2:00PM Water Cooler 1/14/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

UPDATE I got a late start, so I added more. –lambert


“Fortnite’s Digital Goods Are Key to the Future of Global Trade” [Bloomberg]. “Discussions about globalization—and its costs and benefits—often focus on physical goods such as steel beams, cars, or soybeans. The reality is that the integration of economies is increasingly a digital one that happens in invisible daily bursts—like the sessions in which far-flung armies of Fortnite players face off against each other on an imaginary island. ‘The digital economy is everywhere, and much of it is international without our even knowing it,’ says Anupam Chander, a law professor and expert on digital trade at Georgetown University. If we don’t always fully appreciate the scale of what’s going on, it’s because much of digital trade is not being captured in official statistics, says Susan Lund of the McKinsey Global Institute, the consultant’s in-house think tank. In a report, Lund and her co-authors documented an explosion in global data flows that they argued generated $2.8 trillion in economic output in 2014 alone and was doing more to benefit the world economy than the stalling international trade in physical goods.” • Maybe this is why the elites are letting women take over defense industry, the Pentagon, and chores like torture; the real action is digital. Perhaps a global warming play as well?

“China has a lot more to lose than the US in trade war, says Credit Suisse [South China Morning Post]. “The possibility that the United States and China are closer to resolving their trade dispute has stoked optimism among investors. But insufficient attention may be being paid to what happens if no deal is struck, according to John Woods, Credit Suisse’s chief investment officer for Asia-Pacific…. ‘It’s quite clear to me that China has a lot more to lose than the United States and, hence, the apparent willingness of the authorities to go the extra mile and secure something meaningful,’ Woods said.”

“The threat of a trade war is helping reset supply chains as exporters in some countries find opportunities amid the disruption. Most Asia-Pacific nations support removing trade barriers…. even as many are finding short-term opportunities to attract manufacturing exporters seeking to avoid U.S. tariffs on Chinese products. The trade battle is accelerating a trend of manufacturing shifting from China to Southeast Asia” [Wall Street Journal]. “Still, many businesses say they prefer predictability and are eager to see the dispute end. For Southeast Asia’s manufacturing and shipping businesses, supply-chain disruptions and slower global growth are a larger threat. Logistics and transportation networks have contributed increasingly to the region’s economy as container-port traffic has expanded there in recent years.”


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


“What ‘Lanes’ Will the 2020 Democratic Candidates Run In?” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “The 2020 Democratic presidential race, however, is shaping up as a vast and complicated battleground with many viable and even more dark-horse candidates. Inevitably, both campaign operatives and political observers will have to analyze the field in terms of sub-contests between clusters of candidates pursuing particular constituencies. When Republicans had a similar situation in 2016, with 16 serious candidates in the fray, the metaphor of ‘lanes’ in which such clusters competed for oxygen and viability before the deal went down became nearly ubiquitous. As early as March 2015 — before Donald Trump entered the race — the Washington Post’s Phillip Bump was slicing and dicing the field in terms of five ‘lanes’ with different candidates competing for supremacy, with some transcending any one lane…. Trump came along and scrambled these lanes and helped croak several candidacies.” • I don’t think you can “scramble” a metaphor. You can have a metaphor, though, one that doesn’t correspond to reality. Perhaps the “lane” metaphor was always bad; in what sense is a campaign like a highway?

“It’s Bernie, Bitch” [Amber A’Lee Frost, The Baffler]. “A President Sanders isn’t some idealist fantasy; he is our best bet by a mile. He has consistently polled as the most popular politician in America since the primaries, and while everyone else has been tweeting (or following up with 23andMe), Bernie pressured Amazon into raising wages, followed up by going after Walmart, condemned Saudi Arabia and sponsored the resolution to end support for the war in Yemen, introduced the No Money Bail Act, committed to a federal job guarantee, campaigned so powerfully for Medicare for All that he shifted the entire Democratic Party, and saved a woman from being hit by a car. Not only is he the best candidate politically (as in, the only social democrat), he has the best chance of giving the “pragmatists” what they say they want: a presidential win.” • Which is why the political class is dogpiling him…

“Bernie Sanders staffs up for 2020” [Politico]. “Bernie Sanders is adding firepower to his political team ahead of a potential 2020 campaign, locking down digital alumni who were key to his surprise performance in 2016 and recruiting the media production company* that helped launch Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to prominence.” • * “Means of Production.”

UPDATE Long thread of Tulsi Gabbard video snippets (not a hit piece):

UPDATE For “the only thing that matters is winning” crowd:

I suppose one could fit policy under “Track Record”; that does filter the Johnny-and-Jane-Come-Lately’s.

New Cold War

One of the creepier tweets I’ve read recently:

Of course, Witte confuses “left’ and “liberal.” The left remembers “counter-intelligence” operations like COINTELPRO quite well, thank you very much. Not to forget the mole British military intelligence planted inside the Sanders campaign because, ya know, the Five Eyes always help each other out.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“To Take Back the Map, Democrats Need a Plan to Revive Heartland Cities” [Washington Monthly]. “To avoid watching in horror as the Senate slips away forever while the Electoral College map becomes ever more daunting, liberals need a long-term strategy to combat the decline of heartland cities—to turn Clevelands into Denvers. To do so, they need to first recognize that geographic inequality did not come out of nowhere. It is not the inevitable product of free market forces clustering new skill and innovation around where all the old skill and innovation are found—nothing makes people in St. Louis or Milwaukee any less talented than people in San Francisco or Washington, D.C. Instead, it’s the result of nearly four decades of policy choices in Washington—such as giving large banks and other corporations in elite coastal cities free rein to acquire rival firms headquartered in cities in America’s interior. This has stripped those interior cities of what were once their economic engines, even as it has enriched the already wealthy coastal megalopolises.” • I can’t imagine why Clara let this through. It’s an open assault not only on Clinton’s “optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward” formulation, but on the very idea of meritocracy. Possibly because it’s a monopolies story? In Bangor, first the malls destroyed the downtown. I don’t know if that’s a monopoly story or not. Then Amazon destroyed the Malls. I don’t know what happens now….

“‘Serial predator’: L.A. writer has been sounding alarm on Ed Buck for over a year” [NBC]. “[Jasmyne Cannick] conducted interviews with first-hand sources: men who said they went to Buck’s apartment for paid sex and drugs, several of whom told her that Buck offered them more money for the chance to administer an injection of crystal methamphetamine, the most dangerous way to take a dangerous drug. All of her reports are published on her personal website.” • The California Democrat Party establishment has some ‘splainin’ to do…

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

Debt: “Fed: Q3 2018 Household Debt Service Ratio at Series Low” [Calculated Risk]. “The Fed’s Household Debt Service ratio through Q3 2018 was released last week: Household Debt Service and Financial Obligations Ratios. I used to track this quarterly back in 2005 and 2006 to point out that households were taking on excessive financial obligations…. This data has limited value in terms of absolute numbers, but is useful in looking at trends… This data suggests aggregate household cash flow has improved significantly since the great recession.”

Commodities: “The world’s biggest soybean buyer just gave DowDuPont Inc. a late Christmas present. China approved the company’s new herbicide-resistant soybean, … opening new markets for American farmers who are struggling to control hard-to-kill weeds: [Wall Street Journal]. “DowDupont had been holding back on sales in the U.S. as China considered the strain. Beijing’s decision this week on the Enlist soybean and other genetically engineered crops developed by Bayer AG and Syngenta makes good on part of a trade pact aimed at speeding up the biotech approvals process, which some U.S. industry officials criticize as opaque. The move comes as trade negotiators are working to ease tensions between the two countries. Retaliatory tariffs drove U.S. soybean exports to China down by 62% in the first 10 months of 2018, squeezing U.S. farmers who are spending more on chemicals as herbicide-resistant weeds spread across the U.S. farm belt.”

