2:00PM Water Cooler 8/7/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“U.S. agricultural exports to China plummeted more than 50% last year to $9.1 billion as tariffs raised the cost of American soybeans, pork and other farm products. The exports dropped another 20% in the first six months of this year. The pain is rippling through agricultural supply chains. One forecast says tariffs could cost the sector as many as 71,000 jobs over the next two years” [Wall Street Journal]. (Apparently, China’s swine fever epidemic has not cut demand for soy.)


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“2020 Democratic Presidential Nomination” [RealClearPolitics] (average of five polls). As of August 5: Biden fluctuates to 32.3% (32.2), Sanders continues climb to 16.7% (16.5%), Warren flat at 14.0% (14.0%), Buttigieg flat at 5.5% (5.5%), Harris down at 10.2% (10.3%), Beto separating himself from the bottom feeders, interestingly. Others Brownian motion. So, I think we can conclude that Sanders won both debates.

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Harris (D)(1): “While Democrats get crazier, Gabbard hits Harris criticism right on the nose” [Glenn Reynolds, USA Today]. “But the really serious point to come out is this: If you’re shocked and appalled by Harris’s conduct, don’t try to comfort yourself by thinking it’s unusual (or by blaming Russia.) As Clark Neily writes, ‘The real significance of Gabbard’s critique, however, lies not in the proposition that Harris was a particularly unprofessional or malign prosecutor, but rather in the fact that she seems to have been a rather ordinary prosecutor who simply did her job the way most prosecutors do. And if that makes a former-prosecutor-turned-presidential-candidate look like a monster, then perhaps that says more about prosecutors in general than it does about Kamala Harris in particular.'” • Glenn Reynolds makes sense. It’s a funny old world.

Sanders (D)(1): Sanders calls his shot not only the effect of trade deals on workers, but on the two-party system. In 2000. The whole video is worth a listen, since the Tweet doesn’t quote all of it.

No wonder they hate him….

Williamson (D)(1): “Meet the Marianniacs” [Elle]. “Marianne fans are a surprisingly diverse group of people who discovered her in different ways, and were ultimately drawn in by her unconventional way of discussing politics, and specifically her emphasis on love.” • Cory Booker tried that, too.

* * *

“Few candidates have loyal small-dollar donor bases” [WaPo]. • Few, but not none:

Turns out small donor money isn’t all that fungible.

“Shadow of Dark Money Grows as 2020 Groups Shun Donor Disclosure” [Bloomberg]. “Democratic and Republican groups raising tens of millions of dollars for the 2020 elections increasingly are keeping their funding sources secret, a trend that watchdog groups warn allows high-dollar donors to gain influence with candidates without risking exposure. Priorities USA, which collected almost $200 million to help Hillary Clinton in 2016, says it wants to spend that much or more to help the next Democratic nominee defeat President Donald Trump. This time, however, Priorities is being funded mostly by undisclosed donations.” • What could go wrong?

“Are the Democrats divided? No — they’re poised to win big if they don’t screw it up” [Bill Curry, Salon]. “Everyone wants to see Warren and Sanders face off against Biden because the real dividing line is between the middle class and the donor class. Warren and Sanders never attack Obama, Biden or each other and they won’t do it in September. What they will do is compare their ideas and campaigns to his. The facts will be fierce, but the delivery will be civil. It’ll be Biden’s toughest test. Progressives want to take a new path, but I’ve yet to meet a “Never Bidener.” The stakes are too high. To defeat Trump, Democrats need to answer his racism with a message of both racial justice and social conciliation, and answer his corruption with a message of economic justice and political reform. So long as their candidates don’t make a fetish of their small differences, they’ll get there.” • White House counsellor to Clinton. Not seeing a whole lot about “economic justice and political reform” from establishment Democrats. Of course, if they hadn’t spent three years yammering about Russia, they might have had time to come up with something.

“Left/right labels don’t help – we must build a fusion coalition to defeat Trumpism” [Reverend William Barber, Guardian]. “[P]ollsters and campaign advisers consistently present candidates with data to suggest that the left/right framework the media uses to talk about public issues makes sense to most people. While that data may be a true representation of responses to surveys, people can only respond to the questions they are asked. The sad reality for far too long has been that no one is asking about the plight of poor and low-wealth people in America. It is no accident that the people who never hear their names or issues taken seriously in public life do not turn out for elections. To accept the left/right framework is to refuse the moral framing that has galvanized people of all races throughout US history in the struggles for abolition, labor rights, women’s rights and civil rights. If candidates want to make a moral case for their policy proposals, they should disaggregate the impact of those policies by race, class and region and show how the vast majority of Americans would benefit from them. They should be clear about how Trump targets his rhetoric and policies at immigrants and people of color, but those policies hurt poor white people as well.” • I think that ship has sailed.

El Paso and Dayton Shootings

Readers, thanks very much for your insightful comments (and links) on the “cracking tower” metaphor for shootings. It does seem to me that the United States is exceptionally good at manufacturing at least one refined product: Mass shooters (white male). It also seems evident to me that the El Paso shooter is the most refined product of said cracking tower, which, if it is still in operation, will produce more. But this is also not an easy topic to write on, not least because we’re in another moral panic about it, so we can hardly hear ourselves think. The usual tropes deployed are insufficient: Video games, mental heatlh, even “gun control,” though bullet rationing might have a chance. The cacophony of “Nazis,” “fascism,” “white supremacy,” “white nationalism,” and “racism” doesn’t yield clarity either; those are all different things! (Not to deny our country’s own role in originating or signal boosting them all). In particular, the tendency of liberal Democrat strategists to deploy cries of racism (now) or sexism (2016) or racism and sexism (2008) for short-term political gain — often after erasing a candidate’s practice of same — is really distorting and verges on virtue signaling. (One might characterize the Republicans as the party of bad principles, and the Democrats as the party of motivated reasoning.) So I will continue to think on this topic, and continue to evolve this section (although I may need to change the title). –lambert P.S. Thanks again for your comments and links on this topic yesterday. More like this, please.

“What Experts Know About People Who Commit Mass Shootings” [New York Times]. “Can one mass shooting inspire another? Yes… Are video games to blame for mass shootings? The results of studies attempting to clarify the relationship between violent video games and aggression have been mixed, with experts deeply divided on the findings. How strong is the link between mental illness and mass shootings? Tenuous, at best. Would drugging or confining people showing “red flags” prevent massacres? No one knows for certain.” • This is pretty thin gruel.

“Dayton shooter may be antifa’s first mass killer” [NY Post]. • I dunno. It’s the shooters pr0n rock band that gets me. I see the El Paso shooter, who — assuming the provenance proves out — wrote a manifesto as being ideologically serious in a way that the Dayton shooter, who was just a mess by all accounts, was not. (We should also think back to the Orlando shootings, where literally everything about the initial stories was wrong). And speaking of pr0n–

“Photos from Dayton and El Paso illustrate the grim routine of mass shootings” [WaPo]. • If I see one more photo of beautiful young people holding candles… Honestly, it’s like some weird kind of pr0n. I don’t equate viewing digital images of people mourning as actually mourning.

Where “we” are:

Somehow, I can’t help thinking that a panicked populace is not conducive to sound democratic decision-making…


“Finally Time for DNC Email Evidence” [Patrick Lawrence, Consortium News (Furzy Mouse)]. “[T]he report on Russian interference completed in the office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller… made clear that the special counsel’s office did not undertake a credible investigation of the charge that Russian intelligence hacked the DNC’s mail servers. Mueller failed to call numerous key witnesses, among them Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder and publisher, and Bill Binney, formerly a technical director at the National Security Agency and one of several technical experts in the VIPS group. He also failed to pursue alternative theories in the email-theft case; a duty of any investigator in Mueller’s position. Only the willfully blind can accept these irregularities as legitimate conduct. Remarkably enough, Mueller’s investigation appears to have conducted no forensic tests of its own to verify allegations of a Russian hacking operation. It relied instead on the patently faulty findings of Crowdstrike, the disreputable cyber-security firm that was working for the DNC by mid–2016. Critically, the special counsel also appears to have neglected to consult the NSA for evidence pertaining to the DNC incident. Had the intrusion been a hack conducted over the internet, by Russians or anyone else, the agency would have a fully detailed digital record of the operation and the means to trace the intervention to its perpetrators. Why, it is perfectly logical to ask, was such a record not cited prominently in the Mueller report?” • 

“Here in the West” [Pamela Anderson]. “Here in the West, there has been a lot of finger-pointing at Russia in the past years, as if in a desperate attempt to revive the ‘good old times’ of the Cold War, when all evil could be so conveniently projected on the Soviet Union. As if a forced re-animation of the old enemy could somehow absolve the West of the increasingly obvious need for critical self-introspection and democratic reform in the face of its own accelerating political decline.” •

2018 Post Mortem


Realignment and Legitimacy

“Is ‘Bernie or Bust’ the Future of the Left?” [New York Times]. • Report on the DSA convention. I dunno, it seems to me that an organization dedicated to seizing the means of production shouldn’t be getting press this good. Perhaps it’s their stand on open borders.

