2:00PM Water Cooler 12/10/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, this will be a little shorter than usual; I had to spend time shouting at some vendors. Well, not shouting, exactly; WASPs don’t shout.


“The TPP Is the Last, Best Opportunity for New Global Trade Rules” [Council on Foreign Relations].



“As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton intervened in a request forwarded by her son-in-law on behalf of a deep-sea mining firm to meet with her or other State Department officials, according to the recently released Clinton emails” [AP]. “One of the firm’s investors had asked Clinton’s son-in-law, Marc Mezvinsky, who is married to Chelsea Clinton, for help setting up such contacts, the emails show.” Public office for private gain = corruption, quid pro quo or no.


Clinton’s much ballyhooed gun control ad aired just six times on broadcast TV [New York Times]. “[T]he play for the gun ad stands in contrast to the use of 15 other ads that Mrs. Clinton has aired, which have run anywhere from 103 times in one case to 1,659 in another.”

“Media mogul Haim Saban, one of Hillary Clinton’s biggest backers in Hollywood, said that the U.S. should step up its scrutiny of Muslims in the wake of the deadly ISIS attacks in Paris” [The Wrap].

The Voters

“Proposition 14, approved by voters in 2010, is a “top-two” primary system in which all candidates appear on the same ballot in June and the two highest vote-getters, regardless of party, face each other in November. Its practical effect has been that in some legislative districts, two Democrats wind up in runoffs, thus allowing Republican and independent voters to tip the balance in favor of the less liberal of the two” [San Jose Mercury-News]. “ßOver the past two election cycles, the system — coupled with redistricting by an independent commission — helped create a bloc of moderate, business-friendly Democrats in the Assembly, and it’s beginning to have the same effect in the Senate.” So you can see that if the Democratic innner party doesn’t have Blue Dogs, it seeks to create them. 

“So 65 percent of likely GOP primary voters support Trump’s new proposal [to ban Muslim non-citizens from entering the country], 51 percent strongly. By contrast, likely voters overall oppose it by 50-37” [WaPo].


“[D]onors have helped put more institutional muscle behind the focus on inequality, funding left-leaning think-tanks like the Roosevelt Institute and the Center for American Progress, which is closely aligned with the Clinton campaign” [The New Republic]. Wait, what? And speaking of CAP:

The Trail

“Bernie Sanders’ New Hampshire favorability is ‘almost unheard of’ in new poll” [Boston Globe]. Yes, that’s the headline from the “Live Free or Die” state.

Ohio Democrat Nina Turner Is Trying To Convince Black Voters To Take A Chance On Sanders” [Buzzfeed].

“5 things I learned writing an e-book about Bernie Sanders” [Will Bunch]. Bunch is one of the good guys.

“What’s more, the steady drift of Trumpism into digital-age fascism has been actively abetted by the same media now conspicuously wringing its hands over Trump’s excesses” [The Baffler].

“And while it may seem like a lurching, chaotic campaign, Trump is, for the most part, a disciplined and methodical candidate, according to a Washington Post review of the businessman’s speeches, interviews and thousands of tweets and retweets over the past six months” [WaPo]. Good reporting:

The Post’s analysis found several qualities to Trump’s approach. First is a pattern of experimentation that suggests that he is testing his insults and attacks as he goes along. Like a team of corporate marketers, Trump understands the value of message-testing — but he appears to do it spontaneously, behind the lectern and on live television.

Well worth a read. Trump isn’t a loose cannon.

“As Ted Cruz Rises in Polls, He Is Banking on the South” [Wall Street Journal].

The Hill

“[C]ongressional leaders scramble to negotiate a fiscal year 2016 omnibus spending package and a tax extenders bill, the House and Senate are preparing to pass Friday a stop-gap spending bill that will keep the federal government funded until December 16” [Market News]. Words like “scrambling,” “racing,” are most often tells for artificial constraints construed as natural and inevitable. They convey abnormality, while resolutely refusing to examine its source.

Stats Watch

Jobless Claims, week of December 7, 2015: “Claims are up in the latest data, pointing perhaps to a softening of what has been a very solid labor market. … Claims are up in the latest data, pointing perhaps to a softening of what has been a very solid labor market. Initial” [Econoday]. Damn. Where’s that punchbowl? Maybe Janet left it under her desk… And: “Initial Unemployment Claims Rolling Average Marginally Worsens” [Econintersect].

Import and Export Prices, November 2015:  “Cross-border price pressures remain negative with import prices down 0.4 percent in November and export prices down 0.6 percent” [Econoday]. “Year-on-year contraction is perhaps less severe than prior months but not by much.” And: “Trade prices continue to deflate year-over-year, and energy / agriculture prices drove this month’s decline” [Econintersect].

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of December 6, 2015: Edged higher [Econoday]. “Both the assessment of current economic conditions and the buying climate improved which is good news for holiday shopping. The component for personal finances continues to slip and is at its lowest point since mid-August. Consumer confidence readings have been a bit shaky going into year end.”

Quarterly Services Survey, Q3 2015: “Information revenue rose 0.7 percent in the third quarter compared to the second quarter” [Econoday]. Mr. Information always answers questions… 

Commodities: “Glencore revealed it is considering an IPO of its agriculture business, besides the search for a trade investor it has previously announced, as the commodities giant unveiled a debt-cut plans which sent its shares soaring” [Agrimoney].

