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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/18/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Trade “China ‘regrets’ WTO ruling after losing grain import quota case brought by US” [South China Morning Post]. “China has promised to manage grain import tariff quotas within World Trade Organisation rules after losing an agriculture trade dispute case with the United States. A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel decided that China’s system of tariff rate quota system for rice, wheat and corn violated international trading rules. China’s Ministry of Commerce said that it ‘regrets’ the ruling and that it would ‘seriously study’ the decision The Commerce Ministry’s response is ‘a statement of acceptance’ according to Tu Xinquan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.” Politics “But what is government itself, but

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“China ‘regrets’ WTO ruling after losing grain import quota case brought by US” [South China Morning Post]. “China has promised to manage grain import tariff quotas within World Trade Organisation rules after losing an agriculture trade dispute case with the United States. A World Trade Organisation (WTO) panel decided that China’s system of tariff rate quota system for rice, wheat and corn violated international trading rules. China’s Ministry of Commerce said that it ‘regrets’ the ruling and that it would ‘seriously study’ the decision The Commerce Ministry’s response is ‘a statement of acceptance’ according to Tu Xinquan, a professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing.”


“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


Life’s rich pageant….

Biden (D)(1): Biden (D)(1): “Joe Biden Is Running for President” [Edward Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic]. “He wants this. He really wants this. He’s wanted this since he was first elected to the Senate, in 1972, and he’s decided that he isn’t too old, isn’t too out of sync with the current energy in the Democratic Party, and certainly wasn’t going to be chased out by the women who accused him of making them feel uncomfortable or demeaned because of how he’d touched them. Biden’s campaign will, at its core, argue that the response to Donald Trump requires an experienced, calm hand to help America take a deep breath and figure out a way to get back on track.” • “Take a deep breath.” Why, so I don’t throw up? (At the quality of Dovere’s prose, I hasten to add.)

Biden (D)(2): “Joe Biden rallies with striking Stop & Shop workers” [Boston Globe]. “‘What’s happening here is workers are not being treated across the board with dignity,’ the potential Democratic presidential candidate said from a podium outside the Stop & Shop at the South Bay Center in Dorchester. ‘They’re not being treated like they matter.'”

Buttigieg (D)(1): “Does everyone really love Mayor Pete? His home town has some answers” [Guardian]. “Should Buttigieg, a piano-playing polyglot bidding to become the youngest and first openly gay US president, remain a serious contender in the Democratic primary, his record on race relations in South Bend is likely to come under forensic scrutiny. Two in five African Americans in the city live below the poverty line, which is almost double the national poverty rate for African American households, according to a study by the city in 2017… Buttigieg’s focus on downtown has been criticized for coming at the expense of other neighborhoods. More than a quarter of the population still lives at or below the poverty line, well above the national average of 14%.”

Buttigieg (D)(2): “Buttigieg to fundraise in DC with major Obama, Clinton bundlers next month: report” [The Hill]. “Buttigieg will attend a May 21 event hosted by Steve Elmendorf and Barry Karas, two longtime Democratic donors who organized hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations for Clinton and Obama, respectively….. Invitations to next month’s fundraiser in Washington for Buttigieg range from $250 to $5,600 per person, according to NBC, and the event is billed as the mayor’s first visit to D.C. since launching his presidential bid.” • It’s always good to see a fresh face acting so…. fresh.

Buttigieg (D)(3): “IF I BECOME PREZ, CALL THIS BAND … To Play My Inauguration” [TMZ]. “Buttigieg was leaving NBC’s 30 Rock in NYC Thursday morn when we asked who his dream performers would be at his inauguration … seems he hasn’t really thought about it too much. TBH, that IS a looooong ways down the road. Still, our guy makes a suggestion — based on what we know about Pete’s musical preferences — and we’re thinking it’ll get some fans phired up. If [Phish is] interested, Buttigieg is too.” • Much as I dislike O’Rourke, I would bet he’d try to be up on the stage playing (albeit badly), as opposed to spectating.

