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Thank you for being a shining light in the darkened madness. I barely read newspapers anymore (the Sunday NY Times is a half-hearted enjoyment these days) and never watch TV news because it covers a dimension that only occasionally matches up with the facts on the ground. You however, do a very nice job of picking out what’s real (or calling out what’s not with a pithy comment) saving me hours of coming through the internet myself.
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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer has been considering a combative strategy to compel Congress to approve a new NAFTA deal this year — withdrawing from the existing pact to force a vote on a new one, according to current and former administration officials” [Politico]. “The take-it-or-leave-it strategy has been under consideration internally for months. The thinking is that Congress will have to approve whatever terms are in the new deal quickly, lest the U.S. is left hanging without an agreement with two of its largest trading partners. The strategy is an attempt to get around a Congress that may not approve the new agreement if the choice were between the status quo and NAFTA 2.0.”
“Mexico Didn’t Hit the Jackpot With Nafta” [Bloomberg]. “Since 1993, the year before the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect, per capita gross domestic product in Mexico is up about 26 percent in real terms. That’s a lot better than the outright decline in per capita GDP that the country had experienced over the course of the 1980s. But it’s nowhere close to the 41 percent gains in real GDP per capita experienced by Canada and the U.S., the other signatories of Nafta, 1 not to mention China, where GDP per capita is up more than 600 percent since 1993.”
“China’s hidden shipbuilding subsidies and their impact on its industrial dominance” [Microeconomic Insights]. From 2017, still germane. “In 2006, China identified shipbuilding as a ‘strategic industry’ and introduced a plan for its development. In a short time, its market share had doubled from 25% to 50%, leaving Japan, South Korea and Europe trailing behind…. How does one gain an insight into the Chinese government’s support for firms when the measures applied are secret? My work uses techniques that combine data on firm choices and an economic model to detect the presence of subsidies. In particular, my approach aims at uncovering a ‘gap’ between the observed firm choices (in this case production) and the choices the model would imply.”
“A decades-old imbalance in car-trade could be a sticking point in U.S.-Japan trade talks. Japanese car exports to the U.S. are booming, lifted by the growing popularity of SUVs among American consumers. It’s a sore point for President Donald Trump…, and stakes are high for Japan, whose auto industry is far more important than its steel industry” [Wall Street Journal]. “While many Japanese cars sold in the U.S. are assembled at American plants, those factories are weighted heavily toward sedans. Toyota Motor Corp. is importing more RAV4s from Japanese plants, while Nissan Motor Co.’s exports to the U.S. rose by a third last year, led by its Rogue crossover SUV. The U.S. share of the Japanese car market remains tiny, partly because Japanese buyers prefer smaller, more fuel-efficient models.”
“Thomas Frank: Trump Could Win the 2020 Election” (interview) [Thomas Frank, The Nation]. Nice to see Thomas Frank finally breaking through in the U.S. market. The whole interview is worth a read, but here’s the key point: “But something else happened in the [Clinton era of the] late 1990s: Wages grew for the first and only time since the 1970s. Real wages for average workers grew, when adjusted for inflation. In the country that you and I grew up in, Jon, that used to be common. That happened every year. Nowadays, it never happens…. Wages will go up by themselves if unemployment gets low enough and stays low enough for long enough. If the economy runs hot, if it runs at maximum capacity for a couple years, wages will start to grow—because employers will be bidding for labor, bidding for workers. And here’s the thing: We’re almost there right now. There are lots of signs out there that wages are starting to grow. Unemployment has been low for quite a while. In one county in Wisconsin, unemployment is so low and the job market is so tight that employers are hiring people straight out of prison. Walmart has actually raised its starting wage—which is an incredible thing…. Trump is a buffoon and a scoundrel and a national embarrassment, but this is something he understands. We know he understands it because he talked about it all the time on the campaign trail—and because of the choices that he has made as president. For example, the guy that he appointed to chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell. This guy is not going to jack up interest rates like Paul Volcker back in the 1970s. It would be stupid to try to guess what the Federal Reserve is going to do, but my opinion is that he is probably going to let this thing roll. And Trump wants it to roll.” Liberal Democrats: “Wages lol.”
“Eric Holder headed to New Hampshire for high-profile event” [The Hill]. “Holder’s trip to the early primary state follows remarks from the former Obama administration official suggesting the possibility of a 2020 run in his future. The former attorney general told The New York Times in March that he would only run if he thought he could ‘unify’ the country against the Trump administration. In an interview with MSNBC’s ‘All In with Chris Hayes’ this week, he confirmed he was ‘thinking about’ a run.” Everybody’s measuring the drapes for the Oval Office, even those without a snowball’s chance of hell of getting there.
