2:00PM Water Cooler 6/30/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

#COVID19

At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Our problem states:

Slamming on the brakes when the car is already hydroplaning (“the vehicle becomes, in effect, an uncontrolled sled”).

CA: “Holiday blues: 19 counties now on watch list for more COVID-19 restrictions” [CalMatters]. “Four new counties — Solano, Merced, Glenn and Orange — were added Monday to the list of hard-hit locales where state health officials are monitoring infection data, providing technical assistance and weighing new measures to slow the spread of the virus. Bars were already ordered to shut down in Los Angeles and six other counties on Sunday as businesses hit hard by the virus looked to the busy summer holiday to recoup some losses. Even after the closures, local health officials warned on Monday of “alarming” increases in the number of new COVID-19 cases in L.A., and County Supervisor Janice Hahn announced on Twitter that officials plan to close beaches for the holiday from July 3-6. The question now is if and when the governor may ask other counties on the list to “toggle back” reopening plans, though exactly what that might entail remains unclear. ‘We are considering a number of other things to advance,’ Newsom said, ‘and we will be making those public as conditions change.'” • If there’s one thing we know about COVID-19, it’s that measured responses to exponential growth invite failure.

CA: “Newsletter: California’s turn for the worse” [Los Angeles Times]. “In the coronavirus crisis, it was one of health officials’ biggest fears: that reopening would coincide with sudden jumps in disease transmission that have the potential to overwhelm public and private hospitals. In parts of California, those fears are beginning to be realized. Some of the worst outbreaks are in Imperial and Riverside counties, where ICU beds are nearly full. With a predicted increase in hospitalizations, for the first time since the coronavirus crisis seemed to ease locally, Los Angeles County is now projecting the possibility of running out of hospital beds in two to three weeks. Likewise, the number of intensive care unit beds in the county could be exhausted sometime in July… The worsening situation in California has left numerous health officials feeling frustrated and fearful. Many said that while hospital capacity has increased, and more is known about how to treat the disease, those on the front lines still face shortages, stress and chagrin that the public is not taking precautions such as wearing face coverings and avoiding large gatherings. Likewise, many businesses haven’t been adhering to health orders. Not helping matters: the politicization and divisiveness surrounding masks and other COVID-19 control measures.” • Once again, if we must speak of politicization, Fauci and WHO acting like Philosopher Kings and lying about masks just as the virus was ramping up really didn’t help.

FL: “A Miami ER doctor explained how Florida’s COVID-19 response went from success to disaster” [Business Insider]. “Weeks later, the numbers have changed. While New York reported 624 new coronavirus cases on Sunday — down from highs of more than 10,000 a day — Florida is reporting more cases than ever before: more than 5,000 a day for a week straight, as of Monday. DeSantis has attributed that increase in part to young people. ‘You can’t control’ them‘, he said on Sunday, adding, ‘They’re going to do what they’re going to do.’ He’s also attributed it to the larger number of tests. ‘As you’re testing more, you’re going to see more cases,’ he said earlier in the month. But while young people have indeed accounted for a large share of new coronavirus cases, many were drinking at bars that the state reopened — only to close them again last Friday. And though the increase in cases has come amid an increase in testing, more people being swabbed have tested positive. In May, fewer than 5% of people tested were found to have COVID-19. On Monday, the number was three times that, hitting a seven-day average of just under 16%…. ‘When everything started to open up and ease up, then our volume picked up,’ Dr. Mark Supino, an emergency-medicine physician at Jackson Health System in Miami, told Business Insider.” • “Millenials are ruining COVID is certainly a novel theory of governance.

As I’ve been warning about for some time:

Politics

“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

The electoral map. As of June 25: Still no change. So, regardless of polling, the consensus (aggregating ten organizations) remains the same.


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!

2020

Biden (D)(1): “Access”:

So, a shit sandwich with woke toppings.

Biden (D)(2): “Biden to Criticize Trump for Golfing, Holding Rallies During Covid Crisis” [Bloomberg]. • Yes, this is stupid and bad. And even if Biden has been hiding out in his basement, a functioning opposition party would have rolled out their strategy months ago. Maybe held hearings on it idk. Musical interlude (lyrics):

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “Biden tells donors: I’m going to get rid of most of Trump’s tax cuts ‘and a lot of you may not like that'” [CNBC]. “‘Folks, this is going to be really hard work and Donald Trump has made it much harder to foot the bill,’ Biden said, according to a Wall Street Journal reporter’s press pool report about the event. But even before the coronavirus crisis effectively froze the U.S. economy and sent unemployment skyrocketing, Trump’s ‘irresponsible sugar-high tax cuts had already pushed us into a trillion-dollar deficit,’ Biden said. ‘I’m going to get rid of the bulk of Trump’s $2 trillion tax cut,’ Biden continued, ‘and a lot of you may not like that but I’m going to close loopholes like capital gains and stepped-up basis.'” • (Readers, does “stepped-up basis” mean anything to you?) So Biden plans to run on the so-called deficit? Grand Bargain, here we come (“Everybody must do their share.”)

UPDATE Biden (D)(4): “Biden Team Begins Raising Money for Transition Committee” [New York Times]. “The Biden campaign has not widely advertised the existence of the transition committee as a fund-raising vehicle, preferring that most donors give first to the campaign itself, or even the Democratic National Committee. Even some members of Mr. Biden’s national finance committee have been unaware of its existence; donors have been mostly invited to give, bestowing the committee something of an aura of exclusivity.” • Oh. More: “At least four officials have been soliciting money for the transition committee, according to people familiar with the matter: Jeff Zients, a former director of the National Economic Council under President Barack Obama; Mark Angelson, a businessman and former vice chairman of the Biden Foundation; Alex Katz, a former aide to Senator Chuck Schumer who now works at the investment firm Blackstone; and Evan Ryan, a former aide to Mr. Biden.” • Well, any Blackstone dude that used to work for Schumer is A-OK in my book.

UPDATE Biden (D)(5): “Biden campaign staffs up from Obamaworld” [Axios]. “In the past few weeks, four former staffers who worked for Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett joined Biden’s campaign…. Karine Jean-Pierre, Julie Chavez Rodríguez, and Ashley Allison all joined within one week starting May 20, in senior adviser roles. Yohannes Abraham joined the Biden campaign’s transition team in late June. All are women or men of color. All were longtime Obama White House staffers and worked with Jarrett in different capacities in her roles including senior adviser and directing public engagement and intergovernmental affairs…. Amid questions around Biden’s age and what that means for who he selects as a running mate, these hires show how the campaign is positioning a younger generation of former Obama aides to land the plane in November.” • So Biden’s like that 9/11 hijacker who wanted to learn how to take off, but not to land? More: “Part of Biden’s core campaign message is around his government competency. One Obama alum tells Axios: “By lifting up these particular individuals, he’s giving the rest of us a window into who’s going to help run the show in the White House, and I think that’s engendering more confidence in him.” • So, as I’ve been saying, you’re not really voting for Biden; you’re voting for the Obama Alumni Association. Based on past performance, expect the next recovery to be like this, but worse, because the initial conditions are worse:


UPDATE Biden (D)(6): “Joe Biden wants to be the next FDR — but that won’t be enough to solve our crises” [Salon]. “When the Great Recession hit in 2008, many believed Democratic candidate Barack Obama would not only win the 2008 election, but become a latter-day FDR.” • Including a lot of good people, including Thomas Frank. More: “Given the magnitude of the problems we face today — some of which existed during Roosevelt’s era and went unaddressed (the New Deal, for example, perpetuated racist inequalities) and others which are new to our own time (Roosevelt, to be fair, had no inkling that global warming even existed) — the Roosevelt/Biden approach is woefully inadequate. The underlying principle behind the New Dealer approach, after all, is to co-opt left-wing rhetoric and use it to pass policies that leave capitalist class structures in place while making its injustices just bearable enough for ordinary people that they don’t violently rebel against it.” • Once again, this from Wells Fargo:

Or this from the World Economic Forum’s front page:

It is not, I think, a coincidence that the erasure of Sanders’ class-based politics (however mild) by identity politics has been so ferocious (which is not to say that the George Floyd protests at ground level are not fully justified, they are; but the elite has been almost indecently hasty in its usual strategy of co-optation). So, Sanders was the compromise, and here we are.

