2:00PM Water Cooler 5/5/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


Food sovereignty: “The widely popular Country of Origin Labeling law, supported by ranchers and consumers alike, is now the victim of a NAFTA trade dispute before the World Trade Organization. The WTO may fine the U.S. for enforcing our labeling law. TPP endangers our ‘Made in Montana’ labels” [Great Falls Tribune]. And you can bet that goes for every other product that uses local branding. This is another talking point that resonates on both left and right. Use it!

Strange bedfellows: Senator Jeff Sessions opposes TPP for five reasons [The New American]. Two overlap with the critique from the left:

1. Consolidation of Power in the Executive Branch.

3. Ceding Sovereign Authority to International Powers.

So those are the points to reinforce with your Congress critter — or that cousin you can’t talk to.

Support, USA Today: “It’s time for the U.S. to set aside petty concerns and stand up for its strategic interests. The Trans-Pacific Partnership shouldn’t even be a close call” [USA Today]. Under the door in every hotel room in America…

Support, Democrats: “It’s been tough to pinpoint a number of Democratic supporters — many have kept their powder dry through the debate — but experts on and off Capitol Hill put the number somewhere between 15 and 30” [The Hill].
Support, Democrats: “Since Obama was elected in 2008, the share of Democrats who view trade as an opportunity has risen from 36 percent to 61 percent, according to Gallup” [FiveThirtyEight]. Interesting on the shift of the Democratic base away from manufacturing.

Wall Street Journal/NBC poll: 37 percent of adults polled last month said that free trade with foreign countries had helped the U.S., compared with 31 percent who said free trade had hurt. “But that is a turning point: it marks the first time in more than 15 years that a plurality of Americans said that free trade helped” [Politico].

Secrecy, Lloyd Doggett (D): ““My chief of staff who has a top secret security clearance can learn more about ISIS or Yemen than about this trade agreement” [Politico]. And Keith Ellison (D): “[Obama’s] indignant when we say it’s secret Maybe there’s some definition of secrecy he knows that I don’t know.” Which would be standard operating procedure, actually.

Secrecy, Japanese Diet may get access to TPP text before deal, “in keeping with what the Obama administration is doing for the U.S. Congress” [Japan Times]. Everybody but the voters, eh? And:

[Yasutoshi Nishimura, senior vice minister of the Cabinet Office] said the fate of the next round of ministerial talks on the TPP planned for May 26 to 28 in the Philippines will hinge on whether the U.S. Congress can pass a key bill by then that could help speed up the talks. “It would be difficult” to hold the next ministerial talks if things go wrong with the bill for so-called trade promotion authority, Nishimura said.

Even I know what “difficult” means in Japanese diplo-speak. OTOH, now Japan was US agreement and support for offensive war, makingi them somewhat less of a military protectorate. Maybe that’s what they really care about, and — as the rice farmers and kobe beef dudes would live — the TPP can go off in a corner and die a quiet death in Japan? Optimism!

“But the biggest [Latin American] losers would be Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela, and other countries that have relied on commodity exports, and that badly need to diversify their exports to grow in the long term” [Desert Sun]. “Economists tend to agree that, within Latin America, Mexico would be among the most to benefit from the proposed agreement. Mexico is highly integrated into the U.S. economy.” Just like NAFTA….

“Broadly speaking, the TPP reflects the U.S. commitment to markets with a limited role for government in the economy” [Brookings (#eventheliberals)]. Well, unless reinforcing monopolies in intellectual property, of course. To be fair, the ISDS does “limit” the role of government. By gutting it.

Reid deking McConnell and McConnell is ticked [The Hill]. Machiavelli vs. Machiavelli.


“14 Things You Should Know About Bernie Sanders” [Newsweek]. Not bad.

Over Sanders career, “the vast majority of his funds come from individuals, and also (at least recently) from small donors — those who give $200 or less [Open Secrets].

Sanders on the banks [WaPo]. Good quote:

I do not believe that Congress has the capability of regulating Wall Street. I believe that Wall Street regulates the Congress and that you gotta break these guys up

The S.S. Clinton

Clinton fundraising in Silicon Valley [Politico]. “Clinton hasn’t articulated a specific tech agenda, but many industry insiders believe she’s on the same page as them.” “I serve as a blank screen”?

Clinton campaign launches “fact-checking website” to counter Schweitzer oppo book [New York Times].

Bill Clinton gave 542 speeches between 2001 and 2013 and made $104.9 million [WaPo]. “I gotta pay our bills,” says the Big Dog. Wait, that quote is about the Foundation, not the speeches. So the Foundation pays the bills, and not the speeches? Confusing!

