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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/8/2020

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Patient readers, my connection was tooth-grindingly slow. I’ll have a bit more shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done! 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. Today we have a small sample from YouGov, as of 1/8/2020, 12:00 PM EST. On the average, the pattern of Biden first, Sanders strong second, then Warren and Buttigeig is stable, but Bloomberg is closing on Buttigieg, which is interesting

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Lambert Strether writes 2:00PM Water Cooler 1/14/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, my connection was tooth-grindingly slow. I’ll have a bit more shortly. –lambert UPDATE All done!


“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.

Today we have a small sample from YouGov, as of 1/8/2020, 12:00 PM EST. On the average, the pattern of Biden first, Sanders strong second, then Warren and Buttigeig is stable, but Bloomberg is closing on Buttigieg, which is interesting or concerning. Of course, these are national polls, about to be massively thrown into confusion by IA, NH, SC, and NV — and then CA.

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/8/2020

And the numbers:

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/8/2020

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.”

* * *

UPDATE Biden (D)(1): Finally, Joe Biden’s theory of change. Worth clicking the image and reading in full:

“A tennis group, a gold club, a sewing circle, a reading group.” Odd examples. Story on the same quote here.

Biden (D)(2): “Progressives play whack-a-Joe with Biden” [Politico]. “The progressive, grassroots groups don’t have deep pockets — they rely on organizing muscle. While they have no plans to spend money on radio or television ads or mail against Biden, they’re leaning on their networks of dedicated activists to spread the word on the ground and on social media.” • Yes, let’s see how the NGOs do.

Biden (D)(3): “Top Sanders adviser on Biden: Voters don’t need ‘pathological lies about the Iraq War'” [The Hill]. “‘We’ve got a pathological liar in the White House, we don’t need pathological lies about the Iraq War from the Democrats when we’re confronting the most dangerous president in modern history,’ David Sirota, an adviser and speechwriter for Sanders’s 2020 campaign said.” • Come on, man. That loveable goof, Joe Biden, isn’t pathological.

Bloomberg (D)(1): “Democrats attack Bloomberg for running imperial campaign” [Politico]. “At a campaign stop here, the former New York mayor said he has no intention of trying to qualify for upcoming debates — even though he almost certainly could participate if he wanted to. It was his most definitive statement to date on a stance that has rankled his opponents, who chafe at his limitless war chest and feel he should have to endure the rigors of campaigning they do. Bloomberg insisted he’d like to debate if the rules allowed. But the billionaire, a latecomer to the Democratic primary, reasoned it is inappropriate for someone of his wealth to ask supporters for cash. ‘It’s up to the Democratic Party. They have a rule that you cannot participate in the debates unless you have a few hundred thousand donors,’ he told POLITICO after the campaign event Tuesday. ‘I don’t take any money from anybody else. I fund my campaign myself.'” • Interesting strategy, buying an election solely with advertising and earned media.

UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(1):

I’d say the people being “polarized” from their lives by postponing care, or going without, are more important than centrist tears, but that wouldn’t be civil.

Sanders (D)(1): “Fears of Sanders win growing among Democratic establishment” [Associated Press]. “Increasingly alarmed that Bernie Sanders could become their party’s presidential nominee, establishment-minded Democrats are warning primary voters that the self-described democratic socialist would struggle to defeat President Donald Trump and hurt the party’s chances in premier House, Senate and governors’ races. The urgent warnings come as Sanders shows new signs of strength on the ground in the first two states on the presidential primary calendar, Iowa and New Hampshire, backed by a dominant fundraising operation. The Vermont senator has largely escaped close scrutiny over the last year as his rivals doubted the quirky 78-year-old’s ability to win the nomination. But less than a month before Iowa’s kickoff caucuses, the doubters are being forced to take Sanders seriously.” • “Quirky.”

Against all odds, it looks like Bernie Sanders might be the Democratic nominee after all Indepedent. Somebody Do Something!

UPDATE Trump (R)(1): “Political prophet who correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984 says Iran is trouble for Trump” [Raw Story (dk). This is Allan Lichtman, of the famous “keys” theory. “If the Soleimani assassination indeed has an anti-Trump rebound effect that would mean that five of the 13 questions are ‘false.’ Many of the remaining variables are beyond the control of anyone besides Trump and the Republicans, but Democrats could lock in a sixth key against Trump by nominating a candidate who is charismatic and/or a national hero. It isn’t clear, of course, that they have such a candidate available — although charisma is, to some extent, in the eye of the beholder.” • As of now, Trump is ahead on the key count, but not over the top. Of course, 300 days is a long time in politics.

