2:00PM Water Cooler 11/27/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, in my post-Thanksgiving Day meal haze, I set the timer for Links incorrectly, so I’ve delayed Water Cooler ’til 5:00PM. Readers from the East Coast, just pretend you’re on California time!


“The EU appears to have given the US oil company ExxonMobil access to confidential negotiating strategies considered too sensitive to be released to the European public during its negotiations with the US on the trade agreement TTIP, documents reveal” [Guardian].

Martina Römmelt-Fella of the Bavarian company FELLA Maschinenbau GmbH launched a business initiative against TTIP,  KMU gegen TTIP (SMEs against TTIP) [Euractiv]. Römmelt-Fella: “We believe that they need to go back to the drawing board, reboot and everything that TTIP is going to regulate needs to be clearly defined. We’ve come up with a checklist of things that should be guaranteed, including transparency, standards and democratic processes…. When Herr Treier [of the German Chamber of Commerce] maintains that ‘European consumer, environmental and social standards will remain,’ that’s nothing more than a pious hope. We don’t have much faith in it. The EU delegation has already caved in, weakening the standards associated with the carcinogenic Captan pesticide. … The large companies want to benefit from TTIP, even if it is at the expense of SMEs, which are often based regionally and provide niche products to a specific market.” I read this as the mittelstand has concerns about TTIP, but I’m not well-versed in German politics. Readers?

“WTO Ruling on Dolphin-Safe Tuna Labeling Illustrates Supremacy of Trade Agreements” [David Dayen, The Intercept].

“Ted Cruz’s Protectionist Gamble” [National Review]. [I just read the word “protectionist,” so let me get my right knee under control before continuing to type… There!] Note how the editor sharpened the title over the original title, as seen in the URL. Cruz: ““I voted against TPA, and I intend to vote against TPP.”

“[T]he trend in economics [in Southeast Asia] as in diplomacy is towards parallel sets of institutions: the old ones, where America has a leading role; and the new, where it is absent and China dominates” [The Economist].

“Thailand is actively considering joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak told The Nikkei and other media Tuesday, going a step beyond the strong interest he had expressed in the past.” [Asia Nikkei Review]. Somkid, extraordinarily, was brought in from the previous government to direct economic policy. So his words carry weight, I would imagine especially with the Thai industrial and business sectors.



“Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Sunday is expected to propose a new tax cut for millions of middle-class families caring for ailing parents and grandparents” [The Hill]. This is so effing small-ball, school uniforms stuff I can’t believe it (although it does benefit a Clinton demographic, since such care falls disproportionately on women). First, it shows how the Democrats focus on ever-diminishing slices of the electorate, as opposed to thinking big and considering people as “the people.” (For example, would single payer help female care-givers, too? Of course it would!) Second, I hate “tax credits” as a policy with the hatred of a million burning suns. For one thing, I’ve got to lay out the money now, and I get the tax break later Second, how the tax credit nets out is indeterminate if your income, and your other costs, are precarious, like 80% or so of the people. Tax credits are beloved by liberals in the 20% on up, because (a) their incomes are not precarious, and they may even have accountants, and (b) because they don’t have to be honest about tax policy and confront those evil Republicans they’ve been cowering before, for a generation.

“Rubio: ‘God’s rules’ trump Supreme Court decisions” [The Hill]. So Rubio can’t take the oath of office, then? And please, please don’t tell me we’re going to play semantic games with “take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”

“Bernie Sanders Gets Immigration Policy Right” [Editorial, New York Times]. “Mr. Sanders, the Vermont senator seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, turns away from the insanity. His plan starts with the right premise: that immigrants should be welcomed and assimilated, not criminalized and exploited. His proposals seek to uphold American values, bolster the rule of law, bolster the economy and protect and honor families.” Sanders also plans to use executive authority. At some point, that’s Constitutional crisis material, though, for reals.

The Voters

“The Demo­crats’ hopes of hold­ing the White House rest on: a) re­mo­bil­iz­ing the Obama co­ali­tion of mil­len­ni­als, single wo­men, and non­white voters; and b) hop­ing that Re­pub­lic­ans nom­in­ate someone out­side the main­stream, like Don­ald Trump. In short: If the Re­pub­lic­an Party doesn’t split in two—which is a dis­tinct pos­sib­il­ity if Trump is either nom­in­ated or runs as a third-party can­did­ate—Re­pub­lic­ans have a clear ad­vant­age” [National Journal].

“Why did the Democrats Lose the South? Bringing New Data to an Old Debate” [NBER].

“Long the dom­in­ant group in Amer­ic­an re­li­gious life, White Chris­ti­ans have fallen be­low a ma­jor­ity of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion—and they are mov­ing to the right polit­ic­ally as they re­cede” [National Journal]. “The res­ult is that, like race and age, re­li­gious af­fil­i­ation marks a sharpen­ing point of dis­tinc­tion between Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats, pre­vi­ously un­pub­lished res­ults from the Pew Re­search Cen­ter’s massive Re­li­gious Land­scape sur­vey show.”

