2:00PM Water Cooler 12/22/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente


“Because international trade agreements like the TPP are negotiated in relative secret by the US Trade Representative with direct input from industry interest groups, the deals provide a vehicle by which those groups can essentially write the rules in their favor and in a manner that tries to answer often-complex legal questions under US law without having to deal directly with Congress. The immediate effect of any such provisions that are contrary to US law, therefore, may not be pronounced or even valid; but the long game is aimed at citing conformance with “international law” when the time comes to lobby Congress to amend the relevant conflicting domestic statute” [JD Supra Business Advisor].T”his practice has been referred to in similar contexts as ‘policy laundering.”


The Voters

“The [short fingerer vulgarian] celebrity businessman does particularly well in counties that the American Communities Project calls Minority Centers. Data from the last three polls show Mr. Trump has the support of 34% of Republican primary voters who live in those communities, the highest share seen in any of the seven county types that the communities project is studying for the 2016 campaign” [Wall Street Journal, ” Some Strong Signals for Donald Trump in the South “].

“[Morning Consult] conducted an experiment aimed at understanding … which polls are more accurate — online surveys that have tended to show Trump with support of nearly four-in-10 GOP voters or the telephone surveys that have typically shown him with the backing of one-third or fewer” [Los Angeles Times]. “Their results suggest that the higher figure probably provides the more accurate measure. Some significant number of Trump supporters, especially those with college educations, are “less likely to say that they support him when they’re talking to a live human” than when they are in the “anonymous environment” of an online survey.”

“While only anecdotal, the findings suggest that a good share of those in Trump’s crowds—consistently the biggest for any presidential candidate in Iowa—may need less guidance than initially thought to be converted into actual caucus voters” [Bloomberg].

“But many [Conservative Christian activist] organization leaders have decided in recent days to line up behind Cruz (Tex.) because they consider him the best-funded and most electable social conservative in the race, according to several participants in the discussions” [WaPo].

“Just half of all post-9/11 veterans say the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, while 44 percent said the Iraq war was worth it” [Des Moines Register]. Interesting read, and continuation of yesterday’s “organic damage” discussion.

The Trail

“Bernie Sanders has broken the fundraising record for most contributions at this point in a presidential campaign, surpassing 2.3 million donations” [Time]. Which would be why Trump dominates the news. Heck, they’ve got me doing it!

Democratic debate, on Sanders: “Made references to opposing the invasion of Iraq but failed to frame the matter well enough to put Clinton on the defensive. Same on Wall Street ties, where he wasn’t nearly as tough or specific as the rapid response press releases his campaign emailed during the debate. … His strongest debate performance, but still needs to offer a crisper alternative to Clinton’s agenda” [Mark Halperin, Bloomberg]. I rarely find myself agreeing with Halperin, but it’s been a strange year.

“[T]he Democratic National Committee wasn’t necessarily going for a big audience. If you’re looking for a lot of viewers, the Saturday night before Christmas isn’t the best place to find them” [WaPo]. Mission accomplished!

“Instead of laying low and playing it cool, Clinton is running as though the race were very close, tax-baiting Sanders with Republican talking points, and allowing a proxy [the DNC] to blow up a huge fight with the Sanders campaign over a data breach. It’s a mystifying and risky way to run a campaign” [The Week]. Nah. Clinton genuinely believes that stuff. Anyhow, Democrats loyalists hate the left, so Clinton is simply running true to form. And get a load of this:

Clinton’s stance also basically rules out badly needed increases in Social Security. At an Iowa townhall this month, Clinton spoke about the solvency of Social Security, and while she initially disavowed benefit cuts, she eventually ended up endorsing the possibility of raising the retirement age.

Clinton is even preparing the way for the Grand Bargain that was too much of a heavy lift for Obama.

“[T]he Clinton camp has cheerfully fed the flames of [the terror recruiting fight, in what appears to be a concerted effort to boost Trump among GOP voters” [WaPo]. “Don’t worry. We can control him.”

“Records show that Donald Trump applied to trademark the phrase “Make America Great Again” six days after President Obama was elected to a second term” [Daily Beast]. “The timing suggests that Trump was preparing his latest run for president long before most people imagine.”

“Reagan’s Daughter: My Dad Would Be ‘So Appalled’ By GOP Presidential Candidates” [HuffPo]. The Reagan who opened his 1980 campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi? That Reagan?

“The top campaign whoppers from a lie-filled 2015” [CNN]. On candidate, of course, wins going away…

Stats Watch

GDP, Q3 2015: “A downward revision to inventories pulled down the third revision to third-quarter GDP, coming in at an annualized and expected rate of 2.0 percent” [Econoday]. And “this ‘decline’ was mainly due to private inventories decreasing more than previously estimated” [Econintersect].

