2:00PM Water Cooler 10/6/14

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By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Hong Kong

After a quiet night, government offices re-open [NPR]. But although the crowds at Admiralty are thinner, they have not dispersed [CNN].

“LIVE: Dispute over details as Occupy students, officials push for dialogue ‘this week'” [South China Morning Post].

China’s anaconda strategy takes shape [Independent], as Hong Kong is betrayed by China, and abandoned by the British [Guardian], as the Chinese periphery watches with interest [New York Times].  And is the point at issue really democracy, or Hong Kong identity? [China Matters].

If a young Hong Konger applies for a job at your firm, see if Occupy is on their CV. Then hire them [Finance Asia]. And credit their Filipino nannies for their discipline and politeness? [GMA News] (who, one might add, have the opportunity to vote for their government, as their employers do not).

And a view of the protests from Old Hong Kong [WSJ].

2014 and 2016

Axelrod says Obama made a mistake — is that even possible? — by saying his policies were on the ballot in the midterms [WaPo].

A scenario for how the Democrats could “run the table” for the Senate in 2014 [McClatchy]. 

For example, in Kansas, where an actual Democrat was swapped out for faceless “no labels”-style private equity (!) dude Greg Orman, running as an independent [Business Insider]. Orman now leads the — let me be fair, here — crazypants Republican Pat Roberts [Kansas City Star]. In 2012, Orman gave $25K to Americans Elect [Atlantic], a truly noxious organization; see Joe Firestone’s reporting [Corrente].

Another example: If Democrat Michelle Nunn wins in Georgia, we’ll be hearing chants of “the demographics finally kicked in” (translation: We don’t have to get off our butts on policy) from Democratic strategists everywhere [Bloomberg].

The Mittster’s not ready to call it quits [Times].  And why would he? After all, Obama adopted his health care plan.

And the College Republicans remain what they have always been, since the Rove days [Bloomberg].

The twelve couples who have responded to every Clinton ask (including Ready for Hillary) [Bloomberg]. I love the anecdote where Bill Clinton gives away George Bush’s putter.


During the intermission of a performance of Brahms Requiem by the St Louis Symphony, 23 protesters sitting in various parts of the auditorium stood up and sang, “Requiem for Mike Brown” [WaPo]. (A thoroughly appopriate action, IMNSHO.  Listen.)

Our famously free press is framing this as an “interruption”, but the music was not interrupted and indeed some of the concert-goers applauded, as did some members of the orchestra  [St Louis Post-Dispatch]. The symphony broadcast continued. The protesters left, but the St Louis Symphony publicist says she wishes they had stayed [KSDK].

Would be nice if this idea spread to Philly, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston … After all, there are many Mike Browns.

In Ferguson itself, the cops continue to arrest peaceful protesters [Southeast Missourian].

There will be four days of organized protests starting this Friday. Meanwhile, no arrests in the case, and the grand jury report has been pushed back to November [USA Today].

The Great Game

Aren’t Germany, Moscow, and China natural allies? [Alternet].

ISIS’ ammo comes from US and China [New York Times]. Ammo’s fungible. Who knew?

Have the Hong Kong police learned the lesson of Tahrir and Maidan? [Bloomberg]. Pause for a moment to reflect on reading that headline in a finance source. Note also the curious omissions….

Measuring people power. With chart [The Economist].

The Real Economy

S&P 500 spends 95% of earnings, or $914 billion, on share buybacks and dividends. “The reluctance to raise capital investment has left companies with the oldest plants and equipment in almost 60 years”  [Blooomberg]. It’s clear that America’s overclass decided to stop investing in this country years ago. And the results are everywhere to see.

Then again, who knows? Maybe consumer spending can drive the economy even without any private investment [Times]. Well, maybe not, given cripping recessions [WaPo].

UPS will put 3D printers in 100 stores [New Scientist]. No, no, there are no investment opportunities in the United States except for cellphone startups.

Startups: “In an inflated market, everyone feels like a steroid-adjusted baseball player” [WSJ]. And as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance.

Scrappy upstart Reddit gives its remote workers a week to decide whether to move to San Francisco or leave the company [Short Logic].

