By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Patient readers, brunch ran a little late today. I’ll add some more in a bit. –lambert UPDATE All done!
“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
I’m abandoning the RCP poll on the Democrat Presidential nomination race, despite the fancy presentation, because I don’t like the way the polls used keep changing (and RCP doesn’t include Reuters/IPSOS either, at least not now, even though Reuter is one of the polls that the DNC uses to determine — if that’s the word I want — candidate eligibility for the debates. So I’ll try FiveThirtyEight (I know, I know) for awhile. Here are results going a week back, last updated 2019-08-26:
Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) has developed the following chart: Since the RCP poll aggregator had a nice chart, but kept changing its polls (and didn’t include Reuters/IPSOS, which the DNC uses to
game select debate participants), and the FiveThirtyEight aggregation seemed better, but lacked charts, he came up with an aggregator of his own, driven, as I understand it, by all the 528 polls, but without any secret sauce at all, and allowing some user customization. Here, I have filtered out all the candidates but the top five, and used a “stair step” presentation, which, although a little jarring, conveys the idea that polls are only slices in time; it’s the voters who move in curves, whereas the polls really are jagged proxies for whatever is happening out there in the dark matter of the electorate:
And here are the numbers as of 8/27/2019, 12:30 PM EDT:
The relative positions of Biden, Sanders, and Warren remain the same. However, Biden’s trendline is clear. I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”
Biden (D)(1): “Biden calls health care a “personal” fight in new Iowa ad” [CBS]. “In a new emotional appeal to Iowa caucus voters, former Vice President Joe Biden is putting the fight for access to adequate health care at the top of his to do list, telling supporters that safeguarding the Obama-era Affordable Care Act ‘is personal to me.'” • “The fight for adequate health care.” Now there’s a hill to die on!
Gabbard (D)(1): “Gabbard is Victim of DNC’s Rigged Debate ‘Criteria'” [21st Century Wire (Furzy Mouse)]. “Take, for instance, her poll standing in New Hampshire, which currently places Gabbard at 3.3% support, according to the RealClearPolitics average as of Aug. 20. One might suspect that such a figure would merit inclusion in the upcoming debates — especially considering she’s ahead of several candidates who have already been granted entry, including Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Andrew Yang. But the Democratic National Committee has decreed that the polls constituting this average are not sufficiently “qualifying.” What makes a poll ‘qualifying’ in the eyes of the DNC? The answer is conspicuously inscrutable.” • Not sure about the source, but n this, they’re right.
Gillibrand (D)(1): “Former Kirsten Gillibrand staffers want senator to quit presidential campaign” [New York Post]. “‘It would be best if she decided that this was not her time,’ said one longtime Gillibrand fundraiser, who claimed the Democratic contender’s well-heeled supporters want her to remain in the US Senate…. ‘I don’t know that anyone even wants to see her on the debate stage. Everyone I have talked to finds her performative and obnoxious,’ said a former senior staffer in Gillibrand’s Senate office.” • Ouch!
Harris (D)(1): “Kamala Harris Ads Tout Support for Sanders’s Medicare for All Bill” [The Intercept]. “‘I was proud to be the first Senate Democrat to come out in support of Bernie Sanders’ Medicare for All bill,’ the [Facebook] ad, which ran from August 2 to August 7, 2018, and prompted Facebook users to share their email addresses with the campaign, read. ‘It is absurd that we are the only major industrialized nation in the world not to guarantee health care to all people. Add your name if you agree it’s time for Medicare for All.'” • Suckers!
