2:00PM Water Cooler 1/11/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Obstacles remain in securing trade peace after US-China talks” [South China Morning Post]. “Chinese and American negotiators had to go the extra mile to avoid failure in their latest talks to end the trade war. Otherwise the differences between them were too many and too wide and they have failed to narrow them too often. The relatively low vice-ministerial level of the delegations did not hold out much hope. But halfway through a 90-day truce struck by presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump before the United States imposes more threatened tariffs, the need to at least forge a basis for progress was paramount. On that test the talks can be counted a success. An early indication was that the scheduled two days of talks became three. This reflected sincerity in seeking a result and showed discussion had gone into detailed issues. Even before that, the surprise appearance at the start by China’s top trade negotiator Liu He sent a clear message: the Chinese side was taking the meeting very seriously ahead of his expected visit to the US later this month for more substantive talks.”


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



In a dentist’s chair?


Some clever person on the left should aggregate organic stories like this — a tiny account — turn them into a video, and nuke Harris’s campaign with it. Because she deserves it.

“Gillibrand Hires New Aides, Signaling Presidential Run Is Imminent” [New York Times]. “Ms. Gillibrand has recruited Meredith Kelly, formerly the top spokeswoman at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, to serve as communications director for her prospective 2020 campaign, two people familiar with the decision said. Ms. Kelly was part of the team at the House committee that helped the party capture the majority in 2018, overseeing the group’s media strategy during the midterm elections.” • Oooh, DCCC. That’s a good sign.

“Joe Biden is the Hillary Clinton of 2020” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]. “What brought Clinton down was public exposure not to her personality — which was sparkling enough to make her the most admired woman in America for 17 years straight before losing the claim to Michelle Obama in 2018 — but extended public scrutiny of every detail of a decades-long career in public life. This, in turn, is the exact same problem Biden will inevitably face as a presidential candidate. Americans like outsiders and fresh faces, not veteran insiders who bear the scars of every political controversy of the past two generations…. As Democrats gear up to take on Trump, the party’s best shot is to do anything possible to avoid repeating the 2016 experience of defending decades’ worth of twists and turns on various issues from the Iraq War to LGBTQ rights to banking deregulation.” • So, skateboards!

“Majority of Democrats Want Candidates to Be More Like Bernie Sanders, Poll Finds” [Newsweek]. “The polling firm asked: ‘Do you wish the candidates who run for Congress this year will be more or less like Bernie Sanders?’ A full 57 percent of Democratic respondents said ‘more like Bernie Sanders’ in response. Sixteen percent said less while 27 percent responded ‘not sure.’ Not surprisingly, Sanders was less popular with conservatives. Only 13 percent of Republicans said they wanted candidates to be more like Sanders, while 74 percent said less. Independents were split. Twenty-seven percent said more like Sanders, while 35 percent said less, and 38 percent said ‘not sure.’” • Those numbers for Independents show Sanders has some work to do, but on the bright side, the work is there to do.


AOC goes to Washington, and doesn’t have to service donors four hours a day, every day, because she doesn’t take DCCC’s dirty money. So she has time to do more interesting and useful things:

AOC’s Chief of Staff confirms:

Of course, in Pelosi’s world, perhaps “call time” is a Representative’s work?

2016 Post Mortem

“I Was Sexually Harassed on Bernie Sanders’s 2016 Campaign. I Will Not Be Weaponized or Dismissed.” [Giulianna Di Lauro Velez, The Intercept]. “I told my story to bring attention to the sexist environment that is unfortunately endemic to most workspaces, including political campaigns. However, I was disheartened to discover that the takeaway by many pundits was not that sexism and harassment is pervasive, but that Sanders was somehow uniquely culpable…. [M]y story should not be taken to confirm the ‘Bernie bro’ mythology. It should be taken to confirm the pervasiveness of sexism in professional life and distill the hard truths that all campaigns should learn from.” • Good for her, because she’ll never eat brunch in this town again….

