2:00PM Water Cooler 10/29/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers: Water Cooler is going to be a bit light today; I had multiple simultaneous infrastructural issues (“Winter is coming”).

Quantitative easing

All eyez on the FOMC [Bloomberg]. No press conference scheduled?

Analysts expect the taper to end on schedule [Business Insider].

Janet Yellen is not a partisan hack [Brookings].


Senate, South Dakota: National parties turn off the money spigot, meaning R Rounds has the race in the bag [Argus-Leader].

Senate, Kentucky: McConnell says nobody thinks ObamaCare can be repealed. “It takes 60 votes in the Senate” (ha) [Talking Points Memo]. OK, so even in the majority the Rs aren’t going to use the nuclear option to abolish the filibuster either. A clearer signal of kayfabe in action would be hard to find.

Senate, Georgia: Could “the Ferguson effect” tip the balance? [Think Progress]. With no civil rights investigation from Holder? Not likely. The Feds can’t even get the Ferguson police chief to spend more time with his family!

Independents favor Rs by twenty points [Washington Monthly].


States ranked by political engagement, which correlates to education, wealth, and “fairer tax systems” [WaPo].

Stats Watch

Retail shoppers demanding discounts from brick-and-mortar chains [Bloomberg].

EIA Petroleum Status Report, week of October 24: Inventories rise for the fourth week as switch to winter fuels winds down [Bloomberg].

Hong Kong

Informal survey says 90% of protesters would keep on for a year [Reuters].

James Tien Pei-chun, leader of Hong Kong’s Liberal Party, resigns hours after China’s top parliamentary advisory body expelled him for calling on Leung to step down [Straits Times].


CNN reports Ferguson police chief will step down, citing “government officials familiar with the ongoing discussions between local, state and federal officials.” Chief says “Nobody in my chain of command has asked me to resign, nor have I been terminated” [CNN]. Both statements could be true!

Ferguson PD spends $172,669 on tear gas and “less lethal” ammo and riot gear [Guardian]. So, since Ferguson treats “law enforcement,” in good neo-liberal fashion, as a revenue source, let’s do the math: At an average fine per Fergusonian in guilty cases of $275, that would mean 627.88 arrests would pay for the gear. Except that’s just the gross, so I guess I’d better guesstimate 1200 guilty pleas; with an 80% conviction rate, that would mean 1500 arrests. Good to know. 

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Pre-Snowden Jewel v. NSA case on NSA tapping fibre optic cables based on information from AT&T technician and whistleblower Mark Klein still moving forward [TechDirt]. From the EFF brief:

[T]he act of copying entire communications streams passing through splitters at AT&T facilities is an unconstitutional seizure of individuals’ “papers” and “effects.” This should be obvious—our “papers” today often travel over the Internet in digital form rather than being stored in our homes—but the government contends that unless it physically interferes with individuals’ possession of some tangible property, it cannot “seize” anything. This is not so. If it were true that conversations could not be “seized” except by taking possession of physical objects, all warrantless wiretapping (where “recording” is a form of “copying” communications) would be constitutional.

That’s not a bug. It’s a feature. Still, I’m glad to see the EFF making the obvious and unobfuscated point that the Fourth Amendment’s “papers and effects” clearly includes, say, email, even under the narrowest possible construction of the Framers’ original intent. 

Oh, and Obama’s “Justice” Department is now claiming state secret privilege for legal arguments, as opposed to factual information. Secret law is not law, of course, as the Bourbons found out the hard way in 1789 with the letter de cachet. Here’s the plaintiff’s brief.

Feds now say that (alleged) Marathon Bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev was never involved in that unsolved triple murder in Waltham. Except remember that guy Ibragim Todashev, who got whacked by an FBI agent in an interrogation room, when the other FBI agents left the two of them alone? For some reason? Yes, Todashev was supposed to have been involved in that robbery, too [PrivacySOS]. But there’s a “bloodstained confession”!

How much access does the NSA have to census data? As much as it wants, I assume, but EFF is suing to find out [Courthouse News].

Imperial Collapse Watch

“Contrary to all myths the most deadly place on the American political spectrum is in the center” [Undernews]. Do the math.

News of the Wired

  • Cool tweet:

    Nice tactic, too. Notice how it scales.

