2:00PM Water Cooler 9/23/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

War News from Syraqistan

Obama bombs ISIS and Nusra Front, whoever they are [McClatchy]. In Syria. But at least we told them first! [Syrian Radio and TV]. And Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, and Qatar helped [Daily Star]. Iran calls the strikes “illegal,” but surely nudge nudge wink wink? [The Hill]. 

Monday evening, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and War President Obama had given the greatest South Lawn presser ever: “We’re going to do what is necessary [to do what?] to take the fight to this terrorist group” [New York Times].  Also too, Obama “reached out” to alert “leading supporters” [ABC]. The Daily Mail has keen photos, as ever [Daily Mail]. And war pr0n from the [National Journal] (!) shows how intense the hysteria in the political class must be.

Best news yet! There’s another group even more demonic than ISIS: Khorosan [Independent]. That was fast! Khorosan is led by a “shadowy figure” [New York Times]. But we bombed them already because “active plotting against the homeland” [ABC]. “Khorasan’s existence was publicly acknowledged only last week, [by] U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper” [CNN]. Alrighty, then.

A voice of sanity [Project Syndicate]:

America’s war on terror now risks becoming a permanent war against an expanding list of enemies – often inadvertently [or, possibly, advertantly] created by its own policies.

The US may have some of the world’s top think tanks and most highly educated minds. But it consistently ignores the lessons [which lessons?] of its past blunders – and so repeats them. US-led policies toward the Islamic world have prevented a clash between civilizations [thanks for this, Zbig] only by fueling a clash within a civilization that has fundamentally weakened regional and international security.

An endless war waged on America’s terms against the enemies that it helped to create is unlikely to secure either steady international support or lasting results [kaching kaching I can’t hear you!].

The risk that imperial hubris accelerates, rather than stems, Islamist terror is all too real – yet again.

That’s not a bug. It’s a feature. And when the prophets of blowback are right, again, two things will happen: Those who were right still won’t get to go on TV, exactly with Iraq, and the political class will double down on what caused the blowback in the first place, exactly as they’ve been doing all the way back to Mossadeqh. Because the war on terra is a self-licking ice cream cone. 

Oh, and what “Moscow political analyst” Vladimir Frolov thinks the Russian government thinks: “The United States has underestimated the complexity of the situation before, so let’s just wait until they run into problems. They are eagerly expecting that” [WaPo]. No doubt.


Explainer on “People’s Climate March”: “[T]here’s been no single, major action that united protesters expressly around climate change itself, not nearly on this scale” [Vice]. Meanwhile, “Flood Wall Street” attracts a few hundred [Daily Beast]. But it’s not clear that numbers are the metric. And Peoples Climate March artwork, made in Brooklyn [Desmogblog]. 

Live coverage of the UN climate summit [Guardian]. Obama in UN climate summit opener: “The climate is changing faster than our ability to address it. The alarm bells keep ringing” [USA Today].

Rockefeller kids on oil: Just say no [Market Watch]. Better late than never.

Stats Watch

Redbook, last week: Consumer sales little changed year-on-year, down 0.6% month-on-month. Seasonal merchandise got a fillip from the early cold snap, others move Halloween sales up [Bloomberg]. No rise in apparel (why?), hitting department stores. Back-to-school sales end [NASDAQ]. Xmas muzik in the stores, yet?

Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index for August: “Solid strength,” 2 points higher than consensus [Bloomberg]. Economists had expected a decline of 2. Manufacturers remain “optimistic” [Business Insider].

Rapture Index remains unchanged [Rapture Ready].

2014 and 2016

Big gay donors aren’t giving Maine’s Mike Michaud any money in his gubernatorial race against loose cannon Republican Paul LePage. Why? The “former mill worker” has the wrong class and cultural markers, and doesn’t cultivate the right people [Politico]. Michaud might win anyhow, in a three-way with LePage and no labels-type Eliot Cutler.

Republican slogan on Clinton: “Obama’s third term” [CNN]. So that would be Bush’s fifth term.

New TV drama: “Madam Secretary” [WaPo].

Silicon Valley

This 1980s GM touchscreen was decades ahead of its time [Business Insider]. Another data point that fits with Graeber’s thesis that this economy is really not innovative at all, despite the triumphal bellowing of Silicon Valley squillionaires. And maybe Larry Page should stick to his knitting [Business Insider].

About the “sharing economy”:

Lyft kills their Lyft Plus Program, sticking their drivers with SUVs they don’t want and can’t make money on while charging normal taxi rates, because of the low mileage. But don’t worry: Lyft is going to help sell them! And give the drivers a bonus far less than what the cars their drivers never wanted in the first place are worth! [SFist]. You got that right: To participate in the Lyft Plus program, drivers had to buy the SUVs.

