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Open Thread 24-31 August

by Bjinse Mon Aug 24th, 2015 at 05:48:09 PM EST

Please keep calm and carry on chatting

US political media is going absolutely stupid about the 2016 election.  The latest Brain Wave from the nincompoopery is puffing a Biden/Warren run.  In short: not going to happen.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Tue Aug 25th, 2015 at 09:13:32 PM EST
Yes, people seem baffled by it. If Warren was going to jump in, she'd have done it already.  She'd be a perfect fit for Bernie and would lend credibility to Clinton.

But Biden? He's a good guy, but he's ever gonna be competitive with either of the two front-runners.

this sounds like a media led narrative entirely devoid of actual facts

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 26th, 2015 at 02:02:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What makes Biden a good guy?

This Warren thing is a pretty strange obsession in the chattering classes. She seems to have no interest in offering up up her integrity and human dignity just to keep the bezzle alive for a few more years. And good for her.

This whole process is fascinating. Imagine a Sanders - Trump contest. Most of all that would be a complete rejection of the opinion elite who imagine that for all practical purposes they are the people. Similar in scale to the Greek no vote.

by generic on Wed Aug 26th, 2015 at 07:50:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A Trump-Sanders race is my favorite. Sanders would win according to recent polls. Aside from early polls, how many think Latinos will forget and forgive what Trump has been saying. And how would the electorates in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California respond to adds showing Trump advocating a fence around those states? Who thinks Trump would come close to getting even 40% of women voters? The other great advantage of such a match-up would be to show the bankruptcy, irrelevance and impotence of the currently dominant MSM and the elites that control them.

Every nation has their own norms of expression, and, within those bounds, Trump is a US expression of the  character type Mussolini represented for Italy. Same easy ideological flexibility, same bloated ego, same strutting posturing and nationalistic posing, same self-absorption, etc. But I don't think the US electorate will be as receptive now as the Italian was then.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."

by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 08:42:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The US elections are leading the world in educating the electorate for new standards of political dysfunction and circus. Their 2016 election is surely breaking new grounds for dumb posturing. The circus with Trump, Hillary, another Bush (and a bunch of clowns that would had been laughed off even by Foxnews 15 years ago) might have been a fat dream of the same Fox-ish friends that same time ago.

I have seen this educative process in several countries in various flavors. The elections have almost nothing to do with what voters would really prefer. The media and political elites are in full control, even if they may seem clueless.

by das monde on Wed Aug 26th, 2015 at 09:10:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton: Candidates Are Related, According To Genealogists
MyHeritage.com's genealogy site Geni.com researched Donald and Hillary's families and found they are actually related through shared English ancestors.

Geni discovered the first Duke and Duchess of Lancaster are their 18th great grandparents. John of Gaunt, 1st Duke of Lancaster, married Katherine Swynford, Duchess of Lancaster, and John and Katherine are Donald and Hillary's shared 18th great grandparents. [...] "Their 19th great grandfather is King Edward III so there is precedent for ruling a country, it's in their genes..."

One more irony for the Tea Party... Jeb Bush is similarly related to  the British royals as well.
by das monde on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 02:45:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What an Actual Leader Would Say
I stand here, not to praise you, but to acquaint you with reality, at least as well as I am able. Perhaps that means I should be killed or at least run out of town. But if that's so, then so be it. I am tired of living a life other than my own - the pre-scripted, advertiser-generated life that is shoved before my eyes day by day. And I suspect that some of you are tired of it as well.

Please allow me to begin by pointing out that all the fights from all the platforms this election cycle will concern trivialities - Team Red versus Team Blue - and competing varieties of fears - terrorists versus outlawed unions versus less free stuff versus whatever works in your little corner of the world. At most, these are fights over personalities - He's an arrogant ass, she's a conniving witch, and so on  - all of which really come down to, "My opponent is scarier than I am."

