2:00PM Water Cooler 9/15/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Lehman Anniversary

Jeffrey Zeints: “Today, it is clear that the TARP program was a success” [White House]. And everything’s jake. Even MBSs are back in fashion [Time]. War stories: When your boss sleeps in his clothes in his office, look out below [Tennessean]. A list of alumni [IBT].

First payout to unsecured creditors: “[A] recovery of about 17% of total unsecured claims” [WSJ]. Of $341 billion owed to creditors, $88.8 billion is expected to be recovered [WSJ].

Some contemporaneous NC coverage: “Family Seeks $1.14 Billion from Lehman” (2008-01-08), “So How Did Lehman Delever? A Not-Very-Pretty Possibility” (2008-06-17), “Lehman in ‘Urgent’ Talks to Close Deal Before Expected $4 Billion Writedown” (2008-08-30), “The Fire Sales Begin: Lehman Unloading $852 Million of LBO Loans (Updated)” (2008-09-15), and “$75 Billion Needlessly Lost in Hasty Lehman Bankruptcy Filing?” (2008-12-29).


Everybody wants to do air power. Nobody wants to do troops [FOX]. Which makes sense if we can both start and finish the war with planes, drones, mercs, and special ops dudes. Meanwhile, Iran rejects US cooperation requests [LA Times].

And so, Obama to Assad: Shooting down one of our planes in your airspace is a casus belli [Times]. I guess that’s why Obama’s “haunted” [Times].

Pipeline theory: “This ties twentieth century geopolitics to the long-standing use of American state power to further the private interests of multi-national oil and gas companies” [Counterpunch (LS)].

Anyhow, ISIS is our baby [Counterpunch]. And the Syrian moderates made a non-aggression pact with ISIS [Huffpo]. The same moderates who handed at least one kidnapping victim over to ISIS [Cannonfire]. How con-v-e-e-e-e-n-ient, especially for US military contractors [HuffPo].

Stockman: Financial markets will be spooked; “one kind of blowback after another.” Galbraith: “The larger environment of world stability created by the United States in the Cold War and after the Cold War is coming apart” [Yahoo Finance].


Worst cast scenario: 277,124 by end of 2014 (handy chart) [Wired]. And let’s not even mention the chance to virus could mutate for airborne transmission. Because that would be bad [Times]. Scientists see long fight [Times].

Obama is briefed at CDC, plans $88 million offensive [WSJ]; that’s seven Reaper drones. WHO accelerates vaccine push [Toronto Star]. Some mining companies halt operations; some support USAID mitigation efforts [Mining Australia]. African tourism drops [Seattle Post-Intelligencer].

“[N]o one expected… No one anticipated…” [WaPo]. Classic. “Nobody could have predicted” that the collapse of a public health system in war would spread disease. Not in Liberia, not in Afghanistan, not in Syraqistanza, and not (in another sort of war) in Greece. And why do we fly Western health workers out for treatment, but not the locals? [Guardian].

2014 and 2016

Obama postponed executive order to slow deportations, so Hispanic organizations muse “public confrontations and protests against vulnerable Senate Democrats” in red states [FT, “Hispanics turn on Democrats over delay”]. Progressives never do this. That’s why they keep getting kicked.

Clintons attend Iowa steak fry [Bleeding Heartland]. Hillary: “I’m ba-ack!” [MSNBC]. Note, however, [CNN] reports as “I’m back,” as does [AP]. But Politico leads with “I’m baaaack” [Politico]. Yes, she’s “thinking about it” [AP]. And here’s a retrospective of Iowa 2008, where Clinton finished third behind Edwards (remember him?) and Obama (remember him?) [Chris Cilizza, WaPo].

And Bernie Sanders sounds serious [Political Wire].

Stats Watch

Industrial production, August: Slips 0.1% after 0.2% gain in July. Analysts expected a 0.3% gain. Auto-manufacturing slowed, though sales are steady, indicating “retooling” at issue. Without auto, gain is 0.1% [Bloomberg]. ISM manufacturing gauge highest since March 2011 [Businessweek]. Empire State general business index highest since October 2009 [AP]. Fewer plant shutdowns in July boosted last month’s numbers [AP]. Expert: “Correction was predictable” [The Hill]. But “uneven improvement” [WSJ]. List of advancing (e.g., computer) and declining sectors (e.g. apparel and leather) [Shop Floor].

News of The Wired

* * *

Readers, feel free to send me (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) images of plants; I now have some of yours to choose from, and I’ll start running them. Vegetables are fine! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Don’t mail Yves! And here’s a plant (petra). Roots, mon:


And more plants, please! Bigger images (say, 1200px or thereabouts) preferred. Thank you!

