Links 10/9/2020

Avian cultural services peak in tropical wet forests Society for Conservation Biology. “For farmers, urbanites, and birdwatchers alike, species valued for identity, bequest, birdwatching, acoustic aesthetics, and education were more likely to occupy wetter regions and forested sites, whereas disliked species tended to occupy drier and deforested sites.” Interesting article, but I am so dubious about that ubiquitous word “services,” because a service is something you can put a price on. Putting a price on nature seems problematic to me.

Maintaining sound money amid and after the pandemic Bank of International Settlements. Austerity signal?

A digital euro is on its way FT

The American Dream Is For Rent DealBreaker


Regeneron seeks EUA for COVID-19 antibody as Trump vows to provide it for ‘free’ Fierce Biotech

Vaccine Chaos Is Looming The Atlantic. The first vaccines, if they pass trial, will require refrigeration and other complex forms of handling. The URL is less weaponized: covid-19-most-complicated-vaccine-campaign-ever.

Council on Foreign Relations Discussion on COVID-19 and Pandemic Preparedness (video) Council on Foreign Relations

We already know how to keep the next pandemic from catching us off guard Popular Science (nvl).

Road to recovery: What we have learned from other cities’ and states’ responses to COVID-19 D.C. Policy Center. Many natural experiments in D.C. and other cities.

The Saga of False-Positive COVID-19 Tests GIS2 at Ryerson (CEA).

The code: How genetic science helped expose a secret coronavirus outbreak (free) WaPo

Bjorn’s Corner: Do I get COVID in airline cabins? Part 12. New results. Leeham News and Analysis


China’s Economic Recovery Leaves the Bottom 60% Behind Bloomberg. Doing better than Obama, then…

Trending in China: For Love or Money? Gold Mining Boss Remarries After Redistributing Wealth Caixin

China Dodging Minsky Moment Is a Signal to Trust John Authers, Bloomberg

Onboard China’s Belt and Road Express: Does Laos stand to benefit? Southeast Asia Globe. Anybody who owns real estate near the stations surely will.

Indonesia Has 270 Million People—and One of the World’s Lowest Covid-19 Testing Rates (free) WSJ


Special report: A silent crackdown sweeps through Delhi in the guise of probing riots conspiracy

India Will Not Be Able To Ignore the Threat of Tech and Data Oligopolies for Long The Wire


Brexit: No 10 snubs tougher food rules to keep trade deals on the menu The Times


Boris Johnson Is Fighting Seven Battles at Once Over Lockdown Plans Bloomberg

Britain’s banks turn cyber sleuths to crack $100 billion mortgage mystery Reuters

Firm run by ex-associate of Tory peer Michelle Mone wins £112million NHS deal Mirror


How a Police State Starts Craig Murray


New Files Highlight Brennan’s Role Promoting Clinton’s Russia Collusion Narrative Andrew McCarthy, National Review


Biden to participate in ABC town hall Oct. 15 in lieu of Trump debate The Hill

Presidential Debates: Time To Change Commission Leadership Yashar Ali

Joe Biden’s plan to fix the world Vox. “‘He’s looking at an across-the-board restoration project,’ said a former Obama administration official.” As I have said, although perhaps my definition of Restoration differs from Vox’s.

‘Middle-Class Joe’ Doesn’t Understand the Middle Class The Nation. I would urge that there is nothing to understand; the concept is incoherent, which is, in fact, its value. One can reason to any conclusion from false premises.

Why U.S. Elections Do Not Change Its Foreign Policies Moon of Alabama

* * *

Plans to kidnap Whitmer, overthrow government spoiled, officials say Detroit News

Conservative operatives Jacob Wohl, Jack Burkman to be arraigned today in election robocall scheme in Detroit Detroit Metro Times. Busy times in Michigan….

After summer of protests, U.S. National Guard puts troops on standby for coming months: officials Reuters

* * *

Progressives unveil 2021 agenda to pressure Biden Politico. Holy Lord, Congressional progressives allowed the Warren-endorsing Working Families Party to write their agenda. The heatlh care section: “Make health care free and universal and take hospital and health insurance profits out of it.” To be fair, at least the WFP has an infrastructure out there, unlike the “Peoples Party” mooted in August.

Dying in a Leadership Vacuum New England Journal of Medicine. The NEJM does great work. Nonetheless, a little humility from the institutions at the top of the PMC food chain would, at the present juncture, be more than appropiate:

American Populace Worried They’re Not Likable Enough To Attract Good Candidate For President The Onion. Comity tonight!

Trump Transition

House Democrats to unveil bill to create commission on ‘presidential capacity’ The Hill. The idea apparently got traction after Trump fired Comey.

House Democrats back antitrust overhaul of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple Roll Call

Apple made ProtonMail add in-app purchases, even though it had been free for years The Verge. “In our interview, [ProtonMail CEO Andy] Yen compares Apple’s tactics to a Mafia protection racket.”

Trump’s Case of Covid

“Trump VS Covid – Who Won?!” [Russell Brand, YouTube (MP)]. Well worth a listen:

Trump’s treatment puts a spotlight on Regeneron, and the pugnacious pair who run it STAT (nvl).

White House coronavirus outbreak may have exposed thousands from Atlanta to Minnesota USA Today. It’s one thing to get infected. It’s another thing to infect others. As for example–

Top White House aide hosted lavish Atlanta wedding in May despite virus restrictions Atlanta Journal-Constitution (MV).

Democrats in Disarray

Roy Cohn’s Acolytes Once Tried to Take Over the Manhattan Democratic Party Political Currents. Fascinating details of Trump’s early career.

The Other Democratic Party The Bulwark. Interesting:

[W]e spent three years living in three blue strongholds that unexpectedly voted Republican in the 2016 presidential election: Ottumwa, Iowa, a small industrial city with a meatpacking plant; Johnston, Rhode Island, a suburb of Providence; and Elliott County, Kentucky, a small rural community with a history of coal mining and tobacco farming

….We found that Trump is not an oddity in these Democratic communities. Although he ran as an outsider, he resembles some of the most beloved political insiders. In these places, the political culture has long been Trumpian. Their most beloved Democratic leaders are crass, thin-skinned, and nepotistic. They promise to take care of their people by cutting deals–and corners, if necessary. In these respects–and others–they continue to practice a forgotten tradition of boss politics in the Democratic Party.

Understanding this forgotten tradition is critical both to Democrats who hope to rebuild a broad-based working-class party and to Republicans who will need to revamp their party once Trump finally fades from the scene.

Health Care

What Ails America New York Review of Books. “We all take part in the collective of pain. Those of us who are doing better are harming those who are less well-off. When health care is competitive the winners do wrong to others, but they also get worse care themselves. Distracted by their relative advantage, they do not see that by harming others they are also harming themselves.” Well worth a read.

Refuge in the Storm? ACA’s Role as Safety Net Is Tested by COVID Recession KHN.

Jessica Banthin, a senior health policy researcher at the Urban Institute and until 2019 deputy director for health at the Congressional Budget Office, said it’s anyone’s guess how many people who lost their job-based coverage this year will choose this option. She said numerous factors will influence people’s health insurance decisions this fall, and into 2021.

Chief among them is gauging whether they might soon get a new job, or get back an old job, that offers insurance. That may hold some people back from enrolling in an ACA plan this fall, Banthin said. Plus, buying insurance may be too expensive, especially for families more concerned with paying for housing, food and child care while going without a paycheck.

What kind of hellish system forces people to make health care decisions by betting on the state of labor market a year from now? Well, yes, the one we have — Barry, Joe, take a bow! — but you know what I mean…

Heritable Human Genome Editing: The International Commission Report JAMA


Mainstreaming MMT Los Angeles Review of Books

Bill Mitchell: job guarantee will suppress working class power Western Sydney Work

Class Warfare

Riding the storm (PDF) PWC. URL: UBS-PwC-Billionaires-Report-2020

Biden and Trump are failing the American worker Oren Cass, CNN

NLRB: Google Contractor Moving Work From Pittsburgh to Poland to Bust Union PayDay Report

Teachers Left Out of School Reopening Discussion—Even on the Left FAIR. Needed a strike wave in August and September.

World’s garment workers face ruin as fashion brands refuse to pay $16bn Guardian (J-LS).

This Brutal World Architecture Magazine

Antidote du jour (via):

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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About Lambert Strether

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


    1. Susan the other

      That Postville chronicle was very interesting Rev. Thank you. I’m thinking this Covid virus is the very brain of evolution – it diversifies from one small county to another. AgriStar Meat Packing is just one of many meat packers across the nation with similar outbreaks. They end up infecting whole regions around the plant. I think it is very interesting that this Iowa outbreak happened in “mid-March” – when we, officially, were not yet really acknowledging the severity of the pandemic. And also that it came (most probably) not from the western USA, but from the eastern regions. Which tells me that the more the virus travels and mutates the more virulent it gets and by the time an eastern, or probably the same strain as the one that hit Italy, strain hit Iowa via NYC, the more virulent it was. The most egregious fact in all of this is the refusal of AgriStar to give its employees masks. I’d consider that eternally unforgivable.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I’m struggling here.

        Last Monday the WHO announced that their updated best estimate is that 780 million people are infected with Covid. The official number previously was +/- 35 million.

        “The WHO’s top brass made this announcement during a special session of the WHO’s 34-member executive board on Monday October 5th.

        At the session, Dr Michael Ryan, the WHO’s Head of Emergencies revealed that they believe roughly 10% of the world has been infected with Sars-Cov-2. This is their “best estimate”, and a huge increase over the number of officially recognised cases (around 35 million). Dr. Margaret Harris, a WHO spokeswoman, later confirmed the figure, stating it was based on the average results of all the broad seroprevalence studies done around the world”.

        The global population is roughly 7.8 billion people, if 10% have been infected that is 780 million cases. The global death toll currently attributed to Sars-Cov-2 infections is 1,061,539.

        That means the Infection Fatality Ratio (IFR) is 0.14%. On par with regular seasonal influenza.

        Is it that the global hive mind is so infected with the Orange Man Bad virus that this news just disappears?

        1. mpalomar

          “Dr Ryan even said it means “the vast majority of the world remains at risk.” – it’s actually good news. And confirms, once more, that the virus is nothing like as deadly as everyone predicted.”
          One perspective says the medical care systems in many countries after fat trimming operations by austerian management is running on fumes and a magnitude blip up coinciding with the seasonal flu cycle will result in possible crash and burn scenario for medical system and its ensuing victims, I mean staff and patients.

          Also the operative measurement cited by the article is the death rate, is the attributable long term damage caused by some covid infections to organs factored in to this (perhaps false) equivalency?

        2. Aumua

          Yeah it’s 6 of one thing or half dozen of the other, as I see it. If it really is that infectious then a lower IFR is not actually the real story here. With over a million deaths worldwide so far, the vast majority of which have been in the past 8 months, only a fool would continue to maintain that COVID-19 is no big deal, based on half-assed and clearly politically biased stories from non-scientists.

