2:00PM Water Cooler 12/19/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Elizabeth Warren letter to USTR Froman: “We are concerned that the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) could make it harder for Congress and regulatory agencies to prevent future financial crises” [HuffPo].

Warren and the populist critique [Harold Meyerson, WaPo].

2014 primary wrap-up [Cook Political Report]. It really was a Democratic debacle on every level: Senate, House, and in the states.

Bush v. Clinton [Politico, Bloomberg]. “I am the very model of a Democratic strategist….”

Carly Fiorina hiring for a Presidential campaign [National Journal].

Even if the Democrats don’t want a contested primary, the press does [Bloomberg].

Our Man in Philadelphia [Eschaton].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Police union head advocates “work to rule” [Albany Capital]. Quote: “Our friends, we’re courteous to them. Our enemies, extreme discretion. The rules are made by them to hurt you. Well now we’ll use those rules to protect us.”

Ferguson protesters to visit Cleveland [Plain-Dealer].

Michael Brown’s school district was the poorest and most segregated in Missouri [Pro Publica]. But watch for the charters play.

ACLU sues Ferguson-Florrissant school board on Voting Rights Act [USA Today].


FBI blames North Korea for attack, based on IP addresses, malware used [WaPo].

“[T]here’s not a heck of a lot they can do because one, North Korea doesn’t have an economy, and two, we’ve already got every sanction known to man against them” [Reuters]. So this is all security theatre? Say it’s not so!

Most likely, the Sony attackers got in through spear phishing — an extremely common tactic using fake email that seems to be from someone you know, but that asks for personal information [Agence France Presse]. Once in, Sonys “data was scantly protected with ‘egregious’ flaws such as unencrypted files and passwords stored in plain text.”

I’m with emptywheel: “We owe Sony nothing except law enforcement. Esp given its security negligence” [Twitter].
“The Administration is already twisting itself in knots trying to retroactively include ‘multinational movie studio’ into its prior definition of critical infrastructure” [Emptywheel]. Thats’s what Goebbels believed!

Stats Watch

Kansas City Manufacturing Index, December 2014: Activity continues to expand at a moderate pace, expectations solid. [Bloomberg]. “However, the new orders for exports index fell from 8 to 0.”

Class Warfare

“Privacy as we know it today will become a luxury commodity. Opting out will be for the rich” [Next.gov]. Yikes! Here’s the study, from Pew.

Larry Summers, on the board of Lending Club, collects $28 million in cash and prizes from their IPO, which he can do as the Harvard Director he now is, but could not have done at the Fed [Bloomberg]. So, he has Elizabeth Warren to thank, but if the price of not having Summers as Fed chair is $28 million, that’s cheap.


Payday lenders throw millions at both parties [CNN Money]. When you’ve lost CNN Money….

China National Petroleum Corporation now target of Chinese anti-corruption drive [Reuters].

America the Petrostate

How Dryden, NY beat squillionaire Philp Anschutz in court, and saved their town and state from fracking [WaPo]. Note that other states, for example Ohio, have removed fracking from local control, which was key to Dryden’s victory.

Geologic realities are easy to forget in the midst of a boom [National Geographic]. Our production is Saudi-sized, but our reserves are not, and fracking has a different cost structure from classical oil fields.

Flare at Chevron refinery in Richmond, CA visible for miles, puts neighbors on edge [CBS]. Well, I’d be “on edge” too, given the refinery’s history of explosions and fires. Petroleum is bad, icky stuff that shouldn’t be touched or breathed. We should treat it as taboo and leave as much as possible in the ground!

Cherokee County passes a moratorum on Board of Commissions discussing fracking, although the public may (!) [Citizen-Times].

Our Famously Free Press

Paul Carr on The Racket’s failure to launch [Pando Daily].

Reporting fail on Cromnibus as pension provisions gutting ERISA go unexamined [CJR]. Er, um…. NC readers know all about this.

Twitter co-founder Evan Williams: Following the news is bad for you [Business Insider]. It is “creating anxieties that have no outlet.” That sounds dangerously like TINA, to me. People have “no outlet” until they do, and in fact Twitter, as a bottom-up news service, is absolutely rife with people finding one sort or another of empowerment. It’s all a matter of curation, and since Twitter’s curation tools are miserable — yet another example of executives not understanding the product they created — Williams has created a self-fulfilling prophecy.

