2:00PM Water Cooler 1/6/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Once, just once, I’d like to see a pundit write plain “working class” instead of “white working class” [WaPo] (a propos Jim Webb).

Warren: Asks what percentage of wage growth 90 percent of Americans got from 1980 to 2012, and answers: “Zero. None. In fact they end up a little behind. … 100 percent of the growth in income went to the top 10 percent” [Worcester Star-Telegram].

Warren: Pushing for lower interest on student debt [Mass Live]. Meh. Why not tuition free public education K-16? The Germans do, why can’t we? Warren points to the cancer, proffers band-aid.

Santorum summons former aides to 2016 “private briefing” [CNN].

Jebbie holds fundraiser in Greenwich, CT [CT News].

The host committee also includes Richard Breeden, chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during the first Bush presidency, and David McCormick, a former Treasury under secretary during the second Bush presidency who is president of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund.

Isn’t that special.

Chris Cilizza: “Marco Rubio is right. People don’t trust the government to do much of anything” [WaPo]. The article is a bit of a mess, because the headline speaks of “people,” but the text considers only the Republican electorate. Nevertheless, and leaving the fact that Cilizza taking Rubio seriously aside, “lack of trust in government” is conventional wisdom in the Beltway. (We sometimes see allied ideas in comments, too, where the idea that people can use politics, however defined as a non-market force, for collectively achievable ends, as opposed to divine agency, the automatic operation of the perfect theory, etc.) Making this recent fun and interactive chart from Pew interesting; the annotations are mine:


So, as you can see, it’s not a natural, immutable law that trust in government must always decrease; it increased during the Clinton era. So it would behoove any Democrat worthy of the name — I know, I know, assuming facts not in evidence — to look at whatever it was Clinton did to create that perception, and emulate it. (To pre-empt a typical permathread, I’m not arguing that Clinton was worthy of trust: NAFTA, Glass-Steagall, and on and on and on. But if the perception that government can be trusted to “do much of anything” is a key part of actually getting government to do anything, then whatever it was that Clinton did is worth looking into.)

Rand Paul could run for President and to keep his Senate seat at the same time, doubling his take campaign contribututions [National Journal].

Republicans have every incentive for gridlock, since voters blame Presidents for it [Talking Points Memo].

Herd on the Street

Best headline ever: “Wall Street Strategists Forecast More Stock Gains in 2015” [Wall Street Journal].

Forecasts for 2015 are a “silly waste of time” [Barry Ritholz, Bloomberg].

2015 forecasts [The World Bank]. “The US economy will strengthen far above predictions.”

2015 European growth: 1%, 1.2%, 0.8%, 1%, >1%, 0.8%, 0.8%, 1.2%, 1.2%, “flat,” 1.2%, 1%, 1.2%, 0.5%, 1%, 1.1%, 0.9%, 1.7%, 1.%, 1%, 1.3%, 1.5%, 0.5-1%, 1.5%, 0.9%, 1%, “treading water,” 1%, 1.3%, [FT, “FT economists’ survey 2015: Economic outlook”]. Average: 1.08%. Median: 1.0.

Oil selloff accelerates [Online WSJ]; energy has the worst “analyst sentiment” [Reuters]. Garçon, more Adderall!

Black Injustice Tipping Point

End-of-year round-up for Ferguson protests: More than 600 arrests, at least 18 still in jail with serious charges [MORE].

Grand juror says St. Louis County Prosecutor McCulloch “mischaracterized” the Darren Wilson case, sues to speak out on the proceedings [St Louis Public Radio]. This is huge. See here for posts on the games McCulloch played. Here’s a post with a copy of the lawsuit [Talking Points Memo].

Bar complaint filed against Prosecuting Attorney Bob McCulloch and Assistant Prosecuting Attorneys Kathi Alizadeh and Sheila Whirley for violations of at least 15 Rules of Professional Conduct [CBS].

New York judge agrees to consider release of Garner grand jury records [HuffPo]. Seems like a parallel effort?

#BlackBrunch peaceful protests in Oakland restaurants [Los Angeles Times]. The reaction by patrons was positive. This strikes me as tactically tricky; people are funny and possessive about food….

Oklahoma legislator proposes $500 fine for wearing a hoodie [KFOR].


