2:00PM Water Cooler 1/04/2016

Lambert here: Water Cooler returns, and happy belated New Year, especially to Chinese stock market punters! I turn my back for one moment…


The Voters

Ammon Bundy at the Oregon standoff: “I want to emphasis that the American people are wondering why they can’t seem to get ahead or why everything is costing more and you are getting less, and that is because the federal government is taking and using the land and resources” [WaPo]. Class and cultural markers aside, there’s a lot of people wondering just the same thing. And the 1% — or rather, the 0.01% — are laughing at these guys, because they’ve got the wrong enemy.

“You have undoubtedly heard that primary polls aren’t necessarily very predictive far from an election. With just a month to go until the Iowa caucuses, I’m writing to tell you that … it’s still true” [New York Times].

“The Obama Coalition Seems to Be Holding Up Pretty Well” [New York Magazine]. A random collection of cohorts sintered together with identity politics….


“Hillary Clinton: I will reveal truth about UFOs if I become America’s next President” [Mirror].


“Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders raised more than $33 million in the final three months of last year, nearly matching front-runner Hillary Clinton’s fundraising haul over the same period” [Wall Street Journal]. Ya know, you’d think this would be a story…

Squillioinaire donors you might not have heard of: The DeVos family, Farris Wilks, Mel Heifetz, John Jordan, Bill Koch [The Hill].

The Trail

“Cruz raffling engraved shotgun” [The Hill]. Why stop with one? And isn’t a mere shotgun kinda pissant?

Cilizza annoints Cruz [WaPo].

Iowa caucuses are only 30 days away, and a lot of plans won’t survive contact with the enemy, the voters [The Hill].

“State Department still doesn’t have all of Clinton’s emails” [McClatchy]. And it’s never going to get them, either, because Clinton is deciding what to keep and what to release. I’m amazed that’s not the story, except not. Clinton is out-Nixoning Nixon!

“Slow paced, personal, nearly divorced from the news of the day and sometimes distributed by the White House, a series of “conversations” between Obama and prominent figures in arts, letters and entertainment captures a White House experimenting with ways to reconnect Americans to the president before they say goodbye [and good riddance] to him” [AP]. Democrats sure do love that word “conversation,” don’t they?

Stats Watch

PMI Manufacturing Index, December 2015: “Near stagnation in new orders is a key negative in the report, one that points to further slowing for the headline index in coming readings. Orders are still growing but at their slowest pace of the recovery, since September 2009. Backlog orders are contracting sharply, the most since September 2009 as well” [Econoday]. What punchbowl?.”The report points to widespread weakness across orders including for export orders where manufacturers continue to site strength in the dollar as a negative.” No, they don’t “site” strength. For pity’s sake. And: “Bad” [Mosler Economics] But: “New orders have direct economic consequences. Expanding new orders is a relatively reliable sign a recession is NOT imminent. However, New Orders contraction have given false recession warnings twice since 2000” [Econoday].

ISM Mfg Index, December 2015: “reporting the weakest conditions since July 2009” [Econoday]. What punchbowl? “Prices for raw materials continue to contract, a reminder that low oil and commodity prices are making it difficult for the Fed to reach its 2 percent inflation target.” And: “Very bad” [Mosler Economics].

Construction Spending, November 2015: “Construction spending had been a highlight of the U.S. economy but less so with November’s report where the headline fell 0.4 percent, far below the Econoday consensus” [Econoday]. What punchbowl? “Today’s report also includes sharp downward revisions to prior months, the result of a processing error going back to January last year.” Oh. And: “As suspected, things have been worse than reported ever since the collapse in oil capex a little over a year ago” [Mosler Economics].

(More) Honey for the Bears: “The warnings for weak earnings have been telegraphed for quite a while. But the expectations seem to be only getting worse” [Business Insider].

Honey for the Bears: “Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts, however, worry that the numbers are being stretched to an unusual degree” [Business Insider]. “Analysts refer to all of this in the context of earnings quality. If companies are able to deliver earnings without having to make a ton of accounting adjustment, then earnings quality is arguably high.” I dunno. When a phrase like “earnings quality” bubbles up to the surface of the zeitgeist… I mean, if you’ve got to say it…..

“Repo markets are the plumbing of our financial system, helping to ensure proper market functioning. They are a medium for participants to borrow and lend fixed income securities. They facilitate access to collateral used to cover short positions, providing an essential source of liquidity in bond and derivatives markets. More broadly, repo markets will be a key conduit in the transmission of monetary policy as the Fed normalizes rates via its reverse repo facility” [Across the Curve]. Handy explainer, even with the assumption that the Fed is able to “normalize” (whatevet that means) rates.

“[F]ails in seasoned issues—defined as securities issued more than 180 days prior—continued their upward trend after June 2014” [Liberty Street]. “Going forward, the continued growth in seasoned fails bears close watching, even as concerns are somewhat mitigated by the short tenure and wide dispersion of the fails.”

“Bitcoin: How the Isle of Man is leading a cryptocurrency revolution” [Independent]. If you know anything about the history of the Isle of Man, this news will reinforce Yves’ idea of bitcoin as “prosecution futures” for you.

“Heroz is hoping that the lessons it has learned [in programming a winning computer chess player] about how to recreate human judgment to help its computers win at shogi can be applied to the crunching of data for banks when they decide whether customers are creditworthy” [Bloomberg]. What could go wrong?

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 37 (-9); Fear [CNN]. Last week: 44 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). 危险.


“A new trend in fashion is emerging and it is not slip dresses as outerwear. No, the new trend centers on consumers filing lawsuits against brands and retailers for fixing retail prices in a way that is misleading” [The Fashion Law]. “The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s ‘prices were artificially inflated and arbitrary and did not represent a bona fide price at which they previously sold such products or the prevailing market price for such items.'” Hmm. Aren’t prices as “bona fide,” no more and no less, as the power relations that set them? They certainly are in the labor market.

