By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“NAFTA at 25: A New Beginning? (Pt 1/2)” (interview) [Lori Wallach, The Real News Network] (part 2/2). “He’s trying out this USMCA rebrand. Well, that’s just not what it is. It’s NAFTA 2.0. It is not the transformational replacement of the corporate-rigged model of NAFTA, but it is in some ways improved relative to the original NAFTA. The biggest thing is the investor state dispute settlement regime under which corporations can sue governments in front of tribunals of three trade lawyers. The lawyers can order the governments to pay unlimited compensation of our taxpayer money for any claim that a corporation makes that their special rights and privileges under NAFTA have been undermined by a domestic environmental law, health regulation, court ruling. The three lawyers decisions are not appealable, and almost $400 million is paid out under that regime, and attacks the environmental health laws, tax expands, energy policies. So that outrageous system with the U.S. and Mexico has totally gotten rid of, and with respect to Mexico is largely walked back, that only a limited set of claims can be made, and only if a company has gone first to the domestic court systems, has spent–has basically gotten a final ruling from the highest court, or spent two and a half years trying to exhaust the domestic remedies. And then the big set of corporate rights claims aren’t allowed anymore. They can get money back if literally the government seizes their property through an expropriation and doesn’t pay them back. So that’s an improvement.” • Well worth a read. Wallach is great.
“Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Jeff Gerrish and his boss, USTR Robert Lighthizer, were cut from the same cloth in many ways. Both worked at Skadden. Both are seeking to revitalize the U.S. manufacturing base through policy. And both take a hard line on China’s practices” [Politico]. “If Gerrish and other officials like what they hear during next week’s meeting in Beijing, that could lead to higher-level talks between Lighthizer and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington the following week.”
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
Christmas music in July:
IT BEGINS pic.twitter.com/A3pORtX7Ej
— Alex Clearfield (@AlexClearfield) January 3, 2019
Not to single out the Republicans; both parties are doing it.
“Tucker Carlson: Mitt Romney supports the status quo. But for everyone else, it’s infuriating” [Tucker Carlson, FOX News]. This is quite a rant; Romney is just the story hook. A taste: “Market capitalism is a tool, like a staple gun or a toaster. You’d have to be a fool to worship it. Our system was created by human beings for the benefit of human beings. We do not exist to serve markets. Just the opposite. Any economic system that weakens and destroys families is not worth having. A system like that is the enemy of a healthy society. Internalizing all this will not be easy for Republican leaders.” • The American Conservative even launched a Tucker Carlson trial balloon. Here is the sentence that gave me pause: “What will it take a get a country like that? Leaders who want it.” And followers. Followers who want leaders. So, modified rapture, eh?
“Bernie Sanders Slams ‘Wall Street Democrats,’ Hints at 2020: ‘Our Agenda Terrifies the Political and Financial Establishment” [Newsweek]. “In the email asking for small donations, Sanders then said that the elite in the United States would work to stop his candidacy. ‘If that happens, the political, financial and media elite of this country will stop at nothing to defeat us. You know that,’ the email read, via PBS reporter Yamiche Alcindor. ‘We’ve lived through it together once before. Our ideas terrify them. So what they will do is try to divide us up with attacks—some old, some new—and our political opponents will spend obscene sums of money on ads to defeat us.’ Sanders’s email then noted that a centrist group called Third Way—which the email dubbed as “Wall Street Democrats”—was already running ads against him in early primary states. ‘They not only want to discourage or defeat a Sanders candidacy, they want to make sure that the progressive agenda is not advanced by anyone,’ the email read.” • Missed this one over the holidays.
“Racial polarization in the 2020 primary draft – 12/31/18” [Carl Beijer]. On the Suffolk/USA Today poll: “There may be significant opposition to a Sanders run – but it overwhelmingly comes from white voters. Black voters, in contrast, generally want Sanders to run again… [I]t seems clear that broad declarations about opposition to another Sanders run simplify a much more complicated racial divide.”
David Brock now: “David Brock Bernie Sanders’ fans can’t be allowed to poison another Democratic primary with personal attacks” [NBC News]. “In 2016, I ran a pro-Hillary SuperPAC which attempted to defend the candidate against false attacks, many of which came from or originated to her left. Though they were hardly in charge of our messaging, it was made very clear to us by our allies at her campaign headquarters that any efforts on our part to push back against the left-wing anti-Clinton brigades were unwelcome assistance; they feared alienating Sanders’ voters.” • I don’t know what Brock’s operational defintion of “unwelcome assistance” might be; but since the Clinton campaign gave him a million dollars to fund his troll army, it’s not mine.
