The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Open Thread

Feel free to use the comments to this post to discuss topics unrelated to recent posts. (Posting was light last week due to some business, but should resume a more regular schedule this week.)


Dozens of Extinctions from the Australia Wildfires, But That’s Not the Worst


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – January 19, 2020


  1. Seems to have been missed, while y’awl were busy watching for white bimbo commando crotch-shots on tv: Iran can land a ballistic missile anywhere in the Middle East. Anywhere. As an airburst. On the middle building of a row of five or so such buildings, with very little damage evident on the other buildings. That impressive accuracy and damage suggests impact fusing, because the adjacent buildings don’t show obvious overpressure damage from an uncontained air burst. This development, paired with the suggestion Iran were responsible for the strikes on the Saudi oilfields, suggests the Iranians have delivered a carefully calibrated message to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. No one is listening.

    They can land a ballistic missile anywhere in the region. Anywhere.

  2. There are two recent vintage interviews, by Dr. Mercola, about blood flow restriction training as a fantastic bio-hack to promote muscle hypertrophy (particularly important for older folks) and prevent muscle atrophy, e.g. for people with broken limbs, in casts. These exercises are done with light weights; or even, for older folks that are very weak, no weights, at all. (Indeed, there’s some physiological benefit even for quadriplegics.) The workouts are relatively short in duration.

    There are some contra-indications.

    Basically, you use bands with air bladders to partially restrict blood flow back to the heart. These are affixed just under the shoulders, or just underneath the hips. This triggers a build up of lactic acid, leading to a cascade of wonderful effects. There is no muscle tissue damage, hence no sore muscles, that will occur with lifting heavy weights. Plus, the light weights (or no weights) mean it’s easier on the joints. The kaatsu home unit is about $1,000. The other brand referred to, by, will have a unit suitable for home use, in July, that you can pre-order for $299.

  3. anon

    Didn’t know Michael Moore had a podcast until word got around online about his takedown of Elizabeth Warren. It’s worth the listen.

    Ep. 19: The Sad Downfall of Elizabeth Warren

    After listening to that episode, which must have gotten more listens than any of his other podcasts combined, Moore quickly posted another episode that was very good with Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor.

    Ep. 20: The Half Baked Politics of Half Measures (feat. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor)

  4. bruce wilder

    The Atlantic has become a conduit for propaganda of a type I cannot quite name.

    That piece Stirling linked to is remarkable for the sheer self-confidence behind its b.s. Johns Hopkins is doing its bit for meritocracy, you see, and alumni can be assured that if their children get in, it is entirely deserved and all part of an effort to remedy structural inequality in American society.

    Right next to it is Franklin Foer writing breathless speculation about a Putin connection to “the plot against Biden”. Foer was fired from his second run as New Republic editor for his role in the Scott Thomas Beauchamp fabrications.

    I feel like it must be something in the drinking water.

  5. Willy

    I worked in a field where legacy hires had gotten so out of control that honest PMs and PEs went through two phases:

    1. Quiet bitching and moaning about always having to work around the continuous lazy irresponsibility and technical screwups of the connected.
    2. Total cynical silence, lest they get blackballed by the elites. “Willy, I don’t wanna talk about work anymore. Don’t you play racketball?”

    So I found somebody else to bitch to. When I described anacyclosis to a psychologist friend he told me it’s natural. “People instinctively want to promote their kin as a means of ensuring the successful propagation of their genes.” I then asked about how we can handle the growing incompetency in our current society, and he told me to take two Prozacs and call him every morning for the next ten years.

  6. bruce wilder

    Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor has a multi-syllable vocabulary, but I do not see any insight: it seems like pure cant of a tribe. “There are many discussions we can have . . .”

    There is a real lack of self-awareness of how dumb we are, of how irresponsible we are about how we frame the grievances of the underclasses.

    There is a lot of talk about building a “movement” but not a lot of coherent realism about what is required to get a political movement over the top or engaged with the obstacles to a politics of revolution.

    I see Occupy, Black Lives Matter as failures; I see Obama as a failure (from a left perspective — obviously Obama was useful to some). Moore and Taylor are kinda sorta willing to see Obama as disappointment, but Taylor wants to “interrogate” the experience of Obama’s Presidency and rhetoric. BLM is “indicative” for Taylor.

