Via Naked Capitalism

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The window for passing the Trump administration’s renegotiated trade deal with Mexico and Canada may be closing. U.S. lawmakers worry that progress on the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement, or USMCA, could fade against political priorities in the coming election year if negotiations in Washington over the pact don’t conclude soon” [Wall Street Journal]. “Democrats and the administration are at odds over how to ensure that new labor rules in USMCA are enforced, a priority for U.S. unions aiming to deter companies from moving production. There’s little progress so far, although U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with lawmakers on Wednesday.”



“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 10/25/2019, 11:00 AM EDT:

This time I didn’t smooth the results by averaging over seven days. So, with a more and bigger poll, maybe we’ll see if Biden is undergoing a blip, or a nosedive.

And here are the latest results:

dk went ahead and added states, which as readers know have smaller samples and are less frequent. Since IA was Tuesday, NH Wednesday, NV, as of 10/25/2019, here’s CA as of 10/25/2019, 11:00 AM EDT:

Warren, Sanders, Biden (!). What a debacle for Harris. It turns out that the Hamptons have wretched political judgment. What a shocker! And the latest result:

Note the tiny, tiny samples in the state polls.

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): “In A Reversal, Joe Biden Wants A Super PAC” [HuffPo]. “Vice President Joe Biden’s campaign said Thursday it would welcome help from a super PAC, a total reversal from Biden’s stance at the beginning of the campaign and a decision reflecting his diminished standing in the race…. Many Democrats view super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited sums and often rely on checks of tens of thousands of dollars from wealthy donors for funding, as a malignant force that represents a big-money era of politics the party is nominally dedicated to ending…. The Biden campaign said President Donald Trump’s false attacks on the former vice president made it necessary for it to welcome the help of a super PAC.”

Buttigieg (D)(1):


Ryan (D)(1): “Tim Ryan drops out of 2020 presidential race” [The Hill]. “In the video, titled “Giving Voice to the Forgotten,” Ryan said ‘I’ll be returning home to my family and friends and community in Ohio to run for reelection for my congressional seat.’ The filing deadline for primary candidates in Ohio is Dec. 16.”

Sanders (D)(1): Sanders and elders:

And speaking of elders, Lambert here: An alert reader tossed a brilliant suggestion over the transom, addressed to the Sanders campaign. Here it is:

To reach elders, the Sanders campaign should include MeTV — “America’s #1 Classic Television Network” — in its Air War arsenal, and sooner rather than later. If The Sanders campaign wants to reach voters who watch Perry Mason re-runs regularly, or the Big Valley, or the Flintstones — and it should! — this is the network for them. “As of November 2017, MeTV has current or pending affiliation agreements with 203 television stations in over 185 television markets encompassing all 50 states the District of Columbia, and the border regions of Canada, covering approximately 92.54% of the United States; this makes MeTV the largest subchannel network by population reach percentage.” I don’t have a rate card, but I hear you can actually pick up some Me TV stations on rabbit ears! So some MeTV media buys should be thrifty. The reader was concerned that the youth focus of the Sanders campaign would bypass voters who are never going to use the Sanders app, because they have flip phones, and who won’t see the videos that the Sanders media operation puts out, because they aren’t heavy Internet users (and may not have good connections). In terms of messaging, it seems to me that a Perry Mason watcher would be very amenable to the retro aspect of the Sanders campaign: Returning the Democratic Party to its roots in the New Deal of FDR’s time, just better. Like Medicare with vision, dental, pharma coverage, no complexity, and above all no co-pays or deductibles or monthly payments. Also, give Social Security a boost. In fact, an ad done in black and white, Perry Mason-style (including the musical theme) might even play well with the youth!

Sanders (D)(2): At a NewsMax (!) town hall:

Sanders (D)(3): “Bernie Sanders, returning to Iowa after heart attack, claims no lost momentum” [Des Moines Register]. “There is one week until the Iowa Democratic Party’s Liberty and Justice dinner — a key event that has acted as a turning point in the sprint to Caucus Day — and there are just over three months until the caucuses…. However, the latest Des Moines Register/CNN/Mediacom Iowa Poll showed him slipping from second to third place behind U.S. Sen Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and former Vice President Joe Biden. ‘Today, your poll is good; tomorrow, it’s bad,’ Sanders said, dismissing the often up-and-down nature of presidential polling. ‘At the end of the day, especially in a caucus state, the results will be determined by one factor, and that is voter turnout. And I think we have the capability of bringing out our supporters in very large numbers, and I think we stand a great chance to win here in Iowa.’” • We’ll see!

