By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“In his reply to BP, [the EU’s energy commissioner, Günther Oettinger,] said that he shared the firm’s views on a guarantee for unlimited crude oil and gas exports being included in a TTIP free trade deal and welcomed more ‘thoughts’ from the company” [Guardian]. “Oettinger regularly hosts alpine retreats for government ministers, bankers and captains of industry. In 2013, these included executives from Shell, Statoil, GDF Suez, EDF, Alstom, Enel and ENI, although not BP.” How cozy!
“[I]t it is not absolutely necessary to include corporate sovereignty provisions in a trade deal to protect companies, because there is always the state-to-state mechanism that can be invoked if necessary” [TechDirt]. Compelling logic (with example). Why, it’s almost as if ISDS was meant to be a supra-national entity, above all states.
Comment on the Republican Primaries: Readers, I know I don’t have great volumes of Trump material, and I’m sorry-not sorry. I think the Republican nomination will come down to College Republican-level factional infighting in Cleveland, so there’s no story until the convention begins. Unless Paul Ryan starts growing his beard again, of course.
Comment on the Democratic Primaries: On the Sanders campaign, I’d remind readers that Rome wasn’t burnt in a day; you lose until you win, as they say. In 2000, an insurgent Ralph Nader got 3.58% of the New York vote. In 2016, an avowed Socialist got 40%. That’s a testimony to the terrible stewardship the 1%, through the political class, has exercised over the country; but it’s also testimony to a lot of patient work on a generational time-scale. An order of magnitude increase for insurgency in 16 years is not too shabby.
On the Clinton campaign, their body language says they think they’ve won the nomination (then again, “Events, dear boy. Events!”) But that doesn’t mean they’ve won the platform, it doesn’t even mean they’ve won the election, and it certainly doesn’t mean they win the future. We can also expect a lot of Democrat masks to be removed in the next few months, and a face that looks a lot like Karl Rove’s to be revealed. It also may be that the difference between liberal and left will become even more pronounced. Now, whether anything I’ve said translates into continued small donor contributions to the Sanders campaign remains to be seen; see below under Money. (For me, victory has always consisted not in the nomination but in a standalone entity, built round the Sanders platform, that would pressure both parties from the outside.)
“Why the S.E.C. Didn’t Hit Goldman Sachs Harder” [The New Yorker]. Suspense builds…
“Trump: Bankers Who Acted ‘Purposely’ Illegally Should Be Jailed” [Bloomberg]. Trump should hire Bill Black. Oh, wait…
“How Hillary Clinton Became a Hawk” [New York Times]. “As Hillary Clinton makes another run for president, it can be tempting to view her hard-edged rhetoric about the world less as deeply felt core principle than as calculated political maneuver. But Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” And it’s working out great!
Our Famously Free Press
And speaking of Democrat masks being removed, this on “Correct the Record,” the public relations shop David Brock is running for the Clinton campaign:
— Nomiki Konst (@NomikiKonst) April 21, 2016
First, the key “lesson learned” with #BernieBro can only be that a Big Lie can succeed, since there was no data to support the term, and the writer who coined it repudiated it. So watch for a giant tsunami of bullshit that makes what we’ve already seen look like a ripple. Second, in an age of panic over shrinking newsrooms, where PR pays and reporting doesn’t, “Correct the Record” will be able to make successful offers to many people, some hitherto respected. Third, Brock also runs Media Matters; that’s the outlet with a good brand, so watch for him to corrupt it.
“… I see that @drvox is writing a big piece on carbon pricing – and agonizing over length and time. I don’t want to step on his forthcoming message…” [Paul Krugman, New York Times]. Nice to see message coordination in the political class, although I’m sure it doesn’t extend to electoral politics.
Sanders spent $47.5m in March, and has $17.5m cash on hand. Clinton $26.8m and $28.7m respectively [Bloomberg].
Democrat Establishment extends olive branch to Sanders:
Sanders has run a stunningly strong campaign fueled by passionate supporters. But raising $$ stating you have path to nomination is fraud.
— David Plouffe (@davidplouffe) April 20, 2016
Never mind that in exactly the same position, Clinton fought on in 2008 until the last primary, and as a result was able to cut the deal with Obama in Denver that may make her President in this campaign. So one thing Plouffe is really saying is that he doesn’t want Sanders to have the power to make a similar deal. But there’s a second subtext to Plouffe’s tweet: To stop Sanders, Clinton has to cut off his small donor oxygen, and saying they were suckered by Sanders for their donations is certainly one way to do that. It’s also scorched earth, poisoning the well, eating your seedcorn, name it. And expect the Democrat Establishment to keep doubling down on vile as we go on.
