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

Some Instant Thoughts on Super Tuesday

(Dan here…Late to AB posting…what a difference a day or two can make.  Elizabeth Warren has withdrawn from the election process and is not endorsing either Biden nor Sanders at the moment.  Peter weighs in speculating on what is next.)

1. Biden benefitted from a wave of (orchestrated) last minute endorsements. One effect of this wave was to divert attention from Biden the candidate to the endorsers and their combined bandwagon effect. Particular endorsements helped in specific states: O’Rourke in Texas, Klobuchar in Minnesota. But Biden has flamed out in all his previous runs for president because he is a weak campaigner, not very bright and prone to own goals. He would be mincemeat for Trump. Sanders, however, has vowed to make an issue only of political differences, not personal qualities. We’ll see if that’s enough of an umbrella for Biden to get through to the nomination.

2. There must be immense pressure on Warren to remain in the race. By any logic, she should drop out now and not soak up any more scarce resources, whether money, staff or her own time and energy. If you look at the non-southern state results yesterday, however, her vote share had a big impact on the outcome. If her support would break, say, two-thirds for Sanders and one-third for Biden, this would be enough to put Bernie over the top in close races. I have no doubt the preferred lineup for the Democratic Party, donors and staff, is Biden-Warren-Sanders. It will be interesting to see if she keeps playing the game.

3. I’m not surprised that the party apparatus is so determined to defeat Bernie, even at the cost of re-electing Trump. Sanders has never been a Democrat. He caucuses with them in the Senate, but, aside from the inevitable vote-rustling in congress, he has never coordinated with them politically. His donor base minimally overlaps with theirs. His staff consists of political professionals who were either outliers in the Party or outside it altogether. If he were elected the result would be a hostile takeover of the national apparatus, and almost everyone who is a part of it today would have to find another line of work come January. It’s existential for them. The same probably holds in many or most state parties.

4. To recap #1, the Democrats have decided to place their full bet with Biden. It may well work for them, but based on the man’s history, it’s a risky move. If Biden self-destructs again their only fallback is to put forward a third party spoiler in the general election.

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Biden Unfit?

The latest political news is  .   .   .    Trump  claiming Biden is unfit for office. One can hardly imagine this scenario occurring of the pot calling the kettle black; but, this is what Trump is doing.  Biden does have his issues which were on display early on in his campaign. I am hoping Biden has found his groove and can put the real unfit person out-of-office.

August 2019, Trump tweets

Joe Biden just said, ‘We believe in facts, not truth.’ Does anybody really believe he is mentally fit to be president? We are ‘playing’ in a very big and complicated world. Joe doesn’t have a clue!

Max Boot asks the question,

Is this really the debate that Trump wants to have? Does he really want to have an argument about who is “mentally fit to be president” and who has a “clue” about what’s happening in the world? Because his own utterances of the past few days have confirmed what everyone who hasn’t joined his cult already knows: He is both unfit to be president and utterly clueless.

The same Trump is back and opening up another argument of who is fit for office. Earlier in this week he unleashed another attack;

“Sleepy Joe, he doesn’t even know where he is or what he’s doing or what office he’s running for. Honestly, I don’t think he knows what office he’s running for.

If Mr. Biden won the presidency, his staff would actually do the governing. They’re going to put him into a home, other people are going to be running the country, and they’re going to be super-left, radical crazies. And Joe’s going to be in a home and he’ll be watching television.”

No doubt Joe has his issues and gaffs; but having served 8 years as a VP under Obama and numerous years as a Senator and Representative, Biden’s gaffs still do not reach the level of amazement of listeners to Trump’s words and lies , or by readers of his tweets and lies, and the number of instances Trumps has given us during his three and one-half years in office. And he is proud of them, while we shake our heads in disbelief, the rest of the world laughs at him – gossiping behind his back, and take him for the liar he proves to be on a daily basis.

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The Stock Market in Presidential Terms

Before the recent swoon stock market market performance under Trump had been quite favorable. The market gain since his inauguration (100) had been (144) similar to those under Clinton (141) and Obama (150). At this point Ike actually had the best return ( 170) but Ike and Truman are not included  in the chart because it is too cluttered already.

After the recent market drop he is now more or less in the middle of the pact for recent presidents  — even with JFK-LBJ and behind most democrats and ahead of most republicans.

But if he wants a strong market-economy going into the election it is easy to see why he strongly favors the 50 basis point cut by the Fed. The market doesn’t seem quite sure what to make of the Fed’s actions, first rallying strongly and then turning negative.  It still does not have a handle om what economic impact to expect from the coronavirus. Maybe the Fed fears a bigger impact than markets were already discounting. Or, maybe the Fed is just taking out insurance in the face of extreme uncertainty.

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Poor regulation causes scarcity

(Dan here…another  of David Zetland’s students Hanna writes on regulation…a reminder of what also matters during this heated political climate, and from a younger generation. The first mention of water wars at AB was 2007 I believe.)