    Taylor, a professor at Princeton(!), talks of ruling class “divide and conquer” strategy of demagogic blame the black, brown, the immigrant. And, she never, ever acknowledges that she is professionally engaged in executing that strategy by other means.

  7. Willy

    Weren’t those movements “failures” because the PTB can successfully control the culture? One of their admitted strategies is: “All is fair in war.” Progressives seem too honest for those sorts of weapons, where the only PTB strategy is to win.

  8. bruce wilder


    When I was listening to Moore and Taylor refer to “the Media” I could not help but think it might be useful to remind them “the Cossacks work for Czar”. The extreme concentration involved with giant media corporate conglomerates, ownership by billionaires of the boutique press, and networking structures that entangle the independence of career-minded journalists work together to make political movement from the middle, let alone the bottom difficult and challenging.

    I do think there are many on the would-be “left” who are not much interested in making an effective challenge. Just as one example, the extreme polarization of rhetoric is a means for the PTB, but there are plenty of soi disant leftists who seem to enjoy the polarization, who like a good ten minutes of outrage over perceived racism or sexism and many others who struggle as a consequence of that cultural framing with the money issues, trapped by what Adolph Reed talks about as disparity framing of class in the context of racism and sexism.

    In retrospect, I feel Occupy inexplicably just sat there, perhaps reflecting an inherent outlook that could not overcome dependency. And, after they had sat long enough, Obama’s DHS was able to organize sweeping them away with no reputational damage.

    BLM seemed to deliberately shy from doing anything about the deficiencies of police training and tactics that would seem a proximate cause to an epidemic of police shooting, in favor of promoting a narrative of racial injustice aimed primarily at high-profile prosecutions of police in particular cases. It seems like a narrative-driven journalism translated into politics: ratings-driven you might say. And contributing to political polarization.

    I have watched the Impeachment drama unfold and it increasingly seems like a way for liberals to co-opt the left into a pointless exercise that may very well sink the Primary process for selecting a Democratic nominee for President. But, more than anything else, it makes me wonder at the implied intelligence, values and goals of those identified with the mainstream Democratic Party. This non-program is what those who control the political culture want to be associated with the alternative to reactionary and authoritarian conservative political initiatives.

    I listened to Moore’s podcast hoping to hear about what to do about those people, the people who think impeaching a President for . . . [?] is more urgent than anything I might actually want done — the people who give us incremental “third-way” public-private partnership half measures in their spare time — and what I heard, apparently, are more such people. Taylor, his interlocutor, an academic admittedly, has a politics spinning word clouds out of abstractions. A lot of talk about the “moment” for a movement and “organizing” and criticism of a rhetorical narrative of personal responsibility, but when she turns to “structure” she never says anything definite, insightful or actionable.

  9. Hugh

    Re Johns Hopkins, not a word about cost or debt:

    “The annual list price to attend Johns Hopkins University on a full time basis for 2017/2018 is $69,863 for all students regardless of their residency. This fee is comprised of $52,170 for tuition, $15,410 room and board, $1,230 for books and supplies and $0 for other fees.”

    https:/ › colleges › maryland › price

    The author writes, “Legacy preferences—the admissions advantage given to family of alumni—are generally alien to Canadian (and, indeed, European) universities.”

    This sounds like bs to me. At elite universities in the UK and France, both family and class connections count. I would not be surprised if this happens at most elite European universities. It’s one of those cases where in theory, everyone has an equal shot but in practice, some shots are more equal than others.

    It’s a little like Ferrari saying that it was ending legacy sales to previous owners. It’s not like you or I could now scrape together our nickels and dimes and go out and buy one. And importantly, the reason these universities can charge their fantastic tuitions is not because they deliver equally fantastic educations, but the value of the brand and the connections, connections, connections.

  10. Chuck Mire

    Moscow Mitch “…so help me God.” is meaningless:

    “I solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that in all things appertaining to the trial of the impeachment of Donald John Trump, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws: So help me God.”

    Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says he’s not an impartial juror if President Trump faces an impeachment trial in the Senate.