Corporate Profits, Q3 2015: Up 1.3% year-on-year [Econoday].

Richmond Fed Manufacturing Index, December 2015: “[T]he Richmond Fed is reporting a burst of strength” [Econoday]. “This report is the exception so far among regional Fed reports.”

Existing Home Sales, November 2015: “New closing rules appear to have depressed sales of existing homes in November which fell 10.5 percent to a much lower-than-expected annualized rate of 4.760 million” [Econoday].

Canada is considering the ‘unthinkable’ [Business Insider]. Negative interest rates.

“Chipotle E. Coli Cases Rise, With 5 More Ill in Midwest” [New York Times]. “‘One of the challenges here has been that we have been able to identify the restaurants where people ate, but because of the way Chipotle does its record-keeping, we have been unable to figure out what food is in common across all those restaurants,’ said Dr. Ian Williams, chief of the outbreak response and prevention branch of the C.D.C.” WTF? Does that strike any reader who knows the restaurant trade as an odd way to do “record-keeping”?

“Driverless Cars Spell Danger for One of World’s Top Part Makers” [Bloomberg]. Waiting for the move to privatize all roads….

“Historically it’s taken a good 5% of GDP deficit to reverse a decline, which today means close to a 1T deficit annually” [Mosler Economics]. So the Omnibus budget doesn’t do much.

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 31 (-1); Fear [CNN]. Last week: 35 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Texas grand jury issues no indictments in jailhouse death of Sandra Bland” [WaPo]. Ugly.

Dear Old Blighty

“Tendring district council in Essex is planning to introduce a ‘falling fee’ for elderly residents” [Guardian].

“The Sun told to put apology to Jeremy Corbyn on front page” [Independent]. One tabloid gets a wrist slap, so no doubt the British press can now begin to collectively congratulate themselves on their fairness.

“Cameron’s hastily-organised EU speech descends into an embarrassing shambles as the Royal crest falls off his lectern” [Daily Mail].

“Blackmail, Threats, and Fear: Young Tories Discuss the UK Conservative Party Bullying Scandal” [Vice].

“You probably have to go back to the early 1950s – just after the [NHS] was formed – for the last time money was so tight. The response then? Services were scaled back and charges introduced for the likes of dental care, spectacles and prescriptions” [BBC]. So the Tories’ plan to gut the NHS is going quite well.

Our Famously Free Press

“What was fake on the Internet this week: Why this is the final column” [WaPo]. “At which point does society become utterly irrational? Is it the point at which we start segmenting off into alternate realities?”


“The massive [Southern California Gas Co] leak [in Los Angeles] amounts to about a quarter of the state’s total output of climate-changing methane” [San Francisco Chronicle]. That’s rather a lot. “Gov. Jerry Brown’s sister is a paid board member of the company that owns a natural-gas well whose leak is forcing thousands from their Southern California homes, and a watchdog group and the governor’s aides disagree over whether that makes a conflict of interest for the governor.”

“Paper estimates widespread tree death in Southwestern forests under global warming scenarios” [Phys.org (CL)].

“Bacteria resistant to ‘last resort’ antibiotic colistin discovered in UK” [Independent].

“Spread of antibiotic-resistance gene does not spell bacterial apocalypse — yet” [Nature].

“A study published in the journal Risk Analysis in May found that the U.S. power grid is increasingly blacking out when hit with severe weather, and lags behind other developed nations in terms of reliability” [AP]. Well, Festung Richistan will have its own generators. So why worry?

“It’s Winter Solstice so Druids, Wiccans and Pagans are having a banging party at Stonehenge” [Metro UK].

Guillotine Watch

Of Zuckerberg, Meyer, Cook, et al: “These could all be nothing more than examples of people who — whether in an attempt to inspire others, thank a family member or highlight their personal brand — chose to open up more than we’re accustomed to hearing from powerful people in the corporate suite” [Los Angeles Times]. Beware of that locution “open up.” It means “Feed the press a story with the help of a public relations professional.”

News of the Wired

“To sum up, some hacker or group of hackers attacker noticed an existing backdoor in the Juniper software, which may have been intentional or unintentional — you be the judge! They then piggybacked on top of it to build a backdoor of their own, something they were able to do because all of the hard work had already been done for them. The end result was a period in which someone — maybe a foreign government — was able to decrypt Juniper traffic in the U.S. and around the world” [A Few Thoughts on Cryptographic Engineering]. So maybe having the government build in its own backdoors isn’t the greatest idea, security-wise…..

“Reading from a screen harms our ability to concentrate” [CBC]. And the death of print is an exaggeration.

“One Woman’s Bizarre, Delightful Quest To Change Emojis Forever” [Buzzfeed]. Excellent read on the process of creating emojis and the operation of international standards bodies.