Biden (D)(7): “The white-collar revolt against Trump is peaking” [Ronald Brownstein, CNN]. “These reactions could make the 2020 election the culmination of the long-term electoral realignment that I’ve called the “class inversion”: the movement of well-educated White voters toward the Democrats even as blue-collar Whites drift toward the GOP, a reversal of the pattern that defined American politics for the first decades after World War II.” • Making this a little more pointed: 2016 was, among other things, a judgement on the rule of the PMC (as we may call them). Electoral politics in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020 have been driven by their reaction to that judgment (among other things. As a downwardly mobile PMCer, I would prefer to write and teach, and not rule; but there’s no denying as a member of my class, I inherited and was taught my skills in order to rule; granted, to rule the sort of political economy that no longer exists, one with white shoe lawyers and bankers who leave at four, and granted, I turned out to be a discard, happily for me. But still.)

Trump (D)(1): “Choir of more than 100 people sings without masks at Pence event in Texas” [The Hill (SlayTheSmaugs)]. • Licking the shrine, I believe the Iranians call it.

Trump (D)(2): I have not found it within myself to put on my yellow waders for the “Putin’s Afghan Bounty” moral panic, because (a) it strikes me as cray cray to believe that Afghans need cash incentives to kill Americans, (b) I don’t believe there have been any named sources, and (c) when other venues confirm the original stenography reporting, they too use anonymous sources, leading to (d) a suspicion that everybody’s reading memos from the same intelligence community faction, and (e) I’ve seen the earlier releases from the RussiaGate franchise and felt they didn’t live up to expectations. Fortunately, Aaron Maté stepped up:

I mean, sure, you get to keep the Afghan war going, tweak Putin, and help elect Biden — in other words, perform all the functions that our famously free press now performs — so the upsides are real. But still.

* * *

“Amy McGrath just won her unexpectedly close Kentucky Senate primary” [Vox]. “Despite election day in Kentucky being held on June 23, a crush of absentee ballots made it impossible to know statewide results until a full week later. Vox’s partner Decision Desk called the race on June 30, around 11:15 am. The week of delays could serve as a preview for the November general election, if it is close.” • But already:

I’ll wait for the Trillbillies to call the election. Not Vox.

UPDATE And then there are the polling places:

UPDATE And then, of course, the ballots:

I’m still gonna wait for the Trillbillies to call it. Certainly not Vox and their “partner,” holy [family blog].

Realignment and Legitimacy

“What if Trump Won’t Go? – Col. Lawrence Wilkerson” (interview) [The Analysis] • Wellie, the headline is just what the Democrats were in a dither about in 2016. Right before Trump won and they they refused to accept the legitimacy of the result (and then lost their minds over Clinton’s vile RussiaGate scheme). But the interview is much, much more interesting than the clickbait-y headline. I would say it illustrates (a) the continuing descent of politics at the elite level into Third World solutions and assumptions — for example, the military and/or the intelligence community as the guarantors of election integrity — combined with (b) some players who have genuine care for the country and are terrified by our descent (as I would say Wilkerson does). Well worth reading and discussing.

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.

Coincident Indicators: “30 June 2020 New York Fed Weekly Economic Index (WEI): Index Declined and Remains At Recession Levels” [Econintersect]. “This data set should be considered a high-frequency coincident indicator on a par with the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index produced by the Philly Fed – and both show conditions caused by the coronavirus pandemic are already worse than the Great Recession. However, the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index is improving whilst the WLI is still declining. Logic would say with the partial reopening of the economy – the Aruoba-Diebold-Scotti Business Conditions Index seems to be correct.”

Manufacturing: “June 2020 Chicago Purchasing Managers Barometer Improves But Remains In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The Chicago Business Barometer rose 4.3 points to 36.6 which was under expectations. The Fed manufacturing surveys were mixed this month because of the coronavirus impacts.”

Housing: “S and P CoreLogic Case-Shiller 20 City Home Price Index April 2020 Year-over-Year Growth Not Effected By Coronavirus” [Econintersect]. “All home price indices are continuing to show home price growth is accelerating year-over-year. It is interesting that the coronavirus had little effect on home prices. However, the impact has varied significantly at the local level.” • Huh?

Honey for the Bears: “June 2020 Chemical Activity Barometer Again Declines and Remains Deep In Contraction” [Econintersect]. “The Chemical Activity Barometer (CAB), a leading economic indicator created by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), eased 0.3 percent in June on a three-month moving average (3MMA) basis following a 4.6 percent decline in May. On a year-over-year (Y/Y) basis, the barometer fell 12.0 percent in June…. The Chemical Activity Barometer has four primary components, each consisting of a variety of indicators: 1) production; 2) equity prices; 3) product prices; and 4) inventories and other indicators. Production-related indicators were slightly positive in June. Trends in construction-related resins, pigments and related performance chemistry were mixed, as were resins used in appliances, light vehicles, machinery and other durable goods. Plastic resins used in packaging and for consumer and institutional applications were positive. Performance chemistry rebounded and U.S. exports were weak. Equity prices were mixed and product and input prices are firming. Inventory and other supply chain indicators were mixed.”

* * *

Commodities: “Prices for [lithium] have been grinding lower since the pandemic battered world-wide car sales… leaving lithium out of the rebound that has boosted oil, copper and other commodities. One measure shows prices for lithium carbonate, produced from salt lakes in Chile and Argentina, dropped 42% in May” [Wall Street Journal]. “Prices for a related compound found in Australia and favored for batteries that power longer-distance vehicles fell 34%. The bust is a lesson in supply and demand. The market started turning in 2018 after rising prices prompted a surge in new production. The glut of metal expanded last year when China scaled back subsidies for electric vehicles.”

Real Estate: “Warehouses are proving to be a safe haven in a commercial real-estate market battered by the coronavirus. While retail and mall landlords are facing a reckoning as stores go out of business, owners of sites focused on distribution are on a steady path thanks to the broad changes that are sweeping the consumer sales world” [Wall Street Journal]. “Spending has moved online during widespread lockdowns aimed at containing the virus, and many experts say some of that shift will be permanent. UBS expects one-quarter of all U.S. retail spending to be online by 2025, a trend expected to force 100,000 physical stores to close by the middle of the decade and punish owners of retail properties.”

Shipping: “Need for speed drives ships toward Pacific ports” [Freight Waves]. “The battle for Asian containerized exports rages on between West and East Coast ports. The East had been steadily gaining ground, but COVID-19 is changing the balance in favor of the West, at least in the short term. The most immediate effect of the coronavirus, reported by FreightWaves in late March, was a shift from air cargo to premium ocean service. Advantage West Coast ports. Former air-cargo shippers with time pressures don’t take the long route to the East Coast…. The second COVID-19 effect was driven by the surge in e-commerce popularity among locked-in consumers…. More e-commerce could incentivize shorter delivery times from Asia. Yet again: advantage West Coast.”

Manufacturing: “The U.S. supply chain for personal protective equipment is growing as the coronavirus is spreading. Florida-based manufacturing services company Jabil Inc. is jumping into the face-mask field in the U.S….. with plans to produce more than a million masks daily at sites in Tennessee, Massachusetts and Illinois” [Wall Street Journal]. “The decision is the latest in a stream of shifts by suppliers of goods like shoes, mattresses and other products turning their assembly lines over to goods aimed at controlling the spread of coronavirus…. The renewed surge is straining supplies of medical-grade N95 masks despite efforts by 3M Co. and other manufacturers to scale up production, and it’s pushing more Americans to stock up on face masks.”

The Bezzle: “Wirecard’s Auditors Are Under Fire” [Michael Rapoport, The Dig]. “German payments-processing company Wirecard has unraveled, and its auditors at EY’s German firm face scrutiny about whether they fumbled their work and failed to catch and stop a major fraud. So if you’re an investor, you likely won’t be enthused to find out EY Germany worked on your company’s audit

But that’s exactly what’s happening at McDonald’s, Expedia, Texas Instruments, Archer Daniels Midland, and other high-profile U.S. companies. And most of their shareholders don’t have a clue about it.”

The Bezzle: “Philippines promises ‘thorough’ probe of Wirecard, looking at three local payment firms” [Channel News Asia]. “The Philippines’ anti-money laundering agency on Monday (Jun 29) said it would conduct a ‘swift and thorough’ investigation into scandal-hit German payments firm Wirecard AG and that it has drawn up an initial list of people and entities of interest. Wirecard’s collapse last week and admission that US$2.1 billion of its cash probably didn’t exist came after auditor EY refused to sign off on accounts for 2019, adding there were clear indications of an elaborate fraud involving multiple parties around the world.” One reads on: “Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra told Reuters on Friday that [Jan Marsalek, Wirecard’s chief operating officer was in the Philippines on Jun 23 and immigration records showed he flew to China from Cebu the next day. But Guevarra added that Marsalek was not captured leaving the country on airport surveillance cameras and there is no record of a flight to China from Cebu on Jun 24, suggesting he may still be in the Philippines.” • Oh.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 48 Neutral;) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 30 at 12:32pm.

