2:00PM Water Cooler 2/11/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Sanders at Brookings: “[W]e are moving rapidly away from our democratic heritage into an oligarchic form of society” [Common Dreams]. Moving?

The Clinton Foundation has collected as much as $81m from wealthy international donors who were clients of HSBC’s controversial Swiss bank [Guardian]. Ka-ching.

Hillary Clinton has made two public appearances since Christmas [WaPo]. Both were in Canada. She’s scheduled to headline the $295-a-head Lead On conference for women at the Santa Clara Convention Center on Feb. 24 [San Francisco Chronicle].

Potential Democratic candidate Martin O’Malley’s grandmother an influential figure on Capitol Hill [Wall Street Journal]. What’s all this with the grandparents lately?


Jebbies tech problems (1): Ethan Czahor resigns as Bush CTO after “slut” tweets surface [NBC]. So nobody checked his social media presence before the hire?

Jebbie’s tech problems (2): That big email dump was poorly redacted or not at all; contains Social Security numbers (!), and much other personally identifying information [The Verge]. So who let that happen? (John Cassidy’s think piece on Bush misses the story, then, too [The New Yorker].)

Principled Insurgents

Scott Walker first candidate to open an Iowa office [Des Moines Register].

“During his political career, Walker has taken in more than 595,000 contributions totaling more than $77 million” [USA Today].

Wisconsin Now waves madly at Walker oppo researchers everywhere. “Me! Me!” [Bloomberg].

Clown Car

Rubio says his legislative experience is deeper than Obama’s when Obama ran [National Journal]. Deeper than a shallow puddle?

Jindal says LSU cost is “certainly well under $10,000.” LSU estimate: $̌̌20,564 [The Advocate].

Larry Sabato on Jindal: “Louisiana’s finances are a bloody mess and Jindal has been running things for seven years. He can’t simply blame it all on the price of oil” [NOLA].

The Vox Obama interview: “Klein and Yglesias haven’t gathered enough protein to make a decent news bouillon” [Politico]. Politico. Oh, okay.

The Buzzfeed Obama interview: Here’s a quick summary of the material on CDOs, the foreclosure crisis, the financial collapse, and the bailouts: ____________ [Buzzfeed]. Ben Smith makes Matty and Young Ezra look like Woodward and Bernstein before the rot set in. “A disorienting new media conversation” my sweet Aunt Fanny.

Ten now-forgotten primary flame-outs [FiveThirtyEight]. Donna Rice. And who can forget “Joementum”? Some candidates (Santorum, 2012; Huckabee, 2008) just fizzle! [Alternet].

Explainer on how money flows to campaigns, with handy diagrams [National Journal].

Herd on the Street

Times New York real-estate serial exposé moves on from Malaysian oligarchs to Mexican ones [New York Times]. The swag the 0.01% buy with their loot winnings wealth.

EU antitrust regulators will open a full-scale investigation into Siemens, Dresser-Rand deal [Reuters]. Dresser-Rand makes oil patch equipment.

Microsoft in 1999 was bigger than Apple today [FT, “Apple: not so big after all”].

Interview with Cisco CEO on digital disruption [Wall Street Journal]. Oddly, or not, the acronym “NSA” does not appear.

Stats Watch

U.S. farm income set to drop 22 Percent [Agweb].

MBA Purchase Applications, week of February 6, 2014: “The purchase index fell 7.0 percent in the February 6 week for the 4th straight fall but still remains in the plus column on a year-on-year basis, but only by plus 1.0 percent” [Bloomberg]. Bloomberg seems to have taken away the URL for this individual stat, though not for others. If they take away all URLs for Economic Calendar pages as part of the redesign, I guess I’ll just have to add them to my glass bowl collection.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

Globe survey of Massahchusetts residents: “The alarming results suggest that the public is consuming information about surveillance and security that bears very little relation to existing empirical evidence” [Medium]. He said/she said journalism hasn’t served them well….

Florida lawyer hands out cards at DUI checkpoints: “I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer.” [The Tribune].

Guardian hires Chelsea Manning as a contributing opinion writer [Mediate]. Good for them!

