2:00PM Water Cooler 10/14/2015

This is Naked Capitalism fundraising week. Help us make more trouble.

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


Europe: “[TTIP] could leave European negotiators with the choice of lowering food standards, or being priced out of the market” [Agrimoney]. “Dominic Watkins, head of law firm DWF’s food group, told a conference that a liberalization of trade without regulatory convergence would leave the EU facing higher compliance costs than the US, leaving it hard to compete with US products.”

New Zealand: “A pattern of disdain for the public’s right to know’ – court decision likely to change Govt’s attitude to [Official Information Act]” [TVNZ]. Maybe. The court said the government would have to release TPP documents; the government may or may not appeal.

US: “Pretty photos, small companies: how the White House is selling TPP” [Reuters]. ” Crystal tumblers of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey, on the rocks. Maine lobster and Maryland blue crabs, garnished with lemon slices. An adorable black Montana steer, staring head on into the camera. …. Omitted from the report: any overt sign that big U.S. corporations, which have pushed for the deal, stand to gain.”

US: The “18,000 tax cuts” talking point [Chicago Tribune]. How the spin doctors got to 18,000: (1) Worldwide, not US; (2) call “tariffs” “taxes”; (3) lots of very small cuts (“airtight containers and not containing apricots, citrus fruits, peaches or pears”). In essence, refurbishing “consumer benefit” for “cut taxes” conservatives.  

ISDS: “EU-US investments have taken place for decades and have grown to over €3,000 billion without ISDS and that ISDS is clearly not needed” [Seattle to Brussels Report]. Not needed if TTIP is a trade deal, no. This is a wonky report, well worth a look.

“How to Make TiSA a Good Deal for Consumers” (PDF) [The European Consumer Organisation]. This is wonky too, and worth a read, but suffers from the unfortunate assumption that so-called “trade deals” are proposed in good faith. You can’t buff a turd.


The Voters

“The two parties aren’t what they used to be, and what many of us persist in imagining them to be. Their composition—demographically, geographically and ideologically—has changed significantly in the past generation. Seen in this light, the behavior we’re seeing right now isn’t so aberrational at all.” [Wall Street Journal, “The Two Parties Aren’t Crazy, Just Changed”].


“In a sign of the fierce competition for new donors in the Republican presidential race, a major party fundraiser backing Jeb Bush is inviting potential supporters to meet the candidate at a reception at a private country club in Greenwich, Conn. – for free” [Wall Street Journal, ” As Competition for Donors Builds, Wealthy Invited to Try Bush Out Before Giving”]. Make up your own jokes…

The Debates

Readers, I got caught up in a backstage matter; I’ll update with a few more links shortly.

“In Serious Gaffe, Sanders Treats Opponent with Dignity and Respect” [Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker].

Headline: “The Debate: Can a Democratic Socialist Save Capitalism?” [Wall Street on Parade]. Well, it worked once. “[F]or those of us who understand that the greatest threat to America is not some foreign power but home-grown financial terrorists wielding trillions of dollars in high-risk derivatives in taxpayer-insured banks on Wall Street, [Clinton] is the same old problem, not the solution.”

“Hillary Rodham Clinton’s sure-footed performance … swiftly cooled talk about the need for Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to enter the campaign and offer Democrats an alternative” [New York Times]. And the cooling is so swift because nobody has ever been able to come up with a reason why that loveable goof, Joe Biden, should run.

WaPo’s Dana Milbank gets a tingle down his leg thrill up his leg* [@Milbank]. * Sorry, readers! “You’re gonna have to learn your clichés. You’re gonna have to study them, you’re gonna have to know them. They’re your friends.”

UPDATE Great minds think alike, or reading from the same list of talking points? Ezra Klein on the left, Brian Beutler on the right….

UPDATE “Cable News Edits Out Rousing Sanders Attack on Vapid Media Coverage” [The Intercept]. Now that’s a shocker.

UDPATE “In a Q&A-style segment of BuzzFeed’s latest ‘Another Round’ earlier this week, Clinton told co-hosts Heben Nigatu and Tracy Clayton that the rapper should reconsider his 2020 bid for the White House. ‘I’ve told Kanye that he might want to wait, because I’ll be running for re-election,’ she said. ‘I might want to try to give him some additional experience, so he’s got — on all the other things he’s done on his résumé … some kind of envoy role or something that he can point to, but I would not rule out anybody for vice-president'” [Vulture].

The Hill

“A report released Wednesday by the Bipartisan Policy Center says that unless Congress increases the statutory debt ceiling the U.S. Treasury will “have insufficient cash to meet all financial obligations sometime between November 10 and November 19” [Market News]. Well, when you elect people to govern who want to destroy government, they try do what they were elected to do. Why is anybody surprised by this?

“If Kevin McCarthy was Plan A, and a very resistant Paul Ryan is Plan B, House Republicans don’t currently have a viable Plan C to become their next speaker” [Politico].

“Perhaps we could use a 3-D printer to make a robotic [Speaker] — just for the time being, of course. It would be a way of monetizing our entrepreneurial skills, while showcasing our technological expertise” [Barbara Adams, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette].

Norman Ornstein: “One of the things that we have discovered is you can hit rock bottom and then you can dig into the rock. [The House leadership fight] is so clearly a debacle for them — and now being reported everywhere as a debacle for them — that it might create enough of a sense of urgency that they find a way or two to at least dig out a little bit” [Talking Points Memo]. Or not!