“[E]yewitness misidentification is the primary factor in the conviction of suspects who are later proved to be innocent by DNA analysis” [Ars Technica]. “Several lines of research indicate that the confidence expressed at trial (trial confidence) is less diagnostic of guilt than the level of confidence an eyewitness has in the accuracy of their memory when they first pick a suspect out of a lineup (initial confidence).”

“Wild bees are least abundant where they’re most needed, study says” [Los Angeles Times]. Most needed by monocultures, like California almonds for the Chinese luxury market.

“This is where expats get paid the most” [CNBC]. Not a lot of depth here. Readers?

“The birth of the web” — the 25th anniversary was December 20 [CERN]. So how come CERN is using it’s own loathesome URL shortening service for cern.ch/go/6WSp, instead of the clean and human readable http://home.cern/topics/birth-web?

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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 (PP):

Vine Maple and Doug Fir Wenatchee NF October 2010

Vine Maple and Douglas Fir, Wenatchee National Forest, Washington.

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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. fresno dan

      Trump: “No, no, allegations. There are allegations. Yes, sure, there are allegations. I’ve read those allegations over the years, but nobody’s proven that he’s killed anybody as far as I’m concerned. He hasn’t killed reporters that it’s been proven. Now, if he has…”

      Stephanopoulos’s next rejoinder was perhaps even more startling: “But what killing has the United States government done?”

      I am sure it goes against the Trump agenda, but I wish Trump had said:
      The US hit a HOSPITAL in Afghanistan and killed 30. That is a FACT. The US classifies any children standing near terrorists AS terrorists and therefore counts their deaths as “collateral” That is a FACT. There are numerous and credible reports from different sources that report the thousands of innocents killed by US drone policy – That is a FACT.
      Those are facts George. What you have said are rumors. I will not spread rumors that you had a sexual relationship with Hillary and/or Bill, because just making charges without ANY EVIDENCE whatsoever is a bad, bad thing….its just character assassination in the guise of being a reporter.

      1. MikeNY

        Conservative tallies of civilian casualties of US wars in the ME since 1990 top 1 million.

        “Collateral damage”.

      2. JTMcPhee

        So is it true, then, that George Stephanopolous engaged in multiple threesome frolics with Bill and Hillary Clinton? Has he stopped doing that yet?

      3. Christopher Fay

        We offed the Rolling Stone reporter for writing accurate information about General Magic Crystals. The meatball who has his own Leadership course at Yale. “Leadership” of course should be bracketed with United States flags and flying eagles and patriotic stuff.

  1. jgordon

    I will be the first to admit that I have a vendetta against personal vehicles; they materially and directly lower the quality of my life via noise, chemical, and gaseous pollution. They also indirectly harm me by being major contributors to climate change (let’s not forget the baroque technical infrastructure suite required to support the existence of personal vehicles–which is itself incredibly polluting) and by encouraging abysmally bad urban planning. I am grinding my teeth listening to the damn things go by in the street outside my door right now. I seriously dislike them. Therefore I tend to search for and focus on news that confirms my bias about how awful they are, and so I saw this today:

    Lakeisha Holloway identified as driver in deadly ‘intentional’ wreck on Las Vegas sidewalk, accused of plowing into crowd

    So, along with all the other bad stuff they do, they can also be used by deranged criminals to make us all less safe. Though for me “safety” is fairly minor quibble, while the other stuff really gets my goat. Though I have realized doesn’t seem to be true for most people. So, focusing on “safety” seems to be a good approach for getting something I don’t like banned. Anyway It’s truly inconceivable how our society can permit these things to exist and I hope you all will join me in doing whatever we can to get rid of these blighted things. I’m ready right now to sign any petitions or send money to any candidates who are in favor of banning automobiles.

        1. ambrit

          It’s Elemental my dear Lambert. Element 26 to be precise.
          As for there being constraints on the activities of God, you’ll have to take that up with Him, Her, or It.
          (You are assuming a false equivalency, yes?)

    1. Vatch

      Well, I guess we could have thousands (or in the case of large cities, millions) of horses pooping in the streets of every city. There wouldn’t be any problems with that would there? Or we could have noisy streetcars braking and screeching on the tracks in front of most people’s homes. You think cars are noisy? Just wait…

      Any transportation system on a planet with 7.3 billion (and rising) people is going to have serious problems. The root problem is overpopulation.

      1. jgordon

        America is an awful place to live. Ugly buildings, crappy city layouts, and gd noise everywhere. The noise is what really gets me. Go anywhere inside and people have TVs or radios blaring. Walk outside and all the vehicles ramrodding around everywhere are making their own racket. It’s friggin stressful.

