2:00PM Water Cooler 11/27/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I will be taking Thanksgiving Day off for Water Cooler. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday! –lambert


“U.S. Presses Case to Defang the Global Economy’s Trade Referee” [Bloomberg]. “The arc of Lighthizer’s rocky relationship with the WTO is hurtling toward a potentially dramatic inflection point. The pressure he and the Trump administration are applying on the WTO may, in just a few weeks, render the Geneva-based arbiter of trade inoperative…. The Trump administration, which previously threatened to block the WTO’s 2020 budget, offered members a proposal this week that would allow it to continue operating, but would hamstring the WTO’s appellate body. The U.S. said it would back the WTO’s 197.2 million-Swiss franc ($197.6 million) budget for 2020 with the condition that no more than 100,000 francs be paid to appellate body members, an 87% reduction from the full budget allotment, and spending by the body’s operating fund also be limited to 100,000 francs, a 95% reduction. The Trump administration argues that the organization’s compensation structure creates an incentive for appellate members, who can make more than 300,000 francs a year, to string out cases to boost pay.”


“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

Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:

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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 11/27/2019, 11:00 AM EST. Biden leads, Sanders strong second, Warren five points back (!), Buttigeig trailing. Quite a reversal for Warren, but Buttigieg, despite all the puffery, is still barely within striking distance of the leaders. This is the fourth post-debate national poll with the same pattern: Survey USA, Morning Consult, Quinnipiac, and now YouGov. No wonder the powers-that-be are getting a little antsy and phoning each other and taking meetings.

Here, the latest national results:

We also have a new poll out of New Hamphire from Emerson, as of 11/27/2019, 11:00 AM EST. Sanders and Buttigieg in a dead heat, Warren trailing:

And the results:

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.”

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Biden (D)(1): Heck, maybe this is what keeps Biden in the lead:

I mean, we’re seeing an actual drop in life expectancy, so people have a lot of grief to deal with. Voters who see Biden as undertstanding that may cut him a lot of slack in other areas.

Biden (D)(2): “Hunter Biden was suspected of smoking crack inside a strip club where he dropped “thousands of dollars” during multiple visits — at the same time he held a seat on the board of a controversial Ukrainian natural gas company, The Post has learned” [New York Post]. “The incident, which took place at Archibald’s Gentlemen’s Club in Washington, DC, late last year, represents the most recent alleged drug use by Biden, 49, who has acknowledged six stints in rehab for alcoholism and addiction that included a crack binge in 2016. Workers at Archibald’s, located about three blocks north of the White House, said Biden was a regular there, with two bartenders and a security worker all instantly recognizing his photo and one worker identifying him by name.” • If this were, say, Donald Trump Jr. (son of President) instead of Hunter Biden (son of Vice President and Presidential candidate) we’d be seeing a ginormous liberalgasm about kompromat. Lots of furrowed brows by putatively ex-spooks making the big bucks on cable. And so forth. Oddly, nothing.

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “Betrayed by Joe Biden: a Personal History” [Counterpunch]. “Alas, Biden’s mis-handling of the Thomas hearing is hardly an anomaly. As chair of the Judiciary Committee, Biden pushed through bankruptcy “reform” over strong recommendations from Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren, whose research found that consumers got into too much debt primarily because of medical bills, student loans and predatory credit card lending practices along with abusively-high interest rates. Acting on behalf of his campaign donors at credit card giant MBNA (headquartered in Wilmington, Delaware), Biden ignored Prof. Warren’s recommendations and proceeded to all but eliminate access to Chapter 7 bankruptcy for consumers and families. Other instances of Biden’s perfidy: As Judiciary chair, he pushed through the “crime bill” in 1994, imposing mandatory sentences for petty drug possession. The result has been well documented: Mass incarceration, primarily of poor people of color. And while in recent years he evades this point, Senator Biden voted in support of two wars in the Middle East.” • Not a new bill of particulars, but clearly stated.

UPDATE Bloomberg (D)(1): “Bloomberg’s 2020 Pollster Dumps His Ukrainian Oligarch Client” [Daily Beast]. “Pollster and pundit Doug Schoen told The Daily Beast on Tuesday that he has signed on to work on the former New York mayor’s 2020 Democratic presidential bid. In anticipation of that role, he said, he terminated a contract with billionaire investor Victor Pinchuk.” • That’s nice.

Buttigieg (D)(1): “Pete Buttigieg’s PAC Was Supposed To Help Elect Democrats. It Mostly Touted Him.” [HuffPo]. “Pete Buttigieg launched a political action committee in June 2017 to relatively little fanfare. The mayor of South Bend, Indiana, at the time was still a minor political figure. He had made an unsuccessful run for Democratic National Committee chairman and been the subject of some positive press from national columnists, but he was little-known nationally. His PAC, dubbed ‘Hitting Home,’ would ‘mobilize resources to elect Democrats, at every level and in communities both red and blue, who will put the lived experiences of Americans front and center,’ Buttigieg wrote. The PAC had done relatively little to help Democrats during the 2018 midterm elections, when the party waged its hard-fought battle to win control of the U.S. House. But it had paid significant sums to a host of Democratic consultants and staffers to promote Buttigieg’s image. Of the slightly more than $400,000 Buttigieg raised for the PAC, it donated just $37,000 to other Democratic candidates. At the same time, the PAC paid nearly $70,000 to Lis Smith, who served as Buttigieg’s spokesperson and became the communications director for his presidential bid. Another $27,500 went to Michael Schmuhl, who served as the PAC’s treasurer and is now Buttigieg’s campaign manager. The PAC’s finance director received $34,500. A top Democratic media consulting firm was paid $28,500.” • Lol. How Clintonian. I’m feeling a little schadenfreude here, because I remember Lis Smith getting a lot of good press at the start of Buttigieg’s campaign (and she really is good). So it would be fun to ask her how she feels about cashing in on a sleazy scheme like this. (To fair, the PAC certainly did put “the lived experience” of “American” Democratic strategists “front and center.” Ka-ching.

Sanders (D)(1):

Sanders always has had a very advanced view of media, hasn’t he? It may be that people recognize his consistency over the years because they’ve literally heard him state the same positions over and over (something the press, with its horserace coverage, simply doesn’t cover and may not even be equipped to recognize).

Sanders (D)(2): Field of dreams:

UPDATE Trump (R)(1): “At Florida ‘Homecoming’ Rally, Trump Rails Against Familiar Targets” [New York Times]. “‘The failed Washington establishment is trying to stop me because I’m fighting for you,’ he told the roaring crowd, offering a key election battleground a fiery preview of what is probably going to be his foremost defense after a series of career officials testified that he had engaged in a pressure campaign to force Ukraine to investigate his political rivals. ‘They’re attacking me because I’m exposing a rigged system.'” • I don’t know if “exposing” it is enough. Burning it down? Maybe.

Warren (D)(1): “Warren nosedives in new nationwide poll” [Politico]. Granted, Quinnipiac. But we’re getting multiple indicators. Hilariously, all the exposure Warren got in the last debate didn’t help her, and may have hurt her. “Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s support among Democratic primary voters nationwide plunged 50 percent over the past month, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll, signaling that the shake-ups in the primary field are far from over…. And a little less than two months out from the Iowa caucuses, more than 1 in 10 Democratic primary voters are still undecided about who will get their vote next year, with only a third of voters who have a preferred candidate saying their mind is made up.” • Help me. The Iowa primary is — checks counter — 69 days away.

UPDATE Warren (D)(2):

Yep. So I guess Sanders lacks ambition?

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“Personal Income Booms in States With Decisive Role in 2020 Race” [Bloomberg]. “Personal income growth has been surging in some U.S. political battlegrounds, including a third of the counties in Pennsylvania — which Donald Trump narrowly flipped in 2016 and may need to win re-election next year. In the president’s first two years in office, a total of 325 counties representing nearly 6% of the U.S. population experienced their best annualized income gains since at least 1992, according to data compiled by Bloomberg News. And 127 of those are located in perennial swing states, including Ohio and Iowa.”


“Dems see one last chance to boost public support for impeachment” [Politico]. “The House Judiciary Committee will hold its first hearing next Wednesday focusing on the definition of an impeachable offense. At least two more Judiciary sessions are expected the following week — Democrats’ presentation of their evidence against Trump and a vote on articles of impeachment, according to multiple lawmakers and aides. That schedule would keep Democrats on track to hold a full House vote by the end of the year.” • Awesome. I can’t imagine anything less politicized than holding an impeachment trial in an election year. After liberal Democrats have been yammering about impeachment from the first day of Trump’s President, and after wasting the country’s time on the damp squib of Robert Mueller, Hero of The Resistance™,

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Death is the biggest issue in the 2020 election” [Quartz]. “Apocalyptic political rhetoric in the US might not be that far off base: US life expectancy is falling for the first time since the 1950s, particularly where president Donald Trump and the eventual Democratic presidential nominee will contest the 2020 election…. And more to the nub of the national discourse, the largest increases in mortality have taken place in the states that could be determinative in next year’s presidential elections, including Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Florida…. The Democrats challenging Trump will certainly draw a contrast with their plans for the government to tackle the increase in mortality, from treating drug addiction like a public health problem to gun safety legislation.” • Bandaids on cancer.

