2:00PM Water Cooler 1/15/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, this is a travel day for me, so in the unlikely event that my WiFi hot-spot gives out, talk amongst yourselves!

Query: Now that we’ve seen kea parots gaming cars by moving traffic cones, will cats be able to game robot cars? (I know dogs could, but would they even think of it?)

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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 place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (Peter):

It’s a thistle. And I am feeling a bit prickly!

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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. Wukchumni

    Tiny buttons (tiny buttons)
    Online (online)
    Make Hawaiians unhappy (make them unhappy)
    Made them think they’re dying (made them think they’re dying)

    Tiny buttons (tiny buttons)
    Make warnings all over
    With a feeling that they’re gonna
    Presage the end of time

    So here’s to the control room
    And here’s to the false feed
    And mostly here’s a toast
    To still being alive, not roasted

  2. David, by the lake

    Test the DNC lawsuit

    I’ve reached the point where party affiliation is simply not going to be a factor for my vote (arguably, it oughtn’t be in the first place). I will consider voting for any candidate of any party who sufficiently furthers my set of priorities and I will disqualify from consideration any party who sufficiently opposes those same priorities. The Dems have to earn my vote and not expect it by default. I’m just done.

  3. Ed

    John Robb writes often about 4G and 5G warfare and the use of social media as cultural disruption tools, but I bet someone could utilize dog-training whistles and agility training and get a few large work dogs to play havoc. Cats would be disinterested, from what I know of cats. What is interesting in today’s news is Ford’s announcement of a major investment in electric cars, and the obviously-forthcoming approach of driverlessness (to which we are all being conditioned by balky and expensive GPS systems made fun of in insurance commercials). Note too the Hemmings-related event next June of the vintage car race across upstate New York, up the length of Vermont, across the top of New England, over to Bangor and Bar Harbor, and thence into Atlantic Canada. A good read is the book about Prince Borghese’s Paris-to-Peking run: https://www.ebay.com/p/Prince-Borgheses-Trail-10-000-Miles-over-Two-Continents-Four-Deserts-and-the-Roof-of-the-World-in/263329?rmvSB=true

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      After a few decades of watching this kind of thing, over and over (See Service Based Economy, onward) I get the very clear message from our elites that the future is less cars. There’s no plan beyond that except to blame anyone who it hurts.

      I’m not feeling smug as a cyclist. I won’t be able to use the car’s roads any more than pedestrians or human driven cars.

  4. Wukchumni

    We’ve had invasives on a thistle-stop tour here, and if you aren’t johnny on the spot in getting rid of them-Italian thistle in particular, will take over and grow as high as 6-7 feet, building an impenetrable thorny fortress that crowds out everything else.

    That said, i’m probably tilting against windmills, as they are all over the place, including up to around 5k altitude in Sequoia NP.

    1. diptherio

      Learn to harvest and prepare them. Here in Montana, knapweed is one of our biggest invasive species. We’ve finally given up on trying to eradicate them and gone to selling knapweed honey…which is apparently what the Chinese grew if for to begin with.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Great show on Netflix called “Rotten” that outlines Chinese “honey laundering” where they adulterate with rice syrup before transshipping via places like Malaysia. The sleuths used to be able to examine pollen grains in the honey to combat this but the Chinese started filtering their “honey” so now they use nuclear molecule analysis. Folks there’s a very good chance the stuff in the bear-shaped jar is rice syrup plus illegal antibiotics, so find and buy local.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Go with those in the know and they buy baby formula from Australia.

          Probably we should buy honey from there too.

        2. Oregoncharles

          Our neighbor’s bee empire includes several hives at our place, so it’s as local as it gets.

        3. a different chris

          Silly Chinese. They could just call it “honey food” like our agri giants came up with “cheese food”.

      1. JP

        thanks for the uc davis link. It doesn’t appear that the weevils will attack tocalote or star thistle.

    2. JP

      They were tiny dicots three weeks ago. I hit them with glyphosphate. They were the first thing to germinate so I didn’t kill everything else even where I carpet bombed. The kill was pretty through so now I just spot the new ones. Once they bolt it’s too late for glyphosphate and you just have to mow and wait till next year. I try to get the neighbors on board but it takes dedication. I have one neighbor who told me they were “part of the balance” and the butterflys needed them. I tried to tell her that they were invasive and crowd out all the native species that the butterflies actually are in balance with. She said well her horses would eat them.

      1. Lee

        If horses will eat them, I imagine goats will too, along with everything else. The Goog tells me that alpacas and llamas like thistles even at maturity, spines and all. Good luck.

