2:00PM Water Cooler 3/17/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“Al Gore should run for president” [Ezra Klein, Vox].

The 2016 Republican Presidential Nomination Bracket [WaPo]. And The 2016 Democratic Presidential Nomination Bracket. Spoilers ahead: Clinton gets byes all the way to the final. Oh, and Jindal and Pataki go to the NIT.

“Gawker Media is suing the U.S. State Department under the Freedom of Information Act for access to emails between former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philippe Reines” [HuffPo]. Reines last heard from telling now-dead Buzzfeed reporter Michael Hastings to “F*ck off.” Classy!

“As she prepares a run for president, Clinton isn’t talking about free-trade agreements opposed by organized labor, tougher Wall Street regulation demanded by her party’s populist wing, or the wisdom of using tax reform to address income inequality” [Bloomberg].

Clinton’s slowly increasing “unfavorable” ratings [WaPo]. Reversion to the mean.

Rubio, Paul, and Cruz to declare in early April [Politico].


Bush on declaring: “I’m joyfully pursuing the possibility of this and I will decide at some point, and then I’ll go at it” [Boston Herald]. “Joyfully considering…”

How Jebbie butchered Medicaid as Florida governor [Bloomberg]. “What makes [the] numbers interesting isn’t just that they trail most other states. In many cases, they also trail the Medicaid program that Bush wanted to replace.” The moral is that you can’t apply market solutions in a lemon market, as ObamaCare will discover over time.

Principled Insurgents

Walker’s sons skipping college this year to campaign with him [AP]. I guess that means Walker’s going to announce at some point.

Clown Car

Huckabee raising money with an Internet infomercial for a “dubious” diabetes treatment [New York Times]. And “one ad arriving in January in the inboxes of Huckabee supporters, who signed up for his political commentaries at MikeHuckabee.com, claims there is a miracle cure for cancer hidden in the Bible.” Alrighty then.

Say, what happened to that Jindal guy, anyway? [WaPo].

Cruz in New Hampshire [Yahoo News].

“The Obama economy is a disaster, Obamacare is a train wreck and the Obama-Clinton foreign policy of leading from behind — the whole world is on fire,” Cruz said.

“The world is on fire?” the girl, later identified as Julia, asked the Texas Republican, according to the Concord (N.H.) Monitor.

“The world is on fire, yes,” Cruz said, turning to the girl. “Your world is on fire.”

“But you know what?” Cruz continued. “Your mommy’s here and everyone’s here to make sure that the world you grow up in is even better.”

Eeeeew. That said, on the “world is on fire” thing; I wouldn’t have pegged Cruz as accepting the reality of climate change, but whatever.

Gallup: For the first time since 1992, neither major party has an approval rating of 40 percent or higher [Bloomberg].

Obama interview with Vice founder Shane Smith [Vice]. With, absurdly, no transcript. Here’s a highlight summary. The money quote:

ISIL is direct outgrowth of Al-Qaida  in Iraq which grew out of our invasion which is an example of unintended consequences which is why we should generally aim before we shoot.

Which we totally did in Libya, Syria, Ukraine…

Herd on the Street

“59 per cent of Americans said they drink a cup of coffee a day, down from 61 per cent in 2014 and 63 per cent in 2013” [FT, “Young Americans turn to tea”].

“The service would have about 25 channels, anchored by broadcasters such as ABC, CBS and Fox” [Wall Street Journal, “Apple Plans Web TV Service in Fall”].

“U.S. May Revoke Settlement Agreements in Currency-Rigging Probes” [Bloomberg].

Citigroup to exit Argentina custody business amid bond turmoil [Reuters].

Stats Watch

Housing starts, Feburary 2015: “Housing starts unexpectedly fell sharply in February,” below consensus [Bloomberg]. Down everywhere, not just the Northeast (down a “whopping” 56.6%). So, “sluggish,” though permits are up.

Redbook, week of March 14, 2015: Soft, though this year’s early Easter will pull April sales into March [Bloomberg].


No time in Rahm’s schedule for a forum on LGBT issues [Windy City Media].

Summary of Emanuel/Garcia debate [NBC]. Chuy seems aggressive [DNAinfo], but I’m not seeing Emanuel bleeding.