UPDATE What turning Virginia “blue” really means:

It means that Virginia is blue. That’s all it means. It also means, apparently, that unions got suckered again (or the management did (or were complicit)).

UPDATE “Georgia election officials investigate prominent critics” [Star Tribune]. “Georgia election officials have opened an investigation into two prominent critics of the state’s new touchscreen voting machines, secretary of state Brad Raffensperger’s office confirmed Wednesday. Those critics called the investigation an attempt to intimidate detractors of the new machines.”

Health Care

UPDATE “‘There’s a Fear Factor, a Fear of Change.'” [Politico]. “Plenty of Americans have opinions about single-payer health systems like “Medicare for All,” and some have even studied them closely. But vanishingly few individuals in the world have actually built one from scratch. One who has is William Hsiao. A health care economist now retired from Harvard University, Hsiao designed a national health care system for Taiwan in the 1990s, and helped manage that country’s transition from American-style employer-based insurance to a national single-payer system. He has also designed single-payer reform programs for Cyprus, Colombia and China. In recent years, Hsiao, now 83, has consulted with Sen. Bernie Sanders on his Medicare for All plan, and also supports Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s version. But his reality-check prediction is that it will take two more election cycles, at least, before the political groundwork for Medicare for All will be laid. With powerful lobbies like insurers, hospitals and drug companies dug in against such plans, he points to two other forces that will need to play key roles: big employers, which he sees as nearing an inflection point where they will insist on a better system; and doctors, who are increasingly being paid as salaried employees, which is changing their views of private insurance.” • Well, we’ll have to speed things up, then. Well worth reading in full.

Stats Watch

All of the statistics are marked as “released On 11/27/2019” but only the numbers have been updated, not the prose snippets. Odd!

Personal Income and Outlays, October 2019: “For October, personal income is expected to rise a moderate” [Econoday].

Durable Goods Orders, October 2019: “Following broad weakness in September, durable goods orders are expected to extend their decline in October” [Econoday]. “Core capital goods orders have been very weak and are not expected to show much improvement.”

GDP, October 2019: “unchanged from the first estimate” [Econoday].

Jobless Claims, week of November 23, 2019: “are expected to fall” [Econoday].

Chicago Purchasing Manager’s Index, November 2019: Expectation of improvement [Econoday].

Retail: “The holiday competition between retailers is turning into a race over home delivery. Sellers looking to match Amazon.com Inc.’s e-commerce juggernaut are ramping up their own distribution services that promise to get packages to homes in just a day” [Wall Street Journal]. “While many traditional retailers are struggling to keep pace Walmart Inc. and Target Corp. have held their ground by increasing their delivery capabilities or getting shoppers to pick up online orders at their stores. The idea is to get consumers to spend more, whether by drawing people through store-pickup offers or by getting Amazon Prime members to binge on online purchases.” • Stoking greed with an infantile desire for instant gratification….

Retail: “Indiana manipulated report on Amazon worker’s death to lure HQ2, investigation says” [Indianapolis Star]. “When an Amazon worker was killed by a forklift in a Plainfield warehouse in 2017, the state of Indiana’s investigator found the company was at fault. The state cited Amazon for four major safety violations and fined it $28,000. But an investigation by Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting has found that, as Gov. Eric Holcomb sought to lure Amazon’s HQ2 to Indiana, state labor officials quietly absolved Amazon of responsibility. After Amazon appealed, they deleted every fine that had been levied and accepted the company’s argument — that the Amazon worker was to blame. The investigator on the case, John Stallone, had arrived at the warehouse a day after 59-year-old Phillip Lee Terry was crushed to death. He was so troubled by the pushback he was getting from higher-ups that he secretly recorded his boss, Indiana OSHA Director Julie Alexander, as she counseled the company on how to lessen the fine. ‘It’s like being at a card table and having a dealer teach you how to count cards,’ Stallone said.”

Retail: “Amazon Workers Are Protesting for Better Conditions Ahead of a Gruelling Season” [Vice]. “Less than a week before the most grueling time of the year for warehouse workers begins in earnest, employees of the immense Amazon fulfillment center in Staten Island known as JFK8 will protest to demand better working conditions from the tech giant. The protest outside one of Amazon’s most productive fulfillment centers, which employs at least 2,500 workers, marks a significant escalation between workers and management at the facility…. Workers will deliver their demands to management on Monday in a petition signed by over 600 employees, organizers say. They want Amazon to increase their 15 minute break period to 30 minutes in order to provide workers with ample time to rest. Currently, during the day time shift, workers—whose productivity and movements are closely surveilled by the company—receive two 15 minute breaks and one 30 minute break for lunch. Goris said that most of the short break is spent walking to and from the break room. Workers also want Amazon to provide free transit to and from the fulfillment center, as some commute on public transit from as far away as the Bronx and Queens.” • Pretty modest!

Tech: “Google’s Next Moonshot: Union Busting” [Google Walkout for Real Change]. “Four of our colleagues took a stand and organized for a better workplace. This is explicitly condoned in Google’s Code of Conduct, which ends: “​​​​​​’And remember… don’t be evil, and if you see something that you think isn’t right — speak up.’

When they did, Google retaliated against them. Today, after putting two of them on sudden and unexplained leave, the company fired all four in an attempt to crush worker organizing. Here’s how it went down: Google hired a union-busting firm. Around the same time Google redrafted its policies, making it a fireable offense to even look at certain documents. Using this policy, Google did all it could to frame our colleagues as “leakers.” This is a lie. And Google confirmed this when pressured…. With these firings, Google is ramping up its illegal retaliation against workers engaging in protected organizing. This is classic union busting dressed up in tech industry jargon, and we won’t stand for it…. One of the most powerful companies in the world wouldn’t be retaliating against us if collective action didn’t work. Stay tuned for more.” • I can’t help thinking that if by some happy mischance interrnal documents did leak, they’d show Google on the inside looks rather like one of Clive’s banks: Layer upon layer of cruft.

Tech: “How emoji became a multimillion-dollar business” [Nikkei Asian Review]. “Forms of communication in Japan have traditionally been complex and subtle, involving politeness and nonverbal cues. For the Japanese, avoiding miscommunication proved tricky without social context, which would dictate proper forms of address. Letters usually include an honorific salutation, a seasonal greeting and possibly a “by the way” as a segue to the true point of the message. Email began to strip away at this subtlety, encouraging a more informal style without these conventions. At the same time, in the mid-1990s, small pagers became all the rage in Japan, especially among girls. They loved the heart icon in the messaging function and avidly created emoticons and kaomoji using the keyboard, according to Shigetaka Kurita, creator of the first widely used set of emoji. “That was my main inspiration,” he told The Guardian newspaper years later.” • I don’t much care for emojis, since I feel I have complete control of my register in prose. I grant, on the small screen, that doesn’t work so well ?.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 75 Extreme Greed (previous close: 69, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 74 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 26 at 1:00pm. Last updated Nov 27 at 11:59am. Excitement during Thanksgiving week after all!

The Biosphere

“When it comes to wildfires, should California be more like Australia?” [Cal Matters]. “The two locales have some key things in common: a similar climate, many of the same plants and trees strewn across often-arid landscapes — and residents bedeviled by wildfires that are worsening as climate change resets seasonal norms. A large swath of Australia has been plagued by brutal heat and withering drought; wildfires there, as here, rage for much of the year in 80% of the country. California leads in at least one way: with the depth of its ‘toolbox,’ the machines and equipment it employs during fires. Australia can’t come close to the squadron of helicopters, large tankers and other aircraft that California dedicates to firefighting…. Other differences: Nearly 60% of California’s forests are managed by the U.S. government. Australia has neither vast government land ownership nor a federal fire service. And Australia’s owner-saving-his-property approach may not work well in areas of California dotted with seldom-visited vacation homes. But California might find lessons in several key Australian policies, particularly the principle of shared responsibility that underpins them. Australia’s view is that government and citizens should work together to keep people safe and homes and property protected. The country has an extensive network of volunteer fire brigades, and not just in rural areas. The service that covers Sydney is staffed by 70,000 volunteers, making it the world’s largest volunteer fire agency. These cadres work alongside paid professionals in a cooperative culture and with an intimate understanding of fire. The system fosters self-reliance and, critically, provides the tools for homeowners to protect themselves and their property when expecting firefighters’ help is not realistic.” • Hmm. I do wonder if Australian real estate development patterns are similar or different from California’s, even beyond vacation homes. Perhaps there are material besides ideological reasons why Australia’s cooperative culture is not exportable. Interesting article.

