2:00PM Water Cooler 12/14/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, it occurred to me that although we writers have now gone some days without any of those 524/522 errors that were plaguing us, I never personally thanked our expert and patient technical team for fighting their way through to the correct insight that solved a difficult intermittent problem. So thank you! –lambert

Bird Song of the Day

A swamp bird (editorializing just a little bit on this, Electoral College Day).


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

Case count by United States region:

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

I thought I’d look at some big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California) instead of the Midwest:

Texas and Florida diverge, but California sprints ahead.

Test positivity by region:

Now the west catches up. Data issues?

Nowhere near 3%, though.

Hospitalization by region:

Hospitalization is also discretionary; they may also be reducing their admissions rate — relative to cases we cannot see in this data! — to preserve future capacity.

Case fatality rate by region:

Slight decrease in slope, driven by the Midwest only.

I thought I’d look at the world league tables:

Obviously, we’re exceptional.

* * *

AL: “Doctors treating some COVID patients at home as Alabama hospitals run low on beds” [AL.com (Re Silc)]. “A pulse oximeter can identify patients who aren’t getting enough oxygen and need hospital treatment. Robin Scott, a nurse practitioner in Marshall County, has treated several patients at home with pulse oximeters and, in some cases, portable oxygen. Before COVID, she said she would always send patients to the hospital when their oxygen levels dropped below 90. Now she has learned to manage some of her patients at home with portable oxygen. She started ordering oxygen and breathing treatments for some patients who refused to go to the hospital. ‘They’re terrified,’ Scott said. ‘They are absolutely terrified of this virus and being ventilated and dying and this is all very scary for them.’ Scott’s staff members keep close tabs on COVID patients. ‘I have staff that if somebody that is very ill, they call them every single day,’ Scott said. ‘For the most part, we have had tremendous success keeping them out of the hospital.'” • If you’re worried about your hospital being a death trap/profit mill, that’s a good thing. For pulse oximeters, see NC in April here.


“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

Election Legitimacy

Democrats in Disarray

I think this is good. Let’s see how Omar does!

“Former aide Lindsey Boylan alleges Cuomo ‘sexually harassed’ her about looks” [New York Post]. • She was no angel! To be fair to Cuomo, his book is selling well:

Oh, wait….

“Democrats Have a Problem. ‘Workers, Wages, Weed’ May Be the Answer.” [Eric Levitz, New York Magazine]. ” There appears to be no alternative to winning over a lot of Trump voters. And that means getting Republican-leaning non-college-educated voters to see the Democratic Party in a different light.” Wait. You mean shaming and fingerwagging won’t do the job? More: “What centralizing messaging [as opposed to the “Big Tent”] should entail is reaching internal consensus around a small number of policies that are (1) broadly popular, (2) difficult if not impossible for Republicans to support, (3) especially resonant with non-college-educated voters, and (4) of high substantive value (since centering these policies in messaging will mean putting them toward the top of the governing agenda upon victory)…. “Workers, Wages, Weed” seems like a solid fit for the Democrats’ branding needs.” • If only the liberal Democrat PMC base didn’t hate the working class….

UPDATE Those ice cream freezers don’t buy themselves, you know:

Transition to Biden

“Making America dull again” [The Hill]. “But, if under President Biden, controversies aren’t dished out by the truckload, reporters will go hunting themselves for something to write about, turning minor kerfuffles into distracting imbroglios in order to feed the media beast…. Look how Trump has helped so far. By monopolizing every moment of the post-election season, he’s diverted the press and allowed Biden to quietly build a new government. The president-elect has issued a few statements, introduced some nominees — but he hasn’t dealt with reporters much; his main interviews so far have been relatively news free. That’s because, right now, the press has a more captivating story to focus on: the current president’s wild fraud accusations, impressive string of court defeats, and the mystery surrounding what he might do come Inauguration Day. It’s a bonanza of front-page material that’s pushed Biden back next to the horoscopes and weather forecasts. He may not like that, but the president-elect really needs his nemesis to keep it up.”

[puts head in hands]

So we just bet the country on “the soul of America,” something nobody can see or touch and that only Joe Biden believes in. And if he wants to convert a lot of new believers, he’s gonna have to work harder than he’s working now. (It’s weird to me that if we take liberal Democrats at their word, and Trump is staging a coup because he’s The Second Coming of Hitler, you’d think they’d be feverishly setting up parallel institutions. But they sedately wait for Inauguration Day, and have been for months.) Then again–

UPDATE “How Cities Make Democrats'” [Perry Bacon, Bluegrass Beat]. “This is just speculation, but I think one thing that makes Biden a little better than some of his generational peers is that he is so purely a retail politician who operates on instinct. Joe Biden does not seem like a guy who is out there getting consultants to feed him message-tested pablum. He just thinks he speaks to voters on a personal level. You saw that some in the primaries when he was getting in weird (and probably inadvisable) scuffles on the campaign, but it was just Joe being Joe. That willingness to fly by the seat of his pants and trust his political instincts makes him a little more flexible as circumstances change… I hope.”

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: “Retail Hiring Slows In November – On Pace To Fall Below 2019 Level” [Econintersect]. “Seasonal Retail employment gains declined 35% in November from the previous November, as employers added 302,100 jobs in the sector last month compared to 466,400 during November of last year, according to an analysis of non-seasonally adjusted data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics…. ‘November is the month where Retailers typically add the bulk of their holiday workers. While this year has been atypical and many Retailers beefed up their staff in March and April, Retail employment is down overall this year,’ said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.”

Consumer Expectations: “November 2020 Consumer Expectations Rise Despite Flat Income and Earning Expectations” [Econintersect]. “The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Center for Microeconomic Data released the November 2020 Survey of Consumer Expectations, which shows that despite flat income and earnings growth expectations, households’ year-ahead spending growth expectations rose sharply in November to 3.7%, the highest level recorded in more than 4 years.”

* * *

The Bezzle: I don’t know why, but whenever tech people design vehicles they come up with these offensively inoffensive designs that me want to smash them to smithereens with a sledgehammer:

Tech: An epic thread on enterprise software engineering at Uber. Well worth a read:

Mr. Market:

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72 Extreme Greed (previous close: 76 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 88 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 14 at 1:10pm.

Rapture Index: Closes up one on Peace Process. “Several Arab nations have now established diplomatic relations with Israel.” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. (Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing, so high is better.)

Health Care

“Rural doctors face vaccine distrust and conspiracies. They have a plan.” [NBC]. “The first shots — all administered to doctors — will be broadcast on a public Zoom call Thursday night, hours after the hospital first receives the vaccine, so the public can see the process and hear the doctors’ thoughts. Other health care workers can begin getting vaccinated at 5:30 a.m. CT Friday.”

“‘It’s peace of mind’: Covid-19 vaccines can’t arrive soon enough for many frontline health workers” [STAT]. “While there is vaccine hesitancy among health care workers as well as the general public — in one study, 36% of nurses said they would not take the vaccine — many other frontline medical workers, exhausted by the pandemic and the many risks they’ve taken to provide care these long months, say the shots can’t come soon enough. Some are taking to Twitter to gleefully announce vaccination appointments. Those interviewed by STAT spoke about the relief they hope the vaccines will bring, which health care workers should be vaccinated first, and, in one case, why health care workers should not be first in line.” • Hmm. Are we looking at another “airtight consensus” here?