[...] once we get past all the publicized fears - some real, but most imaginary - the dialog we're having, if we care to admit it, is mostly self-praise. We laud our great "democracy," even though not one in a thousand can define it. Or we brag about our wonderful "freedom" but avoid defining it, knowing that our definition wouldn't stand up to the test. Freedom is "what we have," and further questions are evidence of stupidity, bordering on treason.

by das monde on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 02:56:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by das monde on Wed Aug 26th, 2015 at 02:52:21 AM EST
A couple of things I've noted lately

Guardian - Carole Cadwalladr - Whatever the party, our political elite is an Oxbridge club

But the Oxbridge connection is more invidious than this and if it hasn't been considered worthy of comment during the leadership contest, it's in part because in Britain most people who do the commenting also went there. Oxbridge doesn't just dominate the Palace of Westminster but an entire political class. From the politicians and the special advisers to the political editors, pundits and thinktankees, there's a homogeneity of experience, of thinking, of networks, of power and of influence that has led to an in-crowd that doesn't even recognise it's an in-crowd. There's arguably more that unites our political elite than divides them. The last election was a battle between one Oxford PPE graduate (Cameron) and another Oxford PPE graduate (Miliband).

Of course, if you believe Oxford and Cambridge are simply our two finest universities, that they take the brightest and the best, and it's a matter of the natural order of things that their graduates should go on to govern us, none of this is a problem. But how can this be true? Just 7% of the population go to private schools and yet they take 44% of the places at Oxford, and 38% at Cambridge. What are we saying? That rich people are cleverer than the rest of us? That they're more able? That they deserve to rule?
(Though not many: between them, Eton and Westminster send almost twice as many students to Oxbridge as the whole of Wales.) But the problem with this is that it nurtures a dangerous myth: that we live in a meritocracy. It promotes the fallacy that Oxbridge is a means of channelling talent, rather than shoring up an iniquitous status quo. For those who get in, it's easy to believe we live in a country where hard work pays off.

But it simply doesn't. And Oxbridge is both a symbol and an enabler of that. Politicians and pundits have pat little phrases about "falling social mobility" and "increasing inequality", but this doesn't even touch what it feels like to be locked out. Almost an entire generation has been excluded from the life chances most occupants of the Palace of Westminster enjoy. Even within Labour, the Corbyn campaign noted this week, twice as many MPs went to a private school as come from a working-class background.

We've noted this before, but it mixes well with this

Scriptonite - Labour Rejected Me In The Purge, Then `Outed' Me In The Media As An `Infiltrator'

It is one thing disallowing registered supporters with a right-wing history, having gathered robust evidence that they are seeking to undermine the party. The case of conservative columnist Toby Young is one such example. But I would be against rejecting any new supporter, whatever their voting history (but especially social democrats) who seek to help build the party into a broad, popular, social democratic movement. By kicking out anyone who voted Green in 2015, they are basically barring the route back to Labour for disaffected social democrats.

Furthermore, if Labour don't win back these voters, they are sunk in 2020. Labour need to win an extra 106 seats in 2020 to gain a majority, an almost impossible task. But that almost impossible task becomes totally impossible without a mass, popular movement to reengage the public. Just 24% of people voted Conservative in the last election, 76% didn't. The largest gains went to socially democratic populists the SNP, who killed Labour in Scotland. The biggest losers were the Liberal Democrats, the only `centrist' party in town.

So why would the Parliamentary Labour Party NOT want to harness the power of a populist, social democratic movement? Especially when it is the only chance they have of regaining office in 2020.

It is becoming ever more clear that the Labour Party in Westminster has become a part of a permanent political class alongside their Tory and Liberal Democrat counterparts. Disengagement and voter apathy means a fairly stable job, a few seats lost and won either way each election and no big surprises. The chance to earn a great wage and pass policies which guarantee lucrative consultancy/director roles after politics. All done with the passive acceptance of a disaffected electorate, half of whom don't even bother to vote anymore. To this permanent political class, a popular movement based on social democratic values is about as welcome as a fart in an elevator.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Aug 26th, 2015 at 05:05:34 PM EST
By kicking out anyone who voted Green in 2015, they are basically barring the route back to Labour for disaffected social democrats.

For the Blairites that's a feature, not a bug.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 12:46:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Noah Millman in The Week.
Sure, he's a crony capitalist whose success depended on his connections and astute manipulation of the law (including the bankruptcy code). But how is that attack going to sound coming from Hillary Clinton or Jeb Bush?

