiny. The spin machine has been working overtime to present her as a genius wonk, similar to the charade that Hillary Clinton is “the smartest woman in the world and the most qualified candidate who has ever run for president”. The goal is to show that Warren shares Bernie’s agenda, but she’s smarter.

      I’ve already noticed that a number of her “plans” are astonishingly weak. I suspect that her earlier writing is very superficial as well. Someone should analyze the paper she wrote against regulating utility company rate increases. Her paper was cited in important court cases as an argument against the position of consumer activists. Her paper followed the formula of Henry Manne, the right-wing Reaganomics guru she traveled to study with (and where, alarmingly, she met her husband). Concurrent with studying with Manne and writing this paper, she was given tenure and promoted to associate dean after only two years as a junior faculty member at her right-wing law school.

      I’m very interested in reading more about her use of the CPI.

      Here is a link to her 1980 paper on utility rate increases:

      1. flora

        The goal is to show that Warren shares Bernie’s agenda, but she’s smarter.

        I think she is smart, academically very smart. I think Hills and O and Bill are academically smart, too. I also think they are all timorous in the face of big money and monopoly power.

        If Bernie isn’t as academically credentialed as Warren, he has the courage to stand up to big money and monopoly power, and that’s what’s need now, imo.

        1. Acacia

          Obama is clearly not academically smart. Examine his years at University of Chicago more closely and you’ll find a man who never had what it takes to become a serious academic researcher, as the possibility of tenure was offered to him on a silver platter.

        2. Anothermichael

          The goal is to show that Warren shares Bernie’s agenda, but she’s smarter.

          And yet they both endorsed Hillary in 2016. Maybe “smart” shouldn’t be applied to either of them.

          1. Yves Smith

            Sloppy with facts, I see.

            Bernie had to. That was his pledge for running on the Dem ticket. Note he didn’t campaign for her in any meaningful way. See this from the Washington Post in Sept. 2016:

            He reluctantly and belatedly endorsed her. And the two speeches he has given since for her have basically been papered-over versions of his own stump speech. In short, since he ended his own campaign, Bernie Sanders hasn’t done much publicly to help get Hillary Clinton elected president.

            And that may be just the way the Clinton campaign wants it.


            Warren was a free agent. And she was campaigning for Clinton in June 2016, before Hillary won the Dem nomination:


            Oh, and said she wanted to be Clinton’s running mate:


  6. gary

    I think the critique of inflation is bogus. For one thing, you can’t judge early 2000’s to today. Most people are much worse off. I also don’t see how 1970’s people had less discretionary income. In 1970’s, there were no smart phones, no internet, TV was free. Gas and automobiles were very cheap and still dependable. Healthcare was not anything to make you go bankrupt. If you lost your job, you could usually have another one in less than a week if not the SAME DAY. Utilities, rent, just about anything I can think of was so much easier to handle on one income. Does anyone that was adulting back then disagree???

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i was a kid back then, but i’ll talk to a fence post.
      with the exception of those who are visibly comfortable in their current existence(as evidenced by dress, car, lack of furtive glances fr predators, etc)…literally everyone i’ve polled who was adulting in the 70’s says that it was so so so much easier to get by and even get ahead.
      as lambert indicated, the way we count and measure inflation is convoluted and designed to distract and hide rather than illuminate.
      …like so much else, today.
      chaos, as policy.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        One of money’s functions is it stores labor so it can be transported across space and time.

        You labored to produce wheat in the Fall, but you want to store your wheat-labor and spend it next Spring.

        In 1971 they disconnected money from anything that took work to produce (gold). The new money takes no labor to produce, so it cannot reliably store your labor. The steep decline in the standard of living did indeed coincide with the early 1970s.

        (Please skip the comments about hedonic adjustments, computer advances, and mortality improvements. A single breadwinner middle class household in the 1970s could pay off the house, get the kids fed and educated, and not go bankrupt if they got sick).

        The minimum wage in 1965 was $1.25, or five silver quarters. Today the face value of those 5 quarters would not be a good minimum wage, but the silver value of the quarters (+/- $18.00) would. Silver, since it took work to produce (or to produce more today) was able to successfully store your labor.

        What’s great about sound money (metals) is that they are finite and scarce. This means that even as productivity rises, including mining productivity, increasing scarcity keeps the supply flow fairly constant: +/- 2% per year. Roughly the long-term global GDP rate rise. All the gold ever mined, from necklaces and watches and King Tut’s mask through to tons in the vaults of central banks, would fit into just two Olympic-sided swimming pools. According to the USGS the planet has +/-1 swimming pool left still unmined.