Republican Principled Insurgents

“Two career prosecutors–one a Republican, one a Democrat–just called Scott Walker a liar, and not a single national newspaper took notice” [HuffPo]. Yes, Walker’s criminal investigation is still rolling along in the background. Walker’s got brass ones, for sure.

Scott Walker, on the trail in Michigan, on the 2011 State Capitol Occupations: “We had death threats. We had nonsense. We had protesters not just at the capitol, in front of our actual family home” [Michigan Live]. He’ll keep repeating this, but AFAIK, all of this (except for maybe “nonsense”) is from the personal testimony of Scott Walker. Somebody should ask him if he ever asked for a police investigation of the so-called death threat, and, if so, what the result was.

Scott Walker stomps Democrats: “We went from all Democratic control, to all Republican control, much like you did here” [Free Press].

Rubio gets “notable bounce” in support since entering the race. [Wall Street Journal, “WSJ/NBC Poll: Marco Rubio Most Broadly Acceptable Candidate for GOP Voters”]. So I guess that speech works.

Republican Establishment

“Jeb Bush sends out Happy Cinco de Mayo message en Español” [WaPo].

Republican Clown Car

“The bipartisan legislation on Chris Christie’s desk on Monday was designed to stop New Jersey public officials from delivering lucrative pension deals to their campaign contributors. Gov. Christie vetoed the bill” [David Sirota, International Business Times].

Relentlessly trivial Ben Carson coverage [WaPo]. Thanks, Internet!

On the day Carly Fiorina was fired, Hewlett-Packard’s stock jumped 6.9% [CNN]. And for good reason [Bloomberg].

Mike Huckabee’s post-FOX life — he’s now officially in the race — includes “the 10,900-square-foot beachfront mansion he built on Florida’s Panhandle, worth more than $3 million” [Politico]. I don’t think that will resonate; he’s just livin’ the dream. And reading the quotes, Huckabee is smooth like old Bourbon. But how many Democratshas he stomped lately? Clinton’s Arkansas was a long time ago.

A non-soporific Elizabeth Drew article [New York Review of Books].

[G]rowing dangers to a democratic election, ones that could decide the outcome, are being essentially overlooked. The three dangers are voting restrictions, redistricting, and loose rules on large amounts of money being spent to influence voters. In recent years, we’ve been moving further and further away from a truly democratic election system.

Yes, and one proxy for this is that nobody, but nobody, mentions Jebbie trying to help steal Florida 2000 for his brother. The whole topic has been airbrushed away.

Stats Watch

International Trade, March 2015: “First-quarter GDP, barely above zero at plus 0.2 percent, may move into the negative column on revision following a much higher-than-expected March trade deficit of $51.4 billion” [Bloomberg]. “Today’s report offers stark evidence of how much the port strike really did impact the economy.”

Gallup US Economic Confidence Index, April 2015: “Gallup’s U.S. economic confidence index was minus 9 for the week ending May 3 — its lowest weekly score since December” [Bloomberg]. Many factors over-determine: Gas up, stocks sketchy, GDP reports.

Redbook, week of May 2, 2015: Easter distortions have held down readings for the three reports [Bloomberg]. Mother’s Day is “May’s first shopping event.” Then Memorial Day (planting in Maine!). Mosler comments: “Still blaming the Easter Bunny” [Mosler Economics].

PMI Services Index, April 2015: “Strong,” which “underscores the strength of the domestic economy” [Bloomberg].

ISM Non-Manufacturing Index, April 2015: “[E]xtended its strong and unusually stable trend,” pointing to a “rebound” [Bloomberg]. “New Orders are very strong, at 59.2, as are backlog orders, at 54.5 which is unusually strong for this reading. Strong orders point to future hiring which is already very strong,”

Health Care

“The remarkable thing is that Republican ideologues could, right now, be taking a huge victory lap with the apparent success of ObamaCare. All they had to say was: ”[T]his is really RomneyCare.’ But they didn’t” [Brad DeLong]. Neither party can admit it!

“Pioneer Model Saved Medicare Nearly $400 Million in Two Years” [Wall Street Journal]. Chump change, beside single payer. And aren’t ACOs (the “Pioneer Model”) rebranded HMOs?

U.K. election

Handy interactive map [Bloomberg]. We live in a Golden Age of data visualization….

Class Warfare

“Hamptons summer rentals approach $2M mark” [The Real Deal]



Black Injustice Tipping Point

The fruits of government-sponsored housing segration [EPI]. Important!


Foam in Pennsylvania waters linked to fracking [Post Gazette].

