2:00PM Water Cooler 10/30/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente



Syria, Clinton: “‘I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air,’ Clinton said this month” [Foreign Policy]. “‘Establishing a no-fly zone in Syria means “a very large military commitment, and you are potentially shooting down Russian planes,’ [Maine’s Angus] King said. ‘Where does that lead?'” Where Clinton wants? Based on her past votes, and past policies?

UPDATE “There is no contemporaneous evidence, however, to support the claim that the Clinton White House considered a possible federal constitutional amendment to be a concern, based on a BuzzFeed News review of the thousands of documents released earlier this year by the Clinton Presidential Library” [Buzzfeed].

“Why you can get a free college education in Germany but not in California” [Los Angeles Times]. Good round-up of beliefs, if not necessarily realities.


“Bruised and muddied by controversies this election season, the Clinton Foundation says it has nonetheless raised more money so far in 2015 than it did during the same period last year” [The Hill]. Meaning the smart money is OK with an influence peddling/money laundering operation, even if it makes them look bad for five minutes. Ka-ching.

“The Center for American Progress, the preeminent liberal think tank in Washington, is poised to exert outsized influence over the 2016 president race and — should Hillary Clinton win it — the policies and agenda of the 45th President of the United States. CAP founder John Podesta is set to run Clinton’s presidential campaign, and current CAP president Neera Tanden is a longtime Clinton confidante and adviser” [WaPo].

Perhaps most notably, given CAP’s advocacy for an economically progressive agenda, is that CAP’s top donors include Walmart and Citigroup, each of which have given between $100,000 and $499,000. Other donors to CAP — a leading advocate of health care reform — include the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which represents leading biotech and bio-pharma firms, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, both of which have given up to $49,000.

Ka-ching. And:

A number of journalists, such as Dan Berman and Ken Vogel, have rightly pointed out that CAP’s donors include three who gave over $1 million who are labeled “anonymous,” and a number of others who are similarly labeled, and have questioned whether CAP is being fully transparent. My understanding is that these are donors who explicitly asked to remain anonymous.

Oh, they asked to be anonymous. So that’s alright, then. Ka-ching.

“Both the amount donated to the foundation and the number of donors in the first three quarters of the year are higher than during the same period in 2014, the [Clinton Foundation] said. It didn’t provide total figures. Its updated list showed that among donors who gave $10,000 or more, fewer than 100 gave for the first time” [Wall Street Journal, ” Clinton Foundation Says Donations Have Picked Up “]. (That is, the Clintons did not expand their network significantly.) “The Journal reported in February that the foundation had accepted donations from countries including the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman.  Since then, the foundation has decided to continue accepting donations from foreign governments, primarily from six countries” (Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K.) I’m glad the U.K. is on that list; you can launder anything through London. Ka-ching.

Carson and Mannatech [New York Magazine]. Carson says he never had “any kind of relationship” with the nutritional supplement firm, despite taking it, endorsing it on national television, collecting fees for speaking at their engagements, and Mannatech having endowed a chair for him. OK. (Interestingly, Carson’s business manager is Armstrong Williams, who readers with long memories will remember taking money under the table from the Bush administration to endorse its education programs.)


“The Republican National Committee has pulled out of a planned Feb. 26 debate with NBC News after widespread criticism of this week’s CNBC debate from both the party and campaigns” [The Hill]. Why don’t Sanders, O’Malley, and Lessig do the same, and put up an empty podium for Clinton?

The Trail

UPDATE Bush oppo on Rubio in 112-page internal document provided to U.S. News: “[The section is] titled ‘Marco Is A Risky Bet,’ and it bullet-points Rubio’s ‘misuse of state party credit cards, taxpayer funds and ties to scandal-tarred former Congressman David Rivera'” [US News & World Report]. Makes you wonder if there’s a reason the Mittster didn’t pick such a superficially attractive candidate for Veep. (But here’s a beat sweetener from the Daily Shopper.)

UPDATE “[T]he sanity wing of the Republican Party is now down to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio” after Bush’s lousy debate performance [New York Times].

“Hillary Clinton has hit 50 percent support for the Democratic presidential nomination for the first time since April, around the time she launched her campaign, according to a new national poll” [The Hill]. “Clinton’s support among Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters has ticked up 9 points since mid-September, based on the latest NBC News/Survey Monkey online poll.” Biden and the Gowdy, et al., did her a huge favor, then. “Clinton is the overwhelming choice for those surveyed who are 30 or older. Sanders has a 15-point edge, 48 percent to 33 percent, among voters aged 18-29.” Which from a policy perspective is bizarre. Sanders is far Clinton’s superior on both health care and retirement.

UPDATE “Clinton allies shout ‘sexism’ at Sanders” [Politico]. Any stick to beat a dog, I guess. I wish I had the big data chops to go back and see how many of these operatives were making misogynist jokes about Clinton, when Clinton was running against Obama in 2008. I’d start here.

The Hill

“Saving Speaker Ryan” [Domeocracy]. “When the clock strikes midnight tonight, it may well toll the end of the best day in the speakership of Paul Ryan…. One development that is unlikely to occur is the tempering of the Freedom Caucus. They have Mr. Boehner’s head mounted on the wall, and they have made it clear they expect fealty from the new Speaker.” Wonky, too. A good read.

