2:00PM Water Cooler 4/20/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Japan PM Abe: “Ultimately, what needs to happen is for both countries to make a political decision” [Wall Street Journal, “Abe: U.S., Japan Close to TPP Trade Deal”].

“While Japan’s farm market and the U.S. auto sector remain obstacles to a bilateral deal, they are also vital to the success of the long-delayed TPP pact. The two countries account for 80 percent of the economic output generated by the 12-member TPP” [Japan Times].

Eric Schneiderman on the ISDS: “The separate and unaccountable system of justice that TPP would create poses a major risk to critical statutes and policy decisions that protect our citizens — and it has no place in a nation committed to equal justice under law” [Eric Schneiderman, Politico]. 

“Fast tracking this trade deal means less control over our food. The TPP threatens our right to know what’s in our food by making it more difficult to label genetically engineered foods; increases imports from countries with weaker health and safety regulations, and threatens popular local food programs, like farm-to-school initiatives, by deeming them trade barriers” [Coloradan]. And then there’s fracking.

“[T]he global trade community has figured out how to solve a problem that has bedeviled philosophers and political leaders for centuries: how to craft international agreements with teeth. The WTO’s dispute-settlement process, which serves as a model for the TPP, puts pressure on countries to actually keep the promises they make in trade deals” [Vox]. That’s why — in separation of powers terms — the combination of judicial and legislative power in the ISDS tribunals tends toward absolutism, even absent the formal existence of an executive.

A letter to the editor: “U.S. salaries would only increase .4%. That money would most likely go to the CEO’s of the multi-national corporations, while their employees will most likely be laid off. That’s exactly what happened with 1 million workers after NAFTA was implemented in 1994” [Billings Gazette]. That’s a good talking point; consider revising it in your own letter :-) (I searched for the letter’s wording, and it’s original; not astroturf.)


“When asked by host Bob Scheiffer why he thought he would be a better president than Clinton, O’Malley said it was because of ‘the experience I can bring to the job'” [WaPo]. I’m all for trying to drag the Democrats a millimeter or so left with meaningless verbal concessions, but I’m not sure O’Malley’s claim will stand up to oppo. Maryland’s ObamaCare exchange was a cluster, and that’s Obama’s “signature domestic initiative,” remember?

“De Blasio’s hope, the [national party] operative said, is that a “Draft de Blasio’’ movement will develop among progressive activists [New York Post]. Post causing trouble? I’d find the immediate Bratton appointment a stumbling block.

The S.S. Clinton

Today’s schedule: “[T]wo small roundtable conversations open to the press but not to a larger audience of voters, a few carefully-staged photo ops at coffee shops and restaurants, plus private meetings with party activists and elected officials” [Bloomberg]. Smart, and plays to her strengths, but she’s got to stick with it. No more going to Iowa by van, and then from Iowa by plane. Don’t break kayfabe!

“Jennifer Hansen, who owns a soap and lotion store in Des Moines, took part in the round-table talk with Mrs. Clinton Wednesday. She said she was pleased to see Mrs. Clinton traveling by more modest means” [Wall Sreet Journal, “Hillary Clinton Heeds Lessons of Failed 2008 Bid in Iowa”]. 2008 Obama voter.

The semantics of “everyday Americans” [Politico].

“[I]t seems to me that Sec. Clinton’s Middle East foreign policy would be very similar to that of President Obama, but more interventionist” [Juan Cole].

Wasserman-Schulz: Clinton to get primary challenger [Bloomberg]. But who wants to be the sacrificial lamb? Not, apparently, Deblasio…. 

Republican Establishment

Grading the candidates at the Republican leadership summmit [Bloomberg]. As our famously free press gives him the kid gloves treatment: No mention of trying to steal election 2000 in Florida, no follow-through on private equity stories.

CNN/ORC national results: Bush has slight lead, but hasn’t broken away from the pack [CNN].

Is Jebbie 2016’s Mittster? [Tampa Bay Times]. “I’m sick and tired of mushy, wishy-washy conservatives.”

Jebbie on leaving Schaivo hooked up to the machine: “I don’t think I would have changed anything” [Journal Constitution]. Using Schiavo’s body to pander to the right is about as bad as Clinton executing Ricky Ray Rector.

Republican Principled Insurgents

CNN/ORC early states results: Walker leads for the first time in three early states: Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina [US News]. Walker stomps Democrats. The base likes that a lot.

Scott Walker: Walker’s administration admitted it had overbilled two Wisconsin family planning clinics by 93 percent – or at least $3.2 million [Salon]. Salon seems to think this is incompetence; I call it playing to the base.

