2:00PM Water Cooler 6/1/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this will be a little light; it took me longer than I expected to struggle in and then out of my yellow waders for Covered California.



“Marylanders don’t like O’Malley, so why would the rest of America?” [FiveThirtyEight].


Sanders draws crowds in Iowa City [Press Citizen]. 400 caucus goers. And 300 in Kensett (pop. 240) [New York Times]. I’m told that Kucinich drew in the tens.

Chris Cilizza: “Do you feel the Bernie-mentum?” [WaPo]. Headline: “Bernie Sanders: So hot right now.” They’ll start pulling the wings off this particular fly soon, but for now, enjoy.

“The Sanders Trap” [Jacobin].

“Bernie Sanders can’t win: Why the press loves to hate underdogs” [Columbia Journalism Review].

The S.S. Clinton

“The former secretary of state plans to kick off the heavy-rhetoric stage of her campaign on June 13. I can’t say where or what time because the senior officials wouldn’t say” [CNBC]. Hilarious visit to the Brooklyn Bunker.

Clinton has locked up a lot of super-delegates [CNN]. Now if only they stay locked.

Republican Principled Insurgents

Rubio won’t compete in the Iowa straw poll either [Politico]. Fading influence of the Christian Right; Christians declining as a percentage of the population is part of that, but the Bush administration was explicitly Christian, and they drove the country into a ditch; it’s hard to think that didn’t have an influence here.

“[Rand Paul] gets to notch a win this morning after his blockade in the Senate halted the renewal of the National Security Agency’s authority to collect telephone metadata, starting at midnight last night” [NBC]. Better than a slap in the belly with a wet fish, I suppose. But see today’s Links for the kayfabe; not complete, but definitely there. Optimistically, this is baby steps.

Walker maintains 7-point lead in Iowa [Des Moines Register]. He stomps Democrats!

Republican Clown Car

“Unmarried” Lindsay Graham throw his talking head retirement plan into the ring [ABC]. Graham: “Simply put, radical Islam is running wild. They are large, they are rich, they’re entrenched. As president I will make them small, poor and on the run.”

Huckabee: “We are criminalizing Christianity in this country. We cannot stand by silently” [Los Angeles Times]. So when has Huckabee ever been silent about anything?

How and why the Republicans could steal the Democrats clothes on immigration [Wall Street Journal].  “Democrats’ inability to implement immigration reform presents Republicans with an opportunity.” Na ga happen. Converting obstruction into policy isn’t a Republican specialite de maison.

19 candidates seems like rather a lot:

However, the real reason this tweet fascinates me is that I can’t find it via Google (in, I grant you, only a few minutes searching). I notice it’s on a cell. Could I have encountered my first case of material from a walled garden visible nowhere on the web? Readers?

The Hill

“Did Hastert break the law?” [Politico].

“How Dennis Hastert made a fortune in land deals” [WaPo]. The real scandal.

Stats Watch

Readers, we’re going to begin tracking European bond spreads in peripheral countries, since increasing yields are a good indicator that Mr. Market fears contagion from a Greek default. An alert reader helpfully provided this chart:


Portugal, a peripheral country, is highlighted: It’s yield is already high, and note the upward squiggle. (Greece is already insanely high, and didn’t jump so much.) Mr. Market isn’t having a sad, but his mood isn’t exactly sunny, either. Similar dynamics appeared in the previous crisis.

Personal Income and Outlays, April 2015: “The consumer started off the second quarter slowly, putting income into savings and not spending”  [Bloomberg]. “Consumer spending was unchanged in April with deep declines in spending on both durable and nondurable goods, down 0.7 percent and down 0.5 percent respectively, offset by another incremental increase in spending on services of plus 0.2 percent.” “This noisy data series came in mixed. The data this month showed relatively strong income growth, but consumers decided not to spend it” [Econinterect]. Weak start to Q2.

PMI Manufacturing Index, May 2015: “Growth in new orders is the weakest in 16 months” because strong dollar, no exports [Bloomberg]. “Employment is this report continues to run at a much stronger pace than actual manufacturing employment which is flat.”

