★★★TOMORROW★★★ Bangor, Maine Meetup: There will be a Bangor NC Meetup on Friday, September 15, 6:00pm, at Giacomo’s with me, Lambert; I will be wearing a grey hoodie, a purple shirt, and will carry a black computer shoulder bag, or have it near me. (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 Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is considering putting on the table during the next round of NAFTA negotiations a so-called sunset proposal, or a provision that would effectively implement an automatic termination of the deal after five years unless all three parties agree before then to renew it, sources told Morning Trade” [Politico]. “[A]t least two agencies — the Agriculture and State departments — voiced heavy opposition to the idea.”
“Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin suggested Wednesday that the Trump administration is willing to cut off trade with China in an effort to put pressure on North Korea” [FOX]. “‘I’ve worked on an executive order that’s ready if the president wants to use it,’ Mnuchin said in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier. ‘We can stop trade with any country that does business with North Korea.'”
“NAFTA Parties Pursue “Accelerated” Timeframe, Gear Up for Third Round of Talks” [International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development]. “What a revamped NAFTA might look like still remains unclear. The three sides have detailed their respective negotiating objectives in recent months, and within those statements some key differences have already begun to emerge, including on whether and how to keep dispute settlement provisions involving trade remedies and how to address rules of origin requirements.”
“New NAFTA must terminate corporate kangaroo courts” [The Hill]. “As networks representing thousands of responsible business owners, we have advocated strongly that any NAFTA renegotiations must remove the pact’s controversial provisions that incentivize job offshoring and empower foreign corporations to challenge sovereign U.S. laws…. It’s hard to believe this Orwellian power grab is real, but it is. Multinational corporations already have pocketed $392 million from North American taxpayers under NAFTA ISDS attacks on toxic bans, environmental and public health policies and more. Tens of billions of dollars are pending in ongoing NAFTA cases. … [W]hy would U.S. small businesses want to give foreign multinational corporations exclusive access to biased panels of lawyers, while exposing important local, state and federal policies to challenge?” I’d speculate that most small business owners, although of the right, support these sentiments; and I’d also speculate that they have a disproportionate impact on economic survey data.
2016 Post Mortem
“Clinton Already Working On Follow-Up Book Casting Blame For Failures Of First” [The Onion].
“Amazon redacts one-star reviews of Hillary Clinton’s What Happened” [Guardian]. “The book’s publisher at Simon & Schuster, Jonathan Karp, told the Associated Press: “It seems highly unlikely that approximately 1,500 people read Hillary Clinton’s book overnight and came to the stark conclusion that it is either brilliant or awful.'”
“SCOTUS Stays Court Orders Against TX Congressional, State Legislative District Maps” [Ballotpedia]. “On August 28, 2017, Associate Justice Samuel Alito of the Supreme Court of the United States stayed the district court’s August 15 ruling on Texas’ congressional district plan pending further review by the high court. On August 31, 2017, Alito issued a similar order on the district court’s August 24 ruling on Texas’ state House district plan. On September 12, 2017, the high court voted 5-4 to implement a full stay against both rulings pending progression of the state’s appeal. According to The New York Times, the high court’s order “made it more likely that the 2018 election will be held” using the existing district plans.”
“Trump: ‘The wall will come later'” [Axios]. This seems like a reasonable summary of the yelling and screaming. (The combination of all sides being what they are, plus the tendency of the press to misquote Trump, makes coverage difficult):
Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer issued a joint statement responding to President Trump’s morning tweets surrounding DACA, agreeing that there was “no final deal” but rather general agreement on the following terms:
- Trump will encourage the House and Senate to enshrine protections granted by DACA into law.
- There will be a bipartisan border security package that still needs to be negotiated — but it will not include the wall, which Trump plans to continue to advocate at a later date.
Confirmation from POTUS: Leaving the White House for Florida this morning, Trump told the pool that “the wall will come later,” adding that a deal is “fairly close” with Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell both on board, but both sides have to “get past the border security.”
