2:00PM Water Cooler 1/5/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Welcome to the first full week of 2015!


An Elizabeth Warren miscellany [Roger Hickey, HuffPo]. The coveted CAF endorsement.

Sanders: Let the oppo begin! [Counterpunch].

Iowa party chiefs decry possibility of “coronation,” view Clinton as second choice [Wall Street Journal].

Headline: “A Millennial’s Guide to the Nineties: From Whitewater to Troopergate, here’s everything you don’t remember about the Clintons” [Politico]. I think this is the worst article I’ve ever read in The Beltway Shopper Politico, and that’s saying something. Imagine writing an article on Whitewater without mentioning the squillionaire — Richard Mellon Scaife — who funded Clinton’s opponents! Remember those colorful characters from the Arkansas bait shop? I wouldn’t have thought it possible to combine froth and tripe, but author Schreckinger has done the trick. Here’s the relentlessly trivial conclusion:

I’ll leave you with Klein’s compressed summary of the whole thing for the tl;dr crowd: “There was a shady real estate deal, that was just a stupid real estate deal. And then there was a blowjob, and that’s it.”

In fact, IMNSHO, Clinton scandals are best viewed as a conservative-driven, media-fueled, slow-motion legitimacy crisis that culminated with Fat Tony Scalia’s selection of George Bush as President in Bush v. Gore. And Joke Line’s Joe Klein’s vacuous formulation airbrushes the ferocity, the ferality of the assault. When you understand that, you also understand that Obama’s professed strategy, or vague hope, or whatever it was, of co-operating with the Republicans in 2008 and onward was either a strategic blunder of the first order, or an outright con (and either way, one in which all his supporters of that time are implicated). Co-operate with the same party — and the same operatives — who impeached a sitting President over a blowjob? How was that ever going to work? But then what can you expect of an author who takes “millennial” seriously as a political identity?

Will Al Sharpton be Hillary’s Sister Souljah? [Buffalo News]. Couldn’t happen to a nicer member of the black misleadership class…

Huckabee quits Fox show, mulls Presidential run [CNN], tours with Iowa “pastors” and activists [Bloomberg].

Christie to visit Illinois, Florida, and Maryland in January. Oh, and Iowa [Philadelphia Inquirer].

Jebbie resigns all his board positions [Spokesman-Review].

Romney didn’t lose in 2012 because he moved right in the primaries [New York Times]. That’s because he didn’t move right. He won by convincing party insiders he had the best chance to win the general, which Jebbie can also do.

Perry might decide to run by mid-year, but he’d like to make some money first [The Hill]. Oh-kaaay….

“2016 should feature two familiar election issues: the size of government and the economy” [Los Angeles Times]. Why can’t it be the functions of government, and not its size? Can’t I shrink the F35 part, and grow the single payer part?

NYPD Soft Coup

The very model of a Democratic strategist…. [Buzzfeed].

“We reached a dangerous point in this city a couple of weeks ago,” said Nathan Smith, a Democratic consultant in New York. “Folks believe that we were brought [note lack of agency] to the brink of a very dangerous and explosive situation, and folks want a much more productive path to find a solution in the future.”

Translation: Give the NYPD whatever they want, including acting like parastate within a state, but do it nicely. “Folks” (twice repeated!) is always a tell of Beltway contamination. I mean, what New Yorker would ever say “folks” unironically?

So far as I know, the only other organized group that’s into politicizing funerals is the Westboro Baptist church. So, the NPYD — turning their backs again — is in good company [WaPo]. After DeBlasio politely asked them not too, as well [New York Times].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

The only member of the Ferguson Commission with a Ferguson connection is a veteranarian whose business is there, but who doesn’t live there [News-Observer].

Civilian member of Ferguson Commission resigns, so (Democrat) Governor Nixon replaces them with an ex-cop [CBS].