  11. Mark Pontin

    Bruce Wilder wrote: ‘In retrospect, I feel Occupy inexplicably just sat there … after they had sat long enough, Obama’s DHS was able to organize sweeping them away with no reputational damage.’

    A couple of things.

    [1] It may have been organized through the DHS or it may not. But there was a militarized clampdown carried out in 17 US cities simultaneously that was overseen from the very top of the Federal government — by the Obama administration — so as to bring sufficiently overwhelming fire and manpower to bear that if things did kick off the protesters were going down.

    Rubber bullets and gas, definitely — but if necessary, the works. Because TPTB actually recognized they might have a revolution beginning.

    [2] And I know this because I had a loft 15 blocks from downtown Oakland while Occupy was there.

    On the one hand, Oakland is a far more proletarian city than NY and access to downtown there is easier than to Wall Street; on the other, Occupy Oakland wasn’t up against the NYC PD, which IIRC is about 36,000 cops — bigger than some national armies.

    So the protesters at Occupy Wall Street may have been more sedate, white student-types and just sat there till, as you say, Obama’s DHS swept them up. (Or maybe not — the MSM were very much on the down low when it came to reporting about Occupy and its repression.)

    In Oakland, though, while Occupy was there I could walk out from my loft into the communal yard every night and see at least a couple of helicopters with lights on permanently hanging over their encampment. Police were brought in from police departments all over California; also state troopers, and National Guard military-type kit. It was quite the clampdown.

    And there was definitely confrontation —

    And nevertheless in the end it was very clear that people were going to be killed if things kicked off.

  12. Chiron

    “The Atlantic has become a conduit for propaganda of a type I cannot quite name.” @Bruce Wilder

    The Atlantic is owned by JJ Goldberg who admitted in his own biography of torturing Palestinians while in the IDF, The Atlantic was originally a magazine for Northeast WASP liberal establishment but under Goldberg is now a weird Liberal Imperialist Zionist rag that actually represents the opinion of the US ruling class.

  13. Herman

    People who support meritocracy should be careful what they wish for. Michael Young, the author who popularized the term, thought a true meritocracy would be a dystopia and I think he was right. If we had a true meritocracy the elites would be even more powerful and arrogant than they are now since they would know for sure that they were superior to the lower orders and the lower orders would not only know that they were essentially inferior but they would have little ability to fight back since all of the most capable working-class people would be absorbed into the upper class through upward social mobility.

    People should read Michael Young’s 1958 book “Rise of the Meritocracy” to see what he was talking about. Here is a 2001 article Young wrote explaining his disappointment that many people got the message of his book wrong and thought his dystopia was a utopia.

    Chris Dillow has written a number of good articles criticizing the concept of meritocracy.

    There is also evidence that belief in meritocracy actually makes people more selfish, less generous, less self-critical and more prone to discriminatory behavior. Belief in the power of luck on the other hand makes you more generous.

    Now, I agree that our current society is far from a perfect meritocracy. It is just that I think that meritocracy is a bad social goal, particularly for people on the left. Meritocracy is actually a key part of neoliberal ideology even if it is not often followed in practice.

  14. Bruce

    Any and all of the issues relevant to media are moot when the EMP arrives… and blanks everything… and it’s coming….
    Think about the withdrawals people of all political stripes will endure once that happens.
    The Senate Impeachment trial with the restrictive rules about electronic devices being prohibited… the Senators will be exhibiting major psychological detriment about 4 hours into the first day of this trial… this will adverely affect their mental functions absolutely by the time the vote for conviction occurs….

    Fun times…. Cheers….

  15. nihil obstet

    When Occupy Wall Street started, the neoliberal framing and assumptions ruled, drowning out any real alternative language except among long-time theorists and organizers. Occupy gave us language (the 1% vs. the 99%) that resonated throughout the society. It would have been nice if it had come to some clear immediate goals, along the lines of the gilets jaunes in France over the past year or the more recent strikes against pension raiding.

    However, I remember the protests, primarily of teachers, in Wisconsin, which seemed to be going great guns. They tried to translate their work into electoral success, and the movement petered out after the recall was lost. We don’t have a clear analysis and a consensus path forward. We will probably have to have a series of Occupy-like experiments in protesting the PTB failures to explore how to get ourselves together for effective action.

