By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Donald Trump keeps repeating the ludicrous claim that somehow the revised NAFTA will fund his wall even though it remains unclear if the deal will be enacted and, if it is, the text does not include border wall funding directly nor would it generate new government revenue indirectly given that it cuts the very few remaining tariffs, not raises them. A back-of-the-envelope calculation reveals a new 20 percent tariff would have to be imposed on all imports from Mexico to put the money to construct the wall into the U.S. Treasury and that money would come from importers, not the Mexican government. All imports into the United States from Mexico have been duty free for more than a decade, meaning that NAFTA trade does not generate money from Mexican importers for U.S. government coffers and nothing in the NAFTA 2.0 changes that” [Lori Wallach, Eyes on Trade].
“Chinese Vice Premier Liu He will lead a Chinese delegation heading to Washington later this month, a senior administration official confirmed Monday. Liu’s presence signals that officials made enough progress in last week’s talks for cabinet-level meetings to resume” [Politico]. “The Trump administration will only create a process for companies to request exclusions from a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods if ongoing trade talks with China fail and the duty is raised to 25 percent on March 2, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a Jan. 11 letter to Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). USTR already has an exclusion process for the 25 percent tariff Trump imposed on an initial $50 billion worth of Chinese goods. Kaine and 10 other senators have pressed USTR to create a similar process for the $200 billion.”
“First U.S. crude cargoes head to China since trade breakthrough: sources” [Reuters]. “Three cargoes of U.S. crude are heading to China from the U.S. Gulf Coast, trade sources said on Monday, the first departures since late September and a 90-day pause in the two countries’ trade war that began last month…. “It looks like China has resumed purchasing U.S. crude,” one U.S.-based shipbroking source said. The person, who declined to be identified because he was not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said the destination data could yet change.”
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
The 2020 Republican platform:
picture speaks for itself. pic.twitter.com/Z9sWXjgjJJ
— Diane Shugart (@dianalizia) January 15, 2019
Lucky Clemson. Lots of dunking on Twitter, since the image is ideal for meme-making, as it was obviously intended to be. My favorite: “But only one of these hamburgers contains the antidote, Mr. Bond,” casting Trump as the Bond Villain. “Almost sweet in a pathetic sort of way” is probably the nicest comment around; mine would be that Trump knows how to hit his marks as well as Reagan did. (Yes, the photo is beautifully composed, but Trump had to stand where and how he did.)
But let’s look at the messaging: (1) Privatization. Wendy’s, not the White House chef. Why not our national parks next, eh? (2) Populism. Again, not the White House chef with le menu, either, but again Wendy’s, rather like Andrew Jackson’s crass and bigly block of cheese that the mob — the deplorables? — rampled all over the carpets. (3) Proprietorship. Trump’s expansive gesture at the abundance of it all (“I alone….”) is that of a hotelier inviting guests to dine*. (4) Pedigree. See the portrait of Lincoln — American’s greatest and most iconic Republican — behind Trump, which he surely knew was there? What was Honest Abe thinking? I’ll tell you. He was thinking “It’s waaaay better than fast food. It’s Wendy’s.” Because who wouldn’t? This is America. (Or as Elizabeth Bruenig writes: “Once you view 27 quarter pounders on a solid silver White House serving platter, you realize America has always just been 27 quarter pounders on a solid silver White House serving platter, and we were just too sinful to see it.”) Oh, and the context for all this, the shutdown, is straight “Wrecking Crew” behavior, familiar to Republicans as an old whip — “drown government in a bathtub” — as Thomas Frank shows.** But what’s really been wrecked if you can feed the multitude like this?
NOTE * And not that, were his hands raised, of a Christ-like figure. ** The “Wrecking Crew” theory gives an account of why Trump didn’t do whatever he needed to do with The Wall when Republicans controlled the House, where spending bills originate. But is the goal is the shutdown, for which The Wall is a pretext, that incongruity disappears.
— John Kasich (@JohnKasich) January 15, 2019
“Who Will Be the American Justin Trudeau?” [Jacobin]. • Obama.
New Cold War
“GOP lawmaker: Russian meddling stirred racial divisions at fatal Charlottesville rally” [USA Today]. • BWA-HA-HA-HA-HA! RussiaRussiaRussia is bipartisan!
