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2:00PM Water Cooler 12/6/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Politics “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51 “They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner: * * * 2020 Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart. We have a new Ipsos is (are) the latest Dem Primary Polling as of 12/6/2019, 12:00 PM EST. Biden leads, Sanders strong second, Warren five points back (!), Buttigeig trailing. This seems to be an established pattern (or, if you prefer, narrative). On to the next debate (December 19), and Iowa: Here is the latest result, as of 12/6/2019, 12:00 PM

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

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

* * *


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

We have a new Ipsos is (are) the latest Dem Primary Polling as of 12/6/2019, 12:00 PM EST. Biden leads, Sanders strong second, Warren five points back (!), Buttigeig trailing. This seems to be an established pattern (or, if you prefer, narrative). On to the next debate (December 19), and Iowa:

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/6/2019

Here is the latest result, as of 12/6/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/6/2019

Again, Bloomberg buys his way in at a relatively high level; I don’t know what motivates this, but my guess is name recognition.

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

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

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Biden (D)(1): “If you want to beat Trump, be honest about Biden” [Carl Beijer]. “This is not just the goofy, gaffe-prone Biden we remember from the years before his retirement – that Biden was undisciplined, but he was diplomatic and sharp. This Biden is unpredictable, often confused, and occasionally flat-out disturbing. When he speaks he spins his wheels, meanders onto bizarre tangents, and stumbles over simple points of fact. When he interacts with people he veers from uncomfortably familiar to wildly aggressive.” • This is the video:

Note, however, the audience reaction.

UPDATE Biden (D)(2): “Biden Super-PAC Makes Ad Buy in Iowa: Campaign Update” [Bloomberg]. “Unite the Country, a super-PAC started by former aides of Joe Biden, is launching a $650,000 advertising campaign in Iowa promoting his candidacy. The group’s first spot features a montage of photos starting with Biden as a young man and excerpts from a speech in which Biden highlights his stance favoring marriage equality, his sponsorship of the Violence Against Women Act and the assault weapons ban enacted as part of the 1994 crime bill he sponsored.” • The campaign coverage policy Bloomberg the Firm announced forbids “investigating” Bloomberg and his rivials, but allows publication or summary of other investigative work made by “credible journalistic institutions.” Also: “Bloomberg News will cover the campaigns of the Democratic candidates, including Bloomberg’s. Micklethwait said the outlet will carry polls, interview the candidates and track their campaigns.” So I guess this story falls within those parameters.

UPDATE Bloomberg (D)(1): “Bloomberg terminal shortcut sent users to presidential campaign site” [Financial Times]. “Michael Bloomberg’s flagship news and information terminal was promoting the billionaire media mogul’s run for the White House as the company faced questions over how to cover his candidacy. Until the FT reported on the practice, users of Bloomberg terminals were funnelled to the Bloomberg 2020 campaign website merely by writing MIKE. This functionality was in contrast to the treatment of other notable individuals on the terminal. Users are typically directed to a simple, standardised biography page which includes business information, a photo and recent news stories.”• Whoops.

Buttigieg (D)(1): “A secretive corporation won’t let Pete Buttigieg talk about three years of his life” [Los Angeles Times]. Almost a decade after leaving McKinsey in 2010, Buttigieg is still bound by a nondisclosure agreement that his campaign says McKinsey is refusing to lift, leaving a large hole in the 37-year-old’s otherwise closely examined life story. ‘We have asked McKinsey to be released from the NDA in full, and we have asked McKinsey if we can release a list of clients,’ campaign spokesman Sean Savett said. ‘To date, they have not agreed. We will continue to ask and are eager to share more about his work as soon as we are able.'” • It doesn’t speak well of McKinsey that they’re placing their putative corporate values over the electorate’s need to make an informed judgment. Nor does it speak well of Buttigieg’s Presidential capacity that he cannot get them to see reason, whether through jawboning, or muscling, or some form of selective disclosure. “I do think it would be a good thing for that to be released [sigh –lambert]” doesn’t cut it.

Buttigieg (D)(2): “When Pete Buttigieg Was One of McKinsey’s ‘Whiz Kids'” [New York Times]. • Not impressed Buttigieg has gotten his personal network to testify on his behalf. This is no substitute for eliminating the NDA.

UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(3): “‘I Want Him on Everything’: Meet the Woman Behind the Buttigieg Media Frenzy” [Politico]. From April, and entertaining, but germane for what it omits: Lis Smith (the woman of the headline) was also a spokesperson for the Independent Democratic Caucus (IDC) in New York. New Yorkers probably know what that entailed, but just in case, a thread:

Harris (D)(1): “Vultures pick over remains of Harris campaign” [Politico (Nippersmom)]. “‘I am of a generation and gender that does not just drop the F bomb on Twitter, but I’m telling you, yesterday, I was within half a hair,’ Sue Dvorsky, a former Iowa Democratic Party chairwoman who had endorsed Harris, said on Wednesday, after witnessing the instant recruitment of Harris’ still-sobbing staff.”

Sanders (D)(1): “Sanders’s ‘Secret Weapon:’ Strong Latino Support” [New York Magazine]. “The evidence of Sanders’s strength among Latinos is everywhere, most recently in a University of California IGS survey of the Golden State, where Sanders led the field, in no small part because of his 32 percent showing (Biden is second at 19 percent) among Latinos.” • Hilarious to see Sanders hijacking big portions of the liberal Democrat’s so-called coalition of the ascendant. No wonder Pelosi decided to go after suburban Republicans.

Sanders (D)(2): “New poll of California Democrats shows Bernie Sanders leading as Elizabeth Warren nosedives” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “A new poll from the UC Berkeley Institute of Government Studies conducted for the Los Angeles Times shows that Warren lost seven percentage points since the poll was last conducted in September, and is no longer leading the Democratic primary field. The new leader is Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is up five percentage points since the poll was last conducted.”

Sanders (D)(3): Sanders steals an issue from Warren:

Sanders (D)(4): “Bernie Sanders unveils plan to boost broadband access, break up internet and cable titans” [CNBC]. “[T]he Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate calls to treat internet like a public utility. His campaign argues that the internet should not be a “price gouging profit machine” for companies such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon… Several of Sanders’ top Democratic competitors have called to pile more money into high-speed internet development. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg released plans to invest at least $80 billion into rural broadband, while former Vice President Joe Biden has proposed putting $20 billion into expanding rural internet access.” • Here is a map of broadband in Iowa.

UPDATE Sanders (D)(5): “Sarsour Saga Shows Sanders’s Continued Struggles With Jewish Voters” [Forward]. “… the latest example of Sanders, the most successful Jewish presidential candidate in American history, drawing anger from Jewish voters over what some see as his lack of concern for their specific communal issues…” • That is, Israel. More: “And Rabbi Jacob Herber of Wisconsin tweeted Tuesday in response to Sarsour’s remarks that despite the fact that he abhors Trump, ‘I’ll be damned if I’m going to vote for Bernie Sanders.'”

* * *

UPDATE “In 2020, Look at Sheriffs and Prosecutors Too” [The Appeal]. “Many of the nation’s most populous counties will hold high-stakes elections that will decide how much they overhaul their criminal legal systems in the years ahead. This includes Los Angeles, Cook (Chicago), Harris (Houston), Maricopa (Phoenix), Miami-Dade, and Tarrant (Fort Worth). And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Approximately 2,300 prosecutors and sheriffs will be elected across the country, according to the Political Report’s new master list of 2020 elections…. These elections represent opportunities for the reform movement to replicate its recent successes.”

“The Kingmaker” [The Atlantic]. Reid: “”I answer their questions, try to be as candid as I can be. I want them to know that I’m not jerking them around. If they’re headed in the wrong direction, I’ve told them that on occasion. I think that our Democratic hopefuls have to understand the difference between a primary and a general, and I try to make sure they understand the difference. It’s okay now to try to—at some event where you have other candidates there with you—to try to move a little to the left. But I just want to make sure they understand that that’s the way the game is played, and they better be careful not [to] get out [so] far, they can’t turn around.”


