2:00PM Water Cooler 9/2/14

So, here we go.

The Mid-Terms Begin

In politics, management by the numbers is now a thing, if you can afford it; the 2012 elections cost $6 billion dollars. Why, that’s almost into Cost-of-Doing-Business Fine For Big Bank territory! Here is some handy data; and see “Why American elections cost so much”), and so a number of pollsters are trying to reverse engineer what a large number of legacy party vermin campaign operatives are very well paid to do: Predict the election results before the election actually happens. (And who needs to go to the polling places, anyhow? If the results are known beforehand everywhere except in a tiny handful of swing precincts in a tiny handful of swing states? A modest step toward restoring a functional democracy would be to outlaw all campaign polling and all election ads a month (say) before the election. Let the candidates barnstorm the country on trains, like Truman did. They might actually learn something if they were forced out of their bubble even momentarily.)

Here’s Larry Sabato’s assessment; Charles Cook’s; an explainer on polling; a thumbsucker from last year’s hero, Nate Silver. Everybody seems to think the Democrats will lose the Senate, which they certainly deserve to do — which does not imply that the Republicans deserve to win it — but here’s a contrarian analysis arguing from polling methodology. And here’s the helpfully congealed conventional wisdom from WaPo: “8 questions — and answers — about the midterm elections.” It seems that North Carolina and Iowa are the Senate races to watch. In North Carolina, the banks have given a good deal of money to the Democratic contender, Kay Hagan; shocker, I know. The Iowa campaign is going to suck up a lot of money and go negative. No news there, but right now the race is a literal deadlock. Exciting!

About Those Missing planes

Although “More Than Half of MH17 Victims Now Identified,” it’s going to take months to identify the rest using DNA sampling of the body parts, say officials at the Netherlands Forensic Institute. But when the pink paper (“Nato alliance goes back to the future”) says “almost certainly using equipment provided by Moscow,” I for one would be a lot happier turning “almost certain” into certainty if we had satellite imagery from all the powers, telemetry, the black boxes, transcripts from Air Traffic Control, that oddly missing Spanish air traffic controller (if he existed), the pockmarked skin of the aircraft (and not digital photos thereof), and the other debris. At least when Colin Powell sold the Iraq WMDSs to the UN, he had the common human decency to hold up a vial of white powder, for pity’s sake. And not pictures of the vial. Or tweets about it.

Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. The Ukraine war zone is wired to the gills, and none of the great powers involved are being especially forthcoming with the digital data they all certainly hold, and there are no fists pounding tables about releasing physical evidence, either. And with Pan Am Flight 103, the physical reconstruction took three years. (But can’t we get a cease-fire on the site? Or an international, impartial inquiry?) Thinking in terms of realpolitik, the only tangible effect of the MH17 affair has been to put Malaysian Airlines into a death spiral; the affair has — so far — not served as a casus belli , assuming intent was at work and not accident. It’s the eternal question, isn’t it? Stupid, or evil?

And about the other missing Malaysian Airlines plane, MH 370: Hackers are said to have lost “critical information” on the flight’s downing to a viral assault. And we now have new tech, including an aviation fuel “sniffer, and a new search area (“the seventh arc”), since MH370 may have turned south earlier than previously thought, say the Australians, based on a newly discovered attempt at a satellite phone call (nobody on board the flight answered). But “the crucial question of why the aircraft flew wildly off course also remains unanswered.” Indeed! Once again thinking in terms of realpolitik, the MH370 affair has had negligible geopolitical effects (so far). There has been no cui bono. Once again, the eternal question.

Thoughts on the Ukraine

The Saker has this on questions of method, which I found interesting and useful:

I urge everybody to be extremely cautious with Russian news sources including Russian TV channels and RT. Why? Because Russia has a major stake in this fight and that I am absolutely certain that the Russian elites are split on what the best solution would be for Russia. There are also informal, shall we say, “groups of like-minded people” inside the Russian media who are trying to promote the interest of their patrons and supporters. And while it is would be an oversimplification to say that, for example, NTV stands for “position A” while RT stands for “position B”, I know for a fact that inside RT, NTV, Rossia, REN-TV and the rest of various groups have various agendas: one editorial board might have a very different position than another one, even inside the same media outlet.

Sound familiar?

… Russian interests should not be automatically conflated with the interests of Novorussia, just as the interests of the Russian and Novorussian elites should not be conflated with the interests of the Russian and Novorussian people. Seems obvious, but I feel that this should be clearly stated again because any agreement on the final status of Novorussia will be the resulting vector of the goals many very different interests groups and almost certainly end up being a compromise from which nobody will walk away with everything they want.

I like that metaphor of a vector very much. It’s a more positive way of expressing the idea of “No single causes!”

The main conclusion I hope that you all will draw from the above is that we should not jump to conclusions and avoid making big sweeping judgments. If I have convinced you that this is a very tricky, complex and multi-dimensional issue then I am satisfied. … So let us keep an eye on this incredibly fluid, complex and dangerous situation and not pretend like it is simple and the solution obvious.

Since my deadline approaches, I’m going to translate this into American moderator-speak: I’m going to whack any CT, hard; and what I think is CT, is CT. Deal, because it’s a big Internet, and the door to 4chan is over there. In comments, all other things being equal, I would far rather have a few hard stones of the mosaic every day, than diagram after diagram of the mosaic-to-be, or a general theory of mosaics (some of those we have, but they’re not all good). I know we’re critical thinkers here, but as Wittgenstein said:

We have got onto slippery ice where there is no friction and so in a certain sense the conditions are ideal, but also, just because of that, we are unable to walk. We want to walk so we need friction. Back to the rough ground!

