2:00PM Water Cooler 7/27/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, Firefox got the slows at deadline, so I threw in a few more links!


List of traitors in House and Senate, with phone numbers. Hat tip, reader Vatch. Be sure to visit them when they return to the district. If a traitor is mentioned in Water Cooler, their name is in bold.

“Corruption scandal divides Malaysia’s political elite” [East Asia Forum]. Ruling party “UMNO, rather than Najib, will be the main determinant of developments ahead. The party has been split into three camps — those loyal to Najib and his generous patronage; those opposed to him, but hesitant for an open challenge; and those in the middle, waiting to be sure to land on the ‘safe side’, which will protect their political and economic survival. Najib does not command a confident majority, but relies heavily on those in the middle to stay in office.” Well, “generous patronage” and “political and economic survival” both boil down to policies and institutions that would be considered trade barriers under TPP. How do Najib, and this elite collectively, then sign on to TPP?


Readers, I have recategorized this section. I had been filing items in candidate- and party-focused buckets, but I think that’s encouraging people discussing their votes or, worse, proselytizing for candidates or even parties. We have Kos, Reddit, and any number of conservative sites for that. I hope this recategorization encourages discussion of policy and structural issues, though I have to confess I love the human interest of the campaign trail, which is in there too. I’m retaining the Clown Car because the stupid! It b-u-r-r-n-n-n-n-s!!!!!


Clinton releases four-page compaign sheet on climate [Bloomberg].


“According to the Clinton campaign, the clean energy agenda outlined on Sunday would meet the test that environmental mega donor Tom Steyer laid out last week when he called on all candidates to put forward a plan to ramp up renewable and carbon-free energy so that it accounts for more than half of all power generation by 2030” [National Journal]. Ka-ching.

The Voters

Voters leaving Puerto Rico could impact Florida race [WaPo].

“Artificial intelligence can recognize speech patterns that distinguish the parties” [National Journal]. Study is about “words and phrases with the greatest predictive power.” Syntax and stylistics would be far more interesting to hear about.

“Interviews with dozens of the more than 1,000 people who came to see the reality-television star showed they have been drawn to him because of their skepticism of polished politicians” [Wall Street Journal, “Iowans Drawn to Donald Trump Praise His Antiestablishment Bent”]. “Silent majority” offers giant upraised middle finger.

“Clinton’s favorability tends to swell when she’s not running for office and dip when she is” [WaPo]. There’s a message there… 

The Trail

“Based on five polls used by RealClearPolitics, eight candidates look like locks to make the [the Republican debate] stage, while the race for the final two slots is headed for a controversial photo finish” [The Hill]. One of whom most definitely will be El Trumpo.

“To Iowans swooning over the insurgent candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic nomination, Clinton said that presidential politics is war and that she knows how to fight and win those battles” [Wapo].

Sanders makes direct appeal to Black voters [MSNBC].

Clown Car

Huckabee: Iran deal will march Israel to “the door of the ovens” [WaPo].

Unforgiveable: Graham had to give up his flip phone for a smartphone because The Donald doxxed him [Politico]. Never give up your flip phone!

Our Nation’s Capital

“Big Social Security Bills in the Works With 2016 Cliff Approaching” [National Journal]. Uh-oh…

‘[P]art of highway legislation that’s before the Senate would greatly increase the number of teenagers behind the wheel of big rigs” [Bloomberg].

Senate votes to revive the Export Import Bank, Boeing ecstatic [The Hill].

Yet another Obama repeal effort: “Senate smackdown: Ted Cruz, Mike Lee efforts squelched by leaders” [Politico].

Stats Watch

Durable Goods Orders, June 2015:  Near top-end expectations. “These readings are some of the highest of the last year and offer welcome evidence of a long awaited pop higher for what is, however, a still depressed factory sector” [Bloomberg].  Today’s report will confirm for many expectations that the negative effects of the strong dollar on exports are beginning to ease.” But: ” The three month rolling average is continuing to decline and is in contraction. Note that the headline “improvement” is on the back of a downwardly revised previous month data” [Econintersect]. “details of the report were broadly encouraging” [Across the Curve].

