2:00PM Water Cooler 11/27/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51


MS Senate: “3 Things to Watch in the Mississippi Senate Runoff” [Roll Call]. “High African-American turnout is Espy’s best shot at winning or even keeping it close….. Major League Baseball, Walmart and a handful of other companies have asked Hyde-Smith to return their campaign contributions in the days leading up to the election. The question is whether that could translate to voters souring on her, too…. Hyde-Smith is hoping that President Donald Trump’s support will be enough to push her across the finish line Tuesday — he won Mississippi by 18 points in 2016.”

MS Senate: “Why Cindy Hyde-Smith is a near-lock to win in Mississippi today” (interview) [Chris Cilizza, CNN].”Espy getting to 45% would be a strong showing, though it would likely point more toward Hyde-Smith’s weakness as a candidate than his strength. All in all, don’t be surprised to see a 60-40 race. For all the national attention, I don’t think the needle has moved much here.”

MS Senate: “Mike Espy’s path to an upset victory in the Mississippi Senate runoff” [Vox]. “One recent ad, a closing argument of sorts, touts [Espy’s bipartisan record, pointing out that the first bill he ever got passed through Congress was signed by Ronald Reagan…. Brandon Finnegan, who runs Decision Desk HQ, pointed to two counties — Harrison and Rankin — as good indicators of whether Espy is eroding the Republican advantage in these suburban areas. Rankin, just to east of the state capital of Jackson, voted for Donald Trump by 50 points over Hillary Clinton. Harrison, home to Biloxi and Gulfport, broke for Trump by 31 points. A little headway in those counties would bode well for Espy.”

* * *

“The Pathetic Pelosi Putsch” [Politico]. “Pelosi strides into Wednesday’s House Democratic Caucus elections with her head held high, and her high heels on Moulton’s neck. She remains without a Democratic challenger. She has unleashed a wave of support from the Democratic faithful, from Barack Obama on down. She turned two of Moulton’s allies who had, just days before, stated their opposition to her. A third opponent suggested he’ll vote for Pelosi on the floor if no other Democratic option emerges. And she has kept several other Serve America PAC alumni from jumping aboard Moulton’s rickety bandwagon…. Moulton failed to unite [dissident Democrat] factions. There is only one Congressional Progressive Caucus member on his public letter opposing Pelosi, and only one member of the Problem Solvers.”

2018 Post Mortem

UT-04: “GOP Rep. Mia Love Slams Trump in Concession Speech” [Courthouse News]. Love: “‘This election experience and these moments shine a spotlight on the problems Washington politicians have with minorities and black Americans. It’s transactional. It’s not personal,’ Love said. ‘We feel like politicians claim they know what’s best for us from a safe distance. Yet they’re never willing to take us home. Republicans never take minority communities into their homes and hearts; they stay with Democrats and bureaucrats in Washington because they make them feel like they have a home.” • Not transactional…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Hope for Fixing the Heart of America’s Voting Problems” [Governing]. “Another problem is the shortage of poll workers, who can make the difference between a smooth, efficient electoral process and a chaotic one. Good workers are getting harder to find. In the wake of the 2012 election, President Barack Obama ordered a full review of all election procedures. The national commission he created found that one of the central weaknesses of the electoral system was ‘the absence of a dependable, well-trained corps of poll workers.'” • Uh oh….

I don’t mean to signal boost AOC every day, but this is so good. Note the media critique in the first tweet!

Suggesting that lobbyists not have “a seat at the table”… This young lady has a lot to learn…

Stats Watch

Consumer Confidence, November 2018: “The consumer confidence index… continues to hold… not far from the all-time high” [Econoday]. “[A] very favorable sign for next week’s November employment report comes from jobs-hard-to-get which fell… Ongoing trouble in the stock market isn’t really hurting this report much though the percentage of bulls is noticeably down…. Yet it’s the strength of the jobs market that is the most important factor in the Conference Board’s report, one that continues to point to unusually favorable conditions for the economy including for the nation’s retailers.”

S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, September 2018: A “moderate and expected” rise [Econoday]. “Housing has been sagging the last six months and prices are a very visible indication of the weakness. However strong the 2018 economy will prove to be, it won’t include home prices which are a central source of household wealth.” And but: “I continue to see this a situation of supply and demand. It is the affordability of the homes which is becoming an issue for the lower segments of consumers. With the rise in mortgage rates, it is pricing more and more consumers out of the market. If mortgage rates continue to rise – we likely will see some retrenchment in home prices” [Econintersect]. But: “November 2018 Conference Board Consumer Confidence Declined” (2 points) [Econintersect]. “Consumer confidence has been on a multi-year upswing. The softening this month could be the beginning of a downtrend – or at a minimum is showing a growing uncertainty by consumers this month.”

Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, September 2018: “the weakest showing since March this year” [Econoday]. “Growth in home prices has been slowing visibly this year for a housing sector, where demand is flat and mortgage rates going up, that is the big disappointment of the 2018 economy.”

Shipping: “The U.S. Postal Service handles many last-mile deliveries for both [UPS and FedEx], and it has been preparing for the [expected blizzard of holiday e-commerce packages] by leasing more space and planning additional routes to help deliver a projected 900 million holiday packages” [Wall Street Journal].

Tech: “The Federal Aviation Administration is significantly behind schedule for creating rules to identify and track airborne drones…, frustrating companies whose commercial applications for uses such as package delivery remain on hold” [Wall Street Journal]. “Federal regulators and industry advocates have been working together to try and fast-track decisions on reliable remote-tracking methods so that officials can identify suspect or potentially hostile drones. But some experts say the rules may not be finalized until 2022 amid disagreements over how to track flying robots that may operate out of sight of air-traffic controllers. The delay could limit development of applications such as dropping shipments in remote rural areas or using drones to bypass clogged surface streets for deliveries.” • Wait, the streets won’t be clogged because by the time drones get off the ground we’ll have robot cars. Anyhow, it looks like I don’t have to buy a loogie gun anytime soon.

Manufacturing: “General Motors Co. is shrinking as consumer demand for passenger cars slides. The company is ending production at several North American plants and slashing up to 14,800 jobs… GM’s plans to drop several models from its U.S. lineup, from big sedans to compact cars and its plug-in hybrid, likely upending auto-parts supply chains and raising warning signals over shifts auto manufacturing strategies and the U.S. industrial economy” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company is idling three assembly plants in Ohio, Michigan and Ontario, and two smaller transmission factories, cutting off significant demand for materials and parts. The decision is raising a political firestorm over the impact of tariffs on GM’s costs, but the company’s action goes beyond cost cutting. GM’s goal is streamlining its core business while gaining room to invest in new technology like electric and self-driving vehicles.”

Manfacturing: “UAW to Challenge GM Over Plant Closings” [Industry Week]. “To that end, the UAW and its membership will do its part to convince GM and all American employers that the American consumer market should support American-made products by building where we buy products. Simply said, American consumers need to be patriotic consumers by joining the UAW in this effort in saying ‘No’ to American companies that choose foreign workers over American workers and imported products over U.S.-made products.” • Why not occupy the plants? Anyhow, here’s the information:

Also, in the statement, the UAW explained how to ensure that a car is made in America. “Be informed when making an American company automobile purchase: Examination of the driver-side window near the dashboard displays the Vehicle Identification Number plate (VIN) that identifies where the vehicle was assembled. VIN numbers beginning with “1”, “4” or “5” were assembled in the U.S., “2” were assembled in Canada, “3” were assembled in Mexico. If it begins with the letters J-R, it was assembled in Asia.”