“The FBI alleges Hikmatullah Shadman gave at least two US soldiers bundles of $100 notes to win inflated deals to supply transport and heavy equipment” [BBC]. Bad apples, I’m sure.

Honda’s airbag supplier, Takata: “‘Happy Manipulating!!!”‘ an airbag engineer, Bob Schubert, wrote in one email dated July 6, 2006, in a reference to results of airbag tests. In another, he wrote of changing the colors or lines in a graphic ‘to divert attention’ from the test results and ‘to try to dress it up'” [New York Times]. Seems like a phishing equilibrium in the auto industry; Volkswagen, Honda. Who else?

David Axelrove on Rahm Emmanuel: “His entire legacy is resting now on making real reform happen” [WaPo]. At least we can hope that Rahm is suffering greatly. He’s earned it. (Filed under Corruption because Rahm.)

Dear Old Blighty

“Hilary Benn demotion by Jeremy Corbyn an ‘act of war'” [Independent]. No, no, no, no, no. An “act of war” is when you invade Iraq over a sexed up dossier, and Blairites like Benn should know all about that. As much as Mr. Bush’s poodle could be said to have invaded anything, of course.

Militia Watch

“A group of angry anti-government protesters have occupied a building at a national wildlife refuge in Oregon in what they say is an act of solidarity for a pair of ranchers facing jail time for burning government land. However, the Hammond family, the Oregon ranchers at the center of the dispute, say they don’t want them there” [CBS]. “Solidarity.” Hmm.

“[T]he men involved in the takeover — including Ammon Bundy, Ammon’s brother Ryan, Jon Ritzheimer, Blaine Cooper, and Ryan Payne — are not locals. Rather, they are a small group of individuals who travel around the country attaching themselves to various local fights against the federal government, usually over land rights. Several of them were involved in Cliven Bundy’s 2014 standoff” [Vox]. In other words, “outside agitators.”

“In a small place in Oregon, the essential compact of the United States of America has come apart” [Charles Pierce, Esquire]. “This is an act of armed sedition against lawful authority.” Rather like the Whiskey Rebellion. Fortunately George Washington brought in Federal troops…

Southern Poverty Law Center: Obama backing down from confrontation at the Bundy ranch energized these guys [WaPo].

“Timeline: Land Use and the ‘Patriots'” [Southern Poverty Law Center]. Surely most land use is local (and not BLM — in this context, the “Bureau of Land Management”). If so, I don’t see how these guys scale.

“Violent sovereign-citizen plots grow in U.S. — and now go worldwide” [McClatchy]. Not really sure where to file this because I don’t know enough yet. What I will say is that the sight of “progressives” gleefully quoting police chiefs on “domestic terror” really ought to give us all pause. Have we learned nothing about the the police from Occupy and BlackLivesMatter?

“Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists?'” [WaPo]. Hmm. “Occupiers.” Anyhow, I don’t know. Why aren’t we calling warmongering legacy party Presidential candidates terrorists? Or maybe we should limit the term to candidates who’ve actually got a body count going for them, a more exclusive club…

Class Warfare

“[T]he shape of inequality also means the wealthy exert a unique gravitational pull across all areas of society” [The Week]. The shape of inequality is fractal, and looks like a power curve (and not the so-called “normal distribution,” surprise surprise.

This animated GIF shows how the shape of inequality changed since the 70s (though not the very high end, which the previous link discusses).

Somebody should show that to Ammon Bundy…

“250,000 Americans who mainly populate the executive offices and managerial suites of major companies and financial institutions, along with a smattering of top law firms, hedge funds and other elite aeries … — the top one-quarter of 1 percent of the country’s employed population — have enjoyed explosive gains in income and wealth in recent decades, even as salaries and wages stagnated for the typical American worker” [New York Times]. There are not very many of the Shing.

News of the Wired

“Twitter Imagines a Drone Controlled by Tweets, a Great Idea That Can Only End Well” [New York Magazine]. Some tech squillionaire with a heart, if any, should offer a prize for writing the software to solve the implicit governance issues.

“Apple has set up its messaging systems so not even the company is able to decrypt messages sent from one user to another, even if ordered to by law enforcement or intelligence officials” [Kernel]. Maybe. Interesting article broaching the concept that just maybe it’s not such a good idea to collect everything.

Twitter’s new harassment rules [WaPo].

“[Bill Hedgcock, an Hedgcock, an associate professor of marketing at the Pappajohn Business Building] believes the University of Iowa is the world’s only business school with this kind of real-time software that converts images of people’s faces into readings for different moods” [Desmoines Register]. Hedgcock: “We nicknamed it ‘the creepy study.” New dimensions of Iowa nice….

“How Germany’s love of silence led to the first earplug” [BBC]. When we have Noisy Cars instead of Quiet Cars, my work here will be done.

“Lack Of Deep Sleep May Set The Stage For Alzheimer’s” [NPR]. I have always thought “Sleep that knits up the ravelled sleeve of care” is the one of the most beautiful lines in the language…

“Discovery and Assignment of Elements with Atomic Numbers 113, 115, 117 and 118” [IUPAC]. “[The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry] announces the verification of the discoveries of four new chemical elements: The 7th period of the periodic table of elements is complete.” (More here.) Now all we need is four new names. Readers?

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant:

Beach Grass Washington Coast

It would be nice to be sitting on the beach right about now….

Also, I’m a bit short on winter pictures…

* * *

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter has come, I need to buy fuel, keep the boiler guy and a very unhappy plumber happy, and keep my server up, too.


