By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Senior Court of International Trade Judge Jane Restani indicated Thursday that she would quickly make a ruling on a foreign steel company’s request for a temporary restraining order against Trump’s new 25 percent tariff on steel, a source present at the proceedings said. She also expressed skepticism about the request, giving supporters of the tariffs some hope, the source said” [Politico]. “Section 232 of the 1962 Trade Expansion Act allows the president to impose tariffs to deal with a threat to national security. But the case filed by the Swiss subsidiary of Russian steel company Severstal argues Trump’s public statements make clear the duties were imposed for political and economic reasons and ‘therefore exceeded the scope of Congress’ delegation of authority to the Executive Branch.'” World class troll stand-off, here.
UPDATE “Congress, Not Trump, Has the Authority Over War” [Bernie Sanders (!), Foreign Policy]. “Though a majority of our Senate colleagues voted to table our resolution — that is, they chose to avoid taking a vote on the issues it raised — I am more convinced than ever of the need to go forward aggressively on this matter. We must never forget that the two most significant foreign-policy disasters in the modern history of the United States, the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam, occurred when Congress sat back and allowed two administrations, one Republican and one Democrat, to lie to the American people as they led us into conflicts with horrific consequences. We must never allow that to happen again…. If Congress supports U.S. participation in the war in Yemen, let them have the courage to vote for it. If they support an expanded role for U.S. troops in Syria or anywhere else, let them vote for it. But for the future of our country, the credibility of our commitments, and the well-being of our armed forces, Congress cannot continue to abdicate the constitutionally mandated war-making responsibilities which the founding fathers gave to them.” That’s not exactly ending the Empire. But then that’s a matter for the voters, isn’t it? Who are perhaps ready for it.
UPDATE “U.S. Recession May Come Just in Time for Trump’s Re-Election Bid” [Bloomberg]. “Hefty tax cuts, stepped-up government spending and robust global growth should help insulate the economy against a downturn over the next two years, in spite of last week’s stock-market swoon. That would allow the expansion that began in 2009 to become America’s longest ever. But after that, watch out, economists warn. Fading fiscal stimulus, higher and rising interest rates, and cresting world demand could leave the economy vulnerable to a contraction — just in time for the presidential campaign. ‘2020 is a real inflection point,’ said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics Inc., in West Chester, Pennsylvania.'” Whenever the coming recession hits, it’s going to have had the longest prequel ever.
“Is the Trump Bump Real?” [Charles Cook, Cook Political Report]. “Even as Stormy swirls, the president seems to have found his footing. Reporting from the White House press corps is that after a year of on-the-job training, the president is feeling much more confident and eager to follow-through on his 2016 campaign promises. Since the beginning of the year, he’s cleaned house at the cabinet level, taken a harder line on tariffs, especially on Chinese products, and is planning a sit-down with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un. At the same time, Trump’s overall job approval ratings have been on the upswing…. While a five-point swing in Trump’s overall job rating isn’t all that remarkable, it is noteworthy that it’s coming at a time of personnel and personal chaos for the president. What’s remarkable about Trump’s approval ratings during the course of his presidency, is how volatile and totally stable they are at the same time. The Real Clear Politics tracking chart looks like an EKG read-out; there is a short spike, then a drop, a short spike, then a drop.” The campaign polling looked exactly the same way.
“Dems face difficult choices on resources in battle for Senate” [The Hill]. “Democratic challengers know they’re not going to get the same attention as incumbents who can plead their case directly to Schumer.”
MO: “Obama coming to California to raise money for an endangered Democratic senator” (McCaskill) [Los Angeles Times]. So, “[Obama’s] first post-presidential fundraiser for a candidate” is for a Blue Dog. Priorities!
