2:00PM Water Cooler 11/3/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


FIrst, let’s look at the Senate, since it’s the horse race that everybody’s all excited about. (The recent back and forth between parties is not the norm [WaPo].) Currently, the Senate is 53 D to 45 R. Hence, a swing of six is needed: 45R + 6R = 51R (or 53D + 2I – 6 = 49D). Here’s the math for an R “path to victory”:

Seats States
A) 3 of 3 (MT + SD + WV)
B) 3 of 7 (AK[1] + AR + CO[2] + IA[3] + LA[4] + NH[5] + NC[6])
CAVEAT: Rs must hold onto KS[7] + KY


[1] Polling in AK is notoriously bad.

[2] Democrats threw anti-frackers under the bus, now beg for turnout.

[3] The R has a winning personality, despite the Agenda 21 thing.

[4] Democrats could force a run-off if no candidate gets a majority.

[5] Incumbent could lose to Cosmo pin-up boy and carpetbagger Scott Brown.

[6] Home of Moral Mondays.

[7] If silverback R Pat Roberts doesn’t pull it out against sleazy private equity D mole Greg Orman, the Rs will need 4 of 7 in row B).

Polling for the table above from Real Clear Politics aggregations; scenario from WaPo. Here’s Nate Silver. And Sam Wang. And The Upshot.

The Runoff Scenario is fun: Ds outperform, and control of the Senate rests on two states where run-offs are forced if no candidate gets a majority: LA (Landrieu v. Cassidy) and GA (Nunn vs. Perdue) [McClatchy]. Personally, since I’d prefer an utterly dysfunctional and non-performing Senate which can’t pass either Fast Track or any kind of Grand Bargain, I find this scenario most appealing. While it doesn’t strike me as likely, the final batch of polls of the “bitter electorate” shows the race tightening in NH, IA, and CO, with runoffs likely in LA and GA [New York Times]. So as that all-important row B) in the above table erodes, the Runoff Scenario becomes more likely. And here’s a huge wrap-up of Senate, House, and Governor’s races [New York Times].]

As for me, I’m not bitter. I’m pissed and disgusted clear to the bone. And just as in Hollywood, nobody knows anything [FT, “Unpredictable midterms show the limits of election forecasting”].

With the horse race out of the way, let’s look at more appealing institutional and electoral factors and true facts:

Common voter suppression tactics: Election date change, intimidation, arrest threats, changes in polling locations and hours, “do not vote” mailers [Talking Points Memo].

Contributions to state judges have a higher ROI than contributions to legislators [Atlantic].

States are returning to paper ballots and abandoning electronic voting machines [The Hill]. That’s excellent news for the long-term credibility of the electoral system.

Tales of R oppo [Bloomberg]. Why is it that Rs just seem to want it more?

Remember when ObamaCare was going to dominate the campaign? It’s not [NEJM]. Here’s an interesting nugget:

In this shifting political environment, poll results show that support for the principle of universal coverage is lower among those who are likely to vote than among the public as a whole. About 4 in 10 likely voters (41%) support the principle of universal coverage provided by the federal government, as compared with 47% of the general public (HSPH–SSRS, 2014; Pew, January–February 2014). Among likely voters, a majority (56%) do not believe it is the responsibility of the federal government to make sure all Americans have health care coverage (HSPH–SSRS, 2014).

If you take support for universal coverage as a proxy for strength of “the left,” that means the left is staying home.

It’s the President, stupid [New York Times]. At least in off years.


Corrupt D thug Cuomo hopes to boost turnout by threatening the base [New York Post].

Zephry Teachout as the David Brat of the left [American Conservative].

Cuomo name “remains golden” [New York Times]. Dynasties work, don’t they? I wonder if Cuomo can arrange a grandchild by 2020.

MoveOn desperately promotes the Working Families Party after Cuomo dekes it into endorsing him and then tries to kill it [New York Observer].

Hawkins: “Cuomo, if he was going to ban fracking, he would have done it by now” [The Villager]. Yep.

The Cuomo administration also promised the most transparent administation ever [Post-Star].