  • AT&T sells consumers unlimited data plans, then throttles them, Feds to sue [Reuters]. Just the sort of monopolistic provider we want determining Internet policy!
  • Facebook developer lies to Times reporter’s face on algorithmic news feed [Pressthink]. Note this is the tech guy lying, so it looks like public relations and software engineering have merged in Silicon Valley. Good to know.
  • Is this the best tech video of all-time? [YouTube]. SQL and NoSQL bears go several rounds. Guess who wins?
  • DropBox and AirBnB tech dudes violating Rule #1, as Silicon Valley financializes every public space it can get its dripping, greed-stained mitts on because “sharing economy” [New Yorker].
  • How to use Twitter over SMS if your Internet connection should fail, for some reason [WaPo].
  • Give ’em a chart, and they’ll follow you anywhere [Businessweek]. Even moreso for people who “believe in science.”
  • Walmart apologizes for selling “fat girl costumes” on its website [Independent].
  • 3D printing is cool, but also petroleum-based, and who needs so many tsotchkes? [Medium].
  • The power that comes from (women’s) clothing [New York Times]. Was Janet Yellen wearing Nina McElmore?

* * *

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:


Something got at my horseradish!

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. David Lentini

    Blinded by Science

    “When they included the drug Florinef’s chemical formula—C21H29FO5—in a description of it, people thought its effects would last two hours longer than when the formula was omitted. (“It’s carbon-oxygen-Helium and-fluorine based,” read the formula-free description of the seemingly less-effective drug.)”
    Uh … that’s carbon-oxygen-hydrogen-fluroine-based. Helium (He) is basically inert, and isn’t found in compounds under normal (i.e., drug use) conditions.

    And of course, believing in science doesn’t make on a competent scientist. In fact, relying on belief alone (when considering the physical world anyway) is unscientific.

  2. wbgonne

    Independents favor Rs by twenty points

    Let’s pause for a moment: The entire country knows the present Republican Party is insane but the GOP is winning among non-partisans by 20%!

    It is clear that the Democrats would rather lose than follow their own party platform and act as economic populists. Most sentient beings realize that by now. But if the Democrats don’t start putting up a better front a lot of people are going to catch on that this is all kabuki and the game might get cancelled. Maybe the Democrats could watch some Washington Generals tapes. Or professional wrestling. See how it’s done.

    I also read in the article that Kevin Drum thinks the the Democrats have learned all about power politics from the GOP and once the Democrats take Congress, those GOPers just better watch out. . . . You read a lot of funny things on the internet.

    1. Banger

      Of course it is hard not to have mixed emotions about the upcoming elections. If the RP make significant gains because independents are swinging I their direction then what does that tell you? What it tells me is that large numbers of Americans favor nihilism, radical selfishness, and the death of the commons and the natural environment as well as a race towards a neo-feudal order. Progressives are always saying that if only the American people voted their interests and favored policy they appear to follow they would vote more to the left yet, in fact, the trend for the past four decades shows a steady drift to not just conservative ideas but radically reactionary ones. The left simply has not been able to make a coherent argument to the American people. I’ve written about why that is many times here and don’t care to repeat it–but at the very least y’all should be asking more questions and the answers cannot be that the Democratic Party is corrupt–that’s only a minor part of the problem–the problem is that people have swallowed the ideology of radical selfishness and don’t realize it because sentimentality, lies/denial, and platitudes are central aspects of social life at all levels.

      1. wbgonne

        I think the American public has internalized the view that the political duopoly represents all that is politically possible and that anything outside the duolpoly doesn’t count. I think the American people are generally pretty good on the substantive issues but the political system does not permit candidates who hold the positions favored by the people. So in frustration the voters swing from one failed party to the other, back and forth, electing Democrats then casting them out for the Republicans, then casting the Republicans out for Democrats, etc. If there is to be a political solution, that cycle must be broken and that helpless, trapped mindset must be changed.

      2. sleepy

        I think it’s just as likely that the voters are motivated to vote repub because of guns, gays, and obamacare, as much as anything else.

        1. kj1313

          I would agree in previous elections that social issues would play a big role. But the economy is grinding down more and more people.

      3. jrs

        I think those who self classify as independents overall have always been more right than left leaning. I’m just talking sheer numbers, I think it’s fine for anyone to self-classify as independent just out of duopoly disgust.

      4. Jackrabbit

        Once again, Banger attacks the progressive left but now adds fearmongering about the dreaded Republicans.

        Its not so much that the left failed to make a case or that people have changed in a ‘radical’ way but that the scales have been tipped. People have tended to “vote their pocketbooks” and for the “lesser evil” (despite warnings from Progressives). The result? They are overall very unsatisfied with government and especially the Democrats (whose corruption – highlighted by Obama’s betrayal – is a MAJOR part of the problem, not a minor part). That many are uninterested in a rigged game that generally works against their interests is not surprising.


        Note: until very recently, ordinary people have also benefited from the ‘tipping’ as US deficit spending and capital flows have benefited the economy. But today ALL gains go to the wealthy, while poor decisions and can-kicking of the past weigh on everyone else.

