2:00PM Water Cooler 7/29/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


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 this week. If a traitor is mentioned in Water Cooler, their name is in bold.

Maui: “Trade ministers are meeting behind closed-doors at the Westin Resort and Spa in Maui this week to finalize the terms of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is the first formal round of talks since the U.S. passed the controversial Fast Track trade legislation in June… The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) seeks to wrap up talks by the end of the week” [EFF].

Maui: “The 12 negotiating countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam” [Mainichi]. I’d welcome reader information on countries I find hard to track, like Brunei or Peru.

Maui: “A group of anti-corporate and pro-labor and environment organizations are planning a series of demonstrations” [Maui Time]. Clever of the organizers to site the talks on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. Antarctica next?

Malaysia: “Mustapa: Malaysia not signing TPP in Hawaii”  [Rakyat Post]. International Trade and Industry Minister Mustapa: “Like Malaysia, each TPP member will need to go through its own domestic process before a final decision to sign and ratify the TPP is made.” Hence the importance of the $700 million 1MDB scandal, muzzling the press, etc.

Malaysia: “Malaysia’s trade minister vowed to safeguard state-owned enterprises and policies favouring ethnic Malays in a Pacific trade deal, as he hit back at domestic critics of the pact” [Malaya Online]. If this is true and not mere posturing, and Malaysia ends up “safe-guarding” such enterprises and policies, then the “lost profits” clause is meaningless,  or at least differentially applied, and TPP is not a global trade pact at all, strengthening the views of some that it’s really a security agreement designed to contain our trading partner China.

Japan:  “U.S. Congress’ egocentric strategem in the TPP talks” [Opinion, Japan Times]. “[M]embers of Congress can expect that Tokyo will make concessions on trade matters if Washington shows a strong card related to security. If that happens, Japan would have to do a lot more than ‘agreeing to stop the drive hunting of dolphins.'”

Japan: “Japan is poised to accept an effective tariff cut for imported wheat from the United States and Australia as part of talks on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, it was learned Tuesday” [Japan Times]. “Some concession is ‘unavoidable in the final stages’, a government source said.”

Australia: “Australian Minister: Dairy Outcome Key For TPP Success” [Politico]. “‘We’re on the cusp [of a TPP deal], but if the leadership is not shown by the big countries, it will lead to serious slippage where people are taking things off the table and we get a very second-best outcome,’ said [Australian Trade Minister Andrew Robb].” By “leadership,” of course, we mean horse-trading. It would be best if Australian didn’t sign anything, but it would be nice if they didn’t sign away pharmaceuticals for dairy.

Intellectual property: “The TPP chapter on intellectual property covers all intellectual property types included in Part II of the WTO’s TRIPS agreement, plus some others, including not only patents, copyrights and trademarks, but also ‘undisclosed information’ [!!], test data for the registration of drugs, industrial designs, layout-designs of integrated circuits.  The rules in the TPP are intended by the United States to become global norms, effectively replacing TRIPS” [Intellectual Property Watch]. “The TPP proposes to ban all caps on damages for infringement.” So, death by firing squad for that Porky’s II download! Exterminate all the brutes!

TPP is pro-slavery: “Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch told the BBC that [Malaysian] convictions for trafficking were lower than last year and, citing the mass graves as an example, adding that trafficking and abuse of migrants were still done ‘with impunity’. ‘How can the State Department call this ‘progress’? This upgrade is more about the TPP and US trade politics” [Malaysian Insider].

Corruption: “Lobbying expenditures by members of a pro-TPP coalition increased to $135 million in the second quarter of 2015, up from $126 million in the first quarter and $118 million in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to Senate Office of Public Records reports” [Reuters]. Tremendous ROI, of course. None better.

Malaysia: ” Executive Director for International Intellectual Property (IP) of Global Intellectual Property Centre (GIPC) Patrick Kilbride also said a robust IP system, made possible by the TPP, would deliver further benefits to Malaysia by attracting more IP-intensive industries to invest in the market” [Daily Express]. As opposed to, say, ASEAN competitor Thailand, whose IP standards are notoriously lax.

