2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2019

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/26/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, as Yves approaches escape velocity from New York this week, I will be taking on more posting duties, and so Water Cooler may appear at odd times, and, as today, will shortly become less abbreviated. With a big post on the debates just up, politics is covered, so I’ll only be covering business, the biosphere, and other random topics. –lambert

I will also be Live Blogging the Democrat Presidential Debates. The debate starts at 9:00PM, and the pre-game festivities will begin at 8:30PM (when this link goes live).

And I will also be posting a Water Cooler special on an amazing gaffe by Elizabeth Warren, so stay tuned. [Not this afternoon. –lambert]

* * *


“Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony Say Trump’s Tariffs Will Make Consoles Cost More” [Vice]. “Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo have written a joint letter to the Trump administration, warning the government that its looming tariffs on Chinese goods will dramatically harm the video game industry and its employees. The companies also argued that the 25 percent tariff hike would result in US consumers paying $840 million more for game consoles.”


“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 26: Biden flat at 32.0% (32.1%) and Sanders still rising at 16.9% (16.5% ). Warren up 12.8% (12.4%), Buttigieg down 6.6% (4.0%), 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.

* * *

Stats Watch

Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, June 2019: slowed, below consensus [Econoday]. “Weakness on the employment front was accompanied by a drop in wage pressures… Like other regional surveys recently, today’s report shows manufacturing continuing to falter, with weakness now appearing in the sector’s previously rock solid employment.”

S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, April 2019: lower than Econoday’s consensus, and a year-on-year seven year low [Econoday]. “Case-Shiller’s results are sobering and not consistent with the improving strength seen so far this year in underlying home sales.”

Federal Housing Finance Agency House Price Index, April 2019: stronger-than-expected, at the top end of the consensus range [Econoday]. “This report is consistent with signs of price strength in the existing and new home sales reports though it does contrast with this morning’s weakness in Case-Shiller data.”

New Home Sales, May 2019: “Positives are hard to find in a May new home sales report that will renew concerns over the strength of this year’s housing sector” [Econoday]. “May was also a poor month for the labor market which could have had a marginal bearing on new home sales as could, in theory, concerns over the stock market and trade wars, factors that appear to have shaken June’s consumer confidence report which was also released this morning.”

Banking: “Neobank 86 400 CEO: ‘banking is broken'” [SBS (Savita)]. “86 400 is owned by Cuscal, a non-listed public Australian payment processing company that provides financial services for building societies and credit unions.” • Oh.

Retail: “Leaked docs reveal McDonald’s is launching a spicy chicken sandwich and spicy chicken tenders after years of demand from customers” [Business Insider]. • Crazy talk. Who spices up chicken?

The Bezzle: “Alphaville’s Libra cheat sheet” [FT Alphaville]. “Spoiler alert: it’s a glorified exchange traded fund which uses blockchain buzzwords to neutralise the regulatory impact of coming to market without a licence as well as to veil the disproportionate influence of Facebook in what it hopes will eventually become a global digital reserve system. (Boldness in business award incoming.)” • Missed this last week. Stoller: “This is an excellent piece by @izakaminska on Facebook’s new Libra project, and how it’s just an unregulated financial instrument and potential antitrust violation dressed up with fancy terminology like ‘blockchain.'”

The Bezzle: “Coins of No Nation” [The Baffler]. “The official Libra white paper, which outlines the project’s inspiration, purpose, and management, is a poor man’s stew of all the last decade’s discredited ideas from micro-finance and international development. Introducing itself as a benevolent gift to humanity, the white paper is dedicated largely to the goal of “financial inclusion”—connecting the world’s unbanked to western techno-capital….

The Bezzle: “Claiming to be Cherokee, contractors with white ancestry got $300 million” [Los Angeles Times]. “Since 2000, the federal government and authorities in 18 states, including California, have awarded more than $300 million under minority contracting programs to companies whose owners made unsubstantiated claims of being Native American, a Los Angeles Times investigation found. The minority-owned certifications and contract work were issued in every West Coast state, New Mexico and Idaho, Texas and four Southern states, several states in the Midwest and as far east as Pennsylvania, The Times found. In applying for the minority programs, 12 of the 14 business owners involved claimed membership in one of three self-described Cherokee groups, according to government records and interviews. Those three groups have no government recognition and are considered illegitimate by recognized tribes and Native American experts, however. The three groups are the Northern Cherokee Nation, based in Clinton, Mo.; the Western Cherokee Nation of Arkansas and Missouri, based in Mansfield, Mo.; and the Northern Cherokee Nation of the Old Louisiana Territory, based in Columbia, Mo.”

Tech: “Optimizing for Searcher Intent Explained in 7 Visuals” [Moz]. Read for detail, but it looks like pagerank isn’t really pagerank any more; Google is working to keep searchers on their site, rather than clicking through. Also, this, though off-topic, at the end: “P.S. I don’t actually believe in arbitrary birth year ranges for segmenting cohorts of people. The differences between two individuals born in 1981 can be vastly wider than for two people born in 1979 and 1985. Boomer vs. Gen X vs. Millenial vs. Gen Z is crappy pseudoscience rooted in our unhealthy desire to categorize and pigeonhole others. Reject that ish.”