“Twitter says it won’t verify new candidates until they win their primaries” [The Hill]. • Swell. More incumbent protection. That should certainly help Twitter with regulatory issues!

“Inslee Is Doing Very Well in the Power Primary” [Mike the Mad Biologist]. The conclusion: “Democrats in 2021 will need to make people’s lives better in meaningful ways. If not, we will have a repeat of 2010 in 2022, since next time we won’t get Trump, we’ll get someone smarter and more disciplined. As bad as Trump is, President Tom Cotton would be far worse.” • Yep. 2020 is their last shot. Biden/Harris all the way!

They call it historical materialism:

Stats Watch

JOLTS, June 2019 (yesterday): “Moderation in labor demand is this year’s theme of the JOLTS report” [Econoday]. “Quits, which are tracked by Federal Reserve officials for indications of worker mobility and related wage pressure, remain flat… This report hints at easing capacity pressure in the labor market and will likely be welcome by Fed officials who, with last month’s rate cut, are adding new stimulus to the economy.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of August 2, 2019: “A big drop in mortgage rates — the result of last week’s rate cut by the Federal Reserve — triggered a surge of refinancing applications” [Econoday].

Shipping: “Slots in heavy-duty truck production lines are opening up but few fleet operators are getting in line. Orders for Class 8 trucks fell last month to their lowest level since 2010” [Wall Street Journal]. “A factory backlog for Class 8 trucks that exceeded 300,000 orders late last year is down by more than a third, and research group FTR expects production to decline 22% next year. The good news for manufacturers is that cancellations have remained relatively light. That could change if weakness in the broader industrial sector gets worse and trucking companies decide to park their current fleet plans.”

The Bezzle: “A pioneer in the meal-kit market is losing its sizzle. Blue Apron Holdings Inc. narrowed its quarterly loss but is still losing customers… and a turnaround could involve a lot more logistics for a business already laden with complicated fulfillment” [Wall Street Journal]. “New Chief Executive Linda Kozlowski says Blue Apron’s plan to boost revenue and customer growth this year will include serving more households and offering greater menu choices, including flexibility to tailor the options…. Perhaps more challenging, analysts say the overall market is already saturated and likely smaller than companies had hoped.”

Tech: “Trump Wants to Make It Basically Impossible to Sue for Algorithmic Discrimination” [Vice]. “The new rule takes aim at a 2015 Supreme Court ruling, which decided that consumers could combat housing discriminatory business practices by making “disparate-impact claims” under the Fair Housing Act of 1968. In a disparate-impact claim, if you find out that a business practice had a disproportionate effect on certain groups of people, then you can hold that business liable—even if it was an unintended consequence….. HUD’s new rule would throw all that out the window by introducing huge loopholes to shield businesses from liability when their algorithms are accused of bias. As Reveal News reported, ‘A hypothetical bank that rejected every loan application filed by African Americans and approved every one filed by white people, for example, would need to prove only that race or a proxy for it was not used directly in constructing its computer model.’ But there is substantial evidence to show that racial bias is fundamentally baked into the way that these algorithms and their data sets are constructed, even if they don’t specifically take race into account.” • Code is law…

Tech: “Amazon Is Coaching Cops on How to Obtain Surveillance Footage Without a Warrant” [Vice]. “When police partner with Ring, Amazon’s home surveillance camera company, they get access to the ‘Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal,’ an interactive map that allows officers to request footage directly from camera owners. Police don’t need a warrant to request this footage, but they do need permission from camera owners. Emails and documents obtained by Motherboard reveal that people aren’t always willing to provide police with their Ring camera footage. However, Ring works with law enforcement and gives them advice on how to persuade people to give them footage. Emails obtained from police department in Maywood, NJ—and emails from the police department of Bloomfield, NJ, which were also posted by Wired—show that Ring coaches police on how to obtain footage. The company provides cops with templates for requesting footage… Ring suggests cops post often on Neighbors, Ring’s free ‘neighborhood watch’ app, where Ring camera owners have the option of sharing their camera footage.” • It’s a little tough to rank Big. Tech companies for evil right now, but surely Amazon gets a boost for this.

Tech: “Jeff Bezos feels a tap on the shoulder. Ahem, Mr Amazon, care to explain how Capital One’s AWS S3 buckets got hacked?” [The Register]. “After last week’s revelations that a hacker stole the personal details of 106 million Capital One credit card applicants from its Amazon-hosted cloud storage, a US Senator has demanded Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos explain what exactly what went wrong. The sensitive information was siphoned from Capital One’s Amazon Web Services S3 buckets by a former AWS engineer, who was arrested and charged at the end of July…. Wyden is particularly concerned that other companies that store their data in the AWS cloud may have been hit in the same way by the suspected Capital One thief, Seattle-based software engineer Paige Thompson. He cited reports that Ford, the University of Michigan, the Ohio Department of Transportation, and others may have suffered similar losses of information at the hands of Thompson, and that this may point to a systemic weakness in Amazon’s security.” • Uh oh. Keeping my data on my hard disk, thank you very much.

Tech: “FCC Plans to Redo Flawed Broadband Maps” [Inside Sources]. “Accurate broadband maps would help under [-served] areas get internet access, and they could also be used to hold telecom companies T-Mobile and Sprint accountable for their pledge to build out 5G to cover 85 percent of rural Americans in three years and 99 percent of all Americans in six years once they complete their merger. (The combined company will face financial penalties if they don’t meet these conditions.) According to the FCC’s Report and Order for the Digital Opportunity Data Collection, the FCC will require all internet service providers (ISPs) ‘to submit granular data maps of the areas where they have broadband-capable networks and make service available.’ Previously, ISPs submitted census block data, which means even if they only served one person within a census tract or county, they counted that entire tract or county has having internet access.” • Wow.

Tech: “More on Backdooring (or Not) WhatsApp” [Schneier on Security]. “Yesterday, I blogged about a Facebook plan to backdoor WhatsApp by adding client-side scanning and filtering. It seems that I was wrong, and there are no such plans.” • A retraction, which speaks well of Schneier.

Tech: “Hacked Equifax Customer Receives 10,000 Stolen Social Security Numbers As Share Of Class Action Settlement” [The Onion]. • News In Photos, so the headline is the joke.

Manufacturing: “Boeing Holds Workshops With China Carriers to Bring 737 Max Back” [Industry Week]. “Boeing invited pilots and engineers from China Southern Airlines Co. to a gathering in Guangzhou on Monday, according to an emailed statement from Boeing. More such workshops will be held with Air China Ltd., China Eastern Airlines Corp., Xiamen Airlines Co. and Hainan Airlines Holding Co. in their respective hubs this week. The gatherings are among the latest steps Boeing is taking to bring the plane back, though the exact timing remains unclear. Boeing is redesigning the plane’s flight-control system and is still aiming to present a final software package to regulators by September, though the timeline could slip, a person familiar with the plans has said. China Southern and Air China are among Chinese carriers seeking compensation from the U.S. manufacturer for order delays and losses caused by the grounding of the 737 Max in the wake of two deadly crashes.”

Transportation: “Self-Driving Trucks Are Ready to Do Business in Texas” [WIRED]. “The truck developers come for the weather: It can get chilly in Texas, but the state doesn’t get the months of snow, which can bedevil automated vehicle sensor technology.” • So, when the headline says “in Texas,” it really does mean “in Texas.”

