By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Tax Day. “Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” — Oliver Wendell Holmes. So how’s that working out for us?
CETA: “Romania will veto the EU-Canada trade deal” [Euractive] and “Belgium’s Wallonia Vetoes EU-Canada Free Trade Deal” [Sputnik]. So, you see these bills can be defeated. Let’s hope this is a harbinger.
CETA: “CETA, TTIP and ISDS: Lessons from Canada” [Euractiv]. Video (please share):
“It’s not just that the business model of Wall Street is fraud, as Senator Sanders is prone to say, it’s that fraud is now incentivized openly on Wall Street by the Board of Directors of the country’s largest banks” [Wall Street on Parade]. “No caring American or engaged citizen should view this election casually.”
“According to former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers — who is emerging as a key economic advisor to Hillary Clinton — the big political challenge in addressing economic inequality is not to embrace “a politics of envy'” [Richard Kirsch, HuffPo]. Larry Summers. Help me. (For the record, I’m not envious of Summers: I’d hate to be a sexist blowhard who lost two billion for Harvard’s endowment. How would I sleep at night, let alone face my peers? And I’m not envious of squillionaires, either. I just want some basic level of dignity. Why is that so hard for to understand?)
“‘It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity,” [Clinton said in a 2011 speech” [David Sirota, International Business Times].
“Clinton, they say, does not see the Libya intervention as a failure, but as a work in progress” [Foreign Policy]. Does that mean Libya is a business oppportunity now?
Washington Square rally: “[T]he core of Sanders’s message is exactly the same as it was last April, when he announced that he was running: that the American political and economic systems are hopelessly broken, that it will take a ‘political revolution’ to make things right, and that this redemptive outcome is achievable. ‘Despite what others may tell you, yes, we can change the status quo,’ Sanders declared” [The New Yorker].
“Sanders’s big and rambunctious rally in Manhattan’s Washington Square Park on Wednesday night underscored how disenchanted many of his supporters and surrogates are with Clinton and what her campaign represents to them. Before Sanders took the stage, speaker after speaker described it as the epitome of establishment politics, small-bore ambitions and ties to the moneyed forces of the Democratic Party” [WaPo]. The article is about the debate, but I think this is the key point: A split between liberals (Clinton) and the left (Sanders) — with all the demographic changes Democrats have been counting on to revivify their party with the left. I’m not unaware of the “sheepdog” critique of the Sanders candidacy, but in the same way that the dogs won’t eat the dogfood, the sheep might not follow the sheepdog. The future lies ahead!
Sanders stump speech: “And as he does in every stump speech now, he followed that with an invocation of the civil-rights movement, ‘when brave people stood up together and decided to fight back against hundreds of years of racism.’ Then he moved on to ‘the feminist movement, when millions of women stood up together,’ adding, as he always does, ‘and I know every man in this room is going to stand with the women in their fight for pay equity.’ Then, when the cheers died down, he reminded the crowd of the victories achieved by ‘the gay rights movement, who stood up, with their straight allies, to demand the right for people to love one another regardless of gender.’ [The Nation]. “On paper this may sound like mere genuflection, or virtue-signaling. But in the room it felt more like a revival—of a peculiarly, determinedly secular kind perhaps, but with the same mobilizing effect on its audience as any tent meeting. It made visible their own power—in this case the power to change, not themselves but society.” And speaking of revival: The Great Awakening began in upstate New York.
“A growing plurality of democratic voters wants a true progressive agenda. If Clinton and party insiders ignore this reality, such voters will begin to look elsewhere. They will not view themselves as having left the Party. The Party will have left them” [Salon].
“We Asked 4 Prominent Bernie Supporters if They’d Vote for Hillary in November. Here’s What They Told Us” [The Nation]. Doug Henwood, Rania Khalek, Kathleen Geier and Joshua Holland.
Readers, I really couldn’t find coverage of the Democratic debates I was happy with; in fact, the open thread right here was perhaps the best thing out there (though Kos wasn’t that bad). What matters, of course, is what voters think of the debates; and we have no data on that point, and probably will not, given that election day is just five days off. Politically wired people may say that “Sanders can’t land a punch,” or “Hillary cleaned his clock” (I’ve seen both) but humans are mysterious. I’d love to know what the internal polling shows; neither campaign is crowing about victory. One thing is clear: Sanders will take big risks for policies he believes in, as he showed in his discussion of Israel. Clinton takes a different sort of risk: By adopting Sanders’ position on the $15 minimum wage — I mean, ZOMG; the parsing! — she’s risking that people won’t check the record. Checking the record was hard in 1992. Today, there’s Google. And Internet memes.
