By Lambert Strether of Corrente
Whoops, I was ten seconds late pressing the submit button! Reading something interesting… –lambert
“The Trump administration is expected to send to Congress this morning a final letter notifying lawmakers that it intends to open trade talks with Canada and Mexico in an attempt to renegotiate NAFTA, according to an administration official and congressional aides” [Politico]. “Sending the letter triggers a 90-day consultation period that must conclude before negotiations can officially begin — a process set out under the 2015 Trade Promotion Authority legislation that gives the White House the ability to fast-track passage of the deal in Congress. The administration is required to submit more detailed negotiating objectives 30 days prior to the start of the talks. An eight-page draft of the notification letter emerged in March, but congressional aides told Morning Trade that a final version circulated this week was only a page long, prompting some lawmakers to request more detail on some points.”
“A Trump administration proposal to add rules barring currency manipulation to future trade deals is generating controversy along familiar fault lines. The currency rules would prevent members of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or future U.S. trade partners in Europe and Asia, from nudging the value of their currencies higher or lower for economic gain, the WSJ’s William Mauldin writes. The plan has support from U.S. manufacturers who believe they’ve lost global market share to competitors in countries with artificially weak exchange rates that make their goods more competitive abroad. Multinational corporations fear a new fight over currency will distract from more pressing concerns over tariffs and commercial rules. Allegations of manipulation are common, though proving it is harder” [Wall Street Journal].
“Cuomo’s staff disappoints returning student at OCC forum on ‘free tuition'” [Syracuse.com (Bob)] (as expected). “For many returning students, the scholarship isn’t much help…. Kimberly Stenson, who graduated high school in 1994, was disappointed to learn Wednesday she wouldn’t qualify for the scholarship because she had gotten some state aid more than 20 years ago.” It’s better to be moving in the right direction than otherwise. But here — and I know this will come as a shock to you — we’re seeing a liberal taking a left program and screwing it up royally. The exact same thing would happen with CAP’s Jobs Guarantee, so called.
“Net neutrality goes down in flames as FCC votes to kill Title II rules” [Ars Technica]. “The FCC ‘will not rely on hyperbolic statements about the end of the Internet as we know it, and 140-character argle-bargle, but rather on the data,’ [FCC Deck Chair Ajit] Pai said.”
When you’ve lost Atrios:
obama years taught me a lot, including that many "liberals" would mock someone being tortured in prison https://t.co/BxDoaY6Vzd
— Atrios (@Atrios) May 17, 2017
And speaking of liberals:
LIB: Remember Obama's mom jeans? i luv him
OBAMA: i ordered the extra-judicial drone killing of a 16 yr old US citizen
LIB: MOMMY JEANS! 😍
— maple cocaine (@historyinflicks) May 17, 2017
New Cold War
Well, this ratchets up the hysteria a notch:
I’m genuinely amazed. The cray cray is an order of magnitude worse than the run-up to the Iraq War. Go ahead and read the article; the thesis is that Russian bots on the Twitter are a bigger threat to the United States than the fake stories the Bush White House planted in the press to start the Iraq War. As always, the scandal is what’s normal. Oh, and when did James “Not Wittingly” Clapper emerge as a Hero of The Republic? Did I not get the memo? Presenting Clapper as a defender of “the very foundation of our democratic political system” (his words) is like presenting Jerry Sandusky as a defender of the value of cold showers.
“More than 10 centrist Republicans over the past 48 hours have criticized Trump for reportedly sharing classified information with Russian officials or allegedly trying to quash an FBI investigation” [Politico].
“Two moderate Senate Republicans suggest the need to consider a special prosecutor” [WaPo]. Susan Collins (R-Maine), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska). This happened well before the Rosenstein announcement; I’m guessing it was the crack in the dam.
“4 Reasons Why Robert Mueller Is an Ideal Special Counsel” [The Nation]. “[Mueller] was among the individuals in the Justice Department who assembled at Attorney General John Ashcroft’s hospital bedside in 2004 to block the Bush White House’s attempt to renew a surveillance policy that Mueller and others, including James Comey, deemed to be illegal.” That’s good, but 2017 – 2004 = 13 years. That’s a long time for a halo to stay buffed (as we saw with Comey).
