2:00PM Water Cooler 6/12/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, this, er, event, has been framed by some (well, Andy Ngo) as “an example of what the rioters did to Minneapolis” (wreck a former Sheraton). So far as I can tell, that’s not it. See the whole thread, which is painful:

When I saw Ngo’s tweet (which went viral, unlike the original) my reaction was that I knew very little. That’s still my reaction. Readers, have you seen any protests/riots/insurgencies in your area? Can we get some field reports from the NC commentariat?

* * *


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Here are the top 25 for the last four weeks:

Linear scale. Something went wrong with the display when I switched to “last four weeks,” but you can see the trends. California on the way up crossing New York on the way down is a little concerning.

UDPATE This chart also shows the mysterious Michigan spike; here is the explanation (hat tip Howard Beale IV).


“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

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Since we’re getting closer to the election, maybe it’s time to start looking at the electoral map, updated June 8 and unchanged today:

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!

* * *


Biden (D)(1): Biden slips a cog (A):

This is not stuttering.

Biden (D)(2): Biden slips a cog (B):

This is not stuttering either. And what’s with the dangling mask? To be fair, Trump doesn’t wear a mask at all. To be even more fair, I’m sure similar clips of Trump, whose speaking style is, shall we say, discursive, ought to be circulating. Why isn’t the Biden campaign doing that? Afraid of turning off the Republicans to whom they hope to appeal?

Biden (D)(3): “Kamala Harris Is on Strong Footing in Biden’s Vice Presidential Search” [Bloomberg]. “Kamala Harris is on even stronger footing in Joe Biden’s search for a running mate as he faces intensifying pressure to choose a black woman in the middle of a national debate over race.Harris has long been near the top of Biden’s list but as other candidates slip in the eyes of allies and observers, the California senator is increasingly better positioned to be the former vice president’s pick for a job he says he knows more about than anything else, according to Democrats who have spoken to Biden or are familiar with his thinking. Biden committed in March to naming a woman as his running mate. Some allies suggested right away she should be a woman of color, and since the national protests over the killing of George Floyd while in police custody, the pressure to choose a black woman has increased.” • A former DA for 2024 and 2028. That’s reading the room…

Biden (D)(4): Meanwhile, Stacey Abrams:

Tactless of the Biden campaign.

Biden (D)(4): “Biden Calls For Testing Every U.S. Worker As Worries About Second Wave Increase” [Forbes]. “The plan calls for regular, federally funded testing for every worker brought back on the job, as well as guaranteed paid sick leave for workers affected by COVID-19 and a federally coordinated contact tracing workforce.” • Not as bad as it might be. Except that it’s not universal, being only for the employed, and it doesn’t help those who test positive but can’t afford treatment.

Biden (D)(5): “Democratic candidate Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules” [Reuters]. “The Biden campaign’s move adds to pressure on Facebook, which exempts politicians’ content from its third-party fact-checking program, to alter its rules on political ads and speech.” • From the party of RussiaGate…

Trump (R)(1): “What Trump Will Do to Win” (interview) [Frank Rich, New York Magazine]. “Whatever happens to Trump in 2020, his white supremacist cause isn’t going anywhere, and Cotton’s rise fulfills my long-held nightmare that its next leader will be far more effective than his predecessor.” • Good thing we’re going into this battle under Joe Biden’s generalship. A safe pair of hands.

Trump (R)(2): “Donald Trump’s iron grip on the GOP: Why Republicans stick with him” [Los Angeles Times]. “Trump’s grip on the Republican Party remains so strong that only a handful of GOP elected officials have publicly criticized him, fearful of bringing down the wrath of the president or his supporters…. ‘Members of Congress are not afraid of Trump; they are afraid of their voters and constituents,’ said [said Brendan Buck, a former aide to House Speaker Paul Ryan]. ‘As long as he has a stranglehold on them and is able to communicate directly with them, this is not going to change.'” • I wish the Democrat leadership felt like that….

UPDATE Trump (R)(3): “Trump Poised to Face the Final Indignity” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “When an incumbent falls well behind in a reelection campaign, it is not uncommon for him to suffer through all kinds of indignities. When that incumbent has not played well with the other kids, those indignities can be greatly magnified, as President Trump is experiencing now…. Watching the margin in the horse race, is Biden staying at least the 4 or 5 points ahead nationally that would likely translate into 270 electoral votes? He’s leading in the battleground states, but watch the trend of his favorable and unfavorable ratings. If Biden is seen as an unacceptable risk, Trump can win. But if his favorables don’t sink as low as the neighborhood that Trump and Clinton were in four years ago and Trump remains in today, that referendum framing holds, and Trump will face the final indignity.” • It’s too bad Trump is Trump, or I’d admire him for being hated so much the political class. “Indignity,” twice repeated!

UPDATE Trump (R)(4): “Trump rally-goers must agree they won’t sue if they contract coronavirus” [CBS]. “‘By clicking register below, you are acknowledging that an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,’ the campaign website says on the RSVP page for the rally. ‘By attending the Rally, you and any guests voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19 and agree not to hold Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.; BOK Center; ASM Global; or any of their affiliates, directors, officers, employees, agents, contractors, or volunteers liable for any illness or injury.'” • 2020 in a nutshell.

UPDATE Trump (R)(5): “Trump to give nomination acceptance speech in Florida after standoff with North Carolina” [ABC]. “While the convention business, rules and platform voting, will still be held in Charlotte, North Carolina, from Aug. 24-27, the president’s acceptance speech will now be held on Aug. 27 at the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, which holds 15,000 people.”

* * *

She seems nice:

Although the Trillbillies ask, and justifiably, why all the support for Booker from AOC, Sanders, etc., came only last week, at the last minute.

“The Squad in the spotlight: AOC, progressive peers face primary challenges of their own” [Reuters]. “A May poll conducted for her campaign gave Ocasio-Cortez a 73%-11% lead. Pollster Celinda Lake* said the survey also showed most constituents ‘think of her as fighting for them.’… Omar’s campaign spokesman, Jeremy Slevin, said in an email, “Representative Omar lives and breathes the 5th District,” adding that she and her team have held more than 1,000 constituent meetings and conversations. In Michigan, Tlaib, 43, faces a rematch against Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones, 60, who lost by fewer than 1,000 votes in 2018…. The fourth “Squad” member, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, has no primary opposition.” • Well, I’m sure the DNC has blacklisted the strategists and consultants working for the challengers. Right? NOTE * Centrist, horrid.


Doublethink is powerful:

Realignment and Legitimacy

Euthanize the NGOs (DG):

The “having conversations” industrial complex. Think any of ’em have a sideline selling woke insurance?

UPDATE “Why The November Election Is Going To Be Even More Effed Than We Realized” [Talking Points Memo]. I’m not inclined to quote TPM, any more than Red State, but here we are: “The bottom line is election officials will be doomed in November if they do not take drastic steps to expand their vote by mail operations…. But they’re also doomed if they assume a smooth absentee voting operation alone will be enough to make up for polling places being shuttered because of the outbreak. Unlike in Georgia and D.C., there were not widespread reports of Nevada voters not receiving the absentee ballots they requested. Yet in-person voting lines were so long, some voters waited until well after midnight to cast ballots.” • And now we come to this:

If anything, the last two weeks show election officials need to figure out how to host even more in-person sites than they may have been considering for the pandemic. That means aggressive recruitment campaigns to hire workers, and particularly young ones who are more resilient to the virus. Those poll workers, since they’ll likely be new to the job, will in turn need much more training than the older volunteers who have worked election after election. Election officials will also need to spend more to secure additional locations.

So, the (older) volunteers are going to train their (younger) paid replacements? Is that really going to work?

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.


Imports: “May 2020 Import Year-over-Year Inflation Now -6.0%” [Econintersect]. “Year-over-year import price indices inflation remained in contraction and moved from 6.8 % to 6.0 %…. Fuel prices increased this month but remain in contraction year-over-year.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 06 June 2020 – Remains Deep In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “Intermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. declined and remains deep in contraction…. When rail contracts, it suggests a slowing of the economy.”

* * *

Mr. Market: “Dow up 500 points midday in bumpy trade, partially recovering Thursday’s losses” [MarketWatch]. “U.S. stock benchmarks held in positive territory midday Friday, but traded well off their opening peaks, as Wall Street attempted to recapture losses from the sharpest selloff for the market since mid-March on Thursday…. Investors are assessing the state of the stock-market’s 10-week rally, a day after equity indexes registered a bruising decline prompted by fears of a resurgence in the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. and a bleak economic outlook from the head of the Federal Reserve.” • So Mr. Market isn’t sad, exactly; just in his feelings.

* * *

Retail: “Red Robin Gourmet Burgers cut 55 menu items due to coronavirus and doesn’t plan to bring them back” [MarketWatch]. “Red Robin Gourmet Burgers Inc. cut 55 items from its menu due to the coronavirus outbreak, and now the restaurant chain said it won’t be bringing those dishes back…. Rethinking the menu is one of the major considerations for restaurants post-coronavirus, said Joe Jackman, chief executive of customer engagement company Jackman Reinvents…. ‘Restaurants have already had to adapt to supply challenges, new traffic patterns (no lunch rush while schools and offices are shut down), shifting desires (think comfort food), and the reality of delivery (certain food just doesn’t travel well),’ he said. Jackman compiled a list of suggestions for restaurants based on proprietary research.” • Demand destruction?

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 53 Neutral (previous close: 55 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 66 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 12 at 12:38pm.

The Biosphere

“Gone Camping!” [TreeHugger]. “TreeHugger is now part of the Dotdash team, and they are building us a whole new site from the ground up to be an all-round better experience no matter how you read it, light and fast and the way of the future. To make the change we have had to pack everything up and move it over. Right now it is all on the road, and we are all whining from the back seat ‘Are we there yet?’ The answer from the front seat is ‘don’t touch anything, we’re almost there.’ We will be pitching our new tents around the 16th of the month. Until then, happy camping!” • DotDash owns a number of “brands,” including Investopedia. Although when I read “light and fast and the way of the future” I hear “mobile-optimized,” which means garbage that’s very inefficient to read, even on mobile.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

UPDATE “Column: I just drove from Missouri to California. What I learned from protests across America” [Los Angeles Times]. “Across six states, we saw many posted reminders that face coverings are recommended or required, and many people ignoring them. Across six states, most of them historically red, we saw thousands of people gathering to protest inarguable instances of police brutality and racist policy, and many people ignoring those too. Following protests across the country was not the point of this journey; we were just trying to get home as quickly as possible. But the protests were ubiquitous.” • First time I’m heard the mainstream say this. More: “Hence my children’s decision that they should start carrying signs everywhere just as they have begun carrying face masks and hand sanitizer.” An aside: “[W]earing a mask while in transit for much of the day is not a big deal. Especially for those of us who remember a time when pantyhose were a social requirement. Seriously, if I were forced to choose between a face mask and pantyhose, I would pick the face mask every time.” • First time I’ve heard anyone say this! More: “I’ve never seen anything like it — and I don’t just mean the masks and hand sanitizer. I mean the diverse crowds, the multiple sustained and peaceful marches, the consistent message. It’s one thing to see ‘protests in 50 states’ blared on the news; it’s another to be traveling across a bunch of Midwest and Western states and see protests at every turn.” • It’s one thing to see dots on a map. A field report like this is another. Well-written, atmospheric piece well worth a read.

Police State Watch

“Defunding the Police Is Not Nearly Enough” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “The activists and community organizers who’ve rallied behind “defund the police” are engaged in discrete struggles over fiscal priorities across a wide range of cities. As such, their focus on contesting police departments’ outsize share of municipal budgets is appropriate. But the fight must not end there. We cannot provide disadvantaged communities with the social resources they deserve — nor, in all likelihood, the social resources necessary for guaranteeing their safety in the absence of conventional policing — merely by reallocating existing public funds. Rather, doing so will require massively increasing overall public spending on these communities. If the end result of the present agitation is to reduce funding for police services, without increasing overall social investment, then we will have made little progress towards becoming a nation whose policies affirm the value of black lives. And in the present context of widespread fiscal crisis, this outcome is more than possible. For these reasons, massive federal relief for cities today, and durable investments in social welfare and public employment tomorrow, must be understood as racial-justice issues. To “defund the police,” we must refund the social state.”

“64% of Americans oppose ‘defund the police’ movement, key goals: POLL” [ABC]. “Nearly two-thirds of Americans oppose calls for defunding police departments, compared to 34% who back the movement, and 60% specifically oppose reducing the budget for police to reallocate it to other public health and social programs, while 39% support that move. But black Americans land differently on the issue, though not overwhelmingly so. A majority of black Americans support the movement to “defund the police,” (57%) and putting the money towards other community programs (64%), a departure from the other groups. Support among blacks for the “defund the police” movement is more than double that of whites (26%), and black Americans are nearly twice as likely as whites (33%) to back key tenets of the movement. An equal 42% of Hispanics support both.” • Hence the Kente cloth, since appealing to Black voters and wealthy suburban Republicans is going to be a neat trick.

“US law enforcement surveilled protests with drones, spy planes” [Al Jazeera]. “US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) deployed a predator drone on May 29 over the city of Minneapolis, where Floyd, a Black man, was killed when a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The FBI used a small plane equipped to collect mobile phone location data over Washington, DC on June 2, according to members of Congress and public reports. The FBI and US National Guard used a hi-tech RC-26 spy plane with infrared and electro-optical cameras over Washington, DC, and Las Vegas on the same day. The US Drug Enforcement Administration was authorised to ‘conduct covert surveillance’ of the protests. Attorney General William Barr told state governors the FBI’s network of regional counterterrorism centres would be used to track protesters.” • Awesome.

Cops blackmailing other municipal government departments:

Out of control.