* * *

A good thread on the role of WHO:

(LMIC = Low to Middle Income Countries.) Worth noting too that mask resistors, up until fairly recently, could be said to be following WHO’s advice (“trust science”). Not that they were; but WHO certainly wasn’t helping our situation.

* * *

“Here’s What Medicare For All Supporters In Congress Can Actually Do” [David Sirota, The Daily Poster]. “Over the weekend, there has been a raging debate on social media, in which some progressive critics began demanding that lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use their votes in the upcoming House Speaker election as leverage to get a commitment for a floor vote on Medicare for All legislation…. However, only asking for that performative vote — rather than also asking for things that might change the structural power dynamic — would be a waste, and yet another instance of progressives reverting to a feckless tradition of prioritizing spectacles rather than the wielding of actual power. They could additionally condition their vote for Pelosi on a commitment that she:

– Remove the Medicare for All opponent who chairs the key committee [Richard Neal]

– Schedule a vote on existing legislation to let states create single-payer health care systems

– Schedule a vote on a resolution demanding Biden use executive authority to expand Medicare

– Include provisions in year-end spending bills that create a presidential commission charged with crafting a Medicare for All program

– Author a discharge petition to force a vote on Medicare for All

• That’s a good list (and boy would I like to see Neal, who is a nasty piece of work, taken down a peg). More on the raging debate on social media:

The Biosphere

“The costs of tackling climate change keep on falling” [Financial Times]. “In 2006, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change foresaw a cost of 1 per cent of global GDP to reduce global fossil fuel-related emissions from 25 gigatonnes to 18 Gt by 2050, with zero emissions only achieved after 2075. A recent report from the Energy Transitions Commission suggests a cost below 1 per cent to achieve net-zero emissions globally by mid-century. This is a trivial sum to save the world from catastrophic climate change.” • The cost is trivial today, and was trivial in 2006. Cost, then, is not the issue.

Wresting control of the permitting process is a PITA, but it can be done:


“US-backed Mekong monitoring project set to test China’s patience” [South China Morning Post]. “A Washington-sponsored programme aimed at monitoring the state of the Mekong River risks further testing already fraught US-China relations when it officially launches on Tuesday. The Mekong Dam Monitor is an open-source online platform that promises to provide weekly updates using remote sensing and satellite imagery on the levels of reservoirs at 13 dams along the Mekong’s main stretch, as well as at 15 tributary dams with power generation capacities greater than 200MW. It further seeks to circulate weekly visualisations and analysis of “China’s 11 dam cascade on the upper Mekong”, as well as maps and data on temperature, snow cover, precipitation and other indicators along the river’s full course, according to its website.

The collaborative project from the Washington-based Stimson Center think tank’s Southeast Asia programme and Eyes On Earth Inc. – a US research and consulting company specialising in water – comes after years of frustrations from countries along the river at China’s lack of transparency with sharing such information.” • On the Mekong, see NC here (and destroying Tonle Sap is an act of vandalism, pure and simple).

The 420

“These Nuns Grow Weed” [Modern Farmer]. “Sister Kate established her sisterhood, Sisters of the Valley, in 2015 after a series of life changing events. First, she went through what she says was a devastating divorce in 2008 that left her penniless and briefly homeless as a single mother raising three children. She started growing her own food and cannabis in her backyard to become self-sufficient. In 2014, she decided to produce cannabis-based tinctures and salves to support herself. At the same time, she began attending Occupy movement protests, wearing a nun’s costume. When people asked her what exactly she stood for, she told them and she says they encouraged her to formalize her beliefs. Then in 2016, Sister Kate started growing cannabis and making products using Cannabidiol, or CBD, such as oils and teas on her farm while subscribing to a code of values that she says is loosely based on the Beguines religious orders of the Middle Ages. …. ‘We are walking and marching into a world where we will have weed nuns in every province on the planet and every county and province in the world,’ Sister Kate says. ‘When people see us in our veils they will know what we represent just like they do [when] a fireman [is] in his uniform.'” • I think this is great! (Best headline ever, too).


Round and round:


Can someone please interpret:

Xmas Pregame Activities

With 150,000 lightbulbs, fighter jet pilots use it for navigation:

“COVID-19: ‘Superspreader’ Santa blamed for coronavirus outbreak at Belgian care home” [Sky News]. • Of course.

Groves of Academe

“U.S. Schools Are Buying Phone-Hacking Tech That the FBI Uses to Investigate Terrorists” [Gizmodo]. “Public documents reviewed by Gizmodo indicate that school districts have been quietly purchasing surveillance tools of their own for years…. Gizmodo has reviewed similar accounting documents from eight school districts, seven of which are in Texas, showing that administrators paid as much $11,582 for the controversial surveillance technology. Known as mobile device forensic tools (MDFTs), this type of tech is able to siphon text messages, photos, and application data from student’s devices. Together, the districts encompass hundreds of schools, potentially exposing hundreds of thousands of students to invasive cell phone searches. While companies like Cellebrite have partnered with federal and local police for years, that the controversial equipment is also available for school district employees to search students’ personal devices has gone relatively unnoticed—and serves as a frightening reminder of how technology originally developed for use by the military or intelligence services, ranging from blast-armored trucks designed for use in war zones to invasive surveillance tools, keeps trickling down to domestic police and even the institutions where our kids go to learn.”

Book Nook

Big LeCarré fan here:

“John le Carré, author, 1931-2020” [Financial Times]. “British imperial decline, and the dubious strategies of the political classes and intelligence services to disguise that decline during the cold war, form the backdrop to many of the 25 novels of le Carré, who has died at the age of 89. Espionage was the genre that earned him fame. But he used it as a platform to explore larger ethical problems and the human condition with such insight that many fellow authors and critics regarded him as one of the finest English-language novelists of the 20th century.”

“Obit: John le Carré’s nuanced, intricately plotted Cold War thrillers elevated spy novel to high art” [Economic Times]. “‘As much as in Tolkien, Wodehouse, Chandler or even Jane Austen, this closed world is a whole world,’ the critic Boyd Tonkin wrote in The Independent. ‘Via the British ‘Circus’ and its Soviet counterpart, Le Carré created a laboratory of human nature; a test-track where the innate fractures of the heart and mind could be driven to destruction.’ In a career spanning more than a half-century, le Carré wrote more than two dozen books and set them as far afield as Rwanda, Chechnya, Turkey, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia. He addressed topics as diverse as the power of pharmaceutical companies, the Arab-Israeli conflict and — after the Berlin Wall fell and his novels became more polemical, and he became more politicized — American and British human-rights excesses in countering terrorism.” • The pharmaceutical novel is The Constant Gardener; perhaps I should read it.

“John le Carré was a 21st century writer” [Open Democracy]. The deck: On his death, the establishment is patronising England’s great novelist as a Cold War figure, rather than confonting why he hated them.” More: “Overwhelmingly the salutations in his obituaries emphasise his role in the Cold War. They are filled with a stench of stale melancholy for past self-importance. He despised such sentimentality, personally there was nothing nostalgic about him. Starting with The Constant Gardiner which he published in 2001, he wrote seven novels in this century alone. His theme was the predations of corporate power, the corruptions of finance, the inhumanity of the looting of Africa, the venality of modern capitalism, the abuse of surveillance and the vile penetration of arms-dealing, as politicians danced to the tunes of oligarchs. Often his contemporary work is described as ‘angry’ as if his views could be dismissed as the weaknesses of old age. In fact they were a tough, always carefully calibrated, exercise of hard judgment.” • Interesting also for LeCarré’s connection to Open Democracy, starting with the Iraq War.

