2:00PM Water Cooler 11/19/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Obama immigration plan may expand the temporary Optional Training Program for foreign graduates of U.S. colleges [Bloomberg]. The key paragraph:

Unlike the H-1B visa program, companies aren’t required to pay prevailing industry wages to foreign workers employed through the temporary training program.

Obama plan said to be an extention of the 2012 Dreamer Plan: Work permits, no deportation, and not ObamaCare, or other needs-based Federal programs like food stamps [New York Times]. Announcement might come Thursday, with barnstorming trip to Vegas Friday [Reuters].

Nevada has 210,000 undocumented immigrants make, or 10.2% of the population, the highest share [USA Today].

Obama, 2011: “With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case, because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed” [WaPo].

Republican operative says Reagan and Bush executive actions on immigration are not the same as Obama’s [The Atlantic]. Well, he would, wouldn’t he? I dunno. We’ve already seen a policy of “Say, how about we just not enforce the law?” from the administration with ObamaCare; the suspension of the employer mandate, for example. Or the NSA, under both Bush and Obama. So here we go again.

What happens when the boot is on the other foot, a Republican administration takes over, and decides to gore a Democratic ox by “suspending” the Voting Rights Act or Title IX? With Hamlet, I’d consider: “Use every man after his desert, and who shall ‘scape whipping?” Meaning: If the excutive enforced every law, without discretion, the country would grind to a halt. But we seem to have crapified the idea of discretion and replaced it “because we can.”

So, systemically, this whole episode seems to me to simultaneously strengthen arbitary executive power (which both parties like) and strengthen their abilities to screw the others’ constituencies (which again they both like) or, in the case of banksters, collude in never screwing each other’s constituencies (because ka-ching). I don’t know what the answer is, here, but for the leadership of either party to solemnly proclaim fealty to “the rule of law” going forward is ludicrous. Na ga happen, ceteris paribus.

Healthcare.gov doesn’t allow you to upload a Green Card [Reuters].

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

“The End of the Snowden Affair” [Just Security]. As USA Freedom Act dies in the Senate. If only we had a massive document trove of nefarious deeds by the NSA that had not yet been published!

A noun, a verb, and 9/11. Now for the entire US Senate! [The Intercept]. But Congress is “irrelevant” anyhow, Greenwald argues: What matters is individuals refusing to use service that compromise privacy, the actions of other countries, U.S. court proceedings, and individuals using encryption. Hmm. If Greenwald includes the courts in what’s relevant, I don’t see how he can call Congress irrelevant, given that Congress passes the legislation on which Courts rule.

“Why I Don’t Support USA Freedom Act” [emptywheel]. I agree. After Obama got done with it, it wasn’t even half a shit sandwich.


More from Mark Paffrath: He photographed “several dozen” DHS vehicles. And before firing, Jim Bohnert, Director of Security for Drury Hotels Company first told him he’s endangered a “$150,000 contract” with Drury Hotels, and only then called him a “terrorist” [Argus Streaming News].

So, finally: Anybody who gets in the way of the ka-ching! is a terrist. Good to know. Bohnert’s a former St Louis PD officer and a former Secret Service agent (and presumably not “former” because of any hooker eruptions). Paffrath’s reaction: “so apparently I’m a terrorist lol” [Facebook]. Indeed.

‘If you do not have a gun, get one and get one soon’: The alarming online chatter between Ferguson’s own cops and their supporters ahead of Michael Brown shooting grand jury verdict [Daily Mail].

I think the “waiting for the Grand Jury” mindset has had destructive consequences, among them distraction from general systems issues in the St. Louis area, and defaulting the narrative to various forms of ammosexuality, official and unofficial. Hopefully local reformers are smarter than local notables like Governor Nixon, which should not be hard.

“[T]he people of Ferguson are capable of determining their own actions rather than following a script placed before them” [FDL]. Yes, with caveats above.

Jon Belmar, St Louis cop in Unified Command leadership, says no rubber bullets have been used [The Guardian]. Not a good beginning:

Sid Heal, a retired commander in the Los Angeles police department and an authority on the policing of crowds, said that while the balls [of pepper spray fired at crowds] were not technically bullets, they were one of the few commonly used crowd control projectile to actually be made of rubber. “You can tell the truth and be misleading at the same time,” said Heal.

“Staggering” disparities in arrest rates by race [USA Today].

Boarded up storefronts symbolize economic vulnerability in place long before August [Quartz].


President Pena Nieto warns of plans to destabilize Mexico [La Prensa]. Irony alert?

Helpul advice to Pena Nieto: Enforce the rule of law [Wall Street Journal]. Irony alert?

President’s wife to sell new opulent home, fails to address conflict that money to buy home came from her employer, under contract to the state where her husband was governor [New York Times]. A sop.

Hong Kong

Masked protesters who smashed LegCo doors disavowed by Occupy Central [CNN]. Alex Chow: “The act last night didn’t coordinate well.”

3000 officers to clear Mong Kok [South China Morning Post].


Secretary Hillary Clinton World Map [McClatchy; map at CTR]. Whatever her accomplishments were, they don’t seem to have been lasting. Of course, Kerry is Kerry.

America the Petrostate

Landrieu’s Keystone bill falls one vote short in Senate vote [Times-Picayune]. Left (for some definition of “left”) collects scalp? But taking Kos as a proxy for the left (I know, I know) it doesn’t look like that’s the approved framing [Daily Kos].

