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2:00PM Water Cooler 3/8/2019

Summary:
By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Patient readers, I am going to throw out some red meat, then post my piece on the latest in Venezuela, and then return here to add more. –lambert Politics “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 2020 Brown: “Trump must be dancing for joy at Sherrod Brown news” [Paul Begala, CNN]. “Here’s why Mr. Trump is doing the Humpty Dance on the Truman Balcony: Sherrod Brown could have beaten him, and I bet Trump knows it. Why? The math is simple. Trump got 46% in 2016. He has not been over 50% in the national polls for a single day as president. Brown, a Midwestern economic populist, would have eaten into Trump’s

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am going to throw out some red meat, then post my piece on the latest in Venezuela, and then return here to add more. –lambert

Politics

“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

2020

Brown: “Trump must be dancing for joy at Sherrod Brown news” [Paul Begala, CNN]. “Here’s why Mr. Trump is doing the Humpty Dance on the Truman Balcony: Sherrod Brown could have beaten him, and I bet Trump knows it. Why? The math is simple. Trump got 46% in 2016. He has not been over 50% in the national polls for a single day as president. Brown, a Midwestern economic populist, would have eaten into Trump’s working-class support — a loss Trump could not offset by gaining ground among, say, people of color, or younger voters. With Trump in a cul-de-sac, unable to expand his appeal beyond working-class whites, a Democrat who could pry away some of those Trump voters looked like a winner to me. After all, Brown won a resounding re-election in November, winning his native Ohio by 6%. Hillary Clinton lost Ohio by 8% in 2016. You don’t need to be a math major to know that a 15-point improvement over Hillary’s razor-thin losses in the Big Ten states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan means the moving vans would be rolling up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.” • I dunno if Trump is that cornered. He’s working hard to win the more reactionary segments of the Latin vote in Florida (Venezuela), and when he went into Beto’s district to rally and whipped him, his crowd was quite diverse.

Harris, wearing her favorite cologne, eau de performativité:

A statue. Really?

Hickenlooper: “Hickenlooper kicks off campaign with fiery ode to pragmatism” [Associated Press]. “‘This isn’t about unity for unity’s sake,’ Hickenlooper said. ‘America stops working when we work against each other….It’s time to end this American crisis of division. It’s time to bring all Americans together. And that’s why I’m running to be President of the United States.'” And nothing brings Americans together like drilling for oil near public schools! More: “Echoing in the background of Hickenlooper’s address were chants of a few dozen activists protesting Hickenlooper’s reluctance to stop hydraulic fracturing, also known as ‘fracking.’ Activists for years have seethed at Hickenlooper, who remained close to the energy industry while he was governor.” • Colorado readers may wish to comment on “remained close.”

Sanders (1): “Nearly 40 percent of Sanders 2020 donors so far appear to be new supporters: report” [The Hill]. “There are also more than 48,000 donors who have agreed to give Sanders recurring donations. Those recurring donations will be worth more than $1 million in total per month, the Times reported, citing statistics provided by the Sanders campaign. According to the Times, the average contribution was less than $26.” • Sanders is not generally seen as a strategist. But in 2016 he built (as we see here) a fundraising apparatus bypassing the Democrat party and its donor class. In 2018 he built a media apparatus bypassing the mainstream press, whose commanding heights are, in the main, controlled by Democrats. If, in 2020, his canvassing operation of volunteers bypasses the Democrat Party at the district and precinct level, he will have built a competing structure to the Democrat Party within the Democrat Party (think, well, Alien-style chestbuster, if you’re a liberal Democrat loyalist). In the primaries, that’s the way to give Kamala Harris a run for her money without running an air war of costly television advertising (see ya later, Tad “Creative Differences” Devine). In the general, that would give Sanders an organization with the discipline — sadly lacking in today’s “big tent” Democrat Party — to tack left (to pick up those voters who flipped to Trump from Obama in the midwest, for example), having previously tacked right in the primaries (more emphasis on identity politics as a rhetorical stance). If this picture is correct, 2020 should be very interesting indeed. Oh, and the press won’t notice any of this, because it’s outside their visual spectrum. But if you see attacks on Sanders that one might have expected, in the past, to succeed, mysteriously failing, the structure I have just laid out might be a place to look for the cause. It would be irresponsible not to speculate…

Sanders (2), in contrast to Hickenlooper:

Feisty!

