2:00PM Water Cooler 12/24/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, if you celebrate Christmas, please have a lovely Christmas Eve. Otherwise, Io Saturnalia (or, I suppose, Festivus).

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“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.

Nationally, we have our first poll after the Xmas debate, and it’s Morning Consult with a nice big sample as of 12/24/2019, 11:00 AM EST. The pattern of Biden first, Sanders strong second, then Warren and Buttigeig is stable. On to Iowa!

And the numbers:

And here is the same polling, represented in small multiple form:

It does look like Sanders is slowly closing on Biden, that Warren is continuing her slow decay — while performing her essential functions of splitting the left and unselling voters on #MedicareForAll — and that Bloomberg is buying his way out of the cellar.

CAVEAT I think we have to track the polls because so much of the horse-race coverage is generated by them; and at least with these charts we’re insulating ourselves against getting excited about any one poll. That said, we should remember that the polling in 2016, as it turned out, was more about narrative than about sampling, and that this year is, if anything, even more so. In fact, one is entitled to ask, with the latest Buttigieg boomlet (bubble? (bezzle?)) which came first: The narrative, or the poll? One hears of push polling, to be sure, but not of collective push polling by herding pollsters. We should also worry about state polls with very small sample sizes and big gaps in coverage. And that’s before we get to the issues with cellphones (as well as whether voters in very small, very early states game their answers). So we are indeed following a horse-race, but the horses don’t stay in their lanes, some of the horses are not in it to win but to interfere with the others, the track is very muddy, and the mud has splattered our binoculars, such that it’s very hard to see what’s going on from the stands. Also, the track owners are crooked and the stewards are on the take. Everything’s fine.

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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Bloomberg (D)(1): “Mike Bloomberg Exploited Prison Labor to Make 2020 Presidential Campaign Phone Calls” [The Intercept]. “FORMER NEW YORK CITY mayor and multibillionaire Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg used prison labor to make campaign calls. Through a third-party vendor, the Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign contracted New Jersey-based call center company ProCom, which runs calls centers in New Jersey and Oklahoma. Two of the call centers in Oklahoma are operated out of state prisons. In at least one of the two prisons, incarcerated people were contracted to make calls on behalf of the Bloomberg campaign…. The campaign then ended the relationship on Monday and said it has asked vendors to do a better job of vetting subcontractors in the future.” • Very on-brand!

Buttigieg (D)(1): “Buttigieg Blames Private Equity Firms for Surprise Billing. One of His Bundlers, a Blackstone Exec, Is Linked to the Problem” [The Intercept]. “Buttigieg’s health care plan takes on the predatory practice of surprise medical billing… In his Medicare for All Who Want It plan, the Democratic presidential candidate pledges to ban the practice, also known as balance billing, which he astutely describes as ‘a deliberate business strategy fueled by profit-driven firms in private equity.’ But Buttigieg is also getting major fundraising help from billionaire Hamilton ‘Tony’ James, executive vice chair at Blackstone, one of the world’s largest private equity firms. Blackstone is an owner of TeamHealth, a hospital staffing company that researchers found to be a key culprit in manufacturing surprise billing schemes.”

Sanders (D)(1):

Sanders (D)(2):

And spending hours on the phone…

Sanders (D)(3): “AOC, Cruz make all-Spanish case for Sanders” [Nevada Current]. “This weekend, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders presidential campaign held several events in Nevada including an all-Spanish language town hall featuring one of the most high-profile Latinas in Congress, New York Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The town hall was held entirely in Spanish, but the meaning of the event was clear in any language: Sanders wants to claim the Latino vote in Nevada. ‘Thank you for your patience, this is my first speech in Spanish. This is a personal project for me because I want to develop my Spanish and improve my Spanish,’ said Ocasio-Cortez in her second language…. Ocasio-Cortez pitched Sanders as an ally with a deep understanding of issues affecting the Latino community and a candidate with a bold vision for healthcare, education, climate change, and immigration reform.”

Sanders (D)(4): “Bernie Sanders Holds Secret Campaign Meeting With 15,000 Working-Class Democratic Donors” [The Onion]. • Earned media!

Sanders (D)(5): “Get Antagonistic” [Medium]. “Every institution of power is aligned against Bernard and looking for fissures to exploit. When controversial issues arise, that Sanders must respond to, resist the urge to concern-troll and trust that he maybe knows a thing or two about how to run his campaign. Should we feel the temptation to ‘push Sanders left’ remember that Bernard’s transformative reforms weren’t even imaginable five years ago. We won’t have another window to win them, if we don’t summon an unbreakable resolve and discipline to will Sanders to victory now. It also means ruthlessly differentiating Bernard from the neoliberal pack. As illustrated above, there is no second-best option to help avert disaster. Warren’s ten months of lying about her support for M4A, only to cave at first sign of heat, should have taught us that.”

Sanders (D)(6): “Too Close for Comfort” [Jewish Currents]. “At a time of cascading political and ecological crises, as the postwar certainties that gave rise to official American Judaism appear to be unraveling, many young American Jews have found in Sanders’s older, subversive Jewishness a way back into politics, and with it, a source of hope. But what draws younger voters, and particularly younger Jews, to Sanders’s candidacy is precisely what repels older voters—even, or perhaps especially, older Jewish left-wingers. What for young Jews are sources of identification and pride—Sanders’s proletarian Jewishness, his agonistic politics—are, for many of their senior-citizen counterparts, reminders of political disappointments and quashed revolutionary hopes. Older Jews ‘have lived through periods when there was huge backlash’ against Jewish socialism and countercultural radicalism, explained Marjorie Feld, a professor of Jewish history at Babson College. With those memories still so close at hand, she said, the heightened visibility of Jewish leftism ‘can feel almost dangerous.'” • Hmm.

Trump (R)(1): “‘It’s killing us’: midwestern workers savaged by Trump’s trade wars” [Guardian]. “Layoffs in manufacturing have become common throughout the midwest even as the overall job market has remained strong. Trump campaigned on promises to bring back jobs, particularly to communities in the midwest that have been devastated from the decline of industry. But manufacturing has continued to suffer…. Most states throughout the US have experienced steady job growth since the economic recession in 2008 and 2009, but growth in the midwest has lagged behind the rest of the country since December 2016, as sectors of manufacturing and agriculture the region relies on have taken hits due to Trump’s trade war.”

Warren (D)(1): “Warren embraced the high-dollar fundraiser circuit for years — until just before her presidential campaign” [WaPo]. “Chase Williams grinned broadly as he stood for a photo next to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, chatting briefly with the senator from Massachusetts before moving on so someone else could have their turn…. The events were part of a high-dollar fundraising program that Warren had embraced her entire political career, from her first Senate run in 2011 through her reelection last year. Warren was so successful at it that she was able to transfer $10 million of her Senate cash to help launch her presidential bid…. ‘I am frustrated because she said, ‘I don’t do this. This isn’t something I do.’ And two years ago she very much did do that, and I was in the room,’ said Williams, who had a photo taken after writing a $500 check….

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“Why New Jersey Congressman Jeff Van Drew Ditched the Democrats and Sided With Trump” [New York Magazine]. “The hope for Van Drew is that his embrace of Trump will help convince voters that his party switch was motivated by a crisis of conscience, rather than a crisis of polling, and ease any bitterness. But it is a big risk for the freshman congressman who represents Atlantic City — a community that’s had bad experiences betting on Trump in the past.”

Health Care

Maybe this is not the kind of medical coding we need:

Our Famously Free Press

Sad, since the Los Angeles Times unionized:

“Letters to the Editor: Thousands were at a Bernie Sanders rally in Venice. Where was the L.A. Times?” [Los Angeles Times]. • Oddly, the Los Angeles Times seems to think the final letter is on point.

Stats Watch

Retail: “The Man Who’s Going to Save Your Neighborhood Grocery Store” [LongReads]. “Harvest Market is the anti-Amazon. It’s designed to excel at what e-commerce can’t do: convene people over the mouth-watering appeal of prize ingredients and freshly prepared food. The proportion of groceries sold online is expected to swell over the next five or six years, but Harvest is a bet that behavioral psychology, spatial design, and narrative panache can get people excited about supermarkets again. Kelley isn’t asking grocers to be more like Jeff Bezos or Sam Walton. He’s not asking them to be ruthless, race-to-the-bottom merchants. In fact, he thinks that grocery stores can be something far greater than we ever imagined — a place where farmers and their urban customers can meet, a crucial link between the city and the country.”

Shipping: “Shopping trends have made an especially tight holiday calendar even more frantic for carriers. Preliminary data show store traffic has been off sharply this season while Adobe Analytics estimates online sales rose 13.6% to $125.6 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 19” [Wall Street Journal]. “ShipMatrix says delivery companies have caught up from early delays in many regions, with on-time delivery rates rising in the second week of December, while carriers say they expect the high volumes to continue into early January.”

