2:00PM Water Cooler 8/16/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“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 six five four polls). As of August 15: Biden flat at 30.5% (30.3%), Sanders down to 16.0% (17.5%), Warren dives to 17.3% (18.5%), Buttigieg down to 5.2% (6.0%), Harris down at 8.0% (8.3%), Beto rising from the bottom feeders once more. Others Brownian motion. So now six polls again, which no doubt accounts for the fluctuations, which are all well within the margin of error generally. Again, I could use some transparency on why these choices are made!

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Sanders (D)(1): “Poll: Support for Sanders among college students reaches highest level since April” [The Hill]. “Support for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) among college students climbed to its highest mark since April, according to a new weekly Chegg-College Pulse poll. The latest figures, released Thursday, found that 29 percent of likely Democratic voters attending college or university picked Sanders as their top choice for president. Support for Sanders in this election cycle peaked at 32 percent in April. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and former Vice President Joe Biden were the only other White House contenders to win double-digit support in the Democratic field.” • An underrated factor: In 2016, Sanders had a single opponent who was widely hated. Not so in 2020. Sanders has to work harder to win his votes.

Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders To Israel: Ban Our Lawmakers? Then Don’t Take Our Money” [HuffPo]. Sanders: “”And if Israel doesn’t want members of the United States Congress to visit their country, to get a first-hand look at what’s going on, and I have been there many, many times, but if he doesn’t want members to visit maybe he can respectfully decline the billions of dollars that we give to Israel.” • It’s all about the benjamins ?!

Warren (D)(1): Worth listening to in full:

There’s a lot wrong here — although Warren is a terrific story teller — but it’s really too bad that Obama didn’t say “accounting control fraud,” instead of “predatory lending.” Although it’s not clear that Warren would have understood him if he had.

IA: “The Pundit-Defying Idiosyncrasies of Iowa Voters” [Michelle Goldberg, New York Times]. “It might be precisely because Iowa Democrats get to know the candidates so intimately that they don’t feel the need to plot them on a left-right spectrum…. No one knows what’s going to happen at the caucuses, which is maddening, since so much is at stake. There are no lanes, only the irreducible and hard-to-measure quality of human connection. This thing could go anywhere.” • That’s the conclusion, which is sensible in a horse-race kind of way. But the lead, oh the lead: “On Friday, Julie Allen, a 62-year-old Medicaid consultant, took time off work to sit in the scorching sun at a midday, open-air rally for Joe Biden in Boone, Iowa. In 2016, she told me, she was “all in” for Bernie Sanders, but she now feels “he’s past his time,” and as she considers her choices for the February caucuses, he’s no longer in her top five. Instead, she’s weighing Biden, whom she supported in 2008, as well as Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris and Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana.” • Goldberg uses Allen to bolder her “personal connection” thesis. Why oh why didn’t she think to find out if Sanders’ #MedicareForAll proposals made Allen fearful for her “Medicaid consultant” job? (Iowa also does a lot of back-office work for health insurance companies.)

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“‘A reckoning’: Sanders and Warren supporters see an alliance on the brink” [McClatchy]. “Part of the Warren campaign’s muscular presence in Iowa is designed to strike an early blow there that would undercut Sanders’ structural advantage in New Hampshire, where he routed Hillary Clinton in 2016 and has maintained a strong operation. But given Sanders’ financial prowess — he had a field-leading $27 million in the bank entering July — there may be little incentive for him to exit the race even if his standing in polls falters…. In most polls, Sanders and Warren’s combined support surpasses Biden’s. But that doesn’t mean their coalitions are identical. Warren fares better with upper-income, college-educated liberals, whereas Sanders’ voters tend to have lower levels of education and income. Some of Warren’s most loyal supporters are over the age of 50; Sanders’ strongest age group remains the 18-34 contingent.” • If you look at money and the base, then, the headline looks like wishful thinking.

Our Famously Free Press

“The Campaign Press: Members of the 10 Percent, Reporting for the One Percent” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. “Anyone who’s worked in the business (or read Manufacturing Consent) knows nobody calls editors to red-pencil text. The pressure comes at the point of hire. If you’re the type who thinks Jeff Bezos should be thrown out of an airplane, or that it’s a bad look for a DC newspaper to be owned by a major intelligence contractor, you won’t rise. Meanwhile, the Post has become terrific at promoting Jennifer Rubins and Max Boots. Reporters watch as good investigative journalism about serious structural problems dies on the vine, while mountains of column space are devoted to trivialities like Trump tweets and/or simplistic partisan storylines. Nobody needs to pressure anyone. We all know what takes will and will not earn attaboys in newsrooms. Trump may have accelerated distaste for the press, but he didn’t create it. He sniffed out existing frustrations and used them to rally anger toward ‘elites’ to his side. The criticism works because national media are elites, ten-percenters working for one-percenters. The longer people in the business try to deny it, the more it will be fodder for politicians. Sanders wasn’t the first, and won’t be the last.” • Yep. I’m so glad Rolling Stone has Matt Taibbi on-board. Until advertisers black-list “the One Percent,” I suppose.

L’Affaire Joffrey Epstein

“What Really Went Wrong at Jeffrey Epstein’s Jail” [MedPage Today]. “Jeffrey Epstein is a prime example. He had been released from active suicide watch. The correctional officers were still supposed to do checks on him every 30 minutes (which they evidently did not do) but this was because he was in a special housing cell rather than an open dorm. Special housing cells tend to be small, typically two beds, and have small windows or observation ports on the door…. [I]n Jeffrey Epstein’s case, the critical factor was not that the checks were not being done, it was that he did not have a roommate! It is much harder to commit suicide with a roommate who will sound the alarm…. For this reason, patients coming off of active suicide watch should always have at least one roommate, more if possible. And even more important than being a suicide ‘alarm’ is the psychological benefits of roommates. Depressed patients need social interaction and someone to talk to. Isolation is psychologically hard, which you do not want to inflict on a patient who was recently suicidal. According to news reports, Epstein’s roommate was released and he was left isolated. This was perhaps the biggest mistake in his case, even more than the 30-minute special housing checks not being done.” • The author, a doctor, works exclusively in jails and prisons, and blogs about correctional medicine at JailMedicine.com. No roommate, then, in an over-crowded jail, against medical practice (although absent a copy of the MCC manual, we can’t know what the policy was). So… no roommate? Or no witnesses?

Realignment and Legitimacy

CFR member and known associate of Neera Tanden Stacey Abrams:

Abrams’ tweet exemplifies everything that’s wrong with the Democrat approach to the voting. It’s one campaign-only; preventing election theft is not, incredibly, viewed as a core party function. It’s only for battleground states, so apparently Democrats believe that voters in other states are less worthy human beings. And it’s not voter registration, so there’s no attempt to expand the base. What a disappointing proposal. Also, the “Leadership Team” is super-sketchy: Abrams and two “board members,” with no bios. “Tracey-Ann Nelson” is former Director of Government Relations, Communications and Coalitions, Georgia Association of Educators and endorsed Abrams in her gubernatorial campaign. “Al Williams” is a Georgia Representative. Who’s handling the money?

“Some 2020 Democrats are getting help from big money super PACs, even if they don’t want it: [Open Secrets]. “Just a handful of wealthy donors are providing some 2020 Democrats with financial support in the form of powerful super PACs, the unlimited spending groups that have drawn ire from Democrats eyeing the nomination… The super PACs have raised a combined $3.8 million from just 21 donors, arriving as Democrats increasingly assail big money … mountains of evidence suggest the most powerful super PACs are not independent whatsoever, but rather arms of the major parties and major candidates.”

