2:00PM Water Cooler 2/4/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Only the Clinton operation could milk a baby [Politico]. Even if the baby is named for the Bank of America’s headquarters.

Pro-Warren group opens Manchester, New Hampshire office, hires state director and three field organizers (!) [Wall Street Journal, “Pro-Elizabeth Warren Group Opens New Hampshire Office “].

Grayson mulls Senate run [The Hill]. It would be fun to see Grayson take down Rubio. Only the horrid and unsuccessful Debbie Wasserman-Schultz stands in his way!

Iowa Poll: “Fifty-three percent of likely Republican caucus participants and 81 percent of likely Democratic caucus participants said they believe Islam is inherently peaceful” [Bloomberg].


Jebbie the weak front runner: Leads in swing states, but even with Romney out, he only dominates in Florida [Quinnipiac]. Maybe when he figures out a better reason to run than “hope.” That lightning won’t strike twice.

Principled Insurgents

Walker’s not a slam dunk because he could be soft on immigration and Common Core [Slate]. I don’t agree. Walker stomps Democrats and busts unions. That trumps everything else. Out of curiosity, has anybody done any oppo fact-checking on Walker’s book, Unintimidated?

Walker’s budget address (transcript) [FOX6]. Having abandoned “social insurance” in favor of the pissant “safety net,” Democrats now face the Republican talking point that a safety net shouldn’t be a “hammock.” Which is hard to argue against.

Clown Car

Christie refuses to grant audience to the press: “Is there something you don’t understand about no questions?” [Bloomberg].

Ben Carson on source of measles outbreak: “These are things that we had under control. We have to account for the fact that we now have people coming into the country sometimes undocumented people who perhaps have diseases that we had under control” [Crooks & Liars]. At least Carson believes that vaccination works. But now I have to put him in the clown car. “According to the World Health Organization, about 93 percent of children in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, from which a majority of undocumented children have emigrated from, have gotten a measles vaccination.” Coverage in the US for one-year-olds is 91%. A small risk, already managed.

“Reformicons” (reform conservatives) are the new trend, apparently [Wall Street Journal]. “Their ideas are mainly marked by energy and youth and are getting a hearing among those considering presidential runs.” First fresh idea: Cutting the minimum wage!

The Hill

About the “Freedom Caucus”… I believe the phrase you want to use instead is “glass bowls” [Roll Call]. Because this is a family blog.

Herd on the Street

Staples buying Office Depot [Business Insider].

Sony reports more than threefold increase in its quarterly profit, lifts its full-year outlook [Wall Street Journal, “Sony Results Give Hope for Electronics Business”]. Although results are provisional with hacking not taken into account.

Baltic Dry index at lowest level since 1986 [CBC]. Now 577.

Stats Watch

ADP Employment Report, January 2015: “slowing in job growth for January, to a lower-than-expected 213,000 for private payrolls” [Bloomberg].

Gallup US Job Creation Index, January 2015: “U.S. workers’ perceptions of hiring at their places of employment are the most positive Gallup has recorded in any January since Gallup began tracking this in 2008. But the increase since last January came mostly in the first half of 2014. The index has since stalled, suggesting that the future of the jobs situation in the U.S. remains uncertain” [Bloomberg].

Mortgage Bankers Association Purchase Applications, week of January 30, 2015: “Low rates have yet to trigger much demand.” “[D]emand for refinancing has been showing life” [Bloomberg].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Ferguson PD trying “The Alternative,” a “less lethal” device that docks on the gun barrel and melds with the bullet, slowing it [WaPo]. At least somebody’s thinking.

How Grosse Point walled itself off from Detroit [Guardian]. With a Farmer’s Market, among other things.

America the Petrostate

Bakken crude “bomb trains” along the Schuylkill, past apartment blocks, a children’s hospital [6ABC]. What could go wrong?

Class Warfare

“The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment” [Gallup]. That’s the President of Gallup writing, and if anybody knows what a Big Lie is, Jim Clifton does:

There’s no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie….

Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older. We need that to be 50% and a bare minimum of 10 million new, good jobs to replenish America’s middle class.

I hear all the time that “unemployment is greatly reduced, but the people aren’t feeling it.” When the media, talking heads, the White House and Wall Street start reporting the truth — the percent of Americans in good jobs; jobs that are full time and real — then we will quit wondering why Americans aren’t “feeling” something that doesn’t remotely reflect the reality in their lives. And we will also quit wondering what hollowed out the middle class.

“Instead, in every domain, over and over, the policies that prevail are those with business-models” [Cory Doctorow, Guardian]. “Policies that create a large pool of wealth for a small number of players, enough money in few enough hands that there’s some left over to lobby for the continuation of that policy.”

“[S]ome of the remedies for inequality involve the state doing more, not less” [John Micklethwait, The Economist]. Parting thoughts as editor. Ya think?

“Consumerism has broken its promise” [George Monbiot]. In common with other -isms.