The Bezzle: “Tidal under criminal investigation in Norway over ‘faked’ streams” [Engadget]. “High-fidelity music streaming service Tidal is under criminal investigation in Norway for allegedly inflating album streams for Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. The alleged faking of streaming numbers was exposed last year by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN), which said it had obtained a hard drive with the tampered data. Around 1.3 million accounts were supposedly used to lift the play counts of said albums by ‘several hundred million’, with Tidal paying out higher royalty fees to the two artists and their record labels as a result…. Today, DN revealed that Norway’s National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (Økokrim) has begun an investigation into data manipulation at Tidal. Though still in its early stages, Økokrim says that at least four former Tidal employees (including its former head of business intelligence — responsible for analyzing streams) have been interrogated in front of a judge as part of the investigation…. Tidal emerged from Jay-Z’s acquisition of its Norway-based parent company Aspiro in 2015. But it’s been dogged by reports of failed royalty payments and faked subscriber counts since 2016. The following year it received a welcome boost when Sprint purchased a third of the company for $200 million. Later in 2017, Tidal lost one of its original artist-owners in Kanye West, who claimed the company owed him $3 million.”

The Bezzle: “Scooter startup Bird tried to silence a journalist. It did not go well.” [TechCrunch]. “The whole debacle started after Doctorow wrote about how Bird’s many abandoned scooters can be easily converted into a “personal scooter” by swapping out its innards with a plug-and-play converter kit. Citing an initial write-up by Hackaday, these scooters can have “all recovery and payment components permanently disabled” using the converter kit, available for purchase from China on eBay for about $30…. Bird didn’t like this much.”

Tech: “PayPal Quietly Took Over the Checkout Button” [Bloomberg]. “PayPal’s most impressive statistic may be its conversion rate. People who design online and mobile shopping apps are obsessed with smoothing and shortening the path from idle browsing to purchase—humans are acquisitive and impulsive creatures, but they’re also easily distracted and bad at remembering their credit card numbers. Too many options hurts conversion, and so does having to type out stuff or wait for a page to load. PayPal’s conversion rate is lights-out: Eighty-nine percent of the time a customer gets to its checkout page, he makes the purchase. For other online credit and debit card transactions, that number sits at about 50 percent.” • Astonishing, but true. When I hit the PayPal button, my decision is already made. Not sure why.

UPDATE Tech: “Contactless payments are coming to the US, another threat to the use of cash” [Quartz]. “Contactless payments are set to finally become widespread in the US, posing a renewed challenge to the use of cash… Britain’s experience with contactless payments shows how it gives physical cash a run for its money. Spending using contactless cards rose to £3 billion ($3.8 billion) in 2017, up from £117 million in 2014, according to the UK Cards Association. A CMSPI consultancy case study of a large fast-food chain found that contactless payments catch on quickly, ‘cannibalizing both cash and card payments.’ The study showed that contactless transactions increased by 64% in one year to account for 27% of all purchases, while cash declined by 11%…. Contactless payments in the UK also got a boost when the London underground tube network began using them. New York City’s subway is adopting the same technology, which is expected to go online this year.” • We’ll see how New Yorkers like it, especially since their subway has other and more pressing issues. When I was in London, I had to used contactless, and I loathed it, because it wasn’t contactless at all; you had to tap a card, which you also had to load, making it slower than cash. There were also vendors who used contactless exclusively — the Post Office, I think — so in order to print a couple of Xeroxes, I had to go through an enormous rigamorale.

Tech: “AWS, MongoDB, and the Economic Realities of Open Source” [Stratechery]. “MongoDB’s enterprise version [are governed by] a new MongoDB-created license called the Server Side Public License (SSPL). The SSPL is like the AGPL on steroids: it compels companies selling MongoDB-as-a-service to not only open-source their modifications, but also open-source their entire stack… The largest company selling software-as-a-service is, of course, Amazon.” • This is very interesting article, which culminates in a discussion of how a dominant AWS stack running open source software could end up making everyone worse of.

Tech: “America desperately needs fiber internet, and the tech giants won’t save us” [Recode]. “We’re paying rent essentially as a country to a handful of companies that are selling second-rate, extraordinarily expensive internet access. It’s basically the cable companies. If you live, say, in Austin, you’ve got one choice of a cable operator, local cable monopoly, who’s gonna sell you internet access. And it’s extraordinarily expensive. It’s asymmetrical, meaning that you’re mostly downloading, not uploading. This is actually dumbing down the entire country and our ability to compete on the international stage. That’s the issue.” • Rural broadband would be nice. You’d expect my town, a university town, to have it, but of course we don’t.

Tech: “The five most important new jobs in AI, according to KPMG” [Quartz]. • I don’t see a job description for whoever has to clean up the mess when they go nuts and have to be rebooted, because nobody knows how to maintain them, because nobody understands why they do what they do. Maybe that job’s gonna be outsourced…

UPDATE Manufacturing: “The Next American Car Recession Has Already Started” [Bloomberg]. “American automakers are closing factories, cutting shifts and laying off thousands of workers. The industry is behaving like a recession has arrived. In one segment of the market, it has. Detroit is in the grips of a car recession marked by the collapse of demand for traditional sedans, which accounted for half the market just six years ago. Buyers have made a mass exodus out of classic family cars and into sport utility vehicles… Sales of the passenger-car body style that’s dominated the industry since the Model T will sink to 21.5 percent of the U.S. market by 2025, according to researchers at LMC Automotive, relegating sedans to fringe products. That leaves automakers with excess factory capacity that can turn out about 3 million more vehicles than buyers want. And overcapacity is precisely what spurred losses the last time a recession wracked the industry.” • Yikes!

Mr. Market: “Markets Take the Lead When It Comes to Factoring in Recession” [Bloomberg]. “Many financial markets are already signaling that the U.S. is more likely than not hurtling toward recession. But will they prove prescient or overly fretful?….Bank of America’s recession indicators have also jumped noticeably in recent weeks, even as their analysts say the economic data doesn’t show that. …. ‘The fundamentals are changing, but not as bad as what the market seems to be pricing in,’ said Aaron Clark, a portfolio manager at Boston-based GW&K Investment Management managing $36 billion. ‘The one risk was that could change, and maybe all this pessimism turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy, and the equity-market and asset-price declines have contagion to the real economy.'”

Mr. Market: “Are Market Moves Happening Faster?” [A Wealth of Common Sense]. “Try as I may, I couldn’t find a discernable difference in the speed of downdrafts or recoveries between in the pre-Internet and current information age. Both environments were filled with quick market moves, drawn-out bear markets, short recoveries, brutally long sideways periods and everything in between. Every generation assumes the current state of the world is uniquely terrible, uncertain, or special. The same seems to apply to market environments.”

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged. [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 181. Testing the 180 floor again. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.

The Biosphere

“BP just discovered a billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico” [CNBC]. • Swell. Leave it right there. That way we’ll always know where it is.

Our Famously Free Press

UPDATE “The ABCs of Jacobin” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “New magazines begin here: with the sure knowledge that something is missing, that the existing options aren’t cutting it…. what seems indisputable is that “socialist” has been sapped, at least among Democrats, of its derisive force. And while it’s too much to suggest that Jacobin was responsible for this change, it’s equally too little to suggest that the magazine was swept along helplessly but happily by a rising red tide. More than once [publisher Bhaskar Sunkara] told me that he has always thought of Jacobin as a political project, not a media project. What the rise of Jacobin suggests, however, is just how inextricable, and maybe even indistinguishable, those categories turn out to be.” • Come, come. Anybody who reads the Times or WaPo knows that.

Class Warfare

“The Truth About the Gig Economy” [Annie Lowry, The Atlantic] (original). “Last week two influential labor economists revised down their much-cited estimate of the size of the alternative workforce, meaning workers in temporary, on-call, contract, or freelance positions. Lawrence Katz of Harvard and Alan Krueger of Princeton had initially found that this workforce grew five percentage points in the decade up to 2015, accounting for nearly all job creation over that time period. Now they think it is more like one or two points. Their correction comes shortly after a major government survey—one that surprised a lot of labor and workforce experts—found that 3.8 percent of workers held “contingent” jobs as of 2017, roughly the same share as in 2005.” • Oops.

“L.A. teachers’ strike: Tens of thousands walk off job in Los Angeles” [Los Angeles Times]. “Tens of thousands of Los Angeles teachers went on strike Monday after negotiations in the nation’s second-largest school district collapsed. Braving rain, teachers carrying signs saying “on strike for our students” and umbrellas stood in picket lines Monday morning demanding smaller class sizes, more nurses, counselors and librarians, higher wages for educators and more accountability for charter schools. There were picket lines at 900 schools across the city, United Teachers Los Angeles union president and teacher Alex < said at a news conference Monday." • AOC instantly weighs in--

Nancy? Chuck?

