2:00PM Water Cooler Boxing Day 2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers, because pugilistic endeavors, and no stats, this will be a very abbreviated Water Cooler. Holiday time! Talk amongst yourselves… –lambert


Obama throws Clinton under the bus: “Barack Obama Says He Could Have ‘Mobilized A Majority’ If He’d Been Able To Run Again” [HuffPo]. But Putin! But Comey! But racism!

After Obama’s eight years in the White House, a majority of Americans do believe in an America that’s “tolerant and diverse and open,” the president told Axelrod.

“You know, I am confident in this vision because I’m confident that if I ― if I had run again and articulated it, I think I could’ve mobilized a majority of the American people to rally behind it,” Obama said.

The president put a lot of that faith in the generation of incoming leaders, 20- and 30-year-olds who capture that “spirit of America” through their words and deeds.

“It manifests itself in communities all across the country. We see it in this younger generation that is smarter, more tolerant, more innovative, more creative, more entrepreneurial, would not even think about, you know, discriminating against somebody, for example, because of their sexual orientation,” Obama said.

(I’ve helpfully underlined the New Democrat neoliberal bullshit tells.) And Obama’s probably right, in that it took a catastrophically bad candidate running a terrible campaign to lose against the opponent they preferred, while spending a billion dollars (though I’m not clear how Obama, as party leader, manages to escape responsibility for the candidate the party forced down our throats picked). But to me, the real lesson is that if the Obama coalition were a thing, even a bad candidate would be able to leverage it. It’s not. By contrast, the FDR coalition lasted for a generation, at least.

Stats Watch

It’s a holiday! So there are no stats today.

Retail: “Boxing Day sales ‘ruined’ as a fifth of bargains still stuck in warehouses” [Telegraph]. Returns are hard to manage.

The Bezzle: “Sex robots will ‘come a lot sooner than you think’, scientist claims” [Independent]. Sweetheart, get me rewrite!

The Bezzle:

Rapture Index: Closes down 1 on plagues (ebola) [Rapture Ready]. Record high: 189, October 10, 2016. Current: 183.

Police State

“NYPD cop suspended after posting humiliating Christmas photo of Brooklyn family cuffed on Snapchat” [New York Daily News].


“What the Trees Say” [New York Review of Books].

What both teams [in Vancouver and Aachen] discovered was nothing less than a vast underground network, called a mycorrhiza, in which fungi connect trees of different species by passing chemical and electrical signals among the trees’ roots. It was an arboreal Internet—christened the “wood wide web.” Trees could actually communicate by exchanging carbon through their roots. The exchange offered mutual support. Carbon is the food of trees, created by photosynthesis, using the leaves as solar panels. Sometimes one tree would act as mother to its neighbors, giving them more carbon than it received in return. Later the debt would be repaid as the roles were reversed.

As the subtleties of this underground network were explored, it became clear to scientists that trees not only benefited by mutual exchange of food. They exchanged vital information, warning their neighbors (and children) of threats and advising them of opportunities to seize. For example, if a tree’s leaves are bitten by a caterpillar, it will send a message though the mycorrhiza, prompting other trees in the network to release chemicals that repel caterpillars.

For Wohlleben [the author] these discoveries confirmed what he had come to recognize himself: that, in their own way, trees had feelings, that they knew how to communicate with one another, and that the strong were able to assist the weak.


News of the Wired

A Christmas Twitter collection I was too polite to show around on the day itself. The nativity scene:

The tree:

The carols:

Feats of strength:

* * *

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 (MG):


MG: “We just had a dirty great ice storm here. Today a big yellow shiny thing showed up in the sky and made the whole ordeal almost worthwhile.”

Readers, I’ve gotten many more plant images, but I can always use just a few more; having enough Plantidotes is a great angst deflator. Plants with snow and/or ice are fine!

Readers, Water Cooler is a standalone entity, not supported by the very successful Naked Capitalism fundraiser just past. Now, I understand you may feel tapped out, but when and if you are able, please use the dropdown to choose your contribution, and then click the hat! Your tip will be welcome today, and indeed any day. Water Cooler will not exist without your continued help.


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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. Atypical

    “Obama throws Clinton under the bus: “Barack Obama Says He Could Have ‘Mobilized A Majority’ If He’d Been Able To Run Again” [HuffPo]. But Putin! But Comey! But racism!”

    Recently here, Jerri-Lynn Scofield related a tale of Obama’s MO in law school classes they shared. She said he frequently waited until the last moment to raise his hand and utter some banality.

    Appears he’s still doing that.

    1. Pat

      That, AND he is doing his bit for neoliberalism. Think of it this way: Neoliberalism didn’t fail Clinton, Clinton failed neoliberalism. With the right candidate, in this case Obama, the Democrats would have won.

