Links 12/19/19

Something to chew on: New Zealand man sets up ‘stick library’ for dogs Guardian

The False Promise of Natural Gas NEJM

Warren Buffett’s power company takes flak for coal plant closures FT

Air Keeps Pumping Into the U.S. Valuation Balloon John Authers, Bloomberg

Crypto scam offers modern twist on classic pyramid fraud FT

After the Fall LRB. From 2018, still germane.

Judge OKs $13.5 billion PG&E settlement with fire victims’ lawyers San Francisco Chronicle


The Problem with the Labour Party Benjamin Studebaker

Realpolitik for post-Brexit Britain FT

General election 2019: Blair attacks Corbyn’s ‘comic indecision’ on Brexit BBC

Brexit and health, Johnson sets out priorities in Queen’s Speech Reuters

French strikers angry about pension reform cut power to homes, companies Reuters. Those “companies” including the Bank of France.


Explainer: What does passage of India’s controversial citizenship bill mean? Dhaka Tribune

CAA Protests Live: Protesters Detained Across Country, Mobile Services Suspended in Delhi The Wire. In New Delhi, authorities also imposed a ban on meetings of more than four people in some of its Muslim-dominated districts.

Citizenship Amendment Act: India top court to hear petitions in January BBC

Small border crossings can have big dimensions Nikkei Asian Review

Dispute continues over military exemption for K-pop stars Jakarta Post


China’s Economic Choices Lowy Insitute

Hong Kong protesters are naming and shaming police officers Nikkei Asian Review

Chinese students defiant as university charter cuts ‘freedom of thought’ Agence France Presse

China To Crack Down on Gangs Profiting From Diseased Pork Sixth Tone

Can Japan persuade Southeast Asia not to break the rules-based order as China dangles cash? South China Morning Post


If France Wants The Middle East, Let Them Have It The American Conservative

Realignment and Legitimacy

A Global Anarchy Revival Could Outdo the 1960s Bloomberg

The Impending Ruling Class Mental Breakdown and Riot Black Agenda Report. You ain’t seen nuthin yet.

How Climate Change Primed Chileans for an Uprising Bloomberg

Working Past 70: Chileans Struggle to Get By on Meager Pensions Latin American Herald Tribune (Timotheus).

After the Argentina debacle, the IMF endorses weakening capital controls in Ecuador Open Democracy

What ‘The New York Times’ Got Wrong on Bolivia The Nation

U.N. Peacekeepers in Haiti Said to Have Fathered Hundreds of Children NYT


The moment of triumph:

Pelosi threatens to delay Senate impeachment trial Politico. Lordy. Galaxy brain take: Don’t let Mitch McConnell conduct a Potemkin impeachment trial Lawrence Tribe, WaPo.

Tulsi Gabbard votes ‘present’ for Trump impeachment Star-Advertiser. Both articles.

Five Questions Still Remaining After the Release of the Horowitz Report Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

The Chilling Reality of Bias at the F.B.I. NYT

NSA Whistleblower: “Mueller Report based on fabricated evidence” Off-Guardian

Trump Transition

Meet the man behind the CIA gift store, the country’s most secretive swag shop WaPo. Limited edition electrodes, signed and numbered by Gina Haspel. The perfect stocking stuffer for your CIA Democrat!

Adding up the Cost of Our Never-Ending Wars POGO


Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come The American Conservative “And even better, UBI is designed to replace every other entitlement program.”

Our Famously Free Press

Afghan Papers Inadvertently Document WaPo’s Role in Spreading Official Lies FAIR

Health Care

Court: Part of ‘Obamacare’ invalid, more review needed AP

A Way To Think Clearly About “Medicare For All” Debates Current Affairs

‘How I ended up in hospital in Italy – without health insurance’ The Local

Class Warfare

You Can Have Means Testing or You Can Have Democracy Jacobin

Column: Trump’s labor regulators hand McDonald’s a big win over its workers Los Angeles Times

Samsung chair imprisoned and 24 others found guilty in union-busting case Ars Technica. Jail time for union-busting?!

The Threat to Life as We Know It: The View from Sri Lanka Counterpunch. From the originator of Analog Forestry.

Antidote du jour (C):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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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. Henry Moon Pie

    A sympathetic anarchist primer appears on Bloomberg? WTF? Is this one of those anarcho-capitalist types? I notice he didn’t pay much attention to anarchism’s essential anti-capitalist nature since capitalism is one of our society’s biggest sources of oppression and hierarchy. He quoted Proudhon for anti-state sentiments but failed to mention “property is theft” or other anti-capitalist sentiments. Hmmm.

    1. Krystyn Walentka

      Starting off with “Property is Theft” is like throwing a toddler in the deep end of a pool. It’s a hard concept to break free if so best lead them slowly and gently into the cool waters of anarchism.