David Brock then: “Dear Senator Sanders: I’m with You in the Fight Ahead” [Medium]. “The progressive movement is strong and growing, thanks in large part to your candidacy, Senator Sanders, which electrified so many voters. The bedrock American values you championed — of pluralism, equality, and opportunity — are ones I share. And I hope that we can be partners in the fight ahead.” • Ah, the right hand of good fellowship….
“Mainstream Media Is Blowing Its Coverage Of Elizabeth Warren’s DNA Test” [HuffPo]. “Oops. Neither of these stories included comments from any elected tribal leaders. The Post story didn’t include comments from Native people at all. Of the three Native voices mixed in with political pundits in the Times story, one is a known Warren critic and one is a congresswoman-elect whose positive comments were buried ― a stunning distortion of how many tribal leaders and Native people in general feel about Warren’s move.” • This looks like good reporting to me, but I’ll make two comments: (1) There is, to say the least, a diversity of opinion on almost every topic among “elected tribal leaders.” The tribes most definitely are not a homogenous mass. The Cherokees are the only ones who matter, and so far as I can tell, a high authority — though not the chief — has spoken. (2) As I keep saying, Warren should have asked the Cherokees! In what world is that hard, or not the first thing to think of?
“The Democratic Primary Doesn’t Have to Be a Nightmare” [Michelle Goldberg, New York Times]. “Eventually, I turned to the C.F.P.B. itself, filling out a simple form on its website. A few weeks later, I was notified that the bank had been [fraudulently] deducting money from my account for years, and I was being refunded more than $11,000. Having financed my own maternity leave, it was money that I badly needed…. To me [the CFPB] was an astonishingly user-friendly tool that cut through opaque corporate bureaucracy on my behalf. My experience with it shaped my perception of Warren as a brilliant policy innovator.” And the moral: “Let’s talk about whose policy proposals are most likable!” • A good story, but reading the story and what it took to make this happen, I would like to know what the CPFB’s impact is for people who do not itemize their filings, do not have a husband (or other assistant) to comb through them looking for deductions, and who can expect five figure returns. I agree it would be great to talk policy, but #MedicareForAll would have greater impact on me and everyone I know than anything the CPFB could ever do. Similarly with a Jobs Guarantee, or even (giving Warren credit, here) a Post Office bank.
AOC dancing (1). Joyfulness is, apparently, a problem:
…High School video of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — Congratulations New York! pic.twitter.com/VSKdUImhZj
— Dan Jordan (@realdanjordan) January 2, 2019
Let’s just pray a whole bunch of Democrat strategists don’t tell their
marksto imitate AOC again.
AOC dancing (2). The best conservative reaction I’ve seen (although with the original tweet deleted, ha ha, too late).
You f***ing fools, you're making her bulletproof in terms of likeability. Hell, *I* like her more now.
You people are so stupid, so unable to see that your rage and your hatred just bounces back on you. https://t.co/BJadhc8ykl
— Jeff B. (@EsotericCD) January 3, 2019
AOC dancing (3). Now, the memes:
I took that video of AOC dancing and turned it into an ad for Medicare For All with a catchy theme song. pic.twitter.com/PLO1WkgEID
— Jonathan Mann (@songadaymann) January 3, 2019
(And the fascinating history of the meme behind the meme, and the copyright issues involved.) I apologize yet again for slipping into squeeful AOC fan-age; but she’s so lucky in her enemies!
“Why the New Democratic Majority Could Work Better Than the Last” [Ron Brownstein, The Atlantic]. “Though slightly smaller, the Democratic caucus that’s assuming power is far more ideologically and geographically cohesive than the party’s previous majority 10 years ago. While the 2009 class included a large number of Democrats from blue-collar, culturally conservative, rural seats that were politically trending away from the party, the new majority revolves around white-collar and racially diverse urban and suburban districts that are trending toward it.” • Fascinatingly, Brownstein blames the Blue Dogs for the Democrat debacles 10 years ago, when it was the DCCC’s decision to back them; the DCCC’s conduct in 2016 echoes this, as they move toward wealthy suburban Republicans instead of expanding their base. For example:
In her first speech after being newly elected House Speaker, center-right neoliberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi invoked two former presidents, both Republicans: Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bushhttps://t.co/Mum7D1Cyd7 pic.twitter.com/1L21dT5Me4
— Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) January 3, 2019
Tick tick tick:
Only 76 hours left.
