2:00PM Water Cooler 1/27/2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, I must apologize for this initially sketchy Water Cooler (I’ll add some UPDATEs after posting). I went to a movie, and I had no idea a movie with a running time of two hours would take more than three, from ticket to exit. –lambert


UPDATE “A transfer of nearly $700 million to Prime Minister Najib Razak’s alleged private bank account before a 2013 election was a “personal donation” from Saudi Arabia’s royal family and not illegal, a Malaysian investigating body said” [Wall Street Journal, “Malaysia Says Saudis Gave Prime Minister Najib Razak a $681 Million ‘Donation'”]. “The nation’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Mohamed Apandi Ali, said on Tuesday all but $61 million of the $681 million transferred in March of that year was returned to the Saudis five months later.” So that’s alright then. I’m filing this under TPP, with no evidence at all that our friends, the Saudis, would have acted for any motives other than total altruism (or possibly religious injunction; whatever Islam’s equivalent of a mitsvah is.)


Basically, this is all UPDATEs, with the exception of the link I will place immediately below, so I won’t mark them individually.

• “Clinton: Obama would be a great Supreme Court justice” [Des Moines Register]. That’s a bribe; Clinton is openly offering to trade an office for political favors. Clinton must be desperate indeed, to stoop to a quid pro quo.

Democratic Town Hall

“[T]he fact that a presidential candidate [Clinton] would imply that Jim Crow and Reconstruction were equal, that the era of lynching and white supremacist violence would have been prevented had that same violence not killed Lincoln, and that the violence was simply the result of rancor, the absence of a forgiving spirit, and an understandably ‘discouraged’ South is chilling” [Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic].

“CNN Iowa Democratic Presidential Town Hall: RUSH TRANSCRIPT” [CNN]. No time to get out my Magic Markers, but readers, if you spot anything especially juicy, please post in comments!


“5 questions Sanders owes it to Democratic Party progressives to answer” [Lanny Davis, The Hill]. BWA-HA-HA-HA!!!! Lanny Davis!

“President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Food and Drug Administration is facing friendly fire, with Democratic presidential candidate Bernard Sanders and Massachusetts Democrat Edward J. Markey both placing a hold on the nomination” [Roll Call]. “Sanders said Tuesday that Robert Califf, currently serving as deputy commissioner at the FDA, is too closely tied to the pharmaceutical industry. Califf ran a research operation while at Duke University that received funding from that industry.” Cronyists everywhere have a sad.

“But [Adair Turner’s] conclusions—that the banking system needs to be fundamentally restructured, and that periodically, instead of a government running up debt, the central bank should just print money for the government to spend—are far from conventional” [Quartz]. Of course, Democrats would rather live in the cage contructed for them by neoliberal orthodoxy over the last forty years. It’s comfortable in there! From the interview:

So who’s in charge of the printing press?

And that’s why I argue that the most logical thing to do is to give it to an inflation-targeting central bank. So that you say the central bank has the authority to recommend a certain element of money finance but without that authority, the government can’t do it.

Wait, what? Why are we rewarding central bank failure?


“Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton will visit Philadelphia on Jan. 27 for a fund-raiser hosted by a group that includes lawyer-turned-investment mogul Michael C. Forman and former State Rep. Michael Gerber (D., Mont.) at their $17 billion ‘alternative investments’ firm, Franklin Square Capital Partners” [Philadelphia Inquirer]. Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas. But Clinton says she wears a flea collar. So that’s alright, then.

The Trail

“”There is nothing more in this world that I would like to take on more than Donald Trump,” Sanders added. “We would beat him, and we would beat him badly” [The Hill]. Who would have thought Bernie was a brawler?

“I have had it with naive Bernie Sanders idealists” [Salon]. That reads like one of those confessional Kos headlines. Apparently what we’re seeing in Sanders is a “quixotic insurgent campaigns based on ideological purity.” Well, I’m no purist; a return to “honest graft” would, in my view, be the political equivalent of a cleanse. That said, “purist” is just a word. The reality is that Sanders doesn’t have to argue that it’s OK to take Wall Street’s money and then claim he’s going to be tough on it because he’s done a very simple thing: He’s not taking Wall Street’s money. And as it turns out, that works just fine. Totally pragmatic. So what’s the issue? Why on earth do Democratic loyalists have such a problem with candidates who don’t take Wall Street money?

“Bernie Sanders is the realist we should elect” [Katrina vanden Heuvel, WaPo].

Clinton, like every Democratic politician, decries the big money that is corrupting our politics. But though she offers a reform agenda, she vacuums up big contributions and dark money in a complex of super PACs, saying she can’t “unilaterally disarm.”

But that’s bullshit. Sanders “unilaterally disarmed,” and he vacuums up small contributions whenever the flailing Clinton campaign attacks him. If there’s a reason that wouldn’t work for Clinton, what is it?

And then there’s this:

“‘[Clinton] was a very good candidate in 2008, after she got knocked back,’ David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to President Obama, said of Mrs. Clinton. ‘She got down on the ground and really, I thought, really connected to the middle class and people who were struggling.'” [New York Times]. That’s true; see here. We should also remember, altthough the winners have erased this history, that Clinton won the popular vote in 2008 (if all the votes are counted) and all the large states. Axelrod’s comment reminds me of Clinton’s initial foray into Iowa: She drove a van, “got down on the ground,” as Axelrod said. But she flew back. Which says it all.

“So my guess is [Clinton will] take a narrow but persistent lead across most of the country, winning steadily, if slowly. She’ll take the South, including South Carolina, Florida, and Texas. She’ll take New York, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and California. And she won’t neglect the caucus states, where she was so embarrassingly outplayed in 2008. She’ll come out fine, if she plays it cool” [Vanity Fair]. I wonder if Clinton will allow Sanders to be placed in nomination? Thinking back to Denver…

Finally, another good post on “theories of change” from Greg Sargent [WaPo, “Make no mistake: Obama just tried to undercut Bernie Sanders”].

