2:00PM Water Cooler 1/19/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this is a bit light. I’ll add some more material in a bit. –lambert UPDATE 2:36PM That’s it for today!

Trade

UPDATE “Is Talk of U.S. Steel Tariffs Giving You Deja Vu? It Shouldn’t” [Bloomberg]. “Trump’s strategy to protect domestic steelmakers would be far different than George W. Bush’s move back in 2002. At the time, Bush slapped tariffs on steel using power granted to him by Section 201 of the 1974 Trade Act, whereas Trump would be employing a different tool, Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Act…. For starters, Trump can count on a trusted cabinet member if he uses section 232 rather than an independent panel at the ITC to decide whether tariffs are needed. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, a frequent critic of steel dumping, gave Trump results of the 232 probe last week, and the president has 90 days to decide on its recommendations, which could include tariffs and/or quotas. (Ross didn’t publish details of his findings.) Commerce is conducting a similar investigation into aluminum, which is due later this month. Secondly, the burden of proof is arguably stricter for 201.”

Politics

2020

UPDATEd “Cory Booker Is Laying It on a Bit Thick” [Slate (Re Silc)]. “At one point, he quotes Martin Luther King, Elie Wiesel, and Gandhi in quick succession, a grand slam of banality that’s no doubt left JFK and Mother Teresa feeling a little jilted wherever they are. The deepest conviction evinced as he’s speaking, stronger than any others he professes over the nine-plus minutes of his speech, is that his glaring and gesticulating and chest-beating are deeply moving to someone somewhere. Reactions to the speech from some Democrats on social media suggests he’s probably right to think so. He’s also, right, of course, that Trump’s comments were wounding to many in immigrant communities. The problem, to this viewer anyway, is that the entirety of the Trump era is so unfathomably and obviously monstrous that choosing any one particular incident as an occasion for a Mr. Smith–ian oration smacks of opportunism. Every straw feels like the last. It cannot be otherwise because American political order itself is rotten.” This is a bit stronger than the usual fare from Slate.

2018

UPDATEd “Democrats Openly Back Establishment Candidates for 2018 Primaries” [Real News Network]. Shocker! “Though Susie Lee came in 3rd in the 2016 primary in Nevada’s 4th Congressional District, the DCCC is backing the wealthy philanthropist in her 2018 bid for Nevada’s 3rd District to replace Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), who has opted to run for Senate instead of seeking re-election. ‘One example of the corrupting influence of money in politics is the Democratic Party supporting candidates because they can fund their own campaigns, have wealthy backers, or are friendly to corporate donors—even if they have no published platform,’ said Hermon Farahi, one of Lee’s Democratic primary opponents in the 3rd District race. “My district is a crucial one in the balance of power in the House and we should allow people to decide the nominee without interference.'” The DCCC is a cesspit, worse, if anything, than the DNC.

UPDATE “Yes, A Wave Is Coming– But The DCCC Is Working Full Time At How To Minimize It” [Down with Tyranny]. For example:

A friend of mine just asked me why the Michigan Democratic Party appears dead to the world but hasn’t realized it’s dead and manages to continue functioning (albeit ineffectively and detrimentally to its own stated goals). It was a long conversation but we would up talking about the 32 counties that make up far north swing district MI-01. The was Bernie Country in the 2016 primaries. He swept the counties and that district. Voters were very clear they were looking for the kind of change Bernie was offering, not the status quo Hillary was offering. The 2 biggest counties in the district– from which a plurality of votes flow– are Grand Traverse and Marquette. Bernie crushed Hillary with 65% in Grand Traverse and 62% in Marquette. But on that same day, he also outpolled Señor Trumpanzee– 8,091 to 5,891 in Grand Traverse and 5,530 to 2,524 in Marquette. Yes, yes, Bernie absolutely would have won Michigan in 2016, one of the states that slipped to Trump, had not Wasserman Schultz stolen the nomination for Hillary. But that isn’t my point. My point is that the zombie Democratic Party in Michigan (along with the DCCC, of course) is looking to replicate the Hillary “magic” with horrible conservative candidates, like Blue Dog Gretchen Driskell, New Dem Elissa Slotkin and a self-funding candidate/corporate lobbyist so terrible in MI-06– George Franklin– that he’s been financing incumbent Republican Fred Upton against progressives for years.

“Are Democrats’ Senate Chances In 2018 Overrated?” [FiveThirtyEight]. “But the Senate map is really tough for Democrats, with 26 Democratic seats in play next year (including a newly opened seat in Minnesota after Al Franken announced his intention to retire) as compared to just eight Republican ones. Moreover, five of the Democratic-held seats — the ones in West Virginia, North Dakota, Montana, Missouri and Indiana — are in states that President Trump won by 18 percentage points or more.”