        There are other places in the world where they don’t have such god-awful urban planning. We purposefully designed a society that nearly requires personal vehicles to survive in and now we have to suffer with it. Well I say let’s just go cold turkey and end it now. As a bonus, if we can do that while things are still relatively good, our lives will be a lot more comfortable when we have no choice but to stop using automobiles due to external factors.

        1. JTMcPhee

          And maybe if one looks even a little bit into the reasons why the Black Homeless Lady with the 3year old daughter in the car where the two of them had been reduced to living after losing their dwelling, their ‘situatio’ as the Brits might say, maybe one would find that in the heartless complaining and pillorying of that woman with the Black Sounding Name a little shame at participation in a political economy that drives people to such desperation? At least the hawhaw Child Protective Services might, MIGHT, now see to the care of her kid, and we superior beings will feed, clothe and house the lady in misery until our Righteous Prosecutors and Jurists toss away the key or judicially murder her.
          I haven’t noticed– has anyone labeled her a Terrorist yet?
          What a totally Fokked culture this is!

            1. Steve

              Sure, cars are necessary, but look at the complaints in what I replied to:
              Ugly buildings, crappy city layouts, and gd noise everywhere. The noise is what really gets me. Go anywhere inside and people have TVs or radios blaring. Walk outside and all the vehicles ramrodding around everywhere are making their own racket….god-awful urban planning

              I my question is valid.

              1. jgordon

                Your point is certainly valid, though it’s also true that everywhere in America is a mess–urban, suburban, and rural. Indeed, I already have my passport and am looking at rural and scenic places outside of America.

                America has ugly, decaying cities and a society that worships vengeance and violence. Definitely not a place anyone who has options would want to live.

        2. Steven D.

          You definitely are correct that cars are the factor primarily responsible for wrecking American towns and cities after WWII. See strongtowns.org. But in some European cities, cars share roads with pedestrians and bikes. So it can be done. On street parking for example can serve as a barrier between moving cars and pedestrians and reduce the space devoted to moving cars thereby slowing them down.

        3. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          The fear of silence.


          When one jogs in a park or on the beach, one has to have some human noise piped in via the earphones.

          I have seen way too often.

          The cure requires probably ten years of meditation in a cave, as Bodhidharma was said to have done when he first arrived at the Shaolin Temple, before he became famous by teaching the monks there the Shaolin fighting style.

          1. LifelongLib

            Headphones are the modern version of perfumed handkerchiefs when it comes to traffic/people noise. But if you’re at the beach or park, why would you want to shut out wind, waves, birdsong?

        4. Vatch

          “There are other places in the world where they don’t have such god-awful urban planning.”

          Examples, please. And not small cities, either. The population should be at least 1.5 million people. I will be amazed if there are very many cities of this size that are quiet.

          It’s my impression that the quieter cities are the suburbs where cars are a necessity. I’m not saying this to praise cars; it just seems to be the way that things are.

          1. Steven D.

            American cities used to be great. With a few exceptions, we’ve replaced them with the Walmart on the edge of town and the suburban cul de sac. Vienna, London, Tokyo are examples of cities with much better planning than say Kansas City.

          2. jgordon

            Come on Vatch, how many cities in America have at least 1.5 million people in them? Even my own heavily-urbanized city in Florida only has about 250,000 people in it.

            Actually a city with several million people it might be a better place to live: for example, New York City is well designed (possible because it predates personal automobiles?) and has a functional mass transit system that more or less obviates the need for cars. People in New York City do not need a car to survive. New York City also has a great deal of culture and character, unlike most other places in the the US. New York City could lose the vast majority of its automobiles and the citizens would not be impacted much–in fact the quality of life their would go up a lot overall.

            Now let’s contrast that to Orlando, Florida. There is a city that is a complete, sprawling mess. There is no useful mass transit system to speak of and having a car is almost a basic requirement to live. Ugly and soulless big box stores abound–massively wide streets and highways everywhere, gargantuan parking lots. Trying to walk anywhere, you know–as a pedestrian–is like playing a walk-on role in Death Race 2000.

            Whether cars are needed or not isn’t a function of population density. It’s all about how good or bad the planning was. And automobiles virtually demand bad planning.

            1. Vatch

              There are 6 cities in the US with 1.5 million people or more, and I think it makes good sense to focus on them, since the world’s big cities (Mumbai, Beijing, Shanghai, Mexico City, Cairo) tend to be very hellish places. Those cities are the planet’s ugly future.

              I don’t believe what you say about the noise. It’s the cities with automobile traffic that have less noise. Noise comes from population density and public transit.

              I agree about the scourge of big-boxism (Walmart, etc.). That’s an abomination, and has ruined many towns and cities.

  2. Carolinian

    BTW I don’t think you mentioned the sad departure of our senior senator from the clown car. All Carolinians shed a tear.

    1. Llewelyn Moss

      In the teevee clip I saw, ole Lindsey was tearing up pretty good. Crocadile tears — he lost his chance to loot the taxpayers for his personal gain. Hahaha.

