Tuesday, May 31, 2016

UBI Referendum in Switzerland + Hollywood Looking Shaky

Switzerland will vote Sunday, June 5 in a referendum on a modest -- $2,500 a month for adults, $625 for minors -- universal basic income (UBI). The UBI is gaining a toehold in public debate now that it is becoming apparent that remunerative, meaningful work for the masses is a thing of the past.

A pro-UBI statement by Daniel Raventos and Julie Wark can can be found in "Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe"; a con-UBI pronouncement is available this morning by The Times' Eduardo Porter in "Why a Universal Basic Income Will Not Solve Poverty."

Porter, believe it or not, makes some cogent points, foremost is one borrowed from Marxist ontology, that work is how we communicate our being. People need work in order to live meaningful lives. Warehousing people in favelas with access to high-speed Internet sounds more like The Matrix than a post-scarcity Utopia.

Then there is Porter's assessment of the cost:
Its first hurdle is arithmetic. As Robert Greenstein of the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities put it , a check of $10,000 to each of 300 million Americans would cost more than $3 trillion a year.
Where would that money come from? It amounts to nearly all the tax revenue collected by the federal government. Nothing in the history of this country suggests Americans are ready to add that kind of burden to their current taxes. Cut it by half to $5,000? That wouldn’t even clear the poverty line. And it would still cost as much as the entire federal budget except for Social Security, Medicare, defense and interest payments.
Thinkers on the right solve the how-to-pay-for-it problem simply by defunding everything else the government provides from food stamps to Social Security. That, Mr. Greenstein observes, would actually increase poverty. It would redistribute wealth upward, taking money targeted to the poor and sharing it with everybody, including you and me.
As Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and one-time top economic adviser to President Obama, told me, paying a $5,000 universal basic income to the 250 million nonpoor Americans would cost about $1.3 trillion a year. “It would be hard to finance that in a way that wouldn’t burden the programs that help the poor,” he said.
Raventos and Wark come to the UBI from a completely different direction. They see it not as a replacement for work but as a guaranteed income, a buffer and bargaining aid for the increasingly pauperized average worker. It also helps solve the problem of demand in an economy that is increasingly one of automation.

If the Swiss pass their modest UBI on Sunday that will be a wonderful first step. I am skeptical it will pass. I think citizens of the West are just beginning to get a glimpse of the dystopia barreling their way and are not yet willing to put their shoulders to the paradigm shift wheel.


Though sales are up so far this year, the dream machine is beginning to sputter. Brooks Barnes reports in "‘X-Men’ and ‘Looking Glass’ Disappoint at Weekend Box Office" that:
Bombing was “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” which cost Walt Disney Studios $170 million to make. It took in $28.1 million, according to comScore, which compiles box office data. “We’re obviously frustrated and disappointed,” said Dave Hollis, Disney’s executive vice president for distribution. “Alice in Wonderland” arrived to $127 million in domestic ticket sales in 2010, after adjusting for inflation. 
But the misgivings in Hollywood extend beyond one disappointing weekend, even one as important as Memorial Day. A troubling box office trend started last summer and has only become more pronounced: The riches are not flowing evenly — four of the six major movie factories are struggling — and only expensive event films seem to be drawing crowds, with many general purpose, middle-tier movies being virtually ignored despite aggressive marketing. 
What seems to be succeeding are familiar and liked brands (Marvel’s “Captain America: Civil War”), bold interpretations (“Deadpool,” “The Jungle Book”) or movies that are events for a particular audience (“Miracles From Heaven,” “The Angry Birds Movie”). Increasingly lost in the mix are films aimed at older audiences or designed as alternatives to effects-driven spectacles: “The Nice Guys,” “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot,” “Money Monster,” “Mother’s Day,” “The Finest Hours,” “The Boss,” “How to Be Single,” “Hail, Caesar!”
Studios have long fought through hits and misses. The worry is that audiences — unhappy with rising ticket and concession prices and increasingly bivouacked in their living rooms — seem to be saying that an entire section of studio output is no longer viable in theaters: Unless it’s a must-see movie, we’ll catch it on Netflix.
The superhero blockbuster is all we are now willing to gather together to celebrate. We have a great longing for justice and transcendence. But for the most part we prefer the solitude of our personal big screens.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Hippies vs. Punks: Souled American's Flubber (1989)