Commodities: “Across the American shale patch, companies are being forced to square their reported oil reserves with hard economic reality. After lobbying for rules that let them claim their vast underground potential at the start of the boom, they must now acknowledge what their investors already know: many prospective wells would lose money with oil hovering below $40 a barrel” [Bloomberg]. So, a bezzle.

Rail: “The Good News Is That Is Week Is Not As Bad As Last Week” [Econintersect].

Shipping: “Carriers are repeating some of the mistakes that got them into such hot water in 2009, but the industry is not facing a crisis on the same scale as in 2009 and its finances are in better shape to survive the current crisis” [Port Technology].

Shipping: “Temasek sells NOL at below book value – implications for other potential sellers: [Hellenic Shipping News].

The Fed: “So what would happen if, faced with another downturn, US policy has to be eased again?” [HSBC, Across the Curve]. 1) More quantitative easing; 2) negative rates;  3) looser fiscal policy; 4) helicopter money; and 5) policy paralysis.

The Fed: “Growth next year is expected to be ‘fairly persistent,’ a new survey from the Philadelphia Federal Reserve Bank shows Thursday, despite GDP gains this year coming in lower than expected just six months ago” [Market News]. Watch adverbs carefully; weasels nest in them.

The Fed: “[The Federal Reserve is] accepting the resubmitted capital plan of Bank of America. (B of A, Deutsche Bank and Santander had their capital plans rejected in March, but B of A was still allowed a $4 billion buyback proposal. Twenty-nine other banks made it OK through the stress test process” [Market News].

The Fed: “The greatest monetary-easing cycle in the history of the U.S. has left a mind-boggling amount of cash floating around in the economy. Banks hold $2.5 trillion in excess reserves — money they essentially don’t know what to do with — at the Federal Reserve” [Bloomberg]. Oh. Can I have it?

Honey for the Bears: “Rising risks are the result of a loosening of loan underwriting standards, which, says the [Office of the Comptroller of the Currency], ‘reflects broad trends similar to those experienced from 2005 through 2007, before the most recent financial crisis….'” [Wall Street on Parade].

Honey for the Bears: “Nothing good [on yesterday’s wholesale trade numbers], sales flat and inventories down a very small amount as sales/inventory stays way too high” [Mosler Economics].

“Nakamoto’s encrypted PGP key can unlock a huge stash of bitcoins — a million or so worth more than $400 million, accounting for about 7 percent of all bitcoins in existence. No one has touched that bitcoin hoard” [Japan Times]. “Should the real Nakamoto begin cashing in those bitcoins, it could destabilize the cryptocurrency.” Yikes!

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 35 (0); Greed [CNN]. Last week: 49 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Conflict can destroy movements. We need to fight the system, not each other” [Guardian]. Important and sad post from Eric Garner’s daughter.

Health Care

“Maine co-op cuts off individual enrollment” [Modern Health Care]. Sigh.

“Obamacare Is Now on Life Support” [Fiscal Times]. If ObamaCare does what the Heritage Foundation designed it to do — destroy single payer — and then goes into a death spiral, not only will we be better off, so will all future generations. Obama, Democrats, take a bow! And a special shout-out to career “progressives,” who helped.


“Feds are in town to save Rahm, not to bury him” [Mike Klonsky]. 

“Our so-called leaders are funding a decadent and corrupt machine that exists to serve themselves rather than the city.  The players are extracting extreme and undue profits as the city careens into financial insolvency. Residents face bleak futures while the players enjoy bright futures.  The fact that Chicago is famous for this ‘machine’ is disgraceful”  [Forbes]. Man, I don’t understand this. Obama came up in Chicago. How could Chicago be corrupt?

“Rahm Emanuel is in deep, deep trouble” [WaPo].

“News Corporation Gets Taxpayer Support After Giving Andrew Cuomo A Big Book Deal” [International Business Times]. Ka-ching.

Our Famously Free Press

“Why the Public Can’t Read the Press” [The Atlantic]. “Nuts-and-bolts Washington coverage has shifted to subscription-based publications, while the capitol’s traditional outlets have shrunk.” Important!

Imperial Collapse Watch

“What is the scale of the threat to U.S. supercarriers of China’s growing undersea capabilities?” [The Diplomat]. “There have been numerous instances of American carrier groups being surprised by SSKs, friendly or otherwise, during either training exercises or regular deployments. The most famous is arguably the 2006 incident of a Song surfacing at a distance within firing range of the Kitty Hawk battle group. Critics point out that if a relatively inferior sub like the Song was able to penetrate the carrier’s screen, a more capable one such as the Kilo would find the endeavor easier.” The rest of the article is, in essence, “not to worry.” So, OK.


Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Argument analysis: Now, three options on college affirmative action” [SCOTUSBlog]. So how come there’s never any chin-stroking about legacy admissions?


“That’s right: Legislation approved two weeks ago by the Republican-controlled Ohio House would allow state residents with concealed-carry permits to pack their loaded, hidden guns into day care centers when they drop off the kids” [New York Times]. It’s OK; the kiddies should be wearing their bulletproof blankies at all times anyhow.