Manufacturing: “Why Automation Needs Apprenticeships” [Industry Week]. “I think it is fair to say that American companies rushed to invest in automation, but did not make a similar commitment or investment in the training needed to operate, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair all of the automation they purchased… I don’t think that America’s public corporations have bought into the idea of long-term apprentice training, for several reasons. First, public corporations today are financially driven by short-term results—and 8,000-hour training programs would probably not meet their return-on-investment objectives. Second, it is pretty obvious they thought they could get by with short-term and on-the-job training. Third, I think these corporations would also be resistant to the idea of investing in years of training for a worker to obtain a journeyman certificate that allows them the credentials to then shop their skills to the highest bidder.” • See below under “Class Warfare” for similar issues with medieval smiths….

Transportation: “Scooters Are Suddenly Everywhere. What Should Cities Be Doing About It?” (interview) [Governing]. Governing interviews David Estrada, a top policy expert from Bird, the company that started the scooter craze. Estrada: “You need to start in the densest areas where the traffic is, where you’re going to solve the problem and where there is the most need. So you’re going to start in the city center. You’re serving everyone who is working in the city center. So we see the biggest plurality is people in their 30s. Then you make your way out from there…. A city should start from the perspective of, ‘Let’s use these to replace cars.’ That’s where we align….” • Hmm. I don’t drive, so I’m not sure, but do scooters really substitute for cars? I mean, where’s the cupholder?

Transportation: “What is the business case for autonomous vehicles in the supply chain?” (roundtable discussion) [Supply Chain Dive]. Mike Ramsey

Senior Research Director, Automotive and Smart Mobility, Gartner, “In practice, however, autonomy already exists and is saving companies money in the supply chain. Rio Tinto is operating more than 80 autonomous mining trucks in Australia. In 2016, on average, each of Rio Tinto’s autonomous haul trucks operated an additional 1,000 hours and at 15% lower load and haul unit cost than conventional haul trucks. As the technology improves and comes down in cost, businesses will find that moving goods inside of factories and between factories and warehouses makes financial sense. This return-on-investment-based thinking of automation isn’t as sexy as a fleet of 80,000 Waymo cabs picking up passengers around the globe, but it is a more likely future. Companies such as Einride, in Sweden, believe there is a $1 trillion market for autonomous logistics aimed precisely at this market. That company’s electric truck has begun running pallets on a 10 km stretch between warehouses owned by German logistics company, Schenker, in the Swedish city of Jönköping.” • Figure out a fixed route in a controlled environement, and the need for Level 5 goes away.

Transportation: “Are We Building the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure We Need?” [Industry Week]. “Currently, 55,000 public charging points in 19,300 stations (including 8,800 DCFC) are available across the United States, and more are added every week. These numbers, however, are not nearly enough to support the EV growth predicted for the next decades. A Department of Energy study estimates that if, in 2030, we will have 15 million EVs in the United States, then we will need 27,000 DCFC and 600,000 Level 2 outlets in public locations. The bulk of that EV supply equipment would be needed in cities, as well as in smaller towns, rural areas, and interstate corridors. To encourage EV adoption, it is essential to increase the supply of both public charging geared towards long distance trips on highways and charging in residential and office areas.” • This is a very useful review of all the players. But I don’t see anything about standards for the plugs. It woud be nice if EV charging plugs worked like consumer appliances (standardized for all products) and not like computer charging plugs (a horrid mess of incompatibility).


“Climate change is pushing the farm belt northward. Farmers are plowing up forests and planting corn in former wheat fields…., as rising temperatures extend the growing season and expand regions where some crops can be grown” [Wall Street Journal]. “Warming temperatures have helped increase U.S. corn harvests and boosted corn and soybean acreage in Canada. The boom is also driving expansion of business lines that process and transport crops. Companies are adding more grain-shipping facilities in Canada, and the Port of Prince Rupert on Canada’s west coast has nearly doubled its agricultural exports since 2008. Agricultural giants such as DowDuPont Inc. are pushing to develop hardier varieties that mature faster so farmers can take advantage of climatic shifts. Still, over time climatic factors such as drought and soil erosion are expected to cut overall production.”

“The Insect Apocalypse Is Here” [New York Times]. “Within days of announcing the insect-collection project, the Natural History Museum of Denmark was turning away eager volunteers by the dozens. It seemed there were people like Riis everywhere, people who had noticed a change but didn’t know what to make of it. How could something as fundamental as the bugs in the sky just disappear? And what would become of the world without them?” • Another project for a Jobs Guarantee…

“The Sequel: life after economic growth” [Tikkun]. “[O]ur leaders hold tight to their simple answer – growth. Having worked supporting people with drug addiction for several years, it is hard to escape the parallels to the more tragic cases. The dire consequences of our choices are piling ever higher around us, threatening the very continuation of our lives and those around us. And the response is to double down on the current path and turn a blind eye – to sink deeper into denial. It is just too difficult, too brave, to undergo that dark night of the soul – to admit the problem, to seek a new paradigm…. Most people – even most economists – never question the desirability of these measures, as if mastery of them could somehow heal an economy so violently contrary to our human instincts and desires that it leaves epidemics of depression, loneliness and suicide everywhere it goes.”

“Lights Out, Clean Green: How Janitors Are Boosting High-Rises’ Sustainability” [Capital & Main]. “Janitors can tell you down to the tenant – to the desk – who doesn’t care and just throws everything in the trash or contaminates the recycle bin.”

Metaphor (1):

Metaphor (2):

I believe this is an example of tight coupling. (That warehouse collapse is not this warehouse collapse.)

Police State Watch

Just imagine if the Stasi had gone digital:

The 420

They’re not wrong:

Class Warfare

“What was the role of the Blacksmith in medieval society?” [Medievalists.net]. “Away from the battlefield, the smith learnt his trade form a Master, who often employed several apprentices from a young age. Advancement from apprentice to Master was by no means guaranteed and rested entirely upon being noticed as a talented worker who was likely to be worthy of patronage or of lending money to. The Master himself would have been raised through the ranks in this manner, which was designed to forge the best blacksmiths as well as to regulate the number of workers to reduce competition and preserve the prestige of the business. Masters were unlikely to be too lenient towards their apprentices as it was only the master who would suffer financially in turn. It is interesting to note the basic parallels between smiths at this stage and the same process of advancement for young knights seeking recognition. The industry itself, like many others, assumed legitimacy by creating a guild that was administered by the Masters which served the purpose of regulating the number of smith apprentices permitted and the materials allowed.” • Lots of interesting detail on smiths and smithery.

News of the Wired

“Why Don’t We Forget How to Ride a Bike?” [Scientific American]. “As it turns out, different types of memories are stored in distinct regions of our brains. Long-term memory is divided into two types: declarative and procedural. There are two types of declarative memory: Recollections of experiences such as the day we started school and our first kiss are called episodic memory. This type of recall is our interpretation of an episode or event that occurred. Factual knowledge, on the other hand, such as the capital of France, is part of semantic memory. These two types of declarative memory content have one thing in common—you are aware of the knowledge and can communicate the memories to others. Skills such as playing an instrument or riding a bicycle are, however, anchored in a separate system, called procedural memory. As its name implies, this type of memory is responsible for performance…. Even with traumatic brain injury the procedural memory system is hardly ever compromised. That’s because the basal ganglia, structures responsible for processing nondeclarative memory, are relatively protected in the brain’s center, below the cerebral cortex. However, it’s not clear, beyond brain damage, why procedural memory contents are not as easily forgotten as declarative ones are.”

“Why the Enlightenment was not the age of reason” [Aeon]. “However, to say that the Enlightenment was a movement of rationalism against passion, of science against superstition, of progressive politics against conservative tribalism is to be deeply mistaken. These claims don’t reflect the rich texture of the Enlightenment itself, which placed a remarkably high value on the role of sensibility, feeling and desire…. In France, the philosophes were surprisingly enthusiastic about the passions, and deeply suspicious about abstractions. Rather than holding that reason was the only means of battling error and ignorance, the French Enlightenment emphasised sensation. Many Enlightenment thinkers advocated a polyvocal and playful version of rationality, one that was continuous with the particularities of sensation, imagination and embodiment. ”

“The Seven Deadly Social Networks” [The Atlantic] • Apparently, sin scales. This illustration (not sure where it comes from) maps sins to social media platforms, but differently:

But Twitter is often very funny and not wrathful at all:

(See subsequent riffing on the concept, too.) For those who came in late, the source of the parody.