Obama could still use Keystone as a bargaining chip [Reuters].

Stats Watch

Housing starts, October 2014: Numbers continue to “oscillate” [Bloomberg].

EIA Petroleum Index, week of November 11, 2014: Inventory builds on imports; refinery demand strong [Bloomberg].

News of the Wired

  • Yakuza involved in Japanese construction industry: Film at 11 [Vice]. Still, check out that dude’s missing little finger. And this construction is for the 2020 Olympics….
  • Spanish prosecutor to seek four criminal charges against Artur Mas and ministers on Catalan referendum vote [The Spain Report].
  • Five Thai students held for three-fingered ‘Hunger Games’ salute at military-installed Prime Minister [BBC].
  • Anonymous art students paint over Prague’s Lennon Wall to make room for “messages from a new generation” [Reuters].
  • More Uber tracking incidents [Talking Points Memo].
  • Mashable editor Jim Roberts on how Mashable covers the news [GigaOm].
  • Arts and letters [Woods Lot]. Interesting aggregator….
  • Designed by Apple in California: Wage fixing conspiracy [Bloomberg]. 64,000 workers including software and hardware engineers, programmers and other technical staff.

* * *

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 (craazyman):


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. McMike

    Re Yakuza. Interesting conundrum should Yakuza seek to enter “respectable” businesses in a more open way: what to do about the missing fingers.

    Like US gangs who want to recruit moles for law enforcement, they need to catch them before they get all tatted up.

    1. Howard Beale IV

      Surprised that Yakuza dude didn’t get a prosthetic pinkie; that’s a big business over there for just this kind of reason.

      1. sufferin' succotash

        “That’s what they get for f***ing around with yakuzas!!” — The Blood-Spattered Bride.

      1. Vatch

        I was really out of touch. Until I saw that link, I had no idea whether North West is a boy or a girl. Now I’m well informed on this important topic, just like the average American!

  2. Max

    Here is the great speech from Steve Albini about the current state of the music industry and why he’s hopeful for the future. Readers will probably find his description of rent extraction by the record labels interesting, as well as the ways that both artists and fans are circumventing labels to form networks to promote creative output. Albini is a vocal (and often controversial) figure in underground and DIY music and has been involved in the creation of literally thousands of albums from bands large and small.

    1. Yonatan

      He provides an excellent dissection of the statement “we need to make this [digital distribution over the internet] work for everyone”.

  3. dearieme

    “Nevada has 210,000 undocumented immigrants”: if they know how many there are, “undocumented” must have some arcane technical meaning.

  4. susan the other

    Pena Nieto is maneuvering to declare the protesters of the 43 to be terrorists. He is a consummate kleptocrat.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Anybody who gets in the way of the ka-ching! is a terrist.” Dear Lord! These monsters have already forced that poor woman, the Preznit’s wife, to divest herself of a mansion!

  5. dannyc

    Racial gap in US arrest rates: ‘Staggering Disparity’ USA Today.
    I’d like to hear how Bill Black would interpret these figures.

  6. EmilianoZ

    Researchers put the dishonest banker hypothesis to the test. Published in Nature:


    Contemporary commentators have attributed these scandals to the financial sector’s business culture but no scientific evidence supports this claim. Here we show that employees of a large, international bank behave, on average, honestly in a control condition. However, when their professional identity as bank employees is rendered salient, a significant proportion of them become dishonest. This effect is specific to bank employees because control experiments with employees from other industries and with students show that they do not become more dishonest when their professional identity or bank-related items are rendered salient.

    1. grizziz

      Thanks for the link.
      With quotes like this:”The reality is many members of Congress don’t care how it is administered until somebody squawks about it. They don’t read the statutes, so how do they know how it is going to be administered.” how is Congress going to get their favorables higher?

      1. Procopius

        I don’t understand. Why would they want to get their favorables higher? They seem to be doing just fine as it is, with congressmen considered a little less admirable than journalists and pedophiles.

  7. Banger

    Interesting Whitney article in Counterpunch–worth reading.

    Opium smuggling up again and the USG that has been running Afghanistan for quite a while is complicit it the drug trade just as it has been since before WWII. Everywhere you look when you look just a bit beyond the MSM propaganda picture you seem massive criminality among the U.S. authorities and leading men (and a few women). How long is it going to take before we realize that this is an illegitimate regime and it’s not just a matter of “bad” policy or “mistakes were made”?

      1. Eureka Springs

        Yeah, one of those two probably works for a living, produces something.

        More to the point… of course! The Yakusa isn’t the only criminal enterprise involved in everything from drugs to FIRE.

    1. James

      Depends on what you mean by “regime.” The Obama regime was hardly the first to discover the advantages of playing both sides of The War on Drugs. As to the overall point, if “We the Peeps” didn’t object during the Reagan sideshow in the 80’s, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll suddenly muster up the bile to do so now.

      1. ambrit

        As fast as the Powers are criminalizing everything, “We The Peeps” is quickly becoming “We The Perps.” When that feat of legerdemain is completed, the bile ducts will be overstressed.

  8. ambrit

    Curious sign of the times today. Gold and platinum are trading at the same price. Platinum having lots of industrial uses, its’ drop in price tells us something.

  9. Danny

    The temporary guest worker trainee visa reminds me of what happened Saipan during the nineties with bad abuses by employers that took advantage of temporary visa holders. I can imagine that occurring here. :-(

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