“DCCC is out of step with Democratic values” [Richard Rodriguez, The Hill]. “Congressman Daniel William Lipinski of Illinois’ third congressional district is one of the Democratic Party’s more conservative members. Lipinski voted against the landmark Affordable Care Act in 2010 and is anti-abortion. In 2018, he survived a close primary against author and small businesswoman Marie Newman. On April 16, Newman officially announced that she will challenge Lipinski in a rematch for the spring 2020 primary. Even though the party doesn’t need to fear losing a seat in this solidly Democratic area, the DCCC is trying to handpick its preferred candidate, rather than let Chicago-area voters decide which candidate is best for them without outside interference.”

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, August 2019 (Preliminary): “Not since the government shutdown early in the year has consumer sentiment been this low” [Econoday]. “A key reason for the drop according to the report is the US tariff hike on China that is set to take effect at the beginning of next month (though some products will be exempt until Christmas). This was spontaneously cited by 33 percent of the sample and near a prior peak on tariff issues of 37 percent. Another reason for the drop is the Federal Reserve’s rate cut last month, one that the report says is raising apprehensions about a possible recession.” • So the rate cut triggers the fear, instead of the fear triggering the rate cut?

Housing Starts, July 2019: “A slow turn upward is the indication from a mixed but still positive housing starts and permits report for July” [Econoday]. “Residential investment has pulled down GDP in each of the last six quarters and though July’s uneven results don’t point yet to relief in the third quarter, they do, along with falling mortgage rates, point to improvement ahead.”

Quarterly Services Report (Advance), Q2 2019 (Advance): “Information sector revenue for the second quarter of 2019 increased to $430.0 billion. Year-on-year, second-quarter information sector revenue grew 6.2 percent” [Econoday].

Banking: “Central banks haven’t shifted direction this abruptly in a decade” [MarketWatch]. “The shift in central bank monetary policy direction during the last six months hasn’t been this dramatic in a decade. Fitch Ratings, examining the direction but not magnitude of central bank shifts, found that more than a third of them have loosened monetary policy in the past six months. Those central banks range from the U.S. to Turkey, with only Norway and the Czech Republic going in a different direction by raising interest rates, Fitch found…. One difference between financial crisis of 2009 and now is that the shift to looser monetary policy has not been accompanied by any collapse in commodity prices. Another is that the deterioration in the global economy hasn’t been anywhere near as severe, the Fitch report said.”

Retail: “As Dollar General rapidly expands in rural Siouxland, small-town grocers report losses” [Sioux City Journal]. “[Chet] Davis, 74, is sounding the alarm that a Dollar General opening a few blocks away may deliver the final death blow to his store. He worries the loss of his store could ripple through the town, leading to a gradual unraveling of the quality of life in the community. ‘We’ve had the town that everybody wants to move to, because we’ve had a pharmacy, we’ve had a hardware store, we’ve had a grocery store, we’ve had a doctor, we’ve had a dentist,’ Davis said. ‘Once you lose your grocery store in town, it’s going to hurt the whole community. Because they’ve told me that the value of your property drops, because when people move into a community, they want to be in a community where they have those things. And we’ll no longer have them.'” • Yes, I remember when my own town had a grocery store and a hardware store. Good times.

Shipping: “Trucking capacity bleed-off is now supportive of rates” [Freight Waves]. “Trucking carriers continue to exit the market, citing a variety of reasons including the regulatory environment, low rates, inflated wages and high insurance costs. To date, there is little to suggest that capacity has bled off enough to materially affect spot rates – most of the discussion with private and public third-party logistics providers this summer has been around very loose capacity. That may be changing. Market data and anecdotes from freight brokers now suggest that enough trucking capacity has exited the industry to support a floor under the spot market. Price, of course, is a function of both supply (trucking capacity) and demand (freight volumes), and the supply side is the hardest to get a handle on. FreightWaves is aware that capacity is continuing to leave the market, that the supply of trucks is decreasing, not increasing, both directly and indirectly. Publicly announced carrier shutdowns continue at a steady clip. Truckers are defaulting on fuel card payments at an accelerating pace.”

The Bezzle: “WeWork Officially Files To Be The Last IPO” [DealBreaker]. “[T]oday, we have the ultimate document. The thing that this whole counterfactual modern tech IPO market has been careening towards for five years. Ladies and gentlemen, the WeWork S-1 is upon us. we are delighted to report that this thing is better than we could have ever dreamed…

We are a community company committed to maximum global impact. Our mission is to elevate the world’s consciousness. We have built a worldwide platform that supports growth, shared experiences and true success. We provide our members with flexible access to beautiful spaces, a culture of inclusivity and the energy of an inspired community, all connected by our extensive technology infrastructure. We believe our company has the power to elevate how people work, live and grow.

• The numbers are awful too.

The Bezzle: “WeWork Gave Founder Loans as It Paid Him Rent, IPO Filing Shows” [Bloomberg]. “Adam Neumann is more than a founder and chief executive at WeWork. He’s also a landlord, a seller of intellectual property and a financial borrower…. The name Adam appears 169 times in the financial prospectus, far more than any other….” • Wild details, here.

The Bezzle: “Deflated, Uber May Swap Anniversary Balloons For Stickers To Save $200K Per Year” [CrunchBase]. “This cost-cutting measure is part of a company-wide campaign, complete with its own internal hashtag: #FindTheMoney. Uber executives are soliciting ideas from their employees to find ways to reduce the company’s burn rate. In his email message, Chai credits an employee with the idea and implores others to ‘please keep the ideas coming.’ … It will likely take much more than slashing budgets with stickers to deflate Uber’s ballooning losses.” • No kidding. How about replacing all the highly paid executives with people randomly chosen on Twitter and paid orders of magnitude less? Because why not? The company’s never going to make money.

The Bezzle: “The algorithms that detect hate speech online are biased against black people” [Vox]. “Platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are banking on developing artificial intelligence technology to help stop the spread of hateful speech on their networks. The idea is that complex algorithms that use natural language processing will flag racist or violent speech faster and better than human beings possibly can…. But two new studies show that AI trained to identify hate speech may actually end up amplifying racial bias. In one study, researchers found that leading AI models for processing hate speech were one-and-a-half times more likely to flag tweets as offensive or hateful when they were written by African Americans, and 2.2 times more likely to flag tweets written in African American English (which is commonly spoken by black people in the US). Another study found similar widespread evidence of racial bias against black speech in five widely used academic data sets for studying hate speech that totaled around 155,800 Twitter posts. This is in large part because what is considered offensive depends on social context.” • Good luck, AI!

The Bezzle: Awesome thread on Tesla’s robot car scam:

As above, the problem is context, which humans are really good at and AI is not. Maybe we need to add predators to AI training environments….

Mr. Market: “Janet Yellen says yield curve inversion may be false recession signal this time” [CNBC]. “Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the markets may be wrong this time in trusting the yield curve inversion as a recession indicator. ‘Historically, it has been a pretty good signal of recession, and I think that’s when markets pay attention to it, but I would really urge that on this occasion it may be a less good signal,’ Yellen said … ‘The reason for that is there are a number of factors other than market expectations about the future path of interest rates that are pushing down long-term yields.’ … When asked if the United States is headed into a recession, Yellen said: ‘I think the answer is most likely no. I think the U.S. economy has enough strength to avoid that, but the odds have clearly risen and they’re higher than I’m frankly comfortable with.'” • Talking other people’s books? Now that it’s the Fed’s mission to prop up equities? But read on–

The Fed: “This Is What I Am Talking About” [Tim Duy’s Fed Watch]. “Bottom Line: It remains too early to see a recession in the data. It’s reasonable to worry about the pessimistic signal from the yield curve but even if it does foreshadow recession, a recession call now is likely still too early.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 19 Extreme Fear (previous close: 19, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 25 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 16 at 12:22pm. • Restored at reader request. Note that the index is not always updated daily, sadly.

