2:00PM Water Cooler 9/8/14

Chocolate mogul Poroshenko visits Mariupol and pledges to defend it, as ceasefire termed “shaky” by OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) chair Switzerland [Reuters]. And so it should be shaky, if it’s not a cease-fire but a time-out or, at best, the half-time festivities [Moon of Alabama, who links to the texts of the agreements]. 

There are reports of shelling near Donetsk airport [AFP]. Russian station NTV reports on the burial of Russian “volunteers” who died fighting in Ukraine, says [NPR]. If Serbia had a Facebook button for its relationship with the EU, given its patron Russia’s strongly held views on Ukraine, the button would read “It’s complicated” [InSerbia], especially if there are Serbian Chetnicks “defending” “Russian brethren” in Eastern Ukraine [Deutsche Welle]. 

Meanwhile, a Russian analyst mordantly points out that it would be a good “confidence-building measure” if NATO cancelled upcoming military exercises in Ukraine [RT]. Perhaps when the US and Ukrainian navies complete their “drills” in the Black Sea, which started today? [Stars and Stripes]

Finally, just as Road & Track had an unexpectedly amazing piece of Ferguson, so ESPN  has a report from the ground by Coleman Collins, an American basketball player who came to play in Donetsk: “[I]t has a hard charm under its surface…. Think 1970s Pittsburgh”; read it [ESPN (lolcar)]. Oh, and did the “Masons” invent the Mason Jar? Kudos, if so, from canners everywhere [Vineyard of the Saker] #Justsaying.


Here’s the text of Hillary Clinton’s robocall for Cuomo [Capital New York, MS]. Tea-leaf time: Hillary is risk-averse, so Cuomo’s doing fine. But Cuomo’s mentioned once, and Hochul three times, which suggests that Wu has some traction. If Wu wins, that would wreak havoc (how) on New York’s complicated ballot line, in a good way [Daily News].

Best headline EVAH: “Zephyr Teachout: My qualifications? I’m not under federal investigation” [Daily News]. But it would be totes embarrassing to Hils if Federal Prosecutor Preet Bharara slapped the cuffs on Cuomo before or even after the election, now that she’s endorsed him. So presumably that’s not on. IIRC, Chuck Schumer is Bharara’s Godfather; did somebody have a quiet word?

Finally, in a low turnout campaign anything can happen — Thanks, liberal Democrat Mayor DeBlasio [waves]! — says the Teachout campaign, and they need only 350,000 votes to win [Poughkeepsie Journal].

2014 and 2016

[Pause to claw at my eyeballs. There.]

Hillary Clinton’s New Year’s resolution will be to tell us whether she’s going to run in 2016 [Daily Mail]. Mitt Romney says that although “my time has come and gone” [MSNBC] there’s “no question” he’d be a better President than Hillary [CBS]. Well, I suppose he could be persuaded to run for the good of the country, then. 

The 2014 mid-terms won’t be a “wave election” [National Journal]. TPM uses the word “disruption” to describe DSCC’s campaign tactics [TPM]. Not “innovative,” fortunately.

In Arkansas, 2012 Obama campaign-style “community organizers” are at work, with 39 offices, whose locations are “closely guarded secrets” [Atlantic]. Sounds more like the D’s are parachuting in precinct organizations, to me, but maybe it will work; there seemed to be some positive effect  using the same techniques to sell insurance, at least for Covered California. Will they have walking around money? 

Meanwhile, Arkansas Republicans have countered the Democrats by suppressing the Tea Party in favor of “moderates” [Seattle Times]. But will that mean that disaffected Republicans will stay home to teach their party a lesson? [WSJ]

And here’s a useful piece of polling methodology from May [Politico].

Economic Statistics

Here’s a handy economic calendar [Bloomberg]. We’ll track these releases and post on them here, on the same day if the 2:00 deadline permits (modulo things like T-Bills). If readers want us to track other release dates, please leave them in comments! 

Our Famously Free Press

I’ve noticed several examples of actual, large-scale, long-form investigative journalism from old-line press organizations lately: “Water’s Edge” [Reuters], in rising sea-levels; “Contract to Cheat” [McClatchy], on corruption via “misclassification” in Obama’s stimulus package; and “Stop and Seize” [WaPo], about cops shaking down citizens for cash, as if we’d turned into a corrupt third-world country, or sumpin’.

