Links 8/14/19

Yves here. Hoping Tracie H is OK. She used to send tons of great pix. She has gone radio silent :-(

Fireflies Quartz (furzy)

Activists and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Champion Release of Happy The Elephant: ‘Her Spirit Is Broken’ Newsweek (furzy)

FAA Bans Recalled MacBook Pros From Flights Bloomberg

Dr. Martens has a thriving business in vegan boots Quartz (resilc)


China pledges not to devalue yuan exchange rate after US currency manipulator designation South China Morning Post

Police and protesters clash at Hong Kong airport CNN. Live updates.

HK police storm airport as mob holds ‘suspects’ Asia Times

Trump Says China Moving Troops to Its Border With Hong Kong Bloomberg

Linked in the thread above but worth highlighting:

Chinese intervention in Hong Kong would be a ‘catastrophe’, Patten says Reuters

China accuses Pelosi and McConnell of inciting ‘chaos’ in Hong Kong CNBC. As predicted by UserFriendly…


Jammu and Kashmir LIVE: Rahul Tells Governor Malik He’s Ready to Accept Invite ‘Without Conditions’ News18

Kashmir on the Edge of the Abyss Tariq Ali, New York Review of Books


MPs must save the UK from Johnson’s no-deal Brexit folly Financial Times. Editorial.

Ex-Chancellor accuses UK PM of Brexit ‘wrecking’ BBC

Of course the US supports a no deal – it makes a minnow out of Britain Guardian (Kevin W)

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio Chats Bloomberg (David L)

What Your Voice Reveals About You Wall Street Journal. Depressing:

Audio data from customer-service calls is also combined with information on how consumers typically interact with mobile apps and devices, said Howard Edelstein, chairman of behavioral biometric company Biocatch. The company can detect the cadence and pressure of swipes and taps on a smartphone.

How a person holds a smartphone gives clues about their age, for example, allowing a financial firm to compare the age of the normal account user to the age of the caller.

Facial recognition software mistook 1 in 5 California lawmakers for criminals, says ACLU MSN (Kevin W)

Google’s algorithm for detecting hate speech looks racially biased

Trump Transition

Trump blinks as trade war threatens consumers The Hill. This is not about consumers. This is about the stock market. Focus group results suggest that the Trump rally was a big reason his more affluent voters back him.

FBI investigating shots fired at ICE offices in San Antonio CNN

Job fair after ICE raids: Here’s who showed up for Koch Foods plant jobs USA Today (JohnnyGL)


Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Chances Hinge on Taking Support from Joe Biden Rolling Stone (UserFriendly)

Sanders overtakes Biden in New Hampshire poll The Hill (UserFriendly)

MSM Smears Sanders For Saying MSM Smears Sanders Caitlin Johnstone

Twitter Rails Kamala Harris for Marking Muslim Holiday After Chowing Down on Pork Sputnik (Kevin W)

Tom Steyer Close to Qualifying for Next Democratic Debates Atlantic (resilc). Kill me now.

Tom Steyer Bought a ‘Grassroots Campaign’ for $10 Million New York Magazine (resilc)

The 2020 Democrats are increasingly willing to blame Trump Washington Post. UserFriendly: “Important deconstruction of the ‘Obama under attack’ BS.”

L’affaire Epstein

Jeffrey Epstein death: Shrieking heard from jail cell the morning he died at Metropolitan Correctional Center CBS

Warden of Manhattan jail where Jeffrey Epstein died is reassigned, 2 guards placed on leave NBC (furzy). Notice the construction: “Lawmakers and administration officials alike are furious that Epstein could have possibly killed himself under the noses of jailers.”

With Jeffrey Epstein Dead, the Search Is on for Alleged Recruiter Ghislaine Maxwell Rolling Stone (furzy)

Wealth of Jeffrey Epstein’s Brother Is Also a Mystery Gretchen Morgenson, Wall Street Journal

Jeffrey Epstein’s Death Was On 4Chan Before Officials Announced It — And Authorities Had To Look Into It Buzzfeed (furzy)


Targeted in Walmart attack, Hispanics in El Paso flock to firearms classes Reuters

Police State Watch

AG Barr said there must be ‘zero tolerance for resisting police’ and went after ‘social justice reformers’ in a heated speech to the US’ largest law enforcement organisation Business Insider (Kevin W)

Danish bank launches world’s first negative interest rate mortgage Guardian

Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech Wired (UserFriendly). I would never think of Google as a happy company. It screens for highly competitive people.

One of World’s Construction Giants Admits Using Risky Hidden-Debt Loophole “Across Group.” Australian Subsidiary Crushed Wolf Street (EM). Factoring is usually as admission of a desperate need to get cash, at least when done on normal market terms.

Auditing: a profession facing an existential crisis Richard Murphy (UserFriendly)

Opinion: Here’s the real reason why U.S. home prices haven’t been smashed MarketWatch (resilc)

Boeing’s Plane Deliveries Tumble as 737 MAX Jet Stays Grounded Wall Street Journal

Class Warfare

Americans Say They Can’t Afford a Vacation Bloomberg

Antidote du jour (furzy):

And a bonus from guurst:

See yesterday’s Links and Antidote du Jour here.

