By Lambert Strether of Corrente
ISDS: “A report from the Friends of the Earth Europe entitled “The Hidden Cost of EU Trade Deals” revealed that even before the UK and France were hit with penalties, other EU countries had been forced to pay out hundreds of millions of euros [under ISDS], and were facing claims for many billions more. A total of 127 cases have been brought against 20 EU member states since 1994. Details were only available for 62 of them——and the total compensation claimed in those cases was €30 billion (£21 billion). ISDS tribunals certainly won’t grant that full amount, but we do know that €3.5 billion (£2.3 billion) in fines have already been imposed on EU governments—monies that ultimately must be paid by EU taxpayers” [Glynn Moody, Ars Technica]. Note especially, with regard to those who minimize both the number of ISDS suits and their damages: “[M]any ISDS cases take place in secret, with no information ever being released.” Excellent, detailed article, read it all.
“Many proposals for TTIP would create new institutions or mechanisms with the power to change or eliminate regulations that affect trade. In the process, TTIP could block important efforts in both the EU and the U.S. to reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change” (PDF) [Global Development and Environment Institute] “Regulations are not, in general, arbitrary bureaucratic obstacles. Many regulations are adopted by democratically elected governments in order to achieve socially desirable outcomes, preventing or correcting damages that would result from unregulated private markets. Rolling back well -‐ designed regulations in order to promote trade would privilege corporations over democracy; it would give greater priority to expanding exports and profits than to protecting human health and the natural environment.
Trump: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families. They care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families” [CNN]. Well, we’ve been doing that, by blowing wedding parties to pink mist with drone strikes. I guess what Trump means is that we should double down.
Cruz: “We can defend our nation and be strong and uphold our values. There is a reason the bad guys engage in torture. ISIS engages in torture. Iran engages in torture. America does not need to torture to protect ourselves.” [AP].
“A $30 million television blitz by the super PAC supporting [Bush], Right to Rise—the biggest investment by a single entity in the 2016 race—has barely registered nationwide or in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina” [Wall Street Journal, “Jeb Bush’s Stagnation in Polls Worries Donors”]. “That poll and others are defying predictions by Mr. Bush’s allies that after the terrorist attacks in Paris, voters would gravitate toward the policy-driven former Florida governor and away from businessman Donald Trump, prompting a fresh round of hand-wringing and second-guessing. ‘We [who??] know that Gov. Bush is the adult in the room and the one with a proven record, but unfortunately the country doesn’t seem to care,’ said Mike Fernandez, a Miami billionaire.” The dogs won’t eat the dog food!
“Who’s Behind the Ghost Companies Funding Jeb Bush’s Super-PAC?” [Mother Jones].
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is playing the long game to get exactly what she wants out of presidential politics — specifically, to make economic populism go mainstream. And so far, it’s working out pretty great” [WaPo].
“Facing a surprisingly robust challenge from Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s presidential campaign has constructed a sort of political firewall across the American South to fortify against snags or hitches in New Hampshire or Iowa” [Bloomberg].
“Decision to force out Marine who sent warning ahead of insider attack upheld” [WaPo]. And why? “handling of classified information.” Note the double standard.
“A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday finds Trump taking 27 percent support, a 10-point lead over the next closest contender. That’s a slight increase for Trump, who stood at 24 percent in the same poll from last month” [The Hill]. “The survey finds that Trump is likely near his ceiling, with 26 percent saying they would definitely not support him for president, the highest number among all of the candidates.” You know, when you think about who clutches pearls in the political class, and why, you’ll see that at least Trump hasn’t slaughtered tens of thousands of civilians or created mulitiple failed states in the Middle East. That honor belongs to Secretary Clinton, although, to be fair, she had lots of help.
“Claim That Video Backs Donald Trump’s Assertion of Mass 9/11 Celebrations Is Debunked” [New York Times]. The story seems to be based on an MTV video, and MTV unearthed the video, and the interviewees. A dozen kids acting out…
“Although Cruz is at 16 percent among all Republicans, he runs significantly stronger among three subgroups: “very” conservative voters, tea party supporters and white born-again/evangelical voters. Those subgroups are also the three most important and powerful when it comes to deciding the GOP nominee in 2016″ [WaPo]. Hence the Cruz quotes yesterday.
MBA Mortgage Applications, week of November 27: “Purchase applications are moving sharply higher” [Econoday]. “Year-on-year, purchase applications are up an eye-popping 30 percent in strength that points to much needed acceleration for underlying home sales. The rise in mortgage rates has triggered the move, encouraging buyers to step up and lock in rates before they move even higher. In contrast, demand for refinancing is easing.”
ADP Employment Report, November 2015: “ADP is calling for strength in Friday’s employment report, at a higher-than-expected gain of 217,000 for government payrolls in November” [Econoday]. “Month-to-month, this report is not always an accurate indicator for the government’s data.” And: “The rolling averages of year-over-year jobs growth rate remains strong but the rate of growth continues in a downtrend (although insignificant this month)” [Econoday].
