2:00PM Water Cooler 1/24/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I accumulated a lot of stuff over the weekend that I didn’t get to use yesterday. I’m going to do politics, first, then fill in the other buckets. –lambert strether UPDATE All done!


“The Trade War, Paused for Now, Is Still Wreaking Damage” [New York Times]. “Two years of tit-for-tat tariffs and on-again-off-again trade talks have left American farmers reeling. The manufacturing sector is in a recession, albeit a relatively mild one, and factory employment declined in December after rising slowly for most of last year. And in recent months, there have been signs that the damage is spreading: Railroads and trucking companies have been cutting jobs, and consumers — at least in the parts of the country most affected by the trade disputes — may be pulling back as well.”


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

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

* * *


Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart.

We have a lot of polls today, as of 1/24/2020, 12:00 PM EST. Today we have national polls from Emerson and Ipsos. It looks like it’s now a two-person race between Biden and Sanders, with Warren trailing badly, followed by Buttigeig, with Bloomberg still closing on Buttigieg, which is interesting or concerning. Of course, these are national polls, about to be massively thrown into confusion by IA, NH, SC, and NV — and then CA. I stopped using three-day averages because, this close to the first balloting, day to day fluctuations are important:

And the numbers:

I thought I’d post another “small multiples.” It’s curious how the changes in the numbers are slow, even glacial. I’ve helpfully added arrows to show who’s going down and who’s going uo. Hard, again, to think that this is what the DNC gamed out:

Summary: The Biden juggernaut rolls on, but Sanders is closing. Warren is in trouble (meaning her smear of Sanders did not work). Needless to say — though of course IA, NH, SC, and MV are each different — this is a good place for Sanders to be. It’s hard to believe this was the DNC’s desired result.

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

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

* * *

Biden (D)(1): “Law School Memes for Edgy T14s Endorses Joseph ‘Sloppy Joe’ Biden” [Medium]. “Joe Biden is what every law student strives to be: a lawyer who has moved seamlessly from the practice to the creation of law while escaping consequences, failing upwards, and showing no particular talent for legal work.”

Biden (D)(2): “Joe Biden’s Checkered Ethical History Is Fair Game for Criticism” [Jacobin]. “It’s not a coincidence that the right flank of the party started finger-wagging about divisiveness, incivility, and disunity precisely when the left flank began to seriously threaten its dominance. As the left wing gains momentum, the party establishment’s tolerance for legitimate criticism wears thinner, and the range of topics considered off-limits or below-the-belt expands. New behavioral norms have appeared out of thin air: suddenly political criticisms of opponents, no matter how legitimate by traditional standards, are a bridge too far, and are even alleged to help Donald Trump. At least, if the criticisms are flying from left to right.” • But hippie-punching is always good.

UPDATE Bloomberg (D)(1): “Michael Bloomberg Hits Quarter-Billion Mark in Campaign Spending” [Bloomberg]. “Bloomberg’s presidential campaign has spent $209.3 million on broadcast television time, $13.7 million on cable, $1.1 million on radio and $27.2 million on digital, according to data from Advertising Analytics, which tracks political ad spending. The former New York mayor has spent $116 million more than fellow billionaire Tom Steyer, who is also relying on his personal fortune to fund his campaign. Bernie Sanders, the next biggest spender among Democrats, has purchased $26.8 million of media…. Unlike his Democratic rivals, Bloomberg is focused on states holding their nominating contests later in the year. He’s spent $12.8 million in Los Angeles and $12.5 million in New York City, and has made seven-figure purchases of air time in other markets in California as well as in Texas, Illinois and Florida.”

Buttigieg (D)(1): “Pete Buttigieg is missing support from another key Democratic group: Unions” [Los Angeles Times]. “Buttigieg has embraced a policy platform that aggressively favors organized labor, but no unions so far have endorsed his bid to win the Democratic nomination for president… Over the last week, the 120,000-member International Assn. of Bridge, Structural, Ornamental and Reinforcing Iron Workers Union endorsed Biden, and the University Professional and Technical Employees union, which represents more than 16,000 University of California employees, endorsed Sanders, who has collected the most union endorsements thus far.”

Klobuchar (D)(1): Weird:

Sanders (D)(1): “S. Carolina elected official now backing Sanders over Biden” [Associated Press]. “A South Carolina elected official who endorsed Joe Biden last month is switching her allegiance to Bernie Sanders in the state’s first-in-the-South presidential primary, saying she had viewed the former vice president — whose support in the state is considered deep — as ‘a compromise choice.’ Dalhi Myers told The Associated Press on Wednesday that she was making the change in part because she values what she sees as Sanders’ strength in being able to go toe-to-toe with President Donald Trump in the general election. ‘I looked at that, and I thought, ‘He’s right,” said Myers, a black woman first elected to the Richland County Council in 2016. ‘He’s unafraid and he’s unapologetic. … I like the fact that he is willing to fight for a better America — for the least, the fallen, the left behind.'” • Another strong point for Rovian assault… .

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): Amother endorsement…

Some people are losing their minds about this, but my view is that if Sanders can go before the New York Times Editorial Board seeking an endorsement, than Joe Rogan is comparatively inoffensive.

Sanders (D)(3): Those can destroy a thing….

UPDATE Sanders (D)(4): “Sanders tells supporters to cool it — but they don’t always listen” [Karen Tumulty, WaPo]. So, is it a cult, or isn’t it? And: “‘This is a moment for our campaign to show we are capable of uniting not just our base, but the broader Democratic Party and country — and healing a nation that is deeply divided,’ sad Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a national co-chair of the Sanders campaign. Khanna drew parallels to the test Barack Obama faced in 2008 when revelations about racially charged sermons by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, threatened to derail his campaign. Obama rose to the occasion with a unifying call and by showing leadership, Khanna said, and Sanders has similarly met the moment ‘by making it clear that everyone in this movement has to live up to his values and standards.'” • This is a horrible example. What Obama did was throw Wright under the bus — the minister of a church he’d attended for years. Wright knew it, too, and wasn’t having it.

Sanders (D)(5): “‘Guillotine the rich’: Sanders staffer says he’s ready for armed ‘revolution'” [Washington Times]. “Project Veritas has apparently snared another pro-Soviet, pro-gulag Bernie Sanders campaign staffer, this one saying in a hidden-camera video released Tuesday that he was ready to ‘get armed’ for the ‘revolution’ and musing about sending Republicans to ‘reeducation camps.” The footage featured a man identified as ‘paid’ South Carolina field organizer Martin Weissgerber was posted a week after the release of video featuring radical Iowa field organizer Kyle Jurek, part of the undercover journalism outfit’s #Expose2020 series. In the video, Mr. Weissgerber described himself as a communist and said that he was in contact with groups that planned to hold mass ‘yellow-vest’ protests like those that have roiled France if Mr. Sanders loses.” • Big talk from Weissgerber! The Sanders campaign called the cops on O’Keefe (who has a history of faked videos). But this is where the campaign is headed. The Sanders field office called the cops on O’Keefe (as opposed to cowering in fear, as with the infamous ACORN episode).

UPDATE Sanders (D)(6): “Obama feels Sanders is unfit to battle Trump – and he has told people he might say so publicly” [FOX]. “People close to Obama point out that he has always said that he will support the Democratic nominee, whoever that may be. They also point out that Obama’s opinion of Warren has softened since November, and he is said to be growing comfortable with endorsing her fully if she should win the nomination. But, these people add, he has recently grown even more wary of Sanders as the Vermont senator appears to be gaining momentum in polls and the Democratic primaries begin to heat up with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary both in February…. Obama is weighing a more forceful rebuke of Sanders.” • Rebuke?!?!?! That’s a very heavy word in the Beltway.

Sanders (D)(7): So I guess the flap about Teachout’s Guardian piece didn’t come to much:

Sanders (D)(8): “Watchdog files FEC complaint against pro-Sanders nonprofit” [Associated Press] (the complaint). “The campaign finance act says groups established by federal officeholders or candidates cannot raise money for federal electoral activity that exceeds the limitations of the law. Those contributions are currently set at $2,800 for candidates and $5,000 for political action committees…. Our Revolution has taken in nearly $1 million from donors whose contributions exceeded those limits and whose identities it hasn’t fully disclosed, according to tax filings for 2016, 2017 and 2018. Much of it came from donors who contributed six-figure sums… National Nurses United for Patient Protection, a super PAC that supported Sanders’ 2016 run, disclosed that it donated $300,000 to Our Revolution. Sixteen Thirty Fund, a nonprofit group that allows donors to anonymously funnel large contributions to progressive and liberal causes, was the source of a $100,000 contribution in 2017.” • One million over three years?

UPDATE Sanders (D)(9): “Those Mittens Bernie Sanders Wears Campaigning Are Made in Vermont

[Seven Days]. “Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is known for his frumpy and unkempt attire. His latest sartorial choice, mittens he wore during the Women’s March on Saturday in Portsmouth, N.H., certainly made an impression. The oversize mittens, called “oven mitts” by some, went viral online and soon had their own @BerniesMittens Twitter account. “Feeling the BERN not the BURN,” the account’s profile reads. Jen Ellis, a teacher from Essex Junction, made the mittens and gave them to Sanders. She used repurposed wool from sweaters and lined them with fleece. She generally sells mittens at craft fairs or gives them to friends. Sanders’ daughter-in-law, Liza Driscoll, runs Ellis’ daughter’s daycare, so one holiday season, Ellis made mittens for all the teachers — plus Bernie.”

Warren (D)(1): “Moment Iowa dad gets into a heated row with Elizabeth Warren over her student loan forgiveness plan, telling the candidate people who have already paid for their kids’ tuition will be getting ‘screwed'” [Daliy Mail]. “‘My daughter is in school, I saved all my money just to pay student loans, can I have my money back?’ the man says to Warren. The senator from Massachusetts replies: ‘Of course not.'” • I’ve raised this issue before, to, IIRC, some scoffing. I donl’t know what the numbers would be if we rolled back all student payments, however. You can also hear Trump making this argument, so it has to be dealt with. (I suppose Luke 15:11-32 applies, but it’s a heavy lift.)

UPDATE Warren (D)(2): “Warren built a vaunted Iowa team early. Now she’s counting on it for a comeback.” [McClatchy]. “Her team isn’t the largest in the state, yet even rival campaigns privately herald its early scale, intensity and deep community connections. A band [of] 150 staffers spread out over 26 offices have served as the steady, trusted oar for a campaign that’s experienced its fair share of turbulence over the last year. Now, less than two weeks from the lead-off Iowa caucuses, Warren’s vaunted political machinery is under pressure to prove it can help engineer an Iowa comeback — especially with the candidate stuck in Washington for the Senate’s impeachment trial of President Donald Trump. Capitalizing on thousands of one-on-one conversations and relationships with undecided and persuadable caucus-goers — accounting for about 60 percent of the state’s electorate in the latest Des Moines Register/CNN poll — will be vital in determining an outcome that most Iowa Democrats anticipate will be razor close. And no major candidate has been doing it longer — or is more dependent on it ⁠— than Warren. ‘The biggest advantage I think they have is familiarity, because they’ve been here the longest,’ said Peter Leo, the Carroll County Democratic Party chairman who has endorsed Warren. ‘They’ve just built a lot of goodwill with people.’ ‘The Warren staffer is always around. Whenever we have an event or a county party meeting, he’s there,’ Leo added, referring to the Warren campaign’s local county staffer. ‘Whenever I need to talk to him, he’s in the office. He’s just ubiquitous.'” • Dash of cold water for premature Sanders triumphalism.

