2:00PM Water Cooler 8/7/15

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“In his own book in 1997, Sanders called the [1996 Clinton “end welfare as we know it”] bill ‘the grand slam of scapegoating legislation…’ Now a U.S. senator from Vermont, he doubled down on that assessment in his interview with Bloomberg. ‘I think that history will suggest that that legislation has not worked terribly well,’ he said, arguing that too many politicians would rather target the poor than poverty [Bloomberg].

UPDATE Yglesias points out that in the Republican debate, Trump offers the political class an alibi on single payer (“path dependency,” AKA TINA) but proposes a saner reform than the others: Federalizing insurance regulation [VOX]. “Nobody had any criticisms of Trump’s proposal to offer, nor any praise. They just moved on.”

The Republican Debates

Readers, let’s remember that we won’t know “what happened” in the debates until our famously free press agrees on a narrative. In 2000, the “hot take” was that Gore wiped the floor with an inarticulate Bush. In a couple of days, this morphed — the press hated Gore, although perhaps not as much as they hate the Clintons — into Gore losing the debate because he “sighed” when Bush said something stupid, which was often. For the Republican debates, what matters is who wins “the Ailes primary,” Ailes being the head of FOX News. Cheering in the hall, and even voter reaction, matter much less. We don’t know what call Ailes will make, but it almost certainly won’t be Trump, as the questions to Trump showed. The wild card here is how ticked off the Republican base is; my guess is mighty ticked off, which helps Trump, but we’ll see how Trump holds up under Ailes’s gentle ministrations. And let’s remember that nobody thought Schwartzenegger or Ventura could win, either. Especially the smart money.

If I had to make a totally subjective and (see above) useless call, it would be: Bush down, Christie up, Kasich up, Rubio up slightly, Walker down slightly, Paul neutral, and Trump off the charts, indeed any chart, and I forget all the others, even though I wasn’t drunk. Edwards did well in his first 2008 debate, IIRC. So there you are.

Trump was gloriously Trump, says the conventional wisdom [WaPo]. He also got the most questions and the most time.

Politico’s rolodex all over the map on the winner, modulo Trump [Politico].

WaPo’s rolodex all over the map on the winner, modulo Trump [WaPo].

Best lines [Los Angeles Times]. And they’re not very good.

Jebbie re-imagined as Shakespeare. “BUSH: Give me my robe. Put on my crown. I have / Immortal longings in me” [McSweeney’s]

Fiorina won the undercard, says the conventional wisdom [WaPo]. 

And Sanders live-tweeted the debate [WaPo].

The Trail

Sanders “plans to speak next month at Liberty University, the evangelical Christian college founded by Rev. Jerry Falwell” [HuffPo]. Sanders: “It goes without saying that my views on many issues — women’s rights, gay rights, education and many other issues — are very different from the opinions of some in the Liberty University community. I think it is important, however, to see if we can reach consensus regarding the grotesque level of income and wealth inequality in our country, about the collapse of the middle class, about the high level of childhood poverty, about climate change and other issues.”

Sanders outdraws Trump in Phoenix [Phoenix Business Journal].

Our Nation’s Capital

Schumer comes out against Iran deal during the Republican debates (!) [WaPo]. Reading between the lines, the revolving hero game can be played against AIPAC, too.

Stats Watch

Employment Situation, July 2015:  “The numbers aren’t spectacular but they’re solid enough to keep a September rate hike in play” [Bloomberg]. “Another plus in the report is a decline in Janet Yellen’s favorite reading, the broadly defined U-6 unemployment rate which is down a notch to 10.4 percent.” Last month, unemployment fell because participation decreased, so this a stronger report. But when you think about it, this entire narrative is as crazy pants as it gets. People are thrown out of work to regulate the economy. How does that make any sense? It’s like the forcing the family outside in the winter and leaving the doors open to cool down an overheated house, instead of turning down the thermostat. And then when they crawl through the ice and snow back into the now-cooler house, we check our “dashboard” and declare victory.

“The judgment call to make relies not on parsing confusing or contradictory data, but in whether is time to raise rates to prevent the economy from overheating down the road” [New York Times]. Like I said…

“A rise in the number of US citizens in work in July could be strong enough to encourage the Federal Reserve to raise its interest rates in September, economists said on Friday” [Telegraph]. “The Federal Reserve has not raised its interest rates in more than nine years [!!!]; they are currently set at a range between 0pc and 0.25pc.” Oligarchs like free money, and can’t possibly believe that nine years of free money is too much. Why stop when things are going so well? Going out on a limb here, but the “one and done” commenters have a point. Maybe four 0.25% increments over the next couple of years, pulling back in 2016 if there’s too much blinding and stiffing and sqealing?

“Along with the jobs report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes a chartbook which paints a picture of a steadily improving labor market in the US” (more charts) [Business Insider].

“Only three of the monthly indicators [on Yellen’s “dashboard” are back to where they were in the four years leading up to the last economic downturn” (handy charts) [Bloomberg].