Smart Schools Bond Act for computer technology that could be obsolete before the bonds are paid off. So why not just buy equipment with the interest you’d otherwise pay on the bonds? [Times Herald-Record]. Or here’s an idea: Instead of a reach-around for Silicon Valley and the banksters, why not just pay teachers more? Putting a computer in the classroom teaches kids whatever in exactly the same way as putting a piano in the classroom teaches them music.

Stats Watch

Gallup US Consumer Spending Measure, October 2014: Spending for household incomes > $90K up; < $90K flat [Bloomberg].

PMI Manufacturing Index, October 2014: “Confirms expectations for slowing in the upcoming ISM report” [Bloomberg].


Feds agreed to no-fly zone around Ferguson because the local police wanted to keep news helicopters away [AP]. Paradoxically, I would say, that helped the protesters keep the movement local and organic. However, anybody who thinks Our Betters aren’t watching and acting on Ferguson just as they did with Occupy needs to think again.

America The Petrostate

Deepwater Horizon spill left an oil bathtub ring the size of Rhode Island on the Gulf sea floor [Outside].

Obama’s energy and environmental policies, such as they are, boost R chance in hydrocarbon states [FT, “Obama’s energy past hurts Democrats in midterms”].

#Citizenfour Reviews

As a film, it’s a mess [Pando Daily].

“Can Snowden be freed from those he trusted?” [Cryptome].

A detailed look at the Laura Poitras milieu, and her documentary film-making techniques [The New Yorker]:

The heart of the film is the hotel room in Hong Kong, where Poitras finds emotion in the small moments that give “Citizenfour” the human truth she’s always after. Even when the pace slows to the verge of boredom, the footage is mesmerizing, because we are watching a private encounter of great political significance unfold.

News of the Wired

  • Hollywood as a case study for the knowledge-based economy [Economist].
  • How to break away from the article and invent new story forms [American Press Institute].
  • How Shakespeare described the collapse of feudalism and the emergence of capitalism [Guardian].
  • Heidegger’s notebooks published [Foreign Affairs]:

    As the notebooks make clear, Heidegger was far from an unthinking Nazi sympathizer. Rather, he was deeply committed to his own philosophical form of anti-Semitism — one he felt the Nazis failed to live up to.

* * *

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 (Mrs. Mop):


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. cwaltz

    Why would universal coverage people show up for Democrats? After all it was the Democratic Party, not just Obama, that took single payer “off the table”(I’m looking at you Rep Pelosi.) It makes absolutely no sense to stick up for a party that has made it clear they have no intention of listening to you. The fact that the universal coverage folks aren’t supporting Democrats are the first sign of common sense I’ve seen among the left. It’s politicians job to be responsive to an electorate, not the other way around. The Democrats can either learn that or become obsolete. Personally, I don’t care which they do.

    1. sufferin' succotash

      “Butbutbut, filibuster, 60 votes, Obamacare was the best we could get, etc., etc.!”
      Well, it was the best Dems could get, given that they didn’t have the guts to kill the filibuster via parliamentary ruling when Obama first took office. Failing to do that meant only that they didn’t want to win.

        1. Jagger

          Well, it was the best Dems could get, given that they didn’t have the guts to kill the filibuster via parliamentary ruling when Obama first took office.

          If the Dems had got rid of the filibuster, I wonder if Obama would have been able to get the grand bargain through and started the gutting process of Social Security? Obama did his absolute best to chip away at Social Security. Election time is here and I still remember.

          1. cwaltz

            They’re going to hang that grand bargain over our heads. I wonder if the GOP is willing to committ political suicide this go round to get it done. Lord knows Ryan is chomping at the bit to steal those BK workers rretirements right out from under them(all the while complaining that they don’t paaaaay taxes.)

    2. James

      Better they become obsolete IMHO. They’re mucking up the works by pretending to stand for something. Wanna identify the Rs for the rapscallions that they so clearly are so that even their idiot followers can’t deny it? Get the Ds out of the picture so the light can truly focus on what’s left and just watch them cockroaches scurry.

  2. wbgonne

    Democrats threw anti-frackers under the bus [in Colorado], now beg for turnout.