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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 (albrt):

Red Bird of Paradise from albrt’s garden in Phoenix, AZ.

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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. taunger

    The procedural/declarative memory distinction is interesting. I guess some mnemonics work by establishing procedures for declarative items. Especially the whole “memory palace” thing. I should try that.

    1. Jeff W

      Especially the whole “memory palace” thing.

      I think the “memory palace” thing works a bit differently. (Walking itself involves procedural memory but navigating through rooms, even in an actual building, is different.) With a memory palace, you’re structuring your experience along a specific route (e.g., going from room to room)—that, in itself, aids in memory because each location “leads to” the next—and pairing each location with whatever it is you want to remember. In essence, you’re prompting your behavior by “going” to that location and reporting what you see there—it makes the memory task easier than just recalling random items from a list. It’s an effective technique and actually changes activity patterns in the brains of those who practice it.

    2. knowbuddhau

      Is a song a procedure? What if you encode declarative memory in a song? AKA an oral tradition. I can’t write out the Catholic Creed, but it only takes a few sung words and the whole thing unfurls.

    3. The Rev Kev

      It must be an old technique as I recall a Roman orator talking about learning a speech combined with touring his own home to get it established in his memory.

      1. JBird4049

        Classical Civilization had popular books on the art of memory, extensive training was done, including in memory palaces and it was a point of pride to have memorized a number of books (no single one but a small library). This was true through the Middle Ages where singers could hear a song once and have it memorized or some could hear a university lecture once and memorized it word for word. Makes me feel stupid just thinking of my own bad memory.

        However, the printing press killed all that as one of the reasons memory training was important is that books were individually hand written, rare, and expensive treasures especially after the Classical libraries were destroyed. You had to go to whatever Monastery or university had a book, read it, and then memorized it. Also vellum was expensive and paper not that plentiful. So memorize, memorize, memorize.

        Along comes printing press and the increasingly available and affordable paper and goodbye memory training.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > goodbye memory training.

          So along comes Google, and, our brains being adaptive to circumstance, we don’t need to remember anything because “We can just Google for it.” But then the joke is on us, as Google crapifies search, rules being a complete index out of scope, and censors whatever it doesn’t like. All so it can sell us stuff. Oh well.

  2. Andrew Watts

    “Just imagine if the Stasi had gone digital:”

    They would’ve been flooded with the inconsequential details and musings of a nation in 140 characters or less. That actually might’ve sped up the collapse of the Eastern bloc. SIGINT only works when you can separate the signal from the noise. The over-reliance on digital surveillance is weaksauce and nothing more than a profit center for parasitic economic interests.

    1. dcblogger

      Currently reading Surveillance Valley (highly recommended) and what the Stasi has is as nothing compared to what Uncle Sam has. I hope it all gets dismantled when the revolution comes and not re-purposed as is so often the case in revolutions.

      1. Andrew Watts

        I’ve already read Surveillance Valley being a longtime fan of Levine from his eXile days. My main criticism of the book and the author is that no matter how well-researched it is he’s still a neophyte about the subject.

        SIGINT probably wouldn’t have prevented Pearl Harbor*, ditto 9/11, and in some cases like the Battle of Kasserine Pass led to a stunning defeat. The Allies became so convinced in the infallibility of MAGIC that they became overly reliant upon it. When Allied reconnaissance, and on the ground reports, indicated that Rommel wasn’t following the plan the Allied commanders chose to believe otherwise. The reliance on SIGINT and the inexperience of the US military led to a crushing defeat where most of an American armoured division was effortlessly wiped out by Rommel with few causalities.

        Contemporary historians continue to bend over backwards to excuse this military debacle that demonstrates the folly of completely relying on SIGINT. They excuse it by stating that superiors ordered their subordinates to always have another source of intelligence to confirm MAGIC intercepts before acting. The claim is that the purpose of these orders was to protect MAGIC. Their casual disregard for this failure, and others like it, helps maintain the illusion of SIGINT’s otherworldly prowess.

        The fact is that anybody that shows some initiative can counteract and leverage surveillance. The most recent and infamous example of this was when Assange deliberately fed US intelligence / Five Eyes misinformation that Snowden would be on Morale’s plane.

        *Would you know what “Climb Mount Niitaka” means before the morning of December 7th, 1941? Think about it. Even if the US / British had cracked Japanese naval codes they wouldn’t know the location of the attacks until they happened with that phrase alone.

        1. Andrew Watts

          The most recent and infamous example of this was when Assange deliberately fed US intelligence / Five Eyes misinformation that Snowden would be on Morales‘ plane.


        2. Amfortas the hippie

          ^^^”…The fact is that anybody that shows some initiative can counteract and leverage surveillance….”^^^

          during my outlaw days as a young man(i wasn’t an outlaw, they just thought/wanted to believe i was)….I kept hearing clicks on the phone.
          so my buddy and I decided to determine if it was surveillance, and then screw with them: we talked about meeting at midnight behind a certain store…and were hidden an hour before in the woods, watching.
          It was very enlightening, and we thereby gained valuable intelligence, ourselves…listening to the coppers, all mad and gung ho.
          I used this to my advantage a number of times when I wanted to be unobserved…calling a phone booth in Houston to “set up a meet” on the other side of my town, while I went the other direction.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        For that (the revolution) to happen, I believe, there has to be a ‘greener grass on the other side,’

        The question then, where do we find that greener grass? China?

    2. Synoia

      You miss the impact of mapping an acquaintance network on reomving “noise”.

      If one identifies a few “bad apples” then mapping the low risk people and high risk people one eliminates low risk noise.

      That is why metadata, acquaintance and friend and family lists, is so important.

      1. Andrew Watts

        …and how many terrorists has the FBI caught through metadata collected by the NSA? I’ve read more than one IG report over the years that articulates the FBI’s frustration with this approach. They complained about having too many false leads and chasing down pizza delivery guys.

        Better question, how many innocent people has the US droned based upon metadata?

        1. Skip Intro

          I’m sure they’ve ‘caught’ all the ‘terrorists’ they wanted to, and none of the ones they didn’t want to.

  3. dcblogger

    I would like to announce my candidacy for President in 2020 as a #NeverTrump Republican. I am running in a platform of a bi-partisan marketplace of ideas of pragmatic problem solving that gets things done. Specifically, I wish to solve the problem of making dcblogger rich and famous. Mostly rich. To preserve my secret identity I will be represented by my mascot at all campaign appearances and debates. I am thinking of recruiting a Maine Coon Cat wearing a sign saying “bi-partisan marketplace of ideas of pragmatic problem solving that gets things done.” What do you think?

    1. shinola

      “bi-partisan marketplace of ideas of pragmatic problem solving that gets things done.” What do you think?

      I think that line was used in every campaign ad by a Dem. running for congress this past election season.
      (I’m “lucky” in that I live in a state line straddling metro area so I get to see/hear
      ad’s for candidates in 2 states)

    2. JohnnyGL

      DCCC Rep:

      You’ve got this precisely backwards. You don’t show up and say, “What do I gotta do to get rich?” We’ve got a line of people out the door who will do a whole laundry list of awful things for money.

      Here’s how this works – You need to show up with a fat bankroll and then we get you where you want to go. Raise truckloads of cash first, then we’ll show some interest in you. We don’t really care WTF you say or if you wear a Richard Nixon costume while you’re campaigning, or if you campaign at all….just keep the fundraising at a brisk pace. Everything else is negotiable….now go get more money and bring it to us!!!

