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2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Trade “Global Shipment Giant Reckons Worst Is Over for Trade, Brexit” [Bloomberg]. “The worst may now be over for global trade as tensions over Brexit and the U.S.-China relationship show signs of easing, according to a key freight industry executive. ‘Brexit naturally slows everyone down in making decisions, but it will get resolved in the space of three to four months,’ John Pearson, who runs the worldwide DHL Express operations of Deutsche Post AG, said in an interview. ‘There is a positive mood within the China-U.S. trade relationship, that’s a fact. I’m not anticipating it to get any worse.'” • We’ll see! Politics “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51 “They had one weapon

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Global Shipment Giant Reckons Worst Is Over for Trade, Brexit” [Bloomberg]. “The worst may now be over for global trade as tensions over Brexit and the U.S.-China relationship show signs of easing, according to a key freight industry executive. ‘Brexit naturally slows everyone down in making decisions, but it will get resolved in the space of three to four months,’ John Pearson, who runs the worldwide DHL Express operations of Deutsche Post AG, said in an interview. ‘There is a positive mood within the China-U.S. trade relationship, that’s a fact. I’m not anticipating it to get any worse.'” • We’ll see!


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

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

Here is a second counter for the Iowa Caucus, which is obviously just around the corner:

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Alert reader dk (not to be confused with DK) is in the process of developing the following interactive chart.

Here is (are) the latest Dem Primary Polling as of 11/19/2019, 12:00 PM EST. HarrisX and Morning Consult have the Biden juggernaut back on the road, with Sanders a strong second, Warren a clear third, and Buttigied still second-tier. It looks like Warren’s #MedicareForAll rollout didn’t help her at all (at least nationally).

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

Here, the latest national results:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

In South Carolina, Quinippiac has Biden taking a nine point dive, picked up by Undecided, as of 11/18/2019, 12:00 PM EST.

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

Here are the Iowa results:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

I think dk has started a really neat project, and in the near future we’ll seek your feedback (within reason) for the tool “live.”

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Booker (D)(1): “Why Hasn’t Cory Booker’s Campaign Caught Fire?” [Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic]. “Pete Buttigieg gets admiring attention for being a Rhodes Scholar. Kamala Harris gets attention for being a black candidate who has won statewide election. Beto O’Rourke got attention for speaking Spanish and being a social-media savant. But Booker is a Rhodes scholar, he was the first black candidate to win statewide in New Jersey, he speaks Spanish, and he has been a social-media phenomenon since back when he was famous for rescuing a freezing dog and a woman from a fire—yet he’s never captured the breathless (if sometimes fleeting) attention the others have in this race…. Booker and Deval Patrick are friendly—they met over the summer to talk about the race—but Patrick’s entrance into the race has got to feel galling, and perhaps like an existential threat. This is partly because both Patrick and Booker are now pinning their hopes on strong showings in the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries (though Booker’s strategy also calls for him to surprise in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses). But it’s partly because even Patrick admits that he’s launching himself into the same political space Booker occupies, or at least has tried to occupy: center-left, business-friendly, aspirationally unifying.” • Maybe “center-left, business-friendly, aspirationally unifying” is a concept that has passed its sell-by date? Especiallyl the “aspirationally unifying” part?

Buttigieg (D)(1): “How Pete Buttigieg’s time at Columbia’s Fort Jackson has helped shape his candidacy” [The State]. “Buttigieg spent several weeks training at Columbia’s U.S. Army training base, Fort Jackson, long before the 2020 presidential hopeful began traveling to the Palmetto State to campaign.” • Several weeks! Come on, man. Surely Buttigieg can punch a ticket faster than that?

Buttigieg (D)(2): “Pete Buttigieg says he’s open to sending U.S. troops to Mexico” [McClatchy]. “South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg said at a Latino forum in Los Angeles on Sunday that he’d be willing to send U.S. troops into Mexico to combat gang and drug violence. ‘There is a scenario where we could have security cooperation,’ Buttigieg said. Even so, he added a caveat: ‘I’d only order American troops into conflict if American lives were on the line and if it was necessary to meet treaty obligations.'” • Yeah, but we always say that.

UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(3): “Buttigieg Campaign Appeals To Moderate Republicans By Touting Low Approval Among Black Voters” [The Onion].

Sanders (D)(1): Maybe the troops from flyover are tired of dying for The Blob?

I still think Sanders could bring a flyover stadium to its feet with an anti-imperial message. Which would change everything.

Patrick (D)(1): Ouch:

Because witih private equity — and I’m sure Cory Booker would agree with this — everybody has a share.