“Plastics are proving resistant to sustainability efforts in supply chains. Big brands are trying to reduce their use of single-use plastic but are struggling to reinvent their packaging. [E]fforts so far are niche and it isn’t clear whether they will scale up” [Wall Street Journal]. “Experts say more innovation is needed to make alternatives more useful…. Niche efforts to promote reusable packaging have bumped up against logistics complications around cleaning, returning and refilling.”

“A History of Human Waste as Fertilizer” [JSTOR Daily]. “[E]ighteenth century Japan, biosolids were an esteemed substance. Japanese citizens did not view human waste as unwanted muck, but rather as something of value. What fostered this view, so different from ours? The answer lies in the soil. Compared to many European and North American countries, blessed with an abundance of forests and fertile grounds, Japan had much less land that was suitable for agriculture. Large parts of Japan had soils that were sandy and low on nutrients. Without continuous fertilizing, they didn’t yield rich harvests. When the Japanese population began to grow, people needed more food—and farmers needed fertilizer to produce it. Ultimately, it was the citizens who produced the fertilizer that put the food on the table. Population dynamics, particularly in large cities like Osaka and Edo, which later became Tokyo, drove up the value of human excrement, which sometime is referred to as humanure.” • Why we need the buffalo back on the Great Plains.

Class Warfare

“Dying too young: Deaths among middle-aged adults reversing life expectancy trends” [NBC News]. “An increasing number of Americans are dying in the prime of their lives, a trend not observed in other wealthy nations, according to research published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These ‘excess deaths’ — that is, people who die years and even decades before they’re expected to — tend to be clustered in the nation’s Rust Belt, where economies once boomed with a thriving steel industry, but have been in decline since the 1970s.” • Again, if the political class cared about statistics like this, it would be a political issue; Case Deaton published in 2017, after all. They either don’t care, or they’re actively seeking this result (cf. “ok boomer,” while, ya know, people of that age cohort are dying, before they even had a chance to get to the ice floes. It’s disgusting and enraging). Handy chart:

Not hard to map this to swing states.

“Family Office for Huntsman Dynasty Bets on National Security” [Bloomberg]. “Like many family offices, the Huntsmans are increasingly looking to do direct deals, often tapping a network of wealthy families as co-investors. A UBS Group AG survey released in September found that 46% of 360 global family offices surveyed said they plan to put more money into direct private equity investments in the coming year, while 98% of 111 U.S. offices polled by Fidelity Family Office Services expected to maintain or increase direct investments over the next three to five years…. HFI’s focus on investments linked to national security wasn’t intentional, Huntsman said. But the office tends to like mature businesses that have good cash flow and high barriers to entry.” • Not a lot of detail on what those investments actually are.

“Agitprop vs Agitpop” [Tribune]. On Sheila Rowbotham, author of Hidden from History, 70s ur-text. I can’t really find a nugget to quote, but it’s certainly worth soaking up the atmosphere, since very few of the issues raised seem to have been solved.

“Is Boutique Egg-Freezing a Scam?” [Jezebel]. “Businesses like Trellis, along with its competitors like KindBody and Extend Fertility, hinge on the idea that true freedom is the opposite of the kind I imagine—that by acknowledging and reinforcing the insidious forces that tell women they must birth their own biological progeny, and by offering an option for the deferment of that dream, a person could master their fate. It’s an exchange that amounts to the literal purchasing of years. As an ad for Extend Fertility once described the procedure’s promise: ‘Take control of your biological future—freeze your eggs and freeze time.’ Egg-freezing studios like this have multiplied over the last years: One investor in such businesses recently estimated the market is growing 25 percent a year.” • Because large refrigeration units are totally sustainable and we’ll always have them.

News of the Wired

“Single Headed Attention RNN: Stop Thinking With Your Head” [Archiv.org]. From the abstract: “This work has undergone no intensive hyperparameter optimization and lived entirely on a commodity desktop machine that made the author’s small studio apartment far too warm in the midst of a San Franciscan summer.” • I don’t think this is a parody, but it’s very funny and very well-written. Do we have any natural language processing mavens who can sort this out?

“Excerpt from Introduction of Data Selves” [Simply Sociology]. “While digital data assemblages are often conceptualised as immaterial, invisible and intangible, I contend that they are things that are generated in and through material devices (smartphones, computers, sensors), stored in material archives (data repositories), materialised in a range of formats that invite human sensory responses and have material effects on human bodies (documenting and having recursive effects on human flesh). The primary analytical focus is understanding what personal data assemblages allow bodies to do, and how they come to matter in people’s lives.” • Hmm. Embodiment.

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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 (MG):

I had asked MG to keep me posted on this tree. He wrote: “Colors just aren’t going to happen again this year. Too far south, too much rain. The big maple is thinning out just as fast as the leaves change and frankly will never meet your standards for fall foliage. Sky is nice today so here’s the tree if you’re up for a stealth cloud post otherwise maybe next year.” To me, this photo couldn’t have been taken anywhere other than the United States (not even Canada, sorry Canadians). But I can’t put my finger on why.

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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. Bugs Bunny

      Bonne Journée Action de Grâce !

      “To me, this photo couldn’t have been taken anywhere other than the United States, (not even Canada, sorry Canadians). But I can’t put my finger on why.”

      It’s the sky. The US sky has a very particular clarity to it. The truth is in it, somewhere. Maybe in the next patch of clouds. Or storm. Or when things clear up. In the same way, the French sky always looks like the skies in Impressionist paintings; inscrutable, asking you to philosophize ‘why’. Canadian skies are so immense, dream like. I remember driving from Edmonton westbound and it felt like it would pull the car up into the clouds.

    2. David

      Indeed. Thank you Lambert – and all of the deep-thinkers who curate and contribute to this wonderous place. The open-mindedness makes Naked Capitalism a jewel in a sea of closed information silos. Many thanks to you all.

      1. D. Fuller

        Rule of Law? Ghislaine Maxwell is still running around free despite allegations that would see a poor person locked up before trial as a danger to the community. Which feeds into the RW conspiracy theory machine of “Deep State”, etc. IMHO, the conditions for Epstein to kill himself were set up so that he had all he needed to do the job himself. Why murder someone when you can have them do it themselves provided they have the right incentive and materials on hand to do the job themselves? It is more efficient that way. It’s a cold-blooded outlook, yet one that holds true. Of course, mine is just mere speculation and opinion.

        Meanwhile, The US sees Purdue and The Sackler family (with a long history of marketing fraud in relation to pharmaceuticals) contributing to the opioid epidemic that saw over 500,000 people die. When a person knowingly harms a person, they can be prosecuted as a criminal. When you are a billionaire family and a corporation, fines substitute for jail time. Normally, one would call assisting in the deaths of 500,000 people… genocide (for profit). Yet, there is John Kapoor of Insys, who was actually charged with RICO violations (along with other crimes) and convicted in relation to the marketing and sale of fentanyl.

        What about the CEO of Goodyear and managers knowing for eight years that they were selling defective tires for motor homes, resulting in 95 deaths, as alleged by The NTSA? Homicide charges were contemplated in that case, against managers at Goodyear.

        What is the difference between John Kapoor and The Sacklers? Philanthropy? Political contributions? WASPness? White-ness? Are special interests afraid that convicting the “right” billionaires and wealthier individuals would further show that our society is corrupted?

        It would be interesting for researchers to examine the issue of just why some wealthier individuals are prosecuted as criminals and others are not. To answer the questions as to why some are prosecuted and others are not, despite their crimes being too similar.

        Purdue and The Sacklers have a long history of abusive practices in regards to marketing, etc. Yet, Kapoor was actually convicted in a criminal (as opposed to civil) court of law for many of those same practices.

        When it comes to allegations of a crack-smoking Hunter Biden and the stance of Joe Biden regarding such extra-curricular activities… one can bet that Hunter would be more Purduej/Sackler than Kapoor in treatment by Joe & Friends.

        Allegations against Hunter Biden remind me of the allegations against GW Bush of abusing powdered cocaine at Camp David.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          My goodness. It’s almost as if this whole “rule of law” thing is purely self-regarding and tendentious. Then again, perhaps we should try it? After all, even George W. prosecuted Enron…

          1. D. Fuller

            The question is not whether or not we should be following Rule of Law… we should be. Rather, it is the question of applicability of Rule of Law in determining who suffers the weight of the law and how that is determined.

            As you well know, financial crimes have a far more reaching impact on society than is acknowledged.

            DoJ under Bush also prosecuted Worldcom accounting fraud with Ebbers receiving a 25 year prison sentence in 2005. While Skilling of Enron infamy had his sentence reduced by 10 years in a DoJ deal and Ken Lay died (2006) at his vacation home.

            14 years for Skilling.
            25 years for Ebbers.