Obama is basically trying to pour cold water on the loftiness of Sanders’ argument, by nodding to the “appeal” of promising another transformative moment, while suggesting that Clinton’s more constrained view of what can be ‘delivered’ is more realistic, and that this is actually an attribute that recommends her for the presidency.

Here an important distinction needs to be made. In one key respect, Sanders is not making Candidate Obama’s argument. Sanders is not arguing that the sheer force of persuasion can win over Republicans to compromise, a key element of Obama’s promise of transformation. Rather, he is explicitly arguing that Obama did not do enough to rally the electorate to force change from the outside. Sanders flatly claims that his ‘difference’ with Obama is that the only way to realize change is to “organize…at the grassroots level in a way that we have never done before,” which is to say, to a much greater degree than Obama did as president.

Sargent is too gentle on Obama, who did not organize to a “lesser” “degree” than anybody. He dismantled Obama for America, and with unseemly haste. He prevented himself from organizing at all. He affirmatively rejected the Sanders approach.

Dueling evangelicals: Trump lands Falwell [The Hill]. Tony Perkins endorses Cruz [The Hill].

“Donald Trump took to Twitter Tuesday to attack one of rival Ted Cruz’s more influential Iowa endorsers, Christian conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats” [Des Moines Register].

“With less than a week until the first votes are cast, a group of social conservative leaders are targeting Republican frontrunner Donald Trump — and warning Iowans that the billionaire “cannot be trusted” [Politico].

Stats Watch

MBA Mortgage Applications, week of January 22, 2016: “Weekly mortgage applications have been very volatile so far this year but mostly to the upside. Purchase applications jumped 5.0 percent in the January 22 week with refinancing applications up 11.0 percent. Low mortgage rates [***cough *** manipulation ***cough***] are driving the activity” [Econoday].

New Home Sales, December 2015: “The outlook for the housing sector just got a boost from a sharp jump in new home sales, up 10.8 percent to a 544,000 annualized rate that is 44,000 over the Econoday consensus and 24,000 over the high estimate” [Econoday].

“Less than 15 percent of overall U.S. stock volume takes place at the New York Stock Exchange, though its sister market, NYSE Arca, pushes NYSE Group’s total share of U.S. volume to almost 25 percent. Transactions are now spread across a total of 12 exchanges and dozens of alternative venues in the U.S.” [Bloomberg].

UPDATE Honey for the Bears: “Mr. Xu [an economics professor at Beijing Normal University and the University of Western Ontario] told reporters at a briefing this week that the focus of his concern is the growth rate for China’s manufacturing sector, which according to official figures grew 6.0% last year and accounts for 40.5% of the economy” [Wall Street Journal, “China GDP Growth Could Be as Low as 4.3%, Chinese Professor Says”]. “A closer look at underlying indicators, however, including thermal power generation, railway freight volume, and output from the iron ore, plate glass, cement and steel industries released monthly by the National Bureau of Statistics paint a different picture, he said. Of some 60 major industrial products, nearly half saw output contract in the January to November period, while railway cargo volume fell 11.9% for all of last year, according to official sources.”

Honey for the Bears: “Tim Cook: We’re Seeing ‘Extreme Conditions Unlike Anything We’ve Experienced Before’ in the Global Economy” [Bloomberg].

Honey for the Bears: “Global Stock Market’s Recession Fears Not Yet Self-Fulfilling” [Simon Johnson, Bloomberg]. Swell headline. But:

[Deutsche Bank AG economists] say while shifts in the S&P 500 often drive consumer sentiment surveys, that doesn’t translate through to actual spending. That’s because 80 percent of U.S. equities are owned by the richest third of households, who spend only 65 percent of their pre-tax income compared to lower paid families who spend 1.7 times their income.

Fodder for the Bulls, kinda: “Anyone who’s worried about a bear market should see these 3 charts” [Business Insider]. Global manufacturing activity, earnings revisions, and credit spreads.

“The destructive effect of a down market is intensified for activist hedge funds because they tend to herd” [Dealb%k, New York Times]. “This degree of concentration is one reason 2015 was an annus horribilis for many big hedge funds…. All this has come as a shock to investors who have poured billions of dollars into this strategy.”

UPDATE “Swiss watch exports posted their first annual drop in six years, hurt by slumping demand for less-expensive timepieces that are competing for buyers with Apple Inc. and other smartwatch makers” [Bloomberg].

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 21, Extreme Fear (previous close: 17) [CNN]. One week ago: 9 (Extreme Fear). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).


The movie was The Big Short. The Trailer was interesting. Question: Guess what commodity Michael Burry (the Christian Bale character), whose short was the biggest of all, is into now?

“‘It was us or nobody’: Meet the heroic professor who helped uncover the Flint lead water crisis​” [WaPo]. The locals were important, as usual:

[Marc Edwards’] phone rang in April 2015. It was a woman named Leeanne Walters, a Flint, Mich., stay-at-home mother who was getting nowhere convincing state and local officials that there was something seriously wrong with the orange-tinted water coming out of her tap. Her family’s hair was thinning. Her son’s skin was red and irritated. They told her the water was perfectly safe. And even months later, when it had been determined there were high traces of lead in her water, the officials shrugged it off as an isolated problem.

Desperately, she called [Edwards, Virginia Tech’s environmental engineering professor], whom she had read about online. Over the phone, he walked her through how to take her own water samples.

Walters, who leads a group of residents who call themselves the “Water Warriors,” said the mistrust is so deep that they won’t let the city’s chosen company come test their water. They only want Edward’s team.

