2:00PM Water Cooler 8/17/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“China’s Most Powerful Weapon In The Trade War” [Safe Haven]. “The potential LNG glut was forecast to persist until 2022, but Beijing singlehandedly changed the fortunes of producers with a massive increase in imports. China has already surpassed South Korea to become the second biggest importer of natural gas and, according to the IEA, the country is set to become the largest importer next year…. The effect of tariffs on U.S. LNG could be significant as it would obviously raise the cost of transporting the super-chilled natural gas to Chinese customers. Despite American exporters being the sixth biggest supplier of LNG at the moment, impressive growth and overabundance of natural gas in the U.S. provide it with even more supply for global customers. For every 175 units being produced, just 100 are being consumed in America while 75 percent is available for export…. In the short-term, tariffs are likely to simply shift the global LNG market. When China decides not to buy LNG from the U.S. and instead purchase from alternative sources, other consumers are likely to act in the opposite direction. However, the factors that made Beijing reconsider its threat regarding crude oil (the discount of U.S. product and higher quality) do not apply for LNG where the cost of transportation rises significantly with distance and quality is not an issue.”

“Sen. Sherrod Brown is warning that what the U.S. currently has on the table on labor issues in NAFTA 2.0 may be insufficient to get his support, jeopardizing his ability to bring other Democrats to a ‘yes’ vote. Brown and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer have maintained close contact on NAFTA talks as the administration’s top trade official tries to woo a significant number of Democrats to support the pact when it’s up for a vote” [Politico]. “‘I looked President Trump in the eye and told him that if they get a deal that’s better for American workers, not only will I vote for it, I’ll help him get the votes it needs to pass. I think we’ve made a lot of progress,’ Brown said…. ‘But it’s hard to see how we get those votes if this deal doesn’t do more on labor enforcement than we’ve seen in past FTAs. We can’t make a real difference for American workers without enforcement of labor law in Mexico.'”



“Elizabeth Warren Proposes a Second New Deal” [The American Prospect]. “Comes now Elizabeth Warren, like Sanders, seeking to re-create the New Deal’s creation of a vibrant middle class—but in this instance, not through an updated version of governmental social provision, as Sanders suggested, but through that other dimension of New Deal success: bolstering worker power.” • As I wrote yesterday, outflanking Sanders from the left. More: “Warren, then, is seeking to reinvent the ‘corporate conduct’ side of the New Deal, much as Sanders wants to reinvent its social-rights dimension. This is not to say either is opposed to the other’s endeavors: Warren, for instance, supports Sanders’s Medicare for All bill, among other similar proposals. Both also support the next iteration of labor law reform, which would renew the promise of the NLRA by restoring workers’ rights to associate and bargain…. co-determination has been a major factor in Germany’s ability to maintain world leadership in manufacturing, preserve its middle class, and limit CEO pay—a whole raft of achievements that have eluded the financialized United States.” • Although “co-” is doing a lot of work in that “co-determination,” and delineates precisely the limits up to which Warren is willing to expend poltical, er, capital. Ditto, I think, for Sanders.

“Some Illuminating Reactions To Elizabeth Warren’s Worker Rights Plan” [Current Affairs]. “Warren’s plan is similar, though less radical, than the employee co-determination scheme that operates in Germany. It would leave the basic structure of American enterprise entirely untouched. But, in a sign of just how extreme U.S. “free market” thinking truly is, commentators on the right instantly denounced Warren’s as representing the total destruction of economic life as we know it.…. Either way, though, this is a dispute about the best policy. It is not about whether the government is being a “dictatorship” or not, because no matter what you think the legal purpose of a corporation ought to be, there is a legal purpose, a.k.a. a government requirement. In fact, there are already tons of requirements that the government imposes on corporations, because the corporation is a creation of government. If Kevin Williamson thinks Elizabeth Warren’s proposal is dictatorial, just wait until he sees the Delaware incorporation statute, the law that defines how a corporation works. It tells corporations how their officers are to be selected, who has liability for what, what powers the stockholders have. It even tells them how often they have to have meetings! Dictatorship! Slavery! The road to serfdom!” • Yep. Oh for the days of rational conservative discourse. Say, when were they?


“The Governors: Ratings Changes Abound” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Democrats should net governorships, and more than just a few, but there’s a lot of uncertainty. To wit: Three of the ratings changes benefit Democrats, but the other three are in favor of Republicans. Watch the Midwest. The Republicans control five of the six governorships on the ballot this fall from that region, but the Democrats hypothetically could sweep all six or at least win several of those races.”

PA-07: “Lehigh Valley velodrome board put Pennsylvania congressional candidate Marty Nothstein on leave after sexual misconduct allegation” [Morning Call]. “The probe, as well as the board’s vote, have not been previously reported and come after a three-month investigation by The Morning Call. The newspaper could not determine what the complaint alleges, whether the investigation is open or if Nothstein has been cleared of wrongdoing. Nothstein, who has been a county commissioner since 2016 and is now the chairman, is seeking an open seat in Pennsylvania’s 7th District during a competitive midterm election that could factor into whether Democrats can flip control of the House. More than 35 velodrome board members, track personnel and cyclists ignored or declined to respond to repeated questions by Morning Call reporters about Nothstein, U.S. track racing’s most decorated athlete and a rising political star. Some cited legal constraints, others cited fairness to Nothstein, some said they feared retaliation.” • Not a good look, to say the least.

“What Did Campaigns Advertise About This Primary Season?” [Cook Political Report]. “As you can see, Democrats are talking overwhelmingly about healthcare (with a healthy dose of anti-Trump), while Republicans are more evenly distributed between pro-Trump, taxes, and immigration.” With handy chart:

“Health care” as a category, of course, neatly erases the distinction between #MedicareForAll and the various fake alternatives proposed by liberal Democrats. So Democrat messaging is not nearly as consistent as the chart shows. By my count, 89 of 392 challengers, or roughly 25%, backed #MedicareForAll. If the flippable sample in my worksheet is representative, and advertising is evenly distributed across all candidates, that would bring fake Medicare ads down to roughly 97,000 in the above chart, making anti-Trump at 59,000 a much larger proportion.

New Cold War

“AP Interview: Top Republican opens up about Russia probe” (interview) [Associated Press]. “For much of the last two years, Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr has been the Russia investigator who is seen but rarely heard on Capitol Hill… Burr said there is ‘no factual evidence today that we’ve received’ on collusion or conspiracy between Russia and President Donald Trump’s campaign. But he said he’s still open on the issue…. The committee is also still talking to lawyers for former British spy Christopher Steele, who compiled a dossier containing allegations of ties between Trump, his associates and Russia during the election, and lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in hopes of gaining closed-door interviews, Burr said… For now, Burr says, the committee is preparing to put out two reports by the end of September: one on the Obama administration’s response to Russia’s election interference, and a second on Russia’s election meddling on social media…. ‘I don’t think any of us when we started understood just how coordinated the disinformation and societal chaos campaign was. I think what probably will be shocking is how early it started — much earlier than the parameters that people have put on the 2016 election,” Burr says, teasing information that will come out in one of the future reports. He wouldn’t give any additional details.” • Yes, Brock’s been operating for years….

UPDATE What Atrios said, especially the “burned to the ground” part:

The racket, as I should have pointed out yesterday, is not only lucrative cable gigs for intelligence community insiders, but consulting contracts as well. It’s particularly schadenfreude-inducing that it’s credentialed professionals who are being hit where it hurts, in their wallets, by removing credentials: Security clearances. Public goods for private gain: The whole racket is openly corrupt, and I don’t care who set it on fire, or why.

