/2:00PM Water Cooler 2/3/2020

2:00PM Water Cooler 2/3/2020


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:

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2020

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

Today, I decided to do only state polls, what with Super Tuesday coming up. These are all %-for-the-day, and not average. In order by time, first, IA:

IA numbers:

I think Sanders needs to outperform these numbers, and if his theory of change is correct, and correctly implemented, he should. Whether anybody will be knocked out is anyone’s guess, and the lack of correllation between the initial vote count and the final delegate count may allow multiple claims of victory to be made.

Now NH:

NH numbers:

NH is starting to look like a mortal lock for Sanders, as indeed it should.

SC:

SC numbers:

Sanders creeping up on Biden; Steyer successfully bought his votes (an ugly sign of things to come).

CA (Super Tuesday):

CA numbers

I’m still stunned at Sanders’ CA numbers (and Bloomberg doesn’t seem to be penetrating, oddly).

TX (Super Tuesday):

TX numbers:

I’d say TX, not SC, is Biden’s firewall, but look at those Bloomberg numbers! Yikes.

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 I 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.

* * *

Biden (D)(1): “Biden: Impeachment hasn’t ‘shaken my faith’ in working with Republicans” [NBC]. • Oh.

Biden (D)(2): “Major union flips support from Sanders to Biden” [Politico]. “The issue of Biden’s electability was the driving force behind the decision and a key concern of the union’s membership, which was randomly surveyed by phone in an ‘extensive poll’ conducted by a professional pollster ATU hired, [John Costa, international president of the 200,000-member Amalgamated Transit Union] said.” • Oh.

UPDATE Biden (D)(3): Simone Sanders, Biden press secretary:

Looks like the 2016 Sanders campaign dodged a bullet with Simone Sanders as their press secretary in 2016.

Bloomberg (D)(1): “Michael Bloomberg on Marijuana: Legalizing ‘Another Addictive Narcotic’ Is Perhaps ‘Stupidest Thing Anybody Has Ever Done’” [Bloomberg]. “The position from the billionaire politician would seem to be out of step with Democratic leaders in his state and liberal voters nationwide.”

Kerry (D)(1): “John Kerry Denies Report He Is Considering Run Against Bernie Sanders” [New York Magazine]. “Over the phone, the former Massachusetts senator and current Biden surrogate reportedly warned of ‘the possibility of Bernie Sanders taking down the Democratic Party — down whole,’ a result only he could deter. Or not: In the same conversation, Kerry apparently said, ‘Maybe I’m f*cking deluding myself here,’ and listed out some reasons not to run, like abdicating his lucrative chair on the board of Bank of America.” • Good to know what Kerry’s price is, though. (Later, Kerry denied that he would run, although he didn’t deny these words.)

Sanders (D)(1): “Can Bernie Sanders Alter the Course of the Democratic Party?” [Ryan Grim, The Intercept]. • Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long and detailed description of the Sanders canvassing operation, both personnel and techniques. This is the implementation of Sanders theory of change, which is about to undergo its first real test in Iowa. Of course, no plan survives contact with the enemy…

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2): “Bernie’s big gamble: Sanders hopes new voters surprise at Iowa caucuses: ANALYSIS” [ABC]. “Since launching his first presidential campaign in 2015 and continuing through this second bid all last year, his team has focused extensive time and resources to get new potential voters into the political process. It’s a different kind of conversation about turnout for Sanders. His philosophy is that boosting turnout in a significant and meaningful way comes not only by exciting existing Democrats, but organizing and rallying nonvoters into Democrats.”

Lambert here: I’m extremely reluctant to make any prediction about Iowa outcomes at all, because the imponderables are so enormous. If the polling is accurate, Sanders is ahead on votes (but may, or may not, come out ahead in delegates because of the caucus’s complicated delegate allocation process). That is, if you trust the polls (and sadly, the last poll before the caucus, the Des Moines Register flagship, self-aborted). One may argue that the polls undercount young people with cell phones, and the non-voters Sanders hopes to attract. One might argue in response that young people tend not to show up (true) and that non-voters are, well, non-voters. It is true that Sanders has larger crowds than anyone and an enormous volunteer organization (certainly as compared to Warren’s large and expensive, but more traditional organization). But neither factor necessarily translates into votes (especially if Sanders’ more precarious base has to work that night, needs day-care but can’t find it, can’t get a ride, etc.). We are, again, about to see how the Sanders campaign — which is completely unique in concept and organization, a new thing on the face of the earth* — performs in its first test. Oh, and I forgot one important factor: Democrat establishment/media skullduggery; they too know what is at sake. NOTE * In the Ryan Grim article above, Sanders national organizing director Claire Sandberg remarks: “The only other campaign that is doing relational organizing on a scale close to what we are doing actually is the Trump campaign.” Yikes.