ISDS:  “The reason investors are usually unsuccessful in bringing ISDS cases against states is because trade negotiation officials ensure significant protection provisions are included in agreements containing ISDS. It is clear that ISDS provisions are all in the language, and that the TPP will incorporate the results of more than 20 years of reform in ISDS” [The Diplomat]. Of course, it’s not “clear” at all. We can’t see the text!

“Would you sign an important deal where the details were secret until after your name was inked on the page?” [The Tyee].


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!!!!!


There is in fact a link between climate and war, specifically in Syria, and O’Malley was right to draw it [The Atlantic].

“A seemingly exasperated Hillary Clinton refused for the second consecutive day to stake out a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, telling a crowd in New Hampshire that she would answer the question ‘when I become president'” [The Hill]. Picking out the drapes for the Oval Office, eh?

“Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) took a shot at Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, suggesting that her refusal to take a position on the Keystone XL Pipeline is “hard to understand” [The Hill]. I don’t know if it’s hard to understand, but it certainly seems hard for Clinton to explain.

The Voters

“Bernie Sanders is taking a General-Sherman approach to his summer, barnstorming across a deep South that is definitely enemy territory for Northeastern liberals. But unlike Sherman, the strategic purpose isn’t clear” [Bloomberg]. What’s unclear about it? If you want to appeal to the working class as such, as opposed to (say) “the white working class,” then you have to appeal to them without geographical limitation. It’s like the 50-state strategy.

A conservative take on Nixon’s Southern Strategy [Daily Beast]. The obvious solution is a Sister Soulja movement, but for Bubba. Won’t happen this cycle.

“After decades of subordination to a Republican “base” composed of social conservatives, it seems, libertarians and others who have felt alienated from the party see an opportunity to seize the reins” [National Journal]. But see above.

“Bernie Sanders makes direct appeal to black voters” [MSNBC]. For his campaign’s sake, I hope he’s reaching out to organizations less, er, venerable than the SCLC.


“During the last election cycle, the fundraising arm for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus took in just under a million dollars over two years. Six months into 2015, BOLD PAC has already raised more than half that under Democratic Rep. Tony Cárdenas’s leadership—and it’s one of several Latino political groups ramping up its fundraising in anticipation of having a big effect on the 2016 elections” [National Journal].

Politico’s Mike Allen emceed Koch Brother’s beauty pageant of Republican candidates [Politico]. Ka-ching.

“The Koch brothers are freezing out Donald Trump from their influential political operation — denying him access to their state-of-the-art data and refusing to let him speak to their gatherings of grass-roots activists or major donors” [Politico].

The Trail

Sanders made Chaffee “the other other guy” [National Journal]. Profile of Chaffee on the trail in New Hampshire.

Walker passes cheese steak test in Philly [NBC]. Not Swiss.

Clown Car

FOX opens Republican debates t caondidates polling under 1% because of “overwhelming interest” [The Hill]. Help me.

Our Nation’s Capital

50 Most Beautiful [The Hill].

“The end result of all the twists and turns in reaching an extension of the highway bill will not be a one-time repatriation holiday for profits held overseas, and the administration will hold out for a ‘significant’ infrastructure spending package, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Wednesday” [Market News].

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of July 24, 2015: “[L]ittle changed in the latest week, up 0.1 percent, but continues to trend much higher than a year ago” [Bloomberg].

Pending Home Sales Index, June 2015: “[S]ales of existing homes fell a sharp 1.8 percent in June” [Bloomberg]. “Strength in housing may contribute less than expected to the second-half economy.” And: “Confirms other indicators of housing a bit volatile but still depressed and going nowhere” [Mosler Economics].