“Justice Scalia warns that the US Supreme Court is causing the ‘destruction of our democratic system'” [Business Insider]. That’s rich. My personal view is that Scalia selected Bush in Bush v. Gore to put future justices on the court whose views on, say, the Fourth Amendment would be congenial to his own, and that all decisions after the first such justice was elevated should be treated in the manner of fruit of the poisonous tree and rolled back.

Stats Watch

Personal Income and Outlays, September 2015: “Inflation is not building based on the Fed’s favorite reading, the core PCE price index which inched a lower-than-expected 0.1 percent higher in September with the year-on-year rate steady and flat at only plus 1.3 percent” [Econoday]. “These results will not lift the odds for a December hike at the next FOMC.”  And: “The data this month showed relatively weaker income growth (and on the low side of market expectations) – and spending growth slowed (and also was on the low side of expectations)” [Econintersect].

Consumer Sentiment, October 2015: Down [Econoday]. “The current conditions component, at 102.3, and the expectations component, at 82.1, both show gains from September though both also are down from mid-month.” And Surveys of Consumers chief economist, Richard Curtin: “The entire October rebound from September was due to gains in confidence among lower income households, while confidence among households with incomes in the top third of the income distribution retreated a bit due to concerns about financial markets” [Econoday].

Chicago PMI, October 2015: Surges over consensus, but volatile: [Econoday]. “Advance indications on the October economy are mixed with a sweep of regional Fed surveys pointing to another month of contraction for the factory sector but other readings, including this one, mixed to upbeat.” And: “The Chicago Business Barometer significantly improved and now is in expansion. .Last months contraction seems to have been a flash-in-the-pan” [Econintersect].

Employment Cost Index, Q3 2015: “The employment cost index came in on the hot side as expected, up 0.6 percent in the third quarter vs a record soft 0.2 percent in the second quarter.” [Econoday]. “The latest quarter is on the high side and though it follows a very weak prior quarter, policy hawks can definitely cite a tangible upward trend in this series consistent with low levels of unemployment that may be forcing employers to raise wages and benefits to attract employees.” 

“Leading Index Review: September 2015 Philly Fed Leading Index Showing Stable Rate of Economic Growth” [Econintersect]. Handy chart of leading indexes by state shows the collapse of the oil patch vividly. And Maine (!) is roaring along!

“Rail Week Ending 24 October 2015: A Worse Week Among Bad Weeks” [Econintersect]. The analysis backs out coal and grain. Intermodal (containers) is up, but carloads are down, outweighing intermodal. Why?

Honey for the Bears from packaging once more (a revision from yesterday). Lots of detail, but this caught my eye: “One reason for the lack of confidence, [Acme Corrugate] President Bob Cohen] said, is that in a very low inflation environment, people defer purchases in the expectation that they will be able to pay less for goods and services in coming months, as prices fall” [Market News]. Cohen: ” “Nobody’s putting anything on their floor unless they think they can sell it. Nobody’s taking inventory unless they think they can move it. You’ve been buffeted by one bad economic sign after another, and I don’t think anybody has confidence.”

Honey for the Bears: “The London housing market has formed the world’s biggest house price bubble, according to the Swiss bank, UBS” [BBC]. “In its Global Real Estate Bubble Index, UBS says any city scoring more than 1.5 is at risk of a bubble. London had the highest score, at 1.88. Hong Kong came second, with a score of 1.67. Real house prices, after adjusting for inflation, have soared by almost 40% in London since the beginning of 2013, said UBS.”

“PayPal suffers temporary breakdown in digital payment service during data center power outage” [Daily News]. “The extent of the disruption for the company’s 173 million users worldwide wasn’t immediately clear, but PayPal began working again early Friday.” Of course, this will never happen with digital currency.

“The technology behind bitcoin lets people who do not know or trust each other build a dependable ledger. This has implications far beyond the cryptocurrency” [The Economist].

The Fed: “The nuanced shift in the wording of the assessment, and the specific mention of the “next” meeting created a powerful incentive to market participants to re-price the risks of a December hike” [Brown Brothers Harriman, Across the Curve].

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 71 (+0); Greed [CNN]. Last week: 58 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed)

Imperial Collapse Watch

“Pentagon: ‘We’re in combat’ in Iraq” [CNN]. It’s like we never left!

Our Famously Free Press

“We in the media suck because we have rewarded [the] rampant dishonesty and buffoonery [of Republican presidential candidates] with nonstop news coverage. Which, of course, has encouraged more dishonesty and buffoonery” [Catherine Rampell, WaPo]. That’s true. But that’s not the only reason you suck. I’d single out the Times WMD Iraq coverage — Hi, Judy Miller! [waves] — which was in essence a disinformation campaign orchestrated by the White House Iraq Group, for special mention, but there are many, many other examples. 