Warren (D)(1): “Warren cutting into Biden’s lead in new SC 2020 Democratic poll” [Post and Courier]. “Biden’s lead in South Carolina, which had hovered around 20 percentage points since the summer, has shrunk… Biden received 30 percent to Warren’s 19 percent. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders at 13 percent and California Sen. Kamala Harris at 11 percent are the only two other candidates with double-digit results in South Carolina…. The biggest gains in the latest poll came from fifth- and sixth-place contenders, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg and billionaire hedge fund manager Tom Steyer.” • Everybody loves a winner, but the gains in the third tier show SC is still fluid (though perhaps not a firewall for Biden).

Warren (D)(2):

Yet another case where Warren’s problem statement isn’t commensurate with the proposed solution….


“Republicans criticize House impeachment process — while fully participating in probe” [WaPo]. “Then the questions begin to fly, largely from the expert staff hired by lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee and other panels participating in the probe. Each side gets an equal amount of questions, as dictated by long-standing House rules guiding these interviews. ‘It starts one hour, one hour,’ said Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), explaining how the questioning moves beyond one-hour blocks for each side. ‘Then it goes 45, 45, 45, 45, with breaks, occasionally, and breaks for lunch.’ Meadows, one of Trump’s staunchest allies, said each side has been allowed an unlimited amount of questions they can ask of witnesses.’… Those participating in the closed-door depositions generally say that these interviews are very professional and that both sides have operated under rules that were approved in January.” • As I’ve said, I don’t like the policy on transcripts, and my litmus test for legitimacy is that there’s no secret evidence at all. I don’t much like that Republicans can’t subpeona witnesses, either.

The Debate

“MSNBC names four renowned female journalists as moderators for November debate” [NBC]. “Moderating the Nov. 20 event, which is being co-hosted by MSNBC and The Washington Post, will be Rachel Maddow, host of “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC; Andrea Mitchell, host of “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on MSNBC and NBC News’ chief foreign affairs correspondent; Kristen Welker, NBC News’ White House correspondent; and Ashley Parker, a White House reporter for The Washington Post.” • The count of journalists is off by at least one.


The DNC really poisoned the well by making pollsters into players. Now there’s no room for accidents:

Realignment and Legitimacy

“From Beverly Hills to Miami Beach: who are America’s richest zip codes backing in 2020?” [Guardian]. “Americans who live in the country’s 20 wealthiest zip codes have donated the most to the moderate Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, Booker and Joe Biden, a Guardian analysis of presidential campaign finance filings for the first nine months of 2019 found. . Residents of these bastions of actual limousine liberals – including Westchester, New York, Beverly Hills, and Greenwich, Connecticut – have ponied up nearly $880,000 for Senator Harris and nearly $600,000 for Mayor Buttigieg. Booker and the former vice-president Biden raised more than half a million dollars each. Donald Trump cashed his share of checks, too. The president raised more than $500,000 in total across the 20 locales, and was the top recipient in three: Palm Beach, Florida; Newport Beach, California; and Bedminster, New Jersey. Trump spends significant time at his private club Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach and his golf club in Bedminster. Meanwhile, the senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who are among the frontrunners nationally, have amassed the largest campaign war chests of all the Democratic candidates while refusing to hold high-dollar fundraisers and calling for higher taxes on the wealthy. Their aversion to the rich appears to be reciprocal.”

Stats Watch

Consumer Sentiment, October 2019 (Final): “Consumer sentiment fell back in the latter half of October compared to the first half but still showed solid improvement from September” [Econoday]. “Current conditions are the big plus for October… Expectations also improved…. A clear negative in the report, at least for Federal Reserve policy makers who are trying to give a lift to inflation, is weakness in inflation expectations.”

Retail: “Expanding its own shipping services is taking a toll on Inc.’s bottom line. The e-commerce market leader’s profit fell 26% in the third quarter even as revenue grew 24%… as world-wide shipping costs soared 46%” [Wall Street Journal]. “The $9.6 billion in shipping expenses was even more than Amazon spent in last year’s busy fourth quarter and a sign of the tumultuous changes underway in the company’s logistics operations as it handles more of its own packages. Amazon is taking on those costs as it rolls out one-day shipping for Prime subscribers, promising to bring its best customers faster and cheaper delivery. In The results suggest that Amazon is struggling like other retailers and parcel carriers to cope with the costs of e-commerce delivery, but it’s not slowing the company down.”