Shipping: “Road, aviation, waterborne and rail transportation put together now account for 24% of global greenhouse-gas emissions, according to the International Energy Agency, and 34% in the U.S. Environmental policies so far have tended to focus on passenger transport, but almost half of transportation emissions now come from freight” [Wall Street Journal]. “That leaves the cargo shipping world facing possibly more aggressive anti-pollution efforts in the coming years, with higher taxes and hard limits on operations potentially in the cards.”

Tech: “Uncovering the Disqus data machine” [Martin Gundersen, Thread Reader]. “@disqus shared the personal data of tens of millions of users without them or the websites knowing about it. thread.”

The Bezzle: “‘Wow, You’re Using The Kitchen Again’: The Irritations, Perks Of Longer Airbnb Stays” [NPR]. “Long-term stays are a growing part of Airbnb, which is better known for offering short stays in someone else’s home. In August, Airbnb announced it was buying Urbandoor, which helps people find apartments for extended stays. And the company says these long-term stays are a big part of its future.” • Awesome. I never thought to tenancy-at-will as being innovative, but maybe so!

Tech: ‘I am going to say quiet words in your face just like I did with Trump’: a conversation with the Zuckerbot [Guardian]. “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg won’t talk to the Guardian. So we fed everything he says into an algorithm, built a Zuckerbot, and interviewed it.” • I’m not sure whether this should be dated April 1 or not.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 92 Extreme Greed (previous close: 92 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 85 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 24 at 11:58am.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Israel. “Israel Has been generally quiet the past few weeks” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I would expect the Rapture Index to jump if evangelicals thought impeachment was likely to hurt Trump. So it looks to me like this index is delivering a verdict on impeachment as well.

The Biosphere

“‘Lost crops’ could have fed as many as maize” [Phys.org]. “Make some room in the garden, you storied three sisters: the winter squash, climbing beans and the vegetable we know as corn. Grown together, newly examined “lost crops” could have produced enough seed to feed as many indigenous people as traditionally grown maize, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis… Growing goosefoot (Chenopodium, sp.) and erect knotweed (Polygonum erectum) together is more productive than growing either one alone, Mueller discovered. Planted in tandem, along with the other known lost crops, they could have fed thousands.”

“Spreading the seeds of Indigenous knowledge” [Phys.org]. “University of Queensland ethnobotanist Dr Boyd Wright has been working with the Kiwirrkurra people in Western Australia’s Gibson Desert, investigating the seed of the native tree, warrilyu (Eucalyptus pachyphylla)…. Dr Wright said that while the skills required to harvest and process the seeds were slowly being lost, warrilyu seed was set for a comeback, thanks to some impressive nutritional qualities. ‘It’s truly remarkable – it has the highest levels of magnesium that I’ve ever seen in a seed, it’s extremely dense in calories and its fatty acid profile is also rather impressive,’ he said.”

“Lawyers are going to court to stop climate change. And it might just work” [The Correspondent]. “[C]ourt cases involving climate change were rare until midway through the 2000s. Since then, dozens of cases have been initiated revolving around climate change, with new cases peaking in 2017. In most cases, the targets are governments, but companies, banks and investors are also being summoned to account for the inadequacy of their climate policy. The legal principles invoked by climate cases are essentially universal in (western) legal systems: the polluter pays; it is forbidden to unnecessarily endanger others; high-risk activities require adequate preventive measures. What’s new is that the law is now being used as a potential tool to break through political deadlock and entrenched interests to tackle climate change.” • See NC here on Juliana v. United States.

“The sun keeps getting stranger, dive-bombing solar probe shows” [National Geographic]. “Perhaps most stunning among the initial observations are dramatic magnetic waves that sweep through the solar atmosphere, instantly increasing wind speeds by as much as 300,000 miles an hour and, in some cases, causing a complete reversal of the local magnetic field. ‘The wind is moving so fast, and this thing that’s shooting past us is so violent, it actually flips the magnetic field 180 degrees around in under a second,’ Kasper says. ‘Our first question was, What on Earth are these?'” • Astonishing numbers!


“Board Games Are Getting Really, Really Popular” [Wired]. “The rise of such [board game cafes] is a testmant to the growing popularity of board games. Sales quadrupled between 2013 and 2016, and the annual Gen Con convention now attracts over 70,000 attendees… [Board gamer Jonathan Kay] enjoys the laid back atmosphere among the mostly quiet, bookish gamers. ‘Introverts are actually usually very careful about their social interactions, because they know that if there’s conflict that emerges, they won’t know how to manage it,’ he says. ‘So as a result there’s a heightened sense of politeness and consideration at these places.'”

“The man who made the ‘worst’ video game in history” [The Hustle]. Sounds familiar: “When Raiders of the Lost Ark saw success, Atari’s culture shifted from one led by engineers to one dominated by sales and marketing employees tasked with rushing games to the market.”

Groves of Academe

“Dollars for Profs” [Pro Publica]. “This unique database allows you to search records from multiple state universities and the National Institutes of Health for outside income and conflicts of interest of professors, researchers and staff…. We’ve accumulated by far the largest collection of university faculty staff conflict of interest reports available anywhere, with more than 29,000 disclosures from state schools, which you can see in our new Dollars for Profs database. But there are tens of thousands that we haven’t been able to get from other public universities, and countless more from private universities.”

“Radical Academics for the Status Quo” [Jacobin]. “In the 1990s, Butler was so iconic there was even a fanzine dedicated to her (Judy!). At the time, many Marxist intellectuals distrusted postmodern critical theory as a flight into the purely “cultural” realm, away from the material. … But [Butler’s] Kamala Harris donation suggests that the grouchy old-school Marxists were probably right all along to note a lack of materialism grounding her politics. Sad! Donna Haraway, another postmodern feminist theorist — who, like Butler, was best known in the 1990s but still widely read — also made donations to Harris this year.” • Sigh.

“It was the year of ‘OK boomer,’ and the generations were at each other’s throats” [WaPo]. • By design.

Xmas Pre-Mortem

I don’t like to think of myself as a Scrooge, but Xmas makes me cranky.

“A Florida man who once spent Christmas without gas just paid off the past dues for 36 families at risk of losing their electricity” [CNN]. • This is one of those heartwarming stories. Good for the Florida man and his karma. But what about all the other families who didn’t luck out?

“‘Blue Christmas’ Services Offer Refuge From Holiday Cheer” [NPR]. “The format of Blue Christmas services vary church to church. But the common theme is dropping the usual merry and bright, and recognizing the hard stuff. People offer prayers and light candles, and open up to the sadness they’re carrying. About loss, relationships, addiction.” • And hopefully don’t have to carry so much afterward. Those fixed smiles suck up a lot of energy!

“Fake snow is in high demand. Just don’t ask how it’s made” [Los Angeles Times]. “The white puffs drifting to the ground are basically soap suds, shot into the sky by powerful air blowers stationed on the roofs of nearby buildings. The wintry effect has become a must-have holiday feature for malls, zoos, theme parks and tourist attractions across sunny Southern California. The snow-making entrepreneurs enjoying the surging demand for fake snow are tight-lipped about the ingredients, the ratio of water to soapy additive and the equipment used to spread it.”

And in 2020….

(Clement Vallandigham was a Copperhead, exiled to the Confederacy in 1863.)


Guillotine Watch

“Superyachts Betray Where Billionaires Are Spending Christmas” [Bloomberg]. • Oddly, the article mentions that St. Maartens is #6 on the yacht leaderboard, but doesn’t say who’s #1. Handy map:

“How The Vogue Editors Are Spending Christmas This Year” [Vogue]. One of the captions: “From left to right: Hunza G bikini, £155, available at Mytheresa.com, Jil Sander sandals, avaiable at Jilsander.com, Loewe dress, £2,600, available at Loewe.com, Loewe belt, £395, available at Loewe.com, Taffin ring, price on request, available at Taffin.com, Carmen D’Apollonio lamp, price on request, available at Carmendapollonio.com, Carolina Herrera Jackie carafe, £268, available at Cabanamagazine.com.” • Gruesome. I’m not against luxury, certainly not against beauty. I just think both should be far more widely distributed than they are.

“Who Killed Tulum?” [New York Magazine]. • From February, also gruesome. Makes me think there’s a case for nuclear weapons after all.