* * *

There will be plants, propagating themselves through beauty, albeit in this case rather indirectly. I took this shot of a poppy from my garden just now:


Readers, feel free to send me images of plants that you think might be suitable. Your first test is to find out how to contact me. Don’t contact Yves.

Any breaking news?

* * *

If you enjoyed this article, please consider tipping.

Water Cooler Launch Notes

1) I will try to drill as deeply as I can into the topics I look at, but this feature as a whole makes no attempt to be “cover the waterfront,” as it were, or to be exhaustive.

2) If there are topics you think should be covered that aren’t, please put links in comments, ideally with quotes from the links so readers can assess.

3) If there are sources you think I should curate and look at regularly, please put links to them in comments. I will greatly appreciate this, because it’s such a big internet. Hard data is better than theorizing, please!

4) For paywall stories, I’ll give the full headline in quotes, so you can google for them. (You should be able to tell a headline quote from a normal quote by the title casing.)

5) We expect commentary to be wide-ranging. Talk amongst yourselves!

6) Just for due diligence, since it’s so obviously true, “Yves’s roof, Yves’s rules” applies.


7) I forgot to say I’d appreciate feedback on the form, as well as the content.

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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. Banger

    Excellent presentation of Saker’s comments which could be also true of any media in any country. Everyone now knows that managing information is now job-one for any political players and all major media are political players first. War, today, is mainly conducted through information.

    Could you spell out what you mean about what you said CT? It seemed kind of non-squitorish. For me, conspiracies are an essential part of all political situations as are false-flag events since I am a follower of Machiavelli and other classical historians. Only people who believe in some version of the “end of history” argument can effectively argue against that notion that conspiracy theories are some kind of psychosis. Certainly what were once thought of as “wild conspiracy theories” have turned out to be true and others have turned out to be false. I would be glad to engage in a debate on any of those which have had the most staying power over the decades like the assassinations of the sixties or CIA activities in the Middle East etc.

    1. Banger

      Very good feature Lambert. The links section has become too popular and this offers a chance for people on the left coast and elsewhere to get in comments early,

    2. TimR

      Have I missed something? I hardly ever see anything in NC comments that could be called “CT” (I wish there were a little more actually.) Maybe yours, Banger, lean in a direction that would offend the overly sensitive, but heck, yesterday you were praising Henry Kissinger.

      Praising him, I guess, as a relatively sane voice, the best that could be hoped for… Personally I am a little more suspicious that there’s a “Conspiracy” angle to anything Kissinger says. It might sound good, but only to make the poison more palatable.

      They don’t reveal their end-game, which nobody except them would accept; instead, they dream up reasons and rationales that do appeal to people, that tend toward or support their end-goals. Lacking context, true believers and useful idiots fall into line behind them, taking their statements at face value.

      As you also were saying, all major media figures/statements are part of a power game, not disinterested searching after truth or informing the public.

      1. Banger

        Well, for example, I don’t accept the Mainstream Narrative of lone gunmen for the assassinations of the 60’s. I don’t believe the 9/11 story either, not that I know what happened but if you believe the former as I do 100% then the latter seems a little less unbelievable. Also, I believe ISIS and the Jihadi movement has been aided and manipulated by Western intel services since WWII and stuff like that. Conspiracy is bread and butter in Washington–I’ve even been around some–minor ones to be sure. I’ve also associated with political operatives of the left and right (connections, connections) and seen how they operate, i.e., one of my acquaintances was involved in Watergate, another was one of Nixon’s dirty tricksters (but not caught up in Watergate–his beat was strictly elections–he is well known and so on. All of them believe in conspiracies–in fact the latter believes, as do many others in his circle (I came late to that conclusion), that Nixon was set up in the Watergate scandal. And so on and so on as Zizek likes to say.

          1. Banger

            Reminds me of the Chalmers Johnson narrative and, in a sense, I find it compelling. I like all kinds of POV when honest and well-articulated. But I don’t buy the argument. ISIS was encouraged to develop by the U.S. intel services at minimum indirectly through their client intel services in the Gulf States and Turkey and maybe Israel (which often has worked with Turkish intel despite the Turks being one of the main supporters of Hamas. The ISIS situation is far more Machiavellian than most progressives can imagine because most reject deep politics and will not entertain it even if the evidence is overwhelming.

    3. zapster

      Since the advent of FOIA and Iran-contra, and a multitude of other formerly-crackpot stories from my past, today I consider anything not involving aliens or lizard-people worth at least a cursory examination. Even when posted on sites with stuck capslock keys and too much red lettering.

      1. diptherio

        If you do the research, you’ll find that alien lizard-people were actually behind the whole Iran-Contra affair…they’re also responsible for 9/11 and the unexplained disappearance of the McRib sandwich…I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve got something to do with MH370 too…I swear, it’s all true…I watched a seven hour youtube video about it.

        1. ambrit

          Really now. I’ve been convinced for years that the lizard people are the descendants of intelligent dinosaurs that evolved technology and survived the asteroid. It all makes sense once you overcome your initial skepticism. (What horror and fantasy writers refer to as the “Willing suspension of mis-belief.”)

          1. Paul Tioxon

            I can’t believe all the intelligent false flag commentariat is regularly silent on the fact that Hitler’s brain is regularly transferred from Pope to Pope in the underground Pentagon bunker complex, 52 stories beneath the Potomac. Talk about complete unwillingness to disbelieve. If it wasn’t for the German Pope’s rejection of the Hitler Brain, we would not have a 2 Pope Vatican. Explain that if you will, …. A 2 POPE VATICAN!!!!! It is not Schrodinger’s Cat but the Hitler and the non Hitler 2 Pope Vatican simultaneously in the same time space continuum. How can you not possibly comment on that?

