2:00PM Water Cooler 12/24/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Readers, this will be the last Water Cooler until January 4. Enjoy your holidays! –lambert



“Six crazy things Trump says that are spot on” [Ted Rall, Japan Times]. For example, “Invading Iraq was stupid. The pundits say San Bernadino changed everything, at least the race for the Republican nomination, replacing pocketbook issues with foreign policy and terrorism as voters’ main concerns. If that’s true, if hawkishness is king, then why is the GOP front-runner doing well despite his consistent opposition to invading Iraq — the most significant Republican-led foreign policy initiative of the last 30 years?”

“No, Hillary Clinton didn’t say she wants to close most U.S. schools. Here’s what she actually said” [WaPo]. Yes, that’s exactly what she said, and I read all the blather that WaPo posted. It’s not likely that’s what she meant, but that’s what she said. We had a ton of “What Obama Really Meant” in 2008, after incidents like this. Why not just admit this and move on, instead of playing semantics with the definition of “average”?

The Voters

T. Boone Pickens “My big idea for 2016 is to put together a bipartisan screening committee that vets presidential candidates like we do anyone else applying for a job and recommends the best candidates possible” [Salon].

The Trail

Sanders: “Bobby Kennedy had a saying that is my favorite. He said, ‘Many people look at things as they are and say why.’ Bobby Kennedy says, ‘I look at things as they should be and say why not?'” [Des Moines Register].

“Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president has been savvy about talking to young voters in the parlance of the social web, using emojis, sleek graphics and other formats. But the list ‘7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” seemed to backfire this week’ [New York Times]. Then the campaign walked it back. “The article on Clinton’s website was originally titled “7 Ways Hillary Clinton is just like your abuela” then changed to “7 things Hillary Clinton has in common with your abuela” [Salon]. “Content strategists” are thick on the ground in Brooklyn, I imagine; so whoever came up with that listicle should be easy to replace.

“The new [CNN/ORC] survey finds Mr. Trump leading the GOP field with 39% of the vote — up from 36% earlier this month. He leads his closest rival Sen. Ted Cruz by more than 20 points. Mr. Trump has been on top of the Republican field, according to CNN’s polling, since July” [Wall Street Journal, ” Donald Trump Poised to Enter New Year as Clear GOP Front-Runner “].

“Trump Doubles Down on “Schlong”, New Truth Movement Emerges” [Talking Points Memo].

Jebbie: “The problem with the Confederate flag isn’t the Confederacy, the problem with the Confederate flag is what it began to represent later” [Talking Points Memo].

“[Watching Rubio] like watching a computer algorithm designed to cover talking points. He said a lot, but at the same time said nothing. It was like someone wound him up, pointed him towards the doors and pushed play” [Conway Daily Sun]. “Marco Rubio is a man so stuck on script it doesn’t even matter when the cameras are off.”

“Four candidates — Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, and John Kasich — are within six points of each other in the HuffPost Pollster average of polls of the New Hampshire Republican primary. If one of them can break away in the next few weeks, it could shake up the entire race” [Political Wire]. “The weakness of these “preferred candidates” is what scares the Republican establishment so much. If none of them can break through, the race for the nomination may instead be between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. That’s the worst nightmare for many Republicans.”

“A Florida man arrested earlier this year for landing a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn in a call for campaign finance reform will challenge Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in the 2016 primary” [The Hill]. “Lawyers awaiting the felony sentencing of Douglas Hughes informed the D.C. Circuit Court of his plans to challenge Wasserman Schultz, who also serves as chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, in a filing Wednesday.”

Stats Watch

Jobless Claims, week of December 19, 2015: “Jobless claims, which had edged higher over the past few weeks, are moving back down, confirming that labor market conditions remain solidly favorable” (assuming you’re in the labor market) [Econoday]. “Continuing claims, which also had been climbing, also came down…. Though data for the holiday weeks are often volatile, they haven’t been volatile this year.”

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of December 20: “Consumer confidence has accelerated strongly heading into the final days of the holiday shopping season” [Econoday].