“Econintersect’s Economic Index declined to the lowest level since April 2010. The tracked sectors of the economy remain relatively soft with most expanding at the lower end of the range seen since the end of the Great Recession. Our economic index has been in a long term decline since late 2014” [Econintersect]. Bearish or not, fascinating methodology discusssion. This: “The leading indicators are for the most part monetary based. Econintersect’s primary worry in using monetary based methodologies to forecast the economy is the current extraordinary monetary policy which may (or may not) be affecting historical relationships.” And: “Econintersect believes that the New Normal economy has different dynamics than most economic models are using.” We’ll see!

“Bond-fund managers may debate the exact reason for the deterioration in market liquidity, but one thing is clear: they’re highly concerned about it” [Bloomberg]. The Fed’s “easy-money policies pushed many investors into the same [record-low interest rates] bonds, leaving many analysts wondering who’ll be left to buy up all those same securities when sentiment sours.”

“Wall Street’s Secret Dividend from the Fed May Go to Fixing Potholes” [Wall Street on Parade]. See Yves here on “the Yellen subsidy.”

Dear Old Blighty

Interim leader Harriet Harman defends Labour leadership election system amid claims it has been infiltrated by the hard left and Tories determined to upset process [Guardian]. £3 to join and get a vote, it was?


“The Justice Department indicted sitting U.S. congressman Chaka Fattah, D-Pa., and four of his associates for their involvement in a racketeering conspiracy ‘to further their political and financial interests'” [National Journal]. So they’re going to crucify Fattah for being a member in good standing of the political class?! And a Philadelphia, too… 

“Why and how fighting corruption matters for economic growth” [Bruegel]. Italy, but not without application elsewhere.

Our Famously Free Press

Clinton hair permathread [New York Post]. Maybe she and The Donald can switch.

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“On the same day Samuel Dubose was laid to rest after being shot to death by University of Cincinnati police, the city’s police chief said Tuesday that he had seen the unreleased video recording of the incident and it was ‘not good'” [Al Jazeera America]. The tape will be released tomorrow, so pay attention to Cincinnati. Dubose is a hash tag…. 

Sandra Bland’s life and work [Houston Chronicle]. Bland is another hash tag….

“Myth, Reality and the Underground Railroad” [New York Times].

Imperial Collapse Watch

$500 million Syrian training effort yields 60 volunteers. Ka-ching [WaPo]. Clearly, there’s not enough ice cream in the self-licking cone. What say we pencil in a billion, and shoot for 120 (hopefully moderate) Syrians? 

Ukrainian “mavericks” becoming a problem. “‘I would like Ukraine to lead the crusades,’ said Korchynsky, whose battalion’s name is Saint Mary. ‘Our mission is not only to kick out the occupiers, but also revenge. Moscow must burn'” [Business Insider]. Maybe Victoria Nuland can rustle up some Ukrainain moderates?

About those schools in Afghanistan [Buzzfeed]. I remember the school in Iraq where the plumbing dripped sh*t on the students. Ka-ching. Things have not changed:

But a BuzzFeed News investigation — the first comprehensive journalistic reckoning, based on visits to schools across the country, internal U.S. and Afghan databases and documents, and more than 150 interviews — has found those claims to be massively exaggerated, riddled with ghost schools, teachers, and students that exist only on paper. The American effort to educate Afghanistan’s children was hollowed out by corruption and by short-term political and military goals that, time and again, took precedence over building a viable school system. And the U.S. government has known for years that it has been peddling hype.

“Psychologists Who Collaborated on Torture Program May Face Ethics Charges” [Truth-out].

Class Warfare

“A Mini-Dictionary of Neoliberalism?” [Michael Perelman].

“In the last 25 years, the odds that an old person is a millionaire have improved slightly. But for young people, they have gotten much worse” [WaPo]. Despite the colossal pile of steaming dung that is our famously free press’s coverage of [genuflects] startups (a froth phenomenon of QE).

News of the Wired

“Fear Is F*cking Us All Up” [Terrible Minds]. Not so much reason to fear the (metaphorical) weather. The climate, however… 

“Facebook Ordered by Hamburg Regulator to Allow Pseudonyms” [Bloomberg].