Related, perhaps:

If you think your campaign manager, in retrospect, has turned out to have butchered a major part of your campaign, and left a trail of scattered landmines on the path to your next campaign, then yes, you might not want him back, even if you trust him for other reasons. (Sanders has known Weaver since 1990. How to find a campaign manager who isn’t a mere mercenary, or worse, a mole?)

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Exasperated Democrats try to rein in Ocasio-Cortez” [Politico (RH)]. “[M]ost of them have kept their criticism of Ocasio-Cortez private, fearful she’ll sic her massive following on them by firing off a tweet.” • Hmm. Remind you of anyone, tactically? Well worth a read, and the subject of a lot of well-deserved dunking on the Twitter. Here is the key paragraph:

Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) is playing a key role. Like Ocasio-Cortez, Velázquez knocked off a longtime Democratic incumbent to win her seat, and they share Puerto Rican roots.*

In private conversations** with Ocasio-Cortez over the past few months, Velázquez counseled Ocasio-Cortez against targeting her Democratic colleagues in future elections. The two had a “long, long conversation” about the dynamics of Congress and Washington, and how there shouldn’t be a “litmus test” for every district, Velázquez said in a recent interview.

Velázquez, in other words, is enforcing Pelosi’s theory of the party:

[PELOSI:] Our party is a big tent, our districts are very different***, one from the other. Each of our members is elected to be the independent representative of their district. So nobody’s district is representative of somebody’s else’s district.

Notice how Pelosi’s theory — that what seems to be true about Democrats, that they share no consistent principles, is in fact true — empowers two subclasses in the political class: (A) Donors, since every representative can make whatever commitments to donors they like, and (b) Democratic strategists and consultants who, in the absence of candidates who actually stand for anything, can bill at high rates (ultimately, those same donors) for devising the various narratives and little marks of authenticity that make for “electability.” Obviously, I think Democrat incumbents should be primaried, especially when they suck, which is very often, and it will be interesting to see whether Pelosi barfs up her theory and sponsors a challenger — for AOC.

NOTES * I see. Only Puerto Ricans can talk to Puerto Ricans. ** Not “private” for very long, eh? *** Ideologically, this is an assault on universal concrete material benefits, especially for the working class. Everybody doesn’t need #MedicareForAll? No matter what district they’re in? Really? How about Social Security?

And speaking of exasperated Democrats:

And speaking of Democrat donors: “Black man claims he fled Dem. donor Ed Buck’s apartment after being injected with meth” [Grio]. “‘He was quite open about being very generous to the Black community,’ [Jermaine Gagnon] said.” • Wowsers. (And see this long comment from alert reader Unna yesterday.)

“As Democratic Elites Reunite With Neocons, the Party’s Voters Are Becoming Far More Militaristic and Pro-War Than Republicans” [Glenn Greenwald, The Intercept]. ‘But what is remarkable about the new polling data on Syria is that the vast bulk of support for keeping troops there comes from Democratic Party voters, while Republicans and independents overwhelming favor their removal. The numbers are stark: Of people who voted for Clinton in 2016, only 26 percent support withdrawing troops from Syria, while 59 percent oppose it. Trump voters overwhelmingly support withdraw by 76 percent to 14 percent.” • Those of you who followed my midterms worksheets will recall that the liberal Democrat establishment packed the ballot with MILOs (candidates with Military, Intelligence, and Law enforcement backgrounds, or Other things, like being a DA), preparing the way for further militarization of the Party, and ultimately for war.

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“What We’re Building: A Report on Base-Building in DSA Nationally” (PDF) [DSA]. “We directly asked DSA chapters what they are working on and analyzed the results.” Summary finding:

  • In terms of issues, DSA chapters work on housing justice (43%) nearly as much as healthcare justice (45%), outpacing labor (38.5%) and

    criminal justice (33%).

  • Tactically, chapters use electoral work (57%) and mutual aid (48%) almost equally when organizing.
  • Almost as many chapters run brake light clinics (25%) as advocate for Medicare for All (M4A) federal legislation (34%).