      As Lambert points out that ignores that Obama and the rest of the Democratic establishment made it impossible to have any other person as the Democratic nominee for President. It was Clinton, period. It also ignores that Clinton largely lost not just because the people who voted for Obama didn’t show up, large number of those who did vote for Obama voted for Trump. One could say with the supposedly more trustworthy candidate Obama, they might not have migrated over but who knows. Everything is supposition.

      Sadly I do think Obama could have beaten Trump, hell I pretty much think a mushroom could have beaten Trump once the press brought the knives out. . It would still be interesting to have access to alternate universes to see how Clinton and Obama would have done against Rubio, Cruz or Kasich, because I’m honestly not sure. Also to see how Sanders would have done against any and all of the Republicans.

      1. EndOfTheWorld

        Obama could not run again so it’s useless to speculate what might have happened if he had. Actually Obama, as well as HRC, lost the election since he campaigned for her harder than any other sitting prez in history. A more germane speculation would be “what if Bernie had not had the nomination stolen from him by the brain-dead hillbots?” Would Bernie have beaten Trump? The answer is “yes”.

        1. Atypical

          “Actually Obama, as well as HRC, lost the election since he campaigned for her harder than any other sitting prez in history.”

          Of the many objective contributory factors previously listed here and elsewhere, I believe that is the most salient.

          1. RenoDino

            Don’t forget how he said that if Clinton lost he would consider it a personal insult, so consider yourself insulted Berry.

            We all know people like this, who always think they are winning even when they are losing. A little of this is fine, but taken to the extreme as in the case of Berry, you see the delusional con man in all his glory.

            1. OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL

              I have some advice for Obama. Go. Just go. If you don’t say anything further perhaps people will forget just how awful you were. For the Democratic Party. For African-Americans. For world peace. For labor. For health care. For financial justice. For civil liberties. For America’s standing in the world. With luck you’ll be remembered about on par with Millard Fillmore. Take it from me, that would be a win.

      2. different clue

        Yes, perhaps a mushroom might have beaten Trump. A nice tasty mushroom.

        But we got a nasty toadstool, and a toadstool was not enough to beat Trump with.

      3. different clue

        Clinton would have done better against Rubio, Cruz or Kasich . . . because Rubio, Cruz and Kasich were all Clintonite neoliberals on Trade Treason Agreements, Assad Must Go, and Stand Up To Putin. The only difference was that those three Repuglans were also right wing cultural warriors too. And some Trump voters would have said ” well . . . if its Clintonites all the way down, might as well vote for Clinton herself to at least not get the right wing culture war.”

        If it had been any of the Regular Repuglans against Clinton, I would have voted for Clinton. It was the Trump nomination which set me free to vote for Not Clinton.
        And it was Trump running as the unClintonite on three big issues which got me to vote for Trump itself.

      4. aab

        While I can see people dragging themselves to the polls one more time for Obama rather than finally admit he’s not who they thought he was, and he wouldn’t have run as terrible a campaign, I am not sure he’d have won. I don’t have the stats in front of me and I need to go to bed, but didn’t he barely beat Romney? And Romney is like a cartoon villain capitalist.

        People are suffering. The fundamentals say in this kind of environment, the change agent wins. That would probably still have been true. Obama could have beaten Jeb, but that’s not the question, is it?

        postscript: I know she lost by razor thin margins in those crucial states, but she lost by razor thin margins in SEVERAL states, and won in others by equally thin margins. Her “coalition” was not identical to Obama’s, so even if he could have taken PA, for example, I don’t think it’s a lock that he would have held, say, New Hampshire. Her problems in the Rust Belt were also due to both his AND her husband’s policies, not just her horrible own self.

    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      To be fair, what is banal is subjective, in many instances.

      But to have the last say, in a discussion, or the last good joke – that’s what people remember. Kind of like the Oscar’s award ceremony or a beauty pageant, you save the best for last.

      “You must have no retort. This comment ends the thread.”

      1. clarky90

        ah ah ah, what can more can be said? Is Obama, in fact, the mythical Fat Lady who heralds in the demise of the Autocratic Party (the Dems)?

    3. Norm

      If Obama had even an ounce of integrity, then in his role as titular head of the Democratic Party he should have demanded a clean sweep of the party potentates once it was demonstrated that HRC & co had rigged the nomination process. Where have we come to when no one could even dream of that ever occurring?

      1. fresno dan

        December 26, 2016 at 4:34 pm

        It should be the word of the year – for BOTH Merriam-Webster and the Oxford dictionaries.