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  1. run75441

    As the one commenter said, Shenzhen is just north of Hong Kong. One time in going to the former, they routed me through Shanghai rather than Hong Kong were I could take a fast train, bus, of limo to Shenzhen. Added several hours to my trip to Shenzhen to visit a PCB manufacturer to get money back and a freezing of gold prices.

    More than likely, the authorities have had enough

  2. dearieme

    Facial recognition software mistook 1 in 5 California lawmakers for criminals

    An 80% error rate isn’t much cop.

    1. Carla

      I don’t see the error here. My question is, why would California lawmakers be so much better than ours in Ohio?

      1. John

        This reminds me of my Finnish Uncle John who would stomp out of family political discussions with his rock ribbed Republican family in Michigan and return to his farm in Hurley Wisconsin shouting as he left “They are all crooks except Bob LaFollette,”

    2. polecat

      So, must be the Bay Area quotient then ….

      Surely there’s another 50% to be had, below the Tehachapis.

      1. Anon

        “below the Tehachapis” is code for SoCal. (Non Californians wouldn’t otherwise know this.)

        Sacramento, CA (NorCal) is the state capital and ALL state legislators from across the state work there.

  3. dearieme

    the smear zone — … straight ad hominem insults

    Hang on, ad hom insults needn’t be smears. “Slick Willie tells lies instinctively” is no doubt insulting but it’s no smear. It’s a simple and obvious truth.

      1. David Mills

        I wish Tulsi had nailed Harris on OneWest and Steve Mnuchin… my favorite line:

        “… thousands of instances of criminality…”

        Tulsi left a lot of meat on the bone.

    1. JohnnyGL

      Pretty crazy how a lot of the explanation for Harris’ lack of appeal are mostly about context, not about Harris, herself.

      It seems to me that, yes, there’s some contextual reasons why she might not be doing well, but I don’t buy the default id pol assumption that she’s going to naturally appeal to black voters because of skin color.

      I think Harris’ failures are mostly due to Harris, herself. I thought she’d be a much more astute campaigner going into this race, but she’s been pretty overtly Clintonian with the staff hires, the shifting policy positions, the pathetic pandering.

      Plus, her resume doesn’t look so good under scrutiny….which is why she looks so wounded, after Tulsi shanked her in a dark alley…a move that she should have seen coming a mile away. She made it worse with her inability to defend her own record. Then again, she could start rebounding in a couple of weeks and maybe the lasting damage will prove limited. I suspect it was a fatal blow, though, and by October she’ll look like she’s distinctly stuck in the 2nd tier.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I thought she’d be a much more astute campaigner

        Not that LA isn’t a large city, but its still a city. Her rise was due to the collapse of a front runner right before the primary, and then with the glaring problems with California Democrats, she was left as a Snow White candidate among dwarf alternatives for the Senate primary.

        Obama was outpolling Jack Ryan before Ryan’s collapse. Yes, they both had meteoric rises, but there is nothing in Harris’ background to make one think she might be credible as a campaigner.

        1. JohnnyGL

          I wasn’t basing that on an in depth look at her history. I don’t know CA local politics too well. Just noting that she came across as comfortable and relaxed on camera, seemed eloquent. She also seems to have lined up the CA state party behind her. I thought that’d count for more than it has, so far.

          It seems that local/state dem party machines have decayed more than I might have realized. They’re still powerful on their own turf, but they’re not producing talented candidates who can project power onto a national stage. They look more like local fiefdoms. To get specific….NY, MA, CA, WA are all big strongholds where dems hold a near-monopoly on power. However, in spite of that control….no candidates produced and groomed by those local machines seem to be able to grab a national following.

          Before someone points to Warren’s strong showing as a Senator from MA….she was dropped in from outside in 2012. The local machine here in MA is serving up Seth Moulton types. He’s been so drab that he couldn’t even make the debate stage. It’s hard to think of many other local pols that might be able to make a dent….Joe Kennedy tried….and fell flat on his face.

          I guess we’re at a place where centrist dems can’t get any popular legitimacy on a national stage, as presidential candidates, or even wielding power as prominent congressional leaders, but they’re still very tough to unseat on home turf in a primary.

          Same looks true for NY. Cuomo and DeBlasio can’t make a dent on the national stage, but look rock solid at home.

          1. jrs

            excellent diagnosis, yea Harris can come across well, but has gone nowhere.

            Centrist Dems may not be getting far on a national stage (but Biden, why oh why?), but progressives still have a hard time gaining any local or state level power no matter how blue the area (with a few exceptions).

            No political revolution where it would seem easiest to take power yet .. and yet centrists flaming out nationally. A frustrating moment, like that new world struggling to be born needs a cesarean.

          2. Pat

            I am one of the few people I know who does not really dislike DeBlasio, to the point where I can now list a vast number of ways he is an improvement on Bloomberg AND little control of the MTA he has off the top of my head.

            But that said, I also do not trust our voting system in the least. Scanners, and a thank you for voting screen do not mean the count is accurate. Just saying.

          3. NotTimothyGeithner

            Cuomo owes everything to his last name. DeBlasio is okay with certain activities, but anyone who is reported to be “bored” as mayor of New York strikes me as someone who is averse to hard work.

            Where I grew up, the mayor was a ceremonial position, but the mayors always said they burned out because they always found something to do or become involved in. DeBlasio could be out pimping New York instead he is just pimping himself.

