2:00PM Water Cooler 6/5/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart. The data is the John Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site. Here are states in the West:

Linear. Good for Washington for bringing down the peak, but I, as yesterday, I don’t see how anybody could look at this and say we’ve beaten the virus.


“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

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Since we’re getting closer to the election, maybe it’s time to start looking at the electoral map, unchanged from yesterday:

Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

So, taking the consensus as a given, 270 (total) – 204 (Trump’s) = 66. Trump must win 66 from the states in play: AZ (11), FL (29), MI (16), NC (15), PA (20), and WI (10) plus 1 to win not tie = 102. 102 – 66 = 36. So if Trump wins FL, MI, NC, and PA (29 + 16 + 15 + 20 = 80), he wins. That’s a heavy lift. I think I’ve got the math right this time!

* * *


Biden (D)(1): “Biden’s Polling Lead Over Trump Is Getting Seriously Large” [New York Magazine]. “When I did a six-months-out analysis in early May, Biden’s lead in the RealClearPolitics polling averages was 5.3 percent. As of this morning, it was up to 8.0 percent, higher than at any point since last December. And his own polling number is 49.9 percent, on the brink of a popular vote majority. If survey quality matters to you, new polls from two A-plus pollsters (per FiveThirtyEight) put Biden’s lead at 52/41 (Monmouth) and 53/43 (ABC–WaPo). By comparison with other recent Democratic presidential candidates, Biden is doing pretty well at this point in the cycle. … Donald Trump is not in good shape for an incumbent whose country is experiencing a deadly pandemic, an economic collapse, and chaos in the streets. And Joe Biden’s not doing badly for a man whose candidacy looked completely dead after a fifth place finish in New Hampshire less than four months ago.” • But as we surely must have learned by now, only the Electoral College matters.

Biden (D)(2): “The Veepstakes: Handicapping Biden’s Choices” [Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “Back in the real world, Biden is apparently going to wait at least a couple of more months before naming his running mate. As impatient as we all are to know his running mate, waiting makes some sense. For one thing, it gives the campaign the maximum amount of time to vet the candidates; for another, it allows more of the sand in 2020’s hourglass to pass, thus making it less likely that events conspire to spoil the eventual choice.” • Imagine if Biden had already picked Klobuchar! More: “As it stands, Biden said recently that he will make his choice around Aug. 1. If the choice comes on that specific date, Biden’s VP choice would come 16 days before the Democratic National Convention is scheduled to open in Milwaukee (the DNC was originally scheduled to start a month earlier). A Biden selection on or by Aug. 1 would actually be relatively early by historical standards.” Top three Sabato’s picks: =Kamala Harris, Val Demings, Tammy Duckworth. Hard to imagine any of them as President if and when Biden conks out in his first term; or as his successor. But [x] black [x] woman, [x] black [x] woman, [x] woman respectively. Abrams is #10.

Trump (R)(1): “Americans Have Stopped Thinking the Economy Is Getting Worse” [Bloomberg]. “New survey data that Democracy Fund/UCLA Nationscape shared with Bloomberg Businessweek offers a rather surprising clue to how it is that Trump has maintained such resilience. Americans’ opinions about the state of the economy, which collapsed with the onset of the pandemic in March, stopped falling about a month ago and have now stabilized—a pattern that is evident across all political persuasions. …. Americans’ economic outlook continued to worsen until about mid-April. But then it stopped falling, even as job losses, furloughs, and bankruptcies continued to mount… For now, sentiment about the economy appears to have stabilized among all groups. That’s keeping Trump’s numbers from falling further. If you squint at the most recent chart, you can begin to detect signs of the reemergence of the intense political polarization in attitudes toward the economy that prevailed before the virus struck: Republican sentiment appears to be inching up, while Democratic and independent sentiment looks to be drifting down. Barring a second wave of infections, I’d expect to see that disparity widen, as the two presidential campaigns push differing accounts of how the economy is faring.”

Trump (R)(2): “Another key turns against trump.” [Daily Kos]. Key #8, “Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term,” has now turned against Trump. Or so it would seem: Allan Lichtman, of the famous 13 Keys for Winning the White House, has not yet rendered a judgment. Perhaps there’s wiggle room in “sustained”?

Trump (R)(3): “Voters Unlikely to Want to Stay the Course” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “After almost an hour of watching local Washington television stations broadcasting the mayhem on D.C. streets, my wife went to bed, deeply disturbed by the sight of what was going on in the city and region that has been her home for the past 40 years. For some reason, I stayed up until almost 1 a.m., watching in horror…. One has to wonder what and how things have gone so terribly wrong to create the need for what happened during the day and the rage and lawlessness that occurred after the sun went down. I wondered what those who marched for justice that day must have thought about the literal and figurative darkness that came after them… We still have just over five months until the election, which is plenty of time for things to change. But right now, this election is not headed in a direction that any Republican can like. Moreover, events of the past two months are hardly ones that would make voters want to ‘stay the course’ or chant ‘four more years.'”

Trump (R)(4): “White evangelicals among groups with slipping confidence in Trump’s handling of COVID-19” [Pew Research Center]. “Three-quarters of white evangelical Protestants say Trump is doing an excellent (43%) or good job (32%) responding to the outbreak, according to the survey, conducted April 29 to May 5 among 10,957 U.S. adults. No other religious group comes close to evaluating the president so positively. Even so, the share of white evangelicals who give Trump positive marks for his handling of the crisis is 6 percentage points lower today than when the question was last asked in a survey conducted March 19 to 24.”

* * *

“Biden, Trump Campaigns Targeted By Foreign Hackers: Google” [Agence France Presse]. “Campaign staffs for both President Donald Trump and Democratic rival Joe Biden have been targeted recently by foreign hackers, Google researchers said Thursday, highlighting persistent data security concerns ahead of the November US election. A tweet from Google’s threat analysis chief Shane Huntley said the internet giant warned the Biden campaign about ‘phishing’ efforts from China and the Trump campaign from Iran. ‘No sign of compromise. We sent users our govt attack warning and we referred to fed law enforcement,’ Huntley wrote.” •