News of the Wired

  • “The FTC [successfully] argued in its complaint that it was unfair for [revenge pr0n king] Brittain to exploit personal information shared in confidence for commercial gain” [Atlantic]. I suppose this doesn’t apply to Facebook given the terms of service, but still…
  • China to enforce real-name online registration [Reuters].
  • Scotland bans fracking [The Herald].
  • How much sleep do you need? [WaPo].
  • “It would be much easier to sell TTIP to a sceptical European public if ISDS were no longer part of it” [John Kay, FT, “Petitioners’ fears over EU-US trade deal well-grounded”].
  • Perceiving injustice, people try to remedy it; failing that, they blame the victim [Guardian].
  • Madison, Wisconsin to invest one million a year in co-ops [Fast Co-exist].

* * *

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. Ed

    The CEO of Gallup has a pretty good blog which is well worth checking out now and then. I think that’s unusual for CEOs.

  2. cwaltz

    Don’t see why the hammock argument is hard to fight. The majority of aid goes to KIDS or the ELDERLY. Additionally the adults it does help quite often WORK a McJob.

    You turn this back by making it about crappy jobs that don’t pay enough. If I were a Democrat I’d ask the GOP if they think the life of a welfare recipient is such a hammock that they give the lifestyle for a month. As it is I’d love to see a single one of those jackasses come up with a budget on $7.25 an hour. I’m pretty sure it would look like the one McDonalds came up with.

    Oh and as far as hammocks go the whole entire bunch of their entitled backsides are having car payments made monthly by a taxpayer on their six figure incomes. Although I guess in their case all the perks they are receiving costing us taxpayers is more like a Congressional Lay-Z Boy.

    1. PQS

      +1 on this. It isn’t hard to argue against the “poverty hammock” – it is only necessary to point out the gold-plated hammock of our Military Industrial Complex in comparison to the threadbare safety net. No bid contracts, pallets of cash lost, and endless war to the tune of trillions.

      It is also only necessary to point out basic facts about life expectancy, childhood poverty, and other ills and how bad they’ve gotten using “trickle-down” economics in comparison to the tax rates of the 1950s and the so-called “golden age” in America, which most right wingers thing sprang out of Reagan’s head fully formed.

      It is also only necessary to point out the hammock enjoyed by big corporations in which they don’t pay their fulltime workers enough to eat while they buy back their own stock to push up the price and feather their nests at the expense of the taxpayers.

      And I haven’t even started on the Wall Street hammocks……they make the MIC hammocks look puny in comparison.

      You see, it isn’t about “facts” or presenting information – it’s about fairness. People know (As Warren says) that the game is rigged, and not for them. They know they aren’t too big to fail, and there is a lineup of actors pushing them along towards it, not helping pull them away from it. It is only necessary to frame the argument this way and people will follow along. In droves.

    2. Ed S.

      You turn this back by making it about crappy jobs that don’t pay enough

      Respectfully, like hell you do. Crappy job (or job prospects) = poor choices. It’s the individual’s fault. That’s the retort to the “crappy jobs” argument.

      The counter attack on Unemployment is: sanctity of contract. C’mon all my lefty friends — say it loud, say it proud: F*(K you Scott Walker on breaking a contract. There is NOTHING more sacred. Break a contract you’re nothing more than a looter, just as St. Ayn prophesied.

      Same with Social Security — it’s a legal, moral, G-D sanctified agreement. It’s no more an “entitlement” than Mitt Romney getting his interest payment from a Treasury bond.

      1. cwaltz

        Crappy jobs= kids who weren’t born with a silver spoon in their mouth.

        The reality is that if you don’t have a parent that can send you to college you either go in debt or you get a crappy job. As a matter of fact, I’d argue that if you took a job to support yourself then it shouldn’t be called a “crappy choice.” The reality is if you don’t have a college education than the BEST CHOICE YOU CAN MAKE is that crappy job. After all, the argument is these people are laying in a “hammock,” which is essentially an untruth. They have JOBS, that’s the OPPOSITE of laying down and chilling. The truth is minimum wage work while not the intellectually hardest labor is often very physically and mentally challenging. It’s hard.

        As far as “poor choices” I’d argue the poor are often set up to have this argument played against them. Why? The reality is it takes resources to live. If you have $7.25 an hour than you aren’t going to be able to save money because you’ll be using all of it to pay for food, shelter and other needs. Heck, you almost have to go to $10.10 an hour to actually be able to afford housing using the government’s own standards of no more than 28% to be “fiscally responsible” and I live in Appalachia which isn’t known as an expensive region.

      2. ambrit

        Interesting to note that you make an argument based on the oft discredited theory of the “hidden hand” also known as the “market.”
        Any contract is only as good as the full faith of the parties to it. When you have one group use asymmetries of information and power to ‘influence’ the “market,” you have a bad contract. There is nothing in the least supernatural about contracts. They are not manifestations of some god.
        As for St. Ayn. Hah! I really hope you were being ironic there. Her personal life cannot withstand scrutiny.