Sanders (D)(3): “Bernie Sanders Leads Trump, All 2020 Candidates in Donations From Active-Duty Troops” [Rolling Stone]. “Soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have donated a total of $185,625 to Sen. Sanders’ 2020 campaign. By comparison, they have given $113,012 to Trump, $80,250 to Pete Buttigieg, $64,604 to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and a relatively paltry $33,045 to former Vice President Joe Biden, according to Doug Weber, a senior researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics.” • So, if you want warmongers ranked, here’s your ranking.

UPDATE Sanders (D)(4):

The Sanders curve going vertical (!).

Warren (D)(1): “In Iowa, a vote for Warren is a vote for Biden” [Nathan Robinson, Guardian]. Complicated Iowa math based on the 15% viability threshold, and what happens when the supporters below that threshold re-allocate their votes in after the first round. For example: “Even if Warren gets 14% in the first round, if, say, enough Tom Steyer and Amy Klobuchar supporters come over to join her, she can remain viable for the second round, meaning that her voters would not go to Sanders and enough Klobuchar people might go to Biden to help him win even if together Warren and Sanders have a far higher percentage of voters. If, say, Warren got 15%, and Buttigieg’s 14% and Klobuchar’s 10% all went to Biden, Biden would win in a landslide. Supporting Warren therefore drastically increases the chances that Biden will be the ultimate nominee. This is what happens when progressives ‘split the vote’.”

Warren (D)(2): “‘Final strokes’: Warren tries to close Iowa gap by slamming Sanders as ‘narrow’ candidate” :[Washington Examiner]. “‘I’ve been building a campaign from the beginning that’s not a campaign that’s narrow,’ Warren, 70, said Saturday. ‘Not a campaign that says, ‘It’s us and nobody else. It’s a campaign that says, ‘Come on in,’ because we are in this fight together. This fight is our fight.’” • Odd parallel to “not me, us” this neatly encapsulates the attitude of the 10%-ers that disproportionately make up Warren’s support: They genuinely beleive that they’re representative and have the right to rule. 2016 rejected that notion; we shall see what happens this year.

* * *

UPDATE “The Road to Milwaukee: How the Democratic Primary Will Unfold” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. • Excellent overview of the entire Democrat primary election calendar, with commentary. Grab another cup of coffee.

Pollsters

“Not so fast: The Polls and the Iowa Caucuses” [American Association for Public Opinion Research]. “The nation’s largest organization of survey researchers, the American Association for Public Opinion Research, urges pundits and journalists not to rush to judgment on the performance of polls in the aftermath of the Iowa Democratic Caucuses.” • Hmm.

Realignment and Legitimacy

UPDATE The DNC (1). Listen to the audio:

(Nice work maintaining a record by the Gravel teens.)

UPDATE The DNC (2): “The Democrats’ new online troll fighters make 2020 debut in Iowa” [CNN]. “”It’s like algorithmic wars here, it’s kind of crazy,” a Democratic National Committee staffer who works on the Democrats’ new counter disinformation team said on Saturday as preparations were underway in Des Moines. The staffer asked not to be identified due to the nature of their work and possibly being subjected to online harassment themselves. ‘Both Republicans and foreign actors, like Russia, have an incentive to divide the American electorate and may try to use the Iowa Caucus to further that goal,’ the DNC wrote in a ‘counter disinformation update’ sent to campaigns on Thursday. Among the new weapons in the Democrats’ online arsenal is a monitoring tool called ‘Trendolizer.’ When stories from websites known to peddle misinformation mention candidates and begin getting shares on social media, Trendolizer detects it and an alert is sent to the relevant campaigns.” • I’m sure the DNC would never use this tool to put its thumb on the scale for one candidate over another.