White House on employment: “But despite the rapid pace of recent growth, some slack left over from the financial crisis remains in our labor market, and there is more work to do to ensure that we continue to make progress” [Market News].

“BLS Jobs Situation Mixed in July 2015. Growth Rate of Employment Continues to Slow” (deep dive with charts) [Econintersect]. “The BLS jobs report headlines from the establishment survey was at expectations. The unadjusted data shows growth is lower than last year with continued almost insignificant deceleration of year-over-year rate of growth. Overall, this report paints a mixed picture.” Bringing some reality to the White House cheerleading, here’s a FRED chart (annotated) from that article; “Index of Employment Levels – 55 and up (blue line), 45 to 54 (red line), 35 to 44 (green line), 25 to 34 (purple line), 20 to 24 (light blue line), and 16 to 19 (orange line):


Econintersect asks: “Who are the victims in this mediocre employment situation? It is not people over 55” (a good argument for lowering Social Security eligibility to 60, to lure more of those old codgers out of the workforce and onto the shuffleboard courts). One set of victims is clearly betrayed Obama voters from 2008 and 2012, and the “youth” that Democrats hope to attract in 2016. Still, some day I should learn Fred. I’d love to see that same chart by income (or education level as a proxy for income).

Consumer Credit, June 2015: “Revolving credit has been on the climb in the consumer credit report, offering a possible signal of deepening strength for consumer spending. Still, this report is dominated by the non-revolving component where the inclusion of student loans has been exaggerating gains” [Bloomberg].


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.

“Senators angered by the decision to upgrade Malaysia in the State Department’s human trafficking report threatened a subpoena on Thursday unless they receive all communications related to the annual US ranking of countries’ efforts to combat modern-day slavery” [Associated Press].

Handy TPP voting timeline (PDF) [Public Citizen]. Important!

“It’s not yet clear when all the negotiators will meet for yet another definitely final round — some reports speak of one this month, others of a November meeting — but it’s already emerged that sectoral talks are taking place in an attempt to hammer out deals in the areas where problems remain” [TechDirt]. Then again, it could be the body twitching. Or negotiators saving face.

“It seems clear to everyone except US negotiators – and biopharmaceutical industry lobbyists – that the demand for extending data exclusivity for biologics needs to be dropped if the TPP is to be finalised” [The Conversation]. “Despite the setback, there will be a strong push to sort out the remaining issues in August.” (I don’t see how another ministerial gets organized before Abe’s August 29 deadline; that’s less than three weeks. Sherpas can’t set up camp and fix the ropes in that time frame. Since these guys have to put their pants on with corkscrews, anything’s possible, given a level of desperation, but can Big Pharma and Hollywood create that, even playing the most inside of inside games? Seems dubious.)

Japanese cosplayers continue petition drive against TPP on copyright [Transparency of TPP].

“As a result of these higher prices for a substantial category of goods, the total volume of trade may actually be lower with the TPP than without it. For this reason, those who want to see more trade may have good reason to oppose the TPP. (The various studies that analyze the impact of the TPP have not incorporated the impact of higher prices due to stronger patent and copyright related protections.)” [CEPR]. If you think TPP et al. are “trade deals,” that’s a good argument.

Black Injustice Tipping Point.

“Ferguson’s radical knitters: “If someone asks me what I’m doing, I say, ‘I’m knitting for black liberation'” [Guardian]. Word of the day: Tricoteuse. 

“A year after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown sparked a firestorm in Ferguson, the city is still pumping out thousands of new arrest warrants and jailing people over minor offenses” [CNNMoney]. Shocker; the city still needs the money, hence law enforcement for profit. Institutional racism always exists for a reason; it isn’t “motiveless malgnity.”

“A majority of whites now say the country needs to do more to make equal rights a reality, and a significantly larger number of white Americans say that blacks are treated less fairly than others by law enforcement officials, according to several newly released polls” [Los Angeles Times]. Do note that #BlackLivesMatter did this, and not Democrats, and not Obama.

“[Documents from a ‘crisis management’ report produced by the Okhrana the cybersecurity firm ZeroFox] identified [Bowdoin graduate and Teach for American maven] Deraay McKesson and Johnetta Elzie, two prominent Black Lives Matter organizers who took part in the Baltimore protests, as ‘threat actors’ for whom ‘immediate response is recommended” [Mother Jones]. Last of the Romanovs-level stupidity.

“Even as job growth has been sustained month-over-month during the bulk of Obama’s presidency, the recovery from the 2007-09 financial crisis has been slowest for African-Americans — and that has troubled both [Jesse] Jackson and economists” [International Business Times], interview with Jackson (who I would imagine is a good deal more “troubled” than “economists”).

“[R]ace and colour in Brazil are lived differently than they are in other parts of the world. But a range of colours cannot disguise a fundamental truth: There is a hierarchy, and white is at the top” [Globe and Mail].

Imperial Collapse Watch

“Tyler S. Drumheller, a high-level CIA officer who publicly battled agency leaders over one of the most outlandish claims in the U.S. case for war with Iraq, died Aug. 2 at a hospital in Fairfax County. He was 63” [WaPo]. Over a decade later, “one of the most outlandish claims.” I seem to remember WaPo cheering the war on, back in the day. 