Sanders (D)(1): “Op-Ed: Bernie Sanders on his plan for journalism” [Bernie Sanders, Columbia Journalism Review]. “When we have had real journalism, we have seen crimes like Watergate exposed and confronted, leading to anti-corruption reforms. When we have lacked real journalism, we have seen crimes like mortgage fraud go unnoticed [but not by all! –lambert] and unpunished, leading to a devastating financial crisis that destroyed millions of Americans’ lives…. [T[wo Silicon Valley corporations—Facebook and Google—control 60 percent of the entire digital advertising market. They have used monopolistic control to siphon off advertising revenues from news organizations. A recent study by the News Media Alliance, a trade organization, found that in 2018, as newspaper revenues declined, Google made $4.7 billion off reporting that Google did not pay for.” • A small sum for Google, but a large sum for the news business, especially local news.
UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie Out-Raises Biden in Obama-Trump Swing Counties” [The Daily Beast]. “But in at least one “electability” metric, Biden is lagging behind his Democratic competition. In the 206 counties that voted for Barack Obama twice before backing Trump in 2016, the former VP has fewer donors than three primary opponents.” • From those Obama-Trump counties: Sanders: 33,185 donors/81,841 donations; Buttigeig: 14,294 donors/23,320 donations; Warren: 13,674 donors/26,298 donations; Biden: 12,040 donors/9,885 donations. Oddly, or not, the Beast discusses Sanders last. It isn’t clear that donors (plus circles of influence) translate into voters. But it’s also not clear that poll results translate into voters.
UPDATE Sanders (D)(3): “Twitter sleuths uncover an anti-Sanders conspiracy — and the pundit class is furious” [Salon]. Insider minutiae from the Twitterverse, but nonetheless: “[L]ast week, when MSNBC reported on a trending hashtag among Sanders supporters by picking up a hostile tweet rather than an earnest one, the exhibition of bias was no surprise for Sanders’ fans. A scan of the trending hashtag in question, #MyBernieStory, reveals a fount for Twitter users to explain how personal events in their lives had politicized them and brought them to support Sanders. Exemplary tweets from the hashtag included stories of supporters whose identities clashed with the disingenuous media depiction of white, male “BernieBros” (which is objectively untrue, as a Pew poll found Sanders supporters were the least white, least male and majority working class); or those who had been failed by the welfare state and found hope in Sanders’ plan for Medicare for All….. The hashtag gained enough traction that Brian Williams of MSNBC, reported on it on his show, “The 11th Hour.” But rather than give any context for the tweet, Williams and his crew displayed a single, disingenuous tweet mocking the hashtag from an anonymous Twitter account [“HoarseWhisperer”] with a large following….. Jack Allison, cohost of Struggle Session, a popular leftist podcast, did some sleuthing, in concert with other Twitter users. He connected HoarseWhisperer to a prominent consultant who had worked in the past for oil companies and banks, and done marketing for the military….. Once again, the dust-up proves little beyond what Sanders supporters already knew: that the liberal elite of media and punditry, in general, do not like Bernie Sanders and will go to great lengths to depict his supporters as bad people, hoping that readers and viewers will view his entire campaign through that lens. One could almost conclude they are frightened.” • Glad to have the “Hoarse Whisperer” timeline straightened out. I don’t know if conspiracy is the right word; this all seems more like the normal operation of an elite network. Fascinatingly, HoarseWhisperer seems to have been backstabbed by #Resistance types who were annoyed with him.
UPDATE Sanders (D)(4):
I didn’t have time to watch the whole thing; does Sanders look like he’s having fun, like he did with Cardi B?
Warren (D)(1): “What Elizabeth Warren Is Quietly Telling Democratic Insiders” [New York Times]. “Ms. Warren’s wooing could prove important should the nominating contest deadlock at the Democratic National Convention next summer: , who are able to cast a binding vote should the primary go beyond a first ballot…. While Ms. Warren has been careful to avoid directly criticizing Mr. Sanders, her regular references to being a capitalist withstanding, she is also quietly taking steps within the party to make clear that she does not want to create a competing power base should she become president.” • In other words, despite her public words (“our movement“), Warren does not want to create a movement — which is a competing power base by definition — and that’s what she’s telling insiders in private. Her theory of change is 180° opposed to Sanders’ theory of change. This isn’t a movie I’ve seen before, but some of the plot points are similar to movies I have seen in the past… .
