Bangor, Maine Meetup: There will be a Bangor NC Meetup on Friday, September 15, 6:00pm, at Giacomo’s with me, Lambert. (I realize I’m “outing” myself to any locals who haven’t made the connection, but at this point my online identity is sufficiently gauzy — certainly to a professional — that it probably doesn’t matter much anyhow.) If anybody wishes to contact me, here’s my email: lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com.) Looking forward!
By Lambert Strether of Corrente
“The U.S. solar industry is readying itself for what many expect — and fear — will be an affirmative ruling in a trade case on the surging imports of solar equipment into the country. The International Trade Commission is expected to rule later this month on whether foreign companies are harming U.S. solar cell makers with their shipments of solar equipment, and Trump is very likely to support tariffs against the solar imports if the ITC recommends a remedy, a senior administration official told POLITICO” [Politico]. “The official said the president is increasingly frustrated with advisers recommending a cautious approach to trade… The solar case then could present an opportunity for the president to implement tariffs and send a signal to Beijing that he plans to take action on his frequent complaints that U.S. companies are suffering from unfair competition from foreign countries, particularly China.”
“In its five years in effect, this U.S.-Korea trade agreement proved even worse than expected. The unique outcome is that U.S. exports to South Korea actually declined after the pact was implemented. As with most other U.S. FTAs, imports into the United States soared. Thus, the U.S. goods trade deficit with Korea increased by 85 percent in five years. U.S. average monthly exports to South Korea have fallen in nine of the 15 U.S. sectors that export the most to South Korea, relative to the year before the FTA. U.S. exports to South Korea of agricultural goods have even fallen 5.4 percent in the first five years of the FTA” [Lori Wallach, Public Citizen]. “Claims that U.S.-Korean cooperation on a mutually shared existential priority will somehow be undermined by cancelation of a trade deal that has done the opposite of what was promised is [sic] absurd.”
2016 Post Mortem
“[CLINTON:] Oh, I think the most important of the mistakes I made was using personal email'” [CBS]. No. Even now, Clinton distorts. The problem is privatizing email storage on a personal server.
“Hillary admits she had no concession speech ready” [New York Post]. Shattered is a fun read.
UPDATE “Hillary’s Message To Dems: Don’t Give Bernie The Keys” [The Politico]. Says the candidate who drove the car into the ditch. No, Toonces! No! And: “In a Thursday statement responding to Clinton’s criticisms, Sanders slipped in that his bill would be introduced next week, perfectly timed to step on her book rollout.” One of the nice things about having Sanders play the inside game is that he really is a skilled politician.
“California is pushing forward with a plan to change the state’s primary date from June to March, a move that could scramble the 2020 presidential nominating contest and swing the early weight of the campaign to the West” [Politico]. Just to underline the obvious, Politico puts a big picture of Kamala Harris at the head of the article. If this goes through, it would also signal the end of the Southern “firewall.” It was always crazy for the Democrats to give the Black Misleadership Class a veto power over the nomination, especially in states the Democrats were never, ever going to win in the general, but since the Clintons thought it would help them, here we are.
UPDATE “Michelle Obama outshines all Democratic prospects for 2020” [The Hill]. Just what we need: Another political dynasty. Oh, the author is a former pollster for Bill Clinton. Idea: Michelle + Chelsea.
“2018 Could Be The Year Of The Angry White College Graduate” [David Wasserman, Cook Political Report]. “[T]here is one crucial demographic dynamic working in Democrats’ favor: The 2018 midterms are poised to feature the most college-educated electorate in American history…. Midterm elections are almost always a referendum on the party in the White House. And although college-educated whites narrowly supported Trump over Hillary Clinton last November, there’s evidence they are now among his most intense detractors…. That’s because the story isn’t just about them. It’s just as much about their non-college counterparts dropping out of the electorate…That might help explain why so far in 2017, Democrats have made just as big strides — if not bigger ones — in special elections in blue-collar districts like Kansas’s 4th Congressional District and Montana’s at large seat as they have in highly educated, white-collar suburbs like Georgia’s 6th District.” That the candidates in KS-04 and MT were both Sanders supporters is, oddly, or not, carefully erased in this piece. Just spitballing here, but isn’t it possible that #MedicareForAll, tuition-free college, and #FightFor15 are just as appealing to “blue collar workers” and the “educated”? Especially if the educated are young (i.e., in debt) or older (i.e., have their in-debt kids living in their basements)…
“At this point, a decent bet might be a House that is almost evenly divided, with the winning party holding a majority by a half-dozen or so seats, and Republicans holding their Senate majority with numbers similar to the current 52-48 lineup” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report].