Is it really too risky to have a commander-in-chief who says he would not rip up the Iran deal and would not make stronger moves against Vladimir Putin in Ukraine unless our European allies ask us to -- and yet soberly sensible to elect the chief architect of the Libyan debacle or a candidate who thinks it's a good idea to trumpet Paul Wolfowitz as one of his key advisers?

Or are we going to say we can't elect him because he's a jerk and a blowhard and has said awful things about women? Really? More awful than the things Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have said about gay people? More inflammatory than the things virtually every Republican candidate has said about Russia or Iran? (I'll take a leader who believes "Persians are great negotiators" over "Iran is run by a messianic suicide-cult" any day.) Or because he's a man with terrible taste? You don't think Trump would actually build a classier ballroom than Washington's got now? Have you been to Washington lately?

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 08:19:50 AM EST
Trump may well turn out to be the winner of the republican primary, he might even be the best candidate in the field.

But let's not kid ourselves that, if he won the Presidency, the rest of the world may make decisions about the collective sanity of America, and not good ones

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 10:46:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
may already have made those "decisions" about amurka. But then it's painful to watch what's going on in Germany as well.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Thu Aug 27th, 2015 at 06:29:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The Guardian: How will Labour top losing the election? By losing its own leadership contest (Frankie Boyle, Thursday 27 August)
Many people thought the Labour party would struggle to top the disaster of losing the general election, but it has silenced the doubters by somehow contriving to lose its own internal leadership election. Voters have signed up to support it, and Labour has reacted with a purge of such generalised unfairness that I'm almost starting to doubt that its leading lights really wanted to bring democracy to Iraq. It must be easy weeding out applications from those who don't share Labour values - surely the very fact that they've made a decision and put their name to it is a huge beacon saying "Outsider!" A party that sees enthusiasm as a negative - at least that's a quality that may win back Scotland.

Perhaps Harriet Harman's handling of the whole debacle is a brilliant piece of marketing designed to make whoever takes over seem like a genius. There's an easy way to find genuine Labour supporters - they boasted about voting Green in this election and kept quiet about voting Lib Dem in the last. Naturally, what Labour fears is not Tory entryism, but the horror of infiltration by the sort of people Labour is supposed to represent. Most columnists seem to feel that the party should plump for one of three fairly unpalatable options as at least they can win an election, just not this election, as there are too many people voting.


Leaders around the world are nervous about Corbyn winning and becoming PM, as they know every time they visit the UK he'll present them with another bottle of his homegrown elderflower champagne. I'm enjoying senior Tory peers calling Corbyn a "throwback". A guy in a horsehair wig wearing a cape, who got a job for life because his great-great-great-grandfather had a knack for picking out the healthiest slaves? We can safely assume that Corbyn is no longer on the establishment's Christmas card list. But he has been added to their other list, right below the crossed out name of Dr David Kelly.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Aug 28th, 2015 at 09:16:44 AM EST
Ha, you beat me to it

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Fri Aug 28th, 2015 at 01:37:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why the rich love Burning Man - Salon.com

In principle the annual Burning Man festival sounds a bit like a socialist utopia: bring thousands of people to an empty desert to create an alternative society. Ban money and advertisements and make it a gift economy. Encourage members to bring the necessary ingredients of this new world with them, according to their ability.

Introduce "radical inclusion," "radical self-expression," and "decommodification" as tenets, and designate the alternative society as a free space, where sex and gender boundaries are fluid and meant to be transgressed.

These ideas -- the essence of Burning Man -- are certainly appealing.

Yet capitalists also unironically love Burning Man, and to anyone who has followed the recent history of Burning Man, the idea that it is at all anticapitalist seems absurd: last year, a venture capitalist billionaire threw a $16,500-per-head party at the festival, his camp a hyper-exclusive affair replete with wristbands and models flown in to keep the guests company.

Burning Man is earning a reputation as a "networking event" among Silicon Valley techies, and tech magazines now send reporters to cover it. CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Larry Page of Alphabet are foaming fans, along with conservative anti-tax icon Grover Norquist and many writers of the libertarian (and Koch-funded) Reason magazine. Tesla CEO Elon Musk even went so far as to claim that Burning Man "is Silicon Valley."

by das monde on Sat Aug 29th, 2015 at 01:27:11 AM EST
reappears in the desert.