Guillotine Watch

Such bad, bad taste:

Class Warfare

“Restraining Capital” [Stumbling and Mumbling]. “Martin Wolf argues that Milton Friedman was wrong to claim that the only social responsibility of business is to increase profits. I agree with him, but I fear he under-rates two important facts: historical context and class power…. Centrists criticise the left for failing to see that good ideas are useless unless you win elections. But we can turn this jibe around. From the point of view of restraining capital, there’s a difference between winning office and winning power. As I’ve long complained, technocrats are too often blind to the realities of capitalist power. The challenge for anybody wanting a healthy capitalism, then, is how to achieve the power, the leverage, to do so? Insofar as capitalism operated in the wider public interest at the time that Friedman was writing (which of course is a matter of dispute) it did so because it faced countervailing power. Today, it no longer does so to the same extent. Here, the left has an insight, if not a successful application thereof – the need to build an anti-capitalist hegemony, something which can only be done outside of parliamentary politics.”

“How McKinsey, the World’s Most Elite Consulting Firm, Helped Turbocharge America’s Opioid Epidemic” [Jacobin]. “Even more disturbing is a 2017 presentation reviewed by the Times in which McKinsey presented additional options to help Purdue Pharma increase sales, among them the idea of offering a rebate to distributors for every OxyContin overdose attributable to the pills they’d sold. The presentation even included projections for how many customers at companies like CVS and Anthem would either die or develop opioid use disorders (at the former, for example, it projected 2,484 “events” in 2019, estimating a cost of $36.8 million to Purdue at a rate of $14,810 per rebate).” • The opioid epidemic has killed 450,000 people so far, but mostly in flyover and over 20 years, so it’s not really a story, unlike Covid.

Dean of the Impressionists:

News of the Wired

Only twelve years ago?

* * *

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 (Carla):

Carla writes:”This, the last rose in our Cleveland garden, bloomed on Thanksgiving day.” Gorgeous tones, like a still life from the golden age of Dutch painting.

* * *

Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the recently concluded and — thank you! — successful annual NC fundraiser. So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

Here is the screen that will appear, which I have helpfully annotated.

If you hate PayPal, you can email me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, and I will give you directions on how to send a check. Thank you!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. ambrit

      I likewise. An invaluable resource.
      Now, to find an inexpensive oxygen source. (There are so many gatekeepers to simple medical equipment. Each adds cost, not value.)

  1. Greg

    Oh the ibis. They have a four word name too, that is only suitable for polite company if your definition of polite is from down under.
    For the Australian opinion on the glorious ibis, see this song – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mO-OpFjHRbE
    And he’s not wrong, they’re an absolute menace if you spend any time around say, Sydney.

  2. zagonostra

    >Here’s What Medicare For All Supporters In Congress Can Actually Do – [David Sirota]

    I find it interesting that Jimmy Dore was studiously ignored in this article by Sirota. The only mention of JD, who I think is responsible for initiating the whole “raging debate on social media, is from Justin Jackson, the NFL football player, and to find that have you have to go the the linked twitter feed.

    I don’t know where Sirota stands. His call for substantive demands are fine. But does he call for supporting the pressure or not? He refers to a “performative vote.” But isn’t this a “performative democracy?”

    I think Sirota like most of the “Squad” and progressives fear their critics on the Left. They will get hammered from the Right and don’t want to engage the JD’s of the world. But I say, too F%^king bad. You entered the rough and tumble of politics grow a backbone, ovaries, or whatever human anatomy of your choice. And be a “man” go on JD”s show, I know I heard him give you have an open invitation.

      1. Baby Gerald

        Jimmy debated with David Sirota about this on an impromptu live broadcast on his YT channel just now. I only caught the closing minutes of the discussion but I can say that Sirota came off very disappointing. Jimmy got him to admit that he’s worried for Pelosi’s speakership. I suggest looking to Jimmy’s YT channel for a future clip– I have no doubt at all that he will post the entire discussion in short order.

        Jimmy was also on the Katie Halper Show last night. She had a massive guest list last night, starting with a long conversation with Christian Parenti, then transitioning into a discussion of Jimmy’s strategy with Sirota, Stoller, Briahna Joy Gray, Justin Jackson, and Jimmy himself. Jimmy thoroughly dismantled the similar weak sauce arguments offered by Matt Stoller. In my humble evaluation, Stoller was utterly unmasked as a sinophobic chaos agent against any progressive ideas during a pandemic last night. The discussion starts at the 2:10 mark and Jimmy comes in 40 minutes later.

        1. furies

          Thanks, Gerald.

          As time goes on I’m more and more a JD fan. He did mention Sirota’s piece on his YT channel today. Agree also that DS is a poser, and that Stoller must be watched carefully.

          People’s Party 2024

        2. Dr. John Carpenter

          By chance I caught the fallout on his live stream which was on about an hour ago. I guess Sirota took exception to JD’s categorization and ended up coming back on the show, guns a blazin’. I didn’t see the first part so I can’t say if Jimmy misrepresented his position or not. Your assessment sounds like maybe he didn’t.

          To the initial post, I will give Sirota credit for going on Jimmy’s show, twice. But just based on what Sirota said on the second call, he didn’t exactly come off as strongly in agreement with Jimmy as he claimed. And he seemed more upset that his credentials were questioned than anything else.

          This is kind of fascinating to watch. I doubt it will come to anything but it’s interesting how upset this is getting people.

      2. Zagonostra

        I mentioned that the tweet referenced him thanks…live stream a couple of minutes ago with Sirota was heated, lot of F bombs from Sirota directed at JD, very interesting.

    1. Keith

      Progressive: Madam Speaker Pelosi, why do you ignore us?

      Pelosi: [slaps impudent progressive] Your place is to be seen, not heard. Now vote as you have been instructed and tell the rabble what you will. Now, be gone from my sight!

      Progressives: As it pleases you. [Bows and leaves, stage right]

    2. Grant

      My personal opinion is that many on the left seem to think it is up to AOC and the like to change things. Never been the case. The left still isn’t organizing mass protests, rent strikes, sit ins and the like. So, I don’t understand what the left thinks is going to change or how it will ever take power unless it starts to do stuff like that. Not only does it get people involved in politics, radical politics at that, but it also helps to connect people, which makes organizing thereafter much easier. There are strikes here and there, the DSA and the like should be organizing and leading this nationally. It would be a thousand times more effective than a vote or anything Dore is talking about.

      The right will seize on this too, the suffering and the anger at the system, and they will turn it against vulnerable groups and away from the capitalists paying their bills. The system is rotten, corrupt, failing people, and that is on full display. So, take advantage and organize people around alternatives, give them a space to use their anger to fuel some long overdue changes. I think if this exact same amount of suffering and state inaction happened in 1935, those in power would already be afraid. It was a big factor in things like the New Deal passing, the power of socialists, communists and far more radical trade unions. If unions and radical groups were as weak then as they are now, things would have been radically different.

    3. The Rev Kev

      I see that ‘Bernie Sanders Proposes Emergency Version Of ‘Medicare For All’ For The Pandemic’ and wonder what the point is. Back in April as the pandemic was just starting to take off, he announced that he was abandoning the fight for medicare for all when it would have been desperately needed. Well, the election is over now and Progressives are being completely sidelined by Biden if not ignored. Sanders does not seem to have been offered anything at all. Not even an Ambassadorship in Zambia. Any leverage that he had back in March while the CARES Act was being passed he never used. He did take credit for the ‘crumbs’ that were in it but that part was written by a guy called Bennett I think. At this point he has no leverage, too many embittered people who had supported him so is this a try at getting some – any – sort of future leverage with his good friend Joe?