“The man who set up and administered Hillary Clinton’s personal email server during her tenure as Secretary of State worked for the State Department. This adds ethical issues to the problems Clinton already faces, as well raising questions about a taxpayer-paid official conducting private business on our dime” [The Ghost of Tom Joad]. “According to the Washington Post, those briefed on the server state the hardware was purchased for use by Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign and installed at the Chappaqua home. That means any malware acquired under the conditions of the campaign migrated with the server.” s

“As in so many cases, there are only two logical possibilities. Either Tom Hayes’s bosses at UBS and Citi knew what he was doing, in which case they are guilty as well. Or they didn’t know about a widespread conspiracy being conducted across the electronic communications systems of some of the most technologically sophisticated companies in the world, in which case they are recklessly incompetent” [Baseline Scenario]. “When it comes to Tom Hayes, there is a lot of evidence for the former.”

“Secret audio recordings made public Friday by the Detroit News revealed a tea party lawmaker in Michigan tried to fake a gay sex scandal with a male prostitute in order to cover up his affair with a married, female tea party state lawmaker” [Talking Points Memo].

Agnotology Watch

Jon Stewart:

Lambert here: No, it isn’t “everywhere.”

This, however, is encouraging: “14 logical fallacies that keep showing up in bad arguments” [Business Insider]. And see Dan Froomkin’s commentary on both Stewart and bullshit in 2006.

Class Warfare

“[Elida Gonzalez, the] now-23-year-old daughter of a farm worker from Santa Maria, Calif., signed up with 13th Avenue Funding, borrowing $15,000 to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Sacramento-based nonprofit group agreed to fund her college expenses in exchange for a share of her future earnings in an arrangement called an income-share agreement” [Yahoo News].  Yikes. “[There are] a variety of government, university and market-based experiments with such income-share agreements, in which investors essentially buy stock in the students. At stake: a fundamental shift in the way Americans finance higher education.” “‘It feels icky to me,’ said David Bergeron, a former Obama White House education adviser.”

Well, sharecropping, indentured servitude, serfdom, and slavey are all “icky.” Let’s just hope Gonzalez’s “income share” agreement — note the word “share,” again — doesn’t include a contract for, er, personal services….

News of the Wired

“The general rule seems to be: systems which eat items quickly are fed more items. Slow systems starve” [jsomers.net]. Yeah, like forests. Or groundwater. “Furious activity is no substitute for understanding.” –Jon Benteley

“The slow-chemistry movement” [Nature]. “Slow, solid-state reactions used by lichens and Renaissance pigment-makers could help to make chemistry greener.”

“The number NHLBI trials reporting positive results declined after the year 2000. Prospective declaration of outcomes in RCTs, and the adoption of transparent reporting standards, as required by clinicaltrials.gov, may have contributed to the trend toward null findings” [PLOS-One].

“MH370: France launches searches around Reunion” [BBC].

“The Pros And Cons Of Trophy Hunting” [The Onion].

“Where the New York City Subway Doesn’t Go” [CityLabs]. Outer boroughs in “subway deserts.”

“Op-Ed: I’m Breaking Up With Drake” [Pitchfork]. A stylish, fun article whose lingo I read with the same comprehension I read stylish, fun cricket coverage.

* * *

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):


Another pretty flower from Kurt’s European visit

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


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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. Juan

    “Tyler S. Drumheller, a high-level CIA officer who publicly battled agency leaders over one of the most outlandish claims in the U.S. case for war with Iraq, died Aug. 2 at a hospital in Fairfax County. ”

    The same Tyler S Drumheller said to have been the source of Sid Blumenthal’s Intel sent to Secretary of State Clinton?

  2. allan

    `we won’t know “what happened” in the debates until our famously free press agrees on a narrative’

    But there is also this: Internet search engines may be influencing elections

    “What we’re talking about here is a means of mind control on a massive scale that there is no precedent for in human history.” That may sound hyperbolic, but Robert Epstein says it’s not an exaggeration. Epstein, a research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research in Vista, California, has found that the higher a politician ranks on a page of Internet search results, the more likely you are to vote for them.

    It’s a good thing that Google is an objective source of information without any corporate interests.

    1. marsko

      facebook actively manipulated newsfeeds to see if they could affect voter turnout in the 2012 election. here is one news source http://www.rt.com/usa/202019-facebook-user-manipulation-election/, but there are other news sources about this particular experiment. at the sametime, facebook’s founder/CEO has been involved with the controversial FWD.US organization that has been lobbying on immigration matters. who knows what facebook plans for the future?

  3. Jim Haygood

    “The Sacramento-based nonprofit group agreed to fund [Elida Gonzalez’s] college expenses in exchange for a share of her future earnings in an arrangement called an income-share agreement.”

    We are all participants in a similar indentured servitude arrangement, despite never having signed up for it. It’s called the income tax.

    Who needs chattel slavery, when our overlords can simply skim the cream via the payroll tax, while making the serfs responsible for their own maintenance and upkeep with what remains?