(BM is a long way from a few dozen artist weirdos at Baker Beach in "don't call it Frisco.")

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sat Aug 29th, 2015 at 06:04:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Reminds me of this essay (quoted in the Newsroom - h/t P.Krugman), with mentions of Musk, Norquist and the libertarian streak of many SV types:

Tech nerds are smart. But they can't seem to get their heads around politics. - Vox

Showing up means dealing with annoying people, many of whom are on your side. It means unpleasant compromises and second- or third-best solutions. But there's no way a new world can be born out of the old one without the midwifery of public policy. Musk may be several orders of magnitude smarter than most politicians, but politics is nonetheless the eye of the needle through which his enterprises must pass on their way to the promised land.
by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Aug 29th, 2015 at 03:58:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Tech nerds are smart. But they can't seem to get their heads around politics.
Tesla got off the ground in part because of US policy, including an early Department of Energy loan and an ongoing electric vehicle tax credit. SolarCity got off the ground because of policies like state renewable energy standards and net metering, and has gotten some of its biggest contracts with the US military.
Some say all Musk businesses and profits come from government support. In a practical sense, Musk is politically savvy in business like no one else. All the talk about dumb political failure to implement the revenue-neutral carbon tax is just hot air to Musk as well. In pro-active social politics, "givers" like Musk are more potent than Washington DC.

The "silicon" Burning Man illustrates the power of the gift-giving-for-status economy. The hunter-gatherer, socialist-anarchist and capitalist paradises might have a lot in common, once some part of human nature kicks in.

by das monde on Mon Aug 31st, 2015 at 07:28:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Burning Man founder: 'Black folks don't like to camp as much as white folks' | Culture | The Guardian

Burning Man founder Larry Harvey has countered criticism of the lack of racial diversity at the festival by saying that part of the reason there are so few black attendees (known as burners) is that "I don't think black folks like to camp as much as white folks".

In an interview with the Guardian, Harvey vowed that "we're not going to set racial quotas", defended the presence of rich Silicon Valley executives at the festival, and said he will personally go undercover this week to investigate the luxurious camps of ultra-wealthy tech bosses said by the New York Times to boast chefs, air conditioning and servants.

According to the most recent Black Rock city census, complied yearly by a team of academic demographers and anthropologists to determine the makeup of the festival, 87% of burners identified as white; 6% identified as Hispanic, 6% as Asian, and 2% as Native Americans (figures rounded) - on the latter of whose ancestral lands the event occurs. The smallest demographic of burners - 1.3% - identified as black. According to the census, which also measures income, this means that the temporary city is home to twice as many people who earn $300,000 a year as it is to black people.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sat Sep 5th, 2015 at 11:33:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But please don't take Larry out of context. (He's got black children.) He's not getting drawn into the racial debate, he's just saying what sociologists have also said, and trying to preserve artistic integrity.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin
by Crazy Horse on Sat Sep 5th, 2015 at 06:27:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wasn't my intention. Larry Harvey is not trying to justify anything nor trying to lure people based on "ethnic quota". Whatever you say or do, people not interested in BM won't be going.

Burning Man founder: 'Black folks don't like to camp as much as white folks' | Culture | The Guardian

Black burners are not an abstract concept for Harvey: "My family is half black," he said. "I see black people! And they're here. Though I got a lot of criticism for once saying, `Well I don't think black people like to camp'." Harvey's comment drew nervous laughter from other Burning Man staff and members of international media at a press conference before the Guardian's interview. "There are some historic reasons for that, especially in the United States."

Asked later to expand on this, Harvey told the Guardian: "Remember a group that was enslaved and made to work. Slavishly, you know in the fields. This goes all the way back to the Caribbean scene, when the average life of a slave in the fields was very short. And, so, there's that background, that agrarian poverty associated with things. Maybe your first move isn't to go camping. Seriously."

The rest of the year, Harvey lives in the historically black Fillmore neighborhood of San Francisco. "My wife is from Jamaica. My ex-wife. My stepchildren - and then there's my son. So, it's a biracial family.

by Bernard (bernard) on Sun Sep 6th, 2015 at 04:00:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Didn't mean you, meant people reading the article.

