2:00PM Water Cooler 10/4/2017

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The United States imported more than $8.1 billion worth of solar cells from around the world last year, including $2.4 billion from Malaysia, $1.5 billion from China, $1.3 billion from South Korea, $854 million from Mexico, $519 million from Thailand, $513 million from Singapore and $204 million from Taiwan” [Politico].

“The U.S. auto industry says it’s a “steep curve” on the amount of domestic content (defined as parts made in the U.S. or Canada) when comparing American automobiles made by U.S. companies and those manufactured by foreign companies” [Politico]. “‘While American auto suppliers produce hundreds of billions of dollars worth of parts each year, they are used in a comparatively small portion of American vehicles,’ the American Automotive Policy Council said in a report out this month. ‘Only one in five models contains more than 55% domestic content. More than half of them contain 10% or less domestic content.'”



“Mark Cuban is ‘actively considering’ a run for President—7 other billionaires, CEOs and celebs may be too” [CNBC]. Please kill me now.

2016 Post Mortem

“How Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., Avoided a Criminal Indictment” [The New Yorker]. By using Clinton’s argument that if there’s no quid pro quo, there’s no corruption. Naturally.

“Exclusive: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin” [CNN]. Still struggling with the concept that a $100K Facebook buy neutralized the donor class. I mean, that puts the Presidency in range for the DSA, no?

Trump Transition

“[O]ver the past few years, one of the most positive things involving the federal government and technology has been the success of two similar (but also very different) organizations in the US government: US Digital Service (USDS) and 18F. If you’re completely unfamiliar with them there are plenty of articles describing both projects, but this one is a good overview. But the really short version is that both projects were an attempt to convince internet savvy engineers to help out in the federal government, and to bring a better understanding of modern technology into government” [TechDirt]. “And it’s been a huge success in a variety of ways — such as creating federal government websites that are modern, secure and actually work. And even though both programs are associated with President Obama, the Trump administration has been adamant that it supports both organizations as well, and they’re important to continuing to modernize the federal government. The offices are not politicized, and they have been some of the best proof we’ve got that government done right involves smart, dedicated technologist.” I pulled out the background material, but the thrust of the article is that Oracle doesn’t like anything about this.

“In partisan times, chief justice worries about the court’s image” [CNN]. After Bush v. Gore. Help me.

Stats Watch

ADP Employment Report, September 2017: “Hurricanes didn’t scramble ADP’s sample too much in September with their private payroll estimate at 135,000 which is very close to Econoday’s consensus for 140,000” [Econoday]. “The result is down sharply from August but is still constructive and consistent with a strong labor market, especially given the disruptions in Texas from Hurricane Harvey and in Florida from Hurricane Irma.” And: “below the consensus forecast” [Calculated Risk]. And but: “This month the rate of ADPs private employment year-over-year growth remained in the tight range seen over the last year” [Econintersect]. “When the goods sector of the economy is gaining more workers than historically – it is a warning that something is wrong. This is the second month in a row of the service sector weakness.”

Institute For Supply Management Non-Manufacturing Index, September 2017: “Orders and employment continued to rise through September in ISM’s non-manufacturing sample which is showing no worrisome effects from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma” [Econoday]. “Hurricane effects slowed deliveries very sharply, up 7.5 points to 58.0 and are a major contributing factor to the strength in the headline index (slower deliveries are positives in the index’s calculation). Input prices also show hurricane effects, up more than 9 points to 66.3 for the highest reading in 5-1/2 years. Inventories continued to build but at a slightly slower pace in a likely effect tied to hurricane-related transportation snags.” And: “This suggests faster expansion in September than in August” [Calculated Risk]. But: “Both services surveys are in expansion. The real question is why did employment come in so poorly the last two months from ADP? Did reality separate from these survey’s?” [Econintersect].

Purchasing Managers’ Services Index, September 2017: “Hurricane effects did little to slow down Markit’s U.S. service sector sample whose final September index, at 55.3, is up 2 tenths from the mid-month flash and down only 7 tenths from August” [Econoday]. “Production held at solid and sustained levels and new orders, driven by domestic demand, are near a 3-year high… Business confidence is still described as “robust” yet the level is the lowest in 7 months.”

Supply Chain: “Although it may be too early to collect any data from this second major hurricane in three weeks, Noel Perry, Partner at FTR and Senior Economist for Truckstop.com says the impact will be significant” [Logistics Management]. “Houston is a major manufacturing town, with the chemical plants right down on the water. In Florida, it’s mainly consumer activity. So, the effects in Texas will be heavily tank truck and railcar related, while in Florida it will be dry vans full of consumer goods and flatbeds full of wall board. Together Florida and Texas represent about 15% of the U.S. economy. The storm interruptions of those two economic engines, 4th and 2nd respectively among the states, will cost U.S. GDP about .5% in the third quarter of 2017.The two states account for about seven percent of U.S. trucking activity on a typical day and affect another four percent as important parts of truck trip circuits.”