UPDATE Playing Christmas carols in the stores before Halloween. 2020 hasn’t started yet! Has it?
— Newsweek (@Newsweek) April 20, 2018
Apparently, liberal Democrats are all over this, and I’m glad they’re supporting sex workers (Stormy Daniels, too!) I just wish they could find it in their hearts to support all workers. Anyhow, I would need to have the story confirmed with dates and witnesses:
Walking home from the opera as an impressionable 5 year old, I watched, powerless, as Bernie Sanders murdered my wealthy philanthropist parents in a stickup gone wrong. I swore a terrible oath on that day:
— Buford Montessori, Taqiyya Expert (@PersonRespector) April 20, 2018
UPDATE “Challenger Democrats are outraising GOP incumbents in the race for the House” [Open Secrets]. “As Republicans prepare to defend a narrow majority in the House, 14 Democratic challengers have outraised GOP incumbents so far this cycle ahead of November’s midterms…. Two races considered toss-ups — California’s 48th and New York’s 19th — showcase six-figure deficits for Republican incumbents. Democrat Harley Rouda is outraising Dana Rohrabacher by almost $326,000 in California, and Antonio Delgado is outdoing John Faso in New York by $295,000.” We are tracking CA-48 and NY-19.
UPDATE TX: “Poll: Cruz, O’Rourke Are Neck and Neck in Texas” [RealClearPolitics]. “Cruz led O’Rourke, 47 percent-44 percent, which is within the margin of error, according to a survey from Quinnipiac. It’s the first major public poll of the race and is likely to fuel Democratic hopes that the little-known three-term El Paso congressman is in the running to unseat Cruz. Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the Senate for three decades, but O’Rourke has drawn headlines for his fundraising — he brought in $6.7 million in the first quarter of this year and is nearly even with Cruz in cash on hand.”
UPDATE NY: Holy moley, does Cuomo think voters believe this?
As a New Yorker, I am a Muslim. I am a Jew. I am Black. I am gay. I am a woman seeking to control her body. We are one New York. pic.twitter.com/peOL9x2ltl
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 29, 2017
Why not just say “working class,” and cover the waterfront? Oh, wait, right, no…
WI: “Democrats see Wisconsin as proving ground for party revival” [AP]. “The epicenter of the Republican resurgence of eight years ago, Wisconsin is now the proving ground for a Democratic revival. The work of Miller and activists like her could play an important role in the fight for control of the House and Senate in November’s midterm elections. But their goal is more broad. One knock at a time, Democrats are seeking to rebuild their hold on the Upper Midwest and with it their hopes of winning the White House in 2020…. Though Wisconsin Republicans lead Democrats in fundraising this year, the Democrats’ cause is attracting financial backing unseen in Wisconsin in recent years. Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s group contributed more than $500,000 to the Democrats’ preferred Supreme Court candidate. California billionaire Tom Steyer has named Wisconsin one of the 10 states where he plans to spend some of the $30 million he’s committed to promoting Democrats, including $2.5 million to organize young voters, who can help drive up turnout in liberal hubs of Madison and Milwaukee.” Heaven forfend a Democrat revival be driven by small donors….
CA: “Billionaire Democratic activist Tom Steyer endorses Kevin de León in his insurgent bid against Sen. Dianne Feinstein” [Los Angeles Times]. It’s OK. He’s a good billionaire (to be fair, Steyer could be a Duc D’Orleans; class traitors are important. I have my doubts.)
“Four hundred and seventy-two women have entered the race for the House this year, which is a lot of women. Fifty-seven women have filed or are likely to file their candidacies for the Senate. A useful comparison is to 2012, which marked the last big wave of female candidates: two hundred and ninety-eight ran for the House, thirty-six for the Senate. The number of women likely running for governor this year, seventy-eight, is a record high. The majority of female candidates in 2018 are Democrats, so it seems safe to conclude that many of them are fuelled by frustration, not to say fury, with Donald Trump” [Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker]. After the discussion of the diversity of the candidates, I waited for a summation of policy, but — hold onto your hats here, folks — Talbot never went there. I’m glad that women are running, but as Sanders says, the fact of their womenhood is “not enough.” If Obama didn’t teach us that ascriptive identity doesn’t drive policy, what is it going to take? It’s worth remembering that the enomously destructive “Lost Cause” mythology — our own prefigurative version of the Dolchstoßlegende — was devised and propagated by women: The Daughters of the Confederacy.
