2:00PM Water Cooler 6/20/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, as Yves approaches escape velocity from New York, I will be taking on more posting duties for the next week or so; I hope I don’t run out of things to say. However, because my sleep cycle is what it is, my posting duties will conflict with my Water Cooler duties. So I will always put something up at 2:00, but the complete entity — The Full Cleveland, as it were (no offense, I hope, to our active and welcoming Cleveland readers) — will appear at random times later than that. –lambert

While I complete my Libra roundup, here is a conversation starter:

The WaPo article, which seems well-attested, concludes:

As motivation, [chiropractor] David Shahar] suggested reaching a hand around to the lower rear of the skull. Those who have the hornlike feature can probably feel it.

News you can use!

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And now a more complete Water Cooler!


“Apple explores moving 15-30% of production capacity from China: Nikkei” [Reuters]. “(Reuters) – Apple Inc has asked its major suppliers to assess the cost implications of moving 15%-30% of their production capacity from China to Southeast Asia as it prepares for a restructuring of its supply chain…. Apple’s request was a result of the extended Sino-U.S. trade dispute, but a trade resolution will not lead to a change in the company’s decision…. The iPhone maker has decided the risks of depending heavily on manufacturing in China are too great and even rising, it said.”


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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination” [RealClearPolitics] (average of five polls). As of June 18: Biden down 31.9% (32%) and Sanders down 15.0% (15.2%). Warren steady 11.9% (11.9%), Buttigieg up 7.1% (7.%), others Brownian motion, though maybe not Harris, who just pulled even with Buttigieg. Of course, it’s absurd to track minute fluctuations at this point.

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Biden (D)(1): “Frontrunner or dead man walking: What we talk about when we talk about Joe Biden” [Salon (RH)]. “The point is that Biden and his advisers clearly believe that none of the left-wing social media caterwauling over this stuff will stick to him, and that “regular” Democratic voters out there in the places he claims to understand — desperate for the safety of an Obama-adjacent white man who can theoretically beat Donald Trump — simply don’t care what he says or to whom. That theory may or may not be correct, but it strikes me as a funhouse-mirror reflection of Trump’s famous premise that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose his supporters. Biden takes a similar view of the current political landscape, through a less overtly noxious filter.” • GZF.

Biden (D)(2): “Billionaire GOP donor and Trump supporter says he rejected Joe Biden’s request for fundraising help” [CNBC]. “Democratic front-runner Joe Biden on Monday appealed to a billionaire Republican donor for fundraising help in his presidential campaign. But the financier, Trump-supporting New York supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis, declined.” • GZF.

Biden (D)(3): “Joe Biden, Time Traveler” [Politico]. “It is by now a commonplace to note the advantages Biden brings to the race come with liabilities. His experience makes him a comforting familiar figure to most Democrats, but it also means he must explain parts of his career that took place when the political climate was very different from now. The greater liability, however, may not lie in his decades of voting records or his past opposition to busing or support for the Hyde Amendment, but in the sense that he is restoring a Democratic Party that younger liberals want to bury. Biden’s future depends on his capacity to free himself from the past that made him.” • Isn’t it sensible to appeal to “most Democrats” as opposed to “younger liberals”? If that’s where the votes are…

Booker (D)(1): “Has Booker’s Jersey political experience prepared him to take on Trump?” [Roll Call]. Lots of interesting detail. Concluding: “Even [former Mayor Sharpe] James, who blames Booker for his 2008 fraud conviction and favors former vice president Joe Biden in the primary, isn’t saying no to voting for him. ‘If he wins the primary, I’ll support him for president. He’ll bring prestige and visibility to the city of Newark that truly needs it,’ he said. ‘And maybe I get to carry his bag for a couple of trips.'” • No bitterness there!

Buttigieg (D)(1): “Buttigieg says he would be open to ‘independent’ probe of officer-involved shooting” [Politico]. “Buttigieg has put his rising presidential campaign on pause, including canceling several fundraisers and events, while he deals with the fallout from the shooting. He returned to South Bend to hold an emergency news conference and to meet with community leaders, acting swiftly to make changes to the city’s body camera policy for police. Earlier this week, he ordered that all body-worn cameras be recording during any work-related interactions between officers and civilians.” • Any Hoosiers with comments on this?

Sanders (D)(1): “Sanders wants Democrats to think that Warren’s gains are a function of moderates. They aren’t.” [Phili Bump, WaPo]. “But neither the Monmouth nor Quinnipiac polls suggest the idea that moderate Democrats are lining up behind Warren and powering her improving position in the primary race. If there’s one lesson that Sanders’s supporters might have learned in 2016, it was that the views of members of the party establishment don’t carry as much weight as might have been assumed.” • Which is what the Sanders tweet to which Bump is responding says, assuming you equate “corporate wing” with “party establisment.” And not that I harbor grudges, but Bump is the dude who thought he had a scoop-worthy gotcha when he averaged Sanders’ donations and found they came (IRRC) to $27.7, instead of the $27 Sanders was using in his stump speech.

Trump (R)(1): “What Are the Chances of Trump Being Reëlected?” [John Cassidy, The New Yorker]. “[E]ven if white non-college voters did make up forty-four per cent of the 2020 electorate, and he got two-thirds of their support again, it would leave him at roughly thirty per cent of the over-all vote. To win, he also has to attract the support of other groups, such as whites with college degrees, Independents, and Latinos. But the message of the 2018 midterms, and of recent opinion polls, is that many people in these groups have had their fill of him and want him gone… With opinions about Trump already so firmly set on all sides, it isn’t certain that prior experience will provide much of a guide to this election. Indeed, nothing is certain, except that there is a very long way to go, and that the election will be bitterly fought. Buckle up.” • Speculating freely, could Trump be pursuing a mirror image of Sanders’ strategy? Turning non-voters into voters?

