By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Mission Impossible: China can’t meet its commitments on U.S. crude, LNG, coal – Russell” [Reuters]. “The more you delve into the details of China’s commitment to buy an additional $52.4 billion in U.S. energy over the next two years, the more it becomes apparent the goal is unachievable, even with the best will in the world…. China’s imports from the United States this year would have to be more than double past record monthly imports of U.S.-sourced crude oil, liquefied natural gas (LNG) and coal. If that already seems difficult, it would take a tripling of the best-ever months to meet the 2021 target.”
“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.
Today, we combine Survey USA and IPSOS nationally, as of 1/21/2020, 12:00 PM EST, two polls in IA, and polls in CA and NJ. On the average, the pattern of Biden first, Sanders slowly closing on Biden, Warren fading, and then Buttigeig is still pronounced, with Bloomberg still closing on Buttigieg, which is interesting or concerning. NOTE: If we take out the averaging, Biden had a massive drop, Sanders slightly leads, followed by Undecided (!), and Warren has slipped back into a tie for fourth with Buttigieg. Of course, these are national polls, about to be massively thrown into confusion by IA, NH, SC, and NV — and then CA.
And the numbers:
NOTE: The national polls are the ones with the black circles around the results. The state polls follow, ordered chronogically. I didn’t want to make charts for them all, so numbers only:
In CA, a new Survey USA poll:
In IA, a Neighborhood Research and Iowa Media poll:
Again in IA, a David Binder Research poll”
In NJ, an Emerson poll:
Summary: Biden juggernaut rolls on, Sanders challenging strongly, Warren in difficulties, Buttigieg patchy. And California has turned into a three-way tie.
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.”
* * *
UPDATE Biden (D)(1): “‘Middle Class’ Joe Biden has a corruption problem – it makes him a weak candidate” [Zephyr Teachout, Guardian]. “t looks like “Middle Class” Joe has perfected the art of taking big contributions, then representing his corporate donors at the cost of middle- and working-class Americans. Converting campaign contributions into legislative favors and policy positions isn’t being “moderate”. It is the kind of transactional politics Americans have come to loathe. There are three clear examples. First, Biden’s support for finance over working-class Americans. His career was bankrolled by the credit card industry…. Second, healthcare. On 25 April, the day he announced his campaign, Biden went straight to a fundraiser co-hosted by the chief executive of a major health insurance corporation… Third, climate change. Biden signed a pledge not to take money from the fossil fuel industry, then broke his promise.” • All correct. This is the article for which Sanders “apologized.” See below.
UPDATE Biden (D)(2): “EXCLUSIVE POLL: Just as Many African-Americans Say They’d Consider Voting for Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden” [Vice]. ” Just as many African-Americans say they’d consider voting for Bernie Sanders as Joe Biden, according to new a VICE News-Ipsos Poll, suggesting Sanders might not have as much of a problem wooing black voters if he’s the Democratic nominee as some have assumed. Fully 56% of African-Americans said they’d “consider voting for” Sanders in 2020 — a statistical tie with the 54% who said the same about former Vice President Joe Biden and significantly higher than any other candidate. Only 23% of African-Americans said they wouldn’t consider voting for Sanders, about the same number as the 24% who said they wouldn’t consider voting for Biden. Sanders does even better relative to Biden and the rest of the field among Hispanics: 47% say they’d consider voting for Sanders, while 37% said they’d consider voting for Biden. More Hispanics say they wouldn’t consider voting for Biden (37%) than wouldn’t vote for Sanders (31%).” • Maybe it’s time to adopt “Bro” as a badge of honor, as exemplary of the multiracial working class.
UPDATE Biden (D)(3): “Op-ed: Joe Biden Is The White Moderate Dr. King Warned Us About” [Essence]. “Joe Biden, the architect of the 1994 Crime Bill and former U.S. Vice-President, is not as slick as he thinks he is. In fact, he’s a cliché, a stock photo, an avatar, for every single liberal white man who believes that just because he’s not a member of the Republican Party or an adherent to the most virulent white supremacist policies, that he can disguise his rancid racism behind “Aw shucks, I just tell it like it is” performative politic-ing and Black people will just fall in line. Because at least he’s not Donald Trump. He proved that again Tuesday night at an NYC fundraiser, during which he reportedly told the crowd that he and James O. Eastland, the long-serving, segregationist, white supremacist Mississippi senator known as ‘The Voice of the White South,’ and the ‘Godfather of Mississippi Politics’, shared a mutual fondness and respect for each other.” • From June, still germane. Note the source (!).