            As for GW Bush? War crimes. Failure to regulate or conduct oversight (as well as Greenspan’s failures) the financial industry properly. The financial crimes that flourished in creating the Housing Bubble from 2003 on with 1% Fed Reserve interest rates… Enron and Worldcom are a drop in the bucket compared to what began way back in 1994 with banking de-regulation, further exacerbated by de-regulation under Clinton and a Republican Congress in 1998 and 2000. As well as precursor events to 2008 – the bailout of LTCM and also the Peso Crisis resulting in bailouts around 1998.

            Why prosecution of Enron and Worldcom, and then abject failure to prosecute executives from 2003 on? Rule of Law, failed. Obama helped insure that it would.

            The US has abandoned the Rule of Law with selective application and other factors such as weakening regulatory oversight. Oh, sure… laws apply to the poor. It’s profitable.

    1. voteforno6

      Apparently he was a regular at Archibald’s, too, which was kind of a trashy place, at least in my youth. With his money, you would think that he would at least have better taste in strip clubs.

      1. vegasmike

        There’s a long article about Hunter Biden the New Yorker magazine dated July 1, 2019. Hunter according to the article is a completely strung out junkie. It’s worth a read. Just a couple of example. Hunter went to an L.A. homeless encampment to buy crack. He crashed two rental cars the same night and he ‘lost’ expensive jewelry given him by a Chinese hedge fund guy, that he was suppose to use to pay back alimony. I couldn’t figure out why the Trump organization didn’t simply use this open source material, when the source The New Yorker magazine is anti-Trump.

        1. D. Fuller

          I couldn’t figure out why the Trump organization didn’t simply use this open source material, when the source The New Yorker magazine is anti-Trump.


          The 2016 Trump Campaign gathered most of their dirt against Hillary from Democratic forums where posters noted Hillary’s very factual shortcomings. Then piled on with about 30 years worth of RW character assassination and conspiracy theory (as opposed to conspiracy fact) such as Arkanicide, etc.

          Only for Centrist Democrats to turn around and use conspiracy theory against Trump with “Russia! Russia! Russia!” – a bunch of malarky. Did Russia interfere in US elections? Yes. With a cavaet. They did not interfere in US elections in 2016 they way it was portrayed by Centrist Democrats. Nowhere near that. Not even close. While not being illegal. The Russians relied on timing certain actions to spook US intelligence agencies and law enforcement into believing that something was going on. Betting that as conspiracy-minded as Americans are, that phantoms would be seen. Thereby sowing FUD among the political class and populace. At least, those susceptible to conspiracy theory – the public – and those willing (Centrist Democrats like Pelosi and Hillary) to use the obvious ploys by Russia to allege conspiracy theory against political opponents

          With The Russians doing nothing illegal themselves in violation of US law, despite the Butina conviction.

          The Republican and Democratic Parties are now trying to out-conspiracy-theory each other for advantage.

          Did Russia elect or conspire illegally to elect Trump? No. The evidence publicly available does not support such a conclusion.

          Did Trump seek personal gain through the use of Ukrainian politicians to sabotage a political opponent? Why, yes. Yes Trump did. Again, according to what information is publicly available.

          The Hunter Biden allegations of crack-cocaine use is old information. The specifics are what turns the old information into *gasp* shockingly “new” information. It’s been alleged for years now that Hunter Biden had/has a drug problem. Repackaged material.

          Effectiveness is determined by timing.

        2. richard

          yeah, good point
          it is nothing new
          chapo trap has been making fun of hunter’s legendary tale of “redemption” for quite a while now
          with more than a touch of admiration, it must be said
          a side note:
          i used to think they (chapo trap house) were appreciating these sort of things ironically, you know, the good old fashioned way, but now i think they are making some sort of point out of seriously appreciating f*&^ed up things like hunter biden
          there’s just no room for that :)

        1. D. Fuller

          Old allegations. New details.

          Michael Jackson alive on South Pacific Island!

          Tabloid journalism. Recycled trash.

  1. diptherio

    So ICE set up a fake college, entrapped foreign students into registering and paying, and is now deporting them for attending a fake college.


    And guess what? They’ve been doing it since the Obama administration!


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Ugh. Couldn’t get to that. Open borders is a bridge to far for me, but I think we should revert to whatever we had before ICE, if for no other reason than we don’t want people with those skill sets in government.

      1. JohnnyGL


        I think if you polled ‘freedom of movement’ vs. ‘freedom to stay in place’, the latter would poll a heck of a lot higher, especially in poorer neighborhoods that have been targeted for gentrification.

        Interestingly, if you listen to AOC discuss why she wants to abolish ICE, she doesn’t make a case for open borders, she discusses her time working for Ted Kennedy’s office and how she had to field the calls from family members who’d had loved ones snatched up. She described it as a black hole of lawlessness and zero accountability. People couldn’t call anyone, no one knew where they were being held. No attorney access. It sounded horrifying.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          it is horrifying.
          quite a few of my wife’s esl kids have either been snatched themselves, or had mom, dad, brothers sisters aunts uncles cousins in varying configurations snatched and pretty much disappeared.
          and these are mostly(9 out of 10) folks who went to the trouble(and great expense) to obtain papers…so they ended up being either set loose after a while, or deported and let back in, because they had the correct docs to present at the border.
          it’s cruel and far too usual, and does nothing for national security or jobs for those born here.
          and the weird thing is that all this was happening well before trump…and has in fact declined locally since his arrival(surely a coincidence, but still)

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              the most chilling insight i contributed to these experiences was pointing out that hardly anybody in this tiny, close-knit town was even aware that it was happening…right here.
              in the same manner that folks didn’t want to know about cia creating AQ, after 9-11…folks listened with glazed eyes and moved on to something else.
              ICE didn’t physically come here…the snatching happened elsewhere…often at the various checkpoints, between here and the border.
              so out of sight, out of mind…
              wife worked with our local lulac and maldef reps to try to locate these disappeared people…sometimes with some success…but nothing could be done.
              opacity, and the immovable nature of the System, ensured that there was no recourse.
              and the fact that so many of them had papers means that they had been here forever(it takes time and a lot of money and hassle to get papers, let alone actual citizenship)…and have de facto roots in the community.
              interestingly, the handful of cartel-adjacent folks around here are rarely bothered…and one of those even got caught with 500# of pot in his truck, was deported immediately, but was back here the next week…with 600# of pot,lol.

        2. Jimmie Q

          I question her involvement with Ted Kennedy’s office. She was 20 years old when he died.
          Please don’t try to make her more than she is.

      2. dcblogger

        Nobody is talking about open borders, we can reform our immigration system to a rational one, or even just go back to the INS which was much better for all its failings. ICE is tyranny, and it won’t be confined to immigrants.

        1. Deplorado

          Can someone explain what is the conceptual difference in the constitution of INS vs ICE that makes INS somehow better in the eyes of today’s beholder ?

          1. dcblogger

            the INS did not maintain baby prisons. or do sting operations. it was just capricious, but not sinister.

            1. ambrit

              I was working on a commercial job here in Hattiesburg back in the early 1980’s when the old Immigration raided the job. Hattiesburg is 75 miles from the coast and thus within the one hundred mile from any border ‘action zone’ allocated to the Border Services. They were decidedly sinister. Three cargo vans carrying a dozen armed men and women. All wore bulletproof vests and were dressed all in black. Several times that afternoon I saw one or another of the agents put their hand on the butt of their pistol whenever anyone, irregardless of look, accent, or demeanour ‘talked back’ to them. It was my first real close up experience of the ‘American Police State’ in action.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Nobody is talking about open borders

          Unfortunately, abolish ICE and open borders were originally linked by the activists pushing these issues. They talked about open borders rather a lot.

      3. ptb

        ACLU lawyer dude on the radio today during the thanksgiving drive. 5500 kids separated from parents while detaining them. That number is before the courts shut it down. Official estimates of 26,000 kids “eligible” under the “program” while it was in progress. Supposedly, no tracking of what happened to the kids after parents locked up and/or deported.

        1. marym

          Here’s a link.

          The internal watchdog for the Department of Homeland Security found that the Trump administration anticipated it would separate 26,000 children if the “zero tolerance” policy of 2018 had been allowed to continue, and that the agency knew it lacked the technology to track and reunite children with their parents.

          Wednesday’s report said CBP officials forged ahead with the policy even though they knew ahead of time that the agency lacked the proper technology to track and reunify children with their parents.


      4. fajensen

        One problem with running an empire is that at least some of the ruthless administrators sent out by the “East India Company” to manage “the wogs” will survive. Those will become effective taskmasters, they will prosper financially cooking the books, by skimming off the top, taking bribes and general plunder whenever the opportunity rises.

        Then they come back home and apply whatever made them successful in the first part of their career on the locals! What happens in the USA now comes out of ‘Army Field Manual 3-24: Counterinsurgency

    2. dk

      NY-14 Representative Ocasio-Cortes writes a thread:


      Earlier this year, Congress rushed to approve BILLIONS more $ for ICE + CBP.

