By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
Holder: “Former Attorney General Eric Holder Close To 2020 Decision As He Heads To Iowa” [NPR]. “Holder, who served for six years under former President Barack Obama, will make a decision on a White House run in the next two weeks. Meanwhile, the speech he plans to give at Drake University Law School in Des Moines certainly sounds like the building blocks of a possible campaign with a heavy condemnation of President Trump. “‘Together, we must call out — and throw out — public officials who seek power by bringing out the worst in us. Now in that effort — but not at the expense of truth telling or the protection of treasured principles,’ Holder will say.” • I think I threw up a little in my mouth. Foreclosure victims should picket the guy.
Harris (1): “Sens. Lee and Harris Introduce Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act” [Mike Lee]. “Sens. Mike Lee (R-UT) and (D-CA) introduced the Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act Wednesday, a bill that would remove per-country caps for employment-based green cards… The Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act also increases the per-country caps for family-sponsored green cards from 7 percent to 15 percent… The bill has also been endorsed by Immigration Voice, Compete America Coalition, the Information Technology Industry Council, Google, Microsoft, , La Raza, and many others.” • Anybody who thinks there’s no connection between immigration and labor arbitrage should talk to some U.S. tech workers about H1B.
Harris (2): “Kamala Harris supported 2008 San Francisco policy that reported arrested undocumented juveniles to ICE” [CNN]. “As district attorney of San Francisco, Kamala Harris supported a city policy that required law enforcement to turn over undocumented juvenile immigrants to federal immigration authorities if they were arrested and suspected of committing a felony, regardless of whether they were actually convicted of a crime…. In a statement to CNN, Harris campaign spokesman Ian Sams said that the ‘policy was intended to protect the sanctuary status of San Francisco and to ensure local police, who needed to have strong relationships with the communities they serve regardless of immigration status, were not forced to operate as immigration agents, which is the responsibility of the federal government. Looking back, this policy could have been applied more fairly.'” • I think that “Looking back, this policy could have been applied more fairly” is a keeper…
Kamala Harris claims to have smoked pot in college while listening to Tupac and Snoop.
Tupac's first album came out in 1991.
Snoop's first album came out in 1993.
Kamala Harris graduated college in 1986.
— all about the Benjamins baby 🎶 (@joshieecs) February 11, 2019
Harris (4), more pointedly:
Tired: "Okay she lied, she was pandering and deflecting in a weird way too, because she's pretending that she did something (smoking pot) that she prosecuted people for doing"
Wired: "Harris got homemade mix tapes from Tupac and Snoop 5-7 years before they got record deals" pic.twitter.com/m30MgMJ0f1
— Thomas! (@Thomasurlatoile) February 13, 2019
I’m not sure I could remember everything I did in college, and then there’s the familiar effect of time dilation. But I’m highlighting this because (as we saw yesterday) “It’s all about the Benjamins baby 🎶” is also a hip-hip reference. So perhaps 2020 will be our first hip-hop election? So, musical interlude:
Holy moley, the rhythm guitar!
“Michael Bloomberg’s $500 million anti-Trump moonshot” [Politico]. “Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg is preparing to spend at least $500 million from his own pocket to deny President Donald Trump a second term, according to Democratic operatives briefed on his plans.” • Grifters gotta grift. I wish squillionaires would stop meddling with our elections, though.
New Cold War
“Senate has uncovered no direct evidence of conspiracy between Trump campaign and Russia” [NBC News]. “WASHINGTON — After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to bo.” • Of course, we don’t know what the Mueller report will say.
to the pending loss of her meal ticket:
"Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats Dispute Claims That Russia Probe Found No Collusion"https://t.co/Ndc4v3Puhy
— Rachel Maddow MSNBC (@maddow) February 13, 2019
Subtweeting NBC with a Mother Jones link? That’s weak.
