Via Naked Capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I’ll be back in a few moments with the latest on Mitt Romney! –lambert UPDATE All done!



“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

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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 10/21/2019, 12:00 PM EDT:

Weird to see “Undecided-Refused” running a strong third….

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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Biden (D)(1): “Clinton Aides Share Hard-Earned Lessons With Biden on Ukraine” [Bloomberg]. “”We did what you learn in crisis comms, which is to litigate every point and get the facts out there,” said Adrienne Elrod, a spokeswoman for Clinton’s 2016 campaign. But ‘we were running against a totally different beast of a candidate*, we were running in completely different circumstances and we were going by the traditional rules you follow in crisis situations. What we should have done was stick to a very simple statement.’” • NOTE * That consort Bill Clinton encouraged to run, and that candidate Hillary Clinton “elevated” through the “Pied Piper” strategy. How could they not have known Trump would be a “totally different beast”?

Buttigieg (D)(1): Mark Zuckerberg Has Quietly Recommended Campaign Hires to Pete Buttigieg” [Bloomberg]. “Earlier this year, Zuckerberg sent multiple emails to Mike Schmuhl, Buttigieg’s campaign manager, with names of individuals that he might consider hiring, campaign spokesman Chris Meagher confirmed. Priscilla Chan, Zuckerberg’s wife, also sent multiple emails to Schmuhl with staff recommendations. Ultimately, two of the people recommended were hired…. In the emails, Zuckerberg and Chan recommended potential campaign hires, and two of them are now on staff: Eric Mayefsky, senior digital analytics adviser, and Nina Wornhoff, organizing data manager…. The communication was initiated by Zuckerberg and Chan, Meagher said. It was sent shortly after Buttigieg officially launched his campaign in mid-April.”

(?) Romney (R)(1): “The Liberation of Mitt Romney” [The Atlantic]. “These confrontations [with Trump] have turned Romney into one of the most closely watched figures in the impeachment battle now consuming Washington. While his fellow Republicans rail against “partisan witch hunts” and “fake whistle-blowers,” Romney is taking the prospect of a Senate trial seriously—he’s reviewing The Federalist Papers, brushing up on parliamentary procedure, and staying open to the idea that the president may need to be evicted from the Oval Office.” • Yes, I’m sure Romney would gladly answer the call of a grateful nation. Don’t read this one if your diabetes is acting up.

(?) Romney (R)(1): “This Sure Looks Like Mitt Romney’s Secret Twitter Account (Update: It Is)” [Slate]. • Fallout from the article above. The account name: Pierre Delecto.

That horse should be white, though.

Sanders (D)(1): “The Debate” [Bob Lefsetz, The Big Picture]. “The only person speaking to the voters tonight was Bernie. Will it bring him back into the race?” • Worth reading in full. This isn’t exactly an endorsement, but Big Picture is a smart operation. So it’s interesting to see them come to this conclusion.

Sanders (D)(2): “Bartenders for Bernie?” [David Waldron]. Important! “Last month, ActBlue, an online fundraising platform for the Democratic party gave the FEC an unprecedented amount of data on small donors during the 2019-2020 election cycle. This includes millions of donations to candidates in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary. Bernie Sanders, who relies heavily on small donors and who recently reported surpassing 1 million individual donors, dominates the donor count in the data with 27% of the overall total.” There are many charts. Here is one:

(The charts were slow to load for me in Opera, but fine in Brave.) And then there’s this. One of these candidates is not like the others:

The candidates with upward sloping support are more likely to “call the manager” (or be the manager). Those with the downward sloping support are more likely to have the manager called on them (and to be fair, this to some extent includes Yang).

Sanders (D)(3): “Bernie Sanders: I Won’t Cease Grassroots Pressure on Washington Like Obama” [The Intercept]. “After winning the election in 2008, Barack Obama, before being sworn in as president, effectively shuttered the unprecedented grassroots army his campaign had mobilized. The decision, which took his 10 million-plus donors and volunteers off the political battlefield, is regularly cited today as having hampered his first-term agenda. Bernie Sanders, when asked on Saturday afternoon whether he would make a different decision if he were to win the presidency in 2020, said, “Yes, I absolutely would.’… ‘I’m a great fan of Barack Obama, who’s a friend of mine. He and I have actually discussed this very issue. His view is, it’s hard to do it,’ said Sanders. ‘I understand that. But the essence of my politics, and I think Alexandria’s as well, is that we need an ongoing grassroots movement of millions of people to pressure Congress, to pressure the corporate establishment, so that we can bring about the changes that this country desperately needs. So that’s why I have said that I will not only be commander-in-chief, I’m going to be organizer-in-chief.’ (An aide to Sanders said the meeting with Obama took place in the spring of 2018.)” • That is Sander’s theory of change. And he is far to kind to Obama.