Warren (1): “Elizabeth Warren’s new plan: Break up Amazon, Google and Facebook” [CNN]. “The proposal was greeted with a cheer from New York State Sen. Julia Salazar, a Democratic Socialist ally of freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and a vocal opponent of New York’s deal to bring Amazon’s second headquarters to Queens… The plan would pose existential threats to the business models that turned certain giant tech firms into money spigots…. Separating Google’s ad business from its Search function, for example, would make Google ads — on which the company depends for nearly all of its revenue — much less valuable. So would requiring Google to divest DoubleClick, the company it acquired in 2008 that vastly expanded the reach of its advertising network.” •  I think this is good policy. But I also would like Warren — and The New Trust-Busters™ generally — to take their case one step further from fixing gamed markets to concrete material benefits for citizens. Until that’s done, this is an academic, and not a political, question. (I believe Austin Frerick has done this in Iowa for Big Ag vs. farmers, but the practice really needs to become second nature for the entire school of thought.) Warren’s actual proposal:

Warren (2): “Here’s how we can break up Big Tech” [Elizabeth Warren, Medium]. “In this tradition, my administration would restore competition to the tech sector by taking two major steps: First, by passing legislation that requires large tech platforms to be designated as “Platform Utilities” and broken apart from any participant on that platform… Second, my administration would appoint regulators committed to reversing illegal and anti-competitive tech mergers.” A quote:

As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the Internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.

Warren probably thinks she’s throwing red meat there, but she’s not. Where are the concrete material benefits? (Clue stick: “innovation” doesn’t cut it).

“The Democrats’ Dilemma” [Politico]. “The Minnesota congresswoman, along with the likes of Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, represent the unapologetic new guard of progressivism, pushing the party’s establishment to embrace tactics and positions that have heretofore been considered outside of the mainstream. Yet they face resistance not just from party elders but from many of their fellow freshmen, centrists who campaigned as fixers not firebrands, moderates who are watching warily as the Democrats’ brand is being hijacked by the far left. One of these members is Omar’s neighbor in Minnesota: Dean Phillips, a wealthy businessman who represents the 3rd District.” • Well worth a read. More: “Fifty years old and fabulously wealthy, with black-rimmed glasses and waves of toffee-colored hair swept neatly back and behind his ears, Phillips looks the part of an industry mogul. His family is corporate royalty in the Twin Cities, with a liquor distilling empire that he took over after finishing his MBA and various properties scattered across the metro area.” Omar, on the other hand…

2019

“Democrats in 2020 Race Rally Around Ilhan Omar Amid Anti-Semitism Flap” [Bloomberg]. “Senators Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris and Kirsten Gillibrand denounced anti-Semitism in separate statements Thursday, while also saying Omar was being unfairly targeted by those who want to muffle criticism of Israel’s policies.” • Good. And the sequence was Sanders, Harris, Warren, and Gillibrand, at least on the Twitter.

UPDATE Sanders:

Health Care

“The Senate’s rules will make it really hard to pass Medicare-for-all” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]. “Medicare-for-all has plenty of obstacles standing in its way — the price tag, tax hikes, American aversion to disruptive change [like, you know, the Civil War or the Sixties or…] — but none might be as intractable as the Senate’s procedural rules…. I’ve spoken with former and current Senate aides, academics who follow congressional procedure, and a former Senate parliamentarian over the past few weeks, and this was the unavoidable conclusion: The rules attached to budget reconciliation would make it nearly impossible to pass the Medicare-for-all bills being proposed by Sanders and Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). Reconciliation comes with serious fiscal constraints, and the provisions in those single-payer bills that prohibit private insurance and that expand the services covered by Medicare may not be allowed under the rules that govern the process.” • So there’s a Rules Fairy as well as a Norms Fairy. Good to know.