“Why Trump hopes the new Trump sticks” [Axios]. “This week’s bear hug of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer opened Trump’s eyes to one solution: Stop doing things that people hate, and start striking deals.” And: “With the expiration of vehicles allowing simple-majority votes in the Senate, Trump achievements soon will require substantial Democratic votes. So he was going to have to pivot at some point anyway, building bridges and finding new dance partners.” Of course, all the Clintonite gaslighting about Russian stoogery should go away now, along with the White Supremacy and Facist talking points, if there’s any commitmen to consistency or principle left in the Clintonite wing [snort]. After all, Chuck and Nancy embracing fascism? No way. Oh, and secret talks between Trump and Schpelosi had been going on for some time. I’d speculate that the Clintonites were out of the loop, since otherwise they would have tried to sabotage them. If so, that would be a second signal — after the trial balloon of moving up the California primary — that the Clintonites are gradually being defenestrated, by party insiders, if not (yet) by the press.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Paper Ballots May Make a Comeback in Georgia” [Governing]. This is less excellent than it sounds, because the paper ballots are not hand-marked. Wherever there is software, there’s hacking. We don’t want a “paper trail,” with the real vote being tabulated by software. We want the paper ballot to be the actual ballot, the official record, hand-counted, in public.
“Can Congress Call A Special Election if Trump and Pence Are Impeached?” [Take Care]. “Here and there [i.e., in the mind of Louise Mensch fan boi Larry Tribe], constitutional analysts are discussing whether Congress could provide for a special presidential election as a sort of do-over for 2016, if both President Trump and Vice-President Pence were impeached and removed for complicity in Russia-related shenanigans that altered the outcome of the election.” (The hysteria on this seems to have died down for now — maybe as a result of the Trump/Schumer/Pelosi group hug? — but that’s no reason to think it can’t heat up again.) More:
In other words, I think that Congress has the legal authority to remove the President and Vice-President and to call a special election to replace them. But Congress’s authority to pursue that course of action is in important ways analogous to Congress’s authority to enact a 99% income tax, or to provide that government-printed calendars shall label the ninth month of the year July and the sixth month of the year September. Learning the principles of constitutional interpretation that lead to these conclusions involves developing a set of understandings and skills that can be useful as applied to non-hypothetical cases. But the hypothetical cases remain hypothetical, and figuring out the best answers in those cases is never ultimately the point of the enterprise. By a similar token, asking whether Congress can provide for special elections to replace Trump and Pence as if the question concerned an actionable possibility strikes me as among the worst uses of constitutional analysis. It’s a form of escapism.
Idea: The Democrats should put the idea of a soft coup to overturn the 2016 election results back in its box, and focus on winning the next election. I seem to be doing a lot of spitballing today…
“It’s Not Enough To ‘Move To The Left'” [Current Affairs]. “But to a certain extent, character is unavoidable: it matters who you are, not just what you say. Persuasive appeals are of three kinds: appeals to logic, appeals to emotion, and appeals to character, and anyone aspiring to political success should have all three. Democratic candidates are not just pushing a platform, they are pushing themselves.” More:
Trustworthy character isn’t the only thing Democrats will need beyond “moving left.” They also need real grassroots organizations and mass involvement, and a clear commitment to results over mere rhetoric. If “Medicare For All” just becomes an empty slogan, with Democrats as ill-prepared to implement it as Republicans were to actually “Repeal Obamacare,” then it will be worse than nothing. Democrats using left messaging cynically, without any serious commitment to taking on insurance companies and Wall Street, would ultimately be very damaging. It would result in another series of broken promises that further erode people’s trust in the political system. (That’s, by the way, what makes me wary of people like Kamala Harris and Joe Biden. Harris has signed on for Medicare for All, which is great. But it’s important to make sure our candidates are sincere in caring about things, rather than simply adopting whatever position they think people want to hear. People like Bernie Sanders and Nina Turner, on the other hand, rarely change their tune. It makes them seem reliable.)
“What Is DSA Doing? 09/03/17–09/09/17” [Medium]. Nice roundup, sadly now on the read-limited Medium.
UPDATE Assuming the left-center-right linear continuum, but still interesting:
The share of Democratic voters who describe their views as liberal is now 20 percentage points higher than in 2000 https://t.co/MTVQ6gMEnc pic.twitter.com/LmMUTRU0yX
— Pew Research Center (@pewresearch) September 10, 2017
Of course, some of Pew’s “liberals” are “the left,” some fraction of which will be perfectly happy to throw the Democrats under the bus in favor of the DSA, if the party establishment does not deliver.