ISM Manufacturing Index, May 2015:  “[M]odestly positive” [Bloomberg]. “Contraction in export orders has been pulling down total orders in many reports but exports were unchanged at 50.0 in this report.” “This is the 29th month of expansion” (chart) [Econintersect].

Construction Spending, April 2015: “[S]howing life” [Bloomberg]. “The gain here is no surprise and follows April’s big surge in housing starts & permits.” Growth decelerates month-on-month but is up year-on-year [Econintersect]. “The deceleration was due to a 1.5% additional growth in the previous month (backward revision).”

Class Warfare

Chicago armored truck workers fired for participating in Fight for 15 drive. [In These Times].

News of the Wired

  • Coding explained in 25 comics [Medium].  Fun!
  • Woman throws away Apple I computer worth $200,000 [Japan Times].
  • R.I.P. Dave Sweet, inventor of the modern foam surfboard [Los Angles Times].
  • In praise of Shadows [Brain Pickings].
  • Dow pesticide still used in California, despite scientists’ warnings [Reveal].
  • Skiddo, the movie: A trailer [YouTube].
  • Cops shoot pastor while trying to rescue him from floodwaters [Daily Mail].
  • Chris Hedges: Karl Marx was right [Truthdig]. Well, not about everything.
  • “Your kid and my kid are not playing in the pros” [Nuvo].

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, and (c) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant, the first of Gardens, Week Five (alex):


On the other side of the fence…

Readers, the weekend’s discussion for “Open Thread on Water” was terrific. So many interesting projects! Please, send me pictures of your projects, at least if plants are involved, and when aren’t they? If only of maple twirlers in gutters!

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


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

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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. gene

    It took me a second to realize the O’M is O’Malley’s logo (I think.) O’M g. Too cute. ommmmmm

    1. John Merryman

      O’Malley is Maryland’s version of third way politics, but it’s more lack of imagination, than corruption. Maryland is DC’s backyard, so you just have to stand to the side and let it all happen. The money flows.
      Think ball boy at Wimbledon.

  2. optimader

    RE: “Did Hastert break the law?” [Politico].
    …Hastert surely has some explaining to do…
    I think he needs to come clean on who expropriated the fried chicken recipe.

    Hastert was uncle to and his son, Bob Hastert, Jr., was the first cousin of former Speaker of the House Rep. J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL).[5] Bob Jr., who had converted an industrial-sized hospital autoclave into an outsized pressure cooker for the restaurant’s unique method of cooking the chicken, took over the operation of the restaurant after his father’s death in 1998… The restaurant’s famous fried chicken recipe was added to the menu during the 1950s by Bob Hastert, Sr., who, by his granddaughter’s admission, told the chicken recipe origin story several different ways at different times and may have just as easily borrowed the recipe from someone else as brought it with him from Harmony House.[2]


  3. James Levy

    The article in Jacobin annoyed and irritated me for a couple of reasons (the smug shots at George McGovern among them), but what really bugged me in this latest “four legs good, two legs bad” attack on Sanders from the Left is the last paragraph:

    For those who want to build a stronger left in the US, there is no substitute for the work — however slow and painstaking it might be — of building social movements and struggles at the grassroots and of organizing a political alternative independent of the Democratic Party.

    Sounds great: where’s the money going to come from to feed, clothe, and house these brave cadres in 2015 America? And if, as he says, Bernie can’t win so why waste our time with him, how in hell are we going to grow and sustain a movement well to the Left of Sanders that has any traction? Perhaps I’m nuts, but I think it more likely that we can march Left rather than leap Left. I think the best we can hope for is getting people like Sanders elected so that they can become the new normal that we can then critique from their Left, thus driving the debate in our direction. This Blanqui/Leninist ideal of jumping from the bourgeois here-and-now into the socialist utopia is really just a canard. The process of getting where we want to go will be slow and painstaking, all right, but if it’s going to work it will have to move through the real world of persuading people and winning small victories that convince them that greater victories are possible.

    1. PhilK

      I agree with what you’re saying, but if they gave up on advocating for a Long Leap to the Left, they’d have to change their name to Girondist, and that doesn’t have quite the same panache.