            1. zapster

              Of course! And the Koch brothers (lizard men) and the Illuminati have been systematically suppressing, for YEARS, the FACT that the Vatican has an inter-temporal alternative-universe gate secreted in the deepest sub-basement, which explains PERFECTLY how Nazis are suddenly and mysteriously appearing all over Europe.

          2. sufferin' succotash

            The late Harry Harrison got three pretty good sf novels out of that idea(West of Eden, etc.). As I recall the evolved lizards didn’t get along too well with the hairless primates.
            BTW, I heartily approve of the new feature.

        2. cwaltz

          Are you sure you didn’t see it on the History Channel? They’ve got lots and lots of documentaries on those lizard people and how they are responsible for everything from the pyramids to the Nazis.

    4. Carolinian

      Clearly the man (Lambert, not Rumsfeld) did spell it out

      Of course, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence

      The CT mantra.

    5. diptherio

      As Robert A. Wilson put it, “I believe in lots of little conspiracies, but not one big conspiracy.” The world is obviously full of conspiracies since, ya’ know, people get together and make plans ‘n stuff. Not that uncommon. It’s when you start to claim that it’s all controlled by X that you’ve wandered astray. Also, I think Lambert is just trying to provide some prophylaxis for arguments breaking out over things that no one can actually know for sure at this point.

      1. Banger

        My thoughts entirely–although if you check out the Subgenius movement they do believe in one big conspiracy–and when they explain it, somehow it makes some kind of sense.

        1. diptherio

          My particular SubGenius clench has decided to only believe in a literal (one big) Con for half an hour on Thursdays. The rest of the week we claim it’s merely a complicated metaphor for what is, essentially, depth psychology.

      2. MtnLife

        The problem is you can’t point out inconsistencies or irregularities without being accused of CT. Banger has time and time again pointed out the coroner’s report for RFK says he was shot at close range in the back of the head, “official story” say he was shot in the front by Sirhan Sirhan. Is pointing out a conflicting coroners report really CT? Or is it proper due diligence? I agree that naming someone in particular as having pulled the trigger would be totally out there and baseless. Same for JFK, I can’t say who killed him, only that Oswald didn’t based on Newtonian force vectors. What about all the Kennedy’s (RFK, JFK Jr) who have sought to re-open JFK’s murder meeting untimely ends? Is it CT if you don’t connect the dots and attempt to lay blame?
        Is saying MLK was killed by the government CT? His family did win a civil suit (King Family vs. Jowers and Other Unknown Conspirators, 1999) that implicated the government as being complicit in his death and they denied any criminal trial reprise.
        Had the Novorussians scrapped MH17 before anyone did any investigation people would have taken that as a sign of being guilty. Yet the same people make no peep about the debris from the Twin Towers being carted off to China to be recycled before any investigation happened – it’s okay though, we needed to “heal”, right? Does anyone still believe the Spanish blew up the Maine? What about the Gulf of Tonkin incident? Is it CT to side with McNamara’s version that it never really happened or the “official version” that it did?
        There are other grey areas such as: is it CT to say the PPI (Private prison industry) funds ALEC to push laws that get more people thrown in their prisons? Most avg Americans call that a crazy idea yet is clearly documented.
        My ultimate point (that I was also trying to make to my mother earlier) is that it is impossible to hold a serious discussion of current events while holding onto a false premise of history, or at least one where significant points have not been properly addressed. I would agree that keeping baseless spurious correlation out of the discussion would be helpful in trying to nail down facts and/or the more plausible options but sometimes throwing out those wacky ideas makes you see more possibilities for the more plausible options by allowing yourself not to be constrained by social biases or self-reinforcing patterns of thought.

        1. Ned Ludd

          The term “conspiracy theory” seems to describe two different things†:

          a) Pointing out inconsistencies or lack of evidence, for the conventional narrative.
          b) Speculations that conflict with the conventional narrative.

          The latter is often story-telling, filled with details that are not arrived at empirically. However, it is not just “conspiracy theories” that mistake story-telling for (inductive or deductive) reasoning. From the outside, the field of evolutionary psychology seems to be based on story-telling. A lot of mainstream financial news also tells stories, based on little or no evidence – the stock market went up/down today because [insert story here].

          † Tellingly, “conspiracy theory” is never used to describe the conventional narrative, even when it assigns blame to people based on thin or no evidence.

            1. optimader

              c) A hairball of unverifiable claims
              that’s a case for taking time enough to do (as thorough as possible)MH17 investigation. How long does that take? Beats the hell out of me. What I am sure about, itt has the potential for much adverse consequence.,,,,, No matter how thorough it will be a grinding stone for axes.

              1. MtnLife

                A hairball of unverified claims works for me as a good description. Does this mean any discussion of any official Ukrainian government speaking point is CT?

          1. Banger

            Frankly, I hate the term “conspiracy theory” it’s just that people use it. I prefer evidence and making reasonable speculations based on the evidence. Any reasonably literate person ought to, for example, be able to understand that there is a modus operandi followed by the CIA and other covert organizations–not only U.S. but various foreign ones as well. It’s a world that operates under a radically different set of rules than ordinary gov’t agencies.

            1. Paul Tioxon

              There are also the “buffs”. Civil War buffs, assassination buffs, conspiracy buffs. This is a diminutive derogative, meant to sideline someone in a discussion as less than authoritative or even mentally unbalanced and compulsively obsessed. You are right about the CIA and its MO. For the most part, a case officer for them is not a spy, but someone who gets another to spy for the agency. This is the dictionary definition of conspiracy, two or more working together to commit a crime. Any CIA case officer somehow getting assistance from a foreigner to spy on his own government or a private organization of his nation, that is vital to the national interest is compelling someone to commit treason by committing espionage for another country against his or her own.