        1. hunkerdown

          they are finite and scarce

          They’re also deflationary. Asking a shiny metal, that is extremely environmentally destructive no less, for permission to eat is near the top of the list of things insane people do.

          1. skippy

            Don’t even attempt to inform pod that the 2% thingy is Milton’s monetarist quasi gold standard for the benefit of the financial elitists.

            So much for the store of value for the unwashed …

        2. skippy

          “One of money’s functions is it stores labor so it can be transported across space and time.”

          Reference please.

          Monies first and foremost function was taxes and not a store of value or labour, sounds like your suggesting money was a result of barter in a artisan – agrarian setting so people could trade in a binary manner.

          It was to negate the overheads and losses of spoilage in storing perishable goods as taxes.

          Don’t know what to make of the rest of it due to monetarist administering MMT during your time line, only to be replaced with the Taylor rule quasi monetarists, acerbated by share holder value, anti tax birch society, corporatist agendas, Gresham law, pay to play democracy ….

          That does not even begin to reconcile that money is just a means to facilitate exchange but is not value in and of its self. The exchange is where value is reconciled, monies are just a way of transcribing the numerical aspect, thorough accountancy, though the numbers are just a reflection of the activity and not a precursor of it.

          Numbers are not moral creatures ….

    2. Carey

      Yes- it was *much, much easier* to get by in the 70s. Born in ’59, and I remember the 70s
      very well.

      1. ambrit

        Did two well dressed cats in Black Suits hold up a small baton and tell you to look into the light? That might explain.
        I was born in the fifties and can attest that it was way, way, way, easier to live back in the 1970s. Phyllis and I rented our first place together in a little courthouse town in Louisiana, a sixty or seventy year old house with two bedrooms and indoor plumbing, no less, for $125 USD a month. Utilities were similarly cheap, and there were not as many “necessary” services to pay for than now. Telephone was cheap, cable was for rich people, food was cheap, and better, the internet didn’t exist yet, etc. etc. As a side note, society was not nearly as regimented as it is today.

        1. pretzelattack

          i mean, in response to the question, does anybody disagree that it was easier to get by financially back then?–not me. college was 50 bucks tuition a semester, you could buy used textbooks for less than ten bucks, gas was a quarter a gallon in some places (and cigarettes 35c per individual pack). a large hamburger was a maybe a buck, a buck and a half. i stayed in a series of apartments that were less than 100 a month, a coop that was 140 a month room and board, etc. etc. etc.

          1. ambrit

            I get you.
            My main metric for this is how much “disposable” income, if any, an ‘average’ person had at the end of the month. Also relevant was how much of desirable goodies that disposable income could purchase.
            I guess that my main point in reference to the “less stuff required then” comment was that back then, people lived, and lived well, with less “stuff.” (See George Carlin on “stuff.”)
            Carlin [NSFW] “Stuff”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvgN5gCuLac

    3. LifelongLib

      My memory of the mid-70s is that a new color TV cost $500 but I could rent a room for $10/week. Now (in constant dollars) it seems like TVs are a lot cheaper but rooms are way more expensive. Pretty much like Warren says (I’m still voting for Sanders if I can though…).

      1. WobblyTelomeres

        In the 70s, I had a 12″ (diagonal) color TV that I could watch from across the room.

    4. neo-realist

      The Bohemians and the artists living hand to mouth could still afford the East Village NYC in the 70’s.

    5. BobW

      I was able to pay (shared) apt rent and tuition at a state university on a part-time school-term job and full-time summer job. Two year old $1,000 Datsun 510 got me around. Less than $20/wk. for groceries.

    6. richard

      agreed, though I’m a ‘64 babe and wasn’t a grown-up in the 70s
      these days, you lose a job and you can really fall off a cliff
      the terrain was less steep back then
      much easier for humans to navigate
      no comparison

      it still sucked, though :)

  7. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    There are people at 80 who perform better than 20-year-olds,” said Christopher Van Dyck of Yale University, “even on these cognitive speed, memory-type tasks.” Furthermore, beyond decades of a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, a significant, intangible, practically mysterious part of the nature of anybody’s aging, said Tracy Chippendale of New York University, is just … luck. Genes.

    Should some people be allowed to retire (and draw on social security or quality for Medicare) at 20, 35, etc., if their genes say they are ‘old’ at at the age?