UPDATE MO: “McCaskill asked black leaders to push back on criticism of her campaign. No one would” [McClatchy]. “African American leaders in Missouri are frustrated with what they see as Sen. Claire McCaskill’s lackluster engagement with minority voters. Frustrated enough that they refused to sign a letter pushing back against comments made last month by Bruce Franks, a prominent black activist and state legislator from St. Louis, who called on McCaskill to “show up” and earn the support of minority voters in her state. ‘I’m going to vote for Claire, but Claire is going to have to bring her ass to St. Louis,’ Franks said to applause at a town hall he hosted Feb. 17.. Franks said in an interview with The Star this week that it’s clear McCaskill’s campaign is not doing the same level of outreach in communities like his as it’s doing in rural Missouri. ‘I don’t think it’s even close to equal,’ said Franks, who toppled a political dynasty to win his seat in the Missouri House in 2016. He helped lead protests last year in St. Louis after a white police officer was found not guilty in the shooting death of a black suspect.”
UPDATE CA-45: “The bellwether district that could portend a 2018 Democratic wave” [Yahoo News]. “In three key ways, her reelection fight is typical of 2018 as a whole — and that’s why it could be telling. The first factor is Walters herself. Unlike Issa or Rohrabacher — or any Republican running in a Trump-era special election, over which Democrats have obsessed and in which they have overperformed — Walters has not been the focus of national controversy or the target of national Democratic hostility… The second “typical” factor at work in CA-45 is Walters’s Democratic opposition…. There are four Democrats angling to unseat the two-term congresswoman, and none of them are obvious unicorns. Instead, they make up a remarkably representative cross-section of the Democratic Party’s class of 2018, which is defined by its abundance of rookie candidates, many of them women and/or minorities, who have decided to run for office in order to “resist” Trump’s agenda…. Which brings us to the last “typical” aspect of the CA-45 contest: the district itself. Even though Clinton won there by more than 5 points — and even though Republicans have an 8-point registration advantage — its “partisan lean,” according to FiveThirtyEight, is actually tiny.”
2016 Post Mortem
“The 2016 Exit Polls Led Us to Misinterpret the 2016 Election” [Thomas Edsall, New York Times]. “Crucial disputes over Democratic strategy concerning economic distribution, race and immigration have in large part been based on Election Day exit polls that now appear to have been inaccurate in key ways. According to subsequent studies, those polls substantially underestimated the number of Democratic white working-class voters — many of whom are culturally conservative — and overestimated the white college-educated Democratic electorate, a far more culturally liberal constituency…. In sum, Pew’s more precise survey methods reveal that when Democrats are broken down by education, race and ethnicity, the white working class is the largest bloc of Democratic voters and substantially larger than the bloc of white college-educated Democratic voters.” Hilarity ensues.
UPDATE “From Trump to Russia to not shutting up, 10 big things Hillary Clinton said at Rutgers ” [Star-Ledger]. “[CLINTON:] I do worry that what’s happening to the Republican Party is that it’s being held captive. If you deviate from their stated requests they will fund someone to run against you in the Republican primary.” Too funny, since that’s exactly what Clinton’s faction of the Democrat Party, which still controls the DNC, is doing to left candidates.
According to an article by the Washington post, the #MarchForOurLives protest in DC was mostly middle aged women, around 10 percent teenagers and a large portion of the protesters were not even there because of gun control issues
It was not a youth eventhttps://t.co/n2Cwr4RMoF
— Tim Pool (@Timcast) March 29, 2018
New Cold War
UPDATE We should have sightings in less than nine months:
One of the saddest things about this whole Russiagate frenzy to me is that there are bound to be some babies in liberal strongholds stuck with the first name Mueller 👶
— Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) March 30, 2018
Realignment and Legitimacy
UPDATE “How the Bernie Wing Won the Democratic Primaries” [Politico]. “The party’s ascendant left is coming after everybody, regardless of the outcome in Lipinski’s race. Progressive energy is pulsing through the primaries, most notably in the proliferation of Trump-backlash grass-roots groups like Indivisible, Justice Democrats and Brand New Congress that are teeming with activists inspired by Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign. There’s no comparable counterweight within the establishment.” Wowsers. Any writer who doesn’t mention Our Revolution, and thinks that Indivisible is inspired by Sanders (it isn’t; here’s their guide to talking to your Congresscritter during the Recess*, and Sanders issues do not appear in it, most notably #MedicareForAll) is at the very best slipshot and ignorant. NOTE * Great technique, though; others should copy it. Inspired by Congressional staffers, Indivisible is good on that terrain.