Trump (R)(2): “Exclusive: Trump Says the Mueller Investigation Hurt His Approval But Fired Up His Base” [Time]. “‘Based on the economy, I should be up 15 or 20 points higher,’ Trump told TIME, arguing that he has a natural base of 45% or 46%. ‘The thing that I have that nobody’s ever had before, from the day I came down the escalator, I have had a phony witch hunt against me … I think it’s cost me.'”

Warren (D)(1): “Warren emerges as potential compromise nominee” [Politico]. “Sanders continues to face significant resistance from within the party — and nowhere more so than among the moderates and establishment players who blanch at his talk of democratic socialism. Warren, on the other hand, is gaining traction among those who once rejected her muscular vision of liberalism. She’s drawn notice for her wide-ranging ‘I have a plan for that’ policy playbook, which has just enough growth-and-opportunity, center-left measures to earn her a serious look from former detractors. The Massachusetts senator may be out of sync with party centrists, but she’s drawn at least one sharp line with Sanders that is resonating with prominent moderate voices as she surges into the top tier in national and early state polls. ‘One is a Democratic capitalist narrative,’ said Matt Bennett, a co-founder of Third Way, a centrist think tank that convened a conference of party insiders in South Carolina this week designed to warn about the risks of a nominee whose views are out of the political mainstream. ‘The other is a socialist narrative.'” • Given that Warren refused to endorse #MedicareForAll, and Big Pharma money funds Third Way, this is not surprising.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Want to beat Trump? Learn from workers in Republican states” [Verso]. “The recent surge of teachers’ strikes across the United States, from Los Angeles to Arizona, Oklahoma, and West Virginia, powerfully demonstrates what recent research has found: that a progressive, bipartisan working-class majority already exists in the US. Mobilizing that majority requires that Democrats present a viable alternative to a discredited status quo. The real winning strategy in the race for president won’t be a centrist one – it will be a bold anti-corporate campaign oriented around working people’s most pressing needs. In 2018 and again in 2019, millions of teachers, parents, and students in conservative states, including massive numbers of Republicans and independents, participated in walkouts to demand major pay raises, increased funding for schools, and an end to billionaire-funded privatization schemes. Many of the strikers belonged to the ‘white working class’ that liberal elites wrongly blamed for Trump’s election. When given the opportunity to fight for an issue that directly affected them or their children, educators and parents — white, Latino, and African American alike — put partisan labels aside and supported illegal strikes to protest Republican legislators and the corporations that benefited from their anti-tax, anti-education policies. Due in large part to massive public support, the strikes won victory after victory.” • But but — they’re deplorables!

Stats Watch

Leading Indicators, May 2019: “The index of leading economic indicators continues to trend lower and increasingly signals second-half slowing for the US economy” [Econoday]. • Subject to backward revision, so not necessarily all that leading.

Jobless Claims, week of June 15, 2019: “Jobless claims never did signal the weakness in May payroll growth and they aren’t signaling any weakness for June payroll growth either” [Econoday]. • Note that this is not an aggregate indicator (those are horrible) but a coincident, snapshot indicator; if a recession has already begun, we would expect this number to jump.

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, June 2019: “Like Monday’s Empire State report that signaled a significant downdraft in manufacturing this month, the Philadelphia Fed’s index likewise came in below Econoday’s consensus range” [Econoday]. “Yet outside of the headline which is not a composite but a general sentiment reading based on a single question, details in today’s report are less alarming…. The subtext of this report as well as Empire State… is the impact, whether psychological or tangible, of heightened trade tensions specifically between the US and China. Judging at least by the headlines of the two reports, the psychological impact is substantial.” • Animal spirits….

Current Account, Q1 2019: “a larger-than-expected deficit”, “favorable compared to… the fourth quarter” [Econoday].

The Bezzle: “A court has revealed the sorry state of a Chinese bike-sharing startup once worth $2 billion” [Quartz]. “A Chinese court has ruled that bike-sharing startup Ofo, once valued at upwards of $2 billion, has no ability to pay its massive debts to either suppliers and users, adding another chapter to a cautionary tale for investors in China’s frothy startup sector. Ofo ‘has basically no assets‘ link in Chinese) and therefore cannot repay Tianjin Fuji-Ta Bicycle, a supplier that sued the operator of the bike-share company this year to recover the roughly $36 million it was owed.” • Illustrated with a very cute photo.

Tech: “AI Could Usher in a New Generation of Catfishing” [Vice]. “Last week, the Associated Press reported that a LinkedIn profile for a seemingly politically-connected woman named Katie Jones was fake, and likely used an AI-generated face image to abet the con. The fake profile successfully connected with dozens of politically-connected users…. AI-generated faces add a layer of uncertainty for people on dating apps or online forums. Previously, it was possible that whoever you were talking to was using a stolen picture of someone else, but that picture had to belong to someone. With that knowledge, you could use a reverse image search to find where those photos came from, helping to track down whoever was catfishing you. With AI-generated faces, you likely could not trace them in this way.”

Manufacturing: “Sully sounds off on what Boeing 737 Max needs to get back in the air” [USA Today]. “‘Sully,’ the retired US Airways pilot who became a national hero after landing his disabled plane in the Hudson River in 2009, said sessions in a full-motion simulator, not just a computer program, are the only way to fully understand the automated stabilization system that has been at the heart of the crashes.’ ‘They need to develop a ‘muscle memory’ of their experiences so it will be immediately available to them in the future when they face such a crisis,’ Sullenberger said. That means know how much pressure it will need to be applied, or whether it will take both pilots, to turn a wheel for manual control of the plane’s stabilizers, for example.” • I suppose the resistance of the wheel to being turned could be result of aerodynamic forces on on the stabilizers, and thus (potentially) amenable to amelioration by software. But what if it’s a hardware problem?

