2:00PM Water Cooler 5/19/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Clinton on trade at Iowa roundtable [CBS]:

[CLINTON:  The bill] hasn’t been fully negotiated yet, so I don’t know what the final provisions are yet. But it needs to be very strong on health and environmental rules. It needs to try to address either directly or indirectly the manipulation of currency by countries that would be our trading partners because that’s been a big source of us not being as competitive as we want to be.”

I didn’t know the Clinton campaign had a Department of How Stupid Do They Think We Are?, but apparently these talking points were issued by them. If Fast Track is passed, TPP can’t be amended, and so the “final provisions” are all take it or leave it. Currency manipulation is a separate bill, now, thanks to Schumer. And why keep the text of the bill secret from voters, if TPP is all that great?

“[I]f the current TPP talks end up in failure, [ASEAN] 12 partners will probably have another chance to negotiate the trade deal after the 2016 U.S. presidential election” [Nikkei Asian Review]. Need an Asia hand to interpret this, but it reads like “What’s the rush?” to me.

More on TPP and paying for TAA with Medicare cuts [David Dayen, Salon]. This “fundamentally breaks that promise — already, before any vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership or any other fast-tracked agreement — that no laws will change in this new era of corporate-friendly ‘free trade.'”

Krugman on TPP: “If you see a lot of lies, or at least misdirection, being used to sell a policy you should be very, very concerned about said policy” [Paul Krugman, New York Times].


The S.S. Clinton

Josh Marshall: “Given the range of organizations and international entities who give to the Foundation, it’s virtually impossible that there wouldn’t be various potential conflicts of interest with the power Hillary Clinton wielded in her appointive role” [Talking Points Memo]. And now comes the quid pro quo card: “But …. all of these claims of pay-for-play deals are merely claims based on circumstantial evidence and are in their nature unfalsifiable.” Smoothly played but, as NC readers know, quid pro quo is not how the framers understood corruption. Nor should you, the voter.

“The Clinton Foundation will disclose this week a list of nearly 100 paid speeches given by Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton dating to 2002 for which the foundation accepted the fees” [Wall Street Journal, “More Clinton Fees to Be Disclosed”]. Read through the article for the ridiculously complex rules for what must, or may, be disclosed.

“Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton received nearly a quarter of a million dollars last year for a speaking engagement on behalf of Academic Partnerships, a for-profit education company in which Jeb Bush held an ownership stake and on whose board he served” [The Intercept]. Cozy!

“Hillary Clinton’s litmus test for Supreme Court nominees: a pledge to overturn Citizens United” [WaPo].

$50K Clinton contributor Stephanpolous gets seven-year $105 million contract, while newsroom layoffs continue [New York Post]. Something wrong with this picture?

Republican Establishment

Rick Perry to throw his hat in the ring June 4 s-n-o-o-o-r-e [Dallas News].

Iraq: “It was obvious even back then, to anyone who made the faintest effort to look at the situation honestly, that the invasion was doomed, wrong, and a joke” [Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone]. A very sick joke. And a lot of the same people piling on Jebbie now were cheerleaders back then. As the Howler reminds us: The press is never the story.

Republican Principled Insurgents

Scott Walker eyes official announcement date after state budget in June [Politico]. Not going to wait for the indictments? (Wisconsin’s economic performance).

Walkers dilemma in August’s Iowa straw poll, which Bush blew off [Politico]. If Iowa evangelicals restore Huckabee’s secondary political virginity, Walker could lose, adn that would be bad.

Rubio on Iraq: “The world is a better place because Saddam is not there” [Bloomberg].

“State records say that Gov. Scott Walker received a copy of a 2011 letter pledging a $500,000 taxpayer loan to a now-defunct Milwaukee construction company headed by a Walker donor, seemingly contradicting statements by the governor and his aides that he was not aware of the award” [Journal-Sentinel].

Republican Clown Car

Lindsey Graham throws his hat in the ring [The Atlantic]. Post-Senatorial job security, not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Nader on long shot candidates [Los Angeles Times].

“Why the GOP Can’t Get No Satisfaction” [Jim Messina, Politico]. Obama operative strutting and preening over electing Cameron. Attaboy.

Why candidates are coy about declaring: Money [CNN]. Film at 11.

“The GOP is dying off — literally” [Politico].

Stats Watch

Housing starts, April 2015: “There were hardly any indications before today, but the spring housing surge is here. Today’s housing starts & permits report is one of the very strongest on record” [Bloomberg]. “Today’s report is an eye-opener and will re-establish expectations for building strength in housing, a sector held down badly in the first quarter by severe weather.” MacBride: “So much for the doom and gloom” [Calculated Risk]. Mosler: Back to 2008 levels (chart) [Mosler Economics].

Redbook, week of May 16, 2015: “Redbook’s sample continues to report soft year-on-year rates of same-store sales growth”  [Bloomberg].

“LA area Port Traffic Decreased in April [Calculated Risk]. And “the distortions [sic] from the labor issues are behind us.”