UPDATE Warren (D)(3): “Elizabeth Warren Promises Half Her Cabinet Will Be Women” [HuffPo]. “Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Tuesday promised to appoint women or nonbinary people to at least half of the top positions in the executive branch if she wins the presidency. The pledge comes as Warren, one of the three leading 2020 Democratic candidates in national polling, is seeking to consolidate and rally female voters ahead of crucial early primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire.” • So Warren pivots to identity politics — building on her smear of Bernie as sexist. I don’t see how this brings in new voters.

UPDATE Warren (D)(4): “The Elizabeth Warren News Cycle Has Pushed Bernie Sanders Supporters Even Closer To His Campaign” [Buzzfeed]. • That’s obvious. The real issue is whether Warren managed to place a ceiling on Sander’s support. My guess: PMC women, possibly. Working class women: Absolutely not.

* * *

UPDATE Bloomberg/Steyer 2020!

NV: “Amid hacking fears, Nevada Democrats to use app for caucus results” [Reno Gazette-Journal]. “Nevada is one of two early caucus states to use new mobile apps to report caucus results amid heightened worries about election hacking. The Silver State will be joining Iowa in using mobile apps to gather results from thousands of caucus sites. The decision to use the apps was made to increase transparency and help run the caucuses more smoothly, said Shelby Wiltz, director of the Nevada State Democratic Party Caucus, on Monday.” • Lol. More: “Party officials said that they worked closely with the Democratic National Committee and security experts while picking and vetting the app vendor that was chosen.” • That’s re-assuring! More: “The party is moving ahead with the technology amid warnings that foreign hackers could target the 2020 presidential campaign to try to sow chaos and undermine American democracy.” • FFS, it’s not foreign hackers we need to worry about! (See the introductory paragraph here.)


“Adam Schiff: ‘Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.'” [Press Watch]. • Full text of Adam Schiff’s closing remarks.

“Democrats launch last bid to break Trump’s impeachment firewall” [Politico]. “Throughout their testimony, the impeachment managers emphasized holes in the full Ukraine story that could only be filled by specific documents that they know exist but that Trump has withheld from Congress. They include correspondence, like former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Bill Taylor’s cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo worrying about the hold on military aid. They also include the notes kept by Trump’s former national security aide Fiona Hill and contacts between Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and senior members of the State Department and White House.” • Three years of “This time we’ve got him!” and now, with these documents, “This time we’ll really get him!”

* * *

“Impeachment Super Bowl: Trump 2, Dems 0” [The American Conservative]. “Embedded in this impeachment inquiry are hawkish assumptions about the absolute necessity of engaging in proxy wars with Russia far from the United States’ borders that I cannot endorse regardless of Moscow’s election interference and other misdeeds. ‘The U.S. aids Ukraine and its people so they can fight Russia over there and we don’t have to fight them here,’ insists Representative Adam Schiff, a California Democrat who is among the impeachment managers. This is a bad parody of neoconservatism circa 2003… Anti-Trump prosecutors also repeatedly make assertions that American foreign policy is set by unelected bureaucrats and professionals apart from the elected branches of government, including the president to whom they are constitutionally subordinate.” • It’s not possible to parody the neo-cons, of 2003 or any other time. Wierd to see the Democrats decided that Ukraine is the hill to die on, after three years of daily RussiaRussiaRussia.

“‘Take her out’: Recording appears to capture Trump at private dinner saying he wants Ukraine ambassador fired” [ABC]. • I know this is dumb, but was a point when I gave up on Benghazi because there were too many names and not enough narrative. I think, with “Marie Yovanovitch,” we’ve reached that point with impeachment, or whatever this is. If we’re not going to die on the Ukraine hill, we’re going to die on the “Presidents can’t fire ambassadors” hill? OK, OK, show me your yarn diagram….

Realignment and Legitimacy

“How a stronger anti-war movement rallied to stop a march to war with Iran” [Politico]. “As headlines began flashing earlier this month that the United States had killed a top Iranian general, the leaders of a new think tank [Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft] quickly realized that this was their moment…. Funded in part by the unusual pairing of liberal financier George Soros and conservative tycoon Charles Koch, the institute is inspired by the famous quote from John Quincy Adams – that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy” – and it seeks to inject that point of view directly into the bloodstream of media outlets that more often privilege the voices of a narrow set of Washington hawks.” • Strange that Politico leads with that, though it does go on to mention other NGOs like MoveOn and Win Without War.

“Inside the secret Twitter rooms where Debra Messing, Don Cheadle, and the rest of the celebrity #Resistance organizes” [Vox]. • Progessive “influencers”…

Stats Watch

Manufacturing: “Coronavirus fears hit world markets – as face mask makers see windfall” [Sky News]. “China Eastern Airlines lost 2.9% but Shanghai Dragon Medical, which makes medical disposable and healthcare products, and Tianjin Teda, a conglomerate whose products include medicines, were both up by 10%.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 64 Greed (previous close: 68 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 89 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 24 at 12:39pm. Big swing down!

The Biosphere

“DNA from child burials reveals ‘profoundly different’ human landscape in ancient Africa” [Los Angeles Times]. “Central Africa is too hot and humid for ancient DNA to survive—or so researchers thought. But now the bones of four children buried thousands of years ago in a rock shelter in the grasslands of Cameroon have yielded enough DNA for scientists to analyze. It’s the first ancient DNA from humans in the region…. The discovery underscores the diversity of African groups that inhabited the continent before the Bantus began to herd livestock in the grassy highlands of western Central Africa. The Bantus made pottery and forged iron, and their burgeoning populations rapidly displaced hunter-gatherers across Africa. Analyzing DNA from a time before this expansion offers ‘a glimpse of a human landscape that is profoundly different than today,’ [population geneticist David Reich of Harvard University] says.”

“There’s been a huge spike in one of the world’s most potent greenhouse gases” [MIT Technology]. “Levels of a gas that is 12,400 more damaging than carbon dioxide in terms of its planet-heating properties are higher than ever. HFC-23 was believed to have been almost completely eliminated after India and China reported they had reduced emissions to almost zero in 2017. In fact, a year later emissions were at an all-time high of 15,900 tons, equivalent to the annual CO2 output from about 50 coal-fired power plants, according to a paper published today in Nature Communications. Where is it from? HFC-23 is used to manufacture fridges and air conditioners, and is vented to the atmosphere during the production of HCFC-22, another chemical used in cooling systems in developing countries. Researchers at the University of Bristol used gas detection data from five Advanced Global Atmospheric Gases Experiment (AGAGE) stations, captured between 2007 and 2018. The researchers didn’t attempt to identify the source of the emissions, but the Environmental Investigation Agency, an NGO that monitors environmental crimes, said China is likely to have played a major role since it holds 68% of the capacity for the production of HCFC-22.”

The Carceral State

“Another inmate found dead inside understaffed Mississippi prison” [CBS News]. “An inmate was found hanging inside his cell in an apparent suicide at the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman on Wednesday, authorities said. This is the eighth death at the troubled facility following a wave of violence last month….. The apparent suicide comes a day after two other inmates were found beaten to death inside their cells at Parchman. They were identified as Timothy Hudspeth and James Talley. A total of 10 inmates have died in state prisons since December.” • Yikes.

Guillotine Watch

“Globalists Gone Wild” [Politico]. “The Davos-Alfalfa pairing serves as a kind of unofficial launch of what is now a yearlong season of corporate and political networking among a certain set of the world’s most influential people. Davos is by far the largest and most celebrated of these conclaves. But there are others that are more intimate and more exclusive…. It is an odd choice in a way. After a week of nonstop panels and interviews and receptions and handshakes and air kisses, days and nights that blur into one with typically too much drink and too little sleep, you would think even titans of technology, finance, and politics might want to throw on sweatpants and flop on the couch at home with a cup of herbal tea. And perhaps these modern moguls do want that. But there is something they plainly want more: confidence that if other important people are gathering somewhere they will not be left out and missing potentially valuable action.”

Class Warfare

“Martha Nussbaum Thinks the So-Called Retreat of Liberalism Is an Academic Fad” [LiveScience]. “Evolution and natural selection take place at the level of DNA, as genes mutate and genetic traits either stick around or are lost over time. But now, scientists think evolution may take place on a whole other scale — passed down not through genes, but through molecules stuck to their surfaces. These molecules, known as methyl groups, alter the structure of DNA and can turn genes on and off. The alterations are known as ‘epigenetic modifications,’ meaning they appear ‘above’ or ‘on top of’ the genome. Many organisms, including humans, have DNA dotted with methyl groups, but creatures like fruit flies and roundworms lost the required genes to do so over evolutionary time.” • Paging Lamarck….

“How Women Are Training to Do Their Own Abortions” [Vice]. “Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidency in 2016, the reproductive justice group Reproaction decided to start hosting gatherings to teach people about self-managed abortion. So far, Reproaction has hosted 21 meetings across Arkansas, Missouri, Ohio, Texas, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. — including the one in Columbia — where activists tell attendees about a regimen recommended by the World Health Organization. That protocol details how a drug called misoprostol can induce an at-home abortion, right down to the number of doses you would need to take and when.”

“It’s been 3 months since the New Orleans Hard Rock Hotel collapse. The bodies of those killed are still there” [CNN]. “It’s been more than three months since the Hard Rock Hotel construction site collapsed in New Orleans. The crumbled building sticks out as an eyesore on the edge of the city’s historic French Quarter as Mardi Gras celebrations approach. But what’s even more horrific is that the bodies of two workers killed in the collapse have still not been recovered. The victims are 63-year-old Jose Ponce Arreola and 36-year-old Quinnyon Wimberly.”

News of the Wired

“In ‘Agency,’ William Gibson Builds A Bomb That Doesn’t Boom (And That’s OK)” [NPR]. “His conflicts are intellectual, occasionally solved by the swift application of overwhelming violence, but more often seeing victory come as the natural result of more intelligent systems processes; through more effective usage of human capital and resources. And the good guys win simply because they are smarter and geekier and just so much cooler than the bad guys could ever hope to be.” • There’s that word: “Smart.” I’ll have a review the next time I’m posting long-form.

