2:00PM Water Cooler 9/9/14


(Links in [brackets] are current; other links are evidential.)

Not to editorialize. But.

You know, the media-savvy terrorist organization with the un-Google-able because contested names, plural, that’s halfsies Saddam’s Baathist army dudes (the guys Bush didn’t buy off) and halfsies Islamist dudes, either Al Qaeda dudes (blowback; blowback) and/or Wahabbist-type dudes (blowback; blowback, this time from the Saudis, unless they’re our cut-outs): Those guys.

But hey, toss enough weapons and money and mercs into a cauldron of strategic hate management, then dissolve a few international borders (#SykesPicot), and who knows what’s gonna bubble up? All things work together for good, at least for somebody’s portfolio! Like Turkey’s [Daily Beast]. So it’s all good [Vox]. Strategically (and not in human terms) the beheading videos are about as important as Miley Cyrus and her NSFW pastie videos (strategically. And not in human terms). And to see the Obama administration using the bad wrong deaths [Digby] of journalists as an opportunity for yet another cycle of blowing faraway brown people to pink mist makes me want to throw up. 

Anyhow, everything old is new again, and having done their test marketing in August, just like Bush in 2002, Obama’s rolling out the product in September, right before the midterms, just like Bush in 2002. The difference is that, as in everything else, Obama’s rationalized and consolidated everything Bush did; Bush, the last modern war Preznit, had the UN inspectors, the yellowcake, “British intelligence has learned,” the drones, Colin Powell’s vial of white powder, stuff, all stuff, physical stuff; Obama, the first post-modern war Preznit, has dispensed with all those pesky molecules and gone straight to bytes, clean bytes; the digital can now be a casus belli: A video, or even a tweet.

No drama Obama’s even dispensed with the whole “support the troops” bit; he’s just gonna hire it done; no doubt whichever “allies” he’s able to win to the cause will be rewarded handsomely with pallets of American cash and more importantly, a cut of the action contracts. Here’s to small wars. No pesky AUMF either, although the “top Republicans” in the Senate are willing to write Obama “a blank check” anyhow. But who needs a fig leaf like the War Powers Act? [Daily Beast, with text].

For those who came in late, in 2002-2003 or so there were literally only two remotely mainstream voices calling bullshit on the Bush administration and its nutball nature. You had to be there, and if you were, you remember how amazing, how startling it was to find a voice of reason. One such voice was Krugman, for which he still deserves huge credit, in my book; and the other was Dan Froomkin, who ran a blog, in the days when blogs were new, that was quite literally the only reason to read WaPo, where it appeared. (WaP buried Froomkin’s blog deeper and deeper, each time they redesigned the site, until he threw in the towel and left for HuffPo. Now he’s at The Intercept.) And there was also only one newspaper (or newspaper chain) that called bullshit on Iraq II: Knight-Ridder, now McClatchy, significantly a chain of papers, all based outside the Acela corridor, also called their shot on Iraq, correctly, alone among all media. 

So here we go again. Dan Froomkin, The Intercept:

One notable exception to the stenography and conventional wisdom was a story filed Friday evening by Hannah Allam and Jonathan S. Landay of the McClatchy Newspapers Washington bureau. They called it like this:

The U.S.-led international strategy to combat the Islamic State that President Barack Obama sketched out Friday is likely to require years of thorny diplomacy and deeper U.S. military involvement in conflicts that he’s struggled to avoid…

Even limited success for this new effort, analysts say, hinges on an unenviable to-do list for the Obama administration: foster cozier relations with Iran, gamble on the so-called “moderate” Syrian rebels, strong-arm Iraq’s Shiite Muslim leaders into power-sharing with the Sunni Muslim minority, and persuade Sunni-ruled nations in the Persian Gulf region not to undermine the whole effort by striking out on their own.

Allam and Landay describe all sorts of other challenges, including the fact that the Saudis and their pals may still see the Islamic State — the supremely brutal Sunni extremists also known as ISIS and ISIL — as a potential Sunni asset in the eternal proxy war between Sunnis and Shiiites. Indeed, the most likely option for a relaxation of those hostilities, they wrote, could be a de facto swap of sorts, where previously Sunni-run Iraq formally joins the Shiite team, and currently-Shiite-dominated Syria signs up with the Sunnis.

What could possibly go wrong with that?

So now you know where to go for war coverage if you want to read people who made the right calls the last time.