“A cataclysmic event of a certain age” [Phys.org]. The Younger Dryas.

“Housing in the Eastern Bloc” [Architectural Review]. “While some countries, such as Czechoslovakia or Germany were already reasonably well-off, much of the Bloc lived in slums or age-old rural poverty in 1945, and by 1990 most of it was decently housed, with clean, sound and virtually free housing. For all the obvious failures of the system in consumer goods, this was a hugely impressive achievement. By the 1980s, panel-building was even becoming eclectic.”

PowerPoint presenations not allowed at Amazon by Bezos [Business Insider]. Smart!

* * *

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 (Kurt):


From Tuscany. Kurt thinks it might be a Lonicera. Readers?

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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. fledermaus

    “Walker passes cheese steak test in Philly [NBC]. Not Swiss.”

    Oh Jebus, not this again. The only reason this persists is because back in 2004 a Bush aide told a bunch of reporters that cheez whiz was the only “authentic” cheese for a cheesesteak to score a political point, and the morons still parrot the line to this day.

    By the why I’m willing to be contradicted on this by someone from Philly, the downside is that you must admit publicly that you enjoy processed cheese-like substance over the real deal.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’ve never been to the Holy City of Cheese Steak in South Philly, but the cheesesteak I had in Reading Terminal (once, and once only) was ghastly. Yes, I had the Cheez Whiz®.

      Kerry had Swiss cheese, and that was a nine-days wonder. Obama, IIRC, visited Reading Terminal but had something artisanal; I don’t remember whether Hillary visited at all.

      More a test of whether the staff can get it right under the media glare, than anything else. Apparently, Walker’s staff did OK.

      1. Ed S.


        Grew up in Philly suburbs but spent lots of time in the city. In the old days it was:

        Go to Ground Zero for a cheesesteak in Philly — namely Pat’s (or Geno’s) at 9th and Passyunk (think the original Rocky movie where Sly is running in the early morning). Stand in line and when you get to the window you say “Cheese Steak With” — meaning with Cheez Whiz (of which there was a #10 can open and sitting on the grill hot and melty) and onions. Or you’d say Cheese Steak Provolone. But not Swiss (but who cares — Kerry wasn’t from Philly). But at most sandwich shops and pizza joints, you wouldn’t get Whiz. It really was a feature of a high volume place where they were cooking the steak continuously (it’s much faster to put a wipe of Whiz on a roll than to have to wait to melt cheese). Pat’s, & Geno’s in South Philly; Jim’s at 4th and South. But it’s been a lot of years since I was back — so it may have changed.

        Anyway — what makes the sandwich unique is actually the roll – a duplicate of which I’ve never found outside of Philly.

        Hope this helps.

    2. Paul Tioxon

      The cheese steak precedes the invention by Kraft of its Cheez Whiz in 1953. American, provolone and way back before whiz, even mozzarella was requested. Furthermore, going to the Vatican City of cheese steaks in South Philly planted you at the end of the Italian Market on 9th Street. This was the open air supermarket for the immigrants for generations. Today, Viet Namese hoagies, Mexican Taquerias and all manner of Italian foodstuffs are sold along 9th St. So as a campaign destination, you would press the flesh and then at the end of the walk through wind up at these 2 tourist traps. I have never, ever ate a cheese steak with whiz and don’t know why anyone would want to. Most places do not even offer whiz, but only American or provolone. If you grew up around there and ate that stuff you are used to it, but I am definitely not and neither are the rest of region who eat cheese steaks and have never even set foot in South Philly.

      On a more serious note, why is Bernie Sanders going down South? Because the president is the president of all of America and you need to campaign everywhere in America to win the hearts and minds of voters and win their states for your presidential bid. No one even asks why Scott Walker was in South Philly, except for one reporter, but that goes completely unnoticed. Scott Walker is doing in Philly what Bernie is doing down South, campaigning. And Walker’s answer was quite clear, he said he was here in Philadelphia because he thinks he can win the state of Pennsylvania. Really, is it that hard to understand politics for some writers? The 50 state strategy, it used to be called the campaign trail and the trail goes from sea to shining sea. Strategic purpose, to get votes dimwit!