Dallas Fed Manufacturing Survey, July 2015: “Contraction in the Texas manufacturing sector continues to ease” [Bloomberg]. “Unfilled orders, however, remain in contraction for an eighth straight month. shipments are in contraction for a sixth straight month. Inventories are up and price readings are mute.” Company outlook is up.

“Bank loan growth is not accelerating” (FRED charts) [Mosler Economics].

10 states hit by the commodities meltdown [Bloomberg].

“Chinese shares slid more than 8 percent on Monday as an unprecedented government rescue plan to prop up valuations ran out of steam, throwing Beijing’s efforts to stave off a deeper crash into doubt” [Reuters].

“The worry on Wall Street is whether traders in New York will be willing to provide a two-sided market in Chinese shares at a time when the stock market situation there, as well as the economic situation, is deeply clouded” [Wall Street on Parade].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

App Used 23andMe’s open API and DNA database to block people from sites based on race and gender. (“Valid! You are 65.1% of the required European ancestry”) [Fast Company (allan)]. Want to treat race as a biological, not a social, construct? There’s an app for that… Of course, there aren’t that many 23andMe users. But wait ’til a big biometric database gets hacked…. 

Police State 

“I believe [the Office of Personnel Management hack was an] infobomb has done catastrophic damage to US security.  How?  Big data + bots (made smarter via AI) will be able to turn this data into a decisive instrument of warfare” [Global Guerillas]. “[W]ant that guy on the button to stand down? Call him up with a threat to his family.”

Health Care

“Did Medicare Part D Affect National Trends in Health Outcomes or Hospitalizations?: A Time-Series Analysis” [Annals of Internal Medicine]. No.

“While the public exchanges established by the federal government and 14 states have brought coverage to many previously uninsured people in all parts of the country, the effect on the poorest Americans varies drastically from state to state” because of Medicaid adoption [Reuters]. 

“Now the Obama administration is weighing in, asking state insurance regulators to take a closer look at rate requests before granting them. Under the Affordable Care Act, state agencies largely retain the right to regulate premiums in their states. So far only a handful have finalized premiums for the coming year, for which enrollment begins in November” [WebMD]. Kaiser: “[I]ncreases should average about 4.4 percent for the two least expensive silver plans in the 10 major cities it studied.” Of course, since wages are flat….

“Although large employers can legally offer low-benefit plants, small employers are not allowed to do so. This leads to an extraordinary discrepancy in potential tax payments between small and large employers. Hence, they face both higher costs for insurance and higher tax penalties if they fail to offer such insurance” [MarketWatch].

CMS creates a web page for state “innovation waivers.” Details with FAQ [Health Affairs].


“But Douglas Bloomfield, a former senior AIPAC executive, suggested the motivation [for AIPAC’s opposition to the Iran deal] may be of a more practical nature. ‘It’s good for business,’ he told IPS.’ AIPAC has spent the last 20 years very, very effectively making a strong case against Iran, and Iran has been a great asset to them'” [LobeLog]. Ka-ching.


“Jeremy Corbyn’s backers are increasingly confident that he can win the Labour leadership, despite a backlash from moderates and Blairites over his hard-Left socialist agenda” [Telegraph]. Or what the Telegraph considers “hard left.”

Tony Blair: “Let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it” [Independent].

“Labour is misreading election results: Five years is a long time in politics” [Independent].

“Labour is successful only when the interests of its two constituents – the left bourgeoisie and the working class – coincide. This takes us to the third level of causality: in the modern world, so far, they do not” [Paul Mason, Guardian].

“Lord Sewel, 69, filmed snorting cocaine with prostitutes at his London flat” [Daily Mail]. This is apparently a scandal. Clearly, Lord Sewel should have been a banker.