The Biosphere

“Boaty McBoatface mission gives new insight into warming ocean abyss” [Eurekalert] (original). “During the three day mission, [the submersible] Boaty travelled 180 kilometres through mountainous underwater valleys measuring the temperature, saltiness and turbulence of the water at the bottom of the ocean… In recent decades, winds blowing over the Southern Ocean have been getting stronger due to the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica and increasing greenhouse gases. The data collected by Boaty, along with other ocean measurements collected from research vessel RRS James Clark Ross, have revealed a mechanism that enables these winds to increase turbulence deep in the Southern Ocean, causing warm water at mid depths to mix with cold, dense water in the abyss.” • Any success for “Boaty McBoatface” makes me happy, though my joy is not unmixed, since the philistines in the UK’s Ministry for Universities and Science rejected the public’s vote to name an entire boat “Boaty McBoatface,” fobbing the name off on a robot submersible instead. But the public didn’t vote for Submersible SubmersibleFace, did they now! A minor foreshadowing of Brexit, perhaps…

“Cold War Spy Satellites Reveal Substantial Himalayan Glacier Melt” [Scientific American]. “Led by graduate student Josh Maurer of Columbia University, the researchers analyzed data collected by U.S. spy satellite KH-9 Hexagon during the 1970s and 1980s, as well as additional satellite imagery collected through the 2000s. They used the data to investigate changes in 650 large glaciers throughout the Himalayas. The data suggests that the glaciers have experienced significant ice loss over the past four decades, with the melt rate speeding up substantially in recent years. From 2000 to 2016, losses were approximately double what they were between 1975 and 2000.” • We saw this story in Links today from Reuters, but I think the KH-9 detail is interesting.

“The secret social lives of viruses” [Nature]. “[The viruses] were chattering away, passing notes to each other in a molecular language only they could understand. They were deciding together when to lie low in the host cell and when to replicate and burst out, in search of new victims…. [Geneticist Rotem Sorek] and his colleagues had found phages actively discussing their choices. They realized that as a phage infects a cell, it releases a tiny protein — a peptide just six amino acids long — that serves as a message to its brethren: ‘I’ve taken a victim’. As the phages infect more cells, the message gets louder, signalling that uninfected hosts are becoming scarce…. The viruses, it turns out, did not depend on bacterial cues to make their decisions. They controlled their own destiny…. Sorek named this viral peptide ‘arbitrium’, after the Latin word for decision. ” • The natural world just keeps getting more complicated and interesting!

“Asian countries take a stand against the rich world’s plastic waste” [Los Angeles Times]. “The shipments were part of a decades-old practice in which rich countries including the United States sent used plastic to Asia to be recycled. Often, the shipments included contaminated waste that couldn’t be recycled but made it past customs checks anyway, and countries had few legal avenues to send it back. That began to change 18 months ago, when China, the biggest consumer of discarded plastics, banned nearly all waste imports to stop the smuggling of non-recyclable scrap. The trade in plastics quickly rerouted to neighboring Southeast Asian countries that lacked effective recycling plants and disposal laws, leaving much of the waste to be burned or dumped in fields and waterways, creating health and environmental hazards. Now those countries are closing their doors, too.” • Good.

“Why a third runway at Heathrow is a litmus test for environmental breakdown” [The New Statesman]. “Heathrow Airport launched its public consultation on plans for a third runway barely a week after the government laid historic legislation to introduce a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050. Common sense might suggest that massive expansion at the UK’s single largest source of carbon emissions cannot possibly be consistent with plans to eradicate Britain’s net contribution to climate change…. The nearly 40 per cent extra emissions that will result from the additional flights (hidden in the consultation documents’ small print) will all be magically disappeared through international offsetting.” • 

“Some of Ontario’s waterways are now as salty as the ocean, WWF Canada says” [CBC]. “World Wildlife Fund Canada said its new maps tracking chloride from road salt show levels in many rural and urban southern Ontario waterways are increasing dangerously…. Salt’s chloride component is toxic to freshwater species and ecosystems, compromising habitats for fish, frogs, mussels and other creatures, and endangering their survival during the spring and summer spawning season, the organization said…. Residents, too, are overestimating how much salt is needed, Hendriks said, adding it only takes the equivalent of a small pill bottle to melt ice from a city sidewalk slab.” • I had no idea. I tend to assume that more is better.

Health Care

“Medicaid Work Requirements — Results from the First Year in Arkansas” [New England Journal of Medicine] (press release). n = 5955. “Using a timely survey involving low-income adults in Arkansas and three comparison states, we found that implementation of the first-ever work requirements in Medicaid in 2018 was associated with significant losses in health insurance coverage in the initial 6 months of the policy but no significant change in employment.” • Everything’s going according to plan!

“Universal coverage may not mean everyone has health insurance” [Drew Altman, Axios]. • Oh.

Net Neutrality

“Ajit Pai promised that killing Net Neutrality would spur investment and improve service: a year later, service and investment have declined” [Boing Boing]. • Shocker!

Class Warfare

“Bay Area homeless students ask community, officials to stop stigmatizing them” [Mercury News]. “As a full-time student while working more than 40 hours a week for nearly two years, Matthew Bodo also lived out of in his car — constantly in fear of being ticketed, burglarized or harassed…. According to several recent surveys, one in five — or about 400,000 — California community college students has experienced homelessness within the last year. And thousands more are at risk of becoming homeless. More than 4,000 students at San Jose State — approximately 13 percent of those enrolled — have found themselves homeless in the last year, according to a report from California State University.” • Yikes.

