2:00PM Water Cooler 2/18/2019

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, President’s Day is legit a holiday, so I’m off to a notional beach. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

Musical interlude!

The original:

The cover:

To make the song title and refrain completely clear, a verse:

A hundred dollar Franklin, man, is really sweet
A five hundred McKinley is the one for me
If I get a Cleveland, I’m really set
A thousand dollar Cleveland is hard to get

It’s all about the benjamins ?!

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (TH):

Fullerton Arboretum in Fullerton, California.

Readers, I’m running short on plant pictures. I keep asking for winter scenes, but perhaps the time for that has passed! So, anything that involves global weirding? Or anything beautiful.

* * *

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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. justsayknow

      Noticed Living Wage was featured as a dire warning in the video graphic. So amazon is (no surprise) against labor earning enough to live on. But of course the ceo is allowed to extract far more than can be spent in a lifetime.

      1. Lee

        A factoid worthy of contemplation:

        If Bezos’ net worth were equally distributed among Amazon’s 613,000 employees, each of them would get about $200,000.

        1. Lee

          The exact dollar amount per employee would be $217K. If Bezos kept a billion the amount per employee would be just a bit less.

    2. Big Tap

      Walmart’s mandatory new employee (associate) anti-Union video. They focus on not signing a Union authorization card and how Unions really won’t help you at your job. They also said that Unions want your money (Union dues) which is bad according to the actors hired to portray Walmart employees. Lot’s of ‘we’ and ‘our’ used by the ’employees’ in the video about how good the company is and how the Union will change their great atmosphere.


  1. katiebird

    This is way off normal topics but I am trying to find solutions to my 94 year old mother’s hearing problems. She has hearing aids but talking to her on the phone is still a struggle. And ahe has a hard time hearing the tv. She has no interest in technology at all so a lot of bluetooth options won’t work for her….

    I stumled into something called T-Coil and T-Loop that seems magically perfect. But I can’t find anyone who has actually used it.

    A wire is put around a room or auditorium or church …. anywhere, even a bus… Audio speakers are someonw plugged into this wire (which is magnetized) … Then people with hearing aids put the hearing aid on the coil setting and they can hear the speaker clearly.

    Supposedly…. Has anyone hear used it?

    1. junez

      I have. It helps, by linking a sound system directly to one’s hearing aid. Perhaps your mother’s hearing aid already has this facility. Some classrooms and theaters have loops. Don’t expect perfection. Hearing aids boost the volume of frequencies one hears poorly; they don’t work for those we can’t hear at all.
      Does she have a captioncall phone? They are free, and installed, for the hard of hearing. https://captioncall.com/

      1. katiebird

        Thanks, junez, that info about frequencies is good to know. Her previous hearing aid has a coil but the current one doesn’t. I am just starting this quest. I am even thinking about getting her a new hea ing aid if this would work for her. She had a caption call phone but it startd squeeling constantly.I am not sure what exactly was the problem with it.

        1. junez

          If captioncall worked for her, get another–replacements are also provided and installed free.
          I should have mentioned that wireless headphones work very well for me with tv, bringing sound directly to ears, and they protect neighbors, too.

      1. katiebird

        I just wish we were in Wisconsin, Michigan, Washington or Oregon. Here In Kansas, I can’t find anyone or anywhere with it installed!

        I never heard of it till I was reading through a catalog for people with hearing problems.

        And her audiologist is really annoyed with me for my questions (making me think I should find someone else) she says it’s OLD technology ( so what if it works)

        I am hoping to get her house sold in a couple of months … then we will have a little freedom to get another hearing aid. And LOOP her apartment, maybe.

    2. Pat K California

      I don’t know anything about this system technically, but it was installed in a portion of the church my Dad goes to in Michigan. If he sits in that section, he can tune his hearing aid to that frequency (or something like that) … and for the first time in his life he can clearly hear every word that the priest says during the service. It was a revelation the very first time he experienced it.

      I also know that my Dad can tune his hearing aid to hear just the TV set with perfect sound pick-up. You can holler at him all you want, but he doesn’t hear a word until he adjusts the hearing aid back to regular room noise!