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Talk amongst yourselves!

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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.


    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef


      Maybe the future Buddha will achieve enlightenment under that tree.

      Certainly, he won’t do it under the real Tree of Tenere, that was knocked by a drunken driver when it was the only tree in the vast Libyan desert, if you believe the story.

  1. optimader

    “Everybody wants to do air power. Nobody wants to do troops [FOX]. …. Meanwhile, Iran rejects US cooperation requests [LA Times]…Obama to Assad: Shooting down one of our planes in your airspace is a casus belli [Times]. I guess that’s why Obama’s “haunted” [Times].”

    OK, someone process the logic on this one for me…me not so smart like the prezdident
    If “boots on the ground” is BHO’s predefined Rubicon, and BHO is already bombing Syria, then logically what is the barrier to Assad pulling out all the stops trying to shoot down the aircraft that are ALREADY bombing? Seems like this a surrogate theater ripe for SAMs, no?

    1. sleepy

      Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s much Assad can do to defend Syria’s airspace. I understand that Syria has an advanced air defense system, but Israel has successfully bombed Syrian targets in the past without loss of aircraft (or so they say). Even with Russian upgrades, I think the US air force/navy would prevail.

      ISIS has served as the perfect context and excuse for the final destruction of the Syrian state. Another secular Mideast government btes the dust, for no other purpose than the rank insanity of US foreign policy.

      A good analysis of a pending assault by the USJihadis on Damascus:


      1. optimader

        Playing out the longhand at least one get shot down. Then what, Oh.. he’ll bomb them I guess?
        No change of risk state, therefore no barrier to Assad putting everything in the air that is given to him.

    2. Doug Terpstra

      A rather obvious tripwire setup, isn’t it?. Obama to Assad: I double-dare you! Needless to say, even a false-flag shootdown will suffice for regime change. Ukraine’s downing of Malaysian MH17 is now forgotten, no proof of Russian perfidy required, no real investigation forthcoming. Similarly, one US drone crash in Syria will make Assad “fair game”. They take us for fools.

      1. optimader

        “A rather obvious tripwire setup, isn’t it?.”
        A tripwire for what? ISIS and Assad’s troops will be interchangeable targets of opportunity I suspect.

        1. Doug Terpstra

          Any mishap to imperial aircraft, regardless of agency or evidence can serve as a pretext for the Obama regime to openly, directly target the Assad administration. Currently, the official target is ISIS only; there is no legitimate cause or authorization to target the sovereign state of Syria. But since Syria and by proxy its ally Russia are the true targets, not the bogus bogeyman ISIS, created by the US, Saudi, and Israel, the campaign against ISIS is an obvious tripwire for a casus belli — Syria theoretically downing an imperial bomber, like Russia or its proxy purportedly downing a civilian airliner.

          I’ve come to believe that the Obama regime is that Machiavellian. In fact, I suspect that Machiavelli may well lose his dubious reputation as a diabolically vicious and deceitful schemer once the Obama regime’s complete history is written in the fullness of time.

          1. optimader

            “Currently, the official target is ISIS only”
            Color me cynical, but I suspect any target on the ground will be broadly defined as ISIS.

            1. Doug Terpstra

              Agreed. Paraphrasing Lily Tomlin, “No matter how cynical I get, it’s impossible to keep up.”

              To be sure, the amoral leaders of empire have no qualms whatsoever about violating international law or mass murder, but for now they still seem to require a fig leaf of respectability and a veneer of democratic legitimacy for the messiah of mankind to operate with impunity. Perception management is still needed.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        RR: Very good! Now I think you are ready for this! [clunk]

        ND: Why that’s nothing but a 2 bit ring from a crackerback jox!

        RR: I’ll sell it to you for $5,000.

        ND: What kind of chump do you take me for?

        RR: First class!

    3. Jagger

      Somebody on NPR was stating that we needed the Egyptian or Jordanian army to go in after ISIS. Whoever he was, he is living in dreamland. Why in the world would Egypt or Jordan want to go into Syria and Iraq to take on ISIS? And would the everyday Jordanian or Egyptian conscript soldier have any more motivation to fight than the Iraqi Army, no matter how much we pay the elites to send them into a war?

      And if I hear ever hear Obama bring up respect for international law or national sovereignty again, I am going to lose it.

    4. Jagger

      Assad probably doesn’t have a problem with the US bombing ISIS in Syria as he is fighting for his life. However if we start hitting his troops, you will see missiles going up after US aircraft. And the public will probably have no idea if we decide to start hitting Syrian troops intentionally and they start shooting back.

