2:00PM Water Cooler 12/31/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Happy New Year, everybody. Please remember not to let off any fireworks indoors. Be safe out there!

As a conversation starter:

Quite right. Because who doesn’t love their open-plan office? Or their “team”? (No, this is not a parody account. The image does not come from the linked Politico article, so I can only think that the source is Bloomberg. UPDATE It’s Bloomberg’s Mayoral office in New York.)

Today is an Open Thread. I will take New Year’s Day off, and then return in full force. I’m also thinking after yesterday’s Buttigieg gaffe, and today’s Bloomberg ridiculousness, I should invent a new category for the especially absurd.

* * *

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 (Hamford):

Hamford writes: “Mountain flowers in Wind River Range, Wyoming.”

Again, if any of you go out on your Christmas walks with camera (or, I suppose, phone), I’m running out of plants. Wintry plants would be especially appreciated!

* * *

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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. grayslady

      The lavender and yellow flowers appear to be Erigeron (fleabane), a member of the Aster family. Lovely.

    1. Tomonthebeach

      It is cheaper to do open office than actually have meeting rooms, I guess.

      I doubt that Bloomy ever worked in one of those distraction-a-minit chaos dens. If this is his idea of leadership, Trump has nothing to fear. Listening is one thing, but “Hey gang – gotta minit?” leadership is best left for 1st-line supervisors, not POTUS.

    2. Mildred Montana

      Slightly OT, but I lived in an open-plan house once. Sounds traveled like gunshots. If other people were at home I had to put in earplugs in order to read.

      Mmm….come to think of it, I never see bookshelves in those open-plan houses on TV. I can only conclude that the people who live in them don’t want to be alone with a book or their thoughts. They must LIKE the racket.

      And speaking of liking, builders and renovators LOVE open-plan. No expensive, fussy, time-consuming walls and doors to install. They can sell less for more. Ka-ching!

      To my mind, open-plan houses are just another symptom of the generalized crapification. It’s difficult to escape it nowadays, even in the construction of one’s own home. A man’s home today is often merely his crapified castle.


      1. Carey

        I’m living in an “open-plan” place- once the office for what this 40s building once was, an apparently low-rent motel- and it’s noisy as hell. Trying all kinds of things to quiet and
        calm it, including sound-absorbing structures made from TP tubes (sorry) and other things,
        with slight success. Still, I’m glad to have this place, for now. Beats hell out of five years’ purgatory in Atascadero, hard by the Prison; and I love love love the wildlife here, again.

        “The wall, which was glass but thrutex, turned out on being approached not to be a wall,
        it was something else, it was an opening or doorway– and the doorway (through which he
        saw himself approaching) turned out to be something else, it was a wall… he was in a washable house, but he wasn’t sure…”

        -From E.B. White’s ‘The Door’ (1928?), which I’ll probably hawk till someone says stop. ;)

        1. Carey

          Copyright *1939* for that EB White piece, originally published in the New Yorker.
          A much better historical fit with that date, I think; not sure how I got 1928 earlier.

          Happy New Year, all NC/WCers!

        2. richard in 2020

          Sounds kind of funky Carey (to me anyway), but sorry about the noise. I am having the same problem, except with an endless (now entering it’s 4th month) sidewalk construction directly outside the front porch of my apartment.
          I haven’t tried baffling tubes, just good old fashioned ear plugs. I’m at the same place on a super busy street, lots of traffic until late, for 25 years now. Then also in the last 10 years, more families have started moving into my apartment building (as opposed to couples and singles) so there is much more background noise that way than there used to be.
          My experience with any kind of background noise is you adapt to it and get used to it. It goes through steps, you start to recognize different sounds and then come to expect them, and then life moves on and you don’t hear them as much anymore. Kind of. YMMV of course.
          Hang in brother. It is nice and peaceful this morning, that is for sure!

    3. Mark Alexander

      A few years back, a Google recruiter tried to lure me by touting their open office. They called it “fierce collaboration”. It was horrifying: no quiet, no privacy. It was one of those innovative, disruptive ideas they keep coming up with in Silicon Valley, like so-called unlimited vacation time (*), that sound good at first, but are really just ways for corporations to save money through crapification.

      (*) The last company I worked for in Silicon Valley adopted this system. It meant that you were no longer compensated in cash for unused vacation at the end of the year, and my manager refused to let me take more vacation than new hires, even though I’d been there 10 years.

  1. Fox Blew

    The new category for the absurd could be named The Best of Albert Camus’ Stand-Up Comics …starring many establishment Dems and ‘Publicans. Hosted by Meursault.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper have added a feature, “most stoned moment” (of the campaign) on Useful Idiots. The list I understand is posted at Rolling Stone for people to vote on.

      1. Carey

        I wonder what the average RS reader’s age is today, as compared, say, to forty (or even
        twenty) years ago. Yuks are not a great substitute for improved material conditions.
        While I’m get-off-my-lawn ranting, I hope our first-name fake familiarity with the
        political candidates goes away soon; that stuff is top-down, IMO, and not to the people’s
        benefit in any way.

    2. richard

      How about:
      Surreal Nice Pleasure To Meet You
      said with a kind of foster brooks slushiness of course
      too punny?

  2. shinola

    Particularly absurd?

    An item on the “scroller” at the bottom of one of the network’s a.m. news/infotainment programs claimed that Biden says he would be open to considering a Republican running mate…

    1. Massinissa

      Yeah, he said that yesterday I believe. To be fair, he was directly asked that by an audience member, but ‘yes’ is still the wrong answer.

  3. polecat

    That’s art ??

    Looks like insufferably cluttered chaos to me. Michael is a high er-than-a-kite falutin putz !