“Convicts are returning to farming – anti-immigrant policies are the reason” [The Conversation]. “Under lucrative arrangements, states are increasingly leasing prisoners to private corporations to harvest food for American consumers… Historically, agriculture has suppressed wages – and eschewed worker protections – by hiring from vulnerable groups, notably, undocumented migrants. By some estimates, 70% of agriculture’s 1.2 million workers are undocumented. As current anti-immigrant policies diminish the supply of migrant workers (both documented and undocumented), farmers are not able to find the labor they need.” • “Not able” is doing a lot of work, there.

“The Law of School Catchment Areas” [Stanford Law & Policy Review (SSRN)]. “The established account of American school desegregation is one of triumph, and then tragedy. According to this narrative, court-ordered desegregation peaked in the late 1960’s, only to suffer legal defeats and social backlash with the result that today, public schools across the nation have re-segregated to levels not seen since before Brown vs. Board of Education. This story needs an update, however, as Americans today are increasingly concentrated in dense metropolitan areas, in many instances reversing the phenomenon of “white flight” – and yet, school segregation persists. This paper argues that understanding the law and policy of school attendance zones, or “catchment areas,” in the parlance of local government law, is crucial to explaining this paradox… A product of school district policy, catchment areas are the bounded zones which determine the school placement of roughly 80% of public school students; more than 95% of public schools nationwide use catchment areas in some form. These catchment areas, and the schools within them where students are assigned, are often more racially and ethnically segregated than districts themselves, and sometimes even more so than the small neighborhoods that surround them.”

“How Cities Erode Gender Inequality: A New Theory and Evidence from Cambodia” (PDF) [Alice Evans]. “Support for gender equality has risen, globally. Analyses of this trend focus on individualand/or country-level characteristics. But this overlooks sub-national variation. Citydwellers are more likely to support gender equality in education, employment, leadership, and leisure. Why is this? This paper investigates the causes of rural-urban differences through comparative, qualitative research. It centres on Cambodia, where the growth of rural garment factories enables us to test theories that female employment fosters support for gender equality: potentially closing rural-urban differences; or whether other important aspects of city-living accelerate support for gender equality. Drawing on this rural and urban fieldwork, the paper suggests why social change is faster in Cambodian cities. First, cities raise the opportunity costs of gender divisions of labour – given higher living costs and more economic opportunities for women. Second, cities increase exposure to alternatives. People living in more interconnected, heterogeneous, densely populated areas are more exposed to women demonstrating their equal competence in socially valued, masculine domains. Third, they have more avenues to collectively contest established practices. Association and exposure reinforce growing flexibility in gender divisions of labour.”

News of the Wired

“Where Are Your Boundaries?” [Scientific American]. “There is only one core issue for all psychology. Where is the ‘me’? Where does the ‘me’ begin? Where does the ‘me’ stop”? Where does the ‘other’ begin? So observed the late psychologist James Hillman…. The late psychiatrist Ernest Hartmann asserted that each person can be characterized on a boundary spectrum ranging from ‘thick’ to ‘thin.’ … Women tend to score significantly thinner than men, and older people tend to score somewhat thicker than younger people. Certain professions also seem to attract people of differing boundary type. Thin-scoring people predominate among artists, musicians, and fashion models, whereas thick-scoring people are more commonly naval officers, salespeople and lawyers…. Disgust offers compelling insight into the thick boundary/thin boundary dichotomy. At bottom, disgust is an involuntary reaction aimed at quickly and efficiently distancing oneself from a poisonous, unsafe or unsavory ‘other.’ Someone whose boundaries are relatively thick will be more likely to notice and react to what is unfamiliar (and therefore suspicious), whereas someone with thin boundaries will be more likely to notice what may be similar between him/herself and others… People inevitably consider their own boundary type desirable and tend to disparage qualities associated with the other type.”

“These are the countries that trust scientists the most—and the least” [Science]. • Handy chart:

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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 (JL):

A lovely rose from DC’s Botanical Gardens.

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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. laughingsong

        Just call it “NC International Happy Hour” — as in “It’s 5:00 PM somewhere

      2. Olga

        Well, in that case – Happy Hour Anywhere, Anytime!
        (We appreciate all the crumbs of wisdom – or signs of insanity – anyway we can get them!)

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      rebrand it as 5:00 happy hour?

      *Slowly puts down Scotch*

      Have I been doing it wrong all this time?

  1. Polar Donkey

    So will only people with the horn be allowed be allowed to get Facebook money. “and that no one may be able to buy and sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast.”

  2. Cal2

    What about thumbs?

    I predict specialized arthritis thumb clinics as a generation of texters advance in age.

    We already have strip-mall fertility clinics as GMO food takes it toll on women.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > specialized arthritis thumb clinics

      When I realized that swiping my iPad with my right thumb was causing me pain when I used the Mac trackpad, I stopped, and got a real mouse again, too. The (discomfort-level) pain took some months to go away, but now it’s almost gone. No horns though!

      I can only imagine what will happen for those who type with their thumbs; nothing good; jogger’s knee did not, at least, take away your ability to create with your hands. I await the lawsuits that will come, when we discover the Tech Lords did literally no testing for bone, muscle, and nerve damage.

      1. ambrit

        The first generation of users is the beta test! (Gotta think like a ‘disruptor’ consumers.)

    2. dgq

      Plenty of WaPo comments pointing out that books induce the same posture. Color me dubious.

      1. Cal2

        Yes, but people don’t read books when they are driving, walking down the street, riding their bike, standing in supermarket lines, or, unbelievably enough, on a date.

        I resolved the irritating business of having someone I want to talk to and interact with glancing at their phone in mid conversation.

        “AM I BORING YOU?” I mean the phone…” Usual apologies.