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About Lambert Strether

Lambert Strether has been blogging, managing online communities, and doing system administration 24/7 since 2003, in Drupal and WordPress. Besides political economy and the political scene, he blogs about rhetoric, software engineering, permaculture, history, literature, local politics, international travel, food, and fixing stuff around the house. The nom de plume “Lambert Strether” comes from Henry James’s The Ambassadors: “Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.” You can follow him on Twitter at @lambertstrether. http://www.correntewire.com


  1. Pavel

    Thanks for the comment on the odious Hilary Benn. I hadn’t heard yet about the demotion but good for Corbyn if he’s booted Benn out. Hard to believe that Hilary is related to the late great Tony Benn, one of Britain’s most thoughtful and inspiring politicians, and thoroughly anti-war.
    One of my most vivid political memories is being present at the infamous Poll Tax Riots in London during Thatcher’s regime. Tony Benn was there on Whitehall, giving an impromptu and inspiring speech to the crowd. Minutes later the police started storming the protesters on horses and in police cars, and after that the riots began in earnest, with cars set on fire and windows smashed. The unpopularity of the poll tax eventually did much to bring Thatcher down. Corbyn was a great friend of Tony. RIP.

    1. Carolinian

      Story says he’s “poised to do it.”

      In addition to the “war” quote there’s this

      “They want to shoot some people like Dugher in the car park to create some room to bring in young Corbynistas.”

      Are these New Labour people drama queens or what?

      1. Uahsenaa

        In a word, yes. I cannot escape the irony that the very people complaining every day (in the press, mind you) about unity are the ones throwing a tantrum every time their party leader, you know, leads the party. It’s not the so-called Corbynistas constantly whining.

        1. buffalo cyclist

          Even worse, the Blairite MPs called people who urged them to vote against yet another bombing campaign “trolls” and “bullies”, failing to miss the irony of their own vote.

          Corbyn may be the most inspiring person in politics as he shows there is at least a possible alternative the status quo of neoliberalism and warmongering.

  2. Gareth

    Give the Bundy gang all the Chipotle burritos they can eat and you’ll have them begging to surrender in a few days.

      1. ambrit

        This is technically “irregular warfare.” Biological warfare assumes an organic content when anyone who has consumed one of the Chipotle menu items can attest otherwise. (Ever read the ingredient list all of the way through?)

  3. craazyboy

    “Twitter Imagines a Drone Controlled by Tweets, a Great Idea That Can Only End Well”

    Gee, after all that work the radio control industry went thru to develop 2.4GHz frequency hopping and radio receivers ID’d to the transmitter so the model airplane club could fly their airplanes at the same time and not fly someone else’s airplane by mistake!

  4. Anon

    From Links this morning, but still perfectly valid:

    Many See IRS Fines More Affordable Than Insurance

    Susan Reardon, 61, of Kalamazoo, Mich., said she was leaning toward going uninsured this year. She calculated that she would have to spend more than $12,000, including premiums of nearly $500 a month and a $6,850 deductible, to get anything beyond preventive benefits from the cheapest exchange plan available to her.

    Ms. Reardon, whose husband is old enough to be covered by Medicare, said she would rather pay out of pocket for the drugs she takes for fibromyalgia and the handful of doctor appointments she tends to need each year.

    If something catastrophic happens, she said, “I feel like it’s better just to die.”

    As for the tax penalty, which could approach $1,500 for her?

    “Come and get me,” Ms. Reardon said.

    Actuarial death spiral when? Also, if someone who’s pretty versed can chime in, is that $12,000 quoted including the out of pocket maximum or is that a separate $12,000 from the $6,850?

    1. Jim Haygood

      “Come and get me,” Ms. Reardon said.

      She was actually speaking Greek: Molon labe.

      Reardon metal, comrades: it don’t rust in the rain.

      1. ambrit

        She would get on well with the 300 Spartans.
        Plus, when the state considers one disposable, turnabout is fair play.

    2. Jessica

      Since the premium is $500 per month, $6,000 per year, I assumed that the “more than 12,000” meant that $6,000 plus the $6850 deductible.

    3. John Zelnicker

      @Anon – It looks like her $12k is premium and deductible only. The out of pocket maximum does not appear to be included. And this would fit with her statement that she can only access benefits, other than preventative, after that $12k, while leaving open the issue of continuing co-payments once the deductible has been reached.

      I believe most people don’t consider the out of pocket maximum in this kind of cost/benefit analysis since determining the amount of co-pays one will need to pay depends on assuming a certain level of medical expenses above the deductible, which is difficult at best.

  5. Elizabeth Burton

    I suspect that when it comes to the new crop of progressives we need to keep in mind a lot of them have grown up with the Internet. As such, they’ve been groomed to react with glee or outrage, depending on the subject matter, just as are their right-wing counterparts, without pausing to consider the broader ramifications of their actions. Nature of the beast.

    The Schadenfreude Generation?

    1. neo-realist

      I wonder where this new crop of progressives will come from? Those who will run for office on similar populist economic politics that Sanders has championed. It seems like most of young’uns coming up are more about cheerleading for the neo-liberal dem of their choice, updating their instagram accounts, and inventing apps.

      1. hunkerdown

        Most likely you’re just not hearing about them because, having deemed engagement with the ruling class as a break-even proposition at best, they’re off doing their organic farming or what have you rather than trying out for sales positions within the Party.

  6. Jim Haygood

    ‘Happy belated New Year, especially to Chinese stock market punters!’

    We’re alright, Jack:

    Weakness in China’s economy is not a big risk to the U.S. economic outlook, Cleveland Fed President Loretta Mester said on Monday, a day in which weak Chinese manufacturing data triggered a global stock-market selloff.

    In an interview with Bloomberg Television, Mester said the Fed has already “built in” a weakening Chinese economy into its forecast.

    On Sunday, Mester forecast in a speech at the American Economic Association annual meeting that the U.S. economy will improve this year compared with 2015 and that the downside risks were minimal.


    In other words, despite appearances to the contrary, it’s all under control.

    At least till the ah-oo-gah horns sound, at which point you’re on your own.

    As ol’ Herbert Hoover used to say, the Fed is “a weak reed for a nation to lean on in time of trouble.”