    3. Synapsid


      What position will the Maine Coon Cat hold in your administration? Your answer will determine my vote.

      1. dcblogger

        VP, and Press Secretary. In order to preserve my secret identity the Maine Coon Cat will represent me in all public functions. For the state of the union speech the kitty will show up with a sign that says Let the good times roll.

  4. ChrisAtRU

    The way AOC structured her Boolean condition clause unfortunately invites wrongheaded critiques that only credentialed voices should participate (“scientists”). She should have framed it in reverse:

    “You should/can have a seat at the table w/ people addressing climate change if:

    a) You are a scientist
    b) You have interest in citing scientific consensus on climate change
    c) You are not financed by groups with a proven interest in denying climate science”

    The condition is thus (still) true if any one condition is met, but it does not give the appearance of disqualifying anyone who is not a scientist.


    1. clarky90

      Re the “Cult of the Omniscient, Ethical Scientist” (aka, COTOES)

      Being a (former) scientist (venous physiology), I can say that the best scientists, that I knew personally, had integrity, but were meek; desperately hanging on to their chair at the dining table. Their words and actions were always “measured”. (“must not damage career, must not damage career…”

      The worst scientists/doctors, were fearless, unprincipled sociopaths. leaving a trail of mayhem and even death, in their wake! They were invincible and vengeful.

      Eugenics in California


      “…By 1921, California had accounted for 80% of the sterilizations nationwide (USA). This continued until World War II, after which the number of sterilizations began to decrease, largely due to the fallout of Hitler’s eugenics movement…..”

      The Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) was established in Pasadena, California in 1928…….Ezra Gosney (Philanthropist to the first California council of the Boy Scouts of America).. gathered twenty-five of the leading scientists, philanthropists, and community leaders to carry out research on the effects of sterilization …Publishing… “Sterilization for Human Betterment” which attracted attention from the nearby university, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech).

      Robert A. Millikan, a leading faculty member of Caltech, was looking for potential donors to the university. He shared many of Gosney’s views. Millikan joined the HBF board……”

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        …the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of a passionate intensity…”

      2. pretzelattack

        doesn’t seem to apply to climate scientists in the u.s. government, some of whom have been targets of harassment by their superiors for talking to the news media about their science.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      In that case, non-scientist people who have no interest citing scientific consensus, and who are financed by groups with a proven interest in denying climate science do not have a seat at the table.

      And no chance to prove they are wrong to their face.

      Perhaps less distraction at the table…our table. They probably have their own table.

      1. Darius

        Heard in the last few days: I’m not a plumber but I know when the toilet is overflowing.

        Key fact: the CO2 level is approaching twice that of preindustrial levels. There’s no possibility climate change isn’t happening.

        These non scientists presumably can use Google. They should spend about 10 minutes on it and they’ll be up to speed.

        1. Edward E

          At the highest CO2 levels warming stops and it changes to cooling. At the lowest levels the cooling stops and it changes to warming. We are among the lucky ones experiencing Indian summer of the Holocene interglacial. Interglacial history show enhanced climate instability towards glacial inception in Antarctic records. This means more profound cooling and more intense warming. Unless consensus hypothesis is correct we’re in override and future scientists will determine.

          1. pretzelattack

            i think when it an energy balance is reached it stops warming, where do you get that it changes to cooling? also, the history won’t reflect the current emission driven warming.

  5. clarky90

    Re; “Are We Building the Electric Vehicle Charging Infrastructure We Need?”

    Prius hybrid battery replacement. Learn how to replace a hybrid battery in a 04-09 Toyota Prius and make money while you’re at it! Replacing a hybrid battery is not difficult at all.”


    This is an interesting YouTube. Replacing the Prius’ battery is not difficult, but time consuming! Why aren’t the EV batteries, standardized modules that pop in and pop out.(D, C, AA, AAA) – Like the batteries of an electric drill or weed eater? Even the battery in a gasoline car can be swapped out in a few minutes?

    Why not standard EV batteries that are rented, and quickly swapped out, when the charge is low?, at “gas stations” (battery charge and exchange stations) along the highways.

    In Formula 1 car racing, the cars come into the pits, and all of the wheels/tires are replaced in seconds. Undo a few bolts, drop out the EV battery onto a dolly, pop in a freshly charged battery, pay the fee, and away you go.

    I am not saying, but wondering? It seems to solve many EV hurdles. (long distance travel). Some owners would keep their own battery and do their own charging. Others would just rent batteries.

    You could buy a EV without it’s own battery, and just rent batteries as needed?

    1. rd

      I believe that is how Tesla’s work so you have the option of getting a freshly charged battery dropped in at a charging station instead of sitting there charging. I may be wrong though since I don’t have one.

    2. RMO

      Batteries, improving though they are, still require a lot of space to contain enough energy to provide adequate range. This means it’s impractical to fit adequate battery capacity without closely integrating them into the structural design of the vehicle. You can see this if you look at how much volume is taken up by the battery in cutaways of various EV platforms. A hybrid like the Prius requires much less battery capacity as it’s used in conjunction with an IC engine to improve fuel economy and even the “plug in hybrids” have only a very small electric only range. They also only require replacement on the same sort of time scale as other major drivetrain elements such as the engine and transmission. Swap out modules and battery trailers have been tried (with buses for example) and found to be impractical. If someday we can pack several hundred KM range into a battery pack the size of something like a wine fridge it could be done I suppose but that seems unlikely any time soon.

    3. SKG

      To answer one of the questions above, there is a standard “L2” (or L1) charging connection that (every?) electric car can use. It is “wall current” or equivalent (120V or 240V in the US). Charging rate goes from about 4 miles / hour to 25 miles / hour in most current cars, although the standard supports up to ~20kW/hour in some Teslas. (80 Amp at 240V.)

      This is likely to be the long term standard, although there might be some justification for switching to a DC (direct current) standard to eliminate the large AD-to-DC converter in the cars.

      For the fast-charging stations, there are at least 4.5 standards (Tesla, CCS-1/2, Chademo, and GB/T.)

      Japan did Chademo, China is pushing GB/T (and it is not deployed overseas AFAIK), US & Europe are pushing CCS 1 & 2 respectively (which are extensions to the L2 plugs above), and Telsa of course has a proprietary connection.

      However, Tesla is going to be supporting CCS in new cars in Europe. And most new US fast charging stations have both CCS & Chademo. (The high voltage connection and other electronics are the expensive parts. Having 2 different connecting cables is relatively trivial.)

      Looks like CCS is likely to be the final standard, and it is robust enough for most any future application.

      As for battery swaps, Tesla did have support for that and a station or two. It has also been tried for some other cars.

      But these are big batteries, that are often built into the structure of the car, in shapes that fit the contours of the vehicle. Many of them are placed further away from the edges of the battery to reduce the chance of fire/damage. (This might have contributed to some Tesla fires where road debris punctured the swappable battery.)

      They’ve got cooling systems, etc. that have to connect to other systems in the car. And going to a single standard sized battery pack (with possible multiple per car) would eliminate some of the design advantages.

      (And to some degree, battery packs degrade over time, although Tesla’s cooling system seems to limit that issue. But getting a used, degraded battery pack could be problematic.)

      So in general, I think the feeling is that people don’t want to rent the most important part of their EV (the battery) and there’s not enough density / infrastructure to make it happen.


      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > there is a standard “L2” (or L1) charging connection

        Awesome. Thank you. It’s nice to know that things are less insane than I feared.

        > For the fast-charging stations, there are at least 4.5 standards (Tesla, CCS-1/2, Chademo, and GB/T.)

        But not necessarily sane.

