2:00PM Water Cooler 9/10/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, Naked Capitalism’s holiday week is over. I hope your Labor Day weekend, and the week following, was as pleasant as mine! So many threads over the past week, I’m not sure I picked them all up…. –lambert


“One of the electronics world’s bedrock supply chains is getting caught up in U.S.-China trade tensions. Apple Inc. warns proposed U.S. tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods would affect some of its signature products…, highlighting questions over the global manufacturing strategies that are central to consumer electronics” [Wall Street Journal]. “Apple’s alarm marks the first time the company has detailed specific damage the trade battle could inflict on its hardware lineup, and its potential impact on network of suppliers across its Asia-focused supply chain. President Trump has a simple solution for Apple, saying the company should move production to the U.S. from China, where it assembles most of its products.”



56 days until Election Day. 56 days is a long time in politics.

“High stakes as 2-month sprint to Election Day begins” [Associated Press]. “After crushing defeats in 2016, Democrats open the fall campaign brimming with confidence about their prospects for retaking the House, which would give them power to open a wide swath of investigations into Trump or even launch impeachment proceedings. The outcome of the election, which features a record number of Democratic female and minority candidates, will also help shape the party’s direction heading into the 2020 presidential race…. The result is a Democratic field with more women and minorities on the general-election ballot than ever before, several of whom are poised to make history if elected.” • Not a word on policy; same with the coverage in the Sunday Times I ploughed through. Not only are Democrats doubling down on Texeira’s “coalition of the ascendant,” that’s the only lens Democrat assets in the press are using. Of course, these are very easy stories for lazy stenographers to write: All you need is a few photos of a candidate for a reasonable approximation of their ascriptive identity.

“It’s Too Late to Stop a Blue Wave, But Not for Trump to Try” [Albert Hunt, Bloomberg]. “Over more than half a century, there have only been two midterm elections where a post-Labor Day event changed the dynamics of the overall race. In both cases, these involved weighty historical events and Republicans were marginally hurt. One was in 1974, when President Gerald Ford pardoned Richard Nixon for crimes related to the Watergate scandal. The other was the Cuban missile crisis of 1962…. For the midterms, one slim hope for Republicans is that they tend to narrow their polling deficits right before an election. That’s often because Democratic voters aren’t motivated. This November, however, Democrats have the great motivator sitting in the White House.”

“A Grim Fall Awaits GOP” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “For over six months this column has suggested that this election amounts to a Democratic tidal wave crashing against a Republican seawall—the question is which will be stronger. At Labor Day, the traditional beginning of the general-election-campaign season, that continues to be the case, though how that dynamic manifests itself will likely vary between the House and Senate, governorships, and state legislatures…. We are most likely looking at a Democratic gain in the House of between 20 and 40 seats—with the odds of going higher than 30 and maybe 40 are greater than going lower than 30 or 20 seats.”

“Captain Donald Trump’s crew sounds the alarm” [Editorial Board, USA Today]. “How and when the Trump administration ends is unknowable at this point. But its current course is looking increasingly unsustainable.” • USA Today stayed pretty sane throughout 2016.

“Shhhh! Dem leaders don’t want to say ‘impeach.’ Bill Clinton’s case explains why” [NBC]. “It’s no coincidence that the top three Democratic leaders in the House today — Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Jim Clyburn — were all there in 1998 and are all quiet on the impeachment front now. They remember the energizing effect that a push to remove their party’s president had on their voters, and they all fear giving Trump’s party that kind of motivation this fall. The same goes for the top Democrat in the Senate, Chuck Schumer.” • Seems plausible, until you remember that Pelosi took impeaching Bush off the table after winning back the House in 2006 (and Bush surely deserved it, for warrantless surveillance and torture).

“5 States That Will Decide the House Majority” [Nathan Gonzales, Roll Call]. Minnesota (1/5), California (5/9), New York (2/5), Pennsylvania (4/9), Illinois (2/3). 1 + 5 + 2 + 4 + 2 = 14, so there’s nine to be picked up elsewhere. More: “With a growing number of vulnerable House districts, there might be too much to watch for on election night. But by focusing on just a handful of states, you can get a pretty good idea of whether Democrats are having a good enough night to gain the 23 seats necessary to win back the majority.”

Senate: “In what is a somewhat unusual development, the incumbent party is not a clear underdog in any single Senate race with just two months left to go. But there are at least a couple of cases where the incumbent party is likely behind. Republicans remain favored to hold the Senate, but the Democrats do have a path” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “To be clear, we still call Arizona, Florida, North Dakota, and Nevada Toss-ups. In all likelihood, Democrats need to win at least three of four to avoid losses this year, and a sweep is likely necessary for them to win the majority.”

WI Governor: “‘Scott Walker fatigue’ haunts Republicans” [Politico]. “Polling shows that the independent voters who were so critical to Walker’s wins in the 2012 recall and 2014 reelection are breaking away from him…. His opponent, Schools Superintendent Tony Evers, has a slight lead in recent polls and there’s evidence that critical suburban voters are shifting leftward.” • For some definition of left; Evers’ site is remarkably void of policy commitments.

NY Governor: “Cuomo expands lead against Cynthia Nixon in Democratic primary: Siena poll” [Democrat and Chronicle]. “The [Siena] poll showed Cuomo led 63 percent to 22 percent, up from 60 percent to 29 percent at the end of July…. ‘Cuomo has a lead of at least 20 points with every demographic group and leads by at least 30 points in every region of the state,’ [said Siena College poll spokesman Steven Greenberg].”