    1. ambrit

      Didn’t I read somewhere recently that Obama had to save Heritage Foundation Care lest he go down as the “New Herbert Hoover?” Too tart by half; I would have suggested Cooledge, but my wife reminds me that Harding was more of a “bought man” then the other two. Someone should stand up at the next Presidential question and answer event and ask; “Sir, who’s pocket are you in, exactly?”

  7. Oregoncharles

    “However, the Hammond family, the Oregon ranchers at the center of the dispute, say they don’t want them there” [CBS]. “Solidarity.” Hmm. ”

    They would, since they’re already in trouble with the law. To be precise, it’s their LAWYER saying that; that’s what lawyers are for.

    That said, they probably do NOT appreciate the way the Bundy crowd is exploiting their misfortune.

    1. ambrit

      What’s the word out there about the land use dispute between the Hammonds and the BLM? Isn’t the local Park trying to buy the Hammonds out?

      1. John Zelnicker

        @ambrit – It’s not exactly a “land use” dispute. While trying to use a controlled burn to clear out the underbrush on their own land the Hammonds ended up setting fire to adjacent federal land and they were convicted of arson under some terrorism statute. They have already served some months in prison, but a judge decided it was not long enough due to the terrorism law under which they were convicted, and sent them back to prison to complete the five year sentence.

        1. sleepy

          Mandatory minimums are used extensively in a variety of criminal laws, not just terrorism, and they have been around for decades most frequently involving drugs and guns. I think they are abusive, but the way you frame it, makes it sounds like the Bundy’s received some particularly severe treatment compared to others. Actually, the final sentences they received are near the statutory minimum required by law.

          1. John Zelnicker

            You misunderstood. I don’t think it was particularly severe compared to others. Apparently, it’s what the law required in this case.

            I do think mandatory minimums are bad policy, but that was not a point I was trying to make.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I was fascinated how the vocabulary developed by the left (“occupy,” “solidarity”) was being applied to the right, as well as the organizing methods. And since this vocabulary is all about tactics, the application seems not inappropriate.

      1. sleepy

        Fortunately George Washington brought in Federal troops…

        I was under the impression that the Whiskey Rebellion was a response to the new federal taxes on alcohol enacted to make whole the east coast banks that had lent funds to the revolutionary government and, being the 99%, the moonshiners resented this bailout of the banks–on their backs.

        So, not sure what is so “fortunate” about Washington sending in the troops, though the law itself certainly was informative about the course of national power.

    3. nobody

      FWIW here’s what Ammon Bundy says about that:

      “I normally do not do, you know, a quick video like this but I felt it very important that I do it because of the circumstances. As many of you know, I have been working with the Hammond family in the abuses that have been placed on them by multiple federal agencies. I spent the last two days with the Hammonds. We talked and we shared many things. I watched Dwight Hammond break down multiple times in tears, covering his face, because of the many things that have been happening to them, and their family… I watched Susie Hammond also in tears console her husband because of the many atrocities that have come upon their family.

      “But the reason for this video is, I just received a phone call from Dwight Hammond. And he informed me that he would not be able to continue to communicate with me because of threats that he has received. And I want to inform you – I’m reading the paper that I wrote as he stated these things to me, he says that his lawyer was contacted by federal agents. And they informed him that they would transfer pain to the Hammond family if any further contact with Bundy continued. That they would bring misery to the whole family. He did say that his family and friends are being threatened. And then he continued to say that he felt that my life was also in danger. And then he informed me that he would not be able to continue to keep communicating with me. That he was afraid to do so. And that this would be the last time that we talked. And I, I tried to instill courage in him, and faith, to stand and to do what is right, but he is extremely afraid. And fears for his life and fears for his family’s life. He did mention that he had felt that way before and that this was serious. And that he was not able to continue to talk to me.

      I then… after that conversation I called Susie Hammond and she said the exact same thing. That she could not continue to talk to me because they had been threatened. And that they were afraid for their lives. Just so you know, Steven had told me that earlier, but I had continued communicating with Dwight and Susie. But now they’re at the point where they have been threatened enough that they are ending communication. And so I do not want people to be too alarmed, meaning, we do not need to go to Burns yet. We need to organize and to prepare and gather and find relief for this family. At this point they’re not going to ask for it, but we know what is going on here and it needs to end. And we’ll be in further contact and I want you to know that this video was an effort to inform you but also in an effort to protect myself and my family. And thank you very much.”



      “I am informing you as one person to another what happened to me. The Hammond’s are afraid for their lives. We have been talking for at least and hour each day. I have been at their house many time over the past few weeks. We have told each other several time that we love each other and need to stick together. Then out of the blue they called me very freighted. They informed me that they have been threatened if they continue to talk to me and for the safety of their lives they said they could not talk to me anymore… We will get to the bottom of this and find out the details, but for [now] the facts are that the Hammonds called and they are in fear for their lives because of what their lawyer relayed to them.”


  8. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

    Bitcoin/Isle of Man/”prosecution futures”. *Very* large fine coming from FinCen to the US Bitcoin darling company Coinbase. Can’t have the rabble getting access to easy money laundering, that’s reserved for heads of state, City shell companies, Apple in Ireland, and very rich HSBC bankers and their clients around the globe.

  9. Ed S.

    Now all we need is four new names. Readers?

    Damn Lambert — that’s a softball if there ever was one.

    Sell the naming rights, of course. Name renewed annually.

    Facebookium? Uberium? Dimonium?

      1. aging anarchist

        Free-associating wildly: pessimism: “antebellum”. hope: “noncarborundum”. tea party: “agnotologium”

  10. m

    RE Iowa caucuses: “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” – Mike Tyson

    Biggest issue are the Trumpers – will they turn out and vote? And if they do so in a caucus, will they do so in a real primary? Likewise, whither Cruz/Rubio/Kasich et al?

    As a Sanders supporter, these questions cross the aisle as well.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I suspect the Trump supporters are more likely to vote in a primary in a caucus at least if they are new. Previous caucus goers will caucus again at least in the larger precincts.