      At least the article ended with:

      As angry, leaderless individuals revolt against increasingly authoritarian states and bureaucracies from Santiago to New Delhi, anarchist politics seems an idea whose time has come.

      Which makes me almost cry…

    2. Stephen V.

      What about anarchism with capitalism?
      IOW, what happens when the legalities of private property are set aside? One is left with cooperation. The problem is we think everything has to be coerced…
      Set aside? There was a time *before* private property. There will be a time *after* as well.
      No way to coerce the necessary undoing of our beliefs around collateralized lending, blowing up land values and all the rest.

  2. Donald

    That Nation article about the NYT and Bolivia is wrong on one point. It is not out of character for the NYT to support fascism over leftwing populism in other countries. They might wag their finger about excesses once the leftist is safely forced out. I’m not sure but I think they would support a never Trump Republican over Sanders in this country. I think they would pick Trump over Corbyn. Trump vs Sanders would make them very unhappy, but I think they would reluctantly pick Sanders.

    1. a different chris

      Agreed. And the Guardian’s hysterically funny (to us that don’t live there!) sudden and late new perspective on Corbyn was no doubt noted amongst the top brass of the NYT, so they will move smartly out of the gate if it is Trump v. Sanders.

      I believe (I don’t read the NYT, only see what I see here) is that already they have decided to stop attacking Sanders and simply ignore him just because of that possibility.

      Of course, neither the NYT or the Guardian actually have (family-blog)-all influence on the elections despite their cocooned beliefs, but they will act like they do.

  3. zagonostra

    >Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report

    I guess I fall into what Ford classifies as “progressive white folk” and for the most part agree with his analysis and that of others like Chris Hedges who time and time again warn that electoral politics, especial of the Dem/Rep variety is hopeless in bringing about a radical realignment between capital and labor, or the oligarchs and the 99% if you like.

    Nonetheless I am contributing to Sanders/Tulsi – the only true progressives – and doing what I can to persuade friends and family that that is the only choice leading away that catastrophic day of reckoning which I sense lies just a little further down the path this country is on.

    The Democratic Party is a hopeless trap from which Black America must escape if it is to cast off its own misleadership class and exercise any real political agency. But fear of the GOP White Man’s Party’s brand of Dixie-born fascism locks African Americans in an alliance with the modern corporate fascist Democrats and their national security and mass incarceration, oligarch-serving state. The same goes for millions of progressive white folks and other Americans.

    1. Carolinian

      More BAR

      But it is absolutely clear – both here in the belly of the global superpower beast, and in the old empire on the Thames – that every bourgeois liberty is “on the table” for elimination when the oligarchs feel existentially threatened. If you think they went crazy over the election of Trump, an impulsive and undependable member of their own class, imagine what they will countenance when an austerity buster threatens to take leadership of the other half of the electoral duopoly, and then contest for the presidency.

      I think this is right. Impeachment is just the latest manifestation of a ruling class nervous breakdown. Trump may be a phony working class champion but even the notion of such a champion is verboten. Now they want to delay impeachment and hold their breath and turn blue until we are all equally crazy with TDS. May we all survive it.

      1. Roy G

        This. In 2020, I believe we will witness a 1000x freakout as Bernie gets closer to the Presidency that makes TDS look like small potatoes.

    2. BillC

      Amen, brother or sister! And like you, I’m putting my money where my mouth (and heart) is. While its coverage isn’t as broad as NC (no cute critter or stunning plant pics) and is considerably more polemic, BAR is always well-reasoned and almost as essential reading.

  4. milesc

    RE Crypto scam offers modern twist on classic pyramid fraud FT

    It boggles the mind that (1) this scam is still running(!) and (2) the authorities seem largely powerless to stop it.

    This was quickly and correctly identified and dismissed as an outright scam by crypto folk, myself included, some 4 years ago! Of course, crypto folk weren’t really the targets of this scam, so it rumbled on. It is only now back in the news because it featured in a BBC podcast (The Missing Crypto Queen).

      1. Wukchumni

        I think I chose the wrong profession, should have waited for numismatricks, ha!

        The whole Bitcoin saga is so reminiscent of various Franklin Mint ‘limited edition’ coins they minted for Banana Republic countries in the 1970’s.

        They typically made 20,000 to 30,000 special proof sets for Bahamas, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago etc.

        It’s all worth just the metal melt down value for the 2 or 3 silver coins in each set.