UPDATE “Streaming Class Struggle” [Jacobin]. “On Saturday, one of the biggest retail traffic days of the year, she released a Bernie Sanders-style video, in which she interviews laid-off Toys “R” Us workers in the Bronx. The video is notable for how it addresses class struggle head on. Workers tell stories of working conditions steadily deteriorating until they lost their jobs altogether, followed by their bosses denying them promised severance pay. The workers subsequently won about $20 million for a severance fund for around thirty-three thousand workers. But workers and advocates claim they are owed at least $75 million. The video runs across the screen the names of the heads of venture capital firms and lenders responsible for shutting down Toys “R” Us, noting how much each has paid to the workers’ severance fund. As we might expect, most have contributed nothing. Sanders has been producing class-struggle videos and posting them online regularly since early 2017. Many of the videos are wildly popular, with some of the live town hall–style events receiving more viewers than cable news programs running at the same time. Sanders is reportedly obsessed with the videos’ view numbers, frequently asking staff how recent videos are being received.”

You want intersectionality? Look at a strike, and to the unions:

News of the Wired

“The Dog Who Took the Witness Stand” [Hidden History]. “‘nd now call the dog,’ said Judge Edward Kimball to the bailiff.”

“How to Counter Misinformation” [Anthropology News]. “The problem with the press’s standard fact-checking approach is that the refutation of lies often backfires due to the familiarity of the misinformation (“familiarity backfire effect”), the complexity of the refutations (“overkill backfire effect”), or the defensive processing of facts at odds with partisan views (“worldview backfire effect”). These “backfire” and “boomerang” (Hart and Nisbet 2011) effects mean that the traditional fact-checking approach may even lead people to strengthen factually inaccurate understandings when presented with “preference-incongruent information” (Nyhan and Reifler 2010)… The key to correcting misinformation lies in creating what George Lakoff calls a “truth sandwich” or adopting what John Cook describes as a fact-myth-fallacy structure for refuting false claims.” • I read the whole thing twice, becaue the contemporary relevance is obvious, and I couldn’t find a simple formula for the structure. Then I found it, in a textual figure not labeled as a figure. Typing the formula in: “How to Counter a False Claim. 1 State, repeat, and reinforce the fact. 2 Warn of and point out the false claim 3 Explain how the false claim distorts.” Physician, heal thyself?

“Comparison of 3 P2P protocols” [Christopher Reay, Googledocs]. Holochain, ActivityPub, Secure Scuttlebutt.

“The Rise and Demise of RSS” [Vice]. “Though of course some people really do still rely on RSS readers, stubbornly adding an RSS feed to your blog, even in 2019, is a political statement. That little tangerine bubble has become a wistful symbol of defiance against a centralized web increasingly controlled by a handful of corporations, a web that hardly resembles the syndicated web of [Kevin Werbach’s imagining [in Release 1.0].” • For this old-timer, it looks like an RDF/namespaces debacle, or debacle squared. Oh well.

Different aesthetics (1):

(Heer found Kenner’s essay: “The Untidy Desk and the Larger Order of Things” (PDF).

Different aesthetics (2):

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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 (via):

Hesperantha coccinea (Scarlet river lily; crimson flag lily).

are two of the many common names used for

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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. Earl Erland

    “When Republicans had a similar situation in 2016, with 16 serious candidates in the fray . . . .” A google search for “2016 Republican presidential primary candidates” lists the following 16 names at the top of Google’s “People also ask” box: Jeb Bush. Ben Carson. Chris Christie. Ted Cruz. Carly Fiorina. Jim Gilmore. Lindsey Graham. Mike Huckabee. Bobby Jindal. John Kasich. George Pataki. Rand Paul. Rick Perry. Marco Rubio. Rick Santorum. Scott Walker.

    Maybe it has been just a bad dream!

      1. Mark Gisleson

        Not old enough per US Constitution.

        DOB: 10/13/89 which also raises the specter of Friday the 13th birthdays.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Like the Electoral College and non-citizens voting* in local elections, time to re-visit them.

          1. John k

            Can’t. Small states will always veto.
            This was the deal that brought in the small states of the day, like Florida. Gave us a union.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          If she holds form, perhaps. She said she would introduce legislation shortly; let’s see what it is.

          I know I keep posting great stuff she says, and at some political risk, at least from establishment Democrats, but we’ve seen the “Lucy and the Football” routine pulled before. Let’s see how she does over time. (And I hope her staff is really ramping up constituent services; that’s will be the best possible defense against what Pelosi et al. will throw at her, which they will do, if she is what (I think) you hope for…

    1. Pavel

      Just to say that @katelyn_ohashi routine is possibly the most charming and literally (for her, not yours truly) uplifting thing I’ve seen thus far this year. Thanks, Lambert!

        1. Procopius

          That’s the word I was looking for, “joyous.” I remember from forty years ago when I briefly got into good physical shape at the age of forty, how good it feels to have control of your body and the strength to move the way you want to. Not that I ever got near the level of fitness she has (and probably the other gymnasts there have), but even the low level I achieved in martial arts just improved my quality of life more than I could have imagined. She sure looks like she’s having a good time. Good for her.

    2. makedoanmend

      I’m going to use a word I’ve come to loath, but it’s just so appropriate here:

      Wow, just Wow

      Something like this just puts conjuring tricks to shame – she did everything but levitate and the last tumble routine, imho, was better than levitation – had to watch it again to believe it…what an athlete!

  2. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for the link to info about today’s beautiful featured plant through the University of British Columbia’s botanical garden site. Especially enjoyed both the information about this lily’s African roots and pollinators and the readers’ knowledgeable comments at their site. Interested that they flower in October/November in the north of the UK, which would also seem to be applicable here in the Pacific NW.

  3. Summer

    Re: Tidal

    Charts and sales numbers have always been subject to loads of hype over reality.
    However, in previous eras, some detective footwork involving wharehouses where physical goods were stored and examing re-order (something that has a gazzillion sales should have a gazzillion re-orders) figures could shed a lot of light on a lot of what was being sold vs what was being hyped.

  4. Judith

    The Enlist soybean. Tolerant to a combination of three herbicides: 2,4-D choline ( a variant of 2,4-D), glyphosate (old favorite) and glufosinate (which is antifungal, antibacterial, and a herbicide. It works by halting photosynthesis. The French say this one is reprotoxic.) Should be great for the farmer, the farmer’s soil, the farmer’s neighbors, and our food.

    Why does this sound like a terrifically bad idea?

    1. Carey

      Some small group might see it as a very fine idea. It’s certainly bad for the great majority
      of us.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        We’ve organized our entire society around activities that make eight very rich old fat white guys even richer.
        The other 7,249,381,112 of us can (and do) get stuffed

  5. Summer

    Re: Tidal

    For streaming in general, lack of a clear audit trail should cause people to rethink the validity of contracts entered into with these types of companies.

  6. AF

    My family and I were just talking about Bangor. We were wondering why the mall and a lot of stores around it were empty yet the Stillwater highway exit is growing with new businesses. Instead of going into pre existing buildings most are building brand new ones and brand new plazas. I guess it’s easier for a monopoly to simply take one blueprint and use it thousands of times instead of taking the time required to modify existing buildings (which would mean hiring more architects and planners $$$).

    1. David Carl Grimes

      I noticed that too with large strip malls. The anchor stores with 20,000 sq ft are empty but the mall operator decided to build additional structures housing fast food joints on the large parking lot.

    2. aletheia33

      ignorant town authorities who don’t read naked capitalism, continue to worship the dead god “groaf”, and/or don’t perceive their townspeople in whole but only through the town elite’s eyes (to put it kindly). dependence on automobiles to get around. excessive corporate demands of people’s labor time. and constant media persuasion to consider oneself a loser, rather than just human, if one cannot keep up–the problem is you and your poor time management, not the system.

      parking and walking around downtown takes longer. if you’ve got 2 or more kids and 1 parent, or even 2, working 2 lousy-paying jobs, that matters. so families drive to the malls where parking is quick and easy. also you can find everything you need in one store, walmart, using less time.

      building parking garages downtown may help, but if you don’t live downtown in the first place… just feeding the meter on a parking garage, let alone walking around from store to store with the kids, takes time and effort. plus no homeless people on view in the malls–that could scare the kids.

      i don’t know bangor, but most of this scenario is practically universal now in the USA. and because neoliberalism is a religion, not a set of practical principlies, its adherents, whose number may still be growing, see only the quick profit and not the long term when that family with 2 kids will, as the result of this religion’s practices, have nothing left to give.