          I get that they really want to use the COVID story to get Trump, at every opportunity. I really do. That doesn’t mean the crisis isn’t real.

  1. fresno dan

    (from the article) After the better part of an hour sprawled between a wheelchair and a table in the lobby, I finally got into the emergency department…
    The first doctor who opened the curtain decided that I was tired, or perhaps had the flu, and gave me fluids. My disconcerted doctor friend tried to suggest that my condition was something more serious…
    I had brought a folder with the printouts and a CD from the Florida hospital, and I had just enough presence of mind to offer it to the doctors. They were not interested. “We do things our own way,” said the resident. The doctors and nurses seemed unable to complete a sentence, let alone think about my case as something with a history.
    So, when I was 25 I had Hodgkin’s diseases (a cancer of the lymph system) I had just started studying microbiology, and by serendipitous fortune had read an article in the Atlantic about clinical trials, in which a subject had Hodgkin’s disease. My view is that if you walked up to a doctor with a butcher knife sticking out of your chest, and told the doctor you had just been stabbed, the doctor would say he might have to look into that….
    SO, despite swelling in my neck on only one side, I was diagnosed with mononucleosis (yeah, I wish I was kissing…) as well as the total lack of symptoms of said infection. Next physician wasn’t any better. Eventually I ended up in a Veteran’s hospital, and the physician who saw me was a surgeon, so at least he believed in cutting, did a biopsy, and that is why I am still among the vertical.
    The moral of the story is that YOU know your body best, if your dissatisfied with the care, expertise, or ATTITUDE of your doctor, get another one, and another until you are
    And if you have a health care system that uses emergency rooms as primary care, your gonna miss a lot due to triage. And if possible, always have an advocate with you. Alone in America’s health system – might as well be on an ice floe.

    1. Katiebird

      I have two cousins (siblings) who had Hodkin’s disease. The first was finally diagnosed when she was 12 after my aunt spent a year trying to tell doctors that something was seriously wrong. They finally decided to do a toncilectomy and that is when they discovered her terrible tumor. She got a lot of experimental treatments but didn’t make it and died when she was 16.

      10+ years later, Her youngest brother recognised his symptoms as they developed when he was in his early twenties. He went straight to the local major cancer center and insisted on a proper diagnosis. They found it, treated him and he’s been totally fine since. I hope he had friends with him. He didn’t tell anyone in the family about it until he finished treatment. — Didn’t think his parents could take it.

      1. JBird4049

        It has been a few years, but when I think about the joke of a healthcare system we have and its probable cause in my better half’s death, I want to… break things. If nothing else, getting any care, never mind effective care, is difficult if you don’t have the money. Unless you wind up in the ICU and by then it’s either too late or it will cost far more time, suffering, and effort than it would have earlier.

        Which means listening to the bulls**** from anyone in political establishment including many in California’s own government is enraging.

        They’re all ghoulish shills for the lucrative Pain, Misery, and Death Industry.

    2. Katiebird

      I left out the part about how sorry I am and how glad that you had the knowledge of that article. It sounds like it was a terrible battle and I hate that when we are at our weakest, we have to be at our brightest. I’m very glad you made it through and are here with us.

    3. KevinD

      Glad you are vertical and amongst us.

      f you are a patient in U.S. – you are your only advocate, there is no one looking out for you, but you.
      Ask questions, read labels, get second opinions. Seek a cure for what ails you – not what covers up the symptoms and keeps you throwing $$ at it – which is the goal of our healthcare system.

      1. furies

        It is my opinion that *eveyone* needs an advocate when dealing with the US health ‘system’.

        Not many of us have one.

      2. Carla

        Recent ER experience echoes many of the problems recounted in the NYRB article, although luckily for me not nearly as life-threatening. ER Doc ignored the true nature of my problem (badly displaced collarbone break) and my explanation of how the injury occurred, in pursuit of more exciting diagnoses of the precipitating incident, including pulmonary embolism and/or heart problems — neither of which I had of course. As a result of that wild goose chase, I was almost discharged from the hospital without the absolutely essential surgical repair my broken collarbone required.

        The “system” is an epic fail, and just one more example of capitalism eating itself. And yes, everyone with “good coverage” is at fault — as are all the rest of us for not rising up to end this criminal situation.

        Please, if you can, send $50 for an annual membership to Physicians for a National Health Program ( — the premiere organization fighting this scourge — and get actively involved in your local single payer group, or start one.

        1. Tim

          The ER is not there to diagnose root causes. Their only job is to get you stabilized and get you out of there. I had an ER physician straight up include that in the paperwork I was sent home with when I’d had a panic attack.

          So with that being the case, EMTALA was only ever intended to provide humanitarian care if you are dying right now. If you will be dying in days or longer, tough luck, we’ll see you back at the appropriate time to be a middle man for the coroner.

          That being said, as someone with means, I still paid $6k out of pocket in addition to what BC/BS paid for 2 hours of medical care, including the ambulance ride. At least the fire department emergency response was free!

        1. barefoot charley

          Exactly. You need an aggressive advocate accompanying you to every visit. I was in that role for my father in his last years, as it was inconceivable for him to defend against the institutionalized arrogance, negligence and box-checking that fulfill insurance and career needs uniquely. He got necessary treatment just to shut me up. Going it alone you might as well wear a “Kick me” sign.

        2. skk

          Exactly and why its important to have a spouse/friend . I’m totally fine, having been taught way way back stuff like – “how to say NO”, “how to win friends, influence people” etc and practiced it, with some success for over 40 years.

          Its always my worry and why its important to have a spouse/friend – someone to do the advocacy on your behalf when you are out of it / really low in energy, on a physical or psychological low.

        3. TMoney

          When someone you care about is in hospital, it means getting to the hospital at 6am when the doctors do their rounds – so you can actually talk to them ! Since so few people are willing and able to do this, the doctors will spend a couple of minutes and listen to you while you tell them all the stuff that’s been ignored or overlooked – like missed medications or conflicting prescriptions etc.

          1. marieann

            This is so sad to read. I was an RN in my working life and I was taught that my main function was to be the patient advocate. I was at the patient’s bedside and I was supposed to know about missed meds or new complaints.
            I remember telling a student one time that part of our work was to be a detective e.g. if a patient tells you they on such and such med at home we have to find out if the doctor forgot,or if they want the med held at the moment or we have to contact the doc to get the med ordered.
            It breaks my heart to read all these horror stories…..and the bad person that I am now- I stopped reading

      3. rhodium

        I have not really been in danger of dying due to various ailments, other than a couple of obvious infections which were the only things properly treated by medical professionals who could at least recognize the need for antibiotics. However, I’ve had a handful of incidents and illnesses with serious symptoms, many of which could not be psychosomatic due to observable features. My experience with doctors, physician’s assistants, and nurse practitioners has been that they are far more often than not partially clueless about how to approach solving the problem. Maybe it’s because they never get the time to practice thoroughly investigating and thinking about it? Within a few minutes they’ll order a bunch of tests ultimately (sometimes tests for things that a little research shows don’t fit the symptoms…) after consulting an ipad with checkboxes that looks an awful lot like an online symptom checker that anyone could use. I assume they get the symptoms wrong because they don’t take the time to actually listen to you (which is more likely the system’s fault), but then it’s not a surprise when you don’t get a diagnosis back from the tests and they’re left shrugging their shoulders. Of course you still have to pay the bill though. I’m still alive and usually healthy so I guess I’m lucky anyway, but more or less I have very little confidence in the medical system actually helping me when I need it.

    4. Krystyn Podjaski

      The moral of the story is that YOU know your body best, if your dissatisfied with the care, expertise, or ATTITUDE of your doctor, get another one

      Oh my, yes yes fresno dan and glad you are still vertical to share this.

      I counsel several people and their children who are living with mood disorders because of my experience with dealing with it all. I tell them often how being with the same psychiatrist/therapist for 20 years and still not feeling better or doing worse is a sign of an abusive relationship. But like people in most abusive relationships they will not listen.

      On Wednesday I spoke with a geneticist because I finally convinced my doctors to simply give me a serum amino acid test which was wonky to say the least. (Tests seen to be forbidden if you are diagnosed with a mood disorder but they will pump you full of medication non the less). The test results were not crazy off, which is part of the problem, but it was still enough that it raised eyebrows. So I go to him with this “knife in my chest” and although he agreed to test a panel of my neurotransmitter genetics he advised their would be some “out of pocket costs” for the test. I diplomatically bit my lip because to me this meant I did not matter, my actual being alive did not matter. If they do not ask for payment up front I will get the test and not pay them because finding this out will benefit others like my family who disconnected from me because, you know, they had a relative advantage.

      Doctors like the simple stuff, they have no time to look for zebras. That is what the geneticist implied while he was explaining the risk they they might find nothing. He is living in a Mendelian world of extreme outcomes of single genetic changes. And here I come only being disabled and suffering and nearly dying from my disorder twice and he had zero curiosity. You see, they know. And that is the problem. The majority of Doctors are not scientists, they are bureaucrats. This geneticist had no interest in helping me feel better. Not at all. So if you find a doctor who will break the rules for you, marry them.

      And this line from the article; “Distracted by their relative advantage, they do not see that by harming others they are also harming themselves.”

      Awesome. It is so hard for people to understand that to sacrifice is to benefit yourself as well as others. If it only benefits you it is just greed. Once you understand this, sacrifice is effortless.

      That line could be a reflection could as well be about wearing masks, but it is fundamentally about capitalism and greed. It is the story that has infected the human mind for generations, and the “doctors” who try to cure it (Buddha, Jesus, St Francis, MLK, etc.) knew the meaning of sacrifice.

      1. antidlc

        I don’t mean to pry, so if you don’t feel comfortable answering, that’s ok.

        You said, “I finally convinced my doctors to simply give me a serum amino acid test.”

        Which doctors agreed to this test? Can a family doctor request this test, or does the request have to come from a specialist?

        1. Krystyn Podjaski

          I am an open book, so no worries. My Family Doctor did it but it took some convincing. She knew I had good reason for it, mainly my poor kidney function for my age. I think you can get these from a place like LabQuest but i do not trust those companies much.

      2. Laura in So Cal

        Yes, if you find a good doctor, hang on to them with all your might. My Dad has had the same doctor at Kaiser for 20 years and have a lot of mutual respect for each other. A few years ago, my Dad had something weird going on and Kaiser’s AI programs had no clue. The doctor thought for a minute, went back to his office and brought back one of his medical test books and was able to come up with a possible diagnosis. He devised a practical test there in the office and the diagnosis was verified. My Dad has Cold Uticaria which is pretty rare. Treatment is pretty simple, but like most allergic reactions can be deadly.

        1. BobW

          I had the same doctor my parents had, from the 90s until just a couple of years ago. He semi-retired, I went to his partner, she quit after one year, next partner, he quit after a few months… new clinic in same building tied to same hospital… on this one for 6 months and only seen her by telehealth link.

