2:00PM Water Cooler 11/18/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“Ready for Warren” [WaPo]. (And Wall Street really needs to do better defending Antonio Weiss than this. “Experience,” sure, sure, but “experience in what?” is the question.)

Sanders coy on Colbert [WaPo].

Democratic sources expect Clinton announcement in January [NBC].

Already, we’re talking the “electoral map” [Salon]. Where’s that melon baller? I need it for my eyes.

2014 Fallout

Pelosi unanimously re-elected as minority leader [WaPo], as iron law of institutions continues operative.

Dana Milbank on the “tea party of the left” [WaPo]. Without the squillionaire funding and breathless press coverage, of course.


Protests spread to Hispanic community in US [NBC San Diego], and Latin America [Telesur].

Celebrities speak out [Latin Times].

Three caravans to congregate in Mexico City November 20, day for which national general strike has been called [Al Jazeera] (#YaMeCanse; #AyotzinapaSomosTodos). Not clear on the leadership of the strike, or local expectations. Readers?

Caravan of relatives of 43 students stopped and searched by military and immigration officials (?) as they enter Oaxaca [Prensa Latina].

It’s the neo-liberals, stupid [Fox Latin News].

Nearly 60 percent of Mexicans work in the informal economy, and around half its population lives below the poverty line.

Jason Marzack, a Latin America researcher from the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., told FNL, “In [Mexican President] Peña Nieto’s first two years in office, he’s done a remarkable job of putting reforms forward, but most of the benefits of these reforms aren’t being felt. The energy, electricity and telecom reforms should create jobs, but the benefits are a few years away.”

Gee. That sounds familiar. I wonder why?


Nobody counts police killings in the U.S. [St Louis Post-Dispatch]. What we don’t measure, we don’t want to manage.

Roundup of Ferguson coverage; good background [St Louis Public Radio].

Michael Brown: Missouri governor activates National Guard [BBC].

Anonymous vs. the KKK [ZD Net].

“Pants Up, Don’t Loot” [Talking Points Memo]. Stay classy, National Review.

Governor Nixon activates National Guard, establishes “Unified Command to protect civil rights” under St Louis Metropolitan PD [WaPo].

Hong Kong

Some portions of Admiralty “cleared” after suit by state-owned Citic, Ltd.; most untouched [Roydon Ng].

Mong Kok to be “cleared” after suit by taxi and bus operators [Japan Times]. Poll: Two-thirds think students should leave sites; half say government should make concessions.

Stats Watch

PPI (producer price index for final demand), October 2014: Monthly headline inflation up 0.2 percent vs. expectations of 0.1 percent down. “Inflation remains sluggish at the producer level on an average basis” [Bloomberg]. Services and food outweigh slump in oil [Bloomberg]. And the rise could be a “statistical quirk” tied to gas prices [Business Insider].

Redbook, week of November 15, 2014: Steady for the week, up year-on-year, down month-on-month, but November sales are back-loaded to Black Friday [Bloomberg].

Housing market index, November 2014: Up 4, best reading of the year and the “recovery.” Regional data shows wide gains led by Northeast [Bloomberg].

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

On the USA Freedom Act, best lead ever: “For those charged with gathering the information our government needs to keep us safe, the news has been grim” [WSJ]. Laurel & Hardy, Vladimir & Estragon, Mutt & Jeff, Hayden & Mukasey….

Obama administration “strongly supports” USA Freedom Act [National Journal]. Triple H & Shawn Michaels

Imperial Collapse Watch

About that pivot to Asia [Asia Times]

The whole Eurasian landmass is likely to become a Chinese economic zone, especially now that Russia is more amenable to Chinese terms. That the Americans would have helped bring this to fruition by tilting at windmills in Ukraine baffles the Chinese, but they are enjoying the result.

We seem to be killing fewer children with drones [New Yorker].