        Used in a sentence
        ‘Clinton spouting more Obanalities – no wonder she doesn’t know why she lost’

  2. alex morfesis

    Pres obama illusion of a world without discrimination…umm…the tbgl brigade has no problem discriminating against hetros so I am confused what world he is living in…

    human nature…
    power begets more power…

    in many fields on the coastal cities, good luck getting and keeping a gig where the tbgl brigade has a major foothold…soon to be ex-potus might be correct in observing there is an absorption by the hetro world of the tbgl krewe…

    but it does not hold in the reverse…

    at least from my experiences in nyc/chi/st pete-tampa

  3. Anon

    The real mystery to this election is how they figured that Obama, who has a decidedly mixed legacy was going to create a boost for Hillary, who is largely unlikable. I wonder if there’s a piece out about how the impending ACA premium increases were a big enough boost to spur voter turnout?

    Taken another way, who cares about glass ceilings when the crappy ACA plan you’re on now wants $6,000 or more before they chip in?

    1. different clue

      And especially, who was going to care about Hillary’s Tiffany Glass ceiling when they had cinder block ceilings of their own?

      1. aab

        By the general election, they understood their problem: consolidate the 10% — including the Republicans among the 10%, then terrorize enough of the vulnerable underclass to vote for the rotting husk of the Democratic brand to get over the line by suppressing the overall vote. The Clinton general election strategy had, in a way, priced in the Democrats’ destruction of their base.

        The problem with this strategy — other than the fundamental proven again and again that getting voters to cross party lines is much harder than rousing your base plus soft party identifiers — was that the type of messaging needed to energize the non-10%er part of the Democratic base is anathema to the suburban Republicans they were counting on crossing over. All that victimization of gender stuff — if a Republican woman liked that sort of thing, she would already be a Democratic woman. I was flabbergasted by that Schumer quote nonchalantly asserting how easy it was going to be to trade one ex-factory worker for two suburban Republican professionals. It was as if he didn’t know anything about politics. I wonder how much of that is that the Beltway pros don’t really understand they’re all the same party, unlike their voters, how much is that Democratic politicians are increasingly incompetent at electoral strategy because they come from these Democratic fortresses, and how much was desperation. It’s nice to pretend that Clinton could have (if she was willing) run as the apologetic representative of the New Dems, admitting their faults and offering improvements in policy. But that was not only never going to happen, it really couldn’t happen. Not only is she clearly emotionally incapable of admitting fault, being a very poor retail politician, she didn’t have the skill set to execute such a plan. Then factor in her neurological condition* keeping her off the trail, and the die is cast.

        * I am very much looking forward that being publicly confirmed, so we can stop pretending it wasn’t obvious, and a relevant factor. She did amazingly well for a mentally dysfunctional person. She may be vicious, but she certainly is tough.

        1. flora

          +1. Schumer and the DLC dems seem really to have no political philosophy. They have no grasp of the philosophical differences between trad. dem and trad. GOP voters. “All that victimization of gender stuff — if a Republican woman liked that sort of thing, she would already be a Democratic woman.” yes.

          If the DNC had bothered to push back against the voter suppression laws in Wisc and Mich and elsewhere they wouldn’t have needed 2 GOP voters for every Dem voter they lost.

          And did the DNC really think GOP voters, who believe in rules and process, would overlook how the Dems ran their primary?

        2. different clue

          *The neurological condition will never be confirmed until every last Clintonite has been purged from every last hiding hole in the Democratic Party. Till then, it would go against the Endless Betrayal narrative which the Clintonites have engineered to explain their defeat. It would also derail the Putin Diddit narrative which is very necessary to soften up the public for the DC FedRegime Democrats’ drive to create and maintain the new Cold War 2.0 in order to impose Social Discipline and in order to get new improved 9/11 type secret police government passed.

    1. WheresOurTeddy

      One abject failure deflecting blame from another abject failure being attached to him…

      Meanwhile, 40 years of failure as a nation and demographic decline for all but those in Northern Virginia and Manhattan. Still waiting for that wealth to trickle down. Maybe another 40 years will do it.

      In your heart you know what the solution is.

      1. der

        Also too, Silicon Valley. Obama shows his not so thick skin again as he warms up in the Grifter bullpen to enter the game the day after. Because deplorables are switch hitters it’s in relief of the struggling and losing Clinton Foundation will come the new arm of the Obama Foundation. Caviar and champagne! Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, sigh, at least Rachel Maddow will still have a job.

    2. hunkerdown

      “If she were the least bit credible” is just one of the many qualifications one might include with their endorsement of Her. In that sense, she was the most qualified candidate, evar.

  4. DJG

    The NYRB review of the books about trees is lovely. I recall reading a book by Mort Rosenblum called Olives, which was a portrait of individual olive trees and a memoir of buying a house with an olive orchard. The ages given in the book review are nothing compared to olive trees, which are sempiternal. Living a thousand years is nothing for an olive tree, and they regenerate, too. A reminder that the olive and other trees are gifts of the gods.

    The discussion of sycamore trees brought to mind catalpas, which were brought north (and to Chicago) as specimen plantings. Now they are considered somewhat dirty, what with those elephantine leaves, and the cigar-like seed pods. But every June they flower overwhelmingly, with a fragrance that bowls over a human being, and then the thousands of “orchids” drop.