“Rising package volumes and costs have Amazon seeking alternative delivery routes—shifting the online retailer’s role from key ally to a potentially disruptive competitor” [Wall Street Journal, “Amazon Seeks to Ease Ties With UPS”]

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 44 (+3); Fear [CNN]. Last week: 34 (Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).

Black Injustice Tipping Point

“Betting on Secession: Quantifying Political Events Surrounding Slavery and the Civil War” (Draft, PDF) [Charles W. Calomiris and Jonathan Pritchett].

“Iowa’s black incarceration rate compared with the rate for whites is nearly 14 to 1, the biggest disparity in the nation, according to research from the Sentencing Project” [Des Moines Register]. “Iowa had about 40,000 people in its prisons or community-based corrections programs as of Nov. 24. The cost for each prisoner: $93.22 daily, or $34,025 a year, according to information from the Iowa Department of Corrections. Meanwhile, the state annually spends $10,313 for each K-12 student, U.S. Census data show.”

“[BlackLivesMatter] Activist: Mall of America protest ‘decoy’ for airport block” [AP]. I felt that tactical originality on the ground came to a halt with the ascendance of the Teach for America crowd; there was a wave of die-ins, IIRC, and then… Nothing. So it’s interesting to see some tactical originality return.

Police State Watch

“The Shooting Gallery” [HuffPo]. “Guards inside prisons shouldn’t have guns. That’s pretty much an accepted fact. Except in Nevada—and the results are mayhem and death.”

“More than 50 police officers involved in fatal shootings this year had previously fired their guns in deadly on-duty shootings” [WaPo]. “The findings concerned many law enforcement experts, who said that most officers never fire their weapons on the job.”

“City releases 911 audio of Laquan McDonald shooting” [Politico]. This is telling:

Later, the dispatcher is heard asking for identifying information on the teen.

“I need to get some info on the victim condition, whatever you can, when you can, OK?”

The dispatcher was corrected by a male officer: “The offender.”

Dispatcher: “That’s what I meant. Sorry, I’m trying to do six things at once.”

“In the police narrative of that night, [Alfontish “Nunu” Cockerham] pointed a gun at the cops, prompting them to shoot, according to police charging documents. According to an incident report, Cockerham was charged with aggravated assault for pointing a gun. However, the video – captured by a security camera at a payday lending business on the block – does not show Cockerham pointing a gun at police” [Guardian]. “Instead, the grainy video shows an object that appears to be a gun materialize on the ground a couple of feet away from where witness Natasha Mclemore said the officer fired his shots. If Cockerham did point the gun, he would have had to have done it before entering the frame of the camera.”

“How to start tallying fatalities by police: Treat fatal shootings by law enforcement as a public-health statistic” [Daily News].

“The National Sheriffs’ Association is shocked and disappointed by the Department of Justice’s decision to suspend the equitable sharing of Asset Forfeiture Program funds to state, local, and tribal law enforcement. This is yet another blow to those who work every day to prevent terrorism and crime in our communities” [National Sheriffs’ Association]. Oh, please.


“Exploring the increase in public mass shootings” [Harvard School of Public Health]. “Overall, approaching gun violence as a public health issue would go a long way toward saving lives, [Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s David Hemenway] said… Guns kill more than 33,000 Americans each year—about 90 per day—but it’s preventable, so that makes it a public health issue…. ‘Those [public mass shootings] look like they’re ‘contagious’ much more than the intimate partner violence ones,’ Hemenway said.”

Health Care

“A struggling Colorado busboy who returned $3,000 in cash that he found on the floor is getting rewarded with a big tip” [AP]. A heart-warming story. Here’s the kicker: “[His boss] told KKCO-TV that Duckworth rides his bike to work, and his paycheck is garnished for medical bills. Duckworth says he never thought of keeping the money, saying ‘I work for a living.'” And anybody who “works for a living” should be covered by single payer health care. Heck, even the squillionaires should be.

