By Lambert Strether of Corrente
“The pending Section 232 review, under which the administration is considering whether to limit imports of both steel and aluminum in the name of national security, would help Trump keep his campaign promise to crack down on unfair trade practices. The administration has been debating the issue behind closed doors for months, including in a high-level meeting this week with the president, and it finally appears to be moving toward a coherent path forward” [Politico]. “The president’s advisers are coalescing around a tailored approach that would target the steel imports of individual countries, rather than across-the-board measures against every nation that sends steel to the U.S., according to two sources familiar with the discussions. The administration’s more narrow approach is meant to allay the concerns of U.S. allies like Canada and the European Union, which together make up a large share of steel imported in the United States.”
“If the Trump administration is wondering where to start as it looks to build a digital trade chapter to include in NAFTA 2.0, it should look no further than the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a panel of representatives from top e-commerce platforms said on Thursday” [Politico].
Hall of Mirrors
Eric Holder’s mysterious midnight tweet:
To the career men & women at DOJ/FBI: your actions and integrity will be unfairly questioned. Be prepared, be strong. Duty. Honor. Country.
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) June 30, 2017
Rainmaking for Covington and Burling?
“Bipartisan Legislation to Lower Premiums and Stabilize Insurance Markets” [Center for American Progress]. Neera and her goons race to head off single payer:
In the wake of Senate Republicans’ decision to delay consideration of their health care repeal bill, the “Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), it is clear that their partisan approach has little support and would inflict widespread harm on the American people. This moment is an inflection point where Senate Republicans can choose one of two paths: They can continue to pursue repeal, or they can work with Senate Democrats on a bipartisan basis to stabilize insurance markets.
In other words, a Grand Bargain, this time on health care. Because markets.
“Many of the estimated ’22 million’ people who would ‘lose’ health insurance by 2026 under the Senate plan are people who were forced to purchase it because under Obamacare, they’d have had to pay a penalty if they went without. If policyholders aren’t required to keep a plan they don’t want or can’t afford, they can either continue to keep buying it or choose not to. This is not ‘losing’ health insurance — for instance, if people move from a state that requires auto insurance to one that doesn’t, they aren’t ‘losing’ insurance if they keep their policy active” [Christian Schneider, USA Today]. “Further, as Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has been pointing out, the CBO used an outdated estimate that’s more than a year old to determine the “loss” of coverage in the individual market from year to year under the Senate plan. When the most recent estimates from January are used, the number of Americans with individual health insurance would remain unchanged between 2017 and 2018. (It is these types of late-breaking revelations that buttressed Johnson’s successful argument to delay a vote on the bill.)” At the level of semantics, Schneider’s first argument on “loss” is true. But it’s not very helpful if you accept that going without health care is, well, risky. And Schneider’s argument on the numbers is mere quibbling; the trend line is clear.
“Senate Republicans continue to work to repeal and repeal Obamacare, but even if they succeed, it has become clear this week that the law has fundamentally shifted expectations surrounding health care in the country” [CNN]. “‘You can’t just erase Obamacare and go back,’ said a Georgia Republican senator.”
“Trump to Senate Republicans: kill Obamacare now, replace later” [Reuters]. So that was the surprise?
New Cold War
Another Clintonite talking point goes to a not-early-enough grave:
The NYT just quietly retracted its "Russiagate" canard that all 17 US intelligence agencies agreed on Russia hacking https://t.co/JlfzhdklA5
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) June 29, 2017
Idea: Fire more editors!