New thumbtack index shows small business sentiment rising 5 points over the last year (map) [EconIntersect].

Safe European Home

“Tens of thousands of Macedonians have turned out to support Nikola Gruevski’s government in a counter-protest after opposition supporters marched through the capital Skopje a day earlier to demand the prime minister’s resignation” [Al Jazeera]. Victoria Nuland at work again?

Big Brother is Watching You Watch

Snowden via video hookup to Stanford: “you have to have a greater commitment to justice than a fear of the law” [Truthdig].


The [16 Cleveland police] officers’ lack of cooperation led [Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy] McGinty to ask the court to treat them as hostile witnesses. In court documents, he likened their silence to the actions of an “organized crime syndicate” [Los Angeles Times]. Omerta, or “the blue wall of silence.”

Police State

Obama’s Executive Order on police militarization is — and I know this will surprise you — less than it seems [VICE]. “Technically this doesn’t demilitarize police departments, but what it does its put more brakes on the funding streams that support those,” Sam Bieler, a research associate in the Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute.” In fact, the only military gear on Obama’s list not currently banned is the bayonet [Washington Examiner].

Under Obama’s Police Data Initiative, 21 police departments have elected to share information about police use of force, pedestrian and vehicle stops, officer-involved shootings, police behavior, and other data sets on law enforcement activity [City Lab]. One wonders whether the data sets will include residential segration and the funding sources of municipal governments. I’m guessing no. “Data science,” forsooth.

Bratton wants 450 cops for his counter-terrorism unit on ISIS threat [Alternet]. Not the budget threat?

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Why Are White Gang Members Destroying Their Own Community?” [HuffPo]. White leaders call for calm….

“Whites Surprisingly Chill About Becoming Minority” [Bloomberg]. Does anybody really say “chill” anymore?

St Louis cop who whacked Von Derrit Myers not charged [St Louis Today].

California Supreme Court tosses claim against S.F. police who whacked mentally disabled woman [Los Angeles Times].

Class Warfare

“The power of stupid ideas” [Working Class Studies]. In this case, the “three generations that have never worked” idea.

Headline: “Students Veto Campos’ Moratorium Plan and Win Big” [MissionLocal].

At a Civics Day hosted by the non-profit organization Generation Citizen high school students from John O’Connell High School argued that David Campos’ push for a housing moratorium in the Mission was all wrong. And it won them an award.

The winning students were from a class on economics at John O’Connell.  Along with 17 other classrooms across San Francisco and the East Bay they presented their semester-long work on community issues to a panel of judges that included representatives from Google, Wells Fargo Bank, Chevron Corp., Microsoft, and the San Francisco Education Fund. The event was held at the Women’s Building.

Our plan worked!

“The majority of the 28 percent of retired middle-class boomers who either are working or have worked for pay during retirement say it’s not because finances forced them to but because they wanted to work” [Bloomberg]. “Work has a way of being much more fun when you do it out of choice, rather than need.” Indeed! Labor as a gift is always better than labor as rental or labor as being owned.

News of the Wired

  • “The web definitely has a speed problem due to over-design and the junkyard of tools people feel they have to include on every single web page” [Quirks Mode]. Yeah, Bloomberg. Looking at you! Also at whichever fool introduced WaPo’s ugly and stupid new two-column layout for mobile, which is both slower to read and more intrusive!
  • “Seems dangerous to cede control over your content to a company like Facebook” [Daring Fireball]. The “business aspects” are favorable, but then they always are at the beginning, aren’t they? Just ask Uber drivers.
  • “Scientists examine why men even exist” [WaPo].
  • “Thoughtcrime” [Charlie’s Diary]. A short story in the form of minutes from a Labor Party Meeting.
  • Pesticide-maker Bayer applauds Obama’s call for more studies of bee deaths [Bloomberg]. Obama, reading to kids: “Bees are good” [Politico].
  • “Fellow climbers try to come to terms with deaths of Dean Potter, Graham Hunt” [Los Angeles]. I admire the individuals, but hate the societal glorification: I think BASE-jumping, as a metaphor, sends the message to young people that the job market, say, is a mountain, and all it takes is courage and individual effort to climb it. BASE-jumper Lori Butz, San Francisco: “The pursuit of human flight is universal. Doesn’t everybody want to fly?” No, it isn’t, and no, I don’t. I think it’s lunatic and I’m not into death trips. I want to garden
  • “The corruption of happiness” [Open Democracy]. This is excellent. Brickbats to Gary Becker.

* * *

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 Gardens, Week Two:


Readers, please send me more pictures of your gardens; it’s occurred to me that I started asking too early, before people really got rolling outside.

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. It’s the soil, seeds, flats, and planting season! Also too Godaddy!


(Readers will notice that I have, at long last, improved the hat!)

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by .

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. John

    BASE jumping, thinning the herd, more compost for the garden…as harsh as that sounds.