Infrastructure: “Amtrak Chief Calls on U.S. to End ‘Red Tape’ on Gateway Project” [Bloomberg]. “The rail link beneath the Hudson River is critical for commuters on New Jersey Transit and Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, the busiest and most profitable U.S. route with more than 800,000 daily passengers. It sustained severe structural and electrical-system damage from Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and must be shut for repairs. The states are trying to delay that closing until Gateway, a second tunnel, opens.” • We can’t even build a tunnel under the goddamned Hudson when we know the existing tunnel is going to fail. Elites to each other, on America: “It’s a tear-down.”

The Biosphere

“Protective Wind Shear Barrier Against Hurricanes on Southeast U.S. Coast Likely to Weaken in Coming Decades” [Weather Underground]. “When low wind shear occurs in summer or fall in the Atlantic’s main development region (MDR), from the coast of Africa through the Caribbean, an active period for major hurricane activity often results. But the major hurricanes that form in the MDR during these situations often have trouble maintaining their intensity when they reach the Southeast U.S. coast, since low wind shear in the MDR is typically accompanied by high wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast. This high shear, typically associated with strong upper-level winds from the mid-latitude jet stream, helps protect the U.S. East Coast against strikes by full-strength major hurricanes. But research published last month led by Mingfang Ting of Colombia University, Past and Future Hurricane Intensity Change along the U.S. East Coast, found that the Southeast U.S. protective barrier of high wind shear is likely to weaken in coming decades due to global warming. Using multiple climate computer models, the researchers found that global warming is likely to cause wind shear along the Southeast U.S. coast to decline significantly, mostly due to the northward migration of the mid-latitude jet stream that would accompany the expansion of the tropics (in meteorological lingo, we call this the expansion of the Hadley Cell).” • I guess I had better cut down those trees in the back of the house after all..

“Algae Blooms Fed by Farm Flooding Add to Midwest’s Climate Woes” [Inside Climate News]. “Scientists project that all that water has flushed vast amounts of fertilizer and manure into waterways, triggering a potentially unprecedented season of algae blooms. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has predicted that the ‘dead zone’ in the Gulf of Mexico—a massive overgrowth of algae—could become the size of Massachusetts this summer, coming close to a record set in 2017, and that an algae bloom in Lake Erie could also reach a record size. ‘Every place in the Midwest is wet,’ said John Downing, an aquatic ecologist and director of the Minnesota Sea Grant. “There will be a terrific amount of algae blooms.'”

“Historic Midwest flooding to increase Gulf of Mexico ‘dead zone’ to size of Massachusetts” [Independent]. “A dead zone, or hypoxic zone, is an area in water where oxygen concentration is so low that animal life suffocates and dies. The Gulf of Mexico hosts a consistently large one; in 2017, it reached its largest recorded mass at 8,776 square miles, or roughly the size of New Jersey. This year’s zone is predicted to take up approximately 7,829 square miles, which is about the size of Massachusetts. This year’s large zone is caused by nutrient pollution, the result of intense flooding in the American Midwest, where the Mississippi River’s watershed saw abnormally high amounts of flooding that created record high river flows. The nutrient discharge, in the form of fertiliser and manure, washed into streams, rivers and lakes, stoking the growth of algae, which depletes oxygen in the water, killing aquatic life and making water unsafe to swim in or drink.” • Thanks, Big Ag!

“Dinosaur-age landscapes lurk in Southern Hemisphere” [Science]. “Climbing to the top of the Urucum plateau, a shock of rust-red land thrust 1 kilometer above the Brazilian savanna, is a journey into Earth’s deep past. Despite the region’s heavy, erosive rainfall, the surface of the plateau has remained largely unchanged for some 70 million years, making it Earth’s oldest known landscape. Walk along it and you’re only a few meters below the surface that dinosaurs once trod… Earth scientists say ancient landscapes could exist atop other inselbergs, a German term for the isolated plateaus that dot geologically quiet regions in the Southern Hemisphere that have not been reshaped by plate tectonics or planed away by ice sheets. Geologists had suspected that these inselbergs, found in Brazil, Australia, and southern Africa, are old—enduring while erosion stripped away the surrounding landscape. Now, that history is emerging.”” • Word of the day: Inselberg!

“Alaska Tribes Call for Solidarity to Stop World’s Largest Gold Mine” [Intercontinental Cry]. “Trump administration officials have fast-tracked permits for the largest open-pit mine in North America. The proposed Pebble Mine had previously seemed paralyzed, after more than a decade of relentless opposition by Alaska Native elders and youth. Now, plans for the mine are being rushed forward. The final public comment period for the proposed U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) permit ends on Monday July 1st, 2019. • Along with the oil, leave the gold in the ground. For Maine’s Bald Mountain, too, despite what the Irvings are scheming for.


“Japan’s anime industry in crisis despite its popularity” [Japan Times]. “But just as Japanese anime seemed to be threatening to loosen Pixar and Disney’s grip on the popular imagination with the likes of the teen mega hit ‘Your Name.’ and a Nintendo Super Mario movie in the pipeline, long-running structural problems are in danger of sapping its rise… Ayumu Watanabe — whose beautiful ‘Children of the Sea’ was shown out of competition at the festival — also worries about visual “standardization” and lack of originality, which he says is not helped by the fact that “fewer and fewer animators can draw well by hand.”” • Software…

Sports Desk

“The UFC will tarnish its name forever if it goes ahead with the Justin Bieber vs. Tom Cruise farce” [Business Insider]. • Wait. Did I read that headline correctly? Any part of it?