Our Famously Free Press

Nick Denton: “[I]t is really hard to sell Gawker, Gawker.com in particular, because Gawker.com likes to pick fights with pretty much everybody. That’s just the reality” [Capital New York]. Denton then contrasts Gawker to Vox (which could vanish without a trace tomorrow, so far as journalistic impact is concerned).

“A Clinton Story Fraught With Inaccuracies: How It Happened and What Next?” [New York Times]. Times Public Editor weighs in on Clinton email story.

Wretched Excess Watch

“How Citigroup Courts Wealthy Young Heirs: Teach Them to Buy Art” [Bloomberg].

“Billionaire private-equity CEO David Rubenstein explains how rich kids are at a ‘disadvantage'” [Business Insider].

Class Warfare

Headline: “Raising Floor for Minimum Wage Pushes Economy Into the Unknown.” ZOMG, scary!!!!!!! Why: “[T]he sheer magnitude of the recent minimum wage increases sets up an economics experiment the country has rarely if ever seen before” [New York Times]. And: “Even when they don’t lead to job losses over all, minimum wage increases can be disruptive.” Wait, wait. “Disruption” is good when Silicon Valley squillionaires do it, but not when workers do? 

“Corporate cash has grown from slightly under $1.6 trillion at the end of the first quarter of 2007 to nearly $2.1 trillion dollars at the end of the third quarter of 2014. [P]utting these cash holdings back into the economy will support GDP growth throughout 2015. [I propose] calling for the spending of a substantial portion of the nearly $2 trillion in cash held by corporations in the United States by paying it to lower level wage earners for the purpose of boosting GDP, as Zandi indicates for every dollar you put in the hands of those who live paycheck to paycheck, you increase economic impact by a $1.73 — not a bad rate of return” [Former Rep. Bill Owens (D-N.Y.), The Hill].

“The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy” [Guardian], according to analysis by James Henry of Tax Justice:

However, Henry’s research suggests that this acknowledged jump in inequality is a dramatic underestimate. Stewart Lansley, author of the recent book The Cost of Inequality, says: “There is absolutely no doubt at all that the statistics on income and wealth at the top understate the problem.”

The surveys that are used to compile the Gini coefficient “simply don’t touch the super-rich,” [Henry] says. “You don’t pick up the multimillionaires and billionaires, and even if you do, you can’t pick it up properly.”

You can’t manage what you don’t measure. Even more interestingly:

In total, 10 million individuals around the world hold assets offshore, but almost half of the minimum estimate of $21tn – $9.8tn – is owned by just 92,000 people.

There are not very many of the Shing.

“While forced labor exists throughout the world, nowhere is the problem more pronounced than here in the South China Sea, especially in the Thai fishing fleet” [New York Times]. “The harsh practices have intensified in recent years, a review of hundreds of accounts from escaped deckhands provided to police, immigration and human rights workers shows. That is because of lax maritime labor laws and an insatiable global demand for seafood even as fishing stocks are depleted.” Hmm… “Harsh practices” sounds like one of those euphemisms we use for torture, doesn’t it? I’d expect these “practices” to increase as resources become more difficult to extract, world-wide.

“[Economist Sam] Wilkin has determined that behind almost every great fortune, there lies what he calls a ‘wealth secret’. This is a piece of knowledge or a technique that, while not exactly criminal, certainly skirts the customs of the time, and possibly the laws as well. All of them, he says, involve ‘some sort of scheme for defeating the forces of market competition’. Many involve legal manoeuvrings or the exercising of political influence. Boldness and fearlessness are a given. Mild psychopathy probably helps, too” [Daily Mail]. “Behind every great fortune lies a great crime.” –Balzac

“Beginning in 2008 and continuing into 2010, Uncle Sam gave a federal tax break to millions of eligible homebuyers as a means of goosing demand for homes during the worst of the Great Recession. But was it actually a good idea to take the money and jump into homeownership in 2009, or would those millions of buyers have been better off renting and investing their savings instead? For all but the most extremely risk-averse, buying in 2009 was probably a bad idea” [Econintersect]. First, HAMP. Now this.