“Meet 90-year-old Hamako Mori, the world’s oldest video game YouTuber” [CNN]. “Hamako Mori, known as “Gamer Grandma” to her 250,000 YouTube subscribers, started gaming 39 years ago. Her YouTube channel launched in 2015, and she posts up to four videos a month. In her clips, she does everything from unboxing new consoles to broadcasting her gaming prowess. And now Mori, who counts the “Grand Theft Auto” series among her favorites, is officially the world’s oldest gaming YouTuber, according to Guinness World Records.”

“In A Unionization Breakthrough, Paradox Interactive Signs Labor Agreement With Trade Unions” [Kotaku]. “The [collective bargaining agreement (CBA)] covers Paradox employees based in Sweden where it’s headquartered. The agreement will help formalize existing benefits and make it easier to negotiate things like pay increases. The CBA, which Paradox says will be finalized before the end of the month, is with two separate trade unions, Unionen and SACO, and helps lock in current company policies around things like parental and sick leave so they can’t be changed later on without being re-negotiated. ‘The main thing is that we now have a mandate anchored in the law and in the collective agreement itself,” Paradox programmer and Unionen union representative Magne Skjæran told Kotaku over instant message. ‘It means that we have a right to negotiate, and Paradox has to come to the table. The formalization and anchoring strengthens any arguments we have.'”

“Game Publisher Cancels Contract With Developer, Then Tries to Poach Its Entire Team” [Bloomberg]. “One Friday evening last December, employees of game designer Star Theory Games each received the same unusual recruitment message over LinkedIn. It struck them as bizarre for two reasons. One, it came from an executive producer at the publishing company funding their next video game. Two, it said the game—in the works for the previous two years—was being pulled from their studio…. The LinkedIn message went on to say Take-Two was setting up a new studio to keep working on the same game Star Theory had been developing, a sequel to the cult classic Kerbal Space Program. Take-Two was looking to hire all of Star Theory’s development staff to make that happen. ‘We are offering a compensation package that includes a cash sign-on bonus, an excellent salary, bonus eligibility and other benefits,’ Cook wrote.” • “Poach” seems a little mild….

“The Last of Us Part II and Its Crisis-Strewn Path to Release” [Wired]. The creative process:

Since February 2017, Naughty Dog has been inviting scores of gamers to its offices to test out the active construction site that is the unfinished game. These playtesters, as they’re called, consent to being filmed as they move through the game; then they fill out questionnaires and meet in groups to discuss what’s working and what isn’t. Back in the early stages of playtesting, Naughty Dog was troubleshooting the rough infrastructure of the game: how its world holds up, what people felt drawn to, where they got lost. Now, during this agonizing final stretch of development, [41-year-old director Neil Druckmann’s team] is watching for players’ minute responses to the narrative and emotional beats. In the videofeeds piped out of the playtesting room, the dev team logs and annotates every clench of the jaw and widening of the eyes. Druckmann has even taken to spying on the gamers live from his office.

One comment: “Ebert was right that games aren’t art he just hadn’t identified the real reason: aggressive product testing to optimize emotional response like you’re creating a new flavor of coke.” • If only Shakespeare had had a playtesting room…


“The scale of this crisis is unprecedented: now we need the radical thinking to address it” [Tax Research UK]. “In that case we are not going to get a V-shaped recovery, with a quick bounceback. We are, instead, going to see a fundamental change in the level of economic activity for some time to come. That is precisely why I do think radical thinking, including a Green New Deal and the processes of change implicit within it, is necessary now. It is why I also think we need to radically rethink our relationship with what is supposedly called government debt, which is why I have issued a myth buster on that issue this morning. And yet many on the left seem to have no understanding on this. For them affordability is constrained. And debt repayment remains paramount. One of the reasons why I felt down in the last week was the consequence of exchanges with supposed progressive economists a week or so ago. They were vehemently anti-MMT. This now appears to be a necessary sign of virility or acceptability in the left of centre think tank world. John Weeks appeared quite without shame in calling MMT a cult on Twitter yesterday. The economists in question suggested that the public were right to be worried about debt, and that the goal should be to constrain it. There were issues of ‘sound finance’ involved, one said. Another described the ‘moral dimension‘ to debt and suggested it a sign of failure. These narratives play straight into the hands of the right. It is as if they wished for austerity. My belief that their comprehension of what debt really is, what it does, what its benefits are, and what it can do to deliver the economic transformation we require are exceptionally limited. But, I stress, these are people from the left, and I see the same attitudes in just about every left of centre think tank right now.” • Ugh. And stuff like these tends to bleed across the Atlantic, too.

News of the Wired

“Research finds reading books has surged in lockdown” [Guardian]. “A new survey has revealed that people in the UK have almost doubled the amount of time they spend reading books since lockdown began, but instead of dystopian fiction readers are turning to the “comfort” of crime and thrillers…. Readers also revealed their tastes have changed since the outbreak of Covid-19, with their interest in crime and thrillers, and other popular fiction, increasing. There was “currently little appetite” for dystopian fiction, said [Nielsen Book].” • I’ll bet. This is the UK. Some of our US readers expected to read more, and read less; that was my experience. Was it yours?

* * *
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 (ChiGal):

ChiGal writes: “Mother nature is an amazing painter—she does everything, from impressionistic flowers in a field to the precise detailing of Audobon.”

Finally, let me say that I am feeling good today; it seems like I had a head-cold that lasted three days (and no other symptoms whatever). Not to go all hypochondriac, but the stress of waiting first for more symptoms, and then wondering how the heck I caught a cold when I’m all masked up was real. Surface contact, I suppose, though I’m good about washing my hands. What an odd week. And now it’s Friday! –lambert

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. WS

    I’ve read far less during all this, as in basically nothing. It’s really quite frustrating.

    1. Carolinian

      Oh I have several ebooks going as we speak–one on John Maynard Keynes. What a wild and crazy guy.

      Also where I live our library has now opened with limited daylight hours so you can pick up materials.

    2. nycTerrierist

      same here — unprecedented for me — I’m usually gobbling books
      and for the past month I keep checking the news, my focus is shot…

      Gogol’s Dead Souls was a good way to start off the quarantine,
      when I still had an attention span…

      I also recommend Joseph Roth’s feuilletons from between the wars (WWI and WWII)
      mood: life on the precipice

      1. nycTerrierist

        for quarantine, forgot to mention “The Burrow” (Kafka) —

        fretting over the Castle Keep

        1. John

          began the lock down re-reading Camus’s The Plague,but as usual I have three books in process not counting my bedtime dose of science fiction.

          1. Wukchumni

            Read The Plague when out for 5 days in the back of beyond, and enjoyed it.

            I liked the method Camus uses to deploy the tale, with many instances of what could easily pass for present behavior of humans on display in Oran.

        2. JBird4049

          Reading Kafka in our current mess seems a bit… dangerous right now, but heck, I just bought a replacement for my disappeared copy of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; just why I feel a need to read that book I do not know. Aside from the whole collapse of human decency shtick that is.

          A good science fiction or fantasy book is usually enough, or even some philosophy, if I need a serious distraction, but the past six months all that has been a bust. I can’t even get going on any of my political science or history books. Too close to what is happening now.

          Maybe a good biography? Does anyone have a recommendation?

          1. Wukchumni

            The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey

            Written by Candice Millard, will make you feel like the biggest pantywaist ever, now quit yer caterwauling ways.

            I just re-read Earth Abides by George Stewart, and it’s set in SF Bay area-adjacent, and think you’d enjoy it.

          2. Wukchumni


            Another SF bay area book I highly recommend is Bayard Taylor’s Eldorado: Adventures in the Path of Empire

            He was sent west to report on the California Gold Rush by no less than Horace Greeley, and a lot of times the written language of the time wears on a modern mind like so much molasses, but not Taylor who wrote for the ages and was a quite talented observer. Not only does he do the Gold Rush, but decides to travel through Mexico on the way home, giving colorful commentary of a place few gringos had been.

            1. JBird4049

              Thanks. Earth Abides is a good book and I have it… somewhere in my apartment. I’m ordering the other two. I’ve always liked TR.

          3. LawnDart

            Somewhat fictionalized (to what degree, I suppose only the author knows), I have found “Shantaram” by Gregory Roberts wonderful escapist material, as Roberts is an engaging storyteller. But it is a book that probably won’t go over so well with a person of “high” (or ridged) “moral” standards, as it depicts a rather non-Protestant means of living.

            That, or “Memoirs of an Italian Terrorist,” by (aka) Giorgio. It’s articulate, cool and detached, almost an after-action report from an operative from the ’70s. If you’re feeling a bit dark.

            On the lighter side, Milan Kundera’s “Art of the Novel” always drags me out of the muck, as well as Nabokov’s “Speak, Memory” if I feel like being gently intellectually thrashed by a master.

            Yevgeny Yevtushenko was bloody amazing as a speaker, and his writing is pretty awesome too. The combination of intelligence and humility that came across was poetry in itself.

            Myself, I’m about to dive into Jack London’s “The Iron Heel” which was recently mentioned in the comments section of this site. Looked it up, and this set the hook:

            “At first, this Earth, a stage so gloomed with woe
            You almost sicken at the shifting of the scenes.
            And yet be patient. Our Playwright may show
            In some fifth act what this Wild Drama means.”

            Good reading to you, JBird!

            1. JBird4049

              Thanks. I’ve put in an order for The Art of the Novel. Not normally my kind of reading, but he is a good writer and everything is not really working for me.

          4. Janie

            ‘Earthly Joys” by Phillips Gregory. Easy reading, eell researched historical novel. It’s for all of us gardners.

        3. chuck roast

          I’m into…
          Marine Art & Liverpool: Painters, Places & Flag Codes, 1760-1960…just tryin’ to stay relevant!

          1. JBird4049

            Hey, no problem. I’m open to suggestions! It’s just at around $75 something like that is a bit of a risk for me. A good book on architecture at that price… maybe?

            Then again I daydream of buying the complete 12 volume set of Arnold Toynbee’s A Study of History of which a decent set starts at $700.

      2. Basil Pesto

        ooh, I read Dead Souls just pre-pandemic. It’s fantastic. Still have Nabokov’s lecture on it to read.

    3. Keith

      I have read a lot less, although kept up on my news binging. I thought I would be reading more and actually to use my dust gathering Xbox for some gaming and to get through season 3 of GOT. None of that happened. On the plus side, I have been outdoors a lot, doing projects out the wazzoo, making coops, rustic doors, etc, so it has not been a loss, as well as driving to the mountains to get out of the house. Not what I planned, but not too bad, either.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          that’s prolly a large part of an explanation for my sudden inability to read a physical book these last few months: i’ve been incredibly busy…finishing the woodshed and goat barn we’d already started before Pandemic, making the Library(beaten up old trailerhouse) livable for cousin and his kid, me and mom both going crazy with garden expansion(in my case, competing mightily with cover crops i had planted myself, and had intended to allow to keep going(t’was to be a soil building year))…and, of course, being the only one who left the place for months—a total reversal of roles.
          oh, and composting like a god with all those cover crop “weeds” i’ve been pulling.
          I do admit to a lack of focus, what with the news, of late.

          1. periol

            I agree with you. My own personal sense has been that these past few (and upcomin) months are a time for action, not contemplation. In my own life, I have felt the “wait” signal for over a decade, that the time for action was not yet. I felt that switch sometime in February.

            These are of course just inner musings, though I have counseled a few friends to action on the basis of these feelings.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              I’ve been waiting(and preparing best i may) for just this sort of thing for at least 20 years(mentally, a lot longer—too much reading of history,lol)
              but then the Balloon went up.
              we were far better prepared for it than anyone i know, even way out here, where self reliance is necessary.

              one problem is that I’ve been Cassandra for that long, too…so nobody listens…even now.
              when brother comes up, and i get him stoned, he always says that i’m the smartest guy he knows…I always say,”well, then why the hell don’t you listen to me?”,lol.
              He’s still waiting with bated breath for a return to normal…any day, now…fer sure…

              aside from socialality, nothing has much changed for him and his. all that’s different is that they are pretty much alone with each other, now…rather than pursuing their 4 different life tracks and crashing under the same roof.
              I gather that that alone has been enough of a shock for him(and his) to trigger denial and magical thinking at ever grander scales.

            1. Amfortas the hippie

              Just want to be clear.
              how about a video tour of Amfortas’ Environs?
              as long as I’m wandering with a camera.
              (I generally don’t keep my iphone on my person…leave it in the Falcon, at best)

    4. The Historian

      The same thing happened to me – perhaps I had a bad case of ennui. But then I dug out some old books that I had enjoyed reading when I was younger, mostly sci-fi, and somehow my reading started going back up to where I am now reading serious tomes again.

      I hope you pick up reading again real soon! There is nothing like a good book!

    5. Arizona Slim

      I used to gallop through several books a week. Not anymore.

      These days, I take my time. It’s as if I’m savoring the book like a fine wine.

        1. MLTPB

          ‘Every place is a practice hall.’

          Or, you learn wherever or whenever you can.

          (Miyamoto Musashi fashioned a wooden sword from an oar, on his way to the duel on Ganryu island, for example).

          I try to take one phrase and meditate on it.

          From ‘we’re number one,’ I went back to the True Man Wwithout Rank, and Lin Ji, founder of the Chan Buddhism school under his name ( Rinzai, in Japanese).

          To be without rank, we are not for number 1, nor against it.

          It’s not this.
          It’s not that.
          It’s not btoth.
          And it’s not neither.

          And I try to practice like this as often as I can.

        2. jr

          Francis Bacon “Some books should be tasted, some devoured, but only a few should be chewed and digested thoroughly – “


          Lol: . “And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.”

          Now I have to go read rest of the pdf or I’ll feel cheap.