” All I Want For Christmas: Seven Things I Wish My EMR Could Do” [A Country Doctor Writes]. The EMR UI/UX sounds horrible beyond description. Then again, it’s not like patients’ health and lives depend on them.


“Southern California’s water infrastructure still isn’t equipped to capture sufficient rainfall during a wet year. Instead, tens of billions of gallons of water that could have bolstered our local supplies will flow like a torrent through our urban rivers and storm drains. Instead of quenching our thirst, El Niño’s rains will sweep up and carry our pollutants out to sea” [Los Angeles Times].


“As decision nears, opposition builds to offshore drilling along Atlantic Coast [WaPo].

Class Warfare

“The Rise of Money and Class Society” [Levy Institute Working Paper #832]. From the abstract:

It will be shown that the origins and the evolution of money were closely intertwined with the rise and consolidation of class society and inequality. Money, class society, and inequality came into being simultaneously, so it seems, mutually reinforcing the development of one another. Rather than a medium of exchange in commerce, money emerged as an “egalitarian token” at the time when the substance of social relations was undergoing a fundamental transformation from egalitarian to class societies. In this context, money served to preserve the façade of social and economic harmony and equality, while inequality was growing and solidifying. Rather than “invented” by private traders, money was first issued by ancient Greek states and proto-states as they aimed to establish and consolidate their political and economic power. Rather than a medium of exchange in commerce, money first served as a “means of recompense” administered by the Greek city-states as they strived to implement the civic conception of social justice. While the origins of money are to be found in the origins of inequality, a well-functioning democratic society has the power to subvert the inequality-inducing characteristic of money via the use of money for public purpose, following the principles of Modern Money Theory (MMT). When used according to the principles of MMT, the inequality-inducing characteristic of money could be undermined, while the current trends in rising income and wealth disparities could be contained and reversed.

News of the Wired

“[A]re some typefaces more believable than others?” [Fast Company]. “The answer is yes. Baskerville, a 250-year-old serif originally designed by John Baskerville, was statistically more likely to influence the minds of readers than Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans or Trebuchet.” “There was a thin, crisp, continuous patter” of tiny serifs…

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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:


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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. nothing but the truth

    “a well-functioning democratic society has the power to subvert the inequality-inducing characteristic of money via the use of money for public purpose, following the principles of Modern Money Theory (MMT)”

    and communism was to make all men equal and happy.

    and philosopher kings would solve all our problems.

    This is just a recipe for endless govt corruption, something we are already familiar with thanks to keynesian endless govt purchasing power.

    1. Massinissa

      Blaming everything on Keynes seems like a real stretch, especially considering that Keynes has been supplanted by neoliberalism for a few decades now.

      And its not just communism that was supposed to make everyone happy. That basically goes for every philosophy or economic system ever, including capitalism, which has also failed.

  2. ambrit

    I love that oldsters’ malware screen shot.
    Why? Because it happens to us from time to time. Last night as a matter of fact.
    Late last night Phyllis was trying to check into her photo gallery on Picasa. Some skullduggery ensues. In complete disgust, she shuts off the computer and retires for the evening. Next morning I start my morning routine on Internet activities. Lo and behold, the machine is infected by a Browser Hijack virus! Somehow, Phyl had been directed to a browser named Chromium. It carried a lot of redirect baggage. An hour or two later, I had finally cleaned up the two browsers we use. (It reached as deep as the ‘run program’ directory and default browser setting.) On the way ‘there,’ I found a normally reputable site directing questioners to a malware program disguised as a fairly well known anti malware program.
    The fertilizer is getting deep in cyberland. How deep? Well, we have recently limited our internet acessible bank account to about two months of normal bill pay amount. The savings account is now blocked from any electronic access. We are beginning to move seriously back to all cash transactions. What’s next, monetary metals?

    1. Jason

      The Web is well on its way to being unusable. I’ve been an IT profession for almost two decades, and l’ve watched it happen. It’s already buggy, moving steadily towards intermittently broken, and will eventually reach permanently broken and useless.

