2:00PM Water Cooler 12/18/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“Robert Lighthizer says Trump ‘focused’ on EU trade” [FInancial Times]. “Robert Lighthizer, the US trade representative, suggested the Trump administration was ready to escalate its trade confrontation with the EU, potentially through new tariffs, after sealing a truce with China and enacting the USMCA agreement with Canada and Mexico to replace Nafta. In an interview with the Fox Business Network on Tuesday, Mr Lighthizer said the US had a ‘very unbalanced relationship’ with Europe on trade, with an annual bilateral deficit of up to $180bn this year, which was unsustainable for Washington.”


“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

Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:

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Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart.

Nationally, we have new polls from Emerson and YouGov of 12/18/2019, 12:00 PM EST. Biden first, Sanders strong second, Warren drops, Buttigeig drops, Bloomberg up, though still flirting with the bottom feeders. The top four seem to be an established pattern (or, if you prefer, narrative). On to the next debate (December 19), and Iowa:

And the numbers

Here is a small-multiple represenation of all the candidates on tomorrow’s debate stage:

Plus Bloomberg. Look at that slope!

CAVEAT I think we have to track the polls because so much of the horse-race coverage is generated by them; and at least with these charts we’re insulating ourselves against getting excited about any one poll. That said, we should remember that the polling in 2016, as it turned out, was more about narrative than about sampling, and that this year is, if anything, even more so. In fact, one is entitled to ask, with the latest Buttigieg boomlet (bubble? (bezzle?)) which came first: The narrative, or the poll? One hears of push polling, to be sure, but not of collective push polling by herding pollsters. We should also worry about state polls with very small sample sizes and big gaps in coverage. And that’s before we get to the issues with cellphones (as well as whether voters in very small, very early states game their answers). So we are indeed following a horse-race, but the horses don’t stay in their lanes, some of the horses are not in it to win but to interfere with the others, the track is very muddy, and the mud has splattered our binoculars, such that it’s very hard to see what’s going on from the stands. Also, the track owners are crooked and the stewards are on the take. Everything’s fine.

I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”

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Biden (D)(1): “Democrats are sleepwalking into a Biden disaster” [Ryan Cooper, The Week]. “The front-runner continues to be former Vice President Joe Biden, and there is little sign as yet that he is going to lose his lead, despite his fumbling campaign…. Some of Biden’s support seems to come from the perception that, like Trump, he is somehow immune from the normal laws of politics. Several scandals and gaffes that would have ended a typical campaign dented his support not at all — which is to say his backers are creating a self-fulfilling prophesy that if they support him no matter what he does then he will continue to be supported… So far Biden has not drawn many attacks from the other candidates. They seem to accept the widely-held belief that his campaign will surely collapse from the inside at some point. But if that were true then it surely would have happened by now.” • Yep. Imagine what Biden could do if he had any money (although Obama seems to have slipped in the shiv with his comment that women always make better leaders. We’ll see if Biden bleeds out now).

Buttigieg (D)(1): “The insider: How national security mandarins groomed Pete Buttigieg and managed his future” [The Gray Zone (RH)]. “His Harvard social network has been a critical factor in his rise as well, with college buddies occupying key campaign roles as outside policy advisors and strategists. Among his closest friends from school is today the senior advisor of a specialized unit of the State Department focused on fomenting regime change abroad. That friend, Nathaniel “Nat” Myers, was Buttigieg’s traveling partner on a trip to Somaliland, where the two buddies claimed to have been tourists in a July 2008 article they wrote for The New York Times. Their contribution to the paper was not any typical travelogue detailing a whimsical safari. Instead, they composed a slick editorial that echoed the Somaliland government’s call for recognition from the US government.” • Odd.

Buttigieg (D)(2): “Buttigieg omitted high-powered bundlers from disclosure” [Politico]. “In a statement, the Buttigieg campaign said it had made an error and would update its public list of campaign bundlers ‘to include an accurate accounting.’ The campaign said the error happened as it tallied the total amount of money the bundlers had raised. ‘In creating this updated list, we went through to recalculate totals from the earlier list to make sure we were being accurate,’ campaign spokesman Chris Meagher said in a statement. Some people who had been previously disclosed in a document to donors were ‘inadvertently’ not listed again in the disclosure Friday, Meagher continued.” • So we’re blaming the intern? I thought Buttigieg was supposed to be good with spreadsheets…..

Sanders (D)(1): “New Report From Bernie Sanders Details Declining Living Standards for Millennials” [Teen Vogue]. “‘Our young people did what they were told: they got an education and worked hard. But instead of being rewarded, millennials are now being punished with crushing student debt and low-paying jobs,’ said Sanders. ‘It is about time we take a hard look at this research and stand up for our young people who dream of making it into the middle class. We must tell the economic elite who have hoarded income growth in America: No, you can no longer have it all.’ ‘In the richest country in the history of the world, we have an obligation to turn this around and make sure our kids live healthier and better lives than we do,’ concluded Sanders.” • Earned media. Can’t beat it.

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): “Exclusive: One-on-one interview with Bernie Sanders” [KESQ]. “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders spoke one-on-one with News Channel 3’s Jake Ingrassia about campaign issues that affect the Coachella Valley. It’s the only television interview Sanders gave during his one-day visit Monday… ‘We intend to win California and to win California, we’re going to have to campaign very, very hard,’ Sanders said.” • The Bernie Blackout doesn’t apply to local news, it seems. And Sanders throws down the gauntlet!

Warren (D)(1):

Obama intervening through straws to do what he said he would do: Stop Sanders.

UPDATE Warren (D)(2): “Inside Elizabeth Warren’s Push To Win Lee County” [Iowa Starting Line]. “The Warren campaign has made a name for itself as an organizing machine, putting in the long hours to try and ‘outwork, out-organize and outlast’ their Democratic competitors.” • Interesting interview with a staffer. No numbers on calls or door-knocking.

Yang (D)(1): “Andrew Yang draws contrasts with rest of field on new health care plan” [ABC]. “Andrew Yang released his health care plan Monday morning, a proposal with elements of Medicare for All, but without the public option plan that even moderate candidates like former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg have committed to implementing. ‘To be clear, I support the spirit of Medicare for All, Yang said in outlining his plan, before adding, ‘Swiftly reformatting 18% of our economy and eliminating private insurance for millions of Americans is not a realistic strategy, so we need to provide a new way forward on healthcare for all Americans.'” • Clear indeed!

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UPDATE “Former Obama campaign manager advising $75 million anti-Trump digital campaign” [The Hill]. David Plouffe, late of Uber: “The New York Times reported Monday that Acronym, a group founded by Obama’s 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe, will spend millions on digital advertising in Ohio, Florida and other swing states where Trump has already spent around $26 million in advertising. Plouffe characterized the general election in 2020 as a game of catch-up for a Democratic challenger, regardless of who wins the contentious primary. ‘Our nominee is going to be broke, tired, have to pull together the party and turn around on a dime and run a completely different race for a completely different audience,’ Plouffe told the Times in an interview.” • Hmm. I’m not sure all the candidates would have to “run a completely different race for a completely different audience.”