UPDATE Warren (D)(2): “Elizabeth Warren isn’t just a former Harvard professor. She doled out advice for Dr. Phil” [Los Angeles Times]. “Between 2003 and 2005, Warren appeared three times on the ‘Dr. Phil’ show, doling out personal finance advice to a live studio audience in Hollywood — and millions of Americans at home. After the financial crisis in 2009, Warren expanded the role on late-night TV, appearing often on ‘The Daily Show,’ which was popular with liberals.” • Not exactly The Apprentice, but still!
UPDATE Warren (D)(3): “Native American critics still wary of Warren despite apology tour” [Politico]. • They really have Warren where they want her.
* * *
UPDATE “FEC paralyzed by resignations as 2020 approaches” [Politico]. “The federal agency regulating campaign finance has been rendered powerless heading into the 2020 election cycle, with the resignation of another commissioner leaving it unable to punish violations of election law.” • Cool, cool. And then there are the electronic voting machines….
UPDATE Union support for #MedicareForAll:
UE members reaffirmed the union's longstanding commitment to #MedicareForAll this morning, unanimously endorsing a resolution declaring that "The U.S. employer-based private health insurance system is a disaster" and demanding that Congress pass HR 1384. 1/3
— UE (@ueunion) August 27, 2019
UPDATE “4 Senate Dems shaping the future of health policy explain what they’re thinking” [Vox]. “he grinding legislative gauntlet that produced Obamacare, combined with the decade-long Republican campaign of obstruction, sabotage, and legal challenge, has produced a grim realism. Senate Democrats recognize that failure is possible and the path to passage is slim. But they are cohering around a rough consensus on where the next bid at health reform should begin.” • Apparently, Bill Clinton being impeached, followed by the Bush administration, didn’t make Democrats jaded or grim enough. Oh well, that’s blood under the bridge. More: “It starts with abandoning the political idealism behind the Affordable Care Act. Max Baucus, the powerful chair of the Senate Finance Committee, believed he could secure Republican votes with a hybrid public-private expansion based on Mitt Romney’s reforms in Massachusetts and slow, bipartisan negotiations. President Barack Obama, who still sought to make good on his promise to lead a more collegial political system, backed his plan. Everything about the ACA, from the policy to the messaging, reflected the belief that Republican support was possible.” • In other words, Democrats following the 2008 election were completely delusional, living in a fantasy world. And so naturally we turn to the very same people to fix the problem: “”I understand the aspirational notions around Medicare-for-all, but if there’s one thing that I think we still have to wrestle with, it’s that Americans want to see more of their fellow citizens covered but they are very nervous about losing what they have,” says Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA). ‘There’s a huge risk aversion.’ Brown, who has long supported single-payer, agreed. ‘I think you want people to have choice still,’ he says. “You don’t want to take people’s insurance away. A lot of people don’t want government insurance. I understand that.'” • Sigh.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Lincoln Yards’ race for subsidy” [Chicago Tribune]. The Chicago Way.
“Barbara Boxer: AB5 is not the answer for all workers” [Barbara Boxer, Los Angeles Times]. “The California Legislature is currently evaluating a bill, AB5, that would reclassify independent contractors as employees in a wide range of industries. For some industries, this reclassification makes a lot of sense. In others, it will lead to anxiety and loss of income for thousands of workers… When Lyft approached me to advise them on how to find a compromise that would allow their company to grow while ensuring needed benefits and flexibility for their workforce, I said I would love to help….” • Ka-ching.
Consumer Confidence, August 2019: “Despite stock market volatility and escalating trade tensions, the consumer confidence report from the Conference Board did not give back very much of July’s gain at all in August, easily beating high-end expectations” [Econoday]. “Today’s report is surprisingly robust and contrasts not only with forecaster expectations but with the rival consumer sentiment index from the University of Michigan which fell very sharply in its mid-month report for August. Yet the methodological focus of the confidence report is the jobs market and today’s results — specifically for August’s conditions — point to yet another month of strong payroll growth.”
Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, August 2019: “Fifth District manufacturing activity bounced back into expansion in August” [Econoday]. “The surprising strength in today’s report follows yesterday’s equally surprising rebound in manufacturing reported by the Dallas Fed and suggests that in some regions a recovery may already be under way for a sector that had recently fallen into contraction.”
FHFA House Price Index, June 2019: “Home price growth keeps slowing, the results of both Case-Shiller and FHFA, both released this morning” [Econoday]. “FHFA, like Case-Shiller, are lagging data, tracking way back in June which was before what is an ongoing and steep decline in mortgage rates which is very likely to provide firmer support to underlying housing demand and prices with it.”
S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, June 2019: “Both this morning’s FHFA and Case-Shiller reports show very weak price traction in the housing market during June” [Econoday]. ” Yet both of these reports are lagging, tracking way back in June which was before what is an ongoing and steep decline in mortgage rates which is very likely to provide firmer support to underlying housing demand and prices with it.:
Tech: “How four rotten packets broke CenturyLink’s network for 37 hours, knackering 911 calls, VoIP, broadband” [The Register]. “A handful of bad network packets triggered a massive chain reaction that crippled the entire network of US telco CenturyLink for roughly a day and a half. This is according to the FCC’s official probe [PDF] into the December 2018 super-outage, during which CenturyLink’s broadband internet and VoIP services fell over and stayed down for a total of 37 hours. This meant subscribers couldn’t, among other things, call 911 over VoIP at the time – which is a violation of FCC rules, and triggered a formal investigation. ‘This outage was caused by an equipment failure catastrophically exacerbated by a network configuration error,’ America’s communications regulator said in its summary of its inquiry, published yesterday.” • I guess we really are in the Age of Steam, aren’t we?
Manufacturing: “Boeing faces first lawsuit from 737 Max customer” [Financial Times]. “Avia Capital Services, a subsidiary of Russian state conglomerate Rostec, claims two deadly crashes were due to the ‘negligent actions and decisions of Boeing’ not just in designing a plane that was ‘defective’ but also in ‘withholding critical information’ from the US aviation safety regulator during certification. The complaint, which was filed in Cook county circuit court in Chicago on Monday, claims that Boeing ‘intentionally’ failed to disclose information about the airworthiness of the Max to its customers, including Avia, in order to induce them to buy the aircraft.”
Tech: “Huawei Seeks Independence From the US With RISC-V and Ascend Chips” [Tom’s Hardware]. • Plus a development framework for AI applications “in all scenarios” (!) named “MindSpore” (!!).
The Bezzle: “Keeping Tesla Roadsters Alive Is Serious Work” [Road and Track]. “Tesla service centers are busy with the S, X, and 3, and as a result, don’t have much time to work on the 2500-or-so Roadsters the company built. Moreover, some of the personnel who worked on the Roadster when it was new have since left the company… There are unique challenges that come with working on these cars. You might have to rebuild a circuit board one day, and fabricate a new hood the next day. Actually, if any body parts are damaged, you’ll have to fabricate them. Tesla doesn’t sell parts to anyone, so Medlock has taken to fashioning new panels out of carbon fiber himself.”
Manufacturing: “Ford says its autonomous cars will last just four years” [TechCrunch]. “”Explained [John Rich, operations chief of Ford Autonomous Vehicles]: ‘Today’s vehicles spend most of the day parked. To develop a profitable, viable business model for [autonomous vehicles], they need to be running almost the entire day.’ Indeed, Ford very notably isn’t selling these cars to individuals any time soon. Instead, it plans to use the cars in autonomous fleets that will be used as a service by other companies, including as delivery vehicles. Ford sees the “initial commercialization of AVs to be fleet-centric,” said Rich. We also wondered if Rich’s prediction for the lifespan of full self-driving cars ties to his expectation that Ford’s autonomous vehicles will be powered by internal combustion engines. Most carmakers appear to be investing in new combustible engine architectures that promise greater fuel efficiency and fewer emissions but that still require more parts than electric cars. And the more parts that are being stressed, the higher the likelihood that something will break. Rich says the idea is to transition to battery-electric vehicles (BEV) eventually, but that Ford also needs to “find the right balance that will help develop a profitable, viable business model. This means launching with hybrids first.”
