2:00PM Water Cooler 10/9/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, sorry there was a skeletal Water Cooler there for a moment. I thought I had my clock set slightly ahead, but in fact had it set to the “right” time. –lambert


“The dense and sprawling system of Customs codes intended to bring order to U.S. trade increasingly is being put to far different purposes. The thousands of numbers used to identify products increasingly are being used to evade the spreading tariffs the U.S. is imposing on imports from China…., in a growing practice that is starting to compete with transshipment as a way to duck tariffs” [Wall Street Journal]. “A belt of smaller nations in the freight-heavy seas south of China has become the center of a lively trade supporting alleged Chinese tariff evasion. Shipping hubs from Vietnam to Singapore that have evolved to help Chinese exporters now switch the 10-digit designations known as the HTS code, swapping the numbers for goods like plywood to push them outside the tariff umbrella. Trade middlemen in Malaysia refer to tariff-dodging as ‘switching BL,’ for replacing the bills of lading documents at the heart of transport.” • I’m sure digital bills of lading will clean all this up. Or blockchain.

“Public Citizen Analysis: How the New NAFTA Text Measures Against Key Changes We Have Demanded to Stop NAFTA’s Ongoing Damage” (PDF) [Eyes on Trade]. ‘The old NAFTA ISDS text, Chapter 11-B, is removed from the new text. ISDS between the U.S. and Canada is terminated, but this change does not go into effect until three years after the old NAFTA is replaced by the new deal. Going forward, U.S. and Canadian investors in the other country would only have recourse to domestic courts or administrative bodies to settle investment disputes with the other government. Terminating U.S.-Canada ISDS will eliminate 92 percent of U.S. ISDS liability under NAFTA and most U.S. ISDS exposure overall. This change will significantly limit future ISDS attacks. To date all but one of the NAFTA ISDS payouts implicating environmental and health issues have involved U.S. firms challenging Canadian policies. And all but three of the 58 NAFTA ISDS attacks on U.S. and Canadian policies have been brought by investors from the other country. However, even as this change will prevent many ISDS attacks over the long term, the three-year period before ISDS is terminated poses serious risks of more corporate attacks on environmental and health policies before the old NAFTA ISDS rules are terminated. With respect to Mexico ISDS is replaced by a new approach that reflects some longstanding progressive demands. Annex 14-D, “Mexico-United States Investment Disputes,” eliminates the extreme investor rights relied on for almost all ISDS payouts.” But more: “• What is otherwise real improvement on reining in the threats posed by ISDS is marred by a very problematic secondary U.S.-Mexico Annex (14-E) that should be eliminated. Ostensibly, it is to provide redress in the case of cancellation without cause of 13 contracts obtained by nine U.S. investors during the recent partial privatization of Mexico’s oil and gas sector by the outgoing government.” • Well worth a read, as is anything Public CItizen does on trade. From my perspective, “the new NAFTA” actually addresses my big issue with “trade deals,” whether NAFTA or the defunct TPP, which was always the surrender of national sovereignty to ISDS.

“Companies would probably prefer to pay the [new NAFTA] tariff — currently at 2.5 percent — for autos and parts that don’t comply with new rules rather than change their suppliers or relocate plants. But embedded in the text is a provision that leaves open the possibility of the U.S. raising its baseline rate” [Politico]. “Even if Mexican wages rise and auto-parts suppliers in Canada see more business, the unpredictability of future tariffs could prompt some shifting of operations. ‘If I wanted to be absolutely sure that I could access 17 million annual U.S. car buyers, Canada is a safe bet, Mexico is now a safe bet,’ said Flavio Volpe, president of the Canadian Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association. ‘But the only guarantee is the U.S.'”

“Logistics operations for U.S. food banks are bracing for a flood of goods thanks to tariffs. The U.S. government has agreed to buy $1.2 billion worth of pork, apples, cheese and other goods from farmers to ease the pain of the new levies flying amid U.S. trade battles. …[T]he food will more than double the volumes of donated goods flowing to food banks over the next year, raising worries about the costs and logistical challenges of handling the unexpected bounty” [Wall Street Journal]. • A nice problem to have!



“Debates emerge as 2020 Democratic primary flash point” [Politico]. “The first Democratic presidential debate is still months [oh gawd] away, but the sprawling field of prospective contenders is beginning to grasp a crushing reality: Any candidate who fails to make the cut for the first debate stage is likely to see their candidacy implode….. While the formats and timing remain unsettled, Democratic National Committee officials have already begun early-stage talks with television networks about 2020 primary debates. And the specter of the first debate — where it would be difficult for many candidates to meet a polling threshold for entry — weighs heavily on a field that could feature more than 20 candidates.” • I’m sure the DNC has learned their lesson from 2016, and will rig the debates with far more plausible deniability than Debbie Wasserman-Schultz achieved.

“Bernie Sanders Shows How To Do Politics” [Current Affairs]. “The criticisms of the [Sanders] ‘Stop BEZOS’ bill are interesting in light of the outcome. I think they show how a lot of people confuse ‘politics’ with ‘policy’: the bill was not a good policy, therefore it was not good. That’s not necessarily the case though, and I think one of the reasons liberals have failed politically is that they think of politics as ‘designing the optimal policy’ and have no clue how to actually build the political power that allows you to pass and implement the optimal policy. Bernie Sanders does know a thing or two about building political power—that’s why he managed to be the ‘Amendment King’ in the House of Representatives, passing more roll call votes in a Republican Congress than any other member despite being a radical democratic socialist. Sanders’ bill was criticized as a stunt. But that shouldn’t be a criticism, and we on the left need to try more stunts.”


27 days until Election Day. 27 days is a long time in politics. And remember that October is the month of surprises!

“The Real Blue Wave Could Come in the States” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “The Pew Research Center released on Wednesday its final tally of primary votes cast this year. Republican turnout was up 27 percent over 2014, when 1.2 million more Republicans than Democrats cast ballots in primaries. But Democratic turnout ended up 91 percent higher this year than 2014, with 2.9 million more Democrats than Republicans voting this time around….. I expect net gains for Democrats in governorships of between six and a dozen, and a pickup for Democrats of between 400 and 650 state legislative seats, more than the average midterm loss of 375 seats for the party in the White House.” • In other words, recapturing around half the ground the Democrats lost under [genuflects] Obama.

“A Month Before Election Day, Democrats Poised for Legislative Gains” [Governing]. “Democrats’ chances of gaining the majority have improved in nine chambers, compared to just one for the Republicans. Republicans currently have 11 chambers at risk of flipping party control, compared to just four for the Democrats…. if a wave only favors the Democrats modestly, we might see a four- to seven-chamber gain for the Democrats. If a larger wave materializes, Democrats could take a bigger bite out of the GOP’s state-by-state advantage — a net switch of eight to 14 chambers. Despite the Democrats’ strong position, it’s worth injecting a note of caution. Even a net switch of 14 chambers toward the Democrats would leave Republicans with a national edge in chambers of 51-46.”

“Education Takes Leading Role in Governor’s Races” [Inside Elections]. “Democratic strategists believe that public education is a top issue for governor’s races this year, arguing that while voters trusted Republican governors to fix their state budgets after the recession (sometimes by cutting education spending), priorities have since shifted.” • The same Democrat strategists who didn’t lift a finger to help the teachers unions when they struck (and are now hiding behind agency-free language like “priorities have since shifted.”

TX Senate: “The special sauce that flavors Betomania” [Dana Milbank, WaPo]. “His speeches have little red meat and few mentions of Cruz or Trump. And though he doesn’t hide his progressive positions — for single-payer health care and legal marijuana, against a border wall — he avoids purity tests, such as a reflexive demand for Trump’s impeachment.” • I read it twice; no mention of Beto sweating. That’s a relief. However, Milbank is wrong that O’Rourke is “for single payer.” Look at O’Rourke’s site on health care policy: He’s “for” a laundry list of proposals including Medicaid expansion, a public option, and “universal healthcare coverage— whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise – so that we can ensure everyone is able to see a provider when it will do the most good and will deliver healthcare in the most affordable, effective way possible.” Note “affordable,” because that means not free at the point of delivery.

