2:00PM Water Cooler 12/8/14

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“What’s next for the American Winter of 2014?” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. Will Bunch. On a purely technical level, it’s interesting that the Ferguson protests have continued, even intensified, in the cold weather.

Why the Ferguson protesters marched on Walmart [The Week].

Live streaming in Ferguson [New York Magazine]. Important. There’s a reason both cops and black block hate live streamers.

Protester sign “edited,” goes viral [Riverfront Times]. Why Internet evidence isn’t evidence, sadly, absent iron-clad provenance.

Missing from the Grand Jury transcript [Another Word for It].

Prosecutors withheld Dorian Johnson testimony from Grand Jury document dump, they say at the behest of the Feds [Free Press].

St Louis circuit attorney to investigate police killing of Vonderrit Myers [St Louis Public Radio].

Philadelphia protests at Eagles game peaceful [Inquirer, Paul Tioxin]. From the city that pelted Santa…

Sunday protests at retail venues in Manhattan [Pix11]. Monday protest blocks Verrazano bridge [New York Post]. Union Theological Seminary one organizing hub [Think Progress].

New York prosecutors to probe police killings of unarmed civilians [Reuters].


Alexander Mora, first of 43 missing students declared dead, on charred eye socket evidence [Sun Herald]. But where are the mass graves? [BBC].

Peña Nieto offers economic plan for Guererro (province where 43 students were disappeared [Yucatan Times]. Jobs paving roads, tax breaks, tourism promotion (!), and Federal police.

Protests continue, in Mexico City and regionally; “students, farmers, union groups and autonomous collectives” [Telesur]. Watch out:

Federal officials have finally agreed to investigate the Mexican Army’s possible role in the deaths and disappearances of the Ayotzinapa students. However, Nieto also plans to proceed with the militarization of the state of Guerrero, what Nieto calls to “clear the Highway of the Sun” under his new “Hot Lands” operation, according to SPDNoticias.

Video appears to show a plainclothes police officer rescued after being pummeled by riot police, in the strongest evidence that state forces — not in uniform — are present when masked vandals attack government buildings after large peaceful marches [Vice]. Shocker: Cops wear masks and incite violence.

“The root of Mexico’s violence is corruption” [Dallas News].

“Product of Mexico” [Los Angeles Times]. Fit this into your picture of the Mexican economy, and our role in it.

Hong Kong

Wong ends hunger strike, although two other students continue [Los Angeles Times].

Newly formed Student Front group plans to resist the police clearance of Admiralty using shields [Roydon Ng]. CEO Leung expects “fierce resistance” [Bloomberg].

Protester count shrinks pre-clearance [Reuters].


Warren criticizes Weiss at meeting with her top 50 donors [Politico]. Attendee paraphrase of Warren: “At some point we have to recognize that there are other types of experience besides working on Wall Street that qualify people to do these jobs.”

Koch Brothers building RNC-level data operation [Politico].

State Innovation Exchange (SiX): Another “progressive” roach motel? [Corrente]. Small-ball inititiatives, institutional focus sold as fighting the Koch Brothers. Let me know how that works out.


Melissa Millan, MassMutual, stabbed to death. She had access to highly sensitive data on bank profits resulting from the collection of life insurance proceeds from her insurance company employer on the death of bank workers – data that a Federal regulator of banks has characterized as “trade secrets” [Wall Street on Parade]. “A reporter at the press conference indicated that she had spoken with sources and learned that Millan had not been robbed nor was it a sexual assault.” Odd.

Shocker: “[E]ight months after [the Moreland Commission’s] work was cut short, little in Albany has changed [New York Times].

Obama golfing buddy “uncooperative” in fraud trial on Blagojevich-era grant corruption [The Daily Beast].

