2:00PM Water Cooler 1/15/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Herd on the Street

The Swiss National Bank (SNB) scrap its minimum exchange rate today [Bloomberg]. Swiss franc jumps to record high against Euro, Swiss stocks plunge, including UBS and Credit Suisse.

But the SNB kept saying they would never do that! [Online WSJ, “Swissie Shocker: The SNB’s Drumbeat to Date”]. “The announcement came as a shock for the market, with the euro dropping suddenly from 1.20 to the franc to a low of around 0.85” [Online WSJ, ” Switzerland Deepens ‘Experiment With Unconventional Monetary Policy’ — Analysts React”]. Wheee!!!!

“Intense volatility is battering markets” [FT, “Swiss central bank roils markets”]. US futures dip in “volatile trading” [Reuters].

Swatch boss Hayek describes SNB decision as “tsunami” [Daily Telegraph].

“[I]f we assume that ECB QE is really about to take place, we should not be surprised that from the SNB’s perspective this sends a signal that their time recapitalising the eurozone is over” [FT Alphaville].

Speculation: Danes are next [Bloomberg].

The SNB press release [Wall Street Journal].

DJIA down as Bank of America, Citi earnings fall [WSJ, “U.S. Stocks Lower as Big Banks Stumble”]. Wowsers. They can’t even win the game they rigged?


Democratic Retreat in Baltimore: Larry Summers spoke, Cory Booker spotted taking a selfie [New York Times]. Twin shockers!

With Warren seemingly out, and a campaign team in place, has Hillary clinched?! [Bloomberg]. Oh, I don’t know. A year is a long time in politics.

Dearth of Clinton events is noticeable, even for the holidays [CNN]. Maybe she’s tired.

Let the chirping begin: “I would like to run against Mitt Romney in every election forever” (Democratic operative) [New York Daily News].

“Republicans are even eroding the traditional Democratic advantage on the empathy question” [Bloomberg]. Based on performance, that’s entirely reasonable.

Romney could try to run to Bush’s right, but he’ll need the evangelicals, and they don’t like him (either). OTOH, Colorado Springs boy Scott Walker… [New York Times].

Shocker: Conservatives unenthused with Bush and Romney [WaPo].

Rand Paul already in retail politics mode [The Hill].

Obama to “redefine” next week’s SOTU to avoid making policy proposals or announcements [Politico]. Might as well just phone it in, eh?

The Hill

Four Secret Service executives fired [WaPo]. Insider dishes [New York Observer].

The Blue Dogs get nuked, and our famously free press tries to recreate them out of whole cloth [Roll Call]. Eesh. I live for the day when “Centrist Democrats” are as easy to find as “moderate rebels.”

Stats Watch

Jobless claims, week of January 10, 2015: Jumped sharply, to a 316,000 level that’s the highest since September [Bloomberg]. Well, thank heavens none of these lucky duckes p*ssed away their cash on retail gewgaws in December, eh?

Consumer Comfort Index, week of January 11, 2015: “[H]ighest reading since July 2007” [Bloomberg]. “Four of seven income brackets experienced confidence boosts last week,” including $50K and under.

Empire State manufacturing index, January 2015: rises out of contraction, beats expectations handily [Bloomberg].

Philadelphia Fed Survey, January 2015: “Abrupt slowing is the signal” [Bloomberg]. Yes, this is at odds with the Empire State index.

Charlie Hebdo

From a pied noir: “It was an Arab, but dressed like a person.…” [Ta-Nahesi Coates, The Atlantic]. “This racism, like all racism, was not a bout of madness, but an actual tool.” How excellent that we have a sensibility like Coates’ on the ground in Paris.

Times sees both three million sales of Charlie Hebdo’s current issue and positive response to The Interview as signs of the public’s craving for free speech [New York Times]. Yes, especially if the policy outcome is increased power for the surveillance state, with a soupçon of strategic hate management.