The Biosphere

“Architectural history offers clues to low-carbon relief from the heat” [Yale Climate Connection]. “Throughout history, buildings in India, as around the world, evolved to provide comfortable environments by harnessing forces like sunlight and wind – a strategy now referred to as passive design. The invention of ‘active’ building systems (e.g., air conditioning, artificial lighting) fundamentally changed the way buildings and neighborhoods are constructed. Instead of prioritizing appropriateness for the local climate, builders began to rely on active systems to keep occupants comfortable. Because these systems run mainly on fossil fuels, building operations became a major source of emissions…. “There is no downside to passive design. It’s not like if you do passive design it will cost you more, or take longer to build,” [Manit Rastogi, a New Delhi-based partner of architecture firm Morphogenesis] said. ‘Passive design, in its fundamental nature, will provide comfort conditions, or close to comfort conditions – or reduce the need for air conditioning, or heating, if it’s a cold climate – [thereby] reducing the cost of operations, but also reducing the cost of construction. So it’s really a win–win.'” • My house has enormous thermal mass, especially in the older parts. That means that it retains heat in the winter (especially when I stopped the drafts). That also means it stays cool in the summer for at least a month after the real heat begins. I don’t know if that’s the cheap way to do passive, though (and what a horrible polarity “active”/”passive” is, here).

Health Care

“Top U.S. medical centers roll out DNA sequencing clinics for healthy (and often wealthy) clients” [STAT]. “eizing on the surging popularity of at-home DNA testing kits, top academic medical institutions are opening clinics that promise to probe much deeper into your DNA — if you’re willing to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars out of pocket to learn about disease risks that may be lurking in your genes…. By scouring hundreds or thousands of genes — far more than most consumer genetics companies — representatives for these clinics told STAT that, in a small fraction of patients, they’re helping diagnose mild genetic diseases as well as turning up markers of elevated risks for conditions both common and rare.” • Concierge medicine, catering to the projected fears of terrified, pampered rich people. It’s living, I guess.

“Why Some Doctors Purposely Misdiagnose Patients” [The Atlantic]. “More than a decade later, Martinez is one of hundreds of patients who have accused Awaad of intentionally misreading their EEGs and misdiagnosing them with epilepsy in childhood, all to increase his pay. In June, Martinez’s case became the first to go to trial in Michigan. The case shines a light on the grim world of health-care fraud—specifically, the growing number of doctors who are accused of performing unnecessary procedures, sometimes for their own personal gain. At Awaad’s trial, Martinez’s lawyers painted a portrait of a man on a quest to conduct as many EEGs as possible, and of a hospital that looked the other way as red flags flew up around him. The lawyers accused Awaad of being hired by Oakwood Healthcare on a contract that compensated him for each EEG he performed. In his time at the hospital, from 1999 to 2007, his salary rose from $185,000 to $300,000, and he qualified for bonuses up to $220,000 if he met certain billing targets. Brian McKeen, Martinez’s lawyer, told jurors that Awaad had “turned that EEG machine into an ATM.'” • Awaad was responding to incentives, too. Why not sue Oakwood? All anecdote, no data though. Upcoding is a far more common kind of misdiagnosis.

“Nation’s uninsured rose 700K in Trump’s first year” [Health Care Dive]. “The new study is further evidence that stripping the ACA of several insurer-stabilization mechanisms and expanding barebones coverage like short-term health plans as viable alternatives to the federal and state exchanges has led to a rise in premiums and in the rate of uninsured. The research focused on the American Community Survey of more than 3 million residents nationwide. The percentage of Americans without insurance rose from 10% in 2016 to 10.2% in 2017. Its authors concluded that this occurred despite a strong economy and corresponding increases in income and employer-sponsored coverage…. The loss of insurance was particularly acute in the 19 states that decided not to expand Medicaid eligibility, concentrated heavily in the South and Midwest. While the combined population in those states grew by 800,000, about 700,000 of their residents lost coverage. The uninsured rates in those states was 14.3% in 2017 versus 7.6% in the expansion states.”

“Why doesn’t the United tates have universal health care? he answer has everything to do with race.” [New York Times]. • And nothing to do with. well, capital. That’s what “everything” means. Worth a read for fresh historical perspective, but if the 1619 Project goes on as it has begun, it’s gonna devolve into the equivalent of Clinton’s famous rhetorical question: “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow… would that end racism?” Liberals…

Neoliberal Epidemics

“New York going after Sackler family’s financial records in opioid case” [MarketWatch]. “New York officials are demanding that banks and other companies with connections to the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma hand over financial records as the state tries to trace where money from opioid sales ended up. The state attorney general’s office this week began issuing subpoenas this week. New York is among 48 states that have filed legal claims against Purdue Pharma seeking to hold the company responsible for the opioid crisis. At least 17 states are suing members of the Sackler family. The attorney general’s office contends that the family fraudulently removed money from the company and that it needs details from investment advisers and companies connected to the family to show that.”

Class Warfare

“Perpetual Debt in the Silicon Savannah” [Boston Review]. “Across conversations in Kenya’s pubs and WhatsApp groups, debt is on everyone’s mind. The speed and ease of access to credit through new mobile apps delivers cash to millions of Kenyans in need, but many struggle to repay. Despite their small size, the loans come with a big cost—sometimes as much as 100 percent annualized. As one Nairobian told us, these apps “give you money gently, and then they come for your neck…. Relations of credit and debt are nothing new to Kenya. For ages, friends, family, and colleagues have lent and borrowed from each other, but what differs today is a lack of reciprocity. In peer-to-peer credit, everyone is eventually likely to be a debtor and a creditor; terms can be reworked according to timelines and margins that are subject to negotiation. In contrast, the fintech industry envisions ordinary Kenyans as first and foremost borrowers, leading many Kenyans to describe their predicament as a form of servitude. One Kenyan argued the apps are ‘enslaving’ people—from the working poor to the salaried classes—by making claims on their future labor.” • That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

News of the Wired

“A New Species of Leech Is Discovered Near Washington, D.C.” [Smithsonian (DK)]. DK: “Does it have to register as a lobbyist?”

“Four letters can say a lot: Why people put their Myers-Briggs personality types in their Tinder profiles” [WaPo]. What, even the introverts? Apparently so! But: “As it turns out, people aren’t that great at figuring out to whom we’ll actually be attracted. In a study published in 2017, researchers asked singles to describe their ideal qualities in a partner. After examining daters’ stated romantic preferences, researchers created an algorithm to match participants based on their self-reported personality tastes. The machine could not predict who ended up pairing off. The researchers concluded that ‘compatibility elements of human mating are challenging to predict before two people meet.'” • Context problems again, perhaps?

Please stop:

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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 (TH):

TH writes: “New leaves on the silk floss tree, resulting a couple of days after a 15 minute soak, inspired by concern that the silk floss tree’s leaf tips were burning due to insufficient hydration.”

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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. Michael Fiorillo

    You’re damn right there’s problems with Warren’s Obama story: he does five minutes of research about her career and focus before she arrives, makes sure to be backlit upon her entrance, rings what comes across as a transparently canned bell… and she swoons!

    I get that that most people were taken in by that talented, fraudulent shapeshifter, but this is painful to watch.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Did I catch that right, she said they each gave $250? Obama did a few minutes of research and got a talking point to help fundraise from Professor Warren. Pretty good ROI for Obama. He knows how to charm his audience (target?).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Your comment makes me think that we’ve seen Trump get inside Warren’s head on the Cherokee debacle. Now we see Obama getting inside Warren’s head — and she explains how! That’s worrisome.

      (Also, I’m guessing that through this video Warren is coming down hard on the idea that Obama’s record needs to be confronted by Democrats.)