UPDATE “Top former intelligence bosses sign letter supporting John Brennan” [CBS]. “Thirteen former senior intelligence officials, including 12 former CIA directors and deputy directors and one former director of national intelligence, have signed a letter of support for former CIA director John Brennan, calling the signal sent by the White House’s decision to strip him of his security clearance “inappropriate” and ‘deeply regrettable.'” • Holy moley, look at the signers. There’s George “slam dunk” Tenet. There’s Michael Hayden, who helped destroy the Fourth Amendment and lied about it to Congress. There’s David Petraeus, who leaked classified information to his mistress slash biographer (!). There’s James Clapper. He helped destroy the Fourth Amendment and lied to Congress, too! And there’s Mike Morell, torturer. What a rogue’s gallery! Why are any of these evil clowns able to participate in public life without derision, let alone cash in on their security clearances? Tapeworm to doctor: “Removing me would be deeply regrettable!”

The Crash, Ten Years After

“Barney Frank on His Regrets From the Great Recession” [New York Magazine]. “If you had asked me in 1953 whether we were prepared to deal with credit-default swaps, I’d say — I was busy with my bar mitzvah, so I probably wouldn’t have had the attention to pay. Back then, I would have said, “What, what, what is that? Who? What?” So I don’t know. I can’t foresee what the innovations will be 20 years from now. But to the extent that there are incremental changes, that they find loopholes, we think that the regulators have the power now to handle those.” • Is financial “innovation” all that important? As a public good?

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Aug 16 Washington’s Culture of Deception” [Castellanos]. “[Trump’s] new lies are different from the ones with which Washington is familiar, the lies they have spent decades practicing. They have jolted Washington with their crudity. They are evident and unembarrassed. These deceits have been marched, bare of pretense, raw and muscular, to parade in the public sun, without apology or shame…. The American people know Donald Trump tells lies. They believe the government he was sent to disrupt lives them.” • From a Republican consultant…

UPDATE “The grand jury report about Catholic priest abuse in Pennsylvania shows the church is a criminal syndicate” [NBC]. “The report was written by 23 grand jurors wrote over the course of two years, and is very clear about how the authorities of the church protected the clergy while further abusing victims with payoffs, silencing and attempts to denigrate their character. Two cardinals, Cardinal Wuerl and the now-deceased Cardinal Bevilacqua (who also figured prominently in the Philadelphia grand jury report), are among those who disciplined but moved around clergy who sexually abused children…. It chronicles in detail how the Catholic hierarchy from the diocese to the Vatican worked not only mitigate the church’s legal exposure, but to maintain strategies to ‘avoid scandal.'” Horrible stuff, and the shameful behavior of the Catholic Church is such a great contrast to the way Obama’s Justice Department prosecuted scores of banking executives for accounting control fraud after The Crash. Oh, wait…

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, August 2018 (Preliminary): “A big downshift in the perception of auto and home prices headlines a soft consumer sentiment report where the preliminary August index fell” [Econoday]. “August’s weakness is centered in the bottom third of the sample’s income distribution with buying conditions for large household durables at a 4-year low and pricing perceptions at a 10-year high.” • Not unnatural, since real wages are flat or actually falling. And: “August Consumer Sentiment Slides to 11-Month Low” [247 Wall Street]. “The August index and subindex readings came in either flat or down, both for the month and when compared to August of last year. The preliminary August reading represents an 11-month low. The threat of inflation gets the blame because many Americans do not see their spending power rising, either through wage increases or tax cuts.” • Not just inflation!

Leading Indicators, July 2018: “July was a second month of strength for the index of leading economic indicators” [Econoday]. And but: “Because of the significant backward revisions, I do not trust this index” [Econintersect].

E-Commerce Retail Sales, Q2 2018: “The pace of online shopping picked up slightly in the second quarter but against a downward revised first quarter” [Econoday].

ECRI’s WLI Growth Index: “ECRI’s WLI Growth Rate Index At 47 Week Low” [Econintersect]. “Even with the general downward trend in this index over the last 6 months, the forecast is for modest (approaching insignificant) growth six months from today.”

GDP: “Q3 GDP Forecasts” [Calculated Risk]. “Since it is early, the range of estimates are wide. These estimates suggest real annualized GDP in the 2.4% to 4.3% range in Q3.”

Retail: “Walmart Extends Grocery Dominance as Whole Foods Has Too Few Stores” [247 Wall Street]. “Amazon has a problem as it battles for market share in the grocery business. Its recent buyout of Whole Foods gave it ownership of an operation with only 487 stores in North America and the United Kingdom. This is nowhere near the number of locations of its primary rivals. It has trouble reaching enough customers to matter. Whole Foods’ two primary rivals are Kroger Co. (NYSE: KR) and Walmart, which have 2,229 and 4,761 stores, respectively. Not all Walmart stores carry groceries, but most do. Grocery sales are among the largest components of Walmart’s U.S. operations.”

Retail: “Walmart Inc. may be on the way to solving one of the e-commerce era’s biggest operating challenges: inventory. The retailer says inventories declined in the second quarter while its sales soared, suggesting efforts to line up goods for online and physical-store sales are gaining traction…. [T]he world’s largest retailer saw sales rise at the fastest rate in over a decade as higher wages and employment put more cash in shoppers’ pockets. Walmart’s sales rose to $128 billion in the quarter, and e-commerce shot up 40% in the wake of major investments to expand its online business and fend off competition from Amazon.com Inc.” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “The impact of last-mile delivery and visibility in logistics on consumer retention” [FreightWaves]. “”There is a lot of emotion linked to products that customers order. If I order something on an ecommerce website, I’m curious as to where the package is at different stages of its journey to my house,” [said Dhruvil Sanghvi, CEO at Loginext]. ‘Visibility is not a choice these days, but a need.’ Social media and real-time updates have helped evolve the traits of people to make them crave for instant gratification. This has led to a situation where the sooner the promised delivery date and more often a business keeps its word on delivery promptness, the more trustworthy it becomes. Sanghvi insisted that delivery schedules and last-mile delivery success might even trump the quality of products being sold. ‘When a customer goes online and sees a product, he also looks at the date of delivery. He is more likely to buy a product if there is a promise of it being delivered the next day, rather than if it comes with a week-long delivery schedule,’ he said. ‘The excitement of buying a product needs to be sustained till the time the product gets to the hand of the customer. And this can only be done with the right kind of technology and real-time visibility.” • This Sanghvi dude is talking book, and the Freight Waves staffer is writing it down. That said, I never thought of logistics as creating a social media-like dopamine loop. But apparently it does.

Tech: “The Hill Interview: Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey explains what got Alex Jones suspended” [The Hill]. “[DORSEY:] ‘We’re always trying to cultivate more of a learning mindset and help guide people back towards healthier behaviors and healthier public conversation.” • @jack. J-a-a-a-a-c-k!!!!! No. All I want is a timeline, in reverse chronological order, of tweets from people I subscribe to. That’s all I want. I don’t want your algos crapping up my timeline. And I specifically do not want Silicon Valley squillionaires “guiding” me to “healthier” “conversations.” “We broke it, but we’re the experts, now let us fix it.” Dear Lord.

The Bezzle: “Shows with legs – – more background on the Netflix thread (and an excuse for a Friday post of MeTV promos)” [West Coast Stat Views]. “When increasing supply increases demand, things get very strange very quickly. Insert highly appropriate Twilight Zone reference here. For now, we’ll focus on one specific corner of the topic, television shows that maintain a viable and highly lucrative syndication presence for decades, often actually growing in popularity since their initial run.” Like I Love Lucy, Perry Mason, Friends, etc. More: “Nobody understands the economics of these shows better than Weigel Broadcasting, the [family-owned] company that almost single-handedly developed the entire terrestrial superstation segment of the industry.” More here. And from “the Netflix thread”: “[I]t is fairly obvious that Netflix has a strong preference for shows that are easy to promote and that a significant portion of their original content budget (and presumably virtually all of their remaining content budget) is going toward shows that contribute little or nothing to the content library. If Netflix really is playing the wildly ambitious, extremely long term game that forms the basis for the company’s standard narrative and justifies incredible amounts of money investors are pouring in, then this distribution makes no sense whatsoever. If, on the other hand, the company is simply trying to keep the stock pumped up until they can find a soft landing spot, it makes all the sense in the world.” • Another valuation story. But what isn’t these days, eh?

