2:00PM Water Cooler 4/1/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Anti-TPP Letter to the Editor from Chemung County (New York) Democratic chair [Syracuse Post-Standard]. Worth reading in its entirety, as an example of what to do and what not to do. On what not to do: Portions of the letter were lifted from this Op-Ed in the Denver Post, so Democrats, please stop sucking, because you’re supposed to be the smart ones. On what to do: Concise, hard-hitting, with an argument for more coverage in the opening and the closing. Importantly, it opens with a news hook, an anti-TPP protest in a Congressman’s office (also an implicit threat, no?). Personally, I emphasize TPP’s destruction of sovereignty, because that to me is a clear basis for a left/right strange bedfellows alliance, but the writer hits on talking points appropriate to his constituency.

“The case for or against TPP overwhelmingly hinges on whether you think getting Asian countries to adopt US-style intellectual property rules counts as a win for the United States of America” [Matthew Yglesias, Vox]. No, it doesn’t. The case for or against the TPP hinges overwhelmingly on whether you think allowing corporations to extract compensation for “lost profits” from sovereign states on the basis of “settlements” in so-called courts those corporations set up, and where the citizens of those states have no voice, counts as a win for the United States of America. And you define the “United States of America” as a flag of convenience for a class of post- or trans-national squillionaires, I suppose it does. Can do better, Matty. Can do better.

Handy list of sell-out environmental organizations [Whitehouse.gov, “Environmental Advocates Point to the Trans-Pacific Partnership as a Historic Opportunity to Protect Our Oceans, Forests, and Wildlife”].

Australia: “Last year the country’s top judge gave a speech about the potential impact of investor clauses, saying, ‘My concern is with the judicial system and its authority and finality of its decisions …’. In Chief Justice French’s words, investor clauses raise, ‘… potentially serious questions about the interaction of such an award with the domestic judicial system which may be called upon to enforce it'” [ABC Australia]. Which is hair-on-fire language for a judge.

Canada: “Two weeks ago an international arbitration panel awarded a US company compensation for the way its quarry project in Canada was ‘unfairly’ rejected on environmental and planning grounds” [Australian Financial Review]. Well, well. So that means Irving OIl (Canada) could use TPP as a club to jam the East-West Corridor right through Maine’s heart. Right?

Freedom to Hate

“Pence might be on more solid ground to argue the similarity of the Illinois and Indiana laws if he had not repeatedly ducked questions about whether the law will permit discrimination against gays and lesbians” [WaPo].

Pence “religious freedom” debate said to expose rift in Republican party, though Bush, Perry, and Cruz support Pence [AP].

A second bill in Arkansas [WaPo]. This “Religious Freedom Restoration” nonsense makes my back teeth itch. We’ve got NBC premiering a Life-of-Christ mini-series on Easter Sunday, and Christianists need their freedom restored? (Yes, I know I’m buying into identity politics divide-and-conquer here, and on multiple grounds, but my teeth itch. I’d welcome advice from readers about how to deal with these issues in a more constructive way than remaining silent.)



Jeb Bush quietly endorses Arkansas nonprofit “Right to Rise Policy Solutions,” which can collect unlimited amounts of money in secret in Bush’s name [WaPo]. I love “Right to Rise,” because it’s all about bringing in the bread, right? Early squillionaire money is like yeast, I guess…

Clown Car

Fiorina – who said on Sunday there was a “higher than 90% chance” she would run – is uniquely positioned to attack Hillary Clinton in a way others cannot [US News].

The Hill

Durbin and Schumer feuding over power-sharing deal [Politico]. What unlovely choices.


Readers, normally, fluctuations like this aren’t really newsworthy, except to traders I would think. Plus it’s not October. But the coverage of last nights “futures lurch” seemed more skittish than usual, so I included it. If there are sources, especially blogs, I should be tracking, do let me know.

Futures drop: Dow: -0.1%; S&P 500: -0.2%; Nasdaq: -0.1% [USA Today]. Then there was the 1.3% drop and near recovery last night [Yahoo Finance]. Seems odd, in a robust economy like this one.

Stocks tumble at opening: The S&P 500 SPX fell 16 points, or 0.8%; Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 160 points, or 0.9%; Nasdaq Composite fell 48 points. [Market Watch].

Herd on the Street

Penguin employees get $750 bonus, so book business is not dying [Wall Street Journal].

