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2:00PM Water Cooler 7/9/2019

Summary:
By Lambert Strether of Corrente Trade “U.S. automakers face an oversized inventory problem. Sales of sport-utility vehicles are slowing, leaving models crowding dealership lots for longer periods…, yet car companies are preparing to roll out more SUV offerings into already-packed showrooms” [Wall Street Journal]. “The gap between sales and strategy is in part the result of the long lead times it takes to get automotive supply chains running. But some dealers say manufacturers are falling back on old habits of overbuilding to keep factories running and then turning to discounts to boost sales. U.S. auto sales fell 2.2% in the first half of this year, and the 1.6% growth in SUV and crossover sales was lackluster by historical standards. That’s hit shipping networks, with rail shipments of

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Trade

“U.S. automakers face an oversized inventory problem. Sales of sport-utility vehicles are slowing, leaving models crowding dealership lots for longer periods…, yet car companies are preparing to roll out more SUV offerings into already-packed showrooms” [Wall Street Journal]. “The gap between sales and strategy is in part the result of the long lead times it takes to get automotive supply chains running. But some dealers say manufacturers are falling back on old habits of overbuilding to keep factories running and then turning to discounts to boost sales. U.S. auto sales fell 2.2% in the first half of this year, and the 1.6% growth in SUV and crossover sales was lackluster by historical standards. That’s hit shipping networks, with rail shipments of motor vehicle and parts falling in five of the first six months of the year, according to the Association of American Railroads.” • Not a bad thing from the perspective of the biosphere.

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 Democratic Presidential Nomination” [RealClearPolitics] (average of five polls). As of July 5: Biden up at 27.3% (26.8%), Sanders flat at 14.9% (14.8%), Warren up at 13.9% (13.7%), Buttigieg flat at 5.3% (5.3%), Harris having jumped, flat at 15.0% (15.0%), others Brownian motion. Sanders, Harris, Warren now clustered, Biden having rebounded in the past few days, putting the busing controversy behind him, I’m guessing.

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2020

Swalwell (D)(1): “Swalwell drops out of presidential race, announces House reelection bid” [The Hill]. “Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) dropped out of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary on Monday, making him the first major candidate in the crowded 2020 primary field to end a presidential bid…. Swalwell, who is a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and a member of the House Intelligence Committee, instead said he will focus on his reelection bid for his fifth term in the lower chamber.” • So Swalwell had a single purpose in life? To get into the debates and then drop out, after repeatedly telling Biden to “pass the torch”? Ironic if he was Pelosi’s straw on behalf of Harris, I must say.

Gillibrand (D)(1): “Why Is Kirsten Gillibrand Going Nowhere in the Granite State?” [Inside Sources]. “Sen. Gillibrand is at zero percent in five of the last six polls of New Hampshire voters listed at the FiveThirtyEight website…. Former Vice President Joe Biden has held just 10 events in New Hampshire, according to tracking by New England Cable News. Sen. Kamala Harris has had 12 events and Mayor Pete Buttigieg 16. And they’re all having some polling success in New Hampshire. Kirsten Gillibrand has held 55 events – and counting…. Some Democrats tell InsideSources they believe Gillibrand’s fundamental problem is that she’s running an entire campaign on women’s issues in a race where candidates like Warren and Harris let Democrats both vote for the first woman president and advance other agenda items at the same time.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“The Jeffrey Epstein case is why people believe in Pizzagate” [Matthew Walther, The Week]. The conclusion:

If you have spent the last few years earnestly consuming mainstream left-of-center media in this country you will be under the impression that the United States has fallen under the control of a spray-tanned Mussolini clone who is never more than five minutes away from making birth control illegal. If you watch Fox News and read conservative publications, you no doubt bemoan the fact that Ronald Reagan’s heir is being hamstrung by a bunch of avocado toast-eating feminist witches. Meanwhile, Alex Jones’s audience will tell you that America, like the rest of the world, is ruled by a depraved internationalist elite whose ultimate allegiance is not to countries or political parties or ideologies but to one another. These people believe in nothing. They will safeguard their wealth and privilege at any cost. They will never break rank. And they will commit unspeakable crimes with impunity, while anyone who dares to speculate openly is sued or hounded out of public life as a kook.