How the “creative class,” “service class”, and “working class” divide up cities. With handy map [WaPo]. Richard Florida is at it again. In fact, they’re all wage workers. So they’re all working class.

Stats Watch

Gallup US Consumer Spending Measure, September 2014: Average spending down, but this is usual from August to September [Bloomberg]. 

Greed and Fear Index: Fear still extreme, down 1 to 4 [CNN].

Rapture Index: Down 1 on floods [Rapture Ready].

News of the Wired

  • “Your site has a self-describing cadence” [Hunter Walk]. UX people take note!
  • Automated hypothesis generation [Economist]. “I think you know what the problem is just as well as I do.”
  • An actual use case for digital glasses, from Epson: Assembling Lego blocks, as a proxy for an augmented workplace [Engadget].
  • The women who programmed ENIAC because tech dudes in the 1940s thought only hardware mattered [NPR]. And who were promptly erased — not “forgotten” — from official history [New York Times]. 
  • The Sioux Chef presents a 1491 menu in Minneapolis [Identities.Mic].
  • Thousands of new microbes in soil sample of Central Park [Daily Mail]. “‘The soil microbes in Central Park benefit us, benefit soil health, and are linked tightly to the beauty of the trees and other plants we see,’ said Professor Diana Wall.”
  • “19 Maps That Will Blow Your Mind” [Flowing Data].
  • Snowflake-shaped networks are easier to mend [New Scientist]. And given that almost any social or political phenomenon can be represented, or designed, as a network….
  • An epic Philly building collapse [Philadelphia Inquirer (Paul Tioxin).
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s new headquarters is a former insane asylum [Failed Architecture].

* * *

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, from the Long House Botanical Garden (John Newman):


As readers know, I have a soft spot for Botanical Gardens. This shot shows a pleasing vista.

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

    The 2014 HHS budget summary, released today, lists $1.33 billion for CDC biodefense and emergency preparedness activities, down $48 million from the 2012 level. That includes $658 million for Public Health and Emergency Preparedness grants to the states, an $8 million decrease.

    Also, the proposed allocation for the Strategic National Stockpile of emergency medical supplies is $510 million, which is $38 million less than in 2012, according to the budget summary. And the listed amount for the CDC’s core preparedness and response capability for public health emergencies is $166 million, down by $1 million from 2012.

    ATLANTA—During a brief, impromptu press conference at the agency’s headquarters this morning, Centers For Disease Control director Dr. Thomas Frieden announced that Americans should start making plans to say goodbye to loved ones right away. “Citizens are advised to bid farewell to parents, children, and any other friends or family they haven’t seen in a while,” Frieden told reporters, adding that if you live anywhere in the Northeast, you should definitely call within the next 48 hours, if not by tonight. “If you have any unresolved emotional issues with any family member whatsoever, now is the time to work those out—I mean right now, because there will not be another chance. You don’t want any regrets.” Concluding his statement to the American public, Frieden said, “Dad, I love you. And I’m so sorry you never really got to know your grandson.” dang ole onion ‘))

  2. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

    If Democrat Michelle Nunn wins in Georgia, we’ll be hearing chants of “the demographics finally kicked in” (translation: We don’t have to get off our butts on policy) from Democratic strategists everywhere

    Michelle Nunn’s father also said his daughter, the Democratic nominee for Senate, has little obligation to support Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., should Democrats maintain the chamber in November – given that Reid, in the spring of 2013, asked her not to run for Sam Nunn’s old seat.

    “They said they had their eye on another candidate,” Sam Nunn said. Presumably, that other candidate would have been U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, whom many Democrats were attempting to lure into the contest at the time.
    John Barrow makes Michelle Nunn look like a socialist. So of course, they’d have rather run him than M. Nunn, who is pretty right-wing already. And of course, the DCCC is spending big bucks to send Barrow back to the House where he can vote with the Republicans some more. One hand washes the other…

  3. wbgonne

    Well, rooting for the Black Sox is never fun but this time Democrats are something else. The Democrats are running quasi-Republican challengers like Grimes and Nunn along with quasi-Republican incumbents like Begich and Pryor, with the coup de gras being Mary “Big Oil” Landrieu in line for Senate Energy Chair, salivating at the thought of finally selling her state once and for all to Exxon. Huey Long would be appalled and so am I. I hope Landrieu loses.