“A rapid warming of the Gulf of Maine off the eastern United States has made the water too warm for cod, pushing stocks towards collapse despite deep reductions in the number of fish caught, a US study has shown” [Guardian]. “The Gulf of Maine had warmed faster than 99% of the rest of the world’s oceans in the past decade, influenced by shifts in the Atlantic Gulf Stream, changes in the Pacific Ocean and a wider trend of climate change, it said.” And: “It’s just the latest in a series of findings and occurrences — ranging from gigantic snows in Boston last winter, which scientists partly linked with warm seas, to a sudden and “extreme” sea level rise event in 2009-2010 — suggesting that this particular stretch of water is undergoing profound changes” [WaPo].

“Indonesia fires: Widodo visits haze-hit zone as country becomes worst polluter” [Guardian]. “More than 117,000 forest fires have been detected via satellite in Indonesia this year, most of which are believed to have been started deliberately to clear land for farming…. Luhut Pandjaitan – a minister who has accompanied Widodo to South Sumatra – said this week that ‘economic considerations’ meant the government would not name the corporations suspected of involvement in starting the fires.” This story is itself hazy. What’s burning? I hear forests, I hear peat. Who’s doing the burning? Slash and burn agriculturists? Straws for palm-oil corporations? Hard to tell.

“It is rare for a new animal species to emerge in front of scientists’ eyes. But this seems to be happening in eastern North America” [The Economist].  Wolf + coyote + dog. “The mixing of genes that has created the coywolf has been more rapid, pervasive and transformational than many once thought.” Wow, evolution happening in real time. Who knew?


“When FDA inspectors showed up at a Chinese company that supplies key ingredients to two of the U.S.’s biggest drug companies, a curious thing happened” [Bloomberg]. “After lunch, they walked into a quality control lab on the second floor, where they saw a worker pull what looked like a memory stick from a computer and put it in the pocket of his lab coat. The inspectors asked to see what he’d taken. And then the man turned and ran.”

Class Warfare

“Your job is literally ‘killing’ you” [WaPo] (original study, “Exposure To Harmful Workplace Practices Could Account For Inequality In Life Spans Across Different Demographic Groups”). As I keep pointing out, they don’t call it class warfare for nothing.

“Economics predicts that wherever there is a profit, someone will be there to make it. To that, Akerlof and Shiller propose a corollary: Wherever there is an opportunity to profit off people’s weaknesses, someone will exploit it” [WaPo]. This is an interview with Akerlof and Shiller, well worth a read. 

News of the Wired

“SXSW’s Astounding Ideals of Cowardice” [Medium]. Nice rants, thoroughly justified.

“Danger of Repeat Head Injuries: Brain’s Inability to Tap Energy Source” [Ohio State University]. “Second injury not ‘1+1’ but more like ‘1+10,’ researcher says.” Listening, NFL?

“Why NASA Needs a Programmer Fluent In 60-Year-Old Languages” [Popular Mechanics]. FORTRAN a perfectly good language, though you won’t see any startups using it (which is perhaps a good thing, for spacecraft). The assembly code might be another matter. The program manager laments that “most younger people can’t or really don’t want to” work with spacecraft and assembly language; just can’t get good help these days, I guess. If only there were a method to match the demand for labor to the supply for it!

* * *

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 (Isabel):


Searas do Menino Jesus, from Portugal. Isabel writes:

In some parts of Portugal seeds of wheat, rye, alpist, etc are “sowed” on December 8 so that they will be ready for Christmas. Some germinate in the dark so that they turn pink, and they are all put in front of the crib.

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter is almost here, I need to buy fuel, and I need to keep my server up, too. And thanks so much for the donations during the annual fundraiser. They are much appreciated, both practically, and as signs that you enjoy the work.


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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. Howard Beale IV

    Finding anyone who knows any kind of assembler is pretty rare these days-the colleges and universities don’t teach it, just like they don’t teach COBOL or any mainframe technologies that are still in use.

      1. Daryl

        As a programmer who has written a fair amount of assembly in his day (though unlikely for whatever architectures they are using), this is a pretty understandable thing, as writing assembly is rather onerous and something you generally only do as part of writing a compiler for a higher-level languages or under extreme resource constraints (such as a spacecraft).

        I blame America’s lack of fascination with space, these days, though, if the nation were still enraptured by space you would have programmers falling over their feet to teach themselves how to do this.

          1. Daryl

            Most compilers will need to generate machine code as output, requiring knowledge of assembly for code generation, although these days things like JVM/CLR/LLVM are increasing in popularity as targets.

            1. Howard Beale IV

              Ah yes, the ‘write one, debug many’ paradigm of JVM/CLR world. Then again, with Java with its JIT technology, it actually emits native code for the target machine once compiled (JIT does have a z/Architecture target for IBM mainframes)-I don’t know if CLR does the same thing.

      2. Howard Beale IV

        Many major financial institutions that use CSC’s Hogan platform is still assembler-based (at least the business logic is COBOL)-fortunately the latest version of the platform code did move to 64-bit (added security for the data tables.) I’d be just as worried as systems that use GT.M as their platform.

        One thing the people tend to forget-software doesn’t rot.

        1. Anarcissie

          Actually, it seems to. It’s a well-known phenomenon in the Craft. A piece of software not run for a long time will often exhibit previously unobserved bugs when run.