Obama Legacy

From “The Democrats’ Dilemma,” cited above, Ilhan Omar:

As she saw it, the party ostensibly committed to progressive values had become complicit in perpetuating the status quo. Omar says the “hope and change” offered by Barack Obama was a mirage. Recalling the “caging of kids” at the U.S.-Mexico border and the “droning of countries around the world” on Obama’s watch, she argues that the Democratic president operated within the same fundamentally broken framework as his Republican successor.

“We can’t be only upset with Trump. … His policies are bad, but many of the people who came before him also had really bad policies. They just were more polished than he was,” Omar says. “And that’s not what we should be looking for anymore. We don’t want anybody to get away with murder because they are polished. We want to recognize the actual policies that are behind the pretty face and the smile.”

That should put the cat among the pigeons…

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Economics After Neoliberalism” [Cory Robin, Boston Review]. “The intrinsic links between moral and economic life as well as the intractability of moral conflict, the incommensurability of our moral views, were the kernels of insight that animated Hayek’s most far-reaching writing against socialism. The socialist presumes an agreement on ultimate ends: the putatively shared understanding of principles such as justice or equality is supposed to make it possible for state planners to conceive of their task as technical, as the neutral application of an agreed upon rule. But no such agreement exists, Hayek insisted… Hayek translated moral and political problems into an economic idiom. What we need now, I would argue, is a way to uninstall or reverse that translation… Karl Marx attempted just such a project, but his answers were notoriously elusive. In a fascinating, but little-known 1927 essay, “On Freedom,” Karl Polanyi also attempted such a project, giving us a stylized rendition of what it would mean for a political collective, rather than a firm or a consumer, to make an economic decision—not in the marketplace, where price helps determine our decisions, but in a deliberative assembly, where other considerations are at play. ” • Hmm. A deliberative assembly. Sounds like debate! (Maybe that would be a better framework for an updated framework of HR40 than a truth and reconciliation commission (commissions being biased toward presentations by subject matter experts, and thus giving a head start to the professional classes).

“Liberals and the left fail to notice – and celebrate – the intellectual death of conservatism” [Real Economics]. “Economic justice is basic to a republic because, for civic virtue to operate effectively, all citizens must be fully independent from the largess, benevolence, or tolerance of others. It is unacceptable, for example, having employers trying the coerce or even tell employees who to vote for. This concern over dependence in economic relations was the basis of the fight between the Hamiltonians and the Jeffersonians. Jefferson believed that only farmers who owned their own land were independent enough to honestly exercise the duties of citizenship — the fabled “yeomanry” of Jefferson’s ideal society. In fact, Jefferson wanted to delay as long as possible the advent of industrialization because he viewed subservient factory labor as being unable to exercise the independence required of citizens by civic virtue…. The individual with direct access to the productive resources of nature need not rely on other men, or any man, for the basic means of existence. The Revolutionaries believed that every man had a natural right to this form of property, in the sense that he was entitled to autonomous control of the resources that were absolutely necessary to his existence. The personal independence that resulted from the ownership of land permitted a citizen to participate responsibly in the political process, for it allowed him to pursue spontaneously the common or public good, rather than the narrow interest of the men – or the government – on whom he depended for his support. Thus the Revolutionaries did not intend to provide men with property so they might flee from public responsibility into a selfish privatism; property was rather the necessary basis for a committed republican citizenry. What we have here is a strong rebuke to conservatives’ fixation on property rights. Those rights were intended by the founders not to protect untrammeled avarice and unprincipled acquisition, but to provide as wide a basis as possible within the citizenry for the maintenance of republican civic virtue.” • This article is a long response to an article by the Cato Institute’s Brink Lindsey in National Affairs. It’s interesting for, among other things, citing to Radical Republican Charles Sumner discussing the Fourteenth Amendment. Why is it that we have an enormous work of scholarship, The Mind of the Master Class, by the Genoveses, on slaveholders, but nothing on the nearly forgotten Radical Republicans? Perhaps they would be a good place to start looking at the wrong turning the country took with the defeat of Reconstruction, and the subsequent rise to dominance of the noxious “Last Cause” ideology, Jim Crow, etc.

