2:00PM Water Cooler 11/12/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Democratic Senator: “This is what you get when you have a drive-through president” [New York Review of Books]. Ouch! Elizabeth Drew thumbsucker on the midterms.

Pew: 59% of Americans think Obama will accomplish little or nothing in in his last two years [Bloomberg]. Good. No TPP or Grand Bargain. And the fight between “institutional” and Tea Party Republicans still smolders [WaPo].

Red state Democrats flirt with Republicans [Politico]. Because bipartisanship!

Rubio and Ryan developing alternative health plan, but there’s no detail [Tampa Bay Times].

Democratic Party rating falls to record low [Gallup]. “On the other hand, the American public does not admire Republicans more.”

“The only wildcard is if Clinton has a change of heart or has a prohibitive health issue” [Roll Call].

Beauty contest for O’Malley, Webb, Sanders held in Manhattan [The New Yorker].


Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team, asked to do independent study by families, says bodies found in mass burial site are not those of 43 abducted Ayotzinapa students [Telesur].

There’s a bunch of mass graves, so it’s easy to get the wrong one [Businessweek]. Father of student: “The worst thing is knowing it wasn’t organized crime that instigated this — this was our own government.”

Teachers vandalize ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party offices, clash with police [La Prensa].

Catholic bishops condemn “corruption, impunity and violence” [Christian Post].


Brown family forensic pathologist to testify before Darren Wilson grand jury [St Louis Today]. Potential for conflict with official autopsy, with issue of whether Brown was shot at close range or not.

No witnesses, no video evidence (despite 2012 DOJ agreement), failed taser time stamps in pre-Mike Brown “fatal shooting of unarmed man” by cop [St Louis Post Dispatch]. Nice to see the libertarians all over this. Oh, wait…

Number of police killings highest in two decades (though could be a reporting spike) [USA Today].

Preparing peaceful protest tactics for expected grand jury decision [St Louis American], with streamers, and video training by Copwatch [FOX2].

Missouri Governor Nixon: “Violence will not be tolerated” [Los Angeles Times]. Just a leetle one-sided, no?

Interview with some of Ferguson protest organizers [WaPo]. Assume the grand jury verdict is no indictment of Wilson. There’s always an asshole, and for all I know something will go up in flames. That’s not the story here. The story is why smart, disciplined, strategic organizers like those interviewed by WaPo don’t have any political power, and buffoons like Nixon and the ammosexual Mayor of Ferguson do.

Hong Kong

Protesters to occupy British consulate? [Agence France Presse].

Jimmy Lai hit by bag of rotten offal [Bangkok Post].

Making tear gas and pepper spray masks from common household materials [Tom Grundy].

Currently only half of the eligible population is registered to vote [Roydon Ng]. “Clearance” of protesters to begin Friday?

Net Neutrality

Facebook, Google, being oligopolies, stay out of the net neutrality debate, which benefits new entrants, not them [New York Times].

FCC’s response to Obama’s “public utility” letter translated by Internet guru [Bloomberg]. If this were Japan, I think the FCC response would read “We will consider your proposal very carefully.” Wait, wait, who was it who appointed a telecoms lobbyist as FCC head?

Imperial Collapse Watch

The U.N. Committee Against Torture grills U.S. officials on “lapses”; Mike Brown’s parents to appear [Talking Points Memo]. State department spokesperson: US “did not always live up to our own values.” In other words, “That’s not who we are.” No, it damned well is who we are. Aristotle: We are what we repeatedly do.

Stats Watch

Forecast by IEA of 10% drop in shale oil investment if oil stays at $80 a barrel, resulting in production decline [Financial Times, “IEA warns low oil prices threaten US shale investment”].

Wholesale trade, September 2014: Steady relative to sales [Bloomberg]. Auto, apparel, hardware fall. Machinery, drugs, and paper products rise.


Gruber grovels [Vox].

ObamaCare needs roughly 17 million enrollees to be sustainable by the end of 2016 [Health Care Policy and Marketplace Review].

Top obstacles facing the administration in this enrollment period [The Hill]. Yeah, like the back end still isn’t done, and it’s hard to comparison shop because the user experience of the website is so bad. But that doesn’t matter much, because the data we’d need to comparison shop isn’t available anyhow.

