2:00PM Water Cooler 2/3/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Clinton The Musical to open on Broadway in March, following success at Edinburgh Fringe Festival [Bloomberg]. Bill Clinton, unfortunately, although Hillary Clinton (Kerry Butler) has a supporting role.

Clinton campaign to locate in Brooklyn or Queens (“youthful feel”) [MSNBC]. Surely, given the optics, Westchester was never given serious consideration?

Nice hash tag, that last one, Hillz [Twitter].


Jebbie’s going to run on “hope” [Wall Street Journal]. No, I’m not kidding. He actually used the H-word! So I’ve been asking what possible rationale for Jebbie’s candidacy there could be, and I get this for an answer?

Principled Insurgents

Long form on Walker’s youth at his father’s church in Iowa [Journal-Sentinel]. Parishioners “remembered the boy starting a ‘Jesus USA Club’ to do good deeds and seek donations for a new flag for the Plainfield City Hall.” So the union-busting would fit right in with that.

Limbaugh lines up behind Walker [Politico]. Ditto Drudge [Politico].

Paul grants audience to CNBC host: “When [host Kelly] Evans interjected, Paul raised his finger to his lips and said ‘shhh'” [The Hill]. Stay classy, Rand!

Clown Car

Christie’s “trade mission” hotel in London “has a Baccarat chandelier and masses of flowers refreshed every morning” [New York Times]. Well, I should hope so!

Huckabee went too far in attacking the Obama’s childrearing practices, say 61% of likely Republican caucus voters Iowans in poll [Des Moines Register]. Walker first, then Paul, then Huckabee.

Jindal: “[C]onservatives can never hope to outspend the left by acting as cheap liberals” [Politico]. Of ObamaCare alternatives post-King v. Burwell.

Trump “making my own decision” and could “place a bet on himself” [New York Daily News]. One good thing: Trump would be an honest politician; he’d stay bought because he owns himself! Well, I assume….

Ben Carson backs vaccinations as safe [The Hill].

“The 2016 Republican field looks like the 2012 field on steroids — with many more well-credentialed contenders who have the potential to excite GOP primary voters” [Stuart Rothenberg, Roll Call]. For some definition of “well-credentialled.”

So, whaddaya know. Demographic changes don’t mean Democrats can just sit back and wait for their (identity politics-driven) majority to magically materialize. Who knew? [WaPo]. My advice: Democrats! Stop sucking!

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Sharpton addresses younger Ferguson activists: “They are pimping you” [Capital New York]. Constructive!

Rosa Parks papers at the LIbrary of Congress [WaPo]. Awesome must read.

Herd on the Street

Employment/population ratio trend line suggest Fed could be “patient” until 2016, or later [Council on Foreign Relations].

“Standard & Poor’s has agreed to pay a record $1.375bn in the first major settlement for a credit-rating agency accused of inflating grades for mortgage securities linked to the financial crisis” [FT, “S&P to pay $1.4bn to resolve ratings case”]. Cost-of-doing-business fine, executives skate, nothing has changed, it will happen again, film at 11.

Over the past 18 months, the Royal Bank of Canada has moved to close many of its wealth-management offices across Latin America, prompted by scrutiny of potential money-laundering activities” [Wall Street Journal, “Money-Laundering Fears Fuel an RBC Retreat”].

Reserve Bank of Australia unexpectedly cuts rates [Bloomberg]. Joining fight against deflation, says headline.

The sad story of Radio Shack [Bloomberg]. Thanks to Bloomberg’s wonderful new redesign, the very first thing I have to do is scroll past a screenful of crap to get to the lead. Thanks respecting my time and energy, Bloomberg.

UPS to apply surcharges to residential packages, after they spent a bundle mobilizing workers and equipment for a holiday shipping surge that never materialized [Reuters]. So the UPS brand is that customers pay for executive blunders? Is UPS branching out into cable?

Stats Watch

Factory orders, December 2014: “Factory orders fell a very steep 3.4 percent in December for a 5th straight decline. This is the longest losing streak since the collapse of late 2008 and early 2009.” However, durable goods orders actually rose 0.1 percent, and less volatile nondefense capital goods excluding aircraft slipped only 0.1 percent [Bloomberg]. Strong dollar means weakening exports, along with slowing in the oil patch.

Redbook, week of January 31, 2015: Pick up, based on TV sales and sales of food and beverages for the Superbowk, despite winter weather [Bloomberg].

Gallup US Economic Confidence Indicator, January 2015: “[T]he first time a monthly average has been in positive territory since the recession [sic]” [Bloomberg]. Current conditions up one point, economic outlook by nine (!).

With a score of plus 1, middle- and lower-income Americans registered a positive reading for the first time in seven years; that score climbed eight points from December.