    1. hunkerdown

      Since we can’t fabricate useless things anymore, status symbols must take the form of useless experiences in far-off places. I’m all for the moneyed taking on hazardous, expensive hobbies. Keeps ’em out of trouble. Just maybe, they’ll learn their chance for survival goes up when they pay their parachute seamsters better.

    2. vidimi

      if anyone takes the time to actually listen to an interview with one of these guys, they all speak of an uncontrollable desire to push envelopes and take risk. they are clearly addicted to the high they get when their fear instincts are triggered. some, like jeb corliss, were even diagnosed with counterphobia. so it’s not a disregard for life that drives them, but a sense of not living unless they push themselves. therefore, those of us lucky enough to derive contentment from gardening or a nice glass of wine in good company shouldn’t judge them as they have a feature in their personalities different from ours.

      also, it’s almost never equipment failure that kills these guys. it’s usually a miscalculation, unexpected weather condition, a tangle in the chute (problem with packing, not manufacture)…there’s a lot that can go wrong.


      1. Ron

        The good news for these modern day thrill seekers is that, it is not likely they will worry about suffering from old age.

      2. optimader

        therefore, those of us lucky enough to derive contentment from gardening or a nice glass of wine in good company shouldn’t judge them as they have a feature in their personalities different from ours.

        Absolutely, wouldn’t life be boring if everyone had exactly the same passions?

        Just because variation exists in peoples risk/reward sensibilities doesn’t invalidate anyone’s choice as long their not messing w/ someone else’s life.
        So who knows, maybe base jumpers perceive spending recreational time in sedentary pursuits like gardening and drinking a dangerously sclerotic way to run the clock out?
        I’m sure a lot of the fun stuff I survived doing would make many in our progressively conditioned to conform population shudder, and too bad for them.
        Personally I have no interest in base jumping , but I applaud anyone that takes satisfaction in the hobby,
        A case for if you don’t like it don’t watch.

  2. allan

    Snowden Leaks Hurt Pentagon’s Push for Tech Innovation, Defense Secretary Suggests

    The Edward Snowden leak affected the Pentagon’s relationship with the tech industry, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said in an exclusive interview with VICE News, saying the former NSA contractor’s disclosures created “a barrier of suspicion” that has made it more challenging to recruit the top talent necessary to maintain the US military’s technological advantage over other countries.

    1. afisher

      From links here earlier: US officials leak information about the ISIS raid that’s more sensitive than anything Snowden ever leaked (boing boing). just saying.

  3. diptherio

    Quote of the day from Snowden:

    “you have to have a greater commitment to justice than a fear of the law”

    Sadly, not many do, else we wouldn’t have needed Snowden in the first place :-/

  4. hunkerdown

    Lambert, you were looking for examples of self-licking ice cream cones? The Web, itself, its hamster wheel regime of “living standards”, and its motivating narrative in the “dual mandate” of content and presentation is a decent example. The driver of technology and standards adoption seems not to extend beyond, what do marketers want with their marks’ computers this week and how do we deliver it to them without the EFF complaining too much? Amen to over-design.


    “Although there’s a lot of truth in this counter-argument, we’ve solved a similar problem before. I don’t see any fundamental reason why we wouldn’t succeed this time around. It’s just a lot of work — again.”

    Beware those in sinecures who fetishize struggle and hard work, as they often see you only inasmuch as the surplus you will deliver to them. Especially when they choose not to recognize the slack labor market in IT or the cultural infestation of neoliberalism as a fundamental influences, as if their efforts operated in free space and the universe were obligated to follow.

    Stick to running and designing test suites, ppk. Neither you nor IE is worth an ounce of extra work that I won’t get paid for anyway.

  5. Anon

    Re: Nader

    I found this part of the piece a bit eye-opening:

    Thus far, the media is covering the candidates’ personal stories and will continue to mine biographical details, while waiting for gaffes, a self-destructive lapse or supposed scandal. The media will pretend that minor policy differences amount to different visions for how to lead the country.

    Taken as a whole, it is all so rancid. All this dreariness comes down to who is more likable with the most TV ads and superior campaign staff. The voters see themselves as mere spectators, grumbling along the way. They can’t seem to make the candidates react to their needs. They’re bored, and boredom often turns into cynicism and withdrawal (voters become nonvoters). When people have low expectations of politicians, the politicians will oblige them.

    So, how do we shake off the cynicism? If only if we had the Fairness Doctrine back…

    1. hunkerdown

      For a citizen to look at a system and see that it’s not designed to do what some salesperson alleges… is the polar opposite of cynicism. If there is cynicism in this situation, it originated from the sales staff and it was aimed at us in the first place. No more victim-blaming — let’s retire the narrative that failing to feed a machine that reliably produces bad widgets is some kind of moral duty.

      1. vidimi

        good observation. we’re somehow conditioned to feel guilty, or CT, when we think the catfood being offered to us by the villains who rule us is poisoned.

    2. edmondo

      If only we had the old Democratic Party back. Elections might be more exciting if we had choices that weren’t a throwback to the old Soviet Union.