            If Harris came out of the legislature and fought other legislatures to win the prize, there would be something to point to. It isn’t to say she might not have the talent to win, but she’s never been in a political street fight.

            Corey Booker strikes me as having the actual talent to make a real run if he chose to not be such an obvious corporate shill. He made a good challenge against the old Newark Democrats. Yeah, he was backed by third way types, but he showed me the grit. Sanders isn’t a “Democrat” from Vermont. He’s an independent who beat the Democrats. I see Harris and wonder why she doesn’t seem ready to roll, preferring to hire HRC people instead of going with a California team (there should be no shortage of talent), and the answer is she isn’t cut out. Warren has a similar problem.

            I think HRC was ready, but she was too wedded to awful loyalists.

    2. barefoot charley

      Oh boy! I get to truthfully play MSM/DNC Smear Troll: I just get a creepy feeling at the way Harris bark-laughs at things that aren’t funny, and at the way her dad says her campaign is a “travesty,” and that her jokey characterizations of her Jamaican roots are disgraceful (and that she’s descended not from slaves but slave-owners, no less!); and at the way this raised-by-a-South-Indian-single-parent Berkeley girl has acquired black signifiers (similar to Hillary’s come-and-go Southern accent), the same way Obama stylized his pimp-walks down the aisle to his State of the Union shows where he was, as Creepy Joe rightly observed, so clean and articulate. Underneath all that style, her substance is Creepy Corpo Crapo as usual. You may think I’m being unfair, but these are my true feelings.

  4. timbers

    Police State Watch

    AG Barr said there must be ‘zero tolerance for resisting police’ and went after ‘social justice reformers’ in a heated speech to the US’ largest law enforcement organisation Business Insider (Kevin W)

    Is it resisting police to wonder how many (mostly black) people will get killed by police because of this? Or would that fall under social justice reform?

    1. Stephen V.

      Could Barr have been talking about the Philly DA?
      From Wikipedia :

      In June 2018, it was reported that Krasner had requested a comprehensive list of police officers who had lied while on duty, used excessive force, racially profiled, or violated civil rights. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, “The exercise, unprecedented in scope in recent city history, is designed to help prosecutors flag officers with credibility issues early in a case and possibly prevent their testimony”.[31]

      1. chuck roast

        I was attacked by a cop many years ago for no reason. He came up behind me, grabbed me by the hair and threw me down, cuffed me and jammed my face into a wall and his partner then carted me off to a night in the can. The next morning I was finger-printed by a civilian. I asked the guy, “Do they give these guys shrink-tests before they hire them?” The guy laughed, and said, “Well they were going to, but all the prospective cops in Providence were flunking them, so the City decided that they would not institute them.”

      1. todde

        America has the largest prison population on the planet and I still hear Americans talking about how we take a soft approach to crime.

        the numbers don’t seem to back that assertion.

    1. voteforno6

      I guess that means that John Delaney will be found wandering outside the next debate in a drugged stupor.

      1. richard

        Wait, Delaney is The Dude? Has his thinking about ‘merica got too uptight lately? Is he maybe privy to some new shit that would just blow your mind?
        Anything’s possible, but I think he’d much rather channel the Malibu cop from that movie.

        1. DK

          I thought Marianne Williamson was The Dude. I’m so confused now. She ties the whole debate together.

            1. hunkerdown

              Warren, then, as the head of the So Cal Bowling League and Sanders as Smokey, with angry norms lawyers screaming at him, “Mark it zero, next frame.”

            2. richard

              lemmie see if I can do this
              Ryan is a Donnie (cluelessly wandering into conversations, “out of his element”)
              but who is the dem Walter who blusters, and who tells people “they are out of their element”? Maybe biden? (not really, but I think he and Walter would get along really well). I think Klobuchar could be a secret Walter, behind a clever, equally non-electable mask.

  5. The Rev Kev

    “Warden of Manhattan jail where Jeffrey Epstein died is reassigned, 2 guards placed on leave”

    In an interview today, both guards were unable to explain what happened. The first – B. Badenov – said: “Allow me to introduce myself. I is New York Guard and I saw nothink. Mehehehehehe!” while his female colleague – N. Fatale – said: “This is true, dahlink. I too saw nothink.” Their watch leader – F. Leader – was also at a loss to explain what had happened.

    1. Polar Donkey

      I know a guy that got locked up in a federal prison in a few months ago. I was amazed the guards were so cheap to bribe. Guy got a cellphone a couple days after arrival. Guards got free food. Seriously, just some free food. I imagine prices go up when dealing with a rich, high profile guy like Epstein.

  6. Dita

    So…The CO’s who are accused of sleeping at the time Epstein died were also in his cell telling him to breathe now? Or were there other guards around? Presumably the source who claims to have heard Epstein “shrieking” is another inmate.

    1. Jef

      Interesting that they couldn’t put a couple cameras on the most important prisoner…ever in their jail. Someone with the highest likelihood of being “suicided” …ever. Not a chance.

    2. Cal2

      Blaming the guards for Epstein’s “Suicide,”
      is like blaming JFK’s driver for his death because he slowed down in the Dallas cross-fire.

      I just read Whitney Webb’s long and detailed reportage on Epstein and his pal’s longstanding blackmail practices.

      Restores my faith in journalism. Many of the events therein are in plain view on the internet and informed memory, but she connects them in such a way as to explain decades of “that doesn’t make sense” or “why would they do that?,” experienced after reading some news story.