        I think I’ve seen Clarky’s business model, somewhere in my travels; you swap in a fully-charged battery, which takes about 30 seconds.

    4. John

      It could be that we will eventually get to where EVs standardize on a battery cell form factor. Probably because these are rather new manufacturers are trying out different approaches. Toyota tends to be very conservative compared to other manufacturers. Also, there is some variation in battery technology and different manufacturers may be looking for an advantage or engineering for different priorities: low temperature resistance, high current capacity, long life, low self discharge.

      You could asks a similar question. Why aren’t internal combustion engines easily swappable? Seems like we could define maybe three or four categories of engines (aside from enthusiasts) from compact cars to big SUVs hauling boats. Standardize on the engine mounts, fuel connection, transmission connection, etc. Somehow the market didn’t go that way outside of vertically integrated companies. Chevy made a huge number of small block V8s used in many different GM cars.

      @RMO Actually, plug in hybrids are an interesting niche. A regular hybrid uses smaller batteries to assist the IC engine. The newer plug in vehicles will run full electric for something like 20 to 50 miles depending on the maker, temperature, conditions, driving style, make of vehicle, etc.

      This is a nice range. Many people don’t often drive more than this in one day.

      1. RMO

        @John: Yes, the few plug-in hybrids available certainly have their place, especially for those who have a short commute on most days as it can let them run pure electric most of the time and gives the same functional range and refuel speed as a conventional car. Useful for quite a few people as long as they have access to charging points – we seem to be getting better at that in BC although there are still quite a few stratas that make it ridiculously expensive to get a charging point in your parking area. The next vehicle I get will most likely be pure electric though as the Bolt/Model 3 and (if they ever get into gear and make it) Leaf with the larger battery have the range on a single charge at home I need for pretty much all my driving.

        I’m actually impressed that the industry has made some degree of progress on standardizing charge connectors. After all, at one point GM was making four completely different cast-iron, pushrod 90 degree V-8’s!

    5. ambrit

      Our local mini zoo has installed a two vehicle charging station in a separate dual parking bay in its parking lot. If we can do this in Ye Deep Dark American South, it can be done anywhere. Now, pricing, that’s where the grift is going to reside.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Put in some horse hitch posts. We’ll see if people go back to that greener mode of transportation.

        “Build it and they will come and use it.”

        Or is it ‘We need to give more freedom to make their own (even Luddite) choices?”

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          I’ve had two vehicles in the last 25 years. drove the first truck literally into the ground, and am still working on the second.
          I’ve threatened for years that my next vehicle will be a buckboard and a mule(although I prefer donkeys, myself).
          no insurance, no seatbelts, no license needed, and the “gas” grows all along the highway.
          (and no drunk driving, I would assume…with a well trained mule)
          aside from cancer stuff and the boys’ sports, I rarely go further than the 11 miles to town and back.

          1. ambrit

            Don’t bet too much on the ‘The Horse Knows the Way Home’ argument. One of my uncles resides in Oxford, England. He would ride a bicycle to the local to avoid drunk driving charges. The coppers one evening cited him for riding the bicycle while drunk.
            As Orwell had one of his fictional characters say: “The purpose of power is power.”

    6. Mo's Bike Shop

      Lambert mentioned cup holders somewhere. If you want to get errands done around town at 40-50 mph, you could have a lovely flivver that wouldn’t even need changeout. And you’d be run over by an SUV in a few days. Packing in the power for highway acceleration and two-hour commutes and traffic jams makes me feel sad for the engineers involved.

      15 million in tens years? Good to know what turning things around looks like.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Right, and people reaching down to grab their soy lattés, bringing them to their mouths and sipping, then slipping them back in the holder while riding, which you know is just what they’ll do, especially on a rough sidewalk, is going to keep the Emergency Rooms busy. Which props up GDP, I guess, so it’s all good. And it’s all in the price. Or not.

          1. JTMcPhee

            Yep, humans are a vastly self-over-rated species. So yesterday I was out driving on the crazed, always-under-construction, 4-to-6 lane Axis Alleyway called Ulmerton Road. The lady in the Lexus next to me was apparently using her knees to steer, while she painted her face, texted on her mobile communicator device, took sips from a (branded) coffee cup, and yelled at her child in the back seat. And the guy in the next car behind, obviously furious at everything, tailgated her and used both hands to beat the steering wheel.

            As I occasionally say, effing stupid humans. Increasingly seems like collectively too dumb to survive. As proved by your observation, and my ironic pointing to the already existing “scooter cup holders…”

    7. Octopii

      There was an Israeli startup called Better Place that tried to do this. They failed to get car manufacturers on board, and went bankrupt. There are a bunch of technical reasons why the concept didn’t gain traction.

  6. stefan

    This Is Just To Say
    by William Carlos Williams, 1883 – 1963

    I have eaten
    the plums
    that were in
    the icebox

    and which
    you were probably
    for breakfast

    Forgive me
    they were delicious
    so sweet
    and so cold

  7. ptb

    re: Industry Week article on apprenticeship, lack of skilled factory techs:

    As a higher level engineer at a place that sells into these markets I can confirm that this article is spot on.

    In US manufacturers I’ve seen, a fundamental tenet of the business model is to *avoid* having to rely on specialized knowledge of their own production staff. The ideal is literally hire someone off the street and have them perform only unskilled tasks. Everything that is non-trivial is to be encapsulated into a purchased “turn-key system”.

    This is partly due to US corporate culture’s deep seated fear of labor relations (compare: Canada, Germany).

    It is also partly to avoid liability – for example, medical manufacturing… if the production line makes parts that are found much later to have caused harm, nobody in the layercake of business relationships that produced the part wants the liability. Not the product owner, not the manufacturer, not the design firm, not the integrator, not the subsystems vendor. The manufacturers figure they’re likely to get stuck with the liability if they are the knowledge center for how the parts get made, since their contract is to deliver correct parts. The integrators seem to not have this fear, since their contract is to deliver an automation system that does X, Y, and Z. Whether X, Y, and Z add up to a correct part falls in the crack between. The fact that failure to do proper maintennce and setup due to lack of in-house knowledge means you might only get X and Y but not Z is somehow not even considered.

    Anyway, in practice, as the article states, the technical knowledge lives with the integrators (providers of the full automated production line bought as one giant package), and their vendors (providers of the subsystems that are components of the automation package). The subsystem vendors typcally have more of an “engineering” cultre. The integrators on the other hand, who are the central player in the business ecology of modern industrial automation, are a mix but tend to have the kind of working class / tech school structure that the manufacturers themselves used to have in days of yore – i.e., informal learn as you go programs taking a graduate of a 2 year tech school and transforming them into an experienced builder of all things found in modern factories. This is kindof like apprenticeships but without the formality or rigor.

    The modern skill set is pretty extensive too – it covers electrical, mechanical, programming, sys admin, systems engineering, project management and leadership. Often the PLC programmer acts as de-facto tech lead during the critical commissionoing phase of projects (when design meets reality, but the engineers are no longer formally scheduled for any hours to the project except on a “support” basis budgeted out of a slush-fund experienced PM’s keep for that purpose).

    Due to NAFTA, integrators and vendors often straddle the North and South borders of the US, and that adds another interesting dynamic.

    This is fascinating, if utterly boring, world to observe. But people asking why modern manufacturing is leaving the US should look into it. Look at how Germany or Canada do it, vs US or Mexico… compare….

    1. King

      Thank you for that very informative comment, and to Lambert for the article. I’d really been confused why I couldn’t get into this field albeit from a more engineering school direction. I knew the interest in stereotypical robotics made it very competitive but more general factory automation doesn’t get that kind of publicity.