      No worry, all the other candidates seem fully capable to do the looting. (Go Bernie)

      1. Jim Haygood

        He also lost the chance to equip the White House with a staff of liveried eunuchs, to tote his personage hither and yon in a silk-canopied sedan chair.

        But perhaps Miss Hillary will take care of that.

        1. Llewelyn Moss

          Toted about in a “silk-canopied sedan chair”. I can see it. hahaha.

          Hey, I’m all for electing our First S3xually Ambiguous President. But pleeese, don’t let it be Lindsey.

            1. Oregoncharles

              That would be the Morrigan or Badbh, ancient Irish goddess of war, imaged as a crow. She’s in a Yeats play I once directed.

  3. Uahsenaa

    I was subject to a telephone poll a few days ago, and I have to say that they are extremely leading in structure, due in no small part to the way they frame every question as A or B or neither. Neither ends up absorbing a lot of wildly divergent political views. An example:

    Pollster: Would you say you prefer [neoliberal bunk with a sprinkling of racial justice] or [neoliberal bunk with a sprinkling of anti-immigration]?
    Me: Neither.
    Pollster: Would you care to explain your views?
    Me: I’m for the complete overthrow of the capitalist order and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Barring that, I’d at least like to see the oligarchs strung up with each others’ entrails.
    Pollster: Thank you for your response.

    1. jrs

      the dictatorship leaves much to be desired and was clearly overemphasized (be careful what you wish for, you might get it). I prefer democracy, starting with workplace democracy.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        The proletariat can best seize control by enervating the rich with reality TV, pop music, sports and other addictive distractions.

        Dictatorship is too blunt and unsightly.

        Give the rich their freedom of enervation.

      2. Uahsenaa

        I thought it was an obviously farcical response, designed to point out the absurdity of the manner in which the questions were being asked. I was put on the spot, so I went for variations on Marx and Diderot. My own politics are likely more in line with Iggy Pop’s: “I’m not here to overthrow capitalism; I’m just trying to survive it.”

      3. dingusansich

        Without workplace democracies, the notion of a political democracy seems at best improbable and altogether rather quaint, like belief in a civics-class Santa. And yet Santa exists! In the U.S. he is carefully coiffed and styled and above all immaculately clean, having traded the chimney for a satellite dish, and the evening of a single winter’s night for airtime 24/7 each and every infotainment cycle of the year. For all the demographics, naughty or nice, he, cheerfully or solemnly, as convention dictates, disseminates his branded, patent- and trademark-protected content to an eternally innocent and childlike American public known the world over for high hopes, momentarily embarrassed means, and no memory whatsoever. The middle classes, or what’s left of them, clap their hands and clamor for Santa-dispensed Oxy they certainly will ask their doctor about, ignoring rapid sotto voce warnings about flatulence, sclerosis, and liver damage, while the downmarket masses make do with old-fashioned opiates from our Afghani partners in democracy, not to mention factories in China. Yet for all that, voting somehow seems about as compelling as enthusiasm for the latest employee wellness initiatives whose up-to-the-minute catchphrases and metrics boil down to marathon shifts in coal-filled stockings and a familiar emphasis on bending over. It could worse, the Santa-istas say: We’ve still got a “democracy”!

        Happy holidays, NakCap.

    2. Clive

      Good for you! My approach is to tell shameless whoppers to the interviewer.

      That Mr. Cameron ? Overall I am slightly dissatisfied. My reason ? Oh, he’s far too liberal on immigration (my ploy there being to try and nudge them into being even crazier loons than they are already, but I fear the descent of the Conservative Party into self parody makes my attempt futile).

      The EU, is Britain better in or out, or don’t know ? Don’t know. May I ask the reason for your answer ? Well, I can’t make up my mind about Angela Merkel and those black trousers. Are they on trend or should they have been left behind the iron curtain. Thank you for taking the time to participate in this survey Mr. Clive. Goodbye. (click) …

      It’s all harmless fun to me. And if it gums up the polling and policy painting-by-numbers sausage making machine, then that’s all to the good as far as I’m concerned.

      1. Uahsenaa

        I was trying to be absurd, but maybe I wasn’t absurd enough. At the end of the day, the only opinions that matter in this primary are what the people in the junior high gym have to say on Feb. 1.

  4. optimader

    “Chipotle E. Coli Cases Rise, With 5 More Ill in Midwest” …..we have been unable to figure out what food is in common across all those restaurants,’ WTF? Does that strike any reader who knows the restaurant trade as an odd way to do “record-keeping”?

    What if it isn’t actually a food component? For example did they change to those crappy foam soap dispensers that use less soap? Has cleaning efficacy changed?