“Movement Visions for a Renewed Left Politics” [Law and Political Economy]. “A generation of organizers and activists who have come of age post-Occupy are articulating visions for transforming the United States, including the relationship of the state to its constituents, and of human communities to each other and the planet. We should all—politicians, professionals, students, engaged community members—embrace the challenge posed by social movements rather than seek to deflect it, as Feinstein did in the meeting with her young constituents. For too long, the agendas of politicians on the center-left have been dominated by top-down, expert-driven, single issue forms of lawmaking supported by sporadic popular mobilization. Think of the Center for American Progress or MoveOn.org as the prototypical institutions oriented toward liberal legislative action in the last two decades. This was the approach used by the Obama Administration to pass its two historic legislative achievements, the Affordable Care Act and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. That formula—supported in part by corporate donors to the Democratic Party— tamps down anger with the way things are and prevents people from calling out their enemies in the new American oligarchy. The D.C. “policy-industrial complex” co-opts popular sentiment, demands specific policy proposals, embraces and internalizes public austerity values, and advances their own non-universal half-measures that do not threaten donor interests on Wall Street or in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, for example.” • Note thta “prevents people from calling out their enemies in the new American oligarchy” and “bringing the country together,” a la Gillibrand et al., are diametrically opposed.

“On Amazon, a Qanon conspiracy book climbs the charts — with an algorithmic push” [NBC]. “‘QAnon: An Invitation to the Great Awakening,’ which has no stated author, ranked at No. 56 at press time, was featured in the algorithmically generated ‘Hot new releases’ section on Amazon’s books landing page. The book claims without evidence a variety of outlandish claims including that prominent Democrats murder and eat children and that the U.S. government created both AIDS and the movie Monsters Inc…. Adherents of the Qanon conspiracy theory falsely believe that the world is run by a Satanic cabal helmed by former presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and that President Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller are secretly working in tandem to eliminate the cabal.” • Woo woo. Civic virtue this is not.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, February 2019: “Wages in today’s report are another indication of labor market strength” [Econoday]. “But payrolls are definitely weak with construction down… Winter is traditionally the most difficult period to seasonally adjust data and related questions are certain to come up to help explain away the volatility in payrolls so far this young year. Though the drop in February may well be cited at the coming FOMC this month as a reason for caution, there is still little question that strong demand for labor, underscored by the rise in average hourly earnings, is the central strength of the U.S. economy.” And but: “Pretty ugly report and well under expectations. The way I look at this is that last month was outrageously high and this month was outrageously low” [Econintersect]. “The establishment and household surveys seem to have come from different dimensions. The household survey shrunk the workforce causing lower unemployment. Most use employment data to validate the strength of the economy – and if you do, you might think the economy hit a wall. I would not get excited about this poor data – but if it happens again next month…”

Housing Starts, January 2019: “December and wild fires in California look to have been an aberration for housing starts which jumped back to trend in January” [Econoday]. “Wrinkles aside, today’s report is good news for a sector that needed some and it rebalances the housing outlook, offering the prospect that 2019 will be a better year than what was a very weak 2018.” And: “The headline residential building permits improved and construction completions improved relative to last month. But we keep our eyes on the rolling averages which also improved” [Econintersect]. And: “Note the relatively low level of single family starts and completions” [Calculated Risk]. “The ‘wide bottom’ was what I was forecasting following the recession, and now I expect some further increases in single family starts and completions.”

Retail: “The key factors behind K-pop’s global success” [Quartzy]. “Hybridity is a distinguishing element of K-pop as it draws on other genres, like R&B, hip hop, pop, EDM, and more. K-pop labels have also assembled groups with members from places like China, Thailand, Japan, the US, even India to target specific powerful music centers. They even have manuals dictating how to craft videos or present the most optimal group to a specific market. No matter who you are, or how much Korean you speak, K-pop is built to be accessible and sound familiar. These labels are playing the game and it’s working because K-pop has gone from being a niche genre to a $5 billion global industry. You haven’t heard the last of it.”