Guillotine Watch

“The 40% Rule: A Navy SEAL’s Secret to Mental Toughness” [The Hustle]. So the moral is: “Break all the small bones in your feet, and if you’re lucky, a squillionaire will take you on as a houseboy.” Readers may wish to provide their own morals to the story.

And speaking of squillionaire golfers: “Cal Poly Receives Record Athletics Donation: $10 Million for Golf Program” [KSBY]. The reader who sent this link remarks: “This is my alma mater, an ag college in central California which has gutted their liberal arts department and has many adjunct professors, and of course the money would have been better spent on academics.” For some definition of “better,” of course.

Class Warfare

“A Critique of Piketty on the Normative Force of Wealth Inequality” [Crooked Timber]. 

My main concern is with Piketty’s normative argument, which is naturally less fully spelled out, but we can reconstruct it as follows:

1. Any inequality that is not justified is unjust.

2. Economic inequality is unjustified: it either comes from a fraudulent claim about merit or from inheritance.

3. Therefore, economic inequality is unjust.

News of the Wired 

“A unicorn startup is channeling the Occupy Wall Street movement to ‘Break the Banks’ ” [Business Insider]. Please kill me.

“Two years ago, scientists at the UK’s University of Reading gave some rats Champagne every day for six weeks, then asked them to complete a maze. That might sound like a fraternity hazing ritual, but the results warranted celebration: Without drinking Champagne, the rats had an average success rate in the maze of 50 percent, but that increased to 70 percent after some bubbly” [New York Post].

“John Trudell, Outspoken Advocate for American Indians, Is Dead at 69” [New York Times]. The euphemism seems to be “walked on,” rather than “passed,” which I find preferable.

“California research firm J.D. Power and Associates’s June survey of new car buyers found the greatest complaints involved vehicle connectivity systems. The auto makers’ voice recognition and Bluetooth pairing were top concerns, it said” [Wall Street Journal, “Auto Makers Losing Battle for Dashboard Apps”]. Totally what I want drivers thinking about: Bluetooth pairing. 

“Retrotopia: Economics by Other Means” (the next in the series) [The Archdruid Report]. No issues with voice recognition in vehicles — “Left! I said left! Oh n-o-o-o-o-o-o!!!!! — in the Lakeland Republic, eh?

* * *

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 (RS). Look at that lovely dark pile:


RS writes: “Fence in apiary and mulch pile.”

* * *

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. timbers

    Rahm Emanuel is in deep, deep trouble [WaPo] says:

    “President Obama’s former chief of staff has a reputation for being a savvy political operator — a real tough guy who plays politics like chess.”

    Didn’t Rahm help engineer two of the biggest Congressional Democratic losses/Republican landslides in history?

    1. PhilK

      In this context, “savvy” means “saving the Demo Party from having to do anything that would inconvenience its big donors.”

  2. Brindle

    re: John Trudell
    He was an authentic voice—his words will be missed.

    —-He believed in the Spoken Word, that it had power. He didn’t think we should call our music and poetry “political or protest,” as those were labels from those in control. He called them cultural realities and artistic statements: “We are speaking our truth, bringing our energy. Music is its own energy, it’s good and positive in strengthening our communities.”—–

  3. Jim Haygood

    “Because of my Cal Poly education and my time as a collegiate golfer, I was able to apply these learnings time and time again over a 40-year career at Raytheon and, for that, I will always be grateful.” — retired Raytheon Company Chairman William H. (Bill) Swanson, on his $10 million gift to Cal Poly

    How are you gonna clinch cost-plus weapons contracts, if you don’t know your way around the fairways?

    Free golf for life, comrades … for a stronger America!

  4. allan

    The thin blue line: New England Police Union to Host Trump in Portsmouth, NH, Endorsement Likely

    At Thursday’s meeting in Portsmouth, the union will vote to either endorse Trump, who recently said he wouldn’t rule out special IDs and a database for Muslims, or no one.

    In September, the NEPBA boycotted President Barack Obama’s Labor Day speech in Boston, for what it felt was his administration’s silence on violence against police officers. “Our members are enraged at his lack of support of law enforcement,” Flynn wrote. “It’s clear that he has an agenda and unfortunately, the police are not part of his agenda.”

    Other than giving them billions of dollars of military-grade hardware, that is.
    Which they will now be happy to deploy at Trump events.

    1. hunkerdown

      Anyone the thugs’ “benevolent” association would endorse is probably an extremely dangerous individual. Seven letters, starts with F…

  5. Socal Rhino

    Lambert, as one who shares your cultural background, I read “shout” as having a stern word:) I don’t raise my voice. Those who know me well step back when I get quieter.

    1. Left in Wisconsin

      How can one not yell? My wife doesn’t and I really try. After raising 2 children successfully (I think) with a fair bit of yelling, our third really doesn’t like to be yelled at and so I don’t (often). But I feel like I’m not as good a parent. And how to blow off steam?

      1. SoCal Rhino

        I have yelled at my dog on occasion, I should say that I don’t yell at people. I don’t know, are kids more like dogs or people? In this context I mean. Obviously dogs are more human than kids, than most people to be fair. My dog certainly thinks little kids are dogs, not people, which kind of confuses the question.

  6. Carolinian

    That WaPo story about Trump is good. What’s clear is that he is just saying what he thinks his target audience wants to hear. You can condemn this as insincere but it pretty much describes any politician, doesn’t it?