Sanders (D)(4): “The Best Thing to Happen to Bernie Sanders’s Campaign” [Edward-Isaac Dovere, The Atlantic]. “‘Imagine,’ the top adviser Jeff Weaver joked to me ahead of the senator’s rally in Queens yesterday, ‘Bernie with full blood flow.’” • Let’s be serious. This can’t happen again — and the primaries haven’t even started! Sanders shouldn’t even get hoarse again, ever. Does Sanders even have a body man? To monitor this stuff?

Sanders (D)(5):

Diverse in some ways, not in others. If Biden starts shedding older voters, can this team pick them up?

Trump (R)(1): “Moody’s 2020 report picks Trump to win election” [New York Post]. “[T]he historically accurate Moody’s report has President Trump winning in almost all scenarios. The first of Moody’s three models, the Pocketbook model, has Trump winning by a landslide 351 electoral votes to 187 (presuming a traditional Democratic candidate). The Pocketbook model focuses on three major variables: gas prices, home prices and real personal income. Unfortunately for the Democrats, this is the most important model, primarily due to the long-term nature of its economic variables. Kitchen-table economics are the key to most elections…. Moody’s final economic scenario surmises, ‘Democrats can still win if they are able to turn out the vote at record levels, but under normal turnout conditions, the president is projected to win.’” • I think the Democrat establishment thinks that Trump Derangement Syndrome is their turnout strategy, and I also think the believe that won them the 2018 mid-terms. I’m not so sure, because the numbers looked a lot more like a normal mid-term swing (working on memory here; could be faulty).

Trump (R)(2): “Steve Bannon says Trump will be impeached in six weeks because Nancy Pelosi is ‘very focused’ and warns Hillary Clinton and Mike Bloomberg will replace other weak Democratic challengers” [Daily Mail]. “[Bannon] see former Democratic front-runner Joe Biden imploding and Elizabeth Warren, who currently leads, to suffer a backlash from centrists, that will end up killing both their campaigns by the end of the year…. That, Bannon, says, opens the door for Bloomberg, and Clinton. ‘Bloomberg and Clinton, both will … get into the race,’ he tells the Post.” • No. Please no. And this: “Bannon urged Trump to ‘augment the legal team’ and cited that what helped the administration during Robert Mueller probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election ‘was bifurcation of the White House Counsel’s office. You need … a team put together than can focus on [impeachment] 24/7′” • There, Bannon is quite correct.

Trump (R)(3): “What If Trump Wins?” [Politico]. “Sure, there’s all manner of agitation to try again—namely from the crop of freshman and sophomore Democrats who now hold the largest bloc of votes in the House conference. But [Pelosi-replacement Hakeem] Jeffries cuts that talk off by the summer of 2021, saying the party won’t consider another impeachment until after the 2022 midterms—and only if there’s a blue wave that causes dramatic shifts in the Senate. He argues there’s no point going to war again with a president who won’t stop talking about his new mandate or with Republicans who wouldn’t convict the president in the first term even after being presented with a ‘smoking gun’ audio tape that was secretly stashed on an internal White House server of Trump offering to sell Alaska to Vladimir Putin in exchange for Russian hackers’ help to win a second term.” • I don’t think one should take any of this seriously or literally.

Warren (D)(1): “Elizabeth Warren to put out plan on how to pay for ‘Medicare for All’” [CNN]. • “Pay for” being both delusional and a queston nobody, including Warren, ever asks about war, and “taxes on the middle class” being, shall we say, a well-worn, content-free trope.