UPDATE Biden (D)(4): Biden’s appeal, right here:
A video of Joe Biden taking a selfie with an elevator operator on the way to his endorsement interview with The New York Times has accumulated thousands of views. The Times ultimately endorsed presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar. https://t.co/D65nJwUo7p pic.twitter.com/UyB2xieyg0
— CNN (@CNN) January 21, 2020
Even my stone-cold heart is touched.
Bloomberg (D)(1): “Mike Bloomberg is assembling a team of fundraising experts to recruit wealthy donors – but not to take their money” [CNBC]. “Presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg is creating a team of fundraising experts to recruit wealthy donors. But he doesn’t want their money. He wants them to act as surrogates for his campaign. In recent weeks, Bloomberg has tapped veteran fundraising consultant Shari Yost Gold as a senior advisor for this effort, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter who declined to be named as these decisions have been made in private. Her consulting firm previously worked for Sen. Kamala Harris’ 2020 campaign, Federal Election Commission records show.” • Oh.
Buttigieg (D)(1): Out there in the tall corn….
My understanding is that Pete Buttigieg lives in South Bend near where this is centered. Based on Google searches, Pete would have to walk over 2 hours to the nearest corn field.
— Zach D Roberts (@zdroberts) January 21, 2020
UPDATE Klobuchar (D)(1): “The Gaping Hole in Senator Amy Klobuchar’s Electability Argument” [Daily Beast]. Deck: “‘To be this scrappy underdog that is the terminator of elections isn’t exactly true,’ one well-placed Iowa Democratic official said.” • Paywalled, but from the reporter: “But there’s one thing missing from that pitch: She never really faced a competitive race.”
UPDATE Sanders (D)(1): “Black caucus in Nevada’s largest county endorses Sanders” [The Hill]. “The Clark County Black Caucus (CCBC) in Nevada on Thursday endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) for president. ‘Bernie Sanders has been a lifelong advocate for civil rights and economic justice. His presidential campaign goes the furthest in addressing issues that impact the African American community nationally and here in Nevada,’ caucus chairwoman Yvette Williams said in a statement.”
Bernie adopting Corbyn's failed strategy of apologizing to all the wrong people for all the wrong reasons.
Gotta wonder if Bernie isn't really in this to win, like 2016. At least you can be sure Warren's in it to win. But Bernie—hard to shake doubts.https://t.co/G1sHVC6gFE
— Mark Ames (@MarkAmesExiled) January 21, 2020
Readers, I am not sure I agree. I will add a short essay on this topic at this point in a few minutes. UPDATE Here it is:
* * *
“Sanders apologizes to Biden for surrogate’s op-ed alleging he has a ‘big corruption problem'” [CBS]. This is Teachout’s Guardian article, linked to above. “‘It is absolutely not my view that Joe is corrupt in any way. And I’m sorry that that op-ed appeared,’ Sanders told CBS News… While Teachout does not officially work on the Sanders campaign, she stumps for him, and has introduced and endorsed him…” • In other words, not a surrogate. More:
CBS News asked Sanders if he approved of his supporters aggressively attacking his opponents online.
“No, I really don’t,” he said. “If anyone knows me, what I believe is we need a serious debate in this country on issues. We don’t need to demonize people who may disagree with us.”
“I appeal to my supporters: Please, engage in civil discourse,” he added. “And by the way, we’re not the only campaign that does it. Other people act that way as well. I would appeal to everybody: Have a debate on the issues. We can disagree with each other without being disagreeable, without being hateful. That is not what American politics should be about.”
Later Monday night, Biden night thanked Bernie for his remarks via Twitter.
“These kinds of attacks have no place in this primary,” the former vice president added. “Let’s all keep our focus on making Donald Trump a one-term president.
So this is a little bit of a mess (and Sanders’ “we’re not the only campaign that does it” is getting lost in the shuffle). So a few remarks:
1) My guess that Sanders wanted, at all costs, 14 days before the Iowa caucus, to avoid a Trump tweet during the impeachment trial calling out Joe Biden (and his failson, Hunter) for corruption, with the addition “And Bernie agrees with me.”
