2:00PM Water Cooler 9/16/2015

Readers, thanks for your patience as I grumbled yesterday. Today, I’m on my backup laptop running Windows Vista, so all is well [snort]. Please forgive the missing links between []s; I made the foolish assumption that the outliner I was working in would export its HTML as text and not as graphics [snarl]. I’ll start putting the links in now, working from the top; I figured it was better to hit the 2:00PM mark then wait. So thanks for your patience again!

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


The Voters

Why Presidental primaries are harder to call than elections: “Presidential nominations are not single-day contests with two candidates from clearly defined parties competing to get the plurality of the vote in enough states to garner 270 Electoral College votes. They are dynamic multi-month, multi-candidate contests between rivals who often differ little on the issues and compete to win delegates in states, which often have different sets of rules. They are a process in which, as scholars like Vanderbilt University’s Larry Bartels have shown, previous primary performances and expectations can influence subsequent contests. In short, while it may prove to be short-lived, momentum matters” [Bloomberg]. Take that, Nate Silver!

“Obama hits ‘coddled’ liberal college students” [The Hill]. Translation: “Obama to demographic he conned with ‘Hope and Change in 2008: ‘Let them eat pound cake.'” Unbelievable, even for Obama.

The Trail

“After delivering a 13-minute ‘foreign policy’ speech in which he touched only briefly on anything approaching foreign policy, Donald Trump began to throw his signature — and highly sought after —’Make America Great Again’ hats into the California crowd” [WaPo]. And why not? Because the Beltway brings such dignity to the process?

Clinton slowly tanking: “But over the last two months, the steady and expected erosion of her ratings has surprisingly accelerated. Her ratings are now lower than they were in 2007 or 2008, or at any point in her political career” [Nate Cohn, New York Times]. And the insiders know it (and, being insiders, may know more than we know). There’s an old saying in marketing (and it pains me, except not, to quote Joan Walsh in this context): “The dogs won’t eat the dog food.” In other words, I don’t think there’s an issue with the Clinton campaign; and in any case nothing like the pre-caucus 2008 campaign; the problem is the product candidate.

Sanders to meet the #BlackLivesMatter activist @deray today [Mashable]. Skeptical of strong BLM/TFA connection, but life is almost never simple…

“Remarks at the Liberty University Convocation” [Bernie Sanders]. Ironically, the Confederacy considered the right to purchase black human beings the “very definition” of liberty; and the consequences are still playing out today.

“[Biden’s] discussion of his own grief over his son Beau’s death was beautiful and genuine and revealed the golden heart that everybody knows is at the core of the man. [David Brooks, New York Times, “The Biden Formation Story”]. Gag. Spew. For those who came in late, Brooks liked Obama a lot in 2008. And never mind how Biden serviced MBNA — “golden,” indeed! — by making student loans non-dischargeable in bankruptcy; check this out: The Many Occasions Joe Biden Took Credit For Writing The Patriot Act. No wonder Brooks likes him.

The Hill

“The mystery of Pelosi’s con­tinu­ing en­thu­si­asm for her job is deepened by the fact that, real­ist­ic­ally, she stands prac­tic­ally zero chance of ever be­com­ing House speak­er again” [National Journal]. Hey, remember when the Democrats won back the House in 2006 and Pelosi took impeachment off the table and deep-sixed the Mark “Can you measure for me?” Foley scandal with the House pages? Good times. They seem so long ago.


The Fed: FOMC two-day meeting starts today ZOMG!!! “[T]he majority of the FOMC believes that the economy has now largely “normalised”, while the level of rates remains far from normal” [Financial Times, “Janet Yellen’s fateful decision”]. “This can be translated into a Taylor Rule framework, which shows fairly clearly that a rate rise will be overdue by the end of 2015. Ms Yellen, based on her past statements, seems to accept this broad framework.”

The Fed: “Since World War II, the median rate of growth in profits has decreased markedly when the Fed raised rates, falling by roughly half in the year after an increase, data from Ned Davis Research Group show” [Bloomberg].

The Fed: “Technological advances such as hydraulic fracturing in oil fields, online commerce and mobile phone applications have created a stubbornly low price environment, even with policy makers juicing economic growth through near-zero interest rates. That’s why Fed officials should consider lowering their inflation target” [Bloomberg].

