2:00PM Water Cooler 10/17/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Class Warfare

Yellen expresses “great concern” on “income inequality” at Boston Fed conference on said topic, and lists “four building blocks” for “gains in income and wealth”: (1) “Resources Available for Children”; (2) “Higher Education that Families Can Afford”; (3) “Opportunities to Build Wealth through Business Ownership”; (4) “Inheritances” [Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System]. (5) Accounting Control Fraud; (6) Helicopter Drops (6). Fixed it for ya. So where’s mine?


Questions real reporters should be asking Texas Presbyterian [Steven Brill, Reuters]. Here’s a good one: “How, in fact, are the bonuses at Texas Health determined?”

Nina Pham stable and in good spirits at NIH [McClatchy]. Movie title: “Escape from Texas Presbyterian.”

Exposed Texas health workers isolated on Carnival cruise ship [Reuters]. Not perhaps the best optics.

Obama names Democratic Third Way insider and Biden (and Reno (and Gore)) chief-of-staff Ron Klain ebola “czar,” placing him in “Homeland Security” chain of command [New York Daily News]. Klain was General Counsel of Gore’s Florida Recount Committee [Wikipedia], so let’s hope things turn out better this time. Klain has no health care experience.

WHO: “Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall” [Guardian]. Well, except for Médecins Sans Frontières, Cassandras for both WHO and the CDC.

Republicans call for sphincter control travel bans [AP]. 

Hong Kong

Mong Kok: Cleared [Reuters]. Recaptured [WSJ]. Photos [Hong Wrong].

Protesters leery of government offer of talks [Asian Correspondent].

CY Leung: “The Hong Kong … government cannot make something that is not in the Basic Law possible” [Christian Science Monitor].

And on the mainland, conflict over land in Kunming [New York Times]. From the details, there weren’t many “study areas” set up…..


St Louis Mayor agrees to meet with protesters after 60 protesters hang banner in City Hall [Riverfront Times]. Here are the demands of Young Activists United, which will be in attendance:

The group wants Slay to force police officers who have “any interaction with the public” to wear body cameras, establish a civilian review board and independently investigate all fatal police shootings. The group also asked Slay to break ties with the federal government’s 1033 program, which sends military hardware to police departments. Maggie Crane, the mayor’s chief spokesperson, tells Daily RFT that the city has no relationship with the program.

Quite moderate! How about turning any existing armored vehicles into planters in city parks and letting them rust out? Notice also how the protests have scaled out to St Louis as a whole. Impressive.

St Louis cop Keith Novara placed under investigation for calling protester’s boss because of protester’s “inciteful” tweets [St Louis Today]. But he’s not suspended. So, citizen harrasment is departmental policy, then? (If you want to hear the followup conversation between protester and cop, before this became a story, see yesterday’s Water Cooler.)

Detail on the stately pace of the Darren Wilson grand jury [Vox].

America the Petrostate

“Capitalism’s catabolic implosion” [Counterpunch].

New York’s highest court upholds local fracking bans [CNY Central]. Good!

Railroads argue crude shipments should be kept secret because terrorists and environmental extremists [McClatchy].


Race tightens between sleazy private equity “No Labels” D mole Greg Orman and R silverback (“Soros!” “Baby killer!” “Illegals!”) Pat Roberts [Public Policy Polling]. Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO, with its fearsome “ground game,” backs Orman [National Journal].

Is Martha Coakley the Bill Buckner of Massachusetts politics? [Politico]. Coakeley as Massachusetts Attorney General took Goldman Sachs for $20 million in fines, and didn’t run on that in 2010, blowing the race. So, no, she’s not. Bill Buckner couldn’t choose to play with two good ankles, but Coakley chooses not to run on her one good issue. Unfortunately, the Ds have no late inning defensive replacement.


Crowdpace unbundles the Overton Window for politicians issue-by-issue; here’s Hillary Clinton [Politico]. “Just where does the Russian Tea Room stand?”

Real time oppo from Republicans on Clinton [National Journal]. Interestingly, they’re not targeting only conservatives.

Stats Watch

Housing starts, September 2014: Total starts and permits up, but permits below expectations. Multifamily permits up, single families down [Bloomberg]. “[E]conomists showed little enthusiasm” [USA Today]. And mortgage rates still at all-time lows.

Consumer sentiment, October 2014: Expecations component up, current conditions unchanged [Bloomberg]. Dollar edges higher [Reuters]. Cheaper gas trumps ebola fear. “[C]onsumers are still not spending freely” [WSJ]. 

Rapture Index: Unchanged [Rapture Ready].


Grandstanding Cuomo announces random ebola drills on New York Subway [HuffPo]. “Neither Cuomo [subway head] Prendergast addressed how random subway drills might affect the public.”

