2:00PM Water Cooler 2/27/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Hit piece on Warren from White House on TPP [Whitehouse.gov]. Jeffrey Zeints:

Senator Warren raises some important questions about an element of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) called Investor-State Dispute settlement, or ISDS. There are good answers.

Hopefully, we can go more deeply into this, so I’ll just hit a few of the lowlights, and maybe readers with more expertise than I have will supply a critique of the whole:

ISDS does not undermine U.S. sovereignty

So, when a foreign corporation can sue the United States “outside of national court systems, unconstrained by the rights and obligations of countries’ constitutions, laws and domestic court procedures” (Public Citizen) that doesn’t affect our sovereignty. Oh, OK. (I hit the loss of sovereignty argument hard because that looks like the basis of a strange bedfellows alliance between left and right.)

And then there’s this:

But when government takes its citizen’s property from them – be it a person’s home or their business – the government is required to provide compensation

Leave aside the assumption that corporations are, and of right ought to be, persons. TPP allows corporations to sue for future “lost profits” (see Public Citizen again). So, for example, suppose there’s Canadian money (Irving) behind the East-West Corridor across our watershed in Maine. Suppose a Federal regulation on oil pollution or wildlife stopped them. Irving could sue the United States for “lost profits” even though the highway was never built (see here for examples under existing trade deals).

And then there’s this:

[1]The reality is that ISDS does not and cannot require countries to change any law or regulation. Looking more broadly, [2]TPP will result in higher levels of labor and environmental protections in most TPP countries than they have today.

How can both [1] and [2] be true? Zeinst concludes:

But through TPP, we can set a new, higher set of standards, stronger safeguards and better transparency provisions. That’s exactly what we’re doing.

If this is true, then there’s a very simple way to prove it. Release the text of the TPP, and stop Fast Track so the American people, who presumably are the ones who will benefit from it, can determine whether Zeinst is telling the truth. I’m guessing he isn’t.

On the Clinton Foundation: “Lately, the whole family seems to be gathering up as much as it can before she declares her candidacy and the family really does have to stop” [Amy Davidson, The New Yorker]. Of course, the New Yorker is a place where people who took Obama seriously in 2008 can feel very, very comfortable. So part of the context here is that they’re stirring a rapidly congealing narrative. But then it’s the job of a winning Presidential campaign to stop that sort of thing from happening.

Cruz on Clinton: “Call me crazy, [but] I don’t think the secretary of State, or, for that matter the president, should be on the payroll of foreign nations” [National Review]. Well, not crazy. Just untruthful and a guy who can’t pass a pudding without overegging it, since “on the payroll” (as Davidson, supra, shows) isn’t remotely in evidence. Anyhow, this whole discourse is deeply ironic, since our trans- or post-national elites in the 0.1% have been stripping the country of its manufacturing assets and shipping them to China since the neo-liberal ascendancy began in the mid-70s, and the Cruzes and Clintons of this world both helped them do it.


Joe Klein feels this thrill going up his leg: “And after giving his speeches a close read, I find Bush’s disposition far more important than his position on any given issue” [Time]. Everything but “comfortable in his own skin.” Dear Lord.

Principled Insurgents

Walker said: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world”. How Rick Perry framed it [MSNBC]: “These are Americans. To try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.” The thing is, on pure numbers, Walker’s in the ballpark: The State Department estimates there are 184,000 terrorists worldwide. So what’s Perry’s beef? Not that Walker hates unions; Perry does too (and he’d better). No, what Perry’s worried about is, more or less, “not in front of the children” (“I think, you know, some of the statements that he’s made are obviously problematic for him”). Walker needs to beef up his communications staff and do what they tell him. Which (I find) he is doing.

Clown Car

Gail Collins: “Chris Christie is political toast” [New York Times]. Well, let’s hope she does a better takedown of Christie than she did of Walker.

Keen graphic on Wikipedia’s most contested entries, which differ by language [The Economist]. For English, the top five: George W. Bush, Anarchism, Muhammad, List of WWE Personnel, Global Warming.