      3. MartyH

        Ed. S,

        Couldn’t agree more with paragraphs 2 and 3. The “Poor Choices” argument is too often dog whistle code for “suffering from intentional marginalization.” There’s a lot broader and more thoughtful discussion to be had about “crappy job prospects.” Too many qualified STEM workers working McJobs. Too many over 45s being passed over because they’re “too old.” Workforce participation is way down and part-time work is up (measured as if it was participation). That spells “crappy job prospects.”

        1. cwaltz

          While it can certainly be said that there are people who have attended school that are stuck working jobs they are overqualified for I disagree that this argument should be started from the middle or the idea that you should have to have college to pay for things like housing, food, utilities or you somehow made a “poor choice” that means you deserve to have your well being and welfare be an intentional political football in Washington.

          It should start from the idea that ANYONE who is working and doing their best isn’t residing in a hammock, whether that job be in the retail sector or the STEM sector.

          Where Ed S and I probably do agree is that if there are many people who can’t make it without the help of these nets then that is an indictment of Congress and the politicians residing in DC. There have been “poor choices” alright. The choice to send all our money overseas to fight unnecessary wars, the willingness to bail out bad behavior of the banking sector with no strings, the choice to allow the investment class to be taxed at a lower rate than workers……. If the GOP wants to talk about “poor choices” we can talk about poor choices.

        2. Ed S.

          We really do need a (sarcasm on) (/sarcasm off) tag.

          Because my “crappy job = poor choices” was absolutely, positively sarcastic. “Poor choices” too frequently means “blame the victim” typically for circumstances WAY beyond their control.

          And my St. Ayn comment needed the (sarcasm on) tag as well.

          Put more bluntly, IMHO a society should be judged on how well it supports its least able members. We’ve moved from limited support to indifference to contempt to outright hostility in our treatment of our least able members. But arguing compassion, fairness, etc. is pointless. Frankly, arguing is pointless. Because it isn’t a lack of knowledge — you’re challenging faith. And to attack faith (in the “free” market) you need to use use the exact same weapons (e.g. “sanctity” of contract) as those defending the faith.

          Hope this clarification works.

          1. ambrit

            Got ya Chief!
            You’re right about the dog whistle effect of some of the memes, whether subtly sarcastic or not. As Lambert is known to say, we need to have our knees looked at.
            The compassion argument is good as far as it goes. However, I would say that compassion can be mobilized among a segment of the population for demonstrable good. (There’s a good reason why “faith based” charities were picked as a wedge to degrade “public” charity. The best ones are spectacularly good at what they do. The unmentioned caveat is that many problems are society wide, and not amenable to private solutions. Simply a matter of scale.)
            Keep up the good work.

            1. BobW

              On the “faith based” point: I am in my early 60s, was unemployed and technically homeless (in fact in a tent for some time). I met someone at a homeless event who took two of us from the camp to breakfast one day. A series of improbable events later I was working part-time over the internet for the company he co-founded (using a FreeGeek computer). Later in-office for more hours, now full-time beginning in November – for more money than I ever made in my life. With a great benefit package (including one week/year paid for mission work). Sheer luck there. Relying on public programs I could still be washing dishes for very few hours at minimum wage.

          2. hunkerdown

            I would get all the Christian-derived nonsense out of this — a society is rightly judged based on how it treats ALL its members, regardless of desert — the “basic life package” as Lambert has put it. The moment desert gets into it, the psychopaths, sociopaths and just plain predators have all the tools they need to reproduce the current mess.

            1. Propertius

              a society is rightly judged based on how it treats ALL its members, regardless of desert

              Well, of course. Why else would we even have “society”?

            1. Propertius

              And how do you define “ability”? Take, for example, someone working multiple, physical jobs paying minimum-ish wage. How is such a person less “able” than some stuck-up, Ivy Leaguer knocking down 7 or 8 figures sitting in an air-conditioned office? One might argue that the former could not do the work of the latter, but I’d be willing to bet the converse is just as true.

    3. Carla

      “If I were a Democrat I’d ask the GOP if they think the life of a welfare recipient is such a hammock that they give the lifestyle [a try] for a month.” They can’t use their tax-payer subsidized health insurance during that month either, although we’ll allow them to put in an application for Medicaid in their home state. And wish them luck.

      1. cwaltz

        It sickens me that anyone who gave themselves a $1000 car payment would have the balls to argue that OTHERS are living in a hammock because they are getting food stamps or housing aid.

        As it is the reason we have so many people on aid is because Congress and the GOP in particular refuse to address wages.

      2. Tom Allen

        Aren’t the Democrats, particularly the Clinton wing, the party that partnered with Newt Gingrich to “end welfare as we have come to know it”?

          1. cwaltz

            I usually vote third party. Let’s face it though, the debate is only going to be between Party and Party B or the status quo. I just wanted to make the point that when the Democrats whine about how “hard” it is to argue against the “hammock argument” that they’re either lying or incompetent because the argument isn’t hard at all.