Obama Legacy

“The Real Story of Black Martha’s Vineyard” [Narratively]. “Oak Bluffs became a tourist destination out of necessity. Named for its scenic perch in an oak grove overlooking the Nantucket Sound, in the Atlantic Ocean, it was a haven for African-Americans during the mid-20th century when Jim Crow laws and segregation meant that black vacationers were often turned away from mainstream beaches and hotels. Oak Bluffs was the only town of the now six on Martha’s Vineyard where African-Americans were permitted to find lodging. Initially, freed slaves sought shelter there after slavery was abolished in the mid-19th century. Many worked in the fishing and whaling industry. Then, in the 1930s and ’40s, as African-Americans in urban centers like New York, Washington, D.C. and Boston began to take up jobs in professional industries and establish themselves as part of the middle and upper-middle class, they flocked to the East Coast shoreline in the summer to take in the beach and the bonfires….. African-American identity is ingrained in the community, with luminaries such as Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr. and Harry Belafonte having vacationed there. One of Oak Bluffs’ most popular hangouts, Inkwell Beach, pays homage to this history, its name a reference to beachgoers’ black skin, which was said to glisten like ink in the hot sun. The name is also a nod to the town’s rich literary history.” • This is why I keep making jokes about Obama buying his house in “Oak Bluffs Martha’s Vineyard.” A cheap shot, I know!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Un-Election Year” [The Baffler]. “This choice between two dim visions of a national future, one medieval and the other merely maudlin, is a choice that Americans have been presented with before. Indeed the prevailing political consensus of the past half-century is based on the assumption that a large portion of the country’s citizens—young people, poor people, and people of color—will recognize that choice for what it is and will reject it as such. This electoral consensus has become so entrenched that it is almost impossible to challenge it on its own terms: the promised turnout revolution of Bernie Sanders’s campaign was defeated earlier this year by an actual turnout surge among suburban and older voters, the factions of the electorate best served by the two-party system and by the socioeconomic status quo. It was these voters who dragged Joe Biden over the finish line to the Democratic nomination, and it is these voters who seem poised to get him into the Oval Office this fall. The winner in November will be whichever candidate can win over more of the gerontocratic sub-electorate that our present system was built to serve, whichever septuagenarian man most devotedly woos the well-heeled suburbs of Pennsylvania and the retirement communities along the Florida coast.” • “Vote!”

Democrats (1):

Optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward….”

Democrats (2):

“The death of globalisation has been announced many times. But this is a perfect storm” [Adam Tooze, Guardian]. “deal-making apart, the broader vision of the flat world of globalisation is dead. The institution that most clearly embodied that “end of history” vision, the WTO, was launched in January 1995. Today, the WTO is in tatters. Its dispute-processing procedures have been paralysed by deliberate American obstruction and its head, Brazilian Roberto Azevêdo, has announced that he is resigning a year ahead of time, which leaves the WTO leaderless in the face of the greatest shock to world trade since 1945.” • We might remember that one of Trump’s first acts was to drive a stake into the heart of TPP. One might wonder what the Obama Alumni Association we seem poised to re-elect thinks about that.

* * *

“Maryland Lt. Gov. Rutherford calls on state board of elections administrator to resign after mail-in primary problems” [Baltimore Sun]. “The rebuke follows the disappearance of as many as 75,000 counted ballots from the state’s website early Wednesday morning. Those votes, sent in by mail and collected from drop boxes through the weekend, appeared on the site at about 11:30 p.m. Tuesday. At about 2 a.m., the city’s early returns were not available on the state site and instead were marked as “NR” for not reported. Revised numbers appeared on the state website just around 11 a.m. Wednesday, including only some of the 75,000 votes reported the day before. Other issues surfaced in the run-up to Maryland’s April 28 special congressional election in District 7 and prior to the regular June 2 primary. Special election ballots contained inaccurate postage instructions; Ballots for the June primary were delivered weeks later than expected to voters in Baltimore and Montgomery County; Some households received multiple ballots; Long lines at the state’s limited in-person polling places held up vote return data until the late hours of Tuesday evening and sparked renewed concerns about social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.” • As I keep saying, I’m not sanguine about election 2020’s perceived legitimacy at all.

“Beverly Hills files lawsuit seeking changes in L.A. County touch-screen ballot design” [Los Angeles Times]. “Under the new system, dubbed Voting Solutions for All People, or VSAP, only four candidates appear on the touch screen at a time. To view additional candidates, voters must select the “MORE” button. However, if voters inadvertently press the “NEXT” button instead, Beverly Hills officials warn, they won’t see all the candidates in a particular race.The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Superior Court, seeks to force Los Angeles County to modify the system to ensure that all candidates are acknowledged by voters. If the suit is successful, the county would be barred from using VSAP for the upcoming primary election — a move that could affect more than 4 million registered voters.” • In other words, the VSAP works just like Google Search: The top hit on the first page is the best position to be in, and everything after page one is irrelevant except to the most dedicated searcher. Now, VSAP rotates the screens, so the candidate at the top of the screen for one voter is not the same for all voters, but what that means is that all voters aren’t using the same ballot. The whole system is insane and should be abolished (but will not be, since it permits election theft).

Stats Watch

At reader request, I added some business stats back in. Please give Econintersect click-throughs; they’re a good, old-school blog that covers more than stats. If anybody knows of other aggregators, please contact me at the email address below.

Employment Situation: “May 2020 BLS Jobs Situation – Employment Grew 2,509,000 But Still Down 17,665,000 Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. “The headline seasonally adjusted BLS job growth showed the best ever job gain ever with the unemployment rate improving from 14.7% to 13.3 %. Employment’s recovery has begun from the coronavirus…. The rate of recovery will be dependant on the coronavirus effects.” Here is a useful thread on the jobs numbers:

Employment Situation: “Why the Shockingly Good Jobs Report Might Be Bad News” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. “For one thing, in the BLS’s own view, its unemployment number comes with a massive asterisk. The bureau’s jobs survey was not written to deliver clear results in a context where many millions of workers have been sidelined by lockdowns. And this fact has produced a systematic misclassification of workers. The BLS survey offers respondents the option of saying that they are “employed but absent from work” due to “other reasons.” Millions of furloughed workers — who, finding themselves involuntarily out of a paying job, are supposed to be classified as unemployed — appear to have mistakenly assigned themselves to the “employed but absent” bucket. As a result, the bureau believes the overall rate is actually closer to 16.3 percent. This error was present in both the May and April surveys. So, even when properly interpreted, the May report suggests the labor market is moving in the right direction. But the hole we’re digging out of is significantly deeper than official statistics suggest, according to the official statisticians themselves. … The second major caveat is that job growth was wholly attributable to temporarily sidelined workers returning to their old jobs….. Now that the president is holding celebratory press conferences about the economy’s strength, however, it is possible that the administration’s supply-siders will gain the upper hand, and opposition to further relief measures will harden. If that happens, today’s cause for hope could become tomorrow’s source of despair.”

Rail: “Rail Week Ending 30 May 2020 – Rail May Totals Down 20.2% Year-over-Year” [Econintersect]. “Intermodal and carloads are under Great Recession values. Container exports from China are now recovering, container exports from the U.S. is marginally improving but remain deep in contraction. The AAR thinks they see some signs of improvement – but I need to see a clear sign above the normal volatility of rail.”

* * *

Tech: “Google Shakes Up Top Search, Advertising Leadership” [Bloomberg]. “Alphabet Inc.’s Google is shaking up its leadership, putting control over the company’s search engine and advertising product teams under the same person and moving leaders who have been around since the company’s founding to less visible teams. Prabhakar Raghavan, who led advertising product since 2018, will replace Ben Gomes as head of search. The new advertising product chief, Jerry Dischler, will report to Raghavan, signaling that the two groups will now be run by one central leader.” • Yes, that’s what the country needs: Search more integrated with advertising.

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin Mining’s Three Body Problem” [Anicca Research]. One true fact: “Over the years, the Bitcoin mining industry inadvertently benefited from a massive over-investment in hydropower in southwest China. Excess cheap electricity, massive power capacity, cheap labor cost, and physical proximity to manufacturers make it an ideal location for mining. It is estimated that over 65% of the world’s hashpower is concentrated in these provinces.” • Bitcoin mavens please comment.