Class Warfare

“Most dangerous time to work in Amazon warehouses? Right about now” [CBS]. “Workers at Amazon facilities are twice as likely to be injured on the job as others in the warehousing industry, and those sprains, strains and worse are especially prevalent during the holiday shopping season, according to a report by labor advocates. For every 100 workers at Amazon facilities, nearly 11 were injured on the job in 2018, making it three times as dangerous as employment across the private sector, and twice as dangerous as warehouse work in general, according to the study from a coalition of more than 40 groups, including the National Employment Law Center and United for Respect.” •

“Lazy Poor Person Has Never Earned Passive Income From Stock Dividends A Day In His Life” [The Onion]. •

“Three Theories for Why You Have No Time” [The Atlantic]. “Let’s return to the original question: Why don’t Americans have more free time? In my experience, the debate over labor and leisure is often fought between the Self-Helpers and the Socialists. The Self-Helpers say that individuals have agency to solve their problems and can reduce their anxiety through new habits and values. The Socialists say that this individualist ethos is a dangerous myth. Instead, they insist that almost all modern anxieties arise from structural inequalities that require structural solutions, like a dramatic reconfiguration of the economy and stronger labor laws to protect worker rights. The history of American housework suggests that both sides have a point. Americans tend to use new productivity and technology to buy a better life rather than to enjoy more downtime in inferior conditions. And when material concerns are mostly met, Americans fixate on their status and class, and that of their children, and work tirelessly to preserve and grow it. But most Americans don’t have the economic or political power to negotiate a better deal for themselves. Their working hours and income are shaped by higher powers, like bosses, federal laws, and societal expectations.” •

“An Extract From Mark Fisher’s Ghosts Of My Life” [The Quietus]. This is extremely long and circuitous, and starts with a long explication of a British TV series, Sapphire And Steel. But Fisher is always interesting, and this is interesting: ” The other explanation for the link between late capitalism and retrospection centres on production. Despite all its rhetoric of novelty and innovation, neoliberal capitalism has gradually but systematically deprived artists of the resources necessary to produce the new. In the UK, the postwar welfare state and higher education maintenance grants constituted an indirect source of funding for most of the experiments in popular culture between the 1960s and the 80s. The subsequent ideological and practical attack on public services meant that one of the spaces where artists could be sheltered from the pressure to produce something that was immediately successful was severely circumscribed. As public service broadcasting became ‘marketized’, there was an increased tendency to turn out cultural productions that resembled what was already successful. The result of all of this is that the social time available for withdrawing from work and immersing oneself in cultural production drastically declined. If there’s one factor above all else which contributes to cultural conservatism, it is the vast inflation in the cost of rent and mortgages.” • Maybe a reader who has the cultural references mastered can make more of this than I can.

News of the Wired

“Should the notion of “statistical significance” be abolished?” [Quartz]. “Rule-based thinking is the biggest problem with statistical significance, according to Amrhein, Greenland, and McShane. “The trouble is human and cognitive more than it is statistical: bucketing results into ‘statistically significant’ and ‘statistically non-significant’ makes people think that the items assigned in that way are categorically different,” they write. It is silly, they argue, to consider a result that had a 4% chance of occurring by chance to be real, while a result with a 6% chance to be unreal.”

America is a strange and terrible country. Thread:

There’s still time to whip this up in the kitchen:

Word of the day:

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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 (AM):

AM writes: “Maple and a spruce tree, I think, along the Parkman Mountain carriage road in Acadia National Park, with granite guard stones that look like teeth.”

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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. ewmayer

    “Io Saturnalia” — Or as those sex-crazed Romans liked to say, let a satyr nail ya during Saturnalia!

    But besides libraries, roads, the aqueduct, safe streets at night and groovy year-end orgies, what have the Romans ever done for us?

      1. inode_buddha

        They went from “recline and ball” to “decline and fall”. Personally, I think they simply institutionalized normal human behavior on a large scale.

    1. Fíréan

      Senatus Populus Que Romanusa – SPQR. A new form of government, a republic, a type whereby people elect officials to represent them in that government. Which followed the period when it was kingdom, last king Tarquin.

      The Romans built aquaducts to transport water . , deliverance of fresh water.

      The Soccus

      They had public health and welfare systems.

      They spread the Christian ( Catholic) faith.

      The pressumption of innocence.

      I would continue and yet my preferance, just now, is to the Glühwein , which may either colour or dull my writing in a way not acceptable to the blog here.

      1. ambrit

        Interesting that you mention the ‘official’ spreading of the “Cult of the Nazarene” (Christers,) as a ‘good’ bequeathed to us by the ancient Romans. The history of the development of the Christian faith is a decidedly mixed bag.

      2. Jack Parsons

        The Romans invented political evangelism- the idea that you could become Roman after being born. It is far more common in modern Romance societies than it is in Germanic-derived societies or anywhere else in the world.

        The Christians stole this idea and made it religious.

    2. D. Fuller

      Tradition of laws. Western law traces roots from Greece to Rome. Also? Well documented on how a Republic becomes a dictatorship. Lessons to be learned (centuries later) that some still need lessons about.

  2. Biph

    I’m looking forward to all the stories about the strong showing for the 2nd and 3rd place finishers in Iowa and New Hampshire with a bit of a mention about the 4th and 5th place finishers campaigns being in trouble and no mention of Bernie winning both.

    1. Carey

      Some dude was on Hill/Rising with Ball and Enjeti- I think he’s Editor at the Hill, or something- talking about Klobuchar being in “strong fifth position”.

      Got the feeling that Ball and Enjeti were politely humoring him; maybe because paychecks.

      1. Librarian Guy

        But I see in the 12/24 poll that Bloomberg is now in 5th, must’ve edged TINA Klobuchar out . . . sad that such a sleaze billionaire could get there just with a few weeks of advertising, shut-in and sheeple support, I guess. And so a “civilization” dies . . .

    2. inode_buddha

      Thats what I love most about Sanders campaign: he is showing the press that they are supposed to REPORT the news, not MAKE the news. The press is not supposed to be a branch of government. Ever since Watergate they have fancied themselves “kingmakers”, and they need to have that bit of ego knocked back in a bit.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      From Wikipedia:

      The rapture is an eschatological concept within Christianity, particularly within branches of American evangelicalism, consisting of an end-time event when all Christian believers who are alive, along with resurrected believers, will rise “in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air.”

      If you are one variety of Christian, that’s a good thing. Of course, there’s a lot of theological controversy about this, of the tribulations to come before the Rapture, and the biblically-justified signs of the Rapture to come within those tribulations.

  3. Phacops

    Sad to see that article about Tulum. I have not stayed there, but have been to Playa del Carmen and Akumal for scuba diving some incredible reefs and cenotes. I’ve never liked the programmed tourism that has overtaken them.

    No, I won’t label tourism as authentic or inauthentic as many need a structured experience. What I see as an issue, as where I live, near the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, are negligent tourists who run roughshod over an area, insensitive to the landscape, the natural/cultural environment and people living there. That seems to describe the Tulum partiers in spades. And, to top things off, locals really don’t benefit adequarely from a tourism model that looks a lot like resource extraction for the benefit of the wealthy.

    1. RMO

      What gets me is that if you’re going to get smashed on booze and drugs while cultivating tinnitus by listening to skull-cracking dance music pounding out of a DJ’s sound system – why to go to a distant (and once gloriously beautiful and unspoiled) place to do it? But then I don’t get the appeal of much of the revoltingly ugly clothing in that Vogue piece either. And that’s even before factoring in the absurd prices.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Why go? “Because I feel like it, and I can afford it [externalities be damned].” Why go to “Burning Man”?

        1. D. Fuller

          2004 and I was sitting in a Denny’s in LV (Main and LV Blvd.) at about midnight. Struck up a conversation with a guy who turned out to be one of the founders of Burning Man. Offered free tickets. What really stuck with me though was what he said, “After this year, the rich are going to ruin Burning Man.”

          Or the Double Down that made Maxim Magazine’s top ten bars in the world back in 2007. Being flooded with upper-crust people there to collect “Cool Points” for impressing each other. Black kid was a regular there and these four college Whites from UNLV going to school on mommy and daddy’s dime made some racist remarks and hit the Black kid. IIRC, the bouncer at the time was an ex-Hell’s Angel who flew across from the entrance to the pool table and locked up one of the college kids. I was right behind him.

          Music festivals started by the lower classes being invaded by upper-crust types, turned into corporate fests that are over-priced. Or the Sundance film festival which I consider where upper-crust morons go to stroke each other’s egos nowadays.

          Sat around a table of European nobility with their money and perks. My friends and I were telling stories about what we’d been doing – nice ones. The response was, “How can you do that?” We replied, “Give us your money and we’ll show you how to live.” Don’t need yachts, don’t need to impress others, find the best places while meeting the best people anywhere we go.

          It’s almost as if the upper-crust are jealous of those in the lower socio-economic class for doing what they can’t do – having a good time while having the equivalent of pennies in our pockets. With no need to impress people. It’s as if most of the wealthy have a pathological need to one-up each other; to prove that they are better than everyone else – I say they definitely do.