Class Warfare

Xu Lizhi, Foxconn worker, threw himself from a window in his dorm — say, what about those anti-suicide nets? — but left poems [Libcom]; [London Review of Books]; [WaPo]. Maybe Apple could use some of his poems for startup screens? Like this one:


A screw fell to the ground

Of course, Apple being Apple, that’s probably an extra-pricey screw with a special screwdriver…

Exodus from struggling small towns “might to some extent shore up the middle class” [AP]. So those who stay because of family obligations get kicked down the ladder.

News of the Wired

  • Apples iTunes earnings outside North America largely untaxed [Australian Financial Review].
  • Billionaire Huntsman: I want to be broke by the time I die [Yahoo Finance]. So should they all!
  • Syracuse University puts up wall to block protesters from public view [Post-Standard].
  • FBI agents pose as Internet repairmen in Vegas hotel “ruse” [AP].
  • DOD wants to move some A-10 Warthog maintainers to F-35, mothball A-10s [DefenseNews]. If only there were some mechanism that could adjust the supply of maintainers to the demand for them!
  • Waves of declassified photos and documents from A-bomb development go viral in geek culture [New York Times]. From a zeitgeist perspective, I’m not entirely sure that foreshadows good things.
  • Banksy is probably a woman [Citylab].
  • MH370 suspect had advanced technical skills not available to pilots [International Business Times]. And debris should have appeared on the coast of Australia by now [HuffPo].

* * *

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:


Morning Glories, Cardinal Flowers, and Moonflowers behind Juergens German Bakery & Restaurant in German Village Columbus, OH.

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. wbgonne

    FCC’s response to Obama’s “public utility” letter translated by Internet guru [Bloomberg]. If this were Japan, I think the FCC response would read “We will consider your proposal very carefully.” Wait, wait, who was it who appointed a telecoms lobbyist as FCC head?

    If there is a more cynical and duplicitous person than Barack Obama I hope to god I never meet him or her. I hope he stays in China forever.

  2. willf

    There was not one word in that NYRB think piece on the awful job done by DSCC head Steve Israel, or Debbie Wasserman Schulz. Not one word on Harry Ried’s toxic choice for DCCC or the horrible performance that dem consultants put in, again. That story is missing a large chunk of the picture.

        1. Paul Niemi

          Two days ago I wrote here that the Democratic senators were expelled for nonfeasance, not doing their jobs and really doing nothing. It partly explains why voters wanted to throw the bums out. Now, at least one senator is admitting it. Quoted in Politico, Sen. Claire McCaskill said: “Our caucus needs to take a hard look at the way we do things and make sure we are putting the policy issues first before politics. The habit we got into in doing nothing, no one was happy with that. I hope that we never go back to that.”

          I like Sen. McCaskill. Her performance raking Fabulous Fab Tourre and his cronies over the coals during the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing was something to watch. That is what is needed: plain-spoken outrage, and clear-headed reasoning resetting the moral compass and confronting the illegitimates. I am confident the Democrats will be back, not only because the Republicans typically overplay their hand and go too far when in the majority, but also because owning up to their shortcomings sets the stage for the Democrats to find what works and start doing it.

          1. wbgonne

            McCaskill might be ok if she were in the Republican Party where she belongs. As things stand, people like McCaskill are a cancer inside the Democratic Party.

  3. Jess

    Friend is a retired F-16 jockey. We were discussing the F-35 taking over the A-10’s role for close ground support and his opinion: Not smart. Agrees that F-35 was design-compromised to death, whereas A-10 was built to take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. (Not to mention that it can loiter on station for a long time without needing to undergo a fueling evolution.)

    1. JerryDenim

      Yup, I’ve talked shop with a few A-10 pilots over the years and perused its fearsome design specs myself. That plane is an absolute beast and the best air to ground close support fighter ever made. Its a nearly unstoppable slow brutish flying tank with a super-thick titanium bathtub surrounding the pilot and key avionics with an automatic rotary cannon on the front that can saw a real tank in half. The F-35 is a boondoggle on all fronts. The military has attempted to build a jack of all trades which has resulted in a very mediocre and expensive aircraft which is a master of no particular domain.

    1. Greg Lemieux

      I guess we need to tattoo our hospital preferences onto our forehead, whatever details needed to stay in the network and a legal disclaimer for those that don’t adhere.