    If it’s only EColi, is this actually a new development or have people been getting sick all along but now Chipotle is under the magnifying glass?

    A college friend who went the professor of food science route did research work for the FDA on meat contamination. Basically the way it goes, meat contamination is primarily a surface phenomena, go down a little bit and the meat is sterile. So fast food/crappy chain restaurants uses “tenderized meat” which are essentially subjected to a matrix of hypodermic needles that penetrate the cut of meat a inject enzyme agents that “tenderize” (call it digest) the connective tissue. If the surface is contaminated, the need drags that shit ( literally ) in and the anaerobic critters that survive and multiply poison the eater.


    1. GlobalMisanthrope

      What the CDC needs to be understood as saying here is this:

      The CDC has no system in place for collecting or collating data on food borne illness and, rather, relies on the private sector’s own records, however incompatible with epidemiology those records may be.

      1. wbgonne

        The CDC has no system in place for collecting or collating data on food borne illness and, rather, relies on the private sector’s own records, however incompatible with epidemiology those records may be.

        That’s the status quo now that the regulatory agencies have effectively been privatized (except that the citizens are still paying for them). When the Macondo Disaster occurred in the Gulf, NOAA and EPA were completely useless and totally dependent upon Big Oil. That’s when it really struck home for me. I just saw that the U.S. repealed its Country of Origin law on beef, pork and poultry due to an adverse ISDS (WTO) ruling, notwithstanding that 87% of American citizens want that information.

        We now live in a corporatocracy. That’s what Obama was blathering on about in his latest neoliberal propaganda assault, using Trump as his foil. Welcome to the New World Order.

        1. alex morfesis

          korpokleptokratia (three k’s)…there is no C in greek…russian yes, but not greek…remember…kratia is government…krasi is wine…or a purported latinized version of kratia…I go with the idea it is an inside joke…as in drunkeness…

          much like calling someone sophisticated is actually an insult…the sophists and all…

    2. Romancing the Loan

      Note that this is very similar to how a good home cook or high quality chef tenderizes meat by jaccarding it (essentially piercing it with a pet-brush-like forest of tiny needles) and then introducing an enzyme (say, a balsamic vinegar marinade) to dissolve the connective tissue.

      Contamination issues are avoided mainly by rinsing the meat before you tenderize it and making sure your tools and ingredients remain uncontaminated. The difference is that this is much, much easier to control on a non-industrial scale. But it is not that restaurants shouldn’t be tenderizing their meat.

      1. optimader


        Well, a high quality chef is more likely to use dry aged beef in my experience.
        When I rarely, maybe twice a year, have beefsteak in a restaurant I want it rare -med rare. Invariably we’ll go to joints that dry age on premises.

        More regularly, the restaurant experience that interests me is ethnic dining featuring things I would not ordinarily prepare, and in these situations meats are pretty well done.. curry, sausage, meatsauces, soups, duck, shawarma, asian etc….

        But to your, point, washing meat.. absolutely, do that at home with any meat or fish, then frequently I’ll brine and wash again.

        On GlobalM’s point, that would be more clearly stated.

        In the case of Chipolte or any other restaurant, really no incentive to be obstructive in solving the problem, it’s very much in their interest to find the issue solve it and move on before the brand is killed. Presumably they will modify their internal tracking processes as a result of this debacle.

        Chipolte has my sympathy actually. A few time a year I enjoy Chipolte’s stuff for lunch. The tough nut for them to crack is that MUCH of their menu componentry is either uncooked or precooked and sitting.

        Personally I am quietly amazed that more of the sandwich joints like Subway or Jimmy Johns don’t have more contamination episodes because so much of what they put in a sandwich is uncooked or precooked.

        In reality, how many mild cases occur w/ diners that have tolerant GI tracks and go unreported but wipe out the office bathroom stall?

        1. GlobalMisanthrope

          I’m a Chef with 20 years in kitchen management. Here are some ideas, facts and tips:

          Chipotle’s problem is not a holding problem (uncooked, precooked, etc). If it were, the patterns would be different. Besides holding food at a safe temperature is bedrock practice. If Chipotle didn’t have that down, they’d have been out of business long ago.

          Their problem is most likely in the supply chain as the CDC comment suggests. Because the CDC does not require that records be kept in a way that facilitates what they do, companies naturally set up their records to facilitate what they do. In other words, optimader’s right. It’s unlikely that they are being obstructive. After all, they voluntarily closed stores. Both the contamination and the inability to trace it are structural problems. And some of it is by design, sorry to say. Although NC readers will be unsurprised to hear it.

          Regarding mechanically tenderized meat, this is an ancient practice and perfectly safe if done safely. Right, so if done by unskilled workers under time and volume pressures, unsafe. If done by well-trained workers under quality pressures, safe. The perverse incentives in this industry are the same as in any. And as far as quality goes, if measured by the pleasure of the eating experience, a mechanically tenderized cross section of a heart of sirloin is the best affordable little steak around.