      In 2008*, Hillary bled senior support in caucus states from people who can’t caucus, and Obama managed to get the kind of young people who vote in primaries to caucus. The turnout was high, but not record setting and largely due to the length of the process. Other competitive contests wrapped up earlier. As to Hillary’s turnout operation, those can’t just be bought. They require motivated supporters.

      *Hillary’s three day disappearance is somewhat justifiable. If she had called for easier access instead of trying to rig the calendar, she would be President.

  11. Oregoncharles

    The militia “occupation” at the Malheur NWR:

    Yes, I’ve been there, twice. It’s “very far from anywhere else” – except, as I noted yesterday, Steens Mtn., one of the most magical places in Oregon, a major tourist draw, and the real bone of contention underlying the prosecution of the Hammonds. Consequently, I find myself on both sides of this issue; on the one hand, I support efforts to protect Steens from a plague of cows; on the other, I suspect the Hammonds were prosecuted in retaliation for refusing to sell their land. Yesterday, under Links, epatmd posted a local news article that went into great detail and made a case the charges were trumped up. Definitely a biased source, but the raw facts don’t look good for the prosecution.

    That said, the militia’s action is just silly. Not only is it largely irrelevant to the Hammonds’ case, it also places them neatly in a trap where the authorities can simply starve them out. “Years”? In what reality? They’re living in a fantasy world.

    I agree with Lambert’s snark about the “terrorist” designation. They haven’t hurt anybody; waving guns around and threatening to defend themselves is just what the Black Panthers did; do we think they were terrorists? This is precisely the misuse of the term that the Bushies established – to mean anyone we don’t like who gets at all pushy. I think these guys are idiots and ugly customers, but not terrorists. Yet.

    I also agree with the WaPo/SPLC point that the administration’s backdown over the Bundy ranch “energized” these guys. That incident was bizarre, unprecedented, and alarming. I don’t think I’ve EVER seen the federal government back down when faced with a threat like that. If those had been lefties or blacks, they would have bombed them. It’s almost as if they secretly SUPPORT these jerks – how far right IS Obama, anyway? Not that I wanted to see bloodshed, but surely patient pressure would have won the day, just as it probably will at the Malheur.

    1. Carolinian

      Well Waco wasn’t the government’s finest hour and always hangs in the background. But I believe–don’t have Google handy–that the govt has moved in on other secessionist tax protester types so it doesn’t always end as it did with Koresh.

      Anyway, thanks for the local perspective.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Not all THAT local – it’s clear at the opposite corner of the state, nearly a day’s drive through very empty country.

        Still, as I said, I’ve been there and understand the significance of the place. But the cultural gap between me and the ranchers out there is pretty deep.

    2. Propertius

      Thanks for the voice of sanity, Charles. It’s really disturbing to see the barely-suppressed bloodlust this kerfuffle seems to have aroused on both the right and the left.

    3. Oregoncharles

      Update, from the NYT: “The law enforcement presence in the area appeared to be minimal, and no effort was made to keep the occupiers of buildings at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge from coming and going as they pleased.”

      So the response is “do nothing at all?” Weirder and weirder. Breaking into that building and “occupying” it has to be some sort of major crime. I don’t want to see bloodshed, but why not just cut them off?

        1. Oregoncharles

          All too plausible. But the FBI had their fingers burned by Ruby Ridge and Waco; they may actually be more cautious than local police, especially in heavily-reported standoff situations like this.

          to their credit, I guess. But I still think doing nothing is weird. Are they actually stumped?

          Footnote: this would be the Portland office, I think. They have an especially bad record.

    4. fresno dan


      The first fire set by the Hammonds, which Steven Hammond said was intended to eliminate invasive species on their property, ended up consuming 139 acres of federal land. The second fire, which was aimed at protecting the Hammonds’ winter feed from a wildfire sparked by lightning, burned about an acre of public land. Although the Hammonds did not seek the required government permission for either burn, the damage to federal land seems to have been unintentional.
      In rejecting Hogan’s conclusion that the mandatory minimum was unconstitutional as applied to the Hammonds, the 9th Circuit noted that the Supreme Court “has upheld far tougher sentences for less serious or, at the very least, comparable offenses.” The examples it cited included “a sentence of fifty years to life under California’s three-strikes law for stealing nine videotapes,” “a sentence of twenty-five years to life under California’s three-strikes law for the theft of three golf clubs,” “a forty-year sentence for possession of nine ounces of marijuana with the intent to distribute,” and “a life sentence under Texas’s recidivist statute for obtaining $120.75 by false pretenses.” If those penalties did not qualify as “grossly disproportionate,” the appeals court reasoned, five years for accidentally setting fire to federal land cannot possibly exceed the limits imposed by the Eighth Amendment.

      In other words, since even worse miscarriages of justice have passed constitutional muster, this one must be OK too. Given the binding authority of the Supreme Court’s precedents, the 9th Circuit’s legal reasoning is hard to fault. But it highlights the gap between what is legal and what is right, a gap that occasionally inspires judges to commit random acts of fairness.

      I don’t think the death penalty is appropriate for selling “loosies”, I don’t think getting shot by a police office that has just ordered you to get your drivers license is appropriate, I don’t think getting shot dead when your 12 years old for holding a toy gun by the police is just, and I don’t think burning 139 acres deserves that kinda of time, despite what the law says and the courts rule. Is it too obvious that a just sentence would be paying for the cost of putting it out?

      If the right is figuring out that we get the government we vote for, maybe they can ask themselves how many “law and order” republicans and prosecutors thought that such draconian penalties are just and voted for such a strict law and “terrorizing” everything that happens. Maybe its too much to ask that they start thinking. Maybe its too much to ask those on the left to recognize that big city dems (Rahm) are not your friends either…and that small town government (Ferguson) beats the Stalinist’s for oppression.