Warren (D)(2): “Why Criticize Warren?” [Nathan Robinson, Current Affairs]. “What will the right’s main line of attack against Warren be? I think you can see it already, actually: They will attempt to portray her as inauthentic and untrustworthy. She will be painted as a Harvard egghead who has suddenly discovered populism for self-serving reasons, a slippery elite who isn’t telling you the truth about her agenda…. What worries me about Elizabeth Warren is that the criticisms of her as untrustworthy are not easy to wave away. Warren began her 2020 campaign with a video claiming to be a Native American, even though she isn’t one. She has now tried to bury the evidence that she did this, by deleting the video and all accompanying social media posts…. I have tried, so far, to avoid lapsing into the usual discussions of “Bernie Sanders versus Elizabeth Warren,” but here I should note that one reason I think Bernie Sanders is such a powerful potential candidate against Trump is that he doesn’t have these kind of messy problems of authenticity and honesty. The thing almost nobody denies about Bernie is that you know where he stands.” • As The Big Picture says above. This is a massive takedown, and I’ve focused on a single, tactical issue, but this post is a must-read in full. If it’s correct, the Warren campaign is a train-wreck waiting to happen. (Adding, the Cherokee issue really matters to me, because the Penobscots were enormously powerful allies in the fight against the landfill (and cf. Standing Rock). It just drives me bananas that Warren didn’t check in with the Cherokees before declaring herself one of them. I think it’s an outrage, and I don’t care if I get eye-rolls for it.)

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“Morning Consult’s Senator Approval Rankings” [Morning Consult]. #1 most popular (approve/disapprove): Sanders (65%/30%); #6 most unpopular (49%/41%). Big red flag there; what does Warren’s home state know? The 2020 Republican nominee will be sure to explain…

2016 Post Mortem

“Ronan Farrow says Harvey Weinstein used his relationship with Hillary Clinton to try to kill his exposé about the now-disgraced movie producer” [Business Insider]. • Perhaps the reason for changing the subject to RussiaRussiaRussia and Tulsi Gabbard.

Our Famously Free Press

“Who split America? A journalist looks to his own for answers.” (review of Taibbi’s Hate, Inc.) [WaPo]. “Hate, the author argues, has been promoted by news outlets that cater to ‘distinct audiences of party zealots’ fed a diet of information intended to demonize political opponents — and increase viewership. It’s a model with benign consequences when applied to coverage of rival sports teams, but otherwise corrosive. ‘In 2016 especially, news reporters began to consciously divide and radicalize audiences,’ he writes. ‘. . . As Trump rode to the White House, we rode to massive profits. The only losers were the American people, who were now more steeped in hate than ever.’”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Think young people are hostile to capitalism now? Just wait for the next recession.” [The Week]. “Coming of age in the midst of the financial crisis and entering the workforce during the rise of the gig economy has given millennials an intuitive understanding of the deep instability and unfairness of our economic (and political) system. A recent survey from Quinnipiac revealed just how divided older and younger Democrats are on capitalism. Forty-four percent of those aged 18-34 supported the “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders, compared to 22 percent for Elizabeth Warren (who is progressive but “capitalist to her bones”) and 9 percent for Joe Biden. On the other hand, 41 percent of those over 65 supported Biden, compared to 26 percent for Warren and an incredible 2 percent for Sanders. The socialist platform of Sanders repels older voters who grew up in the so-called “golden age” of capitalism, while it naturally appeals to younger voters who grew up in the age of neoliberalism and economic crisis.” • Not sure I’d rely on Quinippiac for anything more than a subjective impression. That said, if at some point a fork is actually stuck in Joe Biden, his older voters are going to have to go somewhere, and no doubt the Sanders and Warren campaigns are giving a lot of thought to that. And it looks like Warren had a role in stopping Obama’s Grand Bargain. She also says she wants to “boost” Social Security by taxing the rich.

“Yes on Issue 26, the mayoral charter change in Cleveland Heights” [Cleveland Plain-Dealer (CR)]. “When the most recent Cleveland Heights Charter Review Commission convened In May 2017, one of the primary issues it considered was whether to recommend a change in the government’s chief executive – from a city manager, appointed by and answerable to City Council, to a ‘strong mayor,’ independent of council, answerable to and elected by the people. In its report last February, the commission rejected the idea of a strong mayor. Not so fast, said a group of 10 residents who had attended the commission’s public meetings, listened to the discussions and become advocates of a switch to a mayoral system. They formed a PAC called ‘Citizens for an Elected Mayor,’ attracted other like-minded citizens, quickly put together a proposed charter amendment, and gathered up nearly 4,000 signatures in just over three weeks to get it on the ballot and let the people decide.” • Impressive!

“Politics Are a Mess. Astrologers Say Look to the Planets.” [Medium]. “I spoke to [three] licensed astrologers about what the next year will bring, and they all agreed on one thing: We’re living in precarious times, and things aren’t calming down any time soon. They zeroed in on four major astrological transits to make sense of the state of the world and offer some advice.” • Pluto in Capricorn, Neptune in Pisces.

Stats Watch

There are no official statistics of note today.