    6. Carla

      Bookwise, I’ve read very little — partly because I spend more time than I ever thought possible reading posts and articles online.
      But I do recommend John Howard Kunstler’s “Living in the Long Emergency.”

    7. Briny

      I’ve been reading apocalyptic Sci-Fi here. Most lately A. G. Riddle as a break from the randomized insanity of our universe towards the well plotted kind.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > apocalyptic Sci-Fi here

        I like Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs trilogy. I don’t know if it’s apocalyptic, exactly, but all the planets involved certainly do go through some changes. I think the last (set during a revolution on Harlan’s world) is better than the second (alien contact during a civil war on Sanction IV), and the second better than the first (police procedural on Earth). But they’re all good.

    8. Baby Gerald

      My reading schedule has been all knocked out of whack but I have adapted a bit. I actually work in a university library and would read on the subway to and from work as well as on lunch break. I’m not the fastest reader but could get through one or two books in a week’s time at that rate. Since the pandemic broke out, we’ve been repurposed to do cataloging work from home so my subway reading time has disappeared and I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks while pecking away at the keyboard updating records on our school’s database.

      Librivox.org has been a savior in this regard. It has a vast amount of public domain books and essays ranging from classics to philosophy to sci-fi to history. I’ve so far listened to Introduction to the Philosophy of History by Hegel, Duty of Civil Disobedience by Thoreau, Of the Shortness of Life by the stoic Seneca, Anarchy by Errico Malatesta, Wage Labor and Capital by Marx, The Communist Manifesto by Marx & Engels, State and Revolution by Lenin and am about 1/3 of the way into Engels’ Conditions of the Working Class in England at the moment. Can you all see a trend here? ;)

      Also very much enjoyed Tolstoy’s Death of Ivan Ilyitch and Sevastopol Stories but have found War and Peace a bit of a slog so far, stopping after the first part of book 1. Very soap opera, not much in the way of war or peace just yet.

      Lastly, I’ve ordered books to read- notably Marx’s Capital Volumes 1 & 2 which I intend to read along to the classes by David Harvey when I can find the time. Just started reading chapter 1 on commodities and am about ten pages from the end of it. Then I’ll watch the lecture on it and move to the next chapter. They say the first three chapters are the most challenging, so hopefully I’ll be able to get through these better with Harvey’s lectures as motivation.

    9. Jeremy Grimm

      I am reading less but listening to audiobooks and podcasts more. I blame my eyes — but damn them NOT. I’ve been procraistinating getting my cataracts removed, and Corona has put a snag in even my hesitant moves to get the surgery done.

      My HATE for youtube is growing as it becomes more and more difficult to move MP4 and MP3 files to a more comfortable viewing area than my computer screen and computer audio [tie my television to the Internet? that will NOT happen]. The Youtube ‘commercials’ are odious and not infrequently longer in sum than the content they infect. My laziness about running more potent capture and conversion programs than VLC Media Player … which not long ago quit working for captures and conversions … tempts me to work with some more aggressive capture programs. The provenance of Youtube makes me most reluctant to subscribe or provide any more information to the provider than the bare minimum, which has quickly become more information than I am willing to willingly part with.

      When I do read or listen to audio I am much more drawn to the apocalyptic than I was before. I should start listening to another round of the Hugh Howey Silo series another time. It grows more and more appros. I like Sand but it is too specialized and particular, and I’ve already given it too many listens.

      I started listening to “Notes from the Underground” a while ago … but it seemed too idiosyncratic and perhaps optimistic.

      I should be reading, listening to, and most important … thinking … about many technical books, journal pubs … pdfs , and technical/ mathematical/physical publications I have collected and continue to collect. The Times they are a Changin’ and we have but a brief window to collect and master what the times ‘After’ will require.

    10. Bugs Bunny

      Same here. I’ve read over half of Paul Theroux’s Deep South. It’s not a great book but there are a few transcendent moments. I started a few others, some Italian books I bought in Catania right before the plague, and the Bolaño book. It’s hard, I get distracted and go weed the garden, to forget.

      Why hasn’t Rushdie won a Nobel for Midnight’s Children? Isn’t it radical and obscure enough?

    11. sierra7

      “Reading books”
      Ha! I’ve go more than two thousand to choose from….in my mountain refuge. Never bored!
      “E”-books are ok I assume….but, especially reading non-fiction without good notes you have no sources. In line with that thought e-books content can be subtly altered over night kind of changing the direction of thought….so beware if you depend totally on those devices. Books can’t be changed. Unless they come up with new printings……..
      Send me “pole-dancers” who read! LOL!!

    12. lyman alpha blob

      I’ve read a little bit less myself recently, mostly because I haven’t been taking the bus to work while the office is closed. I could get in 15 minutes to an hour of reading a day during the commute.

      I recently finished a 19th century English translation of Xenophon’s Anabasis that I picked up in a dusty old book store for about $5 and in which I learned something which will come as no surprise to MC readers – groups of men hired to bear arms against the population at large have been complete [family blog]ers for at least the last 2400 years.

      Subject matter aside, there’s a very singular feeling you get when reading a book that’s been around longer than anybody alive on the planet today.

    13. eg

      I’m banging my way through “Capital and Ideology” but work has been getting very much in the way. It’s going to take me a couple more weeks at least …

  2. jr

    Re: protest field reports

    There were more bicycle riding protesters yesterday in the West Village, early evening, four blocks long. Honking horns and chanting as they went by, followed by NYPDs crack scooter-troopers. Totally peaceful.

    Re: drones

    I’ve been hearing an odd sounding aircraft over the west side of Manhattan, on and off, over the last week. It’s not a helicopter, it’s obviously a prop aircraft, but the engine sounds lighter, buzzier than say a Cessnas. I’m in no way an expert but I wouldn’t be shocked to learn it was a drone.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      The one that flew over my place, circa 2003-4, sounded like a big lawnmower or small airboat. white, around maybe 10-15 ft long(not good at such eyeball measurements).
      had that bulbous nose and oddly angle back wings/fins.
      heard it before i saw it.
      Maybe they pulled those old, rinkydink ones out of storage….or maybe they sold them a long time ago to copshops hither and yon.

      broadly related: back then…2003-4 the new Homeland Security Department sent a bunch of grants to all the counties…we got a new encrypted digital radio system for the sheriff’s department. Haven’t heard them on the scanner since, just what sounds like the Breen.
      …which was sort of unnerving at first.
      the sheriff never saw fit to …like…announce this,lol…so i don’t know what they got aside from a dollar amount($300K or so)
      neighboring county, where there’s almost nothing at all, got several million.
      point is, arming up those guys…even way the hell out here where there ain’t nobody…has been ongoing, and largely under the radar for the peasantry.(i know because i’m curious, and deduced what the scanner absence meant, then confirmed it)

      1. hunkerdown

        Cryptography researcher Matt Blaze surveyed traffic of one popular police radio protocol near U Penn and found the protocol and OPSEC wanting. Maybe the police have improved their OPSEC but that may not over-determine outcomes. If you’re as handy with computers as you are with a hammer, you might be able to make a “tape” log of the local police frequencies and pull some clear voice out of them. (It’d be a bit of a challenge for me but I could probably do it in anger.)

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          I’m not near tech savvy enough for all that, and the fancy radios that can supposedly decrypt this stuff are way out of budget.
          I’m buddies with one of the part time deputies(he’s my plumber when i need one), and he confirmed that it’s off the shelf high dollar digital encryption radio, and that scanners are available, but good luck getting the decryption codes.
          the Rumor Mill is quite robust, though…so I generally know what’s happening in short order.

          1. Sacred Ground

            Even without decryption, a scanner tuned to police frequencies combined with an RDF (radio direction finder) can locate them, alert you to their nearby activities. A mobile station, as in a patrol car, is often a repeater station, so even if the officer isn’t transmitting, if another nearby officer is, that car’s radio will repeat it and reveal the car’s location.

            A sudden spike in traffic coming from around the corner? Something has happened or they’re setting up for something to happen.

            I observed local protests (Las Vegas) in real time from my desktop, thanks to numerous live-feed youtubers and other sources. It was fascinating to watch. It was organized, but at a truly grassroots and organic fashion. There were no marshals, no particular group stood out with their presence or really at all. People were simply showing up and simultaneously reporting on their own activities and police actions.

            The people stayed ahead of the police, meeting up via twitter and text msg at a particular corner, making a huge and loud “flash mob” type crowd, the police would set up a block away and prepare to move in, and the crowd would disperse on their own before that happened, only to re-assemble several blocks away 10 minutes later. Thousands of people, just organically cooperating and communicating remotely, simultaneously reporting for and informing each other, watching each other with their mobiles on the same live feeds I was. A social media feedback loop effect, where the people creating the video and participating were in real-time communication with their own audience, who are participating by passing on info from other sources, all the while staying well ahead of the police trying to shut it all down.

            Some at home were monitoring police radio and triangulating locations of traffic spikes, reporting sudden rises in police activity to, well, everybody, via Twitter. A friend of mine who likes to watch air traffic control in real time, was tweeting about police helicopters’ locations and movements. He’s not a protester, he doesn’t belong to any group, I don’t think he even votes. But he was part of it too.

            It really seemed like everyone was part of it. It wasn’t black people, brown, young or old, rich or poor. It was everyone.

            This went on every night for over a week. The first night was pretty intense, the police response was aggressive right away, ordering the streets cleared and shooting rubber bullets at anyone in sight a minute later. But they were never able to “kettle” the protesters, they just couldn’t move fast enough. It all converged around 10 pm at the iconic Fremont St and Las Vegas Blvd intersection downtown. After about an hour of mostly milling around holding signs, sometimes chanting, a few directly speaking to police, some with drama though no real anger that I saw, the police announced the streets were now closed. 99% left, the remaining few looked mostly like youtubers shooting video of each other.

            Some young knuckleheads went wild, a few windows were broken. I keep hearing even local news using words like “carnage” and “looting.”

            (Funny thing, I watched all those hours and hours of live feed from amateur YouTubers and I didn’t see a lot of local news vans there. Must have been too dangerous for them, what with all that “carnage.”)

            What I saw: In a handful of instances, a crowd of said wild knuckleheads stormed a store and grabbed stuff, made a mess and got loud, then ran off before the cops showed. If that’s looting, then I’ve seen college students pull off much worse looting after losing a basketball game. Each of these instances occurred well after the mass protesters had broken off and left, happening while the police were rounding up and chasing off the troublemaking few.

            After the first aggressive night, police were much more restrained and there seemed more of a cooperative atmosphere from them. Then the worst happened: while clearing away the post-protest troublemakers by Circus Circus, an officer was shot in the head. The guy they arrested a few hours later is a gang-banger with a record AND apparently a personal history with the shot officer.

            Around the same time, 1.5 miles up the Boulevard downtown, in front of the Federal Courthouse building, a man carrying a rifle and wearing body armor approached police guarding the building and drew a pistol. A Metro officer drew faster and fatally shot him. This happened within a few minutes of the other shooting, was first mistakenly and oddly reported as a US Marshall getting killed, and fed all manner of conspiracy talk.

            After that, things got a lot calmer and more cooperative all around. The police showed far more restraint than I ever would have expected from 20 years of living here. We have a new Sheriff, elected just a year ago. Maybe the department really is changing? Just asking that is way more benefit of doubt than I ever would have thought possible for me to give them. LV Metro has as nasty a record as any city department.

            The protests continue. The “looting”, such as it ever was, doesn’t. There has been no further violence here. There is, I feel, a stronger sense of community than before.

            The mayor, Caroline Goodman, has been an oaf and a fool throughout and is unlikely to serve another term, I think, not over this so much as her obvious ownership by the resort industry and totally tone-deaf push to reopen early. Like, those resorts may be funding your campaign, Ms. Goodman, but it’s the *employees* of those resorts who vote for mayor. Dumbass.

    2. jsn

      jr, I live near the Brooklyn waterfront and I think I can tell you that what you were hearing was a Cezna Skyhawk, painted hazzard sign yellow. I’ve seen it flying up the Hudson and East rivers, never seen it around before. I can’t tell if its surviellance or just someone taking advantage of the unusually open air space.

      1. jr


        Thanks, that makes sense. I wonder who it is as well, would they let a civilian buzz up and down the rivers like that at a time like this? Weird.

        1. jsn

          I have a friend who’s a pilot.

          You have to put in a certain amount of hours every year to keep your license.

          My guess is someone with a nice little plane saw an opportunity to get in some low stress hours over Manhattan.

    3. ambrit

      All we’re seeing in the half-horse town is a spate of “Black Lives Matter” lawn signs, as if BLM was running for office. The signs are generally in triples, along the street’s edge, on mostly upper income dwelling’s lawns. The signs are professionally made, and, so far, all of a single type. Someone is supplying these signs, obtained from a single source.
      Downtown, (we do have one,) is “quiet,” almost, as in the classic Western scene, “too quiet.”
      The inner ring suburbs are having an ongoing spike in small time property crimes, and gunshots, usually late at night.
      The previously mentioned elsewhwere age cohort related laxness of care concerning covid spread is visible here as well. The proportions of masked versus unmasked “customers” in the stores does tend to fall along age lines, with the younger group showing much more “skin” in the “game.” Also visible is a fashion for covering the mouth and leaving the nose uncovered. All this while the stores are trying to enforce a mandatory masking regime inside the premises.
      The Library is still closed.

      1. Wukchumni

        Just back from a delightful walk among the Sequoias in the Giant Forest, offset by Dogwoods either in mid or late bloom, the floral arrangement looking like green eggs, fried sunnyside up. We didn’t see very many people and nobody wore a mask, including us.

        Relatively few cars to speak of on the way up, we’d go a few miles before encountering another-that sort of thing, and in our 5 mile walk, we encountered maybe 8 people on the trail traipsing between time totems.