Souled American's Flubber (1989) is a gem I discovered by happenstance the summer of 1990 in a used record store, long shuttered now, near the University of Washington. It was a cassette I took East with me when I went back to New York City that autumn to attempt to salvage my marriage.

Flubber turned out to be a Bush-I era staple of mine. Saturdays, hungover and drinking rich black coffee that I made in one of those aluminum espresso pots inexpensive and widely available in New York City bodegas, I would read from a stack of newspapers accumulated during the work week, maybe a little philosophy too, and wallow in the cracked, tilting, dilatory, burbling and mellifluous sounds of Souled American.

Souled American hailed from Normal, Illinois (a college town of approximately 50,000; home to Illinois State University) and were alt country before the appellation was common. The band walked a razor's edge between high art and lampoonery. In this, Souled American is reminiscent of '60s ersatz Folkies the Godz; the band prefigures Will Oldham's output as well.

The first five cuts on Flubber are stunning. Unfortunately, the only track of the first five available on YouTube is "Wind To Dry":

(The YouTube at the top of the post contains tracks from the album's deliciously soporific second half.)

Souled American's four-album Rough Trade output coincides with the Grunge Age and the presidency of Bush I. It was still possible, though becoming more difficult, to pursue a humble life of small town bohemian creativity. With the "adjuncting" of our universities, the offshoring of much of our industry, the "Amazoning" into obliteration our record stores and bookshops, and the "Walmarting" of our commercial spaces, there is no place left for the penurious bohemian to hang his hat and make his art. Like a polar bear swimming in the sunny Arctic Ocean looking for an ice floe to catch a breather, the bohemian is in real trouble these days. Everyone is hunkering down hoping merely to survive.

Listening to Flubber all this week I couldn't help but smile because I remembered how it felt when I was a young man and I thought that the future was open and roomy, pregnant with possibility. Sure, work was horrible. But I had alcohol and the weekend and my aluminum coffee pot and a stack of books. There was plenty of time to figure a way out of the rat race and paint that masterpiece.

Of course the future has a tendency to disappoint when it actually presents itself. And that is what is so satisfying about the past. It allows us access to a beautiful dream of a future that never appeared.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Some Thoughts on the Gig Economy and Autonomous Vehicles

A nasty piece of work was in the office last week. There was a telephone interview scheduled with one of the U.S. senators representing the state. The nasty piece of work announced herself as the campaign manager for the senator. While we were waiting for the senator to call in from Washington D.C. (at which time I would put the call on hold and walk over to the board room where various union reps were seated around a large conference table and pick up the line and put it on speaker) I chatted with the campaign manager.

I do a lot of this. I call it "fluffing." Judges, state representatives, candidates for lands commissioner and superintendent for public instruction, etc., come into the office to be interviewed for an endorsement and they sit and wait in a little area near my desk.

The conversation is about the climate, both political and meteorological. There has been a lot discussion about the unusually warm spring we have had in the Pacific Northwest. I have lived here for nearly 25 years, and I have never been through an April as sunny and hot as the one that just passed.

Most of the talk is about the volatile political shift underway. Trump is on the rise and Hillary is a smelly corpse, but the pols just cluck and smile and act as if everything will snap back to the same old, same old after the fall.

With the campaign manager I disagreed politely. I said Trump's appeal was understandable. He was lying through his teeth; but people are scared and willing to be seduced because everything is turned upside down. Look at the gig economy and the rapidly approaching fleet of autonomous vehicles, said I. People don't see a future for themselves.