  16. Hugh

    bruce, I meant to say agree about your take on the Atlantic article. As far as I could find out, Daniels, the author, did his undergrad at University of Toronto which from my googling is ranked Number One in Canada. He did his JD there as well and grad work in law at Yale. He was then head of the University of Toronto Law School and VP and Provost at UPenn before becoming President of Johns Hopkins. During his tenure, alum Michael Bloomberg gave the school $350 million. I could not find anything on his parents. Somehow I do not think either was a truck driver or factory worker, but who knows? We used to call these kinds of guys “golden boys”. They started out at the top and have spent their whole lives there. These people could be talented, but talent wasn’t enough. They also had and always made sure they had checked off all the right boxes in the great credentialdom of life. Daniels’ idea of democratizing Johns Hopkins is to widen its base from the top 5% to the top 10%. How socially conscious and forward thinking!

  17. Chuck Mire

    How misinformation overwhelmed our democracy

    “The Democrats don’t matter,” Bannon reportedly said in 2018. “The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with shit.”

  18. bruce wilder

    Sean illing, Vox:

    Despite the incontrovertible facts at the center of the story, the process will change very few minds.

    Regardless of how clear a case Democrats make, it seems likely that a majority of voters will remain confused and unsure about the details of Trump’s transgressions.

    Political journalism has always been all about the narrative. It is just that there was a time when journalists felt an ethical obligation to check the narrative against facts using a kind of reasoned, critical and intelligent judgement. The known facts constrained the narratives that could survive in a political discourse policed by ethical journalists.

    Some people may have noticed that Trump has been impeached for actions that are not clearly “transgressive” at least in a legal, criminal sense. Seeing what Trump did in asking Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma as a crime, or even just a violation (shared?) political norms, requires certainty as to Trump’s motive in doing so. Motive is a treacherous element of narrative construction, because people generally act not with clear and singular motives but with mixed motives and often murky intent and expectations for both the consequences of their own actions and for what their own next actions will be.

    For the Democrats’ narrative to work as a generator of righteous outrage, one has to believe that Trump wanted Ukraine to manufacture a scandal falsely accusing an innocent Hunter Biden of involvement in a corrupt scheme of peddling his father’s influence. That Hunter Biden actually did figure in peddling his father’s influence and that influence was used to protect Burisma in dramatic fashion in one instance involving his father is a big, factual obstacle to the Democrats’ preferred narrative. Moreover, the facts of the case do not establish that Trump was seeking any but an honest investigation, nor that he was wholly self-serving and not acting also within his official capacity to encourage Ukraine to root out corruption (just as Biden was supposedly fighting corruption when he pressured Ukraine to end an investigation of Burisma).

    Sean Illing writing for Vox basically takes a partisan position.

    The left overwhelmingly receives its news from organizations like the New York Times, the Washington Post, or cable news networks like MSNBC or CNN. Some of the reporting is surely biased, and probably biased in favor of liberals, but it’s still (mostly) anchored to basic journalistic ethics.

    In what alternate universe do “basic journalistic ethics” figure in the production of political news and opinion at the named outlets? CNN and MSNBC engage daily in exactly the flood of fact-lite largely groundless speculation that wearies any one trying to learn anything.

    Sean goes on to claim the “Uranium One” story of how a Canadian businessman used donations to the Clinton foundation to pave the way for a sale of an American business property to a Russian state company was never “debunked” — it happened. The supposed “debunking” is a narrative shibboleth of the Clintonistas, who are sure that the Clinton Foundation “did good work” without being able to specify what that may have been.

    Finally, Sean identifies the villains of his piece in classic narrative constructive technique: Bannon and . . . (wait for it!) . . . Putin.

    Russia,Russia,Russia will never die!

  19. Willy

    @bruce wilder,

    To put it oversimply, I see the two polarized sides of which you speak as:

    1. Mostly white zealots who believe that America is on a mission from God (and/or Ayn Rand), with the other side inhabited by evil demons.
    2. Steven Pinkerish “liberals” who believe that most good things come from the secular.

    I see things this way because I deal with mostly such out in meatspace. How can one possibly reconcile the two?