“But why shouldn’t the Democrats instead win points from the American people by refusing to participate in the vote, thereby putting partisanship aside and let only GOP House members pick the next speaker, which will be the inevitable result sooner or later?” [Reuters]. “It can then be a win-win-win solution: The GOP gets a new speaker elected only by Republican votes; Democrats get credit for putting solving problems above partisan gamesmanship, and Americans get to hope the Congress might actually focus its energies on making policy.” 

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of October 9. 2015: “The implementation of new lending disclosure rules (TILA-RESPA) made for a spike in the prior week’s mortgage activity and now a giant plunge in the following week’s activity” [Econoday].

Producer Price Index FD, September 2015: “Wide weakness and may raise talk that deflationary pressures are building, not easing” [Econoday]. “Hawks at the Fed are saying that the negative price effects from oil and low import prices will prove temporary. That may be, but the depth of ongoing price weakness continues to sink.” And: “The Producer Price Index year-over-year deflation accelerated. The intermediate processing continues to show a large deflation in the supply chain” [Econintersect].

Business Inventories, August 2015: Inventory-to-sales ratio up to 1.37 from 1.36. [Econoday]. “Inventories are looking heavy which could limit production and employment growth and could emerge as a new concern for the doves at the Fed.” And: ” With inflation adjustments, business sales are in contraction. The inventory-to-sales ratios remain at recessionary levels” [Econintersect].

Retail Sales, September 2015: “Weakness at gasoline stations, where low prices are depressing sales totals, continues to exaggerate weakness in retail sales” [Econoday]. “[T]he headline is weak and will likely lower third-quarter GDP estimates — but for Fed policy, because the weakness is skewed due to gas prices, the results are harder to assess and may prove neutral.” But: “Consider that the headline data is not inflation adjusted and prices are currently deflating making the data better than it seems” [Econintersect].

“One of the fastest-growing U.S. exports right now is air. In September, the Port of Long Beach, Calif., part of the country’s busiest ocean-shipping gateway, handled 197,076 outbound empty boxes. They accounted for nearly a third of all containers that moved through the port last month. September was the eighth straight month in which empty containers leaving Long Beach outnumbered those loaded with exports” [Wall Street Journal, “At U.S. Ports, Exports Are Coming Up Empty”]. “The empties are shipping out at a faster rate at many U.S. ports, particularly those closely tied to trade with China.”

Ag: “World’s largest sovereign wealth fund turns its back on palm oil” [Agrimoney].

“This story about the cost of unwinding swap agreements by the City of Chicago reminds me that the only perfect hedge is in a Japanese garden” [Across the Curve]. Anybody got any more jokes like that?

Fear & Greed Index, October 13, 2015: 35 (-3); Fear [CNN]. Last week: 37 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Black Injustice Tipping Point

Debt collection lawsuits squeeze black neighborhoods [Pro Publica].

Health Care

Bombshell: “This study is forcing economists to rethink high-deductible health insurance” [Sarah Kliff, Vox].

The new paper shows that when faced with a higher deductible, patients did not price shop for a better deal. Instead, both healthy and sick patients simply used way less health care.

So that means both foundational assumptions of ObamaCare are wrong: We already know that (#1) ObamaCare is not a good deal for a large portion of those who have not signed up; and now we see that (#2) patients don’t shop, but forego care instead. Readers will note the correspondence between the two simple rules of neo-liberalism: (#1) Because markets, and (#2) go die. Readers will also note the pleasing asymmetry that the economists who made those rules are exempt from them, as the two contexts of the simple rules suggest.


First food forest in Roanake [Roanake Times].


“The indictment of Barbara Byrd-Bennett—Mayor Rahm’s front woman at [Chicago Public Schools]” [Chicago Reader (DG)]. I wonder if Byrd-Bennett will end up at the Obama Foundation?

“The seeds of today’s political crisis in Malaysia were sown decades ago in an elaborate structure that has maintained a small elite in power since it was known as Malaya and achieved its independence from Britain in 1957” [Asia Sentinel]. “Direct discussion of the subject has basically been criminalized since the 1970s and deemed too sensitive for debate. Thus there has been little public discourse on who really exercises power, how and for whom.” And we still don’t know who gave Prime Minister that $700 million (!!) or where it went, when it left his personal account.

“Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s role as adviser to a politically connected Malaysia development fund resulted in years of lucrative business. It also brought exposure to an expanding scandal” [Wall Street Journal, “U.S. Examines Goldman Sachs Role in 1MDB Transactions”]. I say let’s fine them some small fraction of their profits and rely on reputational damage as a deterrent. What say, Obama?

“Six brokers accused of helping former UBS Group AG trader Tom Hayes rig benchmark rates used a range of excuses during questioning by prosecutors, including blaming colleagues and not knowing what Libor meant” [Bloomberg]. Like their boss is a psycho. If an excuse is true, does that mean it’s still an excuse?

Guillotine Watch

“Trophy hunters are paying to kill lion cubs bred in captivity — and it’s totally legal” (video) [Business Insider].

Class Warfare

“If nearly 40% of Americans aren’t working, what are they doing?” [Yahoo]. I wish readers would take a look at this. Apparently, they’re in school, waiting for better times. What could wrong?