2016 Post Mortem
“Selective Feminism and the Myth of the Bernie Bro: The Backlash to Sanders and the Women’s Convention” [Katie Halper, Paste]. “The media dedicated much time and energy to covering online abuse, towards women in particular, during the Democratic Primary. The vitriol was, and remains, disturbing. Posting a photo of a female campaign surrogate on Facebook, a man wrote, “Every time i see this… creature on CNN, I want to reach through the tv screen and choke her… (I don’t believe in hurting women… but i’m not sure if this is one).” Another surrogate, a black woman, has been called everything from a “bitch” to a slave to a “hood rat.” One man tweeted, “I hope you and your family die,” and another person told her to “just end her misery. A pill cocktail will do the trick…” There has even been actual physical violence against women: Two women were hit because of their allegiance to a candidate, one of them, a young woman of color, was struck by an older white man with his hand and cane.
Readers may be familiar with the term “Bernie Bro,” but they might be surprised to learn that every attack cited above was made by Clinton supporters against Sanders supporters.” • Or they might not be surprised.
Realignment and Legitimacy
“HOPE VS. CHANGE: WHY SOME DEMOCRATS ARE TURNING ON OBAMA’S LEGACY” [Vanity Fair]. “If today’s Democrats can’t beat Trump, then maybe Hillary Clinton wasn’t as bad a candidate as her critics claimed. And if Clinton wasn’t the problem, then what was the problem? Such questions are behind a recent spike of debates on the left over Barack Obama’s record. More and more voices seem to be saying, either obliquely or bluntly, that Obama was a bad president.” • The final link is a tweet from Stoller (good) but where’s Thomas Frank, who did the heavy lifting on this very issue, and was ostracized by the Beltway for his pains?
Empire State Manufacturing Survey, January 2019: “Slowing into the New Year is the theme from the Empire State index” [Econoday]. “The nation’s manufacturing sector is suddenly having a bumpy time and the reasons aren’t clear. Watch Thursday for the Philly Fed report and the next indication on January’s factory conditions.” And: “January 2019 Empire State Manufacturing Index Declined and At Lowest Level In Over One Year” [Econintersect]. It’s noisy, but: “With both the main index and key indices declining, this was a much worse report than last month… New orders subindex of the Empire State Manufacturing declined but remains barely in expansion, whilst the unfilled orders sub-index declining and slipping deeper in contraction.” And: “This was well below the consensus forecast, and the weakest reading since May 2017” [Calculated Risk]. And: “Business sentiment has slumped due to the trade fight with China and the partial government shutdown. Many business surveys have weakened lately. On its face, the report suggests another decline in the national ISM manufacturing survey, which tumbled to a two-year low in December” [MarketWatch].
Producer Price Index (Final Demand), December 2018: “The fall in the price of oil is only one reason behind a 0.2 percent headline decline in producer prices as core readings are also soft” [Econoday]. “This report, like last week’s consumer price data, is not pointing to building pressures in demand or for prices and does not point to any urgency for Federal Reserve rate hikes.” And: “The Producer Price Index was unchanged year-over-year. Energy prices decline was offset by food price increase – and service prices modestly declined. Here is what the BLS said in part” [Econintersect].
Tech: “U.S. Now Says All Online Gambling Illegal, Not Just Sports Bets” [Bloomberg]. “The U.S. Justice Department now says federal law bars all internet gambling, reversing its position from 2011 that only sports betting is prohibited under a law passed 50 years earlier [the 1961 Wire Act]. The reversal was prompted by the department’s criminal division, which prosecutes illegal gambling…. A coalition backed by billionaire casino executive Sheldon Adelson lobbied the Justice Department in 2017 to reconsider its 2011 decision that cleared the way for states to allow online gambling.”
Tech: “Apple Replaced 11 Million iPhone Batteries in 2018, Up From 1 to 2 Million” [MacRumors]. “Apple replaced a total of 11 million iPhone batteries under the $29 battery replacement program that was introduced at the end of 2017 and ran through 2018 before ending on December 31, 2018.” • Apple sold 46.9 million iPhones in Q4 2018 alone, so while 11 million isn’t pocket change, it’s not enough to knock Apple off course, either.