“Trump Approval Inches Up, While Support for Impeachment Dips” [Gallup]. “President Donald Trump’s job approval rating has inched up again and is now at 45%. The president’s ratings have increased six percentage points since the House of Representatives opened an impeachment inquiry against him in the fall…. Approval of the president’s performance remains high among Republicans (89%) and low among Democrats (8%). Less than half of political independents approve, but the current 42% is up from 34% at the start of the impeachment hearings and matches their highest rating of Trump so far.”

“Trump Faces Historic Rebuke as House Opens Impeachment Debate” [Bloomberg]. • I have never, literally never, heard “rebuke” used in another context than mainstream Beltway reporting. Is my experience unique?

“Wait — did liberals actually think they’d remove Trump from office?” [Matthew Walker, The Week]. “Liberals will be glad they did six months from now, when they find themselves in the exact same position they did four years ago: trying to prevent the guy who once got paid millions of dollars to pretend to fire Gary Busey on television from being duly elected president of the United States. They thought it would be easy in 2016. They should know better now.” • Fun piece.

“Impeachment and the crack up of the conservative mind” [Politico]. “One consequence of the Trump years is that it has knocked conservatives off a high horse that they had been riding since the Reagan era. Ideas matter, they said triumphantly, drawing a contrast with the supposedly transactional, spoils-based nature of Democratic politicians and the interest groups they relied on. Another favorite: denunciations of moral relativism, a way of justifying any kind of selfish behavior, when in fact right and wrong are absolutes.” • Trump does bring a wonderful clarity to any situation in which he becomes involved, the conservative weltanschauung included.This article is better than the headline, especially the discussion of “tribalism.”

What is this, day care?

“Inappropriate behavior.” Like what? Knocking over a sippy cup? And signal boosting Slotkin, a CIA Democrat? Who’s minding the store over there at OR? Somebody from CAP?

Our Famously Free Press


I think the Times shouldn’t have fired all those copy editors; they would have known irony when they saw it:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Decade Political Comedy Stopped Being Funny” [Medium]. “As Donald Trump’s presidential bid went from waggish long shot to terrifying sure thing, he upended the foundation on which political comedians relied: pointing out hidden injustices, the doublespeak of politicians, the hypocrisies of the powerful. Politics for the first part of the 21st century weren’t obviously funny or explicitly loony, but comedians like Stewart saw the underlying truth: it was a farce, and the hubris of the people leading the country were materially damaging our lives. Stewart and his ilk were the court jesters, mocking the kings. But then Trump, an orange-skinned jester, became the king himself. Four year later, Saturday Night Live’s political sketches are now extra stale, in part because they are structurally identical to what the show was doing before Trump — as far as SNL is concerned, nothing had really changed.”

Stats Watch

Big Ag: “Food inspectors warn of ‘mystery’ pork under new meat inspection rules” [The Hill]. “Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors Anthony Vallone and Jill Mauer told NBC News that they filed whistleblower disclosure forms with the Office of Special Counsel about their concerns with the reduction of the required number of federal inspectors at plants. ‘The consumer’s being duped,’ Mauer said, adding that the meat may be more likely to contain feces, sex organs, toenails, bladders and unwanted hair.”

Shipping: “[FedEx Corp.] cut its earnings targets for the fourth time this calendar year… after a grim second fiscal quarter that included declining revenue in its Express business, higher costs tied to delivering e-commerce packages to homes and a 40% drop in net earnings” [Wall Street Journal]. “[D]rastically thinner margins at the start of the holiday shipping season signals potentially bigger structural changes in the company’s core markets. FedEx is still coping with the loss of a swath of business from Amazon.com Inc., and its domestic Express package revenue and volume both declined.”

The Bezzle: “SoftBank Vision Fund Employees Depict a Culture of Recklessness” [Bloomberg]. “[T]he Vision Fund’s problems don’t stop with some bad bets. Current and former employees of the fund and SoftBank describe an environment of sycophancy toward Son, internecine political rivalries, harassment, compliance issues, and an abnormally high tolerance for risk—all wrapped in a casing of general weirdness.” • Froth? Finally?

Tech: “We Tested Ring’s Security. It’s Awful” [Vice]. “Last week a wave of local media reports found hackers harassed people through Ring devices. In one case a hacker taunted a child in Mississippi, in another someone hurled racist insults at a Florida family. Motherboard found hackers have made dedicated software for more swiftly gaining access to Ring cameras by churning through previously compromised email addresses and passwords, and that some hackers were live-streaming the Ring abuse on their own so-called podcast dubbed ‘NulledCast.’… Ring is not offering basic security precautions, such as double-checking whether someone logging in from an unknown IP address is the legitimate user, or providing a way to see how many users are currently logged in—entirely common security measures across a wealth of online services. ‘They are worth billions so where is the investment in security,’ Daniel Cuthbert, who is on the committee for annual cybersecurity conference Black Hat, and who is also a Ring owner, told Motherboard.” • At some point one has to wonder if a lack of security is good for Amazon’s business model. But why?

Tech: “Idiotic security mistakes in smart conferencing gear allows hackers to spy on board rooms, steal presentations” [Boing Boing]. “Dten is a ‘certified hardware provider’ for Zoom, making smart screens and whiteboards for videoconferencing; a Forescout Research report reveals that Dten committed a string of idiotic security blunders in designing its products, exposing its customers to video and audio surveillance, as well as theft of presentations and whiteboard data. Among the mistakes Forescout identified:

  • Storing customer data in unsecured Amazon web buckets; all you needed to do to spy on a customer’s stored data was to change the customer ID in the standard URL provided to each customer;
  • Not using SSL to encrypt data in transit, making it trivial to eavesdrop on conferences

Forescout identified five bugs in July. As of today, Dten has fixed three of them.

Manufacturing: “Boeing Co.’s decision to suspend production of the 737 MAX jetliner will land hard in aerospace supply chains. General Electric Co. will likely take a significant hit to its cash flow from the move… and it could affect the large network of suppliers enough to have a measurable impact on the manufacturing economy” [Wall Street Journal]. “The impact on GE highlights the high value and big stakes in a supply chain that is a fundamental piece of the U.S. factory economy.” • Nice work, MBAs.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 87 Extreme Greed (previous close: 85 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 18 at 12:10pm.