Uber decides to take a bigger cut from its drivers: 25% from 20% [Forbes].

So who’s sharing here, exactly? I thought Silicon Valley glibertarian squillionaires were all about creating a better planet, not about creating degrading race to the bottom between working class drivers. Well, for some definition of “better.”

News of the Wired

  • The Apple Pay sheet always displays text in all capital letters [Daring Fireball] (Human Interface Guidelines).
  • The police can stop and frisk you at checkpoints for no reason within 100 miles of the border, where two-thirds of the population lives [Salon].
  • Strategic hate management works [VOX].
  • Dead Man Zero “deep web” service claims that it will leak your documents if the government murders you [Vice].
  • Gene Sharp’s organization is sponsoring an app [Albert Einstein Institute].
  • Women have accounted for three-quarters of the NFL’s new viewers since 2009 [Atlantic]. Hard to know what’s propping up the ratings: Players cold-cocking their WAGs in elevators and then dragging them out by their hair, or all the brain damage on the field.
  • Glengarry, Bob Ross [McSweeny’s] (Bob Ross).
  • Starbucks testing beer-flavored latte [Chicago Tribune]. Who wants beer that tastes burnt?

* * *

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 (jn):


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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. chris

    “Who wants beer that tastes burnt”


    Starburnt’s is to coffee what Olive Garden is to Italian food.

    1. optimader

      It’s an acquired taste, just not mine. SBUX is consistent, no small trick with coffee. Cant argue with success apparently people like it. .

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Someone commented about the trap of ‘convenience’ the other day.

          Taste too – you pay a high price for that…not always, but often enough that one should be careful.

      1. trish

        I like Guinness too. Molasses-y, yes, but I wouldn’t describe as burnt. More BTW, I like Black Mocha, a local stout. a bit sweeter. Then someone suggested Old Rasputin Imperial…my favorite now. Can’t see through it and good.

        I used to like starbucks. I heard the burnt thing before. but I liked their coffee. till I found better, a local. But I dislike starbucks for various reasons, one their greenwashing.

        1. optimader

          Yes I love stouts as well, you know your way around a fine pint.
          Guinness roasts there malt a bit longer than say a pilsner or a lager malt, analogous to the second crack when roasting an espresso is what I meant. Had one for lunch (a Guinness not an espresso) as a treat, I deserved it. Just a beautiful day here today..

            1. optimader

              Barring medical contradictions, they are good for you beef.. particularly stouts and Weiss Beirs.. As well Belgians w/ live yeast. TraderJoes has a holiday seasonal private label Belgian brewed by http://www.unibroue.com/en/home high value and excellent.
              Irish grandmas knew the story..

              Guinness and health benefits
              Guinness is the famous Irish dry stout that comes from Arthur Guinness’ brewery which is located in Dublin. It is based on London’s own porter style which was introduced in the 18th century and is currently one of the most successful commercial beer brands in the world.

              Guinness is popular because of its distinctive, burnt flavor which comes from the roasted barley, while the lactic note in the flavor comes from the secret aging process. The thick cream at the head comes from the nitrogen which gets mixed with the beer during the pouring. Guinness is the best selling alcoholic drink in many countries around the world. The Guinness company has been in London since 1932, and together with Grand Metropolitan it has been turned into a conglomerate called Diageo since then.

              The ingredients of the Guinness are hops, water, barley and brewer’s yeast. It gets treated with isinglass finings which come from air bladders of certain types of fish, but the company claims that no amounts of this material end up in the final product.

              Roasted barley is responsible for the recognizable taste and dark color. After all these treatments the beer gets filtered and then pasteurized. Contrary to the popular belief is that it actually contains less calories than milk, orange juice or other brands of beer. Up until the late 1950s, the beer was racked into wooden casks, but those got replaced by aluminum kegs.

              Guinness is sold in draft and canned form, beside their bottled counterpart. In both forms it contains nitrogen alongside the more usual carbon dioxide. Nitrogen allows to beer to be under higher amounts of pressure without being fizzy. The pressure forms tiny bubbles and causes the beer to have that characteristic surge. The bubbles and the significantly lower level of carbon dioxide that provides that feeling of smoothness that Guinness is famous for. There is also an “Original Extra Stout” which does not contain nitrogen and as a consequence it has a slightly more acidic taste. The modern Guinness is significantly weaker than the original one from the 19th century. Many people think that Guinness is black but it is actually an extremely dark shade of ruby.

