By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Team Clinton says there’s no way Hillary’s running again” [The Hill] • But would she accept a nomination by acclamation?
6 days until Election Day, next Tuesday. Too late, I think, for any game-changing events.
“One Week Out, Six Rating Changes” [Dave Wasserman, Cook Political Report]. Changes: AR-02: Hill – Lean R to Likely R →CA-01: LaMalfa – Solid R to Likely R ←; CA-22: Nunes – Solid R to Likely R ←; FL-18: Mast – Likely R to Lean R ←; IA-04: King – Likely R to Lean R ←; OH-01: Chabot – Toss Up to Lean R →. 4 to blue, 2 to red. Note, however, that none of the shifts to blue actually move the district into the D column; says Mr. Counter-suggestible: “[T]he Democrats need to do more than shift districts; they need to win them.” From the article, IA-04 is interesting: “[A] poll this week by Democratic firm Change Research found King leading by just 45 percent to 44 percent against his first credible challenger in six years, former minor league baseball pitcher J.D. Scholten. Even in an R+11 seat, the poll makes some sense because Scholten and an anti-King group, American Values PAC, have been on the airwaves totally unanswered the past two weeks. Scholten has outraised King $1.7 million to $741,000 this cycle in large part thanks to disgusted national donors who view King as a racist. But in his ads, Scholten attacks King as AWOL from the district rather than criticizing the incumbent’s views on western civilization. Instead, it’s American Values PAC that’s savaging King for ‘flying around Europe meeting with neo-Nazis.’ Unlike in 2012, when King ran a vigorous campaign to beat former Iowa First Lady Christie Vilsack, King isn’t mounting a serious defense. Of the $782,000 King has spent this cycle, most has been spent on fundraising or salaries. With a week to go, he’s yet to air an ad.” • King moving along to K Street, like the similarly lackadaisical Joe Crowley?
“Uncertainties Loom as Midterms Enter Final Stretch” [Sean Trende*, RealClearPolitics]. I’ll quote the call first: “The consensus view is that Democrats are favored to take the lower chamber. Analysts disagree on just how large a majority they are likely to win, and how likely that majority is. If you split the RealClearPolitics tossups in half, it results in Democrats gaining about 25 seats, for a narrow 220-215 majority. I tend to think that the tossups will break disproportionately toward Democrats, and see something more on the order of a 225-210 Democratic majority, but this is hair-splitting to a certain degree.” But the whole article is a very good, very level-headed take, organized around “things that should bother any sober-minded elections analyst in the final week of the election.” One such thing: “How many votes are Democrats wasting? One of the biggest news stories this cycle has been the massive influx of cash into Democratic campaigns, [some in districts are heavily Republican and unlikely to flip]… Democrats right now have roughly a 7 1/2-point lead on the generic ballot, which asks which party people would prefer to have control Congress. Normally this would be enough to flip the majority. But if Democrats run up the score in districts that they are unlikely to win, suddenly that seven-point margin translates into a closer-than-expected seat share.” NOTE * A fine example of an aptronym!
“These are the priciest congressional races of 2018 — in one chart” [MarketWatch]. • Two charts, one for the House, one for the Senate.
“Blue wave of money propels 2018 election to record-breaking $5.2 billion in spending” [Open Secrets]. “The Center for Responsive Politics projects that more than $5.2 billion will be spent this election cycle, making it the most expensive midterm election ever by a wide margin… While Republican candidates are raising funds at record levels, the huge uptick in spending is driven primarily by unprecedented Democratic fundraising. Democratic candidates are projected to spend more than $2.5 billion this cycle, while Republicans are expected to spend approximately $2.2 billion. Democratic House hopefuls have raised more than $951 million, crushing their Republican opponents’ $637 million haul. Things are closer in the Senate — $513 million to $361 million — but Democrats are still ahead. In every kind of competitive race — even those in red districts — Democrats are either outraising Republicans or keeping pace.” • The only kind of wave that counts…
“One week out, Democrats still have a path to winning the Senate. But it’s extremely narrow” [NBC]. “There are three remaining pathways for Democrats to regain control of the upper chamber. Here they are: 1. Democrats win the GOP-held Senate seats of Arizona and Nevada — and also hold on to ALL of their vulnerable seats in North Dakota, Missouri, Florida, Indiana, Montana and West Virginia. 2. Democrats win the GOP-held Senate seats of Arizona, Nevada AND Tennessee, which allows them to lose ONE Democratic-held seat (like North Dakota). 3. Democrats win the GOP-held Senate seats of Arizona, Nevada, Tennessee AND Texas, which allows them to lose TWO Democratic-held seats.” • And it is true, as we know from 2016, that narrow paths can lead to victory. Races to watch next Tuesday.