    2. Phacops

      The comment re: medical manufacturing is interesting in apportioning liability as far as that goes, but not the whole story. Nonconforming product, which is adulterated product under the FD&C Act, even if the labeling contains errors, is the liability of the manufacturer. And, should a quality systems audit find deficiencies, including any deficiencies in validating the integrated process, the Agency can force disgorgement of profits under a consent decree. Something that can break a generics manufacturer.

      I validated those integrated systems and it required close work between those integrators, commissioning, facility engineering, development and production (which, btw, also requires calibration/metrology, left out in the article). I think it took me at least 5 years to gain real competence with hard (statistical) quality engineering and DOE (design of experiments), and not the soft six-sigma. I was a thorn in the side of some integrators working with high-speed filling and sterilization because of my insistence on verifiable and robust output thet took into account process variability.

      Damn! I did like manufacturing! Perhaps that makes me a fossil, implied by my name. But it is clear to me that manufacturers who believe that skill and experience are fungible and labor is subject to arbitrage are not looking to be sustainable. Hell, look at Foxconn and Pegatron where cheap, abused, labor makes rework practical to offset poor production controls.

      1. ptb

        Thanks for that reply. The system wouldn’t work at all without the Quality engineers. Anyway, I see the story from the side of development / applications for a process-measurement-control subsystem vendor.

        I certainly don’t mean to say that anyone I’ve ever worked with has any intention whatsoever of burying liability or defeating FDA regulations in any way… it’s more a case of collective behavior across many businesses, emerging in a way that following economic incentives, without any individual or business doing anything wrong.

        I also don’t see the problem as poor quality, but rather as a warping of the way the various businesses self-organize in the ecosystem we have that adds up to “manufacturing”… I can’t quite put my finger on it but I think it leads to much higher cost at the end of the day (affecting international competitiveness), for any given level of quality which can be dialed-in in the long run. I think the unwillingness to train automation techs is in part a symptom of this, in addition to plain old short term thinking.

        And I completely agree with the final paragraph.

  8. DJG

    I realize that this is a blog centered on economics and finance, but the word power comes up here, too, and the world of the arts is supposedly the center of “soft power.”

    A couple of things to contemplate as Hillary Clinton inevitably tries to run for president again: In this article, we get a long list that amounts to her ruining anything that she touches.


    The scond problem is that Adichie, who was flavor of the month a few months back, turns out mainly to be grand-stander. I’m sure that she will end up on the faculty at some major M.F.A. program, though, churning out imitators and fodder for the literary agencies.

    A third problem is that an artist can not fall into mild politics and identity poses, which is Adichie’s specialty. She and Clinton are both being dragged down by lack of substance.

    1. dcblogger

      How can she run again, who would donate money to her campaign? Last time the only thing she has was her inevitability. That is gone and she has nothing.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        She does have a “base,” and hence I’m sure small donor money (not tiny, since they will be professionals).

        RussiaRussiaRussia plus a burning sense of injustice for the 2016 result plus an utter lack of ability to accept responsibility for same might be enough to power a Clinton run, if not a Clinton win. The difficulty for the powers-that-be would be putting a stake in Clinton’s heart without alienating the part of the Democrat base that will support her to the bitter end. If that base is wealthy, suburban, and “future is female”, that will make it more difficult. Hence Harris and the calves-cramping Beto.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Maybe HRC could be talked into going for “wise senior statesperson” status and throwing her support behind, oh, I don’t know, Betsy DeVos, or Kamala Harris, or…? Securing her legacy, don’t you know?

      2. drumlin woodchuckles

        Millions of Jonestown Clinties, possibly tens of millions of Jonestown Clinties; would donate small doses of money over and over and over again.

        If Sanders runs in the primaries, then Clinton will run to get revenge on Sanders and tens of millions of Jonestown Clinties will donate all they can to Clinton to share in that revengeance.

  9. ambrit

    On the ground observation from Mississippi. I have yet to vote, but have seen several “I Voted” stickers on people on the street. Turnout will probably determine the outcome.
    On a related note, I got an NRA pro Hyde-Smith card in the mail three days ago. If the NRA feels the need to spend money on this race, the PTBs must be worried. Mississippi, after all, is as about as solidly Republican as any benighted place in America. Yesterday, we also got a hand written pro Espy card in the mail as well. Consider that, hand written. Grassroots at work Down South in America.
    Off to vote.

    1. ambrit

      Update. Around ‘quitting time’ for various day jobs, and the polling place was full. The sign in sheets I saw were over halfway filled in. Voter turnout will be interesting to see when broken down by town and county. This was the Republican Parties race to lose. they doubled down with outside advertising and a visit from The Leader himself.
      The problem is, Espy himself. He has a lot of baggage and doesn’t have much ‘Real Left’ street cred. When I went to the union rally outside the General Dynamics phone bank, the white man running for the other Senate seat, who was generally conceded to have little chance at winning, showed up! Espy just sent his regards for everyone. I’d say that Espy could fit in with the Black Misleadership Caucus perfectly. If he wins, we would be forced to start complaining about Black & Blue Dog Democrats.

      1. ambrit

        Well. Mississippi has run true to form. Cindy Hyde-Smith won the Senate seat. Her margin looks to have been the voters who went for McDaniel, a Libertarian Republican, in the initial round of voting on November 6, switching to Hyde-Smith. In the initial round, Hyde-Smith and Espy were both about even at 40% or so each, with the rest being mainly for McDaniel. Espy got some of the formerly McDaniel voters, but Hyde-Smith, being the “real” Republican in the race, got the lion’s share.
        Hyde-Smith is apparently a rock ribbed Republican Ultra. Her voting record is pretty darned conservative. She has the dubious distinction of being one of the four members of the Congress that the ACLU gave a 0% approval rating to. The others being, Paul Ryan, WI, Karen Handel, GS, and Ron Estes, KS. She votes the Party Line and supports Trump.
        A political handicapper wrote recently that Espy had to win over 25% of the White vote to prevail. He couldn’t manage that. So, how’s that identity politics working out for ya, DNC?
        Not unexpected, but still a bit depressing. I think I’ll go self medicate. (Medicinal brandy.)

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Hyde-Smith was a Democrat until 2010, interestingly enough.

          I still think the Democrats should contest every seat. I hate the way they write off districts and whole regions. Also, “you can’t win if you don’t play.”

          1. ambrit

            Was Hyde-Smith a ‘real’ Democrat or perhaps a closet Dixiecrat?
            I commented previously about getting in the mail a political flyer, an oversized postcard really, supporting Hyde-Smith sent by the NRA. Then, a day later, a postcard sized flyer for Espy. The Espy flyer was hand printed. I have not heard of any national group faking grassroots production models yet, so, I’m assuming that this was a local, home grown effort. My takeaway from this is that the Republican Party did not take this Senate seat for granted, and poured some money into the race to make sure of winning. The Democrat Party seems to have not cared.
            I do not watch television, so cannot speak of that dimension of the campaigning, but I do listen to radio while driving. There was a flurry of Hyde-Smith radio ads days before the vote. I heard the ads on both the Dinosaur Rock stations and the Retro R&B and Soul station. All were paid for by outside entities, not the Hyde-Smith campaign. (Yes. I listen all the way to the end.) No ads for Espy, anywhere I listened. Even the Hip Hop station was quiet. (I have a small tolerance for some Hip Hop. I’ll draw the line at Gangsta. Talk about negative conditioning!)
            As for the Union rally last month, I will only say that the degree of support of the workers by the DNC was significant in it’s absence.
            You are right about the national Democrat nomenklatura. They are not building a wide bench. I’d laughingly suggest that this bunch are infected with Ancien Regime Disease. “We are, (should be, if the world was run right,) the State.”
            One of the good things about self medicating with medicinal brandy is that one acquires a concrete knowledge of having done something wrong the night before. Now what is that B vitamin the Med Students used to boot up to get rid of hangovers?

  10. rd

    I found the GM announcement and accompanying slide deck fascinating, given how US-centric the commentary is.

