By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Patient readers, as I warned Friday, timing for Water Cooler will be a little bit sketchy until after July 4. Today I am starting an hour-and-a-half late, and will finish late, too. –lambert
“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 July 1: Biden down at 31.5% (
32.0%), Sanders still rising at 17.2% ( 16.9%), Buttigieg down 6.0% ( 6.6%), Harris flat at 7.8% ( 7.8%), others Brownian motion. Of course, it’s absurd to track minute fluctuations at this point. The debates do not seem to have affected any candidate much, despite the sturm und drang, though I would wait ’til the end of the week to be sure. Remember, it always takes a few days for the press to congeal the storyline
“The Democratic Primary’s Moving Margins” [The New Yorker]. “For example, all the Democratic candidates want to build on the promise of Obamacare—part of the Party’s valuable focus on inequality. Only four raised their hands when asked if they would abolish private health insurance, and yet three of those are among the top four contenders in the polls: Sanders, Warren, and Harris. (Harris, the next day, clarified that the plan she supported allowed some exceptions to the prohibition on private insurance.)” • “Clarified” is doing a lot of work there. What Harris said is that she didn’t understand the question, which seems implausible in a prosecutor.
Biden (D)(1): “DNC chair touts Dems’ civil rights chops amid Biden busing flap” [Politico]. “Asked in an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday’ how damaging attacks on the former vice president’s opposition to federally mandated school busing in the 1970s could be, Perez said Biden and other candidates’ overall civil rights records are ‘clear.’ ‘Voters are going to look at the totality of everybody’s record,’ Perez said. ‘And the reality is every single Democrat running for president on the issue of civil rights is so far ahead of where this president is.’… Perez added that it’s up to Biden “to explain his position.”” • Ouch. But what I want to know is why Warren hasn’t called out Perez. Why is it OK for the DNC head to appear on FOX, but not Sanders?
Harris (D)(1): “Kamala Harris’ Big-Law Husband: Fact Sheet” [National Law Journal]. “Douglas Emhoff is a partner at DLA Piper in Los Angeles, California. The firm’s website explains that his practice involves complex business, real estate and intellectual property litigation disputes. DLA Piper describes Emhoff’s clients as ‘large domestic and international corporations and some of today’s highest profile individuals and influencers.’…. [Emhoff and Harris] posted adjusted gross joint income of $1.9 million last year, and reported that they gave an average of 1% to 3% to charity each year…. Speaking of Harris’ competitors, Emhoff is not the only attorney in the running to be First Gentleman depending on the outcome of the 2020 Democratic primary and 2020 presidential election. Warren’s husband is Bruce Mann, a Harvard Law professor. Klobuchar’s husband is John Bessler, an of counsel at the Minnesota boutique Berens & Miller.” • Credentialed professionals all….
Harris (D)(2): “Kamala Harris Set To Raise Money With Former Wells Fargo Executive” [HuffPo]. “A former Wells Fargo executive who defended the bank during its massive fake accounts scandal is hosting a fundraiser for Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential campaign on Saturday, according to an invitation obtained by HuffPost. The former executive, Miguel Bustos, worked from 2013 to 2017 as Wells Fargo’s senior vice president of government and community relations, where he oversaw lobbying and community outreach efforts in six western states: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Montana and Utah.” • That’s nice.
Hickenlooper (D)(1): ” John Hickenlooper’s War on Socialism” [The New Yorker]. ” On June 1st, Hickenlooper spoke to the annual convention of the California Democratic Party, in San Francisco, proceeding at a stately, teleprompter-friendly pace. “If we want to beat Donald Trump and achieve big progressive goals,” Hickenlooper said, and then leaned into the rest of the line, “socialism is not the answer.” He paused for a moment, and loud boos began to swell into the pause. “I was reëlected,” Hickenlooper started again, but the boos had not abated. The video clip went viral, giving Hickenlooper’s candidacy a shorthand, or the possibility of one: the Democrat willing to make the case against socialism.” • This is silly. At the State of the Union speech, when Trump said “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” Warren stood up and applauded, and she wasn’t the only Democrat either.