    3. hunkerdown

      Yet, people turn out in greater numbers when there are plebiscites on the ballot. A more accurate reading might be that representative government doesn’t work for citizens. Shame high school kids aren’t made to read Federalist #10 so they could save themselves the heartbreak of believing there was any intent otherwise.

  6. tgs


    Contested election, phone tapping, ethnic strife and … corruption! Reporters should understand that the latter should be assumed – since corruption is now the primary mode of governance in the neo-liberal age. No reason to state the obvious.

    Sounds like a perfect set-up for Victoria Nuland. Wonder who our dog is in that hunt? My understanding is that the Albanians would like to carve off a piece of Macedonia for themselves.

    1. OIFVet

      Ethnic Albanians would be the #1 choice to sic on the existing regime, but I notice curious stirrings in some quarters of Bulgarian nationalism as well. Some insist that Macedonia should be broken up and divided amongst its neighbors. These are the true morons of the bunch. Some are advocating that NATO powerhouse Bulgaria play more active role in the lives of the “brotherly Macedonians, our twins separated at birth.” These are the same people who argue against Russia’s meddling in Ukraine and reject the Russian claim of kinship between Russia and Ukraine. So the levers and buttons available to the party planners at State are many and varied.

      o/t, but is it considered an ad hominem to call someone a demagogue and propagandist after conclusively demonstrating that the labels fit the person? Just got banned from a BG blog for complimenting a proponent of the latter position in just such a way. I really expected more from a professor of history in one of BG’s institutions of higher miseducation.

  7. diptherio

    Krugman on TPP: “If you see a lot of lies, or at least misdirection, being used to sell a policy you should be very, very concerned about said policy”

    True for O-care as well, no?

    1. jrs

      One doesn’t even need to get to that point. If a policy is entirely secret and neither the people nor the congress is allowed to know much about it you should be very very concerned about said policy.

      1. Llewelyn Moss

        Yup. And TPP is not even military related so how can they justify writing it in secret? They can’t claim a national security exposure. Then ram it through with no debate (Fast Track, aka Fasco Track). If TPP doesn’t wake up the sheeple to the fact that US Democracy is dead, nothing will — until it is too late.

          1. Llewelyn Moss

            “…as Important as Another Aircraft Carrier”
            Which is another way of saying TPP is needed like we need a F**king Hole In The Head. hahaha

        1. Carla

          Anything business-related is military-related, one way or ‘tother. (And of course the reverse: anything military-related is business-related.)

  8. Carolinian

    Under corruption: Versailles, the press corps and the weenies.


    I have to wonder: Was there any tension between members of the media who were there, and other guests?

    Did people talk politics? Were there any visible or audible signs of discomfort or disagreement? Did the powerful political players spend one second worried that the media figures might ask them an uncomfortable question? Or did everyone just mingle and share friendly chatter?

    Sitting there, eating hand-carved prosciutto and octopus salad, was there a palpable sense of a common bond?

    You might say that Froomkin is taking a cheap shot at the attendees of Charlie Rose’s party, but really, who would want to upset such a cushy apple cart? Don’t want to be blackballed from the club.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Froomkin is great, paid the penalty for being a truthteller at WaPo during the Bush administration. It was really funny watching WaPo’s web designers progressively rework the navigation system to make Froomkin’s blog impossible to find.

    2. OIFVet

      Froomkin is making me face an existential dilemma: to grill or not to grill an octopus this weekend. I love octopus, it’s delish. But it appears to be something the elites mosh on at parties, and I take pride in setting myself apart from these fine folks. So to grill or not to grill, this is the question.

        1. OIFVet

          It does indeed. Octopus shall be grilled and served Chez Vet, with just-ripened centennial variegated kumquats from my little potted plant for desert.

      1. vidimi

        if it helps, octopus is a working class staple in the mediterranean. fishermen dry them in the sun before grilling them to break down the rubberiness.

  9. Jeremy Grimm

    Bratton needs to fight ISIS at its source. The 450 police officers must be sent to Iraqi outposts to augment NYC protection against ISIS. Instead of hiring any more police for NYC, the 450 should be selected from the present force and augmented by thousands more sent to the furthest outposts of conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the greater Middle-East. The NYC police department could return to their practice of arresting citizens “only when necessary” as a way to extend the force while it helps in the war against terror — someplace else. I would like to volunteer as many officers as possible from our local municipal police force to be sent to the Middle East and other trouble spots at the furthest possible outposts. This could do a great good in helping to make America safe.

    1. James Levy

      Don’t they know, can’t they tell, that they sound like, well, pu$*%es? Sorry to use that pejorative, but, my goodness, it really does fit, doesn’t it? I guess one of my dad’s favorites, “gutless wonders”, would also apply. What gets you is that these clowns like Bratton are presented as, and too often perceived as, “tough guys”, when in fact they sound like sniveling cowards afraid to turn off the nightlight because the ISIS boogeyman might pop out from under their bed. Astonishing.

