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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Readers, this is short of business news because I got caught up in a mini-essay on Sanders. Politics “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51 2020 Who did this: breaking news: beto is at the dentist — David Wright (@DavidWright_CNN) January 10, 2019 The Warren advisor who said “Sure, take the DNA test! What could go wrong?” moved over to Beto’s campaign? Oh, and congratulations, Beto, for having dental. So many don’t! “Is Joe Biden A Disaster Waiting To Happen?” [WGBH]. “Those who know Biden defend him as a genuine good guy, whose occasional flubs are misinterpreted or blown out of proportion. But even they concede that those “Uncle Joe” moments

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, this is short of business news because I got caught up in a mini-essay on Sanders.


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


Who did this:

The Warren advisor who said “Sure, take the DNA test! What could go wrong?” moved over to Beto’s campaign? Oh, and congratulations, Beto, for having dental. So many don’t!

“Is Joe Biden A Disaster Waiting To Happen?” [WGBH]. “Those who know Biden defend him as a genuine good guy, whose occasional flubs are misinterpreted or blown out of proportion. But even they concede that those “Uncle Joe” moments are unlikely to stop—just this past May he referred to women benefiting from a training program as “from the hood”—and that they are likely to land him in trouble with primary voters. In fact, several political pros who worked or volunteered for Biden’s 2008 campaign have told me they are unlikely to do so this cycle—in part because they know the embarrassments are coming.” • Never mind condemning a generation to debt slavery, or voting for the Iraq War. “Those who know Biden”? Cf. Matt 7:16.

“Top Bernie Sanders 2016 adviser accused of forcibly kissing subordinate” [Politico]. “The woman did not report the incident at the time because the campaign was over. But over the past several months, [convention floor leader Robert Becker], who is not on Sanders’ payroll, has been calling potential staffers and traveling to early primary states to prepare for another presidential run — activities that Sanders’ top aides did not endorse, but did not disavow, either.” • Apparently, nobody seems to have written Sanders a letter. Odd.

Lambert here: Since the story will be weaponized, I’m going to put questions of truth or falsity aside. A few comments: (1) It was inevitable that #MeToo would merge with oppo. Now it has. A narrative initially framed as applying to a toxic campaign culture generally (whatever “toxic” means) has oddly, or not, been applied, at least in national venues, only to the Sanders campaign. (Contrast the two sex and meth deaths at Clinton donor Ed Buck’s house, where coverage has remained local to Los Angeles.) (2) If Sanders and his campaign-in-waiting think this line of attack will go away, or can be dealt either by pointing to improvements made in the Sanders Senate 2018 campaign or by keeping relentlessly on-message regarding policy, they are naïve in the extreme. (4) There will be more. That’s what Operation Mockingbird and Cointelpro tell us. From today’s post on the “Integrity Initiative“: “[Simon Bracey-Lane] appeared on the American political scene as a field worker for Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary run, earning media write-ups as the “Brit for Bernie.” Now, the young operator was back in the US as the advance man for a military-intelligence cut-out that specialized in smearing left-wing political figures like Jeremy Corbyn.” Anybody who thinks Bracey-Lane was the only sleeper in the Sanders campaign — or DSA, for that matter — is also naïve in the extreme. There were surely more. Some of them will be anxious to share their stories (and then go on book tours). The same will be true of political mercenaries generally. (4) The Clinton operation dealt successfully with respected party elder Bill Clinton’s workplace abuse issues and rapes by attacking the women The Big Dog abused and assaulted. (James Carville: “Drag a hundred-dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you’ll find.”) Hopefully the Sanders campaign can do better. (5) Doing better than the Clintons would imply not counter-attacking the accusers. If it were possible, I’d “shoot the messengers” (“#MeTools”) doing the weaponizing; I think that’s the recommendation 2016 Sanders advisor Adolph Reed has been working up to (see this important article from Reed I flagged yesterday: “There’s no point trying to communicate with those whose resistance stems from such material investment; no matter what their specific content, their responses to class critique always amount to the orderly Turkle’s lament to McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest—’This is my f*cking job!'”) It’s not clear to me that shooting the messengers will work, though it would be interesting to know how trusted the press is by the Sanders base. (6) It’s also not clear to me what Sanders should do, other than hire somebody to deal with the matter, ideally a person both identitarian-proof and ruthlessly effective. Sanders also needs to get the idea firmly fixed in his mind that he is not in the Senate now, and there is no comity.

“The 5 Key Constituencies Of The 2020 Democratic Primary” [Nate Silver, FiveThirtyEight]. Hmm:

Just as with the Republicans in 2016, the concept this time around involves considering five key groups of Democratic voters. Here are those groups:

  • Party Loyalists
  • The Left
  • Millennials and Friends
  • Black voters
  • Hispanic voters (sometimes in combination with Asian voters)

You’ll notice that these groups aren’t mutually exclusive. A 26-year-old Latina who identifies as a democratic socialist would belong to groups 2, 3 and 5, for example. There might be modest tension between some of the groups — for instance, between Party Loyalists and The Left — but it’s possible to imagine candidates who appeal to voters in both of those constituencies. (Ohio’s Sherrod Brown or Massachusetts’s Elizabeth Warren might appeal to both The Left and Party Loyalist voters, for example.) Indeed, whichever candidate wins the Democratic nomination is going to have at least some buy-in from all five groups, even if some groups don’t buy in beyond considering the nominee the lesser of two evils against Trump.