“Kavanaugh lesson: Resist the ‘resistance’ or lose” [Mark Penn, The Hill]. • Penn has the #Resistance confused with “the left.” Clue stick: The left doesn’t do brunch.

The Liberals Have Lost Their Minds


Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE Those ragey socialists:

“Costumes, Consenticorns and the New Rules of Nightlife” [Medium]. • Actually interesting, though I doubt these ideas will be implemented in collegiate party culture any time soon. But perhaps I’m too cynical!

“The lawless frontier of the #MeToo campaign” [WSWS]. From comments, but I want to hoist it: “Fundamental to all civilised systems of criminal law is the doctrine nulla poena sine lege—no punishment without a law…. #MeToo has expressly rejected the role of due process, the presumption of innocence, the careful, dispassionate consideration of evidence, the right of a defense, and the central democratic axiom that there should only be punishment where there is a law…. The #MeToo campaign, a movement of the privileged, upper middle class, is of a piece with the general assault on constitutional norms and legal principles undertaken by the ruling class since the stolen election of 2000. This self-absorbed and self-righteous milieu long ago abandoned any adherence to constitutionalism. Its outlook was most cogently expressed by Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, when he declared that due process did not require courts. #MeToo agrees with that perspective.”

UPDATE “Marx, Race, and Neoliberalism” (PDF) [Adolph Reed, Jr. (2013)]. “Race is a taxonomy of ascriptive difference, that is, an ideology that constructs populations as groups and sorts them into hierarchies of capacity, civic worth, and desert based on ‘natural’ or essential characteristics attributed to them. Ideologies of ascriptive difference help to stabilize a social order by legitimizing its hierarchies of wealth, power, and privilege, including its social division of labor, as the natural order of things. Ascriptive ideologies are just-so stories with the potential to become self-fulfilling prophecies. They emerge from self-interested common sense as folk knowledge: they are ‘known’ to be true unreflectively because they seem to comport with the evidence of quotidian experience. They are likely to become generally assumed as self-evident truth, and imposed as such by law and custom, when they converge with and reinforce the interests of powerful strata in the society. Race and gender are the most familiar ascriptive hierarchies in the contemporary United States.” • Will Ruy Teixeira please pick up the white courtesy phone? Reed is as lucid a writer as they come; well worth a read even if you disagree.

Stats Watch

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, September 2018: “retreating as expected after August’s record reading but still posting the third highest level in the survey’s 45-year history” [Econoday]. “Of note is that actual investment spending improved in September, with 60 percent of owners reporting capital outlays… Overall, the September survey shows small business owners continuing to expand their activities for the 23rd month in a row and at a pace not seen in decades, with expectations of further growth only slightly marred by a lack of qualified workers in a very tight labor market.” And: “In the small business half of the economy, 2018 has produced 45-year record high measures of job openings, hiring plans, actual job creation, compensation increases (actual and planned), profit growth, and inventory investment” [Econintersect].

Housing: “Fannie Mae: Mortgage Serious Delinquency rate decreased in August, Lowest since Sept 2007” [Calculated Risk]. “Fannie Mae reported that the Single-Family Serious Delinquency rate decreased to 0.82% in August, down from 0.88% in July. The serious delinquency rate is down from 0.99% in August 2017…. The Fannie Mae serious delinquency rate peaked in February 2010 at 5.59%. This is the lowest serious delinquency for Fannie Mae since September 2007.”

The Bezzle: “Turning Wasted Natural Gas Into Bitcoin” [Save Haven]. • Wait, what? The headline should have a question mark; the article is really about the insane waste of “flared gas” in the Permian Basin.

Tech: “Americans’ data is worth billions — and you soon might be able to get a cut of it” [MarketWatch]. “Some 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created every day — a massive amount. If 2.5 quintillion pennies would be laid out flat, they would cover the Earth five times. Most of the data is harvested, stored and owned by large companies. When Facebook FB, Instagram and Twitter, +2.79% sell this data to advertising companies — $44 billion a year — users get nothing in return except the free use of the social-media platform. Now, nearly a dozen startups have emerged to enable consumers to reclaim that information and, if they want, to sell it directly to advertisers, creating a kind of ‘universal basic data income’ and giving everyone a piece of their own revenue. If they don’t want to sell the data, they have at least secured their information and assured their privacy.” • Read this twice, and I don’t see how the startups enable users to control their data; they just look like brokers, to me. And why wasn’t this functionality built into browsing as such from the very beginning? Readers?

Transportation: “Warner Energy Consulting LLC on the future of battery standardization” [Automative IQ]. “Right now there are, effectively, three different sets of global and regional standards when it comes to lithium-ion batteries. There are some major differences between the two largest sets of standards the ISO PAS and the Chinese GB/T standards. As an example, ISO lists 26 prismatic cell sizes, and the GB/T list 46, but only one of those is the same. There are several others (ten) that are close and probably fall within the tolerances but are not an exact match. So when we look at all three – DIN, ISO and GB/T in all three cell form factors, prismatic, pouch and cylindrical there are 132 unique cell sizes across these standards. So there is still some major opportunities for the industry to work together to consolidate.” And: “[W]ith the amount of change that is still happening in the automotive lithium-ion battery industry commoditization may in fact not be possible. I expect to see the current generation of cell types to be around for a long time due to the life of the vehicles and products they are in – usually around ten years with many OEMs still offering very long warranties for the batteries. So it will be necessary to be able to provide replacement products for another 10 to 15 years. But at the same time we will begin to see new technologies emerging including solid-state batteries, Li-Sulfur, Mg-ion, Na-ion and many others. These will slowly begin to see new applications coming into place. Because we will see these continuing energy storage evolutions, commoditization is not likely – but standardization may in fact make sense.” • Hmm. If batteries aren’t a commodity, then will EVs be manufactured more like Apple Macs than PCs?

Honey for the Bears: “Two-Thirds of U.S. Business Economists See Recession by End-2020” [Bloomberg]. “About 10 percent see the next contraction starting in 2019, 56 percent say 2020 and 33 percent said 2021 or later, according to the Aug. 28-Sept. 17 poll of 51 forecasters issued by the National Association for Business Economics on Monday.” • Of course, given that we’re talking economists, here, maybe I should file this under Fodder for the Bulls.


“The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood” [Nautilus]. Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs as of now is planning wooden construction for its Quayside dystopia in Toronto. However: “[Research Alastair Bartlett] wants to do many more experiments because it’s still not clear how, in mass timber buildings, to get compartment fires to reliably burn out on their own, a “cornerstone of fire safety engineering design.” • Oh.

Today in History

Happy birthday Johnny Ramone:

Musical interlude:

Happy birthday Afghanistan War:

Class Warfare

“UPS saga continues: how many local agreements are considered ratified?” [Freight Waves]. “[A] new wrinkle surrounding local issues, and the need to have them approved, came from a statement made by the dissident Teamsters for a Democratic Union [TDU]…. According to the TDU, Taylor said the local supplements to the master agreement were ratified [under the two-thirds rule] for the Central Supplement, Atlantic Supplement, Northern California Supplement, Louisville Air Rider and the Detroit Rider… According to the TDU, Taylor said the local supplements to the master agreement were ratified for the Central Supplement, Atlantic Supplement, Northern California Supplement, Louisville Air Rider and the Detroit Rider…. ‘We have seen reports and heard anecdotes that UPS employees, particularly those that voted against the Package contract are outraged that the union would ratify the contract despite the ‘No’ vote,’ [Stephens analyst Jack Atkins] wrote in a report to investors. ‘A ‘no strike’ clause does not prevent work slowdowns, elevated call outs for sick days or the utilization of work rules to disrupt operations in an effort to demonstrate displeasure with the outcome.'” • With the holiday shipping season to come….