      I saw members voting YES w/o even a summary of the bill. Nobody cared then how we’d pay for it.

      Now ICE is setting up fake universities to trap students.

      Yet we were called radical for opposing it.

      This is honestly one of the big reasons why the argument about “pay-fors” in healthcare, housing, etc so often are made in bad faith.

      I see decisions made every day that cost the American public billions of dollars a year for bogus reasons and nobody asks how we pay for it. /2

      None of the politicians who brand themselves “fiscally responsible” ever raise concern about rushing to shower ICE & CBP w/ $billions with 0 guardrails or oversight.

      None of them ask about how we pay for corrupt contracts or mass incarceration.

      Ask yourself why that is.

      Look out for those in politics who like to label themselves “fiscally responsible,” yet only seem to care about the price of justice – not the cost of oppression.

      Everything has a price. And an unjust society is far costlier than one that invests in & values all people.

  2. ewmayer

    Lambert, thought you might enjoy this – while reading the short story “Holiday” in The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter last night, I came across this passage which features one of your favorite works of political economics, in a description of the end-of-a-hard-day’s-work leisure habits of the family patriarch in a year-1900-ish third-generation old-German farming community in deep-rural east Texas:

    Most evenings, however, Father Müller sat by himself and read Das Kapital. He would settle deeply into the red plush base rocker and spread the volume upon a low table before him. It was an early edition in blotty black German type, stained and ragged in its leather cover, the pages falling apart, a very bible. He knew whole chapters almost by heart, and add nothing to, took nothing from, the canonical, once-delivered text. I cannot say at that of time my life I had never heard of Das Kapital, but I had certainly never known anyone who had read it, though if anyone mentioned it, it was always with profound disapproval. It was not a book one had to read in order to reject it. And here was this respectable old farmer who accepted its dogma as a religion — that is to say, its legendary inapplicable precepts were just, right, proper, one must believe in them, of course, but life, everyday living, was another and unrelated thing. Father Müller was the richest man in his community; almost every neighboring farmer rented land from him, and some of them worked it on the share system. He explained this to me one evening after he had given up trying to teach me chess. He was not surprised that I could not learn, at least not in one lesson, and he was not surprised either that I knew nothing about Das Kapital. He explained his own arrangements to me thus: “These men, they cannot buy their land. The land must be bought, for Kapital owns it, and Kapital will not give back to the worker the land that is his. Well, somehow, I can always buy land. Why? I do not know. I only know that with my first land here I made good crops to buy more land, and so I rent it cheap, more than anybody else I rent it cheap, I lend money so my neighbors do not fall into the hands of the bank, and so I am not Kapital. Someday these workers, they can buy land from me, for less than they can get it anywhere else. Well, that is what I can do, that is all.” He turned over a page, and his angry grey eyes looked out at me from under his shaggy rows. “I buy my land with my hard work, all my life, and I rent it cheap to my neighbors, and then they say they will not elect my son-in-law, my Annetje’s husband, to be sheriff because I am atheist. So then I say, all right, but next year you pay pay more for your land or more shares of your crops. If I am atheist I will act like one. So my Annetje’s husband is sheriff, that is all.”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > life, everyday living, was another and unrelated thing

      It is true that the reproduction of “Kapital” is an unsolved problem and part of the legitimacy crisis we now face.

  3. dcrane

    Online commenters often add together Sanders’ and Warren’s support in the polls to gauge support against the “establishment” candidates. I wish we could do this, because combining them suggests something like 35-40% of primary voters opposing Democrats-as-usual. And that leads me to hope that Sanders could lead a bloc this size in the convention (approaching Trump’s position in the 2016 GOP primary). However, I suspect that there are many professional-class Warren supporters who would, if push came to shove, support an establishment candidate over Bernie in the end, just as Liz did in 2016.

    But at least we’re finally seeing some improvement in Sanders’ numbers.

    1. sleepy

      The Sanders Iowa campaign is well-organized. There are 26 precincts in my semi-rural county of c. 43,000, and each precinct has an assigned precinct captain/whip, a precinct chair, and one assistant (the caucuses meet and vote on the precinct level), for which there have already been caucus training sessions conducted by the county chair. To my knowledge, no other campaign in my county has this level of organization. I asked why training sessions were being conducted over 2 months out from the caucus, and was told that nothing in the Sanders campaign is being done at the last minute, and the final month will be dedicated to GOTV.

      The county chair is a position with a knowledgeable and dedicated young man from out of state, but where the rubber meets the proverbial road, it’s all local volunteers.

      A note–afaik, the Iowa state dem party never releases actual vote totals for the caucuses, just the number of delegates won. The repubs always release vote totals. I was told that this time dem vote totals will be released. I’m still skeptical though.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      add in the Yang and Gabbard rock-throwers and you’re closer to 50%. If we didn’t let deep-state south states like South Carolina which have gone (D) exactly twice in 60 years and zero in the last 40 (’60 and 76′) go so far to decide who the nominee would be, maybe a progressive would win. As it stands now, the Old Confederacy is a direct impediment to progress (much like the last 400 years), and in a terrible bit of irony, some of the most obstinate conservative democrats in these lost-cause states are African-American themselves. If Biden being Obama-adjacent for 8 years allows him to cruise through the south like Clinton did (and we all remember how well she did in 2016), I will wash my hands of this party and country because people will truly get the governance they deserve.

      Just saying, you don’t see Republicans biting their nails to see what the Illinois, New York, and California GOP presidential primary results are, much less putting them 3rd…

  4. petal

    A long time friend was at the Trump rally in FL last night. I asked them if they were able to tell/observe which issue was most important with the crowd, or got the most applause, and they said it seemed a tie between supporting the military and jobs; there was also a lot of cheering for the President’s recent pardons, fixing issues with the Navy, and for fixing problems with the VA. The crowd was chanting “jobs, jobs, jobs” and cheered loudly at talk about keeping jobs in the US, and keeping taxes down. Friend also said the arena was totally packed and there were still a lot of people waiting outside hoping to get in. They did take one of those panoramic photographs of the arena with their phone, and it was packed. Was neat to have a friend in observation mode like I was this Fall. Pretty cool.

    Locally here in my little NH town, the house a few doors down from the LMIAL house has a Sanders sign, a Cory Booker sign, and a Mayo Pete sign all in their front yard next to one another. The LMIAL house is still all-in on Amy for America with one or two small signs and the giant sign. No noticed increase in Warren signs. Mayo Pete signs are holding steady since the big increase a couple few weeks ago.

    Happy Thanksgiving to all that celebrate it. (Thanksgiving and Christmas are tied for my most hated holiday.) Cheers, y’all!

            1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

              Perhaps the question is not if there is a Russian deep state, but a Russian deep, deep state, which in theory, should be deeper.

    1. Jen

      Driving through the neighboring town of West Lebanon, I noted a row of houses with Tulsi signs (these in a not very well off stretch near the strip malls and big box stores).

    2. Oh

      At least there no songs about T’giving but it’s time to eat and eat and eat. The next day we can shop till we drop.

  5. a different chris

    Is it actually worse that Amazon got off scot free on that worker’s death, or that the full force of the law (insert dramatic music) fined them a whopping $28K?

    I’m not sure. I suspect their yearly toilet paper budget in that plant exceeds $28K.

    It *is* creepy that they fought even that gnat-like amount.

    1. cnchal

      > . . . I suspect their yearly toilet paper budget in that plant exceeds $28K.

      I bet it’s $28 as there is no time to have a crap or wipe and the stuff they use is as close to sandpaper as you can get and still call it bumwad to discourage use. Women getting urinary tract infections is an occupational hazard at Amazon horrorhouses, never mind the wrecked backs, arms ,knees and feet.

      Production uber alles.

  6. John Wright

    Re: “When it comes to wildfires, should California be more like Australia?”

    Since one of the CA wildfires in 2017 burned down my Northern Calif home, I have spent some time reading about wildfires in CA, “bushfires” in Australia and fire resistant building methods.

    The linked to article did not mention that Australia tightened its residential building codes after their 2009 Victoria bushfires.

    Free Australian building code downloads are at http://www.as3959.com.au/as-3959-download/

    This is another wildfire related area where I believe California could learn from Australia as California eventually moves toward more inherently fire-resistant building methods.

    1. Vegetius

      Aussie-style firefighting is not practical in SoCal, or NorCal, or Cal period. Some of it has to do with the culture, a bit of it has to do with the tactics, and a lot of it has to do with the absence of topography relative to what we have in the western US.

      Building codes are one thing. More important is to stop putting houses in indefensible places.

      Happy Thanksgiving.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        In the four part PBS (I think) TV series, Sinking Cities, the word, retreating, is used more than a few times.

        In the segment on New York city, for example, the government there (I think state, not necessarily the city) is buying homes on Staten Island (if I recall correctly) from those who would sell, and let nature reclaim them.