The Hill

Ezra Klein: “Obama made huge progress on liberal goals when he had a Democratic majority from 2009-2010” [Vox]. Yeah, like a stimulus of adequate size (not), checking the power of the big banks (not), restoring the rule of law by throwing some CEOs in jail (not), keeping people in their homes through the foreclosure crisis (not), single payer (not), kicking in the ribs of the party that impeached Bill Clinton over a ******* when he had them down (not)… Well, I could go on. Is “delusional” too harsh a word for Klein, do you think? What’d those squillionaires give him all that money for, anyhow?

Reid’s real talent is obstruction when minority leader [Politico].

Herd on the Street

Barnes & Noble Inc will spin off its college books unit and keep its Nook tablets and e-book business [Reuters]. Reversal of direction driven by the board. Does anybody use Nook?

Amazon’s Twitch streaming service draws 100 million users each month; Now, it has begun broadcasting online poker players, including several sponsored professionals, “to bring in more young, male users” [Wall Street Journal, “Amazon’s Twitch Site Bets on Poker”].

“Some 96 percent of malware — or malicious software — employed by hackers target Google Android” [CNBC]. “The open-source nature of Android allows hackers to find the code behind a popular app, they said, and recreate the app almost identically but with a malicious code to infect users.” Hmm.

Stats Watch

GDP for Q4, 2014: Revised down, but due to a lower estimate for inventory investment. “The economy grew 2.2 percent in the fourth quarter compared to the advance estimate of 2.6 percent. Expectations were for 2.1 percent” [Bloomberg].

Pending home sales index, January 2015: “[F]ell a very steep 3.7 percent in December after rising 0.6 percent the month before. A decline was not expected at all” [Bloomberg]. “All regions showed single digit declines.”

Consumer sentiment, February 2015: “Remains very strong but it did move down after spiking in January” [Bloomberg].

Net Neutrality

Verizon issues “furious” press release in Morse code. Back to 1934, get it? [Ars Technica]. Stay classy, Verizon!

How John Oliver’s video helped win the net neutrality debate [Bloomberg]. I toned down Bloomberg’s triumphalist, celebrity-focused coverage; Oliver’s video wouldn’t have had the impact it did without many already being primed, and that’s down to the labors of many thousands, most unknown and unrecognized.


Tom Schweich, Missouri’s Republican state auditor and a leading contender for the governor’s office in next year’s election, died Thursday after apparently shooting himself in his Clayton home [St Louis Dispatch]. “Schweich’s wife was in another room of their house when she heard her husband making phone calls, followed by a gunshot. …. When Schweich announced his gubernatorial campaign, he promised to attack corruption in the state Capitol.” Read the detail. Politics ain’t beanbag.


Iran’s only golf course has thirteen holes because the Army took the land for five [Agence France Presse]. So they play five holes twice.

Class Warfare

Yemen ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh amassed up to $60 billion, colluded with rebels [Reuters]. So how many other billionaires don’t appear on the Forbes list?

“Jimmy Savile was given free rein to sexually abuse 60 people, including seriously ill eight-year-olds, over two decades at Stoke Mandeville hospital due to his gold-plated status as a celebrity fundraiser, an inquiry has found” [Guardian]. Horrible details (and an unmentioned detail is that Thatcher tried to give him a knighthood, despite warnings). So was Savile just a bad apple?

Hong Kong’s Law Wan-tung found guilty of grievously abusing “helper” Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and another maid Tutik Lestari Ningsih and sentenced to six years in jail [Asian Correspondent].

Blinded with Science

“The Science of Why No One Agrees on the Color of This Dress” [Wired]. Apparently a thing that took over both Facebook and Twitter.

A whole site devoted to the theory of the selfie [Selfiecity].

NASA looking at techniques to discover life in Europa’s frozen seas [New Scientist]. Mission is budgeted, with 2020s launch date.

“The report [from researchers at Peking University and elsewhere] is the first to conclude that those who speak tonal languages like Mandarin exhibit a very different flow of information during speech comprehension, using both hemispheres of the brain rather than just the left” [Quartz].