First, it’s not clear to me what Trump gets out of this (presumptive) deal, which has his base in an uproar. Tax reform? Pelosi + Schumer + Trump getting together to [family blog] the left on #MedicareForAll with some mild ACA reform that keeps relationships with the insurance industry sweet? Second, Pelosi and Schumer having dinner with Trump is a lot like — if the framing of the Clintonite wing is to be believed — a lot like Mother Theresa dining with Satan, with the scooped-out skulls of the saints as an hors d’ouerve. This, again, suggests to me that the post-Ossoff power of the Clintons in the party — as opposed to whatever grift the Clintons are working on their base — is being diminished, since if the famously vengeful Clintonites knew these deals were in the works, they would have tried to sabotage them. (Of course, the Clintonites can still wreak vengeance by sabotaging Medicare for All, but that’s a different set of players.)
See also “Health Care,” below.
“Politically, single payer — the idea of having the government pay for health care rather than private insurers — can help rally the left much like the prospect of repealing the ACA rallied the right. But it could also help Republicans, who own the problems in health care now, switch the target to the Democrats and their sweeping new health reform plan” [Axios]. Defense wins championships. In football. But politics ain’t football.
“Why Bernie Sanders’s Medicare for All Plan Is Good Politics” [The New Republic]. “The most obvious function of Sanders’s Medicare for All bill is that it is being used to excite the Democratic base as we head into the 2018 midterm elections. A highly cited survey by Kaiser Health Foundation shows that a slim majority of Americans, 53 percent, favor single-payer, including 63 percent of Democrats and 55 percent of independents. Setting up Medicare for All as a goal is a way to activate movement politics, to give people a reason to go to the polls and make phone calls. We have already seen the fruits of those efforts: that 16 senators have signed on to the plan is due more to sustained grassroots organizing than anything else.”
Realignment and Legitimacy
“How Much Can the Youth Vote Actually Help Democrats?” [New York Time]. Probably not a lot, if the Democrat estabishment keeps activitly repelling them (although, at the state and local level, it’s possible that DSA/Our Revolution support will do some attracting to counteract the repulsion, a word I use quite advisedly).
“Help, I Can’t Stop Hooking Up With Trump Supporters” [Glamour]. Transgressive!
“An Open Letter to ESPN About President Trump and Jemele Hill” [Nina Illingworth].
Consumer Price Index, August 2017: “For the first time since February, core consumer prices did not come in below expectations, hitting the consensus with a modest but useful 0.2 percent gain” [Econoday]. “Energy costs, in part reflecting month-end pressure from Hurricane Harvey, jumped 2.8 percent with gasoline up 6.3 percent. Food was not a factor in August showing a 0.1 percent rise. Year-on-year rates are mixed with overall prices up 2 tenths to 1.9 percent but the core holding flat at a subpar 1.7 percent. Despite lack of progress in the core, August results are not a disappointment.” And but: “Given that recent dollar weakness will feed through into higher prices across a wide spectrum of items, overall confidence in inflation reaching the 2% target should increase to some extent” [Economic Calendar].
Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of September 10, 2017: Still “very strong” despite Harvey and Irma [Econoday].
Jobless Claims, week of September 9, 2017: “Volatility in jobless claims data is assured in the coming weeks as the effects of Hurricane Harvey and Irma play out at unemployment offices in Texas and Florida as well as surrounding states” [Econoday].
Shipping: “The August month-over-month import container counts are still suggesting an improving USA economy, but exports suggest a sluggish global economy” [Econintersect]. “Looking at the three month rolling averages this month shows improvement in imports which would indicate improving growth – with exports not only contracting YoY but also getting worse. As imports are growing much faster than exports, the trade balance should worsen.” And: “Container traffic gives us an idea about the volume of goods being exported and imported – and usually some hints about the trade report since LA area ports handle about 40% of the nation’s container port traffic” [Calculated Risk]. “In general imports have been increasing, and exports are mostly moving sideways to down recently.”