        H O P

        1. beene

          Simply put, why vote for the party that backs the worse republican programs; always campaigning against same programs but in the end reapproving these bad policies.

  3. Irrational

    Good Water Cooler, but change to today’s date!
    Have been very appreciative of balanced ebola coverage (need it for work).

  4. Kim Kaufman

    “How much access does the NSA have to census data? As much as it wants, I assume, but EFF is suing to find out [Courthouse News].”

    I did some work on the 2010 census because I wanted to get an inside look at it. At least at the lower levels that I saw, the data is all outsourced to Wackenhut.

  5. DJG

    Operation Ishtar Omnishambles:
    Talk about kayfabe. The only chickenshits here are the politicians who planted this public squabble. I suppose that the White House (still playing eleventy-dimensional chess) didn’t know about the interview but will now decide that the Israelis have been sufficiently punished. Meanwhile, industrial espionage by the Israelis in the U.S. will continue on, undetected.

    And speaking of kayfabe, are the Democrats even participating in this election?

    And what would have eaten the horseradish? Now that is not kayfabe. Hmmm. Bet it was butterflies. They are some tough critters. (Or their kids, the larvae.)

    1. grizziz

      To paraphrase PM Chickenshit, “MOAR settlements.”
      Maybe it is time to find that some of the US DOD technology transfers to the IDF are actually stolen. When US defense contractors are losing sales to India from Israel, is it not time for US jobs and merch to overshadow the intellectual musings of the foreign policy establishment? I mean we are actually talking about property here and not people. Where is the righteous indignation of the right in respect to property rights when you need it.

    2. alex morfesis

      he said grassy knolls… PM Chickenshit, aka “bobo frikin-yahu” said grassy knolls in his speech to the knesset…grassy knolls…was that a threat ?? where is the smackdown on that statement…who says “ceremonies on grassy knolls” ??

    1. Glenn Condell

      I can never work out whether a pollie who appears to be leaving the reservation on a key issue is doing so as part of a ‘limited hangout’ or is genuinely independent of mind. A new-ish Labour MP here Melissa Parke makes no bones about her opposition to TTIP:


      but it could be the latest in a long line of seeming dissenters (Swan on the 1%, Albanese on the metadata laws) who are permitted, within reason, to moan publicly in the interests of ensuring that the party doesn’t seem to the electorate to be uniformly gormless and craven, and to further the bipartisan project of pretence that there is a real choice between the major parties. Still, she has cleared her throat on refugees and the NatSec state too so maybe she’s the real deal.

      It’s better than nothing I suppose.

  6. sleepy

    Bibi is a liability. He’s not the face that many westerners including Jews like to see for Israel. Mind you, I said Bibi, not his policies.

    What Israel needs is a hip, young cool guy for PM. A kind of transformational PM who can mouth the platitudes in a nice speech, all the while continuing the same policies of ethnic cleansing and terror against Palestinians as his predecessors.

  7. Kevin Carhart

    Giants win series. Whee.
    Good time to run some Dave Zirin reporting or this David Zlutnick piece about the concession workers:

  8. Oregoncharles

    The party in power in the Senate does not need the “nuclear option” to change the filibuster; it can do so by majority vote at the beginning of each Congress – ie, next year.

    So the kayfabe is even worse than you thought.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      They don’t even need to bother with the rules.


      50 Senators plus the VP is the only requirement necessary for legitimacy. Yes, they can choose to perform arcane rituals to their hearts content, but 50+VP is as binding as 100 Senators sacrificing a virgin for a bipartisan tax cut for the rich.

  9. just me

    When is paper paper? When are your papers your papers? That thing from the EFF reminded me of some videos I’ve seen recently about the beginning of computers and the internet from people who were there. Pardon the length of this, but it did take effort to find these clips again, and they do make kind of a circle:

    Like tearing the wings off a 747
    Ted Nelson, Personal Digital Archiving Conference 2011
    https://archive.org/details/PDA2011-tednelson @14:00

    Ted Nelson: In 1960 I started the Xanadu project whose objective was to improve on paper. How do we improve on paper? Obviously by showing and creating, representing the connections that every writer wants to have. What is a parenthesis but a thought trying to wriggle free off the page? What is a footnote but an errant thought that wants to tiptoe away and hang out? Where should a footnote be? Some people argue that it should be at the bottom of a page. Some people argue that it should be at the end of the chapter. Uh uh. It should be on the side. We should have documents which are side by side by side. However, in 1974 came something called Xerox Palo Alto Research Center, and while I naturally respect many of the things they did, I also think they did some terrible things which everyone has celebrated as triumphs. On the Alto computer they had all kinds of fonts, and that was hypnotic, it was beautiful, it was candy. And what did we lose? Structure. Engelbart’s NLS system had overlay links, which our group evolved independently, overlay links not embedded but on the side, which allowed the content to be approached cleanly, and then at Xerox PARC instead they went for fonts, so Chuck Simonyi had the Bravo project with fonts and took it away and it became Microsoft Word, and John Warnock at Xerox PARC created the Interpress project for printing and then he took it away and started Adobe and now we have PDF. So what did they do with the computer? They imitated paper. (slaps forehead) They imitated paper! They didn’t try to improve on it. That’s like tearing the wings off a 747 and driving it on the highway as a bus!

