2:00PM Water Cooler 4/22/15

2:00PM Water Cooler 4/22/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Hatch-Wyden Fast Track bill, “The Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 (TPA-2015), S.995.” Summary; section-by-section summary; full text [Senate Finance Committee].

Obama: “I love Elizabeth. We’re allies on a whole host of issues. But she’s wrong on this” [MSNBC].

Elizabeth Warren: “If the American people would be opposed to a trade agreement if they saw it, then that agreement should not become the law of the United States” [Elizabeth Warren].

Clinton: “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security” [WaPo]. So let’s see the bill!

Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz: “Fast track authority will give lawmakers more say over agreements that are vital for economic growth” [Wall Street Journal, “Putting Congress in Charge on Trade”]. So, Democrats, are you with the Republicans on this, or not? Oh, wait….

Reid: “The answer is not only no but hell no” [WaPo]. But no filibuster?! Oh, OK.

OFA (now Organizing For America, once Obama For America) sends deceptive email blast on Fast Track to its (by defintion) gullible membership [The Intercept].


Transcript of Martin O’Malley interview: “What ails our economy right now is 12 years of stagnant or declining wages, and we need to fix this” [NPR]. Oh?

O’Malley a newcomer to TPP opposition [The Intercept].

The S.S. Clinton

Clinton campaign memo leaked with talking points on Schweizer oppo [Politico]. There’s plenty that’s odiferous about the Clinton Foundation. The problem is that the (highly profitable) Clinton oppo industry has, and deservedly so, no credibility outside the editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal and the winger fever swamp. Who wrote this one? Those guys from the Arkansas bait shop? So brace yourself for an avalanche of “I don’t know if it’s true or not, but it’s out there” stories from our famously free press, for all of which the opportunity cost is discussion of policy.

Meet the members of Hillary Clinton’s squad [Elle]. The story here is the source.

“How New Hampshire’s Women Paved the Way for Hillary Clinton” [Time].

Hillary, populist or nah? [WaPo; New York Times].

Kochs dangle $300 million in front of Walker, Bush, Cruz, Pau, and Rubio [USA Today]. Refreshingly direct. Why don’t they just set up an auction block?

Republican Establishment

Brotherly love [@davidsirota].

Republican Principled Insurgents

Paul: Republican hawks “lap dogs” [The Hill].

Clown Car

More brotherly love: Chris Christie steered Atlantic City contract to Todd, his brother [David Sirota, International Business Times].

Christie: “It’s been 20 years now since NAFTA was put into effect and what’s the next chapter going to look like?” [Wall Street Journal, “Chris Christie Says NAFTA Needs a Fresh Look”].

Huckabee could claim the Christianist base [New York Times]. And lose big time in the general. What’s a Republican strategist to do?

Trump (of all people): “They’re attacking Social Security — the Republicans — they’re attacking Medicare and Medicaid, but they’re not saying how to make the country rich again” [Talking Points Memo].

Why SuperPAC names are impossible to remember [Political Wire].

If the Democrats match their 2008 performance, they will regain the Senate [Politico].

The Hill

“Suddenly, Congress is actually doing things. Making compromises. Passing legislation. Confirming people” [WaPo]. Deadlock is a lot better than TPP. Or a Grand Bargain. Or more surveillance. Or… name it.

McConnell introduces bill to extend surveillance authority under the Patriot Act [WaPo].

“8 million phone calls to IRS went unanswered as agency diverted money from taxpayer services” [Star-Tribune]. I know! Let’s privatize the IRS because markets! After all, the fermiers généraux worked great for the ancien regime, until they didn’t.

Stats Watch

Existing Home Sales, March 2015: “This winter’s heavy weather may very well have held down the housing market which appears to be heading into the spring with new momentum. Existing home sales surged 6.1 percent in March to a 5.190 million annual rate. This is near high-end expectations and the best rate since September 2013” [Bloomberg]. “Again, I’d like to see what this looks like excluding distressed sales” [Mosler Economics].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of April 17, 2015: “[D]efinitely been showing life this spring, up 5.0 percent in the April 17 week” [Bloomberg].