“Ladies And Gentleman Of The Jury, Would You Impeach?” [The American Conservative]. “Just in the last two decades, we’ve had a president who lied us into war, set up a torture program, spied on Americans, and sat on his hands while the economy crashed. No impeachment. We had a president whose military incursions into Libya, Syria, and Yemen created the worst refugee flows Europe has seen since World War II, who illegally spied on Americans (complete with a whistleblower), assassinated his own citizens by drone, and gave trillions to Wall Street while Main Street floundered. No impeachment. But an internal power struggle between careerists and political appointees over Ukraine supersized into a made-up crisis, now that is what the Founders had in mind? That’s where I’m stuck.” • And neither party can say that, because both are implicated.

“Barr’s handpicked prosecutor tells inspector general he can’t back right-wing theory that Russia case was U.S. intelligence setup” [WaPo]. “The prosecutor handpicked by Attorney General William P. Barr [(John Durham)] to scrutinize how U.S. agencies investigated President Trump’s 2016 campaign said he could not offer evidence to the Justice Department’s inspector general to support the suspicions of some conservatives that the case was a setup by American intelligence, people familiar with the matter said.” • Big if true. I’ll wait for the report. As readers know, my focus is on the Constitutional order, though of course the salacious details are always interesting. More: “The draft, though, is not final. The inspector general has yet to release any conclusions, and The Washington Post has not reviewed Horowitz’s entire report, even in draft form. It is also unclear whether Durham has shared the entirety of his findings and evidence with the inspector general or merely answered a specific question.” • So.

UPDATE “Timeline Of Andrew Johnson’s Impeachment” [The Onion]. •


Drag ’em:

2016 Post Mortem

“Who Put Trump in the White House? Explaining the Contribution of Voting Blocs to Trump’s Victory∗” [Justin Grimmer, William Marble]. From the abstract: “A surprising fact about the 2016 election is that Donald Trump received fewer votes from whites with the highest levels of racial resentment than Mitt Romney did in 2012. This is particularly surprising in light of a social science literature that has documented the “activation” of racial conservatism during the 2016 election: the increased relationship between vote choice and attitudes about race among individuals who turn out to vote. But attitudes being activated provides almost no information about the number of votes candidates receive from individuals who hold particular attitudes. To understand the contribution of voting blocs—demographic characteristics, socio-economic status, or attitudes—to a candidate’s vote totals, we must also take into account the size of voting blocs and the blocs’ turnout rate. Once we take bloc size and turnout into account we find that Trump underperformed Romney with whites who have the highest levels of racial resentment, obtained more net votes among whites with moderate immigration attitudes than conservative immigration attitudes, and received approximately the same number of votes from whites who report voting for Obama in 2012 that Romney received from whites who reported voting for Obama in 2008. We show that Trump’s support increases the most among low-socioeconomic status whites who are independents and ideological moderates.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Firm tied to political donor to pay $110M in federal probe” [Associated Press]. Bipartisan, too! Both Trump and Clinton. So that’s impressive.

Stats Watch

Economic Calendar isn’t updating its prose snippets anymore, so I need to look for another source.

* * *

Employment Situation: “U.S. Payroll Gain of 266,000 Trounces Forecasts as Wages Heat Up” [Bloomberg]. “U.S. job gains roared back in November as unemployment matched a half-century low and wages topped estimates, giving the Federal Reserve more reason to hold interest rates steady after three straight cuts. Payrolls jumped 266,000, the most since January, after an upwardly revised 156,000 advance the prior month, according to a Labor Department release Friday that topped all estimates in a Bloomberg survey calling for 180,000 jobs.” • Adjustments to come, of course. Nevertheless!

Retail: “Hoverboards’ brief ride as a consumer toy of choice a few years ago has left behind major legal questions for Inc. and other e-commerce companies” [Wall Street Journal]. “The popularity of the self-balancing scooters flamed out in a series of fires that hit households in 2015 and 2016, causing some $2.3 million in property damage and triggering at least 17 lawsuits against Amazon…. The hoverboard cases have produced a trove of documents that show the vulnerability in the vast scale and relatively anonymous structure of Amazon’s platform.” • Oh, let’s just give Amazon immunity, and put the final nail in the coffin of bricks and mortar.

Manufacturing: “The electrification of vehicles is triggering bigger changes in automotive supply chains. General Motors Co. and South Korea’s LG Chem plan to jointly build a $2.3 billion battery-cell factory in Ohio… the latest example of how auto makers are plowing big money into technology that is transforming the sector” [Wall Street Journal]. “Consultancy AlixPartners LP says auto makers are gearing up to spend $225 billion over the next few years to develop new electric vehicles and are partnering with and investing in battery makers to help provide the power.” • Not as much labor needed because the drive train is much simpler.