    Go ahead .. waste moarrr Benjamins, Mikey.
    Of course he Could take all his piles of dough … and light Rome-on-the-Potomic on fire, to better effect.

      1. Carey

        Just Blomberg’s Team™ trolling us: “Here’s what we have planned, proles; now like it!”

        They are not clueless; or more accurately, they Have People who are not clueless.
        IMO, of course.

  4. Massinissa

    It just came to my attention that Syd Mead died yesterday at 86. He was a neofuturistic concept artist known for his designs in movies such as Blade Runner, Alien, Tron, and Star Trek the Motion Picture.
    One of the most brilliant 20th century concept artists.

  5. polecat

    Oh, and Lambert .. Happy Happy gnu ear to You and the Gang. Please be sure to wear your plugs (no man, not those Biden one’$ !!) and be careful .. as you dodge those loud year-end incendiaries ‘;]

    Onward .. from the Deplorable Decas ..into the frying pan of the Tumultuous 20’s ..

    1. ambrit

      You make it too easy polecat.
      You wouldn’t by any account, be referring to the Mayo Pete Plugs, would you?
      And the Biden Plugs, gotta have his fingerprints all over them. Open and shut case.

      1. polecat

        ambrit … Biden’s pate-plugs are like the equivalent of Neo’s full-body umbilicus plugs .. except that instead of supplying nutrients, and removing wastes … their job is remove nutrients only ….. thus leaving behind copious amounts of wasted fracked unflared methane, of which the b-man abounds.

        As for mr. Mayo … I dare not speculate ! .. other then to say he appears to be spread rather thin ..

        .. maybe it’s the Olean what done it !

    2. richard

      we’ve really got to think of a good 20’s nickname
      this isn’t beanbag, you know
      not that I am accusing you of beanbag polecat, nice to be reading you again btw
      let’s set up a committee for that, and get right to it
      first thing on the agenda, does it need to be alliterative?
      I vote no. This is the decade that breaks all the rules!

        1. richard

          Well, we need to give the decade a little time to develop a personality, but not so much time that some other clod gets there before us
          We have your various categories, of course, which I just made up:
          If things go disastrously bad with heavy handed responses, the public sullenly marching along
          If the fractious 90 percent, the strategically divided mob, begins to lumber more-or-less as one in the direction of castles (we already were starting to get that in the teens)
          the aforementioned mob is is once again strategically divided, but this time only to undertake various action items, is given maps and torches and instructions on how to cut power to the castles
          Batshit Crazy
          The elites go even more blind to everyday reality a lot more la-la-la with fingers plugged in ears, and hysterical conspiracy theories to explain why things don’t work the way they should
          I mean, this should all be working perfectly, right?

          Anyway, I’m sure I missed many potential categories.

      1. ambrit

        Au contraire mon amis!
        This looks to be the decade where all the ‘old’ rules that were supposed to have been ‘broken’ come roaring back to life to wreak their revenge.
        I vote for:
        “This time it’s going to be different again.”
        “Terrible Twenties.”

        1. richard

          I like your first one, said by a 20% convinced newscaster at 1/3 power.
          let’s go with it for now
          but should a personality emerge, we must strike when the moment is nigh

  6. sd

    Personal experience – open office set ups reward bad behavior by blocking the ability to speak privately about poor performance which in turn brings down morale among surrounding employees.

    1. Arizona Slim

      Me? When I was in the coworking space, man, did I hear some juicy open office conversations. Fun stuff.

      And then the place went out of business, thereby depriving Slim of such great material.

      Those people are so lucky I’m a nonfiction writer, because I’d have one hell of a novel under my belt by know.

      1. bassmule

        Yeah, I’m strictly nonfiction, too. But it’s never to late to give it a try, especially if you already have the juicy dialogue!

      2. Arizona Slim

        I meant to say “By now.”

        Yeesh. I haven’t even started ringing in the New Year, and my spelling is already fo-shizzle.

    2. JohnnySacks

      We all gravitated to whoever was browsing the most interesting sites. Ham radio to the left, count me in. 70s muscle cars to the left, down with that. Quickly became close knit fans of everything other than work.

  7. Synoia

    Trump, Granting Lobbyist Demands, Quietly Handed Billions More in Tax Breaks to Huge Corporations

    I have to wonder if the impeachment Kabuki was intended to deflect and avoid the discussion the Democrats shroud have had on the topic. Coupled with a question of how much the Democrats were paid, “campaign contributions,” by the same corporations.

  8. Tom Denman

    “As president, I’ll turn the East Room into an open office plan, where I’ll sit with our team.” (see links)

    Oh dear, “the team.”

      1. Carey

        I think De Niro’s character in Blade Runner had *just* the right attitude (too bad about his later, extreme TDS; I liked the guy). Hard to keep that up, though, unless and until we can build some class solidarity; which, in turn, means getting substantially back out of these screens, IMO.

    1. polecat

      I don’t know about heavy metals .. except that all day I’ve had “Janitor” running through my head ! .. must be the Russians …

      Guess I need to try and shake it off, and go mow some suburban lawns.

      …. and if, by chance, you should run into a girl by the name of Gigit (are there beaches in Tucson ??) .. tell her I said she can go to Hell !

    2. meeps

      That’s fun, and she has a good groove! Drumeo is for reals, yo, with skillful drummers like Billy Rymer of the Dillinger Escape Plan showcasing instruction. I’m glad she ends with a word on scrapping stereotypes. They’re a serious impediment to solidarity.