    5. cwaltz

      Their nephew testified against them on their arson charges. Do you seriously think he was part of some government conspiracy?

      1. Oregoncharles

        I was repeating the local news report posted yesterday – which, as I said, was clearly biased.

        The JUDGE did not believe that witness; that’s why they weren’t convicted of poaching (and why would you set a fire to cover up poaching? doesn’t make sense.) The judge thought there was a famiiy grudge involved.

        Do you think it was just a coincidence that they were the only holdouts up on the mountain?

        I have no idea what the truth is, but I think there’s a sizable margin for doubt.

  12. Carolinian

    Re “Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists?’”

    Perhaps it’s time to stop using this buzzword and calling anybody a terrorist. To be sure it is in the dictionary–with a specific meaning–but in common parlance serves as little more than an epithet. After all the Nazis called the French resistance terrorists and the Israelis–those perpetual chanters of “terrorism”–used terrorism themselves when they were trying to drive away the British. Undoubtedly they would reply that the ends justified the means but if that is true then it is the ends we should be talking about, not the means.

    Besides who is being terrorized by the Bundy klowns anyway? If you ignore them they will probably get bored and leave. That’s when we can lock them up with a nice stiff sentence.

    1. jgordon

      You’re right about that. The word “terrorist” has taken on the connotatios of “freedom fighter” for me. It’s a bit of automatic decoding similar to how whenever I see the word “administration” I read it as “regime”. Well if these people have no qualms about randomly slaughtering people with drones, I doubt that ruining the English language causes them to lose much sleep.

    2. Dino Reno

      “Why aren’t we calling the Oregon occupiers ‘terrorists?’”

      Because they are wearing cowboy hats. In this country, that’s considered better than body armor. Take note Black Lives Matter and Occupy Wall Street. The Feds will never attack a cohort of cowboys and you can’t call a cowboy a terrorist. Symbolism rides to the rescue.

    3. 3.14e-9

      Evidently, the word came into being with the French “Reign of Terror” and was meant to convey government acts of terror against citizens. In 2004, the U.N. Security Council attempted to define the term in Resolution 1566:

      Recalls that criminal acts, including against civilians, committed with the intent to cause death or serious bodily injury, or taking of hostages, with the purpose to provoke a state of terror in the general public or in a group of persons or particular persons, intimidate a population or compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act, and all other acts which constitute offences within the scope of and as defined in the international conventions and protocols relating to terrorism, are under no circumstances justifiable by considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other similar nature, and calls upon all States to prevent such acts and, if not prevented, to ensure that such acts are punished by penalties consistent with their grave nature;

      The way I read this, it is possible for governments to be the terrorists. It also does not seem to draw a distinction between a “terrorist” and a “freedom fighter.” If I read this correctly, it’s all “terrorism.” But I’m pretty sure this definition does not apply to the Oregon occupiers.

  13. jgordon

    Regarding bitcoin, I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. If/when government finally succeeds in banning cash, we’ll obviously need to have a means of exchange in something other than the government’s official currency. Could it be something like bitcoin?

    Though I was initially appalled by the naked power grab that the cash banning proposal I’ve since come around to the idea that it’s probably a good thing. Making the official fiat currency more difficult and annoying to use can only have a positive impact on society.

  14. Ron

    One has to be careful calling someone or a group a Terrorist for breaking into a remote federal owned building even if it does have a gift shop. In terms of arrest the FEDS seemed to be less militarized then local state and city police in these situations and realize that that they know everybody involved and sooner or later arrest warrants can will be be issued.

  15. 3.14e-9

    Clinton is out-Nixoning Nixon!

    OMG, Lambert…

    A post recently came into one of my social media feeds via a “friend of a friend” recommending a piece of pro-Hillary drivel on Slate by Sady Doyle, who essentially accuses everyone against poor misunderstood Hillary of misogyny. (The original title, “Saying nice things about Hillary has become a subversive act,” inexplicably was changed later to “More than Likeable Enough.”)

    My friend, an ardent defender of women’s rights, left an indignant rant that he would be happy to have a woman president, just not “the female version of Dick Nixon.” The original poster castigated him, and he recanted. I thought he’d made a valid observation and added my two cents. From that point, the thread degenerated, with the original poster responding to every additional comment by screaming that there is ZERO COMPARISON BETWEEN HILLARY AND RICHARD NIXON!!!!!!!!!! There was another commenter on the thread, obviously pro-Clinton but willing to engage in a rational discussion. We had a few exchanges, ending with my pointing out that Nixon never had been charged with a crime, either. Well, the original poster became apoplectic and screamed at me to get off her page.

    I was happy to oblige, but should probably send my friend a private message to let him know he’s not the only thoughtful, intelligent person who has made that observation.

    1. neo-realist

      In defense of Hillary, if she were President, I don’t believe she would nominate a stone cold racist to the SC like Carswell, who, while he would have been a loyal corporatist, would have been down right Cro-Magnon on civil rights.

      This is not to say that I endorse Hillary or that there are no similarities with Nixon, but she’s not quite a carbon copy of him.

      A candidate who pretends to give a damn, but does nothing vs. one who proactively tried to take you down a few pegs.


      1. 3.14e-9

        Those were different times. I doubt that if Nixon were in office today, he would nominate a Carswell, either. That would never fly.

        However, he might nominate a justice who could be counted on to defend the surveillance state and uphold “anti-terrorism” laws. Are you so sure Hillary wouldn’t do the same? And while she is on the record as saying overturning Citizens United would be her litmus test for SC nominees, do you trust her to keep her word?

        1. neo-realist

          I agree that Hillary would nominate somebody who will defend the surveillance state and the anti-terrorism laws as would a present day Nixon. However, I believe a present day Nixon, unlike Hillary, would have selected a Roberts, Scalia or Alito type who takes a dim view of civil rights w/ respect to voting and affirmative action (for POC as opposed to legacy admissions).