Anyhow, Obama’s gonna give a speech tomorrow, and I’m sure it will be the greatest speech EVAH [CNN]. As usual [Christian Science Monitor]. Gravitas, baby! There will be a coalition [Times]. A bipartisan group of experts has gathered [Times]. Obama is meeting with Congressional “leaders” [WSJ]. DiFi’s all in [USA Today]. The Twitter’s been threatened [San Francisco Chronicle]. Ditto “major cities” [FOX]. Beheading’s gone viral [The Hill]. Don’t forget the enemy within! [Daily News]. And the whole war’s gonna last for years [Business Insider]. Kaching [Eschaton]. Nobody could have predicted!

Oh, and of course the Democrats are blaming Republicans for being soft on ISIS [The Hill]. And Republicans — hold onto your hats, folks — are capable of cynical calculation [Kos]. I’m just shocked that nobody’s linked ISIS and Ebola yet. Oh, wait… [Daily Mail].

I don’t want to sound bitter or cynical, but did the people who voted for Obama in 2008 really think this is what they were getting? I don’t think so.

Stats Watch

As promised, stats:

The JOLTS (Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey) survey for July data [BLS]: “little changed” [Business Insider]. The labor market remains “sluggish,” so cue dove sounds at Fed [Bloomberg], given that JOLTS is on Yellen’s dashboard. Not that Yellen can do anything.

NFIB Small Business Optimism Index for August data: “Expectations are still glum, although improving grudgingly” [NFIB]. “[C]onflicting and hard to read” [Bloomberg].

Redbook on weekly store sales: “Overall, Redbook describes back-to-school sales as satisfactory” [Bloomberg].


Lambert, speaking for myself only: Democrats! You’re gonna win in November no matter what, right? A vote for Cuomo is a vote for corruption. Why would you vote for corruption?

News of The Wired

  • Apple counts down to launch of a smartwatch and a bigger iPhone [Reuters]. Well, I used to wear watches. The only reason I can think to get back in the habit is that watches are harder to drop than phones or tablets. Anyhow, I think the big story will turn out to be Apple getting into payments. Payments aren’t a sure win, though; not all Apple software is easy to use or well-designed.
  • Sourcing and provenance are more critical than ever, so Save the Footnote! [New Yorker].
  • For the first time, more than half of American adults are single [Bloomberg]. Cue the hookup culture moral panic, but with no jobs and no money, how do you get married?
  • “Two-Year-Old Accidentally Fires Cop Dad’s Gun Inside Florida Wendy’s” [Gawker]. Great headline. And tragic. But “accidentally”? Not necessarily, for some definition of “accidental.” Cue Dr. Freud on Oedipus — one of the most ancient of tragedies.
  • ISIS threatens to kill Scottish aid worker to “drive Scots to embrace independence” (expert) [Scotsman].
  • Untangling Japanese antonym pairs [Japan Times].

* * *

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 (craazyman):


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

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Talk amongst yourselves!

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. abynormal

    “You can call me,
    Shooting star,
    Though I’m no star at all…
    I’m really just a little rock,
    Enjoying my free fall,
    When I cruise across the sky,
    And hit the atmosphere,
    I sometimes make a shining trail,
    Then I disappear,
    Yes, I’m just a meteor,
    Not a star at all,
    Sometimes I wish,
    I was a star,
    So I’d be known by all!”

    1. abynormal

      Lev comments: “75 km per second !!! Direct hit to the ground even with small mass … and God proceed with new Adam and Eve and all this stuff … don’t you worry the death will be so quick you’ll might see your own soul standing next to your body and smile ! The only thing – I’m so tired from bad news and constant wars that goes around – I catch myself wishing that tomorrow such beautiful cosmic body came and END this misery that of ALL us calling “life” … wars …poverty … hatred… banking fascism … corporate arrangements! I only feel sorry for animals that also will die if it happens … humans ? … no … what good we do ? what future we building ? how many wars we need ? how many dollars we need to print to make few mtfkrs become saturated with enough wealth and fat? I don’t think it is ever will be enough to humankind – greedy is become our best motivation …. Next visitor should be size of Brussel and speed 450 km per second … no more flew past … direct hit … And Peace will come … at last !” :-/

      1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

        Strangely, I can think of no better end than to not be mourned, and to not morn for others. That it would come due to a natural (that is, non intentional), instantaneous event, is even more appealing (if the contemplation of such an event can even be described as being more or less appealing than another alternative, in the first place).