  9. Grant

    My prediction is that in the coming weeks there will be a huge push to rescue Warren’s campaign and the rescue operation will be led by people decidedly not on the left, as I think she will be used to beat back Bernie. I think she would be perfectly happy to be used in that way if it benefited her campaign. Yes, she is better than many others running, but given all that has happened, her record, her overly complex and means tested plans, her waffling on single payer, her gaffs, her troubling past, among other things, her being better than many others says more about the field than her as a candidate in isolation. But, the internal polling is likely looking good for Bernie and those in power, including Obama, have signaled that they can and will support her as a last stop effort to stop Bernie. I think we are at this point, so my guess is that another Warren offensive is in the works. And I hope it doesn’t work, because I don’t think she is a good general election candidate for president.

    But, I could be wrong. The press might just have settled on a Bernie vs Biden matchup.

    1. Jeff W

      …I hope it doesn’t work, because I don’t think she is a good general election candidate for president.

      I doubt it will work. Your comment points to Warren’s many issues as a flawed candidate—“her record, her overly complex and means tested plans, her waffling on single payer, her gaffs, her troubling past, among other things.” Each piece together has a cumulative effect of suppressing support Warren.

      Her botched Medicare-for-All plan rollout made it perfectly clear what her waffling on single payer indicated—she’s not committed to Medicare-for-All (and never was)—and I think that was the final straw for Warren’s campaign, no matter what those in power might want. (Her fundraisers know it, too.) She simply can’t defend her Medicare-for-All plan on either policy or political grounds and it highlights what a lousy candidate she is (as opposed to masking it, which, aside from being a pure fundraising gambit, was a major objective of her rolling out her blizzard of plans).

      And I think Warren would be an awful candidate against Trump—she has a brittleness, a cluelessness and a lack of political savvy that not even Hillary Clinton had. (Clinton’s obliviousness translated into a kind of gargantuan hubris; Warren’s is more like a deer in the headlights—she freezes at the unexpected. And it’s difficult to imagine any other candidate responding to Donald Trump’s taunts about some claim of Cherokee heritage with a DNA test.) That’s something that people can sense, even if they might fully know it.

      1. Carey

        >she has a brittleness, a cluelessness and a lack of political savvy

        Thank you. Perfect Trump-fodder, which I suspect her backers/handlers know.

        “I guess we’ll just have to live with it..” -Tim Kaine, on the billionaires’ tax-cut.

    2. polecat

      Why .. does EVERYONE refer to Sanders as ‘Bernie’ … while all other candidates (well, except for SurfGirrrrl ..) by their last surname ??
      Seems almost cult-like to me …

      1. Yves Smith

        Bernie does put “Bernie” on his campaign swag, so you could attribute this to marketing.

        Harris was Kamala, not Harris to most supporters, so this isn’t unprecedented.

        1. polecat

          Ok Yves, ya got me ! .. I was pullin chains, just to see what would drop. Oh man, do those things hurt !

          Anyway, hope you’ve had a pleasant New Year’s Eve ‘:] Our’s still awaits …

      2. Carey

        I’m with you, pc .. it’s cult-of-personality stuff, and a bad, bad idea.

        Policy, not personalities/personality-based “values”.

      3. richard

        I try to call him sanders when i am here, because that feels like the house style. But out in the real world he is always bernie. Bernie this, bernie that. I am seeing of his name around me everywhere now, his face always smiling down to me from posters, and it feels like it’s being chanted to me in my sleep. Almost programmed, you might say. How dare you call it a cult!

        1. Procopius

          Go over to Balloon Juice. They always call him Wilmer. There’s a historical reason for that, but I won’t go into it here. Now, I think that’s a cult.

          1. richard

            I will not go to Balloon Juice; I will take your word, procopius. But now I am a little curious. The only wilmer I can remember of any note culturally is Gutman’s hapless gun minion in The Maltese Falcon, played by the once seemingly ageless Elijah Cook Jr.
            Now that I have looked up Elijah Cook i see there was also the actor who played Fez in the 70’s show named wilmer, so it is probably that for some stupid reason. That is my prediction. I will not go to Balloon Juice to check. ;)

            1. Librarian Guy

              I haven’t read Balloon Juice in years– once Obama was in power, they were such Barry Cultists. Stopped reading “AmericaBlog” years back too (don’t even know if it still exists) when they did a post about how great Zionism is and how nobody should support the dirty Palestinians which practically could’ve been written by Ben Shapiro.

              Funny how “faux” some “leftists” are, but Phil Ochs had their # decades ago.

      4. Lambert Strether Post author

        > does EVERYONE refer to Sanders as ‘Bernie’

        I don’t. I consistently call all the candidates by their last name, only. (I may have quoted “Mayo Pete,” but I personally wrote anything other than “Buttigieg,” I deserve fifty lashes with a wet noodle.)

      5. Grant

        ? Have you ever heard anyone refer to Hitler by his first name? Stalin? Pinochet? Mao is a family name. Mussolini?

        I personally used to call him Bernie because I used to listen to Thom Hartmann, and he had Bernie on for years, every Friday where Bernie would answer calls for an hour on his show. It was a segment called brunch with Bernie. It is a term of endearment for me.

    3. Yves Smith

      Warren was sounding alarms re her funding. If the quarterly FEC reports are in line or even worse on a relative basis v. Sanders, she’s not savable. There may be a half-hearted push to try to dent Sanders but it won’t go far. This would be a dead cat bounce.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The press might just have settled on a Bernie vs Biden matchup.

      I think it would be simpler that they all have an “Anybody but Bernie” mind-set; as long as they take him out, any other candidate is more or less acceptable. I’m kinda bracing myself for a big “low road” assault sometime in the next two weeks.

