2:00PM Water Cooler 2/18/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Gifts by foreign governments to Clinton Foundation rise [Wall Street Journal]. As long as there’s no cash in the envelope…

Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren have “cordial” meeting [New York Times]. Smiling despite the grinding teeth! (Cordial means “civil, but can’t stand each other.”)

“[Clinton is] relying on the old-boy network — in large part by taking over President Obama’s heavily male campaign apparatus [WaPo]. Broperatives? In the post-caucus-debacle 2008 Clinton campaign the organizing medium (throw-away cellphones) was the organizing message (people who couldn’t afford iPhones, and were at one of their jobs, not in an Internet café or some loft). But Clinton’s chosen 2008’s iPhone crowd. So I think the chances of Clinton running anything like a populist campaign are already vanishingly small; that’s not a message these guys know how to deliver, or care to deliver. So looking forward to 2016….

Bill Clinton to “Correct the Record,” pro-Hillary anti-oppo group: “Leave Chris Christie a-l-o-o-o-n-e!” [The Hill]. Thing is, so much of the Clinton “coverage” is putting 2008 or 1998 or even 1992 narratives and tropes back in play. Here, we have a “Bill Clinton is a loose cannon” story. Never forget that lazy thinking and lazy writing are, with very rare exceptions, distinguishing features of our famously free press. It’s much easier to recycle on old story than write a new one.

Clinton camp irritated by Axelrove’s quips as he shills for his book [The Hill]. Another recycled narrative. “Those Clintons are so touchy.” Remember Axelrove said Clinton would beat Warren. What does a quip weigh against that? Especially compared to Obama’s quip that Hillary doesn’t have “that new car smell”?

“At the 2012 Republican National Convention, more than half the delegates came from states that Obama later carried” [Reuters]. So Blue State Republicans, amazingly enough, have a strong presence in the nomination process (though nowhere else, and not in Congress). Handy charts at the Upshot.

Conservative media swings into action to pummel Gail Collins on her Walker howler (she got the date of Walker’s election wrong) [Bloomberg]. Interestingly, they don’t do that for Jebbie.


Jebbie to emit foreign policy address. From the advanced excerpts: “The great irony of the Obama presidency is this: Someone who came to office promising greater engagement with the world has left America less influential in the world.” [CNN]. Imagine that.

mission_accomplished drone_img
That was then… This is now…

Principled Insurgents

Walker has no college degree, so Dean calls him “unknowledgeable,” and Walker calls him “elitist” back [CNN]. Hoho plays to credentialled meritocrats in the Democratic base; Walker’s base could care less.

Walker and the Kochs [Bloomberg]. “Walker’s alliance with his benefactors was embarrassingly satirized when a liberal blogger posing as David Koch (whom at that point Walker had never met) kept him on the line for 20 minutes, making the governor look like a lapdog to the powerful industrialist.” “Look like”? But Bloomberg misses the key point. NC readers know (2015-02-05), from the transcript of the call, that Walker had no compunction about planting agent provocateurs among the Wisconsin protesters during the Capitol occupations That’s not to say that he did — that would be a little Machiavellian for a P.K. — but bear this in mind if Walker ever makes protest into an issue. More centrally, Walker seems to regard the truth as something to be manufactured.

Check the photo. Marco Rubio looks like he’s running for Student Council President [Wall Street Journal, “The Case for, and Against, Marco Rubio as Republican Presidential Candidate”]. In a High School for short people.

Ohio Governor Kasich tests the waters, says “boots on the ground” needed to combat ISIS [WaPo].

Clown Car

Christie to arrange town halls in New Hampshire [Wall Street Journal].

Crowdpac’s methodology for placing candidates in the Overton Window: Check the funders, and not votes or speeches [Vox]. Here’s where Clinton is [New York Times].

The Hill

Thanks to the Federal judge who put Obama’s immigration executive order on hold, the Republicans might not have to carry out their threat to shut down DHS, which secretly relieves them [Political Wire].

Let’s abolish the DHS; it duplicates existing functions and is heavily politicized [Vox]. And we have Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate, to thank.

Herd on the Street

Apple Watch Launch: “What the tech world doesn’t understand about fashion” [The Fashion Law].

“Apple Watch notifications take on a whole new feel because they discreetly come right to your wrist,” Apple boasts. … Selling function isn’t something the fashion industry typically does. It sells a story, an identity, a new look.

So, the Apple Watch is going to be a very small and discreet cattle prod. That’s the story I hear and an identity I don’t want. Who would?