“Daily briefing: Athletes’ guts host a performance-enhancing microbe” [Nature]. “The guts of elite marathon runners contain a particular bacterium that eats lactate and makes mice run longer. Lactate is the by-product of strenuous exercise — it’s what makes you ‘feel the burn’. The bacterium, Veillonella atypica, metabolizes lactate into propionate, which seems to have exercise- and recovery-enhancing effects.” •. A mouse study….

Our Famously Free Press

This is not your father’s Slack:

Guillotine Watch

We are ruled by Harkonnens, except they’re stupid and gullible. Quotation from Bad Blood:

“The mansion that inspired ‘Gone With the Wind’ is going up for auction” [CNN]. “The mansion that inspired the Twelve Oaks plantation, home of the Wilkes family in ‘Gone With the Wind,’ is going up for sale…. The majestic white MR SUBLIMINAL So how white is it? mansion features 12 bedrooms, 12½ bathrooms, more than 3 acres of gardens, a pool, 12 fireplaces, a grand dining room, a formal parlor and a four-car carriage house…. The mansion was built as a private home in 1836… ‘This would make a magnificent home, a lucrative business [indeed!] or both,” Dewey Jacobs of Target Auction said in a news release. ‘Operating permits for a B&B, an event venue, and a historic tourist site are already in place, and the property receives movie and TV contracts each year.'” • Will the “historic tourist site” include the slave quarters?

Class Warfare

“What hope for America’s Deplorables?” [Unherd]. A review of Chris Arnade’s Dignity. ” This is not a sentimental journey. It’s a deeply unsettling examination of the pathology of what Donald Trump referred to in his inauguration speech as ‘American carnage’. At the time, that phrase seemed so coarse, so jarring. Didn’t even George W. Bush turn to Hillary Clinton and say, “that was some weird shit”? Didn’t everyone who smelled nice from sea to shining sea raise his or her eyes to the skies and wonder what The Donald was smoking? Well: hello polite America. This is what he meant.” • The review leans a little heavily on the idea that Arnade “explains Trump,” which Arnade himself says he does not do, but this is still a useful review. Funny how J.D. Vance’s deplorables-shaming Hillbilly Elegy became a love fetish for every pundit imaginable, eventheliberals, but Arnade’s book has not. Arnade must be on the right track….

“‘We Are Part of the Problem’: Billionaires and Heirs Demand Wealth Tax” [Bloomberg]. “George Soros, heiresses to the Pritzker fortune, Abigail Disney and Facebook Inc. co-founder Chris Hughes are among those calling for a wealth tax to help address income inequality and provide funding for climate change and public health initiatives….. ‘We are writing to call on all candidates for President, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1% of Americans — on us,’ according to a letter signed by 19 individuals — one anonymously — and posted online Monday. ‘The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans.’… Warren, a senator from Massachusetts, as well as fellow Democratic presidential hopefuls Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke support the idea, according to the letter. Warren has proposed a 2% tax on assets of $50 million or more, and a further 1% on assets over $1 billion. It is estimated to generate nearly $3 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years.” • 2%? I’d expect squillionaires — and Warren — to be better with decimal points. And “moderate”? What’s wrong with confiscatory?

“Invest” is not one of Leary’s Keywords, but perhaps it should have been. Especially “invest in yourself.” (The quote is from the Wall Street Journal, paywalled.)

“Human capital” (which is a Leary keyword) is surely a contradiction in terms, like “slave-owning slave” would be.

News of the Wired

Why are these people smiling:

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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 (KS):

KS writes from the NW temperate rain forest. Bleeding hearts are one of my favorite flowers (but I’m weeding out all those frondy things in the background).

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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. JohnnyGL

      Is it the ‘decriminalize’ border crossing thing? Because that’s not a good idea. Plays right into the Republican screams of ‘open borders’.

      I wish the candidates would rapidly segue into the USG’s awful history in making those Central American countries into the big messes that they are.

      1. JohnnyGL

        I hear some commentators…like Green Party championing ‘freedom of movement’. I’d much prefer the freedom to stay in place. I suspect most Americans would, too. Probably most refugees would, as well.

        1. Jerry B

          I am not in favor of open borders for the USA only, however I wonder when some Democrats say open borders are the specifically talking about the USA only. I know politicians here can only speak for the US, but theoretically if there would be open borders then it should be worldwide/all countries. If millions of legal and illegal immigrants can come to the USA then we should have just as much freedom to immigrate to other countries. None of this “for me but not for thee” thing. My sense is the oligarch part (which is most of it) of the Democratic Party wants open borders for ulterior motives, i.e. lower wages, expanding their voting base, etc .

          The WSWS (World Socialist Web Site) is an advocate of open borders. I think the WSWS’s reason is more in line with Johnny’s comment above of “USG’s awful history in making those Central American countries into the big messes that they are” i.e. international socialism/no more the global north exploiting the global south.

          ===the freedom to stay in place. I suspect most Americans would, too. Probably most refugees would, as well.===

          On the other hand I like the above statement. I think it applies not just to immigration but today’s hyper-capitalism where young adults have to leave their hometown/home state/home country and move far away to where there are more and/or better jobs. This has all sorts of collateral consequences such as less and less extended families that live close to each other.