        I’ve been fortunate to be among them more than most, and I still get goose pimples, glimpsing them.

        On the drive down the Generals Highway, we saw 2 cars with BLM (written out fully) signs prominently placed near the rear echelon, one was on back of the driver’s headrest of a sporty topless convertible, the other on the luggage on the roof-both sideways & back.

    4. JacobiteInTraining

      CHAZ (‘capitol hill autonomous zone’) evolves in Seattle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RyD9CgA3UKI

      Looks a bit like a pretty cool block party, though one hopes they do not get too distracted from the primary message of BLM.

      The 26-year-old left a few hours ago to attend a march, bring some supplies and $$ to the first aid and food tents, so she’ll give me a report on what its really like. She brought a bunch of safety gear, but (oddly) since the police receded into the shadows everything’s been uber peaceful, so I’m not too worried about her safety. Imagine that.

      Sadly, i have to work work work and have not been able to go personally yet. Maybe over the weekend….

      1. JacobiteInTraining

        WOW! Puget Sound, decidedly *not* losing sight of the reasons. Here is a livestream of the silent march from Judkins Park to Jefferson Park. Looks bigger then any I’ve seen so far here in Seattle, and (though we are used to it) it should be noted rain is absolutely pouring down:


        The 26-year-old is somewhere in that crowd, representing and witnessing for our household! :)

          1. Massinissa

            The reason I say that is I heard that as much as 2 days ago yet it still hasn’t been confirmed. That Daily Mail article is just citing information from, as I said, two days ago. It might have been a rumor, and most articles I’ve seen in the last day or so have reported its largely peaceful.

            Of course, I could turn out to be wrong and it could be true.

              1. Massinissa

                What I mean is, I’m not convinced hes a ‘warlord’ or that he’s the leader of Chaz/chop. Seems like this could be something of an isolated incident.

                On the other hand, I could totally be wrong.

                1. Massinissa

                  Also, I hear it was renamed to CHOP (as Crazy Chris mentioned below) at least partially because the area is trying to disassociate themselves from Raz Simone.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          The Daily Mail story seems to be based on a City Journal article,* which in turn is published by the Manhattan Institute (list of funders). So I don’t know how much credence to give it.

          Although I do have a sense from Occupy Oakland that black leather-clad fist-raisers can have a destructive effect, I’d like better reporting from the ground, and I haven’t seen it.

          NOTE * To its credit, DM supplies the link.

      2. CraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazyChris

        They have renamed it today from CHAZ to CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupancy Protest). I don’t know why the renaming, other than people in the woke discord are saying “libs have taken over”. You can see the ‘C.H.O.P’ label right now on three of the streams showing on the woke livestream (yesterday the same streams had CHAZ).

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Needs a link. But if so, that explains this:

          See my comment below: “autonomous zone” is w-a-a-y more powerful than “occupancy protest.” I was going to say the best course would be to let it play out, but “woke discord” is correct (idk) that may already be happening.

      3. CraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaazyChris

        my earlier comment about CHAZ / CHOP is still lost in moderation?

  3. BoyDownTheLane@icloud.com

    Lambert, I recommend a weekend spent sunning on the rocky coast of Maine. I’d like to have one too but I don’t think they are letting people from my state across the state line yet.

      1. BoyDownTheLane

        I am not aware of any, but watch out for fogging spray guns atop the Piscataqua bridge.

    1. flora

      Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park! Great place. The pictures never do it justice. The old carriage trails, built over 100 years ago for horse drawn carriages, are wonderful for bicycling.

      1. bassmule

        On my way up toward the Vermont border today, I saw signs saying “It is recommended that visitors to Massachusetts quarantine themselves for 14 days.” Never mind that it was in an odd spot, somehow I don’t think anybody from the surrounding states is honoring this request.

        Reading: name-brand thrillers (John Sandford, Michael Connelly, etc.) and not much else. My version of literary comfort food in reading is the late Mr. Bourdain, so I went back and re-read Kitchen Confidential, and Medium Raw, and subscribed to Amazon so I could binge-watch his TV shows. I’m also watching instructional videos on youtube, because I want to play like Bernard Edwards (Chic). Learning to play the bassline to “Le Freak” has been good for my self-esteem. That and daily bicycle riding, which helps me sleep at night.

        Up until the first week in March, for the last 5 years I’ve been playing bass in a stinky little bar band in Connecticut. We were booked to play 60+ gigs this year, and our calendar got blown to bits. No surprise there. We were booked for a large outdoor show by the town of South WIndsor CT on July 2. We’ve done two of these in years gone by, and it pulls around a thousand people. Too large, so the organizers are putting the band in a recording studio and streaming it live on the web and the local PBS outlet. When I learned that we’d be in an enclosed space with no masks and no distancing, I backed out. My bandleader got a sub, so no problem there. I’m reasonably confident things will go well, but it just flew in the face of all the reports on singing, and singing loudly (you may not like the way I sing, but by golly you’re gonna hear me), so I declined. Did I mention extending cocktail hour to 4:30? Yeah, that too. Gin and tonic and a little weed help smooth out the wrinkles in my curdling brain.

  4. VietnamVet

    The USA is so hollowed out by financiers that an effective response to the coronavirus pandemic is next to impossible. A Joe Biden Administration will make no difference. He is a place-keeper Emperor with no Empire. I am too old and remember the way it was. But, the United States until Vietnam was unprepared for its wars. Every President since WWII has lost their war or they ended in a draw. LBJ, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and George Bush II are Southerners. WaPo calls Donald Trump the last Confederate President. Barrack Obama is not a Northerner, he is a Globalist. Southerners and Globalists are all wedded to class privileges and exploitation of humans and the environment. But that world is no more. This is the virus free nations in Asia and South Pacific century.

    The Westerner Ronald Reagan and the Northerner George Bush I could have called the nation together, as FDR did, to fight coronavirus by directing all the resources of government, the nation and the people to defeat the contagion. But it was not done. It would cost the rich some of their wealth. Without an empire, ill, poor, out of work; a second American Civil War is inevitable, unless Abraham Lincoln’s government by and for the people is restored, the pandemic defeated, and the exploitation stopped.

    1. Felix_47

      I date the decline of the US to Viet Nam. We have not recovered and we have simply worsened the trends initiated at that time.

      1. sierra7

        I date the “beginning” of the decline to the signing of the National Security Act of 1947 creating the CIA…..the birth of the “modern” Deep State and the granting of every president since his/her own private army. We’ve been in global chaos since. R.I.P.

        1. albrt

          Vietnam started the process, but don’t forget the hard work of two subsequent generations of neoliberals and neoconservatives intentionally preventing the government from doing anything good.

    2. jsn

      So the National Guard is going to fight the Police and the militias?

      Seems to me the guns are all on one side, so if its’ to be war, it’ll be a short one.

      Catabolic collapse is my bet, where higher order capabilities like pandemic response and the ability to pay the unemployed, capabilities the state once had, disappear. The system will jolt from one decreased energy state to the next until such time as someone who actually understands how systems work takes charge. With our current crop of idiots, it looks like we could get to a pretty low energy state before competence is again empowered. On the other hand, there are a lot of smart people out there learning things the good old fashioned hard way at the moment.

      1. jsn

        Oh yeah, and voting.

        Voting is something we used to be able to do that we are apparently losing the ability to do.

        Ballot marking devices, electronic voting machines, absence of absentee ballots, absence of polling places and volunteers…

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        aye. Catabolic Collapse.
        that’s been my mostly unspoken premise since 2003…with the Archdruid finally providing a name for it some time later.
        everything i’ve tried to do out here has that smouldering away at it’s root.
        Per Archdruid:”Crash First! Avoid the Rush!”

        1. Watt4Bob

          You probably remember the Whole Earth Catalog?

          It was a long time ago, but I remember feeling a little overwhelmed, er, bummed out at how much work was necessary to achieve an independent existence.

          And the size of the effort was plain if you absorbed some notion of the volume of skills represented by the articles and offerings in the catalog.

          Now after all those years I finally understand that you don’t have to do it all at once.

          I admire your commitment to the course you envisioned.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            that, and Mother Earth News.

            the thing that must be stressed, is Community…knowing your neighbors well enough to trust them, even if y’all don’t agree on very much else.
            the Libertardian Ideal of Mountain Man Survivalist with beans, bullets and bandaids is nonsense.
            Mountain Men came down to the flat to trade for what they couldn’t make…and Galt’s Gulch was a poorly run Commune.

            I hate that hillary took the phrase, but it really does take a village.

            1. Sacred Ground

              Our society is so atomized, even when we think of going in a totally different direction, we think we have to go it alone. So of course it looks overwhelming, for one person it is.

    3. Adam Eran

      Steve Keen’s prediction about the Climate Catastrophe’s impact on the economy is here. If Patreon kicks you out, his prediction: 50% reduction in GDP by 2030. (!)

      1. Massinissa

        If that happens, capitalism will convulse and die. The system won’t be able to survive it. Something like that would be a larger collapse than that of Weimar, but on a global scale.

      2. Massinissa

        I think you may be misinterpreting what the piece is saying, however. I think he was laying out a fictional scenario where the changes reccomended by Limits to Growth were done instantly and how much increase in renewable capacity would need to take place to continue current growth. His wording was a bit opaque, so I’m not entirely sure.

    4. David Carl Grimes

      I’m confused about the coming Civil War. Who is going to fight who? It’s not North vs. South. Will it be White Supremacists vs. Black Militants? Antifa vs Alt-Right? Trumpsters vs. Latinos? Rich vs. Poor. Not clear at all.

      1. periol

        My fear is it will look more like the conflict after the dissolution in Yugoslavia. Small groups and gangs and ethnic cleansing. I don’t think we will see a conflict between two separate and distinct forces like the Civil War. More random localized violence as central control falls apart.

        1. Briny

          That’s my read as well. If you have to place divisions, I expect you’ll see them within large urban environments while the rest of the US develops a defensive posture without to prevent a spread to the non-urban. And they’ll be very well armed looking at the patterns of firearms in this country to contain it. It’ll be interesting, 8n a morbid way, to see how it breaks in Fresno.

        2. jsn

          Yugoslavia had active outside help, Germany and the US.

          Read Diana Johnstone’s “Fools Crusade”, it was a Habsburg revanchist project from before the start.

          Because the US is an aspiring nuclear disaster with a massive military, outside agents will tread lightly and will benefit most from our own folly, as they are now. This mess is ours to make of what we will: the military doesn’t want this.

          1. periol

            I once wrote a short little dystopian sci-fi where China came and enforced a UN demilitarized zone around the west coast and the Boston-NY-DC corridor. Enforced mainly via advanced drone tech.

            You could be right though, the rest of the world may stay hands off. Even if they do, there’s enough guns here for a yugoslavian reprise. Not that I’m wishing for it by any means.

            1. ambrit

              The bar codes, (sounds like an apocalyptic Middle east sect,) will be on the neck, like ‘Belter’ identification insignia.

        1. Fritzi

          Hobbes wrongly believed that that cruel state of war of everybody against everyone had already happened, at the dawn of mankind, in it’s original state, which we today was not true.

          Instead it was an unknowing prediction about mankind’s Dusk, and the glorified civilisation that Hobbes helped to shape with his Philosophy is actually not the antidote, but the poison that turns humanity into the raving monsters that Hobbes and so many other thinkers feared.

          It’s perfect, really.

          I don’t actually think there is any malicious intelligence setting that perfect trap for us, but I have to say, even Nyarlathotep could not have planned it better.

          1. Amfortas the hippie

            you’re referring to Jared Diamond’s “agriculture: the worst mistake…” and ,was it Sahlins? about the Kalahari Bushmen, the “Original Affluent Society”.
            Out of all the Enlightenment Canon, Hobbes is likely my least favorite (well..maybe Hegel…)…so dour!
            But whatryagondo?
            Here we are, not having learned to control our reproduction sufficiently…nor come to terms with each of our inevitable demises…after 10,000 years.
            so we have ag and civilisation and control mechanisms built into that civilisation and heirarchy and all the rest.
            we’ll need a Earth 2.0 before long…because we still fear King Death and can’t keep it in our pants(or rationally approach reproductive intervention in a least-harmful manner).
            with Habermas, I don’t reckon this is a failure of the Enlightenment, but rather evidence of it’s curtailment.
            sure looks to me like we had a mini Dark Ages since around 1971, at least….and it had the same effect as the last “Dark Ages”(see: the meme from a few years ago that alleged we’d be on Alpha Centauri by now, but for the Reactionary Idiocy of the Post-Roman World, when bathing was “of the Devil”)
            Whatever, I think we’re screwed…mostly because of choices a handful of worthies made on our behalf, over a very long time, and that we went along with for all manner of disparate reasons.

            the nascent Hobbseian Shock it looks like we’re entering was the Preferred Endstate of the Neoliberal Thought Collective, after all: 7.5 billion Individuals, all competing with one another to maximalise their essence or something.

            I’ll have another Rainwater and Grain Alcohol if you don’t mind…

            1. Janie

              Years ago at s convention I wanted s glass of water and asked the bartender for s bourbon and branch, but hold the bourbon. He’d never heard of branch water.

          2. Acacia

            Perhaps it could be said that Hobbes was projecting his reading of early capitalism into the “state of nature”. I.e., it wasn’t about the dawn of mankind, but rather about the dawn of a new age of ruthless exploitation that was being naturalized.

            1. jsn

              Ending the Axial Age and setting off into a new era of human sacrifice, only this time it’s at the end of long teleological chains that make the victims invisible instead of the on the alter of the privatized Temple.

      2. Peter from Georgia

        Watch the incredibly underrated ‘Ride With The Devil” for an idea. Think Kansas / Missouri border actions 1856-1864. Lots of small groups slaughtering each other ’til none but the nastiest and luckiest are left . . .