The Fed: “Given the emphasis the Fed has placed on their expectation that inflation will return to trend, a pass tomorrow reflects a lack of confidence in this forecast. By extension, it means an increased risk of an eventual inflation overshoot as they seeminly wait until inflation is clear and present to move into traditional hiking mode. This should give owners of nominal securities pause and push them toward the security of real rates” [Across the Curve].

Consumer Price Index, August 2015: “Consumer prices came in soft in August and will not be turning up the heat on the doves at the FOMC” [Econoday].

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of September 11, 2015: “The purchase index fell 4.0 percent in the holiday shortened September 11 week. The refinance index, which has been swinging wildly the last several weeks, fell 9.0 percent” [Econoday].

Housing Market Index, September 2015: “Optimism among the nation’s home builders continues to build. The housing market index is up another point this month” [Econoday].

“For the third year in a row, the rate of growth in global trade is set to trail the already sluggish expansion of the world economy, according to data from the World Trade Organization and projections from leading economists” [Wall Street Journal, ‘Worries Rise Over Global Trade Slump”]. ” Before the recent slump, the last time trade growth underperformed the rate of an economic expansion was 1985.

“Buried in the Senate-passed version of the big highway bill is a provision that would require the Treasury secretary to use private debt collectors to collect unpaid back taxes” [New York Times]. Well, that worked out great for the Bourbons

“[Philadelphia] Manufacturing activity posted another modest gain in September as rising orders from a range of industries was offset by the lingering effects of a series of shutdowns by three major companies over the summer” [Market News]. “In all three cases, we are talking about large national corporations that have purchased what were locally owned businesses and have consolidated them,’ [the Philly Fed’s Mike] Cooper said. ‘In some cases those activities are now being offshored and we’re left with holes in our employment and real estate markets.'” So it’s sort of like we’re the farm team, isn’t it?

Police State

Irving ISD is sending a letter to all parents about Ahmed and how it’s his fault. Here’s the letter [Irving Independent School District]. One of the many problems with the national security class is that it places bedwetters and morons in positions of authority. And very well-fed ones at that.

“A retired Chicago police officer is charged with threatening to harm a coroner and other officials who are investigating the fatal shooting of a northern Illinois officer unless they categorized that death a suicide, authorities said Sunday” [St Louis Today].

” Miami Herald investigation: Young inmates beaten and raped in prison broomstick ritual” [Miami Herald]. Called “a test of heart.” And of course the Department of Corrections is involved to, not only by condoning violence, but participating in it.

Our Famously Free Press

“The unfortunate truth about the podcasting industry” [Kernel Magazine]. “With the rise of podcasting conventions, endless hosting services, and services so useless that their utility needs to be explained by a sales rep multiple times, a new industry is forming below the actual podcasting one: It’s a predatory industry, and it operates on the principle that, if you charge people a lot of money for something, they’ll think it’s necessary to cement their commitment to a craft that, odds-wise, they’ll most likely never get anywhere with.” It’s like being a small publisher. There’s an immense amount of sheerly bad writing in the world, sadly.

Dear Old Blighty

Wins the Internet for Corbynsteria today:

News of the Wired

“20 Things You’ll Only Understand If You Owned A Nokia 3310” [Short List]. Pure clickbait (sorry), but I can’t resist putting in a plug for the “dumb phone.”

“Sound waves used to activate brain cells in a worm” [BBC].

“The Art of ‘Farecasting’ the Lowest Airfare” [New York Times].

“How Ashley Madison Hid Its Fembot Con From Users and Investigators” [Gizmodo]. A fading story, but lots of technical detail. Working on the theory that the sex industry is the pioneer of all new media, I don’t see why we don’t see the adoption of the Ashley Madison’s technology for, say, customer support. Or interactions with government officials, or quasi-government officials, like ObamaCare Navigators. After all, the question isn’t whether the Fembots were terrible — they were, and people complained — but whether Ashley Madison got away with it; that is, of the power relations. And they did, until the hack. So expect more exploitation of this fruitful method of crapification. And speaking of Mark Zuckerberg:

“Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long disliked the idea of a dislike button, but he said today that Facebook will soon be testing an alternative to the Like button, another way for people to express shorthand emotions within the social network [Marketing Land].”[T]he idea is to give people a way to express empathy.” Zuckerberg: “It’s surprisingly complicated [!] to make an interaction that you want to be that simple.” Squillionaire sociopaths defining the range of emotions that can be quickly expressed online by billions of people. What could go wrong?