          1. Howard Beale IV

            That’s where you’re observation is incorrect. The assembler in code gets executed so often that it takes years for some defects to show up-and it’s usually for some test cases that no one ever thought of originally. The ‘rot’ that you talk about only occurs when someone fails to upgrade the code as part of a systems upgrade cycle. That’s not the software’s fault, that’s the developer team’s fault for not doing the proper management of the project to make sure all components of the system are properly managed during an upgrade, including propre regression testing. Been there, done that.

    1. Ranger Rick

      That’s not entirely true. I caught a class in Motorola 68k assembly back in the aughts. I don’t think they teach it as a part of any core curriculum though — the assembly code we did was purely to illustrate the actual electrical operations underlying the instructions.

    2. reslez

      Plenty of people know assembler… it’s needed for embedded systems. And it was taught at my state university… as far as I know x86 coursework is pretty much universal for a computer science BS. (Maybe you’re thinking of those “IT” degrees?) Admittedly any programming language you learn in college is going to be at a superficial level, but that’s what you get when you hire newbs straight out of school (because they’re cheap and work insane hours in exchange for free breakfast cereal).

      1. Vatch

        Don’t a lot of embedded systems nowadays use non-assembly development environments such as Embedded Java?

        1. craazyboy

          Yup. Actually java comes in two pieces – a top layer is what programmers write and compile using java dev tools. A bottom layer is “machine” ( or microcontroller) specific. That piece is written once for a particular device. It may be even be written in some form of assembly language.

          Actually, lots of embedded device programming is done in C/C++ nowadays. C/C++ compilers actually do the conversion of programmer C/C++ source code to device specific assembly code when they compile the source code to binary executable code. I’m just an amateur Arduino microcontroller hobbyist, but I know Atmel, maker of that microcontroller, has a full featured professional programming environment that supports C/C++ programming of their whole line of microcontrollers. It also comes with libraries for just about anything you may want to connect to a microcontroller – sensors, sd card, displays – that have all the nitty gritty stuff already done that would require lots of component data sheet reading, painful learning curve, debugging, and bring it up to higher level C functions that you just call from your C code.

        2. Howard Beale IV

          Depends on the application. Most embedded systems will use whatever results in the lowest BOM rate is. OTOH, some embedded systems have such unique requirements that the requirements thmselves will dictate the hardware being used (why else would the CDP1802 – a 40 year old CMOS processor designed and originally built by RCA still being manufactured today? Simple-it’s easy to work with, it’s a static processor design and comes in RAD-hardened versions-ideal for satellite use.)

    3. Benedict@Large

      The problem with assembler is that it’s different for every machine. The IBM 1401 featured here a bit back, for example, uses variable word length, word-marked coding, about which I’m sure most assembler programmers would just say, HUH? Today’s programmers of course would look at that and rightly ask, what’s in it for my future, the answer being, probably nothing.

      1. hunkerdown

        Most programmers who have been doing assembler on modern processors would be shocked, perhaps, but those with a bit of background in hardware design have tools to make sense of it. Both MIDI and RS-485 use the high bit of a “byte” as something like a framing device. It doesn’t seem too incorrect to think of the word mark as the same sort of deal for an arbitrary-precision arithmetic coprocessor, or simply as control for a COBOL accelerator. The curious instruction encoding makes sense to me as a predictive compression scheme (if the registers are in the desired condition, you don’t need to set them), or maybe a tag-value encoding, or maybe an input stream for something more like a parser than a decoder.

        I get a bad feeling we’ll be hearing a lot about “the billion dollars of US treasure lost two billion miles from home because the uppity neckbeards won’t let cheap brownies in blah blah blah” soon, quite possibly no later than the end of the next GOP debate.

  2. timbers

    Imperial Collapse Watch

    “Pentagon: ‘We’re in combat’ in Iraq” [CNN]. It’s like we never left!

    Don’t forget Syria. Aren’t we sending boots on the ground into Syria?

    Obama 2014: “Sending boots on the ground into Syria would be a profound mistake”

    WH Press Secretary today: “We’re sending boots on the ground into Syria”

    Russia: “Sending troops into a nation that hasn’t invited you is illegal and dangerous”

    (rough quotes paraphrased)

    Because if we’re not provoking Russia and China while fighting halp a dozon smaller wars, we’re not pissing off enough people.

    Ready for WW3? Think of all the profit for the elites and jobs for us!

    1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

      Hail Caesar! Let’s just send Congress home, that would save alot of money, who needs the voice of the people when the Emperor can declare new wars via mobile phone from the golf course.
      I dimly recall a fuffle about something called the War Powers Act, ha ha silly me, thinking that the Executive Branch is somehow bound by anything the Legislative Branch does.
      Skip all this blather about so-called “elections”, just open a Facebook page, anybody can join, and the guy who gets the most “likes” gets to be King. He can notify the serfs periodically about what the law of the land is by updating the FB page. If he feels like it, that is.

      1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

        At what stage does the world acknowledge that certain American leaders are bona fide, foaming-at-the-mouth, certifiable crazed psychopaths utterly bent on starting World War Three? I don’t know what kind of Bible thumping Rapture-awaiting pathology affects this one in particular but he scares the Bejesus out of me:
        MAD works because both sides know nuclear WW III is unwinnable. But if you think the believers will rise up after Armageddon to some kind of Kingdom In The Sky cloud service…then it seems to me all bets are off.