              The CIA and all other foreign intelligence agencies are using citizens against their own national governments by whatever means, bribery, extortion, emotional manipulation to get secrets to be used against that citizens country. The Counter-Intelligence element of any national security apparatus is constantly on the lookout for conspiracies, because they know that is the nature of intelligence gathering outside of spy satellites and internet hacking. Conspiracies are just a another day at the office for intelligence agencies. Denial of this is denial of the real politik of the world.

        2. optimader

          “Same for JFK, I can’t say who killed him, only that Oswald didn’t based on Newtonian force vectors. ”
          Pls elaborate.

          RE:MH17, we’ll see how it plays out this week:

          Dutch Investigators to Release First MH17 Crash Report in September – Media

          Aug 14, 2014 – 03:49 GMT

          MOSCOW, August 14 (RIA Novosti) – An initial report on Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash will be released during the first week of September, said Wim van der Weegen, spokesman for the Dutch Safety Board (DSB), cited by Kommersant newspaper Thursday. Wim van der Weegen told the news outlet that the report would take into account information from various sources, including flight … (continue reading)

          Such interim or preliminary reports usually work to a 30 day reporting deadline under ICAO rules, however the formalisation of the transfer of authority to conduct the investigation from Ukraine to the Netherlands took some time to nail down, and its release early next month appears fully compliant with the intentions of those rules.

          The first report concerning the release of the preliminary report came from the RIA Novosti news agency in Moscow, via the EIN World News Media monitor and subscriber service based in Washington DC.

          It has been publicly posted here by EIN.

              1. optimader

                yrwlcm.. I hope the new links structure helps make life more civilized for Susan and you. I did more than my share of 36 hr days, it’s not sustainable.

        3. Johann Sebastian Schminson

          According to Jagger and Richards, it was you and me who killed the Kennedys. It’s as good a theory as any.

        4. Johann Sebastian Schminson

          When something is out of whack in our perceived environment, or when we try to fill in our the gaps between what we do know and what we don’t know in situations where we are missing information necessary to understand a chain of events, we automatically try to straighten the frame and/or fill in the blanks.

          While we might never be able to fully understand why we sense that something is off, we do rationalize that which we perceive to be incorrect. This is why Occam’s razor is a handy tool, psychologically (not that it always or ever provides a correct answer, it does simplify the process).

          We wouldn’t question anything if something wasn’t askew, in the first place.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            HAMLET Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel?
            POLONIUS By th’ mass, and ’tis like a camel indeed.
            HAMLET Methinks it is like a weasel.
            POLONIUS It is backed like a weasel.
            HAMLET Or like a whale.
            POLONIUS Very like a whale.

          1. dannyc

            Very true, however, I wish – in the media in general – more attention was paid to the half million or more refugees who’ve left their homes in eastern Ukraine seeking safety in Russia. When will they, if ever, return? Are their children in school this September? Can they find jobs? Do refugees take their ATM cards with them when they flee in today’s wars? Do you call the cable company to disconnect? Americans are shockingly ignorant and indifferent to millions of people around the world made homeless and on the run from US sponsored violence.

          2. MtnLife

            My apologies, I was just answering Opti’s question, not trying to “derail” the conversation. I thought I had stayed “in-bounds” by not tackling the whole issue, merely the part requested, while using science, not unverifiable claims. I do think it has relevance to this day and I’ll explain. When discussing Presidential behavior to this day, would it not be prudent to consider the viewpoint that they all live under the threat of assassination, not just from outside but, from within? Pointing out inconsistencies and that the event was managed by Secret Service/CIA gives credence to that viewpoint.

          3. Banger

            As you know, I don’t agree with you–but as part of a pattern of actions on the part of the USG and its allies talking about the assassination is legit for the following reasons:

            1) it shows a pattern of deception, not so much the ruthless and murderous events that had a dramatic effect on my life, but mainly because of the mechanics of the cover-ups; and

            2) we need to understand the nature of power-relations in this society–if we ignore significant events and the distorted narratives around them then we are limping along on one leg and will never be able to form a coherent and compelling narrative about who is in charge. This is why I always say Obama is not in charge and cannot be in charge–if a President and a to be President can be assassinated then no President can act freely. Why the left accepted the mainstream narrative is a complicated question I don’t want to go into right now–but it did. Some of the old left did not necessarily go along–I can think of Michael Parenti and Peter Dale Scott both stalwarts of the anti-war movement back in the day.

            1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

              “Our Constitutional Republic is dead.” Can be supported by fact based on any number of criteria.

              So, if that is a fact, who is running the show, and how? One possibility for filling in the blanks:

              “There is some form of shadow government.” This can also be supported, to some degree, by analysis of the relationship between our government and the corporate “person” (Cantor @ $3+Million/year, anyone?), money in politics (generally), cronyism, application of stimulus, prosecution for obvious crimes, etc.

              So, what’s stopping the electorate from asserting itself?

              “There is a Neo-Praetorian Guard who has a hand in choosing the nominees for each party, and they set each new President straight as to what is and what is not going to get him killed.”

              This is both unprovable and speculation, but not beyond plausibility.

              This is the stuff of conspiracy theories.

              They COULD be true.

      3. Ned Ludd

        “…arguments breaking out over things that no one can actually know for sure at this point.”

        In one of his books†, Oliver Sacks discusses how a patient had a trauma that severed the emotional portions of his brain from the regions associated with cognition. The patient was unable to make decisions. The patient could run down a list of facts, but the facts had no emotional weight, therefore the patient had no ability to compare the importance of the things that he knew.