I think brake lights are great, because not only to they bring material benefits — like not getting stopped by the cops and whacked, if you’re black, or funding your city’s budget through fines, if you’re anyboud — you bring DSA members in contact with actual, real-life working people. Who can that not be helpful to #MedicareForAll organizing?

Stats Watch

Consumer Price Index, December 2018: “A swing lower for energy costs pulled down headline consumer prices in December which, at the core rate, were steady and moderate” [Econoday]. “The turn lower for overall prices may, based on the ongoing rebound in oil prices, firm back slightly in the next report for January, yet price pressures at the consumer level remain tame and are not raising any urgency for Federal Reserve rate hikes.” And: “December 2018 CPI: Year-over-Year Inflation Rate Moderates to 1.9%” [Econintersect]. “Energy was the main driver for the year-over-year decline. Core inflation remains above 2.0 % year-over-year. Medical cost inflation continues to outpace the CPI-U.” And: “Key Measures Show Inflation about the same in December as in November on YoY Basis” [Calculated Risk]. “On a monthly basis, median CPI was at 2.4% annualized, trimmed-mean CPI was at 2.5% annualized, and core CPI was at 2.6% annualized. Using these measures, inflation was about the same in December on a year-over-year basis as in November. Overall, these measures are at or above the Fed’s 2% target (Core PCE is below 2%).” And: “Inflation nightmare on Main Street? Hardly. Easing prices take pressure off economy” [MarketWatch]. “Worries about inflation and an overheating economy had spurred the Federal Reserve to jack up interest four times last year. The higher cost of borrowing dented housing sales, sparked a stock-market meltdown in December and fueled talk about a possible recession for the first time in almost 10 years. Turns out, though, that underlying price pressures may not be all that worrisome.” • Oopsie. Thanks, guys.

Commodities: “The tremendous potential of deep-sea mud as a source of rare-earth elements” [Nature]. “Deep-sea mud containing over 5,000 ppm total REY content was discovered in the western North Pacific Ocean near Minamitorishima Island, Japan, in 2013. This [rare-earth elements and yttrium (REY)]-rich mud has great potential as a rare-earth metal resource because of the enormous amount available and its advantageous mineralogical features.” • Go long deep-sea mud!

Retail: “Strong economy does little to lift department store sales” [Associated Press]. “Macy’s and Kohl’s reported lackluster numbers on Thursday, [investors] were taken aback, sending retail stocks into a tailspin and calling into question whether such mall-based chains can compete in a changing landscape where shoppers are shifting more of their spending online…. Shares of Macy’s plummeted nearly 18 percent Thursday, suffering its worst one-day decline. Kohl’s stock closed down nearly 5 percent. Even Target’s stock took a hit, falling nearly 3 percent despite showing strong holiday sales.”

Retail: “Billions are at stake in the Bezos divorce. Here’s what it means for Amazon shareholders. (AMZN)” [Business Insider]. “Some analysts on Wall Street who cover the stock say there’s little shareholders should worry about — unless the major life event turns into a business distraction…. The divorce proceedings won’t affect shareholders mostly because of the company’s size, said Molly Kenny, the principal in the Law Offices of Molly B. Kenny in Bellevue, Washington. While there might a shakeup at a smaller company whose leader is going through a divorce, given Amazon’s size and what’s at stake, it’s unlikely in this situation.”

Shipping: “Fears of cargo cartel spark probe into ‘super alliance’ at Hong Kong container terminal” [South China Morning Post]. “Hong Kong’s competition watchdog has opened an unprecedented investigation into whether a new ‘super alliance’ between four of the five operators at one of the world’s busiest container ports breaches antitrust regulations….

