2:00PM Water Cooler 10/13/14

Columbus Day

October 13 is Columbus Day [The Oatmeal].

Hong Kong

HK honcho C.Y. Leung: “Students have zero chance of success” [South China Morning Post].

Eyewitness account of clash at Mongkok [Asian Correspondent]. Admiralty crowds swell after government ends talks [Asian Correspondent]. (And too close to deadline to fish out the tweeted photos, but where barriers were removed by police, protesters are rebuilding them with bamboo, packing tape, and cement (!).) More on new barricade construction [South China Morning Post].

Dozens of masked men rush barricades at Admiralty [AFP].

Hong Kong’s European legacy, and the shadow cast by the Century of Humiliation [The Diplomat].

Images from the third week of Hong Kong protests [Getty].

America the Petrostate

Proven shale reserve figures are not the same as reserve figures marketed to investors [Bloomberg]. Sure, but 500% off? In the direction of, like, “oceans of oil just waiting under there”?

Communists in Somerset, Kentucky open city-owned gas station [Governing].


Fortunately, any significant information on ObamaCare 2.0 won’t appear until after the mid-terms [USA Today, Bob Laszewski].

Privatized Medicare plans deny promised coverage and reject valid claims. “Federal officials expressed frustration that they were seeing the same kinds of deficiencies year after year” [New York Times]. Another neo-liberal infestation gone wrong or, according to your perspective, gone right.

Imperial Collapse Watch

More than $1 billion in Iraq reconstruction money was spirited to a bunker in Lebanon as the American and Iraqi governments ignored appeals to recover the money, according to James Risen’s new book [Guardian]. That’s real money!

Iraq merc trainer SCI International was run by a scammer and fabulist [Outdoors]. Birds of a feather.


I should have exhaustive coverage of this, since STL > HK for local or rather continental interest, but I — and especially since the cops whacked another black kid — come away with the impression of actions that are organic, well-planned, strategic, disciplined, and in it for the long haul; it’s probably a good thing the media glare isn’t focused on STL right now. I care less about people parachuted in, especially professors of this or that. We’ll see how it goes, and especially how it goes if the grand jury doesn’t indict Darren Wilson.

Mainstream needs to understand that “unrest,” “civil disobedience,” and “anger” are not interchangeable concepts [LA Times]. Good quotes, less good framing.

About 120 people from outside STL training for civil disobedience. “I guess I’m here to learn how to get arrested” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch].

2014 and 2016

Administration sets up panel to review Secret Service “lapses” [McClatchy]. Translation: No more hooker eruptions ’til after the midterms.

Six Senate seats “most likely” to switch from Democratic to Republican control [WaPo].

DSCC outraises Republicans by $30 million, has $14.2 million cash on hand [Rollcall].

More on “mystery candidate” Greg Orman, the “independent” challening Pat Roberts in Kansas:

Kansas City Star (Missouri paper, Kansas markets) endorses Greg Orman [Kansas City Star]. ” A successful Olathe businessman who has the needed background to work with other senators”… Because he will caucus with whichever party wins the majority? [HuffPo].

92% of Ormans contributions were over $2,300, as opposed to 42% for Roberts; McKinsey employees are Orman’s #2 contributor, at $20,000. And #1? The family of Rajat Gupta, a former managing director at McKinsey convicted of insider trading [Open Secrets, September 4]. How cozy. And here’s a very interesting true fact, from the [Topeka Capital-Journal, September 21]:

After Gupta’s conviction, Orman was handpicked by Gupta in April 2013 to be Gupta’s representative on the two-person board of New Silk Route, a Cayman Island-anchored $1.21 billion private equity partnership concentrating on markets in the Middle East, Asia and the Indian subcontinent.

Orman and Gupta’s names appeared on Securities and Exchange Commission records as “indirect owners” of the fund in 2013, the period during which Gupta was appealing his guilty verdict.

Orman remained on New Silk Route’s board until March 2014, choosing to leave three months before launching his Senate campaign. Orman’s replacement on the New Silk Route board was Aaron Deuser, an analyst at Orman’s Exemplar Wealth Management in Olathe. Deuser also has worked for Orman’s campaign.