Buttigieg (D)(4): “Pete Buttigieg’s Presidential Run Has Many LGBT Democrats Eager For Their Obama Moment” [Buzzfeed]. • What, they’re all going to lose their houses when Buttigieg doesn’t deal with the next foreclosure crisis?

Buttigieg (D)(5): “Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg makes surprise stop in South Bend, drives around with Mayor Pete” [South Bend Tribune]. • From 2017, I believe this is from the time when Zuckerberg was thinking of running for President himself, so he was traveling about the country doing normal things with normal people. Maybe there’s some oppo in the videos, I dunno…

Harris (D)(1): “Sen. Kamala D. Harris expresses ‘regret’ over her California truancy policy” [WaPo]. “Sen. Kamala D. Harris, the former California attorney general whose prosecutorial record is drawing criticism from some as overly harsh, expressed “regret” on Wednesday for a truancy program she implemented and said she would not support expanding nationally if she becomes president. While district attorney of San Francisco, Harris tried to combat waning school attendance by criminalizing truancy. She was then able to use the threat of fines or jail time for parents of children who missed too many school days. Harris never sent a parent to jail while overseeing this initiative as San Francisco’s chief prosecutor. But when she became attorney general of California in 2011, she implemented the policy statewide. Prosecutors across the state took parents to court, and some were jailed.” • Didn’t poll well, I guess…

Harris (D)(2): “Kamala Harris takes early lead in the big-money race” [Politico]. “Hundreds of the biggest Democratic fundraisers in the past two presidential elections are already picking candidates for 2020 — and Kamala Harris has a significant early edge, while Pete Buttigieg and his from-scratch campaign has scrambled into the second tier. Harris has already received donations from 176 people or couples who raised at least $100,000, and sometimes many multiples of that, for Hillary Clinton in 2016 or at least $50,000 for Barack Obama in 2012, according to a POLITICO analysis of new campaign finance disclosures and “bundler” data from the Center for Responsive Politics. While the Democratic presidential campaigns have been focused on building small-donor armies this year, bundlers mine their networks for checks to pass along to campaigns six or seven-figures at a time, giving them a potentially massive role in a crowded primary.” • How odd that the 1% believes that it can simply pay to control the ballot.

Moulton (D): “Seth Moulton’s seaside video shoot could mean decision to enter 2020 race is imminent” [Boston Globe]. “The Globe has obtained a photo appearing to show Moulton taping what could be an announcement video with a film crew in Marblehead, the North Shore town where Moulton grew up… In addition to the filming, Moulton will also speak at the Politics & Eggs breakfast in New Hampshire next week, the New Hampshire Institute of Politics announced Wednesday.” • Readers may remember Moulton as a MILO who considered challenging Pelosi. From the right.

Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders and the Science of Smears” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. ” I would counsel anyone who thinks Russia is responsible for the rise of Sanders or people like Gabbard or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez should go out and interview voters around the country, especially in remote areas. The anger toward the political establishment that drives support for such politicians began to be visible over a decade ago, long before Sanders or Gabbard were factors in any kind in national politics. Those voters aren’t selfish, or hypocrites, or Kremlin favorites, and they’re not going anywhere. What a lot of DC-based reporters and analysts don’t grasp is that if you remove Bernie Sanders from the scene, there will still be millions of people out there mad about income inequality. Remove Gabbard, and discontent about the human and financial costs of our military commitments will still be rampant. Removing Warren won’t cancel out anger about Wall Street corruption. Covering personalities instead of political movements only delays things for a while.” • The problem is “outside agitators,” as the power structure of the segregated South well knew. Right?

Sanders (D)(2): “Sanders gets endorsements from 7 black S. Carolina lawmakers” [Associated Press]. “Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday announced endorsements from seven black lawmakers in the critical early voting state of South Carolina, a show of force in the first place where African American voters feature prominently in next year’s primary elections…. Sanders, a senator from Vermont, has taken a different approach this time, working to deepen ties with the black voters who comprise most of the Democratic primary electorate in the state and pledging to visit South Carolina much more frequently. Our Revolution, the organizing offshoot of Sanders’ 2016 campaign, has an active branch in the state, holding regular meetings and conferences throughout the state. Sanders addressed the group last year.”