“There are now 120 known and documented cases of [Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge] related torture of African American men, at least 19 Burge torture victims still remain in prison, Burge continues to collect his police pension, as do all of his confederates, and the City, County and State have expended at least $125 million in settlements, legal fees, and police pensions in the scandal” [HuffPo]. Seems odd this isn’t an issue in the mayoral race, especially if Garcia wants black votes. What am I missing?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Why agent provocateurs could be committing a Federal crime [KeeganNYC]. Case study Project Veritas and “Laura Lewis” in an Eric Garner protest for #BlackLivesMatter.

“Many Richmonders let out a collective groan of disgust upon learning of a local group’s plan to install a Confederate flag just off Interstate 95 in Richmond” [Richmond Style Weekly].

Health Care

House Republican budget will partly privatize Medicare, turns Medicaid into block grants to the states, and repeal ObamaCare [New York Times]. Here’s the whole budget: “A balanced budget for a stonger America” [cough, spew].

ObamaCare net gains: National uninsured rate down from 20.3% to 13.2%, or a total of 16.4 million people [Guardian]. 30 million to go [Bloomberg].

“[H]ospitals can improve their bottom line and their reputation by focusing more on hospitality than health care — offering organic food by a celebrity chef rather than lowering medication errors, for example” [New York Times].

[T]he excess of revenue over expenses at these  [Minnesota health-care] nonprofits is eye-popping. In 2013, Mayo Clinic had a margin of revenue over expenses of $612 million [Star Tribune].

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

“34% of those who are aware of the surveillance programs (30% of all adults) have taken at least one step to hide or shield their information from the government” [Pew Research].

“The biggest problem with real names isn’t about what kind of consistent identity you use. It’s about the imbalance of power involved with sharing that information” [MindSpillage].


“The very last thing I needed was my watch, TV, or car whining at me about my choices” [Another Word for It]. In Links today, but nothing wrong with hitting this twice.

“[W]earables need to be worn. In other words, having all of the pieces that work together is a second order problem; you have to first get the actual wearable on the wrist” [Stratechery]. Actually, there’s a proven, communications-enabled wearable technology in use today: We call it “the ankle bracelet.”

Microsoft’s “Band” costs $200 and the charge lasts for two days [USA Today].

Class Warfare

Handy chart from [Mother Jones].


“A bevy of multibillion-dollar funds have gained as much as 9% this year as their managers bet against the euro” [Wall Street Journal].

“Family capitalism has experienced a renaissance.  Even giant firms are now often controlled by their owners the way Andrew Carnegie once captained his steel works or Henry Ford his car company” [TomDispatch].

Naomi Klein honors  Canadian Union of Public Employees picket line at University of Toronto [Market Wired (MR)].

Iggy Pop lectures on “free music in a capitalist society” at the BBC [Open Culture (recording)].

Seattle mayoral ally Pramila Jayapal endorses Kshama Sawant’s reelection bid [The Stranger].

News of the Wired

  • MacBook’s security risk in that single USB port [The Verge].
  • The tech dudes who make their squillions mining our personal data want lots of privacy for themselves, so they make their plumbers and gardeners sign non-disclosure agreements [New York Times].
  • “[P]eople who make methamphetamine are leaving ‘the deadly explosive chemicals in public places'” — in this case, a Walmart restroom — “to return later to get the finished product” [AP]. Can this be true? There are backpack-sized meth labs people can drop off and pick up later when the stuff is cooked?
  • Pew: The wealthier a country is, the less religious its people tend to be, except the US [Christian Science Monitor]. So, exceptional…
  • San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland, 24, one of the NFL’s top rookies this past season, retires on brain damage concerns [ESPN]. First of many?
  • “Sex in prison: report calls for ‘urgent’ survey of inmates’ sex lives” [Independent]. “I dind’t know where to look.”
  • George R.R. Martin’s blog, after he backs out of a number of conventions: “Should I complete and deliver WINDS OF WINTER before these cons roll round, I reserve the right to change my mind [Not a Blog]. Maybe Pratchett’s death got Martin’s attention.

* * *

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 second of “I Wish It Were Spring!” week (MR):


Skunk cabbage, in honor of the Skunk Party!