          Rinsing meat and vegetables with a water and vinegar solution is a great safeguard as long as one is careful to avoid cross-contamination, the most common cause of food-borne illness both in restaurants and at home. That is, cleaning (soap and hot water is sufficient) everything associated with meat/fish cleaning. That means your hands, the sink or basin and sink plus backsplash and surrounding countertop, probably the faucet handles and faucet, possibly hampering the towel and getting a fresh one.

          Here’s our morning practice in the kitchen I run: We set up a bath of vinegar and water (1/4c per gallon) and soak all the incoming produce in it for 15 minutes in batches. We don’t wash the meat as a matter of routine, but when we get a case of chicken legs, say, we will and we’ll do it in the same water AFTER we’ve finished with all the raw. Then we clean and sanitize the prep sink and area, hampering towels, etc.


          1. optimader

            GM, didn’t mean to imply tenderizing/jaccarding is intrinsically unsafe. My point is it can be unsafe by the nature of the process.
            A good restaurant w/ decent hygiene protocol, and meat that isn’t lingering after being processed -low risk compared to the other venues like the meat counter display at Funk Grocers or the fast food joint that inadvertently undercooks below a pasteurization temp. .

            Personally, I like dry aged beef, which I occasionally do, for the infrequent “steak” dinners. Need to use a nice hunk of meat tho. Secretly, what I have realized I prefer are the cheaper cuts like a flank or hangar that has been marinated and served with Churrasco con Chimichurri. To me, that is more interesting than a tenderloin or a strip just cooked as a steak..

            When I was a threadbare college student, a friend I was in school with whom I was developing a commercial venture with was also developing the 300lbs block ice carving market in Chicago. Consequently I was able to fall in with the professional ACF chefs http://www.chicagochefsofcuisine.org/ Those were fun times and good eats. One a month an alternate hotel chef would host a dinner. Learned a few things from those guys by osmosis.
            Ever use a sous vida method for cooking meats?

            1. GlobalMisanthrope

              I like dry-aged beef from time to time, but I’m not always in the mood for its intensity.

              I agree about the steaks. At home we eat hangar, flank, skirt and flap meat when we want steak.

              I have used sous vide, but under duress. Plastic is volatile. I don’t know if the particles released into the food are harmful, but I’m not impressed enough with the results to risk it.

              If you’re a beef fan, try this: a second cut (the fatty part) brisket rubbed with 3:2:1 salt:pepper:sugar, based on a scant teaspoon of salt per pound, and brought to room temp. Then place it in a roasting pan and cover the pan tightly with foil, shiny side in. Put it in a cold oven and set the temp to 180ºF. Cook undisturbed for 8 hours. You’ll thank me.

    3. different clue

      I gather Chipotle was the first big restaurant chain to announce the banning of GMO food from its inputs.
      That probably made the Lords of GMO very angry.

      Has anyone considered the possibility that Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, etc. etc. might be sending secret ratfucker agents into various Chipotles to introduce E. coli cultures into the food?

    4. bob

      Better question-

      How does that much shit get into food. Coast to coast.

      Metric shit tons of shit. In food.

      I’d bet they do keep better track of shit (fertilizer) than they do with food. If you can’t trace the food, look for someone who is missing a few hundred tons (?) of shit?

      1. GlobalMisanthrope

        Part of it is from fertilizer, as you say.

        The rest is from the way meat is “processed.” Here’s a good explainer on that situation from 2007. One can safely presume that the situation has gotten way worse as the USDA has continued to decrease its number of inspectors.

        And how strong is the firewall between cook only and safe meat? Shall we guess?

        Anyway, off to wrangle cooks and customers…

  5. craazyman

    They’re still goin at it over on the MMT Threat. Wowsers, etiher they have nothing better to do or they’re incredibly confused. Maybe both! How could you go at it for three straight days sayig the same dam shlt over and over.

    I’m quite serious. you need a referee and an explainer to come in here and straighten everybody out. Where is Mr. Dittmer? You made a lot of money on the Fundraiser. I myself donated $400,000. He must have a price. Everybody has a price. Get Mr. Dittmer to come out of retirement and temporarily put aside his mathematical analyses and do an analysis of MMT and tell us if money is a credit, a debt or a banana

    All you guys would have to agrree to accept Mr. Dittmer’s judgment. I will. I’d rather listen to what he sys than what 180 peanut gallery bloviators say. That’s actually ridiculous to even type. That’s like saying you’d rather take the bus to work than walk 189 miles to work. I”m sorry but i’d actually accept his conclusion over either Professor Wray’s or Professor Kelton’s. Why? Simple. Because they may be too emotionally connected to the topic to have the requisite clarity of thought. That’s not to say I think they’re wrong, but they may be confused on a few basic things. But Mr. Dittmer can explain it so there’ no confusion

    Enough already. It’s painful to see a post like that still going after three days, all the nested skinny columns of unreadably asphyxiated and anorexic unction.