      1. jrs

        But has there ever been a candidate who actually campaigned in all 50 states? In the primary they care about: states with an early vote. In the general they care about non solid red or blue states. They never really campaign in all states.

        1. Paul Tioxon

          While it may be true that the prez does not visit each and every state, the party has an organizational capacity to extend the campaign beyond the physical presence of the candidate. The WH is a national election, not a statewide or congressional district, but the whole country. A 50 state strategy means that even if the candidate does not go into each and every state, his campaign organization does and does so in a meaningful way. Bernie going into the deep South is speaking to the fact that he is willing to go places he may have never gone to before as a US Senator for his state. A socialist Jew campaigning as an extremely populist dem for prez in the deep South speaks volumes about him going beyond what normally might be considered his comfort zone and he wants all Americans to see him as someone who be the prez for everyone.

          This is also true for Gov Walker in Philly. Here is the guy who made his bones crushing unions and he comes into a city 8 to 1 dem to rep, pro union, BIG TIME union where the fights are not between dems and reps but between the IBEW and the Carpenters and Teamsters. Walker is showing us he is not afraid of walking into a union bastion, eating a cheesesteak and saying he thinks he can win PA. While it is true you need electoral votes and have to campaign accordingly, you still need to not concede anything before you even start. Hence, going to places lets the voting public know he is not writing you off as a waste of time because he needs Ohio or Florida more than he needs to visit Alabama or Arkansas. The voters need to know that it is not a career move where only the states that most advance his chances are important, and if you are ignored before the election expect more of the same afterwards. Ignore the voting public and they will ignore your candidacy. You need to show you will come to them for their vote and it is as important as getting voters to come out to vote for you. You can not appear to show that the USA is made up of 50 states on paper but only the top 20 electoral count really count and in the final analysis, only a few swing states are really critical at all. You have to have organizational reach in all 50 states even if you can’t show up in each and everyone many times on the campaign trail.

    3. The Insider

      Not a native Philadelphian, but I’ve been there enough times to know the situation. The classic Philly cheesesteak is pure junk food. That’s the nature of the thing. It’s cheap scraps of beef fried and mixed with cheap fried onions (optional) and topped with the cheapest melted cheese available (also optional) and scooped into a cheap white bread bun. That’s it. Every attempt to “improve” it in any way misses the point, and debates over authenticity are about as relevant as debates over the authenticity of funnel cake. It’s junk food, it’s not supposed to be authentic.

      I’ll grant that the whole swiss cheese incident was utterly ridiculous and a total waste of everyone’s time. But political aides should be aware that these things can happen and need to be on the lookout for situations where their candidate can be painted as someone who’s never left the Beltway and has no clue how to survive in the real world. Unfortunate and a waste of time, but avoidable.

      Simple tip for politicians eating out in public: ask for the house special, and then eat it.

    1. craazyman

      Here are some animal personalities who won’t be in the crowd, I’m sure:

      “Lions consume a wide variety of prey, from wildebeest, impala, zebra, giraffe, buffalo and wild hogs to sometimes rhinos and hippos. They will also feed on smaller animals such as hares, birds and reptiles. Lions are also known to attack elephants when food is scarce.”

      Not to say they’re all High-Fiving each other, but maybe breathing just a little easier.

      I can understand wild hogs and wildebeest, but elephants? I mean really. That’s just cruel. And what about birds? Isn’t that bullying or is it some kind of lion-thing, showing off by swatting birds. Reptiles seem legitimate to me though. Eat them! Hippos? Jesus, they scare me, so if a lion wants to go at it with a hippo, I won’t stand in the way.

      If this dude had wrestled the lion and broken it’s neck rather than shot it, I’d think “Holy Cow, what a madman”. Since he shot it, I just think “Why would somebody do that when they can just go to MacDonald’s and order a quarter-pounder with cheese?”