    1. Gareth

      I’m confused. I thought that when I cashed my Social Security check or received health services under Medicare I was looting from the grandchildren, now you tell me I’m ripping off the overlords?

    2. cwaltz

      I don’t see the big deal isn’t anyone paying ANY loan is essentially paying a “share” of their income? It seems at least in this case there is a caveat that they aren’t collecting if she doesn’t make at least $18,000 and it has a limit to how long they can collect. Traditional banks would collect even if she made under that and the government even allows social security to b garnished to collect on student loans.

      It would be interesting to see a side by side based on income levels. I mean essentiallly 5% for someone making $20,000 is essentially paying $1,000 in a year or less than $100 a month and it starts the clock on those 15 years. We’ve all heard the horror stories of people who owe hundreds per month on traditional loans when they make little to nothing and the interest carries on and on to have them pay for well beyond 15 years.

    3. hunkerdown

      How do you expect people to be motivated to participate in the money economy without the threat of violence? This is a serious question.

  4. Vatch

    The carried interest loophole comes up periodically here at NC. I wondered whether there is a bill to repeal this little feature of our tax system, and there is! The Carried Interest Fairness Act of 2015 has been introduced in both the House of Representatives (by Sander Levin of Michigan) and the Senate (by Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin):

    HR 2889: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2889

    S.1686: https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/senate-bill/1686

    1. Vatch

      Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WisconsinVersailles), the chairman of the House Ways and Means committee, said that there won’t be any changes to the carried interest tax before 2017. He said this five weeks before Levin and Baldwin introduced their bills.


      I guess it would be bad form to do anything that might interfere with the ability of billionaires to contribute vast sums to political candidates in 2016.

    1. JCC

      Great stuff, optimader, thanks for the links.

      I recently bought a relatively small plot in the High Desert region of the Mojave and had to cut down and/or remove over 20 dead and fallen trees on the property (the property had been left empty for a couple of years and I have no clue on how the previous owner had kept these trees growing – most were not native to the area). It was a very depressing eperience. Being from a rural region in the northeast I really miss trees… a lot. This may be my best and most realistic solution to replanting with native trees that offer decent shade and homes for local bird populations.

      Here’s another link to the projects Mr. Hoff is involved in. Hesounds like one of the “good ones”.


      1. optimader

        Im glad it offers some possibilities for you JCC. It all seems to make practical sense .. I dig (figuratively) the hole preparation tool that is connected to the tractor PTO. you can do some serious indigenous terraforming there.

  5. Brindle

    I usually don’t go out of my way to read Ezra Klein but he seems to get the Trump modus operandi:

    —But Trump goes further. There is no border or boundary to his self-confidence. He doesn’t just tell you he won’t back down. He stands up and shows he won’t back down. He is a mathematical proof for himself.

    And that makes him almost impossible to trap in this kind of forum. The media keep thinking they can quote Trump’s worst statements back to him and he will have to admit their ugliness, he will have to apologize for his basic lack of decency, he will have to reveal a crack in his ego’s facade. But they are wrong.—


    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      They can talk to the Trump staff, and try to Leona Helmsley him. They can dig into his real estate business, and try to Geraldine Ferraro him. I just don’t know. What will any of that tell us that we don’t already know, or assume? They can try to make him ridiculous, but again…

      You can say that it’s the dog days of August, and that people will turn to a “serious” candidate when the race starts in earnest, after Labor Day. The assumption here is that voters regard any of the Republican candidates as serious.

      1. Brindle

        August probably has something to do with it. Once the Patriots/Cowboys/Niners/Seahawks start playing, a more predictable diversion will have arrived.

      2. hunkerdown

        To be fair, Ms. Helmsley didn’t seem to hire the best PR fixers the ploppies on third base could buy. Thus, Helmsley never managed to make her executive approval the top prize in a nationally televised fame show[1]. I think Trump’s built the right sort of brand, including a powerful Reality Distortion Field, to turn any tyranny you like into an asset for leadership.

        Besides, is there all that much daylight between Hillary and Helmsley, from ground level? I don’t think so; they’re both the same old, white, rich, autocratic, Exceptional executive. I don’t see the Democratic Party Inc. putting Hillary in the way of shrapnel from the Helmsley treatment, or for that matter the Ferraro treatment, unless Hillary is the decoy and Sanders is the Party’s choice.

        “That which does not kill us only makes us stranger” – Æon Flux

        [1] I meant to type game show but changed my mind on the way to the Backspace key.

  6. New Deal democrat

    Your wish is my command: ;-)

    Employment by educational attainment (number of employed):


    YoY% change in employment by educational attainment:


    Unemployment rate by educational attainment:


    I don’t think there is any monthly or quarterly data on this info by income.

    BTW, any time you want to illustrate a post with a FRED graph, feel free to email me and I will see if I can find the data you seek.

  7. DJG

    Lambert here: No, it [bullshit] isn’t “everywhere.”

