2:00PM Water Cooler 12/3/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Obama’s Ferguson response rates 30 points below his usual level of support among Blacks [WaPo]. Just wait.

Aggregation of Ferguson protest across the country, including DC’s Union Station [WJLA]. Had to dig a little for this. Not part of the narrative, seemingly!

Police might investigate Michael Browns stepfather for inciting a riot [CNN]. Classy move!

Michael Brown’s stepfather apologizes for “burn it” [ABC]. I’ve seen the claim that the TV mikes could hear him but the crowd could not, because the scene was so noisy. Quite plausible to me; the same thing happened with “the Dean Scream,” IIRC.

Oathkeepers return [KSDK]. Great. Peaceful protesters beaten and gassed. Vigilantes with guns on the rooftops, everything’s jake.

St Louis teens talk about Ferguson [Talking Points Memo]. Notice where “conversation” crops up and where it doesn’t.

Putting abusive cops back on the street [The Atlantic]. Via foppe, who points out that Friedersdorf goes heavy on unions, but very light on the supposedly problematic arbitration process. How does union pressure produce outcomes? Friedersdorf doesn’t say.

A Missouri judge could appoint a special prosector and reboot the process [Think Progress].


Dems appoint Third Way-er Mark Warner, with Schumer’s blessing, to balance Warren [Salon]. And they announce it at 5:00PM on the Friday after Thanksgiving. So there you are.

Then again, perhaps this is the story of Schumer’s November 25 speech, buried by the ObamaCare controversy [New York Times].

To restore credibility, Schumer argued, the “first step is to convince voters that we are on their side, and not in the grips of special interests.” He specifically suggested the prosecution of bankers for “what seems, on its face, blatant fraud” and tax reform designed to ensure that C.E.O.s paid higher rates “than their secretaries.” In effect, he said, “an element of populism, even for those of us who don’t consider ourselves populists, is necessary to open the door before we can rally people to the view that a strong government program must be implemented.”

Oddly, Obots would rather not talk about this.

Hillary Clinton still uncertain about running, “according to several people familiar with her thinking” [Politico].

Poll: Clinton 65%, Warren 10% [Bloomberg]. “The press wants a race, and the left wants a race, but the Democratic electorate isn’t sure that it needs one.”

Hong Kong

More students expected to join Scholarism student leaders Joshua Wong, Prince Wong and Isabella Lo in hunger strike [EI Insight]. They are now “quite weak” [John Sparks, Channel 4 News]. “Declaration of a Hunger Strike” [Rose Tang].

Occupy leaders surrendur to police, are released without charge [South China Morning Post].

Explainer on the Hong Kong rumor mill [Hong Wrong]. Opposition to Occupy based on five reasons: Two true, two false, one defeatist.


The U.S. attorney’s office subpoenas Los Angeles Unified School District for records pertaining to its $1 billion iPad project [Los Angeles Times]. 20 boxes of records; Pearson was content provider; goal was test prep for [drumroll please] Common Core [Education Weekly].

Norman Blackwell, a wealthy Tory life Peer and Thatcher advisor, voted for the Coalition’s hated health reforms, and is now bidding to land £1.2 billion worth of NHS contracts: the biggest privatisation deal in NHS history [Daily Mail].

30 years after Bhopal, and the locals still wait for clean-up, compensation, and conviction of executives from Union Carbide (now owned by Dow Chemical [Wall Street Journal].

Climate Change

“Melt rate in parts of Antarctica has tripled in the last decade, according to a comprehensive, 21-year analysis that reconciles four different previously used techniques” [EarthSky].

Stats Watch

ADP Payroll Report, November 2014: Payroll growth expected: 225,000. Estimate: 208,000. Last month: 230,000 [Bloomberg].

Gallup Job Creation Index, November 2014: Slight improvement after three point slip in October [Bloomberg]. I wish we had a “Naked Capitalism Jobs Crapification Index.” Could we aggregate FRED data in some way?

“Pocket of weakness,” “with two-thirds of the gauges on Yellen’s dashboard not yet returned to pre-recession strength”  [Bloomberg]. Two thirds. That’s some pocket.

Class Warfare

The bills are steady. But the paycheck is random [New York Times]. This is “worker time.”

432 people own half the private land in Scotland. But only 26% of Scotland’s landowners have been identified. [Guardian]. Why, it’s like the enclosures never stopped!