Sanders (D)(3): “The Impotence of “Stop Sanders” Democrats” [The New Republic]. “Sanders’s most vocal opponents in the party are an assemblage of establishmentarians and familiar Beltway hands, none of whom speak for a political constituency of any size or significance. Moreover, far from hurting Sanders, this impotent assault is self-defeating, fueling the narrative that party gatekeepers want, at all costs, to keep a political revolution from taking over the Democratic Party… Sanders has transformed attacks from the liberal policy advocacy organization Center for American Progress—run by Clinton loyalist Neera Tanden—and Brock into a fundraising bonanza. Fights with the Democratic establishment only bolster Sanders’s credibility with his base—along with the sense that the party is out to kneecap his campaign once again.”

Sanders (D)(4): “It’s Bernie’s World (And 2020 Democrats Are All Living in It)” [Amy Walter, Cook Political Report]. “We are too early in the game to start throwing around terms like “favorite” in this very wide open primary among the Democrats. But, Sanders has succeeded in a very important aspect of the game: thus far he’s been able to dictate the rules and the terrain in which it is set. The questions going forward are: 1) can anyone beat him at his own game?; and/or 2) can someone else rewrite those rules?” • Interesting…

Sanders (D)(5): “Bernie Sanders can’t beat Donald Trump in 2020: Obama campaign manager Jim Messina” [ABC]. Messina: “I think if you look at swing voters in this country they are incredibly focused on the economy. I think today you look at it and say that Bernie Sanders is unlikely going to be able to stand up to the constant barrage that is Donald Trump on economic issues.” • Well, we’ll see how that goes, if we get to that point…

Sanders (D)(6): Digital team produces hyper-local content:

I’d like to see what they come up with for South Carolina.

Warren (D): “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez” [Elizabeth Warren, Time (dk)]. “Her commitment to putting power in the hands of the people is forged in fire. Coming from a family in crisis and graduating from school with a mountain of debt, she fought back against a rigged system and emerged as a fearless leader in a movement committed to demonstrating what an economy, a planet and a government that works for everyone should look like. A year ago, she was taking orders across a bar. Today, millions are taking cues from her.”

Yang (D): “What I Saw at the Andrew Yang Rally in Washington” [The American Conservative]. “Yang’s popularity is a result of his appealing directly to voters who feel ignored by the two major parties, very much like the campaigns that launched Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump to near-folk hero status in 2016 and onward. Yang, however, has less of a track recordthan Sanders and Trump. Many former “Bernie Bros” were at the Yang rally, sporting “Math” baseball caps and Yang shirts—they never forgave Sanders for his endorsement of Hillary Clinton in 2016. One college student told me he was worried that his public support for Yang would prompt his removal from his school’s Democratic Socialists of America chapter, since the DSA has backed Sanders’ 2020 candidacy.”


Indivisible weighs in for impeachment:

Cancel my appointment with the Department of Schadenfreude:


Amazingly, Trump somehow selected staff who protected him by not doing stupid stuff he told them to do.

Realignment and Legitimacy

A counter-narrative on super-delegates. Thread:

“Nearly 100,000 Pentagon Whistleblower Complaints Have Been Silenced” [Truthdig]. • Sanders should hold a stadium rally for whistleblowers, with numbers like that.

Stats Watch

Jobless Claims, week of April 13, 2019: “This morning’s retail sales are lifting estimates for first-quarter GDP while this morning’s jobless claims are lifting estimates for the March employment report” [Econoday].

Leading Indicators, March 2019: “Following five months of soft readings, the index of leading economic indicators picked up the pace” [Econoday]. “Despite the strength, the report warns that, given prior weakness, the trend for the LEI is still moderate and suggests that U.S. GDP is likely to decelerate toward the 2 percent level through the year.”

Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, April 2019: “A surge in new orders grabs the headlines in what is a mixed April edition of the Philadelphia Fed manufacturing report” [Econoday]. “A striking detail in the report, and one not consistent with rising activity, is a sharp reduction in April’s delivery times…. This points to clearing in the supply chain but may, on the optimistic side, hint at better production performance in the months ahead.”

Purchasing Managers’ Index Composite FLASH, April 2019: “Of all the anecdotal reports on U.S. business, those from Markit Economics have consistently been showing the least strength of any. That said, the flash PMI results for April are not a source of optimism” [Econoday]. “Weakness is where strength used to be centered in this report, and that’s in services where growth apparently is slowing abruptly this month.”

Housing Starts, March 2019: “The slump continues. Housing starts came in far below expectations in March” [Econoday]. “However strong the jobs market may be, residential investment was the consistent tail ender in last year’s GPD statistics and doesn’t look like it will be improving in the first quarter…. All regions in fact are in the negative year-on-year columns whether for starts or permits.”

Retail Sales, March 2019: “The optimists weren’t quite optimistic enough as March retail sales, across all major readings, came in just above Econoday’s high estimates” [Econoday]. “this report is not about weakness but about strength, and the results are certain, like yesterday’s trade data for February, to give a lift to first-quarter GDP estimates. The economy’s soft patch so far this year isn’t as soft as it once looked, but questions remain.”

Business Inventories, February 2019: “What seemed to have been an alarming build eased in February though extending overhang is nevertheless a risk” [Econoday]. “Whether or not inventory growth gets out of hand will be determined by the strength of ongoing and future demand which, based on the health of this morning’s retail sales and jobless claims data, looks mostly solid and healthy.”

The Bezzle: “Here Are Sears Holding’s Five “Fraudulent Transfers” and Why “Culpable Insiders” Lampert, Mnuchin, et. al Got Sued” [Wolf Street (EM)]. “The lawsuit (110-page court document) alleges that “Lampert and the other Culpable Insiders” have systematically stripped many billions of dollars’ worth of assets from the retailer for their own benefit, and to the detriment of the creditors. This asset stripping was done in various ingenious ways, involving scores of insiders.” • What fun!

The Bezzle: “Have We Reached Peak Lyft?” [n+1]. “LAST FRIDAY, Lyft became America’s latest decacorn with an initial public offering that valued it at $24.3 billion; analysts expect Uber’s IPO, scheduled for later this year, to fetch $120 billion. These eye-popping valuations are bolstered not by profits—Lyft lost nearly a billion dollars in 2018—but by narrative.”

The Biosphere

“Notre-Dame fire: Bees on roof survived, beekeeper says” [The Connexion]. “The 200,000 bees that live in the hives on the roof of Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris appear to have survived the fire disaster that led to the collapse of much of the roof and spire, it has emerged. Beekeeper Nicolas Géant, who manages the Notre-Dame hives, said that he hopes to see the bees and continue to care for them ‘next week’, after learning that they had survived the incident and had been spotted emerging from their hives in the cathedral in the past few days… He said: ‘The bees are alive. Initially I thought that the three hives had burned away, and I had no information. But later I saw that this was not the case, and the spokesperson at the cathedral confirmed to me that [the bees] were coming in and out of the hives.’ In case of fire, bees usually gorge themselves with honey and seek to protect their queen bee as a priority, he said.” • Keeping bees on rooftops in the city has never occurred to me. Do we have any readers who do this?

“Landowners are earning millions for carbon cuts that may not occur” [MIT Technology Review]. “Under a California program aimed at curbing climate pollution, landowners across the US have received hundreds of millions of dollars for promised carbon dioxide reductions that may not occur. The state has issued carbon offset credits to projects that may overstate their emissions reductions by 80 million tons of carbon dioxide, a third of the total cuts that the state’s cap-and-trade program was expected to achieve in the next decade, according to a policy brief that will be released in the next few days by the University of California, Berkeley.” • Hoo boy. Who would have thought that a market-based solution would be gamed?