      As I have been saying forever, however, the unique and innovative architecture of the Sanders campaign is (1) independent list, (2) independent media operation, (3) independent canvassing operation. It may be that that the independent media operation plus Sanders’ relentless appearances on the trail, will have already insulated him from whatever mainstream assault is to come. (After all, a heart attack didn’t make him miss a beat; so will whatever the press + Democrats (+ intelligence community?*) manufacture stop him?)

      Contrast the slopes here (granted, of national polls):

      Sanders steady rise is consistent with an extremely disciplined campaign. We’ll see if his detractors can knock him off balance (perhaps with an attack on Jane Sanders, Muskie-style?)

      NOTE * As in the UK (and, of course, here with RussiaRussiaRussia).

      1. polecat

        That Biden chart kinda reminds me of a deflated, and dying Portuguese Man-O-War .. giving one last feeble attempt at neutralizing it’s supposed prey.

  10. petal

    Biden to miners: learn to code!
    “At a rally in Derry, New Hampshire on Monday, per the Washington Post’s Dave Weigel, Biden talked about how unemployed miners and coal workers who have lost their jobs in recent years can find “jobs of the future” if they “learn to program.” Referencing his role in a Barack Obama-era programming skills initiative in schools, Biden commented that “Anybody who can go down 3000 feet in a mine can sure as hell learn to program as well… Anybody who can throw coal into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake!””

    1. Arizona Slim

      Yeah, but there are these things called jobs. No sense in learning to code if the jobs are no longer available in the country where the miners live. Because there’s this other thing called outsourcing.

      And a third thing called age discrimination. It’s rampant in the tech industry.

      Poor Joe. He needs to hold a fundraiser so he can buy a clue.

      1. Wukchumni

        I expect Joe to Beau out, you sense his heart isn’t in it, nor did he seemingly expect pushback from Hunter, a fade accompli is coming.

      2. hunkerdown

        The correct turn of phrase is “learn to hack.” With so many sixth-class boot-camp programmers out in the wild there are going to be truck-sized holes to drive data out the door. This is how you smash the status quo. From Francois Cusset’s How the World Swung to the Right: Fifty Years of Counterrevolutions (MIT Press, 2018):

        For all of these reasons, we have to stop fantasizing about the resistance, neither projecting it into the future, after the eureka moment that will activate all of us, nor into the past, where the term “resistance,” which is so European, has been stuck for the last seventy-five years, caught between the ghosts of Nazism and its rare heroic enemies. It would be better to demystify the resistance, to make it less totalizing, to cobble it together, to miniaturize it and anchor it in the present where it is permanent. It is an inexplicable tangle of refusals, perplexities, skepticism, and effective gestures that escape the dominant order, whether this means pirating videos, hijacking slogans, producing your own food, expressing your disagreement in verse form, or simply teaching or writing something other than what was asked of you. Recipes for survival, DIY tips, hacking instructions, ways to dodge paying for public transportation, unexpected jokes, solidarity that was never required, nonconforming life choices: it is through such tricks and ruses that the resistance always already exists, that it cannot not exist, and that it has already begun to defy, everywhere and in every instant, that dominant socioeconomic order to which some more narrowminded people despair of ever finding an “alternative.”

    2. John A

      Surely he means learn to program and then relocate to India to work for US companies as an independent contractor on India level pay.

      1. jrs

        there is contractor work in the U.S. (I’m not sure the people from India are working quite as short term gigs as U.S. contractors). It’s a heck of a life though, no security ever, and even then it’s hardly available without experience.

      2. Bugs Bunny

        The Indians in IT are working for places like Tata, Accenture, Wipro, Cognizant, et al, and they are for the most part full time employees. They tend to use moving between these companies to increase wage rates and benefits. A good senior manager could actually make a decent living in India if you liked it there and knew the game.

        1. Carey

          >They tend to use moving between these companies to increase wage rates and benefits.

          How does that work, and could it work in USA USA as well?

          1. Procopius

            I seem to recall a few years ago the Justice Department found that several of the biggest tech companies had colluded in a “non-compete” agreement. There was an agreement among themselves not to offer higher wages to another company’s employees. I don’t know whatever happened to that. I am not a lawyer, but I would think it was a clear violation of anti-trust laws. Crickets. I presume they’re still doing it, so, no, that wouldn’t work in USA, USA as well. We basically have erased competition.

    3. jrs

      No it’s no answer and he doesn’t know what he is talking about, not thinking at all. Loss of existing jobs in inevitable though, plenty will happen if we got M4A, so there is no answer that involves preserving existing jobs at all costs, and little answer in “training”.

      1. Carey

        As Lambert has said, D’oh does not give two f*cks; he’s just throwing sh¡t out there.

        “If you’re paying attention, you’re being played.” -Anon CFN commenter

    4. Jen

      I have a suggestion for Joe if this running for president thing doesn’t work out for him. Anyone who can throw money into a furnace can learn how to program, for God’s sake.

          1. Carey

            Hunter Biden does seem to get around. I like the Hollywood Hills place, too- and for only $2,500,000?

            Mmm nice

    5. RMO

      I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Joe is suffering from some illness that is degrading his brain. It also seems that his campaign is unable to keep him on leash and on the path.

      At this rate by the time the Presidential race starts he will have done such a comprehensive job of making a fool of himself that Trump won’t have anything left to do!

      1. dcblogger

        the medicine you take to control cholesterol and the medicine you take to control acid reflux increase risk of dementia.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Is ” the medicine you take to control cholesterol” a statin? Perhaps “the statins” as a general concept?

          How would they raise risk of dementia? By interfering with in-body production of the cholesterol needed to maintain nerve-cell tissue . . . myelin sheaths and so forth?