          1. Librarian Guy

            It’s been called slumming for quite some time . . . Ken Russell’s version of Lawrence’s “Women in Love” had some nice scenes with Oliver Reed’s & Vanessa Redgrave’s characters running into each other while communing with the (presumably more authentic” lessers.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            Many decades ago, I got the feeling that Cadillac owners were uniquely bad drivers . . . to force us to notice their Cadillacs.

  4. kareninca

    I have a friend of 22 or so years (close friends for the past 4-5 years) who is 74 years old and homeless and secretly living where I volunteer. Not with my cooperation or permission; it is just happening somehow.

    She is on some levels smart and competent – and she is a really kind person – but she is no longer able to do things like keep her car properly registered. So her car, which she had been living in, is sitting at the repair garage. She grew up in this rich town in Silicon Valley, and worked her whole life. She will not leave this area; she refuses; everyone she knows is here. In fact she is hunkering down in the complex that used to be the high school she went to in the 1950s. She is not destitute; her net worth is about 750k, due to great frugality. She says that she wants to save that for her old age. The local social workers have given up on her. She has maxed out her time in the local shelter (which rotates between churches, and which I am presently volunteering in in a small way).

    Now the person in charge of the volunteer org has noticed that she is there and is thinking of how to boot her.
    Without a car, she would actually freeze to death. It has been 37 degrees on some recent nights, so even with a car she might freeze to death.
    In the old days, a crazy old lady with assets would be declared incompetent, her money taken, and she would be put in an institution. That doesn’t happen now. There is no such institution. And what counts as crazy? She was booted from a reduced-income old folk’s home for hoarding. She sued to get back in (and lost). Is she crazy? She doesn’t want to leave her home town. No-one will rent to her, with her rental history. I’ve offered to buy her a tent, but she doesn’t want to make a spectacle of herself. Her father was a famous locally in the 1950s.

    Yes, I have read Bartleby the Scrivener.

    She has three siblings. Her sister has dementia. A mutual friend contacted her brothers; they have no interest in her.
    If only she could stay where she is until it warms up. But I don’t think that will happen.
    Any ideas would be welcome. No, she can’t stay with me; we have three adults and a dog now in a 1068 sf. condo.
    Merry Christmas.

    1. inode_buddha

      A bus ticket somewhere. With that kind of money she could easily live out the rest of her life, in her own home, in my area.

      1. jrs

        In almost any area including most areas in California actually (at least with social security), yea the exception would be the bay area. But if she doesn’t want to move …

      2. kareninca

        She could easily live out her life in a lot of areas. Including where I’m from, in rural New England. She won’t move from her home town; that is the problem. Also at this point I don’t think she has the mental ability to move on her own, even if she were willing.

    2. Louis Fyne

      she needs to move to middle America where each $ goes much farther…..but obviously the lack of familiarity/friends and harsher winters are probably the biggest obstacles.

      a shame that the brothers (and presumably any nieces/nephews) have given up on her.

      What is family-blogging wrong with this country/nihilistic society?

      1. kareninca

        I’ve been begging her for more than three years to move to an area she can afford. But she won’t move. She grew up here; everyone and everything she knows is here.

        1. Steve H.

          As people’s mental faculties fade, being in familiar surroundings can be critically important for peace of mind.

          Janet and I lived over half a decade in a small camping trailer on a bit of land. It’s a way.

          1. Carey

            >As people’s mental faculties fade, being in familiar surroundings can be critically important for peace of mind.

            Yes, indeed.

    3. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Does she have Swedish or Danish ancestry perhaps? Then she could move to a country that has compassion for all of its citizens.

      1. kareninca

        No, that is not her ethnic background. She’s eastern European on her father’s side; I believe English on her mom’s side.

        1. inode_buddha

          She would fit right in, in south Buffalo; good mix of Poles, Slavs, various other Euro, and black. North side was always more Irish/Italian. I wonder if she has any religious affiliations that have a national presence? A church group is the best way, IMHO given her condition (I have a few people in similar situation)

          1. kareninca

            She’s agnostic, and has no interest in religion. The church people who have helped her don’t mind that, of course. But it does mean that she does not want to become closely associated with their churches.

    4. Bugs Bunny

      It sounds like she doesn’t want to leave. Or do anything to change her situation. She has enough cash for at least 10 years in a decent apartment in maybe a few miles south of San Jose or upstate a bit. I’d suggest leaving her alone. She’s going to have to deal with it or she’ll get someone else involved to “take care of her”. It’s hard but perhaps the least cruel thing to do.

      1. kareninca

        How can I leave her alone? The person who is in charge of the volunteer operation just asked me to “talk with her.” Not that I can convince her of anything. If she gets booted, she could freeze to death in a night. How can you “leave alone” an elderly person who is so stubborn that she will freeze to death rather than move? I don’t see how that is “least cruel.” Death is death. Okay, I’m religious, I believe there is something more, but I’m not betting on it on someone else’s behalf.

      2. Carla

        I agree, Bugs. It’s very hard to accept that we can’t save people from themselves. It’s hard enough to save ourselves from ourselves. I was extremely fortunate. Over 30 years ago, circumstances conspired to make it evident to me that there was a common denominator in all of my problems, and it was me.

        Sounds like a cliche and maybe it is. But that realization made it possible for me to save my own life. I’m very grateful. My life is immeasurably better now than it was then.

        1. kareninca

          I totally disagree with this perspective. In a different society, she would not have this problem. Thirty years ago, there were cheap rooms she could have rented. Or her family would have stepped in. Or some social workers would have put her into housing. I remember those days. Old people haven’t changed in that time period. This is dirt common confused-old-person-behavior. I can remember when working with that was thought to be a social responsibility. But I guess now it is a matter of Personal Responsibility?

          I never really “got” what neoliberal meant until just now.

          1. smoker

            Hugs to you and your friend, kareninca. You’re not alone in your thoughts of how the vulnerable should be taken care of in any decent society (which Silicon Valley is not). The Quaker Church in Palo Alto may possibly help her out until the weather breaks.

            I visited quite some time ago, and while I was utterly depressed by their seeming unawareness (many seem to have done quite well for themselves) about some Valley trends (particularly Facebook Gentrification right down the way from them, on the ‘darker’ side of Highway 101), they were a far cry above another Church I attempted to seek common minds at about the increasingly vulnerable, through no fault of their own, in Silicon Valley.

            Anyway, you might stop by and see if anyone is there. In addition to the Sunday service, they held meetings and a school there when I visited, so there may likely be someone there. There’s a large Dining/Kitchen Area which surely she could wait out the cold in, and they likely have at least floor mattresses as they shelter and feed homeless on specified dates and hours through Hotel de Zink, which seems likely that you may be volunteering through.

            1. smoker

              Additionally, I think part of what is going on is the 750K you mentioned (possibly the sale of a house in Silicon Valley decades after it was purchased for far, far less). If her monthly benefits are minimal (which they are for millions of elder women), it’s not near as much as it seems for someone who may live 20 or more years longer who will be renting.

              Many, particularly those who don’t live in California, and especially Homeowners who never rented, or haven’t since they were in school, don’t have a clue how disastrously high average rents are, across the country, especially those anywhere near the services a single elder person may need. And a house, or trailer, may well be too much for her to maintain on her own in a neighborhood where she doesn’t know anyone.

              Subsidized Senior Housing is a criminal rarity in much of California with years long waiting lists. Subsidized Senior Housing in Silicon Valley is generally a criminal 1,500 – 1,600 minimum, for studios, or teeny One Bedroom!™ apartments, after the 2-5 year waiting lists. Then there are exorbitant storage costs for treasured belongings (whether one is a hoarder or not), if one lives in a teeny studio, hoping to move to a one bedroom. It sounds like she’s possibly paying those currently. No one wants to put treasured belongings in the dumpster.

              I recently discovered that Subsidized Senior Housing Apartments™ touted in San Jose wanted 60% of one’s monthly pension and/or Social Security benefits (not sure whether it was after Medical Insurance premiums, but still a far cry from the 30%, after Medical Insurance Premiums, many pay in HUD Senior Housing), no parking available except blocks away. That, on top of the fact that most who invest in subsidized housing (HUD, or otherwise) are scummy millionaires many times over, who many times run places like slumlords. Your friend is not stupid, it looks like she can certainly count how much she’ll be could be short if she lives into her 90’s,which it sounds like she may, I certainly hope so, if that’s her desire.

              The very best to your friend, and have the best holiday possible, kareninca, you deserve it.

              1. kareninca

                Actually she could sort of afford $1600/month. She does get some Social Security. But those subsidized apartments are a pipe dream; the waiting lists, as you say, are years long. Real rents in this area are far higher. So yes, she would run out of money fast.

                Someone suggested to me that CA is a big state, and she could just move out to a rural area. I had to explain that so many people have done that in order to find affordable rents, that the areas where the homeless populations are growing fastest, are the rural areas. And the rents in rural areas have skyrocketed.