Our Famously Free Press

“Bob Woodward talked out of exposing Brett Kavanaugh as anonymous source by Washington Post editor: report” [The Hill]. “Bob Woodward was prepared to unmask Brett Kavanaugh during his contentious Supreme Court confirmation hearings as an anonymous source for a book the Watergate icon wrote more than 20 years ago but was talked out of it by the Washington Post’s top editor [Marty Baron], The New York Times reported on Monday. Woodward was reportedly set to expose Kavanaugh as an anonymous source for his 1999 book ‘Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate.’ At the time the book was being written, Kavanaugh served as a lawyer on independent counsel Ken Starr’s team in its investigation of President Clinton.” • To anybody who remembers how Ken Starr worked the press with anonymous leaks during the Clinton Impeachment saga, this is not a case of virtue rewarded. Of course, at NC we know what Marty is; this story merely confirms it.

“Twitter Remorse: Deleted Tweets Trigger Backlash At The DNC, Washington Post, CNN, and The White House [Updated]” [Jonathan Turley]. Concluding: “The fact is that I view all of these tweets are likely the result of incautious, negligent, or thoughtless moments. I tend not to ascribe evil or racist or hateful motivations when simple stupidity or spontaneity could be the reason for a controversy. A tweet is a dangerous invitation for heedlessly moments as this week has already shown.”

Games

Retweeted by Simon Stålenhag:

The visuals remind me: I’ve now finished (hat tip to the reader I cannot find who piqued my interest) Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2041, another version of The Jackpot. If (following Shakespeare, we classify New York 2041 (following Robinson himself) as a comedy, and Gibson’s The Peripheral triology-to-be as a history, can readers suggest a Jackpot tragedy? (I don’t mean a novel that ends unhappily, but one that has the classic elements of tragedy, especially catharsis. Thank you!)

Class Warfare

What’s not to like:

“Virus Labor Market Destruction Is Proving Worse Than Anticipated” [Bloomberg]. “The damage inflicted on the global labor market by the coronavirus is proving worse than initially estimated and will be impossible to repair in the second half of 2020 even under the most optimistic scenario, according to the International Labour Organization. Working hours in the second quarter were 14% lower than before the virus, equivalent to a loss of 400 million full-time jobs, the Geneva-based organization said Tuesday. The sharp increase from a previous estimate of 305 million reflects a worsening situation over the past weeks, especially in developing regions, it said. The data add to evidence that the economic fallout from the virus is disproportionately being felt by the less well off, exacerbating existing social and wealth inequalities. While some jobs will return, weak demand may persist in many industries, and a full recovery is unlikely for some time.” • Everything’s going according to plan!

“The real cost of Amazon” [Recode]. “At 5:30 every morning, Rosie, an Amazon worker at a fulfillment center in Staten Island, New York, checks her text messages to see if she’s received more bad news: yet another colleague infected with Covid-19, on top of the at least 50 people at her facility who she says have already gotten sick. As an older employee, Rosie is at higher risk of developing serious complications from the disease than many of her younger coworkers. Her two children beg her to quit. ‘It’s frightening, but you have to put on a smile and you go to work because you need the income,’ Rosie, who is being identified by a pseudonym because she fears losing her job for speaking to the press, told Recode in late May.” • Yes, that is the nature of wage labor. More: “On a follow-up call in late June, Rosie said that since management canceled morning meetings, there is no longer crowding before shifts, and conditions have improved, but not entirely. ‘It affects your nerves, your mental state, your way of thinking — because you have to be cautious in everything you do now,’ Rosie said. ‘It’s like I’m risking my life for a dollar. It’s twisted.” • It feels like that because it is like that. C-M-C’ rules!

“N+1 and the PMC: A Debate about Moving On” [Nonsite.org]. From 2019, quite dense, and worth a read. This caught my eye: “[T]he fact that a particular form of exploitation registers as exploitation is dependent not on any objective fact about how much of the pie one is getting, but on the expectations of what one thinks one is owed. This is a normative and political problem. American workers might think that getting a two week’s paid holiday is a luxury, British workers might think it’s inadequate, and the French see themselves as entitled to over a month. The standards and expectations of workers, and consequently the definition of exploitation, are changed by the political norms that are prevalent. We can’t, in an analytic fashion, sidestep this issue and proceed from an analysis of reality to political action. The fact that I interpret a particular state of affairs as leading to a particular action, joining a union, voting for Sanders or Labour, is primarily dependent on the dominance of political norms, not some positivistic conception of material interests which could be inferred from my location on the social hierarchy.”

News of the Wired

I’m not happy with the writers. This should have happened in Monday’s episode:

“Carl Reiner Dead at 98” [TMZ]. “Reiner appeared in a bunch of TV shows and movies, including “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming…” • Didn’t know that! Here’s one of Reiner and Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man” sketches:

“He came in the store, he never bought anything.”

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (AM):

AM writes: “The first picture is April 3, the second is June 3, Roger Williams Park, RI. Spring has sprung!”

Before:

After:

Encouraging! Normally I deprecate lawns, but I don’t think that’s so much a lawn as a sward.

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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.

126 comments

  1. ambrit

    Gadzooks!
    In my now hopefully ended “debate” with the local libertarian, he responded to my citation of the Social Contract yesterday with the Thatcherite statement that he had signed no such contract.
    Some people are willfully blind.
    Our half-horse town has suddenly seen a major uptick in night time fireworks during the past weekend.
    Stay safe, wear your Kevlar undies Saturday.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      well that local libertarian should be happy that some on the Left are now using classic libertarian talking points (eg, people can police themselves) as to why the police need to be abolished and fireworks laws should not be enforced.

      win some, lose some.

      Reply
      1. hunkerdown

        That’s where you find out that “not all” lolberts are pathological bullshitters (it’s part of their whole program, Mirowski, p23), because they only care about property which requires the cooperation and gaslighting of entire societies in order to police it both inside and outside the mind.

        Reply
      2. Massinissa

        Pretty sure most Libertarians don’t advocate getting rid of the police. That’s basically full on Anarcho-Capitalist territory at that point, and they’re an extremely small minority among Libertarians.

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          Yeah, libertarians worship property and cops serve it and protect it and those who own it. They want just enough “government” to enforce the contracts they snooker other less Galtian libs are stupid enough to make with them.

          A really great exegesis of libertarianism appears in a serial published here at NC years ago: “Journey Into a Libertarian Future.” We’re a long way gone down the path laid out there.

          Reply
    2. hunkerdown

      The Mirowski bit posted yesterday emphasized the primacy of understanding neoliberalism as a philosophy of submission to the market and those who own it. i.e. Mammon worship. Just call lolberts Mammon worshippers in daily conversation around people and you can start to build up some transpersonal exclusion, which is literally the only thing that will get those pathologically lying noise sources out of the discourse.

      Reply
  2. Louis Fyne

    IMO, Wirecard needs to be talked about more in the US.

    The fraud was egregious. The lazy auditing was egregious. The see-no-evil regulation was egregious.

    The entire fraud should’ve been unraveled by a college intern calling up Wirecard’s bank and requesting verification of its purported cash balances.

    And of course, I am certain something like the Wirecard fraud can never happen in the US /sarcasm USA!

    Reply
    1. Conrad

      The German regulator went far beyond see no evil with Wirecard by pursuing criminal actions against the Financial Times journalists who were pursuing the story earlier this year.

      The Tesla Chartscast podcast had some great guests about Wirecard recently check out their conversations with Roddy Boyd and Francine McKenna.

      Reply
    2. Divadab

      If it’s a collusive fraud it is very difficult to detect. And auditors are generally not liable for not finding one. If EY sent a bank confirmation to the purported receiving bank and it was returned confirmed by the colluding fraudsters, with all appropriate chops and signs, then what other verification can be done?

      I’m assuming a bank confirmation was sent it is a required audit step in all cases. If E&y didn’t send a confirmation to a third party for such a large amount then it looks bad for them……

      Reply
      1. Yves Smith

        I see no serious evidence supporting your contention that auditors are not liable for “collusive fraud”. In fact, the accounting literature depicts this as a common misperception. Financial statement fraud by definition has to be collusive fraud.