Stats Watch

ADP employment report, March 2015: “189,000 in March vs the Econoday consensus of 230,000 and vs a consensus of 240,000 for private payroll growth in Friday’s employment report” [Bloomberg]. “[T]oday’s data are unusually soft relative to expectations.”

MBA Mortgage applications, week of March 27, 2015: “Signs of life are suddenly appearing across a host of housing data including mortgage activity which is up sharply for a second straight week” [Bloomberg]. Maybe it’s the weather? Kidding!

Motor Vehicle sales, March 2015: “Sales of total light motor vehicles proved soft” [Bloomberg].

PMI Manufacturing, March 2015: “The strength in production, underpinned by a rise in backlog orders, is giving a lift to employment. On the negative side are export orders underscoring the FOMC’s concerns over weak foreign demand and the negative effects of the strong dollar” [Bloomberg]. “This report has been running hotter than other anecdotal reports and much hotter than hard government data.”

ISM Manufacturing index, March 2015: “Weak exports are pulling down ISM’s manufacturing sample whose index fell 1.4 points to 51.5. This is below what was a soft consensus forecast” [Bloomberg]. “This report points to another month of trouble for government data on manufacturing, a sector that, due to weak foreign demand, appears to be pulling down the nation’s growth.”

Construction spending, March 2015: “[U]nexpectedly dipped” [Bloomberg].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Ferguson advertises for new Municipal judge, “Familiarity in quality of life cases” a requirement [City of Ferguson]. Which is unfortunate, because “quality of life” offenses were one of the methods used to turn law enforcement into a revenue raising tool (via).

“In-custody, non-shooting” death of Phillip White to be investigated in Vineland New Jersey [Daily Journal]. Seems the arrest was… ugly [NBC].

Health Care

Although many more people now have insurance, the heatlh care system has not been overwhelmed with new patients. However, that’s the historic pattern [Sarah Kliff, Vox].

“Several Republican governors likely to run for president have secured hundreds millions of dollars under Obamacare while working to dismantle the healthcare law, according to a Reuters review of federal spending records” [Reuters]. “He was a proud and independent man who was opposed to unemployment insurance and never hesitated to whine, whimper, wheedle and extort for as much as he could get from whomever he could” (Catch 22).

Class Warfare

If you read the sports pages, you’d think everybody wanted to be “blue collar” [Guardian (CB)]. Even the people in the luxury skyboxes.

We’ll always have Versailles [New York Times].

Study from the Hamilton Project and Larry Summers concludes that more education won’t fix economic inequality [New York Times]. And it loads people up with the debt. So, what’s to fix?

“The most lucrative, prestigious jobs tend to cause the greatest harm. The most useful workers tend to be paid least and treated worst” [George Monbiot, Guardian]. “Kleptoremuneration”!

First, Republican candidate Tom Schweich killed himself. Then his staffer, Spence Jackson, did [St Louis Post Dispatch]. Here’s his suicide note:

I can’t take being unemployed again

News of the Wired

  • “No April Fools: The top 10 IT fiascos of all time” [ZDNet]. In a sane political economy, we’d be worried about basic engineering instead of terror terror terror.
  • Link my debit card to Facebook? [Economist]. What could go wrong?
  • The history of Moore’s law [IEEE Spectrum]. Here’s the investment opportunity/dystopian future part:

    Going forward, innovations in semiconductors will continue, but they won’t systematically lower transistor costs. Instead, progress will be defined by new forms of integration: gathering together disparate capabilities on a single chip to lower the system cost. … Rather, we’re talking about uniting the non-logic functions that have historically stayed separate from our silicon chips.

    [W]e could see an explosion of creative applications: bionic appendages that operate seamlessly with the body, smartphones that can sniff the air or test the water, tiny sensors that can power themselves from ambient energy sources, and a host of other applications we have yet to imagine.

    Shades of Theodorus Nitz!

* * *

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 three (furzy mouse)


Because what is spring without a pool?

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. diptherio

    Here’s a long, read, but one that NC readers might find interesting:

    Civil Power and the Partner State: A Social Solidarity Economy Response to Austerity in Greece ~John Restakis

    Greece is the classic example of a debtocracy. The debt crisis in Greece and the attempt by Greece to challenge the roots and the rationale of this debt is a very visible drama that is being played on the European stage – but its implications are global.