    However as a thought experiment what if former Democrat Trump won the R nomination and then moved left in the general and came out for single payer (which he once advocated) as alternative to Obiecare? Not only would some Republican heads explode but some Dem as well. Since Trump clearly wants to win above all else then “saying what the voters want to hear” could lead to some fairly liberal outcomes. Even the gun nuts might go for single payer with a little persuading.

    Clearly this is what the Republican establishment is really worried about rather than “tarnishing their brand.” That ship sailed long ago. Whereas who knows what house of cards a loose cannon might topple next.

    1. Praedor

      If I knew that would be the case with Trump, I would absolutely vote for him in the general (barring Bernie Sanders or O’Malley).

    2. Left in Wisconsin

      Aren’t you conflating politicking (“saying what the voters want to hear”) with governing (some fairly liberal outcomes)? As we know all too well, people say all kinds of things to win elections that they have no intention of actually doing if elected.

      1. Carolinian

        Well, exactly. That goes for all the right wing stuff too. My “thought experiment” is merely to say we don’t know much about Trump at all. Perhaps the left should calm down, let it play out.

      1. Praedor

        Of course, which is why I say “IF I knew this would be the case…” Can’t believe a word out of a money-grubbing politician’s mouth (except for Sanders or Kucinich).

  7. Pavel

    Re: Rahm… given that this is yet another Clinton Dynasty “legacy”… is there *anything* that Bill & Hillary have touched that hasn’t eventually descended into a hairball (to use Lambert’s phrase I believe) of scandal, greed, lawsuits, or other corruption? (Or, on the larger scale, mega-fuckups like Iraq [not entirely Bill’s fault but his sanctions didn’t help] or Libya.)

    As it stands, it looks like Trump, Cruz, maybe Rubio, or Hillary as President. Ugh. Talk about lesser of evils…

  8. jgordon

    If nothing else, Hillary Clinton is a consummate political animal. Though she might run a few dog whistle ads just so she can appease her base, she would not want these ads widely viewed if the agenda she is claiming to support is widely viewed as unpopular and radical by the wider public.

    Anyway, I think there is a strange dichotomy in the topic headings of the Water Cooler that deserves a bit of examination.

    Let’s start with “Corruption”. Corruption occurs when government (or corporate–I don’t see that there is much of a distinction between corporate and state power in America anymore–they basically act as a single continuous power base) officials use public offices for their own private benefit. Of course, that is rampant in America.

    “Black Injustice Tipping Point”–the government is particularly concerned with terrorizing and oppressing minorities. Nothing new there, although the modern organized response against government oppression is new.

    “Imperial Collapse Watch”–It’s hard for anyone to honestly argue that the American empire is not collapsing. This process that will have profoundly destabilizing impacts on the government in due time. Among them, I’d expect to see deep cuts to all services provided by the state, including all forms of entitlements, welfare and policing. This won’t be due to a failure of monetary ideology. It’ll come down to the simple fact that the empire currently supplies Americans with about 25% of the earth’s energy and resources, while America itself only has about 5% of the world’s population. That will end, and Americans will be lucky to get access to 5% of the world’s energy and resources from then on.

    “Guillotine Watch”–self explanatory: there are a whole lot of government officials and corporate execs who are going to have an unpleasant time once conditions deteriorate a bit more. I would associate this to the “Collapsing Empire” topic. I expect that the elites will be out commandeering bits of the disintegrating government structure for their own private use, as well as organizing “guillotine parties” for their political rivals as time goes on. I don’t imagine that the public will have much of a role in this, at least initially.

    And then there is “Gunz”. Guns are not safe, so we need to empower the government to (ideally) confiscate them all, or at least to register them all so we know who does and doesn’t have them. That way, the government can arbitrarily take them if the government deems them to be in unsafe hands. Err, huh? Wait a minute. One of these is not like the others.

    1. Steven D.

      Ok. I’ll take the bait, sort of. The second amendment as interpreted by the Supreme Court should be understood as guaranteeing white people the right carry a gun. Of course a black man with a gun is always “A black man with a gun!!,” and is shot down on sight.

      Having said that, the obsession over guns by a portion of the white population as a tribal identity marker is a symptom of their lousy economic condition, much discussed here and in a few other places. In a full employment economy, white rage would not be such a factor, and consequently, neither would the issue of guns.

    2. James Levy

      I have never seen Lambert or Yves advocate the confiscation of all, or any, guns. I am not for it. But like so many people, you see any attempt to keep machine guns out of the hands of mass murderers as an assault on your power and your dick. That is why we call assholes like you ammosexuals.

      1. hunkerdown

        When professional police no longer pack heat and no longer serve their intended purpose to keep the classes in their places, maybe we can talk about that. But ceasefires against the US oligarchy are always one-sided.

      2. Jagger

        But like so many people, you see any attempt to keep machine guns out of the hands of mass murderers as an assault on your power and your dick. That is why we call assholes like you ammosexuals.

        One of the pleasures of Naked Capitalism is the ability to carry on contentious political discussions without degenerating into personal attacks. Focus on the merits of an argument can lead to greater understanding. Personal attacks just lead to shouting matches and a shut down of discussion.

        BTW, he didn’t mention a word about machine guns. Not sure where that came from.