    4. ShamanicFallout

      We hear it said: “We need to elect Dems and then ‘push them left, holding their feet to the fire’”. But then, Progressive (in this case Dore) pushes said Dems ‘left’- they say “NO! Not like that!”

      Man, that Dore is like a modern John the Baptist- a voice crying in the wilderness

      1. Charger01

        Knives out. The problem, as Stoller (and Chapo Trap House maven Amber D’Lee Frost puts it succulently, ” we need to work on a ‘we’ project first.” Just like the Dems, progressives (on YT no less) are more than willing to gut themselves on the minor points than agree on their larger goals going forward. This is the same “divide and conquer” strategy that neutered the labor movement a generator prior.

  3. Louis Fyne

    so I guess (unscientifically) California-level lockdowns = same as placebo (Texas).

    So will Newsom propose Wuhan-level lockdowns? (roving bands of police snatching people off the street)

    1. dcblogger

      New Zealand wiped out covid with shut downs and face masks. they also paid people to stay home and compensated businesses to close. hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to die because our elite is opposed to a people’s bailout.

      1. Wukchumni

        This was a missive from a friend in Auckland I posted on here April 19th…

        “Things are not bad – pretty sick of lock down but tomorrow they’ll announce it we go down to level 3 on Thursday which would be a big relief. It’s very strict although the police take a pretty good humoured approach, and you can’t really go anywhere unless you like hanging out at supermarkets. Someone got a month in jail after their sixth breach. I think I can run the business ok under level 3 rules.

        I wouldn’t say people are big on being told what to do here but most have the sense to realise that the government’s not the enemy in this. It’s times like these when a benevolent welfare state shows it can sometimes work fairly equitably although it will eternally be a battle to offer enough to those who’ve hit rock bottom without making it an appealing lifestyle option.

        Homelessness used to be pretty much invisible here (when I was a kid begging was completely unknown – never saw a single case till I went to Sydney in 1976 where I was shocked to see people lying in the gutter). More now but apparently very mild compared with the SF’s of this world.

        If business owners can show that their turnover for one month is over 30% down on the same month last year, you get about $575 for each fulltime employee and $350 for each part timer (20 hours or less a week) x 12 weeks worth. That includes self employed. I wasn’t going to bother applying but my wife said we should so I did – got about $11000 within about a week or so. If you applied early enough, apparently the money came through within hours. Don’t envy some federal system here at present – it’s like the same old excuse that big companies make for their incompetence – sooo big…soo busy…sooo many customers! One would presume that with all those resources and momentum they’d be hyper efficient at churning out those $1200 cheques?

        Even if they did, how long would that last anyway? I was reading a thread on City Data where someone asked whether a job offer of 125K in San Francisco was worth accepting. Almost to a man their fellow bloggers said ‘forget it’.

        What’s the beef with socialism there? (which they already have anyway when it suits them) I would have thought the death toll in something like the Vietnam war was highly socialised. I understand the law of the jungle but doesn’t that only work if there’s some way of limiting the numbers of the little guys?”

      2. JBird4049

        >>>…Paid people to stay home and compensated businesses to close.

        What? Pay people to just layabout like some bum? Only some kind of progressive communist freak says that?! /S

        Seriously, that is what I think too many of those in power think. What has sicking me recently is not their supposed ideologies, or even their actions, but their contempt for anyone not of the their class. Let’s just frack the poors. America truly is a class based society despite any flag waving to the contrary.c

        Seeing clips of various “leaders” from Pelosi repeatedly saying she doesn’t want to hear about the poors to McConnell laughing like a demented hyena when accused of ignoring the crisis was really disturbing. Then you have to those like some Republican senators complaining about the unemployed making too much money and being lazy while the economy is shut down and an a lethal epidemic is happening.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I saw a chart on a JD clip which shows what other countries are paying their people and the US is unique in paying 0% and is right at the beginning of this video. The subject of this video itself is the CNN business guy saying that people do not need stimulus checks so the hell with him-

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YXkF89lfcRs (10:32 mins)

        2. drumlin woodchuckles

          Is there a link to footage of McConnell laughing like a hyena? It would go well with the Clinton cackle.

          1. JBird4049

            Don’t know if I misremembered or if my googlefu is bad today as I can’t find what I remember hearing. Anyways, here is McConnell laughing weirdly, but not hyena-like, and with his “smile” during debate.

  4. Alternate Delegate

    The Uber software development dumpster fire described by McLaren Stanley winds up with a heartwarming pean to difficulties overcome, which turned my stomach.

    Where is the “discipline of the market” when you need a failure to FAIL? Nowhere to be seen, in this case.

    They kept feeding endless piles of cash into the dumpster fire, year after year, along with their developers’ personal lives. I can imagine just how voluntary those ninety-hour work weeks were, as well as how all the “burnt-out” developers fared. The project appear to have survived mainly because of a series of special breaks from Apple.

    All in order to keep that preposterous shambles moving, and make the drivers’ lives worse. Bathos.

    1. Glen

      I’m still winding my way through the details, but this is starting to look like many of the software projects I have been on.

      A couple lessons learned –

      So in most engineering disciplines you can have two people side by side, making the same salary, and one person is ten times more productive than the other. It happens. In software that ratio can grow to 100 to 1. A good rule of thumb – don’t piss that person off (which means keep them away from the idiots with MBAs).

      Depending on the programmer’s foresight, skill, history, etc, software projects can turn into a barely running hot mess anywhere from 10,000 lines of code (one guy, not doing great) to 250,000 lines of code (believe me, I’ve seen it done, the guy was pretty amazing), but at some point your software project will run into the inevitable discussion of “this thing is a mess, we have to re-architect and redo the whole thing” vs. “no, we know it’s a quivering blob, but if we beat it just right, we can get it to work”. Generally this results because the finance guys are in the room, and ALWAYS want to do it as cheap as possible until you do have a five alarm fire.

      Yup, been there, done that.

      1. a different chris

        Note though, there is no right decision, ever. Yogi Berra’s quote about the future comes to mind. We know that the internal combustion engine is a hack, it is also the single most important thing in modern society (haha people think it’s the Internet lordy) and we can’t seem to stop refining it and move on.

        Also don’t leave out the Marketing Guys, who (and if you are lucky, are really good, if you are not so much, well uh)… who fly in from whatever and are gobsmacked to see the coders on a 5 year rewrite of a code base that they are sure will be long past its sell by date in 3 years.

        Whatever you do, nobody gets to re-run your play over again in real life. Just some overheads in a business class making guesses, “look at these great decisions…” when things accidentally work and “if they had only…” for the losers. But no actual proof of anything so we bumble along.

        Note: you are correct in the last-century sense about the finance guys, but since Uber and SpaceX and Amazon and you-name-it apparently never actually have to make money then I don’t know what voice they have in anything nowadays. Once upon a time I would have thought that was a good thing, suddenly I’m not so sure.

        1. RMO

          Keeping it specific to Uber my reaction was “All this just to run a taxi service at a huge loss while paying the drivers peanuts.”

          1. drumlin woodchuckles

            The long-term UberLyft hope is to exterminate “taxi” from the face of the earth. Then they can raise the price high enough to run the un-taxi disservice at a huge profit while replacing each driver with ten interns ” who will pay ME to LET them do your job.”