    For example, what will the results of this struggle mean for the creation of alternative visions for political economy? What role does the social/solidarity economy have to play? What is the role of the State? Can State and Civil Society find common cause, or must they always be at war? Does the reality of Europe today prevent such a possibility?

    Having been in Greece during this time, I have also been asking myself what does this crisis means for social change in Europe? Or rather, is progressive social change even possible today? What would this change look like? What would it take?

    The social economy and a mobilized civil society are central to this process. But so is a new conception of the State. The two are necessary and essential aspects of a single process. They are also crucial for a leftist movement to have any meaning and relevance for today. I will try to describe what I mean and use Greece as an example.

    With Syriza’s rise to power, everyone is wondering what the future will hold for Greece. Whether disaster or deliverance, it is hard to ignore the potential for game-changing repercussions from a Syriza government.

    The international media routinely describes Syriza as a far left radical party. This is false. Syriza’s proposals for economic and social reform are moderate and rational by any previous standard. But there are reasons why it is portrayed this way. One is a deliberate distortion for propaganda purposes. This is to discredit the party.

    The second is because even a moderate left-of-centre party like Syriza must be portrayed as radical because all political discourse has shifted radically to the Right. The political spectrum has narrowed. Anything that challenges free markets and neo-liberal ideology in any meaningful way must be considered radical.[…]

    1. Ned Ludd

      Thanks. Some of the “Environmental Advocates”, endorsing the Trans-Pacific Partnership:

      • World Wildlife Fund
      • The Nature Conservancy
      • The Humane Society
      • Center for American Progress

      1. different clue

        These sound like some pretty major organizations. Are they all sinister sellouts? Are some of them naive witless dupes? Is there a way to tell which is which? Can the whitless dupe leaderships (where existing) be reached and alerted to the greater dangers?

        Then too, are any Name-Brand environmental organizations which are against TPP/TTIP? Do they need a better noise machine? Can we help them build a better noise machine or be part of the better noise machine they need?

    1. Elliott

      I liked Lambert’s “Right to Rise” as yeasty: but whenever I hear the phrase, it evokes “The South will rise again.” to me.

  2. craazyman

    I’ve got some naked flower pics to send in for potential plant porn. These are hot pics! Totally naked full frontal flowers and plants, and in the sun too! So you can see everything. haha. I hope it isn’t illegal, to publish these on the internet — but I think it’s legal as long as you’re an artist. So there.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Flowers are plant genitals. Years ago, a porn theater in SF sported a huge mural of…..
      an orchid.
      No one missed the meaning.

  3. LO

    Re bullshit identity politics, if you want to throw a stink bomb into these synthetic sectarian spats, you could point out that all this is already state and federal common law in accordance with the Supreme Court Decision, The Paquete Habana. In their homegrown implementations of customary international law, the only thing the holy rollers forgot was Article 8, which stipulates that tolerance cannot restrict or derogate from any defined right. So we should all be thankful that the United States is finally taking steps to execute the peremptory norm of international law concerning nondiscrimination.

  4. Katniss Everdeen

    RE: A second RFR and itchy back teeth

    I suggest you watch the movie “A Few Good Men.” From the script:

    Kaffee: Colonel, I have just one more question before I call Airman O’Malley and Airman Rodriguez. If you gave an order that Santiago wasn’t to be touched, and your orders are always followed, then why would Santiago be in danger? Why would it be necessary to transfer him off the base?

    Jessep: Santiago was a substandard Marine. He was being transferred because–

    Kaffee: That is not what you said, you said he was being transferred because he was in grave danger.
    Kaffee: Then why the two orders? Colonel?
    Jessep: Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.
    Kaffee: No, Sir. You made it clear a moment ago that your men never take matters in to their own hands. Your men follow orders or people die. So Santiago shouldn’t have been in any danger at all, should he have, Colonel?
    Kaffee: If Lt. Kendrick gave an order that Santiago wasn’t to be touched, then why did he have to be transferred? Colonel? Lt. Kendrick ordered the Code Red, didn’t he, because that’s what you told Lt. Kendrick to do!
    Kaffee: Did you order the Code Red?!
    Jessep: You’re god damn right I did!!


    Governors Hutchinson and Pence, if your state’s RFRAs are not intended to legalize discrimination against LGBT, why would they need to be “clarified?” Why is restatement needed? Governors?

    Sometimes men take matters into their own hands, and the left-leaning media always misstates the facts.