2) The Sanders campaign seems to have some issues keeping the distinction between surrogates and supporters clear (as the CBS story points out), making it clear that the surrogates are on message at all times, and that the campaign is not responsible for what supporters say. The Cenk debacle shows the same issue with the campaign machinery, which is easily fixed.
3) The Sanders campaign is also unique in its enormous canvassing operation and the fervor, let us say, of its online supporters, especially on the Twitter. (They seem to be able to make hashtags rise effortlessly, and amazingly, this cynical observer doesn’t see signs of “coordinated inauthentic activity,” e.g., scripting). His opponents, collectively, are using a Rovian strategy of attacking this strength, by painting his online supporters as uniquely aggressive, and hoping that bleeds over into delegitimizing the canvassers. (So far, that has not happened; see the tweet from Kurt Hackbarth, below.) Personally, I’m happy to adopt the successful “Clean for Gene” strategy online, but that’s not necessarily enough. Liberal Democrat and PMC fragility is very real, and they are prone to interpret any conflict as aggression, or even assault (“This is violence!”). Here, the campaign needs to do more than issue pleas for civility; they need to give or propagate actual guidance in handling liberal fragility.
4) Why worry about liberal fragility? Because although Sanders support has been inexorably rising, the hard core of Sanders support is not enough, all on its own, to win the primaries. Others need to be brought in. (“Paris is worth a mass.”) I don’t know if polls mean anything at all any more, and perhaps small donors are a better proxy for candidate support. See this chart:
— OpenSecrets.org (@OpenSecretsDC) January 21, 2020
4a) Note that Sanders voters are least likely to have given to any other candidate. His support (light blue) is hard core (which the puppet masters of the DNC would do well to consider).
4b) The candidates from whom Sanders can expect to flip votes are, in order of their weakness for having votes peeled off, are Klobuchar (dark blue 52.9%), Warren (47.3%), Buttigieg (38.7%), and Biden (30.3%). So the apology? For Klobuchar voters to flip, I suggest “Iowa Nice” matters. (Readers will correct me; for all I know Iowa voters reward viciousness, as long as its done passive-aggressively, say.) For Warren voters, it may be that those who are not diehard Clintonites/first woman President types may see the apology to Biden as a proxy or precursor of an apology to them (flimsy, I know). For Buttigieg voters, perhaps they are still smarting from Warren’s attacks. For Biden voters, I think first that the Social Security issue should do the trick, and there’s no need to over-egg the pudding. Finally, “corruption” (as opposed to the “billionaire class”) is Warren’s framing, and it’s no more helpful to have Warren say “Bernie agrees with me” than Trump saying it.
5) Finally, I think the Sanders campaign needs better control over messaging. Coincidentally or not, Warren’s smear threw the Sanders campaign off-stride just when it was getting rolling on Social Security, and Biden promptly conflated Warren calling Sanders a liar with Sirota “doctoring” a tape. But making Social Security the issue one day, and corruption the issue another day looks scattershot. Because it is!
6) So my interpretation is that Sanders put out a potentially raging conflagration instantly, but clumsily. The campaign shouldn’t have allowed the situation to arise.
* * *
— Ansel Herz (@Ansel) October 4, 2019
Sanders (D)(4): New ad:
Warren (D)(1): “Elizabeth Warren’s Electoral Track Record Is Incredibly Worrying” [Jacobin]. “To win in November, Democrats do not need to unite “all parts” of their party: they need to win more votes than Donald Trump, especially in key battleground states. Warren will struggle to match even Hillary Clinton’s historically poor record in Republican-trending rural and small-town communities. That means that three groups of voters are especially critical, none of which voted Democrat in the last cycle: Obama voters who defected to Trump, Obama voters who did not vote in 2016, and people who typically do not vote at all… Who has had more success winning over independents and Republicans, and who has brought more voters to the polls, Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren?” • I think we know the answer…
* * *
UPDATE “‘He totally said it’ or ‘complete BS’? Sanders and Warren voters dig in” [Politico]. “‘I would have rather him said: . Boom. Done,’ said Tanya Keith, 48, who works in historic preservation in Des Moines and attended a Planned Parenthood event with Warren on Saturday. Her reaction to the back-and-forth: “He totally said it! Women are watching, Bernie.'” • I’m not clear on Keith’s logic. She wants a non-apolgy apology? But:
I made 200+ calls for #Bernie2020 this weekend. Know how many times the Warren smear came up?
