2:00PM Water Cooler 10/23/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Shootings in Ottawa

Shooter’s mother in statement: “You write that our son was vulnerable, we don’t know, we (he) was lost and did not fit in” [HuffPo].

Shooter acted alone, say Canadian officials [New York Times].

Shooter acted alone [Globe and Mail].

Which won’t prevent Harper’s government from deploying long-prepared legislation destroying Canadian liberties in Parliament [The Intercept], because terrorists (Harper) [Foreign Policy], re-running the PATRIOT Act play that worked so well for us. Prompting “Why does Glenn Greenwald hate democracy?” response from Heritage “scholar” Brookings “fellow” [WaPo]. 

Which won’t prevent our famously free press from deploying the usual framing: “Terrorist ideology blamed in Canada car attack” [WaPo]. I know the battle to avoid a crapfest of Orwellian language on this topic is long lost, but “terrorism” is a tactic, not an ideology. “Drone strike ideology blamed in wedding party splatterfest” would be just as solid, analytically.

More elite framing: “In the West, a Growing List of Attacks Linked to Extremism” [New York Times]. Whatever “extremism” might be.

Hong Kong

What is the Hong Kong government waiting for? [Asian Correspondent]. It’s quiet. Too quiet.

Protest banner on Lion Rock [WSJ]. More pushback; police filming Occupation sites.

Chinese tourists take protest selfies [Daily Beast]. “Sun and his wife took turns taking pictures of each other in front of Lennon Wall.”

On translating “umbrella” [Asian Review of Books].

UN Human Rights Committee gives Hong Kong grade of C1 (of A through E) [France24].

Media critique of Hong Kong pro- and anti-protest coverage, with chart of investment on mainland by Hong Kong media moguls [WSJ]. The lead: “Hong Kong lumbers through its fourth week of pro-democracy protests.” “Lumbers?” I’d say our own media is gettting bored. Poor babies!

“New reports confirm US role in HK politics” [China Daily]. But check the (hilarious) sourcing.

Stats Watch

Jobless claims, week of October 18: “Trends remain favorable though initial jobless claims did rise” [Bloomberg]. Subtext: Permanently higher disemployment is the new normal. Those who are out of the labor force will never return.

Consumer sentiment, week of October 19: Highest in seven years. Confidence in < $50,000 earners increased by the most since November, but fell among > $100,000 after rising for five weeks [Bloomberg].

Leading Indicators, September 2014: Up by an “outsized” 0.8 percent. “Low interest rates were the major factor contributing to the strength” [Bloomberg].

Kansas City Fed Manufacturing Index: Up modestly  [Bloomberg]. “Firms continued to note difficulties in attracting and retaining certain key workers, particularly machinists and welders.” If only there were some market-based solution for this! What could it be?


West divides aid to West Africa along colonial lines [Bloomberg]. “Médecins sans frontières,” people. Get it?

A fraction of the money spent on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars would prevent ebola, and epidemics like it [Asia Times]. So simple a child of six can see it. So somebody get me a child of six.

Patients avoiding Texas Presbyterian [ABC]. Any managers fired yet? [I crack myself up sometimes!]


Timeline and explainer on Ukraine’s “unfinished” ‘revolution” [Reuters].

“New breed” of Ukrainian politicians in upcoming elections [Bloomberg]. Hunter’s runninng?


Elizabeth Warren’s Unsherman Statement becomes even more Unsherman-like [Salon].

Warren on Clinton: “We have talked. It’s not much more than that. Not much more” [WaPo].

Krugman floats Clinton-Warren trial balloon [HuffPo].

“Warren’s silence was Fidelity’s gain” [Boston Globe]. Let the oppo begin!


Democrats start blaming Obama for anticipated mid-terms disaster [Bloomberg]. C’mon, let’s be fair. They’ve got to blame someone.


Siena poll: Cuomo overwhelming favorite, but may do worse than 2010 if Green’s Hawkins does well [New York Daily News]. Greens could also win the coveted “Row C” on the ballot, knocking down the Conservative Party [Syracuse Post-Standard].

Preet Bharara on Moreland probe: “We have the files, we have some of the smartest people in law enforcement continuing what was begun and that’s what we care about” [New York Post]. Asked when the probe might be finished: “You’re assuming there’s one investigation” [Buffalo News].

Cuomo’s doorstop sells 945 copies so far [HuffPo]. Some PAC must have dropped the ball on the bulk sales. Can’t anybody here play this game?