    I also recall reading that oak trees have highly individual DNA, as individual as human beings are. No wonder that standing in a grove of old prairie oaks, who have seen so much, and avoided prairie fires, brings up thoughts of ents (who are good enough as trees in a fable but not good as a real oak tree).

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      Ah, the Jack-and-the-Beanstalk tree! Them ain’t cigars, they’re a foot long and skinny! Gotta be magic beans ;-)

  5. mk

    The Bezzle: “Sex robots will ‘come a lot sooner than you think’, scientist claims” [Independent]. Sweetheart, get me rewrite!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Are they talking orgasm or production?

    1. fresno dan

      December 26, 2016 at 4:37 pm

      I would think there would be a knob one could twist to adjust the orgasm speed….

      1. fresno dan

        Close up on the face of actress Alicia Vikander as she plays in ‘Ex Machina’
        And not to give up a spoiler to the movie “Ex Machina” but sometimes it doesn’t come…out the way the human meat sacks wanted with their robot paramours…..

  6. Schnormal

    Under Cover of Christmas, Obama Establishes Controversial Anti-Propaganda Agency

    The Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act, introduced by Republican Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, establishes the Global Engagement Center under the State Department which coordinates efforts to “recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United Sates national security interests.”

    Further, the law authorizes grants to non-governmental agencies to help “collect and store examples in print, online, and social media, disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda” directed at the U.S. and its allies, as well as “counter efforts by foreign entities to use disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda to influence the policies and social and political stability” of the U.S. and allied nations.

    The head of the center will be appointed by the president, which likely means the first director will be chosen by President-elect Donald Trump.

    1. fresno dan

      December 26, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      Those combined forces have already contributed to the overt policing of media critical of U.S. foreign policy, such as the problematic “fake news blacklist” recently disseminated by the Washington Post.

      I look upon passage of this law with trepidation.
      Because I am positive that the first time Trump uses it against the NYT/WP I will burst from schadenfreude.
      fresnodan shrapnel all over the walls…. the only question: will the bugs eat up the mess before anybody notices that I am not paying my bills…..

      1. aab

        Trump already had a surrogate meet with Carlos Slim. When you’re ruling on behalf of billionaires, you don’t need legislation to force the New York Times to bend to your will. Although the Davos Men got pretty cranky with Obama when he did everything they needed him to do but occasionally mewled in favor of the people, so I suppose the Times could get on its knees and still be punished.

        I make excellent popcorn. The secret is using half grape seed oil and half butter in the pot, more than is strictly necessary to keep the kernels from sticking. I will provide popcorn to every NCer if Trump uses the CDPA to go after the Times.

    2. MDBill

      foreign state and non-state propaganda

      My question: Does “foreign” modify both “state” and “non-state”, or only “state”?

  7. different clue

    ” Do plants have a nervous system, Bones?”

    ” Yes, Jim. But not as we know it!!”

    Vegans take note. ( Not as if they ever would . . . )

      1. Edward

        My pleasure. Somehow I think 2017 will offer as many candidates for this list, especially with our new president– although he did try to renegotiate the F-35 price.

  8. Optimader

    We Three Sausages
    We three Sausages of Vienna are
    Bearing pork pasties we traverse afar.

    Field and counter, freezer and grinder,
    Following yonder ham.
    O bacon of wonder, ham of night,
    Suckling of smokie beauty bright,

    Westbend processing, still refining,
    Guide us to thy perfect glaze.

    Born a piggy on Iowa’ss plain,
    Bacon I bring to crown Him again,
    Piggies forever, ceasing never

    Over us all pork products still rein
    –My Ode to the Noble Piggy

    1. Charger01

      They don’t make alcohol strong enough to make that an enjoyable experience. What a waste of time and effort. Truly kubuki theatre.

  9. Attila the Hun

    Poor Obama! He’s losing his presidential dignity and showing he’s just another mortal. Why can’t he just maintain a dignified presidential silence and go out as a statesman rather than as one of the boys. As Trump would say: “Sad”

  10. ewmayer

    o “What the Trees Say” [New York Review of Books] — Fascinating, but ‘wood wide web’ is lame and forced-pun-sounding. Since the communication is undergound, how about the “Unternet’? E.g., “It’s a big Unternet, and the best part is that everybody has root access! So be a fun guy and …” OK, I’ll stop. :P Come to think of it, ‘Rootnet’ might be a good compromise between tech-analogous and accurate, and cool-sounding.

    o “Who made the nativity scene out of bacon and hotdogs ?” — Ha, in this Chicago-meatpacking version of the Nativity story, the young kosher wiener in his swaddling bun would be visited by three wise-guy Cubbies fans bearing gifts of mustard, relish and sauerkraut.

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