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              I don’t even think this is the “hope” as much as its a grift with the only goal being to leave someone else holding the bag.

              1. drumlin woodchuckles

                Well, everyone who bought into the bag, and buys into it today, certainly deserves to be left holding it.

        2. Glen

          For software – think more levels.

          I work with the guys that write the code for the Electronic Engine Controller that runs an Internal Combustion Engine, and I write the code that that runs the equipment that BUILDS the ICE.

          Except I don’t work on ICE, that would be nice. When ICE breaks it just generally rolls to the side of the road and stops. When the stuff I work on breaks, worse things happen.

          And weirdly enough, the MBAs where I work are in more control than ever. Before they used to ask us what it cost and leave us alone.

          1. JBird4049

            So the people in active control of those who know the most are those who know the least. Why do we have MBAs again?

            1. Skip Intro

              I believe it has been described as ‘producing an excess of elites’, in one of the studies of morbid symptoms I read here recently.

            2. Glen

              MBAs are very focused on cost, and have been trained that all things and people are the essentially the same and can be replaced with cheaper units. This conflicts with the reality of DOING software where we have a super wide range of effectiveness among the people doing the work.

              Normally it works, sometimes it can be abused.

                1. drumlin woodchuckles

                  They may not even know the cost of everything. Or anything. They may only know the price of everything.

      2. ChrisPacific

        My alarm bells started going off at “rewrite it from scratch.” Stuff like the maximum number of libraries per binary is just basic due diligence, but that’s boring and devalued by slogans like “let builders build.”

        Yes it’s hard and there’s no silver bullet, but you don’t do yourself any favors by falling into easily predictable and avoidable traps, or by not leaving yourself an exit ramp.

  5. Toshiro_Mifune

    Such bad, bad taste
    That’s about 15 mins from where I live. It used to be mostly farms in the 70s.

      1. Jen

        Oh no, it doesn’t rival, it takes bad taste to a completely different level. Especially the “cockroach sink.” Think Married to the Mob crossed with Martha Stewart on acid.

  6. drumlin woodchuckles

    Not directly related to above comments but . . . dear fellow readers, I have thought of a semi-easy two-hop shortcut way to find Lambert Strether’s articles on soil or other environmental topics even without their being
    assigned a topic category to be filed under.

    And it goes like this. Click on the name Lambert Strether on any of Lambert Strether’s posts, and then read all the titles till you find the soil or other environmental titles. That should take only a minute or two anyway. And if they are as easy to find that way as I think they may be, people can keep going back and back and back to those threads with yet more information and ideas and links and sources relevant to the topic. And other people shall know that they may go there and find these growing ammunition stockpiles of weaponisable information.

    1. Greg

      If you still trust search to do a half decent job, you could also do this –

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Thank you. Now we have TWO semi-easy methods to find these posts. Two different methods for two different tastes in method.

        So here’s hoping people will begin finding and loading up the relevant comment threads with actionable weaponisable information and links and/or sources to or about such information.

  7. Watt4Bob

    Talking about John le Carré;

    Often his contemporary work is described as ‘angry’ as if his views could be dismissed as the weaknesses of old age.

    Looks to me like the old “disgruntled worker” trope.

    I have been reading his stuff for many years, and the last word I would use to describe his work is ‘angry‘.

    John le Carré, it seems to me, was making amends to the world for the evil done by his employers, the intel services that do the dirty work for their clients, the ‘commercial interests‘ of the Anglo-American empire.

    I’d put John le Carré in the same category as Smedley Butler, both former front-line agents of empire who came to understand they were working for a gigantic racket, and tried in their own way to redeem their honor by committing themselves to telling the truth.

    1. orlbucfan

      I read Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. I was disappointed by it. The language was very stilted, and hurt the story telling.

      1. s.n.

        i’ve read them all, and found his later efforts less than compelling, from the 80s on, although always very elegantly phrased. (think he had trouble coping with up-to-the-minute impact of tech on contemporary espionage. A very different world than “the spy who came in…”.

        my favourite le carré is ‘small town in germany’. dunno how it would hold up in a reread

  8. Stillfeelinthebern

    Wisconsin Supreme Court rejects Trum*s last stand in Wisconsin. Interestingly, the 4-3 decision rests on a conservation judge (Hagendorn) elected in 2019 and he wrote the opinion. Haven’t read it all yet.

    Hagedorn said the campaign’s delay in not seeking relief until after the election was “unreasonable in the extreme,” a decision that could harm election officials, other candidates, voters in the affected counties and voters statewide. For Hagedorn, who was elected in 2019 with the help of Republicans, his joining with the court’s three liberal-backed justices further cements him as a crucial swing vote on the court and threatens to alienate him from his conservative base of support.

    “Unreasonable delay in the election context poses a particular danger——not just to municipalities, candidates, and voters, but to the entire administration of justice,” Hagedorn said. “The issues raised in this case, had they been pressed earlier, could have been resolved long before the election. Failure to do so affects everyone, causing needless litigation and undermining confidence in the election results. It also puts courts in a difficult spot.


    1. albrt

      This is the reason why Trump’s lawsuits have failed so uniformly, even with Trump appointed judges. It is pretty basic to American election law that you don’t get to wait until after you lose the election to complain about the rules and ask for a do over.

      I agree with the Trump people about many of the things they are now complaining about – corrupt voting machine companies being at the top of the list. But my concerns don’t flip flop depending on whether my candidate wins or loses.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Of all the things Trump has been complaining “about”, I haven’t heard any referrences to inherently fraud-based digital technosystems. Have I missed something?

  9. Carla

    “Include provisions in year-end spending bills that create a presidential commission charged with crafting a Medicare for All program”

    Omigod, NO! Not Bidencare! We have the blueprint for Expanded, Improved Medicare for All in Jayapal’s HB 1384. NO COMMISSIONS NEEDED.

  10. NotTimothyGeithner

    Re: Biden’s political instincts.

    I think Biden has a better sense of the moment when it doesn’t really cost him, and we certainly saw that with gay marriage. He even put it out in such a way to protect Obama. Biden’s line attacked people for not thinking Obama supported gay marriage if memory serves.

    The real problem is Biden is still an idiot and his staffing indicates he won’t be well served. His instinct could easily be to do something healthcare related, but the combination of his lack of intellectual curiosity and his laziness will mean he will be a listless ship.

    Even his lines about people needing help. He understands people need help, but his appeal was to the wealthy and to do it through a claim the people he wants to help are really deserving. His instinct is right, but he has no concept of what an end is, much less how to get there. So in the end, Biden talks about nonsense such as “soul of the nation” because for him, its been about people being nice to Joe.

  11. jr

    RE: How Cities incubate Democrats

    “He just thinks he speaks to voters on a personal level.”

    I think it’s slightly better that he is his own flavor of delusional instead of being self-reflectively hoodwinked by advisors, the odds seem lower he will do as much damage. They are vampires; Joe is a revenant.

  12. David

    Thanks for picking up the sad death of John Le Carré. He’ll be much missed. I would just underline two things.
    The first is that Le Carré worked in government, albeit for only a handful of years. (In this, though in almost nothing else, he resembles CP Snow, whose novels likewise drip with insider atmosphere). Like some other areas, perhaps, politics and government are special, and if you’ve worked there for even a brief time, you know infinitely more than someone who has never done so. So whilst Le Carré is very good on intelligence and spying issues, he also provides a completely convincing account of what Ministers do, how Whitehall departments fight with each other, how Embassies work, and so forth. His research for the later books was not only very thorough, it was also expert, so he knew how to interpret what he learned. Over the years, I’ve found that Le Carré is the only author of spy fiction that people working in different governments take at all seriously.