        My major problem is Bermuda grass. Interestingly, oxalis keeps it down in fall and winter then dies off in spring. I used to weed out oxalis, but now I let it grow til I plant in spring. Its clover leaves and yellow flowers are rather nice. Lawn lovers hate it but I don’t have a lawn.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          geese will root down and eat the corms of bermuda grass if the soils wet enough.
          Other than that, I know of nothing that kills that stuff. I’m experimenting with it as a “cover crop” in which I interplant…I mean, why not,lol?
          That one bed where I am attempting this had ok results, but the grasshoppers were an exogenous wrench in any empirical findings.
          Shade will kill it.
          as for those thistles…I don’t know where they came from, but we’ve had them for quite a while.
          a hoe, early, is the best remedy, I’ve found.
          Mom tries all manner of poison, to little effect.
          Interestingly, in the 7 years we moved to town, those thistles migrated northward(due to southerly winds during seeding) and are now off our front field and into the neighbor’s cactus and mesquite tangle.

      2. tegnost

        you can dig them out, they have a taproot and it’s a great way to break up soil, some say, for instance, if you have hard pack soil you’re setting up a garden in, plant carrots, they’ll break up the soil. To farm or garden requires a consistent persistent effort, so rather than watching the wind blow seeds across your area, dig them up, there will be fewer of them and thus fewer seeds. Glyphosate is not a complete success and you’ll still be watching the seeds fly, and soon enough, glyphosate resistance will require that you poison some other way. I worked many years in the bamboo/nursery biz and installed root barriers and dug out invading plants. It takes about 5 minutes once or twice a year to keep your bamboo from running by pruning the roots, really simple and impossible to get people to do. My early experiences with glyphosate was with bamboo, and it just doesn’t work. I could always tell that someone tried to kill it with glyphosate because the nodes would shoot out a bunch of microleaves, deformed and small as it dealt with the poison. You damage but don’t kill one node. But bamboo is grass, and each node is an individual plant, go find a bamboo plant, cut out one node, and you’ll get a bamboo plant because the node will shoot in order to get energy, you’ll also have kind of a bonsai b/c you’d need two nodes to get one rhizome and one shoot and rhizomes make new nodes, but nodes that have shoots won’t make a rhizome (this by the way is another benefit to root pruning bamboo, if you just keep pruning the nodes in you patch will become slowly less active, though not enough that one could ignore it entirely). Glypho will damage a single node, but not enough to kill it. Grab a coffee and whack some thistle, it’s an nivasive here in the san juan islands. For pulling large spiny plants and scotch broom I use the extractigator tm…https://extractigator.com/ Glypho is over rated in effectiveness.

        1. burlesque

          @tegnost January 16, 2018 at 10:39 am

          “To farm or garden requires a consistent persistent effort…”
          True words for any aspiring or, for that matter, successful farmer or gardener.

          Thanks for that reminder.

  5. allan

    Greeks face more pain, protests as bailout nears end

    Greek lawmakers, eying the end of eight years of bailout programs, approved more austerity measures late Monday, as strikes and mass protests brought much of Athens to a standstill.

    Protesters in Athens sprayed police with red paint outside parliament as some 20,000 people marched in anti-government rallies in the capital and Greece’s second largest city, Thessaloniki. …

    The reforms approved by 154-141 votes include tougher conditions for unions to call strikes, speedier property foreclosures, and cuts in family benefits. They were demanded by lenders for Greece to receive further bailout funds.

    Greece formally ends its bailout program in August but has promised lenders at least two more years of austerity as it seeks more generous repayment terms on its loans from eurozone countries and International Monetary Fund. …

    Just four more Friedman units and then surely all the far-right genies will go back into their bottles.

    1. allan

      Jordan to Greece: hold my beer (tax)

      Jordan unveils major IMF-guided tax hikes to reduce public debt

      Jordan’s cabinet announced on Monday a major package of IMF-guided tax hikes it says are crucial to gradually lower record public debt needed to get the economy hit by regional conflict growing again.

      The package announced on state media includes removing exemptions on general sales tax and unifying low 4 to 8 percent rates on a large number of items at 10 percent while leaving it at 16 percent ceiling for others, alongside raising special taxes on tobacco, premium gasoline and streamlining customs duties. …

      In a country already struggling with the largest(?) externally displaced refugee population in the world,
      what could possibly go wrong?

    1. bob

      I’ve tried watching that. It’s not good, although I was already familiar with the story. It’s one, long, boring interview stretched out with stock film footage.