The Bezzle: “China’s Digital Currency Could Challenge Bitcoin and Even the Dollar” [Bloomberg]. “[T]he Chinese government has begun a pilot program for an official digital version of its currency—with the likelihood of a bigger test at the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022. Some observers think the virtual yuan could bolster the government’s power over the country’s financial system and one day maybe even shift the global balance of economic influence… The rise of independent cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether, meanwhile, have created the danger that a huge swath of economic activity will occur out of the view of policymakers. China, in recent years, has cracked down on the use of such coins but was quick to see some potential in the basic idea—as long as it had some control. China started studying issuance of its own digital unit as far back as 2014.”

Supply chain: “Global supply-chain effects of COVID-19 control measures” [Nature]. “supply-chain losses that are related to initial COVID-19 lockdowns are largely dependent on the number of countries imposing restrictions and that losses are more sensitive to the duration of a lockdown than its strictness. However, a longer containment that can eradicate the disease imposes a smaller loss than shorter ones. Earlier, stricter and shorter lockdowns can minimize overall losses. A ‘go-slow’ approach to lifting restrictions may reduce overall damages if it avoids the need for further lockdowns. Regardless of the strategy, the complexity of global supply chains will magnify losses beyond the direct effects of COVID-19. Thus, pandemic control is a public good that requires collective efforts and support to lower-capacity countries.” • And globalization has been so good at managing public goods.

Concentration: “Poultry Industry Executives Indicted Over Alleged Price-Fixing Scam” [Forbes]. “The Justice Department on Wednesday indicted four current and former executives from chicken producers Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry Farms over allegations of conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids between 2012 and 2017.”

The Fed: “A Rally Running on Moral Hazard Looks Like the Fed’s Latest Feat” [Bloomberg]. “‘We are now only 10% from February’s all-time high, and with the U.S. unemployment rate heading toward 20%, one might ask: At what point does the stark disconnect between Wall Street and Main Street become a political embarrassment for the Fed?” [Albert Edwards at Societe Generale] wrote in a note last week. ‘Maybe never.'”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 66 Greed (previous close: 61 Greed;) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jun 4 at 12:23pm

The Biosphere

For hanging on the wall of your storm cellar:

Health Care

“Almost a quarter of infected household members of COVID-19 patients were asymptomatic, Singapore study finds” [Channel News Asia]. “A Singapore study that tested the household close contacts of COVID-19 patients has found that an estimated 23 per cent of those infected were asymptomatic. The seroepidemiological study conducted by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) traced about 2,500 household close contacts who were placed under quarantine. Seroepidemiology uses data from antibody-based tests to identify which population segments have been exposed to an infectious disease, and in what proportion. It can give insight into under-diagnosed mild cases and how they may contribute to the spread of COVID-19, NCID had said. Available studies of viral concentrations in swab tests suggest that asymptomatic COVID-19 patients have similar viral concentrations compared with symptomatic patients at comparable stages of illness, said Associate Professor Ng Oon Tek, NCID senior consultant.”

“Iowa touted its Covid-19 testing. Now officials are calling for an investigation” [Guardian]. “Iowa is betting on its new public health program to allow for the reopening of businesses such as bars and movie theaters following weeks of Covid-19 closures. But health experts and lawmakers are raising questions about the program and the little-known company behind it, pointing at missed deadlines, long test delays and complaints over the accessibility of testing sites….. To run the program, Reynolds in April signed a $26m no-bid contract with Nomi Health, after being pitched on the company by Ashton Kutcher, the actor-turned-investor who is originally from Iowa. The company bills itself as a general contractor, that helps governments rebuild the testing supply chain and lower costs. The number of daily tests following TestIowa’s launch on 21 April fell far short of what the governor had promised. Some residents reported their results were lost, marked as “incomplete”, or damaged. Others complained they waited weeks for their results. By 13 May, three weeks after its launch and two days before the state officially started to reopen, TestIowa had sent results to only 4,000 Iowans. • Plus, putting the testing program on the Internet makes it hard for rural area with poor Internet to use it. And: “In addition, the platform is only offered in English and Spanish, making it inaccessible to speakers of other languages common in the factories where Covid-19 is most prevalent in Iowa, where immigrants from Mexico, Bosnia and Burma work.” • Lordie.

“At Mayo Clinic, sharing patient data with companies fuels AI innovation — and concerns about consent” [STAT]. “In the past two years, 16 companies have gained access to de-identified patient data through licensing deals that have widened Mayo’s revenue stream and generated crucial insights for health tech firms eager to commercialize digital products and services. Ethics experts worry, though, that patients’ interests are falling by the wayside: They were not notified of the deals or asked to consent to the use of their data for the products under development. Mayo, which operates medical centers across the country, has become one of the most active participants in this data trade as it embraces AI to transform the way it delivers care. Executives said its arrangements with AI companies are part of a cycle of innovation in which privacy and progress are not mutually exclusive. They said both goals are attainable — and essential — if Mayo is to develop more effective diagnostic tools and treatments…. ‘If your data and biospecimens are valuable, they are yours,’ said Kayte Spector-Bagdady, a bioethicist and lawyer at the University of Michigan Medical School. ‘There is a harm of respect for people to use your stuff without your permission, or make money from your stuff without giving some back to you.'” • So the Mayo executives are looting?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Economic anxiety”:

Thank you for your service:

Police State Watch

“Episode 149: One Million Realities” (podcast) [Trillbilly Workers Party]. “Week 2 of the nation in revolt.” • Hilariously classified as “Mature Comedy” by PlayerFM.

“Who has been deployed on the streets of Washington?” [Financial Times]. “Units from the FBI, the Secret Service, the US Park Police, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, the US Marshals Service, the Capitol Police and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, among others, have been sent on to Washington’s streets, Mr Barr said.”

“Manhattan judge denies Legal Aid request to free hundreds of George Floyd protesters held more than 24 hours” [New York Daily]. “A Manhattan judge sided with police on Thursday by denying Legal Aid lawyers’ request for the immediate release of hundreds of prisoners held in custody for days after their arrest amid George Floyd protests. The emergency lawsuit filed Tuesday against the NYPD called for the release of 108 New Yorkers ‘detained illegally’ in violation of New York state’s 24-hour arrest-to-arraignment requirement. As of the Thursday afternoon hearing, the number of people arrested in Manhattan who have been waiting to see a judge in cramped cells for more than 24 hours had climbed to 202, according to an NYPD lawyer. After lengthy arguments from Legal Aid and city lawyers — who all appeared via video — Manhattan Supreme Court Judge James Burke denied the request, saying the police processing of the cases is ‘a crisis within a crisis.’… Burke said in this case, an exception the 24-hour rule could be made because of the unusual circumstances.

“The Mount Vernon Police Tapes: In Secretly Recorded Phone Calls, Officers Say Innocent People Were Framed” [Gothamist]. “In hours of secretly recorded telephone conversations, police officers in Mount Vernon, New York, reveal widespread corruption, brutality and other misconduct in the troubled Westchester County city just north of the Bronx. Caught on tape by a whistleblower cop, the officers said they witnessed or took part in alarming acts of police misconduct, from framing and beating residents to collaborating with drug dealers, all as part of a culture of impunity within the department’s narcotics unit. The Mount Vernon police tapes, obtained exclusively by Gothamist/WNYC, were recorded from 2017 to this year by Murashea Bovell, a 12-year veteran of the department who has been blowing the whistle on misconduct for years.” • Tapes? Like South Bend?