    You made it clear a moment ago that the intent of this law was NOT to sanction discrimination. And the laws you sign are always constitutional, and the intent of the “framers. So why would the laws need to be amended or “restated?”

    Governors, did you intend to pander to the christian right base by covertly “legalizing” discrimination and countermanding any national acceptance of gay marriage?

    You’re god damn right we did!

  5. hunkerdown

    I used to post on LiveJournal, long ago, when Web 0.1 apps were cool acceptably usable as daily drivers. These days it’s my OAuth home, but I never post there anymore. I logged in a few days ago to use OAuth somewhere, and I got this email this morning:

    Is your Friends page feeling a little empty? Do you have friends who haven’t posted in a while you’d like to hear from again? Invite them back, and you can both get some free Paid account time as a bonus!

    Our new Remember LiveJournal promotion lets active members like you send their long lost LiveJournal friends an invitation to return. If they accept, both you and your friend will receive a free month of Paid account time! You can earn 1 month of free Paid account time for up to 5 people who Remember LiveJournal, for a total of 5 months of free Paid account time. After that, you can still keep inviting friends, and they’ll still get their free month of Paid account time. A special gift will be given to the person who has the most friends Remember LiveJournal, we’ll be giving them a permanent paid account!

    Terminal dementia is hard enough to watch in the elderly. In a social site in its dotage… worse.

  6. DJG

    Tocqueville, generally favorably impressed with the United States, has some ambivalence about American religion:

    So religious insanity is common here: American religion may be a reaction to materialism (to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, in the words of the stoical founders). More recently, American religion seems determined to unify materialism with spiritual practice, which Tocqueville says is not possible, even if mega-churches seem to believe so. I find American religion to be remarkably provincial and narrow. You have splinter groups of fundamentalist Presbyterians sending off missionaries to save the world from evil Catholics. You have Baptists and Mormons who seem to believe that the whole Christian world (let alone the world beyond) is made up of evangelicals and spiritualists like them. No wonder Islam terrifies them so, if they live most of the time in a world concerned with saving souls from the Whore of Babylon. So the task in the USA is to decide how much the commonwealth can stand from the free exercise of such narrow theologies. I’m not sure that it is identity politics so much as delivery the bad news to the Four-Square Baptists that they are a tiny, marginal minority in Christianity, even if they dominate Huntsville, Alabama.

    1. HotFlash

      A German friend of mine once opined, “What do you expect from a country that was settled by every kook and religious nut in Europe?”

    2. Jack

      American religion is for the most part not a reaction to materialism. And I’m talking about the average small neighborhood churches here, not even the mega-churches which are blatantly businesses. I find the difference to be mostly one of scale. These are the small churches that are constantly raising money to send missionaries to the Popes backyard. That’s not about soul saving, it’s about a fucking vacation at parishioners expense, though the people in charge are often self-deluded that it isn’t. American churches are massively vapid, petty and corrupt, in my experience. My parents ended up leaving one church, one with at most 100 regular attendees, after going for years because there was a a ‘scandal’ in which the head pastor declared he didn’t have to listen to the church elders (wow, this terminology…) because he got his orders straight from God. And then the one they went to after raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to construct a big new building with a state-of-the-art audio system (all tax exempt of course). Funny, a rock to stand on seemed to suffice for Jesus…oh, and in addition to regular ‘mission trips’ to Italy they also take part in the shameful exploitation of Uganda.

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      The Valley is awash with free VC money to build imaginary new businesses so I’m sorely tempted to raise $10M for a “patent troll”-type company to game the TPPs ISDS. Find a nice jurisdiction with some regulatory movement about to happen, say new regs coming on the sale of pet food. Put up a business that is squarely in the path, spend a few mil getting it established. Make sure the business model will be directly destroyed by the new regs (maybe pet food delivered by drones), and make sure you’ve got enough funds on hand to lawyer up. Hey presto…why would you bother trying to make an actual business with actual customers and actual profits, that’s so old school. Just imagine a business, do the projections, and get the chump taxpayers to fork over a nice tidy profit.

  7. Oregoncharles

    ” I’d welcome advice from readers about how to deal with these issues in a more constructive way than remaining silent.)

    What’s wrong with identity politics divide-and-conquer? Tit for tat.

    My advice: mad-dog attack. The harshest mockery possible. This is the American Taliban, and we need to say so.