Sanders (D)(1): “He’s not saying anything n-e-e-e-w [whines]”:
My skeptics often accuse me of being boring, of hammering the same themes. They’re probably right. It's never made sense to me that a few people have incredible wealth and power while most have none.
Should we ever achieve justice, I promise I’ll write some new speeches.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) June 29, 2019
Sanders (D)(2): Canvassing:
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) June 28, 2019
Sanders (D)(3): Canvassing:
South Central L.A : the "Ghetto", the "Hood" Where poor Latinos & Blacks live. I go there. I volunteer there. It makes me proud to see so much support in this community for Sanders. I am helping H.S. seniors register to vote & they are excited to vote for Bernie #Bernie2020
— Cecilia (@cecikahlo) June 30, 2019
Important! If Sanders is in fact going to expand the Democrat base by bringing in non-voters, then we need to see more stories like this (and you can be sure the press won’t write them until very late in the game). This is the first such story I’ve seen, though I can’t keep track of everything,
Sanders (D)(4): Canvassing:
You know what would be really great on a hot summer day doing community canvass? A Bernie baseball cap with a nice brim to shade your eyes. Too bad the Bernie store does not offer that https://t.co/JCl5I5ZXZ9 @fshakir
— Alice Marshall (@PrestoVivace) June 30, 2019
Any readers who can contact the Sanders merch operation? Pay attention!
Warren (D)(1): Good crowd:
I’m in this fight because I believe that we can make our government, our economy, and our country work not just for those at the top—but for every working family in America. Thank you, Chicago! pic.twitter.com/kctiAogzz7
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 29, 2019
Warren (D)(2): “The Ivory Tower team of wonks behind Warren’s policy agenda” [Politico]. “The approach has produced more detailed proposals than any other presidential rival and, to the surprise of even some in Warren-world, become a political asset. Her “I have a plan for that” rallying cry has, improbably, electrified crowds and achieved meme status. Jacob Leibenluft, who worked on policy on Obama’s campaign in 2012 and Hillary Clinton’s in 2016, said what’s unique in Warren’s case is her ability to weave her far-reaching policy ideas ‘into a broader worldview.’ Given Warren’s oft-repeated assertion that ‘personnel is policy,’ the thinkers behind her anti-establishment agenda are the sort of people who might fill a Warren administration: Intellectuals inclined to challenge conventional wisdom, and people long on expertise in their subject matters but shorter on experience in the hard-knock political arena. Warren’s campaign policy team—four people on staff, plus a close outside adviser who’s a professor at Vanderbilt University Law School—match that profile. .” • So, the policy team all have degrees from the Ivy Monoculture, and they’re supposed to be challenging conventional wisdom? That doesn’t add up. It’s true that the political class loves them some wonkery. That’s also true of the liberal Democrat base. Whether it’s true for the country at large is another question.
Warren (D)(3): Who ghosted this? Madeline Albright?
Our President shouldn’t be squandering American influence on photo ops and exchanging love letters with a ruthless dictator. Instead, we should be dealing with North Korea through principled diplomacy that promotes US security, defends our allies, and upholds human rights. https://t.co/9ROpNfjYbY
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) June 30, 2019
“Ruthless dictator.” My Lord. When Warren calls out Neera Tanden for collecting UAE money, I’ll take her seriously on this.
Williamson (D)(1): “Marianne Williamson echoes Andrew Yang, says her mic was ‘not on’ during NBC debate” [MSN]. “Williamson was interacting with fans on Twitter late Friday night and was asked about the ‘rumors’ that mics weren’t working for certain candidates. She confirmed that she was one of them.” • Well, that would imply that NBC was rigging the debates, which is science fiction stuff.