“Democratic leaders not looking to punish Ilhan Omar after her apology for anti-Semitic remarks” [Roll Call]. “”I don’t think she’s anti-Semitic,’ [Steny Hoyer said]. ‘She did apologize. The key will be that when we make a mistake like that, conscious or unconscious, that we don’t repeat it. That will be the proof of the pudding.’ Asked if Democratic leaders would consider stripping Omar of her committee assignments like Republican leaders did when Rep. Steve King made remarks questioning when white supremacy became offensive, Hoyer said, ‘Of course not.'” • Well, that’s what Hoyer says now.
Given that, as Hoyer makes clear, committee assignments are at stake, what follows understandable. But:
Unlike this President, Rep. @IlhanMN demonstrated a capacity to acknowledge pain & apologize, use the opportunity to learn abt history of antisemitism,+grow from it while clarifying her stance.
I’m also inspired by Jewish leadership who brought her in, not push her out, to heal. https://t.co/ONRegDJK2S
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 12, 2019
There have been two instances I can think of recently where liberal Democrats really played smash-mouth politics. One was at the DNC, when Obama stood up Perez, defenestrated Ellison*, and Perez and company then purged all Sanders supporters from the Rules and Bylaws Commmittee, where any complaints about 2020 election rigging would end up. And the second is when both Democrats and Republicans co-operated to beat down Ilhan Omar for her Kinsley gaffe** on AIPAC, forced her to grovel, and then forced her to make a hostage-style apology video. Both incidents were all and only about the institutional power of liberal Democrats. Note that liberal Democrats do not play smash-mouth politics on, say, #MedicareForAll. At least not for it. All in all, a wonderfully clarifying episode. NOTE * Ellison, like Omar, is Muslim. So much for 2020 Michigan turnout. ** Kinsley Gaffe: “The term comes from journalist Michael Kinsley, who said, ‘A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth – some obvious truth he isn’t supposed to say.'” One quiet proof of liberal Democrat dominance of the commanding heights of the media is that none of the political junkies saw fit to throw Omar’s (true) statement into this very well-known conceptual bucket; normally, this is the kind of insider jargon reveal that pundits love.
UPDATE Then again:
Shock doesn’t begin to cover it.
Today I left a hearing on homelessness & saw tons of people camped outside committee.
I turned to my staff and asked if it was a demonstration.
“No,” they said. “Lobbyists pay the homeless + others to hold their place so they can get in 1st.” pic.twitter.com/mXbgqkKp4P
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) February 13, 2019
Hard to think of anybody giving more insight into the very telling details of how America is governed than AOC.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Democrats willing to pay for 55 miles of new barrier. Trump ‘not happy.'” [McClatchy]. “Despite promising there would be no new wall, the Democrats have agreed to pay for 55 miles of new construction along the southern border, according to Republican negotiators…. The Democrats are pushing back on the Republicans’ descriptions, arguing that it’s not a ‘wall’ that will be constructed but physical barriers. They also argue that it’s not new wall since the new construction is restricted to existing designs of fencing.” • After all the hysteria…
“A Speech on Socialism at Andover” [Nathan J. Robinson, Current Affairs]. “I’m beginning here, with a basic example of an unjustified inequality, because I think it’s important to see what I might call “the socialistic instinct” starts. Jack London, of Call of the Wild fame, was a socialist, and he explains in his essay “How I Became A Socialist” that it was not because he had read Karl Marx and accepted the dialectical materialist conception of history. It was because he went out into the world, and he realized that not everyone was like himself, and that the things he told himself about why some people deserved more than others simply broke down once he actually got to know people. He says that when he was young, at first.” • London, in other words, did #fieldwork..
Consumer Price Index, January 2019: “The consumer price report has been easy for forecasters to predict: consistently flat. Overall prices, for a third straight month, were unchanged” [Econoday]. “The U.S. economy is strong and demand in the labor market appears to be well exceeding available capacity yet prices at the consumer level, now held down by low oil prices, remain very tame in what is the theme of this economic expansion and is giving the Federal Reserve the luxury to step back from further rate hikes.” And: “Using these measures, inflation was lower in January than in December on a year-over-year basis. Overall, these measures are at or above the Fed’s 2% target (Core PCE is below 2%)” [Calculated Risk].
Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, February 2019: “Soft inflation data are the day’s theme, led by no change for the consumer price index earlier this morning and now followed by a … in year-ahead inflation expectations at the business level” [Econoday]. “Whether at the business or the consumer level, inflation pressures are incremental at most having been pulled down by weakness in energy prices.”
MBA Mortgage Applications, week of February 8, 2018: “The purchase index fell for a fourth straight week and down steeply” [Econoday]. ” But citing strength in the labor market, the Mortgage Bankers’ Association expects purchase activity to pick up in the coming months.”
Commodities: “Saudi tanker company: Venezuelan cargo within sanctions exemption period” [Tanker Shipping & Trade]. “Saudi Arabia’s national tanker shipping company Bahri has hit back at an unnamed media outlet that apparently questioned one of its vessel’s activity. ‘Venezuela is a frequent loading destination for Bahri’s oil tankers, delivering cargoes to ports in India and China,’ Bahri’s statement read. ‘Hence, the recent voyage to the Port of Jose is not an exceptional or peculiar one, as lately stated by a media outlet.’ Bahri offered clarification on the voyage of its Abqaiq VLCC, saying the vessel is in ballast condition with no cargo on board, on a voyage from the Red Sea to load cargo at the Port of Jose Terminal in Venezuela. AIS information recorded by Genscape’s VesselTracker software confirms the vessel is at an anchorage off the Venezuelan coast near Puerto La Cruz.” • Hmm.
Marketing: “Sunday Strategist: Yes, Podcast Ads Are Working for MeUndies” [Bloomberg]. “You’re probably familiar with the format—the podcast host takes a quick break to pitch a product with a wink of self-awareness balanced alongside a believable anecdote. The listener is led to assume that Conan O’Brien organizes his own email campaigns and everyone is in constant need of a mattress-in-a-box. It’s advertising theater in a very awkward, off-off Broadway kind of way, but it also kind of works. The price of admission is paid; everyone’s happy. ‘For us, it resembled the same characteristics as a friend referral,’ MeUndies founder and CEO Jonathan Shokrian says.” • Everybody’s gotta eat, I guess…
What happens when Walmart shutters a store?
3 years later in this small town, the downtown still has a ways to go, but there’s a new grocery store, other shops have opened, sales at the local pharmacy have doubled, and the hardware store is up 20%. https://t.co/qQP3xhe0Jm
— Stacy Mitchell (@stacyfmitchell) February 12, 2019
More like this please.
Retail: “Amazon Recorded Video Of A Seller’s Face For Identification Purposes” [Buzzfeed]. “An Amazon seller based in Vietnam told BuzzFeed News that he was prompted to take a five-second video of his face using his computer’s webcam in January as he signed up for a seller profile. Amazon seller consultants told BuzzFeed News they believe the company may be testing video to verify seller identities to prevent the creation of multiple seller profiles, a major issue for Amazon and its ongoing battle with fake sellers and counterfeit goods…. The company, however, refused to explain its collection of sellers’ faces. ‘Amazon is always innovating to improve the seller experience,’ a company spokesperson told BuzzFeed News.” • What could go wrong?
Retail: “Hotel booking sites were misleading users. They’ve agreed to change” [CNN]. “Major travel websites including Trivago (TRVG), Expedia (EXPE), Agoda and Booking.com have agreed to change the way they do business after a UK investigation found some of them were deceiving users about hotel room prices and search results…. The regulator said that some buyers were warned that other users were looking at the same hotel, giving them a “false impression” of a room’s popularity. In other cases, the full cost of the room was not displayed.” • I always assumed all that stuff was just lies and puffery, but yes, it does show that whenever you have a digital intermediary, trust is an issue. It’s not just electronic voting machines. It’s everything!