    1. Carolinian

      The real question is why our society is so desperate for leadership that we have to turn to retirement age politicians for president. The compelling case for Biden is so lacking that even he took forever to decide to run. And the recent Sanders incident shows why he also has to face the age question. The voters should have a reasonable expectation that whoever they vote for will last the four years.

      Four years ago we made a thing about Hillary’s health and those were legitimate questions. Obviously we’d rather have a crippled FDR than a spry nonentity. But it’s still a concern.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        We didn’t turn to retirement age politicians in 2000, 2004, 2008 and 2012.

        And even today, we can still turn to someone younger (but still retirement age), like Warren, or even younger, like Gabbard.

        For those (for Harris supporters, say) not turning to Biden, Sanders, Warren or Trump, all of whom are retirement age, politicians like them will always be there to run for the White House, because they are not forced to retire (which may not be so bad)…no term limits.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Interesting, before Trump came along, in the last 30 years or so, we have seen some of the youngest US presidents ever.

            Separately, 55 in 1790 would be equivalent to a much older age today. As percentage of any given age’s life expectancy, Trump’s case might not be so far off above (or below that).

            1. Divadab

              Life expectancy is an average and back in the day infant mortality was much higher as was child mortality. If you made it to 55 you could expect to live to seventy. You’re misusing average life expectancy for all ages to project individual outcomes at a particular age.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                What you say makes sense, and a different way of looking at it would be to ask or look at the percentage of people over 55 in a given population, in 1790 and today.

          2. neo-realist

            It may also depend on the Presidential style. Carter, from what I understand, was a very hands on President who worked long hours. Other Presidents such as Reagan, W, and Trump, worked and work the equivalent of half days, so their ability to survive the physical rigors was never in doubt. I don’t disbelieve that the Presidency is taxing, but some tax more or less than others.

      2. Jeff W

        Benjamin Studebaker on “Why We Cannot Nominate a Young Person in 2020” here (from December, 2018):

        …the overwhelming majority of Democratic politicians in their 40s and 50s are centrists who came of age politically in the 90s and 00s. These are people who got into Democratic Party politics because they grew up admiring the Clintons. They were advanced in the party because the Clinton generation promoted them. They have spent their political lives working with Gore and Kerry and Obama and that’s the discourse they swim in. Corey Booker is 49. Kamala Harris is 54. Beto O’Rourke is 46. Kirsten Gillibrand is 52. Amy Klobuchar is 58. This group has a shared set of political instincts–they are the instincts that helped them build the careers they now enjoy, but they are not instincts we can trust. They have been tutored in triangulation from the time they were political toddlers.

        So, basically, we have the younger generation of politicians who, with less experience, is singing the same political tune that led to Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016. That leaves the older politicians: Joe Biden, who is trying to get by on whatever goodwill President Obama (inexplicably) still has; Elizabeth Warren, who can present herself as some sort of outsider; and Bernie Sanders, who, as an independent “democratic socialist,” stayed out of the Clinton orbit and offers a universalistic progressive agenda.

        I don’t think it’s that our society particularly wants retirement-age leadership—it’s that one major party, at least, has been pretty bad at cultivating younger candidates for whom people actually want to vote. If there were some younger version of Sanders, someone the age of, say, JFK—42—when he ran, I doubt people would have a problem supporting him or her.

        1. jrs

          Yea I don’t want it but what is one to do. Don’t have to be 42, 50 would be fine, 60 would be fine. But we are forced to vote older even though it’s less than ideal, by how bad the Dem party is, what a cr@p party representing noone it is.

    2. Acacia

      “There are people at 80 who perform better than 20-year-olds,”

      And from the way things look now, Biden won’t be one of them.

  8. barrisj

    Re: PRC and HK…what to make of the Orange King’s remark directed to President Xi that he -Trump – will keep schtum about actions in HK as long as trade talks continue…can’t find the media citation, and whether the remarks also included “investigate the Bidens” as an added “incentive”. Mob boss indeed!

  9. Henry Moon Pie

    “In September, Delta Air Lines said it is investing $2 million to research the feasibility of developing biofuel products from forest floor debris.”

    Their “forest floor debris” is the organic material for that forest’s soil. And I’m sure the machinery they use to gather this “debris” will not harm the trees nor compact the soil.

    If anyone with power is out there listening, please save the Earth from these “green solutions” that are little more than scams whose primary benefit will be to throw a “green” label on the SOSO.

  10. ChiGal in Carolina

    I vote for a link from Adolph Reed in every Water Cooler, whether it was previously linked here be damned!