So rather than thinking about “lanes,” we’re taking a more pluralistic approach with the Democrats.

I always hated the concept of lanes. That said, these “groups” are surely not granular enough. “Hispanics,” for example, includes reactionary Cuban exiles and UFW members.


“Black Caucus sees power grow with new Democratic majority” [The Hill]. “‘The Republican Party needs to understand that the makeup of the United States has changed,’ CBC Chairwoman Karen Bass (D-Calif.) said. ‘The Republican side of the aisle looks like the America of the past.'” • Amd–

“The Diversity Hustle” [Black Agenda Report]. “Just because they look like us does not mean they are for us. We have to stop falling for the slick marketing schemes used by Democrats and Republicans, one where they parade new faces and personalities to make us believe that we are making progress. A merry-go-round that has different colored and different genders of jackasses and elephants is pure deception, putting new mannequins in window displays and keeping policies intact does everything to perpetuate fraudulence and does nothing to fix the underlying problems. Sadly, this dubious ruse keeps working every election cycle.” • Truer words.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Nice appropriation of the DSA logo:

I sure hope those roses were grown locally, because otherwise the optics on greenhouse gases are very bad.

“Progressives have a new theory of everything” [White House Watch]. “The new unified theory of progressive politics is that desperately needed changes along an entire spectrum of otherwise unrelated issues are all dependent on the same thing: reducing the way money and intense partisanship interfere with the fundamental exercise of democracy. That’s why groups committed to such varied causes as the environment, civil rights, stopping gun violence, LGBTQ issues, human rights, just foreign policy, free speech, health care, corporate accountability, abortion rights, collective bargaining, immigrant justice – you name it – are enthusiastically joining with good-government, voting rights and campaign finance organizations in support of H.R. 1, the House Democrats’ 571-page democracy restoration plan.” • AFAIK, HR1 does not mandate hand-marked paper ballots, hand-counted in public. So the voting machinery remains in the hands of, well, crooks. I’m also not sold on “small donors,” because I think that, now that the campaign operatives have turned small donor contributions into a mere technique, it’s classist. Money is still speech, just speech for “small” donors in addition to large ones. Why not be honest and simply restrict the franchise to property owners? I would prefer to see a short campaign cycle, mandated limits to spending at the least, and public funding at the most. I would also like to see published polls forbidden for some period of weeks before the vote, and the prohibition of digital advertising entirely. Sure, that’s a subsidy for print newspapers. But that’s a good thing. And let us encourage a rebirth of public speaking!

Stats Watch

The 2019 stats are about to come in, and until my fingers internalize this, I will occasionally type “2018,” as I just did (and fixed).

Jobless Claims, week of January 5, 2019: “Government shutdown or not, the very first indications on employment conditions in 2019 are positive” [Econoday]. “Though Federal workers are a wild card, today’s report points, especially for first-time claims, to steady and favorable conditions in the labor market.”

Wholesale Trade, November 2018: “Note this report is likely to be delayed due to the government shutdown” [Econoday].

Housing: “Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac: Mortgage Serious Delinquency Rate Declined in November” [Calculated Risk]. “Fannie Mae reported that the Single-Family Serious Delinquency rate declined to 0.76% in November, from 0.79% in October. The serious delinquency rate is down from 1.12% in November 2017…. This is the lowest serious delinquency rate for Fannie Mae since August 2007.”

Tech: “Software patents poised to make a comeback under new patent office rules” [Ars Technica]. “[T]his week the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) proposed new rules that would make it easier to patent software. If those rules take effect, it could take us back to the bad old days when it was easy to get broad software patents—and to sue companies that accidentally infringe them.” • Bad bad bad,

Tech: “Amazon DocumentDB (with MongoDB compatibility)” [AWS]. “Amazon DocumentDB implements the Apache 2.0 open source MongoDB 3.6 API by emulating the responses that a MongoDB client expects from a MongoDB server, allowing you to use your existing MongoDB drivers and tools with Amazon DocumentDB.” • Well, so much for MongoDB’s little business.

Tech: “I Gave a Bounty Hunter $300. Then He Located Our Phone” [Motherboard]. “[A]t least one company, called Microbilt, is selling phone geolocation services with little oversight to a spread of different private industries, ranging from car salesmen and property managers to bail bondsmen and bounty hunters.” • So when we say “dumb phone,” what exactly is dumb about it?

The Biosphere

Lambert here: I’m renaming the “Gaia” category to “the Biosphere.” I was considering “The Jackpot,” but I want to include links about beautiful and interesting things in the natural world, too.