“Struggling to be a Stoic Problem Solver?” [Medium]. “Building on the Socratic questioning techniques, there’s one interesting piece of research that might help give us insight. Igor Grossmann, of the University of Waterloo, carried out experiments about problem-solving. The name of the study was… Exploring Solomon’s Paradox. For those that don’t know: King Solomon is the biblical figure known to give wise counsel. But, apparently, his own life was a bit of a shambles! What he could dish out to others, he seemed unable to apply to his own life. Taking that as context, Grossmann formed the hypothesis for his experiment. Grossmann wanted to test if people were wiser when they solved other peoples’ dilemmas rather than their own. He also checked to see whether viewing our problems, as if we were looking down on ourselves in the third person, would give better answers — rather than trying to solve it from an ego-centric perspective. He found this was indeed the case…. [P]sychological distancing can lead us to make better decisions and solve issues more quickly and wisely.”

* * *

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 (BR):

BR writes: “This tree is in our backyard in Reno, and is always beautiful in the fall but the colors this year are especially vivid. Unfortunately, I don’t know the name of the tree.” A little break from the January monochrome.

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Water Cooler on by .

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. John

    I started to read Agency and realized that while I had read The Peripheral, I really did not have a good grasp of it. I am re-reading The Peripheral as dinner and holding Agency as dessert. The Peripheral is better than I remember it and Agency is going to be a feast.

    1. ambrit

      I am bugging my local Library to get a copy of Agency. Strangely, or not, I get a better response to my entreatys from the older library staff.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I found it impossible to identify with any of the figures in Agency, and I miss Flynne. And there is no Flynne equivalent. It’s almost like Gibson has gone over to hard SF.

      1. ambrit

        Usually, from my experience, true “hard” SF is pedantic in nature. Is Gibson trying to advance an agenda with Agency?

        1. lambert strether

          Not sure I understand pedantic here. It feels to me like he is glorifying the technical at the expense of everything else. I don’t think Gibson is consciously advancing a political agenda, if that’s what you mean

            1. Mo's Bike Shop

              I absorbed Clarke, Asimov, and Heinlein in precisely my teenaged years entirely for the info dump that came with each story. Or Asimov’s columns. I was thinking ‘Uh oh’ when Lambert said ‘Hard SF’, because I haven’t read any Gibson other than his Nanotech thing and now I might have to reconsider.

              Be careful kids, a Masters of English can turn most fiction into a busman’s holiday.

              1. ambrit

                Hey, ‘Bussmen’s Holidays’ are the most interesting.
                What was really interesting about the “Big Three” science fiction writers was the range of viewpoints the readers were exposed to therein. Roughly speaking, and these are my personal ideas, not canon in anyone’s franchise universe, Asimov was a Science First writer, Clarke was more of a Humanist writer, and Heinlein was a Libertarian/Libertine writer. YMMV

            2. Lambert Strether Post author

              Hard SF in that Gibson does seem to have a strong idea of how a real AI might be implemented. If it is hand-waving, it is much more complicated hand-waving than that performed for Rei Toi in Idoru,

              1. ambrit

                Neil Stephenson’s latest book, “Fall” is specifically about the construction of an “artificial reality.” I found it a bit dense going, but to his usual high standards. It continues the theme of ‘uploading’ consciousness. I get the feeling that John W Campbell would have approved of it.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > glorifying the technical

            By that, I meant (and did not write) glorifying technical skill sets and those who employ them, typically on a precarious basis.

            (This explains Gibson’s curious union of intelligence community tradecraft and skills typically thought of as technical, Milgrim in Spook Country, another fully rounded character, being a good example.)

            1. ambrit

              That is what I consider a weak point in his writing. It displays a meritocrat bias. I can be fruitfully attacked for this attitude, but many of such writers I have encountered seem to discount the role of chance in human endeavours. When one is advancing an agenda, such plotting is useful in that it shows the ideal outcome of whatever process the writer is advocating for. Thus, the initial charge of pedantry. In such cases, the pedantry is legitimate. A point is being raised and buttressed.
              The other point of relevance to this discussion is that all ‘good’ writers write about things that they know about.

              1. russell1200

                He has at the very front end a discussion of the butterfly effect.

                And he also (in the part that relates to the follow up on “Peripheral”) has what basically looks an awful lot like the implementation of a conspiracy by the be-knighted technocrats.

                So I think he is aware of a variety of possible ways to reach an outcome.

                But yes, he does love his techno people doing cool stuff.

        2. Odysseus

          “hard” SF is that which requires no technology which is known to be impossible. That covers a very large range of storytelling styles and methods.

          Pedantry is not required, though if it is commonplace it might be a defense mechanism on the part of the authors or some kind of shared worldview which is not explicitly stated.

    3. JohnnySacks

      Found myself letting too much go by on the first pass when I didn’t have a good grasp on it. Reading it a second time a couple years later was very rewarding. Sorry to hear the negative reviews of Agency, not that it means I won’t be reading it.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Agency is very stylish and fast-moving; it’s essentially a giant chase scene with an AI as a MacGuffin structurally, but not narratively. It is an interesting book, still worth reading. It feels anomalous to me, for reasons I have yet to pin down (see comment on tactility here). Incidentally, I called this in 2017:

        Gibson has a real gift for creating incorruptibly spunky, candid, and honorable working class and coolly perceptive professional women as rounded characters (lethal mercenary and working girl Molly in Neuromancer, bicycle messenger Chevette Washington in All Tomorrow’s Parties, former rock-and-roll musician and journalist Hollis Henry in Spook Country[1], and consultant Cayce Pollard in Pattern Recognition). “Verity,” then, verges dangerously on self-parody.

        (And, of course, Flynn.) Verity reads like a cypher, a Jamesian ficelle, but structurally she is the protagonist in Agency. Maybe that’s the point. I don’t know. (That I picked “cypher,” there…).

  2. petal

    BR, that tree is beautiful! Wow!

    I posted the DM article on Warren’s response to that Iowa dad as a “She could’ve handled that differently” thing as opposed to posting it to get a discussion going on student loan debt. She could’ve said “Gee, I’m really sorry. That stinks, I know it’s a lot of money and sacrifice on your part, etc etc.” instead of flippantly saying “Of course not”. It looks bad, and it’s going to play bad. Let’s keep that selfie line going, though. I filed it in my “another mis-step by Warren” file. That’s all.

    1. grayslady

      I agree. The reason Elizabeth Warren appears to have a “glass jaw” is that she is so politically tone deaf; consequently, she always seems surprised when her remarks don’t land the way she thinks they will. She also has another problem, and that is that all her programs are means-tested, or only partially subsidized, whereas Bernie’s programs are universal and comprehensive. I really wish the corporate press would stop calling her progressive, because she isn’t progressive. She’s a virtue signaller.

      1. petal

        Absolutely, it is. It’s like saying to your opponent “Here, let me stick that giant target on my back for you.” It stinks of someone who has plenty of money and hasn’t had to worry about being able to pay for anything. Completely out of touch. She can’t even fake it. Wouldn’t have been that hard.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          “Of course not”

          Agree, How about, ‘you will have a society better able to care for you in your old age because its citizens aren’t saddled with debt?’ That’s off the top of my head.

          It’s a crab-bucket question, and she got trapped by it.

      2. Calypso Facto

        I believe the reason why this is an issue is in the fact that some people gave up something in order to pay for tuition/pay off the debt. They followed ‘the rules’, it may have cost them quite a lot in either low-grade or higher ongoing money stress, but they did it anyway, because those were the rules. Now someone comes along and says, The rules were unfair all along! The debt is unethical so it will be expunged, and state college will be tuition-free! But what about the very real, tangible things that person gave up (time, money, altered life paths for themselves or their family) because they followed the rules?

        The only way out of this trap is to offer the person who followed the old unjust rules something in exchange. It can’t ‘just’ be free state school because that will not benefit everyone who gave up something under the old system. If they presented the student loan debt jubilee as a straight up Citizens Bailout instead of tied to a single specific type of debt, they could also cancel student (and medical, and consumer credit) debt as well if they wanted. Some would grumble but they would not turn down the offer to remove themselves from other debt. And if they really were the type of person who had done whatever they needed to and got lucky enough to still stay out of punitive debt, well then they get a massive one-time payment thanking them for their struggle.

        1. flora

          Making student debt like most other debt dischargable in bankruptcy would be a good place to start. Biden made sure formerly dischargable student loan debt was made non-dischargable in the 2005 BAPCPA bill.

          “The 2005 Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) was meant, on paper, to prevent people from abusing Chapter 7 bankruptcy. It accomplished that through means testing, making it harder for people to declare Chapter 7 bankruptcy versus Chapter 13. If a person’s income exceeds a certain threshold, they’re ineligible for declaring Chapter 7. The bill also required people to complete a credit counseling course no more than 180 days before they declare bankruptcy. It also limits the kinds of debt a person can discharge through bankruptcy: If they use a credit card to spend too much money on “luxury goods” or withdraw too much in cash advances, that credit line can’t be erased. And, gallingly, the bill made it completely impossible to discharge student loan debt. It may very well be the single piece of legislation most responsible for putting the U.S. in the current student debt crisis. [my emphasis]

          “Biden was one of the bill’s major Democratic champions, and he fought for its passage from his position on the Senate Judiciary Committee. ….”


        2. Bill Carson

          One of my qualms over the push to cancel SL debt is that it doesn’t address the underlying problem, which is the high cost of higher education.

          You know what I think is not fair? How ridiculously expensive tuition has gotten, even at public universities, because the states have cut funding again and again, and the federal government has decided to fund college education through lending. The middle class views the FAFSA as a loan application. That’s all it is. “Here’s your financial aid—LOANS!!”

          I graduated college in 1990 when tuition was reasonable. It was much higher than my parents had paid in the 60’s, when public colleges were very close to tuition-free, but my undergrad tuition was reasonable, and I attended five years of private college and graduated with a four-figure debt.

          When my oldest child started college in 2013, tuition and boarding at her flagship public university was $30,000/yr. And she wanted to be (and now is) a public school teacher.

          So if we want to talk about unfair, let’s talk about how grandpa and grandma went to college for free, but aren’t willing for the same rules to apply to their progeny.

          1. Grant

            It became unaffordable at the individual level, at least in part, because public support for education was massively drawn down, and the costs were then offloaded onto individuals. When the public sector was paying the costs, it controlled the costs in ways isolated individual consumers could not. It is similar to single payer or the VA being able to use its economies of scale to bargain down the price of drugs and being able to establish the costs of services. When individuals buy drugs, they don’t have the power to do anything but accept what the market says those drugs cost. This is similar. Those in power didn’t have to transfer the costs from the public sector to families, but they did, and the rise in the costs of education have far outpaced wage growth for most people for some time now.

            I personally think that focusing on writing down various types of debt is a far better argument than the, “I paid it and suffered, so you should too” argument. We should write down third world debt. We should write down mortgage debt to the ability to pay. We should eliminate medical debt, and we should eliminate student loan debt. Seems that Michael Hudson has said a thing or two about this.