Mr. Market: “Tesla shares slide after Elon Musk describes his ‘excruciating year’ in NYT interview” [MarketWatch]. • I suppose Musk smearing that Thai cave rescue volunteer as a pedophile was down to the Ambien…

Health Care

What Stoller said:

It’s also a bet against #MedicareForAll, by people who have enough loose cash lying about to rig the game.

Our Famously Free Press

“Headline Hoedowns and How The Texas Tribune Integrated SEO into Its Newsroom” [Emily Roseman, Shorenstein Center of Media, Politics, and Public Policy]. “Leading up to the election, Amanda set a goal for the Trib to dominate search authority during Texas’s primary election coverage. This involved rigorously searching and tracking the competitive keywords and keyword search rank associated with each candidate and updating a collection of keywords to optimize in certain stories.” • Hmm. This doesn’t sound very much like reporting.


“Wheat’s complex genome finally deciphered, offering hope for better harvests and nonallergenic varieties” [Nature]. “Thanks to a decadelong effort, the wheat genome has finally come into sharp focus, speeding the search for genes that could boost harvests and even make wheat less likely to trigger allergies…. The data, described this week in Science, represent the long-awaited culmination of the International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium, a massive collaboration of academic and industry researchers from 20 countries.” From the Consortium: “The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium is pleased to announce that all data related to the reference sequence of bread wheat, IWGSC RefSeq v1.0, are available without restriction.” • Sadly, my first thought was “What about the intellectual property?” But that’s the time that we live in…

“The great African regreening: millions of ‘magical’ new trees bring renewal” [Guardian]. “From the peanut basin of Senegal to the Seno plains of Mali, to Yatenga, formerly the most degraded region of Burkina Faso, and as far south as Malawi: gaos are thriving in Africa. And over the past three decades, the landscape of southern Niger has been transformed by more than 200m new trees, many of them gaos. They have not been planted but have grown naturally on over 5m hectares of farmland, nurtured by thousands of farmers.”

Class Warfare

“Standards Go Out The Window As Employers Struggle To Fill Jobs” [Safe Haven]. “In the first half of 2018, the share of job postings requesting a college degree fell from 32 percent to 30 percent, according to an analysis by labor-market research firm Burning Glass Technologies covering some 29 million job postings. Share of posts requiring three or more years of job experience have dropped from 29 percent in 2012 to 23 percent in 2018, which translates to 1.2 million jobs that could be open to less-experienced candidates. Even better … some one million job openings—for everything from preschool teachers and warehouse workers to e-commerce analysts–have opened up to candidates with ‘no experience necessary’ in the last year.” • I’m so old I remember when “on-the-job training” was normal, and you didn’t need a Masters Degree in Medieval Literature to send most of your Starbucks check to the student loan people. And how come headlines like that are never written for CEOs?

“Love and Death in Mississippi” [Southern Spaces]. “A Mississippi law that protects a funeral home’s decision not only to deny a gay man mortuary service for his late husband but also to renege on the contract already established once they learned of the couple’s intimate status is shameful, unethical, and arguably unconstitutional.” • Very moving. On Zawadski v. Brewer Funeral Services.

“South Korea: After 12 Years of Protests, Women Workers Get ‘Dream Jobs’ Back” [Labor Notes]. “After 12 years of campaigns and protests against unjust layoffs, 180 female attendants at South Korea’s premier train service are getting their jobs back. These tenacious women workers defeated a ham-handed privatization effort and corrupt political collusion.” • Good! Random note: See the picture accompanying the article; I’ve always thought those headbands with lettering look especially, well, tenacious and solidaritous (if that’s a word, which I don’t think it is). They seem to be worn only by East Asian protesters, but perhaps the practice might spread…

“The Week in Public Finance: The Unexpected Cost of Trying to Land Amazon’s HQ2” [Governing]. “[The race to win Amazon’s second headquarters] is basically Amazon’s way of gathering a lot of information for free in a short amount of time and understanding the incentives those localities are willing to offer,’ says Kasia Tarczynska, who curates the data on Amazon for Good Jobs First…. Take the Birmingham, Ala., metro area. It was one of hundreds that bid for Amazon’s HQ2 and didn’t make the short list released in January. But just weeks ago, Amazon announced it would open a new distribution center there — the first in the state — and create 1,500 jobs. For doing so, the company will receive $51 million in state, county and local tax incentives, on top of an unspecified amount in local occupational tax incentives…. The deal was hailed by regional leaders as a huge win…. But some have begun to question the price tag. Standing out in stark contrast to the deal in Alabama is one made just weeks before for a similarly sized distribution center in Tulsa, Okla., that will also create 1,500 jobs. That deal cost Tulsa just $2.3 million in reported local subsidies.” • Of course, $50 million is chump change to Amazon. But it means a lot to a state or locality.

UPDATE Everything’s going according to plan:

The 9.9% + 0.1% do nothing about it, so they support it.

News of The Wired

“Universal Method to Sort Complex Information Found” [Quanta]. This is dense. The conclusion: “[T]he new papers recast nearest neighbor search for high-dimensional data in a general light for the first time. Instead of working up one-off algorithms for specific distances, computer scientists now have a one-size-fits-all approach to finding nearest neighbor algorithms.” • People who work with, say, data structures like Facebook’s social graph will be very happy with this result.

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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 (crittermom):

Crittermom writes: “Bees on a cactus flower.” Holy moley, look at that pollen! And an enormous fritillary just sampled my sunflowers. So, good news on the the pollinator front!

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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. Altandmain

    I have been thinking about the declining fertility rates.


    For many years now, I have seen the far right insist that people are to blame for their own misfortune for “having children they cannot afford”. That is ridiculous considering how they are pushing down class warfare and liberals are pushing neoliberalism. The religious fundamentalists seem also determined to ban abortion so they deserve the blame for that too.

    However now they have gotten more of what they wanted. Fewer people are having kids that they are unable to afford.

    Actually considering the state of society, outside of the top 10 percent, it is increasingly difficult to find the money for kids. There is also the matter of asking, what kind of a world would they inherit?

    When we look at issues like global warming, rising inequality, resource depletion, etc, unless these trends reverse, they are looking at a world that will have a lower standard of living.

    1. Massinissa

      Actually, lately the far right has been complaining that white people have not been having enough babies. You know, the ‘white genocide’ types and so forth.

      Maybe if they could, you know, afford them they would have more… But nope, now first world white people are drowning in non-discharge able student loan debt. Though the far right insists its because of abortion, gays, feminism… Anything that isn’t economic.

    2. Oregoncharles

      At least there’s some good news – even if it’s driven by all the bad news. Further good news: apparently people are more rational about reproduction than we thought. Granted, this also comes with evidence that people are also having less sex, perhaps as a result of living with their parents. Which also explains the lower fertility.

    3. PKMKII

      It strikes at that fundamental contradiction in neoliberalism: If times are tough, you need to constrain, do without, cut back, cut down, live within your means hey wait why is consumption going down? Telling people to contract in order to expand the economy is like those old sayings about peace through war.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Tell me again: why would we want to expand the economy?

        Oh, yeah, a primal flaw in capitalism.

        1. JTMcPhee

          “The economy.” Maybe it’s a machine that can only operate to one end? So thus, a primal flaw in the Intelligent Design? But it seems like some places achieve some kind of stable and sustainable condition, where “the economy,” the local one, produces livable conditions (albeit constantly under threat of predation and destruction by the “externalities” crapped out by the rest of humankind in other parts of the planet, near and far, playing their own version of “the economy.”