    And if there is a flaw in Stewart’s world, it is that sort of ooshy centrist idea that “they’re all scoundrels,” except for the rather fawning interviews with Obama, say, who isn’t quite scoundrelly enough according to Stewart world. What has happened is that Obama is very effective at inhabiting that zone created by liberals like Stewart, who have never held Obama accountable for torture, for suppressing Occupy, for Guantanamo, and for the surveillance state. Because, well, it’s all bullshit, and how can you deal with it?

    On the other hand, if bullshit is indeed everywhere, that assertion certainly helps to explain the continuing crisis in monotheism. (Now, just what are all of those Congresspeeps doing in Israel, if not being manipulated partially by their own religio-politio-bullcrappy ideas?)

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      That’s why I added the Froomkin paper from 2003, when IIRC I started blogging. Stewart is eloquent in diagnosis, short on treatment. OTOH, it might be that it takes 13 years for ideas to move from fringe to mainstream.

      1. DJG

        Ahh, Lambert, où sont les bull-shittes d’antan?

        From the Froomkin piece:
        “Republican political leaders these past six years have built up a massive, unprecedented credibility deficit, such that even their most straightforward assertions invite close bullshit inspection. By contrast, Democratic bullshit tends to center more around hypocrisy and political cowardice. Trying to find equivalency between the two would still be a mistake – and could lead to catty, inside-baseball gotcha journalism rather than genuine bullshit-calling.”

        That distinction no longer applies, in particular because of the Democrats’ acquiescence to torture. That sort of political cowardice is plain wickedness, as the freshman class junkets in Israel to learn that the Palestinians and Iranians don’t want peace…

        1. Vatch

          The wickedness of the Obama administration extends beyond their acquiescence to torture and the surveillance state, etc. They have steadfastly refused to prosecute any of the senior financial executives who caused the Great Financial Collapse, and they have vigorously promoted toxic trade agreements that would harm the great majority of Americans.

        2. Lambert Strether Post author

          Yes, 2003 – 2006 was a time of hope. Then Pelosi came in, took impeachment off the table immediately*, and deep-sixed the Mark Foley scandal in the ethics committee.

          * There was a quite well-developed constitutional critique of the Bush administration, but then it’s OK when our guy does it.

    2. wbgonne

      A brutal takedown of Obama’s phony prison reform, which only surfaced after the hard Right, including David Vitter and the odious Koch Brothers, gave him permission:

      On this issue on so many others, the president is “a master of appearing to do what he doesn’t do” (Kimberly). Beneath symbolism – setting foot in a prison, applauding the take-down of the Confederate Flag, public anger at the police treatment of the bourgeois professor Henry Louis Gates, a claim to look like Trayvon Martin – there’s no seriously anti-racist or social justice substance in Obama’s presidency. Mass incarceration may have plateaued for systemic reasons in the Age of Obama, but if it ever declines significantly it will do so in spite of his criminal justice con-game.


      Obama truly is a sinister person. I cannot wait for him to be gone.

      1. Vatch

        I cannot wait for him to be gone.

        But then he’ll be able to cash in by receiving huge payments for speaking, consulting, and writing! Is there a way for him to end up near the event horizon of a black hole? Then time would slow to a crawl, and it would be centuries before he could give a lucrative speech to a group of plutocrats!

        1. craazyboy

          Obama is a golfer. He might like it. You know far you can drive a golf ball into a black hole? Really, really far.

    3. Uahsenaa

      I got in an argument with a friend over precisely this topic, and the essence of my criticism of Stewart, though I generally find him to be quite funny, is that he has a remarkable ability to dissociate people’s personalities from the behavior they engage in. Because, on the Daily Show, many of the awful things this administration has perpetrated are rightly taken to task, but they’re treated as if these bad actions had no association with bad actors. This means, according to this particular worldview, that people are fundamentally good but somehow circumstances conspire to cause them to act against their own and our best interests. One example of this kind of argument is the hackneyed, “but he couldn’t save us because Republican Congress” argument or the more nuanced, “the federal government is an elaborate bureaucracy over which no one individual could assert total direct control with the lords of the respective fiefdoms exhibiting some behavior that may not go over well with the man at the top but which nevertheless he becomes responsible for.” Stewart never seems to want to believe that Obama might just be an Uncle Tom, that he benefits directly and personally from this state of affairs in which politicians are rewarded handsomely for basically having no values whatsoever beyond perpetuating a status quo in which power and money ever increasingly devolve toward those who already possess it.

      I, on the other hand, having grown up around the metro Chicago area, have no problem at all believing that he is just this kind of politician, whose conciliatory gestures, like having a beer with Henry Louis Gates or singing Marvin Gay at the Apollo or the Trayvon comments, draw attention to “what a swell guy he is” and away from “what horrible crimes have been perpetrated not just under his watch but at his insistence,” lest we forget that he doesn’t seem to lose any sleep over murdering the son of a man who was merely suspected of committing a crime (al-Awlaki). Sympathy for the plight of Black America rings pretty hollow in the mouth of a man who has no problem murdering random brown folk on the other side of the world.