      1. Mike

        Webb’s long dissertation brought out much that will never see a courtroom, although it may see some political heads roll if voting ever is allowed to work.

        My only issue was her insistence in working Trump’s name into the article in spots where it seemed gratuitous, while only mentioning Clinton rarely. Seems like some bias, considering that Trump has been held blameless for harrassment by the few women who have talked to the press.

        Then again, it’s not like working Sanders into 16 negative stories in a heartbeat.

  7. The Rev Kev

    “my cat shook his head while taking his picture”

    My god – can you see what is happening? Cats are doing it to us again by proving their superior intelligence. I think that the headline should really be this –

    “Cat defeats facial recognition software”

  8. Jason Boxman

    During my brief contract stint at Google, the Google managers and PMs I worked with were extremely uptight and type-A. The rank and file employees I interacted with seemed friendly enough. Small sample size, though.

    1. Jeff W

      In early 2001, I had a job interview with Google for a user experience position—it was a few years before the company went public. The company was well-known but it was not yet the place where they put you through a gauntlet of brain-teasers and lots of interviews. I saw maybe three people—one of them was Marissa Mayer, at that time an unknown 25-year-old user-experience engineer. (She might have been the director or something.) What struck me most about her was how socially awkward she seemed—she had trouble maintaining eye contact during the interview. The questions—not all of them but most of them—seemed more geared toward doing academic research at some UX lab at a place like Stanford than getting actionable findings for a real company. The recruiter called later to say that they didn’t find me “a good fit” to which I replied honestly, “That’s OK—I didn’t find them a good fit, either.”

      So I never thought of Google as being a particularly happy company, either. You could have free meals and work out at the company gyms—and it now pays lip service to “Googleyness” (“fun, intellectual humility, conscientiousness, and a track record of having done interesting things”—where people wear their “intellectual humility” as a badge, in other words)—but I had the impression it was the kind of place that placed a premium on everyone being “the smartest kids in the room,” with all the social dynamics that that might entail.

    2. Otis B Driftwood

      Had a similar experience at about 20 years ago now. Uptight and humorless to a man and woman.

  9. Jason Boxman

    I may actually have one of those Macbook Pros. It wouldn’t sit flat (battery expansion), so I took it to the Apple store where they replaced the battery free of charge. The support serial look up page claims my unit is either unaffected or already serviced, but doesn’t know which and now neither do I.

    I hate flying as it is, so this might make it even more fun. I really don’t want to buy a new laptop.

    1. shtove

      Imagine if the battery in your Mac blew up at the exact moment the battery in your iPhone blew up at the exact moment the battery in your Dreamliner blew up.

  10. Another Scott

    I’ve been thinking about the spending by Steyer and others to get the donors to participate in the debates. It really seems as a way to increase party control. First, candidates need to spend money. Although they spend it on Facebook, candidates still need to produce the advertisements, identify donors, etc. Who gets this money? The Democratic consultants, and let’s face it, the party exists to enrich them. Second, it nationalizes the primary, this means that candidates with name recognition and big donors are likely to do better, even though they are generally more corporatist. Sanders and Warren are exceptions. This reduces one of the benefits of having small state primaries, namely that a small underfunded candidate can compete provided they have grassroots support and a reason for running.

  11. The Rev Kev

    “Americans Say They Can’t Afford a Vacation”

    I suppose that a lot of people can’t take vacations, even if they want to. Others may be afraid that if they take vacations, that their bosses will think them not a “team player” and sideline for promotion in favour of someone who does not take vacations. There is the worry too that you may not have a job to come back to. I heard a true story about a guy that took his vacation and while he was gone, they took his desk away and reshuffled all the other desks and spaces. When he came back, he was seen to be wondering the floor saying “Where’s my desk? I can’t find my desk”. Then there are people like this guy-

    1. jrs

      afford? oh ho de hum, how privileged, how out of touch. Let’s cut to the quick, how many Americans don’t have ANY paid time off?

      When I get time off I will kiss the ground in deep gratitude, that I can use it for doctors visits and sick days and mental health days. Go somewhere on a vacation? That’s long since ceased to matter. That’s a concern of people without real concerns. That’s like an article on how to choose a mansion.

    2. polecat

      I transformed our yard into staycation territory … only problem – as vaycay season progresses, it becomes a seething, living, chlorophyllic Hell .. with all the fauna that entails .. whereby one needs to break-out the machetes just to move two feet ! If I squint hard enough, I can almost make out the Mayan ruins ‘;]

      Actually, it’s perfectly fine .. and it’s FREE ! My carbon usage is pretty nill too..

      1. Oregoncharles

        Sounds like my front yard. I’ve been hauling weeds out of there by the barrowful, but it’s still hard to get through. Have to use hedge trimmers – much more precise than machetes.

        The natural condition here is jungle.

  12. Craig H.

    > Three Years of Misery Inside Google, the Happiest Company in Tech

    I couldn’t get too far into this article. The headline seemed to be four months too large. Apparently the misery started with Donald the Fat taking office.

  13. Cal2

    “Why Is Kamala Harris Struggling With Black Voters So Much?”
    (3) the Electability Terror of 2020.
    If she wants to win the election, not just the primary, isn’t not alienating white voters as or more important?