    A few random thoughts: 1) Does a GOP Senate make it more or less likely that Obama gets his Grand Bargain and insidious trade deals? 2) As noted, when Democrats can’t beat even “crazypants” Republicans (see also FL governor) with one of thier own I’d say the brand is officially in the toilet (thanks, Obama); 3) Do you think the GOP, if it were the putative Progressive party, would have rejected an attractive celebrity candidate like Ashley Judd for a gun-totin’ coal-lovin’ good ol’ girl like Grimes?

    1. RWood

      #1 such is painful to watch, and the door is opening
      #2 “brand” is; “party” died a long while ago
      #3 dunno

    2. Peppsi

      Question 1 is interesting. There seem to be more democratic individuals against it than republicans, but what does that matter anymore?

  4. grizziz

    “Madness and Method at St. Elizabeths” is just too much a ‘laugh or crack’ moment. The un-cunning bureaucrat chooses to scale his own metaphor of the DHS protecting the inmates of the nation down into the building where he operates. Whereby he will adopt the means at hand, which were originally prescribed to deal with madness and apply them back towards society which will increasing appear crazy. No? What happened at Abu Ghraib between the times of Saadam’s torture and the Occupation’s torture.

  5. Or Dorner

    Anent Ferguson, it’s nice that the subject population is restive, but you don’t expect the people of North Korea to rise up and overthrow their regime. What you need is pressure from the outside world. Same here.

    More proof that the closest thing to a functioning government you’ve got is in Geneva. Reviewing US compliance with the supreme law of the land


    Highlights include: re pigs blowing black guys away:

    The Committee urges the State party to:
    (a) Ensure that each allegation of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials is promptly and effectively investigated; that the alleged perpetrators are prosecuted and, if convicted, punished with appropriate sanctions; that investigations are re-opened when new evidence becomes available; and that victims or their families are provided with adequate compensation;
    (b) Intensify its efforts to prevent the excessive use of force by law enforcement officials by ensuring compliance with the 1990 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, and ensure that the new CBP directive on the use of force is applied and enforced in practice;
    (c) Improve the reporting of cases involving the excessive use of force, and strengthen oversight of and accountability for inappropriate use of force; and
    (d) Provide, in its next periodic report, detailed information concerning investigations undertaken into allegations of excessive use of force by law enforcement officials, including the CBP, as well as their outcomes, including disciplinary or prosecutorial action taken against the perpetrator and remedies provided to victims or their families.

    The outside world finds it necessary to do a lot of this, holding the US to the rock-bottom minimal standards of the civilized world, just as they would do for any other collapsing third-world shithole.

    . http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/LawEnforcementOfficials.aspx
    . http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/UseOfForceAndFirearms.aspx
    . http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/VictimsOfCrimeAndAbuseOfPower.aspx
    . http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/RemedyAndReparation.aspx
    . http://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/ArbitraryAndSummaryExecutions.aspx

    The civilized world has been rubbing the US government’s nose in these obligations for at least a decade. Funny how you never hear about them in our famously free press.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Weird. Putatively empowering (look at that link dump) yet actually disempowering (“restive” “subject population”). Perhaps in future they will be able to live up to your high standards. I prefer to think of the Ferguson protestors as having agency, and exercising it, thank you very much.

    2. Sufferin Succotash

      Who knows? Maybe bombing will make us change our evil ways and stop us from killing our own people.

    3. jrs

      The reason the North Koreans don’t rebel may have something to do with the fact they live in a totalitarian state. And the U.S. is also a repressive state, of course. To a lesser degree? I’m not always so sure. There is also propaganda, a repressive state with a massive propaganda aspect, but may as well not minimize the repressive part.

      The protestors act with agency, in their here and now and out of who they are. But whether it is enough to actually change the situation objectively, I don’t know. Agency != actual power. So I really appreciate it when people mention the condemnation this stuff gets from the rest of the world.

      1. hunkerdown

        US totalitarianism is just so finely honed that we simultaneously pat ourselves on the back for it and deny its nature. To us, it is just “the order of things”, spoken with the cocksure confidence, that There Is No Alternative, betrayed as bluster over fear by just a little too shrill an edge on the word “order”.