    Yes, Mark Udall betrayed the environmentalists to run on . . . abortion. Can you believe the eff-ing stupidity? Well, neither can the big donors:

    Then, finally, came the only reference to policy in Udall’s speech. “And by the way, I’m proud to stand with Colorado’s women,” he said, almost as an aside. “I’m proud to stand for reproductive freedom.” An angry voice from the crowd jeered: “That’s not the only thing you stand for! Jesus Christ!” Udall turned to a short, dark man on his left. The senator look genuinely stunned. “I’m sorry?” “That’s not the only thing you stand for!” The heckler was Leo Beserra, a 73-year-old who made millions on Wall Street and, since the early 1990s, has shared a generous slice of that wealth with Colorado Democrats. Beserra’s grievance – that the senator’s narrow focus on abortion has backfired – is shared by others in the party, but rarely voiced in public and never in the midst of the candidate’s campaign speech.


          1. Jagger

            Harry has enough money, he doesn’t have to worry about anything except kidnappers and lone assassins.

      1. Jagger

        Or like Chris Chistie, just use insulting fighting words and put that heckler in his place. Of course, Chris Christy has two hulking bodyguards standing directly behind him and state police moving rapidly on the heckler. Yep, insulting fighting words for Christie are easy when he knows he doesn’t have to fight. How anyone could vote for that guy, I have no idea.

    1. Propertius

      He also ran ads on David Koch ;-) For some reason none of that was enough to make me ignore the fact that he voted for telecom immunity in 2008 and came out for chained CPI.

  3. Marianne Jones

    Regarding the Wikipedia entry for NC, I rewrote the first paragraph using what I consider to be introductory style and tone. Improvements always welcome if an NC reader thinks that the introduction is missing something or that my grammar / content stinks. Also I updated the citation method to conform with Wikipedia citation standards rather than embedding URL references in full form in the paragraph text. The upside of using proper citation standards is that reading / editing the HTML will be easier in future since URLS are no longer cluttering the text. The downside of this change is that I removed themes from the intro indicated by previously provided references. IMO those themes make a better body paragraph rather than an introductory idea. See this link for how to create remote references :


    1. Ned Ludd

      If you went to a restaurant, would it be okay to criticize the lasagna if you have never made lasagna yourself?

      1. hardWorkingBee

        Although only a few may originate a policy, we are all able to judge it.
        Pericles of Athens, as quoted by Karl R. Popper on The Open Society and Its Enemies.

      2. Synapsid

        Ne L.,

        Samuel Johnson pointed out that he didn’t have to be a cabinetmaker in order to criticize an ill-made chair.

        That’s a broad back to shelter behind.

    2. Everythings Jake

      Pando seems pre-disposed to reflexively attack all things Greenwald or in Greenwald’s circle. One of my concerns with the Ames’ crowd, is that they seem particularly married to judgment once rendered. Ms. Poitras was a well-respected, award winning documentarian in her own right well before her partnership with Greenwald in the Snowden documents. She is hardly an extension of Greenwald. She has, as well, been a victim of particularly disturbing treatment by Homeland Security, so much so that she relocated to Berlin from fear. One imagines this informs her world view. None of this makes the film better or worse of course, but Jones discusses none of this, and I hate this review isolated from context frame that too often takes hold in mainstream reviews. Sometimes failures are as instructive in a filmmaker or other creative professional’s life as successes, and some context would make for a fairer valuation.

      Jones’ piece begins to descend to character assassination, particularly when she takes on Scahill. Does anyone really think we aren’t better served by his reporting? In fact, if you look at the history of the “Dirty Wars” documentary, Scahill was initially disinterested in the framing of it, but was convinced by a filmmaker friend that it would grab greater attention for it. That’s a call that might not satisfy some evident desire for indeterminate purity on Jones’ part, but many of our greatest have understood what you might get by in a well-told story can be meaningful (by way of example, “Arms and the Man” is a charming parlor comedy with a very serious, important and devastating message at its core, perhaps more relevant today than when it was written). A working film scholar should offer better than this.

  4. katiebird

    It’s weird that after all these years of living in Kansas, I suddenly find myself in a swing state. I just wish I could tell what we’re swinging too. I have no enthusiasm for Orman’s campaign or what it would mean if he wins.
    I guess my “throw the bums out” theory would have me hoping for an Orman victory and I guess it does. Really, I’d just like to see the heads explode if Roberts loses and Orman caucuses with the Republicans.