        It is indisputable that an auditor of financial statements has a fraud detection responsibility. Auditing Standard (AS) 1001, Responsibilities and Functions of the Independent Auditor, clearly states that “the auditor has a responsibility to plan and perform the audit to obtain reasonable assurance about whether the financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether caused by error or fraud. Because of the nature of audit evidence and the characteristics of fraud, the auditor is able to obtain reasonable, but not absolute, assurance that material misstatements are detected.” A fair reading of this conceptual description of responsibility is that the auditor is required to obtain reasonable assurance that frauds which materially misstate the financial statements are detected. In other words, it is clearly a responsibility related to detection.

        https://www.cpajournal.com/2018/03/05/audit-vs-fraud-examination/

        See also:

        https://www.cpajournal.com/2016/03/16/using-network-analysis-detect-collusive-fraud/

        Reply
      1. rowlf

        Why would a Blue county roll over on the vote counting? Wouldn’t it be in their interest to show an undercount since the spread between the presidential and gubernatorial elections have been narrowing between the two major parties in the state?

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          There’s Blue, and there’s True Blue. Booker ain’t True Blue. Have to ask, “who was SUPPOSED to win?” Keep the eye on the prize…

          Reply
  3. PhillyPhilly

    I’m going to miss the heck out of the /r/ChapoTrapHouse subreddit. It was so irreverent and funny, with lots of great leftist memes and kindred sprits. Each day you got a good idea of the news: if electoralism was going badly, the sub would be filled posts with pictures of Lenin, stating “And where did that lead you? Right back to me”. If good thing happened, there would be crab emojis announcing the news. There were always small victories to celebrate: AOC defeating the Wall street money in the primary, Boris Johnson getting COVID, Trump’s rally being smaller than expected, monuments to slavery falling.

    No one was safe. The unlucky right-wingers who wandered on the sub were skewered in hilarious fashion that exposed their masculine insecurities (post hog). Liberals were dunked on regularly, and the recurring joke/insult was that everyone in the sub was actually a liberal. It was a hilarious, swirling mix of left wing humor and satire.

    And there were plenty of examples of mutual support. Occasionally people would post their financial and life struggles as capitalism ground them into dust, and other posters would commiserate and help. It was also one of the most trans-friendly areas on Reddit.

    I’m struggling to find a similar community elsewhere. The energy and good humor were a rare combination.

    Reply
    1. Czar

      Not to sound dramatic, but those remaining communities are in hiding. Past a certain population size, content moderation or outright shutdown is inevitable. Pressure against unacceptable viewpoints begins to bear down from the outside, if not from the inside. Even the communities that manage to avoid the hammer aren’t safe from the demographic shift that can result from an influx of new visitors.

      Irreverence has become a threat to a community’s longevity, now that the existing social networks have gobbled up internet discourse and become intertwined with politics. I grew up on the late 90s / early 00s internet, which was too fragmented for universal rules of conduct to take hold. The difference between then and now is unsettling.

      Reply
    2. periol

      I’ve always got some tinfoil on me somewhere, and while all the headlines were about Reddit shutting down “The_Donald” subreddit, that sub has been shuttered and inactive for quite a while now. They upped and moved en masse to a different site.

      Which makes me think ChapoTrapHouse was the real target of this censorship wave. There are other, more hateful subs that for some reason are still standing. The corporate masters have spoken. ChapoTrapHouse is dangerous. I expect they will soon be demonetized on all the relevant platforms, like Wikileaks was.

      Reply
    3. Altandmain

      – /r/Lostgeneration might be for struggling Gen Y and Zers
      – /r/WayoftheBern might be another choice

      One risk though is that they might be attacked too

      Reply
    4. Geo

      Seems to be a constantly evolving process that is getting more systematic and institutionalized. I remember back in the early days of blogs there were strong communities with diverse (leftwing) views on sites like Think Progress, DKos and Alternet. Then, those sites went on banning frenzies and many moved to Crooks & Liars and TruthDig. Then, during the 2016 elections they went full DNC and banned swaths of commenters.

      Now, that crowd has “asked to speak to the manager” and they are getting rid of those voices on a larger scale. What they will never comprehend is that this isolates them more each time they do it. Back in 2004 we were all allies in the fight against GOP warmongers and wealth hoarders. Now, they’ve barricaded themselves in their gated communities and made it clear they are on the side of those war mongers and wealth hoarders. They still try to scare us into falling in line (“the other guys are worse”, “vote blue no matter who”) but the efficacy of that is weakening. And the ones they have banished are turning to much more radical politics. Jimmy Dore, while far from my favorite voice on the Left, would have never built an audience a decade ago when it still seemed to most like progressives and liberals were on the same team and even those who had their issues with DNC politics were allowed to speak out in inclusive forums.

      As this old bit from “A Man For All Seasons” so eloquently expressed:

      “William Roper: “So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!”

      Sir Thomas More: “Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?”

      William Roper: “Yes, I’d cut down every law in England to do that!”

      Sir Thomas More: “Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man’s laws, not God’s! And if you cut them down, and you’re just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!”

      ― Robert Bolt, A Man for All Seasons

      Reply
      1. Divadab

        ya Too bad about crooks and liars they used to be good. Even salon was once readable. Lawyers guns and money was also literate and engaging but also became doctrinaire Dem. and Scott Lemieux thinks wickard v fil burn is good law which I find utterly ridiculous and disgusting.

        Reply
    5. leculdesac

      Reddit cancelled the largest radical feminist subreddit on the site, with 65,000 members and 27,000 daily visits, called Gender Critical. Apparently, advocating for awareness of sex-based oppression for women is “hate speech.” They left Gendercriticalguys up. They also left up “malehatesubs” while removing “femalehatesubs,” and retained dozens of rape and abuse non-consensual pornography groups, because apparently celebrating torture and rape of women and girls isn’t hate speech.

      Gendercritical was a really powerful international forum for feminists of all ages and provided a lot of emotional support for thousands, like through the Kavanaugh hearings when stories were just pouring out. Lots of intergenerational advice and support. But transactivists working for Reddit decided that a highly moderated radical feminist site was too challenging. There’s literally a post on one of their sites about how GenderCritical was gaining members every day due to JK Rowling and that one couldn’t allow oneself to read _anything_ critical of the trans movement because you’d end up being convinced. There were also celebrations on some trans sites talking about being aroused by having GC cancelled. I can show you the receipts.

      Obviously, people are starting to pay attention to the harms of the trans stasi, including several transpeople themselves, as well as Alison Bailey, founder of LGB Alliance in the UK, an African American lesbian who’s suing Stonewall for trying to trump up charges against her to remove her law license. Apparently Black lives don’t matter when you’re a gender critical Black lesbian.

      Reply
  4. shinola

    Russia’s Afghan bounty – brought to you by the same folks who assured us that Saddam Hussein had all those WMD.

    Reply
    1. Louis Fyne

      well W gave the Obamas some candy once.

      I recall that a little known part of Hammurabi’s Code says that giving candy absolves one of 500,000 deaths.

      Reply
    2. Katniss Everdeen

      Maybe “Curveball” and ahmed chalabi came back for a second bite of the apple.

      Come to think of it, I wonder what judith miller is up to these days.

      Reply
    3. MRLost

      What do the CIA and NSA do? They gather intelligence (both rumors and facts on the ground), influence people and organizations to see things a different way, supply materials of all sorts – both lethal and benign – to those who might be influenced by such supplies, and so forth. How do the CIA and NSA accomplish these feats? They pass out money. Lots of money. And they don’t use pre-paid debit cards with USA GOVT printed at the top or US Treasury checks either. They buy info and influence with cash. Vast amounts of untraceable cash. No audit permitted. The endless wars are an endless source of free money to the men and women of the CIA and NSA. Cash that can never be traced. Put a few thousand in your pocket and no one will ever know or be able to prove it. It’s absolute corruption and they’ve got to protect their racket. So a few more out and out lies, or even some half lies and innuendo, are a cheap price to pay for the steady flow of cash into the pockets of those in the gravy train. Sorry that I don’t have a string of links to back this up but I expect you, dear reader, will understand why.

      Reply
      1. Geo

        I’m old enough to remember the Afghanistan Papers. I know, it’s shocking how anyone can remember something from so long ago! What was it, six months ago?

        “To purchase loyalty and information, the CIA gave cash to warlords, governors, parliamentarians, even religious leaders, according to the interviews. The U.S. military and other agencies also abetted corruption by doling out payments or contracts to unsavory Afghan power brokers in a misguided quest for stability.”
        https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2019/investigations/afghanistan-papers/afghanistan-war-corruption-government/

        Seriously, anyone who is falling in line behind this “story” should have their head examined. Anyone hear about Assad gassing his people again? No? Ah, I guess Trump hasn’t talked about pulling out troops lately. Have Americans regressed so much we no longer have mastered Object Permanence? Is our memory shorter than that of a goldfish? Or, is it like voting where no matter what our wishes the elected reps will ignore us and do what their profiteer mafia bosses tell them to do? (Or, all the above?)