            1. hunkerdown

              “The” debate, you say, as if their debate even mattered. Does it, if no one watches? Americans are suckers for “cool” — perhaps one (and a few mainstream celebrities wouldn’t hurt) should make a point of attending the shadow debates.

              1. cwaltz

                I watched the debates with Johnson, Stein, Angry guy and the rest. Too bad it didn’t matter because they didn’t get mainstream coverage.

                While I vote third party I am fairly realistic when it comes to results. While I’d love to see a third party win(if only to see the rich pee their pants since they know they own the two other parties) I’m not convinced it’s going to happen this cycle.

      1. ProNewerDeal

        most of the poor (those age 55+) are persecuted by Medicaid Estate Recovery Program Actual Genuine Death Taxes. Another “feature” that the ACA intentionally failed to fix.

    4. Lambert Strether Post author

      It’s not easy for two reasons: 1) Is that the metaphors are uncomfortably close structurally; both net and hammock are made of fiber, cloth, both are hung in the air, both catch a recumbent body. 2) Both safety net and hammock are for individuals; the idea of a body politic responsible for and caring for its members, as with social insurance, is airbrushed away with “safety net,” as was no doubt the goal. “Safety net” simply concedes too much, which is one reason it’s hard to defend.

  3. readerOfTeaLeaves

    Potentially huge news on the Net Neutrality front.

    The head of the FCC finally figures out that the Internet should be regulated as a utility and placed under Title II of the larger telecom act. This is actually momentous.

    Already, the forces of ‘light regulation’ and ‘free enterprise’ are wheedling away at conservatives in Congress (surprise, surprise) to keep broadband Internet out of Title II.

    After all, the telecoms spent years in court, and millions in lobbying, to get broadband Internet out of Title II, and they succeeded. Which means that until it is put back into Title II, it’s a free-for-all tollway for large private interests.

    This is a pleasant surprise, and worth keeping an eye on.

      1. Lune

        Wheeler is actually turning out to be a very pleasant surprise. Despite being a cable lobbyist previously, as FCC chairman, he’s been (dare I say it?) pretty good, not just on net neutrality, but spectrum allocations, and a whole host of other issues.

        Hopefully he’ll be able to push this through without Congress cutting him off at the knees.

    1. Anon

      I’d be extremely wary of this. It may sound strange, but I think of this as a feint (give the people NN, pass TPP sight unseen).

      1. Carla

        An all-too-likely scenario. Veto Keystone, pass fake net neutrality, and trade them for fast track on TPP and TTIP.

          1. readerOfTeaLeaves

            For reasons that I won’t go in to here, getting broadband Internet into Title II of the telecom act is absolutely crucial. I figure that Wheeler finally realized that millions of people are keeping an eye on this — and for those conservative Congresscritters, they need to realize that for churches, school districts, long distance learning (higher ed), and community organizations (i.e., Chamber of Commerce), putting broadband back into Title II is extremely important.

            Note if you read that linked Guardian article how the telecom mouthpieces try to muddy the waters, and their blather about ‘regulation’ is basically more neoliberalist shill wanting to privatize the Internet.

            If Wheeler has come around, hats off to him.
            But the other FCC members also have votes.

            Definitely worth monitoring, but this is huge progress.

    2. bob

      Also, just as TW and comcast are due to merge.

      Quid pro quo? You get your ‘net neutrailty’, we get a monopoly.

      I thought for a while that TW and comcast were just going to merge- damn the torpedoes! citi-travelers style.

      Now, I think they’re going to merge, and get to decide what ‘net neutrality’ means.

  4. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

    WASHINGTON (MarketWatch) — The European Central Bank on Wednesday said it is lifting the waiver on using Greek government debt as collateral. “The Governing Council decision is based on the fact that it is currently not possible to assume a successful conclusion of the programme review and is in line with existing Eurosystem rules,” the ECB said in a statement. U.S. stocks SPX, -0.55% fell from the day’s highs after the news.

    1. Vince in MN

      I’m sure everyone has heard the stories of clients asking portrait painters to “make me look younger”. I’m sure Jindal did that, as well as ask the final image to be “lightened up a bit”.

        1. ambrit

          Or, he being in Politics: “Make me look like the gentlemen in the Boston Club down in N’awlins.”

            1. ambrit

              Oh, I don’t know about that. The man has had a successful career in National and State politics. He evidently lives well. He is a bona fide poster child for successful immigrant family in America. He also has significant clout in national politics. He knows who to go to to get things done. Unfortunately, he supports generally conservative causes. Being a professional politician, I’d lay odds he has a hide thicker than a swamp gators. He might even get the joke and have the painting around for a laugh and as a “remember you are only mortal” reminder.

            2. Jagger

              ——–I feel sorry for him.——–

              Don’t. This is the man that wanted to eliminate hospice care for the poor. If the story hadn’t gone national, he would have. Tells you all you need to know about him. No, feel sorry for those he governs over.