Transportation: “How Much Traffic Do Uber and Lyft Cause?” [CityLab]. “Today the ride-hailing giants released a joint analysis showing that their vehicles are responsible for significant portions of [vehicle-miles traveled (VMT)] in six major urban centers… Now, the Fehr and Peers memo indicates that [transportation network companies (TNCs)] accounted for nearly twice the VMT in San Francisco than the SFCTA had estimated, said Gregory Erhardt, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Kentucky who has researched Uber and Lyft’s effects on public transit ridership. That means the services are likely delaying commuters more, too… On average, between the six cities, just 54 to 62 percent of the vehicle miles traveled by Lyfts and Ubers were with a rider in tow. A third of these miles involve drivers slogging around in between passengers (“deadheading,” in taxi-driver argot); 9 to 10 percent are drivers on their way to a pickup.”

Transportation: “Swiss Post Suspends Drone Delivery Service After Second Crash” [IEEE Spectrum]. “For about a year, Swiss Post and Matternet have been collaborating on a drone delivery service in three different cities in Switzerland, with drones ferrying lab samples between hospitals far faster and more efficiently than is possible with conventional ground transportation. The service had made about 3,000 successful flights as of last January, but a January 25th crash into Lake Zurich put things on hold until April. A second crash in May caused Swiss Post to suspend the service indefinitely, and a recently released interim report published by the Swiss Safety Investigation Board provides some detail on what happened—and a reminder that for all the delivery drone hype, there are some basic problems that are still not totally solved.” • In this case, parachutes that deploy “if something goes wrong.” More: “We have no idea exactly how safe Amazon’s drones are, or Google’s drones are. Even Zipline, which has been flying drones dozens of times per day for years, is still working to make their drones safer. What we do know is that crashes can (and do) happen, and the Swiss Post incidents are further evidence that we’ll need a much better understanding of where all of the risk is if we want drones flying regularly over populated areas.”

Concentration: “Australia Strips Google/Facebook to Their Underwear” [Matt Stoller, Big]. “The [Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC)]’s most important contribution to the debate is to say, unvarnished, that Google and Facebook have exceptional amounts of market power and the incentive to use it to manipulate and exploit publishers, businesses, and users. Over the past fifteen years, Google and Facebook have become, as Sims put it in his press conference, “essential gateways for consumers and businesses.” The consequences of this shift are the killing of the free press and the mass manipulation of users….” • Most NC readers already know that, but Stoller’s post is well worth a read for the wealth of detail and clarity of exposition.

Mr. Market: “Carry On Like Nothing Really Matters. Until It Does” [John Authers, Bloomberg]. “It’s no secret that yields on sovereign bonds around the world remain stunningly and historically low. And that, in turn, means a revival in the ‘carry trade.’… Carry trading is best known from its incarnation in the foreign-exchange market. It involves borrowing in a currency where interest rates are low and parking that money in a currency with higher rates, pocketing the difference, or ‘carry.’ Ideally, you get paid for doing nothing… In practice, any increase in volatility or perceived risk — which can be nicely proxied by the CBOE Volatility Index, or VIX — spells doom for the carry trade.” • Uh oh.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 20 Extreme Fear (previous close: 27, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 48 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Aug 7 at 12:19pm. • Restored at reader request. Note that the index is not always updated daily, sadly.

The Biosphere

“Who Will Save the Amazon (and How)?” [Foreign Policy]. “Aug. 5, 2025: In a televised address to the nation, U.S. President Gavin Newsom announced that he had given Brazil a one-week ultimatum to cease destructive deforestation activities in the Amazon rainforest. If Brazil did not comply, the president warned, he would order a naval blockade of Brazilian ports and airstrikes against critical Brazilian infrastructure. The president’s decision came in the aftermath of a new United Nations report cataloging the catastrophic global effects of continued rainforest destruction, which warned of a critical “tipping point” that, if reached, would trigger a rapid acceleration of global warming. Although China has stated that it would veto any U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force against Brazil, the president said that a large “coalition of concerned states” was prepared to support U.S. action. At the same time, Newsom said the United States and other countries were willing to negotiate a compensation package to mitigate the costs to Brazil for protecting the rainforest, but only if it first ceased its current efforts to accelerate development.” • Ulp.

“Humans versus Earth: the quest to define the Anthropocene” [Nature]. “Crawford Lake is one of ten sites around the globe that researchers are studying as potential markers for the start of the Anthropocene, an as-yet-unofficial designation that is being considered for inclusion in the geological time scale. The Anthropocene Working Group (AWG), a committee of 34 researchers formed by the International Commission on Stratigraphy (ICS) in 2009, is leading the work, with the aim of crafting a proposal to formally recognize the Anthropocene. This new epoch would mark a clear departure from the Holocene, which started with the close of the last ice age. To define a new epoch, the researchers need to find a representative marker in the rock record that identifies the point at which human activity exploded to such a massive scale that it left an indelible signature on the globe. Given how much people have done to the planet, there are many potential markers. “Scientifically, in terms of evidence, we’re spoiled for choice, but we have to pin it down,” says Jan Zalasiewicz, a palaeobiologist at the University of Leicester, UK, and chair of the AWG…. In the end, it will be the rocks that have the final say.” • In more ways than one.

“A mission to Mars could cause learning impairment and anxiety, study says” [CNN]. “On a long-term spaceflight mission to Mars, astronauts will be continuously exposed to low-dose radiation in deep space. A new study found that this exposure can cause impairments in the brains of mice, resulting in learning and memory issues as well as anxiety… Based on their findings, the researchers believe that one out of five astronauts on a deep space mission would likely experienced anxiety. One in three would be more likely to deal with memory issues. And all of them may struggle when it comes to making decisions, which would be crucial on a mission to Mars where communications with the Earth are delayed by up to 20 minutes.” • Surely there is a science fiction story with this premise, though I can’t remember one. Certainly lots of potential for dark comedy…

“This tiny insect could be delivering toxic pesticides to honey bees and other beneficial bugs” [Science]. “According to a new study, neonicotinoids can kill beneficial insects such as honey bees, hoverflies, and parasitic wasps by contaminating honeydew, a sugar-rich liquid excreted by certain insects…. The study suggests honeydew could be another way beneficial insects are exposed to deadly insecticides. This can devastate more insects across the food web than nectar contaminated with insecticides could, the team says, because honeydew is more abundant, especially in agricultural fields… neonicotinoids still account for more than 20% of the world’s insecticide market.”

Our Famously Free Press

“The GateHouse takeover of Gannett has been finalized” [Poynter]. • Ugh. I expect the imminent gutting of USA Today, which has been a surprisingly good paper.

“How to do something about local news” [Substack]. • Basically a hymn of praise to substack by a founder, but it still sounds like an interesting, er, platform (akin to WordPress, not Facebook).


“Investigative journalism startup uses mobile gaming to finance its future” [Journalism]. “In the game, the player uses tools and skills that McGregor and his editorial team need in their day-to-day investigations and reports. With image verification being an example of one of the most difficult challenges, the game will ask players to assess whether a viral image is accurate or not by using software to spot areas of the image that have been edited. ‘It’s the basics and 101 of journalism – teaching people to be sceptical and what tools to use to crack the conspiracy, like searching court records or sting operations on a more extreme level,’ he explained.” • It sounds like the stories and games are fictional. I don’t see why they couldn’t be real.

The Last of the Feral Hogs, I Swear

For our readers in the United Kingdom:

A kind soul summarizes:

News of the Wired

Bake like an Egyptian. Wonderful thread:

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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 (EM):

EM writes: “You have been saying you need plant photos. I was just in the garden weeding when I remembered to capture this and send it to you. The pink hydrangea on the left is my favorite this year but I am also partial to the coreopsis beneath it.” I like the path, which looks like it would be nice to walk on in bare feet.

Bonus (PS):

PS writes: “Does this fill the bill?” Re Silc sent in his mobile, and Mark52 sent in his steel silhouette, and now PS. I didn’t expect a response like this. Reader, how about you?

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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. Summer

    “What Experts Know About People Who Commit Mass Shootings” [New York Times].
    “Would drugging or confining people showing “red flags” prevent massacres?”

    Have psyche drugs been totally ruled out as part of the problem? No “red flag” there?