Upper-income Americans, whose annual household incomes are $90,000 or more a year, reached their highest level of confidence yet, at plus 15. This is the fourth consecutive positive monthly reading that higher-earning Americans have registered.

So we see Gallup accurately reflects how gains have been and, no doubt, will be distributed.

Health Care

HHS Secretary Burwell announces that she wants at least 30 percent of Medicare’s $362 billion in fee-for-service payments moved, by 2017, into new Accountable Care Organizations [Bloomberg]. I think we tried that already, except with a different acronym: HMOs. Readers?


On Silver: “[S]uffice it to say that making the core Progressive argument, that government can and should be a force for good, looks a little bit less compelling than it did two weeks ago” [Albany Project].

Feds focus on New York State Supreme Court’s civil division, “the country’s most important civil court,” for ties with Silver [New York Post]. What they call “a web of influence.” Great detail, must read.

Weak tea from Cuomo on corruption reform [Times-Union]. Proposals do not include public campaign financing or “LLC reform,” “a force-multiplier for wealthy donors that’s at issue in the federal corruption complaint against outgoing Speaker Sheldon Silver” [Times-Union].

Ten distinguished University of Connecticut professors withdraw support for Board of Regents President Gregory Grey over for-profit and on-online course content [Hartford Courant]. Since the educational benefits of these approaches are thin, to say the least, one might imagine there’s some other reason….

Pennsylvania Democrat Treasurer McCord formally charged with extortion [Inquirer]. A former venture capitalist.

Class Warfare

Chinese workers become “bolshier” as economy slows; 2014 strikes and labour protests doubled to over 1,300 [Economist].

NBER: “Employment growth in 2014 was higher in counties that saw bigger declines in the duration of benefits. Overall, the authors estimate that the benefit cut led to the creation of 1.8m extra jobs in 2014—about two-thirds of the total” [Economist].

Oregon strippers, independent contractors, lobby for better working conditions [Island Packet]. That’ll work until Uber enters the stripper market, I suppose.

News of the Wired

  • Support for gay marriage: 2004, 31% of Americans; today, 52% [Bloomberg]. Worth remembering if you think that real changes for the better in social relations cannot occur.
  • Penn and Teller on vaccinations [YouTube]. Cussing!
  • Librarians’ romance with Google fades [Medium].
  • An American compares UK’s NHS to the American health care system. Guess who wins? [PNHP].
  • “[T]he traditional view that banks primarily lend to businesses is out of date. In 1900 only 30% of bank lending was to buy residential property; now that figure is around 60%” [Economist].
  • Ontario beekeepers counter Big Ag disinformation on neonics [Farms.com].
  • Ex-BP oil disaster and fracking executive becomes chief of UK’s civil service [Guardian]. Explosion at Texas City refinery killed 15.
  • “The Seahawks Didn’t Throw Away the Super Bowl” [Slate].

* * *

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:


Bougainvillea — more tropical plants to fight off the winter!

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. diptherio

    Overall, the authors estimate that the benefit cut led to the creation of 1.8m extra jobs in 2014

    I wonder what the specs on those 1.8m jobs are. One paid hour of work per week is officially “a job,” let’s remember.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      All is proceeding according to plan.

      That may be because without benefits to rely on, workers were prepared to toil for less.

      And whenever these financial idiots scold us about how Great The Economy is, I have to ask why the Fed’s interest rate is still at 0%. The obvious answer is, the Fed only lowers it to 0% in a crisis. We are still in a Crisis.

    1. ambrit

      Oh come on now. Polygamy has a long and fruitful history in the Old Testament. The Mormons practiced it openly a century or more ago, and, I’m told, still do ‘underground.’ Our Oil Sheiks practice it. It’s in the Holy Qurun after all. (Though you have to be able to support the wives, not they you.) The widespread practice of the Mistress shows how really wealthy and powerful people can flout convention.
      What will be a real advance in social relations would be the acceptance of polyandry. Not since the patriarchal tribes conquered and subjugated the ‘Peoples of the Plain’ have women had that amount of power and respect. (See the worldwide resistance to feminism in any guise as an object lesson in how slowly social norms do change.)

      1. Garrett Pace

        Long and storied history for sure, though more recently grouped with slavery as a “twin relic of barbarism”. Homosexual relationships have had a similarly uneven history too.

        Polyandry would be necessary for this “social progress”, such as it is. I read once a historical theory that polyamory flourished during periods of higher concentrations of economic power in individual hands – multiple spouses were a suitable status symbol of wealth, and there were lots of guys who couldn’t support a single wife, much less many. With very wealthy women we might see something similar with polyandry.