          Is “the economy” a monad, or what?

          1. Oregoncharles

            Can monads expand?

            Somehow, we have to get to an economic steady state. There are actually people working on it: CASSE, steadystate.org.

            Or, of course, Nature will do it for us. Kali’s other face.

      2. Altandmain

        The neoliberals never truly appreciated the importance aggregate demand.

        If anything it is an area that they held Keynesian economics in contempt of.

        It is not tax cuts for the rich that drives job creation, but rather strong aggregate demand.

      3. witters

        “Telling people to contract in order to expand the economy is like those old sayings about peace through war.”

        It is also roughly Malthus.

    4. albrt

      I do not have kids. It’s not because I think they would have a lower standard of living when they reach my age. It’s because I think they would be dead well before they reach my age.

      There will not be 8 billion people on the planet in 40 years. I doubt there will be 1 billion. So the world today’s kids will inherit is absolutely terrible, and there is not a darn thing to be done about it.

      Fortunately for me I don’t actually like humans very much, so I don’t lose much sleep over it. People collectively chose this.

  2. Summer

    Re: Logistics/Social Media
    “That said, I never thought of logistics as creating a social media-like dopamine loop. But apparently it does.”

    Weren’t there newscasts in the past that used to track Santa Claus with all those gifts for the kiddies?

      1. Summer

        Indeed. There is also the increased intensity to “stay young.”
        When the tech mavens aren’t “innovating” their way in as a new middle man for an already existing service, it seems alot of their focus is on defying gravity, aging, and death.

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        There was an article years ago in Orion Magazine called The Gospel Of Consumption which explained where some of this consumptionism came from, who deliberately fostered it, and why.

        The Orion Magazine website now has a very reader-hostile screen-blocking square making reading the article very difficult. That didn’t used to be there. Still, the article can be read. Here is the link.

        ( And the strange thing is, is that when I click the link from within this comment itself, I don’t get that view-blocker square that I got when I clicked the link from its entry on the search engine. I don’t understand why that is).

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      I have orders drop-shipped to customers, and knowing when said orders have arrived is important. Yes, I could check at UPS and FedEx and USPS, but I instead have a handy little $3 app on my Macs, iPad and iPhone called Parcel. I pop in the tracking number and it tells me not only when something actually hits the road but lets me track its progress till it arrives. And provides me with lots of useful information should an order go astray, as one did last year. Shipped from China, it was, and somehow they had the wrong destination on it. Lovely people—replaced it without a qualm.

    1. John Wright

      Conceivably a news organization would want to avoid employing a retiree who maintained a security clearance as it smacks of an employment offer by a news media to get access to government secrets.

      Brennan, et al, should be happy to avoid this apparent conflict by giving up their clearances and be offering advice per the public information.

      Even if they don’t leak secrets, having the clearance might lead viewers to believe the old “he knows something we don’t, but he has to keep it secret.”

      If it is so important that these retirees offer advice to the government, perhaps a temporary clearance could be granted during the period of interest.

      I applaud Trump on his willingness to remove their ability to monetize their retirement clearances.

      Go Trump Go

  3. Jamie Johnson

    From the lead China trade article. “For every 175 units being produced, just 100 are being consumed in America while 75 percent is available for export.”. Perhaps 43 percent is closer to the mark? When an article gets the numbers wrong, credibility is immediately suspect, as in, not reporting or commenting, just parroting.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I think it should 75 units, not 75 percent.

      That is, the unit (units, not percent) is wrong, not the number (75 or 43 percent).i

      The question I have is, isn’t China’s most powerful weapon not LNG, but their dominant position in rare earth elements?

  4. Kevin

    “The grand jury report about Catholic priest abuse in Pennsylvania shows the church is a criminal syndicate”

    Do ya think??

    Imagine if Montessori Schools made such revelations…

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The church had been in a good position to grow (to welcome a lot of new comers from Catholic countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Panama), until this (maybe).

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I don’t think I said that.

          What I said was the Church has been seeing a lot of people from those countries, with over 50% (from Wikipedia) believers in Catholicism.

          I assumed they would still want to go to church.

          I didn’t assume any of them to be abusers in anything, both before or after.

    2. Shane Mage

      So over about forty years 300 priests in Pa. abused some 1,000 children and two of those acts were even provable. Taking the charge at face value, and adding in a generous amount for undisclosed abuses, we see that on average as many as six children were abused by each priest, an average of .16 children per year. The sheer scale of this abuse, overlooked so systematically by the episcopate, is shocking, far dwarfing the financial scandals of 2007-2009 or the assassinations of the 1960’s . This scandalous revelation is so enormous that no justification remains for failing to revise the First Amendment and exclude the Catholic Church from its protections.

    3. marieann

      I think it’s time to remove their tax exempt status….they do it fast enough with other organizations that abuse children.

      1. John k

        Yeah, but this is freedom of religion, apparently freedom to abuse.
        Course, a police badge is a license to kill, and all juries agree with that.
        And a banker’s license is a license to steal houses, and all administrations agree with that.
        What is the problem here?

    4. False Solace

      Wow. As a morbid coincidence, I attended a Montessori preschool where physical abuse took place. According to my parents the place was shut down. Somehow all those churches are still standing, though. Mostly under the same management too.

  5. Kevin

    “Wheat’s complex genome finally deciphered, offering hope for better harvests and nonallergenic varieties”

    My first thought was; is that a genome with or without RoundUp?

    1. JohnnySacks

      My first thought was that with that data, now we’ll artificially manipulate the genome in the lab instead of selective breeding – so wheat can now have a ‘Roundup Ready’ Monsanto patented variety.

      1. JTMcPhee

        Re wheat genome: The thing about it, also, is that knowing the structure, now a future James Bond villain could do like in the plot in “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service,” https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Her_Majesty's_Secret_Service_(film), as in develop a virus that can “threaten to destroy the world’s food supply unless we pay him ONE MILLION DOLLARS!” (Cue the Dr. Evil theme from “The Spy Who Shagged Me…”)

        Couldn’t happen, no, not ever, of course. No way that the smart credentialed people who operate the war labs of “our” government, who game out and seek to actualize the infinite ways the Empire could achieve ultimate unassailable hegemony, or all those “contractors” busily grinding away on the Great Lethality Project, which enlists and offers to fund with billions, any smartass techies and Corps that offer more effective ways to kill humans, all in a grand conclave of death, https://www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1510642/dod-official-lethality-readiness-drive-acquisition-and-sustainment-reform/, and http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/articles/2018/6/27/pentagon-set-to–boost-spending-on-high-tech-armaments, could be seeking a way to do exactly that, no, who could possibly be so morbid and suicidal and destructive? Oh: http://www.yalescientific.org/2013/02/bioweapons-science-as-a-double-edged-sword/

        Of course there are unbreakable norms and taboos that will stop any such thing from happening…

  6. nippersdad

    Re: dopamine loop.

    I very much believe this to be true, at least as regards us. As inveterate e-bay shoppers, one of the best things about their system is watching where the most recent batch of books or Wedgwood is in real time. Woe betide us if it manages to fall within the event horizon of that mail clearing house in northern New Jersey. Days of needless angst invariably ensues.

    Watching packages is nearly as addictive as ordering them in the first place.

    1. a different chris

      Tangent to the subject, but — you know how even monster places like Loew’s are mostly just bigger stock of the same d*mn things. If you want something even a little different then they cheerfully tell you to go to their website.

      But that’s a different irritation. Here’s the thing I don’t get: I can either pick up my web purchase at the store, or I can have it shipped to my house. For the same price.

      WTF? Who would choose to get it at the store? It’s little things like this (and big things like Uber) that tell me this economy makes no sense and will blow up at some point.