The Bezzle: “Lazy Prices” [Lauren Cohen, Christopher Malloy, Quoc Nguyen NBER]. “Using the complete history of regular quarterly and annual filings by U.S. corporations from 1995-2014, we show that when firms make an active change in their reporting practices, this conveys an important signal about future firm operations. Changes to the language and construction of financial reports also have strong implications for firms’ future returns: a portfolio that shorts “changers” and buys “non-changers” earns up to 188 basis points in monthly alphas (over 22% per year) in the future. Changes in language referring to the executive (CEO and CFO) team, regarding litigation, or in the risk factor section of the documents are especially informative for future returns. We show that changes to the 10-Ks predict future earnings, profitability, future news announcements, and even future firm-level bankruptcies. Unlike typical underreaction patterns in asset prices, we find no announcement effect associated with these changes—with returns only accruing when the information is later revealed through news, events, or earnings—suggesting that investors are inattentive to these simple changes across the universe of public firms.” • Arbitrage this now, before the advantage disappears! (The article came out in September 2018, but the Times only linked to it yesterday.)

Tech: “AT&T decides 4G is now “5G,” starts issuing icon-changing software updates” [Ars Technica]. “Welcome to AT&T’s 5G plan, where perception and marketing is all that matters. AT&T is just going to start calling 4G LTE “5G E.” The company started rolling out a software update to several Android phones over the weekend, and what was called “4G” yesterday is now called “5G” today. Through the power of marketing, AT&T now has “5G” in over 400 markets!… The whole 5G rollout is turning into a huge mess, and AT&T isn’t helping matters. …. Smartphone hardware has a laundry list of first-generation issues to overcome, and you’re probably better off just skipping the flood of 5G phones that will be out this year.”

Tech: “The way SoftBank invests in startups just doesn’t work, says Khosla Ventures’ Keith Rabois” [Recode]. Khosla Ventures partner Keith Rabois: “[Softbank has] deferred some companies’ aspirations of going public. I think it’s created a crutch for other companies that really don’t have an economic model that’s working, and it’s created a bank account that people can tap into and not have to solve their business problems. I personally believe that scarcity to capital is a good thing, that desperation breeds innovation, and that you need constraints to actually execute well and innovate. If someone gives you this pile of money, I think it creates a lot of excuses and soft thinking.” • No kidding.

Tech: “More Start-Ups Have an Unfamiliar Message for Venture Capitalists: Get Lost” [New York Times]. “On a sunny Saturday morning in New York a few months ago, a group of 50 start-up founders gathered in the dank basement of a Lower East Side bar. They scribbled notes at long tables, sipping coffee and LaCroix while a stack of pizza boxes emanated the odor of hot garlic. One by one, they gave testimonials taking aim at something nearly sacred in the technology industry: venture capital… But for every unicorn, there are countless other start-ups that grew too fast, burned through investors’ money and died — possibly unnecessarily. Start-up business plans are designed for the rosiest possible outcome, and the money intensifies both successes and failures. Social media is littered with tales of companies that withered under the pressure of hypergrowth, were crushed by so-called “toxic V.C.s” or were forced to raise too much venture capital — something known as the ‘foie gras effect.’”

Concentration: “Prescription Drug Costs Driven By Manufacturer Price Hikes, Not Innovation” [NPR] (original). “The skyrocketing cost of many prescription drugs in the U.S. can be blamed primarily on price increases, not expensive new therapies or improvements in existing medications as drug companies frequently claim, a new study shows….. Since rising costs aren’t paying for improved treatments, policy makers may want to take action, says Dr. William Shrank, chief medical officer of the UPMC Health Plan, who is also an author on the study. ‘This observation supports policy efforts designed to control health care spending by capping price inflation to some reasonable level,’ he says.”

Concentration: “The Merger That Could Kill Your Favorite Magazine” [Open Markets Institute]. “[P]ublishers’ jobs may soon get even more difficult if the Department of Justice fails to block printer Quad/Graphics’ $1.4 billion bid to buy its only major competitor in the business of printing physical magazines, LSC Communications… Even with the spread of digital publications, many readers, publishers, and advertisers still see value in physical copies. Indeed, some magazines – including Rolling Stone – have recommitted over the last year to printing their product. Yet if the deal is approved, even major publications like Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, and Reader’s Digest will become dependent on Quad/Graphics to print and distribute their product.” • Re: Physical copies. In my experience, the FT and NYT are far more readable on paper than online. Not only is the physical act of reading itself a pleasure, I always, without exception, find useful and interesting stories I would otherwise have missed.