More on the locals from [FiveThirtyEight, “What Went Wrong In Flint”].

Also worthy of examination is how a wealth of other data and information, gathered by the city’s residents, was largely ignored. When the county declared a public health emergency on Oct. 1, 2015, it was not a revelation for many residents. They had been fighting for months to convince officials that something was wrong.

If it weren’t for a few dozen residents and a handful of crusading experts who pushed back against the official narrative, we still wouldn’t know the truth.

Exactly my experience fighting the landfills. Citizen expertise can be developed and plays a crucial role. (Often, this is stigmatized as NIMBYism, but what that really means is that those who are directly impacted have incentives to pay the cost of citizenship.)

UPDATE “Flint May Be Ordered By a Federal Court to Replace Its Lead Pipes” [Gizmodo]. And in the meantime?

UPDATE “Should The Times Have Been a Tougher Watchdog in Flint?” [Margaret Sullivan, New York Times]. “Imagine if The Times really had taken on the Flint outrage with energy and persistence many months ago. With its powerful pulpit and reach, The Times could have held public officials accountable and prevented human suffering. That’s what journalistic watchdogs are supposed to do.” Times management should crawl on their hands and knees to Sullivan and beg her to stay.

“Last week, The Carlyle Group appeared to sell Mountain Water to Liberty Utilities, surprising the hell out of everybody. A judge ruled in June that Missoula is the rightful owner of Mountain Water. So how could Carlyle sell it to someone else?” [Missoula News]. “So Carlyle sold Mountain Water’s parent company to trigger a series of potential new suits to go along with its Supreme Court appeal. … That is a war we will not win, even though we are in the right. Our legal bill currently amounts to $57 for every man, woman and child in the city. When it hits $100, do we quit? How about $500?”

Answer: That’s right: water.

Health Care

“Bernie Sanders is right about Obamacare: Here’s why it’s time to talk about single-payer” [Salon].

The case for single-payer isn’t that it can be passed tomorrow. Rather, the left needs to fight for single-payer now to build momentum and a movement: Healthcare and economic crises will persist, American politics will continue to change in unpredictable ways, and a new policy regime will at some point become both possible and necessary.

Of course, if career “progressives” runnning interference for Obama in 2009 hadn’t (along with the administration itself) suppressed all discussion of single payer in 2009, we’d be building momentum already. And, with a few honorable exceptions, these are the people who tell us “trust us, change is incremental” now. Why believe them? (Atrios makes the same “it’s time to talk about single payer” argument as well.)

“Spiriva – Half the Medicine Provided is Wasted” [Mouseprint]. The people who implemented this “inhalation therapy drug” are as twisty as corkscrews. I can’t possibly summarize it; read for yourself.

The 420

“Two former Winston County deputies who say the sheriff asked them to get marijuana for his aunt who has cancer are now suing for wrongful termination” [WBRC]. “The two former deputies believe they were fired because they didn’t follow orders from Sheriff Hobby Walker.” Showing how nutty our marijuana laws are. Can’t even help out a sick old lady. Sheesh.


UPDATE “Alleged Accidental Benghazi Movie Shooter Told Police He Had a Gun Because He Was Afraid of Mass Shootings” [Gawker].

UPDATE “Gun shop owner’s husband and son killed in shootout with customer over $25 repair fee” [Raw Story].

UPDATE “The mother and stepfather had gone inside to pay a bill. One of the children found a loaded gun in the mother’s purse” [WBIR]. “Police said the child tried to unload the gun. The weapon went off and hit the boy in the head.”

Militia Watch

OK, this is in bad taste, but what happens to the 55-gallon drum of lube?

“FBI blockades Oregon wildlife refuge, urges remaining occupiers to leave” [WaPo]. Not happy some FBI dude or dudette got to notch their gun.


“The [Chicago Tribune] lawsuit centers on Emanuel’s use of personal phones and devices, contending that the mayor’s practice of using a non-city phone and personal email allows him to conduct the public’s business without scrutiny and contributes to a ‘lack of transparency'” [Chicago Tribune]. Gee, that sounds familiar…..

“He brokered deals for an empire of California charter schools — and now faces a felony charge” [Los Angeles Times].

“36 best quotes from Davos 2016” [World Economic Forum]. Meg Whitman: “You can always go faster than you think you can.” Especially downhill.

Class Warfare

“Amid a price war with rival Lyft, the ride-hailing leader reduced its rates by 10 percent to 45 percent in 100 cities across North America. In Detroit, Uber drivers’ per-mile rate is less than it takes to cover their gas and the depreciation of their cars, according to IRS figures. ‘It’s depressing,’ says Bill Scroggins, an Uber driver in Indianapolis. “I’m not even sure I want to drive anymore. It feels like I’m doing it for free'” [Bloomberg]. So that’s what Silicon Valley valuations come down to, besides crime: Free labor.

“The profit margin of the average convenience store, gas station, or supermarket, for example, is under 2%. Credit card fees are 2% or more of nearly pure profit. The results can be absurd: banks and credit card issuers making more from a restaurant’s burgers, a bookstores books, or a corner store’s groceries than the store owners and employees” [Priceonomics].

“Financial Times journalists want to strike over a multimillion ‘pensions robbery’ after Nikkei bought the company for $1.3 billion” [Business Insider].

“When collectors call, demand proof of your debt” [Los Angeles Times].

News of the Wired

“Google turns the lights out on Glass’ social media channels” [Ars Technica]. ” A 9to5Google report pointed to Glass’ official statement to the Glass Explorers group on Google Plus, which directed any remaining Glassholes Glass wearers to a new support page with little more than a phone number and a Web contact form.” That’s the Google customer service we know and love!

“New app sends push notifications whenever police kill someone” [Daily Dot].

