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2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente. Patient readers, more in a bit. I got a late start, and then got wrapped around the axle on the latest impeachment stuff. –lambert UPDATE All done! Hat tip to alert reader Wukchumni for the capsule summary of pilot episode for the new FOX TV Series OK, Boomer, and to other readers for subsequent ingenious down-thread elaborations. That was fun! I think we only got as far as Episode 2, however. Those inspired, see thread… –lambert Trade “Asian Trade Bellwethers Just Reminded Us the Worst Isn’t Over” [Bloomberg]. “If the world economy is stabilizing as some analysts suggest and many investors are betting, a couple of Asia’s biggest exporters didn’t get the memo. Shipments of goods from Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, suffered their largest drop in

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, more in a bit. I got a late start, and then got wrapped around the axle on the latest impeachment stuff. –lambert UPDATE All done!

Hat tip to alert reader Wukchumni for the capsule summary of pilot episode for the new FOX TV Series OK, Boomer, and to other readers for subsequent ingenious down-thread elaborations. That was fun! I think we only got as far as Episode 2, however. Those inspired, see thread… –lambert


“Asian Trade Bellwethers Just Reminded Us the Worst Isn’t Over” [Bloomberg]. “If the world economy is stabilizing as some analysts suggest and many investors are betting, a couple of Asia’s biggest exporters didn’t get the memo. Shipments of goods from Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, suffered their largest drop in three years in October, hurt not just by the U.S.-China trade war but also by extreme weather at home. Japan’s exports to South Korea slumped 23% amid a lingering dispute that’s soured trade relations between the two. Another of East Asia’s manufacturing powerhouses, Taiwan, also showed ongoing weakness in overseas demand.”


“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 11/20/2019, 12:00 PM EST. YouGov has Biden back in the lead, with Warren ten points back, and Sanders and Buttigieg third tier:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

Here, the latest national results:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

In New Hampshire, St. Anselm’s has Buttigieg taking an enormous lead, as 11/20/2019, 12:00 PM EST:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

Here are the New Hampshire results:

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

Note the sample size.

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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Buttigieg (D)(1): “”Literally Zero Support Among Black People in South Carolina”: The Giant Problem With Mayor Pete’s Momentum” [Vanity Fair]. “Buttigieg is unlikely to go from zero to a meaningful percentage of black South Carolina voters. It might also help explain the leak, in late October, of a 21-page internal campaign memo about focus groups conducted with black Democrats in South Carolina. The report found that Buttigieg ‘being gay was a barrier for these voters.’ His campaign says it didn’t leak the memo. But having it become public could make it easier to effectively take a pass on South Carolina: See, he never really had a chance. It would be an enormous gamble, with the potential for Buttigieg to alienate voters of color elsewhere. But this is already a very weird campaign year.” • The author also writes: “There is also a (Bill) Clintonian dexterity to Buttigieg that is both impressive and unsettling.” Leaking that study would have a Clintonite flavor, or rather odor.

Buttigieg (D)(2): “The Generous Gospel of Mayor Pete” [Rolling Stone]. “”The Republican Party likes to cloak itself in the language of religion,” Buttigieg announced during the second primary debate back in July. ‘But we should call out hypocrisy when we see it. And for a party that associates itself with Christianity to say that it is OK to suggest that God would smile on the division of families at the hands of federal agents, that God would condone putting children in cages, [that party] has lost all claim to ever use religious language again.’ That pronouncement, and others like it, has gone a long way toward making Buttigieg a front-runner, despite being the only member of the field’s top tier who lacked national name recognition at the start of the race.” • If your diabetic, remember to take your shots with this one.

UPDATE Buttgieg (D)(3): “THE DOUGLASS PLAN” [Pete for America]. • This is the one with stock photos of Kenyans on the cover — “The campaign said use a black person!” — but has anybody actually read it? This part is interesting:

We will designate and fund Health Equity Zones to address communities’ most pressing health disparities, especially in communities with histories of redlining and economic and social marginalization. These Health Equity Zones will support the identification, development, implementation, and monitoring of plans tailored to address local health inequities. Building from early models like Accountable Communities for Health 8, these Health Equity Zones will create multi-sector coalitions focused on health equity and closing health disparities, and reflect the fundamental economic, social, and political determinants of health in a community. Continuing funding to a Health Equity Zone will be conditional on the presence of concrete, executable plans to address high-priority health disparities in the local community, with a specific emphasis on racial and demographic health disparities.

So Health Equity Zones are a Jobs Guarantee for McKinsey consultants? Or Amelia Warren Tyagi’s body shop?

UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(4): “Pete Buttigieg Was An Effective Mayor — With A Gaping Blind Spot” [HuffPo]. “Buttigieg has become the most prominent example of a management style that has taken over American cities. From Baltimore to Kansas City to Los Angeles, urban policymakers have become increasingly enamored with ‘data-driven’ policies and increasingly reliant on quantitative approaches to social problems. But these methods are not as impartial as their proponents suggest. Throughout his tenure as mayor, Buttigieg’s fixation on measurable goals at times led him to overlook weaknesses in his policies and concerns among his constituents. His initiatives may have achieved their targets, but they also ended up harming his city’s most vulnerable residents. “He’s obviously a person of privilege and highly educated and from a well-off background,’ said John Shafer, the director of Michiana Five for the Homeless, a South Bend-based charity. ‘It’s hard for someone in that position to relate to people in poverty. That may be his biggest weakness.'” • That’s not a bug. It’s a feature.

UPDATE Buttigieg (D)(5): “Pete Buttigieg, Barack Obama, and the psychology of liberalism” [Vox]. “But a lot of liberals, temperamentally and psychologically, don’t want a fight. They don’t want politics to be an endless war; they believe that mutual understanding is possible, that the country will respond to someone willing to believe and call forth the best of it. That’s not just their view of politics; it’s their view of life…. Obama appealed to them because he represented them, because he was one of them, and if they could, they would put him back in office a third time. There are a lot of these Democrats, but there’s not, at the moment, a lot of competition for them.” • It was a con then, and it’s a con now (though IIRC, the 10% made it through the Crash and recession with nary a scratch, so it’s all good).

Chafee (D)(1): “Lincoln Chafee is doing things that presidential candidates do” [Boston Globe]. • No.

Sanders (D)(1): “Bernie Sanders Banned From All Future Debates After Surpassing Maximum Donor Threshold” [CNM]. • Note the source.

UPDATE Sanders (D)(2):

Interestingly, there’s a McKinsey angle to Major League Baseball’s plan to gut the minor leagues (as well as to the recent Astros cheating scandal, as readers know).

UPDATE Warren (D)(1):

The dates check out. Odd decision by the Warren campaign. What’s California, chopped liver?

UPDATE Warren (D)(2): “Elizabeth Warren’s pivot on ‘Medicare for all’ shows the tricky politics of healthcare” [Los Angeles Times]. “She’s still in favor of Sanders’ plan. But she acknowledged that it would take a while to get through Congress. That’s if she can pass it at all — although she doesn’t say that part out loud. So Warren proposed fast-track legislation in the interim to make traditional Medicare available to everyone over 50 and create a Biden-style public option plan available through Obamacare. She calls this the “Medicare for all option,” which sounds a lot like Buttigieg. Meanwhile, she promises, she’ll try to pass a full Sanders-style bill later, probably in the second half of her first term. By then, she said, ‘the American people will have experienced the full benefits of a true Medicare for all option,’ and public support will be stronger. Never mind that most new presidents have more sway in their first two years in office, rarely years three and four.” • As I wrote, and was early to write. (I’d also like to strangle whichever former Clinton staffer coined “a true Medicare for all option.” So many lines packed in so few words! (Articles like this assume, bizarrely, that public opinion is a given. Maybe, just maybe, if liberal Democrats hadn’t been fighting tooth and nail against #MedicareForAll for decades, the polling would be even better than it is?

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UPDATE “There’s Only One Way the Patrick and Bloomberg Campaigns Make Sense” [The New Republic]. “‘Clinton World’ detests Bernie Sanders, is largely on board with Kamala Harris, but has no real problem with Elizabeth Warren, and would greet her nomination without much rancor. ‘Obama World,’ on the other hand, doesn’t share this perspective. They don’t take Sanders seriously, and think of him—even with some affection—as a harmless crank. They, however, strongly dislike Warren. … I am not the first person to suggest this, but Patrick seems to have jumped into the race with a clear purpose in mind: hurt Warren’s chances in New England. (For those who doubt Obama allies would operate like this, please remember who runs the DNC, and why.)… Finally, let us consider Michael Bloomberg, whose campaign makes even less sense… Bloomberg also very much wants to be president, and has only declined to run in the past because he was smart enough to know he couldn’t win as an independent and probably couldn’t win either party’s nomination the traditional way. How could Bloomberg win, then? If he was handed the nomination at a brokered convention. But this is the only way these two late entrants make any sense. The Patrick and Bloomberg campaigns are not mere long-shots, or attempts to harm Sanders or Warren on behalf of the moderates. They are calculated bets on a brokered convention. These are well-connected people at the highest levels of Democratic Party politics (despite his independent status, Bloomberg has always surrounded himself with Democratic campaign veterans and aides), making it clear that they believe there is a real chance that the nomination will be completely up for grabs next July. The fact that these two men and their allies believe this does not make a contested convention inevitable, or even more likely than it was a month ago. All the insiders involved with these latter-day candidacies believe themselves to be much more electorally savvy than they actually are.” • That’s a really fun post. Very plausible!