      3. jgordon

        Well there is clearly a perceptual problem here. I would say that most people who favor gun rights believe that those who want to restrict access to guns are not being honest about their intentions.

        Also, I find this whole obsession with guns to be rather peculiar. I have never seen a single sentence on NC whether in posts or in comments, except from me, suggesting that access automobiles should be restricted and/or banned. Despite the fact that automobiles are responsible for not only more deaths than guns, but are also, unlike guns, major contributors to global warming and pollution. I’m shaking my head at the absurdity of it. I’m not bringing this up to make a cute rhetorical point. I absolutely do not understand why someone would be ok with automobiles but not with guns.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          You don’t have a problem with public spaces like schools and movie theatres and office buildings being filled with random crossfires of bullets, then? It’s not a net win, regardless of any other problem, if that random crossfire doesn’t go away?

          1. ambrit

            There is a hidden item in the “crossfire” theme. The empowerment of the “average” citizen to deal out lethal force in the public arena is a subtle but powerful endorsement for lynching. This form of the enforcement of the group ethos leads directly to the “last man standing” scenario. Ayn Rand would thoroughly approve, as long as it was her version of society that triumphed.
            That second rule of Neo Liberalism is not truly “Go die.” It is really, “Allow us to help you on your way into the Great Void.”

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Yes, lynching is quite natural. After all, one purpose of the “militias” was to track escaped slaves, and return them to their owners, and to suppress slave rebellions.

              1. bob

                Not just slaves, and I’m not endorsing any of the other points of this “gun” discussion, but about militia, and what ended up becoming state national guard units.

                Most small towns, former “mill towns”- probably not too far from you in ME have “armories”.

                When were they built? Why are they built as defensive positions?

                Where were they built? Usually near the old mills–in case labor decided they wanted to strike, or as it was called in newpapers in those days “riot!”

                It’s a glaringly understudied and completely glossed over part of history, and in most cases, it’s still a huge part of the landscape and locale of the town.

                They built castles. To defend against who, exactly?


          2. Propertius


            Do you have an example of this happening? There are, after all, roughly as many guns as people in this country so one assumes such events would be commonplace. Please exclude shootouts between rival criminal enterprises with illegally-obtained weapons, since they’re not especially pertinent to your argument.

          3. jgordon

            You’re the logician who is always going on about fallacious arguments such as straw mans, yet you’re making one here. Put your emotions aside for a second and engage your logical faculties. Does that make any sense?

            Lawyers have a trick of rephrasing something and presenting in a different context, and I think that would be useful here : so you’re OK with drunk drivers getting behind the wheel and randomly barreling into pedestrians? I noted that you did not assure me just now that you have the same antipathy for vehicles as you do for guns just now.

            Well I’ll be the first to step up since no one else will: in the interest of safety and the environment I think banning automobiles is a good idea. In fact, since automobiles are objectively more injurious to the safety of Americans and the environment of the planet than guns, I think it’s only common sense to be more stridently against automobiles than against guns, if you are against guns. Is there anything wrong with that statement?

            1. Lambert Strether Post author

              Your argument hinges on a claim about my position that is outright false, and that you know to be false, since I responded to it previously, and gave a link. That’s straw-manning, to say the least. None of this is hard.

              * * *

              I will leave to others your analogy between guns and cars. Perhaps we agree that there is no Second Amendment infringement to licensing guns through the DMV, or equivalent. Certainly that’s more realistic than the unserious proposal to ban cars. Amazing that arguments so powerful would have to be defended by strawmanning and distraction. Funny, life.

              1. Propertius

                Perhaps we agree that there is no Second Amendment infringement to licensing guns through the DMV

                I’m not sure I buy that argument. You need a DMV license to operate a motor vehicle on public roads. In most (all?) states, there’s no licensure requirement to *own* one, keep it on your own property, or even drive it on private property. There’s certainly no Federal requirement to license vehicles. If you’re trying to establish some sort of equivalent regulation, then you’d require licensure to carry or fire a gun in public. That’s already true in most jurisdictions.

                All of this ignores the fact that, while the right to travel is held to be guaranteed by the “privileges and immunities” clause in the Constitution, there’s no explicit language declaring the right to own or use any particular means of transport – so “arms” and cars are not exactly in the same category constitutionally.

        2. ambrit

          I think that intent should be employed in this argument. Guns today are generally tasked with killing or threatening to kill. Not many people hunt for food anymore. Automobiles are for transportation, in general. True, they can also become fetishes. However, few if any people buy an automobile with the task of killing in the mix. “Death Race 2000” was fun precisely because it was absurd. First Person Shooter games are fun precisely because the players are absurd.

        3. Darthbobber

          Perhaps if there were anything remotely resembling the restrictions on driving a car that applied to gun ownership? The “right” to drive an automobile is indeed restricted/banned to a much higher degree than gun ownership. So I don’t think this analogy proves the desired point.

          1. Propertius

            You are comparing ownership of a firearm to use of an automobile on public roads. I don’t think that’s the appropriate analogy. It is more difficult to buy a firearm than it is to buy a car (*much* more difficult in some states). One doesn’t have to pass a Federal background check to buy a car, for example. Yes, use of a car on public roads is regulated. In most states, possession of a firearm in public is subject to as much or greater regulation (and may indeed be completely illegal). This must be why public shootings are unheard of in the United States.