    Second, his real subject was the decline and fall of the upper-class, Oxbridge educated British ruling class that fought the Second World War. His feelings about this class (to which he belonged) are very equivocal, but its progressive decline, and the decline of the British public service that went with it, are really the main theme of his books, right up to the end. This had nothing to do with the loss of Empire (which hardly interested him) but with the increasingly close relationship with the US, and the attack on the public sector in the UK that began in the 1980s. One of his last books, A Legacy of Spies, is a vivid and even brutal portrayal of the difference between the world of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold , of which it constitutes the backstory, and the world of some thirty years later. It’s noteworthy that much earlier Bill Haydon tells George Smiley that he decided to start spying for the Soviet Union when he saw that the country had become “a streetwalker” for the US. The US gets quite a big kicking later in the trilogy – and these are the Carter years.

    By the End of the Cold War, the British upper class had forgotten how to rule, and not learned anything else. The pose of effortless superiority became a joke, and, with the end of the Soviet Union, the threatening and validating enemy was gone, for the intelligence services. The rest of the books tell the story of the slow but inevitable decline, the privatisation, the blurring of boundaries between public and private, the influence of outsiders on government and many more things. A romantic Tory anarchist, Le Carré’s anger about this kind of thing boiled over into his books, which became successively more strident, often including long and extraneous digressions, and also less convincing. The stuff about drug companies or mining in the Congo was conscientiously researched (often by others apparently) but it was really a prop for his almost obsessive theme, that of decline and fall and rot from within.

    Few of his books are actively bad, but his masterpiece is without doubt the Smiley trilogy. Beyond that, the best of his later books are probably the least frenetic: A Perfect Spy, whose first part is almost an autobiography, The Tailor of Panama, and Simple and Simple from memory, though I am sure there are others. At the end of his life, he went back to writing shorter, less blustering works, and returned to what he knew and cared about.

    1. russell1200

      You mention a Perfect Spy. I think it should also be emphasized that his childhood was cold and harsh with his conman father often being in jail. I think that gave him the detachment to write the way he did.

      1. David

        Yes indeed. In many ways he was only an honorary member of the ruling class, because his father conned his way into it. That gave him a very particular and ambiguous relationship to the people he wrote about: both part and not part of the ruling class. I think it also talked him to conceal and deceive,: it’s striking that he told many different stories about why he chose his pen-name , and in the end seems to have forgotten the truth himself.

        1. wilroncanada

          Thank you, also, David, for your tribute to John Le Carre. I once had all of his books in hard cover, but when I got rid of most of my library, I donated them for a church fundraiser. In the past two years I’ve been recollecting and rereading them. I managed to find two early novels, Tinker tailor Soldier Spy, and Smiley’s people, both with bookplates signed by the author, in Sidney BC Canada, in The Haunted Bookshop, would you believe.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Thank you for your beautiful memorial for John Le Carre. He is one of my favorite authors. I haven’t read as many of his books as I would like. When I looked for them at the local library I was surprised by how few of them the library had. One of his later books I remember fondly is “Absolute Friends”. I also enjoy watching the 2014 movie of “A Most Wanted Man”.

      1. David

        I should have said that if you haven’t seen it you must watch the 1979 BBC adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy with Alec Guinness. Among the finest pieces of drama ever broadcast by the BBC, and easily available.

        1. rowlf

          Get the longer British version. There was a shorter edited version for us unfortunates in the US.

          UK – 315 min
          US – 290 min

        2. Jeremy Grimm

          Thank you for the recommendation. I have watched the BBC “Tinker Tailer” (not sure whether long or short version — probably the short version) dozens of times along with “Smiley’s People”. I especially like the way Alec Guinness facial expressions to express his character throughout both series.

      2. jr


        John Le Carre was one of the first “serious” authors of fiction that I was pulled into. I might pick one of his up next time I see it at a thrift. I loved “Smiley’s People”.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          LeCarré is the master of the “set piece.” His interrogation of Toby Esterhase is my favorite, but there are many:

          Smiley ignored him. “Let’s keep talking about Lapin. What was his job over

          “He worked for Polyakov.”

          “His secretary in the cultural department?”

          “His legman.”

          “But, my dear Toby, what on earth is a cultural attache doing with his own

          Esterhase’s eyes were on Smiley all the time. He’s like a dog, thought
          Guillam; he doesn’t know whether to expect a kick or a bone. They flickered
          from Smiley’s face to his hands, then back to his face, constantly checking the
          telltale places.

          “Don’t be damn silly, George,” Toby said carelessly. “Polyakov is working for
          Moscow Gentre. You know that as well as I do.” He crossed his little legs and,
          with a resurgence of all his former insolence, sat back in his chair and took a sip
          of cold tea.

      3. Basil Pesto

        it’s been a while but the ending of A Most Wanted Man reminded me of the ending of Chinatown, I guess on a (larger) geopolitical scale – a whirlwind that leaves this devastating vacuum that PSH sells beautifully. Must watch it again.

    3. The Rev Kev

      You do realize in that in your comment, that you have given a pretty clear description as to why the present UK government’s response to Brexit has been such a shambles. I wonder if Le Carré wrote about Brexit itself come to think of it. His thought’s on it would have been fascinating.

      1. Greg

        That didn’t escape me either – David’s description of the crapification of UK bureaucracy according to Le Carré sounded not dissimilar to Clive talking about the UK handling of Brexit.

      2. PlutoniumKun

        Le Carre was scathing about Brexit, according to the writer John Banville, who knew him well, up to last year he was seeking Irish citizenship (his fathers family are from West Cork) as a protest.

        In many ways, he seems to have become even more radical in his old age.

    4. witters

      I think his first two novels – unmentioned – are the standouts: Call for the Dead (1961) and A Murder of Quality (1962).

    5. PlutoniumKun

      Thanks David, its is many years since I read some of his books, its good to hear they are as authentic as they seemed. From some of the interviews in his obituaries, it seems he kept up to date by scrupulously running past his drafts with friendly insiders to ensure that even detail sounded true. Its very impressive, as I’m sure he could have coasted on his fame in later years had he chosen to.

      While I’m not surprised he was a strong Remainer, I was a little taken aback to see that even in his ’80’s he was looking into moving to Ireland and taking up Irish citizenship (his family have Cork connections), such was his disgust at Brexit, although I suspect his disgust was more at the people in charge than the actual vote.

  13. diptherio

    Why would a bunch of elderly adults care about seeing Santa anyway? Is this a Belgian thing? Because where I’m from, no one much over the age of 10 cares too much about seeing Santa. Who thought that was even a good idea, much less worth the risk?

    1. Wukchumni

      It only recently came to my attention that the whole concept of one person being responsible for delivering presents to every household in the world was a mythopoly and sure enough I started getting fewer and fewer presents nestling near the chimney after retrieving them from the front porch where the UPS guy left them, casting no doubt that yes Virginia there is a Santa Claus and his name is Jeff.

    2. albrt

      Nursing homes in the US make the residents do a lot of childish things – singalongs of nursery rhyme songs, etc. I suppose I shouldn’t generalize, but I used to be a union organizer for nursing home workers and I’ve spent a fair amount of time in different ones.

      Some of the residents are apparently in a state of mind where they enjoy that. It would drive me to suicide pretty quickly if I had somehow failed to commit suicide before being institutionalized.