        Another technique, whip out a prop paperback book and start reading it while talking to them. They get the idea real fast.

  3. HopeLB

    Two of my aquaintance’s children were born with third ears which were later surgically removed. Are we preventing evolution of our species since this horn growth seems to indicate evolutionary adaptation occurs more quickly than thought?

      1. Hopelb

        Both babies from two different couples had newborns with a small outter ear growing in front of their normal ear. Maybe, it’s protection against cell phone radiation? Or protection from tech’s beeping? Or enables the third earred to more easily dIscern truth /propaganda? Or……

        1. polecat

          Could they possibly be the beneficial mutation towards ‘proto-sonar’ to later be modified, and adapt, through future generations, to rising seas when humans return to their watery origins .. ??

          I think the Mutants had it right from the start ! Homo hubristicus is just dense to evolve to an ever-changing world ..

    1. Massinissa

      Well, even surgically removed, if theres a gene for it rather than being a one-off mutation that can’t be passed on (which seems unlikely considering it happened in two separate offspring), it could still appear on their descendants.

    1. shinola

      For a taste, Lambert lifts a quote from FT:

      “Consumer privacy concerns mean users are already revoking Facebook permissions. If they do not trust Mr Zuckerberg’s company with their phone number why would they trust it with their money?”

      Indeed. And just as a reminder, Zuck’ considers FB users to be “dumb f*cks”

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > Zuck’ considers FB users to be “dumb f*cks”

        tl;dr FB’s business model is stealing data from users who trust it. This will not change with Libra.

  4. Plenue

    Hey, has anyone else watched the recent HBO miniseries Chernobyl? I watched it, then listened to the full podcast series they put out featuring the series creator and some hack from NPR. The podcast is suprinsingly uninformative for being nearly five hours of content, though it is pretty revealing in ways they doubtless didn’t intend.

    The show runner claims he expressly wanted to avoid Boris and Natasha caricature, so no fake Russian accents from the actors. He also didn’t want to ‘Soviet bash’…and then proceeds to basically write the entire show as Soviet bashing (by episode four of the podcast all pretence has been dropped and both men are openly mocking the Soviet ideal of ‘bettering all mankind’). Literally not even the first episode goes by without there already being a cringeworthy scene in which an invented Soviet truebeliever character makes an impassioned speech about cutting off communications and controlling the plebs.

    Not that they didn’t do this, but everything is presented as ‘gee whiz, look at these crazy, evil commies’, with everything treated as a uniquely Soviet response. The show uses the accident as a vehicle to condemn the entire Soviet system and to be treatise on the danger of lies, which series creator and writer Craig Mazin thinks is uniquely needed at this point in time (fake news and false narratives are explicitly mentioned).

    He does this by, well, lying, and forcing a false narrative. There’s still debate about what exactly happened in the control room that night, and who is ultimately responsible. For me, I come pretty firmly down on the side that it was the fault of the madman running the safety test. The design ‘flaw’ in the cooling rods, which was actually an intended feature, only became a problem in the context of being completely removed from the core and then reinserted. To achieve this safety systems had to be expressly disabled. This wasn’t a systemic bureaucratic failure brought on by Soviet secrecy, it was the fault if a single maniac deliberately violating regulations. Blaming the design is a bit like saying an engine is at fault for destroying itself when you run it without oil. Yeah, which is why the manual says not to run it without oil! The regulations and safety measures already in place were sufficient to prevent the disaster. The man on the spot went out of his way to violate those rules and disable those safety systems.

    That said, the show is still worth seeing. The whole thing is only like five and a half hours long anyway. At its best it’s a masterful recreation of historical events (the complete meltdown and aftermath from episodes 1 and 5, and the real-time sequence of cleaning core debris off the roof near the middle of the show are highlights). At its worse we get dumb oversimplifications and grandstanding Hollywood speeches. So, in the spirit of the show, 3.6/5, not great, not terrible.

    1. Grant

      When I watched the program, I was actually struck by how much the depiction of Soviet society matched our own, and how similar the political system depicted is similar to this rotten one. Very top down, small group of people controlling things, powerful interests controlling narratives and attacking people that reveal the truths of the state. A political system that doesn’t change fast enough in a world rapidly changing, and a system that has utterly failed the very people that depend on it. What is the state doing to whistle blowers here? What does it do to those that want to democratize our society and what does the dominant media do to opinions the owners of the media don’t like? What do the Democrats do to the left in their own primaries, and the left really only operates in that party in this two party state? What happens when something catastrophic happens? Say 9/11 or Katrina? Does anyone trust that the state would do a good, unbiased job of investigating a similar event here, especially if the group that did it was a powerful private interest? What happened since the crash, with mass financial criminality? What has happened to the companies driving us to ecological collapse? Nothing, they’re in charge.

      When watching the program, it’s easy to see it as an attack against the Soviets, and it was to an extent, but it’s much more difficult for us to realize how much we actually are what the show depicted in the old USSR. Some of it was probably true to an extent, and there was plenty to critique in the old USSR, but we are in many ways how the movie depicted of the Soviets. Right now, we have a worldwide environmental crisis that threatens our entire species. How many governments are willing to fight for the radical changes we need? How many are actively pushing for the very policies that will doom us? Even with Obama and similar neoliberal governments, doing 1% of what is needed buys a tiny bit more time, nothing more. How is that not worse than anything the Soviets did in response to Chernobyl?

      On the show, still really good and well done. Regardless of anything, that event was terrifying and it did a great job of capturing that.

      1. shinola

        It made me think about how the USA is becoming more like the old USSR also.

        A particularly sad but inspiring facet of the accident is all the workers who responded to the emergency knowing that they were likely going to their doom.

