Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Amazon, FedEx and the Post Office

Both Amazon and Fed ex have embarked on plans to deliver their own “last mile” package delivery previously contracted with the US Post Office. Here is a link to run75441 (postmaster Mark Jamison’s) piece on this process Fake News, Flawed Analysis, and Bogus Tweets from 2018 for a much more complete description. I have pulled a quote from the more recent Business Insider post on “last mile” delivery.

 

According to the US Postal Service Inspector General, the new requirement to pre-fund retiree benefits accounted for $55 billion of the agency’s $62 billion loss incurred between 2007 and 2016.

Because of that, the Postal Service can’t make the massive investments into its logistics networks that its competitors have been able to.

Business Insider

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Industrial production, jobless claims, and retail sales

Industrial production, jobless claims, and retail sales

As I noted this morning, a slew of important data was released. Let me deal with the “normal” weekly and monthly data in this post.

First, industrial production continues to languish, down significantly from the end of last year, whether measured in total or just as to manufacturing:

The saving grace here is that it has not declined as much as it did during the 2015-16 “shallow industrial recession” which was not sufficient to cause the economy as a whole to contract.

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Science Backed Home Healthcare Remedies

From treehuggers, “Home Remedies,” Melissa Breyer, August 12, 2019

treehugger publication was also a part of Slate’s “Green Challenge” which Slate started publishing in conjunction with treehugger.org. a decade plus few years or so ago.

Chicken Soup for a Cold?

Toronto-based dietitian and Director of Food and Nutrition at Medcan, Leslie Beck:

“There is no evidence to prove that eating chicken soup is effective at treating the common cold. However, it’s not a total bust.” She continues;

“A 2000 University of Nebraska study found homemade chicken soup containing chicken, lots of vegetables, parsley, salt and pepper inhibits the activity of inflammation-causing white blood cells in blood samples taken from volunteers. It was thought this could reduce the flow of mucus and ease a stuffy nose. An earlier 1978 study found sipping hot chicken soup increased the velocity of nasal secretions in 15 healthy volunteers, an outcome possibly helping clear a stuffed-up nose. It was also found the effect lasted only 30 minutes and drinking hot water had the same effect.”

Another conclusion found in the same 1978 study was “Hot chicken soup, either through the aroma sensed at the posterior nares or through a mechanism related to taste, appears to possess an additional substance for increasing nasal mucus velocity.”

A 1998 UCLA report Coping with Allergies and Asthma notes, “chicken soup may improve the ability of the tiny hairline projections in the nose (called cilia) to prevent infectious particles from afflicting the body.”

It does lessen the sniffles . . .

Honey for Coughs

In “What works best for kids’ colds? Not medicine,” the author Melissa Breyer writes about a study showing honey outperforms the popular cough suppressant dextromethorphan (DM) in treating cough symptoms in children.

Dr. Shonna Yin from the N.Y.U. School of Medicine says that comfort for sick kids can come in the form of “plenty of fluids to keep children well hydrated, and honey for a cough in children over a year old.”

Prunes?

Science backs up the efficacy of prunes in helping improve regularity and better than psyllium. A half a cup of prunes has around 6 grams of fiber for around 200 calories. They also have the natural sugar, sorbitol, which can act as a laxative for some people.

Ginger for Nausea

Ginger is commonly used for medicinal purposes in Asian, Indian, and Arabic herbal traditions. In China, ginger has been used to aid all types of digestion disorders for more than 2,000 years. Health care professionals recommend ginger to help prevent or treat nausea and vomiting and as a digestive aid for mild stomach upset. Germany’s Commission E has approved ginger as a treatment for indigestion and motion sickness.

Hot or cold ginger tea can be made by grating or slicing fresh ginger and letting it steep in boiled water for 10 minutes or longer if you like it spicy. Hot, spicy, ginger tea with lemon and honey also does wonders for a stuffy nose as well.

How to Make Ginger Ale using Ginger.

Lavender to induce Sleep

Sleep expert Richard Shane, PhD ; “Research shows that smelling lavender decreases heart rate and blood pressure the key elements of relaxation (Reader’s Digest). The two main chemicals in lavender have been shown to have sedative and pain-relieving effects.”

2005 study found an exposure to lavender essential oil increased the percentage of deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) in men and women. The study’s subjects reported “increased vigor the morning after exposure to lavender exposure corroborating the restorative SWS increase. Lavender serves as a mild sedative and has practical applications as a novel, nonphotic method for promoting deep sleep in young men and women and for producing gender-dependent sleep effects.”

Some truth in what mom and grandmother thought for their children and grand children. Maybe they did know best?

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Quick hits on a major Thursday economic news blitz

Quick hits on a major Thursday economic news blitz

There has been a ton of significant economic news this morning. I’m not going to be able to get to all or even most of it in depth. So I am going to leave a quick rundown here.

Starting with the positive:

-nominal retail sales up +0.6%, up +0.3% in real terms, up +0.2% Per Capita. This is another new high and suggests the US consumer continues to be in good shape (relatively speaking). Note that much of this apparently has to do with Amazon “Prime Day” purchases, and if the seasonal adjustments are off, this could easily be a false positive.