“Updated: UPS Workers Reject Contract, Teamsters Brass Declare It Ratified Anyway” [Labor Notes]. “Apparently trying to have their cake and eat it too, Teamsters brass have announced that they consider the UPS contract ratified, despite members voting it down by 54 percent—but don’t worry, they’re going to keep negotiating to improve it…. The contract rejection was a big victory for the “vote no” movement, which is backed by the rank-and-file network Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU) and activists from the Teamsters United coalition that nearly unseated President James Hoffa in 2016…. At UPS Freight, with a turnout of 66 percent, the contract was rejected 38 percent yes to 62 percent no. With no constitutional provision to hide behind there, the union says it is headed back to the table to “address members’ concerns,” and that once there’s a revised deal, members will get another chance to vote.” And: ” Going into bargaining, the biggest demand from the overwhelmingly part-time inside workers who sort, load, and unload parcels was for a $15 starting wage, with catch-up raises for people who’ve been underpaid for years. What they got instead was a $13 minimum, with no catch-up raises. UPS is forecasting $6 billion in profit this year. Amazon is both a major customer and a growing competitor of UPS. The news of the raise there means ‘there is absolutely no way we can pass this contract,’ said Kristan Turns, a part-timer who has been loading packages onto jet planes in the Dallas heat since 1999 (‘186 years in ramp time’). She said Amazon already offers benefits pretty comparable to UPS.”

“UPS package handlers reject contract proposal; Teamsters leaders ratify agreement anyway” [Louisville Insider]. “James Anderson, a Louisville-based UPS package handler, told Insider Monday that he rejected national and local agreements over concerns, including low wages and pensions. ‘I felt that there wasn’t enough financial compensation’ in the national proposal, he said. For one, Anderson stated, current workers would see much smaller raises than new hires. Many new hires are currently paid $10.50 per hour but get weekly bonuses of $150 to $250 depending on their start date. When they enter their second year, they get a raise of 50 cents per hour, but they lose all the bonus pay, which means a newly hired colleague would be earning thousands of dollars more than a worker who has been with the company for a year. Bonuses should be paid to all workers — or none, said Anderson, who pointed to UPS’ contract structure as a cause for high employee turnover.” • It’s not bad enough that there’s two-tier — it’s a really screwed up two-tier! Good coverage from Louisville Insider because Louisville is UPS’s airline hub and largest sorting facility. But national covererage of this complex story seems lacking.

“NLRB Targets Union Neglect of Members” [Industry Week]. “National Labor Relations Board General Counsel Peter Robb has instructed the board’s regional offices to change the way they deal with what are termed duty of fair representation (DFR) charges. Specifically, the new instructions are seen making it more difficult for unions who previously had found it easy to offer a defense of ‘mere negligence’ to escape the negative consequences of these claims.” • “Mere negligence” is a defense?! That seems odd, regardless of the good faith involved in this effort (probably none).

“World Bank Group’s Proposals on Small Business Insolvency” [Credit Slips]. “[T]he final version [of the World Bank Group’s insolvency and debt resolution team] reflects a fairly widely shared viewpoint on three key points. First, most [ micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs)] are not business entities, they are people with beating hearts and families. Corporate restructuring proceedings, with all their classical (and expensive) British formality, are ill-suited to resolving the distress of these business people. Rather, a discharge and fresh start is what these people need to get back to being entrepreneurs, and potential entrepreneurs are much more likely to take the plunge if they know a discharge is available and all will not be lost if their plans go pear-shaped.” • How unfortunate that people with student or medical debt aren’t afforded the same tender regard!

News of the Wired

“Day-time naps help us acquire information not consciously perceived, study finds” [Science Daily]. n=16, but I’m sure readers have anecdotes to report….

If you’re considering buying a smart phone, thread:

“The cart before the horse: A new model of cause and effect” [Science Daily]. “[Albert C. Yang] and colleagues’ new approach defines causality independently from time. Their covariation principle of cause and effect defines cause as that which when present, the effect follows, and that which when removed, the effect is removed.” From the original paper in Nature: “Existing methods of detecting causality in time series are predominantly based on the Bayesian8 concept of prediction. However, cause and effect are likely simultaneous9. The succession in time of the cause and effect is produced because the cause cannot achieve the totality of its effect in one moment. At the moment when the effect first manifests, it is always simultaneous with its cause. Moreover, most real-world causal interactions are reciprocal; examples include predator–prey relationships and the physiologic regulation of body functions. In this sense, predictive causality may fail because the attempt to estimate the effect with the history of cause is compromised as the history of the cause is already simultaneously influenced by the effect itself, and vice versa.” • Readers with a philosophic turn of mind?

XKCD on curve-fitting:

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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 (KL):

Something out of the ordinary, at least for this non-desert gardener!

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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. Carey

    LS: “I’m sure the DNC has learned their lesson from 2016, and will rig the debates with far more plausible deniability than Debbie Wasserman-Schultz achieved.”


    Yes, my instant thought was “how exactly will they rig them (the debates) *this* time?
    After all, there could otherwise be a serious chance of small-d democracy breaking out…

  2. Louis Fyne

    >>“The Case for Making Cities Out of Wood”

    The tools for less-CO2/more eco-friendly urban design is already here. Build taller, build denser.

    But that doesn’t fly politically. NIMBY Residents (sorry, more like single-family home owners) of Park Slope or Kensington or Berkeley don’t want their neighborhoods to look like Hong Kong. fair enough.

    but as with many things related to “being green” it isn’t the lack of off-the-shelf technical expertise. It’s lack of popular will (consume less, travel less, build denser, be happy with fewer things, etc) and instead holding out that some Rube Goldberg magic thermodynamics fairy will give us limitless stuff for free.

    1. Synoia

      Been there done that. I suggest some reading on “The Great Fire of London.”

      Or Grenfell Tower.

      There are two reasons the British build homes from Brick, or Brink and Cinder block:
      1. Lack of Lumber (Timber)
      2. Fire resistance.

      I don’t know which was the greater motivator. I believe (2).

        1. barefoot charley

          Double ditto, Chicago mandated brick construction after the Chicago fire–then incorporated surrounding townships that people moved to because they could still build cheap wooden balloon frame houses in the suburbs. Oh well.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      I agree with consuming less, travelling less, reproduce less and less often, but not sure about building taller or denser.

      Will Jevon’s paradox come into play with denser living?

        1. Adam Eran

          Every high-density city is more eco-friendly simply because it gets people out of their cars and makes (more efficient, eco-friendly) mass transit possible. Reductions in vehicle miles traveled are typically 1/3 – 2/3 compared to sprawl.

          The density to make such cities work needn’t approach Hong Kong. Robert Cervero, a planner in Berkeley, documented that 11 – 13 units per acre (10 is single-story duplexes) makes transit and neighborhood commerce viable (i.e. possible without subsidy).

          The idea that people prefer sprawl is also bogus. Typically, the highest prices per square foot are in pedestrian-friendly, mixed use neighborhoods which are often closer to those higher (11 – 13 du / acre) densities. McKinley Park in Sacramento is one. Premiums paid range from 40% (Kentlands, MD, Orenco Station, OR) to 600% (interior lots, Seaside Florida, compared to neighboring sprawl).

          Inertia is all that keeps us from building nicer neighborhoods….that, and auto dealers.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      Rube Goldberg magic thermodynamics fairy

      I picture a face like Alan Greenspan, Lee Raymond will do.

      We live in a universe where perpetual motion machines are useless even if they were possible. But we live in a time when we still get 30 to one returns on energy through petroleum. As I wash out my clear plastic container for recycling, I’m living in a sea of energy that works out to about 10 Kilowatts per capita, and going up. I think actually getting off moar energy will need a therapeutic approach, like a drug. People do not understand they are ‘swimming in it’.

      Or a crisis, like if no one has been working hard on subsidizing auto ownership for a while.

  3. nippersmom

    Thank you for the shout-out to Johny Ramone, and for the musical interlude (my favorite Ramones song).

    1. Carolinian

      Only at the WaPo (Aaron Blake is one of their columnists)

      The White House is effectively announcing the exit of its most popular Cabinet-level official – the extremely rare one who has strong approval among both Republicans and Democrats – just before voters vote. If Haley’s exit isn’t imminent, why not wait till after the election so it doesn’t look like the administration is shedding one of its best-liked, steadying forces?