        1. different clue

          Why blame the Senator? Or even bother to focus on him? Obama, Biden, all the R2P people at State, etc. have been busily seeking to trigger off WW3 right along. Just because you aren’t foaming at the mouth does not mean you aren’t crazy.

          1. andyb

            All of the 535, upon election, must sign an oath to support Israel in order to receive “contributions” from the various Zionist Rothschild interests, whose agenda is Israeli hegemony in the ME, regardless of the death and destruction. Plus it doesn’t hurt that the global 1% have a monied interest in the MIC and always profit greatly from chaos, picking up assets for pennies on the $, especially after the IMF issues debt enslavement loans for reconstruction to the new puppet regime. ( Read the John Perkins book on economic hit men).

    2. low_integer

      The Counterpunch article titled ‘Putin’s Question and the Ambassador’s Answer‘ (from links 10/30/2015) makes for interesting reading. It is not really about Putin so much as the US MIC. One tidbit that stood out to me was that the US government spends approximately $14 million per hour, every hour, on the MIC’s wares, and the MIC still has 400 lobbyists trying to get Congress to raise the limits set for defence spending.

      1. different clue

        Some of them may be competing against eachother to see WHICH wares get bought and whose wares DON’T get bought.

  3. AJ

    RE: “The program manager laments that “most younger people can’t or really don’t want to” work with spacecraft and assembly language; just can’ t get good help these days, I guess. If only there were a method to match the demand for labor to the supply for it!”

    Context #1 of Rule #1 of Neo-liberalism. It’s always the workers fault. If a worker can’t find a job, it’s his fault for not lowering his wage expectation. If an employer can’t find a worker, then the workers are all just lazy bums that can’t be bother to acquire the relevant skills. It can’t possibly be that the offered wage is too low.

    1. hunkerdown

      I also notice the whingeing about “younger” people being unavailable for a project that just might end in 10 years, most assuredly will run out of batteries after 20, and demands skills that might be less than immediately useful once those digital-logic-based systems fall by the wayside. Galling. Seems like any 40-something who’s been shut out of the quasi-martial startup-burnout culture would make a fine COG engineer in this machine as it runs down.

      This turnip-truck project manager is incompetent to manage anything and should be replaced forthwith. Yes, based on a single word choice, assuming that was hers and not the editors’.

  4. ekstase

    You’ve got to love this “L.A. Times” correction:

    article incorrectly indicated that European colleges were begun thousands of years ago. They were begun hundreds of years ago.

    But really, who knows?

    1. craazyboy

      Simple deduction. Europe’s oldest breweries still in production today date back to the 1300s. You can’t have colleges without breweries, therefore colleges might possibly be hundreds of years old. QED.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        What the Brittanica says:

        The earliest Western institution that can be called a university was a famous medical school that arose at Salerno, Italy, in the 9th century and drew students from all over Europe. It remained merely a medical school, however. The first true university in the West was founded at Bologna late in the 11th century. It became a widely respected school of canon and civil law. The first university to arise in northern Europe was the University of Paris, founded between 1150 and 1170. It became noted for its teaching of theology, and it served as a model for other universities in northern Europe such as the University of Oxford in England, which was well established by the end of the 12th century. The Universities of Paris and Oxford were composed of colleges, which were actually endowed residence halls for scholars.

        This list is a bit informal, and gives the palm to the University of Al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco, founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, a woman.

  5. Daryl

    > Syria, Clinton: “‘I personally would be advocating now for a no-fly zone and humanitarian corridors to try to stop the carnage on the ground and from the air,’ Clinton said this month

    It’s amazing that all these no-fly zone things are coming out now that only one more nation is bombing Syria, when there were several of them doing it before and seemingly unconcerned with the idea.

    1. Darthbobber

      Given that the Islamic State folks don’t have aircraft, this certainly drops the pretense that it isn’t all about the regime change.

      1. LifelongLib

        I still don’t understand why whoever replaces Assad will be better for the U.S. than he is. For Syrians I suppose it’ll be better for some (the majority?) and worse for others (minorities?). Or maybe not.

        1. Praedor

          The idea is to put in a neoliberal pro-Israel tool. This tool would then be expected to kick the Russians out of their bases in Syria (allow US entry), privatize EVERYTHING, kowtow to Israel. It worked so well for Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, so why not follow such success with more success?

  6. allan

    Obamacare Deploys New Apps, Allies To Persuade The Uninsured

    Better apps will undoubtedly do the trick. Or not:

    Egbert, of Huron, S.D., also contacted NPR via Facebook. He says he and Davis each dropped their coverage because the fees for doctor visits and tests added up unexpectedly. They could pay the premiums, Egbert says, but the overall costs were too much.

    “I couldn’t afford to actually use the health insurance,” he says.

      1. AJ

        I’ve been making the argument that health insurance is not health care for a while now (as have many others). It doesn’t do one damn bit of good to try to affordable health insurance, if the people who have it can’t afford to actually use it to go to the doctor. For most of the people who the ACA was designed to help get health insurance, the policies they get come with deductibles in the thousands of dollars. If you didn’t have the thousands of dollars to buy health insurance before, even if I give you free insurance, how can you be expected to dole out the thousands of dollars in deductibles it still costs to see an actual doctor. It didn’t make sense before the ACA, it still doesn’t make any sense. It will never make sense.