    5. a different chris

      Good (if uncomfortable) read, but this is wrong:

      > If the people who used to believe in the country are killing themselves, something is wrong.

      They still believe in the country, that’s the problem. In the US we are trained to blame ourselves for everything as “it’s the greatest country in the history of history!”, so if anything goes wrong with your life it was you who screwed up.

      1. bassmule


        It’s The Land of Opportunity! If you miss the brass ring on the merry-go-round on the first try, keep trying! Anyone can grow up to be a millionaire! Wait…you didn’t? LOSER!

    6. Maritimer

      “The moral of the story is that YOU know your body best, if your dissatisfied with the care, expertise, or ATTITUDE of your doctor, get another one, and another until you are….”

      I would never rely on a doctor’s advice without research and, if possible, a second/third opinion. They should be crossexamined like a hostile witness. And, of course, they vigorously object to this. As far as second opinion, sometimes not possible or too much $$$$.

      I speak from a personal life threatening experience with arrogant, closeminded cardiac experts. I refused their treatment based on very sound research by board certified but alternative and open minded docs. My wife was able to find this research on the Internet and she was adamant that I not follow the advice recommended by the “cardiac experts”. Later I did research on my own which assisted me in my recovery. I also found out some remarkable facts about my situation which were never mentioned to me by the “experts”. They either would not tell me of were ignorant of them.

      Skepticism and critical thinking pay off.

  2. fresno dan

    This Brutal World Architecture Magazine

    The admirer of “brutalism” is the blogger of “McMansion Hell” ? Just Wow – I never would have believed it

    1. carl

      She’s gotten to be quite a voice in architecture. As an aside, my friend, architect for 30 years, claims that architecture is dead. Businesses don’t want to pay for good architecture, in essence.

      1. carl

        Adding: fine example of Brutalist architecture is found in Hanoi at the Ho Chi Minh museum. Don’t think the Vietnamese will be demolishing it anytime soon.

      2. The Rev Kev

        Never been a fan of Brutalist architecture but I did find something interesting. There is an example in Iraq of this style called the Al Zaqura Building-

        Looking at it, it seemed very familiar somewhere and I suddenly realized from where. There is a certain ex-President who has had public land taken to build his own personally “library” in Chicago and there is a certain similarity.

        1. Milton

          I think the author nailed it by explaining one of the main reasons for the public’s abhorance to brutalism, and that being they are, or at least had been, state run enterprises which occupied the spaces-never an enjoyable outing when needing to go to a tax agency or the DMV.
          For whatever reason, I find myself enjojing the austere spaces which usually surround the sites. Something serene in its bleakness.
          Anyways, try to tell me the Geisel Library at UCSD is an eyesore and needs to be torn down:
          Images –

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            I too absolutely love brutalist architecture, because of the window it gives you into what the State really thinks of the Plebes

      3. Tara

        Her site is excellent for a good hard laugh. I laugh so hard I cry sometimes, it is that hilarious.

      4. KevinD

        Businesses don’t want to pay for good architecture, in essence.

        Perhaps because there is no shareholder value in it

          1. Glen

            I got in trouble at my company for saying “CEO income” every time they say shareholder value in meetings.

            But on the shop floor it’s quite common to hear how the “CEO bonus”, boned us again.

      5. PlutoniumKun

        The demand for good design is strongly connected with business and land development markets. Owner occupiers, for example, are usually more willing to invest in good buildings than those built for speculative sale or rent (this is one reason I think why there are so many horrible McMansions in the US – houses are for selling, not for living in). Maturing companies often want to invest in high quality HQ’s – there is an old saying that you should sell shares in a company that builds a HQ with an atrium – but in very hot markets there is also a tendency for developers to try to use striking design as a marketing tool. I suspect that if architects are suffering, thats a core leading indicator that the market is starting to contract and value for money becomes more important than visuals.

        Last weekend I was walking around a large rental apartment community near me. It was originally built for individual sale during the last boom, was left only half completed for a few years, then bought by a US rental investment company, which recently finished off the development. It was striking how the design had changed from quite flashy apartments in the first phase, designed to appeal to new buyers, to the final rental stage, which is very plain, clearly designed for easy of maintenance and simple construction, but with some very high quality finishes (presumably as they last longer). I actually prefer the second phase I think in a few decades it will look better, although right now its a bit functional. I doubt an architect had much involvement except in choosing the finishes.

      6. Adam Eran

        Worse: Often what’s called “good” is a tribute to the architect’s ego, not a guarantee of a livable building. Consider the work of the famous Frank Lloyd Wright (or Frank Lloyd Wrong, as we used to call him). The buildings are a mess. “Falling water” is moldy, and unlivable (the owner donated it as a museum piece). Wright did this often, too. His Phillips 66 building in Bartlesville has a pentagonal elevator which has never worked correctly–a gratuitous, simply unnecessary innovation for its own sake. There are others, but you get the idea.

        The idea of such buildings fitting into a community of buildings is anathema too. When given the chance to build a neighborhood, architects often sabotage social space. Le Corbusier’s “community” buildings (for the poor) had low ceilings and were notoriously horrible to inhabit. It’s either a stand-out trophy or a horrible mess. Too often that’s what “good” architecture produces.

        So these “starchitects” are who the artsy community celebrates as “good,” while humble craftsmen who build livable, useful structures that play nice with their neighbors are delegated to the “not good” heap. (See Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream” by Duany, Plater-Zyberk and Speck) It’s hard to blame builders for avoiding “good” architects when the bizarre, surreal product they produce is so horrible.

        1. Alfred

          Really, the whole world is coughing, polluting, or voting itself to death, and here we all are (myself included, sorry to admit) once again discussing how many Postmodern angels can dance on the head of a Modern pin. Over the years I have met a fair number of people who lived in Wright houses, and not a single one has expressed disappointment about the experience. I’ve been in Fallingwater several times. Its layout, proportions, and furnishings make it one of the most comfortable and “livable” buildings I have ever visited. The house did indeed have structural problems, but it was never “unlivable.” Mr. Kaufmann, jr, made arrangements to preserve the house and its surrounding land in order to assure the continued existence of a major piece of the world’s cultural heritage. Where should one look for the shame in that? If Fallingwater had had a mold problem, he would have fixed it; he certainly had the money to hire the leading experts and pay for any remediation they recommended. I have also been several times in the Price Tower (which is not the Phillips 66 Building) in Bartlesville, riding the elevators each time. They worked impeccably, probably because they were correctly designed, properly installed, and well maintained over the years. They were not designed to be pentagonal for the sake of being pentagonal. Rather they are so in order to fit into a floorplan, which is angular rather than rectilinear in order to generate striking perspectives and views within and from all the living/working spaces inside. I’ve also been inside a number of buildings by Le Corbusier. Not a single one had oppressively low ceilings (quite the contrary; they are characteristically very spacious); they all struck me as very desirable places to live. The case of his housing at Pessac is usually adduced not as proof that his buildings are ‘bad’ but that they are adaptable. Perusal of any architectural magazine of the 1950s or 1960s — even House & Home, the mouthpiece of the NAHB, which constantly advised merchant builders to invest in good architecture — will show proof that Modern architects were constantly concerned with the creation of shared and/or community spaces. Indeed, it is in just that respect that (I think) Andres Duany betrays his debt to the Modernism he decries. Why Duany seems to prefer outdoor spaces that feel more enclosed than many (or most, but certainly not all) Modernist spaces do, is a different matter.

    2. WhoaMolly

      Wrecking balls smash Classic Brutalism buildings.

      Finally, some good news to start the day.

      1. The Rev Kev

        You won’t find me disagreeing. The article starts of by saying that the locals hate the Goshen building which is used as the DMV building. What is the bet that the people that work in that building also hate it. So what’s the point? Seriously, if you have a style of architecture that the people that have to live with it hate, why build in that style? What not build in a style that will uplift people and that people will be glad to visit or work in? There are so many ugly buildings these days that Kunstler has an eyesore of the month section on his site-

        1. fresno dan

          The Rev Kev
          October 9, 2020 at 8:38 am

          I love Kunstler’s “Home from Nowhere”
          And I’ve always thought, whether implicit or explicit, that once the almighty buck became the driving force for EVERYTHING, the degeneration of architecture was the inevitable conclusion.

          1. The Rev Kev

            fresno dan
            October 9, 2020 at 9:05 am

            If you ever get a chance, you should read Tom Wolfe’s book “From Bauhaus to Our House” which explains how we got so much junk architecture in our cities. At times, the people in this book come out sounding really pathetic and not just the architects-


            In one part of the book, it talks about a coupla that live in a house by a famous architect where the interior is all white. No other colour. Just white. And the architect’s assistants come out from time to time to pull out anything colourful that the couple have put there to relieve the whiteness of it all.

            1. Alfred

              The 20th-century designer most famous for all-white interiors was Syrie Maugham, who was not exactly a paradigmatic Modernist. The interiors (as well as the exteriors) of Le Corbusier — one of the chief creators of Brutalism — were colorful. Color was in fact an important component in Modern architectural design, and usually it was integral rather than a function of decor (furniture and accessories). Color, however, seldom came across well in mid-20th-century publications in which most of the images had to be printed in black and white. Hence the importance of Life magazine’s rather frequent coverage of modern buildings, which often was in color, and so less misleading.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      Brutalism has its fans – maybe one day it will be more appreciated (an exception would be Oskar Niemayers beautiful work in Brazil). A key problem though with Brutalist architecture is not that its unpopular, but that mass concrete is a terrible material for long term adaptability of a building. All buildings must adapt and change over their lives if they are to stay in use, which is why buildings with big airy spaces (from Saxon barns to 19th Century brick warehouses) have proven consistently useful over decades and centuries, while 1960’s offices have not.

      I know the manager of one award winning brutalist library built in the late 1960’s who has said that its a nightmare even to put in a new plug socket somewhere the architect never intended – you literally have to hack out reinforced concrete to do it, which isn’t exactly ideal in a college library. So you end up with cables strung everywhere.

      1. Carolinian

        The main branch of the Atlanta Public Library was built in this style which calls to mind pictures of the gun emplacements that greeted American soldiers landing in Normandy. However should Atlanta come under battleship bombardment the books will be protected by all that reinforced concrete.

        1. Alfred

          The Gestalt psychologists maintained that what any image calls to mind (duck or rabbit?) depends on one’s perspective. To me, the main branch of the Atlanta Public Library on Peachtree Street looks like the American Civil Rights Movement. Every building is a kind of Rorschach test.

          1. Carolinian

            Don’t follow you but, ok. Ironically I believe that is the location of the theater where Gone with the Wind premiered—Gable etc in attendance. The movie is not a fave of Atlanta’s black leadership.

            1. Carolinian

              Just to add that when I lived there not only was the building intimidating but even the furniture was uncomfortable–being arty leather Eames chairs. Perhaps this was to discourage the homeless day sleepers who were a feature even back then.

              To me one of the joys of a library (yes, joys!) is sinking into a comfy arm chair and reading a book. I think the APL board were more interested in trying to impress the city upper crust. Some of the other newer library branches are also bizarre.