UPDATE Patrick (D)(2): “Patrick defends corporations and capitalism in primary bid” [Associated Press]. “‘There is a role in the economy for private equity. You bet your life,’ Patrick said Monday night in an interview with The Associated Press during his first visit to Iowa since officially launching his campaign. There’s a lot of good that gets done by private interests investing in the country.'” • Read the room. Looks like Patrick’s got even worse political judgment than Warren.

Sanders (D)(2): “Why Los Angeles Teachers Endorsed Bernie” (interview) [Arlene Inouye, Jacobin]. “We wanted to shape history this time, rather than have it shape us. We learned from the process in 2016 about what happens when our national affiliates — NEA [National Education Association] and AFT [American Federation of Teachers] — do an early endorsement of a candidate — Hillary Clinton — without having a sense of the pulse of the membership. Fortunately, this year the affiliates have learned from that experience, and they are surveying members and providing candidate forums for input.” • Listening, WFP?

UPDATE Sanders (D)(3): “Bernie Sanders campaign says it has gotten 4M contributions” [San Francisco Chronicle]. “Bernie Sanders’ 2020 campaign says that it has received more than 4 million donations from people nationwide. During Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, he didn’t reach that number of contributions until after winning the New Hampshire primary. That’s when the Vermont senator was rising from virtual unknown nationally to credible challenger of Hillary Clinton, the eventual Democratic nominee.” • I would still like to know a multiplier for donations. This number is large enough to be a measurable percentage of the population. It’s not 637 people selected from the phone book and some secret sauce to compensate for those gosh-darned kids using mobile and not picking up.

Yang (D)(1): “Yang Doesn’t Add Up” [John Nichols, Op-Ed News]. [Yang’s] plan sounds a little libertarian when his campaign website explains his UBI proposal this way: “‘Current welfare and social program beneficiaries would be given a choice between their current benefits or $1,000 cash unconditionally — most would prefer cash with no restriction.’ I asked Yang about the progressive-versus-libertarian debate. ‘We can do a best-of-both-worlds approach,’ he replied. ‘I’m certainly not one of these ultraconservative types who wants to dismantle every social program on the books. I think that we need to lay a foundation in the form of those dividends and then see what the additional problems are and try to solve those as well.’ That’s too vague and unsettling for those of us who believe that if UBI is tried in a big way, it must be associated with a muscular social welfare state.”

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UPDATE “Here Are The Billionaires Funding The Democratic Presidential Candidates” [Forbes]. With handy chart:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

I crossed out Sanders, because “Bernie Sanders returned $470 from the only billionaire who donated to his campaign.”

“The left smells a rat in Bloomberg, Patrick bids” [Politico]. “‘There’s clearly anxiety from parts of the Democratic Party establishment and donor class about becoming a party that is unapologetic about taking on oligarchs, whether they’re Donald Trump or Jeff Bezos,’ said Waleed Shahid, a former Sanders aide who now works for the progressive group Justice Democrats. ‘While he’ll basically try to buy votes through tons of ads, billionaire candidates like Bloomberg remain deeply unpopular. Deval’s supporters compare him to Obama, but forget that Obama also ran as an outsider populist in the 2008 primaries.’… Party donors and moderates dismiss those characterizations, arguing that they are simply keeping the long game in mind — winning, followed by governance.” • Since when have liberal Democrats ever governed?


“Vindman corrects Nunes, ‘Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please'” [NBC]. “Nunes then turned back to the NSC adviser, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, ‘Mr. Vindman, you testified in your deposition that you did not know the whistleblower.’ Vindman pointedly responded, ‘Ranking member, it’s Lt. Col. Vindman, please.'” • Vindman’s correction triggered a liberalgasm on the Twitter, but I see very little wrong with tweaking spook brass, especially the politicized kind. Lighten up. Where’s your sense of humor?

And speaking of Vindman, I hate to cite to the Federalist, but:

Come on, man. Children of six know this.

So Fiona Hill (crisply authoritative Brit accent, spook, scheduled for later this week) is a loon, too:

UPDATE “Poll: Support for impeachment inquiry ticks down” [Politico]. “[A]s investigators look to continue making their case for impeachment to the public, support for the inquiry has ticked down over the past week, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll. The survey, which has tracked support and opposition for the inquiry each week, found that support for the investigation inched down 2 points — to 48 percent from 50 percent — while opposition to the inquiry ticked up 3 points — to 45 percent from 42 percent.” • Could it be that The Blob just isn’t that popular?