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Ferguson Alternative Spring Break [Riverfront Times].


Oregon Governor Kitzhaber quietly looking to shut down inquiries, after promising ethics review [Oregon Live]. The inquiries: The Attorney General, the Ethics Commission, the public records fight, a reported FBI investigation, and two potential recall campaigns [Oregon Live]. That’s a lot of fronts to fight on at once. The essence of the scandal, from yesterday’s Water Cooler:

A new batch of emails released Friday show [Oregon First Lady] Cylvia Hayes directed state employees how to implement a new policy while she was being paid $25,000 by an advocacy group to promote it.

The emails appear to erase any doubt that, as first lady, Hayes was taking money in her private role and pushing the same policy in her public one.

Interestingly the Oregon stories linked to today don’t give this background, suggesting that they think their readers already know it. That’s not good for Kitzhaber.

Class Warfare

Lancet Psychiatry Journal: Around 45,000 suicides each year are attributable to unemployment, according to a survey of 63 countries published Wednesday [Japan Times].

Hey, remember when a contract counted for something, even if was for a pension? [WaPo]. Good times. Note the deceptive headline: WaPo calls contracts “promises.” Not the same.

Real weekly earnings are up [Jared Bernstein, WaPo]. Because of longer hours and falling prices.

News of the Wired

  • “Dubai Unveils Plans For World’s Largest Human Rights Violation” [The Onion].
  • “Handwriting Isn’t Dead—Smart Pens and Styluses Are Saving It” [Wall Street Journal]. Not mine!
  • Yet another case of a Chinese passenger opening emergency exit doors on flight [The Star]. Fortunately before take-off, but still…
  • Tips to screw money they owe you out of the airlines [Thrillist].
  • Great headlines of our time: [FT, “Dominique Strauss-Kahn apologises to hurt sex worker”].
  • “Blush on as [Singapore’s Media Development Authority] efficiently translates the [50 Shades of Grey’s] sex scenes into succinct literary descriptions” [Coconuts Singapore]. Same meta-problem faced by the Indexing Librorum Prohibitorum: You’ve got to describe what you want to censor.
  • “Neoclassical Man and Dynamic Uncertainty Woman: A dynamic economic gaze heuristic” [IDEA]. As it turns out, your neo-classical economist exhibits less intelligence than a dog trying to catch a frisbee. I know, film at 11, but a good read.

* * *

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 (via):


I hasn’t known that nasturtiums were edible flowers. But they are!

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. It’s the heating season!

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. markf

    “U.S. farm income set to drop 22 Percent”


    How little attention do the people that grow our food get.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      The post about the 22% drop in farm income is very disturbing to me too. I expect this drop in income will disproportionately impact the few remaining small and medium scale farmers. Although the small farmer of the 1930’s is long gone and most of the small and medium scale farms don’t quite fit with old images of the family farmer of American lore, I would feel extremely uncomfortable if they left the business. There would be nothing left to buffer us from future predations by big Ag.

      I attended a meeting of a local farmer’s coop and left with a view of small and medium scale farms as very similar to other small business. The people in this business seemed ambitious and out-to-make money like any other group of business people and like other small business owners, I have observed or talked with, they impressed me as very honest, ethical and in love in some with what they do. Their business is more than a source of income for them, a job. It represents an expression of their character, their beliefs and their desire to make, to build, to provide something of value.

      Having worked for many years in a very large company I am left with a very different impression of large business, big Ag. I immediately recall the Archer-Daniels-Midland (ADM) efforts to form a cartel with four other large international firms to control lysine or the many suits brought by Monsanto against farmers. Given the power to control plant genetics what did big Ag come up with? They came up with poisonous potatoes, and seeds which produce sterile offspring.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Thank you for sharing that story.

        My theory is that big business is under-regulated by the extent small business is over-regulated, when we have one size fits all regulations.

        Worse still, big business is not regulated at all in many cases, and not just when they explore in previously un-explored territories, like GM seeds or new technologies, like fracking.

        1. Faye Carr

          MLTPB: Your theory of Big-v-Small ag is correct. It is the payment of fines that divides us so effectively. For BigAg it’s a tax deductible cost of doing business (if they’re ever even applied) and a door slamming business death for “small farms”.