“Trump Impeachment Hearings” [Reuters]. • This live blog from Reuters is the source I would recommend. (Twitter is full of liberal Democrat trimphalists screaming “This time we’ve got him!” because of Sondland’s testimony (opening statement here). Which could be true, but we’ve heard that before.

“‘We followed the president’s orders’: EU ambassador says he had to work with Giuliani” [McClatchy]. “‘We followed the president’s orders,’ Amb. Gordon Sondland said during his opening statement during the impeachment hearing Wednesday. ‘We worked with Mr. Giuliani because the President directed us to do so. We had no desire to set any conditions on the Ukrainians. Indeed, my personal view — which I shared repeatedly with others — was that the White House meeting and security assistance should have proceeded without pre-conditions of any kind,’ he told the U.S. House Intelligence Committee…. ‘Mr. Giuliani’s requests were a quid pro quo for arranging a White House visit for President Zelensky. Mr. Giuliani demanded that Ukraine make a public statement announcing investigations of the 2016 election/DNC server and Burisma,’ he said.” • Makes me wonder if Trump’s inability to protect Roger Stone had anything to do with Sondland throwing — as it seems, I haven’t seen a response from “the other side” — Giuliani, Pence, and Trump under the bus. I suppose another way of looking at this is the question of plausible deniability. If that was Trump’s goal, did he achieve it?

“Pence aide denies ‘alleged discussion’ between VP and Sondland on Ukraine aid” [Politico]. “‘I mentioned to Vice President Pence before the meetings with the Ukrainians that I had concerns that the delay in [U.S. military aid to Ukraine] had become tied to the issue of investigations,’ Sondland said. ‘I recall mentioning that before the Zelensky meeting.’ Asked by Democrats how the vice president responded, however, Sondland recalled only that Pence acknowledged his words.” • Tin-foil hat time: Pelosi is third in the line of succession after Trump and Pence.

“FBI seeks interview with CIA whistleblower” [Yahoo News]. “The FBI recently sought to question the CIA whistleblower who filed a complaint over President Trump’s July 25 Ukraine call — a move that came after a vigorous internal debate within the bureau over how to respond to some of the issues raised by the complaint’s allegations and whether they needed to be more thoroughly investigated, according to sources familiar with the matter….But no interview has yet to be scheduled. It is unclear what the intended scope of the interview would be or whether the whistleblower’s lawyers will agree to it.” • Hmm.

UPDATE “Some Georgia voters voice doubts over impeachment hearings: ‘This is just useless politics'” [CNN]. • Whenever you see the words “the conversation,” you know the quote isn’t organic. I’ve never heard anybody use “the conversation” in real life the way Democrat operatives use it. So it’s remarkable, in this article, that opinion is as divided as it is.

Health Care

“Majority of likely Democratic caucusgoers shy away from ‘Medicare for All'” [Des Moines Register]. “The poll finds 36% of likely caucusgoers support a Medicare for All plan that would eliminate private health insurance and cover everyone through a government-run health system similar to Medicare. Close to the same share, 34%, back creation of a public option, a health insurance program run by the government that people can choose to buy into. Another 20% say they want to restore provisions lost from the Affordable Care Act and work incrementally from there.” • As Stoller cogently points out below, the Democrats, under Obama, already betrayed voters on health care once. It’s a pretty neat trick for a party that created enormous mistrust in voters to point to that mistrust — indeed, to amplify it — to avoid addressing the problem.


Good karma, a mitzvah, whatever: This from Ilhan Omar is remarkable:

In the glare of publicity that surrounds AOC, we sometimes forget that Omar is extremely talented as well.

Realignment and Legitimacy

Stoller on the destruction Obama wrought (but listen to the whole thing):

Tiny transcript:

[STOLLER:] I mean the left loved Obama and at the time I was like this guy’s kind of a con artist. He’s lying, and it was obvious we was lying from 2005 onward.

Stoller at NC, 2012: “The Source of Barack Obama’s Power to Trick Us Comes from Our Willingness to Be Tricked.”