    2. Eureka Springs

      I didn’t read it as an attack on Sanders at all, but raising serious questions with glimpses in the fifty year bygone mirror for his supporters to take heed – warning the so-called left cat herding which always defaults to the mainstream Demo party for another beating. As for needing money for a movement I hear ya but I left the demo party for free! Ain’t going back, certainly not for money or because of Sanders. If Sanders refused to become a Democrat and said he could never in good conscious endorse or vote for Clinton I might have taken him seriously for at least a little while on non-MIC issues anyway. He loves MIC way too much to be my kind of left.

      The system is completely broken, criminals are still in charge! Sanders believes in the system, wants to negotiate with/as Dem criminals just like Pres zerO wants to negotiate with Republican criminals. Ask yourself, what’s the definition of insanity again?

      1. CB

        Concur. I may very well pull the Sanders tab in the primary just to annoy the NJ christicrats, but that’s it. I’m still not convinced hillary is inevitable and, in any case, she lost me back when.

        Does anyone else remember John B Anderson?

      2. jrs

        It’s a good question, what should serve as a warning sign against a candidate (if Israel or MIC issues are too precious). Perhaps some people’s first skepticism of Obama was about economics, I doubt it was for many. For some it was FISA. For me it was in the post primary debates when he said he would draw down the war in Iraq only to ramp it up in Afghanistan. He lost me there.

        I don’t see the presidency as a small victory. It’s aiming for the bleachers. And probably not doable just because of the sheer money involved. Where is the money going to come from for that?

        1. vidimi

          for me it was in the campaigns when he was breaking contribution records from wall street and other mega corps. the writing was clearly on the wall.

          1. steviefinn

            Ah the Left – in the UK they are about as useful as tits on a bull, which is probably just as well as the media might have difficulty coming up with a redness to compare with the red they designated for very very pale pink Milliband. Might have to resort to extremists, political terrorists or whatever. Not to worry though, they are doing good work for the elites by fighting amongst their various labelled groups, while slagging everybody else off.

            The Judean people’s front in ‘ Life of Brian ‘ sums most of them up.

    3. Oregoncharles

      Where is the money going to come from – or the human time and energy? From the Sanders campaign, of course.

      Crucially, the Democratic Party, famously, is where lefty/liberal/progressive movements go to die. That is its function in the 2-Party: co-optation. People have been trying this for at least 30 years, and they’ve “gone to die” since the McGovern campaign – which was sabotaged by the party functionaries. Keeping control is far more important to them than winning any particular election.

      If the energy and money that have gone into those “outsider” campaigns had instead gone into building a real alternative, we’d have a huge, “viable” new party by now. As it is, we’ve done pretty well, considering. The Green Party is viable in basic technical terms – Jill Stein was on 85% of ballots, more than enough to win the Electoral College.

      Lamber, bless him, has been suggesting that we focus on the issues. That’s what we normally do, of course – here’s the platform: http://www.gp.org/what-we-believe/our-platform. But at this point, after some thought, I think strategy IS the real issue. Something new competes directly with something old. It isn’t until millions of people break loose from the old reflexes, that you exhibit above, that we’ll have any hope of changing direction – and at this point, our very survival depends on it.

      But at this point millions of dollars that could serve ” to feed, clothe, and house these brave cadres in 2015 America?” – are going into a flagrantly, despite the denials, Quixotic attempt to get the Democratic party to nominate a non-Democrat. I don’t know or care whether Sanders MEANS to be a sheepdog, but i think Dixon is absolutely right: that is the inevitable upshot of his efforts.

      In the end, he’ll only drive the Democrats yet further to the right, like all those other efforts.

      And in the meantime, the one real alternative we’ve got debates the use of every damn dime while we’re trying to build a real campaign for next year (Yes, probably Jill Stein – if you have a better suggestion, the party would be glad to hear it.)

      We all know where we stand on the issues, and we know Sanders is just barely adequate, with a track record of caving. At this point, it’s all about strategy. We need a completely new one. The old one, exemplified by Sanders’ run, is a proven disaster.