News of the Wired

  • The approaching HIPAA horror show with EHRs [CCH Freedom]
  • Ayn Rand reviews childrens’ movies [The New Yorker]. Awesome.
  • Keith Richards is 71 [Uproxx]. Diamond geezer. Still has interests in life, apparently.
  • How to Cheat at Everything: an encyclopedia of cons [Boing Boing]. Wait ’til you get to the summer camp story…
  • “How to build a human” [Tabletop Whale].

* * *

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 (MM):


Readers, I’m feeling more than a little angst over fuel, now that the heating season in Maine is upon me, so any help you can give will be appreciated!

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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. Paul Tioxon

      Amazingly enough, the simple arithmetic of coop economics, dividing by the amount of members whatever costs or surpluses are involved, is a quick way of calculating not only simple the cost, but the real effort to run a business. The capitalist economists calculate only when a business starts to make a profit, even if the business is successfully operating, paying its employees, selling to satisfied customers. paying its taxes and other suppliers, rents, utilities etc. If a coop were operating, it may not pay as much as Apple would if it shared the profits, it may reduce prices to customers. But a capitalist business after paying all costs including labor, if it made no profits would be shut down as a failure. Implicit is that it is only profit making failure, but that alone signs its death warrant. Never mind the jobs and happy customers, the third party of profit seekers is disappointed and blows the whole thing up.

      If a consumer coop operated without ever making a profit, but distributed surpluses to members and gave some bonuses to employees, would that make it a deliberately constructed tax avoidance scheme, an illegal shelter? Of course not. Many cooperatives have been in operation for years that are owned by members who derive the benefit of better pricing for the goods and services the coop provides to them collectively that would not happen individually. The better pricing makes them more profitable and the taxes come from each member as their bottom line improves. But there is an assault in the courts right now against Vanguard by a disgruntled former employee who does not think that cooperatives are a bona fide business model, but rather a deliberate fraud designed to avoid paying federal taxes. The capitalist mindset is socialized so deeply, that it is inconceivable for this ex Vanguard employee to see anything other than tax fraud, simply because the investors in Vanguard are the owners and as the owners have a management company also set up that they control. Because this management company is delivering a service at below market prices, lower than say Fidelity, such an arrangement is an unfair market advantage due to the lack of profit making on the part of the management company. And because the zero profits also disallows federal taxes, it must be an illegal tax sheltering scheme! It never occurs to the culturally limited that there may be an alternative to always be making a profits as a business, as if a business should do what it does, make cars, provide cooked meals, provide insurance and not make money, but simply make the product or the service itself the point of the business! You know, if you subtract the profits from the GNP, we would still have the economic productivity of the economy that is actually production plus profits. So, how necessary are profits to production when coops shows that they are not essential?

    2. Rene

      It’s a nice way to share dividend, but how much would there be to share if Apple would have been a co-op? For one, the problem of scalability is in the article rejected with the example of Mondragon. To my knowledge there is not much left of that experiment. So that among many other problems with co-ops remain relevant. If Apple were a worker co-op… I’d probably be working on a windows pc.

  1. David Lentini


    I couldn’t get the next gov link to work. But the Pew report looked awfully industry-heavy to me. Lot’s of TINA there, because TINA knows how to pay out for the insiders. Couldn’t Pew have tried to find some privacy advocates?

  2. Brindle

    re: Sony

    Excellent comment by Rayne from the Emptywheel link on Sony’s incompetence:

    —“This is like Joe Moron driving a very nice gift-laden car into the neighborhood with state’s highest rate of car theft and property damage, and walking away from the unlocked vehicle while leaving the keys in the ignition, after repeatedly losing cars of lesser value in the same neighborhood, and after multiple warnings from people on the street and from risk management professionals to shut the car off and take the goddamned keys at a minimum.

    Was there theft? Yeah, but the vehicle owner created an “attractive nuisance” (look it up). Someone with this track record of losses shouldn’t expect the public to pick up the cost of their stupidity; they should bear the brunt of their refusal to exercise reasonable care.

    Sony Picture Entertainment’s entire management team needs a drubbing for failing to implement basic operations security across the corporation. They rely on digitized content as the keystone of their business model, but fail to do anything effective to protect it, all the while puling about piracy”.—

    1. hunkerdown

      Also, that the vehicle owner is in fact a drug dealer exploiting the local residents by permission or even at the behest of the local police. Sony, as always, deserves every bit of theft that happens to them.