“Arizona was the first state to impose a testing program. In 2009, it began testing new welfare recipients when there was a “reasonable cause” to suspect illicit drug use. So how many of the 87,000 people subjected to the program have tested positive since then? Just one” [USA Today]. Well, I’d say it was worth it anyhow. It’s always good to kick down.

News of the Wired

“The Strangely Successful History of People Mailing Themselves in Boxes” [Atlas Obscura].

“Satanic Temple’s plans for ‘largest public satanic ceremony in history’ backfire after Detroit protesters force them to unveil huge goat-headed Devil statue in private” [Daily Mail]. Next time, try for the National Mall?

About the pursuit of happiness… [Business Insider]. IIRC, the first draft of the Declaration of Independence had “life, liberty, and property.” No doubt for complex reasons of his own, Jefferson scratched out “property” and wrote in “pursuit of happiness.” He was right!

“While people need a just economy for their self-respect and national pride—Rawls regarded justice as the first virtue of a society—justice is not everything that people need from their economy. They need an economy that is good as well as just. And for some decades, the Western economies have fallen short of any conception of a “good economy”—an economy offering a “good life,” or a life of “richness,” as some humanists call it” [New York review of Books]. “‘As the writer Kabir Sehgal put it, ‘Money is like blood. You need it to live but it isn’t the point of life.'” Sure it is. If you’re a vampire….

* * *

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:


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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. Jess

    I realize that I’m a lot slower on the uptake than others around here, but is there some kind of explanatory paragraph missing that was supposed to inform about the equipment chart shown after the antidote? Must confess, I’m a little confused as to what I should make of the chart.

  2. Vatch

    “The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy”

    I guess that’s why the New York police have to crack down on people who sell loosie black market cigarettes. If people are allowed to evade the cigarette taxes, pretty soon they’ll be moving vast sums of dollars outside the country! No billionaire wants to end up like Eric Garner.

  3. diptherio

    I’m reading a book right now from the 1920s, entitled The Story of the Irish Race. Remember when the Irish were their own race? I wonder if the app’s settings can be adjusted to use different time periods’ definitions of race. That might actually be enlightening…

    1. Lee

      On my way to Yellowstone some years ago I visited some folks in Butte, Montana and was given a driving tour around what in living memory had been the various ethnic neighborhoods: Poles, Germans, Scots, Irish and so on. At what point I’m wondering did they all get lumped into being simply white? At what point will we all get lumped into being simply human?

      1. Vatch

        At what point will we all get lumped into being simply human?

        We might have to wait until we encounter some actual space aliens.

    2. Paul Tioxon

      This is some of the most in depth stripping away of socialization that you can undergo. All of our identities are social fictions which are constructed for us. To raise your consciousness of your own socialization is a disillusioning process, a struggle and a challenge to create your own identity without complete alienation from almost everyone else around you.

      The Irish Emancipation Act of 1829, in Parliament got rid of many the political and religious restrictions on the Irish in Ireland, but to little consequence. The genocide campaign stripped Ireland of its forests, which have reportedly covered 1/8 of the Emerald Isle. Needless to stay, a pre-industrial society without even access to trees for wood had a hard time building shelter, fabricating everyday items such as household furniture and fuel for warmth and cooking. The depths of Irish poverty are almost beyond description. Of course, the population tells the full horror. In 1841 after a census, a little more than 8 million and today, a little more than 5 millions, including today’s Northern Ireland. And emigration did not mean you escaped death, as mass graves are now being uncovered in suburban Philadelphia containing Irish labor gangs who built the railroads. The Irish gradually were seen to be White Men in America only after socialization that included buying into the national racial oppression of African-Americans, among other members of the so called swarthy races. Think Greeks, Southern Italians and Sicilians etc. Of course, the entire concept of races has been completely discredited as a lie, as there is no biological difference among human beings, only distinctions of history and geography.

