2:00PM Water Cooler 3/14/2019

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

2020

Biden: Alert reader ED throws this over the transom:

I worked at the Pennsylvania Extruded Tube Company in Clarks Summit for 13 years until I retired eight months ago. As “factory” a place as you will ever find, just north of Scranton. Biden would show up in Scranton just before elections to campaign, talk about how he was from there, and then disappear. Everyone knew an election was coming, because Joe Biden was back in town.

“It’s a great place to be from,” he’d say. And we’d say, “Yeah, you couldn’t wait to leave, and you never did anything for Scranton anyway, except leave.” In 2016, Joe showed up to campaign for Hillary. Same tired stories about how great it was to be from Scranton. A kiss of death to an already dead candidate. The factory went overwhelmingly for Trump, because he talked about trade and jobs. When you’ve been down so long, you have to jump on any little ray of hope that comes your way, even if you know it usually doesn’t work out.

Are many of my old colleagues from the factory going to welcome Biden to the presidential race? You gotta be kidding!

This story jibes with MontanaMaven’s comment yesterday.

* * *

O’Rourke (1): “Beto O’Rourke, as He Comes to Grips with a Presidential Run: ‘I’m Just Born to Do This’ [Vanity Fair]. Appropriate venue. Concluding paragraph: “The more he talks, the more he likes the sound of what he’s saying. ‘I want to be in it,’ he says, now leaning forward. ‘Man, I’m just born to be in it, and want to do everything I humanly can for this country at this moment.’” • Quite the contrast to Sanders’ “Not me, you,” eh? And as for “In it”: Cf. Clinton’s “I’m in” (2007), “I’m in” (2015), and “Is she in it for us or is she in it for herself?’” (2016).

O’Rourke (2): “Beto O’Rourke enters 2020 race attempting bipartisan appeal” [Associated Press]. “O’Rourke refused donations from outside political groups and shunned pollsters during his Senate campaign. Nonetheless, his nationwide popularity helped him rake in more than $80 million during the Senate bid, including a staggering $38 million between July 2018 and September 2018.” • But not individuals (or bundlers).

O’Rourke (3): “Beto announces bid for president” [Politico]. “his announcement could reshape the Democratic primary, unfreezing activists and donors who’d been waiting to commit to other candidates until O’Rourke announced his plans…. Seated beside his wife, Amy, in his hometown of El Paso, Texas, he said he will ‘travel this country’ on a listening tour before returning to El Paso for a campaign kickoff rally on March 30.” • A listening tour? Did O’Rourke hire the Clinton staffers Harris didn’t snap up?

O’Rourke (3): “Beto 2020 Has No Reason to Exist” [Slate]. “Beto is missing one important thing, though: an actual reason to run. O’Rourke would enter the race as a man without a clear political ideology, a signature legislative achievement, a major policy issue, or a concrete agenda for the country…. During his Senate campaign, O’Rourke was similarly open to ideas without advocating for specific ones. He specifically avoided policy-specific language like “Medicare for all,” instead saying he was open to a variety of paths to universal health care coverage, “whether it be through a single payer system, a dual system, or otherwise.” (“Beto 2020: Or Otherwise!”)” • Hello, fellow kids!\

O’Rourke (4): “Beto O’Rourke Is Running for President and It All Started With Weed” [The Intercept]. “Rumors of an impending announcement were swirling around Washington throughout the day on Wednesday, with the biggest clue that O’Rourke was preparing to announce coming when his camp emailed volunteers on the Senate campaign, telling them, “We need help sending some text messages tomorrow morning.” That’s a reference to what’s known as distributed organizing, which became a driving factor that powered the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016. In 2018, some of the key staffers behind it, including Becky Bond and and Zack Malitz, joined O’Rourke’s Texas Senate campaign and took distributed organizing to the next level. They and some other veterans of the Sanders campaign have stayed with O’Rourke, even as Sanders has re-launched his presidential bid. The request for volunteers to send text messages may seem fairly standard, but there’s something revolutionary about it from an organizing perspective. It empowers volunteers from the very start to begin to take actually useful action on behalf of the campaign. And it requires an immense amount of trust in the campaign’s supporters, but it also requires a message and a messenger that people believe passionately in.” • I am genuinely baffled and appalled at how “people” could “believe passionately” in O’Rourke. Did we learn nothing from Obama? (And boy howdy, do I remember the Obots from 2008, sharing their conversion experiences. I’m so not looking forward to that again.)