“What Is a ‘Credibility Trap’” [Jesse’s Café Américain]. From 2013, still germane: “A credibility trap is when the lies and the corruption become so widespread and embedded in a system that they become self-sustaining to the point of moral bankruptcy…. It always ends, often from external forces, and too often badly. But while the money is still flowing the band plays on.” • Recommended by a reader, but I cannot find where.

“Sirens of the Rust Belt, Sirens of the Cornfield” [The Introverted Comrade]. “I love the way we speak. I love Midwestern women. They’re my favorite group of people. So many times since I moved to the south, I’ve met some charming, plainspoken lady with a hilarious, dry wit and wondered, ‘How’s she so cool?’ Then I find out she’s from Cleveland, or rural Indiana, or somewhere around Chicago, and I think, ‘Ohhhh, THAT’S why I like you so much.’ Then I notice they make some of the same nasal vowel sounds that I do.” • I grew up in the Midwest; perhaps that explains my unaccountable liking for Amy Klobuchar.

“The Downfall of the Republican Party” [The Atlantic]. “This is simply the latest act in an unfolding political drama, one in which the party of Lincoln and Reagan has now become, in every meaningful sense, the party of Trump.” • “The party of Lincoln and Reagan,” ZOMG.

Stats Watch

Tech: “Microsoft Forgets to Renew Certificate, Teams Goes Offline” [Petri (dk)]. “Microsoft acknowledged that Teams was offline because they let a certificate expire.” • That’s why we pay them the big bucks!

Media: “WWE Executive Exits Spook Analysts and Erase $1 Billion in Value” [Bloomberg]. “World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. plunged as much as 28% on Friday, erasing more than $1 billion in market value, after Chief Executive Officer Vince McMahon ousted two of the company’s top executives. The news prompted multiple downgrades on Wall Street as several analysts said they have lost confidence in the company’s financial projections.” • How could WWE possibly compete with the elections?

Honey for the Bears: “Local Economies’ 2019 Slump Looks Likely to Continue, According to Yelp’s Economic Average” [Yelp]. “Most local economies nationwide slumped in 2019, according to Yelp data, dragged down by weakness in restaurants and retail. As the local economy goes, so goes the national economy. The productivity of most plumbers, pastry chefs, and personal-injury lawyers isn’t reflected in stock indexes and business headlines, but collectively they make up a vital part of the work force and the fabric of local commerce. We’ve been tracking local economic activity through the Yelp Economic Average (YEA) for the past year. In each of the four quarters that we’ve reported on the health of the local economy, national GDP has headed in the same direction as YEA. If GDP growth continues to move the same way YEA does, we can expect fourth-quarter GDP growth to be below the third quarter’s level of a 2.1% increase….. Using Yelp’s unique data set, we designed YEA to measure something unlike existing economic indicators: the part of the national economy where business is done locally, near where you live, work, or travel.”• I have no idea whether this index is any good or not (though it certainly conforms to anecdotal data from the NC commentariat). Readers?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 44 Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 47 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 31 at 12:18pm.

Rapture Index: Closes down one on Oil Supply/Price. “Slowing global growth has put downward pressure on oil prices” [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I would expect the Rapture Index to jump if evangelicals thought impeachment was likely to hurt Trump. So it looks to me like this index is delivering has delivered a verdict on the likelihood of Trump being successfully impeached. So far, this index remains unaffected by #2019-nCoV. Yes, there is a “Plagues” category.

The Biosphere

“China Oil Demand Has Plunged 20% Because of the Virus Lockdown” [Bloomberg]. • Mother Nature trying to help us out, here.

“A 1988 Climate Warning Was Mostly Right” [Bloomberg]. “On a 98-degree June day in Washington in 1988, physicist James Hansen told a U.S. Senate committee that “global warming is now large enough that we can ascribe with a high degree of confidence a cause and effect relationship to the greenhouse effect.” Hansen, at the time director of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, elaborated that “with 99% confidence we can state that the warming during this time period is a real warming trend”… Those assertions made headlines around the world, and can be said to have started the public and political discussion over global warming (the scientific discussion was already well under way) that continues to this day.” • Hansen v. reality:

More: “In 1988, Hansen and his co-authors termed Scenario B “perhaps the most plausible of the three cases,” so it does seem like the fairest one to judge them by. Scenario B turns out to have quite accurately predicted the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide through 2019. Its temperature forecast nonetheless came out a little high because it overestimated the atmospheric concentrations of methane — which have proved extremely hard to predict — and of chlorofluorocarbons, which began to level off and then decline more quickly than pretty much anyone expected after the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.”