Union pension fund adviser CtW Investment Group demands McDonalds board shakeup [Reuters]. Then this happened.

West Coast port slowdown could cost retailers billions [WaPo]. I guess those workers are important, then. Why not pay them accordingly?

Stats Watch

Industrial Production, January 2015: “[M]odestly positive” on lower end of consensus range [Bloomberg].

Housing Starts, January 2015: Slipped, though in consensus range. “Housing is not adding to economic momentum” [Bloomberg]. Single family starts dip, permits dip. “This means the Fed likely will continue to reinvest mortgage-backed securities to keep rates low.”

MBA Purchase Applications, week of February 13: “Down for a 5th straight week, 7.0 percent lower for the 2nd consecutive week” [Bloomberg].

Redbook, week of February 14: “Valentine’s Day helped boost demand for cosmetics, candy as well as jewelry while the related traffic helped sales of other goods including winter merchandise” [Bloomberg].


3rd Brigade Combat Team leaves Fort Carson, Colorado for Kuwait, “and soon will serve as U.S. Central Command’s Reserve force in the Middle East – the first soldiers into battle if a major combat force is used to battle Islamic State fighters” [Colorado Spings Gazette].

“Today’s Top 7 Myths about Daesh/ISIL” [Informed Comment]. (This is a response to Graeme Wood’s recent piece in the Atlantic, featured in Links, though Cole doesn’t mention it.)

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Chelsea condemn fans who pushed black man off Paris Métro [Guardian]. I was caught up in one of those crowds of British soccer fans in the Métro once. Genuinely frightening.


“House-calls, top-notch facilities, the best surgeons… and the best follow-up care, physical therapy, nutritional guidance” [Fred on Everything]. Mexico. Not the United States. I mean, are you kidding?

Administration butchers initial step toward gutting and privatizing the VA, the “Choice Card” [WaPo]. Not that this makes me unhappy, and of course a debacle was to be expected, but nobody will be held accountable for it, just as nobody was held accountable for the healthcare.gov rollout debacle.


Obama to parachute in and rescue Rahm, who’s still struggling to avoid a runoff [Bloomberg]. Filed under corruption because Rahm.

The “conservative scam machine,” Jonah Goldberg (!) calls it [WaPo]. Yes, some PACs spend all their money on themselves, not electing candidates. Note however, that although the story is in Plum Line, the report that sparked it is from Right Wing News (!). Has anybody done a similar study for Democratic PACs?

In this years’s World Press Photo Competition, 20 percent of the photos were disqualified for significant addition or subtraction to the image content [New York Times]. More problems with digital “evidence.”


Younger Americans with student loans are less likely to take out mortgages than those without student debt. That’s a reversal from the pre-recession pattern [AP]. Before the recession, they thought their credentials would lead to higher incomes, justifying the debt load. Now, they don’t.

Biggest law firm in privatized government debt collection is Linebarger Goggan Blair & Sampson. Check out the horror stories [CNN Money]. Hmm. Tax farming. What could go wrong?

News of the Wired

  • As the earth warms, sea surface temperatures rise, causing moister air and, in the winter, lots of snow [WaPo]. As we see.
  • “Officials Urge Americans To Sort Plastics, Glass Into Separate Oceans” [The Onion].
  • Australian scientists: Colony Collapse Disorder may be caused by external stressors that cause foraging bees to mature too rapidly and leave the nest too early [The Age].
  • Australia should move part of its (world-record length) dingo fence to see if dingoes can restore degraded rangeland [The Conversation].
  • Public opposition to Nicaraguan canal grows [Global Construction Review].
  • Female CS major at Stanford “floored” by the sexism [Fortune].
  • Best new word: Brotalitarianism [Medium].
  • Netanyahu spends $2,500 a month on ice cream, paid for by the goverment [UPI]. Maybe he’ll share some with Congress when he visits. Will there be mix-ins? Nuts, maybe?
  • “Yanis Varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist” [Guardian].

* * *

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 (Morak). Cactus week continues!


Arizona Queen of the Night (Peniocereus greggii). I could still use another cactus or two!

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. NotTimothyGeithner

    If I recall, Hillary should have spent her time arguing for Republican nominating rules instead of trying to front load the DNC calendar because the GOP did away with caucuses by and large and follows a one man one vote policy. Instead, she came off as arrogant and conniving for no reason.