      1. Carolinian

        Because you might not be at home when it is delivered and waiting around for the UPS truck can be irritating. It may cost Lowe’s the same whether it is shipped to the store or your house.

        Which doesn’t mean that wading into e commerce necessarily makes sense for Lowe’s or other traditional stores. Amazon has them spooked. I saw a sign in a Wendy’s today that said they now deliver their not so great food. The assumption seems to be that young people live on their phones.

      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        I guess I’m just hopelessly old fashioned.
        I prefer to go and actually look at whatever it is i’m buying…touch it, smell it, lick it(which my son informs me is a method of claiming ownership in his cohort)
        take shoes….my mom is enamored of zappo’s, et alia…but I’ve got flat feet, and my left foot is bigger than my right. The websites don’t seem to know about flat footed people, because they never have any indication as to the presence of arch supports…the lowest common denominator is “people want arch supports”.
        So I hafta either send them back, or do surgery on the footwear to remove the damned things.
        On the last few trips to the real grocery store(monthly, 40 miles one way), I noticed a sudden proliferation of these large rolling shelves with bins on them, with hassled looking employees with lists filling them up.
        For curbside service, wherein they do the shopping for you, based on your online order, and load it into your vehicle. You never even hafta get out.
        But a “tomato is a tomato”, etc…I want to inspect my produce and meat and such.
        …and a similar observation…I went 120 miles to see the Hip Doctor, and came back via highway 620, by Lake Travis(looking for Hippie Hollow, because why not?)I figured I’d grab something to eat on the way to the nekkid park(only legal one in Texas)…but in that wealthy stretch of highway, they apparently don’t believe in signage. There were signs, galore…but all of them were way off in the woods, obscured by brush. I never saw anything until it was too late, and I was all but past them.
        My suspicion, given the preponderance of brand new suv’s, is that everyone has a robot girl telling them where the stores are.
        whether this is intentional or not, I don’t know.
        Regardless, it prevented this particular shabbily dressed poor person from patronising those businesses.
        My vehicles are all analog, and my phone isn’t hooked to the 5G internet field that apparently surrounds us and penetrates us.
        and don’t even get me started on the toll roads,lol…terrible signage, so you easily accidentally enter them, and they no longer take cash.
        I can’t speak to Intentionality for any of this, but it begins to feel like a two tier society forming.

        1. ambrit

          Phyl and I have experienced the ‘two tier,’ actually, were we to divide the top ten percent into the dreaded .01% and the enabling 9.9% cohorts, ‘three tiered’ society in our misadventures in the Land of Medicos.
          So far, Medicare has been restrictive as to what it ‘allows’ the patient to try for various maladys. Roughly speaking, it is either ‘official treatments’ or no treatment. (Unless, of course, one has an independent income. Factor that as a percentage of the population. Yes. I see you are getting the idea.) Since the ‘official’ treatment for her melanoma almost killed her itself, nothing substantially different has been offered. Neoliberalism Rule #2: ‘Go die.’ (The ‘official’ Powers seem to have forgotten Anti-neoliberalism Rule #2.)
          As the ‘official’ practices of discrimination tend to penalize the poor for being poor, so should the poor penalize the wealthy for being wealthy. I can see a big growth industry in kidnapping for ransom here in America pretty soon.

          1. Amfortas the Hippie

            Medicaid is even worse in that exact regard.
            apparently, MRI’s and CT Scans are verboten…even if that’s what’s indicated.
            as for the Three Tier Society(yes, that’s better), my dad intersects with the 9.9% enabling class, and has for as long as I can remember, due to his business, and my stepmom’s former field(emergency management in education is the euphemism).
            So I’ve had occasion to observe such people up close and in their environment, over the course of my lifetime.
            They are just different than the hoi polloi I’ve spent my life embedded in, and/or clinging to the underside of.
            see a dirty beater car with baling wire…”why don’t they get a new one? have they no pride?”
            and everyone outside the well appointed enclaves are obviously there by choice, due to morality and bootstraps…
            the scariest part of this is that many of these folks are Democrats, and consider themselves enlightened and progressive.
            and none of this is particularly new…I’ve been essentially out of that loop for 25 years.
            To fix it…if they wanted to(which they see no reason for)…I’ve advocated a semester of Business School spent on food stamps in a trailer park and minwage jobs.In winter, preferably…but high summer would do in say Louisiana, sans A/C and a pool. The actually privileged often do not know that they are privileged, and are averse to learning about it.
            In addition to a hamburger, my trip through Lakeway, Texas, etc entailed searching for a towel for use at the nekkeid beach(it’s etiquette). stopped into a cvs, a walgreens and an heb(regional grocer). they all had everything one might need for a day at the lake, including a billion styles of swimwear and goggles and snorkles and folding chairs and plastic forks…and wine, wine, wine and plastic flutes to drink it out of with style.
            But all looked at me as if i had shat upon the floor when I asked for a towel,lol.
            I don’t think the looks were due to towel-seeking…but rather that I obviously didn’t belong in such rarefied environs…shaggy and unkempt, old clothes, wild hair, and walking with a stick…and driving a 2004 buick,that hasn’t been washed in a decade. The horror…
            as is my wont, I had on my anthropologist-observer mein, and put on the invisible/harmless glamour that goes with it…
            so it was only when I asked that I got such vibes…
            of note…there were for sale signs everywhere there, too…but none of them were weatherbeaten or broken like in the ordinary places.
            mansions covering the hillsides, elaborate gates with guard towers…and I suspise that there was a towel shoppe somewhere around there…a boutique affair where one goes to get 1000 TC egyptian terry cloth with the latest fashion prints for stylish lakeside soirees..but no robot girl to inform me of this.
            Aeon Flux was on track 3 of my mind the whole time.

            1. ambrit

              Oh ho! We now do all of our ‘domestics’ shopping at Thrift Shops, (and one or two Thrifte Shoppes.)
              I’m not as courageous as you per “The Tyranny of the Other,” but I do develop a “Crazy Professor Albert” look when unshorn and uncoifed.
              The trend to abolish real apprenticeships in companies has reinforced the ‘Credentialed Class Syndrome.’ People who, once upon a time began in the trenches of business or profession now come new minted from ‘School.’ As such, they are expected to absorb by osmosis the nuts and bolts of the work at hand. Thus, the tendency to deplore those not so ‘elect’ as to have received the grace of ‘higher learning’ is almost a defensive mechanism to protect the ego from the certain knowledge that the credentialling process is inadequate to the tasks at hand, mush less to validate the exaggerated worth placed upon the ‘Social Elect.’
              The above sure sounds like Heilbronner from a century ago. How would he feel, seeing his thesis proven out today? Amused? Horrified? Censorious?
              Sometimes now, my Track Three plays Capek’s “RUR.”
              Read, and fear: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R.U.R.

              1. Amfortas the Hippie

                I’m unfamiliar with Heilbronner(aside from “the Worldly Philosophers” guy, which was my earliest introduction to the topic).
                The ‘Credentialed Class Syndrome’ is not new, just worse,lol.
                when I used to cook for a living, it was well known among professional cooks(not “Chefs”, that was zealously guarded) that people from the “Other CIA”(culinary inst. of america) would immediately upon hiring hafta be trained how to actually cook more than one plate at a time(of course, those were beautiful single entrees). In my experience with this effort, it was always made harder by that very Syndrome….waving around the sheepskin doesn’t get the Roux made, though.
                I only called myself a chef after I’d been doing it for 25 years and finally owned my own little cafe.

      3. Solar Hero

        I agree about the pricing, but you go to the store so you can inspect the purchase and return immediately if it’s crap.

    1. MK

      Not really impacting workers (other than those involved in quarterly filings) – it’s to cut ‘expenses’ (and ‘grow’ the bottom line) by ‘reducing’ the amount of time and energy spent on quarterly filings. At least ‘in theory’.