Productivity and Costs, Q3 2015: “Wage pressures, especially relative to output, are appearing in the productivity and costs report” [Econoday]. “Unit labor costs, measured quarter to quarter, jumped to a much higher-than-expected annualized rate of 1.8 percent in the third quarter, up 4 tenths from the first estimate and twice expectations.” [Time to screw the working people! –lambert] “Though a rise in labor costs is not being signaled by other data, this report is certain to be considered closely by FOMC policy makers. Low productivity, and rising labor costs along with it, point to the effects of full employment and limited investment in new technologies.”
But: “A simple summary of the headlines for this release is that the growth of productivity exceeded the growth of costs (headline quarter-over-quarter analysis). The year-over-year analysis says the opposite” [Econoday]. “I personally do not understand why anyone [i.e., the FOMC] would look at the data in this series as the trends are changed from release to release – and significantly between the preliminary and final release.” Moreover: “Within the normal framework of volatility in quarter-to-quarter changes in output, hours, and thus productivity, the latest readings do not clearly show a break. The big (3.5%) gain in Q2 reflected a catch-up in output growth after the weather-related weakness in Q1, so it would be unfair to consider the Q2 pop in productivity without also including the Q1 drop in output per man-hour” [Amherst Pierpont Securities, Across the Curve]. “The combination of weak productivity gains and accelerating compensation means that unit labor costs are rising…. For most of the last four years, unit labor costs have been running in the neighborhood of 2% on a trend basis, i.e. roughly in line with the Fed’s inflation target. If the latest reading of 3% becomes the norm, then the implication would be that the labor market situation is actively exerting an upward influence on inflation. You can bet that this is a development that will be a game changer for Chair Yellen, Vice Chair Fischer, and the Fed Board staff, all diehard Phillips Curve disciples.”
Gallup U.S. Job Creation Index, November 2015: “November’s job creation index reading was plus 31 — similar to the record high of plus 32 recorded in each of the previous six months. These readings since April represent the highest the index has been since Gallup began measuring employees’ perceptions of job creation at their workplaces in 2008” [Econoday]. “Midwestern workers generally have been most positive about job creation in their workplaces, while Easterners have been the least positive.” And then there’s Down East…
“More evidence the capital spending contraction is not over” [Mosler Economics]. “The proportion of CEOs who said they expected their capital spending to decrease over the next six months rose to 27 percent from 20 percent in the third quarter.”
“Reality Check: Nov US Hiring Energetic but Most Pay Still Lags” [Market News]. Interesting anecdotes (lots of them) from staffing companies.
The Fed: “Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank President Dennis Lockhart did not mince words Wednesday saying the case for liftoff is “compelling” and the upcoming meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee could be historic” [Market News].
“A Unicorn Is Worth What Fidelity Says It’s Worth” [Bloomberg]. That is, the bezzel.
Ag: “It’s very, very hard to lose money on farmland” [Agrimoney]. “Farmland Partners, which floated in New York last year with holdings of a little over 7,000 acres of US farmland, saw its portfolio pass 100,000 acres this week, with a $31.8m purchase of land in Louisiana. … This is in part because the group’s model relies on renting out land to growers, rather than farming the plots itself, besides capital appreciation.”
Honey for the Bears: “Junk Bonds Having Worst Year Since 2008 Crisis: Three Red Flags” [Wall Street on Parade (GF)].
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 (-2); Greed [CNN]. Last week: 59 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“Mr. Emanuel’s announcement that he had appointed a task force that will review the Police Department’s accountability procedures is too little, too late. The fact is, his administration, the Police Department and the prosecutor’s office have lost credibility on this case” [New York Times]. “Officials must have known what was on that video more than a year ago, and yet they saw no reason to seek a sweeping review of the police procedures until this week.” Say, who did Rahm used to work for?
“Rahm bombs in Chicago over police killing” [New York Daily News].
“Prosecutor: Emanuel’s City Hall made decision to delay police shooting video” [Politico]. So the prosecutor threw Rahm under the bus. “Every man for himself,” at this point. Pass the popcorn.
“Despite calls from political leaders, Black Lives Matter protesters still say they will not remove their encampment from the 4th Precinct police station in north Minneapolis. But on their 17th night there, protesters’ numbers have dwindled” [Minnesota Publlc Radio]. As in Ferguson, the important thing is not absolute numbers, but continuity and persistence. And good for them. It’s getting cold out there.
“Emboldened by Silver conviction, Bharara to indict Cuomo Jan 2nd” [Buffalo Chronicle]. Even though there are three sources, people seem dubious. That said, “three men in a room” run (or ran) New York state: Governor, the Assembly speaker and the Senate president. Skelos and Silver are gone. So what about Cuomo, who was “the third man” in the room?
“Gov. Andrew Cuomo isn’t ready to turn away donations from his most generous political donor simply because the firm plays a prominent role in the corruption trials of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate Leader Dean Skelos” [Times Union].