The Biosphere

“Shift in Earth’s magnetic north throws navigators off course” [Financial Times]. “Navigators have relied upon it for centuries. More recently it has become an essential aid in everything from smartphone apps to aviation and shipping. The magnetic north pole is the peripatetic point on the Earth’s surface where its magnetic field, created by molten iron churning deep within the planet’s core, points directly downwards. But the latest calculations reveal how magnetic north is shifting position at a rate that is unprecedented in recorded history, racing across the Arctic region at 50 kilometres a year and showing little sign of slowing down…. The updated model also confirmed that the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening by about 5 per cent every century. If this continues, the field could reverse, ushering in an era of magnetic chaos as the north pole flips south and vice versa. Geological records show this has happened before, most recently 780,000 years ago.”

“Icebound: The climate-change secrets of 19th century ship’s logs” [Reuters]. “An eccentric group of citizen-scientists called Old Weather has transcribed millions of observations from long-forgotten logbooks of ships, many from the great era of Arctic exploration. As the polar regions grow ever warmer, the volunteers have amassed a rich repository of climate data in a 21st century rescue mission.” • There should be much, much more citizen science. A Jobs Guarantee would be ideal as a funding source.

“History’s Greatest Sea Is Dying” [The Atlantic]. “The Med is warming at one of the fastest paces in the world (up to 0.12 degrees Celsius, or 0.216 Fahrenheit a year, on the surface), and it is choked with plastic. Though the Mediterranean constitutes less than 1 percent of the world’s oceans, it holds 7 percent of its microplastics. The coastal states continue to sully the sea with tons of everything from shipping oil to untreated sewage, meaning there’s scarcely an untarnished ecosystem left. (It’s a similar story on land: Naval bases sit alongside garbage-strewn beaches and coastal dump sites—relatively high military budgets juxtaposed with penniless environment ministries.) …. But there might be an even more important subtext to the eastern Med’s decline. For millennia, those who lived near it thrived off one another, always trading and frequently cooperating from coast to coast, creating some of the greatest civilizations in world history. Yet that was long ago, and the region’s intellectual slump mirrors its environmental decay. Stifled by unilateralism, greed, and chronic short-termism, antiquity’s greatest sea resembles the contemporary world in miniature—and with this year’s United Nations climate talks having concluded in Madrid with little tangible progress, the lessons the eastern Med offers are not particularly hopeful.”

“Climate Change Is Fueling a Farming Boom in Alaska” [In These Times]. “From 2012 to 2017, the number of farms increased by 30% while total U.S. farms dropped by more than 3%, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2017 Census of Agriculture. Alaska’s growth is largely in small farms of 1 to 9 acres—up 73% those same years. The value of farm goods sold directly to consumers doubled from $2.2 million to $4.4 million in that time—still less than almost any other state, but growing fast. Like much of the country, Alaska is gripped by a local-food movement with a range of benefits, including economic opportunities for immigrants and newly settled refugees. Many of the new arrivals were smallscale farmers in their home countries, Bachman says. But there is a special force behind Alaska’s farming boomlet: climate change. Alaska is warming twice as fast as the global rate, and changes in the state are accelerating.”

“Life and soil on planet Earth Environment documentary” [Deutsche Welle (AM)].

Health Care

“Insurance Company Annoyed Customer Doesn’t Realize They Were Just Being Polite When They Said They’d Cover Healthcare Bills” [The Onion (RH)]. “[C]ase manager Raymond Carberry … expressed frustration when a customer stepped completely outside the bounds of a normal, courteous interaction with her submission of a claim form for a broken arm. ‘Every non-crazy person knows how this works, they’re just supposed to pay us a premium and then move on. What kind of weirdo actually asks for money? It’s deranged.'”


“In the virtual world of Fallout 76, Gun Runners are making thousands in real-world cash” [Eurogamer (Basil Pesto)]. “One source told me he estimates 90 per cent of Fallout 76’s wealth is held by less than one per cent of the player base: a small group of glitchers, dupers and traders who all know each other and share secrets.”

Xmas Pre-Mortem


New Year’s Pre-Mortem

Alert reader DJG throws the following over the transom:

Ten words to throw in the trash now

Make those new year’s resolutions! Plus a bonus term!

1. “Regime” and its derivative “regime change.” [Wow, you know so much about geopolitics.]

2. “Fierce.” [Oh, please.]

3. “Personal savior.” [Anyone can mangle a biblical verse. Can we all stop singing “Amazing Grace” now?]

4. “Emoluments.” [So you finally decided to read the Constitution of the United States? I’m so impressed. Did you get all the way to the Bill of Rights? See number 10.]

5. “Go paperless.” [So that you can lose my records.]

6. “Free market.” [The oldest joke in the book. Even the Code of Hammurabi had to regulate markets, because of the cheating.]

7. “Putin.” [Baby, baby, your knowledge of geopolitics gives me such a charge. By the way, who is the president of Brazil?]

8. “Cis-” [Another geographic term. Is this the year of geography? I suspect that “cis-” doesn’t explain what you think you are explaining.]

9. “Whataboutism.” [Because your fan club couldn’t possibly be riddled with corruption and immorality, too.]

10. “Foreign interference in elections.” [Actually uttered in a country where people cannot be bothered to protect the right to vote of black Americans.]

And eleven: “Intelligence community.” [Barely contained laughter.]

12. “Our democracy” [“Ours?”]

Class Warfare

“Beneath Las Vegas’ Glittering Strip, Homeless People Live In Storm Tunnels” [HuffPo]. “Donovan has been taking shelter in the concrete flood channels and tunnels that run directly under the Las Vegas Strip for the past two years. These dark passageways are part of a huge drainage network designed to protect the glittering casino district and its sprawling suburbs from flash flooding. And Donovan’s not alone down there. It’s estimated that nearly 300 homeless people live in these tunnels. Although the figure represents just a fraction of the thousands living on the streets of Las Vegas, the tunnel dwellers are among the most difficult to reach for the social workers, who work below ground by flashlight to offer everything from clean socks and sandwiches to a chance at substance abuse treatment. Those living here choose to go underground for a variety of reasons, authorities say, but many suffer from substance abuse ― including heroin, crack and meth ― alcoholism and mental illness. The conditions they endure are extreme. A heavy rainstorm can send millions of gallons of water rushing at up to 30 miles an hour through the concrete drainages. The last three flood-related drowning deaths in the city involved homeless people in the tunnels.”

“Jimmy Hoffa Is At The Bottom Of A Pit In New Jersey” [The American Conservative]. “For Moldea, the life and times of Jimmy Hoffa is a personal obsession, as the Hoffa saga is a kind of undercarriage of American history—ugly, oily, and strange, but essential. For Hoffa led a union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, that was, at its worst, the most corrupt and criminally compromised (or “mobbed up,” as it was said) labor organization in the country. But it was also a lifeline that delivered the American dream to tens of thousands of truckers. All of those houses in Akron, Toledo, Youngstown, and Detroit, the homes of the rank-and-file, also housed men (and the Teamsters, then mostly men) who, because of their union, could put food on the table. And more: by the 1970s, the homes of unionized steelworkers, tire workers, autoworkers, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, and truckers in Akron, Toledo, Youngstown, Cleveland, Detroit, and Gary had new cars parked out front, vacation cottages in Michigan or Wisconsin, health insurance that worked, promises of pensions, and a good shot at sending their sons or daughters to the state university. In the 1980s, conservative Reaganites nosed it around that the unions were ruining the country and were violent to boot. But those unions had successfully delivered what politicians couldn’t: a decent living wage and hope for the future. Violence? ‘Truckers didn’t get what they have by just asking for it,’ Bill Hill once explained to me. Sadly, the thing that eventually brought down FASH, and put Bill Hill out of business, was not the collapse of the trucking industry, but the collapse of America’s industrial heartland.”