Deleware North, which has the contract to run the concessions at Yosemite National Park, actually trademarked “Yosemite National Park” (!) [McClatchy].

Christie gives NFL big subsidies, cashes in with free luxury box seats [David Sirota, International Business Times]. America’s team!

Rahm Emmanuel plans to “play a very active role” in transferring public park land to the Obama Presidential Library [Bloomberg], so it doesn’t end up in Hawaii or, heaven forfend, New York. I’m filing this under corruption because Rahm.

Stats Watch

Factory orders, November 2014: Contracted for the fourth straight month, and weak across the board. Makes the jump in the manufacturing component of the industrial production report “look like an outlier” [Bloomberg].

PMI services index, December 2014: Slowed noticeably for third straight month, “its softest rate since September 2012” [Bloomberg]. However, expectations are strong.

ISM non-manufacturing index, December 2014: Slowed substantially, but still “healthy.” Employment and consumer spending for holidays are strong [Bloomberg].

Class Warfare

Senate welcomes six new millionaires [Bloomberg]. Of course, a million isn’t even real money, these days.

41% of Americans didn’t take any vacation days in 2014 [Quartz].

The Black Dog

Smart phones using voice analysis to “detect” depression algorithmically [Online WSJ]. Without informed consent, naturellement.

Depression as a (literal) allergy to modern life [Guardian].

Depression in adult life signalled by extreme feelings of guilt in children [The Atlantic].

News of the Wired

“Links are doomed. Teens hate links!” [The Awl]. 2015 internet predictions.

Library of Congress to retire THOMAS after twenty years [Library of Congress]; it has been replaced by Congress.gov (at least that’s where thomas.loc.gov redirects to). THOMAS was perhaps the one good idea Newt Gingrich ever had.

Travels on the container ship Ever Cthulu [The Disorder of Things].

French government seeks to adopt NHS “free at the point of care” model [New Zealand Herald]. While on the other side of the Channel, the Tories are trying to gut it.

Saudi Crown Prince gives speech on behalf of King Abdullah, assures ministers of King’s health [AP]. And then there’s this.

Five 2015 stories of conflict that got no coverage because they weren’t violent [Political Violence at a Glance].

“The Tahrir Square Defeat of Foreign Agents Youth Club” [Inanities]. Names, dates, and monuments in Egyptian political speech, and that which is not named, dated, or given a monument.

“Time to End the North Korean Threat” [Council on Foreign Relations]. From Richard Haas, CFR President (!).

The antidote to malaise about government is to deliver on projects: For example, California HSR [David Dayen, Salon].

* * *

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 (craazyman):


I’m a sucker for this kind of “tapestry” image because it speaks to the overwhelming complexity of even the smallest garden patch

And I bet those trees look a lot different now that there’s snow! Readers?

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

Talk amongst yourselves!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. Carolinian

    You forget Newt’s other good idea: term limits (quickly abandoned). Frequent turnover might even force former legislators to go back to real life rather than becoming lobbyists. Of course there’s the counterargument that by doing so you’d be losing all that legislative expertise to which one can only reply: a feature, not a bug.

    1. hunkerdown

      Starting conditions matter. You don’t think term limits would pose a real risk of turning the whole chamber into a money booth or a fire sale? Who needs legislative experience when everyone’s just cutting checks to themselves and their cronies?

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      Slick Willy was just an exceptional liar. They should put the Blue Dress in the Smithsonian as a metaphor. You knew Bush was lying when he had that dumb look on his face, which was always. You know Obama is lying when he acts all folksy and sh1+, “I guess we fooled some folks.” How anyone can remain affilated to either party at this point is mind boggling.

      1. James

        Slick Willy was an exceptional liar for his time in the manner of an old-school southern carnival huckster. The Shrub was an exceptional liar the way any retarded offspring would be (Oh, ain’t he a cute lil’ monkey?). Obama’s just a pathological, bought and paid for liar, plain and simple, although I’m sure his handlers played off the “cute lil monkey” juxtaposed against the “new world African-American Harvard Law School scholar” memes as well.

        Such a loveable lil monkey! NOT!

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          My favorite formulation for Clinton is that he could “shake hands with you while pissing down your leg.” That said, I deprecate the “Slick Willie” locution because it was propagated, if not devised, by those sleazebags from the bait shop that Scaife funded (who cut their teeth fighting integration in Little Rock, IIRC).

