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2:00PM Water Cooler 2/6/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Politics “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51 2020 Warren: Here is the form Elizabeth Warren filled out for the State Bar of Texas claiming American Indian heritage. pic.twitter.com/VwHifS7BCL — Amy Gardner (@AmyEGardner) February 6, 2019 She’s toast. Booker: Cory Booker explains that he will put his effort into a public option, and not #MedicareForAll which he co-sponsored. 🤨 The only time you will see Corporate Democrats support a single payer healthcare bill is when they believe it won't pass. 🗳 🗑https://t.co/bZOWoVt3uc — Scap 🌹 left turn at Albuquerque (@scapelliti) February 2, 2019 Click through to the audio, it’s not long. Slick as a whistle… Booker: “St. Cory

Lambert Strether considers the following as important:

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Lambert Strether writes 2:00PM Water Cooler 8/20/2019

Lambert Strether writes 2:00PM Water Cooler 8/19/2019

Lambert Strether writes 2:00PM Water Cooler 8/16/2019

Lambert Strether writes 2:00PM Water Cooler 8/15/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51



She’s toast.


Click through to the audio, it’s not long. Slick as a whistle…

Booker: “St. Cory Booker: An Interview with Glen Ford” [Washington Babylon]. “If Cory Booker had won instead of losing by just a few thousand votes his quest for the City Hall in Newark in 2002, he would have been the Obama. He would have been the fair-haired Democratic Leadership Council Black politician of that time but we succeeded in defeating him and he didn’t gain that office until 2006. It does appear he can anticipate being next Obama in 2020 since everybody is bandying about his name. And if anything he will be a more right wing Obama, he is, as I said, the real article, a genuine Black corporate-to-the-bone politician who is if anything more fervent about school privatization than Barack Obama, who is the king of school privatization!” • Excellent background on Cory Booker and charters.


Good for her!

Biden: “Biden’s Anguished Search for a Path to Victory” [The Atlantic]. “Top positions for a campaign have been sketched out. Donor outreach has accelerated, with Biden himself telling staff at some events to write down the names of people who say they’re eager to help. A list of potential “day-one endorsers” among elected officials has been prepared. Basic staff outreach is happening. Biden has even joked to people that he’s upped his daily workout to get in shape…. This time around, multiple top Democrats who express deep affection for him say they also worry that he is underestimating how hard a campaign would actually be to pull off—let alone the damage it could do to his reputation or what the exposure would mean for his family.” • Story mentions “what the exposure would mean for his family” and “sensitive questions about his family.” Hmm…


“Beware Arrogant Candidates Who Can’t Win But Will Split the Vote” [Benjamin Studebaker]. Before today’s news: “I’ve made the case before that Warren isn’t that left-wing. But even if you think she is, her candidacy is a problem. Her favorability net rating–the difference between the number of people who say they like her and the number who say they dislike her–is remarkably poor. She is a weak candidate…. We need to send a message to Warren that when Sanders gets into the race, she needs to get out of it. If she stays in despite continued poor poll performance, we’ll know that she doesn’t intend to help the left win the presidency–she’s there to siphon votes away from competitive candidates and weaken our position. The same goes for Tulsi Gabbard, or for any other candidates who proclaim progressive credentials but poll in the single digits. If they really want to help us win, they’ll help Sanders. If they won’t help Sanders, they are there to help themselves.” • This is an important piece.


Readers, I have a good deal more to say on the SOTU, but it will have to wait ’til tomorrow. –lambert

“Full text: President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address” [Yahoo News].

“Read the full text of Stacey Abrams’ response to Donald Trump’s SOTU” [Quartz].

“Sanders Response to 2019 State of the Union Address” [Bernie Sanders].

* * *

AOC (1):

AOC (2):

Holy moly, dunking on Nooners!

UPDATE Sanders, forgot this one:

A house divided (1):

I will have more on this tomorrow.

A house divided (2):

AOC’s policy guy, note well.

