2:00PM Water Cooler 3/6/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“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



What a piece of work.

Sanders: “Bernie Sanders’s Staffers Want Him to Be Less Grumpy” [Edward Isaac-Dovere, The Atlantic]. “Even his loyal staff members at times feel slighted, and have learned not to expect much in the way of small talk or interest in anything but the work they’re doing.” • Oh, the humanity!

Health Care

“Dem campaign chief: Medicare for All price tag ‘a little scary’” [The Hill]. “The House Democrats’ new campaign chief on Tuesday poured cold water on the progressive Medicare for All plan, dismissing it as just ‘one idea’ out there and warning that its estimated $33 trillion price tag was ‘a little scary.’ ‘The ‘Green New Deal’ is an idea. ‘Medicare for all’ is an idea. But there are many others that are out there,’ Rep. Cheri Bustos (Ill.), the chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), said in an interview with The Hill.” • If Buston wants to see something really scary, she should read Isaiah Breen’s tweet storm under Heatlh Care, today.

Our Famously Free Press

They just can’t help themselves:


“Payments to corporation owned by Ocasio-Cortez aide come under scrutiny” [WaPo]. “Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.)’s chief of staff helped establish two political action committees that paid a corporation he ran more than $1 million in 2016 and 2017, federal campaign finance records show. Brand New Congress LLC, the corporation owned by Saikat Chakrabarti, was also paid $18,880 for strategic consulting by Ocasio-Cortez’s congressional campaign in 2017, records show. The following year, he worked as a volunteer to manage her campaign, according to his LinkedIn profile.” • Read for the detail, but I’m seeing stuff like “hypocrisy” and “raises questions.” I’m not sure there’s anything going on here besides upstarts horning into the existing fund-raising arrangements.

Realignment and Legitimacy

DSA (1): From February, still germane;

DSA (2):

All power to the locals, say I. But I think National has the bit between its teeth, and resources will be committed, insanely, to campaigning for Sanders.

DSA (3):

Do this! Do this! Do this! Go on out there and serve the working class! (Who was it who said: “Elections come and go?”)

DSA (4):

F*ck it, Dude. Let’s go bowling.

Stats Watch

Retail: “Survey: retailers lose more revenue from inaccurate inventory than theft” [DC Velocity]. “Retailers have an inventory headache and it’s not from shoplifting. Inaccurate inventories are to blame for more lost revenue than theft, according to the results of a recent survey from supply chain data service provider Bossa Nova Robotics. Nearly all the survey respondents (99 percent) said they have some kind of constant inventory problem, with 87 percent pegging it as a top source of lost revenue; far more than the 13 percent who fingered theft as the top revenue source.” • Talking their book, but still.

Shipping: “Ocean carriers strive to keep capacity in check” [Supply Chain Dive]. “A recent report from The Wall Street Journal portrayed capacity as ‘increasingly out of step with demand’ and said, ‘the world’s container-shipping lines are stuck with their megaships.’ Panelists [at TPM 2019 in Long Beach, California] refuted that premise, noting the ratio of vessels on the order books to ships deployed is at its lowest level in years. ‘Look at the numbers,’ said Philip Damas, director and operational head of Drewry Supply Chain Advisors. ‘This is not happening.’”

Shipping: “View From the Box: CAI International’s CEO on the Outlook for Global Shipping” [Wall Street Journal]. “WSJ: How are things on the maritime container side? MR. GARCIA: There was some front-loading of shipments [last year] because of the concerns about trade. We were expecting that there would be a more significant drop-off after the holiday season, but we’ve actually seen it be fairly strong. Normally we would expect a 1% to 2% of decline in the fleet…But we’ve had less than half a percent decline and a fair number of inquiries. I think customers are cautiously optimistic about 2019.”

Shipping: “The arms race among U.S. container ports is drawing more investment. The Jacksonville Port Authority’s new $238 million agreement with Seattle-based port operator SSA Marine is the latest in a series of big-money projects aimed at transforming the East Coast import landscape for bigger ships” [Wall Street Journal] “The Florida port is also advancing a $480 million plan to upgrade its facilities, including deepening its channel. The bigger container ships are a growing part of the trade scene on the Atlantic since an expansion of the Panama Canal in 2016 enabled larger vessels to come from Asia.”

Shipping: “National freight volumes almost even year-over-year, capacity remains loose” [FreightWaves]. “The national Outbound Tender Volume Index (OTVI) turned one year old on March 1, and it is telling us something quite unexpected – national trucking volumes are almost exactly the same as early March of 2018. For those of us watching the freight market regularly, this may come as a surprise.