The campaign manager poo-pooed me. She said all those stories about self-driving cars and fleets of robot tractor trailers were merely public relations fodder for the business pages. She alleged that the tech wasn't even in the beta stage. Besides, she said, even if it were true, labor could rely on stalwart friends like the senator (who voted for every free-trade agreement to jostle down the sluice) to protect our jobs.

That left me speechless.

A must-read story by Mike Isaac and Neal Boudette, "Automakers Befriend Start-Ups Like Uber, Girding Against a Changing Car Culture," appeared today, and I wish I could forward it to the campaign manager, particularly this handy synopsis of the huge investments and partnerships presently being formed between the tech and auto giants.
In January, General Motors invested $500 million in Lyft, the ride-hailing app popular with American users, with a focus on developing networks of autonomous vehicles. Ford Motor is making over its Dearborn, Mich., headquarters into a Silicon Valley-like campus of green buildings connected by self-driving shuttles. 
And a few weeks ago, Fiat Chrysler and Google agreed to produce a test fleet of driverless minivans. Both BMW and Mercedes-Benz have started to pilot ride services. 
Even other technology companies only tangentially related to automobiles are becoming more involved in ride services. Apple, which is working on its own autos project, said this month it had invested $1 billion in Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-hailing company that competes fiercely with Uber.
The scale of ride-hailing as a phenomenon is encapsulated in China. Uber operates in more than 30 Chinese cities with plans to expand to 100 by the end of the year. Didi is in well over 300 cities and towns throughout the country. 
Last June, Uber said it had approximately 20,000 regular drivers in the Chinese city of Chengdu alone, on par with the approximately 22,000 drivers in San Francisco and 26,000 in New York at the time.
The gig economy is here to stay. Next, sooner than most think or care to contemplate, the labor component of the gig economy will be swapped out by machines.

But a contradiction at the heart of the gig-to-robot revolution is few will earn enough money to actually buy an automobile. Fordism meant paying the worker on the assembly line enough money to purchase the product he was helping to produce. This ends with gig-to-robot.

Don't the captains of industry see this? How can you maintain growth when the workforce is constantly shrinking? Maybe the answer is that low growth/no growth is no longer a problem if the super-rich keep gobbling down a greater chunk of the pie. This has certainly been the situation post-Lehman.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Mainstream Wins in Austria, But for How Much Longer?

When all the absentee ballots were tallied yesterday, Austria ended up electing the pro-European presidential candidate, Alexander Van der Bellen, over the ultra-nationalist Freedom Party candidate, Norbert Hofer. It was close: 50.3% for Van der Bellen, compared to 49.7% for Hofer.

Like the National Front's performance in France's regional elections in December, Austria's Freedom Party wasn't able to follow up an impressive first-round showing by closing the deal with the voters in the final round. The mainstream media shields the status quo and is able to provide the margin of victory in close elections, as Alison Smale hints in "Austrian Far-Right Candidate Norbert Hofer Narrowly Loses Presidential Vote":
The parties of the center left and center right that governed for most of the past 30 years in ever-duller grand coalitions were trounced in the first round of the presidential elections last month, when Mr. Hofer stunned rivals by reaping 35.1 percent, well ahead of Mr. Van der Bellen with 21 percent. 
Sunday’s runoff turned into a cliffhanger as the popular vote was counted and showed an ever-narrowing lead for Mr. Hofer. The Austrian public broadcaster ORF projected that Mr. Van der Bellen would win by just 3,000 votes when the record number of requested mail-in ballots was counted on Monday. 
That projection — and the tone of some of the ORF reporting on the election — was heavily criticized by the Freedom Party. It was not clear if there would be legal consequences, but the party’s attitude illustrated the country’s deep divisions.
The same dynamic is discernible in the campaign against Brexit. Fear of the unknown is amplified. The specter of capital flight is sketched. The Leavers are cast as callous capitalist Bentley-driving playboy real estate moguls (Brit mini-Trumps). But nowhere is heard a sonorous call for a united Europe. Best to avoid the topic of what the European Union actually stands for. The European Dream that was peddled in the aughts turned out to be a grift. There must be a rupture, as Stathis Kouvelakis explains in "What’s Next for Nuit Debout?":
I also believe at a more programmatic level that this is the challenge we’re confronted with at the current moment: we cannot settle for an anti-neoliberal platform listing a set of immediate demands — in reality, a trade unionist–like program. What we need is a real political alternative, identifying the points knotting together the current situation and the class adversary’s own strategy. 
That means, for example, that we must absolutely aim at the end of presidentialism and of the Fifth Republic, but also at the dismantling of the European Union, which is capital’s genuine war machine at the continent-wide scale. Without a rupture with the EU we will never arrive at any solution, as the disaster of Syriza in Greece definitively confirmed.
Bernie Sanders must take his campaign all the way to Philadelphia, and we need a Chicago-'68 type of eye-opener there.