    Half the plants being closed are not in the US and about half the blue-collar jobs being lost are not in the US. Since about 95% of GM’s white collar jobs are in the US, the vast majority of those layoffs will be in the US. This is being done to shutter losing car lines and design of those lines. About 25% of GM’s executives will go away – that is a higher percentage loss than for blue and white collar jobs.

    What is not discussed in the breathless media accounts is the implication of shifting to electric and self-driving vehicles. Those technologies are still in the infancy to toddler stage. So I would expect to see hiring for the research, design, and testing of those areas. So some of those lost jobs will come back, but they will be different people, possibly in different places. It will be a while before production kicks in, but that will require new construction (even if it is only major refitting of a plant) and then new hiring of the manufacturing workers. However, that could be 5-10 years away. Politically, my guess is that some of that will be in the same plants or at least states that they are closing plants in.

    Mary Barra is executing Schumpeter’s “creative destruction” internally and ahead of the curve instead of waiting for a Tesla or Uber to do it for her. This is actually what great companies should be doing – she is playing a bit of catch-up because the former GM management left her a mess that took years to sort out (ignition switch debacle just being one glaring example). It is brutal, but 2008-10 showed how much more brutal it could have been as GM almost vanished from the face of the earth due to mismanagement.

    1. readerOfTeaLeaves

      Car sharing, and therefore software, seems to be a key part of automotive future: at this point GM is announcing a new office in Seattle targeting hires of 200 software engineers:

      Car sharing seems to be a pretty smart strategy for future auto development, and I agree that Barra appears to be dealing with reality better than some of her predecessors. GM is not the only auto company investing in the car sharing game and finding new forms of ‘ownership’ or ‘shareship’:

    2. Kurt Sperry

      It should perhaps be noted that GM currently (boom, tsssh) produces, probably the cleverest in a practical way, electric car on the US market, the Chevy Bolt. So, it’s not like GM is behind the game in EVs. If I were to buy a new car today (never, ever, ever gonna happen), it’d probably be a Bolt.

  11. ambrit

    It is interesting that the snip from “Ye Smiths” mentions the correlation between apprentices in trades and squires training to be Knights. So, warfare was a Guild occupation!!?? And that evolution ended up with Condotterie.
    How moderne.

    1. Kurtismayfield

      Well if you think about it, the blacksmith was essential for warfare. Without metallurgy it would be impossible to be a knight or foot soldier in the medieval ages, and then there was siege warfare.

      1. Donna

        I am listening to Ken Follett’s A Column of Fire in which 3 blacksmiths play a prominent role. Forced into military service for Spain, the men used their skills to keep the canons operational. Haven’t finished the book yet but the blacksmiths are now working on standardizing canon balls. Fictional story but Follett usually does some good historical research for his books

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        Blacksmiths were the ancient version of manhattan project scientists. going back to the very beginning of the Chalcolithic(copper age).
        Those skills were state secrets, and many smiths were intentionally maimed so they couldn’t run off to the enemy.
        also note the number of smith gods who were lame.

        (I’ve been playing at blacksmithing for several years, and as is my wont, the history of it(and mythology(see: Robert Graves)) is a part of that.)

        1. Synapsid


          You might enjoy (you’ll know on the first page) the novel The Maze Maker, by Michael Ayrton. It’s the autobiography of Daidalos/Dedalus, who designed the labyrinth for Minos to contain the Minotaur, and whose son Ikaros flew too close to the Sun and fell to his death.

          Ayrton was a sculptor whose bronze statue of the Minotaur is one powerful piece of work. In the novel he has Daidalos make a honeycomb of gold with gold bees on it; a millionaire challenged Ayrton to do it, said he’d supply the gold, and Ayrton did it after several tries–he finally had to use a centrifuge but he said Daidalos could easily have figured out how to do that.

          Daidalos has much the same to say about metal workers as you do.

      3. ambrit

        True. And smiths were necessary to the armies of the Classical age: Rome, Persia, China, etc.
        What I found fascinating was the organizational model used by all these “professions.” Warfare was seamlessly included in the Guild model of labour management.
        A defining feature of Guild groups was not necessarily the pan-guild ruling consensus, but the lower level Master and Apprentice relationship. Like the Knight and his men at arms and squires, the Guild Master had full authority over his apprentices. The heirarchy was severe and socially accepted. Trades unions changed all that.
        Today, we are going backwards in that regard. the rise of the modern private armies is but an expression of that reactionary political movement.
        Whoops! Got to go and help Phyl bake something.

      4. Kurt Sperry

        Blacksmiths are probably more useful still for keeping farm machinery in useful condition. We all gotta eat, even soldiers. I had a friend who worked in an “iron shop” in rural Eastern Washington State, and besides welding, much of the required repair work for farm equipment would qualify as blacksmithing, even if it were done with a 10-ton hydraulic forge instead of a big familyblogging hammer and anvil.

        1. Amfortas the hippie

          when I’m not engaged in all the other stuff around here, or laying prone in agony because of it…I do firewood sculpture in summer, and blacksmithing in winter.
          I could probably sell the product of the former, but it took me forever to get together all the stuff needed for the latter…so I have less experience.
          I’ve made hinges, door knobs, drawknives , a froe, and am planning on a legolas short sword…if we can ever get into some semblance of a schedule with chemo.
          I make all manner of things from what most folks would label “trash”…and this is no different: cast off farm implements, mostly.
          taking a bit of iron from a torn up 100+ year old hay rake and making it into a serviceable knife is cool as hell…and one can easily see/feel the alchemy and magic that surrounded this tech in ancient times.

  12. diptherio

    …but do scooters really substitute for cars? I mean, where’s the cupholder?

    And more importantly, what are you supposed to do when it’s raining/snowing/etc? Seems like this idea needs a little more thought…I hear trolleys and buses work pretty well for getting people around cities without the necessity of private vehicles…

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      I think scooters substitute for walking, short-haul bus rides, and bicycles, but only when there is little to carry that can’t fit in a backback. Maybe a substitute for cars for short distances, because who wants to ride a scooter 5 miles across town, when buses, trolleys, or subways may be available? Those who want to do that may already be taking a bike, so scooters may take more bikes off the road than cars.

      In bad weather, scooters are unpleasant to use (how can you hold an umbrella while steering?), so enclosed travel modes (cabs, buses, private cars) take over and substitute for walking, scooters, and bicycles.

      The biggest challenge is that scooters don’t readily permit traveling together. If you’re all in a car/bus/trolley it’s easy to communicate, share things, and interact. A scooter is essentially a device for loners, although when I was in Austin recently I did see a few groups of 2-4 people riding together.

    2. DonCoyote

      I know scooters are new, but when you talk to a “policy expert” from a scooter company, do you really expect him to do much other than talk e-scooter’s book?

      Q: If it were up to you, how would cities regulate scooters?
      A1: A city should start from the perspective of, ‘Let’s use these to replace cars.’ That’s where we align.
      A2: The cities we think are taking the best approach are the ones that created some rules but said they weren’t going to limit the number of [scooters on the streets].

      I.e. we align with minimal regulation, no limits on numbers, us being the primary transport, because ka-ching.

      The South Park episode on scooters a few weeks back was hilarious. I love when Mr. Mackey finds one in his bedroom, two more in his bathroom.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      Where are the helmets? That tiny front wheel will face plant you if it seizes up on a downhill. Always a big problem with cute wheels.

      And I’ve already seen an iphone zombie on a hoverboard so I’m sure we have more to look forward to. I’m perplexed that all these people blissing out in public hasn’t lead to noticeable mortality. Someone walked around me and then stood in front of my bike at the crosswalk today. Several rings of the bells (jingly, then the penetrating one) didn’t even begin to register. No earphones even.