      But this is sweet

      The timing is also odd given a headline that popped up just a day before the announcement. A Washington watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), called for an investigation into her use of private travel on the government’s dime. We don’t know whether there is anything untoward going on, but resigning so shortly after that headline drops wouldn’t seem to be optimal – especially given that similar ethics allegations took down Cabinet officials such as Tom Price and Scott Pruitt.

      When Haley was SC governor there was a bit of controversy about her travel arrangements as she would swan around the world “promoting trade.”


      1. Unna

        My guess is that Haley got fired. Why, I don’t know. Wild second guess, Bolton replaces her at UN. That way Trump gets rid of Bolton too by getting him out of the White House policy making role, and into a no consequence job at the UN that’s all mouth and show. That way Trump doesn’t have to admit that he was stupid for appointing Bolton in the first place.

        Well, we’ll see….

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I think Bolton was a case of “better inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.”

          But the beauty part of putting Bolton at the UN is that he’d still be pissing out, but at a location where he’d really be pissing in! Hating the UN, and all its works, as he does…

    1. neo-realist

      Yes, true that. And according to Marky Ramone’s autobiography, a racist who used the N-Word and called Joey “the heeb.”

      That being said, conflicted and all, I was a big fan of their music.

      1. nippersmom

        I was a big fan of their music as well. If I only read books, listened to music, watched movies, viewed paintings, etc., by artists I agreed with in all aspects of their personal lives, I’d be missing out on a lot.

        1. Big River Bandido

          Wouldn’t have wanted to be in Miles’ presence, probably. But In A Silent Way is absolutely sublime, still one of my all-time favorite records. And no one could play the horn like him.

  4. Clive

    Re: Daytime naps

    Me: “not just for gran’pa!”

    I’m often in receipt of remarks about how I have pretty good recall and organisation of workloads. I’m reluctant to now tell people how simple it can be because I’ve got such incredulous responses back when I explain what works for me. It seems to run so contrary to our perceived cultural wisdom about the benefits of “hard work”.

    I have three simple tools. One is to decline all meetings or conference calls unless I am explicitly bringing some essential detail or information and the matter needs a genuine discussion. The vast majority seem to serve no other purpose than to give the participants something to do and are merely busywork.

    The second is to keep all records — never delete anything and then, an essential following on from this, have a filing system which works for you.

    Finally and most importantly, use the huge swathes of free time the above two creates to do nothing more than sit and think. Sometimes this is about work matters. Sometimes it’s little more than free association. Now and again, I’d call it daydreaming. Every so often I’ll nod off for a few minutes.

    I am frequently astounded by how disorganised, tired-sounding, mentally ill-disciplined and inefficient I find people who rush around and bounce, willynilly, from pillar to post become, especially by the end of the day. I all-too-often get pestered by colleagues who are doing not much better than rambling semi-coherently (and thus I have another rule which is never to take phone calls from people who are prone to wasting my time by doing this).

    Call it a lack of “headspace”, fatigue or that catch-all “being stressed”, the social unacceptability of “resting” during the day is one of the big ills of our modern era.

    I read a biography of Keynes a few months back. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that as a fairly senior Treasury civil servant, his hours were 10 ‘til 4, four days a week. Plenty of time for an afternoon snooze, if needed, there. If it was good enough for Keynes… And British Prime Ministers used to take three or four months’ time off during the summers. So more napping on the job went on there, I’m sure.

    1. Enquiring Mind

      A variation for students is to treat studies as a 9-5 job and focus on productivity and proactively (like your sitting and thinking time!) to get everything done in the allotted time.

      My interest in the topic arose from two sources: a professor who described a former student’s approach, and reflections on Peter Drucker’s book Management. An updated version would tie in ideas from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits series.

      Not saying it works for everyone, but I got very good results and had more fun. Motivation helps, as my then-girlfriend would attest. :)

      1. Synoia

        Well yes, Uni as a 9-5 job. What did I do in the evenings?

        Review lecture notes daily, and rewrite them.
        Write up Labs.

        Why in the evening? Because the lectures were all morning, and the Labs all afternoon.

        The alternative was to fail. In that Uni system, failing meant leave and do not return next year.

        1. nippersmom

          Yes, architecture school was a 18 hour a day (or more) commitment as well- including weekends. When a project was due, “naps” were the only sleep one got.

    2. Carolinian

      Churchill insisted on his afternoon snooze–even in the midst of WW2. But then he also worked into the night so it wasn’t a matter of getting more than 8 hrs but rather of sleep distribution.

      1. Procopius

        He also drank a lot of alcohol. All the time. I’ve sometimes wondered how he did it, but all I really need to know is that it doesn’t work for me. Took me longer than it should have to find that out.

    3. Socal Rhino

      I too default to “no.” Gotta defend your time. Always true but now, in our industry, if they’re not paying you to sit and think from time to time, they’re paying your replacement sitting in another part of the world.

    4. Mo's Bike Shop

      Just lying down and getting comfortable can do wonders for getting that thing off the tip of your brain.

      And clearing the deck is good if you’re lucky enough to be in a job with finite responsibilities. Amusing to do while servicing a suck-up culture where I simply respond to everyone within a half an hour. It just maximizes my me-time, but newbies are a little shocked at first. Over time it leads to only being called when something is actually on fire and there’s interesting work to do.

  5. Arizona Slim

    Slim here. I won’t be able to make the Tucson Meetup this evening. Am recovering from injuries. Anyone willing to be a substitute host?

    1. Carey

      Slim, I hope that whatever happened you are OK. I’m not in AZ, so can’t sub host.
      Hang in there, man!

  6. Frenchguy

    Re: smart phones

    That’s a thing that’s been puzzling me. Has there been anything new on this front these last years ? I mean, I bought my phone for ~200€ some 3 or 4 years ago and it seems to do all the (important) things the new ones do.

    Better cameras ? I only take some photos from time to time, I certainly don’t need a professional camera. Better CPU and video ? Well, I still believe in watching movies on a nice screen and I prefer to read on travel so I don’t care (and my more tech savy friends are playing games that certainly don’t look like they need very fast computing…) Voice assistant ? I still have a hard time to believe they can be useful, or am I wrong ? Face recognition ? Please… But I’m being condescendant here, seriously, am I missing something or have Apple and Samsung been lazying around ?

    1. Clive

      No, me neither. My Windows PC is 2015 vintage. I have an iPhone 5 and an iPad 3 mini. I have no intention whatsoever of buying anything to replace these unless they suffer a catastrophic hardware failure or can’t get the latest Windows or iOS builds.

      I’ve not bought any tech in 3 years. I was taken for a sucker by an Internet of Trash scam (Philips Hue lighting) a year or two back. That’s the last penny Silicon Valley and its grifters is getting out of me.

      £1000 for an iPhone X? Merde in your eye, Apple. You can jolly well sod off.

      1. Anon

        Updating your equipment will not be yours to choose. Windows 10 doesn’t operate on older PC’s. My Samsung S3 is no longer functional because an OTA Android update now has the phone draining the battery in a couple hours (even when it is turned OFF!)

        There are new flip phones on the market that are GSM and LTE compatible. I intend to get one soon.

          1. Unna

            12 year old Toshiba netbook with junky atom processor running lubuntu off a live usb just made this comment. I got it out to see if it still works, and it does! No need to toss anything out. Maybe need to update lubuntu.

        1. Procopius

          No way I’m going to use Windows 10 given the bandwidth it uses sending my data back to Redmond. I’m still using Windows 7 and when I can’t any more I’ll switch to Linux. Heck, the U.S. Navy is still using Windows XP! I’ll bet the Air Force is still using DOS 5.1.

      2. Elizabeth Burton

        Keep them whether they’ll take the latest OS builds or not, as long as they work. I still have my gen-1 iPad mini, which has a battery that won’t hold a charge for long, but is fine for doing basic stuff like reading and jigsaw puzzles. Slow as molasses but so what? I have a charging cable right where I use it; if I have to keep it plugged in for it to run, fine.

      3. Conrad

        I have no intention whatsoever of buying anything to replace these unless they suffer a catastrophic hardware failure

        I was in this happy situation too until my 8 year-old home pc got stuck into an endless boot loop last month and then I dropped my four-year old phone last Sunday.