    (4) Black voters are not sheep. Like her “fighting for the people” then selling out and taking money from billionaires, talkin’ black, then jailing poor black parents of truants, coat-tailing other people’s Muslim holidays, any literate person knows that Harris is overplaying her blackness to harvest their votes. Harris only has only ONE grandparent who was black and even she was possibly part East Indian. Funny how those Irish born Jamaican slave owners are conveniently memory-holed.

    The Indian-American community’s test for ‘Kamala Harris for President’ is convincing them she is one of them
    “Harris for her part, has been following the playbook, another political activist said. Complaints that she had not acknowledged her Indian heritage enough, have been somewhat corrected over the last year or so, with some of her statements about her Indian mother’s strong influence, her childhood visit to India, etc. And she initiated her effort to become visible by being the Chief Guest at the high-profile non-profit Pratham USA event late last year.”

    We can’t afford to spend another four years with President Trump.
    Bernie, or just give it up.

      1. David Carl Grimes

        If the black community doesn’t like Kamala Harris’s record as California AG, why are they sticking to Biden, whose record is even worse? Or Obama, for that matter?

        1. prodigalson

          As a people I think we actually *want* to be lied to, and the bigger the lies the better. Think there were some links or discussion here yesterday in regards to P.T. Barnaum’s success.

          It also struck me that given the choice of an honest person trying to do good or the choice of an obvious corporate drone with a good haircut, Americans keep choosing the drone. See also, how poorly Tulsi Gabbard is doing vs. Biden.

          So “seriousness” and “gravitas” are associated with being a sociopath and a liar, telling the emperor he has no clothes is associated with being naïve. Our entire culture has bought into this, even things like game of thrones depict Ned Stark, a man of honor, as being nothing but a fool. Whereas the more cunning or sociopathic you behave the “wiser” you are.

          We’re a deeply weird, confused, unhappy, and murderous people.

          1. epynonymous

            The appeal of ‘serious canidates’ is that of Big Brother. Or Erich Fromm’s Escape from Freedom.

            Stockholm Syndrome gives the illusion of control by identifying with your captor.

            See: Snowflake, lib-tard, dirty hippie, etc.

            Greeed is *good*

            On the other hand, Trump’s job was to upset the applecart from exactly the type of milque-toast sociopath (making all the ‘right moves’) Harris represents.

        2. JohnnyGL

          1) Stick with the ‘lock ’em up’ devil that you already know.

          2) We’ve been berated with endless stories about how the enduring lesson of trump’s election is that a) america is rampantly racist/sexist/mysogynist/xenophobic/white supremacist and that b) the most urgent issue is to get rid of trump. It makes some sense that votes would decide they need to work around a) in order to accomplish the urgent task of b).

          The amusing own-goal being scored right now by the media narrative is they might end up helping to get old, white guy Bernie elected, since Biden’s such a bad campaigner and seems confused all the time.

        3. Cal2


          What you see with Biden is what you get, a blundering safe likeable old guy with clumsy hands and pre-senile dementia peek-a-booing here and there.

          Black people have powerful bullshit detectors. I can just imagine the kitchen table conversations about the airbrushed Kamaleon.

          1. Off The Street

            Biden is expected to do as he does so not much new there.
            Harris shows her tone deaf approach and ignores the profound sense of betrayal felt by those she would purport to understand.

          2. Inode_buddha

            “Black people have powerful bullshit detectors.”

            Correction: Lower class has powerful BS detectors. Source: personal experience.
            Theory: it is a necessary trait for personal survival at the bottom of the social heap

  14. DK

    Facebook Paid Contractors to Transcribe Users’ Audio Chats Bloomberg

    I always find these stories more than a little ridiculous. Every company with voice-recognition collects audio samples and has it transcribed in order to compare the results of their software recognition with what a human hears. Every one. There are all sorts of guidelines they have to follow in so doing, especially for medical data but increasingly for all data. Unless they’re violating these policies there is nothing shocking going on here. And the idea that contract transcriptionists would be shocked at the content of what they were listening to is incredible (ie, not credible).

    1. EricT

      I’m surprised the speech recognition still requires human transcription. I recall the early speech to text programs were just abysmal, but they could transcribe some stuff accurately. I guess they still haven’t mastered computer transcribed speech yet. The funny thing is that they still think they can master self driving cars. You know, driving is so much easier than speech recognition. Funny how the South Park episode that was making fun of Alexa was not so far fetched. If you recall, they took the people who got laid off their jobs due to Amazon dominance, in response Amazon hired the people to act as human Alexas.

      1. DK

        Speech recognition actually works best the more technical the words are. It’s much more accurate with the 3 or more syllable words of a doctor, scientist, lawyer or engineer, even when spoken in a quick mumble with a heavy accent, or with someone doing something pretty repetitious and predictable, like ordering a pizza or changing a channel, than with just long, random, free-form, idiomatic spoken text — especially with multiple speakers and a TV playing in the background. Free-form language can be very difficult to parse. And then there’s always homophones, names, uhs, and the various other irregularities that make language so wonderful.

        1. barefoot charley

          I’m as skeptical of progress as any Luddite, but this: when I first passed through the Bay Area more than 35 years ago, I learned two things: that all tech progress worth talking about was funded by DARPA (and all their long-haired rock-climbing baked grad students were embarrassed about this); and that speech recognition software would take another 5 years or more, because dude, it was a bitch.