    4. Kurt Sperry

      In urban Italy, scooters are utterly common. They have a storage space under the seat and you can mount a lockable box on the back and have enough room for grocery shopping etc. The weather protection is what you wear, scooter drivers wear high-quality outerwear and helmets that keep them dry and warm, even in nasty weather. And as often as not it’s women riding these around. They seem to be a practical transportation option in urban areas, fuel and parking issues are far better than for cars.

  13. allan

    US waived FBI checks on staff at growing teen migrant camp [AP]

    The Trump administration has put the safety of thousands of teens at a migrant detention camp at risk by waiving FBI fingerprint checks for their caregivers and short-staffing mental health workers, according to an Associated Press investigation and a new federal watchdog report.

    None of the 2,100 staffers at a tent city holding more than 2,300 teens in the remote Texas desert are going through rigorous FBI fingerprint background checks, according to a Health and Human Services inspector general memo published Tuesday. …

    The Party of Family Values™, part 4517. But surely there’s a way of monetizing this … oh, wait …

    Instead, [the facility] is using checks conducted by a private contractor that has access to less comprehensive data, thereby heightening the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children …

  14. Summer

    Re: Automation and apprenticeship

    Corps throw around all kinds of training money. But the “courses” are mostly about behavior modification, although the codeword is “skills”. You see it now with the “mindfulness” and assorted “management techniques.”
    After one such “class,” the HR people asked for feedback about the courses on offer. I suggested classes that offered skills that would be almost like department cross training or more hands on types of actual job training.
    Just got looked at like I was an alien.
    (I don’t think I endeared myself by actually calling the courses on offer behavior modification and not skills building courses).

  15. Craig H.

    > But Twitter is often very funny and not wrathful at all

    When James Corbett deleted his twitter he said, “the medium is the message and the message of Twitter is ‘I hate you'”.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      I don’t know who James Corbett is, but if you feel like you need to delete your twitter history, it’s likely because you were doing serial stupid and need to cover your tracks.

  16. noonespecial

    Private Equity and Elderly Care

    File in cabinet labelled “Evidence of PE’s scorched earth policy”.

    Dickens has already warned: Crush humanity out of shape once more, under similar hammers, and it will twist itself into the same tortured forms. Sow the same seeds of rapacious licence and oppression over again, and it will surely yield the same fruit according to its kind.

    The following are some quotes from the WaPo article:

    “Under the ownership of the Carlyle Group, one of the richest private-equity firms in the world, the ManorCare nursing-home chain struggled financially until it filed for bankruptcy in March. During the five years preceding the bankruptcy, the second-largest nursing-home chain in the United States exposed its roughly 25,000 patients to increasing health risks, according to inspection records analyzed by The Washington Post.

    In December 2007, it bought HCR ManorCare for $6.1 billion plus fees and expenses…Carlyle took HCR ManorCare’s vast real estate empire — the hundreds of nursing homes and assisted living facilities as well as the land underneath — and sold it to HCP, a real estate investment company. HCR ManorCare then had to pay rent to HCP for the use of the nursing homes…Carlyle got $6.1 billion from the sale, an amount that roughly matched the price that the private-equity firm had paid to buy the company just four years prior…With that money, Carlyle paid off billions in debt that it racked up buying HCR ManorCare…Crucially for Carlyle and its investors, the deal allowed them to recover the $1.3 billion in equity they put into the deal.”


    1. knowbuddhau

      I’m appalled, but not surprised. That some live lives of luxury is more important than that we live lives free from undue suffering. Their luxury and our suffering are one and the same.

      Parasites, of the worst brain-invading, mind-usurping, soul-sucking type.

  17. Big River Bandido

    Re: Pelosi, Schumer, and caucus leadership elections in general. It’s grating and embarrassing to hear voters complain about the caucus leadership of House and Senate, and then to suggest “challenging” them — as if the public had any say at all in the question. This is complete “inside baseball” and those who engage in such discussion only put their naivete on full display. The public has NO ROLE whatsoever in the process, and to pretend otherwise is such a waste of bile, time, and energy. Choice of caucus leaders is purely the prerogative of the members of the caucus. Clearly, that caucus is quite happy with Pelosi and Schumer, both of whom perfectly represent the vast majority of stand-pat, do-nothing Democrats in Washington — just as they are supposed to. Caucus leaders are not elected to “whip” the caucus into line, but to do its bidding and be its public mouthpiece.

    Want change in the House and Senate leadership? The only solution is a purge. Can the neoliberals and the Blue Dogs in favor of “universal concrete material benefits” Democrats (i.e., real Democrats) and the new membership will choose a better leadership. Otherwise? Complaints about the caucus leaders are just so much tilting at windmills. Pelosi and Schumer aren’t the problem — they’re merely symptoms of it. And the longer you focus on *them*, rather than the caucus which they represent and the policies they back, the bigger a favor you do them.

    1. Big River Bandido

      “Can the neoliberals and the Blue Dogs”

      In this sentence I was intending to use “can” as a verb, like in “ can”.

  18. knowbuddhau

    Metaphor 1: The 200m Aussie smokestack. It’s the moment they blow the base. Ours is already blown. Has been for what, 28 centuries or so?

    The sky is clear, the sun is shining, there’s a gentle breeze, sure, but there’s a problem where it all goes to ground.

    I say ground fault, you say earth fault; either way, things that can’t stand, won’t.

    On all the ruins about to be made, I’d like people to inscribe: They thought they had time, but they didn’t.

    Metaphor 2: I once tore the lights, conduit and all, off the ceiling of a drive-in freezer with the rack above the forks. Then there was the time I backed around a post blind, with what I was sure was room to spare, only to have the roll cage knock a fire extinguisher to the floor, filling the area, contaminating boxes but not the salmon (I ran the glaze line in a salmon processing plant). The boss had to wait to stop laughing to chew me out.

    You have to approach a rectangular opening with a square box but you’re turning on a radius. It’s a contact sport. You get used to pushing things. That whole setup was a lot closer to collapse than the cavalier driver knew. Bad choice, definitely. But whose design was that? And what’d they use, an Erector Set? Were they all out of Lincoln Logs?

    On the bright side, it didn’t all fall down. And the stuff to fall last had the first stuff to break its fall. Not a total loss at all. Could be worse.

    Let’s get the designers down here on the floor to help clean up, shall we?

    (Speaking of time traveling, it’s November 28, 8926 at 3:43pm. What’d I miss?)

    1. Big River Bandido

      The mess up with the date is just the kind of thing one can expect when Mercury goes retrograde.

      For that matter, so is the collapse.

    2. Conrad

      I’m guessing the bright sun is one of the reasons the smoke stack and the power station it serviced became uneconomical.

      Bit tough on the two workers crushed in metaphor 2 though.

  19. The Rev Kev

    “Just imagine if the Stasi had gone digital”

    Just thought that the west sells all sorts of surveillance gear to some real shady governments and even Google is helping China with realizing a censored search page. If the Stasi were still around then you would find Silicon Valley types knocking at their door saying: “Have we got an app for you!”

    1. ambrit

      H—! The IBM corporation, through their German subsidiary helped automate the identification and deportation of the Jews to the Camps before and during WW2.
      I would at least expect the door knocking Silicon Valley types to wear snappy black uniforms.
      “Look! A new ‘shower’ app!”

  20. dcblogger

    Hispanic U.S. citizens, some of whom were in the U.S. military, are not being allowed to renew their passports. This is reportedly happening to “hundreds, even thousands” of Latinos, according to a report in the Washington Post. They’re getting letters from the State Department saying it does not believe they are citizens. The government claims their citizenships are fraudulent. “I’ve had probably 20 people who have been sent to the detention center—U.S. citizens,” Jaime Diez, an attorney in Brownsville, told The Washington Post.

    you would have to be a fool to think that this will be limited to Hispanics.

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