    2. redleg

      I’m astonished at the vitriol that HRC zealots unleash at her detractors. There are lots of comments such as “stop bashing Dems” when pointing out HRC flaws and “take your ball and go home when I you don’t get your way” when declaring Sanders or bust. I do understand hypocrisy though, and am not surprised that they aren’t bound to the same rules (just like a Clinton – go figure).

      They don’t understand that the status quo Dems no longer represent progressives, having taken that constituent bloc for granted for so long. I never thought I’d ever see both D and R party apparatchiks this incredulously out of touch with voters simultaneously. The times are a-changin’ indeed.

    3. RabidGandhi

      Agreed. Hillary Clinton is no Richard Nixon:

      Nixon: signed WIC into law
      Clinton: helped “end welfare as we know it”

      Nixon: signed the Nat’l Environmental Protection Act, creating the EPA
      Clinton: Keystone XL

      Nixon: tried to destroy Cambodia, unsuccessfully
      Clinton: successfully destroyed Libya, helped destroy Iraq, Syria…

      Nixon: expanded foodstamps
      Clinton: wants to raise the retirement age


      1. jgordon

        You’re right. I talk to Chinese people about Nixon, and they straight up tell me that he’s a hero–probably the best American president ever. When I mention that he’s considered a criminal in America they’re stunned and disbelieving.

        Anyway after listening to a Dr. Paul Craig Roberts interview the other day, I’ve come to think that we may have the wrong idea about Nixon. He might in fact be a real progressive hero who was framed/discredited by the military industrial/national security complex for being to liberal and not being assholish enough to the commies.

        1. LifelongLib

          Nixon himself said he would have preferred a diplomatic career to a political one, but that the former wasn’t open to someone with his background (Californian, not wealthy) when he was starting out. His discomfort with glad-handing is obvious in some of his photos. The psychological quirks that in part destroyed his presidency may have been less of an issue (and might even have been oddly helpful) in more behind-the-scenes positions.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      Nixon’s tapes had the famous “28 minute gap” caused by his loyal secretary, Rosemary Woods, accidentally holding down the erase pedal on, IIRC, while running the tapes on a transcription machine in her office. The tapes were run on a government recorder, and Nixon, ultimately, did not destroy them, and they were responsible for his destruction.

      If the Nixon tapes were Clinton’s, she would have:

      1) Privatized the recorder;

      2) Withheld — or destroyed; we don’t know, do we? — half of them;

      3) Selectively doled out self-censored versions of the rest over many months.

      * * *

      And, of course, the press would treat this process as perfectly normal. In terms of executive over-reach, Clinton’s email really is worse than Nixon’s tapes.

      1. 3.14e-9

        Following the above-mentioned exchange, I thought quite a bit and came to the conclusion that HRC is more corrupt than Nixon ever was.

        He had his secret slush fund of illegal campaign contributions, but nothing on the order of the international Clinton family slush fund, with millions in donations from foreign governments during the run-up to her campaign launch. He spied on political opponents and abused his power of office to punish enemies. The Clintons have a database to keep track of their enemies, including those who helped “cheat” Hillary out of her 2008 coronation, and there are hints that they could have spied on their opponents’ political campaigns. Nixon red-baited his opponents. Hillary has her minions do it for her. Nixon made secret tapes; Hillary had a secret server. In his infamous interview with David Frost, Nixon said, “When the president does it, that means it’s not illegal.” The Clintons seem to think they are above the law.

        Nixon was into his second term before hard evidence emerged. Hopefully, that’s one similarity we won’t have to endure.

  16. Skippy

    Ref the inequality thingy since the 70s

    Plenty of demand…. narrow band tho… like angels on a pinhead ™…

  17. Chauncey Gardiner

    Despite the Obama administration’s spin, seems the wording of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement wasn’t agreed to in that secretive Atlanta meeting in October after all. Now reportedly expected to be finalized in February? Wonder when the US Congressional vote clock will actually start ticking on this unpopular proposal? Presumably not until members of Congress have an opportunity to read the language of the final documents.


  18. JTMcPhee

    Off to moderation-land with this one, but I have to offer that the whole barrel is full of military bad apples. It’s a trough, and every pig on the planet has a snout in it.

    At the “reception center” in 1966, the new recruits had to pay retired sergeants to cut off their curly long beautiful hair down to a microscopic stubble. No exceptions. Resistance was really, really futile — cuts on the scalp and body bruises for any draftee who tried. Soldiers invented “goldbricking.” Officers used Troops as personal groundskeepers and body servants. The general who ran the Army Materiel Command (like most other generals then and now) had a really tricked-out Beechcraft King Air twini turboprop (precursor to the private jets that MMT provides now) which one of my buddies was the crew chief for — trips all over the place to play golf, follow the pro circuit, attend NASCAR events, stuff like that. A tiny assortment of the corruption that’s in there. A supply sergeant in my unit in Vietnam was selling captured Russian and Chinese weapons (AK-47s, SKS’s, Tokarev pistols and the rest) back to the “gooks,” and at least somebody slit his throat for some reason and left him in a canal. My last assignment was at Fort Hood, TX. I am such a mope that I declined to do what most of the rest of the Troops in the headquarters company of the 2nd Armored Division I was assigned to did — deliver a couple of quarts of Johnny Walker or Wild Turkey to the duty roster sergeant, which would then immunize you against the KP and guard duty viruses (functions now performed largely by “highly paid contractor organizations” — not their employees, of course).

    Foikking corruption is everywhere and everywhen. So is environmental-pollution and food additive chemically induced cancer. No reason either one ought to be as big a thing as they are. Except that we are stupid effing pleasure-seeking venal venial human apes.

    1. Synapsid


      Interesting. I was in the Navy, 1965-1969. Never encountered, or heard of, anything like greasing palms.