  5. PlutoniumKujn

    How I ended up in hospital in Italy – without health insurance’ The Local

    It sounds a little like the experience of a retired Australian friend of mine who fell very ill with leukemia in France – he had no travel or other insurance. He was given top class treatment and cured (his wife is an ex oncology nurse with Oz and US experience and so could confirm that he got as good a treatment as anyone could expect, despite being in a smaller city). He was almost certainly obliged to pay the costs, but the staff simply registered him as a local resident and treated him, probably ‘overlooking’ the need to report that he was uninsured to the (usually very small) accounting apartment. He wasn’t charged a cent. This is pretty common all over Europe where the hospitals are generally non-commercial, even if the system is theoretically insurance based.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      I know of at least one instance where the Italian hospital wouldn’t even take a payment—either cash or insurance— for a significant treatment. They said that didn’t have anyone on staff that knew how to bill.

    1. tegnost

      I thought it was to ensure fist fights over the xmas dinner table. I expect there will be another “How to bully your family members this holiday season” pamphlet from the dccc. Point one this time will be…
      1.) Remind them that who has the gold makes the rules.

    2. pjay

      LOL! Yes, if only Pelosi and the Dems would learn to “game the system” like Mitch McConnell and the Republicans! Then justice would be served.

      Thanks for the morning laugh. Sometimes it keeps one from crying.

      1. Aluminium or Aluminum

        Is this tinfoilhat material?
        1) for ridiculous stuff (not for war crimes, destruction of civil rights etc),
        2) for Trump but no legal actions against Obama and Clintons for talking with foreign governments so showing it is a pure political act
        3) against the interest of the people outside the blob and nevertrumpers

        meaning that they will crush the Democratic party as an institution and thereby make it impossible for Sanders and his ilk to use the party for other purposes than feeding the 1%ers and its political bought dependents as well as guaranteeing a Trump-win. After all, Trump has been excellent for the parasitic class.

      2. jp

        It’s not four dimensional chess, it’s just poker. Mitch has had a stacked deck for so long he just can’t understand how he could have lost a hand. This might actually make things interesting.

        Gaming the system is the pot. That’s what they have always played for.

    3. Lee

      No doubt they are giving grave consideration as to whether their production of Springtime for Trump will play better as tragedy, farce, or even perhaps as a musical.

    4. Katniss Everdeen

      So much for the solemn and prayerful devotion to the Constitution, rule of law and sacred democracy.

      Having spent the last several months shrieking about the existential dangers posed to the republic by Orange Man, necessitating impeachment, and extolling the framers for having provided a path to rectify the travesty of his election, the speaker decides that she knows better and refuses to follow through.

      Maybe it was never about “impeachment” at all. I posted this on the impeachment thread but it seems to have disappeared, so I’ll try dropping it here. It’s an interesting read, and explains a lot.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Never lose sight of the fact that it is always about *power*. So we’re tossed around like marionettes on a string, as the Dems scream “treason!” “Russia!” “peeing prostitutes!” “quid pro quo!” and now, unbelievably, “Ukraine!”.

        Cloak that all in “solemn and prayerful” and “reluctant Constitutional duty” if you like, but it’s a complete sham. Meantime the Dems gave Trump everything he wanted on the Patriot Act, the trade deal, and the military budget. The actual multi-trillion dollar Crime of the Century (Afghanistan) was exposed and laid bare for all to see in disgusting detail but was shoved down the memory hole as quickly as possible.

        There’s a giant money bone, that you paid for, and two junkyard dogs each have a grip of it on either end. Do not be under any illusions that either of these rabid curs has any interest whatsoever in doing anything to make your life any better. Your sole purpose is to further enrich billionaire monopolist oligarchs and then die as soon as possible.

  6. The Rev Kev

    “General election 2019: Blair attacks Corbyn’s ‘comic indecision’ on Brexit”

    Saw him on TV earlier and I had to mute the sound. If there was anybody responsible for impoverishing large parts of the United Kingdom that left the people there seeing Brexit as a viable option because of what was happening with their lives, then Blair is your man. No doubt he want to resurrect Third Way 2.0 as a solution forward for the Labour Party but this could lead that party heading off into oblivion this time. The way that he was being reported sounds like that he is being “rehabilitated” by the media. That is their job after all these days.

    1. flore

      Dear Tony, Marketism has failed. It has certainly failed 80% of the country. It might have appeared the way forward at one time, assuming the ‘rational actor’ was real instead of a figment to make some academic equations work. That time has truly passed. Look around you. Don’t be another person trapped in the thinking that was in vogue during your prime, a thinking now shown to be in error. Even so notable a figure as Alan Greenspan admitted there was a flaw in his economic models.
      Look around you. Move forward. Or move aside.
      One of the 80%

      1. Redlife2017

        Blair has slunk out of his 3rd-way triangulation crypt. Woo hoo. At least Gordon Brown had the decency to say he was wrong about austerity and some of the other stuff they did. Blair went off and made money off of torturers, because it’s not cheap to buy an expensive house and then have to pay it off. (I remember the shock at the time as Blair CLEARLY didn’t have the money to buy that house even with selling his house in Islington). But hey, what’s £20m+ in cash and £27m+ in a property empire between friends when you have a lavish lifestyle to live up to.