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Froomkin on the quite possibly forthcoming brutally redacted executive summary of the torture report we will never see, whose scope was in any case quite limited [The Intercept]. Where’s Mike Gravel when we need him? There was a Democrat.

Maps and Mapping

This article does indeed contain beautiful maps [Your Wild Life]. But the conclusion is important, and about more than maps:

Those regions once part of colonial Britain together form their own biogeographic region when it comes to vectored pathogens. The British are coming, and they are bringing their germs. Interestingly, recent work on the biogeographic regions of plant pathogens, suggest the British inadvertently created their own biogeographic region for plant pathogens as well. Once more, the queen and her kingdom are in a realm all their own, one defined by some complex mélange of Christmas pudding, flu, cold, and syphilis.

We haven’t formally tested it, but I’ll posit here that these biogeographic regions, the British colonial region and all the rest, have more impact on your life than almost anything else you might map. You are not what you eat, you are what eats you.

Interesting. And see The Onion article below.

News of the Wired

  • William Gibson webchat – as it happened [Guardian].
  • You’ll never guess how this seven-year-old by-passed Apple’s Touch ID [BGR]. Sheesh: A password that you leave all over everything wherever you go and can never change. What could go wrong?
  • Kafka in Wayzata, Minnesota: How one High School teaches agnotology on the Internet [Boing Boing]. And somebody give student Nathan Ringo a job; he sounds like the next Bill Gates, except principled and honest.
  • Jony Ive on agnotology in design training [Dezeen].
  • Hans Ulrich Obrist, International Curator! [The New Yorker].
  • The year’s worst words [Gawker]. My favorite: “disruptive technology.” But are selfies a thing now?
  • Why are rubber blocks inscribed “Tjipetir” washing up on beaches round the world? [WaPo]. TOYNBEE IDEA…
  • Nature from the 90s on to be free in iTunes-like store with copying disabled [Science Alert].
  • Report of “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Milan’s death is a hoax [International Business Times].
  • US marijuana smuggled to Mexico [Russia Today]. First NAFTA imports destroy Mexican varieties, now this.
  • Young Australian couple seeking to restore a half-million-acre property decimated by decades of drought and overstocking gets worldwide support [ABC].
  • “There’s No Use Worrying Over Things The Parasitic Alien Lifeforms Living Inside Us Can’t Control” [The Onion]. Considering The Onion’s track record of being right early on very important stories, I find this concerning.

* * *

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 (JN):


JN says this flower looks like a puppy. I can’t see it myself.

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

    Science Fiction is usually employed as the cultural vehicle for the impossible to speak truths of life actually lived in America. So it comes as no surprise that the alien parasite is a metaphor for the false consciousness of capitalism that uses our body for labor, forcing us to live our lives for the purpose of making profits for someone else until we are used up, disabled young or worn to the bone in old age. We live in pre-history until we can chart our course in life, we do not plan, we are planned for and compelled by cultural socialization within the institutions we pass through to live proscribed lives. History will begin for most of us when we write the plot and live as the character of our choosing. Until that time, the comedian, the Sci-Fi writer and the bohemian artist in general serve as the unattainable model of freedom that relieves some of the anxiety, some of the doubt and allows a measure of recreating ourselves without permanently abandoning our post as permanently relegated servile labor.

  2. CB

    Every time I took one of those Which Candidate Are You Most Closely Aligned With quizzes, Mike Gravel came up. Couldn’t get out of the gate nationally. Too common sense reasonable, I guess.

    1. Ed

      Gravel really impressed me when I heard him speak, but to put it bluntly he is too old. There really should be a maximum age of eligibility for election to US president of 75, with no one being allowed to serve past the age of 78. Sanders, at 73, has the same problem, as would Ron Paul if he ran again. It is still reasonable to vote for any of them as a protest.

  3. Anon

    Re: “Pocket of weakness”. With 2/3rds of it being unfulfilled, maybe it’s safer to call it a messenger bag of weakness?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      “Instead of “Hands up, don’t shoot,” protesters must turn to a very simple, one word chant. “Prosecute!” Every time Eric Holder or Barack Obama or a high profile misleader turns up in public they must be met with this very simple demand. If a black president and attorney general leave office without doing anything about the legacy of white on black police crime, their tenure in office was a waste. “

      1. DJG

        See Chris Hedges on the ironies of Occupy: Occupy was a movement that was demanding enforcement of current law, specially with regard to Wall Street, which somehow (?) got lost in the media coverage of OWS.