“Unfortunately, while identifying this past week as the proverbial ‘beginning of the end’ for Herr Donald’s presidency isn’t all that hard, untangling precisely why the President won’t be able to weather this storm and will eventually be abandoned by the Republican Party is a little more difficult; especially in light of the fact that partisan mainstream liberals are still shouting objectively insane conspiracy theories about Russiagate even though Trump’s total lack of respect for his job and fat f*cking mouth have all but handed them his political a** on a platter” [Nina Illingworth]. Maybe Nina will “untangle” this in a later post.
The headline: “Exclusive: Trump campaign had at least 18 undisclosed contacts with Russians: sources” [Reuters]. The body: “The people who described the contacts to Reuters said they had seen no evidence of wrongdoing or collusion between the campaign and Russia in the communications reviewed so far.” Ah, the sources are “people.” Excellent. We’re making real progress, here. I mean, at least they aren’t dinosaurs or space aliens.
UPDATE “Bold, new proposals were scarce during a recent gathering of high-profile party members, but there was a vigorous competition on who had the best Trump putdown” [Robert Borosage, Common Dreams]. Remember when it was the Republicans who were “the party of stupid”? (And how’d that moniker work out for ya, Dems?) More: “Convened in a basement of Georgetown’s Four Season’s Hotel, the posh watering hole for Washington lobbyists, lawyers and visiting wealth, the conference quickly revealed how hard it is for Democrats to debate the future when Trump is taking all of the air out of the room.” As if the Democrats weren’t operating the air pumps as hard as they could! More: “The most interesting contrast was between Warren and Senator Corry Booker, both given star turns. Warren was full of fire and brimstone, while using her speech to put forth a clear analysis and reform agenda that pushed the limits of the Democratic debate. Booker closed the conference with a passionate address, invoking the progressive movements that have transformed America, concluding that Democrats can’t merely be the “party of resistance,” but must “reaffirm” America’s “impossible dream.” Fittingly, it was a speech brutal on Trump, replete with good values, sound goals and uplifting oratory, and .” So Neera thinks Booker’s the front runner, then?
“[J]ust looking at the topline approval rating number to assess Trump’s support from the base misses a very important element: the enthusiasm behind that support. And, on that front, there’s been some very clear bleeding for Trump” [Cook Political Report]. “Bottom line: just because the ‘bottom’ hasn’t dropped out on Trump, doesn’t mean he has the deep or enduring support of his party. The upcoming House special elections are going to give us some early clues about whether the enthusiasm gap is translating at the ballot box. But, the real test, of course, is 18 months–and about a million and a half news cycles–from today.” My view is that averages and aggregates conceal: Trump’s “base” is wealthy, suburban, and skews provincial (i.e., not global). If Mr. Market is happy, I’m betting Trump’s base will be happy. But Trump’s base was and is insufficient for victory: Trump’s “marginal voters” gave him the win, especially Obama voters who flipped. These voters are not wealthy, and skew provincial and rural. If Trump delivers for them — jobs, the wall, health care that doesn’t suck — he could pull this one out. Key figure that Cook quotes: “More than one Democrat I’ve spoken with in recent weeks has pointed with dismay to the results of an ABC/Washington Post poll that found that just 28 percent of Americans think that the Democratic Party is ‘in touch with the concerns of most people in the United States today.'” 28% is, IMNSHO, high. Americans are a generous people.
“Democrats again fell just short in a closely-watched election as Heath Mello lost the Omaha mayoral race on Tuesday after a fierce debate within the national party over his anti-abortion views” [AP]. Excellent. Remember, it’s critical that Sanders Democrats lose by just enough to declare a moral victory and not gain power!