    It’s so funny to watch everyone go the defense of their personal interest or attack of the personal dislikes…no it’s not the influence of violent entertainment, no it’s not the drugs, no it’s not the video games, no it’s not the porn, no it’s not the influence of a violent militarism, no it’s not the influence of _____________(fill in the blank with things of personal importance to self, family, or peers)…

    1. Polar Donkey

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and say wide availability of assault weapons and semi automatic pistols may go a long way towards mass killings.
      “When you absolutely, positively have to kill every motherf-r in the room, accept no substitutes.” Way to many people in America think these are words to live by.

      1. Summer

        And of course there are the people who will say it’s not the influence of the availability of high-powered killing machines….

        Even the people pointing square at the assault weapons can’t imagine living without them, even if they aren’t holding one.
        What were assault weapons and semi-automatic pistols mass produced for????

      2. hester

        yes. The Dayton, OH shooter was done in 32 seconds. Killed 9 people and injured ~ 24.
        32 seconds!

        1. Polar Donkey

          El Paso shooter- AK47
          Las Vegas shooter- AR 10 and AK47
          Dayton-AR 15
          San Bernardino -AR 15
          DC sniper and Newton- bushmaster .223
          Tampa- AR 15

          I know there are a lot of assault rifles are already out there, but like the old saying goes when you are in a hole, stop digging.

        2. Wyoming

          I have this thought periodically that relates to your post. It is a pretty sad thought too.

          Way back in the long ago I worked for a time with what we today call US Special Operations forces and a team of guys, of who I was one, who had been part of those forces.

          People do not realize how lucky we are that the folks going south like we just had in El Paso and Dayton (or is it Toledo? I forget.) are unskilled amateurs. I am not aware of us yet having even one of them be highly skilled at shooting and none have been so at killing. I have seen in person what one of these highly skilled people can do and it would raise the hair on your head.

          It seems to me it is only a matter of time (everything eventually happens it seems) before one of these people comes out of the woodwork and schools us on what untapped potential still remains in doing mayhem. THEN perhaps something will change because the aftermath will make what we have seen so far seem trivial.

          1. Wyoming

            Here is a video of a famous shooter. A old guy just shooting steel plates so nothing ugly.

            Note that once his handgun has been pulled he gets a shot off about every .13 secs and he does not miss. So a good 7 shots a sec. Go to 8:57 of the video and you will see him shoot a 27 round magazine with all rounds on target in 3.5 secs.


            And a really skilled shooter can put a new magazine in the gun in about 1/3 of a sec.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I watched a good deal of that video. I think “gun control” is going to be a lot harder than people, including me, think.

              Adding, now I’ll get to see what YouTube’s algos serve up!

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > go a long way

        And “go a long way” is doing an awful lot of work, there. It’s not clear to me what would stop a highly motivated political shooter from obtaining weaponry. And given how useful the gun policy debate is right now to both parties, in its frozen state, it’s not clear that their availability will be decreased in any case. Confiscation would do that, of course. Na ga happen.

        1. Summer

          Apparently, from some stories, the 8 Channer cheeleaders look up to McVeigh.

          He didn’t use a gun. That’s going to eventually dawn on those involved in the increasing body count “game.” It’s sick.
          Tensions need to be reduced all around or it’s looking worse…

          1. dearieme

            True, but it’s harder to pose like a Hollywood star with just a truck full of explosive. Or with a can of gasoline, another effective way to effect mass murder. Really, you gotta be dripping with guns and ammunition – oops, sorry, ammo. And you want to wear vaguely soldiery gear.

            Madmen fantasists, play-acting and real-acting at the same time. And, this time, both of them apparently seeing themselves as green activists. Pals of the Planet always were promoters of hatred of humans, but even they must be astonished at the literal-mindedness of these two loonies. The saps obviously hadn’t realised that the point is virtue-signalling – you’re not expected to take it all seriously. Otherwise pompous asses wouldn’t take personal jets to green conferences, would they?

            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              “pose like a Hollywood star

              Can we maybe also ask *why* Hollywood stars so determinedly keep normalizing unspeakable violence and *why* it continues to be defined as “entertainment”?

              Can we please redefine “obscenity” so it includes a movie scene of shooting someone in the face (often with a popular rock song or even a laugh track in the background)…and not just depictions of the naked female form or an act of love.

              And then use obscenity laws: at least to tone it down. When I look around Netflix for a film that does not have a guy waving a gun on the marquee poster I can’t even find any.

              And no: I don’t want to hear about the Benjamins, how Hollywood is just giving people what they want, etc.

          2. Lambert Strether Post author

            > Tensions need to be reduced all around or it’s looking worse…

            That would come, in my view, from the political economy layer of the cracking tower.

        2. Inode_buddha

          Actually I don’t think the motive matters — if somebody wants to kill badly enough, they will. Plenty of law enforcement studies (FBI, etc.) to this effect.

          I do agree with Sander’s take on this — ban the assault weapons, close the gun show loophole. I draw the line at sporting arms — simply enforcing the existing regs should be enough.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            > if somebody wants to kill badly enough, they will.

            Guns are designed to do what they are, in fact, doing. I challenge you to come up with an alternative weapon that’s as efficient and as simple. The next best thing in terms of lethality, I would think, is bombs. Bombs are a lot less simple, and target places, not people. If you want to whack a lot of people in a short time, guns are the optimal tool.

        3. Jerry B

          ===Confiscation would do that, of course. Na ga happen===

          That is why whenever talk of “gun control” comes up I just roll my eyes. That horse left the barn a long time ago. Sure, gun control is needed going forward to keep newbies or “red flags” from “buying” them, but as you say “what is to stop a highly motivated person from obtaining weaponry” and what about:

          “The Small Arms Survey stated that U.S. civilians alone account for 393 million (about 46 percent) of the worldwide total of civilian held firearms”

          “As of 2012, there are an estimated 2.5–3.7 million rifles from just the AR-15 family of rifles in civilian use in the United States”.

          Many people in the US do not just have one handgun, but an arsenal!

          I am being intentionally snarky but welcome to US capitalism and culture where it is about money and availability. Drugs, weapons, etc. etc. Everyone “knows” where to get drugs and/or weapons it just depends on ease of availability and/or being highly motivated and how much $.

          And wait until 3-D printing/manufacturing of guns becomes more widespread, then the gates of hell will open.


          That all being said it seems like the US is an outlier. This is from the Gun Ownership in the US Wikipedia page. Yes I know Wikipedia is not the best source for info but anyway:


          In the section “Association with rates of violence”.

          “The association between gun ownership and homicide rates across nations is dependent on the inclusion of the U.S”

          Lastly to Lambert’s reference to mass shooters :

          ===”It does seem to me that the United States is exceptionally good at manufacturing at least one refined product: Mass shooters (white male)===

          If sticking to tightly to the term “mass shooter or mass shooting” the white male reference may be technically accurate BUT mass shootings are a regular occurrence every weekend in Chicago. Everyone is up in arms about Dayton and El Paso but where is the outrage and political opportunism about guns when 30 people die or are shot in an average weekend in Chi-raq. People do not call the violence that happens in Chicago a mass shooting but it most certainly is a mass shooting.


          So, the US is is exceptionally good at manufacturing at least one refined product: Mass shooters period!


          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Swalwell, of all people, wrote:

            America won’t get off that cheaply. Gun ownership runs so deep that we don’t even know how many military-style semiautomatic rifles are in U.S. civilian hands.

            Based on manufacturing figures and other indirect data, there could be 15 million assault weapons out there. If we offer $200 to buy back each weapon — as many local governments have — then it would cost about $3 billion; at $1,000 each, the cost would be about $15 billion.

            But if that guy in Wyoming’s video was using a handgun…

            1. Jerry B

              Thanks. The Swalwell article was informative. I think a buyback program would make a dent. I also think many American’s are very possessive of their weapons and would hold on to them even at a buy back offer of $1,000 each. But it is a start and I believe would get a lot of the assault weapons off the streets.

              1. Wyoming

                Umm…you guys need to investigate how much guns cost. The average assault rifle out there costs over $1000 (though you can get some under that) and really high quality ones a lot more (mine was $3000 counting the optics – ducks incomng bricks). A top quality handgun H&K, Sig, etc also costs $800-1200 (mine is $1200 new). There is, of course, large numbers of cheap guns but $200 as an inducement won’t work. I won’t bring up my other guns….

                To be honest I can’t imagine a buy back program working at all. Nor can I imagine force being all that effective – the “Cold dead hands” comment of Heston would legitimately apply to enough people to make the idea of taking them away from people a non-starter.