Jack Dorsey’s firing memo edited to remove the jargon [Quartz].

“Price Check: How Companies Value Body Parts” [Pro Publica].

News of the Wired

“Looking at the taste preferences of 500 people, it was found that those who enjoyed bitter flavors over sweet flavors were more likely to exhibit signs of “Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, and everyday sadism.” The study, which was published in the journal Appetite, was conducted at the University of Innsbruck, Austria” [IFL Science]. I like my coffee black only if it’s good coffee. 

” The Internet is like this toilet: How Reddit and other Web 2.0 communities broke the Internet” [Salon]. Once you get past the image at the top of the article and the subsequent moral panic:

It’s a dream of a kind of alchemy, that if you just make code that makes it “effortless” and “addictive” for users to churn out content, and you sit back and let the market decide which content rises to the top of the heap, you will eventually get the equivalent of a well-edited, well-curated, intelligent and thoughtful Web 1.0 publication without having to actually read or write a damn thing yourself.

It’s an intoxicating image, one that’s deeply attractive to investors who want to make huge amounts of money for very little work.

“A new study shows that humans are inherently good” [George Monbiot, Guardian]. Readers?

* * *

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 (OregonCharles):


A Fragrant Cloud rose.

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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. Vatch

    If nearly 40% of Americans aren’t working, what are they doing?” [Yahoo]. I wish readers would take a look at this. Apparently, they’re in school, waiting for better times.

    No doubt some of the people who are not working are sipping chardonnay at their beach houses. As for the others, here’s an apparently innocuous quote from the article, which is really rather ominous:

    “Some of the decline represents a positive trend: young people getting more educ[a]tion.”

    And racking up thousands in student loan debt. Yeech!

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      An even more positive trend: young people are joining the Peace Corps.

      A not so positive trend: young people are working in the shadow economy.

      Or the missing young people may be building ghost cities in China, or have sold themselves as coolies to help the Middle Kingdom to the build the trans-Asia/Europe SilkRoad railway.

    2. Gio Bruno

      Some are taking their SS check. Others are taking a Disability check. Others are in school. And many in my city are recycling as much glass and aluminum that they can find. Many are homeless and starving in the street. Some have serious mental health issues. A few are sipping wine and admiring the sunset. Isn’t America great!

  2. Anon

    Come on Milbank, I expected better of you. Part of me wonders how Hillary looks presidential has something to do with her being in the press for the better part of two decades, so people are used to seeing her. I wasn’t able to witness the debates (much to my surprise, I didn’t realize that it was on cable until after getting home from work) and by then, I just checked around to see how it was received and based on today’s Links, it seems as if Sanders was the clear winner, despite the press wanting that to not be the case so badly. From Milbank’s piece, this stands out for me:

    “We are not Denmark. . . . We are the United States of America. And it’s our job to rein in the excesses of capitalism so that it doesn’t run amok and doesn’t cause the kind of inequities we’re seeing in our economic system. But we would be making a grave mistake to turn our backs on what built the greatest middle class in the history of the world.”

    Words are wind and with her reluctance to support the reinstatement of Glass-Stegall, I feel a lot of wind.

    1. Brindle

      Sanders pretty much swept all the post-debate online polls. Counts for something—hard to say how much.

      —-Time also had a Democratic debate poll late Tuesday evening. From a survey of 106,788 at the moment I voted, 64% of respondents felt Bernie Sanders had won the Democratic debate. At the MSNBC poll, 84% felt Bernie Sanders was victorious at the time I cast my vote. Over at Slate.com, 75% of respondents felt Bernie won the debate.—-


      1. AJ

        I was getting ready to make this same comment. A search for “who won the democratic debate” returns lots of “Hillary won” articles by the talking heads. A search for “democratic debate polls” yields the results you posted above. Even the Drudge Report shows Sanders 54%, Webb 25%, Clinton 9%. Also, on the Kelly File, they had a focus group of Florida voters who came to a clear consensus that Sanders won. When a sample of right wingers agree that the “socialist” clearly won, I’m inclined to take that as fairly representative of the population.

        As I’ve mentioned before, traditional polling skews heavily older and more conservative. As was the case in the “No” vote recently in Greece (where polls had in closer to 50/50 and the true result was 60/40) I take Sanders Hillary official poll numbers with some grain of progressive salt. In this case I think the unofficial polling numbers might be more indicative of the feelings of voters. Anecdotally, I know of only 1 Hillary voter in my social media network, but I tend to run with a pretty blue-collar crowd. Even my older relatives and friends if they are progressive support Sanders over Hillary. Yet someone she continues to win in the traditional polls. Where are all these Hillary supporters? Are they too busy with cotillion at the yacht club?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          The Clintons have been part of the national landscape for over 20 years despite a lack of positive accomplishments. Personally, I’m shocked anyone under the age of 40 isn’t openly hostile to the idea of another Clinton run, but I suspect Clinton supporters get told off often enough they shut up. 2004 has been the only Presidential election without a Clinton (I’m including Gore) on the ballot since 1988. Even the day after the 2004 election, the list of winners and losers included the big winner, Hillary because she could run in 2008. The youngest person to vote before the Clinton arrived is 44, and there isn’t an alphabet soup of accomplishments. Hillary didn’t recite a litany of accomplishments last night but defended her imperialism and nation destroying.