        Consequently, in arguments, I think it is useful to determine whether the evidence is in dispute,‡ or whether people agree on the evidence but weigh the same set of facts differently, thereby arriving at different conclusions or putting forth different speculative theories.

        † I think it was the book: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales.

        ‡ Even here, though, you can run into the problem of competing judgments over who is a credible source of evidence.

          1. Ned Ludd

            I don’t refute diptherio’s point. I wanted to differentiate between two different types of disagreement:

            a) What we know (and don’t know).
            b) What conclusions to draw from what we know.

          1. optimader

            “Four of these patients had consented to participate in Sperry and Gazzaniga’s research. After the corpus callosum severing all four participants personality, intelligence, and emotions appeared to be unaffected”

            I have a hard time buying into the notion that of emotion being useful in decision making, I think quite the opposite actually.

            1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

              Fear will make you fight or flee. You decide, based largely on emotion, as calculating probabilities is probably not the best response to a move-it-or-lose-it situation.

              That said, I think the point of the experiment is that one side of our brain is, indeed, at least to some extent, emotional, and the other analytic. Different responses to identical stimuli, depending on which input (right or left) was stimulated is, I think, the most valuable observation of these experiments.

              We are a bundle of energy and chemical receptors, immersed in a pool of energy and chemicals. We have only 5 pathways to our brain/mind (but 6 senses, if you separate pressure from temperature as senses of feeling).

              Perception is all we have. Might as well try to understand it.

              1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

                Additionally: Some people also list ‘kinetic’ or ‘spatial’ feeling as a separate sense of feeling (that is, in a completely sensorily deprived environment, we would still be able to scratch an itch on our own bodies, without outside stimulation).

                Don’t know if that’s provable.

                Reportedly, amputees still feel their severed limbs, although the signals must come from somewhere. (don’t know if this has any bearing on the observation, immediately above).

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I need the fiber of a plant antidote to help with digesting another day of more sugar-coated greasy or grisly news.

    1. ambrit

      Interesting how JPMorgan controls if Bowles wife, who works for them, can comment to journalists. Sounds like a Church heirarchies’ rules. (“Sister Bowles is enjoined to remain silent on matters of conflict of interest.”)

  2. Alfred

    “restoring a functional democracy would be to outlaw all campaign polling and all election ads a month (say) before the election” would be a blatant violation of our constitution and would only elicit a 9-0 smack down.

    I rather like the links lined up so I can easily scroll to those that interest me. Reading through your thoughts and interpretations presents more bias than I enjoy.

    1. shtove

      Agree. It’s good to split the links into two daily posts, but a links post should be an easy-scroll list with a short description + a smidge of opinion on each link. Ritholz does it very well. The best is MarksDailyApple, but that’s to do with diet and health, and he does it once a week.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        We can’t duplicate the Links format because Google will penalize us. So until somebody writes a check for the lost advertising revenue, that’s not on. See below for an alernative format; there are plenty of other aggregators out there who use a prose approach.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, we don’t want Google to think we’re a link farm. So the format must be as it is, with links embedded in prose. Incidentally, an idea you regard as bad isn’t bias.

      Readers, thoughts on this?

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Would readers prefer something like this? It’s a wash for me in terms of time spent. Instead of embedding links in sentences, I could do something like this:

        Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Sed egestas lorem eget mi tristique, at ornare enim pellentesque (Reuters). Donec in pretium metus, sit amet lobortis mauris. Nullam facilisis leo at est vehicula pretium (FT). In viverra sapien vitae sagittis convallis. Maecenas ac mauris at erat dapibus ultricies nec semper felis. Quisque pretium augue scelerisque, rutrum urna vel, varius justo. Quisque finibus volutpat felis a gravida (Moon of Alabama). Pellentesque et lorem pharetra, mattis urna a, gravida purus (Some blog). Vestibulum euismod nunc lacus, a rhoncus ligula laoreet in. Donec lacinia nibh ut tortor ultrices, vel condimentum dolor vehicula.

        This is, if I put all sourcing in parentheticals, that would enable people who just want to scan for links to do that; not perhaps quite as easily as a pure list, but again, by ukase from Teh Google, that’s not an option. The assumption would be, just as in Links today that:

        1) A link under a subject heading is about that subject heading (i.e., nothing extraneous)

        2) All links are timely and newsworthy, i.e., not just there to prove a point.


          1. shtove

            Age, Oedipus.
            I don’t understand – Ritholz and Marksdailyapple do the list links, and both turn up at the top of page one on google.

          1. Ned Ludd

            I agree. I often hover over a link (with the mouse pointer) to check the source and judge its credibility.

        1. Ned Ludd

          Easier to scan, easier to read. Nice innovation; I don’t think I have seen anyone else embed their links that way.

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            Adding, I think I’ll use brackets, “[Reuters]”, rather than parens, “(Reuters)”. For people who want to skim using the find box, that will be more efficient, since they won’t hit every paren.

            1. Ned Ludd

              It makes sense to set them apart with a different symbol. I don’t know if many people will find them with the find box since it is quick to visually scan. For the visually impaired, I would guess that screen readers have an option to jump to the next link, like the old text-based web browsers.

              Some other ideas, if having users type them isn’t important (though the first two are standard mappings on OS X).


              Or go big:

              ⎛              ⎞
              ⎜ Reuters ⎟
              ⎝              ⎠

              Which gives me an idea :)

              • ⎞
              • ⎠

        2. optimader

          The way you have written it is more conversational, trailing w/ the http:// * in parenthesis would be a nice but potentially disruptive rhetorically.
          Maybe a footnote list of http://*

    3. trish

      I differ. I really like the present format. and I frankly like, no love (the humor, the humor! god, I need it) the “bias” which is pretty– damn– well— grounded in evidence.