Hmmm…. (Oh, I forgot the headline: “Orman’s link to jailed investor deeper than first portrayed.” So that would be the “need background” the Kansas City Star thought so highly of. Check. Anyhow, more here.) Now, the story of Orman’s murky ties to crooked money hasn’t quite died [The Hill, October 12], although it nearly has, presumably because soi disant Democrats in the pockets of finance is a total non-story after Obama’s bailouts.

All this said, I’m pleased that Orman’s campaign manager tweeted that Roberts was part of the “bedwetter’s caucus” [Washington Monthly]. Too bad he forget to mention the Bedwetter’s Caucus is thoroughly bipartisan.


McCain: “There has to be some kind of czar” because fear [Bloomberg]. If we didn’t have jalopy institutions hollowed out by austerity and neo-liberal infestations, even authoritarian followers wouldn’t saying this.

Louisiana AG to block transport of incinerated ebola waste across state lines from Texas because fear [CNN].

CDC head advocates “rethinking” approaches, “doubling down on the amount of training” [Wall Street Journal]. Exactly what the nurses’ union called for a week ago (“How do we clean an elevator?”) but of course a nurse had to die for a course correction to be made.


Courageously profiling, Cuomo punts on fracking, Tappan Zee tolls, and casinos ’til after the election [Newsday].

Cuomo gave his State Police security detail watches as gifts, using campaign funds. There are rules about that, but Cuomo asked the State Police Superintendent, who said fine [Times-Union]. So that’s alright, then.

Howie Hawkins has 10% of the vote, says Quinnippiac poll [Daily News]. Not spoiler territory yet — or the second coming of Jesse Ventura — but Hawkins got 1.3% in 2010.

News of the Wired

Plug-n-play Tor in box, rounded for concealment in  body cavities (!) [Wired]. Here’s hoping Tor itself is safe.

“Our toleration of ******* behavior must end, and it’s such an integral part of nerd culture that nuking the entire thing from orbit is the only way to be sure” [Radar].

SF bros rent soccer field, kick local kids out. “Off Camera Guy in Dropbox Tee-Shirt: ‘Who gives a shit? Who cares about the neighborhood?'” [Uptown]. Note the happy effect of neo-liberal policy of charging fees for “public” services.

Intel pulls advertising from Gamasutra in Gamergate fallout, issues non-apology apology [Polygon]. And does not re-instate the ads.

How LinkedIn became a player in China [New York Times].

S’pore to be renamed Lee Kuan Yew next year [New Nation].

“And they’re like, ‘Uhhhh. Who gave this to you?’ ‘The King of Sweden'” [Scientific American].

France’s Jean Tirole wins 2014 “Nobel” Prize for Economics for his work on regulating monopolies and cartels [France24]. Funny, he’s not from Chicago.

Farage to join Cameron, Miliband and Clegg in TV debate, but not Greens or SNP [Independent]. BBC underlining the “British” in “BBC.”

Rhetorical figures are full of win, with examples [HuffPo].

Big red sun [NASA].

* * *

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 (via):


I know this shot (of verbena) contains an animal, but I’m going to rationalize it as depicting a whole system, of which plants are a part.

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

    re: reserved figures marketed to investors…that’s benchmarking today but i agree ¡FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT!
    “But I don’t want to go among mad people,” said Alice.
    “Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here.”

  2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Communists, Kentucky, city owned gas stations.

    In N. Africa, they have communal ovens.

    In Japan, they have communal baths.

    Why not here?

    Why not communal pets…and many other innovative communal ideas?

    1. hunkerdown

      Because other people might be gross or inferior and that stuff is contagious! COOTIES ZOMG!!!!

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Maybe bad timing to keep talking about it, given the panicky state we are in.

        But buses are communal cars and there are lots of other ideas.

        1. hunkerdown

          And still, people have dumb ideas COOTIES! and want you to talk to them when you get close to them ZOMG HORROR. Which, in a nutshell, is why not “here”. You can only ask a dysfunctional-going-on-defunct society for so much, especially when there are so many identities to conform to in order to get basic needs met.