Tech: “Apple Explains Mysterious iPhone 11 Location Requests” [Krebs on Security]. “Apple’s privacy policy says users can disable all apps and system services that query the user’s location all at once by toggling the main ‘Location Services’ option to ‘off.’ … users can achieve the same results by individually turning off all System Services that use location in the iPhone settings…. What prompted my initial inquiry to Apple about this on Nov. 13 was that the location services icon on the iPhone 11 would reappear every few minutes even though all of the device’s individual location services had been disabled…. “It is expected behavior that the Location Services icon appears in the status bar when Location Services is enabled,” Apple stated in their initial response. “The icon appears for system services that do not have a switch in Settings” [emphasis added].” • Oh. See also.

Human Resources: “Emotional Baggage” [The Verge]. “The cutthroat culture allowed the company to grow at hyperspeed, developing a cult following with celebrities and millennials alike. But it also opened a yawning gap between how Away appears to its customers and what it’s like to actually work there. The result is a brand consumers love, a company culture people fear, and a cadre of former employees who feel burned out and coerced into silence.” • Yet another start-up horror story.

Fodder for the Bulls: “Wall Street Scraps Recession Assumptions After Robust Jobs Data” [Bloomberg]. “Between a strong economy and ammunition for more Federal Reserve rate cuts, investors showed they are happy to live with the former Friday, bidding up equities after the biggest addition to U.S. payrolls in 10 months…

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 70 Greed (previous close: 67 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 79 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 6 at 1:33pm. Let’s see if the needle keeps moving!

The Biosphere

“Toronto’s secret success: Suburban buses” [Globe and Mail]. “Transit fatalism has meant governments have rarely deigned to provide decent transit service in suburbs…. There are established formulas for transit service that deem many parts of suburban Toronto too low-density to support more than one bus an hour. When I speak to U.S. audiences and show them pictures of Finch Avenue in Toronto, they all say that they’d expect it to have hourly service. And yet, Finch has peak scheduled service every 90 seconds – better than every five minutes off-peak – and those buses are packed. It performs better financially than even busy downtown streetcar routes. These formulas shape policy in countless cities, including in Canada, and they need to be revised in light of Canadian experience.”

“Shedding Light On The Sunrise Movement” [Medium]. “Sierra Club has also had the backing of the enigmatic billionaire donor network Democracy Alliance, which was founded by the granddaddy of Democratic mega-donors, George Soros. As I’ve touched on in a previous article, Democracy Alliance’s primary function is to basically put together a politcal investment plan for various nonprofits — mostly 501(c)(4)s — and have the mostly anonymous network of elites help those organizations meet and exceed their budgets. With Sierra Club’s track record of secrecy in regards to their donors, there is no concrete way of knowing how much money has been injected into their coffers from Democracy Alliance affiliates — and Sierra Club is far from the only group associated with the Sunrise Movement that can be financially traced to the dark money super network.” • Any account of the Democrat Party as an institution also has to give an account of the NGOs.

“Cooling requirements fueled the collapse of a desert bird community from climate change” [PNAS]. “Climate change—especially accelerated warming and drying—threatens to increase extinction risk, yet there is little evidence that physiological limitations have contributed to species declines. This study links species-specific water requirements for cooling body temperature to the collapse of a Mojave Desert bird community over the past century from climate change. Species occupying the hottest, driest sites were less likely to persist. Birds with the greatest water requirements for cooling their body temperature experienced the largest declines. Large-bodied carnivores and insectivores were especially vulnerable to cooling costs because they obtain water primarily from their food.” • As we saw, I think, with elephants in Links this morning.