                1. Jerry B

                  Thanks Wyoming. That was my initial thought as well, that the average assault rifles and top quality handguns are too expensive to make even $1,000 buyback offer worth it.

                  But you have to start somewhere and do something. Even if a buyback program takes 10-20% of the assault rifles off the street then that is a beginning.

                  Also, my sense is there are sooo many assault rifles and handguns out there that do not have an “owner” per se. If a buyback program induced gangs, individuals etc. to turn in “some” (i.e. older weapons) of their arsenal then that is a start. Like every other industrial-complex commodity (cars, guns, etc.) there is a sea of weapons out there, some owned, some not-owned, and some just taking up space. If a buyback program reduces the quantity even a little bit that is a start.

                  However along with a buyback program the assault weapons industrial complex has to be turned off for civilian purchase, i.e. a ban. IMO there is no reason for any human, civilian or military, to have an assault weapon such as an AR-15, but that is my personal view.

                  Also, as I mentioned above, 3-D printing of guns is going to change the landscape completely.

                  Thanks for sharing your knowledge of the cost of firearms.

      4. Summer

        I suspect the assault weapons and semi-automatic pistols are only in the realm of affordability because many of the same manufacturers supply the military.
        And Congress acts like their hands are tied by the NRA….
        Could the NRA fall by the wayside if the manufacturers didn’t have such deep pockets?

    2. Elspeth

      Guns, like dope are only the tools. The problem is a culture of ‘anything goes and nothing matters’ – as in a life. Yours, mine, theirs, anyone’s. Call it lives of despair, shit life syndrome, it’s all the same. Over 100k people killing themselves over at least the last 10 years as reported by CDC. Then there are all the indirect ways of doing ones’s self and others in. Why? I go with the thesis that this Neolib way of life, now nearing its end game (with what 5 people owning everything in the world), has not worked out very well for most people. Sadly, Neolib is really hard to get rid of but it appears self terminating, although not without awful consequences. Then we have the C2.1° which is just another way of saying above 2C°, it is a run away process. It hits 2.1C° in 2035. The world wide end. Be funny if it wasn’t so tragic. I’d guess, when one has to put maximum effort in staying alive day to day (although not completely unpleasant), these random mass killings will disappear.

      Reality, it always believes in us.

      1. Summer

        “The problem is a culture of ‘anything goes and nothing matters’ – as in a life.”

        As exemplified by the state violence – nationally and internationally – of the USA as well.

        You make a point about all around culture.
        Meanwhile, the establishment and press are doing what they do best….look for some group to marginalize because an indictment on the entire sorry system is something they can not bring themselves to do.

      2. Monty

        Good point. I was wondering when the “Climate Change Cracking Tower” will produce its first ‘nothing to lose’ avenger. Let’s see what hurricane season brings.

      3. notabanker

        This is where I’m at, on an even larger level.
        Corporation executives have poisoned the food supply, systemically addicted huge swaths of populations to chemicals that kill them, stifle disease research and cures, obstruct the medical system resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, while the politicians blatantly lie to millions via a media that pumps lies. The state exterminates foreign peoples via unmanned drones from remote US deserts to keep oil and trade flowing. All for money, profits, control and power.

        This isn’t exaggerated hyperbole, this is actually happening on a massive basis and has been extraordinarily documented on this site and many others.

        Yeah it’s disturbing that random white guy gets a gun and starts shooting people up, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s the moral equivalent of jaywalking compared to how this society is being run.

        I don’t know what the answers are, and I am by no means resigned to that’s just the way it is, but that it happens and does so on a broad scale relative to the rest of the world does not surprise nor puzzle me one bit.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I’m still waiting for the day when some nut-job takes up an automatic rifle and, instead of murdering innocent people, goes after those who actually made his life miserable. Maybe the board of a health provider or they start sniping executives of a company that has fracked his land and ruined his water supply. It would not be hard to find out the identities of such targets and it would be interesting to see if there was any action on gun laws after a few such attacks. Can you imagine too what would happen if there was a repeat of the 1920 Wall Street bombing?


          1. Inode_buddha

            Went to pay the health insurance bill lately, they have a corp HQ in my area. Noticed all the windows were on the 2nd floor, bulletproof glass around the secretaries, and guards in the lobby. It reminded me of the social security office.

            “Those who would trade a little freedom for security deserve neither and shall receive neither” — Ben Franklin

        2. john ashley

          The current time is worse than described.

          There are black letter laws that are being ignored and/or not enforced on a daily basis.
          Not to mention the spirit of the laws as well.

          As long as the market and other fake measures are “good” none will even attempt to take on this criminal element.
          It is in the open and PAYS for the political system from the county to the fed level.

          People see this and it has the effect of making problems seem overwhelming. You see it on this site in the comments.

          As far as more laws to stop gun violence , great, if you want to create another set of laws that can not be enforced go right ahead.
          There are murders and rampant gun violence in many places with strict bans. Doesn’t seem to work on this side of the pond.
          By the way, there is a LARGE group of serious people who will not submit!

          If the thought is we will send the police and/or the mil in to get them.good luck.

          Wonder how a few goat herders over there fought off the mil……….hmmmmmmmm.

      1. Elspeth

        Boxing would help, but it’s more than that – though I don’t thinking sending everyone to the Marines is the answer either. I read something and saved it: “For many, there is nothing left to hang a life on, no communities, no fathers, no mentors, no initiations into personal responsibility, no daily organizing principles, no instruction in useful trades, no productive activities, no opportunities for love and affection, and no way out. This abyss of missing social relations is made worse by the everyday physical settings for everyday lives based on nothing: including human nature, especially what may be noble and sacred about human nature.”

        1. MichaelSF

          re the USMC: In my stuff that I’ve saved from the 1960s is a political button with a picture of a young Marine, and the caption on that button is “the Marines build Oswalds”.

  2. sleepy

    Of course, if they hadn’t spent three years yammering about Russia, they might have had time to come up with something.

    Didn’t the dems–I’m thinking Schumer here–come up with something called “the fair deal” a couple years ago? It didn’t seem to have much shelf life. I’m sure it sounded nice, but I don’t recall what was in it.

    Anyone else remember that?

      1. Inode_buddha

        Schumer is one of those guys they tolerate around here because it seems impossible to do away with him for some reason. Maybe toss a TV camera into the river, I bet he’d dive in after it.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      that “fair deal” was almost a paul ryan level of nothingness…a void of pablum and content-free rhetoric, focus group tested and approved by the AI in the basement at Hillaryland.
      i was still using email back then(Lambert, check your spam folder), and sent a bunch of scything(lol) emails to various apparatchiks.
      they sent back fundraising pleas.
      demparty, as currently configured, stands for nothing at all.

      1. Good ideas

        Wasn’t it “a better deal” but without specification of what would be better and how much?

      2. Librarian Guy

        Must’ve been the model for Harris’ Pell Grant bailouts for business owners!
        They can’t help but believe if they keep throwing that $4it at the wall some day it will stick . . . “Same as it ever was” (D. Byrne)

  3. Summer

    RE: “HUD’s new rule would throw all that out the window by introducing huge loopholes to shield businesses from liability when their algorithms are accused of bias‘….”
    “A hypothetical bank that rejected every loan application filed by African Americans and approved every one filed by white people, for example, would need to prove only that race or a proxy for it was not used directly in constructing its computer model.’ But there is substantial evidence to show that racial bias is fundamentally baked into the way that these algorithms and their data sets are constructed, even if they don’t specifically take race into account.” • Code is law…

    Hey, if you believe the hype of AI and machine learning, the machines could “learn” bias.
    So technically, their own hype should make this a non-starter.

    1. shinola

      This could be only the 1st step to “…shield businesses from liability when their algorithms are accused of…” causing harm.

      Just think of what a boon it would be to the self-driving vehicle business if they were relieved of any liability for accidents involving their self-driving algo’s. Code AS law…

      1. Amfortas the hippie

        …and after 40+ years of gop(and vichy dem) talking points about “personal responsibility”.
        i think that we’re rapidly approaching Hobbes’ World…the bad kind of anarchism. if the elite and the fictional egregores they ride around in are beyond accountability(le affaire de epstien), if the rules don’t apply to them, how long before the underclasses notice…and start thinking about geese and ganders?
        at what point are we no longer a “civilisation”, but just a bunch of hyperindividuals, maximising our advantage and damn the torpedoes?
        is this end game really what hayek, et alia had in mind?
        at my most cynical, it looks like a fine way to fix the overpopulation problem, and roll back the social/cultural clock to 1100 AD.
        de Maistre and Hoppe and that Moldbug guy would be proud.