News of the Wired

  • The new Apple SIM could disrupt the wireless industry [Quartz].
  • Review of OS X 10.10 [Ars Technica]. I know I’m Mac-centric. If readers suggest popular/nerdly Windozews or *nix links, I’ll put them on my watch list.
  • What Maidan looked like on Instagram, before, during, and after the upheavals there [Atlantic]. As with so many data visualizations, the value add over simple prose is dubious. OK, so people went to Maidan and took pictures. And?
  • Tornadoes are touching down in clusters more often than 50 years ago [Live Science]. And tornadoes aren’t the only clusters doing that!
  • Big weddings, short marriages [WSJ].
  • Climate change is not responsible for changes in forest tree species; land use is [Penn State].
  • Student movement to challenge orthodox “economics” seems to lose momentum [Economist].
  • People who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times as likely to catch a cold as those who put in eight-plus [WSJ]. And other handy tips.

* * *

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, at Thompson Wildlife Refuge in Markham, VA:


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. James

    Klain was General Counsel of Gore’s Florida Recount Committee [Wikipedia], so let’s hope things turn out better this time. Klain has no health care experience.

    Well then, I feel better already! Georgetown and Harvard Law too. Quite the pedigree. No mention of an MBA at least, although I’m sure he’s surrounded by them. Kinda wonder why they aren’t running from the term “czar” though, what with all the ongoing anti-Russian hysterics.

    1. James

      Looks mostly like another well-connected insider getting his ticket punched again, but who knows. Hopefully he’s at least smart enough to surround himself and listen to actual medical/epidemiological people. But I’m sure this is mostly all about optics at this point. One guy in charge of the three ring circus/”effort” and all that.

    2. Linda Amick

      We can all breathe a sigh of relief. Ebola must be a distraction otherwise a clinician would have been put in charge.

    3. Vatch

      When will President Obama utter the mandatory “Brownie Klainie, you’re doing a heck of a job!”?

    4. DJG

      Klain reminds me of Obama’s penchant for hollow men. I suspect that O can’t escape the trap of his mistrustful self. Well, maybe I’m beyond suspecting. I know it. Klain is to Ebola what Arne is to education. (But they both play basketball, I bet.) And “General Counsel of Gore’s Florida Recount Committee”–in other words, the person who truly lost the election for Gore? If Klain couldn’t take notice of the penny-loafer riot, how is he going to deal with Ebola? (And as an amusing aside, he’s the person all of the huffy Nader-Dood-It Dems are looking for. He’s just been in occultation for a few years. Or should I give into temptation and drop the dreaded words “Ralph Nader” and wait for the whining to start?)

    5. Danb

      We should not overlook what all the competent people in the health sciences -especially public health- are thinking about this: Klain get the glory -if there is any- for their efforts and they will get the blame for his neoliberal decisions that cause damage. this shows Obama’s utter inability to conceive of the public good.

  2. Vatch

    The mayor of St. Louis is named “Slay”? Really? And he’s trying to provide damage control after police officers have slain people? This is like the names of characters in Dr. Strangelove.

    1. James

      Well what’ya know, truth in advertising at last! St. Louis and its surrounding environs have worn their racism on their sleeves for quite some time, so its hardly surprising. I thought the Ferguson cops sporting “I Am Darren Wilson” bracelets while on duty was pretty cheeky, but what do I know. Strange days indeed!

        1. jgordon

          And our quality of life would doubtless go up if that were the case. At least 90% of the things people do and the places they travel is bullcrap busywork. If they could just sit under a tree and enjoy the shade and peace instead 99 time out of a hundred they’d the be happier for it.

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Yellen, income equality (or inequality).

    Income or wealth inequality.

    8). compound growth of wealth.

    Compound growth of wealth means the rich will always be richer.

    Can you foresee a way the non-rich grow their wealth at higher rates than the rich? Even with equal rates, the non-rich will never catch up.

  4. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    •People who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times as likely to catch a cold as those who put in eight-plus.

    What about those who make it up with a few hours of napping at work? Does it help improve the odds?

  5. optimader

    RE: Railroads argue crude shipments should be kept secret because terrorists and environmental extremists [McClatchy].

    The give away to me, secret or not, is the 9:45 CN train composed of ~100+ flat black tanker cars moving at 20mph.
    Maybe they should be painted camo?

    I’m more concerned about their legacy rolling stock w/ inadequate pressure relief vent valves, relative to transporting shale oil, rather than the bureaucracies paperwork. http://www.railwayage.com/index.php/safety/re-inventing-the-dot-111.html
    The fly in the ointment is that shale oil tends to have a higher vapor pressure than conventional crude oil.