    Incidentally: I’m from Indiana originally, visit there regularly, and this is par for the course. Don’t know why it’s such a Jukes state, but it’s been that way for a long time.

  8. Oregoncharles

    Volatility: And silver is up 2.27%. Mr. Market is getting nervous. Grexit? Oil? Yemen?

  9. Peter Pan


    I’m a trader and it’s not newsworthy. I’ve not made one single trade this year due to LOW volatility. I wouldn’t touch the S&P500 futures with a ten foot pole right now. It totally sucks.

    I wont trade currency or commodity futures because they’re too volatile, mispriced and not tied to the overall market halt mechanism (which is based on the S&P500 futures).

  10. JohnnyGL


    Baby steps of progress on this issue…

    “McDonald’s said the protests weren’t a factor in its decision.” Of course they said that!


    Also, naturally bloomberg’s explanation is a spruced up version of Lambert’s rule #1 of neoliberalism: “Because markets”.

  11. ssss

    Thanks carla for the Glennon book. That reminds me. Finally got around to reading Peter Dale Scott’s latest, The American Deep State – good synoptic history that would have benefitted from an editor that forbade him to use the word deep. Complements Glennon because PDS doesn’t stop at the departmental boundaries. The problem is not just the bureaucracy, because the bureaucracy made the conscious decision to pop like a zit and spray cutouts, detailees, and agents all over the place. Now you’ve got half a dozen national intelligence agencies, a couple dozen RICOs worldwide, domestic NOCs and agents of influence, and mole-infested NGOs, all drawing on multiple independent funding sources to more-or-less cooperative ends. So what if it’s out of control, that’s the president’s problem. The more stuff they fuck up, the more clout they get, staff and budgets and repressive capacity. By now they have everything they need. The linchpins of CIA’s repressive capacity are COG and COOP. That replaced the constitution. That’s how they bitchslap congress and the courts. That’s how they make crime pay.

    Course it works until it doesn’t, and PDS draws parallels between the collapse of Britain’s empire in the world wars and the eventual collapse of this one. There’s a similar myopia to both books, though. The outside world is not just a bunch of hornet’s nests getting whacked and buzzing blindly around. As the UK lost it, the US worked to codify the international order. Now as the US loses it, Russia is leading a similar ordering process, more concerted now with the advent of the SCO/G-77/G-192, and further along because it’s still building on what went before. When the wars run their course and take out the US regime, the world, or what’s left of it, will carry out a predetermined plan. It’s not secret like COG. It’s all there in the resolutions. For the survivors it won’t be half bad.

  12. Kim Kaufman

    Obama Has Turned the Economy Around
    By Barbra Streisand, Reader Supported News
    01 April 15

    I thought this might be an April Fools joke but it appears not. One comment from over there:

    “Babs, you need to take a trip over to zerohedge or Stockman’s Contra-corner for the real economic news and facts.

    This is pure Dem-fantasy, next it’ll be just click the heels of your Ruby Slippers slippers three times and repeat three times, “There’s no economy like Hope and Change”.

    Sorry, you’ll wake up with Toto gnawing on your leg because he hasn’t been fed in weeks…

    Babs how about you offer to sing “Over the Rainbow” at Killary’s inauguration? That’ll make it ALL BETTER.”

  13. weakling

    RE: TPP & Environmental Groups
    That press release sounds so thoroughly at odds with not only the coverage here, but also the portions of the TPP agreement that have been leaked thus far. Is the cognitive dissonance on their end or mine? My head is spinning. I look forward to finally figuring it all out in 4 years time.

  14. ewmayer

    I made an inadvertent April Fools day funny while watching Jeopardy! just now: They had an ‘OT’ category with questions about the practice of occupational therapy. The final question in the category was (roughly):

    OTs frequently help children with bad cacography, a technical term for this skill.

    My guess was “toilet training”. :P


    Re: the Indiana & Arkansas bills making discrimination legal:
    No need to remain silent. Writing as a former Christian and theology student, now an atheist, I suggest you take two approaches:
    1. Christians should be urged to re-read the Gospel of Matthew, Chapters 5 through 7.
    2. Everyone should be reminded of the Civil Rights Movement which attempted to make sure ALL Americans have equal rights. Such “religious freedom” laws are a direct assault on those equal rights. Supporting such laws is supporting segregation.

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