In actual TV debate with Republican, Libertarian, and Green candidates in Buffalo, Cuomo says his fracking review will be conveniently finished after the election [Democrat and Chronicle].

Imperial Collapse Watch

Shocker: Many negative findings stripped from public versions of USAID audits [WaPo].

Shocker: CIA successfully evades oversight from toothless Senate yet again [HuffPo].

Shocker: Dead civilians ignored as Obama quietly closes the books on the lost war in Iraq [WaPo]. Of course, the war was “won” in the sense of creating a massive self-licking ice cream cone of profitable chaos for private enterprise in the years to come. So there’s that. Perhaps, in the era of the market state, that’s what passes for grand strategy.

Former NSA chief Keith Alexander speculated in commodities [Foreign Policy].

Why he was engaged in commodities trades, including trades in one market that experts describe as being run by an opaque “cartel” that can befuddle even experienced professionals, remains unclear.

What’s unclear about it? And how “opaque” would the cartel have been to NSA surveillance? I’ve long speculated that information arbitrage would feed the black budget billions; and so much safer and more profitable than drug-running!

News of the Weird

  • “Twitter will never, and should never, have any credibility with developers again”  [Marco.org].
  • “Facebook launches Rooms to anonymously share common interests” [USA Today]. Sure. I totally trust Facebook on that.
  • Have we reached peak Google? [Stratechery]. Gawd, I hope so.
  • Fake classes for athletes at the “University” of North Carolina pervasive. Ugly [Business Week].
  • Chinese province to shut down 881 sites involving excavation, demolition, waste transportation, and other activities that generate dust, so APEC attendees in Beijing will be able to breath [China Daily].
  • Observations of daily life on the ground inside North Korea [Asia-Pacific Journal].
  • “A pink slip for the Progress Fairy” [Archdruid Report].

* * *

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 (Bleeding Heartland):


White prairie gentian in a prairie patch at Whiterock Conservancy in Iowa last month.

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. kathrin

    Gregory Cochran (author of “the 10000 Year Explosion”) on so called Experts:


    “In 2003, the ‘experts’ ( politicians, journalists, pundits, spies) knew that Saddam had a nuclear program, but the small number of people that actually knew anything about nuclear weapons development and something about Iraq (at the World Almanac level, say) knew that wasn’t so.”

  2. wbgonne

    Re: Canada’s PATRIOT ACT. Australia is doing the same. Just like us. Greed and fascism. The Blue-Eyed Devils have run amok.

    1. DJG

      You mean that the Five Eyes might have some untended political problems (aside from the moniker straight out of V for Vendetta)? Or is this just more white-on-white crime?

      1. wbgonne

        I wasn’t aware of the Five Eyes Program. That is good to know. Thanks. So far, they are on a roll but it doesn’t seem sustainable on any level.

        1. Nathanael

          Ya’alon is a racist, fascist fool, but he’s right that the artificial borders of artificial countries are unsustainble. This lesson should have been heeded in Africa, but wasn’t. Things have straightened themselves out from Somalia to the Sudan through an awful series of wars recently; and West Africa wasn’t gerrymandered too badly to start with; but central Africa has ruinous colonial borders which have caused nothing but trouble.

    2. jrs

      If Harper led your government wouldn’t you want to shoot it up? Not that most actually would of course. I blame it on the radicalism inspired by a right wing government.

  3. JEHR

    So Harper is going for the sympathy vote now: poor Harper, those “terrorists” are making his life miserable!

    Man, I am so fed up with this government and especially its leader. What he is doing is so obvious. I had to turn off the TV because of the non-stop “analysis” of what is going on. Note to Harper: if you war monger then war will come to you. I guess you felt left out when Canada didn’t go to war in Iraq in 2003; now you have your very own war and an innocent soldier has already paid the price for your stupidity.

    I hope there are enough savvy Canadians out there that won’t let let you get re-elected in 2015.

    1. Vatch

      If the layoffs of nurses, technicians, janitors, and food service workers haven’t started, they will soon. The article says that the parent company has $3 billion in cash, so they won’t have to lay off any managers for a while. Okay, maybe some low level managers will be cut loose, but none of the big shots.

  4. DJG

    A Clinton-Warren ticket? For years, I’ve known that the Clintons are malodorous. And for years, I’ve been ever so grateful for their introducing Rahm Emanuel into American politics. But the article in Harper’s, “Stop Hillary,” is a list of just why no one should be voting for the Bill&Hill Empty Suits. Just the Goldwater Girl mention is enough. [And how would Elizabeth Warren survive the DLC scrum?]