* * *

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 (Dimitri):

aanikon 150817 327

Greek summer flower….

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter is coming, I want to buy a few books, and I need to keep my server up, too.


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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. JustAnObserver

    Hi Lambert,

    None of the links have come out as clickable. Or is this just NoScript being overenthusiastic ?

      1. JustAnObserver

        Sorry, must have missed that.


        Vista ?! Things must have been bad to fall back on M$oft’s worst ever ‘doze release :-)
        Made such a mess of my – then – laptop that it took me 2 days to re-install XP.

  2. ambrit

    The Facebook ‘wetware compression algorithm’ story highlights one of my fears about ‘Homo Artificialis.’ The ‘dumbing down’ of the public through the constant narrowing of the “acceptable” methods of discourse leads straight to the manipulation of the public through control of the very means of communication between individuals. If ‘words can kill,’ then emojis can, what, Frowny Face Skull? A knock on effect is the limiting of critical thinking skills. Fewer symbols in one’s language kit must lead to some sort of impoverishment, perhaps all sorts of impoverishment. Language and tool use, the manipulation of the environments, mental and physical, are the hallmarks of human sentience. To impoverish the general language skills set has all of the earmarks of a conscious attempt to disempower the “masses.” The less sophisticated have always been ‘easy marks’ for the less scrupulous high functioning person or group. This development is tilting the playing field more to one side. Heaven help us, yet again.

    1. JTMcPhee

      Depending on what’s left in the too box after the dumbing-down, maybe it would be a good thing that humans with their tools of manipulation esp. of Their Environments might be more limited. We pride ourselves on our “sentience,” but maybe that meatspace wetware contains a death sentence…?

    2. Brooklin Bridge

      We want to keep these images simple for obvious, very obvious reasons. Most obvious, in case I forgot to mention it.

      I like the idea of feeding from a tube (like a tube of tooth paste). When you are sucking from the tube, you have a contented look. When the tube is pulled away, you look sad and confused.

      Voila, l’Univers. Why have all sorts of fancy words to get in the way of such pure expression? Problem solved, Cyborg, I mean, sucker Berger, I mean Zuckerberg.

    3. ambrit

      Great Googly Moogly!
      Resistance is Feudile, er Fertile, oh blast, Fondile. I’ll never make a good SwedenBorgian. (Reduce the narrative to its’ basics.)

    4. Ulysses

      Henry Giroux is on the case:

      “Rather than forcing a populace to adhere to a particular state ideology, the general public in the United States is largely depoliticized through the influence of corporations over schools, higher education, and other cultural apparatuses. The deadening of public values, civic consciousness, and critical citizenship are also the result of the work of anti-public intellectuals representing right-wing ideological and financial interests, a powerful corporate controlled media that are largely center-right, and a market-driven public pedagogy that reduces the obligations of citizenship to the endless consumption and discarding of commodities. In addition, a pedagogy of historical, social, and racial amnesia is constructed and ciculated through a highly popular celebrity culture and its counterpart in corporate-driven news, television, radio, and entertainment to produce a culture of stupidity, censorship, and diversionary spectacles.”


  3. Brindle

    re: Obama “coddled” / The Hill

    I’m sure I’m not the only one who has noticed that when Obama uses the “folks” word that he is in the middle of spewing some B.S.—as in “we tortured some folks”.

    —“It’s not just sometimes folks who are mad that colleges are too liberal that have a problem. Sometimes there are folks on college campuses who are liberal and maybe even agree with me on a bunch of issues who sometimes aren’t listening to the other side. And that’s a problem, too,” Obama said during a town hall on Monday in Des Moines, Iowa.—

    1. neo-realist

      It reads more to me that Obama is using the wrong choice of words in saying “coddled” with respect to the isolation of students from opposing views. “Sheltered” might have been a better choice. Then again, it may be a case of Obama not being able to help himself from showing contempt for those who aren’t powerful and or famous.

      Maybe the President should be complaining about coddled corporate media.

      1. jrs

        Yea, overall it’s fairly unobjectionable except for the word “coddled”. College students should have some intellectual tolerance to different viewpoints and the funding cuts are a bad idea. This is really not some beyond the pale argument. Even though, I too hate the Obomber, for how terrible his Presidency has been.

