/2:00PM Water Cooler 6/18/2019

2:00PM Water Cooler 6/18/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I was up quite late last night dealing with Warren’s crawfishing on #MedicareForAll, so I got a late start this morning. Still, I think there’s plenty to talk about! If I can deal with some household matters rapidly enough, I will return with more. –lambert


“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

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“Biden, Sanders and 8 other hopefuls to attend ‘Poor People’s’ forum” [Politico]. “Sens. Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Michael Bennet, as well as Rep. Eric Swalwell, Julián Castro, Andrew Yang, Marianne Williamson and Wayne Messam, have also said they’ll be at the June 17 event in Washington, according to the the organization.”

Biden (D)(1): “After Addressing Poor People’s Campaign, Biden Asks Super-Rich for Campaign Cash” [GritPost]. “Bloomberg News reporter Jennifer Epstein tweeted a list of some of attendees at Monday night’s Biden fundraiser, which includes a former Trump (and Obama) cabinet official, a former Republican U.S. Senator, and billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign when Romney ran against Obama and Biden. In 2015, Catsimatidis wrote a $70,000 check to a super PAC supporting former Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R). The fundraiser is being held at the East 75th Street home of Jim Chanos, who poked fun at a group of protesters calling on Biden to support the Green New Deal, according to Epstein. Homes in Chanos’ building sell for roughly $2 million, according to Zillow.” • You’ve gotta admire Biden. The man is comfortable in his own skin. I think I’d like to have beer with him. He’s so likeable!

Biden (D)(2): “Progressive activist: Democratic nominee will ‘need to ride a little bit to the center’” [The Hill RH)]. “[Dworkin, co-founder and lead investigator of advocacy group the Democratic Coalition], predicted that former President Barack Obama will hit the campaign trail and be a uniting force among Democrats. ‘Somebody’s going to have to unite us — President Obama is going to have a lot to do with that,’ he told Hill.TV. ‘And you’ll see him campaign at a level that it seems like he’s running in 2020.’” • Oy. I hope Obama sticks to playing golf and cashing in. Noticeably light on naming its funders, the Democratic Coalition is a SuperPAC; it’s “founding chairman, Jon Cooper, was behind the effort to draft Joe Biden (D) for a presidential run in 2016.” So I take it Dworkin is issuing a call for help. To which Obama will respond in the most passive-aggressive way possible.

Sanders (D(1): MSDNC:

Sanders (D)(2):

Trump (R)(1):

Translating the Trumpese, he’s threatening (or predicting a capital strike), although leave it to FOX to head for the gutter. I don’t think he’s wrong.

Warren (D)(1):

Warren (D)(2): Former Clinton Comms operative:

No point denying the bitterness among Clinton operatives and assets in the media. The issue is how far that feeling extends, beyond the Twitter, with voters.

Top two:

Obama Legacy

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Lost Bearings” [The Nation]. Of Adam Gopnik. I loved Paris to the Moon, because I love Paris, and I think quintessential New Yorker writer Gopnik should stay in that lane. “The vision that Gopnik offers of liberalism as sensible, skeptical, cautious, reformist, and moderate—a path to political safety between the Scylla and Charybdis of right and left extremes—will certainly appeal to many readers. But it is not a politics or a substitute for one; Gopnik himself defines it as a ‘temperament.’… [He] suggests that if one has the proper constructive temperament, then a proper constructive politics will naturally follow…. [B]ut achieving the goals of egalitarianism and toleration requires—and always has required—a clearheaded analysis of the prevailing political, social, and economic circumstances and the creation of a practical program based on this analysis. Temperament matters, but temperament alone will not get us there. Moreover, in America today, privileging temperament over concrete analysis is especially dangerous, because it encourages self-defined moderate liberals to set themselves up in opposition to the supposedly extreme and immoderate leftists who are, in fact, offering the most incisive analyses of the country’s problems and the most ambitious programs to overcome them.” • But wait! Civility! Unity! Doing the work of a vicious oligarchy while virtue signaling one’s tolerance and moderation!

Stats Watch

Commodities: “Tanker activity near the Gulf of Oman is dwindling and freight rates for crude carriers in the region are soaring. The sparse activity across the region reflects the high anxiety hitting shipowners in the days following attacks that crippled two tankers” [Wall Street Journal]. “Ship brokers say rates for moving oil there have jumped as much as 50%. Some 70 large crude carriers, or 10% of the world’s supertanker fleet, remain near the Strait of Hormuz, but many are idled as they await business.”