  5. Marianne Jones

    What is more likely?

    a) An impoverished illegal alien sneaks over the border paying coyotes and then buying Disneyland tickets instead of food and shelter.
    b) a rich foreigner buys round trip airfare, pays for a hotel, then buys Disneyland tickets for a trip of a lifetime
    c) an unvaccinated US citizen returns from a country with a case of measles, then buys Disneyland tickets to celebrate coming home.

    I say either B or C.

    1. Vince in MN

      d) A wealthy, born-again Christian fundamentalist, unvaccinated US citizen returns from a country with a case of measles, then buys Disneyland tickets to celebrate coming home.

    2. LifelongLib

      More generally, be careful about stories highlighting health issues in other countries.

      A couple years ago here in Hawaii I read an article on Japan being concerned about a rise in childhood deaths. It sounded puzzling and alarming. Then at the bottom (not even referenced) there was a small table comparing childhood deaths in Japan to various other nations, including the U.S. Japan’s rates were lower than ours across all ages. Well, at least they put that table in (somebody’s minor subversion maybe?).

  6. BondsOfSteel

    I was really interested in “How Grosse Point walled itself off from Detroit [Guardian].” So… I took a quick look at it on the map, and the story in the article falls apart:


    There are tons of other roads going between Grosse Pointe and Detroit why block this one? Well… this one is a few blocks from dead ending in the Jefferson North Assembly Plant’s parking lot. This looks like a local traffic control issue… trying to force plant workers (or trucks) onto roads that have traffic signals.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      Absolutely not. I have friends that have protested this all summer and fall. Jefferson goes through but it is a main drag and it has all mansions in Grosse Pointe – nothing to really walk to. Everything south of Jefferson is blocked by a canal. (The GPP city park on the lake is actually on Detroit property and leased at some crazy low rate from D yet is residents only for Grosse Pointers.) Mack runs along the Pointes but Kercheval is the only other way in. The bigger point is that Kercheval has a nice little shopping district right at the border with Detroit that now discourages TSTL Detroiters.

  7. Bill Frank

    Love your work Lambert, but fail to understand the on-going focus on 2016 mainstream candidates. None of them are worth the effort. Who either party runs is pointless. They are all shills.

    1. Vince in MN

      I think it is more for the (dark) humor value. Mostly these links show up in the Water Cooler section, which being the gossipy portion of the daily posts, is actually pretty appropriate.

        1. Ulysses

          Reminds me of a good late Soviet joke from the early 80’s :

          Three prisoners deep under Lubyanka discover that gaps in the walls of their adjacent cells allow them to communicate in whispers. Prisoner 1 asks Prisoner 2: “Why are you in here?” Prisoner 2 responds: “I was far too enthusiastic in my support of that controversial Krapikov!” Prisoner 1 says: “Wow, that’s ironic. I’m in here because I was far too harsh in my denunciations of the ideas of Krapikov!” Prisoner 1 & 2 both ask Prisoner 3 why he’s in jail. His response? “I’m Krapikov!”

    2. Llewelyn Moss

      The Clown Car is always hilarious. And man do I need a good laugh these days as the US descends into the abyss.

      Clown du jour: I read Christie spent $40,000 NJ taxpayer dollars for his junket to London. Haha. Wait til next time he tells NJ voters ‘times are tuff, you need to tighten your belts’.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      Why blog about 2016:

      First, sheer human interest; we see idiocy, corruption, stupidity, avarice, self-deception, and even sometimes nobility on the grand scale, in “the toughest game there is.” It’s like Game of Thrones, except with real people, a more complex society, a far more complicated plot, and the event on the page can affect the reader in real life.

      Second, preparation. At some point, given enough stressors — and Water Cooler is, in its own small way, a stressor — the Presidential race might actually matter; from static trench warfare (as now) we might enter a war of maneuver. When it does — think of the fall of Sheldon Silver in New York, or the Teachout/Wu race that preceded it — we are going to need to know the players, and through their history, not through whatever image they choose to present at the moment.

      Third, it’s a water cooler. These quotes and riffs and juxtapositions are there to be honed and propagated, one of the roles of blogs since 2003. (And the quotes and riffs are also there to, as it were, poison the well round the water cooler. I mean, doesn’t it move the conversation round the water cooler forward if one is able to say “____ should be in the clown car,” as opposed to the conversation stopper “they’re all shills”?) Not everybody is as advanced as the typical NC reader! And hopefully, as the various candidates attempt to define their own versions of “middle class economics” [cough, spew] the riffing and jokes will become less identity-oriented, and more about political economy. But I can only work with what’s in the news flow….

      Fourth, people are going to talk about the election anyhow. Better for the quality of the comments to have a consistent place to do it. (There’s also the business model aspect: I don’t see what Water Cooler is doing being done anywhere else… So I hope it’s a readership draw as the election proceeds.)

      Fifth and finally, I don’t think “they’re all shills” is a useful way to look at things; I think it’s disempowering, the easy flip side of calling the American people “sheeple.” Trivially, of course they are shills; politics is about values and interests, of course they shill for their interests. Less trivially, I’m with Gene Sharp on splitting “the pillars of the regime.” But to split them, you have to distinguish them, and that’s one of the things I’m trying to do. (You’ll notice that most of these “pillars” I’m trying to undermine, and very systematically.)