      1. Joey

        And they get infrastructure for free! They know the mayor!
        Make developers pay for water, grid and sewers.

      2. Big River Bandido

        Some Midwestern cities can’t give away downtown parking. I’m thinking of Iowa in particular. Look at a Google map in satellite view and note how much of any old (mid-1800s) Midwestern city’s downtown area is used for nothing but parking. And those lots mostly sit empty; fewer businesses attract fewer shoppers and compound
        the problems of walking and time. By diluting the density of downtown areas (thus creating the greater distances between businesses of which you wrote), eventually parking lots become not an attraction, but a repellent to potential shoppers.

        Any revival of interior urban areas will have to include highly improved transit — and that really means trains, because many dedicated transit users refuse to ride buses. For states like Iowa, state law and zoning regs will probably need to be changed, in order for us to stop designing cities and urban life around personal automobiles.

        1. Procopius

          Buses are really a good, flexible transport. Trains are good, but they aren’t flexible. I suspect the reason people hate buses is because the transit authorities are trying to make a profit, or at least following the (neo?)liberal belief that the people who use a service must pay for it. Look, public transit is a public good, like the roads themselves. People who don’t use them may reap great benefits from them. I’m thinking employers whose workers are able to travel to the workplace. In Bangkok almost no bus line runs at intervals greater than 15 minutes. The sky train and underground run at five minute intervals. That’s what you need. I remember how I hated the trolleys in Mannheim, Germany, because they only ran once an hour.

  7. Angie Neer

    Paypal: for merchants that get their payments through PP, PP has historically allowed me to do that without a PP account, just as a credit card transaction. But recently I’ve encountered two cases where the only way to complete the transaction required a PP account. Anybody know, has PP changed its policy, or do merchants have a choice? If they have a choice, I presume they get a benefit from the more restrictive option. I hope it’s worth the business they lose. In one case I emailed a merchant, who was in Europe, and told them they had lost a sale because I don’t have a PP account and don’t want one. They were polite enough to reply, but the reply was basically, “huh, that’s interesting. I guess that’s the way it is.” Subtext being “you are some kind of paranoid weirdo whose business is not worth my time.”

    1. justsayknow

      I believe Paypal takes this action after you have used it a few times. Obviously they make more if the processing is all theirs and not shared with another card. The merchant has no control over this.

    2. albrt

      With regard to the high completion metrics, back when I had a paypal account I would usually choose it last of all possible payment options. So at the point of clicking the paypal button, I had already 89% decided not to abandon the transaction.

      Come to think of it, I probably still have a paypal account but I wouldn’t know how to contact it. I hope it isn’t too lonely.

  8. Lee

    The Bezzle: “Tidal under criminal investigation in Norway over ‘faked’ streams” [Engadget]. “High-fidelity music streaming service Tidal is under criminal investigation in Norway for allegedly inflating album streams for Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

    I’ll use this mention of music in Norway to shoehorn in a recommendation for an actual Norwegian musician, Knut Reiersrud, a master of blues, jazz, and fusion, that I’d never heard of and whom I discovered because he did the musical themes for a Norwegian mystery TV series based on the novels of Unni Lindell. Escaping from American pop culture in favor of that from other countries is one of the aspects of globalization that I do applaud.

  9. Summer

    Tech: “The five most important new jobs in AI, according to KPMG” [Quartz].

    And I don’t see much concern about the audit trails for online sales – although much of the hyped AI is the AI that helps marketing and sales.
    The most important job may be auditing AI.

    1. Grant

      The Obama administration, shortly before leaving office, released a report on AI and automation. They, I think intentionally, barely addressed ownership, and class conflict. There was one mention of ownership though, and it is something that capitalism is increasingly struggling with.


      AI-driven technological change could lead to even larger disparities in income between capital owners and labor. For example, Brynjolfsson and McAfee argue that current trends in the labor market, such as declining wages in the face of rising productivity, are indicative of a more drastic change in the distribution of economic benefits to come. Rather than everyone receiving at least some of the benefit, the vast majority of that value will go to a very small portion of the population: “superstar-biased technological change.” Superstar-biased technological change is somewhat similar to skill-biased technological change, but the benefits of technology accrue to an even smaller portion of society than just the highly-skilled workers. The winner-take-most and winner-take-all nature of the information technology market means that the fortunate few are likely to emerge as victors of the market. This would exacerbate the current trend in the rising fraction of total income going to the top 0.01 percent (Figure 4).

      1. Summer

        Re: Contactless Payments

        “When I was in London, I had to used contactless, and I loathed it, because it wasn’t contactless at all; you had to tap a card, which you also had to load, making it slower than cash. There were also vendors who used contactless exclusively — the Post Office, I think — so in order to print a couple of Xeroxes, I had to go through an enormous rigamorale….”

        “Contactless” obviously means: when something goes wrong, good luck contacting someone about it. Once they got your money, they got it…

  10. XXYY

    Detroit is in the grips of a car recession marked by the collapse of demand for traditional sedans, which accounted for half the market just six years ago. Buyers have made a mass exodus out of classic family cars and into sport utility vehicles… Sales of the passenger-car body style that’s dominated the industry since the Model T will sink to 21.5 percent of the U.S. market by 2025, according to researchers at LMC Automotive, relegating sedans to fringe products.

    My impression (I don’t work in the auto industry) is that the difference between a “sedan” and a “sport utility vehicle” is just different sheet metal on the back. They used to be “station wagons” or “hatchbacks” in earlier times. I can’t see why this is some kind of upheaval for the industry or requires a new factory to make the shift.

    Am I missing something?

    1. Kurt Sperry

      No, not really. Once upon a time SUVs were actually different than sedans — they had ladder frames, 4WD, and actually designed and optimized for off-road use. Nowadays SUVs are mostly just restyled sedans, raised up to make short, fat, and insecure people feel better behind the wheel. It isn’t a revolution in any real engineering sense any more than tailfins were 60 years ago. Fashion and styling.

      1. Carolinian

        But a major chunk of those non sedans do indeed have ladder frames because they are pickup trucks and larger suvs. According to Wolfstreet these are what are selling in the new vehicle market and where Detroit makes much of its money.

    2. Don Cafferty

      I am no expert either. I believe other information sources report that the decline in Detroit’s share of the sedan market is to Honda and Toyota. Consequently, these lost sales are not regained by Detroit in the sale of Detroit’s SUVs. This may have consequences to the factory floor in terms of factory utilization and efficiency, among other things.

  11. Rosario

    RE: Marie Kondo

    I watched one Marie Kondo show with my mom and I came away with the following.

    Very sweet, sincere person and I am (in a complicated way) happy for her successful career being a lifestyle coach. She is also incredibly neurotic. Not to say that is abnormal, I am neurotic as well. Just that, from what I saw, there is a lack of self awareness in her neuroticism as well as the entire zeitgeist surrounding her new age lifestyle advice show that is disturbing to me. Being a bit crazy/weird/neurotic is quite normal and refreshing, so long as that person is aware of it, and maybe provides a disclaimer to those around them as to what to expect and that replicating that behavior is not necessarily a path to salvation.

    It is quite possible to become crazy about making your crap “Zen” as it is to be crazy about the crap not being “Zen”. The show seems to provide a path for a displacement of neurotic behaviors into new realms rather than a means to mitigate said behavior or to simply accept that the world around someone can not actually be fully controlled.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The show seems to provide a path for a displacement of neurotic behaviors into new realms

      Possibly. OTOH, getting rid of “stuff” — and more importantly, not accumulating* so much of it — is something Americans could probably do a lot more of, especially with the biosphere being in the shape it’s in. So Kondo may indicate an important shift in the zeitgeist.

      NOTE * “Stuff” including a few of your billions, if you’re Jeff Bezos.