Planning to leave voting until election day? You could chance it – but what if you get sick, or stuck at work? It could happen – even if you’re wearing Valentino. Find out whether you can early vote in your state: https://t.co/951YKM3UX3 pic.twitter.com/3AVks9iqQt
— Indivisible Guide (@IndivisibleTeam) October 29, 2018
Valentino: “The Maison Valentino plays a major role in the luxury division through tradition and innovation, a necessary combination for a creative industry that generates the sense of beauty. Valentino’s fashion is displayed through the Haute Couture and Prêt-à-Porter lines for women and for men and through the Valentino Garavani accessories lines that include shoes, bags, small leather goods, eyewear, scarves, ties and fragrances. An aesthetic universe, present in over 100 countries through 175 Valentino directly-operated boutiques and over 1500 points of sale.” I’m sure they appreciate the product placement. Hey, kidding!
IA-04: “Land O’Lakes Pulls Support for Iowa Congressman Steve King Over Racial Remarks” [Bloomberg]. “Arden Hills, Minnesota-based Land O’Lakes, known for its dairy business, is also a 97-year-old cooperative with operations that span the so-called farm-to-fork spectrum…. Iowa is a center for American agricultural production—it ranks first in corn and egg production and raises a third of the nation’s hogs. Other agricultural contributors to King said they haven’t decided whether to stop financial support.”
MO Senate: “Claire McCaskill, in tight Senate race, comes close to saying fellow Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders are ‘crazy'” [MarketWatch]. McCaskill; “”I would not call my colleagues crazy, but Elizabeth Warren sure went after me when I advocated tooling back some of the regulations for small banks and credit unions. I certainly disagree with Bernie Sanders on a bunch of stuff.” • Paralipsis…. But perhaps there’s a reason–
MO Senate: “Financial industry bets big on McCaskill with control of Senate at stake” [McClatchy]. “McCaskill’s campaign has raised nearly $4 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sector, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics’ Open Secrets site, which tracks campaign donations across a variety of industries…. The senator’s campaign declined to comment on the reason for this level of support from the industry, which far surpasses the level of support she received in 2012 when she ranked No. 20 in industry donations.”
Many liberals today get so angry when you point out that our bad economy is a major contributor to the rise of the far right. But here’s a 2009 report from Obama’s Department of Homeland Security making that exact point. pic.twitter.com/ykqgSoLX5e
— Walker Bragman (@WalkerBragman) October 28, 2018
Realignment and Legitimacy
DSA plugging away:
We're so close to our first timer picket line challenge goal! 😱❤️ We just need one more person to step up to take a shift! Is it you??? Sign up here https://t.co/TmRtjtPC18 pic.twitter.com/k6IzVJq3rp
— DSA San Francisco (@DSA_SF) October 26, 2018
— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) October 23, 2018
Would have to be a bit of a long-term project given pipeline issues, but funding a program to recruit and support working class candidates for office would be smart. pic.twitter.com/6A8nbJvCAq
— Matthew Yglesias (@mattyglesias) October 29, 2018
Consumer Confidence, October 2018: “[C]onsumer confidence index continues to hold near 18-year highs” [Econoday]. “Those saying jobs are currently hard-to-get fell nearly 1 percentage point… [T]hose who say jobs are currently plentiful [rose]…. This report is unmistakably strong and points to not only a solid employment report but also hints at another month of strength for consumer spending.”
S&P Corelogic Case-Shiller Home Price Index, August 2018: “Growth in home prices, as it is for home sales, is almost at a standstill” [Econoday]. “These results and trends are consistent with weakness seen in last week’s FHFA house price index as well price data in the existing home sales report. However strong the 2018 economy is, it doesn’t include home prices which are a central source of household wealth.”