Supply Chain: “The Post-Brexit Food Chain: ‘This Is Really, Really Scary'” [New York Times]. From January 30, still germne. “Retailers typically store no more than two weeks’ inventory.” • [gulp].
The Bezzle: “To almost no one’s surprise, Mars One is done [Updated]” [Ars Technica]. “This project, founded in 2013, said it would raise funds from fees and marketing rights in order to send humans on a one-way mission to settle the Red Planet. Now, thanks to a user on Reddit, we know that the effort has come to an apparent end. Mars One consists of two entities: the Dutch not-for-profit Mars One Foundation and the publicly traded, Swiss-based Mars One Ventures. A civil court based in Basel, Switzerland, opened bankruptcy proceedings on the latter company in mid-January. Efforts on Monday to contact officials with Mars One were not successful.” • What a shame. Perhaps Elon will be able to create a tin-can dystopia on the Red Planet all on his own.
Transportation: “Self-driving cars could actually make congestion much worse” [Business Insider]. “[A]utonomous vehicles have three choices when it comes to what to do between rides: park, go home, or circle aimlessly to kill time. ‘In practice, the decisions by AVs regarding parking location and where to park or cruise are likely to be economically driven,’ the paper says. And the cheapest option is likely to be cruising for more than 40% of trips, [said Adam Millard-Ball, University of California, Santa Cruz environmental studies professor].’
Concentration: “How to Stop Facebook’s Dangerous App Integration Ploy” [Sally Hubbard, New York Times]. From February 5, still germane. “In response to calls that Facebook be forced to divest itself of WhatsApp and Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg has instead made a strategic power grab: He intends to put Instagram, WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger onto a unified technical infrastructure…. The integration Mr. Zuckerberg plans would immunize Facebook’s monopoly power from attack. It would make breaking Instagram and WhatsApp off as independent and viable competitors much harder, and thus demands speedy action by the government before it’s too late to take the pieces apart.” • Hubbard suggests the existing FTC consent degree as a workaround for the fact that technical time is faster than regulatory time. But honestly, why aren’t we treating Facebook as the criminal enterprise it is? Facebook is not, as it were, compliant-capable.
Honey for the Bears: “A record 7 million Americans are 3 months behind on their car payments, a red flag for the economy” [WaPo] (original). “A record 7 million Americans are 90 days or more behind on their auto loan payments, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York reported Tuesday, even more than during the wake of the financial crisis….. A car loan is typically the first payment people make because a vehicle is critical to getting to work, and someone can live in a car if all else fails. When car loan delinquencies rise, it is usually a sign of significant duress among low-income and working-class Americans.” • Let them ride scooters! And maybe our wonderful labor market isn’t all that wonderful?
“How the Left Embraced Elitism” [David Brooks, New York Times]. “the Green New Deal, which is becoming the litmus test of progressive seriousness. I don’t know if it is socialism or not socialism — that’s a semantic game — but it would definitely represent the greatest centralization of power in the hands of the Washington elite in our history… The authors liken their plan to the New Deal, but the real parallel is to World War II. It is the state mobilizing as many of society’s resources as possible to wage a war on global warming and other ills…. In an alienated America, efforts to decentralize power are more effective and realistic than efforts to concentrate it in the Washington elite. ” • Remarkably, or not, Brooks provides no solution to climate change using his decentralized approach. To be fair, a hellscape of bunkers for the rich, serviced by mercenaries and robots — the default setting, if present trends continue — would be highly decentralized. But that’s not what Brooks has in mind. Or is it?
“Not all energy storage is clean – it might even increase emissions” [Environmental Defense Fund]. “Not all energy storage is clean. In fact, a growing body of research [PDF] suggests the battery boom could actually increase greenhouse emissions if not done carefully – undermining the very promise of this new technology.” • But “Market incentives can fix the problem.” Well, maybe.
