2:00PM Water Cooler 6/17/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, this Water Cooler will be abbreviated. I have to go down to Augusta (the state capital) to be a warm body at a landfill hearing. –lambert


It ain’t over ’til it’s over, so call your Congress critter. 

Republican leadership considers unbundling TPA from TAA, and sending TPA to the Senate [CNN]. Not that TAA works, but the optics of Senate Democrats heaving working people over the side in an election year are delicious (assuming McConnell needs their votes).

“House GOP leaders booted three conservative members off the whip team for voting against a procedural rule last week that structured how a trade package was brought to the floor” [The Hill]. They’re Reps. Cynthia Lummis (Wyoming), Steve Pearce (New Mexico) and Trent Franks (Arizona); it couldn’t hurt to give them a call, thanking them.

Thumbsucker on TPP [New York Times, “The Trans-Pacific Partnership: Questions and Answers”]. 

Q. It’s so confusing, especially with so many similar-sounding abbreviations. Why couldn’t this all be simpler?

A. Very true. But perhaps Washington politicians are just adapting to the Internet slang common among young people. In 140 characters: Mr. Obama really wants to get T.P.P., but he needs T.P.A. and that requires T.A.A. Democrats like T.A.A. but will kill it to block T.P.A. #LOL

The Times manages to write a FAQ on TPP entirely about parliamentary maneuvering without mentioing policy at all. And I like “It’s so confusing” very: Well-paid Times stenographer, writing an explainer, mocks citizen enquiring about substance. Classic in every way. #smh

Thumbsucker on TPP [Vox]. Crayola-level analysis. Can’t Young Ezra do better with his squillions than this? For example, this:

The secrecy of the TPP negotiating process between the United States and other nations has given critics of the treaty a bit of an unfair advantage. If they make exaggerated claims about the treaty, defenders can’t easily set the record straight.

Without even mentioning a single claim. Maybe the Voxoids have assimilated Obama’s insulting and false claim that Warren is lying, and have reproduced it uncritically?

“Paul Ryan: TPP Will Help U.S. ‘Set The Standards For The Global Economy'” [NPR]. “Nice Polite Republicans.”

“‘The Chinese are delighted because Obama’s problems highlight that America is unpredictable,’ said Dean Cheng, a China specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. ‘And they have large sums of money to throw around'” [Reuters]. Playing the China Card, from somebody on “large sums” of wingnut welfare at Heritage. And the “democracy is unpredictable” line, beloved of despots everywhere!

“What is left of union membership understands that, over the last 20 years, they may have been responsible for their own economic demise by supporting Democrats who pushed through not-so-free trade legislation. The labor union and conservative Republican revolt against Trans-Pacific Partnership could serve as the foundation for a coalition whose defining partisan issue is supporting the interests of American workers” [Breitbart]. I dunno. I think the unions and the right are friends with benefits. I don’t see them moving in together.

“AFL-CIO: 2016 endorsement doesn’t hinge on fast track” [Politico].



“The magic behind the early Sanders surge is not so mysterious: what he says, invariably, is popular with the Democratic base at a time when many feel fatigued by promises of hope and change” [Observer]. Also, picture of Sanders with “human and bovine constituents at the Strolling of the Heifers parade.”

“The self-described democratic socialist from Vermont – who is running for the Democrats’ 2016 presidential nomination, although he is an independent – wants to not just preserve Social Security, but expand it” [US News]. New idea penetrates the hive mind of the political class.

The S.S. Clinton

“Hillary Clinton will call Wednesday for new tax credits for businesses that hire apprentices, drawing on a bipartisan idea for boosting on-the-job training” [Bloomberg]. Nibbled to death by ducks. Wearing school uniforms.

“Create your own Hillary themed avatar” [Hillary Avatar]. Have at it….

“House Democrats say there’s nothing wrong with Bill Clinton getting paid to give speeches while Hillary Clinton runs for president” [The Hill]. Steve Israel: “I don’t believe it’s ever a good idea for Democrats to be creating distractions, and that’s just a distraction.”

Republican Establishment

“Jeb Bush’s Website Code Somehow Contains ‘Die Hard’ Plot Synopsis” [Bloomberg].

Jebbie comes out in favor of torture: “Jeb Bush said Tuesday that the enhanced interrogation techniques deployed by his brother after Sept. 11 attacks were no longer appropriate” [New York Times]. Unsurprising; he’s a big fan of inserting feeding tubes into the helpless.