“On the Viability of Conspiratorial Beliefs” [PLOS One]. “Simulations of these claims predict that intrinsic failure would be imminent even with the most generous estimates for the secret-keeping ability of active participants—the results of this model suggest that large conspiracies (≥1000 agents) quickly become untenable and prone to failure.” Hmm. The Manhattan Project?

* * *

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 (pq):

Fisher Pond Trail Late December 2011

Light at the end of the tunnel?

* * *

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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. RP

    “the results of this model suggest that large conspiracies (≥1000 agents) quickly become untenable and prone to failure.”

    Um, how many hundreds of thousands were involved in the Normandy Invasion?

    1. Jess

      Actually, only a relatively few people knew all the details. Everybody knew they were training for an invasion, but the specifics — time, location(s), diversions, order of battle, etc. — were only known by a small select circle.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        And the Nazi leadership expecting landings at Calais helped. As far as the planned invasion of France, that wasn’t a secret.

      2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Sometimes, 2 is one too many for a conspiracy, and one must be terminated with extreme prejudice.

    2. Tom Allen

      Normandy Invasion: Among other leaks, the Daily Telegraph Crossword famously printed codewords for D-Day several times in the month leading up to it. It turns out that the crossword composer was also the headmaster of a school that had relocated next to a camp full of troops preparing for the invasion, and that the boys both talked freely with the soldiers and helped their headmaster fill in his grids.

      Manhattan Project: Does the name Klaus Fuchs (theoretical physicist and Soviet spy) ring a bell?

    3. LifelongLib

      People involved in things like the Manhattan Project felt that keeping them secret was their highest patriotic duty. On the other hand, if you were involved in something like faking a moon landing or assassinating JFK, your highest duty would be to confess it to the world. What is being kept secret matters as much as how many know it.

      1. Lexington

        On the other hand, if you were involved in something like faking a moon landing or assassinating JFK, your highest duty would be to confess it to the world.

        Anyone known to hold such a belief would not have been included in the conspiracy in the first place.

      1. abynormal

        Ha! ya caught me…my afternoons are filling up and i can’t read the cooler in one peaceful sitting. You So Brave.

        “Fundamentally, I started looking at investments in water about 15 years ago. Fresh, clean water cannot be taken for granted. And it is not — water is political, and litigious. Transporting water is impractical for both political and physical reasons, so buying up water rights did not make a lot of sense to me, unless I was pursuing a greater fool theory of investment — which was not my intention. What became clear to me is that food is the way to invest in water. That is, grow food in water-rich areas and transport it for sale in water-poor areas. This is the method for redistributing water that is least contentious, and ultimately it can be profitable, which will ensure that this redistribution is sustainable. A bottle of wine takes over 400 bottles of water to produce — the water embedded in food is what I found interesting.” Burry http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/12/big-short-genius-says-another-crisis-is-coming.html#

        knee slapper…T.Boone Pickens greater fool investor (bout time someone called him and the rest of them OUT)

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          “Food is the way to invest in water.” — Michael Burry

          “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — Michael Pollan

          I wonder how those two statements integrate, if at all.

            1. abynormal

              “Rent.”…from Every level of Commerce.

              the T.Boones may go after the ‘fools’ trade but Burry & Pollan won’t let Anyone out alive. B&P have worked over a decade to create the delicate market…the trade always follows. the sequel can be titled ‘The Drowning’.

  2. Aumua

    Something like 100,000 we gave you, and all you got is ‘sorry, went to a movie’?

    You’re on thin ice young man. Better get crackin.

  3. Ed

    I always allow three hours to go to movies, regardless of the stated time. Actually, for the last ten years, when planning my schedule, I always tack on an hour more for any organized activity compared to how long it took when I was younger. This is usually to deal with additional bureaucracy, sometimes its for increased marketing or traffic.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Money can’t necessarily buy success, but it could try to bribe off failure.

      More money is the solution, if having too much money caused the banking problem.

  4. diptherio

    I’ll add one more link to the Cooler that I think people in these parts will find rather interesting. Ed Whitfield of the Fund for Democratic Communities gave this talk at a gathering of the fund’s grantees (yesterday’s video of Dr. Nembhard that I posted was from that event). In it, he discusses “The Power of Ideas & The Idea of Power.” Specifically, he hits on what is needed to maintain democratic cultures and institutions, the importance of activism being guided by self-reflection, the criminal nature of the current system and how we can change it, rather than just get a share of the loot.

    It’s about 30 minutes long and definitely worth a listen.


  5. sleepy

    Lanny Davis: “Ezra Klein, a well-known progressive expert”. Got a chuckle out of that phrase. Actually, it’s a pretty accurate description. Klein’s not a progressive, but he likes to function as an expert on them.

  6. Vatch

    Often, this is stigmatized as NIMBYism,

    If a practitioner of NIMBYism actively promotes the harmful activity elsewhere, then that’s bad. But if the NIMBYist simply says “Not in my backyard”, there’s nothing to stigmatize. If enough people in enough places say “not in my backyard”, then the creeps who want to poison people’s water, air, or soil will have a much harder time doing it. NIMBYism is often quite virtuous.

      1. JTMcPhee

        All this back and forth presumes the Project, whatever it is, is actually needed for the general welfare, and well designed and engineered to avoid externalities… Obviously, too much shitting on US ordinary people happens everywhere because corruption and markets and all that.

        1. Lambert Strether Post author

          Generally, they aren’t. (Crapification means lousy design, lousy engineering, and lots of externalities.) But the NIMBYs are highly incentivized to dig into the problems.