“Democrats are way too cocky over 2018” [The Week]. “The biggest wild card is the one Republicans just played — their tax reform bill — and the Democrats’ continuing attempt to describe it as a disaster for taxpayers. Democratic hyperbole prior to the late December vote had a significant impact on the bill…. Bear in mind that in most cases, American workers have yet to see any impact from tax reform. The bonuses are in the near future, as are the implementations of new withholding tables at most U.S. employers. And yet a new Survey Monkey poll shows a significant improvement in polling for the tax reform bill, rising from 37 percent approval in that series in mid-December to 46 percent this week.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“[UPDATE] DNC Confirms Ex Florida Dem Chair Bittel No Longer a Party Member and Removed from Committee” [Progressive Army]. Bittel resigned over “sexual misconduct,” after Perez put him on the Rules and Bylaws Committee in his purge of Sanders supporters. It would certainly be a unity-building gesture if Perez extended the right hand of good fellowship to the Sanders wing by putting one of their own back on the RBC. After all, they’d get outvoted by Clintonite hacks anyhow, so where’s the harm?

“The partisan brain: An Identity-based model of political belief” [PsyArXiv]. Preprints. Big if true.

“Democrats Add Momentum to G.O.P. Push to Loosen Banking Rules” [New York Times]. That’s our Dems!

Big time:

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, January 2018 (Preliminary): “Consumer sentiment continues to edge back” [Econoday]. “Weakness in the report is in the current conditions component… This hints at weakness for not only consumer spending in January but also perhaps for the labor market and the January employment report. But there are positives as the expectations component is steady.”

Banks: “As the country’s five biggest banks began to report fourth-quarter results this week, a foreboding pattern emerged: terrible trading results, with their collective slumps in fixed-income trading exceeded analysts’ expectations of a 22-percent drop. Goldman Sachs, for whom the situation is especially frightening given its historic reliance on trading as a moneymaking endeavor, posted its worst quarter in bond trading since 2008, with a 50 percent drop in revenue in that unit, and a 14 percent drop in equities trading, at a time when global stock markets are reaching new highs on a near-daily basis” [Bloomberg]. “But whereas the situation would normally have set chief executives rocking back and forth in the fetal position, recent legislation has cushioned the blow. As Bloomberg notes, ‘The sweeping tax overhaul means billions of dollars in profit will materialize from thin air for the industry.'”

Government Shutdown: “Government Shutdown: Economic Data Likely to be Delayed” [Calculated Risk]. “In previous shutdowns, Government data from the BLS, BEA and Census Bureau were delayed. Data from the Federal Reserve was released on time…. As an example, if the government shuts down, I expect New Home sales, durable goods and Q4 GDP to all be delayed next week. Unemployment claims will probably be released on time (and increase the following week due to the shutdown). The following week, the key report that will probably be delayed is the employment report for January. In addition, any shutdown will be expensive and impact Q1 GDP.”

The Bezzle: “Are We Ready for Autonomous Vehicles?” [Econintersect]. Betteridge’s Law… I suppose if there ever are robot cars, we’ll find out if we’re ready for them or not.

The Bezzle: “Volvo’s Drive Me takes detour on road to full autonomy” [Automative News]. “Volvo’s Drive Me autonomous driving project is taking some detours compared with promises the automaker made when it announced the program four years ago, but Volvo says the changes will make its first Level 4 vehicle even better when it arrives in 2021.”

The Bezzle: “How Nanoclean Global’s nasal filter helps people breathe healthy” [Asian Nikkei Review]. Nanoclean Global is a start-up. Of course Who needs big gummint or the Paris Agreement when we’ve got nasal filters?

Tech: “Google announces patent agreement with Tencent amid China push” [Reuters]. ” Alphabet Inc’s Google has agreed to a patent licensing deal with Tencent Holdings Ltd as it looks for ways to expand in China where many of its products, such as app store, search engine and email service, are blocked by regulators.”

Tech: “Apple to allow iPhone users to disable battery slowdowns” [The Hill]. “Apple CEO Tim Cook said Wednesday that iPhone owners will be able to shut down a software feature that lowers the performance of older phones to save battery power.” In The Hill, of all places. Not good news for Apple.

Tech (with an update): “Apple Is Blocking an App That Detects Net Neutrality Violations From the App Store” [Vice]. The Update: ” After this article was published, Apple told Dave Choffnes that his iPhone app, designed to detect net neutrality violations, will be allowed in the iTunes App Store. According to Choffnes, Apple contacted him and explained that the company has to deal with many apps that don’t do the things they claim to do. Apple asked Choffnes to provide a technical description of how his app is able to detect if wireless telecom providers throttle certain types of data, and 18 hours after he did, the app was approved. ‘The conversation was very pleasant, but did not provide any insight into the review process [that] led the app to be rejected in the first place,’ Choffnes told us in an email.”

The Arts (supposing journalism to be an art): “HuffPost, Breaking From Its Roots, Ends Unpaid Contributions” [New York Times]. “Since its founding nearly 13 years ago, The Huffington Post has relied heavily on unpaid contributors, whose ranks included aspiring writers, citizen journalists and celebrities from the Rolodex of the site’s co-founder Arianna Huffington…. But the site’s days of encouraging everyday citizens to report on the news are over. On Thursday, it said it was immediately dissolving its self-publishing contributors platform — which has mushroomed to include 100,000 writers — in what is perhaps the most significant break from the past under its editor in chief, Lydia Polgreen, who joined the news site, which is now called HuffPost, a year ago.”