        Protesters act with agency, unquestionably. But is the world they seek to act within supported by the cold hard facts on the ground and the will to prevail or bust? Are their actions those that will bring about the outcomes they seek, or just more wankery in the beigeista ripoff of Heaven, where everyone is a disembodied brain with eternal life, peaceably sparring forever under the adoring eyes of their master, Conventional Wisdom? Are they Wile E. Coyote zooming off the edge of the cliff almost caught up to their objective? (Prolly.)

        1. JGordon

          US totalitarianism is not so much finely honed as it is overly rich with resources. The US uses its vast military and economic empire to import an outrageous portion of the worlds energy and material resources, and uses much of that to pacify the plebs.

          When that outsized access to those resources is lost, for whatever reason (whether depletion or revolution), the velvet glove will slip off and the iron fist of the state will be revealed to everyone, as it is already being revealed to the poor and to the minorities today. This is a familiar pattern to those who are familiar with the history of Rome. This time is not different.

  6. abynormal

    then there’s this Ebola issue…sent to me from a friend 6min. ago:

    “When i came back to korea from thailand there was a special cubicle set up before we entered customs to check for ebola (black people only).”

    1. Paul Niemi

      Aby, great job you are doing following Ebola. Here is a chilling idea: the disease is so dangerous, that the only people who will safely be able to care for the sickened, are the few who have survived the illness itself. Especially in Africa, the survivors will be the only people who can work around the ill and the dying, because they will have become immune to the virus.

      1. ambrit

        Much the same as in any other pandemic. Some groups in West Africa have a genetic immunity, while the survivors should have developed antibodies to render them safe from re-infection. However, I read that there are five main strains of the Ebola virus. No one knows with certainty if developed immunity to one strain confers immunity to all strains. It’s still early days with this disease.

  7. Paul Tioxon

    I’ve just recovered and apparently have lost over 3 hours of my life, that I cannot account for because my mind has been blown by the 19 maps, flowing more data than the human nervous system can perceive much less process consciously. Apparently, the only thing that I remember from this Oceanic Experience of Oneness with Data, is that there is a new terror threat emanating from South Philadelphia: Beware of Italian ISIS!!

  8. The Dork of Cork

    Just got back from a anti water rent gathering in Cork.
    The socialists as usual frame this as a class conflict but are the only people talking the talk and organizing at a local level so you follow their teachings to some extent.
    The classes are in conflict alright but in the ecosystem (glasshouse) of false scarcity.

    Talking to a conservative publican after the event ( I rarely talk politics or economics in the pub) she was still locked into the system of we must pay for services now provided by systems which are anything but local (cork corporations previous activities have now become a non local tax and subsequently a non service so as to increase profits,)
    People still remain unable to grasp how the non provision of services increases profits.
    Me thinks they are lost in a sea of propaganda.

    The cork corporation guys who at one time drinked in the pub are long gone.
    She was unable to equate the loss of purchasing power and her subsequent decrease of business activity with this strange act of saving money within the now non local privatised infrastructure.

  9. LifelongLib

    “they’re all working class”

    IIRC Orwell thought their should be one union that includes everyone who has to be afraid of being fired (“fears the sack”).

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yep. Brings the power relation right out front. Twenty years, tops, and all these creative class types are going to end up like adjuncts. Remember when the universities had real professors?

      1. Washunate

        The general shift to temp work is unfortunate, but higher ed is one of the more insulated industries so far. According to the government’s own OES numbers, 1.5 million post secondary teachers make an average annual wage of about $75K. That’s a lot better than most jobs. And of course economics, law, and medicine pay higher than the overall average.

  10. alex morfesis

    ah yes philadelphia…basciano..the mobster that took down my family in new york…I hope he is not stupid enough to walk in front of me one day when by brakes fail in the car I will be driving…how is this dog still alive…I apologize to anyone who has been victimized by this devil worshiper since then…should have accidented him years ago…

    1. Synapsid

      As I recall, W C Fields had a joke about a contest that had as first prize a week in Philadelphia and as second prize two weeks in Philadelphia.