NY Governor: Ratface Andy smears Nixon as anti-semitic. Here’s the mailer:

AOC reacts:

Ratface Andy has form:

NY Attorney General: “New York State Attorney General Race Remains a Tossup, New Poll Shows” [New York Times]. “The race for attorney general appears to be far more competitive, with Representative Sean Patrick Maloney leading the field with 25 percent of the vote, followed closely by Letitia James, the New York City public advocate, who has the support of 24 percent of those polled. Zephyr Teachout, a law professor, placed third in polling, with 18 percent, and Leecia Eve, a former Clinton administration aide and a Verizon executive, had only 3 percent.”

Obama Legacy

“Obama touts Medicare for all as evidence of Democrats’ new ideas” [Politico]. • Obviouusly, #MedicareForAll, which Obama and liberal Democrats did their best to destroy, is not a new idea. I should really put on my yellow waders and go through the Obama speech this comes from; everything I’ve read about it says it’s appalling.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“For Older Voters, Getting The Right ID Can Be Especially Tough” [NPR]. ” A 2012 survey estimated that 7 percent of American adults lack a government-issued photo ID. While some organizations have sued to overturn these laws, a nonprofit organization called Spread The Vote has taken a different tack: It helps people without IDs get them [in some cases by paying for the documents]. And people over 50 years of age have presented some of their biggest challenges… The group also has chapters in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, all states with voter ID laws and partners with organizations like Sweetwater Mission that deal with their clients’ most basic human needs…, The group also has chapters in Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, all states with voter ID laws and partners with organizations like Sweetwater Mission that deal with their clients’ most basic human needs… Studies show that the people who are most likely to be prevented from voting by ID laws are not only low income, but also African-American or another racial minority. That has been true of the roughly 600 people that Spread The Vote has worked with.” • 600 people…. If you want evidence that the Democrats, and the Democrat donor class, really don’t want to expand the electoral base, here it is; it would be hard to find anything more clear. After all, that $1.4 billion that the Clinton campaign lit on fire and threw up in the air would have bought an awful lot of IDs…

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics releases of interest.

Employment: “August 2018 Conference Board Employment Index Strong Improvement” [Econintersect]. “The Conference Board’s Employment Trends Index – which forecasts employment for the next 6 months improved with the author’s saying ‘This supports our projections for strong economic growth in the coming year, suggesting that demand for labor is likely to remain strong.’… Econintersect evaluates year-over-year change of this index (which is different than the headline view) – as we do with our own employment index. The year-over-year index growth rate accelerated 1.7 % month-over-month and 6.9 % year-over-year.”

Shipping: “Ocean freight rates reach 2-year peak” [Supply Chain Dive]. “In 2016, it cost $1,300 to ship a 40-foot container from China to the U.S. West Coast during the first week of August. This year, Freightos August data pegs the cost at $1,901 — a 46% rise. Prices in the East Coast are even higher, with rates rising 66% over that same time frame.” • OTOH–

Shipping: “CMA CGM Profit Plunges 90% on Surging Fuel Bill” [Wall Street Journal]. “French liner giant CMA CGM SA’s second-quarter profit plummeted almost 90% on a surging fuel bill, falling freight rates and concerns over the growing trade tensions between the U.S. and China. The world’s fourth biggest container ship operator is the latest among the top 10 liners to report sagging results, cutting short a much-anticipated recovery in the shipping industry after a multiyear slump….Container shipping moves 98% of the world’s manufactured goods, but freight rates are about half of break-even levels across major trade routes. Prices for transporting goods have declined despite a wave of consolidation that cut the top dozen operators by about half over the past two years…. A.P. Moeller-Maersk A/S, the industry’s largest operator with 18% of all containers, warned in August that its earnings would be weaker than forecast earlier this year. CMA CGM Chief Executive Rodolphe Saade said he expects a better showing in the second half on sustained volumes and stronger freight rates.”

Shipping: “Port Tracker reports strong U.S. import growth, spurred on by tariffs” [Logistics Management]. “The byproduct of retail shippers’ “pull forward” efforts to import goods in advance of new tariffs levied on products made in China remained intact… For July, the most recent month for which data is available, Port Tracker reported that U.S.-based retail container ports handled 1.9 million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units), which marks a 2.8% increase over June and a 5.6% annual gain. This marks a new monthly record for container import volume…. Port Tracker estimated that August will hit another record at 1.92 million TEU for a 4.8% annual gain, which would represent the third consecutive month to set a new monthly record.”

Shipping: “Economic data points continue to trend positive for trucking” [Freight Waves]. “[American Trucking Associations’ Chief Economist Bob Costello] did caution, however, that a slowdown from the record high levels is coming and that ‘year-over-year comps are going to get tough.’… Costello walked through many of the key numbers for the industry, and offered a general outlook heading into 2019, including about 3 ½% GDP growth in the third quarter and 3% in the fourth quarter…. For-hire truckload temperature-controlled loads, though, are down 8.8% year-to-date, and flatbed (6.1) and tank truck (3.9%) are also down….. Length of haul has continually decreased during this time as well and for the first time dropped below 500 miles this year. In fact, Costello pointed out, the average length of haul has been below 500 miles in four out of the seven months this year. ‘Why is that?’ Costello asked. ‘It’s the changing supply chain’ as online sales continue to grow and necessitate distribution centers closer to final destinations.”

Supply Chain: “Why USPS is the perfect fit for the last mile” [Supply Chain Dive]. “‘USPS is a perfect fit for last-mile services,’ [Michael Notarangeli, Executive VP of Maine Pointe] said. ;Parcel companies will continue to work with the USPS to deliver last-mile services. The USPS is required by law to deliver to all United States postal addresses in all jurisdictions, regardless of geography and density. This makes them an ideal partner for others that want to deliver to those locations, but do not have the infrastructure or capability to do so.'”

