2:00PM Water Cooler 9/21/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.



“The 10 most influential billionaires in politics” [WaPo]. Soros, Ricketts, Murdoch, Mercer, Singer, Bloomberg, Adelson, Steyer, Trump, and the Kochs.

The Trail

“Extension Cord On Stage Steals Spotlight From Jeb Bush During Campaign Rally” [The Onion].

“For the first time in Hillary Clinton’s political career, more voters in her adopted home state of New York view her unfavorably than favorably, according to a Siena College poll published Monday.” [Wall Street Journal, “Poll: More New York Voters View Hillary Clinton Unfavorably”].

“In other words, there are two bits of bad news here for Sanders. First, his support isn’t increasing against his Democratic opponents in CNN/ORC polling. Second, he’s not gaining support from people who support Biden” [WaPo]. “Sanders is still doing well in Iowa and New Hampshire. But big crowds notwithstanding, CNN’s polling is not recording a Sanders tidal wave.”

“The CNN/ORC International poll released Sunday morning shows Fiorina with 15 percent support among Republican respondents, up from 3 percent in a similar poll earlier this month” [CNN].

The Hill

Boehner: ” ‘Garbage men get used to the smell of bad garbage” [Politico]. Totally not referring “the House Freedom Caucus.”

Budget expert puts the likelihood at 75 percent, because the Republicans have gone crazy pants on both Iran and Planned Parenthood [Politico]. So that would be why Fiorina “linked” them, eh?

Stats Watch

Existing Home Sales, August 2015: “Existing home sales came in at a lower-than-expected 5.31 million annual rate” [Econoday]. “The report cites no special reasons behind August’s softness, but notes that it follows prior strength, in fact six months of strength.” But: “Reversing as suspected after rush to buy before possible Fed hikes” [Mosler Economics ].

Atlanta Fed Business Inflation Expectations, September 2015: “Edged back” [Econoday].

“Are BHCs Mimicking the Fed’s Stress Test Results?” [Liberty Street]. “Convergence poses a potential risk to the financial system, since a financial system with monoculture in risk measurement models could be less stable than one in which firms use diverse models that collectively might be more likely to identify emerging risks. … We observe convergence in some areas but not in others—a mixed message for those concerned about model monoculture.”

“I agree this is not the time to remove accommodation. But I do not agree lower rates and QE are accommodative” [Mosler Economics]:

Changing rates shifts income between borrowers and savers, and with the federal debt just over 100% of GDP, the state is a large net payer of interest to the economy. So lowering rates reduces interest income paid by the state to the economy. Therefore that aspect of lowering rates imparts a contractionary bias and, yes, raising rates would impart an expansionary bias. In other words, the Fed has the ‘easing’ and ‘tightening’ thing backwards, and if it wants to impart an expansionary and inflationary bias a rate increase would be in order.

Paying more interest, however, does have distributional consequences, as the additional income paid to the economy goes to those holding government securities. Alternatively, a fiscal adjustment (tax cut and spending increase) directs additional spending power to other constituencies. So the remedies for a weak, deflationary outlook come down to some combination of rate hikes, tax cuts, or spending increases.

And given those choices, I think most of us would vote to leave rates at 0 and either cut taxes or increase public spending.

“New Book: Financial Markets ‘Contribute Little, If Anything, to the Betterment of Lives and the Efficiency of Business'” [Wall Street on Parade]. [John] Kay notes correctly that the ‘origins of the global financial crisis lay in the structure of the industry,’ but that structure to a very large degree remains very much intact, particularly when it comes to derivatives, which he notes are now ‘three times the value of all the physical assets in the world’.”

“Manhattan’s growing inventory of ultra-luxury condominiums has another big developer [Toll Brothers] seeing signs of a glut.” [Bloomberg].

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Session Review – Heiner ‘Foucault and the Black Panthers'” [Historical Geography Reading Group, University of Glasgow].

“Here’s Why the Black Lives Matter Movement Won’t Support A Presidential Candidate” [MTV].