I wouldn’t go so far as to use the words “turnaround,” but it might just be that news organizations — and newsrooms — hit bottom and have figured out a business model for actually reporting. (Here I’ll take a moment to whine that all three series have “mobile first” layouts that are super-hard to navigate, read, quote, and link to on a laptop. I get that kidz these days wanna use those damn cellphones for everything, but — listen up, designers — isn’t the point of a “responsive” layout to actually respond to the medium being used? And don’t talk to me about budgets. These projects are well-funded.)

A few other random notes on the press as the deadline clock ticks down: A fine explainer on how American news looks in other countries, triggered by that cute Vox story on Ferguson [CJR], although Vox really should be slapped around for “the worst info graphic ever” [Mathbabe]. And a heartwarming, and important, story, tweeted by James Risen [Romanesko].

And if Jeff Bezos thinks he’s going to buy influence by turning WaPo into a better version of every Beltway wannabe insider’s favorite daily shopper, Politico, he should think again [Corrente].

News of The Wired

  • Don’t use shock doctrine collars to train your pet dog. Use rewards; they work better, and don’t induce suffering [PLOS]. (These are called “welfare consequences,” apparently.)
  • There will now be a “BUY” button next to some Twitter ads [The Verge]. Please. Twitter. I have Facebook. I don’t need another one.
  • Elders unretire into farming as an “encore career” [Marketwatch]. One-third of “Beginning” farmers are 55 or older; more than 10% are over 65.
  • Coffee’s genome reveals that caffeine-making evolved in parallel in more than one plant species, partly because pollinators developed the caffeine habit [Scientific American]. That’s why they call bees busy. They’re buzzed!
  • If you want to find the best gossip, just ask the village which individual has the highest “diffusion centrality” [FT, “The economics of the village gossip”]. 
  • Doc Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid in 1970 [Gizmodo].
  • Massive aircraft geekery from former Concorde pilots [PPRUNE].

* * *

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


I’m using the smaller size image; I need to remember how to implement the “Click for a larger version” functionality in WP.

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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

    No hitter on Acid–very cool, didn’t know about that–great pitcher.

    If, in some little way, that story demystifies the attitude of society towards drugs then great. The whole hysteria about illegal drugs is pure nonsense. All drugs should be legal with warning labels–we ought to rule our bodies whether we take ‘shrooms or large sodas. The drug war is even worse than the GWOT.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      How many people on acid were watching baseball?
      Nobody can throw the ball like Catfish can!

  2. ProNewerDeal

    I am worried that if the Republicans win the Senate Majority, Obama will once again push hard for the Grand Ripoff (“Grand Bargain”) of USian Earned Benefits (Social Security & Medicare). Ditto the TPP Rigged Trade for Monopolists (“Free Trade”) deals.

    Perhaps Yves/Lambert/others could comment on this? Are there enough D Senators ala Bernie Sanders that will stand strong against Obama Reagan Jr & his fellow Senate Repubs on SS/MC & TPP? Could say Sanders invoke the Fillibuster such that 60 votes would be needed for slashing SS/MC, or creating the TPP (if there are even 41 pro-SS/MC, anti-TPP D Senators)?

    1. edmondo

      Why would you assume that Obama needs a GOP senate to pull off a “Grand Bargain”? There are plenty of corporatist Democrats willing to repudiate the legacy of FDR and LBJ.

    2. hunkerdown

      Curious why you think he wouldn’t just push for it anyway in the lame duck session, as he and the rest of the party been darkly hinting (in the case of TPP) or have outright announced (in regards to various Social Justice Warrior matters).

      1. Yves Smith

        He doesn’t have the votes in the House (per Boehner, major Democrat revolt as well as meaningful Republican opposition) and Harry Reid won’t table it in the Senate).

  3. timbers

    “Coffee’s genome reveals that caffeine-making evolved in parallel in more than one plant species, partly because pollinators developed the caffeine habit [Scientific American]. That’s why they call bees busy. They’re buzzed!”

    So caffeine was genetically engineered by nature not Monsanto. It’s probably much healthier than anything coming from Monsanto, too!

      1. timbers

        Well, I’m having another cup of coffee….got a phone interview for a job at a place that hires busy bees….

  4. Jim Haygood

    European ‘leaders’ think they’re in the drivers seat here:

    The EU says new sanctions against Russia should be adopted shortly and take effect on Tuesday, despite a Kremlin warning of retaliation. Major state-owned oil firms including Rosneft are on the new EU sanctions list, but gas is not affected, diplomats say. US sanctions already target Rosneft.

    Diplomats say the new package will target Russian oil companies Rosneft and Transneft and the petroleum unit of state gas monopoly Gazprom.

    About 90% of the crude oil used in the EU is imported and Russia is, by a large margin, the biggest supplier. The sanctions don’t appear to directly affect that relationship. They would prevent Rosneft raising money in European financial markets.