“Impeachment: Frequently Asked Questions” [POGO]. “There is no shortage of questions about impeachment and confusion about the process seems to have also enveloped Congress itself. But there’s an abundance of experts and historians on hand to help, including a few here at POGO. We’re using this FAQ to capture the many questions around impeachment, and provide the best answers we can find. We will continually update this FAQ, and hope that you will submit your questions to us (you can do so here).” • Impeachment followers might wish to bookmar this or even ask a question: POGO is sane; they do great work on military horror-shows like the F-35.

Obama Legacy

Good times:

Feel free to circulate widely, Twitterati. And ditto–

UPDATE Obama on single payer in 2003:

Single payer advocates are not being cynical or paranoid when they share concerns about beingm betrayed by liberal Democrats. They’ve learned from bitter experience.

Our Famously Free Press

“Fox has filed a trademark application for a TV show called ‘OK boomer'” [CNN]. • “ok boomer” migrated from the liberal New York Times to conservative FOX with surprising speed.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Yglesias comes up with a nut:

It’s heartwarming to see Sanders hijacking Ruy Teixeira’s “coalition of the ascendant” from liberal Democrats, who thought they could sit back and let demographics do their work for them, as a party.

Stats Watch

Housing Starts, October 2019: “Upward acceleration for residential investment is the indication from housing starts and permits” [Econoday].

Quarterly Services Report [Advance], Q3 2019: “Information sector revenue for the third quarter of 2019 increased” [Econoday].

E-Commerce Retail Sales, Q3 2019: “E-commerce sales rose” [Econoday]. “As a percentage of total retail sales, third-quarter e-commerce rose.”

Retail: “Inside Walmart’s Corporate Culture Clash Over E-Commerce” [Bloomberg]. “Store-based merchants focus on profit per item and steady supply, to avoid empty shelves. Online merchants, though, obsess over the accuracy of product listing details, so that web searches turn up the right stuff. To match Amazon’s powerful pricing algorithms, some products would show a different price online than in the store.” • Obvious when it’s stated…

Commodities: “The slowdown in U.S. shale-drilling activity is sending pain through supply chains serving the energy industry. The number of new wells in the U.S. fell 20% to a two-year low in October as low energy prices put a damper on investment” [Wall Street Journal].

Shipping: “Sector leader Lineage Logistics LLC just pulled off a $900 million acquisition of two-year-old startup Emergent Cold that brings the company’s total refrigerated capacity to more than 1.7 billion cubic feet… The buy looks like a competitive response to the rapid growth of Americold Realty Trust, which is the No. 2 provider of refrigerated warehouses” [Wall Street Journal]. “The companies are scaling up as shifting consumer tastes toward fresh foods and the rapid growth in online grocery sales have fueled more demand for refrigerated storage. Transportation companies are paying more attention, with several shipping companies adding thousands of temperature-controlled containers to their fleets over the past two years.” • Totally sustainable!

Tech: “Phineas Fisher Offers $100,000 Bounty to Hack Banks and Oil Companies” [Vice]. “An infamous vigilante hacker known for their hits on surveillance companies is launching a new kind of bug bounty to reward hacktivists who do public interest hacks and leaks. The hacker, known as Phineas Fisher, published a new manifesto on Friday, offering to pay hackers up to $100,000 in what they called the ‘Hacktivist Bug Hunting Program.” The idea is to pay other hackers who carry out politically motivated hacks against companies that could lead to the disclosure of documents in the public interest. The hacker said he will pay in cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin or Monero. As an example of targets, the hacker mentioned mining and livestock companies in South America, Israeli spyware vendor NSO Group, and oil company Halliburton.”

Manufacturing: “NTSB calls on Boeing to redesign 737s after deadly 2018 Southwest accident” [CNBC]. “Federal safety officials on Tuesday recommended Boeing redesign the engine covers on thousands of its popular 737 planes to better withstand the impact of engine failures. The National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations come after its examination of Southwest Flight 1380. During the April 2018 flight, a fan blade broke off one of the engines, punctured a three-panel window and sucked a passenger partly out of the plane briefly. The passenger died. It was the first accident-related fatality on a U.S. airline in almost a decade.” • Hoo boy.

Concentration: “How Yahoo Japan and Line dominate online life in Japan” [Nikkei Asian Review]. “For a large swathe of the Japanese population, Yahoo Japan and Line meet most their internet and social media needs. Messaging app Line is used by 81% of internet users in Japan, according to ICT Research and Consulting. The Yahoo! News portal is read by more than 50% of internet users on a weekly basis, according to Digital News Report released by Reuters Institute.” • Yahoo is big in Japan. Who knew?