Zero. Not once.
Know what did? Medical bankruptcy, kids in cages, feelings of helplessness at a climate out of control. People have better things to worry about than craven hit jobs.
— Kurt Hackbarth 🌹 (@KurtHackbarth) January 20, 2020
Our Famously Free Press
UPDATE From Sanders’ single vote on the New York Times Editorial Board. Well worth a listen:
.@MaraGay on @BernieSanders #TheWeeklyNYT "He really deeply understands a lot about life in working America that frankly other establishment Democrats aren't talking about… pic.twitter.com/TKu3P8ApyL
— People for Bernie (@People4Bernie) January 20, 2020
UPDATE More on the Times:
I hereby endorse butter. And also margarine. These are perilous times.
— Preet Bharara (@PreetBharara) January 20, 2020
UPDATE Well, they don’t call it Talking Points Memo for nothing:
When your bizarre hatred of Bernie makes you defend something you spent *years* criticizing pic.twitter.com/0OzdzxMxPg
— Samuel D. Finkelstein II (@CANCEL_SAM) January 20, 2020
2016 Post Mortem
“Hillary Clinton in Full: A Fiery New Documentary, Trump Regrets and Harsh Words for Bernie: ‘Nobody Likes Him'” (interview) [Hollywood Reporter]. • An extraordinary emission of bile, real Cersei Lannister territory, well worth a read. Here is the key point:
If [Sanders] gets the nomination, will you endorse and campaign for him?
[CLINTON] I’m not going to go there yet.
I’ll be waiting for Neera Tanden to slap down this extra-ordinary assault on party unity from [cough] a respected party elder. Note this also says “Open season!” on Sanders to every remaining Clinton supporter. Be sure to bring phones to the polls.
“Trump Impeachment: What to Expect as the Senate Trial Begins Today” [New York Times]. “Mr. McConnell’s proposed rules put off a debate over whether to call witnesses and compel new evidence until the middle of the trial. Senate Democrats say that may have worked in the past, but this case is different. Mr. Trump systematically blocked testimony in the House impeachment inquiry from a dozen government officials and refused to hand over a single document, and now, Democrats say, the Senate has an obligation to set it right.’ • How can anybody possibly accept this argument, when the Democrats didn’t let the court challenges to Trump’s blocked testimony play out? It’s all performative, certainly; but the nature of the performance bewilders me.
“Justice Department backed Trump strong-arm of House impeachment probe” [Politico]. “The Justice Department secretly blessed President Donald Trump’s decision to stonewall the Democratic-led House over impeachment last year, the president’s legal team disclosed Monday.
The legal brief submitted to the Senate as part of Trump’s defense includes an opinion from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel concluding that Trump was justified in categorically rejecting the House’s demands for information before lawmakers passed a formal impeachment resolution on Oct. 31.”
UPDATE “Trump’s impeachment trial could render verdict on Senate and key players” [USA Today]. “When the Senate trial convenes Tuesday at 1 p.m., members will debate the rules for the proceedings. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has proposed beginning opening arguments Wednesday. Each side would have 24 hours to present its argument over two days, meaning sessions would need to go late into the night. Under his proposal, the debate over whether to subpoena witnesses or documents would come after the opening arguments and questions. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized the proposal, saying it wouldn’t automatically allow House Democrats to admit their evidence into the record and would have arguments continue into “the wee hours of the night” to hide information from the American people.” • Ya know, Chuck, a lot of Americans work into “the wee hours of the night.” Consider coffee?
Realignment and Legitimacy
“Hawley 2024? Missouri Republican could be ‘Trump 2.0,’ say conservative supporters” [Kansas City Star]. “The Capitol Hill publication compared Hawley to another Midwesterner with an Ivy League pedigree who won the White House as a first-term senator: Barack Obama. Hawley, 40, is not eager to embrace the comparison to a Democratic president. But as the youngest member of the Senate he has grabbed Washington’s attention by introducing more than 20 bills and resolutions during his first year in office and picking fights with some of the world’s largest companies. But while Obama’s early message centered on hope, Hawley’s has focused on despair. It was striking rhetoric at a time when Republicans, who control both Jefferson City and the White House, want to celebrate economic victories.” • And simultaneously, the New York Times Editorial Board looks at the only Democrat candidate who brings up “deaths of despair” like he’s something they scraped off their shoes. They’re asking for it, they’re just asking for it.