        1. Massinissa

          And yet, the Obots still scream, “OBAMA GAVE POOR PEOPLE HEALTHCARE!” at the top of their lungs whenever Obamacare is mentioned. Sigh…

          1. Michael

            The Medicare expansion was good for me, personally. Probably the only really good thing to come out of the law.

            But then, #SinglePayerNow.

            1. LifelongLib

              Obama could have just expanded Medicare to cover everybody. That WOULD have been #SinglePayerNow.

              1. different clue

                Obama’s mission was to prevent that from happening. Obama’s after-office payoff was based on his delivering exactly the Obamacare he delivered.

                Obamacare should not be viewed as a failure. it should be viewed as a success for Big Insura and maybe for Obama too. The amount of money that Big Insura gives to Obama over the next 30 years will be the measure of how big a success Obamacare has been for Obama.

  7. Eric Patton

    I’d be more interested in comparing Bernie vs Hillary by what their current Q scores are — or would be, if Q Score tracked politicians.

    Since Q Score does not (as far as I can tell) track politicians, let’s call these their “Q Scores” and not their Q Scores.

    Hypothesis: Hillary’s “Q Score” >>> Bernie’s “Q Score”. Actually, hypothesis hell — that’s going to be a damn fact.

    However, I’ll bet you among younger people, Hillary’s “Q Score” > Bernie’s “Q Score”. (No, that’s not a typo. “>>>” is not the same as “>”.)

    Supposition: As Bernie’s “Q Score” approaches Hillary’s (and as the election draws closer, since no one is even paying attention yet), the poll numbers you see are going to change in Bernie’s favor across all categories (except for the wealthy, who might just hire an assassin).

    The Quraish wanted Muhammad and the relatively few Muslims at that time all dead. There did not appear to be any reason to think Islam would even survive. And yet, within a few short years, the whole of Arabia was a Muslim nation.

    So is Allah on Bernie’s side? I don’t know, but if so, then none of these poll numbers mean anything anyway.

    1. Eric Patton

      Sorry to post twice on the same thing, but I think it is also useful to note that we have (another) housing bubble. When it pops (hard to predict when, but it’s difficult to see this lasting an entire ‘nother year), it’s going to take everything with it.

      People are suddenly going to be a lot more receptive to socialism (or guillotines) when that happens. Obama is not going to be able to milk the clock on the whole rest of his presidency — that I am sure of. Putin kicking his ass is just the beginning for Obama. Allah’s getting ready to hand out some earthly requital to some folks, and this includes the current occupant of the White House.

  8. Jim Haygood

    ‘This is an interview with Akerlof and Shiller, well worth a read.’

    George Akerlof is, of course, the real-life Mr Yellen. His co-author, Robert Shiller, nailed the top of the Internet bubble with his book Irrational Exuberance (published Jan. 2000).

    When Akerlof and Shiller release a new book Phishing for Fools with Shiller’s 10-year price-earnings ratio at 26.4 (the same level it attained in January 1929), caution is warranted. They’re probably talking about Wall Street.

  9. James Housel

    Re: Saving Speaker Ryan,

    Say he serves a few months as Speaker, looking like a savior, then is “called” to save the party by deigning to accept the nomination? Anybody wanna’ bet?

    1. Gareth

      Ryan wouldn’t even carry Wisconsin in 2016. The only reason he’s still in Congress is that the GOP re-gerrymandered his district to the hilt. His greatest qualification though is that he’s the ultimate empty suit.

      1. craazyboy

        He did drive a Oscar Meyer Weiner truck in college – as a part time job. It’s not really cool set of wheels someone would buy to impress the coeds.

  10. barrisj

    Well, that didn’t take long…in addition to the “oppo research” link above, Ryan Lizza writes in the New Yorker online that Wednesday’s Repub debate/whinefest designated “winner”, Marco Rubio’ has a whole lot of ‘splainin’ to do regarding his personal finances, as reported above. Each debate “winner” is getting less and less time to exploit such a purported advantage, with the result that the candidate who keeps getting all the bad press, my man Jeb!, can continue in the race, since his particular bar for “success” seems so low as to almost insulate him from the froth of the “who-won-this-round” media speculation. Jeb!’s strategy has now shifted to the long game, as all the remaining “serious” candidates (serious in the polling sense) continue to crash out or go on life-support…money-people in time will coalesce around the Jebbster’s campaign, as what other alternative do they have…bring back Mittens?

  11. TarheelDem

    Another topic for your health care articles: write-only professional journals.

    Paywall barriers to reading.

    Is it about the old New Yorker cartoon? “I don’t get heart attacks; I give them.” ?

  12. Oregoncharles

    Countries donating to the Clinton Foundation: ” (Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the U.K.)” ALL countries with conservative governments (at least by their own standards) – to say nothing of the ME countries, of course.