“Cuomo Says No To Special Session On Ethics” [WXXI]. Seems odd.
“The eventual cost of corruption — as the joke tells us — is not just that you build things you shouldn’t, but you stop building things altogether. And the real cost of corruption in New York State — and part of Shelly’s legacy — is the things we didn’t do. With a democratic senate and without tax give ways to developers, we could have been building the best infrastructure in the country, and educating all our kids. Instead, the state is literally falling apart” [Zephyr Teachout, HuffPo]. Corruption is why we can’t have nice things.
“Indonesia forest fires: how the year’s worst environmental disaster unfolded – interactive” [Guardians]. The CEOs of the companies who burn land for palm oil, pulp wood, and timber should be in the dock at the Hague for ecocide.
“Time to Drop the Climate War Talk” [Common Dreams].
“Meet the guy making money off your food scraps” [Chicago Business]. Really cool.
“[I]f you want to eat chicken in the U.S., salmonella is a risk you have to live with. It’s one that’s getting more prominent, too. Americans are eating more chicken than ever as they move away from red meat. Antibiotic-resistant strains of the bacteria can make it harder to combat. And it can be fatal [Reveal].
“Turn Back the Clock with a Christmas Yacht Charter” [Dennison Yacht Sales]. “When’s the last time you really looked forward to Christmas – the way you did when you were young? For many of us, the festive season can become a bit of a chore as the years roll by, increasingly finding ourselves chained to the stove and cleaning out guest bedrooms, picking up after the kids and trying to find ways to entertain them inside on bitterly cold, windy days. Even for those of us who love ‘the silly season’ more than any other time of year, it probably feels like it’s time for something different. This year, why not chase the sunshine with a Christmas yacht charter?” Indeed!
Zuckerberg’s “Foundation”: “A filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, first reported by BuzzFeed, reveals that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is actually organized as a Delaware-based limited liability corporation (LLC), rather than a traditional non-profit” [Ars Technica]. Squillioniare Zuckerberg is a creep of the first water, so it’s not surprise that his philanthropic organization is optimized for scamming, or that the initial obsequious coverage was driven by his PR operation.
“[A]ll it takes is a small number of intolerant virtuous people with skin in the game, in the form of courage, for society to function properly” (pdf) [Nassim Nicholas Taleb]. So I’d say Yves has a pretty good shot.
“Why Poor People Stay Poor. Saving money costs money. Period” [Slate]. “I once lost a whole truck over a few hundred bucks. It had been towed, and when I called the company they told me they’d need a few hundred dollars for the fee. I didn’t have a few hundred dollars. So I told them when I got paid next and that I’d call back then.” And so it goes.
“The richest 10% of people generate half the world’s carbon emissions” [Quartz]. “Now, a new report (pdf) by Oxfam has analyzed per capita carbon use, and found that almost half of the emissions generated by personal consumption are down to the wealthiest 10% of people. … [A]lthough China may be a huge carbon emitter, a large proportion of the goods it produces are actually consumed in rich Western countries.”
“Federal civil rights officials at the Department of Justice are launching an effort to combat widespread constitutional abuses in U.S. courts in the hope of ending budget-driven policies that cripple those unable to afford fines and fees for minor offenses” [HuffPo]. After how many decades. Never let it be said, however, that protests never accomplish anything; this is a result of Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter.
“This Week, World Summit On Altering Human Genes Explores Ethical Limits” [Scientific American]. No doubt.
News of the Wired
“Disheartened Man Expected At Least One Text While Checking Phone After Flight” [The Onion].
“If consciousness is a secondary byproduct of physical laws, and if those laws are causally closed – meaning that everything in the world is explained by them (as physicalists claim) – then consciousness becomes truly irrelevant. Physicalism further allows us to imagine a world without consciousness, a ‘zombie world’ that looks exactly like our own, peopled with beings who act exactly like us but aren’t conscious. Such zombies have no feelings, emotions or subjective experience; they live lives without qualia. As Chalmers has noted, there is literally nothing it is like to be zombie” [Aeon].
“Good sleep isn’t just about how long you sleep. Continuity may be equally important” [Wall Street Journal, “A Good Night’s Sleep Is Tied to Interruptions, Not Just Hours”]. Hmm. IIRC, before artificial light became ubiquitous, people would wake up in the middle of the night, work or socialize, and then go back to sleep. So I’m not sure about these studies (the authors mention several).
The 10,000-hour rule vs. the 100-hour rule: “For most disciplines, it only takes one hundred hours of active learning to become much more competent than an absolute beginner” [Coding VC]. A startup “In the long run,[will] want to hire experts; in the short run, invest enough time into learning so that you can adequately fill any critical gaps.” In other words, exactly as the NASA astronauts were strapped into seats on top of rockets where every part was supplied by the low bidder, startups should be peopled by employers “much more competent than the absolute beginner.” That explains a lot. In other words, startups mean too much stupid money chasing too few people who know what they’re doing.