        1. albrt

          This sounds about right for the first ten years. Then the second ten years will be consolidating regional powers. But it doesn’t matter because ten years after that humans go extinct.

  5. rd

    Larry Kudlow assures us that there is no second wave of Covid-19. He says that like it is a good thing.

    He is technically correct. In order to have a second wave, the first wave needs to finish. The first wave rose, but now has simply turned into sea level rise with 10,000 to 30,000 new cases every day. It is unlikely we will get a second wave, because it doesn’t look like the first wave will decline substantially, and instead will simply turn into a plateau. The big change is that places like Washington State and NYS did have a first wave with a beginning, middle, and something that looks like an end. However, the rest of the country is largely making up for that and has been steadily rising for a while, so as a nation (are we still a nation?) the first wave has not ended just moved from one place to another like waves do.


    1. jsn

      It’s an ocean, with waves everywhere all the time.

      Here in New York, we did have a first wave and it did recede.

      I fully expect a second wave as the city, state and nation open back up, the virus has just scraped the surface so far. It’s a pandemic, it won’t stop until it’s more or less everywhere.

  6. Toshiro_Mifune

    Ebert was right that games aren’t art he just hadn’t identified the real reason: aggressive product testing to optimize emotional response like you’re creating a new flavor of coke
    Yeah, movies do exactly the same thing and have for some time now.

    1. WS

      I think it was Hitchcock who said that in the future, instead of watching movies, people could just be hooked up to a kind of organ that would manipulate their emotions as it was played

      1. Carolinian

        The orgasmatron? (Woody Allen–Sleeper).

        Hitchcock probably did say that. I wonder what he would think about his current vogue as ultimate art film director (Vertigo now high on the Sight and Sound list). I suspect not much.

        1. Toshiro_Mifune

          Aldous Huxley had “feelies” in Brave New World…. I wonder how far back the idea goes

          1. Duck1

            Lem used a similar device in a vignette in ‘Futurological Society’ in the sixties I think.

      1. Toshiro_Mifune

        Does this mean we also stop considering film as art because most of them are focus group’ed into the ground?

        1. HotFlash

          No, not films as a class, just the ones that aren’t art. I also hold that some games are art.

          1. Sacred Ground

            I hold that all films and games (and songs and poems and sculptures and pictures) are art, regardless of the intent of the creator, including commercial intent.

            I also hold that *the large majority of art is garbage* and that this has always been true. I hold to Sturgeon’s Law: Ninety Percent of Everything Is Crap.

            (As I understand it, the context of the quote is that Theodore Sturgeon, a brilliant but niche genre writer in the 1950s, was being interviewed by a snide literary critic who asked him why 90% of science fiction is crap. His response was the above quote. The gist was 90% of any particular genre is crap and this is as true for “high” literature as for low.

            And most of the 10% remaining is not exactly great, it’s just not crap.

            Maybe 1% is great. Truly great literature and art are always being created, but are always *rare.* This is true regardless of form or genre or type.)

            “They don’t make them like they used to” has never been true: bad art is as old as art itself. It’s only the good art that is remembered, giving us the impression, in any particular time, that the current art of our era is never as good what came before because it’s so easy to ignore the forgotten crap from the past while the crap from the present is still right here in our faces, not yet forgotten.

      2. Late Introvert

        Paging Steven Spielberg. I remember even in my late teens being angry how his movies were just emotional triggers lined up in a row. Family blog that guy. Tarkovsky FTW.

      1. fwe'zy

        more precisely, “the economics of attention.” “Art” in the past was mostly used to glorify whatever patron/ institution was paying. Art, Myth, and Ritual by KC Chang is interesting too, describing ancient Chinese empire-building creative-decorative-industrial-complex. Today we seem to see art as something miraculous that springs forth from its earthly womb. Probably something to do with the individualist bent of liberalism.

    2. stowers_joe@yahoo.com

      If games are not art, that is no fault inherent in their media. I have, yet again, begun attempts to learn some basics of Blender. The artistic capabilities it offers combined with Gimp and Inkscape are without precedent.

      1. Fritzi

        The comnercialism behind it ist certainly a much bigger problem than any given medium.

        And where you are encouraged to actually create art yourself is of course different from where you are primarily a consumer.

        Read an interesting essay once though, about how in most popular mainstream games the focus IS usually ob reducing and eliminating complexity, instead of creating or otherwise dealing with it as a given.

        Which does not mean that there aren’t plenty that so not fall into that pattern.

        1. hunkerdown

          They’re replacing problem solving with grinding, you say? How neoliberal of them! Yanis Varoufakis should have never left Valve, and both gaming and Greece might have been better off.

        2. HotFlash

          Art has pretty well always had to feed and clothe its creators. Whether it was Turlough O’Carolan getting a bed and a hot meal, Vince Van Gogh getting $$ from his brother Theo, Marcello and his starving friends doing some skiving for food, firewood and Bordeaux! in their Paris garret, Beethoven being his own promoter (as in you bought concert tickets at his house), J S Bach complaining that there just weren’t enough funerals to get by on, Vivaldi being retained by Queen Maria Barbara of Spain, or Justin Beiber getting whatever he gets however he gets it for whatever it is he does. Artistic merit is, um, hard to define.

          Me, I say fund them all (basic income) and let God and future generations sort ’em out. Henry Cockton was once a best-selling author, one-hit wonders litter history. Quick question, who recorded “Kung Fu Fighting”?

          So long as artists need the promoters, investors, financial backers to keep alive, the promoters will try to maximize their chances of hittin’ it big (cf, Scooter Braun, “Colonel” Tom Parker).

          1. John Anthony La Pietra

            Carl Douglas! . . . felt the need to go and check, TBH, but I was right.

    3. Fritzi

      Writers and directors will in all likelihood be replaced by algorithms very soon, and for the most part without this making much of a difference, certainly not where blockbusters and their fans are concerned.

      Eventually it may well be possible to do the same with actually “artistic” movies too, every crowds preferences can be figured out, but I Imagine that those will more likely be left to die out completely, once the hypercommercialisation of movie making is complete.

      Or that is at least where the trend would go if uninterupted.

      I guess civilisational collapse thanks to ecocide will put an end to all these shenanigans though.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Used at it’s best, technology can open up new possibilities. Watch the following 6:38 video clip to see what I mean. We have all heard of green screens used in so many films but it looks like LED screen may replace them which makes richer possibilities for film makers-


    4. occasional anonymous

      They’ve been doing test screenings for decades, and Ebert himself actively supported the custom.

      This whole conversation is rather irritating to me because from what I see it’s mostly coming from people who are clueless about video games.

      At this point video games are basically an incomprehensibly vast medium (dozens of new ones are released daily, and that isn’t hyperbole). Most of them, the good ones at least, are play tested to one degree or other (unless you’re Bethesda Softworks, in which case you apparently just don’t test anything ever). This can run the gambit from just finding and fixing bugs but not changing anything about design, even when players clearly hate it, to what people seem to be worried about, which is cynically fine-tuning things to maximize an emotional reaction (I suspect something like this is what happens with many Ubisoft titles).

      The Last of Us II is being made by a team with a story-telling reputation in the industry that is second to none. They actually believe in notions of integrity of plot and character development. The type of looking-over-the testers-shoulder that they’re describing seems to me to be about tweaking things like level design to maximize whatever tone they’re going for, as well as to ensure the gameplay experience flows well. It doesn’t mean “we shoehorned in a vignette with a dead puppy here just to make players cry”.

  7. Savedbyirony

    Regarding reading more or less over the last few months, I have read considerably more because I am life long sports fan who would have devotedly followed and watched both the women’s ncaa basketball and softball games, and many other sports sporadically as well. Without the sports, the time has generally gone to reading or home improvement projects. My tastes in reading have not changed much, although I have been reading more travel and outdoor adventure type books this late spring. I do long for the off the beaten path travel and rustic outdoor activities of my youth more than usual this spring.

  8. Charles D Myers

    Defund the police

    Its all in how the question is posed.

    Should the police half half tracks and tanks?

      1. anEnt

        People advocating defunding police should be careful what they specify: defunded police will seek alternate funds. Via increased civil asset forfeiture.

  9. ambrit

    Shakspeare’s Play testing room was actually a Globe, which being a sphere, from which all varieties of adulation and calumny emerge, focus the Mind of the Playwright.

      1. ambrit

        “Wire up the seats with sensors.” As in Heinlein’s scene of the readings of the Military Code of Uniform Justice in “Starship Troopers?”
        To your point about Ye Globe itself, well, they did alright with the technology “at hand.” The audience was prone to boo, hiss, and throw various unsavoury substances at the stage and players thereon if the performance did not satisfy. Now that was feedback!

        1. Fritzi

          Pissing off the audience does not make something “not art” though.

          In fact, I’d say trying to maximally give the audience exactly what it wants and make it feel good all the time, that’s not exactly the way to get great art.

          Marvel movies kinda epitomize this in the movie industry as perfectly as can be expected in a world where movies are not yet routinely written by algorithms.

          I’d hesitate to speak of actual art here, except the art of mass distraction, with a healthy dose of pro status quo/pro Military and Empire/pro reactionary libertarian power fantasy propaganda.

          1. The Rev Kev

            Pissing off the audience is not a good idea and you see that a lot of that with the film franchises like Star Wars, Star Trek, Ghostbusters, etc. these days. Not only do the new producers write their films to attack parts of their audiences but their stars get into twitter fights with their fans over what they do in the films. It’s bizarre.

            It is like the new producers and star literally hate and disrespect their fans – but still expect them to turn up and pay money to see their films. The strategy seemed to be to turn off the franchise fans by trashing their cannon, but then replace them with a whole new generation of new fans. As you can imagine, what has happened is that fans are staying away in droves and it shows in the financial performances of film like the Star Wars franchise. Who could have predicted that?

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              like Star Wars, Star Trek, Ghostbusters,

              Not that these aren’t soulless corporations, but I think an overriding besides hiring JJ Abrams who I feel is a hipster parody of Spielberg these all suffer from “Kirk drift” where the Shatner Kirk is very much “woke” before bourgeois liberal pretended to be “woke” instead Kirk takes on the attributes of the modern late 50’s into the 60’s male as seen on the Don Draper show, Mad Men. because Kirk is a relic of that period even though Kirk doesn’t fit the period. Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher are obviously bigger stars than Mark Hamill, but the OT trilogy wasn’t a trinity. It was Luke Skywalker, the good shepherd or a child’s American Graffiti character, and friends show in each movie. The prequels were the downfall of Anakin, maybe because people gave up or focused on the rules over the point of the rules. It wasn’t well executed. I have no idea what the new trilogy is about.

              The female Ghostbusters (directed by a man) strikes me as an out of control cash grab to make money off a perceived conflict while doing the bare minimum.

              Part of me thinks especially with Star Wars, the train wreck started early, hiring JJ Abrams, but they took an IP and ran it into the ground. I think the powers that be kept clapping asking whether they could do something instead of whether they should. To a certain extent, the problem starts with not admitting the original problem, hiring JJ Abrams and not having a point or missing the point of the original.

              The Terminator movies suffer from a similar problem. They keep making movies about robots and time travel when the first two are about the parents of the Messiah (I thought John Conner was a bit on the noise) and the moral choices they make and by extension our own moral choices as we have moral codes and demands made on us about moral living.

              Since these are kids movies or capable of being understood by children, not getting the point is really embarrassing.

              1. The Rev Kev

                Good movies entertain. Great movies entertain and make people think afterwards. They do not even have to be big budget and can stand the test of time. That is what a strength of the original Star Trek cannon was – the ability to slip in stories that wake you up and make you think.

                But now we have slipped In a Mirror, Darkly and are left with kids movies with weak scripts that have little to say – or even remember. A JJ Adams is just a symptom of this change and the hijacking of franchises that you essentially want to destroy instead of coming up with something new and original is a telling sign of the times.

                By the way, that male director that did the female Ghostbusters? Paul Feig? He actually hated men and it showed in that film where he tried to humiliate them in scenes and he also hated the original Ghostbusters. If you think about that film you will see examples so it was not just a grab for cash.

                1. occasional anonymous

                  “By the way, that male director that did the female Ghostbusters? Paul Feig? He actually hated men and it showed in that film where he tried to humiliate them in scenes and he also hated the original Ghostbusters.”

                  Do you have *any* evidence for this? Because you’re sounding like a screeching MRA or MGTOW type.

                  Everything I’ve seen about Ghostbusters 2016 is that it was a project nobody involved had the slightest interest in or passion for, and they basically just showed up on set and goofed off. Half the dialogue is just ad-libbing.

                  It had a million problems, but they ultimately all stemmed from everyone involved being uninterested and creatively bankrupt. It was just a license Sony had the rights to and wanted to make cash off of. “The first one was about four dudes…let’s make the new one about four girls! That’ll be fresh!”. They had no understanding of why the original worked, and no desire to learn. It was typical Sony movie making laziness.

                  1. The Rev Kev

                    An MRA or MGTOW type? Moi? (Had to look those acronyms up) OK, an example. So he was sitting around a table with some of his (female) staff coming up with what to put in his film. The idea comes up about getting policemen and soldiers prancing around dancing and he jumps on the idea. Of course firemen should be there in the mix as well but as it is New York and people remember them from 9/11, they are not included. Below is the result-


                    You do realize that misandry is also a thing, don’t you? Another thing was that they wanted to do nothing with the original Ghostbusters and I suspect that the scene where Bill Murray from the original movie is shot out a window is a symptom of this disdain on display-


                2. Fritzi

                  Star Trek indeed was about getting people to think, i’ll have to second that, even as someone generally no fan of franchisism.

                  But it is pretty much alone among big name franchises with that.

                  Most of them want nothing less than for people to think, sooner the polar opposite

                  I love Ghostbusters, it’s actually one of very few movies of it’s overall type I can say that about.