      1. Carla

        “Sorry to use that pejorative” — Then don’t. You’re a bright man. I’m sure you can come up with something more imaginative–and accurate.

      2. Nathanael

        “gutless wonders” is a good phrase. “Sniveling cowards” is another good phrase. You don’t need to use that other pejorative.

      3. HopeLB

        I always thought p**** was a shortened form of pusillanimous which is quite fitting. (Better quit using it
        around company or start using “pusilly”, a new noun, as in he/she is such a pusilly.)

  10. DJG

    June issue of Harper’s Magazine: The lead is called What Went Wrong. From Harper’s web site, since the lead for June is paper-only right now (what a concept, a magazine that comes to your house by mail): >>
    “Anyone who voted twice for Obama and was baffled twice by what followed—there must be millions of us—will feel that this president deserves a kind of criticism he has seldom received,” David Bromwich writes in this month’s cover story, “What Went Wrong.” I trust I am not revealing too much about my own political leanings when I say that Bromwich delivers on the promise of his bluntly titled essay. His analysis of President Barack Obama’s personal failings and public failures—his “peculiar avoidance of the business of politics”; his inability to close the prison at Guantánamo Bay, a decision he characterized, perhaps too candidly, as “the path of least resistance”—is overdue and essential, whether you voted for the current president twice, once, or not at all.
    –Yep, the path of least resistance. It comes up over and over in Browich’s essay. I’m reminded of it again with Obama and the bees, above. He can’t even do a damn thing for bees–currently one of the most charismatic animals around. But we wants to talk the problem away. I’ll be waiting for that national conversation about apiaries. And Bromwich accuses Obama of being afraid of the military. Not pretty. Timely? Maybe.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I thought David Bromwich was a little/alot too forgiving of Obama. Obama makes a mockery of the argument made for why we must vote for the lesser of two evils. The disconnect between what is said and what is done in politics makes a mockery of any pretense we still have a democracy. I don’t care who the Republicans run against Hillary if she wins the Democratic nomination. If any are available I’ll chose an exceptional third party candidate, or leave an undercount ballot in the vote for President.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I actually bought the PDF because there were other articles I really wanted to read in the issue. I was struck by this sentence:

      He had run against Hillary Clinton — who did lasting damage by saying that he was unqualified to lead in time of emergency — and he paid her back by putting her in charge of the emergency.

      Couple of problems here:

      1) It’s not clear what “damage” Clinton actually did; the whole article breathes with the idea that Obama was unqualified to lead, period, let alone in any emergency. (Not that I’m a fan of the whole “leadership” cult, but that’s another topic.)

      2) In fact, Clinton was right, except for the wrong crisis/opportunity, which was the collapse of the financial system. The author quotes anecdotes about Obama — “pitchforks,” “savvy businessmen” — but fails to recognize what Obama did and did not do systemically, which was (a) to do nothing about accounting control fraud and (b) maintain the power of finance. No familiarity with William Black at all, it seems.

      It really seems, again, like 2009 debate among “progressives” about whether “his heart is in the right place.” The author seems to believe that, but that for various personal and structural reasons, Obama was never able to act on his own initial good impulses. Here’s a small example:

      [Obama] had vowed to filibuster any legislation giving immunity to telecommunications companies, and withdrew that pledge (with a vow to keep his eye on the issue) only after he secured the nomination.

      No. Obama did not “withdraw that pledge.” He affirmatively voted for FISA “reform.” (Clinton voted against, and if that was a sop to the left, so be it; we get few enough sops.) Obama is presented as “averse to conflict.” There’s no credence given to the possibility that he’s actively malevolent.

  11. JTMcPhee

    From ClintoCrapifier-Quidproqoucreation link and remark above, this snippet, with what looks like another delightful type:

    “…are merely claims based on circumstantial evidence and are in their nature unfalsifiable.”

    Plausible unfalsifiability?

    1. James Levy

      The burden of proof for anyone who wants my vote is on them, not me to prove that they are not crooked. Somehow this seems to be an alien concept to too many social scientists and journalists. It’s up to Clinton et al. to present me no opportunity to draw the conclusion that they are taking vast sums of money and in this world when you are given such gifts things are expected in return. But now I am expected to accept their bland pronouncements that nothing untoward is going on. Nuts.

      1. hunkerdown

        The Cult of Action: you owe the oligarchs a vote. Hmm, the case of the USA seems to suggest that soft-touch ur-Fascism is perfectly sustainable.

  12. Benedict@Large

    Worrying about currency manipulation is stupid. It is EASY to use currency manipulation back at the manipulator.

    If a country tries to manipulate its currency, it generally tries to keep it low in order to provide a competitive advantage to its labor force (i.e., cheap labor). The proper response to this is not to throw snit-fits, but rather to print into it. What does that mean? Ok, the offending country is capturing jobs, but they are at the low end of the labor scale making cheaper things. If the “injured” country prints money in response, it can used that money to re-employ those who lost their jobs, but to re-employ them making things higher up the labor scale. Let’s say, for example, that China stole a bunch of American jobs where workers make cars. Terrible, according to the usual logic. But let’s say the US re-employed those people, this time building high speed rail and medical universities. The Chinese cars are effectively free (the US simply printed money for them), and the US is better off for having the high end transportation and educational facilities.