“[Q]uality, character and class — the thread that runs through my more than 30 years’ exposure to and experience with the Bush family” [Kathleen Parker, WaPo]. I’m sure the court stenographers for the Bourbons felt exactly the same way.

Republican Principled Insurgents

“PPP’s newest national Republican poll continues to find a bunched up race at the top. Scott Walker leads with 17% to 15% for Jeb Bush, 13% for Marco Rubio, 12% for Ben Carson, 11% for Mike Huckabee, 8% for Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, 5% for Carly Fiorina, and 4% for Chris Christie. Small though the lead may be, this is the fourth consecutive national survey we’ve done where we found Walker out in front” [Public Policy Polling].

Republican Clown Car

List of crazypants anti-Trump talking points [Talking Points Memo, of course]. And this is before we even get to the oppo. Still, we live in a world where invading Iraq or blowing wedding parties to pink mist is sane, so there you are.

“Trump’s Fake 2000 Campaign: Gun Bans, Single-Payer Health Care, And Taxes” [Buzzfeed]. I don’t know about “fake,” or at least any more fake than anything else Trump does.

Stats Watch

Portuguese 10-year bonds: “GSPT10YR:IND Yield 3.218; up  0.005  change: 0.16%%  [Bloomberg]. Mr. Market stays calm about contagion.

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of June 12, 2015: “Volatility in interest rates is making for volatility in mortgage applications which fell sharply in the June 12 week” [Bloomberg].


“Swiss Chase 53 Fraud Cases Tied to FIFA” [Daily Beast].

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

New York Senator suggests implanting microchips in prisoners [Capital New York]. Great idea. Start with Senators!


“Missoula wins legal fight to take over Mountain Water Co.” [Missoulian]. Carlyle Group wouldn’t sell, so the City condemned it, and a judge agreed. Montana readers, any thoughts on this socialist takeover?

Class Warfare

How policing works in a privatized city [FEE]. Glibertarian wankfest; they’ve got cities confused with theme parks.

Agnotology Watch

Heritage school in Baltimore throws out hundreds of books in closing. “[English teacher Neil] Rubin said he began grabbing copies of Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” to save from the recycling bin [Baltimore Sun]. Rubin: “Role models don’t throw out books.” That’s what you think.

News of the Wired

Water and bacterial spores can power small engines [WaPo]. Want! (One of them can power a lightbulb. How about recharging my computer?)

“One big problem with Facebook as a platform for news: It deletes things” [Fortune]. Seeing people use Facebook as an organizing tool makes me crazy; never mind where it goes after Facebook *** cough *** NSA Servers in Utah *** cough *** — Why throw your history down the memory hole?

Facebook authentication fail [Burning Bird].

David Brooks gets a factoid wrong. And — hold on to your hats, folks — he keeps repeating it [Salon].

Mathemeticians hoarding Japanese chalk, now going out of production [Gizmodo]. I know people who feel like this about certain pens manufactured in Japan.

The impact of crafting on the global supply chain [Craftstitute].

“If anything is clear, it is that the aging infrastructure of many civilian agencies in Washington magnify the problems the government faces in securing its networks, and OPM’s data breach may just be the biggest one that the government knows about to date” [Ars Technica]. Not like there are any corporate systems written in COBOL… 

“Multinational firm takes aim at Maine farm over trademark dispute” [Bangor Daily News]. “Village Farms is one of the largest growers of greenhouse tomatoes in North America. Village Farm in Freedom cultivates five acres of mixed vegetables and flowers. The Maine farmers did not think that most people would get the two confused.”

* * *

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 (Chuck):


Chuck writes:

This week it is geraniums’ turn to bloom in our south garden. I think the geraniums might be “New Hampshire Purples”. The yellow flowers are English Primrose.

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. I need to keep my server up! And pay the plumber….


(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. Barmitt O'Bamney

      Still that puts Norway head and shoulders above Sweden. If Sweden were as honest they would have told Julian Assange beforehand that they intended to participate in a CIA honeypot scheme to arrest and charge with him with rape for consensual sex. Look to Norway, O Sverige and bow your blond head down in shame!

      1. LifelongLib

        According to a Norwegian friend, Jesus wasn’t born in Norway because God couldn’t find any wise men to the East…

  1. Anon

    So since Facebook deletes stuff now (and it seems to be purely at random), what recourse does anyone have who wants to share stories with friends? Anyone familiar with If This Then That? Also, is that Steve “Sink My Party and Still Get Paid” Israel giving out sound advice?