O’Rourke (5): Let the oppo being:

And this isn’t even oppo…

* * *

Sanders (1): “Senate votes to end U.S. military support for Saudi-led war in Yemen” [Axios]. “The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), leans on the War Powers Resolution of 1973, which states that if American troops are entangled in ‘hostilities’ overseas ‘without a declaration of war or specific statutory authorization, such forces shall be revoked by the President if the Congress so directs by concurrent resolution.’” • Trying hard to think of a present candidate, or a candidate from the recent past, who’s tried to stop a way instead of start one. (Yes, Gabbard is very good on this, but Sanders has actually managed to introduce legislation and get it passed.)

Sanders (2): From alert reader ST:

Will keep you apprised of Bernie grassroots activity in northern California.

A lot is still in place from 2016, having run local and state candidates, as well as winning 60+% of the state Dem party delegates in November.

The myriad meetings have already commenced! Just dusting off the mailing lists, seeing which signage can be repurposed, buttonmaking, t-shirt making and sign waving. All of this will be in place months before the campaign gunslingers arrive from DC

. No Tad Devine this time? Tant pis pour nous!.

And ST sends this signage from Santa Rosa:

Warren: “Elizabeth Warren’s Tech Assault Propels Fringe Antitrust View to Spotlight” [Bloomberg]. “Warren’s proposal last week to classify some technology giants as utilities and undo previous industry mergers jolted Silicon Valley. It also hit a nerve among Democrats and Republicans in Congress, who’ve grown increasingly concerned that curbs on anticompetitive conduct are poorly enforced. That all but ensures that restraining the power of dominant companies will be a focus of the 2020 campaign as Democrats seek to unseat President Donald Trump. Later this month, presidential candidates Amy Klobuchar and Julian Castro are set to appear at an Iowa event along with Warren to discuss monopoly power in rural communities.”

Yang: “Who Is Andrew Yang, and Why Do the Gen Z Kids Love Him?” [New York Magazine]. “[A]side from teens, he’s also caught the attention of some disillusioned Trump voters, white nationalists, and 4channers, all of whom appear to be drawn to Yang over his promise to give them $1,000 a month, and the fact that he’s not a politician by nature, in the same way that Trump isn’t. Many seem to see him as a guy who wants to do things differently within our broken system. His supporters have also cherry-picked his quotes and parts of his platform to argue that his values align with theirs. For example, his tweet about the opioid crisis that mentioned declining white birth rates — a major concern among white nationalists — has been held up as evidence that he supports their agenda.” • That last bit on the opiod crisis is so [family blogging] virulent and dangerous; elites playing with fire and don’t even know it (though perhaps the 0.01% are rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of the coming conflagration. And be sure to read the comments from the kids; Yang could shock.

2019

AOC: Not a fan of this:

The answer is yes, the Slave Power was “good, old-fashioned capitalism.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

DSA:

That’s the theory; DSA can piggyback on Sanders. I dunno.

Stats Watch

Jobless Claims, week of March 9, 2019: “Jobless claims never did give any hint of the sharp deterioration in the last monthly employment report and they aren’t pointing to anything but steady and very solid conditions so far this month” [Econoday]. “Swings in oil can affect the headlines in this report but the underlying message is the same as yesterday’s producer price report and Tuesday’s consumer price report, and that is inflation in general, whether domestic or cross-border, remains extremely subdued.”

New Home Sales, January 2019: “In a mostly favorable report, new home sales for January came in …. roughly as-expected” [Econoday]. “The housing sector was the big flop of the 2018 economy but January’s new home results are an offset to continued weakness in sales of existing homes and should raise talk of promise for 2019. Today’s report includes net upward revisions.” And but: “New Home Sales decreased to 607,000 Annual Rate in January” [Calculated Risk]. “Even with the increase in sales over the last several years, new home sales are still somewhat low historically.” And but: “Because of weather and other factors, the rolling averages are the way to view this series. The rolling averages improved but remains in contraction” [Econintersect]. “This data series is suffering from methodology issues which manifest as significant backward revision.”

Import and Export Prices, February 2019: “Even with the petroleum lift, total year-on-year import prices remained in the negative column” [Econoday]. And: “The month-over-month price index for fuel imports increased (and non-fuel imports was unchanged) – and the price index for agricultural exports increased” [Econintersect].