News of the Wired

  • “It’s just it’s just it’s just…” [Salon]. That Rosetta mission shirt.
  • Philae comet lander finds organic molecules [Space Flight Now].
  • Best abstract ever: “Naivety about promiscuous, assay-duping molecules is polluting the literature and wasting resources” [Nature].
  • Apps are killing the web [WSJ]. No they’re not [rc3]. The Internet interprets apps as profit and routes into them.
  • Disposable cellphone batteries made from cardboard [Fast Company].
  • Report: Nation’s Gentrified Neighborhoods Threatened By Aristocratization [The Onion].
  • The clock tower against the condos [Atlas Obscura]. I’m for the clock!
  • Chair of Senate Republican Conference admits some climate change is anthropogenic [Business Insider].
  • ISIS’s numismatic ambitions [The Atlantic].
  • Salaita files suit against University of Illinois [Chicago Tribune]. Background from Corey Robin.
  • Google automates caption creation for images [Google Research Blog].
  • Jaron Lanier on the myth of AI [The Edge]. “The distinction between a corporation and an algorithm is fading. Does that make an algorithm a person?” Important piece.

* * *

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:


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. dearieme

    I saw someone referring to Hellary as “Hitlery” the other day. I thought that was a bit over the top. Wouldn’t just “Ms Cattle Futures” do?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Meme commentary:

      Your suggestion is actually much better, IMSHO, because it makes a tie to corruption evident.

      The tie is also iron clad, as opposed to a great wave of random media sewage in the 90s that still functions as hate triggers. In general, I could do with fewer memes left over from the Republican strategic hate campaign during their impeachment saga — call me finicky, but sixth-grade-level smuttiness leaves me unenthused, not to mention a strong strain of truly vile misogyny — and more memes crafted to fit the actual topics covered by this blog: “Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power.” “Cattle futures” does just that. “Hitlery” does not.

      Since I don’t favor relitigating the 70s, I’m fine with both “Ms” and pantsuits; and in any case using “Ms” as snark feeds into the sexism and misogyny crapola, which I don’t want to reinforce in any way and especially don’t want to have to moderate for, since this is a family blog; snark like that comes under the heading of “Any stick to beat a dog.”

      “Preznit Cattle Futures” might work. One wonders, too, whether the cattle futures were “inevitable” or not. Come to think of it, I guess they were!

      Thanks for asking (seriously).

      1. psychohistorian

        Yes, that was the precipitation for my initial use of the term, as I recall.

        That said, I will attempt to rise to the challenge of poetry with my visceral contempt for the woman.

    2. Jagger

      Glenwald had a really scathing article on Clinton here:


      Here is a good line describing Hillary:

      “As a drearily soulless, principle-free, power-hungry veteran of DC’s game of thrones, she’s about as banal of an American politician as it gets.”

      I have been having a lot of trouble getting on the site here the last few weeks during the morning. Something grabs the memory until it locks up. Close the window and memory useage drops like a rock.

  2. dearieme

    “That the Americans would have helped bring this to fruition by tilting at windmills in Ukraine baffles the Chinese”: no wonder they’re baffled. What Nixon brought about has been tossed away by those plonkers Clinton, W & O.

    Mind you, “tilting at windmills” is rather a mild description of American mischief in the Ukraine.

    1. grizziz

      Listening to 3 PM’s of the 5 ‘eyes’ crooning with Obomba at the G-20 about that bad-boy Putin, no wonder Russia is pivoting to China. (I’m sure John Keyes of New Zealand would have joined the chorus had his economy been large enough to be given a spot.)

  3. McMike

    Milbank piece a very annoying bit of sophistry – death by strawman.

    The 350 argument is not about enforcing “purity” for God’s sake. It’s about seeking Democrats that have positions that aren’t Republican.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I thought it was an interesting sighting shot.

      My own Senator, Angus King, just came out against Keystone. So it is to be hoped that Mary Landrieu pays the price….

      1. McMike

        Hmm. I confess that I stopped reading at the third use of the term “purity.” But the section I read sure didn’t come across as a trial balloon. It read to me exactly like a set-up for complaining that fringe crazies were trying to drag Landrieu into left-of-middle suicide.

  4. cwaltz

    China must be laughing their asses off at us. First they benefit from Iraq and now they’re going to benefit from us alienating Russia. They must be waiting with bated breath to see where our Laurel and Hardy State Dept. and DoD decide they should interfere next.