IA: “Democratic debates kick off Iowa summer sprint” [The Hill]. “Virtually all of the 25 contenders will make swings through the first-in-the-nation caucus state over the Fourth of July week, marching in parades and stumping in town halls and living room house parties…. ‘Everything in presidential politics comes down to momentum. The first two or three states have a supersized and profound influence over the initial trajectory of the race,’ said David Jacobson, a Democratic strategist in California who is not aligned with any of the presidential candidates. ‘It’s possible Super Tuesday can manipulate and reconfigure that trajectory, but it’s more likely than not that March 3 will be a reflection of the accelerating momentum among top tier candidates from the first trio of state contests.'” • So “momentum” is the emerging story line…
“Can the Democrats Win Back Farm Country?” [Modern Farmer]. “In June, a detailed analysis of voter demographics from the 2018 midterms yielded an unexpected revelation: Democrats lost voters in suburban areas but made significant gains in rural areas. This does not translate to the flipping of more than a few rural congressional seats, but it does add fuel to the hypothesis that Trump’s rural base may, indeed, be eroding…. Another recent analysis found that Democrats essentially have to win back more rural voters to win the White House in 2020. Thanks to years of Republican-friendly gerrymandering, there are simply not enough urban and suburban voters who reliably vote for Democratic candidates to swing the electoral map in their favor….. If Scholten’s campaign had a secret to success, it’s that he spent a lot of time listening to, learning from and dealing with voters on their terms rather than showing up with fancy-sounding solutions that reeked of coastal elitism.” • Stoller was an early Scholten supporter, and he has an eye for such things.
“If The Democratic Primary Field Was a University History Department” [Notes from the Ironbound]. “Pete Buttigieg is the Type A personality assistant professor who got hired while he was still ABD at an Ivy League university. He was the golden child of his well-known advisor, but he mysteriously hasn’t published anything yet.” • Ouch! UPDATE ALl done. I think I ran long, but take advantage, because tomorrow will run short!
“Insinuendo: Why the Mueller Report Doth Repeat So Much” [Real Clear Investigations]. “Put these corrections all together and the special counsel’s oft-repeated statement – ‘Papadopoulos suggested to a representative of a foreign government that the Trump Campaign had received indications from the Russian government that it could assist the Campaign through the anonymous release of information that would be damaging to Hillary Clinton’ – should actually read ‘Papadopoulos said to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer that a professor who had traveled to Russia had told him Russia had damaging information about Hillary Clinton and might release it before the election.'” • I’ve read Part One of the Mueller Report. This isn’t wrong. (“Insinuendo” reminds me of the “sinuendo” peddled in the noir novel and movie LA Confidential: “Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush.” Until it isn’t.)
“Fake News and Bots May Be Worrisome, but Their Political Power Is Overblown” [New York Times]. “Much more remains to be learned about the effects of these types of online activities, but people should not assume they had huge effects.” • A-a-a-n-d so much for Part Two.
Realignment and Legitimacy
Festival of immigration:
“Immigration and African-American Employment Opportunities: The Response of Wages, Employment, and Incarceration to Labor Supply Shocks” [NBER]. From May, still germane. From the abstract: “Using data drawn from the 1960-2000 U.S. Censuses, we find a strong correlation between immigration, black wages, black employment rates, and black incarceration rates. As immigrants disproportionately increased the supply of workers in a particular skill group, the wage of black workers in that group fell, the employment rate declined, and the incarceration rate rose. Our analysis suggests that a 10-percent immigrant-induced increase in the supply of a particular skill group reduced the black wage by 4.0 percent, lowered the employment rate of black men by 3.5 percentage points, and increased the incarceration rate of blacks by almost a full percentage point.”
"Open immigration is the free market policy. It's the policy of allowing anyone to work anywhere, that is what capitalism is all about." – George Mason University professor Bryan Caplan pic.twitter.com/K7O5prwVdm
— Zaid Jilani (@ZaidJilani) June 30, 2019
This just broke: a secret Facebook group of 9,500 CBP officers discussed making a GoFundMe for officers to harm myself & Rep. Escobar during our visit to CBP facilities & mocked migrant deaths.