“Why Trump’s zig-zagging speech made perfect sense” [Politico]. ” But taken as a whole, the address revealed a clear strategic purpose — one designed to revive and strengthen the ideological connection between the Trump of 2019 with the Trump who first began his astonishingly effective takeover of the Republican Party four years ago. That Trump stood in condemnation of both parties as mired in a swamp of self-dealing and dysfunction. Yes, it takes brass ones — no doubt he’s got ‘em — for this Trump to deliver a sermon on putting the national interest over vindictiveness and partisanship…. For all of Trump’s boasts that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue without dimming the loyalties of his supporters, he knows that for many of them this is not true. They vote for him because they think the alternatives are corrupt or left-wing kooks. So it was no surprise that he found time to inveigh against “the new calls to adapt socialism in our country.”” • Pelosi applauded that line. Sanders and AOC, at least, did not.

“The State of the Union was Trump’s best speech in two years” [The Week]. “In remarks that ran to about an hour and a half there were, by my count, some 78 standing ovations from members of the president’s party and other guests. Many of these joined by Democrats as well. This was a tedious exercise, not least because getting up to clap for everything and everyone from the first lady to Buzz Aldrin to energy statistics made the whole thing last about twice as long as it might have otherwise. But the effect was unmistakable. Trump was working the crowd in front of him physically just as effectively as he was his intended television audience — i.e., the blue and purple-state moderates he needs in order to win again in 2020.” • Can readers confirm?

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I spent most of yesterday processing this “controversy,” and my brain bleach wasn’t nearly strong enough, believe me.

“The controversy over Bernie Sanders’s State of the Union response, explained” [Vox]. “Sanders’s Democratic critics are accusing him of trying to upstage a black woman, part of what they say is a long-running blind spot on issues of race and gender. His supporters are countering that he’s speaking after Abrams, not upstaging her — and that the criticism is an example of party loyalists’ willingness to smear Sanders in advance of a potential 2020 presidential run. This is a petty fight, kicked off in part by a false report in a Capitol Hill trade publication. But it’s a revealing petty fight that shows just how deep the wounds from the 2016 primary remain in the Democratic Party — and how likely those divisions are to come back up if Sanders does, in fact, mount a 2020 run.” • This is vacuous take, even by Vox standards. The real issue is this, and it’s not petty: Sanders has two strategic weapons, as it were, in his campaign arsenal: The first, from 2016, is his funding operation, which is independent of liberal Democrat gatekeepers like the DNC and DCCC. The second, developed after 2016, is his “digital media empire,” also independent of liberal Democrat gatekeepers like the Times, WaPo, the networks, and people like Neera Tanden and the people in her Rolodex. This fight was about liberal Democrats attempting to determine when and how Sanders could deploy his digital operation (in this case, a Facebook feed after Stacey Abrams network broadcast. They failed to neutralize an important Sanders strategic asset, which is a good thing, if you’re a Sanders supporter. I will have more on Abrams tomorrrow.

Reality check:

Notice it? It’s subtle:

“Shutting up is free.” Let me translate: “Jews are cheap.” Nice!

Realignment and Legitimacy

“You won’t believe what ensued.” Yes, I will. Great thread:

This is a very good tactic:

Stats Watch

International Trade, November 2018: “A sharp pull back in imports, not strength in exports, led a much sharper-than-expected fall in November’s trade deficit” [Econoday]. “This points, despite general weakness for exports, to a neutral to improved contribution for net exports which may lift fourth-quarter GDP estimates.” And: “November 2018 Trade Data Worsens From Last Month” [Econintersect]. “The data in this series wobbles and the 3 month rolling averages are the best way to look at this series. The 3 month averages slowed for exports and imports. The trade balance worsened. Econintersect uses the trade balance as a factor in determining the acceleration or deceleration of the economy – but does not believe the negative trade balance per se is an economic issue.” And: “Exports are 27% above the pre-recession peak and up 4% compared to November 2017; imports are 12% above the pre-recession peak, and up 3% compared to November 2017” [Calculated Risk]. “In general, trade has been picking up, although trade has declined slightly recently.”