I’ve got my doubts about this. Via alert reader MA:

“The Plants That Make Refugee Camps Feel More Like Home” [The New Yorker]. • A lovely photo-essay.

Health Care

“A SARS-like cluster of circulating bat coronaviruses shows potential for human emergence” [Nature]. • From 2015. Good call!

Sports Desk

The Super Bowl:

Guide to the perplexed:

(The trope of infinitely nested quote-tweets is unique to Twitter, as far as I know; “No, that’s the ____” is a snowclone.)

Oopsie:

“In prison, the Super Bowl is the best holiday” [Houston Chronicle]. “after I landed in the clink in 2010 for a drug charge, I quickly learned that the Super Bowl was the highlight of the inmate calendar. For one, there were the simple gastric pleasures — pizza and soda. In the upstate New York county where I got arrested, the jail had a time-honored tradition of ordering these on Super Bowl Sunday. The feast wasn’t a freebie; inmates paid for it. But after months of the horrible cuisine, we would have considered offering an organ (a minor one, of course) for real-world pizza…. For a fleeting moment, our pasts didn’t matter. We could drink soda and eat pizza and act like we were just a bunch of women getting together for a girls’ night out — even if we were all wearing orange.”

Can’t we end the effing flyovers?

Department of Feline Felicity

“Cats Flopped and Then Things Got Interesting” [New York Magazine]. “Released in mid-December, the $100 million movie adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s epochal stage musical — featuring a grab bag of pop-culture figures: Taylor Swift, James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Jason Derulo, Idris Elba, all as singing, prancing “Jellicle” cats — seemed to expend its nine lives both commercially and critically. The film grossed a mere $6.5 million in North America over its opening weekend after critics effectively showered it with kitty litter… But a funny thing happened on the way to the cinematic scratching post. Word-of-mouth buzz began to build that Cats’ numerous and not-inconsiderable quirks were, in fact, more fun than the sum of its filmmaker- and studio-intended entertainment value. In turn, a relatively small but determined resistance force began to build…” • Who knows. but with Hollywood accounting being what it is, Cats’ loss may not be what it was. It might turn, over time, into a nice little earner!

News of the Wired

“‘A truly tangible piece of code’: Patrick Fry unearths a graphic gem in punch cards” [It’s Nice That]. “Looking at these artefacts in today’s design context, [London designer Patrick Fry] points out how many practising creatives today could learn from the ‘arcane beauty in the combination of grids,’ or even tiny details like the ‘absence or presence of holes and the off ways that they are customised for brands,’ he tells us. ‘I think some of this beauty comes from the fact that these cards are designed for machines primarily and not humans; it is true engineering driven design, but they had to be read by humans in some ways (such as early OCR dot matrix printing) so there was a tension between the two functions.”

“If You Can Say It, You Can Feel It Some scientists believe we have infinite emotions, so long as we can name them.” [New York Magazine]. “It’s not that emotions aren’t real. They’re very real. It’s just that they’re also made up by your brain… [Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuroscientist and psychologist at Northeastern University] argues that if emotions were simply biological, then you’d expect an emotion to look similar in every person’s brain. And yet, across multiple studies, researchers have scanned the brains of people who all claim to be experiencing the same emotion, such as fear, and the fMRI readouts from those studies don’t have much in common.” • Fascinating article; why is it, though, that English speakers outsource developing words for new emotions to the Germans (schadenfreude) or the Japanese (ukiyo)? Or am I not giving enough credit to the Anglosphere?

* * *

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 (Socal Rhino):

Socal Rhino writes: “A succulent from among those we replanted in our Orange County back yard to further reduce our water consumption. These guys in particular seem to love a south western exposure.” I almost mistyped Socal Rhino’s handle as “Social Rhino,” because what isn’t social these days? Pretty good handle, too.

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