        That’s a long way, the other way, from ‘go forth and multiply.’

        1. Vegetius

          In rural and exurban Japan the retreating is well-advanced, and they are doing nothing about it as far as I can tell. I haven’t even been able to tell if anyone is even thinking seriously about it. Or thinking about it at all. Some villages that may have been there for a thousand years are now overgrown completely or else the lair of from 30 – 50 hogs.

          It all strikes me as somehow utterly Japanese.

          In the American West things are of course moving in the other direction, people moving into rural and semi-rural and even ex-urban acreage for reasons other than agriculture with no idea that this can involve entering both the cycles of the elements and perhaps the food chain.

          Sadly, this is very American, at least of the late imperial era.

          1. Wukchumni

            Relatively few Native Americans lived in what is now SD/OC/LA/SF, as freshwater sources were iffy.

            They were quite numerous in what are now considered areas that insurance companies might cancel you now, in slitting their risks.

            The western southern Sierra foothills here had one of the highest population densities of all Indian tribes across the nation.

    2. HotFlash

      I have read that Australia is the most civilized country in the world. As in, most of its citizens live in cities, as opposed to far-flung ‘suburbs’. Possibly more wildfire resistant?

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Article states Australia has neither vast government land ownership


        The Queen would think otherwise:

        Crown lands comprise around 23% of Australian land

        But I think the critical difference is what’s known as “mateship”. It’s pervasive, real, and wonderful.

    3. The Rev Kev

      When things go wrong with fires here they go really bad. That article mentioned Victoria’s “Black Saturday” back in 2009 with the biggest death toll in Kingslake. It was power lines that caused it but I decided to check where this town was on Google Maps.
      It looked isolated but when I went to satellite view, was horrified to see that it was literally in the middle of a forest with only one road going in & out. WTF? Who let that get built?
      It did not help that the person in charge in Victoria for the fire fighters was out to lunch as in she was not in her command post but literally out to lunch while all this was going on. A lot of hard lessons had to be re-learned after this fire.


      We often see the Country Firefighters on their way to go to a fighter. Instead of red, their trucks are yellow as are their uniforms so they are distinct from the professional fire fighters who have red trucks.

      1. Danny

        Sounds like this “person”, also permanently, out to lunch. Maybe firemen, who work their way up through the ranks, instead of political appointees and rush-to-the-head-of-the- promotion line hirelings, would do a far better job, minus the idPol window dressing?


        Nice to know that this total incompetent, ultimately responsible for 36 deaths, will be able to collect three separate pensions.

    4. Tom Doak

      Australia is years ahead of California in recognizing that water is a critical resource, and moving to collect all stormwater runoff and treat it and recycle it for irrigation purposes, instead of letting it run off to the sea.

      It only makes sense that they would be years ahead of California in firefighting, too.

  7. ptb

    Remarkable interview with William Hsiao in the politico article on M4A!

    Most Americans do not like ‘socialized’ anything. But if you told most Americans that public schools are ‘socialized education,’ they would be really surprised. Fortunately, we had public schools set up before any powerful interest groups were formed.

    1. Angie Neer

      In my experience (I have no statistics to back this up), a growing number of Americans like to call them “government” schools, spat out with same contempt as would apply to “socialized.” And yes, it is fortunate they were set up before powerful interest groups, but the powerful interest groups are gaining.

      1. ptb

        yeah, and there’s the charter school “movement”, supported by conservative money bags to defund public schools as they are.

        I was struck, tho, by the fact that politico would print this. Its one of the best cases for single payer I’ve seen made in a centrist and generally anti-M4A publication.

    2. sleepy

      In the 19th century there was just as much opposition to free, public high schools as there is now to free, public colleges. I always find that a good argument to make with people who are hesitant about the idea.

      And when the argument is made that the government would be subsidizing wealthy students if college was free, just ask if public, free high school should be abolished because rich students also benefit from that education.

        1. Yves Smith

          I wish I had the syllabus to a course I took in college, “The Politics of Popular Education.”

          My recollection is that this is pretty accurate for the England and the course focused on England and France.

  8. ewmayer

    I transcribed a spotted-in-the-wild literary passage I thought lambert would enjoy as he sets off on his Thanksgiving holiday, but ’tis lost in moderation. In my best Victor-Buono-as-florid-Archvillain-King-Tut-in-the-old-60s-Batman-Series voice, “Oh, woe! Philistines!”

  9. Carolinian

    Re Biden and hugging–perhaps it’s time to suggest that presidential politics has a lot more to do with personality than we care to admit. Most voters don’t have the time or the inclination to study the issues but they look at Biden and think he is a nice guy (even though he isn’t). Conversely Trump’s brash personality makes a lot of people hate him and want to get rid of him no matter what. It’s a pity the Dems can’t embrace a natural politician like Gabbard rather than the corrupt Biden. But for those Dem insiders issues do matter–in a bad way.

    As for Thanksgiving…thanks to Lambert’s fellow New Englanders for inventing the holiday. Turkeys may not agree.

    1. hunkerdown

      Is that a natural state of affairs, implying that the American people are natural boot-lickers? Or is that simply a dead-end into which the powerful have manipulated the “conversation”? I believe it’s the latter and that more sensible narratives can be introduced into popular discourse with great effect. Try on “The Presidency is not a Wheaties box” for size.

      1. Carolinian

        In the US only about half the eligible voters show up to vote for president. Perhaps that’s because deep down they know it’s tweedle dum and tweedle dee and don’t bother. Therefore not so much boot lickers as resigned to a situation they have little power as individuals to change.

        Of course the elites know they can only get away with so much. Periodic attempts to destroy Social Security never seem to go anywhere. Someday when things get bad enough the jig may be up for them. Meanwhile let’s have a pleasing cast for the reality show.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      The humanure of old China and Japan did not have the heavy metals and the cancer-juice petrochemicals and the broad spectrum of prescription drug residues in it that modern urban sewage sludge has in it.

  10. dearieme

    The speed with which Warren’s polls started plummeting after she explained her plan to “pay for” healthcare

    So Warren has a wampum problem.

    1. Angie Neer

      dearieme: Really? Are you seriously still trying to daily inject tired, humorless stereotypes learned from 1950’s western movies?

    2. dcblogger

      really angry to see anti Native American tropes employed putatively against Warren. It is ugly, just plain ugly. Like really ugly.

    3. Yves Smith

      Look, this sort of thing may seem fun but it makes you and the site look bad. If you keep it up, you will force me to Do Something. Please exercise some restraint.

    4. Mo's Bike Shop

      Our response to the genocide of the Native American aborigines is terrifically different on this side of the pond. I love the United States and what it is trying and managing to be, mostly, but we very deliberately killed the local owners off on the rebound. This is not some B&W Minstrel show smirk thing you can pull off.

      I went to school with Penobscots. I grew up with peasant morons who had to learn–and they did, they were morons, not thick–that the Ranco family were to be treated like anyone else. I don’t have any ability to understand the kind of shit Roger Ranco had to go through every day of his life because of being from a different culture from the phobes who like to make fun of anything that they are unfamiliar with.

      But at this point I would personally push you onto an iceberg for this kind of talk in my presence. I know it is terrifically hard for well-to-do English Entitlements to understand the pain this kind of shitty, abusive, colonial language causes. And therefore I am going to make no effort to change your mind about treating colonized cultures as throw-away jokes.

      So please just go jump in a lake.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        The last two paragraphs are ad hom, and I’d normally not let it go. But the comment gives me the opportunity to make my final comment. See below at end of thread.

  11. dearieme

    An increasing number of Americans are dying in the prime of their lives, a trend not observed in other wealthy nations

    In Britain the increase in life expectancy seems to be sputtering out. Nobody knows why. One interesting suggestion I saw is that it is a delayed effect of supermarkets starting to offer cut-price booze a few decades ago. I wonder whether it is to do with the rise of double glazing and reduced ventilation in houses under the banner of going green. It means that people live in a fug of volatile organics and particulates.

    Naturally one might wonder whether it relates at all to the changed racial and cultural composition of the population but I’ve seen nothing on that at all.

    I have no idea what the figures are worth anyway: if you suspect that your censuses under-record the population, are the life expectancy figures worth anything? There is known to have been a technical problem with the census in the Blair years: maybe this matters.

      1. dearieme

        What cuts to the NHS? Every government has increased spending on the NHS “in real terms” (i.e. after correcting for inflation) since its inception except the Labour government of the late 70s. Ah, sorry, I see – you are suggesting that it’s because of the delayed effect of the late 70s Labour cuts? Good idea – maybe it is.

        1. jsn

          Crappificatiin would have been a better description for the evolving fate of NHS.

          Like the neoliberal infestation of the US MIC, ever growing budgets produce a plethora of private riches and a degraded product: an increasingly useless military at stunning cost for the US, increasing mortality rate for the UK.

          But the UK still pays only around half of what the US spends to kill it’s citizens faster.