      1. L

        To the extent that it allows companies to avoid oversight it would affect workers. And smaller investors.

      2. Hamford

        Can’t a potentially unintended side effect be that companies no longer grow their share value off of short-sighted, extractive techniques such as share buybacks or corporate takeovers, instead they actually focus on long-term sustainability the hard way – e.g., growing their trained workforce? (And I know this all sounds great, but we know the machine will extract from the environment and mankind regardless of the earnings calendar rhythm; nonetheless, removing the inherent short-sightedness of quarterly earnings may not be a bad thing, no?)

        1. JTMcPhee

          I’m not sure that ‘removing the inherent short-sightedness of quarterly earnings” is even close to what this deregulatory initiative is about, or likely to do.

          1. Hamford

            Indeed, hence “potentially unintended side effect”, with the caveat that the machine will extract from the environment and labor regardless of earnings calendars.

            I just don’t see this deregulatory initiative as necessarily a bad thing. I am not going to put it beside eradication of environmental or consumer protections on the continuum of badness. Especcially considering the vast majority of shares are owned by the 1%, I could care less what their regulatory reporting requirement between their intertwined corporate boards and elite shareholders are. I don’t see this “initiative” hurting the worker worse than they have already been struck down, maybe as an unintended side-effect it will alleviate some short term pressure from squeezing workers and the quest for accounting shenanigans.

            1. JTMcPhee

              So “the idea is bad, the direct effects are bad. But maybe, as a minute unintended consequence of letting corporations further reduce and obscure their already covert and evil behaviors, corporate rulers and oligarchs just might possibly do a little less self-dealing, like another stack of billions for ‘executive compensation (sic) and share buybacks and fraud and corruption, and go against their clear interest and drive and pay workers a smidgen more.”

              Oh, okay then. Just another day at the office.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Twice-a-year is still pretty short term. Once a year is still pretty short term.

        If executives are paid in stock options, they still have the same incentive to manage for manipulating the share price where they want it rather than to manage for material benefit of the company itself.

        And Wall Street financialists and money-managers still have their incentive to manipulate sentiment and stock prices up and down, over and over, to get the most possible people buy-sell-buy-selling as many shares as possible, so the share handlers can collect some money from each transaction.

        So changing the report from quarterly to annually without changing anything else wouldn’t make a difference to anything either way, would it?

  7. perpetualWAR

    I hope all of you read the thread from Stoller’s tweet. I feel much less alone as more and more regular Americans identify how America continues to crapify.

    I don’t want to kneel during the pledge of allegiance, I want to leave the room.

  8. Carla

    • Is financial “innovation” all that important? As a public good?

    Financial innovation is distinctly a public BAD. Surely we’ve learned that much by now.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Jerusalem is in the Middle East.

      For sure, the Pope would protest.

      “One death is a tragedy, one million is a statistics.”

      How is that related here? Nothing much, but the number of deaths…if they could kill 72,000 Americans in one year, the worry is they could kill 1,000,000.

      We;d have to look at the way or ways they did that.

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Al-qaeda would have killed 72,000 Americans in one tight place at once if they could have, in order to get us to nuke the Middle-east, in order to draw a reaction to us from everywhere-at-once.

      After all, the reason they did 9/11 was to get us to invade the Middle-east so heavily to begin with. And the reason the CheneyBush Administration LIHOPed and HIHOPed the al Qaeda attacks was because the CheneyBush Administration had invasion plans and goals ready-to-go. And just needed a plausible terrorist attack to justify carrying out the plans.

  9. drumlin woodchuckles

    About the continued low-ish price of American natural gas . . . isn’t that low price part of what is encouraging some utilities to burn natgas instead of coal in their power plants? If so, keeping the price of natgas down will keep enticing utilities to migrate more of their power plant capacity away from coal and towards natgas. So anything that depresses the price of American natgas advances the cause of Freedom From Coal.

    The individual can only do but-so-much in herm’s own personal getting-and-spending and stuff-usage life to reduce herm’s use of natgas. But if a hundred million motivated American individuals each contributed their hundred million little bits to use-reduction of natgas, their collective impact might help keep the price low enough long enough to encourage yet more utilities to go to natgas.

    And of course part of using less natgas would be using less natgas-electricity from natgas burning utilities. That would help depress the price of natgas even lower for even longer, but only if at least a hundred million personal economic combat warfighters were to live the conservation way.

  10. DJG

    Interesting article in the Guardian about the gao tree. But aren’t all trees magical? I recall reading a book by Mort Rosenblum years back about the olive tree, which is revered and magical. And oak trees are prophetic: Zeus at Dodona spoke through a prophetic tree.

    Our utilitarian mindset makes us less open to ways to make nature support us.

    1. Amfortas the Hippie

      It’s the African version of the Mesquite Tree.(both in the Acacia Family, with very similar attributes)
      which is a very useful tree…especially since you can hardly get rid of it any way.
      the thorns are unpleasant, however.
      aside from nitrogen fixing, and the edible pods(mesquite flour is high fiber, and contains abundant complex sugars and starches that are reportedly good for diabetes), it’s conducive to coppicing for firewood…which makes it one of the more renewable biofuels. There’s some on my place that evidence 100 or so years of repeated cuttings, at 20 year intervals.

  11. Hameloose Cannon

    You can always tell when grand ‘ol party people take a truth-nugget to the dome. Besides from the “TILT” across their eyes and a cloudburst of flop sweat, the GOP 24hr party people chatter goes something like, “Workers / gov’t / Elizabeth Warren can’t handle the complexities of running a big business. Look at that. They’re gonna loot the thing. THEY act entitled, just sitting there, idle.” It’s a reflex to sudden onset internal contradiction. There’s a little Vincent Price inside their ‘publican head going, “WE can’t handle the complexities. WE act entitled, you fool. YOU’RE auguring this corporate jet right into those majestic waves of grain. Us.” So, yeah, Kevin Williamson’s getting paid, getting home, first draft = last draft, don’t think about it, National Review article in the is just the histamines hitting the bloodstream, a political auto-immune response to a fact-shrimp. Warren just got loud up in this piece. This policy deserves to go platinum.

    1. katiebird

      I posted a link just this morning with no problem at all. I just pasted the link. Then a thumbnail photo with the headline appeared.

      I can send a screenprint to your email address if you like.

        1. Amfortas the Hippie

          I get here via google…since my “favorites” folder is a chaotic mess.
          prior to 2016, I’d type in “naked ca…” and it would fill in the rest.
          Since around january 2017, one must type all of it.
          Not that this is a wearisome chore, but it’s a little thing I’ve noticed.
          I fired Faceborg a few years ago, so I can’t speak to that.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      No difficulty per se, but as I noted on Links, from 1400 to about 1500 this afternoon my news page wouldn’t load. Browser said it had, but other than a pinned “announcement” at the top nothing else showed. It eventually came back. So, placed foil hat back in drawer and was willing to assume it was some kind of technical thingy.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        I read somewhere that there is a rough rule-of-thumb: the longer a jury takes to deliberate, the lower the chances of a guilty verdict.

  12. Summer

    Tesla shares slide after Elon Musk describes his ‘excruciating year’ in NYT interview” [MarketWatch].

    Musk can’t miss one feeding of the confidence fairy. It’s one hungry motha!