  12. nippersdad

    So now that we have officially surpassed the last longest governmental shutdown, people have gotten their first empty checks, stories are coming out that federal employees are hitting up the foodbanks and the infant generalissimo has spent the weekend tweeting about being lonely without Democrats to dictate to, I think we have reached the optimal political tipping point for the Democrats to fold and give him what he wants.

    The point has been made, the low hanging fruit has been gathered, the polls show that seventy five percent of the population think that this shutdown is a national embarrassment. Unless they want to wait until the Super Bowl nightmare scenario, with the airlines shutdown because all of the air traffic controllers in Atlanta walked away due to a month’s lack of pay, I don’t think that there is much more gravy to be had here before they start to lose points on the board.

    So, what is the over/under for them to give him his five billion before the Super Bowl?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      As soon as $1.3 billion was offered, the slippery slope started.

      It moved from ‘it is not right’ to ‘what price is right?’ (For the D’s, it should have been ‘zero.’)

      1. nippersdad

        I think they lost that battle last year, when they offered 25 billion dollars for the Dreamers; that that is what gave Trump the confidence to try and pull it off this time. It is nice that it didn’t work, it was nice to see a backbone for once, but the cost/benefit analysis of fighting with him may be running out.

        1.3 is better than five, but five is certainly not 25. Speaking as a percentage they have gained on their last performance already, especially if they can get the Dreamers too. I think I would quit while I was ahead and still had an albatross to hang around his neck for the rest of his term. Especially insofar as the design and permitting process will ensure years of delay before any thought of actually building it could even come up.

        What I wouldn’t want (if I were a Democrat) would be for Trump to be the doing the half-time show at the Super Bowl. He is a showman, and his ratings would be astronomical.

    2. Jen

      If Trump declares a national emergency and takes 5B from the defense budget, I have no doubt that Democrats would feel obligated to make sure the DOD was made “whole.”

  13. clarky90

    A NZ Lefty’s perspective

    Journey To Aztlan: Chris Trotter on why the Democrats should let Trump build his wall


    “Donald Trump’s border wall is, thus, very far from being the political obsession of an eccentric New York billionaire. The idea of constructing a substantial physical barrier along the entire length of the Mexican-American border is not a new one. Though Nancy Pelosi may not know it, the idea found favour with President Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) who was, according to the history books, a “progressive” Democrat.

    A historically literate American Left would not have chosen this particular ditch to die in….”

    1. willf

      Wilson was progressive in a way that modern users of the word would hardly recognize. Also, he was very, very racist, to the point of once throwing a civil rights worker (whose name, ironically, was Trotter) out of his office.

      A “historically literate” pundit* would likely not see Wilson as an example which would help their argument.

      *The author includes these passages about the (para) “looming brown menace”, which don’t seem very “historically literate” either:

      For those right-wing white Americans who see themselves as the beleaguered victims of adverse demographic trends, however, Aztlan has taken on the character of a looming, existential threat.

      Their fear is not that some twenty-first century equivalent of Pancho Villa will come roaring across the border hell-bent on razing El Paso or Santa Fe. (Although, the near panic generated by the “caravan” of Central-American migrants wending its way north towards the Rio Grande does makes you wonder!) The great concern of the Right is that the birth-rate of Hispanic Americans greatly exceeds that of Whites. Unless the “flood” of migrants from the south is checked, Aztlan will be brought into existence not by bullets – but babies!

    2. Darthbobber

      Nicely xenophobic piece. No wonder he cites Wilson, who was cut from similar cloth. Article hypes the Plan of San Diego, authorship of which is both unknown and disputed. Many see it as a factional ploy to get the US to support one faction or another in the Mexican civil war in return for stabilization along the border. (Carranza and Huerta get a lot of mentions here.)

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I still don’t see much difference between a wall (bad) and a fence (good) and a smart fence (very very good).

      No doubt the fight is purely symbolic; the wall was a centerpiece of Trump’s campaign, and so Democrats want to make sure he doesn’t deliver it. (Oddly, Democrats aren’t focusing on this failure to deliver:

      [TRUMP:] We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.

      One can only wonder why.

      1. sinbad66

        [TRUMP:] We’re going to have insurance for everybody. There was a philosophy in some circles that if you can’t pay for it, you don’t get it. That’s not going to happen with us.

        One can only wonder why.

        Because the Dems don’t want everyone to have insurance neither. As I told a colleague of mine ‘the only difference between the Dems and the Repubs is that the Repubs are more honest about who they really work for’…..

    4. Procopius

      … who was, according to the history books, a “progressive” Democrat.

      Then the history books you are referring to are out of date/inaccurate. Wilson was a die-hard “Lost Causer” who segregated the civil service as well as entering the war to protect the New York bankers’ huge loans to the Allies (OK, it was actually more complicated than that, but that was part of it [well known and commented on at the time] and not nearly enough recognized nowadays). The more I learn about him the more I despise him.

  14. bruce wilder

    “How to Counter Misinformation”

    The legitimacy of a fact rests on the foundation of critical method. If I say, “it’s warm today”, and my friend contradicts me, “I’m chilly; I’m cold”, our “disagreement” is about experiences and personal evaluation, not a fact in the sense that a measured temperature of 68° F is a fact.

    “Fact-checking” is often misapplied in our tribal politics to try to elevate experience or shared evaluation of one group or class over that of some opposed political grouping. Being lectured by the Washington Post (Style section!!!) about truth sandwiches vis a vis Trump strikes me as ironic at best.

    John Cook of Skeptical Science is coming from a better place, but I think his notion that people are actively trying to build better and more complete mental models of how the world works is, itself, a dangerously inaccurate premise for analyzing political communication or journalism.

    A hugely important factor has to be the conservation of cognitive capacity. Most people are on information overload with regard to political information — they don’t know how the political economy works in any detail beyond their own experience in dealing with employment or shopping or the police, let alone how the climate system or carbon cycle works beyond using an umbrella. People do not want to know “how it works” (function); they want to know “what it means”. Cutting to the chase, getting to “what it means” or “what to do” saves cognitive effort. Ditto for identifying with “the good guys” and trusting what they tell you.

    Obviously, it can be vitally important at times and with regard to certain systems to know “how it works” — at least enough not to put aluminum foil in the microwave or who has the right-of-way at an intersection. Schools work at developing such functional understanding, because that’s a context where people can make a sustained effort under guidance. Journalists are not really doing much of that. Journalists are informational intermediaries primarily providing short-cuts to meaning. They can provide actual facts, only to the extent that education provides some mental preparation and infrastructure. It would be really unusual journalism that engages readers or viewers enough to develop sound functional understanding.

    Journalism is more likely to do what is complained of here — propagate and reinforce myth — because it is journalism and a bit superficial by its nature and fundamentally passive for its audience. Journalism as we know practically consists mostly of composing narratives and narratives are not about facts so much as they are about meanings. (If anything facts just get in the way of a smooth and easily digestible narrative.)

    If by “persuasion” you mean as a desired outcome the reader or viewer adopting or accepting a particular “meaning”, you are probably largely skipping over the functional part of learning how the world works. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it is not about establishing facts per se, facts that might be evaluated or experienced differently from various points of view. And resistance to a point-of-view is not necessarily the same thing as resistance to the possibility of a shared understanding of how the world functions.

    We live in an informational environment saturated with propaganda and advertising and salesmanship, all of which is scientifically designed to be persuasive, and not incidentally also designed to not be all that factually and functionally informative. We learn the “meaning” of the features and benefits of a consumer product (will make you happy) without necessarily learning much that it is functionally useful. How much advertising of otc pain relievers are we exposed to and how many people can summarize the risks and useful applications of tylenol v aspirin v ipuprofen v a Coca-Cola?

    The following (from the anthropology-news article) is prescribing a propaganda technique.

    To effectively counter false claims and misinformation, factual corrections need to enter into the intertextual web of public discourse through messages that are structured for maximum effect. This requires foregrounding and repeating what is factually correct, warning readers before introducing false claims, and unpacking the fallacies that distort the facts.

    The techniques and methods of professional journalism (or science!) that establish what constitutes a fact and distinguishes a fact from “meaning” or someone’s subjective evaluation or interested preferences are left aside and that’s really, really dangerous.

    Journalistic fact-checkers are way too confident of their righteousness as it is and this is just encouraging them to doing fact-checking as a new species of persuasive polemic. It is too easy, in the absence of systematic methods of determining what is a fact as distinguished from a sales pitch or lie, to advocate for meanings that are not so much fact as simply the approved myth of some group’s current group-think.