UPDATE “My 72-Hour Safari in Clinton Country” [Politico]. I nearly cracked a tooth reading this; it is worth reading. Key sentence: “Everyone I met seemed to be financially well off, a sign of just how much money is still sloshing into pockets of Blue America.” Clinton’s remark at Rutgers — “‘I drank my share of Chardonnay,’ Clinton added to cheers and even more laughs” — hits the mark with this crowd perfectly. (Recall from the 2016 Post Mortem above: “[T]he white working class is the largest bloc of Democratic voters and substantially larger than the bloc of white college-educated Democratic voters.” The people the reporter speaks to — not a cabbie among them — are all from Thomas Frank’s 10-percent. They are in the latter block, not the former. This is the key contradiction in liberal base that both the left and conservatives are seeking to exploit, in their different ways.
— DSA Parliamentarian Hotline📞🌹🔨 (@RedGavel) March 29, 2018
Readers will recall that one difficulty with Occupy’s General Assembly was that it didn’t — couldn’t — respect working people’s time. Roberts Rules are at least designed to enable that (and though running a meeting well is a skill, presumably propagating the meeting rules can only encourage that).
The markets are closed today.
Housing: “What to Expect From the Housing Market This Spring” [New York Times]. “The housing market will depend on which opposing force proves more powerful: long-term fundamentals of supply and demand, or near-term ripples emanating from Washington and Wall Street. Most evidence suggests that fundamentals will prevail over time and push sales and prices higher, especially at the lower and middle tiers of the market. But the opposing forces could mean a period of uncertain dealmaking. Higher mortgage rates and a new tax law will affect several elements of home buying….. [A}s long as there are more families looking for a place to live than new homes in place to accommodate them, the pressure on prices and sales will be upward, no matter what happens as the market adjusts to higher mortgage rates and tax changes.”
The Bernstein report on $TSLA 's manufacturing strategy was the best sell side thing I have read in a long time.
— Donut Shorts (@DonutShorts) March 29, 2018
The nut tweet:
3/ $TSLA appears to be in the midst of learning a very expensive and painful lesson about the pitfalls of hyper automating final assembly. This appears to explain some of the common product defects found in their cars pic.twitter.com/WbjIgcnalS
— Donut Shorts (@DonutShorts) March 29, 2018
Let me transcribe part of that last tweet:
[Tesla] has also tried to automate final assembly…. Tesla’s approach to automation rings alarm bells. If we look at the history of the auto industry, we can see that attempts to automate final assembly haven’t worked. Many OEMs have tried it in the past — such as Fiat, VW, and GM. They have all failed, often spectacularly. Anyone familiar with automobile assembly knows this…. .
[A]utomation is expensive — and usually proves far less effective, hihgly inflexible, and creates quality problems further down the line.
- In welding, mistakes and inconsistences go unrecognized — but the machine powers on and builds cars with the wrong geometry or bad spot welds in key locations. These are only found later — when for instance the windscreen is inserted, or a door re-attached. Have you wondered why Tesla doors don’t align, or hoods don’t fit, or windscreens are prone to cracking? Now you have your answer.
- In final assembly, robots can apply torque consistently — but they don’t detect and account for threads that aren’t straight, bolts that don’t quite fit, fasteners that don’t align, or seals that have a defect. Humans are really good at this. Have you wondered why Teslas have wind noise problems, squeaks and rattles, and bits of trim that fall off? Now you have your answer.
And apparently quite a bit of capital has been invested in that final assembly line..