“How to Change Policing in America” [Slate]. “It is critical that our city’s mayors be prepared to change their approach to police department funding in a way that prioritizes community funding support and a reimagined conception of public safety. For example, movements to drastically reduce police funding are at the core of a revised vision of public safety that prioritizes social services, youth development, mental health, reentry support, and meaningful provisions for homeless individuals that strengthen community resources to proactively address underlying factors that can contribute to public safety concerns. Most public safety issues and community conflicts do not require the intervention of an armed officer. It’s time to reimagine how we allocate our public safety dollars.” • I would hate, however, to discover that defunding the police was part of the neoliberal playbook, with privatization (and profit) the next steps.

Class Warfare

“Keeping the Lights On” [The Baffler]. “Months into the coronavirus pandemic, the debate over whose work counts as essential continues to wax and wane with the nation’s PPE supply, despite having what I consider to be a simple answer: all workers are essential, and all bosses and managers are not. While grocery store workers, hospital cleaning staff, meatpacking and food processing plant workers, and farmworkers are finally getting some of the recognition they’ve always been due, America’s legion of utility workers are rarely mentioned in the same breath as these other frontline workers—even as they quite literally keep the lights on. The work they do is physically taxing and far from squeaky clean. Many of them can’t work from home, and the jobs they do are often performed sight unseen; most people hope to never have to call on them at all. But when disaster strikes, whether it’s a wildfire, a hurricane, a water main break, or a gas explosion, utility workers are right there risking life and limb alongside first responders. The current crisis is no different: these workers have been continually placed in harm’s way—and are vulnerable to its dangers…. Invisible or not, their labor is essential to meeting peoples’ basic needs for food, water, warmth, and light.” • If the utility workers, the airline attendants, and the Teamsters all got togther….

“What Trait Affects Income the Most?” [Economics from the Top Down] (see also). “Income, I believe, is determined not by productivity, but instead largely by rank within a hierarchy. In other words, power begets income. The role of economics is to deny this uncomfortable reality. Economists reinforce hierarchies by denying their existence.” • Long and worth a read. Handy chart:

“When Time’s Up Didn’t Step Up” [Hollywood Reporter]. “To many in the industry, Time’s Up’s refusal to support the film and seemingly align with Winfrey, one of the founding donors to its Legal Defense Fund, exposed an inherent conflict of interest — that the group is largely funded by Hollywood power brokers.”

News of the Wired

“Unker Non-Linear Writing System” [UNLWS]. “Non-linear languages have as their aim to exploit the syntactical possibilities that are opened up by writing in an ambient space of more than one dimension. An utterance in a spoken language is a succession of tokens, each next to just two others. By contrast, in a non-linear language, any number of tokens may be connected to any others, making any shape of network.” • Really odd, but one wonders if it would be useful to scrawl messages in chalk, say, as hoboes used to do.

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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 (WB):

WB: “First color in the creek bottoms, Minneapolis.”

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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. JohnnyGL


    For all you gardening fans…or just general nature fans who need a real pick me up.

    This is a project that I’ve kept an eye on for years. The updates went dark for a long time and I’d forgotten about it. It’s a real treat…making stuff grow in western Saudi Arabia is no small accomplishment. It’s a little bitter sweet as the funding got cut off, but the system survives on its own! Real proof of concept!

    He’s got some fun ideas at the end for the future.

    1. JohnnyGL

      In case you’re tempted to downplay what the guy accomplished….at one point in the project, they got less than 1in of rain for a 4 year period.

      Then, by the end, ran out of money to truck in more water for the drip irrigation lines for the last 2 years. That was the real test. It seems that the system has passed the test.

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      Don’t give a toss about Tulipcoin, personally, but the underutilized fleet of enormous dams clogging the Himalayan watershed is very real. And with demand in China’s coastal provinces to be met by a new fleet of nuclear plants augmented by CCGT, the Chinese are presently building massive HVDC transmission lines to ,dump take the power into Southeast Asia.
      Subsidized hydro will of course benefit (increasingly Chinese-multinat-owned) manufacturing plants in Thailand, Myanmar, and whoever else will buy it. The Vietnamese, notably, have refused this poisoned chalice to date.

        1. Jack Parsons

          China and Vietnam have fought border wars for over a thousand years. This could cause their next one. Of course, we will secretly encourage Vietnam.

  2. Toshiro_Mifune

    Google Shakes Up Top Search, Advertising Leadership
    And there’s the death knell. Search was bad enough already, this is pretty much guarantee it’ll become Yahoo circa 2004. That’s the majority of their income as well. Should be fun to watch.

    1. ambrit

      Check out Yahoo-mail today. It is a real s–t show in the making. A new system architecture was deployed recently which is designed to force acceptance of either an amazing number of very annoying ads, on your e-mail screen no less, or pay for “Premium service,” which is now $3.49 USD a month. And, as readers here can expect, no mention of the commodification of the ‘customer’s’ data. As we found out recently with our also vastly overpriced internet “service,” prices are apt to rise without warning.
      Will the New Google have to append spoiler warnings to the advertorial content, such as “Sponsored Content?” I have noticed that the top ‘hits’ on many of my searches on Google have a small and almost overlookable prefix: ‘Ad.’
      When I begin to see ads that are not designated thus, pretending to be straight information feeds, I’ll know that Sauron is gloating in his penthouse aerie atop Minas Google. I suspect that the ‘end game’ here is to forge “One Search Engine to Rule Them All.”

      1. Huey

        I have fortunately only been using DDG for the past 5 years. I know it doesn’t generate its own search results but I find it a small comfort of some normalcy in my online experience.

      2. Toshiro_Mifune

        Yeah – Yahoo mail has been getting very bad since VzB. I have several other accounts… too many really, but the Yahoo one I’ve had for more than 20 years now and it’s the only email some people know for me by heart.

        1. ambrit

          Oh well. Second try, with some elisions added for trip wire avoidance purposes.
          Olde Tyme Yahoo user here also.
          Our experience using Yahoo mail has degenerated back to speeds reminiscent of the dial up days.
          I have timed delays from first click onto the mail icon to arrival at the Yahoo page of as long as eighty seconds. This is new.
          Second, when the first mail screen comes up, there is a delay between the arrival of the screen and being able to use the screen of as long a forty seconds.
          Third, when I click on a mail packet, there is generally a pop up screen emerging in the corner of the screen. At this point, the rest of the screen is ‘shaded’ and removed from play.
          This pop up states that a “prohibited service” has been detected. I am urged to whitelist the site. At this time, the “prohibited service” shows Twentyfive ads being ‘prohibited.’ Either that, or I can avail myself of a Premium Service for $3.49 USD the month.
          I decide to take the last option: Take me back to Basic Mail.
          The screen is reset, back to the beginning. The original mail packet that was clicked on is now listed as being read. Anyone not paying close attention could miss that fact and completely miss a notification, etc.
          The fact of not beginning with Basic Mail is part of the trick.
          Why cannot the USPS run a public e-mail service?