FHFA Housing Price Index, February 2015: “Home prices have rebounded but it ‘may’ be weather related. It will take one or two months to determine the normal trend” [Bloomberg].

“March 2015 Sea Container Counts Are Not Strong Even Though the Labor Troubles Are Over” [EconIntersect].

Health Care

“FORUM: Only legislation can restore the NHS” [Camden New Journal]. Thanks, neoliberals, for making the UK health care system just like the US’s: Expensive, profit-driven, and completely dysfunctional because markets.

“This $1.5B Startup Is Making Health Insurance Suck Less” [Wired] (CL). Business sabotaging industry (hat tip, Thorstein Veblen), then fixing it for a fee because markets. Straight out of the neo-liberal playbook.

“Poll: Just as Many Americans Like Obamacare as Dislike It” [National Journal]. Greeting another crapified system with resignation….


Chamber of Commerce lobbying against transparency [HuffPo]. Film at 11.

New York Mayor De Blasio and teachers union leaderships, with New York Comptroller Stringer, seek to move pensions to high fee/underperforming hedge funds and private equity firms [David Sirota, International Business Times]. Even Cuomo couldn’t stomach this.


“Beginning in the late 1970s, Saudi landowners were given free rein to pump the aquifers so that they could transform the desert into irrigated fields. Saudi Arabia soon became one of the world’s premier wheat exporters” [Reveal]. Well, that was insane. Maybe there’s a lesson here for California?

Things you can do to save water this Earth Day [USA Today]. To which I would add, sheet mulch (or xeriscape) your lawn. I sheet mulch and water my garden for maybe two weeks while the seedlings are coming up. Then I don’t need to water for the rest of the summer.

California court setback for market-based, price solution to water usage in California [Sacramento Bee].

Water managers in 40 our of 50 states expect shortages in some part of their state within the next 10 years [Business Insider].

Tech Watch

“Sleeping Through a Revolution” [Medium]. Good long read from Jonathon Taplin. Technologist asks: “Perhaps it is time to ask the question of who benefits from this technological revolution?”

The next tech bubble is about to burst [The Kernel]. Not until J-Yel’s lift-off.

“Y Combinator’s Sam Altman Thinks Startup Burn Rates Are Getting ‘Frightening'” [Inc]. But no bubble.

Class Warfare

“Big Mac Test Shows Job Market Is Not Working to Distribute Wealth” [New York Times]. That’s not a bug…

“£400 million refit of Boeing 747 for mystery billionaire took three years and includes luxury bedrooms, a restaurant and even a VIP ‘chill-out’ zone” [Daily Mail]. Did they armor it?

10-ton “fatberg” removed from sewer in posh Chelsea neighborhood after causing £400,000 worth of damage [Independent]. Load it into that 747 and kill two birds with one stone?

In Asia, “family companies occupy the commanding heights of capitalism” [The Economist, “Asian Values”].

News of the Wired

  • “Political disruptions generated economic collapses in post-communist states, Stanford scholar says” [Stanford News].
  • “Giving Myanmar’s civil servants enough to live on is one way of ensuring that the reforms ordained from on high are actually implemented on the ground” [Myanmar Times]. Interesting for Asia hands, or wannabe Asia hands.
  • “How Liberals’ Attacks on Cornel West Expose Their Political Bankruptcy” [Medium]. Obots…
  • Maine Governor LePage repudiates previous sovereignty agreement with the Tribes [Indian Country]. Seems land use is the key issue. East-West Corridor maneuvering?
  • If you return your gold Apple Watch, be prepared for a Genius to check it over for scratches with a microscope, and weigh it to make you didn’t scrape off any gold [9to5 Mac]. Classy!
  • The size of stuff [Astronomy Central].
  • Carol Kaye is the greatest bass player you never heard of [LA Weekly].

* * *

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 third of “I Wish It Were Spring!” week six (Chris):


Those are cherry blossoms in Japan. The vending machines in D.C. are up on The Hill.

It’s almost time for me — up here in Zone 5b — to think about planting, so show me your plantings and garden projects!

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. Mark P.