  5. grizziz

    Go back to the Jaron Lanier piece at the Edge, re-read it and tell me what is important. The jump from SCOTUS sez corporations r people to Lanier sez corporations are algorithms, therefore algorithms r people is not impressive. Many of the algorithms are granted property rights already. We are already concerned that elites use the corporate form to extract rents through our general consumption. The essence of Big Pharma is molecules, are molecules to become people, too!
    If you find a coherent argument in the article please post it.
    thank you

    1. Lambert Strether Post author


      Many of the algorithms are granted property rights already


      Lots of stimulating ideas (or, to use your phrase, “coherent arguments”). Search on “paucity of content,” “measurement and manipulation,” “behind the curtain,” for starters.

      1. grizziz

        Umm, software copyrights. Your entry about piece yesterday about Jonathon Gruber, “What Gruber had going for him was software that he owned; a “micro-simulation model.” Not an algorithm?

        It is not news that big tech is trying to capture our attention and maintain it within its respective garden. I believe AOL tried it first. Finance and Economics are constantly trying to use applied mathematics and big data and fuse it with a good narrative and charts! And, I just checked, “the Wizard of Oz” is not available for streaming on Netflix! Mythology and religion and ethics, oh my! The Frankenstein of AI, where should I hide?

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          No. Persons are granted property rights in algorithms. That’s not the same as raising the possibility that algorithms could be granted property rights as persons, which is one of Lanier’s issues.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          No. Persons are granted property rights in algorithms. That’s not the same as raising the possibility that algorithms could be granted property rights as persons, which is one of Lanier’s issues.

          The paucity of content at Netflix — as opposed to the abundance that Netflix markets, and people assume, to be there — is exactly Lanier’s point.

          Please give consideration to doing more than skimming the piece yourself, before issuing orders to others about reading it.

          1. grizziz

            Point taken, I see D. Lentini below enjoyed the wide ranging interview.

            Even, if there were a perfect substitution between an algorithm and a corporation, I doubt that a legislature or court would conflate that the legal existence of either entity could be separated from the human being to whom the rights and duties finally reside.
            Is it possible? Always, the law is another human invention.

          2. lightningclap

            Lanier is a rare bird, being that he was an early pioneer in tech, but is one of the only ones to question the dominant Silicon Valley religion. His articles and books address some valuable ideas on morality and philosophy surrounding tech, but his writing is not as well-organized as the average commenter here.

    2. psychohistorian

      Here is an example of, IMO, a coherent thought that I found in the article:

      “To my mind, the mythology around AI is a re-creation of some of the traditional ideas about religion, but applied to the technical world. All of the damages are essentially mirror images of old damages that religion has brought to science in the past.”

      The hubris of humans that created religions is the same hubris that thinks that humans can create something that is not a reflection of themselves, i.e. AI. We are not gods and it is way past time we accept that reality

      1. grizziz

        Yes, your example is a coherent thought and an interesting claim. To be an argument you support the claim.
        Claim: AI is [like] a religious idea
        Claim 2: Religious ideas damage scientific ideas
        Next paragraph;
        Support 1: “There’s an anticipation of a threshold, an end of days”
        Redefinition: “This thing we call artificial intelligence, or a new kind of personhood.”
        Support 2: “If it were to come into existence it would soon gain all power, supreme power, and exceed people.

        It goes on to reveal that the supports are a straw man that he knocks down, but intimating that there is a vulnerable population of unknown size believing in the end of days. Really, got a poll on that?

        1. psychohistorian

          What are you smoking?
          I am sorry but I can’t make any sense out of your comment.
          Do you believe in AI?
          Do you believe in religion?