          1. Acacia

            Geez. Why subject yourself to this torture? ProtonMail awaits :)

            As for USPS, sigh… I must agree with JTMcPhee.

        2. griffen

          Yahoo mail was going bad much sooner than that. The hacking that occurred I forget under who’s watch back between 2010 to 2014, somewhere in Uzbek – kraniak or wherever the cyber hacks were based.

          Crapfication. Its what’s for dinner.

      3. GramSci

        A plug for Posteo.net. Green, German, so relatively privacy-prorected, 1 euro per month. I know those of you in the know are big on Proton Mail, and Posteo may not meet your corporate requirements, but Posteo doesn’t seem to be CIA funded, and fer sure it’s waaaaay better than Yahoo’s!

        1. hunkerdown

          Nice. Webmail is a commodity these days, if you’re willing to pay for it. Many domain registrars, IT service firms, and cottage web hosts are happy to offer private mailbox services hosted on their equipment starting at about $10-15/year, which removes any need for psychographics and advertising from the equation.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          > Posteo.net

          Gave it a quick look. It has filters, an absolute requirement for me. I like that it will migrate mail from one’s legacy account. I don’t see that ProtonMail has that. (It has IMAP/SMTP support, which possibly enables that function, but I don’t want to have to work to figure it out.)

          Thanks for the tip!

      4. Xihuitl

        Plus, they want you to agree and acknowledge that they read all your emails so that they can better select ads more suited to your interests and concerns, etc.

        I keep checking “Do This Later” but most likely they are scanning the content of my emails anyway. Very disturbing.

        1. The Rev Kev

          A few years ago they tested Microsoft to see if they read the emails that people sent so they set a trap. The universities set up web pages and included the addresses in emails that they sent through Microsoft. Since these addresses were not listed anywhere on the net, if anybody went to them it could only be that Microsoft scanned them in the emails and then tried them out. You can imagine the results.

          1. polecat

            I finally bolt-cut the Notflix umbilcus ..

            Pandering to the Obama’s is not even worth the cheap monthly fee.

  3. jsn

    “the promised turnout revolution of Bernie Sanders’s campaign was defeated earlier this year by an actual turnout surge among suburban and older voters”

    Does anyone know how to compare this factoid with the presence of electroinc voting machines?

    I’m happy to do the work if someone can point me at a mapping tool and the relevant data sets.

    1. urblintz

      I’d suggest the Bible and other articles of faith as the best mapping tool: ya gotta believe!

  4. Off The Street

    Police defunding could be the next big opportunity, where misdirection, bait-and-switch and old-fashioned fraud come together. Hope that virtue-signaling was worth it to sell your own future. Just wait until you have to sign that EULA to get services.

    Oh, you didn’t sign, too bad. We don’t send units to non-signers. Coffee, and coverage, are for closers and signers.

    1. shtove

      They’ll end up like 18thC fire services in England, where only subscribing houses with a metal plaque over the door got the hose. While the rest of the street burned down. Clever that.

    1. rd

      Things are opening up and employees being re-hired. For some industries, like gyms, the customers aren’t there though. https://media.thinknum.com/articles/gyms-are-reopening-data-shows-slowdown-equinox-planet-fitness/

      I will note that the science shows that heavy exhales due to talking, shouting, singing, sneezing, coughing, and exercise release aerosols and appear to be the primary route of transmission. My biggest concern about returning to the gym is not contamination of surfaces, but lots of people exhaling heavily near me and putting aerosols up into the air. The weight lifting areas may not be too bad because many are naturally spread out to 6 feet or more apart. however, the ellipticals, treadmills, stairmasters etc. are all side by side in multiple banks. If thereis more than a handful of people in that area, it would be an ideal Covid spreading zone.

      I don’t think I will be in a gym for a year or more unless I catch it and recover.

      1. The Historian

        I will agree things are opening up – but how fast? I just think that the numbers are a bit exaggerated. Instead of the 13.3%, I think Wolf Richter’s 16% is more realistic.

      2. Yves Smith

        I am very much of your view. If you are going to do cardio, the safe way would be to go at off hours and position yourself well away from everyone else.

        I was just at my reopened gym, which schedules members in time slots (50 mins during the week, 1 hour 15 mins on weekends) and only lets a certain # in for each slot. They claim to clean for 25 minutes between each group. There’s so much to clean (free weights! weight plates!) I sincerely doubt they can clean as well as they imply. But still better than nothing. You are supposed to wear a mask, but then are allowed to not wear it when exercising, so effectively you are required to wear one only when entering, leaving, and perhaps when stretching. On the one hand, the workout floor is so large that no one was near each other (except 2 people on the treadmills which I took to be husband and wife). On the other, I was the only person wearing a mask even though it’s not a problem with weight training….and two women were sitting, unmasked, on the stretch mats chatting for at least 20 minutes. Oh, and one of is an MD. Gah.

        I heard the local Planet Fitness is also underpopulated (and they aren’t imposting restrictions on members) but there memberships are so low cost that for many people keep them even if they barely use them, much more so than for other gyms.

        In big cities, even the cheaper gyms aren’t that cheap. And at least in NYC, their numbers have been falling because newer buildings have better fitness rooms in the past, so individuals whose main interest is cardio, or who work out with a trainer that is willing to do house calls can dispense with a gym.

        I bought some home exercise equipment. It was only an adequate substitute. But many other people likely did something similar, and may not feel the need to go back.

        1. PlutoniumKun

          I’ve been doing daily online gym since the shut down, with the owner of my local downtown gym. Her client list would I think be a fairly even mix of local residents and those who’s workplaces are nearby.

          The official line here is that gyms can re-open in late August, and she was saying how much she is looking forward to it. But several people have already asked her to keep up online, as they’ve been told by employers they’ll be working from home at least until 2021 and so won’t be in the city, and others have told her they aren’t very comfortable about going to the gym yet. I’d count myself among them, even though the gym is just 5 minutes walk from me, I still find it more time efficient to do gym at home, so I don’t see myself returning to those gym classes for the rest of the year.

      3. Lambert Strether Post author

        > but lots of people exhaling heavily near me and putting aerosols up into the air.

        Indoors, too. The crowded gym is a bat cave!

        It’s too bad there aren’t gyms outdoors, but perhaps the machinery wouldn’t like the exposure..

    2. Kurtismayfield

      Don’t worry the state and local governments are starting to cut budgets… So the numbers will go up

      For example one school district in Mass laid off 1/4 of it’s workforce this week. There will be many more cuts with the state projecting so much budget uncertainty.

      1. JTMcPhee

        And. I guess we know what McConnell and Pelosi have to say to the state and local governments blasted by the lockdowns: Let them eat chocolate gelato…”

    1. The Historian

      It’s an emergency, doncha know? So let’s screw the environment and MAKE MONEY!!!

      It’s kind of odd that he signs this kind of Executive Order after gushing all morning on Twitter about how great the job market is though.

    1. sd

      Initiative…like Clinton Global Initiative because that worked out so well for Haiti….