    Don’t be a moron
    Jaron Lanier “First thought, best thought” at Chapman University 2014

    Jaron Lanier: So what I want to talk about is a couple of my personal memories of the, uh, the stations along the way to the fall from grace. I’m going to just tell a couple of little stories that I think capture some of the ideas. Around that same time or actually I think a year or two earlier, when I was a kid, I was around Xerox PARC a fair amount, and…there was this weird thing at Xerox PARC. They had networked computers, they’d invented ethernet, so they had all these machines that were networked, and they also had an interface that resembled what we now think of as a Mac or Windows interface, right, they made up that stuff. And so there was this strange (laughs) – when you were dealing with information, you could cut, copy or paste. But the thing is, every young computer science whiz kid knew that if you had a connected network, you had no reason to copy because the original was still there, because it’s a network. And so if somebody didn’t get that, you’d say, “What kind of Neanderthal are you? Don’t you understand what digital networking means? The original is still there! Plus it’s better than just being there, you have its context and its history, you’ve preserved some of its provenance, you get more meaning than you would have if you just had it in isolation. So the whole idea of cutting, pasting and copying is the stupidest thing in the world! You should use a reference to it. Read these Ted Nelson books.” You know? That was – and so these graduate students from Stanford were also at PARC and they hustled me aside into a corner, kind of forced me, and said, “Don’t say that!” “Like, why not? It’s the most obv—this is the stupidest thing in the world! Why are you guys copying documents? Why?” And they said, “We – are – sponsored – by – a – copying – machine – company!” [audience laughter] “Everything has to be framed in terms of documents and copying them. Get it. Get with it. You’re going to have to go for funding someday soon. If you want to grow up in this environment, don’t be a moron.” I’m like (hands on head) “Oh my God, I totally blew it.” Like a Xerox person almost heard me say those forbidden words. So there was this bizarre way in which we started off the art of usable user interface by copying the previous paper-based world of information processing, which itself was based on copying onto new copies of paper.

    No, let’s look it up in a dictionary
    Brewster Kahle, Media Giraffe Project 2005
    https://archive.org/details/MediaGiraffeProjectBrewsterKahle @14:00

    Brewster Kahle: What’s going on with copyright is criminal. What I would give to go back to the world that I grew up in, where before the 1976 Copyright Act, and, oh, and then the Digital Millennium Copyright Act and the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension. These things are travesties of education and how to run a culture. But what we had in the –

    Q: Why?

    Brewster Kahle: Why. It used to be that if you wanted copyright protection, you had to put a little C on it, right, and you had to go and send a copy into the Library of Congress. Then, the federal government would help you protect your copyrights, because you had gone and submitted something such that when it was out of the copyright, it would then be free, because it was put into a public repository. All of that changed in 1976. Everything became copyrighted. You spit on the ground, the look of it becomes copyrighted. Everything became copyrighted. It was NUTS! Even things that didn’t even belong in the whole copyright regime suddenly became copyrighted. So we took a very small number of works before ’76 and then made billions, untold, everything became copyrighted. It was a spread of regulation that would be frightening to those that believe government should be small. But anyway, we let it happen. And then copyright started to even do more in the digital world. Not only was copying under copyright, but they redefined the word “reading.” And I’ve had lawyers look me straight in the eye and go and say, “Reading is copying.” And it’s like I’m talk– I’m reading George Orwell! It’s like, “No, let’s look it up in the dictionary. Reading is not copying.” They say, “Oh, no no no. Reading is copying because we said so in the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.” If you read something online, then that requires making a copy, according to them. That means that it’s covered under copyright. So you could go and pull something from circulation. It used to be, when I was growing up, you bought a book, you could give it somebody! You could loan it out! You could put it in a library. But now, with libraries with copyrighted works, you can’t even allow someone to read it, because suddenly that’s copying, and, of course, everything is copyrighted, and you’re not allowed to do that without written permission. This makes – no – sense. It’s no way to run a culture.

    Mail, folders, files, documents, cut, paste, copy, read…

    “When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
    “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
    “The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

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