Readers sent in some very nice “I Wish It Were Spring!” photos, but I could always use some more. Glad to put this winter behind!

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. cwaltz

    The guy who chose Joe Lieberman for Vice President and then blamed his loss on people who didn’t vote for him on THEM should run for President? Ummmmmm, no thank you. I’ll pass. We’ve already had enough middle of the road milquetoast folks who don’t understand what the word accountability means, don’t need another.

  2. Jim Haygood

    The Weeping Cheeto lays down the law:

    WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner (BAY’-nur) says former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton must turn over her computer server to a neutral third party.

    The Ohio Republican told reporters on Tuesday that Clinton must surrender all of her emails so an independent party can decide what was personal and what was government-related.


    Coming from the first invertebrate majority leader, and backed by no subpoena, Boehner’s outburst can be dismissed as the usual empty chatter from a worm who folds before even being challenged.

    Soon Boehner (BAY’-nur) will be quoting Hank Williams … ‘You win again.’

  3. Uahsenaa

    I remember seeing that Iggy Pop lecture on Youtube awhile back. The money quote (literally): “I’m not here to complain about capitalism; I’m just trying to survive it.”

  4. Jim Haygood

    And another one bites the dust …

    Illinois Rep. Aaron Schock resigned Tuesday, less than 12 hours after POLITICO raised questions about tens of thousands of dollars in mileage reimbursements he received for his personal vehicle.

    Schock billed the federal government and his campaign for logging roughly 170,000 miles on his personal car between January 2010 and July 2014. But when he sold that Chevrolet Tahoe in July 2014, it had only roughly 80,000 miles on the odometer,


    This is why Hillary, wisely, doesn’t drive. But she would have had the instinctive good sense to claim that somebody rolled back the odometer. ‘I had every reason to expect that my odometer would not be tampered with.’

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Fer God’s sakes, he used the inflation adjusted mileage using John Williams Shadow Stats numbers. I don’t see what the issue is here.

    1. RUKidding

      Not to worry, Netanyahu’s benefactor/puppet-string-puller, Sheldon Adelson has hired the best voting machine hackers that his gambling-dens money can buy.

  5. The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit

    “Can this be true? There are backpack-sized meth labs people can drop off and pick up later when the stuff is cooked?”

    Yep, it sure can be. And the “leaving the danger and waste in the commons” should be ringing a bell for regular readers here.

    1. different clue

      If a methkit-sized backpack is left in a public space somewhere, could it be quietly watched in some way to see if someone comes back for it? If someone is seen to come back for it, they and it could then be inspected to see if it was a methkit the cooker was coming back for, or if it was a forgotten backpack remembered and retrieved by an absent-minded forgetter.

    2. afisher

      I’m guessing that they learned this trick from the Frackers in North Dakota who decided that is was faster and cheaper to drop their toxic waste along the side of the road- and let everyone else be concerned.

      too many links – as these waste dumpers also use waterways.

  6. DJG

    “Seems odd [torture] isn’t an issue in the [Chicago] mayoral race, especially if Garcia wants black votes. What am I missing?” People don’t care about torture. The tortured must be criminals, right? No one will take the lead, because being moral about torture has no practical benefits, especially in our oh-so-savvy times. This is going on with Obama (looking forward, evolving and evolving), and it went on with the Democrats and Feinstein in trying to publish the feeble Senate report. Who was fired thereafter? This is why torture is so insidious and evil: It corrupts the state and society down to their very foundations. And Chicago, where just about everything has been corrupted, isn’t a place for noticing more corruption.

    1. Chicagoguy

      More simply, Burge is old news. Like years ago, Daley administration old. If you’re just hearing about this one, you haven’t been paying attention.

  7. Strangely Enough

    Al Gore should run for president:

    Obamacare’s passage marked the rough completion of the social safety net that liberals began constructing during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s presidency. The end of the Iraq War drained Democrats of their foreign policy fervor.

    So, there’s really nothing left for them to accomplish…

    1. craazyboy

      Ya, everything’s cool – ‘cept for those pesky Republicans always trying to screw things up again.

    2. Tom Allen

      The first paragraph of that article is so packed with Beltway Vox-liberal self-delusion it’s hard to slog through it and read the rest. The safety net is complete! Democrats are anti-war! Sure, Klein admits, there’s still a bit of work to do, BUT….