    ‘Carol Kaye is the greatest bass player you never heard of [LA Weekly].’

    Speak for yourself, chum.

    Kaye is the (white) lady who replaced James Jamerson in the Motown studio band when Motown moved to LA; she played on the bass-busy, funky Jacksons’s “I Want You Back,” for instance. Before that, she was part of the Wrecking Crew, the LA studio musicians who are all over a whole bunch of things like the Beach Brothers records and Phil Spector records (as was Leon Russell, for instance).

          1. Sam Kanu

            Greatest bass player people never heard of?
            – Raymond Jackson of Mtume’s 2nd generation lineup
            – Cordel “Boogie” Mosson probably got buried in the group identity:
            – Jonathan Maron of Groove Collective played the most otherwordly bass solo that I’ve ever heard live

            Carol Kaye? Certainly a good player, but I think her relatively surprising identity kind of leaks over into her being overblown, as the “best you never heard of”. In fact musical history is littered with underrated – and unheard of – bass players.

        1. Kurt Sperry

          When I was a kid, you had to choose either Stanley or Jaco. You just did. I was a Jaco, but still in awe of SC.

          1. Ulysses

            I’m in awe of all of them– I was very lucky as a youth to be exposed to all kinds of fantastic music!

  2. Paul Tioxon

    The Pacific Partnership would have greater support for passage if it included this demand: all exports to the USA must include an investment for final assembly in the USA in factories and offices built in Detroit, Michigan until such time that Detroit has ZERO UNEMPLOYMENT and full housing and public services for health and education and all customary municipal services. All job applications must include a mandatory check off for union membership to certify full recognition of union representation once 50.01% of the employees hired have checked off yes for union representation. Other cities can apply for similar status after Detroit is rebuilt. No investment outside of the cities entitled to exclusive rights to foreign investment will be permitted and no exports over a $1Million per annum will be allowed without investments equal to 50% of imports on an annual basis. The minimum wage is to be no less than the medium income of the USA adjusted annually for cost of living increases as determined by union representation.

    Additionally, state owned development banks are to be established to foster cooperative economic development for consumer, worker and housing cooperatives, all funded by import taxes.

    1. Carla

      The TPP is about robbing people of sovereignty and even the hope of democracy; it is about global domination by multinational corporations; it is about the power to render meaningless all existing legal systems. Job destruction has been going on for decades and will continue, I’m afraid, with or without the TPP and TTIP.

      1. jrs

        Especially if it’s really true that most of those trade agreements already exist. Trade agreements are mostly very bad, but TPP TPIP are pure unmitigated evil.

    2. different clue

      That tasty little bone is not a big enough bribe to make me overlook the TPP/TTIP conspiratorial undermining of national, regional and local sovereignties to cement the rule of the Global Corporate Plantation.

  3. L Wheatley-Irving

    File this under: “you can’t make this sHHt up”:

    As an Illlinois resident, I have received multiple email alerts (from Jewish Voice for Peace, US Campaign to end the occupation, American Friends Service Committee) to oppose the following legislation:

    The Illinois House and Senate may vote by Friday, April 24 on HB4011 and SB1761, respectively. These bills would prohibit state agencies and state retirement services from entering into contracts or investing in companies that choose to boycott Israeli businesses because of Israeli human rights violations, including businesses based in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in contravention of international law.


    It wouldn’t pass a constitutional challenge, so it seems like grandstanding on the part of the bill’s sponsors and supporters. But I phoned my rep and senator today at both offices.

    NB: I am cutting and pasting a paragraph from the preparatory questions for the American citizenship test, which I downloaded from the US gov site:

    #53: What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?
    ▪ give up loyalty to other countries
    ▪ defend the Constitution and laws of the United States
    ▪ obey the laws of the United States
    ▪ serve in the U.S. military (if needed)
    ▪ serve (do important work for) the nation (if needed)
    ▪ be loyal to the United States.

    There is no exemption for Israel in this matter. So why are the bill’s sponsors and supporters asking us to accept things that would not be permissible to anyone seeking American citizenship?