    1. Summer

      “A hugely important factor has to be the conservation of cognitive capacity. Most people are on information overload with regard to political information — they don’t know how the political economy works in any detail beyond their own experience in dealing with employment or shopping or the police, let alone how the climate system or carbon cycle works beyond using an umbrella. People do not want to know “how it works” (function); they want to know “what it means”. Cutting to the chase, getting to “what it means” or “what to do” saves cognitive effort. Ditto for identifying with “the good guys” and trusting what they tell you…”

      Sort of relates to what I referred to this morning. There is also the cognitive capacity for denial. Denial is fundamental to the American Dream.

      1. bruce wilder

        When someone explained agnotology (wikipedia: “the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt”) to me a few years ago, I felt I had gained an uncomfortable insight into how first television and radio and later, the internet, had facilitated the social construction of a shared unreality built from unknowledge.

        Denial is certainly involved — I would say as a point of leverage in what are often or usually deliberately manipulative schemes of propaganda. The propensity for denial provides a convenient hook. And, after a flood of misinformation leaves you mystified, what else is there, but denial?

        None of the articles linked exactly make this point, but “debunking” involves not just persuading a partisan of what is factually true, but also imply that the partisan has been previously manipulated and fooled. That is not an easy sell.

        1. Jeremy Grimm

          The campaign tobacco companies launched to discredit and bury studies showing the health dangers of smoking is the poster child for agnotology. The problems of “debunking” are complicated in the case of Climate Chaos agnotology because of the complexity of the Science and the effort required to understand what is known so far. I believe the public has grown skeptical of many of the claims made in the name of ‘science’ after being inundated with Corporate news releases and the news releases from our Corporate Universities cascading out of their public relations departments touting ‘scientific’ reports of miracle drugs, foods to eat, foods to avoid, and magical solutions to age-old problems. Anyone who tries to investigate a claim by reading the scientific papers that triggered a press release is met with densely-written, obscure, jargon-thick prose, often peppered with equations, which I believe even specialists in the field in question find difficult to parse. This leaves a poor layman in the position of believing the words in the press release — succumbing to argument ad verecundium — or trying to make sense of some of the gibberish that finds its way into the scientific literature, or at least finds place as a pdf file downloadable from a source of sometimes dubious provenance. Denial is a very easy solution to this conundrum, particularly in the case Climate Chaos where some of the Scientific studies indicate some especially dire consequences in what they report.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      I have different objections to “How to Counter Misinformation”. The President goes about spouting misinformation. “The political press’s answer has been to double-down on fact-checking articles to correct the record.” The Anthropology link explains how the fact-checking articles go about things in the wrong way. That’s all fine … but why shouldn’t the contradictions in the President’s pronouncements be contained in the same piece that reports them instead of in a follow-up fact-checking piece — no matter how that fact-checking piece may be written or structured? Most, I’m tempted to say all, of the ‘facts’ in contention in most of our President’s statements do not require lengthy investigation for their refutation, and addressing your comment I don’t think most of those facts or their refutations involve much in the way of subjective meanings.

      I think the ‘misinformation’ referred to in the Anthropology article might reasonably include statements which later require a retraction. I am far less concerned by the form and format of retractions than I am by their locations in a newspaper or other media source relative to where the falsehoods were perpetrated — the front-page story retracted several days later on a page-eight retraction.

      Just to be ornery … I suppose your objection that “fact-checking” elevates an evaluation by one group over that of another may be true in some cases, particularly those involving the MSM, but I think of most fact checking in terms fairly simple statements and contractions:
      “The president and top administration officials say U.S. laws or court rulings are forcing them to separate families that are caught trying to cross the southern border.”
      “No law or court ruling mandates family separations.”
      The order of the statements affects their impact on readers but I have trouble seeing either statement in terms of an evaluation by one group over that of another.

      John Cook and Skeptical Science operate within a limited domain of carefully constructed climate change agnotology. I try to build mental models for how the world works and I look for the meaning in them. Meanings help me grasp function and utility, and motivate my efforts to understand how the world works. Without meanings, facts are just facts. Trump tweets are simple contradictions of easily verified fact or falsehood, and definitely not in the same league with climate agnotology.

      Do journalists provide short-cuts to meaning? I think they provide shortcuts certainly but ‘meaning’ isn’t the first word that comes to mind to describe what they provide shortcuts to. You assert that the MSM teaches the “meaning” of a consumer product before and often without teaching of its functionally, its utility. Advertising makes no pretense of teaching either meaning, or functionality, or utility other than as adjuncts to motivating consumers to purchase the product. But how do you discuss advertising with fact-checking? I suppose political journalism is not too different from advertising in many ways but fact-checking seems alien to both.

      “The techniques and methods of professional journalism (or science!) that establish what constitutes a fact and distinguishes a fact from ‘meaning’ or someone’s subjective evaluation or interested preferences are left aside and that’s really, really dangerous.” The anthropology-news article prescribes a propaganda technique? The technique description you cited sounds to me like a technique for exposition, a rhetorical technique. Propaganda makes full use of rhetorical technique but rhetorical technique, particularly a technique which I think derives as much from pedagogy as rhetoric, is not the same as propaganda.

      [“conservation of cognitive capacity” — is that nice way to suggest stupid?]

  15. diptherio

    Payday lenders still kicking ass since shutdown doesn’t affect military

    Columbus, Ga. — Tensions are high throughout the government with the current shutdown, but payday lenders outside the gates of military installations across the country are doing absolutely fabulous, sources confirmed today.

    As more and more service members are brought home from the current conflicts, they find themselves wanting to buy $1,349 worth of alcohol in a single night. There is really only one way for a soldier to get their hands on that kind of money semi-legally, and outlets with exorbitant interest rates are only more than willing to help.

    “Phew! We were sorta worried about it all back there,” said Paul Sunders, a payday lender that prefers to be called Eagle, outside of Fort Benning, Georgia. “If those kids stop getting paid, it becomes a real mess for us.”

    1. Hameloose Cannon

      “I say good business is where you find it.” as Dick Jones said. An opportunist soldier always borrows as much money as possible. If you come home in a box, you come out ahead: you don’t have to pay it back. If your creditor gets it: you don’t have to pay ’em back. An opportunist soldier never loans money, because if either of you die, guess who’s behind. –This is the sad saga of human mortality. Which is what makes a popular tale about resurrection so subversive…Robocop. And the Gospels, too, I suppose.

  16. pjay

    The Baffler article on Bernie was great (good ole Baffler). Have to give Nippersdad a nod for posting the link yesterday, along with another quote that captures the author’s feelings pretty well:

    “No, its’ Bernie or bust. I don’t care if we have to roll him out on a hand truck and sprinkle cocaine into his coleslaw before every speech. If he dies mid run, we’ll stuff him full of sawdust, shove a hand up his ass and operate him like a goddamn muppet.”

    Love the quote, and the article.

      1. pjay

        Read the article and you’ll get it. It’s not necessarily my own sentiment, but I love the spirit.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Thanks, perhaps I will, if the quote is different or does not represent/capture the article.

      2. Big River Bandido

        Among the available options, there is no credible, acceptable substitute for many on the left.

        If the Democrats’ nominee is not named Sanders, I won’t be voting for them. Probably there are enough voters in WI, IA, MN, MI, OH and PA who feel the same way. And we know how that turns out.

  17. diptherio

    Never thought I’d say this, but I think it should probably be mandatory for all candidates for political office to go on a Joe Rogan podcast. The format is great for getting to the meat of topics (2+ hour conversations), and Rogan’s audience is large and about as salt-of-the-earth as you can get. It’s usually pretty clear when someone’s being genuine, and conversely when they’re putting on a show (cf. Elon Musk). It also gives people enough rope to hang themselves, a la Milo Yiannapolis (and Elon again), which is also a public benefit, imho.

    1. nippersdad

      That was a great interview!….I found myself taking notes. She sounds polished and well versed on Progressive topics of concern. She seemed to answer virtually all of them flawlessly.

      Four things that stood out for me, though.

      In the entire interview she only mentioned Israel once, in response to why so many legislators view Iran with suspicion. This after having made the argument about Saudi Arabia being an awful ally that radicalizes the neighborhood and that we should dump them.