No stats of interest today.
Climate Risk: “A few excerpts from a research note by Goldman Sachs economist Spencer Hill: Hurricane Handbook: Natural Disasters and Economic Data” [Calculated Risk]. Goldman: “[W]e estimate that hurricane-related disruptions could reduce 3Q GDP growth by as much as 1 percentage point… However, we expect this weakness to reverse over the subsequent three quarters, more than recouping the lost output.”
Climate Risk: “One industry that may see a huge benefit from the storm damage and flooding is the out-of-favor automotive industry, which many believe is fully valued as low interest rates lured many buyers who had been previously shell-shocked by the 2008 to 2009 market implosion into showrooms. That may all change as estimates are that as many as 300,000 to 500,000 personal vehicles in the Houston area alone were severely damaged or destroyed by Harvey. Toss in the damage from Irma as it rolls through Florida, and hundreds of thousands of more vehicles could be affected” [247 Wall Street]. “Another big factor to consider is that, unlike home insurance, most car insurance does cover flooding, and some estimates are coming in that insured losses for personal and commercial car insurers could reach $4.7 billion pretax. That would buy a lot of new cars, trucks and SUVs.”
Commodities: “Oil production per year: 34 billion barrels (incl. other liquids) Oil market size at current prices: $1.7 trillion per year” [Mining.com]. With handy chart showing that the total major metals and minerals market works out to $660 billion.
Retail: “[CostCo] has been methodically building its Kirkland Signature store brand to the point where the products that run from milk to golf balls now make up a quarter of the retailer’s $118.7 billion in annual sales…. providing competition for companies looking to get their products on Costco shelves” [Wall Street Journal]. “The tug-of-war over sales is part of the changing face of retail supply chains as store operators try to keep up with changing buying patterns. It adds new concerns for suppliers that may get into Costco’s big warehouse-style stores only to find that Costco often introduces a new Kirkland product of virtually any sort when the retailer believes a brand isn’t selling at the lowest possible price.”
Shipping: “World container trade appears to be back on track after two lean years, resulting in an upgrade to Drewry’s annual outlook for 2017. More recent data suggests we might have to go higher still” [Lloyd’s List]. “Port statistics gathered by Drewry from a sample of nearly 150 sites around the world indicate that container handling grew by 6.6% in the first six months of the year, while deep-sea and regional trade numbers are showing similar progress…. Part of the renaissance story for 2017 lies in just how moribund the previous two years were, with growth looking more spectacular thanks to the low bases. However, there is more substance to the recovery than mere statistical quirks. The world economy is proving to be more resilient than expected… Two-way traffic in some of the world’s largest trades confirms the growth story as told by the raw port handling statistics. Data gathered from CTS, PIERS and Datamar in a selection of key trades indicates that worldwide trade growth at the half-way stage was in the region of 4-5%…. Looking at our sample, all of the routes with the exception of Europe-Middle East made contributions. Five trades (Intra-Asia, Asia-WCNA, Asia-Med, Asia-ECNA and Asia-North Europe) were responsible for over three-quarters of the additional volumes. The broad spread of the recovery suggests that it is more than a blip and should endure.”
Shipping: “[I]n the case of United States-bound retail container volumes, records are being set in recent months, according to the most recent edition of the Port Tracker report issued this week by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and maritime consultancy Hackett Associates” [Logistics Management]. “The ports surveyed in the report include: Los Angeles/Long Beach, Oakland, Tacoma, Seattle, Houston, New York/New Jersey, Hampton Roads, Charleston, and Savannah, Miami, and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Port Everglades.”
Supply Chain: “A growing number of lawsuits may test the responsibility that wholesale drug distributors have in the U.S. opioid crisis. The latest legal case comes in New Mexico… where the state is suing several major pharmaceutical companies and distributors, arguing the corporations are partly to blame for rampant opioid addiction rates in the state. The lawsuit follows litigation by other states that claims pharmaceutical companies play down the risks of their powerful painkillers in their marketing to the public and doctors” [Wall Street Journal]. “New Mexico is going further, joining arguments from cities and counties that claim distributors sold their painkillers unlawfully into their regions and failed to monitor and report suspicious orders. New Mexico says it needs to go after the entire supply chain
Manufacturing: “C919 jumbo jet expected to be powered by homemade engine: expert” [People’s Daily]. “The market of engines for commercial aircraft is promising, which Feng estimated in the next two decades to hit 80,000 worldwide, with the market value reaching $1 trillion. The CJ-1000 is designed for C919, but is expected to power either Boeing 737 or Airbus 320 or a similar newly built aircraft in the world market by 2025, [Wang Yanan, chief editor of the Aerospace Knowledge magazine] said.”