Shipping: “Parcel, a technology-based, same-day and last-mile delivery company that specializes in delivery to clients in New York City is the latest addition to Walmart’s growing e-commerce business” [Supply Chain 247]. “Parcel also provides services like scheduled evening delivery and custom text message notifications for high-growth e-commerce companies looking to differentiate their customer experience.”

Shipping: “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has had little success in trying to open stores in some of the largest U.S. cities. In 2014, the company had no stores in New York City, San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle or Boston. It still doesn’t” [247 Wall Street]. “We examined some of the reasons Walmart was not able to build stores in some cities back in 2014. They range from union opposition, reluctant city councils and vocal voter opposition. In fact, New York City even sent a letter to the company requesting that Walmart stop making charitable contributions in the city. That was harsh…. But can New York ban Walmart from owning distribution centers outside (or inside) the city from which deliveries are made? Can unions win protests against opening warehouses outside the unions’ spheres of influence in large U.S. cities? Doesn’t seem likely to us.”

Shipping: “European Union antitrust regulators are moving aggressively to retrieve several hundreds of millions of euros in allegedly unpaid taxes from Amazon as Brussels cracks down on sweetheart tax deals that governments have granted to multinationals” [Wall Street Journal]. “The move against Amazon is over taxation in Luxembourg that was set in a 2003 tax deal with Amazon, one that regulators believe amounts to illegal state aid. The case highlights the complicated efforts multinationals are undertaking to rein in costs even as they expand internationally. That’s a big concern for Amazon as it looks to bulk up its presence in the U.K. and spread out across Europe.” Handy diagram:

Shipping: “America’s top investor is placing a long-haul bet on trucking. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. is taking a nearly 40% stake in the operator of Pilot and Flying J travel centers…, and plans eventually to take control of a business Mr. Buffett says is tied to the intractable need to move more goods ‘to more people.’ It’s the latest investment in traditional transportation at Berkshire” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “New research has valued the global container fleet market at US$14.4 billion by 2025, up from $8.8 billion in 2016” [Port Technology]. “Transparency Market Research (TMR), a market intelligence company, has found [sic] that the compound annual growth rate (CAGR) will be 5.70% during the period from 2017 to 2025…. With a share of more than 20%, the automotive industry surfaced as the leading end user of container fleets across the world.”

Shipping: “Rolls-Royce joins forces with Google in autonomous ship quest” [Splash 247]. “Rolls-Royce has signed a deal with Google to develop further its push for autonomous ships. The agreement, believed to be the first in the marine sector, was signed today at the Google Cloud Summit in Sweden. It allows Rolls-Royce to use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to further train the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) based object classification system for detecting, identifying and tracking the objects a vessel can encounter at sea.”

The Bezzle: “Fully driverless cars could be months away” [Ars Technica]. “According to Efrati, Waymo’s service is likely to launch first in Chandler, a Phoenix suburb where Waymo has done extensive testing. Waymo chose the Phoenix area for its favorable weather, its wide, well-maintained streets, and the relative lack of pedestrians. Another important factor was the legal climate. Arizona has some of the nation’s most permissive laws regarding self-driving vehicles.” A-a-a-n-n-n-d, six paragraphs in, here’s how they’re gaming “fully driverless”:

According to the Arizona Republic, a 2015 executive order from Gov. Doug Ducey ‘allows universities to test vehicles with no driver on board so long as a licensed driver has responsibility for the cars and can take control remotely if the vehicle needs assistance.’

Waymo is getting ready to take the same approach. The company has built a real-time command center that allows self-driving cars to “phone home” and consult human operators about the best way to deal with situations it finds confusing. The ability to remotely monitor vehicles and give timely feedback on tricky situations will be essential if Waymo hopes to eliminate the human driver from its cars.

So, the car is “fully driverless” except when it’s a drone. (And on the choice of snowless, pedestrian-free Arizona, see my comment yesterday on programmers trying to control their inputs when they can’t make their algos work.

The Bezzle: “6 Fresh Horrors From Equifax CEO Richard Smith’s Congressional Hearing” [WIRED]. “It’s hard to even hold all the failures and missteps in your mind at once, but each revelation makes the overall picture seem that much uglier.” So, naturally the administration awards them a no-bid contract with the IRS. They’re just toying with us, aren’t they? And good clean fun at the hearing:

The Bezzle: “Shareholders shrugging off Tesla Inc.’s plodding start with its newest electric car were backed up by the newest analyst to start covering the company, who instantly became the biggest bull on Wall Street” [Bloomberg]. “Investors excused Elon Musk for failing to deliver on another ambitious target. While the slower-than-expected initial production of Model 3 means a longer wait for reservation holders, it’s more important that the company get its first mass-manufactured car out without quality or safety issues than rush output to meet the chief executive officer’s lofty goals.” 260 cars, though? For perspective, Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Phillipe produces about 40,000 of its extremely expensive models per year. Maybe the Model 3 has lots of additional, er, complications…

Climate Risk: “The loss of economic activity from the twin storms will subtract 1.2 percent from the nation’s third-quarter gross domestic product growth, according to [consultancy IHS Markit]. However, recovery and rebuilding efforts should boost GDP growth in subsequent quarters, it said” [DC Velocity]. “‘The difference in cooperation between all parties this time versus earlier storms, such as Katrina, was very dramatic; most everyone was as prepared as possible, and relief efforts were well coordinated,’ said Charles W. Clowdis Jr., director-industry consulting for IHS. ‘Federal, state, local authorities, volunteers and other groups learned from the lessons of Katrina and were better prepared despite the uncertainty of both storms and the lingering rain from Harvey.'”

