By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Kerry to embark on EU roadshow to promote TTIP” [Euractiv]. “EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini, who was attending the same press point with Kerry, made no mention of TTIP while she spoke.”
“Freshman Rep. Mike Bost has decided to oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade agreement, addressing a jobs-and-trade debate that is already playing out in his re-election campaign against Democrat C.J. Baricevic” [St Louis Today].
“The patenting of life has been hotly contested for decades. For farmers, it makes seeds and livestock more expensive and takes away their right to freely reproduce them. It also reduces life and culture to a commodity that corporations can own and control. While the WTO agreement allowed countries to exclude plants and animals other than microorganisms from their patent laws, it required that they provide some form of intellectual property protection over plant varieties—the seeds that farmers sow—without specifying how to do that. According to industry representatives who helped draft the text, the US corporations got 95 per cent of what they wanted from [Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights] TRIPS” [Grains]. “[Free Trade Agreements] negotiated outside the WTO go even further and help US and European corporations get what they weren’t able to achieve under TRIPS.”
“Unions and their allies in Congress are getting an early start on preventing a so-called lame-duck vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership, vowing to spend the Congressional recess educating constituents and union members about the trade deal they say will cost the U.S. jobs” [Wall Street Journal, “TPP Foes Plan Campaign to Forestall Lame-Duck Vote”]. As opposed to threatening the legislators running for re-election, in their districts?
UPDATE “GOP Platform to Call for Breaking Up the Big Banks, Trump Campaign Says” [New York Magazine]. “On Monday, Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort told reporters that the GOP platform would include a call for reinstating Glass-Steagall, a Depression-era law that was repealed under President Clinton in the late ’90s.” And in a miniature example of how this all works, I’m adding this as an update because I felt I had to cover the Melania Trump plagiarism dogpile.
“Hillary Clinton Super-Lobbyist Says ‘We’re Not Paid Enough,’ Pans Obama Lobbying Reforms” [The Intercept].The lobbyist is Heather Podesta, wife of John Podesta, chair of the Clinton campaign.
And then there’s this:
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) July 19, 2016
I suppose one big topic of discussion would be that amendment to overturn Citizens United…
“Since 1928, U.S. equities have correctly signaled who will win, incumbent or challenger, 19 out of 22 times” [Bloomberg]. “People can differ on why, but to most analysts it’s a matter of influence flowing from the economy to the market and into the minds of voters.” The wealth effect?
“Why Trump’s Prosperous Supporters Are Angry, Too” [Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg]. “Older white Americans are Donald Trump’s core support group, and that’s relevant to the success of Trump’s rhetoric. Commentators frequently cite globalization and wage stagnation as the economic forces behind recent political shifts, but there is a less heralded force influencing American politics: insufficient savings, most of all for older Americans.” Alternatively, “insufficient” provision of public services, engineered by those of the author’s political persuasion.
UPDATE “DIVIDED AMERICA: To Some, Trump Is a Desperate Survival Bid” [ABC]. Interesting “data journalism,” but omits the fact that many Trump supporters are well-heeled. And quotes like this make me want to pound my head on the desk:
Peter Atwater, a consultant who studies the tides of consumer confidence, describes the collapse of the coalfields as a microcosm of the indignation burning across America that has come to define the 2016 campaign. Its power may determine the next president of the United States. …
The average Republican is as pessimistic about the economy today as the day Lehman Brothers collapsed, eight years ago, Atwater said….
“Today, we’re not interested in the plan, we’re interested in the slogan,” Atwater said. “When confidence falls, to understand an elaborate plan or an articulated policy. We don’t want to wait for the details; we don’t want to read the footnotes. Just give me a powerful headline.”
First, who’s “we”? Second, the smugness makes my skin crawl.
Our Famously Free Press
“The man who could have stopped Donald Trump” [Business Insider].
“GOP convention protests small, peaceful on 1st day” [McClatchy].
“100 Naked Women Just Greeted Donald Trump at the Republican National Convention” [Elle]. Dear Lord.
UPDATE “Melania Trump at the RNC: Read the Full Transcript of Her Speech Side-by-Side with Michelle Obama’s” [People].
UPDATE Lambert here: Manafort’s case for the defense is, in essence, why would we do that? (“To think that she would do something like that, knowing how scrutinized her speech was going to be last night, is just really absurd”). To which one plausible answer would be that it was not “she,” but the overloaded staffers of Trump’s small team, working under pressure, who committed accidental plagiarism, in a process similar to that described here. That doesn’t get anyone off the hook, because accidental plagiarism is still plagiarism. Nor does “everybody does it.” Although they do. Temperamentally, I’m repelled when I watch the Democrat nomenklatura dogpiling, but you’ve got to admire the brutal efficiency of Brock’s oppo, and how it’s able to dominate the news cycle. (I tried running Melania Trump’s complete transcript through a couple of free automatic plagiarism tools, but the results are already too polluted by the dogpile to matter.)