    1. edmondo

      You mean the same trains that now cost 1000 bucks a day to ride because the inflation rate is 14%? The ones who win the most are them that has a lot of assets. In case you don’t know this: It ain’t the formerly unemployed.

  13. ewmayer

    Re. housing starts, allow me to add “Incredibly noisy series, thus drawing any conclusions from a single month’s numbers is an exercise in futility.” [Mish]

  14. cwaltz

    Hmmmmmm I was unaware that Rubio lived in Iraq.(tongue firmly in cheek) How easy it must be to opine that Iraq is much better off for having Saddam gone when one does not actually have reside in the middle of a civil war of our making! American exceptionalism at it’s finest, can’t wait to see what other gems he has by way of foreign policy expertise.

  15. MikeNY

    Re: Rubio on Iraq war.

    Dismal performance on that question. Completely tied himself in a pretzel. Grotesque. Even paleo-conservative Pat Effing Robertson can say unequivocally it was a MISTAKE.

    1. James Levy

      But are Republican primary voters really going to punish you for flubbing this question, when 9 out of 10 of them thought that Iraq was a terrific idea and more than half of them thought Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11? They just want this issue to go away, the way Clinton wants TPP, her foundation, and Benghazi to go away. Rubio wants the nomination and can be pretty sure that once he gets it he can change his tune at will and if the media don’t want to hound him on the “flip-flop” issue he can get away with it. First, get nominated, then worry about everything else later. Democrats always seem to fear saying something to get nominated that will haunt them in the general election, but you will notice that Republicans don’t.

      1. hunkerdown

        Democratic candidates and electioneers (not voters; self-identification ≠ affiliation) do fear saying something to get nominated might haunt them in the general election. Remember when Austan Goolsbee had to cool out Canada when they freaked out about Obama’s tough campaign talk on financial reform? Notice how every Democratic POTUS candidate in recent history barely restrains themselves from leaping into the laps of the right just after winning the primary? (Where are the chaperones with their yardsticks? I don’t want to have to see this!)

        Republicans don’t need to worry about such things. Their party’s brand is fully compatible with the Order and their voters prefer plain BS to the blue team voters’ more avant-garde fallacies.

  16. ex-PFC Chuck

    Thanks, Lambert, for the Open Democracy link about the influence of Gary Becker. Now that he’s fully depreciated perhaps the rest of us can begin putting the “H” word back into secular humanism.

    1. Brindle

      Yea, I thought it was a good piece.
      However far back one goes in human history the community, the tribe, have been the foundation of for ensuring survival and fostering relationship. The neoliberal model has banished such activity as essentially irrelevant. Whether its 5%, 20% or 40% of the population it’s safe to say the majority of humans are not wired to thrive under the neoliberal regime.

      Open Democracy:

      —-“In this context, the question of political or economic transformation becomes forcefully thrust back upon the individual. Given that capitalism cannot be transformed to meet human needs, humans will have to transform themselves to meet capitalist needs.”

  17. Jeremy Grimm

    @Lambert: I am flummoxed. Why or how is “The corruption of happiness” excellent, and what point was it making? I read the link several times and came away more confused each time. Please clarify what point or points it is arguing. For me it just dithered back and forth between vaguenesses.

    And “Brickbats to Gary Becker” — is that lauding Gary Becker or should I read it brickbats AT Gary Becker? The concept of “human capital” makes me puke. I get sick with any expression that turns humanity into a market entity this way. “Human capital” sounds like a slightly different kind of chair or desk.

    The last paragraph is mystifying at best. What is a “political” understanding of happiness? Aren’t people already “authorized to articulate and offer explanations for their feelings?” Who needs authority to complain about alienation? To the Devil with hearing explanations of unhappiness! Is that a variant of Clinton’s “feeling my pain?” “Treating” is a just “nice” way of shoving any form of dissidence under the rug. “Hearing” which leads to treating” isn’t hearing at all. Hearing of alienation which leads to nothing — is that supposed to make me feel better? At least treatment offers some form of alternative legal chemical respite. Hangovers get old after a short while.

    Happiness is welcome, but not if it requires people to “radically alter the way they are.” What’s wrong with making good old-fashioned arguments built on assertions about the nature of man and ways neoliberalism is contrary to that nature? — Assuming this approximates what this link is alluding to.

    1. jrs

      “What Becker was highlighting was that people make various life choices, which have a significant impact on their economic fates.”

      oohhh stating the obvious

      “”In human capital theory”, he argued “people rationally evaluate the benefits and costs of activities, such as education, training, expenditures on health, migration, and formation of habits that radically alter the way they are.””

      to an extent, but I think people often just act out scripts they were taught growing up, and the complexity of the system being what it is, no wonder they do so in economic matters

      “Education becomes a strategic investment in oneself. Relationships are economic contracts, with costs and benefits for each party.”