          1. JTMcPhee

            As an EPA enforcement attorney I used to appreciate the work of affected ordinary people. It often forced truth into “policy” and made the careerists and revolving-doorists sign off on doing something closer to the right thing (as it appeared to me.) I did get a little frustrated when the effort was just aimed at moving the externalities plant to some place where the people had less clout, rather than halting the making of the mess in the first instance, eg, consumption>waste>landfills, nuclear power plant waste, etc. while the general drft of consume-and-combust powered on…

            Back-yard owners, like most of us, do what we can for family and tribe first…

  7. jgordon

    Speaking of water, and Flint, I have just learned something truly terrifying that will scare the bejeezus out everyone when they learn about it: there there is a dangerous chemical called dihydrogen monoxide being added to every municipal water supply throughout the United States right now.

    This dangerous chemical is being added completely without any public announcements or controversy despite the fact that there are a multitude of studies testifying to the complete lethality of this substance. Here are some examples:

    -The World Health Organization estimates that upwards of 320,000 people per year are killed due to excessive contact with this chemical.

    -Accidental inhalation almost invariably leads to death by asphyxiation.

    -It’s a potent diuretic, and when consumed orally (in water) has been shown to be a leading cause of a potentially lethal condition called hyponatremia.

    Why is the government adding this dangerous chemical to our drinking water? Who knows. But there are petitions now online all over the internet demanding that it be removed immediately from our precious water supply. I hope you all will find them and sign them all.

    By the way, I think it’s the government’s responsibility to ban or restrict everything that could potentially be unsafe. Don’t you agree? If they don’t get off their behinds to do what needs to be done to keep up us safe, then what good are they?

      1. jgordon

        This list of awful things dihydrogen monoxide can do is too long to enumerate. However you are absolutely right that one of the most insidious things about this chemical is that it is the most powerful and most universal solvent known to humankind. In fact, I’m utterly certain that the copious quantities of dihydrogen monoxide in the pipes of Flint Michigan is one of the leading causes of the pipe corrosion there. There is not a single scientist on the face of this planet who would dispute that fact.

          1. jgordon

            Wait–are you saying that you think there might be a possibility that dihydrogon monoxide was not the major contributing factor to the pipe corrosion in Flint Michigan? Astonishing if true.

            1. Oregoncharles

              It wasn’t the H2O, it was the impurities. Lake water didn’t corrode the pipes, at least not detectibly.

            2. Lambert Strether Post author

              No. Did you read my comment? “Utter certainty” on what’s corroding the pipes in Flint (if corrosion is indeed the right word) doesn’t impress me one iota, especially in the utter absence of evidence.

              NOTE OK, you got me on the joke. I was thinking of trihalomethanes (which my own town has a problem with, due to cronyism in the water department).

          1. ambrit

            I dunno. ARGO sounds too Classical. Who remembers Jason and the Golden Fleece today?
            IIRC, pointing IS controlling your gun.

          2. cwaltz

            I’d actually like that. Believe it or not, there are plenty of responsible gun owners that are for legislation that would make people mindful of the facts that guns can be dangerous. They shouldn’t casually be left for toddlers to find and for cripes sakes if you are that scared of every bump that goes on in your household then you probably need to see a shrink, not own a gun(so that way you don’t end up shooting your wife, daughter or son accidentally.)

  8. allan

    Joan Walsh is joyful:

     Invited by the French Institute for International Relations to join its Annual Conference on the United States in Paris, along with my new friend Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, I went on to address several classrooms of university students in Toulouse. I got the most questions about Donald Trump, of course, but the Hillary Clinton–Bernie Sanders race was a close second. French students are excited to know there’s an actual socialist in the race; female French students are worried that Clinton could lose, yet again. “Do you think women—especially women—are ready to vote for a woman?” a young woman in Toulouse asked me nervously.

     “Yes,” I told her. Then I added, reassuringly: “Yes, we are.” Faced with her anxiety—and I admit I could be projecting across cultures here—I did something in France I don’t often do at home: I came out of the closet as a full-fledged Hillary Clinton supporter. And this time, as opposed to 2008, I’m backing her without apology, as the right and even radical choice. More than without apology; after 40 years of voting for male presidents, I’m supporting Hillary with excitement, even joy. (emphasis added)

    Or, as a Goldwater Girl might put it, claiming radicalism in defense of centrism is no vice.

    1. diptherio

      “‘Cause the Blacks got a President and everything’s awesome for them now!” she added…

    2. Jess

      Joan Walsh, Claire McCaskill, DWS, DiFi, Nancy Pe-lousy, HRC, Rachel Maddow. Where do the Dems get such loathsome dreck?

    3. Brindle

      I read most of Walsh’s piece, it got repetitive, kinda came down to—Hillary’s a woman, you know.

      1. diptherio

        Supporting a candidate on the basis of their genital configuration seems likely to be at least as wrong-headed as supporting them on the basis of their melanin levels. Did Barry teach us nothing?

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          If you are selling Hillary, what else would you push as a selling point? Her lack of accomplishments, her “lack of judgement” on a myriad of foreign policy decisions, her ethical problems, the clowns on her campaign team, her significant under performance in 2000 or losing to Obama? There really isn’t very much.

          At least with Obama, one could make up vague promises.

        2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Many voters vote like, whether we believe in doing otherwise or not.

          And the voter is always right. Or is it only the customer?

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          Some would take issue with the idea that being a woman is solely a matter of “genital configuration.”

          I think Adolph Reed had some interesting thinking in those posts I put up a couple days ago; I think he used the word “ascriptive” (“pertaining to, involving, or indicating ascription, especially the attribution of qualities or characteristics”).

    4. JustAnObserver

      Vote for a candidate just ‘cos she’s a woman ?

      Doesn’t Joan Walsh remember Margaret Thatcher as UK Prime Minister? Put the cause of women at a senior level in UK parliamentary politics back by a generation. Unfairly perhaps but …

      1. JTMcPhee

        Imelda Marcos, Jiang Qing, Evita, we’re all too human whatever the sex links… And it occurs that sometimes it’s a “my turn” kind of thing… Lurleen Wallace is another…

  9. armchair

    If Sanders gets Trump to respond to the promise of a beatdown, would the media have finally found something Trump said that wasn’t worth reporting?