          Circling back, if I had the time I would love to do an online survey of how many people in the USA would leave if all countries had open borders. My sense is there would be a mass exodus. I know I would in a New York Minute. Czech Republic (where my father was born), France, and Brazil.

      2. jrs

        it’s actually a widely shared position among almost every Dem running (including Sanders I believe), so how can that really be a gaffe specific to Warren?

        1. marym

          04/2019 Bernie Sanders says he does not support open borders

          The attendee also claimed the Vermont senator is “an advocate for open borders.”

          “I’m afraid you may be getting your information wrong. That’s not my view,” Sanders said.

          “What we need is comprehensive immigration reform,” he continued.


          Sen. Bernie Sanders campaigns in Oskaloosa, IA: “If you open the borders, there’s a lot of poverty in this world, and you’re going to have people from all over the world. And I don’t think that’s something that we can do at this point. Can’t do it.”

          1. Cal2

            Unlike all this talk, Kamala Harris has actually practiced what she preaches;
            Open borders, with treats…
            When S.F. District Attorney, she allowed a multiple-conviction MS-13 illegal, Edwin Ramos, to go to a diversionary summer camp for young offenders, available to citizens only, instead of to jail, after various crimes:
            “Instead of handing convicted juvenile drug offenders who were illegal immigrants to federal authorities for deportation, city officials for years would escort the young offenders back to their home countries or place them in unsecured halfway houses.”

            S.F. family’s murderer killed before, FBI was told. Guess Kamala’s office forgot to check?

            Ramos had been found guilty of two felonies as a juvenile. Because of the city’s sanctuary policy — enacted in 1989 — local agencies do not consider immigration status when dealing with young offenders and therefore did not check whether Ramos was in the country legally. Ramos was also arrested March 30 on a weapons violation, along with an alleged gang member riding in his car. After he spent several days in jail, authorities[i.e. Harris], decided to file charges against the other man but not him, and Ramos was released, said Eileen Hirst, a sheriff’s spokeswoman.
            Then he killed a family.

            Wonder if what’s left of the family will vote for Harris?


            Look how she handled her first job. Can’t wait to see her as president.

          1. jrs

            Ok Sander’s policy on immigration seems nuanced, perhaps complex, and in some descriptions lacking in concreteness. I guess one can’t accuse him of being Trump at any rate – no nuance :). He’s for abolition of ICE, anti open-borders. And perhaps there is a forthcoming plan.

            [Jane] “Sanders said her husband has a forthcoming immigration plan”


            It’s not a litmus test issue for me.

        2. clarky90

          Let us open the gates and tear down the walls of the USAian gated communities!

          All front and back doors must be unlocked and preferably, left wide open, except during a hurricane (logically).

  1. todde

    i’m ok with the UFC becoming a farce.

    but apparently they are trying to make this happen after a random tweet by the beebs.

  2. Polar Donkey

    Fedex said it had $2 billion quarterly loss. Fedex stock has fallen by over a 1/3 the last 6 months. Fedex blamed slow economic growth. When will there be fast economic growth?

    1. urblintz

      bitcoin heads to $14,000…

      give up on reality…

      live in the matrix…



  3. pretzelattack

    bieber has backed down from challenging cruise, now says cruise would beat him with his dad bod strength. the integrity of sports in our time is assured.

    1. Carolinian

      Cruise does all his own stunts allegedly. Bieber did get people to “look at me” for about five minutes. Unclear whether the still quite successful Cruise was one of them.

    1. paul

      I was waiting for the biscuit at the end,this is what was dispensed:

      The left and the labour movement will not be liberated by carelessly throwing aside the shackles of orthodoxy, but by working out a correct, scientific analysis of the economy. Only in this way can we overthrow the decrepit capitalism system and replace it a socialist plan of production.

      I was expecting some of the above, rather than a promise if it.

      The young man has rather big balls in claiming that bill mitchell does not pursue things in a correct, scientific analysis of the economy.

      I look forward to his correct, scientific analysis of the economy. and its prognosis.

    2. JohnnyGL

      If the Daily Mail in the UK tackled MMT, I’d expect better than what I saw from that link….whew…

      “Think the left’s shopping list of demands are unaffordable? Think again! Want free healthcare and education? No problem, we’ll just print money. Mass investment in green energy? Don’t worry, we can turn on the government’s taps. Build a million council homes? Easy – we’ve got MMT.”

      If the writer can’t be bothered to learn enough about a subject…I can’t be bothered to read past the 3rd paragraph of what they wrote.

      1. paul

        If you look at both conservative and labour governments post ww2, that is pretty much what they did.
        I think they used the ‘ways and means’ committee to gloss over the facts.
        Gideon osborne, quite possibly the worst ever Chancellor of the Exchequer, dumped it and replaced it with the mrs bridges* of economics, the office of budget responsibility.

        *for non uk readers , mrs bridges represented,after hudson the butler, the most stoic link in the great chain of being in a popular colour television series ‘Upstairs, downstairs’.