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Hong Kong.

    The key, I believe, is to recognize that, in China, the supreme leader is not voted directly by the people.

    It’s hard to envision they will let it happen in a southern, barbarous locale where they used to exile their offending mandarins.

  4. TimR

    Lambert- I tried to post a long reply to Vatch and Scylla here a few days ago, picking up on their comments to me on a previous day. It disappeared in moderation though — Any reason, or should I try posting again?

  5. craazyman

    One of These Days It’ll Work . . .

    If Columbus had run into the Incas he’d have had his hands full. He just got “lucky”.

    In fact, just today I shorted the market with a hard cover stop. It went lower right off, then turned and drifted up and took me out, then it plunged. That’s like meeting the Incas when you want the Bahamas just as they are, with no slavery or oppression. Just laying around doing nothing. Sh*t.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Instead of Columbus meeting the Incas, a few hundred years later, the Chinese coolies arrived in Peru and today, we have Chifa food.

      Stir fried guinea pig with ginger, anyone?

      1. craazyman

        sounds like the guinea pigs got the short end of that stick. maybe that’s why they call them guinea pgs. oh man. it’s never easy is it. your hanging out on the beach chilliin and some dude named Columbus shows up with a sword cause he got lost. But look, it could have been an Aztec or maybe an Iroquois if they’d gotten their act together enough to build some boats. It wouldn’t have mattered. What they could have used on the beach was a few dozen military advisors and some heavy weaponry. They could have taken Columbus out in about 4 minutes. That would have showed the Spanish what’s what. Then they could have moved inland to the Iroquois and the Navajo, subjugating all life to a deferential obsequesity. But that sounds like a lot of work. It makes you tired just thinking about it. Why go anywhere? Why can’t people just lay around and do nothing? I don’t know. Why does an acorn have to fall off the branch? Why does the arms of the Milky Way have to spiin so fast? you could ask Master Po but he’d probably just make something up.

  6. McMike

    “1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.”

    —Kurt Vonnegut (1922-2007), author, from Breakfast of Champions

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I highly recommend 1491, by Charles Mann. It presents evidence, among much else, that the Amazon basin was in large part an edible forest, deliberately designed.

  7. jrs

    Re: nerd culture. The main thing about tech (I.T.) people may be their exaggerated self-importance, their thinking that they are the center of the universe in business. Ok the career may or may not be well-compensated and sought out, depending on one’s age, when they got in the market, location, career path etc. (fewer and fewer jobs are these days period in any field. And note I don’t think talent is the main determinant). So it might be being on the up side of capitalism for some. And I.T. is respected by IT. But outside that world business actually values in terms of respect business people (finance etc.) far more than tech people. That’s what business really is but tech people are naïve enough not to know it and think the business world centers around them but most businesses don’t.

    As for the *******ness. In some cases I think it’s not that at all, some people are just opinionated and lack social graces, it’s just a certain way of being in the world (in fact various Meyers Briggs personality types), that would rather make the best points in the argument than smooth over the differences. It’s really not good or bad. Of course actual ******** are another matter.

    1. ChrisPacific

      I actually don’t think that nerd culture is all that different from other cultures – it’s just that in the past it hasn’t been mainstream enough that it needs to confront its own issues. If it’s just you and and a few boys in the tree house in the backyard, nobody is going to care particularly if you stick a ‘no girls allowed’ sign on the door and throw water bombs at any girls who approach. Once you have grown up, your tree house is now a social networking platform and a significant part of the online community, and you’re in charge, that ‘no girls allowed’ sign increasingly starts to look like an embarrassing anachronism. Doubly so because a significant chunk of your community still enthusiastically supports the idea and the missile-throwing tradition, only now they’ve moved on from water bombs to nastier things – which they may turn on you if you suggest removing the sign.

      1. hunkerdown

        Contrary to neoliberal doctrine, just because there’s money in it doesn’t mean that the mainstream is invited. The mainstream needs to keep their curious perversion of shoving peacock feathers in their back ends to themselves.