      Please don’t change, please.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        See immediately above at lorem ipsum. That might be a workable compromise. Makes it easy for people who find the humor grating to just cut to the chase by skipping link to link. (And then they might find the jokes more funny afterwards….)

        1. frosty zoom

          ustjay oday ateverwhay isway easierway orfay ouyay. i’mway
          alreadyway usedway otay ethay aterway oolercay ormatfay asway
          itway isway.

  3. zapster

    “I urge everybody to be extremely cautious with Russian news sources..”
    Of course, he’s correct. But to date, when matched against the floods of cell-phone video and SITREPs and interviews from both sides of the war.. RT has been rather more generally credible than *anything* in the west.

    The primary sources are the best tho. Cellphone video from both sides is available in absolute floods. Some is translated by volunteers, and some simply needs no words at all, tragically.
    Here and here for example.

    And I have yet to see any with the Great Magical Invisible Russian Tanks (TM), oddly enough.

    1. Brindle

      This article goes into historical Western attitudes and stereotypes of Russia—-worth checking out:

      —Unlike Yeltsin, Putin, however cynically, embraced “old” Russian traditions like Orthodoxy, and he baldly affirmed that Russia had its own special character and destiny and was not to be a “second edition” of America or Britain. As a KGB officer he had been stationed in Dresden, and he bridled at ingrained Western preconceptions of Russians as “a little bit savage still,” as if “they just climbed down from the trees,” as he remarked to a group of American journalists back in 2007.—


    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Here, I take liberty to recommend a 2012 Russian movie, Belyy Tigr (White Tiger) about a ghost Wehrmacht panzer tank terrorizing the soviets on the Eastern Front.

      Perhaps, post-war, the technology was ‘transferred’ to the USSR, thus the Magical Invisible tanks.

      1. zapster

        Many reports from the Ukie side do seem to posit something of the sort. “They were Russians, I swear! But I can’t prove it.. ”

        Cameras must suddenly stop working whenever they show up. They get video of everything else, including drunken mortar crews, guys bragging about torture, all sorts of wonderful PR footage…but not the Magical Invisible Russian Ghost Tanks…

      1. ambrit

        Don’t worry too much about the occasional ‘disappearance’ of your comments. It isn’t a Vast Conspiracy. I once thought something similar a while back and got all paranoid. Then I discovered that it was my end that was messing up. As my wife put it, “Take how important you think you are and divide it by ten. Then you’ll be a garden variety megalomaniac.”
        Welcome back from wherever!

        1. frosty zoom

          good to know. this is one of the best sites around and the comments section has to be one of the sanest (it even has excellllent spelling!).

          1. ambrit

            People here do have an unhealthy interest in Excellll Spreadsheets!
            (For spelling in general, in English, I defer to the Elizabethans.)

          2. abynormal

            dang knee slap’n tears Frostie!
            id miss you…even ask skippy from the outback to locate you

            btw Where’s Susan The Other?
            sending thoughts STO…you got till the end of the week

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          I think those comments are like the Kurdish ship that disappeared from radar last week. They will show up again.

    1. EmilianoZ

      During the October crisis, Sorenson writes, JFK dispatched former Secretary of State Dean Acheson to show the CIA’s surveillance photos of the Cuban missiles to French President Charles de Gaulle. I don’t need to see pictures of the weapons of mass destruction, de Gaulle replied: “The word of the president of the United States is good enough for me.”

      President Obama only has to say the words, and the tanks will be there.

  4. Jackrabbit

    The Saker’s remarks are directed at the question of: What now for Ukraine?

    Moon of Alabama has some thoughts (today) on the subject as well.

    There will hopefully now be some negotiated solution which will likely end in a federalized Ukraine with great autonomy for the federal states. Ukraine as a nation, if that has ever existed at all, is over. Ukraine as a confederation of states is still a possibility.

    But warns: “Obama may still decide to double down and that destroying Ukraine -like Afghanistan, Libya and Syria- by prolonging the conflict is in U.S. “interests”.”

    Banger foresees no war as heightened tensions are optimal for the ‘Deep State’ but war is much less so (from last night):

    There will be no war. The charge in that direction is lead by bureaucrats who recognize that a strategy of tension and threats of armed conflict will enhance their power relative to the corporate and financial elites who have been increasingly dominant in Western societies. With war or cold war the bureaucrats can keep the center stage and use the police and military to maintain some relative power. But neither Merkel nor Obama wants to take on Russia because their own armed forces don’t want to fight an enemy with teeth and, eventually, the corporate types will get irritated and pull in the reins. Cold War is ok with the finance oligarchs as long as it has no chance of getting hot.

    I am less optimistic because I think increasing the pressure on Russia so as to eventually topple Putin has become a top objective (my response to Banger last night):

    I sense that neolibcons have fostered a feeling that the West can not lose face and that Putin has to be countered/dealt with/removed. I don’t see ‘cooler heads’ prevailing right now.

    My guess: NATO supports western Ukraine (with training and arms) and the conflict becomes a full scale civil war. Europeans bear the hardship of a cold winter, whichis all blamed on Putin. More sanctions are applied and the Russian economy stumbles somewhat (as intended) but gets some support from BRIICS and Putin remains as popular as ever.

    The danger of the ‘cold war’ turning ‘hot’ continues for the foreseeable future as each side refuses to back down and tensions wax and wane. The West seeks to open new fronts in the conflict with Russia – like bombing Syria, meddling in Russian allied countries (Kazakhstan?)