  11. Bill Carson

    I purchased the audio book of Edward Snowden’s memoir, “Permanent Record.” It’s pretty good so far, twelve of twenty-nine chapters in.

    Interesting to see that Amazon won’t let people see the table of contents for this book. Snowden is an American hero whose time has passed, apparently. Perhaps it has just become quaint, the idea that the government is listening to all of our phone calls, reading all of our emails, and watching what we view on the internet.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      plan to buy the book, heard a great interview on Democracy Now in which he makes clear where the real threat of authoritarianism comes from: the surveillance state, not the buffoon who is currently President.

      his time is very much here, he and Manning and Assange are the real whistle blowers the American public should care about and they would too–if the MSM covered them instead of serving TPTB.

    2. Craig H.

      The NY Review Books article that was linked here the other day was excellent. Snowden’s story back in 2013 was a game changer and I do not believe in heroes any more but he would be at the top of my list if I did.

  12. KLG

    Holy Jeebus! I have been reading Mary Beard for years. I think I have bought my last book written by her. Sad! Yes, I am an unforgiving sort when it comes to Clinton Obama Pelosi & Schumer LLC.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I have seen her documentaries. With all her knowledge of Roman history, you think that she would recognize the Clintons – both mother and daughter – from it.

      1. dearieme

        She’s a pleasant soul to talk to if you bump into her on the London train.

        Her documentaries, however, seem feeble to me. I wouldn’t trust her political instincts at all.

  13. DJG

    Thanks for the coverage of Brazil and the link to BrasilWire. I note:

    Still unknown is precisely who these Americans were, what they might have wanted from Brazil, and what agreements Dallagnol’s deal might have entailed. But the evidence that the U.S. government was involved in some way with Lava Jato and, by extension, the impeachment of Dilma and imprisonment and electoral disqualification of Lula is compelling and can no longer be ignored.

    And let’s thanks Hillary Clinton, too. Surely, among the 30,000 e-mails on yoga, there must be one about fomenting fake impeachment in Brazil…

  14. UserFriendly

    I missed this at the time, so thanks to barrisj for the link. So, we have interference that didn’t interfere. Swell. After three years of hysteria and gaslighting.

    *Sheepishly looks at shoes.*
    Links 8/8

    Did Russian Interference Affect the 2016 Election Results? Larry J. Sabato’s Crystal Ball. UserFriendly: “Nail in the Russiagate coffin.”

    Water Cooler 8/8


    “Did Russian Interference Affect the 2016 Election Results?” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “No.” From the summary:

    — Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent testimony was a reminder that Russia attempted to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and very well may try to do so again in 2020.

    — This begs the question: Is there any evidence that Russian interference may have impacted the results, particularly in key states?
    — The following analysis suggests that the 2016 results can be explained almost entirely based on the political and demographic characteristics of those states. So from that standpoint, the answer seems to be no.
    So, a well-regarded, mainstream political scientist and horse-race analyst throws in the towel. Scholars Ferguson, Jorgenson, and Xie got this right in 2018; kudos to them. Humble bloggers who were also skeptical of enormous claims made on little evidence may also take a bow [lambert blushes modestly].

    Not that I’m judging, my memory has its moments too. Only reason I remember it is because I liked my coffin line.

    1. urblintz

      I think it’s great that Sabato disproved the notion that Russians elected Trump but I don’t understand how he, as a lawyer, squares this statement: “Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s recent testimony before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, and the Mueller Report itself, make it very clear that the Russian government made a major effort to help Donald Trump win the 2016 U.S. presidential election.”

      with this:

      “…on July 1, Judge Dabney Friedrich ordered Mueller to stop pretending he had proof that the Russian government was behind the Internet Research Agency’s supposed attempt to interfere via social media in the 2016 election.” https://consortiumnews.com/2019/07/16/ray-mcgovern-sic-transit-gloria-mueller/

  15. dcblogger

    anybody here from Gaithersburg Maryland?
    Town Hall on Medicare-for-All in Rep. David Trone’s District
    Start: Sunday, October 20, 2019 • 2:00 PM
    End: Sunday, October 20, 2019 • 4:00 PM
    Gaithersburg Library – Large Room 1 (2nd Floor)• 18330 Montgomery Village Ave, Gaithersburg, MD 20879

  16. Carey

    Well, I’ve tried to link to a new piece by CJ Hopkins, but.. suggest heading over to consentfactory.org to read ‘Trumpenstein Must Be Destroyed’.