              1. Carolinian

                Er, make that the famous Breuer chair…leather, no cushion. In truth from Bauhaus to our house.

            2. Alfred

              I understood that the library stands across the street from the site of Loew’s Grand; but regardless, your point is well taken. The Brutalist Atlanta Central Library did indeed ‘supersede’ the theatre both culturally and architecturally. That Library occupies the site of Atlanta’s Carnegie Library, built in 1902 as a racially segregated facility in the grand neo-Roman manner characteristic of the USA’s emerging imperialist era. In fact, a frontispiece in that same neo-Roman style of ca. 1900 was attached to the facade of Loew’s Grand in 1939 for the premiere of GWtW. Desegregation of the library occurred over the course of the 1960s, undeterred by the re-release of GWtW in 1961 to coincide with the Centennial of the Civil War. I first saw it during ts 1967 re-re-release, which may not have been planned to be an antidote to racial integration but was, based on my personal experience, seen to be just that by many conservative southerners. Planning for its replacement, to a design by Marcel Breuer, reportedly began in 1969. Breuer practiced in New England, where he was among the leading proponents of what became known as Brutalism. As Pasnik, Kubo and Grimely demonstrate in their book, Heroic, the northeastern US Brutalism of Breuer and his contemporaries evolved in close association with the brand of liberalism espoused in politics by the Massachusetts-bsed Kennedy brothers. It was, of course, the same liberalism that supported the Civil Rights Movement and ultimately, through legislation, assured its success. As it were in the manner of an ‘outside agitator’, Breuer’s library brought the high style of New England liberalism, aka Brutalism, to the very center of Atlanta. There it replaced in both symbolic and literal senses the ‘white-columned’ architecture of the Jim-Crow New South of which Atlanta had been the capital and Margaret Mitchell’s novel the last literary gasp. That’s why and how I see in the Brutalism of the Central Library material evidence of what the Civil Rights Movement did for Atlanta and the country. By the time the Central Library was completed in 1980, both Brutalism and liberalism were in decline; Postmodernism and Reaganism were on the upswing. Ducks were out; rabbits were in — possibly for no other reason than that ducks are as hard as cats to herd while rabbits can be pulled quite easily out of hats. But I digress. An exhibition opened in late 1975 at the Museum of Modern Art, “The Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts,” sparked a renewed appreciation for the neo-Roman styling of Atlanta’s 1902 Carnegie. That appreciation formed an integral part of the ascendant Postmodern movement in architectural design. Postmodernism ultimately legitimated not only a revival of the classicizing manners of circa 1900, but also the late picturesque tendencies of the same period. Well before 2000, the denigration of Modern architecture in general and of Brutalism in particular had come to dominate what might be termed the cottage-sector of the culture industry (to which Tom Wolfe made the most notorious contribution). The whole business — and it was a business, producing among other things real-estate prizes ranging from the McMansion to the New Urbanism — went hand in hand with denigrating the New Deal. To those neoconservatives and neoliberals now working hand-in-hand to dismantle what remains of the New Deal and the American liberal project, Brutalist buildings stand as obvious and obdurate embarrassments, concrete (but just as often brick) reminders of those material benefits that democratic regimes can deliver. They therefore must either be physically removed or, failing that, ridiculed. Organizing campaigns of ridicule turns out to be not only the cheaper option but also the more lucrative, when one considers that the most potent form of ridicule appears in reducing anything of a serious nature, to the status of a fashion. Undeniably, the reductive (mis-)treatment of Brutalism as a stylish fashion has sold countless books and magazine features, while monetizing any number of posts on social media.

              1. Carolinian

                Wow. Thanks for being way more informed than I am on this subject.

                I didn’t visit the library that often but did go from time to time because they had a rather large collection of books. Now it’s probably all computers.

                1. Alfred

                  You’re welcome. If you are close enough to Greenville, I recommend a visit to Heritage Green, where you can see in the Greenville Museum of Art one of the South’s very best examples of Brutalist architecture entirely in concrete. There are striking vistas inside, and beautiful craftsmanship throughout. The museum is flanked by two other very fine Brutalist buildings, the Little Theatre and the former public library, both of mixed concrete and brick structure. The former library is another example of Yankee Brutalism brought down to the South, as it was designed by a Boston firm.

                  1. Carolinian

                    Oh I’m quite familiar with those buildings although I don’t live in Greenville.

                    As for GWTW and architecture, my town is full of residential imitations of Tara, the mansion that never was. So take that Yankee invaders.

      2. WhoaMolly

        Re: Oskar Niemayers work in Brazil

        I went online to look at modern day pictures of Brasilia. The streets, and public spaces around the massive buildings are nearly empty of people. I have not visited Brasilia, so the reality may be different.

        I wonder if this emptiness is a feature of the sheer size of the buildings. I saw the same thing when I briefly visited Paris. The massive architecture of the La Defence center felt similarly cold and sterile. The streets had none of the ‘life’ of the rest of the center city.

    4. a different chris

      No I was shocked, too.

      The WhoaMolly/RevKev comments above pretty much sum up my view. I unfortunately am not a big fan of anything built after, say 1899 so it’s probably good my opinion doesn’t count for anything.

    5. Alfred

      If anyone wants to read genuine, reliable, indeed terrific journalism about Brutalism, there is a book by John Grindrod, Concretopia, which I cannot recommend highly enough. Also excellent is the scholarly Space, Hope and Brutalism by Elain Harwood. Those two cover the British scene. For the American scene there is the very wonderful book, Heroic, by Mark Pasnik, ‎Michael Kubo, and ‎Chris Grimley. The fact that Brutalism coincided with the peak effectiveness of welfare-state governance in Europe and America, and indeed self-consciously represented it, is worth bearing in mind when considering the views of its detractors.

  3. PlutoniumKun

    China Dodging Minsky Moment Is a Signal to Trust John Authers, Bloomberg

    China’s recovery since the Spring has been pretty remarkable:

    Before getting too carried away, we need to return to the Chinese reality. The country, we know, has been funding its ascension with debt for a long time. That debt has somehow managed to stay in the complicated tubes and pipes of China’s financial system, and a Minsky Moment has been avoided — three years after the outgoing head of the People’s Bank of China actually warned in so many words of such a danger.

    Could it now conceivably make sense to lend money to the Chinese government? Trust to logic, and it is hard to avoid the conclusion that it does. Emerging market debt, very exposed to perceptions of China’s economic strength, has enjoyed a great rally of late, after briefly wobbling on the edge of crisis in March:

    If ever there was a Minsky Moment time, it was the summer for China, and once again they have successfully dodged it. But it should be said that other observers, like Michael Pettis, has been suggesting that China’s Minsky Moment would be marked not by a major crisis and crash, but more likely a longer period of deflation and stagnation, as with Japan in the 1990’s.

    The other potential trap for China is the possibly mythical middle income trap – which seems to have more to do with institutional issues than finance. China still hasn’t shown it can make the leap (outside specific regions) into a high income economy, as South Korea and Japan and Taiwan has done before it. To do this it will have to fundamentally shift income from investment to consumption. The CCP seems aware of this, but is finding it harder to do in practice than in theory. The current growth is once again debt driven and infrastructure focused. Eventually something will have to change, the question is when. It looks like 2020 isn’t going to be that year.

    1. chuck roast

      Authers, a fellow who used to seem to know what he was talking about, yet again demonstrates that he is well versed in dead-guy economics. There will be no Minsky moment in China any time soon as long as the capital markets remain under the control of the CCP. And the CCP appears to well understand that turning over its financial markets to the tender mercies of the likes of The City would sound the death knell for the future of the Chinese people. I remain in awe that Authers’ byline is not under the Akron Beacon.

  4. Fresh Cream

    Regarding “Riding the Storm” UBS’s homage to billionaire innovators and disrupters, nowhere in it did I find any reference to governments tilting the playing field in favor of them. Tesla’s pollution tax credits, Amazon’s avoiding sales taxes, and anti-union campaigns get no mention.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      Let us now praise our billionaires. The most compelling image in this paen to billionaires is on page 10 — the image of the giant cheese grater the billionaires have disruptedly, innovatingly, transformatively, and philanthropically built to shred the rest of us.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    Re: Russell Brand

    A must watch – he can be very annoying sometimes (at least I find him annoying), but sometimes he comes up with some very profound and interesting observations. Sometimes I think comedians are the primary public philosophers of modern times – Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr and Frankie Boyle are I think far more interesting observers of modern life and politics than most professional pundits, or for that matter, most public intellectuals.

        1. lyman alpha blob

          I stopped watching The Daily Show a couple weeks after Noah took over – I found him smug and not nearly as funny as Jon Stewart. I also didn’t like that they picked a relatively unknown foreigner to do fake US news (I thought Larry Wilmore deserved a more of a shot). But Stewart was my daily routine for well over a decade and I really missed his show, so I’m sure I’d be biased against any replacement. Also, I didn’t like the Colbert Report spinoff at first either, but Colbert got a lot better as the show went on (until he moved to network TV, later caught TDS, and now I find his new program unwatchable).

          So serious question – have you watched Noah from the beginning, and do you think he got better over the years? I’ve been at a loss for some really funny cathartic political comedy for a while now. I like Jimmy Dore and Lee Camp, but I consider them more ranters than comedians and wouldn’t really want to watch a half hour per day.

          1. NotTimothyGeithner

            I thought Larry Wilmore deserved a more of a shot

            The suits wanted to go in a different way. They had John Oliver and Aasif Mandvi in house or close enough at the time too. Whatever criticism one might have Jon Stewart, he’s his own man, and the suits don’t want that for an established brand. When Stewart took over, it was still the show which was randomly hosted by Craig Kilbourn. All the correspondents left then too. Sam Bee was too much in character to take the spot, and her husband always projected himself as too much of a Kilbourn-esque type to go back.

            Wilmore and the other two I mentioned I thought could have easily carried the show, projecting a fake gravitas when ever they needed just to be a goofy fake news show.

            Wasn’t Stewart one of the guys from MTVNews?

            1. lyman alpha blob

              I think Stewart did start out at MTV now that you mention it. And I think they did actually try out Oliver and some of the others as Daily Show hosts when Stewart was away for a few weeks near the end of his tenure there. Oliver was one of my favorites on the show and the bit he and Stewart did parodying the “I’m Just a Bill” Schoolhouse Rock short from back in the day was maybe the funniest thing they ever did. (wish I could find the clip but a seacrh came up empty)

              The Daily Show was genuinely funny then. I remember some attempts at similar shows from Republican counterparts and they never succeeded because the humor came off as mean more than funny. Stewart would skewer Republicans mostly, and deservedly so especially during he Bush years, but it never came across as nasty, at least to me. He would go after Dems too as in the bit I mentioned, and certainly never held them up as the answer to anything. And I think he had a genuine affection for John McCain for a while too, although I think that affection waned substantially in McCain’s later years when he let his true colors show a little more and the whole ‘maverick’ schtick had worn thin. All of this made Stewart come across a liberal to be sure, but definitely not a hyperpartisan ‘my team right or wrong’ ‘Resistance’ type.