Interestingly, the Clinton campaign speaks to two core Democrat constituencies in this mini-scandal: The credentialed, for whom plagiarism can be a career-ending offence (unless it isn’t), and many in the black community, who frame it at a (white) appropriation of black labor (Michelle’s bromides). And lastly, its entertaining to watch the Parliamentary Republican Party join the Democrat dogpile; I would imagine bring more “moderate” Republicans into the Democrat fold will be the ultimate effect electorally; Trump voters will be unlikely to care.
More intriguing is the “Rick Roll”, for which this is the definition: “You link a friend to something they actually want to read — but the link takes them to the YouTube page for Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” music video.” Now the wording:
Plagiarism is distracting from the epic Rick-Roll embedded in Melania Trump's speech. (Trump campaign has a mole.) pic.twitter.com/uhMPmtOxKM
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) July 19, 2016
I’m having a hard time believing that’s a coincidence, which presents the tantalizing possibility that the Trump campaign has a Democrat mole.
UPDATE Queen’s Brian May Denies Donald Trump’s Usage of ‘We Are The Champions’ [Rolling Stone].
UPDATE “Trump Tower has yet to allocate specific fall budgets to battleground state directors, a Trump campaign official said. That has delayed the party’s ability to build an effective grass-roots organizing machine that pairs Trump supporters with the activists that the RNC has enlisted over the past few years” [CNN]. “There’s no redundancy in politics,” said Pennsylvania Republican Party Chairman Rob Gleason, a member of Trump’s finance team. “There’s never too much advertising, too many phone calls, too many door-to-door. There’s never too many. I wish people would’ve been up on the air six months ago.”
Housing Starts, June 2016: “The housing sector may be on a low trajectory but it is climbing. Starts rose 4.8 percent in June to a 1.189 million annualized rate with permits up 1.5 percent to a 1.153 rate” [Econoday]. “For the second quarter as a whole, starts averaged 1.160 million for a 0.8 percent gain from the first quarter with permits averaging 1.140 for a fractional decline but showing building momentum through the quarter. Housing isn’t on fire but it may be making the difference for the economy as a whole, helping it hold in the modest growth range.” Unimpressive: “The rate of growth continues to decelerate – and building permits issued are contracting year-over-year, but there are still more building permits being issued than construction completions. Multi-family housing building permit growth rate is significantly contracting year-over-year” [Econintersect]. “Be careful in analyzing this data set with a microscope as the potential error ranges and backward revisions are significant.” And: “Last month’s downward revision and the drop in permits make this report particularly negative. Again, looks like housing will be a drag on growth this year vs last year” [Mosler Economics].
Shipping: “The rolling averages are now decelerating for exports but accelerating for imports. Under normal situations, this is signalling an improving USA economy with a slowing global economy” [Econintersect]. “But the movement of the rolling averages is still being affected by the port strikes last year, and the year-to-date comparisions continue to slow versus last year. Slowing of year-to-date numbers are indicating a decelerating USA economy.”
Shipping: “Up to 37,500 East Asians dying prematurely a year from ship pollution” [Splash 247]. “A team of Chinese and American scientists used records of more than 18,000 vessels observed in the region in 2013 to calculate emissions and their likely effect. They noted that shipping emissions in the area had doubled since 2005 and now had the the world’s fastest-growing rate of particle and carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution from shipping emissions.”
Shipping: “Libya’s ports are lying almost idle after dockers have moved out to the front line to fight Islamic State” [The Loadstar]. “Libya’s busiest, Misrata, is home to the country’s only free-trade zone. Three years ago, the horizon was dotted with anchored cargo vessels waiting to dock, today, ships can steam straight in to unload and container throughput has dropped 33% since 2015.”
Shipping: “Another distribution center in the works for Tradepoint Atlantic” [Baltimore]. Many, many stories about distribution centers lately. Whoever’s investing in them is betting globalization will keep steaming ahead. Go long warehouse robots?
Digital Currency: “Stick a Fork in Ethereum” [Elaine’s Idle Mind]. “A decentralized computing platform is a terrible structure for politics. And a blockchain is a horrible way to manifest social consensus. Blockchains are designed to be resistant to human arbitration, hence the proof of work requirement.”
The Banks: “Hauling cash, replacing cards, fixing ATMs: the stubborn costs banks can’t erase” [Reuters]. “After years of reducing staff in branches and bragging about technology that allows consumers to bank by smartphone or ATM, JPMorgan Chase & Co recently had to start hiring tellers because of customer complaints. ‘There are fundamental costs associated with running a broad retail franchise,’ said Bob Hedges, who leads consulting firm A.T. Kearney’s financial institutions practice. ‘You can move to part-time help, you can let the carpet get a little more worn, but these are just short-term tactics.'”