  6. DJG

    Annals of racial insanity: In the article about the KKK versus Anonymous, the Klansman-in-charge bears the surname Ancona. Ancona is an Italian surname. Further, it is sometimes an Italian-Jewish surname. As someone of Sicilian descent, which is the very definition of one drop of the “one drop rule,” I just shake my head at such sheer deliberate stupidity. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. psychohistorian


      Just like the economic myth makers of the Capitalism religion, techno-hype types are the myth makers of AI.

      see my comment above to grizziz

  7. Jeff W

    “Some portions of Admiralty ‘cleared’”

    TIME has this take, under the headline ”Hong Kong Protesters Greet Court Officials With Indifference”:

    Nervous looking representatives of CITIC Tower were drowned out by a cocksure protester with a loudhailer as they attempted to negotiate. Nimble young students in hoodies and face masks were also able to seize metal barriers before white-gloved, middle-aged bailiffs could reach them. The students then carried the barriers off to reinforce barricades erected elsewhere.

    Earlier in the day, uniformed and plainclothes police remained on standby as bailiffs read out a court order to smirking students before dismantling the makeshift barricades. But none of the expected clashes materialized. Instead, most demonstrators lazed in the bright fall sunshine, while 18-year-old student leader Joshua Wong nonchalantly skateboarded up and down the road.

    Joshua Wong skateboarding up and down Tim Mei Avenue adds just the right touch of insouciance.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Not sure what the game, or the inside game, is here any more. The dynamism seemed to disappear into infighting among HK billionaires, from whence it has not emerged. But I’m too far away to be sure. What gives?

      I did notice the students setting up voter registration desks. Pretty cool.

      1. Jeff W

        Not sure what the game, or the inside game, is here any more.

        I’m not sure either (although sometime back Peter Lee definitely thought there was an inside game with his “prolonged, sophisticated multi-stage political battle between two resourceful and capable adversaries” talk). I think the dynamism ran into the cul-de-sac of the “going-to-Beijing” idea (which never made a whole lot of sense to me except maybe as a PR move).

        Well, it won’t matter how many voters the students get registered—the functional constituencies can always trump them, if the nominating committee works the way the NPCSC would like it to.

        Carrie Lam sort of flipped the narrative when she said last week that there is no need for further talks—as she noted that the government’s “door to dialogue…is always open”—because the students have “toughened” their stance, which apparently means something like “refused to cave in,” since their stance hasn’t changed at all, as far as I can tell.

        If I were the student protesters, I’d be holding the government’s feet to the fire publicly about living up to its responsibility to represent the populace to Beijing and asking why exactly the NPCSC decision can’t be changed (both those issues were raised at the talks on 21 October). The protesters could keep up that pressure indefinitely. Usually Alex Chow is really good about rhetorical ripostes like that but he hasn’t done it in this instance. (As Hong Kong law professor Surya Deva said a few weeks ago, there’s no legal reason why the government can’t ask the NPCSC to reconsider—it just doesn’t want to. Force the government to say why it won’t, if it won’t.)

        And, in the long run, there are other protest strategies that might work even better than an “occupy” strategy (which has the unfortunate effect of alienating a portion of the populace who might otherwise support the protest). As just one example, Benny Tai was talking in early September about a “shadow referendum” (he’s big on voting); Suzanne Pepper, who writes about Chinese elections, suggested basically the same thing in October: the public nominates its own preferred candidates through mock primaries and referendums and then the nominating committee and Beijing have to deal with it. (If public recommendation were adopted as a formal part of the nomination process, which had been suggested before the NPCSC decision in August, that would obviously be better.) And there are still the pan-dem legislators in Legco whose votes are needed to pass any electoral reform, of which the proposed nominating committee is a part, to be dealt with.

        As the students pointed out in the talks, this fight about democracy in Hong Kong has been going on for 30 years—with the NPCSC decision being viewed as saying, in essence, “It’s not going to happen.” I doubt the pro-democracy side is going to fold up its tents, at least figuratively, and go home. But right now it’s difficult to tell what is going on.

        1. psychohistorian

          I like the idea of creating an online alternate election of government leaders. One not run by the existing duopoly of party we have.

          Maybe we could get the League of Women Voters to hold debates between the online alternative candidates like they used to do before debates became the media message they have become. Create some YouTube videos of the LWV debates and post to bypass the MSM. Would the Greens and other minority parties be interested in having a bigger forum to make their case? I expect so.

          Its time to create a new message process about alternatives to the “social organization” ( I am being polite) we have now. Show me a squillionaire willing to fund such a simple thing like a online alternative political process ………………and I expect to see him dead in 3 weeks or less after preliminary announcement of such.

