2:00PM Water Cooler 9/17/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


The Moustache of Understanding gets cold feet [“New York Times]. He must be a Communist. Ditto the Times editorial board [Times]. Sure, they’re Communists too, but just now we read that Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), who is not a Communist, will vote against arming and training the Syrian “rebels” [WaPo]. Congress just can’t work up any enthusiasm [WaPo]. Sad to see. What’s happening to this country?

Saudi clerics weigh in: People who issue fatwas justifying terrorism are “the order of Satan” [Reuters].  “Saudi Arabia’s top religious clerics issued a statement banning travel to conflict zones as the country’s conservative religious establishment backs the Al-Saud ruling family’s efforts to defeat Islamic State” [Bloomberg]. Let me take a moment to translate “defeat the Islamic State,” in this context. It means “get the toothpaste back in the tube.” And AFAIK, the Al-Saud ruling family is rather large, and factionalized. In unrelated news, “Washington and Riyadh Are Ready to Let Bygones Be Bygones” [Foreign Affairs]. So that’s alright, then.

In more unrelated news, the Saudis are cutting production to sustain prices above $100 a barrel [Bloomberg]. So that’s alright, then.

The political class bayed loudly for their war, and now they have one, they don’t like it. It’s bizarre. It’s almost impossible for me to believe in an outbreak of good sense in official Washington, so what sick game are they playing? Here’s a hint: “Beating back [ISIS] may collide with existing law if the groups the U.S. wants to train or co-opt have murky human rights records” [“Obama’s Dirty War,” Politico]. After all, it’s not illegal if the President does it. So that’s alright, then.

Stats Watch

The FOMC announcement is at 2:00PM. Please add your post-game analysis in comments. My guess is that banksters will still get lots of free money. I mean, what are the odds? Pre-game analysis: Stock futures are flatlining, anticipating [NASDAQ]. Yellen seems to have made the right call in inflation; jobs are a problem; and consensus is no rate hike ’til 2015 [Business Insider]. As you breathlessly await the smoke from the Vatican, here are six things to consider: Continued tapering (“yes”), forecast changes (“tweaks”), delphic utterances (like July but “data dependent”), the dots (a “headache”), Yellen’s messaging, and market reaction [“Fed watch: 6 things to focus on,” FT].

EIA Petroleum Status Report: Imports and domestic output mean inventory build [Bloomberg].

Annals of Rental Extraction

Hedgies wanna take away your bread sticks at Olive Garden to pay themselves big fees [Salon].

Nevada electric utility seeks to put solar users in higher rate class [Review-Journal]. This is a bit stale. Readers, do you have other examples of utilities doing this?

And a smooth bait-and-switch operation at MNsure [Corrente].

3-D printing

We can print houses now [HuffPo].

We can print cars now [Gizmodo].

We can print spinal vertebrae now [CBS].

Demand for 3D printing skills is accelerating [Forbes].

Estonia’s GrabCAD (“Github for mechanical engineers”) acquired by 3D printing giant Stratasys for $100M in cash [TechCrunch].

Global Weirding

In shocker, Texas hires agnotologists to write its textbook material on climate [Newsweek].

Cllimate blogger reflects on 300th blog (just starting), encouraged by advancement at the local level. “It is only a matter of time that money starts to align with these climate interests and needs.  [Weather Underground].

Winter is coming, and one reason the Northeast is chillier than usual could be polar ice melt destabilizing the polar vortex [Daily Mail].

And there’s a big climate march coming up in New York [Gothamist], followed by a UN Summit [Indian Express].

News of The Wired

  • While my back was turned, my plus tried to eat my 5S [Daring Fireball].
  • Facebook to enable over-sharing by users? I mean, more oversharing [PandoDaily].
  • “They kept screaming, ‘Faggots, faggots!'” In 2014, in Philly. Rittenhouse Square. “They” being well-dressed twenty-somethings out for a night on the town [Philadelphia Inquirer]. With CCTV video.
  • On the Salaita matter, email shows the President contacted the Chancellor, the reverse of the official story [Electronic Intifada].
  • Cuban “medical diplomacy” on Ebola [Business Insider].
  • Scientists cool electrons to near absolute zero at room temperature [OilPrice.com].
  • Each tree species has unique bacterial identity. Just like us! [Science Daily].