  4. martell

    There are several problems with the Nature article on the gut and athletic performance (specifically endurance). First, it’s a myth that high lactate levels alone cause a certain kind of pain during exercise: the burn. Rather, it’s a combination of metabolites: lactate, protons, and ATP (if memory serves). Second, fatigue is different from the burn, and the best register of fatigue is Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE), which is a subject’s report of how hard they’re going on a scale (such as 1-10). This is the best predictor of time to exhaustion, quitting time. Tim Noakes and associates have compelling evidence that fatigue is at least partly a central rather than peripheral phenomenon; that is, it involves the central nervous system rather than just high levels of various metabolites in working muscle tissue. Fatigue seems to have something to do with a mismatch between momentary exertion and expected demands of the activity. Looking for physiological cues of momentary over-exertion, they found evidence that high levels of hormones associated with the sympathetic nervous system are key. These correlate pretty well with RPE reports, though the situation is clearly more complicated than that. It’s tough, for instance, not to notice that you are hyperventilating, and that too seems to be a cue to slow down or stop.

    Two more points. The idea that high levels of lactate cause fatigue and, eventually, the termination of exercise, is an old idea. Lactate was supposed to be a sort of poison that impedes contraction in muscle fibers. This has since been disproved, and it has also been discovered that lactate production is actually helpful for endurance athletes, because lactate can be recycled and thereby used for the production of more ATP. So, it seems like it would be counterproductive for bacteria to be eating lactate during exercise.

    As for the 13% improvement in mouse performance, I wonder how this was measured. If the number was generated by comparing performance at the start of a training program to performance at its conclusion, then it could simply be a product of improved recovery between training sessions, due perhaps to the anti-inflammatory properties of the bacteria in question. So maybe good runners have more of this stuff because it helps them recover faster, thus allowing them to train harder. Training harder, they regularly have more “spare” lactate post exercise, thus more food for the microorganisms.

  5. McDee

    I have a drinking game for the debate: Every time a candidate says “access to healthcare” or “working families” I’ll take a shot. Probably be zonked before it is half over.

      1. Massinissa

        People could take bets on how long your tv survives without getting shot. I call one minute fifteen seconds.

    1. James

      “The American People” is my favorite. Exactly who are these monolithic “American People” that all pols are apparently so intimately knowledgeable of?

    2. Edward

      Here is my drinking game; every time a Democrat accuses Republicans of something for which Democrats are guilty, like bank deregulation, take a shot.

    3. Summer

      If you cut that down to drinking everytime they use the word “access” (to education, to transportation, etc), you’ll be rushed to the emergency room.
      Hope you have “access.”

    4. Summer

      Here’s another game:
      When they discuss climate change, everytime they say “market,” turn the heat up in your home a notchm See how you feel at the end of the debate.

      1. edmondo

        I realize that most of you are thinking about the upcoming Democratic Party presidential debates as “a game” (sponsored by the good folks who have way too much money that they are willing to spend a thousand and a half dollars to get ringside seats), but allow me to offer a different option. Maybe I’ve been smoking too much cheap weed but I see the primary as a Oscar Wilde play:

        — We have a most unfortunately named gay man – only Wilde could come up with a gay candidate named “Booty Judge” and get away with it.

        — a twenty person debate where no one would notice if a candidate stood at the wrong podium because no one knows who the hell they are.

        — the contest two “rising stars” are Elizabeth Warren (who has more unusable plans than Sheldon Cooper) and Pete the Mayor who doesn’t have any plans at all, he is running on his record as a small town mayor who razes black peoples’ houses for not looking like white peoples’ houses.

        –In a final Wildean spin, I promise to vote for any candidate who challenges Joe Biden with “Mr. Vice President, I understand you are no stranger to tragedy having lost a wife and daughter earlier in life and less than 4 years ago, your son. To lose one close relative seems like a misfortune, to lose all three seems like carelessness.”

        At this point in the play, the current president tweets an Iranian war threat from off-stage and the debate ends when Hillary Clinton shows up and mumbles something about “The Importance of Playing Trump.”

  6. Cal2

    “The nutrient discharge, in the form of fertiliser and manure, washed into streams, rivers and lakes, stoking the growth of algae, which depletes oxygen in the water, killing aquatic life and making water unsafe to swim in or drink.” • Thanks, Big Ag!”

    Stop the manuraphobia!, if it were only manure, the millions of prehistoric buffalo in the Mississippi watershed would have caused something like that. Cattle and pigs contribute, but so do and people, who discharge sewage too.

    It’s industrial fertilizers primarily to blame:

    “Only” 17.7 million tons of it entering waterways.


  7. Joe Well

    Does anyone think anything useful will be divulged or any hearts or minds will be won during a 10-person debate?

    Also, I don’t want to be cruel, but does anyone wonder whether Biden’s alleged cognitive decline (Michael Tracey’s been beating this drum hard) might come through more strongly in debates?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The very first debate I had, I somehow got a paperclip in my hands and started twisting it. I couldn’t look up. I was maybe sixteen, so maybe the cognitive decline started early.

      IOW, I’m pretty much an “extraordinary claims” guy on cognitive decline, especially when diagnosed from the armchair. Wilson had a stroke, and the entire press corps and both parties covered for Reagan, but I think the accusation is thrown around way too much.

      1. JohnnyGL

        You’re right to take that approach. People get tired and have off days. Especially with the grind of the campaign trail.

        One of the more remarkable things about Sanders is he seems to have few of those days where he just looks tried and drained. You’d think the media would have spotted any signs of weakness and pounced on it.