  2. Ed

    “Let’s abolish the DHS; it duplicates existing functions and is heavily politicized [Vox]. And we have Joe Lieberman, Al Gore’s running mate, to thank.”

    There is a sound constitutional argument that DHS shouldn’t exist, since it performs functions that are the sole responsibility of the states, but that particular horse left the barn a long time ago. Otherwise, the idea of having a federal department focused on domestic security should not be controversial. Equivalents exist in every other country. They are either called the Department or Ministry of the Interior, or the Home Office.

    The name is a problem, and I wish they would have come up with a better name than “Homeland Security”. Unfortunately, the name “Department of the Interior”, which is what it should be called, is already in use by another department, and Americans would think “Home Office” was something that handled housing.

    Also the proper way to set that up would be for the DHS equivalent to take over the FBI and prosecution services from the Justice Department, which would focus on appointing judges and advising on constitutional issues. The same agency shouldn’t be appointing both judges and prosecutors anyway. You then would add other functions. Alot of the awkwardness comes from having a federal agency to oversee domestic security, but which doesn’t appoint prosecutors or control the main federal investigative agency.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘The idea of having a federal department focused on domestic security should not be controversial.”

      The constitution nowhere authorizes a federal department to enforce domestic security. That was left to the states. But now that the constitution’s a dead letter, anything goes.

      1. hunkerdown

        Like Thomas Jefferson, I believe it should have been shredded and revised 200 years ago and many times since.

    2. Ulysses

      “There is a sound constitutional argument that DHS shouldn’t exist, since it performs functions that are the sole responsibility of the states, but that particular horse left the barn a long time ago.”

      This statement essentially admits that we live under an illegitimate regime, today, in the U.S. We the people of the United States adopted a written Constitution to outline the principles of our self-government. As the need arises, we amend this Constitution to respond to unforeseen circumstances. As a constitutional republic we demand that our government officials swear a solemn oath to preserve and defend the Constitution. Not a royal family, not a military hierarchy, not a political party, not TBTF banks– just the Constitution. The horse can’t leave that barn. That barn is the only legitimate place for the U.S. to continue in existence!

      To say that the “horse has left the barn,” where the Constitution is still respected, should sound an urgent alarm for any patriotic citizen of our constitutional republic to immediately disavow this illegitimate regime we are now subjected to, and to do whatever it takes to restore the rule of law!

      1. James Levy

        It doesn’t say you can have an air force, only an army and a navy, but I don’t think we should disband the one we have on that kind of a technicality. Ditto NASA. Considering the landing on the moon is the one thing this nation will be remembered for in 1000 years (if collective memory survives that long) I would not want to “throw that one back.” We do have this necessary and proper thing that says that Congress may create institutions that are necessary and proper for it to perform its function of providing for the common defense and promoting the general welfare. And if you want original intent, they intended blacks to be slaves and women and children the property of their husbands/fathers, so that one doesn’t really work well, either. The key issues to me are was the institution created by due process of law, does the institution created actually function under the laws applicable to it, and does it abide by the strictures of the Bill of Rights.

        1. Ulysses

          Yes, and since the DHS routinely violates the bedrock freedoms of our Bill of Rights it is in no way comparable to manned space exploration, the new structures required by the invention of the automobile, airplane, television, or any other circumstance unforeseen in 1789. I am very happy that we amended our Constitution to abolish slavery, extend the vote to women, etc. All of these things are completely irrelevant to the point that I made.

          Our Constitutional system provided for the states to ensure domestic security. If you want to argue that this is insufficient, go ahead and make that argument. Quite frankly I think it’s a very difficult argument to make, given that even small-town police departments now have armored personnel carriers and machine guns, but you may disagree, and think we need an even more powerful and centralized police state.

          Yet you seem to want to argue against a straw man. Was I claiming that we can’t modernize our system in a way that allows for respecting the Constitution, and allowing for social and technological progress at the same time? Of course not!

          The Patriot Act, DHS, NSA, CIA, etc. are Constitutionally offensive– not because they use computers, or telephones, or satellites, or any other technological innovation unknown to the 18th century. They are offensive because they routinely violate the timeless, natural rights of a free people– enshrined in the language of our first, fourth, and fifth amendments.

          Please take this opportunity to show specifically how our vast MIC and security state, coordinated by our DHS, “promotes the general welfare.” Maybe our society could not be better served by spending those trillions of dollars on any other priorities? Does the NSA/DHS, etc. perhaps provide for us “a common defense” against the evils of a system that respects privacy? Yet be forewarned that not too many people will be convinced by any argument that equates the “general welfare” with the welfare of major shareholders in Raytheon, Stratfor, Halliburton, etc.