      So keep searching. I know this technology exists … and according to my poor deaf old Dad, it works like a dream!

      1. katiebird

        !! This is was I hoped to hear!! Thank you!

        This makes me feel like it is worth the effort to pursue it. Thank you very much.

    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      > is is way off normal topics but I am trying to find solutions to…

      Well, this is a Water Cooler, and the knowledge will help others, so…. Within reason, people! Within reason!

  2. Robert Hahl

    The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing (White Christmas, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen)
    Great dancing. Ginger Rogers’ job was to disappear and so make Fred Astaire look fascinating, She did that by not being very good. Danny Kaye wasn’t afraid of comparisons.

    Las Ketchup – The Ketchup Song (Asereje) (Spanglish Version)

    Progressive Celtic:

    Flook – Pod The Empty Pod

    Arty McGlynn & Nollaig Casey – The Hunter’s Purse

    Liz Carroll, John Doyle – The Chandelier / Anne Lacey’s

    1. ewmayer

      “Danny Kaye wasn’t afraid of comparisons” — While I’m a big fan of Kaye’s film performances, fellow actor Bernie Kopell (perhaps best-known for his hilarious turns as KAOS mastermind Siegfried in Get Smart) begs to differ re. the above claim:

      [on Danny Kaye] We were in a sketch together on The Danny Kaye Show (1963). He was a hero coming down from the hills of Mexico to help the villagers and I played one of his helpers. I got a big laugh with my line at our first rehearsal in front of an audience. I did not know that it was against the law on “The Danny Kaye Show” for anyone to get a big laugh other than Danny Kaye. I felt something that seemed like an ice pick in my forearm. He was grabbing me. I said, “Danny, what the hell?” I looked at him and he had blood in his eyes. His idea was: “You set me up–and then I get the laugh.” It continued that way until I was ultimately fired.

      1. Lambert Strether Post author

        > KAOS mastermind Siegfried in Get Smart)

        The joke of the Ring Cycle is that although Siegfried brandishes an enormous weapon, he is in fact a silly goose who falls in love with the very first woman he meets. Granted, Wagner isn’t big on dance.

        (I loved Get Smart. An extremely silly show, silly on a Monty Python or Fawlty Towers scale.)

  3. Tomonthebeach

    If Pelosi and Schumer have any of the grace expected of those of us over 70, it is surely not evident in their treatment of the new kids on their block – many of whom have great ideas that would benefit the country with a bit of supportive guidance vs mockery from those with tenure and power.

      1. wilroncanada

        Tom and Alfred
        Have heard just a couple of minutes of Pelosi’s latest appearances. I normally turn this stuff off because I find the speeches by almost all politicians completely unedifying. But the little I have heard has led me to question the mental capacity of Pelosi. She seems to, even when she speaks slowly (she may always speak that way; I don’t know), stumble over phrases, and be unable to put whole sentences together. Is this an age-related issue? Or, was she always such a poor speaker?

        1. foghorn longhorn

          It’s because they have her face drawn up so tight that her vocals don’t work normally.
          If they suck it up one more time she’s gonna be sporting a goatee.

        2. jrs

          “green dream of whatever”. That line would sound really stupid even coming out of Trump’s mouth, and the guy can barely string words together coherently ..

          So maybe senility is the explanation for Pelosi (and Trump too? well maybe).

        3. Lambert Strether Post author

          I’ve heard word salad from Pelosi too. On the other hand, she seems to have mastered the art of holding onto power quite well (it’s not like she has an entire court surrounding her and backing her up, like Reagan did). So I hesitate to proffer armchair diagnosis.

          Conventional wisdom is crazed even if expressed by a fresh-faced, youthful, articulate person. As we came to learn with Obama. So a marginal increase in the cray cray, due to personal factors, doesn’t worry me too much.

    1. richard

      Wait a minute, I’m supposed to have grace in 15 years? jesus christ, get to work man!
      not that my joke should let the terrible two off the hook
      it’s hard to argue against the blinkered perspective of “no more old folks”
      with those two hanging around

  4. Pelham

    I feel compelled to observe sourly that Presidents Day is one of our several fake holidays, on which most people are required to work. What we need are a few weeklong holidays such as they have in parts of Asia.