“Seeing “Evolution in Real Time”: Mice Blend in to Survive” [PBS] (original). “The work of Barrett and his team, published today in the journal Science, highlights how the stresses of the natural environment can directly alter the fate of one gene—all within the span of a single generation. In light of our rapidly-changing world, these findings underscore the idea that, even against the complex backdrop of nature, one small shift can permanently tip the scales for an entire population. ‘This is a beautiful study,’ says Obed Hernández-Gómez, an evolutionary biologist and geneticist at the University of California, Berkeley who was not involved in the study. ‘Recently we’ve looked at genes and understood that evolutionary processes act very quickly. To see that confirmed in this study, and not in a human-mediated environment… This could end up being one of those prominent examples we use to teach biology students in the future.'” • It would certainly be a shame if mice adapted more efficiently than humans (“How are you gonna pay for it?”)

“Climate Change and the Federal Reserve” [Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco]. “With regard to financial stability, many central banks have acknowledged the importance of accounting for the increasing financial risks from climate change…. These risks include potential loan losses at banks resulting from the business interruptions and bankruptcies caused by storms, droughts, wildfires, and other extreme events. There are also transition risks associated with the adjustment to a low-carbon economy, such as the unexpected losses in the value of assets or companies that depend on fossil fuels. In this regard, even long-term risks can have near-term consequences as investors reprice assets for a low-carbon future. Furthermore, financial firms with limited carbon emissions may still face substantial climate-based credit risk exposure, for example, through loans to affected businesses or mortgages on coastal real estate. If such exposures were broadly correlated across regions or industries, the resulting climate-based risk could threaten the stability of the financial system as a whole and be of macroprudential concern. In response, the financial supervisory authorities in a number of countries have encouraged financial institutions to disclose any climate-related financial risks and to conduct ‘climate stress tests’ to assess their solvency across a range of future climate change alternatives…. Some central banks also recognize that climate change is becoming increasingly relevant for monetary policy…. For example, climate-related financial risks could affect the economy through elevated credit spreads, greater precautionary saving, and, in the extreme, a financial crisis.” • Not sure what “heading for the exits” looks like in climactic terms. The Mars missions seem a little sketchy; the New Zealand bunkers are far away. and nobody likes a crowd. The earth is round, after all. Where would the exits be?

“New Wave of Satellites Could Pinpoint Greenhouse Gas Offenders” [Bloomberg]. “More than a dozen governments and companies have or are planning to launch satellites that measure concentrations of heat-trapping gases such as methane, which is blamed for about one quarter of man-made global warming. They are looking to track nations, industries, companies and even individual facilities to identify some of the biggest contributors to climate change…. The information may reinforce shareholder pressure on companies to disclose and reduce emissions.” • Or, I dunno, throw some CEOs in jail?

“How air pollution is doing more than killing us” [BBC]. A useful round-up of studies on air pollution and behavior changes. The conclusion: “If we all begin to monitor pollution levels ourselves, we then might start making it a habit to avoid certain activities, like outdoor sports, or even commuting on the most polluted days. Our bodies, brains, and behaviours will benefit.” • Adapt, consumers!

“Plastic bag bans are spreading. But are they truly effective?” [National Geographic]. “Yet as bag bans spread around the globe, their effectiveness—despite Wakibia’s sunny appraisal of Kenya’s effort—remains an unanswered question. Bag bans have spawned bans of other plastic products, including plates, cups, cutlery, straws and bottles, as part of an expanding effort to reduce single-use plastics, which make up about 40 percent of the plastics manufactured worldwide. But whether bans can significantly reduce plastic waste, which leaks into the oceans at an average rate of 8 million tons a year, remains to be seen‒especially when considering that plastic production is forecast to double by 2040, and may account for 20 percent of the world’s oil production by 2050.”