Manufacturing: “At Boeing Factory, Unfinished 737s Pile Up” [Wall Street Journal]. “The delays are due largely to two suppliers: engine maker CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Safran SA, and fuselage manufacturer Spirit AeroSystems Holdings Inc. Both companies have said some of their own small suppliers are struggling to meet demand.” • Hmm. I wonder where those small suppliers are located.

The Bezzle: “Self-Driving Technology Threatens Nearly 300,000 Trucking Jobs, Report Says” [Wall Street Journal]. “Autonomous driving technology could replace some 294,000 long-distance truck drivers over the next 25 years, a lighter impact than some have predicted but one that could still significantly reshape freight-industry employment, according to a new research paper….. Using autonomous vehicles for long-haul cargo runs, the most likely near-term scenario, would also spur increased demand for delivery and local trucking jobs, which tend to be lower-paid and often have poor working conditions, the report said…. ‘The risk of autonomous trucks is not that there won’t be enough jobs for American truckers, it’s that there won’t be enough good jobs,’ [Steve Viscelli, a sociologist who is a fellow at the University of Pennsylvania’s Robert A. Fox Leadership Program and a senior fellow at its Kleinman Center for Energy Policy] wrote in the report, which said job training programs could help drivers adjust to the changes.” • Of course! Training! Why didn’t I think of that?

The Bezzle: “Why Tesla’s Autopilot Can’t See a Stopped Firetruck” [Wired]. “These systems are designed to ignore static obstacles because otherwise, they couldn’t work at all…. This unsettling compromise may be better than nothing, given evidence that these systems prevent other kinds of crashes and save lives. And it’s not much of a problem if every human in a semi-autonomous vehicle followed the automakers’ explicit, insistent instructions to pay attention at all times, and take back control if they see a stationary vehicle up ahead.” • If I have to pay attention at all times, why don’t I just drive?

The Bezzle: “Will Elon Musk’s bullet train to O’Hare go up in smoke?”” [Chicago Reader]. “This far, the Boring Company’s biggest accomplishment—beyond digging a mile-long hole in the ground in Los Angeles—is convincing the public to buy 50,000 baseball caps bearing the company’s logo and 20,000 devices dubbed ‘not-a-flamethrowers.’ The flamethrowers, Musk says, were based on a gag from Mel Brooks’s Star Wars spoof. “Does anyone tell you no?” Rogan wondered. Isn’t selling a $500 flamethrower online a dumb idea? ‘Yeah, it’s a terrible idea. Terrible, you shouldn’t buy one. I said don’t buy this flamethrower. Don’t buy it. Still, people bought it,’ Musk replied. ‘To be totally frank it’s just a roofing torch with an air-rifle cover. It’s not a real flamethrower. We were very clear, this is not actually a flamethrower.'” • When people tell you who they are…

Tech: “Congress Is Clueless About Google’s Biggest Problem” [Bloomberg]. “[Jaron] Lanier’s insightful point is that this [free service for data] model may also be a natural route to disaster, for a disconcertingly simple reason. Facebook, for example, makes money by helping advertisers target messages — including lies and conspiracies — to the people most likely to be persuaded. The algorithms looking for the best ways to engage users have no conscience, and will simply exploit anything that works. Lanier believes that the algos have learned that we’re more energized if we’re made to feel negative emotions, such as hatred, suspicion or rage. ‘Social media is biased not to the left or the right,’ as he puts it, ‘but downward,’ toward an explosive amplification of negativity in human affairs. In learning how to best to manipulate people, tech algorithms may inadvertently be causing mass violence and progressive social degradation.” • I tried to find a good Hegel quote on the power of the Negative, but sadly, no…

Tech: “Anatomy of an AI system” (PDF) [AI Atlas]. “The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources.” • Grab a cup of coffee; a novel, holistic perspective.

Honey for the Bears: “Goldman Bear-Market Risk Indicator at Highest Since 1969: Chart” [Bloomberg]. “While the gauge is at levels that have historically preceded a bear market, Goldman strategists including Peter Oppenheimer wrote in a note last week that a long period of relatively low returns from stocks is a more likely alternative.”

Rapture Index: Closes up 1 on Tribulation Temple. “Major news outlets ran stories on the birth of the Red Heifer” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. Seems indeed that 180 is a floor. (“Prophecy fulfilled after red cow is born at Temple of Israel” [New York Post]. “The sacrifice of a red heifer is essential to the construction of a third temple in Jerusalem, which would bring the coming of the Messiah and the final judgment.” Not sure if I should file this under Fodder for the Bulls or Honey for the Bears….)

Class Warfare

“Many lawmakers and aides who crafted financial regulations after the 2008 crisis now work for Wall Street” [WaPo]. “Ten years after the financial crisis brought the U.S. economy to its knees, about 30 percent of the lawmakers and 40 percent of the senior staff who crafted Congress’ response have gone to work for or on behalf of the financial industry, according to a Washington Post analysis. The pattern, which applies about equally to both parties, is a stark illustration of how policymakers sought to profit from the financial sector after dealing with one of the worst financial episodes in U.S. history.” • Ka-ching.