          So 5 years took 25 years. They did actually make progress. I’m afraid more progress is possible (looking at you, driverless Uber).

        2. DK

          Just thought I’d add, while I was thinking of it, that human transcription is often intended to be the perfect reference against which machine-generated text is compared, for purposes of scoring. But human transcription itself is often riddled with errors for a variety of reasons, so that sometimes the machine-recognition is actually better. These reasons include: transcriptionists often listen to small segments of text with little context of what went before or after; audio quality is sometimes quite poor; multiple speakers, background noise, accents, slang, argot, etc; long, complex rules for how text is to be transcribed, including including instructions for tagging, markup, capitilization, punctuation, etc; and transcriptionists are often from another country than the speakers they’re listening to and are paid per utterance, thus time pressure also.

    2. carycat

      The problem is with doing it on the cheap by violating user’s privacy without informed consent. Many, many years ago, I was one of many volunteer subjects for a speech recognition researcher in a different part of the company who periodically mail out scripts that is read back over the phone. This give better quality results because you actually know if the machine transcription is accurate vs just plausible. Different times, different values.

      1. human

        Sounds like the old party game ‘telephone’ where the first person would whisper a message to the second and on around the room to the last when we would all get a laugh about how garbled the message had become.

  15. Synoia

    Occupy Hong Kong is heading for the US designed “end occupy” process.

    Thanks to Obama for this “freedom plan”.

  16. The Rev Kev


    People that grew up with them may think nothing of them and growing up a city boy I never saw one at all. But one evening I found myself in a German wood with a friend when suddenly I noticed all these fireflies that I read of as a kid all around me and it was like magic. You should appreciate them when you see them. They are a natural wonder.
    Great Antidote du jour by the way. You would not think it but sometimes horses can be real clowns as well as sticky beaks.

        1. Eureka Springs

          Aunt Trill and Uncle Boss’s large back yard with nearly a dozen mature mimosa trees in full bloom and hundreds upon hundreds of fireflies which I caught and put in jar. But that was when bullfrogs were two to three pounders, crawfish were abundant, fairly large… we would catch enough to boil up a serving for all in an afternoon.

          I wonder if kids these days even have an ap simulating such abundance of wildlife?

          1. Off The Street

            The luckier kids might even get a chance to experience life away from little screens and concrete, hearing random wildlife while seeing the heavens above. Such times may even be through youth groups or families with some institutional knowledge or collective memory that is a cousin of Flaubert’s Education Sentimentale. In other words, what people used to learn growing up.

    1. Zagonostra

      Fireflies in rural central PA are magical and they always seem to peak around the 4th of July.

      Maybe it’s because I grew up in the city, but I would take their free show over fireworks any day.

    2. Oregoncharles

      I grew up with fireflies, in southern Indiana. one of our chief games was catchig them – I think children are important predators of fireflies. They’re one of the few things I miss about Indiana; would love to introduce them, especially the ones whose larvae prey on slugs. We have a bonanza for them.

    1. John k

      No, no.
      Wapo will tell you Bernie’s way worse than trump. And bezos means it.
      Granted a close call after trump questioning the cloud contract.

  17. Summer

    RE:With Jeffrey Epstein Dead, the Search Is on for Alleged Recruiter Ghislaine Maxwell Rolling Stone (furzy)

    Considering her role, why is the search just now “on”?

    Then reading about her father and the possibility that it was he who gave Epstein a financial start, and you have to wonder who really was the primary chooser of targets (male). What if Maxwell chose the girls and the guys to be marks. She reeled in the girls and he reeled in the guys…..

    Maxwell seems to be the one being protected.

    1. Cal2

      So, the FBI, the CIA, the NSA, the credit card companies, passport authorities, smartphone trackers, Google, MI5, MI6, IRS, have no idea where she is? ;-)

      Either that, or she’s taking a dirt nap. Say, when’s the last time anyone actually saw her? “She told her friends she was closing down her non-profit.”
      Was that by e-mail? That can’t be faked, I mean, you’d have to have her password.

      Maybe the “authorities” should just harness the world’s greatest intelligence service:
      send her an algorithm based personalized online ad;
      “Buy our kit, how to disappear from from life. “

    2. Amfortas the hippie

      i think it’s remarkable that she’s apparently at large(otherwise, why do they have to “begin” a search for her?)…and that both of her attorneys are “out of the country”.
      nobody in law enforcement, DOJ or the various prosecutors thought it necessary to keep tabs on her from the get go?
      nothing to see, here…

  18. Polar Donkey

    Opting out of vacations-Tourism in downtown Memphis and Beale Street was down 30% for the first 6 months of 2019.
    We have problems. 60+% of single family residential is rental now. 2008 it was 60+% owner occupied. Fedex stock is down 1/3 in a year. No longer giving bonuses, which were usually a jolt to local economy.
    Restaurants are starting to close because banks were chasing loans and giving one to any person with a hair brained idea. Now too many.
    We based our economy on distribution, rental properties, tourism, and restaurants. Still have a bit of a construction bump from condo and hotel construction, a great deal of that investment is from drug money laundering. Only other growth industry is healthcare, by which suing their own employees.