Apparel: “The apparel supply chain is struggling to stem pollution from synthetic textiles. The ocean is awash in tiny plastic particles shed by fleece jackets and other garments… highlighting how new concerns over pollutants are growing as production of polyester and other synthetics expands” [Wall Street Journal]. “Textiles contribute 35% of primary microplastics released into the ocean, and research funded by companies like Hennes & Mauritz AB and Patagonia Inc. found that how the fibers are woven and clothes are washed matters. Prewashing garments before they are sold could capture a big share of pollution. H&M is looking at whether clothes can be designed to minimize shedding and says it’s monitoring the development of biodegradable fibers. Some state regulators are weighing labeling requirements, to the dismay of one industry group that says more study is needed.”

Shipping: “Maritime industry woes are crashing down on Japan’s “K Line” shipping company, the country’s third-biggest liner. Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. is shrinking its fleet as it faces an estimated $895 million in losses” [Wall Street Journal]. “The company hopes to save $90 million by canceling some container ship charters and trimming its bulk-vessel count, changes that come as the maritime sector struggles with weak freight rates and a capacity glut in major trade lanes. The shipping line also plans to slim its car-carrier network and focus on bigger dry-bulk vessels. “K” Line’s problems stem in part from its stake in Ocean Network Express, the joint venture with Japan‘s two other shipping lines formed to respond to broader shipping industry woes. ONE had a troubled launch last year, and stresses could grow next year as new emissions rules take effect.”

Shipping: “Port Tracker cites seasonal factors and tariff hold for low U.S.-bound retail container volumes” [Logistics Management]. “An annual lull between seasons and previously planned tariff increases on hold represent two main reasons for United States retail container port import volumes to fall to their lowest level in nearly a year, according to the Port Tracker report… Authors of the report explained that cargo import numbers do not correlate directly with retail sales or employment because they count only the number of cargo containers brought into the country, not the value of the merchandise inside them, adding that the amount of merchandise imported provides a rough barometer of retailers’ expectations.” • Yes, but a metal box is a metal box, and where is the philosopher who knows what “value” is, anyhow?

The Bezzle: “OneCoin Leaders Charged in Multibillion-Dollar Pyramid Scam” [Bloomberg]. “The leaders of an alleged multibillion-dollar international pyramid scheme that involved the marketing of the cryptocurrency OneCoin were charged by U.S. prosecutors with fraud and money laundering…. OneCoin generated 3.4 billion euros ($3.8 billion) in revenue from the fourth quarter of 2014 to the third quarter of 2016, prosecutors said. The alleged value of OneCoin rose from 50 euro cents to 29.95 euros in January and the company claimed to have more than 3 million members worldwide, prosecutors said.” • Prosecution futures, just as Yves said.

The Biosphere

“Wettest Winter in U.S. History” [Weather Underground]. “Across the three months of meteorological winter (December-February), the nationally averaged precipitation was 9.01″, just above the old record of 8.99″ from 1997-98. That winter’s precipitation was goosed by a record-strong El Niño event, as was the case in 1982-83 (the fifth wettest winter on record) and 2015-16 (the fifteenth wettest). This past winter saw only borderline El Niño conditions, though… This winter’s moisture was well distributed, with most of the nation wetter than average. Leading the pack were states east of the Rockies, where heavy snows and torrential rains fell time and again on the north and south sides of a persistent storm track from the Southern Plains to New England…. On the plus side, drought concerns are at a low ebb across the contiguous United States. Despite periods of intense drought in recent years, especially toward the Southwest—with the impacts worsened by rising temperatures—the overall trend over the last century has been toward wetter U.S. conditions. The 48-state annual precipitation average is now around 31″ compared to 29″ a century ago.” • Maybe we won’t have to invade Canada for their water after all!