    2. Big River Bandido

      I’ve heard many rumors that BLM — the organization, not the movement — was infiltrated and co-opted by the Democrat Party after 2016. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them endorse Biden this year.

      That might do to BLM what it did to Me Too.

      1. CoryP

        Didn’t BLM one get a branded CapitalOne credit card at some point? I think I saw it on black agenda report. That can’t be a great sign.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > BLM — the organization, not the movement — was infiltrated and co-opted by the Democrat Party after 2016

        This seems to sum it up:

        That’s Deray McKesson, who also sponsored Campaign Zero, source of the (tepid) #8CantWait bullet points on police reform circulating recently. Deray was a highly paid charter schools administration before his journey through BLM to becoming a podcaster along with Jon Favreau, Obama’s speechwriter.

        1. Big River Bandido

          Wow. Sponsored by Wells Fargo, no less.

          Now that you mention his name, I have heard of this grifter. Thank you for this background. I will share widely

  5. Chris

    This article from the Guardian is exactly what I was saying the other day. There are a lot more security voters who are OK with Trump’s words about Law & Order than anyone in the neoliberal media would like you to believe.

    These are the nice suburban voters that the Democrats think they should compete against Republicans for in this election. There are many in different areas of the country with people who agree with them too. Odds are good they will not have their ballot locations closed or moved come November. One of many things Team Blue No Matter Who needs to do in the time between now and the election is give everyone who isn’t a respectable suburban voter a reason to vote. And “we’ll only shoot them in the legs” isn’t going to cut it.

    1. hunkerdown

      They can’t do that. It interferes with the plan to push the left away from the Party, which is more important than any childish W in an election.

    2. Dr. John Carpenter

      Thanks for the link and I agree with you. This is exactly why these people voted for Trump in the first place. There are a whole lot of communities out there where you’d see “Cop Lives Matter” signs long before now (and where any black person would know to seer well clear of.) They’ve long lived in fear of exactly what they’re seeing on TV and Trump is their protector. While we looked in horror at the SS tamping down peaceful protesters in DC the other day, that was as much a part of the photo-op as the church and bible.

      As hard as it is for some to believe, just being “not Trump” or “Mr. Couldn’t-Be-Any-Worse” is not going to be enough, I’m afraid. I don’t think it’s going to take much, but Biden is still going to have to start working to win at least a little bit. As you mention, it’s going to be difficult for a lot of people to vote and “nothing will fundamentally change” isn’t going to get people to make the effort. And it may be all well and good that former Bush administration people start a Biden SuperPAC, but I wouldn’t bet the election on the people who voted for Bush coming over (it didn’t work for Hillary.)

      1. Chris

        If Bush and his people invited me to a club I certainly wouldn’t go! If Obama and his alumni society offered me membership I would decline. If Hillary gave me the chance of a lifetime to host her zoom meetings for the rock bottom price of 5k$, I would decline. If Chelsea asked me to be one of her thought leaders I would immediately remove my brain from my skull…

        I think having Jr. start a super PAC for Sleepy Joe is one more albatross around Biden’s neck :/

        1. John

          I cast my first vote for president in 1960. I can count on one finger the number of times my vote was cast with high hopes of a better future … and that ended in disappointment. I did not, could not, cast a vote for president in 2016. I suppose I shall this year, but it will be with fingers crossed that the country makes it to 2024.

          1. Massinissa

            I cast a vote for president in 2016…

            For the Green party.

            I did not, and could not, vote for Obama, Romney, Hillary or Trump in the elections I have voted in since turning 18, nor could I ever vote for Biden (or Trump 2020). I had hopes for a few primaries, but I have yet to vote in a general with any hope of positive change up ticket. I really only bother voting so I can vote down ticket for local races.

        2. Dr. John Carpenter

          If you’d told me in 2000 that W. Bush would become venerated by the Dems, I’d have asked what you’re smoking. Having the backing of that cabal only reinforces my negative feelings about Biden.

          1. The Rev Kev

            How about going back to 1970 to say that Richard Nixon is now regarded as a moderate Republican with a history of passing solid reforms? And yet at the time he was so reviled by so many people and was so divisive.

            1. Big River Bandido

              That canard is overstated and that reputation is undeserved. Nixon made a deal with Congressional Democrats in 1969: give me a free hand in foreign affairs and I’ll sign your domestic legislation. Nixon acted not out of principle, but purely pragmatic politics.

    3. Tom Stone

      Being shot in the legs by someone wielding a high caliber AR-14 assault type weapon of war is joking matter.

          1. LawnDart

            A teacher asks a boy in her class “If 3 birds are sitting on a fence, and one is shot, how many are left?” The boy responds with “None.” The teacher asks why. “They would all fly away after hearing the gunshot.” The teacher says, “The answer is 2, but I like the way you think. Later, the boy asks the teacher “3 women walk out of an ice cream shop. One is eating with a spoon, one is licking it, and one is sucking it. Which one is married?” The teacher says “The one sucking it.” The boy says “No, the one wearing the ring, but I like the way you think.”

      1. ambrit

        A quibble, if I may. There was an AR 14 long gun made, which was a civilian sporter rifle in .243, .308. and the really dangerous .358 cartridges. You probably meant the AR 15 platform, from which the infamous M-16 derived. Most of those are chambered in .223, which was designed mainly to wound. The idea was, from a military perspective, that a wounded soldier will take two other soldiers to carry him or her off the field of combat to get medical aid. So, one bullet removes three people from play.
        Considering that the .223 fragments upon hitting bone, my legs being mainly bones, I would really fear this sort of wound.
        For the riot season we are heading into, I would fear more a Maiden Square scenario where the “Forces of Law and Order” set up snipers to shoot at the “good” guys in order to create the pretext for a declaration of Martial Law. Under the now proven doctrine of “Blowback,” the dirty tricks America fostered in the Ukraine will come home to do their ‘Patriotic Duty.’

        1. LawnDart

          What are your thoughts on .22LR? What types of (human) situations might this be useful for? Might it fulfill the military idea?

          I am more used to the Harry Aleman 12-Gauge (no rifling) style of business, but sometimes “BOOM!” is less preferable to “WTF was that?!?.” Drop-guns are exactly that, and I am not looking to off anybody.

          And .22LR Subsonic rounds may enter into the equation. Just looking for thoughts.

          1. ambrit

            My reading has been that .22 LR is preferred by killers due to the easy ‘suppression’ of such rounds and the light weight nature of the piece. We speak here of the more ‘intimate’ sorts of ‘liquidations.’
            Someone a few days ago mentioned that the Istaelis had their border guards shoot Palestinian protesters in the kneecap with .22LR hollow points. This is a permanently disabling action. Those people are never going to walk “right” again. As such, this usage is a terror tactic. Hollow point rounds were banned by the Hague Convention of 1899 on warfare.

            1. LawnDart

              Law is for little people.

              No kneecap would put you to pension quick, if you were a public servant.

                1. ambrit

                  If I’d give odds, I’d imagine that I would be relegated to the trunk.
                  One question being, what exactly comprises a Palestinian Pension?

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      > There are a lot more security voters who are OK with Trump’s words about Law & Order than anyone in the neoliberal media would like you to believe.