The Arts: “Patreon Found a Way to Pay the Creative Class. Will It Work?” [Bloomberg]. “Patreon Inc. has signed up 50,000-plus creators, who pay the company 5 percent of their earnings; last year alone, it attracted more than $150 million from one million patrons…. There’s just one hitch: While some creators—including three guys behind an irreverent socialist podcast—pull in tens of thousands of dollars a month, most make less than $100 and have only a handful of supporters. Given that reality, can Patreon make the economics work?” I dunno. Why isn’t this a public utility? (Not that $1200 a year sounds so bad to an impoverished, but creative, pensioner.)

Five Horsemen: “Big Tech cools its heels while watching the gov shutdown drama” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].

Five Horsemen Jan 19 2018

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 79 Extreme Greed (previous close: 72, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 79 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 19 at 1:31pm.

Our Famously Free Press

UPDATE “So what does this algorithmic public sphere tend to feed us? In tech parlance, Facebook and YouTube are “optimized for engagement,” which their defenders will tell you means that they’re just giving us what we want. But there’s nothing natural or inevitable about the specific ways that Facebook and YouTube corral our attention. The patterns, by now, are well known. As Buzzfeed famously reported in November 2016, “top fake election news stories generated more total engagement on Facebook than top election stories from 19 major news outlets combined” [Wired].

Health Care

“How a Bureaucrat Helped Save the Affordable Care Act” [The Nation]. “No one accepted his challenge, so Slavitt traveled from district to district, often on his own dime, explaining to some 35,000 Americans how the ACA’s repeal would affect them. He took to social media to inform and energize hundreds of thousands more. He worked with any resistance group that reached out to him. And, in the end, he helped to rally the tsunami of opposition that would turn repeated attempts to kill the law into a massive debacle for the Republican Party.” Tote-bag liberalism from The Nation: What Slavitt was not doing: Expanding “the conversation” to #MedicareForAll.

Gaia

“Save the Snowpack, Save the Water Supply” [Bloomberg]. “Snowpack is 50 percent lower than the average at this point in the winter at dozens of basins in the region. It’s a major concern in a region with a growing population where water supplies are often pushed to their limits, even in good years. In addition to fueling the West’s winter tourism industry, the snow provides a steady supply of water for the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people spread from Denver to Los Angeles.”

“Humans Did Not Cause the U.S. Cold Snap” [Scientific American]. Another “weather is not climate” story.

“Broken Pipes, Broken System” [East Bay Express]. “But thousands of pages of public documents and emails reviewed by the Express, along with interviews with city sewer department staff, regulatory agencies, and local residents, reveal that the Oakland Department of Public Works has failed to report hundreds of thousands of gallons of sewage overflows, and city supervisors have sometimes submitted documents to regulators that contain false information. The city also failed to properly alert residents and the required agencies in a timely manner after spills occurred. As a result, dangerous bacteria and toxic chemicals have flooded into streets, onto properties, and into storm drains — or directly into regional bodies of water like Lake Temescal, where people fish and swim — without public knowledge.” Sometimes I wonder why (besides Jack London, et al.) the left in Oakland is so militant. And then a story like this comes along.

Neoliberal Epidemics

“American Carnage: Tragic Tale of Two Suburban Atlanta Teens” [Lifezette]. “For people who think this is a problem that afflicts only poor white rural areas like Appalachia, the Manning story is a wake-up call to parents across America: The steepest rises in synthetic opioid deaths this past year occurred in Delaware, Florida and Maryland.” Quotes Bill Bennett, sadly…

Class Warfare

“Why Is It So Hard for Americans to Get a Decent Raise?” [Slate]. Employer monopsony.

“Unifor splits with Canadian Labour Congress over workers’ right to choose union” [CTV News].

News of the Wired

UPDATE “Hackers can’t dig into latest Xiaomi phone due to GPL violations” [Ars Technica]. “Android vendors are required to release their kernel sources thanks to the Linux kernel’s GPLv2 licensing. The Mi A1 has been out for about three months now, and there’s still no source code release on Xiaomi’s official github account. Unfortunately, GPL non-compliance is par for the course in the world of Android.”

Who wants these products?

UPDATE “Now your nightlight can notify you of retweets and emails” [The Verge]. No. No. No. No. No.

* * *

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 (PS):

PS writes: “How about a couple with both of NC’s favorite subjects, birds (nesting black noddies) and plants.”

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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.

112 comments

    1. Pat

      While it might make my cat very happy (and me giddy to watch him enjoy it), another part of me wants to know what happens when said fridge cannot get itself back on its charging station because you have it in a confined space like you do with fridges. Or when the connections for that charging station fails on a weekend you are out of town. As someone who has cleaned out a dead fridge, that is not a happy thing.

      Reply
        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          or if one does all one’s drinking under an oak tree…is there an all-terrain model?
          I’d rather continue to tip my kids.

          Reply
        1. rd

          Its a solution to the housing crisis in cities like SF. A self-driving minivan where you live in the back. It self-drives around from parking spot to parking spot while you sleep, never disobeying parking or traffic rules. In the morning it drives you to work. You have a little portable shower in the back so you are fresh and clean when you arrive. It can be electric if there are charging stations, but gas would work just as well.

          Reply
        2. Wukchumni

          I don’t know what a Level 5 bed is, but i’m thinking along the lines of a four poster bed-with canopy, for my ride.