      1. Kurt Sperry

        This personal anecdote is clearly being told to put her within the “Obama glow” — literally — for the benefit of his tifosi. She still hasn’t figured out she was the mark there. Hmmm.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          > She still hasn’t figured out she was the mark there.

          I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my view that Warren has very poor political judgment before [joke]. (It is true that if you want to flatter a scholar — and Warren is a scholar, no? — then tell them you’ve read their work.)

          1. JohnnyGL

            To flesh this out….imagine that Elizabeth Warren becomes president and there’s a proposal laid out for her, with some kind of smooth-talking grifter like Ahmed Chalabi somehow getting into a room with her and telling her all the right things to get her to underwrite some kind of hair-brained scheme for regime change.

          2. Briny

            When someone says they’ve read my work, my reply is always: “You have my sympathies.” Extremely true.

          3. Lambert Strether Post author

            > I don’t know if I’ve mentioned my view that Warren has very poor political judgment before [joke]. (It is true that if you want to flatter a scholar — and Warren is a scholar, no? — then tell them you’ve read their work.)

            This seems to have been the comment that triggered the late-lamented Edmondo.

            For the 2016 election, the team that approached Sanders (@WaywardWinifred) approached Warren first, and she refused. If she had accepted, she might be President today.

        2. pretzelattack

          perhaps they bonded over their shared hardscrabble childhoods, he on the mean streets of chicago, she on the rez. they are people of the people. has she met beto yet?

        3. Jeff W

          She still hasn’t figured out she was the mark there.

          One thing that has struck me consistently with Elizabeth Warren is how she can’t tell she’s being played—either by President Obama or President Trump. We can easily imagine someone with a scintilla of savviness telling the story equally for laughs at the manipulativeness of it all—perhaps ending with side-eyeing Obama and saying dryly, “So you thought you had me at ‘predatory lending’…” (and maybe blowing smoke rings in his face, for added effect)—but instead all we get is just cringeworthy swooning. (The audience laughs along because it’s too embarrassing to confront the enormousness of the cluelessness going on.)

          There’s a weird “surface level” reading by Warren always going on—flattering comments and schoolyard taunts are all taken and responded to at face value—there’s zero glimmer of an idea of what the dynamic as a whole might mean, that it could mean anything other than what’s on the surface. It aligns in a way with Warren’s “policy orientation”—behavior is just met with some response directly addressing it; the underlying dynamic is not even recognized, much less dealt with.

          1. Carey

            Warren is an interesting case. She did well on Maddow’s
            show, sounding reasonable and sincere, but she sure seems most comfortable with fellow technocrats.
            Her TDS, Budweiser moment, Native American claims, and the like do not really inspire confidence in her overall judgment. I think she’d make an acceptable
            VP candidate (for political reasons, primarily) in the
            most unlikely event that Sanders is “allowed” the nomination.

            1. Jeff W

              I’m sure, in my mind at least, that she’s sincere and reasonable (and she’s definitely comfortable with the technocrats). She reminds me of those A students who get all the answers right but don’t realize the answers may not matter—something else might be going on entirely (e.g., does Trump’s taunting about her claimed heritage require a point-by-point rebuttal?). Someone like FDR used charm, evasiveness and humor to not answer questions for political ends—Warren seems incapable of anything like that.

              lambert likes to refer to Warren’s “poor political judgnent,” which she undoubtedly has, but I view the problem at a more psychological level—her theory of how the world works, how people relate, power and social dynamics seem a bit off—again, if she gives the “right” answers, if we get in place the “right” policies, if we get Wall Street and corporations to do the “right” things, everything falls into place, in her view. There’s no sense of systems thinking, no sense of paradox, no multiple layers—it’s very linear, maybe too sincere, too reasonable.

              1. lambert strether

                > her theory of how the world works, how people relate, power and social dynamics seem a bit off

                “Accounting control fraud” is not in the index to Warren’s book. It’s eerie. We have “predatory lenders” but she gives no account of how predators reproduce themselves, and her answer to predation is to regulate the predators better. That’s the “big, structural change.” Again, the weird dichotomy between a strong problem statement and a weak remedy. You’re right, I don’t think it’s cynicism, it’s something deeper.

                1. whiteylockmandoubled

                  She’s shown pretty good political judgment this cycle. Going hard on Russiagate and impeachment has helped her with Biden and Harris voters, yet she’s still maintained her position as Bernie without the Bros.

                  The big D money is getting comfortable with her because they’re so freaked out by Sanders, even as she performs scorn toward them. (Not super) rich white Dems are starting to swoon for her.

                  I think she’ll have a very hard time handling Trump bc she’s not comfortable in her own class skin. But even though the DNA test was intensely cringeworthy, a segment of primary voters read it as Standing Up to Trump With Science. The goal right now is to win the nomination, and she’s run a very smart campaign to date. She’s one of the three frontrunners. The leader is almost embarrassingly incompetent as a public campaigner, and the party’s entire money and communications apparatus is mobilized against the other.

                  Presidential candidates could be in worse positions less than six months from Iowa.

              2. Carey

                “..her theory of how the world works, how people relate, power and social dynamics seem a bit off..”

                Fully agree.

    2. WheresOurTeddy

      I thought she was supposed to be the intellectual…then tells a story about the neoliberal who talked about her pet issue and how she was immediately in his pocket….endorsed Clinton in ’16, would not endorse Bernie.

      I know a rank opportunist when I see one. Evidently Elizabeth couldn’t detect her own kind when backlighting is present. Or maybe he’s just a way better bullshitter than she is.

    3. richard

      “you had me at predatory lending!”
      this is mental illness, and the kicker is we’re all supposed to nod our heads and laugh along with her
      begging the goddamn question, what did he do about the fraud? who went to jail? what did he put in place to punish the fraud and prevent its reoccurence?
      warren is not a serious person
      this hagiographical (literally) obama origin story is further evidence
      despite all the heavy academic credentials, and all the plans, she doesn’t have a serious mental model for how power actually manifests, and how to confront it in the people’s interest.

      1. polecat

        He applied Phoam to every bankster tarmac in sight … lots an lots of Phoam ! Killicams even. Anyone know the Klingon word for the airy wispy stuff ?

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > she doesn’t have a serious mental model for how power actually manifests

        Stoller’s critique of liberal Democrats generally. So then one asks how Warren would govern, which liberal Democrats do not want to do. I suppose the answer to that is the CFPB*, which is a genuine accomplishment, especially if you regard the 90% as consumers and not workers. Good, but not enough.

        NOTE * Another way of saying this is that a WFPB — Workers‘ Financial Protection Board — is not within Warren’s ambit. If Sanders really wants to tweak Warren, he might propose that. Wage theft, poor pay, harassment, precarity, etc.

  2. Synoia

    What’s Janet doing? Yellen again, just ignore it.

    Is there a calibration of her error percentage anywhere?

    1. Duck1

      Another is that the deterioration in the global economy hasn’t been anywhere near as severe, the Fitch report said (as 2009)

      Not yet

    2. Yves Smith

      Don’t assume she is wrong.

      Everyone is going nuts over the idea of an inverted yield curve as a recession indicator….this when everything is so manipulated by central banks, who know what any market indicator means any more.

      In my youth, the saying went, “An inverted yield curve has predicted nine of the last five recession.”

      1. Procopius

        I saw a chart somewhere. The yield curve predicted something like nine of the last seven recessions. Yes, it’s been present before every one of those recessions, but it happened a couple of times and was not followed by a recession. Also, the recessions that did happen didn’t happen until a year or year and a half later, so panicking right now is not called for. I’m not an economist, but my guess is the recession is not going to start until two to six months after the election. So far the difference is as small as those two cases (and maybe there were more that I don’t remember) and also may not be predictive. Lambert’s regular statistics reports suggest no such event is likely for at least the next few months.