      Trump is simply not speaking to any of the people who react to his words by claiming he’s crazy (once again, in 2016, he was crazy enough to beat two party establishments). Now, this implies that he’s making no attempt whatever to “unify the country,” and is therefore not “Presidential,” but the country hasn’t been unified in some time. The issue is how many voters Trump is speaking to, where they are, and how that translates into the electoral college. If I were a MAGA type, I’d be seeing A then B, where A is Trump showing strength, and B is the riots dying down. Ridiculous though that seems to anyone inside the Blue Bubble (and it is, in fact, ridiculous).

  6. Pelham

    “Donald Trump is not in good shape for an incumbent whose country is experiencing a deadly pandemic, an economic collapse, and chaos in the streets.”

    Actually, given all that, it could be argued that he’s doing quite well, being down just 8 points or so.

    1. Big River Bandido

      Trump has already moved aggressively to take full political advantage of both the pandemic and the chaos. And as despicable as his actions are, I have to admit they are powerfully effective — he has energized his base and re-affirmed their faith in him. The pandemic itself is a net plus for Republicans, as any factor that suppresses turnout increases their chances of election.

      As for the Democrats, name one Democrat governor, mayor, or member of Congress that has stood up for working class people. Now name one who has shown contempt for them over the last 3 months. Working class voters will respond in kind, mostly with their feet. As for the top of the ticket, the Democrats’ nominee lacked moral character long before he became senile. How many voters will look at these Democrats and say “yeah, I’d risk my life to stand in line during a pandemic to vote for that clown”?

      The road to the White House runs from IA through MN, WI, MI, OH, to PA. This was once solidly Democrat territory — Bill Clinton and Barack Obama both won all those states, twice, in a walk. If the race in those states is this close at this point, Trump is on path to re-election.

      1. John

        I find it such a sad commentary that in what is touted as “the greatest Democracy in the world” a political party hopes, wishes for, works, connives(?) to have as low a voter turnout as possible.

        1. Big River Bandido

          In fairness, the Democrats do the same thing, but only in the primaries. Worked like a charm this year.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        > And as despicable as his actions are, I have to admit they are powerfully effective — he has energized his base and re-affirmed their faith in him.

        From the Cook Political Report article I linked to:

        One theory was offered by an astute Democratic strategist in a weekend briefing, who observed, “Most of us have Trump exactly wrong. Trump is a terrible inter-party politician, certainly one of the worst in American history. Trump has become an extraordinary intraparty politician, one of the best in American history.” The strategist continued that “no one stopped to notice that the odds he overcame were all the liabilities of being such an historically bad and unpopular candidate. No one noticed even though he ran behind Ron Johnson in Wisconsin, behind Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, and House Republicans nationally by three points.” It’s hard to argue with all of the data showing how badly he does among voters who aren’t Republicans or GOP-leaning independents.

        As far as intraparty politics, it would seem that Trump now practically owns the Republican Party, having taken it away from those who had been its establishment figures and benefactors. According to the same strategist, there are three “institutional realities” that make Trump’s success within the party and how he wins his 90 percent approval rating among Republicans time and again. He cites “the Fox et al information system, greater credibility with and support from Republican voters than almost any of the 53 Republican senators enjoy in their own states, and a Republican Party that has been accelerating its abuse of norms in response to its diminishing popularity.” I have often wondered myself what was behind Trump’s hostile takeover of a party that he had only recently joined and whether the party’s back-to-back losses to Barack Obama, a figure reviled within the tea-party movement, might have contributed to this primal scream of frustration and rebellion against the long-dominant establishment.

    2. John k

      It’s more like one point in the swings that matter. If he’s smart he’d focus fed resources in about eight states.
      Anyway, I thought he was stupid to restart early, plenty of time for a big second wave before nov. But if the swing economies looks to be reviving in October he’ll win.

  7. mle detroit

    If ya gotta do IdPol, as of today my pick for Biden’s VP would be Muriel Bowser…girl don’t mess around.

    1. Massinissa

      Trump: “Biden has selected Bowser as his VP?! Quick, call up that Republican Congressman Mario fellow from Florida! He defeated Covid, and I hear only he can defeat Bowser! He will be my new VP!”

      Secret Serviceman: “You mean Mario Diaz-Balart? Sir, I think you’re thinking of both the wrong Bowser and the wrong Mario…”

    2. ambrit

      Strange idea, but how about Michelle Obama as Biden’s Veep? Then Biden can have an unfortunate small aircraft ride and Obama can thumb his nose at the Clintons. “See? We’re the first husband wife presidents!”

    3. Lambert Strether Post author


      In May, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a budget that called for MPD to receive $45 million dollars of additional funding for the replacement of police cruisers, motorcycles, and specialty support vehicles.

      Has this changed? If not, Bowser is being performative. What were the odds.

      1. J.k

        Yes, I certainly appreciate them trolling Trump with the little p.r stunts they are pulling. But it sure seems the dems are going to to be doing their damndest to co-opt Black Lives Matters and gut the movement. Didnt work in 2015 from what I recall, dont think it will work this time.

        Here is a housing rights activist going off on Bowser.

  8. farmboy

    “price plus the special A-hole Premium”
    from the indictment
    .61 It was further part of the conspiracy that on or about November 9, 2014
    PENN told Supplier-1-Employee-1: “I raised [Q,SR-3] 15c per lb” and “[QSR-3-
    Employee-1] and his crew will pay market price plus the special A-Hole Premium.”
    This chicken price-fixing indictment is priceless.

  9. RMO

    “all workers are essential, and all bosses and managers are not”

    It seems to me that for pretty much anyone making over, oh… $250K per year?(I’m not sure where to draw the line)… there’s at least a 90% chance that replacing them with a department store mannequin would have no effect on the business. Or maybe a net positive effect due to better morale in the office at least.

      1. John

        Remember the play ‘Mr Roberts’ and the mostly hapless Ensign Pulver, the Laundry and Morale Officer? How many earning $250K would struggle with the responsibilities of the Laundry and Morale Officer?

      2. Cynthia

        It’s also certainly true for hospitals as well, WJ. Then again, there’s not much difference between hospitals and universities. Both having too many overpaid and underworked bosses and managers has resulted in students getting a poorer education and patients get worse care. But for some reason no one seems to see the obvious connection between the two. I suspect it has something to do with the managerial class being in cahoots with the class of consultants and adviser, who are equally overpaid and underworked. In other words, it’s a scam they have created together to skim off the top, leaving students with less education and patients with less care.

    1. fresno dan

      June 5, 2020 at 4:24 pm

      … there’s at least a 90% chance that replacing them with a department store mannequin would have no effect on the business.
      I disagree – I suspect productivity would increase AT LEAST 100%
      I am serious. The vast majority of the overseers in the modern hierarchy don’t make any substantive changes in what is done or how it is done – its all rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It just slows down the people who are doing the work.

    2. griffen

      But, how could I get work done without a morale sucking monster leering down upon my shoulders or cyber sleuthing my website searches ?

      And and…what about the meetings ? Think of the children.

  10. Carolinian

    Taibbi on censorship–apologies if this has already been linked.