          My guess is there is hostility out there, and Clinton supporters don’t like recognizing it’s not 1992 anymore. Hillary didnt bring up NAFTA, Welfare Reform, the loss of Congress, Iraq, financial deregulation, capital gains cuts, her own failures to help women candidates, etc. The people who have grown up with the pandering have grown tired of Clinton Inc. I turned on CNN and saw Carl Bernstein declaring Hillary coronation. Nixon resigned over 40 years ago. Deep Throat is dead and a known figure.

          Again, the youngest Dukakis voter is 44. Hillary supporters may not be aware of this, but I think they know there is disconnect and prefer to keep quiet to avoid confrontation.

          1. nigelk

            Under 40. Openly hostile to a Hillary candidacy. We are legion.

            I know zero people who have HRC as their first choice. Zero. She is a known quantity. And people are saying “no.”

          2. trish

            Personally, I’m shocked anyone over the age of 40 isn’t openly hostile to the idea of a Clinton run.

            But then, I don’t understand why there isn’t open hostility directed at every one of the candidates other than Sanders.

      2. Carolinian

        It sounds like Clinton won the pundit “thrill up the leg” polls which at this point may be the only one that matters. A couple of months ago the WaPo columnists were treating her with derision. While Borowitz may satirically approve of Sanders’ collegial approach, I wonder if that’s good strategy–assuming he really wants to win.

      3. Ron

        The so called Democratic Race for the nomination is over, Bernie did a nice job last night but Clinton exceeded expectations and showed why she is the front runner and will win early and with a large majority at the Convention and in the Fall election. There is no Obama to stand in her way this year and she clearly has grown up as a political figure and knows how to project herself on the media stage. If Bernie actually so called won the debate his poll numbers will jump significantly and most likely above Clinton, not going to happen as the so called winner of the debate by HP and other media outlets is more about selling space then reality.

    2. cwaltz

      Why in the world would it be surprising that Hillary Clinton supports casino capitalism? It isn’t like it hasn’t been kind to her and her family. I’d expect most of the top tier to be just fine with the system we have. It’s around 80% of the folks at the bottom who should be questioning it’s value as a model.

      1. Vatch

        That reminds me of her glorious 10 months:

        In 1978 and 1979, lawyer and First Lady of Arkansas Hillary Rodham engaged in a series of trades of cattle futures contracts. Her initial $1,000 investment had generated nearly $100,000 when she stopped trading after ten months.

        In a Fall 1994 paper for the Journal of Economics and Finance, economists from the University of North Florida and Auburn University investigated the odds of gaining a hundred-fold return in the cattle futures market during the period in question. Using a model that was stated to give the hypothetical investor the benefit of the doubt, they concluded that the odds of such a return happening were at best 1 in 31 trillion.

        1. AJ

          “…allowed Rodham to maintain her positions even though she did not have enough money in her account to cover her activity… she was allowed to order 10 cattle futures contracts, normally a $12,000 investment, in her first commodity trade in 1978 although she had only $1,000 in her account at the time.”

          It’s easy to make money when the margin rules don’t apply to you. As Lambert says, “Neither Rule #1 nor Rule #2 rule applies to them, because no rules do.”

    3. Daryl

      The middle class has become a rather dangerous political fiction, at this point. It seems the unsaid suggestion is that it’s okay for hundreds of millions of Americans to wallow in poverty, so long as the increasingly miniscule “middle class” is protected.

      1. NOTaREALmerican

        Well, the only thing protecting the asses of the top 10% are the middle 20% fighting off the bottom 70%. And, between the top 10% and middle 20% you’ve got about 100% of the wealth. So, waddaya expect? The middle 20% have always suspected that when the top 10% talk about “redistribution of wealth” it’s the middle 20% that are gonna be redistributed to the bottom.

        Isn’t that everybody’s* definition of “socialism”? Take from the middle and give to the bottom?

        * “Everybody” meaning: people who NEVER use the word “neo-liberal”, or “neo anything” for that matter.

      2. OIFVet

        You have a logical conflict here, protecting the middle class while it becomes increasingly miniscule. I don’t argue with the latter but obviously it means that you are wrong on the former. It is not about protecting the shrinking middle class, it is about convincing impoverished Americans that they are still part of the middle class (think STRATCOM). And the effort has been successful thus far, even if there are signs that this strategy has about ran out of effectiveness.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          I think he was describing Marx’s petit bourgeois. They worry about their social privileges (abortion rights without funding for abortions, 14 year old victims of rape dont have many options or gay marriage while gay kids don’t have safe havens or poor gays dont have ways to leave or be protected in backwards communities that kind of thing) which elites promise to protect while nibbling at the edges more and more everyday

          Even now, Hillary supporters will shout Supreme Court and toss about Ginsberg’s age while ignoring the limits if the Supreme Court and how rights don’t matter if they can’t be exercised. They reduce rights to protected privilege.
          I’m adding to the previous sentiment, but Daryl was referring get to the “I’ve got mine class” being appeased as long as they aren’t directly attacked and have their social privilege be reinforced.