Closer co-operation between French and Five Eyes intelligence services likely [Steve Weissman]. Don’t order your airline food kosher or halal! As if a pro would.

About those world leaders and their commitment to free speech… [HuffPo].

Kerry to give Paris “a big hug” [The Hill].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

The ties betweent the pre-Civil War slave power and the European right of the time [Corey Robin, Jacobin]. “[T]here are in fact no races, only racism.”

Bloomington MN city attorney wants protesters to pay for police over-time [KMSP]. Why not take a page from the NYPD playbook, and not send cops anywhere unless it’s “absolutely necessary”? No OT, problem solved.

The Fear-Industrial Complex

FBI arrests Ohio man over Capitol bomb plot [Al Jazeera]. Guy doesn’t know if he’s working for ISIS or AQAP. So totes not entrapment.

Apparently, raising free range kids is now a crime [WaPo].

The 9-Eleven Memorial Store [The Baffler].

David Cameron to press Barack Obama on security fears [FT]. How many more eyes to the Five Eyes need, anyhow?

America the Petrostate

“Iodide, Bromide, and Ammonium in Hydraulic Fracturing and Oil and Gas Wastewaters” [Think Progress; original].

Anti-frack sand activists in Wisconsin, which supplies 75% of the US market [Truthout]. Somebody should ask Scott Walker what he thinks about frack sand.


ObamaCare alleviates some financial distress, but out-of-pocket costs are also up [New York Times].

News of the Wired

  • The six types of Twitter conversations [Pew]. Very good example of social network formalism.
  • How to set up your own cloud [Howto Forge]. In five hours, with a modicum (well, maybe a bit more than that) of *nix comfort.
  • ‘glish listicles (in this case, Indian English) are a bit tired, but “prepone” is a keeper [India Times].
  • The British Museum’s new vision statement [Living Knowledge].
  • Testimony of undercover FBI agent operating in customer support (!) on Silk Road [Forbes] (and a scorecard with the players for the Silk Road trial).
  • DC Metro fire isn’t a safety problem, as Fred Hiatt’s bone-headed editorial board seems to think. It’s an infrastructural problem [WaPo]. I imagine some privatizer is looking at the Metro right now, and if it weren’t for the DC worker bees who ride it, I’d wish them joy ot it.
  • UK greens say they’ve doubled their membership since September, now outnumber UKIP [Telegraph].
  • Can anyone point to a translation of [Pegida’s Manifesto]?
  • Chinese propaganda official sacked for sex scandal reappears as Marxist scholar [South China Morning Post]. Maybe this guy and Petraeus can get together?
  • Virginian-Pilot produces award-winning series on its corrupt local oligarchy, of which their publisher is, alas, a fully paid-up member [Columbia Journalism Review]. And so a reign of terror begins in the newsroom.
  • Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson reach top of El Capitan’s Dawn Wall [New York Times]. Bare hands, rubber-soled shoes…. A heroic feat. Then again, we might easily transpose this into getting a non-crapified job in the labor market. Now that’s a dream I can get behind!

* * *

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:


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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. Jim Haygood

      ‘But the SNB kept saying they would never do that!’ — Lambert

      Of course. ‘It’s not official until it’s officially denied.’

      Soros broke the Bank of England; Draghi broke the Bank of Switzerland.

      Creative destruction, as it were.

  1. McMike

    If it’s a crime to not vaccinate your child against chicken pox, then letting a six year old walk home without an adult ought to be a capital crime. amiright?

    1. Fred

      Yes indeed. It’s a great jobs program for all those unemployed college graduates who can now become government employees for child and protective services. Who ever heard of letting their kids walk home from school.

    1. abynormal


      Have you ever noticed how Wall Streeters can be a bit tone deaf?