Housing: “Why America’s New Apartment Buildings All Look the Same” [Bloomberg]. “In the U.S., stick framing appears to have become the default construction method for apartment complexes as well. The big reason is that it costs much less—I heard estimates from 20 percent to 40 percent less—than building with concrete, steel, or masonry.” • If you care about land use, this is a fascinating must-read.

Retail: “Peak retail season looks awfully ‘flat’” [Freight Waves]. “Retail goods, which includes anything from clothing to furniture and appliances, is expected to keep the economy out of recessionary territory over the next several months. The 4th quarter is traditionally driven by increased consumer spending due to the holiday sales. Many of the shippers will import goods from overseas in the 3rd quarter — mainly from China. From there, the goods move into warehouses and distribution centers before hitting the storefronts. Recent trade disputes have incited shippers to import numerous goods in front of demand. This led to full warehouses and a lot of regional shipping around the port markets earlier this year, which has translated into a much softer peak import season. It remains to be seen if the volumes that hit the ports last year simply oversupplied the warehouses or there is much less demand anticipated by shippers this year…. The slower retail imports are not a sign of decreasing demand but a correction from 2018 overheating — a common theme in 2019. Once this holiday season ends, however, it is unclear what will be left to move, considering early 2019 activity was driven by last year’s tariff turmoil.”

Retail: “Amazon is shipping expired food, from baby formula to old beef jerky, scaring consumers and putting big brands at risk” [CNBC]. “[A}n increasing number of consumers are finding that, just as the broader Amazon Marketplace has a major issue with counterfeits and unsafe products, the grocery section is littered with similarly problematic items in the form of expired foods. From baby formula and coffee creamer to beef jerky and granola bars, items are arriving spoiled and well past their sell-by date, Amazon customers say. Interviews with brands, consumers, third-party sellers and consultants all point to loopholes in Amazon’s technology and logistics system that allow for expired items to proliferate with little to no accountability. Consumer safety advocates worry that as the marketplace grows, the problem will only get worse.” • Lots of detail. Any fines are, of course, just a cost of doing business.

The Bezzle: “The Billion-Dollar High-Speed Internet Scam” [Bloomberg]. “[Quintillion Subsea Holdings LLC, Co-founder Elizabeth] Pierce had raised more than $270 million from investors, who had been impressed by her ability to rack up major telecom-services contracts. The problem was that the other people whose names were on those deals didn’t remember agreeing to pay so much—or, in some cases, agreeing to anything at all. An internal investigation and subsequent federal court case would eventually reveal forged signatures on contracts worth more than $1 billion.” • No due diligence issues there!

The Bezzle: “Bitcoin’s Latest Swoon Raises the Risk of Key Technical Breach” [Bloomberg]. “The cryptocurrency slumped Wednesday to below $8,000 — back to its lowest level since June — amid an influx of bad news that’s also weighing on the rest of the digital-asset sector. Technical indicators suggest the milestone is significant, and could lead to further pain…. ‘With volumes still quite low relative to this summer, shorts are incentivized to keep pushing prices lower until they hit resistance,’ said [said Jeff Dorman, chief investment officer at Arca, a Los Angeles-based asset manager that invests in cryptocurrencies]. ‘This is very typical behavior in other illiquid asset classes.’”

Tech: “Creepy human-like skin makes your phone ticklish and pinchable” [New Scientist]. “The artificial skin is programmed to associate different gestures with certain emotions. Sudden hard pressure on the skin is associated with anger and tapping is a means of seeking attention, while sustained contact and stroking are associated with providing comfort.” • Imipolex-G?


Dom’t worry about your biometric data. I’m sure that will be handled much more carefully.

Tech: “Nest is getting ready for the smart home’s Cambridge Analytica moment” [The Verge]. “Nest is moving to a more tightly controlled system, restricting access to audited partners and tightly limited “routines.” It’s part of a broader push to rein in the risks of home automation and prevent the kind of third-party-driven data breach that has hit so many competitors. But along the way, it means tightening Google’s control over the world of home automation in a way that competitors may not like…. There are reasons to be nervous about this tightening of permissions. The companies making these devices aren’t scrappy startups anymore. They’re some of the largest companies in the world, and the competition over who controls what data will be a major struggle in the years to come. Ideally, Google wouldn’t be setting the terms for how you can link your own devices. Even [Nest GM Rishi Chandra] concedes that some kind of independent standard akin to ISO certifications would be preferable. But we don’t have that standard yet, and without it, cleaning up the mess of home automation means making it harder to play the game.” • Google’s got enough money. Force them to wait ’til the standard is done, on the precautionary principle.