      2. Vince in MN

        Check out Lars von Trier’s movie “Melancholia”. That might make you feel better. I certainly enjoyed it.

  2. Johann Sebastian Schminson

    RE: ISIS (or whatever), Ukraine/NATO, etc.

    Not a religionist, at all, but I have read the Bible. For those inclined to believe in end-times prophecy and quasi-CTs, we are seeing both wars, and now, REPORTS of wars. Funny that we can’t be sure if there’s actually a war going on somewhere in the world, or not. Kinda’ kills my faith in Big Brother’s ability to protect me.

  3. EmilianoZ

    Re: plantidote

    Great composition! The blurred background, the flowers laid out in a triangular shape, 2/3 of the frame occupied by the foreground. And I love the pastel pink of the flowers mingling with the tender green of the leaves. And the broken rhythm of the stems! This is worthy of the best William Eggleston shots. With some processing it could even become a Gerhard Richter.

      1. abynormal

        Unbelievable…Emil nailed the composition but ENCORE CRAAZYMAN !

        “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” Ansel Adams
        (as Craazyman magnificently demonstrates!)

  4. dearieme

    “did the people who voted for Obama in 2008 really think this is what they were getting?”: perhaps they just thought that any gamble would be less bad than McCain. It’s the Obama voters of 2012 that need their heads examined.

    1. Johann Sebastian Schminson

      Here were our choices:

      1. Be raped or robbed

      2. Be raped and robbed.

      Perhaps they also thought any alternative would would be less bad than Romney. OTOH, maybe one more unbridled round of the expression of the disease that has been labeled “conservatism” would finally give its proponents (no matter what kind or quality of seep’s clothing they’re wearing), enough rope to hang themselves.

      That Obama won twice says more about the Republican candidates than it does about Obama.

      Obama is little more than a right-of-center shart skidmark on the nation’s liberal underwear. Nonetheless, he beats a full diarrheic blow-out.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Nope. People took Obama’s putative anti-Iraq position seriously and voted on it. It was a real issue at the time. Then there was the whole “transformational” bit. I could go back and dig out the quotes, but I left my waders at home.

      1. sd

        I voted anti-bat-shit-crazy-Palin. I had actually planned on not voting, but Palin absolutely motivated me to vote not-for-her.

    3. Banger

      Some of us knew. Webster Tarpley was onto him early on–he gained a lot of credibility in my eyes. His book on Obama is available for free in PDF format. Tarpley supported Obama anyway because Romney was/is worse by far.

      1. RUKidding

        Maybe. Hard to say who I loath the more.

        I still say that, usually with the GOP, you pretty much know you are getting a giant sh*t sandwich. Dems like to pretend that they’re providing filet mignon, when it’s the same old sh*t as their very very BFFs across the aisle are serving. JMHO, of course.

        1. trish

          that’s an easy one for me. Romney would have been better simply because Romney couldn’t have gotten away with so, so many odious things. The press, “liberals” & “progressives,” would have been all over him right from the get-go. Instead he’s essentially received a free pass bankster bailout onward, aided at all times by the nonsense of evil republicans trying to thwart all his “progressive” agenda. good cop/bad cop worked pretty well, MSM forever wringing its hands about all that fighting and bickering and gridlock…and the very far far nut-case right a great distractor.

          I voted for Obama in 2008- I worked on his campaign (ignorance? just real hope). by end of 2009 I was virtually spitting with anger and disgust, now not virtually. can’t bear to listen to him speak.

          1. Jagger

            Took me about 6 months after Obama’s election in 2008 for me to completely lose faith. I think of him today as the great betrayer. Getting stabbed in the back by someone you think is on your side is far worse than someone that is openly your enemy.

            The only credit I give to Obama…maybe…is that we didn’t go to war with Iran. I really suspect if Romney had won, we would have attacked Iran…I think.

            1. sd

              Romney vs Obama: one guy doesn’t do what he promises to do, the other does what he promises not to do. It was a toss up.

    4. Brindle

      “did the people who voted for Obama in 2008 really think this is what they were getting?”
      I think a lot of them kinda threw up their hands and said “whatever”, and then their are all those who just love Michelle, Sasha, Malia and Bo….and we have preznit who can speak in complete sentences and trash talk with Kobe Bryant.