This isn’t about “a few bad eggs.” This is a violent culture. https://t.co/SkFwThHElx
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 1, 2019
* * *
“Former Bernie Staffers Launch Consulting Firm to ‘Primary the Consulting Class'” [Daily Beast]. “[Karthik Ganapathy and Mike Casca] of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) 2016 presidential campaign have launched a consulting firm to help progressive candidates win elections and to stick a thumb in the eye of the Democratic Party establishment… ‘The sort of calcification around the Democratic Party’s agenda has been driven a lot by the consultant class,’ Casca, who went on to serve as communications director for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, told The Daily Beast. ‘We have a party that is driven by a core of strategists that run a lot of their business on corporate clients and it affects everyone’s thinking.'” • Good for them. This challenges DCCC’s blacklist against shops who lend their skills to insurgents.
“For 2020, DCCC Isn’t Supporting Candidates Who Nearly Won” [The Intercept]. “In 2018, the DCCC similarly deemed a handful of races unwinnable, yet the candidates nearly won anyway. In Omaha, Nebraska, the party walked away from Kara Eastman, but she came within 2 percentage points of flipping that House seat. Again in Syracuse, the DCCC wrote off Dana Balter, spending just $300,000, but she fell just 5 percentage points short on Election Day. In Texas’ 10th district, Mike Siegel ran an aggressive race against Michael McCaul, the Republican currently serving in Tom DeLay’s former seat….. Unlike in 2008, the last presidential cycle to follow a Blue Wave, the DCCC seems to have little interest in 2020 in revisiting its assessment of candidates who fell just short. In Texas, the DCCC is courting a corporate lawyer with big-money backing to challenge Siegel in a primary. In Omaha, Eastman is running again, but the DCCC, whose recruit lost to her in 2018, has its eye on several other potential candidates. And in Syracuse, there’s been no shift in the DCCC’s distant posture toward Balter, who is running again, so far without the support of the party committee.” • Shocker.
“Whose Side Is The DCCC On? Bustos Moves Against Progressive Candidates Kara Eastman, Dana Balter And Mike Siegel” [Down with Tyranny]. “[Blue Dog Cheri Bustos] is already proving herself the worst DCCC chair in modern history and has turned herself into the most hated Democrat among party activists, something that took Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Rahm Emanuel many years to accomplish when they held that title. The Republicans aren’t running anyone against her— why should they? She votes very conservatively and having someone as incompetent as she is head up the DCCC is a dream come true for them. The 50 seats the Democrats could take in 2020 will likely turn into a couple of dozen— at best— under Bustos’ guidance. (Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but Bustos isn’t running anyone against her Republican counterpart, Tom Emmer (R-MN), the incompetent head of the NRCC.” • Sheesh, who appointed Bustos?
Purchasing Managers’ Manufacturing Index, June 2019: “The good news is that the PMI manufacturing index rose [unexpectedly]. The bad news is that next to May… this is the lowest reading in nearly 10 years” [Econoday]. “Yet this report could be worse. Orders at least are still rising which is a cautious positive for future reports.”
Institute For Supply Management Manufacturing Index, June 2019: “ISM’s manufacturing sample did report slowing in June but not as much as expected” [Econoday]. “One important indication that manufacturing demand in the US is fizzling is a sharp fall in input costs as the prices paid index, at 47.9, is below breakeven 50 for the first time in 3-1/2 years. Backlog orders continue to contract, inventories are coming down, delivery times are improving, import buying is flat — all signs of weakness. Another disappointment is a 0.5 point decline in new export orders which are barely growing….. Strengths in today’s report are centered in production, which continues to hum along…. Yet the demand signals from the report, specifically new orders, are not favorable.”
Construction Spending, May 2019: “May was an unexpectedly weak month for the US construction sector and will be pulling back early second-quarter GDP estimates” [Econoday]. “Public spending has been propping up total construction spending all year but May shows some cracks including declines for highway & streets and no change for educational building… Yet boosted by a sharp turn lower for mortgage rates, 2019 was supposed to be a year of promise for the construction sector. But the sector so far, including for the second quarter, doesn’t look like it will contributing much to overall economic growth.”