Which of these worldviews is closest to the truth?

Not a bad question.

Stats Watch

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index, June 2019: “The small business optimism index missed expectations in June” [Econoday]. “The dip in this report is consistent with similar declines in other readings on business sentiment which are being pulled back on concerns over slowing in global trade and slowing in global growth.”

JOLTS, May 2019: “The level of job openings remains very high but is easing [and] lower-than-expected” [Econoday]. “A moderate quits rates suggests workers are not shifting to higher paying jobs which for Federal Reserve policy makers points to available capacity in the labor market and lack of pressure on wages. Today’s report is consistent with easing levels of stress in the labor market in results that are not likely to stand in the way of a possible rate cut at the month-end FOMC.”

Employment Situation: “US Labour Market still adding jobs but scope for further expansion” [Bill Mitchell]. “Last week’s (July 5, 2019) release by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of their latest labour market data – Employment Situation Summary – June 2019 – reveals a steady labour market with month-to-month volatility. The US labour market is still adding jobs, albeit at a slower pace than last year. The unemployment rate remains low (at 3.67 per cent) and the participation rate has moved up a tick, which is a good sign. It is also clear that there is still a substantial jobs deficit remaining and considerable scope for increased participation… [W]hile payroll employment growth has been steady since the crisis ended, it is still well down on previous decades of growth.”

Tech: “Serious Zoom security flaw could let websites hijack Mac cameras” [The Verge]. “Today, security researcher Jonathan Leitschuh has publicly disclosed a serious zero-day vulnerability for the Zoom video conferencing app on Macs. He has demonstrated that any website can open up a video-enabled call on a Mac with the Zoom app installed. That’s possible in part because the Zoom app apparently installs a web server on Macs that accepts requests regular browsers wouldn’t. In fact, if you uninstall Zoom, that web server persists and can reinstall Zoom without your intervention.” • Yikes!

Tech: “Kuo: Apple to include new scissor switch keyboard in 2019 MacBook Air and 2020 MacBook Pro” [9to5Mac]. “Apple has introduced four generations of butterfly keyboards in as many years, attempting to address user complaints about stuck keys, repeated key inputs, and even the loud clackiness of typing when striking each keycap…. Keyboard ergonomics and feel is dependent on many factors, but it is a promising sign that Apple is reverting to the same key switch mechanism used in every MacBook before 2015, which was widely praised.” • A coincidence that the butterfly keyboard dies after the thin-ness obsessed Jony Ive left?

Tech: “Amazon confirms Alexa customer voice recordings are kept forever” [ZDNet]. “Amazon has confirmed that the voice recordings produced by customers of the Amazon Alexa smart assistant are held forever unless users manually remove them… Unless you know how to remove these recordings manually, Amazon will retain them — and in some cases, the letter [from Amazon VP of public policy Brian Huseman told Democrat Senator, Chris Coons] reveals that transcripts will be held even if users remove the audio. … The recorded information is not anonymized and transcripts are associated with customer accounts.” • Of course, we’re assuming that the online buttons for removing the recordings aren’t a ginormous dark pattern, like “Close Door” buttons in elevators.

Manufacturing: “Airbus to Check Wings of Emirates, Qantas A380 Jets for Cracks” [Bloomberg]. “An Airbus spokesman said small cracks had been found on the outer rear wing spars of early-production A380s, and that inspections and repairs can be accomplished at the same time as heavy-maintenance checks. The safety of the fleet is not affected, he said.”