* * *

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 (jsn):

autumnBy Lambert Strether of Corrente.

The complexity and beauty of the plant world never ceases to amaze me. How trivial our systems are by comparison: Servers, ATMs, even the Internet. All trivial. Mechanical.

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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. frosty zoom


    Commissioner Yellen Announces New Fed 3D Printing Program

    “We feel this is the best measure to inflate expectations.”

    1. psychohistorian

      I want to see the 3D Printing Program that produces derivatives. I am sure it has a great future.

      1. grizziz

        From the Forbes article, “Indeed.com has 474 job positions open today that require 3D printing.”
        Eye watering amounts of labor! Job done!

  2. Prehumous

    The Cuban experiment in governance will prove to be a high mark for humanity. Other than Castro not allowing democratically elected government, the benefit to the people, even after being treated as the Palestinians of the West, has endured. It will be interesting to see how the Cubans react to his passing.

    1. jgordon

      “Democracy” is a fig leaf sham to justify the elites doing whatever they want to do. The only thing that frustrates elites from carte blanche ownage/destruction of society is competing elite interests. I really don’t like that there are still people out there pretending that this worn out kabuki play is still believable in any way.

      1. pepsi

        Democracy only seems to work when people are organized and strong enough to strike fear into the hearts of elites. Otherwise it is theater. And once you’re that organized, why not go all the way and get rid of those elites?

    1. abynormal

      along with new weather systems, ruling families and vaccines, we’ll 3D’m
      don’t worry, be bloody happy

      (busy couple of days but dang if i don’t race to read your chill…stylin Lambert’ )

    2. sufferin' succotash

      First they came for the Olive Garden bread sticks, but I did not eat at Olive Garden so I did not complain.

      1. different clue

        Well, if we boycott Olive Garden over breadstick money for hedgies, it is the Olive Garden employees who will suffer. So if I was ever going to go to Olive Garden anyway, I will remain just as likely to go as otherwise; if I end up going..

    3. ChrisPacific

      Just read it. Good work by David Dayen as usual.

      So what it comes down to is that it’s no longer sufficient for a business to be profitable – it has to be profitable relative to the opportunity cost of splitting off its assets and using them for speculation, financial engineering and rent extraction. And the fact that one of these options also provides a useful service to customers nationwide and employs thousands of workers, while the other does nothing but generate paper profits, has no bearing on this decision.

      It’s a good example of the way in which the ‘finance’ economy can destroy elements of the real economy. Also a good example of why “maximizing shareholder value” should not be the mission statement of public companies, a point Yves has made several times.

      1. wbgonne

        Good points and totally agree re: Dave Dayen. Terrific reporter, in the best sense.

        On corporate reform: How would you change things so that public companies have a more beneficent mission statement? Amend state laws to require it? I’m afraid that won’t work because (understating things considerably) not every state will follow the path of corporate crackdowns. A federal law? I don’t think so. I think reforming the corporate structure would be a fantastic development so I am looking for something hopeful. Do you have ideas?

        1. ChrisPacific

          Yves explains it much better than I could:


          In brief: the idea that companies exist to maximize shareholder value is a myth. They do have a claim, but it’s by no means the only one, or even the most important. The reason companies all behave as though it’s true is because we have all been conditioned to believe that, and the reason for THAT is the corruption of economics, along with decades of propaganda.

          What to do about it is a big topic, but it begins with learning to think in the right way, and teaching others to do the same. Looting becomes much more difficult when you can no longer argue that it’s the right and proper thing to do and expect the public to buy it. That means challenging misinformation and propaganda wherever it’s found, which is (and always has been) a big part of what this site is about.