Productivity and Costs, Q4 2018: “Led by strength in durables, manufacturing productivity rose. Year-on-year, however, manufacturing output slowed.” [Econoday]. “Productivity for the manufacturing sector, because of the government shutdown, is the only data available for the fourth quarter.” And: “4Q2018 Preliminary: Headline Productivity Unknown” [Econintersect]. “A simple summary of the headlines for this release is that there was not enough data available to take a shot at productivity and costs except for the manufacturing sector.”

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of February 1, 2019: “Despite lower financing rates, purchase applications for home mortgages fell” [Econoday]. “The cooling seen in the last 3 weeks shows buyers more resistant to lower financing costs than at the start of the year and may point to less strength for the housing market’s upcoming spring selling season than initially indicated.” And: “According to the MBA, purchase activity is down 2% year-over-year” [Calculated Risk].

Housing: “Las Vegas Real Estate in January: Sales Down 18% YoY, Inventory up 106% YoY” [Calculated Risk]. “This is a key former distressed market to follow since Las Vegas saw the largest price decline, following the housing bubble, of any of the Case-Shiller composite 20 cities.”

Tech: “Churning Ad Machine Drowns Out Google’s Troubles” [Bloomberg]. “Facebook Inc. showed that last week by reporting a 30 percent jump in fourth-quarter revenue from a year earlier. It was the lowest growth rate in the company’s short history, and the company has many challenges to keep growing, but it turns out that Facebook keeps making bank because its ads work and the company is willing to plaster them all over its internet hangouts. The same appears true for Google parent company Alphabet Inc. For the sixth consecutive quarter, the company’s advertising sales rose at least 20 percent, the company said Monday. It barely brushed that mark in the fourth quarter, but that’s a hard pace to keep up for a company with more than $100 billion in sales. Amazon does it, too, albeit with a fraction of Alphabet’s profits.”

Tech: “Teenagers stampede to a joyful online secret world” [Financial Times]. “Just who was this shimmering American 19-year-old, with fluttery lashes touching his eyebrows (‘on fleek’, as the kids say) inspiring a stampede at the Bullring centre?” • I’m just an old codger, but I think “on fleek” is quite last year. Can readers confirm?

Transportation: “‘Not everybody lives in California’: Tesla Model 3 owners are griping about frozen door handles” [Quartz]. “This winter, Model 3 owners have taken to social media to gripe about the vehicle’s door handles getting stuck in icy conditions. Normally, you push one side of the handle, and the other side pops out. But when they’re partially covered in ice, they can become stuck.” • Designed by Uber in California. As will the robot car training data, no doubt…

The Biosphere

“To Freeze the Thames: Natural Geo-Engineering and Biodiversity” [New Left Review]. The lead: “The idea of a ‘steady-state economy’, a signal theme in the environmentalist politics of the 1970s with understandable appeal, has been refloated by ‘no growth’ thinkers in France and, most recently, by Herman Daly, in discussion with Benjamin Kunkel in NLR 109. If, as I shall argue here, steady-state economics is an ambiguous construction that actually offers little to egalitarian environmentalists, then on what foundations might an alternative green political economy be built? Neither population nor GDP will be its fundamental metric, but rather land scarcity*. This is the concept that emerges—or rather re-emerges—as the most precious resource in any solution that brings the benign possibilities of geo-engineering to bear on the problem of faltering biodiversity and the entailments of an adequate deployment of renewable energy systems. A brisk panorama of the ‘Little Ice Age’ will help make these airy ideas solid.” • Interestingly, we had a discussion of the Little Ice Age in comments just last week. This is NLR, so very dense reading! NOTE * The question of where we’re going to put all the plantations for BECCS