“Ferguson movement drafts its own blueprint.” Several local, not parachuted in, figures are quoted [St. Louis Post-Dispatch]. At last.

Rich, dense vignettes of the Ferguson protests in year-end wrap-up [St Louis Post-Dispatch], with several sparking examples of tactical brilliance by protesters. Well worth a read.

Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson and St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar, both of arson on West Florrissant after the grand jury declined to indict Wilson: “We didn’t expect this” [St Louis American]. After Prosecutor McCulloch inexplicably delayed the announcement and his presser until well after dark? Not credible.

Milwaukee’s police culture could be more egregious than St Louis’s [Capital Times].


Rahm Emanuel’s appointed school board member, Deborah Quazzo, invests in firms that do business with the Chicago Public Schools [HuffPo]. Crapified “educational” software. For test prep. Naturally.

Class Warfare

Cuomo and Christie plan to end overnight PATH service [New York Times].Well, it’s only working people that use it. So.

America the Petrostate

Obama’s Interior secretary says local fracking bans “create confusion” for oil and gas industry [The Hill]. And the oil and gas industry continue to attack the locals [Houston Chronicle].

Giant methane cloud from gas flaring over New Mexico [Guardian].


The Vermont universal health care debacle [Real News Network]. Democrats, DC consultants deep six single payer. Film at 11.

First, ObamaCare sends you Form 1095-A: the “Health Insurance Marketplace Statement,” which lists who in the household had policies, and their subsidies, if any. [USA Today]. (The IRS says that since Form 1095-A is supplied by “a third party,” it won’t be able to answer questions about it.) Then you take the subsidies from Form 1095-A and transfer them to Form 8962: This is the part where if you underestimated your income and hence claimed too large a subsidy, the IRS claws back the difference. For your reference:


What could go wrong?

ObamaCare employer mandate to go into effect in 2015 [The Hill]. Part of ObamaCare from the start, the administration decided not to enforce the law.

HHS issues RFP for “National Data Warehouse,” a database for “capturing, aggregating, and analyzing information” related to beneficiary and customer experiences with Medicare and the federal Obamacare marketplaces [Weekly Standard]. Wait, so measuring customer satisfaction was never part of the original functional requirements?!

News of the Wired

  • Advertising on the Apple watch, oh joy [Reuters].
  • “How My Mom Got Hacked” [New York Times]. Not just Mom; the Sheriff’s Office of Dickson County, Tennessee and the city of Detroit.
  • The history of the Brownie camera [BBC].
  • Construction starts for California high-speed rail [Los Angeles Times].
  • Bird populations falling in Asia [Straits Times]. Pesticides knocked out the bottom of the food chain.
  • A cartoonist draws LA County jail [LA Weekly]. “In jail it is extremely difficult to get accurate information about anything.”
  • “86 Viral Images From 2014 That Were Totally Fake” [The Verge].

* * *

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 (MC):


Yum! Still looking for more images of wintry plants….

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat:

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. Kim Kaufman

    “He won by convincing party insiders he had the best chance to win the general, which Jebbie can also do.”

    Especially when he stands in public with his Mexican wife who speak Spanish and he speaks Spanish also.

    1. neo-realist

      Jeb’s wife and his mastery of Spanish will work like a charm in the Southwest—Lots of Latino votes, plus a growing Latino populace in general which can offset the democratic black vote. Other than that, I believe she will likely take a low profile in the election.

      1. James

        I can just see him down here schmoozing with Susanna Martinez, who might also be looking to get on the ticket now. Not sure how the locals would take to any of them, but I guess they might do pretty well compared to a HillBillary alternative. Myself, I’m pretty sure I’d prefer a .38 slug at short range to the brainpan before wasting a vote on either.