        1. vidimi

          i wonder how much reproductive biology has shaped this history, what with women only being able to be pregnant with one offspring at a time (ignoring multiple births) for nearly a whole year under extreme vulnerability whereas men could sire multiple offspring concurrently.

          we are, after all, mere animals and transcending our nature has been a constant struggle.

          1. hunkerdown

            “Transcending nature” — spare me the smug bourgeois blather. You know as well as I do that this “transcendence” nonsense has never, EVER in human history served for more than one lifetime as anything but a means of dividing humans up into livestock and cowboys.

        2. hunkerdown

          Amory and gamy are two entirely different suffixes from two entirely different languages. Might you please be a little more careful? It takes a liberal to casually conflate love and marriage, as if the state ought to be giving out licenses for the former.

          1. Garrett Pace

            Would make for a good infographic explaining the differences. English is surely the meeting place for all language roots. If you prefer different words please suggest them. Polyamory has the benefit of being not very specific, opening up a big umbrella for all sorts of inclinations.

          2. ambrit

            Actually, it takes a Romantic to conflate love and marriage. Generally, formal marriage has been treated as a political and legal matter. Let’s agree to go nowhere near the “eros” versus “agape” dispute.

    2. jrs

      I’m open to arguments that it might be more suited to human nature, but I suspect for most people its’ not (and for some it might be).

    3. jgordon

      I like the way you think. If people want to do polygamy, let them. All these self-righteous moral crusaders thinking it’s ok to stick their noses into other people’s business is a serious mental illness common in our culture.

  2. Ed

    “The Seahawks Didn’t Throw Away the Super Bowl” [Slate]. ”

    The Seahawks got into a position of definitely certainly going to win the Super Bowl due to a fluke catch. The Pats played better right up until the end of the first half, and after that it was about even. I’m not a fan of either team, and watched the game without particularly caring which team won.

    The article makes a good point, at worst the Seahawks, under time pressure, opted against a running play with a small chance of a fumble in favor of a pass with an incrementally larger chance of an interception.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      Yes, that is an excellent summary of what won the game. And not just sayin that because I’m a big Pats fan (grew up in MA). The Teevee Mush-Head Sports Mouthpieces should read it.

      1. Shamanic Fallout

        Yes, a fine article, but still cursing Seattle for not saving us from the the atrocious Patriots- perfect symbol of our cynical and corrupt age, a team with certain definite appeal to the caucasian persuasion (a long time Boston tradition- think the Celtics and think the Red Sox as the last team to integrate) And that it could have been done by the Seahawks, a team one frequently hears described as ‘thugs’ and ‘trash-talkers’ (we know what this is code for) could not have been better.

    1. Propertius

      Well, as her husband would point out, it depends on what your definition of “round” is.
      If that definition is “topologically homeomorphic to a sphere”, then the Earth is indeed round. So is a pear.

  3. Anon

    Re: RadioShack

    As a former worker there, I can say with the utmost of certainty that the end was coming; I’m just surprised it took this long. Even back in 2008 when I started there, the cellphone market was pretty saturated and especially while working at a location surrounded by businesses/non-profits. So a typical shift would involve convincing workers who already had work-appointed cellphones that they weren’t paying for (and afaik, weren’t being monitored on by their employer, at least) to have the privilege of paying for a phone. Every now and then, we’d get some resident who came to that side of town and got one, but that was rare. In addition, there was the DPT (dollar per ticket) metric where we’d have to maintain an average of $45 per ticket or else we’d get talked to. In additional news, a few hours after the Bloomberg story broke, NYSE delisted them.

    1. Carolinian

      My brother the electronics geek practically grew up in Radio Shack and is very sad about the whole thing. Of course these days he shops on Amazon rather than RS. Indeed he informs me that Amazon may buy RS, turn the stores into Amazon store fronts.

      1. ambrit

        That is so crazy an idea it might work. (Of course, it all depends on what your normal business cycle looks like nowadays. Months or years?)

    2. jrs

      Now can Best Buy please go bankrupt. I mean RadioShack is what it is, and hardly needs more of an explanation than that to anyone who has been in one. But I would take it over Best Buys horrendous consumer experience any day.

      1. hunkerdown

        It is what it is, but it isn’t what it once was. Otherwise people start asking why we need a national chain of carrier-neutral cell phone bodegas in malls when other Third World countries are perfectly happy running them out of shanties or suitcases.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Sounds like I could add the cellphones-out-of-my-suitcase deal to my portfolio of options to generate an income!

          Life seems to get more and more like a William Gibson novel every day.

          1. ambrit

            Blast! I should have said that life should be a Kenneth Grahame novel: “The Wind in the Willows.”
            Grahame, by the way, was Secretary of the Bank of England for a while. The lesson being, there is still hope for banksters.
            For all you old time hippy types, the title “The Piper at the Gates of Dawn” comes from a chapter in “The Wind in the Willows.”
            I vaguely remember having this book read to me at bedtime when I was very little. How do our beginnings shape us!