        I’m actually toying with the idea of not replacing either of them until after Christmas, as I’ve found my mornings and evenings seem to go much more smoothly with no screen time.

    2. Synoia

      Has there been anything new on this front these last years: Yes, Price.

      Phones are now priced as fashion items.

    3. Plenue

      Yes, to everything. In fact the rate of performance improvement in cellphone hardware is better than in regular computers, which have been near flatline for years.

    4. Summer

      Nope…and all that social media being accessed via phone are really redesigns and rebranding of email tech. It’s really noticeable with the @ names for Twitter and Instagram.
      I look at Facebook as the same.

      Thinking about Naders article about advertising destroying the internet, all the junk mail ads, in the early days of email, did alot to make people go for the redesigns.
      Junk advertising dampered the perceptions people had of email as a communication tool.
      Having learned not a damn thing…here we are.

  7. todde

    I know more than a few non privileged non middle class types in the #metoo movement.

    Also big into BLM and a few antifa.

    As far as I know they are all acting independently. Certainly no one is handing down orders to these people.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Good to hear the grassroots are still growing from the ground up.

      It’s a real struggle with the Dems trying to neutralize them either by marginalizing or coopting them.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > It’s a real struggle with the Dems trying to neutralize them either by marginalizing or coopting them.

        That’s the part that’s covered, and that’s the part that I see.

        And while I do recognize and support that grassroots work is still happening, liberal Democrats are very successful at decapitating them. Think of Black Lives Matter and (charter administrator) Deray, who came up during Ferguson and is now doing a comfy podcast with Obama’s speech writer, Jon Favreau. I believe I ran a Tweet video of original Ferguson activists calling Deray out recently….

        On the one hand, taking national #MeToo as a proxy for all #MeToo is a case of synecdoche, part for whole, and therefore potentially inaccurate. On the other, I don’t think it’s unfair to treat the national level as the horrid destiny toward which even the least “aspirational” must trend.

    2. Plenue

      Of course there are plenty who support it. I support it too, or at least the basic premise of it. What would even be the alternative? To say I support workplace harassment? I expect most people support the idea that someone who has been abused shouldn’t feel afraid to accuse their abuser and seek justice. But how many people are really aware of the minutiae certain #MeToo advocates are proposing as solutions, or their ramifications?

      If by “Believe Women” someone means accusations should always be treated seriously and a proper investigation launched, excellent. But if someone, and there are people who think this way, means we should just blindly accept accusations on their face, no, I don’t support that. I still believe in innocent until proven guilty and due process.

      I don’t at all want to suggest there’s some equivalency between false accusations and actual abuses. The idea that there’s some sort of epidemic of false accusations is very much a reactionary meme. But false accusations do happen, whether from malicious indent or just horrible misunderstanding, and can be devastating for lives and careers.

      And that’s not even touching on the fact that #MeToo is very much an outgrowth of the kind of Pink Pussy Hat non-protest parades the Democratic Party manufactured in 2016. If working class people are opposed to rape and workplace harassment, that’s a good thing. But #MeToo isn’t for the working class. It’s for the ‘we’d be at brunch’ crowd. I’m not at all upset to see people like Weinstein or Spacey disgraced and maybe end up in prison, but they and the people they abused by definition run in a closed and exclusive circle. #MeToo doesn’t care about the sexual abuse of working class people for the same reasons liberals don’t care about anything that affects the ‘deplorables’.

      1. Big River Bandido

        With that nuanced comment you have expressed my own feelings perfectly — better than I could myself. I’ve been having a hard time sorting through all the complexities and contradictions. Thank you for that balanced statement. It really helps clarify it in my mind.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > #MeToo doesn’t care about the sexual abuse of working class people for the same reasons liberals don’t care about anything that affects the ‘deplorables’.

        Ding. Didn’t see a lot of connections being drawn between the Kavanaugh matter and the striking McDonald’s workers, even though they, too, were striking against sexual abuse at the same time; as you might have expected our smart, “leftist” pundits to do.

        Sorta gives you the idea the working class are on their own, doesn’t it?

  8. Kurtismayfield

    Logistics operations for U.S. food banks are bracing for a flood of goods thanks to tariffs. The U.S. government has agreed to buy $1.2 billion worth of pork, apples, cheese and other goods from farmers to ease the pain of the new levies flying amid U.S. trade battles

    So they decided to donate and write it off instead of trying to sell it and have prices actually go down. I guess bacon is at the “new normal” price level.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Perhaps indirectly, to some extent..that is, to the extent those receiving the donations will now not be in the market buying (demand reduced…prices should, theoretically, come down).

    2. polecat

      The U.S. government has agreed to buy $1.2 billion worth of pork, …

      Yummm … floating pork ! As seen in China in recent years …

  9. DJG

    “Existing methods of detecting causality in time series are predominantly based on the Bayesian8 concept of prediction. However, cause and effect are likely simultaneous9. The succession in time of the cause and effect is produced because the cause cannot achieve the totality of its effect in one moment. At the moment when the effect first manifests, it is always simultaneous with its cause. Moreover, most real-world causal interactions are reciprocal; examples include predator–prey relationships and the physiologic regulation of body functions. In this sense, predictive causality may fail because the attempt to estimate the effect with the history of cause is compromised as the history of the cause is already simultaneously influenced by the effect itself, and vice versa.” •

    Three ideas: The I Qing (I Ching), which is predicated on “circular” time, events that return to their start, as well as linear time (events that don’t return to their start, like a human life). The I Qing also assumes that events arise from a multiplicity of causes and reflect that multiplicity.

    Jung and synchronicity, as well as Jung’s ideas about dreams, the subconscious, the anima, animus, and shadow.


    Opposition brings concord. Out of discord comes the fairest harmony.

    And then there is the old philosophical idea, pretty much a given, that the observer affects the observed.

    1. Jane

      My first thought was that this smacks of inevitability. If cause and effect are simultaneous then all effects are inevitable, which is contrary to experience unless every cause includes all possible effects, in which case, they can be simutaneous but would lose any predictive certainty as how do you figure out all the conditions affecting the cause and which specific combination is the most likely to manifest?

      The idea also appears to assume all causes come into being instantaneously but that too seems contrary to experience. If “the cause cannot achieve the totality of its effect in one moment” (a) how does the cause itself manage to come into existence in one moment? And (2) if time (or space) is a necessary condition for the cause’s achievement then wouldn’t removing time prevent the effect?

      To say “totality” needs time while also saying time can be excluded from the predictive equation sounds like new age metaphysics. You can only test the validity of your prediction by waiting for the totality to manifest so how do you remove time from the prediction? Oh wait, they say “predictive causality may fail because the attempt to estimate the effect with the history of cause is compromised as the history of the cause is already simultaneously influenced by the effect itself, and vice versa“ In other words, if my prediction proves wrong it’s because watching to see what would happen altered the original cause and so changed the effect! Nice out, known to all fortune tellers.

    2. Stephen V.

      Dunno nothing ’bout no Bayes. I believe this originated with Soros, the idea being that causality runs in either direction. You can toss out those Supply & Demand charts. From Wikipedia on Reflexivity::

      Within economics, reflexivity refers to the self-reinforcing effect of market sentiment, whereby rising prices attract buyers whose actions drive prices higher still until the process becomes unsustainable. This is an instance of a positive feedback loop. The same process can operate in reverse leading to a catastrophic collapse in prices.

    3. Unna

      Circular time is the oldest understanding of time. Linear time is a recent invention – only a few thousand years old.

    4. Chris

      It’s likely that some effects arise as a consequence of a favourable environment (or ecosystem). Putting that environment in place, or encouraging it to develop, takes time. Think of friable, fertile garden soil, full of compost, worms, fungi and bacteria (and no glyphosate or similar). Think of the benefits of changes to the gut’s micro biome after a change to a better diet. Or the productivity and other benefits of implementing a more positive culture in the workplace.

      The particular ’causes’ may be hard to pin down, and elements of the ‘effects’ may become part of the ’causes’.