“Harvard scientists found a link between smoking weed and higher sperm count” [Quartz]. “The finding, published in the journal Human Reproduction on Feb. 5, contradicts all conventional knowledge on how weed affects sperm. Analysis of 1,143 semen samples from 662 men collected between 2000 and 2017 at the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital showed that those who had smoked weed at some point in their life had a mean sperm concentration of 62.7 million sperm per milliliter (mL) of ejaculate, while men who’d avoided marijuana entirely had mean concentrations of 45.4 million/mL.” • Charles Darwin is trying to tell us something….
“Publishers weigh in on Apple’s terms in new subscription service: ‘a shitty deal'” [AdAge]. “Apple’s upcoming Spotify-style magazine subscription service, an offering with all-you-can eat access to dozens of publishers, will only pay the media partners 50 percent of the revenue, according to two senior publishing executives from different companies with knowledge of the deal. Apple plans to take half of the proceeds from $10 monthly subscriptions to the magazine service, leaving publishers to split the rest based on how many people read their stories.” • I’m sure that 19th Century farmers and railroads would both understand the nature of this deal (and it’s almost like the relations of production contradict the forces of prodution, isn’t it? I mean, how is it that the computer revolution is ending up gutting publishers and turing creators into digital sharecroppers? That certainly wasn’t the deal back when NCSA Mosaic was the browser of choice!
Maybe I should have filed this under Guillotine Watch:
I’m old enough to remember when cities provided free water fountains in parks instead of subcontracting them to “pay per fill” startups with names like “woosh” pic.twitter.com/PTz3DYQqB4
— c (@cszabla) February 11, 2019
“Degeneration and Regeneration in Worker Cooperatives” [Grass Roots Economic Organizing] (parts two and three). “Since the 1990s, the Mondragon cooperatives have significantly degenerated away from their founding worker-ownership model in at least one key respect. In the 1990s, to compete with multinational corporations, the Mondragon cooperatives adopted a strategy of ‘internationalization’ and started acquiring subsidiary businesses both in Spain and around the world. This could have been an opportunity to spread the Mondragon model of worker-ownership globally, but critically, the Mondragon cooperatives decided not to convert their new subsidiaries into sister cooperatives, but rather, they continued to administer their subsidiaries as capitalist businesses. The employees of the subsidiaries in essence became employees of the Mondragon cooperatives, rather than worker-owners in their own right. By 2007, this degeneration had progressed so far that only 29.5% of the Mondragon cooperatives’ total workforce remained members-owners. (Storey et al. 2014, cited in Bretos & Errasti 2016, 2). • Yikes! Very important!
News of the Wired
“How seeing snakes in the grass helped primates to evolve” [Aeon]. “[W]hat separates primates from other mammals most is their much greater reliance on vision as the main sensory interface with the environment. …. What were those selective pressures for primates, our lineage, that led to their having visual systems more expansive and more complex than those of other mammals? In 2006, I published a new idea that could answer that question and more: the ‘snake detection theory’. I hypothesised that when large-gaped constricting snakes appeared about 100 million years ago and began eating mammals, their predatory behaviour favoured the evolution of changes in the vision of one kind of prey, the lineage that was to become primates. In other words, the ability to see immobile predatory snakes before getting too close became a highly beneficial trait for them to have and pass on to their descendants…. Since I proposed the snake detection theory, several studies have shown that nonhuman and human primates, including young children and snake-naive infants, have a visual bias toward snakes compared with other animate objects, such as lizards, spiders, worms, birds and flowers. Psychologists have discovered that we pick out images of snakes faster or more accurately than other objects, ” • Pattern recognition!
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“Words of the day: ‘February Fair-Maids’ – regional folk-name for snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis); also ‘Eve’s Tear’, ‘dewdrops’, ‘Mary’s Tapers.'”
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