    1. hunkerdown

      Diaspora semi-failed because what people want is to stay in touch, not install and administer a web app with lots of moving parts. It’s been said, on the other hand, that the quality of conversation among Diaspora users is quite high.

      Heartbeat (ind.ie) is in closed pre-alpha right now, supposed to be open next year sometime? Its founder is moving shop out of the UK because of the Tory victory. Having met him at a conference recently, I think he’s a pretty stand-up guy and has built a decent architecture that’s appropriate for the always-on Internet.

        1. hunkerdown

          You’re most welcome. Beyond their utter disinterest in psychographics and their efforts at building an architecture that doesn’t care — Aral Balkan wins at Conway’s Law — their corporate form (guaranty) as a strategic defense against Google or others taking them home in a doggie bag is particularly intriguing. I don’t know whether that strategy’s workable or not, but it sounds good.

    2. Sam Kanu

      Your “recourse” is to stop patronising Facebook. It is not a public space, it is a private commercial one.

  2. rich

    Wall Street Front Group Pleads for Government Help in New York Times OpEd

    In what can only be described as audacious chutzpah, Wylde explained how the government (meaning taxpayers) needs to reopen its coffers to Wall Street. (Thanks to the bailouts, the U.S. now has $18.5 trillion in government debt with another $4.4 trillion on the books of the Federal Reserve from all that generosity to Wall Street.) As if firmly entrenched in her own Manhattan bubble world, Wylde writes:


    1. abynromal

      my email is blowing up on this…thanks rich:

      ““Yes, Wall Street Needs Help.” We certainly agree. But it’s more along the lines of psychiatric help for having the temerity to ask for a handout for its billionaires when the Coalition for the Homeless reports that the number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping in municipal shelters is 72 percent higher than a decade ago…”

      “They never mention the $16 trillion in “loans” that was reported in the partial FED audit that was given to the bankers back in 2007, many of them were foreign, too. Do you think one penny of that was ever repaid? I still don’t get why nobody ever talks about that. Well, actually I do get it.”

      or derivatives nominal 1,441 Trillion Dollars circling the planet…looking to land


      48.8 million Americans—including 16.2 million children— live in households that lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis. As a result, they struggle with hunger at some time during the year.”

      1. Propertius

        Let’s open our hearts and give them the traditional “three hots and a cot” in the nearest penal institution.

  3. Jess

    Anybody else notice the juxtaposition of the Breitbart and Politico stories? Breitbart talks about unions waking up to the fact that supporting Trade Traitor Dems is the wrong way to go. Politico reports that the AFL-CIO will not require a no vote on fast track to earn its 2016 election endorsement. Just another example of union leadership being grossly at odds with their members.

  4. watt4bob

    “If anything is clear, it is that the aging infrastructure of many civilian agencies in Washington magnify the problems the government faces in securing its networks, and OPM’s data breach may just be the biggest one that the government knows about to date”

    Nothing could be less clear.

    The advent of ‘secret’ back-doors, imposed on hardware and software manufacturers by NSA and other intelligence agencies and their minions seems, with what we know so far, to be a relatively recent development.

    It is not at all clear to me that old code is necessarily less secure code, or that old hardware is less secure than new hardware.

    What can be said for sure, is that either code, or hardware intentionally designed to afford secret access, exclusively to somebody, will almost certainly end up allowing secret access by anybody.

    Our IT systems are not at risk because they are old, they’re at risk, mostly, because those in charge are unwilling to do what is necessary to secure them.

    Build it all, brand new, with hardware and software compromised by the short-sighted efforts of our intelligence agencies, and we’ll be no more secure, and probably much less.

    1. Ed S.

      So not to completely geek out, but didn’t we learn about the dangers of networked computers from Captain Adama?

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      Yes. I should have added something about the miracle of sound engineering that allowed systems written 20 years ago to still perform well today, and that the possibility approaches certainty that today’s requirements were not expressed to the teams that built the software so long ago.

      1. Watt4Bob

        Exactly, and add to that the fact that MBA management style hadn’t yet taken over every corporation and the IT field hadn’t yet been swamped by a tsunami of opportunists chasing high wages as opposed to the genuine passion that was once the signature character trait of computer geeks.