      As a society we’ve become fixated on snappy cause-effect silver bullet solutions, because those are easy for corporations to advertise and sell. Much harder to market a better way of doing things that requires time, patience and attention to habits in the longer term.

  10. lyman alpha blob

    Thanks for the XKCD today! I’ve often looked at graphs like this of what seem to be randomly spread data points and wondered if I were missing something or if the person making the graph was just making stuff up. Now I see I’m not alone.

    1. Craig H.

      The axes are not labeled. The most common trick is to plot the logarithm or the logarithm versus the logarithm. You can fit a line through random noise with the latter. Every trick in the book is detailed in Tufte’s books. Start here but all the first three are terrific, if a little bit repetitious.

  11. lyman alpha blob

    One for the bezzle –


    I misread this on the first go, thinking the illegal cab companies (aka Uber/Lyft) were encouraging tolls to keep cars out of the city so people would be more likely to take one of their illegal rides once inside the city limits, however the tolls would actually hit them too –

    Rideshare companies, including Lyft, prefer the tolls to another policy that cities often consider — putting caps on rideshare services, limiting their business.

    IMNSHO, if you want to discourage driving in the city, privately owned vehicles should have to pay a small toll as should cabs, which are limited in number already. Then add a $10 per fare fee to all “rideshare” vehicles that continue to try to claim they are something other than a cab company. If they want to claim they’re different, then they can have a different and much higher fee.

    I’d take that, although my preference would still be to put the execs of ‘disrupting’ ‘sharing’ companies in jail for all of their many and frequent violations of any number of local laws.

    1. Synoia

      London in the UK has solved traffic congestion. Congestion charges, It works very well /s.

      The other solution evolves that cars in London have an average speed less that the horse drawn carriages they replaced.

    2. SerenityNow

      No one seems to complain when electrical utilities charge higher rates for electrical flows during peak usage–why is it any different with traffic flows? People do not move as uniformly as electricity, but a road system with high demand and zero impediments to use is still naturally going to get overburdened. Congestion pricing works quite well in Singapore.

      1. polecat

        Since you brought up peak usage ..as it pertains to electricity ..
        My take, is that when enough users abide by said rate differentials, and thus pare their usage to cheaper ‘off-time’ periods, the result is that the utility finds itself facing lower revenue .. thereby having to convince the plebes that rates MUST rise further, so as to meet its’ obligations .. be they the cost of generation, infrastructure, financing capital improvements, …. oh, and did I mention perks, salaries, bonuses, and pensions !!
        So I use energy when I need it, knowing my off-usage doesn’t really mean sqaut, in the big picture. Our PUD, a couple of years ago decided They needed a new central facilty, having supposedly grown to big for the former .. It’s quite the nice Taj MaOffice ..

        1. SerenityNow

          Well, that sounds like an expanded problem and a slightly different issue. With regards to roadspace, almost no one is paying anything for the space they are occupying at all, and thus we tend towards congestion. Ideally prices should be used as a tool to regulate supply of space/capacity given whatever demand, not necessarily a profit opportunity as with your PUD….

          1. JBird4049

            The use of “surge” pricing be it in driving or electrical use just seems to be another example of stealing just like parking and bridge tolls. Too often there is no useful public transportation, or to change the need to use to cook, clean, or heat/cool the home.

            So all this pricing stuff seems to have be dreamt up by public policy wonks with money, in large cities with actually good public transportation, and no children. Who have flexibility and resources.

            Being poor, often with no flexibility on work, or taking care of children, or anything really means flexible prices will have the flexibility to screw them.

          2. JTMcPhee

            Yes, a market solution is clearly what we need! Put a price on use of the public spaces! Every breath people take can be monitored, via existing tech, and after allocating all those unpriced public assets to people who understand, respect and can properly price every bit of human activity, all will be on the road to being better, on average! What a great idea, with lots of managers needed to implement, operate and enforce! And it’s a cinch that the political power to do this can be amassed and the requisite legitimizing votes on our legislation can be assembled!

  12. a different chris

    swapping the numbers for goods like plywood

    Well I’ve finally sortof adapted to the fact that nobody is ever going to do anything exactly my way, so I try not to sound like “you should do this but you’re doing it wrong so don’t blame me”.

    Anyway, there are *lot* of good things about wisely imposed tariffs. But I don’t think “wiselyt” means hey should be pointed at particular countries, that makes no sense.* Do we want to help the plywood industry, a little or a lot, or not? Tariff accordingly, but country of origin, who cares? Either USA or !USA is the determining factor. Not “we don’t like them but we like the other”… that leads to exactly what is described. And way way beyond anything you can control with an F35, or even a working warjet.

    *actually it makes a lot of sense, when you understand that it’s about the Elites and their cross-border friends, but let’s pretend it’s about economics.

  13. a different chris

    to buy $1.2 billion worth of pork, apples, cheese and other goods

    Good from the 30K feet view, unfortunate though that I suspect roughly $1.9999 billion of that will be spent on pork. We gotta back off on that stuff, at least the CAFO side of it.

    1. dcrane

      An interesting section from that article:

      The final component of the 2018 Democratic campaign is the appeal to Wall Street. Over the past several decades, the two corporate-controlled parties have changed places in one important respect. As the Republicans have shifted ever further to the right, incorporating ultra-right Christian fundamentalists and outright racists and fascists, and embracing the nostrums of “America First” right-wing populism, the Democratic Party, also moving to the right, has sought to supplant the Republicans as the party with the closest ties to finance capital.

      A remarkable report in the New York Times Monday detailed the growing financial ties between the banks and stock exchange and Democratic Party candidates. The newspaper cited figures from the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign donations, showing that Democrats had reversed the longtime Republican fundraising advantage in the finance, insurance and real estate industries.

      More details follow in the essay, and presumably in the quoted article from the NYT.

  14. ewmayer

    Re. The cart before the horse: A new model of cause and effect” [Science Daily]. “[Albert C. Yang] and colleagues’ new approach defines causality independently from time.” • Readers with a philosophic turn of mind?

    The article surely deserves more than this quick take, but here my $0.02 worth: consider the wording:

    “Their covariation principle of cause and effect defines cause as that which when present, the effect follows” … [from the actual paper] “in one moment” – ‘follows’ and ‘in one moment’ are both explicit references to time, so the “defines causality independently from time” claim seems overblown. The OP’s “cause and effect are likely simultaneous” is an oxymoron … the whole thing sounds more like a “we need to consider the dynamical system as a whole coevolving entity rather than looking for simple linear cause-and-effect” argument. I had a comments-exchange with a fellow reader involving chaos theory in today’s Links, so the chaos-theory ‘butterfly effect’ comes to mind – it’s an unrealistically monocausal illustration of complex dynamical-systems behavior – the butterfly is just one tiny part of a massively intricate whole, whose dynamics are such that tiny changes at time T1 will inexorably magnify and lead to the detailed state of the entire system being different at time T2, as long as (T2-T1) is sufficiently large. Thus, whether the butterfly flaps its wings or not may determine whether a major hurricane makes landfall in New Orleans on 20 September one million years later or not. (However, since the wing-flap-or-not will not materially affect the earth’s orbit or the sun’s output, there is still likely to be a more or less typical hurricane *season* at the usual time 1 million years later, just as there will be a summer and winter at the usual times. The neglect of this chaotic-systems-with-external-forcing aspect is one of my pet peeves with pop-sci discussions of chaos theory.)

  15. Pat

    Funny how Messing was all about how she regretted the uproar regarding Sarandon because it became about personalities not issues during some of her press for the season premiere of Will and Grace. Oops. I guess she forgot she wasn’t supposed to go there. But I guess when you owe your current gig to doing a campaign ad…

    1. The Rev Kev

      Messing would probably freak out if she got a tweet from the American Nazi Party (ANP) saying “Challenge accepted!”

  16. Tomonthebeach

    .”..they think of politics as ‘designing the optimal policy’ and have no clue how to actually build the political power that allows you to pass and implement the optimal policy.”

    I think Lambert nailed the major deficiency in the Obama Administration and the Clinton one before it. Hillarycare, warmed over later as Obamacare, is just one example of idiotic, intellectual elite,* micromanagement of a super-complex system. In trying to fix things all at once, they won the battle and lost the war.