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 20 Extreme Fear (previous close: 19, Extreme Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 23 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 27 at 12:47pm. Note that the index is not always updated daily, sadly.
“Invisible Designers: Brain Evolution Through the Lens of Parasite Manipulation” [Quarterly Review of Biology]. From the abstract:
The ability of parasites to manipulate host behavior to their advantage has been studied extensively, but the impact of parasite manipulation on the evolution of neural and endocrine mechanisms has remained virtually unexplored. If selection for countermeasures has shaped the evolution of nervous systems, many aspects of neural functioning are likely to remain poorly understood until —are included in the picture. This article offers the first systematic discussion of brain evolution in light of parasite manipulation. After reviewing the strategies and mechanisms employed by parasites, the paper presents a taxonomy of host countermeasures with four main categories, namely: restrict access to the brain; increase the costs of manipulation; increase the complexity of signals; and increase robustness. For each category, possible examples of countermeasures are explored, and the likely evolutionary responses by parasites are considered. The article then discusses the metabolic, computational, and ecological constraints that limit the evolution of countermeasures.
Tell me. Are the brain parasites in the room with us right now?
“Increasing wildfires threaten historic carbon sink of boreal forest soils” [Nature]. “Boreal forest fires emit large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere primarily through the combustion of soil organic matter. During each fire, a portion of this soil beneath the burned layer can escape combustion, leading to a net accumulation of carbon in forests over multiple fire events. Climate warming and drying has led to more severe and frequent forest fires, which threaten to shift the carbon balance of the boreal ecosystem from net accumulation to net loss, resulting in a positive climate feedback. This feedback will occur if organic-soil carbon that escaped burning in previous fires, termed ‘legacy carbon’, combusts.” •
Our Famously Free Press
The dark side of podcasting. Thread:
Given the reporting about the “attribution issues” with the hit podcast Crime Junkie, I thought the time was right to talk about my experience with the comedy/history podcast @thedollop. A THREAD.
— Josh Levin (@josh_levin) August 25, 2019
“Attribution issues” is putting it kindly.
“A Year of Organizing Freelance Journalists” [Portside]. “In March of 2019, the Industrial Workers of the World Freelance Journalists Union unintentionally went public. Having recently settled on a formal name for the organization, committee members were attempting to subtly stake out corresponding web assets, but the IWW FJU’s Twitter account — the social media platform most popular with journalists — immediately exploded. Within 24 hours, the union had received more than a hundred requests from freelancers looking to learn more. The IWW FJU was officially on the map…. In order to map the workplace, IWW FJU organizers — most of whom are freelancers themselves — began by working through their own personal and professional networks, conducting one-on-one in-person meetings or calls. These one-on-ones played on the standard AEIOU (Agitate, Education, Inoculate, Organize, Unionize) model, asking freelancers about the publications they wrote for, their problems, how they thought freelancers could work together to address those issues, and what, if any, concerns they had with organizing.”
“Barry sobbed as he begged for his job. VR is getting heavy, man” [Los Angeles Times]. “‘It doesn’t seem like it now, but this may be a good thing for you,’ I said. Comforting lies were not the move. Barry buried his face in his hands, sobbing. Then everything went black. I took off the virtual reality headset, and the real-life offices of the Culver City VR studio Talespin, the architects of Barry’s very bad day, came back into focus around me. I had failed the termination simulation.” • VR training for managers on how to fire people. Truly, we are ruled of Harkonnens.