    1. sleepy

      I live in Iowa, which gives me no particular insight into the machinations of the local democratic party, but I will say that I have lived through a number of caucus cycles and a good chunk of the democratic locals who turn out for those things reflect a historically Iowa anti-war and anti-East Coast (i.e., Wall Street) sentiment.

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Sanders could win the caucuses. Or anyone who postures to the left of Hillary.

    2. optimader

      Fried steak, she’s a good eater! All part of her new fitness program to get back to her fighting weight.. That pic reminds me of Heath Ledger’s Joker.

  2. abynormal

    here’s a death model floating around…be interesting to hold it up to ‘boots on ebola ground’ http://www.flutrackers.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=18065&d=1410569526
    and if Yahoo is near correct, more patients have been shipped here than reported, i vote we begin dropping them off in the Hamptons?…best of everything money can buy

    wicked roots system. “I’m planting a tree to teach me to gather strength from my deepest roots.”
    Andrea Koehle Jones, The Wish Trees

    1. Furzy Mouse

      There are several comments going around the web that ebola can be airborne via coughing, sneezing, any kind of spittle, i.e. aerosols. I am shocked at how many health care workers have been lost to this disease, and suspect that the aerosol component has been overlooked.. …. Also, anyone in the vicinities of these unfortunates must be wary of using ATM’s, door knobs, railings, taxis? or any surfaces that might have been touched by infected people. Anti-bacterial wipes will not kill this virus! Only strong bleach… With an incubation rate of up to 21 days, infection rates going parabolic, people dying unattended in the streets and very inadequate care, I fear we may see this horrible plague spread beyond Africa’s borders.

  3. JGordon

    Regarding Ebola, ISIS, the collapse of society, etc, what the billionaire oligarchs fail to understand is that after everything hits the fan, those well-armed guy’s that they’re now paying to stand outside the gates of their luxurious compounds will be the new men in charge shortly after the legal system stops functioning. Just something to ponder.

    By the way, you may consider attaching attribution to the images in some manner. Being both a commercial photography student and a (system d) technical writer it makes me somewhat uncomfortable that stuff is just sort of out there without references.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I credit people by their handles, just like Antidotes or Links — or however they want to credited. (If you sent in a photo, you have my mail, so if you have something else you want me to do, mail me, please.)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      It was a missing http:// which I added. Some apps are now “helping” us by hiding the http:// making it harder to copy URLs. Happens to Yves sometimes and to me, too.

  4. Bill Smith

    ” And the Syrian moderates made a non-aggression pact with ISIS [Huffpo].”

    Does it matter that the groups cited said they didn’t say this and that it is not true?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The headline says “reports” and the story cites to reasonable sources. Here is the update, which I assume is where you are getting “said they didn’t say this” etc:

      UPDATE: September 14 — The Hill reported Sunday that, according to a Syrian National Coalition official, no U.S.-vetted Syrian opposition groups have entered a ceasefire agreement with the Islamic State. However, the official said he could not speak on behalf opposition groups that have not been vetted by U.S. officials.

      That’s not really the strongest denial in the world, now is it?

  5. DJG

    The USA was fighting Sufis in Iraq? Sufis? No one noticed that we had stirred up Muslim mystics? (What a elite we have. I guess that they were all at Todd’s birthday bash in Alaska.)

    And I believe that Cameron just repeats the same things: ““The only way to defeat [IS, the YES vote, whatever] is to stand firm and to send a very straightforward message,” declared Prime Minister Cameron. “A country like ours will not be cowed by these barbaric killers.” [from the Counterpunch article]

    What sometimes astounds me is how these people thought that the collapse of the Soviet Union was their golden opportunity to go back to the Gilded Age, to the White Man’s Burden, to 1893.

  6. Brooklin Bridge

    Is Sanders some sort of agreed upon foil playing in Hillary’s favor? It’s hard not to be cynical. In 2010, when Democrats had majorities in both houses and were voting to extend the Bush tax cuts for the 1%, Sanders got up in front of an empty chamber – save the camera man – on a Friday evening the week-end before the vote, and spoke theatrically for several hours before going home for the week end as his colleagues had done long before he first cleared his throat to speak. That was his so called filibuster and since then I have had little doubt he is a team player; albeit one who is given a little more rope than the average to make “lefty” speeches in appropriate places at appropriate times. Good things do happen in Vermont, but that is partly because there are a ton of rich people there now and rich people can afford a “progressive” representative government the way a well endowed oil tycoon can afford to have his house go green.

    It is true that there is still a substantial part of Vermont where people are indeed average or poor in income and they do indeed benefit from the largesse of Vermont’s special democracy and social services. This and the fact that Sanders seems to really do well by his state – at least – perhaps keeps the question open.

    1. sleepy

      Yes, I agree with your thoughts about Sanders.