Mr. Market: “Dow adds to record rally as Tillerson dismisses ‘petty nonsense’ over ‘moron’ remark and recommits to Trump agenda” [MarketWatch]. It was fascinating to watch the latest episode of hysteria flower on the Twitter. First the scoop, then the punditry, then the death watch by the press… And all for naught. At least today. I can’t wait for tomorrow.

The Fed: “Trump is reportedly down to a final 5 in his search for the next Fed chair” [Business Insider]. Janet Yellen, Gary Cohn, Kevin Warsh, Jerome Powell, and John Taylor

Five Horsemen: “Big Tech is locked in a holding pattern, as the mania rotates to other sectors” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Oct 4

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 90 Extreme Greed (previous close: 92, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 77 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 4 at 11:49am.


“According to a report by the World Economic Forum, 8m tonnes of plastic is dumped in the sea every year” [Splash 247]. “‘If we continue doing so, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean,’ [Trond Lindheim, owner of SpillTech] warns, adding that the waste could enter and disrupt the food chain globally.” Sure, he’s talking his book. But…

“How did life on Earth begin? A study out Monday backs the theory that meteorites splashing into warm ponds leached essential elements that gave rise to the building blocks of life billions of years ago” [Agence France Presse]. “The life-giving potential of these so-called ‘warm little ponds’ was raised by the famed biologist Charles Darwin, who developed the theory of evolution, in a letter to a friend in 1871. ‘But if (and oh what a big if) we could conceive in some warm little pond with all sorts of ammonia and phosphoric salts, light, heat, electricity et cetera present, that a protein compound was chemically formed, ready to undergo still more complex changes,’ he wrote at the time.”

“What fruits and vegetables looked like before we domesticated them” [Business Insider]. “Wild carrots were likely cultivated around the 10th century. They were purple or white, very thin, with a very distinct, powerful flavor. Modern carrots are orange, thicker, brighter, and crunchy.”

Class Warfare

“What’s Behind America’s Disappearing Workforce?” [Supply Chain 247]. Not much in the article, but includes this handy chart:

“The States Cutting Their Government Workforce” [Governing]. “Nationwide, state governments employed just over 2.4 million workers as of March 2016, according to data released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau. That figure, which excludes education, started to drop with the onset of the Great Recession and currently mirrors employment levels from the early 1990s…. Looking back further, most areas of state government have experienced much deeper reductions since total employment peaked in 2009. Social insurance administration, which includes agencies providing unemployment assistance and job services, is down 12.5 percent over the seven-year period. Highways and corrections similarly incurred steep job losses that have yet to rebound. The one segment of the workforce that appears to be headed in the opposite direction is higher education.”

News of the Wired

“Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation” [Cosmos]. “In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi show that constructing a computer simulation of a particular quantum phenomenon that occurs in metals is impossible – not just practically, but in principle… The researchers calculated that just storing information about a couple of hundred electrons would require a computer memory that would physically require more atoms than exist in the universe. The researchers note that there are a number of other known quantum interactions for which predictive algorithms have not yet been found. They suggest that for some of these they may in fact never be found. And given the physically impossible amount of computer grunt needed to store information for just one member of this subset, fears that we might be unknowingly living in some vast version of The Matrix can now be put to rest.” So, the Silicon Valley elites are not only crazypants, they’re, well, morons, to use a word that’s very popular today. I hope these clowns do make it to Mars, and leave the rest of us alone.

There’s something very creepy about “Stimulus,” as opposed to “Stimulants”:

* * *

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

Chris writes: “Second crop of bananas were much better and a green branch (what do you call them) full of hands has been sitting for three weeks since I cut it down. I noticed this morning that almost the whole lot were just ready to eat, so time to bag and go around the neighbours.”

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About Lambert Strether

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


  1. allan

    “In partisan times, chief justice worries about the court’s image”

    But apparently one of the associate justices does not: Fake news comes to the Supreme Court [WaPo]

    At Tuesday’s argument before the Supreme Court about gerrymandering — the science of using map-drawing and Big Data to keep ruling parties in power even when a majority votes for the opposition — Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was searching for a way to uphold the unsavory practice. …

    And so Alito resorted to subterfuge. He waited until the closing minutes and hit Paul M. Smith, the lawyer arguing against the Wisconsin plan, with the last question of the argument. …

    The question baffled Smith, who said he would need to see the context.

    “Well,” Alito retorted, “that’s what he said.”

    No, it isn’t.

    I called Eric McGhee, the expert [Alito quoted], after the argument. The quote Alito pulled was not from the “seminal article” McGhee co-wrote proposing the legal standard for gerrymandering at the center of the case. It was from an earlier McGhee paper, using data from the 1970s through 1990s. In the paper at the center of the case, by contrast, “we used updated data from the 2000s,” McGhee told me, “and the story is very different. It’s gotten a lot worse in the last two cycles. . . . The data are clear.” …

    It’s not illegal if the president contempt of court if the judge does it.