Transportation: “Intel and Warner Bros. show off Batman experience for self-driving car” [VentureBeat]. “The interior of the Intel Warner Bros. autonomous vehicle, a retrofitted 2019 BMW X5, is equipped with advanced technology, a large screen TV, projectors, mobile devices, sensory and haptic feedback, and immersive audio and lights to bring passengers on a virtual ride moderated by Batman’s trusted butler, Alfred Pennyworth. Gotham City’s imagery comes in via the side windows, and Alfred’s voice greets you.” • I don’t see what the Acela doesn’t already do this. If the Acela were an immersive environment, passengers wouldn’t risk looking out the window at miles of deindustrialized hellscape.

Mr. Market: “Fear of algorithm trading is really just the fear of the unknown” [Quartz]. “The funny thing is, we’ve always been quite bad at knowing how to attribute market volatility, which long predates algorithm trading. The start of a much-shared satirical Wall Street Journal article from the 1990s sums it up: ‘The market rallied early this morning for reasons nobody understands and nobody predicted. CNBC analysts confidently asserted it had something to do with the Senegalese money supply, but others pointed to revised monthly figures showing a poor tuna haul off the Peruvian coast.’… A separate question, of course, is whether all this market volatility can or should be ascribed to algorithm training as it has been. Despite recent relative placidity, markets have always been volatile. The last three months’ ups-and-downs may have been choppy, but they’re by no means historic. It may also be true that we’re simply talking more about the most minute market moves…. Blame it on the robots if you must—it’s an easy out for those struggling to understand what’s happened already, and what’s going to happen next. The trouble is, it’s not very useful for everyone else.”

Honey for the Bears: “Warning signs for the global economy” [Financial Times]. “The world’s two largest economies slow, while the UK’s financial sector readies for Brexit and the ECB retreats from QE. Structural challenges and limited space for any policy response add to fragility. Here’s the best of this week’s opinion and analysis.” • A useful aggregation.

The Biosphere

“Ocasio-Cortez’s climate genius stroke: Her Green New Deal is the most serious response to the crisis yet” [Bill McKibben, New York Daily News]. “Essentially, through Democratic and Republican administrations, we’ve done far too little. There are a few comprehensive state-level plans: California is acting, and environmental justice groups in New York State, for instance, have painstakingly put together a Climate and Community Protection Act that’s a model for others. But at the federal level, where it really counts, we’ve fallen farther and farther behind the physics of climate change. Which brings us back to Ocasio-Cortez. Her plan for a Green New Deal — endorsed ‘in concept’ in recent days by one presidential aspirant after another — is among the first Washington efforts to approach climate change at the right scale.” • I don’t want to be cranky about his, and I like the GND too, but McKibben’s sigh that “we’ve done far too little” — who’s that “we”? — is such an indictment of the environmental movement as a political entity.

Health Care

“CDC says it’s another severe flu season with up to 7.3 million people sick so far” [CNBC]. “An estimated 6.2 million to 7.3 million people in the United States have been sick with the flu since October… While the numbers are milder than last season, the Influenza Like Illness Level last week was elevated at 4.1 percent, almost twice national baseline…. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. adults were estimated to have been vaccinated last flu season, down 6 percentage points from the previous year, according to the CDC. It estimates that the flu killed more than 80,000 people and caused more than 900,000 hospitalizations last year.”