Our Famously Free Press
From the Department of Oh, Puh-Leeze:
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) June 30, 2017
“Overall, the GOP is defending 27 of the 38 gubernatorial races up this cycle; Democrats hold 10 and Gov. Bill Walker of Alaska is an independent” [Cook Political Report]. “Governors play a critical role in congressional and state-legislative redistricting, especially next year because it’s the last midterm election before the 2020 Census and 2021 redistricting. The example of Democrats’s disaster in 2010, the first midterm election under President Obama and last midterm before the 2011 redistricting, should be deeply concerning for Republicans. It’s no secret that midterm years are bad for the party holding the White House. With more straight-party voting than at any time in American history, this bias goes from the top of the ballot all the way to the bottom. Because Democrats got clobbered in the 2010 and 2014 midterms, Republicans now enter their first midterm election under President Trump with an unusual degree of exposure….. Of the 38 governorships up this year and next, 19 are open, with no incumbent seeking reelection in five of the 10 Democratic seats and 14 of the 27 Republican seats…. Four of the five Republican toss-up seats are open—Florida, Maine, Michigan, and Nevada—and all will have contested primaries.”
“The baseline assumption is that there are few competitive districts in the House. Based on PVI alone, that’s true. But, there are also a lot of districts that have the potential to become competitive in the future. Some have been quietly trending toward/away from a party and this movement was finally brought to light by Donald Trump’s performance in 2016. Not all of these districts will be part of the 2018 battleground map. But they should be considered as part of a broader look at the nation’s evolving voting patterns and behavior” [Cook Political Report]. Handy map:
“[Republican Party] chairs from Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania met with Trump at the White House on May 18, RealClearPolitics confirmed with the state parties. Also there, according to attendees, were chairs from Florida, Nevada and Wisconsin along with White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus” [RealClearPolitics]. “Trump won seven of those states in November. Hillary Clinton won New Hampshire by less than a point, Nevada by two points and Colorado by three. The meeting, which was scheduled for 15 minutes but lasted 45, was a chance for the president to ask his visitors about the situation in their states, participants said.”
Democrats in Disarray
“As a political scientist who focuses on gender and party discipline in the House of Representatives, I have studied Pelosi’s long leadership” [Kathryn L. Pearson, MarketWatch]. “In the upcoming midterms, Democrats will need a united front and they’ll need money to win seats in the House. They are unlikely to forget how Pelosi can draw upon her vast connections to raise record amounts. According to the New York Times, Pelosi has raised nearly US$568 million for her party since entering the House Democratic leadership in 2002. Just in the 2016 election cycle, she raised over $141 million [ka-ching]. Viewed through that lens, I would argue she may be ‘worth it.’ Yet House Democrats in swing districts may decide that it is too challenging to make the case for change with Pelosi as their leader. If Pelosi’s vote-counting history is a guide, she will know if and when that time has come.” Weird lack of agency. Weird lack of a concept that the Democrat Party as a whole ought to stand for something.
“There’s no clear path to national office for a younger senator like Kirsten Gillibrand or Michael Bennet, or even a celebrity like Cory Booker, continually eclipsed by their higher-decibel, nostalgia-peddling elders” [Matt Bai, Yahoo News]. Cory Booker makes Steny Hoyer look good.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“The Importance of Fairness: A New Economic Vision for the Democratic Party” [James Kwak, Baseline Scenario]. This is very good. And it will take a leadership purge to make it happen. Bring it.
“The practice of public officials shopping “dirt” to reputable journalists has become so common, this twenty-something I’ve never met before has no compunction about raising it openly in front of his colleagues. He thinks his job, as he collects a salary from taxpayers, is to conduct and spread opposition research against political enemies. He thinks my job, and that of other reporters in Washington, is to sift through the dirt we’re handed and decide whether to use it or take a pass. It tells me this must happen all the time” [RealClearPolitics].
“But 24 House Democrats, including the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, are now pushing an equally radical alternative: They are backing a bill that would create a congressional ‘oversight’ commission that could declare the president incapacitated, leading to his removal from office under the 25th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution” [Michael Issikoff, Yahoo News]. Hence the latest spate of health rumors. The key sentence: “So far no Republican members of Congress have signed on to the idea.” Worth a read on the mechanics of the 25th amendment, however.