“Tesla workers speak out: ‘Anything pro-union is shut down really fast'” [Guardian]. “Another current employee in a Tesla factory who asked to remain anonymous expressed similar sentiments. ‘Pro-union people are generally fired for made-up reasons. There’s a culture of fear because if you don’t comply, you will be fired,’ the employee told me. ‘We are told Tesla would go bankrupt if we unionize because we are not a profitable company yet.’ He added that management quickly finds reasons to fire employees who tout their efforts to form a union and those who are fired are pushed to sign non-disclosure agreements before receiving their last paycheck.” • Maybe the venture capitalists could just write the workers a big fat check?

News of The Wired

“An Engineer’s Guide to the Docuverse” [Medium]. More on the Xanadu project here. I’ve never seen worse demos, although perhaps I’m too cynical.

The Lives of Others is an excellent film. Lucky the Stasi didn’t have video. Or cell phones. Anyhow:

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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 (TH):

TH writes: “This is a Western Tiger Swallowtail taking flight from a flower on our Butterfly Bush. The bush lives at our cabin in Running Springs, California (6,000 ft. elev.). It’s over 10 years old, but still fairly scrawny since it doesn’t get a lot of attention beyond annual deadheading.” This is more an antidote, since the subject is an animal. However, I’m such a fan of pollinators that I’m going to include it! And a butterfly bush sounds like a neat idea….

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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. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Ugh, i remember reading through a bunch of James ‘RAGIN CAJUN’ Carville’s books thinking they were the shit. Daily Kos is cited hundreds of times so i thought hell yeah heres a good blogging poli sci community which in turn led to Balloon-Juice’s website.

      But they all lost their fn heads when Bernie ran.

      I see that i havent missed out on anything save some Identity Bullshit.

      Policy Free, the Lot of Them

      1. Pat

        I left because of the reaction to pointing out that once you dug into them the excuses didn’t excuse how bad the bailout and ACA were. How saying there was no.excuse for not prosecuting bank crooks and torturers brought out stupid fanboy accusations of not getting the big picture. And the lack of outrage and rebellion when Obama declared recovery complete time to cut Social Security and cut Medicare even more with his specially selected front men Simpson and Bowles was enforced in the ranks. Not to mention the obvious destruction of Democratic Party local outreach and infrastructure programs which should have had Kos and crew foaming at the mouth just rated rants about the stupidity of Republican voters. That and more finally convinced me the biggest suckers weren’t those Republican voters.

  1. Wukchumni

    It’s not over till the Red Heifer is sacrificed, so how long do we have to live, until bovine intervention, that is?

    1. The Rev Kev

      Good news on that front. There has just been born a red heifer in Israel so soon we will be good to go. The Temple Institute in Jerusalem are checking it to make sure that it is red all over. If it is, they can sacrifice it, demolish the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and then start to build the Third Temple. Story at-


      1. clarky90

        “The Mosaic covenant. God promises to make the Israelites his treasured possession among all people[Exo 19:5] and “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation”[Exo 19:6], if they follow God’s commandments. As part of the terms of this covenant, God gives Moses the Ten Commandments.”

        The Mosaic Covenant is a written and witnessed contract, between God and the Jewish People (The Old Testament). Have all of the conditions and terms of the agreement been honored?

      2. JTMcPhee

        What I hear is that an Israel-tie biotech firm genetically manipulated the gametes that resulted in the heifer to produce the red coloration. Or maybe they just used a bunch of Clairol Home Coloring kits. Sort of confirms my notion that the whole effing species has an encoded death wish, telomeres that are ready to trigger a grand apoptosis. But then I am a bad cynic…

        And speaking of that death wish, might I share a little something from Sic Semper Tyrannis , “Will WW III Start This Week?”:


        Seems the ex-military and ex-spook types who contribute there are a little concerned about what’s shakin’ down in Syria, around that US Outpost at al Tanf and Idlib Province (of SYRIA) generally…

  2. a different chris

    >Autonomous driving technology could replace some 294,000 long-distance truck drivers

    Funny how we never managed to remove the “drivers” from trains, which don’t even have a steering wheel, are pretty obvious where exactly they might turn up to +-1 inch, and also have bright lights and clanging bells to help people in cars avoid them.

    But we can now just unleash robot-piloted trucks, no prob. Guess that’s progress…but I suspect all the progress is on the legal front (here’s -most of- grandma’s corpse and a 10K check, shut up and go away).

    1. Edward E

      Anticipating a Carrington Event type solar flare, heck as weak and porous as our planets’ magnetic fields are now it wouldn’t take that much. A good size solar magnetic flux rope or prominence snap in the right place could probably get a lot of electronic goodys zapped to smithereens.

      Sun with less sunspots is actually hotter and windiest,, compared to when sunspots are visible. Bigger sunspots are actually a cooler sun, but the sunspots pump up the magnetic fields and help provide protection from CME’s. Per Leif Svalgaard who I just absolutely respect.

      1. Edward E

        Actually I should have said something about the scariest one, Filaments, huge arcs of plasma (electrified gas) in the Sun’s atmosphere that get supersize at solar minimum. When they snap crackle pop it’s look out Sunspot, New Mexico here we come ZZZzzzzzaaaappppp! With little to nothing to stop the CME because of dormant magnetic fields.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Do you still have to buy auto insurance, even when you’re not driving, but are basically just a passenger?

    3. fresno dan

      a different chris
      September 10, 2018 at 2:30 pm

      The only possible motive is a grift:
      “a company for carrying out an undertaking of great advantage, but nobody to know what it is”

      Except…people have gotten even stupider since the 1700’s – at least they didn’t know what the proposed investment back than was.