        1. Ed

          I’ve read that OWS didn’t make any demands at all purposely, which would be idiotic, but maybe they did and I was being lied to. A protest movement that could get the message out that powerful people should be subject to the same laws as the powerless would gain popular support.

      2. different clue

        Oh . . . I don’t know . . . ” Hands up, Don’t Shoot!” seems to have been very effective at smoking out the St. Louis Police Department PR and Threat machine. Perhaps more of it will force even sharper public arguments between the “Hands up” community and the Police community and even more bystanders will be drawn into taking sides; thus making the issue even more unavoidably front and center on the public brainwar battlefield. Perhaps the chant could be changed to . . Hands Up, Don’t Shoot! ( You know you want to).
        If enough protesters emerge, they could divide their efforts between two protest theory-action groups.
        One group could say “hands up” in all the right places, the other group could say “prosecute” wherever suitable . . . . especially at public appearances of relevant politicians.

  4. DJG

    In the continuing discussion of kayfabe, the very definition, from Schumer: “an element of populism, even for those of us who don’t consider ourselves populists, is necessary to open the door before we can rally people to the view that a strong government program must be implemented.” What is kayfabe populism? Bungabunga with Berlusconi? Obama in the turtleneck at a bookstore? Hillary asking Snowden to come back, come back to the oh-so-fair U.S. court system?

  5. Vince in MN

    “JN says this flower looks like a puppy. I can’t see it myself.”
    I see it. It’s a terrier. On the other hand, perhaps JN meant poppy.

  6. DJG

    Leak the damn torture report already. Why, there’s this group called something like Anonymous that has been known to help out in such matters and even protect the whistleblowers. [But everyone in D.C. seems to be afraid of ending up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London having to bunk with Assange.]

    1. James Levy

      It took 30 years for the details of the My Lai massacre to dribble out and cohere. The result was a big fat “so what.” Yes, over 400 civilians were systematically butchered by US soldiers and no one paid for the atrocity. It all happened. No one can doubt it. But people either don’t give a damn or spin the daylights out of it. A military historian I know of is taken very seriously by the Very Serious big shots in my profession. His big argument is that the Phoenix Program was a great idea and should have been pressed further–if it had been, guess what: we would have won the Vietnam War! Yes, in academic military history you can argue for the systematic murder of tens of thousands of people on no charge whatsoever with no proof that they are actually combatants and no one at the Society for Military History meetings is going to dare stand up and denounce this twit. So why would we think that anything would come of releasing this torture report, even if it ever were released? You think Cheney and the CIA guys and Bush and the rest are going to prison for such horrendous violations of law and human decency? You think they will face the death penalty for murdering people in their custody?

      I could either go insane or give up. I choose to give up.

      1. Ed

        In theory, you could win any war if you managed to kill every single person in the country you were attacking, and settle it with your own people.

        Not even the Nazis tried that, when they invaded the USSR they settled for trying to kill all the senior Communist Party members. And contrary to myth, the native population in the Americas was reduced mostly unintentionally (nor were they wiped out).

        The Romans and Mongols did wipe out entire cities sometimes, but they didn’t have the capability or intent of destroying Vietnam sized countries.

        Your professor of military history is an idiot. Destroying the enemy’s stuff is what war is about, but in all wars a deal is made. You destroy enough stuff, you get a more favorable deal. Its never been about just wiping everyone out.

        1. Oregoncharles

          Consider what the Romans did to Carthage, or to the rebel Gaelic tribe in Britain (can’t remember the name).

          There is also evidence of similar actions in the US Southwest, among the anasazi.

          It happens, though admittedly it’s rare.

          However, the anonymous historian is advocating a terror campaign, not total genocide.

      2. Roquentin

        The entire premise of the Vietnam War was bullshit, and was doomed from the start. I remember vividly reading somewhere that if elections were held Ho Chi Minh would have won something like 80% the vote. Worse still, he had expected the US to be on his side. He viewed his struggle against French colonialism in much the same way as the American Revolution against the British. All those people dead……for nothing, no good reason at all. Because it was the Cold War, because we were too stupid to see past competing with the USSR for 15 minutes straight, because the military-industrial complex needed an excuse to keep running.