Personal Income and Outlays, May 2017: “May was not a strong month for the consumer. Income did rise 0.4 percent but it wasn’t because of wages & salaries which could manage only a 0.1 percent gain. It was personal income transfers and proprietor income that gave a boost to income which the consumer, however, moved into savings” [Econoday]. “Price data are very soft…. The second leg of the second quarter did not turn out well for the consumer nor for GDP. But the weakness in price data is a more strategic concern for monetary policy makers who may be removing stimulus into inflationary headwinds.” Where are those headwinds? Somewhere in the tiny little punchbowl? And but: “Still on the downtrend line from when oil capex collapsed” [Mosler Economics]. And but: “Personal consumption has been the major driver of GDP since the end of the Great Recession.. The rate of growth of consumption is slowing which does not bode well for 2Q2017 GDP. Economically, it seems the consumer is spending less with an improving savings rate, and higher income” [Econintersect]. “It is also significant that inflation is moderating. The backward revisions this month SIGNIFICANTLY affected the year-over-year rate of growth for expenditures.” Then again: “The increase in personal income was above expectations, and the increase in PCE was at expectations” [Calculated Risk].
Chicago Purchasing Managers Index, June 2017: “Business picked up sharply in the Chicago-area economy based on the PMI” [Econoday]. “This report extends what has been six months of .” And: “Well above the consensus forecast” [Calculated Risk]. And: “The strongest reading in over 3 years” [Economic Calendar]. And but: “Also a bit better than expected, though expectations continue to revert” [Mosler Economics].
Consumer Sentiment, June 2017 (final): “[R]egained some momentum.” but “tangibly less strength” [Econoday]. “The consumer is still positive but perhaps less so as economic questions, such as tax cuts and fiscal stimulus, remain unanswered. And consumer spending, as highlighted in this morning’s personal income & outlays report, is not responding. The sentiment index has not been able to move higher from its 98 highs in January and December.” And: “Partisan differences persisted with Democrats generally uneasy surrounding proposed economic policies while Republicans remained broadly confident despite little headway in areas such as tax reform” [Economic Calendar]. “Overall confidence in the personal financial outlook remained strong which provided strong underlying support to confidence. The combination of optimism surrounding personal finances and increased concerns surrounding the outlook is often seen around a cyclical peak which will create further uncertainty over the overall spending prospects.”
Shipping: “Maersk operational, but still facing a ‘big task'” [Lloyd’s Loading]. “Maersk confirmed last night that its vessels remain fully operational and its ability to deliver cargo in transit was now ‘close to normal’ following the 27 June cyber attack on the company. But the world’s largest container line acknowledged that fully restoring its infrastructure remained ‘a big task’ and although it was accepting new bookings, these would take longer than normal to confirm and may not be processed until next week, when it expects its IT systems will be fully restored.”
Shipping: “The ransomware attack on Maersk may have the biggest impact on global supply chains, halting handling at ports in the U.S., India, Africa and Europe, and is raising concerns in the shipping business about moves toward digital operations in an industry that carries an enormous share of global trade. Maersk ships have been able to operate, but problems loading and unloading ships will ripple beyond the carrier’s own operations as the problems persist” [Wall Street Journal].
Shipping: “The thesis for the May edition of the Cass Freight Index Report from Cass Information Systems, which was released yesterday, could be something along the lines of “slight economic growth is better than no economic growth at all,” with the report seeing positive traction for freight shipments and expenditures for the fifth straight month” [Logistics Management].
Supply Chain: “According to the latest Annual State of Logistics Report from the Council of Supply Chain Management Professionals (CSCMP), total logistics activity in the U.S. in 2014 cost $1.45 trillion – roughly equal to 8.3% of gross domestic product. Of this, $900 billion was in transportation costs [Supply Chain 247]. That’s real money, but only about half health care.