      4. Propertius

        you see any attempt to keep machine guns out of the hands of mass murderers as an assault on your power and your dick

        “Machine guns” have been tightly regulated in the US since 1934. But please don’t let an actual fact get in the way of a good rant.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Well, for “machine guns” let’s just read “guns designed to spray boatloads of really lethal ammo automagically.” Would that do the trick?

          Out of curiosity, is there some reason that machine guns should be regulated and “guns designed to spray boatloads of really lethal ammo automagically” should not?

          And a follow-up: Why is regulating a machine gun not an infringement of the Second Amendment, but regulating “guns designed to spray boatloads of really lethal ammo automagically” definitely an infringement?

          1. Propertius

            Automatic weapons (anything that fires more than one bullet per trigger pull) of all kinds are covered by the NFA of 1934, Lambert – just like hand grenades and artillery. From submachine guns like the Uzi or the Mac-10 to honest-to Cthulhu assault rifles (the proper term of art) like the M16, M14, or the full-auto version of the AK-47 – they all require special registration to purchase (including the written approval of the chief law enforcement officer of the jurisdiction in which the purchase resides). The Firearm Owners Protection Act of 1986 makes it illegal for civilians to own any such weapons manufactured after 1986, whether they comply with the NFA restrictions or not. The notion that we are discussing “guns designed to spray boatloads of really lethal ammo automagically” is absurd – they’re already effectively illegal. That’s why no such weapons have been used in any mass shootings (other than shootouts between rival criminal enterprises armed with illegally-obtained weapons). It would be a lot easier to take your opinions on this issue seriously if they seemed to be based on something other than hysterical, ill-informed propaganda (snarky comments about “ammosexuality” notwithstanding).

            As I’ve said before, I don’t personally have a dog in this fight: I don’t own a firearm and I have no particular desire to do so. I did, however, legally purchase several high-capacity AR-15 and AK-47 magazines shortly before the Colorado ban on them went into effect, just in case I change my mind about that. Nevertheless I do have an inherent distrust of the assertion that the answer to any particular national problem is to take a meat axe to the Bill of Rights (whether that assertion comes from the NSA or Little Mikey Bloomberg).

    3. Jim

      As things continue to deteriorate economically, culturally, and politically the anger level will continue to rise. Consequently It has become imperative to carefully dig into the intense political debates of the 1920s and 1930s.

      J Gordon your are correct that government and corporate power basically act as a “single continuous power base today.” As Mussolini put it for the Fascists “The state…is a spiritual and moral entity because it is a concrete political, juridical and economic organization of the nation…Therefore for the Fascist, everything is in the State and nothing human or spiritual exists much less has value outside the state. In this sense fascism is totalitarian, and the Fascist state, the synthesis and unity of all values, interprets, develops and gives strength to the whole life of the people.” (Mussolini (The achievements of the Fascist Revolution).

      The Fascist aimed to create a system that would ensure economic growth and at the same time ensure that the nations “needs and “goals” were not threatened by unregulated markets and “selfish” capitalists.

      1. wbgonne

        We have Inverted Totalitarianism (a phrase I believe coined by Chis Hedges), where business and the state have merged, but business is the dominant element. He phrase Inverted Fascism works too. Or just Fascism because the core elements are present and the mix is less significant.

      2. Jagger

        Consequently It has become imperative to carefully dig into the intense political debates of the 1920s and 1930s.

        Yes, a lot can be learned from the history of the early 20th century. Even with the changes in technology, knowlege, cultures and new factors such as globalization and climate change, much is still applicable today.

        1. Jim

          In the early 1930s the German socialist party (the SPD) seem largely immobilized. As one of their theorists(Franz Tarnow) speculated “Are we standing on the sickbed of capitalism, not only as doctors who want to heal the patient but also as prospective heirs who can’t wait for the end and would gladly help with a little poison?”

          The SPD had never developed a strategy for working within the capitalist system to achieve its goals and its most important economic theoretician, Rudolph Hilferding continued to argue that the only option was to let the business cycle run its course according to the logic of capitalism.

          The SPD campaign of 1932 was largely incoherent and for the first time since the early 20th century it lost its position as the largest political party in the Reichstag. The Nazis, got close to 38% of the vote to a little more than 20% for the SPD.

          It can be persuasively argued that it was the entrenched orthodox Marxist perspective that was largely responsible for its losing ground to the Nazis.

          What of our more modern left in both Europe and the U.S.–are there any entrenched perspectives within its own contemporary frameworks which have been responsible for continuing to lose ground to the right?

          1. Darthbobber

            The SPDs seat total in both 1932 elections was actually higher than its totals in 1920 or 1924. The big losses of the Weimar coalition parties were among its allied parties, some of which virtually disappeared. (And with the KPD unwilling to enter any coalition, those parties were vital to form any kind of majority government.) The NSDAP also consolidated the right vote, as a look at the tables for the latter Weimar period will attest.

            Since the SPD really hadn’t HAD an “entrenched orthodox Marxist perspective” for years,I don’t find that a persuasive argument.

      1. ambrit

        This seems to be the ‘hidden intent’ of many laws; the enforcement of various ethos. Scapegoating of various forms and against various ‘minority’ groups has always been a ‘winning’ political strategy. We often forget that Politics has very little connection with Ethics or Morality.