Rand Paul: “I voted against arming the rebels [in Syria] because I said the irony is that one day we’ll be back fighting against our own weapons. And now it’s true” [Bloomberg]. And dammit, he made the right call!

Republican Clown Car

Huckabee to announce Presidential plans May 5 [WaPo]. In Hope, Arkansas. On Clinton in Iowa:

“It was sort of like rent-a-crowd,” Huckabee said. “She had people who had been an Obama staffer, she had a Planned Parenthood [dog whistle] executive. They really rounded up the usual suspects in a way that only Claude Rains could’ve fully appreciated and created these carefully staged moments where she had these informal, impromptu chats with carefully selected people. The whole time I was thinking, you know, I’ve been to Iowa a lot and I’ve never had any problems whatsoever finding Iowans in Iowa.”

Ouch! I still don’t think Huckabee can break out of his Christianist base, but if he inveigles a squillionaire into his SuperPAC, like that grifter Gingrich did, he could do a lot of damage before going back into the radio business.

Republican-leaning states getting more partisan, but not so Democratic-leaning states [WaPo].

“America mapped”: Handy map of America’s demographic fault lines [Wall Street Journal].

Stats Watch

Chicago Fed National Activity Index, March 2015: “March was not a good month for the economy, an assessment confirmed by the national activity index which fell steeply” [Bloomberg]. “These readings offer tangible confirmation that both housing and manufacturing are pulling down economic growth.”


Western Canada’s glaciers could shrink by as much as 95% by 2100, study finds [Carbon Briefs].

Des Moines Water Works sues three rural Iowa counties last month. Too little has been done, the lawsuit says, to prevent nitrates from flowing out of farm fields into the Raccoon River [New York Times]. I wonder if this will be addressed in the Iowa primaries…

Emergency drought barrier to be built on Sacramento River to avoid salt water intrusion [Politics in the Zeros].

Baltimore shutting off residential “delinquent” water bills [Baltimore Brew]. “The largest non-payer is RG Steel owned by billionaire investor Ira Rennert.”

Black Injustice Tipping Point

White parents in North Carolina are using charter schools to secede from the education system [WaPo].

St Louis municipal courts ordered turn over records requested by the Post-Dispatch, including court dockets and citations [St Louis Today]. “[M]ost of the municipal courts in the St. Louis area keep their databases private.”

Ferguson hires lawyer to negotiate with DOJ [CBS]. Still stuck at the denial stage, eh?

Freddie Gray arrest, lawyer: While in police custody, his spine was “virtually severed” [Baltimore Sun]. Another hash tag…

Police State

Paying to “play cop,” and not just in Oklahome [Vice]. Reminds me of “boosters” for athletic teams, who IMNSHO often cause problems with corruption.


A fracking injection well. “A loud whistling sound preceded a large explosion that launched a tank into the air [Greeley Tribune]. The tank landed about 60 feet from the site.” Impressive.

Class Warfare

That “millenials word [WaPo]. Ding ding ding ding ding:

Often in the media (and I’ll raise my hand here), we evoke the word “millennial” to describe a subset of people born after 1980 who hold college degrees and live in cities. We’re not talking about 20-year-old single moms in small towns, or fast-food workers in the suburbs trying to get by on only a high school diploma.

This bias skews how we think about the entire generation, and it obscures the fact that a 28-year-old professional in the city has more in common with the 42-year-old living in the apartment next door than a 28-year-old mom who chooses to live in a subdivision.

“We” for some definition of “we” (always watch for that word, and especially in WaPo, the home-town paper of an especially self-regarding elite).

News of the Wired

  • Ohio school airbrushes “Feminist” from 13-year-old’s T-shirt in class picture [WaPo].
  • Ebola virus found in semen six months after recovery: WHO [AFP].
  • Hugo awards and the culture wars [The New Republic].
  • Map of UBS dead drops world-wide [Dead Drops].
  • Steady stream of college protests for divestment of fossil fuels [MSNBC].
  • Bhutan’s dark secret to happiness [BBC].
  • Apple to invest in Maine timberland up in the County [Mainebiz].

* * *

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 first of “I Wish It Were Spring!” week six (CF):


Buds opening in Central. A reminder to me that in places, it’s Spring already!

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. Jess

    Not being a techie, can someone explain what a USB dead drop is? I know what a dead drop is in the spy business, but have no clue about its function in the tech world. Thanks.

    1. Mel

      From the looks of the page, it’s a cemented-down flash drive. Anybody can walk up to it, plug in their computer, and leave or retrieve a data file. The storage and data in there would be available to anybody who comes along. Given the variety of malware that can be put into files, or into the controlling firmware built into flash drives (there’s even a proof-of-concept attack where a USB device can destroy the port hardware that you plug it into), I would never use one of these.