          Reply
    2. hemeantwell

      Let’s not lose sight of the fact that something filled with oral gratifications that moves on command to serve you is the earliest infantile wish. As the product line develops it will might evolve into a sex doll. Or, it could be coordinated with robot puppies and kitties to make it impossible to feel alone. Bring on the mimizine.

      Reply
    3. Lemmy Caution

      The hell with a fridge that drives to you — why not a Whole Food store on wheels? Ya gotta think Bezos-level to really be disruptive!

      Reply
    4. Summer

      I saw that people have to line their floor with motion sensors. These days I have wonder if it’s only the fridge’s movements that would be sent to some server.

      Reply
    5. Gary

      Seems like it would have been easier to modify a tennis ball machine to work with cans of beer…

      Adding a Roomba would be a nice enhancement.

      Reply
  1. Jim Haygood

    This chart shows what happens if the stock market rallies beginning in 1987 and 2009 are lined up on the same time scale … and then the final “internet bubble” months of Dec 1996 to March 2000 are grafted on to today’s value.

    https://tinyurl.com/yd3zl9fo

    It would imply a doubling from here — a bit far-fetched, but then we have no idea of the madness lurking in the hearts of check-kiting central bankers who’ve already run off the rails.

    What we do know from the example of Nov 1995 is that a gov shutdown is monster raving bullish.

    Anything is possible now my brothers!” — Saddam Hussein

    Reply
    1. Tim

      Thanks for that.

      We just have to keep our eyes on interest rates and to a lesser extent, oil prices. Everything else is noise.

      I just need the market to hold together long enough for congress to legalize MJ and my MJ stocks to become 10 baggers, lol.

      Reply
    2. cocomaan

      Sky’s the limit. Nothing says we can’t have Dow 42,000.

      In fact, just list this under The 420.

      LOL, just saw Tim’s post.

      Reply
      1. Jim Haygood

        That’s the spirit! Pass me the nitrous hose, wouldja?

        Today the S&P 500, Nasdaq Composite, Nasdaq 100 and Russell 2000 all reached records.

        Ten-year T-notes broke out to a 12-month high of 2.64%. But during 2013 — a great year for stocks — the 10-year yield reached 3.0% without busting up the party.

        Don’t worry about the government” — Talking Heads

        Reply
    3. Alex Morfesis

      That golden staxxx chart is a bit unbalanced there…a factor of six on one side and a factor of seven on the other…although the cost to borrow and leverage shares is also off a huge factor as in much lower today…

      So why would it not double the previous bubble ??
      If were passing around the bubblie a little early on friday…

      Reply
    4. Enquiring Mind

      What we do know from the example of Nov 1995 is that a gov shutdown is monster raving bullish.

      I suppose one aspect of that bullishness is that less taxpayer money is being squandered during the shutdown. While encouraging in some respects (e.g., ‘stop me before I spend some more’), the underlying message is disturbing when pushed out a bit (‘just how inefficient is the current spending, anyway?’), not even to endpoints.

      Reply
  2. Wukchumni

    “Save the Snowpack, Save the Water Supply” [Bloomberg].
    ~~~~~~~

    Although it is sprinkling as I type, our snowpack in California has been decidedly sub-par this winter, sitting on about 25% of the normal average presently.

    Was it on account of us buying season lift tickets to Mammoth, or tuning up our snow-mo’s?

    …quite possibly

    One odd advantage to having 129 million dead pine trees in the Sierra Nevada, is they’ll no longer be needing nourishment, so more of the light snowpack will melt off and reach us down in the lower climes.

    A friend works for the local county planning commission and their term for trees in the Sierra is a funny one. They call them ‘straws’!

    Reply
    1. Jim Haygood

      Lake Mead finished 2017 about 7.5 feet above the critical 1075-ft level at which mandatory cuts would be imposed on Nevada and Arizona (2018 is shown in blue):

      http://mead.uslakes.info/level.asp

      However, if spring runoff is a bust due to low snowpack, at the end of 2018 the 1075-ft red line could be back in play.

      Reply
    2. Lee

      I seem to recall reading somewhere I can’t recall, sometime in the distant past that Native Americans in the New England area gladly granted forestland to early settlers because they were essentially useless as sources of game or for raising crops. Also, summer rains and high humidity make them harder to burn off in the east than are xeric western forests, which were often set on fire by local indigenous peoples to promote the growth of crops, or grasses and forbes for game animals.

      Reply
    1. ambrit

      Comparing the present day Scientific American magazine to the one we read back in the ‘sixties and ‘seventies, the comparison is apt.

      Reply
  3. Tim

    “Panasonic has developed a fridge that drives to you when called.”

    If you are too lazy to get up to get a beer, you are likely too lazy to clean up after yourself, so the fridge will get stuck in your trash/laundry on the way to your throne of laziness.

    We remain stuck in an age where being clever is more highly valued than being wise. Worthless endeavors like this are symptoms of the problem.

    Reply
    1. Jim Haygood

      There is no technological reason why a fridge couldn’t dispense a beer through a small flap to a waiting indoor drone, for delivery to the couch.