Manufacturing: “Boeing and Airbus are slated to deliver more than $100 billion worth of planes this year and have combined backlogs together worth almost $1 trillion. Parts that represent more than half the value of those planes are mostly made by dozens of suppliers, and Boeing and Airbus want to keep a bigger share of that value. The supply chain impact on the bottom line is clear: profit margins for tier one suppliers are far stronger than those of the aircraft and engine makers, and they’re even better for tier 2 suppliers of smaller parts” [Wall Street Journal].
The Bezzle: “Wall Street’s cynical calculation [is] that Equifax will merely have its wrist slapped for allowing the biggest cyberbreach in the history of civilization. In the past, fines levied on the likes of Target and Adobe for similar malfeasance, albeit on a far lesser scale, have been ridiculously small” [Econintersect]. “Realize that, in the end, it was Martha Stewart who went to prison, a victim of prosecutors whose laziness and ineptitude will continue to limit them to only the easiest targets.” That’s not really fair; both Enron and thousands of S&L crooks were prosecuted under Bush I and Bush II respectively. Elite crooks having impunity is really down to Obama, whose statement to a group of bankers that “I stand between you and the pitchforks” remains legend.
The Bezzle: “According to Jefferies, the cryptocurrency impact on Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and NVIDIA Corp. has been significant, but the risk of a ‘crypto-driven’ inventory correction driving material downside is low in the near term. Jefferies noted that cryptocurrency sales in the second quarter of 2017 as a portion of all revenue was only about 3% for AMD and 10% for NVIDIA” [247 Wall Street]. “[B]oth AMD and NVIDIA have introduced cryptospecific GPU models that have a low risk of competing with core gaming GPUs in secondary markets.”
The Bezzle: “Transportation technology vendor Waymo, the sister company of Google Inc., is on track to release a [‘fully’] autonomous minivan by 2025, and could adopt that technology for commercial use in logistics applications, according to an industry report” [DC Velocity]. My goodness! Eight years from now! That’s practically tomorrow!
Political Risk: “Radiation Security Tested On Maersk Ship” [Port Technology]. “Members of US agency National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), specifically the Nuclear/Radiological Advisory Team (NRAT), conducted advanced maritime training aboard the vessel while it was on a voyage last month…. Over the last 20 years, NRAT has developed and refined specialized tactics, techniques, and procedures to better locate and identify radioactive material on container ships.” Well, that’s reassuring. Or not.
Rapture Index: Closes up 2 on earthquakes: “Mexico’s strongest quake in 85 years kills dozens” [Rapture Ready]. Record high: October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 184.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 52 Neutral (previous close: 38, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 11 at 11:38am. After the nineteenth hole on Sunday, back to Neutral!
“The mystery of the lost Roman herb” [BBC]. “Central to this botanical riddle is the fact that silphium couldn’t be farmed. But why?” Fascinating.
“Conducting virtual experiments on Blue Brain’s digital reconstruction of a microcircuit in the rat brain, a computer model consisting of 31 000 neurons – and a whopping 8 million connections – all based on physiological data, the scientists discovered and described quantitatively the astonishingly rich geometric organization of neurons, providing a new and powerful tool for understanding the brain. The way neurons network together can actually be described using multi-dimensional mathematical objects. Moreover, these objects respond to external stimuli with a characteristic pattern through time, never before observed” [Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne]. Well, this should help solve a lot of marketing problems.
“Even though Congress shifted its focus from bulldozing the Affordable Care Act to stabilizing the troubled individual market in the short term, big questions remain, particularly around future funding for cost-sharing reduction subsidies that insurers say are crucial to steadying that business line” [Modern Health Care]. “The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee last week held hearings on how to shore up the individual market in hopes of passing a bill by Sept. 15; that’s so a law can be signed before Sept. 27, when insurers in many states must finalize if, where and for how much they’ll sell coverage.”
“California bans drones from delivering marijuana” [The Verge].
Imperial Collapse Watch
Lambert here: Despite all the liberal Democrat yammering about fascism, we should note that if future historians conclude America descended into fascism in the 21st Century, the institutional machinery for that descent — the USA PATRIOT Act, AUMF, torture, assassination, warrantless surveillance, militarized policing, constant gaslighting — was all put in place, after 9/11, on a thoroughly bipartisan basis, with those same liberal Democrats — Clinton, Obama, Biden — cheerfully leading the way.