        2. ChrisPacific

          It occurs to me that I didn’t really answer your question. That’s partly because I don’t consider myself qualified to talk about corporate governance reform, but also because I think that if we can change society’s view of business and its place in our society as a whole, then we may find that the governance issues take care of themselves.

  3. afisher

    How dare winter to come after fall – which, for those who missed it, came after summer. And it is going to be cold. Really? /s

      1. petal

        Had a meeting on the 8th floor today, great views of the mountains. Leaves are starting to change up here-reds and yellows are out seemingly overnight.

        1. ambrit

          I’m with jrs. It’s been 90 plus continuously here Deep South. We’re just beginning to get under 70 at night. Has anyone else noticed that Weather.com has been raising their daily high temperature predictions the closer they get to any actual day? That website was predicting ’80s for highs over the last three weeks, but has had to raise those figures to low ’90s consistently. Their predictive model is out of whack.

          1. different clue

            I read somewhere that one of the Warmists’s predictions was that nights would be warmer-relative-to-days than before because the Global SkyLoad of heat-retention-facilitation gases would lower the amount of IR able to escape from Earth into the Black Eye of Deep Space relative to how much IR could get away before the age of Man Made Heatgas Skydumping. So it would seem the theory permitted a prediction which is coming true, thereby lending some support to the reality-basedness of the theory.

  4. grizziz

    Remember that Caliphate thing that everyone was talkin’bout and everybody wanted to attend? Who remembers who was going to bring the meat grinder and who was going to bring the meat?

  5. afisher

    Net metering – did everyone sleep through last years big fight in AZ? Well, ok, maybe only I was paying attention – but here is a pretty “clean” run-down of state’s that are playing: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/stateline/2014/02/19/states-brace-for-utilities-solar-advocates-clash

    For those hibernator’s the AZ fight was viewed as a victory against the big boogie man: ALEC.

    What was amusing (?) was Public Utilities are simultaneously whining about we mere plebes using Solar and simultaneously building huge solar farms. Their solar power good…plebe power bad.

    1. Dave S

      As an Employee of one of the Utilities mentioned in that article, I’m unclear what you’re getting at? It’s a bit simplistic to think that Big Utilities are out to squash every individual solar installation from some vague sense of existential peril.

      There are legitimate unanswered questions about the shift in energy delivery paradigms, not merely relating to the advances in solar engineering, but issues as far ranging as drought, to shifts in public perceptions about nukes are widely understood and recognized. It’s a tad unrealistic to expect entrenched interests to react swiftly to entrepreneurial innovations. With respect to solar, it’s not as simple as you might expect. There are complex changes to billing system programming, public purpose subsidy allocations as well as the superficial political posturing and self interested protection of market capitalization and personal bonuses for execs – in addition to the ignorance and egoism rampant in corporate America that seems to be the veiled implication of your note.

      Question for you. If solar generation takes 40% of generation capacity offline, who bears the cost of distributing excess “plebe power” to the rest of the grid?

  6. Johann Sebastian Schminson

    To follow up on the links thread on communism, and regarding Cuban foreign policy:

    Not all “communist” countries are created equal. Cuba ain’t North Korea.

    Cuba is a successful society, all things considered. I wonder how Castro will be judged by those who grew up under his government. I must admit that I’d like to see the underdog to take a festering bite out of the jugular of the global capitalist oligarchy.

    1. OIFVet

      If history is any guide, he will be judged by them the way they are ordered to by the Western NGOs whose “grants” they receive.

  7. pepsi

    What is the extraction industry going to extract when all the shale is fractured, and the water is poison? What will they change the textbooks to then?

    I suppose digging super deep wells to clean water and selling that at along with water access debt instruments are an obvious extension of their current business.