Tech: “Bird to Boing Boing: We’re sorry about sending you a legal-demand letter”” [Ars Technica]. “‘Bird celebrates freedom in many ways—freedom from traffic [and] congestion as well as freedom of speech,’ the company said. ‘In the quest for curbing illegal activities related to our vehicles, our legal team overstretched and sent a takedown request related to the issue to a member of the media. This was our mistake and we apologize to Cory Doctorow.'” • So the issue was they sent the takedown notice to the press…
Tech: “Blue Apron shares soar after it says it expects to be profitable on adjusted EBITDA basis” [MarketWatch]. “Meal-kit provider Blue Apron Holdings Inc. APRN, +36.54% said Tuesday it is confident it can achieve profitability on an adjusted EBITDA basis in the first quarter and full year 2019. EBITDA — or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization–is often used as a measure of cash flow… It said it was offering a non-GAAP number because it is unable to reconcile guidance to GAAP, or Generally Accepted Accounting Principles at this time…. [Oh?} The presentation will include an update on its renewed focus on engaging consumers with its direct-to-consumer platform as well as an update on the response to its partnership with WW, the renamed Weight Watchers.” • The WW alliance is actually clever!
The Bezzle: “German antitrust watchdog to act against Facebook: report” [Reuters]. “Germany’s antitrust watchdog plans to order Facebook to stop gathering some user data, a newspaper reported on Sunday. The Federal Cartel Office, which has been investigating Facebook since 2015, has already found that the social media giant abused its market dominance to gather data on people without their knowledge or consent. The Bild am Sonntag newspaper said the watchdog will present the U.S. company with its ruling on what action it needs to take in the next few weeks.”
The Bezzle: “Uber wants to go public this year, but SoftBank has yet to seat its two board members” [CNBC]. “When Uber sold a 15 percent stake to SoftBank last January, the ride-hailing company agreed to give the Japanese conglomerate two board positions out of an eventual total of 17. SoftBank said its seats would go to Marcelo Claure, the company’s operating chief and executive chairman of Sprint, and Rajeev Misra, the head of SoftBank’s Vision Fund. More than a year later, SoftBank is waiting for the U.S. government to give Claure and Misra the go-ahead. SoftBank has its Uber shares, but the broader deal is under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), a unit of the Treasury Department that reviews certain transactions involving overseas investors. The SoftBank seats aren’t the only ones on Uber’s board that remain unfilled. As part of the company’s effort to strengthen corporate governance following a series of scandals in 2017, Uber agreed to expand its board to 17 people from 11. The board currently has 12 members and still has vacancies for three independent directors, in addition to SoftBank’s representatives. • Going into an IPO with a crippled board. Everything is like CalPERS!
The Bezzle: “VW Hasn’t Committed Yet to Joining With Ford on Driverless Cars” [Bloomberg]. “‘There’s still a lot of hype; about autonomous vehicles and ‘a lot of money flowing in, but I think it’s still a long way to go until we really get the first paybacks,’ Herbert Diess, VW’s chairman and CEO, told reporters Monday in a roundtable at the North American International Auto Show. ‘There’s one alternative, which could be joining forces with Ford. It’s not yet decided. But it’s still a long way to go, many millions to be poured in and probably some setbacks to expect.’ ‘America will play a major role,’ he said. But VW is ‘committed to owning the software stack’ that controls the self-driving car.” • A lot of hype? Really? And owning the stack? Not renting it? Let me know how that works out.
— Graham Cluley (@gcluley) January 14, 2019
An accident. If you believe Godzilla v. Mothra was an accident.
Our Famously Free Press
“Company known for deep cost-cutting offers to buy Gannett” [Associated Press]. ” A hedge fund-backed bid to buy Gannett Co., the publisher of USA Today and several other major dailies, is renewing fears of consolidation and job losses — as well as a decline in the quantity and quality of news coverage — in the already battered newspaper industry. MNG Enterprises, better known as Digital First Media, offered $1.36 billion on Monday for Gannett, saying in a letter that it can run the company more profitably via tight cost controls and consolidation of operations such as printing and administration.” • Ha ha. “Consolidation of operations” means gutting newsrooms; that’s what hedgies do. This would be bad, because USA Today is one of the very few — perhaps the only? — major venue that didn’t completely lose its mind in 2016. They don’t deserve to be punished by hedgies.