UPDATE Warren (D)(1): First selfie-line with Castro:

Personally, I find this grating (and “Imma” especially so); selfies give me the creeps. But perhaps that’s a generational thing.

* * *

“Did you get a text from an unknown number? It might be a presidential candidate” [Miami Herald]. “Democrats and Republicans alike are spending millions and deploying thousands of staffers and volunteers focused on texting with committed and potential supporters in the 2020 election. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign, an early adopter of the tactic, has already sent nearly nine times as many text messages to voters as it did during the entire 2016 primary. Political candidates’ and groups’ use of text messaging has skyrocketed over the past several years thanks to new software and the ease and efficiency of reaching voters across the country. ‘Everyone reads their text messages,’ said Daniel Souweine, who ran Sanders’ text message program in the 2016 race and went on to create a text messaging app for campaigns. ‘It’s quickly moved from, ‘hey, what is this thing?’, to the point where you can’t run a modern political campaign without it.'” • Interesting. Readers?

Iran Crisis

This is not really Water Cooler’s beat, but events are moving so fast:

“Trump says Iran ‘appears to be standing down’ in address to nation” [The Hill]. “‘As we continue to evaluate options in response to Iranian aggression, the United States will immediately impose additional punishing economic sanctions on the Iranian regime,’ Trump said. ‘These powerful sanctions will remain until Iran changes its behavior.'”

UPDATE An actual surgical strike:

* * *

UPDATE Sanders on “terrorists”:

UPDATE Warren on “terrorists”:

Sanders campaign:

FOX triumphant:

One might quibble with that “if”:

In Season 8 of the Forever Wars, the writers lost their touch:


“Echoes of Kavanaugh Fight as Bolton Complicates Impeachment Trial Plans” [New York Times]. “Democrats say they intend to keep the pressure on Republicans and try to pry away enough defectors to insist on calling witnesses, accusing those who refuse of enabling a cover-up ordered by the president. They have argued that any credible impeachment trial concerning Mr. Trump’s dealings with Ukraine must include testimony from key officials like Mr. Bolton, who followed a White House edict against cooperating in the House inquiry. They also want to see internal documents on the nearly $400 million in military aid Mr. Trump is accused of withholding from Ukraine as leverage to pressure its president to investigate his political rivals.” • The House didn’t have subpoena power? Or lacks the ability to enforce subpoenas through the courts?

“Pelosi’s next move on impeachment unclear as Senate waits” [Associated Press]. “In withholding the articles, Pelosi gave Democrats an opportunity to ramp up pressure on Republicans not to go along with McConnell’s proposal. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called McConnell’s plan a ‘trap’ and a ‘cover-up.’ He vowed to force votes anyway on Bolton and the others.” • Still failing to see the strategic genius in Pelosi’s impeachment calendar (and it’s her job as speaker to manage that). What “pressure”? How “force”? Of course, the intelligence community could always help them out with more anonymously sourced stories, so there’s that. But that’s not much, at this point, since a House hearing that wasn’t calendar-driven would have, presumably, flushed out such stories anyhow.

“DNC says next debate will be rescheduled if it conflicts with impeachment trial” [Politico]. “”Democrats and our senators can walk and chew gum,” Perez told MSNBC. “Obviously, if there’s a trial on the 14th, then we’ll move the debate. If there’s not, then we’re going to have the debate. At the moment, all systems are go, and so we’re going to move forward.'” • But Pelosi is not walking and chewing gum. She’s holding a gigantic wad of gum in her cheek, and stumbling.

Stats Watch

Tech: “California’s new privacy law creates $55-billion gold rush for start-ups” [Los Angeles Times]. “Businesses operating in California are required to comply with a sweeping new privacy law, the California Consumer Privacy Act, starting this month. They’ll have a few months to figure out the specifics, because the state’s attorney general is still working out the final rules and isn’t expected to start enforcement until July. But the new requirements are already causing widespread anxiety among many businesses that handle consumer data. A wave of start-ups, law firms and consultants is looking to take advantage of that anxiety — and to capture some of the $55 billion companies are expected to spend on initial compliance with the law.”

Tech: “Rabbit out of a hat” [Reuters]. “Tech unicorns often believe in their own magic – thanks in part to private-market enablers. Non-public startups have control over valuations by only raising money when their worth is rising. Valuing businesses based on a fraction of their capital and the latest preferred-share terms are also problems…. WeWork has had a sobering effect. But there’s a lot of capital to be deployed and hot startups can still make investors compete to give them cash. There will be more valuation illusions before reality sets in.”