          1. OIFVet

            I think you are right, I didn’t see the quotation marks around the “middle class” on my android ball and chain. Sorry Daryl. This gets me thinking though: given that the “middle class” is little more than a fiction at this point, why are we not using the term bourgeoisie all the time? It will definitely drive some to the fainting couches, and get the conversation moved toward the left. That woud be a good thing in my book. It is time to make “capitalism” the dirty word here, rather than have the Anderson Coopers smear the Bernie Sanderses just by uttering “socialism”.

            1. NotTimothyGeithner

              We as a society have been raised to me overly polite and apologize at the drop of a hat preferring a false equality to articulating differences. Bourgeois suggests everything just isn’t hunky dory.

              The absence of a titled aristocracy is part of the problem. The bourgeois element can hide behind the upper middle class who don’t suffer from delusions of grandeur without odious inbred barons representing them. Having Jeb and Hillary run for office at the same time with a fawning press media does seem to be changing popular perception.

            2. Carolinian

              It may be time to rehabilitate the “s” word but that will require a new press corps. While they are poorly regarded by just about everyone (except each other) they still have tremendous power when it comes to elections. Trivialities–the Dean scream, Muskie crying–can be elevated into candidate killers. If the press is on Hillary’s side then that is a major hurdle for Sanders who already has quite a few hurdles.

              1. OIFVet

                I get what you are saying, but I think that blogs such as NC are in effect the new press corps. We come here precisely because we are fed up with the bourgeois “press” corps and its shilling on behalf of their corporate, financial, and Beltway masters. Just keep saying ‘socialism’ loud and proud.

                1. nigelk

                  Seconded. There’s more meat in a handful of NakedCapitalism than a truckload of CNN.

                  Yesterday was the first time I’d watched CNN in years.

                2. Virginia Simson

                  Exactly! NC is my news source.
                  I was a little afraid they’d miss the piont about the debate. But NO!
                  They said what I say, only better because I stoop to name calling, vindictive slurs, hyperbole …
                  We need this type of high end ranting …

            3. cwaltz

              At the very least it’s time to get people questioning capitalism. The biggest arguments made against socialism is that it is “unfair.” However, how fair is a system that allows a CEO who decimates a company to leave with a million dollar parachute while the rest of the workers who essentially did nothing wrong end up with a pink slip and a few months in unemployment? How fair is a system when someone puts in 60 hours a week at two jobs and still ends up with less than $500 to live on and no paid time off? Meanwhile a rich kid whose sole claim to fame is getting wealthy parents can be “gifted” the equivalent of their salary tax free? Fair? Hardly. The Mitt Romneys have been real quick to whine about the unfairness of people not paying taxes but the reality is they don’t pay taxes because after doing exactly what Romney does, taking each credit or deduction, they don’t make enough. There’s always the “redistribution” cry but every economy is essentially redistribution. As it stands right now the Walmart heirs benefit from Walmart way more than its workers do. Who made that decision and how fair is it?

      3. jrs

        Maybe it was ALWAYS a fiction. And it was always a working class majority, but now I guess it’s not even working class but precariat. And a lot of poverty is old news as well. I do realize things seem to be getting even worse since 2008.

    4. optimader

      It would less of a meaningless statement if Mr. Milbank went on to establish what “looking Presidential” actually means.

  3. Code Name D

    Republicans idea of healthcare: Don’t get sick. If you do, die quickly.

    Obamacare: Pay us first. Don’t get sick. If you do, die quickly.

    1. abynormal

      “attractive to investors who want to make huge amounts of money for very little work.”

      i’m living as fast as i can…taking care of sick people that can’t afford affordable care.

      i eat for sh!t (not now opti)…i keep yves hrs and best of all do it for free!
      broke broke broken

      1. optimader

        pull out the crockpot out from from the back of the lower cabinet and make a home for it on your kitchen counter this Fall!
        This is my crockpot. There are many like it, but this one is mine. My crockpot is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life. My crockpot, without me, is useless. Without my crockpot, I am useless. I must fire my crockpot true. I must cook straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me…. ….
        ~ The Passive Chefs Creed

        I did a few ziplock bags worth of apple sauce overnight.. Great smell. Sure beats Fabreeze HAHAHAH

        1. abynormal

          sad, you know where it is. i use to make homemade apple sauce. i love to cook and i love to share food, but i’m running between 3 people 40mi apart.
          i won’t do fast food but i do sneak an ensure or some such liquid off someone.
          i got Kitchen Confidential/ Bourdain for my bday…there’s hope.

          just bitchie. my apologies to everyone for my recent short temper. (not sure when recent began but i’d tread lightly on my past :o)

          1. optimader

            Meant to be humorous.. but ultimately there is some dark reality to this: must cook straighter than my enemy who is trying to kill me

              1. low_integer

                Just remember that you need to take care of yourself in order to take care of others over the long term. Don’t burn yourself out, though I understand that daily commitments can make this very hard sometimes.

                This advice also goes for Yves and Lambert, as well as any others who have a very busy schedule.

                Easy to say, I know.

        1. craazyboy

          Well, both, after learning they are part of the Axis of Evil partnered with China and trying to steal our ally Japan’s S. China Sea islands away.

          Or something like that. The details don’t matter, really. The main thing is getting the timing right. The Putin Satin is now bogged down in Syria and won’t be able to send their one aircraft carrier to China’s aid. Remember, China is not a currency manipulator. They are an island stealer. This is what makes everything make so much sense. I think.