      1. Carla

        Yeah, but you’d have to change the tattoo every year when you re-up to your plan (which of course changes every year because profits) or do a switcheroo to a new plan. So that forehead could get pretty damned busy in short order.

  4. DJG

    willf:: The Drew piece at the NYRB is a swamp of liberal-ish thinking. And there’s this: “The Republican lobbyist and respected political analyst Vin Weber.” In Congress in what year? 1986? Then off to become a lobbyist, since moving back to Minnesota is a fate worse than death. And obviously a major source for this piece. Also, a mention of the “devilishly shrewd” Mitch McConnell. And “jiujitsu,” which must be the new word the cool kids are using to replace “kabuki.” So many received ideas, so little time, so much cheesy Orientalism.

    1. trish

      a swamp. yes. god, ACA clear success, republican obstruction and poor obama he made the mistake of trying to work with them because gridlock which had been successfully marketed and trumpeted to the public as something to worry about rather than what the legislation might be and…I made it no further. these people get paid for this?!

      1. DanB

        Elizabeth Drew has been in DC a long time -and this nonsensical “analysis” shows where that has led her. I recall learning a good deal from her during the seventies, but this piece reveals how decadent her worldview has become.

  5. DJG

    “The families of the Ayotzinapa students asked the EAAF to conduct this investigation. The agency has provided international assistance in almost 30 countries. It was created in 1986 with the aim of developing forensic anthropology techniques to help locate and identify the Argentinians who disappeared during the military dictatorship.”
    The EAAF is an NGO. At this point, governments are so uniformly corrupt that they don’t even have anyone who can investigate government activity, all of the inspectors general and attorneys general notwithstanding. Sheesh.

  6. Jack

    Vineyard of the Saker made a really disgusting post today. It was one long rant about western ‘sexual decadence’, as evidenced by ‘feminists’ and ‘gay rights’ (complete with scare quotes). I’ve long understood he has some often strange ideas, but was willing to ignore his frequent bouts of crazy because he was the best source for news in English about what is actually going on inside Ukraine. And unlike Moon of Alabama he’s long openly acknowledged the Russian aid being provided to the rebels, even giving its name: voentorg. But his most recent post is grating in the extreme.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      The smell of genuine crazy comes off that site from time to time, but it’s nevertheless interesting as perspective.

    2. Banger

      Well, he is a kind of Russian nationalist and pious Orthodox Christian so why shouldn’t he criticize something that, from his point of view, goes against his fundamental beliefs? That shouldn’t take away Saker’s excellent reporting. For me anti-imperialism is the key element–whether its Saker and Putin or Ron Paul. At the same time, no, i don’t like the traditionalist obsession with sexual control, patriarchy and the whole traditional view of society and family (we’ve been there and done that and found it wanting) — however, they make some good arguments and they need to be countered with good arguments from our side.

      1. OIFVet

        I can do without the Orthodox backwardness, and I am supposed to be Orthodox. The fact is, the Eastern Orthodox denominations can be every bit as hateful as the local evangelical crazies. Saker really should stick to reporting and leave the moralizing to the bearded lazy fatties in cassocks, It is quite hypocritical of him to support the Novorussians’ right to live their lives the way they see fit and at the same time pass judgement on others who do so.

    3. ArmchairRevolutionary

      1) I prefer to listen to someone that gives me their honest opinion rather than white washing to make it acceptable to other people.
      2) I dislike your use of disgusting and crazy as these are essentially ad hominem attacks that add no real value.
      3) While I do not wholly agree with him, I do think he is somewhat correct; western society is quite sexually dysfunctional.

      1. Kurt Sperry

        “While I do not wholly agree with him, I do think he is somewhat correct; western society is quite sexually dysfunctional.”

        Yes, what we lack is insufficient Eastern Orthodox homophobia and bigotry. Yeah.

  7. Banger

    Gruber’s “apology” for speaking honestly is worse than the remark he made–what a pussy! This is the worse things about these “liberal” elites–they’re cowards, whores and worse. He is just saying that he’s sorry that he told the truth. If he believes, as many sane people believe that, on balance, the American people are stupid (and how are they not going to be that with a fraudulent media and educational system) and easily fooled then that’s good because that is what all political operatives, politicians and journalists actually know to be the case. Gruber should be criticized for his stance on the issue of the ACA not for speaking the truth.