      2. Procopius

        Greenspan sorta kinda admitted he miscalculated and then went right back to spouting the same old dreck.

  7. pretzelattack

    re “impending ruling class riot”–remember the business plot. i’d bet substantial money this has already been discussed with regard to a sanders/gabbard win as a contingency plan, but no way to prove it.

  8. PlutoniumKun

    China’s Economic Choices Lowy Insitute

    A pretty good overview of how South Korea and Japan managed to avoid the middle income trap and keep growing, but as always with this type of analysis it entirely overlooks the simple distinction between GDP and GDP per person, not to mention distributional aspects. Another key element of the problem with the Asian high growth Model, Michael Pettis points out, are sectoral imbalances – one key way to reform the Chinese economy in a positive way is to give more money to regular Chinese people by way of boosting their domestic spending power and introducing more universal benefits. Lula in Brazil also showed the benefits of direct fiscal transfers to the poorest in society.

    1. Trent

      Japan is growing? That’s news to me. Once your population stops expanding and goes in reverse, you ain’t growing. Numbers might get bigger, but you aren’t growing. They’re just a decade or two ahead of the US.

      1. polecat

        I think that Japan will revert to some form of Neo-Bushido. Imagine Samuri wearing carbon-fiber war dress, atop bullet trains – hurtling towards a rival clan .. rather than oiled leather, wooden body guards, and horses … with flaming arrows dipped in glowing Fuku goo !

        1. Trent

          More likely they’ll become a Chinese puppet. Stinks to be Japan, was an American puppet and soon to be a Chinese puppet.

  9. The Historian

    Re: “The Problem with the Labour Party”

    Reading all of these articles about the Labour Party makes me wonder if these guys, seeing that their house is on fire, are just sitting around analyzing the color of the smoke instead of trying to put the damn fire out.

    1. mpalomar

      I think he got it mostly right except he forgot to mention the event was lensed through a highly biased media, a spectrum that ran all the way from A to B (credit to D Parker), fatally distorting Corbyn’s campaign. To some extent he glossed over the class factor always elemental in the UK.

      In contradiction to the most plausible outcome offered, “The differences between 90s Labour and 20s Labour are relatively small. Both consist of professional class people, albeit people of different generations…Labour always rested on a level of economic consciousness that is difficult to sustain outside periods of acute economic crisis. It is far easier to form alliances around highly visible cultural issues.’

      – The economic crisis seems unlikely to dissipate going forward, focusing rather than blurring the issue and the differences between 90s Labour and 20s Labour will be partly reconfigured along a shifting class structure outside his 90 20 model.

  10. pjay

    Re: NSA Whistleblower: “Mueller Report based on fabricated evidence” Off-Guardian

    Besides undermining the central “Russian hacking” narrative, the most striking aspect of Bill Binney’s work is how thoroughly it has been blacked out by all but a handful of alternative media outlets. This is doubly depressing because to be heard he has to appear on shows like this LaRouchean program. Such an appearance, of course, will be used by all “serious” and “legitimate” commentators to continue ignoring him as a kooky “conspiracy theorist.”

    Meanwhile, the Ukrainegate bull***t gets 24/7 coverage.

      1. Trent

        Why didn’t we have something like the Mueller Report when the banks failed? Why didn’t the media hammer home every day like they do now about Trump with regards to the banks?

        1. foghorn longhorn

          Probably because their ‘buddies’ run the banks, just a wild azz guess.

          If shillary had won and done the exact same things trump has done, she would have a nobel prize or two by now.

  11. PlutoniumKun

    The Problem with the Labour Party Benjamin Studebaker

    Although kinda arbitrary in his distinction between the different Labour factions, this isn’t a bad analysis of the problems facing any future Labour leader. There are, fundamentally, several different factions within the party with entirely different aims and successive leaders have failed to find a key to resolving this (except of course Blair, and he did it by winning elections and distributing the goodies generated by being in power). Somehow, the Tories have always managed to survive despite having just as many irreconcilable factions.

    I would say though that he overstates the ‘wokeness’ of the newer generation – ID politics has never quite been as damaging in the UK as in the US. If anything, its the Blairites who have attempted to weaponise it, with somewhat less success than the Democrats. I think the key distinction between the newer younger members is that they are far closer to Greens in their views and analysis and far less wedded to old Socialist doctrine. Their internationalism is less ideological to them, than a simple reflection of their daily lives, where they’ve grown up with friends from different cultures and spent their holidays all over Europe – its part of their lives, not an ideology.