DNA study shows wheat in mesolithic Britain — but from trade, not agriculture! [Nature].

News of the Wired

  • “So your idea is to drive across America and write about it without talking to a single American?” [Karl Ove Knausgaard, New York Times]. The first of six parts…
  • New font: Sans Bullshit Sans. Try it yourself! [Sans Bullshit Sans]. “Leveraging the synergy of ligatures™.” I tested with prose from what I believe is a parody site; their bullshit word-list needs to be longer.This is an unsurprising result.
  • Vertical farm in Jackson, Wyoming will make 44,000 pounds of tomatoes year-round on the side of a parking lot [The Verge]. My first thought: Finally, making something useful out of a parking garage! But then again, I look at the image and I see a lot of metal and tubing; not a very sustainable infrastructure, surely?
  • Indiana bill to provide “safe haven” baby boxes “as an alternative to parents abandoning children in unsafe areas” [WBAA].
  • Speaking of shipping containers: “She told the court the couple had been moving possessions into the Mount Lloyd property, and decided it would be preferable for [her mother] to sleep in the shipping container that night because of the possessions stacked precariously everywhere in the main residence” [ABC]. Not, as you would guess, a happy ending.
  • “Capsula Mundi project by designers Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel has developed an organic, biodegradable burial capsule that will turn the deceased’s body into nutrients for a tree that will grow out of their remains” [Bored Panda]. Not legal now in Italy, but a beautiful idea.
  • FedEx And UPS Refuse to Ship a Digital Mill That Can Make Untraceable Guns [Wired]. Dunno how what the half-life of “untraceable” might be. Remember how “On the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog” turned into “On the Internet everybody (who matters) knows who you are and what you’re doing”?
  • Blade Runner sequel with Harrison Ford, but with Ridley Scott producing, not directing [Variety]. A little night music for the new normal….
  • Podcast: Critical Reasoning for Beginners [Oxford University]. NC commenters don’t need this, of course, but perhaps they can pass it along to their friends….

* * *

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, the last of Fungus Week (Rex):


Brain fungus!

Readers! How about sending me some plants under snow and/or ice? Seems appropriate? And if that doesn’t sound like a good idea, how about some humorous vegetables?

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

Yes, I’ve got to fix the hat! Thank you all for your generous help in the mini-fundraiser!

Talk amongst yourselves!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in 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. Vatch

    “Yemen ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh amassed up to $60 billion, colluded with rebels [Reuters]. So how many other billionaires don’t appear on the Forbes list?”:

    From the Forbes web site:

    We do not include royal family members or dictators who derive their fortunes entirely as a result of their position of power, nor do we include royalty who, often with large families, control the riches in trust for their nation. Over the years Forbes has valued the fortunes of these wealthy despots, dictators and royals but have listed them separately as they do not truly reflect individual, entrepreneurial wealth that could be passed down to a younger generation or truly given away.

    1. Jim Haygood

      … and Obama’s drones kept him in office, until the rebels took over the capital.

      Saudi Arabia is the same story, on a much larger scale.

      Our mercenaries heroes: defending the indefensible.

    1. Katiebird

      Sometimes these public deaths surprise me with the force of impact. With Leonard Nimoy’s death, I feel like been punched in the heart.

  2. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you and Yves for keeping the proposed TPP and TTIP agreements in the cross hairs, Lambert. Egregious effort is underway to transfer national sovereign powers to the TBTFs-Corporatists-0.1 Percent. Among other powers I believe they are after, albeit indirectly, is monetary sovereignty to cover their speculative losses in derivatives and the financial markets. And given the current composition of the Supremes, it is unlikely these agreements would be overturned on Constitutional grounds.

    It is time to take the offense against these interests. Fast Track must be repudiated, Citizens United reversed, and marginal tax rates increased.

  3. timbers

    “How John Oliver’s video helped win the net neutrality debate [Bloomberg].”

    Wrong, Obama saved Net Neutrality! Just like he gave us gays all the rights by hopping aboard our bandwagon as it crossed the finish line.