  2. Jess

    So the great bait-and-switch CA High Speed Rail fiasco boondoggle begins. Sold as connecting LA (downtown and LAX) with San Francisco, it will now connect Bakersfield (which has oil and gangs) with Fresno (which has Foster Farms chickens and gangs). Instead of white-collar professionals using the HSR as an alternative to flying, I’m sure all those ranchers, cowhands, oil field roustabouts, and farm equipment salesmen will leave their pickups and SUVs behind in favor of the fast luxury of transportation that doesn’t get you where you need to go. Awesome, I tell you, awesome.

    And BTW, did you know that the California Supreme Court, in its infinite wisdom, through out a suit to stop the project on the grounds that even though the final route bore no resemblance to the one described in the voter information pamphlet and ads — and that the cost had at least tripled before the first spade of dirt was turned — just because it was HSR was enough to make it legit. This is going to bite future bond measures in the ass because opponents will legitimately be able to claim that the uses of future bond funds can be changed willy-nilly.

    CA Republicans have been against this nightmare from the beginning, proving once again that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

        1. loustic

          Genius in Paris, the lazy French have been using a thing called le TGV for a couple of decades. Check it out.

      1. Kim Kaufman

        This was being talked about on a radio show last night (I’m in Los Angeles). The Chinese HSR carries far less passengers than it was sold as carrying. They’re reconfiguring.

        As for bonds, they’re going to be a problem all around. In Los Angeles there was the recent scandal of the former (yay!) Supertintendent saying he was going to spend $1.3 billion in iPads – with Pearson software. Half of the funds would come from school construction bonds. There is a provision for “technology” in the bonds but probably that meant things like Wi-Fi infrastructure. School bonds cannot go for things that 1) leave the premises and 2) are textbooks. They still haven’t figured out the “leave the premise” issue. As it turns out the deal the Sup wanted to make was with Pearson. So they made Pearson a sub-contractor of Apple – voila! Technology with Pearson software (textbooks) already on the iPads. The Sup is gone and the FBI have raided Los Angeles Unified School District. Prognosis for future construction bonds for schools? Not so good. And there are billions of repairs still needed.

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Perhaps new money for infrastructure should go to the People first.

          That way, the People take a cut before voting for infrastructure projects that will be wasted due to corruption.

    1. heresy101

      The Guangzhou to Moscow high speed rail will be finished before the California high speed rail to nowhere and probably for less money.

      Given the Warmonger-In-Chief’s assault on Russia and Europe, the replacement of Alstrom by China Rail for the Russia-China high speed rail will cause others beside Hollande to see how the economic sanctions are hurting Europe as much as Russia.

      1. optimader

        “The Guangzhou to Moscow high speed rail will be finished before the California high speed rail”
        That maybe true, just don’t be a beta test passenger or you may risk being buried w/ the train next to the derailment site the next day.

        1. MyLessThanprimeBeef

          It’s a bit disheartening that, even in the land of 2,000 plus years of fine civil servants, they still can’t get a big infrastructure project done without corruption costing human lives.

          Actually, even without corruption, their big projects still cost lots of lives and not a few dynasties

        2. OIFVet

          Yep, just like the Takoma Narrows Bridge, aka Galloping Gertie. Perhaps America’s taking its time means its infrastructure is the envy of the world? Not so, says American Society of Civil Engineers: http://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/grades/. Our sclerotic single-party system has simply lost its ability and its desire to invest in anything other than the MIC.

          1. Jim Haygood

            So we need to weaponize that California high speed train with a caboose of mobile ICBMs?

            Two birds, one stone.

          2. optimader

            The Tacoma Narrows bridge remains a 100 level engineering school case study that’s been dissected, evaluated and digested transparently in the engineering community.

            What I was referring to was Wenzhou rail collision where the train (and any forensic evidence) was buried rail side within 24 hours. The original State explanation was that it was to “protect national technology” (which of course translates to we don’t want to expose our version of technology stolen from evil western corporations that we had disingenuously invited to bid on HSR technology in order that we may perform a technology suck.)