      2. hunkerdown

        Not that I’m suggesting that video gaming culture doesn’t have its problems — but I see in this an angle of specifically disempowering technical talent — as essential to the status quo and uninterested in taking bourgeois crap today as the farmers of centuries past were — in favor of (guess who?) management, with women used as potential customers / pawns in the grand neoliberal Kulturkampf tradition. If you can’t get ’em with H-1Bs, sic the wealthy white aristocrats on ’em. It worked for Spitzer and Weiner…

        It’s a culture, C’mon. These things have been forked all through the ages. Who’s attached to the idea that we must vouchsafe and proselytize and convert people who have found one of the few reasonable niches left for them in society? MAKE YOUR OWN. The tools are out there. The media is out there. The financing schemes are out there. And, if it comes down to it, there are plenty of boots out there to take care of dweeby little trolls who wing death threats for merely being a woman (as opposed to crimes like neoliberalism, against whose perps such methods of persuasion would be 100% justified).

        1. ChrisPacific

          I’m not sure that it’s come to that yet, although it very likely will (championship events in the video gaming world are starting to approach major league sport levels of viewership, which will definitely attract the attention of the neoliberal predator types if it hasn’t already). Most of the criticism I’ve seen has been from people I’d consider members of the culture themselves. I’m one myself. In a lot of ways it’s a great community and has a lot of positive aspects, but it does have its issues and inclusivity is one of them. Gaming is still overwhelmingly male-dominated, and a lot of gamers are pretty young and/or not all that mature (not always correlated with age – you would be amazed at how professionally some teenagers can behave when they’re trying to hold their own with a group of adults and make a good impression – sadly the converse is also true of adults). Add all the usual problems with anonymity and online media and the gaming community can be a pretty toxic place for high-profile females sometimes.

          Personally I like the culture and would like to see it grow and flourish, fix some of its issues and become a welcoming place for all gamers, including all of our sisters, daughters, mothers, partners etc. if they feel so inclined. I believe I have a role to play in this myself and it’s mostly in moving the Overton window (for want of a better term) on acceptability of certain types of behavior. I have been involved in several online gaming groups and have had responsibility for setting and enforcing standards at times, and I think I have made a difference, if a very small and localized one. Articles like the one in links help as well. If we all do a little then we can keep things moving in the right direction.

          Re: the Augusta comment below, I think this is a bit different in that the majority of the gaming community really does want to fix its issues and become more inclusive. They just aren’t sure how to go about it, and they are also finding that the technology they’ve designed and the cultural principles they’ve established work against them to some extent. The challenge will be how to keep the good things about the culture while mitigating some of its side effects, which may involve some tradeoffs – for example, do you want to preserve your ideals of free speech and resistance to censorship, or accept some constraints on it in order to build a higher discussion quality? (Do you want 4chan, or Naked Capitalism?)

      3. Vatch


        “The golf club’s exclusive membership policies have drawn criticism, particularly its refusal to admit black members until 1990, a former policy requiring all caddies to be black and its refusal to allow women to join. In August 2012, it admitted its first two female members, Condoleezza Rice and Darla Moore. The golf club has defended the membership policies, stressing that it is a private organization.”

  8. bob goodwin

    Re Orman v. Roberts

    As bad as Orman is, Kansas is a republican state. Republicans are more interested in getting corporatists out of the party than they are in getting them out of the Senate. This is an extremely ironic race.

  9. Jeff W

    “Students have zero chance of success”
    Well, I think CY Leung actually said “almost zero chance,” not that it matters much.

    The Hong Kong government has been playing some of the four cards of “fear, futility, factionalism, and fatigue,” of which, it seems “futility” is the strongest. How many people in Hong Kong actually agree with the pro-reform side on direct democracy for the region but just think Beijing will inevitably win in the end?

    That is not necessarily true, of course. The local government relented on the 2003 subversion law, with Beijing withdrawing unpopular Chief Executive Tung Chee Hwa about a year and a half later, and the 2010 “Moral and National Education” curriculum, supported by the Mainland, was shelved, both after large protests.