We're at a 50-50 split in the West. Corporate domination of the media adds weight to the status quo half creating the illusion of a majority.

But it can't last too much longer. The status quo isn't anywhere near granting even the smallest "trade unionist–like program" of reform that might buy the rulers a little wiggle room. The direction we are headed promises even more wars, more refugees and less stable employment. The economy coming our way is the gig economy where we compete with robots to do piece work organized by a smart phone app.

We might not be there yet in 2016, but the revolution, some kind of major upheaval, is coming.

Monday, May 23, 2016

U.S. Desperation in the Death of Mullah Mansour + Western Corporate Media Supersede Political Parties

One thing to keep in mind when you read statements that the United States didn't pre-clear with Pakistan the drone attack that killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour is that the same thing was said about the killing of Osama bin Laden, and Seymour Hersh exposed that as an Obama administration lie.

The Pakistanis were part of the plan to execute OBL from the beginning. They didn't want to lose the financing their country receives from U.S. taxpayers. This leads one to believe that the Pakistanis once again were in the know. The reason given for Mullah Mansour's elimination is that he was not cooperating in peace talks with China, the U.S., Pakistan and the Ghani government; that he had turned into nothing more than a narcotics kingpin, a mafia don, the duties of war chief being handled by Sirajuddin Haqqani, a wholly-owned asset of Pakistan's Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Possibly.

As Mujib Mashal points out in his frontpager today, "Taliban Chief Targeted by Drone Strike in Pakistan, Signaling a U.S. Shift," one U.S. accomplishment in eliminating Mullah Mansour is it creates a contentious succession struggle among Taliban leadership:
One leading candidate would be Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of Mullah Mansour’s most feared deputies, who has largely been running battlefield operations in recent months. While closely linked to Pakistan’s spy agency, Mr. Haqqani would struggle to gain the support of the wider Taliban as his small but lethal network has only in recent months fully integrated into the larger insurgency.
An illuminating way to understand the demise of Mullah Mansour is the desperate situation of the American project in Afghanistan. Pro-government militias are battling one another in the north, while in the south police are defecting to the Taliban. Protests roil Kabul. Cutting the opposing king's head off is an effective way to buy yourself some time.

The best thing I read over the weekend, the best thing I have read in a while, is the interview of Stathis Kouvelakis, "What’s Next for Nuit Debout?," that appears on the Jacobin web site. It is long, but it is worth the slog. Kouvelakis shares many keen insights. One that I thought was particularly acute was his discussion of "Bonapartism without Bonaparte." The political parties in the West -- France, Austria, Britain, Greece, Spain, the United States -- have become so hollowed out that now the media fulfills the classic function of the political party:
The concept of authoritarian statism also adds something, here, in that it places emphasis on the material transformations of state apparatuses, and not only the development of superstructures, the crisis of political representation, and the manner of its resolution. The media apparatus in part fulfills not only the role of spreading the dominant discourse, but also the role of reorganizing the political terrain. That is something the classic parties of the dominant classes are no longer able to do, given that they are extremely weakened and discredited. 
We clearly see this in Latin American countries where the media are truly the political nerve center of the dominant power bloc — much more so than the greatly weakened bourgeois political parties — and also in Italy with Berlusconi. Yet this is also true of France, with Sarkozyism and with what’s now happening as oligarchs with a multiplicity of ties to the state and political personnel take control of the most important media.
This has certainly been the case with the 2016 U.S. presidential primaries. The Gray Lady has carried Hillary's corpse on her back throughout the primary; and prior to his dropping out, she did the same for Marco Rubio.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Hippies vs. Punks: Diskaholics Anonymous Trio