      This whole “he’s the kind of guy you can have a beer with” thing, which Stewart seems to subscribe to, has got to stop. I have over the years partaken of spirits with a number of people whose views on racial justice, economic justice, and what have you I find abhorrent. I don’t understand how being personally affable allows you to get away with being despicable.

      1. jrs

        Fundamentally good people are not likely to become president of the U.S. The very position requires them to do evil (wars, drone bombings) etc.

        1. Emma

          Methinks a few of us might be jumping over shadows like kids here. You know, if you’re the POTUS (Rep or Dem), there is no way on earth (or ocean if you’re a C21 Socrates…..) you can wholly embrace the ‘I will do as I wish’ approach. If we were exposed to what they’re privy to, we’d soon understand POTUS means ‘I must do what I can’ and this approach is undoubtedly motivated by duty in the perceived best interests of preserving America…….Unless any of us are capable of both setting alight heaven and hosing down hell, I don’t think anyone of us is in a position to appropriately judge any POTUS with impartiality. If we want to quaff the wine of dawn, let’s first try and be creatures of reason before ‘Christians’ denouncing the ‘wickedness’ or ‘evil’ of Presidents……

          1. Kurt Sperry

            If we were exposed to what they’re privy to, we’d soon understand POTUS means ‘I must do what I can’

            I’m skeptical that the POTUS has access to better or more complete information than can be gleaned by a resourceful researcher using open sources. I read somewhere that available open source intelligence is generally far deeper and more accurate than the top secret stuff. The stuff the spooks/deep staters/whatever tell the POTUS is probably in large measure just scaremongering bullshit tailored to elicit or lead the target towards a self serving set of policy choices.

            The real secret is there are very, very few secrets of any import or value, and most of what is, is mostly gossip and dirty laundry.

            1. optimader

              Agreed, I have never bought into the “their seemingly preposterous course of action must actually make sense, if only I had access to the actionable intelligence info they have access to…” premise.

              Most robust decisions are rendered from a wide variety of sources. (file under Firehouse effect “Firehouse effect is characterized by a clique of people with much downtime (firemen) who end up strongly agreeing with each other about things that would seem incorrect to any rational observer “

              Consider, who had a better grasp of reality, ideologues like Cheney, Tenet, Addington, Libby who shaped a narrative in their virtual “firehouse” using laughably (tragically so ) ulterior motivated thin sources like “Curve ball” to provide actionable intel for the Stovepipe to the POTUS, or more widely and deeply grounded (and dismissed with prejudice) sources like the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission?
              Blix’s statements about the Iraq WMD program came to contradict the claims of the George W. Bush administration,[6] and attracted a great deal of criticism from supporters of the invasion of Iraq. In an interview on BBC 1 on 8 February 2004, Blix accused the US and British governments of dramatizing the threat of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, in order to strengthen the case for the 2003 war against the government of Saddam Hussein. Ultimately, no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction were ever found.[7]

              U.S. National Security and Foreign Policymaking After 9/11: Present at the …
              By M. Kent Bolton

            2. Yves Smith

              No, you are wrong on this. It’s more complicated than you think. Henry Kissinger sought out Daniel Ellsberg as one of his top priority meetings as a new government official . Ellsberg was highly respected as a world-reknown decision theorist, and as one of the most insightful people on Vietnam, having spend substantial time on the ground (as opposed to cloistered in Saigon) on behalf of the DoD and State. Ellsberg’s description of that encounter from his book Secrets:

              “Henry, there’s something I would like to tell you, for what it’s worth, something I wish I had been told years ago. You’ve been a consultant for a long time, and you’ve dealt a great deal with top secret information. But you’re about to receive a whole slew of special clearances, maybe fifteen or twenty of them, that are higher than top secret.

              “I’ve had a number of these myself, and I’ve known other people who have just acquired them, and I have a pretty good sense of what the effects of receiving these clearances are on a person who didn’t previously know they even existed. And the effects of reading the information that they will make available to you.

              “First, you’ll be exhilarated by some of this new information, and by having it all — so much! incredible! — suddenly available to you. But second, almost as fast, you will feel like a fool for having studied, written, talked about these subjects, criticized and analyzed decisions made by presidents for years without having known of the existence of all this information, which presidents and others had and you didn’t, and which must have influenced their decisions in ways you couldn’t even guess. In particular, you’ll feel foolish for having literally rubbed shoulders for over a decade with some officials and consultants who did have access to all this information you didn’t know about and didn’t know they had, and you’ll be stunned that they kept that secret from you so well.

              “You will feel like a fool, and that will last for about two weeks. Then, after you’ve started reading all this daily intelligence input and become used to using what amounts to whole libraries of hidden information, which is much more closely held than mere top secret data, you will forget there ever was a time when you didn’t have it, and you’ll be aware only of the fact that you have it now and most others don’t….and that all those other people are fools.

              “Over a longer period of time — not too long, but a matter of two or three years — you’ll eventually become aware of the limitations of this information. There is a great deal that it doesn’t tell you, it’s often inaccurate, and it can lead you astray just as much as the New York Times can. But that takes a while to learn.