Big Brother is Watching you watch

“Starting next month, the millions of Facebook “Like” and “Share” buttons that publishers have added to their pages and mobile apps will start funneling data on people’s Web browsing habits into the company’s ad targeting systems” [MIT Technology Review]. These aren’t the Like buttons on Facebook itself, but the Like buttons on publisher’s web pages.

“US intelligence is more privatized than ever before, with for-profit corporations operating as an equal partner with the surveillance state at nearly every level” [The Nation].

Dear Old Blighty

“Army plots against British PMs are not new” [Jonathan Cook]. From the BBC’s 2006 documentary, “The Plot Against Harold Wilson”: “[The plot] culminated in a show of force by the armed forces, which briefly took over Heathrow airport (1.06) without warning or coordination with Wilson’s government. Marcia Williams, Wilson’s secretary, called it a ‘dress rehearsal’. Wilson resigned unexpectedly soon afterwards, apparently as the pressures started to get to him.”

“Gone are the days of New Labour’s unequivocal support for the European Union. And the only other vigorously pro-union party, the Liberal Democrats, was all but obliterated in the last election” [New York Times, “Why a ‘Brexit’ Looms Large”].

Class Warfare

India’s billionaires want their own airport [Bloomberg].

“The case against equality of opportunity” [Vox]. After watching the game get rigged, I’m a lot more in favor of equality of outcomes than I once was.

“Target Workers Vote to Form First Union in Company’s History” [Wall Street Journal].

Vivid description of pathogens on LA’s skid row [LA Weekly]. Of course, if your condo is high in the air and the windows are sealed…

“Military social welfare features a web of near-universal coverage for soldiers and their families – housing, healthcare, childcare, family counselling, legal assistance, education benefits, and more” [Aeon]. But: ” In less than a decade, the military, economists and corporate advisors dramatically altered the military welfare state. A system that had ‘taken care of’ military personnel devolved into a privately contracted collection of services that all too often promoted ‘self-reliance’.” Suicides to follow?

News of the Wired

“What Happened After My Kidnapping” [Philadelphia Magazine].

“What a massive sexual assault survey found at 27 top U.S. universities” [WaPo].

* * *

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):


Readers, I’m running a bit short on plants…

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter is coming, I need to fix my laptop, 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. john

    I believe it was Face the Nation or Meet the Press last week, where a commentator said that Biden entering the race would only split the Hil-Sanders votes.

    She sounded skeptical Biden would enter.

    CNN’s web presence tried pushing Carson (same week, Trump is Stumped… they must have been saving that gem up, eh?) and now it’s on to Fiorina.

    1. Brindle

      If you look at the internals of the CNN/ORC poll (WaPo) you see the section on the Dem race was based on just 392 people interviewed–a pretty small sample size I’d say. Also there is some data where it is obvious they weighted the poll to those who were 50+ years old. Not saying Sanders doesn’t have some problems but I wouldn’t put too much into this poll.

      1. cwaltz

        It’s still pretty early for most of the voters to be making a decision on who they want as a nominee. I don’t even think the Democratic Party has officially had a debate yet. *shrugs* I suspect the whole entire narrative is wishful thinking that he’d just quit already on the part of the establishment.

      2. pooll

        The CNN/ORC pool is being misinterpreted, and CNN is fabricating a narrative based on the previous poll being an outlier. From looking at the polling aggregators, it becomes clear that the previous CNN/ORC poll was an outlier where HRC’s support was lower than it should have been and Sander’s support was higher than it should have been. So in reference to that previous outlier poll, HRC’s support is supposedly up and Sander’s support is supposedly down. However, if you look at the polling aggregators and disregard the previous CNN/ORC poll, the general trend is still Sanders/Biden up and HRC down.

        1. john

          I like the HRC tip. I’ve been looking for a way not to really have to say her name. (I think Colbert called her Voldemort the other night…)

          Calling her “Hil” is tempting, but it’s too close to Jeb! for my personal comfort.

          It seems that Nate Silvers is going to sit this one out, he said he would?, but the news reports on *national* adverages, when in the election the first few states will often create ‘momentum’ and I agree that it favours Sanders, after years of progressive ‘fringe’ efforts.

          Sorry for the delay.

          Since whatever, Anyone see the “opposite day” news section of the latest Rick and Morty?