The first three weeks of May have not been kind to me. The worst was last weekend when I basically didn't get out of bed. Was I sick? Yes. But sick in the head not in the body.

Periodically I will experience a "mind bomb" (a term borrowed from Marvel Comics). A mind bomb, self-induced paralysis brought on by the contemplation of the absurdity of one's existence, usually only lasts one evening. This one ran from Friday night until the early hours of Monday morning. It was brought on by the realization that I am going to have look, yet again, for another job because my present one is not sustainable.

When I was in this catatonic state, the mere thought of listening to a conventional song -- classical, jazz, but particularly pop/rock -- nauseated me. This set me thinking about how songs are like sex. They anesthetize and propel simultaneously.

I wanted none of it. I wanted to contemplate my stress. Fortunately for me, Saturday morning I stumbled upon At Ystad Konstmuseum 2000 (2001) by Diskaholics Anonymous Trio, a glorious hour-plus of noisy droning.

You would expect to find more about Diskaholics Anonymous Trio online, but there is surprisingly little. The blurb on the Project Free Music web site is about as good as it gets:
Diskaholics Anonymous Trio is Thurston Moore and Jim O'Rourke from Sonic Youth and the Swedish free jazz icon Mats Gustafsson. The trio released their first self titled album in 2001 on Crazy Wisdom/Universal. Weapons of Ass Destruction, their second album, is released worldwide on Smalltown Superjazzz. DA Trio creates a pulsing, massive and monumental sound. Free-jazz, noise, electronic ambience, Tony Conrad 60`s style minimalism, drone music and punk all mixed.
In addition to At Ystad Konstmuseum 2000, and Weapons of Ass Destruction (2006), there is also Live in Japan Vol. 1 (2006).

If the Hippies pioneered a psychedelic ballroom sound, what is known as the San Francisco Sound (what I have opined elsewhere as being a sonic landscape of the San Francisco Estuary), and that sound was a blues/folk-based saga of nature and time in harmony, then Diskaholics Anonymous Trio project a view of nature that is both sub- and super-, both under/below and above/beyond our planetary ecosystem.

It is not a pretty picture -- it is free-jazz noise -- but it is satisfying, particularly in these end times.

One day last week I was walking home after work. An attractive young woman passed me on the sidewalk strolling in the opposite direction. She was talking on the phone. It struck me then and there that never in our 200,000 years as a species have we been in such a state of constant communication. This is not natural. It is not sustainable. Things are already fraying. My guess, my hope, is that some big correction is on its way.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The New York Times

The New York Times has become almost unreadable. Always slanted, now, I believe, because of the obsolescence of newspapers, it has decided to stake its commercial future on becoming entirely a government organ.

It used to be just recently that a reader of the Gray Lady could at least follow developments overseas, for instance the unfolding battlefield of Syria or the coup in Kiev. No longer. Now the paper hopscotches from country to country -- a story about the collapse of the Ghani government in Afghanistan one day, a tiny report on the nightly street protests in Paris the next -- without following one country day after day. The only exception that comes to mind, and this because of the USG's revanchist agenda in South America, is NYT's coverage of Brazil's impeachment circus.