      2. Plenue

        The show provides a good illustration of the dangers of bad information creeping up from the bottom to the upper echelons (a problem Yves has repeatedly said can affect *any* large organization). Multiple examples, in fact. The disastrous safety test is allowed to go ahead because the plant managers trust the word of Dyatlov, the expert on the spot. Afterwards, that same Dyatlov continues to provide bad information (it was a hydrogen explosion, only 3.6 roentgens of radiation) that makes it all the way up to Gorbachev.

        The show is strangely schzophenic in how it handles experts, and workers. It implies the government should have listened to experts, while (correctly) vilifying Dyatlov, who was an expert. At one point the show ridicules a regional party official who ‘used to work in a shoe factory’ (he’s literally talked down by a scientist character who talks up her credentials), while later it lionizes coalminers.

        Mazin actually does admit that he doesn’t think that if Chernobyl had happened in the US there would have been a similar selfless civic response to dealing with the aftermath. Which may or may not be true, but strikes me as just being another version of the ‘condemn their government while praising the Russian everyman’ trope that seems to often crop up in Western fiction.

        He also does this while apparently being astonished that plenty of Soviets genuinely believed in communist ideals. The ‘betterment of all mankind’ stuff he openly mocks (do you suppose he’s similarly critical of American ideas about being ‘exceptional’ and the ‘leader of the free world’? Somehow I doubt it).

      1. Foghorn Longhorn

        Can’t wait for the sequel from Fukushima.
        Not one, not two, not three, but four reactors melt down, hard by the Pacific Ocean and nothing.
        It is a big nothing burger.
        Soviet radiation is bad stuff, Japanese radiation is so good for you, we turn off the monitors.

        1. Plenue

          Fukushima is exactly what I thought of constantly while watching the show rake the USSR over the coals. Yes, there were many problems with the Soviet system and response. But the Japanese government and Tepco were also absolutely atrocious, and they weren’t communists.

          1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

            What actually happened at Fukushima would make a great Chernobyl follow-on series.

            The workers called TEPCO HQ in Tokyo to ask what they should do. The response from the bosses was: “Run!”

            A small cadre of engineers defied Japanese tradition and their bosses’ orders and ran in to switch on several key backup water pumps before they fled. This act apparently saved Tokyo.


    2. jo6pac

      Go to u-tube they have clip of the Russian General that was there. It’s very telling that hbo didn’t include.

      1. Tvc15

        I watched it. Agree with Plenue regarding the anti Soviet Union bias and also felt the same as Grant/shinola…this sounds like how the the U.S. would handle. I did enjoy it despite these comments, but would have preferred that the characters spoke Russian. I’m not scared of watching with English subtitles.

        Foghorn Longhorn, Snopes says the claims of radioactive seepage poisoning the Pacific from Fukushima are False. So, feel free to eat all the Pacific seafood you want without any fear of radiation poisoning. /s Snopes bases their conclusion from a statement by the EPA citing the same rationale as BP’s CEO during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill…nothing to worry about, the Gulf of Mexico is a very big ocean and it will be diluted.

        Between the poisoning of our only habitat; Trump, Biden or whichever neoliberal tool the DNC jams down our throats after Biden flames out to ensure anyone including Trump is elected instead of Sanders…not a lot to be excited about.

        To quote nurse Ratched, medication time or I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones seem like appropriate coping mechanisms for the times we live in.

        I actually chose to move my family from outside of Boulder CO to central Maine.

        1. Arizona Slim

          Yeah, I was disappointed too. I really wanted to practice my Russian language skills.

    3. Carolinian

      Thanks for the report and to all on this great thread. I haven’t watched the series but fully believe H’wood would go all Boris and Natasha while claiming they aren’t. Russians are H’wood’s new favorite stereotyped villains.

      As for Fukushima, Miles O’Brian told us on Newshour that it was all under control, nothing to see here….totally different.

      1. Plenue

        The individual characters aren’t vodka swilling stereotypes. But the portrayal of the system as a whole is straight stereotype.

    1. Ranger Rick

      Hell, I’ve got that “horn” and I was born before cell phones were any smaller than bricks. I do buy the head tilt theory though, because I was a voracious reader as a kid.

      1. Bugs Bunny

        This rabbit loved Sun Ra. Saw the troupe in a new wave bar in Milwaukee about 30 years ago. Just transcendent.

  5. Darius

    The rose garden at the DC Botanic Garden is extensive with many rare and wonderful varieties. They have nameplates for each one. I’ll have to go look for this one.

    1. Olga

      Probably not better than Portland’s (OR) Rose Garden with about 6K rose bushes… intoxicating!

      1. Briny

        Victoria, B.C. is no slouch either. I still have very fond memories of my ship visit there.

  6. Knative

    What do you guys think about the aliens? They just gave the senators a classified briefing on UFOs. I feel if the aliens are visiting us, they must be rubbernecking.

    1. Bugs Bunny

      My view is that anything in the MSM is meant to discredit the UFO research community and distract the general public from engagement in questioning the official narrative. Of course aliens exist and have visited our planet. The question facing the globalists is not whether this means anything to humanity in a moral and spiritual sense, but how do they reap profit from it.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        You think it’s possible that this is those (space) aliens’ home planet, and we are, in fact, intruders brought (or invaders who came) here a long time ago?

      2. Cal2

        Now that everyone has a high quality video camera on their phone that they carry with them everywhere, and the use of dash cams and security cams everywhere, how is it that there are no pictures of UFOs?

        Just sayin’.

    1. Summer

      And they top it off with a 20 mil stock buyback.

      Think you’re in a “negotiation” with corps to change?