News of the Wired

“Consciousness is real” [Aeon]. “The ‘illusionists’, by contrast, take the scientific route, accepting physicalism (or materialism, or some other similar ‘ism’), meaning that they think – with modern science – not only that everything is made of the same basic kind of stuff, but that there are no special barriers separating physical from mental phenomena. However, since these people agree with the dualists that phenomenal consciousness seems to be spooky, the only option open to them seems to be that of denying the existence of whatever appears not to be physical. Hence the notion that phenomenal consciousness is a kind of illusion…. Computer icons, cursors and so forth are not illusions, they are causally efficacious representations of underlying machine-language processes. … Or take a more mundane example. Would you call the wheel of your car an illusion? … Similarly with phenomenal consciousness. The ‘what is it like’ feelings and thoughts that we have are high-level representations of the (entirely different in nature) underlying neural mechanisms that make it possible for us to perceive, react to, and navigate the world. Instead of more or less clever programmers, we have to thank billions of years of evolution by entirely mindless natural selection for these causally efficacious representations. To call them illusions is to derail our thinking along unproductive tracks.” • As usual, I find Aeon (and Quanta) almost impossible to excerpt but this is a very interesting piece.

“The Siren Sound of the Clash’s ‘London Calling,’ 40 Years Later” [The Ringer]. “Here, in both sonic and thematic terms, we see punk rock stretched from its minimalist, street-fighting-man ethos into something wholly unexpected. Strummer and the Clash became bon vivants, historians, and traveling evangelists for human decency. If Anthony Bourdain’s unofficial philosophy of radical empathy through cultural understanding has any direct antecedent, it is the Clash in the years of London Calling and its 1980 follow-up, Sandinista!” • Hmm.

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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 and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (AM):

AM: “Maple tree from the Parkman Mountain carriage road in Acadia National Park.” Even though the snow is flying now, it’s still beautiful.

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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. Wukchumni

    The potential candidates for President are an incredibly humorless lot, the only time something amusing spills out of the hole below their nose is an attack on another comedy-deprived challenger.

    There’s a need for levity more than ever, and the pol that can make light of our situation in a smart but not condescending manner will do well, as people remember clever, not cleaver.

    1. Geo

      I’m biased but I think Bernie does a good job of mocking the ridiculousness of the establishment and it’s decadent corruption.

        1. chuckster

          And he’s loyal. Bathes daily. Loves his mother. And would never say cuss-words.

          Absolutely none of that helps him win the nomination of a party that would go to the mattresses to stop him from showing up in Milwaukee next year. But keep on believing.

          1. hunkerdown

            But will they sacrifice any power to set the terms of the ends of their careers? They may fight to the mat, but will they fight to their own convictions for racketeering? I don’t believe so. I think they will stop while they still have some power to negotiate the conditions of their departure. If that means parachuting to the right-wing party where they belong, they’ll probably do that in an instant. Even Warren would take the hint and go back to the party where she came from.

        2. Dickeylee

          Boy oh boy that Tulsi has a fine sense of humor! Votes present, twice. I bet Putin is having a real knee slapper over that one.
          Queen of the incels strikes again. I’m sure all her supporters here will be responding as soon as they’re done fapping…

          1. integer

            Liberals are such a nasty bunch. I suspect cognitive dissonance plays a major role; imagine thinking that you and your tribe are the “adults in the room”, yet believing the kind of bs that liberals do. Lol just lol.

    2. Democrita

      I read somewhere that comedy/humor is one of the best ways to get people to agree with you, but one of the worst for inspiring anyone to take action. So, a trade-off.

      Even without that trade-off, comedy is dangerously hard to pull off. Shirt is just not that funny anymore.

  2. WJ

    Jimmy Dore said the other day that he thought it would have been smarter for Yang to run as a Republican. Not sure that’s right; not sure it’s wrong either.

    Got to hand it to Yang. He’s honest like only Sanders and Gabbard are.

    1. jrs

      Well… in terms of winning, no, but in terms of notoriety maybe. Remember that as bad as Dems can be, this time Republicans straight out closed their primaries to Trump’s Republican challengers in many states, you can only vote for Trump or noone as a Republican. If Dore imagines there was a chance of Republicans letting Yang in, he’s wrong based on what we know.

      Yang is not going to win the Dem primary (he is up against frankly more qualified people – well Buttigieg isn’t qualified but). But Republicans book no challengers to his heir orange at all. I do like Yang’s sensibilities.

      1. jrs

        Btw obviously there are no Republican primary debates, haven’t been any, even though there are challengers who won’t even be on the ballot some places. So Yang wouldn’t have that platform.

        But also we keep imagining who will do well debating Trump. Maybe this is pure delusion. Does Trump need to participate in debates? I don’t think so. It’s not a requirement. So maybe he doesn’t have any. I think frankly if he has a decent challenger (and anyone but maybe Biden who like Trump is losing it, could out-debate Trump, although winning an election is more than just winning a debate of course) that Trump will refuse to participate in debates AT ALL. It’s a bone thrown to the idea of “democracy”, such as it is, and I don’t think he cares that much.

        1. Geo

          If Trumb abstains from debates the challenger would be wise to hold as many televised townhalls as possible. Sanders has been doing them regularly since 2016 and they’ve been incredibly effective.

          Let Trump stick to his “safe space” rallies while the Dem nominee speaks to all Americans. If it’s Bernie it will win over most people. If it’s any of the others, probably not. At this point, Bernie is the only front runner with a message much deeper than “not Trump”.

          1. WJ

            Yes. Sanders would clean up by doing this. But can you imagine Warren or Biden hosting several free-wheeling town-hall meetings? That would be kind of funny-awkward.

            1. Geo

              Yeah, seems like only a viable strategy for Sanders. The others are afraid of going on Fox News. Bernie went to Liberty Univeristy and performed great. Imagine a bunch of Dem consultants strategizing a Liberty U townhall for Liz or Biden! “You’ll need to triangulate on Planned Parenthood and make sure to speak in tongues in your closing remarks.” (Well, Biden already kinda speaks in tongues, but Liz would struggle there).

              1. inode_buddha

                “(Well, Biden already kinda speaks in tongues, but Liz would struggle there).”