      Alexa, fetch me a beer …

      Reply
        1. crittermom

          Okay. I can see a horse being trained to lay in a bed & such, but to enjoy riding in a convertible? I would’ve never thought… *still chuckling*

          Reply
      1. Kurtismayfield

        So, what you are saying is that I have been wasting time training the offspring to do this for me.. I should have known better.

        Reply
        1. Bugs Bunny

          It’s a metaphor for liberals who think that NPR is “pretty far left” and whistle along with the We’re in the Money jingle signaling an up market during the “Marketplace” program.

          Reply
        2. Skip Intro

          The tote bag, understood as a ‘premium’ for NPR contributors, is the faux-left liberal’s virtue signal par excellance.

          Reply
  4. JohnnyGL

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-19/tanker-carrying-russian-gas-for-boston-makes-mid-atlantic-u-turn

    I want Putin’s super-awesome natural gas! I’m tired of that crappy fracked gas from Pennsylvania. :)

    Also in amusing news….paging Mr. Haygood.

    Mr. Haygood, the bubble you’ve been watching appears to be partying like it’s 1999!!!

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-19/as-bitcoin-sinks-crypto-bros-party-hard-on-a-blockchain-cruise

    Reply
    1. Jim Haygood

      Bloomberg’s reporter spotted John McAfee on the Blockchain Cruise, but refrained from quoting McAfee’s outrageous promise (memorialized on Twitter) that if bitcoin fails to reach $500K in three years, he will consume his privy member on national television.

      Are we bubbling yet?

      Reply
  5. Darius

    However the technology succeeds or not, I’m expecting driverless vehicles to result in a new war on pedestrians, with streets turned into robot zones exclusively. It probably will happen in dribs and drabs so people won’t even notice. This is the death of cities and towns and the accentuation of tech dependency and social isolation. Don’t leave home without your electronic transmitter.

    Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Self-driving cars remind me of the self-driving fridge. Who wants this, exactly? It doesn’t seem consumer driven, at all. I suppose many great inventions are not, to be fair. It still doesn’t seem organic. Was the electric light bulb or the phonograph or the Wright Brothers’ Flyer hyped ahead of the technology like this?

      Reply
      1. Alex Morfesis

        Ummm…considering how the american electric grid is useless with the lack of existing maintenance having exacerbated the loss of power here in florida during the few weeks of the holy spirit passing gas…the major question might be how exactly Will the maintenance magically improve and software magically work without perpetual reboots to hope the contraption will unfreeze…

        As to airplanes and hype….maybe…

        they were going to revolutionize life in america…there were the berliner double prop helicopter planes that everyone thought would be flying cars…but being first does not always mean that much…the waterfront here in st pete was where the first regular scheduled flight in the olde us of hay hay hay occurred…at least that’s what they tell the tourists stumbling drunk out of the dali museum…

        Self crashing cars will find a market for short distances at slow speeds for some with the resources who want to be driven around with a david hasselhoff ride…kitt…brought to you by the Foundation for Law and Government…

        FLAG…

        had that sorta kinda clear-water feel to it didn’t it…

        Reply
          1. Alex Morfesis

            I probably should not have allowed my brain to go there…once the kitt/hasselhoff metaphor reminded me of the acronym FLAG…which never seemed to make sense to me at the time in my youth…then the notion flared up of the letters as having some sideways meaning and attachment to clearwater…where larry anderson spent some time and money…Anderson being the actor in the knight rider pilot and also the private internal “face” of a certain organization with a major presence in that city…the “st peters vasilica” of said organization…

            The mind wanders at times…

            Reply
      2. NotTimothyGeithner

        Edison did electrocute an elephant, but there is “hype” and hype. Lightbulbs are great because its less dirty at least on the consumer end and less likely to burn the house down.

        The Wright Brothers did have reporters. They weren’t the only would be people to be first in aviation. If memory serves, there was an 1890’s high profile embarrassment in Brazil. To me, the problem is closer to “gadgets” being hyped as revolutions.

        Reply
        1. Octopii

          Where is this myth coming from, that the Wright Brothers weren’t the first to fly? The Wrights had something nobody else did, no matter what alternate history comes out of the woodwork: Control.

          Reply
      3. Kokuanani

        Perhaps it’s the aging of the population that’s motivating the self-driving car craze. Folks getting older, less able to see, slower reflexes; creaky joints that can’t walk anywhere; a “memory” that can’t figure out where you intended to go. All of this —> self-driving cars for oldsters.

        However, the geniuses will have to figure out how oldsters are going to have enough MONEY to purchase one of these miracles. Will Tesla take assignment of one’s social security check?

        Reply
        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          That’s an elephant in the room, the way we are not setting up our world to handle all the retirees who’s IRA’s we were supposed to buy up.

          I might also suggest that there’s a ‘you lose points’ attitude in our country about walking somewhere when you could have parked closer.

          Perhaps when pedestrians can wear a big helmet with a bud-lite for SDVs to treat them as middle class, walking on two legs will become a hip new health activity.

          Reply
          1. Darius

            It’s supposed to be a bunch of robot Ubers. Big capital would have the muscle to clear people off the streets to make way for wandering robot vehicles for hire.