“Nitrogen crisis from jam-packed livestock operations has ‘paralyzed’ Dutch economy” [Science]. “Last week, Dutch farmers across the country parked their tractors along highways in the third such protest since October, when they jammed traffic while driving en masse to The Hague, the nation’s center of government. They are protesting a Dutch high court decision that in May suspended permits for construction projects that pollute the atmosphere with nitrogen compounds and harm nature reserves. The freeze has stalled the expansion of dairy, pig, and poultry farms—major sources of nitrogen in the form of ammonia from animal waste. Also blocked are plans for new homes, roads, and airport runways, because construction machinery emits nitrogen oxides. All told, the shutdown puts some €14 billion worth of projects in jeopardy, according to ABN AMRO Bank. ‘It has really paralyzed the country,’ says Jeroen Candel, a political scientist at Wageningen University & Research.'”

“Can We Identify Invasive Species before They Invade?” [Scientific American]. “[T]he models affirm the great importance of shared history. Researchers have long suspected the impact of nonnative insects in North America’s forests depended on the relationships between the native trees, the nonnative insects and the relatives of both.” • Worth reading in full, at least for horticulturalists.

Police State Watch

“Details emerge about UPS driver killed in shootout after being taken hostage in police chase” [CBS News]. “Four people, including a UPS driver and a bystander, were killed after robbers stole the driver’s truck and led police on a chase that ended in gunfire at a busy Florida intersection during rush hour… A senior law enforcement source told CBS Miami that 19 officers from five different agencies fired at the truck.” • Details emerge.

“‘I was in fear of my own life’: Ex-sergeant explains why he helped plant evidence in Texas inmate’s cell” [Houston Chronicle]. “A former prison guard who helped plant screwdrivers in [prisoner Neil Giese’]s cell said he did it because he was afraid of retaliation from the Ramsey Unit major who allegedly ordered the misdeed….. ‘When I listened to the testimony, it made me cringe,’ said John LaGrappe, the Houston attorney representing Giese in his federal suit against five former Ramsey Unit officials. ‘It really makes me wonder what else goes on those prisons that we don’t know about.'” • Indeed.

Class Warfare

“Care Work In & Beyond the Labor Market” [Law and Political Economy]. “[F]ocusing on universalizing access to better paid work submerges two other longstanding elements of critical feminist analysis of care work. These are particularly pertinent to LPE conversations about the political-economic centrality of markets. First, feminist accounts of social reproduction have long highlighted the extensive, essential, but systematically devalued or outright ignored work performed outside conventional labor markets in families and communities. This includes especially direct care work and housework or other household production, but also broader forms of civic participation often denoted ‘volunteering.’ Second, attaching economic resources to nonmarket social reproductive labor starts to loosen paid work’s iron grip on household income more generally. That grip creates a legitimated dependency on labor markets that undergirds power relations both between labor and capital and, within families, between market ‘breadwinners’ and those more conventionally labelled ‘dependents.’ Valuing care thus could facilitate both reimagining work and decentering markets. None of today’s leading child care proposals conceptualize or institutionalize support for care in this broader fashion. One obvious mechanism for doing so would be to structure publicly supported child care to give parents control over how care was provided.”

News of the Wired

“Frontal cortex neuron types categorically encode single decision variables” [Nature]. “Individual neurons in many cortical regions have been found to encode specific, identifiable features of the environment or body that pertain to the function of the region. However, in frontal cortex, which is involved in cognition, neural responses display baffling complexity, carrying seemingly disordered mixtures of sensory, motor and other task-related variables. This complexity has led to the suggestion that representations in individual frontal neurons are randomly mixed and can only be understood at the neural population level. Here we show that neural activity in rat orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is instead highly structured: single neuron activity co-varies with individual variables in computational models that explain choice behaviour.” • Please, nobody tell Bezos.

“Early humans domesticated themselves, new genetic evidence suggests” [Science]. “Domestication encompasses a whole suite of genetic changes that arise as a species is bred to be friendlier and less aggressive. In dogs and domesticated foxes, for example, many changes are physical: smaller teeth and skulls, floppy ears, and shorter, curlier tails. Those physical changes have all been linked to the fact that domesticated animals have fewer of a certain type of stem cell, called neural crest stem cells.

Modern humans are also less aggressive and more cooperative than many of our ancestors. And we, too, exhibit a significant physical change: Though our brains are big, our skulls are smaller, and our brow ridges are less pronounced. So, did we domesticate ourselves? • Molecular biology, apparently, says yes!

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

2:00PM Water Cooler 12/6/2019

TH writes: “Sage bloom.”

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2:00PM Water Cooler 12/6/2019

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