“Between Plagues, Medieval Peasants Enjoyed Bawdiness and Brawling” [Atlas Obscura]. “In stark comparison to the stringently capitalist workweek of the so-called modern era, work patterns in medieval Europe—loosely defined as the years 500–1500—were decidedly more relaxed. For one thing, the calendar back then was stuffed full of religious holidays… By one estimate drawn from 14th-century manorial records—documents generated by the administration of manors and estates—most servile laborers in England worked 27.7 hours a week…. Ultimately, the peasants of Europe in the Middle Ages loved many of the same things we do today, except with a particular penchant for communal brawls. “It’s wrong to say, ‘Oh, peasants—what a horrible life they led,’ [Eleanor Janega, a medieval historian] says. “They had really hard work, and life was difficult. But they were also really into having fun.'”
“Read: Jeannette Ng’s Campbell Award acceptance speech, in which she correctly identifies Campbell as a fascist and expresses solidarity with Hong Kong protesters” [Cory Doctorow, Boing Boing]. “Last weekend, Jeanette Ng won the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer at the 2019 Hugo Awards at the Dublin Worldcon; Ng’s acceptance speech calls Campbell, one of the field’s most influential editors, a “fascist” and expresses solidarity with the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters. I am a past recipient of the John W Campbell Award for Best New Writer (2000) as well as a recipient of the John W Campbell Memorial Award (2009). I believe I’m the only person to have won both of the Campbells, which, I think, gives me unique license to comment on Ng’s remarks, which have been met with a mixed reception from the field. I think she was right — and seemly — to make her remarks. There’s plenty of evidence that Campbell’s views were odious and deplorable.”
News of the Wired
“Keming Revisited” [Ironic Sans]. • Anyone can coin a word. The problem is getting other people to use it.
“Cassettes Are Back, and It’s Not About the Music” [Bloomberg]. “If it were all about the sound, the cassette would have been as extinct as the wax cylinder (though, of course, plastic versions of those are still being made for people who can’t part with their phonographs). But our relationship with music is much more complicated than mere audio enjoyment. … As Goran Bolin of the Sodertorn University in Stockholm wrote in 2014, people ‘develop specific, sometimes passionate, relationships with reproduction technologies such as the vinyl record, music cassette tape, comics, and other now dead or near-dead media forms.’ The passion, as Bolin put it, ‘is activated by the nostalgic relationships with past media experiences, the bittersweet remembrances of media habits connected to one’s earlier life phases.’ That means an attachment not just to a record, but to a specific record.'” • Walter Benjamin would appreciate that.
“Walter Benjamin: Fragments, salvage and detours” [Times Literary Supplement]. “This meandering, unpredictable and yet highly focused way of thinking would become Benjamin’s hallmark. It is an approach that is also illustrated in another of his books: the short prose collection One-Way-Street (1928; Einbahnstraße). The book’s title sets the scene for the assembled pieces, whose headings evoke the street signs and placards we might encounter on a walk through the city: “Travel Souvenirs”, “Optician”, “Toys”, “Polyclinic”, “These Spaces for Rent”, “Office Equipment”, “Mixed Cargo: Shipping and packing”. Its short pieces oscillate between aphorisms, essays and short stories, and they show us a very different Benjamin: not a literary historian but a thinker keenly interested in contemporary politics and culture, ranging from the avant-garde to the mass media of radio and film. The form of the book is meant to reflect this focus. As Benjamin declares in the opening piece, the present-day writer “must nurture the inconspicuous forms that fit … in active communities better than does the pretentious, universal gesture of the book – in leaflets, brochures, articles, and placards”. • Another goddamned book to read.
Nancy goes meta:
— Nancy (@SluggoIsLit) August 27, 2019
Or perhaps Nancy was always meta. I’m not sure.
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 (AM):
AM writes: “Once a sugar baby watermelon vine gets started it takes off.” See, you don’t need a lot of space to garden!
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