            “..Critics said the wreckage needed to be carefully examined for causes of the malfunction, but the railway ministry said that the trains contain valuable national technology and could not be left in the open in case it fell into the wrong hands..”

            Re: Cali high speed rail
            America taking its time (IMO) is certainly a symptom of an inept political class unable to advance a constructive version of a public infrastructure program, as well a demonstration of an apparent lack of public will and an inclination toward litigiousness.
            typical: http://hanfordsentinel.com/news/local/officials-high-speed-rail-threatens-key-fire-station/article_69bffa65-23bb-5b23-bb48-71fbfb5bdaa9.html

            FWIW I am a long time enthusiastic advocate of regional light electric rail and at least “pretty fast” long distance passenger rail in the US. Unfortunately “high speed rail” seems to be the only hammer in the passenger rail ground transportation portfolio of choices that has any attention.

            Re: “pretty fast” ( this was the cross country transportation de rigueur ~80 years ago)
            Historically, the Hiawathas were operated by the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (also known as the “Milwaukee Road”) and initially traveled from Chicago to the Twin Cities. The first Hiawatha trains ran in 1935. By 1946, there were actually four routes carrying the Hiawatha name, Chicago–Minneapolis; Chicago–Omaha; Chicago–Wausau–Minocqua; and Chicago-Minneapolis-Seattle.

            The Hiawathas were among the world’s fastest trains in the 1930s and 1940s, and these trains reached some of their peak speeds on this stretch, directly competing with trains from the Chicago and North Western Railway which ran on roughly parallel tracks. A 90-minute non-stop service between Chicago and Milwaukee was first introduced in the mid-1930s, and this later fell to 75 minutes for several years. A self-imposed 100 miles per hour (161 km/h) speed limit was routinely exceeded by locomotive engineers, until the Interstate Commerce Commission rules imposed a stricter limit of 90 mph (145 km/h) in the early 1950s, and the train slowed to a schedule of 80 minutes, though with the addition of the Glenview stop. Ultimately, the speed limit fell to 79 mph (127 km/h) in 1968 because of signaling changes, and the scheduled duration went back to 90 minutes end-to-end.[7]

  3. Jess

    Since one of Lambert’s New Year’s Resolutions was to be extra hard on conspiracy theories, I offer up myself as the first victim:

    Anybody think that with oil prices dropping maybe Jerry Jones needs the revenue from another playoff game and that’s why the refs picked up the flag and made the worst call reversal in the history of the NFL? )Even though the game is on the road, I believe that the Cowboys get a cut of the gate and TV revenue.)

    1. James

      We’ll keep a candle burning for you. Such a selfless act of contrition.

      But I did notice Jerry whupping it up with Chris Christie in the owners box. Birds of a feather and all that…

  4. Anon

    Re: Sanders

    The mention of Jesse Jackson by these two writers reminded me of Bertram Gross’s classic 1980 text on US politics and the power elites titled Friendly Fascism. In between discussing the nature of fascism, the likelihood it will come to the United States, and the growth of the corporate state, Gross discusses what happens to “anti-establishment” candidates that might reach the White House. The candidates he had in mind as examples were George McGovern and, Jimmy Carter (yes, Jimmy Carter was considered extremely liberal and anti-establishment in 1976.) In the rare instance that such a candidate did get elected President and did not change his tune to harmonize with Wall Street and the Pentagon, Gross suggests that, ultimately, the person would be killed by those whose interests were threatened. Even without the conspiratorial angle, the reality of US politics in the current age is that any progressive in a position of power must temper their left-leaning politics if they want to keep their power. The more powerful their position, the more compromise is required. The anecdotes related above suggest Bernie Sanders understands this all too well and acts accordingly. So, even if the reader might believe President Bernie Sanders could bring us back from the precipice we find ourselves on the edge of, the very nature of the US economic and political system ensures that he can not.

    Which is exactly why, even if he does win, he’s gonna have to do a face-turn or get dragged without a fight to the “right” path (right in this case being what the people substantially richer than us want).