“The Cautious Case for Climate Optimism: Believing in a comfortable future for our planet probably means some giant carbon-sucking machines” [New York Magazine]. “[T]here are, it is true, feedback loops in the climate system that we do not yet perfectly understand and dynamic processes that remain mysterious. But to the extent that we live today under clouds of uncertainty about the future of climate change, those clouds are, overwhelmingly, not projections of collective ignorance about the natural world but of blindness about the human one, and they can be dispersed by human action. The question of how bad things will get is not, actually, a test of the science; it is a bet on human activity. How much will we do to forestall disaster and how quickly?” • It’s not a matter of “the science” (though the science is “good enough”). It’s a matter of… [gasps] politics! Which the author does, in fact, say! And now to a decision we’ve been discussing this week: “[T]he math tells us negative emissions is also a last, best, hope….. Last June, a breakthrough in carbon capture was published by a team of scientists led by David Keith to much fanfare: “It’s Possible to Reverse Climate Change,” ran one representative headline. The paper showed that Keith’s company — called Carbon Engineering and backed in part by Bill Gates — could already remove carbon directly from the air at a cost of between $94 and $232 per ton. A short learning curve from now, Keith says, and you could get reliably under $100 per ton. At that price, it would, in theory, be possible to totally neutralize the entire global emissions level at an annual cost of about $3 trillion.” • This is a book except adapted from The Uninhabitable Earth, by David Wallace-Wells. It’s well worth a careful read.

“Arctic scientists iced out by US–India radar mission” [Nature]. “Earth scientists in the United States have waited decades for NASA to launch a radar satellite to study natural hazards and changing ecosystems. But the design of a joint US–India radar mission planned for 2022 has divided researchers who study polar ice. Mission managers at NASA and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) decided recently that the spacecraft, known as NISAR, will focus on the Antarctic at the Arctic’s expense.” • Beyond ridiculous that we have a resource constraint here.

“Companion and Commodity: The Victorian Dog” [Los Angeles Review of Books]. “Michael Worboys, Julie-Marie Strange, and Neil Pemberton’s The Invention of the Modern Dog: Breed and Blood in Victorian England offers a history of the birth of breed: that moment when dogs ceased to be dogs and became commodities — things that could be [x] quantified, [x] sorted, [x] shaped, and [x] judged. That this happened during the 19th century, and came largely out of Victorian England, is perhaps not coincidental; Victorians were in many ways obsessed with reimagining domestic spaces and who belonged in them — an obsession that was particularly acute in some of the most beloved literature of the time, from the Brontës to Dickens. Dogs in particular troubled such spaces, since they were seen simultaneously as domestic companions and as wild animals… Breed remains the most fundamental way we have of approaching dogs: it is the beginning and often the end of what a dog is, what defines them.” • Editorial comment from me added in square brackets.

“Former Koch official runs EPA chemical research” [Politico]. “David Dunlap, a deputy in EPA’s Office of Research and Development, is playing a key role as the agency decides how to protect people from the pollution left behind at hundreds of military bases and factories across the country….. President Donald Trump has not nominated anyone to run the office. That effectively allows Dunlap to avoid the Senate confirmation process while overseeing a central part of EPA’s work that could impose cleanup costs on companies that have used the chemicals, including major Koch subsidiary Georgia-Pacific. The paper and pulp conglomerate is already facing at least one class-action lawsuit related to the chemicals…. In his LinkedIn profile, Dunlap describes himself as the ‘lead and subject matter expert’ on water and chemicals issues for Koch’s entire suite of companies during his eight years there.” • Refreshingly open!

“South Carolina Wasted $9 Billion on a Failed Nuclear Project. So Why Can’t We Find Money for a Green New Deal?” [The Intercept]. “South Carolina, in a bid to expand its generation of nuclear power in recent years, dropped $9 billion on a single project — and has nothing to show for it. The boondoggle, which was covered widely in the Palmetto State press but got little attention nationally, sheds light on just how much money is genuinely available for an industrial-level energy transformation, if only the political will were there.” • $9 billion is real money, even today!