        But one also asks the question ok how many left radicals REALLY hold positions in academia these days? Is that really how the academic game is played? Or is it more go along to get along? See I suspect it’s the latter. So while some conservative speakers may not be allowed to speak how many open anarchists and communists are there teaching either? So of course it’s a stealth advocacy of conservative premises, not the intellectual openness which is fine, but rather it grants the premise that academia is populated with leftists. And that’s the main thing wrong with it, the rest of it is very milky toast and I don’t disagree with it.

  4. Jim Haygood

    From our Clean Government department:

    A letter from Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md), ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, stepped up pressure on SEC Chairwoman Mary Jo White, asking her to explain why major banks received waivers despite admissions of guilt to felony charges.

    The letter calls out waivers granted to Citi, J.P. Morgan Chase, Barclays, UBS, and Royal Bank of Scotland, who all pleaded guilty to criminal violations. Traders within each bank identified themselves as “The Cartel” and “The Mafia” while conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for U.S. dollars and euros.

    While negotiating their guilty pleas and penalties, the banks simultaneously negotiated the waivers and exemptions with the SEC to avoid being barred from certain business activities such as securities offerings on expedited term. Barclays and UBS also applied for “bad actor” waivers that allow for additional benefits such as raising unlimited amounts of money from the public.


    Say comrade … can you give me a reco letter to join the Bad Actors Club? I need some of them unlimited amounts of money, fast.

    1. Vatch

      On the subject of SEC chairperson Mary Jo White, yesterday NC had an article about the movement to encourage her to retire. For U.S. citizens and residents, if you haven’t already asked your Senators and Representatives to demand White’s resignation, please do so. Admittedly, if we do this we only have a small chance of success. But we have zero chance of success if we don’t do anything. Here’s the NC article:


  5. Left in Wisconsin

    I think Brooks is starting to show some establishment fear that Trump could actually win the nomination, and he’s not sure Hillary can beat him.

    1. nippersdad

      Dick Morris is having a Pampers moment as well. From his editorial at The Hill this morning:

      “As her (Clinton’s) crash continues and accelerates, the prospect that Sanders…will be the Party’s standard bearer in November looms larger and larger in Democratic nightmares. What a wipe out Sanders would be! Democratic Senators and Congressmen would become eligible for the Endangered Species List.”


      There is a new and interesting stench emanating from Versailles on the Potomac. This is going to be a really good year in politics!

      1. Steven D.

        If the Fed raises rates, the next president will be a Republican. If Sanders is the nominee, all the Dick Morrises, David Brookses and Fred Hyatts will point the finger at him.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Sanders as an outsider won’t be affected by the Fed’s actions.

          Hyatt, Brooks, the toe fetishist and so forth have about as much influence as Bob Novak.

    2. jrs

      The prospect of a Trump presidency is almost enough to make one seriously consider voting for Clinton, and I never vote LOTE!

      Maybe I should attempt to seriously read the R debate transcript. This species has amused itself to death.

      1. jrs

        Read as much as I could bear of the R debate.

        – Rand Paul was the most reasonable person there.

        – Carly is absolutely stark raving mad, very possibly the single most insane person there, if Trump is a narcissist, she is a sociopath. And she’s pining for war with Russia.

        – Questioner Hewitt repeated the Big Lie about Syria having crossed a line of using chemical weapons. He wasn’t very specific about what the “line” was, making it harder for anyone to research, but some of us remember. But all evidence points to it not being the Syrian government who set off those chemical weapons. A lie repeated often enough and presumed in a question becomes the truth.

        – Cruz we’re losing sovereignty to the U.N! No mention of losing sovereignty to say TRADE AGREEMENTS. The Medellín v. Texas is interesting, I wonder if it could be used against the TPP. But the fear there was probably that the U.S. could be taken to the Hague.

        – That hack Hack-a-bee – we accommodate prisoners in Gitmo. No hack-a-bee, while some accommodations may have been made, what is done to prisoners in Gitmo is to TORTURE them by means like force feeding in violation of international human rights laws.

        – You could read into Trumps “I know my people” whatever mob connections your liked.

      2. Brooklin Bridge

        One doesn’t vote for Hillary. “The king is dead, God save the Queen”, is the accepted method.

  6. sufferinsuccotash

    Ahmed’s pretty dumb. If he’d been packing heat instead of a clock he’d of been protected by the 2nd Amendment.

    1. Massinissa

      Side note, but in the late 1940s, my late maternal grandfather and his buddy were given permission in high school to keep their hunting rifles in their school lockers so they could go hunting straight after school without having to go home first.