              1. Dr. John Carpenter

                You didn’t like the 1/2 Hour News Hour? (I mean, you wouldn’t be alone there.)

                I agree with you about Stewart. He always seemed to believe in the Democrats, but not to the extent of blind, fawning worship. I never felt I was getting talking points filtered through McResistance and snark as I often do with the others. He wasn’t perfect, but I’m sorry I haven’t seen anything like him out there currently.

              2. NotTimothyGeithner

                Stewart definitely owed John McCain. I can’t fault Stewart on his McCain worship. McCain recognized Ed Helms and Moe Rocca when they were still basically doing the Kilborne version of The Daily Show hosted by Jon Stewart and invited those two on the bus, changing the course of the show. The show was terrible when Stewart was doing a Craig Kilborne impression. It didn’t work.


                Here we go. Apparently it was Steve Carrell. I didn’t watch the whole clip, so I don’t remember who the other correspondent was.

          2. Yik Wong

            Similar, When Noah white washed (black washed?) Obama’s corruption as being perfectly acceptable, then I could see he was just the perfect tool for the suits. Now the only time I see him is when a friend insist I watch. They think he’s poking fun at the 1% and their lackeys while he’s teaching them how to throw up their hands and go for incremental degradation. They laugh, and I laugh too but I laugh at their own wilful ignorance.

        2. Laputan

          Couldn’t disagree with you more. Noah and the other Daily Show alums (Oliver, Cenac, Colbert) have become painfully unfunny in the Trump era.

        3. Dr. John Carpenter

          In addition to what others have mentioned, Noah lost me last election by parroting the usual anti-left/anti-Sanders talking points. Also, that smug, self-satisfied thing just doesn’t play for me anymore.

          1. jr

            I had the singularly unpleasant experience of meeting one of the show’s writers. To paint a picture: your GF throws a rather fun Xmas party and as co-host all you literally do is sit with your colleagues in a corner of the room and snicker cruelly at insider jokes. They spoke with no one but themselves while everyone else was laughing and hugging.

            When I was introduced, he didn’t even try to bother to make eye contact. That crisp smugness in Noah and the show is just as virulent backstage, albeit with a more dour face and whiny pitch.

            1. Swamp Yankee

              Same experience with a writer I knew a writer from the Colbert Show. Funny at first, but ultimately a cruel, bitter, spoiled little rich girl from the Upper East Side.

              1. Jr

                For being some of the wealthiest, most secure, and connected people in the world, the Upper Side’s upper crusty are a weird and often miserable lot. Tons of bullies in the dog parks; lots of pathetic late 50 year old men with heavily augmented and rock hard ladies in their early 20s; shoppers who berate cashiers in loud voices for taking too long or making an error; shirtless muscle heads riding skateboards on crowded sidewalks and daring anyone to complain with aggro glances; lots of 400$ dinners and no tip, poop bags tossed into flower beds for the super to throw out instead of a walk to the corner.

                Empty, broken people who need constant reassurances of their power and position or they melt away into a foul vapor. Jockeying for who can be a bigger jerk. A theatre of human caricatures; walking, talking stereotypes of the worst of humanity. And some nice folks too.

                1. Swamp Yankee

                  Splendid comment! That was the bizarre experience I had of the ones from the Upper Sides (many of whom went to private schools I had heretofore never heard of, the which marked me as an outsider instantaneously) I met via college — I thought I knew rich people, but these were small-town New England WASP rich people, obnoxious in their own way, but not without some actual redeeming features; but this was just, like, from-another-planet level of aggressively bad people. When one woman from the Upper East Side actually rolled her eyes(!) at a friend from Kentucky in response to the effrontery of (to his mind socially essential) greeting her in a hallway, he was so enraged I had to take him outside for a walk.

                  Not a defensible position, as Lambert says.

        4. Yik Wong

          Trevor Noah is good at making you believe you’re thinking. If he made you really think, then you would hate him.

          1. Jr

            Thank you. That’s the most succinct and on point criticism of him I’ve heard yet. He makes you feel smart and informed but he is really just repeating mainstream chatter and giving you a cheap sense of power by snickering at someone else.

    1. Yik Wong

      Why does Russell assume the MSM (outside of FoxNews, etc) is trying to persuade Trump followers (to “be rational and vote for those who say up front they are against their interest)?

      Besides making advertising bucks, the one other objective of their oligarchy owners is to divide the mass, to make one half of the poor/middle class willing to kill the other half, so they won’t unite against the 1%, …and their bosses, the 0.0001%. It is not an attempt to educate but to enrage.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    Onboard China’s Belt and Road Express: Does Laos stand to benefit? Southeast Asia Globe. Anybody who owns real estate near the stations surely will.

    Many years ago I talked to a Cambodian who gloomily predicted that neither Laos nor Cambodia would exist as meaningfully independent countries in 20 years time, and he said Laos would be the first to go. Essentially, both countries are so institutionally weak and corrupt that they would be dismembered in all but name by their bigger, more aggressive neighbours – he was mostly thinking of Vietnam and Thailand, but China is the main power in the region now and has, if anything, been even more aggressive at getting its way, especially over the Mekong.

    When it comes to railways, most small countries tend to be suspicious of allowing large neighbours build railways through their lands – Mongolia famously insisted on using a different gauge to China and Russia to ensure that one or the other would find it difficult to use the railway for invasions. Nepal and Bhutan, and to a lesser extent Myanmar have been very reluctant to allow roads or railways to directly cross their countries (Bhutan refuse to allow any direct link to China, they don’t want to be caught the middle of a Chinese-Indian conflict). The Laos are not so cautious, so I doubt this will end well for them.

    As Lambert comments – real estate values around railway stations or junctions are the key to making them viable (not that a China to Thailand railway is economically viable, its an entirely political project). 19th Century developers always bought the land in advance, and in China local governments largely fund their networks this way – this is why subways in China often extend well outside the urban limits, by opening up (publicly owned) land they can offset much of the infrastructure costs through future land development sales (it helps that they can force farmers to sell agricultural land at artificially low values). But I doubt if the Laos have the institutional resilience to ensure that the land value goes to the Lao people.

    1. Susan the other

      I don’t see how this development toward the South China Sea by China, now a superpower, could have been delayed. China needs access, more specifically it needs egress. It needs to be able to go down (and out) the Mekong; and now down the new B&R railway, which is just a slightly different route to the coast of Cambodia. If we think in terms of inevitable ocean rise, the Chinese have a looming problem along their eastern border with the Pacific. A 10 ft. ocean rise pushes them way far back from the ocean, for one thing. It gobbles up productive farm land for another. So at the top of Laos this railroad follows the tracks set by the old French railway from Laos into China (I assume mostly for smuggling purposes in the less enlightened days of European colonialism – “less” being a meaningless adjective.). Back then it was more nefarious than it will be now, probably. This new railroad was a no-brainer for China. I really think we should all cool it about what and why China does these things. It does these things for its own national interest. Imagine if here in the US we could no longer trade or exit the country via the Mississippi River and the Caribbean.

    2. Yik Wong

      Historically, Laos and Cambodia continued to exist as independent(?) countries mostly though the intervention of China. Their respective kingdoms would regularly send gifts** to China’s ruling dynasty, demonstrating both their subservience position and recognition of the status of the rulers of China, and in return receive China’s recognition of their right to rule. Song, Tang, Ming, and Qing China would then use force when necessary for or against Vietnam, Burma, and sometimes Thailand(who’s royal family is half Chinese) when they threatened the survival of these states. Partly because they want stable nations that are not too large and strong on their boarders, and partly because under the Confucian ethic this is the right thing to do, and thus a part of holding on to the mandate of heaven. China may suffer from many venal bureaucrats, but unlike the west, they pay lip service at the very minimum to ethics and morality.

      One reason the CPC sounds so high minded and a bit egotistical is besides perceiving China and the CCP “being closer” to the Marxist Dialectic than most nations is they inherited the Confucian/Mandarin system that believed based on a 2300 year track record that they are the evolved culture everyone else should look up to. Think of it as MAGA with a C replacing the A, and it having the full backing of most of the educated elite. (China does not consider itself a Communist Country, the term Communism is used as a goal, and similarly the CCP isn’t a communist organ but an organ to bring about true communism which would result in the redundancy of the party (and nation state). Just as Pence’s support for Israel isn’t to help Israel, but to bring about the 2nd coming, the CCP investments in other nations is viewed as crude empire by interested 2rd party nations, when it’s sold internally as helping to bring the world to a state where true communism can come about. We may laugh at it, but there are still a lot of true believers in China. Hence, you can’t always look at China’s behavior though a western cultural lens, unless you like being caught wrong footed frequently.

      ** gifts, not tribute, because China would send back gifts of greater value, as in Big brother thanks you but doesn’t need you.

  7. anon y'mouse

    link critical of the job guarantee has many additional links that lay out exactly my suspicions about what it was about.

    more moralizing, patronizing classism, “welfare queen” ideology, and trying to degrade and cajole the people at the bottom to bootstrap. makework inevitable, as that is the way it is designed (to deliberately not be an impact on the economy).

    quite bold of you to include it, considering the harping advocacy here over the years.

    1. Mel

      It’s a cute stunt. The crucial difference between “tight full employment” and the “loose full employment” created by the Job Guarantee is that they happen at exactly opposite ends of the business cycle.
      “Tight full employment” is an event, not a policy. It happens, if it happens at all, at the top of the business cycle when employers are eager to expand and desperate to hire people. It’s the desperation behind the hiring that enables labour power.
      The JG “loose full employment” happens at the bottom of the cycle when businesses won’t hire and would rather let people wander the streets.
      “Full employment” and JG employment aren’t alternatives on offer; they will never happen at the same time.
      And not that you ever see “tight full employment” being actually full. There’s always the excuse of Non-Accelerating-Inflation Rate of Unemployment to explain why full employment still leaves 2% or 5% or sometimes 20% of job-seekers still wandering the streets.

      1. Susan the other

        Hold on. Are you guys talking about the LARB review of Kelton’s booK? Because if you are you are way off the mark. You do not know what the issue even is.

      1. nycTerrierist

        “Throughout the history of western painting, imagery of flies can symbolize death, rot, decay, corruption and “painting’s power to deceive the eye,” says Celeste Brusati, professor emerita of art history at the University of Michigan. And there was one, sitting on the vice president’s head, just as he was talking about his and the president’s support for law enforcement…

  8. fresno dan

    Movie Review
    minor Spoilers follow
    So I saw Bad Education a HBO movie last night (I got it on disc from Netflix).
    It’s about a scheme to defraud a Long Island school district by the school’s superintendent and associated administrator. I think what the movie was masterful at conveying is how this scheme enveloped practically everyone in the community and undoubtedly led many to turn a blind eye.
    The school board president is a successful realtor, and as the school achieves success, the correlation between a “good school” and rising home prices can’t help but remind one of the housing bubble, and how so many can benefit (temporarily) from corruption. There is even a telling scene where the high school newspaper editor doesn’t want an article written because it would diminish the weight of the recommendation of the corrupt school superintendent on his acceptance to an ivy league college.
    I think many NC readers would enjoy the movie.