          The same criteria apply to “Certified Organic”

          As to the seeds? F1 is just the obvious scam. The not so visable is the purchasing of the patents for seeds. Then there’s the scooping up of many catalog companies – unknown to seed buyers who think they’re buying Non-Montsanto seeds.

          Oh, and, nevermind the whole GMO thing. It’s the “look over there-not here” strategy. Working VERY well for them too.

          Yeah-this is a “hobby horse” issue for me.

      2. Kurt Sperry

        Which is why seedsellers from Monsanto to Atlee Burpee have always loved selling F1 hybrids that won’t breed true. You thought it was the heterotic vigor? Hahahaha!

  2. Susan

    Great nasturtium image! They are indeed edible. The farm I worked on sells ’em for $8/lb! Spicy! Mmm…

    Clinton links to HSBC? Well! Will wonders never cease!

    1. Nat Scientist

      Nasturiums are self-seeding and grow like climbing vines, wild on fences in west coast temperate zones. Press the watery juice out of the fleshy vines to coat “the gophinator” traps ; gophers love the peppery notes just before they meet the spring wire. Flowers and arugula-like (it too is a vegetable) round leaves are salad ingredients.
      Wild but easy to control with its weak-holding roots.

  3. Jeff W

    The link for the Singapore Coconuts piece is here.

    Stan Sesser in his New Yorker piece “Nation of Contradictions” described exactly the same thing with regard to Singapore over 20 years ago but at that time it was paper descriptions of the censored bits taped inside videotape boxes. (I’ll dig up the exact quote later.)

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      If we hope all cultures are capable of evolving, and if we are somewhat regressive, do we prefer asking others’ indulgence to let us progress genuinely in our dignified, sovereign pace, motivated from within our own souls?

      Or do we accept the fickle commands of the exceptional empire which yesterday banned public displays of female chests, only to celebrate that today (hypothetical case here)?

      “Hurry up and burn all those blouses. You are repressing the wiser and gentler gender.”

    2. Jeff W

      From Stan Sesser’s “A Nation of Contradictions” (i.e., Singapore) in the New Yorker (1992):

      Hidden away on the third floor of the Tanglin Shopping Center, in the Orchard Road tourist area, is a little store called D & O Film & Video. Here, Albert Odell holds court, to talk about movies the way a football fan might talk about the greatest Super Bowls. Odell, once British and now a Singaporean, came from Hong Kong in 1948 to represent film companies that wanted to distribute their movies in Southeast Asia. Today, he runs his video store in conjunction with a silent partner—the government’s Board of Film Censors, which has the first crack at all videotapes that enter Singapore legally. “I get a parcel every week, but it’s delivered directly to the censors,” he told me. “I open it in their presence. The censors have a yardstick to go by: certain words are one hundred percent taboo. They allow ‘fuck’ but never ‘motherfucker.’ If ‘mother’ is involved, it goes. Any frontal bare breast is out, but a side view is O.K. All references to Allah go. In Young Guns, a guy might be shot twelve times, and they’ll say, ‘Reduce it so he’s shot only five times.’” Singapore’s officials are nothing if not methodical, and they duly type up on a sheet of paper every excision and alteration they require in a film. (“Reduce to minimum the sequence of couple embracing passionately and woman in ecstasy,” one alteration reads.) Odell tapes the relevant sheet to the inside of each videocassette box, so the customer can know exactly what is missing. Browsing through the shelves of D & O Film & Video becomes an exercise in R-rated hilarity.

      The censors are not being especially obsessive in their task. They are required by law (the Films Act, §15(2)) to detail their alterations and excisions with reasons.

      Sesser doesn’t make exactly clear, as this later Wall Street Journal piece (from 2001) does, that Mr Odell, by taping the descriptions of the alternations or excisions to the videotape box, was not acting at the censors’ request or that he, if he was importing a film, had to pay for the review of the film and the cuts:

      When Mr. Odell imports a film, it goes straight to the censors. After a few weeks or so he gets a letter detailing the cuts the censors demand. He can then decide to pay for the cuts, appeal or let the censors keep the movie.