      1. wilroncanada

        Many people with alzheimer’s or senile dementia remember their early childhood well, but nothing or not much after that. Involving some in seemingly childish pursuits seems to me certainly better than drugging them and sitting them in hallways with all the lights dimmed, which is what my wife and I found in two facilities in which she was applying as a “recreation director”.

  14. elvispresley2k

    Tech: An epic thread on enterprise software engineering at Uber. Well worth a read:

    Seems like the thread was mostly about Apple’s development tools / environment being a POS.
    And 100mb for what amounts to geo lookup, with pricing, and nearest driver? Yikes.

    1. johnson

      There are two important takeaways here, I think:

      1. They clearly got special treatment from Apple and still almost fucked it up.

      2. They had people smart enough to re-engineer the compiler’s optimizer on staff and still were unable to predict the fallout of their switch to Swift.

      The moral of the story is that smarts don’t beat money when it comes to complex software. The only reason the project was a success was that they were able to pay people to work 90-hour weeks AND get a special engagement with Apple (presumably; the author is coy but who else could this be, realistically?). It’s hard to imagine what kind of person could have had the foresight to imagine that Apple’s dumbass loader can’t handle more than 6 dynamic libs with no static linking support, on top of every other concern, before the project was too big to scrap. And Uber’s solution here was essentially to implement missing compiler features. Twice. There’s a saying that operating system development is three times harder than app development, and compiler development is three times harder than operating system development. So this was no mean feat.

      What kind of small-or-medium-sized company could have salvaged this project the way Uber was able to? None of them. If they were unlucky enough to have put all their eggs in the Swift basket their options would be either live with a slow app or to abandon the rewrite entirely. You see this type of issue a lot: somebody’s product becomes inexplicably slow and shitty when it used to be fine, especially when it was less popular. Often this is attributed to incompetence on the part of the developer but a lot of times it’s nearly-invisible screwups on the part of major underlying products, even those with sterling reputations for competence.

      You might argue that this is specific to Apple’s monoculture, but it’s not. Institutionally, Apple’s compiler expertise is practically unmatched, even on non-Apple platforms, and not for lack of trying by competitors. It’s not like they’re uniquely incompetent here. A similar case that hits almost any project of sufficient size that depends on Python (which is free and open source) is the global interpreter lock; such projects often end up having to offload parallel processing to native code which almost always involves paying extra for people with that expertise since it’s so different from Python. Google themselves spent several years taking pretty much the same approach that Uber did here by trying to rewrite CPython. They failed and abandoned the project. Presumably it cost too much.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > The moral of the story is that smarts don’t beat money when it comes to complex software.

        The other moral is the massive capital allocation failure. All this enormous expertise was invested in Uber, which as Hubert Horan has shown, never has and never will be profitable. (To be fair, Uber is useful to the capitalist class as a whole, in that it does useful things like destroy public transportation, provide a “platform” for the legal immiseration of a new class of precariat, establish that Silicon Valley innovators have impunity with respect to law enforcement, etc.)

        But imagine if all that expertise had been deployed in, say, climate modeling.

  15. Mikel

    The drug companies have no liability for whatever happens if you stick this experiment in your arms and people think it’s a legitimate debate to REQUIRE it for anything?

    Employers and drug companies want zero liability and think they can even consider making it a requirement?

    Go straight to…

  16. Grant

    Autopsy on the Democrats’ sham primary shows that the DNC itself caused the debacle in Iowa. Remember that, all the massive errors, Pete whatever his name is declaring victory, the app? The autopsy shows the DNC caused it, not surprisingly.


    No one will pay for that because they did as they were hired to do. So, there is nothing to fix. I think what they did in 2020 was even more blatant than what they did in 2016. Bernie did in fact force through some changes that led to more transparency, we could see all of the inconsistencies with the data and they still went ahead and did their thing. Since most Democrats don’t care, the rank and file doesn’t, it will happen again in 2024, especially if Biden governs as we think he will and Harris or someone similar is the nominee.

    This democracy is a joke, and the Democrats aren’t in a position to talk about threats to democracy.

    1. Charger01

      Family blogging no joke. Kyle Kulinski does a fine job of dragging the “no malfunction occurred” into the daylight of that report. A “coding error” created the false impression that mayo pete won Iowa?
      No kidding.

  17. Jason Boxman

    Driving on 95 in Newark. Endless row of planes flying over to land. Lights into the distance. Stuck in traffic. Stop and go. No virus here. Life looks normal as ever. Amazing.

  18. Knifecatcher

    I’ll try to translate the Uber thread into non-engineer as best I can:

    – The original Uber app was buggy because it was originally kind of hacked together
    – There are two sides to developing something like Uber, the actual mobile app and the “back-end” server it talks to
    – They decided they needed to rewrite both from scratch(!)
    – On the mobile side they decided adopt the latest and greatest bleeding edge development tools for iOS and Android
    – They built the basic framework for the new mobile app and things seemed to be going well
    – Once their whole dev team started using the new framework Apple’s toolkit started breaking down
    – Their app was far bigger than the new Apple dev toolkit (aka Swift) could handle, leading to hellacious performance issues
    – Thread poster tried to get management to reverse course but nobody was willing to commit career suicide by acknowledging that the new app project was failing
    – Some brilliant hacking managed to work around the primary issue in Swift to address performance
    – Problem was that this made the app too big and they needed to reduce its size to less than 100MB, otherwise people wouldn’t be able to download over a cellular connection, effectively nuking a big chunk of their target market
    – Step 1 to reduce the size was to nix their plan to include the old app in their bundle as a fallback, leaving them without any sort of safety net if the rollout went badly
    – That wasn’t enough, so they either had to refactor from Swift back into the old iOS dev architecture (Objective C) or drop support for iOS 8 and earlier
    – Running out of time they decided to take the hit and drop iOS 8 anyway, since that would effectively cut the app size in half due to enhancements in iOS 9 and up
    – The app released on time, early reviews were good, people got promoted, party time!
    – Problem: people hated the new app in the real world, for some very good reasons
    – Uber frantically tried hacking together fixes to address the shortcomings (since they could no longer go back to the old app)
    – A political war sprang up between developers loyal to the old iOS dev tools (Objective C curmudgeons) and the new tools (Swift zealots)
    – The attempts to fix their user experience problems led to app size creep and they were bumping up against the maximum cellular download limits again.
    – Testing showed that if they hit that download size limit the impact on their business (people not wanting to connect to Wifi to download an app and just giving up) was catastrophic – a revenue hit many times the cost of the project itself
    – A desperate attempt to shrink the new app using any means possible ensued, including some techniques that had Apple’s Swift developers terrified
    – This gave them enough runway to buy time until Apple increased the cellular download limit, and combined with optimizations in the Swift toolkit they were eventually able to keep the app size small enough to avoid catastrophe

    TL:DR – Uber tried to rebuild their app using shiny new tools, nearly nuked their business due to unforeseen (but predictable) consequences of betting the farm on new tools from Apple, a company that makes notoriously shitty software.

    1. gc54

      I’ve watched numerous physical scientists who code rave about their lemming-purchased Apple laptops then go through incredibly contortions because of compiler and linker limitations to get something done that is perfectly straightforward to accomplish under Linux. With Intel underneath you can have both OS in the same box, but not for much longer.