Poor regulation causes scarcity

Hannah writes*

In 2014, Flint was plunged into a water crisis. However, this was not the result of over abstraction or drought. Instead, the city’s water scarcity which continues today was caused by poor regulation. The tragedy in Flint demonstrates the critical role that regulators play in ensuring both the quantity and quality of the water delivered to communities.

Over the last five years, it has become clear that senior officials were aware of the water quality issues in Flint but continued to claim that the water was safe to drink. This inaction had serious consequences including multiple lawsuits and the trial of Michigan’s health director accused of involuntary manslaughter. From the start, much of the blame for the disaster was directed at the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ). The Flint Water Advisory Task Force Final Report [pdf] from March 2016 said that the MDEQ “failed in its fundamental responsibility to effectively enforce drinking water regulations.”

The failures were not limited to responding to residents’ concerns about the water quality either; the chain of blunders date back to the original switch of city’s water source to the Flint River which triggered the crisis. The report said the shift was rushed, a concern which had been raised at the time by former utility’s administrator for Flint, Michael Glasgow. Furthermore, the report blamed the MDEQ for not treating the river water with corrosion control as is mandated by federal law. A 2017 review [pdf] of the MDEQ by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) heavily criticised the state, reporting multiple errors including failing to properly implement key provisions of the Lead and Copper Rule.


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Atlanta and downstream friends

(Dan here…another  of David Zetland’s students Johanna writes on groundwater…a reminder of what also matters during this heated political climate, and from a younger generation. The first mention of water wars at AB was 2007 I believe.)

Atlanta and downstream friends

Johanna writes*

This post offers some insight into the problems of water management in Atlanta (the capital of Georgia) and the effects of those problems on its downstream neighbors Florida and Alabama. These problems are part of a 30-year water allocation drama in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (AFC) basin.

 (Map source)

In Atlanta, population growth, legal disputes, and droughts result in water scarcity. Atlanta is one of the fastest-growing urban cities in the US, relying only on surface water supplies drawn from the Chattahoochee River, the source of the Tri-state water dispute with Alabama and Florida. The litigation began in 1990 when Alabama sued the Corps to stop allocating water to Atlanta. In 2014 Florida filed a complaint in the Supreme Court stating that Georgia has harmed the environment downstream and a bid for equitable apportionment (background on the litigation).

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Conversational Points about Coronavirus and Administration Answers

Newcastle ban handshakes at training ground: “There’s a ritual here that everybody shakes hands with everybody as soon as we see each other every morning,” said Bruce as he prepared for Saturday’s game against Burnley at St James’ Park. “But we’ve stopped that on the advice of our club doctor. Thankfully, we’ve got a superb doctor here and he will keep us informed of what we have to do. We’re like everybody else, we’re glued to the TV for where it’s going to go next and let’s hope it doesn’t get any worse in this country.”

Dettol sales surge as markets fall again The disinfectant is seen as providing protection against the spread of the disease, although its effectiveness has not yet been scientifically proven.

Dettol owner Reckitt Benckiser said in its results on Thursday. “We are seeing some increased demand for Dettol and Lysol products and are working to support the relevant healthcare authorities and agencies, including through donations, information and education. We do see increased activity online for our consumers in China,”

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) held a telephone Town Hall Wednesday night. Rep. Ron Kind asked Azar how confident he was that rural providers were up to the task when;

“one out of every three calls into it was talking about the coronavirus. Certainly the concern, if not the fear, is starting to permeate throughout our communities and especially in rural areas. It’s coming, and I’m concerned whether we’re ready for that.”

Azar: “One of the bedrocks of our system is our great hospitals, our great public health infrastructure, and our providers, I worry about infection control protocols in rural facilities, just because they don’t see it as much … I think we have to up the game nationwide around immediate infection control on suspect cases so we don’t get nosocomial infections.”

Past the leap Mulvaney and Cruz are fools

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A threatened groundwater source

(Dan here…one of David Zetland’s students Lenaide writes on groundwater…a reminder of what also matters during this heated political climate, and from a younger generation)

A threatened groundwater source

Lenaide writes*

Imagine living in a city located on top of the largest groundwater source and longest river in France, but to also have both of these sources be under the threat of scarcity. That it is the current state of Beaugency, France.

Beaugency has two water sources: the Beauce aquifer, which I will focus on in this blogpost and the Loire river, which I will only briefly mention at the end.

The aquifer, covering about 10 000 km2, is referred to as the water tower of the department, as it provides water to about 1 million inhabitants. Since the beginning of the 1990s, special attention for its care and sustainable use has been given to it as there was a major drought, forcing regulations to be put in place. However, these did not last, and thirty years later here we are with falling water levels and deteriorating water quality .

The aquifer provides drinking water for citizens and water for irrigation (mostly) and industrial uses. (For more info on the extraction, specific uses, and historical regulations imposed check out this website.)