He's done pretty well keeping it focused on the arts, as it grew from a few dozen on the SF beach to many millions per year and 70,000 people living a week in a hostile desert.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Ana´s Nin

by Crazy Horse on Sun Sep 6th, 2015 at 06:51:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
An interesting story about flying around BM:

At Burning Man's Airport, There Are Propeller People and Jet People

by das monde on Mon Sep 7th, 2015 at 03:17:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Cable News Charnel - The Baffler

As usual, the private sector is certain that it can do the government's job more nimbly and efficiently. In a recent column, Rance Crain, editor in chief of Advertising Age--one of the foremost trade publications for America's most self-regarding content-creators--argued that to combat the forces of extremism, America's creatives must metaphorically enlist in the fight. The headline: "To Battle Isis' Message, We'll Need Slickly Produced Content That's Just as Compelling." Like any good evangelist, Crain set the stage for his big takeaway with a confession of crippling doubt and weakness. Yes, dear readers, our ad savant had previously questioned Madison Avenue's ability to make a dent in the war on radical Islam, but his readers set him straight:

After my first ISIS column ran, I got an email from Stephen Feldman, CEO of Feldman Integrated Marketing, challenging my notion that advertising wouldn't change minds in such a standoff: "An industry that spends over $500 billion per year to inform, educate, persuade and sell cannot change any minds?"

It's a fair point. The ad wizards who convinced a nation that Subway is health food have a proven ability to fight wars of competing ideas. But are they up to this particular task? Crain's modern-day Don Drapers go on to suggest that someone create an anti-ISIS video celebrating "non-violent" Muslim heroes, featuring "a powerful music track created by a global artist in collaboration with a young Muslim star." And then, perhaps, the Coca-Cola polar bears can shuffle endearingly into the scene to tell the kids to stay in school (unless, obviously, that school is a radical madrassa).

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Sep 1st, 2015 at 10:30:44 PM EST
Why doesn't Thomas Friedman every get taxi drivers like this?
We usually don't take a car," the yeshiva boy says to the driver, an older Irish man with a hearty laugh and a dapper straw hat. "But the lady was inappropriately attired (he winks at his date), in her heels I mean, so we had to -- "

The yeshiva boy's date cuts him off and leans forward to the driver, deciding to turn her frustrations into a joke: "Sir, he doesn't really care about the heels. It's my actual choice of attire that he finds inappropriate. My skirts are too short, it makes him nervous, he won't even call me by my name, you know how religious boys are..."

The driver turns the corner. "That's the problem with religion, it's sexist," he says, looking at her in his mirror. "I know because my parents were religious Catholics. It's all a bunch of sexist garbage."

by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 04:47:37 AM EST
The Independent
Five adult polar bears have ambushed a team of Arctic meteorologists working in an isolated area of Russia.

A meteorologist and an engineer are currently trapped in the Fyodorov weather station on Vaygach Island in northern Russia and have no means to deter the bears after an attempt to scare them off with flares failed.

One of the trapped scientists has said that the bears are sleeping near the station and have been seen to be aggressive, fighting with each other near the base.

Sounds like a job for Putin. Or does he approach wild animals only after his staff makes sure it is safe?
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 06:57:51 AM EST
speaking of Putin, a Guardian letter writer notes....

I see that despite Vladimir Putin's love of all things Russian and sanctions against the west, he works out with an expensive American-made gym machine that looks as if it's fresh out of the box - so fresh they did not have time to bolt it to the floor (Eyewitness, 31 August).

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Wed Sep 2nd, 2015 at 12:43:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anoraks vs Macs
The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, has authorised a trial of changes to the voting system in parliament in response to complaints that an influx of MPs with surnames starting with Mc are creating long queues in the lobbies.

In July the MP for Kettering, Philip Hollobone, said the arrival of 25 MPs with surnames beginning with Mc - many of whom were among the 50 new Scottish National party MPs joining the Commons after the general election - were contributing to delays in the time it took to vote.

Wot, so the scottish Labour MPs who lost their seats were no true Scotsmen?

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Mon Sep 7th, 2015 at 10:40:17 AM EST

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