      You can do no better than to read the history of the introduction of all of the key concepts of race, ethnicity and the political calculations of academics that tried to split groups of people into identity groups based on historic heritage, ethnicity, as opposed to a biologically or blood line based race of people, “Working Toward Whiteness: How America’s Immigrants Became White: The Strange Journey from Ellis Island to the Suburbs” by David Roediger. The Irish, new to America, and shunned by nativist political oppression against Roman Catholics, had to learn how to become White according to the prevailing social standards of their new home. And having learned, had to to be accepted by their tutors, turning many of them into a dehumanized husk of a people, never quite fully accepted as John F Kennedy learned when he ran for the White House.

    3. Disturbed Voter

      That is a wonderful book it is. A brogue as thick as real butter and just as creamy ;-)

  4. Tertium Squid

    Art boot camp:

    Attendees then bid on pieces that have been, or will be, auctioned including an Andy Warhol polaroid print of Giorgio Armani and a pair of ear clips by Seaman Schepps formerly owned by the Duchess of Windsor. Perrin then showed the teams what the works really sold for so they could see if they spent their money wisely.

    “Wisely” is galling me. Doesn’t the ability to control wealth automatically confer wisdom?

    45. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
    46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.

    The danger is two rubes in the room. A single rube must outbid only the sophisticates who daren’t go against conventional wisdom. Two rubes bid each other to the moon and everyone laughs at the winner for allowing himself to be robbed. Unless he’s really really rich and then it’s daggers of envy to be able to drop a load on something inconsequential. The conventionally wealthy have to make shift.

    1. hunkerdown

      And now you understand elite socialism. From each according to his greed, to each according to his nobility.

      1. Tertium Squid

        I’ve finally figured out this whole auction boot camp nonsense – it’s teaching these wealthy kids their place. Just because dad was a master of the universe doesn’t mean they are ruthless and resourceful enough to tread his path. They will have to face the kinds of limitations that the infinitely wealthy do not.

  5. curlydan

    With regard to mailing oneself in a box, let’s not forget the Velvet Underground’s mortal tale about young Waldo Jeffers, “The Gift”. Required listening for those considering it?


    Flat Stanley made it seem so easy, but he had advantages that we don’t.

  6. JTMcPhee

    Maybe a useful additional category that might even just aggregate the links posted in the rest of the day’s assortment would be “Vulnerability Watch:” We got cops killing people, wars aplenty, and now new “generations” of New!Improved!nuclear weapons, hackers able to shut down vehicles in traffic, or send massive industrial equipment or medical devices, or “the grid” itself, off on violent frolics or steal your identity and what little wealth and security you might have, people importing intentionally or idiotically a wide variety of non-native species from influenza and Ebola to walking catfish to Kudzu to Zebra barnacles, fracking, several giant sucking sounds including the bottom-of-the-milkshake slurp-of-the-straw as water resources disappear, GMOs on the rise right alongside “government-like organizations” (GLOs), weaponized everything, depleted fisheries in an acidifying ocean (remember when it was just lakes in the Northeast that were “acid?”), Imperial Capitalists sucking not only the air but the health and wealth out of all our rooms, the Panopticon and its steady “progress,” the vast excesses of corruption, on and on. The Doomsday Clock has just jumped two (2) minutes closer to midnight, with this observation by the Union of Concerned Scientists: “The clock ticks now at just three minutes to midnight because international leaders are failing to perform their most important duty—ensuring and preserving the health and vitality of human civilization.” http://thebulletin.org/timeline

    It’s kind of morbid fun to delectate and disport ourselves in the details of our collapse — maybe there’s an organizing principle or “algorithm” for measuring the vulnerability of the species to the mutual parasitism and idiocy we seem to have been born or have grown into… Maybe you could call it the “FutilityStability Index,” or something…