    6. JTMcPhee

      That Bidenism rang the changes in my recollection on the Dan Quayle phenomenon. Aside from the mis-spelling thing and being married to to a Manchurian Candidate Dragon Lady — Anyone else remember the Quayle’s Call, the constant reminder of his important public benefit work In midwifing the Job Training Partnership Act, a multi-billion scam riffing off the Giant Sucking Sound, First Edition?

      Experts Question Benefits of Quayle’s Jobs Program

      FT. WAYNE, Ind. — From now until Nov. 8 voters are likely to hear often about the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA), a relatively obscure 5-year-old federal program that spends $3.2 billion annually attempting to train unskilled and laid off workers.
      The reason: the co-creator of the program is Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle, who joined in an unusual Senate alliance with Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) in 1982 to get the program enacted. Quayle touts JTPA as his major legislative accomplishment. Last week, Republican presidential nominee George Bush said that JTPA puts Quayle on “the leading edge” in job development.

      In a recent speech, Quayle asserted that the program had “trained 3.4 million disadvantaged workers.” But it is far from clear what or how much the program has achieved, according to several job training experts and a January, 1988, report by the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General.

      The study found that:

      –The program’s “rates of retaining participants in jobs, increasing their earnings and reducing welfare dependency are not encouraging.”

      –Almost half of the participants end up unemployed four months after training ends.

      –JTPA “is not targeting hard-to-serve individuals.” Rather, it is targeting participants who are easy to place. Sixty percent of those placed are high school graduates.

      –About 60% of the workers who received training would have been hired without it, according to employers interviewed by the Labor Department.

      Findings such as these have prompted critics, such as Indiana University associate professor Mark Crouch, to call the program “corporate welfare.”

      To be sure, JTPA has its champions, prime among them Robert T. Jones, assistant secretary of labor for employment and training. “I think the program is clearly succeeding,” he said in a telephone interview. “We have moved from 30-40% placement under CETA to 60-70% under JTPA.”

      The Job Training Partnership Act was enacted in 1982 as a replacement for the frequently criticized Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA). The CETA program, at its peak, spent $9 billion annually, training many people who were ultimately put in short-term government jobs or “make-work” projects without lasting benefits to the recipients. The program also was scandal-ridden.

      By contrast, JTPA was designed to train people for jobs in the private sector. The federal government dispenses funds to each of the 50 states, based on a formula incorporating the state’s population and its unemployment rate, among other factors. Tremendous leeway is given to state and local governments on what sort of training will be provided in their area and who will get the training.

      Local Industry Councils

      The basic structure of the program is centered on local private industry councils (PIC), at least a majority of whose members come from business. Education, labor and community organizations also are supposed to be represented. There are 17 such councils, for example, in Indiana.

      Each council hires its own administrative entity–usually a nonprofit organization–to certify potential trainees and assist in picking companies that will employ them. The council ultimately decides which companies are approved. Up to half of the employee’s wages are subsidized by the government for the first six months and up to a quarter of the wages can be subsidized for the next thirteen weeks.

      Ironically, the program has generated a good deal of controversy in Quayle’s home state of Indiana. The charges range from lax administrative controls to helping big corporations that don’t need subsidized job training, from awarding contracts to companies affiliated with PIC members to firing workers when the subsidized employment period ends.

      “Indiana presents a good case study of the problems with JTPA,” said Crouch, a Democrat and a Quayle foe who has been a longtime critic of the program.

      Although Quayle has nothing to do with the day-to-day operations of JTPA, he has kept an active interest in the program in his state, his aides say. He has held hearings in several Indiana cities on the program. Some supporters here refer to him as “the patron saint of JTPA.”

      Indiana is hardly the only place where there is controversy. A federal investigation of the way Democratic Gov. Richard F. Celeste of Ohio dispensed JTPA money is currently underway. And last March, Mayor Tom Bradley replaced virtually the entire board that dispenses $42 million in JTPA money in Los Angeles yearly after revelations in The Times of several scandals.

      Kennedy Critical

      Kennedy has said on numerous occasions that problems have arisen in JTPA’s implementation. Specifically, he has charged that the program has encouraged “creaming,” a process in which only the most easily employable are chosen for training. He has proposed a new bill that would provide incentives for the training and placement of long-term welfare recipients. The bill has passed the Senate and is pending in the House.

      Quayle voted in favor of Kennedy’s bill. However he feels that the program “has been an overwhelming success,” according to his Senate press secretary, Jeff Nesbitt. He said that Quayle’s response to criticisms of the program was that the problems “are confined to localities involving the local disbursement of funds–not something the federal government would have control of. He believes the federal government should give states the freedom to run these kinds of programs and allow localities to disburse funds as they see fit…”

      More detail in the rest of the article, basically a “public-private partnership” to fig-leaf the Sucking Sound job losses, with money paid to the same companies that were sending jobs and production over the borders. https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1988-09-07-mn-1540-story.html

  11. PKMKII

    Question that came about from looking at the new W4 and how it seemingly is designed to increase the amount taken out per paycheck: as we know from MMT, the real purpose with federal taxes is not “paying for” federal spending but rather as inflation control. But can an excessive withholding from paychecks functionally do the same even if the nominal tax rate is unchanged? I know, you get it back in the refund, but as any CPA would tell you, refund money is money you could have been making interest off of during the year. Making less interest means less income and ergo less inflationary pressures. So there’s both a short-term deflationary effect, and a more subtle long-term deflationary effect.