          Nor am I sure that Clinton is an especially excellent liar. Did Clinton really ever run a bigger disinformation campaign than Bush ran with the so-called Iraqi WMDs? Did he ever run a bigger bait-and-switch operation than Obama ran with “hope and change”? I don’t think so.

    1. Jill

      Warren is Advertising Age 2016 brand of the year. Not as useful as Obama in the suppression of dissent and rallying the troops (literally and figuratively) but not shabby either!

    2. James Housel

      It is hard to understand, but apparently Americans prefer to be ignorant and ill and broke. What else could explain our for-profit educational system and the healthcare “industry”?

    3. Vince in MN

      Warren is trying to save capitalism. Obviously single payer and free education would be going too far.

  2. Garrett Pace

    Phones as Doctors

    “smartphone app that will analyze factors including when patients lock and unlock their phones to determine sleep patterns in people with psychiatric disorders”

    I don’t have a smartphone – is that really how it is? The only reason to lock it and not use it for hours is because you’re unconscious?

    Oh brave new world

  3. McMike

    Re clinton.

    For starters, he didnt build his platform and daily messaging around the idea that government was de facto illegitimate.

    Even as he weakened it in many ways, he always acted as if it was important

    1. Carolinian

      So I guess it was just the era of BIG government that was over.

      Clinton was into Clinton. Nuff said.

      And–seriously–the increase in trust in government is easily explained. For most of that time the economy was booming. Gas prices were down in some areas to .89/gal. One could make a case that what happened economically in the ‘naughts was the price we were paying for all that misplaced trust.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Like the PA truck driver asked in 2008: “Which part don’t they like? The peace? Or the prosperity?” Sure, the dot com bubble burst, but at least — unlike the housing bubble — we got something for it: Internet infrastructure.

    1. Banger

      The whole Sony hack stinks any way you look at it. Of course you can trust nothing coming out of the FBI or any agency of government. Good story.

  4. DanB

    Re: Jeb Bush fundraiser: “…and David McCormick, a former Treasury under secretary during the second Bush presidency who is president of Bridgewater Associates, the world’s largest hedge fund.” Those who have seen Charles Ferguson’s “Inside Job” may recall that McCormick is the guy who asked Ferguson “can we turn off the camera?” after Ferguson said “you can’t be serious” as McCormick heaped praise on Hank Paulson.

  5. Jim

    “So as you can see its not a natural immutable law that trust in government must always decrease, it increased during the Clinton era.”

    Taken the nature of our modern structure of power (being ruled by both Big Capital and Big State) why the concern about slipping approval ratings of a key portion of this increasingly centralized and corrupt hierarchy of power?

    As Polyani has argued markets are always embedded in social, political and cultural structures. Through much of the 19th century the national government had delegated much of its domestic powers to the states.

    In the 20th century, national government allocated an increasing amount of its powers to private capital and this same private capital then exercised their power through the national government itself.

    In my opinion, it was the progressive strategy of administered reform through the national government (beginning in the early 20th century) that was instrumental in creating our modern public/private leviathan.

    Both Big Capital and Big State wanted and got the cooperation necessary through administration and management to protect and advance their respective interests.

    Isn’t it time progressives begin to seriously look to some other types of collective activity, besides a highly centralized State, that might protect as well as empower us.

      1. Vince in MN

        Inevitably it will come to that. In the meantime though, my money is on the Masters Of The Universe to create a diversion in order to knock the peasantry off stride. A BIg War is the most obvious solution. If that’s sounds radical, remember that we have more nukes than “them”, so we’d win. And think of the reconstruction opportunities for Megacorp afterwards. Just a little bit more time to beef up internal security and we should be good to go.

      1. JTFaraday

        I shouldn’t just say “intellectual exhaustion,” but also cultural exhaustion. We are at a cultural exhaust point. pffft.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Hmm. I don’t recall writing “highly centralized State.” Can you point out where I did that? You will find, I think, that “government can’t do anything” is pervasive at all levels of our Federal system. That attitude is, for example, why why in Maine we have a landfill that’s state owned but privately operated, for example, and is run for the benefit of the operators, and not the people of Maine.