    I’m also hoping that we’ll dump Gov. Brownback and get the Dem., Davis. as governor.

    Our phone has been ringing off the hook for months with calls from pollsters. But, we haven’t answered any of them. Does anyone? Who ARE these people who have the time to respond to all those calls? Do they actually vote?

    1. wbgonne

      Democrats are so bad they can only win by backing non-Democrat candidates. That isn’t winning: it is losing in an especially embarrassing manner. Democrats are now the third choice in a two-party system.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        Can we just acknowledge that this is all just complete kabuki, that we have one corporo-fascist party with two different color banners, that the party formerly referred to as “Democratic” has given up all pretense of representing the will of their constituency, whether it’s to stop foreign adventure wars for profit or restore privacy rights and basic civil liberties or prosecute bank criminals or fight for health care, decent wages, retirement, and education, you know, all that stuff that actual people need? Instead we get Manchurian Candidate Obomba, and next we’ll get Herr Hilary, Rupert’s choice, for the next lovely phase of endless war, more fracking, yet even more unprosecuted Wall St crime, decline in living standards, and decline in net wealth. Excuse me I need to go get violently ill.

        1. skippy

          When both party’s operate under the supervision of corporatist plutocrats, w/ only ID branding vestige tails, the citizen is reduced to a marketing data point in some meta data Skinners box.

          Give em what they want…


          Skippy… Competing MBA and Advertising departments is what… you got…

          1. juliania

            I was so ticked off by phone calls from strangers requesting me to vote for them (they are strange because they are not Green Party candidates since I have been informed that in my state such are a vanishing species like turtles) – that I deleted a call from somebody telling me I had been chosen to receive $7,000 worth of something before he could explain where I would have to go and what I would have to do.

            I won’t be able to sleep a wink tonight wondering what I have missed. Darn elections anyway.

            Seven thousand dollars!

      2. cwaltz

        The funniest part about them supporting Independent candidates is one of the arguments their supporters use to veal pen voters to vote for Democratic candidates even when they suck is that third parties can’t win. Surprise! Apparently they can win. You just have to get voters to vote for them. Who knew? Next up, someone will explain to the Democratic brain trust water is wet.

        The leadership must laugh because they have a failsafe way to ensure that THEY get the candidates they want. They can use third parties to support them rather than whoever the Democratic activists picked. So much for that whole primary for more and better Democrats strategy. LOL Just make sure activists don’t use third parties because that would be wrong……… and they’ll never win(except when the Democratic leadership chooses to back them.)

    2. ambrit

      You must be on one of those “engaged citizen” lists.
      Three years ago Phyllis answered a telephone pollster with a pretty Left set of answers. We have never since received a polling call.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Me too; my phone is ringing off the hook with Republicans; of course, I Google the numbers and never pick up. Finally got one call from a Democrat, which I didn’t pick up either.

  5. DJG

    Martin Heidegger, he’s like the Bill Clinton of philosophers. Constantly being rehabilitated. Constantly spawning new doctoral dissertations. {The instance in Hannah Arendt’s life when the heart had reasons that reason could not understand.] Yet here he is again: Heidegger, the mean-spirited authoritarian, debating Plato, the conservative ideologue, endlessly. In these days of baroque thinking and postmodernist classifications, I’m not sure that revelations of his anti-Semitism will have any effect. He’s an industry now.

    1. DrDorje

      You seem to believe that Heidegger needs rehabilitation and, moreover, that its precondition is a form of decadence: inauthentic or corrupted intellectual trends (“baroque thinking and postmodernist classifications” or “industry”). What a peculiar conception of the discipline of philosophy—or intellectual history, for that matter. For many of those who are acquainted with Heidegger’s writings, his antisemitism comes as no surprise: Heidegger’s thought has always been marked by a profoundly reactionary tendency. But that does not at all rule out value in studying his work, just as Plato’s contempt for democracy or Locke’s defense of and legal and financial advocacy of the slave trade do not foreclose the value in studying theirs. To suppose otherwise is to capitulate to the very tendencies you bemoan, viz. fashion and marketability.
      Moreover, “new doctoral dissertations” is rather redundant, isn’t it? The compulsion to produce something novel arises within the higher education market, not from the various subject matters under consideration. What complaint have you about the subject matter doctoral students settle upon? Ironically, your cynicism strikes this reader as reactionary, which is to say anti-intellectual and anti-democratic.