  19. Christopher Fay

    If the Bundys had gone full-on Ramones they would have started a movement with real broad appeal, Ammon Bundy, Ryan Bundy, Jon Bundy, Blaine Bundy, and Ryan Bring da Payne Bundy

  20. Buffalo Cyclist

    As bad as the Independent is, it is actually the least anti-Corbyn British newspaper. The anti-Corbyn sentiment expressed by the British media is really quite breathtaking and without factual foundation. It confirms what I always thought was true; namely, that the MSM militantly squashes and stigmatizes alternative perspectives in an attempt to prevent the possibility of social change that could possibly threaten TPTB. See also WP’s firing of Harold Meyerson for daring to discuss German co-determination.

      1. Buffalo Cyclist

        Which is related to German co-determination. Under German law, either 30% or 50% of corporate board members are selected by employees and not shareholders. Hiatt (really Bezos) want to silence discussion on alternative economic arrangements that give works more bargaining power. Such discussion threatens the wealth of plutocrats like Bezos.

  21. Lambert Strether Post author

    See the first item under 2016/Voters. A great deal of “progressive” commentary on the Oregon occupation seems to focus on the idea that the Occupiers are the wrong sort of people; the trending hashtag is #YallQaeda, which neatly combines (1) the terrorist framing,* (2) the pervasive (and pernicious) trope that “progressives” are smart, and “conservatives” are stupid, and (3) generic Acela-corridor arrogance and denial of agency to the out-tribe, exactly equivalent to Obama’s “bitter”/”cling to.”

    I am of two minds on this: As readers know, I don’t like big swingin’guns, and some of the cultural markers, like the generic Afghan merc look, give me the creeps. However, I think what matters is that these guys are wrong on their ideas; they’re wrong on the Constitution (as well as taking millions in subsidies from the same Feds they abhor). I also think they aren’t going anywhere, at least as presently constituted, because they’re fundamentally about land use, and land use in most of the country is local, not Federal. But I am also 100% sure that my entire area would have been turned into a sacrifice zone for landfills for out-of-state trash (with profits going out of state, too) if it weren’t for guys with beards (and guns) in the woods. (And it was “progressive” Democrats who set the rules for that sacrifice zone and bootstrapped the first landfill with a corrupt and secret process.)

    Finally, the proper context is, IMNSHO, Bundy saying “why they can’t seem to get ahead or why everything is costing more and you are getting less.” Progressive tribalism simply can’t accept — or wish to solve — genuine human suffering by working class people without classifying them by identity; it’s the “progressive” version of the Victorian distinction between the “deserving” and the “undeserving” poor. For my part, I think even a wraparound shades- and gun-totin’ Bundy-worshipping Walmart camo-wearing wannabe mercenary deserves and should have single payer health care, on grounds of common humanity. “Progressives” can’t seem to get their heads round this concept, because they’re too busy snarking on people they regard as their class inferiors.

    * And since when do “progressives” believe whatever the state says about “terror”? As they are falling over themselves to do in this case?

    1. Skippy

      If you have supported progressive Democrats in the past and you like Elizabeth Warren’s positions on issues, why would you support Hillary Clinton?

      Unless you want a woman President so badly that this desire outweighs any other considerations.

      If you favor overturning Citizens United, believing that money has corrupted our government to the point that it is an oligarchy instead of a democracy, why support Hillary Clinton?

      If you oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and trade agreements like the Trans Pacific Partnership, why support Hillary Clinton? She has changed her position on those two issues in response to polls — as she has done on her vote to authorize the invasion of Iraq. Two Canadian banks with financial ties to the KXL fully or partially paid for some of Clinton’s speeches; nearly half her fees for speaking engagements, totaling millions of dollars, have come from corporations lobbying Congress for the KXL and the TPP trade agreement.The North America Free Trade Agreement, passed under the Bill Clinton Administration, caused factories to relocate, wiped out hundreds of thousands of jobs, and has been environmentally degrading. TPP would be similarly destructive.

      On foreign policy matters, Clinton is a neoconservative. A vote for her is a vote for the status quo: continuing war, international intervention, hypocritical moralizing, and the killing of innocents abroad. Alternet reports that billions have been given to the Clinton Foundation by Saudi Arabia and defense contractors like Boeing and Lockheed. She supports the military-industrial complex.


      Iowa-City Press no less…

      Skippy…. take it away Morris – wooh wooh wooh… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CyBcHUe4WeQ

  22. ewmayer

    Re. “When a phrase like “earnings quality” bubbles up to the surface of the zeitgeist…” — I suggest promoting metrics of “earnings optimism” – by which I mean not analyst optimism about earnings, but rather “how the latest earnings feel about themselves and the prospects for their as-yet-unborn descendants to come.” Such PR fluffery could include interviews with tearful earnings who, despite being battered by stiff headwinds, cite their firm resolve that their children should be better off than they are. I get kinda misty even just writing about such hypotheticals.

    Re. “Apple has set up its messaging systems so not even the company is able to decrypt messages sent from one user to another, even if ordered to by law enforcement or intelligence officials.” — Good thing they still use those upstream pre-encryption keyloggers then, eh? You know, just in case one of their code monkeys accidentally deletes the greatest kludge evah before having committed it to the codebase and the future of the entire enterprise depends on being able to retrieve it. Hey, it could happen…

    Re. 4 new elements approved by IUPAC — Wait, I got this one: Earth, Wind, Fire, and … dagnabbit, the Motown theme caused me to start R&Bing in my mind and to forget the fourth one. And now that I’ve slapped myself back on-topic to thinking about nuclear physics, I keep picturing some poncy EU finance minister blowharding about “Eet eess about zee island of stah-bee-lee-tee…” Help!

  23. Fred

    “Rather like the Whiskey Rebellion. Fortunately George Washington brought in Federal troops…”

    No he did not. They were state militia. Perhaps Obama could follow Washington’s example and send the Attorney General since the current one is no longer the one who was involved in an armed takeover of a building as part of a political protest.

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