      She seems to have bought the Russia Gate psyop hook line and sinker. Mention of Russian clickbait farms but no mention of CTR? I would have loved to get her take on the Integrity Initiative, or the repeal of Smith/Mundt,………..She did, however, make the point that we should look at our own house before casting stones, so there was that.

      And it was interesting that given a direct question about why students couldn’t discharge their debts in bankruptcy proceedings she couldn’t choke out that it was Biden’s bankruptcy bill that did the deed. Something to look forward to during on the campaign trail?

      And I thought it was interesting that she laid a lot of blame for our health problems on what people eat, but thought that better nutritional education of doctors, rather than addressing our subsidized Big Ag sectors, was the first line of defense.

      All in all, very interesting and well worth watching.

      1. Richard

        Did Rogan ask her about her position on torture? She gave a response a couple years ago, that K. Kulinski just covered when reviewing her pros and cons. It was pretty awful, using the good old “ticking time bomb” scenario to justify an willingness to torture other human beings.
        I’ve been sticking up for Tulsi here the last few days, and there is a lot to appreciate with her. She didn’t truck with the clinton wing in ’16, and she has been a strong non-interventionist voice, sometimes close to the only one among legislators. But I hope she’s evolved on this issue (as she seems to have elsewhere, like LBGTQ); I find it very troubling.

        1. nippersdad

          I just saw the Kulinski segment as well and you are right, she didn’t do herself any favors with that one.

          No, she didn’t mention it in the Rogan interview. The closest she came was discussing Saudi Arabia and its’ influence.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > the repeal of Smith/Mundt


        The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012, which was contained within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013 (section 1078 (a)) amended the United States Information and Educational Exchange Act of 1948 and the Foreign Relations Authorization Act of 1987, allowing for materials produced by the State Department and the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to be available within the United States.[1][2]

        (You’ll notice that the “Fact Check” box in the right-hand sidebar of Google News contains information from Polygraph.info, “a fact-checking website produced by Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL),” hence (could be) domestic propaganda.)

        From “U.S. Repeals Propaganda Ban, Spreads Government-Made News to Americans” [Foreign Policy]:

        if anyone needed a reminder of the dangers of domestic propaganda efforts, the past 12 months provided ample reasons. Last year, two USA Today journalists were ensnared in a propaganda campaign after reporting about millions of dollars in back taxes owed by the Pentagon’s top propaganda contractor in Afghanistan. Eventually, one of the co-owners of the firm confessed to creating phony websites and Twitter accounts to smear the journalists anonymously. Additionally, just this month, the Washington Post exposed a counter-propaganda program by the Pentagon that recommended posting comments on a U.S. website run by a Somali expat with readers opposing al-Shabab. “Today, the military is more focused on manipulating news and commentary on the Internet, especially social media, by posting material and images without necessarily claiming ownership,” reported the Post.

        That’s two domestic propaganda efforts I hadn’t known about, and I do try to keep track. If you spot a roach in your kitchen, you can be sure it’s not the only one….

        So thanks, Obama!

        1. pjay

          Just caught this comment this morning. Thanks for posting it Lambert. I don’t think the Smith-Mundt repeal has received anything like the attention it should. Given all the media BS that started appearing soon after, it is pretty clear what it was about. There has always been propaganda in the MSM, but as you have pointed out before, now it’s like they don’t even have to pretend.

  18. Louis Fyne

    —To Take Back the Map, Democrats Need a Plan to Revive Heartland Cities”—

    First step, break up each of the top ten banks by assets so that each is no bigger than the current #11 (at $200 billion-ish).

    JP Morgan at #1 is 10x the size of BB&T at #11. https://www.federalreserve.gov/releases/lbr/current/

    not holding my breath. even this relatively simple first step is an anathema to DC Dems and CNN/MSNBC.

  19. rjs

    just want to clarify an item in this morning’s links (that i’m just getting to)

    the article at Stat says Trump falsely claims ‘drug prices declined in 2018’
    however, Trump was right this time, they have declined 0.6% year over year…
    this is from Friday’s CPI report:
    scroll down a bit past halfway to “Medical care commodities”

  20. Alex morfesis

    Auto manufacturers warped American mindset ? When Moody’s and s&p see an excess capacity to local market in Germany or South Korea that is a good thing called exporting capacity…

    But in America…??

    Bad doggie…!!!

    1. Summer

      “That leaves automakers with excess factory capacity that can turn out about 3 million more vehicles than buyers want. And overcapacity is precisely what spurred losses the last time a recession wracked the industry…”

      Between the USA and the rest of the world,
      I’m sure the cars are “wanted” and even needed.
      In the recession alot of people lost cars they “wanted.”
      I wouldn’t attribute it all to lack of “want,” but all of the thigs that may hinder purchase here or the rest of the world.

  21. The Rev Kev

    “China has a lot more to lose than the US in trade war, says Credit Suisse”

    A US-China trade war strikes me as a really bad idea as in the people that are pushing it will never have to suffer the consequences of it if it all goes wrong. They might get promoted up or go over to a think tank but will never, ever be called out on their mistake in public. Sorta like the people that said that invading Iraq was such a good idea. If it goes full bore, in the end you will have a western guy in a dirty torn suit coming across a Chinese guy coming from his ruins and with the backside out of his trousers and they will ask each other

    “Any idea on who won the trade war?”

    1. Darthbobber

      Hmm…I think she’s wrong about whether mainstream (as in establishment, as in not the ACTUAL mainstream) acceptance of Sanders and AOC actually exists. Efforts to marginalize the one and marginalize or coopt the other have been ongoing. The list of hit pieces directed at Sanders is significantly longer than an equivalent list of such pieces directed at Gabbard. In fact, they’re so commonplace they’ve pretty much become white noise.

  22. anon in so cal

    Moon of Alabama:

    “The Trump-Russia Scam – How Obama Enabled The FBI To Spy On Trump”

    “….After Comey was fired, the FBI made a very hasty move, without reasonable suspicion and without informing the Justice Department, to launch a counter-intelligence operation involving the sitting president and his administration. What was the real purpose of this move?

    Initiating a counter-intelligence investigation, for which there was no basis, gave the FBI, and later the Mueller investigation, unfettered access to NSA ‘signals intelligence’ that could then possibly be used to incriminate Trump or his associates.

    It was the Obama administration which had given the FBI access to this tool:

    ….With the changes in EO 12333 Obama gave the FBI the ability to launch a world wide snooping operation against the incoming Trump administration under the guise of a ‘counter-intelligence’ operation. The hasty FBI move after Comey was fired activated this instrument. The Mueller investigation has since used it extensively. ‘Crimes’ revealed through the snooping operation are turned over to the Justice Department.

    The NYT claim that the counter-intelligence investigation was initiated because of reasonable suspicion of Russian influence over Trump is nonsense. It was initiated to get access to a set of tools that would allow unlimited access to communication of Trump and anyone related to him. It was Obama who on his way out of the door gave the FBI these capabilities.”


    1. John

      Wow. I guess there are still Trump/Russia deniers out there. With no access to internal FBI procedures or documents he makes some strong claims about how the FBI took action without following procedure and without evidence. On the other hand, many experienced people see Trump as a serious threat to the security of the United States.

      Two examples:
      David Laufman, former chief of the DOJ’s counterintelligence and export control section, talks with Rachel Maddow about why he’s speaking out about the risk posed by Donald Trump to the national security of the United States.
      A retired four-star Army general said that he thinks President Trump is a “serious threat to US national security” because the president “is refusing to protect vital US interests from active Russian attacks.”

      Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey tweeted Friday that “it is apparent that he is for some unknown reason under the sway of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.”

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Wow. I would have thought an NC commenter would have known better than to have used a phrase like “Trump/Russia” as if it had content. I confess I haven’t followed the ongoing controversies in as much detail as I would like to have, because once you eliminate stories contaminated by anonymous sources from the intelligence community, and from that residue, remove stories where not wanting to reboot the Cold War is evidence of collusion, it’s not clear what’s left.