    1. Grant

      Inflating the value of the financial sector or making money off of interest payments when hoarding money doesn’t necessarily inflate the goods or services markets, or the price of housing. It is possible for money earned in financial markets to then be used to buy up properties and to increase the price of housing, but it could also just sit in a savings account, be used to gamble more in financial markets, could be used by companies to buy up their own shares, exit the domestic economy via purchasing imports or investing overseas, among other things. I would think that money gained by investing in something would lead to inflation in the real economy more if person had a high propensity to spend, which the rich generally do not. Also, if more stuff can be made and more workers can be employed, then more money doesn’t necessarily lead to inflation, doubly if you factor in what I said above. I think you assume that hoarding or investing the money in financial markets increases inflation, but that seems to be based on the quantity theory of money. That money would have to be injected somewhere for it to cause inflation, and even then it won’t necessarily do so.

      1. PKMKII

        Point, although whoever Trump has at the Treasury very well may buy into the quantity theory of money.

      2. Procopius

        … but it could also just sit in a savings account, …

        Wait… I thought the neo-classical claim was that savings accounts were the money that banks used to “invest” in job-creation, i.e. making loans to people who really don’t need the money. I haven’t (yet) learned what MMT says is the effect of putting money into savings accounts, but I’m sure it doesn’t prevent the money from being invested. What the rich do that prevents investment is send the money to accounts in Isle of Man or Panama.

  12. Camelotkidd

    Particularly absurd? How about–“You can’t make this shit up?”
    I saw on the news crawl that Biden vows to unite Republicans and Democrats if elected president
    If his political career flames out there’s always stand up comedy

      1. The Rev Kev

        Hmmm. President Mike Bloomberg and Vice President Mike Pence. It would be a match made in heaven. Neoliberal Heaven that is – only WASPs need apply.

        1. The Rev Kev

          Gaach! I mistyped. That should be President Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence. For some reason, I keep on getting them two mixed up.

        2. Synoia

          Mike Bloomberg is very unlikely to meed the strict definition of WASP.

          WASP: White Anglo-saxon prostitute Protestant.

    1. JBird4049

      Is it insane of me to say that I am jealous? I just looked up some prices and wages for California back then. Apparently San Francisco rentals went from $100 to $300 in 1965. The minimum wage was $1.60 by 1968 or $240 per month before taxes. So I guess $200 after, which means half of the take home pay for lowest pay got you a cheap apartment.

      Of course, adjusted for inflation, that’s $11.80 today and add the increase in productivity, which use to routinely go into increasing wages until about 1975, it would be over $21 per hour. Our economy is seriously messed up.

      1. Wukchumni

        Candy bars were a Nickel in 1968 and now they are 75 Cents, so on an hour’s wage @ a menial job you could buy 32 of them then, now @ minimum wage an hour buys you 10.

        Conversely, a 28 inch color tv was $328 in 1971, ha!

        A really fun website!

      2. Carey

        Rent for my flea-riden but very ok mid-town Ventura CA apartment was $115 in 1976, and
        I (stupidly; a pattern) moved out because my new, LA-based landlord wanted to raise it to
        $130, IIRC. My take-home income from my very decent County APCD job was $504 per month, with my HS-only education; fine health insurance included. It was a decent time,
        really the last one I remember.

        “Innovation!” “Team!” “Partnership!” These words are not good for us.

        1. Annieb

          Since we are going down memory lane .. . In 1976 as a new college grad, my small apt in the SF east bay cost $285/ mo while I earned $850/ mo (before taxes) as a clerk typist with health benefits.

          1. Carey

            $850! Yeah, I remember (with envy) those who were making those big bux.

            For reference, the County Dept Director at my place was making ~$2500/mo gross, so not more than 5x my Environmental Aide pay. And we were “allowed” to do decent

          2. Carey

            I’m not *even* attempting to assign homework, but in a Country [deliberately designed by the Few] without Memory..

        2. Carey

          Adding, anecdotally, because I think anecdotes can be important:

          I remember in 1977 when my new LA™ landlord showed up at my door (!), mentioning the nominal rent increase, what bothered me was his*damn-LA slipperiness*, which is
          near to the same thing I see in CIA Pete; and, to a lesser degree, all the other corporatists running™ for the Dem™ nomination: these are *bad people*; and if it benefits them, short-term or long, they will harm us/ you/ me, without qualm. That was my LA landlord-to-be, and that’s Our Dems. Not just IMO, this time.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      thanks for all the great music this year, Robert, and looking forward to more in the new year.

      a Happy New Year to all who frequent this wonderful establishment and to our estimable hosts ??

      me, I just got a surprise care package in the mail from Vegas, so see y‘all next year ;-)

    2. Carey

      >A little smooth jazz never hurt anybody

      Opinions might vary on that one, though I won’t mention any particular practitioners’ names.

  13. John C.

    “Open office” workplace layouts — ugh!! All they do is rob the employee of having even one second of privacy in the course of a workday. It’s just inhuman. Always on display, every utterance and facial expression observable, impossible to have a private phone conversation. All for the sake of more “natural light” and so forth. Bleccch (in a nod to the dear departed MAD Magazine….).

  14. Martin Oline

    It looks like Biden is taking seriously the report that Obama may throw his nebulous support behind Warren, Yesterday in Iowa he said he would nominate Obama to the Supreme Court “If he’d have it”! Quid pro quo Joe?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Ever seen one of those clips of a cat stepping backward away from a mess, like spilled milk? That’s Obama. Obama never, ever goes near anything that will make him look bad. I doubt very much Obama will endorse Warren; see the chart in this comment for Warren’s polling.

      So I think Obama’s shit-stirring, trying to pull away voters from Sanders any way he can, while avoiding commitment to any one candidate. Though it is entertaining to see Biden doing something that, were Trump doing it, would instantly be called a bribe (cue the moral panic, etc.).