      I get tired of “the world was formed yesterday” arguments sometimes. Do we think that the WWII generation that took the G.I. Bill didn’t expect any economic benefit from doing so? Maybe they also viewed the education itself as of value, but motivations are seldom some saintly purity. And like we’re supposed to assume sayings like “you can just as easily love a rich man as a poor man” are brand new. Relationships were never ever economic before the 60s apparently! But marriage has always been partly an economic contract. And when in fact given women’s lack of economic opportunity, inability to own property themselves, and so on, they were probably very much so.

      Sometimes arguments with psychology seem very much of the walk and chew gum type. People concentrate on what they can personally do to improve their happiness because they have no effective political organizations to change things. It’s circular and self-reinforcing, a viscous circle perhaps, but it is. And psychology doesn’t seem a very plausible first cause at all, compared to destruction of unions etc.. Furthermore happiness and psychology ISN’T just political. One’s upbringing and early childhood experiences actually do program a person. It happens in a political and economic environment that makes recovering and escaping such harder sure, multiple causality. Economic stresses might lead to say more child abuse than would otherwise happen, sure, but family relationships do matter. The idea that there could never possibly be anything in one’s own behavior that contributes to one’s problems is sure as if I’m supposed to believe that’s ALWAYS true. But that doesn’t mean one personally controls the entire economic system, the state of the world, and one might not be genetically susceptible as well etc..

      I am grateful I’ve never experienced a workfare “behavioral activation” program whatever that is, at any rate, it sounds horrid.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author


      The problem is that quantification and economics are never innocent in all of this. By reducing the relationship between mind and world to a quantitative ratio, wellbeing metrics offers a simple choice of how to pursue progress: do you seek to change the world or to change the mind?

      And this:

      The way to resist this is to insist on a political understanding of happiness and unhappiness, in which people are authorised to articulate and offer explanations for their feelings. This means understanding that some forms of unhappiness – such as a sense of injustice or anger – need hearing, not treating. This in turn requires careful nurturing and development of the institutions which facilitate voices to be heard. Happiness is welcome, but not if it requires people to “radically alter the way they are”.

      I am not sure which circle Hell I should consign Becker too. Perhaps I should do a post on that…

      1. jrs

        “By reducing the relationship between mind and world to a quantitative ratio, wellbeing metrics offers a simple choice of how to pursue progress: do you seek to change the world or to change the mind?”

        Why does the obvious answer always seem to me to be: BOTH.

    3. Yves Smith

      Gary Becker believes man is homo economicus and women should make babies and care for them because women have comparative advantage at that. When I saw him speak at a Milken conference in 2008, I saw toads hop out of his mouth.

      1. DJG

        Only toads? Besides Gary Becker’s pernicious economic and social ideas, he also represents something distinctly stinky about postmodern society, which is the endlessness of the careers of many mediocrities. Back in the Minoan Era, when I was at the UofC, he was on the verge of retirement after many glorious years of promulgating his tedious ideas. Then he went all emeritus, and his public persona seemed to be even more engorged. He became ubiquitous. An instance is that Posner Becker blog, a holy sacrament of the Chicago School and of Law&Economics. Their pernicious shenanigans went on for years. I know that the “marketplace of ideas” is a bad metaphor, but there seems to be no way to get the milk past the sell date out of said marketplace of ideas.

    4. Jeremy Grimm

      Thank you for helping to clarify your intent in providing this link. I couldn’t figure out whether the author was in favor of Becker or opposed to him. The link seemed to wander back and forth between views reaching its conclusion. I felt almost as if the author ran out of ink and had to stop there before the next cycle of dither.

      I cannot stand neoliberalism. It is worse than a strange cult. It’s a strange cult powered with tremendous amounts of money conglomerating and promoting the contesting views of multiple splinter sects of true believers, carrying and carried forward by opportunists, topped by cynical puppet masters using the power of their money to consolidate that power and grow it — true sociopaths.

      If Gary Becker is the first voice for the concept of human capital he should be buried with a stake in his heart and as thoroughly forgotten as I hope his concept will be.

      Has anybody else noticed the latest trend in turning us all into fungible commodities? I’m unemployed. I have to apply to three jobs every week to collect my unemployment check in the state where I live. Everywhere I look I run into one of a few (not sure how many) database programs crafted to eliminate all remaining humanity from the employment process. Anyone who works in human resources should be very afraid — unless they are among the “chosen” few who will get to figure out new plans for cutting retirement and medical plans. These database programs take some of the last steps toward reducing an employee to a set of properties coded and stored in bins to assist automatons in matching the properties of labor units to the demanded properties of the work units as submitted by the internal hiring entities. [Things can’t get much more impersonal than that … but wait there is more … I fear further opportunities for optimization remain.]