        What military historians like that will never admit is that it served us right to lose and be humiliated in Vietnam. Maybe if you want to call a “successful” genocide a victory you could, but I suppose people like that historian would.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          The military historians have lost the battles and the wars. The first hand accounts of the Winter Soldiers publicly testified what went on. The Viet Nam Vets Against the War, they are the history. Like the JFK assassination, the public knows it was lied to, and many know the who and why.

          The Winter Soldier documentary.


          Don’t watch it if you don’t want to hear about none stop atrocities.

      3. Eclair

        Or, 150 years for the descendants of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne massacred at Sand Creek by US troops to receive an “apology” from the current governor of Colorado. And for a current Colorado Supreme Court Justice to announce that, yes, the US government ignored the 1852 Treaty of Fort Laramee that they had signed, giving the Arapahoe and Cheyenne the right to live on the lands between the Arkansas and Platte rivers forever. Because gold.

  7. Lambert Strether Post author

    Staten Island Grand Jury Declines to Indict Cop, NYT Says (Daniel Garner. There was video, which isn’t always “ocular proof,” but still….). The bust was for untaxed cigarettes, so:

    * * *

    The story says there might be protests on Staten Island. My guess is that Times Square and 42nd Street would be more like it.

    1. LaRuse

      So why bother putting body cams on all the police if video evidence of misconduct (the chokehold WAS a prohibited method of restraint) isn’t enough to warrant a trial? Maybe GoPro’s got buddies in a few major precincts?

      1. Tom Allen

        Seems like the body cams will increase surveillance of ordinary people, providing plenty more selective evidence for the prosecution while keeping the entire corrupt police system in place.

        1. Subgenius

          Many years ago I was charged with assault on a transport police officer in a station….long story but I was the victim, rather than the perpetrator. When it came to trial, the police claimed non of the cctv cameras was working, so there was no video evidence. Luckily for me, to prove they had id’d the perp, they produced a still from a cctv camera – thus allowing my lawyer to make them all appear as they are – lying untrustworthy bastards. And my freedom was assured!

          Expect the worst…

          1. different clue

            Figures lie when liars figure.

            Pictures lie when liars picture.

            Bodycams lie when liars bodycam.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          It’s a kludge. Take away their guns and cars, and make the walk the beats with a nightstick. If they can’t figure out how to do that, then they should find another profession.

          I have read way too many stories of people calling 911 and then the cops get into a situation and whack somebody. This system isn’t working for anybody (though granted it still works if you’re in the right sort of enclave, which I assume is the point).

          1. Sam Adams

            When the neighborhood cop left his beat and entered a cocoon of the patrol vehicle; when the neighborhood became a suburban desert, it was only a matter of time before the police became militarized and the citizen became the target. Except in fit of passion or psychosis does a neighbor kill a neutral trusted arbiter.

      2. vidimi

        i’ll still take police bodycams over not having them any day. the cop who killed garned put him in an illegal chokehold, but he didn’t intend to execute him the way wilson executed mike brown. i believe bodycams will reduce the number of deliberate police executions.

        furthermore, it’s foolish to let a single anecdote turn us off a useful tool when the data suggest that police body cameras do work: http://www.inquisitr.com/1337944/police-brutality-statistics-in-the-united-states-fell-by-60-percent-when-cops-wear-video-cameras/

  8. Lambert Strether Post author

    Forgot to followup up on the University of Virginia’s rape culture issue. They seem to be taking it seriously:




  9. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for the link to the post about the young couple in Western Australia seeking to restore the land and the outpouring of support they have received. The best anecdote and antidote evah!!

  10. wayne gersen

    The polls for 2016 overlook one big issue: there are nearly as many independents as Democrats or Republicans and there were more NON voters (Indifferents) than voters in 2016. A Bush-Clinton choice would add to both groups! I believe that if Sanders or Warren could get their messages out they might attract enough Independents and Indifferents to vote for them that the 2016 election could end one or both of the legacy parties.

    1. cwaltz

      Even if you got Sanders or Warren in you would not guarantee the collapse of the legacy parties. They’d still control 2 of the 3 branches. However, it would make a difference in the narrative that third parties can’t succeed. It might open the door to more people choosing between something more than those 2 parties and make the system a little harder to game for the rich who control both parties.