The Bezzle: “World View’s return to earth shows the dangers & costs of a sucker’s game.” [Tucson Sentinel (RH)]. “I’m not saying Pima County’s ballyhooed and bluster-inducing deal with high-altitude balloon company World View is about to be consumed by fire. I’m just saying the company is falling short of jobs projections in what may be a wobble… Pima County’s supervisors approved a ballsy deal with World View amid fanfare, criticism and a ginned-up lawsuit the county won. The county would build World View a headquarters and a launch pad for the balloons. The company would pay rent on the facilities and repay the county for its end, plus a guarantee of escalating its local workforce to 100 by the end of 2018, 200 by 2022 and 400 by 2032… Three years on, there’s been a catastrophic explosion and a leadership change as World View’s promise of “Jobs!” Jobs! Jobs!” has turned into “eh … jobs …” The company has a staff of 87. That’s 13 fewer than what was promised in the contract. Because World View refused to make public its internal growth projections, the county approved the deal after its own study predicted the company would hire pushing 400 workers by now.” • As I principle, we’d like to support local operations like the Tucson Sentinel, and it’s a good deed to throw them some clicks. So thanks to alert reader RH for sending this in.

Tech: “Massive Facebook Outage” [Search Engine Journal]. “However, I was able to post part of a link if I inserted a space between the dot and the com…. This outage does not affect posts that don’t feature links. As you can see in this screenshot, I was able to make a test post… Obviously, Facebook is changing something related to how it fetches links that are intended for sharing. Facebook has been under increasing scrutiny because of fake information that is being shared on it’s platform. It’s possible that Facebook was introducing a news filter related to links and that something at the crawler level is stopping the post from completing.”

Tech: “When Facebook Goes Down, Don’t Blame Hackers” [Wired]. “[Facebook said] that while it was still investigating the root cause of its woes, it had ruled out a distributed denial of service attack. On the surface, DDoS makes for a reasonable enough suspect; as a class of attack, its whole purpose is to bring sites down. But assumptions that hackers would hobble not just Facebook but also Instagram and WhatsApp with a DDoS attack rely on a shaky grasp of what that would entail and how prepared companies are to stop them.” • That’s the odd thing, that all the platforms owned by Facebook would crash, even they are separate systems. Or have they all been integrated — making it harder to break up Facebook — much more than we thought?

Tech: “The Gmail bug that’s been stealing $187M a year from Expedia” [The HFT Guy]. “It turns out that Gmail hides new messages that look similar to previous messages.” Like password reset messages, for example. “The password reset procedure is failing for a multi billion dollar website with hundreds of millions of customers…. Let’s estimate the impact. Incidentally, all the required metrics were distilled through today’s presentations and the data team just introduced themselves. Assuming some percentages of some percentages of some statistics from users and sales. (read: private numbers). The direct impact of this bug is a direct loss of revenues of $187M dollars per year, simply accounting for people who are unable to login and place any order. Existing users cannot use the service, new users can register but not return…. The bug is still there and it’s been there all along. I got it recently when I booked a travel. It’s been going on for many years. It must be well over a billion dollar loss by now.” • Can’t somebody sue Google for this? (Or maybe break them up, so one bug affects hundreds of millions of users, and not billions.)

Manufacturing: “FAA says new data on crashes led to grounding Boeing 737 Max fleet” [MarketWatch]. “The groundings will have a far-reaching financial impact on Boeing, at least in the short term, said John Cox, a veteran pilot and CEO of Safety Operating Systems. In addition to those that have already been grounded, there are more than 4,600 Boeing 737 Max 8 planes on backlog that are not yet delivered to airlines. ‘There are delivery dates that aren’t being met, there’s usage of the aircraft that’s not being met, and all the supply chain things that Boeing so carefully crafted,’ Cox said. Even so, Boeing will recover, because planes typically fly for up to 40 years, and any needed fix will be made quickly, he said.” • Hmm. 40 years, well into Jackpot territory. Really?

Manufacturing: “What could be wrong with the 737 Max — and what it means for Boeing” [CBC]. “Boeing is on track to rake in just over $110 billion US this year in revenue from selling planes. But more than a third of its profits will come from the 580 Max jets the company was on track to deliver this year, more than twice what they sold in 2018. There are 5,000 more — more than $600 billion worth — on back order, according to Bloomberg data.”