            1. Bill Carson

              You’re exactly right. The biggest flaw in this country is the emphasis on the heresy of rugged individualism, which says that each person has to carry his own weight. (Which is fine if all people were literally created equal.)

              We are seeing more and more of the shift from “common good” to “individualism.” Examples—

              Toll lanes—“the people who drive on the freeway should pay for the freeway.”

              College—“I didn’t go to college, why should I pay taxes to pay for your kid to go to college?”

              K-12 Education—“I don’t have kids, why should I pay for your twelve kids to get an education?”

              And I could go on and on and on.

              That’s why we’ve got to get back to the country (MAGA) that we used to be, back when we valued and promoted the common good and helped each other. That’s why Bernie’s campaign slogan is so brilliant—-“Not me, Us!”

          2. Felix_47

            I went to Junior College in California. I was somewhat shocked at the situation with debt. The college counselor said that the loans were government backed but they went through commercial banks. The loan covers living expenses very broadly to include child care, car payment for some pretty nice cars, insurance and on and on. The lady kept asking me if I wanted more money for thing. Stupidly I wanted only tuition money and I worked at a side job and lived cheap. Many of my classmates were going to school because that was a way they could pay rent in a nice place and take care of their kids since child support is rare in America and when they get it it is minimal. Their attitude was kind of like if they don’t pay back what can the government do? I’ll never need credit anyway because I will never be able to buy a house. I am no expert but it seems the real culprit is the federal government for guaranteeing these loans. I assume when the loan becomes non collectible, and given what people earn and usury laws, most all of these loans are essentially uncollectable Uncle Sam sends a check to the bank and the debt just sits there collecting compound interest on paper. Since my classmates are never going to buy a house on their own they don’t care about their credit. It is kind of like IRS debt. If you don’t pay it long enough you can do an offer in compromise and get a huge discount. My ex wife did exactly that. I thought after that why does anyone pay taxes….just don’t pay for five years and pay a minimal monthly payment from your salary at Starbucks or Amazon. It seems only fools pay their bills. In any event it would seem wise for the Federal Government to just wipe out all the student debt and stop guaranteeing loans. Tuition would drop for sure. People could rebuild their credit and have hope and eventually buy a house and have the American dream. Could some NC commenter explain this to me?

        3. Grant

          Is this logic extended to everything else then? Healthcare drives half a million into bankruptcy a year, kills as many as 45,000 a year. Should everyone that lost a house or money because of this monstrous healthcare system then get reimbursed before we get to single payer? The EPA says a human life is worth about six million dollars. How many of the families of the hundreds of thousands of people that died in the healthcare system over the last decade be paid for the value of the life of their loved one before we even consider single payer? And I assume then, using your logic, you are in favor of reparations for the decedents of slaves? Many of the slaves played by the rules, didn’t they? They were property and they didn’t try to escape. Should we not have ended slavery because of the suffering of those that were forced into slavery? Should we have not ended it until those people were paid for their suffering? How about all of the people thrown in jail because of the drug war? Should they be paid for their lives being ruined before we stop ruining more lives with the drug war? Maybe get angry at the people that created these stupid policies and not those trying to undo the damage they caused.

          I, by the way, don’t own a home but was fully supportive of the debt write down that home owners were supposed to get when the crash happened, was supposed to be a condition for bailing out financial capital. Too bad those in power did nothing for them. I also am not a citizen of a developing or underdeveloped country, but I am also very much in favor of cancelling the horrific and crushing debt forced on poor countries. But, I guess if they “played by the rules” (the rules of course were created by the people that forced them into debt and profited off that debt), screw the developing and developed countries from here until eternity. Why should they not pay crushing debt? Their grandparents did and they “played by the rules”.

          This debate illustrates everything wrong about this country and the disgusting mindset many people hold onto. I suffered because of a corrupt and unjust system and because of that, so should you.

          1. Calypso Facto

            I neither went to traditional university nor own a home – I could afford neither. And this isn’t my ‘disgusting’ worldview, I’m offering a suggestion and a possible solution for this stupid political trap being laid using the same framework already being utilized by the Sanders campaign. There are already offers to expunge parts of different kinds of debt, and to bring down the cost of college. A lot of people – sounds like you included – are convinced to support Sanders’ position by simply being the ‘better’ or more giving party when presented the opportunity, but some people simply aren’t willing to vote based on feeling. They need direct compensation. The guy who interrupted Warren sounds like that type.

            1. Grant

              Who said anything about feelings and emotion? I didn’t just give a moral argument. I referenced real world impacts of the policies those in power have put in place. I am asking, if that is the logic, how we are supposed to change a corrupt, inequitable, and destructive economic and political system? Lots of people are suffering in this society because of a wide range of policies. Their suffering shouldn’t be used as a justification to continue with those policies. And if this is their logic, then they would have had to oppose ever ending slavery, among other things, in the past. I would ask him if his argument could be generalized and give examples. If not, what makes this different?

              I don’t think it is just an academic discussion. Many of the changes we need will not benefit everyone and if some oppose a policy simply because it doesn’t benefit them, what can anyone say to them? I oppose the state funding illegal wars and the Fed giving tons of free money to banks. I can’t stop it though myself. I can organize around issues and support politicians that will change that. Some people will simply not agree. I think the best bet, however, is to not just think of this one issue in isolation but to put it in a broader context. I would also try to convince people to focus more on those that put that man in that position. It didn’t have to be that way, just as we didn’t have to throw people in jail for non violent drug offenses.

              1. Calypso Facto

                is ‘Paris worth a mass’? I’m suggesting we compensate EVERYONE who suffered in any way financially under the last ~40 years, so universal concrete material benefits, so that the argument that giving a ‘huge benefit’ to some people but not everyone is completely neutralized. If this is done in conjunction with bringing the bankers/creditors/corporations/defense to heel then there should not be an inflationary gain from writing everyone a check (“Citizen’s Bailout”) for 100k(?), with which everyone can then wipe out their debts. Or they could break the banks first and then issue the bailout so it doesn’t just paper their pockets, whatever; my point is that we’re already invoking MMT to solve parts of this and other problems, it can be helpful here as well.

                (This is just a basic idea so please do not jump down my throat about how to account for other types of debt or those who have more than 100k or the specifics of breaking the creditors, above my pay grade as we say around here)

                Many of the changes we need will not benefit everyone

                I think people should be able to gracefully swallow their own financial losses when the rules change but a lot of people don’t share my belief. Those people, as angry as they make me, are still deserving of some form of compensation from the horrors of the last 40 years. Another commenter below mentioned Steve Keen’s “A Modern Jubilee”, who mentions this same concept. I think Paris is worth a mass, or in this case, the jerks who would hold back student debt jubilee are worth ‘something of equal value’ to ensure everyone gets affordable college. The angry guy said Warren’s plan would ‘screw him’ because of everything he already paid. If money is already going to be spun out for a GND/JG, if it was spun out for the bankers a decade ago, then just offer to pay him back in some direct form.

                1. Grant

                  I get where you are coming from, but I think that people like this are fundamentally selfish and don’t care to think about much of anything I said. The original injustice was the system that was created that forced that guy to go into debt to pay for his daughter’s education. I wonder if he voted for politicians that created that system. I would guess, given what he said, he did. No public policy benefits everyone, but I can see some logic of giving some money to those that recently paid back student loan debt (although that too can be complicated). They were victims of the system too, so maybe Bernie has to think about that (I don’t believe Warren is serious about this and her plan is means tested to hell and overly complex anyway).

                  But, HE gave a moral reason for opposing this policy, and I don’t agree with his logic. If we are to evoke a moral argument, what about the immorality of the system that results in such massive amounts of debt, a system where the costs of education so far outpace wage growth and a system that doesn’t produce good enough jobs for most to ever pay that debt back? I am not as indifferent to his particular situation as he appears to be to those being crushed by this system. His perceived injustice isn’t the only thing we should consider. If he did vote for politicians that created this monstrosity, it would be nice if there was some self-reflection. Those policies were a choice, not a necessity, as those knowledgeable of MMT realize. Maybe he doesn’t know some of that stuff, and we can help to foster that discussion. But, people have to be open to re-examining their voting choices. In my experience, most of the people that don’t really care about anyone but themselves will not do so. I have made a bunch of comments, so I will leave my comments here.

                2. meeps

                  Supposing one adopts the position that those who suffered the last 40 years should be compensated–an ideal outcome since most of us suffered, I still can’t fathom arriving at just recompense. Because this isn’t only about the price of an education. It’s that homes were stolen and their prices re-inflated. It’s the high price of not having healthcare. It’s that earnings aren’t enough to pay for these things and still save for retirement, etc.

                  Coming nearer to justice will require universal, concrete material benefits going forward. There will, of course, be the insatiable types; there are some forms of need that can’t be fulfilled materially. The rest may need convincing that they’ll derive a benefit from others’ jubilees and new social policies, however nebulous those might seem right now. Maybe fewer of us would be murdered at concerts by people who lost their minds in a world with no social supports. I’m just saying there are forms of compensation that are hard to appreciate but are just as potent as the financials. They are related.

                  The task at hand, in my opinion, is to get people to think what those might be.

                  1. Calypso Facto

                    There will, of course, be the insatiable types

                    No individual, no matter how insatiable, can waste more money that was already wasted by the military and the banksters and the corporations paying negative tax for decades.

          2. drumlin woodchuckles

            I believe that attitude is called dog-in-the-manger, and the way to counter it would be some very aggressive and effective dog-in-the-manger-shaming.

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Is this logic extended to everything else then?

            This debate reminds me of the debate last week over whether Sanders should have “rebuked,” as we say in the Beltway, Zephyr Teachout for writing, correctly, that Biden was corrupt. Some made it a moral question, and as such an indicator of character issues for Sanders. Others made it a political question, and as such an indicator of sound strategic judgment on Sanders’ part (albeit created by administrative failings). Since I was of the latter view, I will cheerfully award myself The Laurel of Proper Augury™, as evidenced by today’s tweet about Zephyr Teachout.

            That said, I don’t think it’s a question of logic at all. It’s a question of beliefs about the world, and after that a question of beliefs about debt, justice, and forgiveness. Following that, it’s a question of whether such beliefs can be changed. My guess is no. Therefore, we should react to the video of Warren and her interlocutor by (a) not shaming the interlocutor and (b) realizing that if Warren, policy wonk, hasn’t thought this through, than probably nobody else has either. In other words, that video is a big clanging alarm bell on the debt forgiveness issue, and should be treated as such.* As with the Teachout controversy, moralizing conceals rather than reveals.

            My perspective is that all those caught up in a system of usury that should never have existed should be made whole. That includes both those whose lives (and credit ratings) were wrecked by debt, and those who paid their debt while incurring significant opportunity costs that they should never have had to incur.