      In Lynnley Browning’s article today on the deadline for tax cheats who hid overseas income to turn themselves in or face possible prosecution if the I.R.S. catches them — a decision brought about because UBS gave some names of its cheating customers to the government — Bruce Krasting, a former Wall Street trader, explained why he chose to turn himself in:

      “I knew I was walking into a buzz saw that was going to cost me and my family half a million dollars, and that it was triggered by UBS.”

      Perhaps Mr. Krasting might want to blame himself for cheating in the first place.

      not your everyday mama’s boy: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2013/04/now-its-official-obama-sells-catfood-futures-um-social-security-and-medicare-cuts.html#comment-1184681

      My mother will die soon. When she does, I will provide the details on this. Save your judgement for a bit longer. ~Bruce Krasting

      1. Jim Haygood

        No other developed country in the world taxes its citizens on foreign accounts. Your post expresses ‘U.S. exceptionalist’ values, which most of the world finds overbearing and presumptuous.

        1. abynormal

          t y p i c a l Jimbo response
          hang in there…eventually the Immelt’s of the world will send you an invite to something

        2. cwaltz

          You wrote: No other developed country in the world taxes its citizens on foreign accounts.

          I read: As long as I’m rich enough to own a house somewhere else in the world I shouldn’t have to pay for the roads, schools, or any of the other things I utilize while I live here. I should get all the privileges with none of the responsibility.

          It’s not so much American exceptionalism as it is the belief that one should pay their fair share.

  2. Jeremy Grimm

    Intending no slap at other water cooler plants posted — yes many of those were also strikingly beautiful — today’s water cooler plant picture is especially beautiful to my eyes. I enjoy the interplay between the light and dark areas in the photograph. The photograph reminds me of 19th century landscapes.

  3. FederalismForever

    The Jacobin article by Corey Robin is a welcome reminder that mach of the European aristocratic elite sympathized with the Confederacy. Carl Shurz wrote that when he met with Bismarck in Germany after the Civil War, Bismarck stated that, as an aristocrat, he had rooted for the South. Even European leaders with strong anti-slavery bona fides were also tempted to side with the South, as a North/South split would weaken the United States. Lord Palmerston, for instance, had a solid record of working to abolish slavery throughout the British Empire, but he hated the United States and rooted for our Union to fail. If a dispute over slavery broke up the Union, that was fine by him. Fortunately, Lincoln and Seward were able to prevent any major European power from providing any substantial aid to the South.

    The Jacobin article ends by stating that America has often had to take instruction from Europe when it comes to democracy. Perhaps, but we mustn’t forget that it was the European colonial powers – Netherlands, France, Spain and Britain – who established slavery throughout the colonies, and whose governments often worked to prohibit any attempts by the colonies to restrict the slave trade prior to America’s independence. Moreover, just because certain European governments had banned slavery back home in Europe, they were often more than happy to tolerate slavery throughout their colonies (or former colonies). Thus, America had a much tougher task in eliminating slavery at home, as its abolitionist movement would have to fight powerful colonial interests (including their commercial interests) who were highly motivated to keep America’s slave economy in place.

    1. windsock

      “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

      1776 and all that. All men are equal but even then, some were more equal than others?

  4. DJG

    Coates’s articles about being in France and about studying French already were worth reading. I’m waiting for more. His description of the dilemma of the Jewish community of Algeria is very interesting. Another odd fact I’ll throw in is that a large proportion of the population of Algeria and Tunisia is of Turkish descent.

    As to the original inhabitants, the Berbers, here’s a lovely word portrait in French of Mustapha Ourrad, the assistant editor / proofreader killed at Charlie Hebdo. The power of poetry, the (self-conscious) construction of the French language. >>

    Given the surname Merabet, I suspect that Ahmed Merabet’s family also may be Berber. There are many dilemmas of being Berber, and in the Arab world, secularization is a solution for Berbers.