      1. optimader

        “Why would somebody do that when they can just go to MacDonald’s and order a quarter-pounder with cheese?”

        Because his dysfunction being satiated by killing has nothing to do with food.

        1. craazyman

          I guess somebody could go on a firearm-free lion hunting safari, protected by Kevlar body armor and a helmet.

          It could be like catch and release fly fishing. You wouldnt actually kill the lion, instead when you subdued it with expert wrestling maneuvers and various grips, you could let it go. A professional videographer would record your hunt.

          This would not work with elephants or hippos probably. There, you’d have to be content with making physical contact. Then running like all hell. If it was on video tape that would be prestige enough. You could have fake ivory tusks made or a fake hippo head if you needed a material memento of your skill.

          Does anybody have a hippo head on their den wall? Probably not among the NC readers, i would not imagine anyway. Unless it was a republican hippo, bowhahahahahahahahaha.

          1. craazyman

            that just made me think.

            Is it possible to have simultaneous antidotes — of a lion and a wildebeest — for example.

            or would that be in bad taste (I guess from the lion’s perspective, that is). The wildebeest would be too panic stricken to think of cuisine at that point in time

  2. LifelongLib

    “Clever of the organizers to site the talks on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific [TPP on Maui]. Antarctica next?”

    No. Antarctica is TOO isolated. Hawaii has good accomodations, and is easy to get to for people with money but difficult for presumably less well-off masses of protestors. See also the APEC Summit of 2011.

    1. Kurt Sperry

      I can’t think of a more logical place to hold the meeting than in the Hawai’ian Islands. It’s geographically central to the group and has the necessary facilities. Where would be more unsnarkily appropriate?

      1. Danny

        Agreed. If they had wanted to avoid protesters they would have met on Saipan or its smaller sister Rota instead of Maui.

  3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

    Pending home sales index fell a sharp 1.8% in June.

    Apparently, only homes were selling in Florida…retirees moving there. I guess even that sector is slowing down.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sorry, forgot my mathematical grammar – word permutation is important here and not just word-combination.

  4. Eric Patton

    The article on housing in the Eastern Bloc is quite interesting. I think we may wish to seriously consider bringing this idea back into practice.

    1. OIFVet

      Not gonna happen. Neoliberalism is all about keeping the working class in a permanent state of insecurity. Makes them more easily exploitable. I have said it before here, whatever it’s shortcomings, Soviet Block communism definitely delivered on the essentials that make people feel secure: shelter, food, clothing, health care, and education. That’s something that many Americans who keep harping on the lack wide choice of consumer goods simply don’t get: security is essential part of well-being. Must be because Americans long ago morphed into a new specie, Homo Consumeris.

      While some countries, such as Czechoslovakia or Germany were already reasonably well-off, much of the Bloc lived in slums or age-old rural poverty in 1945, and by 1990 most of it was decently housed, with clean, sound and virtually free housing. For all the obvious failures of the system in consumer goods, this was a hugely impressive achievement

      1. Kurt Sperry

        Lonicera was just my best guess. It was growing wild in the Appenine foothills and definitely isn’t the same elderberry that grows wild here in the PNW.

    1. grayslady

      I disagree about the Lonicera. I think it’s a mangy looking Ligurstrum vulgare (European privet). The leaves look too waxy to be a Lonicera, even though both species have opposite leaves.

  5. timbers

    “A seemingly exasperated Hillary Clinton refused for the second consecutive day to stake out a position on the Keystone XL pipeline, telling a crowd in New Hampshire that she would answer the question ‘when I become president’”

    A trade deal we don’t know what’s in it until after it’s enacted (if then) and a Presidential candidate who only tells us her positions after she’s elected.