    1. Sam Kanu

      Never mind what is proposed here. Look on the bigger stage: national govt. Congress and the senate already long ago signed into law that US military sales to middle eastern countries must assure Israeli military superiority by restricting the US from selling certain weapons to anyone else in the region.

      In short, your congressman likely voted for a bill that more or less says he works towards the interests of the nation of Israel – regardless of what is good for America. In this light, anti-boycott bills are small stuff.

  4. C

    Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz: “Fast track authority will give lawmakers more say over agreements that are vital for economic growth” [Wall Street Journal, “Putting Congress in Charge on Trade”]. So, Democrats, are you with the Republicans on this, or not? Oh, wait….

    How exactly? By surrendering their ability to affect it?

    1. different clue

      Ted Cruz went to Haaaah vuhd. So he is smart enough to know that he is lying. Paul Ryan probably believes it. Cruz/Ryan in 2016!

    2. cwaltz

      Mark Warner is with them. Mr “We’re going to save Social Security by selling you out” sells out to corporate America.

      Gee whiz I sure am glad that our state voted for the Democrat it’s making so much of a difference.

  5. PlutoniumKun

    The Saudi Arabian article is depressing. The crazy thing is that its not just wheat they grow, the actually have a large dairy sector. I remember about 20 years ago seeing a TV programme about a huge dairy operation – the cows (not hardy desert cows, actual Fresians) were kept in air conditioned sheds. Completely insane, and obviously unsustainable in every sense of the word. I did wonder why they did that (it must surely have been cheaper to import), but that article implies that it was the power of landowners.

    There are a shocking number of societies dependent directly or indirectly fossil waters in aquifers (i.e. aquifers which contain water from wetter periods in the past). Libya is particularly vulnerable. Its actually quite easy to ‘date’ water, but its rarely done. Sometimes I think the main reason is that those in authority simply don’t want to know the answer. I’m not up to date on current thinking, but I know that in China up to the late 1990’s there was just one specialist (a Professor Gu from Xi’an University) studying groundwater in the vast northern deserts. Despite being a country seemingly ruled by water engineers, that sort of information simply wasn’t valued.

    1. Light a Candle

      The Saudi Arabia article was chilling. Also points out how completely inept governments (corporate states) are and completely fail in managing ground water (and every other issue) and getting the world to sustainability.

      1. jrs

        “California is now threatening restaurants with a $500 fine if they serve drinking water to customers – unless a customer requests the water.”

        it doesn’t actually do any good as far as conserving water …. but it produces a whole bunch more people like restaurant owners slapped with $500 fines, who hate government regulation forever more, who then vote in a bunch of people against regulations who demolish worker safety and the clean air regulations.

  6. PlutoniumKun

    I think the Myanmar article makes a very important point about funding in developing countries. We’ve developed an allergy to supporting ‘bureaucrats’, so much so that we forget that a reasonably uncorrupt bureaucracy is an absolute essential for a modern society. But very few government aid agencies or NGO’s invest in these structures – there is a strong political pressure in being seen to invest in local communities and on the coal-face, not in giving money to local civil servants. But ensuring that civil servants are decently paid is an essential first step to removing corruption.

  7. Lamb Chop

    Don’t knock oppo. Oppo will be the only information worth remembering when this rigged election is over. The best oppo is the stuff that gets suppressed. It doesn’t get suppressed because it’s false – the false stuff’s evergreen. The worst of it sheds light on international intelligence community preferment. Last time the touchy bit was Alwaleed bin Talal greasing the mediocre spy brat Obama into Harvard. That opened the kimono on Safari Club hijinks way too much. So it is confined to Wing Nut Daily.

    This year’s equivalent is likely to be Foundation dirt. It won’t be as obvious, because a member of the Clinton Dynasty is an obvious choice for peculation. But some of the baksheesh will of necessity come from standard CIA resources for off-the-books fun and games: Quasha, FMS kickbacks, laundered narcotics money. If it isn’t there, then she cannot win, she hasn’t been anointed.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Ha. Interesting to think of oppo as dogwhistling to corrupt insiders — sorry for the redundancy. “Somebody is trying to send you a message.”