  11. (And)Or Dorner

    I am sitting here pointing to my nose at what jrs said. To me 3:46 says nothing whatever about the character of the population, only about the utterly undeveloped and totalitarian nature of the state. To aver that development requires external pressure means simply that the US is, in the current term of art, a weak state – not failing, but only because it has repressive capacity sufficient to compensate for the protective capacity it lacks. The state does not meet its responsibility to protect, but then almost all the violence is committed by the state itself. Civil society can probably do a lot – iff it’s done not with bullshit NACCP theater but with the CRC-style internationalism of Patterson and Du Bois, the no-nonsense stuff that was so ruthlessly suppressed back in the day. And in fact, We Charge Genocide is an NGO now, and they’re not wasting their time with the Toms of the Congressional Black Caucus, they’re going over their heads to Geneva.

    Monsieur S. seems to be bridling at some perceived condescension, as if comparison to North Koreans were an insult to the US population. But do you think North Koreans buy the Juche? I certainly don’t. Their diplomatic elites are in general more sophisticated than US bureaucrats, and the average Jo has lots of subversive folkways, you’d be surprised. The Chinese are in there all the time, and they can poke hilarious fun. The subject population is however no match for state repression, and they know it. That is no indictment.

    Very interesting.

  12. jgordon

    The plant photo was exposed really well, which can be difficult in that situation. Anyway, if you play with your aperture settings you could get the trees in the background and some of the foreground stuff to blur out, depending on your lens.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I fight with that all the time, because I use an iPad (believe it or not) with an attachable lens kit. I am constantly looking for more depth of field, because I think that accords more with my experience of the natural world and also will better at capturing whole systems. f64 for me!

  13. Jeff W

    From that China Matters piece:

    The ugly and problematic face of Hong Kong democracy agitation is local chauvinism, expressed as detestation of the hundreds of thousands of mainland “locusts” who descend on the city to offend locals with their uncouth behavior, birth their children in Hong Kong hospitals to gain resident privileges, drive up real estate prices, compete for jobs—and pump billions into the local economy.

    The ever-perspicacious Hemlock comments just today on his blog Big Lychee in a post “City Rejoices at Retail Sales Slump”:

    The propaganda [i.e., a story in today’s South China Morning Post of a 30–40% slump in retail sales during the national holiday last week] tells us that Hong Kong’s economy – its people’s prosperity – is reliant on ‘tourism’, which effectively means Mainlanders coming here to shop. It certainly looks and feels that way when you walk around the Nathan Road/Argyle Street area and see three branches of Chow Tai Fook jewellers crammed among its competitors’ outlets on just one side of a 100-yard stretch of road. The implication is that without the Mainland-oriented stores, this would be a wasteland and the shop staff would be jobless and starving. But of course that’s not true: go back a few years and the area was full of diverse shops and restaurants serving local consumers. Mainlanders’ demand (diverted from their home cities by sales taxes and product-quality concerns) translates into higher rents for landlords, but no net material benefit for ordinary Hongkongers – indeed, if anything, they suffer from higher rents, more crowding, fewer stores meeting their needs and fewer opportunities to start up a business themselves.

    (Coincidentally the deputy head of public relations of Chow Tai Fook, which had shut 20 stores during the protests, resigned today after she mocked via her Facebook page Saturday evening those who had been beaten or molested by anti-Occupy crowds. Chow Tai Fook has said her words do not represent the company’s views.)

  14. Benedict@Large

    It’s clear that America’s overclass decided to stop investing in this country years ago. And the results are everywhere to see.

    Why do we always seem to need to phrase these things as some sort of us-against-them conspiracies, when an ordinary explanation will do? No group of elites got together and said, let’s stop investing. What happened is that the fundamentals changed, and everyone noticed. The real question then is what changed about the fundamentals (and who changed them and why)?

    What changed is monetarism. This is what monetarism looks like. Monetarism is effectively a gold standard without the gold, and like a pure gold standard, monetarism sucks the vitality out of an economy by denying it the REAL money economies need to grow. Monetarism does this by confusing credit and money, and in doing so, makes the banks more important that the federal government. The problem is that this view, while much liked by the banks, is wrong, and “the results are everywhere to see.”

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