    Or, how would you describe the two polarized sides?

  20. StewartM

    Bruce Wilder

    In what alternate universe do “basic journalistic ethics” figure in the production of political news and opinion at the named outlets? CNN and MSNBC engage daily in exactly the flood of fact-lite largely groundless speculation that wearies any one trying to learn anything.

    I think you see this even more clearly in the Warren-Sanders bruhaha. There you have a story that it was easy to establish from the get-go that as there were no others in the room to record the conversation there could be no confirmation or denial. There was only hearsay evidence and moreover, what was recorded from all sides that there was no indication of either illegality or unethical behavior by either party.

    Yet despite this lack of traceability, despite this lack of any public ‘need to know’ (because there is no evidence of criminality or unethical behavior), despite the fact this was all just hearsay, CNN ran the story. Excuse me? What ‘journalist ethics’ or journalist good practice is CNN displaying here? This is an obvious attempt to damage at least the Sanders campaign, and maybe the Warren campaign as well, to clear the way for Biden and/or Mayor Pete or some other centrist Dem empty suit.

  21. Hugh

    On a more serious note, I thought Queen Elizabeth wrote a very gracious letter to Harry and Meghan thanking them for reminding everybody what an atavistic, over-priced legitimizer of a toxic class system the British monarchy is. I was equally persuaded by the cogent argument of Canada’s Globe and Mail that Harry and Meghan could not live in Canada as royals as this would contravene the country’s goofy concept of an abstract monarchy with, you know, reality. With these weighty issues laid to rest, please return now to your previously scheduled programming.

  22. StewartM


    People who support meritocracy should be careful what they wish for.

    I wouldn’t call the links you provided as necessarily damning to the notion of meritocracy; instead, I see them as a damnation of the individualization of merit.

    First of all, most of our leaders didn’t get to where they are because of merit–birth and circumstances are over 90 % of how much money you will make. Secondly, even those who had merit generally had a large luck or random variable to attribute to their success.

    But lastly and most importantly, the idea that one person claims themselves to be the reason for success of any group endeavor I object to (one could maybe make an exception for purely individual endeavors, like being the word’s top pianist). A brilliant general leading an army of troops poorly trained and ill-supplied and having low morale will lose to one less brilliant but having all the latter advantages, to cite just one example of many.

  23. Z


    I don’t think that information was leaked to CNN to damage the Warren campaign. Liz Warren was no innocent bystander in this whole matter. She is the one who instigated it.


  24. StewartM


    Not necessarily inferring that, my main point was that CNN going public with it breaks all those ‘rules of good journalism’ that professional news organization adhere to.

    As for Warren campaign—often, in pissing contests in a multi-candidate race, the two engaged both lose. I listened to Michael Moore’s critique of Warren yesterday, and I believe all of it, but I do note that Wall Street and Obama seem to detest Warren almost as much as they detest Sanders, which counts for something in my book. If this is a deliberate ploy by her it’s risky at best and stupid at worst.

  25. Z


    Well, Wall Street “hated” Obama too.

    If it comes down to Liz Warren and Bernie Sanders, I imagine that the Wall Street boyz won’t be hating so much on Liz Warren anymore.

    It was a private meeting between Bernie and Warren in 2018, just the two of them, when they had this conversation in which Warren says that Bernie said a woman wasn’t electable. It just came out now. If Bernie didn’t leak it, and I think it’s pretty safe to say he didn’t, then who did?


  26. bruce wilder

    Willy: . . . how would you describe the two polarized sides?

    It seems to me that “polarization” means that people who are the polarized describe themselves as identified with one pole in contradistinction to some caricature of other, scorned group(s) of people. The polarized cannot and will not understand their chosen Others, and their caricature of their chosen Other is built on a passionate commitment to both scorning and not understanding the interest or points-of-view of people they lump together as their caricatured Others.

    It isn’t just the caricature of the Other that defines the polarized, it is also the positive adoption in declarative certainty, of beliefs that are presumably not shared by the caricatured Others. This sharpening of differences satisfies some need, I guess.

    The essence of polarization is an implication that “we” are the good people and “they” are bad and (just as important) inexplicable to us.