    3. LifelongLIb

      At least where I lived RadioShack never had a good reputation among hobbyists. It carried unreliable junk and was staffed by people who didn’t really know anything about electronics. In those days though there were still some independent electronics shops run by enthusiasts. I suspect whatever improvement there was in RadioShack’s rep was the result of being the last man standing.

    4. curlydan

      Surprisingly as I scanned the Radio Shack article, I didn’t see one of the main factors in the death of Radio Shack: stock buy backs. Back when the company was making money, it was doing buy backs at a ridiculous pace. Lo and behold, as the net income dried up, there was no war chest or reserve, nothing left to pay creditors. RadioShack could have had some breathing room to design a decent strategy (and ditch the cell phones where they clearly couldn’t compete), but the execs were too busy enriching themselves.

  4. vidimi


    i find this to be such an important and mostly ignored observation of the human psyche, and now there’s some data behind it.

    too many people cannot accept that bad things happen to good people for no reason and so tend to rationalise it and blame the victim, compounding the evil. there have been some famous cases of men wrongly convicted of murdering their spouses and families because the alternative, that they were victims of unspeakable horror, was too awful to contemplate. it’s also why so many people support reactionary and regressive policies.

    1. jrs

      “When denied any option to halt her punishment, however – when forced to just sit and watch her apparently suffer – the participants adjusted their opinions of the woman downwards, as if to convince themselves her agony wasn’t so indefensible because she wasn’t really such an innocent victim”

      When the bad things that people have no options over aren’t those that are in the nature of life (like some diseases and so on), we mostly can’t help them because we have no control of our own society, government, and economic system. We need a revolution.

  5. vidimi

    i find penn and teller to be somewhat knobbish. their abrasive approach and condescension of those views they disagree with mean that they can only ever be effective at preaching to the choir. that is, they are entertainers only; they’ll never win you any converts.

      1. jrs

        In general that’s true about them, but being tolerant on childhood vaccines for deadly diseases, is beginning to resemble being tolerant with climate change deniers. And if they are wrong, the consequences go from bad (with the measles outbreak) to catastrophic (with climate change).

        1. vidimi

          what’s intolerance going to do for you? are you going to slaughter them all? if not, then you should be trying to bring them around

    1. Brindle

      I think Lord Grantham is basically to the left of today’s GOP, he seems more like a Clinton/Cuomo/Biden “third way” Democrat.

    2. jrs

      At least fictional Downton Abbey servants seem to be treated fairly well, better than the precariat wage slave in reality.

  6. PQS

    “Worth remembering if you think that real changes for the better in social relations cannot occur.”

    This is what I hold on to when considering how to change the ammosexuals and their “culture” (which, truth be told, is an utterly nihilistic, manufactured “culture” made by completely craven propagandists and profiteers)…..fifty years ago, everybody smoked, everywhere, all the time, much like “everybody” in American thinks guns are A-OK all the time and to try to change that is ludicrous. Today people know smoking dangerous and smoking has been relegated to private homes and even then, many people smoke outside because it smells. I consider the gun debate to be similar – fifty years from now, I hope the gun fetishists will been as scorned as those who proclaimed that cigarettes were healthy.

  7. Irrational

    You profess not to like the Bloomie redesign, but you’re still sending plenty of us there with your links! Personally, I stopped reading Bloomie about half a year ago when the headlines deteriorted significantly from a professional level. So are they that good anymore to be worth it?

    1. jgordon

      Along with Bloomberg and Business Insider and other like MSM crap–which only offer low quality pablum, I also refuse to look at any site with a paywall. It’s forced me to pay more attention to where the articles are published when I looking through links, so all in all not a bad thing I guess.

  8. twonine

    RFK Jr. agrees with Penn & Teller in the first few minutes of part 2 of this Thom Hartmann interview of him regarding his August 2014 book. I recall 8+/- years ago, Kennedy was scheduled on ABC for a segment on thimerosal. It got cancelled and that night, I counted 15, IIRC, pharma adds on the newscast. Haven’t watched more than a dozen mainstream newscasts since.

  9. Carla

    Re: your assessment “Weak tea from Cuomo on corruption reform” — I must say I missed Yves’ “Quelle surprise!”

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Well, that’s Yves’s locution, which I don’t want to hijack. I use “shocker” or “film at 11.”

      One might also think Cuomo learned something from Teachout and Wu. But I guess what he learned is that he’ll need even more money….

      1. ambrit

        Cuomo is now planning for his retirement. As to whether that is voluntary or enforced; only time will tell. Either way, the money will be useful.

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