“Clinton Campaign Money Legal but Problematic” [TAP]. Notice again the refusal of what I can only call the state media to follow the money. $35 million in, sold as going to the states. $33 million passed through the states back to Clinton, and only $2 million to the states. And how whipped the states must be not to raise a peep about this. And maybe if they’d had those millions, we wouldn’t have debacle after debacle at the polls?
“Federal Regulators Let General Electric Quash Shareholder Resolution On Hudson River Pollution” [David Sirota, Business Insider]. “The ruling by the Obama administration’s SEC was a victory for GE, which has ties to President Barack Obama. The company’s employees were collectively among Obama’s top donors in 2008 and in all, they have delivered more than $689,000 to Obama’s Senate and presidential campaigns, according to data compiled by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. In 2011, Obama appointed GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt to chair the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The company has also regularly lobbied the SEC during Obama’s tenure, according to federal records.”
“Hillary Clinton Delegate Will Oversee A New York Primary Election Audit” [Buzzfeed]. Seems legit.
Jon Ralston asks a good question:
— Jon Ralston (@RalstonReports) April 21, 2016
“Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) suggested that Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s campaign has gone too negative and that he should tone down attacks on rival Hillary Clinton” [Wall Street Journal, “Harry Reid Suggests Sanders Campaign Too Negative”]. Heartfelt gratitude for “I don’t want to hear about your damn emails” totally on display.
“Sanders Now Will Be Democrat For Life, Campaign Aide Says” [Bloomberg]. I doubt that will help him.
“The Daily 202: Hillary Clinton will consider picking another woman for VP. Could it be Elizabeth Warren?” [WaPo]. Betteridge’s Law.
“10 ways the Democratic primary has been rigged from the start” [Salon]. Roseann DeMaro of National Nurses United.
“This professor determines which presidential candidates would be in Game of Thrones” [Vox].
Jobless Claims, week of April 16: “The labor market once again, against a background of soft data, shows itself as the economy’s leading positive” [Econoday]. “Employers are holding onto their employees in convincing confirmation of the strength of the nation’s labor market. This report points to another solid reading for the monthly employment report.” And: “Claim levels are at 40 year lows (with the normal range around 350,000 weekly initial unemployment claims of levels seen historically during times of economic expansion” [Econintersect]. However, “If this is indeed falling because benefits have been made that much harder to get it means this channel of increased govt expenditures is disabled, and the cycle will get that much worse before it gets better” [Mosler Economics].
Philadelphia Fed Business Outlook Survey, April 2016: “After emerging in March from a long run of negative readings, the Philly Fed manufacturing index edged back into contraction” [Econoday]. “New orders are at zero which indicates no change from March. Deeper contraction is the score for backlog orders.” And: “Whoops, back down” “[Mosler Economics]. But: “This is a very noisy index which readers should be reminded is sentiment based. The Philly Fed historically is one of the more negative of all the Fed manufacturing surveys but has been more positive then the others recently” [Econintersect].
Chicago Fed National Activity Index, March 2016: “The first quarter has not been a strong quarter for the economy, underscored by the national activity index which fell slightly” [Econoday]. “This report, at least in March, may be over-stating the weakness in the economy, specifically employment which, though slowing from February, remains very strong.” And: “The economy’s growth worsened based on the Chicago Fed National Activity Index (CFNAI) 3 month moving (3MA) average – and remains well below the historical trend rate of growth (but still above levels associated with recessions)” [Econintersect].
FHFA House Price Index, February 2016: “failed to show much lift” [Econoday]. “The housing market has been chilly this year, occasionally showing signs of strength but, like Tuesday’s starts & permits report, more times than not moving backwards. Home price appreciation, during a time of weak wage growth, is central to household wealth.” Wealth is capital. Wage-workers don’t have it, by definition.
Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of April 17, 2016: “Last week’s dip in the consumer sentiment index is now followed by a dip in the consumer comfort index” [Econoday].
Leading Indicators, March 2016: “The index of leading economic indicators rose 0.2 percent in March but follows a 2 tenths downward revision to February which is now at minus 0.1 percent. January is unrevised at minus 0.2 percent” [Econoday]. “The revision to February is important for this series which is designed to anticipate trends, specifically the outlook six months from now, more so than month-to-month change.” Caution: “The data does not exist to establish what The Conference Board’s LEI values would have been in real time – at this point only the final numbers are known. Unfortunately, knowing the current values is no assurance that a recession is or is not imminent as there is no track record of real time performance” [Econintersect].