      1. Jess

        Thanks. So assuming you used only a computer that you didn’t care about (i.e. disposable) you could leave messages for others in a spy network or activist cell without it being traced back to you.

        1. Mel

          Except for standing there in front of the surveillance camera, yes. Cory Doctorow’s novel Little Brother is instructive on issues like these. It’s YA, but pretty good withal.

          1. JCC

            Doctorow’s book is instructive on many levels, and a very interesting read for all even though it’s written for Jr High School and High School kids.

            Two things: 1) if you advertise it on the WWW, it’s not a dead drop, and 2) use a live (cd) OS and a separate usb drive to copy the files to, then you can take your time and scan them thoroughly. It’s still risky.

            The wireless piratebox idea is better, I think, with the above cautions.

  2. ChrisFromGeorgia

    Feeling a bit defeatist about stopping the TPP after writing all my Congress reps and getting not much in the way of a response.

    Realistically, what are the chances of stopping it in the House? I have bad memories of NAFTA passing by three votes back in ’94/95. Perhaps Harry Reid could be an unlikely ally in the Senate – he has nothing to lose at this point by voting his conscience, and no amount of Chamber of Commerce cash can sway him now that he’s announced his retirement.

    Reid is a master of obstruction, he might be the last hope.

      1. Pat

        It would give me hope, if only one of the few things that Obama managed to do during his administration was not passing three trade deals. At least two of which should never have come up for a vote in a Democratic controlled Senate – Korea, Panama, Columbia. Now admittedly the Columbia one almost didn’t pass until Columbia and the administration lied through their teeth and said it included protections for trade unionists – but it still passed.
        Oh, and on that Korean agreement:

      2. Jess

        As I understand it, Zero and his GOP cronies will need at least six Dem Senators to vote for fast track. Any ideas on who the most likely sellouts might be? Who besides Reid and Babs are retiring, and either ripe for their post-Congressional spot on the gravy train or who might be swayed to do the right thing now that they no longer have the need to get re-elected?

    1. Vatch

      Sometimes they take a really long time to answer, because some of them are waiting to see which way the wind is blowing before they commit to a position. And some of them won’t answer if you submitted your opinion on-line; those folks will only answer a physical letter, or maybe a fax, too. They care more about the opinions of people who spend a little money on postage or a phone bill when submitting their comments.

      1. JCC

        I own property in NY and CA, so I wrote Reps and Senators in both States. The only one that replied was D. Feinstein and she’s all for it. I wish I hadn’t deleted the emails (out of disgust) after I replied to her answer, but essentially she said there was nothing secret about any of it and that it was a great idea and “not to worry” she would review it thoroughly.

        What a joke.

        The others have yet to reply (not even with a “Feinstein canned email” and it’s been many many weeks.

  3. different clue

    Maybe Huckabee can get the support of the very same gazillionaire who funded Gingrich. Adelson won’t mind. He has billions.

  4. Gareth

    Lambert – Earlier, on the other comment thread you asked me for links to Scott Walker’s use of tax credits to generate campaign contribution kickbacks. I think my response failed to post, so here is a partial list:

    Report: Menards owner gave $1.5 million to pro-Scott Walker group

    On Politics: Ashley Furniture owners gave $20,000 to Scott Walker shortly after WEDC vote : Wsj

    Gov. Walker’s WEDC Pays Off Big… For His Campaign Account – One Wisconsin Now

    UPDATE: WEDC is marketing industrial properties owned by Walker – WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

    Nearly 60% of WEDC funds have gone to Walker, GOP donors – WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports
    One Wisconsin Now says WEDC money going to Scott Walker donors like Edgewater developers : Ct

  5. Yonatan

    If TPP passes, establish a purported abortion clinic business (or some other dog whistle activity) in one of the states where it is attacked by religious (Republican) nutjobs then take the religious Republican nutjobs to the cleaners over the ‘lost’ ‘rightful’ profits. All very unethical and tacky, but that’s all they understand.

    1. hunkerdown

      If they did that, it would be just an acknowledgment that the culture war isn’t selling like it used to. Remember the Generalized Peter Principle!

    2. neo-realist

      If the abortion clinic business tries to go to court over this in a presumably red state, they will have a problem finding a fair minded jury to rule in their favor—jury nullification or rather “Jesus nullification” could potentially be an insurmountable problem.

      1. Vatch

        They wouldn’t go to court. They would use the extra-judicial tribunal (ISDS) with corporate attorneys acting as part time judges. It would be very interesting to see how such a scenario would play out.