“The DCCC raised $20 million in online contributions since the start of the year from contributions averaging just $18, according to the group, beating the $19.7 million the committee raised during 2015, the last off-year ahead of an election year” [NBC News]. Why Putin Derangement Syndrome and hysterical gaslighting are useful: They get vulnerable voters to press that “Contribute” Button, all without changing policy or addressing any structural issues in the Democrat Party. A neat trick!
“Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn. — a former Goldman Sachs vice president representing Greenwich and the newly elected head of the moderate New Democratic Coalition — is scheduled on Wednesday to be feted at a fundraiser at the Washington home of a “Lou Costantino,” according to an invite obtained by the transparency group Political Party Time. There is a Lou Costantino who is a former Merrill Lynch lobbyist who is now the top lobbyist for the Managed Funds Association — a major trade association for the hedge fund and private equity industries. Himes is one of the most active Wall Street fundraisers in the Democratic caucus, having raked in more than $2.6 million from the industry during his eight-year congressional career” [David Sirota, International Business Times]. Ka-ching.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“When a man as uncouth and reckless as Trump becomes president by running against the nation’s elites, it’s a strong signal that the elites are the problem” [The American Conservative]. “The elites also ran American foreign policy, as they have throughout U.S. history. Over the past 25 years they got their country bogged down in persistent wars with hardly any stated purpose and in many instances no end in sight—Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya. Many elites want further U.S. military action in Ukraine, against Iran, and to thwart China’s rise in Asia.” And most of the soldiers who fight and die in those wars are from the fly-over states. I mean, it’s that or WalMart, right? More: “Now comes the counterrevolution. The elites figure that if they can just get rid of Trump, the country can return to what they consider normalcy—the status quo ante, before the Trumpian challenge to their status as rulers of America. … Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, even suggests the elites of Washington should get rid of Trump through the use of the Constitution’s 25th Amendment, which allows for the removal of the president if a majority of the cabinet informs the Congress that he is ‘unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office; and if a two-thirds vote of Congress confirms that judgment in the face of a presidential challenge. This was written of course for such circumstances of presidential incapacity as ill health or injury, but Douthat’s commitment to the counterrevolution is such that he would advocate its use for mere presidential incompetence.” Of course, there is no counter-revolution because there is no revolution. But Trump does provide an interesting case study in what a revolutionary regime would face, should there be one. For example, suppose even a mild revolutionary like Sanders had won. Does anybody believe that what is happening to Trump would not have happened to Sanders, generated by the same ruling class factions using the same strategies? 2017 continues to be as wonderfully clarifying as 2016.
On the 25th Amendment:
Elites underestimated how angry our country was — angry enough to elect a massively unqualified candidate
Don't keep making same mistake
— Chris Arnade (@Chris_arnade) May 17, 2017
Read the interviews from AP and the series “How the Mississippi River Valley Turned Red.” Then imagine the “neighbor against neighbor” results. It’s one thing to have your neighbor not vote your way. It’s quite another thing to have your neighbor annul your vote, especially when the guy you voted for won the election under the rules all the candidates knew going in.
UPDATE “The Media Elite Is Indulging Dangerous Fantasies About Removing Trump From Office”
[The Federalist]. I don’t often agree with the Federalist, but I think this is a good perspective. “The country is deeply divided. People have taken to attacking each other in the streets and threatening congressmen when they venture outside Washington. We’re still recovering from a presidential election that actually ended marriages and tore families apart. Trump’s election was, more than anything else, a giant middle finger to the political establishment, which has lost the confidence of the American people. If now seems like the right time for that establishment to launch an unconstitutional coup to remove the president through a specious application of the 25th Amendment, then I respectfully submit that you’re underestimating the precariousness of national life at this moment.” Another way of thinking about this: Who, exactly, makes the case to the American people? That somebody would have to be an elected official trusted by the great majority of the American people (and most definitely not a gaggle of long-faced politicians sitting at a big table). Who would that somebody be? Paul Ryan? Joe Lieberman? Jimmy Carter? Oprah? Walter Cronkite is dead. So is Mr. Rogers. So who, exactly? Some general? Which?