        Reply
        1. richard

          quite funny
          the problem is, every time ‘muricans try to do things like develop object permanence, or a lasting political memory, they get slapped around by another dozen lies from their trusted betters

          Reply
        2. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          The “Putin paid bounties to kill Americans!” is perfect. “Trump didn’t do anything about it!” is also perfect.

          What’s unexplained is what the opposite of “doing nothing” is: doing something.

          That means: re-engaging; re-deploying; and re-surging. Which of course also means re-spending and re-dying in the faraway graveyard of empires.

          So the simplest of rejoinders “what do you suggest he should do?” is met with that time-honoured reply: “Aaaah Gahhh Naah Grrr Trump Bad So Bad!!!”

          So we’re on a parade ground and the privates are being spun around by the CNN drill instructors and ordered to salute different flags as they pop up and down one after the other. The War is Bad! (Obama). No, wait, the War is Good!

          Whatever we get: we deserve.

          Reply
    4. Tomonthebeach

      After 3+ years, the Intel community finally brought Trump low and effectively so. Was this revenge for Trump ignoring them? Probably so. Was this act/leak/plant motivated by ensuring job security (Cold-War-II)? Absolutely.

      Trump is such a boob, he ignored advice every president hands down during transition – never screw with your Intel people. Never make CIA/NSA/Etc feel irrelevant. The penalty is political death. After all, bringing down governments is what CIA does.

      Reply
  5. Keith

    I think the lockdown strategy needs to be rethought. It is not working, as people will go on with their lives. I am in central WA, one of the three counties in the state still under lockdown, and we have been for months. So in response, two things have happened:

    1. We travel to parts of the state or OR that are not locked down for services, and/or

    2. We embrace the underground economy that is proving the services we want/need, e.g. haircuts, housekeeping, nanny services, etc.

    As long as there is demand, and all the conflicting information out there, e.g. protesting for liberal causes is good, haircuts are bad, casinos are fine, etc, people are going to start to pick and choose what they follow. The better idea is to start to open up various services, and hold the license holder strictly accountable. I think that is the real leverage. When I traveled to Spokane for my haircut and shopping (might as well, it was over a two hour drive), I adhered to the barber’s rules, namely the facemask wearing and waiting i my car until called. This seems like a smarter solution.

    Also, regarding govt orders, good luck on getting to police to enforce them. Society is now at war with the police, and they cannot be seen hassling families at the beach. These “silent majority” types are all that’s left in their corner.

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      Now that the reopening efforts are only exacerbating things and making it worse, time to go back to the future and use WW2 gas rationing of 3 gallons per week per registered driver. That’s plenty for trips to get food, etc., but won’t allow you to carry the Covid very far out, limiting the spread. Prius’s will be very popular all of the sudden.

      Reply
    2. Louis Fyne

      no sane cop is going to risk their career-pension on enforcing a quality of life/health violation that could escalate to the next viral video.

      good luck to anyone counting on your local police to stop illegal fireworks

      Reply
      1. Geo

        Had some fireworks going off on my street at 2am the other night. I was up so not a big deal for me (though my cats were freaked out). Some dude shouted out their window they were gonna call the police. I chuckled. Good luck with that.

        People are going to have to learn to step out of their safety bubble and “use your words” (as our pre-school teachers taught us) when they have a problem. Don’t like the fireworks? Why call the cops? Go outside and talk to the people doing it. Get to know your neighbors.

        I’ve lived in rough neighborhoods most of my adult life (20+ years). It was never a strategy or anything but I always got to know some of my neighbors and am always friendly with any I pass by on the street. I’ve never called the police once because A) it’s only a temporary bandaid on most issues, if even that, B) I’ve experienced firsthand how police respond to calls like this and having spent a Sunday morning with a nervous cop pressing my face against a wall with his gun to the back of my head because they were looking for “some guy” was an experience I won’t soon forget nor wish upon anyone else.

        Talking with people and treating them like equals has always worked (knock on wood) to de-escalate any situation I’ve found myself in. It’s amazing what a few kind words or even a quippy joke can do to defuse a hostile situation. Granted, all of this is from the experience of a white guy. Obviously there are threats others (especially women) face that are much different than what I have.

        Less policing, more communicating. People need to get over the idea that police are the Amazon delivery service of neighborly disputes. We’re all in this society together. Maybe we should get to know one another?

        Reply
        1. Alternate Delegate

          Yes. Head of nail, meet hammer.

          It is a terrible mistake to outsource the risk of dealing with your own crazy and greedy neighbors. The people you outsource this to are not intrinsically any better than your neighbors are. And if they do happen to be better, they’ll rightfully resent having to do your job for you. And that’s pretty much what we’re hearing from the cops themselves (or at least the ones that didn’t join up in order to bully others).

          Protecting yourself – by communicating with your equals! – is ultimately the only sane thing you can do. Yes, it takes courage. But cowardice in your own cause leads only downward and ever down.

          Reply
    3. L

      Unfortunately you have a point both about the failure of the strategy and the enforcement. Here the police are openly refusing to enforce the orders, or even to encourage mask usage even as our numbers climb. At this point it really is becoming a case where the virus is growing out of control and those who actually care about their families have to stay further in the hole to protect themselves while all the people who “aren’t scared” go out and become superspreaders. Meanwhile our elected officials continue to act as if the only thing they can do is extend the lockdown and turn a blind eye to the fact that noone is actually enforcing it.

      Realistically Trump is showing the direction his purchase of the full stock of Remdesivir. They have no plan for mitigation, no interest in prevention, only a desperate and expensive spending on late treatment. Kind of like the US health system in a nutshell.

      Reply
    4. MLTPB

      The coming long weekend looks to be a pivotal moment, for CA at least.

      The governor has hinted of more measures, I believe.

      Reply
    5. Grant

      Part of the push to re open the economy is the result of the federal government telling local and state governments to go to hell, along with workers, poor people and small businesses. I think many local and state governments would be making different decisions if the federal government wasn’t so worthless. There are economic policies we could do to get through this, those in power just aren’t doing them. Strong class and ideological biases, and corruption.

      Personally, I look at this as a dress rehearsal for much larger societal issues on the horizon. The environmental crisis is going to make this look like a walk in the park. We need far more radical changes, and we won’t change. We are Americans, we let up to 70,000 die a year because of our healthcare system. We economically relied on brutality and systemic violence for a large chunk of our history domestically, rely on war elsewhere now. We allow mass gun related violence, have a government utterly failing on every level now during a pandemic, and most Americans don’tdo anything about it. And what are the two parties doing, during a pandemic? One is trying to dismantle the ACA with nothing to take its place, and the other hasn’t moved an inch towards single payer. People are on the one hand not getting the public sector support to get us through this, and many are also too ideologically rigid, selfish and ignorant to change their habits if they can get through this with little help. Our entire country is rotten. I wish I could leave. But, we won’t make it through the environmental crisis, that is clear.

      Reply
    6. Glen

      What do you mean? It’s all working as planned. Wall St and the billionaires have been bailed out. Everybody else has been left to lose their business, or job, or forced back to work, or left to get sick, or lose their home, lose everything.

      Wall St is doing just fine, billionaires are making record profits, and will be able to buy to your stuff VERY CHEAP.

      THAT IS THE PLAN.

      Reply
    1. L

      And I see that most of your material on Booker confirmed the clear message. Defeating Booker was the big goal, and they did what they could for that. McGrath, even if she wins, will be as safe for the donor class as McConnell, Booker would have demanded actual change.

      Reply
      1. ambrit

        Booker ‘s ‘disappearance’ will have dire consequences.
        Now the “Downtrodden” of Kaintuk will have no reason to act with restraint when the rioting begins. They have been pointedly rejected by the Power Elites.
        Ken and Karen had better learn how to use them fancy shoot’n irons they done waved around the other day.

        Reply
      2. David J.

        1) McConnell is unbeatable in this state. You could resurrect Abe Lincoln and then it might be a close race.

        2) Booker greatly benefited, and will continue to benefit, from the events that propelled him into the spotlight. Before the murders, Booker was a favorite among us lefties, but he had no chance whatsoever against McGrath.

        3) I suppose it’s easy to suggest that the big goal was to defeat Booker; that would be in line with the defeatist narrative that the left so often uses against itself. But there’s no conspiracy here, in fact quite the opposite. The murders in Louisville have shaken things up here even among the establishment and there are portions of the local Dem establishment (especially those who think of McGrath as a carpetbagger) who are now more amenable to entertaining ideas that Booker advocates. Some bridge-building, not burning, is the proper narrative. Still a long way to go though.

        4) McGrath will be crushed in the general. Booker may have done somewhat better but now we’ll never know.