    2. JohnnyGL

      If the cognitive decline thing is real….having a 10 person debate would be a good way to hide it. He’s already barely in the public eye….conducts most business behind closed doors at posh fundraisers.

      I’m running out of patience with this field. There’s way too many people running for no reason in particular except to raise their profile and angle for a cabinet job. At least Gabbard and Yang have ideas and issues they want to advance. I don’t have much more patience for yet another, “I’m from a swing state and I can work across the aisle” candidate.

    3. clarky90

      Re; “…or any hearts or minds will be won…?”

      Dearest Comrades

      Sit back with your knitting and beverage in hand, and enjoy the glorious debate being prepared for your enlightenment by the Vanguard of Our Revolution, The DNC!

      Be assured that the laboring intelligentsia of Our Googlevik Central Committee (The Honor, and Conscience of our Epoch) have already deeply pondered, and wisely decided who “the correct” Democrat Nominee must be. (Clearly, not the Trotskyite and Wrecker, Bernie Sanders or his fellow traveler, Elizabeth Warren). The relentless arch of history will manifest.

      Sen. Cruz Grills Google on Allegations of Politically Biased Censorship

    1. richard

      Wow. Thanks for that link JGL.
      We’ve never had anyone like sanders near power. At least for a good 80 years. The most lied to and betrayed people on earth certainly deserve him.
      move heaven and earth say i

  8. Another Scott

    Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are supposed to be competitors, why are they co-writing a letter about the price impacts of tariffs?It seems like they’re alluding to an agreement that they will pass the costs on to retailers and consumers. Isn’t this price-fixing?

    1. hunkerdown

      Consoles are like razors, sold at near break-even or less. Games, movies, and online memberships are likewise the blades, ongoing almost-free money for near zero marginal cost of production.

      As a non-gamer I’m okay with this. The fewer locked-down Internet terminals and captive “content” players manufactured, the more general-purpose PCs and components would be made, and the more available PCs and their productive capabilities would be.

  9. Off The Street

    I pity those trans-Hudson riders suffering from the, er, gridlock among the stakeholders. Maybe too much influence by cis-Hudson factions? After all, there must be plenty of somebody’s money to go around.

  10. TonyinSoCAL

    Homes values declined last month across the country and in many large California metro areas, continuing a pattern where housing prices fall and rents rise, according to a new report from Zillow.

    [. . .]

    “The general overarching narrative across the U.S. is that housing is slowing down,” said Skylar Olsen, Zillow’s director of economic research. “Coastal California markets are just extreme versions of that narrative — they were moving much faster than other metros and the slowdown is more abrupt.”

    Overall, Olsen said the lag in home values may have more to do with the unaffordable down payments than it does a sudden influx of sales that reduce price pressure. That means more people are in the rental market and contributing to price growth.

    1. Summer

      You have to complete the circle of “crazy”:

      And with rising rents, I don’t see how moving into the rentals are going to help with a home down payment.

  11. Tomonthebeach

    Reality TV? If anyone bothered to read the WAPO article about yuppies who go on reality TV as a path to fame and fortune only to find mis-fortune and in-fame, you will start shaking your head by the 2nd paragraph. Imagine WAPO showing concern for the feelings adult victims of nasty Facebook and other social media posts that they purposefully sought.

    Self-inflicted psychological pain is not news anymore that Reality TV is not Junk TV. People with no self-respect should not be saddened by the fact that people disrespect them for their adult choices.

  12. The Rev Kev

    “The mansion that inspired ‘Gone With the Wind’ is going up for auction”

    Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!

  13. Jerry B

    ===to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1% of Americans===

    ===Warren has proposed a 2% tax on assets of $50 million or more, and a further 1% on assets over $1 billion===

    I guess I should be happy that this is at least a start in the right direction but this seems awfully half-hearted.

    A “moderate” wealth tax on the “richest one-tenth of the richest 1% of Americans?? Wow don’t hurt yourself! How about a significant wealth tax on the richest 10% of Americans??

    It’s almost like the .1% of the richest are asking for a “moderate” wealth tax as a king would throw crumbs to the peasants in the street to stop the peasants from storming the castle! In previous articles I have read about the wealthy asking for a wealth tax, one of the quotes was “A moderate wealth tax would not affect me that much”. So what would be a wealth tax that would sting a bit???

    Same thing with Warren’s 2% tax on assets of $50 million or more, and a further 1% on assets over $1 billion. That’s it?? How about a 10% tax on assets of 5 million or more??? And a further 5% tax on assets of 5 billion or more. I can dream can’t I?? Go big or go home.

    This is what I think of Warren’s attempt at a wealth tax. Warren is Oliver timidly asking for more.


    I have mentioned several times on NC that I believe many Americans do not realize how much wealth is in the US and how many wealthy people are in the US, and the world for that matter.

    This comment is unusually rant-ish for me but IMO a wealth tax is something that is not discussed enough in the media or by progressives.

    1. flora

      I like Warren. She took on Geithner. She took on the cc companies. She took on the private-for-profit college mills getting govt funds with a terrible graduation rate record. I wish she wasn’t so eager to please everyone in the Dem estab.

      (If we restored progressive income and corporate tax rates of even 40 years ago a lot could be accomplished, imo.)