  2. Mel

    “Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation”

    Definitely can’t model uncomputable phenomena. Might be easier to model the physicists’ belief that what they’re looking at is uncomputable.

        1. witters

          A wonderful book based on what he must have known was a false premise. Lucretius’ poem was already around and known.

    1. TK421

      I live in California, know absolutely nothing more about him than you do, and now intend to vote for him.

      1. RUKIdding

        I have heard his name and that he’s running on a Single Payer Platform.

        I can’t say absolutely that I’ll vote for him, but I’ll certainly give him very serious consideration after more research.

        I haven’t voted for DiFi since I don’t know when. Either I don’t vote for that Office on the ballot or I find some other less repugnant candidate to vote for.

        Hope this Hilldebrand proves to be a serious and worthy challenger.

        1. IsotopeC14

          Check out his Twitter @David4SenateCA – I don’t know of he or a staffer runs it, but the tweets are regularly amusing.

          I intend to vote for him absentee whilst in Deutschland. Wish I was registered in SF to vote for Stephen Jaffe, sadly I’m in lofgren’s district, someone primary her…

          It looks like Pelosi is having another town hall in DC, too afraid to see constituents again. no doubt Trevor Hill is not invited.

          “We’re capitalists, and that’s just the way it is”

      2. jo6pac

        Yes, I to live in Calli and will be voting for him and in my little world I will be voting for CD 10: Dotty Nygard. The demodogs had really great progressive run for the seat a few years ago but the threw him under the wheels of the dnc bus.

  3. funemployed

    If anyone happens to stumble across the workforce participation data from brookings in the form of a line graph that shows change over time, I’m pretty curious, but don’t have time to go digging at the moment.

    Also, if they gathered the data, don’t know why they wouldn’t just present it that way. I would.

  4. Wukchumni

    The worry about what’s coming to your town in rural America isn’t Wal*Mart, no sireeeebob.

    It’s Dollar General, which although it sounds like a dollar store, is in reality an up to around $50 per item store. They’re essentially the Wal*Mart equivalent of a 7-11 but a lot bigger than it’s slurpee-laced counterpart, a mini Wal*Mart, if you will.

    1. Jomo

      What’s the problem with Dollar General? It’s basically a General Store for a small town. My little town of less than 1,000 people has benefited greatly from the arrival of the store. We can now buy basic groceries, over the counter meds, and daily use goods right in town. Inventory is even rotated on a seasonal and holiday basis. Admittedly a lot of it is made in China, but before the arrival of the store we had to drive 20-30 minutes to the county seat to buy stuff made in China. We had no alternative. And a lot of older folks here really shouldn’t drive that far. Now they can walk or get taken by a neighbor.

      1. Wukchumni

        We’ve got a grocery store, pharmacy and mercantile already in town, and we’d just be repeating what’s already offered by Dollar General coming to town.

        A similar scenario played out in the next little big town over, that has about 4x the population of here. They weren’t so lucky and ended up with a DG, and they’ve got way more retail stores than we do.

        1. barefoot charley

          In Mendocino County 100 miles north of San Francisco, Redwood Valley residents petitioned the Board of Supervisors to block the opening of a Dollar General store, for fear the town’s few longstanding businesses would be driven under. I think it was successful.

      2. Mark Alexander

        Here in Vermont, Dollar General has as its stated goal to be in every town in the state. DG wanted to build a store in our little town (approx. 1800 residents), despite the fact that there’s already one in the next town north of us, about eight miles away. We managed to fight them off, mainly because DG wanted to build in a floodplain near the town well. We are only the third town in Vermont that has succeeded in this.

        Here is why DG is an evil cancer here: they typically build on the outskirts of town, away from the more pedestrian-friendly town center. Their stores have very long hours, typically from 7 AM to 10 PM. (The stores also have a plastic, brightly lit, garish look that is completely out of character for rural Vermont.) The result is that the locally-owned small shops that formerly thrived in the town center are forced to compete with a predatory monster, and they usually lose. The town center is hollowed out and eventually dies.

        1. Punta Pete

          And they locate outside of the town’s limits to avoid the town’s property taxes, undermining not only the town’s businesses but also its government funding – a twofer.

        2. Wukchumni

          That’s exactly the same scenario here. There’s only 2 parcels in town large enough for a DG, and both owners realized the danger, and refused to sell. Does anybody really need another store full of gimcracks and knick-nacks from China, destined to fall apart sooner than later?

  5. Lee

    “Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation” [Cosmos]. “In a paper published in the journal Science Advances….

    So, the Silicon Valley elites are not only crazypants, they’re, well, morons, to use a word that’s very popular today. I hope these clowns do make it to Mars, and leave the rest of us alone.

    Thanks for the belly laugh. Although 50 miles from the heart of Silicon Valley, my neighborhood, formerly inhabited by a mix of well paid blue and white collar workers, has been inundated by techies. Most of them are quiet, unassuming, and more or less pleasantly nutty. I want some of their physical product, not so much their ideas about the real world at large and how it should be run

    1. Wukchumni

      I came across a sluice gate on a flume that creates hydroelectric power in Sequoia NP, and it proudly said Union Iron Works, S.F.