            Reply
          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Perhaps when pedestrians can wear a big helmet

            That would solve a lot of problems; the helmet would broadcast a signal to the robot cars. Again, if your algo is broken, fix the inputs. Think of it as being “informed consent” for being a pedestrian. If you’re not wearing your helmet and you get hit by a car, no liability!

            Get helmets on people’s heads. Think of the possibilities!

            Reply
        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Self-driving cars are supposed to inspire several hundred million Americans to support the idea of spending hundreds of billions of dollars on self-driving cars in order to prevent that money from getting spent on restoring train, trolley and streetcar travel to what America had in 1920.

          I remember a couple of decades ago, “smart cars” and “smart highways” were the alternative offered to try preventing people from thinking about spending a “smart highway” load of money on restoring instead the trains, trolleys and streetcars back to 1920 levels.

          Reply
    2. Lee

      Pedestrians are a rarity in certain sterile suburban hellscapes like the one where I was raised and which has since been subsumed by Silicon Valley. Few people walk except in the malls, company campuses, or office buildings. Between those places they drive personal vehicles on boulevards and expressways with empty or no sidewalks at al. Such areas are to a great extent already adapted to self-driving cars. This model has been well established in Los Angeles for quite some time. It was transplanted to San Jose and its surrounding areas in the 60s, and continues to spread through the greater sf bay area. Will self-driving cars still brake for not only our still abundant pedestrians but also for birds and squirrels as we do in our east sf bay area town?

      Reply
        1. Lee

          Will the insurance companies provide coverage? That may be pivotal issue unless the makers self insure their self driving vehicles.

          Reply
          1. Bill

            yes, good question. liability is whose? software developer? Intel got off, what does that mean. hacking insurance, what will that cost? I predict windfall for insurance underwriters

            Reply
      1. Wukchumni

        One thing i’ve noticed about people when they do get away from their wheeled vehicles, is they have a hard time walking on uneven surfaces. It can be pretty comical to watch them negotiate bumpy stretches, as they oftentimes have scant flexibility.

        Reply
  6. Lee

    Why is Oakland so militant? Why can’t they get humane, local governmental institutions that aren’t unduly prone to corruption and incompetence? The town is chock full of radical activists, homegrown and from next door in Berkeley; it is the birthplace of the Black Panthers. These are interesting question to which I do not have an answer.

    Reply
    1. Fiery Hunt

      I’d say that’s why….Oakland for DECADES was run by the corrupt black Demo Misleadership Class.
      For history, here’s the first Green Party victory over that same bunch of corrupt Democratic “activists”..

      https://www.salon.com/1999/04/06/green_party/

      So much money sloshing around for “activists” who changed or bettered NOTHING. Berkeley is the exact same except substitute “homeless activists” for “community activists”.

      As Lambert likes to say…it’s the Bezzle.
      In the East Bay, the money play is ALWAYS local and state gov’t funding…

      Reply
          1. Jim Haygood

            “They [Congressional Black Caucus] have perverted the electoral franchise of the nation’s most progressive constituency to the service of a global war machine and an all-pervasive national security state — the antithesis of Dr. King’s vision.”

            Beautiful … thank you.

            Reply
      1. Jean

        BTW, the Oakland broken pipes url is
        https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/broken-pipes-broken-system/Content?oid=12464701

        Oakland is famous for hiring the wrong people. Witness the “firechief” who neglected to conduct inspections under her watch which led to 36 people dying in the Ghost Ship disaster. She was hired from San Jose, gee,wonder why she left? Landed in Oakland, filled all the right category checkoff requirements and basically failed at her job. After the Ghostship disaster she “retired” and is collecting multiple taxpayer funded pensions.

        http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-Fire-Chief-Teresa-Deloach-Reed-to-retire-11002283.php

        Reply
      2. Mark P.

        Why is Oakland so militant?

        One reason is that Oakland cops are still amazingly awful.

        Not as amazingly awful as back in the Black Panthers’ 1960s-70s heyday. But forex around 2019, 400 of them were going to be laid off unless the necessary funds were found. For a year you couldn’t drive within 20 blocks of downtown — and I had a loft within that radius — without getting pulled over and a cop trying to find a reason to ticket you, Ferguson-style. I’m glad to say that the necessary funds couldn’t be raised and those 400 scum were laid off.

        But yeah — in Oakland, as that old line has it, the cops are just the biggest gang.

        Reply
    1. Kokuanani

      The latest on the lack of Senate action [from the WaPo site]:

      Majority whip says Senate will hold a showdown vote to end debate on House-passed spending bill
      The federal government barreled toward a shutdown as a last-ditch meeting between President Trump and the Senate’s top Democrat produced no resolution and a senior Republican signaled a showdown vote would occur within hours. Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) dismissed the notion of a days-long funding bill, which Democrats have pursued in order to continue negotiations over the status of “dreamers,” as “an absurd idea.”
      By Mike DeBonis, Ed O’Keefe, Erica Werner and Elise Viebeck17 minutes ago

      Reply
      1. Rhondda

        I heard some sort of local consultant on the local politics show on tote bag radio here in KC today. She asserted that polling shows that when the govt shutdown is tied to DACA/immigration…Dems take a big hit in support. It wasn’t clear to me whether she was talking Mo/Kan or national polling.