    1. Mark from California

      I think the idea of a “vulnerability watch,” or some kind of comprehensive on-going index of vulnerabilities people face, is profound and important and I thank you for taking the time to write about it. The DoD looks at military threats, NSA at cyberthreats, CDC about some disease threats and so on, but I don’t think anyone collates and summarizes all this information in a meaningful/useful way. However: learning about the total vulnerability of our species would perhaps be “morbid fun” initially, but we might end up end up like the wizard Widdefut as described by my favorite fantasy author Jack Vance in “Lyonesse”:

      Stung by the derision of Widdefut, Sartzanek retaliated with the Spell of Total Enlightenment, so that Widdefut suddenly knew everything which might be known: the history of each atom of the universe, the devolvements of eight kinds of time, the possible phases of each succeeding instant; all the flavors, sounds, sights of the world, as well as percepts relative to nine other more unusual senses. Widdefut became palsied and paralyzed and could not so much as feed himself. He stood trembling in confusion until he dessicated to a wisp and blew away on the wind.

      I sometimes feel a little like Widdefut just reading the news and elsewhere. If it’s too bad I limit myself.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        “vulnerability watch” is intriguing, like the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Doomsday Clock.

        But indexes… Can readers make suggestions? We need numbers for an index!

  7. Wayne Harris

    ““The world’s super-rich have taken advantage of lax tax rules to siphon off at least $21 trillion, and possibly as much as $32tn, from their home countries and hide it abroad – a sum larger than the entire American economy”

    Also about equal to the Social Security Trust Fund “unfunded liability.”

  8. Mark from California

    Lambert: Fast Company link ref 23andme and racial profiling doesn’t seem to work. Very interested in this.

  9. ekstase

    How Citigroup Courts Wealthy Young Heirs: Teach Them to Buy Art” [Bloomberg].

    It’s a need to quantify and own something that can’t be quantified or owned. It’s kind of the thorn in their side. You get art via your soul, or you can’t get it at all.

  10. Fool

    Listening to Rubenstein speak at a charity event (that I had to go to for work) was probably the most insufferable 30 minutes in recent memory. Imagine a richsplaining David Brooks that goes on and on and on…

  11. Yata

    “To Iowans swooning over the insurgent candidacy of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is running for the Democratic nomination, Clinton said that presidential politics is war and that she knows how to fight and win those battles”

    ha ha ha! you know somehwere deep in the bowels of the DNC machine the Lee Atwater squads stand ready. No surprise.

    That nascent thought in the back of my mind surfaced again, when i read (as we probably have all suspected) that Hillary’s approval ratings drop whenever she enters the political races (and i suspect the same for what’s-his-names boy) , that the Sander’s phenomena is no accident.
    Here I wonder how hard would it be for people of some influence to convince Bernie Sanders that ‘this would be a good opportunity to run for office’ ??
    And not so much as a spoiler candidate, favoring one party over another, but moreover an attempt to generate any interest whatsoever in a palpably flat election featuring the premier dynasty candidates.
    I say this and wonder outloud as I’ve never seen a Reuters/Ipsos poll asking the fundamental question
    ‘are you in favor of the same two dynasties running again for office?’
    and then splashed over the MSM by creepy little headline editors. You would probably find congress has a higher approval rating in the polls.

    So what the hell am I trying to say ? What it looks like is the old ‘your so ugly’ joke from grade school where
    ‘You have to tie a porkchop around the candidates neck so someone will pay attention to them’

    So there is the nascent bit of sanity/insanity swirling in the back of my mind, thank you.

  12. PQS

    Re: NYT article on slavery in Thai fishing. The article is pretty devastating in its descriptions of the horrors of these long haul fishing trawlers: beatings, beheadings, chaining workers to the deck, throwing people overboard for sickness, etc. And damning it the indictments of the culpability of the Thai authorities and the western companies that import the products in pet food. It’s worth a read.

    1. tongorad

      I lived and worked on the Thai eastern seaboard for 11 years. Also culpable is Thai xenophobia & hatred of their SEA neighbors, in particular Burma & Cambodia. “Land of Smiles,” not quite.