            * One imagines the split-screen Trump — or Klobuchar? — ad of the deadbeat, on the left-side, and the virtuous citizen, on the right. It’s no good dunking on it!

        4. Lambert Strether Post author

          > The only way out of this trap is to offer the person who followed the old unjust rules something in exchange

          I strongly agree. One doesn’t defuse resentment by dunking on those who feel it.

          1. Calypso Facto

            Yep. Shaming is not a viable political strategy. It only works in a community with social bonds, which were destroyed a while ago (and we need to repair).

      3. JohnnyGL

        It’s got potential, certainly. I won’t be surprised if he tests out a few lines like that at his rallies. But will it land with people who aren’t ALREADY in the trump camp?

        Student loans seem to be borne by everyone, everywhere in this country. I graduated in 2001 with about $60K and people would look at me in horror about how much it was. Now, 20 years later, people don’t even bat an eyelash at a figure like that.

        Plus, a lot of the people who don’t have any….older, richer people….they’ve got kids who have loans or will have loans soon.

        1. ambrit

          Student loan debt is best if viewed in concert with the increased credentialization of “average” occupations. Commenters have mentioned in the past where tasks now requiring degrees were apprenticeship level jobs in the past. So, the double whammy is that, to get a “decent” job, one needs to take on student loan debt. To pay off the debt, one needs a higher paying credentialed job. Big vicious circle jerk.
          Perversely enough, I was one of those people from an earlier age who could afford to not graduate. I paid off my small loan balances out of, even for then, meagre wages. Now, students, if they discover that they have made a big mistake in their choice of professions, or callings, if you will, are seriously stuck in their paths of study. So, another unanticipated(?) side effect of the process. A new form of caste system is developing.

          1. Off The Street

            Not a bug!
            They saw Paree but we really insisted that they stay down on the farm.
            What better way to pen in the herd than by phony, expensive credentialism? Try enserfdom 3.0, with voluntary self-monitoring and reporting through Social Medea.

          2. montanamaven

            College has become a racket. Well, it’s probably been one for a long time, but now it’s a scam. Colleges should make the loans to students themselves and carry the cost of a person defaulting. Then if it’s their dime and not the tax payers, then maybe they would fire most of the administrators and stop building luxury dorms wih spas. Just offer the basics. Bet tuition would be really affordable. Guilds and apprenticeships are the way to go for most professions. We don’t need these letters after our names. And, yes, repeal the bankruptcy bill . Horrible. And restore the Usury laws.
            Don’t get me started.

            1. Jeremy Grimm

              Colleges and Universities should be places of learning and discovery. We should not lose the knowledge of so many after making education a process for generating Corporate employees. Our future depends on imagination. Imagination is not shared equally with intelligence. To craft our tomorrow we must find ways to capture the flights of imagination and the insights of intelligence and combine them. That is not done in this present world.

      4. Mo's Bike Shop

        Biden, taking inspiration from the ACA, triangulates by proposing that every 18-year-old, regardless of their race, color, or creed, must take on a $120,000 loan and send it on to the college of their choice, regardless of their ability to qualify or attend. With $3000 out-of-pocket application fee.

    2. carl

      She just seems unprepared to handle stuff like this. OTOH, Bernie exhibits empathy all the damn time.

      1. ambrit

        So, as per the Rovian Strategy, “they” will attack him on this very point.
        I can see a very strong “Rugged Individualist” narrative propagated over the coming campaign months by the right wing. [Alas, the ‘right wing’ now encompasses both legacy parties. Vidal was absolutely correct.]

        1. FluffytheObeseCat

          “Bernie exhibits empathy all the damn time.”

          “So, as per the Rovian Strategy, “they” will attack him on this very point.”

          That will backfire I think. Sanders knows how to laugh at them in public. That swift, tight half-grin he gets when he looks down at the podium in order not to completely unleash his contempt on them……. you’ve all seen it.

          The Clinton Democrats and Trump Republicans may have some limited success with attacks that re-iterate the “impossible!” idea. Where over and over again the attacker claims we can’t afford to do even half of what Sanders promotes. However, at this point even that is a weak gambit; we’ve been able to afford everything else under the sun o’er these past 2 decades, and people know it.

          If Sanders can throw a Hail Mary pass and secure the Democrat nomination, Trump is in trouble. He will have massive donations and will be able to flood the media with flag-wrapped, bellicose horsecrap, but that might not save him. His best gambit is more bloating of the FIRE sector in order to keep investors pumped up and voting Republican, Ueber Alles.

          Trump will never debate Sanders. He’ll come up with some pompous, ‘tough-guy’ assertion about why…….. but it will be entirely driven by his need to avoid looking like the snotty little heel that he is. That’s every hollow braggart’s main skill.

          1. ambrit

            At this point, Trump is not Sander’s main worry. The DNC is.
            Phyllis, last night, wondered aloud if the DNC might void the results of the Democrat Party primary elections if Sanders wins them. Use something like the “excuse” that the primary votes are illegitimate because of “RussiaRussiaRussia” etc.
            This script almost writes itself:
            “We have, with the able help of Crowdstrike, uncovered massive vote manipulation in the XXXXX state primary. Thus, as guardians of every American’s right to have his and her wishes honoured, we are voiding this illegitimate result and allowing the State Party to vote for the people.”
            Then, on to the National Convention and the Unity Candidate! Huzzah!

            1. pretzelattack

              i am very afraid of this happening. from what i understand the dnc’s lawyers have already argued in court that the dnc has the right to do something like this.

              1. Annieb

                Yes indeed. And you can read about the entire court case in Jared Beck’s book “What Happened to Bernie Sanders.” Beck sued the DNC for collusion and fraud in the 2016 primary. Unfortunately, he lost. But the judge had good things to say about Beck’s case.

                1. o4amuse

                  I was a party to the suit which was dismissed and have just been notified by the Becks that they haven’t given up and are now dealing with the Supreme Court itself directly in a process known as a Petition for Certiorari. To quote Elizabeth Lee Beck, however:

                  “You may ask now, what are the odds that the Supreme Court will grant the Petition? The answer is, VERY VERY VERY LOW. They are pickier in choosing cases than a toddler with a plate of vegetables.”

                  Stay tuned!

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > That swift, tight half-grin he gets when he looks down at the podium in order not to completely unleash his contempt on them……. you’ve all seen it.

            Hah! Seen it, never had it categorized.

    3. Grant

      To me, this is just another right wing justification to do nothing about any of our structural issues. We at one point ended slavery, and yet many people at the time were forced into slavery. Should we night have ended slavery because others had to suffer? Should we not end the drug war because people were thrown in jail for non-violent drug related offenses? When you have policies that were created by corrupt politicians and ideologues, and those policies negatively impacted people, those horrible policy choices shouldn’t essentially lock us into damaging policies indefinitely just because they caused misery in the past. Could a small amount of money go to people that paid off student loans within the last number of years or something? Sure, maybe. But, using the unnecessary pain caused by rotten policies doesn’t then justify continuing that pain and those policies indefinitely. It’s a really weird argument, and it will appeal to individualists that don’t have a social consciousness to begin with. The same people will almost certainly complain about single payer because it would be money the state gives to people that they don’t think “deserve” it. It is, from my vantage point, misplaced anger. Be angry at the politicians that forced him to pay for student loan debt, not those trying to remove that rotten system. Warren would be a bad general election candidate.

      1. Monty

        It’s not a question of what you or I think should be done. Even though you do make a lot of sense. It’s really a question of what a large enough group of elected officials think we ought to do about the matter. If you lead with a divisive policy, that’s easy to paint as unfair, you’re not going to get as many of your squad into a place they can help you with your goals.

        1. Grant

          But I don’t assume they can prove writing off the debt is unfair. Decades ago, education was not as expensive, student loan debt was not this massive and many states paid for higher education. Wages were also higher relative to the costs of housing and education. It was infair to change that and to create this nightmare of a situation in the first place. Writing off the debt and making higher education publicly funded would in many ways return us to a place we once were at. The injustice was the neoliberal privatization and individualization of these costs in the first place.

          Again, the third world didn’t have to be stuck with crushing debt. It wasn’t written in the stars. There were alternatives. But, powerful interests decided to not only force them into debt but to also make it impossible to ever get out of that debt. The banks that make the money off that debt might complain, and some developing countries that paid off their debt might find it unfair (Cuba has spoken out strongly on the issue even though it doesn’t impact Cuba), but writing off the debt is reversing an injustice, not creating one. I don’t accept that framing. I see the debt write off as trying to deal with an injustice, I don’t agree that it itself is the injustice. And I didn’t force that man to be in that horrible position. It isn’t impossible that he voted for someone that did.

          1. Monty

            Don’t think for a minute that your opponents are rational or logical. They are generally profoundly ignorant and emotionally driven. Their vote counts just as much as yours. My best solution is to try to offer something that can achieve the same end but is something they (and everyone else) will like, instead of something they will hate.

    4. False Solace

      Yeah Bernie has the perfect answer to this. From October 22:

      I want you all to take a look around, and find someone you don’t know. Maybe somebody who doesn’t look kinda like you, maybe somebody who might be of a different religion than you, maybe they come from a different country. My question now to you, is are you willing to fight for that person, who you don’t even know, as much as you’re willing to fight for yourself?

      Are you willing to stand together to fight for people who are struggling economically in this country? Are you willing to fight for young people drowning in student debt, even if you are not? Are you willing to fight to insure that every American has healthcare as a human right, even if you have good healthcare? Are you willing to fight for frightened immigrant neighbors, even if you are native born? Are you willing to fight for a future for generations of people who have not yet even been born, but are entitled to live on a planet that is healthy and habitable?

      Fight For Someone You Don’t Know

      1. Fiery Hunt

        Exactly right. Exactly right.

        The sticky widget part comes when we ask…

        Are you willing to fight for the guy in Iowa who did everything right and paid so much more than his neighbor did for an education for his kids?

        At least, maybe we can give him a nod of understanding and appeal to his better nature? Maybe explain that his daughter won’t have to make the same sacrifices. That’s the way to get over the “I’m getting screwed!” bitterness.

        Everybody in, nobody out.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Well I’m wondering if Bernie hasn’t actually fielded this one already. There’s a lot of blah blah that never makes the news.

          Did emancipation screw over slaves who bought their freedom? Did escaped slaves insult those who worked their way to manumission?

          I had to be polite to asshole Policemen, am I cheated if they start acting like professional civil servants?

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Sanders has a response of sorts. The problem with many issues is the primary beneficiaries ignore people who suffered through or won’t be affected. Sanders isn’t running on a signature policy issue besides Medicare4All which the ilk of Biden are trying to attack as being unfair to people with “good” insurance.

            Sanders keeps going. It’s very hard for anyone outside of Mike Bloomberg to not see the prospects for tangible material gain in a successful Sanders’ presidency. Obama basically went into retirement mode after ACA which provided immediate benefits to a few, and this was one of the problems. He simply stopped.