  19. Stupendous Man - Defender of Liberty, Foe of Tyranny

    “Facial recognition software mistook 1 in 5 California lawmakers for criminals, says ACLU”

    Admittedly I haven’t read that piece. However, the numbers expressed in the headline seem a bit low. Recall this quote by Theodore Roosevelt from the time … well, at least from the time he was alive and therefore capable of such utterances:

    “When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer ‘Present’ or ‘Not guilty.'”

    1. Summer

      Surprise! (not) It pegged a good number of the non-white members as criminals.

      The software is working just like the minds that designed it.

  20. Summer

    Re: “Robert Maxwell’s exploits in the underworld brought him in contact with some of the late Twentieth Century’s most notorious global mobsters, and paid for the 53-room mansion on a 14-acre park overlooking Cambridge, where Ghislaine grew up. Born Jan Hoch to a peasant Czech family in in 1923, he grew up to be a member of British Parliament and owner of a major media company. But that was only the visible side of his….”

    “He named his yacht the Lady Ghislaine, and was found dead near it, in 1990, under mysterious circumstances, after a series of criminal financial deals went bad. The cause of death remains murky, and Ghislaine Maxwell has said she doesn’t believe he killed himself….”

    Note that “he grew up to be a member of the British Parliament”.

    Why are people in the West acting dumbfounded that we have the likes of B. Johnson and D. Trump in office?

    Just call it the long rot…

  21. divadab

    Re: Accounts Payable factoring – working capital management is a key to any business. Which means delaying paying suppliers and accelerating collections from customers – both are “sources” of cash on the statement of cash flows. Factoring is a way to accelerate both sides of the cash equation – and it is quite expensive IMHO – usually 2-3% but sometimes as much as 5% for 30 days of financing. This, at 24% plus per year apr, is more expensive than issuing junk bonds. I looked at it once while running the books for a rapidly expending business that was cash flow negative (the paradox of business – growing businesses need cash; static or shrinking businesses generate cash) – and rejected it as too expensive. Instead we offered customers discounts for early payment and offered vendors small premiums for later payments – and it worked quite well and much cheaper than dealing with the factors, who are just one step above leg-breakers in my admittedly limited experience.

    Wolf has it right – companies that factor their AP and/or AR are at best not well run financially and at worst desperately in need of funds/nearly insolvent.

    1. ambrit

      Relevent on a tangent here.
      I have been dealing with the financial fallout of the bus accident for three months now. The Transit Company had to absorb the loss because the driver at fault had no insurance. The Transit companies insurance carrier has a claims adjuster company to do the legwork. I have been cooperating with the claims adjuster via snail mail and e-mail. That relationship has been running smoothly so far. To get back to the point in congruence with your comment; one of the ‘Accident Services Vendors’ is a local/regional ambulance service. I sent the claims adjuster their bill and a release form to release my records to the adjusters.
      Monday morning, we received a telephone call from the local office of the ambulance service. It began on a bad note.
      Phyllis answers the phone, it being a local number with a low spam potential. “Hello.”
      The ambulance lady: “Can I speak to [ambrit?]”
      Phyl: “Who is this please?”
      Them: “Ms.X from xyz ambulance. I need a number for [ambrit] since he obviously doesn’t answer his phone.”
      Phyl: “You’re obviously in luck. This is his phone. Would you want to speak to him?”
      Them: “Yes.”
      Me: “Greetings. How can I help?”
      Them: {A conversation replaying the basics of the case ensues.} Finally, “When can we expect the first payment. It has already been two months.”
      Me: “This item is in the hands of an insurance companies claims adjuster. These things take time.”
      Them: “We haven’t received anything from those people. Anyway, we can’t deal with them since this is a third party claim. When can we expect payment of your bill to begin?”
      Me: “I don’t know about that. I’m relying on the claims adjusters to give me an estimate on a fair amount.”
      Them: “This is a third party bill. You must pay it. You should be able to charge it to your medical insurance and wait for reimbursement from the Transit company insurer. When can we expect that?”
      Me: “Well, you are dealing with a deplorable here. I am on Social Security without any health insurance. I looked into the Heritage Foundation Care ‘Market Place’ and could not find one we could afford.”
      Them: An audible gasp. “What?” (I so seldom hear an audible gasp that I was quite disorientated and surprised to encounter one over the telephone.)
      Me: “Yes. So, your idea is a non starter from the beginning.” Then, twisting the knife a bit, “We will probably be ‘negotiating’ with you about the bill. Oh, and I will not be liable for late fees or interest while this matter is in dispute.”
      She hung up.
      So, your idea about functionality and methodology interactions driving behaviour at cash strapped business makes sense. My question is what is driving this ‘cash strappedness’ in the first place? Are the managements of these companies skimming such a large part of the funds flow as to create artificial resource shortages? I would not be a bit surprised.

      1. Off The Street

        I bet that poor ambulance lady was being monitored and had a quota or similar benchmark to hit and you went and ruined her whole morning, lol. So many others receiving similar calls are probably startled enough to continue to engage with what seems to be a shakedown operation. She is probably looking to supplement her income above minimum wage with some percentage from the take, burden, overhead, vigorish or insert applicable phrase of disgust here. Once you get them off script some may even confess that they are real life human beings and just trying to get by.

        In the meantime, ambulance company owner needs his Bentley detailed and that cash doesn’t just magically appear, or does it!