Shipping: “At 1,200’x152’x55′, the Roosevelt has a container capacity of 14,414 TEU, the largest yet to call at the New Jersey cargo terminals. To get it there, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and its public agency partners needed billions of investment dollars to deepen the harbor channels to 50′, and raised the Bayonne Bridge by 64.'” [Workboat]. “”Without the bridge being raised, meeting the growth requirements of the region would have been a challenge,” said Bourdon. New York-New Jersey takes in 56% of the trade volume for the U.S. East Coast, so it is a “cornerstone of any service deployment, particularly from Asia…. It’s not going to be at the expense of the West Coast. The market is growing,” he said. That same week officials at the Port of Long Beach, Calif., said pretty much the same. Imports there jumped 10% in August over the year before, the third-highest monthly total in the 106-year history of the port. It was the second-busiest August ever and the third-highest container volume for any month, said port officials, who consumer demand and retailer optimism over coming holiday sales. ‘The modest economic growth we’ve seen since the Great Recession has been replaced this year by robust gains, at least when measured by goods coming into the United States,’ said Mario Cordero, the [Port of Long Beach’s] executive director.”
Shipping: “In the annals of predictions that don’t come true, TV meteorologists hold the top spot, followed by political pollsters and the cover of Sports Illustrated. Rounding out the top five are the long string of technology pundits who confidently predicted that supply chain RFID tracking would conquer and re-shape the global logistics industry” [Supply Chain 247]. “Ironically, the supply chain holy grail that RFID was supposed to deliver is now within reach – though RFID isn’t necessarily part of the technology that is making it possible.” Interesting bits of history but degenerates into a pitch for the author’s white paper.
Shipping: “Malware spreading fast through the merchant fleet” [Splash 247]. “A [Futurenautics] survey of 2,500 seafarers has revealed that 40% of officers have sailed on a vessel, which has become infected with a computer virus or malware. The ongoing crew connectivity survey, carried out by British firm Futurenautics, also found that 87% of those surveyed have had no cyber security training. The organisers of the poll expect the final number of participating seafarers to double to 5,000… Cyber security has come in to sharp focus for the shipping industry in the wake of June’s NotPetya attack, which hit a number of lines, most notably Maersk, which saw up to $300m in revenues wiped from its books..Commenting on the survey, Phil Tinsley, head of maritime security at global shipowning body, Bimco, told Splash: ‘This statistic is no surprise.'”
Retail: “Criteo Helps Brands Boost Conversions Via ‘Deep Learning'” [Women’s Wear Daily]. “[Jonathan Opdyke, president of brand solutions at Criteo] said the process is to develop ‘deep learning on people that have affinities for various types of styles, clothing and colors, which they tend to buy together or in sequences. So when a campaign goes out from a retailer, they’re taking advantage of that broad based knowledge and showing a much more relevant product to a much more likely to buy customer.’ The results are clear, Opdyke said. In a case study of Revolve Clothing, deploying Criteo’s platform increased conversions by 16 percent and bolstered return on advertising spend by 36 percent.” Interesting if true.
Retail: “Diners who are more averse to uncertainty than the average Joe – or, to put it in academic terms, have a “need for cognitive closure” — don’t like restaurant menus to have the authentic names of their meals. Instead, they prefer the English-language version, according to a study by Stephanie Liu, an assistant professor of hospitality management and consumer sciences at the College of Education and Human Ecology at Ohio State University” [MarketWatch]. “It’s a delicate balance. Having some authentically-named items can give a restaurant a certain gravitas, too. Another study of foreign languages on menus from a student at the Auckland University of Technology found having the authentic language on a menu increased the customers’ perception of the authenticity of the restaurant and its food — which could increase customers’ expectations of the meals they’ll receive…. But the preference for easy-to-understand menu names could be on the wane. Younger restaurant-goers are more likely to embrace foreign languages on their menus.”