    NATO meets in a few days. Putin was given a demand to end support for the Separatists by about that time (not sure if it coincides, though). Ukraine is thoroughly discredited but still pushing out fantastic anti-Russian propaganda. Barroso just dissed Putin, making it seem as though Putin threatened a full-scale attack on Ukraine. Reuters reports that NATO will go ahead with exercises in Ukraine in about two weeks.

    Meanwhile, the US/Western public is being distracted from the Ukraine debacle by ISIS beheading videos (another beheading today) and fearmongering(?) from the king of Saudi Arabia who claims that ISIS will be in Europe in a month and the US in two.

    So most agree that a NATO-Russia troops fighting each other is unlikely but it is somewhat unclear if there be a peaceful solution (and if so: federalism or partition?) or if the conflict will rage on and maybe worsen.

    H O P

      1. Jackrabbit

        The scariest possibility is fighting between US/NATO and Russian troops. Even the most pessimistic opinion above (that’s me, I think) doesn’t see that in the cards soon. I am thinking that a proxy war denys Russia/Putin a clear ‘win’ and other possible conflicts could then add to the pressure he faces. But with war is risky business so after escalations, we might get to a point where the unthinkable needs to be thought of.

        I have a big problem with complacency. There has been little real protest of these foreign policy failures. So many are hopeful that things will work out and/or don’t think these failures will cause hardship TO THEM, that our ‘leaders’ get the wrong message: that they have a free hand.

        1. Banger

          I think that I see one factor that might go along with your more pessimistic POV. If Russian internal power-arrangements + EU internal power-arrangements + Washington power-arrangements are all unstable and somewhat chaotic–then WAR becomes a way to clarify everything because then the three sides are forced to achieve internal unity.

    1. cwaltz

      It was noted in another comment thread that on the day that ISIS beheaded Foley, Saudi beheaded around 19 “folks”(I made it downhomey in honor of the President). Apparently when you’re beheaded by the Saudi government it isn’t as savage as being beheaded by ISIS.

      1. Doug Terpstra

        Apparently, the “moderate” rebels we arm in Syria also do beheadings, according to Eric Margolis. But presumably, theirs are kinder, gentler beheadings. I can’ t help but wonder if these ISIS executions are staged as false flag pretexts, but even if not, it just takes the impact out of the cries of brutal barbarism when our own allies do it routinely, while the MSM studiously ignores it.

        1. sd

          The fact they are journalists and not contractors does send a message that reporting on what is actually going on is greatly discouraged. “Talk about it, and we cut your head off.”

    2. GusFarmer

      Before any of these NATO nitwits have their “exercises” (which only a fool would think won’t be seen as provocation by Putin), every one of them should be required to watch “Threads.” Although that film’s plotline starts in Iran, not Ukraine, it’s otherwise the same scenario: Russians on one end of a country, the West on the other, and stupidity, brinkmanship and/or accident pushing the two into war.

    1. zapster

      With the interest of Royal Dutch Shell in that *exact* area of the Ukraine, whatever that report says will be sus to me. Just sayin’…

  5. trish

    I really like the afternoon water cooler idea. only, thing is, afternoon… not early morning, in a stupor, first coffee for comfort…with stuff about party vermin, legacy party vermin, vermin in general…it seems there should be a real water cooler for us and not one with water. A real drink that goes straight (a vector) to the dopamine receptors. so one doesn’t claw one’s face out (or get too hyped on election excitement!). I vote Rasputin, my current favorite. too bad we’re on our own with that…

    re the missing planes. there is imagery (brain, not satellite) that is of value to our rulers, that will keep on working (ticking, like a timex?) long after it’s gone from the public’s immediate focus. the two words, missing plane, strike fear into a lot of americans’ hearts, and the feeling of vulnerability.
    they think, terrorists. The russians were a useful replacement, perhaps, recently, but I think it was more useful because of it’s auto-word-association with terror, going right to the amygdalae. (vector’s vector?).

    and with passenger planes down, I remember this from a year ago about a crash over a decade earlier : http://www.democracynow.org/2013/6/20/did_us_govt_lie_about_twa

    I wonder what most americans remember about that, think happened…

    and by the way, re “Nato alliance goes back to the future” got “page not found.”

    1. trish

      just saw the a.m. 2-for-1 Links Split post. and this “right now, we work the night shift, and that’s bad for our health.” one could worry this split could turn into day and night shift. You and Yves like oompa loompas. nice for us.

  6. ewmayer

    o SCOTUS-related: Seeking Facts, Justices Settle for What Briefs Tell Them

    WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court received more than 80 friend-of-the-court briefs in the Hobby Lobby case. Most of these filings, also called amicus briefs, were dull and repetitive recitations of familiar legal arguments.

    Others stood out. They presented fresh, factual information that put the case in a broader context.

    The justices are hungry for such data. Their opinions are increasingly studded with citations of facts they learned from amicus briefs.

    But this is a perilous trend, said Allison Orr Larsen, a law professor at the College of William and Mary.

    “The court is inundated with 11th-hour, untested, advocacy-motivated claims of factual expertise,” she wrote in an article to be published in The Virginia Law Review.

    Some of the factual assertions in recent amicus briefs would not pass muster in a high school research paper. But that has not stopped the Supreme Court from relying on them. Recent opinions have cited “facts” from amicus briefs that were backed up by blog posts, emails or nothing at all.

    o China banking crisis ‘almost certain’, warns economist Gabriel Stein | Sydney Morning Herald

    Re. the “more worrying” scenario, if allowing even a small bank to fail produces “a Chinese Lehman Brothers effect,” then the system was hopelessly insolvent to begin with. In other words I think the real worry here which the author is attempting to finesse his way around is that is may well already be true, i.e. we have a “bug in search of a windshield” setup.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      The SCOTUS is full of political appointees — not necessarily deep-thinking people (some have had to demonstrate blatant intellectual dishonesty to get the nod, in the first place).