        5) Booker should use this time to get some more legislative experience, do some more bridge-building, and refine his platform. Rand Paul is up for re-election in 2022 and he is beatable.

        Reply
  6. Synoia

    Please study a map of Asia. Observe where the silk road passes north of Tibet, and heads to Iran, south of the Caspian Sea.

    The area south of the Silk road, going west, after passing Tibet is named “Afghanistan”.

    Now contemplate the US’ strategy in Afghanistan and China’s efforts on its “new silk road” trade route, which incidentally competes the need for Sea Lanes to deliver goods to Europe and Africa, and completely avoids the US Navy.

    A similar analysis focused on “Kurdistan” will also be illuminating.

    Reply
    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      We already decided as a matter of policy (bi-partisan Dem/Repub, plus all of Wall St, plus all of Corporate America) that China could have the world’s manufacturing base. Why would we then care that they deliver their goods to Europe overland?

      Reply
  7. Big River Bandido

    Lambert, was there a link in the Realignment and Legitimacy area that got chopped out? It sounds like a good read, if I know where to find it.

    Reply
      1. Amfortas the hippie

        which is worth every minute, in spite of the algo-transcription errors.

        This:
        “But again, I want to say this is how things like 1917 and Russia, like 1979 and Tehran, and like 1789 in France. This is how these sorts of things get started. So we’ve got to be very careful about how we deal with these things. And that worries me because we don’t have a very careful individual in the White House.”

        after talking about young people out in the streets knowing that they don’t have jobs(read: “future”) and (Zappa, Joe’s Garage), “who gives a F&&k anyway?”

        I haven’t had the smash to dig into these three groups Col Larry is apparently a part of…maybe the Real Resistance…more likely some faction of the Big Center Party of Adulting.
        still, so far, a damned good read, with much to think about.

        Reply
        1. Amfortas the hippie

          and, just when i’m settling in to “well, Larry’s been on CNN a lot, prolly just another sophisticated manipulator…”

          Jay ends with this:”…yeah, get rid of Trump, but you can’t cede power to the people who set the table for Trump. That’s was four years of the Obama administration.”

          and Col.Larry hits him with this…which I could have said on any sunday morning for the past 20 years:
          “Well, I’d be even more forceful than that. I would say it was the 1947 National Security Act, it was every president since, it was 9/11, but it was particularly Bob Rubin and Bill Clinton and Chuck Schumer and those boys who sold America out to Wall Street, and it was George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Barack Obama who took the national security state and gave it a Catalyst’s unparalleled and said it’s essential we don’t care about your civil liberties. We don’t care about anything except the security of this state and ultimately the security of my position in the Oval Office and gave no leadership to doing anything other than those two things. I mean, we’ve had such sorry presidents, such sorry leadership since 9/11. And I would submit such sorry leadership really since roughly Dick Nixon that we’ve just walked ourselves to the edge of the cliff. We’re not only doing the Roman thing, you know, a typical empire with imperial overstretch destroying itself. We’re doing it at a rate and with a stupidity and an ignorance that is just unparalleled in the history books, in my view.”

          Good find, Lambert.

          Reply
  8. Nick

    Aloha,
    From Hawaii, where all the measures ARE working. A post like Keith’s above come from the bubble or mainland as we call it here. Contradicting information, this place is safe, this place isn’t, blah blah. The measures aren’t working, we need a new plan. We, in Hawaii, seem to have herd immunity from that line of thinking. We stuck with common sense. We didn’t push for haircuts as a necessity(buy a pair of clippers). I have never seen a person without a mask in public in an enclosed public space. Visitors are allowed but with a 14 day quarantine so next to none have come with the exception of a few from “the mainland” who you guessed it, immediately broke quarantine. But, ALL were arrested and given a one way ticket, paid for by the Hawaii tourism authority, off island. No one is protesting mask rules. No Karens. Unfortunately we are recognized as a state in the US, even though we are under an illegal military occupation.(study it, you’ll see). I’d like to take advantage of cheap airfare to Europe for a getaway trip but auwe’.

    Reply
    1. The Historian

      +100

      You make excellent points. The reason lockdown has not worked on the mainland is because it was never given the chance to work. Covid became a political issue instead of a medical issue and there are way too many Americans who think like 2 year olds here. They want what they want now and have absolutely no ability to understand what that is doing to us as a country. Like a haircut is more important than stopping the disease. But after so many years of building a toxic culture culture in this country where the only thing that matters is me, me, me, do we even have the right to expect better than we are getting?

      Reply
      1. Jason Boxman

        I can’t imagine getting a haircut. What an insane act. After 8 weeks I finally buzzed my hair with whatever I had to hand, a beard trimmer that wasn’t quite up to the job, but got it done with an assist from scissors. With the way the pandemic is progressing, I don’t expect I’ll ever get a haircut anywhere again in this lifetime. Thankfully, what I do with my hair is largely irrelevant anyway because of the pandemic.

        Reply
        1. MLTPB

          Still hopefully those hair stylist jobs do come back soon.

          (Do ladies need hair stylists more than men? Is it more inequality? More brainwashing? What was it like in Mao’s China when Mao’s suit, aka Zhongsgan suit, named after Dr Sun, and also worn by Nationalists before Mao, was for all?)

          Reply
          1. polecat

            I see my stylist daily, when I look in the ‘MASTER’bathroom mirror (had to get that one in .. for the trigger effect .. ). A few passes with the ‘electric shears, and I’m done! Cost -zero.
            Besides .. after the hair gets to 1/4″, I start feeling like the Breck Girl .. my do swiching to n fro a whole nanometer.

            Then Repeat.

            Reply
    2. Bill Smith

      Hawaii has an advantage as it is an island, in fact a number of islands. Travel between the islands was also pretty much shut down. For example, people traveling from Oahu to the Big Island also had a 14 day quarantine. This type of isolation is much harder to do on the mainland.

      However as to those breaking quarantine: some people offered up ‘burner’ phones for the tracking app?

      I hear the governor is issuing exemptions to that 14 day quarantine.

      Reply
      1. Nick

        There may be exemptions for military which has made locals angry. Of course it helps we are an island but the act of essentially banning visitors was a huge move as tourism is a main economic driver. It hurt a lot of people but the PUA and state unemployment have allowed people to keep going which the government better keep funding.

        Of course it’s much harder to do on the mainland but the personality and attitude of the PEOPLE are a big driver in making it work. Hawaiians actually respect their kupuna “elders” and knew that the shutdown was worth it to preserve their health.

        I’m sure our states budget will be in the red for a while but it’s worth it as we don’t really have many cases. I think about 1,000 for over a million people.

        Reply
    3. Carla

      Nick, I was fortunate enough to taste life in Hawaii (in Kihei, Maui) for a little over 3 months once in the late ’90s — your comment really made me miss it more than ever. Mahalo.

      Reply
    4. MLTPB

      It was New York. Now CA and FL.

      Unlike Europe, we can still go to different states*. Over there, in recent months, you couldnt go to neighboring countries.

      Hawaii – people can’t just drive over there. That’s an advantage.

      *and a declaration of war to tell some states to confide themselves.

      Reply
    5. Glen

      Glad to hear things seem to be going OK, and hope that continues.

      I think that being an island must help. Not just in a physical sense, but as as an instant community. You are in it together and must work together to get through it.

      It’s much more chaotic on the mainland as it’s very easy to pit people against each other, and there is a whole lot of that going on. Certainly many people are watching things they have worked a life time to do or create get crushed. Or they have just had enough of a lifetime of injustice and prejudice. Worse, the pandemic moves among us and can bring serious illness, and death. We have had both death and potential chronic illness in our family from COVID-19.

      The protests, both left and right, show that many people are at their limits. We have not made it easy as a country for people to get through this. The same law that handed out $1200 to everybody, gave trillions to corporations (gave out the equivalent of $20,000 for every head of household in the US). Not to be to stupid, but corporations are really not people, they don’t go hungry, get sick, lose their homes, but I guess that was OK, because all we were really doing was handing all that money to billionaires and millionaires. So, I think there is a pretty good sense among everybody that the government doesn’t work for Americans anymore, and we have all been abandoned.

      Reply
  9. Mike Gualario

    Stepped up basis – When you die, the basis in your estate gets a new basis at market value. An example would be buying stock in a company at $20 then holding it till you die. The stock now gets a new market basis which is at the current market value which is presumably higher than what the stock cost. Let’s say $40 for this example. So the children who inherit the Disney stock pay no taxes and the stock ‘s new basis is the current market price for future sales. A capital gains tax on the $20 increase in value has been avoided forever.