Retail: “Early seasonal hiring announcements indicate that the retail sector’s holiday job market will be stronger than last year, according to Challenger Gray & Christmas, specialists in outplacement and career transitions” [MarketWatch]. “So far, Target Corp. has announced plans to hire 100,000 seasonal workers, up from 70,000 last year, along with 4,500 workers for distribution and fulfillment centers. Michaels Companies Inc. has announced plans to bring 15,000 workers on board for the season. Radial, a retail technology and operations company, says it will hire 27,000 seasonal workers, to help with fulfillment and customer care. That’s a year-over-year increase of 35%, according to the company. And 1-800-Flowers.Com Inc. says it will hire 8,000 workers for its portfolio of brands, including Harry & David and Cheryl’s Cookies.”
Retail: “NYFW Street Style: See the Photos” [Teen Vogue]. If Amazon really wants to get into the fashion business, it’s going to have to do a lot better. Especially fast fashion.
Five Horsemen: “Microsoft pips Apple; Facebook über alles” [Hat tip Jim Haygood]. A welcome return; Haygood was “reluctant to contribute content” while comments were off.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 68 Greed (previous close: 67, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 38 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Sep 14 at 1:23pm.
During the transition to universal health care, in the first year this legislation will immediately improve traditional Medicare for seniors and people with disabilities by covering dental, vision and hearing aids which are not covered under current law. The Medicare eligibility age will be reduced to 55 and Medicare Part A, Part B and Part D deductibles would be eliminated.
Moreover, during the first year, every child between the ages of 0-18 would become eligible to enroll in the Universal Medicare program.
A Medicare Transition plan would also be established during year one to provide affordable coverage for all Americans and to make sure that no one loses coverage.
During the second year of implementation, the Medicare eligibility age would be reduced to 45. During the third year, the eligibility age would be lowered to 35.
By the fourth year, every individual who is a resident of the United States will be entitled to benefits for comprehensive health care services and will get a Universal Medicare card that they can use to receive the health care they need.
Covering “every child between the ages of 0-18” in the first year is not only politically smart, it takes the ACA’s political smarts of putting young people on their parents’ policies to the next level.
“Recent are that Sanders’ bill falls far short of HR 676 in fundamental ways. In fact, Sanders’ bill is a multi-payer system not a single payer system. His bill would allow private insurers to compete with the public system, allow the wealthy to buy their way out of the public system and allow investor-owned health facilities to continue to profit while providing more expensive and lower quality health care” [Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance]. Note the qualifications. I need to verify this; early reports disagree.
“The Obamacare ‘Wonks’ Are Awfully Selective about Which Taxes and Costs They See” [emptywheel] (2016). Still true today!
— John Conyers, Jr. (@RepJohnConyers) September 13, 2017
I need to know more about the similarities and differences between the two bills. It’s also true that Conyers has been pushing single payer for years, with little credit. OTOH, Sanders is the one who blew open the door in 2016, so….
“How Single-Payer Health Care Could Trip Up Democrats” [Margaret Sanger-Katz, New York Times]. Market fundamentalist Sanger-Katz weighs in: “Like ‘repeal and replace,’ ‘single-payer’ is a broadly popular slogan that papers over intraparty disagreements and wrenching policy choices.” That’s very true. And the Democrats who oppose it need, IMNSHO, to be dis
The vacuity of #SaveTheACA:
i asked my mom how she felt about losing her obamacare plan and she responded with a link to a video of the chainsaw nun
— Sarah Jones (@onesarahjones) September 13, 2017
“How the Trump administration is reshaping health care — without Congress” [Politico]. The unflashy stuff that gets little attention is where the Trump administration is doing its real damage; it’s hard to gaslight without clickbait, which administrative measures do not easily afford.
“Trump is ‘open’ to ObamaCare fix, lawmakers say” [The Hill]. For some definition of “fix”! “President Trump was “open” to the idea of a bipartisan ObamaCare stabilization bill but did not make any commitments during a meeting Wednesday with a group of House lawmakers, attendees said. The bipartisan group of lawmakers, known as the Problem Solvers, pitched Trump on their plan to stabilize ObamaCare markets.” Democrat centrists working hard for the donor class.
“Democratic Holdouts On “Medicare For All” Have Received Twice As Much Insurance Industry Cash As Sponsors” [MapLight].