Pakistan is hardly ever reported on. The quality of coverage on the upcoming Brexit vote has been poor, as has the political upheaval underway in Germany. A reader has no idea what is happening in Yemen or Ethiopia or Libya, and very little about what is going in other hot spots, whether Syria, Iraq, the Donbass or southern Turkey; and when it comes to "official enemies" Russia, China, Iran and Venezuela, the news is cartoonishly vile.

The sense I have is that the world's political structure is shaking as if experiencing an enormous earthquake, and the response of The Times is to occlude this occurrence as much as possible -- and this goes without even mentioning the paper's shameless boosterism of Hillary Clinton.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Presidential Elections in Austria and the U.S.: There is No Longer a Majority in the Political Center

There is an interesting article, "Long Dominated by Center, Austria Splinters to Left and Right," by Alison Smale about this coming Sunday's presidential runoff in Austria between the far-right Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer and the independent former Green Alexander Van der Bellen.

What caught my eye is the passage that summarizes the vote totals of the two long-ruling, establishment parties in the first round -- the center-right People's Party and the center-left Social Democrats:
The forces that vaulted Mr. Hofer into the spotlight are evident across much of the Continent, where many traditional parties in the center are embattled and voters are signaling increased discontent with politics as usual. Austria could be a test case for how far voters will go to demand change as immigration joins with diminished economic security and resentment of entrenched elites to create a combustible political mix.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front is polling far ahead of the governing Socialists, and President Fran├žois Hollande’s approval ratings have slumped as low as 13 percent a year before he faces another election.
To Austria’s east, Prime Minister Viktor Orban rules Hungary with an authoritarian touch, and a conservative government in Poland is molding the news media and the judiciary to its taste. Germany is confronting growing support for the right-wing Alternative for Germany party, and the British referendum in June on whether to leave the European Union is cleaving Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives. That vote could turn on many of the same issues rattling politics elsewhere, including immigration, nationalism and disenchantment with the European bureaucracy in Brussels.
But the disruption has been especially pronounced in Austria, the crossroads of a troubled Continent. Despite having dominated politics since 1945, or perhaps because of that dominance, the two major centrist parties could not muster even a quarter of the popular vote between them in the first round of the presidential contest.
Mr. Hofer won 35 percent. Behind him was the former Green Party leader, Alexander Van der Bellen, with 21 percent. There has not been any polling for the runoff, but all indications are that the race will be tight.
While what is happening in Austria seems astounding -- imagine the Republicans and Democrats unable to achieve 25% between the two -- something similar is in fact happening in the United States, which has a diabolically complex 50-state system guaranteeing that there is no multi-party democracy.

Establishment Republicans -- Kasich, Bush, Rubio -- won a fraction of the GOP vote compared with frontrunners Trump and Cruz. Hillary is good for half the Democratic electorate. So all told, let's say the U.S. political center is polling at 37% nationwide. Not altogether different from situation unfolding in Austria. I'm sure if the U.S. had Muslim war refugees pouring into Penn Station that 37% would be much closer to 25%.

As anti-capitalist protests continue in France, it is no coincidence that Cold War is being repackaged at a time of paradigm shift. The same thing happened in the 1970s when neoliberalism began its ascent and the "excess of democracy" of the 1960s was beaten back. Now that we are being herded into a digital version of the same old "Washington Consensus" structural adjustment, the Russian Bear and Chinese Dragon are coming in handy once again.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hippies vs Punks: Childbirth's Women's Rights (2015)

If you want to know what the new West Coast tech hub feminist dispensation sounds like, it sounds like Childbirth's 2015 release, Women's Rights. Part early Black Flag, part Sonic Youth, the album clocks in at just under 26 minutes. The songs are irreverent -- tales of cocaine at baby showers, broken condoms, refulgent fertility, tech bros, etc.

I work with and for women who are all younger than I by at least a decade. The Childbirth vibe is their vibe. If, as James Brown sang in the 1960s "It's a Man's Man's Man's World," then now I would say it is something different. It is still a man's world. No doubt. The old bald white guy is still calling the shots from his sky box atop the pyramid. But women are playing an increasingly important role in late stage Western capitalism.