“Grading the Obama economy, by the numbers” (charts) [CBNC]. Interesting to see the Gini ratio in the mainstream (and still rising under Obama, as NC readers have known since 2012).
Explainer on the definition of a recession (and it’s not “two or more quarters of negative economic growth”) [Barry Ritholtz, Bloomberg].
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 87, Extreme Greed (previous close: 91, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 87 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jul 19 at 11:33am. Fear of heights?
“United States Health Care Reform” [Barack Obama, Journal of the American Medical Association]. From the abstract, Conclusions and Relevance section: “Policy makers should build on progress made by the Affordable Care Act by continuing to implement the Health Insurance Marketplaces and delivery system reform, increasing federal financial assistance for Marketplace enrollees, introducing a public plan option in areas lacking individual market competition, and taking actions to reduce prescription drug costs. Although partisanship and special interest opposition remain, experience with the Affordable Care Act demonstrates that positive change is achievable on some of the nation’s most complex challenges.” So, as is usual for the Democrat Party, the so-called public option is deployed whenever single payer threatens to gain traction; for those who came in late, see here and here. What is shocking is that JAMA published an opinon piece on a highly politicized topic, by a deeply conflicted author, as if it were a work of scholarship or science. If the editors who made this decision to publish were physicians, they violated their professional oath.
“Health Spending For Low-, Middle-, And High-Income Americans, 1963–2012” [Health Affairs]. “We conclude that the new pattern of spending post-2004, with the wealthiest quintile having the highest expenditures for health care, suggests that a redistribution of care toward wealthier Americans accompanied the health spending slowdown.”
“Something strange is going on in medicine. Major diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, are waning in wealthy countries, and improved diagnosis and treatment cannot fully explain it” [New York Times].
Our Famously Free Press
“[In her first column, new Times Public Editor Liz] Spayd essentially argues that the Times needs to become more focused on the desires of its readers, whatever those desires may be. She seems unaware that there is a difference between giving readers what they want and ensuring that readers receive the best news coverage possible—the latter being the purpose of a newspaper, including a digital one. This distinction, which really signals Spayd’s confusion about the point of her own role as a representative for readers, is a worrying sign for people who care about the paper” [Slate].
And on the same controversy: “Obsessive haters, dedicated fans, and drive-by idiots can all be lumped together as ‘readers,’ in the sense that they contribute page views to particular piece of content. But they’re coming from very, very different places. The haters and drive-by-ers have no investment in the outlet in question, and are basically there to stir shit up. The dedicated readers are invested in the outlet… There are exceptions, of course — if thousands of your dedicated readers simultaneously get pissed off, that’s useful information — but overall there’s a strong case not to pay too close attention to the feedback presented by any three groups on a day-to-day basis” [New York Magazine].
“Anthem-Cigna Deal: Seeking Merger Approval, Anthem Makes Major Donations To State Political Groups” [David Sirota, International Business Times]. Sirota has been all over this story, but the wave of corruption engulfing the entire political class and the institututions it controls has been so enormous that this story almost looks like business as usual. Sirota is worth following on the twitter, too, if you don’t already:
“Life Along the Canal” [OI Vietnam]. “Meet the people adjusting to life among the rising tides” in the Mekong Delta.
“India is home to nearly a sixth of the world’s population but gets only 4 percent of the Earth’s fresh water. Already more than half of Asia’s third-biggest economy faces high water stress. By 2030, demand is expected to outstrip supply by about 50 percent, according to the Water Resources Group” [Bloomberg].
“Nestlé Discovers Water in the Arizona Desert, and Bottles It” [Bloomberg].
“The Water Next Time: Professor Who Helped Expose Crisis in Flint Says Public Science Is Broken” [The Chronicle of Higher Education]. Interview with Marc Edwards, the Virginia Tech professor who helped the citizens of Flint find out their water was poisoned:
Q. I keep coming back to these university researchers in Flint who said: “The state has 50 epidemiologists. They say that the water’s safe. So I’m going to focus my energy on something that’s less settled.” How do you decide when the state should be challenged?
A. That’s a great question. We are not skeptical enough about each other’s results. What’s the upside in that? You’re going to make enemies. People might start questioning your results. And that’s going to start slowing down our publication assembly line. Everyone’s invested in just cranking out more crap papers.
So when you start asking questions about people, and you approach them as a scientist, if you feel like you’re talking to an adult and they give you a rational response and are willing to share data and discuss an issue rationally, I’m out of there. I go home.