News of the Wired

  • “What I think of the Apple Watch after using it for one week — and what people are getting wrong about it” [Business Insider].
  • DOJ’s new FOIA fees [Sunlight Foundation]. Charging the people to get at the data they already own.

* * *

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 (Michael):


A fig tree. One of the more pleasant mud season moments is looking up and seeing branches with buds against the sky….

I’d like more pictures of people’s gardens. As this image very clearly shows, they don’t have to be pretty!

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. It’s the soil, seeds, Fedco Tree sale, and planting 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. diptherio

    “Maybe there’s some definition of secrecy he knows that I don’t know.”

    The definition of secrecy is strictly classified…

  2. different clue

    If you are talking to that cousin you “can’t talk to” . . . call it Obamatrade. And keep calling it Obamatrade.
    ” If you like Obamacare, you’ll love Obamatrade. Oh . . . you don’t like Obamacare? Then why would you like Obamatrade any better?”

  3. different clue

    I envision a clever button, or maybe two.

    One says Obamatrade and has the universal circle-slash symbol for NO drawn over it.

    One says Obamatrade and in front of the “O” in Obamatrade is a big red “hand-painted style” letter N.
    So it ends up saying NObamatrade.

    If anyone thinks those could really be useful counter-campaign buttons, feel free to use them. I copyleft them.

    1. frosty zoom

      well, well done.

      however, the use of the word “trade” is unhelpful. this term ultimately could convince enough people.

      perhaps “obamasgonnaselloutwhatsleftofamericaandcanadaandjapanandsingaporeandaustralia(andtherest..)* would be a better term.

      *(perhaps they’ll get credits in later seasons)

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        “Many Democrats have kept their powder dry during the debate”
        Paraphrased as:
        Many “Democrats” have kept their powder dry during the “debate”
        If this statement doesn’t say everything you need to know about our 1-party system, nothing will. How can someone calling themselves a “Democrat” line up for something that is so utterly and completely anti-citizen and pro-global mega-capital? And why is there even the term “debate”? It’s like “debating” the nuances of an axe murder, “oh was it a glancing blow or a straight downward chop…maybe it wasn’t so bad after all”.
        Total purge is the only thing that will work.

        1. Barmitt O'Bamney

          Indeed what is under discussion with Obamatrade represents a betrayal of the nation on a par with treason during wartime. There should be no debate – aside from the question of whether life in prison for the conspirators is a punishment fitting the enormity of their crime.

    2. Brindle


      —OBAMA to Letterman on the TPP deal: “The idea here is you lock them into higher standards, strong labor protections, banning child labor, making sure they are not engaging in polluting activities and that way we’ve got an even playing field … And it’s gonna be important partly because China is out there competing in these areas and if we don’t write the rules they are going to be out there writing them.”—

      I’ve noticed “even the playing field” or “level the playing field” is probably the administration’s go to phrase regarding TPP. It implies an injustice being done against the USA–the super-power under siege by the rest of the world, plays well to the rubes.

      1. ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

        Thank you! I don’t know how that happened, I used the linkie tool…

        1. hunkerdown

          URLs must be complete, starting with the scheme (http or https). Otherwise, your browser deems them part of the site it sees them on, i.e. NC.

  4. Anon

    Re: Brad DeLong

    I seem to be confused here, especially with all of the talk on here and Corrente of how bad the law is. Was there a turnaround that I’m unaware of or something?

    1. nippersdad

      Just my take, but “success” is in the eyes of the beholder.

      A whole lot more people are insured, but nowhere near as many as the “universal” terms used in the sales pitch implied. A whole lot more people can now receive healthcare, but it is not as cost effective in the macro sense, individually affordable or of such high quality as it could have been. All that it was criticized for has come to pass, but that does not mean that it was a total failure. As with Romneycare in Massachusetts, it is also not working as planned and, thus, holds the seeds for further “necessary improvements” if it is to meet its’ mandate for corporate profits in the future; E.G., we are already hearing rumblings that insurance companies could go broke, or be bypassed altogether. Not what they wrote the plan for, obviously.

      So, everything is relative, and that would include the mediocre successes that the ACA has been touted for.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      On the level of political gamesmanship, to watch Democrats pretend that ObamaCare is not RomneyCare, and for the Republicans to scream “Socialism!!!!!” (wheel in the fainting couch; cue the clutching of pearls) must surely prompt a sense of grim hilarity in any seasoned observer; without, however, affecting the underlying suckitude of the policy, which has condemned many thousands to death.

  5. dSquib

    It would have been of no benefit at all for Republicans to take ownership of Romney/Obamacare, and if the program runs into greater problems or positive outcomes reverse themselves it would make them look bad.