      Still, those bait shop guys, and the whole apparatus funded by Richard Mellon Scaife — a steaming load. And all the more culpable, even if you don’t grant that the opportunity cost of not talking policy, because it turns every Clinton critique on grounds of corruption into a (potential) hairball. Not unassisted by Team Clinton, I grant, but a hairball even if they were sitting on their well-greased palms.

  8. albrt

    Can’t we just have the NSA folks answer the phone calls to the IRS? I mean, they’re on the payroll and they’re already listening to the calls, they might as well do something useful.

  9. Kim Kaufman

    “Suddenly, Congress is actually doing things. Making compromises. Passing legislation. Confirming people” [WaPo].”

    “Making compromises” – like passing a human trafficking bill that allowed anti-abortion language. Funny, the Republicans never made compromises – only Dems do that.

    Yes, deadlock is better for us.

  10. nycTerrierist

    Great read of Dyson’s hit-piece on Cornel West from Glen Ford at BAR.


    ““The article is a soaring testament to Dyson’s enormous capacity for bloviation.”
    Dyson’s article is as dishonest as it is long and draining. Dyson is not mad at West because the Union Theological Seminary professor has supposedly turned out a “paucity of serious and fresh intellectual work” over the last several years. He was not driven to write a hit piece because his former “friend” is “not quite up to the high scholarly standard West set for himself long ago.” Dyson has resorted to icon assassination because West’s highly visible critique of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy is an embarrassment to the administration, to the Democratic Party as an institution, and to the sycophantic Black Misleadership Class that has been more loyal to Obama than to Black people as a group. Mostly, Dyson is mad because Dr. West called him out, personally. Dyson wrote:

    “It was during an appearance with Tavis Smiley on Democracy Now, shortly after Obama’s reelection. ‘I love Brother Mike Dyson,’ West said. ‘But we’re living in a society where everybody is up for sale. Everything is up for sale. And he and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kinds of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.’”

      1. nycTerrierist

        choice bit:
        “Dyson has resorted to icon assassination because West’s highly visible critique of Obama’s domestic and foreign policy is an embarrassment to the administration, to the Democratic Party as an institution, and to the sycophantic Black Misleadership Class that has been more loyal to Obama than to Black people as a group. Mostly, Dyson is mad because Dr. West called him out, personally. “

    1. jrs

      Is it all a game of bait and switch your brains
      And follow your leaders to hell
      Is it all the same vein of insane
      As drinking from a poisoned well

  11. Howard Beale IV

    Pregnant Popeyes worker fired after armed robbery: KHOU (warning: autoplay link)

    Welcome to neofeudal America. The Popeye’s that was robbed was a franchisee (owned by Z&H Foods). Popeye’s corporate flacks published a typical ass-covering defense trying to make sure that the situation gets resolved gracefully (which it won’t) and uses the old ‘we deeply regret the distress this has caused’ trope.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      So, “lemme get this straight.”

      A cashier at a Popeyes gets held up at gunpoint, and the franchise owner is trying to make her pay back what the robber took from the till? Can that really be it? Apparently, the owner backed down, but…. wowsers. I mean, that’s carrying “Because markets…” to a new extreme, isn’t it?

      1. ambrit

        Also, almost every convenience store employee I’ve known says that standard operating procedure for holdups is; “Give the crook everything he wants. Insurance will take care of the rest.”

  12. Lambert Strether Post author

    Cash Flowed to Clinton Foundation as Russians Pressed for Control of Uranium Company NYT. Love the mysterious Russian link. To be fair, the reporting isn’t done by Judy Miller or Jeff Gerth, but derived from Schweitzer’s book (he of the Hoover Institute (funded by Scaife, while he was alive)).

    Odiferous smoke, indeed. As for fire: “Whether the donations played any role in the approval of the uranium deal is unknown.” Of course, we could check State’s emails. Oh, wait….

  13. Pepsi

    “I love Elizabeth.” Obama never stops with the corny little workplace power moves. He’d be terrible to work with.

    Lambert’s? characterization of him as a shallow narcissist is so true.

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