  5. StephenV

    PEGIDA is FOR the admission of war refugees and political or religious persecution. This is
    People required!
    . 2
    FOR PEGIDA is the inclusion of the right, and the duty to integrate into the Basic Law of the
    Federal Republic
    Germany (until now there is only a right to asylum anchored)!
    . 3
    PEGIDA is FOR decentralized placement of
    and persecuted,
    rather than partially
    inhumane homes!
    . 4
    FOR PEGIDA is a pan-European distribution key f
    ÜR refugees and an equitable distribution
    on the shoulders of all EU

    Member States! (Central Registration Authority for Refugees, which then
    similar to the domestic, King
    Key refugees to the EU

    Member States distributed)
    . 5
    A is FOR lowering the key support for asylum seekers (number of refugees per
    Social workers / carers

    currently about 200: 1, virtually no support for some traumatized people)
    . 6
    PEGIDA is ON
    Asylum application method, based on the hol
    foreign or Swiss model and up
    introducing the FOR
    increased funding for the BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and
    Refugees) to the process time of application and processing to reduce solid and a
    faster integration
    to enable!
    . 7
    PEGIDA is FOR increased funding for the police and AGAINST laid off at Selbiger!
    . 8
    PEGIDA is FOR the utilization and implementation of existing laws on asylum and
    . 9
    FOR PEGIDA is a zero


    policy with respect to delinquent asylum seekers and migrants!
    PEGIDA is FOR resistance to a misogynist, violent political ideology stressed but not
    to live here, the integrating Muslims!
    FOR PEGIDA is a migration to
    the model of Switzerland, Australia, Canada or South Africa!
    PEGIDA is FOR sexual self-determination!
    PEGIDA is FOR the preservation
    and protection
    our Christian

    chiefly Jewish West culture!
    PEGIDA is FOR the introduction of citizens Entscheidunge
    n along the lines of Switzerland!
    PEGIDA is AGAINST arms sales to unconstitutional, illegal organizations such as PKK
    PEGIDA is AGAINST allowing parallel societies / parallel dishes in our midst, as Sharia


    Justice of the Peace, etc.
    PEGIDA is called AGAINST this crazy “gender mainstreaming” often “genderisation”, the
    already almost obsessive, politically correct gender neutralization our language!
    PEGIDA is AGAINST radicalism whether relig
    IES or politically motivated!
    PEGIDA is AGAINST preachers of hate, no matter what religion belong!

  6. abynormal

    U.S. what the what 10yr
    1.73 -0.14…. 7.39%

    Alexander Hamilton started the U.S. Treasury with nothing, and that was the closest our country has ever been to being even. ~Will Rogers

  7. barrisj

    Dan Froomkin casts his cynical eye upon the “Brennan Report”, released by the so-called “CIA Select Panel”, named by Brennan to exonerate Brennan. Froomkin also highlights a report from the CIA’s Inspector General office which drops Brennan into the shit as far as documenting the electronic assault on Senate computers. Oh, unlike Washington insiders such as the risible Evan Bayh, the CIA Inspector General found himself persona non grata and he precipitously resigned this week, to…”spend more time with his family”?

    Read it here:
    John Brennan Exonerates Himself with Sham Investigation

    Love the link…”john-brennans-latest-fuck-you”…priceless.

  8. Llewelyn Moss

    At least the Irish still have a sense of humor.

    So the Isreali Ultra-Orthodox newspaper, HaMevaser, altered a third-page photograph of the Paris march (World leader edition) to remove Chancellor Angela Merkel and other female leaders. Clearly women have no business acting all important and sh1+.

    An Irish satirical news source, Waterford Whispers, responded by posting its own “feminist newspaper photoshop,” featuring the same Paris street scene with three female leaders depicted, but no men.

  9. hunkerdown

    re: the “your own private Idaho cloud” article, very glad to see it here or anywhere; I only wish it had observed that, for the price of two months of VPS and about the same amount of effort, you can buy any of several dozen single-board computers that can handle this and more quite capably — that is, if you have a “business-class” Internet service (i.e. pay extra for them to take the traps off the line and/or give you addresses on a subnet that isn’t on blacklists). One advantage is stronger protection against exemptions to the Bill of Rights, by virtue of the server living inside your “castle” and your personal information not being handled in the clear by a subcontractor as “business records”… and with CISPA in the offing, that could be important.