      That said, there are obviously some programs that would be able to bring benefits to people more effectively if they are “highly centralized” — single payer, for example.

  6. Andrew Watts

    US Training Iraqi Forces in Anbar Amid Militants’ Mortar Fire

    The main reason why the Islamic State probably hasn’t directly attacked Ain al-Asad yet is that they don’t have any good intel about where exactly the troops are stationed inside. The vast size of the base is what is keeping them from attacking it. It certainly isn’t the Iraqi Security Forces guarding the perimeter.

    “Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said about 320 U.S. service members were stationed at Anbar’s al-Asad base. They provide advice and planning assistance to Iraqi security forces as mortar fire from Islamic State militants rains down regularly near the base. But Warren said the enemy fire attacks were merely a nuisance.

    “They have thus far been wholly ineffective. No U.S. personnel, no U.S. equipment has been impacted in any way,” he said. ”

    The mortar attacks on the base could potentially serve two purposes; misdirection/distraction for intel gathering and range finding. Both factors suggest that the base has already been infiltrated and that an attack is likely forthcoming. Whether the infiltrators are being actively trained by and in close contact with the American military advisers is a distinct possibility. What is undeniable is that IS typically uses sleeper cells in places where they’re likely to face stiff resistance.

    With crisis comes opportunity… or something bad. Gah.

      1. Roland

        Re: tanks in guerrilla wars.

        I have observed two things:

        1. I have seldom seen irregular forces decline to acquire armoured vehicles. e.g. in recent experience Rebel forces in Syria, regardless of their factional allegiance, have always used whatever AFV they can capture from government forces.

        2. I have never seen government or imperial forces neglect a chance to use armoured vehicles against guerrillas. This is the case even when the irregulars possess AT weapons which can pose a real threat to such armour. e.g. the Russians used their armour against the Chechens, and the Syrian gov’t forces use their tanks against the rebels, despite suffering significant tank losses.

        So whatever one might conceptualize about the nature of armour in irregular warfare, actual war experience shows that both regular and irregular forces involved in such wars almost always avail themselves of the heaviest AFV they can get.

        Another example: Canadian forces in Kandahar Province from 2006-11 at first deployed without any heavy armour. They didn’t imagine that tanks would have much use against Taliban guerrillas and they didn’t want to cope with the logistical burden of maintaining heavy tanks in that region. Moreover, the trend in Canada and among other Western governments was to replace their tanks with lighter, cheaper, wheeled gun AFV.

        But it didn’t take long for the Taliban to teach the Canadians that the trend was not their friend. Within weeks the Canadians were scrambling to send over their old Leopard tanks, while the government went desperately shopping for something for more modern (we leased some Leopard II’s from the Germans, and then finally bought some hand-me-down Leopard II’s from the Dutch).

        1. Andrew Watts

          Before the Syrian rebels acquired anti-tank weapons armored vehicles were an effective defense against snipers and small arms fire. Giving’em TOW missiles was a bad idea because they eventually ended up in the hands of al-Nusra and IS.

      2. Andrew Watts

        The Iraqi forces have lost so much equipment through capture or being destroyed that they probably need the replacements to replenish their losses. The Islamic State stopped being solely an irregular force a long time ago. They have a sizable amount of conventional forces backing them up and often bring their own tanks/artillery into the fight. In terms of how useful tanks are, I’m not an expert and that depends on the circumstances. When Daesh brought in a tank against Shia-Iraqi armored humvees in a recent battle in Anbar they were quite effective.

        As for their losses I haven’t kept any reliable reported count.

        (Clarification: When I said…

        “Whether the infiltrators are being actively trained by and in close contact with the American military advisers is a distinct possibility.”

        I did not mean they were conspiring with the Americans. I meant that they were fake volunteers and apart of a sleeper cell that will become active when and if an external attack commences. I would not trust any Sunni on the premises of the base.)

      1. sd

        Santorum always looks like he’s just discovered he’s in the wrong room and trying to cover by pretending he’s supposed to be there.

  7. vegasmike

    In most of Europe, you can get a free education if you’re qualified. I think many Americans would be deeply upset if their children were denied access to higher because they lacked academic ability. I went to a second rate public college. The education was free. But you did have to have moderately good grade and do moderately well on the SAT test.