      It’s a good topic, very bad story telling.

      1. bob

        One note-

        The clock on the wall behind George Burchett is not moving. Sort of how I felt watching it. Stuck at two thirty something.

      2. JerryDenim

        Yup. Tried to get through it. Should have been a forty-five minute Frontline style piece. Definitely not enough material for a 6 part series. Painful after the first half hour.

      3. Plenue

        I couldn’t disagree more. While much of it is an interview, Eric Olson is anything but boring.

        The Olson story is extremely important, and it’s good to have someone as reputable as Morris telling it. Not just because proving that he was deliberately killed would be yet another mark against the CIA (apparently in our current ‘spies are trustworthy’ madness, this is something that is needed). Or even because proving that would almost certainly blow the lid off of a whole series of other suspicious deaths of government employees from that time period. No, it would be most important because it would most likely reveal the truth about long rumored biological weapons use by the US in Korea.

        Of course we did; had to do something with all that fancy information we got from Unit 731.

      4. R. Chrisjohn

        I wish someone would do a long, boring docudrama (or anything) about the CIA, MK-ULTRA, Donald Ewan Cameron, and the experimentation upon Native children in (forced) residential “schools” in western Canada with LSD, curare, benzedrine, etc., in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Cameron was a front for CIA experiments who “fell off a mountain” when what he was doing to “depressed” women in Montreal started to untangle. Canada clamped such a information blackout on “settlements” that what his involvement with the residential school genocide has been almost (?) completely suppressed. I interviewed several of his victims when writing my book on IRS almost 25 years ago, but could find nothing at the time to substantiate their claims of being strapped down and tortured, and thus could only hint at further abuses. Canada’s role in these crimes needs aggressive reporting.

    1. barefoot charley

      The end is interesting too. Stephanapolous huffs up his great gotcha! thusly: “Was it a mistake to take out Saddam and Gaddafy?!” She replies after a beat “Yes, it was. Absolutely.” Steph freezes, repeats her name and the clip ends, sounds of brain exploding in the background.

      It’s beyond arguing that the best reason for nuclear weapons is so the US won’t invade you. So don’t make that argument!

  6. Louis Fyne

    –will cats be able to game robot cars–

    Other humans will game robot cars. Humans constantly break the letter of the law both in their favor and the pay-if-forward to other drivers.

    The [general US] letter of law is that cars merging onto the highway yields to traffic already on the highway. However in practice, drivers do the opposite much of the time—presumbly as “we’ve all been there—trying to merge onto the highway”.

    A human driver sees a robot Uber trying to merge [to the entrace to the Lincoln Tunnel or a jammed 405 for example]? I’d bet many drivers would be tempted to box out the robot. And the letter of the law is on the human’s side. (and of course conversely, the robot car will automatically always yield/stand down to prevent a collision)

    1. ChrisPacific

      Every big city driver knows how to do what I call a “forcible merge” at low speed: Pick a car, position yourself as close behind it as you can, then gradually start moving over, even if the car behind it overlaps you. The idea is to give the following car a clear choice between letting you in and crashing into you, while also giving them enough decision time so that they make the right one. The following driver will probably be mildly annoyed at you, but it won’t stop them from doing exactly the same thing to stop the stream of cars behind you from following you in. It will be interesting to see whether self-driving cars can ever pull that off. If they can’t then they will be quickly flagged as an easy mark by rush hour drivers.

  7. shinola

    My family had a poodle that “gamed” drivers in cars. We lived near the end of a cul-de-sac and as a car would slowly be coming out of the circle she would run out into the street directly in front of the car. The driver would stop and the dog would stand there and bark at the car until someone came out & grabbed her by the collar & dragged away. Never could break her of that.

    As for driverless cars – ain’t gonna happen any time soon. Even if the gov’t could be persuaded to “invest” in the massive infrastructure modifications needed to make the interstates autonomous car “friendly”, what about state & local roadways? Private parking lots?

    Also, there’s no way any company is going to put a fully autonomous car “out into the wild” until they can figure our how to offload liability for (the inevitable) accidents onto somebody else.

    1. Wukchumni

      We have suicidal quail around these parts that run towards your wheels as you’re driving down the road, and always somehow manage to not go through with it at the last second, and their fellow travelers-tarantulas, tend to be in the middle of the road and generally, you drive right over w/o hitting them, which has to be a thrill ride for the 8 legs-good, set.