Tech: “PGP keys, software security, and much more threatened by new SHA1 exploit” [Ars Technica]. “Git, the world’s most widely used system for managing software development among multiple people, still relies on SHA1 to ensure data integrity.” • Oy.

The Bezzle: “Airbnb users pay more to stay with attractive hosts” [Economist]. “PRETTY PEOPLE have all the luck. Studies show that the good-looking are considered more likeable, more intelligent and more employable than the rest of us. They also earn more. A well-known paper published in 1994 found that attractive men were paid 5% more than average-looking ones; attractive women made 4% more. In peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Airbnb and Uber, where buyers and sellers interact directly with one another, first impressions are particularly important. New research confirms that such online platforms are, in part, beauty contests.”

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 91 Extreme Greed (previous close: 89 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 93 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 8 at 12:29pm.

The Biosphere

“Australia’s leaders unmoved on climate action after devastating bushfires” [Reuters]. “”Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his emissions reduction minister, Angus Taylor, say Australia does not need to cut carbon emissions more aggressively to limit global warming, even after a three-year drought and unprecedented bushfires. Instead they say Australia, which contributes 1.3% of the world’s carbon emissions but is the second-largest emitter per capita behind the United States, should be rewarded for beating its emissions reduction targets for 2020. ‘When it comes to reducing global emissions, Australia must and is doing its bit, but bushfires are a time when communities must unite, not divide,’ Taylor said in emailed comments to Reuters on Tuesday, while he was busy at bushfire relief centers in his constituency in New South Wales state.” • The arsonists should unite with the homeowners and the firefighters….

“The Latest Victims of Australia’s Record Drought: 10,000 Feral Camels” [Gizmodo]. “But while Australians race to save the country’s native wildlife in the face of massive bushfires and crushing drought, the non-native camels face a different fate. Officials are planning to kill 10,000 camels over the next five days. Aboriginal leaders in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara territories in South Australia have sanctioned culling the animals, which have been using dwindling water resources that communities need as they face severe drought.”

“Evolution on the vine: A history of tomato domestication in Latin America” []. “The ultimate origin traces the lineage of the modern tomato to South America. …. In addition to estimating the timing of the emergence of different tomato groups, the genomic survey also identified many known or novel plausible candidate genes responsible for changes in tomato physical traits.” • Tomatoes are all about the novel and the plausible. They’re vines!

“Abandoned farms could be transformed into millions of hectares of conservation reserves” [Anthropocene]. “Researchers on a new Nature Sustainability paper make the case that converting millions of hectares of unproductive agricultural land globally could be an ingenious way to help us meet our conservation goals, and bring down global emissions. Currently, conservationists tend to focus their attention on lands that also happen to be highly sought-after for other purposes – like farming, development, or resource extraction. This focus is understandable, because most often, these lands occur in regions that are hugely biodiverse and ecologically important. But acquiring these plots to safeguard for conservation can be hugely costly and time-consuming, precisely because they’re valued by so many different parties. And inevitably, that slows down crucial conservation efforts. Recognising this conundrum, the team of international researchers chose to highlight the overlooked conservation potential of what they call ‘uncontested’ lands: millions of hectares of fallow farmland that is no longer valuable or particularly attractive to anyone else.”

“What fossils will modern-day civilization leave behind?” (interview) [Nature]. “Q: You write that when humans and present-day animals die, they leave a distinctive ‘Anthropocene corpse signal.’ What does that look like? K.K.: The human population took off in the mid–20th century, thanks to modern medicine and antibiotics. And that means a lot more people being buried in an orderly fashion in graveyards. It’s not a mess of bones like we see with dinosaurs. These ordered graves are essentially worldwide, so you’ll be finding people’s remains the same way all over the place. I don’t know if “creepy” is quite the right word, but imagine you’re an alien from another species and you find this world just covered in these bodies all laid out in a specific way all over its surface; just imagine what that would look like.” • Hmm. Sorry for the Debbie Downer subject matter, but this is an interesting idea.


“White House Announces Trump Would Likely Veto Bill Regulating ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Drinking Water” [Newsweek]. • The United States of Flint.