    And Republican ideologues don’t like Romney.

  6. dk

    Has anyone made the connection between the “TPP creates U.S. jobs” claim and income inequalities?

    Creating low-wage jobs is tantamount to increasing wage disparity. NAFTA already showed us how wage competition in the global market keeps (or is an excuse for keeping) wages low or drives wages down. Historically, tariffs may function to equalize wage disparities between economies, but “free trade” translates to either no tariffs or tariffs based on geopolitical rather than geo-economic criteria (lots of alternative aways to argue this, but basically, “free trade” is code for “flat global economy”, with a lot of profit-taking along the way).

    While income disparities remain high, it’s hard to calculate that any increase in national gain would reach far past those closest to the firehose (see also, “trickle down”).

    Obama et al would have an easier sell on TPP if income issues had been substantially addressed by now. And in all likelihood, altering the wage topology (in the U.S., for starters) would probably create some rethinking of TPP elements (what with it not even being final yet).

  7. gonzomarx

    someone got to ask a question!
    ” a ‘normal’ voter was given access to ask David Cameron a question: “Do you think the UK’s current democracy, crippling voter apathy, is caused by the fact that its Prime Minister, Mayor of the capital, and Chancellor were all in the same class at school?” she asked. “Are all industriously dismantling the nation’s assets and selling them off to their mates? Are all related to banking families and have been proven over and over again to be singularly self-interested in every political decision?””


  8. bwilli123

    Judicial Patent troll smackdown
    …” It’s time for an update on the exploits of Prenda Law, that team of crooked, bumbling copyright trolls that’s been stomped by judges nationwide….
    …Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit heard oral argument in a Prenda case. Prenda’s principals have appealed Judge Wright’s catastrophic May 2013 sanctions order against them. It was worth the long wait for court-watchers — though probably not for Prenda.
    ….I hesitate to armchair-quarterback a lawyer in a tough position. But (attorney for Prenda) Voelker’s damn-the-facts approach didn’t work. It did whatever the opposite of working is. When Judge Tallman asked Voelker about the forged Cooper document, and Voelker was vague and equivocal, Judge Tallman was angry. “Oh come on!” he said, and later: “Was this document delivered by the tooth fairy?” Judge Pregerson was blunter. He called Prenda “sordid” and a “crooked extortion operation,” and said that it “used our court system for illegal purposes, to extort money.” He wasn’t any kinder to Voelker individually. “This is going to be written about for years and years, and you’re going to be part of the story.” Pregerson demanded whether Voelker would be “involved” in any criminal proceeding. “Not necessarily Your Honor,” said Voelker, which is not the way I would have gone with that.
    Pregerson followed with perhaps the most devastating line I’ve ever heard used against a lawyer:

    Pregerson: And you’re a great lawyer.
    Voelker: I appreciate you saying that, Your Honor.
    Pregerson: I mean, it says so, right there on your web site….”


  9. Linda Jansen

    Thought folks might be interested in this analysis of the Dem/Repub donations from pro-Israel billionaires: “The battle between American-Jewish political donors heats up” -http://www.jonathan-cook.net/2015-05-04/the-battle-between-american-jewish-political-donors-heats-up/

    I know Bernie is pro-Israel. Think he’ll get a jingle from these folks?

      1. Susan

        Can that be your fig tree in Maine? I sure hope not. Mine in Cleveland is still sticks. geography. Lat, long, hardiness zone counts when it is a plant, no? Okay – maybe not – random plants whatever the season – send the plants under snow – we can imagine, right?

  10. vidimi

    Support, Democrats: “Since Obama was elected in 2008, the share of Democrats who view trade as an opportunity has risen from 36 percent to 61 percent, according to Gallup” [FiveThirtyEight]. Interesting on the shift of the Democratic base away from manufacturing.

    years of clinton and obama, blair and brown, have proven there is no better way to guarantee a national shift to the right than lesser-evilism. this is for two important reasons:
    1-bipartisan concensus narrows the discussion as important issues fall off the political map
    2-cognitive disonance: though not strictly speaking lesser-evilism because these people are usually true believers, those who vote democrats/labour while holding progressive views on trade, imperialism, labour, etc, quickly internalise their tribe’s policies as they become impossible to reconcile with reality. to see that this is true, ask any self identified democrat how their views have evolved on a number of issues over the last couple of decades and the results will be telling.

  11. vidimi

    Yes, and one proxy for this is that nobody, but nobody, mentions Jebbie trying to help steal Florida 2000 for his brother. The whole topic has been airbrushed away.

    if greg palast is a nobody

Comments are closed.