Class Warfare

“Uses and Abuses of Class Separatism” [Verso]. “[T]here are at least two necessary and sufficient elements in a relation of production. There’s a structural element and an individual element. The structural element is in the relation itself (externally-facing), like a ratio, for example, and the individual element is in how people experience and live the relation (internally-facing)….. The wage relation is a paradigm case of a relation of production. It’s got structural elements, like the exploitative difference between amounts paid to workers compared to profits made by capitalists. It also has experiential elements, like how workers live their wage relations depending on their race, gender, nationality, sexuality, ability. Neither element is sufficient on its own for the relation of production. Neither is dependent on the other. Neither is a function of the other. Both are necessary and sufficient for the relation of production…. Class separatists separate out the structural element of relations of production, name it “class”, and then distinguish this element of relations of production from the individual elements, calling them “identity”…. However, class separatists make a big mistake (maybe their biggest) when they think that structural elements cut across individual elements of relations of production. The way Black women live unequal housing relations is different than indigenous men, queer immigrants, or a straight white people. But class separatists go way too far and think that these individual elements of relations of production (which they tragically call “identity” just like liberals do) need not be foregrounded and given equal political weight in their thinking and organizing. Of course structural elements of relations of production, like rent prices or mold, cut across so many differences. But these elements don’t cut across individual differences. The structural elements are lived through the individual elements. The individual differences are muscles to the structural bones in relations of production. If we try to cut across these muscles, we lose our movement power.” • This article is part of an extremely heatlthy on-going polemic on the left, and well worth a read on that account (It’s also written in English, and not dense jargon. (I do think that “separatists” has the wrong tone.)

“Labor exploitation also happens close to home” [Supply Chain Dive]. “Far too often, customers outsource their moral outrage, as well as their manufacturing, to their top tier suppliers. Turning a blind eye to these tragedies may be the easy choice, especially when the upstream supply chain is halfway around the world. But human trafficking and exploitation are not reserved to low cost countries. We need to acknowledge there are labor exploitations within our domestic supply chain. Knowingly or not, we use suppliers who take advantage of employees, provide poor working conditions and low wages, and purposefully violate laws and regulations. Where is the moral outrage of labor exploitation in the United States?” More:

I remember the employees at a printed circuit board facility with holes in their clothes and burns on their skin due to the acids they worked with. Employees in a small and crowded break room that was crawling with roaches eating their lunch. Workers jammed shoulder to shoulder on assembly benches without enough room to properly do their work. Machinists lacking eye and hearing protection. Barbed wire surrounding an outside break area. Exposed electrical wires and leaking pipes, and clean rooms that were far from clean.

Can’t see this from the Acela windows, though!

News of the Wired

“‘A Minefield’: How Scholars Who Don’t Drink Navigate the Conference Social Scene” [Chronicles of Higher Education]. “These conferences encourage the feeling that if participants worked the hotel-bar network “a little bit better,” they would unlock more professional advantages and opportunities, said a sober professor who attended the MLA conference and asked for anonymity out of fear of being judged by peers. For people who don’t have problems with alcohol, that’s fine, the professor said.” • Maybe, just as on campus, if the expectation wasn’t that people should get hammered, some of the behavioral issues with which we are so famliar might be ameliorated?

“The Year-Long, Undercover Plot To Blow Up EVE Online’s Most Notorious Space Station” [Kotaku]. “Through a combination of massive wealth, admirable player skill, and dogged persistence, the players of Hard Knocks established themselves as the top predator in the wormhole ecosystem. When citadels were first introduced to the game, Hard Knocks was in the unique position to be able to immediately begin construction of the first Keepstar, known as—what else?—Fort Knocks. Building Fort Knocks and placing it in a wormhole took months of planning, hundreds of billions of ISK, and the combined efforts of the entirety of Hard Knocks. Fort Knocks was almost stolen before it was assembled by nefarious industrialists, and the convoy operation to bring the Keepstar safely to Rage narrowly avoided discovery. But the story of building something in EVE is always going to be only the first half of the story. No one has ever done anything great in EVE without someone else wanting to destroy it. Soon after the players of Hard Knocks finished building their sandcastle, players in an alliance called The Initiative began planning to kick it over.” • Seems political.

Caption contest:

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

TH: “These little Allen’s Hummingbirds sure love the Mexican Bush Sage (a name I always want to “fix” to Mexican Sage Bush).”

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This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on January 11, 2019 by .

About Lambert Strether

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

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