      1. different clue

        I wonder whether we should think of the Republican party as “legacy”. It still seems active, aggressive, and vigorous to me; with ideological combat between factions and everything. They have the agenda they say they have.

        Whereas the Democratic party does indeed seem “legacy”, taking up space to prevent something better growing on the space it takes up.

    2. Oregoncharles

      There are substantially MORE “independents” than either Dems or Reps – approximately 40+%, 30+, and 30-, respectively.
      42% is a very solid plurality; that’s what Slick Willy got the first time. Furthermore, allegiance to the legacy parties (thanks for that term, Lambert) is plummeting; soon their combined total will fall below a majority and we won’t HAVE major parties anymore.

      As for when people will start VOTING that way – I wish I knew. when the cows come home or the economy collapses, I suppose.

  11. Long hot decade

    @joe6pack, thanks for reminding us to look at BAR. Glenn Ford makes a good case for recourse to rebellion, the empirical foundation of human rights. The idea of challenging legitimacy is a problem, though, since legitimacy is poesy, with lots of thinkers still pulling different definitions out their butts. What a revolutionary movement has to undercut is the sovereignty of the state, by discrediting the state with the duties it has failed to bear. This means that rebellion has to be complemented with UNESCO’s version of internationalism from below: international linkages among civil society (which after all is just a fancy word for people who know how to go over the government’s head to the world.) With a regime this far gone you’ll inevitably wind up with a dual-track approach like IRA/Sinn Féin, with the political wing appealing not to bullshit US civil rights but to world standards that have superseded them.

  12. JTFaraday

    re: “There’s No Use Worrying Over Things The Parasitic Alien Lifeforms Living Inside Us Can’t Control” [The Onion]. Considering The Onion’s track record of being right early on very important stories,** I find this concerning

    ** http://www.theonion.com/articles/bush-our-long-national-nightmare-of-peace-and-pros,464/

    “…president-elect George W. Bush assured the nation in a televised address Tuesday that “our long national nightmare of peace and prosperity is finally over.”

    There have been others, but that was a good one.

  13. JerseyJeffersonian

    As a fan of ironic juxtaposition, I offer this up…

    USA, December 2, 2014 07:06 AM /
    The Associated Press
    Washington. House unanimously approves bill to end payment of pension benefits to former Nazis.

    Ukraine, December 01, 15:19 UTC+3
    Kiev. The Parliament will discuss to recognize as warring combatants the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army [Nazi-collaborators in the Second World War]. If approved, former Nazis will receive pension benefits.

    So, for the US, paying benefits to (immigrant) Ukrainian Nazis is frowned upon, but for our BFFs in Kiev, it seems as if it is a sacred duty? Maybe we’ll even wind up paying for those pensions in the Ukraine through monetary aid to that regime? But it’ll be okay, because we’ll have saved an equivalent amount of money by not paying benefits to our own (immigrant) Ukrainian Nazis.

    Geez, I wonder how this’ll play out for Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, ever sensitive to the reactionary Ukrainian vote in Canada. What to do, what to do…

  14. different clue

    It makes me feel uncomfortable saying we should pay Social Security benefits to deported or departed old Nazis, but I think maybe we should. If they paid their FICA taxes while living here, they should get the SS benefits they were assured they bought with their FICA taxes. If they are retro-denied their SS payments because they were discovered to be bad–people Nazis, then a precedent is set for retro-denying SS benefits to FICA payers for some other good reason. And then SS benefits will be denied to ever more FICA taxpayers for ever more artificially contrived reasons. I think that is the secret agenda behind “no SS benefits for old Nazis” , to set a precedent for retro-stealing more and more peoples’ FICA money by inventing more and more reason to cancel benefits.

    I will read any arguments presented as to why I am wrong about that.

  15. jjmacjohnson

    “Apple’s head designer Jonathan Ive says he struggles to hire young staff as schools are failing to teach them how to make products.”

    More H1B visas?

    Come on, any kid out f a good school can do these jobs. Why not give them a chance to show themselves.

    What a silly man Jonathan Ive is.

    1. financial matters

      Just out of curiosity how well are we teaching strong computer skills? A friend of mine told me he was having trouble finding someone to work the ‘back-end’ of a retail online site and was willing to pay a six figure salary for an onsite position. This seems to be a fast moving field as they were looking more for capability than credentials.

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