              “In the meantime it will have become very hard for you to learn from anybody who doesn’t have these clearances. Because you’ll be thinking as you listen to them: ‘What would this man be telling me if he knew what I know? Would he be giving me the same advice, or would it totally change his predictions and recommendations?’ And that mental exercise is so torturous that after a while you give it up and just stop listening. I’ve seen this with my superiors, my colleagues….and with myself.

              “You will deal with a person who doesn’t have those clearances only from the point of view of what you want him to believe and what impression you want him to go away with, since you’ll have to lie carefully to him about what you know. In effect, you will have to manipulate him. You’ll give up trying to assess what he has to say. The danger is, you’ll become something like a moron. You’ll become incapable of learning from most people in the world, no matter how much experience they may have in their particular areas that may be much greater than yours.”

              1. LifelongLib

                So what is all this secret information that you need clearances to read? If it’s much more than that aircraft carrier x is at position y it should probably be public. This looks like secrecy being used to prevent democracy.

                1. ambrit

                  You have put your finger on the crux of the matter.
                  Secrecy and democracy are implacable enemies.
                  I suspect that that is why Ellsberg released the Pentagon Papers.

              2. Kurt Sperry

                That doesn’t really read to me as any sort of refutation of my skeptical assessment. This above top secret stuff is in Ellsberg’s words “often inaccurate” and can thus lead or be used to lead the target away from more correct analyses by its inflated putative authority. As the sources for this in all likelihood cannot be fact checked or held accountable in any immediate way, it will tend to become an ad hoc vector for the deliberate injection of misinformation or highly biased analyses into the highest levels of policy decision making processes that can be used to influence policy outcomes in a completely opaque and unaccountable way. To cite the most obvious example, the entire Iraq War II was built around a false set of these “above top secret” assertions of fact that were fed to the highest levels of the executive, and in hindsight these could have been pretty easily debunked entirely using open sources. This “above top secret” intelligence turned out to be complete garbage and a major war was launched based on this garbage, which clearly says to me that “The stuff the spooks/deep staters/whatever tell the POTUS is probably in large measure just scaremongering bullshit tailored to elicit or lead the target towards a self serving set of policy choices.”

                Given this, it just feels “foily” to me to uncritically accept that there is a large body of highly secret and objective facts that top level decision makers have access to. If that stuff went through any real vetting or rigorous fact checking processes, Iraq War II would never have even happened. History says clearly and unambiguously that a system to do that fact checking isn’t in place and thus the notion of a ‘large body of highly secret and objective facts’ is at best a distortion and probably often a complete fiction.

                1. JTMcPhee

                  Maybe that supersecret stuff is more like which actors in the MIC, Cuban and AIPAC groups, FBICIANSA, can and will kill you, Mr/Ms. Pres, if you even think about trying to rein in the nice gigs they have for themselves or the idiotic but titillating games they get to play with the bodies of the body politic. And what the various sneaks and spooks have in their “oppo” files that might reflect badly, and what the various players want you to think they know about e.g. counterinsurgency and nuclear war mutual planetary annihilation. Or how fast combustoconsumption and/or other human politico-economic activity is actually bringing the human area to a close. Maybe even the likely date for the next intersection of the orbits and positions of Planet Earth and an asteroid of say 7 miles in rough diameter. And don’t lets forget Area 51 and the silly persistence of notions of non-human sentient at-least-as-smart-as-we-are critters showing up, dead or alive, out in the hinterlands…

                  1. McKillop

                    I have used truth, stated in a certain way, to mislead people.
                    I have also heard and seen correct language about which has been developed connotation that suggests lies are being told – to wit, “conspiracy” rather than “plot” or “plan”. Or to suggest simple exaggeration or tall tales – “bullshit” rather than “lie”.
                    Two common sayings come to mind. Too much information, much of it irrelevant, is ‘baffling with bullshit’; knowing f*** -all rather than f***-nothing refers to the other.
                    I do have a difficulty accepting that information to which people are not privy, information that is correct and detailed but adds little to the main point, gives people leave to commit despicable and illegal actions. The claim that a position of power either excuses or justifies decided illegal and evil actions is a lie.
                    I’d refer to specific issues but would then, as we jokingly say, “have to kill you”. (Ha. Ha. Ha.)

                    1. McKillop

                      By the bye: an ad involving “The Daily Show” features Stewart stopping Ms. Clinton with a ‘that’s all the time we have’ interruption. Ms. Clinton forces a 3-syllable response meant to be, I guess, a laugh. It was this noise, this Ha. Ha. Ha. that removed all doubt from me about her.

    4. jrs

      I believe this system as currently constituted can only produce scoundrels (too much money in it at least). Is that the same thing? I don’t mind people rolling the dice otherwise, but how I predict that will turn out: the system as currently constituted can only product scoundrels.

      1. mad as hell.

        Thanks for the Baffler tip off. There seems to be some interesting articles written in there.

  8. optimader

    “[Elida Gonzalez, the] now-23-year-old daughter of a farm worker from Santa Maria, Calif., signed up with 13th Avenue Funding, borrowing $15,000 to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

    of course the article is not forthcoming what her “bachelor degree” discipline is.