                I think Joe was just trying to get his teeth back in.

            2. John k

              Trump won’t mind debating anybody except Bernie. Remember how easily he handled the other republicans in 2016.
              Bernie will stay on message.

        2. a different chris

          Trump’s handlers will certainly advise that. Trying to keep Trump off the debate stage however would be a different thing altogether.

          You have to realize that at the base level, Trump *believes* pretty much everything he says. Including the “stable genius” part. So he doesn’t know enough to be intimidated. Wasn’t there some interesting research on stupid people posted here earlier this year? That they are completely unaware of their deficiencies?

          PS: if it didn’t mean basically the end of the world, wouldn’t it be something to watch Trump and the now-deteriorated Biden debate? Answers that have no relation to the questions at all, or even any real coherency.

          1. WJ

            “Answers that have no relation to the questions at all, or even any real coherency.”

            …which will then be analyzed by sage commentators such as Anderson Cooper and Chuck Todd who will do their best to gaslight the American people into believing that there is actual content to this farce.

    2. notabanker

      Honest? In what sense? Does he acknowledge that a VAT is a regressive tax? Does he propose to do anything about Amazon not paying taxes, or does he throw up his hands as if that is just the way it is? Does he have a plan to put people to work, or is giving them $1000 a month enough to make everyone feel good about automating their jobs away? Does he confront out of control defense and intelligence spending?

      He is anything but honest. He may confront the reality of a grim situation, but his answers shield root cause of the problems, do zero to address them, and in fact proliferate them with lame covers as an excuse for “doing something”. Yang is a Silicon Valley con man. And a really good one at that.

    1. JohnnySacks

      Bravo, so true! It’s on my Google Play favorites list. The family plan, for the money, is one of our better subscriptions.
      The Ramones and The Clash were my salvation from the disco era, even though it was in it’s overdue twilight around the late 70’s.

    2. russell1200

      Maybe so, but it is hard to beat the line from (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais:

      “If Adolf Hitler flew in today. They’d send a limousine anyway”

  3. Danny

    5. “Go paperless.” [So that you can lose my records.]

    And so that the utility, bank, whatever, saves 12 stamps a year to mail your bill, cost of printing it, can fire the people who opened envelopes and handled checks, and they can collect from you even when an error, and as mentioned, maybe “lose” your online evidence, there’s no need to have customer service phone line to dispute that, and what’s never mentioned, they get their money instantly, thus saving borrowing costs on the equivalent bill money they get right away.

    Tell you what Mr. Banker, if you split the savings on all of the above with me, maybe I might “go paperless.”

    Until then, the best of both worlds for me, the Customer King? I demand you send me a paper bill every month for my records, and I enabled autopay so I don’t have to use 12 stamps a year to mail you a check. Thus I have “gone paperless.” Big corporations are not your friend. Treat them like the enemy that they are, until they demonstrate otherwise.

    1. clarky90

      #13 “conversation”

      When I hear or read the word, “conversation”, my viscera churns. “Please, Dear Lord, protect us from this, now, repugnant and hateful word!

      1. Danny

        Yes, and notice how that word has been hijacked by the NPR Social Justice Lite preachy types?

        i.e. You’ll never hear a phrase like,

        “If you’d like to join the conversation,
        or join the dialogue about
        forming a neighborhood militia,

        please call this toll free number…”

      2. dcrane

        #14 “reform”.

        Usually means privatize or otherwise alter to satisfy right wing economic philosophy.

      3. HotFlash

        The one that gets me is ‘share’. I once had a guy who was trying to sell my company group insurance who wanted to ‘share’ the rates with us. I threw him out of my office.

      4. Basil Pesto

        Nabokov (iirc; I’ve tried to find the relevant passage online but no luck – if in print it’d be in ‘Strong Opinions’) has a quotation about what an execrable, vapid cliché ‘the [national] conversation’ is. from about 50 years ago.

      5. Ohnoyoucantdothat

        I like “negotiate”. My wife’s favorite word. She says to me “let’s negotiate” about something important. What that really means is she tells me to do something and I’m supposed to agree. That’s how Russian women negotiate.

    2. Rod

      Well as of four months ago, my landline provider started charging 2$ for the paper bill–6.25% of the bill for the priveledge of record keeping. 24$ a year for 420$ worth of business.
      And I pay .15 cents of sales tax on it also.
      If it bothered me that much why don’t I go paperless it was explained to me–that way I could print a copy at home and save that 24$.
      Of course I would need to enroll in autopay…

  4. Summer

    Re: “We Tested Ring’s Security. It’s Awful” [Vice].

    At first I read this more like: “WeTested: Ring’s Security. It’s Awful”

    Now I’m wondering if “Ring” is “Ring” as in Criminal Ring. “Ring is not offering basic security precautions.” Wouldn’t something like this be the perfect start up for professional thieves?
    Especially in the land where con artists are worshipped?

    1. DaveOTN

      Nah, it’s like the One Ring. We already have a Palantir in the national security scene. Perhaps we can name some other startups after stories where cool tech gadgets are explicitly stated to corrupt everyone and let evil win. Maybe a health insurance company called Horcrux? An open-access scientific journal called Necronomicon? Maybe Amazon can fulfill your deepest wishes with its new Monkey’s Paw extension?

      1. russell1200

        LOL – Is the Amazon Monkey Paw Extender used to grab items you can’t reach out of a dumpster for resale?

  5. martell

    That’s great news from Aeon: consciousness is real. I was worried y’all might be faking it, just pretending to be awake.

    1. Robert Valiant

      If consciousness is an “illusion,” who experiences it?

      I’m speaking of my own consciousness, of course, since everyone else, for all I know, is a philosophical zombie.

    2. a different chris

      I personally admit to faking it. If I had real consciousness I would have to do something about it.

    3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      For Buddhists, life is an illusion.

      A sentient being can get out of that illusion. That implies a sentient being is not part of that illusion. Presumably, for them, the soul or consciousness is real, but life is not.

  6. Kevin

    “Inappropriate behavior.” Like what?

    WOW. If you can’t reel off a dead sea scroll of unacceptable behavior, you haven’t been paying attention.

    1. Fiery Hunt

      Name one “inappropriate behavior” and I’ll give you 3 examples of the same behavior from the last three Presidents.

      If it’s a crime, call it a crime…not flippin’ “inappropriate behavior”.

      Decorum police…who needs ’em.

      1. russell1200

        Too easy! LOL – taking a news magazine cover (Time) replacing the head of a 16 year old girl with your own and tweeting out! Greta Envy!

        1. Fiery Hunt

          Can’t really find the “inappropriateness” there….must have missed that etiquette class.

          But if that’s “inappropriate”, I’ll see your photoshopped magazine cover and raise you a fake fighter pilot outfit.

      2. Geo

        I wish Dems would have stopped being the morality police after Tipper Gore’s crusades against naughty words burned out. We’d be wise to leave the “Church Lady” schtick to evangelicals. Do we want to be a nation of laws or a nation of virtue signaling?