        2. lambert strether

          I’m big on parallel structures — Gene Sharp’s tactic #198 — so I like the idea of a shadow vote.

          Though a “sunlight vote” might be better framing….

          1. Jeff W

            “Though a “sunlight vote” might be better framing….”
            I completely agree—ditch the shadow talk and go for the sunlight.

            Just for the record: Benny Tai refers to “shadow elections” so “shadow referendum” was my own (unintentional) paraphrase. (He says “civil referendum” in other contexts.)

            I would endorse also some sort of parallel election for our government officials here. With voting in the recent election the lowest it’s been since 1942, something’s got to give.

  8. Keith M

    On Isis’ numismatic ambitions:
    A website I frequent posted a link to a story on this and then asked commenters to come up with names, visual designs, or both for their proposed currency. The best name by far was “Peices of Hate” followed by “100 blams = 1 Kablooey”. No visual designs were good enough to stick with me.

  9. ewmayer

    Re. “what to call the Hillabeest” – since she’s essentially running for a 3rd term for team Rodham/Clinton and both of these lovely people hail from Arkansas (which in many respects is akin to a SW branch office of WVa), my own pet snarkism is “HillBillary”.

    Not that there’s anything especially countrified about Hill – cf. her predilection for late-life NewYawkerhood – but sometimes we have to relent on accuracy in favor of glib snarkiness. Life is a series of compromises.

    1. James

      Love HillBillary and its counterpart BillHillary myself. In a very straightforward and concise manner it conotes the two headed nature of their collective beast, its easily flipped between the two to indicate who’s the driving force in any given situation (BillHillary’s been Prez already, HillBillary still hopes to be), and it conveys that down home southern penchant for using first and middle names in combination.

  10. ambrit

    Re. the Hillary Hate campaign; I do see where there is a mz-nogony at work here. The other case of singling a powerful woman out for “punishment” I can recall is the Martha Stewart insider stock trading “scandal.” At the time, Phyllis mentioned that Stewart was the only person out of a group of malefactors singled out for prosecution. “Uh oh. The big scary Boss Woman gets put back in her “place.”” I can drum op a bit of empathy for the lady. When it comes to policy however…

    1. James

      Sorry, don’t buy it. She trades on the fact that she’s a woman fighting the good fight in a man’s world, even though she’s largely gone out of her way to be perceived as tougher than any man out there. She’s a Clinton and a sellout (redundant, I know) and a leading progenitor of the cult of personality. No quarter expected, none given when it comes to these rascals.

      1. ambrit

        The determining factor here is which demographic is the target for the counter propaganda. General purpose low hanging fruit strategies are fine for mass consumption. If one accepts Bangers iteration of influencing power struggles within a “Deep State” as the motivating factor, more nuanced formulations are required.
        I would not at all be surprised to find out that the more egregious anti feminine attacks on Hillary are false flag actions designed to generate sympathy for her. Throw in the supposed cultural split between the North, West, and South in America, especially where gender is concerned, and this can be seen as a “cunning plan” to preemptively write off the culturally conservative states and drum up some Progressive Solidarity in the rest of the nation in reaction to perceived cultural clashes.
        Us and them, the eternal divide and conquer scenario.

        1. James

          I would not at all be surprised to find out that the more egregious anti feminine attacks on Hillary are false flag actions designed to generate sympathy for her.

          Good point. American politics is a veritable carnival fun house these days. I’ll be very surprised if she gets elected, no matter how it all shakes out. It’s impossible to overestimate the amount of seething hatred she brings out in Red State America, especially following in the footsteps of the Great Circumlocuter Obama and her dissembling husband ol’ what’s his name.

          1. different clue

            If that is so, what hideous gargoyle might the R party faithful choose to nominate?
            Huckabee? Santorum?

        2. different clue

          I have long suspected many of the racial attacks on Obama to be false-flag sympathy-generators. That poster of Obama as Witch Doctor during the Obamacare Town Meeting Season seemed especially suspicious to me at the time, as it does now in hindsight as well.

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