              Guinness can provide certain health benefits. Those address the benefits to the heart, various antioxidant properties and a slower cholesterol deposit on the artery walls. Vegetarians may avoid Guinness because its production uses certain fish products. Some small amounts of these ingredients may be carried over into the final product.

    2. slick

      “Who wants beer that tastes burnt”

      Yeah man, you might want to put this question out to pasture, the local smoked barley porter, known simply as Hog Wash, is quiet desirable. I am just waiting for the long hand to complete two more orbits before I go out in search of it.

      That said, I don’t think most people really drink the beer for the flavor (shhhh!) and a latte that somehow taste like the thing I don’t really drink for the flavor isn’t going to sell me on it. Cook it to 8.4% abv, and have the chatty barista I talk to every afternoon slip me the forth one, and I am in.

      1. jrs

        I don’t think anyone picks up a coffee habit initially for the taste etiher (shhhh it’s the caffeine – that’s why people habituate).

        1. optimader

          its all about the taste for me, or I would drink shittier coffee. Actually the coffee I roast is naturally low in caffeine so I can drink it as a beverage w/o getting cranked.

  2. optimader

    Rockefeller kids on oil: Just say no [Market Watch]. Better late than never.

    Maybe they’ll help rehabilitee my Vestas stock. Too late for Zoltek

  3. barrisj

    HUUUGE outcry in WA a few years ago when CBP brownshirts were stopping “at random” people exiting the San Juan Ferries on strictly domestic runs, and asking all the intrusive questions expected at international border crossings. CBP said that their enforcers could stop ANYBODY within 75mi of an international border, but after all this BS was exposed, suddenly the ferry passenger harassment stopped…funny about that.

  4. Ed S.

    Xmas muzik in the stores, yet?

    Don’t go to “stores”much, but do go to Home Depot and Costco.

    No “Feliz Navidad” blaring — but plenty of xmas bling out on display (and available for purchase — ‘cuz it’s only 93 days ’til Xmas)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      That’s Billy VII.

      Sounds more British that way. With that, you just need a good playwright.

  5. grizziz

    Keeping up with Khorosanians-
    As the Arab Spring has turned into the Arab Fall and all moderation is considered duplicitous, the US elites have now paraded in front of the network cameras Hadi Al Bahra, the leader of THE NATIONAL COALITION OF SYRIAN REVOLUTION AND OPPOSITION FORCES as the man who would replace Assad. Cue the laughter.
    Read more at http://www.syrianperspective.com/2014/07/who-is-hadi-al-bahra-how-he-pimps-for-saudi-arabia.html#ERL2r2gJeV27pu7H.99

  6. grizziz

    Keeping up with the Khorosanians-
    From the CNN article,”The source says al Fadhli’s new focus on “external operations” was revealed by one of his bodyguards, named as Abu Rama, who was recently arrested by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”
    So Assad’s regime is providing intel to Clapper? Or are we dealing with another Curveball?


    1. hunkerdown

      That’s a great interview, and he’s spot on. Hollywood, Washington, Jefferson County (Colorado) Board of Education… all examples of “l’etat, c’est moi” as a governing principle.

  7. John

    Eleven years later I now realize that George Bush’s commander codpiece Mission Accomplished speech on the aircraft carrier was totally right on and accurate. It was aimed at the war monger cronies to announce that he had started something they could feed on for the next several decades. Mission Accomplished indeed. And he had a hard on just thinking about all the ka-ching ka-ching.

        1. hunkerdown

          Oh fer cryin’ out loud. *facepalm*

          “Thank you for calling me a war president”. Lovely. If that doesn’t persuade the Nobel Committee to demand their money back, they’re lost.

            1. hunkerdown

              Well, I had to read it a la Chomsky, starting at the end, but I made it through to the last paragraph!

  8. bwilli123

    The Russia They Lost
    …”We loved America. I remember, we did. When we were teens, growing up in the early 90s; most of my friends the same age did not even question their attitude toward Western civilization. It was great, how could it be otherwise?
    Unlike our grandfathers and even fathers, we did not think of the USSR falling apart – the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the XX century” – as a disaster. For us it was the beginning of a long journey. Finally, we would break out beyond the Soviet shell into the big world – limitless and cool. Finally, we would quench our sensory deprivation. We are born, maybe not in the right place, but certainly at the right time – or so we thought.”


    1. Demeter

      While here in the USA, we mourn the democracy that died by starvation. We were fed MSM fillers, which blocked the stomach (mind) and prevented any uptake of nutrition (news, reality, sound data, proven experience, etc).

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