Still trying to catch up: I’ve made it to the release of Robert Mueller’s redacted report

Early spring in western Massachusetts is progressing to the point I saw along the south shore of Lake Erie. I wish I could share more pictures but the roads here often offer no place to stop and while traffic is generally far from heavy, there’s just enough of it that it seems like a very bad idea to just stop where ever I see a picture I want to take.

My preference in color is not loud. I love the pastels and with the deciduous trees in this condition, I am treated to a lovely array of pastels. There are various greens, but also rouge and white hues, and also, of course, the browns. Then there is the very green grass, that was already—and despite a relatively (by recent standards) wet winter—beginning to turn yellow when I left California.

I think of returning to that yellow (after prolonged droughts, which Californians have suffered more as a rule than an exception throughout my adult life, it actually turns grey) grass and I want to retch. Oh, it rains here? Quit your bitching. I’d take it.

The situation for vegans in western Massachusetts is a bit more difficult than I anticipated and the Whole Foods in Hadley is disappointing (yes, I saw the vegan lemon mashed potatoes in the hot bar; I also needed a main course). But we need to know about Pulse, which is actually just down the road from Whole Foods. It has crucial vegan groceries in addition to mainly being a restaurant and juice bar. There is also Cafe Evolution in Florence, five miles away. Both have limited hours. Last, there is the Garden of Eat’n in Springfield—the menu here rotates on a weekly schedule so you may want to choose what day of the week you go.


I think I managed to put something of a dent in my backlog today. But it’s still there. And I”m tired.


Bernie Sanders

Edward-Isaac Dovere, “The 2020 Race Is Going Just Like Bernie Sanders Wanted,” Atlantic, April 17, 2019, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/04/bernie-sanders-thinking-he-will-win-it-all-2020/587326/

Alex Shephard, “The Impotence of ‘Stop Sanders’ Democrats,” New Republic, April 18, 2019, https://newrepublic.com/article/153605/impotence-stop-sanders-democrats


James Comey

There’s not much I can add to the coverage. I’m seeing a lot of the same analysis rehashed over and over.

Travis Andersen, “Did Trump obstruct justice? Here’s what legal experts are saying,” Boston Globe, April 18, 2019, https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/04/18/legal-experts-jury-still-out-whether-trump-obstructed-justice/k7ZTOzQlUIr8J5aOPx3LKP/story.html

Aaron Blake, “The 10 Trump actions Mueller spotlighted for potential obstruction,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/trump-actions-mueller-spotlighted-potential-obstruction/

Aaron Blake, “William Barr just did Trump another huge favor,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/william-barr-just-did-exactly-what-his-critics-feared-again/

Philip Bump, “What Attorney General Barr buried, misrepresented or ignored in clearing Trump,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/04/18/what-attorney-general-barr-buried-misrepresented-or-ignored-clearing-trump/

Allan Smith, “Mueller declined to charge Donald Trump Jr. for meeting with Russian lawyer,” Washington Post, April 18, 2019, https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/donald-trump/mueller-report-no-evidence-trump-knew-about-trump-tower-meeting-n995816

Del Quentin Wilber and Chris Megerian, “Mueller report suggests Congress should judge whether Trump obstructed justice,” Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2019, https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-mueller-report-obstruction-russia-investigation-20190418-story.html

Natalie Andrews, “Nadler Issues Subpoena for Full Mueller Report,” Wall Street Journal, April 19, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/house-panel-chairman-issues-subpoena-for-full-mueller-report-11555679263


Neoliberalism

Niklas Olsen’s description of neoliberalism[1] differs from mine. His encompasses the founders of capitalist libertarianism and their movement, conflating neoliberalism as we sort of know and understand it with a movement composed of folks who actually sometimes criticize neoconservative and neoliberal policies. There are two problems with that:

  1. The capitalist libertarians, sometimes affiliated with the Libertarian Party in the U.S., remain almost entirely outside government, their policy proposals never generally gaining traction with the general public. That’s just a fact. Further, capitalist libertarians embrace competition as spurring innovation; they oppose monopolies as stifling it.

    And they embrace the market as, they fantasize, a level playing field, where all have an opportunity to improve their fortunes, doing business putatively as equals.

    In practice, and as has long been recognized, the functionalism of capitalism—really, any system of exchange—is to exacerbate inequality. Even the slightest unevenness in that illusory playing field translates to leverage—in raw terms, power over others.

    What is that little bump that gives a few leverage? Property, for which money is a proxy. And these days that bump is like a canyon, with the larger part of us, stuffed at the bottom of that canyon (even literally: compare living units) and the lucky few on top of a mountain overlooking the canyon. The climb up is long and treacherous; nearly all fall back down the walls to the canyon floor.