  7. Stormcrow

    Elijah J. Magnier: Gulf War Brewing

    The only possibility for a solution may be in the Gulf. Among Arab countries there are those that are not considered enemies and who enjoy good ties with both Iran and the US: Iraq, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, for example. If the US refuses to consider, and rely on, any of these countries to start serious negotiations, and after lifting sanctions on Iran, the current small-scale war scenario may well assume greater dimensions in coming weeks.


  8. Big River Bandido

    Has anyone noticed how Biden *always* qualifies “inequality” as income inequality”? It’s the tell of the fraud. Using the word “inequality” in a sentence gives Joe Biden the right to preen, pose, and play the original Working Class Hero — despite holding high political office for 45 years in which he presided over an obscene, upward transfer of wealth and the Brazilification of the United States, the collapse of the nation’s economy, institutions, infrastructure and body politic. Using the word “income” suddenly absolves him and his base — banks, Wall Street, pharma and the CEO class in general — from any blame for “what happened”. It was nobody’s fault, it just “happened”. Mistakes were made.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        The Chosen Few have a two-step program:

        Step One: Steal From The Poor
        Step Two: Make Sure Everybody Is Poor

        Biden is a proven and very reliable marionette for The Few. Good times!

      1. Wukchumni

        I heard garlic roundup was very effective @ warding off vampire plants, especially in the daytime.

        1. ambrit

          You should see the grainy videos smuggled out of the former Commie Transylvania of an old thyme “Garlic Roundup.” I don’t intend to make a pesto of myself, but, the stakes were high. Those Rue-manians were thick as thieves, but mixed well. Stirring up the pot seems to be their ‘modus operandi.’ As for the ‘garlics’ themselves, well, we can best describe them as a no-man-klatura.

  9. Carey

    “..between officers and civilians.”

    Seeing this word usage more and more often. Cops *are* civilians, but…

    1. nippersmom

      Another case of saying the quiet parts out loud, and admitting the militarization of the police.

      1. turtle

        At least in Brazil they have the decency to call them what they are: (most) uniformed police is called “military police”, and plain clothes police are “civilian police”.

  10. Big River Bandido

    Speculating freely, could Trump be pursuing a mirror image of Sanders’ strategy? Turning non-voters into voters?

    I think Trump is pursuing the inverse strategy:  turning voters into non-voters. FDR described it as “some politicians think they just might have a chance at election…if only the total vote is small enough.” Republicans and Democrats have been using the tactic for decades — Trump is just better at it than they are. It worked like a charm for him in 2016; it probably will again this time, unless Democrats nominate an authentic “change” candidate.

  11. JBird4049

    Universal coverage may not mean everyone has health insurance” [Drew Altman, Axios]. • Oh.

    It all depends on what your definition of “is” is.

    1. ambrit

      A case of inadvertent truth telling. A real universal medical program will get rid of medical insurance altogether.

  12. Fern

    I apologize that this is so long, but there’s a lot of material out there that hasn’t often been summarized. I had always admired Warren for her work elucidating the dangers of the TPP’s dispute resolution clause, which I think was key to killing it, and her fight against the bankruptcy reform bill, etc. She’s done good work. But I was very angry at the red-baiting way she drew her distinction with Sanders. In light of her statement:

    “I’m a capitalist to my bones”

    and I decided to look into why she was a Republican until the age of 47 and to figure out whether she had genuinely changed in a manner thorough enough to qualify for the extraordinary responsibility of being a progressive Democratic president. What I found was that she hasn’t been honest about her right-wing, Reaganomics past, and that puts her “capitalist to my bones” comments in a stronger light.

    She has used two lines of defense in recent times to explain away her Republicanism. The first is, in her own words, that “I was with the GOP for awhile because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets. And I feel like the GOP party just left that. They moved to a party that said, “No, it’s not about a level playing field. It’s now about a field that’s gotten tilted.”

    So it sounds like she’s saying that she would still be a Republican if only it were “still” a party with a principled and conservative approach to economics and markets. If that’s the case, she’s not a progressive, she’s a moderate Republican.

    The second line of defense to explain away the fact that she was a Republican until the age of 47 is that she was “apolitical”. But here she’s simply not telling the truth. Many friends and colleagues of hers have come forward to testify that she was what I would call a rabid right-winger.

    A high school friend, Katrina Harry, who sat next to her for four years, said “We talked politics a lot, taxes and welfare and such. Liz was a diehard conservative in those days”. And she said “Liz was not in favor of Lyndon Johnson’s great society or welfare or any of that and was all over me for four years about the “socialist” friends I kept …. I called her an “ice-cold Republican”. In subsequent years, a number of colleagues indicated that she held conservative beliefs.

    And it’s not as if she grew up in a particularly conservative environment. She has said that her parents were New Deal Democrats and Oklahoma was Democratic state during her childhood.

    Warren’s first job was at a conservative law school. Within two years of being hired, she had participated an intensive right-wing program taught by Henry Manne, a very politically-oriented right-wing law professor who was known to be grooming law school professors to be agents of right-wing change at law schools. She met her husband there. She wrote a paper on the regulation of utilities that was pro-industry. It was influential — it was cited in a number of court cases, helping to move forward Henry Manne’s right-wing, pro-corporate agenda. It relied heavily on arguments of efficiency — a key topic of Manne’s right-wing Law and Economics movement. She was catapulted into an associate deanship at this conservative school after only two years.

    In 1996, she got a job at Harvard and an old friend of hers was appointed chair of Clinton’s bankruptcy commission. She was invited by him to be a consultant for this White House commission. It was a high-prestige position. At the age of 46, she changed her voter registration from Republican to Democrat.

    But…in 2003 in her book, long after she had become a Democrat, she still made it a point to reject what she called a “quasi-socialist safety net to rival the European model.” She was 54 at that time.

    And today she is differentiating herself from Bernie by saying that she’s “a capitalist to her bones”.