Supply Chain: “Don’t bother telling Charles Fox about digital, real-time container tracking. The 31-year-old isn’t in the shipping industry, but he’s part of an unusual corner of the business—container spotters. They’re something like the enthusiasts that chronicle trains and planes. [T]hese connoisseurs who scout for shipping containers have built a separate culture around the ubiquitous containers, hanging around ship yards to identify the globe-trotting metal boxes by color, size, vintage and other details. One expert likens the site of rare boxes to ‘the satisfaction that bird watchers get from spotting a very rare breed of bird.’ That could be the blue—not gray—Gateway Management box Mr. Fox found recently in Indiana, or containers carrying the logos of defunct shipping lines around the world. There’s even a field guide called, simply enough, The Container Guide, that may have more detail on the boxes than shipping lines themselves may even have. Except, of course, where to find them” [Wall Street Journal]. This is totally cool. Like trainspotting (not the movie), though I’m surprised DHS hasn’t stomped all over this, the same way railroad photographers have been. Here’s a link to The Container Guide. And here is a lovely, dynamic map of ships in motion:
However, I can’t find a map of containers in motion…
The Bezzle: “I ask 100 information questions to four digital assistants. All of them fail at least half” [Vlad’s Box]. “Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the assistants do best in the areas where their company has an adjacent business.” BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!!
MMT: Quoting ECB: ” the fiscal authority can ensure that public debt denominated in the national fiat currency is non-defaultable” [Mosler Economics]. Mosler comments: “Looks to me like this opens the door to fiscal relaxation!!!”
Five Horsemen: “As the quarter ends, Amazon leads the pack while Apple brings up the rear” [Hat tip, Jim Haygood].
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 48 Neutral (previous close: 47, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 52 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jun 30 at 12:50pm.
“Country-specific effects of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees and wild bees” [Science]. From the summary:
Early studies of the impacts of neonicotinoid insecticides on insect pollinators indicated considerable harm. However, lingering criticism was that the studies did not represent field-realistic levels of the chemicals or prevailing environmental conditions. Two studies, conducted on different crops and on two continents, now substantiate that neonicotinoids diminish bee health (see the Perspective by Kerr). Tsvetkov et al. find that bees near corn crops are exposed to neonicotinoids for 3 to 4 months via nontarget pollen, resulting in decreased survival and immune responses, especially when coexposed to a commonly used agrochemical fungicide. Woodcock et al., in a multicounty experiment on rapeseed in Europe, find that neonicotinoid exposure from several nontarget sources reduces overwintering success and colony reproduction in both honeybees and wild bees. These field results confirm that neonicotinoids negatively affect pollinator health under realistic agricultural conditions.
Of course, neonicotinoids are in the water supply, too, so one can only wonder what other effects there are…
“What Killed Single-Payer In California?” [The New Republic]. Important:
The bill—SB 562, also known as Healthy California—had already passed in the Senate in June before Rendon unilaterally decided to take it off the table. Now it will lie in committee without any hearings “until further notice.” …
The timing of Rendon’s decision was especially egregious. Only a day earlier, U.S. Senate Republicans had revealed the first draft of their health care reform plan that would take insurance away from 22 million Americans, many of them Californians. This was a time to shore up support for those vulnerable residents of the Golden State, not leave them to the wolves.
Gee. And Pelosi said single payer efforts should focus on the state, right before this happened. Odd. Here’s the math:
However, a report by professors at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, commissioned in part by National Nurses United, estimated that after taking in the savings of single-payer, such as lower administrative costs and prices of pharmaceuticals, the actual cost of the plan would end up at around $331 billion. And, because 70 percent of the state’s current health care spending is covered by public programs like Medicare and Medi-Cal, California would only need to come up with $106 billion in new revenue, which researchers proposed could be done through two new taxes (a 2.3 percent gross receipts and sales tax), with exemptions for small businesses and tax credits to offset costs for low-income families. In exchange, nearly all of Californians’ medical expenses would be covered, doing away with premiums, copays, and deductibles.
Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of Paypal, was granted New Zealand citizenship despite spending only 12 days in the country, new documents have revealed…. The usual route to citizenship requires applicants to be in New Zealand as a permanent resident for at least 1,350 days in the five years preceding an application” [Guardian]. So, New Zealand’s youth: Is their blood tasty?