Commodities: “Chile’s Chuquicamata copper mine operations halved amid strike: Codelco” [Reuters]. “Copper production at Chile’s top mines dropped sharply in the first quarter of 2019, Chilean copper commission Cochilco said in May, amid a perfect storm of operational issues, heavy rains and falling ore grades at the largest deposits.”

Food: “The Beyond Meat of Fish Is Coming” [Bloomberg]. “But the next chapter of fish production, beyond even land-based farming, is already being written—by scientists. San Francisco-based Wild Type is hoping that, as with the rise of meat substitutes (and their arrival on Wall Street), lab-grown fish won’t be far behind.” • Hmm. Wild Type held a tasting…

Shipping: “The push to clean up shipping emissions is extending to the ship finance sector. Eleven big banks with a combined shipping portfolio of around $100 billion will take environmental considerations into account for shipping loans…. a new sign of the growing financial pressure on companies to address climate concerns” [Wall Street Journal]. “The banks including Citibank, Societe Generale S.A. and ABN Amro NV signed into an industry framework that seeks to direct new money for shipping toward environmentally-friendly vessels. The banks control about a fourth of the global ship finance market, but backers of the accord say bigger influence will come if Chinese lenders join. Chinese banks control around 25% of all ship finance and more than half of all shipbuilding capacity.”

The Bezzle: “Facebook unveils global digital coin called Libra” [Financial Times]. “Facebook has revealed plans for a new global digital currency backed by assets and supported by more than two dozen companies ranging from Visa and Mastercard to Lyft and Spotify, bringing the heft of the world’s largest social network to efforts to transform financial services. The scope of Facebook’s ambitions for the new currency, called Libra, was made clear as it claimed 1.7bn people around the world without a bank account would be able to use it to make instant and nearly free international money transfers from their mobile phones.” • I’m sure NC will have more to say about this, but Facebook is a criminal enterprise and Zuckerberg is a crook. What could go wrong? (Meanwhile, I am sure that Clive will be reassured that Libra is partnering with Visa, since that would imply that the existing infrastructure will remain as is, bubblegum and baling wire and all.

The Bezzle: “Facebook’s Libra Cryptocurrency: Everything We Know” [PC Magazine]. “But for consumers wary of trusting their money and financial data to a company known for privacy problems, there are a few important points Facebook is hammering home with Libra. Not only is it ceding control of the blockchain, but Facebook’s social data and Libra’s financial data will be kept entirely separate. You don’t need a Facebook or WhatsApp account to use Libra or sign up for Calibra. While users will be vetted for anti-fraud protection when setting up an account, like other blockchains there will be no personal information associated with Libra and all transactions will be encrypted. Facebook can’t take the data from your transaction history and use it to target ads or sell you products.” • That may be the selling point. OTOH, you might think that Facebook is exactly the sort of company that would figure out how to game this. Libra, IOW, would be the mother of all phishing equilibria.

The Bezzle: “Facebook just took the wraps off Libra, a new cryptocurrency that will let anyone in the world pay with their smartphone” [Business Insider]. “More than two dozen companies have been enlisted to invest $10 million apiece toward the currency’s upkeep in return for a vote in its governance through a not-for-profit foundation called the Libra Association. These range from payment firms like Mastercard and PayPal to tech firms like Ebay, Uber, and Spotify, as well as venture-capital firms, blockchain companies, and nonprofit groups.” • That doesn’t seem like a lot of money. Where does the bailout money come from? Are the members of the foundation like “names” at Lloyds? Also, “governance”? And speaking of bailouts:

The Bezzle: Can’t follow Kaminska’s dust on this, but maybe readers will do better:

The Bezzle: “How Stablecoins address volatility With Hugo Jacques” [Irish Tech News]. • I’ve avoided the bitcoin literature because I could never sort the hype. But this sentence caught my eye: “Fiat collateralized Stablecoins are being backed by fiat reserves such as USD, EUR, etc.” • Which is what we have with Libra. But I thought in the bitcoin fever swamps, fiat was the source of all evil?

Tech: “Tech Unicorns Are Evolving Into What Exactly?” [Dartmouth Business Journal]. “The easy opportunities for disrupting traditional industries are drying up. For example, Benchling and Blend, firms that specialize in life science data management and digital lending respectively, are two of the many cutting-edge start-ups that may become the next unicorns. Rather than establishing themselves on the presently dying ‘sharing economy,’ where goods and services are shared in a tech-enabled system, these companies largely focus on software targeting micro-changes in specific industries such as agriculture, banking and biotechnology…. Since the old-guard sharing industries of hospitality and ride-sharing are fading, software start-ups that refresh already existing, outdated platforms will be the next wave of companies that can dictate their terms for markets.” • “The presently dying ‘sharing economy’”! And: “Previously constrained to a “sharing economy” where consumers share goods and services through a tech-enabled system, tech unicorns are increasingly dominating specialty sectors. This can be seen with Pinterest’s recent decision to move forward with their Initial Public Offering (IPO), only the first in the pipeline for the year as Slack, Robinhood and Postmates prepare for their own IPOs. Even mattress company Casper has achieved unicorn status. These tech unicorns are uniquely establishing monopolistic footholds in their sectors.” • Oh, so that’s what unicorns are! Monopolies! Platform-enabled monopolies!