        The problem with being a nation of laws though is that laws should be applied to all equally. Dems don’t want that anymore than Republicans.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          HRC, Tipper, and Joementum…quite the unholy trinity.

          Are you sure it was about naughty words? Or who was saying those naughty words?

        1. Fiery Hunt

          The Big Dog’s got this one all by himself.

          I give you Monica’s blue dress, Paula Dean, Juanita Broaddrick and others, and the Lolita Express with Jeffery Epstein.

            1. Basil Pesto

              I recommend you read Hitchens’ ‘No One Left to Lie to’ and see if you still think it’s not even close!

          1. polecat

            You mean the Lolita Express & the Man* in the blue Dress ??

            *gotta love these red sling-backs … well, not really.

        1. Fiery Hunt

          How about every President who lied us into war and created those Gold Star family members?

          How about The former First Lady denigrating a current Major? Tulsi Gabbard ring a bell?

          1. Code Name D

            I am still realing from the fact that a phone call is impeachabule, while liying us into war, causing the death of millions isn’t.

    2. hunkerdown

      The Presidency is not a Wheaties box and management isn’t something most honest people aspire to.

  7. Geo

    “Obama seems to have slipped in the shiv with his comment that women always make better leaders. We’ll see if Biden bleeds out now.”

    Will make a great Trump campaign ad: “Even Obama doesn’t think Biden is a good leader!”

    1. Darius

      I think Obama’s game is to keep Sanders from winning Iowa by diverting the bleeding Biden vote to Warren.

      Even a muddled result is a win for Obama and Plouffe.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Is Obama talking about gender here?

      From what I understand about the term ‘gender,’ anyone can be a woman, if that is the choice.

      1. RMO

        Yes, that does seem a little contradictory… I would be willing to bet (if it were possible to do so) that if he hadn’t entered that primary Hillary would have won the nomination and the election, and quite probably would have won a second term… and that there’s even a very good chance that if Obama had won the nomination for 2016 he would have won against whatever Repub that was running. I’m not saying that any of this would have been a good thing mind you, just that it likely would have been a very good chance for the Dems to have eight years in a row in the White House… and it didn’t happen because Obama wanted the job right away – even though he says women are better leaders.

        1. Pat

          Hell even if he had if Hillary and her campaign advisors were competent and knew how the votes were counted, she might have won (they really have had a problem with that). So Similar to Obama she would not have provided the change voters wanted in 2008. She would also have controlled the party more than she did in 2016. Beyond the fact that I am not sure she would have gotten reelected, as she is deeply disliked, Obama would not have been the choice for successor. And if he were, he would be less of a blank slate for people to project upon.

  8. dcblogger

    3. “Personal savior.” [Anyone can mangle a biblical verse. Can we all stop singing “Amazing Grace” now?]
    I think We Gather Together (Pilgrim’s Hymnal Lyrics) is more relevant than ever. The wicket oppressing now cease thy distressing

    1. inode_buddha

      One of my personal favorites, the Pilgrim’s. Those were my ancestors, already here in NY when the song was written.

  9. Roy G

    RE: Ten words to throw in the trash now, I would nominate ‘community,’ which jumped the shark this year with the manufactured lionization of the ‘intelligence community.’

    1. Geo

      “Intelligence *anything*” should be banned from use. Even “intelligence failure” is faulty since most “failures” are just a propaganda campaign exposed to the public.

      Most info derived from “Intelligence” historically has been proven to be an insult to our intelligence. Saddam’s WMDs, Syrian gas attacks, Steele Dossier, Afghan War (all of it), and on and on…

      1. Mo's Bike Shop

        Well yes then I’ll mention, ‘Artificial Intelligence’ is only the field. The term should not be blithely applied to applications of Machine Learning with a few ‘do loops.’

      2. richard

        alex cockburn used to do this every year too
        putting horrible words on the tumbril is how he framed it
        i choose ‘terrorist”
        is it too late for that one?
        off with its head

      3. Procopius

        Most useful intelligence has come from open sources. I first understood the extent our government distorts things when I found out about the Tokamak. The Tokamak is the machine that is used to generate strong magnetic fields to contain plasma, which has temperatures of thousand of degrees. It’s still the main tool used in hydrogen fusion research (only thirty more years, always has been, always will be). It was invented in the Soviet Union, and we copied it from an article in their equivalent of Popular Mechanics. From spies we get stories like John Brennan’s claim that he had evidence that Putin was personally supervising the “attack” on our election.

  10. russell1200

    I can’t tell if Obama is actually trying to signal his support for Warren, or if she is just using his comment about women being better leaders (go Maggie Thatcher!) to making a calculated news release to make it seem that way. Some of the folks that are said to have signed on with her already work on her campaign, so it’s not all new support.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      There is a third option which is Obama has always been vapid and simply repeats bumper sticker idioms. Without the novelty of his original run and more text based assessments of his drivel, he seems to have lost his groove, but he was always terrible.

      1. ChrisPacific

        That would be my pick. He was playing for a laugh rather than making any kind of meaningful statement.

        Imagine you were paying him $100k to give a motivational speech to the graduating class of an all-boys high school, and one of them asked him if he really thought women were better leaders than men. Does he answer yes? If you think he does, I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

    2. VegasMike

      According to “The Week” magazine, there’s a group called Obama Alums for Warren that already has more than 200 members. Obama once remarked, “Joe, you don’t have to do this.” You don’t have to be an insider to realize that Biden would make a very bad presidential candidate. But maybe some of the establishment have watched Biden and they realize he can’t stay on message.

      1. Pat

        Another thought, none of them think Warren will get the nomination, but she will still come out of the campaign being seen as competent and capable unlike Biden. Knowing the second ballot trigger they will be well positioned to join the savior in the wings having done their best to make sure there are two+ ballots.

      2. Oregoncharles

        Go back and look at that graph of the polls. Not votes, of course, but so far. he makes a very successful candidate.

        Don’t get me wrong: I wish he didn’t, though I wonder how many bad candidates in a row the Dems can come up with without losing their “major party” status.

    3. Michelle '20

      When Barry says “old men” those two words need to be taken as independent and equally important. He wasn’t talking about old prof. Liz or young Mayo’ Pete.

  11. zagonostra

    >Aeon consciousness.

    It’s always notable to me how often articles on consciousness omit the work of George Herbert Mead (GHM) whose work stimulated the school of thought known as Symbolic Interactionism, a term coined by his student Herbert Blumer.

    GHM’s best known book, compiled by notes taken from students, Mind, Self and Society, gives, to my mind, the best explanation of what consciousness is and how it emerged.

    Maybe it’s because GHM’s analysis is non-technical and can be followed by most everyone that it’s omitted…


  12. ChrisPacific

    Now, now. I’m sure there are good reasons why a couple of college buddies with State department connections might choose to holiday in Somaliland. I hear it has lovely cave paintings, and what’s a little civil war between friends?