Shoutout to The Marriott for providing free coffee and mini-muffins for 9/11https://t.co/MLezbmPUeK pic.twitter.com/Bgv6xIiiKO
— Barstool Sports (@barstoolsports) September 11, 2017
(The first version of this Tweet I found was removed, so we’ll see how long this lasts.)
“Another 9/11 Anniversary at Guantánamo, Amid Hurricane Irma” [The New Yorker]. “Of the forty-one people still held at Guantánamo—down from two hundred and forty-two when President Barack Obama was inaugurated—[Abd al Hadi al Iraqi] is one of only seven who face charges before a ‘military commission.’ The others are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the admitted master planner of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon; four of his co-conspirators; and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, who is accused in the 2000 attack on the U.S.S. Cole, in waters near Yemen. Mohammed was captured in 2003—almost fifteen years ago—but his trial has yet to begin.” Hey, remember this? “[OBAMA] I have said repeatedly that I intend to close Guantanamo, and I will follow through on that. I’ve said repeatedly that America doesn’t torture. And I’m going to make sure that we don’t torture. Those are part and parcel of an effort to regain America’s moral stature in the world” [PBS]. Good times. Of course, looking back, we can see that Obama’s “I intend to” was doing a lot more work than we thought at the time. (And here’s a handy compilation of Obama promises to close Gitmo, restore habeas corpus, etc.).
“Toward an Index of the 9/11 Commission Report” [n+1]. Very good:
We began this index as a stunt. Here was a much-discussed, even much-reviewed, book of history that had been published without a necessary textual aid. DidnÌt this very useful book want to be of use? We would supply the aid, and, within the boundaries of some not terribly severe formal constraints, steal an opportunity to interpret the contents. We found that the language of the report, rightly or wrongly, turns the terrorists into imaginative technicians. We found that Paul Wolfowitz only appears in the text to beat the drums of the Iraqi war (also, at one point, to castigate his colleagues for lack of “imagination”). And we found that Richard ClarkeÌs dire warnings, arranged all together, took on a kind of hypnotic, even lulling effect: is this how it felt to those around him, too.
But the index is a minor genre, and it can only begin to indicate the strangeness, and the strange power, of the Report. Constructed like a novel, it can acknowledge othersÌ ideology (al Qaeda has a twisted, murderous one) but not its own, and has no truck with psychology, and only an occasional interest in politics. At times the scars of its bipartisan consensus become visible, as do the exact points where the Report stops short. Even leaving aside the invasion of Iraq, there is the fact that al Qaeda witnesses, sworn enemies of the United States, are cooperating so volubly with their interrogators. What is being done to them? Where are they even being kept?
“The Financialization of Life” [P2P Foundation]. “Everything is turning into a transaction: our relationships, emotions and expressions; our ways of producing, acquiring and transferring knowledge; communication; everything. As soon as each of these things become the subject of a service, they become transactions: they become an atomic part of a procedure. Because this is what a transaction is: an atom in a procedure, in an algorithm. This includes the fact that transactions are designed, according to a certain business, operational, strategic, marketing model…. It is not the algorithm serving us, and what we want. It is the algorithm turing us into itself, making us become like it.”
“In fact, a new report [here] highlights that more than one-third of California households have virtually no savings. These households would not have the ability to live at the poverty level for three months if one paycheck in the household was lost due to a job loss. You also have more than 2 million young adults living at home with their parents since the rent is too high. This isn’t the California that is presented in Hollywood movies” [Dr. Housing Bubble]. “In places like Los Angeles close to half of renting households send close to half of their paycheck off to rent. And for the majority that own they spend over 40 percent of their net income on housing costs. This provides very little buffer for any emergencies. And of course, people live day to day and the economy has been on a massive bull run since 2009. A small recession is going to cause major ripples. And the way California is structured supports a boom and bust economic cycle. Tax revenues are flush in good times thanks to high taxes across the board but when things contract, the money dries out very quickly.” (One reason, BTW, that it’s insane to put #MedicareForAll at the state level; we need the currency issuer to handle it.
“‘That’s a lot of money — oh my god!’ Sloane Stephens reacted to making $3.7 million at the U.S. Open as we all would” [MarketWatch]. Well, no. Three million dollars is not a lot of money. The decimal point is in the wrong place.
News of the Wired
“Gamergate is never going away” [The Outline].
“Due to common misconceptions about the Church-Turing thesis, it has been widely assumed that the Turing machine provides an upper bound on what is computable. This is not so. The new field of hypercomputation studies models of computation that can compute more than the Turing machine and addresses their implications” [Arxive.org]. Chips with that salsa?
“Iceland riveted as notorious 1828 murder case is retried” [MPR News].
* * *
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 are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant:
From the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.
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