“Polar melting: ‘Methane time bomb’ isn’t actually a ‘bomb'” [Yale Climate Connection]. “This month’s “This is Not Cool” video explores a frightening scenario that scientists began exploring in earnest about a decade ago. They worried that warming in the Earth’s polar regions soon could lead to a meltdown of frozen methane deposits, causing an enormous release of that potent greenhouse gas to the atmosphere…. ‘It’s not a situation where we trigger breakdown, and that that breakdown is going to suddenly — like the whole deposit’s going to release its methane all of a sudden,’ says geophysicist Carolyn Ruppel of the U.S. Geological Survey. ‘That is not a scientifically sound worry.’ Though a near-term bomb-like methane release is unlikely, it is true, and concerning, that the Arctic is gradually releasing methane as permafrost melts. That’s still dangerous, and it’s time to take action, scientists in the video suggest. ‘If we mitigate, or reduce, human emissions, [it] looks like you can avoid 70 to 80 percent of the permafrost climate feedback,” Abbott says.”

UPDATE “An ambitious infrastructure project is spurring violent resistance in Indonesia. A new highway to connect ports in western New Guinea with the Papuan rainforest has fanned fears that timber and palm-oil companies will destroy the newly-accessible wilderness” [Wall Street Journal]. “The 2,700-mile project is part of a development effort the government says will lower transport costs and consumer prices in one of Indonesia’s poorest regions. The country is the world’s largest palm-oil producer, and some Papuans who depend on the rainforest worry it will be cleared and replaced with plantations, accelerating deforestation. Armed separatists have skirmished with road workers and the military, which is now overseeing highway construction. Forty-one percent of West Papua’s land has already been granted to the palm-oil and timber industries, by one analysis, though much has remained undisturbed because of the difficulty of getting products to market.” • The Papuan’s aren’t dummies, are they?

“Proof of a 2,000 kilometre polar trade route in volcanic glass dating back at least 8,000 years” [The Siberian Times]. “Valuable obsidian travelled during Early Holocene times from Lake Krasnoe in Chukotka to Zhokhov Island deep in the Arctic…. This Great Ice Road was in operation four times as long ago as the famous Silk Road in Central Asia, and it was twice as old as the Egyptian pyramids… The conclusion is that ancient people used dog sleds to cover these remarkable distances ‘at the ends of the earth’. ‘The archaeological data from Zhokhov therefore indicate a super-long-distance Mesolithic exchange network,’ conclude the international team of researchers in the Antiquity paper.” • Makes sense, especially in the Arctic. Obsidian is the onlly substance that can kill White Walkers.

“How to Have a Useful Conversation About Climate Change in 11 Steps” [Medium]. “This 11-step approach is not for confronting trolls or deniers. It’s for talking with regular people who just aren’t used to talking about climate change. So choose a friend and set yourself up for a win. This is your time to build communication skills and enhance your confidence.” • Do we have any #fieldwork experts who can comment on this approach? It seemed a little creepy to me, but maybe that’s just the introvert in me talking. Readers?

Our Famously Free Press

“Hiding in Plain Sight: PAC-Connected Activists Set Up ‘Local News’ Outlets” [Snopes]. “On 6 February 2017, a website of uncertain origin named ‘The Tennessee Star’ was born. At the time, it was unclear who funded or operated this ‘local newspaper,’ which was largely filled with freely licensed content from organizations tied to conservative mega-donors. After some prodding by Politico in early 2018, the Tennessee Star revealed its primary architects to be three Tea Party-connected conservative activists: Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill, and Christina Botteri. Now, a Snopes investigation reveals in detail how these activists used the appearance of local newspapers to promote messages paid for or supported by outside or undisclosed interests…. But this story is about more than just the Tennessee Star. Leahy, Botteri, and Gill have been expanding their version of journalism to other battleground states in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. They are, they say, co-founders of a new, Delaware-registered company, Star News Digital Media, Inc., whose explicit strategy is to target battleground states with conservative news. So far, Leahy, Gill, and Botteri have added The Ohio Star and The Minnesota Sun to their network of purportedly local newspapers. These papers are effective carbon copies of the Tennessee Star.” • [Family-blogging] creeps.

WSJ to close Jakarta bureau, will restructure SE Asia Talking Biz News. The largest economy in Southeast Asia? What are you thinking, WSJ?