So just roll the tape backwards…

Honey for the Bears: “Zero Real Yields Are Tripping Up Investors” [Bloomberg]. “Interest rates are not only low but, adjusted for inflation, the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note is zero. This has been the case for some years now, and will likely continue in a world of chronic excess capacity and surplus savings that has been generated by globalization. Yet individual investors and financial institutions are far from recognizing and adapting to this reality. Instead, they’re taking bigger risks in their search for yield. The result may be severe financial problems, especially if the recession I believe the economy is nearing unfolds. Examples of extreme risk taking and high financial leverage are legion. The Federal Reserve agrees; in a twice-yearly report meant to flag stability threats on the central bank’s radar, it said that continuing low interest rates could dent U.S. bank profits and push bankers into riskier behavior that might threaten the nation’s financial stability.”

Honey for the Bears: “Recession Warning: Freight Volumes Negative YoY for 11th Straight Month” [MishTalk]. “Donald Broughton, founder of Broughton Capital and author the Cass Freight Index says the index signals contraction, possibly by the end of the year. That’s just one one month away.

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 80 Extreme Greed (previous close: 83, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 89 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 19 at 12:52pm. Seems to be drifting toward neutral. We didn’t even break 90!

The Biosphere

“Trudeau’s Climate Change Math Is Incomplete” [The Tyee]. “[I]s Canada playing a high stakes political game that exploits a weakness in international carbon accounting to shift blame on to other countries[?]…. Under the UN Convention, developed countries are required to report their greenhouse gas emissions every year. They only account, however, for emissions physically occurring within their national boundaries. This means that Canada does not count more than 900 million tonnes of carbon dioxide that comes from others burning our fossil fuel exports each year. This amount far exceeds our own territorial emissions that are just over 700 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents. Canada completely washes its hands of any responsibility for the greenhouse gas emissions that result from our massive fossil fuel exports. Yet, we know full well that the impacts of carbon emissions are shared globally. To put it crudely: not only are we screwing future generations ourselves, we are aiding and abetting other countries in doing so too.”

“What Butterflies’ Colorful Wing Patterns Can Teach Us About Evolution” [Smithsonian]. “When different species independently develop traits that closely resemble each other, that’s convergent evolution—it means that the same evolutionary solution boosted their chances of survival. Butterflies provide good case studies of this phenomenon because they’re impressive mimics. Some types of butterflies can produce cyanide-like toxins, making them very unpleasant prey. “A bird will eat a butterfly and learn, after one, or two, or three experiences, not to eat it anymore,” explains Concha. The bird remembers that butterfly from its wing patterns and avoids it. Other species, poisonous and harmless alike, that live in the same area have evolved lookalike wings for protection.”

“Gone with the Wind: How to Lose a Lifetime of Soil Health” [AgWeb]. “Agriculture’s past sometimes is separated from its present by the barest degree, and the glaring story of soil loss in North Dakota, highlighted by the efforts of researcher Dave Franzen, is a signpost account of cost and consequence, with relevance for the entire farming industry. Even today, after a grower works a Dakota field and looks in the back window—the soil appears as black as it did in years past. It is not. As Franzen bluntly summarizes: ‘People can’t believe how much soil we once had in this state. The really rich stuff is long gone and some farmers never realize that.'” • More hysteresis.

“The Woman Who Can Smell Parkinson’s” [Der Spiegel]. “The scientific term for [Joy Milne’s] extremely acute sense of smell is, from the Greek word ‘osme,’ meaning ‘odor.’ It is a condition associated with epilepsy, psychosis and pregnancy, but Milne has had an elevated sense of smell since childhood. Of herself, she says: ‘When it comes to my sense of smell, I’m somewhere between a person and a dog.’… For the last several years, scientists have taken an acute interest in her nose. Milne, after all, is also able to smell diseases. People with Alzheimer’s smell to her like rye bread, diabetes like nail polish, cancer like mushrooms and tuberculosis like damp cardboard. Having provided care to thousands of sick people in her life, she has had plenty of contact with various illnesses. Milne, though, is most familiar with the smell of Parkinson’s. It’s the disease that killed her husband Leslie and his mother, who she also cared for during her illness.” • I wonder how many other undiscovered talents like Milne’s there are? I bet lots.

Breathing As A Service™:

Health Care

“New perk for Warren elected officials: free health insurance for life” [Macomb Daily]. “Before lame duck Warren City Council members left office following the Nov. 5 election, they quietly gave themselves a nice parting gift. With no fanfare or explanation, the seven officials voted unanimously in September to change the rules by providing free health insurance and dental coverage for themselves and eligible dependents. For life.” • That’s Medicare for Some, though. Nothing wrong with that!