Retail: “Confessions of a U.S. Postal Worker: ‘We deliver Amazon packages until we drop dead.'” [Gen]. “In mid-October, I spoke with a mail carrier who works at a midsize hub of the U.S. Postal Service in rural New England. As a rural carrier associate, they make just under $18/hour in a continuous, part-time position. During the week, the carrier says that between 75 and 80 percent of the packages they deliver are Amazon packages; on Sundays, when no letters are delivered, they deliver Amazon packages exclusively…” • This is a really excellent interview with — gasp — an actual postal worker. This passage caught me eye:
It’s going to be hard for outsourced Bolivian drone operators to duplicate that knowledge.
Retail: “McDonald’s isn’t just a fast-food chain—it’s a brilliant $30 billion real-estate company” [Quartz]. From 2017, stll germane: “[T]he real secret sauce has everything to do with how the company has quietly become more a real estate company than a restaurant chain. About 85% of the company in 2016 was represented by franchisee-run locations—people who agree to operate individual McDonald’s restaurants with a licensed privilege to the branding. But rather than collect a lot in royalties or sell its franchisees cooking equipment, McDonald’s makes much of its revenue by buying the physical properties and then leasing them to franchisees, often at large mark-ups. The company keeps about 82% of the revenue generated by franchisees, compared with only about 16% of the revenue from its company-operated locations, which is reduced by the expenses of running those operations, according to the investment blog Wall Street Survivor…. The average rent per store amounts to about 22% of average gross profits each year for franchisees. The company has more than 36,000 locations across more than 100 countries, so that adds up quickly. Better put, McDonald’s has more than $30 billion in real estate assets, and annual profits that float around $4.5 billion, according to company financial disclosures.” • So I guess that’s why it’s OK with corporate that Arnade’s deplorables hang out there?
Intellectual Property: “Taylor Swift calls sale of her master recordings to Scooter Braun ‘my worst case scenario'” [Consequence of Sound]. “Earlier today it was announced that music mogul Scooter Braun had acquired Scott Borchetta’s Big Machine Label Group for a reported $300 million dollars. The deal includes the ownership of Taylor Swift’s master recordings for records released under Big Machine Records (which amounts to Swift’s first six studio albums).” Swift: “Thankfully, I am now signed to a label that believes I should own anything I create. Thankfully, I left my past in Scott’s hands and not my future. And hopefully, young artists or kids with musical dreams will read this and learn about how to better protect themselves in a negotiation. You deserve to own the art you make.”
“Airbnb likely removed 31,000 homes from Canada’s rental market, study finds” [Globe and Mail]. “More than 31,000 homes across the country were rented out so often on Airbnb in 2018 that they were likely removed from the long-term rental supply, according to a groundbreaking study by McGill University researchers…. Nearly half of all Canadian Airbnb revenue in 2018 was generated by commercial operators, or those who manage multiple listings, the McGill report said. Their share of sales increased from 2017 in nearly all metro areas. Among this group, there are some hosts that vastly eclipse the competition: Fifteen managed at least 100 active listings apiece in the past year, the report said, and nearly 60 hosts earned more than $1-million in 2018.” • So, you get to go into the hotel business without being regulated like a hotel. Pretty cool!
The Bezzle: “Sneaky deals are keeping cheaper generic medicines off the market” [Los Angeles Times]. “It’s bad enough drug companies charge sky-high prices for brand-name prescription meds and raise those prices with regular frequency. Some also cut secret deals to keep cheaper generic alternatives off the market — a practice known as pay for delay… About 90% of all U.S. drug sales involve generics, which are intended to be cheaper alternatives to brand-name drugs once a sufficient amount of time has passed for the original maker to recoup its research and development costs. Healthcare advocates say pharmaceutical companies figured out years ago that they can reap even greater profits by encouraging generic manufacturers to stay away from some of the most lucrative brand-name meds. This is typically done by direct payments or promises of profit sharing, or by the brand-name maker pledging not to bring out its own “authorized” generic to compete directly with the generic manufacturer. The deals are often reached during settlements of patent litigation.” • Nationalization. Now we’re talking disruption!