  19. lobelia

    when you desperately want to remain alive in the United States of America [North America, dependent on the person’s nationality you speak with, there are 2 Americas – at a minimum], where you were born and lived your entire life:

    but the powers that be – even decades before the coronavirus – have been exponentially increasingly cutting of all access to living with mere basics, a roof over your head, medical care, an actual voice (see Agency™ directly below), justice that’s immediately available and affordable, dignity, and agency.™ Agency, ™ which the impoverished of all races and cultures have never ever been allowed, particularly the most vulnerable of the impoverished: children, historically wage/job handicapped females forced into horridly toxic and dangerous living conditions, elders, and or those with so called mental health issues™ (way too many such so called mental health issues™, I admit not all, a direct result of Capitalism – Capitalism is, always has been Mental Illness).

    what then, when living seems far worse than dying despite your best efforts, when you can’t hardly bear to face another day of exponentially increasing blows, and living is not living in any decent human sense of the word? when you have no special person access to a twenty some story high rise – and then, with no sturdy canvas awnings for the free (even free is not free anymore) fall when you find yourself re-verifying that only sure way is a gun, which you’ve never ever wanted to own (and now couldn’t when you’d like one):

    At the top of this local, Silicon Valley Fall … August[us] Dawn, I found myself (I’m positive among countless millions -Educated™© and not, across all classes races and cultures) re-verifying that about the only way (with my limited resources, and strength) to end it all before I hit the cement without an abysmal failure rate which would put me in a far worse hell (permanently crippled, with an astronomically unaffordable medical bill on top of that, along with a RECORD that would , leave me refused for housing and even minimal employment despite my total sanity) would be a gun.

    It is an horrendous STAIN on this land that its own citizens are looking up how to: slit their wrists perfectly, hang themselves perfectly, or poison themselves perfectly despite the fact that they so much really would rather live – THEY ARE NOT AT ALL THE ONES WITH THE HORRID MENTAL ILLNESS CALLED SOCIOPATHY. Sociopathy which has, as yet, never seemingly treated.

    (courtesy to the dearly departed Luther Vandross – a master of love songs – for the musical backdrop of being able to ease my explosion of ever increasing daily horror …. and pour this out. gotta run, I pray there’s a chance for all of us who are not sociopaths to actually live life.)

  20. Amfortas the hippie

    re: nbc thing on getting the hill folk to take a vaccine.
    on the one hand i see the idiocy and insane conspiracy theories every time i go to town, or wife logs on to FB(or the school meeting zoom-thing).
    however…this:”…Doctors said there is a distinct difference between hesitance about taking a vaccine that received emergency authorization from the federal government and the blatant disregard of medical advice that appears to have grown this year.”

    that “Distinction” must needs be made much more clear in officialdom’s treatment of reluctant hill folk like myself.
    I want a frelling vaccine…just not these untested new fangled kinds that are being rah-rah-ed at max volume on almost every mainstream outlet.

    (as far as “they gunna put a tracker in me…”, i point to the hill folk in question’s ever present fondleslab, or their fancy, spacecraft like truck, that phones home at every opportunity:”foolish hill person…you’re already bagged and tagged, by your own request and paid for by you on a monthly basis”)

    1. JBird4049

      The foolish anti-vaxxers are fools, yes, but their fears have some real history behind it especially if you are black or poor. Honestly, with a little online research, and buying or checking out yet (a few more) books, I could give you a number of medical “treatment” or “testing” by all levels of government; it would cover the period from 1910s to 2020 that might make you physically ill.

      From just the top of my head, sterilization on those deemed unfit like felons, the poor, and the disabled (Hello, Germany), the lobotomy on the mentally ill and troublemakers, infectious diseases on blacks, poor people, plus the odd city, the development and testing of birth control on poor women, and radiation on children and the disabled. All done either without consent or being misinformed. To this we can add medicines like Vioxx, which does a fine job of treating pain with the side effect of the occasional death.

      Really, just about anyone excepting the uppermost elites under those biological warfare tests on cities, could have been a target. Usually done by people in white lab coats saying trust us. All this, mind you, when the government at all levels was relatively uncorrupt and competent. With today’s bunch of corrupt, heartless, and soulless vultures, not so much.

      I guess this is also a long explanation as to why I am not getting a shot for at least six months.

  21. bob

    “Can someone please interpret:

    Alright folks, gather round and let me tell you the story of… ”

    I’m not a native speaker so this is my best LSS- a really really hard thing was made much easier to accomplish because everyone kept changing the rules to allow Uber to do whatever they wanted. First apple, then facebook….etc

    In the end it all worked out and the people at the top can keep congratulating themselves for making Travis Kalanick a few more hundred million dollars so that he can continue to hunt humans on his private island

    1. Travis

      It’s not just about the killing. It about the culture of it too. We have many nods to the past here. History surrounds us here on Galt Cay. We have many interactive exhibits showing how different breeds of lessers are hunted differentially. We show the differences between human meat, and the pros and cons of the different methods. It turns out that famines are really, really bad for human meat. (who knew?)

      I know some of the weak-kneed Bambi lovers are threatened by science, but we keep trying to let that tell us where to go next. Why argue with science?

      1. albrt

        Joe Biden has promised to follow “the science.” I am confident he will reach many of the same conclusions as you.

    1. fresno dan

      December 14, 2020 at 6:48 pm

      Remember when you were a kid and you were assigned a seat in the classroom? I had a zoology teacher who didn’t do that because he figured everybody would sit in the same seat because of territoriality – the nature of animals to stake a territory. (not to brag, but I switched seats). He was a big believer in Desmond Morris (The Naked Ape) – me not so much – I can’t see where we have nearly the good sense of the apes….

        1. Jonathan Holland Becnel

          Im a big fan of The Naked Ape. Read it during my more heady days at LSU.

          Def helped me see humans for what we are. Even if we have fancier sticks and tools…

  22. rowlf

    I watched the Biden acceptance speech. Everyone is getting an “Our Democracy” blankie.

    Rat’s anus.

    A side note, an out of state car parked in front of my house today and apparent young Republicans were hanging “Vote for the stock analysts, er, Loeffler and Perdue” on people’s doors in the neighborhood.

    A waste of time with me, as I plan to vote so I can minimize the chance of seeing Pelosi and Shumer do their American Gothic impression again.

  23. Cuibono

    feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching, because I don’t think the peak is coming in the next days, or even weeks. Is the virus gathering itself for another leap?

    IMO, nope. Looks to me like the peak is near at hand. So far we seem to be following 1918 playbook pretty well

    1. albrt

      I think we have at least one more higher peak coming after this one. Maybe several more. We have learned a lot in 100 years and I am confident we can outdo the 1918 people in this respect.

  24. Cuibono

    “How Cities Make Democrats’” [Perry Bacon, Bluegrass Beat]?

    Let me take a stab at that: is it leaded gasoline?

  25. polecat

    Guillotine watch …

    That first photo grouping – upper right

    OMG! … just add the worn, padded leather chair, complete with protruding poofed-out batting … with the croquet set stationed near by …. talk about cocoons ….

    “Get OUT!”

  26. Geoffrey Dewan

    “What centralizing messaging [as opposed to the “Big Tent”] should entail is reaching internal consensus around a small number of policies that are (1) broadly popular, (2) difficult if not impossible for Republicans to support, (3) especially resonant with non-college-educated voters, and (4) of high substantive value (since centering these policies in messaging will mean putting them toward the top of the governing agenda upon victory)…. “

    Gee- Medicare For All comes to mind…
    Oh, wait, DNC just finished getting RID of that crazy idea…

Comments are closed.