      As much as anything, I suspect he is a “front” to lure the disaffected back to the dem party. Progressives get excited about his candidacy–a win in Iowa would be a bonus–and get further involved in the electoral process. Sanders eventually loses and throws his support to Hillary with a rousing speech blaming all on the evil repubs.

        1. Alexa

          Spot on, BB. IMO, you and sleepy are correct.

          Both Sanders and Tom Harkin appeared on a Sunday talk show. Their performances were too comical for words.

          (I wanted to post from Sander’s interview on MTP, but for some reason, the transcript is not published yet.)

          From what I’ve read, I’m convinced that Sanders is trying to help the national Democratic Party, ’cause I suspect that the Dem Leadership’s worst fear is that turn out for the 2016 election will be depressed.

          IMO, they “hope” that Sanders will be the key to driving the liberal activist vote.

          BTW, Chuck Todd appears with “No Labels” on their radio show, and has been known to interview some of their members, like Christine Todd Whitman. So there is no way that he would interview Sanders, if he thought that Sanders was a serious threat to a corporatist candidacy.

          BTW, really enjoy the plant photos, and the animal “Antidote du Jours.”


      1. Ulysses

        I’ve had the opportunity to observe both Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse for some time now. I don’t think either one of them is secretly trying to dupe progressives into supporting the neoliberal DLC type of agenda. That being said, the fact that they continue to behave as if our government has any sort of legitimacy– in claiming to represent the people’s interests– is prima facie evidence that they are part of the problem, not the solution. I think running as a socialist, and constantly reminding people he’s not in either of the two parties, is a tiny good step in the right direction. Yet Bernie Sanders makes no effort at all to build up a socialist third party in this country, or even do much to encourage democrats to primary blue dogs from the left. He seems to enjoy the safety that comes from telling the truth– while he knows no one in D.C. is listening to it, and none of his progressive proposals are in any danger of ever becoming law.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Yep. And he’s safe in that VT seat as long as he wants it. I like Sanders a lot more than I like a lot of Congress critters, but that doesn’t mean I like him well enough to think he’ll represent my values and interests effectively at the national level.

        2. Brooklin Bridge

          …while he knows no one in D.C. is listening to it, and none of his progressive proposals are in any danger of ever becoming law.

          That Sanders knows it will never become law is the crux of it. He also knows that his candidacy will enthuse many from the left and he will, when the time comes, as Sleepy says, give Hillary the nod as being the lessor of two evils. Sanders knows this as any seasoned politician knows at least four moves ahead even if he doesn’t really think about it. And he is hardly alone in that knowledge; so while he indeed gets to indulge his sincere beliefs within a narrow framework, he is a politically conscious player and he is played.

          A couple of salient paragraphs from Shamus Cooke on Counterpunch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/09/15/progressive-democrats-follow-obama-to-war-in-syria/

          The other progressive figurehead, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, also hides his war support under a populist glaze. Sanders shamefully agrees that Obama should ramp up support to the Syrian rebels, while giving the same hollow warning about avoiding another prolonged military adventure. Either the Democrats don’t understand the basic arithmetic of war or they assume the American public is stupid.

          Sanders has repeatedly argued in favor of Obama’s plan as he grumbles about the “enormously complicated” problem of ISIS. But it’s actually quite simple; the U.S. military’s campaigns in the Middle East are creating more enemies with each bomb dropped. And the ongoing U.S.-led proxy war against the Syrian government has directly contributed to the rise of ISIS and other extremists.

          Back to that speech Sanders gave, perhaps it was good he gave it, but he DID give it to a mostly empty chamber, he KNEW it would be mostly empty as his colleagues were gone for the weekend and no matter how likeable he is – to most of us on NC btw (I imagine) – that sh*t matters.

      1. Brooklin Bridge

        Good link! The last paragraph sums it up,

        Bernie Sanders loves to rail against Corporate America, Wall Street, and the super-rich, but has nothing to show for it. He’s done little to constrain their power and influence. But everybody on the Left loves Bernie.

        Perhaps nothing is too harsh; next to nothing fixes it.

  7. abynormal

    Oct 15, 2014 Bank America Merrill Lynch will begin charging Europeans Depositors (zh)

    “The overall picture, as the boys say, is of a degraded community whose idealism even is largely fake. The pretentiousness, the bogus enthusiasm, the constant drinking, the incessant squabbling over money, the all-pervasive agent, the strutting of the big shots (and their usually utter incompetence to achieve anything they start out to do), the constant fear of losing all this fairy gold and being the nothing they have never ceased to be, the snide tricks, the whole dam mess is out of this world.”
    Raymond Chandle 1888-1959

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