The Bezzle: “Divers pull more than 50 e-scooters from Willamette River” [Oregon Live]. “More than 50 e-scooters and a few bikes were pulled from the Willamette River in downtown Portland Tuesday and Wednesday by a county sheriff’s office dive team…. The divers were concerned that the scooters batteries could leak into the river.” • Quite right. Don’t do that. Throw them up in trees.
Honey for the Bears: “It’s Time to Fire Up All Engines to Boost World Growth, BIS Says” [Bloomberg]. “The Switzerland-based BIS, which promotes cooperation among the world’s monetary officials, used its annual economic report to urge politicians to “ignite all engines” to overcome a global soft patch. They should make structural reforms and strengthen fiscal and macroprudential measures, instead of relying on ever-lower interest rates in a debt-fueled growth model that risks turbulence ahead.” • Let me know how that works out…
Rapture Index: Closes up one on Volcanoes. “Several volcanoes have erupted in the past week” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 182. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing.
Run! Run away!
Incredible new video of the South Dakota Tornado!
Watch as the tornado remains nearly stationary sucking up dust…
— Live Storm Chasers (@Livestormchaser) July 1, 2019
“Saudi-led group of oil-producing countries gets major climate report scrubbed from UN negotiations’ [The Independent]. “Saudi Arabia has successfully lobbied for a major climate change report to be scrubbed from international negotiations on limiting global temperature rise to 1.5C. The Saudis led a loose coalition of oil-producing nations, including the US, Russia and Iran, that objected to the science behind the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…. The final UN report had just five watered-down paragraphs on IPCC findings, explaining that they were based on the “best science available” without including more concrete information on how countries should reduce emissions targets….. Other recent developments have hampered efforts to tackle climate breakdown, including the UN failing to agree a zero emission target and the release of a draft text from the G20 summit that looks to water down climate change targets.”
“Wettest Weather in 124 Years Has U.S. Farmers Speeding Crops” [Bloomberg]. “After suffering through the wettest 12 months since at least 1895, U.S. farmers have plans to adapt next year to what some forecasters say may be an increasingly soggy new normal for the nation’s midsection. The plans include bigger and faster tractors to speed up planting, quick-growing seeds and more extensive use of cover crops and drainage tiles to keep flooding fields intact. But there’s problems here too, growers say: The tractors are costly, the short-season seeds have lower yields and cover crops and tiling take time and effort.” •˜Sounds like a job for financial engineering!
“Aviation’s dirty secret: Airplane contrails are a surprisingly potent cause of global warming” [Science]. “The aviation industry has long been criticized for its large environmental footprint, particularly its climate-warming carbon emissions. But a new study suggests that another byproduct of airplanes—the white contrails they paint across the sky—has an even bigger warming effect, one that is set to triple by 2050…. Andrew Gettelman, a cloud physicist with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, says contrail cirrus clouds are a complex problem, but that their warming effect is still small compared with the overall amounts of CO2 belched by society. “If all we had were contrails, there wouldn’t be global warming.’x But, he adds, it’s still important for the aviation industry to understand the science and “get their impact right.'”
Big Brother Is Watching You Watch
“Line just went Orwellian on Japanese users with its social credit scoring system” [Fast Company]. “Line Score will use AI to give a social credit score to Line users. The strength of their social credit score will allow them to get access to better special deals and offers that Line users with lower social credit scores will not have access to. While the new product is unnerving, it’s not completely out of character for Line. Recently the company has been positioning itself as a fintech provider, and its Line Pay digital wallet system is wildly popular in Japan. Line Pay also allows users to shop for insurance and allows them to invest in personal portfolios. Line Score builds on top of Line Pay by offering those with higher scores better perks.” • Hmm. When will there be LineBucks? If there are not already?
“The Hotel Hackers Are Hiding in the Remote Control Curtains” [Bloomberg]. “Hackers target financial institutions because that’s where the money is, and they target retail chains because that’s where people spend the money. Hotels might be a less obvious target, but they’re hacked almost as often because of the valuable data that passes through them, like credit cards and trade secrets…. [T]his room was an older make, with a dumb TV, old phones, and a standard minibar, equipped with Heineken and Toblerone but no internet [Good so far]. Then one of the hackers started rooting around in the window frame. Nestled in a top corner [Enter the Internet of Sh*t] was an internet port, designed to let guests open and close the curtains by remote control. ‘his will be the way in,’ the leader said.”