Tech: For anyone who books online, thread:

Funny how often the best UI/UX is the raw HTML code…

Manufacturing: “Pontifications: To no surprise, MAX was major topic at 3 NYC events” [Leeham News]. “Before the above news blew up, my key takeaway from talking with people at these events is that it looks like the earliest MAX will be recertified by the FAA in December or possibly January. There is a general consensus Europe’s EASA won’t be concurrent and neither will China’s CAAC. It’s still unclear just how much and what kind of pilot training will be required by the various regulators. There is a growing consensus that MAX may not truly reenter revenue service until March—one year after the grounding.” • Lots and lots of good detail here, if you follow Boeing.

Manufacturing: “Auto makers globally produced some 95 million cars and commercial vehicles last year, and many moved into international trade streams. But production is declining, auto sales are slipping in key markets and cars are being drawn into trade tensions in Pacific and Atlantic market” [Wall Street Journal]. • Good for the biosphere, though.

Manufacturing: “Tesla gets approval to start manufacturing in China” [Reuters]. “Tesla Inc was added to a government list of approved automotive manufacturers, China’s industry ministry said on Thursday, as it granted the electric-vehicle maker a certificate it needs to start production in the country…. Tesla intends to produce at least 1,000 Model 3s a week from the Shanghai factory by the end of this year, as it tries to boost sales in the world’s biggest auto market and avoid higher import tariffs imposed on U.S. cars.”

Fodder for the Bulls: “How to spot a recession” [The Economist] (original*). “Claudia Sahm, an economist at the Federal Reserve has developed a new method for predicting economic downturns. In the report, Ms Sahm argues that when the three-month average unemployment rate is at least 0.5 percentage points above its minimum from the previous 12 months, the economy is in a recession. This simple measure, it turns out, has correctly called every recession in America since 1970. In January 2008, for example, Ms Sahm’s index warned of the coming Great Recession. The index had also flashed red in early 2001, amid the bursting of the dotcom bubble. Today, conditions are considerably less dire. With unemployment 0.07 percentage points below its minimum of the past year, the “Sahm recession indicator” suggests that the chance of a downturn occurring in the next year is just 10%.” NOTE * The Hamilton Project? Huh?

Fodder for the Bulls: “U.S. Recession Chances Hit 27% Within Next 12 Months: Tracker” [Bloomberg]. “Bloomberg Economics created a model to determine America’s recession odds. Right now, the indicator estimates the chance of a U.S. recession at some point in the next year is 27%. That’s higher than it was a year ago but lower than before the last recession. There are reasons to keep a close eye on the economy but no need to panic yet.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 55 Neutral (previous close: 50, Neutral) [CNN]. One week ago: 42 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 21 at 11:47am.

Rapture Index: Closes unchanged. [Rapture Ready]. Record High, October 10, 2016: 189. Current: 183. Seems indeed that 180 is a floor.

The Biosphere

“The world’s on fire from climate change. Pa. lawmakers want to make it a lot harder to protest” [Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer]. “The law had been enacted in the wake of those high-profile 2016 protests in North Dakota — and was part of a nationwide push for a host of states to adopt similar laws, all backed by pro-business lobbying groups that are heavily funded by Big Oil. Now that crusade — to make it even more of a crime to protest at pipelines, fracking rigs, or more than a dozen other places that lawmakers cite as “critical infrastructure” — is coming to Pennsylvania. Again.”

Class Warfare

News of the Wired

“The Case for Checking a Bag” [Medium]. “Travel is a chaotic, exhausting experience exacerbated by people who forget the social contract the moment they step foot in an airport.” • Before we get to the bag-checking advocacy (“I nearly always allow myself the small luxury of checking a bag. I love myself enough to pack whatever the hell I want”) the author gives a fine description of contemporary air travel.

Why Roman type is called “Roman.” Thread:

Here is Pulp playing “Common People” at Glastonbury. Quite the performance:

(I was happy to see the discussion of “Common People” the other day. NC’s readership is not composed entirely of old codgers like me. More like this, please (The same principle goes for games.).)

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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 (KL):

KL: “Fall Hydrangea, Knappton, WA.” Very pretty!

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Readers: Water Cooler is a standalone entity not covered by the annual NC fundraiser (which has just concluded; thank you all very much!) Remember, a tip jar is for tipping! So if you see a link you especially like, or an item you wouldn’t see anywhere else, please do not hesitate to express your appreciation in tangible form. Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of donations helps me with expenses, and I factor in that trickle when setting fundraising goals:

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