  13. DJG

    Antidote photos: In Italy, those platters of grain are either giardini di Adone (gardens of Adonis) or piattu di Cristu (plates of the Christ). They are part of the Eastern tradition, and you don’t have to be James Frazer to see the myth of death and resurrection (of the god of vegetation). So in Italy the gardens are begun at the beginning of Lent. Likewise, Saint Joseph, who pretty much rules Sicily along with several rather mysterious female saints like Rosalia and Lucia, celebrates his feast on 19 March with chickpeas, which are about as overtly a fertility symbol as you can get–green and burgeoning.

    For Nowruz, the Persians grow the same kind of garden. It is one of the Haft Sin, the seven symbols of the new year. The Persian grocery near me in Chicago puts them in the display window, and my favorite Persian place incorporates one on its table of the Haft Sin.

    Here’s a link, in Italian, with some photos. I couldn’t find a decent explanation in English. Not surprising.

  14. Llewelyn Moss

    Obama, the Biggest Progressive in the Universe (according to himself), is mission creeping his Syrian War. He’s only got a year to expand it into a full blown 100K troops on the ground. He WILL get his own war. He is so sick of Bush’s sloppy seconds. And I see the new Budget deal expands Military spending — setting the stage? In $2-3 Trillion from now (I mark time in wasted taxpayer treasure), I will come back and take a bow for making this prediction.

    In related news, more talk in congress about cutting SocSec and Medicare, because you know, we can’t afford ‘entitlements’ that actually benefit people. Bombs away.

  15. craazyboy


    A budget bill passed congress and went to O for rubber stamping. Reporting on details is lite so far, but there was mention of transferring SS retirement budget funds over to the troubled SS disability dept. to save it from running out of funds. That was a Dem idea, and opposed by the Rs! So I guess we have to assume SS Trust fund is getting even worser. hahaha. Well, not that funny, really. But it does raise the debt cap for a couple more years. (military spending went up, of course)

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      Well, it’s ok to cut Medicare because Obamacare ‘fixed’ the broken Healthcare system. Recall Biden called Obamacare a Big Fudging Deal. Oh wait, HC costs are still rising by double digits. Yes, kinda a Big Fudging Deal. Atta boy Obama. Your legacy is ensured.

      1. different clue

        The legacy Obama cares about is the size of the payoff he gets after leaving office. The bigger the payoff, the bigger his legacy.

  16. Kokuanani

    Thanks for pulling back the curtain on those “wizards” over at the Center for American Progress.

    “Pre-eminant liberal think tank” — my Aunt Fanny. I think the WaPo forgot “neo-” in the phrase.

  17. petal

    This is so depressing. Being in difficult financial and living situations makes me hate these people (Clintons, GOP, Dem establishment) and the system even more. It makes one feel so utterly hopeless.

    1. Ulysses

      “This is so depressing.”

      Here’s the good news– you are an excellent person, far superior in every meaningful way than any of these criminal oligarchs. We are not hopeless, even though the challenges facing us are huge.

      Here are some people in Detroit who refuse to surrender: The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network is a coalition that works by “promoting urban agriculture, encouraging cooperative buying, promoting healthy eating habits, facilitating mutual support and collective action among members, and encouraging young people to pursue careers in agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry, beekeeping, and other food-related fields. The network operates Detroit’s largest urban farm and focuses on engaging youth from the community.”

      The phony greedheads, in their elite enclaves, may now be powerful, but their numbers are tiny. Real people, helping each other in their daily struggles, can stand up and fight back!! We are legion– the only reason the elites are becoming more vicious, every day, is because they know they have lost all legitimacy, and they fear that we the people may be awakening to the reality of our own power.

    2. kj1313

      It’s not just you. Many are thoroughly disgusted. This path can’t be sustained without consequences.

    3. lambert strether

      Call me Pollyanna, but I haven’t felt so optimistic in years. The Clintons, GOP, Dem establishment stand on shrinking ground, though they are not aware of it. Of course, this is a war, not a battle or a campaign, and victory might not come in my lifetime. But you never know!

      1. skippy


        Out in the tubes the Free Market ™ breathers are devolving i.e. can’t even mention their heroes names in public any more, explain the universe in Sunday school level rhetoric, simultaneously blame BIG gov whilst sqillionaires set the agenda, can’t reconcile recent political and industry apparatchiks complete failures to produce the results they so fervently promised [foretold], endlessly equivocate all humanities problems on some loon pond conspiracy misdirection Jedi mind trick….. but the – one – big – main – problem is their inability to countenance AGW… its where empiricism strips bare the hollow anti intellectual rhetoric dressed up as logic for what it really is… Bernays double speak…

        Skippy… too conflate AGW with totalitarianism…. the AGW can’t take away our Freedumbs….

        1. different clue

          Since a measure of warming is baked into the future already regardless of what we do starting tomorrow, we might also think about how to survive individually and in like-minded groups through the next few decades of Big Heat Rising. Like . . . personal survival measures to keep one’s own personal human meat-puppet physical body alive through an interval of 100 degrees temperature and 100 percent humidity.

          If such measures are identifiable and can be planned and pre-set-up for rollout and use if needed, the next step would be to keep it a closely held secret among the reality-based AGW accepters that such survival methods are being developed. Since global warming denialists helped make the problem as bad as it is, they don’t deserve to survive the effects of the problem they worked so hard to help create. Also, they would continue obstructing meaningful future-dewarming efforts as long as they remained alive to do so. So it is extremely mal-adaptive and counter-survival for the realists to help the deniers to stay alive if the deniers can be caused to die by the mere passive and silent withholding of survival information.