    1. FluffytheObeseCat

      Or how about enforcement of these holidays, either on the day they were meant to commemorate or as 3 day weekends. And the addition of a few more. December 7th. September 11th. Election day. May day. Americans would be better off and far more productive with a few more enforced holidays.

  5. Acacia

    A belated thanks to Mark Alexander for his tip on the notes management app Joplin.

    Joplin also has a web clipper but it appears pretty basic. For some time I’ve been looking for a web clipper that would enable me to, say, point at a comment or article here on NC, select a block of text in the web browser and save that along with the URL. There seem to be many apps that do this for pages (bookmarks), but few for text on pages (quotations), and those few are often paid services.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Lemmy Caution

      A fine choice that I’ll complement with Johnny “Guitar” Watson’s fine, funky classic, “A Real Mother For You.”

      Sample lyric:
      Go to buy a new car, but the price ain’t right
      Be a damn sight cheaper, to start ridin’ a bike

      1. Shonde

        How much carbon does this energy sucker produce? Isn’t it unpatriotic to have performances like this extolling speed and car power?
        BTW, what would be the carbon footprint of one military flyover of a football game?

  6. Hana M

    Can someone please explain the It’s all about the benjamins ?! meme to this culturally clueless Baby Boomer. And also, why is it somehow antisemitic?

      1. JohnnyGL

        And the phrase was the title of the first single released on a rap album from Puff Daddy in 1998ish.

        1. Joe Well

          That song was ubiquitous at parties in the 90s and early 2000s. I wonder if the youngs would have gotten the reference if they were paying attention to politics.

          1. bob

            anecdotal observations of the youngs- They know and use that saying. Not sure on the song, but they know it came from a song. I don’t think any of them ever associated it with anti-semitism until now.

            Check out what ded prez was saying above, They’re a weird one. Oddly popular, given their lyrics, among a small section of early white millennials. Most/All of their material is not radio “legal”, for a variety of reasons.

        2. curlydan

          Not being a late 90s rap fan, I decided to go look at the lyrics of “It’s All about the Benjamins” , thinking it probably would be an inoffensive song and give me one more piece of evidence to help back up Omar and fend off the ravers. For the most part, yes it was inoffensive, BUT then there was this (emphasis not mine BTW):

          “We see through, that’s why nobody never gon’ believe you
          You should do what we do, stack chips like *Hebrews*
          Don’t let the melody intrigue you (uh-uh)
          Cause I leave you, I’m only here
          for that green paper which lead you”

          That is gross. Twitter is the landing place for “oops!”, lack of nuance, and “maybe I shouldn’t have sent that”. This is one more bit of evidence to support that. I hope Omar continues to hammer away for Palestinian rights and defend BDS.


          1. Mo's Bike Shop

            Omigosh. I better go check out the lyrics to Bela Lusosi’s Dead. I could be in trouble. Because I don’t want to go through another experience like Tubthumping and the Irish PC Police again.

          2. Joe Well

            I never understood that lyric! Thank you for digging that up. I didn’t see any mention of it in the coverage of all this.

    1. remmer


      Use the link GF sent, then look at Lambert’s Feb. 12 Water Cooler and scroll down to the Puff Daddy video. Links in accompanying articles should explain the meme, why Rep. Ilhan Omar used it, and why conservatives accused her of antisemitism.

    2. Jessica

      One of the traditional tropes of anti-semitism was the claim that Jews were greedier and slicker with money than other people.
      This does make it possible to use references to money as an anti-semitic dog whistle. References to the Rothschilds or oligarch and financier Soros often do function this way to this day.
      So a legitimate sensitivity developed to anything suggesting that Jews might be more greedy than other people.
      The claim of anti-semitism has clearly been weaponized, particularly as a counter-attack and form of obfuscation when someone tells the truth about an elite group, most of which include some Jews (along with plenty of Christians, atheists, and whatever).
      The existing sensitivity makes the weaponization more effective because it makes it easier to take people who are not following the particular story in detail and catch them up in sincere but ill-informed outrage.

    3. Big River Bandido

      Why is it somehow antisemitic?