Shipping: “New Analysis Puts Price Tag on Shipping Decarbonization” [Maritime Executive]. “At least $1 trillion of capital investment in land-based and ship-related infrastructure is required to halve international shipping’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, according to a new study by UMAS and the Energy Transitions Commission for the Getting to Zero Coalition. Radical change is needed to meet the IMO goal of reducing shipping’s total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50 percent of 2008 levels by 2050. The transition requires significant infrastructure investments in new fuel production, supply chains and a new or retrofitted fleet. Depending on the production method, the cumulative investment needed between 2030 and 2050 to halve shipping’s emissions amounts to approximately $1-1.4 trillion or an average of $50-70 billion annually for 20 years. If shipping is to fully decarbonize by 2050, this will require further investments of some $400 billion over 20 years, bringing the total to $1.4-1.9 trillion. The biggest share of investments is needed in the land-based infrastructure and production facilities for low carbon fuels, which make up around 87 percent of the total. This includes investments in the production of low carbon fuels and the land-based storage and bunkering infrastructure needed for their supply. Only 13 percent of the investments needed are related to ships.” • When you spread the costs out like that, aren’t they trivial?
Tech: “Amazon may offer hand recognition payments to other stores” [Engadget]. “Amazon’s rumored hand recognition payment tech might be useful beyond paying for produce at Whole Foods. Wall Street Journal sources say the company is developing hand-based checkout terminals that it would sell to “coffee shops, fast-food restaurants” and other stores that tend to have repeat customers, not just Whole Foods. It’s also clearer as to how the technology might work. The system would reportedly start by linking your payment card to your hand, asking you to insert your old-school plastic and scan your hand before you could pay using your hand alone. Amazon’s cloud would store the data and might even tie it to Amazon.com spending to help target ads, although we can imagine some hesitation given that people are already concerned about creepy targeting.” • Cool. Remember to bring disinfectant spray when you shop.
Tech: “White House Favors a Light Touch in Regulating AI” [Wired]. “The White House has issued principles for regulating the use of artificial intelligence that call for as little government interference as possible and offer only broad guidance to federal agencies. In fact, the principles might deter regulation of AI at a time when many think it is increasingly needed….. The principles state that when drawing up regulations, ‘federal agencies must consider fairness, non-discrimination, openness, transparency, safety, and security.’ They also call for as little regulation as possible, with a ‘risk assessment and cost-benefit analyses’ prior to any regulatory action. And they stipulate that any regulation must reflect ‘scientific evidence and feedback from the American public.’ After a 90-day period for public input, agencies will have 180 days to come up with plans for implementing the principles.”
Tech: “Why Apple CEO Tim Cook Invested in a Shower Head” [Bloomberg]. • How’s the keyboard?
The Bezzle: “The SEC posted Square’s comment letters on its revenue recognition and revenue non-GAAP metrics” [Francine McKenna, The Dig]. “The SEC’s scattershot comment letter campaign against measures that “substitute individually tailored recognition and measurement methods for those of GAAP,” is, to say it gently, still a work in progress. In particular, it doesn’t seem that Corporation Finance, the group in the SEC that reviews company filings and send out comment letters, has a full awareness or consistent approach to addressing the deferred revenue purchase accounting adjustments that create ‘ghost revenue.'” • Seems like “ghost revenue” is something you’d really want to be tracking….
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 84 Extreme Greed (previous close: 89 Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 90 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Jan 21 at 12:39pm.
Rapture Index: Closes unchanged [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 18t4. Remember that bringing on the rapture is a good thing. I would expect the Rapture Index to jump if evangelicals thought impeachment was likely to hurt Trump. So it looks to me like this index is delivering a verdict on the likelihood of Trump being impeached as well.