The Bezzle: “Tesla Looked Like the Future. Now Some Ask if It Has One.” [New York Times]. “For years, Tesla has ridden a wave of enthusiastic support from its customers and a certain set of investors, even though it generated barely any profit in the 15 years since its founding. Company events to present new models tend to have the feel of a religious revival, with hundreds or thousands of owners cheering wildly at each new pronouncement from Mr. Musk… In November, before a screaming audience of several hundred guests….” Totally not a cult.
The Bezzle; “Former Uber Backup Driver: ‘We Saw This Coming'” [CityLab]. “Keeping an eye on the road for hours on end as a robot learns to drive is an exhausting job, according to the ex-employees. The solitude and monotony of the repeated routes made it difficult to maintain focus—more so than driving a long-distance truck or a taxi. ‘There’s no interaction with other humans,’ said [test driver Ryan Kelley]. ‘You could listen to music or sit in silence.’ Between that, sitting for long stretches in a single position, and the vehicles’ frequent hard braking, the daily grind of operating the vehicles wore down on his health, Kelley said… There were times when Kelley felt he didn’t trust himself in the car. Hours into his night shift, he said, he could feel his attention waning, his impulses relaxed by the most-of-the-time reliability of the self-driving technology. That bred a false sense of security. The other operator agreed. ‘Uber is essentially asking this operator to do what a robot would do,’ he said. ‘A robot can run loops and not get fatigued. But humans don’t do that.’ What’s more, many backup drivers work alone….. Both former operators also expressed surprise that Uber’s self-driving technology had failed, too. , even non-existent ones. ‘Sometimes the car would brake because of steam coming up from a pothole in the ground,’ the anonymous operator said. Self-driving experts are equally perplexed. ‘The LiDAR should have seen the [Tempe] pedestrian at quite some distance,’ Raj Rajkumar, who leads autonomous vehicle research at Carnegie Mellon University, wrote in an email. ‘All in all, this indicates pretty serious technical issues at the core of the Uber system.'”
“Fake news, clickbait still doing well after Facebook algorithm change” [Columbia Journalism Review] (original). “In the report, “Navigating the Facebook Algorithm Change,” [media-monitoring firm NewsWhip] looks at the most widely shared articles since the algorithm change and finds that more than half of the top 100 were hard news stories or reporting on current events, such as the death of famed astrophysicist Stephen Hawking. But clearly false stories also show up fairly high in the rankings: Number 26 on the most-shared list is a report from a fake news site called Your Newswire that says the flu shot is causing a “disastrous flu outbreak.” That story got more than 850,000 engagements.”
“Here are the internal Facebook posts of employees discussing today’s leaked memo” [The Verge] (Facebook Vice President Andrew “Boz” Bosworth’s memo). “Dozens of employees criticized the unknown leakers at the company. ‘Leakers, please resign instead of sabotaging the company,’ one wrote in a comment under Bosworth’s post. Wrote another: ‘How fucking terrible that some irresponsible jerk decided he or she had some god complex that jeopardizes our inner culture and something that makes Facebook great?'” Totally not a cult-like corporate culture.
“Don’t Just Delete Facebook, Poison Your Data First” [Motherboard]. “If you’re savvy with code, you can employ a script that repeatedly alters your Facebook posts with nonsense, making it more difficult for the social media site to collect user data.” So far as I can tell, this approach doesn’t poision the social graph, which would be the key requirement.
Our Famously Free Press
“For two years, Julie Reynolds has cranked out stories about Alden Global Capital, the secretive New York hedge fund that controls Digital First Media, the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain” [Columbia Journalism Review]. “A recent lawsuit claims Alden sucked money out of the newspapers it owns in order to make risky investments in Greek sovereign debt and a troubled pharmaceutical chain, among other areas. News industry analyst Ken Doctor wrote that the suit “provides unusual visibility into the nest of secretive vultures.” Newsrooms in a few cities with DFM-owned newspapers took note. “Alden Global Capital has for years treated one of the biggest media companies in the country like a big ATM,” wrote a columnist for The Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “Someday, it will run out of money.”