  13. polecat

    Re. Ten words to throw in the trash now

    Thank Gaia that that quaint word ‘republic’ hasn’t been run through the shredder … yet !

  14. Keith

    • At some point one has to wonder if a lack of security is good for Amazon’s business model. But why?

    My guess, Amazon is about convenience. People are getting bombarded with double secret encryption now-a-days, and are likely annoying with having to jump through a bunch of hoops just to access their accounts. If Amazon started adding layers upon layers of security to their security device, it may turn customers off.

    1. cnchal

      > If Amazon started adding layers upon layers of security to their security device, it may turn customers off.

      As it is, that security device is naked to the intruder, and a delicious target for penetration. Perhaps self voyuerism is turning customers on?

  15. Geo

    “Andrew Yang draws contrasts with rest of field on new health care plan”

    Does he? Seems he’s joined all but one of the candidates in running away from M4A because it’s too hard… or in his words, “is not a realistic strategy.”

    Incrementalism by any other name would smell as sour.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      The fact that the rest of the developed world has successfully had M4A for decades is NEVER stressed enough.

      Would stop the “it’s too hard”” chatter.

      1. “M4A is too hard”
      2. “Every other major country can do it, are you saying America is not as smart as those other countries?”

    2. notabanker

      It’s too hard to collect taxes from big tech too. That’s why we need a 10% VAT. That is his exact sales pitch.

      1. Procopius

        Here in Thailand we have a 7% VAT, but we have a progressive income tax, too. Restoring, enlarging, and strengthening the enforcement section of the IRS is a much better option. VAT is a huge burden on businesses, because they have to jump through hoops determining how much VAT was paid on their inputs, in order to deduct it, otherwise they pay taxes on the taxes already paid by their suppliers.

    1. Carey

      Thanks for that link. I’ve read some of Wendell Potter’s columns, but this is the first time
      I’ve seen him speak. Poised- very poised- and sharp!

      Glad he’s now on the People’s side.

  16. Hank Linderman


    In the spirit of the Clash’s prescience, have a listen to Firesign Theater’s “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers”. Traditional herbal relaxation preparations were usually part of the listening process so that may be worth your consideration.

    The album has been called the greatest comedy record of all time, the studio production techniques were influenced by The Beatles. It helps to understand that the show is an alternate reality based on the Allies losing WW2 and the rise of fascism in America. You may also notice their invention of youtube – “This is YouTV, for You!” It’s shocking how their 50-year-old subversive vision still resonates.


    1. BoulderMike

      ‘where is that son of mine? he’s upstairs helping Porcelain make the bed. He’s so good with the servants!”

  17. Locrian

    The *Aeon* article is exemplary in refuting the “illusionist” dogma, but it goes way off in stating that “Similarly with phenomenal consciousness. The ‘what is it like’ feelings and thoughts that we have are high-level representations of the (entirely different in nature) underlying neural mechanisms that make it possible for us to perceive, react to, and navigate the world. Instead of more or less clever programmers, we have to thank billions of years of evolution by entirely mindless natural selection for these causally efficacious representations. To call them illusions is to derail our thinking along unproductive tracks.”
    By calling evolution “mindless” this author falls right back into the illusionist trap. Even Darwin recognized a role for consciousness in evolution–he called it “sexual selection.” But it is Lamarck whose view of evolution corresponds to the foundational philosophy of science. Plato, in arguing (especially in the *Tiamaios*) for the reality of the formal (“abstract” or “mathematical”) terms which are the whole content of any “scientific” explanation, postulated (following Herakleitos) that the universe is a single entity and, as a whole, is a pervasively conscious being. Thus evolution, as a lawful process occurring in a particular existential context within space and duration, is to be understood philosophically as the expression, within the particular conditions of this particular planet in this particular solar system, of the universal consciousness. Therefore Consciousness should be recognized as a fundamental property of matter and *a fortiori* of every living being without exception.

    1. jeremyharrison

      That…read like a smooth dip of cognac. Mmmm….

      Paul Tillich once wrote that the most basic question Theology addresses is: Why is there Something, and not Nothing?

      Fun to contemplate, but I always found it even more fun to toy with: Why is there Someone, and not No One?

    2. dk

      Heh well you beat me to it to some extent, I’m pleased and feel less alone.

      Agreeing with Locrian that calling evolution “mindless” is an error, I think it gives us reason to challenge what we (think we) mean by “mind”. The single entity universe behaves, but it’s “consciousness” and control over its own actions may be different from ours, or at least from what we tell ourselves about ours. People who pursue precision in physical movement eventually note that their will to action operates prior to thought, though then better recognized as an action and product of identity, not the identity process itself. Our cognitive processes are reflective, subsequent to sensation, and our sensations are subsequent to the actual events we sense. Nonetheless, we can consider and chose action which over time bring our neural processes and conscious process(es) into close alignment, when playing musical instruments for example, and especially when improvising (successfully).

      So the idea that “we do not have access to our own neural mechanisms” is rather lazy, self-fulfilling when no concerted and precise effort is made. I get the sense that a lot of academics in these fields either don’t pursue sport or music or much else, or when they do they consider then as separate domains from their avowed study.

  18. Jeff W

    “Consciousness is real” [Aeon]

    I rather like this take from Massimo Pigliucci. But when he says

    The ‘what is it like’ feelings and thoughts that we have are high-level representations of the (entirely different in nature) underlying neural mechanisms that make it possible for us to perceive, react to, and navigate the world.

    there’s that word “representations.” When you feel the roughness of some sandpaper, that feeling isn’t some “representation” of the underlying neural mechanism—it’s how the sandpaper feels. (What you see on your device’s display isn’t a “representation” of the underlying electronics involved—it’s this comment.)

    1. m sam

      I’m not sure it’s so simple. Is your comment just those black marks I see on the white part of my monitor, or do those black marks represent what you’ve expressed? What you say makes it sound like the former, but I’ll be damned if they don’t look like just a random jumble marks (which thankfully I can interpret because I learned to use the same marks to represent words in roughly the same way as you).

  19. Ranger Rick

    Re: the list

    I’d throw “false equivalence” in there, as it appears that news has for the most part brushed aside the both-sides fig leaf.

  20. HotFlash

    I have been wondering how accurate the polls are, or more properly, inaccurate. I have already concluded that polls are prone to inaccuracy. Small sample sizes, cell phones vs land lines, people who don’t pick up or who prevaricate, the categories — ‘registered’, well, that leaves out a lot, esp registered by D or R party, ‘likely’ in the pollsters opinion, based on what? previous turnout patterns? what if you have a game-changing candidate? — and, of course, the questions may be intentionally or unintentionally loaded.