    4. Paul Tioxon

      When I see all of the militant gun rights advocate go as crazy for voting rights as they do for the right to shoot and kill anyone in their castle, stand their ground and shoot anyone that makes them feel endangered, you know microagressions like being a young Black male, when I see those guns defend me and my rights to be safe and secure from hate crimes, and again, get people registered to vote. When I see that 15,000 or 16,000 or 17,000 who are murdered every year go down to the level of France or Germany, less than 1,000/yr, then I will believe all of the lies by you and anyone like you that wants to shoot and kill as a god given right, not simply own a gun. Gun ownership is not the problem, people who can murder with ease because they can get a loaded gun with ease, is the problem. Guns easily do the hard work of killing, which would fall if we had to do the work of murder with our bare hands.

    5. Lambert Strether Post author

      It is possible there’s a disproportionate focus on guns. I plead guilty to being highly allergic to really, really stupid and tendentious, Scalia-level argumentation, which IMNSHO appear disproportionately in pro-gun discourse.

      Adding: I don’t recall proposing confiscation; in fact, I specifically said — to you, in fact — that:

      To be clear, I don’t want to grab your gun; I wouldn’t touch it with a latex-covered bargepole.

      I really don’t know how I could have been more clear; as I said, I propose ridicule and shaming as an alternative to confiscation.

      So, sadly, your “dichotomy” is based on a straw man. Did I mention “stupid and tendentious, Scalia-level argumentation”? Let me check. Why, yes. Yes, I did. I hate to deploy the tired old “proving my point!” trope, but if the holster fits…

  9. Anon

    Re: Obamacare

    Could it be true? Are we entering the previously mentioned actuarial death spiral? Also, why is it that us humble folks near the bottom can see that paying a couple hundred for non-compliance is way easier than paying 5k (or more!) for crappy insurance?

    1. Jagger

      paying a couple hundred for non-compliance is way easier than paying 5k (or more!) for crappy insurance?

      The penalty/tax gets bigger and bigger each year. Not sure if the penalty/tax is capped at some point.

      1. Code Name D

        No. There is no cap. One of the differences from Romneycare which has flat fee. It became cheaper to pay the penalty. The Obamacare penalty will keep escalating to stay ahead of insurance cost so that never happens.

        But there is an except clause. If the minimum insurance rate (or if there are no policies available), then you can apply for an exempt status for that year. It may take you a few years to do the paperwork however.

        1. hunkerdown

          There are caps, but they’re soft (healthcare.gov, surprisingly able to serve static content). For TY2016, you are asked to pay the greater of:

          1. Percentage of income

          2.5% of household income (modified AGI)
          Maximum: Total yearly premium for the national average price of a Bronze plan sold through the Marketplace

          2. Per person

          $695 per adult
          $347.50 per child under 18
          Maximum: $2,085

          TY2017 and later are slated to use 2016 numbers adjusted by inflation.

      2. different clue

        Is the eventual rise of the “nobamacare” tax capped at some percent of the boycotter’s income? Or does it rise towards “infinity”, culminating in debtors’ imprisonment for the willfully-uninsured?

  10. tommy strange

    Oh man, this is so good , “Watch adverbs carefully; weasels nest in them.” is that an original? I’m stealing it…not for profit, of course…I’m a nobody talker poster…har.

  11. wbgonne

    Another outstanding Water Cooler, Lambert. Kudos!

    “Why the Public Can’t Read the Press” [The Atlantic]. “Nuts-and-bolts Washington coverage has shifted to subscription-based publications, while the capitol’s traditional outlets have shrunk.” Important!

    Important, indeed . Outstanding piece of journalism about the decline of journalism. I urge everyone to read it in full This brief excerpt focuses on the discussion of alternatives to commercial news media:

    Columbia’s Nicholas Lemann suggests that with for-profit solutions failing to materialize, some nonprofit media—ProPublica, the Washington Monthly—and semipublic news outlets like National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting System have gone part of the way toward filling that informational gap. But he proposes a more aggressive, if unpopular solution: directly subsidizing news gathering with government funds. Lemann cites a 2009 Columbia Journalism School report by the former Washington Post executive editor Leonard Downie, Jr. and the Columbia Journalism School professor Michael Schudson that laid out the case for how a government-subsidized news enterprise could work. News outlets—either established newspapers or startups or blogs—could compete for government contracts to provide local news for a specified period of time, much the way arts funding is distributed.

    Something must be done, IMNSHO. Evidently, much of the basic information is publicly available but requires significant time and man-power to review, analyze and present. I am interested to hear any opinions about this if anyone in interested in the matter.

    1. hunkerdown

      Government issuing money to a media property money won’t necessarily align it with the will of the people. The BBC’s conduct since the Snowden papers and the British Establishment’s clampdown on deviancy has been particularly egregious. I can’t think of anything that would solve this bias toward the so-called noble classes, aside from deprofessionalizing journalism entirely and pitching in a bit here and there ourselves as a civic duty.

      1. wbgonne

        Thanks for the response. I agree with your crtique of government-funded news. In a neo-fascist country like ours, that will simply generate more authoritarian, corporatist propaganda. Your latter suggestion is where I see a glimmer of hope. As the Atlantic article noted, much of the salient information is publicly available but it requires significant time and work to collect, analyze, present and disseminate. Citizen journalism funded through non-profit organizations? Could that work somehow?