A ways to go:
Worried about climate change, 2018.
Saudi Arabia: 8%
South Korea: 7%
South Africa: 2%
— The Spectator Index (@spectatorindex) January 11, 2019
“What’s in a Green New Deal?” [Politico]. “That means one of Democrats’ biggest tasks in 2019 will be to dig into the specifics of fighting climate change and transforming the economy. Progressives and environmental groups are already working to line up a suite a [sic] bills that could serve as a policy road map. ‘It’s not going to be necessarily one bill or one piece of legislation or one level of government that makes this possible,’ said Varshini Prakash, co-founder of Sunrise Movement.” • That’s probably true, although AOC’s version of the GND gave the Federal government the leading role, correctly IMNSHO. However, I don’t see mobilization — a goal, a plan, metrics or at least waypoints — taking place through the process Prakash outlines, or through a movement.
“Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017” [Eric Rignot, Jérémie Mouginot, Bernd Scheuchl, Michiel van den Broeke, Melchior J. van Wessem, and Mathieu Morlighem, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences]. “The total mass loss from Antarctica increased from 40 ± 9 Gt/y in the 11-y time period 1979–1990 to 50 ± 14 Gt/y in 1989–2000, 166 ± 18 Gt/y in 1999–2009, and 252 ± 26 Gt/y in 2009–2017, that is, by a factor 6… This change in mass loss reflects an acceleration of 94 Gt/y per decade in 1979–2017, increasing from 48 Gt/y per decade in 1979–2001 to 134 Gt/y per decade in 2001–2017, or 280%… The mass loss from West Antarctica is three to four times larger than that from East Antarctica and the Peninsula, respectively. We find that the Antarctic Ice Sheet has been out of balance with snowfall accumulation the entire period of study, including in East Antarctica.” • Ulp. Here is a summary, in English, from Associated Press: “Antarctica is melting more than six times faster than it did in the 1980s, a new study shows. Scientists used aerial photographs, satellite measurements and computer models to track how fast the southern-most continent has been melting since 1979 in 176 individual basins. They found the ice loss to be accelerating dramatically — a key indicator of human-caused climate change.”
“Costco Is Selling a 27-Lb. Bucket of Mac and Cheese with a 20-Year Shelf Life” [People], “The shelf life is so long that Costco listed the product under “all emergency foods” on the store’s website.:” • So somebody’s planning for the jackpot…..
“OMV chief rejects U.S. sanctions threat on Nord Stream 2 firms: report” [Reuters]. “The U.S. embassy in Germany said on Sunday that Ambassador Richard Grenell had told German companies involved in the project that they could face sanctions if they continued with the plan that is already far advanced. ‘The letter is a totally unacceptable threat to German companies,’ OMV Chief Executive Rainer Seele, a German national who has run the Austrian firm since 2015, told the business daily. ‘Europe must not allow itself to be patronized by the U.S. in matters of energy politics,’ he said.” • I’m filing this here because Triump’s sabre-rattling, though ugly, would make a greenhouse gas source more expensive which is good. If we can’t leave it in the ground, we can it least make it expensive to move around.
“Ancient civilizations can show us how to protect the Amazon” [Quartz]. “A steadily accumulating body of research now shows that millions of people once lived in the Amazon, and they didn’t just make a home in the forest, but actually transformed it to suit their daily needs. Archeologists have found evidence of carefully tended gardens and fertile soils near sites of ancient settlements. Walk around the jungle today, and you can still see the fingerprints of these civilizations all around.” • I was sold on this thesis about “Amazonia” when I read Charles C. Mann’s wonderful 1491, published in 2005. (For an interview with Mann, see NC here,)
“Okay, But How Many Trees Count As Nature” [The Cut]. “[A] recent study found that spending just five minutes ‘in nature’ can cause a significant improvement in mood… Students in the nature [test] group were directed to sit ‘on a bench in an urban park located on the border of the campus,’ a spot chosen for “its moderate biodiversity.'” • But what, you ask, is “nature”? Spoiler alert: The author found a picture of the actual bench. More: “No offense to the University of Regina, or this very okay looking bench, but if this is how being in nature is defined — some grass, some trees — then I have no excuse, and you probably don’t either. There is a literal garbage can RIGHT there. Still, I wonder about nature’s exact parameters: does looking at my succulents count for anything? What if I carry them outside, cradling them in my arms? It is worth a try.”