  3. JohnnyGL

    Re: Passive Design. THIS, THIS, THIS!!!

    For those who haven’t seen previously….Village Homes in Davis, CA as covered by Bill Millson decades ago.


    My very sunny porch gets very warm, even when it’s close to freezing outside, to the point where I will open the front door to get some of that heat inside the house. If we were serious about climate change, there should be a niche of home re-designers and retrofitters that would be able to have a look at an old house like mine (1920) and come up with a better way to use that passive heating/cooling ability.

    Unfortunately, it’s on no one’s radar right now. Big missed opportunity.

    1. Utah

      Earth ship homes do this, but they’re not widely used, super niche, and weird looking. But made from used materials and do the passive heat and cool by design.

        1. foghorn longhorn

          You must have been there in the summer, try navigating the honda civic in 3 feet of snow, with a 30 mph north wind in the middle of January.
          Let’s punch up, not kick down.

    2. Knifecatcher

      For the last couple of years I’ve been building an old-school style log home – the kind made with big, unshaped logs with chinking in between. Some of these logs are as much as 30″ in diameter so the thermal mass is substantial. It stays beautifully cool in 80+ degree August days, when the RV right next to it is uncomfortably hot and needs the A/C on to remain comfortable.

      1. JohnnyGL

        A quick look on a search for zillow for Village Homes in Davis, CA and eyeballing the prices vs those in nearby areas makes me think they’re still selling at a premium. You can still see the garden and common areas on satellite photos on google maps.

        I can’t recall if it was in this video or another interview, but the designer, Michael Corbett, said the homes were selling at a premium to the surrounding areas. It was at least partially because of using less energy than surrounding homes (in addition to being more lush and pleasant). Also, the turnover was lower. People never sold because they didn’t want to leave.

        The lower turnover annoyed the local realtors who actually pushed back against similar designs in the future.

        Check out this sign… “PRIVATE PROPERTY. Fruit and Nuts for Village Homes residents only”

        I guess they’re not into sharing, much…

        1. JohnnyGL

          It’s funny. You can see the difference in the shape and the shade of the little side streets are in Village Homes vs. the adjacent neighborhoods.

          Check out this street, which looks like it must bake in the hot sun…Danube Ave.

          Now look at the gentle curves in the street and ample shade here….Overhill Ln. https://www.google.com/maps/@38.550661,-121.7817699,3a,75y,268.54h,91.39t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sRVpxmzuuBdq0O78xRscjjA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

        2. Will S.

          As someone who was once a teenager in Davis, I can attest that quite a bit of non-resident munching of the Village Home orchards occurs, so they aren’t entirely unreasonable in being defensive. Also, it’s worth noting that Davis is very much a liberal, not leftist, town and has a lot of yuppy-ish attitudes about private property.

          Also, Davis has its own mini housing bubble caused by a confluence of housing demand (large university) and low supply (a city ordinance requiring majority vote from the citizens to approve ANY new development). Of course a lot of people are reticent to allow new developments because it would lower their home values, but also, many of the developments that have tried to come in since I’ve paid attention to the matter have been poorly planned boondoggles.

    3. PlutoniumKun

      Most passive design is very simple and intuitive – an obvious thing is the use of thermal mass (even a big rock will do) in the middle of a structure in a climate with swings from hot to cold. The other obvious thing is to position your windows correctly to maximise solar gain in winter and minimise it in summer – its amazing how rare it is to see that.

      Sadly its a worldwide phenomenon that simple architectural methods to save energy and increase comfort are abandoned as it becomes too easy to simply assume aircon/heating will do the job. There is an extensive literature on why this is, and one reason comes down to the financing structure of the construction industry – there are built-in incentives to minimise construction costs at the expense of maintenance costs. People who design and build for their own use almost always prioritise long term costs over and above initial capital costs, but most buildings are not built this way now, they are always built for sale.

      1. upstater

        We built a passive solar home in 1979. The information has been out there for a very long time. Of course materials have improved substantially.

        Once we pass the depth of the winter solstice, even a little bit of sun warms the house. A fully sunny day and we open the windows in February.

        5 KW of photovoltaic panels zero out our electricity.

        Why such thing have not been mandatory in building codes for the past 40 year is simply an indication that capitalism will never deal with energy or climate in a meaningful way.

      2. Olga

        You and Lambert may appreciate the old Iranian method:
        “A windcatcher is an architectural device used for many centuries to create natural ventilation in buildings. The windcatchers have given the people of the Middle East a form of “air conditioning” for thousands of years. Examples of windcatchers can be found in traditional Persian-influenced architecture throughout the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is not known who first invented the windcatcher, although some claim it originated in Iran.”

        A friend’s mom was an expert on this ‘natural cooling system;’ it always intrigued me. Also, old homes in Thailand, Malaysia, etc. were built for natural cooling. Very aesthetically pleasing and effective

        1. Kengferno

          Thanks for the repost! I missed this the first time. I also started a garden in 2008 and way too much of my time has been happily spent, at the cost of many other things, in designing new beds out of spare wood, figuring out what plants grow best in my little yard and trying to create a pollinator meadow out of a weedy, vacant lot next to my house.

    4. Mo's Bike Shop

      Trombe walls!!11!! In the 70s there would be an article every other month about them. When I’ve found my round tuit, I want to do some experiments with my pretty-deep window wells.

      My father was a tool and die machinist, so practicality-minded, and one of his hobby horses would be going on, and on, about how petroleum was not a viable long-term energy source. “You’ll tell your grandkids about how you just turned a dial on the wall to change the temperature of the house!” We’d just roll our eyes.

      In 76 he built a new house that was all about passive solar. Looked conventional Cape Cod, but had strategically located insulated sliding doors, concrete basement, and a massive chimney stack. Worked great. However, like a lot of 70s innovation, it suffered from ‘too-tight’ and needed a foundation up rebuild by the 2000s. [An actual opportunity for those owners, it’s dead on the water in a harbor and my home town is being turned into a theme park for the wealthy.]

        1. cnchal

          Too tight.

          My guess is that there is not enough air circulation, and the constant high humidity within the house rots it from the inside out.

    5. Fiery Hunt

      In the very beginning of the process of buying some land, designing a house and building it. All of these comments are VERY appreciated! (love the windcatchers, Olga!)

    6. polecat

      Davis = virtue $$$ .. not that I think passive house design is not a good, even necessary thing.

      Now, if this had been located is some poor/lower mid-class hood then my interest would perk up, because That would indicate such construction/design finally going mainstream.

  4. JBird4049

    Again, I could use some transparency on why these choices are made!

    Which is why that transparency is never gonna happen if TPTB have their way. Propaganda works best when it appears to be honest.

  5. Stormcrow

    Not Found: Jeffrey Epstein

    It seems that Epstein fatigue may already be setting in. That would be too bad given the explosive potential of what this scandal may portend. Rarely are we afforded such a glimpse into the workings of what Whitney Webb calls “government by blackmail” as the backdrop to why we are so hopelessly trapped in our forever wars.

    Here are three articles of interest.

    1. Basic facts about Epstein’s suicide elude investigators 5 days later (August 15)

    As Vicky Ward points out, “Five days after Jeffrey Epstein’s suicide, federal Bureau of Prisons officials are struggling to establish even rudimentary facts of what happened.” Even normies will suspect a cover-up and start asking inconvenient questions.


    2. La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein by Jennifer Matsui (August 16)

    “If you have ever asked yourself why Israel’s war crimes and settlement expansion go unchallenged by US lawmakers, consider the career destroying consequences contained within those dossiers compiled by the braintrust behind Epstein’s ’suicide’.”