-Both the NY and Philly Fed indexes higher, including new orders for both. No indication here that manufacturing is rolling over.

-The manufacturing component of industrial production higher, again suggesting that manufacturing is not rolling over (although this is still below its December high point).

The negative:

– overall industrial production was negative – again! Industrial production as a whole has remained in a decline off its high in December of last year. This is the premier coincident economic indicator, even more than payrolls.

– initial jobless claims higher YoY on both a weekly and monthly measure. It is not more than 10% higher than its recent lows, so overall is a neutral not a negative.

– the 2 year to 10 year treasury spread briefly inverted again this morning, although once again it has rebounded to positive.

-a MAJOR negative: unit labor costs for the last five years revised higher, meaning that adjusted corporate profits (a long leading indicator) peaked back in 2014, and were almost 15% lower than that as of Q1 of this year. The placeholder proprietors income is also slightly lower through Q2 than its peak in Q4 of last year.

I’ll try to post one or two things in detail later.

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Read Seth Cotlar

@sethcotlar has a very excellent thread asking never Trump conservatives what really changed with Trump. He says he is willing to be convinced that Trump isn’t just letting the mask drop and saying the quiet parts out loud, but that they haven’t made a case that Conservativism was ever worth anything.

Zack Beauchamp fair used it over at Vox.com

It is devastating and brief (Twitter is evil but it does prevent prolixity — might be the only medium for concise historians not named Tacitus).

I fair use squared the following which I consider to be a very important insight

@SethCotlar

30. This points to another thread in the history of conservatism that dates all the way back to Bill Buckley…conservatism has often defined itself largely AGAINST a phantom “left” that doesn’t really exist as they think it does.

@SethCotlar

31. Not only do conservatives tend to see that “left” as monolithic, they also see it as posing an existential threat to “western civilization” or “our way of life.”

@SethCotlar
32. Without the slippery slope argument, conservatism loses much of its rhetorical punch. Want Medicare? You’re secretly a commie. Support gay right? You hate the nuclear family! Support the rights of transgender people? There’s no biological truth anymore!

@SethCotlar

33. This is not just a rhetorical device conservative politicians deployed to gin up votes. It’s also been an essential piece of conservative intellectual thought as well. “Standing athwart history yelling stop,” and such.

Yes yes yes. Partly, this is an example of an error of thought which is more common than any other error of thought or any valid method of thought, the false dichotomy. Setting up and knocking down straw men is irresistably tempting. But I think it is important that the seem to actually believe this.

American Conservatism largely defined itself as anti-Communism. I don’t think they evern managed to get over the end of the USSR. One of the central tenets was that of the “Clear and Present Danger” of Communist world conquest. The collapse of the USSR demonstrated that they were totally utterly wrong. But Reagan and Bush were Presidents at the time, so they declared that everything which showed they were wrong, showed they were right.

To an extraordinary extent, Conservatives reject compromise by arguing that compromise is impossible, that any concessions are steps out onto the slippery slope to serfism.

A bit more fairusing below.

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Quality Spreads

While the yield curve turning negative is getting a lot of attention and seems to be the main excuse for yesterdays stock market drop, there are other financial indicators that are also signaling weaker economic growth ahead.

The primary one is quality spreads as the yield on corporate bonds are rising relative to treasuries.  This is driven by investors fear that in a weak economy, recession environment the risk of corporate defaults rises and bond buyers demand a larger premium to take that larger risk.It is easy to see that quality spreads are driven largely by economic weakness by comparing them to capacity utilization.

 

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Traffic Jam in Shenzhen, China

” The long line of trucks is a traffic jam of military trucks. Shenzhen (China), to state the obvious, is across the border and located just north of Hong Kong (see map). This show of force could still be a well poised threat to Hong Kong warning them to discontinue their protests or else. Shenzhen is an approximate 20 miles from Hong Kong and can be traveled by rail, bus, or limo.

Click on the images to enlarge.

In an update, it appears the Chinese military have started military exercises in Shenzhen as well as hundreds of the People’s Armed Police (PAP) in preparation of an invasion. Another saber rattling action intent on intimidating Hong Kong protesters. This is an scalation from previous efforts when Traffic Police were the ones used to make a similar point. It remains to be seen if China is willing to break the “one – country, two governing systems model” allowed Hong Kong and at the heart of China’s delay in deploying. Hong Kong is a global economic hub. Any intrusion would be noticed, lead to a destabilization, and potential sanctions on China.

On a forced (German VP boss) business trip, I was scheduled to visit a PCB manufacturer in Shenzhen. The travel agency routed me through Shanghai instead of Hong Kong which added hours to my trip (1 hour sitting in Shanghai) as compared to an ~ hour coming out of Hong Kong. A train would have stopped near the Westin where I was staying.

It was obvious the company travel agency did not know the route or bother to look at a map. I arrived after midnight. I informed my Chinese associate, we would be meeting later in the morning so I could be rested enough to negotiate the return of the excess air freight costs charged and my own agenda of negotiating the freezing of gold prices for two years. I was successful in both cases. My boss saved face, I became a star, and my American Planning associates did mot suffer a boot in the pants for their deliberate laziness.

As you can see on the map going back and forth between Shenzhen and Hong Kong is easy to do for travelers and the military too.

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