Imperial Collapse Watch

Bush torturers close ranks with Obama administration against torture report [New York Times]. This is great: “The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House.” Plausible deniability achieved! Personally — and this is 100% speculation — I’ve always felt that Dick Cheney had a live feed from the Abu Ghraib cells right to his office. We know there was digital data collection from the cells, else why the CDs? The tell here, I think, is that nobody’s ever interviewed any of the network administrators or sysadmins at Abu Ghraib, and other black sites, to find out what the flow of torture data was. And we all know how Cheney wanted raw, unfiltered intelligence, right? Besides, Cheney probably likes to watch.

“Intelligence” officers warn of violence if torture report is released [The Hill]. Which is rich, after Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the black sites, etc.

Stats Watch

Wages finally snapping back? [WSJ]. Who knows? We’ve seen blips before.


“Gruber is Exhibit A that any English-speaking person knows what the subsidies language says” [Politico]. Gruber: “If you’re a state and you don’t set up an exchange, that means your citizens don’t get their tax credits.”

Democrats had a weak bench on health care reform before 2014, and now it’s weaker [Politico]. Oddly, or not, the article doesn’t mention John Conyers or Bernie Sanders: Both still in office, both single payer advocates.

Shocker: Californians discover that health insurance is not health care, as access problems persist [Fresno Bee]. “Health reform is rearranging the main players of the state’s health system … — insurers, hospitals, doctors’ groups — to create ever-larger clusters intended to serve more people for less money.” Less money, and more profit. And ER use has not decreased [Sacramento Bee].

California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley: “Moving to coordinated care is at the heart of the Affordable Care Act” [Sacramento]. We tried HMOs once and people hated them. Now HMOs have been rebranded as ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations), but it doesn’t matter whether people hate them or not, because the mandate forces you to purchase the product.

Upshot tries to turn unfair random variations in coverage into an advantage with “one size fits all” straw man [New York Times].

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Richard Posner: Give NSA unlimited access to digital data [PC World]. “Privacy interests should really have very little weight when you’re talking about national security.”

Angela Merkel calls for an end to net neutralty [Boing Boing].

News of the Wired

  • Ta-Nahesi Coates’s classic on “how the quiet car explains the world” [The Atlantic].
  • Berkeley: “[O]ne man smashed a grocery store window with a skateboard” [Newsweek]. I especially like the detail about a Whole Foods being looted for champagne [HuffPo]. Represent, dudes! So far as I can tell, the mainstream hasn’t confused the riots in Berkeley with the Fergusonian’ efforts, which is a small mercy, since the Berkeley riots have no organic relation to Ferguson that I’ve seen. But that may come, as all these stories get filed under the general heading “protest” [CBS].
  • “Supper Sunday” [Medium]. Argentinian vs. American family dinners and mores.
  • Jacque Derrida interviews Ornette Coleman [Open Culture].
  • Why do some people think artists ought to suffer? “The Pomplamoose Problem” [Artist Empathy].
  • Whales and the “trophic cascade” benign form of geoengineering [YouTube]. Truly awesome.

* * *

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):


I have a vague memory of a holiday children’s book about making juniper candles, although for an adult, bath tub gin might be more appropriate!

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

    Fun media experiment. Google: Berkeley protest AP.

    See the various headlines used for local publishing an an AP story. Read some of the stories.

    See how nearly all describe the police riot as a response to window smashing or rock throwing by protesters. Note how the timelines seem to start in the middle, with the first rock thrown.

    Or some are at best neutral, and describe the events in the passive.

    Did not see any coverage of peaceful protesters being antagonized, kettled, harassed, bullied, pushed, or abused by highly aggressive police seemingly intent on provoking a confrontation.

    1. ambrit

      True. I scrolled down to the comments on the Yahoo website and found the comments almost uniformly Right-wing. Lots of attacks on the ‘protesters’ as various sorts of evil troublemakers. I posted a short reply mentioning “Right-wing Trolls” and have gotten four to one thumbs down. (So called liberals should get their act together and set up their own astroturf factories.) Given the slow death of Network TV and its’ old time cultural dominance, what will replace it? This is not an idle question. The future direction of our culture will hinge on the answer to that question.

