By Lambert Strether of Corrente
“The limited U.S.-China trade pact that includes Beijing’s commitment to buy up to $50 billion in American farm products annually over the next two years would be a boon to U.S. farmers. But… the sector’s relief over the deal is being tempered by skepticism over the ambitious targets” [Wall Street Journal]. “In nearly two decades of burgeoning American agricultural exports to China, there has never been a period with the scale of growth that the deal foresees. No formal written agreement has been released, and farmers say they’re not counting on export orders until they see details. The projected exports would be twice what China has ever ordered in a year, and one analyst says that could exceed the volume that the U.S. normally exports annually//.”
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune
Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:
Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart.
Nationally, we have new polls from Emerson and YouGov of yesterday, with NBC now intergrated, as of 12/19/2019, 1:00 PM EST. Biden first, Sanders strong second, Warren drops, Buttigeig drops, Bloomberg up, though still flirting with the bottom feeders. The top four seem to be an established pattern (or, if you prefer, narrative). On to the next debate (today, December 19), and Iowa:
And the numbers:
We also have a new Civiqs poll from Iowa:
And the numbers:
Caveat that state polls are flaky, a caucus is hard to poll, and Iowa is volatile.
CAVEAT I think we have to track the polls because so much of the horse-race coverage is generated by them; and at least with these charts we’re insulating ourselves against getting excited about any one poll. That said, we should remember that the polling in 2016, as it turned out, was more about narrative than about sampling, and that this year is, if anything, even more so. In fact, one is entitled to ask, with the latest Buttigieg boomlet (bubble? (bezzle?)) which came first: The narrative, or the poll? One hears of push polling, to be sure, but not of collective push polling by herding pollsters. We should also worry about state polls with very small sample sizes and big gaps in coverage. And that’s before we get to the issues with cellphones (as well as whether voters in very small, very early states game their answers). So we are indeed following a horse-race, but the horses don’t stay in their lanes, some of the horses are not in it to win but to interfere with the others, the track is very muddy, and the mud has splattered our binoculars, such that it’s very hard to see what’s going on from the stands. Also, the track owners are crooked and the stewards are on the take. Everything’s fine.
I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”
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Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden didn’t just compromise with segregationists. He fought for their cause in schools, experts say.” [NBC]. “[P]olitical experts and education policy researchers say Biden, a supporter of civil rights in other arenas, did not simply compromise with segregationists — he also led the charge on an issue that kept black students away from the classrooms of white students. His legislative work against school integration advanced a more palatable version of the ‘separate but equal’ doctrine and undermined the nation’s short-lived effort at educational equality, legislative and education history experts say. ‘Biden, who I think has been good overall on civil rights, was a leader on anti-busing,’ Rucker Johnson, author of the book “Children of the Dream: Why School Integration Works,’ said. ‘A leader on giving America the language to oppose it despite it being the most effective means of school integration at that time.'”
Buttigieg (D)(1): “EXCLUSIVE: Pete Buttigieg’s Police Officers Caught on Tape Quoting KKK Scene from “Django Unchained” While Arresting Black Man” [Jordan Chariton, Medium]. “While the South Bend Police Department arrested a black resident on Wednesday, officers gleefully quoted a scene from Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained’ in which hooded KKK members bicker amongst themselves while riding to kill Jamie Fox’s character, Django. The individual being arrested, 21-year-old African American Marko Mosgrove, broadcasted his arrest to Facebook. Multiple officers with guns and shields over their faces rammed into the man’s home before they discovered his phone was livestreaming. ‘Hey, that phone is recording,’ an officer says, six minutes and 17 seconds into the livestream. The officers then turn the phone around, resulting in the screen going black. But the audio continued broadcasting throughout the arrest as officers reenacted the film’s scene. 18 minutes and 23 seconds into the livestream, an unknown officer giggles while asking: ‘You know what’s a good idea for your kid? Is a skull mask in case you have to shoot a guy.'” • Oops.