      You never think of SF as a locale for an ironworks that built ships, locomotives, etc., as it’s gone now, largely replaced in terms of business by something mostly invisible.

      Funny that…

      1. Lee

        October 4, 2017 at 3:05 pm

        As a youngin I was one of the last to work in the holds of ships on the sf docks unloading cargo. I was working with these big, broad shouldered older guys who made gentle fun of us skinny kid part timers. Good times, even worth the back pain they have caused in later years.

      2. Huey Ling

        Ditto for NYC.

        Whereas we now export debt, at one point NYC made Navy ships, safety razors, beer, and a plethora of other products.

      3. sleepy

        Yeah, some folks forget that for a good chunk of its history San Francisco could be described as a well-paid, unionized, blue collar town up until, say, 1970 or so.

        1. JBird4049

          Yeah that’s about right. The Port of San Francisco refused to deal with the switch from break bulk shipping to containers. I think there was some problems with the unions as the former is more labor intensive than the latter, but Oakland built an entire port for container shipping including mass dredging and that port is also unionized; So San Francisco could still have save at least some, if not most of its business despite its poorer location and need to rebuild.

          Looking at the large awful concrete things that they built office/shopping buildings built at the time, I guess the city’s leadership did not care to save it (it’s the past, we need the future!); The town of Oakland was willing to spend money it did not have to get that port.

          And of course the port was the economic center of the working class and of all the other associated businesses a port and its workers needs.

    2. Biph

      I find it sad news, clinging to the idea that we were some 14 year old kids half-assed science fair project made the world make a lot more sensible.

      1. Another Anon

        Yes, this simulation idea is just creationism in a new guise.
        So instead of having the universe created by some old looking dude
        sporting a white beard, we have the universe created by a
        14 year old sporting a very bad case of acne.

        1. KTN

          It’s a metaphysical proposition.

          So is the so-called disproof. (It assumes the premise that there is no ‘higher plane’ in which such calculations are possible. This is called begging the question.

          And who says calculations are required, and not some sort of spiritual omnipotence?)

          When will ‘scientists’ learn the difference?

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Thanks for the belly laugh

      You’re welcome. Readers might be interested in this piece by Maciej Cegłowski at NC here, if they missed it:

      Given this scary state of the world, with ecological collapse just over the horizon, and a population sharpening its pitchforks, an important question is how this globalized, unaccountable tech industry sees its goals. What does it want? What will all the profits be invested in?

      What is the plan?

      The honest answer is: rocket ships and immortality.

      I wish I was kidding.

      The best minds in Silicon Valley are preoccupied with a science fiction future they consider it their manifest destiny to build. Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are racing each other to Mars. Musk gets most of the press, but Bezos now sells $1B in Amazon stock a year to fund Blue Origin. Investors have put over $8 billion into space companies over the past five years, as part of a push to export our problems here on Earth into the rest of the Solar System.

      As happy as I am to see Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos fired into space, this does not seem to be worth the collapse of representative government.

      Our cohort of tech founders is feeling the chill breath of mortality as they drift into middle age. And so part of what is driving this push into space is a more general preoccupation with ‘existential risk’.

      Musk is persuaded that we’re living in a simulation, and he or a fellow true believer has hired programmers to try to hack it.

      If only Musk could get at the digital innards of the simulation, he might be able to produce more than 260 cars at his squillion-dollar subsidized factory.

  6. Kim Kaufman

    Shipping: “Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has had little success in trying to open stores in some of the largest U.S. cities. …. But can New York ban Walmart from owning distribution centers outside (or inside) the city from which deliveries are made? Can unions win protests against opening warehouses outside the unions’ spheres of influence in large U.S. cities? Doesn’t seem likely to us.”

    But they can stop giving Wal-Mart tax incentives to move there.

  7. Tim

    It allows Rolls-Royce to use Google’s Cloud Machine Learning Engine to further train the company’s artificial intelligence (AI) based object classification system for detecting, identifying and tracking the objects a vessel can encounter at sea.”

    So what will the AI do when it sees pirates? I guess there won’t be any hostages, maybe this isn’t such a bad idea. Is it really possible to have vessel that does not require a maintenance crew?

    1. Tom

      It’s the U.S. Navy’s ships that they really need to watch out for — the next destroyer it commissions oughta be named the Mr. Magoo.

  8. Wukchumni

    “Part of the inhumanity of the computer is that, once it is competently programmed and working smoothly, it is completely honest.”


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      And let’s not forget the Zen focus of the computer…it never daydreams about Medicare-for-All, for example.

      Of course, it doesn’t ask to be paid more either. So, the overseer favors it.

      1. Wukchumni

        I read that many LV casinos have cut the winning payouts on blackjacks from 3/2 odds, to 6/5 odds. That’s a 30% haircut.

  9. epynonymous


    Beautiful biography of Jim Ross (the announcer with the hat… famous for screaming “Oh My God!”) in wrestling.