        1. Ulysses

          Without heroic efforts of people like Yves, Lambert, David Dayen, Lori Wallach, etc. we would be unable to learn much beyond what suits the purposes of the corporatist propagandists. The neo-liberal bias of most of what is aired on public radio and television demonstrates that public funding, and funding from non-profits set up by the wealthy like the Annenberg foundation, doesn’t guarantee access to very much impartial “news.”

          If we here in the U.S. knew as much about the political economy, as we do about professional sports and celebrity gossip, that would be wonderful! I can go into any bar in the land and find people who know all about Bill Belichick or Kim Kardashian, yet will find very few people who know anything at all about the TPP/TISA/TTIP regime that may soon greatly influence their lives.

  12. allan

    Stock buybacks enrich the bosses even when business sags [Reuters]

    When health insurer Humana Inc reported worse-than-expected quarterly earnings in late 2014 – including a 21 percent drop in net income – it softened the blow by immediately telling investors it would make a $500 million share repurchase.

    In addition to soothing shareholders, the surprise buyback benefited the company’s senior executives. It added around two cents to the company’s annual earnings per share, allowing Humana to surpass its $7.50 EPS target by a single cent and unlocking higher pay for top managers under terms of the company’s compensation agreement.

    Thanks to Humana hitting that target, Chief Executive Officer Bruce Broussard earned a $1.68 million bonus for 2014. ….

    Late stage capitalism at its best.

  13. Jeff W

    “5 things I learned writing an e-book about Bernie Sanders”

    Maybe it’s my issue but it seems like everything I read about Bernie Sanders, pro or con, always has the frame inverted.

    Simply out, how did someone whose idealistic dreams of revolutionary change were forged in the hot cauldron of the 1960s stay so true to those ideals for so long, when all of his contemporaries had dropped out, sold out…or just given up.

    Aside from the fact that most everything Sanders says would have fit right in with the New Deal or FDR’s Four Freedoms and so the characterization of “idealistic dreams of revolutionary change were forged in the hot cauldron of the 1960s” seems a bit overwrought, if not outright wrong, why is it so surprising that the guy stuck to his ideals? That’s what people with at least a modicum of character and integrity do.

    And what’s with that comment about the connection between Sanders and the Occupy movement “being stronger than the average voter realizes”? The average media apparatchik maybe. Sanders is directly addressing the concerns of those who participated in the Occupy (and he was addressing those concerns decades before Occupy)—it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to draw a connection between the two.

    The only thing surprising about Sander’s popularity in the polls is that the press somehow finds it surprising. (Or maybe, given the clueless, hermetic nature of our press, that actually isn’t so surprising after all.)

    1. different clue

      The press doesn’t find it surprising. The press merely pretends to find it surprising as part of the press’s ongoing information operations against candidate Sanders.

  14. Synoa

    What is the scale of the threat to U.S. supercarriers of China’s growing undersea capabilities?

    I’d be more worried about hyper-sonic missiles. However, a twofer is more thorough.

    Super-carrier, or any Carrier = Target.

    Nice to be fighting with WW III strategy.

    1. Daryl

      If we ever have to fight Nazi Germany or the Empire of Japan again, we’ll surely hand them their asses.

  15. Synoia

    The TPP Is the Last, Best Opportunity for New Global Trade Rules

    One hopes it is the last, as opposed the most recent.

    Best for whom, one asks? (Note the lack of agency here, a phrase much used at NC.

    1. C

      One howler from the article:

      The TPP, which has been under negotiation for nearly a decade and now awaits difficult ratification battles in each member country, offers the best hope for restarting a global push for trade liberalization after more than two decades of stagnation.

      Given that these are “living deals” that produce instututions like the WTO that constantly make new rules and rulings the idea that we have had “two decades of stagnation” beggars the imagination. We have had constant incremental treaties, new ratificiations and rulings, and round after round of trade conferences. We are signing new deals faster than we can see the effect of the old ones.

      What pause has there been?

      Then again this is the alternate reality of the CFR so perhaps over in their heads the US has been enjoying the great explosion of middle class wealth that was supposed to be produced by the Korean deal, and NAFTA and the WTO, and…

  16. Tom Denman

    “…I had to spend time shouting at some vendors. Well, not shouting, exactly; WASPs don’t shout.”–Lambert

    I wonder if that puts us at a competitive disadvantage.

    1. Jagger

      I don’t know. Bug eyed stares combined with clinched teeth and fists are often more effective than shouting.

    2. Dominic

      Shooting at some vendors? Why Lambert, you’ve come around to the dark side. Well, for a second my misread took me there.

    1. ambrit

      Ooooh! When the Atlantic part of the Globalization Profit Act goes into effect, expect VW to sue the U.S.A. for “lost profits” due to ‘unconscionable’ air pollution standards.
      The Beat goes on.

  17. IDG

    The hysteria of liberals with Trump is laughlable. The man is a car seller. He is doing what he has to do to win the GOP nomination, once he has secured it he will change discourse.

    He is a deal maker and a moderate by today standards, he probably has more in common with the post-WWII leaders than today’s crackpots and cronies in both parties.

    A Trump vs. Sanders would be a win/win situation for Americans compared to anything else in the offer or what you have got for the last decades.

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