Groves of Academe

“The 2017 College Grad Who Got Attacked by a Horde of YA Authors Had No Idea What She Was Getting Into” [Slate]. “For [Sarah] Dessen’s defenders, any criticism of her books amounted to ‘a swipe at a huge swathe of YA and, frankly, at teen girls,’ as author Justine Larbalestier tweeted. Jodi Picoult, whose novels have sold 40 million copies, saw it as evidence of a ‘sinister‘ belief that ‘stories about young women matter less.’ She framed her extended defense of Dessen (to her 172,000 Twitter followers) as an opportunity to ‘fight the patriarchy.’ ‘The patriarchy’ in this case is a recent college graduate from Volga, South Dakota, who had no idea what she was getting into when she spoke with a local news reporter about her literary taste.” • The University, naturally, apologized to Dessen.

Class Warfare

“Many Americans Over 65 Face Economic Insecurity, Even If They’re Healthy” [Bloomberg]. “The majority of Americans living alone are at risk of not being able to pay for basic needs. That’s according to new estimates of financial insecurity among Americans 65 and older from the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston. The Elder Index calculated by the university and other researchers tracks the income needed for older adults in good health. It shows that on average a single person without a mortgage requires $21,012 per year to pay for basic needs, or $31,800 per couple. Regional price variations change the estimates significantly.” • I can’t wait until the political class can finally gin up enough intergenerational hatred to get a Grand Bargain passed and shove some more elders off onto the ice floes. It’s about time!

“FedEx Corp. is overhauling its retirement program as it adjusts to broader changes in the workplace. The company is closing its pension plan to new U.S. hires starting next year… joining the ranks of large U.S. companies phasing out guaranteed retirement benefits” [Wall Street Journal]. “[T]he company is also following a larger shift in retirement planning in the corporate arena. FedEx is part of a shrinking group of U.S. companies with traditional pension plans, and the company told its workers that just 22% of Fortune 50 companies and 11% of transportation companies offer pensions to new hires. Rival United Parcel Service Inc. closed its pension plan to new workers in 2016.” • Anti-solidarity two-tier, ugh.

“How FedEx Cut Its Tax Bill to $0” [New York Times (SF). SF read the comments section, and:

My friend is a FedEx driver, or so I thought. He wears a FedEx uniform and drives a FedEx truck, but he works for a third party delivery service. He said he’s the lucky one. FedEx classified his colleagues delivering FedEx packages as independent contractors, gig workers with no worker’s compensation if they get hurt or need major rehabilitation. They can be fired at will without the right to unemployment insurance as a buffer to homelessness while they look for a new position. The gig drivers don’t have paid family leave or sick days, so they better bank a nest egg small business owners who to amass. But alas, they aren’t small business owners, they’re gig workers making Smith and other oligarchs rich. Attire is the only thing robber barons change from one generation to the next.

News of the Wired

“Deeper Insights Emerge into How Memories Form” [Scientific American]. “A new study from the University of Toronto, published on-line this week in the journal Neuron furnishes support for this theory. It provides evidence that the basic act of learning whether one’s environs are safe or not, a behavior common to all animals, depends on glial cells that form the fatty sheath called myelin—electrical insulation that covers nerve fibers. The new theory postulates that establishing indelible memories that can be recalled long after sensory input or training on a task involves an interaction between glia and peculiar brain waves produced during sleep.”

“Handwriting: An Elegy” [The Economist (DJG)]. “We have come to think of typing as faster than writing. That may or may not be so. Some research suggests that the conjunction of brain and writing hand is possibly more efficient. A study by the University of Washington in 2009 found that schoolchildren wrote faster, and wrote more, when they had to compose essays for ten minutes with pen on paper rather than on computers. The word “cursive” means running; it was invented to avoid time-wasting lifting of the stylus or the pen, with a series of fluid joins and, in the most hectic styles, looping ascenders and descenders. In the early 19th century, when people corresponded several times a day by letter, quasi-tweeting the state of nerves, weather and tea-invitations from hour to hour, quill and pen must have raced across the paper at prodigious speeds.” • A lovely piece, well worth reading. I had to redesign my handwriting to annotate photoes on my iPad. It improved, but not much.

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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 and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (CM):

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

CM writes: “Big fan from Toronto, Canada. I work at a garden centre during the summer and also recently took a trip out to the Rockies.” (This photo is from the Rockies, not the garden center.)

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2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/2019

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