    The big advantage Labour will have is that once the UK finally leaves, then Brexit will not be quite the divisive issue, although no doubt some Blairites will be keen on pushing a ‘rejoin’ project, which would I think be politically disastrous. I think another blessing in disguise may be the virtual wipe-out in Scotland. This can allow them to reformulate themselves as an ‘SNP for England and Wales’, although the deep tribal hatred between Labour and the SNP might well make even considering that option anathema.

      1. Duck1

        Seems like Orlov is offering his explanation of not-QE, which he attributes to the UST market gradually going toxic, ie lack of demand so monetization. I don’t say Orlov has found the true explanation for escalating not-QE, but those who have been scratching their head about it may want to give this a look. Didn’t see where he mentioned gold.

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          Love me some Orlov but he’s off the reservation with his “the dollar is going to collapse” schtick. He cites a similar theme with Putin insisting the ruble “will not be devalued” when the Soviet Union came apart, but of course it was then massively devalued against the dollar. But a similar argument would beg the question “what would the dollar devalue against“?

          The answer of course, is everything. Stocks. Houses. Medical care. Tuition. Avocados. But which currency would it devalue against? The Euro? The Yen? The renminbi?

          My take is that central bank “thinking” is evolving. Bernanke called Japan’s first forays into QE “extremely dangerous, with unknown consequences”. But in the fullness of time they were all forced to come to the same party. This caused heartburn among the oldthink crowd, who thought it very unseemly for a CB to have such a massive balance sheet. They made an effort to shrink it but quickly learned it was the only thing holding up asset prices. The Fed is now on track to grow their balance sheet to its largest ever, more than $4.5 trillion.

          So where to from here? I’d argue that they see $8 trillion or even $20 trillion in their futures. What else does a society do when its money is based on issuing new debt but every possible debtor is already full to the gills, even with rates at zero or below?

          So we’ll need a few new definitions. What do you call fractional ownership conveying rights to discounted enterprise cash flows (stocks) when unlimited free money is constantly applied to remove the number of shares, making their “price” go up? The earnings of the SP 500 are exactly where they were in 2014 but their prices are 70% higher.

          And what do you call a “bond”, which under regular circumstances requires an underwriter (bank) to calculate the debtor’s ability to repay (interest and principal), but now can be issued absent any such concerns because it will be bought, no questions asked, by a super-entity (the CB) which itself has no ability to gauge the quality of the bond (the creditworthiness of the borrower) but that fact no longer matters because they have removed the instrument from all market forces?

          You can’t blame people for acquiring a certain element, atomic number 79, whose total supply was fixed in an asteroid fall 4 billion years ago, whose available supply increases 1.6% per year, only with herculean efforts to find minute quantities of it 5,000 feet underground. The total available supply of said element ever mined throughout all of history, melted together, would full just two Olympic swimming pools, and geologists say the total remaining worldwide unmined amount will eventually fill just one more pool.

  12. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: If France Wants The Middle East, Let Them Have It The American Conservative

    The biggest worry would be that those nations drag us into conflicts. Few remember that it was France, attempting to hold onto a last bastion of colonial power, that snared us into Vietnam.

    Enough said.

  13. a different chris

    Wow I’m usually much more “meh” about Studebaker’s writings than others are, but he nails it this time. There is one thing to kick around, though:

    >Cast adrift, this rump labour movement will fall in behind Boris Johnson, in the same way that many American workers from the flyover states have become part of Trump’s vanguard.

    Not saying he’s incorrect, just the opposite: he’s nailed it. But this may well be more a “run into the arms of another” rather than a permanent relationship. There’s now a different kind of “woke” in the world, and that’s the kind where you know you are being economically screwed. Once you are woke in that way, your choice of the party to address it needs to deliver.

    BoJo and Trump won’t. They can’t, they are idiots, and they don’t want to anyway. I don’t know what will happen in the US as we are somehow stuck with a two-party system, but in Britain the “Northern Labor constituency” may well not sit on its butts for long. And woe to both the Tories and Labor when they rise up.

    1. norm de plume

      ‘I don’t know what will happen in the US as we are somehow stuck with a two-party system, but in Britain the “Northern Labor constituency” may well not sit on its butts for long. And woe to both the Tories and Labor when they rise up’

      I dunno. For a start, two of the three words in that title disqualify it from ever being more than a large pain in the national arse, never big enough to form a full cheek like Labour or the Tories. And one thing we don’t need is another party. Parties are half the problem; they are too easy for the power lobbies to game, scam, intimidate, co-opt or fool (these categories are not mutually exclusive)

      Of course individuals are too, but there are so many more of them and they are so much more various at the granular and personal rather than pseudo-corporate party level. Look at the amount the 1% currently spend on herding the parties into line and imagine what they would have to fork out to corral each pollie separately. It would be like Whack a Mole for the poor buggers, who would finally have to do some actual work to earn their keep. Coalitions would form around issues and proposed solutions (I know, novel, eh?) but would then dissolve and realign in a changed configuration around the next issue.