Manufacturing: “Here’s What Was on the Record About Problems With the 737 Max” [The Atlantic]. The reports have already been published in the Dallas Morning News (Water Cooler yesterday). But here’s interesting information on the venue: “While the fundamentals remain unknown, here are some relevant primary documents. They come from an underpublicized but extremely valuable part of the aviation-safety culture. This is a program called ASRS, or Aviation Safety Reporting System, which has been run by NASA since the 1970s. That it is run by NASA—and not the regulator-bosses at the FAA—is a fundamental virtue of this system. Its motto is ‘Confidential. Voluntary. Nonpunitive.’… The ASRS system is based on the idea that anyone involved in aviation—pilots, controllers, ground staff, anyone—can file a report of situations that seemed worrisome, in confidence that the information will not be used against them.”

Manufacturing: “Can Boeing Trust Pilots?” [Air Facts]. “What’s critical to the current, mostly uninformed discussion is that the 737 MAX system is not triply redundant. In other words, it can be expected to fail more frequently than one in a billion flights, which is the certification standard for flight critical systems and structures. What Boeing is doing is using the age-old concept of using the human pilots as a critical element of the system. Before fly-by-wire (FBW) came along, nearly all critical systems in all sizes of airplanes counted on the pilot to be a crucial part of the system operation…. I am sure the future belongs to [Fly-By-Wire] and that saying pilots need more training and better skills is no longer enough. The flying public wants to get home safely no matter who is allowed to be at the controls.” • Hmm. I would like to know what our pilots think of this article. The reasoning would also seem to apply to robot cars.

Manufacturing: “A second 737 Max crash raises questions about airplane automation” [Technology Review]. “The remarkable safety record of commercial airliners is an achievement of bureaucracy rather than technology. Airplanes are not safe because they are made of strong materials, nor because the computers that help fly them are so sophisticated. They are safe because of an elaborate international system of regulation that, with scores of checklists and reams of systematized procedures, makes ‘Safety first’ not a slogan but a reality. That system is now showing signs of strain…. within a day of the crash, 23 airlines had grounded their 737 Max fleets. None of these are American-flagged… This demonstrates a fracturing of technocratic consensus…. Taking things at face value, maybe China is showing an abundance of caution, and the FAA is not jumping to conclusions. But it sure looks as if China is taking the chance to undermine confidence in its global rival, while the US government is doing what it can to protect America’s largest exporter, which is an important source of manufacturing jobs.” • In national security discourse, “rules-based international order” is a polite fiction (or mostly polite; see under Iraq). But in the commercial airline industry, it has been real. So this is a problem…

The Biosphere

“California’s super bloom attracts swarms of migrating butterflies” [CNN]. “This year’s wildflower super bloom is not only filling California deserts with eye-popping displays of color — it’s also providing a feast for swarms of painted lady butterflies making their way north from Mexico ‘This is the biggest outbreak since 2005,’ said Art Shapiro, a professor at the University of California, Davis, who’s been studying the migration of butterflies in the state since 1972.” Nothing to do with Monarchs, however: ‘It has nothing at all to do with the monarch. It’s like asking whether a good year for the economy of Tanzania will be helpful to the economy of Sri Lanka,’ Shapiro said. ‘Probably there’s no relation.’” • But it is good to see one pollinator doing well!

“Ilhan Omar’s 16-year-old daughter is co-leading the Youth Climate Strike” [Grist]. “[Ilhan] Omar is not the only environmental influencer in her family — her daughter Isra Hirsi, 16, is one of the three youth leaders planning the U.S. component of Friday’s International Youth Climate Strike, in which young people will walk out of class in order to call for urgent climate action. Isra Hirsi: “These strikes are happening all over the world. Getting young people out, going to state capitols, going to city halls, going to the nation’s capital and talking about these things, that says something. That’s what we’re trying to do: Change the conversation not only about things like the Green New Deal but so much more. Obviously, one strike isn’t going to change everything, but this isn’t the last strike.” • I’m a fan, but I don’t like dynasties either….

“Deadly 2017 wildfire found sparked by So. California Edison power lines” [Reuters]. “An investigation of the [Thomas] fire’s origins found that high winds blew Edison power lines into one another, creating an electrical arc that ‘deposited hot, burning or molten material’ into dry vegetation on the ground, setting off the blaze, the Ventura County Fire Department said in a statement. In a 70-plus page report, investigators also cited several possible criminal violations by Edison in connection with the fire, including involuntary manslaughter, reckless arson and a health-safety code breach for carelessly or negligently causing a fire. A review by the state attorney general will decide whether criminal charges will be brought.” • Not PG&E (for which see NC here and here).