        Reply
    1. Lee

      Everything Is Broken
      Bob Dylan

      Broken lines, broken strings,
      Broken threads, broken springs,
      Broken idols, broken heads,
      People sleeping in broken beds
      Ain’t no use jiving
      Ain’t no use joking
      Everything is broken
      Broken bottles, broken plates,
      Broken switches, broken gates,
      Broken dishes, broken parts,
      Streets are filled with broken hearts
      Broken words never meant to be spoken,
      Everything is broken
      Seem like every time you stop and turn around
      Something else just hit the ground
      Broken cutters, broken saws,
      Broken buckles, broken laws,
      Broken bodies, broken bones,
      Broken voices on broken phones
      Take a deep breath, feel like you’re chokin’,
      Everything is broken
      Every time you leave and go off someplace
      Things fall to pieces in my face
      Broken hands on broken ploughs,
      Broken treaties, broken vows,
      Broken pipes, broken tools,
      People bending broken rules
      Hound dog howling, bull frog croaking,
      Everything is broken

      My favorite version by R.L. Burnside
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jhKqqYuV9MU

      Reply
      1. Lemmy Guitar

        Nice pick and thanks for the link. To continue the theme and lighten the mood, here’s one from Johnny “Guitar” Watson:

        A Real Mother For You

        Wanna buy a new car
        But the price ain’t right
        Be a downside cheaper (yes it would)
        Start riding a bike
        They are making milk out of powder
        Got the baby’s crying
        Rent’s gone up higher
        Got the parents lying (I’ll pay you next week)

        Lord, its a real mother for ya (yeah)
        make you wanna run for cover
        And if you look you will discover (yeah)
        Lord, its a real mother for ya yeah.

        Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Looking intellectual is so important that the workplace must be renamed ‘campus.’

      “But you didn’t need to go to one in order to start this company.”

      Ego and pride can only hinder one’s pursuit of knowledge and wisdom. I mean we could do it, but liberation will allow us to go on to higher peaks.

      Reply
  7. Wukchumni

    “It is an ancient political vehicle, held together by soft soap and hunger and with front-seat drivers and back-seat drivers contradicting each other in a bedlam of voices, shouting “go right” and “go left” at the same time.”~ Adlai Stevenson

    Reply
  8. hunkerdown

    re: Now your nightlight can notify you of retweets and emails

    Am I the only one who immediately thought of this song:

    I’m your only friend
    I’m not your only friend
    But I’m a little glowing friend
    But really I’m not actually your friend
    But I am

    Blue canary in the outlet by the light switch
    Who watches over you
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul
    Not to put too fine a point on it
    Say I’m the only bee in your bonnet
    Make a little birdhouse in your soul

    re: optimized for engagement

    Even John Robb believes this won’t end well. No word on whether he thinks the same strategy in the Middle East will end well.

    Reply
  9. D

    Charles H., re:

    … Apple deserves at least a little applause.

    From the Associated Press™ link you noted in that comment, Apple banks on tax break to build 2nd campus, hire 20,000, the last sentence at that link:

    Unlike Amazon, Apple isn’t openly soliciting bids from cities interested in its new campus.

    Well (please bear with me, it’s been made deliberately(?) confusing). I suspect that lack of bidding is possibly because that so called second campus, as referred to in that piece, is actually the 3rd Campus [1], which has mostly been built already (oh my! the fleeing and homelessness it created in the Lockheed based City of Sunnyvale, where the police appear to make sure no one appears to be homeless in clear view; and where apartment dwellers outnumber house owners dwelling in thier own condos/homes? i.e. the newly created homeless likely migrated South, to San Jose).

    That third, Lockheed’s Sunnyvale campus is off of the same Wolfe Road a second’s drive from the interstection of Wolfe andCentral Expressway, in Sunnyvale , to the east of the, Cupertino – ‘Spacehip’ – Campus, which just opened months ago; look for the seriously small print about Apple, in that disingenous Comcast/NBC link (see also, the piece is not referring to that first ‘Spaceship’ campus, stay with me here).

    Lastly, we can’t talk about the benevolence of Oligarchies caring about citizens they screwed over a decade ago, premised on obscene Multinational Corporate Tax Amnesty, when millions of US citzen’s are not – never have been – amnestied of obscene early retirement account distribrution penalties and interest when they actually were effectively early retired (despite their expertise) at least a decade prior to age 65. That’s not even to mention all of the other obscene Tax Crimes against citizens versus Multinational Corporations.

    I know and love people in Sunnyvale (I visit it quite frequently), workinng full time/way too early retired, who have been/are being treated like vermin, despite no criminal record. I have no respect for Tim Cook (and the highly unpleasant Steve Jobs, before him, Apple™, or the Local [Lockheed Centered] Government™).

    [1] The first, and still existant, Apple campus, per Wiki: The Apple Campus was the corporate headquarters of Apple Inc. from 1993 until 2017, when it was largely replaced by Apple Park, though it is still used by Apple as office and lab space. The campus is located at 1 Infinite Loop in Cupertino, California, United States. Its design resembles that of a university, with the buildings arranged around green spaces, similar to a suburban business park.

    the second campus, Apple Park is the Spaceship Campus, which opened in 2017 in Cupertino, off of Wolfe Road in Cupertino.