“The Rise of the Thought Leader” [The New Republic] (points for leading with Gramsci). The deck: “How the superrich have funded a new class of intellectual.” More: “The influx of plutocrat money has done much more than produce a handful of hollow thinkers. The institutions that enable intellectuals to conduct meaningful research are also being radically remade by their new sponsors. Over the past few decades, as funding from government sources and philanthropic organizations has dried up, think tanks have tried to make up the deficits by courting donations from corporations, foreign governments, and politically minded elites. These donors, however, are less interested in supporting intellectually prestigious, nonpartisan work than they are in manufacturing political support for their preferred ideas. In other words, they want a return on their investment. As a result, think tanks have become increasingly partisan.” A must-read, not least because it supplies a justification for small, independently funded blogs like Naked Capitalism.
“The Short, Unhappy Life of a Libertarian Paradise” [Politico]. “From crisis came a desire for disruption. From disruption came, well, too much disruption. And from that came a full-circle return to professional politicians. Including one—a beloved mayor and respected bureaucrat who was short-listed to replace James Comey as FBI director—who is so persuasive he has gotten Colorado Springs residents to do something the outside world assumed they were not capable of: Five years after its moment in the spotlight, revenue is so high that the same voters who refused to keep the lights on have overwhelmingly approved ballot measures allowing the city to not only keep some of its extra tax money, but impose as well.”
“Global publishing giant wins $15 million damages against researcher for sharing publicly-funded knowledge” [Privacy News Online]. “Most of the papers published by Elsevier and the other academic publishing houses and found on Sci-Hub were written by scientists and academics whose . … Typically, neither editorial boards nor peer reviewers are paid for their work, which is carried out as a kind of academic responsibility accepted by all as part of the job, and done for the greater good of society. That is, . The only costs that academic publishers incur are typically for production, which are limited if publication is purely digital, as is increasingly the case. Given the extremely efficient nature of the academic publishing system, it will come as no surprise to learn that leading companies in the sector – including Elsevier – have consistently achieved profit margins between 30% and 40%, levels almost unheard of in other industries.” It’s not clear to me why what Elsevier is doing is legal. Is not this outright theft of public goods, and theft of unpaid labor?
News of the Wired
“The Librarian Who Guarded the Manhattan Project’s Secrets” [Atlas Obscura]. “Upon accepting the position, Serber taught herself the Library of Congress and Dewey Decimal classification systems,* and teamed up with Oppenheimer’s secretary to develop a pass system for accessing the library’s secure vault, requiring that each scientist present a ‘typewritten letter’ bearing Oppenheimer’s signature rather than a badge.” NOTE: The note at “*” is funny.
“The Science of Ticks” [JSTOR Daily]. “Most hard ticks (like deer ticks) don’t have any eyes. They lack antenna, instead relying on fine hairs all over most of their body as well as complex sensory organs on their legs. They have a hard plate-like structure on their back, but the rest of the body is soft and able to expand as it gorges itself on blood.” Rather like health insurance company executives. No, but seriously folks, cover up if you go out in the woods over this long weekend.
* * *
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 allegic to PayPal, and (d) 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 (AB):
AB writes: “From a tiny crack in the concrete a mighty poppy grows. This locally (SF Bay Area) exotic volunteer on a public sidewalk has sprouted next to our fence. I’ve put a sign up asking people not to pick the flowers and two weeks later it seems to have worked. I want the seeds from this tough little beauty.”
I have had excellent luck this year with self-seeding poppies, and sunflowers!
UPDATE Now that that the 2017 Water Cooler fundraiser post is launched, I can say that directions for sending a check will include a request to send me a parallel email so I can thank you. Note that the Water Cooler fundraiser was for work that I have already done; so I see meeting the 250 donor goal as positive feedback for the 2016-2017 year, and rely on your continued support. Thanks to all!
* * *
Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the Naked Capitalism fundraisers. Please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.