        2. Carolinian

          All those NATO people seem to come from Denmark and they’re nuts. Just sayin’.

          On the other hand Denmark did give us the great Connie Nielsen not to mention Anna Karina.

    2. trish

      if I may slightly alter…

      Obamacare: Shop, then pay, first. Don’t get sick. If you do, die quickly.

  4. ambrit

    Chicago, being such a Tradition bound place, can rest easy knowing that if Byrd-Bennett testifies, she runs the risk of becoming a part of the foundation of the Obama Library.

  5. Jess

    Someone on a previous thread mentioned how caustic the comments were to the Guardian’s article about how Hellary won the debate. Well, the same can be said for those on HuffPo’s article with a similar “Hillary won” theme. Commenters are ripping that story and its author a new one.

    1. ambrit

      Money for nothing! HuffPo rakes in the lucre from free, crowd sourced, incisive journalistic analysis.
      Of interest will be if HuffPo deletes the caustic comments quickly. I’ve seen Yahoo do that right quick. I’ve had comments ‘disappeared’ there and otherwhere when I have dared to question the ‘authenticity’ of stories.

  6. ekstase

    “The media worships wealth and power, and sometimes launches furious attacks on people who behave altruistically. …

    Misanthropy grants a free pass to the grasping, power-mad minority who tend to dominate our political systems.”

    Wow. There, in a nutshell, is it.

    I think we miss a, (dare I say it), spiritual component when “we” try to explain human behavior in terms of basically fighting for food. Is it possible that we are much more than that, and that our real human purpose and ultimate goal are something much bigger and grander than that, and that we are just beginning to see it?

    I think the internet, at its best, has begun to enable us to see that most of us are pretty decent, struggling for the same things, and not psychos. We have a problem with the tiny funnel through which our info. about the world has been pushed. But that funnel is breaking up, and good.

  7. Unorthodoxmarxist

    Monbiot does not say that all humans are “good.” Instead, he quotes research that shows humans have a tendency to be altruistic towards other, suffering members of our own species, though they worry that others are being selfish. There is no real discussion of whether these tendencies are genetic or societal, but it is far from a question of whether humans are “good” or not.

    1. NOTaREALmerican

      Plus, it doesn’t matter what percentage of people are “good” if – at the same time – the “good” people are incapable of preventing the assholes from winning.

      Which, personally, I think is the problem. There’s plenty of nice (aka “good”) people around. The problem is the assholes are better predators.

    2. vidimi

      my belief is that most conservatives are “good” people who end up doing the wrong thing because the alternative is too horrible for them. for example, they’ll support a war believing that the other side is evil and must be destroyed because the alternative, that we’re evil and they’re just defending themselves, is too horrible to contemplate let alone accept.

      1. vidimi

        a tangent: i’ve been thinking a lot about capital punishment cases or even murder cases resulting in life convictions where, it has been found, at least 4% of the convicted are later exonerated. a lot of “good” people convict out of impulse: one victim, one bad guy is the simplest and least bad narrative. if, however, the accused has been wrongly accused by corrupt cops and prosecutors, then the list of victims and bad guys quickly gets long and becomes unfathomable for “good” people.

        another tangent: most data will tell us that murdered wives are almost always killed by their husbands. while husbands no doubt make up a majority, these data are based on convictions, and one should wonder whether the most convenient narrative is always the correct one. the possibility that the husband is innocent and deeply grieving the loss of his partner to the extent he doesn’t even care about his future and doesn’t mount a proper defense is too horrible for most ‘good’ people so they rule it out of hand.

        i used quotes around ‘good’ for a reason throughout.

  8. allan

    Gaia: Global heat records tumble again as El Nino boosts September warmth

    Global temperatures got another kick along last month, with September easily the hottest in records going back to 1891, Japan’s Meteorological Agency said.

    According to preliminary data for the month, average sea and land surface temperatures in September were 0.5 degrees above the 1981-2010 average.

    That compared with the previous record set only a year earlier, with an anomaly of 0.35 degrees.

    Each of the last four Septembers have set records for the month, the agency said.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      We are in the middle of October, and the latest heat wave here in S. California just ended yesterday.

      But I must say, up until a couple of months ago, it felt cooler than usual (I knew then there would be a price to pay).

    2. vidimi

      in paris, we are having temperatures 8°C below historical average for the month. doesn’t bode well.

      1. Oregoncharles

        Yes. I don’t grow a lot of roses (we have deer – I removed the fence that normally protects it), and only 4 varieties: Fragrant Cloud; Crimson Glory;Peace (obligatory); and climber with huge pink fragrant flowers that I don’t know the name of – I scavenge a lot of plants when I’m working; it was a cutting.

        The huge purple leaves behind it belong to an edible (?) canna I bought at a thrift store.

        I can talk about plants indefinitely, but it’s a bit off-topic here.

  9. Code Name D


    One study a few years ago, from the Altarum Institute, showed that Americans tend to spend more time shopping for dishwashers than for doctors — despite the latter being a rather more consequential decision.

    For one thing, most of us don’t have access to tools that would let us shop for doctors. I can go on Amazon and pull up prices for dozens of different dishwashers. But there’s no website I can hop on, right now, to find out what different radiologists around Washington, DC, would charge me for an X-ray.