      The interesting thing about kayfabe is that everybody in the arena is in on it — including the audience. And electoral politics is like kayfabe, except with real blood. (It’s a lot like the courtarena in Frank Herbert’s Dosadi Experiment, where anybody can be killed: Judge, jury member, lawyer, bailiff, member of the audience….

      NOTE Sheesh, I thought “Only the Clinton operation could milk a baby” would at least put the kibosh on the idea that I’m a Clintonite, but *** crickets ***. Then again, not all the jokes are great; that’s why they need to be tested. Dying is easy; comedy is hard.

      1. ambrit

        Yep, that “..only the Clinton operation could milk a baby…” riff did get me wondering if it was a reference to De Sade, (“120 Days of D.C.”,), von Sacher-Masoch, (“Hillary in Furs,”) , or perhaps Warhol, (“Ciao! Wall Street.”)
        Dying is easy. Got it, Rule 2.

  8. Ulysses

    N.J. Governor Chris Christie: “Is there something you don’t understand about no questions?”

    The sheer arrogance of our kleptocratic elites and their political servants never ceases to amaze! Yet we can’t count on fixing anything through electoral politics, since the “rules of the game” are fixed by a tiny transnational elite, who are openly contemptuous of national sovereignty and the ability of citizens to change anything through political processes.

    This was made crystal clear by a kleptocratic henchman in Europe:

    “On Thursday, Mr Varoufakis is expected to meet German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble. Mr Schaeuble has emerged as the one of the toughest critics of the new Greek government, previously saying: “Elections change nothing.”

    The Koch brothers are a bit more discreet, but even were a Sanders/Warren ticket to win election in 2016 they could say exactly the same thing! We would still have fracking, massive disemployment, further concentration of wealth into fewer and fewer hands, etc. On a local and state level we can push back a little against kleptocratic rule through electing better officials. At the national level we might as well stop sending taxes to the “U.S. Government” and start paying tribute directly to our real masters at Halliburton, Citigroup, ExxonMobil, etc.

    We need to mobilize huge resistance movements– completely outside of the kayfabe world of electoral politics. When we are strong enough that we can’t be ignored the current misleadership caste of national politicians will have to give way to people truly willing to represent the people’s interests, not just the interests of the donor class.

    1. Carla

      “We need to mobilize huge resistance movements– completely outside of the kayfabe world of electoral politics.”

      Please join your local affiliate of the non-partisan Move to Amend or start one in your community:

      1. Propertius

        I like this – since it would formalize the ability of the government to control the output of the mass media, most of which are owned by “corporations” which would lose First Amendment protections if this were ever passed. At least we wouldn’t be lying to ourselves about what kind of society we live in. It would probably be hell on nonprofits like Amnesty International (which is, after all, a “corporation”), as well.

        By the way, if corporations lack legal personhood, it’s quite possible that they could no longer be subject to lawsuits (see: http://www.law.virginia.edu/html/alumni/uvalawyer/f11/personhood.htm for a good discussion of what “legal personhood” actually entails and what some of the unintended consequences of removing it might be). Be careful what you wish for.

    2. cwaltz

      With all due respect, we won’t be in the same situation as Greece ever. Why? The reality is that we are a nation that is sovereign in our currency. The reality is that if we can print money to fund wars or bail out banks then we can print money to fund our elderly or to pay for college for everyone. That is the reality that the powers that be don’t want to admit. They’re choosing to fund imperial potential profit making adventures and poor business choices on the backs of citizens wants and needs like education, health care,

      We desperately need to have a national conversation about our money priorities. Quite frankly I’d like a few fewer f 35s and a few more opportunities for children.

    3. neo-realist

      The resistance movements should initially try to create their own media infrastructure(s) and utilize the public square wherever and as often as possible to spread ideas and to mobilize (“Become the media” as Jello said). Also crowd source for gas masks, bulletproof vests and medical equipment/first aid—on that note, recruit doctors and other medical personnel since things will get a little rough out there.

    4. Jeff W

      We need to mobilize huge resistance movements– completely outside of the kayfabe world of electoral politics. When we are strong enough that we can’t be ignored the current misleadership caste of national politicians will have to give way to people truly willing to represent the people’s interests, not just the interests of the donor class.

      It makes me think that we should actually unionize as voters, maybe not quite formally but organizationally and conceptually, with collective power as the underlying theme. (Of course, there could be some platform that provides the principles and the goals but underlying it all would be some sort of claim of compelling the people in power to reckon with voters as a group, which, yeah, presumably is what democracy is all about.) It would be like labor organizing on the basis of its collective power.