New Cold War
“The Psychology of Russiagate” (interview) [Glenn Greenwald, Jacobin]. “In general I think we under-appreciate the extent to which the Trump victory was a traumatizing and disorienting event for most people, in part because all of us were assured by data experts that the chances were overwhelmingly high that Clinton was going to win and Trump was going to lose. It’s also obvious that Trump, in terms of how he comports himself, is at odds with the way the American presidency has been constructed in terms of image, and the way Americans have been taught to think about their presidents. So those two factors combined to make this an extremely confusing, disorienting event that dislodged people from the certainty that they feel about how the world works and their ability to understand it. And when events like that happen, you crave an explanation that makes sense and that lets you feel like the world is safe and understandable again. And that’s what religions, for centuries, have most successfully exploited — the desire for a hard to understand complicated world that lacks explanations that are digestible … to provide those.”
2016 Post Mortem
UPDATE “‘They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President’” [Amy Chozik, New York Times]. Guess who.
I get mail:
As I keep saying, preventing #MedicareForAll is the liberal Democrat leadership’s #1 goal; they can’t let the left leverage “the wave” for that purpose. Hence, bait-and-switch proposals like this one, accompanied by a chorus of adulation from the usual suspects.
Realignment and Legitimacy
The Democrats’ Gentrification Problem” [Thomas Edsall, New York Times]. “Last week, in an essay for CityLab, Richard Florida, a professor of urban planning at the University of Toronto, described how housing costs are driving the growing division between upwardly and downwardly mobile populations within Democratic ranks…. Allies on Election Day, the two wings of the Democratic Party are growing further estranged in other aspects of their lives, driven apart by the movement of advantaged and disadvantaged populations within and between cities. These demographic patterns exacerbate intraparty tensions.” An interesting way to slice the Democratic Party, for sure — and no doubt a handy hook for some liberal Democrat policy entrepreneur. Oddly, or not, Edsall doesn’t really have a coherent answer to why some Democrat voters are upwardly mobile, and others downwardly mobile, although he gestures vaguely toward de-unionization.
“Tote-Bag-Culture Etiquette” [The New Yorker]. I’m so old I remember when New Yorker cartoons used to be funny.
“The Dream of a Republican New Deal” [Geoffrey Kabaservice, New York Times]. “[T]he [Republican] party should approach the elections under the banner of an ambitious program to bring economic revival to the working class. The starting point for such a program would be Mr. Trump’s campaign-trail commitment to rebuild our decaying national infrastructure — including the roads, schools, hospitals and other civic assets that have been squeezed by conservative cutbacks. A Trump New Deal could also include other elements with strong appeal to working-class voters, such as vigorous support for universal entitlements like Social Security and Medicare (as opposed to means-tested programs that benefit only the poor), robust wage subsidies, a generous child care tax credit and apprenticeship programs linked to specific high-skilled jobs…. Political scientists who specialize in what’s called “realignment theory” point out that America’s two main political parties have flipped constituencies and ideologies in the past. Before the New Deal, the Democrats were predominantly a rural, socially conservative agrarian party allied with a number of urban political machines, while Republicans were advocates of powerful government and the party of intellectuals, African-Americans and the native-born working class.” Intriguing, but I’m thinking that what unites both parties is hatred of the working class, and fealty to their respective factions in the donor class. Na ga happen. Though I’ll keep a file open in The Department of Schadenfreude in case I’m wrong…
Joy Reid on the Bush administration:
I do. She and her family made a lot of mistakes. I'd have it all back to have someone in the White House who at least recognizes and respects the rule of law and the guideposts of the constitution.
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) April 18, 2018
Just because Obama voted to retroactively legalize Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance didn’t make it legal at the time. “Rule of law” my sweet Aunt Fanny. These people have lost their minds.
UPDATE “How Neoliberalism Worms Its Way Into Your Brain” [Nathan Robinson, Current Affairs]. “Neoliberalism, then, is the best existing term we have to capture the almost universal convergence around a particular set of values. We don’t have debates over whether the point of teaching is to enrich the student’s mind or prepare the student for employment, we have debates over how to prepare students for employment. Economic values become the water we swim in, and we don’t even notice them worming their way into our brains. The word is valuable insofar as it draws our attention to the ideological frameworks within which debates occur, and where the outer boundaries of those debates lie. The fact that everyone seems to agree that the purpose of education is ‘job skills,’ rather than say, ‘the flourishing of the human mind,’ shows the triumph of a certain new kind of liberalism, for which I can only think of one word.” Starts out hating on the word, ends up saying it’s the only one that does the job.