    There are still plenty of ways this situation could play out. For one thing, the NPCSC proposal, which gave rise to these demonstrations, has to be approved by a two-thirds majority in Legco, the Hong Kong legislature, and it is clear that that majority does not (yet) exist—27 of the 70 seats are held by the “pan-democrats” and they vowed, shortly before the protests broke out, not to support the proposal. The protests would appear to have upped the ante a bit. And there are other ways of pressuring the government—e.g., Benny Tai’s proposed “shadow election”—that don’t involve tying up the streets and getting the local truck drivers riled up. In the end, Beijing might decide, in this case, as in the others, that the aim of the proposed legislation—protecting Hong Kong’s rich through the rigging of the electoral process—is not worth the trouble. If democracies around the world are any guide, there are other ways to do it.

  10. ewmayer

    Re. the Sverige Central Wanker Prize in Econning – I believe the official snarky nickname is the “Faux-bel”. Hyphenation optional.

    1. Vatch

      Yes, it’s always worthwhile to point out that there really isn’t a Nobel Prize in economics. It’s a Swedish National Bank prize that rides on the coattails of the real Nobel Prizes.

  11. efschumacher

    Farage in the Westminster debate? He is not an MP. Carswell is head of the parliamentary party. Well actually he is all the chieves and all the Indians. And Caroline Lucas, the resplendently Green has even greater entitlement to be in the debate. Moreover, as a significant British party the Scot Nat’s also have greater entitlement than you kip.

    What a gerrymandered farce of a debate it will be.

  12. Foy

    I think our (Australia’s) prime minister Tony Abbot is getting weirder by the day. He has now said that he will ‘shirtfront’ Vladimir Putin over the murders on MH17 when Putin comes to Australia for the G20.


    For those who don’t know what a ‘shirtfront’ is, it’s from Australian Rules Football where a player gets severely bumped front on, often without seeing it coming. Here’s a short clip with a few good examples…


    I wonder if Putin will stash his judo outfit in his suitcase for the G20 trip, sounds like he might need it. More brilliant diplomacy from Abbot and co… it’s really getting embarrassing now

  13. ewmayer

    McCain Calls for Ground Troops in Syria and an Ebola Czar; Secret Friends | Mish

    With folks like McCain busy trying to reignite the Cold War, I am surprised to see them still using such Russophilic leadership titles as “Czar”. Why not ditch the Russian, make nice with our allies the Germans (who are still mad about the whole being-mass-spied-on-cause-they’re-not-former-British-empire thing) and call for an “Ebola Führer”?

    It would probably also be helpful to have some kind of E!TV-regular-airtime-getting HollywoodSportsRealiTV star to contract the dread disease, recover after getting the kind of incredibly expensive experimental-treatment only the 0.00000000001% have access to, then to wax altruistic, overuse an obligatory sports metaphor, step up to the plate, and — channeling Magic Johnson way back when he announced his HIV-positivity (HIV-positivitism?) — declare “I intend to become a spokesperson for the Ebola virus.”

    And let’s not forget the inexcusable absence so far of brightly colored wristbands in the effort to contain the disease. Color and inspirational logo suggestions from my fellow NC readers are welcome. (I’m leaning toward a kind of delicate lavender-puce mix with logo — continuing with my above Teutonic-verbiage theme and channeling a Berlin-airlift-speechifying JFK — “Ich bin ein Eboler”. But I could easily be swayed at the very early juncture.)

  14. RanDomino

    “I guess I’m here to learn how to get arrested”
    Yes, correct, and good. The best thing that out-of-town liberal pacifist adventurers can do is get in the way of police, make them waste time and resources, and generally be chaff so the locals can do the real work as they see fit. Remember: You will be out of jail within a few days and it will have been roughly as uncomfortable as a bad camping trip. And if you’re from out-of-state there’s a chance you can buck the penalty by just never going to MO again (but consult your lawyer first).

  15. lambert strether

    Wowsers. What a user. Remind me never to take an anarchist’s notion of prefigurative politics on trust, ever again.

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