      1. Jerry B

        I like Warren as well. But IMO she is not president material and would be better as Secretary of the Treasury or some other cabinet post.

        I like your statement about restoring the progressive income and corporate taxes of 40 years ago. That being said I think discussing income tax is only one part of the equation and actually a willing distraction the wealthy are happy to discuss as it takes the focus off where the real action is –wealth.

        I think there was a post on Water Cooler a few days ago where Biden mentioned income taxes rates. I viewed that as one of the elites “keywords of capitalism”. Talking about income takes the focus off of wealth.

  14. cgregory

    The richest 5% starts at $160,000. The amount held by the 95-99% doesn’t hold a candle to that held by the top 0.1%

  15. Plenue

    >Japan’s anime industry in crisis despite its popularity

    It’s not software per se that’s the problem. The industry shifted entirely over from physical animation cells recorded in front of a camera to digital drawing and composition by the middle of the 2000s. But it was all still drawings.

    A big part of the problem is CGI, cel shaded to look like animation. Some amount of it was probably always inevitable, because it can just be so damn cost saving. But it’s spread like a cancer. First it was CGI vehicles, which, didn’t look great but okay, I can understand the attraction of just making a car model and moving it. Then it was CGI people for distant crowd shots in the background (which still stood out horribly if you were looking for them, but okay). Now it’s become CGI people, front and center up close, masquerading, and almost always failing horribly, as actual animation. Here’s a pertinent example https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E40KiYBJAHM (forgive the meme audio layered on top).

    It’s a shame too, because I think these days, at its best, anime has better writing and direction than it’s ever had before. And the ability to quickly realize creativity and experimentation that computers allow opens up limitless possibilities when it’s leveraged properly. The 2004 sci-fi Count of Monte Cristo adaptation used Photoshop layers to do some really interesting and distinctive things with clothing, as an example. https://youtu.be/qaG9Kkkdfx0

    Many people like to idealize the 80s and early 90s, where Japan, high on an economic boom, was throwing large budgets at seemingly everything, especially in the OVA (home video) market. But the truth is that most of the stuff from this era simply isn’t very good, not in terms of writing or directing. As for the animation, taste varies of course, but I find a huge amount of stuff from this era to be extremely samey looking and kind of aesthetically repulsive, while acknowledging the complexity involved. Just adding shading to everything doesn’t automatically make it look good.

    The article mentions Your Name, Makoto Shinkai’s latest released film. All of Shinkai’s work has been entirely digital. His backgrounds especially would probably be hard to do any other way. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=weSAge0XsOY

    Pure draughtsmanship definitely still exists in the industry. It just tends to be concentrated in a decreasing number of studios. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLydtyuoZWg

  16. ewmayer

    o Re. latest house-price data: Don;t you just love how the economists’ choice of descriptive words reveal their priors? In the lending biz, “debt” is renamed “credit” to remove any negative associations – I defy you to find a Dickensian tale of the horrors of a “credit utilizer’s prison”. In housing, higher prices are described as “strength”, so the less affordable housing becomes and the deeper in debt the buyers need to go – erm, I mean “the greater the purchaser’s average credit utilization” – the “stronger” the housing sector. Any letup in the exponential ramp-age of home price “strength” is described with trouble-connoting verbiage such as the much-beloved negative descriptor “headwinds”.

    o The Bezzle: “Claiming to be Cherokee, contractors with white ancestry got $300 million” [Los Angeles Times] … Those three [three self-described Cherokee] groups have no government recognition…” — You know, you’d think that would be not horribly difficult to check: Compare claimed native-american affiliation on line ___ against list of Federally recognized such groups. But hey, we have a white woman current-presidential candidate who apparently derived significant career advantagement via a false claim of just this type, so maybe the aforementioned check really does involve some kind of higher multivariable differential calculus.

    o “Dinosaur-age landscapes lurk in Southern Hemisphere” [Science] … the surface of the plateau has remained largely unchanged for some 70 million years” — Hello to Conan Doyle’s The Lost World! Inselberg is German (and maybe also Swedish and Norwegian and Danish) for “island mountain”, fwiw.

    1. The Rev Kev

      There have been a few stories and films based on the idea of an island or plateau of land where evolution was very much slowed down so I suppose that you could call them an inselberg. Examples include Edgar Rice Burroughs’s “The Land That Time Forgot” and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Lost World”-


  17. dk

    “Daily briefing: Athletes’ guts host a performance-enhancing microbe” [Nature]

    About 3 years ago I had a bone graft in my jaw, and part of the treatment turned out to be an antibiotic that was supposed to (and probably did) help the graft to dodge rejection by my immune system. I should have looked into the details before I undertook the treatment, so that’s on me. Which is freaky in itself, my immune system is really robust, from deliberate strategies including diet and regular/controlled exposure. I get the flu every year on purpose so I can acquire resistance the latest iteration, I usually knock it out w/in 36 hours (my record is 12). The year after this antibiotic (2017) it took me almost 4 days, although that was a tough one anyway.

    But I also lost the ability to think in a certain way. I used to be really good at building n-dimensional models in my head. I still know how, but it’s become very difficult. There was a particular kind of patience I had, a faculty for planning, like a gut feel for the layouts that work… and I’ve lost it.