    But this is part of what distinguishes capitalist libertarians from libertarian socialists: The latter recognize economic authority as a problem just like political authority. The former do not, so the evidence of inequality simply fails to move them: They simply advocate “freer” (always ask for whom to do what to whom?) and “freer” markets and as neoliberals cheerfully agree, we are caught in a spiral of deepening inequality.

  2. Neoliberalism as we know it did not clearly appear until about the time Jerry Ford was president (following the resignation of Richard Nixon) and looks very much to have coalesced with the near-bankruptcy of New York City, for which it was fashionable to blame liberal policies, and “liberal” becoming the “L-word,” equating the set of relatively-humane policies that is generally (only generally) credited with the recovery from the Great Depression with an obscenity.

    This is when, and I believe inevitably, capitalist libertarianism comes to power and lacking any moral basis beyond an “invisible hand,” finds it profitable to side with corporate power over workers and the general public. In the name of “competitiveness,” of course, “with the world,” of course.

    This is, of course, hypocrisy. But in remaining outside government, capitalist libertarians can’t be accused of that particular hypocrisy (oh, but there are others).

    And the two groups are in fact at odds on all of neoconservatism, which embraces neoliberalism as a moral imperative, but also often embraces war, which capitalist libertarians generally emphatically oppose, for example.

I appreciate Olsen’s history and certainly, from a socialist perspective, the distinction between mainstream Democrats and all of the Republican Party, never mind the distinctions between neoliberals, neoconservatives, capitalist libertarians, and for that matter, “New Deal” liberals, could be kinda hazy, maybe a mirage. Those of us a little closer to the field will have a different perspective.

That said, I didn’t treat neoliberalism as a separate tendency of conservatism either. It’s more a weird overlap between the corrupting influence of power, capitalist libertarian dogma embraced by neoconservatives as the U.S. system that must be protected at any cost, even to the extent of conquering an empire to keep the world “safe” for “capitalist democracy.”

Olsen’s interview is useful for his description of the idea, increasingly institutionalized, that the market is a “freer” (again, always ask for whom to do what to whom?) version of “democracy” than the political kind.[2] In it’s own way it derives from the incredibly reductive political affirmation of the ballot box as a means of expressing political power.

Having reduced elections to parties which have a chance of winning and parties which do not and referendums to contests between wealthy corporate donors to push through initiatives that for one reason or another cannot proceed through the relevant legislature, how can we really argue when someone claims a dollar is a vote?

Niklas Olsen, interviewed by Daniel Zamora, “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy,” Jacobin, April 6, 2019, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/neoliberalism-democracy-consumer-sovereignty


Mergers and Acquisitions

Hopefully you read the bit above. What inspired me to write it? Um, Elizabeth Winkler’s article.[3]

[Long pause.] Why?

Well, it’s like this. In general, neoliberal policy views labor unions as monopolies to be combated, but corporations as benign (“successful businessmen!”) and to be left alone (not “punished!”). Which is to say in pretty short order that the natural tendency of any exchange system to exacerbate social inequality[4] is now embraced with a policy objective being to exacerbate it at any cost. So on the one hand, Winkler sheds a bit more light as she takes for granted the weakened condition of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.[5]

On the other hand, given the predominance of neoliberal ideology in governance, I guess I’m really surprised that such big prosecutions of corporations would happen at all or that the corporations wouldn’t simply laugh it off, with a wink to the judge. I mean it would take only one of these proposed mergers to decide to fight and take it all the way to the Supreme Court where I’m sure there are Justices who will surely sympathize with the other folks they see on the golf course all the time.

Elizabeth Winkler, “Sprint and T-Mobile Brace for Disappointment,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sprint-and-t-mobile-brace-for-disappointment-11555596881


  1. [1]Niklas Olsen, interviewed by Daniel Zamora, “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy,” Jacobin, April 6, 2019, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/neoliberalism-democracy-consumer-sovereignty
  2. [2]Niklas Olsen, interviewed by Daniel Zamora, “How Neoliberalism Reinvented Democracy,” Jacobin, April 6, 2019, https://www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/neoliberalism-democracy-consumer-sovereignty
  3. [3]Elizabeth Winkler, “Sprint and T-Mobile Brace for Disappointment,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sprint-and-t-mobile-brace-for-disappointment-11555596881
  4. [4]David Benfell, “They must pay,” Not Housebroken, February 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/02/21/they-must-pay/
  5. [5]Elizabeth Winkler, “Sprint and T-Mobile Brace for Disappointment,” Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2019, https://www.wsj.com/articles/sprint-and-t-mobile-brace-for-disappointment-11555596881

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