    Seriously, Obama’s late late public support of NN came suspiciously close to Tom Wheeler finally embracing it dispite all his previous attempts to kill it. Maybe around that same time Obama learned that even Wheeler had given up trying to kill NN and decided to climb aboard another bandwagon crossing the finish line?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      And I carefully copy the entire water cooler post of the previous day and then advance the date in the title by one digit exactly so that I never have to think about the date.

      A case of fat thumb syndrome, I guess.

  4. hunkerdown

    One wonders if there isn’t some thread of causal connection between Nisman and Schweich… if I had full access to MARINA I could surely find out in seconds.

  5. bob

    “Does anybody use Nook?”

    I have one. It’s the best “reader” out there. The nook simple touch. The display is very good, as close to paper as I’ve seen. No glare, and no lights shining back at you.

    Extremely simple.

    Big downside- It’s google. Android operating system that will not let you use it without logging into google. It is possible, through never advertised means, to get it to work without logging into google. But, doing this cuts the battery life by 10-20 times.

    You cannot use it, out of the box, and have it perform to advertised expectations, without logging it into google and asking them not to kill your battery.

    Very devious. I don’t recommend it for this reason. The entire operation of it depends on google.

    Also, “the hackers” have been able to “root” it. BS. They’ve managed to sideload a few apps via logging it into google, again. They’re not “hacking” the nook, they’re hacking it through google. It doesn’t work without google.

    1. Katiebird

      I had the original Nook and now have a Glowlight an really like it. It’s small holds all my books and I can read in bed. I can get books from either Barnes & Noble or any ePub download. Also it is compatible with the formats used by my public library. And I REALLY like that. I couldn’t get library books if I’d gotten a kindle.

        1. Katiebird

          Yes. The Nook Glowlight is it’s own thing. Just an eReader… Not a tablet. It probably is Android but all anyone is going to get is a list of my books and what I’m reading now (but I don’t keep my books synced with B&N) No ads. Pretty simple. And the Glowlight keeps everything in one library whether it comes frm B&N or a PDFs from my PC. Oh. And it goes on sale pretty often. I figure it was a safe purchase even if B&N bites the dust because it’s not totally restricted to books in their own format.

  6. DJG

    Tonal language and brain use. I’d like to see that experiment repeated on an Indo-European language that uses tone to impart meaning, such as Swedish or Norwegian. Further, Japanese uses tone in a restricted way, which might provide another “control,” as would Chinese languages that minimize tone, such as Shanghainese. Conversely, would they get the same results from brains singing in Indo-European languages as they got with tonal speech in Chinese?

  7. Ben Johannson

    TPP allows corporations to sue for future “lost profits” (see Public Citizen again).

    It isn’t that reasonable. TPP allows corporations to sue for profits they imagine would have one day materialized. It’s fantasy wealth porn for executive masturbators: a legal playground to boost earnings-per-share wherever the CEO feels it should be.

    1. hunkerdown

      If it weren’t for you meddling kids…

      Who ever thought Scooby Doo would be so insightful into power politics!

  8. Left in Wisconsin

    I think Walker is wise to bring in a pro but it is a mistake to think he is loose-lipped and prone to gaffes (not saying anyone here did). He is super-disciplined message-wise. And when he does get caught in a gaffe or a lie, he knows that stonewalling and changing the subject is generally enough to get media to lose interest.

    Taibbi has a new piece in Rolling Stone saying Walker is a gift to the Dems. I don’t think he is right. It would not surprise me if Walker wins the nomination – he’s proven he can raise money and I don’t find any of the other Repubs compelling TSTL – and if he does it wouldn’t surprise me if he beats Hillary. And if he does, and the R’s keep Congress, we are in for a world of hurt.