    2. a different chris

      >Hey, if you believe the hype of AI and machine learning, the machines could “learn” bias.

      Wasn’t there a story linked here not horribly long ago that said someone had managed exactly that?

      1. Elspeth

        a different chris-

        Don’t know about AI, but I do know about people and in the foreseeable future it’s always about human intelligence. Now trump doesn’t have any, no he just loves being evil – 24 x7. It not his base thing either, it’s who he is.

    3. Collapsar

      It seems like employers could use this to discriminate against employees deemed undesirable. An algorithm that’s used to automate performance reviews could unfairly penalize older workers, or people who had taken leave under the FMLA, etc.
      The real fun starts when a business starts cutting jobs. This rule could shut down lawsuits alleging discrimination against various categories of workers the employer would be seeking to get rid of.
      The business would just shrug and say, “Well, that was an accident.”

      1. Summer

        “It seems like employers could use this to discriminate against employees deemed undesirable. An algorithm that’s used to automate performance reviews could unfairly penalize older workers, or people who had taken leave under the FMLA, etc…”

        That’s already happening…this is an extension of that.

  4. Brindle


    Marianne Williamson likely to reach the 130.000 donor threshold for the september debate. Her getting to 2% in polls is a much tougher get. Looks like Gabbard will qualify on both citeria. Williamson is not in my first four choices or so— I just like her entertainment value and her anti-wonkiness.
    The DNC might have made criteria too strict–as of now there could only be 7 or so candidates left for the debates.

    1. urblintz

      …can you link to a poll that puts Gabbard over the 2%? Thanks! She’s not going to win, of course, but giving her another shot at Kamala Harris can only be a good thing, imho. So too her statements against never ending war.

        1. Brindle

          Delaney likely in despite zero support of voters, after all he is the Big Pharma/ Health Insurance candidate and they won’t deny a huge donor like that a seat at the table.

            1. Librarian Guy

              Too bad he and Cory Booker weren’t in the same debate to double-team all the bad “lefty” Dems who aren’t yet fully owned by the FIRE/ Big Pharma sectors

      1. Brindle

        Guess I was being optimistic about Gabbard—I do think she will qualify with the hurdle of the polls though.

        1. John

          Are these debate entrance criteria designed to be convoluted, peculiar, arcane, or simply a means to allow the DNC to put whoever the hell they want in the next round?

          Probably better to have them all up there but with signs on the podiums:Big Pharma, Big Bucks the Billionaire is behind me, Finance Weenies for more Obscene Profits, $$$, War is Good For You, etc. etc. as infinitum.

  5. Another Scott

    I read some articles from media critics on the Gatehouse-Gannett merger and honestly laughed when reading them. They discussed how Gatehouse would cut costs, strip assets and layoff newsrooms and then mentioned the PE ownership. The writers were horrified. I laughed because many of the same people didn’t seem to care much when the layoffs were blue collar workers at factories and retailers. It’s only important that it’s affecting college educated professional journalists. This practice is horrible and should stop, but the newspaper industry isn’t the first or the last to be afflicted by it.

    1. Summer

      Why are people being paid to strip assets, layoff people when any old algorithm could do that…food for thought.

        1. Summer

          ….Before they ever leave home for work. And their office belongings shipped home to them via Amazon.

        2. John

          I am reading a history of the Civil War in China 1946-1949. It was published in 1949. The tactics pf the Nationalist armies and nationalist officials in stripping as much from people as they could carry sounds very much like the way Private Equity operates.

          I marvel that this rape of a corporation is legal.

    2. JCC

      And there is also this:

      However, investors appear to be concerned that New Media is paying too great a price. The company intends to finance the deal with high-interest debt. New Media is borrowing $1.8 billion from private equity firm Apollo Global Management at an interest rate of 11.5%.

      Moreover, New Media is cutting its annual dividend in half to $0.76 to help pay for its acquisition of Gannett.

      AGM to the rescue, at 11.5%… wow!


  6. Deschain

    > The results of studies attempting to clarify the relationship between violent video games and aggression have been mixed

    They really aren’t mixed at all. There is no causal link between video games and violent acts. Juvenile violent crime rates in the U.S. have dropped by approximately 75% since the late 80s, during the very same period when video games have risen to prominence in our culture. If anything, video games have reduced violence, because they keep kids off the streets & provide another outlet for aggressive impulses. This ‘mixed’ jargon is another example of media wanting to appear ‘fair and balanced’ on an issue that’s pretty clear if you look at the actual data.

    1. Roger Boyd

      Seems they have repurposed the “balanced” climate change language after it became untenable a part from on Fox and other right-wing channels.

  7. nippersmom

    but I’ve yet to meet a “Never Bidener.
    Mr. Curry, allow me to introduce myself.

        1. edmondo


          Feel free to pass my email address on to Bill Curry as well.

          While I find Trump loathsome, Joe Biden “makes my skin crawl.”

              1. Amfortas the hippie

                you mean in the basement, of course.
                i hope the doors are opened wide enough to break the hinges with the epstein thing…our elite are a bunch of sadistic pervs and its high time we stop pretending otherwise.
                make total information awareness a two way street
                rent boys come forth!

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      From the small donors story: “only 1% of Sanders donors also gave to Biden.” I think Mr. Curry may not have moved very far outside his social circle.

      1. nippersmom

        Yes, this Sanders donor (and spouse) both contributed to Gabbard and Gravel because we felt they had points that needed to be made on the debate stage. We won’t be contributing to any of the other candidates, and would not vote for any of them for president, either. I have a special level of loathing for Biden, though.

        1. Darius

          Or Harris. A total gaslighting candidate. No mission except protecting the powerful. But she can change her accent depending on who she’s talking to. She and Biden are two peas in a pod.

        2. Brindle

          Biden, like Obama and Clinton (both B &C) hate the poors—and that’s will find it hard to vote for him in any election.

      2. Pat

        Or spent time really talking to his social circle. There are a surprising number of Never Bideners among people who merely tolerate my ‘we have Trump because of Democratic Party policies supporting donors over their voters’ attitude. You don’t find that out until you start talking Biden’s weakness as a candidate in an atmosphere where Sanders policies are favored by over 50% of the population. I admit I was surprised by the couple of people who will hear no wrong about Obama who have got no time for Biden (and in fact blame him for some of Obama’s more questionable choices – yes even the most adoring do get that not prosecuting the bankers was a big mistake.)

        But then in 2016 I think the number of Never Clintoners among Democrats would have surprised Mr. Curry as well. (Probably still, as it could only be an outshoot of Russian interference…)

    2. scoaliera

      As Lambert says: I’m thinking Mr. Curry doesn’t get out much.

      #neverbiden, and not quiet about it, either.

      1. Elspeth

        Lambert – To modify your ” Obama’s legacy is trump, to in this case Obama’s legacy is not Biden but Trump”. I will not vote for Biden. I live in Michigan. People here need money. $20 -30 an hour. Pay, Medical, time off, education; however and whatever. Get that first then we talk.

    3. Tyronius

      Bernie Sanders called that shot before the turn of the millennium- and Bill the Clinton is almost as worshipped in liberal Democrat circles as Mr Obama. Imagine what a guy with that kind of foresight could do as president? I fear we’ll never know, but it won’t be because I didn’t support him! Bernie or nobody! Vive la Sandernistas!


      And no, no one but Bernie is getting my campaign support, activism, donation or time of day.

      The elites hate Bernie because he’s right and as such represents an existential threat to their interlocking monopolies. I firmly believe that he represents America’s last best chance to pull out of its nosedive and that if he is to prevail, it must be as a result of a mass movement- which will translate into real power of the bully pulpit variety. The elites hate Bernie precisely because they are rightly terrified of that prospect.

      I’m terrified of what America is becoming already, and will continue to become if Bernie isn’t elected.