  8. trish

    Hedgies wanna take away your bread sticks at Olive Garden to pay themselves big fees

    I am generally a non-violent person. I cannot kill a spider or any insect but perhaps mosquitoes. I feel sick when I accidentally kill a tiny beetle I capture to show my son. But sometimes reading these posts, reading one more incredibly evil thing that the filthy immoral elite are doing to squeeze another million or billion for themselves at the expense of so many people just trying to make enough to survive and I feel such incredible rage rising in my body, my blood pressure skyrocketing up, my cheeks flushing red, and I just want to do something like (in this instance) stuff several basketfuls of Olive Garden breadsticks (with extra salt on them) up or down every possible orifice of every one of the f*cking greedy preditory bastards who are a part of this grotesque rental-extraction robbery and then throw them in a pit from which they cannot escape. A pit filled with fire ants.

    I know this is not a productive response.

    1. McMike

      After they killed Hostess Twinkies, I was pretty much tapped out of outrage.

      Once Sears and Pennies goes down the tubes, I mean, who cares.

  9. ewmayer

    Latest developments in the saga of everyone`s favorite mega-corrupt state quasi-monopoly utility and its equally corrupt regulator:

    Shakeup at PG&E, state agency over ‘inappropriate’ talks – SFGate

    Pressure on PUC head Peavey to step down also ratcheting up. Subjectively, if the PG&E C-suiters spent half as much money upgrading their pipeline system as they do on “part of your community” greenwashing ads, the San Bruno blast might well never have happened.

    Mercury News editorial: PUC blunders through email embarrassment

    The emails show Brown and PUC Commissioner Mike Florio — yes, the one-time consumer watchdog — working with PG&E to steer a natural gas rate case to a judge of the utility’s choosing. Really? What is this, 1950s Chicago?

  10. MikeNY

    Yeah, the Moustache of Understanding’s column surprised me, too. That’s twice in a month that’s he’s practically *made sense*.

    Either some tail-event in the probability distribution has just occurred, or I am losing my mind.

    1. sd

      I think that should be revised to the Great and Powerful Moustache of Understanding (Mou for short). I love that the Mou found a way to work in existentialism. Clear evidence of. Truly. Deep. Thoughts.

  11. craazyman

    I’m not sure if this breaking news is a hoax, but if it’s real, it’s mind blowing stuff. It’s certainly Links material for tomorrow morning, no doubt about it whatsoever.

    Aretha Franklin has a new album coming out on Sept 29, and she’s done a cover of Adele’s ROLLING IN THE DEEP! This is much bigger news than the tedium about the farce in Scotland (I mean really, who seriously thins they’re gonna vote Yes, what a joke.) — unless of course macroeconomics is your hobby, in which case thinking about Scottish exports might be like a crossword puzzle for you. They export food? It’s incredible to even contemplate that since the imagination drowns in images of Haggis being eaten worldwide. That’s just impossible.

    But if you’re a serious person, this is what you’ll be focusing on . . . ,


  12. Paul Tioxon

    The hate crime that busted up the faces a 2 gay men in the Uber Tony and Millionairista District of Rittenhouse Square has apparently faced a new kind of street justice Philadelphia Style. Instead of the usual pounding with a 2×4 or whatever is sticking out of trash can, a Twitter Vigilante Group (TVG) vowed to take the law into their own hands and apparently tracked down the clean cut group of successful white kids who just don’t like identity politics because, you know, it’s really phony and they are taking America away from us so we’ll take it back. Anyway, this refugee group from a pepsident toothe paste commercial were cyber stalked into submission and some are now with lawyers in tow, turning themselves into the police to tell us their side of the story. Warning, harsh identity politics will be discussed in a frank and open manner. Best to avert eyes. I don’t want to rush to judgement, but these guys look like YAF grandkids. If you catch my drift. Updates will follow. On a positive note, pot possession decriminalized, tickets given for less than about an ounce. Public smoking not allowed, you will be arrested for blowing smoke in the cops face, as always. Stay tuned. Police commissioner, Mayor and City Council are all agreed on this compromise. Yeah. Now, if we could only fund public schools!


  13. Robert Dudek

    Good news about the Saudis and oil production cuts. The world needs high priced oil, as the last thing we need is a consumption orgy. Best would be a slow steady increase as we desperately develop alternatives.

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