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of November 15, 2019: “Despite a rise in the November 15 week, yearly growth in the purchase index, reflecting a tough comparison with the year-ago week, fell nearly in half” [Econoday].

Commodities: “Low energy costs may have staying power. Fresh worries about excess oil supply are dragging down crude prices… with benchmark prices now well below their April peaks and analysts anticipating that global oil supply will exceed demand next year” [Wall Street Journal]. “U.S. domestic supply recently hit a record, while futures traders are betting that a slowing global economy and new projects in Brazil and Norway will add crude to the global market in 2020. The falling prices are bringing relief to energy users buffeted by past price volatility.”

Retail: “Home Depot Inc.’s digital integration effort is moving like a lot of home improvement projects—it’s taking longer than hoped. The retailer saw disappointing sales quarterly numbers… and blamed the results in part on e-commerce investments that are taking longer than anticipated to pay off” [Wall Street Journal]. “The results were part of a mixed series of reports from big retailers that included weak demand from department store chain Kohl’s Corp. and strong sales at discounter TJX Cos.” • Hmm. Sounds like a slowdown.

Shipping: “The strike at Canadian National Railway Co. can’t come at a worse time for the country’s agriculture industry. More than 3,000 members of the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference began picketing the company’s major Canadian terminals… even as talks between the union and the freight railroad continued” [Wall Street Journal]. “Canadian National transports much of the country’s crude-oil and natural-gas, forest, mining and agricultural products to foreign buyers, but the railroad has been hurt by dimming manufacturing and retail business because of trade tensions. A prolonged strike would hit the farm sector hard, with harvests coming in late this year.” • Strikes should always happen when they don’t cause any pain!

Tech: “Amazon will do whatever it can to pull you into Alexa’s ecosystem” [The Verge]. “Sidewalk is a proposed spec on the 900MHz band for locating and communicating with Internet of Things (or smart home) devices at a middle distance — as much as a half-mile. It would be ultra low-power, cheaper than paying for 5G data, and multiple access points would work in concert to provide data and even locate objects. So far, so good — but inside this relatively humdrum paragraph you just read is a data security and privacy nightmare just waiting to happen if Amazon isn’t careful… n other words, just by installing the cheap and easy smart home stuff Amazon sells, an entire city can unknowingly create a wireless network where anything — like your very good dog or maybe yourself — can be located…. Just step back and think about how brazen Sidewalk really is: an Amazon-owned and operated network that could eventually blanket cities simply through customers’ natural purchases of its products. Amazon simply isn’t worried about blowback.”

Honey for the Bears: “‘Reflationary Boom Incapable Of Helping U.S. Bond Market Recovery,’ Announces Finance Article That Actually About Your Entire Savings Being Wiped Out” [The Onion]. “‘The shaky and as-yet incomplete recovery of the U.S. bond market has already plagued the industry with doubts over ready capital and cash positioning,’ the article read in part, implying obscurely but with confidence that your entire life’s savings will soon be liquidated and that you and your family will be homeless in a matter of weeks.”

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Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 74 Extreme Greed (previous close: 80, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 87 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Nov 19 at 12:52pm. Seems to be drifting toward neutral. Now the needle is swinging toward neutral. I wonder if its impeachment?

The Biosphere

“North America’s economy is the most resilient against climate change” [CNN]. “By 2050, climate change will shrink the US economy by 1.1%, according to a report from the Economist Intelligence Unit. The same holds true for North America’s economy as a whole, according to the report. Natural catastrophes, such as wildfires and droughts, for example, will continue to be a drag on the economy with worsening climate conditions. Still, the United States is comparably well off. Western Europe’s GDP growth stands to drop 1.7% over the next 30 years, putting it in second place behind North America. Global GDP growth will be 3% lower by 2050 thanks to the impact of climate change, and that means the developing world will bear the brunt of the bad news.” • Hmm. Sounds Nordhaus-inflected.

“Keystone pipeline spill affecting nearly 10 times more land than first thought: report” [The Hill]. • Nobody could have predicted…

“After cutting 4,000 jobs, GM is hiring. But not for traditional gasoline-powered vehicles.” [Detroit Free Press]. “Over the next decade each engine or transmission plant that gets replaced by an electric motor or battery plant may see up to a 75% reduction from today’s manufacturing jobs or morph into new blue-collar jobs requiring different skills as electric vehicle production increases, said [Sam Abuelsamid, principal analyst at Navigant Research in metro Detroit. ‘These electric vehicles will have simple, single-speed reduction gears. It’s a simple one-speed transmission rather than a 10-speed,’ said Abuelsamid. ‘The engine assembly is a fairly complex process today. But for batteries and electric motors, the assembly process is highly automated. So you’ll have a lot fewer people involved in the engine and powertrains.’ That partly accounts for GM’s idling two transmission plants, said Abuelsamid.” • Makes you wonder if labor force reduction is the driver, here.