    1. VietnamVet

      The real question is if the Koch Brothers can pressure media owners (Comcast) not to do a hit job on Scott Walker. If the Elite lay low, he will whistle his way to the top of the Republican ticket. To preserve my pension, I would have to vote for Hillary Clinton and watch Victoria Nuland become Secretary of State. I need that direct deposit each month to live long enough to see if the world erupts in flames or not.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        It may not be just the Kochs. Unless the mainstream money really thinks Jeb can beat Hillary and Walker can’t, he’s likely to get the mainstream money too. Though I believe Comcast is Democratic money (I believe O’s second home on Martha’s Vinyard is Comcast CEO’s), so maybe they will do Hillary the favor anyway. But I’m not sure it will make a difference. The Hillary hit jobs will be coming hard and fast. And I think Walker doesn’t offer as much for a take-down. His awfulness is entirely public, which strangely seems to be harder for the media to get their arms around.

      2. Lambert Strether Post author

        The Beltway is chipping away at him; WaPo is pretty snarky. I don’t think they like him; he’s not credentialed, after all. But they haven’t put him in a narrative box, yet.

    2. sufferin' succotash

      Concur that it would be a big mistake to underrate Walker. These “gaffes” aren’t gaffes at all. They’re meant to elicit the sort of reactions that can enhance his image among the hard core as a victim of the “liberal” media. Isn’t he already using the media reaction as a fundraising gimmick? This guy definitely knows how to game the system.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      I don’t think Walker is undisciplined at all (not in the way that loveable goof, Joe Biden, is for example). If I conveyed that, that was not my intent.

      However, I don’t think he’s accustomed to the level and type(s) of message discipline appropriate for a national campaign; only somebody who’s been there and done that has that knowledge.

  9. grizziz

    I pasted Jeffrey Zients Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) Questions and Answers into the Sans Bullshit Sans test box and only got 8 bullshits. (Well seven bullshits and one B.S. to be more accurate.) I am assuming the whole piece is bullshit because they could just show the legislation and avoid the middleman as Lambert points out, but then Zients would be out of a job and he’d have to go out and B.S. in the private sector.

  10. Gareth

    Walker did not “take on” 100,000 protesters, he hid in the Capitol and traveled in secret convoys, under armed guard. He is a legend in his own mind. As for messaging, he is a talking-point machine, but when faced with a question he is unprepared for, his face turns red and he spouts a Palinesque word salad. He must never, ever improvise, because he just doesn’t have the knowledge base to pull it off.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I think that comes under the heading of “underestimation.” He “took on” and beat the protesters, and their backers, politically, and beat them very decisively. Then he got away clean. That’s what the base wants.

  11. Kim Kaufman

    “Verizon issues “furious” press release in Morse code. Back to 1934, get it? [Ars Technica]. Stay classy, Verizon!”

    From Democracy Now today talking with Tim Wu who coined the term “Net Neutrality”:

    “JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Tim, the decision of Verizon, for example, to blast this with a—in Morse code, as if referring back to a previous communication era, I was struck by the fact that I don’t think Verizon sees the irony of its actions, because the old telegraph became—because of lack of government regulation, became largely a Western Union monopoly and out of the reach of ordinary Americans, and it was only used by the wealthy. So they’re actually using the old Morse code telegraph analogy to buttress an argument that is clearly bankrupt at this point in terms of the failure of the modern communications companies to be able to allow and to maintain public access.”

    Stay stupid, Verizon!

  12. ProNewerDeal

    IIRC something the USian FT journalism job population has declined ~50% since 2000, with the reduction in newspaper subscriptions, & newspaper ad sales being blamed.

    There must be some meritorious competent investigative journalists working an Underemployed McJob right now, shaking their head in disgust of their own personal fates, relative to the employed status of hacks like Joke Line Sr (Joe Klein) & Joke Line Jr (Ezra). USian BigMedia “Journalism” looks like a Joke Line-esque knob-slob-ocracy of the powerful, not a meritocracy.

    RIP to Gary Webb & cheers to past & present actually competent investigative journalists.

  13. Propertius

    I think you’re being too hard on poor little Ezra. Remember, this is the guy who thinks the Constitution is too hard to understand because it was “written a hundred years ago”. He can hardly be expected to keep Obama’s policies (such as they are) straight. I mean, that was like fifty years ago wasn’t it?

Comments are closed.