      If he decides to go with the cuts, he then slaps the censor’s descriptions of the deletions onto the box enclosing the video itself. “Delete scene of two dogs coupling,” reads the description on “Secrets of the Heart,” a recent Spanish release that was rated for children 12 and over in the U.K.

      When he started including the descriptions of deletions with his videos, Mr. Odell says the censor department was “a little upset.”

      “They asked me if I wasn’t embarrassed by that. I said, ‘Why should I be embarrassed, you’re the ones making the cuts?'”

      Odell was not one to indulge the Board of Film Censors in letting it progress, genuinely or not, in its dignified, sovereign pace. He fought with it to the extent he could until his death in 2004.

  4. upstater

    Florida lawyer hands out cards at DUI checkpoints: “I remain silent. No searches. I want my lawyer.”
    DUI checkpoints are NOT big brother watching you. Impaired driving kills far more people than homicides by guns (10,076 DUI deaths in 2013 vs. 8,855 gun homicides in 2012). Over one-third of DUI victims are innocents; in 2013 there were over 3,651 innocents killed by drunk drivers. How many hit-and-run deaths are from drunk drivers?
    The per capita death rates from DUI are more than 8 times higher in the US than in the UK or Ontario. Just like any social indicator, the US sucks.

    Please do not suggest that sobriety checkpoints are “Big Brother Is Watching You” — it is insulting to the 60,000+ innocent victims of drunk drivers since 9/11. My daughter was one, as was her supervisor. They were research scientists mowed down in daylight while standing in a parking lot after a 13 hour work day in a place where DUI is rampant and laws rarely enforced.
    Sobriety checkpoints are ONE good thing that law enforcement can do to prevent needless human suffering.

    1. Vatch

      I’m sorry about your loss. I think a driver can submit to a sobriety test without allowing the police to search his or her car. Without the search, it’s not a Big Brother situation, but the public can still be protected from drunk drivers.

    2. hunkerdown

      MADD and NRA are, in a sense, morally equivalent, both being lobbying organizations for industrial institutions and both selling the fiction that the consequences of the American lifestyle can be managed by Exceptionalist thinking, Augustinian striving, and restricting destructive capacities only to the housebroken elect. (Compare NORML to see what fighting *against* Exceptionalism looks like.)

      Cars don’t kill people, people kill people. People who organize to restrict or discourage others’ movements by any means except car also kill people. Take away the evangelical gas and the causal chain directly implicates middle-class families for making a sane, safe transportation policy impossible.

      1. upstater

        What is your point, exactly? MADD surely has its problems; I do not support their policies. They actually have a very narrow focus on the problem of impaired driving.
        What about the constitutional rights of innocent victims? The right of LIFE, liberty and happiness?

    3. Kurt Sperry

      We here in Washington State don’t do DUI checkpoints and although I’m neither someone who would ever be caught in one or someone who wants to be hit by a drunk driver, I don’t want to be stopped from what I am lawfully doing and subject to interrogation by law enforcement lacking any reasonable suspicion either. What we do here instead are DUI “emphasis patrols” in which a lot of patrol cars are clustered in problem areas and pull over suspected DUI drivers based on reasonable suspicion–which I am completely fine with.

      I’m willing to bet we don’t pay any significant cost in DUI consequences because of our approach that respects the rights of citizens to travel lawfully without being stopped and detained absent any reasonable suspicion. DUI checkpoints are a clear affront to citizen’s rights in my opinion.

    4. JerryDenim

      I am truly sorry for your terrible loss, and you are right. DUI checkpoints are not Big Brother, DUI check points are a rather low-tech and old-fashioned form of 4th amendment violation. Its the perfect example of an unreasonable search without probable cause. I never even consider driving drunk (based on my profession it would be a career ending mistake for me, so I can’t gamble with having two or three beers then hitting the road as most people see fit to do) and I have very little sympathy for those who do. With police departments functioning as the chief revenue generating unit of many municipal governments, and the corrupt asset forfeiture laws on the books in many states, there are too many ways for a generalized dragnet of the highway to turn into mass highway robbery of the citizenry. There should be zero tolerance for drunk driving, but there are better ways to catch drunk drivers than subjecting the entire population to roadside fishing expeditions by corrupt, greedy cops. Everyone agrees child pornography is awful but do you want the police stopping everyone on the road and demanding access to all “suspicious” cell phones and personal computers? Regardless of how many freedoms we surrender police will never be able to keep us safe from every little danger, but they sure can deprive us of liberty if we let them.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      In a way, this is the same “Is public policy a thing?” debate we just had. Does anybody have any data on how checkpoints work, as opposed to alternatives like “emphasis patrols”?