  17. ewmayer

    “The ‘Sports Illustrated’ Layoffs Are What Happen When We’re Ruled by Vampires” [The Nation (JB)]. “…Half the staff has been laid off by the new owners, a consortium of of vampiric thugs called The Maven Group.” — Isn’t that the same digital media consortium econo-blogger Mike Shedlock moved his blog to a few years back? I found the new blog virtully unreadable on my legacy MacBook running an older version of several browsers, and stopped reading him at that point. (I had already cut way back as a result of his persistent union-bashing and lovefests with various dubious Tech To The Rescue schemes like Bitcoin, but the move to the Maven site was the last nail in that particular coffin.)

    1. Carey

      Same here, regarding Shedlock’s blog. I’m really sorry to see so much of USA USA being
      dismantled and fed off of by PE vampires. Sports Illustrated used to be a very fine mag.

      What a country; what a squandered, wasted country.

  18. Tom Stone

    The Democratic candidates pretty much all need a better campaign slogan, something to fire up the troops.
    Perhaps the commentariat here can help out?
    For Warren I’d suggest either “A waffle in every pot!” or “Trust me, I’m a politician”.
    Go for it!

    1. ewmayer

      For Warren, her ultra-wonkish-academic approach has me leaning toward a Black-Adderesque “I have a plan…” — because in real life, as is the case with laws, rules and regulations, plans always go, well, according to plan, especially the really intricate loophole-riddled ones.

      Which prompts a second EW-tribute slogan: “Complexity is your friend!”

      1. richard

        not to be that guy that I most certainly am
        but the dogsbody always had cunning plans that were anything but wonkish
        like rewriting Johnson’s entire dictionary in a night, or making a clever mustache disguise with a turd
        or something :)
        but no matter, as you say, those plans came to the same end that warren’s will
        no one’s going to that dance
        means testing can kiss my ass

    1. Carey

      Thinking about it a bit, probably our elites having another “we feel your pain” moment,
      while buying a little more time for..


    1. Carey

      Only way Harris is going anywhere important™ is if she’s installed by our for-now elites,
      says this observer in California. Which, for awhile, was what I thought was going to

    1. neo-realist

      As far as the writer’s assessment of Dave Chappelle as an equivalent of Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten snarling into the camera at the BBC in 1976, I’d say that was true with the biting satirical race humor he did back in the days of the Chappelle show, but to qualify his present day humor, particularly his “punching down” on the accusers of Michael Jackson, as something insurrectionary, I’d say he’s “out to lunch.”

  19. upstater

    A take down of Precision Scheduled Railroading that has come up on Watercooler from time-to-time

    It is basically asset stripping at the behest of hedge funds and is designed to juice share price, which is tied to executive compensation. As expected US and Canadian railroads spend more on share buy-backs than on CapEx — and most CapEx is to replace worn out plant, not add new capacity.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Oooooh, that’s very important. Thanks so much.

      That it’s from Trains is pretty amazing. They don’t make stuff up, but they aren’t always exactly hard-hitting.

  20. scarn

    CGTN video provides the CCP view on the face mask law. Note the comparison to German and French laws. What’s good for the goose…

    It will be interesting to see if PRC allows some small reforms or none whatsoever. Independence will never happen.

      1. Dan

        Sauce on the side? Or, a light basting?

        Acia, below

        Another sobriquet:

        “Hillary; every man’s ex-wife”

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      i needed that.
      she always reminded me of my least favorite relative…a boomer cousin who was an executive at ibm, and swallowed that world’s koolaide for 40 years.
      entitled, holier than thou, self-righteous…knows exactly what you should do and when.
      cousin J even sort of looks like her(and always has…i’ve considered if this plays some subliminal role in my long term aversion to all things Clinton…same scolding voice, too,lol)
      Billary ruined the country…i watched it happen…could do nothing to stop it, or even mitigate it…
      they can blame the gop all they want, but they actually made the gop plan for ruin happen.
      i don’t even want to see the back of them.

  21. Lambert Strether Post author

    I am looking for a kind soul with an academic account who could get me PDFs of two papers:

    Of Conspiracy Theories, Brian L. Keeley, The Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 96, No. 3 (Mar., 1999), pp. 109-126 (link).

    Räikkä J. (2014) On the Epistemic Acceptability of Conspiracy Theories. In: Social Justice in Practice. Studies in Applied Philosophy, Epistemology and Rational Ethics, vol 14. Springer, Cham (link)

    Thank you!

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