    1. neo-realist

      We’ve got so much crap K-12 public education in this country, particularly in poor and dark skinned neighborhoods that it’s hard for so many young people to do even moderately well on the SAT.

  8. Jess

    Normally I’m a huge David Dayen fan, but he’s either delusional or in the tank to union job interests when it comes to California’s HSR project. This is a boondoggle of catastrophic proproations that will siphon money away from more needed services (transportation, infrastructure, education, you name it.) It’s ridership will be a joke, the cost overruns will be stratospheric, and it doesn’t even go from major metro area to major metro area. (Unless you count Bakersfield and Fresno as major metro areas.) Worst part is, it will end up killing any hope of a real, worthwhile, and completely justifiable HSR project from LA to SF.

    1. jrs

      Completely agree. It’s the boondoogle of all boondoggles. It’s constructing a line in the middle of nowhere and building train stations where there are no trains, literally that is the state of that project now.

      Local busses are more needed services – expand buss service, local light rail is more needed, adding more conventional long distance trains so passenger tracks are separated from freight is more needed.

      It will probably prove to be such as a disaster as to kill hope of HSR nationwide and well it should.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        I’m not sure why the California HSR brouhaha. Here’s the route map:

        Ultimately, it runs from San Francisco to Los Angeles. That’s hardly the middle of nowhere. And surely the phenomenon of business and communities developing round train stations is well known?

        1. sd

          It also connects the state to Sacramento, the state Capitol. It really sucks having to choose between flying or driving. I used to just love taking Amtrak in the northeast. From the middle of one city into the middle of another. Fantastic.

    2. anon

      Yep, totally agree on all points you mention. My wife and I just moved to LA after more than a decade in NYC and we have been frustrated by the sprawl and lack of effective mass transit. After months of fruitless job searching my wife interviewed for a job in Santa Barbara (ultimately accepted) thinking she could commute via train. We quickly discovered the coastal train is utterly useless for commuters or business day trippers as the schedule is total crap; the first AM northbound departure leaves LA around 8am and doesn’t arrive in Santa Barbara until around 10:30am. She can drive the 80 mile commute in almost half the time and what kind of good is a weekday train that doesn’t arrive until 10:30? There’s no such thing as a commuter express train, and there’s not a single northbound train leaving early, and there’s nothing coming southbound towards L.A. during the PM rush when commuters want to return, but there is a whole bunch of trains running up and down the coast during the middle of the day when nobody except maybe a handful of tourists looking for picturesque sea-views needs a train. SoCal has nothing even remotely close to the Long Island RR, Metro North, the PATH train to Trenton or the Accela to Philly/DC. All of those trains cram the bulk of their schedule close together to accommodate the morning and evening commuters with trains spaced thinly during the middle of the day at slower demand times. WTF California mass transit bureaucrats??? Connect the dense urban coastal cities first then worry about the parched, rural soon to be depopulated interior later.

  9. `Jay M

    It will be interesting where the impeachment resolution will come from. You feel that the Republican are taking pitches that will reflect a lot of group think.

    Bon Voyage?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yeah, heaven forfend that Obama be impeached for a massive and illegal program of warrantless surveillance, or blowing off our treaty obligations on torture, or whacking U.S. citizens without due process….

  10. Propertius

    why can’t we? Warren points to the cancer, proffers band-aid.

    Not even that, I’m afraid. Just a mild analgesic, in fact.

  11. Propertius

    Rand Paul could run for President and to keep his Senate seat at the same time

    Which, lest we forget, is exactly what Joe Biden did in 2008. He got re-elected, too ;-)

  12. Propertius

    I’m not arguing that Clinton was worthy of trust: NAFTA, Glass-Steagall, and on and on and on.

    I’m not going to defend him on NAFTA or Gramm-Leach-Bliley, except to note that a veto of Gramm-Leach-Bliley would have been futile since it passed both houses with veto -proof, bipartisan (there’s that word again!) majorities (90-8 with 2 not voting in the Senate, and 362-57 with 15 not voting in the House). FDR himself couldn’t have made a veto stick.

  13. Oregoncharles

    “Bar Complaint Filed Against McCulloch” –
    The photo caption indicates that he was just re-elected as DA. Too bad.
    Of course, disbarment would remove him. In general, it’s an overlooked approach with lawyers – like prosecutors.

Comments are closed.