    Details the final battle between Ted Turner and Vince McMahon to rule as America’s premier westling league…

    The later contractual scheme of the WCW to pay aging and rising stars salary, effectively setting a floor in the sometimes predatory WWF (now WWE.)

    Great stuff.

  10. barrisj

    Re: the NYer online Trump SoHo kerfluffle…in a microcosm the Trump world: shady Ruskie partners, inflated claims about property, campaign contributions but no “quid pro quo“; high-priced lawyers cutting deals, and ultimately the property going into foreclosure. DJT, jr and Ivanka waaay out of their element, but Daddy got the juice…no harm, no foul, and here they are in Daddy’s WH, as “closest advisors”…the stench reaches out here to the Pacific NW.

  11. voteforno6

    Re: Driverless Cars

    Has Waymo figured out a solution for the trolley car problem? If these cars are actually going to be operating in public, it would be helpful for them to disclose that, since it does affect public safety.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      It’s called “stop and call home”. Of course, they’ll have to be able to distinguish between a sleeping policeman and a bump in the road. :)

  12. polecat

    Re. Today’s plant
    Where are the spiders ??

    Don’t tarantulas go with bananas, like peanut butter to jellies ?

    1. Chris

      Thank you Polecat, the spiders were left on the tree.

      The variety is Lady Finger, very, very tasty. Neighbours took them all.

      Spiders are all pretty small here, thank goodness

      1. polecat

        Just kiddiing about the spiders Chris, although you hear in the news of the occasional grocery shopper freak-out over discovering a big one in the banana bunch !
        There are times when I really wish we lived in a more southern climate … can’t grow citrus, can’t grow ginger, can’t grow anything even remotely tropical on an annual basis … thank HeyZeus for the fine blueberries, cherries, rasp & black berries we’re able to grow !
        … and yes we have our various arachnids as well .. with house spiders often the size of a satellite dish. ‘;]

  13. TK421

    “Exclusive: Russian-linked Facebook ads targeted Michigan and Wisconsin”

    So that’s why Hillary did not campaign there–what would be the point when the mighty Russian Facebook Juggernaut was steamrolling her support into the ground?

    1. Wukchumni

      I heard she polled well in Blue Ball, Michigan & Arkansaw, Wisconsin.

      Why bother showing up?

  14. Livius Drusus

    Great piece by Dean Baker on The Washington Post fact checker giving Bernie Sanders three Pinocchios for his statement on wealth inequality. Here is the first paragraph:

    Earlier this week the Washington Post Fact Checker gave three Pinocchios to Bernie Sanders for saying that the world’s six richest people had more wealth than the bottom half. Several people contacted me to complain about the piece. I had originally intended to let it pass because I actually agree with many of the criticisms, but on second thought, this piece applies a level of scrutiny that it never does to claims of other politicians or its own editorial page.

    Full piece here: http://cepr.net/blogs/beat-the-press/bernie-sanders-wealth-and-the-washington-post-fact-checker

    1. Darthbobber

      Their shifting standards are amazing for those who think fact checking is really that. To the extent that there is a quantifiable fact at all, they acknowledge it confirms the Sanders statement.

      They don’t seem to police anybody else for “lack of nuance”, but if they don’t like the factual point they become “nuance checkers” instead. If I recall correctly, they managed to give Clinton a “mostly true” during last years primary campaign for a statement that, while they acknowledged it was literally false, deployed the falsehood in the service of what they opined was a valid perspective. So-lots of flexibility here.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > It’s DAPL all over again…

      And Ferguson all over again.

      One characteristic of the Ferguson protest is that the locals were enormously persistent, even without any national coverage at all. I would expect the same persistence this time, and the outcome to be on a much larger scale, for good or ill.

  15. JustAnObserver

    Re: “Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation”

    This is an “impossible in practice” result but I’d argue the simulating any quantum process is impossible in principle.

    To simulate anything requires some some kind of algorithm running on a device that is separate from and independent of the process being simulated. So if *any* quantum mechanical process is being simulated it would have to be able to model the randomness that underlies quantum phenomena.

    If the model is truly accurate (at least in the limit) then the implication would be that such phenomena are not really random but merely pseudorandom – like those “Random Number Generators” used in cryptosystems which are really just Pseudo-RNGs. Using something like a nuclear decay source for the randomness violates the independence criterion – you’re simulating QM with another bit of QM.

    This IMO equivalent to asserting a so-called “hidden variables” approach to QM that would somehow make the quantum weirdness of e.g. the double slit interference experiment just go away and we’d all be nicely deterministic again.

    We have a test at least for the “local” version of hidden variables called the Bell Inequality that uses entangled particles as the measure of “weirdness”. Crudely put it makes a prediction about the correlations between the spins of these entangled pairs when they are measured some distance away from the source on opposite sides. If the correlations are below some number (IIRC in Bell’s original paper its was 2) then local hidden variables are possible, above that number any LHV theory fails.

    Starting in the 1970s physicists began running actual Bell Test experiments (*) and, so far, every one of them has eliminated the possibility of an LHV and confirmed that quantum weirdness is real. Consequently the randomness of QM is intrinsic and deeply embedded in the fabric of physical reality.