          1. John A

            PLus PFI = the Private Finance Initiative, whereby new hospitals are built via private finance and then leased to the NHS at exhorbitant rates, which is bleeding the NHS dry. Both parties, Tories and ‘new’ Labour (ie Blair and Brown), were on the PFI bandwagon.

            1. dearieme

              For the Tories it was a modest experiment: for Labour it was a wild, huge extravagance. Did the coalition government rein it back in? I don’t know.

    1. The. Grachguy

      I’m really surprised that moderation is letting some of these comments come through. Between your earlier and overtly racist joke, what appears to be a thinly veiled white supremacist insinuation in this comment, and your below bad faith fallacious argument about the NHS, it seems like you’ve violated multiple commenting policies just on this post. What’s more, I know I’ve seen you on here before, employing the same types of BS. I appreciate that people from various backgrounds and political ideologies can come to this site and appreciate it, but it just seems like you’re here to be a right wing troll.

    1. Massinissa

      Best quote from Bhaskar Sunkara is actually his comment to another comment:

      “”Monopolies” have to compete because most of the time they aren’t actually monopolies….”

      Nothing to see here folks. Sunkara says our ‘monopolies’ ‘Aren’t REALLY Monopolies’ because… ‘Merica, I guess.

      If they ‘aren’t REALLY Monopolies’ why does he call them monopolies in the first place? The cognitive dissonance is strong with this one.

      Edit: Wait a minute, this guy is a democratic socialist? And hes peddling Libertarian pro-private-monopoly nonsense? *facepalm*

      1. Carey

        >Edit: Wait a minute, this guy is a democratic socialist? And hes peddling Libertarian pro-private-monopoly nonsense? *facepalm*

        Connect the seventeen dots

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Sunkara is making the point (see the #HashTag) that (I paraphrase) seizing control of the means of production is easier when ownership of the means of production is concentrated in very few hands. Agree or disagree, the argument has been made before. For example, UK readers will correct me, but I should think that nationalizing UK’s railroads was easier after concentration into LNER, LMS, Southern, and GW (with no doubt some oddments in Scotland) had been accomplished, rather than the many companies that existed pre-consolidation.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        thats a neat clarification that i totally missed, altho it seems obvious, now.
        but how?
        buying 51% of the shares?
        that leaves out the necessary corrective of guillotines(or stocks, if we feel compassionate)…and, can we crowdfund that?
        eminent domain?
        requires some manner of political control…in actual service of res publica.
        everything seems set up to prevent that.
        so your wonderful critique of ms warren’s M4A pay for nonsense applies…”nationalise them” requires a bunch of other impossible steps before hand.
        after wading through Yves’ repomarket thing, I’m sitting here wondering around ideas like general strike…but perhaps a repayment strike. How do you get a bunch of people so well conditioned to feel guilty about not paying their usurious debts to withhold payment en masse to the creature at the center of all of our problems?
        what percentage of americans would it take to kill off the big “banks”?
        or even hurt them enough to scream uncle?
        or is the automatic banking, etc too widespread for this to even be possible.
        is even brainstorming such things at 4 am on thanksgiving morning enough to get the fbi’s attention,lol?

  12. fdr-fan

    Those minor-league teams could move to Mexico along with the rest of our industries. AMLO is trying to develop baseball as a major sport, and would probably welcome the experienced managers if they’d hire some local players.

  13. Carla

    Warmest wishes to you and yours for a wonderful Thanksgiving, Lambert — and also of course to Yves and her mother, Jeri-Lynn, and all the rest of the NC crew. Hope all are safe in this severe weather.

  14. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Nigiri yes, sashimi no, in Tokugawa Japan?

    Large parts of Japan had soils that were sandy and low on nutrients. Without continuous fertilizing, they didn’t yield rich harvests. When the Japanese population began to grow, people needed more food—and farmers needed fertilizer to produce it.

    Sounds like it was not enough to live no fish, but they needed the rice to make nigiri.

  15. Big River Bandido

    Whoa. Sanders actually invoked baseball’s antitrust exemption. That has to get someone’s attention. Love this, more of it, please.

    What a great issue for Sanders. It brings attention to workers who are being exploited by their employers — and I, for one, had no idea that minor league baseball players were paid so poorly. The workers are beloved by the public, especially in the Rust Belt, and this rhetoric actually builds on solidarity. And on a campaign optics level, this conjures up all the images of Sanders playing baseball, not only having fun and looking human, but playing America’s Game, no less.

    Wrapping up his entire campaign theme in a simple little metaphor like baseball? Grand slam.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      On first look, it doesn’t appear baseball is paying a lot for minor league players.

      Per month, around $1,000.00 per player? How many per team are they reducing? Compared that to $100 million contract to just one star major leaguer.

      I wonder if this has to do with more foreign players they are signing. From Japan, Cuba, Korea, etc. Many of them major league ready (i.e. less need to develop minor leaguers.

      Kind of like the H1B/etc visa phenomenon.

      1. HotFlash

        Mr HotFlash remembers working in his family’s medium-sized grocery store back in the 80’s. A Detroit Tiger (MAJOR league!) player drove truck for one of their suppliers during the off-season. Sports, even major league, have never been great payers except for the stars. Well, and the owners.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          When arbitration eligible, an ML player is likely to get paid a lot more…he will earn lMike a one percenter or better.

  16. behaviourism-hater

    Not a maven, but in the natural language processing game enough to have endured many hand-wavy speeches about the in-vogue technique of “multi-headed attention” that the author pokes at.

    There can be at times a very cavalier attitude about computational resources, so it’s nice to hear something cutting in the other direction.

  17. TalkingCargo

    Just a bit of election trivia. I drive from Miami to Detroit at least 4 times a year and my route takes me up I-95 into South Carolina where I switch to I-26 and eventually end up in Knoxville. On my last 3 drives in June, September, and last weekend, I spotted 2 billboards for Tulsi both northbound and southbound. They were all the same: the right 1/4 to 1/3 had a head shot of her with the American flag behind her left shoulder. The rest of the board was taken up with “TULSI” in big red letters with 2020 in smaller letters below it. Along the bottom was the phrase “A soldier’s heart”. The billboards were quite large and visible from a good distance away. This seems like a good relatively inexpensive way to increase her name recognition. It will be interesting to see if it pays off in the primary.

    1. John

      In the first debate I made the assessment she was the only Democrat on the stage (both nights) who could beat Trump.

      Then of course, the Democrats came after her like a pack of wild hyenas.

      Now she has no chance. Say hello to 4 more years of Trump.

      1. Carey

        >the Democrats came after her like a pack of wild hyenas.

        The term “Hyena [corporatist] Democrats” has been jangling around my head, too;
        especially once their impeachment™ hearings started.

  18. bassmule

    A “positive” story about Sanders in the NY Times. Somehow I don’t think they thought it was going to go that way: “…a review of hundreds of personal letters, city documents and newspaper articles from Mr. Sanders’s time as mayor, and interviews with more than a dozen people involved in Burlington politics in the 1980s, including Mr. Sanders.” Hmm. Looking for dirt and finding only one guy willing to bad-mouth him, and a Democrat at that!

    “Maurice Mahoney, a Democrat who served on the board early in Mr. Sanders’s tenure, said the party had underestimated Mr. Sanders’s gifts for political organizing and channeling indignation, and paid a price for it.

    “He does play the victim card very well,” Mr. Mahoney said, “because, of course, it’s Bernie against all the big boys.” There’s a damp squib for you…

    Bernie Sanders vs. The Machine

  19. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    The speed with which Warren’s polls started plummeting after she explained her plan to “pay for” healthcare confirms that all ambitious politicians should become versant in MMT.


    We know a lot of money has been created and gone to the billionaires, but not to the 99%.

    For the latter, the 99 percenters, we (but who is the ‘we?’) or they see their aggregate money supply lacking. And they might ask, is reducing their taxes the fastest way to inject money into the 99%’s aggregate money supply?

    Because when their portion of the money supply is too much, according to MMT, taxation is needed to soak up that excess.

    (And we know, from experience so far, when the rich’s portion of the money supply – which very, very nearly equals the overall money supply – is super abundant, despite MMT, no new taxes are enacted for the wealthy).

  20. VietnamVet

    The WaPo on the front page describe the “dying too young” as enigmatic. Inside it said that the economy is so great travel will set a record this Thanksgiving. NBC said the deaths are due to obesity, distracted driving and opioid addiction. The corporate echo chamber blames the victim. This preserves their owners rising wealth and quells any unrest.

    In truth, having a family is now unaffordable for the bottom 90% in the USA. Without a purpose in life, human beings turn to addictions that make them feel good. Suppliers today are profit centers for the wealthy who are never jailed.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      This is a more serious problem than you realize. Many Democratic voters believe Republican lies about the Democratic Party and believe the Democrats support policies such as single payer and pro-environmental policies.