        When and if the Mueller report is made public, we’ll know what hard evidence there really is, regardless of what aspect of “Trump/Russia” is being considered. Some links may help:

        That sophisticated, specific Russian 2016 voter targeting effort doesn’t seem to exist WaPo

        The Manafort Revelation Is Not a Smoking Gun The Nation

        The Utility of the RussiaGate Conspiracy FAIR

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      That Moon of Alabama piece is excellent; no wonder a link to it attracted enforcement. It’s particularly amusing that the horrid @HoarseWisperer is hoist on his own petard.

  23. Summer


    “These tech companies are not simply investing in STEM education to equip students with the skills needed to succeed in the twenty-first century out of the goodness of their hearts. Nor do they just want a cut out of the growing market of education, which for private education alone brought in $68 billion in revenue as of last year. With the help of the White House, tech companies want to get young people trained in computer science to build an army of reserve tech labor…”

    File under “Duh.” Everytime one hears an argument for more STEM, ask exactly how many coders and scientists are needed, doing exactly what, and where?

    I’d imagine that a good deal of this education is nothing more than enough basics so that workers can be their own IT help desk. I hardly think they are trying to create millions of “genius” coders (who may know how to audit systems).

    1. jrs

      I have noticed more and more people get graduate degrees to stay employed in tech. And meanwhile we get useless promises of how bright the tech field is (just go to a bootcamp), and increasingly useless debates even about 4 year degrees as well, as yes that might get you started in the field, maybe, but you better get a masters if you wish to continue employed past youth it seems.

  24. Carolinian

    That Motherboard article is probably way more than we need to know about RSS but if RSS is dying out then someone should tell the Naked Capitalism blog where it is still alive and kicking (and thank you very much). One big advantage of RSS is that it lists the latest articles on any site first and therefore makes it easy to check on updates without spending so much time roaming the web. A remarkable proportion of the sites that I, at least, visit still support RSS. Long may it wave.

    1. rfdawn

      Indeed. And it’s a regular seasonal experience for me now to see most of my other RSS sources dry up for a time as Naked Capitalism keeps on delivering. These people need to take more holidays!

  25. Synoia

    “BP just discovered a billion barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico”

    Cause they did. Were they the floating ones?

  26. Tomonthebeach

    PayPal Quietly Took Over the Checkout Button but I would argue that the reason is far different from making online purchases easy. PayPal is safer. When dealing with politicians who want donations, eBay hustlers, small online franchises, etc. I am reticent to provide them with my credit card # – for good reason – fraud risk. At least one of our 4 cards gets hit with fraud every year requiring closing the card, getting a replacement, and then hours changing card info on auto-bill-pay sites that charge to that card – you know, like Nakedcapitalism.com :-)

    1. Observer

      Agree Tomonthebeach. I paid a one-time $10 for somebody, and then I started getting $10 taken out of something “Blue.” I had been put on some ‘forever’ plan. I tried to remove the source, but couldn’t. They gave me a phone # but no on answered. I finally called my credit card and manually disabled Mr. “Blue.” Will never use a credit card online for donations of any kind.

  27. allan

    Warren Wants Ethics Probe Into Mulvaney’s USC Job Hunt [Daily Beast]

    Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), a presumptive 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, is asking ethics officials to examine whether acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney violated federal law by pursuing a job as the president of the University of South Carolina.

    Provisions of that law, the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act, “are designed to stop officials from using their positions to benefit potential employers in order to increase the likelihood of obtaining post-government employment,” Warren wrote in a letter on Tuesday to ethics lawyers for the White House Office of Management and Budget, where Mulvaney still serves as director, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which he led until December.

    The rules at issue bar senior federal officials from “directly negotiat[ing]…any agreement of future employment or compensation” without notifying their agencies’ ethics officers in writing within three days. …

    Why should Covington & Burling have a lock on the revolving door?

  28. Rajesh K

    AWS and MongoDB. Author does not really understand software. Where do I even start? The author is also consuming too much AWS kool aid.
    1. “The storage layer is distributed, fault-tolerant, and self-healing, giving you the the performance, scalability, and availability needed to run production-scale MongoDB workloads.” This probably refers to Amazon S3. The scalability and availability is true but S3 can be SLOW. There’s also the issue of making modifications and not seeing it immediately. There’s a whole big area of Computer Science called Distributed Systems where these issues are discussed in detail. Basically you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    2. The author argues that for every company there’s no differentiation possible for “performance, scalability, and availability”. That’s also not true. In fact Amazon’s one solution for everything is a double edged sword.
    3. Cost is also an issue, otherwise companies like Groupon wouldn’t have left AWS and Dropbox wouldn’t have their storage layer outside AWS. In fact a company like Dropbox is a perfect additional argument for 2. Both AWS S3 and DropBox are “storage” solutions, but their characteristics obviously differ i.e. DropBox can not use S3 without a the later having to go through a major software rewrite.

    Here’s the most fatal argument though. There’s no magic in software. AWS can not make a software scalable if the underlying software itself is not scalable. Read that again. Scalability has to be built into the underlying software at the design phase, so this argument “In fact, even MongoDB’s managed service runs on the three giants: it simply makes no sense to go it alone.”, does not make sense. As long as MongoDB is designed to scale horizontally, then running it in any of the Big 3 would present no issues. Plenty of companies install software from Oracle, etc in AWS. The Oracle database does NOT scale horizontally. No amount of AWS enablement changes that. Same with performance. You want a fast Oracle database, you’ve got to have a box that’s essentially a beast, but that’s simply using a bigger box. AWS does help with that, but not in a technical way (see my final point) that automagically makes the software goes faster. MySQL too wasn’t scalable, so AWS had to tinker around with it and they now have their own solution called Amazon Aurora. The internal engine though is still MySQL InnoDB, which is licensed under GPL.

    As an AWS user, the value of AWS really relies in quick deployment/retirement of machines. In a typical IT Datacenter environment, buying a new component or even a new server can take months, what with all the paperwork, etc. I never understand myself why that is the case. In AWS, all you need to do is simply specify additional machines if need be with what software you want for it which is all automated. That’s what’s valuable. For power AWS users, additional utility can be gained if you happen to use a lot of the AWS stack since there’s smooth integration between them, but I consider those to be crossing the ts and dotting the is. It’s useful, but has nothing to do with scalability, etc.

    1. Mark Alexander

      the value of AWS really relies in quick deployment/retirement of machines

      AWS has no monopoly on this. I use Linode for my libraries’ Debian instances, and deployment of a new virtual machine is amazingly easy and quick: I decide on the size of the VM and the operating system, and a minute later it’s ready for ssh root access.

      (Note: I have no financial interest in Linode. I looked into AWS at one point and decided that it sucked both in utility and cost for my admittedly modest purposes, not to mention the fact that Amazon is a truly evil corporation.)

      1. Rajesh K

        You are talking about virtual machines. I am talking about physical ones. Some applications are better off having its own box. Also security considerations might play an issue. Colocated VMs might give some auditors fits. You and I might understand the fine technical details, but these auditors don’t.

  29. Unna

    Thanks for the update on Ed Buck. From what I’ve read so far, courtesy of NC, I’m glad the pressure is being kept on Buck and TPTB with reports of other young black men fitting a common profile now saying much the same thing which is that Buck may be a guy who is deriving perverse gratification from injecting young black men with meth which so far has resulted in two deaths.

    Thinking more about this, I wonder whose fingerprints are all over the baggies, the pipes, and the syringes. That might settle a lot as to why Buck hasn’t yet been charged with anything. Or alternatively, as Lambert says, require a lot of ‘splainin’ by a lot of people. If Buck’s prints are all over everything then somebody needs to explain why he hasn’t been charged even with felony possession. Only in the case that it’s only Mr. Moore’s prints all over everything might it become a different situation. But in light of the fairly consistent stories of the young men who associated with Ed Buck, what are then chances of that?

    This seems like, could just be, a situation, as Jimmy Dore would say, of someone who has all the money and all the power against a group of young men with no money and no power. Let’s see what if anything ever happens to Ed Buck. I hope more information on this comes out. Maybe like his lawyer says, Ed Buck is just an innocent and generous rich guy who provides shelter for homeless young men.

  30. RMO

    “Fortnite’s Digital Goods Are Key to the Future of Global Trade” “global data flows that they argued generated $2.8 trillion in economic output in 2014 alone and was doing more to benefit the world economy than the stalling international trade in physical goods.”

    So… let them eat 0’s and 1’s?

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