  8. barrisj

    Let’s see – African-Americans targeted by white police, Hispanic and Hispanic-Americans targeted by white “nationalists, and Asians targeted by DHS…America, nice melting-pot you’ve got here, shame if something were to happen to it…oh, wait.

    1. Summer

      Not once have I seen a suggestion to ratchet down the state violence as a way to have tickle down effects of non-violence.
      Not once.

    2. paintedjaguar

      Let’s be fair, or at least objective. Liberal identitarians broke the melting pot years ago. Now we have a “salad bowl” drenched in racial essentialist dressing. It’s all “cultural appropriation” and “My Truth” memes now, the old American ideal of Integration is derided as a tool of the White Devils. For some reason you never hear about how wrong it was for diverse caucasian ethnic groups (Dutch, German, Polish, Irish, Czechs, Italians, etc) to assimilate into a dominant Anglo culture. If “diversity” is strength, then that was a really bad thing, right?

      1. mle in detroit

        She is, and kind too! Decades ago, my late uncle appeared in “Anything Goes” with her; they had a song together that called for her to hold his hand. He had scalded it before leaving NYC. She went out of her way to fake her way through so as not to cause pain.

      1. ChrisPacific

        Her opinions on Assange were what made me realize I needed to take her seriously. (That and the responses from male politicians who clearly hadn’t reached the same conclusion – looking at you, Scott Morrison).

        It’s a mistake to assume that women with careers like hers are dumb or apolitical. Another example, linked at NC, was Cardi B schooling a reporter on US history and civics.

    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel


      Shes a great sport for playing along with Sacha Baron Cohen in the film ‘Borat.’

      Lol – “My sister number 4 prostitute in Kazakhstan…”

  9. Carolinian

    Re Uber and Lyft–apparently NYC has now passed congestion pricing below 60th st in Manhattan. Taxis will get a freebie since they already paid for their medallions but will this be the end of Uber in NYC?–particularly if they are a major source of congestion.

    1. FreeMarketApologist

      And the Uber/Lyft study did not include stats on NYC. At least the city has renewed the cap on ride-hail vehicles which was set to expire soon.

      Congestion pricing fees were added on to taxi and for-hire cars back in January ($2.50 for taxis, $2.75 for car services). There have been proposals for full-on congestion tolls for all vehicles, but they have historically died in Albany. No doubt, the car services will claim they already pay congestion tolls (since January), and so shouldn’t be subjected to any more.


      1. Carolinian

        This was something I heard on recent Alec Baldwin podcast. The show was about NYC transportation woes in general. They said general congestion pricing had been agreed to but not yet been implemented as various parties (city workers, the police) seek exemptions for their private cars. So yes I didn’t get all the details but thought they said taxis would be catching a break. Sounds like that’s not true.

  10. quotables

    “Narrowing it down was a process!”

    So true! …of Gutsy Women and a great many other fine things…

    1. sleepy

      Publication date is October 1.

      The book will be in the remainders bin before Thanksgiving where you can pick it up for a dollar or two if you’re so inclined.

        1. Conrad

          Wow. Absolutely brutal.

          I’m also staggered at how awful the thumbnail and book cover look, given both were no doubt done by professionals at great expense.

  11. Ranger Rick

    “He can’t keep getting away with it!” cries an increasingly uncomfortable NYT op-ed writer Frank Bruni for the umpteenth time.

    I’m not sure where to file this. “Boy who cried wolf” is inaccurate because the name calling and epithets are often correct and appropriate. He seems unusually reticent to avoid calling Trump’s supporters anything, which given the general tone of the piece seems like something that was edited out. We already called it political fatigue during the 2016 election so three more years of reporting wore that metaphor threadbare ages ago. Myopia springs to mind with his “Trump is fuzzy” remark, and the more I think about it the more appropriate it seems. We may be approaching some threshold, some breakthrough moment — call it the antithesis of identitarianism — where people start actively dissociating elected officials from the offices they hold. Personal affairs, controversial opinions, bad behavior: the person is no longer relevant as long as the duties of the office are performed in a manner they generally approve of.

    1. Quentin

      Imagine how all these guys and gals will grin and rejoice when Joe Biden gets elected president in 2020. Just try very hard to imagine that and the sleight of hand they will have used to bring off his victory, restoring the ‘natural order’ of the land, Barack Obama business as usual (not that D. Trump is anything else in spite of his lack of in-your-face NYT civility, gentility, respectability).

  12. todde

    the issue I have with the fracking tower analogy in regards to mass shooters is that the output, (mass shooters) is more a by-product of the fracking tower, and not it’s reason for existence.

    I understand I am not being real helpful, but is my take.

    1. RWood

      Fracking crudely:
      I believe that tower has raw input (recruits) and a variety (as indicated by Lambert) of desired outputs.

      Ever since the savages have been named and located.

      It’s a paleolithic technology.

    2. Elspeth

      ‘fracking tower analogy’ – I wish Lambert would give this up. I support 99% of what he does not this time. It’s wrong on so many levels. I save that with love.

  13. roxy

    When USA Today first came out, the National Lampoon published a photograph of a family sitting on a sofa while gazing at an old fashioned newspaper box (put in coins, lift lid, take newspaper), which was glowing like a television. Joke being that the new publication, with its gaudy color pictures, might as well be the tube.

    1. mle in detroit

      Gannett has been doing a lot with fewer resources. One or two local reporters work on a long-form investigative story in their region that’s published in all the crime-and-sports dreck of the on-line local paper. The story then gets picked up by USA Today. Rinse and repeat around the country and it starts to look like serious news. “GateHouse”, I fear, will deserve its name.
      As someone pointed out about the NYT headline kerfluffle, it matters, since that’s all many people see, but it doesn’t, because there’s quite good reporting below the head. So I guess I’ll keep my subscription, to help underwrite the good reporting.

  14. Milton

    Could California lose congressional representation for the first time since attaining statehood?
    Due to the inherent unfairness of the equal proportions method in doling out congressional seats (stuck at 435 since the Permanent Apportionment Act in 1929), the Golden State may lose one, perhaps, two seats based on projections from the upcoming 2020 Census-and may occur even with an increase in population. Esri’s Chief Demographer, Kyle Cassal, describes how this can happen and shows the relatively simple formula that is used in determining congressional apportionment by state. Texas, by the way, looks to be the only state with more than one seat gained.
    Reapportionment Projections and the Potential Impact of New States

    Add’l information:
    Esri 2020 Congressional Apportionment Projections and the Potential Impact of Statehood Changes

  15. Henry Moon Pie

    “revive the ‘good old times’ of the Cold War,”

    It depends on your perspective. There’s a scene in “Harold and Maude” where Harold’s crazy uncle/general is bemoaning how things are so murky in a Cold War. He longs for the days when the “Gerries” were the enemy.

  16. Nat

    “It sounds like the stories and games are fictional. I don’t see why they couldn’t be real.”

    That has worked well for other things, like Foldit, which in 2011 resulted in a bunch of gamers solving a protein structure problem highly related to the study and theoretically the eventual treatment of AIDS that had stumped researchers for 15. Much like FoldIt though, getting good players usually involves training them in a sand-box that is either fictional or where all the answers are already known. Once players clear a sand-box and training, letting them loose on the unsolved real world issues does become a good idea.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for the FoldIt information.

      Platforms like Reddit have a very mixed record on running down stories (I’m thinking of the Marathon Bomber debacle on Reddit). It occurred to be that the structure of the game could be used to improve the, well, newsgathering.

  17. Jeff W

    “Few candidates have loyal small-dollar donor bases” [WaPo]

    So, looking at that “five-highest polling candidates” chart in that article, 20% (or more) of Kamala Harris donors gave to either Pete Buttigieg or Elizabeth Warren and ~10% (or more) gave to Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Beto O’Rourke or Bernie Sanders, and, for Elizabeth Warren donors, 20% or more gave to Buttigieg, Harris or Sanders, and ~10% gave to Biden, Booker, and Castro (with some 5% or maybe more below 10% giving to Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, and O’Rourke). In other words, Harris and Warren supporters are sprinkling their money all over the place. In contrast, for Sander, only one other candidate—Warren—got donations from 10% of his donors and only one other—Tulsi Gabbard—got donations from 5% of his donors

    So that might mean that (1) Sanders supporters are, to some degree, less likely to vote for some other candidate if Sanders is no longer in the race, or that (2) they see Sanders as materially different enough from the other candidates that they simply won’t support others financially, at least at this stage, or that (3) they understand, or it matters to them more that, the primary race—unlike betting in an actual horse race—is a zero-sum game and every dollar (or other support) they throw towards someone other than their most-favored candidate necessarily diminishes the likelihood of that candidate getting the nomination, or some combination of those (or, of course, something else).