    As Dirty Harry would say….”Mar-vel-ous”

      1. James Levy

        People like to say “such has it ever been” but if you look at a film of Truman, Nixon, RFK, or even LBJ or Carter on the stump it is amazing how inane and content-less these candidates are today. They don’t even do the misdirection-bamboozle half as well as JFK or Ike did. So they are neither as clever or as informative or as “solid” as candidates were even a generation or two ago. I’m not saying the policies of the past were all good (many were terrible) but they were presented and argued for in a manner that makes today’s politicians look like recent graduates of Romper Room School.

        1. Ed

          I’ve noticed this too. Modern day politicians are pathetic even at producing stupid rhetoric designed only to get votes. You really have to look at tapes of speeches by twentieth century politicians to see the difference.

        2. Jim Haygood

          Last week when two inspectors general suggested a criminal investigation into Hillary’s use of private email, on the radio I heard her say (approximately), ‘A lot of allegations are flying around. Maybe the heat is getting to everyone.’

          This is vintage Clinton misdirection. It doesn’t respond to the issue, makes light of the situation, and discredits the accusers by suggesting they are heat-addled.

          Wasn’t eight years of this enough? [rhetorical question]

      1. James Levy

        When I first went to grad school and earned an MA in PoliSci (before I got my shit together and went to Wales to study under Michael Simpson and earn a Ph.D. in a legit field) whenever you brought up a question like “who’s paying for this bozo to run for office” or “who benefits from this awful program” you were immediately reminded that such questions smacked of “vulgar Marxism” and were going to label you an unserious, unemployable loser and therefore get with the program, mister–it’s all about language and ideology! Following the money implies an objective reality, and we all know that no such naïve construct actually exists, so just keep saying the right buzzwords (subaltern, discourse, privileges, indeterminacy) and quoting copiously from Derrida and Foucault and your future will be bright.

        I proved unable to get with the program.

      2. Eureka Springs

        Correct me if I am wrong but wasn’t S.o.S. Hillary the first one out of the gate approving the pipeline?

        For that reason and an entire neoliberal DLC sold out HRC lifetime of additional reasons why do people even need to ask the question at this point? Or rather if they are opposed why do they waste their time with her at all?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          One answer is to cause embarrassment in the wake of Clinton’s climate change “plan.”

          Attachment is the other. How can Hillary be worthy of devotion and support Keystone? Obviously, the Hillary naysayers must be wrong.

  6. Clive

    Re: Blighty

    Yes, about £3 a month for standard membership (£3.88 to be pernickety) but cheap and cheerful membership fees available for those who qualify https://join.labour.org.uk — yes, I’m sure that there are hordes of people going through the faff to join, fill out the direct debit, send back your ballot with the sole purpose of trashing the party by saddling it with an “unelectable” leader.

    Of course, this cunning plan all falls apart if the aforementioned leader turns out to be popular with voters tired of “You can have party A, B or C — any one you like. There is a big range of policy choices from these parties, they range all the way from A, through A with even a radical A on offer.”

    1. jrs

      Uh does any company welcome people sharing their salary readily? At best you can say that’s what glassdoor is for …. under a fake name. Yes it probably empowers companies more than individuals for salaries to be private, but they are most places.

  7. TensingGonnaGetPassedAroundLikeABagOfChips

    Just like to point out that Democrats support TPP more than Republicans do. That means Democrats are pro-slavery, pro-fascism, anti-labor, and yet they’re the lesser of two evils?

    1. tegnost

      That there is both support and opposition to TPP in both major parties suggests to me that they are both in the midst of a serious identity crisis. The lesser of two evils may no longer be a relevant observation…

    2. Chauncey Gardiner

      Looking forward to a similar blitz of political ads against the secret TPP, TISA and TTIP agreements as accompanied the evening television news and were against the Iran nuclear deal.

      The propaganda and persuasion effort doesn’t seem to be aligned with either of the legacy political parties, but clearly take deep pockets to produce and air. Wonder who is funding this campaign and why?

  8. micky9finger

    “Now that economists have, for the most part relegated John Maynard Keynes to the dustbin of history”

    On what economist planet??
    Only a neo- liberal economist would forsake Keynes and hence demonstrate his ignorance.

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