      Yesterday I was going to the grocery store at 6 am, and it was dark. I am going down a main road (but not lighted) and there is this narrow white light ahead. I really can’t figure out what it was – flying saucer, bicyclist on too much whacky tobacky, or what. Turned out it was a police car (but not the well marked black and white units) blocking the road for some problem down the road. Apparently they didn’t have one with the full complement of colored lights so this one just had its spotlight pointed down the road. So I had to turn into a cul de sac, which took me about 20 minutes to find my way out of. And American roads are so non standard and poorly marked, with so many eccentricities, it just strikes me as bizarre that someone could design software that could deal with all the possible contingencies.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Those American roads sound a lot like roads in the old towns in many European cities.

        And I understand many (all?) streets in various islands of old Venice have no names.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          That’s not true, they all seem to have names. Addresses in Venice lack street names though, confusingly. The address consists of the sestriere (quarter), and a number assigned to buildings in some ancient, arcane fashion.

    4. The Rev Kev

      Bad news if you are a firefighter riding around in big, red fire trucks. It is one thing to have a car run up the back of you because the automated car could not ‘see’ you. Quite another if you have a fully loaded truck ram you from behind because it too cannot see you.

  3. Carolinian

    Elsewhere in the WSJ “unnamed officials” say they know that the Syrians and Russians are already planning a chlorine gas false flag that they will then call a jihadi false flag (and that the Russians have been predicting for weeks). It makes your head spin.


    Since credible evidence is irrelevant to this sort of R2P warfare then the side with the biggest propaganda megaphone is presumed (by the “steady state” neocons) to have the upper hand.

    Someone should tell Chuck Todd that our truth challenged, “just doing their job” journalists of the US and UK are actively threatening the world with WW3 by taking on this megaphone function. Trump may be a boob but is correct that the American press is a real and present danger to us all.

  4. allan

    “I tried to find a good Hegel quote on the power of the Negative, but sadly, no… ”

    Well, there’s this from Marx: “The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain.”

    Speaking of which, the bio-pic The Young Karl Marx is highly recommended
    (available on streaming, and unlikely to be coming to a theater near you).

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Mental suffering first, then physical suffering later?

      We should not call someone an idiot, and then shoot him in the leg.

      1. allan

        I thought the reference was to negative emotions caused by online material
        leading to negative actions in the real world.
        One can interpret Marx’s quote as saying that the only way to deal with the former is the latter –
        the only way to deal with online anger or humiliation is to do things
        which might be painful to you or others.
        Not that I agree.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I am not sure which Marx, but all the Marx’s I know were before the internet. And reacting to that quote, I thought it could be unhealthy to take it literally.

    2. DonCoyote

      How To Talk Minnesotan: The Power of the Negative

      It’s OK to feel good about things around here, but there’s no sense in running down the street telling people about it at the top of your voice. Minnesotans prefer to express their positive feelings through the use of negative, because it naturally levels things out.

      ‘Not too good’ and ‘not so good’ are worse than ‘not too bad’ and ‘not so bad’; way worse, in fact. When somebody asks you how you slept on a guest bed with a bar that cuts across your back and gives you shooting pains down your leg, you’ll say ‘not too bad’, because you don’t want to hurt their feelings, but how you really slept is ‘not too good’.

      Hmmmm….”Propounding peace and love without practical or institutional engagement is delusion, not virtue.” Not really the “Power of the Negative”, but perhaps relevant.

  5. lyman alpha blob

    “….(and Bush surely deserved it, for warrantless surveillance and torture).”

    That, and let’s not forget about illegally invading sovereign nations under false pretenses. I mean give the man some credit, it’s hard work shredding the Constitution.

  6. Code Name D

    Shh! Democrts think they are being coy when they don’t talk about impeachment.

    Assuming the blue-wabe even happens (I would be suprised it does.), will they or won’t they move to impeach. The fact they don’t want to talk about it speaks volumes about their confdence in the accusations.

    The dems have painted themselvs into a corner. Damed if they do, dammed if they don’t. If they don’t, this will be a huge slap in the face with what little remains of their base.

    1. lyman alpha blob

      If the Democrats are smart, which is something they definitely have not been accused of recently, they will realize that if they set a precedent and impeach Trump for basically being uncivil, since that’s about all they have on him at this point, a future Democrat president won’t hold office for more than 10 minutes before the Republicans bring impeachment proceedings. The Republicans don’t seem to have the same dry powder fetish the Democrat party does.

      So the Dems need find an actual crime (preferably one which half the members of their own party haven’t committed as well, which rules out just about everything) or shut the hell up.

      1. Quentin

        Incivility is an impeachable offence because it’s offensive, didn’t you know? So many people stridently maintain that Trump has done ‘wrong’ but can’t say what it is that he has exactly done wrong. The British pendent is that Russia poisoned the Skripals even though no one has yet seen any evidence, over and over again. At least the Brits have identified the victims of the crime, while in the US no one is even halfway that far because poor people, minorities, brown people, any one who is not filthy rich does not count. That wouldn’t be Trump’s crime because he’s a ‘populist’. Only in the US can the guardians of public knowledge and opinion lump Trump and Sanders together under the same heading. To satisfy everyone let’s take it out on the Palestinians who, by the way, no longer exist in case no one has noticed.

    2. Carey

      I see a “Blue Wave” as likely, led by MILO candidates with a little help from their
      friends, with a smattering of progressives to lend authenticity; leading into the
      narrative™ that “centrism” is the people’s will, and the way to Stop Trump! in 2020.

      We’ll see.

    3. NotTimothyGeithner

      Please, the dead enders will accept the “keep the powder dry” argument to put Chelsea on the throne at this point.

  7. clarky90

    Is POTUS Donald Trump the Neo-Emmanuel Goldstein?