  7. devster

    The pistil on that flower looks a bit like a russian onion dome. Is that just a coincidense or subtle propaganda.

  8. Paul Tioxon

    At times like this, I. Wallerstein is a mainstay for understanding the foreign policy thing. You may want to make him a part of the water cooler twice a month when he publishes. His commentaries came out today about Merkel and Putin. Wallerstein stands for real politik in my estimation. That is, the world is the way it is. It is not easily bendable to US Government specifications, and in some areas, the US Government has a standing policy to leave things alone because the reaction that our normal progress towards democracy spreading will only wreak total havoc and eventually war. Russia is the exceptional nation in this regard. Simultaneously, they have proved to be indispensable for achieving Syrian cooperation with elimination of nerve gas stock piles and their destruction, putting them beyond the use of any guerrilla organizations. At the same time, their absolutely non-negotiable policy regarding a neutral buffer zone with the nations of Georgia and Ukraine, fall completely by the wayside when it comes to the democracy spreading ideology of neo-liberalism. We simply have to leave Russia in its demands for a hands off policy by the Western powers completely to the discretion of Russia and Europe, in regards to those 2 nations.

    Whatever the measure of their disproportionate response by invasion on both occasions of feeling threatened, their stance must be considered a real policy, hence the need to use realist diplomacy as opposed to crusading adventures in democracy building. If there is to be any negotiations that will result with something the world can live with, the negotiations will most likely come from Merkel and Putin and not schemes for a New American Century, Eastern Europe Edition.

    A critical aside in understanding the frustrations of the West with Russia, is the understanding of Finlandization. From the Henry Kissinger Mar 5th WaPo OpEd: “Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. Internationally, they should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. That nation leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.”

    From Sept 1st, I. Wallerstein commentaries:
    “Can Merkel and Putin make a deal? In theory this is quite possible. As Henry Kissinger has loudly pointed out in his op-ed in the Washington Post, the key element is Finlandization. “[Finland] leaves no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields, but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.” Finland is a member of the European Union and the Eurozone, but has never asked to join NATO.”
    Part of the complexity of getting a United States of Europe, with the fragmented Eurozone where the UK is in the EU and NATO, but holds onto its sovereign currency. Finland is in the EU and Eurozone but not in NATO, as to not alarm Russia. The problem for Ukraine is to find an accommodation with Russia, who has already grabbed territory in the Crimea, to make sure its national security interests are not undermined by too close ties with the EU, the Eurozone and NATO membership. An integrated political economy has to include the military, the currency and a representative democratically controlled assembly or representation of the citizenry. Because of the Real Politik of the Russian nation, Yanis’ discussion of European integration will have some bordering countries that will be left out due to Russian security concerns. Finland, Georgia and Ukraine. Can they be part of any real recycling mechanism of surplus capital and production and not be in a NATO like relationship with a United States of Europe? Will a United States of Europe trigger new Russian anxieties? A look at the map of the Eurasian land mass shows that Russian border concerns are of their own making. Having 16 nations on your border from the Pacific to the Mediterranean creates so many conflicts about their security that at some point you have to question the size of Russia as having the critical mass to stop most any global political enterprise, even one that would ensure stability and peace such as Europe has have for over 67 years. That is, until Crimea was swallowed by the biggest nation in the world and the world does not seem enough for them. Real Politik is important to keep the peace, but Russia with its too big to feel safe borders is causing real harm to other sovereigns who want to be good neighbors, and move into the scale of political and economic integration that will ensure peace and reduce nation state warfare. Violence can not be wiped out, but having entire nations organize for war against other nations can be reduced by the United States of Europe project. Russia, by its size and need for border security on its own terms creates an obstacle to this. Aside from any neo-liberal projects, a nation as large as Russia is a geo-political obstacle to such enterprises. And then there is the conflicts on its Asian flank, China. Maybe not in our lifetime, but a some point, does China stay satisfied with over a billion people and next to it, the Russian nation, taking more land, claiming the arctic landmass as fair game for even more territorial expansion and Russian a declining power? The fall of the Soviet Union could be the beginning of an even longer term dissolution of territorial holdings. Russia realizes this and is very touchy. Right now, real politik, taking the concerns of security of Russia as very real and mostly with little room for compromise because compromise could begin its unraveling with any number of the 16 nations on its border, that includes China, the USA and Japan, the last two ocean boundaries.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      I caught that man’s translated testimony on the 2nd public TV station that broadcast Democracy Now every night at 6pm. It was really sad, scary and just heart breaking to hear and see the look on his face. In the background, all I could see were the law books of the office he sat in, as I tried to focus on his face and hear the translator relay his meaning. But his words and face for me kept contrasting with the placid and safe surroundings of bookshelf lined walls and tales of murder and shooting, and apocalyptic gun strafing, riddled car bodies, dead families and a man running in fear from the fuselage only to be shot and drop dead in his tracks. It was an overwhelming story he told. We will live with yet another nightmare with blood on our hands for another war that served the selfish limited purposes of war lust bent minds.

  9. sd

    Late to the water cooler….on conspiracy theory, conventional wisdom is too often conspiracy theory that is mistaken as fact. Case in point, ‘everyone’ just knew that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction when in truth, a simple look at the facts made it quite clear that Iraq did not. That a conspiracy existed to wage war was true while the conventional wisdom cited as justification was false.

    Ignore the “conspiracy theory,” and investigate the “conventional wisdom.”

  10. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    Format will take some getting used to, but looks like it’ll be a winner. The “more than just a snippet” commentary will go very well, considering the source!

    Thumbs up, for what my vote’s worth.

Comments are closed.