    A politics of opposed interests and varying ambivalence isn’t polarized. You can be a prospering businessman critical of workers joining a union without regarding then as inexplicably “other” in their values or ambitions. You can be secular but respectful of religious practice. And, so on.

    “Polarization” is not natural to politics or organic. There are no naturally opposed groups, as there might be in conflicts between classes, say employers and wage workers, or between religious and secular subcultures or among differing ethnic subcultures following differing philosophies. “Defining” the groups arrayed at opposite poles is a strategic choice by those doing the polarizing.

    I am not doing the polarizing, so I am not the one to define the opposing poles. I am simply observing where I can how it serves the interests of very wealthy people and powerful business corporations to have the population polarized.

  27. Willy

    @bruce wilder

    Well, I have experienced intentional attempts at polarization on smaller scales, usually by an office sociopath sowing chaos with well-place rumors hoping that when everybody else was overreacting, that he might be perceived by his PTB as the lone sane one. I knew a guy who was good at giving derogatory nicknames to his rivals which stuck, in an otherwise educated office environment, which worked well at marginalizing them.

    This sharpening of differences satisfies some need, I guess.

    There are stories of kindly old retirees who get hooked into Fox News and become continuously angry and agitated when they should be enjoying their golden years. And I’m sure it happens with MSNBC too.

    And then I’ve heard that stressed people need cognitive closure, a need which increases with the stress.

    And of course everybody knows a conservative evangelical who may not be able to make cohesive sense of the Bible, but subscribes to every single Republican dictate as if they were all written By God Himself. The ones I know have given up Christian or Country radio stations for conservative talk, 24/7. Maybe there are SJWs out there the same but I don’t know any personally.

    And then there are the ones who are so naturally tribal that they keep their cities perennially losing sports franchises in business by buying season tickets even if it means wearing a bag over their heads. Maybe they cant think of another way to divert their thoughts away from their worries.

    I can only speculate. But I’m sure there are political operatives who are expert.

  28. StewartM


    I really don’t know who leaked it, but I really believe the fact it was *broadcast* by CNN had everything to do with it perceived as not helping Warren, but hurting Sanders, and maybe Warren too in the processs, for the benefit of Biden. (I think Micheal Moore shares this opinion).

    As for Warren-Obama-Wall Street, Obama at least reportedly didn’t like Warren:

    And I think Obama is speaking for Wall Street. Wall Street certainly hates Warren:

    Just within the last month, there may have been a truce. Look here:

    I would also note Wall Street is perfectly capable of distinguishing between mealy-mouth doubleplusgood speak aka the faux populism of something Obama or Clinton would say, as opposed to a possible threat. From 2016:

  29. Z


    Thanks for the links.

    Yes, I’m aware that the Obama Administration thought of her as a nuisance. I remember Obama … Obama! of all people … cut to the core about her too: “Elizabeth is a politician”. Yes, a poor one, a poor leader, and a poor person in regards to character IMO.

    I agree that Wall Street would prefer a different candidate, but I think there’s a big difference between the level of fear that they have for a Warren Administration compared to a Sanders Administration because Sanders believes in revolutionary social forces, while Warren is a process, go by the numbers legislative politician whose proposals they can largely defeat in committee.

    Warren worked with CNN to “leak” this info. She may have not made the phone call directly herself to CNN but her staffers were the source of the story. Again, how would they know what happened in a private meeting between only two people: Sanders and Warren? Warren told them and she didn’t exactly admonish her campaign for leaking it, did she?

    Anyway, I suspect that you probably agree with much of what I am saying.


  30. bruce wilder

    Adam Schiff: “The United States aids Ukraine and her people so that we can fight Russia over there so we don’t have to fight Russia here.”

    Yes, he said that.

    These people are insane.

  31. different clue

    Ian Welsh has said before that PM Trudeau may be considered a solid neoliberal. If that is so, then the prediction I will offer just about makes itself.

    First, I will offer the article this self-making prediction is based on. And here it is.

    Next I will make offer the self-making prediction. Of COURSE PM Trudeau will greenlight , permit, and enCOURage this largest-in-the-world new tar sands mine. Its just what neo-liberals do.

    If he approves this mine, my credibility will go up a little.
    If he forbids this mine, my credibility will go down a little.

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