Health Care

“Woman Finds A Genius Way To Reduce ER Bills By Itemizing Them And People Are Saying That It Works” [Bored Panda (David Carl Grimes)]. “While those who have insurance are not always made to pay full price, the uninsured people suffer the most. This prompts people to look for a way to reduce their bills. After TikTok user shaunnaburns3 told people to ask hospitals for itemized bills once they are faced with a hefty charge for a trip to the ER, people decided to put that to the test. Luckily, for some people, this tip actually worked and helped save them hundreds of dollars.” • I wonder if any readers have tried the tips in this article? (None of which should be needed; they’re all about gaming a system that shouldn’t even exist in the first place.)

“US cancer death rate sees largest-ever single-year drop, report says” [CNN]. “The rate of people dying from cancer in the United States continued to decline for the 26th year in a row, according to a new American Cancer Society report. From 2016 to 2017, the United States saw its largest-ever single-year drop in overall cancer deaths, a 2.2% plunge spurred in part by a sharp decline in lung cancer deaths.” • Nice to have some good news.

“The Americans dying because they can’t afford medical care” [Guardian]. “Millions of Americans – as many as 25% of the population – are delaying getting medical help because of skyrocketing costs…. Her insurance requires a $5,000 deductible. Having met it in 2019, she scrambled to have her surgery scheduled before 2020, when it would reset. All while her partner is looking to file for bankruptcy because he currently has around $40,000 in medical debt.” • That makes sense. Resetting deductibles on January 1. Thanks, Obama!

“Congress’ health agenda barrels toward 2020 buzz saw” [Politico]. “Doctor Patient Unity — a dark money group largely funded by two private equity-backed physician staffing companies — was the most prominent of the outside groups to spend heavily to influence the surprise billing debate, dropping more than $53 million on ads over the last half of 2019 to attack a leading surprise billing fix, according to Advertising Analytics.”

Our Famously Free Press

From CNN:

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/8/2020

It’s all here: War as an immersive experience, cartoonish colors, dumbed down maps (no borders! No Straits of Hormuz! Kuwait, but not Saudi Arabia), the yammering pundit, plus a drone!

Class Warfare

“‘We didn’t ask for a meditation app, we want to be able to pay our rent’: Starbucks is offering new mental health benefits, but employees are demanding different kinds of support” [Business Insider]. “[One] Starbucks employee from Washington State said that he felt the Headspace benefit was simply an attempt by Starbucks to combat bad press related to understaffing and increased demands for productivity. According to the employee, his store often feels like it needs one or two more people working during peak hours, creating significant stress for workers. He would prefer Starbucks focus on fixing what he calls a “toxic” environment by focusing on these staffing issues, as well as paying workers more.”

“The Mid-Century Misfire That Was ‘Slum Clearance’ Tore Down Much More Than Tenements” [New York Magazine]. “The goal, in America, was a mix of righteousness and prejudice: to uplift the poor, eliminate the unsanitary, stimulate commerce, and bring order to the messiness of urban life. In the period’s ideological framework, this required radical strokes rather than patience, sensitivity, and grassroots labor. If that meant that immigrants and people of color would absorb most of the shock, well, the bureaucrats could live with that. In Germany, the same U.S. government that had ordered the obliteration also helped pay for the reconstruction. In this country, the market was supposed to take care of rebuilding; often, it never showed up. Today, when a few American cities are getting loved to death and converted into luxury enclaves, many more still struggle with emptiness. Blocks that were once crammed with brick houses and that thrummed with bakeries, taverns, tailors, butchers, and general stores now contain a drive-through ATM and a parking lot. The constellation of good intentions and bad ideas that dominated mid-century urbanism went by the names of ‘slum clearance’ and, more blithely, ‘urban renewal.'”

Just ask any squillionaire:

News of the Wired

Theory of mind:

Playful sociopaths:

And besides this cruelty, and Vietnam, LBJ also did his part in Congress to get the civil rights acts passed, and passed Medicare. So go figure.

“Robert Johnson’s Grave” [Atlas Obscura]. “Back in 1965, a blues journalist and researcher named Gayle Dean Wardlow launched a search for Johnson’s missing death certificate. He recovered it from the state of Mississippi in 1968—30 years after Johnson died in 1938—only to find there were still quite a few holes in the story of Johnson’s young death. One of the biggest unanswered questions pertained to the bluesman’s gravesite: The death certificate named ‘Zion Church’ in Leflore County—rather unhelpfully, considering that the county had at least three churches with names including the word ‘Zion.'” •

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

2:00PM Water Cooler 1/8/2020

WB writes: “Red and yellow dogwood can add nice color to bleak winter landscapes, especially in MN.”

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2:00PM Water Cooler 1/8/2020

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