      1. McMike

        Not that it makes a difference with right wing trolls, but their hostility towards protesters (and due process for defendants as well) is one of the most incoherent of their many incoherent stances.

        I mean, have they even bothered to read the Constitution and Bill of Rights (which they generally swear fealty to above and beyond all else)? The bulk of the thing is concerned with protecting people from the police.

        If the Constitution is not about protecting our right to assemble and petition, as loudly as we want, and about making it hard for the government to put people in jail, then it is about nothing.

          1. different clue

            And they are even more obsessed with getting those other people to pay attention to them ( them being the trolls).

      2. John Jones


        I have noticed Yahoo to have a very high percentage of right-wing commenters. I don’t think I have ever seen an article were the vast majority have anything other than right-wing views. Not that other news sites are that much different in my view.

        1. ambrit

          I wonder if this might be a manifestation of a loosely knit collection of like minded people. A close cousin to the group that listens to Reactionary talk radio “messiahs?” The more cynical part of me thinks this might be like the old Fascist Clubs that sprang up everywhere before WW2: America First, British Union of Fascists, the Falange in Spain, etc.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Of course that’s true, although “provoke” is a bit loaded, no? It implies that one’s reaction to police violence should be impulsive rather than strategic… And of course, there’s also the possibility (see Mexico) of agent provocateurs in among the window smashers, a “one hand washes the other” style of thing.

      1. McMike

        Whether the protestors’ reaction should be impulsive or not, they can become so despite themselves in the face of police aggression, which the cops are well aware of, which is why they do it. By now it is well understood by the police what happens when you start shoving and macing people – eventually the crowd gives you an excuse to bash heads, along with the salacious media images to help cloud the question.

        The presence of provocateurs surely doesn’t help. I would hope by now people are starting to wise up to that. For whatever that’s worth. Perhaps an indie journalist should start tracking the instigators on camera, see what happens once they interact with the cops, track what happens to them if they get “arrested”…

        1. jrs

          But surely they ARE caught on camera? I mean unless the instigators first smash the cameras, there aren’t any streets without cameras around here and I’m sure in much of the U.S. now, certainly in major cities. Where does the video go? A surveillance society where at the same time nothing is actually captured, it doesn’t seem to add up.

          1. Ulysses

            Undercover police were caught on a security camera breaking down the door to Ramarley Graham’s house in the Bronx a couple of years back, prior to their murdering him inside, in the presence of his grandmother. This exposed their initial story to the press, about young Ramarley being accidentally shot during a “scuffle” in the street as being a complete lie.

            End result? Same as the Garner case, where the entire slow murder by choking was captured on tape. Our so-called “justice” system closes ranks and protects killers with badges from facing any serious consequences for their crimes.

            The problem isn’t lack of footage of murderous, violent and lawless police. The problem is a completely corrupt “justice” system that at this very moment is preparing a criminal case against the citizen who taped Eric Garner’s murder, while the officers who wrestled him to the ground and choked him to death are enjoying a paid vacation.

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              I think there are two use cases that are distinct: 1) is filming a live event as news; 2) capturing a crime — say, by the police — on video. Different goals, different players. Not saying that it’s a good thing that #2 is often not given due weight (as with Garner) just that the cases are different.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Perhaps an indie journalist should start tracking the instigators on camera” — that would be streamers. Streamers are critical. With trusted streamers you’ve got some hope of beating the law that “Internet evidence is not evidence.” (Which is why both cops and black blockers — taking no account, for the sake of the argument, of the overlap between the two — both hate streamers.)

    3. diptherio

      Did not see any coverage of peaceful protesters being antagonized, kettled, harassed, bullied, pushed, or abused by highly aggressive police seemingly intent on provoking a confrontation.

      Which is the story my twitter feed was telling last night…

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Partly, for sure. My twitter feed was full of ticked off and horrified Ferguson protesters worried that all their work was being hijacked by, er, individuals with a bad case of recto-cranial inversion, and that with the Berkeley crowd upping the ante, they would be more likely to be killed in their own protests. And that’s not an unreasonable fear, right?