“Comcast supports ban on paid prioritization—with an exception” [Ars Technica], “‘There is a recognition that something might come along that is not anti-competitive, that is pro-consumer, that is a specialized service available not to every user of the Internet, [and] that would be in consumers’ interests and in the public interest,’ [Comcast Senior Executive VP David Cohen] said.” “Something might come along….”
“Thousands Mistakenly Enrolled in Medicaid During Expansion” [Governing]. “California signed up an estimated 450,000 people under Medicaid expansion who may not have been eligible for coverage, according to a report by the U.S. Health and Human Services’ chief watchdog” (n = 150, confidence level 95%). “During the audit period, 12 enrollees in the sample group [of 150] had incomes above 138 percent of the federal poverty line, making them ineligible financially for public assistance, according to the report.” So, at the very best, this is due to ObamaCare’s complex eligibility requirements (which shouldn’t exist in the first place). At the worst, those whose incomes were “on the bubble” were advised to do what it took in their income declarations to get on to Medicaid, if it was the better program (which it was), and that advice has now come back to bite the program (though hopefully not the recipients themselves, with clawbacks). Meanwhile, California is blaming computer upgrades.
“Bad ACA Rules Cost Low-Income Americans $2 Billion a Year” [People’s Policy Project], “What is inexcusable is that the vast majority of state governments have basically left billions of free federal money on the table because they didn’t prevent insurers from gaming the system in such a clear and simple way. That alone should destroy anyone’s belief that states can effectively regulate private health insurance markets.”
“A cross-sectional study of all clinicians’ conflict of interest disclosures to NHS hospital employers in England 2015-2016” [British Medical Journal]. “Overall, recording of employees’ conflicts of interest by NHS trusts is poor. None of the NHS Trusts in England met all transparency criteria. 19 did not respond to our FoIA requests, 51 did not provide a Gifts and Hospitality Register and only 31 of the registers provided contained enough information to assess employees’ conflicts of interest. Despite obligations on healthcare professionals to disclose conflicts of interest, and on organisations to record these, the current system for logging and tracking such disclosures is not functioning adequately.” The NHS Trusts were set up under Thatcher’s National Health Service and Community Care Act in 1990, which “introduced an internal market into the supply of healthcare, making the state an ‘enabler’ rather than a supplier of health and social care provision.” That makes it a neoliberal scam designed to destroy the NHS. The failure by NHS trusts to disclose conflicts of interest rings my phishing equilibrium spidey sense, and so I assume that the trusts are well on their way to achieving Thatcher’s goal. Perhaps UK readers can comment.
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“Has Hip-Hop Rediscovered Its Radical Spirit” [Rocket Radio]. “Hip-hop might not be the panacea it’s imagined to be by some purists, but it can’t merely be viewed solely as a cool urban culture that can be ‘pimped’ to benefit labels and A&Rs anymore. At the very least, looked at through the lens of industry ‘trends’, hip-hop is simultaneously more popular and more radical than it’s been in 30 years. And so while it’s debatable whether hip-hop is in itself the peak social movement in 2018 that it was once, there are many artists who are fighting to keep the voice and soundtrack to one.”
“Teacher Protests and Strikes Are Winning Historic Tax Hikes” [Governing]. “Oklahoma this week joined a growing number of states in giving their teachers long-overdue pay raises. The national movement, prompted by teacher strikes and protests throughout the country, may represent a turning tide in places that have heavily cut public education dollars. On Wednesday, the Oklahoma legislature passed a historic tax increase — the state’s first in 28 years — to give teachers their first salary boost in more than a decade. The $450 million tax hike required a three-quarters majority, a barrier that has typically been unsurmountable in deeply conservative Oklahoma.”