  6. Banger

    And now for something completely different–my wife and I went and saw Birdman and we both were amazed–really good kick-ass movie. Smart script first-rate acting and a strong bit of surrealism/magical realism and other arty stuff but not too much and it all worked wonderfully, IMHO. Keaton laid it all on the line and is one of our great actors. I rarely see movies I thoroughly respect and this was one of them.

    1. montanamaven

      Can’t wait to see it and I trust you as a reviewer since I like all your comments. Michael K, by the way, is a neighbor. Good guy. Glad to see him get a role he really deserves.

  7. Andrew Watts

    RE: Citizenfour

    Snowden may not care what happens to his famous self but I bet he cares about what could happen to his girlfriend. The Russian government is not filled with nice people even though they appear to be doing a nice thing. Yeaaah, that particular circumstance is screaming “leverage” to me.

    1. optimader

      Snowden is useful until he isn’t. The maybe not the sharpest tool in the shed GF is collateral damage.

      1. Andrew Watts

        Somehow I doubt that’d be any consolation to her family. I was actually hoping somebody was going to tell me I was paranoid and/or worrying about nothing. Epic fail.

        1. hunkerdown

          Fishing for reassurance among hard-nosed realists is not generally a winning strategy. Just saying.

          1. Andrew Watts

            Regardless, I was hoping somebody would disagree with the sentiment that Snowden’s American handlers are completely out of their league. After everything that’s happened they thought it was a good idea to gift wrap the girlfriend and ship her over to Russia?

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              The U.S. MIC is an unregulated and arcane bureaucracy which has recently been led by dolts like Dubya and Obozo and possesses unlimited funding.

              With Obama’s war on whistle blowers (or criticism), these organizations will follow any other organization with the same attributes. They may be evil, but competence requires empathy (know thy enemy…see) and not growing too secure in a position.

              The Russians might be competent because they actually have to deal with us and are facing oversight from Putin at least.

    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      If you want reassurance, Obama effectively declared war on Russia at the UN in the eyes of the average Russian. Snowden and his gf are like the sports teams the President congratulates whether he likes the sport or not. I doubt Snowden had anything Russian intelligence didn’t predict. There won’t be a reset button with Russian relations for at least a decade. The Russian people won’t tolerate it.

      At the same time, Snowden isn’t Thomas Paine. He isn’t a viable political threat to anyone not aligned with outsider oligarchs.

      Americans and western mic toadies are the larger threat.

      1. James

        Snowden merely caught an untimely pic of US MIC leaders’ miniscule pee pees peeing in the snow. The Russians are rightfully laughing their asses off at the US MIC’s embarrassment. The US MIC, like any miniscule membered bully caught in the act, is dutifully enraged.

    3. James

      The Russian government is not filled with nice people even though they appear to be doing a nice thing.

      Not necessarily disagreeing with you, but you know this how? Because your government, who had their own axe to grind, told you that for how many years? I’d be a little bit more concerned with ours if I were you.

  8. montanamaven

    Regarding “Agenda 21”. There is the whacky Tea Party people’s version of what they think Rio was all about. In our little town they are sure that building a park will bring the UN to take their guns. On the other hand, there really might be something to the insidiousness of Agenda 21. Read The New Internationalist story on Rio + 20.
    Another story in that 2012 issue was called “Eight Great Greenwashers.” Seizing control of the movements is what corporations are really good at.

  9. amateur socialist

    I really enjoyed Harry Shearer’s wide ranging interview with Stephanie Kelton on finance/banking/deficits etc. in the 2nd half of his weekly program Le Show where he has also interviewed Yves on earlier episodes. It’s not downloadable from his site yet but can be downloaded free from the iTunes Store. Recommended.

  10. LaMarchaNegra

    FYI “Eileen Jones” is the alias John Dolan uses to write movie reviews. That’s John Dolan AKA Gary Brecher AKA The War Nerd. And have you ever noticed how he’s never in the same room as Mark Ames?

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