    It’s interesting that the WaPo reporters focus on the candidates—Harris and Warren—whose supporters are the least “loyal”—those candidates have, theoretically, the “softest” support—and not on the candidate whose supporters are the most loyal.

    1. Inode_buddha

      It kinda boggles my mind, because I’ve never gave to a canidate in my life, until Sanders came along. I gave to him regardless of anything else in my personal situation, because I believe in what he says.

  18. Fritzi

    Hmh, apparently there was another massacre planned in Texas, but it was prevented, not by some tough guy with a gun, but by a grandmother talking her grandson into seeing a doctor instead (and then calling the police).

    Of course this was largely luck, since he decided to talk to his grandma about his plans.

    But one still has to wonder how many mass shooters, that hinted or even openly declared their plans online, could have been talked out of it, if someome had seriously tried to, instead of egging them on, 8chan style.

  19. laughingsong

    “Bullet Rationing”

    That reminded me of a routine Chris Rock did way back in the late 90’s or early noughties:

    “… You don’t need no gun control. You know what you need? We need some bullet control. Man, we need to control the bullets, that’s right. l think all bullets should cost $5,000 dollars! Five thousand dollars for a bullet. You know why? ‘Cause if a bullet costs $5,000, there’d be no more innocent bystanders. That’d be it. Every time someone gets shot, people will be like, ”Damn, he must have did somethin’… Sh*, they put $50,000 worth of bullets in his ass!’ People would think before they killed somebody, if a bullet cost $5,000. ‘Man, l would blow your f***ing head off, if l could afford it. “

  20. Jessica

    “It does seem to me that the United States is exceptionally good at manufacturing at least one refined product: Mass shooters (white male).”
    The same arguments apply to jihadist suicide bombers, particularly in Europe.
    I am not certain that the ideological reasons that some mass shooters give are the real cause of their crimes. We have had an exceptionally large number of mass shooters in the US for decades, but at the start, it was not ideological.
    I understand the power of the argument that the kind of vile encouragement of hatred that Trump provides is a cause, but empirically we had a large number of mass shootings under Obama too.
    Obviously, something is wrong with any society that has the level of mass violence seen in the US, whether that takes the form of mass shooters or periodic pogroms or whatever. I just think that the cause may lie much deeper than the visible ideologies of white male resentment.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > I just think that the cause may lie much deeper than the visible ideologies of white male resentment.

      I completely agree. But the effect comes out with white males. They are the ones who emerge from the cracking tower.

  21. Jessica

    (Lambert, about brain issues due to radiation on Mars mission:) “Surely there is a science fiction story with this premise, though I can’t remember one. Certainly lots of potential for dark comedy”
    Slightly different, but in many sci-fi books, cold sleep for interstellar voyages may or even does cause various organic brain issues. In Dan Simmons’ Hyperion Cantos (which I highly recommend for imaginative space opera), one of the main characters comes out of cold sleep unexpectedly bankrupt and with a vocabulary of only 10 words, all of them obscenities. The dialogs until the character recovers are truly things of comic beauty.

    1. Amfortas the hippie

      seems like i remember mass—like large chunks of ice—being used as shielding, and doubling as reaction mass…maybe Arthur C Clarke…or Asimov…
      and speaking of scifi…i’m watching “The Expanse” for the second time, and can’t recommend it enough.
      they paid more attention to the science than most scifi shows(still have sounds in space, but they do flip and burns and have the accompanying grav effects.
      pretty cool all around.

      1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

        Only Sci Fi channel show ive watched! I normally dislike network tv for being boring n derivative but this was good! I liked the dude who built ships? on the belt and how he trusted the crew to get to the bottom of things concerning the ‘alien.’

      2. Greg

        Mass shields are definitely common in a wide range of scifi authors visions of space travel. One that sticks in mind is a counter rotating water store = the rotation gives gravity, and in a pinch they can stop the rotation and hide behind the water during storms. I think that was in Kim Stanley-Robinson’s mars trilogy.
        Which also has an onboard psychiatrist as one of the key characters, because they expect after their Antarctic trials that at least a few people will have serious breakdowns as a result of the long dark journey and isolation at the other end.

        1. Jessica

          I think that they are more commonly used as shields against particles than against radiation. At speeds that are significant fractions of the speed of light or greater, the kinetic energy of a particle strike is quite high. (Energy = mass x velocity squared).
          Fancy sci-fi starships generally have walls made of handwaveium that keep out radiation.

  22. Tom Stone

    Two points.
    There is no “Gun Show Exemption” and never has been.
    And confiscation has been tried on a national basis, both Australia and Mexico have tried it.
    There is NO legal firearms ownership in Mexico for ordinary Citizens and Australia banned the possession of Semi Auto and slide action rifles back in 1996, handgun ownership is also strictly controlled there.

    It didn’t reduce violent crime in either country, and in Australia the best estimate is that only one in five owners of Semi auto or slide action rifles turned them in.

    I fully expect that the 2nd amendment will be tossed on the trash heap along with the rest of the Bill of Rights, and I also believe that opening that can of worms is very likely to lead to the same kind of Chaos that Mexico is enduring.
    No skin off my back, I won’t be around much longer.

    1. inode_buddha

      Agreed but I think it will be a lot worse than chaos and no bill of rights. Unfortunately I probably have 40 years to go…

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > in Australia the best estimate is that only one in five owners of Semi auto or slide action rifles turned them in.

      Please provide a link for that “best estimate.”

      > There is no “Gun Show Exemption” and never has been.


      Known as the “gun show loophole,” most states do not require background checks for firearms purchased at gun shows from private individuals — federal law only requires licensed dealers to conduct checks.

      Under the Gun Control Act of 1968, federal law clearly defined private sellers as anyone who sold no more than four firearms per year. But the 1986 Firearm Owners Protection Act lifted that restriction and loosely defined private sellers as people who do not rely on gun sales as the principal way of obtaining their livelihood.

      Some states have opted to go further than federal law by requiring background checks at gun shows for any gun transaction, federal license or not. The majority of these such states require background checks at the point of transfer for all firearms. Alternatively, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey and North Carolina regulate purchases by prohibiting private dealers from selling to individuals who do not have licenses/permits, which they obtain following background checks. Some states’ requirements are limited only to handgun purchases.

      Even in states that do not require background checks of private vendors, the venue hosting the event may require it as a matter of policy. In other cases, private vendors may opt to have a third-party licensed dealer run a background check even though it may not be required by law.

      Last I checked, the Great State of Maine did not require background checks at gun shows.

  23. VietnamVet

    Democrats are whistling as they walk by the graveyard. Civility doesn’t work in a society drowning in debt, regressing into tribes, shorter lifespans and rising inequality. Being pleasant and avoiding the truth does nothing against Donald Trump especially if the Media censors out criticism of the forever wars and the oligarchy’s pathologies. The Trump Administration may well last only one term if he starts a world war with Iran or China. But that does nothing to restore democracy or government control over multi-national corporations.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      > The Trump Administration may well last only one term if he starts a world war with Iran or China. But that does nothing to restore democracy or government control over multi-national corporations.

      I think the Democrats have one last chance if they win 2020. If they [family blog] it up, the two party system (at least) is over (see the Sanders clip, where he makes this call — in 2000!). With various knock-on effects on hegemony. One excellent way to [family blog] it up would be a Biden/Harris ticket, with associated idea that all we need is a system reset to 2008.

  24. ObjectiveFunction

    > One out of five astronauts on a deep space mission would likely experienced anxiety…. Surely there is a science fiction story with this premise, though I can’t remember one. Certainly lots of potential for dark comedy

    John Carpenter’s Dark Star (1974) probably falls closest to that spec. Another classic in the hit parade of 1970s dystopian cinema!

    Benson Arizona, the warm wind in yer hair / my body roams the galaxy / my heart longs to be there (Carpenter even composed the opening theme)

    1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

      Dont forget Disneys Rocketman starring Harland Williams. Loved this movie as a kid.

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