“The Democratic Debate: A Surprising Exchange on Israel” [The New Yorker].
On Wall Street and corruption [The Hill].
Sanders pointed to six-figure speeches Clinton gave to Goldman Sachs in 2013 and political donations from Wall Street to argue she can’t be trusted to crack down on banks. Clinton claimed she’s been calling out “the bad behaviors of Wall Street” since the time she represented much of the sector as a senator from New York.
“Secretary Clinton called them out,” countered Sanders. “Oh my gosh, they must have been really crushed by this. Was that before or after you received huge sums of money by giving speaking engagements?”
I’ve gotta say, that looks like a hard punch to me…
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) April 15, 2016
“Vote Now: Who Won the Ninth Democratic Debate?” [Times]. Of course, Internet polls…
“The new Gilded Age: Close to half of all super PAC money comes from 50 donors” [WaPo]. Judging by both action and ideology, this is a condition that the Democratic Establishment would prefer to continue.
“Democratic donors see Republican donors giving huge, seven-figure checks to causes and efforts on the Republican side of the aisle, and our donors don’t want to be silenced,” said Alixandria Lapp, executive director of the House Majority PAC, a Democratic group that has raised $10 million.
“Silenced.” Notice that Democrats accept that money is speech, and people with more money should have more speech? Idea: Democratic donors give their candidate of choice $27, and STFU.
“Verizon paid Hillary $225,000 for speech and poured money into Clinton Foundation. Executives give to her campaign” [Salon]. “Moreover, the Clinton Foundation has partnered directly with Verizon, which is notorious for its vehement opposition to unions. The corporation is a partner in the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, and said it is ‘proud to partner with the Clinton Foundation.'”
Jeff Weaver: “‘I think that their campaign never believed that they would be in the position they’re in right now, having to contest New York. I mean, they clearly thought that they would have everything wrapped up by now. They clearly said it: ‘We’re going to have it wrapped up by February, we’re going to have it wrapped up by March,'” Weaver said. “And it’s not wrapped up, and I think they’re very, very frustrated about it'” [Yahoo News]. And they keep trying to release the kraken. But the kraken won’t release.
“Bernie Sanders Brings His Family on Trip to Vatican” [ABC].
“How has the ‘system’ been working out for you and your family?” [Donald Trump, Wall Street Journal, “Let Me Ask America a Question”]. That’s a good question.
“Trump’s Odds of Winning Way Better than Nate Silver Believes” [MishTalk]. Battle of the polling titans!
Industrial Production, March 2016: “Regional reports have been signaling emerging strength for the factory sector which helps ease the sting from a second straight 0.6 percent contraction for industrial production, the latest report for March” [Econoday]. “The manufacturing component, pulled down by a 1.6 percent decline in vehicle production, fell 0.3 percent following, after a downward revision, a 0.1 percent decline in February. Weakness in vehicle production is no surprise given declines underway in vehicle sales.” And: “The headlines say seasonally adjusted Industrial Production (IP) declined. The year-over-year data remains in contraction. It is hard to see a bright spot in this data” [Econintersect]. And: “Serious setback, worse than expected and last month revised down as well. Look for more Q1 GDP reductions [Mosler Economics].
Empire State Mfg Survey, April 2016: “After a deeply negative run from August to February, the Empire State report is showing real life. Today’s index, which is the first factory indication on April, rose sharply to a higher-than-expected 9.56 level that is in solid expansion ground” [Econoday]. And: “As this index is very noisy, it is hard to understand what these massive moves up or down mean – however this regional manufacturing survey is normally one of the more pessimistic” [Econintersect].
Consumer Sentiment, April(p) 2016: ” A week of mostly weak economic data ends on a drop for consumer sentiment, to a much lower-than-expected 89.7 for the flash April reading vs 91.0 for final March” [Econoday]. “Weakness is centered in the expectations component.” And: “The general trend in the Michigan Sentiment Index since the Financial Crisis lows has been one of slow improvement.The survey findings since December 2015 have seen a gradual decline with January 2015 remaining the interim peak” [Econintersect].
Jobless Claims (from yesterday): “Lowest leve of new jobless claims ever on a per capita basis. Yet U6 unemployment remains near the highs of the prior recession. Leads me to suspect the reason for the low claims is they’ve become a lot harder to get, shutting off an automatic fiscal stabilizer” [Mosler Economics].
“OPEC Report Suggests Massive Oil Price Rebound” [OilPrice.com].