    Steve Keen talks about this a lot. What most economics here call “comparison shopping” might be better descried as prophetic accounting. In order to “make better decision” in the healthcare market as it is set up here – one would need the power of clairvoyance. Odd that current economic theory actually allows for these kinds of powers.

    For example, how can you possibly expect a customer to “choose” a radiologist? Even if there was a web-site with these kinds of resources, how could the consumer possibly be expected to know what makes a good radiologists, how much a good one should cost, a prophetic idea of what he would be asked to do and why.

    It’s akin to asking a consumer to pick out the tires the truck is going to use to bring his happy meal in from the coast, and which road needs to be taken from the farm to the processing plant.

    And even the notion that this sort of information can be collected needs to be challenged. Even what one might think is a simple procedure simply can not be “priced” in advanced. You can price a washing machine because its costs are fixed, each model will be the same as other examples of the same model, leading to uniform pricing.

    But there is no way to predict healthcare needs and thus no way any one can set any sort of up front pricing. Each case is different, each doctor visit is different, each holding different challenges and complications.

    1. PQS

      And with a doctor, price isn’t even in my top five qualifications…..I want someone who acts like a human being first (strike about 80% off the list right there), then one who listens to me (strike another 10%), then who isn’t going to pump me full of pills or other expensive nonsense, then one who is relatively close by, etc., etc. Honestly, I go off of personal recommendations from other humans to find one.

      1. cwaltz

        In an emergent instance the standard of care is really what you’d need to be pricing moreso than the MD. If I go to the ER with persistent vomiting, I essentially not only am not going to ask how much a doctor costs but I daresay I’m going to price out the tests or the IV he/she might give me.

        I’ve noticed the new thing is to charge someone for the XRay and the radiologist now. So technically, not only do I have to now search for the radiologist but also the cost of the arm series the doctor orders. My MRI bill with insurance was $70 odd dollars, the bill for the radiologist who read it was around $250(because apparently reading the test a doctor orders is now extra.)

      2. grayslady

        Absolutely. I price shop for blood tests, digital imaging, prescription costs–anything impersonal. A doctor? It’s all about trust.

        1. cwaltz

          Well, my doctor is in my network. If I go to him and he sends me to get an MRI, I’m going where he tells me he ordered it(which is generally at a clinic or hospital where he is affiliated.) I’m going to get absolutely no choice at that point which radiologist reads it. Zero. I’m not even going to get to meet the guy/girl. who reads the darn thing and then sends the results to my MD.

          Personally, they act as if the system is opaque. I daresay if I asked my trusted doctor where to go to get the best price on getting my labwork drawn that he’d have an answer since not only is the pricing variant for the tests themselves but I would bet money so is the deals with various insurance providers as to how much is written off/ paid.

    2. NOTaREALmerican

      I’ve always wondered how people “shop” for doctors in “nice progressive” countries that have completely “free” healthcare? Based on your (excellent) summary of the problem, you’d think that “shopping for a doctor” would be the same for any society; except that the “evil neo-liberal” ones would have the added cost component.

      And, Switzerland has a system similar to Obama care (mandatory insurance but with the government actually paying for those who can’t afford it). How do the Swiss “shop” for doctors?

      1. Pat

        The differences between the Swiss system and the American system are more important then the similarities. One of the big differences is that the Swiss system has price controls. An appendectomy cost X in Switzerland, while in America it costs X, Y, Z and AA all depending on what insurance you have, whether you have insurance at all, what level of insurance you have. In America, the public is expected to shop to find the best deal for their healthcare, in Switzerland you shop to find the best doctor for you.

        Oh, and in a country where deductibles END where Americans deductibles begin, and the same with the maximum out of pockets. It is clear that the controls are there to make sure that their citizenry get healthcare. Here the goal is that the citizenry has paid for insurance and if that means they still cannot afford healthcare well that’s Markets!!!

    3. Eleanor

      In my experience, very few people shop for medical care. It requires a lot of research that most people don’t feel equipped to do, and it isn’t fun. Decades ago I got one piece of advice from Wall Street Week in Review: never invest in something you don’t care about, because you won’t pay enough attention to invest well. The guy was talking about oriental rugs, but I figure it works for most things. Shopping is the same. If you aren’t interested, you are not going to do a good job. The idea that the eocnomy is full of rational actors, able to foresee the future and do cost-benefit analyses, is nuts.

  10. cwaltz

    So proud of the surrounding area of my neighborhood! I hope my little burg gets the next food forest. :)

  11. Eric Patton

    A new study shows that humans are inherently good

    Obviously, someone has read The Diary of Anne Frank.

  12. craazyboy

    US: “Pretty photos, small companies: how the White House is selling TPP”
    Are these pics of post-industrial America, or pre-industrial America?

  13. Brindle

    Joan Walsh (now at The Nation) describes Hillary and Biden as “center left” when the reality is they are center-right.

    — She did not self-destruct; quite the opposite. She proved that the Democrats don’t need a (white) man on a white horse to come in and save them from her candidacy. And Sanders proved the party, and the nation, has a real choice–between a center-left reformer and a (peaceful) left-wing revolutionary. Is there room for another center-left politician, however beloved? —


    1. Jess

      Like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Joan Walsh deserves the term odious, not to mention repulsive and despicable. What an apparatchnik hack.