    Reply
    1. emmajane

      There is also stepped up basis for real estate. So the surviving kids would have to pay tax on the increase in market value (unrealized appreciation) of the family homestead over their parent’s cost. I would expect more heirs to hold onto property if this happened.

      More stripping away of middle class wealth, no surprise he said nothing about lowering the $11 million dollar estate tax exemption.

      Reply
    2. John k

      So you’re saying the poor should just buy a lot of stock to take advantage of the loophole like the rich do.

      Reply
    1. Alternate Delegate

      Yes, I second Vernor Vinge’s Marooned In Realtime. (Haven’t read the preceding Peace War.)

      Admittedly, the driving assumptions are unrealistic stasis bubbles and an implausible technological singularity.

      But this is a true-feeling literary depiction of a post-Jackpot-type world where almost everybody is gone – and the few remaining people are practically drenched in an overwhelming sense of loss. The long narration from the point of view of the doomed “murder victim” and the subsequent mourning by the other characters, might quality as delivering catharsis.

      Reply
  10. Mammoth Jackstock

    Until a nuclear accord was reached, Iran’s going rate was $1,000 USD for an American in Afghanistan, and $6,000 for an American vehicle. Pays for food, weapons, and medicine. Incentive for an individual soldier or militant, who otherwise hopes to “search & avoid” contact with the enemy then sleep in one’s own bed at the end of day. However, it is illogical to plant a story about bounties on your own soldiers lest your enemy mistake the story for truth and take up a new hustle.

    “Fools don’t claim that cats bark,” says the Belbo character of Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, “but they talk about cats when everyone else is talking about dogs.”

    Donald Trump just fired the Inspectors General of both the DoD and the IC. Diplomatic communications of disapproval and references to possible sanctions are MIA from the Whitehouse’s response to contracts taken out on the heads of American citizens, let alone acknowledging conditions which prompted such an investment in serial #’d US dollars. An E-11A Comms aircraft with a crew of two was shot down over Afghanistan in January at an altitude which far exceeded anything Taliban shoulder mounts has accomplished in the past. There is a abundance of Russian motive given the 100+ mercenaries killed by US airstrike after advancing into the Kurdish sector of Syria. A debt held by the Kremlin owed to Russian families if Wagner was coordinating with the State.

    As far as Washington is concerned, unlike locales such as Ukraine, Montenegro, and the Baltics, Afghanistan is place where Congress, in their sole power, has not only authorized the use of force against those who would harm Americans, but also against those who give aid and comfort to those who would harm Americans. AUMF 2001. There are no carve-outs for US negotiators shuttling to Qatar to bring G7 plus one guest, Russia, on board as a “guarantor” of Taliban peace talks, a contravention of Federal law in the same vein as the Contra scandal. The other NATO members, who, indeed, confirmed the bounties, might see Trump as being complicit in a mechanism responsible for the deaths of their own soldiers.

    Reply
    1. Bill Smith

      The Business Insider story says this:

      “However, three NATO military officials told Insider on Monday they had been briefed by US intelligence of the potential threat, with two of them saying they were given the briefing about one week ago.”

      Note the use of the words “potential threat”. It sounds like those working the issue are briefing people with the intent of gathering more information to see if it is real as opposed to knowing it is actually happening.

      Reply
      1. Darthbobber

        Also interesting that they claim Trump was “briefed” in March, but these briefings (at what level?) to NATO spooks came during the time the story was probably already being fed to the chosen outlets.

        Reply
    2. praxis

      That certain ‘mechanism’ endangering NATO troops is called an occupation. The endless propagandized hysteria around this is a cosmetic distraction.

      Reply
  11. Geo

    “Grand Bargain, here we come (“Everybody must do their share.”)”

    The phrase “shared sacrifice” always made me laugh. It was such a common one used during those Grand Bargain days and so perfectly captured the ideology.

    “We must appease the Job Creators! Bring forth the shared sacrifice and splay it upon the alter so our Creators’ fury will be sated and they will bless up with bountiful jobs and market growth in the harvest season!”

    It’s never the leadership sacrificed on the alter of the market. But, I’m sure their pain in sacrificing us is a heavy burden for them to bare.

    Reply
      1. Geo

        If you add in their personal lives it’s probably closer to the movie Caligula. While we’re all told to be sacrificial lambs upon the alter of the free market they’re jetting off to Epstein’s island to drown their sorrows in concubines provided by billionaires grateful for their latest bailout then retiring to the dining quarters for rare wine paired with shark-fin soup and endangered orangutan brains while plotting which place on the map they want to bomb and starve next.

        Reply
  12. zagonostra

    >Fooled by Randomness

    The plundering of the Nation’s treasury proceeds unimpeded. Attention turns to riots, BLM, and COVID resurgence. Russiagate lies morph to Ukraine and now Afghanistan. Are these random events? Various story lines from religious friends invocation of Revelations to economists pointing to the Repo market just before the lock down of the economy, getting links to David Icke, Alex Jones, I’m watching Jimmy Dore interview Dylan Ratigan, watching The Rising, reading NC, etc…

    Am I being played? I feel like I’ve been had by donating to Bernie and thinking maybe, just maybe that a turning point for better times for the nation was ahead. Now? It all seems like smoke and mirror, shadows dancing on the wall…I’m reminded of that scene in One Year of Living Dangerously when all of the illusions of the character played by Linda Hunt hit him/her with the devastating impact that only Kiri Te Kanawa could capture…ok little too dramatic…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdD7gu9Z89U

    Reply
  13. sam

    Re stepped up basis: I don’t think much of Biden but if he were to push this reform it would be a big deal. Step up on death is one of the biggest tax loopholes around (estimated tax cost of $400-500 billion over 10 years even at today’s low capital gains rate) and the benefits go mostly to the top 0.1% and almost exclusively to the top 5% if residences are excluded. For real estate professionals it’s even better since they can postpone all capital gains taxes on sales during their lifetime through repeated tax free 1031 exchanges while sheltering all income by deducting passive losses such as depreciation and then have all gains forgiven at inheritance.

    Of course if anything comes of this, expect to hear a lot of spin about the terrible impact on small businesses, family farms, old people wanting to pass on the family home, etc.

    Reply
    1. Synoia

      From: Very Rich Person
      To: Presidential Candidate Biden.

      Dear Joe

      There an many places where we differ, and many where we agree. We’d love have our people discuss with your staff where we can mutually agree on certain programs which have benefit for all.

      Please accept our $19 Gazillion campaign contribution and you use it well in your Presidential Campaign.

      A rich Donor

      PS: It was very pleasant meeting you son briefly in the Ukraine. Please give mine our regards.

      Reply
  14. occasional anonymous

    I’ve now finished (hat tip to the reader I cannot find who piqued my interesting) Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2041, another version of The Jackpot. If (following Shakespeare, we classify New York 2041 (following Robinson himself) as a comedy, and Gibson’s The Peripheral triology-to-be as a history, can readers suggest a Jackpot tragedy? (I don’t mean a novel that ends unhappily, but one that has the classic elements of tragedy, especially catharsis. Thank you!)

    Not directly related perhaps, but some here might be interested to know that the TV adaptation of Asimov’s Foundation series is finally coming out next year, on Apple (sigh) TV.

    Reply
  15. allan

    Trumpy Census Bureau hires revive fears of political meddling [Politico]

    The White House and Commerce Department forced the Census Bureau to take two new political appointees last week whose unexpected arrival has deepened fears at the agency that the 2020 census will be politicized, according to three people familiar with the matter.

    Last Monday, Commerce deputy secretary Karen Dunn Kelley informed Census Bureau director Steven Dillingham and his career deputy, Ron Jarmin, that the two new appointees, Commerce aides Nathaniel T. Cogley and Adam Korzeniewski, had been installed in senior roles at the Census Bureau — a move that blindsided both of them, according to a Census Bureau official.

    Cogley, a frequent radio commentator who received a Ph.D. in political science from Yale in 2013 and was the head of the department of government, legal studies and philosophy at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, will be deputy director for policy. Korzeniewski, now a senior adviser for Cogley, once worked as a Republican political consultant for the failed Staten Island congressional run of Joey Saladino, a Trumpy young YouTube star known as “Joey Salads.” …

    Seems like a good time for more than just the “norms fairies” to be concerned.

    Reply
  16. Democracy Working

    Lambert: New York 2140 is such an excellent introduction to Kim Stanley Robinson, my favorite contemporary writer! His Mars trilogy is deeply political as well and has wonderful characters.