Residential Vacancies and Homeownership: [Calculated Risk]. “The quarterly HVS is the most timely survey on households, but there are many questions about the accuracy of this survey. Overall this suggests that vacancies have declined significantly, and my guess is the homeownership rate has bottomed – and that the rental vacancy rate has bottomed for this cycle.”
Housing: “As the housing market stagnates, American homeowners are staying put for the longest stretches ever” [MarketWatch]. “Housing-market headwinds are keeping American homeowners in their properties for the longest stretches on record, in a sharp distortion of the mobility Americans have for decades prized. Across the country, homes that sold in the third quarter of this year had been owned an average of 8.23 years, according to an analysis from Attom Data Solutions. That’s almost double the length of time a home sold in 2000, when Attom’s data begin, had been owned.” • So “just move” isn’t the panacea it used to be….
Housing: “SALT Keeps Bad News in Housing Coming: Weekend Edition” [Bloomberg]. “Sales of new single-family houses were down 13.2 percent in September from a year earlier, the Census Bureau reported Wednesday. That’s a lot — the biggest year-over-year percentage decline since April 2011, when the housing bust was still busting. It is also within the margin of error… There was one region of the country, though, where home sales were definitely down by a lot. That would be the Northeast, where new home sales fell year over year at a rate somewhere between 31.2 percent and 71.4 percent (midpoint: 51.3 percent)…. there’s this other thing that’s weighing on the Northeastern housing market: the provision in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump in December that restricts deductions for state and local taxes (aka SALT) to $10,000 a year.” • It would be ironic if the Republican attempt to punish high tax Blue States caused them to lose toss-up House races; the FT pointed to three in New Jersey.
Shipping: “Uber for empty containers could solve repositioning challenges” [Supply Chain Dive]. “Technology startups are focusing on reducing the empty container problem, a challenge that costs the container shipping industry about $20 billion per year. At any given time, about one-third of the ocean containers in circulation are empty, and the average container spends nearly half its life idle, according to recent research…. Historically there have been fewer loads going back from the West Coast of the United States to China, to reposition containers for the next round of eastbound shipments. Containers pile up in ports such as Hamburg, waiting to be moved back to Karachi, for example.” • Some of the problem is structural (more goods coming from China than going to it) but apparently 30% of it is amenable to increased efficiencies.
Shipping: “Deregulation finally begets creativity” [Logistics Management]. “[M]otor carriers have been slow to grasp the changes that really create a robust, creative market. Up until this past decade, less-than-truckload (LTL) shippers and carriers found themselves still locked in a tradition of classifications, rate tables and absurd discounts of 90% plus off ‘class rates.’ This system was supported by transportation management software that required loading static rate tables for look up in order to price transactions….. As an example, most rate tables have been based upon three- to five-digit zip code parings. Distances in rate tables are averages and not reflective of actual costs to serve a particular shipper and consignee at the geographic edges of zip code areas…. New technology is overtaking the rigid interaction between shippers and carriers, with robust machine-to-machine interaction making split second decisions concerning the best way to route a package.”
Infrastructure: “As Infrastructure Crumbles, So Does US Manufacturing” [Industry Week]. “So far, the Trump infrastructure rebuilding program does not have a funding solution and does not yet offer specifics or priorities in infrastructure spending. Trump wants $1.5 trillion in new spending on infrastructure, and Congress has, so far, only allocated $21 billion. This is about 1% of the president’s request. So Trump’s proposed public/private infrastructure plan has become fake news.”
Transportation: “First toilets, now engines: Aircraft supply chain can’t keep pace with demand” [Supply Chain Dive]. “In 2017, the worldwide fleet of commercial aircraft grew by 4% to more than 31,000, with an order backlog of nearly 10 years, according to the Centre of Aviation. A similar pace is expected for 2018, and critical suppliers are struggling to keep up.”
The Bezzle: “The newest innovation in app-driven technology is one of the oldest traditions in transportation: customs evasion. A burgeoning set of online companies is building a new industry in matching shoppers with international travelers willing to deliver goods across borders. The shoppers are trying to get better deals on goods outside their own countries, and…. many travelers using San Francisco-based Grabr admit bringing expensive items through customs without paying duties” [Wall Street Journal].