    Gas is another story, which may explain why Gazprom’s main business is reported not to be on the new sanctions list.



    ‘Gas is not affected’ … HA HA HA … not till Russia retaliates, that is. Which no one possibly could have foreseen. How could they be so callous?

    Got firewood, euro comrades?

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Maybe they have prepositioned lots of liquefied natural gas in Greenland.

      Or maybe plan B is to unthaw Northern Europe with an eruption or two in Iceland.

  5. McMike

    re unretirement farms.

    The article answers its own question. Young people cannot afford to buy farmland/equipment, access medicare for health coverage, or wait for the farm to reach (if ever) positive cash flow.

    It’s really just one more article about boomers sucking the oxygen out of whatever they touch.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          “It’s really just one more article about boomers sucking the oxygen out of whatever they touch.” Snark takes a lighter touch, IMNSHO.

          As far as young people not being able to afford to farm, in Maine that’s factually false, as I know from my work with an organization that catered to them, or anybody can see who visits a farmer’s market or goes to a CSA. One reason that your statement struck me as so bizarrely over the top.

          1. McMike

            Affordable land is a huge challenge for beginning farmers, presumably that’s why there is an organization that caters to them.

            “Access to land is one of the most significant barriers that many aspiring farmers face when deciding whether or not to farm. At the same time, retiring farmers often struggle to successfully transfer their family farm to the next generation and ensure the land remains in agriculture.” http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/whats-at-stake-bfr/

            Report findings include:
            – 78% of farmers ranked “lack of capital” as a top challenge for beginners, with another 40% ranking “access to credit” as the biggest challenge.
            – 68% of farmers ranked land access as the biggest challenge faced by beginners.
            – 70% of farmers under 30 rented land, as compared to 37% of farmers over 30.

            With second career retirees purchasing hobby/second-act farms in order to run operations that don’t even need to turn a profit – competing for land and market share, the challenge to young farmers will only be greater.

          2. McMike

            FWIW. Oxford says snark = snide and sharply critical comments, cutting

            Nothing light about that, IMNSHO

            1. lambert strether

              Well, you can go with a guy who’s been doing snark 24/7 for a decade in tens of thousands of posts, or you can go with the dictionary definition. Depends on which authority you want to argue from, I suppose….

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I was trying to meditate on the subject of hate earlier today.

        With respect to hate, we can

        1. Ban hate, like we try to ban books
        2. Make sure hate doesn’t come out of somewhere into a person – not sure how to do that
        3. Channel hate into something less harmful or even productive (when, one hates, say, corruption)
        4. Condemn hate, but like banning hate, it will go somewhere…the unconscious or some other places
        5. Hope our pharmaceutical complex will come up with some ‘medical treatment or blockbuster drug.’

        Maybe there are some other responses…

        1. McMike

          Shouldn’t we define it first?

          Do you mean the feeling of hatred, or the expressions thereof?

          I don’t see how we are going to get rid of “feelings of intense or passionate dislike” among people. (aside pharmaceutical interventions.)

          1. hunkerdown

            We can also manage hate, by recognizing there’s a lot to hate, that it is an inevitability, and ensuring it is directed toward ends that are important to our masters. Which seems to be the current solution.

        2. frosty zoom

          imagine if the isis guys and bashar al-assad shared a bong..

          vlad and yats..

          sean hannity and anybody else..

    1. ambrit

      Actually, if they read up on it, they’ll be putting nitrogen back into everything they plow. Besides, you’re not taking this to its logical conclusion. Sooner or later Ma and Pa will kick the bucket and leave the farm to Jr. and the other kids. Maybe even, *gasp* end up with more than one generation sharing the land. If you’re on a farm and are getting old, you know you’ll need lots of help. Build families!

      1. McMike

        Yes, hopefully the organic farmers have figured out soil building.

        Not so sure about passing the farm down to kids. That seems to be particularly difficult, it faces a sort of primogeniture conundrum, and can lead to a lot of sibling squabbling about fairness and mutually exclusive vision for the future. Ironically, multi-generation farmers spent a lot of effort sending their kids off to college, so they wouldn’t have to break their backs living on the razors edge of a farm…

    2. craazyman

      first we’ll heard them onto shuffleboard platforms and then we’ll mow them down.

      Like grass.