    3. Who Protected Epstein for Decades, and Why? (August 14)

    Once the debris settles, this is the explosive question.


    1. Cal2

      The only people left in America who think he committed “suicide” are the stenographer clowns on the New York Times.
      These jerks actually want us to pay them to view their propaganda rag?
      They should pay us per view, after all they are charging the advertisers.

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        He probably committed suicide by making it into the papers in the first place. I would assume he’s been some kind of hangout since his release from his first plea agreement. So who he has been seen with since would be a great list of total and complete marks.

        Any sufficiently advanced wealth is indistinguishable from magic.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The only people left in America who think he committed “suicide” are the stenographer clowns on the New York Times.

        Well, and the New York City Medical Examiner. Move along people, move along. There’s no story here.

        1. JG4

          Not to split hairs, but the New York City Medical Examiner doesn’t think that Epstein committed suicide. They’re just telling us that he did.

    2. Fiery Hunt

      Epstein and his story only matters if you’re silly enough to believe anything will come of it. Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE knows a variation of these tales of the corruption and perversions of the ultra-rich and powerful.

      Just off the top of my head…Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, the BBC, the Catholic Church….and these aren’t even the big really rich boys/girls.

      Nothing will come out of it. Just more tabloid fodder.

    3. Peter L.

      I’m curious about independent confirmation of the details of L’Affaire d’Epstein. Has any independent and trusted journalist been able to do direct examination of the crucial facts in this case? In my reading of the news, every single important fact has been provided by anonymous sources, and further, that documentary evidence has yet to be provided to any journalists. Is this correct?

      For example, today the New York Times did piece today in which all the evidence that Monsieur Epstein committed suicide is provided by unnamed sources, and my reading of the article indicates that none of the sources provided what one might call “hard” evidence. However, named sources, those willing to go on record tended to contradict the story that this was a simple suicide.

      One of the bizarre contradictions in the story was this:

      ““He’s deprived of communication with third parties, looked disheveled, sleeping on the floor sometimes,” a lawyer said.

      And Mr. Epstein’s penchant for meetings stretched an already thin staff to its limits. As an inmate in 9 South, Mr. Epstein required additional guards to take him to and from meeting rooms.”

      The lawyer mentioned above is an unnamed source, not one of Epstein’s attorneys. According to the article, Epstein was spending hours and hours with his defense team in a private room keeping him company. So, I find it weird that the NYT also quotes some person saying he was deprived of communication with third parties.

      Has any trusted and independent journalist seen the video of the inside of the MCC relevant to whether anyone went to check on him during the period that he died?

      According to the only statement from Epstein’s attorneys they have not seen the relevant video and will take “legal action to view the pivotal videos — if they exist as they should — of the area proximate to Mr. Epstein’s cell during the time period leading to his death.”

      The NYT article I’m talking about is here: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/17/nyregion/epstein-suicide-death.html

      And the statement from the attorneys is not quoted in full in the NYT article, which leaves out the part about the video, but it appears on Twitter, here, among other places, I presume: https://twitter.com/S_Fitzpatrick/status/1162514954240442369

      (I am probably incorrect about this, but I believe that the New York Times article originally (this morning) included the statement about the video, but I’m not sure.)

    4. Librarian Guy

      Thank you for the counterpunch link– haven’t looked at them in a couple of days, & I think the author got it as right as anyone who’s done the research could, the general outline is clear enough. Coincidentally, earlier today I started listening to the “TrueAnon EpFiles”, which Chapo TH’s Matt Chrisman had appeared on, so I knew it could be worth perusal– while they definitely enjoy throwing some subversive humor into the mix, and the “Danse Mossad” article points out the dangers of believing 4Chan/Incel style ‘Net interpretations, they add details not in the article, like Epstein getting his start getting hired at the exclusive Upper East Side “Dalton School” after dropping out of college twice, by Trump AG Barr’s daddy Donald Barr, his promotion from there to Bear Stearns and Wall Street . . . it’d be interesting to know how much Epstein was actually an Intel Op and how much simply a “cut out”/ front guy given full license to express his pedophile drives . . . maybe someday the remaining evidence will be assembled.

      Link to the podcast– https://soundcloud.com/trueanonpod/the-ep-files

  6. Phillip Allen

    Re: the STAT article:

    Concierge medicine, catering to the projected fears of terrified, pampered rich people. It’s living, I guess.

    Not just a living, a way of life. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether symbiosis is operant, or just frank parasitism.

      1. Carey

        Yes, Wolf Street’s take on WeWork’s S-1 is even better than Dealbreakers’, I think- drier snark!

        Everybody say “community”

      2. Amfortas the hippie

        reading stuff like that almost makes me wish that i had no scruples.
        like all the crazy nonsense during the dotcom boom(and currently in the Permian)
        a Pet Rock IPO.
        or those quarter sawn logs painted like watermelons selling for $15 on the square.
        honesty and a moral center are a definite disadvantage…which could be the shortest and most damning indictment of our civilisation.

        1. polecat

          No no, Amfortas .. when the whole creaking and rusted edifice of what most think of as modernity finally collapses, you .. and,or your progeny.. like many on the lower levels of our current uncivilizedation .. can start fresh, as you kick out that broken 1st floor window to a life of renewed opportunities – albeit ‘different’ ones then what came before.
          So, don’t let those scruples fall on the wayside. Pass some around !

  7. Deplorado

    Stacy Abrams was at the most recent Bilderberg conference. Not sure if I saw this commented here. But that has to mean something.

  8. Summer

    “Why doesn’t the United tates have universal health care? he answer has everything to do with race.” [New York Times]. • And nothing to do with. well, capital. That’s what “everything” means…”

    Maybe the polling question around healthcare should be simpler: Do people deserve to die because they can not afford a life saving procedure or medicine?

    1. jrs

      I sometimes suspect the best possible window for all this was in the 60 and 70s, when things were expanding, we had the war on poverty, Medicare itself, Johnson heck Nixon, civil rights, environmental protections, even a basic income was floated seriously. And the U.S. was not particularly behind the rest of the world then.

      But all that didn’t happen. Vietnam happened instead and went on and on. So why? Maybe Vietnam is why!

      But we can’t undo the past and are left with the much more difficult now. And now the obstacles are capital, entrenched systems, etc. but the original obstacle might have been missing the moment.

    2. Carolinian

      Everything to do with the AMA would be more accurate than the NYT version of “everything to do with.” Or there’s always that one word answer: greed.

      1. foghorn longhorn

        Ehrlichman: “Edgar Kaiser is running his Permanente deal for profit. And the reason that he can … the reason he can do it … I had Edgar Kaiser come in … talk to me about this and I went into it in some depth. All the incentives are toward less medical care, because …”

        President Nixon: [Unclear.]

        Ehrlichman: “… the less care they give them, the more money they make.”

        President Nixon: “Fine.” [Unclear.]

        Ehrlichman: [Unclear] “… and the incentives run the right way.”

        President Nixon: “Not bad.”

        [Source: University of Virginia Check – February 17, 1971, 5:26 pm – 5:53 pm, Oval Office Conversation 450-23. Look for: tape rmn_e450c.]

        Greed for the win.
        For profit medical was against the law at one time, in a faraway world.

      2. Monty

        You are right, i think a question framed like that would move more people to the universal camp. People don’t follow their prejudices through to their ultimate conclusion. Understandably they prefer to not look into the dark shadow of America. They just want to feel special, they (mostly) don’t really wish death on the other.

        Standard mindset – “i earned my health insurance, because I am so clever and hardworking. If we make it universal, then some lazy good for nothing will benefit at my expense. boo hoo… that wouldn’t be fair at all!!!”

        1. Summer

          And add this to the standard mindset:

          A benefit or acquistion is only worth something if other people are denied it.