“The Periodic Table of the Elements, in Pictures and Words” [elements.wlonk.com (DJG)]. • DJG: “Shows how we meet each element in daily life. Handy.”


“Financial crime through video games is on the rise” [The Economist]. “On October 28th Valve announced it was stopping the trading between players of ‘container keys’—an in-game gambling device that players can buy (with real money) to try to win (virtual) rewards such as special weapons or clothing. The firm says ‘nearly all’ of the trades of such keys were ‘believed to be fraud-sourced.’ It is a rare admission of the growing problem of using video games to facilitate financial crime.” • Hmm. More here.

“Half-Life: Alyx: What we know about Valve’s upcoming full-length VR game” [Ars Technica]. “For those who have lost track of the series’ timeline, the original 1998 game saw the Black Mesa research institute loose an alien race (the Combine) onto our planet. The sequel picked up an uncertain number of years later, with a network of researchers and resistance fighters working to take out the Combine’s invasion and domination of Earth, in spite of a human-fronted organization that capitulated to the Combine’s control…. Both of those games starred Gordon Freeman as a silent protagonist. This new VR game mixes things up by putting you in Alyx’s shoes, years before the events of HL2 and before Freeman’s return to the series’ universe…. Half-Life 2 was arguably the gaming world’s first major ‘physics adventure,’ since it revolved around a clever Gravity Gun system that let you pull and toss all manner of items big and small. We’ve gotten some indication that Half-Life: Alyx follows suit.” • I need to do a hat tip, but can’t find the comment. Alert reader, raise your hand!

“Acer’s Thronos is an envoy from a hellish future where gaming chairs have enslaved humanity” [Rock Paper Shutgun]. “At £25,000 / $30,000, [this hulking all-in-one gaming-chair-come-war-machine is] more expensive than a fairly good car, and requires a palatial space to handle its 324kg weight and 8x8x8ft footprint. Imagine it, the size of two steel gorillas, dominating the average home office.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Julia Roberts Was Suggested to Play Harriet Tubman, ‘Harriet’ Screenwriter Says” [Variety]. • Come on, man.

Class Warfare

“The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America” [Peter Turchin, Cliodynamics]. • From 2013, still germane. Chart on associations (proxy for social capital):

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

This might have bearing on the NC post “Why Aren’t Americans Rising Up Like the People of Chile and Lebanon?” of a few days ago.

“Outdated poverty data funneled millions to wealthy D.C. neighborhoods, Post analysis shows” [WaPo]. ” federal program that funneled millions of dollars into the District’s richest neighborhoods at the expense of poorer areas it was created to help used unadjusted and outdated data for years that failed to capture the city’s rapid economic growth. The Washington Post reported in April that hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts were awarded to District businesses enrolled in the Historically Underutilized Business Zones program from 2000 to 2018. Almost 70 percent of the money went to a dozen businesses, mostly in areas such as Dupont Circle, Navy Yard and downtown Washington. What had been unclear was how neighborhoods with higher levels of wealth and private investment fell into the program, while more economically distressed communities received only a sliver of the benefits.” • It’s almost like Our Nation’s Capitol is being run by thieves. In suits.

“‘Parasite’ and the rise of Revolutionary Gothic” [The Outline]. “In the middle of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite, a poor family succeeds in taking over the home of a rich family. [Spoilers follow] It’s only for a night or two, but it’s the victory the audience has waited for ever since we met the desperate yet wily Kims, and watched them infiltrate the household of the decadent and oblivious Parks. All four Kims have been hired in various domestic roles, through subterfuge that obscures the fact that they’re a mother, father, daughter, and son unit intent on defrauding their employers. Now, the Parks have gone camping, and the Kims lay claim to the brightly-lit, hyper-modern house that strikes such a dramatic contrast to the dingy basement apartment where they normally dwell. As the Kims luxuriate and drink themselves silly, the night grows dark and stormy….”

News of the Wired

Maybe a bot could finish the damn book:

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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 (pq):

2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

pq writes: “Joe Pye weed, must-have for pollinator gardens.
2. Lots of swallow tails. They were all over the Joe Pye weed at the entrance to the public park in my village in Upstate New York.”

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2:00PM Water Cooler 11/20/2019

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