The Trail

“How Richard Nixon Created Hillary Clinton” [Bloomberg]. For those who came in late… 

“The demise of Trump’s candidacy has been predicted by centrist Republicans and the media alike virtually since the day it began. But there is no empirical evidence at all to suggest it is happening” [The Hill]. Then again…

“Donald Trump has company on the Iowa GOP presidential podium, as Sen. Ted Cruz has moved within the margin of error at the top of a new Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday,” also from [The Hill].

“Who said it: Donald Trump or Mr. Burns from ‘The Simpsons’ ?” [WaPo]. I’m not sure that’s going to peel off many Trump voters, though.

“On ‘the Preponderance of the Evidence,’ Bernie Sanders Is a Democrat” [The Nation]. Meaning he’s on the Democratic ballot in New Hampshire. So I guess the DNC will have to come up with something more subtle.

The Hill

“Before taking the speakership last month, Paul Ryan made a promise to fix a “broken” House of Representatives and return the chamber to “regular order,'” which means hearings and debates and amendments and stuff, all of which the Liberty Caucus (to their credit) had been frothing and stamping for advocating [The Hill]. “In the wake of the Paris attacks, Ryan brought the American SAFE Act—a bill to rewrite refugee vetting rules—to the floor without committee hearings, without input from experts or agencies, and without opportunities for amendment from members of the House.” Bedwetting triumphs over principle, even among deeply principled Republicans. Amazing but true!

“Nutball climate deniers toss subpoenas like confetti” [Vox]. I rewrote the Vox headline to be more explanatory.

Stats Watch

All the statisticians are still recovering from their Thanksgiving torpor, so no stats today. Except, of course, Fear and Greed.

Bobby Monks: “It’s really important to have a functional investment process in this country. If you don’t, it isn’t healthy for capitalism” [MarketWatch].

“U.S. e-commerce sales surged on Thanksgiving, raising questions about how many shoppers will show up for brick-and-mortar retailers’ promotions on Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday season” [Bloomberg]. That would be the holiday shopping season, no?

“Corporate profits are contracting, and that’s a problem, for the stock market and the economy. It’s not quite as attention-grabbing as Black Friday, or even the monthly jobs report, but corporate profits are a key cog in the business cycle, and if they’ve fallen into an earnings recession, that’s a proeblem. So why aren’t more people worried?” [Wall Street Journal, “The Pressure on Corporate Profits May Last Longer Than Expected”] “Strip out [the collapse of commodities, especially oil, and the strong dollar], the argument goes, and everything looks fine. Moreover, people are betting that the collapse in oil prices has run its course, and the rise in the dollar is similarly over. The problem with those dismissals is that oil may not be done going down, and the dollar may not be done going up. … Why does all this matter? Because profits are a key tell of where we are in the economic cycle. Two signs of a downturn are a narrowing of corporate margins, and contraction in corporate profits. … Usually, this is about the time in an “average” cycle when the central bank starting thinking about lowering rates. But this most recent cycle is decidedly not average, which makes figuring out where everything is headed even trickier.”

Ag: “Brazil’s federal court is investigating state-backed loans to the world’s number one meat company” (JRS) [Agrimoney].

China: “China share prices slumped the most since Aug. 25 Friday with securities companies leading the falls on news of a widening government investigation into the country’s brokerages” [Market News]

Japan: “The labor market should be a bright spot for Japan’s economy, which suffered a mid-year recession. Yet while unemployment is low and jobs are plentiful, this hasn’t translated into strong wage gains that could help spur inflation. Kuroda has said wage gains have been “somewhat slow” considering strong corporate profits and the solid labor market” [Bloomberg].

Driverless cars: “Poll says buyers want self-driving cars from auto-tech company combo” [USA Today]. And why, you ask?

Driverless cars: “[W]hen autonomous cars materialize, so does autonomous car sex. There is no question about ‘if’ — there are only questions about logistics” [Inverse]. (I believe the author means sex between people in cars, rather than sex between autonomous cars (but then again, think about the upside…).

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 58 (-1); Greed [CNN]. Last week: 53 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Our Famously Free Press

“NYT Should Explain How It Selects Which Articles Get Translated into Mandarin” [emptywheel]. Presumably somebody will write the Times public editor, Margaret Sullivan, on this question.


“Global warming will be faster than expected” [Science Daily]. “[G]reenhouse gas emissions that arise naturally are also affected by increased temperatures.” For example, methane.

“One of the world’s largest insurers, Allianz, has announced it will begin divesting from coal in favor of investing in renewable energy” [Clean Technica (PT)]. From the same source, see on renewables.


“As dams empty, Thailand is facing a severe water crisis” [Asian Correspondent].

Class Warfare

“[Barbara Mikulski,] the Maryland Democrat is known as a progressive champion, but on this issue, she is siding with employers, spurred by a desire to protect her state’s seafood companies at a time when pollution, warming water and competition from companies in Southeast Asia have taken a toll” [WaPo].

“Panama: Thousands of Canal workers strike to demand union rights, clean water” [Longshore & Shipping News].