  10. jjmacjohnson

    So the only reason to be in the secret service is to leave to make money?

    a paid government apprenticeship?

    1. FederalismForever

      What’s wrong with the “conservative” platform described in this article? America’s foreign policy, in particular, would greatly benefit from some good old-fashioned Burkean conservatism. To illustrate, just think how much better it would be if the Republican Party would embrace the foreign policy views currently espoused in The American Conservative rather than the “neo”-conservative views set forth in National Review. Or how much better America’s recent foreign policy history would be if Bush the Elder had won a second term in 1992, and if Colin Powell had won two terms starting in 1996.

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      This guy is whack. Virtually every single thing he says is essential to “a conservative disposition” is precisely what today’s conservative Republicans are fighting against: facts, compromise.”Rooted in human experience”? “Appreciates the complexity of human society“? Here’s a good one: “because it isn’t a rigid ideology, it leaves itself open to self-examination and self-correction“. LOL. “Authentic conservatism has a high regard for things empirical” And everything I just put in quotes all comes from just one paragraph! It goes on and on like this.

      Here is the best part: “In a marvelous 1976 essay, the historian Gertrude Himmelfarb contended that the key word to describe the conservative disposition was “enjoyment.” Unlike those who are “always lusting after something that is not,” the conservative tends to find delight in the achievements and blessings we have.” If modern day conservatism is anything, it’s angry and bitter and not joyful in the least.

      I guess his whole point is that the people who now own the word conservative are nothing of the sort. But this guy seems like a pretty mainstream Dem to me, right down to the “should advance a policy agenda that systematically transforms welfare-state programs into a market-friendly safety net.” Check.

      1. jrs

        Conservatives probably do take great joy in the things they have. Of course it helps be a have rather than a have not.

    3. jrs

      Half the comments are “what damage has Obama inflicted on the country?”. Oh look forward not back and for torture too. The CIA spying on the senate. Drones and targeted assassination. The NDAA. Continued and new wars in the middle east. Sabotaging climate agreements. Etc. etc. lOw infOrmation O vOters.

  11. Eureka Springs

    Thanks for the El Capitan story. As one who has climbed it several times, survived unexpected blizzards and a bear attack on camp at the top I’m dumbfounded that anyone ever considered much less succeeded in this effort. Noticed the article mentioned safety ropes, but did not say how many times climbers fell/relied upon them. To recover from a fall in situation like that and yet be able to continue… words fail.

    1. Carolinian

      I’ve read that they have fallen but not how many times. There’s also a video crew so there will undoubtedly be a movie about it.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        There was a quick glimpse in the video on the news last night of one of them losing his grasp and falling but the video didn’t capture how far he fell or what happened next.

  12. Ulysses

    A rare MSM acknowledgement that l’affaire Hebdo will probably result in less freedom for all of us:

    “Clearly, the ultimate answer to the Charlie Hebdo massacre will not be freer speech. It will be a mostly secret intensification of police power, with attendant shrinkage of individual freedoms.

    And we will all be told not to worry: If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.”


  13. Howard Beale IV

    Uber could face US lawsuit over rape by driver in Delhi: Pando

    According to a new report by the Guardian, the female victim of an alleged rape by a New Delhi Uber driver plans to sue the company in US court. Making matters worse for the company, the unidentified woman has engaged high profile New York litigator Douglas Wigdor. Wigdor is most well known for recently representing hotel maid and alleged assault victim Nafissatou Diallo and securing a $6 million settlement from Dominique Strauss-Kahn. He also previously took on the investment bank Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein in a $1.4 billion sexual discrimination, securing an undisclosed settlement for his group of female clients.

    Couldn’t have happened to a nicer set of douchecanoes.

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