          1. James Levy

            As you may have noticed, I mentioned in my response that all institutions must obey the strictures of the Bill of Rights, so if the FBI or NSA violates the 4th Amendment, the perpetrators should be fired and prosecuted.

            As for the States, if you think that the people of Mississippi or Texas or Idaho or Oklahoma are going to have their rights better protected by the local right-wing nutjobs who run those States rather than the Federal Government, you are blind or deluded. If you want to throw women, blacks, and gays (i.e. 60% of the population)under the bus for your beloved notions of some pure old fashioned states rights, well, that’s your kink; I’d lay my odds on Washington watching after my rights, and history would be on my side.

      2. JerseyJeffersonian

        Here’s a quote for you:

        “I consider the constitutional power of the General Government as the chief source of stability to our political system, whereas the consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”

        And who said that? Robert E. Lee.

        It is certainly arguable that the deliberate balance in the U.S.Constitution between the powers of the Federal government and those of the individual states has been pretty much completely lost, as have other deliberate balances such as between the Executive and the Legislative branches of the Federal Government, and not necessarily to the betterment of the citizenry. The South staked their revolt on the perpetuation of slavery, an indefensible institution; but viewed objectively, the North had profited enormously from its establishment and perpetuation (the Triangle Trade). Nobody’s hands were clean.

        The game was up when the older form, “these United States”, became replaced by the emergent one, “the United States”. The echoes concerning the differing weighting of the importance of permitting regional/state cultural differences under the overarching umbrella of Federal jurisdiction still reverberate, and in sometimes surprising ways. How many of you folks would be in favor of the right of individual states to craft their own single-payer universal healthcare systems, for example. How likely is it that such can become a reality under the current balance between states and the Federal government? Some would say that it was progress when the election of Federal Senators by their respective state legislatures was done away with in favor of direct popular election by each state’s citizens. The counterpoise to this might be two-fold: 1) This critically jump-started the current national two-party system; 2) This undermined the accountability of Federal Senators to the felt political interests of their individual states, and helped lead ineluctably to the dangers feared by Mr. Lee.

        For all of his faults, my namesake, Thomas Jefferson, and his political allies who harbored suspicions of the dangers of centralized Federal power had some ground for those trepidations.

        Global Hegemon? National Security State? Two sides of the same coin. Maybe we let the deal go down. Our modern day Corporatocracy certainly had its antecedents in the national-scale oligarchs of the Gilded Age. And these oligarchs often exploited, and furthermore, supported the burgeoning power of the centralized Federal government to their benefit. And then came the Fed, ultimate nightmare of the Jeffersonian/Jacksonian understanding of political/economic power, a privatized central bank that interposed itself into the money-coining power formerly reserved to a government accountable to the people of the Republic.

        Things upon which to reflect, at least. History might be told by the “winners”, but it doesn’t mean that you have to swallow the whole narrative.

  3. Ed

    “3rd Brigade Combat Team leaves Fort Carson, Colorado for Kuwait, “and soon will serve as U.S. Central Command’s Reserve force in the Middle East – the first soldiers into battle if a major combat force is used to battle Islamic State fighters” [Colorado Spings Gazette].”

    These things are misleading. The 3rd BCT is rotating to Kuwait to replace the 2nd BCT, which is in the article but buried deep. The Pentagon has maintained a combat brigade in Kuwait for contingencies for some time now. There is a big difference between a unit rotating into an area to replace a similar unit, and the provision of additional forces, but media reports rarely make that distinction.

  4. JEHR

    I have just read “Yanis Varoufakis: How I became an erratic Marxist.” What an exemplary, kind-hearted and intelligent man he is! I had to stop reading the comments because they put me off. That any country should be so fortunate to have such a minister as this working for their benefit seems unbelievable. I do so hope that he and his government prevail. One person who is honourable can, indeed, make a difference in this world.

    1. Foy

      Agreed! I can also highly recommend this presentation by Yanis to students in Croatia in May 2013 “Confessions of an Erratic Marxist” to get a real insight into his mind and thoughts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A3uNIgDmqwI .