        The police (in or out of uniform) doubtless provoked violence. What they didn’t provoke was the violence that systematically smashed bank windows. Troll prophylactic: I don’t like banks. But I don’t confuse bank branch offices with banks, let alone banking. Then again, they’ve created a pure play in plate glass, so it’s an ill wind.

        1. ambrit

          Why should the fear of “being killed in their own protests” be any more legitimate than the fear of being killed while walking their own streets by the police? One is potential, the other actual. I understand that the peaceful goal is to provoke mass protests and thus visibly demonstrate the illegitimacy of the present iteration of the State. The questionable part is, just how far is the State willing to go to preserve itself as presently constituted? So far, the State appears pretty determined.

  2. hunkerdown

    Why do some people think artists ought to suffer?

    Is it that, or is it that some people are tired of being treated like consumption objects? Art is, in fact, a huge part of why I support a basic income guarantee and am lukewarm toward the jobs guarantee. Manning’s lack of imagination and allegiance to the capitalist rentier model of music excludes the very people who are in the best position to change that model for all of us, and who very nearly succeeded at least once in living memory, from acting in the *common* interest. Not at all surprising, given her neoliberal, pro-Establishment leanings.

      1. Paul Tioxon

        Come on, art is mostly inspiration, alienation with a very small amount of perspiration. In other words, better to born really talented than hard working, when it comes to art. Like height, genius can’t be taught.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            Sorry, I forgot to squeeze preparation between the inspiration and alienation. I hope that no artists experienced failure in the viewing of my epigram. We don’t want that type wandering aimlessly about.

        1. ambrit

          As I have learned from watching my wife create watercolour still lives, craft is needed to support the art. An old saying goes; “One must understand the rules to break them.”

        2. Bunk McNulty

          Now it’s not enough that I log all those hours of practicing and rehearsing, I gotta be a genius to get respect for what I do? Christ! I’m gonna go wander aimlessly about.

          1. Paul Tioxon

            Fine! But just do your wandering in Bawlamore, don’t bring that Amsterdam mess up I-95 Bunk McNulty.

      2. hunkerdown

        Not at all. I’m saying that it shouldn’t have to be a job or a career to justify itself or its artists.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Define as “meaningful work” exactly FDR’s Federal Writers Project, or the Library of Congress’s curatorial work in the 30s. Problem solved.

          Adding, anybody who thinks art isn’t work knows nothing of art.

  3. ambrit

    Don’t know if it has been addressed before, but Mary Landrieu lost 56%-44% to the very conservative Ben Cassidy in the Louisiana Senate race Saturday. Several reports mentioned that the Democratic national groups stopped financial support well before the actual election. Anyone with real “fire in their belly” will go all out up to the end. That the National leadership sloughed off before the end tells us something valuable about their character, or lack thereof.

    1. Lune

      Why should they support Landrieu? She is as close to a Republican as Democrats come. Why waste democratic money helping to elect someone who is closer to a Republican than to most base Democrats (i.e. the ones that give money), especially when control of the Senate isn’t on the line?

      Oh yea, the lesser of two evils. Frankly, I’m waiting for the liberal equivalent of the Club for Growth, which not only doesn’t fund RINOs, but actually runs people *against* them. You think they care about “lesser of two evils”? And their math actually works: give up one Republican seat to a Democrat by primary’ing a moderate Republican, and gain the fear of 10 moderate Republicans who start behaving like Tea Party’ists in an effort to prevent a future primary campaign against them.

      1. buffalo cyclists

        There will be no liberal equivalent to the Club for Growth because no big money interests wish to fund such an organization.

    2. different clue

      Why should other Democrats support Landrieu? What did she do for them? Separately, why should a conservationist feel worse about Cassidy versus Landrieu winning the LA Senate Seat? Didn’t Landrieu support the dirty filthy dilbitar pipeline just as hard as Cassidy did/does? So what difference does it make to the future flood-victims along a rising Gulf of Mexico anyway?