  15. Roquentin

    I always hated “Open Office” as a concept. I always bring up the example of watching two people who sat adjacent to eachother with headphones in communicating via slack because that was the only way to have a modicum of privacy. It’s like working in a panopticon, and employers like it for that reason. Well, that and it means you can stack people together like sardines in a crushed tin box. One of the questions I always ask in interviews is if they actually have full cubicles. I don’t ask for much, but that’s definitely something I look for. It’s been bad in every situation I’ve ever been forced to work in, with the absolute bottom of the barrel being the time I had to work at big, long tables with little dividers on either side that didn’t come up to your shoulders.

    I also just think about how during Bloomberg’s campaign for his 3rd term, I almost couldn’t open the mail without some kind of printed bullshit from it being in the box. I’d like nothing better than to see Bloomberg waste several hundred million dollars on campaigning and fall flat on his face.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      the absolute bottom of the barrel being the time I had to work at big, long tables with little dividers on either side that didn’t come up to your shoulders.

      That is what they have at my “office”, minus the dividers.

      I’ve got nearly 30 years experience and I have not gone there since my first six months on the job. It was excruciating. I work from home now and if they asked me to go there even more than one day a week, they’d find themselves in a very long dismissal negotiation and then litigation. I don’t think they will.

      Perhaps we worked for the same place. It’s the only consulting firm I know that does it to senior people in sensitive roles.

      Oh and happy new year from Normandy, where the strike continues!

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Oh and happy new year from Normandy, where the strike continues!

        Links to coverage, especially English-language coverage, would be very welcome. The coverage of the French general strike is miserably inadequate, and what there is, is tendentious. Twittter is no better, being dominated — unless I haven’t been able to find the right accounts — by triumphalist video clips with no provenance.

        1. Bugs Bunny

          I’ll keep an eye out.

          FWIW almost all English stories I’ve seen have been pro-Macron, calling the gutting of our pension system (reform) “essential” and the strikers portrayed as sort of silly or at best recalcitrant. Jacobin and a few others excepted.

          Le Monde seems to be taking an objective though slightly pro-worker view, and apparently the ownership is not pressure on editorial. Though Xavier Niel is a bit of an iconoclast on the French business scene.

    2. Chris

      I’ve been there. The ways that employees cope with that kind of open office concept completely defeat any supposed benefits of an open office design. In my own work place, we have offices for the billable staff and full height cubes for the administrative staff. All it takes is one person in the cubes who hates the open concept to make everyone clam up.

    3. HotFlash

      A Major Canadian Bank did this to a swathe of head-office managers and staff, some very senior, back in the mid ’80’s in order to get them to quit. Motivation? That bank had a history of very low turnover and had a negotiated lower rate of employer contribution to UI, Canada’s national govt-run Unemployment Insurance. Firings and layoffs would have jacked that rate back up to the ‘regular’, which was 1.4 times employee deductions. So, put them in galleys, give them a file box instead of a desk and watch them quit — problem solved! Oh, and there was widespread belief that the sealing of windows in that office tower ‘for fire regulations’ was really to prevent suicides.

  16. Misty Flip

    Is the Bloomberg Open Operations, Bad-boy of the Oval Office® [BOO BOO], an otherwise clichéd mimesis of leadership as depicted by Star Trek, that much different than Bloomberg Terminals delivering stochastic weaponry to delinquents with poor impulse control? He’s the enigmatic chaotic neutral mutant known as “Vendor X” – because it’s a *fun* nightmare – circumnavigating the 2020 campaign slash airship race. Cool.

    1. Yves Smith

      No, Star Trek was NOT an office! It was a command center of a warship (even though the show pretended not) where communication on a real time basis was critical. The opposite of an office where people ought to be doing analytical work or creating reports and not waste time talking to or being distracted by other people until they need input.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Would you believe that when the original Star Trek came out, that Pentagon officials went down to the set to examine their ideas of a bridge outlay? Either that or to get signatures from William Shatner & Leonard Nimoy.
        But I did see a photo of a Pentagon command center in the 70s and the section where they monitored EM signals was marked ‘Sensors.’ For some weird, sick reason modern offices are designed to be as counter productive as possible with things like hot-desking and the open concept as a given-


      2. Henry Moon Pie

        If only they would have thought of seat belts! I always felt so sorry for the Enterprise gang when trouble arose and they were inevitably thrown all over the bridge. If it was especially bad, Kirk would even fall from his perch in the captain’s chair.

  17. BoyDownTheLane

    Google Marxism: Internet Ideology and the Academics Who Perpetuate It –Presented as the opening lecture of the Libertarian Scholars Conference hosted by the Mises Institute. 30 September 2019. –By [CLG Founder] Michael Rectenwald | 30 Dec 2019 | “Big Digital” consists of an array of business, political, and social interests, an ensemble of technology companies and Internet services, including but not limited to the Big Four: Alphabet (Google, YouTube, etc.) Amazon, Apple, and Facebook. Big Digital wields enormous economic and political power, presiding over Big Data, and serving as the chief arbiter of expression, with the power to effect the digital deletion of “dangerous” persons from its various platforms, as the gulag was the means to physically disappear dissidents and other thought criminals from “normal” life in the Soviet Union.


    1. Librarian Guy

      Thank you for that. Wingnuts be crazy, and the Glibertarians can compete for the nuttiest of all.

      I could only tolerate 3-5 minutes of scanning it, the Ideology is so BizarreOWorld it tires one out very quickly. To think of the Masters of the Universe that get fleeced by the likes of Rectenwald (what a wonderfully Teutonic name, and only a hair off from Rectum-world)

  18. Chris

    The responses to Bloomberg’s open orifice concept are restoring my faith in twitter humanity :)

    Happy new year to all my comrades in the commentariat!

    1. hunkerdown

      No, the battle bear’s already been fully tested in Syria and found formidable.