Food: “Maggots: A taste of food’s future” [WaPo]. “[T]he black soldier fly larva’s remarkable ability to transform nearly any kind of organic waste — cafeteria refuse, manure, even toxic algae — into high-quality protein, all while leaving a smaller carbon footprint than it found. In one year, a single acre of black soldier fly larvae can produce more protein than 3,000 acres of cattle or 130 acres of soybeans. Such yields, combined with the need to find cheap, reliable protein for a global population projected to jump 30 percent, to 9.8 billion by 2050, present big opportunity for the black soldier fly… Soldier flies are ‘where carbon goes to die,’ Tomberlin said. ‘It goes into this system and comes out the other end as all these beneficial ingredients.’ Such as food for animals.” • This actually sounds pretty neat, especially the carbon part. Go long maggots!

The Biosphere

“The Nation’s Largest Commercial Insurance Company Has Ditched Covering Coal. That’s a Big Deal” [Mother Jones]. “Chubb Ltd., the nation’s largest commercial insurance company, announced it will move away from insuring and investing in coal. It becomes the first major U.S. insurance company to take such action, joining more than a dozen European and Australian insurers that have already adopted similar policies. Chubb will no longer underwrite the construction of new coal-fired power plants, according to the policy. It will also stop investing in companies that generate more than 30% of their revenues from coal mining or production, as well as phase out existing coverage for mining and utility companies that exceed the 30% threshold. ‘Chubb recognizes the reality of climate change and the substantial impact of human activity on our planet,’ Evan G. Greenberg, the company’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. ‘The policy we are implementing today reflects Chubb’s commitment to do our part as a steward of the Earth.'” • What industry will be next, I wonder?

“The True Price of Electric Cars” [Bloomberg]. “[F]or the 3 million or so Europeans working in the auto industry, the transition [from ICE to EV] is a source of great anxiety. While the numbers are hotly debated, carmaker jobs will probably become scarcer because electric vehicles need fewer parts and less maintenance than their gas-guzzling predecessors. With automation, Brexit, and President Donald’s Trump tariff wars all hitting the European sector too, things look bleak for auto workers. Ford is slashing 12,000 jobs on the continent (carmakers cut 38,000 jobs globally in the six months to May). The wider industrial background is little better: Manufacturing as a share of European Union GDP fell from 19% to 14% between 1991 and 2018. None of this is ideal for mainstream political leaders who are trying to safeguard decent blue-collar jobs to counteract the appeal of populist rivals.” • A Jobs Guarantee is, I suppose, anathema.

“The war on Southern California smog is slipping. Fixing it is a $14-billion problem” [Los Angeles Times]. “Decades of emissions-cutting regulations under a bipartisan law — the 1970 Clean Air Act — have eased the choking pollution that once shrouded U.S. cities. Cleaner air has saved lives and strengthened the lungs of Los Angeles children. But now, air quality is slipping once again. Bad air days are ticking up across the nation, and emissions reductions are slowing. The most notable setback has been with ozone, the lung-damaging gas in smog that builds up in warm, sunny weather and triggers asthma attacks and other health problems that can be deadly…. Health effects from ozone pollution have remained essentially unchanged over the last decade — ‘stubbornly high,’ according to a study published this year by scientists at New York University and the American Thoracic Society. Nowhere is the situation worse than in Southern California, where researchers found a 10% increase in deaths attributable to ozone pollution from 2010 to 2017.”

“The Internet Is Drowning” [National Geographic]. “A vast web of physical infrastructure undergirds the internet connections that touch nearly every aspect of modern life. Delicate fiber optic cables, massive data transfer stations, and power stations create a patchwork of literal nuts and bolts that facilitates the flow of zeros and ones. Now, research shows that a whole lot of that infrastructure sits squarely in the path of rising seas…. When the three researchers laid the map of the internet’s physical infrastructure on top of sea-level rise prediction maps, they saw a striking overlap: Huge sections of important infrastructure were in the places likely to be underwater within 15 years.” • Good thing all our data is up in the Cloud. Oh, wait…

Our Famously Free Press

“‘Mad’ Magazine Told the Truth About War, Advertising, and the Media” [Jeer Heet, The Nation]. “The kids who read Mad learned from it to distrust authority, whether in the form of politicians, advertisers or media figures. That was a lesson that successive generations took to heart. Without Mad, it’s impossible to imagine underground comics, National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, The Simpsons, The Daily Show, or Stephen Colbert. In the historical sweep of American culture, Mad is the crucial link between the anarchic humor of the Marx Brothers and the counterculture that emerged in the 1960s.” • Heet identifies “detestation of lies” as Mad’s “underlying ethic.” Hard to see how that descends from the Marx Brothers. And it’s also hard to see how that effort ever got a lot of political traction. Remember The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear? Back in 2010?