“Science and Culture: Arctic photographers bring climate change into focus” [PNAS]. “In 2009, a hunter shot a polar bear and carried it by dogsled about 750 meters to the town of Ittoqqortoormiit on the eastern coast of Greenland. Typically, the town’s hunters encounter polar bears on distant sea ice a couple of hours or even days from town. They skin their catches and leave behind the heavy bones. But as climate change melts more sea ice—the bear’s preferred hunting grounds—polar bear encounters closer to human settlements are becoming more common. When this hunter arrived with an entire bear in tow, the Danish photographer Carsten Egevang was there to capture the awe-struck reactions.”
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“In many ways (e.g. the physical surroundings) it certainly is, but this perception also varies by one’s standing in the economic and racial hierarchy, and to many people of color the verdict on Charlottesville is a more ambivalent one” [Contexts]. From a sociologist at the University of Virginia.
As “luxury” became available to a wider swath of the population, intellectuals started to think that buying more stuff might actually be good for society. Prefiguring Adam Smith’s work later in the century, some writers argued that consumption spurred trade and led to economic growth. In 1705, Bernard de Mandeville wrote a “scandalous poem” titled “The Fable of the Bees,” arguing that even if rising consumption was spurred by individual selfishness and vanity, still helped increase employment and spread prosperity: “…Luxury/employed a million of the poor/and odious Pride a million more… Thus every part was full of Vice/Yet the whole Mass a Paradise.”
For the most part, that’s the viewpoint that prevails today. But, as economic inequality grows and luxury shows signs of reverting to a distinct kind of goods for a tiny elite, it’s worth asking if that could change.
“GC: Luxury. We used to have to get out of the lake at three o’clock in the morning, clean the lake, eat a handful of hot gravel, go to work at the mill every day for tuppence a month, come home, and Dad would beat us around the head and neck with a broken bottle, if we were lucky!” Maybe not quite so funny, these days…
“Incomes Are Rising in Most States, Yet Inequality Isn’t Improving” [Governing]. “One major caveat to the income gains is that they have done little to improve inequality. As part of the ACS, , where higher values represent greater income inequality. By this measure, most states saw little change last year. But over the longer term, income inequality has intensified across nearly all states. [Thanks, Obama!] States with the largest increases over the decade include Montana (9.6 percent), Rhode Island (8.1 percent) and Vermont (8.1 percent). Alaska was the only state where the Gini index declined.” Well, that’s because of Alaska’s socialist regime.
News of the Wired
“How EVE Players Pulled Off The Biggest Betrayal In Its History” [Kotaku]. “EVE Online is infamous for its scammers, pirates, and ne’er-do-wells, but this week all their scams were put to shame. A member of the game’s Council of Stellar Management and head diplomat of the Circle of Two alliance named The Judge stole all of the holdings of the 4,000-person alliance for himself. He took their money, took their ships, and sold their Death Star-esque space citadel to their most hated enemies.” Guys. It’s time for some game theory.
“How to Live Without Google” [Spread Privacy]. “Google trackers have been found on 75% of the top million websites. This means they are not only tracking what you search for, they’re also tracking which websites you visit, and using all your data for ads that follow you around the internet. Your personal data can also be subpoenaed by lawyers, including for civil cases like divorce. Google answered over 100,000 such data requests in 2016 alone!”
“Ethical hackers have turned this robot into a stabbing machine” [Wired]. “Alpha 2 is an adorable humanoid robot that can teach, be a personal assistant, or provide entertainment through its inbuilt speakers and flexible joints…. UBTECH’s Alpha 2 robot is shown repeatedly stabbing a tomato with a screwdriver. Nao and Pepper, made by Japan’s Softbank, can have their movements controlled and the researchers were able to view the onboard camera’s feed remotely. The researchers also hacked into the controls of a giant arm from Universal Robots that’s used on factory production lines.” Fortunately, the hackers weren’t unethical…
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, here is a third example of “painting with plants. Somehow, no matter where you walk or stand, the CMBG gardeners manage to create pleasing color and shape combinations with a foreground, a middle ground, and a background. I don’t know how they do this…
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