    I think The Mandibles: A Family, 2029-2047 by Lionel Shriver (2016) might fit in the tragedy category, though it has some comic moments along the way and a dubiously optimistic conclusion. Shriver is a mordant critic of woke liberalism who leans much more libertarian than KSR; I am sure many NC readers will appreciate that the societal breakdown she chronicles in chilling detail hinges on the collapse of the US dollar after the rest of the world goes in on a new global reserve currency. One of the characters is an unbearably know-it-all (and consistently wrong) economist, even.

    A truly tragic Jackpot novel is John Brunner’s 1972 masterpiece The Sheep Look Up, a remorseless and uncannily prescient depiction of environmental collapse, corporate corruption, and US militarism. There are so many unforgettable details in this book, eg everybody has annoying little infections that won’t clear up because of antibiotic resistance. (I also highly recommend Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider, which has a more hopeful conclusion a la KSR.)

    I am always recommending these books to people, it’s a pleasure to have been invited to share them here.

    Reply
    1. occasional anonymous

      “I am sure many NC readers will appreciate that the societal breakdown she chronicles in chilling detail hinges on the collapse of the US dollar after the rest of the world goes in on a new global reserve currency.”

      NC readers will most likely know both these points are essentially gibberish. The dollar wouldn’t ‘collapse’ if it stopped being the GRC, nor is there any risk of the rest of the world moving away from the dollar any time soon.

      Reply
  17. John k

    Case Schindler pending sales housing report…
    As noted at wolf street, the three month report includes only part of April, and almost entirely precedes the lockdown. It will not be until the may June July report, released end aug, that we get a pure post lockdown report.
    Sf locked down forst, only that city’s data for April provides a clue to what’s coming… not pretty.

    Reply
  18. hamstak

    In re: the Wells Fargo ad, I anxiously await the emergence of the Bank Panthers as a political force.

    Reply
  19. kareninca

    I have a friend who lives in Mountain View, CA. He told me that he went past the Gun Vault store yesterday and the line was out the door. I drive past it pretty often and I have never seen that.

    I have a relative who inherited a bunch of guns last year, and has been dawdling in getting rid of them. I am going to tell her that this is the time to sell them for a good price.

    Reply
    1. kareninca

      After I posted that, I drove past the store myself today. There was a long line out the door today as well. Part of it is the social distancing requirement, no doubt. Still it was long.

      Reply
  20. allan

    Populists Don’t Know Much About Private Equity [WSJ Op-Ed, what did you expect?]

    … The data are clear that private equity has created enormous social value. … Private-equity firms create this value by improving a company’s performance in finance, governance and operations. When a private-equity fund buys a company, it can put in place better incentives and a more sustainable capital structure, install more competent management, and improve operations with a focus on long-term value creation. …

    If the name of one of the authors, University of Chicago law professor M. Todd Henderson, rings a bell,
    it might be because of his whining run-in with mean people on the internet a decade ago. Good times.

    Reply
  21. Deschain

    The Seattle pics are from the video game The Last of Us II, which just came out. A particularly nasty jackpot scenario where the fungus Cordyceps crosses over to humans and basically zombiefies them. The original game is an industry classic, it’s absolutely heartbreaking.

    Reply
      1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Tell your kids to play Crash Bandicoot!!!

        Been playing tons of Fortnite lately with my 11 yr old bro and will try and check the game out!

        I particularly like first person horror games like this and Outlast and Resident Evil and Until Dawn and Dead Space

        Reply
  22. mentalblocks

    Apocalyptic and tragic, set in a near-future Britain rushing to a town near you, I’d recommend 84K by Claire North. You could have a job where you totalled up the economic value of a person to society so the courts know the financial sentence for a persons ‘death’. Pay up and off you go. A young author with a quirky way with words and a eye for what’s afoot.

    Reply
    1. ObjectiveFunction

      Weregeld has very ancient roots in Northern European common law. A financial settlement using a standard formula is supposed to avert multigenerational feuds and vendettas.

      Separate penalties imposed by rulers for breaking the King’s Peace came later.

      Reply
    1. ObjectiveFunction

      Yup, was just reading a Stoller piece on that very topic (and others) last night that a comrade here (thanks!) linked to:

      The problem we have is corruption in the government contracting world, aided by immense amounts of useless overpaid make work.

      Bill Clinton and Al Gore introduced their ‘reinventing government initiative,’ which transferred large amounts of government work to overpaid private contractors. They bragged the size of government didn’t grow, even as they were building a slothful, incompetent, and highly corrupt shadow government in place of the relatively functional public system they took over. This trend of offshoring wasn’t just Federal, but state-level as well. Twenty five years later we’re dealing with a government that can’t govern.

      I confirm every last word of this. I was (a menial) part of the ‘reinvention’ claptrap in DC in the ’90s. I then “leveraged this experience” to become a consultant (yup, a Bob), actively dismantling organization cohesion and competence (largely via outsourcing) in both the government and private sector. My role as quant was to develop numerical sophistry to justify the destruction.

      My just penance was to move in house to a series of big companies that were or became overrun with these clowns. Being senior but not senior enough, I then got to spend time in the crosshairs of their ministrations.

      We must incinerate them. Pig after pig. Cow after cow. Village after village. Army after army. And they call me an assassin. What do you call it when the assassins accuse the assassin? They lie. They lie, and we have to be merciful, for those who lie. Those nabobs. I hate them. I do hate them.. END TRANSMISSION

      Reply
  23. Wukchumni

    In a move that would have been unheard of even a year ago, Cirque du Soleil, the Las Vegas Strip’s preeminent production company for more than two decades, has filed for bankruptcy protection.

    The company, which has six productions on the Strip, announced Monday morning from its headquarters in Montreal it was seeking a debt restructuring protection under its home country’s Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act (CCAA).

    https://www.reviewjournal.com/entertainment/entertainment-columns/kats/cirque-du-soleil-files-for-bankruptcy-protection-terminates-3500-2064149/?itm_source=parsely-api
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Cirque du Soleil killed off traditional circuses and then it too died of the Corona age.

    Reply
  24. occasional anonymous

    “It is not, I think, a coincidence that the erasure of Sanders’ class-based politics (however mild) by identity politics has been so ferocious (which is not to say that the George Floyd protests at ground level are not fully justified, they are; but the elite has been almost indecently hasty in its usual strategy of co-optation). So, Sanders was the compromise, and here we are.”

    BLM wasn’t co-opted. It was incoherent identity politics from the start.

    I really, really do hope these protests mark the start of some sort of endgame for this idpol garbage. Things are getting absolutely insane now. There’s a Proposition in California to repeal the non-discrimination article in the state constitution for the explicit purpose of allowing minorities to be given extra boosting.

    Reply
    1. Yves Smith

      Lambert was following BLM from very early on, intensely, and I am sure would disagree. The early BLM had innovative tactics, particularly die-ins, which typically had >50% white participation. They were clearly focused on ending police violence towards black. I don’t see how that can be depicted as idpol.

      It was in fact shortly after the die-ins were becoming high profile and targeting high profile sites like NYC’s Grand Central that they were coopted by the Dems. The slick site, the donations, the shiny operatives all resulted from that.

      Reply
    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > BLM wasn’t co-opted. It was incoherent identity politics from the start.

      The Ferguson protests went on for a good solid year before breaking through to national attention. For example, the local protesters were not allowed to sit down or rest by the police, so they simply kept walking, and never did sit down. There was also a confluence of subject matter experts in non-violent protest, from churches and such-like, that came in and worked with the protesters, long before the protests went national. So I think the longevity of the original BLM* was organic and very tough. But when you had the “voices” (see Adolph Reed) come in, people claiming they “invented the hash tag,” or Deray marking a public persona for himself with his Patagonia vest, decapitation was readily apparent.

      * See here for the institutional history of BLM.

      Reply
      1. Clive

        Having seen a couple of grass-roots initiatives (disability rights and drug addiction support) succumb to the fate of BLM, I’m a little conflicted in apportioning blame for their corporatisation and subsequent emasculation.

        On the one hand, money helps and you’re always looking to fundraise because with funding comes the ability to expand your reach and influence.

        But with sponsors to then please comes a dilution of the ability of agitators and activists to drive the organisation’s aims and stay true to their core beliefs and core messages.

        So there’s always this dilemma in play. But no-one holds a gun to these movements’ heads to get into bed with the likes of the DNC. The only person who can sell myself out is me.

        Reply
      2. occasional anonymous

        I should clarify what I meant. I’m saying that BLM was ideologically co-opted from the start. Because it insisted on framing what was actually a class issue as primarily (or exclusively) a racial issue, BLM was never going to achieve much, even early on when it was genuine and innovative.

        It was true then, and it’s still true now. The way corporations are totally on board with it tells me it’s no threat to the existing order.

        Reply

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