      1. Carolinian

        I agree with everything you say and have voted Green in the past. But if Nader is willing to give Sanders the benefit of a doubt then perhaps we all should–at least until it becomes clearer what is really going on.

        The truth is there may be very little that the grass roots can do to shift the current political landscape until “extend and pretend” plays itself out and the elites begin to realize the jig is up. So Sanders may shake things up a bit. I do find the “sheepdog” theory to be dubious. People can support Sanders now, switch to the Greens later. Of course if Sanders were later to try to bring his voters over to Hillary that would be a betrayal but as has always been true it is up to the voters themselves to make better choices. Can’t blame it all on the politicians.

        1. Oregoncharles

          I generally just ask people what they’re going to do when Sanders doesn’t get the nomination. Vote for Hillary?

          But we’d have a stronger party and campaign if those same people had been helping us all along, instead of being suckered into a hopeless contribution to the Democrats.

    1. Kim Kaufman

      Don’t remember if I posted this here, excuse if I have. Adam Schiff, my congress critter, sent me a form letter on Friday saying he’s voting against fast track. We have hammered him from his district. Keep calling your Critter!

  4. EmilianoZ

    Chris Hedges quotes Marx:

    No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have been developed; and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore, mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since looking at the matter more closely, we always find that the task itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist, or are at least in the process of formation.

    If that’s true, we’re in trouble. The first condition, that capitalism has exhausted its resources, seems to be fulfilled. But the second, that an alternative already exists, is nowhere in sight. All the means of production are still firmly in the hands of the oligarchy. If we tried to develop an alternative, it would probably be crushed by the 1% using the full powers of the state. By crushing all alternatives, capitalism can probably extend its shelf-life for a very long time. The environment will probably collapse before we even start to develop a political alternative.

    1. sufferin'succotash

      Don’t worry, the alternative to oligarchical capitalism is already in sight. It’s oligarchical neofeudalism.

    2. Alan Smithee

      But don’tcha see? That’s why we all have to support the least-worst-evil. So we can have incremental hope for change we can believe in. Remember, anyone who doesn’t support Bernie-mentum is just a dirty greenie Marxist in the pay of Karl Rove!

    3. Carolinian

      What I was going to say. Reading Hedges peroration it seems Marx was right about just about everything except how to get out of this mess. A bit scary. However I like

      Marx, as Meghnad Desai wrote, was “an astronomer of history, not an astrologer.”

      Here’s for optimism that humanity will once again pull its chestnuts out of the fire (after much disaster no doubt). In that vein the NYT this morning had a look back at Paul Ehrlich who in 1968’s The Population Bomb said that overpopulation could cause world starvation and collapse by the 1970s.


      Food scientists proved him wrong and his predictions about population were wrong too. Clearly more astrologer than astronomer. Doomers take note.

    4. horostam

      But the second, that an alternative already exists, is nowhere in sight

      this is a minor (and possibly BS) technicality… but in Marx (coming from Hegelianism) a thing doesn’t have to be “in sight” for it to “exist.” Social changes happen in ways that we can only be aware of in hindsight, not (necessarily) the result of any plan. Call it subconscious.

      i think of the silicon valley libertarians who, in the name of freedom and capitalism, engage in genuine profit sharing, without a clue…

    5. LifelongLib

      Large landowners (proto-feudal lords) were a big part of the late Roman Empire, just as merchants (proto-capitalists) were a big part of the late medieval economy. Like you I wonder who their equivalent is now, if there is one (although horostam raises an interesting possibility).

      1. Jack

        Roman latifundia existed throughout much of the Republican era and through the entirety of the Empire period. I don’t think they can be seen as emblematic of late-stage anything.

        1. LifelongLib

          I’m not contending they were emblematic, but they were an important part of their economies and took over when the larger structures they were a part of failed. Who is their equivalent today?

          1. CB

            My reading(unlike Shirley MacLaiine, I have no memory of being there) is that yrs after the center crumbled, the provinces held onto a credible semblance of order and peace; and with the violent movements of Western and Eastern peoples pushing and shoving around the Roman provinces, the “empire” looked a haven of tranquility and prosperity.