    I have also concluded that the polls may well be rigged. The stakes for a US presidential election are high and many irregularities (ahem) have been observed including unaccountable de- or mis-registration of voters, mysterious vote flipping by machines, obscure counting and tallying procedures, unexplained interruptions in vote result reporting, unprecedented Supreme Court rulings, and even coin flips that challenge the laws of probability. And these are crimes punishable by law. There is no law preventing a polling company from cooking their results, and many incentives to do it. So, I would expect it to be done, regularly. Manipulated polls would ‘foam the runway’ (thanks to L Summers for that useful phrase) for eventual election manipulation. Corroborating evidence: reduction/elimination/’adjusting’ of exit polls.

    So, in this case, I would like to try to figure out what the polls would work out to if they were accurate.

    My guess (yes, yes, my wishful thinking is showing) is that Bernie would show up under-represented — eg, newly registered voters, independent voters in states such as California, voters in actual open primaries, voters who have been dis- or mis-registered. I would guess that Yang, Gabbard, and the other candidates that appeal to young and ethnic (ie, ‘likely to be scrubbed’) voters are also under performing in the polls. Dunno about Warren.

    Anyway, my stats courses are long in the past and mostly concerned how to price a ‘forever’ lightbulb. Anyone here with polling expertise who would like to chime in?

    Any NCCommentariat have experience with polls?

    1. Code Name D

      I share you cynicism. Something just doesn’t smell right about Biden’s lead in the polls. I don’t know how they are rigged, I just can’t shake the feeling that they are.

      We DO know that rigged polls are a part of the process. When the “lead candidate” wins the caucus, despite all the “election shenanigans”, there is a collective shrug that says “oh well, the popular guy won anyway. So I guess all that election rigging didn’t mater.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Always been interesting to me how polling somehow seemed to become a replacement for actually “polling” the “people” (“demos,” as I recall, the “people” in “democracy”), preferably via paper ballots, hand-marked in private, hand-counted in public.

      Interesting, too, that polling methods that supposedly have been shown to produce actual correspondence between what’s in the consciousnesses of the “plebs” and actual election results, seem to have skidded on the lavishly spilled Bernays Sauce and crashed into the disrupted phone system that replaced “land line citizens” with atomized cell phone users.

      A plebs consciousness that is so very changeable, affected to various degrees by the very act of polling, and the heavily spun reporting of such results, whether nominally best-practices straight-arrow, or corrupt or selective or push-pollling. To the extent, always the case in this corruptible and imperfect world, that the people with the real power keep their greasy thumbs off the scales in the actual “elections.”

      Yet of course so many of us will still find some kind of utility, sustenance, or solace in all the polling. And some make whole, often very lucrative, careers out of interpreting the entrails, for all the players and the mopes in the stands. “What this poll shows…” said with great authority and occasional nods to certain footnotes and statistical niceties…

      And that’s brought us a not-so-often seen-any-more expression, “poll surfing.” Which is what politicians and the huge cadre of “campaign advisers” just love to do. Ride ride ride the wild poll…

      Leading to articles like this: “Zogby poll: Trump surfing impeachment to lead in faceoffs with Democrat contenders,” https://www.worldtribune.com/zogby-poll-trump-surfing-impeachment-to-lead-in-faceoffs-with-dem-contenders/

      And in a lot of articles by pollsters on this or that or another issue or personality, they often end up by Tacitly recognizing the quantum nature of things by closing their oracular pontification with some “qualifying” version of “We shall see.”

  21. Milton

    Ten words… A few others:

    Narrative – makes it sound like the speaker has a firm grasp on whatever it is being discussed.
    Conversation – as in, let’s create a conversation and I’m already into it as I’ve used 8 syllables instead of 2 (let’s talk).
    Circle back – thank god this business meeting term is going the way of the dodo (synergy).

    1. neo-realist

      A 20 something co-worker the other day used the term “circle back” to me in recommending that I get back to a manager on a particular issue. Came off as a bit condescending I thought.

  22. JeffC

    I have never, literally never, heard “rebuke” used in another context than mainstream Beltway reporting. Is my experience unique?

    You’re about as likely to hear “rebuke” in conversation as you are to hear “temblor” after an earthquake. But every news article after a quake uses temblor at least once. Let’s rebuke the reporters!

    1. The Rev Kev

      Can’t say that it surprises me. The happy-clappers have an inside tract to the government now. Here is one for you. Some mob created the “Mahalo ScoMo” – a tropical shirt in honour of ScoMo fleeing the country with his family due to the fires. The website offering these for sale crashed due to unprecedented demand-


  23. Oregoncharles

    “Hence the notion that phenomenal consciousness is a kind of illusion….” (I’m going to go to bed instead of reading the whole article, so this is just about the quote). No, that does not follow from materialism. “Consciousness” can perfectly well be the electrochemical, measurable and utterly real process going on in our nervous systems. It is to the brain as digestion is to the gut.

    It bothers me that a relatively straightforward process/structure system evokes so much mystification. Descartes is probably to blame, combined with the Christian tradition of the “soul.” Granted, it’s odd that we experience this process as if we were somewhat separate from it; if anything is the illusion, that is.

    The mystification goes to the length that a lot of talk about “consciousness” is literally nonsense – the word is stripped of meaning.

    Evidently, I’m a hard core materialist – but I do think that structures and processes are “material.” Evidently, the brain has a hard time talking about itself.

  24. drumlin woodchuckles

    The very first “speaking face” to appear on that Deutsche Welle documentary is . . . farmer Gabe Brown of North Dakota. Maybe that fact will be mentioned by name deeper into the documentary. So word of farming-based agricultural-soil skycarbon re-suckdown and re-capture is starting to spread.

  25. Tommy S.

    Regarding the clash from old punk rocker. There’s a reason they are still one of the most popular old RnR bands worldwide. I would also suggest diving into lesser knowns…of that Era…Gang of Four, the amazing Jam, Slits, The Ruts..Redemption Song about Joe, is a great book, from a lifelong friend of his, that includes all his warts, but all the history. In the 90’s, they all became friends and stopped snipping at each other. And mostly stayed humble and aware. Every album, except the last horrible no Mick album, has moments of brilliance and character. Little noticed is Joe’s sense of humor is so many songs, and self criticism…a really neat guy. The last solo album that he died before it got mixed is really good too….

  26. m sam

    RE: Consciousness Is Real: Of course the phenomenon that the word “consciousness” signifies exists and is not an illusion. But it is an illusion too, at least in as much the word itself clearly represents the phenomenon poorly, if at all. After all, “consciousness” as a phenomenon is something science is nowhere close to pinning down as a biological process, and gives rise to the silliest and most far fetched theories. It also compels those “in the know” to write several thousand word defenses titled “Consciousness Is Real.” If there is any actual evidence that consciousness is an “illusion” (something I don’t believe, mind you), the fact that it must be defended as existing so often is a pretty good place to start your argument.

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