The Bezzle: “Scooters are good for the transportation system. Safe scooters are better” [Los Angeles Times]. “[N]ow a class-action lawsuit alleges that the two largest shared e-scooter companies — Bird and Lime — are guilty of ‘aiding and abetting assault.’ The lawsuit contends that the companies were grossly negligent when they dumped thousands of scooters onto streets and sidewalks without first seeking approval from local authorities, and without regard for the safety and welfare of the public. As a result, says the complaint, scores, if not hundreds, of riders and pedestrians have been injured by scooters.” More: “If scooter companies hope to brand themselves as solutions to urban traffic woes, they will have to manage and maintain their fleets with the same care as a public transit agency.” • Which, absent serious regulation, will never happen.
The Bezzle: “Wells Fargo’s Chief Administrative Officer, Auditor on Leaves of Absence” [Wall Street Journal]. • Oh.
Tech: “Is Facebook still growing?” [Recode]. “The reality is that Facebook may be shrinking in certain markets, but its user base is still growing overall. Despite all the concern last quarter — Facebook stock fell more than 20 percent after its last earnings call, and still hasn’t recovered — Facebook still added 22 million new daily users last quarter. That’s not a lot for Facebook, but it’s still 22 million people…. The problem is that all of those new Facebook users came from markets where the company makes little to no money from them. Each Facebook user in the U.S. or Canada generated almost $26 in revenue for the company last quarter; each user in “Asia-Pacific” generated just $2.62. Those in other parts of the world, like South America or Africa, brought in $1.91.”
Tech: “Facebook Hasn’t Learned Anything” [Bloomberg]. “Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg conceded last year that Facebook’s mission to ‘connect the world’ wasn’t necessarily making the world a better place. The new goal, he said, was to ‘bring the world closer together.’ That aim, however, isn’t as closely aligned with Facebook’s business needs. Its main app, with more than 2 billion users, is running out of people to add. Facebook’s shares fell more than 20 percent after it predicted a revenue slowdown in July. To keep investors happy, it can’t just remain massively profitable—it needs to keep growing, which means getting more people online…. ‘The question for Facebook is how serious are they about going into these markets and bearing the costs of properly entering the markets,’ says Matti Littunen, an analyst at researcher Enders Analysis Ltd. ‘Putting boots on the ground, making sure it’s a good experience in that market for the long term, and making sure there’s not going to be political problems.’ At the London conference, there was little evidence the company had learned those lessons. It seemed to be resting on its old assumption that it can work out any problems after everyone is on Facebook.” • I’m still struggling with what the difference between “connect the world” and “bring the world closer together” might be. It’s almost as if Zuckerberg is kicking a can full of bafflegab down the road.
Tech: “Are You Ready to Try Again with Smart Glasses?” [Medium]. No. More: “On the other hand, wearable technology feels as inevitable as taxes. Someday, we’ll all be wearing screens on or near our faces.” • No.
Fodder for the Bulls: “The Dangerous Corners of the U.S. Economy Actually Look Pretty Sound” [Conor Sen, Bloomberg]. “Low unemployment in the context of an economy without destabilizing levels of financial leverage or investment should give the Federal Reserve the courage to let the economy run hotter than it might if that leverage or excess investment existed. It may lead to somewhat higher inflation than we’ve seen in the past couple cycles, but so long as inflation expectations stay contained, that shouldn’t concern a Fed that claims its inflation target is symmetric. This economic cycle will end someday, but it may continue longer than most think.”
Honey for the Bears: “Yield Curve Isn’t Lying About Next Recession, Guggenheim Says” [Bloomberg]. “Investors continue to ignore the flattening yield curve at their peril, according to Guggenheim Partners. Despite robust economic growth in the third quarter, the $265 billion investment firm’s view that the next U.S. recession will begin in early 2020 remains intact, strategists including global chief investment officer Scott Minerd wrote in a note to clients. The yield curve — an inversion of which has preceded past economic downturns — is a powerful signal, they said.”