                1. smoker

                  It’s disgusting that the Federal Government, and particularly the State of California, has allowed this travesty of unaffordable housing, knowing fully well that an enormous aging population of renters (a majority being single, divorced, and widowed females) would not be able to afford roofs over their heads with the minimal housing set up for it, as rents unreasonably explode across this state and across the country. Yet another ugly and lethal aspect of Capitalism.

                  From this October 2018 lengthy Los Angeles Times project piece, by Melanie Mason, California’s senior population is growing faster than any other age group. How the next governor responds is crucial:

                  The fastest-growing population of homeless people is among older adults; in Los Angeles County, the number of homeless people 62 or older surged by 22% this year, even as the overall homeless population slightly dropped.

                  (I am absolutely sure much of the poverty has a lot to do with the increasingly rampant Age Discrimination – no matter the education or not- which no one is even addressing, concurrent with exploding rents,.)

                  Now, the powers that be are consigning millions of younger people to homelessness because nothing has been done for ages to strengthen workers rights, hiring and wage laws, and because the country has always treated renters as second class citizens, now they’re treating them even worse. As I noted here, I suspect the fact that distressed renters across all age spectrums, races, genders and religions (and I should have added educational levels), is the reason why the powers that be have engaged in such vigorous pitting of generations against one another.

                  A national renters lobby with teeth could be massive, and the powers that be would never want that.

                2. smoker

                  Shorter version of my earlier response, which is likely in the holiday moderation cue:

                  It’s disgusting that the Federal Government, and particularly the State of California, has allowed this travesty of unaffordable housing, knowing fully well that an enormous aging population of renters (a majority being single, divorced, and widowed females) would not be able to afford roofs over their heads with the minimal housing set up for it, as rents unreasonably explode across this state and across the country. Yet another ugly and lethal aspect of Capitalism.

                  1. smoker

                    From this October 2018 lengthy Los Angeles Times project piece, by Melanie Mason, California’s senior population is growing faster than any other age group. How the next governor responds is crucial:

                    The fastest-growing population of homeless people is among older adults; in Los Angeles County, the number of homeless people 62 or older surged by 22% this year, even as the overall homeless population slightly dropped.

                    (I am absolutely sure much of the poverty has a lot to do with the increasingly rampant Age Discrimination – no matter the education or not- which no one is even addressing, concurrent with exploding rents,.)

            2. kareninca

              Yes, the Hotel de Zink is the rotating homeless shelter, and it is hosted by local churches. My friend has maxed out her time in that system, so she can’t stay in it. The churches involved don’t get to set the rules re who gets to stay.

              The casual sheltering that you are suggesting is totally illegal. There are zoning issues, liability issues, housing law issues, sanitation issues (most churches don’t have showers), cost issues, volunteer issues (most churches have only a few really active members). That is why churches work through programs like Hotel de Zink. It is a way to deal with complex and costly legal requirements. A church can’t afford a lawsuit brought by annoyed neighbors. And no, you can’t just shelter people secretly, as you can see from what is happening where my friend is now.

              1. scoff

                Do you know of any other people in a similar situation in the area? I know a lot of millenials are sharing apartments to keep costs down. If other elders with limited means could pool their resources, the solution might be in a communal setting where 3 or 4 people got together to rent a place that would otherwise be out of reach individually.

                Maybe one of the more community-minded local churches could help organize such an effort for the kinds of people who are trapped in such circumstances. After all, it does (or should) fall within their area of concern.

                1. kareninca

                  A lot of house sharing goes on around here. On the one hand you get ever-empty houses that are owned by investors from overseas. On the other had you get houses that are packed like sardines. There are programs to match people up with housing. But there is not enough housing.

              2. smoker

                I see your point, and recollect reading about those liabilities, but if it is a person of stable mind, and not physically disabled, or substance addicted, I would hope that letting one elderly person in on nights where the temperature drops to the mid or lower thirties, would not bring the Law to the door. Maybe they could even make her a part-time volunteer worker to get around the liability.

                In lieu of that, perhaps the best thing, since she has the money for meals, is to map the 24/7 restaurants like Denny’s, I suspect most employees (particularly because those employees are likely to be impoverished themselves) would not complain about a 74 year old woman dozing off at a warm table when the weather is in the thirties, and who knows, maybe some kind soul would befriend her and invite her to stay for the night or more.

                1. smoker

                  As to a my suggestion of the Church hiring a seventy four year old as a part time volunteer, or a paid employee, I don’t see why not, older persons than her are elected/re-elected, and run for Presidential, or Congressional, office all the time. The Federal Government, and the California Government, has/has had a number of stunningly wealthy politicians who fit that bill.

                  And giving her back her dignity could have some amazing effects, it usually does.

                2. kareninca

                  It wouldn’t bring the police to the door. It would bring the neighbors to their lawyers, in a heartbeat. And a congregation cannot afford to respond to that.

                  You can’t do anything in secret around here in a residential neighborhood (which is where many churches are). Housing someone where people are not ordinarily housed, is exactly the sort of thing people love to report to one another and gossip about on NextDoor. The surveillance state, brought to you courtesy of your neighbors.

                  1. smoker`

                    You didn’t respond to the possibility of her being hired as a volunteer, or employee, working a night shift. I’m curious as to your thoughts about that. Why not?

                    1. kareninca

                      I don’t want to get into the details of the how my own church works. So, let’s take another local church as an example. They certainly certainly couldn’t pay someone; they don’t have the money. And their neighbors are not morons; they can tell if someone is sleeping there. There are no night shifts at these churches. The neighbors are ten feet away. Some elderly lady shambling in at night and out in the morning with her beloved bags of possessions is not going to make anyone think (or believe) “volunteer”; they are going to see that the church is letting a homeless person live on the premises. Maybe where you live churches are in more remote areas and don’t have neighbors up close?

                    2. smoker

                      I was referring to her being there on the nights when it went into the thirties, not actually living there daily,. and was thinking of the setup as I recall of the Quaker Church in Palo Alto. It’s more than one building and set back from the street, with fences on both sides and quite a few trees if I’m remembering correctly. In back of it is a field belonging to a local school with some goats on it. It has a small library, the meeting hall, the school and a very large dining/entertaining and kitchen area.

                      Additionally, there’s a California [Quakers] Friends Legislative Committee (which lists California’s increasing poverty as one its top priorities), they likely have some legal minds who can assist in setting up a plan that would pass muster.

                      Also, I meant possible hiring as a volunteer to mean non-paid.

                      (This is in reponse to your 12/26/19 response, kareninca.)

          2. Bugs Bunny

            I wouldn’t want your friend to suffer either and my response was not suggesting that you “cut your losses”, if that’s what you mean by neoliberalism.

            I don’t want to go into details but I’ve been in similar situations and eventually realized that what I believed was help was actually not doing anything to improve a friend’s situation and moreover causing extreme resentment and more anxiety (for the friend) about making others happy. When I pulled away, the friend found others or did something that in retrospect improved things in the way she needed, not what others thought she needed.

            1. kareninca

              I’ve known her for over 20 years. I am not into controlling other people at all, and am not especially effectual myself, so I have only stepped in on occasion in small ways when she wanted me to and I could do something that didn’t overwhelm me. All that I am doing now is not complaining about what she is doing (since that would get her booted instantly), and hanging out with her and chatting, which I would do anyway since we are friends. I don’t have some magical access to housing, or some way to make a person less stubborn. So I’m not really trying to “help”. There are other people around who are trying to help her in more tangible ways. It is just that her problem is right in my face at the moment, and there is much more urgency than usual due to its being so cold at night.

              Actually I guess this shows how lame I am. If I were effectual, I would be the “rushing in to help” person, rather than the person who is the actual friend of the homeless person. Hahaha.

          3. Temporarily Sane

            Yup, nothing says neoliberal more than using the “can’t save someone from themselves” excuse to turn one’s back on a person who is vulnerable to destitution if left on their own. Mass acceptance of the idea that people deserve to be socially abandoned and left to suffer alone if they have “difficult” personalities and require some human compassion goes a long way to explaining why our society is in disarray.

            Neoliberalism is sociopathy dressed up in bs euphemisms for people who are too cowardly to own their status driven hyper-individualistic lifestyle and the casually cruel behavior that comes with it. At least Ayn Rand, whose philosophy they personify, was honest with herself.

            1. ambrit

              Considering that Rand accepted Social Security and Medicare, and then produced some truly phantasmagoric rationalizations for so doing, she may have been honest with herself, but her record of honesty with others is spotty.

    5. JTMcPhee

      How many uninhabited houses are there in your town? How many unoccupied residential properties? How many church complexes have unused or underused space? If there ever was a case for application of eminent domain, taking property for public use, this might be it. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, neoliberal dogma activation: https://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/news/757-17/new-tool-combat-homelessness-mayor-de-blasio-moves-convert-cluster-buildings-permanent#/0 “Trusted not-for-profit developers” = oxymoron?