Manufacturing: “GE Tumbles Most in Three Months as Power-Unit Woes Sap 2019 Cash” [Industry Week]. “Cash flow from GE’s industrial operations will be negative this year as GE grapples with further challenges in its power business and other operational pressures, Chief Executive Officer Larry Culp said Tuesday at an industry conference. That’s a sharp drop from 2018, when the maker of gas turbines and jet engines brought in $4.5 billion by the closely watched measure…. Investors have kept a close eye on adjusted industrial free cash flow, GE’s measure of the leftover cash generated by its manufacturing units after accounting for operating and other expenses. The metric is considered an indicator of earnings potential.”

Manufacturing: “The automotive sector is looking more than ever like it needs a tune-up. Investors and analysts are growing more concerned that the global auto industry is sputtering, …. and is joining retail and energy as sectors with worries over potential financial distress” [Wall Street Journal]. “AlixPartners LLC found in a recent survey that a third of restructuring experts named autos as one of the three most likely sectors to face distress in 2019. After holding steady last year, U.S. auto sales are widely expected to fall in 2019, and light vehicle sales world-wide fell 8% in January, with a sharp decline in China.”

Health Care

Interview on Medicare for All with Pramila Jaypal (TP):

[embedded content]

TP: “Impressive.” Readers?

From Isaiah Breen*, about that insurance you all love so much. Thread:

* At one time, Keith Ellison’s press secretary.

GoFundMe (1):

GoFundMe (2): “GoFundMe CEO: ‘Gigantic Gaps’ In Health System Showing Up In Crowdfunding” [Kaiser Health News]. From January, still germane. GoFundMe CEO Rob Solomon: “The system is terrible. It needs to be rethought and retooled. Politicians are failing us. Health care companies are failing us. Those are realities. I don’t want to mince words here. We are facing a huge potential tragedy. We provide relief for a lot of people. But there are people who are not getting relief from us or from the institutions that are supposed to be there. We shouldn’t be the solution to a complex set of systemic problems. They should be solved by the government working properly, and by health care companies working with their constituents. We firmly believe that access to comprehensive health care is a right and things have to be fixed at the local, state and federal levels of government to make this a reality.” • Somebody in Jayapal’s office should ask Solomon to support HR1384.


“Three levels of controversy over MMT” [Interfluidity]. “If you think MMT is good politics but bad economics, it may be worth asking whether there isn’t some tweak or reform that would render the economics acceptable and retain the good politics. And advancing that project of reform might, all things considered, be a more virtuous project than ostentatiously dissing MMT under the banner of your own economic views.” • A review of the current dust-ups, including Henwood and the responses to him.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Families are not always easy. Thread:

Guillotine Watch

“My Year of Living Like My Rich Friend” [New York Magazine]. “[S]hopping with T was different. When she walked into a store, the employees greeted her by name and began to pull items from the racks for her to try on. Riding her coattails, I was treated with the same consideration, which is how I wound up owning a beautiful cashmere 3.1 Philip Lim sweater that I had no use for and rarely wore, and which was eventually eaten by moths in my closet. Buying beautiful clothes at full retail price was not a part of my childhood and it is not a part of my life now. It felt more illicit and more pleasurable than buying drugs. It was like buying drugs and doing the drugs, simultaneously.”” • Indeed:

[embedded content]

Class Warfare

“Erie Locomotive Plant Workers Strike against Two-Tier” [Labor Notes]. “UE proposed keeping the terms of the existing collective bargaining agreement in place while negotiating a new contract, but Wabtec rejected that proposal. Instead it said it would impose a two-tier pay system that would pay new hires and recalled employees up to 38 percent less in wages, institute mandatory overtime, reorganize job classifications, and hire temporary workers for up to 20 percent of the plant’s jobs. Workers voted on Saturday to authorize the strike.” • Good. Two-tier is awful, wherever found (including Social Security).

News of the Wired

“Poetry slams are helping to revitalise the Basque language” [The Economist]. “Before an audience of 500 people on the outskirts of Pamplona, Maialen Lujanbio, the reigning champion of bertsolaritza, the Basque oral tradition of improvised song, steps up to the microphone. She stands in silence, thinking. Ms Lujanbio is composing a bertso, the rules of which are simple but exacting. Given a theme or a prompt, bertsolaris invent a poem of between eight and 12 lines, which must fit a prescribed rhyming form. Next they choose a melody from thousands of traditional tunes, or coin a new one on the spot. Bertsolaris usually think for around 30 seconds. The silence can feel chasmic. And then they sing.

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (crittermom):

Crittermom writes: “Rock candy?” Normally, I oppose shallow focus on principle — not the way I see things! — but this is gorgeous!

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This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on March 6, 2019 by .

About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered.
To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.

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