  3. grayslady

    Thanks for the heads up on computerized record keeping via the CCH article. Ties in well with today’s article in Pro Publica on mandatory computerized records for health care providers to Medicare and Medicaid patients. As someone who had all her medical records stolen when thieves broke in and walked off with a couple of desktop PCs from an unsecured Advocate Condell office, I am particularly hyper about medical privacy. Not only do I object to any government agency other than Medicare having access to my health records, I object to the lax attitudes many hospitals and doctors have to protecting my records. Their ideas of security are worse than Sony’s pathetic “security”. Sharing of my medical records, even among my doctors, should be my decision only.

    1. Dana

      The article had me going until it started defending doctors’ right to discriminate against patients based on their race or sexual orientation. Sure, I know, far right conspiracy theorists have a lot of stuff right, but I just have no need to listen to racists, about anything, ever.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yep. CCCH is on the right. To me, however, the key point is that they don’t make stuff up. I can filter for the ideology. They were sound on the technical issues with ObamaCare’s system architecture when very few [lambert blushes modestly] were.

      2. Dana

        Also, while HIPAA certainly makes my medical records more widely available, it doesn’t make them any less private. Once I file an insurance claim, there’s no legal or ethical confidentiality, and my medical records are just another commodity that’s been traded for decades.

  4. hunkerdown

    There’s almost a good case for Sony Pictures being a legitimate part of the state security complex — if we saw the email threads evincing the CIA’s extensive involvement in Triumph of the Will, Part Deux Zero Dark Thirty, Leni Riefenstahl Kathryn Bigelow might Lose Her Jawb.

        1. Cynthia

          I know this quote isn’t exactly what you’re looking for, Lambert. But if you view the press and the cinema as being pretty much interchangeable, as they should be viewed, then the quote will do just fine.

          1. Jim Haygood

            Interchangeable? Isn’t the cinema more fact-constrained, while the press deals in fantasy and entertainment?

      1. hunkerdown

        Remember the naked selfies of female stars from earlier this year? I seem to remember mumbling something at the time somewhere to the effect that, if someone is going to lay bare the grim secrets of those in the entertainment industry, to pick on those far more deserving… and the Universe listened!

  5. Clive

    Oh, Lambert, thank you so much for the “Ayn Rand reviews…” link from The New Yorker. I’m still chortling. This might have legs as a regular feature.

    E.g. …

    Ayn Rand does musical theatre:

    Mamma Mia. A feckless woman has a child without knowing who the father is. Some years later they live on a Greek island and the daughter wants her father to give her away at the wedding. Neither the mother or the child utilise the opportunity to pursue the absent father for unpaid child support. The play completely fails to explain why the central characters do not exploit the weakness of the Greek government to implement free market policies which has rendered the economy on the point of collapse by utilising their presumable hard currency inward remittances from overseas to extract maximum utility from their greater purchasing power over the workshy locals. The mother at no point considers selling her daughter into slavery. Zero stars.

        1. OIFVet

          Extend a middle claw at Alisa Zinovyevna Rosenbaum by demonstrating utter contempt for property rights? The message is loud and clear: “I will not be used as a cheap prop in the literary hairballs coughed up by a talentless hack.”

    1. MikeNY

      Oh, my sides!

      That wooden, business and political failure, with her “let them eat cake” economic nostrums, has about as much chance of winning the US presidency as Kim Jong-un.

    2. RUKidding

      I could rant on for days about Fiorina the Failure, who has ripped me off personally, as an HP shareholder. That blanket blank blank blank. And then had the nerve to run for CA Senator (not that DiFi or Babs are worthy either, but…)… wanting yet more of my tax dollars to fund her for life. Gah! And my rightwing friends slavishly slavered about what a “great business manager” she was, which somehow translated into why she’d make a “great Senator.” Egad. Loser el supremo but loser with a whole lotta dough se dough.

      I figure this ridiculous “run” for POTUS is just yet more rightwingnut welfare circuit. These chumps who toss their name in the GOP ring end up with all kinds of cash, whether clean or dark. Fiorina has proven herself to be not only a crapulous “business manger” but a thugalicious crook and willing shill ever ready to rip off the rubes, whether wealthy or poor.

      Ergo, I expect her “run” to go nowhere, but she’ll shovel lotsa ca$h into her off-shore accounts. In that sense, she’s no dumb crook, just avaricious.