      Of course those who are not “productive” are ipso facto dispensable. Deplorable, isn’t it? When the rest of us, many of whom are likely to get to that Or a worse stage, will there be anyone willing to provide “room in the Inn?” Or even allow crashing in some dirty stable? Let alone the last refuge of the American, one’s own bought and paid for automobile?

      1. kareninca

        Why is it that everyone always suggests the churches? For one thing, they are nearly the only ones already doing that in this area (my church is hosting the rotating shelter this month). This is not a source of help that is going to be around much longer. Most church members are old, the churches themselves are broke (other than the value of their property), and local churches are closing left and right. The First Baptist church in downtown PA had 700 members in its heyday; it got down to about 40 members; it just shut its doors. So much for the help that they used to provide. The money from the sale of the property will go to good causes, but there will be no additional housing; someone will likely buy the land as a way to park dirty money.

        I do agree with your general point. Local big tech businesses have a lot of empty space at night.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Yes, the general point is that in a lot of places where the Few and the System have dispossessed the mopes, driven them to various kinds of deprivation and insanity, there’s lots of housing that’s vacant. Round here, coastal Florida, there’s lots of it. Lots of mostly unused rich folks’ pieds-a-terre, and of course a boatload of empty hotel rooms and time shares. In other parts of town there are foreclosed houses, all housing stock that could put a roof over, and toilet seat under, a lot of people put out by the Neoliberal Nightmare.

          There’s no picking on churches. The one I go to has several thousand members and already does a bunch of good works – Habitat for Humanity, food for needy folks, tutoring kids in the public schools in the poorest section of town. Stuff like that. I used to attend a church that did open its off-hour doors to homeless folks, which range from the most incorrigible street people with all the problems they could possibly have, to single moms with kids who work two jobs while living in a van or sedan and would love a tiny leg up into a clean and relatively secure space. I’ve also attended churches with wealthy congregations who collect a nice tithe but spend it all on Edifice Complexes and swimming pools for themselves.

          Yes, the Few do not want to have these uncomfortable reminders of the effects of their gluttony around, and bring their big guns to bear on the local governments to get the unsightly out of view. Might do the charmers good to have to live cheek by jowl with people who range the arc of decency from sociopath like many of their class, to people who have been forced by circumstance to fall on the wrong side of that one-payday-away from “sleeping rough.” And for those who whine about “property rights,” having used the levers of wealth concentration to strip other people of their rights (how many fraudulent foreclosures, again? how many “tax sales?”), maybe a little hair of the dog they have bitten would do them some moral good.

          Some rough sleepers are committed to the outside life, for whatever reasons. But a lot of them would gain from having a clean place to sleep and bathe. It’s complicated, of course. And it all gets down to what kind of political economy a locale ends up with. Which is all about power and preferences and priorities.

    6. The Rev Kev

      A bitter lesson to learn is that you can’t help people that aren’t prepared to help themselves. Sad but true and I have seen it so often.

        1. Carey

          +1, though I’d humbly amend it to “*need to do* what is familiar..”

          Maybe there’s a message in that.

          We so, so smaht, as our culture dies

    7. c_heale

      Well I can understand her not wanting to move. As people get older they like to have familiar things around them. The problem is with modern day society seeing such people as disposable – not with her. Can someone else register her car for her until it warms up, and then try to resolve the problem?

      1. EMtz

        Age is only a part of the picture. I know young people who are risk averse and fearful of change, too.

        At age 70, I disposed of about 90% of my possessions and moved to the Central Méxican altiplano. One of the best decisions I ever made. Benign climate, simple but fantastic food, low cost of living (I can almost live on my Social Security check and not feel deprived – can you believe that?) and, most of all, truly wonderful people (I’m not living in an expat ghetto, either, which is easy to fall into here).

        It’s not paradise. No place is. But the challenges of learning another language and how to Be in a whole new culture feel as if they’re adding years to my life – and certainly quality to it. Have not been back to the US for 3+ years. No need to.

        So please, this is not just about age. It’s about one’s orientation in life and this goes much deeper than years.

    8. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I’ve offered to buy her a tent, but she doesn’t want to make a spectacle of herself.

      I know this is not adequate to the problem, but perhaps an excellent jacket, or perhaps a blanket, or even something like an overstuffed chair (to keep her off the ground). Then again, there are all “homeless”-style solutions, and perhaps she would not accept them. Perhaps really good thermal underwear, that people cannot see?

      From the 30,000 foot perspective, many (I won’t say all) of us, when we reach a certain age, give some consideration to how we would prefer to leave this life. If she is competent, and in the throes of making that decision, or has made it, there is little for you to do, and perhaps nothing you should do. (I also looked at the history of temperatures in San Jose. Could be worse.)

      1. kareninca

        She is a cheerful, sociable person who has many interests and who is very much attached to life. She is not hoping to die of hypothermia or anything else. She does not see herself as being old; she expects to live another 12 years, and very well may, if she doesn’t freeze to death. Her age is not a factor in this; I have not seem much of a correlation between age and attachment to life. Some of the oldest people I have known, were the most attached to living.

        If she were depressed and thinking of ending things, I would help her find a psychiatrist. Depression is often treatable, in the elderly as well as in the young.

      2. Yves Smith

        Could she afford an RV? I would assume there is a camp for them nearby. Although I gather some camps aren’t too safe. But this would give her housing and options.

        Airstreams are pretty! There’s one that attaches to a car that looks nice, believe it or not. Could she buy a cheap used car and the attachable Airstream? I know she wants to save $, but $100,000 for a quasi home would give her an affordable monthly cost and some options. And an Airstream would be seen as charmingly eccentric….

        Or there is the bottom of the line Interstate Nineteen, which gets you a full motorhome. Those seem to run recent models around $125K but she might have to go somewhere and drive it back….

        1. ambrit

          Airstream has made some very nice smaller models over the years. We lived in a ’63 27ft. model for three or four years back in the gravy days. To pull one, you really need a heavy station wagon or preferably a truck. The issue is not just engine pulling power, but frame and suspension. The trailer puts a lot of weight on the rear axle of the pulling vehicle. (As an added bedevilment, front wheel drive cars can lose some of their traction in front from the lever effect of all that weight on the back axle.)
          Moving around with a pull behind trailer is work. Driving the pair around takes some getting used to. Trailers often decide to go off on a literal tangent at the most inopportune times. Connecting and disconnecting the trailer from the vehicle is a constant chore. Add in filling propane bottles if so equipped, draining effluent tanks if one stays at a place without sewer connections. Etc etc.
          The other problem with RV living today is the rise of the ‘restricted stay schedules.’ A lot of places, especially State Parks, have maximum lengths of time one can stay in the same spot. Another version of this ‘rousting out the undesirables’ methodology is the growing trend of municipalities restricting the length of time one can keep an RV on your own property. This exact rule was put in place in Hancock county of Mississippi after hurricane Katrina. This was promoted as a stealth method of imposing gentrification in the county by neoliberal power players in the region. Suddenly, the ground rents at the extant trailer parks skyrocketed. I would not be a bit surprised to learn that Silicon Valley has it’s own stealth gentrification program in play.
          The sad part of this story is that, apart from some big hearted acquaintances like ‘kareninca,’ this woman seems to have outlived all of her friends. That her immediate family are acting like hard-hearted fiends is not uncommon in family dynamics.
          The very best of luck to her from the Deep South.

        2. kareninca

          She could afford an RV. There are no RV parks nearby – not at all (there are a few mobile home parks, but they are full/very costly). But the major streets of Palo Alto are lined with RVs. It is quasi legal to live that way, if you are able to keep the thing moving, from day to day. I’ve suggested that to her in recent years. She always said she liked her car; that staying in it was as good from her perspective as an RV (but that she wanted an actual home). But at this point, she is having trouble getting and keeping her car registered, let alone an RV. Her biggest concern is getting towed. Her car has been towed several times. She can’t seem to keep track of how long a notice has been on the windshield, and how quickly she has to move the car. And she is constantly letting the battery die, since she puts the lights on. We have had times when she beat the deadline of the notice by minutes (due to the kindness of local church people who got her battery functional). When her car is towed, it is very expensive to get it back.

          An RV is a good option for a lot of people. It may end up being an option for her, if a particular acquaintance of hers (who is more effectual than I am) can get her to buy one. And if we could figure out how to keep it from being towed; presumably that tow would be extremely expensive. She is a tiny person, so an Airstream might be a bit big.

          1. meeps

            If your friend can be brought around to considering an RV, there are small, lightweight, teardrop-style Rpods and minimax trailers which might be manageable for a smallish person to tow and operate. When last I checked, one of these could be had for a lower price-point than an Airstream, although those are quite nice. Not having lived full-time in a trailer, I can’t attest to the quality of the lightweights, but I imagine they’d be an improvement over a car. Good of you to help her evaluate options.