      Such a different, foreign time.

      1. Ivy

        My guess is that Pelosi is hanging around to see how to get a big score like her colleague Feinstein did on that sweetheart post office deal that enriched “Mr. Feinstein.”

  7. Uahsenaa

    “Jeremy Corbyn, having exchanged his Pol Pot sweater vests for an off-white Hugo Chavez sport coat, can be seen walking (like a mere pleb) down streets unnecessarily repaved just last year with your tax dollars toward a street vendor where he will no doubt indulge in a jumbo red hot with more mustard (yellow, no doubt, SNP, wink wink) than his per diem allows for. Other than that, he’s an alright bloke, I guess…”

    Do these people not realize their histrionics just come off as silly? It’s not a dog whistle, if you can hear it loud and clear…

    1. Daryl

      > Do these people not realize their histrionics just come off as silly?

      I think it’s genuine fear.

      Z-z-z-zoinks Scoob! Socialists are real!

    2. nippersdad

      Funny! If you were to read the comments sections in Politico or The Hill, though, I think you will find that most of the commenters filters have become pretty clogged. Overt red baiting is now de rigeur amongst the flying monkeys raised on a diet of Palins’ word salad. Anything less tends to confuse them.

    3. flora

      so, Jeremy Corbyn rides a Trek bike, and George W. Bush rides a Trek bike, and Lance Armstrong rides a Trek bike. News to me that Mao rode a Trek bike. Stop The Presses ! /s

  8. Vatch

    Here’s a juicy tidbit from the NY Times editorial condemning the bill requiring private collection of certain overdue taxes:

    One of the potential tax-collection contractors, Pioneer Credit Recovery in New York, recently lost its contract with the United States Department of Education to collect past-due student debt because it repeatedly gave borrowers misleading and inaccurate information.

      1. ambrit

        Problem is, we’ve already seen this Keystone Kops serial, and we know the plot. That the PTB’s will try to run this con on us again so soon after it was exposed shows a hubris level of arrogance. Now we need a Nemesis to arise.

  9. nippersdad

    Lambert, what’s the scoop on political insiders eating Warfarin? I am intrigued, is this link meant to be a Rasputin reference?

  10. optimader

    Warfarin = Coumadin= Rat Poison btw, for those that don’t get the delicious irony

    As far as HRC, I think we’ve known for sometime she is so poached you don’t need to stick her with a fork.

      1. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

        I know that they shut down comments on a lot of the topics because the comments were ‘turning into a chat board’, but I just have to say that this exchange provided me with some well needed laughter. Well needed after contemplating the HRC/Bush contest they want so bad.

        1. ambrit

          Herr Generalfeldmarschall;
          Expansive comments are back!
          See you at the Masurian Lakes for vacation with Vicky. Broadcast in plain.

  11. frosty zoom

    you know what’s the worst part of the texas school board letter?

    the guy’s signature. it looks like he’s spent hours crafting his own “personal branding message” just for moments like these.

    why, with a signature like that, i bet he’ll be county landfill and sewage commissioner soon!

    1. ambrit

      You snark too soon Pardner. Our fair metropolis is under a consent decree to upgrade its’ sewage treatment system. A city of about 45,000 people get a treatment plant estimated at 145 million USD to build. There’s big money in s—.

  12. low_integer

    I use an old Nokia. Removable battery that lasts a week, one-handed texting, and boring enough not to be a distraction. Mine is held together with masking tape and still going strong. Love it.

  13. allan

    All Corbyn, all the time:

    – Bank of England Governor issues warning over Corbynomics

    – Jeremy Corbyn appears confused over Privy Council membership

    – Watch: moment Corbyn’s driver ‘assaults’ BBC cameraman

    – ‘I won’t resign’: Corbyn retreats after criticism over EU and Trident

    – PMQs not a disaster for Jeremy Corbyn (which is why it’ll destroy him)

    – Jeremy Corbyn is an elitist, not a populist

    And that’s just from the front page of Friday’s Torygraph.

  14. low_integer

    If students have been sufficiently equipped with critical thinking capabilities by the education institution in question then I would certainly agree with you. Young minds need to be nurtured, and in my opinion very few have the mental tools necessary to cut through the bs present in the complexities of today, due to lack of experience, in the years they attend college/university. This leads to a situation where they are vulnerable to between-the-lines propaganda from those speaking to them who have had a chance to gain some sort of ideological perspective.

Comments are closed.