China: “The National Bureau of Statistics said in a press conference in Beijing on Friday that while main economic indicators showed positive changes, ‘downward pressure cannot be underestimated'” [Futures]. “It did not distribute quarterly GDP figures as it has in the past, saying it needed more time to calculate the figure.”
“Here is the thing about Uber and Lyft (and much of the ‘sharing economy’)'” [Ian Welsh (Furzy Mouse)]. “They don’t pay the cost of their capital.” The bezzle works, until it doesn’t. It works a lot better with J-Yel’s free money sloshing about.
“Moreover, among those who do plan to bid [on Yahoo], there has been widespread dissatisfaction with the auction process. ‘It’s been a f–king joke,’ says one senior private equity executive whose firm expects to make an offer” [Fortune]. “For starters, most financial bidders were required to listen to a lengthy prerecorded management presentation before Yahoo management would answer questions over the phone.” I confess to some schadenfreude when I think of the PE guys having to go through this…
“A series of broken transactions and stock-market volatility have shaken the confidence of some in the boardroom to tackle their next big acquisition” [Dealb%k, New York Times]. “The value of abandoned deals has been higher than that of newly signed deals in the United States so far this year.” Shrinking the tapeworm…
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 72, Greed (previous close: 71, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 68 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 15 at 11:32am. Boring week!
Our Famously Free Press
“Five Things I Won’t Miss at The Times — and Seven I Will” [Margaret Sullivan, New York Times]. Sullivan’s going to be WaPo’s media columnist. Well, I suppose Howard Kurtz’s thimble-sized shoes will be hard to fill, if you’ve got human feet.
“[R]esearchers at the [UVa] School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist” [UVAToday]. “‘I really did not believe there were structures in the body that we were not aware of. I thought the body was mapped,’ said Jonathan Kipnis, a professor in the Department of Neuroscience and director of the University’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. How these vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own.”
“The insurance industry is a key actor in forging new instruments to anticipate and manage climate risks, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, urging the industry to continue to work with the United Nations to manage and reduce such risks and ultimately ensure a more sustainable world for all” [UN News Centre].
Now you can get an affordable version of Jeff Koons’ iconic balloon dog for a mere $8K [Bloomberg].
“[M]erely being black in America triggers exposure to stressors linked to premature biological aging. Research indicates that blacks get sick at younger ages, have more severe illnesses and are aging, biologically, more rapidly than whites. Scientists call this the ‘weathering effect,’ or the result of cumulative stress” [US News]. Filing this under class because the “weathering effect” sounds like it has broad application.
Same games being played on both sides of the Atlantic:
— ben goldacre (@bengoldacre) April 15, 2016
The Post Office, the public schools…
“County officials across Mississippi are warning of job losses and deep deficits as local jails are being deprived of the state inmates needed to keep them afloat. The culprit, say local officials, is state government and private prisons, which are looking to boost their own revenue as sentencing and drug-policy reforms are sending fewer bodies into the correctional system” [HuffPo]. Law enforcement for profit works just as well in Mississippi as it does in Ferguson, Missouri, and everywhere else.
“Neoliberalism was not conceived as a self-serving racket, but it rapidly became one” [Guardian].
News of the Wired
“Short URLs produced by bit.ly, goo.gl, and similar services are so short that they can be scanned by brute force. Our scan discovered a large number of Microsoft OneDrive accounts with private documents. Many of these accounts are unlocked and allow anyone to inject malware that will be automatically downloaded to users’ devices. We also discovered many driving directions that reveal sensitive information for identifiable individuals, including their visits to specialized medical facilities, prisons, and adult establishments” [Freedom to Tinker].
“Let’s All Talk About The Stuff That UC Davis Spent $175k Trying To Keep Off These Internets” [Techdirt]. Remember the pepper spray cop?
“The caffeine curse: why coffee shops have always signalled urban change” [Guardian].
Readers, I still need to fix my fershuggeneh contact form! Hopefully noting that fact publicly will serve a lash and a spur to my endeavors. (Meanwhile, thanks to readers, who already have my email address, who sent in images of plants!)
See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. And here’s today’s plant (Mrs. Mop):
Mrs. Mop writes: “It’s springtime in Cuba, too. Here’s a pic from the feral gardens of the village Regla, across the harbour of La Habana, taken on a hot April day at 32 degree Celsius which is something like spring temperatures in Cuba. Greedy banana plants all over the place. So lovely.”
Readers, Water Cooler will not exist without your regular support. Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. If you enjoy what you’re reading, please click the hat!