Sanders (D)(1): “Freedom Rider: Propaganda and the Defeat of Jeremy Corbyn” [Black Agenda Report]. “Corbyn and his party were relentlessly targeted by the corporate media who worked in collusion with the Tories, the surveillance state, and rightwing forces in the country. He was accused of being a Russian agent and an anti-Semite. … Most voters said that the charges of anti-Semitism didn’t sway their choices, but propaganda works in an insidious way. Repetition of a lie can change minds, much like subliminal messaging on a constant loop. Eventually the target cannot be thought of in a positive light and is connected with the libel just because it is uttered often enough…. The post-election analysis on this side of the Atlantic parroted all the claims of Corbyn’s opponents. We are told that the Democrats can’t go too far to the left, that is to say protect the welfare state, because they will end up like Corbyn and the Labour party. Like clockwork, Bernie Sanders is accused of being an anti-Semite. The smear worked so well that there is no need to come up with something new. If Corbyn can be defeated with a libel it can work just as well on Sanders.”
Sanders (D)(2): “Biden’s Campaign Keeps Being Celebrated For Its ‘Resilience,’ But What About Bernie’s?” [Essence]. “For several months now, there has been an endless discourse in our political coverage tied around the alleged resilience of Joe Biden’s campaign. However, that same courtesy has curiously not been extended to Bernie Sanders, who throughout the entire campaign, has not only maintained top tier status but has seen his numbers rise in more recent polling…. It is not just unfair to Bernie Sanders that his campaign and its generally strong performance thus far has been sidelined in the media more often than not. It is a disservice to all voters, and in particular, the ones who stand to gain the most by nominating a progressive candidate (he is not the only one running) who wants to advance the quality of life of working-class people rather than merely serving as some empty symbol that the storm is over now.” • Note the source.
Warren (D)(1): “Warren Sensibly Avoids Medicare for All Fantasy World” [Ed Kilgore, New York Magazine]. “That is, of course, a completely accurate description of the plan she’s had on the table for over a month now. And she has always made it plain that the reason she thinks a full Medicare for All implementation will be possible during the second stage (just three years after she is inaugurated) is that many Americans will choose to support the public health-care plan .” • This argument is so dumb. They have seen it, because their older relatives have it. Sheesh.
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“Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders Have a Problem: Each Other” [New York Times]. “‘You worry about Bernie and Elizabeth splitting the progressive vote because between the two of them they’ve got a huge bloc,’ said Ms. Chojnowski, who initially considered Ms. Warren but has come back to Mr. Sanders because, as she put it, ‘he’s the thought leader.'” • You say “splitting the progressive vote” like that’s a bad thing. Anyhow, there’s no need for Sanders to attack Warren; “never interrupt your enemy when they are in the process of making a mistake.” So if attacks have to be made, Warren has to attack Sanders. Good luck with that.
NOTE We’ll have a debate live blog posted at 7:30pm ET. Bring popcorn.
“6 big questions ahead of Democrats’ final debate of 2019” [Associated Press]. “THE END OF ‘MEDICARE FOR ALL’? It was a litmus issue for ambitious Democrats a year ago. But now, only one of the seven Democrats on the debate stage is promising to fight for Medicare for All immediately after taking office. That would be the bill’s author, Bernie Sanders, who is nothing if not consistent. The other progressive firebrand onstage, Elizabeth Warren, has settled on a plan to transition to Medicare for All by the end of her first term, while none of the other candidates would go even that far. Most support a hybrid system that would give consumers the choice to join a government-run system or keep the private insurance they have. No issue has symbolized the fight for the soul of the Democratic Party in 2020 more than this one. And yet, for now, the centrists appear to be winning.” • P4AHCF doing its work.
“Nancy Pelosi Just Made a Major Impeachment Power Play” [Vice]. ” Minutes after the House voted to impeach President Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) dropped a bombshell: She won’t send the articles of impeachment to the Senate until she feels they’ll get a fair hearing on the other side of Capitol Hill… Remarkably, Pelosi repeatedly refused to guarantee that the Senate would ever get the articles of impeachment, effectively undercutting the pressure that the Constitutional requirement that the Senate act swiftly on articles of impeachment.” • I quickly scanned the impeachment clauses in the Constitution, but I missed this requirement. Is it there?
“Nancy Pelosi’s pin at the impeachment debate was a declaration: The republic will survive this” [WaPo]. “And for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was at the center of it all, it was a day for mournful black, not power pink. Not resistance white…. As she spoke, it was impossible to miss the large golden mace brooch pinned to the left side of her chest. It is an eagle with its wings spread, perched on a pearl mounted on a sheath of gilded rods. This Ann Hand brooch, which exudes majesty and power and old Washington style, was inspired by the mace of the House of Representatives. The original artifact, created in 1841, sits in the House chamber and serves as a symbol of the sergeant at arms’ authority as well as his or her role in maintaining decorum.” • Lol, then why not exercise and enforce the subpoena power?