      Some jobs, by their nature are dull, dirty, unpleasant — like collecting garbage. The quantization and commodification of work, workers, even the line bosses has successfully turned many once challenging and enjoyable jobs into hellish rote assembly-line work, jobs like teaching, nursing, programming and I see Medical Doctors square in the sights of this rationalizing, joy crushing mechanization.

      I fault the link for making such a confused and confusing case for condemning neoliberal “thought” especially this line of neoliberal “thought”. Put a flaming spear in it! Leave happiness out of this argument. Neoliberalism has constructed a society antithetical to the innate nature of man. [This is one of the most ancient and venerable approaches to such argument in this domain of philosphy.] In this alien and alienating society happiness is easy enough to come by — instead of “treatment” just call the means “soma” or “Greek lotus” or entertainment. The appeals this author makes seems to assume some form of humanity remains in our fast forming neoliberal hell. No one is there to hear such pathetic appeals and the machine has no hears nothing.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I apologize if I sound angry. I am very angry. I may be able to crawl away from this work-world to find a hiding place where I can live out the remainder of my life enjoying a cold comfort in my retirement. But I have two young adult children. I am angry for myself, but even more angry on their account.

      2. jrs

        I didn’t even get an attack on neo-liberalism out of it so much as an attack on positive psychology with sidesweeps at psychology in general. But I’m not that familiar with that literature on positive psychology (more like I’ve heard some platitudes from it and such concludes my knowledge. Not that I really have the interest either … ) and I didn’t particularly get any indication the author was either. Probably in the popular mind “positive psychology” often gets bundled in with “positive thinking” even though that’s probably an oversimplification and more a reflection of American mentality than any psychological school.

        I do think sidesweeps at psychology in total are lame as it has some decent insights into the human condition, at times more humanistic than scientific. And just blaming it for not being sociology is silly. On the other hand economics may indeed be entirely worthless :)

  18. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thanks for keeping the secret TPP agreement “fast track” effort front and center. IMO Paul Krugman’s observations about this agreement, its security classification and the fact that its terms and provisions are being kept secret from the American people, is far too soft on this administration.

    Michael Krieger has a related post up today about “fast tracking” this secret TPP agreement that I found worthwhile in that it represents a warning from another knowledgeable source:


  19. optimader

    Ken Hernandez · Top Commenter · North Catholic
    IF I lived in Texas, I’d want to destroy my own community, too.
    Reply · · 1,018 · 23 hours ago

    Gen Anxiety · Top Commenter · Software Developer at Google Play
    Ken Hernandez hahahahah!!! AWESOME!!! #1 COMMENT TODAY !
    Reply · · 45 · 22 hours ago

    HAHA, funny, but more seriously, this analogy remains tortured.

    1.) Are the motorcycle gang members that had a shootout in Waco, TX members of “the community”?!? Correct my mistaken impression, I thought organized crime, more generally pursuit of antisocial lifestyles were principle attractions to being a motorcycle gang member?

    2.) Was the Waco, TX community destroyed??
    FWIW, were any of the arrested/killed Cossacks, Scimitars and Bandidos gang members from Waco?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      The joke here is the contrast between the coverage, considered both topically and stylistically, of the coverage of the Waco “brawl” and the Baltimore (and Ferguson) “riots.”

      “White leaders called for calm…”

      “This shows the breakdown in white family structure….”

      1. Optimader

        Baltimore and Ferguson are accuratly characterized as riots.
        Waco was an organized crime shootout.
        Brawl i dont think is an accurate charictarization, at least the common usage I was exposed to from my grandfathers Chicago Irish generation. Frankly I have no doubt Generatio Whateva media copywriters like the way “biker brawl” rhymes and that is about the intellectual depth of that characterization. Pugilists brawl, punks and cowards shoot and activists riot.
        I will submit that “shootout” in any context i can think of right off hand has a purely negative connotation.
        Riot on the otherhand is a more ambiguos word as it may have arguable legitimate socio-political attributes.(file under: Haymarket Square etc)

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          I think riot is the right word for some of the events in Baltimore and Ferguson.

          But last I checked, 9 people didn’t die in either riot, and so to frame Waco as a “brawl” (connotation: “bar brawl”) is just wrong. What not just “fracas”?

          One can, after all, generate a moral panic and bloviate endlessly about riots, but a brawl? Na. “Shootout” would have been a lot better.

  20. Jackrabbit


    The Cooler has now become a part of my weekday routine. Fattening my brain with savory intellectual goo, while chewing up precious minutes of my day.

    At least with the morning antidote I could rope in some friends with adorable animal pics. But the Cooler is just a guilty pleasure – so far. Could you, maybe TRY to find some cool bugs on those plants, Lambert? Please?

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I can ask, but I like keeping the distinction between plants and animals crisp. And come on… Who doesn’t like a guilty pleasure? Maybe you need to adjust your pitch ;-)

      1. Optimader

        Venus flytrap…. Flora’s Man Bites Dog breakout attempt from being just another plant.
        If there was a god, they vould grow like dandelions and eat their bodyweight in mosquitos everyday.

Comments are closed.