  10. NORAD oopsies

    Faced with overwhelming documented evidence of US government serious crimes including inter alia the JFK coup, the extrajudicial killing of MLK, the Oklahoma City bombing, attacks on the civilian population using CBW-illegal anthrax bioweapons under the secure control of the US government, and two attacks on the WTC,


    CIA autistically repeats its playbook, trying to make a pathology of inductive logic. CIA’s panic at waning public credulity just makes them preseverate harder. Here’s how they try to short-circuit your reasoning:

    1. Never consider how subjects assess evidence. Only use the word belief. By treating public opinions on government crime as ideations and not as cognitive tasks or empirical questions, CIA hopes to keep you away from the facts. Do not ever study how conspiracy nuts and normal people assess objectively-tested evidence – only study conclusions divorced from supporting evidence.

    2. Use mathematical models to tart up the old slogans with conjectural mock data: in this case, “Somebody would have talked.” Lots of people did talk, and the resulting evidence is set out to forensic standards. Hackwork by struggling third-rate academics has failed to obscure that point. Another recent example is 101-level diffusion models used to model false rumors, with unsupported conclusions that reach to encompass officially-designated ‘conspiracy theories.’

    3. Conflate conclusive evidence of government crime with alien lizard overlords, antigravity tractor-beams, crop circles, and other chaff.

    4. Use clowns to personify the conspiracy slur, including internet persona and media nuts David Ickes and recently, Donte’ Stallworth.

    5. Never consider official impunity. The subject is defined solely as conspiracies, not crimes committed by the state.

    The public agrees with preeminent legal expert Francis Boyle that the US government is a criminal enterprise. Nobody’s talking about conspiracy except CIA. We’re all talking about crime.

  11. diptherio

    Thanks for highlighting the PE shenanigans in Zootown. Yeah, it is water, but Brooks makes a fair point: Carlyle can financially ruin us with never-ending lawsuits. How many years can that go on, and will repairs be made in the meantime while ownership is contested? The moral is we shouldn’t have let Carlyle buy it in the first place. I almost went down and gave comment when they were proposing it, telling them to not do business with known criminals, but I gave it a miss. The PSC has never listened to reason before, I don’t know why they would start now and the people who did protest it didn’t have any effect anyway. Good luck convincing publicly elected officials to not do business with some super-rich guys. It’s like they can’t help themselves.

    I’m guessing this will drag on for the next 5-10 years and whatever happens, the citizens are going to get screwed and Carlyle will make out just fine. Not to be a pessimist or anything….

    1. Jess

      How about the Montana officials just seize the freakin’ operation? Plants, pumps, offices, field equipment, the whole kit and kaboodle. Run it — and take the profits — while the case winds through the court system. What is Carlyle going to do, bring in mercs to shoot it out with the state cops? Unlikely. Maybe for the old coal barons but a little too much for today’s genteel scum.

      1. Rhondda

        Yeh, that’s what I was thinking, too. Just seize it. FFS, they are the gubmint. It’s the people’s water.
        If Hamhanded Bundy and his ilk can do it, why not the elected representatives of the people of Montana?

    1. shinola

      Thanks for the link.

      From the article: “I am not actively involved with organized religion,” Sanders said in a recent interview.

      This is probably the bravest, most astounding thing I’ve ever heard coming from an American politician.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        Maybe many (at least one) will chew me out on this, but I was hoping he would be the first Buddhist president, or Zen Commander in Chief.

        1. ambrit

          Two thoughts: First, a Zen Commander in Chief would know the value of “Nonaction.” Second, elect a Republican or an ‘official’ Democrat and we will get true ‘Right’ action.
          “Om Namu Shiva Ya” and bombs away!

  12. ambrit

    For your 55 gallon drum of lube woes; it’s not wasted if we send it and all those dildos to Congress. After all, they are ‘occupying’ Federal land and screwing around too.

  13. Synoia

    “You can always go faster than you think you can.” Especially downhill.

    Thank you. Best Laugh of the day.

  14. EmilianoZ

    That’s it. Computers have cracked the go game. It wasn’t supposed to happen for another decade but some computer just beat the reigning European champion 5 games to 0.

    The human brain aint so impressive after all. Soon we’ll have computers that can paint better than Picasso or write this blog better than Yves or Lambert. It’s over, why bother do anything.


  15. PQS

    “Sanders’ argument, by nodding to the “appeal” of promising another transformative moment, while suggesting that Clinton’s more constrained view of what can be ‘delivered’ is more realistic, and that this is actually an attribute that recommends her for the presidency.”

    Because the RW, the wealthy and big business always focus on what is realistic, and always back off and accept half measures in their singleminded pursuit of total domination…..

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Let’s remind ourselves that we need to vote in more reformers in Congress.

      This is not kampf-ing or krieg-ing by single combat.

      One hopes 8 years of Obama does not lead filibuster proof Republican control of both houses.

  16. Paper Mac

    “whatever Islam’s equivalent of a mitsvah is”

    Probably the closest equivalent are the faraid or wajibat, although I can assure you that extraordinarily large “personal donations” to rulers are not considered to be among either by any school..

  17. Carolinian

    Re “Should The Times Have Been a Tougher Watchdog in Flint?”

    Don’t they have newspapers in Michigan? Where were they? But then the Free Press did endorse the Guv.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      One would think automated newspapers and robot reporters might lead to better, not just cheaper, journalism.

    2. SumiDreamer

      Oh, the Detroit papers are taking a spanking as they should be. I’ve read good articles about it. They pushed for Snyder in the first instance.
      Michigan is also another victim of the media consolidation frenzy.