    2. ambrit

      Really, it should be; Texas Democrat Party plans to build phony Democrat campaign websites.
      Along with; Kansas Republicans plan to return to Oz.

  21. Amfortas the hippie

    i thought this was very good, and a fitting end to news and politics for me for the weekend(i’ll be shucking hand harvested oysters, cooking like a house on fire, and corralling a bunch of gun-toning cousins chasing bewildered cervids in the woods)
    FTA:”Even in the best-case scenario, politics under a President Warren would almost surely resemble politics under Obama: careful negotiations between progressive professionals and stakeholders in Washington, in which the president seeks the least-worst outcome in a world of narrow and fixed constraints. An infinite variety of Yglesiases and Krugmans will luxuriate in the nuance, integrity, and ferocity of Warren’s bold progressive agenda, even as fundamental economic structures remain unchanged. And then they will be shocked, just shocked, when the next Donald Trump swaggers into the White House and blows it all to bits.”


    happy native american day.
    osda hatlvyadesvi

  22. Wukchumni

    Death Valley is getting a fair amount of rain the next 10 days, which will set it up perfectly for a superbloom in the spring.

    The 2005 version came when there was rain around New Years and carpets of yellow extended far into the outer reaches of canyons as far as the eye could see. Lake Manly, which once was as large as Lake Tahoe and usually dry except for a little brackish area near Badwater, was a 3 mile long 1/4 mile wide 2-3 foot deep lake again, if only on a temporary basis.

  23. DJG

    Thanks for the article about Sheila Rowbotham by Anna Aslanyan. It certainly evokes the era, with a cameo by the timeless Simone Signoret. I’m not clear on whether Godard speaks English or not. What I am hearing in the article is someone who doesn’t have much control over English tone. But Godard, hanging out in London. Wowsers. I am getting a whiff of Gauloises Bleues.

    The big point here is that socialism and left thinking don’t have to be dry. I tend to think that we have to maintain a certain demoncraticy severity (otherwise, we’d believe that Hillary Clinton is a rational person, Mike Pompeo is more than a pissant, and the Democratic Party fan-club antics are somehow political). But I also like the rough-and-ready tone being evoked. A fight over makeup. Wow. Yes, seat-of-the-pants socialism is just fine.

    I know Rowbotham from her biography of Edward Carpenter, one of the founders of modern gay/lesbian liberation, who wrote on many topics, advocated wearing sandals, was a vegetarian, and thought (like Rowbotham) about socialism in its broadest sense–as a dignified way of life. Which leads back to Rowbotham and her advocacy of women’s worth and women’s choices as having meaning.

  24. John k

    Lacks ambition…
    IMO more likely he thinks the stuff in his stump speech gives him best shot to win, and that while he might accept mmt, implying gov can spend without limit under any conditions is a loser without enormous preparation. and I also think that unlike, say warren, he’s a very astute pol.
    Note fdr took us off the gold standard with great resistance even though gb led the way the year before and the country was undergoing a national emergency… and he was pres with the bully pulpit.
    Imagine how msm would follow donors direction, quoting vast numbers of economists and the fed as they attack bernie in unison.
    Hopefully he’s right, he runs a winning campaign, and he can change many things in office.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > IMO more likely he thinks the stuff in his stump speech gives him best shot to win, and that while he might accept mmt, implying gov can spend without limit under any conditions is a loser without enormous preparation. and I also think that unlike, say warren, he’s a very astute pol.

      I agree strongly. The time to prepare the ground for MMT was probably pre-2016. I have heard that Sanders just doesn’t believe it. AoC, on the other hand, does… If there’s anyone who could sell it….

  25. TroyIA

    “U.S. Presses Case to Defang the Global Economy’s Trade Referee”

    I still maintain that if Trump is re-elected either the U.S. will attempt to kick China out of the WTO or the U.S. will leave the WTO and start a new trade organization that excludes China. The differences between the west and China’s economic systems are too great for 1 side to agree to a deal that won’t ultimately lead to substantial change.

    Shoutout to whoever on here recommended China Law Blog.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      the trumpian version of anti-wto-ism is one of the things that gives me heartburn.
      i mean, Battle in Seattle?
      anti-wto used to be a thing of the left…even the wishywashy left, at least in lip flaps.
      but when trump first made anti-wto ,and anti-nato, noises…and i pointed out in various lib/left/prog/dem spaces that this was a good thing, i was suddenly Vladmir.
      i would ask the yellers then, “if trump suddenly came out for ending the war on drugs, would we hafta suddenly be all for it’s continuation?”
      the answer, at least for some, was “yes”.
      this exchange, which repeated across many fora, was what finally caused me to abandon all those fora.
      because what’s the point?
      if trump gets us out of the wto…or nato…hopefully thereby ending both…i’ll lift a bottle of guinness to his health.
      because, unlike team blue, i have principles that are important to me.

  26. anon in so cal

    Hunter Biden and Crack Cocaine:

    Very little coverage in the MSM but this defense by Glenn Greenwald (who sometimes has indefensible views, such as this)

    “Hunter Biden has been open about his struggles with addiction. He’s not running for public office. This has absolutely nothing to do with his untoward behavior in Ukraine. The sources are anonymous & uncertain (they “suspected”). The NY Post is trash.”


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      If I had to make a choice between Buttigieg and Hunter Biden as human beings, I’d choose Hunter Biden in a heartbeat.

      That said, every single argument liberal Democrats have made about Trump and koompromat applies with equal force to Joe and Hunter Biden. Every single one.

  27. Pat

    I might also posit that for many people who have health care as their top issue Warren’s plan screwed her as well. Mostly because it was obvious that there was little or no real fire there in order to get it done. Forget the payment methods, we are talking a pipe dream that won’t provide healthcare for people for years maybe decades if ever. The questionable time line clearly leaves people hanging even if passed as implementation is also stretched out. I think most people who would read her plan are also smart enough to realize that it calls for passage when she would be more concerned with an election and have little power than addressing it in the first year. That it was designed to give stakeholders multiple opportunities to undermine it even if they cannot parse it as completely and clearly as Lambert did.

    This obvious sandbagging of a supposed priority would also bring into question how good the rest of her plans as well. It rendered everything unlikely to pass the smell test.

    I think she kneecapped herself by being “too clever” and disrespectful of the voting public to boot.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think whoever wrote Warren’s “pay for” and “transition” plans, plus whichever strategists approved it, plus Warren herself, either did not know or did not care that there is, in a fact, a single payer movement, and they have considerable expertise and experience in both the technical and political issues.

      The unsung activists in the single payer movement are, as it were, the “dark matter” in the entire episode, which IMNSHO explains why Warren’s rollout went so very badly. Yes, Warren, and very sadly, somehow got Barkan on her side, plus some NGO-adjacent figures, plus Jayapal. However, Jayapal started back-peddling almost immediately and had to vociferously reassure people that she did, in fact, support #MedicareForAll. I suspect, without being able to prove it, that’s because she got a ton of pressure from the movement. Certainly the reaction by dull normal political accounts on the Twitter was really negative, and organic (which you could tell, because there were no polished talking points).

      Warren attempted to “straddle” the issue, appealing to both liberal Democrats (public option now) and the left (single payer later). In fact, she got neither, first because liberal Democrats are now listening to the donor class, which vociferously opposes even the so-called public option, second because it’s not the single payer movement’s first rodeo, they know the playbook, and they know that just as in 2009-2010, the public option is not a path to single payer, but a barrier to it.

      More proof, if proof were needed, that Warren has terrible political instincts. The left will now never trust her, and liberal Democrats will go on to look at the next shiny object, like the extremely en-baubled Buttigieg.

      On the bright side, however, is that Warren will at least have succeeded in staving off Sanders. And if Buttigieg craters, the Fickle Finger of Fate can always turn to Warren once more.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Waiting for the enormous, 24/7, weeks-long liberalgasm in this, since Sondland’s sexist behavior obviously discredits his testimony, plus he should be canceled on general principles.

  28. Lambert Strether Post author

    Waiting for the enormous, 24/7, weeks-long liberalgasm in this, since Sondland’s sexist behavior obviously discredits his testimony, plus he should be canceled on general principles.

  29. XXYY

    Hunter Biden was suspected of smoking crack inside a strip club where he dropped “thousands of dollars” during multiple visits — at the same time he held a seat on the board of a controversial Ukrainian natural gas company.

    Smoked crack is a natural gas, right? I can see the relevant expertise here, despite claims to the contrary by detractors.

  30. Summer

    Re: Amazon and worker negotiations

    “Workers also want Amazon to provide free transit to and from the fulfillment center, as some commute on public transit from as far away as the Bronx and Queens.”

    Yes, it is reasonable sounding enough. But call me wary. I can’t help but think of how USA!USA! has made many jobs were outsourced outside the USA. Then I think of what would be the implications of requiring businesses (if it ever came to that) of providing transportation for workers?

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