“Leakers From the Deep State Need to Face Criminal Charges” [FOX News] and “Kucinich: ‘Deep State’ Trying to ‘Destroy The Trump Presidency'” [FOX News]. I juxtapose these to show the vacuity of the term “deep state.” Can you imagine FOX saying “ruling class” or “factional conflicts in the ruling class”? No?
Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, May 2017: “Another exceptional Philly Fed report points once again to acceleration for the factory sector” [Econoday]. “Activity is very brisk with shipments exceptionally strong at 39.1 with the workweek moving higher (21.7) and hiring underway (17.3). And order readings point to exceptional activity in the months ahead with new orders at 25.4 and backlogs on the rise at 9.0.” Trump’s marginal voters will read this as Trump performing to expectations (if this survey pans out in real data). But: “The April PMI and ISM reports indicated a slowdown in the manufacturing sector and concerns were heightened following the weaker than expected New York Empire manufacturing report released on Monday. There is some evidence of a slowdown in the latest Philadelphia Fed survey components, although the data overall should provide reassurance over manufacturing trends” [Economic Calendar]. And but: “There is continuing significant strength in this survey from new orders. Note that the New York Fed manufacturing survey (released earlier this week) returned to contraction” [Econintersect].
Jobless Claims, week of May 13, 2017: “There’s been no let up in demand for labor, judging by jobless claims which remain right at record lows” [Econoday].
Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of May 14, 2017: [Econoday]. “The consumer comfort index continues to hold near expansion highs… Strong readings for confidence reflect strong optimism for employment” (as above, with the caveat).
Leading Indicators, April 2017: “The index of leading economic indicators remains very solid, at a 0.3 percent gain in April with March also revised to 0.3 percent” [Econintersect]. “Unemployment claims, consumer expectations and factory hours are strong positives in the report, one that points to solid growth for the nation’s economy in the months ahead” (and as above, with the caveat). But: “The rate of growth may be improving on this index. Because of the significant backward revisions, I do not trust this index” [Econintersect].
Shipping: “To help gauge the possible scenarios, Fitch Ratings maintains 16 stand-alone revenue-backed ratings across 15 U.S. ports and also rates ports where debt is supported by tax revenues. Based on the its most current data, the outlook for U.S. port ratings is ‘stable.’ The ‘A’ category remains the most common rating for stand-alone U.S. ports, reflecting the sector’s relatively low credit risk and the resilience of cash flows despite volume fluctuations during economic downturns” (handy chart) [Logistics Management].
Shipping: “Ports still an attractive proposition for pension funds” [Lloyd’s List]. “[Mercator International partner Steve Rothberg] highlighted that investment in bigger, wider and faster cranes, longer quays, deeper berths and the like to meet the requirements of ultra large containerships has not gone unnoticed by funding schemes, which have invested heavily in the port industry for over a decade on the back of healthy returns… While he expects the current interest in ports and terminals to continue undeterred, infrastructure fund and pension fund executives have raised doubts over whether potential returns from investing in marine terminals are going to be as sure as they used to be.”
Supply Chain: “Germany-Asia rail freight volumes rise 10-fold in a year” [Lloyd’s Loading List]. “In total, DHL Global Forwarding offers 15 rail connections, equating to seven weekly door-to-door freight train services between Germany and the Far East. The trains follow the course of the trans-Kazakh western corridor and the trans-Siberian northern corridor with a dense network of rail hubs in all the major economic centres in China, Taiwan, Japan and South Korea.” So, from a low baseline. Nevertheless, a random Google search on “steppe ‘land sea'” turns up this: “In the 1770s a Russian envoy to the Kazakh khan Nuraly plainly stated: ‘The Yaik steppe for you is like a land sea with ports….'” I wonder what Admiral Mahan would think of all this?
Political Risk: “The US currency has come under further pressure during the past 24 hours with the dollar index retreating to six-month lows below the 97.50 level” [Economic Calendar]. “President Trump’s short-term response to a crisis of confidence surrounding the Administration will be crucial for market direction. An aggressive and insular approach would risk further dollar selling.”