    [*Note: poster is not anti-intellectual :-)]

    1. Pat

      Small correction Obamacare is NOT warmed over Hillarycare. Don’t get me wrong I am no fan of Clinton’s healthcare plan either, but it is very important to understand that Democrats didn’t even really try to design policy. The history of ACA is that the Dems invited the Insurance and healthcare industry to tweak Romneycare which was a rework of Dolecare (as in Bob Dole) which was the political opposition to Hillarycare and which came from the conservative Think tank the Heritage Foundation throwing market solutions at the wall and calling it a Jackson Pollack. So Obama and the Democrats wanted to pass something called healthcare reform without really being interested in healthcare reform and couldn’t be bothered to design a policy beyond figuring out the distribution of goodies and backstops for Insurance/Pharma/private Medical industries
      ACA is an even bigger policy failure than the one you describe.

      1. JBird4049

        …and which came from the conservative Think tank the Heritage Foundation throwing market solutions at the wall and calling it a Jackson Pollack.

        What an apt description of the mainstream healthcare “reform” proposals of the past twenty years.

  17. Roland

    DARPA seeks “Insect Allies” for horizontal gene transfer in crop plants.


    The article reads:

    “It is our opinion that the knowledge to be gained from this program appears very limited in its capacity to enhance U.S. agriculture or respond to national emergencies (in either the short or long term)…As a result, the program may be widely perceived as an effort to develop biological agents for hostile purposes and their means of delivery…”

  18. Darius

    Re the NLRB: I’m a steward. I represent my colleagues in between doing my job. I’m still at work because I spent much of the day doing union stuff. I have to get my job done.

    I’ve effed up the timeline before and missed a deadline. It happens. I’m a volunteer. As are all stewards. The mere negligence rule protects me in those cases. This is aimed at me and every other steward to scare us away from volunteering. And it may work. The neoliberals hate worker participation. They want the union to be an outside organization, not shop floor activists. I’m really upset about this. Which is what they want.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thank you very much, that’s helpful (and do feel free to share anecdotes from the floor). Can we agree that “mere negligence” has terrible topics? (I also had the picture it applied to higher-ups.)

  19. Plenue

    Regarding the cellphone Twitter rant, to be honest it’s kind of gibberish. I use a sub-hundred dollar Samsung (one of these https://shop.tracfone.com/shop/en/tracfonestore/phones/samsung-galaxy-j3-luna-pro-tfsas327vl-p-tf, so I’m not bound by any contract) the brand he seems to hate so much. I’ve had zero problems with it, or its ‘touchpiss’ screen. The interface is fine; it’s pretty bog-standard Android. I know clutter apps are a problem with many phones, maybe it is for many Samsungs, but looking at my phone, there’s a few pre-installed apps, and all of them actually do useful stuff (they’re all quite mundane: a clock, a basic media player, a calculator).

    About the worse thing I can say about the J3 is that while it has a 720p screen, it doesn’t play nice at all with 720p 60 FPS YouTube videos (the screen just goes black after a few seconds, while the audio continues to play. Just hit the back button to go to the previous page; it’s not like it crashes or anything), requiring me to watch those at 480p 30.

    Maybe the high-end phones do come loaded with poor quality trash, I don’t know, but if you’re getting one of those one (or, frankly, any Android device that lets you) of the first things you should be doing is rooting them to get full control, which allows you to uninstall anything that comes with it anyway. Also Samsung produces what is probably the best Android internet browser, with their variant of the Chromium source-code.

    There’s plenty bad to be said about smarthpones, and much good to be said about just using a basic dumbphone, but that Twitter thread is just full of BS and misinformation.

    1. Carolinian

      I have a 2017 vintage Android phone and you are now able to “disable” pre-installed apps so that they effectively disappear although they are still on the phone. Only a few fundamental Google system apps are blocked from this. For example you can disable the Contacts app which will presumably prevent other apps from spying on your contacts (one of the most universally required “permissions”). You can also as before operate the phone without a Google account if you sideload extra apps from an external source rather than the Play store.

      So while the Android phone is doubtless still a spybot you seem to have more control over this than previously.

  20. geoff

    “The dense and sprawling system of Customs codes intended to bring order to U.S. trade increasingly is being put to far different purposes. The thousands of numbers used to identify products increasingly are being used to evade the spreading tariffs the U.S. is imposing on imports from China…”

    The US importer is responsible for the accuracy of classification (i.e. application of harmonized tariff system numbers) and can face Customs penalties for intentionally (or even unintentionally) misclassifying imported goods. I don’t see how the shippers can be responsible for fraud unless the US importer is in on the scam. No reputable Customs brokerage would participate in this because they would be subject to Customs penalties up to and including the loss of their license, which is required by law to conduct Customs business.

    The issue of intentional misclassification can also be addressed by CBP (Customs and Border Protection) by stepping up document reviews and actual physical inspection of imported goods.

    1. jonhoops

      LOL… We just want thru a period of unrepentant and unpunished fraud with the financial crisis. The response was to reward the perpetrators and continue to gut regulators.

      I’m sure the “reputable Customs brokers” are doing what is good for their business, secure in the knowledge that they will get at most a slap on the wrist in the unlikely event that they are discovered gaming the tariffs.

    2. Mel

      Looks like a strong parallel between creative product coding for customs and creative medical coding for health insurance.

  21. Summer

    Re: Data worth Billions

    “Now, nearly a dozen startups have emerged to enable consumers to reclaim that information…”

    No, you didn’t see much about user control, because the line above actually says that you “reclaim” your data as if it was never yours in the first place.
    The nitwits think they are ENTITLED to your information.

  22. Summer

    Well, Kanye West is meeting with Trump on Thursday.

    Think Trump can convince him to run for office?
    He and his advisors are onery enough and Kanye is unstable enough….
    It’s the kind of thing the liberal establishment would fall over themselves covering. Anything but fix the problems.

    Fun times!!!

  23. Not From Here

    Happy birthday Afghanistan War:

    The front page #OTD in 2001. The U.S. invasion of Afghanistan begins. #nytimes pic.twitter.com/j4b6ng1cAR

    — New York Times OTD (@OnThisDayNYT) October 8, 2018

    typical NYT exceptionalism, from the Afghan point of view, the war started back in the 1960’s, with a brief interlude of Soviet Union mixing it up together with the USA from ’79 to ’89.

  24. crittermom

    RE: smartphones
    After applying for a free govt phone back in June, I finally received it.
    It’s an Android. I was given no choice.
    I hate it. It’s heavy & large.

    I don’t want to access the net with it.
    I don’t want to play games on it.
    I don’t even care to take photos with it (discovered it’s only 5 mp. My 20 y/o Canon camera is 8 mp at least).
    I’m sure it’s used, as I’m getting msgs for “Bubba” on it already. (Hmm… Bubba… Bill, was this yours?)

    I called their tech support (who never called me back as promised) & told ’em I’d prefer to use my 9(?) yr old tiny flip phone.
    They said I can just have that phone # switched to it & send the ‘monster phone’ back.

    Readers? Help? My only need for this phone is for emergencies when traveling the long distance on an interstate thru nothingness, but will my tiny old flip phone be able to pick up a signal as well as this monster Android? I was once told the better the phone, the better a signal. True?

    Where I previously lived a friend could get a signal where I resided on her expensive smartphone when I couldn’t on my little flip-phone, which now leaves me concerned.
    I desperately want to send this monster back, but don’t want to be ‘shooting myself in the foot’ by doing so.
    I’m quite ignorant about cell phones since I lived rural in another state where NO cell phones worked.
    I’d welcome readers input! Help?

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      my mom still has a flip phone, and it seems to work everywhere my (older)iphone does.
      …and we’re pretty out there, as it were.Seems the only place neither of them work is right up close to a tower.
      I’ve kept a CB in my truck from my river running days(no cell service in the river valley/canyons, especially back then) for emergencies.
      it’s been a long while since i’ve turned it on, but to my knowledge, those are still a thing with truckers…so might be a cheap backup for long trips to nowhere on interstates.