    2. Jeotsu

      As I understand it in many places the instruction (if not the explicit regulation) is to run over anything smaller than a sheep. Suddenly stopping or swerving to miss the bunny in the road creates a risk of a collision with other cars or losing control of your own car which could cause much worse carnage.

      Thus I see a “driverless” future where the passengers scream, cry and beat on the dash board as their automated vehicle merrily crushes its way through all the neighborhood pets, including the beloved family dog who ran out to greet you.

      That’ll be a PR nightmare.

      1. Oregoncharles

        I used to live just south of a long tunnel on the coast highway. One night on the way home I came across a pickup that had crashed into the wall of the tunnel. They had tried to miss a deer prancing through the tunnel, and instead hit the tunnel. Of course, they were all pretty drunk, which is one reason none were seriously injured. They stayed at my place, and were moving slowly and carefully in the morning.

      1. johnnygl


        I thought we dropped ‘third world’ for ‘developing countries’ sometime during the 90s.

        For those of us in the financial industry, we have ’emerging markets’ and if you are feelling really edgy…’frontier markets’ :)

  8. Isotope_C14

    Fantastic news! I’m so going to be checking YouTube 3x per day now. Apparently Jimmy Dore will have Chris Hedges on his show in the very near future. Was in his live stream. I think that leaves him without only Peter Joseph, but he says he’ll have him on after he finishes “The New Human Rights Movement”.

    Nice to see Dore getting all the big guns, and Gayle for Lt. Gov of CA interview was a hoot too.

  9. D

    all I can come up with – which is understood across genders – is: so much for Martin – and Malcom’s – bleeding out profusely pleas for civil rights; and Yeats, before them:

    …. And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
    Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?…

    We need to reclaim our humanity, or we are utterly lost.

    1. The Rev Kev

      I can see why this is driving Erdoğan nuts. The idea that the Turks could be fighting Kurds in Turkey but with an armed Kurdish force on the other side of the border supplying weapons, fighters, ammunitions, sanctuary, etc. and being used as a permanent blackmail threat from Washington.
      Turkey may be in NATO but the Kurds are not so even though Erdoğan hates the Syrians and is trying to steal some of Syria’s land, he may conclude that it would be better to support Assad and have him reign in the Kurds before Washington manages to put together a real fighting force.
      Remember too that a lot of this force is ex-ISIS so would have some experience in fighting (where else would they come up with 30,00 fighting men otherwise?). There is even a rumour that the Kurds have been supplied with manpads which would be lunacy if true.

    2. Duck1

      Well, won’t they have to form up sides and attack each other, if conflict between US/Turkey erupts?
      I don’t think they thought of that with their communal defense pact. Putin and his 13 dimensional chess, eh./S

  10. Mo's Bike Shop

    Bleg related to having done some reading over at the Consent Factory. A complete hilights of lookoverheregate, but I couldn’t send it to my mom. I’m thinking of those who fall hard for a narrative, but not for a shill.

    Has anyone found any sites collecting any source’s statements on the current battle for tribal identity? I’m thinking of how MoA collates a month’s worth of Russian Invasions and Last Hospital Destroyed. Deadpan analysis would be best for future reuse.

    The ricochets are amazing. I was just observing a group apologia on DerKos about how Manning, Snowden, and WikiLeaks are all deep Republican-Russian operations. There really must be some kind of mystical-level-hard merito-magic involved in get somebody to vote for you.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes, apparently Chelsea Manning running for Senate is a Russian plot. Hopefully, the DNC can find a good neoliberal transgender to oppose her, if things get that far. You know, the kind that supports machine-gunning faraway brown civilians from helicopters. Left undiscussed is that Obama gave her clemency; I don’t know how they work that into their worldview. I honestly don’t know how to process this craziness. It’s mind-boggling.

      If today’s Dems had the power that Woodrow Wilson had during the Red Scare I’d be a lot more frightened than I am. On the other hand…

  11. The Rev Kev

    Meanwhile the situation in Qatar has not gone away. The past coupla day, jets from the United Arab Emirates has twice crossed into Qatar’s skies causing them to go squawking to the UN. Just to stop this becoming a regular occurrence in the same way that Turkish jets go into Greek territory causing the latter to scramble jets to intercept them, the Qataris decided to match and raise UAE’s two incursion by intercepting two Emirates passenger jets (http://edition.cnn.com/2018/01/15/middleeast/uae-qatar-jets-intl/index.html) on their way to Bahrain. The UAE is raising holy hell and is accusing the Qataris of all sorts of violations while the Qataris are basically saying: “Who, us?”

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