      The alien horrors, Google, Apple, Facebook and all their ilk are drooling in anticipation of the day when they can lock us in their walled gardens, and we’ll thank them for the privilege, even as they harvest us.

      1. ambrit

        This is Reply 2.0.
        Yes, I’m glad to know that we are not imagining this.
        We shut down our home wi-fi last year.
        You described a remake of that old “Twilight Zone” episode; “To Serve(r) Man.”

        1. Jagger

          My really good computer has never been connected to the internet. It is 2 years old now and still runs like straight out of the box. I use a thumbdrive if I must shift data after a thorough virus check. My oldest, worn out computer is connected to the internet. It definitely struggles but I don’t care if it dies or not.

  3. Dana

    Public mass shootings only look more “contagious” than domestic partner murders because the latter are already endemic in the population.

  4. Jim Haygood

    Baskerville goes the way of the vacuum tube:

    Audiobooks racked up $1.5 billion in sales last year and remain the fastest-growing segment of the book publishing industry.

    Amazon found examples of books in every imaginable genre that sell better as spoken than written words — sometimes four times as well.

    The rise of audiobooks isn’t just about the quality of the performance but the fact that many readers prefer the experience to text. Management guru Peter Drucker said there are two kinds of people in the world: readers and listeners.


    Doubtless audiobooks satisfy a human need for storytelling. But they can’t do graphics, charts and tables very well, not to mention tables of contents, indexes and endnotes. It’s a bit like listening to a TV soundtrack with the screen unplugged.

    Although NC might be a hoot in audio format, with all the comments rendered in cartoon character voices. “Wandy Way, you wascally wabbit!”

    1. Lee

      There are two kinds of persons in the world: those who think there are two kinds of persons and those who don’t.

      I assume I’m hardly unique in that I both read and listen. Selected Shorts, Moth Radio, Serial to name but a few that come immediately to mind so far as listening is concerned. OTOH, I’ve never even been tempted to listen to longer form narratives. Currently reading Barbara Beard’s History of Ancient Rome, which I could not imagine listening to with an adequate degree of comprehension.

    2. Lambert Strether Post author

      I’m not sure they contradict. I am an avid reader of books and an avid listener to podcasts. But the use cases are completely different. I doubt very much I’m going to be listening to the history of the assignat, because I want footnotes, and tables, lots and lots of nuance, and I want to be able to fold down page corners and scribble in the margins. But I’m listening to pod casts on various revolutions and the Civil War because they’re excellent at conveying broad narrative sweep (and also putting me to sleep!).

      1. Banana Breakfast

        Suggest me a few choice podcasts. I’ll be changing to a new job soon that doesn’t give me as much opportunity to read, but lots of time to listen.

    3. Elizabeth Burton

      I’ve been a voracious reader since I was five years old, but most of my fiction reading is done via audiobooks for one simple reason: I can listen to the book while I’m doing other stuff that doesn’t demand a ton of concentration. Like feeding the cats. Or doing a book layout. I suspect that’s not unique, and that the rise in popularity of audio books is a reflection of the increasing difficulty of finding several hours at a time to sit down and focus on reading.

      That said, I have also found that running an audiobook I’ve already “read” while I sleep prevents the “wake up and can’t get back to sleep” form of insomnia. I’ve long suspected it’s because the process mimics the distant past when I was read a story before going to sleep.

  5. PeonInChief

    Johnny Duckworth, the guy who returned $3,000 in cash, has no permanent housing either. Medical debt wrecked his credit, and landlords won’t rent to people with credit dings.