    15 years at 5% of salary (triggered at $18K of income) more or less works out to A $20K a year breakeven, neglecting interest/inflation.

    So is she in fact in a RN program and needs $15K to complete it, then pursue her professional objective to become a physician assistant??

    by this guide a RN is good for ~$47/hr ~$98 k a year. If she is truly on track to become an RN, the conventional career path to become a PA, then the will be an expensive loan and she will probably take a financial beating for 15 years.

    If the reality her degree qualification limits her to being , say, a Nurses Assistant
    then it might not be too, too bad of a deal., but there should be a max payment cap.

    if in the 15 year trajectory she indeed achieve her goal to become a PA, she seemingly made a financial blunder IMO
    With a median salary ~$110K /year?

  9. Oregoncharles

    From the article on logical fallacies: “because something can happen, or is likely to happen, it will happen” –
    Is not a fallacy. The real problem is the time frame: “it will happen” GIVEN LONG ENOUGH. That’s the working definition of “possible.”

    Of course, if there’s only one iteration (Obamacare meeting its targets), or a short time limit, then it’s wrong. The example was “cherry-picked” to validate the claim.

  10. Adam Eran

    The Elida Gonzalez case sounds a lot like indentured servitude. Didn’t Lincoln free the indentured servants?

      1. Oregoncharles

        It’s Ajuga, a common ornamental here. Is inthe mint famiy, I think, but doesn’t smell like one.

        A purple-leaved form is growing all through my grass.

  11. JEHR

    More on bullshit:

    See: http://www.goldmansachs666.com/2011/06/bullshit-and-goldman-sachs.html

    Yesterday, I was reading the July issue of Harper’s Magazine and came across a delightful essay by Mark Kingwell called “The Language of Work.” Kingwell teaches philosophy at the University of Toronto. Here’s the paragraph that jumped out at me and made me think of Goldman Sachs:

    Jargon, slogans, euphemisms, and terms of art are all weapons in the upgrade/downgrade tradition. We might class them together under the technical term bullshit, set out by philosopher Harry Frankfurt. The routine refusal to speak with regard to the truth is called bullshit because evasion of normativity–correctness being, after all, a standard external to one’s personal desires–produces a kind of ordure, a dissemination of garbage, the scattering of shit. This is why, Frankfurt argues, bullshit is far more threatening, and politically evil, than lying. The bullshitter “does not reject the authority of truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

    You see, that’s it in a nutshell as ZeroHedge also presciently conveyed here.

    The apologists for Goldman Sachs are inclined to use euphemistic bullshit words also by saying, for example, that the banks “took unconscionable risks,” showed “a tendency…to push leverage and risk taking to the extreme,” suffered “weak financial regulation,”and “overconfidence,” etc., when they really mean Goldman Sachs committed fraud and lied about it. Bove and Sorkin make abject apologies for Goldman Sachs in bullshit terms too. (from the link above)

  12. BondsOfSteel

    What kind of internet access did she have? If she had cable internet, she shared a line with all her neighbors. Since email is a unencrypted plain text protocol, every computer on her block would have received her email.

    Most probably weren’t set up for packet sniffing, but it would have been trivial to do so. (Or set up malware in her neighbor’s machines that packet sniffed.)

  13. equote

    What do the so called ‘debates’ and for that matter political contests in the USA imply about its people?
    In 1847 Brantz Mayer answered “The great mass of the country has no time to pause in the midst of its earnest labor to meditate wisely on the political abilities and moral claims of individuals. They cannot weigh them in the golden scales of justice;—but, by a more rapid and easy process, they yield their suffrages promptly to those whose manifestations of genius or power are so resistless as to compel admiration.”

  14. Sam Kanu

    On this topic below, I think this website is being incredibly naive. All over the entire planet there are young footballers who do or have done this, under what is known as “third party ownership” of “economic rights”. Google it. Players like Falcao, Kondogbia, Tevez etc

    The teenagers and young men doing this in football are predominantly black and brown skinned. Children of poverty who have little alternative other than to mortgage their own earning potential.

    As our own country slides towards third world status, surely it cant be a surprise that this becomes a mainstream activity in the worlds most randian country?

    Class Warfare

    “[Elida Gonzalez, the] now-23-year-old daughter of a farm worker from Santa Maria, Calif., signed up with 13th Avenue Funding, borrowing $15,000 to complete her bachelor’s degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz. The Sacramento-based nonprofit group agreed to fund her college expenses in exchange for a share of her future earnings in an arrangement called an income-share agreement” [Yahoo News]. Yikes. “[There are] a variety of government, university and market-based experiments with such income-share agreements, in which investors essentially buy stock in the students. At stake: a fundamental shift in the way Americans finance higher education.” “‘It feels icky to me,’ said David Bergeron, a former Obama White House education adviser.”

    Well, sharecropping, indentured servitude, serfdom, and slavey are all “icky.” Let’s just hope Gonzalez’s “income share” agreement — note the word “share,” again — doesn’t include a contract for, er, personal services…

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