“Friends in need” [Reuters]. “Extinction Rebellion and Davos sound like odd bedfellows. Why would a direct-action campaign, increasingly visible in the United Kingdom for warning starkly about the climate emergency, want to rub shoulders with the global financial elite at its main annual forum in Switzerland? The answer is that robust green activism turns out, when you think it through, to be high finance’s best friend….. Today , according to the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. With the next major U.N. climate conference, COP26, due to take place in Glasgow in November, the UK is only going to be more in the spotlight. XR has three demands. First, we all need to tell the truth about the extreme, long emergency we face together. Second, we need to act now to address that emergency: we must bring climate-deadly emissions and biodiversity destruction down to net zero by 2025, and globally by about 2030. Targets weaker than these are very unlikely to keep us within the “safe operating space” for humanity. Finally, we need to give citizens’ assemblies the power to decide how we reach these eye-watering targets. Only a deliberative democratic body that can sift the best expertise can come up with a plan that will yield both political and citizen buy-in.” • Not sure how high finance is going to feel about citizen assemblies, unless they can manipulate and/or buy the outcome.
“Ozone-depleting gases might have driven extreme Arctic warming” [Nature]. “Gases that deplete the ozone layer could be responsible for up to half of the effects of climate change observed in the Arctic from 1955 to 2005. The finding could help to explain the disproportionate toll of climate change on the region, which has long puzzled scientists. The Arctic is warming at more than twice the average rate of the rest of the globe — a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification — and it is losing sea ice at a staggering pace… By running the models with fixed CFC concentrations while varying the thickness of the ozone layer, the team was able to attribute the warming directly to the chemicals — rather than changes these substances caused in the ozone layer…. Global CFC concentrations have been on the decline since the turn of the millennium, following the 1989 adoption of the Montreal Protocol, which called for a phase-out of the substances. Although many other factors contribute to Arctic amplification, the result suggests that Arctic warming and sea-ice melt might be tempered in the future as ozone-depleting substances continue to leave the atmosphere, [Cecilia S, a climate scientist at the University of Washington in Seattle] says. ‘It’s a very important paper because it has a little shred of optimism.'” • No physical mechanism suggested, however.
“For sale: The East Coast’s biggest oil refinery” [Grist]. “On Friday, an auction held in the New York City offices of the law firm Kirkland & Ellis LLP, will determine the future of 1,300 acres in South Philadelphia and signal what lies ahead for shuttered oil and gas facilities all over the country. For more than 150 years, the land has hosted the largest refinery on the East Coast, processing up to 335,000 barrels of crude oil per day into gasoline and home heating oil. But after an explosion and fire tore through the facility last summer, Philadelphia Energy Solutions, the company that owned it, filed for bankruptcy and put the massive lot up for sale… The land is located along the Schuylkill River, just a few miles from downtown Philly, and measures roughly the same size as the city center. If it weren’t burdened with 150 years of contamination, it would be prime real estate for a waterfront park, housing, or a mixed-use development.” • Big “if.” Well worth a read; a very Philly story, and very sad.
“Choosy Eggs May Pick Sperm for Their Genes, Defying Mendel’s Law” [Quanta]. “The egg is not the submissive, docile cell that scientists long thought it was. Instead, researchers now see the egg as an equal and active player in reproduction, adding layers of evolutionary control and selection to one of the most important processes in life.” Subhead: “Sexual Selection at the Cellular Level.” • Fascinating stuff!
“Phage Crusade” [Maisonneuve]. “[P]hage therapy [is] a controversial treatment that uses a type of virus to defeat bacterial infection.It makes use of one of the oldest enemies of bacteria found in nature… Antibiotic medicine is essentially made of natural antibacterials redesigned to deal a knockout blow to infectious bacteria. But it hasn’t quite worked out that way. Global overprescription of antibiotics and their misuse as preventative measures have spurred superbugs to mutate and defeat virtually all antibiotics…. Bacteriophages (literally “bacteria eaters,” called “phages” for short) are viruses that destroy bacteria. Wherever there are bacteria—and human intestines contain billions—even tinier phages exist as well; phages are in fact the most ubiquitous life form on the planet, and probably the oldest antibacterial found in nature. The advantage of phages as bacteria-killers is that, unlike antibiotics that nuke many bacteria in the body—both bad and good—a phage attacks only one species or strain of bacteria.”
Does The Dutch Healthcare System Show The Way? People’s Policy Project. “While Dutch people still rate their own health situation quite well, a majority (57%) want to abolish the new healthcare system and see it replaced with something more akin to single payer.”
Department of Feline Felicity
The movie Cats elicited strong reactions (“This was hands down the most disturbingly awful movie I have ever seen”). Here’s a reviewer who liked it:
(I didn’t know there was a genre called “Reaction Video.”)