  18. divadab

    RE: Vanity Fair article – Clinton’s “Inevitability”

    -did anyone else get a strong sense reading this article that the writer was trying really really hard – to the extent of appearing to be in parody mode or at least ironic?

  19. optimader

    • “Clinton: Obama would be a great Supreme Court justice” [Des Moines Register]. That’s a bribe; Clinton is openly offering to trade an office for political favors. Clinton must be desperate indeed, to stoop to a quid pro quo.

    In the public forum?.. never done. DEFCON LEVEL 1

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Many great works of art were done by people under desperation.

      I’d be worried that Clinton is, and then lucks out, when she does not deserve that.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        I think between her being desperate and complacent, I feel more comfortable with the latter state of mind.

        “Hilary, you are way ahead. Nothing to see here. Move along.”

      2. 3.14e-9

        Looks like another backfire. Sanders emerged from his meeting with Obama this afternoon with a pledge of neutrality. He said Obama’s “endorsement” of Clinton was a media invention (meaning Politico). So, with less than a week to go, Obama says he didn’t endorse Clinton. Ouch.

        Sanders got the additional benefit of a powerful visual: briefing dozens of reporters with the White House in the background. Hard to say he doesn’t “look presidential.”

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Hope Hilary stays calm, takes a vacation and just relaxes complacently.

          “I am OK.”

        2. NotTimothyGeithner

          Hillary pushed being selected as SoS by Obama which was one of the available jobs given the actual primary results she had to be given during the town hall. I do wonder if this is a bigger shot across the bow than Is realized. Obama lent Sanders an aura of legitimacy before South Carolina.

          1. 3.14e-9

            Earlier I posted a comment with a link to a stunning interview with Nina Turner, the Ohio senator who incurred the wrath of the DNC for switching her endorsement from Hillary to Bernie. The link flipped the moderation switch, so it might be a while.

            The interviewer, Chuck Todd (MSNBC) asked her how Sanders would be able to win in South Carolina when Clinton was so far ahead. Her reply:

            “I find it amazing there is no other ethnic group that folks are talking about that are already locked up. Folks need to have to earn our vote, you don’t OWN our vote, and Bernie Sanders is doing everything he has to earn that vote like any other person would have to do.”

            If I provide the link, this comment will go into moderation again. If you want to see it now, do a search for “Nina Turner Explains How Bernie Sanders Touched Her Soul,” and the link should come up for the YouTube video.

            There was already some talk of Turner as a possible running mate, but this interview has created a buzz. Can’t help but wonder if Obama is hearing from the A-A community that the support for Clinton is waning.

          2. cwaltz

            Obama giving Hillary SoS was one of the first decisions he made that I disliked. Here was a guy who essentially said her experience for the job was tea parties and offered up a different view of foreign policy then same ol’, same ol’ and he appoints her to essentially be a world ambassador and proceeds to be same ol’, same ol’.

        3. 3.14e-9

          Looks like the pro-Clinton media are in panic mode. Some are running the obvious headline, i.e., that Obama hasn’t endorsed Clinton, but doing all they can to make it look like it’s of small consequence. However, it looks like the NYT understands very well what just happened and made sure not to put Sanders and the West Wing in the same photo.

      3. Optimader

        And character is revealed in times of stress.

        I think HRCis reentering from orbit into the domain of mere mortals at a steep angle w her heat shield pointed in the wrong direction and she is fully poached

        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Even electrons, when under stress, will make that leap of faith to form an arc.

          Voters, under stress, feeling desperate, often make great decisions. Have faith.

          Feeling desperate, being under stress, is not in and of itself a negative.

  20. Oregoncharles

    “. Not happy some FBI dude or dudette got to notch their gun.”

    No – but are you sure it wasn’t the state police? Sounds like they were doing the real work.

    Given the background and the fact that he was armed, it may well have been justified.

  21. Oregoncharles

    ” Hmm. The Manhattan Project?” – harbored Soviet spies. As far as I know, the Germans didn’t catch wind, but it might not have made any difference – their project failed.

    1. James Levy

      They didn’t have a comparable bomb project for complex reasons, although they did have a program to develop atomic reactors for submarines. What really stymied the British and the Germans, however, was electrical power for isotope separation. Albert Speer never understood why the overtaxed German power grid was not a higher priority target of the Allied Bomber Offensive–the nodes were static and unlike fighter or tank production, could not be dispersed.

  22. ScottW

    If Clinton is nominated–and I don’t think that is a given–I hope the Republican wins. If Clinton wins we are doomed. There will never be any chance of future change.

    Think targeted killing, Gitmo, surveillance, the never ending war, at trillion a year security/defense budget, Black Ops, etc. All controversial until Obama was elected and gave them all his stamp of approval. Bi-partisan support removes any of these awful parts of American life from discussion.

    If Clinton is elected expect calls for reducing social security, medicare and expanding Wall Street’s reach into retirement accounts. Single payer–forget about it! Of course, the move right will all be justified by “having to” in order to save unemployment benefits, or some other acorn given to the ever expanding needy.

    Believing a candidate, whose family has received hundreds of millions from the power elite in speaking fees and foundation contributions, can actually advocate policies for the masses is just plain naive and stupid. Of course, no one believes Hillary cares about the masses, but positioning oneself for future gain is imperative. Enter Krugman.

    If Sanders started a foundation who would contribute? Answer that question and you understand why he should be president.

    1. Jim Haygood

      ‘If Clinton wins we are doomed.’

      Amen, bro.

      Clintons running America is like Mobutu Sese Seko running the Congo: strictly a broad-daylight looting operation.

      Only upside to a Clinton administration is that if someone in your family is a convict, pardons will be for sale. Call her brother Hugh. who serves as the cutout.