No officials stats today.
Retail: “Consumer-goods companies are struggling to raise prices as shoppers hunt for bargains online. That has left companies like Procter & Gamble Co. struggling to pass along rising supply-chain costs as they try to pull in more revenue from consumers by selling more products” [Wall Street Journal]. “Many U.S. shoppers now buy household staples on the cheap from Amazon.com Inc. or from discount retailers, making it harder for companies to raise prices there. Surging transportation costs are also crimping margins for shippers, as strong demand and near-record spot-market prices give carriers leverage in freight contracts.”
Shipping: “Fuel prices are becoming an increasingly important factor in shipping costs. The average U.S. price of $3.104 per gallon hasn’t been as high since January 2015. And bunker prices for carriers are near highest levels of the past year, close to $400 per metric ton in Singapore” [Wall Street Journal].
Shipping: “Container spot rates hold steady, but carrier hopes price rises will stick are fading” [The Loadstar]. “Container freight rates on the major headhaul trades from Asia stabilised this week, however, they remain significantly below the levels of a year ago.”
The Bezzle: “The ‘Terms and Conditions’ Reckoning Is Coming” [Bloomberg]. “The incomprehensibility of user agreements is poised to change as tech giants such as Uber Technologies Inc. and Facebook Inc. confront pushback for mishandling user information, and the European Union prepares to implement new privacy rules called the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. The measure underscores “the requirement for clear and plain language when explaining consent,” British Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham wrote on her blog last year…. GDPR, which comes into force in Europe in May and calls for , will make it tougher to get away with book-length user agreements, says Eduardo Ustaran, co-director of the cybersecurity practice at law firm Hogan Lovells. He suggests that companies streamline their rules and make sure they’re written in plain English.” Finally, work for English majors! Oh, wait. You just know they’re going to try to auto-translate it all..
The Bezzle: “Just About Everyone with Bitcoin is Lying to the IRS” [Gizmodo]. ” According to a recent report, fewer than 100 people have reported bitcoin holdings so far. The figure, reported by CNBC, comes from Credit Karma, a popular financial app through which people can view their credit score and file taxes. Of the more than 250,000 people who have filed through Credit Karma this year, a whopping 0.0004 percent have claimed to have money in bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies. This means one of two things: either the incredible rise and completely inevitably fall of the cryptocurrency market was all just a fever dream and no one actually put a single cent into the inherently risky concept because they all knew safe, reliable investment options were available… or a bunch of people are lying to the IRS.”
Five Horsemen: “Apple stumbles after Taiwan Semiconductor says iPhone chip orders are lower than expected” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].
NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “The mania-panic index eases to 54 (complacency) after yesterday’s mild market decline” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)
“It’s 4/20 and Marijuana’s Prospects Have Never Looked Brighter” [247 Wall Street]. “One week ago today, Colorado Senator Cory Gardner, a Republican, extracted a commitment from President Trump that Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s rescission of the Cole Memorandum will have no impact on Colorado’s legal marijuana industry. The president also committed to supporting federal legislation that would acknowledge states’ rights on legalization of marijuana. If Trump delivers, the federal prohibition on sales and use of marijuana will effectively be over.”
“Chuck Schumer will celebrate 4/20 by introducing marijuana decriminalization bill” [Daily Dot]. Nothing wrong with a little shameless pandering, but Schumer’s bill doesn’t include an amnesty. Cory Booker, bless his heart, has a better bill; Booker’s decriminalization is retroactive. Why are the pioneers who made the market in jail?