      He is fascinating to listen to. During the question time he also backs up what Yves says about the difficulties with a Grexit (as opposed to a default) and returning to the drachma (it may take 8 months to put in place by which time the horse would have bolted) and why it is necessary to save capitalism and the Euro from itself rather than trying to create something else from the ashes that will inevitably come for the Eurozone as a whole if the current course continues. He also discusses briefly some pros and cons of complimentary currencies and ideas similar to the issue of TAN notes as suggested Rob Parentou, his views on dealing with the devil (Troika), and a future possible split or divide of the Eurozone, “East of the Rhine and North of the Alps” at the Germans’ behest.

      The question time is equal to or even better than the presentation especially re current events and Syriza, start around the 49 minute mark to ensure you also get his ‘final confession’, which is definitely worth listening to…

      1. Foy

        And thanks to commenter Santi for posting the youtube link under Yves post “Greece faces cash crunch”. I lost where I originally got the link from after watching the video and put up a comment in the Watercooler, but just found Santi’s comment again now.

  5. jrs

    The future will be a contest between the brotalitarians and the mararchists …

    backs away from the future very slowly ….

    1. OIFVet

      A new word that I am particularly fond of: brotherushki. It is used in some Eastern European quarters as a sneering epithet for the American “brothers” who replaced the old Soviet ‘bratushki’ (Russian for ‘brothers’). Plus ça change…

  6. ex-PFC Chuck

    That very last link on today’s Watercooler page, Yanis Veroufakis’ piece in the Guardian, is insightful and powerful. Yves, you might want to consider a repost of it tomorrow.

  7. OIFVet

    Disgruntled Russian Farmer Dumps Manure on “Good-For-Nothing” Bank. “For Russian farmer Alexander Bakshaev, the crushingly high interest rates the banks were charging him on his loan inspired a smelly protest… As Pro-Sibir reports, the fuming farmer repaid his loan with the equivalent value in manure…Bakshayev’s creditor, the state-run Sberbank, blasted his stunt as “hooliganism” but police in the city of Kuybyshev saw no reason to detain the farmer.” That’s a remarkably tame police response in authoritarian Russia. I imagine that if an American farmer tried to dump manure on Wall Street, Willie Bratton’s SRG would be on it like…flies on manure.

      1. OIFVet

        “They would probably throw away the key nowadays.” He would likely be charged with “bio-terrorism” these days.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      When I went to Russia in 2010, I realized it was a place where laws that I as an American experienced every day simply don”t exist. Also, an elderly lady is on guard everywhere. One hit me with a cane and told me to put my coat on before I left the building.

      25% of the world’s prisoners are right here in the good ole USSA.

      1. OIFVet

        You got off lightly by babushka standards. Most of the time they will mentally torture you, to the point where even the strongest men are reduced to a sobbing heap. I will take the cane any time.

      1. OIFVet

        Sorry, I left out the sarc tag on purpose as a way to tr0ll Russkie “lovers” a bit. I thought you and others would know better than to take it at face value coming from me, that entire sentence was meant to drip with sarc. I guess I need to do better :)

  8. craazyboy

    “Ohio Governor Kasich tests the waters, says “boots on the ground” needed to combat ISIS [WaPo]. ”

    Yes! It is just a matter of time till ISIS transforms itself from a state into a terrorist organization. Homeland Security, the NSA and TSA need to set up shop in the ME!

    While were at it, we can still bomb the Saudi oilfields and get oil prices back up for our frackers. The USAF can still make a contribution to running the ME correctly.

  9. steviefinn

    The Chelsea hooligans – An unwelcome reminder of the fact that racism has probably always been a part of football. From my experience from the seventies it is a hardcore minority at the centre of it, who often have ties with far right groups, from the National Front, British National party, & so on.

    Not so bad now as in the seventies when attendances were much larger, of whom the vast majority were working class – the racist & other chants from those days, some of which were aimed at the very few black players would be hard to believe nowadays. I remember my glee at my Grandparents horror one night, during a televised football match, when the crowd started roaring ” You’re gonna get your f**king heads kicked in “. I later got cured of glee in this respect, when I got caught up in a razor attack in a pub in London between two different factions – the horror of which I will never forget.

    The authorities like to pretend it will go away, especially as the game has become increasingly gentrified, but it wont & it’s growing on the outside with ( not surprisingly ) the Muslims now as the primary targets.

    1. hidflect

      An English friend of mine recalled how, after racist chants were severely cracked down upon, some mobs in the crowd would target a black player and chant something like, “Trigger, Trigger, Trigger! Shoot That “. Which, if you imagine it, is more intimidating than just shouting the “N” word…

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