    1. Carolinian

      That’s an excellent movie that is now out on DVD. I just watched. Need to emphasize that this was a true story and that the superintendent and his number two embezzled 11 million from the school district.

      What’s interesting is that both of them appear to be caring and super competent at their jobs and they probably were except for the little matter of massive fraud and corruption. In their minds they deserve the ill gotten rewards because they had elevated the school district to a top national position.

      I’d say the movie is a metaphor for our times (even though these were the early noughts) where honesty is no longer a prime value versus success which is worshipped along with empty materialism.

      And so you have the “nice” Biden with his Burisma involvement versus the crass Trump–both of them corrupt but the former allowed to sweep the seamy bits under the rug in his own mind and that of the press because he fits the bureaucratic mold. If the 2003 incident happened now you almost wonder if the outcome would be the same.

      1. fresno dan

        October 9, 2020 at 10:33 am

        What I like so much about the movie is it is so well crafted to make its point, e.g., the plethora of nice suits of the protagonist and his plastic surgery while the school is literally rotting from the inside out, emphasizing appearances over substance.
        And did you notice that when his “wife” had died suited his needs? It was too soon when the suburban matron was making a play for him, but for the former student in Vegas is was 15 before he had even taught the student.

  9. JohnB

    I love the idea from the mainstreaming MMT article, of mailing a copy of The Deficit Myth to prominent politicians.

    I might randomly order a copy sent to politicians I think would be receptive to it, from time to time.

  10. diptherio

    Bill Mitchell making a right-wing case for MMT policies. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Under capitalism, every potentially good thing will be turned into a weapon against the working class.

    1. vlade

      There are few unmitigably good things, and if a thing can be misused, it will.

      TBH, there are other good reasons why JG is not a life saver – for example, people assume that all jobs available in JG would be sort of equal, so there would be no difference in allocating them (and hence no favouritism), but that’s IMO extremely unlikely, unless the jobs are BS-jobs. (i.e. jobs in name only).

      Any allocation of jobs that are unequal, by humans, will be subject to injustices, sooner or later.

      1. Basil Pesto

        interestingly, according to Mitchell himself, Mosler sees JG jobs as transition jobs, whereas he sees them as jobs robust enough that people can keep them as long as they want if it suits them

        Mitchell always struck me as the archetypal crusty ol’ leftist. It’ll be interesting to see if he rebuts that piece.

        1. vlade

          To an extent, that’s what I mean. JG very much depends on what sort of jobs are available to whom, and people tend to make assumptions around that.

          Unfortunately, the answer to both of those questions is political, so if it can be misused, it will.

    2. Samuel Conner

      I see the JG as the “mother of all countercyclical macroeconomic interventions”. It directly addresses employment fluctuations caused by the private sector business cycle.

      Mitchell explicitly embeds this proposal within a generous concept of “universal concrete material benefits”, none of which is mentioned by WSW.

      I’m guessing that WSW doesn’t like proposals which resolve the suffering of workers while preserving current property relations, perhaps since that blunts the process of sharpening of contradictions which it is hoped will eventually lead to a massive revolt.

      1. Upwithfiat

        Oh come on.

        Warren Mosler would:
        1) Give banks unlimited, unsecured loans from the Central Bank at ZERO percent interest.
        2) Give banks unlimited deposit guarantees FOR FREE.

        This would continue the automation of the workers’ jobs away with what is, in essence, the PUBLIC’S credit but for private gain.

        And you think guaranteed wage slavery to government is a solution to that gross injustice? The bloody Old Testament does much better than that!

        1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

          With CARES they’ve already implemented MMT and a JG for the MIC, corps, and Wall St, next up is helicopter money for the plebes. Why? Because they have to. Velocity is crashing hard, and the current scheme where money is created by private entities, if and when they feel like it, cannot be relied on to get any in peoples’ hands. Now comes the fun part: How much? And To Whom? Those questions were solved for the big end of town by giving Blackrock complete decision-making power as attorney-in-fact for the NY Fed, you and I pledged $454B in “first-loss” equity that they are leveraging up 10X, and those funds are going to…I dunno, you tell me. My guess is that at least 10% will end up in The Caymans, but the real number will probably be more like 25%. Plus Blackrock’s fees of course.

          1. Upwithfiat

            My guess is that at least 10% will end up in The Caymans, OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            Except for physical fiat, FRN’s and coins, US dollars all exist in accounts at the FED where negative interest could readily be applied to foreign and large accounts as the price for using a US public utility.

  11. a different chris

    So now that two (!) right wing wackjob stories are in the news regarding Michigan, we will stop hearing about ANTIFA and the “radical left”, correct?

    Ah, never mind.

  12. diptherio

    That Craig Murray piece is disturbing. The cops forcibly breaking up a gathering of protesters is pretty normal (not right, but normal), but the mysterious person pounding on his door in the middle of the night and demanding to know when he’s leaving is taking things to another, even more dystopian level.

    1. PlutoniumKun

      It’s disturbing, especially as its obvious from the context that it involved a certain amount of pressure on the staff.

      But its not particularly new – I was involved in environmental protests in the 1990’s in the UK and there was a very obvious strategy of intimidating the less hard core protestors. There was a lot of deliberate focusing of cameras on individuals, and constant requests of names and details that were far beyond what was legal or acceptable, not to mention blatant perjury by officers in courts. At first I thought it was overzealous individual policemen, but it was apparent after a while that this was policy – it was applied far too consistently to have been an accident.

      Essentially, the strategy seemed to have been to scare away mainstream protestors to leave just a hard core of crusts and anarchists, and they could be dealt with more roughly as without the former around them they had a lot less public sympathy.

      1. Yik Wong

        The violence by the police in such cases was/is an absolute, even if the protest was ending, the police would have to step up and crack skulls. They had to re-enforce to those who went home that they made the right decision, not leave them with guilt that they ran when it wasn’t required.

  13. farragut

    “Crypto Poses a Growing Threat to National Security, U.S. Says” – Bloomberg

    Was it inevitable? I can’t help but think Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are soon to be outlawed (or at least, heavily regulated to the point they lose what made them attractive in the first place)?

    1. ambrit

      First, let us define “National Security,” which would demand a re-definition for the “moderne” world of the word “National.”
      When crypto-currencies are backed by the ‘appropriate’ central banks, all will be “Right with the World.”

      1. chuck roast

        Or, better yet, when the National Security State has infiltrated, undermined and controlled the cryptos of the world. The Bloomberg stenographers appear to be signaling that the NSS is having a bit (no pun intended) of difficulty to this end. Anything to take their hive-mind, or rather, their hive-foot of the people’s neck.

  14. hunkerdown

    “Rather to be a Democrat long meant that one was part of a paternalistic social contract, one brought to life through an informal network of alliances.”

    So, a duchy? Or a warband? Or is there any difference of kind?

    If the serfs in the countryside like their status quo feudalism that much, the best option may be containment. Or divorce.

    “Yet it eventually became clear that the offense was not the nepotism itself so much as the personality of this particular son. It turned out that every judge for the past half-century had hired his oldest son as his deputy with few complaints.”

    Good call. That does sound like the Democrat-Republican Party that just merged.

    1. anon in so cal

      >Nepotism and Democrats

      Newsom, Pelosi, Brown…..

      California is a case study in Democrats’ one party rule nepotism:

      “California agencies have a long history of nepotism, along with pledges to end such favoritism, but the practice continues. Workers in at least seven state agencies have alleged favoritism shown to family members and friends of administrators in the last decade.

      Getting a desirable job in California government too often depends on who you know, say watchdogs and employees who have raised red flags with the state.

      “Absolutely, nepotism is a problem that we have seen in more than one department now, and it really undermines the whole merit-based system of hiring and employment in California in that people should compete for positions in state service,” said State Auditor Elaine Howle….”

      oh, and not to be mean, but courtesanship, too…

      1. hunkerdown

        Now, now, we’re not supposed to be judging our betters by objective standards. That is a prerogative of the meritorious *only*. /s

        You’re right though. “Now do Chicago” would have defeated the article in its entirety, given who’s publishing it (basically the neolibcons who whined about cancel culture this summer) and why they want me to read about it now (to be persuaded to legitimize their interests), and the “dignity society” (an all-down class alliance in an aristocratic order not open to question) they’re defending.

        I miss “virtue societies”, personally, where you’re only as good as you are ready to do.

    2. Cat Burglar

      If the merged party does exist, it has a legitimacy problem that political bosses don’t have — it only delivers for elites. Boss Tweed consciously delivered what he called “graft for the common man,” and recognized that delivering only for the elites would not work. A Boss delivers reciprocity, and with it, popular legitimacy — when a political class doesn’t deliver, what you get is unrest.

      What we get under the present dispensation is structural corruption for the top. Everybody else gets constraint (lawfare), abandonment (health care), or The Oddly Specific Kamala Harris Policy Generator. We’ll see how that works out for them, but right now they are just barely able to manage the discontent pouring in from the left and the right.

      Johnson and Nixon were the last boss-style presidents we had — we got the Civil Rights Act, Medicare, NEPA, and the Endangered Species Act out of them. In comparison, Trump seems like a poser; Biden only cuts deals with the top class.

      The Boss system was a relatively stable corrupt form that could maintain power by exchanging it for loyalty. The present deal is more like legitimacy mining the stocks laid up from back in the mid-century period.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        I like your post, except that I would suggest that “legitimacy” be replaced with “perceived legitimacy”.

        The Boss Uniparty can continue to be perceived as legitimate without offering anything whatsoever to the common man because they now have a complete stranglehold on the flow of information to the plebes.

        The object lesson of course is The Orange One. As soon as the shock of Election Night receded the campaign to undermine his legitimacy went into overdrive and every single information channel went into full de-legitimize mode. To this day you can find thousands of utterly fact-free RussiaGate smears on Twitter and on YT despite their supposed ravenous appetite to immediately remove “fake news”. The CNN, WaPo, NYT, and MSNBC retractions for 3 years of hysterical lies are absent.

        We’ll see the reverse of course as soon as The Biden is installed. I personally will need a large barf bucket always close at hand. The possibility to get any information through that questions or challenges the legitimacy of the regime in any way, or makes any suggestion that they take a different course, will be close to zero. The cherry on top will be the new twist that any and all criticism can instantly be deemed “racist” and “misogynist” and is therefore instantly illegitimate.

      2. chuck roast

        It’s an old story. As I recall the Mugwumps were all about efficient and corruption-free government. Boss Tweed was Public Enemy #1. His kind of democracy was ante-diluvian. Better the working classes bought their own turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas and be well and truly satisfied with a clean-machine meritocracy running their affairs.