    Re “the algos have learned that we’re more energized if we’re made to feel negative emotions, such as hatred, suspicion or rage.”

    The Two Minutes Hate, from George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, is a daily period in which Party members of the society of Oceania must watch a film depicting the Party’s enemies (notably Emmanuel Goldstein and his followers) and express their hatred for them for exactly two minutes.

    “The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp…..”

    I just finished reading 1984 by George Orwell.

    1. Summer

      1984 by George Orwell.
      One of the cautionary tales turned into corporate and government policy and guidelines.

  8. chuck roast

    Your two paragraphs on ocean shipping are contradictory: “CMA CGM profit… & Ocean freight rates…” Worry not. Several years of reading the ocean shipping trade journals left me with a firm understanding about “trends.” The primary trend in this economic sector (beyond increased oligopoly) left me with a firmly spinning head.

  9. Wukchumni

    That Stasi computer reminds me of the first computer I ever interacted with in the late 60’s, on that one day a year that my dad let me run rampant anywhere in the office, and it was in a special climate controlled room @ a constant 68 degrees, and I remember the punchcards made for rather lousy paper airplanes.

    This speech by Richard Feynman in 1959, shows what a visionary he was…

    As soon as I mention this, people tell me about miniaturization, and how far it has progressed today. They tell me about electric motors that are the size of the nail on your small finger. And there is a device on the market, they tell me, by which you can write the Lord’s Prayer on the head of a pin. But that’s nothing; that’s the most primitive, halting step in the direction I intend to discuss. It is a staggeringly small world that is below. In the year 2000, when they look back at this age, they will wonder why it was not until the year 1960 that anybody began seriously to move in this direction.

    Why cannot we write the entire 24 volumes of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica on the head of a pin?


    1. Inode_buddha

      You too? I remember punch cards in 1970 as a child, hanging out in my Dad’s Fluid Dynamics classes (UIUC, where the WWW was born) when they had the computer room…

    2. Kurt Sperry

      As a rambunctious kid, I took discarded punchcards from the wastebaskets in the air conditioned “computer room” at UC Davis, climbed up to the roof of the building and let the warm updrafts carry them, slowly twirling, high into the Summer sky.

    1. Carey

      I try to read Adorno because I know there’s a there there, but frankly often have trouble
      telling if he’s saying one thing, or its opposite. That’s my level showing, I guess.

  10. diptherio

    Joe Rogan often drives me a little batty with his often ill-informed opinions. However, he does pull in some real interesting guests, and his hours-long podcast format gives the occassional d-bags he has on, like Musk and Milo, plenty of rope to hang themselves with. Pretty entertaining. It would be hilarious if it’s Elon smoking a joint is what ends up cooking Telsa’s goose, instead of the low production numbers, shoddy products and pie-in-the-sky projections. But then, it would give us a good idea as to what those rich investors really care about…

    1. JohnnyGL

      Yeah, I find him frustrating at times, too. He’s really good at what he does, — a conversational everyman, which is what makes him interesting. But you want him to be a bit better, and at times he just goes off on tangents. He rarely gets adversarial, unless he’s quite confident on the particular subject (diet, exercise, drugs).

      He deserves credit for making the long-form interview work. He takes guests in weird directions that other interviewers don’t, and it’s often rather fun.

      The guy loves drugs, though. But yes, he brings in some great guests. He’s had Abby Martin on several times.

  11. diptherio

    Very strange and totally harmless bug discovered on NC! For some reason, the preview of my comments shows the date as being (for instance) 7351, rather than 2018. However, once I post my comment, the date shows up correctly. Weird, but probably not fatal.

    1. polecat

      Maybe it slipped into some quantum foam, to spend some untime in a different part of the multiverse, before tumbling back in this part ..

    2. John Zelnicker

      September 10, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      You’re just noticing this?

      It’s been happening to me off an on since I started commenting about 5 years ago. Post time is always correct. (But not this time.)

      1. Wukchumni

        I bought a crystal ball @ Wal*Mart, but had to return it as it leaked time all over the floor, and besides was never any good at predicting anything more than a week out.

  12. Robert McGregor

    “Using autonomous vehicles for long-haul cargo runs, the most likely near-term scenario, would also spur increased demand for delivery and local trucking jobs, which tend to be lower-paid and often have poor working conditions, the report said…. ‘The risk of autonomous trucks is not that there won’t be enough jobs for American truckers, it’s that there won’t be enough good jobs”

    Isn’t that the “American Way”–to replace better jobs with crappier jobs? Hey, what’s not to like for the owners? They save on labor costs, and their employees become more vulnerable and manageable. It is easier to replace and deal with a $13 per hour driver than a $26 per hour driver.

  13. NoOneInParticular

    Re Stasi surveillance-

    It’s interesting how much knowledge is lost already. The tape machine in the picture isn’t threaded properly.

    1. BobW

      Idler wheel? We don’t need no stinkin’ idler wheel! – I paid rent through the 80s repairing stereos, including Teac reel-to-reel tape recorders. Anyone need their 8-track capstan burnished?

      1. Angie Neer

        I just sent a Teac 3340 to the electronics recycler, after long seeking a new home for it. I hope you didn’t want it ;-/ I inherited it from my dad, who taught me to clean the heads with gin. Can you imagine the thrill of being able to record four independent tracks, with simul-sync? OMG, that was freakin’ amazing. I kept the service manual, because it has beautiful exploded assembly drawings that include every screw and washer, made before the days such things could be done on computers.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Looks like the same fate is planned for ALL us “veterans,” as the Neoliberals work their way through the polity.