    1. hunkerdown

      The VPOTUS is generally the sleazy influence cashier. What sort of veep would Warren make? Would her great purpose in office be to restart the Great Game for the Levant once again? What’s her angle?

      1. Paul Niemi

        Warren would probably win the Iowa caucuses, then win the New Hampshire primary. I can’t see beyond that, but Hillary would have to play catch up. I know they are talking, probably about what Warren would take to go away, but Warren would do well to remain uncommitted. If Hillary falters, the torch could pass to Warren in an instant.

  5. Carolinian

    Celebs explain economics.


    The clear stand out of the bunch, however, is Ramin Bahrani’s “Lemonade War.” Bahami tackles the potentially dreary issue of business regulation by telling a tale of two rival lemonade stands. One is run by a corrupt slob – played by Patton Oswalt — and the other is run by a whip smart ten-year-old girl. Though the girl doesn’t have the money or connections that her rival has, she more than makes up for it with moxie and business acumen. This, sadly, proves to be not enough. When she calls the government regulator about some of her rival’s truly unhygienic practices, she discovers the regulator is in her competition’s pocket and soon she’s driven out of business. Things look hopeless for her until a neighborhood hero, played by none other than Werner Herzog (!), comes to her rescue. With the little girl in tow, he confronts the slob and regulator with his trademark malevolent Teutonic lilt. “If Mr. Smith could go to Washington today,” he declares, “he would filibuster you back into your big bang wormhole you have slithered out of.” The two simply cower in the face of Herzog’s Old Testament wrath. If only Herzog could deliver similar fusillades against the board of Goldman Sachs.

    You can watch more segments of We The Economy here — or find them in our collection, 700 Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, etc..

    1. Nathanael

      Oh, I think they are going to plug those loopholes.

      The fossil fuel industry hasn’t realized that it’s fallen out of favor. The following dynamics have happened:
      (1) There are some smart people in the corridors of power. They understand that unchecked global warming is game over for them and all their wealth and power. They know they have to stop fossil fuels, self-interestedly.
      (2) The “new tech” empires like Google and Amazon are run by people who have no attachment to fossil fuels (but a strong attachment to solar/wind/hydro). They are a money and power base which is capable of fighting the fossil fuel types to a draw… so far.
      (3) The investment/finance (rentier) types have figured out that oil production isn’t profitable any more — the necessary breakeven prices are crazy high — and they see the writing on the wall for all fossil fuels. They’re bailing out (while there’s still a bigger fool to buy their stock) and moving into renewables, in hopes of owning/controlling/profiting from that.

      Note that this is pure self-interest, greedy capitalists and power elites, in action. Doesn’t require any altruism, just a hard-headed view of the world.

  6. Jeff W

    It’s quiet. Too quiet.

    Well, the government is trying to figure some way out of this mess.

    The government claimed today that the students had agreed prior to the talks through intermediaries that the concessions offered at the talks—sending a supplemental report to the NPCSC and “consider[ing] setting up a platform for dialogue on constitutional development” (which sounds absurdly vague)—would be enough to get them to stop protesting; Hong Kong Federation of Students’ general-secretary Alex Chow denied (plausibly, to me, at least) that there was any such agreement. That all sounds like the government trying, and failing, to take the higher moral ground—but the more important point is there are probably all sorts of back-channel negotiations (including not only the students but university presidents, who called for talks to continue, and other players) about which we know nothing.

    And the poll that everyone is citing, showing growth in support for the Umbrella Movement, is from before the talks this week. Given that the students made an impressive showing and the government, whose basic position is “We’re powerless” (while acting with a fair amount of complicity with Beijing), offered only minor concessions, I’d be curious to see if, in fact, support has grown even more.

    Lastly, here’s a more expansive take on the Cantonese words used for the Umbrella Movement.

    1. Nathanael

      I think, based on my theory of history, that the important question is whether there are major upper-middle-class elements connected to the student protests / pro-democracy movement. If there are, the power elite in Hong Kong faces a fight which it cannot win; its choices are to concede more democracy, or to crack down violently with foreign troops from Beijing. The latter would destroy Hong Kong’s economic position worldwide and reduce it to a fishing port: in sports terms, an “own goal”.

      Doing some further research, it sounds like the Beijing attempt to suppress the local language (Cantonese / Yue) is causing such severe resentment that the upper middle classes are firmly on the side of the students. So that answers that question.

      If there are not, the power elite in Hong Kong can wait out the students and get away with it.

      This is the “gentry (upper middle class) are key” theory of history. It’s kind of unsettling, but there’s a lot of evidence for it.

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