“I’ll tell you one thing for sure: if we [House Democrats] win the election, in the first 100 hours, we will pass a $15 minimum wage. We’d rather have it now. We’d rather win on the issue than worry about the election.”
— Rob (@philosophrob) January 4, 2019
(Notice the background figure.) Authenticating the video, a contemporaneous link: “Pelosi: Dems will pass $15 minimum wage if we take power.” And yes, in “the first 100 hours.”
“House Democrats pass plan to reopen government, without wall funding” [MarketWatch]. “On their first day in the majority, House Democrats on Thursday night passed a plan to re-open the government without funding President Donald Trump’s promised border wall…. Asked if she would give Trump $1 for a wall to reopen the government, Pelosi said: “One dollar? Yeah, one dollar. The fact is a wall is an immorality. It’s not who we are as a nation.'” • Fences are who we are as a nation (and see the state of play in 2010).
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Return of the Neocons” [Stephen Wertheim, New York Review of Books]. “In Washington, D.C., liberal foreign policy hands have reacted to Trump’s presidency less by reaching out to ordinary citizens than by crossing K Street to make common cause with their neighborhood neocons. Among other efforts, the Center for American Progress (CAP), the leading Clintonian policy shop, is now issuing joint reports with the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), the leading neocon incubator, which this year sent John Bolton to be National Security Adviser. CAP donated $200,000 to AEI in 2017. ” • Neera Tanden even now making sure that Wertheim never eats brunch in this town again….
Employment Situation, December 2018: “Put aside the dovish talk about a reluctant Federal Reserve after today’s employment report for December which far surpasses expectations” [Econoday]. “Nonfarm payrolls rose 312,000 for the strongest showing since February last year and among the very strongest of the whole expansion. And there are inflationary signs as well with an outsized 0.4 percent rise in average hourly earnings… Yet another positive in this report, which goes along with manufacturing payrolls, is a bounce higher for manufacturing hours in what will be a positive for the coming industrial production report. Recent economic data had been softening but a report like this changes the discussion, at least for now. Also kudos go to ADP which yesterday accurately foretold unexpected strength in today’s report.” • Another contradiction between data and surveys, too. More: “The household and establishment surveys both showed different growth. The year-to-date employment was the best since 2015. Last month’s employment gains were revised upward. The growth this month was well above expectations. Just considering this month’s data – this month was one of the best in 2018” [Econintersect]. “Overall, the data this month will be revised downward due to the government shutdown (as the cutoff for this data was before the shutdown). Could this be the last hurrah as the economy is slowing?” And: “Overall, this was a strong report. For 2018, job growth was been solid, averaging 220 thousand per month [Calculated Risk].
Purchasing Managers Services Index, December 2018: Stronger than expected [Econoday]. “Economic data, aside from this morning’s employment report, have generally been slowing including this report.”
Shipping: “Container spills are quite rare in the ocean shipping business, with less than 1,600 containers lost at sea annually on average, of more than 130 million shipped—about one thousandth of 1%, according to the World Shipping Council” [Wall Street Journal]. “Still, the industry is working on safety measures to reduce losses further, such as and establishing standard practices for loading containers onto ships.” • Hmm.
Retail: “The U.S. auto industry is showing signs of a slowdown. General Motors Co.’s U.S. sales fell nearly 3% in the fourth quarter… as weak business in sedans offset GM’s gains in the SUV market. U.S. automakers sold a total of about 17.2 million vehicles in 2018, defying earlier predictions of a downturn, but the outlook for 2019 isn’t optimistic as interest rates rise and more consumers are looking to used cars” [Wall Street Journal].
Tech: “Marriott Concedes 5 Million Passport Numbers Lost to Hackers Were Not Encrypted” [New York Times]. “Marriott International said on Friday that the biggest hacking of personal information in history was not quite as big as first feared, but for the first time conceded that its Starwood hotel unit did not encrypt the passport numbers for roughly five million guests.” • That’s a high price to pay for a mint on the pillow.