    In sum, she hasn’t been telling the truth about why she was a conservative Republican. She’s been saying she was “apolitical”, but that’s absolutely not true. And she didn’t get her right-wing beliefs from her parents.

    I think her earlier explanation for why she was a Republican is probably the correct one. To refresh, she has said:

    “I was with the GOP for a while because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets. And I feel like the GOP party just left that. They moved to a party that said, “No, it’s not about a level playing field. It’s now about a field that’s gotten tilted.”

    Think about this for a minute. This means that she believes in a “principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets.” That’s her core belief. It seems to be something pretty deep in her character. This is consistent with her current comments that she is “a capitalist in her bones”. It explains why the Third Way Democrats are rallying to her support.

    I believe that she’s sincere about wanting to regulate the markets. I think she would be great a regulation czar in Bernie’s administration. But that certainly doesn’t make her a progressive, and it indicates that we should be skeptical that she would govern as a progressive if she gets elected.

    1. Massinissa

      Very clarifying. I had some hunches that there was more to her story and that she kinda gave me Obama vibes, but this is better verification than I could have done myself. Very well done.

    2. jrs

      I would write off anything she was in high school or college parents or not, so the high school classmate I would attach little meaning to, as I don’t think anyone has enough life experience at that point to really have a stable politics. But at 40, oh yes they should.

      I really have no idea how she would govern (better than Trump, sure, but that’s a low bar). I’m not at all sure she’s one of the more progressive in the race.

      1. Fern

        Yes, the point I was making is that it’s not just high school. It’s also through her law professor years in Texas. And we know she was hostile to strong safety nets until she was at least 54, when she wrote denigrated strong social safety nets in her book, “The Two Parent Trap”. She dismissed what she called a “quasi-socialist safety net to rival the European model.” (Kindle edition page 94 location 1859).

    3. JBirf4049

      Too paraphrase the writer Chris Hedges, “the Democratic Party was driven rightward into a Conservative party and the Republicans were driven insane.” So, no, Warren is not a progressive at all. She just wandered, or perhaps better say was forced, into the increasingly conservative Democratic because they were not insane nor quite as corrupt as the Republicans. She probably has a strong sense of law and order along with one for fairness; that has to be pushing her into Sanders reformist movement although his socialism light must be annoying to her.

      I think that the Democratic Party must be hoping that she neutralizes Sanders. The entire political and economic establishment must not want people to realize that fifty years ago Sanders and Warren would have been a moderate Democrat and a moderate Republican respectively and not some socialist crazies.

      That just shows how truncated, squeezed, and deformed American politics and society generally has become since the near complete extirpation of the political left, as well as the co-opting, isolating, and corruption of the various civic and religious organizations. The Communists and Socialist Parties are gone. The Union movement was almost dead. The various social groups from bowling leagues to the Masons are moribund. NGOs dealing with everything from environmentalism to civil rights to housing are ineffective, corrupt jobs programs for the connected members of the upper classes. Just look at what the Red Cross has become.

      The Chinese Communist Party should check this out as the ruling elites do not want a functioning civil society to threaten their power.

  13. Craig H.

    > “Where Are Your Boundaries?”

    Not a terrible article. I took 91/140 ths of the quiz before getting bored. Maybe somewhere after question 92 they got to my particular interest but I doubt it. This is a can of worms and I really doubt that anybody you are going to read about in Scientific American has a grip on it. The can. Nobody can get a grip on worms.

  14. Wukchumni

    70% of agriculture’s 1.2 million workers are undocumented.

    The average age of a an Ag worker in the Central Valley is 45, meaning there’s scant few young undocumented would-be workers picking up their slack.

  15. dcblogger

    ” Speculating freely, could Trump be pursuing a mirror image of Sanders’ strategy? Turning non-voters into voters?”

    Trump won via voter suppression. So I think we can confidently expect him to kick it up 4 or 5 notches.

  16. ambrit

    A late catch-up on Climate Change, North American Deep South style.
    It is after one in the morning and the ambient temperature is 81 F and the heat index is 90 F. The weather people have been consistently low in their predictions of temperatures in general so far this year. Four or five degrees low. Over three days out, I’m guessing that the Weather Service is relying on historical trend figures. Alas, these old trends are not matching up with the actual results.
    Tomorrow, we are warned about heat indexes of 100 to 105 degrees F for seven hours.
    In other news, I had a conversation with the woman who owns the smaller independent vitamin store today. She is waiting to see if the (family bloggers) who manage the strip mall she runs her shop in will raise her rent again. This group have raised her commercial rent every year for several years in a row, even though the strip mall in question has always had a few empty “bays.” She says that if the rent rises again, she will not be able to run the shop at a profit for the year. (Her business fluctuates relative to the University semester schedule. The students are a big chunk of her clientele.) “I like this business, but don’t think that I got into it to make some rich people richer.”
    Her main competition is a slightly larger independent store owned by the children of the woman who started it. They bought a foreclosed stand alone commercial building near the main mall and aggressively pursue the high end customer cadres. An ‘insider’ there I know well enough to ask ‘impertinent’ questions of told me last year that this group raise the prices the ‘basic’ mark-up and then add twenty percent more. Catering to the Ten Percent Class. I don’t know how well they do profit wise, but I do know that on “Discount Day,” which the old woman started, the prices are cut by a quarter, and the place is packed. I did the math one afternoon and felt like slapping myself in the forehead. ‘What a bunch of dopes we are, to fall for this!’
    Well, I think I’ll have to dig out my copy of “The Long Hot Summer” and try to get some pointers for summer survival issues.

  17. Left in Wisconsin

    Late to party as always but thanks for link re: Apple. Shocking, not, that rebuilding the manufacturing capacity of the USA is not part of their move-from-China agenda.

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