“A Virtual Reality Check” [Zora]. “You might have tasted a slice of what existing while Brown feels like if you’ve played Life is Strange 2, a video game that follows two Latino brothers as they navigate their lives after a police brutality incident. … [I]f you’re playing as Sean, a runaway teen on the brink of starvation, who’s to say whether you’d steal from a gas station or not, especially if the owner already suspects you of shoplifting because you’re Brown and were speaking Spanish when you walked in?…. As Sean weighs the “good” and the “bad” choices, you — the player — wade with him through conundrums people of color face every day, complicated by the knowledge that the reputation of your entire race, or country, hangs in the balance…. That, my friends, is empathy, something video games instill like no other medium can. When it comes to helping people grapple with life’s biggest questions around its heaviest topics, video games remain an underutilized resource.” • For good or ill.
Groves of Academe
“University of Alaska president: Dunleavy veto is unprecedented and ‘devastating'” [Anchorage Daily News] (via this thread, and threads referenced within it). “Gov. Mike Dunleavy on Friday slashed $130 million in state support for the University of Alaska, a cut the UA president said could result in the elimination of academic programs, massive layoffs and tuition increases…. In total, that’s a 41% reduction in state support to the public university system compared to last year…. The size of the veto equates to the elimination of roughly 1,300 full-time faculty and staff jobs, [UA President Jim Johnsen] said.” • First, they came for the adjuncts. Then, they came for the professors. Then, they came for the Deans.
So much for Al Franken:
Kudos to @PeteButtigieg for pointing out that all other developed countries have universal care & pvt. health insurance. 75% of “single payer” Canadians supplement with pvt. Insurance. Dems should go after Trump, not fight this meaningless fight.
— Al Franken (@alfranken) June 28, 2019
“Former Gov. Snyder headed to Harvard for fellowship” [Detroit News]. • The A. Alfred Taubman Chair in Poisoning Public Drinking Water And Then Covering It Up? Who thought this was a good idea and why do they still have a job?
“‘We all suffer’: why San Francisco techies hate the city they transformed” [Guardian]. “It was a beautiful winter day in San Francisco, and Zoe was grooving to the soundtrack of the roller-skating musical Xanadu as she rode an e-scooter to work. The 29-year-old tech worker had just passed the Uber building when, without warning, a homeless man jumped into the bike lane with his dog, blocking her path. She slammed on the brakes, flew four feet into the air and landed on the pavement, bleeding. ‘It was one of those hardening moments where I was like, ‘Even I am being affected,” she recalled.” • “Even I.” Xanadu is pretty rich too, since “Kubla Khan” is Coleridge’s poem about opium, concluding: “For he on honey-dew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise,” which is pretty transparent. Of course, some people have real opium problems, not poetical ones; see Chris Arnade if you really want to see some “hardening moments.” Still, I shouldn’t rag on Zoe too much. She does say: “‘Mark Zuckerberg lives nearby, but our corner is the main prostitution corner in the city,’ she said of the Mission District apartment she shares with her boyfriend.” Except not “but.” Rather, “and.” (I would bet scooters are really hard to see, too; certainly harder than cars or bicycles, since the scooting person is the same height as a pedestrian, and if seen head on, might not even seem to be in motion. Tech is the opium of the techies.) This a dense article, and I’m not even sure I’m picking out the right things to be irritated about.
“Debate Over Uber and Lyft Drivers’ Rights in California Has Split Labor” [New York Times] (via). “Behind the scenes, a few large unions had been meeting with the giants of the ride-hailing industry, Uber and Lyft, to discuss a way to exempt drivers from full employment protections, according to union and industry officials.” • So awesome.