Mr. Market: “Stocks pull a U-turn and soar after jobs report, trade talks” [Associated Press]. “Global stocks are soaring Friday and reversing the big losses they suffered just a day ago. The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared almost 600 points in the latest twist in a wild three months for markets. Hopes for progress in the U.S.-China trade dispute, a strong report on the U.S. jobs market and comments from the head of the U.S. central bank about its interest rate policy all combined to cheer investors.”
Mr. Market: “Trump Took Credit for Stock Market Records. Does He Deserve Blame for the Plunge?” [MarketWatch]. “There’s even a theory as to why volatility remained low despite the Trump chaos: It’s that investors couldn’t read the confusing signals from Washington, so they ignored them…. Trump’s leadership style is also wearing poorly. His strategy of keeping people guessing and off balance might work well with adversaries, but it alienates friends. ‘I’m not aware of another U.S. president trying to weaponize uncertainty. And for good reason: It harms American interests as well as foreign ones,’ says Steven Davis, a professor at Booth who helped develop an economic policy uncertainty index. (The news-based version of the uncertainty index is just below the top 10th of its 34-year range of values.)…. Still, there’s rough justice in calling out the president for the stock market’s decline, simply because he so often cited its rise as evidence of his success.” • Yep.
The Fed: “Dow surges more than 600 points at peak, as Fed’s Powell emphasizes sensitivity to financial conditions” [MarketWatch]. “The Dow Jones Industrial Average on Friday jumped to a fresh peak as a trio of bankers, headlined by current Chairman Jerome Powell, underscored the health of the U.S. economy but also expressed an attentiveness to a market that has grown fragile amid a spate of interest-rate increases.” • “Attentiveness.”
Police State Watch
“Congressional report: Misconduct by federal prison leaders ‘ignored’ and ‘covered up’ on a regular basis” [USA Today]. “Serious misconduct by senior federal prison officials is ‘largely tolerated or ignored altogether’ as the agency fostered a culture in which some were shielded from discipline or even commended for their service by colleagues, according to a new congressional review. ‘For high-ranking officers, bad behavior is ignored or covered up on a regular basis, and certain officials who should be investigated can avoid discipline,’ House investigators concluded in a nine-page report for the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The review is the latest rebuke of the Federal Bureau of Prisons where severe staffing shortages, persistent sexual harassment claims and inmate violence have shadowed operations for years.” • And this is Club Fed, so you can imagine what it’s like at the state and local level. File under Everything Is Like CalPERS.
News you can use:
Entomology reminder: If you make or purchase a native bee nesting box (like a wooden block drilled with holes, or a bundle of hollow straws) reminder they should be either cleaned and sterilized or replaced every season once they are vacant
— k ☭ w a g a t a (@TeethBeetles) January 2, 2019
I think we know the answer….
Democrats now control the entire state government of Colorado — a major fossil fuel state. The question now is: will they use that power to challenge the oil/gas lobby & pass serious climate policies? https://t.co/amHmlejNfw
— David Sirota (@davidsirota) January 4, 2019
“It’s the End of the Gene As We Know It” [Nautilus]. “Scientists now understand that the information in the DNA code can only serve as a template for a protein. It cannot possibly serve as instructions for the more complex task of putting the proteins together into a fully functioning being, no more than the characters on a typewriter can produce a story…. Eggs and sperm contain a vast variety of factors: enzymes and other proteins; amino acids; vitamins, minerals; fats; RNAs (nucleic acids other than DNA); hundreds of cell signalling factors; and other products of the parents’ genes, other than genes themselves. Molecular biologists have been describing how those factors form networks of complex interactions. Together, they self-organize according to changing conditions around them. Being sensitive to statistical patterns in the changes, they anticipate future states, often creating novel, emergent properties to meet them.”
Our Famously Free Press
“Will the world embrace Plan S, the radical proposal to mandate open access to science papers?” [Nature]. “How far will Plan S spread? Since the September 2018 launch of the Europe-backed program to mandate immediate open access (OA) to scientific literature, 16 funders in 13 countries have signed on. That’s still far shy of Plan S’s ambition: to convince the world’s major research funders to require immediate OA to all published papers stemming from their grants. In December 2018, China stunned many by expressing strong support for Plan S. This month, a national funding agency in Africa is expected to join, possibly followed by a second U.S. funder. Others around the world are considering whether to sign on. Plan S, scheduled to take effect on 1 January 2020, has drawn support from many scientists, who welcome a shake-up of a publishing system that can generate large profits while keeping taxpayer-funded research results behind paywalls. But publishers (including AAAS, which publishes Science) are concerned, and some scientists worry that Plan S could restrict their choices. If Plan S fails to grow, it could remain a divisive mandate that applies to only a small percentage of the world’s scientific papers. To transform publishing, the plan needs global buy-in. The more funders join, the more articles will be published in OA journals that comply with its requirements.” • I don’t know if the world will embrace Plan S, but I doubt Elsevier will. Librarians?