      But then, who will vote? bowhahahahha hahahahahahah. Well, it doesn’t matter anyway, does it?

      some dude was out pumping hands today at the subway, city something or other. he looked like a Brooks Bros. Model. I went up to him and said, sereeusly, “i just wanta give you some positive feedback, cause you’re out here trying.” He asked me “Are you a registered democrat’. “No,” I smiled. “Then you can’t vote in the prmary.” he said. “no” I smiled. “But I just wanted to say good for you that you’re out here tryig. Caus I sure as hell wouldn’t. That’s forsure

  6. grayslady

    Thanks for the information on mobile formatting. I neither have, nor want, mobile anything, but I have wondered recently why so many “special report” articles, such as the one in the WaPo on police shakedowns, seem to be formatted in such bizarre, and almost unreadable, fashion on my laptop. Now I know.

  7. Carolinian

    Robert Parry: the “n” word in Ukraine reporting.


    Worth noting that the LRB story in this morning’s links–somewhat evenhanded–also omits the offending description. Should this omission be some kind of a litmus test? Perhaps so.The typical response would be that the Nazi sympathizers poll in single digits and aren’t important. But that’s belied by their prominence in the current govt or the events which installed it.

  8. Kurt Sperry

    Perhaps the Ukrainian neo-nazis punch well above their demographic weight, as they appear to, because of their utility as berserker cannon fodder to throw at the Russian Front. Even if I loathe them as a Ukrainian moderate (whatever that might mean), what easier way to dispose of them?

    1. lambert strether

      The US should hire the Ukrainisn neo-Nazis to go fight ISIS. Pronlem solved. Multiple problems solved.

  9. hunkerdown

    re: “mobile-first” design, from your lips to Jakob Nielsen’s ears. Getting pretty tired of pamphlets dressed up as websites.

  10. Jay M

    I got a really nifty map from the Democratic party showing all the battleground states.
    It always has to be war, right? ???

  11. OIFVet

    Stephen Harper is finally playing with the Big Boys: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2014/09/08/russian_planes_buzz_canadian_frigate_in_black_sea.html. “While the Russian military aircraft that circled the HMCS Toronto did not in any way pose a threat to the Canadian ship, their actions were unnecessarily provocative and risk escalating tensions even further,” Defence Minister Rob Nicholson told the Globe and Mail.”

    Sure bud, unlike the nearly around the clock presence of NATO vessels in the Black Sea which violates the spirit of the Montreux Convention…

  12. Skippy

    Things are getting frisky down under…. ABC Q&A program – Adventures in Democracy

    Audience: ALP 37%, Coalition 41%, Greens 12%, Other 2%, Unspecified 8%

    Monday 8 September, 2014
    Rupert, ISIS, ICAC & Super Freeze


    Brigitte Lucy asked: Kim Williams, some years ago your appointment as head of the Murdoch organisation was greeted with a lot of fanfare. It was all the more surprising when after only about 18 months you were suddenly unceremoniously – for a lack of a better word – dumped. You have painted the Murdoch organisation in its operations as rather toxic. Could you please tell us what you would have done differently had you stayed on in the organisation to counteract that toxicity and the feudalism you describe in your book?
    Tell us what you think on the Q&A Facebook page


    A web question from John Jarvis: Kim Williams, do you think Australia has the government Rupert Murdoch wants it to have?
    Tell us what you think on the Q&A Facebook page


    Salvatore Scevola asked: ICAC in NSW has shown us with clarity the amount of corruption among former and serving politicians.If electoral funding laws in NSW and the Commonwealth re-fund political parties and individuals that can get 4% of the votes – which cost in 2010 $53 million – why should there be any need for private or corporate donations at all, other than to buy influence? Shouldn’t we ban any donations over say $100 to restore some credibility to democracy in Australia?
    Tell us what you think on the Q&A Facebook page


    A Facebook question from Sue Todd: I’d like to know when ICAC is going to start investigating federal politicians?


    skippy… what saith you Glen???

    1. windsock

      And in the UK, the quasi English-nationalist-let’s-get-out-of-the-EU-and-pretend-it’s-1950 party UKIP’s leader Nigel Farage has just held “private talks” with Rupie.

      God help us if Scotland votes to leave the UK. If UKIP gets power, we’ll become a colder, wetter Monaco. Or Luxembourg. Who both, ironically, do well in the EU. Go figure.

  13. dannyc

    Thanks for that Road & Track piece on Ferguson! That’s a must read. No Rational Agents, macro modeling, or any NAIRU austerity junk; the writer doesn’t draw on any experts or demagogues — just a road-trip home and he manages to show how policy makers – at all levels, in all departments – have failed everyone.

  14. John Gray

    Treasure: the Concorde discussion at pprune is gripping – a superb find and sure to be hours of exploration. All hail the water cooler and those who replenish her.

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