          The Pope sure seems nervous in his CNN preview picture today.

  2. grayslady

    Regarding the CNN poll, I never trust published poll results unless I can see the actual phrasing of questions and the relevant percentage responses. I have no idea who was polled by CNN, or where they were located, but I noticed that in the recent Quinnipiac poll of Democrats in Iowa, there were four points that stood out for me:

    1) Biden was being included in the poll even though not an official candidate.
    2) The maximum level of support for Biden was 11%.
    3) When asked who the Biden supporters would vote for if Biden were not a candidate, the voters shifted almost 100% to Sanders, not Clinton or O’Malley.
    4) Approximately 15% of those polled in Iowa said they didn’t yet know enough about Sanders, whereas only 3% said they didn’t know enough about Clinton.

    Based on the above, here’s my take: the Quinnipiac poll is probably closer to the truth than the CNN poll. The reason for Biden running would be solely to cut into support for Sanders, thereby assuring Clinton the victory. Clinton’s campaign has no upside–too many people already knows who she is and what they think about her. Bernie Sanders’ strength is that he has a significant proportion of voters who can become supporters once they know more about him and his platform. Polls such as the one by CNN will continue to be used to try to derail Sanders by ostensibly “proving” he’s unelectable.

    There is no “sheep dog” in this race, and there never was. The whole strategy of the Democrat apparatus is to get Hillary elected and protect the existing benefits to its own members. In the real event that Hillary might implode, Biden is the fall-back candidate who will still protect the status quo.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      Thanks for this exegesis.

      Dunno on the “sheep dog.” My thought was that if there were a sheepdog, it was O’Malley, but that O’Malley got caught up in the Baltimore events, and Sanders grabbed the ball and ran through the gap.

      I’m not sure the “sheep dog” concept even has to be a conscious plan by insiders, as opposed to the outcome of factional infighting, or vague emanations of the Democratic hive mind.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        I don’t think Team Blue wanted a sheep dog. Even back in 2007, Clintonistas were pushing the Kennedy/Carter narrative of a primary hurting the eventual nominee, obviously Clinton. I doubt they’ve changed their views.

    2. spooz

      I’m hoping someone who understands polling better than I do can help me understand the poll. Under methodology, it says:

      “Crosstabs on the following pages only include results for subgroups with enough unweighted cases to produce a sampling error of +/- 8.5 percentage points or less. Some subgroups represent too small a share of the national population to produce crosstabs with an acceptable sampling error. Interviews were conducted among these subgroups, but results for groups with a sampling error larger than +/-8.5 percentage points are not displayed and instead are denoted with “N/A”.”

      Looking at the poll breakdown by age categories, only people over 50 registered results in the poll, age groups under 50 are denoted N/A. Does this mean that there was not a meaningful sample of responses for people under the age of 50? How accurate can the results be if that is the case?

      The link to the poll data is in the “READ: The complete CNN/ORC poll results” link in this article:


    3. ChrisPacific

      Poll results are here:


      There are some deficiencies (notably they didn’t say how the sample was chosen) but overall it seems like a somewhat credible attempt at finding out information. You can see the exact wording of the questions and the percentage responses. One of the results shown in the CNN article wasn’t an actual question but a derived value (assuming that Biden supporters all voted for their stated second choice if he didn’t run).

      The biggest issue I saw was in the interpretation of the results. CNN is reading a great deal into a two-week movement and doesn’t even mention the longer polling history. The two-week movement is not a continuation of any kind of long term trend (Sanders had a big jump in August and has only given half of it back) and could easily be reversed again two weeks from now. It certainly doesn’t support the kind of bold conclusions drawn by CNN (though the media have always been notoriously lazy on this point).

      The most startling result in the poll for me was in the methodology section on page 5, and not mentioned by CNN:

      Among the entire sample, 26% described themselves as Democrats, 23% described themselves as Republicans, and 51% described
      themselves as independents or members of another party.

      Given the two-party system in the US, it seems a bit odd that a majority of respondents consider themselves to be neither Democrat nor Republican. I wonder what the long-term trend in this metric might have been and if it may indicate disillusionment with both parties (just a hypothesis as we’d need more data to say for sure).