                  And as a kid I was obsessed with the Cartoon, lol.

                  Dr. Egon Spengler was hero.

                  And the basic idea was above average in originality.

                  It was certainly more creative than Star Wars, for example, that mostly rehashed decades old space opera Tropes, for all it at least brought various of them to the page to the big screen for the first time.

                  But if somebody were to tell me that Ghostbusters was a movie intended to make people think, I’d laugh in their face.

                  By the way, despite loving it myself, I can easily imagine that a lot of people may hate it for reasons at least as good as mine for enjoying it.

            2. Fritzi

              To be perfectly honest, I can’t say I care much about any of these (or any) franchises and their fans, if they boom or bust is all the same to me.

              And the woes of scifi fans, sorry to say, aren’t exactly high up on my list of concerns.

              May sound assholish or snobby to some, but I personally don’t have a very high opinion of Most Blockbuster Cinema, either old or new.

              And certainly not of the bizarre quasi religions that grow around some of it, with tons of pretty creepy, sectarian behavior and a lot more obsession about meaningless, self referential fictional trivial than I have patience for.

              The hurt feelings of some nerds over somebody touching their holy scriptures in a way they don’t approve seems like the ultimate first world problem to me.

              Don’t like some movie or TV Show?

              Deal with it like an adult is probably the only advice I can give, afterall we all are constantly disappointed, often on much more important issues.

              To me it’s mostly just part and parcel of overall consumerism, and if we got less plastic toys and theme parks, I’d not be cross about it.

              So movie franchises are not necessarily the best examples of what I was thinking about anyway (which naturally does not mean they don’t or can’t count).

              Still, it’s one thing to pay money to get some kind of straightfoward Entertainment, not necessarily a problem with that in my mind.

              I mean, it depends, I do think some of it could easily be quite harmful in various roundabout ways, even if probably not as directly as the in the good, old “Video Games make people violent” sense though.

              But that’s mostly conjecture in my part, so I won’t torment anyone with anymore of my thoughts in the topic of pop culture.

              It’s just, what about that queer idea that art also is (sometimes at least) supposed to get people to question their assumptions about the world and themselves?

              Get them to think, broaden their horizons, etc.

              Even if it is uncomfortable?

              In one hand people always wanted to be just entertained.

              But most of the storytelling that people did throughout history was supposed to serve some kind of purpose beyond just that alone, I’d say.

              People told stories about gods and heroes not just because it was fun.

              It was and is pretty common for artists of all kinds to want to send messages they think are important or express some perceived truth, that is probably as uncontroversial as a statement can be.

              In a great many cases that supposed truths were and are probably complete *familyblog*, but it was surely not all just about escapism, or even just about money, though of course it almost always also was about money.

              That shaking things up… thing may not be the job of most Hollywood fantasies, but without wanting to diss “mere entertainment” in general, who doesn’t want to be entertained from time to time, surely selling movie tickets or God knows what merchandise, thus strictly speaking making money for the mega corporations providing the Circus for the plebs, can’t the Alpha and Omega of Art?

      2. flora

        AI is alchemy, not science. You can only mathematically measure the things you can mathematically measure. ;)

        1. ambrit

          As it is practiced today, among the base and demeaned elites of the Eternal Now, Ye Alchemical Art is not to be compared with the wondrous works of the Ancients. One main difference between our present degraded times and the Age of Gold to which we aspire for return, is that the elites have forgotten the Prime Teaching: “As Above, So Below.”
          I am with the Ancients in their definition of the nature of the Great Illusion: “Man is the measure of all things mundane.”

          1. periol

            I firmly believe that “chemisty” is an intentional bastardization of alchemical knowledge. GMOs too. Hope that’s not too woowoo for NC. :)

      3. Sacred Ground

        Do you honestly think an Elizabethan-era theater owner wouldn’t have wired up those seats if they could have? Entertainment was as much a business then as now and The Theater was considered pretty low entertainment at the time. The actors were just a short step above prostitutes and playwrights weren’t exactly respected as authors and artists but hacks whose work was purely commercial entertainment, not exactly the highest expression of the culture.

        Vendors in the crowd sold tomatoes to throw at the actors. When they weren’t running Shakespeare’s masterpieces and raking it in, they put butts in the seats with dog fights and bear baiting. That the Queen herself enjoyed the theater went a long way towards legitimizing it as art, but that took a while.

        In his own time, even as a *popular* author, Shakespeare himself was no more respected as a great artist than any game developer is today. His plays were money-makers, and *that’s* why he got any respect at all.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      But throwing unshelled walnuts is aggravated assault — up to eight years in prison in some jurates.

      1. ambrit

        *Groans piteously offstage*
        “But my Lords, forfend your wrath. Tis ye groundlings, and thus, but assaulted nuts!”
        “Cease thy moanings wretch! Prate not to your betters of ‘conkers for bonkers.'”

      2. HotFlash

        Easy fix, shell them! Take that, ________ (insert name of archetypal harsh art critic here)! Me, I gots lots of suggestions, you probably do too.

        1. ambrit

          Which leads us to the old standby con, The Shell Game.
          “Pick yer poison! Is happiness hiding under shell ‘R,’ shell ‘D,’ or shell ‘I?”‘
          “Cast your votes and we spin the wheel!”

  10. Samuel Conner

    re: MMT

    How dare the government inject economic activity! That’s the job of the private sector, and if the private sector doesn’t want to, or can’t afford to, then to hell with the private sector — it deserves to suffer!


  11. ambrit

    Beautiful magnolia! We have one, about twenty feet high, next to our front porch. The local magnolias have been in bloom, as a series of varieties supercede each other, for over a month now. The smell!!!
    Oh, and the gardenias have been blooming as well.
    As long as we can smell those flowers, we know we don’t have the main variant of the coronavirus.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > As long as we can smell those flowers, we know we don’t have the main variant of the coronavirus.

      One more reason for a flower garden!

      It’s a lovely photograph. Capturing all those shades of white.

    2. dougie

      I perform the same test with farts, on a daily basis! My spousal unit is totally unappreciative of my efforts.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Stepford spousal units are much more accommodating … as long as you can maintain control over their programming. [Beware hacking — there are rumors of Stepford spousal units lighting farts with unfortunate butt-to-underwear fusion events if any of your underwear are synthetically enhanced.]

    3. John Zelnicker

      Yes, it’s a beautiful bloom.

      I have four southern magnolias in my yard, one of which is about 50 feet tall or more. Another is shaped like an apple due to trimming by the power company every 4-5 years.

      Sadly, there were no flowers low enough for me to reach this year as I wanted to send Lambert a picture, too.

      1. ambrit

        Ah! If any more pop out, which would not surprise me this year, the weather being a bit, shall we say, “inventive,” perhaps one of the friendly local cop shops could fly one of their surveillance drones by it and take some high resolution shots of it for you. (Originally intended as snark, but, on second thought, feasible!)
        Be safe this “interesting time” of year Mr. Zelnicker!

  12. Tom Stone

    The only thing progressive about Joe Biden is his Dementia, and if he really wants to win with a black woman as a running mate Oprah Winfrey would be his best choice.

    1. ambrit

      Thinking on how dysfunctional the Democrat Party has become, I’ll happily shill for Ru Paul as Biden’s ‘female’ black, running mate. I mean, comeon now! This years political shenanigans have the essence of M Paul’s “Drag Race.”

      1. Pat

        You may have hit on the only thing Biden could do to get my vote. And that only because I don’t expect Biden to make it four years.
        President Ru Paul…had a ring to it I say.

    2. albrt

      I have come around to hoping for Kamala Harris. I don’t like Kamala Harris at all, but I suspect she is ruthless enough to shove Joe Biden out of an upper story window before November.

      I would definitely vote for a Democrat who shoves Joe Biden out an upper story window before November.

  13. flora

    Re: 2020 and Josh Marshall/TPM. sigh.

    My current opinion: both parties know that the future is bringing a lot of neoliberal-hatched chickens home to roost; whichever party controls the White House in 2021 is likely to be seen as ‘the party of Herbert Hoover’ for the next 40 years. Neither party wants that albatross hung around their neck, and so both parties are trying to lose the pres 2020 race. Neoliberal economics have become ‘too hot to handle’ in politics. Both parties are wedded to neoliberal economics. ‘Make the other party take the blame for what’s about to happen’ seems to be idea for 2020. My 2 cents.

    1. Dr. John Carpenter

      If you are correct, that certainly explains a lot because it’s felt to me like Trump and Biden are racing to see who can lose the election. I should clarify, I mean being right about TPTB knowing what’s coming. I think your assessment of what’s coming is 100% correct. I’m not totally convinced the Rs and Ds get it though.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        That is a very astute observation. I always thought that, given the state of The System,Trump was allowed to squeak in so he could be the chump holding the bag when it all went wrong. He’s the perfect fall guy.

    2. periol

      This was also my opinion in 2016, Hillary’s sore loserness notwithstanding. It’s common knowledge Trump didn’t expect to win and did no planning for it, and in my opinion he probably didn’t even want to win. Sure looked to me like the Democrats were trying to lose running Hillary. Her overall popularity numbers weren’t some big secret.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Like “The End of History”, don’t underestimate the effect “The Emerging Democratic Majority” and Obama’s win in 2012 had on the mediocracy. The aforementioned book is one of those bibles they read, maybe didn’t understand. The attempts by the GOP such as Jeb! to court Hispanic voters was a direct result of this book. This is what is discussed on the DC cocktail circuit. Obama’s track record and economic results (remember the destruction of black wealth) had previously spelled doom. There was a good deal of estimation she would simply win. The GOP candidates were just so ugh…even for GOP standards.

        To a certain extent, McConnell’s Party of No concept was based on the expectation the GOP won’t win the White House until a realignment occurs, so he was going to make Team Blue own success and failure. Then Hillary’s approval in a celebrated if overrated position was sky high. I think polls asking about figures that far out are fraudulent because of who stays on the call that long, but not everyone does.

        The GOP should be a rump Southern, non coastal West party. The idea they are players can be directly blamed on Obama moving heaven and earth to make the GOP viable as a national party, and DC as a whole knows this. Mittens kind of demonstrated it.

        1. periol

          Sometimes I don’t rate incompetence enough, because in a situation like this the incompetence would have to be so wide-ranging and endemic that you’d have to say the entire organization is built on incompetence. So it’s hard to reconcile that and say Obama’s Night of the Long Knives. But yes, it could just be complete and total institutional incompetence that is driving the Democrats. Ugh.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            Its not say simple incompetence, but you can’t ignore the safe seat problem. In a country of 300 million, the governor of New York is the son of a previous governor. They found another Kennedy spawn. California has Pelosi, Feinstein, and Harris. For a state with its supposed reputation, these people are just dull, but to a certain extent, they aren’t facing tough challenges to stay in office.

            With the hamstringing of the states through mandates both funded and unfunded and other economic issues, the states don’t have the resources to really be creative workshops for good government. Its also hard to be a bad governor. Cuomo is bad, but he’s a rare talent. We don’t get turnover or good examples. Along with a terrible recruitment policy which is basically to line up self funding non-entities, we don’t have elections. We know who is going to win a district or what party. We have all the problems of monarchy because we simply don’t have meaningful elections. Even with safe and reliable voting. SMDP districts are insane. In theory, black voters in Clyburn’s district have a representative, but every other black voter in SC has a right wing nut representing them in Congress. Then Clyburn has a great act. He can introduce good legislation when he is in the minority, and when he’s had power, he can lament being just one of 435 which is true to a certain extent. If you can’t pay too much attention, its easy to see why this act works. Its not “let them eat cake,” but its “okay, we did our performative act to make African Americans feel good about themselves. Why aren’t you people telling us how great we are?

      2. neo-realist

        I think The Democratic establishment was confident she would win, but overestimated her ability to connect with common working people and overcome 30 years of conservative corporate media bashing.

        I think the dems are looking for some sort of cruise control soft landing circa 2008 with Biden via putting together the economic team that helped give the store to the banks. However, the problem is the store shelves are empty.

    3. richard

      I’ve always thought any party moving heaven and earth to nominate Biden can’t be serious about winning. But I meant “not serious about winning” in the sense of the endless collusion dance that goes on between the parties, and hadn’t thought of it in reference to the flow of current events.
      Your idea seems reasonable to assume, if political parties are creatures that can act on current best intelligence, looking that far in the future, in their own self interest. I’m not sure they are, but they might be. It would take a far seeing quorum in either party.
      Another thought, not wanting to be the party of Herbert Hoover presumes some other alternative, and I don’t think either party is auditioning for the FDR role. What’s another way that could have gone? We’re not Hoover, we’re ________. What would that be? Oh f*&^ I don’t want to hear the answer, do I?

  14. Amfortas the hippie

    linked in an intercept art. that is itself in the side bar of an intercept article in WC:

    regarding the Panthers’ Kids Free Breakfast:
    “It was a very, very successful program for the Panthers, and actually J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, said it was probably the most dangerous thing that the Panthers were doing, because it was winning not only the hearts and minds of young kids but also of their parents.”

    Lenin called it Dual Power, but it’s really an Anarchist Thing…
    Mutual Aide is what we do out here…just sort of automatically.
    people i don’t know come down our dirt road and go onto my neighbor’s place and start shooting turkeys, I call him…we all share water and produce and labor…and in a thoroughly informal way. deputies never come down here. (even the taxman stays away;google earth assessment—sigh)
    (of course, all this is only possible now, because the crazy prowler neighbor died,lol…his widow and i have made amends. when his prowling, etc was ongoing, they were just excluded from the mutual aide)

    a quote i lifted from somewhere since february, unattributed:
    “Empire is predicated upon isolating people at the local level, so they don’t realize that they’re surrounded by all the help they need.”

    and bubbling up in the forebrain, from the movie V For Vendetta:
    prime minister on cracking down:
    “remind them why they need Us!!”