Political Risk: “Hard to say which is worse for markets- if Trump remains as President or if he is removed” [Mosler Economics].
Political Risk: “”It always puzzled me a little bit,” [Former Fed Deck Chair Ben] Bernanke said In an onstage interview at the three-day, hedge-fund focused SkyBridge Alternatives Conference, or SALT, in Las Vegas. Financial markets have long shown a tendency to be ‘blasé’ about political risks until the ‘last moment'” “[MarketWatch]. “Bernanke also said Trump would be served well by renominating Janet Yellen to serve a second term as Fed chief.” Oh, “also.”
Political Risk: “[Trump] did dip his toes into central banking policy last month though, telling the WSJ in an interview that now that he’s president and can be honest, he actually prefers low interest rates. And, oh yeah, he mentioned, he is also willing to consider re-appointing Fed Chair Janet Yellen when her term is up in 2018. Trump’s sudden evolution to favoring low rates after attacking them on the campaign should not be surprising, nor should the possibility of a re-appointment for Yellen if she follows her dovish policy instincts in the coming year and a half” [Dealbreaker]. Fun Nixon riffs!
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 43 Fear (previous close: 45, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 63 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated May 18 at 12:10pm. The Mueller Effect?
“Humans have accidentally created a protective bubble around Earth by using very low frequency (VLF) radio transmissions to contact submarines in the ocean. It sounds nuts, but according to recent research published in Space Science Reviews, underwater communication through VLF channels has an outer space dimension” [Vice] (the original study: “Anthropogenic Space Weather.” Only the abstract is available, but it’s cool. Let’s just hope the aliens don’t notice! Unless they’ve quarantined the Solar System already, of course.
Our Famously Free Press
“In the past five trading days, many of America’s largest publicly traded newspaper companies have been under siege on Wall Street. Shares of McClatchy Co. (NYSE: MNI) are off 22% for the period. Shares of Tronc Inc. (NASDAQ: TRNC) are down 14%. Shares of Dallas Morning News publisher A.H. Belo Corp. (NYSE: AHC) are down 7%. Shares of industry leader, based on revenue, Gannett Co. Inc. (NYSE: GCI) are off 8%” [MarketWatch]. “Just as dramatic as the drops are the extent to which they have pushed stocks to or near their 52-week lows. McClatchy hit a new period low yesterday. Gannett traded within 12 cents of its bottom for the period. Tronc shares have dropped back to where they traded in November. Belo shares are the lowest they have been since August.” A ginormous scandal helps them out: Lots of clicks on the revenue side, and access journalism and opinion are low cost content compared to actual reporting.
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) May 18, 2017
“America’s Long Fight Over Single-Payer Healthcare” [JSTOR Daily]. “The pattern for defeating single-payer schemes was set a century ago when the 1918 California referendum was soundly trounced. The insurance industry opposed it because it threatened their profits. The medical establishment feared price controls, that is, challenges to their profits. The plan was also unpopular because it smacked of German social insurance in an era of intense anti-German feeling. It was also a call for “socialized” medicine at the dawn of the first great Red Scare.” Sounds familiar…
“Why Harvard Business School is under fire” [The Economist]. “The idea that HBS is responsible for the ills of Western civilisation is far-fetched. The school is better thought of as an aggressive business that has grown fast, cut too many corners and lost its competitive edge. Sales have risen by a compound rate of 8% over the past decade and costs by 7%. It has failed to manage conflicts of interest adequately: for example it gives companies a veto over case studies written about them and academics can be paid by the companies they teach about.” Credentialism and corruption….
News of the Wired
“The Case for Free-Range Kids” [The American Conservative]. “If I asked you… to think back on something you loved doing as a kid that you don’t see kids doing today, you would probably talk about getting on your bike and riding around till the streetlights came on while ‘our parents never knew where we were!'” My world, at least, growing up. Hard for me to believe it’s gone….
Put down your coffee before reading this thread:
— Amy Kaufman (@AmyKinLA) May 17, 2017
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Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here.
And here’s today’s plant (ChiGal):
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