        I’ve been thinking lately that maybe it was this recent influx of mercenaries that produced the current hostile environment that results in less female STEM candidates.

        My point here being that while IT may have reflected the culture’s level of sexism in the 50s-70s, it took the Greed-is-Good generation’s heightened level of agression to convince women that STEM careers weren’t worth the effort.

        That would take some time to document one way or another, but I’d like to point out that Carly Fiorina’s career history all by itself documents both the miserable effects of the MBA hysteria on businesses of all kinds in general, and the degradation of IT industry in particular.

        1. ProNewerDeal

          arrogant incompetent braggart failed US F500 CEOs like Carly Fiorina or Jamie Dimon are insufferable (Jippy Mo (c) Lambert, alongside all the 2B2Fs, are bankrupt without the bailouts. Also scanning google finance, despite the extra amount of bailout welfare privilege most S&P500 companies do not receive, JPM trails the S&P500 VFINX over the last 5 yrs, making Dimon a sub-median flunky among S&P500 CEOs given his stock performance is the key metric, claimed beliefs).

          1 thing that shows me the like of Fiorina are no-talent hacks. This group has massive net worth of $10M+ given their extortionist compensation/looting while CEOs. Thus, if the likes of Fiorina is truly such a CEO genius, why doesn’t she identify & straight-up 100% her-own-cash purchase some promising company that just needs her “superior expertise”? Or startup her own company?

          I do not recall an example of 1 of this arrogant incompetent braggart faction of CEOs ever having done this, bypassing this opportunity to make more money & have better bragging fodder. I hypothesize the skill of this faction is Machiavellian sociopathic office politrickian skills.

  5. curlydan

    After reading the Missoula water article, it seems like the judge made the right call in letting the city take over although it’s hard to know without a lot of the financials. The city offered $50M-$65M (or 6-8 times the 1979 purchase price…the article gave a higher offer amount than what I read in the ruling), and the private owners have been lax in repairing and updating the system while paying out large dividends.

    There are huge repairs needed to get to a standard operating level. The city wants good infrastructure. Private equity could not guarantee it or provide a plan to get there.

    It is in the public good then to claim it. The case, of course, isn’t over. Carlyle probably has too many of these high margin/return entities floating around, so they’ll take it as far as they can go–it’s no doubt good skimmed money for them. But it sure sounds like the judge made a wise ruling.

    1. diptherio

      Thank goddess we won. Well, so far. It was a huge mistake to allow Carlyle to buy it in the first place. Hopefully, we’ll finally get control of our water system and finally get it updated a bit…we’ve still got wooden mains in some parts of town(!)

    2. steelhead23

      What I found interesting was Carlyle’s expressed interest in selling to a Canadian company. I smell NAFTA and an attempt to cow Montana with threats of an ISDS suit under Chapter 11 of NAFTA. The City should seek to enjoin Carlyle from selling Mountain Water immediately.

    3. Mark Anderlik

      Good article. An opinion poll puts Missoulians supporting municipal takeover of the water system at about 70%. That’s about the same percentage of Montana voters who supported a referendum to call for the overturning of the Citizens United decision and for increasing and indexing of Montana’s minimum wage.

    1. curlydan

      In a related announcement: Upon Ken Feinberg’s death, he’ll be relieving St. Peter after Peter’s many hard years of service. He’ll expand the notion of volunteerism and good deeds to include service on corporate Boards of Directors and volunteering for country club events. As with his recent appointment to mediate multi-employer pension cuts, Feinberg will again take no compensation for this challenging assignment.

  6. timbers

    Obama is acting on the law he fought hard to pass….err….didn’t have the voters to stop….and is starting to whack away at pensions because corporate profits:

    “WASHINGTON (AP) — The government is preparing to cut benefits over the next few years for hundreds of thousands of retirees covered by underfunded multi-employer private pension plans.

    The Obama administration announced on Wednesday that well-known mediator Kenneth Feinberg review applications from pension plans under a law passed last year. The law would cut benefits as a last ditch means to stave off insolvency of troubled plans such as the huge Teamsters Central State Fund.”


    Now on to TPP and nuclear war with Russia.

    1. Jagger

      The Cardinals, even with so-so teams, are always in the playoffs. Maybe we now know why. The Cardinals may end up known as the MLB patriots.