But when you reach out to them, as I did with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they do not return your phone calls, they do not share data, they do not respond to FOIA [open-records requests], y’know. … In each case I just started asking questions and turning over rocks, and I resolved to myself, The second something slimy doesn’t come out, I’m gonna go home. But every single rock you turn over, something slimy comes out.
Again I ask: How can these people live with themselves?
“Searing temperatures caused by climate change may cost global economies more than $2 trillion by 2030, restricting working hours in some of the poorest parts of the world, according to United Nations research” (charts) [Bloomberg]. “As many as 43 countries, especially those in Asia, including China, Indonesia, and Malaysia, will experience declines in their economies because of heat stress, says Tord Kjellstrom, a director at the Health and Environment International Trust, based in Nelson, New Zealand. As a result, China’s gross domestic product would be reduced 1 percent and Indonesia’s by 6 percent by 2030.”
“In the past few months, several of America’s largest companies [Starbucks, Walmart, JPMorgan, McDonald’s, Target, and T.J. Maxx] have come to the conclusion that they deeply value their workers and want to publicly celebrate their love of labor” [The Atlantic]. “It’s not a coincidence: The labor market is tightening, and they have to pay their workers more to keep them from leaving…. [And] the conspicuous moralizing in these chief executives’ memos and op-eds in unmistakable: These CEOs feel a tremor in the Earth, a cleaving of the public into hardened camps, and they are eager for voters and representatives to see them as being on the right side… Finally, rising wages are an unalloyed good for workers. But it does not provide a bulwark against a downturn. .. Companies love their workers now, but the world economy is fragile. One hopes this is a movement, not a moment.” Kidding, right?
“Right now, there are some interesting developments in the supply of housing services that economize even further on urban land. ” [Robert Shiller, Across the Curve]. The elite vision on the house of the future, I imagine:
We have recently seen interest in ‘micro-apartments,’ which may be little more than 200 square feet but manage to squeeze in a kitchen, a bathroom and an entertainment center. For many people, this tiny space, with its proximity to like-minded people, interesting neighborhoods and restaurants, is preferable to living in a house in a far-flung suburb. Carrying this idea further, keepsakes can be kept in remote storage, maybe deliverable someday, on demand, with driverless cars. Already, rules are being changed in many cities, including New York, allowing the little apartments to be built and to accommodate many more people per acre of city land. These factors could lead to near-zero future demands on valuable urban land.
Uber for tsotchkes!
“Laying Bare the Bones of Ancient Maya Society” [Scientific American]. Examining animal bones found in Maya cities: “Although it may seem strange at first glance, research shows it was the middle classes ate the widest range of animals. In contrast, the upper echelons’ diet was mainly focused on species that had great symbolic value for Maya, such as the powerful jaguars and crocodiles… [T[hough different classes ate the same animals, not everyone consumed the same parts. This conclusion was reached after analyzing the remains of white-tailed deer, and points to the social division of food: The best parts were for the elite.”
News of the Wired
“How to Build a Low-tech Internet” [Low Tech Magazine]. “[W]e can build our own resilient communication infrastructure if we cooperate with one another. This is demonstrated by several community networks in Europe, of which the largest has more than 35,000 users already.”
“Safety was the leading reason people were interested in a fully autonomous ride, with cheaper insurance costs in second place” [Wired].
“Pakistan’s angel of mercy — Abdul Sattar Edhi” [Gulf News]. “In 2005, the earthquake that shook northern Pakistan, killing at least 70,000 people, saw Edhi personally lead his group of volunteers to brave the winter chill of Pakistan’s northern areas. They were among the first line of relief providers. Similar tales came about following other calamities such as catastrophes caused by floods.”
“NO RELIGION IS HIGHER THAN HUMANITY” was the key tenet of Edhi, and those working with him. They all repeat this phrase to me when I was visiting the different centers of the foundation” (photos) [Express Tribune]. “In a country that is defined by its religious identity, in which the fundamentalists are trying to impose their vision, Edhi never gave up. His dream was to make Pakistan a model of social revolution.”
“Critics say that pr0n degrades women, dulls sexual pleasure, and ruins authentic relationships – are they right?” [Aeon]. By Betteridge’s law, no, at least according to the studies cited in this article (though studies on “visual sexual stimuli” are sparse). These factoids leaped out at me: “36 per cent of internet content is pornography. One in four internet searches are about porn.” In other words, pr0n, whatever else it may be, is a ginormous business that “drives” (as we say in Silicon Valley) the Internet. I suppose when economists talk about “substitution effects are subject to hedonic quality adjustments,” they have this topic, among others, in mind?
“Android users touch their smartphones more than 2,500 times a day” [Business Insider]. ” Over the course of a year, this accounts for nearly 1 million touches on average, per user.” Go long thumb brace manufacturers?