            The usual GOP arguments will be deployed. College debt forgiveness isn’t the end goal but a step along the way. This is the counter. Republicans will still whine and reveal themselves in the end, so they won’t matter.

        2. ambrit

          Student loan clawback? Maybe claw back the interest on the “loan?” Something to give the appearance of balance.

        3. mle detroit

          Fiery, you’re making a good point. I knew a woman years ago who discussed the status of women in the company with the (male, of course) CEO of a Big 3 auto maker. Put in terms of “what if your wife” got blank looks, because of course his wife had done very well being homemaker and hostess. But “about your daughter” (she had a white-collar job) got his attention and interest.

    1. Off The Street

      Impreachment Theatre, down the street from the Kabuki Club. Captive audiences a specialty.

    2. Mo's Bike Shop

      The Trump Impeachment is the Group Project from Hell. Everyone averting their eyes and just turning their requirement in. No Sacrificial Grade Geek to try and shove the score to ‘C’. Everyone agrees it should be presented by the idiot with all the ideas in a vain hope for schadenfreude.

      This impeachment case against Trump is hampered by the absence of sex and the presence fat ugly people.

      I can’t help but feel that’s a sleight to Denny Hastert’s gravitas.

  3. ambrit

    Zeitgeist Watch item.
    I just got an e-mail ‘ad’ from an online emporium I have shopped at in the past for “Coronavirus Prevention and Safety Products.”

  4. shinola

    “Adam Schiff: ‘Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”

    Vietnam? Iraqi WMD? – We (the Good Ol’ USA) were lost quite some time ago.

      1. ambrit

        That actually compares well with the American Occupation of the Philippines (1898 – 1946.) Afghanistan only has thirty years to go.

          1. chuckster

            Adam Schiff and the Democrats talking about “right” and “the truth” is like having the local whorehouse sponsor a float in the Abstinence Day parade

  5. Doncoyote

    Progressive Influencers…

    “…took place in an under-the-radar, invite-only network called the Decency Collective,…”

    The Decency Collective forsooth. One wonder how many of these “progressive” influencers, if given the choice between:

    A) A completely sanitized Trump (no tweeting at all; fake bonhomie with the press and foreign leaders; regular press conferences; no mean nicknames or racist rants; no “grab ’em by the…”; etc) but with exactly the same policies and political appointments


    B) The same crazypants Trump but who was actually bringing American troops home; not gutting environmental laws; no tax cuts for the rich; etc

    would choose A? I think the name “Decency Collective” really says it all.

    1. Carolinian

      Perhaps it’s just me but I find Street’s non stop invective to be tiresome. He’s like a lib pundit Don Rickles but without the sense of humor. Or maybe he’s shooting for Hunter Thompson.

      1. Late Introvert

        I know what he looks like and I’ve seen him on the street. I want to go up to him and say as much. Give it a rest. You are hurting the rest of us with your shrill crap. So Paul, if you’re reading this, watch out at the Co-op for rude remarks and maybe even an insult or two.

    1. Bruce F

      Funny, I was watching/listening to this episode when I came across your comment.

      One, of many things, that stood out was West’s comment that one needs to laugh and cry in order to be truly human. Then he said this – “Socrates never cried and Jesus never laughed.”.

      What followed from that was interesting.

    2. The Rev Kev

      In a Michael Tracey tweet, he said


      Joe Rogan says Biden, Warren, and Mayor Pete tried to get on his podcast and he turned them down. “I like Tulsi and I like Bernie, that’s it. Everybody else can eat s***.”

      3:28 PM – Jan 18, 2020

  6. Hepativore

    Now all we need is a public rebuking of demon Sanders by St. Barack to tell us how we have strayed from the holy center-right path of Unity. Yet, he has no problem being divisive when it comes to championing neoliberalism and austerity policies.

    Still, I am getting nervous that we will suddenly get a win in Iowa in Biden’s favor by a small margin. Even if it is an early state, the optics might be poor for Sander’s image as an “electable” candidate and could hurt him in future states. I hope there is not going to be too much vote-tampering by various technicians employed by anti-Sanders factions.

    1. voteforno6

      I’m not sure if Obama would actually do that – so he doesn’t speak out against the many horrors of the Trump administration, but the prospect of someone who wants to give everyone health care is what gets him off some billionaire’s private yacht? Is his ego so large that he thinks this would be a good idea?

      1. HotFlash

        I think Obama fears he has left it too late. What if he tells Dem voters to ‘eat their peas” by voting for not-Sanders and Sanders wins?

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        What if messengers from Big Insura have told Obama that he has to stop Sanders if he wants to get the millions of dollars he is expecting to get from Big Insura?

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      A “rebuke” of Sanders by Obama might cause some problems through Super Tuesday, but it would be gold in the general. Can you imagine having a candidate on the November ballot who’s hated by both Clinton and Obama? Trump would be left to run on nothing but his bluster.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      Apropos of nothing, I’m just recalling that Joe Biden pushed Obama on gay marriage. Or at least that was the narrative when everything changed. I mean, he probably did more to get my mom over my brother being gay than anyone else in the world.

      Don’t like Biden, but politics is funny that way.

  7. TroyIA

    On the menu at Wuhan virus market: Rats and live wolf pups

    SHANGHAI: The food market where China’s deadly virus surfaced was a smorgasbord of exotic wildlife ranging from wolf pups to species linked to previous pandemics such as civets, according to vendor information and a Chinese media report.

    The Huanan Seafood Market in the central city of Wuhan came under greater scrutiny on Wednesday (Jan 22) as Chinese officials said that the virus which has so far killed 17 people and infected hundreds may have originated in a wild animal sold at the food emporium.

    Past deadly epidemics have been blamed on wild animals – Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) was linked to Chinese consumption of civet meat – setting Chinese authorities up for potential embarrassment if lax supervision of wildlife trafficking is found at fault in the latest outbreak.

    A price list circulating on China’s Internet for a business at the Wuhan market lists a menagerie of animals or animal-based products including live foxes, crocodiles, wolf puppies, giant salamanders, snakes, rats, peacocks, porcupines, camel meat and other game – 112 items in all.

    1. Tom Doak

      Yes, they do eat all of those things (and more!) in China – but somehow, this article is starting to sound like we are going to shame them for their non-good-thinking diet and so deserving of disease.

  8. ptb

    Re: “Will you support the Democratic nominee even if it is not your candidate?”

    How interesting! I strongly suspected this, but wouldn’t have guessed how strong the effect is. Pundits take note.

      1. ptb

        “people don’t like being held hostage”

        no kidding… but it’s the go-to play for “centrists” on both sides in the 2 party system.

        1. Jen

          ding! we have a winner!

          Interestingly, from that AP article about the SC elected official changing her endorsement:

          “Myers said she started to feel that Biden’s candidacy, while familiar and perhaps comfortable, wasn’t going to be enough to inspire the young voters whom she sees as necessary to a Democratic general election win.

          I’m a 50-year-old-black woman, and I tend to be middle of the road,” Myers said. “I’m voting what I think is best for all of us, not just me. … I’m not a left-wing liberal. I’m not even a left-wing Democrat. But I am a realist.”

          Now that is one hell of an interesting comment.

      2. Massinissa

        Alot of Yangs base are centrists, Republicans, or libertarians, or similar things. He has a surprisingly broad appeal, so its not surprising that alot of Yang’s supporters won’t vote democratic if he loses because alot of them are not democrats or even leftists.

    1. John k

      Bernie bro’s likely will only consider warren, so if it’s biden half stay home.
      But if it’s Bernie almost all vote for him… except maybe yangs small group.

  9. Tvc15

    Joe Rogan’s endorsement of Sanders may be more impactful than the stupid NYT endorsement of Warren and Klobuchar…does she really have any supporters?

    David Doel, The Rational National lays out a pretty good case why.
    5 minute you tube video

    1. Henry Moon Pie

      Amy apparently has a lock on the Ukrainian-American vote, at least those Ukrainian-Americans who support having a war in their ancestral home. I guess that support is more understandable–who wants a war in their country–considering that they live in the U. S. (and are sometimes employed by the NSC).

      1. The Rev Kev

        I find it remarkable that she actually went to the Dobass front “for photo-ops with Ukrainian nationalist fighters.” That means groups like the Azov battalions. Sure John McCain had photo ops with people like that but he could get away with having photo ops with Jihadists too and nobody said boo to him about that. Nobody said that she had to go to the front itself which makes me wonder how close she is with the US/NATO groups training these fighters. That would imply that like Mayor Pete, she too is in close with the intel/military community.

    1. lambert strether

      Thanks , but I can’t access. Could you post an excerpt and/or the case name and/or a link to the brief? Thanks!

    2. Ernie

      The link you provided to the Supreme Court page (below) merely shows that Justice Thomas approved an extension of the date to file for a writ of certiorari from January 26, 2020 to March 26, 2020. The writ still would need to be filed and approved by the court before the case could be heard and decided by the justices. Every year, far more writs of certiorari (basically a request to the court to hear one’s case) are submitted than there are cases actually heard and decided by the court. Unfortunately, this one apparently still has a long way to go and very possibly may not get there in the end.

  10. Carey

    Saagar Enjeti: If Obama trashes Bernie, it will backfire:


    Enjeti talks about some of the points Lambert has repeatedly mentioned,
    WRT Sanders’s independent media, funding, et c. Ball makes some
    good points around 7′ in, too.

    The Rogan endorsement really strikes me as a possible phase-change
    moment, and the paid-SJW crew really are way out of their depth now,
    IMO. So Rogan has their knickers in a twist..? OK.

    1. ptb

      Yes, interesting analysis By Saagar and Krystal.

      I do think Obama is very very highly respected among Democrats, that’s nothing to write off. If he attacks Sanders seriously enough to elicit a response, they’re both gonna get meaningfully hurt in terms of image. There are plenty of issues where the Obama administration made the wrong choice, but the public was willing to look the other way out of respect to the man himself. Maybe it’s good that way for the time being, but it is certainly not written in stone. It also seems that Obama is at least aware of Biden’s issues.

      I imagine a mild call is coming, for being “realistic” about public health care, what with it being physically impossible South of Ontario etc etc.

      1. Carey

        I think Obama’s approval is pretty limited to well-to-do PMC; that’s not much more
        than 10% of the electorate. The rest have been getting told to get woke, learn to code, stop being misogynists- transphobes- bros- you name it, and many of the named are realizing that’s a road to nowhere. IOW, an Obama endorsement or
        disavowal might have unintended consequences.. he’s vapid, but not stupid.

        I don’t know if Rogan *is* the phase-change moment, but one is coming.

      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        I think “Obama” is respected. Barack Obama is largely an ignored figure. Outside of people who follow politics for sport, I think this would largely be ignored. The bots would be more annoying than usual, but given his past backing for losers, I doubt anyone would really care.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      It seems that there’s a tsunami approaching. Those liberal Dems better start swimmin’.