      “Fork you for your service.,”

      1. marym

        Deaf, disabled Detroit immigrant in US for 34 years faces deportation

        Born and raised in Nigeria, Francis Anwana was just 14 years old when he came to the United States on a student visa.

        He was deaf, couldn’t talk, and had cognitive disabilities, enrolling at the Michigan School for the Deaf in Flint.

        Now 48, Anwana lives in Detroit at an adult foster care facility, helping mow the lawns and mop the floors at a nearby church on Detroit’s west side.

        But in a shock to immigrant advocates, the U.S. now wants to deport Anwana to Nigeria,

  14. Synoia

    Democrats open the fall campaign brimming with confidence about their prospects for retaking the House, which would give them power to open a wide swath of investigations into Trump or even launch impeachment proceedings.

    I’m actual sick and tired of reading such as this.

    What are the democrats going to do for us? I see no benefit in them “resisting” Trump and Republicans, except an agenda of the rich to do to us.

    If they impeach Trump does than mean we get (ugh) Hillary? No, we get Pence. That’s an improvement how exactly?

    1. Wukchumni

      “If the liberties of the American people are ever destroyed, they will fall by the hands of the clergy.”

      Marquis de Lafayette

        1. Wukchumni

          Atheists are often cited as the most hated religious people, and yet by their very nature shouldn’t be lumped in with the deists.

          1. Wukchumni

            Daffy deist of the day:

            Pat Robertson has established a “shield of protection” over his properties and is ordering Hurricane Florence to change its path and turn out to sea.

          2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Most hated, because there are more non-atheists than atheists?

            I can imagine the reverse if there were more atheists than anyone else, assuming they don’t hate themselves.

              1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

                The only religion I’d avoid is Mammonism…maybe a few others, but that’s one that comes to mind immediately.

    2. curlydan

      If they impeach Trump, doesn’t it just go to the Senate and die? We don’t even “get Pence”. We just get an impeached and still in power Trump.

  15. Synoia

    Goldman Bear-Market Risk Indicator at Highest Since 1969

    And it did such a good job of predicting the 1971 3 day work week in the UK, caused by management and blamed on workers, and followed up by predicting the Oil Shock in 1973, and followed up by predicting the posy Vietnam war recession.

    1. Wukchumni

      The Wall*Street crash of 1970 was a little different than the debacle of a decade ago, in that there were no bailouts, and massive layoffs.

      Read all about it in John Brooks “The Go-Go Years: the Drama and Crashing Finale of Wall Street’s Bullish 60s”

  16. Synoia

    Will Elon Musk’s bullet train to O’Hare go up in smoke?

    No. Pulling a near perfect vacuum, and keeping the vacuum will prove nearly impossible. When it fails, the lucky riders of that section will become instant red ooze. The good news is that their suffering will be brief.

    Giving new meaning the the phrase “Does Elon Suck?.”

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Any scandal involving Musk is an Elongate.

      Perhaps that can be used as a verb too.

      “You’re Elongate-ing.”

    2. DonCoyote

      Jimmy Dore reported that Elon (like Slick Willy) “didn’t inhale” on Joe Rogan. So Elon doesn’t suck, he blows.

      As for things designed by technology/sf geeks… here’s one of the many If cars were designed by Microsoft lists:

      Occasionally your car would just die on the motorway for no reason, You would have to pull over to the side of the road, close all of the car windows, shut it off, restart it, and reopen the windows before you could continue. For some reason you would simply accept this, restart and drive on.

      So yes, if even built, Elon would just shrug and tell you “that hardly ever happens”.

  17. clarky90

    Re “The Mills of Providence Were Ground Up Slowly
    Posted on September 1, 2018 by Lambert Strether
    By Lambert Strether of Corrente


    “Since this is Labor Day weekend, I thought I’d meander forty years down memory lane, to the eight years when I worked in factories, in Providence, Rhode Island, having flunked out from a purpose-free collegiate experience….”

    This was a beautiful evocation of the USA of my youth. Woody Guthrie’s POV

    Thank you Lambert.

    1. Carey

      Yes, that was a wonderful piece. Found myself comparing notes from a contemporaneous
      left coast perspective, too.

    2. JCC

      Same here, it reminded me of not only my Upstate NY town but my initial working trajectory that was similar to your “purpose-free collegiate experience”. I left Boston U. after a year and worked in local factories, graduated to a factory bar, Bar Manager at a Yacht Club, cook at what was considered at the time to be the best Italian and Steak Restaurant in Upstate NY, and from there to another expensive but “purpose-free collegiate experience” at Cornell Hotel School for a year… it finally dawned on me that Corporate chains were wiping out the purpose, so I moved on to different things and different places.

      I miss those days before behemoth Corps took over everything. Sears, Woolworth’s and JC Penny all downtown surrounded by small factories, family-owned Department Stores, “variety” stores, Hat and Shoe stores, toy stores, hardware and “Army Surplus” stores, and local taverns close by that were always filled with people you knew or new people to meet that always knew someone in your family, a great uncle or grandfather or even a great grandfather, and a good story to go with that acquaintance.

      And passenger trains with names like The Phoebe Snow.

      Things just don’t seem as interesting as they used to be.

    1. Wukchumni

      “We’ve found traces of xyz & abc in your system, disqualifying you from further insurance coverage, have a nice day.”

  18. Biologist

    “Anatomy of an AI system” (PDF) [AI Atlas]. “The Amazon Echo as an anatomical map of human labor, data and planetary resources.”

    Thank you Lamberth for this wonderful read. Holistic indeed.

    1. cnchal

      . . . and horrifying.