            1. kareninca

              I just checked online. Those are very reasonably priced, considering.

              The thing is, she will not act unless she has too. I went in last night – Christmas eve – and told her that it looked like she was going to be booted soon. When I tried to talk about other options, she kept changing the topic. She has found a small warm niche and she doesn’t want to leave it or think about leaving it.

    9. Phil in KC

      I have learned the hard way that it is not help if it is not asked for. Is she asking you for help?

      More to the point, it sounds like she wants to call the shots. So let her. If she knows enough to come in when it is raining, then she likely knows enough to come in when its freezing.

      I’d try to help those who are truly in dire need, i.e. those who don’t have assets in six figures. You sound like a good-hearted person. Don’t let this one person absorb all of your goodwill and energy.

      1. kareninca

        She knows enough to come in when it’s freezing?????

        WTF. That is the whole problem. There is no place for her to “come in” when it is freezing. For the last few years she has slept in her car. She is accepting of that (not thrilled, but accepting). But it is just too cold right now. She is hunkered down in a building. If she gets booted, she will not have her car (it is at the shop). She is old and tiny and skinny. Can you picture being old and wandering around looking for a warm place to go into at night? There is nothing open around here at night within walking distance. That is exactly how people freeze to death, including people who have enough assets to do otherwise. Her assets are not relevant, as far as I can see – she is not asking me for money.

        She’s asking me for help in getting her permission to stay where she is, but I cannot get that for her.
        Fortunately in two days the unusual cold snap here is supposed to end.

  5. Karla

    “Harvest Market is the anti-Amazon.”
    Not one word about the quality of the food, just architecture and sales gimmicks.

    I’m sorry, I’m not going to get cancer, endometriosis or become infertile from eating GMO pesticide reside, toxic junk food, no matter how nicely your store is decorated.

    Organic sales have more than DOUBLED since reaching $24.9 billion in 2010, according to the survey.
    “The U.S. organic market hit a new record high in 2018, reaching $52.5 billion in sales, up 6.3% from the previous year, according to the 2019 Organic Industry Survey released by the Organic Trade Association.”
    70 Billion in five years:

    1. Yves Smith

      1. Amazon abuses its employees. But that’s fine if you get your organic food? Seriously?

      2. Whole Food’s veggie dept even before Amazon was about half non-organics. Its strategy seems to be to hit customers with organic sticker shock and then have them recoil and buy overpriced conventional produce.

      3. Whole Foods has been downgrading its produce post Amazon:


      4. Amazon also got rid of a lot of terrific products by small makers because they weren’t big enough to supply nationally. I used to go to the Whole Foods here only to buy a particular grass milk yogurt that was delish. No more. And no one else carries it, so it appears Amazon killed the vendor by yanking its orders.

      5. Its fish has always been terrible.

      1. Librarian Guy

        Whole Foods service is declining as well. I get their buffet breakfast once a month before an a.m. event far from home, & the last time I went was a major hassle. Too few checkers so I had to go to the self-check line, then the machine wouldn’t work, then at home I found it charged me 2x, had to file dispute with my Credit union. The coffee bar had nothing palatable, Mocha or decaf, I thought there’d be real coffee 20 minutes later when I finished my breakfast, at that point there was just Decaf . . . I know, 1st world problems.
        They were never a mainstay of mine, but unsurprising that Bezos’ squeeze the labor style would ruin something that was an occasional guilty pleasure.

  6. Mark Gisleson

    I downloaded Sapphire and Steele a while back and watched some episodes. I think The Quietus article is oddly clueless. He has the era right, but doesn’t seem to realize that the creatives that made TV worth watching back in the days of the networks simply moved to pay TV if for no other reason that to be able to use adult swears. Quality never vanishes, it just switches venues.

    I’m sure most NC readers who clicked this link immediately juxtaposed the end of Sapphire and Steele with the ending of The Sopranos. I haven’t made it that far yet, but reading about S&S’s final episode certainly made my mind go there. And then it went to the Clinton Sopranos commercial. And then I lost the holiday spirit altogether.

    But just the same, Season’s Greetings y’all!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Quality never vanishes, it just switches venues

      Hence podcasting? (Though I hate, hate, hate that content I could read in three minutes and copy and link to, now takes an hour to hear, and is impossible to cite to. Real agnotology.)

    2. Jack Parsons

      Sapphire&Steel’s “last episode” was obviously a cliff-hanger in expectation of a fourth season. That epi was darker than previous epis- as a kid’s show it was generally bleak. I watched them all several years ago and was generally impressed with the emotional sophistication of the show.

  7. David

    You should read the Mark Fisher piece – indeed, you should read as much as you can of what he wrote before his tragic suicide a few years ago.
    Fisher’s point is that in the 50s and 60s, there was full employment, a welfare state, and, critically, education that was not only free but actually subsidized. I was actually paid to go to university. This provided a safety net and a permissive environment for experimentation. Art Schools were particularly important – Lennon, McCartney and Townshend, and probably many others, came out of them. You could be a sort of student while developing your own musical style, and you didn’t have to be wealthy to do so, or wind up mired in debt. This enabled a host of musicians from the working class and the lower middle class to practice and experiment. That no longer exists, and economic insecurity, expensive education and the return of social rigidity have made musicians unadventurous and conformist. Like everything else, neoliberalism has cannibalised music, and today’s musicians , as Fisher points out, tend largely to recycle the past. The fact that many young musicians have turned to sampling is in a sense a gesture of despair at the inability to create new styles any more. And of course the explosion of innovation in the 60s and early 70s did pretty much corner the market – how many genuinely new popular music styles have emerged since, say, 1975?

    1. witters

      . Art Schools were particularly important – Lennon, McCartney and Townshend, and probably many others

      Including Keith.

    2. John A

      Exactly. Oasis is a case in point. The Gallagher brothers were able to survive reasonably well on social security benefits and spent their time practising/rehearsing and eventually getting a record deal etc. Nowadays, kids like that would not even qualify for any kind of benefits, probably be homeless or working in some zero hours deadbeat job that left them too tired to chase their dreams.
      JK Rowling and others can probably say something similar. She wrote the first Harry Potter book jobless in a cafe.
      Now it is only rich kids that can afford to do internships, spend time practising or going to drama school as the unemployment rate for actors is horrendous and these days, little if any social security safety net for young kids trying to make their way in any kind of artistic/cultural field.

    3. MoBee

      David: Hip hop and rap.

      (I had already read the piece, and totally agree that subsidizing working class youth education can lead to artistic innovation. More of that, please, though in this day and age…ha.)

  8. Bugs Bunny

    Re: Sanders (D)(6): “Too Close for Comfort” [Jewish Currents].

    As an “older Jew” (how old is older??), I completely disagree with this analysis. Bernie Sanders represents an essential part of our heritage as seekers of social justice, as maligned as that term has become. A lot of the Jewish guys who got in the front lines to support the Civil Rights movement were beat up or dragged off to jail. This image is so essential to our role in American political discourse that any Jew on the left would be at pains to refuse to respect it.

    I can see how perhaps an American foreign policy that focuses on Palestinian rights and reparations would be extremely divisive for the Jewish community, but I’ve never heard anything that bold that from Bernie or his campaign. Maybe that’s a fear. I don’t fear it. The last one to really push Israel was, believe it or not, Bush Sr. Israel is governed by a much farther right group than in the 1950s-90s and I’d like to see some assertiveness from the US to force Israel to settle rather than fight.

    Trump sure isn’t going to do that. But I don’t think a President Warren would either. Maybe a President Sanders would have the guts though.

    1. Biph

      If nothing else it’s much harder for the Likudniks to call him anti-Semitic and actually have that charge stick.

        1. barefoot charley

          It’s easy, the inside-the-tent phrase for ‘anti-Semite’ is ‘self-hating Jew,’ another wheezy ADL trope. And I completely agree that Bernie is the living next generation of righteous, angry old Jewish guys who inspired me as a child to think there actually was an arc of justice.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      Today’s Social Justice Warriors have poisoned the well of Social Justice which yesterday’s Social Justice Workers drew from, or filled up, or whatever.

      Thanks to the SJWs and the COWokenists, its not your father’s Social Justice anymore.