      1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

        She should never have made that deal with Bill.

        “You go first. Let me help you into the White House. Then you will help me.”

        The lesson here is, Ladies first, always.

        Nothing like women voters betrayed.

        You OWE me big time. This wound will never heal.

    2. Jim Haygood

      This is probably a fantasy, considering the source (ol’ Bug Man DeLay, who himself was indicted but beat the rap). But it’s a most seductive fantasy. Bring it, Lord!

      Former U.S. House Majority leader Tom DeLay said Monday that the FBI is “ready to indict” [Hillary] for using a private email server to conduct government business.

      During an interview on “The Steve Malzberg Show,” DeLay, a Republican from Texas, said he has friends in the FBI who tell him “they’re ready to indict” the former Secretary of State.

      “They’re ready to recommend an indictment and they also say that if the attorney general does not indict, they’re going public,” DeLay said.


      Bern, witch, Bern!

  23. Jim Haygood

    Fedsters try to crawl off the limb they were busy sawing off:

    In a dovish statement after a two-day meeting, Fed officials said inflation is expected to remain “low in the near term” and the economy has “slowed.”

    The U.S. central bank also acknowledged that growth “slowed late last year” and downgraded its view on household spending and business investment growth to “moderate” from “strong” in December.

    Net exports have been “soft” and inventory investment “slowed,” the statement said

    The Fed did repeat that it expects rates to increase at a gradual pace.


    A “gradual pace of rate hikes” is a complete non sequitur after all the other “oh sh*t” confessions.

    Obviously the FOMC “dirty dozen” were tipped off to a crappy GDP report on Friday. They are trying to hunker down out of the line of fire, like an elephant with red toenails hiding in a strawberry patch.

    What these impudent punks need is a sharp rap on the knuckles.

    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      The Fed wants us to believe that interest rates are made of anisotropic materials.

      They go down, you get nothing.

      They go up, you will be hurting.

      1. cwaltz

        Not everyone gets hurt by a rate hike. For example, if you save instead of invest, you would be looking at a rate hike for leaving your money in the bank.

    2. James Levy

      The scary thing is how gutless, blinkered, and lacking in imagination and insight these Grand Poobahs are. Something in the nature of the system today throws up these credentialed nonentities. It’s like C. Wright Mills and Herbert Marcuse come true, on steroids.

  24. Darthbobber

    Everytime 2008 gets mentioned here, we get this rendition about Clinton “winning all the large states” and “winning the popular vote” if all the votes were counted.

    So apparently either Illinois is not regarded electorally as a large state or someone’s under the impression that Clinton carried it.

    I assume the “if all the votes are counted” proviso is a way to toss the disallowed Michigan votes into Clinton’s column, but if we’re going to do that, we should probably make some acknowledgement of the issues involved in that particular “contest”.

    1. Lambert Strether Post author

      1) Large states. Perhaps I should qualify by saying “except the one where her opponent was from.” My bad. Here’s a map:


      2) All the votes. See Real Clear Politics, third line from the top: Clinton wins by 286,687. (In the event, the DNC gave Obama delegates from Michigan, asterisked on the map, where he took his name off the ballot. That’s one reason I don’t trust the DNC in this contest.)

      The larger point is that Axelrod is correct; Clinton ran a fine campaign when she fired everybody after the caucus debacle in February.

      1. Darthbobber

        Yes, she did. And the biggest part of the reason, to me, is that she and her new general staff belatedly broke out the brass knuckles, and started playing the “callow youth with finger on the button” card, and a number of other cards. They seem to have learned from this to go for the brass knuckles earlier this time around.

        My take at the time was that they initially regarded the victory as inevitable, and thought it best to play kissy-face and patsy-hands about Obama, in the interests of party unity and harvesting his enthusiastic supporters after the coronation.

        On Michigan, all I see the DNC as having done in that case was attempting to enforce the party’s initial decision to strip the voting righs of those delegates, and then to eventually broker a compromise which still left her with a majority of the pledged delegates.
        “In late May, attention focused on the upcoming May 31, 2008, meeting of the Rules and Bylaws Committee (RBC) of the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The RBC would choose whether to assign seats to Florida and Michigan delegates for the Democratic National Convention. (The convention itself could change the seating.) During the period before the RBC meeting, 22 uncommitted delegates pledged their support to Obama should they be seated at the convention.[32]

        On May 31, 2008, the RBC voted 19-8 to seat all of Michigan’s delegates with each receiving half a vote. The resolution allocated 69 pledged delegates for Hillary Rodham Clinton and 59 pledged delegates for Barack Obama, resulting in these pledged delegate votes:[33]

        Clinton: 34.5
        Obama: 29.5

        The decision was a modification of the Michigan Leadership Plan, a proposal by the Michigan Democratic Party[34] submitted as a compromise between the positions of the Clinton Campaign (allocating delegates based on the January 15 primary, with 73 pledged delegates for Clinton, and 55 pledged delegates as uncommitted[35]) and the Obama Campaign (allocating the delegates evenly between Clinton and Obama,[36] which with a full delegation would result in 64 pledged delegates for Clinton and 64 pledged delegates for Obama).”
        Wikipedia, but this corresponds to my memory of the events.

  25. ekstase

    Pragmatism vs. the moral high ground. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who’s very very tired of this fake choice. And we must remember this:
    “When choosing between two evils, I always like to try the one I’ve never tried before.”- Mae West. Now on video!

  26. Generalfeldmarschall von Hindenburg

    I heard that PLOS One guy on the Beeb- it was one of those segments NPR specializes in in which they trot out someone who proves “conspiracy theorists” are crazy and can’t possibly be right about anything. The telling point is they don’t get into what they mean by “conspiracy”. People keep conspiracies secret all the time. they only need a motivation greater than fear of a prison term.

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