  13. Jeremy Grimm

    RE: “Universal Method to Sort Complex Information Found” —
    I don’t pretend to understand, even be able to understand, the papers on the nearest neighbor algorithms but somehow this seems like a very important result which could have broad and interesting ramifications. Clustering and nearest neighbor calculations are first steps in numerous approaches to pattern recognition. How much of AI training and processing is spent in creating these processes essentially from scratch? A general algorithm for nearest neighbor might change the dynamics of AI for recognition tasks and could mean faster less computation intensive pattern recognition. I think that might prove a very mixed blessing.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Maybe it’s kind of like CRSP-R technology. A new toy for the weirdest and scariest of the adolescents of all ages (still fearless and feeling immortal, or maybe doing the dark suicidal thing?) to play with. Like biohacking:


      scientific experiments with biological material, especially genes, done by people who are not official experts or scientists, either as a hobby or in order to make money or commit crime.”

      Biohacking is all cool and now very possible, albeit with all kinds of uncontrolled and uncontrollable consequences, and with ever more ways to manipulate data structures, how far can the species be from some really catastrophic singularity event?

      And you look up the word in your search engine, and you see there’s a whole sub-society of people with all kinds of great plans, arrogant attitudes, pitifully hopeful belief structures, and advice on how to do it. What could possibly go (is actually going) wrong?

  14. Jerry B

    “The impact of last-mile delivery and visibility in logistics on consumer retention”

    Lambert===That said, I never thought of logistics as creating a social media-like dopamine loop==

    In observing Amazons business evolution I was not able to put into words what I thought they were doing but Sanghvi has done it. If you observe Amazon’s business model and especially their delivery methods, the “logistics dopamine loop” seems to be key to their philosophy. Free Shipping with Prime, Deliver 24/7, Amazon lockers at Whole Foods, Drone delivery, etc. Everything they do is with the intent of getting your items ( groceries, books,etc) faster i.e. instant gratification. They want to turn us into Pavlov’s dogs—stimulus – response.

    A couple of quibbles with Sanghvi’s insights:

    “Social media and real-time updates have helped evolve the traits of people to make them crave for instant gratification”

    Evolve the traits??? In my view craving instant gratification is not evolving but devolving. Pavlov’s dogs crave instant gratification. Children crave instant gratification. Adults are supposed to be evolved and educated to resist instant gratification.

    IMNSHO sadly social media and e-commerce’s instant gratification programming of consumers has turned people into “instant gratification” demons. At work or when running errands I see it in people’s behaviors. The way people drive and their behavior in crowds. People’s frustration tolerance and their ability to delay gratification is getting worse.

    “more often a business keeps its word on delivery promptness, the more trustworthy it becomes”

    IMO this has little to do with “trustworthiness” and as I mentioned above mostly to do with simple animal behavior. Keep supplying the cheese and the mouse will do whatever it takes to get the cheese.

    This “business model” has been used for a long time. Apple’s brilliant marketing strategy is all about keeping the “dog” (consumers) salivating. The next IPhone will have ____! When in reality the new IPhone is not much different than the old model but it is that whetting of the appetite and that delay of gratification that gets people to buy the next new thing.

    Lastly Edward Bernays ideas on propaganda and manipulation sums everything up. To keep this long comment from being longer go to Edward Bernays Wikipedia page and read under the Philosophy heading. Or watch Adam Curtis’ documentary Century of the Self. However I agree with Lambert’s comment “But I think the scale and intensity is different today.”

    Thanks for the link Lambert! Great insights by Dhruvil Sanghvi!

    1. Carolinian

      All selling is manipulation of some type. B.F. Skinner was a big hit with Madison Av.

      The real programming happens when we are children–toy stores, gifting holidays etc. I believe the behaviorists call this imprinting. Back in the dark ages of the mid 20th cent there was a row about commercials on Saturday morning children’s television. Now of course such attempted interference would be scoffed at.

      Given how we are brought up here in the US it’s hardly surprising that some see Amazon as “Christmas year round.”

  15. Synoia

    Thirteen former senior intelligence officials, including 12 former CIA directors and deputy directors and one former director of national intelligence, have signed a letter of support for former CIA director John Brennan…

    As some days may happen
    That a victim must be found
    I’ve got a little list
    I’ve got a little list
    Of society offenders
    Who might well be underground
    And never would be missed
    They never would be missed

    Chorus: He’s got them on the list
    He’s got them on the list
    And then none of them be missed
    And none of them be missed

    1. Richard

      Is that the lord high executioner’s song (or whatever) from The Mikado?
      If I am misrembering, then may I say you have an excellent talent for creating facsimile G&S lyrics :^

          1. Richard

            Yeah, I’m in Seattle too, and have had some friendly if spirited arguments about that with the music teacher at my school, who feels it may not be right for our time.

            1. Richard

              To clarify, I agreed that staging the play with yellow makeup is an awful idea. I was just sticking up for the play itself, the comedy and especially the music!

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            See the excellent Topsy-Turvey for a more accurate take, and a fascinating look at the production of the operetta. In fact, W.S. Gilbert was fascinated by Japanese culture and refused to parody or disrespect it (though granted, as a Victorian at the heart of Empire he had his issues…).

            1. DJG

              Glad to read you singing the praises of Topsy-Turvy, by the remarkable Mike Leigh, whose film Secrets & Lies is also highly insightful.

              Topsy-Turvy is also a good depiction of how playwrights write and how actors prepare. Most movies (especially Hollywood) somehow can’t portray the craft. All about Eve doesn’t count because it is about several other urgent matters.

              And those syringes. They still make my eyes pop.

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      I wonder what the VIPS people say? They, too. are CIA and other Intelligence Professionals.

      In fact, I wonder what the VIPS people would have to say about the signers of that letter?

  16. Steely Glint

    Here is Kevin Williamson’s arrogance on full display:
    “It is a fairly easy thing for an established American business to move its corporate domicile to some other country, as with all those corporate inversions in the pharmaceutical industry that gave the Obama administration the willies a few years ago. It is also a fairly easy thing for a new business being founded by Americans to incorporate in some other country from the beginning. There is no insurmountable reason for, say, Microsoft or Altria (formerly Philip Morris) to be domiciled in the United States. Silicon Valley’s competitive edge comes from people, and people are mobile.”
    I think it’s great that Bernie & Warren are approaching The Great Rip Off from the both the social & corporate sides. It is one of the reasons that I think neither should run for president. We need both of these people in the senate, and a president who will support them & let the Senate & progressive caucus in the House take a lead on these issues, as the balance of power should work.
    Trade, Sherrod Brown; I like him, but does anyone else think of PBS “Red Green” whenever you hear his voice? Not a bad thing.

    1. ewmayer

      “Silicon Valley’s competitive edge comes from people, and people are mobile.”

      As I prepare to move out of the SiVal apartment complex which has been my home for going on 20 years and which has been progressively turned into a bedroom community for ethno-cliquish (as in only socialize and neighborly-ize amongst themselves) H1B visa imports from India and East Asia, yes, I am indeed reminded that “people are mobile”.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Plenty of good material on Aretha Franklin. And then this:

      + 13 former NatSec and CIA officials signed a letter protesting Trump’s stripping Brennan of his security clearance. There’ no solidarity quite like the solidarity of war criminals…This is the opposite of a Spartacus Moment. I imagine them all beating their chest and shouting, “I am Crassus!”


  17. Pat

    There is no reason for the United States to recognize foreign profits as not being profits for the home company. Nor is there any reason for the United States not to treat a company who moves their corporate domicile to another country as anything but choosing to give up its citizenship. As in they forfeit their rights to their property and their ability to do business in America.

    I don’t expect America to take such a sensible approach to corporate affairs. It isn’t as if they haven’t pretended that foreign profits were somehow not profits of the company in order to allow business to cheat on their taxes. But perhaps it is long since past to treat corporate persons the same as they would treat human persons who forgo their responsibilities.

  18. Jeff W

    I’ve always thought those headbands with lettering look especially, well, tenacious and solidaritous (if that’s a word, which I don’t think it is).

    Not only do they look tenacious and, um, solidaritous, that’s what they say: the first word 단결 (dangyeol) means “unity” or “solidarity” and the second word 투쟁 (tujaeng) means “struggle” or “fight” in Korean.