  9. chuck roast

    Re The Morning Consult Poll:

    They must have polled all 71 people in Delaney’s family, and I’m figuring his 0.14% rise in the latest poll is due to around 10 of his extended family members dumping Castro because they know he can’t win. That’s right. I have put my extraordinary analytical powers to work for the benefit of the NC fellow travelers. I’ll keep you informed. Where’s my drink…

  10. vegasmike

    Older Jewish left winger are paranoid for a very good reason. They remember the McCarthy period. Many academics, union people, and artist were blacklisted. A high per cent of the people on the black list were Jewish. Also, if you’re more historically minded, many Jewish European Jewish leftists ended up in jail or were assassinated, even before the holocaust. On the other hand, unlike the Mid Century, Jewish people are only slightly over represented on the left.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      See my comment above – maybe you disagree but I don’t see how the climate is anything at all like it was in the 50s. And moreover, even the fact that Bernie is considered a top or _the_ top candidate for president should dispell those fears. Heck, Lieberman was nearly VP in 2000. But we’ll see.

      1. ambrit

        Yes, and I have always wondered why Lieberman didn’t “prod” Gore to fight to the bitter end in 2000. What was more ‘valuable’ to Gore and Lieberman than being President and Vice President? The 2000 election convinced me that Gore Vidal’s quip about America having one political party with two right wings was dead on.
        The ‘climate’ today is seemingly like the ’50s in that we see a dominant elite valiantly striving to impose Centrist Conformism on the ‘masses.’ Back then, the accusation of ‘Commie’ would ruin your career. Today. the charge is ‘Not Sufficiently Supportive of the State Militant.’ I remember the ex-blown up’ Afghanistan veteran I worked next to at the Big Boxx Store once remarking to me after he had been “thanked” for his service; “Then why did they send us out to kill and die for nothing?”

      2. vegasmike

        The climate isn’t anything like the 50s, agreed. But these people were young in the 50s and that shaped their world view forever.

          1. jrs

            I mean I was raised by an old style New York jew, but not a Boomer. Never identified as socialist or communist, a Dem like FDR was a Dem. Capitalism had failed, they remembered the Great Depression, but communists weren’t the answer, they were off defending the USSR after Stalin, they were a woeful misguided bunch one could only roll their eyes at. Yes all such things seem more forgivable now, but that’s in light of biosphere collapse under capitalism … in light of the absolute present world that is.

            But unions, FDR Dems etc. of course those were the answer, that may have been left but it wasn’t at all confusable with actual USSR style communism. But Boomer politics are VASTLY more right wing than WWII era politics it seems. And religion and ethnicity doesn’t matter all that much as Boomer politics seem to be that way across the board.

  11. martell

    That German word, ‘Schadenfreude,’ pretty much sums up my feelings about Judith Butler and her reversal of fortune. I didn’t read her book back when it was making waves (and winning awards for terrible writing). Didn’t have time to waste on authors who can’t be bothered to make themselves clear. Besides, second hand accounts from those who should have been in a position to know (friends in Women Studies programs, lesbian and gay activists among fellow grad students) reminded me of that old quip: “There are things in this book that are new and things in this book that are true; but the things that are true aren’t new and the things that are new aren’t true.” But most of all, she seemed to me to have successfully marketed herself as a left-wing radical without appearing to be anti-capitalist. And this was a great part of her appeal to her many academic admirers. It was an image they wished to cultivate for themselves. It promised all the rewards of political, seemingly left radicalism within the humanities at none of the cost of actually opposing the powers that be, or at least the powers pushing the neoliberal agenda both within the academic world and without.

  12. Acacia

    “Radical Academics for the Status Quo”

    Underneath the “radical” veneer, Judith Butler has long been about the status quo. One of the highest-paid profs in the Humanities at UC Berkeley ($300K/year salary plus $59K of benefits — you can verify this online). Big house in the richest part of the city. BMW. Lunches with Deans. No surprises, really.

      1. D. Fuller

        Well, many of those academics could be employed by the rich in private schools, thus depriving deserving lower-income students of the chance to learn and make a difference. Though the explosion in student debt while other countries are catching up to or surpassing The US, send their lower-income “best and brightest” students to colleges and universities for free.

        Other countries send their students to top US universities so that those students graduate and return to their home countries. The better to compete against the US. All for FREE. While US students are expected to wrack up $60k or more in debt – many which can not afford it.

        1. Acacia

          Fully agree with your second point about student debt. Regarding your first point, would lower-income students really be deprived if Butler took a job at one of the Ivys? Alternately, would Butler stick around if UC were to cut her annual salary to “merely” $200K, so that those deprived lower-income students would benefit?

          Also, a broad study (in 2017) of economic mobility at various universities indicates that UC Berkeley students’ median family income is $119,900, and 54% come from the top 20 percent. Only 7.3% of students come from the bottom 20% of society. The findings are worth a look.

          Needless to say, the demographics of public universities have really changed since the inception of a state institution like U. of California.

  13. Acacia

    FWIW, I did read her book and you didn’t miss anything.

    As for “opposing the powers that be”, Butler has recently shared her paranoid fantasy “dream sequence” of Trump’s suicide.

  14. Lee

    “Board Games Are Getting Really, Really Popular” [Wired]. “The rise of such [board game cafes] is a testmant to the growing popularity of board games…”

    If you enjoy board games and other nighttime social pursuits in a convivial atmosphere and find yourself in Berkeley, CA, the place to go is the Albatross Pub. Providing good fun since 1964, it is the oldest extant pub in town.

  15. Summer

    People forget that a lot of new styles on misic came about because, despite attempts, someone couldn’t play a style exactly like the one they admired.

    I was thinking if “trap” music passed the test as all that new, but Luke Skywalker (2 Live Crew) would say…”Hold my beer.”
    And hats upon hi-hats by some killer bebop drummers in the past….

  16. Tom Stone

    AirBnB’s plan to handle rentals that run longer than a month are likely to run into some problems with CA Landlord/Tenant Law.

    1. ambrit

      Well, AirBnb’s play book is all about breaking as many laws as possible. All for a profit, of course. (Funny how some people think that money makes everything better somehow.)

  17. Misty Flip

    Unaffordable rehearsal space courtesy of a chronic real estate market isolates everyone within their bedrooms. Accommodating collaboration across time and space requires the precision and modularity of looped sequences, a matter of artistic materialism. When band members rehearse together, the time kept, the rhythm is subtly fluid and drifts. Only machines can produce sound which can be infinitely reconfigured and passed individual to cool individual. Big Band leader Raymond Scott and his Manhattan Research engineered polyphonic sequencing in 1946, seemingly broadcasting music from a moon base.
    The secret history of commercial music being liberated from the rinky-dink tin of the transistor radio to be felt in Jamaican-style sound systems begins with the emancipated half-steps of ragtime. Black Moses re-appropriating materialism; the avant-garde piggybacking on the new inventions: telegraph and radio. The Exodus can be heard by the square masses in down-and-out Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and the Stones’ Vodou worship of Muddy Waters amid London’s rubble. Ishmael Reed and the Wu-Tang Clan can explain better than I.

    1. c_heale

      Well the worldwide upcoming property crash is likely to lead to a lot of free or very cheap rehearsal spaces…

      1. ambrit

        If the present elites are still in some sort of control during a slow motion crash, most of those ‘newly vacant’ rehearsal spaces will be demolished rather than re-purposed. I see this happening all around us here in the Deep South. Possibly rehabilitable single family structures are being demolished rather than rehabilitated. This supposedly maintains the “market” values of the remaining housing stock.
        Never underestimate greed.

    1. Carey

      Thanks for that link. I’ve been finding it really helpful to go back to writing from the recent past, particularly of the blithely confident neolibs like Sunstein™ and others of his
      class, to see how their claims and predictions have played out.

      “You didn’t really take the medicine… now double the dose, for your Protection and Security!”


  18. Carey

    MIke McCallum vs Roy Jones Jr. (1996): https://hooktube.com/watch?v=frY4Fj-NX5o

    Roy Jones Jr was, of course, out-of-this-world talented; but I *loved* the way McCallum
    fought (at 39!), against him, James Toney (twice), and Donald Curry. McCallum, aka
    ‘The Bodysnatcher’, took out Curry with one fearsome left hook.. oddly, none of
    the four kings (Hagler, Hearns, Leonard, Duran) fought McCallum.. Mmm.


  19. Anon

    RE: Granite guardstones in Acadia NP

    That is typical fare now in the urban environment. It deters skateboarders from doing an ollie/boardslide.

  20. Exley

    I only want to comment to say that i was so thrilled to see the us based financial/current events blog i read daily (naked capitalism) intersect today with the uk based music/culture blog i also read daily (the quietus) … did not see that coming!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      NC is extremely eclectic!

      And, readers, do feel free to leave links in comments to superficially off-topic but interesting venues as long as the writing is sharp — it’s likely we’ll notice them, and it may be there’s an angle for us. (This sort of cross-fertilization was commonplace in the heighday of the blogosphere, but has now, paradoxically or perhaps not, been made much more difficult by the blogosphere’s destruction and replacement by social media.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        As long as blogs exist, can we say the blogosphere has been destroyed? Or just shrunken down and still viable within its smaller imposed-from-without limits?

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