    This is another example of political correctness–we can’t say what we really think or believe that way we can maintain the illusion that everything is just fine and under control so that there is no connection between public and private lives. This is truly insane.

    1. Sufferin' Succotash

      Gruber passed up a good opportunity to double down on his “stupid” statement by pointing out more precisely why the American people tend to be so dense. One big reason: a steady diet of right-wing disinformation, the intellectual equivalent of high-fructose corn syrup.

  8. wendy davis

    Contrast USA Today’s: ‘The number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year — 461— was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report’ to ‘Corporate news reports of people killed by U.S. law enforcement officers May 1, 2013 – Present’ at Killed by Police on Facebook. As of today: 1709.

    The FBI doesn’t require PD’s to report the killings, even though they’ve been mandated to by Congress.

  9. fresno dan


    “Unemployment never reached the levels feared at the onset of the crisis, but the figures highlight that job creation between 2008 and 2014 has been dominated by rising self-employment and part-time work, not full-time employee jobs. Employment increased by 1.08m between January to March 2008 and June to August 2014, but only 26,000 were full-time employee roles.”

    I am skeptical – but if its true, it does show there is a real structural change happening. I know the bars and restaurants I frequent, no wait staff has a full time position – there used to be at least a few at higher end places who had full time positions. Its all 2, or 3 jobs, and on call and no guaranteed hours….

  10. John


    (quote) Assassination rumors
    In July 2012, the rumors of his assassination were reported by Voltaire Network[43] and DEBKAfile[44][45] and later published in Press TV[46] and Tehran Times.[47][48][49][50][51][52][53][54] This news was denied by Arab News[55] and the journalist David Ignatius.[56][57]

    In August 2013 the Wall Street Journal reported that Bandar had been appointed to lead Saudi Arabia’s efforts to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad and that the US Central Intelligence Agency considered this a sign of how serious Saudi Arabia was about this aim.[22] The Journal reported that In late 2012 Saudi intelligence, under Bandar’s direction, began efforts to convince the US that the Assad government was using chemical weapons. Bandar was also described as “jetting from covert command centers near the Syrian front lines to the Élysée Palace in Paris and the Kremlin in Moscow, seeking to undermine the Assad regime.”[22] (/quote)

    Huh? Here’s what I hear, that good ol’e Bandar “Bush” Bin Sultan is largely responsible for the creation of the “Islamic State.”

    I hear he’s been removed from power over the whole kerfuffle, and then poisoned.

    (quote) Removed as head of Intelligence Service
    On 15 April 2014 Prince Bandar bin Sultan was removed from his position “at his own request” according to the announcement in the Saudi state media.[58][59]

    In the summer of 2013, after the U.S., UK and French officials accused Syria’s Assad regime of using chemical weapons against its opponents, Syria, Russia and Iran, countered with assertions that the chemical weapons had actually been deployed by the Syrian rebels themselves in a “false flag” attack designed to bring international condemnation down on the Syrian government.

    Prince Bandar became one focus of these accusations, in particular according to the findings of American news organisation Mint Press News reports of the Ghouta residents;[64]

    Iranian media also have asserted that Bandar was the source of these alleged weapons transfers. (/quote)

  11. NNC! NNC! NNC!

    A nice pragmatic response to USG ass-covering in Geneva. Why waste your time petitioning the criminals, when you can go directly to the legitimate authority of the treaty body?

    These guys measure up to Du Bois and Patterson and the document they evoke.

  12. OIFVet

    Nice light reading for the end of a tough day: Insights on hummingbird travel, life span revealed. It is amazing that these tiny balls energy have such a long lifespan. And the article confirms my unscientific observation that this was a banner year for hummingbirds; my garden had never attracted such large numbers as it did this year, and that is without me doing anything in particular to attract hummingbirds save having two fuchsias in a shady spot. Watching these little fellas come and go made my summer that much better.

    1. ambrit

      That’s curious because admittedly anecdotal information from some hummingbird enthusiasts around Hattiesburg suggests that we had a smaller than usual ‘presence’ of the little balls of lightning here. Someone mentioned a few days ago the shifting of the growing zones. I guess that hummingbird summer ranges are shifting along with them? If so, it’s an unfortunate side effect of global warming for us.

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