The Carceral State
“The Economic Origins of Mass Incarceration” [Catalyst (dk)]. “The standard story is that mass incarceration is a system of racialized social control, fashioned by a handful of Republican elites in defense of a racial order that was being challenged by the Civil Rights Movement. “Law and order” candidates catalyzed this white anxiety into a public panic about crime, which furnished cover for policies that sent black Americans to prison via the War on Drugs. It is difficult to overstate how influential this story has become. Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, which makes the case most persuasively, has been cited at more than twice the rate of the next most-cited work on American punishment…. Yet this conventional account has some fatal flaws. Numerically, mass incarceration has not been characterized by rising racial disparities in punishment, but rising class disparity. Most prisoners are not in prison for drug crimes, but for violent and property offenses, the incidence of which increased dramatically before incarceration did. And the punitive turn in criminal justice policy was not brought about by a layer of conniving elites, but was instead the result of uncoordinated initiatives by thousands of officials at the local and state levels.” • Well worth reading in full.
“Prepared Testimony for the Hearing ‘Antitrust and Economic Opportunity: Competition in Labor Markets'” (PDF) [Ioana Marinescu, US House of Representatives Committee of the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Antitrust, Commercial and Administrative Law].
In my testimony, I will make four points:
- Employers can suppress wages due to limited competition in the labor market. Simply put, workers cannot easily find alternative jobs in response to wage decreases (Azar, Berry, and Marinescu 2019). This allows an employer to pay a worker less than the marginal revenue product—the amount of value that the worker adds to the employer’s bottom line
- The majority (60%) of US labor markets are highly concentrated (Azar et al. 2018), i.e. they have a Herfindahl-Hirschman index (HHI) above the 2,500 high concentration threshold established by the Horizontal Merger Guidelines.
- Higher labor market concentration tends to lower wages (Azar, Marinescu, and Steinbaum 2017). For example, hospital mergers decrease wages by increasing labor market concentration (Prager and Schmitt 2018). Workers in concentrated labor markets are underpaid, so there is room to increase the minimum wage without reducing employment (Azar et al. 2019).
- Antitrust enforcement in labor markets should be strengthened. There is currently a large antitrust enforcement gap between product and labor markets, with labor antitrust lagging behind (I. E. Marinescu and Posner 2019). Yet, it is straightforward to take into account anticompetitive effects on the labor market in merger reviews (I. Marinescu and Hovenkamp 2018). Legislative action could facilitate antitrust enforcement in the labor market by codifying, clarifying, and in some cases strengthening the antitrust law (I. Marinescu and Posner 2019).
UPDATE Our Great Economy:
Today's new figures show that real wages are still below where they were before the recession.
A return back to pre-recession levels will be just that: getting back to where we were 11 years ago. It won't instantly make up for the pay squeeze that's lasted for over a decade. pic.twitter.com/oXn8iTjzLz
— Alex Collinson (@Alex__Collinson) January 21, 2020
News of the Wired
“New twist on marshmallow test: Kids depend on each other for self control” [Ars Technica]. “In the 1970s, the late psychologist Walter Mischel explored the importance of the ability to delay gratification as a child to one’s future success in life, via the famous Stanford “marshmallow experiment.” Now a team of German researchers has adapted the classic experimental setup with German and Kenyan schoolchildren and found that kids are more likely to delay gratification when they depend on each other. They described their findings in a recent paper in Psychological Science.” • Fascinating study. Readers may wish to comment on the methodology.
The Internet of Sh*t. Thread:
Short Thread: staying with some friends and last night after everyone went to bed I could not figure out how to turn off the large ceiling light in their living room. There is a wall controller that seemed fairly straightforward. pic.twitter.com/vMcaqL6Gbr
— Brock Wilbur (@brockwilbur) January 17, 2020
When you come at the king:
"What did you bring that book I don't want to be read to out of up for?" E.B. White, in a letter, proposing in his next book of grammar, to show how to end a sentence with five prepositions. (The speaker is a child whose parent has gone downstairs & returned with the wrong book.)
— Jedediah Britton-Purdy (@JedediahSPurdy) January 21, 2020
The ineluctable Oxford Comma:
— Bernie Beats Trump (@doctorow) January 21, 2020
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 writes: “‘Flocked Forest,’ from last winter @ Mammoth.”
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