  11. Carey

    Adding: it does seem to me, now, that Sanders’s mcApology to Biden was the right thing to do, and the former’s a-little-above-the-fray approach at the moment seems
    well-crafted for the long run to the nomination and Presidency.

    Liked that Rogan / Sanders ad a lot. “these weeds… they’re everywhere now!”

    heh legitimacy2020

  12. Plenue

    A couple days ago The New Republic article Educated Fools; Why Democratic Leaders Still Misunderstand the Politics of Social Class was posted in links. It didn’t generate much discussion, but having finally gotten around to reading (actually, listening to) it, I kind of love it.

    Not because it’s insightful, because it mostly isn’t. At least not intentionally. There’s not really anything it has to say that you couldn’t already get from Thomas Frank.

    But it’s revealing of just how utterly clueless the liberal ‘elite’ are even when they’re grasping at real understanding, and how irritatingly smug and pretentious they are, even when they’re trying to not be smug.

    The author’s central point is that ‘let them eat education’ is bad policy, but he comes at it more in the sense that if everyone gets college educated, college education will be devalued. He explicitly makes the point that college is for producing management who will oversee the dumb plebs who make up the majority of the population. He doesn’t actually say the ‘dumb’ part out loud, but I get zero sense that he has any genuine sympathy for them, or thinks highly of the capacity for intelligence of less educated people. His critique is about Democrats losing working class support, and how to get it back.

    He (unhappily, because he unironically likes him. He also thinks Warren is the ideal of a president, because of course he does) criticizes Obama for advocating more college, and thinks Sanders (who of course he thinks is the ‘hard left’) is a crazy fringe loon for wanting college to be free (the fact Sanders isn’t saying everyone should go and wants working class jobs to pay a living wage goes unmentioned). He also talks about ‘Marxists’ wanting free college. Who are these Marxists? He doesn’t say. I hope he doesn’t think Sanders is a Marxist…

    There are multiple assumptions built into the article’s thesis, like that ‘of course’ we’re in a new knowledge economy and everyone just has to be okay with that, or that capitalism is the only choice, though perhaps we can look to Europe for a more enlightened form of it.

    There’s some genuinely useful stuff in there, but it’s all filtered through clueless liberalism, even while it’s lamenting liberals being clueless.

    1. Carolinian

      Sounds like we read different articles. You do a lot of summarizing of what you claim he said. Perhaps some actual quotes–easy to do with cut and paste–would be more useful.

      I think his main point–at least in the article I read–is perfectly valid. He’s saying that elites overvalue higher education because that was the ticket to their success. But the truth is that many would be happier in the skilled trades or they would be if the overvaluing of college degrees didn’t undervalue them. This isn’t patronizing the working class but just the opposite. He also points to a time when far fewer Americans lacked college education and yet we somehow produced a Lincoln not to mention a Gore Vidal. Perhaps those autodidacts illustrate the point that thirst of knowledge doesn’t necessarily involve a credential.

      1. ambrit

        The problem here is that the “Job Market,” [All bow in the direction of Jeckyll Island,] mandates degrees now for formerly ‘learn while you work’ tasks. This is a case of the socialization of the losses, privitization of the profits system. (The workers now pay for what was once an employer’s cost item.)

        1. Carolinian

          I was talking to one of former librarians in the grocery store and she said she left because there’s no future there these days without an MLS–including for what are really clerical positions. They still have young people shelving the books but that’s about it. Personally I’m of the opinion that your education only really starts when you leave college. But I was a liberal arts major and not studying medicine or science or some field where you genuinely need specialized training. Given what college costs these days you have to speculate that money–for the colleges as well as the graduates–is playing far too great a role. As with medicine it may be an institution that has changed while attitudes about it remain firmly lodged in the past. There was a time when college, as well as medicine, wasn’t quite so business oriented.

          1. cm

            Agreed. If we stopped the guaranteed subsidy of college by treating college costs differently from all other debts during bankruptcy (thanks to Biden), the cost of college would plummet back to normal historical levels.

            Restated: treat college loan debts the same as any other debt. College costs would then naturally fall back to historical levels and every one (except the colleges and Joe Biden) would benefit.

    2. jrs

      It was a decent article, he basically wants more worker control, although good luck stumping for that obscure a policy without a ton of voter education and experimentation first. It’s not that easy to understand.

      Is anyone with any power proposing anything but capitalism? The article wants us to be more like Denmark, Sanders isn’t proposing anything more radical than that, and that would be a pretty radical makeover. I think he does have sympathy for the dumb plebs and believes in their capacity, as the point of the article is to empower them, worker empowerment, I don’t know if the policies would work (they are so obscure) but … the sentiment is all right.

  13. Watt4Bob

    There’s a better Bible quote to address that angry Dad’s question to Warren; Matthew 20:1-16

    The workers in the vineyard. The vineyard owner paid the workers the same wage no matter how long they had worked that day, all day, half the day, or just a few hours.

    When one of the workers who had been there all day complained;

    “These last fellows worked one hour, and you have made them equal to us who bore the hardship and burning heat of the day.”

    The landowner replied;

    ” I want to give this last man the same as I gave to you. Am I not permitted to do what I want with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?”


    There’s also the obvious, but little mentioned result of forgiving the massive student debt, that being the immense boost to the economy that would more-or-less instantly “raise all boats” including angry Dad’s.

    1. aj

      I took out my own student loans and paid them off over 10 years. Am I upset that college was not free when I went? Of course. Does that make me wish it has to be that way going forward? Of course not. I’ll take my medicare for all and be just fine. It would personally benefit me if there was some sort of reimbursement for what was paid it the past but I think what we need to focus on is going forward. Having kids with money that can afford to move out of their parent’s houses will in deed lift all boats. Why, if school is now free i might consider finally getting a post-graduate degree or just learning something new.

    2. Tom Bradford

      The two immediate responses that occurred to me were:

      1. In what sense was the money the landowner use to pay the wages ‘his’ given that it was the profits of the vineyard resulting from the labours of the workers? So in fact that shirking workers were riding on the backs of those putting in a full day.

      2. “Well, OK. I’ll only work an hour a day for a full day’s wage, too, so’s you can be even more ostentatiously generous. That its, of course, until you go bankrupt and the vineyard is bought by someone who pays a fair wage for each hour worked.”

      1. notabanktoadie

        1. In what sense was the money the landowner use to pay the wages ‘his’ …

        In Biblical economics, the agricultural land was roughly equally owned by all citizens so the land was certainly his and the workers were then either:
        a) foreigners, the responsibility of another nation
        b) citizens who had temporarily lost their own land (see Leviticus 25).

        So the man had a perfect right to be generous* with what was his.

        Per the Bible, the distinction between capital and labor did not normally exist among citizens.

        That that distinction is so pronounced today is evidence that the Bible is largely ignored wrt economic justice.

        Also, the workers were not shirking but had not been hired.

        *And, per the Bible, was wise to be so (Proverbs 11:25).

      2. Watt4Bob

        The two immediate responses that occurred to me were:

        The quality of your “immediate responses” illustrate why it’s better to take some time to consider the facts, absorb the point of the story and think about it before spouting the first thing that pops into your head.

        notabanktoadie is correct, the laborers hired last are not ‘shirkers’ and the vineyard owner is wise in his generosity, since among the other results of his behavior, he’ll have little trouble finding help the next time he needs it.

  14. XXYY

    This is a horrible example. What Obama did was throw Wright under the bus — the minister of a church he’d attended for years. Wright knew it, too, and wasn’t having it.

    Well, I’d say Bernie threw Teachout under the bus, too, with his apology, though IMO he was talking about matters of decorum rather than saying Teachout was wrong (which she obviously wasn’t).

    Bernie has taken a ton of (well intentioned) flack from his base for refusing to attack his fellows in the Dem primary. My guess is that Bernie has long ago learned that these kinds of attacks leave a bad aftertaste that eventually outweigh their campaign value and damage his ability to work with people after the election. People are very tribal and have long memories for who their friends and enemies are.

    OTOH Bernie seems to have no compunction about insulting and criticizing Trump, so his principles seem limited to his own party, or maybe just to professional politicians.

    1. chuckster

      The problem is that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans. To only criticize Trump makes Bernie look like a standard Dem Party hack.

      1. Fiery Hunt

        But Bernie doesn’t just criticize Trump: the establishment, the elites, the billionaires, the media, the corporatists all get their share of blasting from the Senator from Vermont.

        1. Plenue

          He’s playing a long game strategy of running a positive campaign, based around issues.

          We’ll see in the coming weeks whether this is the right plan or not.

      2. jrs

        It might be from years of, and a current need, to work with Dems to get anything done. But why doesn’t he work with Reps? Well I guess he would if it made sense, but clearly because there is less to work with them on, ie Dems aren’t just as bad, it doesn’t mean they are good.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I don’t think its a case of working with any of these people as much as recognizing its important to use popular pressure to make Adam Schiff understand it was a good thing he wasn’t recognized on Jeopardy.

          Toss the incalcitrant out and start boycotts of organizations that might hire them. Make sure these people can’t order a meal without ordering a generous helping of spit if they are lucky.

          Every American needs to have “get me the manager” attitude when it comes to electeds. Make them impossible to hire. If they want to be on the correct side of history, let them have a chance to stand on the podium, but the goal of mass pressure is to identify and make these people pariahs.

  15. XXYY

    Moment Iowa dad gets into a heated row with Elizabeth Warren over her student loan forgiveness plan, telling the candidate people who have already paid for their kids’ tuition will be getting ‘screwed.

    This has come up over and over on the Sanders Reddit sub. There seems to be an unattractive strain of “something bad happened to me, so now it should happen to everyone else, too” in our species.

    Of course, if we are going to improve society and make things better over time, then there will always be people existing who date back to before the time when things got better. Did this happen after slavery was outlawed, for example? “I spent my life as a slave, and now these young punks are just walking around free!”

    I think the best remedy is to improve society as quickly and comprehensively as possible, so that the “before” cohort is minimized and left in the past as fast as we can manage it.

    1. Bill Carson

      See my comment above.

      What’s grossly unfair is that grandma and grandpa went to college for next to free, and now their grandkids are charged $20,000, $30,000, $35,000 per year for the same education.

      Probably while the whiny dad in the brown jacket was voting in people to cut state funding for higher education.

      1. pretzelattack

        well we don’t know who he voted for, and what did his daughter owe? isn’t he complaining about the same range of debt you mention?

    2. Jeff W

      “…people who have already paid for their kids’ tuition will be getting ‘screwed.’”

      “Yeah, and a lot of people died before smallpox was eradicated. They got ‘screwed,’ too. What’s your point?”

    3. chuck roast

      As I recall, Chris Arnade pointed out that the people who were most frosted about the poor “welfare bums” (their neighbors) were the near-poor. These were the people who were busting their butts and just scraping by. They resented that those who had fallen completely off the economic ladder were on the dole. Like they had surrendered, totally lost their dignity and had lapsed into indolence. When it gets personal like this it’s painful and difficult to address.