“Endless Combustion” [Bill McKibben, The Nation]. A review of the literature: “Though the 2018 midterm elections were fought largely on the issues of health care and the need to check President Trump’s abuses of power, the great unresolved issue of the 20th century for Americans is the onset of climate chaos, which guarantees that energy will be front and center in our politics for years to come. That’s why these lessons are so important: This is the biggest challenge that humans have ever faced, and after waiting so long to do something about it, we have no margin of safety left for taking routes that turn out to go nowhere.” • See NC on McKibben here, here, and here.

Health Care

“ACA Was A Failure” [Eschaton]. “The failure was the exchanges. Now we’re supposed to talk about all of the other good things in ACA, but remember back in 2009, the exchanges *were* Obamacare. They were the plan. Everything else was tinkering. The exchanges were going to free us from employer-provided health care (a good goal!) by letting everybody buy “affordable” individual health insurance. The exchanges were going to be great, because there’s nothing we love more than buying health insurance every year through a website, and employer-linked health insurance would, over time, just fade away. ACA wasn’t about the exchanges because a few million more people would be able to buy insurance. ACA was about the exchanges because the exchanges were THE FUTURE OF HEALTH INSURANCE, my friends. Nobody involved wants you to remember this. And the same people are going to bullshit you in 2020 and beyond.” • Markets can never fail. They can only be failed. And when you’ve lost Atrios….

Class Warfare

“Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s minimum wage plan: $9.25 by 2020, $15 by 2025” [Chicago Tribune]. • He’s a real Democrat!

“Socialism and Freedom: Karl Polanyi’s Early Writings” [Los Angeles Review of Books]. “Polanyi [via The Great Transformation (see NC here)] has become a cornerstone for contemporary accounts of the return of unregulated capitalism. But this posthumous intellectual fame, based on just this one book, has come at a cost. Polanyi is seen today as the great theorist of regulation and social protection, of the integrated welfare states of the Trente Glorieuses — and so a thinker who reinforces a melancholic lament for a lost order. His early writings reveal this view to be mistaken. Written while Polanyi lived in Vienna during the city’s remarkable experiment in municipal socialism, these essays and lectures reveal Polanyi as one of the greatest thinkers in the socialist tradition — someone who envisioned a democratic-socialist future that would build on, even as it transcended, the terms of the midcentury welfare state.” • More books to read, dammit!

“It’s Time to Try Fossil-Fuel Executives for Crimes Against Humanity” [Jacobin]. “More immediately, a push to try fossil-fuel executives for crimes against humanity could channel some much-needed populist rage at the climate’s 1 percent, and render them persona non grata in respectable society — let alone Congress or the UN, where they today enjoy broad access.” • I think taking away their private jets might be more practical, but I like this idea anyhow.

“Scaling Down Inequality: Rating Scales, Gender Bias, and the Architecture of Evaluation” (PDF) [Lauren A. Rivera, András Tilcsik American Sociological Review]. From the abstract: “This study examines how gender inequalities in evaluations dependon the design of the tools used to judge merit. Exploiting a quasi-natural experiment at a large North American university, we found that the number of scale points used in faculty teaching evaluations—whether instructors were rated on a scale of 6 versus a scale of 10—significantly affected the size of the gender gap in evaluations.”

News of the Wired

“It’s Not A Lie If You Believe It: Lying and Belief Distortion Under Norm-Uncertainty” [Cristina Bicchierii, Eugen Dimant, and Silvia Sonderegger SSRN (DK)]. n=300. “These findings are consistent with a model where agents are motivated by norm-following concerns, and honest behavior is a strong indicator of disapproval of lying but disapproval of lying is not a strong indicator of honest behavior. We provide evidence that supports this hypothesis.” • So the Norms Fairy does disapprove of lying….

* * *

Fun with aircraft:

Something missing:

Lust (if you assume vanity is pride).

Takes a minute:


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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):

2:00PM Water Cooler 2/6/2019

TH quotes the arboretum label: “The Ombu at the Fullerton Arboretum has a single trunk rising from a large pedestal of roots, unlike the more usual form of multiple trunks. The trunk may eventually attain a girth of 40 to 50 feet. The ombu was 12 feet tall when planted in 1979 and is now over 100 feet tall.”

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