“WSJ to close Jakarta bureau, will restructure SE Asia” [Talking Biz News]. WSJ is creating a Singapore hub. But: “We will be closing our Jakarta bureau.” Indonesia is the largest economy in Southeast Asia and the sixteenth largest country in the world by GDP. I understand that an English-speaking reactionary city state might be more comfortable for some, but doesn’t it make sense to have reporters on the ground? Am I missing something here>

“A tax on digital ad spend (*cough* Facebook and Google) could bring in $2 billion for journalism” [Nieman Labs] (original). Quoting the Free Press: “Think of it like a carbon tax, which many countries impose on the oil industry to help clean up pollution. The United States should impose a similar mechanism on targeted advertising to counteract how the platforms amplify content that’s polluting our civic discourse.” • If carbon taxes are a good idea, this is a good idea. Readers?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“The Black Radical You’ve Never Heard Of” [The Nib]. • T. Thomas Fortune, printer, newspaperman, and founder of the New York Globe, among other things. (The article is in comic book form, so it’s hard to pull quotes from.)

Fascinating thread:

If we have any data visualization experts in the readership, perhaps they can comment.

Class Warfare

UPDATE “Lordstown’s Last Bell” [Industry Week]. “Then on Wednesday, right around closing time, a cluster of GM workers punched out for the last time. Instead of going straight home or to a restaurant or local bar, they joined a vigil across the divided highway with union leaders, friends who were laid off in earlier cutbacks, retirees. A Bernie Sanders delegate who had no connection to the plant beyond being a member of the community was there, too. He had been protesting the plant’s closure for the past 40 days, standing out in the cold, usually alone.”

UPDATE “Deal reached at Wabtec; strike ends in Erie” [GoErie]. “Wabtec, which absorbed GE Transportation as a wholly-owned subsidiary on Feb. 25, and the union, which represents about 1,700 employees at the Erie plant, have agreed to a 90-day deal that’s intended to give the two parties time to negotiate a longer collective bargaining agreement. Signs of the strike — tents, burn barrels, piles of firewood and stacks of strike signs — were quickly cleaned up Thursday morning by union workers who had spent nine days patrolling the vast perimeter of the Lawrence Park locomotive plant…. Wages are high on that list. While Wabtec has agreed to continue paying existing workers at their current pay scale — an average of $35 an hour — the company’s earlier proposal called for paying new employees and those called back to work what “a competitive wage scale” of $16.75 to $25 an hour.” • No two-tier. Never never never never never.

News of the Wired

Useful tips for crippling Google’s algos so it does what you want it to do, instead of what it thinks you want to do, or what advertisers want to make you do. Thread:

“When does one of the central ideas in economics – equilibrium – actually work?” [Oxford University] (original, too dense for me). “The concept of equilibrium is one of the most central ideas in economics. It is one of the core assumptions in the vast majority of economic models, including models used by policymakers on issues ranging from monetary policy to climate change, trade policy and the minimum wage. But is it a good assumption? In a recently-published Science Advances paper, Marco Pangallo, Torsten Heinrich and Doyne Farmer from the University of Oxford, investigate this question in the simple framework of games, and show that when the game gets complicated this assumption is problematic. If these results carry over from games to economics, this raises deep questions about when economics models are useful to understand the real world.” • “What, never?” “No, never.” “What, never?” “Well, hardly ever!”

For International Women’s Day 2019:

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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 (Angie):

2:00PM Water Cooler 3/8/2019

Angie writes:

I’m a faithful daily NC reader, thanks to everyone at the site for all you do, I love love love NC!

Please find attached a pic of my winter dooryard / garden. I live in the Cuyamaca mountains in the eastern suburbs of San Diego, California. Down in the city it is sunny and warm; up here at 4100′ altitude we’ve been getting snow the last few days.

The tree in the foreground is a Chinese Lantern tree, have to keep it in a planter as gophers live in the hill above us and they love tree roots, they’ve killed every tree planted up there. : ) Behind and above us are manzanita, scrub oak and oak trees. On the ground the California poppies have started pushing up here and there with some iris mixed in.

I love garden projects, and this looks like a really interesting use of that slope. Perhaps Angie will send us an update when everything is in full bloom!

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser. So do feel free to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, do feel free to click below! (The hat is temporarily defunct, so I slapped in some old code.)

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