      This is not to say that we must swap party myopics for personality politics. The idea is to have ‘ordinary people’ stand as independents in a fully funded electoral system on their own raft of beliefs and preferences, and promises. A parliament full of such people would be more effective and less easy to corrupt than the party hacks, the drones, zealots and grifters who are self-dealing and short-terming us into the ground.

      The Tories are impressively prone to division, but can always rally round the core principle of elite power and wealth preservation. Labour cant seem to gather together under the banner of fairness and sharing, and this I think is because, under the twin pressures of austerity and Brexit, several of its foundational elements can no longer hold their noses and live together, pursuing their own agendas at the expense of unity. It is hard to imagine a political tent large enough nowadays to house both dispossessed and de-industrialised northerners, and Euro-focussed urban professionals.

      What possible solutions to the problems of the former would the latter be able to stomach, and vice versa? They find it almost impossible now to find common ground, both on which issues to highlight, and then on optimal approaches to addressing those issues. In easier times, cracks could be covered, allowances made to ensure sufficient unity to prevail. But Brexit has dissolved those tenuous connections, cutting across constituencies either more or (much) less affected by austerity and neglect and the old stasis stubbornly refuses to return.

      Then of course too, the party is a daily sacrifice to the neoliberal gods in what we are pleased to call the ‘mainstream media’. And yes, they ballsed the election up in spectacular fashion. Well, I guess ‘spectacular’ could be improved upon to describe their ‘performance’.

      But on all the matters that matter – climate change, inequality, whatever – attitudes are partly formed by elements that sit in a deeper, more fundamental place in the hearts and minds of the people in their various factions, and no amount of wishing or indeed reasoning will change them in the environment the last decade or so of chaotic decline has bequeathed us.

      Trying to shoehorn opposites into a party-sized hole is doomed to failure, partly because ‘disunity is death’ to the movement itself, and partly because it makes it so much easier for the enemy to divide you – which they can’t do if you are not united in the first place.

  14. L

    Universal Basic Income: An Idea Whose Time Has Come The American Conservative “And even better, UBI is designed to replace every other entitlement program.”

    No, it is designed to cut every other program by replacing them with something smaller and at the same time ensure that those dollars will be redirected to the tech giants who support the proposals. You cannot spend food stamps or medicaid on toys off of Amazon. You can spend a UBI that way.

    It is much like saying they want to support education by supporting vouchers that can be spent on luxury student housing not just tuition and books.

    1. Trent

      “It is much like saying they want to support education by supporting vouchers that can be spent on luxury student housing not just tuition and books.”

      Like student loans?

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That idea above is to design UBI ‘to replace every other entitlement program.’

      It can be countered, a couple of ways –

      1. by opposing UBI, period, including that particular version.


      2. by opposing that particular version of UBI, and proposing a different version. For example, this one: UBI in addition to keeping and expanding current entitlement programs.

      Doing #2 is not more difficult than doing #1, it seems to me.

      I am not sure if we should just say, UBI is a bad idea, just because some people are abusing the UBI idea with proposals like the one above, about using it to replace existing programs.

      1. Wukchumni

        UBI as proposed @ a grandido a month, is eerily similar to the maximum amount you can give somebody as a gift, w/o any taxes being incurred.

  15. Carolinian

    Re FAIR and the WaPo

    The Post also has a history of facilitating official spin for the war. When WikiLeaks posted tens of thousands of classified intelligence documents related to the Afghanistan War, FAIR (7/30/10) found that the Post either dismissed them as not being as important as the Pentagon Papers (7/27/10), or absurdly spun the leaks as good news for the US war effort (7/27/10) because the “release could compel President Obama to explain more forcefully the war’s importance,” and because they “bolstered Obama’s decision in December to pour more troops and money into a war effort that had not received sufficient attention or resources from the Bush administration.”

    I recently caught Official Secrets which–as others here have pointed out–is an excellent movie. The competent British cast make the tale credible but the real engine is the notion that people of that time could still be outraged over their government and their press lying them into war. Now, all these years after the Iraq invasion, we’ve almost become numb to it.

    Which is to say that all governments lie and they get away with it to the extent that the press helps them out. If the movie is to be believed the Observer changed its tune in the face of the truth (and in defense of their big scoop), but that lack of consequences for the rest of the Iraq war cheerleaders brought us to our current state. For the Post to now go all Woodward and Bernstein on Afghanistan is far too late

  16. vidimi

    i think maybe the biggest story in the world right now is australia, breaking all-time temperature records two days in a row. the entire continent hit an average temperature of 41.7°C yesterday (107F). not long before it will be uninhabitable.

    it’s a harbinger of the kind of doom that awaits us all because we believe billionnaires have a greater right to pillaging the planet than the rest of us do to live on it.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      OK, report from the ground in Sydney.