“Legal Considerations When Using Big Data And Artificial Intelligence To Make Credit Decisions” [Lending Times]. “The use of big data raises particular concerns related to disparate impact. For example, the inputs—that is, the data itself—can lead to inadvertent disparate impact on protected classes. If, say, a lending decision is made in part by screening people in certain zip codes, the racial distribution of loans may be uneven since de facto residential segregation persists in the United States. The same could be true for decisions made based on connections on social media sites such as Facebook. While the data is not explicitly based on race, it may still have a racially disparate impact. Relatedly, the algorithms a lender uses may contribute to a disparate impact. The algorithm might rely on correlations between certain data points that end up affecting people of certain groups differently. And machine learning could exacerbate the problem. If a machine learns through patterns that credit risk is correlated to zip code, it could adjust the algorithm and sort consumers by race, even though the algorithm itself is racially neutral.”
“An Early Look at the State of U.S. CEO Pay” [Harvard Law School Forum on Corporate Governance and Financial Regulation]. “Buoyed by a strong stock market (leading to higher annual incentive payments) and more generous stock awards, CEOs across every market capitalization range saw some of the strongest pay increases since the recovery years from the financial crisis” (although these are early disclosures, and more data will come in).
News of The Wired
“Facial recognition technology can now text jaywalkers a fine” [New York Post]. Not if I’m wearing my Richard Nixon mask and carrying a dumb phone. What a time to be alive!
“RIAA Reports Music Industry Is Making All The Money Just As New Study Says Piracy Has Never Been More Widespread” [TechDirt]. “The explanation for this isn’t difficult to understand. Those that pirate music also buy music, go to concerts, and support the bands and music industry through all kinds of other purchases. They also likely subscribe to streaming services and pirate what they can’t find there, or what they discover there. The point is that music pirates are often fans of music and may purchase along with pirating. In other words, the simplistic attack mantras from the RIAA don’t make a great deal of sense alongside the RIAA reporting that the music industry is making gobs of money, and increasingly so.”
“The Forgotten Drink That Caffeinated North America for Centuries” [Atlas Obscura]. “Cassina, or black drink, the caffeinated beverage of choice for indigenous North Americans, was brewed from a species of holly native to coastal areas from the Tidewater region of Virginia to the Gulf Coast of Texas. It was a valuable pre-Columbian commodity and widely traded…. William Aiton, an eminent British botanist and horticulturist, director of Kew Gardens, and ‘Gardener to His Majesty,’ is credited with giving cassina the scientific name it bears to this day: Ilex vomitoria. Ilex is the genus commonly known as holly. Vomitoria roughly translates to ‘makes you vomit.’ … As the royal gardener, Aiton knew some of the richest and most powerful people in the British Empire. One of the most profitable and influential forces in that empire was the East India Company, which held a virtual monopoly on the tea trade. Its officers may well have worried that cassina represented a potential replacement for a lucrative British commodity, especially as it grew abundantly within regions then under the control of Spain and France…. As the royal gardener, Aiton knew some of the richest and most powerful people in the British Empire. One of the most profitable and influential forces in that empire was the East India Company, which held a virtual monopoly on the tea trade. Its officers may well have worried that cassina represented a potential replacement for a lucrative British commodity, especially as it grew abundantly within regions then under the control of Spain and France.” “May well have,” I admit. But gaming the Linnean system: That’s impressive!
“Some Very Entertaining Plastic, Emulated at the Archive” [Internet Archive]. “This collection of emulated handheld games, tabletop machines, and even board games stretch from the 1970s well into the 1990s. They are attempts to make portable, digital versions of the LCD, VFD and LED-based machines that sold, often cheaply, at toy stores and booths over the decades.”
Wittgenstein never gets the credit he's due in the development of emojis 😏😉😐 pic.twitter.com/bvaW0Zaf03
— lilth (@thrillith) January 19, 2016
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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 place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):
TH: “Mickey Mouse …. I mean, Prickly Pear Cactus.” In honor of the Disney strikers?
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