    It doesn’t matter how much memory you can come up with, quantum level uncertainty cannot be algorithmically modeled.

    (*) Over time the loopholes in the original Alain Aspect tests have been closed. IIRC there was a test done recently in Austria that managed for the first time to close all these loopholes simultaneously.

  16. Jim Haygood

    Propelled by kited-check official buying, stocks inched a little farther up the Permanently High Plateau today.

    As has become customary, if not obligatory, the Dow, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all notched marginal new highs.

    A rosy glow of Bubble III prosperity lights the land as asset prices loft their inexorable way to the stratosphere. :-0

    1. Jim Haygood

      Show me the kited checks, Jim,’ readers cry. Okay, here ya go, courtesy of Ed Yardeni:


      This year’s runup is entirely due to our comrades Draghi and Kuroda, who are hoovering up assets like lottery winners on a luxury shopping spree.

      By contrast, J-Yel’s balance sheet is frozen like a deer in the headlights. She’s transcended the ignoble quest for material things like Treasuries and Mortgage Backed Securities. Oooooommmmmm …

      1. Wukchumni

        I’ve one thing to say, and that’s
        Dammit Janet, I love the way you Greenspan it
        Here’s a song to prove that I’m no joker
        There’s three ways that the economy can grow
        That’s inflation good, bad, or mediocre
        Oh J-A-N-E-T, I love you so

    2. Chris

      Thanks Jim, Here in Oz, we have completely decoupled from the US (and reasonable earnings estimates if I am to be honest), when we used to track it very closely.

      08 – All Ords around 6400

      2017 – 5650

      October’s not a good month for stocks, iirc…

  17. Synoia

    “Mark Cuban is ‘actively considering’ a run for President—7 other billionaires, CEOs and celebs may be too” [CNBC]. Please kill me now.

    No. You’ll just have to suffer like the rest of us.

    Old joke: Sadist and Masochist in a relationship:

    Masochist: “Beat Me”
    Sadist: “No.”

    1. Jen

      As a resident of the first in the nation primary, all I can say is that the family blogging borders I want to seal lie at the Massachusetts line. The buggers seldom try to sneak in from Vermont.

    1. Filiform Radical

      Not necessarily true, much as I hate to say it. The problems the article mentions don’t preclude the possibility that we’re in a computer simulation because, to obtain the desired contradiction, you need to suppose both that our reality is a computer simulation and that the reality the computer running it is in is similar to ours, in terms both of amount of available computational power and of the nature of computation. Since there’s really no reason that the former should imply the latter, the argument is not airtight as a disproof of the whole simulation idea, just some visions of how the particulars might look.

      Similar remarks can be made about it precluding the existence of such a god. In general, it’s also difficult to conclusively falsify claims about a being which is posited to be all-powerful, since any evidence on the issue could have been faked by the entity in question (e.g., the “appearance of age” argument for the earth being 6000 years old).

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The researchers note that there are a number of other known quantum interactions for which predictive algorithms have not yet been found.

      Is that precisely the reason for inventing God?

  18. ewmayer

    The scene: My place, a late-late-Tuesday-night shlock-Sci-Fi-movie session. Yours Truly is thrilling to the desperate antics of a mad scientist played by Bradford Dillman in the 1975 giant-mutant-cockroach classic, Bug. During an ad break late in movie, YT finds himself having to stifle loud involuntary guffaws so as not to wake the neighbors, on watching what must qualify as a strong candidate for the most awesome late-night-cable-TV ad campaign ever. This one is right up there with those infomercials of yore demonstrating a ‘baldness cure’ in form of your-hair-color-kinda-sorta-matching spray paint for one’s bald spots. By the new candidate, I mean of course TheTrumpyBear.com.
    (I presume the Youtube link at upper right is to the ad – you gotta watch this, it will change your life.)

    Is this a great country or what?

  19. allan

    Biden: Rich are as patriotic as the poor [The Hill]

    … “Doug [Jones] understands about tax fairness,” Biden told the crowd. “Guys, the wealthy are as patriotic as the poor. I know Bernie doesn’t like me saying that, but they are.” …

    In Biden’s defense, “tax fairness” focus grouped well. In Greenwich and Stamford.
    Ladies and gentlemen, your modern Democratic Party.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In some states, the wealthy were actually more patriotic.

      They were forever urging their peasants to war on neighboring princes or kings, though it was not chivalrous to kill another king (OK to kill other peasants).

      In many ways, it’s still like that in various places, if you look.

      So, Biden is not too wrong there.

  20. Jim Haygood

    Winning hearts & minds in Vietghanistan:

    According to multiple reports, Taliban forces no longer have to be engaged with American units or with Afghan units being advised by Americans to be hit with air strikes.

    Prior to the change, Taliban forces in training camps and assembly areas were not targeted, in essence creating safe havens. Now, Taliban bases are being hit.

    Furthermore, American advisors will now be pushed to battalion and brigade headquarters to get them closer to Afghan units engaged in combat.