      Next time I run into a CAPTCHA, my time will be invested in pissing into Google’s cloud by misidentifying a street sign for a moose, or whenever I get near an echo, telling Alexa to commit suicide or perform an anatomically impossible act.

  19. Jeremy Grimm

    Attempting to read about the Xanadu Project I kept visualizing Olivia Newton-John but once I got past that I was disappointed to see it appeared to lack sufficient US-based bona fides to become the basis for a DoD software project [A webhome at a .au site is just not appropriate]. That’s a real shame. Maybe someone could drop a few hundred millions on UC Berkeley or MIT to adopt it and Americanize it a little. Reading and re-reading and re-re-reading some of the descriptions of what the Xanadu Project ‘is’ — made it clear this software would be perfect for DoD’s next attempt to consolidate its databases and make the DoD programs auditable. The use of Excel like structures with unlimited linkages to other structures sounded like a perfect fit for a database update for the DoD.

    Maybe there is some way to channel the spirit of Coleridge to complete his poem. That might provide some deeper insight into just what the Xanadu Project is about. It can’t be about pleasure domes?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > what the Xanadu Project is about

      I think Xanadu is or was the right way to create content and get paid for it. Naturally, such an idea would run into a lot of opposition….

  20. False Solace

    Bruce Schneier the Wizard of Cybersecurity did an AMA (“Ask Me Anything”) on Reddit 4 days ago. Not sure if it’s been linked on NC before. Schneier made a throwaway comment about driverless cars:

    The hard one is going to be thing-to-thing authentication. Imagine a driverless car needing to exchange information with thousands of other cars, road signs and sensors, and so on. We have no idea how to do that securely.

    I hadn’t even considered this as a possible horror of self-driving cars. How are they gonna keep these things secure? If they’re as smart as the hype they’ll need to communicate with each other over the network. How do we make sure bad guys don’t get in there and make the system crash — literally?

    Schneier has a new book out (Click Here to Kill Everybody) and a history of insightful remarks on network security, IoT, and moronic surveillance. Looking forward to the upcoming interviews etc. as he does his book tour.

    1. Carey

      “I hadn’t even considered this as a possible horror of self-driving cars. How are they gonna keep these things secure? If they’re as smart as the hype they’ll need to communicate with each other over the network. How do we make sure bad guys don’t get in there and make the system crash — literally?”

      Along with plausible deniability for whoever might be running these vastly complex systems. The Michael Hastings scenario comes quickly to mind.

    2. Elizabeth Burton

      I’ve wondered from the moment the whole driverless vehicle madness began that if hackers can take over the cars we have now just by taking over the computers, what’s going to happen when the computer runs the car? And it isn’t like the manufacturers of the current crop seem to be falling all over themselves to improve security.

      Now there’s an SF scenario for you—vehicles all replaced with self-driving ones that can be taken over at any time by anyone with the right code and equipment. No more high-speed chases!

    3. Carey

      Autonomy for cars will limit autonomy of people. Those selling this stuff are ever-so-gently hinting at that now.

  21. George Phillies

    If I have to pay attention at all times, why don’t I just drive?

    Your attention wanders. The combination of if and you is way safer than you. It is simply not perfect.

    1. Carey

      “The combination of if[t] and you is way safer than you.”

      If highly-trained airline pilots have trouble in that type of “you take over!” scenario,
      why would one think that semi-autonomous tech + Average Driver would be
      “way safer”? Not to mention the vast, centralized complexity required to
      credibly implement these systems, in a country that can’t fill potholes…

      color me skeptical / follow the money

      1. Charlie

        Another thing, airline pilots have air traffic controllers as backup (though not perfect by any means, but it’s a valid analogy) to warn of emergency situations beforehand. Does this mean the controlled cars get AI back seat drivers.?

  22. Tom Doak

    Why does it matter if Democrats take the Senate? Even if they did, you’d have Manchin and Heitkamp and three other DINOs caving in to the Republicans in order to preserve their standing in their districts for their next re-election bid. (Just like now.). The Democrats couldn’t maintain a 51-49 vote for any bill on any issue, if conservatives didn’t like it.

    If they win the House the only thing they’ll be able to pass is the Grand Bargain, with Obama and Boehner cheering them on.

  23. tokyodamage

    The comments to the trump tweet about Apple moving its factories back to the USA are the most ‘hashtag resistance’ thing ever. I scrolled down a hundred comments and they’re all outraged liberals. . . uniformly cheering for neoliberalism because, we have to do the opposite of whatever Mr Dumb Cheeto Man says? I guess???

    1. Elizabeth Burton

      The knee-jerk Resisters ™ are now thoroughly trained to respond in that manner to everything Trump says. If you challenge their outrage with anything resembling “But he’s right, actually, and it would be a good thing” you must be prepared to be savaged. Trump Derangement Syndrome is pandemic.

  24. M&Ms

    Reading Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation, and trying to build my knowledge of the history.

    I found a good discussion here, but I’m wondering if anybody could suggest a good (short) book or article that goes into more detail about the creation of Fed, and the circumstances around the UK and then US decision to end the gold standard in the 1930s. I.e., something to complement Polanyi, and maybe also discussing Bretton Woods (which took place just after Polanyi’s book was published).


    1. Swamp Yankee

      Giovanni Arrighi’s The Long Twentieth Century on various regimes of capitalist accumulation (Genoese, Dutch, British, American) is pretty good on this stuff. Arrighi follows in the tradition of Polanyi and the great French historian Fernand Braudel.

  25. Jack Parsons

    “Why don’t I just drive!”

    Your legs are much heavier than your arms. I would be quite happy with something that smoothly works the pedals while I steer.

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