UPDATE “McConnell taunts Pelosi as ‘too afraid’ to send impeachment articles” [Politico]. “‘It’s like the prosecutors are getting cold feet in front of the entire country and second-guessing whether they even want to go to trial,’ McConnell said in a 30-minute floor speech on Thursday morning. ‘They said impeachment was so urgent that it could not even wait for due process but now they’re content to sit on their hands. It is comical.'” • I don’t get why Pelosi thinks withholding the articles gives her leverage. McConnell can just say “Send them over when you’re ready.” “Hurry up and wait” makes no sense.
“‘Let Them Impeach And Be Damned’: History Repeats Itself With A Vengeance As The House Impeaches Donald Trump” [Jonathan Turley].
The Trump impeachment is even weaker than the Johnson impeachment, which had an accepted criminal act as its foundation. This will be the first presidential impeachment to go forward without such a recognized crime… The Trump impeachment also marks the fastest impeachment of all time, depending on how you count the days in the Johnson case.
Take the obstruction of Congress article. I have strongly encouraged the House to abandon the arbitrary deadline of impeaching Trump before Christmas and to take a couple more months to build a more complete record and to allow judicial review of the underlying objections of the Trump administration. But Democrats have set a virtual rocket docket schedule and will impeach Trump for not turning over witnesses and documents in that short period even though he is in court challenging congressional demands. Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton both were able to go to court to challenge demands for testimony and documents. The resulting judicial opinions proved critical to the outcome of the cases….
The same is true with the abuse of power article. I testified that the House had a legitimate reason to investigate this allegation and, if there was a showing of a quid pro quo, could impeach Trump for it. Democrats called highly compelling witnesses who said they believed such a quid pro quo existed, but the record is conflicted. There is no statement of a quid pro quo in the conversations between Trump and the Ukrainians, and White House aides have denied being given such a demand. Trump declared during two direct conversations, with Republican Senator Ron Johnson and Ambassador Gordon Sondland, that there was no quid pro quo.
One can question the veracity of his statement, as he likely knew of the whistleblower at the time of the calls. But there is no direct statement in the record by Trump to the contrary. Democrats and their witnesses have instead insisted that the impeachment can be proven by inferences or presumptions. The problem is that there still are a significant number of witnesses who likely have direct evidence, but the House has refused to go to court to compel their appearance. The House will therefore move forward with an impeachment that seems designed to fail in the Senate, as if that is a better option than taking the time to build a complete case.
Turley’s MSDNC billings are gonna dry right up.
* * *
In another part of the forest:
While the House has been focused on impeachment, the Senate just advanced TEN of Trump's judges.
Only Dems to vote for LESS THAN HALF:
Mazie Hirono: 0/10
Kirsten Gillibrand: 2/10
Ed Markey: 2/10
Brian Schatz: 3/10
Chuck Schumer: 3/10
Jeff Merkley: 4/10
Ron Wyden: 4/10
— Jonathan "Boo and Vote" Cohn (@JonathanCohn) December 19, 2019
And eight or ten years from now, one of these judges is going to get nominated for the Supreme Court, and oh the liberal Democrat wailing and gnashing of teeth!
Retail: “One forecast says consumers will return up to $95 billion worth of merchandise purchased over the holidays” [Wall Street Journal]. “United Parcel Service Inc. expects to handle more than one million returned e-commerce packages a day this season, with volume peaking on Jan. 2 at about 1.9 million packages.”
Supply Chain: “The Baby Yoda supply chain isn’t waiting around for Disney. A small army of cottage manufacturers and is rushing in to fill a surprising gap in the Star Wars-related streaming series “The Mandalorian.”… [C]rafty fans are creating and selling their own versions of the big-eyed Baby Yoda character that has become a phenomenon” [Wall Street Journal]. “Disney is fighting the efforts, but the trouble is that the public can’t buy an official Baby Yoda. Disney put off fabricating merchandise to protect the surprise when it appeared on screen, and so sanctioned Baby Yoda toys won’t be available until early 2020. The situation marks a rare disconnect in the big-budget marketing behind popular fantasy movies.”