  8. Rob Urie

    Thanks for the Iggy Pop link. To hear him say that the record ‘industry’ considered his early records to be flops illustrates how poorly art and commerce meld. They are masterpieces across the board.

    1. Ned Ludd

      Orwell should also be remembered for his Joe McCarthy side.

      ”Snowball’s Chance” is being published at a time when Orwell’s reputation has been under attack because of revelations that in the late 1940’s he gave the British Foreign Office a list of people he suspected of being ”crypto-Communists and fellow travelers,” labeling some of them as Jews and homosexuals as well. One of those condemning Orwell has been the writer Alexander Cockburn, whose father, Claud, a British journalist and member of the Communist Party, was a bitter foe of Orwell’s.

      More from Alexander Cockburn.

      1. Vatch

        I think Cockburn is being unfair. Orwell (Eric Blair) was in Spain during the Spanish Civil War, and he witnessed just how nasty the Stalinists were. From the Wikipedia entry on George Orwell:

        The Spanish Civil War played the most important part in defining Orwell’s socialism. He wrote to Cyril Connolly from Barcelona on 8 June 1937: “I have seen wonderful things and at last really believe in Socialism, which I never did before.”[158][159] Having witnessed the success of the anarcho-syndicalist communities, for example in Anarchist Catalonia, and the subsequent brutal suppression of the anarcho-syndicalists, anti-Stalin communist parties and revolutionaries by the Soviet Union-backed Communists, Orwell returned from Catalonia a staunch anti-Stalinist and joined the Independent Labour Party, his card being issued on 13 June 1938.

        From another part of the same Wikipedia article:

        …[I]n March 1949, was visited by Celia Kirwan. Kirwan had just started working for a Foreign Office unit, the Information Research Department, set up by the Labour government to publish anti-communist propaganda, and Orwell gave her a list of people he considered to be unsuitable as IRD authors because of their pro-communist leanings. Orwell’s list, not published until 2003, consisted mainly of writers but also included actors and Labour MPs.

        He wasn’t trying to prevent people from working. He was just trying to prevent people from sabotaging the government’s anticommunist efforts.

  9. steelhead23

    About Gore running for president – I would support virtually anyone within the party challenging Hillary. However, if you think the neocons enjoy throwing poo at Hillary, they’d joyously use a firehose on Al. Still, I hope he does run – Hillary simply cannot be the best the Dems have to offer.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      Um. ..perhaps you weren’t around the solar system in 2008, but the GOP make up what they need and attack anyone who isn’t them. It doesnt come up often, but did you know John Edwards is gay? Ann Coulter said so. Even if Hillary was a saint above reproach, they would say crazy stuff. The problem Team Blue has is they don’t give non voters or really Democratic voters reasons to vote for them. My guess is the average Hillary supporter knows Hillary is a woman and hated by Republicans, but voters occasionally look for results and stories about inventin’ the Internets and killing Vince Foster tend to fade when economic reality hits.

      1. Carla

        The problem Team Red has is they don’t give non voters or really any voters a reason to vote for them.

        The problem WE have is, we don’t even have two teams.

        What this country needs is a second party! (among many other things)

    2. sleepy


      I think Jim Webb will run a far stronger campaign against Hillary than most suspect and will end up being the “anybody but Hillary” candidate.

      1. Louis

        All signs seem to indicate the Jim Webb is running for nomination. How far he’ll get depends, in large part, on how much money he can get. If Webb can get a critical fundraising base in time for New Hampshire and Iowa he may be able stay in the race long enough to present a credible threat to Hillary Clinton–possibly even win, though I’m not counting on that.

  10. Carlos Fandango

    “Your mommy’s here and everyone’s here to make sure that the world you grow up in is even better.”

    A small tear of despair leaked from my eye.

  11. Roland

    Don’t forget that Dolan hates Orwell for being a specifically English nationalist (i.e. not a British nationalist, or a British imperialist, or an pan-Anglo/Atlanticist).

    Dolan himself is a bit of an old style Irish-American anglophobe. And a Happy St. Patrick’s to him. I like most of his work.

Comments are closed.