The Bezzle: “Leaked transcript: Read what WeWork’s new chairman told anxious employees at an all-hands meeting” [ReCode]. Marcelo Claure, SoftBank’s COO and the former CEO of Sprint, at an all hands meeting. The choicest bit: “Layoffs, it’s in everybody’s mind, layoff, severance, right? I don’t have all the answers. I wrote you a letter yesterday. Are there going to be layoffs? Yes. How many? I don’t know. It’s day one. But what I will guarantee you is whoever is asked to leave this family is going to do … We’re going to make sure that they leave with dignity, that we’re taking proper care of them, and that we’re rewarding them for them having taken a chance on WeWork. For the ones that stay, we’re going to give you total transparency. You’re going to be a partner. We’re going to figure out a way how you share in whatever we create together, in all of the value that we create together. We’re going to be realistic about valuations. We’re going to be very honest about how much this company’s worth.” • That will be a change!

Tech: “Smart home tech can help evict renters, surveillance company tells landlords” [CNET]. “A smart intercom company called Teman GateGuard has been pitching its surveillance technology to landlords in New York as a way to sidestep rent-control regulations in the city, according to emails reviewed by CNET. The email’s subject line says, ‘GateGuard: 3 Steps to de-stabilize NYC units — even after the new law!” and opens with the sentence, ‘You CAN raise rents in NYC!’… ‘Use the GateGuard AI Doorman Intercom to catch illegal sublets, non-primaries, Airbnbs, so you can vacate a unit,’ GateGuard’s sales team wrote in the email. ‘Combine a $950/mo studio and a $1400/mo one-bedroom into a $4200 DEREGULATED two-bedroom.’ … [Ari Teman] founded GateGuard in 2016, after he started to help landlords find Airbnbs and sublets hosted in their buildings. He was inspired to create the SubletSpy website after he rented his own apartment on Airbnb in 2014 and it was used for an orgy that cost him over $23,000 in damages.” • Unintended consequences of disruption…

Tech: “Amazon Ring: Home Safety Device or Ohio Civil Rights Concern?” [Cleveland Scene]. “Homeowners use Ring to record video of anyone who comes to their front doors. Police officers are then coached by Amazon to request access to the private videos. Malachi Robinson, campaign director of the civil rights advocacy group Color of Change, one of the organizations that signed the letter, says that could lead to abuses of civil liberties…. Robinson says once the surveillance footage is collected without a warrant, law enforcement can use it to conduct facial recognition searches, target teenagers for minor drug possession or share it with other agencies such as ICE.”

Tech: “Google and IBM Clash Over Milestone Quantum Computing Experiment” [Quanta]. “In their new paper, Google demonstrated that their 53-qubit quantum computer performs a certain specialized computation (called “random circuit sampling” — see our recent explainer for more details) in fast polynomial time. Meanwhile, there’s no evidence that any classical computer can perform the same task in anything better than slow exponential time. That’s far more important than the time frame involved… What matters is that Google’s machine is solving a computational problem in a fundamentally different way than a classical computer can. This difference means that every time its quantum computer grows by even a single qubit [quantum bits], a classical computer will have to double in size to keep pace. By the time a quantum computer gets to 70 qubits — likely within the next couple of years — a classical supercomputer would need to occupy the area of a city to keep up.” • Maybe Google could use all that power to build a decent search engine. What are the odds?

Tech: “Google Says New AI-Powered Search Update Is ‘Huge Step Forward’” [Bloomberg]. “Google is injecting its search engine with new technology to better interpret the billions of web queries it handles every day, a change top executives described as one of the most significant in the company’s history. This shift, announced Friday, moves the world’s biggest search engine from spitting out results based on keywords to ‘something closer to language,’ said Ben Gomes, the search chief for Alphabet Inc.’s Google. ‘We’re very far from solving the problem fully, but this is a huge step forward,’ he said at a press briefing. Google has no peers in web search.” • We’ll wait to see if this “step forward” reverses the crapification of Google search. I’m guessing no.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 62 Greed (previous close: 57, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 50 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Oct 25 at 1:02pm.

The Biosphere

“Exxon Hid ‘Catastrophic’ Climate Prediction, State Suit Says” [Industry Week]. “Exxon Mobil Corp.(IW500/1) was sued by Massachusetts for allegedly hiding its early knowledge of climate change from the public and misleading investors about the future financial impact of global warming, two days after a trial started on similar claims in New York… According to the complaint, Irving, Texas-based Exxon went so far as to disregard the findings of one of its own scientists, who decades ago correctly predicted the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere in 2019 and said that climate change would become “catastrophic.’”