    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      And the Fist is badass as well.

      The fist symbol is prolly top five of all time.

    1. makedoanmend

      “Disrupt homelessness!

      In our increasingly cashless society, it can be hard to rustle up spare change to placate the deluge of unhoused parasites crowding city streets and subway cars. Thankfully, there’s now an app for that: Greater Change, which allows a smartphone-wielding do-gooder to scan a QR code worn by a destitute body of choice, learn more about said individual, and donate a trifling few dollars not to the wastrel themselves but to an account co-managed by a caseworker who ensures the charity is spent on “agreed targets.”


      What’s not to like? A barcode could be tattooed onto their foreheads in scarlet. The app could also instruct the homeless parasite to do 23 push-ups and sing an up-lifting work song (meeting said targets) before being allowed to appear in a queue to obtain nourishing gruel.

      Workhouse and self flagellation in the digital age.

      Of course I’ll personally be self congratulatory on giving this ne’er-do-well a meaning in life through my largesse in promoting him/her to meet agreed targets.

      I must go out and buy a mobile and the app. A bit of self congratulatory therapy wouldn’t go amiss right now.

      ;- |

  19. Filiform Radical

    Regarding the Quanta article: It’s not clear to me that this result will be hugely useful for applications like Facebook’s social graph, since it requires embedding in a normed vector space, which seems pretty restrictive. I suppose it can still be useful in finding approximate solutions for other cases, but I’m not sure how much that approach would get you compared to existing approximate methods. Do any commentarians who work on these kinds of problems have thoughts on this?

      1. flora

        adding: Johnstone’s update on the twitter censorship:

        UPDATE: It looks like the suspension was lifted just after I hit publish on this. A lot of my fans and even a few haters made a big noise in objection to Twitter’s actions, and it worked! As we discussed recently, the plutocratic manipulators work so hard to manufacture our consent because they need that consent, and they can’t act if we don’t give it to them. I’ve left the article as-is below for posterity, and so people can see my experience with #Resistance Twitter’s attempt to silence dissident speech. Never stop fighting.

        Never stop fighting.

        1. flora

          adding: maybe the take away is that it’s a good idea to have multiple outlets or platforms for publishing one’s columns and ideas. Twitter bans you? Use Medium (or some other) to flag the event and call attention to the arbitrary and capricious nature of said banning. Shorter: have a ‘plan B’ for digital publishing, or a ‘spare tire’ in case the first tire goes flat.

          1. Carolinian

            I think we are reading that spare tire at the moment.

            The M of A post mentioned above says that the press united front against Trump is playing into his hands by making them look like the cabal he accuses them of being. These social media companies are on very thin ice if they doing the same by going into the censorship business. Forbidden fruit is all the more tasty.

    1. JBird

      Really? Abusing the senior Senator of Arizona, a war veteran who survived the Hanoi Hilton, with her Twitter account? Does the man even know what Twitter is and why would he at all care?

  20. Tomonthebeach

    “What a rogue’s gallery! Why are any of these evil clowns able to participate in public life without derision, let alone cash in on their security clearances?”

    I totally agree with the rogues part. As for cashing in on security clearances, this is not a racket per se. For the most part government contracts involving intel or defense require background checks and federal clearances. These cost somewhere between at lot and a hellova lot. They also take 6 to 18 months to complete. Sometimes longer.

    Most military vets leave the service with security clearances and lots of technical experience. They often have an edge in hiring because their clearances can be reactivated almost on the spot, and thus can go to work tomorrow. The same applies to ex civil service employees who worked for intelligence agencies.

    It would be a stupid waste of money to require new background checks on all private sector hires who already have background checks on file.

    Normally clearances are nullified by pleading guilty to federal crimes such as Petraeus and Flynn have done despite apparently not losing their clearances – yet. That fact alone makes Trump look foolish in dumping on Brennan who has no federal criminal record.

    1. John Wright

      So deactivate all their clearances and re-activate them when the Government, not the media, wants their services.

      If they are in the employ of the media, there is an inherent conflict where the media could want inside information available only to one with a clearance.

      Remove that possibility by deactivating their clearances and re-activate their clearances if and when they can be of service to the government and not to their pocketbooks.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > re-activate their clearances if and when they can be of service to the government and not to their pocketbooks

        That’s a sensible suggestion.

        Part of me says that nuking the intelligence community worker bees to take out Brennan’s cabal isn’t fair, and is bad for the country. Another part of me says wait, worker bees or no, that’s the black budget which nobody knows anything about, except for the occasional horrid scandal, and is totally outside democratic control.

        So maybe have an accounting of the black budget first. There’s a reason, after all, why D.C. is doing so very well.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Most military vets leave the service with security clearances and lots of technical experience. They often have an edge in hiring

      Yes, that’s how credentialed class power works. Thats’s how the system works. Is it good that the system works that way? For the now heavily politicized intelligence community, I’m not sure it is — especially at the elite level. (If there are grades, I’d lop off the elite grades at the very least.(

  21. Edward E

    If anyone wants something technical to deep dive into this weekend. Where are we in this interglacial? These folks use handles because their views might affect their job.


    The expected timeframe for the next glaciation is so far in the future that traditionally it has only attracted academic interest. There was a small peak of popular interest in the early 1970’s at the end of the mid-20th century cooling period. In January 1972, geologists George Kukla and Robert Matthews organized a meeting on the end of the present interglacial, and afterwards they wrote president Richard Nixon calling for federal action on the observed climate deterioration that had the potential to lead to the next glaciation. Ironically, concerns over the end of the interglacial led to the creation of NOAA’s Climate Analysis Center in 1979 (Reeves & Gemmill, 2004), that would substantially contribute to global warming research. Some popular magazines reported about a coming ice age at times of harsh winter weather during the early 1970’s.

    Current academic consensus is that a return to glacial conditions is not possible under any realistic condition for tens of thousands of years, and the IPCC expresses virtual certainty that a new glacial inception is not possible for the next 50 Kyr if CO2levels remain above 300 ppm (IPCC, AR5, 5.8.3, page 435, 2013). This claim expressed on so certain terms is in stark contrast with the lack of precedent for any interglacial spanning over two obliquity oscillations. In this final article, we are going to examine the soundness of these claims…

  22. allan

    FBI probing cyber attack on congressional campaign in California [Reuters]


    The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating a cyber attack on the congressional campaign of a Democratic candidate in California, according to three people close to the campaign. …

    The incident, which has not been previously reported, follows an article in Rolling Stone earlier this week that the FBI has also been investigating a cyber attack against Hans Keirstead, a California Democrat. He was defeated in a primary in the 48th Congressional district, neighboring Min’s. …

    It also illustrates how small political campaigns do not have the resources to protect themselves from cyber attacks. Few can hire computer security personnel. …


    The campaign immediately notified the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the organization that assists the party’s candidates. The DCCC notified the FBI and gave the campaign advice on improving its security. It also provided it with secure messaging software for future use. Federal agents interviewed Min’s staff and carried off the infected computers.

    Min’s tiny staff considered hiring a security firm to investigate the attack, but decided the $50,000 minimum price was unaffordable. The DCCC did not cover the costs of such a hire.

    “The DCCC’s mission is to elect Democrats to Congress, and we spend the vast majority of our limited resources to do that,” a DCCC aide, who declined to named, said. …

    Ultimately, the campaign’s defense was limited to replacing the infected machines and a future commitment to using encrypted messaging apps. “Even $4,000 to replace those laptops isn’t easy to get,” said a person close to the campaign.

    $4,000? Not even a rounding error on a DC campaign consultant’s hotel bill.
    DCCC was too busy flushing millions down the drain in GA-06 to worry about the little people.
    Red to Blue means never having to say you’re sorry.

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