      That’s obviously not outside “the kayfabe world of electoral politics” but it might—it should—constitute a social movement. I don’t know if that’s a completely kooky idea but I’ve never seen quite seen the frame of voters as voters acting collectively (rather than voters voting as individuals on specific issues or as constituencies of different interests). It goes against the underlying assumptions of democracy—that each voter votes his or her individual interests—but if the US political system were operating according to the underlying assumptions of democracy, we wouldn’t have to consider such a thing in the first place. It’s kind of “meta” but it’s entirely consistent with electing people to act in the public interest (that is, on behalf of the voters).

      1. Ulysses

        I like this train of thought. The League of Women Voters used to possess enough clout to organize debates– in which candidates who weren’t pre-approved by the corporate-owned media and the two corporatist parties, could actually participate and real issues could be confronted. In 2012, Jill Stein was arrested when she showed up for the phony “debate” at Hofstra, despite being an official candidate on the ballot of most states! http://www.democracynow.org/2012/10/17/green_partys_jill_stein_cheri_honkala

        1. Jeff W

          Thanks—I was hoping you wouldn’t construe it in opposition to what you said but in addition, as it was intended.

          I was thinking of the League of Women Voters also—but something that would, perhaps, invert the ends and the means. My impression is that the League of Women Voters sought all sorts of salutary legislation and wielded considerable power in doing so. A “union” of the electorate (or whatever you want to call it) would do the converse: it would seek to wield considerable power and, in doing so, get salutary legislation passed—until such time, at least, that the legislation allowed participatory democracy to work. Its purpose would be to redress—to the extent it could through the electoral process—the imbalance of power vis-à-vis individual voters (who have almost none) and what Lawrence Lessig calls the “relevant funders” by using the only power the the electorate has in the system—its votes—by deploying it strategically to increase its power.

          There’s no way now for US voters to exert power collectively as an interest group in shaping public policy—that is, as a group that wants its interests as an electorate to be heard. That’s because the electorate is not even supposed to be an “interest group.” Under the theory (or myth, really) of majoritarian electoral democracy, the aggregate of the majority of the individual votes is supposed to determine public policy; you’re supposed to vote your own individual interests and the “will of the voters,” as expressed by the majority or plurality of the votes, is not supposed to compete with other interests (i.e., the interests of the élites, the funders). But, of course, not only does it, it invariably fails. The voters can vote for either of the two major parties or a third party or not vote but they can’t shape policy in terms of their vote (or non-vote) having an effect as a bloc (i.e., of voters as voters) because they’re not acting as that bloc. It’s sort of like the difference between workers at a workplace individually calling in sick or quitting and a union collectively going on strike.

          That’s what social movements do—they’re group actions seeking some change. In the case of the US electorate—which nearly everyone agrees does not exert a whole lot of power, even though that’s the raison d’être of an electorate—that group (or some significant fraction of it) could start acting as as a group to wield more power. In one sense it makes what a lot of social movements and organizations do—seeking to influence people in power—nakedly explicit. There’s nothing wrong with that—again, that’s what the electorate is supposed to do. But, in another sense, it’s completely different—it’s more like the emergence of “class consciousness” in Marxism—and, again, kind of “meta” because it’s not only saying “We have interests as individual voters and we’ll act accordingly,” it’s saying “We have an interest as the electorate, those who are entitled to vote, and we’ll act accordingly.”

          That’s what made Occupy so compelling and so threatening to the élites. If “We are the 99%” meant anything, it meant (at least) “We, the vast majority of the population, should exert more influence.” But Occupy, for whatever reason, eschewed electoral politics and it opted for, well, physically occupying and holding space as its main protest method. When the Occupy encampments were gone, the movement was, in effect, gone. Maybe having a bottom-up movement that seeks influence within the system—really, participatory democracy—as an end, acting as a bloc to get that, and existing at least as much as in virtual space (e.g., social media, etc.) as in physical space, if not more than, might achieve more tangible results or, at least, be less susceptible to attack.

          I’m not saying that something like what I’m suggesting would “definitely” work—it might be that the electorate acting in concert as an electorate still can’t achieve much influence—but it might be better than what we’re doing now.

          (I haven’t really thought this out. It occurred to me in just the past day, actually.)

          1. Lambert Strether Post author

            This is a really interesting line of thought. I like “interests as an electorate.” That might take parallel structures, though. I think of Joe Firestone’s Interactive Voter Choice System in this regard.

            1. Jeff W

              I think of Joe Firestone’s Interactive Voter Choice System in this regard.

              Isn’t that Nancy Bordier’s idea? I was actually trying to think of something that wasn’t that because solutions like that one have a chicken-and-egg problem—you need the solution to change the system but the system has to change enough to accommodate the solution. (And the intent of that system is a little different, IIRC—it’s a mechanism to build blocs around certain issues and find out what those issues are. This idea has a bloc—the electorate—and an issue—increasing its influence and decreasing the influence of, well, everything else, so it’s more a question of what’s the best way to leverage that.)

              That might take parallel structures, though.