“Booming Green Power Not Enough to Meet Climate Targets, IEA Says” [Bloomberg]. “‘Renewables are already the world’s second largest source of electricity,’ said Fatih Birol, the [International Energy Agency (IEA)’s executive director]. ‘But their deployment still needs to accelerate if we are to achieve long-term climate, air quality and energy access goals.’ As countries in China, Europe and the U.S. increase deployment of wind turbines and solar panels, the share of renewables in global power generation will rise to 30% in 2024, up from 26% now, the IEA said…. A majority of those gains, about 60%, will be achieved by solar power. Costs of both utility-scale and distributed solar PV generation are expected to decline as much as 35% by 2024. That will help make costs of utility-scale solar plants equal to or cheaper than new fossil fuel plants in some countries.”

“Navajo company shuts coal mine in dispute over sovereignty” [Wild About Trial]. “One of the largest coal mines in the U.S. was indefinitely shuttered Thursday in a dispute over whether its new owner should be immune as a tribal entity from future lawsuits for environmental violations or reclamation costs. The Navajo Transitional Energy Company blamed the state of Montana for the impasse over the Spring Creek Mine near Decker. Its executives said they were standing up for the company’s sovereign rights as an entity wholly-owned by the Navajo Nation…. “NTEC (Navajo Transitional Energy Company) will not operate Spring Creek until such a fully-effective, complete and approved waiver has been agreed upon,” wrote Matthew Dorrington, coal program supervisor at Montana’s Department of Environmental Quality. The main area of disagreement between the state and company is a Montana law that allows citizens to file lawsuits over alleged violations of reclamation rules, according to the letter.” • Hmm.

“Democrats Criticize Trump For Attacking Greta Thunberg Instead Of Praising Her Bravery, Ignoring Her Later” [The Onion]. Said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer: “‘I want to say right now to Ms. Thunberg that Donald Trump’s dismissive comments do not represent the country as a whole. I assure you that the next time you want to speak to leaders who could benefit from being associated with climate activism, the Democratic party is here for you as long as the cameras are rolling and not a second longer.’ Hoyer went on to condemn Fox News for launching ad hominem attacks against Thunberg instead of merely criticizing her proposals as unrealistic and anti-business.”


“The promise of the Yazoo Pumps” [Southerly]. “Even if the Yazoo Pumps are revived, it could be decades before work begins again; there is currently a nearly $100 billion backlog in Army Corps infrastructure projects. People on both sides of the argument told me they figure the pumps, in the end, might never be built.” • Worth a read to understand something of water projects on the lower Mississippi. I don’t see a happy ending for anybody.

Health Care

“The Urban Institute’s Single Payer Cost Estimate: False Assumptions False Conclusions” [David U. Himmelstein, M.D., and Steffie Woolhandler, M.D., M.P.H., PNHP]. The Urban Institute study was instantly signal-boosted by CNN, the Hill, and The Atlantic, among others, and seems to have led to the “pay for” questions in the last debate, and Warren taking on the task — not planned already? — of writing a tax proposal for whatever she determines Medicare for All to actually be. “Administrative savings, Part 1: The UI report assumes that single-payer reform would reduce insurance overhead to 6% of claims ($234 billion) from the current level of about 10.6%. In contrast, overhead in Canada’s single-payer system is only 1.8%, and overhead in the fee-for-service Medicare program is 2%. The UI group justifies its 6% estimate by claiming that a single payer system “…would require a host of administrative functions to effectively operate, such as rate setting for many different providers and services of different types; quality control over care provision; development, review, and revision of regulations; provider oversight and standards enforcement; claims payments to providers; and other functions.” UI’s claim ignores the fact that all of these functions are currently carried out by both Canada’s program and the fee-for-service Medicare program.” • This is a brutal takedown of the Urban Institute study, which you should read in full.

“What the Health Care Debate Still Gets Wrong” [Adam Gaffney, The Boston Review]. “[T]his entire edifice of reform [ObamaCare ACOs] was built on sand. Quite simply, as a nation, we actually do not use too much health care; if anything, we use fewer services than people in other high-income countries. While ‘overutilization’ may indeed be a major problem in some areas (and who wants an unnecessary slice from a scalpel?), it cannot, simply as a matter of basic accounting, explain our total off-the-charts spending. In particular, it cannot account for the fact that we spend more than $10,000 per capita on health care—approximately double that of Canada—nor for the nearly six-fold rise in inflation-adjusted healthcare spending from 1970 to 2017, according to estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation. The real cost problem, all along, has been the other half of the spending equation: not the quantity of medical services rendered, but the prices paid by insurers for each unit of care provided. So what can? It turns out that the real cost problem, all along, has been the other half of the spending equation: not the quantity of medical services rendered, but the prices paid by insurers for each unit of care provided. This simple but crucial insight is most frequently attributed to the legendary health economist Uwe Reinhardt.”