“Magic mushrooms see growth bonanza across UK after mild winter: ‘It’s been a particularly good one'” [Independent]. Just in time for Brexit, but stay safe out there!
“The Stealthy Corporate Scheme to Privatize Pittsburgh’s Water System” [In These Times]. “The most recent news on this front came with the surprise announcement in October that private water powerhouse Aqua America [HQ Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania] was buying Peoples Gas, which is the local gas company. Why would a water company swoop in to buy a gas company? Food and Water Watch, the advocacy organization I work for, has battled water privatization around the world for over a decade, and that experience leads us to suspect this isn’t about taking over a gas company. It’s a roundabout plan to privatize Pittsburgh’s water system by buying up the gas utility that has also been targeting the water system. For months, Peoples Gas had been selling the city on what it was calling a strategic public-private partnership. The company would replace aging lines and build a massive new treatment facility to boot — somehow without raising rates. As you might expect, the details were scarce. City officials, including Mayor Bill Peduto, have been carefully and conspicuously pledging to keep PWSA in public hands, while appearing very open to the company’s pitch. But even if a private company does not buy the system outright, giving a profit-seeking corporation power to make key decisions or determine user rates is not a ‘partnership.’ It’s a form of privatization….” • Agreed, though precise details on this “roundabout plan” would have been welcome.
Black Injustice Tipping Point
In 1846 Frederick Douglass addressed over 70 meetings in Scotland. From 15 January we will begin tweeting links to the full texts of newspaper reports of them, as we compile what will be a comprehensive online edition. pic.twitter.com/kuFNjchpKO
— Frederick Douglass in Scotland (@fd_scotland) January 14, 2019
(And efforts like this paid off down the line, too.) And in 1846, I bet there were plenty of people saying that abolition will “never, ever” come to pass. 1863 – 1846 = 17 years, and in Douglass’s lifetime, too.
“Every Woman Is a Working Woman” (interview) [(The great) Silvia Federici, Boston Review]. “Our analysis of violence against women hinged on seeing housework as a form of capitalist production, and analyzing the role of the wage in constructing the whole family’s organization. We argued that violence is always latent in the family because, through the wage, the state delegates to the husband the power to supervise and control the work of the wife, and the power to penalize her in case she does not perform. I would describe it as a sort of indirect rule: the state mediates the control over women through the man and his wage. It is not for nothing that in the 1970s, women on welfare called the state “The Man”! This explains why domestic violence has been tolerated for so long and rarely treated by the state as a crime. We began to even see rape as a form of domestic discipline. It is a way of regulating women’s time and space….” • Why a Jobs Guarantee (for all women) and a Post Office Bank (account for any woman) would do a lot more for women than, well, putting a female torturer at the head of the CIA. And #MedicareForAll would help a lot too.
News of the Wired
“The three-page paper that shook philosophy—a hacker’s perspective” [jsomers.net]. “Gettier, in his tiny paper, upended the consensus. He asked ‘Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?’ and offered three cases—soon to be known as ‘the Gettier cases’—that suggested you could have a JTB about something and yet still we would want to say you didn’t know it.” • The paper has examples, and gives examples from software engineering, but I was thinking of politics…..
“Avoiding a transit of the United States” [WikiTravel]. “Since the documentation requirements just to transit the US can be both onerous and expensive (see Preparing to Enter the United States), it may be preferable to select itineraries that avoid the United States altogether. However, finding these flights is not always easy: the United States—fronting the Pacific Rim, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea—is an extremely vast country with several major cities that serve as hubs for many airlines; most on-line travel services lack an option to avoid a country; in many cases the smaller companies and chartered flights are harder to find.” • News you can use!
For the snow-bound:
“How do you stay warm when it’s 30 below?” pic.twitter.com/yv9QkkVi0j
— Blair Braverman (@BlairBraverman) January 7, 2019
(This is apparently the Iditarod, not Antarctica.)
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 (JU):
JU writes: “South Fork Meadow, Hockett Plateau… Mineral King.” Landscapes are harder than one might thing. They don’t move around, much, but still…
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