News of the Wired 

“An Israeli foundation is first in the world to research mass production of cultured chicken breast, a real meat product starting from a single cell of a real bird” [Israel21c]. Exactly like “Chicken Little” in Pohl and Kornbluth’s The Space Merchants:

Skum-skimming wasn’t hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America. Every hour you could drink from your canteen and take a salt tablet. Every two hours you could take five minutes. At sunset you turned in your coveralls and went to dinner — more slices from Chicken Little — and then you were on your own. You could talk, you could read, you could go into trance before the dayroom hypnoteleset, you could shop, you could pick fights, you could drive yourself crazy thinking of what might have been, you could go to sleep.

“What really drives you crazy about waiting in line (it actually isn’t the wait at all)” [WaPo].

“Study Finds Sarcasm Is Good For You. Yeah, Right” [Wonkette].

“How to argue better, according to science” [Vox].

“The Origins of Michael Jackson’s Moonwalk: Vintage Footage of Cab Calloway, Sammy Davis Jr., Fred Astaire & More” [Open Culture]. Really great dancers!

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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 (Marise):

Herbal Teachers Garden, Mullingar (2)

Herbal Teachers Garden, Mullingar, Ireland. Another inviting path!

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If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter has come, I need to buy fuel, and I need to keep my server up, too.


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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. Nigelk

      My first thoughts were:
      Which insurance pays if there’s a crash? What if one car in the crash is automated and one isn’t? Does the passenger of the automated car count as a witness rather than a participant?

      Who pays if both cars are automated? Images of people suing the car company itself come to mind…

    2. Daryl

      Well, people already get up to no good while driving cars. (c.f. “road head”) This is probably a big safety win.

        1. Noni Mausa

          To say nothing of the resurgence of the real deal “floating crap game.” Or a floating speakeasy, opium den, or rental apartment … Uber meets airbnb. Or an Asimov flying city of cars, a flock linked together by catwalks or hamster tubes…

    3. jo6pac

      Not your fault that you came down with turkey sleepiness:) Hell I’m just cooking my thankful day dinner today due slight health issues.

      Leg of lamb

      Fire going so all is good, I do wish the rest of Amerika was warm:(

    4. optimader

      Driverless cars: “[W]hen autonomous cars materialize, so does autonomous car sex. There is no question about ‘if’ — ” Even ‘if’ your giving grandma a lift to Thanksgiving Day Dinner??
      Ok I’ll fade off into a haze again..

  1. bob

    “(I believe the author means sex between people in cars, rather than sex between autonomous cars ”

    I don’t know. Automous car sex could be considered a crash. Since neither could be said to be at fault, they obviously meant to run into each other. Computer don’t make mistakes.

    From the point of view of the seller of the autonomous cars, it’s way better than human sex. You don’t have to wait 9 month for another consumer, assuming the humans survive. The orgasm leads directly to 2 new cars being sold and, in most cases, 2 new loans to sell on down the line.

    Porn for bankers.

    1. jo6pac

      This is a whole new game for the lawyer class. Human in SDC and the car decides to have sex with another SDC with a human it. Then what do I have to do, have sex with the other human? Then again I guess we could watch the cars have sex and hope the ride will continue to the end. Messy? I’m taking a shower;)

      I’ll stay with humans and not umber.

      1. Massinissa

        Oh man now I want a driverless car with a built in shower (with curtains) so I can shower on the way to work!

        I hope they never make that. Ever.

        1. Vatch

          I once saw someone flossing while driving, and another time I saw someone shaving (with an electric razor, not a blade). My insurance rates should be lowered, because I don’t do those things, but I refuse to have one of those Big Brother electronic devices installed in my car. Not that one of those devices could detect when a person is flossing….

  2. Vince in MN

    “Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton on Sunday is expected to propose a new tax cut for millions of middle-class families caring for ailing parents and grandparents”.

    The base of the Democorp Party eat this chit up. Almost every word is a hot button for the so-called liberal faithful. If Lambert were to do a highlight job on this one, he’d run out of ink before he got to the end.

    1. curlydan

      The Clintons are masters of small ball. Bill’s admin would pump out these feel good programs for kids, police, the elderly, etc about once a week. Even I bought into it. I sounded great but cost very little and probably had negligible effects. Probably the best way to counter the effect is too pull back the curtain and just call it small ball.

    2. Arizona Slim

      Well, whoopee. A tax credit. What if you don’t have the money that you need to front out before you file for the credit?

  3. CraaaaazyChris

    Vox, “how to argue better” was a fun read, but didn’t go far enough. I rewrote their last “reframing” example for the win:

    Lesbian (and gay) Americans are loyal patriotic Americans who contribute to the military and the American economy, and they deserve the same rights that you have as an American.

    Then show a stock photo of two hot women in camo, brandishing automatic weapons. Done deal.

      1. ambrit

        What??? I thought that the word “gay” was gender neutral.
        The “…two hot women in camo, brandishing automatic weapons..” is a standard advertising technique in the gun nut exploitation racket. It’s very similar to the “hot women” in slinky dresses posing next to next years “Zeus” super sized car ad. (No where do I see it stated that, “sexy women not included.”)

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