“Horizon by Barry Lopez review – magnificent on the natural world, and furious too” (photographs, absurdly gorgeous) [Guardian]. “Ralph Waldo Emerson described the horizon as the “point of astonishment”, mischievously converting it to a thing that it is not. For a horizon is always a line and never a point. The word comes from the Greek hóros, meaning “boundary”; whether that boundary seals the eye in or summons it on depends on circumstance. Early on, Lopez describes setting up a telescope on Cape Foulweather and “working the ocean’s horizon from right to left … the beckoning line where the dark edge of the ocean trembled against the sky”. The sweep he makes is a probing of space, but we understand it also to be a prospecting of the future. To look to the horizon has long been – for mariners, explorers and fieldworkers of all kinds – the simplest form of augury. What weather is coming?” • Good question!

The 420

“Kentucky farmers gamble on the South’s first organic hemp cooperative” [Southerly]. “[Tony] Silvernail thinks joining forces through a regional cooperative could provide a sustainable solution. By combining their acreage, equipment, and expertise, small farmers hope to increase access and lower their investment in hemp production. At least fifteen farmers recently formed the Kentucky Organic Hemp Cooperative (KOHC), which is one of the first organic hemp cooperatives in the nation. ‘There’s a huge amount of money being absorbed through the production chain,’ Silvernail said. ‘If we can control more of that, we can get more money back into farmer’s hands.’” • “Absorbed” puts the matter rather delicately…..

Class Warfare

“8 elite schools hit with first lawsuit in massive college admissions bribery scam” [ABC]. “The suit was filed Tuesday in a Northern California federal court by two students at Stanford University, one of the eight elite colleges named in the lawsuit, all of which had associated individuals implicated in the bribery case. In the suit, students Erica Olsen and Kalea Woods claimed they both went through the legitimate and rigorous admissions process to Stanford and were ‘never informed that the process of admission was an unfair, rigged process, in which rich parents could buy their way into the university through bribery.’ …. Olsen contends she had been damaged by the admissions scandal because her degree from Stanford ‘is now not worth as much as it was before, because prospective employers may now question whether she was admitted to the university on her own merits, versus having parents who were willing to bribe school officials.”

News of the Wired

“What is Pi Day? Everything you need to know about celebrating” [USA Today]. “Thursday marks Pi Day, held on March 14 in honor of 3.14, the measurement calculating the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. The number itself is rounded up [sic] to 3.14 but it can go on forever…. Several pizza chains are offering a variety of pizzas priced at $3.14 honoring Pi Day. It’s also a great time to buy pie. For example, fast food chain Bojangles is selling three sweet potato pies for $3.14. This is the kind of math we can get behind.” • Tell me it’s not a great country! Albert Einstein was born on Pi Day, and Karl Marx died.

“Pi in the sky: Calculating a record-breaking 31.4 trillion digits of Archimedes’ constant on Google Cloud” [Google]. “In honor of Pi Day, today March 14 (represented as 3/14 in many parts of the world), we’re excited to announce that we successfully computed π to 31.4 trillion decimal places—31,415,926,535,897 to be exact, or π * 1013.” • So when does it start to repeat?

“Why Do so Many Egyptian Statues Have Broken Noses?” [Artsy]. “‘[I]conoclasm on a grand scale…was primarily political in motive,’ [Brooklyn Museum’s Egyptian antiquities curator Edward Bleiberg] writes in the exhibition catalogue for ‘Striking Power.’ Defacing statues aided ambitious rulers (and would-be rulers) with rewriting history to their advantage. … ‘The damaged part of the body is no longer able to do its job,’ Bleiberg explained. Without a nose, the statue-spirit ceases to breathe, so that the vandal is effectively ‘killing’ it. To hammer the ears off a statue of a god would make it unable to hear a prayer…. Bleiberg appraised the skill evidenced by the iconoclasts. ‘They were not vandals,’ he clarified. ‘They were not recklessly and randomly striking out works of art.’ In fact, the targeted precision of their chisels suggests that they were skilled laborers, trained and hired for this exact purpose. ‘Often in the Pharaonic period,’ Bleiberg said, ‘it’s really only the name of the person who is targeted, in the inscription. This means that the person doing the damage could read!’” • So the iconoclasts were like priests!

* * *

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 (jsn):

Looks like an alien being!

* * *

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered.
To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

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