“Evaluating Knowledge to Support Climate Action: A Framework for Sustained Assessment” (PDF) [American Meteorological Society]. “A key recommendation is establishing a new non-federal “climate assessment consortium” to increase the role of state/local/tribal government and civil society in assessments. The expanded process would: (1) focus on applied problems faced by practitioners; (2) organize sustained partnerships for collaborative learning across similar projects and case studies to identify effective tested practices; and (3) assess and improve knowledge-based methods for project implementation. Specific recommendations include: evaluating climate models and data using user-defined metrics; improving benefit-cost assessment and supporting decision-making under uncertainty, and accelerating application of tools and methods such as citizen science, artificial intelligence, indicators, and geospatial analysis.” • This is important, and I hope GND advocates are paying attention, particularly to the citizen science part, which meshes neatly with a Jobs Guarantee.” • This is important, and I hope GND advocates are paying attention, particularly to the citizen science part, which meshes neatly with a Jobs Guarantee.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“In ‘Stony the Road,’ Henry Louis Gates Jr. Captures the History and Images of the Fraught Years After the Civil War” [New York Times]. “‘Stony the Road’ offers a history lesson on connivance, or, in today’s idiom, collusion, by cataloging in words and pictures the white supremacy at the highest levels of American politics, including President Woodrow Wilson’s praise for ‘The Birth of a Nation,‘ a Negrophobic hymn to the Ku Klux Klan that was shown in the White House in 1915. By recreating such potent scenes, Gates makes clear what early-20th-century blacks were up against, and ‘Stony the Road’ seems to encourage us to take hope. The book’s devastating inventory of cruel, ugly stereotypes, lynchings and torture puts our current era immediately in context.”

Class Warfare

Filing this under class warfare as opposed to The Biosphere. I like the Trillbillies:

“Johnny Cash to replace Confederate statue on Capitol Hill” [WaPo]. “The current statues of Uriah Milton Rose, an attorney who sided with the Confederacy, and James P. Clarke, a governor of the state who held racist beliefs, are not being removed because of their controversial past, but rather because of a decision by the state ‘to update the statues with representatives of our more recent history,’ said [Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R)].” • And then there’s the fact that Cash is a great artist:

Filing this here for the lyrics…

“Opinion: Even 75% of Americans in the best 401(k) plans won’t have enough to retire” [MarketWatch]. “Three of every four participants in the best corporate 401(k) retirement plans won’t have enough to cover their post-retirement living expenses.” • Oh well…

News of the Wired

“Pig brains kept alive outside body for hours after death” [Nature]. “[T]he team never saw coordinated electrical patterns across the entire brain, which would indicate sophisticated brain activity or even consciousness. The researchers say that restarting brain activity might require an electrical shock, or preserving the brain in solution for extended periods to allow cells to recover from any damage they sustained while deprived of oxygen.” • Paging Mary Shelley…

“Look What the Cat Dragged In: Parasites” [New York Times]. “After comparing nearly two dozen studies from around the world, researchers found that outdoor cats were nearly three times more likely to contract a parasitic infection than indoor cats. The findings add support to one side of a debate about where pet cats should be allowed to roam, suggesting that to protect your pets, wildlife and even the health of your family, keeping cats inside is less risky.” • Where will cats — who are predators — lead their best cat lives?

“Help! My garden is out of control” [Financial Times]. “In the 19th century our house was called Brock Leys and so we should have been ready for a continuous badger party along the lines described by the FT’s Robin Lane Fox in his new year columns. The wretched creatures push aside the lumps of concrete, rock and wood I shove into the holes they have made under our boundaries. My strategy is to ask all human male visitors to relieve themselves on the boundaries. I do too, and both types of urine seem to keep brocks at bay.” • This is a strategy for deer as well!

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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 (Flowing Health):

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/18/2019

Flowing Health writes: “Here is a pic of my dog with some trillium which loves to grow in the shade of doug fir trees which we have plenty of here in the PNW. Please credit his Instagram account: @duzzthedog.” Leveling up my dog game!

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2:00PM Water Cooler 4/18/2019

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