    1. Fritzi

      V for Vendetta of course was completely ridiculous in how easily overthrowable it portrayed the powerstructure, a pseudo anarchist power fantasy (pseudo because the dependence on a superhuman, bodrerline infallible Messiah figure is of course un anarchist to the nth degree), and about as close to reality as any power fantasy is likely to be.

      And as wonderful as communities of mutual aid are, they seem to have much in common with the early communities and even early cities that archelogists digg Up, before what we call recorded history, early settlements without palaces, temples and without princely graves full of treasure.

      And they were all eventually conquered by warlords or otherwise absorbed by the arising early kingdoms or empires, or turned oligarchic.

      Communities living up to anarchist Ideals have very rarely been stable and longlived, at least not since the invention of war.

      Even if the current imperial/capitalist/oligarchic system came crashing down completely, it is hard to imagine that history would not start repeating itself soon enough, not in exactly the same way of course, but in a pattern that the folks at the dawn of “history” would recognize nonetheless.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        V for Vendetta..book and film…was a comic book, not a manual for implementing revolution.

        warlordism…or, in certain Righty nightmares, the crips and bloods becoming the local government…is what i see when i look in the bowl of water.
        a retrenchment of what we currently think of as civilisation into various urban cores, linked by interstate corridors, with everywhere else left to it’s own devices. the hinterlands would only be of concern to the core when the latter needed resources(or slaves), once the fences are up and running.
        like Brave New World, all mixed up with Orwell, but uglier.
        add in hyperabstract, nongeographically based polities…whether corps or city-states(or both).
        when something this big and complex falls apart, it can’t help but be less than ideal for the little people.
        I hope we haven’t forgotten how to do local community, because that’s gonna be essential….and i feel fortunate to have landed where i did, where they/we haven’t forgotten everything.
        for what set my undermind running along this track for today,lol.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I still remember from a few years ago, trying to give away extra produce to my neighbors that I purchased from a very local farm coop. I could keep what I wanted of a bushel of whatevers and give the rest away and still end up saving money in the process — over going to supermarket or a vegetable stand. I tried giving the stuff away just because I didn’t want it to go to waste and in the hopes I might get to know my neighbors.

      Lately I’ve been tempted again, but even the local food banks and soup kitchens seem to prefer food that doesn’t spoil … such as ??? dried beans? canned goods?

      It were as if I were trying to give away bags of highly radioactive nuclear waste. The levels of mistrust in my current state of residence is … ‘very interesting’.

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        yeah, i’m fixin’ to test all that…the local foodbank’s tolerance for fresh and good,lol.
        around 70 tomato plants, and 30 new chickens almost ready to start laying.
        alternative, out here, at least, is the “community kitchen”, which used to feed 20 or so families per week, but now feeds 80(lots of old folks out this way). They’ve been begging for groceries in the paper.

  15. Fiery Hunt

    I live in Oakland, CA not far from Protest Central (Frank Ogawa Plaza).
    It’s finally quieting down. But for 2 weeks there, we could hear and see the protests (before dark) and the rioters (after dark). Lots of good vibes from the protests (except the whole “Dear Jesus, has everyone forgotten about the damn pandemic??) but absolutely out of control a couple of night. Ghetto birds (cop helicopters) drones, and a fixed wing plane every night. Nothing like hearing announcements of “The curfew is in effect. If you are outside, you are subject to arrest!” from the PA of a low flying cop helicopter.

    Mercedes Benz dealership around the corner

    Target targeted
    (Sidenote: That Target is a “new” building with 8 floors of $3,000 a month 1 bedroom apartments in it. Some of those new tenants must have been scared sh**less.) FWIW The Whole Foods across the street was untouched…

    Lots of peaceful demonstrations but the Antifa boys and girls, combined with the Nike looters turned off a lot of the good vibe for a lot of people.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Oh, and a second sidenote…2 cops were killed ’round here in the last 2 weeks; one of them a black guy working for Homeland Security protecting the Federal Building. With all the A.C.A.B graffiti around Oakland, I wonder how Patrick Underwood fits with BLM.

    2. periol

      Oh yeah, all those good vibes protesting the brutal police murder of George Floyd.
      Good vibes all around for sure. Heaven forbid protests disrupt your good vibe.

        1. periol

          “the Antifa boys and girls, combined with the Nike looters turned off a lot of the good vibe for a lot of people.”

          Maybe they do it different where you’re from too…

          1. hunkerdown

            “If I can’t dance, it’s not my revolution.” -Emma Goldman

            Besides, there is nothing that gets an authority figure more arsed than indifference.

          2. Fiery Hunt

            Oh, trust me, we got all kinds of kinds. Some good, some great, some stupid, some evil.

            Suspect it’s the same everyway.

            Try to support the good, celebrate the great, teach the stupid, and condemn the evil.

            All we can do, right?

            1. periol

              I guess. I suspect there is much greater evil for you to spend your time condemning than a few protestors disrupting your good vibes. Like, for instance, the things those protestors are protesting against.

              1. Fiery Hunt

                1st thing: Not condemning but supporting protesters.
                2nd thing: Condemning looters.
                3rd thing:Condemning police militarization and brutality.
                4th thing: Able to keep all of those ideas clear and separate.

                Obviously you can’t.
                Guessing you’re part of the crowd that needs teaching.

                Start with non-violence. Lots to read on it….

  16. richard

    Biden’s dangling mask. Jesus on a bike, is that not the corporate dems to a T? In that it:
    1) Represents a “middleground” NO one is asking for
    2) Makes no earthly sense
    3) Makes them look stupid

    This is assuming it was on purpose of course.

    1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

      How about Greta Thunberg being added to a panel discussion on black people’s issues? Loved that one. Definitely they could never find an articulate teenager in Kenya or Nigeria (english speaking audience) who could discuss the impact of climate issues on black kids or people generally.

    2. flora

      I thought the kente cloth had that covered.

      heh. https://www.amazon.com/History-Indigenous-Slavery-Ghana-Century/dp/9988550324

      and more recently, about Africa’s Gold Coast (not called that because of oil):

      But that colorful cloth and kneeling on stage looked ever so cinematic and (in the most shallow way possible) supportive and woke. /s

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Well, I could be wrong. It sure looks odd to me (though better than wearing it under your chin). I suppose the advantage is that you don’t put the mask down on a surface. But it sure looks weird to these eyes.

    3. albrt

      To be fair, when I am riding my bike I wear my homemade mask dangling from the lower straps around my neck like a surgeon in a 1980s TV show (or at least that’s the look I’m going for).

      But dangling from the ear? If Joe Biden manages to popularize that look I might have to downgrade my estimate of his dementia from moderate to mild (but advancing rapidly).

  17. hunkerdown

    I’ve been reading quite a bit more, actually. I just finished Vine Deloria Jr.’s God Is Red: A Native View of Religion, 30th anniversary edition. While God Is Red can and does unspool a litany of Western culture and society vs. the imputations in the Greek and Christian sacred texts that would make John Michael Greer proud, he also gets deep into the philosophical weeds of American Indian culture and Western liberal culture, and finds a pathological antipathy toward the land not dissimilar to the “Anywheres” vs. the “Somewheres” formulation pace former Demos director David Goodhart.

  18. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    Wasn’t Joe Biden alive in 1968 when ‘millions marched’ after a good and righteous man was assassinated by an Army Intelligence sniper team and some good old boy got hung out to dry. But let’s change the world because a low-level mob muscle guy got iced for pilfering phony twenties. That’s cool. If they can really pull down this crap system, Mr. Floyd will have redeemed his less than upstanding life in full. Because it will mean a fraud like Joe Biden couldn’t be elected to the board of an HOA in exurban Karen-ville.

  19. Riverboat Grambler

    Ebert was full of crap RE: games as art and admitted as much later on. The fact that games are subject to being tailored to the masses and design-by-committee means nothing; the same can be said for movies, books, music etc. Just like those other mediums, games run the gamut of quality of cheap meaningless crap designed solely as cash-grabs to genuine works of art that combine story, theming, character depth and interactivity. A good example is actually The Last Of Us, regardless of what you think of the actual gameplay.

    Another example from a different end of the spectrum would be Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike, a fighting game that animates with Disney-level quality, or the recent Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Watch a single match of either of those games on YouTube and tell me that’s not art based on the aesthetics alone.

    1. occasional anonymous

      I was going to say something similar. Apparently movies aren’t art either, since test screenings exist.

  20. Idland

    Heavily into e-books on Libby free from my public Library! Currently about halfway through Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars series. A lifelong kink, SF. Not about to switch to thrillers.

      1. Acacia

        I believe it’s a reference to Clio, one of the nine muses in Greek mythology. In this case, the muse of history.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > UC Berkeley History Professor’s Open Letter Against BLM, Police Brutality and Cultural Orthodoxy

      An interesting read.

      Adding, I think of Black Lives Matter as a movement of distributed locals (like the people who marched every day for a year (?) in Ferguson over Mike Brown before there was any media coverage).

      I do not think of BLM as being represented by a website, let alone one that runs its contribution through ActBlue, which is a Democrat-adjacent, partisan NGO.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Adding, I’m looking at the BlackLivesMatter website, and I’m seeing a $6.5 million grant on the front page for “Black Lives Matter Global Network” (see below), but I don’t see any of the other things I would expect to see on the site. From their About page:

        #BlackLivesMatter was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer. Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc is a global organization in the US, UK, and Canada, whose mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities by the state and vigilantes.

        Confusingly, the About page seems to be wrong. FactCheck.org:

        There are a number of groups that use the phrase “Black Lives Matter” in their name. There is a “Black Lives Matter Foundation,” for example, whose president confirmed to us that it is not related to the organization behind BlackLivesMatter.com — which is at the center of the viral claims.

        BlackLivesMatter.com is operated by an umbrella Black Lives Matter organization called the Black Lives Matter Global Network. The effort started in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the killing of Trayvon Martin.

        To collect donations, the website uses ActBlue Charities, a 501(c)(3) organization that specifically makes the platform available to charitable organizations.


        The claims seem to have flourished amid confusion over the structure of the Black Lives Matter Global Network, which is incorporated in Delaware.

        The ActBlue donations page on the website specifically says that the money given will “benefit Black Lives Matter Global Network.”

        Technically, the network also has structured a foundation — the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation — which is “fiscally sponsored” by a global nonprofit called Thousand Currents, according to Jenesha de Rivera, director of finance and administration at Thousand Currents.

        The partnership between the network and the nonprofit (formerly the International Development Exchange) was announced in 2016. The nonprofit organization said it would provide “fiduciary oversight, financial management, and other administrative services to BLM.”

        Cade, the ActBlue spokesperson, confirmed that the donations made through ActBlue go to Thousand Currents for Black Lives Matter.

        Fiscal sponsorships are common.

        Correct! Nevertheless, fiscal sponsorships or no, I’m not seeing anything I would expect to see in an organization disbursing $6.5 million. No board, no management structure at all.. All I’m seeing is three founders.

  21. occasional anonymous

    Biden (D)(2): Biden slips a cog (B):

    Agree with him or not, he’s coherent and making a valid argument in this one.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Agree with him or not, he’s coherent and making a valid argument in this one.

      I think it’s one more illustration that you can’t let Biden keep talking because a toad always hops out of his mouth. Here’s what Biden said:

      Even Dr. King’s assassination did not have the worldwide impact that George Floyd’s death did,” Mr. Biden said at a roundtable event in Philadelphia.

      Mr. Biden noted that “television changed the civil rights movement for the better,” and added that the prevalence of cellphones today had “changed the way everybody’s looking at this.”

      Coherent though Biden may be in this instance, I don’t agree his point is valid. First, MLK is a figure of world-historical importance, like Ghandi. There’s just no way Floyd, as an icon of police brutality, is in that league; it’s apples and oranges. Second, if the argument is that Floyd, as an icon, is amplified globally in a way that MLK is not, we just don’t know. A lot of media icons fade away after weeks or months. We just don’t know yet. Finally, there’s the question of how remarks like this play with Biden’s constituency; this is the “toad hopping out of his mouth” part. (I don’t know either way; for all I know, centering Floyd appeals to the youth. But it’s a question worth asking.)

  22. anon in so cal

    Matt Taibbi: “The American Press Is Destroying Itself

    A flurry of newsroom revolts has transformed the American press”

    (apologies if this has been posted)

    “…But police violence, and Trump’s daily assaults on the presidential competence standard, are only part of the disaster. On the other side of the political aisle, among self-described liberals, we’re watching an intellectual revolution. It feels liberating to say after years of tiptoeing around the fact, but the American left has lost its mind. It’s become a cowardly mob of upper-class social media addicts, Twitter Robespierres who move from discipline to discipline torching reputations and jobs with breathtaking casualness.

    The leaders of this new movement are replacing traditional liberal beliefs about tolerance, free inquiry, and even racial harmony with ideas so toxic and unattractive that they eschew debate, moving straight to shaming, threats, and intimidation. They are counting on the guilt-ridden, self-flagellating nature of traditional American progressives, who will not stand up for themselves, and will walk to the Razor voluntarily.

    They’ve conned organization after organization into empowering panels to search out thoughtcrime, and it’s established now that anything can be an offense…”


    1. MLTPB

      The American left has lost its mind…

      Who is included in that ‘left?’

      Can anyone call himself a leftist? Is there a test?

      The same with Antifa. Can anyone claim to be in it performtively? Is the term patented?

      1. Acacia

        Given that gender is now performative, why not?

        More seriously, I felt that Taibbi used the terms “left” and “liberal” a bit loosely in that passage.