    1. Clive

      Was that $400,000 real dollars or banana dollars though ?

      Perhaps it is time for your story about the 45 year old cheerleader to get the air time it deserves. At least no-one is going to get into a big fight about that one. Although, having said that, I have been wrong on that score before…

      1. craazyman

        she was north of 50 and a grandmother.if she was only 45 i could have agreed it wasn’t Link-worthy, but over 50? it should have been a Link.

    2. Skippy

      Mr. Phi Beta Kappa does not need to understand nor posses any knowlage which might interfere with positive networking effects…. and good gawd emotionally connected too anything…. have you not read Hayek – !!!!!!! – or did someone slip in the cortex injection unbeknownst…

      Skippy…. plop plop… fizz fizz… ooh what a relief it is….

      1. optimader

        Skippy…. plop plop… fizz fizz… ooh what a relief it is….

        that summarizes my suspicion that the unreported frequency of E Coli poisoning actually is much higher than is commonly reported..

  6. allan

    Charity Navigator Removes Clinton Foundation From Watch List

    Charity Navigator said Tuesday it has removed the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation from its watch list, a red flag used by the charity watchdog to signal to donors that questions have been raised about a group’s operations.

    The move comes a little more than a month after the foundation filed its 2014 Form 990, as well as amended returns for the previous four years, to the IRS.

    So, if a charity has to amend four years of returns, it gets off of a watchlist?
    Where can I sign up for this treatment?

  7. rjs

    minor correction on the “Stats Watch”
    GDP, Q3 2015: “And “this ‘decline’ was mainly due to private inventories decreasing more than previously estimated” [Econintersect]”
    should read
    “was mainly due to growth in private inventories decreasing more than previously estimated”
    ie, real private inventories were revised from the previously reported $90.2 billion in real growth to show inventory growth at an inflation adjusted $85.5 billion rate, which came after inventories had grown at an inflation adjusted $113.5 billion rate in the 2nd quarter, and hence the $28.0 billion smaller real inventory growth than in the 2nd quarter subtracted 0.71 percentage points from the 3rd quarter’s growth rate,

  8. JCC

    On the widespread tree death article… it’s already happening here in the N. Mojave and along the edges of the southern Sierra Nevada Mtns. I’ve seen really big changes in the 5 short years I’ve lived here… not to mention the over 20 or so trees out of the 30 or so on the property I recently purchased that I’ve had to cut down. There are swaths of dead pines all through Walker Pass and the Kennedy Meadows area, pines that looked as healthy as horses just 4 short years ago.

    Sad, really.

  9. ewmayer

    Re. U.S. power grid — I blame Iranian hackerzz, who are at least forthright enough to not attempt to spoof their IP addresses when playing with those flood-control dams upstream of your granny’s cabin in Vermont. Taking ownership, that.

    Re. Reading from a screen harms our ability to concentrate | CBC — Strong whiff of possible junk science here. I have no problem concentrating on online and on-screen material, because I am diligent in restricting the display of material other than that which I wish to concentrate on. Reading a plain-text version of an online article without pictures, “also of interest” thumbnails, animated ads and popups all over the place? Crazy, I know. Working offline for hours at a time and setting aside brief “online breaks” as the only times I allow e-mails to intrude – similarly “way out there” wacky. Also risky — The Borg frown on those who disconnect, even briefly, from the hive mind.

  10. allan

    Las Vegas Review-Journal editor steps down amid ‘makings of an adversarial relationship’

    … and Bibi gets a bully pulpit on American soil.

    You can find the link.

  11. Chauncey Gardiner

    Thank you for continuing to follow efforts by this administration to mislead the American people about the TransPacific Partnership (TPP).

    In this regard, it is often enlightening to watch state television. Tonight, among other things, I learned that one of this administration’s top diplomatic successes of 2015 was that “Twelve Pacific countries concluded the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which lowers tariffs.”

    Evidently there is no longer any need to bother with those pesky Congressional approvals.


  12. Skippy

    CBS News – “Donald Trump defends use of “schl****d” against Hillary Clinton”

    Skippy…. can it get anymore surreal….

    1. bob

      It took me 5 minutes to find out what sort of word could be that “bad”, and fit those letters.

      Schlonged? Oh my!

      That doesn’t even raise to the level of 3rd grade playground. He’d be laughed off the playground.

      He failed at schoolyard bulling and moved up to presidential candidate.

      Failing up!

      Oh, and he’s just so radical!

      Wow, I hope I don’t get censored here.

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