Women are definitely on the ascent. And let me tell you, they are not particularly gracious to a brother on his way down. Women feel a lot of pent up disdain and resentment, if not outright hatred and anger, towards men. "Loathing" might be the best term. I can bear witness as the only man at many a behind-closed-doors staff meeting.

Cry no tears for men though. We deserve every bit of bad news coming our way. There will be no Donald Trump helicopter rescue touching down in a green field to lift us off to safety as the boreal forest burns all around. No, it is all hellfire and sinks of sulfurous acid for us.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Trump Can't Win + Self-Driving Cabs Coming to a City Near You

With Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton the duopoly's presumed nominees, the best that we can hope for -- some sort of crash on the way to the coronation -- appears to be unfolding.

Trump is facing a row of very high hurdles. While RNC head Reince Priebus pledged fealty to the billionaire television phenom, GOP speaker of the house Paul Ryan has not. Ryan is the darling of the well-heeled funders of the Republican Party as well as an ideological fountainhead of what stands for conservative orthodoxy today. His refusal to back Trump is a sign that GOP paymasters are unwilling to climb aboard the "Make America Great Again" bandwagon and accept a reworking of Republican orthodoxy. This is very bad for Trump, who cannot or will not self-fund a general election with a $1 billion price tag.

The Bushes refuse to attend the GOP convention in Cleveland, as do the last two Republican nominees, Mitt Romney and John McCain. But there will be plenty of protesters. I got to see up close how this anti-Trump mobilization works. One of the big unions, say SEIU, gets a hint that Trump is coming to town. The central labor council is alerted. Resounding statements of resistance are communicated to the local press; members are told when and where to protest; and so on. There will be plenty of this in Cleveland.

To my mind the only question is how badly does Trump lose. Ten points? Probably not by that much. If Obama beat McCain by seven points in the popular vote in 2008, it is hard to imagine the cadaverous Clinton doing any better. On the other hand, if the GOP does split and possibly attempt a third-party campaign in key states, it could be a ten-point margin. How this impacts the Republican down-ticket is anybody's guess at this point.

For the Democrats, Hillary does just fine when she is out of the limelight. Bernie beat her in Indiana last week and he is going to beat in West Virginia tomorrow and in Oregon next week. But Clinton will be able to turn things around in New Jersey and California, concluding the primary season with a show of strength. One would hope that the anti-Hillary protests in Philadelphia will be as large as the anti-Trump rallies in Cleveland, but I doubt this will be the case.

So Hillary triumphs against Trump. The bigger issue though is the world around us. The neoliberal paradigm that has dominated the social sphere the last 40 years is falling apart. The main effort to keep it intact is a reboot of the Cold War. Both Russia and China are being engaged.

The New Cold War proceeds absent any public approval, as do combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq (countries where the U.S. is officially not in combat).

Perpetual war conducted in silence.

The biggest story I read over the weekend though was not about Trump or Afghanistan; it was about a driverless cab service premiering as soon as next year in an unnamed U.S. city. According to Neal Boudette and Mike Isaac in "Head of Fiat Chrysler Sees Self-Driving Cars in Five Years, Not 20":
General Motors and Lyft, the ride-hailing start-up valued at $4.5 billion, intend to test a fleet of self-driving taxis in an American city as soon as within a year, according to a person who has been briefed on the two companies’ plans. That would most likely begin using the technology inside the battery-powered Chevrolet Bolt, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about unannounced initiatives. 
G.M. and Lyft formed a partnership in January and said they planned to introduce “an on-demand autonomous network” of self-driving vehicles. A spokesman from G.M. and a Lyft spokeswoman declined to offer additional details about their plans. 
News of the taxi tests was reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
I have heard that more American workers are employed in driving-related jobs than any other type of work. Can you see the way forward for a zombie neoliberalism? Cold wars with China and Russia and robots doing the work at home. Doesn't seem too stable to me.