Honey for the Bears: “Perhaps the seminal event was John Carreyrou’s October 16th investigative analysis of Theranos in the Wall Street Journal. John was the first to uncover that just because a company can raise money from a handful of investors at a very high price, it does not guarantee (i) everything is going well at the company, or (ii) those shares are permanently worth the last round valuation” [Above the Crowd]. “As we move forward, it is important for all players in the ecosystem to realize that the game has changed.” Gawd, I hate that “ecosystem” trope. Along with “innovation,” “disruptive,” and “startup,” count the spoons when you hear it.
Gentlemen Prefer Bonds: “Investors who bought bonds in Argentina’s record-breaking sale have made $597 million in profit in just two days” [Bloomberg].
Commodities: “Canada enacts moratorium on offshore oil and gas activity in Georges Bank” [Splash247]. Sensible.
Rigged Economy: “Matt Taibbi reported at Rolling Stone three days ago that the government has been fighting a pitched battle to keep 11,000 documents pertaining to Fannie and Freddie under seal in a court case. You can rest assured that some of those documents relate to Fannie and Freddie derivatives and counterparties. But that pile of 11,000 documents pales in comparison to the 25 million documents the Justice Department withheld from the public when it settled its case against Citigroup in 2014 for $7 billion. What the public got instead was a meaningless 9-page statement of facts” [Wall Street on Parade].
Rigged Economy: “U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren, a firebrand of strong financial regulation, wants to know why securities regulators approved Steve Cohen’s new firm as an investment adviser after barring the billionaire from managing other people’s money until 2018” [Futures].
The Fed: “As the economy continues its slow but steady climb back to full employment, how worried should we be that another downturn will hit the before that journey is complete? At a National Bureau of Economic Research conference in Cambridge, Massachusetts, that I attended last week, Larry Summers said he believes the chance of another recession in the next three years is 50 percent. Should that be cause for alarm?” [Mark Thoma, CBS]. “Before that journey is complete.” Honestly, what a weird trope, totally normalizing a barbaric regime that regulates “the economy” by throwing people out of work.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 76, Extreme Greed (previous close: 75, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 71 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 21 at 11:39am.
“The people are left impoverished, anguished and infuriated. Justice, let alone apologies, never arrives, even as a modest amount of blood money flows from the local governments. The United States, which styles itself a force for justice in the world, is to them the remote force that introduced death into their lives and treats them like they are subhuman, fit only to be targeted. At any moment, they fear, another drone could come for them” [Guardian].
“Beverly Hills to replace public transport with self-driving cars” [dezeen]. (1) Uh-uh, no way, not even! (2) Because Beverly Hills can afford to paint lines on their roads, which they can also afford to repair. (3) The Silicon Valley glibertarian dream of destroying anything public, including public transportation. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? come to life!
“4 Men with 4 Very Different Incomes Open Up About the Lives They Can Afford” [The Esquire].
“Deep down, people just want to get paid” [Bloomberg]. And deep down, the owners just want to screw them. On the whole and on the average, as the Old Mole would say. There are people of integrity who fight to do the right thing in a rancid, suppurating system. The trick is to find one!
News of the Wired
“Mad scientist shrinks Arduino to size of an AA battery” [Tech Crunch].
“Should We Feed the Trolls?” [The Atlantic]. Thoughtful.
“Of Course Congress Is Clueless About Tech—It Killed Its Tutor” [Wired]. “Lawmakers once had a body of independent technical and scientific experts at their disposal who were the envy of other nations: the Office of Technology Assessment. That is, until the OTA got axed unceremoniously two decades ago in a round of budget cuts.” By Newt Gingrich, although of course Bill Clinton fought him tooth and nail. Not: “Only a few supporters from both parties, including members of OTA’s governing board, went to bat for the agency.”
New chip card technology takes 8 to 12 seconds to process a transaction [New York Times]. But I’m sure the executives who approved it never have to stand in line, so who cares? Europeans, is this normal?
“A New Corpse Flower Could Bloom Any Day At The Chicago Botanic Garden” [Chicagoist]. Rahm? Is that you?
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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 (Isolato):
Isolato writes: “We just bought a new house and got this rapturous greeting in our front (well, yard isn’t quite right).”
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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!