Supply Chain: “Cracking the Code of Global Value Chains” [Law and Political Economy]. “With growing complexity of [Global Value Chains (GVCs)], a focus on the legal form of its constituent parts becomes increasingly problematic, both analytically and normatively. Take for instance the semiconductor chip manufacturer Intel that uses no less than 19,000 suppliers in over 100 countries to provide the raw material, tools, machines, logistics and packaging it uses. Here, any classical ascriptions of linear control and steerability through the lead firm seem hopelessly reductionist. As much as this complexity can be critiqued as partly fabricated to evade regulation, it is a dominant feature of global production. Only an institutional understanding that takes GVCs as a unit of analysis in its own right can fully apprehend the dynamics that animate GVCs and that make them distinctively hard to regulate.” • Code is law once again, it seems.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 90 Extreme Greed (previous close: 87 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 74 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Dec 19 at 1:14pm.
“History’s Largest Mining Operation Is About to Begin” [The Atlantic]. “The biggest prize for mining companies will be access to international waters, which cover more than half of the global seafloor and contain more valuable minerals than all the continents combined. Regulations for ocean mining have never been formally established. The United Nations has given that task to an obscure organization known as the International Seabed Authority, which is housed in a pair of drab gray office buildings at the edge of Kingston Harbour, in Jamaica. Unlike most UN bodies, the ISA receives little oversight. It is classified as “autonomous” and falls under the direction of its own secretary general, who convenes his own general assembly once a year, at the ISA headquarters. For about a week, delegates from 168 member states pour into Kingston from around the world, gathering at a broad semicircle of desks in the auditorium of the Jamaica Conference Centre. Their assignment is not to prevent mining on the seafloor but to mitigate its damage—selecting locations where extraction will be permitted, issuing licenses to mining companies, and drafting the technical and environmental standards of an underwater Mining Code. Writing the code has been difficult. ISA members have struggled to agree on a regulatory framework. While they debate the minutiae of waste disposal and ecological preservation, the ISA has granted “exploratory” permits around the world. Some 30 mineral contractors already hold licenses to work in sweeping regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.” • What could go wrong?
“Ancient chewing gum reveals diet of Stone Age woman” [Sky News]. “An ancient piece of “chewing gum” has revealed a Danish woman born 5,700 years ago probably had dark skin, blue eyes and ate a diet including hazelnuts and duck. Scientists examined the ancient piece of birch pitch which provided insights into the oral microbiome and the individual’s potential food sources.” • =
“Who Pays in Medicare Part D? Giving Plans More Skin in the Game” [NEJM]. “[T]he enacting law for Part D included several features limiting the financial risk to plans, particularly risks associated with high-cost beneficiaries. Key among these features is the federal reinsurance program: once a beneficiary reaches a ‘catastrophic limit’ — corresponding today to about $8,000 in total drug spending — the federal government steps in to subsidize 80% of the remaining beneficiary spending for the year. The plan’s liability falls to just 15%, with patients responsible for the remaining 5%. The net effect is that the government, not the plan, bears most of the burden for those with the highest spending in the program.” • Lol, so Medicare Part D — with the best of intentions, of course — became a cherry-picking boondoggle. A bipartisan neoliberal infestation, as they so often are.
One of my favorite stories I’ve written for @BlockClubCHI , about a community’s efforts to revive a generations-old tradition of having the 🔥 littest 🔥Christmas lights in town: https://t.co/wYNl9Q69rD
— Pascal (@Pascal_Sabino) December 18, 2019
Is this a regional thing, maybe confined to snowy states? Or is competitive Christmas lighting nationwide?
Why isn’t this an app:
— Sword lesbian. (@TMSTSTFD) August 30, 2019
“Google’s Larry Page gave $400 million in Christmas donations. Not a penny went straight to charity. [Recode]. “In 2015, Page’s foundation dug deep and directed $94 million in new Christmastime giving. The next year around the same time, it sent $129 million out the door. By 2017, the group was donating twice as much during the holidays as it was just two years before, giving $180 million from his fortune to philanthropy…. There was just one problem, buried deep in tax records: None of this $400 million donated by his philanthropy, the Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation, was actually going directly to charities. And these gifts, as for many donors, were not inspired by holiday cheer — but likely by an end-of-year deadline that incentivizes donors to effectively skirt the few rules that are meant to hold charitable foundations like Page’s accountable. But in recent years, Page’s foundation has made last-minute donations to hit the threshold only by making bulk donations to separate charitable accounts Page also had some control over, donor-advised funds (DAFs). Those donations technically count as contributions by the foundation, helping it meet the 5 percent standard, even though that money can then sit in the donor-advised funds indefinitely, with no requirement that it goes to needy nonprofits.” • Then again, maybe the money is better sitting there than doing whatever it is Page wants to do (see Bill Gates on charters).