              As I thought of it, one reason I liked it was because it didn’t seem to—at least not as complicated as that IVCS. (The entity itself is a “parallel structure,” maybe.) Just off the top of my head, if there were some visible place where people could be seen as being part of this “union,” then at some critical mass x, that entity might be viewed as having real power. (It’s like 200,000 people massing in Hong Kong—but the people here are doing so with some electoral claim already in hand.) I think the whole thing would have to be carefully thought out—e.g.,what does being in this group actually mean and who would run it and all that—but, in a way, I think it’s no less doable than Occupy was.

              Just having such an entity present, like having “an anaconda coiled in the chandelier,” changes the situation. Without endorsing a single plan or a specific candidate (if it does that) or without deploying a single vote, it changes what’s on the political agenda. Issues of the electorate having more power and the government acting in the public interest become front and center. The matter at hand might not be “What will the ‘union’ do?” but “Let’s act so that it doesn’t have to do anything.”

              It might almost be the missing essential piece in Lawrence Lessig’s SuperPac project because that idea seems to need voters acting collectively to make it work. The converse isn’t true—that idea would be just one of many that the union could throw its weight behind, although that one happens to align itself perfectly with the union’s goals.

              Part of my thinking here, aside from the leverage gained via collective action, is getting past the “Prisoner’s Dilemma” of US politics: as an analytical example, most people who vote won’t defect from the two main parties, even if they or, really if, in theory, 90% of the people want to, because they can’t be sure what everyone else will do. This idea resolves that common knowledge problem (or lack of common knowledge problem)—everyone knows that everyone in the group will act (or, at least, says they will act) in sync. It’s like seeing 70 Occupy encampments spring up across the US in 2011—everyone knows that everyone else is aligned in the same way. And, if the underlying goal is to make a majoritarian democracy work—which, really, is the way everyone agrees the system should work—how many people in the electorate would not agree with the goal? (People might have issues with the entity of the union or that its members would follow through and so on—which is why the whole thing would have to be carefully thought out—but there would be very little disagreement as to, at least, the goal.)

              And then there are the people who don’t vote. If even a small fraction of the 63.6% of the voting-eligible population who did not vote in the recent election now participated because they thought their vote might have more influence being deployed strategically, that might be pretty powerful. Even “staying at home” takes on a different meaning: there’s a difference between saying “x% of voters stayed home” (who knows why? they’re just atomized, individual voters) and saying “x% of voters in the union stayed home because no candidate met their demands,” in essence, a voters’ strike. (That kind of non-voting behavior is not, ideally, what I’d want but it’s better—and more strategic—than what’s going on now.)

              [Again—disclaimer: I thought of this idea, like, this morning so I won’t say it’s carefully thought out and it might be kind of a ludicrous idea.]

        1. Jeff W

          Thanks, Carla! I wrote a long response to Ulysses before I saw your comment; otherwise I would have put it under yours.

  9. vidimi

    roundup of some interesting news from the guardian (u.s. edition):


    qaida operative exposes saudi royals as key backers ahead of 11/9/01, gets certified as insane so as to be discredited (but curiously, still sane enough to stand trial). but the lady doth protest too much:

    “The reason Osama bin Laden went to Sudan in the 1990s in the first place was because he was under pressure from the Saudi government,” Grenier said. “The idea they’d be supporting him under any circumstances, and in particular in an attack on the US, is inconceivable.”

    beating the path to war

    egypt frees al jazeera journalists but, buried in the news….

  10. Jim Haygood


    FRANKFURT—The European Central Bank said Wednesday it would suspend a waiver it had extended to Greek public securities used as collateral by the country’s financial institutions for central bank loans.

    Because Greek government bonds are junk rated, and thus below the ECB’s minimum threshold, Greek banks have relied on the waiver to post collateral for cheap ECB financing through the central bank’s regular facilities.

    Greek banks will still have access to funds through the ECB’s emergency lending program. Under that facility, the credit risk of the loans stays on the books of the Greek central bank, and the loans carry a higher interest rate.


    Are depositors going to get this distinction — that the ECB just kicked out one of the crutches from under Greek banks, but they can still hobble along just fine on the other one?

    If not, welcome to the smell of fresh bank runs tomorrow morning. As our dear leader might quip, ‘We unbanked some folks.’

    1. ambrit

      This looks like some heavy handed “softening up” exercises on the Greek government prior to the loan ‘negotiations.’ “Youse tink dis is bad? Waits till d udder shoe drops. Right smak dab, like youse uncle Marx sez, on youse necks! Now sign da papers!”

  11. JTFaraday

    re: Only the Clinton operation could milk a baby [Politico]. “Even if the baby is named for the Bank of America’s headquarters.”

    Bzzt. Wrong. The formerly antique “Charlotte” has recently become one of the most popular baby names. And it’s not because of BOA, it’s because of this:


    Although, in this case, it was probably this scene from the movie that put it over the top:


    We are talking Clintons after all.

  12. ambrit

    I don’t know if anyone has linked to this before, but Edgar Froese, the founder and constant heart of the musical group “Tangerine Dream” died two weeks ago. This was a seriously avant-garde musician. It feels like an era is passing. There was a Golden Age.

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