First person shooter:

Dude looks scared. (And the reflection makes this an amazing photo.

Guillotine Watch

I never thought that Frank Luntz was, well, stupid. But I guess I was wrong:

But he is. First, the Hotel Imperial is run by MBAs from Marriott, an American Corporation. not apparatchiks from Gosplan. That’s a big difference [snicker]. Second, Austria is run by a conservative party in coalition with right wing loons (until the leader of said loons got stung in a corruption video; Austrian readers please chime in). I still enjoy seeing Luntz operate as a focus group whisperer, but however he does that, it can’t be based on higher cortical functions.

Class Warfare

“Some Students Get Extra Time for New York’s Elite High School Entrance Exam. 42% Are White.” [New York Times]. I know editors write the headlines, but holy gawd, it’s not only about race. Seven paragraphs down: “[T]he data underscores what testing experts have long emphasized: Income, race and privilege can influence testing in the nation’s largest school system, particularly when those factors collide with a high-stakes exam.” The “extra time” comes from a “504,” granted to students with learning disabilities. More: “It sometimes falls to families to request 504s, which are typically granted after an often expensive consultation with a professional.” So, being able to pay a professional really is the chokepoint? And: “The recent college admissions bribery scandal has raised fresh questions about how white and wealthy students have maintained their access to prized colleges and universities — some say at the expense of equally talented but less privileged Asian, black and Hispanic students. The city data indicates that the same patterns that have made 504 designations controversial nationally apply in the often cutthroat world of New York’s high school admissions.” • We keep reading stories like this. What nobody seems to face up to is that they show a cultlure of corruption in the professional classes (and that credentials are seen as heritable, as well).

“I was a lesbian tomboy allowed to be female; I fear young girls today no longer have that choice” [Feminist Current (DG)]. “Today, many would consider me a girl ‘born in the wrong body.’ But in those days, even though some reacted negatively to my being ‘boyish,’ no one ever suggested I was actually ‘born in the wrong body.’ This never occurred to me either… Lesbians who stand up for their sexual orientation and the fact of biological sex are no longer welcome at Pride events, in LGBTQ+ organizations, or in the ‘rainbow family.’” • An enormously charged debate, on which I feel time has passed me by.

“The Pink” [n+1]. “On the eve of the operation, I held a small celebration on the second floor of a Brooklyn pub. I’d spent weeks looking for a new dress. “Miss Andrea Long Chu asks that you join her and her loved ones at a funeral for her dick,” read the invitations. Funeral attire was advised. When I arrived, I discovered that one guest had combed the party store for all the balloon letters needed to spell out HAPPY NEW VAGINA. They now adorned the wall in a lazy swoop, silver foil on exposed brick — the H a little out of place, as if huffy about its new employment. That night we pantomimed the death rites. “I’m sorry for your loss,” said more than one friend, knitting their brow in mock sympathy. Someone gave me a pair of sexy underwear; someone else, a banana cut in half. At the evening’s end a dear friend called me to the front of the room and presented me with a gender reveal cake, which she invited me to cut. It was pink. I was safe.” • Ah, Brooklyn.

News of the Wired

“The Forgotten Operating System That Keeps the NYC Subway System Alive” [Vice]. • OS/2! Anybody remember it? Thing is, ticketing relies on MetroCards with magnetic strips, but crapification awaits: “Access to the subway of the future will be contactless, using a patchwork series of devices and cards that will largely rely on digital payments.” • Idea: Make it free at the point of use?

Rents are the key:

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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 (CC in CO):


CC in CO, sent in the midst of my tech woes: “I’m sending this photo in the hopes that it might cheer you up a bit. I took it last year but never sent it. It’s a bud of Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale), and I found something tremendously suggestive and sensuous about it. So much so that I hesitated to send it last year. The poppies are close to being in this same state again this year. Can’t wait ’til they open. The bees love the pollen these flowers produce, black pollen, what a treat!” This was very kind of CC. And I do like poppies, not least because after our horrid wet and cold spring, they seem to be the only wildflowers of mine that self-seeded successfully!

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