  14. The Insider

    Speaking of the long-departed Florentine bogeyman/philosopher, a quote of his came to mind when Bernie jumped to Hillary’s defense last night:

    We can get from this a general rule which never—or hardly ever—fails, namely: someone who causes someone else to become powerful brings about his own ruin; because it takes skill or power to do that, and these attributes will be seen as threatening by the one who has benefited from them.

    If Bernie thinks there will be gratitude or reciprocation from his rival, he needs to do some more reading from the work quoted above.

    1. 3.17e-9

      This was his first debate before an audience of millions. Hillary has done this many times before, but Bernie wasn’t in his element. He needed to tread carefully and conservatively. And I think it worked. Going for the jugular is what the media want, like a good cockfight, but that isn’t what impresses voters.

      The biggest win for him is that the media, while declaring Hillary the hands-down winner, at least are taking Bernie seriously now. One of his biggest problems has been lack of recognition. Well, that has changed. And all of those online polls! Not only are they showing that Bernie won, but they are exposing the mendacity of the MSM.

  15. Jess

    HuffPo attempting to both change the focus and obliquely admit their “Hillary won” was wrong: New headline is Burden on Biden, how he is now at a crossroads, etc. But the subheads include:

    DC Insiders Claim Hillary Won…But They’re Wrong All The Time

    (linked from Vox) http://www.vox.com/2015/10/14/9530603/bernie-sanders-debate

    Focus Groups Go For Bernie

    Refers to the Fox News focus group, but the Vox article mentions how three different focus groups all went for Bernie.

  16. Jess

    Regarding the food forest: Saw an article a week or so ago about a new housing tract that features gardening plots for everyone instead of a golf course. Sent it to Lambert in hopes it would make the Cooler. Unfortunately, can’t seem to find the article and link now.

  17. abynormal

    Illinois To Delay Pension Payments Amid Budget Woes: “For All Intents And Purposes, We Are Out Of Money Now” zh, reuts, bloom
    Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger said on Wednesday a $560 million November pension payment will be delayed due to a cash crunch stemming from the state’s budget impasse.

    Despite the delay, state pension funds will be paid in full by the end of fiscal 2016, Munger said at a news conference in Chicago.

    “What a weary time those years were — to have the desire and the need to live but not the ability.” Bukowski

    1. grayslady

      Bruce Rauner is a first-class sociopath. He has done everything he can to try to burden the poor, the elderly and the sick with cutbacks to state spending. You wouldn’t believe how many internet searches and articles there are on trying to impeach him or recall him. So far, the Dems are holding firm, but Rauner is refusing to release state funds for food stamps as well as the money that we all contribute to our state utility bills to allow LIHEAP to cover more individuals and families. Individuals on fixed or reduced incomes are struggling a whole lot more than the State.

  18. Lambert Strether Post author

    On whether Sanders made a mistake with “Tired of hearing about…. the damned emails.”

    1) Yes, in the sense that (as the Intercept link I added shows) the press has distorted his message by leaving out their own role in creating the mess;

    2) No mistake, in that Sanders loses nothing. Presumably he has surrogates who can take the low road, if that’s needed

    3) No, in that it almost impossible for Clinton to attack him personally now

    4) No, in that it drags the discussion toward policy, which is Sanders’ strength

    5) No, in that “It was the right thing to do,” as Sanders said in his after-interview.

    1. Carolinian

      I’m not so sure about 3. She has surrogates too. David Brock is reputedly busy with Bernie oppo.

      And I hope you are right about the rest. But negativity wins and was one way Obama beat her in 2008 (all that talk about racism, Bill’s gaffes etc). Still even now it’s early days…..

    2. grayslady

      A neat summary. Supporting No. 5, one of the women in the Luntz focus group described the remark as a gentleman defending a lady, and saw that as gallant and manly. She still agreed that the debate focus should be on important issues affecting everyday voters, but she didn’t interpret Bernie’s action as weakness. The attack dog world of the beltway and pundits is apparently devoid of politeness that the rest of us consider essential for navigating daily social interactions.

    3. Daryl

      > 2) No mistake, in that Sanders loses nothing. Presumably he has surrogates who can take the low road, if that’s needed

      Heck, there’s no need for him to do any anti-Hillary low road stuff when you can count on right-wingers to do it for you.

    4. Oregoncharles

      Policy? If it was corruption, as you generally say, then letting her off the hook isn’t good policy.

      It DID make him look good, so it was a winning move in the debate itself. But it puts the burden of calling her to account on, f’rinstance, you, Lambert. (By which I mean, the blogosphere.)

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        Please don’t assign me tasks. And I don’t think Sanders is corrupt.

        And you’re wrong on the burden; have you never heard of campaign surrogates?

        Hey, if this is the blocker for you, don’t vote for the guy.

        1. low_integer

          I may be wrong, however I read Oregoncharles’ first line as saying that Hillary using her private email server was corruption.

  19. rjs

    a caveat on the often cited inventory-to-sales ratio…in a commodity deflation, some goods that are down in price, such as gasoline at retail, wholesale and at factories (refineries), take a much bigger chunk out of sales when their prices fall than they do out of inventories, thus skewing the ratio, because the real amount of those goods inventoried is so much smaller than the real amount sold…

    1. Daryl

      Taibbi’s “vampire squid” was around the time I started getting getting really clued into how problematic the finance industry was becoming for the world.

      Shame about First Look.

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