    I acquired this strain from geophagia, eating (small quantities of) certain kinds of dirt. I think this particular strain came from a crumbly clay that was available in Torrey Pines National Park in San Diego, I couldn’t find it there on my last visit. Geophagia, as well as working the soil with one’s hands, is an effective way to acquire and maintain a diverse range of gut bacteria. Compare to cultured foods, pickling, etc. Clays are particularly good because they retains water and colonies can grow instead of being washed away. Of course one risks ingesting toxins and antagonistic strains as well. Life is a gamble we have no choice but to play.

    Yeah, people think I’m crazy, so what? My work products are (or were) evidence of the ability. I used to write complex and easily extensible systems for big data management, really just a way to balance the various processing and supervision tasks so that no single point is “core.” I’ve recovered a bit, but it used to be easy to conceive these, now I struggle to keep track of the way the parts interact. Age could be a factor too.

    There seem to have been other side affects as well, my temper, my patience for fools, was never huge but it’s no practically non-existent. This of course included patience with myself. I’m listless and uninspired. I still get flashes of insight, but have difficulty organizing them for production (coding as well as writing).

    Even before this I considered the discover and mass production of antibiotics to be one of the great blunders of our species, a pandora’s box that would have better been left unopened.

    But what about all the lives saved, you say? That is a gross misunderstanding of the nature of risk. Risk can’t be reduced by linear strategies, it’s a form of entropy. Most efforts to reduce it locally just displace it somewhere else, and when it’s moved around it mutates into new forms. The net risk in a system can’t be shrunk without careful placement, but it can be made less predictable if it’s not being tracked as one operates. Now we’re facing an extinction event so large it threatens us directly; more live(d), now all may die. Major bungle.

  18. Wukchumni

    A friend just received the most valuable position in the National Park Service, a full-time job.

    It only took 12 years working as a seasonal to nab it.

    Imagine if the outside world worked in such a capacity, where you had 6-7 months of work per year, and then go do something else until your part-time job gets going again.

    It takes a certain dedication…

  19. Wukchumni

    They claimed to be of the Cherokee nation
    Without any reservation
    Got Federal contracts based on lies
    The 1/8th or 1/16th way of life
    Couldn’t speak the native tongue
    And that’s how deals get done
    By including an aspiring Indian hand
    From the Northern Cherokee band


  20. JB

    According to manufacturers speaking during public hearings, game consoles are typically sold at a loss upon launch, and then revenue is recouped through licensing. Even as retooled versions come out years later within the same generation, they are sold at relatively small margins. The manufacturers argue against making simple, NPV-positive (for the consumer) energy efficiency improvements to their game consoles due to this business model. Since consumers don’t purchase game consoles for energy efficiency, manufacturers aren’t rewarded for energy efficient improvements, so manufacturers just don’t care. As a result, we get energy hog game consoles and more carbon emissions when simple, low-cost, commercially-available energy efficient technologies exist for integration. If you purchase a dongle for streaming, it will pay for itself in five years versus using your game console for streaming. Don’t stream video with a game console, it’s a net $ loser. If you connect an Xbox One according to Microsoft’s instructions, and never turn it on (keeping it in networked standby), you will consume more energy per year than an Xbox 360 under a normal usage profile. In the EU, an Xbox One’s networked standby mode must draw 80% less power due to an EU horizontal standby standard. In the U.S., good luck moving forward with such a standard, it’s a non starter at the Dept of Energy, and even the California Energy Commission hasn’t had the appetite for it. There’s so much low hanging fruit for energy efficiency, but apparently those in power don’t feel compelled to act, but rather find every reason not to act.

  21. VietnamVet

    The news came out today. The 737 Max is in trouble.

    It has two flight control systems with one sensor each that alternates between flights. FAA pilots in Simulators have found that if the microprocessor fails, the patched flight control system pushes the plane into a dive that pilots cannot recovery from. A failure is rare. I have never had a CPU fail out of the hundreds I’ve bought. But two crashes show that this is a flight critical system. Current standards require three flight control systems with processors from three different sources like the 777 to select out the defective system to sufficiently lower risks to an acceptable level. Either the regulators waive current requirements or Boeing must add a third flight control system, integrate it, and have it certified by regulators. If they punch a hole in the airframe to add another sensor plus pilot training, this will significantly delay recertification; adding millions of dollars in training and loss of use costs.

    What else was overlooked?

  22. drumlin woodchuckles

    Here’s an article from Wired magazine about how the frequency that 5G networks are supposed to operate on is so close to certain natural frequencies emitted by energised water and water vapor which weather detection systems use to study and predict weather . . . . that a strong 5G rollout could fill the atmosphere with enough electrosmog to degrade and attrit meteorology’s ability to predict weather.

    One more good reason to ban and forbid 5G network techology from existing within the United States.

  23. Charles 2

    2%? I’d expect squillionaires — and Warren — to be better with decimal points.

    Actually 2% per annum is quite significant. In a world of zero inflation and zero growth, and assuming the squillionaires can achieve 5% long term ROA (and only the best achieve that), that is effectively 40% taxation, and they could pay income tax on top of that !
    As with income tax, the real problem in wealth taxes is not the rates, but the assessment of the tax base and the seemingly innocuous deductions that undermine the whole idea. For instance in France, when it existed, controlling shareholding and art collections (!) were exempted, and tax couldn’t exceed 60% of income. These were boulevards for tax optimizers.

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