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:
“Horns are growing on young people’s skulls. Phone use is to blame, research suggests.” https://t.co/xgOKPdSLQc
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) June 20, 2019
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!
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.
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!
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?
“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.
“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.
“Ajit Pai promised that killing Net Neutrality would spur investment and improve service: a year later, service and investment have declined” [Boing Boing]. • Shocker!
“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:
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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