        1. ambrit

          The company gets to write the Bentley off as a business expense if it carries at least one wounded passenger a year, thus qualifying it as an ambulance. /s

      2. Inode_buddha

        My experience (30 yrs) working in manufacturing support industries, is that management skims everything that isn’t completely nailed down, and some things that *are* nailed down. And then make up a sob story for the workers about how we have to compete with some guy on the other side of the world for 25 cents an hour. So, your last paragraph is living fact as far as I’m concerned.

        1. ambrit

          Preach it brother!
          In commercial construction here in the North American Deep South, the owners are now importing those $2.50 USD an hour workers to directly replace the locals.
          I do feel some empathy for the “guest workers” both legal and illegal living here in the South. They are just as exploited and manipulated as the locals, but, and it is a major but, they will bear the brunt of the explosion when the backlash gets going in the ex-working classes. I’m beginning to fear that we will see lynchings and race riots aimed at the Latinos of the South. Even if such were set up for propaganda purposes by some of the elites, that Djinn, once let out of the bottle will not be put back in.

      3. The Rev Kev

        Thanks for the laugh, ambrit. It’s funny what can happen when you fight back against a ‘deplorable’ system.

  22. Jeff W

    Nate Silver:

    You get these hints of a sense of entitlement from Sanders, i.e. he feels as though that by virtue of having been the runner-up last time, he’s entitled to the nomination this time, and if he doesn’t win it, it’s only because “the media”/”the establishment” took it away from him.

    Wow, what an utterly disgusting comment.

    So Bernie Sanders is unable to legitimately call out the media for its patent bias—the examples are far too numerous to mention, perhaps, the latest being Sydney Embers’s hit pieces in the NYT, linked to in yesterday’s Water Cooler—and that gets twisted into some kind of aggrieved “entitlement” on the part of Nate Silver, who, obliviously, recapitulates and confirms the essence of the Sanders critique?

    I doubt that anyone with an inkling of human psychology or a shred of human decency can look at how Sanders is, to be a bit vulgar about it, busting his ass, running from campaign event to campaign event, appearing in “unfriendly” venues like a town hall on Fox or Joe Rogan’s podcast—and not only those but going with diabetic patients to get insulin in Canada or standing with striking workers at UCLA—as opposed to, say, the mummified front-runner, who is wrapped in gauze, and carefully hidden from voters—and say that “you get these hints of a sense of entitlement” from Sanders. “You.” No, Nate, no, we don’t. But I’m getting more than just “hints of a sense” of the kind of person you are—and I’m not attributing that, fact-free, to anyone else—it’s just me.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The worst thing is that it’s possible these guys (and gals) get away with it, again.

      On the other hand, the hope is that more than 51% of the D voters see through it, but so far, we don’t evidence of that. The first few primary results will be indicative.

      1. Jeff W

        Yeah, it’s very possible.

        “the hope is that more than 51% of the D voters see through it, but so far, we don’t evidence of that”

        Well, some things that could be consistent with that are the enormous numbers of individual donors all over country—at least some of those will act as “influencers”—and that supporters of other main candidates seem to view Sanders as their second choice. Add to that the fact the the more Joe Biden speaks, the more he hemorrhages support. The first primary event, the Iowa caucus, is more than five months away—and I’d say time is more on Sanders’s side than against him.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          There have been lots of smoke and mirrors and that will continue, until the first few results and we will see whether the numbers break down to come even close to the poll numbers we have been reading.

          Until, it’s hard to tell, or hard to disprove them.

    2. richard

      Like the rest of the talking class, N. Silver isn’t much for self-reflection, or being intellectually consistent.

    3. anon y'mouse

      if you are a person thinking you have basic human rights in this modern world, they call you “entitled”. from young to old, i have heard it about everyone out of everyone’s mouth about everyone else. so much so, that it is striking as a new brain disease.

      as though you have to prove you are worthy to breathe air. much less run for president and try to get elected.

      the only “entitled” candidate for prez i have seen in my lifetime was Killary the Clintoon, the last time around. at least visibly so.

      1. Jeff W

        …the only “entitled” candidate for prez i have seen in my lifetime was Killary the Clintoon, the last time around. at least visibly so.

        “Clinton staffers toyed with using ‘because it’s her turn’ as a campaign rallying cry”
        Business Insider here

        “…as though you have to prove you are worthy to breathe air…”
        That’s what struck me as so demented and so mean-spirited about Nate Silver’s comment. Agree or disagree with Sanders, almost no one questions his integrity and, yet Silver makes nasty comments about how “you”—the generic you (at least Mimi Rocah owned her unanalyzable feelings by saying “I”)—get “these hints of a sense of entitlement” from Sanders because he’s what? Daring to run for president again? It says so much more about Nate Silver and his issues—and you’re right—maybe about how “everyone” (although I hope not everyone) is so judgmental and dismissive these days—than anything about Sanders.

  23. CarlH

    That Guardian article about Boltons’ visit to the UK described Trump’s admin. as the most isolationist regime in living memory. This is absurd on its face. How many military deployments are going on right now? How many bases around the world do we occupy? How many drone strikes were carried out this week? How many countries are we trying to regime change at this very moment ala Venezuela? How could that sentence make it into the paper?

  24. Tomonthebeach

    Of course the US supports a no deal – it makes a minnow out of Britain

    I have been posting along these lines for days. Trumps one post-presidential brag might be that he made the UK and American colony.

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