          Whenever you put the question bluntly in a healthcare discussion, a lot of stammering comes from the defenders of the status quo.

          1. foghorn longhorn

            The point being, we basically had m4a before they legalized the hmo’s.

            Which was a good thing for my folks, since a lot of time was spent stitching this kid up in the emergency room.

          2. Amfortas the hippie

            historically, I’m the guy on the soapbox in my marriage.
            wife doesn’t like to be the center of attention, or to stir up $hit….and has often cringed(and put me in the doghouse) for my pointy and withering letters to the local paper
            so i’m really proud of her for making that exact argument, several times, to a few of her Dem Teacher colleagues(“so…since I’m not rich, i should just die?”)
            this after them thoughtlessly yammering about bernie and M4A…fully expecting another local Dem to believe as they do.
            for each of these encounters, wife described gapemouthed shock at the realisiation of just whom they were yammering to…after all, she’s been the local icon of toughness and fortitude in the face of cancer for almost a year, now…prying her out of her shell.
            as i’ve mentioned before regarding our local Dems, except for us and my MIL, all of them are rather comfortable, and don’t worry overmuch about doctor bills.
            so, yes…this is a very effective tactic.

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                inserting seeds of doubt into the mind of a True Believer, and therefore giving them the opportunity to examine their unexamined assumptions, is really the only way that such things change, isn’t it?
                I’m sure that as soon as they go back to their twitterbubble, their assumptions are quickly reinforced….and it’s unlikely(based on virtual janegoodallism) that they immediately become agitators, trying to spread that questioning attitude to others within the bubble….
                still, the seed has been planted.
                ideally, leading to further enlightenment(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Subitism)

                (i can’t find it online, but there was a Far Side cartoon with a cow in a field suddenly realising, “wait! this is grass!!…we’re eating grass!!!”)

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              > for each of these encounters, wife described gapemouthed shock at the realisiation of just whom they were yammering to…after all, she’s been the local icon of toughness and fortitude in the face of cancer for almost a year, now…prying her out of her shell.
              as i’ve mentioned before regarding our local Dems, except for us and my MIL, all of them are rather comfortable, and don’t worry overmuch about doctor bills.

              Well done!

              NOTE * See Rule #2 of neoliberalism; the answer to your wife’s question is “yes,” though in the aggregate, not at the “let’s take her a hot dish” level.

    3. Mo's Bike Shop

      Why doesn’t the United States have universal health care?

      Because it is a very rewarding cutout to provide rich people with income streams from the poor. We only notice it because the subset of ‘the poor’ is growing. See Food Stamp cards. State lotteries. Rent-to-own interest rates. Plenty of qualified people get income from this as well.

      And of course maintaining precarity.

  9. archival

    Architecture Without Architects and the Illustrated Handbook of Vernacular Architecture are excellent works that cover many different kinds of “passive” systems for cooling and heating places and food in various regions, some recorded shortly before their disappearance into modernity.

  10. Ranger Rick

    “What is considered offensive depends on social context.”

    We’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      Baroo? My brothers can call each other Monica all they want. If I were to use that word, it would be a different thing.

      Meanwhile, I’m a six foot pole, so I can totally go there. And some of those generalizations are not only true, but poignant.

      And if someone calls me a N@zi because I am proud of my German American heritage, I will get all Mennonite on their buttocks. Which would probably involve forcing them into appreciating their community and all it has done for them.

      TL;DR: Algorithms can’t deal with any of this.

      Nor our Media, to be honest.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > We’ve entered the Twilight Zone.

      Nonsense. The offense given by “nigger” (or “nigga”), for example, is different in context. The algo has literally no way to determine the context, and so there are false positives.

      This really is not hard to understand and trust me, civilization isn’t crumbling because of it.

      1. Librarian Guy

        I teach Bay Area adolescents, in a lower-middle class community near Oakland . . . they’re pretty schizophrenic about use of “the N word” in both variants you give, Lambert.

        I hear it from non-black kids to other non-black kids a lot, “fondly” it seems– seems to be an outlaw, “gangsta” wanna-be thing. But on the other hand, many kids would not be caught dead using it, & definitely there’s a lot of identity politics sensitization and possibly over-sensitization in my academic environment.

        A white teacher was verbally attacked by one of our Millennial teachers as “racist” for daring to metaphorically express that they felt they were riding in the back of the bus, when clearly being abused by an administrator (pay illegally withheld from their paycheck due to being union identified, subsequently restored). Since both attacker and target have English credentials, the issue of Descriptive v. Prescriptive language was used as a defense, & Ben Shapiro’s use of Prescriptive demands (“transsexuals may only identify as how they were biologically (sic) born”) was referenced as a defense . . . and when a bigger racialized controversy arose on campus about WWII curriculum and anti-Semitism, one of our black staff members started an initiative to ban the speaking of the first (non-hiphop) “N-word”. This teacher would allow others to write Muhammed Ali’s words, “No Vietnamese ever called me nigger,” on the board or share the quote in curriculum, but no teacher, black or white, may SAY the word, even in quoting an anti-racist statement, because it is too “traumatizing” to black and brown youth to hear it, is my understanding of the argument . . .

        This has not (yet) become official district or school policy, but admin is working on it, may attempt to pull it off without thinking through all the consequences, intended or not . . .

        Meantime, violence & lockdowns (guns on campus, etc.) in the school escalate, and staff morale is poor, with some people wanting to police others’ expression. (For the most part until recently, I have always dismissed “political correctness” as mainly an invention of the insane Right, am less sanguine about that now.) It is easier to fight about verbal misunderstandings that address larger systemic problems, of course, and always more tempting to punch down than up, as we know how punching up usually turns out.

  11. Summer

    “A New Species of Leech Is Discovered Near Washington, D.C.” [Smithsonian (DK)]. DK: “Does it have to register as a lobbyist?”

    Finding that habitat where it can thrive….

  12. L.M. Dorsey

    Not news, not here; but seldom so well said. John Gray’s latest in the NS:

    One of the deeper paradoxes of our time is that a post-truth culture is coming about as a result of accelerating progress in science and technology…If there is a remedy for this predicament, liberals cannot supply it. Detecting the fingerprints of conspirators in the disarray of their societies, they are possessed by the pathology they rage against. Unwilling to admit why progress has foundered, liberals have embraced the worst kind of magical thinking. The dark forces they see conspiring around them are shadows of a resistance to reality that exists in themselves.

    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      There wasn’t truth. There were dominant narratives.

      As an IT worker, I’m not convinced that any of these bits will be around for the ages. But while teh Internet dominates our lives, we should be pushing for the kind of social objectivity that we would like in voting.

      As late Western Rome needed the Barbarians, we’re going to need some Librarians.

      Stoller this morning was a great reminder of how more hits doesn’t necessarily help anyone.

  13. john k

    Don’t be stupid. Be smart and keep your mouth shut.
    Remember we know where you live, just like we knew where Jeffrey used to live. If we can touch him where he was, we can touch you anywhere.

      1. JohnnyGL

        Perhaps john k was channeling his inner-CIA talking points for a certain Ghislane Maxwell?

        That’s my best guess….fwiw….

      2. dearieme

        Dunno but it makes me realise something. Epstein didn’t have a wife and children they could threaten to shut him up. So they had to kill him. (Unless they just smuggled him out of course.)

        It had never struck me before that not having hostages to fortune would have that effect.

        1. pretzelattack

          i’m not sure epstein would have been much more concerned with his kids than some of the game of thrones characters.

      3. Mo's Bike Shop

        Is there any thread on NC where this would not be an appropriately sarcastic reply? Including bird spotting?

        It’s amazing to me that all this AJAX stuff works at all.