  13. Propertius

    This leads to an extraordinary discrepancy in potential tax payments between small and large employers.

    As you’re fond of saying, Lambert, this is a feature not a bug.

  14. Propertius

    it began testing new welfare recipients when there was a “reasonable cause” to suspect illicit drug use

    My personal opinion is that elected officials should be required to pass regular screenings as well. In the case of legislators, I think before every single vote would be appropriate. If you’re too high to get welfare, you’re definitely too high to be passing laws.

    1. hunkerdown

      The elites need their privacy violated on a daily basis, I agree, but I’d prefer doing so to enforce mandatory marijuana and entheogen usage among the aristocracy. Sobriety is the more effective evil.

  15. afisher

    The first ACA rate increase has been announced. It is from CA and the increase was 4.

    Covered California announced its rates for 2016 and unveiled which health insurance companies will be offering plans through the marketplace. The statewide weighted average increase will be 4 percent, which is lower than last year’s increase of 4.2 percent and represents a dramatic change from the trends that individuals faced in the years before the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


    1. lambert strether

      Yes, the insurance companies were smart, and jacked the prices sky high before ObamaCare locked them in. Now, a comfortable 4% per year as far as the eye can see… What’s not to like?

  16. afisher

    TIL there is a drought in Thailand. The country is saying the cause is the El Nino – which does make sense and increased consumption What surprised / shocked me was the response by the government.

    hongplew Kongjun director of the Irrigation Department’s Water Management and Hydrology Office, said the department had started dredging waterways and ponds to store 295 million cubic metres of water within the Chao Phraya River basin. The work was 85 per cent complete. However, to make the best use of the limited water supply, everyone should save water. There will also be a change in planting.

    “The paddy fields in the Chao Phraya basin have used seven billion cubic metres of water for five harvest seasons during these last two years. If we reduce crops to two per year, we can save 2.3-billion cubic metres per year,” he said. Besides the urgent change of next year’s plan for agriculture, people in the city also have to use water wisely to conserve the scarce resource, he said.

    “People in Greater Bangkok draw five million cubic metres of water from the tap per day. If every household uses 20 per cent less water, we can save one million cubic metres per day, which can be allocated to 40,000 rai of farmland,” he said.

    The next rice planting should be reduced to 150,000 rai of land, while farm management should be strictly enforced to avoid a water famine.

    Did I fail to mention that the US is the major importer of the rice from Thailand.

    Note: who is being told to cut consumption- agriculture. Ironically news out of California is the individuals have positively responded to the Gov. call to conserve with the consumption by people is estimated to be about 30% by the people in Northern Calif.


    (I do realize that most of the H2O in CA goes to agriculture).

    Which leads to the question – which is more important, having a thriving economy or conserving water in the cities. Obviously both is great but the ‘free market model” should not be the answer.

  17. MikeNY

    It seems to me the logical conclusion of David Rubinstein’s argument is that we need a more equal distribution of wealth. For humanitarian reasons, you know: so that rich kids will be rid of their crippling doubt.

  18. hunkerdown

    Boston recognizes it can’t afford an elite gladiatoral event known for its cost overruns, officially backs out of bid to host the 2024 Olympics, officially. What caught my eye about this was that there was talk of a referendum, after polls showed 2:1 against (!). One might hope that result suggests the subjects of the US empire demur because they recognize they can get all the gladiatoral combat they can handle, every day, for free, right where they are.

    1. marym

      The Guardian portrays this as the mayor’s considered decision, but he didn’t oppose the bid until today. There’s been a grassroots effort, 2 dedicated organizations, No Boston 2024 and No Boston Olympics (and probably other allies – I’ve just followed casually on Twitter), people who attended the public meetings, FOIA’d and analyzed documents, built up a social media presence, raised issues about what it would mean for public lands, transportation, tax payer liability, connections of business interests and politicians pushing the bid, what hosting the Olympics and FIFA have done to other cities, etc. Per Boston activist twitter, the USOC was going to pull the bid today, and this was an attempt at face-saving for Walsh to look as if he was taking charge. This was a real victory for local activism.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          Yeah Boston!