  4. Cynthia

    If the Supreme Court has any sense of fairness, they’ll rule that citizens in states that didn’t use their state revenues to set up their insurance exchanges aren’t entitled to a federal tax credit. To rule otherwise would simply be unfair for the states that did shell out their own money to pay for their insurance exchanges. For citizens in states to get a federal tax credit without having to use their own money to pay for their insurance exchanges can also be viewed as a form of “double dipping.” Hopefully the Supreme Court will see it that way.

  5. Jim Haygood

    Washington Examiner provides the Obamacare scorecard that Politico omitted:

    On Dec. 24, 2009, the Democratic-controlled Senate passed President Obama’s healthcare law with a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.

    After Democratic losses on Nov. 4 and Saturday’s defeat of Sen. Mary Landrieu, half of the Senators who voted for Obamacare will not be part of the new Senate.



    Bloody hell … 50% attrition in five years. That’s a worse casualty rate than kickin’ in doors in Helmand province.

    Are the rats jumping off a sinking ship? Or are voters taking potshots as their furry little pointed heads bob up between the waves?

    If you love your Obamacare, just wait for Release 2.0 — Hillarycare(TM). CEOs asked for it; you got it!

      1. Jim Haygood

        All true. But as nearly as I can work out, Hillary Clinton’s plan from 1994 (see graphic below) is pretty close to what got signed in 2010, except that in place of her proposed 7.9% payroll tax, the cost was passed on directly to insureds in the form of high premiums, high deductibles and limited coverage:


        Don’t you love the little dotted line on the right side, indicating ‘bargaining’ between Accountable Health Plans (AHPs, ‘accountable’ by definition!) and Corporate Health Alliances (HAs)?

        That’s like negotiating with myself over whether we’re gonna have a beer. Okay, self, you win! Here, have two of them. And add it to my tab …

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Why can’t my right hand give my left hand money?” — Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations.

          So abolish the entire mess and go to single payer. True, there won’t be any contributions from the insurance industry, but the CEOs are scum anyhow, so who wants to hang out with them?

  6. buffalo cyclists

    The Moreland Commission findings reported by the NYT are revolting though hardly surprising for people familiar with New York politics.

  7. Ulysses

    Chris Hedges is not any too sanguine about our chances of restoring the rule of law here in the U.S.:

    “The legal system no longer functions to protect ordinary Americans. It serves our oligarchic, corporate elites. These elites have committed $26 billion in financial fraud. They loot the U.S. Treasury, escape taxation, drive down wages, break unions, pillage pension funds, gut regulation and oversight, destroy public institutions including public schools and social assistance programs, wage endless and illegal wars to swell the profits of arms merchants, and—yes—authorize police to murder unarmed black men.
    Police and national intelligence and security agencies, which carry out wholesale surveillance against the population and serve as the corporate elite’s brutal enforcers, are omnipotent by intention. They are designed to impart fear, even terror, to keep the population under control. And until the courts and the legislative bodies give us back our rights—which they have no intention of doing—things will only get worse for the poor and the rest of us. We live in a post-constitutional era…
    Totalitarian systems accrue to themselves omnipotent power by first targeting and demonizing a defenseless minority. Poor African-Americans, like Muslims, have been stigmatized by elites and the mass media. The state, promising to combat the “lawlessness” of the demonized minority, demands that authorities be emancipated from the constraints of the law. Arguments like this one were used to justify the “war on drugs” and the “war on terror.” But once any segment of the population is stripped of equality before the law, as poor people of color and Muslims have been, once police are permitted under the law to become omnipotent, brutal and systematically oppressive tactics are invariably employed against the wider society. The corporate state has no intention of carrying out legal reforms to curb the omnipotence of its organs of internal security. They were made omnipotent on purpose.”


    If not us who? If not now, when? We need to amplify and multiply the beautiful and powerful voices I hear tonight in Brooklyn to a deafening roar– that even the kleptocrats, behind their moats of wealth and privilege, cannot ignore!

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