            1. hunkerdown

              Of course it’s more relaxing when the Empire will not only hold your prey down for you but keep the reserve well-stocked for you too. As an Obama spox once said of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the provinces should have chosen a better father.

    6. John Merryman

      The financial system is sucking all possible value out of the very economic structure on which it is based. It’s like fat clogging the arteries and the response, QE, is like high blood pressure to overcome it, but it isn’t getting much more circulation back out to the extremities of the economy, as much as just piling up more fat in the arteries.
      There was a time when government, the central nervous system of society, was private, aka monarchy, but when they lost sight of their larger civil function and became more trouble then they were worth, government got “socialized” and there are not many monarchists left wanting to go back.

      When this all does blow up, we are all going to be Greeks wanting/having to go back the drachma of local voucher systems.

      A monetary system based on public debt has to return rents back to the public, in order to be stable. One where they go to private hands and mostly get lent back to the public, at interest, is not stable.

      The powers that be are quite busy shooting themselves in the foot and we have no other serious option than to let them do it.

      1. hunkerdown

        There were periods in history where most people never laid eyes on the coin of the realm, let alone fingers. Why does the monetary system have to be stable, if most people won’t be full actors within it? Which seems to be the solution the ruling class is setting up, based on such as the rapidly self-isolating ruling caste, the renunciation of accountability and delegation of risk downward, the war on cash, and the accelerating status and privileges of generalist management.

        Why bargain with the little people about cash when you can rearrange society such that they’re born owing you their very lives and you’ve got an absolute right to collect? If it’s good enough for Foxconn…

        1. John Merryman

          Their model is falling apart. As my father, an old cattleman put it, you can’t starve a profit.

  5. Oregoncharles

    “Bond spreads in peripheral country” – you’re assuming we understand what “bond spreads” are and what they mean.

    I know I’ve seen an explanation, but I don’t understand it. We could use a refresher course.

    1. vidimi

      in lay terms, it’s the difference between bond yields of country a and country b, b usually being german bunds.

      it’s a useful measure for the eurozone where all countries share the same currency, with the spread therefore manifesting mr market’s perception of default likelihoods.

  6. Oregoncharles

    ” 18 Democratic Representatives who are leaning towards voting in favor of Trade Promotion Authority (fast track) for TPP, TTIP, and as yet unknown toxic trade deals.”

    THREE from Oregon. The Pacific Green Party is preparing spoiler campaigns against them, too (as well as Wyden). I think I’ll call them and tell them so.

    Amazing, how neoliberal the Oregon Dems really are. Merkley and DeFazio are the only holdouts – so far.

  7. sleepy

    Kensett, Iowa, is a tiny town of 200 or so just south of the Minnesota border, about 15 miles north of me. I had absolutely no idea Sanders was speaking there. Wish I’d heard about it.

    In 08 everyone thought Iowa was in the bag for Hillary then too at this point. We’ll see what happens.

  8. mk

    Huckabee: “We are criminalizing Christianity in this country. We cannot stand by silently” [Los Angeles Times]. So when has Huckabee ever been silent about anything?
    By Christianity, does he mean the likes of that family on TLC of which one of their family members is an admitted sex offender, (I think the guy’s name is Josh and Huckabee is defending him in public)? How dare we criminalize that kind of Christianity, the kind that forgives the perpetrators and blames the victims. No wonder kids are rejecting religion….

    1. hunkerdown

      The bulk of apparent insanity in the USA traces back to LARP, not the great American pastime, but apparently the only one.

      Look, do you want Krishna, or was it Shiva, or was it Kali, to wake up and the world to end? No? Then play along, and quietly! ;)

      (Or, just throw octopi on the ice at inopportune moments and watch them struggle to stretch the prescribed narrative to fit…)

    1. CB

      Listen, a couple of yrs ago, I was invited, bless me, to a NJ dem party meet and greet barbecue, $75 a person, somewhere in the middle of the state. Guess I should have thanked my lucky stars NJ is a fairly small state, eh? I was blown away that whoever huckstered the affair thought $75 reasonable until I realized that every party dem in NJ would ante up just to see and be seen, price of the ticket to ride, as it were.

      What price glory, I ask you.

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