      3. Procopius

        Back in 1956, Edwin O’Connor published The Last Hurrah, based on Boston’s Mayor Curley. At the end, the novel blames the ending of the Boss System on federal G.I. benefits and establishment of the unemployment insurance system. Other systemic changes took the ability to distribute benefits out of the hand of local politicians and put them in the hands of a bureaucracy. Looking back, I think that has had very mixed results.

  15. zagonostra

    >NPR – Retired General Backs Biden, Says A 2nd Trump Term Would Put Democracy ‘At Risk’

    So this is the headline that met me when I clicked google news, which I do not to get informed but to see how mis/dis-information is being promulgated. The establishment, of which NPR is a jewel in their diadem, has been nipping at Trump since day one of office. What has me troubled is that folks with some critical thinking skills have completely left those skills at the door when entering this election cycle. Sites like the “rational national” interpret the VP debates as a decided victory for Harris. It’s like a rorschach test, I watch and I think Pence had the upper hand, though I’m no fan of Trump/Pence. It really has become a whirlwind of muddled politics.

    But the real force behind the billions spent on elections is that those who rule need to have the ruled believe the following:

    “What was now wanted was, that the rulers should be identified with the people; that their interest and will should be [seen as] the interest and will of the nation. The nation did not need to be protected against its own will There was no fear of tyrannizing over itself. Let the rulers be effectually responsible to it, promptly removable by it, and it could afford to trust them with power of which it could itself dictate the use to be made. Their power was but the nations’s own power, concentrated, and in a form convenient for exercise”. (quoted from John Stewart Mill’s On Liberty)

    (I did not read below, maybe you have a stronger stomach than I)

  16. Samuel Conner

    re: the Western Sydney Wonk’s purist Marxist criticism of Bill Mitchell,

    after reading WSW and then the old (2010) linked item authored by Mitchell, I think that the Wonk seriously misleads with his title.

    It should be:

    “Bill Mitchell’s Job Guarantee weakens worker power in comparison with what it would be in a Marxist utopia”

    Workers would be much less precarious and therefore would have much more bargaining power under Mitchell’s scheme than under present conditions. They wouldn’t have to accept shi**y treatment or working conditions tolerated by OSHA, for one (in Mitchell’s vision, OSHA would have some teeth, too). WSW’s objection strikes me as a purist gnat-straining. I’m guessing that he doesn’t doesn’t face the “heat or eat” dilemma

    It almost makes me wonder whether WSW is working for the class enemies of workers.

  17. Terry Flynn

    re False positives in Covid-19 test. This was a trick our epidemiology lecturer at York Uni (MSc in Health Economics) loved to play on us in our first medical statistics lecture to illustrate a human bias that anyone working in medicine/health must “unlearn” ASAP. He would tell us the best estimate of true prevalence of hypothetical disease, give us sensitivity and specificity of a new test (which were both of the order of the PCR) and ask us what the chances were that a patient with a positive test result actually had the disease.

    He grouped us according to deciles (or percentiles if needed) and after laughingly illustrating why we were all terrible at Bayesian statistics, told us it was only an occasional year group (typically 40 on the course – the supposedly best and brightest health economists in the world at that time) that contained 1+ people who gave the “50%ish” correct answer. Cruel trick but very effective in teaching us about how awful human instincts are about this kind of thing. Thus I was worried about PCR from the start (as were lots of people, and IIRC NC drew attention to an article publicising the worry).

    On a related note, we in Nottinghamshire are about to be hit with new lockdown restrictions…..I notice nobody really has the guts to heavily publicise the tweet I saw with the electoral ward-level Covid-19 rates – the Nottingham(shire) “spike” to “top hotspot” status is completely driven by the (Nottm city) wards that are fully of university students. The rest of the city and shire are still tiny (Notts was in just about the bottom quartile of Covid rates until 2 weeks ago – see Guardian historical page for link). Plus anecdotally, although I suspect few use the NHS app, I’ve not encountered a single warning in 2 weeks using it (and I walked almost daily into the centre until 5 days ago when a medical doctor friend warned me of an ER spike in an East Midlands hospital).

    1. PlutoniumKun

      I’ve often thought that a little knowledge of statistics is worse than no knowledge at all. A shocking number of people use statistics all the time without understanding just how easy it is to mislead.

      The biologist EO Wilson wrote a few years ago arguing that most scientists shouldn’t use more than the most basic statistics without a proper statistician co-writing the paper and/or peer reviewing it. He was largely ignored I think, but I suspect that a lot of bad science would be avoided if his idea had been taken seriously – especially in the medical field where poor interpretation of statistics is rampant.

      1. Terry Flynn

        Yes exactly. On the one hand I seem like the classic “older guy” who hates seeing younger GPs. But on the other, I can articulate exactly why I don’t like seeing them – I’ve taught them, I know their awful statistics and mathematical ability: I did past papers in single maths from 1970 to practise for further maths A level (1991) so I know maths has been “crapified” (to use a great NC term) before I took the exams. But the younger people are rude when THEY have to admit their A level maths is not the same as mine.

        I acknowledge the crapification in my subjects/degrees and I get very annoyed when younger people can’t do the same.

  18. Carolinian

    Don’t know if this has been mentioned here but there has been a huge increase in lumber prices. I was in a home store yesterday where I occasionally buy wood and the standard 2 by 4 stud used to frame houses is double the price it was a few months ago. It may be a temporary blip due to covid lumber mill shutdowns but also has to do with tariffs on Canadian wood.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      I have been wondering if dogs, as with humans, lose their sense of smell when infected with Covid-19.

  19. lyman alpha blob

    RE: House Democrats to unveil bill to create commission on ‘presidential capacity’

    So are they doing this to rein in Trump, or Biden? Because if you create a new weapon that can be used against a Democrat president, you’d have to be really stupid to think that the Republicans won’t use it. But hey, they’re thinking of packing the court too, as if the Republicans wouldn’t just add even more Supremes once back in control of Congress.

    1. hunkerdown

      Democrats need some way for their partner party to stop them from doing something for the general public stupid.

    2. Noone from Nowheresville

      Because if you create a new weapon that can be used against a Democrat president, you’d have to be really stupid to think…

      That someone wasn’t going to use it. It’s really stupid to think that weapons aren’t created to be used by both sides or a single political two-faced coin.

      Wasn’t that really part of the main show laid out in The Articles of Impeachment against Trump? Not that Trump would ever be convicted by the senate but that the precedent would be set to use against anyone who thought to do something real to buck The Machine.

      Re: Packing the court. Interesting that Marco Rubio mentions FDR’s threat to pack the court during his speech for the Cares Act. Now here’s the idea popping up again 6 months later. I lost in-person touch with my mega-church going friend so I don’t know what’s being said about the court. But I know activist judges are a big informal church topic as is finance. (Concerned members will even come to your house.) Unfortunately we’re not talking NC level / style of discourse & information here. A trusted information source can dissolve a lot of internal filters.

      What’s fun about The Hill piece is that Pelosi questions the president’s mental health and Trump refers to Pelosi as Crazy Nancy. (ah, Nancy nice genderized burn – a twofer)

      Both sides are using well-devised techniques to appeal directly to their own tribes while seeding the fields with more chaos and noise.

    3. Mel

      It’s the next step in a project that the Democrat Party has had going for some time to get the voting out of elections. They’ve achieved that for themselves, now it’s time to take it to the nation.
      It’s the reason why Trump won’t make a blanket promise to leave office if he loses the election. If it were to turn out to be one of these trademarked no-voting elections, then he would have signed a blank check.

      “I mean, just look at the word: E.L.E.C.T.I.O.N.S — there’s no ‘voting’ in elections.”

      1. Samuel Conner

        In certain strands of Christian theology, the identity of “the elect” is pre-determined by a Higher Power. Perhaps our leaders aspire to god-like powers.

      1. hunkerdown

        It’s headed to the dry powder vaults, and may be hauled back to the surface at any time it proves useful for the oligarchy to discipline a President who may be too affectionate toward the commoners. “Right to try” was recently cited as an example of legislation formulated some years ago, kept in cold storage for a few sessions, and eventually passed into law during a crisis/opportunity (same thing).

    4. YPG

      I’ll admit this is deeply cynical and not a little bit paranoid but I feel like there has got to be some kind of (possibly informal) talking/planning about how and when to have Biden removed from office. I don’t suggest that it’s carved in stone, only what would be called by those involved a ‘contingency plan’. If Kamala is made president through committee, I wouldn’t be all that astounded. Whether it’s legitimate- i.e. Biden *really* is too out of it to be the president- or not, I don’t think Kamala would end up getting re-elected. Who knows what bloodsucker the RNC would put up for prez next time.

      The whole idea of packing the court, even if House Dems are sincere, only perpetuates the idea that we should continue to elect legislators who are incapable of passing laws- who can only try to clutch with white knuckles to the major reforms of the past as they are erroded- and leave the existing body of law to be re-legislated through the courts. Increasingly, court and executive overreach is our ersatz “lawmaking.” On the level of the individual citizen, the branches of gov least under their direct control are the ones shaping our laws. Only a broad, popular movement can stop this. I don’t see it happening.

      1. Tom Bradford

        As a outsider I was brought up on the belief that the US Constitution was a hard-line model both for government by “We, the People” and for the built-in protections against abuse of power through the separation and independence of the Big Three – the legislature, the executive and the Courts.

        Hence my gob was smacked and my ghast was flabbered when I learned only recently of the existence and power of the Electoral College, and that Judges were appointed by the Executive.

        The concept of the Separation of Powers is clearly more honoured in the breach than in the observance in the US.

        1. YPG

          Well put- I think the (ig)noble lie of the untied States is just what you’ve outlined. All the way down the line you find a hobbling of popular control.

          The Senate itself was designed to be and serves very much as a body that chiefly exists to protect the elite. It furthers this aim by instituting its own rules that accrue power to an even smaller elite- e.g. the filibuster means that only forty people are required to control the Senate vs. the majority of 50. This is an example of the American ‘democratic’ experiment, which seeks to hollow out democracy by a thousand cuts.

          Yet, cozy liberals with academic or press jobs decry ‘the people’ or democracy itself as the problem. I think the US ought to give democracy a little bit of a try before we throw it out. Who knows if we will?

  20. nvl

    Good evaluation of how small exposures might add up, even out of doors. This puts me in mind of
    how the small exposures during a New York subway ride might add up; and how I frequently leave one car for another. Subway a super good place to catch something… always was, the now clean surfaces be damned.

    Author is chief of infectious diseases at SUNY Buffalo.

  21. George Phillies

    Re: Presidential debates

    I am one of the few Americans who has moderated several Presidential candidate debates. (IIRC, four of them) Yes, Libertarian, but they were debates. I was the sole moderator in each debate.

    I would pose a topic, e.g. “Afghanistan”, “Social Security”. Each candidate, in order, had a minute or two to speak to the question. A request for a response meant that all candidates got the same amount of time to respond. After each question, the order was rotated, so that each candidate got to speak first or last for some questions, and each candidate got to speak before or after each of his or her opponents.