    Reply
  10. D

    Note, in my comment above, That third, Lockheed’s Sunnyvale, is referring to the fact that Sunnyvale was predominantly orchards, before Lockheed’s predominance, on Mathilda Road, in Sunnyvale California.

    Reply
  11. Duck1

    Nice essay by Escobar, apologies or coke if previously linked:

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/01/19/rome-a-eulogy/

    The eyes roving in ecstasy of rows and rows of Chinese pilgrims discovering Rome tell us a lovely New Silk Road parable. Post-modern Marco Polos in reverse, they see Rome and Italy as a possible version of the Chinese Dream; a living museum representing an exciting synthesis between conservation of history and modernization, a living, breathing exercise on how to build a post-industrial society that respects myriad aspects of an ancient mode of life. The politics suck, of course, but no civilization is perfect.

    Reply
  12. D

    Apologies, my above two comments were related to a comment made by “Craig H.”, not “Charles H.”

    (accidents sometimes happen when one feels like time is running out to testify, which is likely a feature, and not a bug, of the Technocracy we are dominated by.)

    Reply
  13. integer

    Greenwald has been tweeting about the memo du jour:

    https://twitter.com/ggreenwald/status/954385658428223488

    While he makes a valid point, I think it is fair to consider that if this memo really does contain the evidence that the R party members have alluded to, it has the potential to tear the US apart. I mean, there are still (tens of) millions of liberals who are 100% convinced that Trump’s presidency was enabled by the Kremlin (snicker). This is not an outcome that should be taken lightly.

    Reply
      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Trump was also enabled by the DemParty Clintonites and their MSM supporters and fellow travelers. It was the “pied piper” strategy designed to get Trump nominated as being the weakest candidate Clinton would have to face.

        Not so weak as you thought, eh Clinton?

        Reply
    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Greenwald:

      Reply
  14. knowbuddhau

    “In addition to fueling the West’s winter tourism industry, the snow provides a steady supply of water for the Colorado River, which serves 40 million people spread from Denver to Los Angeles.”

    So, 40 million people spread from Denver to LA drink spent tourism fuel. Nice way of looking at things. Not.

    Also too, that’s a lot of people for one river. Rivers are forever, right? Neoliberalism sez, when the river runs dry, let them drink bottled. It’s a “go die faster because markets” win-win story. Someone’s going to make a killing.

    Um, since when is it January 20, 6263 at 3:16 pm? Pretty sure it was 19 January, going on 7pm, when I sat down. Am I time-warping again?

    Reply
  15. The Major (fka Howard Beale IV)

    As someone from MI-01, and as a registered Republican to boot, I am sorely tempted to primary Bergman – problem is that I lack any sort of backing to put Bergman out to pasture where he belongs….

    Reply
      1. integer

        I saw that WaPo had a live video feed, but alas, my computer and browser are too old for HTML 5. Actually, I do have a modern laptop, but it is pretty much reserved for offline Matlab use.

        Reply
        1. integer

          “The internet is a hostile computing environment.”*
          – Lambert Strether

          * May be paraphrased, but I did my best.

          Reply
  16. Procopius

    This is probably too late to get any response, but does anybody know who was filibustering the Continuing Resolution in the Senate? The only reason they would need to invoke cloture, which would be the only reason they needed 60 votes, would be if somebody was filibustering. You cannot filibuster anonymously, the way you can put a hold on a nominee. The person (or group) conducting the filibuster must be known. I’ve been looking for the info for several days now, and I can’t even find acknowledgement that a filibuster is being conducted, or that there might be one. It would be monumentally stupid for the Democrats to do, so they probably are, but how can I find out?

    Reply
  17. XXYY

    Are We Ready for Autonomous Vehicles?

    Some interesting stuff in here, especially thinking about larger impacts to vehicle design and businesses near highways if and when autonomous vehicles appear. The writer does not seem too optimistic about this, and in fact seems to have worked on the issue back in the 80s.

    He also makes the point that road systems are and will continue to be designed for the existing 250 million-strong human-driven vehicle fleet, and extensive changes to favor autonomous technology are not imminent.

    It’s interesting to think about the evolution of horse-drawn vehicles to horseless ones, which in some ways is a similar paradigm shift. The key, I think (I wasn’t there!) was that horseless vehicles could use the exact same roads and tracks that horse-drawn vehicles used, even though this was not optimal for them. This allowed horseless vehicles to be immediately useful, rather than having to wait for some utopian future of smooth, paved, pedestrianless roads to be built first. Once a critical mass of owners, manufacturers, dealers, fuel suppliers, mechanics, and whatever else gradually came into being, it started to make sense to adapt the road system for these new vehicles, something that is still going on in many ways.

    So (I claim), large scale infrastructure development *follows* the introduction of a successful new technology; it can’t be a precursor to it. This sets the bar for autonomous vehicles.

    Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Well, actually, the Wheelsman Clubs for cyclists were pushing for road improvements from at least the 1890s. They literally paved the way. And were eventually treated as second-class users of the utilities they helped develop.

      Reply

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