  6. David Lentini

    As Michael Hudson has shown, neoliberal economics is “junk economics.” But it is also a tool of American financial imperialism, and this makes neoliberal Russian economists tools of American imperialism.

    The word is “merchantilism”, which today is synonymous with corporatism and inverted toltalitarianism. The goverment as an institution has been largely coopted to serve the dictates of financiers and large corporations. That is the legacy of Milton Friedman and the Chicago Boys—the very form of government corruption that Adam Smith hated most.

    1. dearieme

      Smith was a sound man. Many of his purported fans haven’t read a word of him. Ditto his enemies, of course.

  7. Luke The Debtor

    Yves, do you think Saudi oil reserve calculations are on the same level as the SEC-scrutinized US reserves? And as a bonus, looking back 40 years ago at what US oil reserves were, we should have run out of oil by now.

  8. optimader

    “SEC -scrutinized” (proven) reserves are a kind of fiction further obfuscated since Dec 31 2008 when it revised reporting rules to include oil sands, shale gas and other previously banned categories of reserves.
    — loosely paraphrased from Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power

    “looking back 40 years ago at what US oil reserves were, we should have run out of oil by now”
    I think you are confusing proven reserves with “ultimate recovery”
    Reserves are by their nature dynamic, that’s why they are reported every year by energy companies like Exxon and BP etc. as “proven reserves” are a balance sheet metric that goes to the valuation energy companies. Would you evaluate a stock based on 40 yo performance expectations? Probably not.

    SA has a reputation for being very opaque when it comes to reporting reserves because they are a sovereign that can do as it feels best suits their advantage. I think those that read the SA tea leaves look at their degrading ability to sustain high production rates when they decide it is in their interest to go their.

    Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power
    By Steve Coll


      1. optimader

        Yes, I remember Matt from the Oil Drum.. He was from Maine as I’m sure you’re aware.

        “Kuwait, like neighboring Saudi Arabia and the UAE, wants to boost output of refined fuels to supply its domestic market and also to export. Refined products can fetch a higher price on international markets than raw crude.

        Kuwait National Petroleum Corp. plans to expand its refining capacity to 1.4 million bpd from 937,000 bpd, Mohammad Ghazi Al-Mutairi, the company’s CEO, said today at the conference. State-run KNPC will reach this target when it completes the country’s fourth and biggest refinery, the 615,000 bpd Al-Zour facility, and upgrades existing plants to produce clean fuel, he said.
        Crude density is becoming heavier in the Middle East, and refineries must be improved to process it, Al-Mutairi said. Kuwait’s heavy-oil has an American Petroleum Institute crude gravity of 12 to 20 degrees. That shows it is a very heavy crude.”

        Thematic.. Working up the value added foodchain w/ a degrading quality raw mat’l.
        no one in the catalyst industry will go hungry.

    1. Luke The Debtor

      Tight oil and heavy oil are still oil and have been produced and reported to the SEC far longer than 2008. EUR includes reserves – you are confusing reserves with resources.

  9. vidimi

    re: the pando article on the failed racket project

    fair enough going calling out an idea that was neither original nor that subversive, but pando always leaves a bit of a bad aftertaste.

    i know that yves and lambert both like pando generally and mark ames specifically, but it seems to me that the only links ever going in that direction, since the early days of the isis situation in the levant, have been to stories about first look, uber, and more recently, tor. therefore, my impression is not of one pando leading the way in intrepid journalism, but one of silicon valley squillionnaires going after rival silicon valley squillionnaires. call it throwing rocks from glass houses or call it pot calling the kettle black, but the intercept, at least, has been covering real issues in that time. that’s not to say there aren’t real stories in pando’s coverage, but they seem to be incidental to settling scores.

    regarding some of the specifics of this article, for example the thomas friedman parody, it sounds like an idea that ames and taibbi snowballed off each other while they were still on good terms at the exile. that ames implemented it first after taibbi left doesn’t make it any less taibbi’s idea. any long-time reader of taibbi knows that he’s had a mild journalistic obsession with tom friedman for about as long as the latter has been published. and the snipe about ames being the better writer…what was the last big issue ames covered? pussy riot? meanwhile, taibbi has been one of the leading voices taking down big finance this decade.

    all in all, an unnecessary hit piece taking down an unnecessary puff piece.

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