  16. PKMKII

    Counterpoint to the Warren’s strong Iowa ground game article: Elizabeth Warren’s campaign downplays early state expectations in new pre-Iowa memo

    Lau’s memo seeks to downplay those [early primaries] “narrative” angles and shift the focus off of the states voting in February and onto Super Tuesday and beyond. It features graphics that underline — literally — the percentage of total delegates on offer in four groups of contests. The “Early States,” it reminds voters, make up only 3.9% of the full slate.

  17. notabanktoadie

    “‘My daughter is in school, I saved all my money just to pay student loans, can I have my money back?’ the man says to Warren. The senator from Massachusetts replies: ‘Of course not.’” • I’ve raised this issue before, to, IIRC, some scoffing. I donl’t know what the numbers would be if we rolled back all student payments, however. You can also hear Trump making this argument, so it has to be dealt with. (I suppose Luke 15:11-32 applies, but it’s a heavy lift.) Lambert

    Steve Keen’s “A Modern Jubilee” would compensate non-debtors too and if combined with de-privileging the banks (deflationary in itself) could be done with no net increase in the money supply.

    What’s not to like? Eliminating the means by which the banks and the richer steal from the poorer?

    1. Michael

      There’s plenty not to like, provided you buy into the argument that college kids don’t deserve to have their debt erased. Here’s a video starring Mike Huckabee that I’ve received in a FW:FW:FW:FW: email from family:


      Good people pay their debts. Rewarding latte-swilling Interpretive Dance majors for their bad behavior is not only (apparently) unfair, it also decays the moral fabric of society.

      You can see how Huckabee earns his paychecks. The argument seems compelling, and far more importantly, it erases the question of whether debt forgiveness is a sensible policy from the discourse.

      1. Massinissa

        I love how its always the neoliberals who get to talk about how important the ‘moral fabric’ of society is when its their policies and views that are shredding it.

      2. False Solace

        > Good people pay their debts.

        I learned all about this during the foreclosure crisis, when 11 million families who couldn’t pay their debts were thrown out of their homes. And ever since we enacted all that justice, the economy has been just great and there have been zero negative repercussions.


      3. notabanktoadie

        Good people pay their debts.

        What debts? Bank “lending” creates deposits/liabilities for fiat and, due to government privilege such as deposit insurance, vastly more than they otherwise could and expect to get away with it.

        So the “debts” are largely bogus to begin with.

        I’d inform Mr. Huckabee that good people don’t justify a government-privileged counterfeiting cartel and that the Bible, including the OT, is meant to be read, not ignored.

        1. skippy

          See that is problematic because its based on a currency standard that is no longer applicable, divined from a period of human experience that is also no longer applicable, and PIE extenuated is not a good starting point – lest one favors that anthropological reality.

    2. joey

      This ties into reparations and would be a tougher sell, but to my thinking…
      First debt forgiveness, then
      Fund for those who went bankrupt with college expenses a component, then
      Tax relief for all others who paid college tuition from the time of the Biden law making college loans unrecoverable at a minimum. (or 72 because Sallie Mae, or 58(?) or whenever government stimulus was first financializing tuition.)
      sliding scale of rectification.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Steve Keen’s “A Modern Jubilee” would compensate non-debtors too

      That, IMNSHO, is what we should do. Warren should be able to say: “We are sorry you got enmeshed in a system of usury. You were lucky to escape. We are here to make you whole.”

      Sanders will have to face this, too, at some point.

      1. skippy

        Without an overhaul of the legal system of contracts, based on a hard currency past, I think a jubilee is self defeating E.g. it does not force the issue in dealing with the fundamental contractual obligations which necessitate an endless groundhog day based on some human life span metric w/o acknowledgment of the environments state in the future.

        I can just imagine a fruit fly series that makes Darwinian social organization an atomic pinata, JG [environmentally driven] with hair cuts for all and Education – Health a state oversight social imperative.

        1. Adam Eran

          The problem is mathematical. Interest compounds without limit, while the means to repay loans (the real economy) does not. Michael Hudson notes that kinder ancient societies had periodic jubilees because of the tendency of debt to become unpayable. Keen’s scenario ($50K to each tax payer, going to pay off debt first) would have to be repeated.

          1. notabanktoadie

            Steve Keen’s solution is more just than Michael Hudson’s since government privileges for private credit creation cheat non-debtors too.

            Better than both is to abolish ALL privileges for depository institutions (vastly deflationary in itself) and to replace ALL fiat creation beyond that created by deficit spending for the general welfare with an equal Citizen’s Dividend whose explicit purpose would be to counter price deflation and thus justly share productivity increases with all citizens AND as restitution for the theft inherent in government privileges for “the banks.”

            Of course we need land reform too …

  18. jsn

    “Three years of “This time we’ve got him!” and now, with these documents, “This time we’ll really get him!”, but let’s not subpoena these these ourselves and fight to get them using whatever power we can Constitiutionally muster, let’s rely on the nice Republicans in the Senate to do this for us, and when they refuse use that to convince thier voters they are feckless…

    1. Bill Carson

      If Edward Snowden or Julien Assange delivered the documents, do you think they would change their minds about prosecuting them?

      Nah, they probably wouldn’t.

  19. Samuel Conner

    I am tempted to suspect that BHO is not pleased with the prospect that Sanders may broaden the “base” of the D party to include large numbers of people that the Party Establishment would prefer to not be obliged to govern in the interests of.

  20. anon in so cal

    Klobuchar and the Ukrainian Nationalist Community in Minnesota:

    Liberals consorting with Nazis / fascists (as long as they’re anti Russia it’s OK)

    “Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN)….Stepan Bandera is an important book that combines biography and sociology as it lays out the story of an important radical nationalist and the organization he led. But what makes it so relevant, of course, is the OUN’s powerful resurgence since the 1991….

    A homegrown group of Banderites meanwhile formed the Social-National Party of Ukraine, later known as Svoboda. In a 2004 speech, their leader, the charismatic Oleh Tiahnybok, paid tribute to the fighters of the UPA:

    The enemy came and took their Ukraine. But they were not afraid; likewise we must not be afraid. They hung their machine guns on their necks and went into the woods. They fought against the Russians, Germans, Jews, and other scum who wanted to take away our Ukrainian state! And therefore our task — for every one of you, the young, the old, the gray-headed and the youthful — is to defend our native land!

    …One might think that the liberal West would want nothing to do with such elements, but the response was no less unscrupulous than it was during the opening years of the Cold War. Because the banderivtsi were anti-Russian, they had to be democratic. Because they were democratic, their ultra-right trappings had to be inconsequential….:


  21. The Rev Kev

    “Obama feels Sanders is unfit to battle Trump – and he has told people he might say so publicly”

    “The average American doesn’t think we have to completely tear down the system to remake it,” the Times quoted Obama, who was speaking at a gathering of Democratic donors.

    The average American? Or the average donor? Meanwhile hundreds of millions of Americans say yes, the system does have to be completely torn down to remake it.

    1. Carey

      Perfect! Harris/Biden2020- For the [Corporate] People!

      Will guarantee lowest Dem turnout evah, which might be the plan

      1. ambrit

        Isn’t that what Willie Brown told Harris?
        Now some people would claim an equivalency between this example and Bill Clinton’s “dalliance” with Mz Blue Dress. Not true. Monica did not end up Assistant Secretary of the Treasury or some equivalent position. (Very oblique sarcasm alert.)

    2. Mattski

      Word in recent polls out of CA is that all of Harris’s support is cleaving to Bernie. Amazing if true.

  22. VietnamVet

    The Doomsday Clock is the closest to midnight since it was turned on in 1947. It is not just the internet but also the Democrats restarting the Cold War and then using it to justify impeaching the President. Despite the irony, there is also vulture capitalism as a cause.

    Boeing 737 Max is an example profit over engineering. The illegal Iraq and Syria occupations are war profiteering gone large. Australia bushfires are due to resource extraction despite adverse environment effects. Tariff wars with China disrupt trade. Lastly, Donald Trump is prioritizing making more money over science.

    Chairman Xi has quarantined 33 million people due to the coronavirus epidemic. WWIII started. The world is in a false peace since Iran fired ballistic missiles at the American Iraqi base that resulted in 34 traumatic brain injuries. Global Chaos has launched.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > 34 traumatic brain injuries

      IIRC, the Americans knew the missiles were coming, which is why they could get the troops sheltered. So how did the brain injuries happen?

      1. VietnamVet

        NYT; “Traumatic brain injuries can result from the powerful changes in atmospheric pressure that accompany an explosion like that from a missile warhead.” Iranian ballistic missiles have the equivalent of a ton and half of TNT. One missile is like a Texas Chemical Plant Explosion. The outer perimeter was manned. The CNN talked to two. They looked shell shocked. I never saw that after the rocket attacks on LZ English. Iranian missiles are thousands of times more powerful than RPGs or man transported artillery rockets.

        The Houthi reportedly continue to launch missile and drone attacks. The latest in Yemen killing around 120 of the Saudi Coalition.

        Without a peace treaty, sooner or later, Donald Trump won’t turn his cheek, or the wrong target will be hit at the wrong time and the Middle East will blowup,.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Although most US and Iraqi personnel took shelter, my understanding is that teams had to be left out in order to guard against the possibility of armed attacks on those base’s perimeters. They were watching the perimeters and I think that you had drone operators out as well to conduct external patrols. These people drew the short straw and some must have been hit by the blast waves from the explosions that VietnamVet talks about.

            1. ambrit

              Thanks. I now wonder about counter drone tactics. A drone can fly way up in the sky and lurk off in the distance. Perhaps anti-surveillance technology tactics is more appropriate.
              Will skeet shooting become part of a ground trooper’s practice routine?
              Plus, what pellet load in a shotgun does the most damage to the average drone? This is getting technical.

  23. flora

    Thomas Frank’s new book is due out June 23, 2020. I’m looking forward to this book. Sounds timely.

    “The People, No: A Brief History of Anti-Populism”

    From the description:
    The real story of populism is an account of enlightenment and liberation; it is the story of American democracy itself, of its ever-widening promise of a decent life for all. Taking us from the tumultuous 1890s, when the radical left-wing Populist Party―the biggest mass movement in American history―fought Gilded Age plutocrats to the reformers’ great triumphs under Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Frank reminds us how much we owe to the populist ethos. Frank also shows that elitist groups have reliably detested populism, lashing out at working-class concerns. The anti-populist vituperations by the Washington centrists of today are only the latest expression.

  24. Mattski

    Rogan is (almost) endorsing Bernie; Bernie is not endorsing Joe Rogan.

    Easy enough for Bernie to say, “I condemn Joe Rogan’s treatment of LGBTQ visitors to his show. And I welcome any individual who votes for me.”

Comments are closed.