          Of course, the “better than that” liberal purity martyrs can always choose to share survival information with the denialists anyway. That way the “better than that” liberal purity martyrs can make sure that EVERYbody dies together. Kumbaya.

      2. Darthbobber

        I tend to be of the same mind. Even the measures that you can see them taking indicate that things are not the same, though in what way they will change is still very much up for grabs. The level of sticking the thumb on the scale to deal with a threat like Sanders, or Corbyn, for that matter, who they could safely have treated as of no consequence until very recently. The need for a much heavier barrage of direct apologetics, the strident efforts to dismiss ALL possible alternatives to the narrow path the ostensibly responsible people chart, the willingness to let the mask drop and be much more open about rigging the game, the perceived need to head directly for the open assertion of raw power everywhere a threat is perceived, and the fact that a threat is perceived almost everywhere.

        Any time you see this level of direct propping up being done, its no longer business as usual. Because when things are going well from these people’s perspective most of that is unnecessary.

  18. cirsium

    Imperial Collapse Watch

    Regarding the US Special Forces being sent to Syria, did the Vietnam War not start like this?

      1. different clue

        Well . . . if the R + 6 as Colonel Lang and others have started calling it can get the Syrian rebellion systematically and comprehensively exterminated before the Obama Administration is able to get enough advisers killed to rationalize calling for force-increase in order to achieve force-protection; then it might really be different this time.

        If Putin and the others can help make it different fast enough and hard enough to keep it different this time.

  19. BondsOfSteel

    I would work to keep Voyager going.

    It’s been 25 years since I wrote any FORTRAN, but it’s a pretty simple language. 20 years ago, I wrote quite a bit of assembly code (x86). (Of course, they’re probably using 8080s… which is even easier to write.) Since then, I’ve written mostly in C and then C++.

    I looked at the NASA jobs site, but didn’t any listings. I’m not sure how serious they really are.

    1. RO

      “I looked at the NASA jobs site, but didn’t any listings”

      If I had a grand for every time I’ve heard a company or industry spokesperson bemoaning the severe lack of applicants or particular jobs and then looked for active job listings in those fields and found NOTHING AT ALL, I could retire right now.

  20. abynormal

    Friday Night Poem:

    You Chose
    You chose.
    You chose.
    You chose.

    You chose to give away your love.
    You chose to have a broken heart.
    You chose to give up.
    You chose to hang on.

    You chose to react.
    You chose to feel insecure.
    You chose to feel anger.
    You chose to fight back.
    You chose to have hope.

    You chose to be naïve.
    You chose to ignore your intuition.
    You chose to ignore advice.
    You chose to look the other way.
    You chose to not listen.
    You chose to be stuck in the past.

    You chose your perspective.
    You chose to blame.
    You chose to be right.
    You chose your pride.
    You chose your games.
    You chose your ego.
    You chose your paranoia.
    You chose to compete.
    You chose your enemies.
    You chose your consequences.

    You chose.
    You chose.
    You chose.
    You chose.

    However, you are not alone. Generations of women in your family have chosen. Women around the world have chosen. We all have chosen at one time in our lives. We stand behind you now screaming:

    Choose to let go.
    Choose dignity.
    Choose to forgive yourself.
    Choose to forgive others.
    Choose to see your value.
    Choose to show the world you’re not a victim.
    Choose to make us proud.”
    Shannon L. Alder

    (spine tingling realities, boo)

  21. gordon

    The link from “Exposure to Harmful Workplace Practices…” only gets me to the abstract of the article by Goh, Pfeffer & Zenios unless I pay or subscribe. Fortune has a more extensive (free) summary here:

    It strikes me as old news. Sir Michael Marmot has done a lot of work on this, starting with his well-known (except to Goh, Pfeffer & Zenios) book “The Status Syndrome”, published years ago.


  22. JLowe

    We’ve been watching evolution in real-time since the large-scale introduction of insecticides to agriculture and antibiotics to medicine.

    1. different clue

      It will be easy enough to tell based on what gets planted on the burned peatland. If its mostly slash and burn subsistence jungle peasants, then it was jungle peasant burning. If it is mostly planted to oil palms, then its oil palm operators. (And if its peasants planning to plant the burned land to oil palms to sell the oil to broker-aggregators, then it is still oil palm operators ultimately.

      1. econoclasm

        No need to wait and see what gets planted. This practice has been ongoing for years (long enough that folks have researched and published PhD theses on the subject by now)! The “haze” (official euphemism for thick smoke) resulting from burning has been an annual event in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for many years now. It’s been very harmful to health, not to mention tourism. But still the burners are shielded from consequences, because palm oil $$$$.

    1. different clue

      Or maybe coyolfog. Since it is only part wolf, it only needs part of the word “wolf” in its name. And coyolf is easier to say than coywold. So coyolfog would be easier to say than coywolfog.

      Whenever coywolves come up in conversation, I will pronounce it coyolves to do my part to inject the easier-to-say version into the language.

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