      It is anti-semitic, you see, because “Judaism” is synonymous with Israel, AIPAC, Center for American Progress, neconservative, neoliberal, Tory, capitalism, and the like. Anyone who opposes any of those things in that list is, by definition, an anti-Semite.

      Oh, they keep adding more to this list as they go along, so you better check back tomorrow to make sure you haven’t become an anti-Semite overnight.

      1. Isotope_C14

        I have been called an anti-semite because I suggested “shouldn’t Palestinian’s have a place to live?” By an Israeli Md-PhD student.

        That was in 2002 or so. Wolf has been cried enough times for me to assume that it means nothing.

  7. richard

    I forgot it was presidents day! what a truly villainous holiday!
    Here is a quiz that is just for fun that probably isn’t too hard
    so don’t googlecheat, use your brain!
    Which president may have died from cherry consumption?
    Which president was rumored to be the illegitimate son of aaron burr?
    Which president probably drank the most (according to me, and all the empty bottles)?
    Which president famously said that anyone who got rich in office was a “f*&%ing weasel”*

    * he didn’t use those exact words

    Bonus question, for extra glory:
    Which presidents served in congress after their terms as president?

  8. JB

    Just in case anyone missed it, on the latest episode of 60 Minutes, Andrew McCabe was interviewed. This is the part that has led to outrage from various talking heads…

    Andrew McCabe: The president— launched into— several unrelated diatribes. One of those was commenting on the recent missile launches by the government of North Korea. And, essentially, the president said he did not believe that the North Koreans had the capability to hit us here with ballistic missiles in the United States. And he did not believe that because President Putin had told him they did not. President Putin had told him that the North Koreans don’t actually have those missiles.

    Scott Pelley: And U.S. intelligence was telling the president what?

    Andrew McCabe: Intelligence officials in the briefing responded that that was not consistent with any of the intelligence our government possesses, to which the president replied, “I don’t care. I believe Putin.”

    Scott Pelley: What did you think when you heard that?

    Andrew McCabe: It’s just an astounding thing to say. To spend the time and effort and energy that we all do in the intelligence community to produce products that will help decision makers and the ultimate decision maker, the President of the United States— make policy decisions, and to be confronted with an absolute disbelief in those efforts and a unwillingness to learn the true state of affairs that he has to deal with every day was just shocking.

    Link to interview: https://www.cbsnews.com/news/andrew-mccabe-60-minutes-interview-full-transcript-watch-acting-fbi-director-trump-investigation-james-comey-russia-investigation-2019-02-17/

    I find this interesting because Theodore Postol (MIT) and his colleagues published their analysis at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists in August 2017, which is in the timeframe that McCabe is referencing (note: McCabe left in January 2018), and less than a year from the U.S.-Russia summit…


    From the Postol et al. analysis…

    General conclusions—for now. Our general conclusions from intensive study of a wide variety of data relating to the two rockets that North Korea launched in July:

    The Hwasong-14 does not currently constitute a nuclear threat to the lower 48 states of the United States.
    The flight tests on July 4 and 28 were a carefully choreographed deception by North Korea to create a false impression that the Hwasong-14 is a near-ICBM that poses a nuclear threat to the continental US.
    The Hwasong-14 tested on July 4 and 28 may not even be able to deliver a North Korean atomic bomb to Anchorage, Alaska.
    Although it is clear that North Korea is not capable of manufacturing sophisticated rocket components, their skill and ingenuity in using Soviet rocket motor components has grown very substantially. This is not good news for the long run.

    So was Putin right? Based on Postol et al.’s analysis, it appears so. Given that North Korea is using Soviet rocket motor components, perhaps Putin/Russia has a good understanding of the technology and its capabilities. If so, what does it say about the U.S. intelligence community that either 1. it doesn’t understand North Korea’s nuclear missile capabilities, or 2. pushed an inaccurate assessment of North Korea’s nuclear missile capabilities to the president? Perhaps more importantly, why didn’t CBS include Postol et al.’s analysis in its reporting? Why haven’t we heard discussion as to whether or not Putin was better informed than U.S. intel on this topic? I think this is a fascinating aspect of the story that has gone largely ignored in the aftermath of the 60 Minutes interview (from what I can tell).

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