        Otherwise, it’s a good read and he fleshes out how the current hysteria has been metastasizing in the news media. This is not news, but it’s reached a threshold that has Taibbi pretty concerned.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > I felt that Taibbi used the terms “left” and “liberal” a bit loosely in that passage.

          As I keep saying, the left puts the working class first, by definition. We’ve seen wave after wave of moral panics ever since 2016, and none of them do that. (Yeah, there was a bit of a wave about “essential workers” and how important it is to empathize with your good delivery person (because you can work from home) but that’s the only one I can remember and it seems to have died down.

          Note that the crowds at the various protests “look like American” in the way that media types do not. I’m not putting the protests in the “moral panic” category at all.

          1. Acacia

            Lambert, here I’d like to thank you and the NC commentariat for many clarifying observations about this distinction. I’ve found them immensely helpful for navigating these moral panics.

      2. ObjectiveFunction

        Well, neither the NC writers nor its commentariat speak for the Left in any formal sense (more’s the pity).

        So Taibbi can only go with the recorded remarks of elected Left leaders like Bernie and the AOC. And they’ve now been silenced or chivvied into line by Saint O and the Twitter Robespierres. The mad (and senile) leading the (now wilfully) blind in a final desperate crusade to extirpate the OrangeRootofAllEvil.

        So yes, in short, the Left has lost its mind. Or sold it.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > So yes, in short, the Left has lost its mind. Or sold it.

          Again, my view is that the left puts the working class (which, note well, is multiracial, multicultural and of both sexes and all genders) first. The moral panic and social dynamics Taibbi is describing don’t do that. And if the people fomenting the panic had any inclination to do such a thing, we would have had a moral panic when the strike wave rose, which happened well before Black Lives Matter.

    2. occasional anonymous

      Goes in-depth into the insane Lee Fang story. Also includes this bit after:

      “The editor of Variety, Claudia Eller, was placed on leave after calling a South Asian freelance writer “bitter” in a Twitter exchange about minority hiring at her company.”

      Why? The Lee Fang case makes it clear that being a minority yourself provides no cover from attack.

      I take issue with Taibbi’s rather loose use of ‘left’. A lot of these people aren’t left; they’re identity politics liberals. A lot of them are the same vapid usual suspects doing what I’ve come to expect of them, but it’s disappointing to see people who have solid records of genuinely good work like Jeremy Scahill debase themselves before this garbage.

      Part of me hopes we’re seeing the death spams of (stu)idpol, as it descends completely into self-cannibalism due to its own cynicism and intellectual incoherence.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > I take issue with Taibbi’s rather loose use of ‘left’. A lot of these people aren’t left; they’re identity politics liberals.

        Worth noting that the same social dynamic played out with Aaron Maté on RussiaGate, over which we impeached Trump. Oh, wait…..

    3. Ian

      Its a pity that the people that taibbi is describing here aren’t using their talents and power to go up against the oligarchy. That’d would truly be punching up

  23. jr


    I just took a quick jaunt around the corner here in the Best Village and I can tell you that masks are not a priority at the moment. Not for the street kids or people drinking on the stoop. People are observing a kind of mish mash of social distancing rules…masks half on and weaving in and out of the limits of safe distancing.

    It occurred to me that it’s different here though in the mornings, the masks are worn by everyone. It’s the booze, plain and simple, the partying crowd is gearing up and lo! peoples inhibitions go down. Maybe they can make a beer cozy that doubles as a HAZMAT suit…barring that I don’t see how the fantasy of a lid can be kept on things…

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I don’t see how the fantasy of a lid can be kept on things

      I believe that Taleb would not be happy with the country betting on a vaccine. We face ruin on the downside (concavity).

    2. Pat

      Not entirely the beer. Let’s forget entirely the fit issue which is sadly lacking for most masks I see, including the paper ones, and the occasional silk scarf as bandit bandana. No matter the time of day, a good quarter of the masks I see are either in the hands, worn as a beard, or my favorite cover the mouth but not the nose. About the only thing I see more later in the day is that six feet becomes arm distance away. And I am not sure if that isn’t better as shouting lessens when people stand closer.
      We are not adapting quickly.

  24. Michael

    Just binge watched “The Wire” season 1 on a HBO Max trial thruu amazon. 2002 I think.
    Great show. Great to see the stars of today from this edgy Balt’more drug-police-politico series.
    I watched it all as it first aired but the impact today is more serious. What progress?

    Been reading selections from a friends book shelf. Purple Hibiscus, C Adichie.
    Karnak Cafe, N Mahfouz. The Farming of Bones, E Danticat.

    White people problems indeed.Sign in my hood…Stop White Silence!

    1. MLTPB

      It’s OK to yield to other nations.

      Japan’s neighboring leader Xi may be a materialist, but he can still practice the Way or Dao.

      ‘Be water like.’

      ‘You don’t have to be number 1.’

  25. MLTPB


    Reading too much.


    A Chan or Zen story from Tang China.

    Deshan was a great scholar of the Diamond Sutra. One day he ran into an old woman selling tea and dim sum (dian xin…literally, to delight the heart or mind) by the road, and asked to buy some from her.

    She said, master, what do you carry in your bag?

    Deshan: all my notes on the great Diamond Sutra.

    To that she asked, I read the past mind is ungraspable, the present mind is ungraspable and the future mind is ungraspable. Where is the mind do you wish the dim sum to refresh or delight?

    The next day, Deshan burned all his notes.

  26. MLTPB

    Thank you, Lambert for today’s chart, which has CA and NY.

    Here in LA, I believe we still have to be masked when out.

    That is supposed to stop the second and third wave, I believe. But not the first?

    The CDC was asked last month to look into our state. I haven’t heard anything since myself (and maybe I missed something).

  27. ambrit

    Well, our half-horse town is scheduled to have the “kick off” event of a series of demonstrations in the State of Mississippi on tomorrow.
    It’s being “sponsored” by BLM, and should start out in the morning at Vernon Dahmer Park and then wend it’s way through the AA side of town to Downtown and a “Speech Zone” in front of the County Courthouse. Now, emphasized in the electronic flyer doing the rounds is the fact that our county was named for Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the more racist Confederate generals and later “founder” of the KKK. His statue graces the small greensward in front of the courthouse. The statue is emphasized in the ‘flyer.’ I suspect that, if this comes off, something on the order of a ‘toppling’ of the statue will be attempted. I am not sanguine about the demonstrators chances of doing this. The area has a “robust” police presence and numerous “good old boy” militia mini-groups. We do have weekend “Support the Confederate Flag” demonstrations in front of the local State University, or did before coronavirus.
    Tomorrow could be either “interesting times” meets the “movable feast,” or a bust.
    See: https://nextdoor.com/news_feed/?post=151509263&is=npe&mar=false&ct=trGv4GiRvlXHp0kQZCMhjHBfcjn_QC-gfyOJMrllxqiD_utDtfiNfBH7SP1xGMhn&ec=iD9EVf8Fqz_GipY9l9G7ig%3D%3D

    1. flora

      Would it be too cynical to wonder if the sudden upsurge all around the country for changing place names is fomented by the Dem party attempting to steer the energy now going to stop police violence into something purely symbolic ? All this energy to confront and change the police violence … and suddenly everyone is supposed to be equally upset about historical place names? Dividing unity of energy and goals… always a tool useful to sidetrack a serious effort for real change to a system. Pretty sure changing a county or a street name doesn’t change police violence.

      mmm… Yeah, probably too cynical. ;)

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Would it be too cynical to wonder if the sudden upsurge all around the country for changing place names is fomented by the Dem party attempting to steer the energy now going to stop police violence into something purely symbolic ?

        That’s what happened with Black Lives Matter 1.0. Still, people pulling down statues in 100 towns (say) is different from people pulling down statues in two or three.

      2. ambrit

        We can never be too cynical as concerns politics.
        Also, this “movement,” whether ‘organic’ or not concerns public symbols. Never underestimate the psychological power of symbols.

      1. ObjectiveFunction

        Road tripping through TN back in my bildungsroman youth, I spotted ‘Nathan Bedford Forrest State Park’ on the AAA map. Wow, this we gotta see. Not much there really, although the staff did look closely related. We considered wiseassking when the next cross-burning was, but feared we might get a response remarking on our ‘purty mouths’ and so quietly departed for Opryland.

        (We were also amused by the Abe Lincoln birthplace in KY, with a log cabin enshrined inside a Greek revival temple. The past is indeed a different country.)

        What I’m most interested in is when Reparations will rear its head again. That is a deeply, deeply divisive issue and (seems to me to be) viscerally unpopular with most voters who aren’t black or Woke. And issues like that will only benefit Trump. (Especially when Kamala, the likely VP/heir apparent IMHO won’t herself qualify)

  28. Lambert Strether Post author

    More autonomous zones:

    So we’ll see if this multiplies like Occupy (and note that “autonomous zone” as a phrase is a lot more militant than occupation).

    1. Pat

      While I do believe that Trump has destroyed the myth that a President is powerless without an unassailable majority for anyone paying attention, his is not a finely bipartisan covert operation like Obama’s. Sadly this could work to neoliberal advantage with Autonomous Zones. Obama’s size twelves on the neck of Occupy was largely ignored. This time around it will all be about Trump even as Democrats run much of the coming shutdown operations.

      But I could just be cynical.

  29. ilpalazzo

    Last night I have finished reading Boris Kagarlitsky’s “Empire of the Periphery: Russia and the World System”. Very good read, kept me hooked the whole time. Next I’m doing Campbell’s “Hero with a thousand faces”.

    I’ve also read many comic books, mostly mangas during my before sleep sessions, since I got a hold of a tablet with decent screen (Surface Go). This device is ideal for this purpose (and not much else IMO).

  30. Billy

    Re The wrecked Sheraton That place was probably a disaster before the rioters arrived. Lack of vandalism demonstrates that. Having volunteered to feed the homeless at Thanksgiving, working in a food bank in San Francisco and a disastrous experience trying to shelter several homeless families, I have come to the conclusion that an institutional framework is required. No matter what individuals do, it’s not enough. Few homeless care about their environment to keep it clean or protect it. Most are peripatetic travelers in the best of times. Local people have local connections and that’s who should, and usually can assist them. Homeless travelers should return to where they came from if they can’t make it in California. It is a destination for both success and failure. Success pays taxes. Failure sucks taxes.

    Mentally ill people belong in mental institutions, of which California once had many, Agnews Development Center, Napa State Hospital etc. These were closed after “humanitarians” denounced them following the Nicholson movie, “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.” So, living on the street in an alien city and being allegedly treated by a for profit medical system is supposed to be better?
    53 years ago this disaster happened:
    The Lanterman–Petris–Short (LPS) Act (Cal. Welf & Inst. Code, sec. 5000 et seq.) regulates involuntary civil commitment to a mental health institution in the state of California. The act set the precedent for modern mental health commitment procedures? in the United States. The bill co-authored by California State Assemblyman Frank D. Lanterman (R) and California State Senators Nicholas C. Petris (D) and Alan Short (D), signed into law in 1967 by Governor Ronald Reagan….articles of intent:
    To end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of mentally disordered persons, people with developmental disabilities, and persons impaired by chronic alcoholism, and to eliminate legal disabilities;
    To provide prompt evaluation and treatment of persons with serious mental disorders or impaired by chronic alcoholism;
    To guarantee and protect public safety;
    To safeguard individual rights through judicial review; etc.

    People that have lived on welfare most of their life don’t give a damn about their environment, nor do they protect it, except as turf. IMHO, Civilian Conservation Corps type camps where useful skills are taught, such as food gardening, carpentry, plumbing, hygiene, would be a good place to house the chronic homeless, then job placement. If they are mentally ill, to an institution paid for by M4A where they came from. If criminals, arrest, convict and imprison. We cannot afford to import the world’s uneducated and poor failures into our social welfare system if we ever hope to house and care for our own citizens. The streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles are proof of that.

  31. Basil Pesto

    If only Shakespeare had had a playtesting room…

    I submit that he absolutely did. 36 plays and a storied career as actor and playwright in the theatre at a time when audiences very much wore their reactions to the unfolding action on stage on their sleeve, someone as perceptive as Shakespeare would certainly have little trouble understanding how to manipulate an audience, what gets them going etc. This is clearly evident in the texts themselves, as is his maturation as a writer over time with respect to this consideration, I think. Of course, this ability was hardly unique to Shakespeare among his contemporaries. Crucially, beyond this ability for audience manipulation (which is probably the least interesting aspect of any narrative work, to my mind), he had astonishing facility with the language, among other things, which is why he has endured.

    I played the first ‘Last of Us’ some time after it was released to critical Hosannahs. It was fine. A well crafted action game. I was lead to believe beforehand it was some kind of singularly astonishing narrative achievement. It’s not. Maybe by the standard of videogames, but that’s a low bar.

    The sequel is being similarly garlanded (see here: https://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2020-06-12-the-last-of-us-part-2-review-a-gut-wrenching-sequel ). I’m sure it’s a finely wrought thing. It sounds thematically interesting (although the idea of a controlling game designer focus-grouping the story beats of his game sounds like even more fertile ground for some interesting, wryly ironic storytelling, to me. Come to think of it, it might have been a tossed off joke on Westworld?). But I have pretty low expectations (the ‘are games art?’ argument seems to miss the point, as well as seemingly signifying a view of art that is tediously bourgeois in the franco-Flaubertian sense. Are they good art? Generally, no (but that doesn’t preclude them from being good games).

    I mean, I found the ‘Red Wedding’ scene in Game of Thrones pretty comical, so maybe I’m just inured to these kinds of attempted emotional manipulations.

  32. MoBee

    I live in San Francisco, and actually agree with our police union here, maybe for the first time ever…we don’t need cops on MUNI, it’s not their job to police our buses, and MUNI shouldn’t call them, especially for “fare evasions”.

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