  3. Jim Haygood

    Hillary does it again:

    Health care stocks were getting whacked in afternoon trade Monday after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said in a tweet that she planned to reveal a plan to curb price increases by drugmakers. The health care sector, down nearly 2%, is the only sector among the S&P 500 that is trading sharply lower.


    Same thing happened in 1993 as Hillary made her celebrity tour of Congressional committees, promoting a bureaucratic maze that was never reported out by a single committee. Unlike the rest of the market which was moving up, the health care sector stayed notably depressed during 1992-1993.

    Good to see that Hillary’s reverse Midas touch remains intact. She came, she saw, she destroyed.

    1. Carolinian

      Unlike the rest of the market which was moving up, the health care sector stayed notably depressed during 1992-1993.

      Hey wait a minute. Wasn’t that a good thing–perhaps the only good thing we got out of Clinton? Clearly the health care market, like the stock market, hangs on the lips of present and future bureaucrats.

  4. Jim Haygood

    From the Politico article on 75% probability of gov’t shutdown:

    ‘Democrats want both military and domestic spending increased while Republicans have proposed an increase for the military but a reduction in domestic programs.’

    As Simon & Garfunkel used to sing, ‘either you look at it, you lose.

      1. Carla

        You’re right, it doesn’t matter.

        We gotta systemic problem.

        TPTB have a lot invested in making people believe we have a functioning political system and EVEN a functioning democracy. It works for THEM!

        Don’t buy it. If it’s not about systemic change, it’s really not worth our time.

  5. ekstase

    “Extension Cord On Stage Steals Spotlight From Jeb Bush During Campaign Rally” [The Onion].

    I think we’ve all been there. Sometimes staring at the “EXIT” sign is the only way to get through a talk.

    1. ewmayer

      Re. Ms. Cord’s qualifications: she is colorful – while remaining well-grounded in key policy areas – energizing, and plugged in to the needs of the people. What’s not to like? I expect Jeb! to be far from the last GOP candidate who finds himself tripped up by the lady. Rumor has it that while she has been keeping a low profile since the aforementioned rally, she remains coiled and ready to strike at any time. Go team Orange!

    2. LifelongLib

      Reading down the linked page, Mike Huckabee and Scott Walker have also suffered reversals (literally in Walker’s case).

  6. Oregoncharles

    ” But big crowds notwithstanding, ”
    This is a hard lesson to learn, because normally there’s a fairly standard discount between supporters and those who care enough to show up. We unconsciously multiply by, say, a thousand. Most of the time, that’s about right.

    But occasionally, you get somebody most of whose support is passionate – passionate enough to show up for rallies, partly just to see their hero. this was true of Nader in 2000; now it’s true of Sanders. Will the multiplier grow? Well, it did in Iowa and New Hampshire; but usually, a candidate like this (or Trump, for that matter) has a ceiling they will never exceed – and theoretical support may shrivel abruptly come voting day.

    The perpetual question in our politics is: when will “the people” be mad enough to leave their cozy niche and start actually voting outsiders? I hate to be negative, but so far, it’s perpetual.

  7. Synoia

    Army plots against British PMs are not new

    I was there, and very close to a large number of Army officers.

    I call bullshit on this assertion. I do not believe it, as it was rampant speculation by the press, and not a discussion among any of the officers I knew personally.

    These were the officers of 20, 21 22, 23 and 24 degree at RMCS Shrivenham, the staff college officers of 67 through 71, and all the military staff at the college.

    1. micky9finger

      As a former NCO in the US Army with service in Viet Nam and the 80’s (winning Reagan’s cold war against the evil empire drinking beer in Germany) I cannot believe a professional officer corps such as GB or US has would think of going against the long and sacred policy of civilian control of the military.
      Just not going to happen.
      Yes well France did have an officer’s rebellion over Algeria but they were crushed. I think they were made crazy by Viet Nam and Algeria.

  8. Jess

    Interesting to read the actual report on campus sexual “assault”. For one thing, included in the definition of assault are kissing and “having someone rub against you in a sexual way”. As to the first, you’re drunk, she’s drunk, you misread signals and try to kiss her. Instant Sexual Assault. This has an interesting movie parallel: how many times are the co-stars seen having an argument which is suddenly ended when he grabs and kisses her, and she melts in his arms. But never let it happen in real life.