“How neoliberalism is damaging your mental health” [The Conversation]. “Neoliberalised healthcare requires every patient (or rather, “client” of healthcare “services”) to take responsibility for her own state or behaviour. Mental healthcare is therefore being reframed as a series of “outcomes” geared at measurable improvement which the “service user” must manage by themselves as far as possible. Access to psychiatric diagnosis and support from public health services (and also within private or employer-run occupational healthcare schemes) sometimes depends on completion of a mood or symptom diary using smartphone or Fitbit self-tracking techniques. And there may well be more punitive future consequences for failure to self-track, as employers and perhaps benefit agencies gain more power to command this sort of performance from workers.” • From 2018, still germane.
“Behind the epidemic of police killings in America: Class, poverty and race” [WSWS] (parts two and three). “This study reviews all the data available on police shootings for the year 2017, and analyzes it based on geography, income, and poverty levels, as well as race. It identifies . Police violence is focused overwhelmingly on men lowest on the socio-economic ladder: in rural areas outside the South, predominately white men; in the Southwest, disproportionately Hispanic men; in mid-size and major cities, disproportionately black men. Significantly, in the rural South, where the population is racially mixed, white men and black men are killed by police at nearly identical rates. What unites these victims of police violence is not their race, but their class status (as well as, of course, their gender).” • Whaddaya know. Well worth a read.
“A dozen public-college presidents are paid over $1 million, but do taxpayers see the benefit?” [MarketWatch]. “There’s no evidence that paying a public-college president more results in increased revenue for the school — either in the form of a boost in state appropriations to the college or a jump in dollars raised from private sources, according to research published this week in the Review of Higher Education, an academic journal.” • If that’s your metric…
And speaking of the grifts of academe:
The University of Michigan Has At Least 82 Full-Time Diversity Officers at a Total Annual Payroll Cost of $10.6M. That Would Support Full In-State Tuition for 708 Students. pic.twitter.com/hdvgCMaSAc
— Mark J. Perry (@Mark_J_Perry) December 31, 2018
“The Unsexy Truth About the Avital Ronell Scandal” [Chronicle of Higher Education]. “Hanging over all of these exchanges, unmentioned, is the question of power. This is a grad student trying to make his way in an institution where everything depends on the good (or bad) word of his adviser.” • Power is both gender and race fluid, as we see both from the Ronell story, and the recent Fryer scandal at Harvard.
News of the Wired
The meta! It b-u-u-u-u-r-n-n-n-s!
This projet defeat ReCaptcha with 91% accuracy ?. How? You might ask. They ask for the audio challenge, dl the mp3, forward it to Google Speech2Text API and submit the answer back… and it works ??♂️ https://t.co/VRIs5L8zSM pic.twitter.com/2wbksku9OK
— ????????-????????? ??????? (@FGRibreau) January 3, 2019
“China becomes first nation to land on the Moon’s far side (Updated)” [Nature]. “Chang’e-4 reportedly landed inside the Von Kármán Crater at 2:26 UT on 3 January, and has sent back its first images. At 14:22 UT the mission’s 140-kilogram Yutu2 rover drove down a ramp and onto the lunar terrain, according to images widely circulated on social media. As the Moon’s far side is permanently hidden from Earth, the news of Chang’e-4’s successful landing was relayed by a spacecraft called Queqiao. It has been circling around a gravitationally stable point about 60,000 kilometres beyond the Moon since it launched in May.” More:
— LunarOrbiter (@LunarOrbiter) January 3, 2019
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 (CR):
CR writes: “Although Rose of Sharon shrubs are supposed to be deer-resistant, nobody told our local deer. Fortunately, these bloom enough to feed the deer and still leave some blooms for us to enjoy.” A look back to the summer…. I could still use some plants in ice or snow!
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