        1. neo-realist

          I’m pretty sure the judges will be provided with bullet proof vests………and bomb sniffing dogs for their cars.

          1. IowanX

            I think it has to be a foreign operator who is denied profits to have access to the TPP/ TAFTA process. It’s an interesting point you raise. The Boards of Planned Parenthood would actually have change from 501(c)(3) orgs into for-profits organizations, in order to be sold.to to Europeans and Asians to make the claim work. If the treaties pass, I expect that one will try. It would be quite a trial! Foregone revenue from abortions v. additional expense incurred by the jurisdiction, had the foregone babies, being born, further burdened the existing system. Jesus. Let’s not pass these dopey treaties.

  6. TruthAddict

    Re: WaPo article on charter schools in NC
    I graduated high school in Raleigh, NC. There were serious racial problems back then (around 2000). Both sides hated each other.
    Teachers and administrators couldn’t keep the peace. Most were terrified of being the next defendant in a discrimination suit. Or just plain terrified of the kids. So, the kids were left to fend for themselves. The system works!
    One of the best lessons learned in high school: Forced integration doesn’t work.

      1. tongorad

        It might be a mistake to assume that bodies inside a building equals integration. Or progress.

    1. jrs

      Rolling back integration is often not necessarily as whites have already flighted out of schools that opened to minorities (to elsewhere in less minority school districts, to private schools etc.) and some of this happened right after integration, not that there weren’t other correlations. It didn’t necessarily always work out like people dreamed it would. Of course that may also be a question of timescale, that in the long run, 50 year periods or whatever it might work better, but meanwhile generations of kids grow up in rather chaotic circumstances. And one also has to figure that in the long run white flight has radically changed the landscape and expectations of whole generations. And I believe it about serious racial problems, of course serious racial problem are not always white versus black, but might be Hispanic versus black etc..

      1. TruthAddict

        It was bad. Really bad. I doubt you have ever had to experience such a thing Lambert, otherwise you wouldn’t be so quick to cast aspersions about. You like to speak of rights and justice. How about the right to be left alone. To not have to live out some backwards social experiment in which I had no choice.
        It’s called freedom of association. You might think you know what’s best for everyone but those high minded ideals rarely work out in reality.

  7. fresno dan

    Freddie Gray arrest, lawyer: While in police custody, his spine was “virtually severed” [Baltimore Sun]. Another hash tag…

    What is outrageous is that this happened a week ago – it only became newsworthy apparently when Mr. Gray died. This is a standard operating procedure of the “Man” – delay, delay, delay. Gee, how is a man riding in a paddy wagon almost have his head ripped off?????
    Nobody knows……

    The fact of the matter is, police are not typical employees, and not typical government employees.
    Letting them lawyer up and have “cooling off” periods before they can be interviewed (I believe it is 3 days – it may be 4 days in Maryland) – something I note no one else charged with crimes gets….
    Well, do you want the police to be compelled to the tell the truth or not? Out of all the police that came in contact with the situation, someone knows what isn’t jibing with reality. But as long as the thin blue line can stand behind its patron saint “Ido know” we’ll never have real investigations.

    If the police in this situation don’t know what happened to that man, they are unfit to be police. The man was in police custody, and only in police custody…

    1. Lambert Strether

      The story began to show up on my Twitter feed late last week. However, Water Cooler doesn’t appear on the weekends. So it seems to have taken longer than it did.

  8. PQS

    If we’re going to get down into Jeb’s bidness WRT the whole awful Terri Schiavo incident, Charlie Pierce has a fantastic, and ultimately very devastating indictment of not only Jeb, but also just about every knucklehead involved. With very, very moving portraits of “the other” people who didn’t make the television: the hospice workers, her husband, and the supporters of the family:


  9. jrs

    Bhutan, I don’t know I think I’ve always thought about death nearly everyday, there’s a certain problem at work (repetitive and pointless yes, that’s work for ya) but that got linked to thinking about the death of a loved one so now that happens *every* time, and general thoughts of death sometimes follow. However often they say people think about sex, I’ve often thought I think about death at least and probably more often.

    I’ve fell into pretty deep depressions contemplating it as well when I was chronically thinking about death. I’m definitely happier thinking about it less. Maybe not if I was Bhutanese, but as everyone knows the U.S. is a very depressing place to live to begin with, so of course if we’re also thinking about depressing things all the time, and we always have been biochemically vulnerable, it pushes one over the edge. People seem to differ in their equanimity thinking about death, I suspect some of the vulnerability comes from thinking about it too much at too young an age in childhood, before you had any coping mechanisms at all, but I don’t know how common that is.

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