“Taxing the Rich Starts With Knowing Who They Are” [Inequality.org]. “A decade ago, journalist Robert Frank offered a helpful overview of the wealthy in his 2007 book, Richistan: A Journey Through the American Wealth Book [sic] and the Lives of the New Rich. I’ve adapted Frank’s concept to present a road atlas to the villages of today’s Richistan, USA. These villages include: Affluentville, Lower Richistan, Middle Richistan, Upper Richistan, and Ultra-Wealthyville.” • Fun!
“Opinion: Beware of billionaires peddling solutions for extreme inequality” [Pedro Nicolaci Da Costa, MarketWatch]. “New research confirms what many of us already knew: rich men are way overconfident in their own knowledge and ability, even in subjects on which they have little expertise.” • To revise Ronald Reagan: “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from a squillionaire and I’m here to help.”
“The Scarcity Economy” [Gin and Tacos]. “I think there are two other important things going on with the resistance to free or at least heavily subsidized college. One is that the “Education is the silver bullet” mantra on the center-left would be undermined. Right now we can keep convincing people that their economic struggles are their own fault; if only you had the right skills you’d be doing so much better!…. The second issue is that, to be crass, credentials are only valuable if there is some scarcity…. So to some extent – and sadly this is quite logical – a lot of the opposition to truly throwing open the doors to higher education comes from people with higher ed credentials who don’t want to see the inevitable watering-down of the things they’ve used to establish professional success. We’re looking at a pool of politically important, professionally successful people who are thinking, I paid out the ass for my kid to go to ____ and now people are just gonna get a BA for free? It’s not the most attractive logic (and not enough of a reason on its own not to make a public policy that benefits society as a whole) but I certainly understand it. I have an advanced degree, and if everyone in America suddenly had an advanced degree it would be worth significantly less (if that’s possible). So, I get it.”
“Artificial Stupidity” [Los Angeles Review of Books]. “Arguably much of the social and digital infrastructure for creating a society without work exists today. Given that so many of the goods we buy and sell rely on capital-intensive industries and assembly-line production, how long will it be before the machines that have instrumentalized us as mere units of production finally submit to our needs? In Fully Automated Luxury Communism, Aaron Bastani sketches what he calls “the three disruptions,” or the evolutionary tipping points that have brought humans to the brink of this work-free utopia. Following the Neolithic Revolution, which enabled agriculture and human settlements to establish themselves at the end of the last ice age, humankind embarked upon the Industrial Revolution and “technological innovation.” As for the third disruption, that of digital information and artificial systems, we are already there. The challenge is to harness them toward the common good.” • Maybe. See the comments of the postal worker at “Stats Watch > Retail.” How much what we treat as automation is simply labor hidden behind a digital interface?
“American Exceptionalism, American Innocence, and What Comes Next” (interview) [The Hampton Institute]. Haiphong writes at Black Agenda Report (among other places). Haiphong: “I was lucky enough to have a professor who facilitated my transfer to New York City for the fall semester of 2011. While there, I interned for a labor union and participated in Occupy Wall Street. Both the labor movement and Occupy Wall Street, for different reasons, seemed unable to confront the fundamental contradictions of U.S. society. Labor leadership appeared indifferent to militant action out of opportunism and fear of capitalist reprisal. Occupy Wall Street appeared too disorganized to solidify an ideological and strategic direction and thus was vulnerable to state repression.” • Well worth a read.
News of the Wired
“Sacred Heart Strawberry Brownie Treat” [Catholic Cuisine (DG)]. “The crown of thorns was made with melted chocolate chips.” • Oh.
“GlottoScope” [Glottolog]. “GlottoScope provides a visualisation of the combination of Agglomerated Endangerment Scale (AES) and Most Extensive Description of the languages of the world (but since descriptive status can only be reliably computed from Glottolog data for spoken L1 languages and sign languages, we only display these).” • So if you want to see which languages are in danger of becoming extinct, this is the map for you.
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 (eg):
One of the more pleasant things about walking down the main street just now is the scent of lilacs, and many other flowers. Not what one thinks of as typical of Maine!
Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So do feel free to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click this donate button:
Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.
If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!