    The highly corrupt practices of the debate commission, in which some candidates get lots of screen time and others are mostly ignored, and in which some questions to individual candidates are less friendly than others, should be rejected by all Americans.

    If Trump and Biden wish to avail themselves of my services as a moderator, I am prepared to moderate.

  22. ProNewerDeal

    Lambert, IIRC did you write that you are a resident of Maine?

    Blog article suggestion: consider writing on how you will Ranked-Choice-Vote for the Presidential candidates. That would be interesting, given your emphasis on Concrete Material Benefits, & that this is the first time RCV has been used in a Presidential Election in a US State in US history.

  23. chuck roast

    Whitmer kidnapping…

    This was the same Whitmer who a couple of months ago permitted heavily armed reactionaries to wander around the Michigan State Capitol building with impunity? These are the same heavily armed reactionaries that a couple of months ago Whitmer permitted to wander around the Michigan State Capitol building with impunity? It sounds to me like they should all share the same jail cell.

    1. hunkerdown

      Whitmer knows how to run an inherently reactionary class system. One who doesn’t, doesn’t make a shortlist of veep candidates for either party.

      1. YPG

        Yes! To me that speech she gave last night seemed very much to be her running for higher office. My wife found it inspiring but it kind of made my skin crawl. I think it’s worth a watch. I’d love to hear what other NC-ers think.

    2. Larster

      Whitmer did not allow it. Mi is an open carry state. What was she going to do, start WWIII? She was trying to control a pandemic, not repeal the 2nd amendment. Some militia that just lost some leadership, awaits your help.

      1. hunkerdown

        The armed reactionaries in the previous demonstration were largely of that class who employs people, and demanded the preservation of the wage relation which allows them to demand labor without mutuality. That’s a bipartisan interest. That performance was aimed at the working class, a thinly veiled form of the millennia-old “get back to work or we’ll kill you”.

    3. pasha

      are you under the impression that the governor determines the rules of the legislature? capitol police report to state house and senate, which have been majority republican since 1990’s. whitmer — former minority leader — has long sought statutory authority to ban firearms from the capitol building, to no avail. the bill was not even given a committee hearing this year. perhaps now even republicans will see the error of their ways?

  24. Jomo

    I’m pretty sure the responsibility for initiating the removal of armed reactionaries from the Capitol building would lie with the Michigan state legislature. Governor’s mansion would be a different story.

  25. Off The Street

    That Brennan article reminded me of the primary communication tool in Washington is projection. It may not explain everything, nor should it, but does shed a lot of light on motivations, priors, form and what-have-you.

    Query: How concerned, or aware, should the public be that they are subject to such techniques? Those have developed since the early manipulation and propaganda days of Bernays and then of those hidden persuaders noted by Vance Packard. They would be astounded at how the field has, er, advanced. How do people learn about and then attempt to defend against becoming willing participants?

  26. ambrit

    I always thought that the phrase “sound money” was codespeak for “Hard Money.” Hmmm….. How much physical gold, silver, platinum, etc. is there presently on the surface of Planet Earth? Divide that by the amount of the world’s economic interactions and….
    All this goes to reinforce the old, old, trick played on us by the elites. Substitute some elites agreed upon “storehouse of value” for the productive value of labour. Simplistic though it is, this narrative goes to the heart of the controversy. What controversy you ask? Hah! Observe thus the power of media manipulation down the aeons!
    Now, the central banks are making steps towards an “official” “electronic currency.” Wow! Panopticon futures!

    1. Susan the other

      Yes. Imagine if you traded in wheat and it took a nosedive. Well, you are just ruined. Too bad. But because all trades are now filtered through sovereign money backed by tax money (which now makes money a stealth commodity at this point in time) you don’t lose anything, you have stopgaps and derivatives and all the other nonsense. Just one thing to consider.

      1. ambrit

        There has to be some mathematical formula to express the idea that as financial complexity increases in a system, the public utility of that system decreases.
        To your wheat example, wouldn’t such a system tend to favour the larger Wheat Combines?
        Sometimes I laugh to myself, [not always a safe thing to do, especially in public,] imagining social relations being controlled by a Mandelbrot set.

      2. Wukchumni

        The experience of many Latin American EMEs in the 1980s and 1990s tells a cautionary tale of
        fiscal-monetary interactions gone wrong, ending as these did in high inflation or even hyperinflation. Exchange rates and long-term yields are key barometers for credibility risks from the fiscal side. Growing concerns about fiscal dominance could lead to exchange rate depreciation and rising long-term yields, triggering adverse macroeconomic and financial feedback loops that would severely undermine the central bank’s ability to provide much needed support.

        This is where we’re headed, not only did the Latin American countries experience hyperinflation, they also tended to rename their currencies in the forlorn hope that it would help. (it didn’t)

    2. Wukchumni

      I always thought that the phrase “sound money” was codespeak for “Hard Money.”

      Experts are claiming that one should invest in old school Metallica reel to reel tapes, cassettes or 8 track tapes?

      1. ambrit

        Any ‘Heavy Metal’ will do. (Not the comic slick, that’s paper based.)
        A new musical trend; EconoMetal. Similar to Math Music but more confusing and full of magical thinking.

  27. edmondo

    Understanding this forgotten tradition is critical both to Democrats who hope to rebuild a broad-based working-class party….

    So they know what to do, they refuse to do it. Why anyone thinks that the D Party is the working class party hasn’t been paying attention.

    1. hunkerdown

      The Bulwark did a really good job of pretending to be a low-rent grassroots think tank, didn’t they. Don’t look at the masthead or your eyes may Kristolize over.

  28. Amfortas the hippie

    Timothy Snyder’s Hospital Diary was excellent.
    “…collective of pain…”

    Been there, done that.
    while reading, i was thinking about our own numerous ER and hospital experiences.
    mostly much better that this…which is sort of remarkable, I guess, since wife and i have never had money or insurance, and probably shouldn’t( due to the logic of the system) have received such excellent care, and with so few examples of bullshit.
    but, aside from wife’s 3 week cancer emergency, which happened in san antonio…almost all of our other stuff has been in a smallish, regional medical center in fredericksburg…where our regular doctor for 25 years is.
    so we know a whole lot of the people down there….either through family ties or from me being somewhat unusual and therefore memorable.
    knowing people makes a gigantic difference in how you’re treated in such situations.
    we haven’t been anywhere medical except the chemo place since the pandemic began….but all the healthcare folks i talk to…mostly on a regular basis…all indicate, without provocation, that everything is worse, now.
    too much work, not enough pay, not enough support…as well as hiving off whole wings of facilities to focus on covid.
    they say the patients are worse, too…as in attitude.
    they see people during crises, and at their worst…so a level of crankiness and freaking out is expected in normal times. it’s what people do when they or their loved one is sick.
    it this crankiness and freaking out that has gotten worse.
    i generally think of healthcare people…even the asshole nurse, or the bitchy doctor…as having wings tucked up under their coats.
    or capes kept carefully in a closet, somewhere.
    I sure couldn’t do what they do in the face of normal crankiness and freaking out.

    1. furies

      I felt that in my job as a nurse, a lot of what I did was placating. From the MD to the admin, the patients (most especially the ‘customers’), the insurance company reps, the lab couriers.

      That shit will wear you out.

  29. juno mas

    RE: What Ails America

    I speak from too much hospital experience: You have health insurance, NOT health care!

    For certain there are caring people involved in any hospital stay. There are too many mistakes made that make it a dangerous option.

  30. YvonneBB

    On “‘Middle-Class Joe’ Doesn’t Understand Middle Class””

    How can he after never having had a real job other than law and politics for half a century??

  31. Swamp Yankee

    Oren Cass is a real piece of work. An old enemy of mine from college. Changes with the slightest breeze and airs. A child of the wingnut welfare network, was a Bushie back in the ’00s, Romney’s domestic policy guy, a careerist who took a class on Shakespeare so he could use references to The Bard in elite networking (he confessed this openly and shamelessly to me). Funny in a droll way to see him trying to stay atop the greasy pole now that the failure of capitalism made his old positions untenable. And utterly un[redacted]believable.

    Taking Cass seriously on helping workers is like taking the Catholic Church seriously on helping clergy sex abuse victims.

  32. dk

    “boss politics”

    This is said about Democrats in this case but of course it’s the across-the-board definition of boss politics: “They promise to take care of their people by cutting deals–and corners, if necessary.”

    And it’s actually a principle component of *representative* politics. Our various reps participate in a central decision process in which they are supposed to get their individual constituencies the “best” deal, or at least steer away from an overtly bad one. The deal being a national policy, and the consequences having various positive/negative/null impacts across the nation (or state or city/county).

    So boss politics is just a slightly more crass version of regular representative small-R republican process. The crass part is making it a bit theatrical (R. Brand on point in his video), but also being more selective locally about who benefits: family alliance. And inter-familial alliance are also a normal and often healthy component of local community. When family alliances align against others there’s a problem, regulations and courts being the traditional civic forums for arbitration, active and passive violences being the uncivil ones. All standard stuff for our species for thousands of years, a premise that is so self understood it often goes unexamined for its mechanisms, and then comes as a shock to the nominally educated who have a document certification that they understand everything that matters.

    My point is that these mechanisms are inherently transgressive of formal regulation and “normal” channels, and they aren’t completely opaque but they’re often less than transparent. There is no formal record that says “families X Y and Z will be first in line,” although it’s sufficiently “common” knowledge for responsible executors of civic functions.

    So is it corrupt? Is it crime? It’s transgressive, but transgression of law is an important option that can strengthen the operation of, and respect for, law: mercy. Mercy makes benevolent exceptions. Clear self-defense is a legal defense for manslaughter in statute, but if it wasn’t it would still be a compelling argument for judges and juries, and for people in the community, neighbors and even enemies.

    Boss politics can be abused for own gain, to the disadvantage of, potentially, everyone else. But it’s also part of how things work when they work well. that’s not to say it should be embraced in whole, but that condemning it as unacceptable evil is untrue and destructive. If we don’t seek proportion we can’t solve any problem at any scale, every argument becomes a juxtaposition of distorted exaggerations. Many of these exaggerations arise from ideas about moral purity that ignore real-world constraints of practical implementations.

  33. Ping

    Regarding “Avian Services…” Yes, it is indicative of the stealth monetization of wildlife accompanied by “nature services” and another destructive manifestation of financialization. Per video link below, there are now “species portfolios” which can be shorted…..

    The Safari Club International, (major Trump donor) with their specialized litigation against species protection originated to fuel elaborate trophy contests killing millions of animals especially rare and exotic has evolved into “hired gun” (no pun intended) contractor for gas and oil, other corporate entities who need species protections removed or otherwise legally pollute and for the privatization of public lands. SCI’s unofficial motto “if it pays it stays”, if no trophy or agricultural species or competes with habitat for monetized species, it’s on the chopping block. Truly one of the most un-reported environmental stories of our time, and without dismantling their power, biodiversity and healthy environment will not happen.

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