“New Belgium Brewing Company to sell to Kirin’s global beverage empire” [Coloradoan]. “Once inked, the acquisition will mean New Belgium is no longer employee-owned, she said.” • Sigh, though I guess the employees can use the retirement money….
“Earning Income on the Side Is a Large and Growing Slice of American Life” [New York Times]. ” Our Great Jobs Demonstration Survey was based on responses from over 6,000 American workers in the spring of 2019. The data show that 36 percent of workers are not in the traditional one-job-for-one-employer relationship. Eleven percent of all workers are both self-employed and working for an employer, similar to I.R.S. data showing that 10 percent of tax filers fall into that category.”
“Companies Can Ban Use of Work Email in Union Organizing (1)” [Bloomberg]. “Businesses can ban workers from using company email for union and other organizing purposes, the National Labor Relations Board decided in a Dec. 17 decision. The 3-1 ruling in favor of Caesars Entertainment effectively revokes a right granted in 2014 to workers who have access to employers’ email systems for other reasons, and overturns the 5-year-old Purple Communications Inc. ruling issued under a Democratic-majority board. The Board’s decision allows employers to restrict use of their email and other information technology systems to certain purposes so long as they don’t target union-related communications and activity. It also creates an exception for situations where there aren’t other reasonable means to communicate on non-working time. The decision is a blow to worker advocacy groups and unions, who urged the NLRB to maintain the 2014 policy on the basis that email has become a central and natural way for co-workers to organize and communicate.” • There’s no app for that?
“Mind-Forged Manacles” [New Left Review]. “In his latest work, [Richard] Seymour turns this disenchantment on the miasma of social media, excoriating the belief that Twitter—defined as ‘the world’s first ever public, live, collective, open-ended writing project’—will instigate positive political change or democratize the means of communication. Following Taylor and Taplin, The Twittering Machine argues that this digital platform is irredeemably reactionary—that the consciousness it ingrains is indicative of a political toxicity that should dissuade the left from overestimating its value as an organizing vehicle or propaganda tool. Seymour begins by asserting that the incredible popularity of the Twittering Machine (his shorthand for the online social industry) testifies to the degradation of social life under late capitalism. In his view, the basic function of Twitter and Facebook is remedial—to provide a stand-in for communities destroyed by decades of neoliberal rule—which means that digital platforms must be understood as a kind of dream-world: a site of instantaneous wish-fulfilment where we can retreat from the contemporary realities of hardship and isolation.”
“The ‘1619 Project’ Gets Schooled” [Wall Street Journal]. • Shout-out to WSWS (!).
News of the Wired
“Your Friends Are Not HR” [The Baffler]. “Transactional language strips love, kindness, and empathy from the social scripts of friendship, the exact sentiments people need when coming to you for help, regardless of whether or not you can provide that help at that specific time…. The appeal of the managerial language of these texts is that they seek to avoid the scariness of opening yourself to the emotions of others and their messy vulnerability. But it is precisely that messy vulnerability which makes friendships difficult (especially to people like me who can’t even handle their own emotions) but also worthwhile and wholesome. There’s no need to have to sound like you’re about to bill your friends for emotional labor.”
A lost world, for train fans and gamers. Thread:
We went to this place in Jersey yesterday called Northlandz, the world's largest model railroad. I mentioned to the counter guy that we'd been to Roadside America and he scoffed, saying that Roadside America could fit in just one of the rooms. He was certainly not lying. pic.twitter.com/jezqqPC8Eo
— Fairytale Of NY [CLEAN VER] (@bombsfall) December 19, 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 and coral 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: “Here’s some fall colors from Mineral King, all gone with the wind now.” And the snow! (Readers responded so well to my last request that I am still in Fall pictures, when it is winter, but then again perhaps seeing winter in spring’s rear view mirror will be a good thing!
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