      1. John Wright

        At work I am surrounded by a lot of radio amateurs (HAMS) and I mentioned to one that if everything collapsed, HAMS would be kings as they can communicate without the infrastructure others depend on (fiber, wire, cell towers, electrical grid).

        They can talk HAM to HAM over thousands of miles using battery power.

        His response “HAMS are already Kings”

    2. sleepy

      I use an old LG flip phone. Out in the country its reception is as good as my son’s expensive smartphone.

      1. crittermom

        Thanks, Amfortas & Sleepy.
        I’ve now spoken with 3 others who’ve told me theirs still work well, so I think I’m ready to send this monster back.

    3. howseth

      I also have a “Government Phone” now – for about a year and a half – In California. It’s a Chinese Android ZTE. I just need the phone for calls and messages. It is not much good for anything else. The software is confusing… but the phone works. It’s essentially free, so I won’t complain. I believe I may have had a choice of a few servicers that provide these phones. The one I use is located in New Jersey, not California – Assurance Wireless. I suppose my phone is a tad better than a flip phone.

      Perhaps you can switch providers, though you say you have no choice? As far as reception – if you are really remote whatever phone you get may be dodgy. I’m in Santa Cruz – near a downtown.

  25. Anon

    Re: Cellphone thread

    Despite not wanting an iPhone, the user mentions that they wanted a feature to have on a camera precisely because they saw it on an iPhone. That said, as Android’s sole profitable OEM, of course Samsung would crowd the market six ways from Sunday. Overall, I agree, but maybe if he bought a dumb phone and just use a tablet with a data connection instead?

  26. John Beech

    Worries about Code Swapping as detailed in the WSJ are overblown because the first time you’re audited and the import paperwork doesn’t match up to the payment paperwork (e.g. if they invoice you for $1000 when it should have been $100,000 to match what you wired) you’re busted – and – if the harmonized tariff code doesn’t match up to the duty paid, you’re doubly screwed because that’s when they take you apart with a fine tooth comb!

    Me? I’m mindful of what Jesus said in Matthew 22:21 . . . “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.” and thus, I run my business with that as the guiding principle. basically, I never try to cheat the taxman! After all, why look for trouble? Especially when it’s so obviously easy you’ll be busted!

  27. Unna

    “…Its outlook was most cogently expressed by Obama’s attorney general, Eric Holder, when he declared that due process did not require courts. #MeToo agrees with that perspective.”

    If I remember correctly, Holder said this in reference to what process is due when Obama would condemn people to death on Terror Tuesday. So the local town taking $50 from you in the form of a fine will require at least the opportunity for an adversarial administrative hearing, or suspending a kid from school for a day requires “an opportunity to be heard”, but blowing you up somewhere; that’s all OK with a brief conversation between Obama and some appointed executive department functionary on Tuesday Morning. And what is it again that people like so much about Obama?

  28. knowbuddhau

    >>> “The cart before the horse: A new model of cause and effect” [Science Daily].
    Read that the other night. Pretty cool, huh?

    I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the convergence of quantum physics with ancient worldviews. Thanks for the eclectic mix.


    Pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit: प्रतीत्यसमुत्पाद pratītyasamutpāda; Pali: पटिच्चसमुप्पाद paṭiccasamuppāda), commonly translated as dependent origination, or dependent arising, is a key principle in Buddhist teachings,[note 1] which states that all dharmas (“phenomena”) arise in dependence upon other dharmas: “if this exists, that exists; if this ceases to exist, that also ceases to exist”.

    The principle is expressed in the links of dependent origination (Pali: dvādasanidānāni, Sanskrit: dvādaśanidānāni) in Buddhism, a linear list of twelve elements from the Buddhist teachings which arise depending on the preceding link. Traditionally the list is interpreted as describing the conditional arising of rebirth in saṃsāra, and the resultant duḥkha (suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness).[2] An alternate Theravada interpretation regards the list as describing the arising of mental formations and the resultant notion of “I” and “mine,” which are the source of suffering.[3][4] Traditionally, the reversal of the causal chain is explained as leading to the annihilation of mental formations and rebirth.[2][5]

    Scholars have noted inconsistencies in the list, and regard it to be a later synthesis of several older lists.[6][7][8][9][10][4] The first four links may be a mockery of the Vedic-Brahmanic cosmogeny, as described in the Hymn of Creation of Veda X, 129 and the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.[11][9][4][12][13][14] These were integrated with a branched list which describe the conditioning of mental processes,[8][10][4] akin to the five skandhas.[15] [sic] Eventually, this branched list developed into the standard twelvefold chain as a linear list.[8][16] While this list may be interpreted as describing the processes which give rise to rebirth, in essence it describes the arising of dukkha as a psychological process, without the involvement of an atman.[10][11] [sic]

    Or as I put it, all holding or carrying (dharma) is essentially self-emptying Śūnyatā. Your heart is a self-emptying vessel, your blood vessels, and your lungs are, too. And even your mind.

    Neuronal models of stimuli are the self-emptying vessels of mind, into which experience is pouring, out of which behavior is flowing, and from which we are arising like steam from a tea cup.

  29. Steve H.

    > “The cart before the horse: A new model of cause and effect”

    I’ve read the Nature paper once and it will likely take five times to fully understand it, but here are my preliminary impressions.

    No quantum necessary. By extracting something like factor dimensions, and running something like a Fourier analysis on those instead of the raw data, it removes the need for a stepwise operation in the model. This is the instantaneous part, but remember it is working to model an oscillatory time-series, so it isn’t saying that time don’t matter.

    A spacial analogy in groundwater modelling is that the most common method is a stock-flow analysis of discrete compartments, but an Analytic Element Method can be used which starts with elements (like a capacitor and a resistor in an electrical circuit) and then refines the intermediate space to whatever level of is desired and valid. The second is a much more elegant and faster way to set up a model, though easier to screw up. In the case of the causal model, you don’t need to initially define discrete time-compartments.

    It is testing for a level of necessity; it may be that subsequent decompositions can account for sufficiency. The part that caught my eye was this:

    “showing that causal decomposition is less vulnerable to spurious causality due to sampling issues3 and is independent of temporal shift, which is significantly confounded with the predictive causality”

    A decreased rate of spurious causality is a big deal. Part of the replication crisis is that if you’re ‘lucky’ enough or whack the data with a hammer enough, you come up with false positives. Good science is hard to do. False positives can work great with econometric models if your goals are to get rich in the short term (see Myron Scholes), as long as you are taking the vig and not betting your winnings on your model.

  30. JohnnySacks

    The standardized battery form factor issue has been a pet peeve of mine for years. It’s been ignored for so long because manufacturers strive to maintain a 100% captured customer base using their proprietary designs with no thought towards any uniform compatibility. There’s technically no reason we all shouldn’t be able to drive an electric car into a refueling station and have modular battery packs swapped out in the time it takes to fill a tank with gasoline. The adoption rate would be much greater if that were the case, but it’s never going to happen in any of our lifetimes, perhaps ever.

    Same with the recharging dongles used for every single low voltage and rechargeable appliance we buy – zero compatibility, massive smelter, refinery, and assembly factories consuming resources, poisoning the environment, and churning out a product destined for the trash heap in less time than it takes to wear out a pair of shoes.

    1. Chris

      …the recharging dongles used for every single low voltage and rechargeable appliance we buy – zero compatibility…

      To be fair, there are now quite a few devices around that recharge through a standard micro-USB socket. That said, I’ve just installed a bunch of wall outlets with built in USB chargers, so USB charging will probably go the way of the Centronics printer cable sometime soon.

  31. Huey

    The House of Yes idea sounds like a neofeministic nightmare.

    I mean yeah, the idea of not having to worry too much about people (or just guys?) forcing themselves on you sounds great, but the whole thing reads as a fight against unilateral male antagonism in the name of ‘equality’.

    Like one part when they say “a pair of seemingly straight, white men” were told they have to strip their jeans to come inside. Leaving the numerous Trump-is evil slants and the phrasing of lines like these alone, there is no way these same people would similarly flaunt doing the reverse, but you know ‘equality’.

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