    1. sleepy

      Interesting, but I think the “system” doesn’t need to resort to murder to control the outcome. To me, it seems there are dozens of sub-systems–money, the media, electoral fraud, redistricting, manipulation of crises, etc., etc.–all of which can work to achieve the same end. That even assumes that there are genuine “leftists” to begin with that require any sort of tending.

      Also, imho, McGovern was definitely considered a liberal, but I certainly don’t recall it with Carter. At the time, Carter appeared to be the dem party establishment’s blowback at the “horror” of McGovern’s nomination, and an attempt to recapture the Southern and religious voters–which he did in 76. Because of that, while I had voted for McGovern in 1972, I voted 3rd party in 1976. Peter Camejo!

      1. hunkerdown

        No doubt the carrots are tastier and the sticks are more padded as one ascends the ladder and proves oneself more faithful to elite interests, and these other techniques can generally achieve satisfactory ends in some combination, with less fuss, less visibility and less paperwork than offing someone. But they can’t stop a determined actor who doesn’t value money, reelection or elite fellowship.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        Yes, dozens of sub-systems, all operating with degrees of relative autonomy, too. It’s a sort of defense in depth, I think.

        I don’t recall Carter being a liberal, either — though (in my green and salad days) I was sold on him by an article from Hunter Thompson; he at least seemed honest, which was quite a change from Nixon. I had to look all this up again, but the Democratic field was weak, and Carter ran a truly national campaign in the first nomination dominated by primaries (after the McGovern reforms). Like Obama, he gained momentum with wins in early contests.

  5. winstonsmith

    Re: How My Mom Got Hacked

    Without something like ransomcoin (aka libertarianvomitbubblecoin aka lvbcoin aka bitcoin) this kind of mass extortion would not be possible in the first place. I don’t fault the journalist for her evenhanded account, but a casual reading of the article could leave one with the impression that it’s “lvbcoin to the rescue” when it’s really “lvbcoin strikes again”. Speaking of which, Bitstamp has suspended withdrawals á la Mt Gox and “Cops think Mt Gox meltdown was an ‘INSIDE JOB’”.

  6. sleepy

    Re: Form 1095-A/Obamacare penalties/subsidy clawbacks

    I cannot imagine this thing being actually enforced. I think this is the point where the deliberate overcomplexity of Obamacare rubber meets the political road. There will be several million people who are subject to the clawback, and probably millions more subject to the penalty.

    US Tax Court freezes up in congestion if only 10 or 20 percent of taxpayers contest the tax penalties resulting from Obamacare.

    1. sleepy

      “contest the tax penalties resulting from Obamacare”

      I include as “tax penalties” the clawbacks from subsidy overpayment as well as the actual penalty resulting from non-compliance.

      I assume that Tax Court would have jurisdiction over the assessment of any clawback.

  7. Jim

    When the populists went down to defeat in 1896, “progressive” thinking and behavior took over.

    Such thinking tended to support a managerial type of politics in which it was assumed that good men in high office with the help of expert civil servants (who had mastered their petty passions and ambitions) would be able to guide the country toward growth and harmony.

    By 2015 the complete collapse of both the bureaucratic left and right was evident for all to see in Europe and the U.S, with a politics controlled by sophisticated managers/experts under increasing attack by reemerging populists forces..

    Hopefully we are edging closer to a new political vision as the centralized public/private networks that emerged between 1900 and 1920 in the U.S, begin to breakdown and consequently offer the opportunity and space for the emergence, once again, of a popular participation not interested in managing society better but in actually changing it.

  8. Kevin Hall

    I liked Obama once, yes I did.

    But the actions just didn’t line up with the talk. The willingness to co-operate with the republicans in 2008 when there was obviously no honor reciprocated from the other side was the clincher for me.

    Stephen Colbert was spot on back in 2011 with his Billy Goats Gruff sketch.

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