    In late April, the World Socialist Web Site – which has been one of the few consistent critics of Internet censorship and algorithmic manipulation – was removed by Reddit from the r/coronavirus subreddit on the grounds that it was not “reliable.” The site was also removed from the whitelist for r/politics, the primary driver of traffic from Reddit to the site. Then in early May, at least 52 Palestinian activists and journalists were removed from Facebook for “not following community standards,” part of a years-long pattern of removals made in cooperation with the Israeli government[…]

    despite widespread propaganda to the contrary, the new movement to regulate speech on platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube is, actually, censorship. In the United States, high-ranking politicians in both parties have held congressional hearings and threatened these tech companies with tighter regulation and taxation if they do not develop policies for combating the “fomenting of discord.”

    In response, these companies – which as recently as four or five years ago were disavowing editorial responsibilities, in the case of Facebook going so far as to deny being a media company at all – are now instituting vast new controls. It’s a clear symbiosis: governments permit mining of lucrative markets in exchange for access to the platforms’ monitoring powers.


    As for the attempts to suppress the new Michael Moore produced movie, sez Taibbi

    Maybe Moore is wrong about the environmental movement, but these new suppression tactics are infinitely more dangerous than one movie ever could be, and progressives seem to have lost the ability to care.


    1. The Rev Kev

      From what you say, the Revolution will definitely not be televised – nor will you see it mentioned on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

        1. rowlf

          Baghdad Bob probably still had one toe dipped in reality. Now we have anything anyone would want to support their worldview, or be against any other.

  11. Grebo

    The Economics from the Top Down web site is by Blair Fix who was on Steve Keen’s podcast the other week. Keen gave him a glowing endorsement and he was very interesting.

    He looks at empirical data to answer basic economic questions and explains his findings very clearly. For example; in the linked article he shows that neither intelligence nor race have a large effect on income differences.

    1. ObjectiveFunction

      I also found his earlier piece very interesting indeed, and bookmark worthy.

      Fix’s actual use of statistics seems to me to be a little bit in the Twain mould (Lies, Damned Lies and….the Fix is In, lol?), mostly because it’s so high level. But for those interested, here’s my digest of his key qualitative points (loosely paraphrased, please read the original):

      1. Hierarchy (where one person submits to the will of another) increases with economic development. As industrialization (energy use) increases, governments tend to get larger, and the relative number of managers grows. Social organisms find ways to suppress [or redirect] the self-interest of individuals and to suppress [or channel] competition within groups. The more cohesive the group, the more hierarchical it is.

      2. Span of control determines whether the hierarchy is ‘flat’ or ‘pyramidal’. [Note: I found the simple hierarchy diagram utterly fascinating myself, although the author didn’t go far in this direction.
      Short form: my sense is that most of us here on NC, whether we are ‘small c’ communists or ‘small c’ conservatives, prefer to work and socialize in very ‘flat’ structures, where there isn’t a lot of upward mobility but every warrior in the longship has a direct voice to the leader. Contrast the pyramids, where everyone is credentializing and box checking, kissing up and punching down to win favor and climb closer to the true seats of power]

      3. Obedience to the hierarchy can be viewed as a form of altruism. Obsequium religiosum — religious submission — is a central tenet of Catholic dogma. Confucianism advocates tsun-wang — submission to authority. In Islam, ‘submission’ is implied in the name of the faith itself. Conversely, those who command claim to derive their authority from God.

      4. In this evolutionary context, the theory of free markets [as well as expansive civil liberties] is an outlier. Neoclassical theory proposes that successful groups stoke individual self-interest by using decentralized organization. But human societies do not truly use atomistic competition to develop. And one person’s ‘freedom to’ often comes at the cost of another person’s ‘freedom from’, resulting in conflict.

      5. Free-market theory actually aids in the perpetuation of social hierarchies, by supporting their rejuvenation via the ascent of new leaders. While extolling the creative power of ‘free’ individuals [Captains of Industry], the ideology is more about promoting the autonomy of groups. At core, it affirms the power and right of owners to own, and to command others.

      6. Rather than stoking the ambition of subordinates, successful capitalists suppress or channel it into narrower struggles for power and place within the new hierarchy they now sit atop. Meet the new boss….

  12. edmondo

    “Voters Unlikely to Want to Stay the Course” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “

    So they are going to run out and vote for that revolutionary Joe Biden? I think not.

  13. The Rev Kev

    “Who has been deployed on the streets of Washington?”

    This can be more revealing than you might think if went into. Some time ago I read an article about the number of department that sent up their own militarized police units using SWAT training and requiring the purchase of massive amount of bullets. I should have saved the article as the only department that comes to mind from that article was the Department of Agriculture. Yeah, it was that bizarre.

    1. Tom Stone

      Rev, I thought the Department of Education’s Swat Teams (Plural) took the cake.
      Grammer police!

  14. VietnamVet

    The Iowa testing scam is pretty much to be expected. The West’s commodification of everything means that anything that doesn’t make a profit gets ignored. The basic principles of protecting the public health were lost to the Western Empire. I’m starting my fourth month of incarceration at home. Yet, NYT reported, just yesterday, that “Patients with Type A blood had a 50 percent greater chance that they would need oxygen or a ventilator”. Since blood typing is standard practice when hospitalized, you’d think blood work and outcomes would have been compared at the very start of the pandemic. COVID-19 effects on the cardiovascular system were noted in March. This belated discovery is a result of no money being spent for basic science or for unprofitable ways to save lives.

    Where is government when we need it the most? Ending the corruption and politicians working again for the people is the only way the USA will survive the quadruple disasters of the pandemic, depression, unrest and Donald Trump, all at the same time.

  15. rowlf

    Any chance Black Lives Matter and the groups around them can grow into an independent political party? What does the Democratic party offer them other than a veal pen like it offers unions?

    1. Acacia

      Good summary of the Democrat party offering, rowlf. BLM could aim to become an independent party, but how far would the fledgling party get without jettisoning idPol?

      1. Jim

        Once again the Elites manage to keep poor whites and poor blacks apart. At this point I can only say that I’m impressed !

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      > Any chance Black Lives Matter and the groups around them can grow into an independent political party?

      No. I’ve been wondering how this uprising would end up in the ditch; my picture is that every NGO in the country is writing an anti-racism grant right now.

      1. JBird4049

        As usual they are acting like they are working on solving the problem when really the problem for them is how to best profit from it, which means also not solving it. Four centuries on and racism is still doing its job of empowering and enriching the elites.

        I wonder if the people who worked on the New York Times’ 1619 Project realized that they were essentially doing the same racism for profit as the early British colonial leadership did? Creating and maintaining racial categories to denigrate, demonize, repress, and exploit the masses for profit.

        1. rowlf

          Thanks for the replies all. I had a feeling it fit in the “Cure cancer? Where’s the profit in that?” category.

  16. George Phillies

    “In addition, the platform is only offered in English and Spanish, making it inaccessible to speakers of other languages common in the factories where Covid-19 is most prevalent in Iowa, where immigrants from Mexico,…”

    It’s not technically impossible, notably for folks from far southern Mexico, but am I the only one who found hat sentence slightly odd?

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