Guillotine Watch

“The Dish On Dinner” [New York Magazine]. • From 2003, includes a description of a Jeffrey Epstein dinner party (“‘I had rich shock!’ one stunned guest says) but also provides a window into the Manhattan elite circles in which Epstein moved. My favorite:

STEVE RATTNER, Managing Principal of the Quadrangle Group
MAUREEN WHITE, DNC finance chief

Where: Fifth Avenue apartment
Guest list: Steve Brill, Harvey Weinstein, Hillary Clinton, Merrill Lynch CEO Stanley O’Neal, Arthur Sulzberger, Chuck Schumer, Wendy Wasserstein
Décor theme: The apartment faces the Met, and the art is just as good.
Upside: Unlimited networking potential. “It’s a terrific New York room,” says an enamored guest who crows over the heady mix of politicians, art-world luminaries, and journalists.
Downside: Unlimited networking potential. Says a past Christmas-party guest, “You feel like you’ve all been assembled there to hustle or so that other guests can hustle you. When you leave, you have to check to make sure no one’s taken your soul!”

Class Warfare

“When bills pile up, young people turn to strangers on Venmo” [Los Angeles Times]. “In concept, crowdfunding from a Twitter community resembles a digital version of immigrant lending circles, or a modern version of a rent party — events that arose in the 1920s as African Americans migrating to Harlem leaned on their friends and communities to cover exorbitant, discriminatory rents…. There’s been a ‘generational shift‘ in the way young millennials and Gen Z discuss labor, wrote Terry Nguyen, who produces a newsletter on Gen Z culture. ‘Through social media platforms, even the most niche hobbies and lifestyles can become monetized labor….’ Nguyen writes. ‘Nothing is done for free anymore. In fact, unpaid work is frowned upon and institutions that encourage free labor are shamed.'” • Emotional labor would be the new frontier, I would think. Can readers comment on this trend, if trend it be?

“Amazon Workers Plan Prime Day Strike at Minnesota Warehouse” [Bloomberg]. “‘Amazon is going to be telling one story about itself, which is they can ship a Kindle to your house in one day, isn’t that wonderful,’ said William Stolz, one of the Shakopee employees organizing the strike. ‘We want to take the opportunity to talk about what it takes to make that work happen and put pressure on Amazon to protect us and provide safe, reliable jobs.’… Of late, warehouses in Minnesota’s Twin Cities region have become an epicenter of worker activism, led by East African Muslim immigrants who organizers say compose the majority of the five facilities’ staff. Last year workers thronged the entryway of a delivery center chanting “Yes we can” in Somali and English, presenting management with demands such as reduced workloads while fasting for Ramadan. They also circulated flyers at a nearby fulfillment center urging co-workers to wear blue shirts and hijabs in support of the same cause.”

News of the Wired

[Lambert preens at “codgers” (Thread)]:

Also, if you want to know how to test the seal on a freezer, this is the thread for you!

The last gender reveal debacle burnt 47,000 acres:

I don’t know when “gender reveal parties” became a thing, but I can’t help regarding them as a popular rejection of “gender fluidity.”

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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 (SV):

2:00PM Water Cooler 7/9/2019

SV writes: “Our Milkweed looks to be about a month ahead of Mr. Conner’s beautiful specimens. Note the aphid/ant farm in the upper left. Don’t know nothin’ ’bout no seeds! In year 4 here subterranean roots have spread through the native heavy clay soil. Some might not like this ‘out of control’ habit but I celebrate it: I’ve dug these upstarts in early Spring and replanted them in another front yard bed.”

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2:00PM Water Cooler 7/9/2019

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