    1. alex morfesis

      smart small property owners LUV tenants with credit dings…they are the best tenants..especially if it is something like a one time medical problem…small local smart property owners(small meaning 3 to 25 properties) know that there are many people who have had car repos and medical billings(often because of coding errors by medical staff) and just look to the tenants rental history…finding a good local landlord is easy enough..web search the phone number of the ad…a craigslist history of ads with that number will usually show up when it is searched…then swing by the other previous ads for rented properties and see how the landlord keeps the property or the type of tenants he rents to…

      yes, corporate idiot blowhards who dont know how to manage a rental property use credit ratings when any experienced long term property owner understands that in a country where 50% of the population earns no more than 10% above the poverty level for a family of 5…25-40% of renters today will have some issues with credit…a smart property owner knows all that counts is does the tenant pay the rent on time, not smash up the place…pay the utilities on time and not spend 100 bucks per month on check bouncing fees because they cant stay within their budget or dont have a family support system…

      I will say one thing about experiences and how they affect the lives of many…people who have lived on a college campus are more likely to succeed for what I think is what would appear to be an odd reason…they can live in a commons…and don’t have some huge mental block to living in a room mate situation for a while to get their finances in order…one of the things that shocked me coming down south after having lived in NYC and Chicago was how there was and is this mental block to sharing a space and the difficulty in having individuals who can not currently afford to live in their own space not living cooperatively and functionally if and when they do end up in a space sharing situation..the south meaning tampa bay…and I know most folks south of virginia dont consider florida south of ocala…”the south”…

      anyway…may all enjoy the blessings of hope and opportunity(even if you have to kick a door down to get to that opportunity) this holiday and in the new year…

      1. ambrit

        “South of Ocala..” Wow, real irony there.
        My mom lives inland of West Palm. In a mid middle class ‘hood.’ She once walked around and counted over six ethnicities within five blocks of her house.
        In her ‘neck of the woods’ most of Florida south of Lake Okechobbe is considered Cuba del Norte.

  6. grayslady

    Lambert, thanks for a year of excellent Water Coolers. They are always informative. Enjoy your time off.

  7. edmondo

    T. Boone Pickens “My big idea for 2016 is to put together a bipartisan screening committee that vets presidential candidates

    And gives us a Hillary vs Jeb November “contest?

    Somehow I get the feeling that I won’t be invited to participate on either party’s screening committee. Millionaires only need apply.

  8. Daryl

    > “A Florida man arrested earlier this year for landing a gyrocopter on the Capitol lawn in a call for campaign finance reform will challenge Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) in the 2016 primary”

    Godspeed, Florida man, we’re all pulling for you.

    1. ambrit

      Yes indeed. If the Feds lock him up, I hope he still runs. Running for office, and winning, from jail is an old tradition.

  9. Anon

    Enjoy the holiday break, Lambert! I must say that Water Cooler has been a great idea, looking at the first year in review. Let’s all hit 2016 out of the park!

  10. Elizabeth Burton

    Amazon doesn’t need UPS; the US Postal Service is already delivering most of the packages they’re paying UPS and FedEx to deliver. If Bezos truly wants to garner some good-guy points, all Amazon needs to do is contract with USPS for Priority and Priority Express delivery, which in more than a few cases will cost less than they’re paying UPS to have USPS deliver the packages.

    And heaven knows the USPS could use the revenue. The question is whether the privatization army would allow it.

  11. Procopius

    Reference “The Rise of Money and Class Society”, a very interesting book I read some years ago is “Non-Zero,” by Robert Wright. His thesis is that civilization is a non-zero-sum game, and that progress is finding ways to add more non-zero-sumness to the mix. Enforceable contracts, for example, which *can* lead to both parties being better off because they can have more trust that the agreement will be honored. Anyway, he cites a lot of anthropological evidence, and describes many “primitive” societies who do not yet have money. They all do have inequality. From South Sea islanders to North-West Pacific Coast Indian societies, there is always a small elite and usually a single rulet. Often very despotic. The idea of some communal idyllic situation where nobody has been corrupted by money is ridiculous.

  12. cwaltz

    Jebbie: “The problem with the Confederate flag isn’t the Confederacy, the problem with the Confederate flag is what it began to represent later” [Talking Points Memo].

    Either the guy is an idiot or he’s playing to an audience of idiots. From the get go the Confederate flag represented slavery. The Confederacy was formed and the articles of secession even laid out slavery as the reason for leaving the union. It’s a 20th century problem because they didn’t address it properly in the 19th century. It took almost 100 years before they even began to force the people in the South to treat AAs as equals.

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