      It feels like a sci-fi movie, of the apocalyptic variety. It feels like it may never rain again. People are acting crazy. You look down the hallway of a mall or office and see smoke. I find myself wondering whether I will ever again see the moon in black and white, it sadly hangs in the sky like a slice of orange. Birds are acting strange, seagulls sitting down starving (I watch them from my boat). I think it’s affecting the supply of fish they depend on. Thousands of shearwaters, dead from starvation, recently washed up on the beaches of Bondi. The weather is entirely screwed up, forecasters getting it diametrically wrong day after day. 90% of the people live in little strips of land along the coasts, these still get some ameliorating effects, and the major cities have desal plants ready. But I can’t imagine if something such as this were visited on a more populated continent. Societal collapse, methinks.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Thanks for that report OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL. In other news – Two firefighters just died through a tree falling on their truck, three other firefighters were burned recently, another truck was swept by flames and aircraft had to douse them, record heat waves are on the way, water dropping helicopters have resorted to scooping up water from swimming pools, even here it is hazy with smoke from my back verandah like a fog – the news just gets better and better. California had better get its act together before summer hits over there-

        Meanwhile, our Prime Minister who was about to send us a post card from Hawaii saying ‘Having a lovely time. No smoke here to bother me. Wish you were here’ has instead said ‘He is coming home soon. Sorry about shooting through like that. Did I do something wrong?’ Let that be a lesson. When things go extremely bad for a people, count on a neoliberal leader to run away and think of themselves.

    2. LifelongLib

      It’d be nice if we could just blame billionaires. But what if it’s all of us, just ordinary people trying to have decent lives? Maybe consciousness was a wrong turn, and nature can’t accommodate beings who are aware of their suffering and alter the world to alleviate it. The planet is under no obligation to provide for our happiness. Global warming, one more existential joke on us all…

  17. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: Five Questions Still Remaining After the Release of the Horowitz Report Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

    Who is Joseph Mifsud?

    A congressional source last week said, “I don’t see any way the investigation can be aboveboard if Mifsud isn’t a Russian agent.”

    Three years of attacks on Donald Trump have been sustained by relentless inference, innuendo and speculation about things that never even happened, and yet the pivotal role of mifsud remains not only unexamined, but largely unmentioned.

    The guy is a ghost.

    I think it’s pretty clear that the reason impeccably-credentialed ex-fbi directors and eminently honorable inspectors general avoid the mifsud issue like the plague, is because the truth would blow the lid off this corrupt mess that passes for a government.

    1. chuck roast

      Another and more interesting ghost is Sergei Skirpal. Skirpal has been linked with Steele. There have been murmurings that Skirpal was the Russian intelligence contact with the vivid imagination.
      Helmer has them hidden in a US Air Force base in England. Curious why people for whom the Checka supposedly had homicidal intentions are keep incommunicado rather than being celebrated as survivors of Putin’s murderous mind.

      1. Roy G

        Yet another interesting character is Pablo Miller, Skirpal’s MI6 handler, who (coincidentally I’m sure) is a colleague of Christopher Steele’s at Orbis.

  18. Grant

    “China’s Economic Choices”

    I have a few issues with the article, although I thought it was interesting. One is that China is running into ecological limits to growth, which Minqi Li has focused on in his books (which I would highly recommend). They are already dealing with massive ecological issues, from pollution to desertification, soil erosion, lack of access to water in large parts of the country, etc. I question the logic of endlessly focusing on growth itself, at least if it involves growth in throughput. That in turn though will require China to focus internally on the massive inequality in the country, which is one of the biggest reasons for unrest (what have been called “mass incidents” in China), and corruption. Secondly, and kind of connected to the first point, we should really focus on what we mean by the term “efficient”. Many firms are efficient because they externalize their costs off onto the environment and society. Not only various negative environmental impacts, but lower wages and benefits, which require public expenditures on food stamps, housing support, Medicaid, etc. If a company is highly profitable because it pays low wages (which are then made up by the state) and pollutes a lot and externalizes those costs off onto society, ecosystems and future generations, but another isn’t as profitable but pays higher wages, provides housing and educational support, and doesn’t cause as much environmental damage, which is efficient? In China, any SOEs have had requirements in regards to providing housing, basic healthcare, food, etc. to their workers. Private companies often do not. SOEs could become more “efficient” by continuing to shed these responsibilities, or by laying off workers and replacing them with robots (automation in China is increasing at a rapid pace too), but it seems that in order for us to regard that as efficient, we have to ignore wide collective costs of doing this and we also have to not take into account non-market environmental impacts. An SOE has to consider things that private companies do not, and I find it problematic to analyze them as we would private companies. They are two different things, and Township Village Enterprises are different than SOEs, and worker owned firms are different than public or traditional private enterprises, and the cooperative economy in China is pretty large.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One ecological issue concerns the melting of permafrost in Siberia.