    Not sure what would be done differently once the train is rolling whether or not the route is published? What I observe is they are pretty regular anyway ( the CN train I refer to coincides w/ my commute).

    1. ambrit

      Yeah. We have a coal train go through the middle of Hattiesburg every few weeks, headed to a coal electric plant on the coast (Lorraine Road, Gulfport, Mississippi.) It’s pretty regular, and slow as H— too. Why no terrorist threats to it? Come on now, the environmental protesters are classified a terrorists by the FBI, right? Fair is fair. I demand armoured cars at the front, mid way, and at the end of each coal train! It’s the Homelands’ security we’re talking about here! It’ll give secure employment to not only the guards who man those Freedom Flatcars, but those who build them, and repair the rails which have to carry those gargantuan defenders of our Way of Life! Wake up America! The Future is here!

    2. McKillop

      What might be considered, but hasn’t been mentioned (except. perhaps, by the engineers speaking among themselves) is the length of the trains and the length of the sidings used to allow trains to “pass in the night” . Oil, a liquid, would tend to slosh within its containers and the force would cause the whole train to move – or be held stationary by the engines.
      The trains have been lengthened and fit upon the sidings with ten feet to spare. Trains waiting in sidings while on-coming trains pass within a space of five to 7 and one half feet from the waiting train, oil sloshing with each tanker. . . . Who needs environmental extremists when we have greed insisting on one more car – just one.
      Ahh, I’m just a worry wart who lives five or so city lots from the main line here in town.

    3. Eclair

      Secret? We live just south of Denver, near the light rail line, which parallels the freight heavy rail line up to and through the city. Freight traffic is constant, mainly 100+ car coal trains heading down to Texas power plants, but with rapidly increasing numbers of oil tanker cars. Between our town and downtown Denver, anytime of day or night, there is a coal/oil tanker train either rolling through or on the sidings.

      Of course, I have noticed cameras installed at all major – and semi-major – intersections, so any terrists would be monitored, unless they were very careful.

  6. Brindle

    Ron Klain’s major involvements are these two companies—Case Holdings and Revolution.

    We look for companies that are attacking large, traditional industries with innovative new products and services. Many existing industries are on the brink of disruptive change, driven by new technological possibilities and consumer psychographic trends. We aim to transform markets by shifting power to consumers, and in the process create massive value in our companies.

    ….A revolution’s success rests in the power of its beliefs. When enough people participate in the revolution, embracing its beliefs and acting upon them, a “tipping point” is reached: The status quo is no longer acceptable and everyone becomes a revolutionary.


    Case Holdings:

    —Ron Klain, currently Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to Vice President Joe Biden, will leave the White House to become President of Case Holdings, the holding company of AOL co-founder Steve Case.—


  7. slick

    “Yellen expresses “great concern” on “income inequality” at Boston Fed conference on said topic, and lists “four building blocks” for “gains in income and wealth”: … (4) “Inheritances” ” ???

    “(3) “Opportunities to Build Wealth through Business Ownership”” What!?!

    So, do run along poor people, and dears if you wish to have some resources, start a business or something, perhaps arrange an inheritance for yourself.

    OMFG – what is wrong with these people? It’s one thing to be steamed when they are making poor decisions behind closed doors, in minutes that will only get public scrutiny years hence, been when they come out and say things that are so out-of-touch, so myopic and nakedly stupid, so deeply detached from the realities that most people face, it’s downright frightening.

    It either means that they are completely incompetent (christ, doesn’t this woman have some communications people to look out for s**t like this?), or just do not give damn that what they say could be construed as a true “let them eat inheritance” moment. I am not sure which is worse. Let their smiting begin!

    1. MikeNY

      Nothing exists for them that isn’t in their catechism of neo-liberal dogma. Such a neat, tidy world!

      “If all the poor would just go to Harvard, or start up Googles, the inequality problem would be solved.”

    2. ChrisPacific

      I do like Yellen’s #1 and #2, although the devil is in the details (and in the hands of the financial sector, initiatives commonly end up claiming to deliver one thing while actually achieving the opposite).

      #3 shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of poverty. Starting a business requires (a) capital (b) time and (c) an appetite for risk. In contrast to the popular American myth, the most daring entrepreneurs I know have typically been the children of wealthy parents. In fairness, they weren’t always funded by said parents in their business pursuits, but there is a certain freedom in knowing that if things go pear-shaped, you aren’t going to be living in a cardboard box on the street and eating cat food.

      I won’t even touch #4. Inheritance as a cure for inequality? That’s right up there with large piles of bailout cash as a cure for improper behavior in the banking sector.