    “Those units with NATO and American advisers win, and those without them often do not win,” [Def Sec] Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “So we are going to spread the number of units with advisers to bring that air support to win.”


    Har har har … he said “win.” :-)

  21. Kim Kaufman


    Ginsburg Slaps Gorsuch in Gerrymandering Case
    By Jeffrey Toobin

    October 3, 2017


    Bad headline. Of course, she doesn’t literally slap him. Just gives a comment to show what a pompous ideologue he is and shuts him up for the rest of the hearing. Of course, he’ll still be on the wrong side of the decision.

      1. Vatch

        One shouldn’t “judge a book by its cover”, but I will anyway (sorry): a lot of the photographs of Neil Gorsuch show him with an annoyingly supercilious smirk. I suspect he is stratospherically arrogant.

  22. ewmayer

    Re. Physicists find we’re not living in a computer simulation” [Cosmos]. “In a paper published in the journal Science Advances, Zohar Ringel and Dmitry Kovrizhi show that constructing a computer simulation of a particular quantum phenomenon that occurs in metals is impossible – not just practically, but in principle.

    Ah, but if we *are* living in a simulation, we are *part* of the simulation, i.e. the Great Gamer can make us see whatever the GG wants, including “impossible to simulate” quantum phenonmena. IOW, if we are part of a simulation it may be fundamentally impossible for us to ever know, because what we think we see, know, and agree on are all illusions. Angels-on-the-head-of-a-pin stuff here, IMO.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Beside that the Great Gamer can make us see what the GG wants, another possibility is that the set up is that we can’t stimulate some quantum phenomenons from the level we are at, but only from the levels above us.

      So, It would seem to be pompous to be too presumptuous.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Perhaps, like the dream levels in the film Inception, maybe something happened to our dreamer, and we’re doomed here.

  23. Carey

    DCblogger at 2:18 pm: Thanks for the heads up on David Hildebrand. I just sent him a bit of money.

    Now we need someone here in CA-24 to primary the party hack Salud Carbajal, who won’t sign onto H.R. 676.

  24. Ned

    “The United States imported more than $8.1 billion worth of solar cells from around the world last year”

    And President Trump, the “businessman” doesn’t see the wisdom of passing laws to favor American manufacturers of solar cells? How about some loan guarantees to solar instead of to the bottomless loser pit of nuclear.

    p.s. It’s really hard for terrorists to attack solar cells on your roof to cause mass casualties.

    From Greentech Media:
    ” The Trump administration announced conditional commitments for $3.7 billion in loan guarantees on Friday to keep the country’s last new nuclear power plant construction effort from folding. It’s the first time the administration has tapped the Energy Department loan guarantee program that also funded Solyndra, and comes on top of $8.3 billion in federally-backed loan guarantees received by the project over its 10-year lifetime.

    Meanwhile, Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s request to federal regulators to create a market value for baseload nuclear and coal power plants could provide the industry an additional boost — if the notice of public rule-making (NOPR) filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission last week survives the near-unanimous criticism it’s received from across the energy industry and policy spectrum. “

  25. clarky90

    Re, “The Not Mentioned” in Water Cooler (the murder in Las Vegas, of 59 country western music fans). The shooter snuck 23 rifles and one handgun into two rooms on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Casino/Hotel. Security would be tight and omnipresent. Why 23 rifles? Why not one or two?

    If this event was primarily about murdering us Deplorables, why so many superfluous props? (a useless arsenal) Getting one weapon and the ammunition through hotel/casino security would have been fraught.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Well, Mandalay Hill, a holy site in Burma, is 230 meters (or 23 x 10) in elevation, and the city of Mandalay is 21.98 degrees north, not quite 23.

      Of course, from west to east, 23 is 32. So, maybe reciprocity is involved.

    2. Tom Stone

      There were were 23 rifles because he’s crazy.
      Not stupid, organized and insane.
      A tad extreme here and there so to speak, runs in the family…

      1. clarky90

        I have experienced “crazy, nuts” people. They clearly stand out, one way or another.

        Paddock checks in to the Mandalay on Monday Sept 25. He dies seven days later on Sun Oct 1. During that week, nobody (security, cleaners, waiters, other guests) notices him assembling a 23 rifle arsenal? Where would he hide them all? There was no apparent reason for him to risk taking all of those useless guns through the lobby and up the elevator?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Las Vegas is wired to the gills, and there are cameras everywhere. The detail (if it’s accurate) that struck me was that he had two cams: One at the peephole in his room, and another outside in the hall. So how did that cam not get spotted by the hotel cams?

    3. MichaelSF

      I’ve very limited experience with fire arms, but can’t there be problems with jamming, especially at high rates of fire when the barrel gets quite hot? If you want to make sure you can maintain a rate of fire without belt-fed ammunition I’d think you’d have multiple weapons loaded and to hand so you can discard one if it jams or when it exhausts the ammunition.

  26. Wukchumni

    Swiss watch manufacturer Patek Phillipe produces about 40,000 of its extremely expensive models per year. Maybe the Model 3 has lots of additional, er, complications…

    For whatever reason, a free quartz watch that comes with a happy meal, tells exactly the same time as a Patek Phillipe.

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