      Russia’s production of oil and natural gas (for domestic and export consumption) contributes their share to that problem.

      At the same time, Chinese are moving into Siberia in large numbers. That means more human activities, and energy consumption right along the thawing Siberian permafrost.

      Whatever ancient life forms that will re-emerge will likely spread southward towards 1.4 billion Chinese.

    2. ObjectiveFunction

      Interesting points, cheers. This snip jumped out at me from the piece:

      “Second, the government supports a resurgence of the SOEs to boost their activities in core ‘strategic sectors’ where they already play an exclusive or dominant role.”

      Nice statist word salad there.

      As you note, the social mission of these SOEs is important, perhaps crucial in maintaining stability as China adjusts to a slower growth ‘new normal’. But let’s get real, the custodial mindset required isn’t exactly a recipe for ‘resurgence’ or boosting ‘strategic’ anything.

  19. dk

    Just a heads-up pass-the-word:
    Emotet Malware Uses Greta Thunberg Demonstration Invites as Lure

    As always, never open attachments from anyone without confirming over the phone that they did indeed send you the file [dk: AND EVEN THEN]. You should also always be cautious of enabling content or macros on any attachment you receive.

    Emotet is known is a “banking trojan” for the context of its first discovery embedded in fake invoice documents from “banks”. But the payloads (transmitted apps installed by the trojan after infection) could be anything, ransom-ware comes to mind.

  20. WestcoastDeplorable

    Everyone should read the “NSA Whistleblower” piece. Bill Binney should get a medal, the entire Russia hack story is bullshirt and he can prove it.

  21. Oregoncharles

    The LRB article looks more and more like a must-read as I go along. No idea yet where he’s going, but ” Every credit is a debt, every debt is a credit, assets and liabilities always match, and the system always balances to zero, so it doesn’t really matter how big those numbers are, how much credit or debt there is in the system, the net is always the same. But…” Does this trigger any one else’s BS meter? That’s an imaginary economy, as we now know – as the author knows, as the final “But” indicates. However, he ascribes the fall largely to the abduction of the Confidence Fairy. The real problem is more like “liabilities always match.” A confidence scheme, indeed.

    Then: ” No one had ever lived through, and no one thought possible, a situation where all the credit simultaneously disappeared from everywhere and the entire system teetered on the brink. ” So the whole economy runs on credit. That makes no sense to me. I actually had a small business, for years; very small, me and another guy, but I wouldn’t have dreamed of borrowing to cover operating expenses, aside from an account at the landscape supply place – which we always covered at the end of the month. Most successful businesses should have little need of credit unless they want to expand; the exception is a few, like construction, where they shell out a tremendous amount before they get paid. So why would the economy come to a screaming halt when credit dries up? Evidently the business schools have a lot to answer for, but that’s boilerplate here. Again, he’s describing an imaginary economy grafted on top of the real one.

    And spread all over the world, without firewalls. That’s globalization for you – see the article on the IMF’s plans for Ecuador, after wrecking Argentina. Again.

    So far, he’s laying out the Grand Illusion the world economy is based on (still). Now I’ll go see where he goes with it.

    1. Oregoncharles

      “Mark Carney has pointed out that our financial sector is currently ten times the size of our GDP, and that over the next couple of decades it is likely to grow to 15 or even twenty times its size.” (With Brexit, maybe not.) More imaginary economy – and a burden on the real one, as articles here have shown.

    2. Kurt Sperry

      Agreed. Well above my pay grade i suppose, but also well worth the (rather long) time required to read. The reduction in poverty seen in the developing world is a real thing— but so is the continuing immiseration of the middle classes in the developed one. As is the 1% making good and sure they are immune from that. The author lays out the corrective actions needed, correctly describes their deceptive simplicity, but also the political difficulties of doing it. This piece kept me from getting to the Water Cooler until well past its posting.

    3. Oregoncharles

      Further PS: ” Studies of the global balance sheet consistently show more liabilities than assets. The only way that would make sense is if the world were in debt to some external agency, such as Venus or the Palatin Emperor.” (In reality the rich have hidden away a significant portion of the world’s wealth.) So if they’re extra-terrestrial, is it OK to eat them? Incidentally, this means that the “bookkeeping identity” is largely a fiction.

      I didn’t see a proper conclusion to the article.

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