    1. Summer

      And I starting to wonder if these “what the hell?” IPOs are being accepted because of the drop in public offerings.
      There was a story once on NC about the drop in companies going public.
      So this has nothing to do with sustainable businesses, but just having some stock to trade back and forth….

  14. pretzelattack

    so the medical examiner pronounces “yep, it was a suicide”. i’m totally convinced.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Epstein could have had twenty knife wounds to the back and the medical examiner still would have ruled it as suicide.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Truly, one of the most influential writers on my developing brain.. i forget how beautiful raw insight is…him and Hesse and Salinger and Vonnegut and Thompson and Kesey and Thoreau and Twain and Melville and Nabokov and….

        1. Librarian Guy

          Henry Miller was Bukowski before Bukowski, & the Beats before all the kewl 60’s psychedelics, with only booze for his self-medication.

  15. Jerry B

    ==the problem is context, which humans are really good at and AI is not===

    I would add “some humans” are really good at context. One of my pet peeves is how much concrete thinking (i.e. black and white thinking, either/or thinking, or a lack of context) humans can engage in. One look at our politics and the media coverage of politics will tell you all you need to know about how “not good” some humans are at context.

    IMO people in the US especially are not good at context and are quick to judge, blame, and punish. Some of that is because we rely too much on media, business, and political propaganda. See Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent, Edward Bernay’s Propaganda, Richard Hofstadter’s Anti Intellectualism in American Life, or Out of Our Minds: Turning the Tide of Anti-Intellectualism in American Schools.

    The author Jerome Kagan wrote two books that had chapters that explained how poorly humans are at context. So many things are based on: it depends on…, time, year in history, conditions, culture, country, etc, etc.



    Many people in the US live in a bubble and think life in the rest of the world is like the US and have no idea about other countries or cultures and do not want to know.

    IMNSHO the lack of skill in viewing things in context has gotten worse over the last several decades as our culture, politics, media, educational institutions, and journalistic standards, have degraded.

    That rant being said, I agree that AI is a long way from ever being “human” or even Level 5 autonomous self driving, as the article below shows:


    From the article:

    “He had discovered that human learning was communal and interactive. For a robot, the acquisition of language was abstract and formulaic. For us, it was embodied, emotive, subjective, quivering with life. The future of intelligence wouldn’t be found in our machines, but in the development of our own minds.””

  16. dearieme

    Many people in the US live in a bubble and think life in the rest of the world is like the US and have no idea about other countries or cultures and do not want to know.

    That seems to include many of your politicians and civil servants. I remember shaking my head in disbelief at all the twaddle about how the GIs would be welcomed in Iraq.

    1. Monty

      I’ve been in the US for 20 years and it seems that every native I have ever spoken to about the subject thinks the rest of the world is inferior in every way, and other nationalities are sub-human (except Brits!). Complete brainwashing.

  17. Yves Smith

    Sorry, your remark is classic projection. Warren does have poor political judgment. Look at the Pocohontas fiasco. Not only was her initial response poor, she turned it into an even bigger self-inflicted wound with her DNA test, which got her called out by the Cherokee Nation. And she handled that poorly too! Politico, which has no dog in this fight, provides confirmation today:

    Warren and her team’s intense focus on the issue is, in part, a response to years of questions about her past claims of Native American ancestry. Those questions led her to release the results of a DNA test last year in an attempt to prove that her past claims were merited.

    The rollout prompted mocking at the time from President Donald Trump — who derisively calls her “Pocahontas.” But the more potentially damaging reaction came from the left and some Native American leaders who criticized her for seeming to appropriate a racial identity through a DNA test in order to settle a political controversy.

    She keeps picking at a scab and reopens the wound. All on her own. No one made her spend her political capital keeping the spotlight on her screw-up.

    Your intolerance of a specific criticism of Warren is Warren Derangement Syndrome.

    Your message is also a reader assisted suicide note. However, it is Lambert’s call whether to honor it.

      1. Yves Smith

        Grr, “approve and reply” is not working reliably. This is the second time in a week that I made several attempts and it failed. There is a workaround (literally logging out of the site, manually posting the moderated comment under a fake name, logging in and approving it and correcting the name and timestamp, and THEN making my reply…..)

        Here is the comment that triggered mine:

        2019/08/16 at 4:45 pm

        OK. I think I get it. Sanders good. Warren bad.

        I guess I’ll take a leave from here until November 2020.

        Sanders Derangement Syndrome only works one way on this site. Who knew calling yourself a “socialist” was good politics?

        Ban me now. Please. The delusion is too hard to keep up with.

        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Your penultimate comment seems to be on a killed thread. Clear cache?

          The idpol determinism of the genetics test is huge to me. Imagine if she had claimed she was of the Tribe of Abraham on similar grounds. I’m sure the reaction would be different.

          1. Yves Smith

            No, please reread what I wrote.

            I tried approving and replying to the comment by edmundo. But despite trying multiple times, his comment didn’t appear and only my reply with no antecedent did. I thought it had worked correctly on the last try.

            This is not a matter of caching. It happened our backstage and over a longer time frame than our maximum caching cycle.

            And we don’t have “killed threads”. On those very rare times (literally about 4x a year) when we find a comment so offensive we have to get rid of it but people have already replied, we have to rip out the entire thread or it breaks comment nesting.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Ban me now. Please. The delusion is too hard to keep up with.

          Rarely do we have the opportunity to so easily gratify the wishes of a reader! It’s a big Internet. I hope you find the happiness you seek elsewhere.

  18. DJG

    Did I miss this in the NYTimes?


    Obama told Joe Biden that he is too old and out of touch to run for president?

    Or is this the Italians meddling in U.S. politics? They already have Americans hypnotized with pizza as a comfort food and snack, and now while we are pizzatoxicated (except for Hawaiian pizza, which is not pizza), they want to take over the country?

    1. Susan Mulloy

      This is one of the reasons that I love YouTube. I also like the 1973 BBC version of War and Peace. Anthony Hopkins is terrific as Pierre. And Alan Dobie as Andre. Dobie is a less sentimental Andre and not so handsome. I think this makes him more real. Of course, he is a misogynist through and through. I feel that I am a more compassionate and understanding person after watching this epic production.


      1. John A

        The 1973 version with Hopkins et all was excellent. However, it was 20 episodes. Instead of doing a rerun, the BBC did a new version in 2016 with just 6 episodes. They claimed people do not have the patience to watch longer series any more. A sad reflection on our times.

  19. Carey

    The Taibbi piece on Sanders was a fine piece of truth-telling.
    I wonder for how much longer that’ll be “allowed”.

  20. Summer

    RE: WeWork

    I know people that pray that there jobs won’t get moved to some WeWork cramped hole. The cramped holes are enough trouble with the people you already work with. Why add strangers?
    It’s like moving to a cramped hole that’s even more out of your control.

  21. hunkerdown

    In the early 2010s I went to an Oakwood ER for chest pain*. As is known among local physicians, they loved them some imaging and tests, all intended to be billed to Medicaid. A dismaying proportion of private and group practices and all but one hospital** in the metro Detroit area are now under the Beaumont flag. Thanks, Obama!

    * Later diagnosed as a dysfunctional rib by an upbeat Asian osteopath at another facility**, notably not by an Oakwood-affiliated doctor.
    ** Garden City, in the low-rent-ring of the western Detroit burbs, has (had?) a Primecare-operated hospital and ER, which runs a financial assistance program offering $200 flat rate emergency visits (ex specialists and admissions) when self-paid at the time of service.

  22. JG4

    Not to split hairs, but the New York City Medical Examiner doesn’t think that Epstein committed suicide. They’re just telling us that he did. I think that Epstein’s body double is dead, and that he’s hanging out with Kenny Boy Lay on a very pleasant tropical island.

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