Happy 420 pic.twitter.com/AMKWx1DXMd
— Barstool News Network (@BarstoolNewsN) April 20, 2018
For some people, anyhow:
Happy 420 pic.twitter.com/mQH2k206Ne
— Jeff Destinè 🇭🇹 (@GDiddy210) April 20, 2018
“420′s long, strange trip to pot holiday began in California” [AP]. “Friday is April 20, or 4/20. That’s the numerical code for marijuana’s high holiday, a homage to pot’s enduring appeal and universal slang for smoking. Festivities are planned worldwide, culminating with a synchronized smoke at 4:20 p.m. [So you still have time.] … [David’ and his four buddies — Steve Capper, Larry Schwartz, Jeff Noel and Mark Gravich — were a stoner clique who hung out at a particular wall between classes at San Rafael High School. They dubbed themselves “The Waldos,” a term coined by comedian Buddy Hackett to describe odd people… The code remained confined to The Waldos’ social circle until they began hanging out backstage at Grateful Dead concerts. Reddix’s older brother was friends with band member Phil Lesh and that led to backstage passes and smoking sessions with the roadies and other crew members, who picked up the code.”
I can’t find a Grateful Dead song about this particular drug, so Fire on the Mountain, because Phil Lesh was my favorite Beatle:
The black-and-white film makes it really clear that the venue is filled with… some sort of smoke…
“Facebook starts its facial recognition push to Europeans” [TechCrunch]. “But under impending changes to its [Terms and Conditions (T&Cs)] — ostensibly to comply with the EU’s incoming GDPR data protection standard — that tries to sell people on giving it their data; including filling in its own facial recognition blanks by convincing Europeans to agree to it grabbing and using their biometric data after all. Users who choose not to switch on facial recognition still have to click through a ‘continue’ screen before they get to the off switch. On this screen Facebook attempts to convince them to turn it on — using manipulative examples of how the tech can ‘protect” them.'” Dark patterns. Facebook is starting to look worse than Uber: Uber is crooked, top to bottom, but they know they’re crooks. Facebook, I’m guessing, still thinks of themselves as “good guys.”
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“When Black Writers Were Public Enemy No. 1” [Politico]. “In the heart of the 20th century, beginning decades before the FBI’s campaign against Martin Luther King Jr., the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and, later, the Black Panthers, dozens of allegedly subversive African-American poets, novelists, essayists and playwrights were distinct targets of the agency, whose surveillance of this group was thorough, far-reaching and sometimes ruthless. The extensive scope of this surveillance is only now coming into focus, thanks to the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).”
UPDATE For example: “Atlanta Activist Uses Russian-Backed Media To Spread Message” [NPR]. Atlanta’s NPR station, shocking. “Anoa Changa is a progressive activist and political commentator in Atlanta. When I met her recently, Changa was preparing to record a segment for her own podcast and YouTube channel ‘The Way with Anoa.’… Changa has interviewed a handful of Sanders-aligned congressional candidates on her show…. By agreeing to appear on two Sputnik programs, Changa gained something hard to find: a bigger platform to broadcast her political views. But Changa’s association with Sputnik may put her credibility at risk, while furthering Russia’s effort to create chaos in the U.S.” Chaos! Hold my pearls, I’m heading for the fainting couch!
“Wanted: Policies to Encourage and Enable Work in Advanced Economies” [IMF Blog]. “[T]here are considerable differences in the evolution and composition of aggregate labor force participation rates—defined as the fraction of population, ages 15 and over, either working or looking for work—in advanced economies. For example, participation by women has increased dramatically since the mid-1980s. More recently, participation has picked up considerably among older workers, while it has fallen among the young. In almost all advanced economies, prime-age men, particularly those with lower educational attainment, have become increasingly detached from the labor force. The United States stands out among advanced economies having experienced a decline in both female and male prime-age labor force participation.” Just spitballing here, but maybe there’s something, er, exceptionally sucky about our labor market?
News of The Wired
“One Small Step for Preprints, One Giant Step Forward for Open Scientific Communications” [PLOS.org]. “Posting your work before formal peer review has significant advantages….”
“The illusion of time” [Nature]. “According to theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli, time is an illusion: our naive perception of its flow doesn’t correspond to physical reality…. So what does Rovelli think is really going on? He posits that reality is just a complex network of events onto which we project sequences of past, present and future. The whole Universe obeys the laws of quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, out of which time emerges. … In the final section, “The Sources of Time”, Rovelli reconstructs how our illusions have arisen, from aspects of thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. He argues that our perception of time’s flow depends entirely on our inability to see the world in all its detail. Quantum uncertainty means we cannot know the positions and speeds of all the particles in the Universe. If we could, there would be no entropy, and no unravelling of time. Rovelli originated this ‘‘ with French mathematician Alain Connes.” Wait. So we don’t get rounder as we go faster, because there’s no faster?
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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 (via):
“Mature cone of Pseudotsuga menziesii var. glauca.” Moar bokeh.
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