      Cheers, though. Raising a White Russian to you!
      been fully tested

    2. Procopius

      Wonder if the Iranians are going to buy some of those to send to the militias they “support” in Iraq.

  19. JacobiteInTraining

    It was 3 years ago today, almost to the hour, that my best friend of 37 years….the Brother that *I* chose…the dude I hung out with every damn year since 7th grade…decided to pick a permanent solution to a temporary problem and blew his head into little itty bitty pieces of skull and brain all over our backyard.

    I’ll never forgive the FBI, or the Federal Attorney overseeing his case. I dunno if I will ever forgive him either, but where ever you are, or are not, you stupid friend….you were loved. We miss you:


    I suppose I have a little PTSD that maybe someday will go away but until then….Happy F****** New Years, eh?

    Thank god for Pink Floyd, as now is the official time I pull out the bong and apply medicinal salve until the pain goes away. Maybe some Ozzy/Randy Rhodes too, a little later.

    Anybody reads this, and thinks of doing something as stupid as my Best Friend did…..you are loved. *I* love you, if noone else. Just sit on down with me for a spell, would you? Have a nice relaxing toke, and chill awhile with me and David Gilmore….ok?


    And when the Floyd albums done, and we stop feeling sorry for ourselves….


    1. JTMcPhee

      So sorry for your loss. May the new year bring you some peace. It’s helped me, the passage of time, and fading memories of some stuff that went on in ‘67 and ‘68, in that place where the pants I bought at Target and am wearing right now came from — “Made in Vietnam.” So what was that all about? Still waiting for an apology from the sh!ts who got us into that one. Sorrow for all the mopes who are being turned into Disabled Veterans, every effing day of every Imperial effing year.

    2. Carey

      I do not want at all to demean the pain you’re feeling, but maybe to your departed friend it did
      not appear as a temporary problem. I know people who feel that way.

      1. Carey

        Adding: one things that can help as an antidote to those feelings, I’m told, is remembering
        the the Few and those who serve them want us to take that dark path; work assiduously
        in that direction.

    3. scoff

      I have a playlist of nothing but Floyd. For times when I want to think, or not think, as the mood hits.

      How I wish, how I wish you were here.
      We’re just two lost souls
      Swimming in a fish bowl,
      Year after year,
      Running over the same old ground.
      What have we found?
      The same old fears.
      Wish you were here.

      For all the friends who have come and gone.
      Wish you were here.

    4. richard

      Jacobite, I know how hard these bad anniversaries can be. And I think there is much wisdom in seeking refuge in music.

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        Thanks to all for thoughts and words, and a special thanks for ‘Set the Controls’…particularly appropriate, it is.

        My buddy and I, just out of high school, took the whole ‘Live At Pompeii’ movie at face value and on multiple occasions in college rented ridiculous amounts of amps, speakers, and stuff so we could take ourselves up to the mountains and jam it up for keggers in the misty wilds of the forest. Being based in the PNW, we had no Roman ruins so the old growth forest surrounding an old log landing always seemed the best facsimile.

        Of course, the drummer eventually got married, the rhythm guitar/lead vocalist got a real job, and only me and my best friend kept up jamming through the years.

        “…Careful With That Axe Eugene…and Springfield…” as we used to say on the way to the party, and giving away our place of birth…. :)

        Well, time to suck it up for another year and do our best to make some smiles where they are needed! :)

    5. Carey


      I regret and sincerely apologize for what I wrote in reponse to your loss.
      Being less of a jacka** is something I resolve to do.

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        I didn’t take it as anything to apologize for at all….in fact, it was truth. To him, it didn’t seem temporary, in the pain of the moment.

        I guess the real trick is in the convincing of people in pain that things like that really are temporary…and find ways to see it in them, before, and to convince them in time.

        A cliche to end all cliches, but it really is darkest just before the dawn eh? :)

        1. Carey

          Thanks for your gracious response, JiT. Lot of truth there;
          must.. keep.. learning/remembering..


    1. polecat

      Can’t wait for the Year of the Tapeworm .. so I can send a calendar of parasites to my favorite Congress folk !

      1. Mark Alexander

        That would be an insult to parasites.

        (My father was a parasitologist, so the dinner table conversation when I was growing was probably out of the ordinary.)

  20. meeps

    Ok, I’ll take a jab at the conversation starter. That workspace looks like the sort that would only be proposed by someone who’s not done more in such a space than hover over it. I’ll be so bold as to suggest that ol’ bloomers should clock some time as a genuine catcher for the everyday B team–with commensurate pay and benefits–before assuming leadership, alright? But who am I kidding? He’s always played for the Republican team, and why not? The other side forfeited (excepting one steadfast batter from Vermont) because the Democrats are elsewhere playing drop ball:


    In all seriousness though, Hamford’s plantidote is a gorgeous fit for the occasion, owing to its many contrasts. Happy trails to all of you in the coming year, with a special thanks to Lambert for bringing so much insight to the water cooler, and with such humor and class.

    This being an open thread night, I’ll leave a song for my fellow jazz travelers. I realize the element of fire is creating trouble for many in the commentariat, and for them I wish the safety and security of fresh air and the company of good friends. This song, however, is about another kind of fire altogether. May 2020 kindle flames of another sort. Cheers.


    1. HotFlash

      Ha! The ad on this one reads “Equipment Maintenance Guide: the ultimate guide to proactive, preventive heavy equipment maintenance.” Never saw an ad so aptly placed! Heavy equipment indeed. Thank you, Hiromi, Edmar and meeps.

  21. ambrit

    You know, if Bloomberg promised, in writing, to force all the infamous ’17 Intelligence Agencies’ to go to open office plans, so that no secrets could be secure for long, I would seriously consider voting for him.

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