      The Obama years have shown that the Dem voters, by and large are, are just a few microns more evolved than the GOP ones.

      1. RUKidding

        “The Obama years have shown that the Dem voters, by and large are, are just a few microns more evolved than the GOP ones.”

        You give them waaaaaay more credit than I do.

    5. RUKidding

      I confess that – due mainly to the Tundra Trash gifter – I was gulled into holding my nose and voting for Obama in 2008. I was terribly skeptical, however, but hoped for the best. Well I must say: Obama’s been FAAAR worse than my worst nightmares, but that’s another topic.

      I voted for Dr. Jill Stein in 2012. I really didn’t care of RMoney “won,” but I figured that PTB had picked Obama to continue carrying water for them, so… it really didn’t matter.

      It was a thing of beauty & a joy forever to witness KKKarl Rove losing his sh*t when his rigged votes for RMoney got thwarted in Ohio. If I am ever particularly down, I just re-run that on YouTube, and I can smile for days… heh…

      1. Grizziz

        Sihk’s watch out! The Global War on Islam is on! There are two billion Muslims and the West has only taken out a half o’ mil in Mesopotamia. Obama is stepping back to the plate with Hillary on deck. The Republican’s and Tory’s are cheering them on. Christianity do not fail us now…

      2. hunkerdown

        Never forget that Anonymous helped ruin ORCA, their election intelligence web app, with a well-timed DDoS. Hence, all the “cyber” pant-soil: now that bourgeois permission is not required to move world events, the power to protect the pre-determined course of action and interdict those attempts, rather than just find and torture the meddling kids responsible, must be maintained. Which makes a government illegitimate by any democratic standard, but most USians don’t know any better life than the perpetual early childhood of begging one’s betters for their daily bread.

    6. afisher

      Obama bashing is always fair game – but quick- take a look at the current global leaders and his opponents (excluding Green) was there a viable alternative….really and who would that be? Now back to whining!

      1. sd

        In 2008, it would have been nice if Edwards had at least been allowed in the debates. Than maybe issues like poverty would have stood a chance of serious discussion. Instead, we got nuances of beige in the debates between HRC and BHO.

    1. LifelongLib

      Per the report:

      The plane was flying at about 33,000 feet, above (but not in) a restricted airspace. At the time the restriction only applied to altitudes of 32,000 feet and lower.

      The cockpit voice recorder, flight data recorder, and communication with air traffic control all stopped at about the same time. There was no indication of trouble before that.

      Based on the distribution of wreckage, the plane broke up in flight, with the forward area breaking off first.

      The clincher (quote from the report):

      “Damage observed on the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft appears to
      indicate that there were impacts from a large number of high-energy objects from outside the aircraft.

      The pattern of damage observed in the forward fuselage and cockpit section of the aircraft was not consistent with the damage that would be expected from any known failure mode of the aircraft, its engines or systems.”

  5. dcblogger

    Barry O’Farrell a boomer, Tony Bandle subdued at ICAC hearings

    was not altogether a day of happy returns. Bandle is a trustee for the Free Enterprise Foundation. On his first stint in the witness box on May 7, Bandle was almost jaunty, explaining with great satisfaction that “it is entirely at the discretion of the trustees” where donations to the foundation went.

    On Tuesday, after weeks of testimony about the NSW Liberals using the FEF to funnel money from prohibited donors, Bandle was more subdued.

    “The absolute discretion of the trustees” remained his mantra, but he acknowledged that the trustees had never failed to direct funds in line with what donors had requested.

    The most intriguing witness was Queanbeyan developer Leigh Brinkmeyer, who maintained he had been persuaded by a member of the Liberal Party, Wayne Brown, to donate $20,000 to the FEF to promote free enterprise and growth in the region (and by region he meant Australia, not Bungendore, where he had a development application).

  6. vegasmike

    James Fallows was also an Iraq war skeptic. He wrote an excellent summary of the case against the Iraq War for the Atlantic, normally a magazine I don’t trust. Oddly both Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton mentioned the article in their 2002 vote to authorize the war. The article clearly outline the reasons why our intervention would not be successful. Krugman was right, serious people just couldn’t imagine voting against the war. I’m a New Yorker. The white New York Congressional delegate was almost completely pro-war. The exception was Jerry Nadler. But democrats from the provinces, states like Oregon and Ohio were much more likely to be anti-war.

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