“US West’s abandoned mines hold danger and, for some, thrills” [Associated Press]. “In Utah alone, the state is trying to seal more than 10,000 open mines with cinderblocks and metal grates after people have died in rock falls and all-terrain-vehicle crashes and from poisonous air over the past three decades….. Still, not everyone wants to see the mines closed. For years, a dedicated subculture of explorers has been slipping underground to see tunnels lined with sparkling quartz, century-old rail cars and caverns that open in the earth like buried ballrooms.” • Plus, it will be cool down there. Out of the sun…
“Can Agriculture Save Pollinators?” [Belt Magazine]. “Honeybee nervous systems are intricate and sensitive. Honeybees can read the vibrations of another bee dancing a map to a flower, in the dark, by touch alone. Their olfactory powers enable them to distinguish the scent of specific blossoms. Humans have even trained them to reliably detect diseases, drugs, and bombs. Their dexterity is crucial for grooming, for packing pollen onto their legs, for building honeycomb out of wax. In my own life with honeybees, I have observed bees twitching uncontrollably after being poisoned, but often the effects of chemicals are not immediately observable. Some toxins disrupt insects’ gut bacteria, and damage from neonicotinoids happens incrementally over time. It is excruciating to imagine these gentle, sensitive insects suffering from a neurotoxin, knowing the implications of their sensory impairment. The result is clear: for pollinators, the monocropping system, with intensive chemical inputs, is not working well.”
Charging an electric car with a diesel generator. pic.twitter.com/L85IG4YqBd
— You Had One Job (@_youhadonejob1) October 22, 2018
Metaphorically, at least.
“Wealth gap for minorities in the U.S. has continued to widen post-recession” [MarketWatch]. “Many financial gains by minorities in the preceding decades were wiped out during the Great Recession, the study found. And while whites experienced economic recovery between 2010 and 2016, financial indicators for black and Hispanic consumers remained largely unchanged. Researchers often examine yearly income when observing inequality, but a family’s level of wealth — their stock, real estate, and other holdings — has a larger impact on well-being, the researchers said.” • Thanks, Obama!
News of the Wired
“Three hundred and sixty years of United States caselaw” [Caselaw Access Project]. From the About page: “The Caselaw Access Project (“CAP”) expands public access to U.S. law. Our goal is to make all published U.S. court decisions freely available to the public online, in a consistent format, digitized from the collection of the Harvard Law Library.” • This is a very worthy project, though it’s hard to see why all published U.S. Court decisions were not already freely available.
“Many Analysts, One Data Set: Making Transparent How Variations in Analytic Choices Affect Results” [Association for Psychological Science]. “What if scientific results are highly contingent on subjective decisions at the analysis stage? In that case, the process of certifying a particular result on the basis of an idiosyncratic analytic strategy might be fraught with unrecognized uncertainty….”
“Hubble Telescope’s Broken Gyroscope Seemingly Fixed After Engineers Try Turning It Off and On Again” [Gizmodo]. • Tech support always says that!
“The Library” [Nina Illingworth]. “[T]his low period of my life lead me to take a several months long and still ongoing, involuntary hiatus from writing. In the time I’ve spent away, I’ve been doing a tremendous amount of reading and as such, I’ve undertaken a massive project to rebuild my personal library. What started out as roughly fifty left-leaning books has now grown to several massive shelves holding well over two-hundred volumes on a variety of subjects that relate to socialist politics, theory and activism.”
“Air Dryers vs Paper Towels” [Science-Based Medicine]. “[P]aper towels are more expensive than either hot air or jet air dryers…. Paper towel vs hot air blowers are about the same. They overlap in carbon footprint depending on the relevant variables, so no clear winner there. However, air blades have a lower carbon footprint than both, when doing a thorough lifetime analysis…. Regardless, there is a nice consensus of research that hot air blowers spread more bacteria and viruses from and onto user’s hands than paper towels, and jet dryers even more. As the authors note, this “suggests” that air dryers are less hygienic, but I could not find any studies looking at actual infection rates.” • Presumably, lack of hygeine has its own carbon footprint, not factored in here. Then again, I would say that: I hate air dryers!
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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 writes: “Nature’s fairy-lights.”
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