      1. upstater

        I would expect in these days of smart phones and social media, the main benefit of checkpoints are providing visibility for DUI enforcement efforts. Drink-Drivers will have more fear of getting caught. Saturation patrols may be more effective; NHTSA publishes “Countermeasures That Work” and there are references to journal articles.

        The point is impaired driving kills A LOT of people and 30X more are injured and it is preventable.

        I live in NY State and the per capita death rate here is more than 5X of Ontario. While there are many things different “up there”, the appetite for beer and wine is not. The difference is Ontario has vigorous enforcement and severe penalties. People respond with behavioral changes over time.

        Maine is 9X Ontario or the UK on a per capita basis.

  5. Gareth

    There is a wealth of Scott Walker dirt for any diligent opposition researcher to dig up. The Republican-controlled Wisconsin media has worked tirelessly to cover up his misdeeds or blame them on rogue underlings. Like Nixon, Walker is obsessed with controlling everything, even the smallest, crooked details. And the sociopath in him loves flouting the law. This is bound to blow up on him at some point. If the national media is interested in scandal, Walker is their man. Among the stories that might pique interest is the question of why the C-student Walker left Marquette university after three years, never to complete college. Was it because he was expelled, after he and his cohorts tried to steal and destroy all copies of the student newspaper, after it endorsed his opponent for student council president? Or, was it because his girlfriend gave birth to a child after he tried to convince her to have an abortion? Lobbying for an abortion would be a big no-no at a Catholic university. A reporter for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel claimed, in a non-official blog post, to have done a quick investigation and found that the baby-daddy Walker in question was a different Scott Walker, coincidentally at the same university, even though the birth mother’s college roommate went public with a sworn affidavit stating the opposite. It’s important to note that the Journal-Sentinel has been in the bag for Walker forever. A tabloid wielding a big check, or a detective agency employed by Jeb Bush should be able to ferret out the truth in no time at all. But there is more, so much more.

    Check out the sad sacks of the Walker gang:

    Walker Associates – walkergatefiles

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Agreed that the major Wisconsin press are poodles but I follow events pretty closely and even I had not heard the abortion story. I don’t think there is much to stealing the student newspapers. His buddy has already taken the fall for that, and even if he actually was expelled for this (Marquette administration has already said he left in good standing), it seems more like a youthful prank than a big deal.

      The thing is, Walker should go down for the things he has done in plain sight. It’s not like the guy is subtle.

      I’m sure he killed in London today with his response to the evolution question: “I’ll have to punt on that.” Too hot to handle. Thankfully, he can be confident the US MSM won’t be so tough on him.

      1. neo-realist

        If Jeb were to screw up big time and end up letting a drone like Walker win the nomination, he would be subject to much more scrutiny during a national election than he is now—The corporate media in anticipation of Jeb coronation isn’t taking Walker that seriously I suspect.

  6. Oregoncharles

    “MBA Purchase Applications, week of February 6, 2014”: What IS this?
    Flowers all over the place here – daffodils and even dandelions. I’ll try to send some Plantidotes, just to make the East Coasters feel bad.

  7. JerryDenim

    Hey, remember when a contract counted for something, even if was for a pension? [WaPo]. Good times. Note the deceptive headline: WaPo calls contracts “promises.” Not the same.

    -This story dovetails very nicely with the post today on the 2009 Geither story from Axlerod’s book. Contracts are sacred for financiers, not so much for the little folks. Many of the few remaining private sector employees with pensions have seen their retirement plans go up in smoke over the last decade as well, all while watching failed executives loot their companies and walk with millions.

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