    1. Paul Tioxon

      He lost most of them when Lynyrd Skynyrd sang about ole Neil puttin them down in their big hit, “SWEET HOME ALABAMA”. Of course the knuckle heads of dixie didn’t think Watergate bothered them either. But what do you expect from graduates of Robert E. Lee HS. I shit you not. Apparently they took exception to the Neil Young songs, “SOUTHERN MAN” and of course, the real slap in the face “ALABAMA”. Both songs openly decry the inhumanity of bullwhips cracking and hangings. I guess Neil doesn’t realize that after that, his conservative fans would flock to other loud and proud Southern rockers. The republican Clown Limo for Trump should have played Ted Nugent or Kid Rock. They would be enraptured.

      1. ambrit

        Good heavens man. You don’t usually trot out such a narrow definition of Sothron. The knuckle heads of Dixie are just fine associating with the knuckle heads of Nova Scotia and Chicago. The Republican Clown Car will play anything it thinks will gain even one vote. All of the contenders will do that.
        Ted Nugent and Kid Rock? Ted Nugent is from Detroit, Kid Rock from Detroit too. What Confederate state was Detroit a part of? (Not even Harry Turtledove would put Detroit in the Confederacy.)
        It’s all a state of mind, or, as Louisiana once proudly proclaimed, “Louisiana: A Dream State.”

        1. Robert Dudek

          That’s awesome. Were they aware, do you think, of the double or even triple entendre?

        2. Demeter

          A lot of the South moved to the Motor City to find good-paying jobs. They never left, but spread out and interbred with the Bible Belt north and west of the city.

          The result is appalling.

    2. EmilianoZ

      For the present circumstances, the song should probably be updated: “Keep on rockin in the third world”.

      1. ambrit

        Only $1,500 USD? Cheapskates. They can’t even get bribery down right.
        One good thing about Hillary being Sec of State. She did get to visit all those “other” countries and learn firsthand how a third world regime is run. Now she gets to apply those lessons here at home. I’m beginning to think she would look good singing “No me llorar, America,” from the Capitol steps.

  7. Anon

    Found this while on ArsTechnica:

    Uber Drivers Are Employees

    The California Labor Commission has issued a ruling in favor (PDF) of a former Uber employee, ordering the company to reimburse her for costs incurred while driving for Uber. The Commission’s decision says that Uber is liable for these costs because its drivers are employees of the company, something that Uber has been battling to disprove in several courts around the country. As employees, Uber drivers in the state would qualify for minimum wage, overtime, and worker’s compensation. Uber has maintained that its drivers are independent contractors.

    From what I understand of Uber, it’s basically a contractor based cab company that masquerades as a tech company that does the same thing as a taxi service, but without having to abide any of the regulatory barriers that actual taxi drivers have to abide by. Is that right?

      1. Anon

        Now, for Vox’s take on the same ruling:

        The ruling could also harm would-be Uber competitors, especially if it is emulated in other states. Uber is a big enough company that it can easily absorb the costs of complying with labor laws in 50 states. Smaller companies trying to pursue an Uber-like business model might find the administrative burden too much. Ironically, then, the ruling against Uber could provide Uber with a modest barrier against new competitors in the long run.

        And ultimately, the costs of the ruling may be passed on to consumers in the form of higher fares.

        I cringe a little on the inside. The article also mentions that Uber employees provide their own vehicles while omitting the crucial gem that you can lease a vehicle (at a crazy interest rate) from Uber.

    1. jrs

      Fast Track will be voted on TODAY, THURSDAY!!!

      I’m supposed to say something optimistic and stuff I guess but I don’t have it in me …. but yes call congress if you can.

  8. Doug

    Journalistic Capture. ZH paints a pathetic picture:


    “And so, today we finally got a true glimpse of just what “access” financial journalism in the US has truly become: a petty clique in which everyone wants to be an “Andrew Ross Sorkin” access reporter, never daring to ask any important questions, always afraid to challenge either the subject or the status quo, and quite content with irrelevant fluff over actual matter.”

  9. HotFlash

    Lambert, you were wondering about water harvesting in the desert in your Water-themed post. I finally located this video I had seen a while back, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s0gGah_Olvc, in which Jake Mace “The Vegan Athlete” explains how he manages water in his suburban Phoenix AZ perma-farm. I have not been able to re-find his gardening playlist, but it’s amazing what he is doing in a desert suburban lot, they should suggest themselves on youtube. His video on woodchips changed my life!

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