“How Beauty Is Making Scientists Rethink Evolution” [New York Times]. “This extravagance is also an affront to the rules of natural selection. Adaptations are meant to be useful — that’s the whole point — and the most successful creatures should be the ones best adapted to their particular environments. So what is the evolutionary justification for the bowerbird’s ostentatious display? Not only do the bowerbird’s colorful feathers and elaborate constructions lack obvious value outside courtship, but they also hinder his survival and general well-being, draining precious calories and making him much more noticeable to predators.” • I don’t want to be snarky about this, but shouldn’t beauty be adaptive? I don’t think scientists are so much “rethinking” evolution as expanding their understanding of its scope.

“Arborists are bringing the ‘dinosaur of trees’ back to life” [Quartz]. “Imagine scientists reviving giant creatures that once roamed the Earth. Well, that’s what arborists are doing today, only they’re cloning saplings from the stumps of the world’s largest, strongest, and longest-lived trees—felled for timber more than a century ago—to create redwood “super groves” that can help fight climate change….. Already, super saplings from the project are thriving in groves in Canada, England, Wales, France, New Zealand, and Australia. None of these locales are places where coastal redwoods grow naturally, but they all have cool temperatures and sufficient fog for the redwood.” • Fascinating. I didn’t know redwoods self-cloned!

“The Best of a Bad Situation” [n+1]. Long, as usual with n+1. This caught my eye: “The first decade of the 21st century yields some fine specimens of humans actively grappling with the oncoming catastrophe without quite knowing how close it would be. Elizabeth Kolbert’s pieces for the New Yorker in those years were framed as various encounters and profiles with archaeologists, glaciologists, climatologists… By 2009, Kolbert turned to explaining the Anthropocene and climate change through the die-off of charismatic megafauna…. Even Kolbert seemed to have caught the mood: by 2017 or 2018, the ratio of her long features to weekly or daily comments flipped in response to the slew of the government’s many outrages.” • Another way of saying this is that politically, the environmental movement looks a lot like a debacle. The Green New Deal is an encouraging sign, but only that, and rather late in the day….


“First up for Snyder when term ends: Waterfall tour of the U.P.” [Free Press]. • They don’t have to drink their water out of bottles on the Upper Peninsula!

Class Warfare

Training the workforce for precarity (1):

Training the workforce for precarity (2):

“Study: Head Start improves kids’ lives. But we’re still finding out just how.” [Vox]. “Since Head Start was rolled out on a county-by-county basis and had age-eligibility guidelines, it’s possible to compare children who were just a year too old for the program to children who were eligible. Using this approach, the study finds that Head Start looks like a stunningly cost-effective program — since kids who attended preschool do better later in life, government revenue is actually increased by sending kids to preschool.” • An odd test, but never mind that.

“Bruce Weber Named in New Lawsuit, Accusing Him of Molestation, Sex Trafficking” [The Fashion Law]. “Almost exactly a year after model Jason Boyce filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Bruce Weber, the famed photographer has been slapped with another, even more damning lawsuit, centering on his alleged practice of sexual assault. According to the case, which was filed in federal court in New York, by five male models, Weber – “the ‘gatekeeper’ to success in the male modeling industry” – is “a serial sexual predator who used his power in the male modeling industry to fraudulently and forcefully entice aspiring male models into engaging in abusive commercial sex acts.'” • Power, as I keep saying, is gender fluid.

From 2017, still germane. This is not a national emergency:

Note also that averages conceal. Life expectancy is only dropping for the 90%, not the 10%, let alone the 0.1%. Take comfort in the fact that everything’s going according to plan!

News of the Wired

“So long, Macbook. Hello again, Linux.” [Richard Mavis dot info]. • You’ll like this, if this is the sort of thing you like.

“What is Pillowfort, and how is it different from Tumblr?” [Daily Dot]. • Ditto.

“Book Review: The Structure Of Scientific Revolutions” [Slate Star Codex (Off The Street)]. “So how do scientists ever switch paradigms? Kuhn thinks it’s kind of an ugly process. It starts with exasperation; the old paradigm is clearly inadequate. Progress is stagnating… Then someone proposes a new paradigm. In its original form, it is woefully underspecified, bad at matching reality, and only beats the old paradigm in a few test cases. For whatever reason, a few people jump on board. Sometimes the new paradigm is simply more mathematically elegant, more beautiful. Other times it’s petty things, like a Frenchman invented the old paradigm and a German the new one, and you’re German. Sometimes it’s just that there’s nothing better. These people gradually expand the new paradigm to cover more and more cases. At some point, the new paradigm explains things a little better than the old paradigm. Some of its predictions are spookily good. The old paradigm is never conclusively debunked. But the new paradigm now has enough advantages that more and more people hop on the bandwagon.” • Interesting read!

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (Re Silc):

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/10/2019

Olhão Portugal. Lovely wintry scene lemons!

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