    As for the second: ever tried moving from one side of the room to the other at a really crowded frat party or local bar? Contact with another person is unavoidable and if your height and her height happen to be a bad match…

    Thus the sensationalize the headline — 1 in 4 or 1 on 5 women victims of campus sexual assault. However, when you go to the school by school breakdown, the number of women who report unwanted or forceful penetration (including manual) is around 8-10%. No incidence of forceful sexual penetration, or even unwarranted fondling, is okay. But deliberately mis-headlining the story for hype is counterproductive and itself, sleazy.

    1. Pat

      No, I was not a college student at the time but I had someone come running up to me on the street and grab my shoulders and start rubbing their crotch area against my buttocks. Was that not a sexual assault?

      Here’s the thing. You do have a point in that certain circumstances might inflate the figures for kissing and having someone rub against you in a sexual way. Someone brushes my breast while passing me on a crowded subway, sure it is probably intentional. Someone gets behind me on that crowded subway and uses that as an opportunity to grind his crotch into my rear, it is. IOW, those same circumstances might also be an opportunity for sexual assault. You do not know and cannot say for sure that every incidence under this description was innocent or misinterpreted either.

      1. Oregoncharles

        This misses the point, which is that the survey was designed to maximize the numbers with an extremely broad definition of “assault,” which could include even unintentional contacts or normal courtship behavior. Situations on the street or in the subway are also very different from college, which is effectively a giant singles bar.

        What’s needed, I think, are questions that clarify the situation: Did you feel threatened? Was there violence (which would include things like drugs)? And to be meaningful, the results have to clarify degrees of severity.

        As reported, this survey merely says “there’s a problem” – hardly surprising when you jam together thousands of young people at the peak of hormone poisoning. But you need more information than that to address the problem, and you don’t need deliberate number inflation.

      1. cwaltz

        Isn’t he number 2? I vaguely remember some other individual who dropped out that The Donald mocked for not getting traction.

      2. grayslady

        A victim only in the sense that Trump has made a lot of the Repub candidates look just as colorless as they really are. Walker has never been more than a ventriloquist’s dummy–the Rick Perry of the Midwest. He has never had any convictions other than what his sponsors have told him to say.

        Walker’s only claim to fame is that he stomps unions, not Democrats; and these days even loyal, union-supporting midwestern Dems are having a hard time explaining to their constituents that property taxes can’t be lowered because public union employees need their pensions funded. Citizens in the Midwest and Northeast are drowning, and the lifeboats are all being sent south of the Mason-Dixon line. Walker would have lost the recall if the Dems hadn’t screwed thing up by making the recall a political contest rather than a good governance vote.

    1. Katniss Everdeen

      Not sure why they’d be partying in Madison.

      A thwarted, frustrated and humiliated walker is coming home with conservative bona fides to hone. He’s already taken $250 million from the University of Wisconsin and given it to his campaign donors–the owners of the Milwaukee Bucks–to no avail.

      Poor Wisconsin. I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of what he thinks he needs to do next. You can do a lot of damage in four more years.

      1. Left in Wisconsin

        Yes, somewhat heartening to see Walker’s BS not flying at national level but quite a bit of concern re: what he feels the need to do to the state so as to position for 2020. You could see in his bow-out that he is trying to claim the high ground, doing the right thing for the good of the party, in the hopes of being in the mix again 4 years from now (if not, as now seems unlikely TSTL, 2016 VP material).

        He did the same the first time he ran for gov and it paid off 4 years later.

  9. rjs

    re: existing home sales “Reversing as suspected after rush to buy before possible Fed hikes:”

    the rush to buy homes in June & July before reversing in August?

    i’d like to meet some of those people who based their home buying this summer on Fed rumors…in the last Pew survey most Americans didn’t know who Yellen was..

    1. griffen

      As someone who previously (a long time ago) would analyze MBS loans and securities, the tendency had been for people moving between school years. Mortgages have been cyclical that way for a long time.

      After all, who really wants to move to a new home in early February.

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