Figure 1

Climate and agriculture threaten the Beauce groundwater.

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Conversational Points about Coronavirus and the White House’s Panic

The Incompetency of this man comes to light in a potentially catastrophic period. He instills fear rather than confidence.

White House Moves To Screen Scientists’ Statements On Coronavirus
As fears grow of a politicized White House response to the coronavirus outbreak, the White House has placed Vice President Mike Pence in charge of messaging about the virus, the New York Times reported Thursday.”

“Pence, who Trump said Wednesday night would be the White House point person on the outbreak, will clear public health officials’ statements on the virus, the Times reported citing several unnamed people familiar with the matter.”

Not to worry, The Reverend Henry Kane from Indiana takes charge.

White House Reportedly Ordered Infectious Disease Chief ‘Not to Say Anything’ About Coronavirus Without Clearance

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has told associates that he has received directions from the White House “not to say anything else without clearance” about the potential coronavirus pandemic.

Writing for the Times, Michael Scherer and Maggie Haberman report about recent efforts by the Trump administration to “tighten control of coronavirus messaging by government health officials and scientists, directing them to clear all statements and public appearance with the office of Vice President Mike Pence, according to several officials familiar with the new approach.”

Early missteps and state secrecy in China probably allowed the coronavirus to spread farther and faster

“An analysis of those early weeks — from official statements, leaked accounts from Chinese medical professionals, newly released scientific data and interviews with public health officials and infectious disease experts — reveals potential missteps by China’s overburdened public health officials.”

In my mind, there is no doubt this happened in China. Since the White House is more worried about markets than the spread of this contagion, it will spread rapidly with little to contain it. It will be months before an adequate vaccine is found.

President’s budget would hinder US public health progress: Huge cuts proposed“.

The Nation’s Health: “Trump released his fiscal year 2020 federal budget proposal in March, recommending huge cuts across the federal government, including a 12 percent cut to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and a 10 percent cut for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At CDC, a reduction of that magnitude equates to a $750 million spending cut over fiscal year 2019. APHA member John Auerbach, MBA, president and CEO of Trust for America’s Health, said the proposed CDC cuts not only threaten federal public health capacity, they would have a “devastating” impact on state and local public health departments, which depend heavily on CDC dollars flowing down to the community level.

“Auerbach told The Nation’s Health. “Local health departments are still down more than 50,000 jobs from where they were in 2008. If large cuts like these were passed, it would seriously harm the overall capacity of state and local public health departments to respond.”

Donald Trump Is Worried About . . . The Stock Market!

“Trump is highly concerned about the market and has encouraged aides not to give predictions that might cause further tremors….In a Twitter post, he misspelled the word ‘coronavirus’ as ‘caronavirus’ and wrote that two cable news stations “are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action. USA in great shape!”

As far as the markets, I would be concerned with the China supply chain to the US. At most there is 5-weeks, three on the ocean and a week on each side getting board ship, unloading, and customs. Perhaps companies will have 2 -4 weeks in stock already. We are two-3 weeks into this. China plants are more than likely closed or are half-staffed. Ships woill not call on Chinese ports till the crisis is over or is pronounced safe. The Chinese have fumbled the ball initially by not declaring an emergency sooner. While the epidemic started in a Wuhan fish market, it is now believed the virus originated elsewhere.

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Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

Who Wins Prairie du Chien Wins the White House

That would be Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, whose French name means “prairie dog,” and which is located where the Wisconsin River empties into the Mississippi River, third oldest town in the state founded by Europeans (the French) after Green Baay (originallly Fort Nicolet) and Portage, also located at crucial spots long used by the Native Indians for river transport.  It is also the county seat for Crawford County, with Grant County just across the Wisconsin River.

Many argue that Wisconsin is the ultimate swing state, based on that if all the states go as they did in 2016, Trump would stilll win if he loses PA and MI, but wins in WI.  It might be that Bernie in particular could swing AZ because of his strong support among non-Foridian Latinos, but even with that, Wisconsin is clearly about as crucial and swingy as any state in the Union.  How it goes is likely to align with the ultimate outcome in the electoral collage, at least as things stand now.

So why is Prairie du Chien so crucial?  Well, aside from several industrial cities, notably Erie, PA and Yongstown, OH, the parts of the nation that did the largest amount of changing their votes between 2012 and 2016, with then at least partly moving back towars Dems happen to be southwestern Wisconsin and noetheastern Iowa across the Miisissippi from SW WI.  While much of WI is now pretty rigidly partidsanly fixed, not so true in the past, this area is up for grabs and swinging back and forth at lot.  What matters in the rest of the state has more to do with base turnout issues, such as African Americans in Milwaukee and some other stories turning out a lot more in 2012 than in 2016.  But as of now, it looks like what goes on in SW WI looks to indicate how the state will go and thus how the national outome will go.

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