“A New Generation of Activist Doctors Is Fighting for Medicare for All” [Time]. “[Travis Singleton, executive vice president of Merritt-Hawkins], whose firm conducts a biennial survey of doctors’ opinions, says that while there are myriad reasons for an uptick in political involvement, one of the most compelling is simple: doctors see the dysfunction of the health care system on a daily basis. As health care costs ballooned and the private insurance industry expanded, the job of being a doctor changed. Instead of just treating patients, doctors today must battle with insurance requirements, manage arcane reimbursement systems and juggle enormous administrative costs, Singleton’s firm found. Much of this is a direct consequence of physicians’ early opposition to health care reform, explains Beatrix Hoffman, a history professor at Northern Illinois University. By pushing back against government involvement, she says physicians created the system that is now dominated by private insurance. ‘We’ve heard so many horror stories from doctors who have come before us about spending hours on the phone negotiating with insurance companies,’ says Scott Swartz, a 28-year-old medical student in San Francisco. ‘That’s not how we want to spend our time.’ All of these factors have combined to shift doctors’ politics to the left.” • But patients love their insurance companies. Right?

“We Found Over 700 Doctors Who Were Paid More Than a Million Dollars by Drug and Medical Device Companies” [Pro Publica]. “Back in 2013, ProPublica detailed what seemed a stunning development in the pharmaceutical industry’s drive to win the prescription pads of the nation’s doctors: In just four years, one doctor had earned $1 million giving promotional talks and consulting for drug companies; 21 others had made more than $500,000. Six years later — despite often damning scrutiny from prosecutors and academics — such high earnings have become commonplace. More than 2,500 physicians have received at least half a million dollars apiece from drugmakers and medical device companies in the past five years alone, a new ProPublica analysis of payment data shows. And that doesn’t include money for research or royalties from inventions.”

Our Famously Free Press

“The boss said ‘run it.’”

“Rupert Murdoch wanted Mark Zuckerberg to pay him for news stories — and now Facebook is going to do just that” [ReCode]. “Facebook’s news section… will give some publishers, like News Corp, millions of dollars a year for making their journalism available to Facebook… Facebook will roll out its news section Friday as an “alpha” launch, available to a couple hundred thousand US users; it won’t get a wider release for a few months…. Users who click on the icon will see headlines for a handful of top stories, selected by Facebook editors — from partners like the Wall Street Journal (which is owned by News Corp), Business Insider, and BuzzFeed — and a personalized selection of headlines selected by Facebook’s algorithmic software. Clicking on those headlines will send users to the publishers’ own sites, where Facebook users can read the entire story for free. And while sites with subscription-based business models will have to let Facebook users see individual articles without paying, they’ll be able to keep their paywalls mostly intact: If you click on a Wall Street Journal article via Facebook’s news section, you’ll be able to read that one story, but if you click on a subsequent WSJ piece, you’ll be asked to pay up….. the program Zuckerberg is announcing Friday appears rather straightforward: Facebook will pay publishers for work they already make and then share to the platform, which means it is pure profit.” • I’d be interested in screen shots and any reactions from any NC readers who (still) use Facebook are serving as guinea pigs for this program; my email address is below.

News of the Wired

“A Power Law Keeps the Brain’s Perceptions Balanced” [Quanta]. • Interesting, although with rare exceptions (above) I find Quanta almost impossible to excerpt!

“The Sonic Episteme” [The New Enquiry]. • I’m not sure whether this is a parody or not.

“Mark Zuckerberg’s fascination with Augustus Caesar might explain the Facebook CEO’s haircut” [Business Insider]. “Facebook did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment on where Zuckerberg drew inspiration for his ‘do, so while we don’t know for sure, it’s possible the Caesars’ iconic cuts were the source.” • Tyrell Corporation has difficulties integrating harvested human follicles with artificial android flesh. That is the real problem with Zuckerberg’s hairline.

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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 (IM):

IM writes: “The leaves are just mellowing into fall now. Hornbeam backed by an old row of firs!”

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