      Even #1 and #2 fail to challenge the neoliberal idea that everything is a competitive market. If we could arrange it so that the deck was less stacked against the poor then that would be a useful outcome, but it’s still all about succeeding at the expense of your fellow man by out-competing him. What happens to the ones who fail? I doubt anybody would be willing to stand up and defend the idea of creative destruction as applied to social policy, yet that’s exactly what the likes of Yellen are doing when they allow neoliberalism to shape their thinking on social issues.

  8. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Consumers are not spending freely – WSJ.

    May I suggest that we free those wage slaves so that they can be free to spend freely?

  9. abynormal

    Hellooooo K st & Wall st is dat a way…

    Arlington County Fire Department and Fairfax County HAZMAT Teams are on the scene after a woman – alleged to have recently traveled from Liberia – fell ill and started vomiting in The Pentagon parking lot this morning. Arlington Public Health has activated its Emergency Operations Center to manage the incident.

      1. abynormal

        betchya O calls up more troops by the end of next wk

        Never attribute to malevolence what is merely due to incompetence.
        Clarke, 3001: The Final Odyssey

      1. abynormal

        my family is all over me about my dark ebola humor…they shouldn’t make it so easy!

        The IQ and the life expectancy of the average American recently passed each other in opposite directions. G.Carlin

        1. Vatch

          I can hardly wait for the next outbreak of norovirus on a cruise ship. I guess I shouldn’t joke, though, because people are probably more likely to get a norovirus infection from a sick restaurant employee who couldn’t stay home from work because his employer doesn’t provide sick leave.

          1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

            Unfortunately, for this worrier, sick self-employed hot dog vendors or food truck guys/gals are also worrisome.

            That’s not something paid sick leaves will address.

            1. optimader

              How Fast Do Burgers Age?

              Here Aby, you can pass this along to your daughter:
              Davies McDonalds Happy Meal Project- all photos ©Sally Davies
              Back home from the bars back in college days, day 1591 would still have been good to go! In fact it looks better than the ones that were in the computer center vending machine as I recall. I wouldn’t even touch those in my more feral youth..

              1. abynormal

                you know exactly what you can do with your links…

                “Indifference to me, is the epitome of all evil.”

                keep away from me opti and im going to return the favor.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Republicans are pretty good with sphincter control, thus they have overlooked this, leaving it for Democrats, presumably not as good at it, to take advantage – Close all public toilets!!!

  10. TarheelDem

    Let’s be clear what is going on with ebola response. The US is sending medic units to Liberia. The UK is sending medic units to Sierra Leone. France has resisted doing something similar in Guinea. Not sure who is going to provide additional aid to Guinea. Congo, Nigeria, and Senegal have contained their outbreaks.

    The GOP demanded a czar instead of doing what they should have done and confirmed a Surgeon General.

    Obama caved and appointed a czar.

    You don’t need many qualifications to be a punching bag for the media, Congress, and the GOP. That would’ve been the full-time job anyway.

    The ebola diversion from election issues will not stop however. Or the media will find a new shiny object.

    The truth is that people who know what they are doing are beginning to handle the situation. Dallas was a “It can’t happen here” first case failure that exposed the BS of homeland security BW preparedness. After billions of dollars in DC, a typical hospital in a typical US city could not handle an anomalous infectious disease quickly enough to isolate the patient. Or identify that it was anomalous.

    1. James

      We’ll know soon enough either way. One thing’s for sure, no one’s going to be mistaking it for a run of the mill flu bug.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        “Young man, go west.”

        It was possible at one time when there was still open space left to escape to.

        Now, before you get to the mega cities on the west coast by wagon, the virus is already there before you, if not first class, at least in comfortable coach on a plane.

    2. optimader

      “The truth is that people who know what they are doing are beginning to handle the situation. Dallas was a “It can’t happen here” first case failure that exposed the BS of homeland security BW preparedness. After billions of dollars in DC, a typical hospital in a typical US city could not handle an anomalous infectious disease quickly enough to isolate the patient. Or identify that it was anomalous.”

      most egregiously, had they kept him for 23hr observation a higher Medicare/Medicaid billing rate would have kicked in, that’s prob the only reason the CEO risks getting thrown under the train by the BOD! ARRRGHH lost billing opportunities!

      “You don’t need many qualifications to be a punching bag for the media”
      Just need a resilient utter lack of self respect.. and no other job prospects that offer a travel budget/expense account/ paid meddies & vacation bennies

  11. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    St. Louis protestors and Hong Kong protestors.

    Protestors of the world, unite!

    I think a moderate demand here, being globally united, is that we stop letting Money – not just Beijing – pre-screen/pre-approve our candidates****.

    **** Finding solutions to common/similar/shared problems **** is our united goal.

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