          No Olympics, No World Cup and I’d even stay away from the SuperBowl. Total waste of money with only human trafficking and lousy T-Shirts with your city’s name on it. I’d plant more trees and open more parks with little league baseball fields.

  19. Paul Tioxon

    2016 Policy: Clinton Solar Moon Shot!!

    I don’t get no respect! After freely giving away an idea that America can do something BIG would be a great campaign idea, by offering a bold statement about AmerICAN can do it spirit, something on the order of JFKs saying we will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, and then doing it, out comes Hillary with my idea, that she no doubt read about right here on NC.


    I made the first comment and here is what I said: “Make a 10 year goal, like Kennedy with the moonshot for solar energy. Place urban America in electric vehicles in 10 years along with solar and wind power producing at least 50% of electricity. This will keep us from exporting dollars and clear out our lungs from auto fumes that killing us.”

    So now, proof positive that people inside the Beltway AND their political consultants are reading this site for more than Yves financial brilliance! Your Welcome America!

    Now Hillary, did you get the first part of what I said about expanding Social Security and Medicare? Get rid of the tax loophole that caps the income eligible for contributions!!

    1. Oregoncharles

      The income cap is not the only policy making SS regressive. Even bigger is that there is no Social Security tax (15%!) on unearned wealth – that is, returns to CAPITAL.

      This is actually against my own interest, since we own rental property, but this huge ommission not only makes SS less viable, but adds enormously (could be calculated, but not by me) to economic inequality.

      I don’t have the figures to hand, but I suspect fixing both would make SS more than viable for the forseeable future.

  20. Oregoncharles

    From the WSJ article on Obamacare: ” The report showed that U.S. labor-force participation had declined to a new low, 62.6%, equivalent to levels in October 1977. The drop included prime-age workers, those between 25 and 55, who are normally in the labor market because they generally have finished school and have not yet retired. ”

    Does anyone know who those people are that have “dropped out” or what they are doing? Are they starving, or has the underground economy expanded tremendously? Is there any way to find out?

    What about demand at free-food places? Homelessness?

  21. Oregoncharles

    ” because of Medicaid adoption” I just read in the local paper that Oregon faces huge increases in its Mediaid costs as state cost sharing kicks in. This in a very blue state that eagerly adopted Obamacare. In other words, the expansion of Medicaid really was a time bomb.

    Suddenly, those Republican governors who turned it down are starting to look prescient – and the program is looking like sabotage of Democratic states. Just another example of how well the bill was written and how random its effects are, I guess.

  22. Jeff W

    Headline: “Raising Floor for Minimum Wage Pushes Economy Into the Unknown.”…Why: “[T]he sheer magnitude of the recent minimum wage increases sets up an economics experiment the country has rarely if ever seen before” [New York Times]. And: “Even when they don’t lead to job losses over all, minimum wage increases can be disruptive.”

    Harry Truman nearly doubled the minimum wage (from 40 cents to 75 cents an hour) on 24 January 1950. I’m still waiting to see the “disruptive” effects from that increase.

    The chart in the NY Times article reflects the true economics “experiment” in the US—from roughly 1938 to 1968 increases in wages tracked increases in productivity; for roughly the next 45 years, wages remained stagnant while productivity continued on the same trajectory. Which set of conditions worked out better for people overall?

    1. John Zelnicker

      I can’t find the link at the moment so I may have the details a bit off, but a few years back New Jersey raised the minimum wage. A study was done to compare unemployment rates between Camden, NJ, and Philadelphia to determine the impact of the increase. The result was that unemployment fell in NJ relative to Philadelphia in the fast food industry that was the object of the study, proving once again that the neoliberals have it backwards.

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