2:00PM Water Cooler 3/13/2023

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Patient readers, I am finishing up a post on a horrid public relations debacle at WHO, and so this Water Cooler is sadly truncated. Talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

P.S. However, here are two conversation starters:

First, on the topic of the day:

Second, can anybody figure out this puzzler? Like, where to begin?

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Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral 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. From JL:

JL writes: “Mimosa grows like a weed here in Hawai’i. Also known as “sleeping grass” or “sensitive plant”, the leaf stalks will fold up when touched, and then slowly re-extend over time. It is a good nitrogen fixer, but the tiny thorns are unforgiving.”

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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. Jason Boxman

      While I like that idea, the time changed screwed up my day too much for a nap today. Maybe I can double nap tomorrow!

  1. BillS

    Started to prepare veggie garden today! Will plant cabbages, rucola and salad greens to start. This coming weekend, potatoes and perhaps fennel and broccoli. My lovely wife spent the day pruning the fruit trees.

    1. Jason Boxman

      I don’t have enough sun for a vegetable garden, sadly. I still haven’t done anything with fennel, but keep wanting to buy some for a dalliance with an unknown outcome.

      1. thousand points of green

        Fennel grows ” straight down” and “straight up”. If you have a square foot of soil somewhere with many midday hours of sun each day, you could prepare that square foot of soil and plant some fennel seed.

        It has a very deep very narrow very strong taproot. Of the various non-woody perennials with taproots I have tried pulling out of the ground, the fennel taproot seems most strongly welded to the soil it is in. It hangs on until under overwhelming upward force it suddenly releases its hold and pops loose. You can feel the pop. And sometimes the plant separates from the root at ground level, leaving the root behind.

  2. flora

    Looking forward to your WHO article. I think the WHO problems are much much larger than bad public relations.

    1. notabanker

      Every neoliberal organization in the world today is literally unbelievable.

      This is clearly the vibe I have read over the weekend on the SVB debacle, with long lists of examples behind them. I have no idea how to gauge critical mass on this type of thing, but it sure feels like the tipping point is in the past.

      I am of the opinion that no US administration is capable of reversing this trend, but it is blatantly obvious this administration is not just incapable, they are the poster children for everything that is wrong.

      1. Mikel

        And world it is.
        You’d think the rest of the world would hurry up off the rollercoaster, but they are getting dragged by it. Too much fascination with the PMC of the USA by other PMCs of the world.
        This mess called the “global economic order” is just silly at this point. Same crap.

      2. NYT_memes

        What can one expect these days? Let’s size up our situation. Mussolini said that the convergence of business interests with the state is what defines fascism. The topper today is that now we have those business interests totally in control of MSM news sources, so the public is never going to be told anything of value which may help to figure out how to reverse this trend. The whole power structure, apparently centered in Langley, is one big happy family, err club. And you ain’t in it (me neither).

        [Decided to change my local ID from my real name]

      3. spud

        does this surprise you? biden was bill clinton and obama’s right hand man, he had his fingers in just about every disastrous policy that came out of those fascists administrations.

        there can be no recovery till the disastrous policies of those two, now three fascist administrations are reversed, and it can’t be done by voting.

        bill clinton set them in stone, and obama bailed them out, just as biden is today.

  3. JustTheFacts

    @Lambert: the language flowchart

    Begin at the middle/top, where it says “START HERE” in green. Basically each node corresponds to a letter. If the letter is present in the language, go along the “Y/Yes” branch. Otherwise go to the “N/No” branch. Thus, at the first node, English has the letters F,G,R so you go right.

    1. GramSci

      Which European Language am I Reading?

      In the foolishness of youth, I thought that Europe would be able to resist USian propaganda, impervious because of its multiplicity of languages.  Little did I think that, as one wag somewhere here on NC put it, Europe would fail because everbody spoke English, but nobody understood it.  Nordstream pipeline anyone? So I wasted a career on language-learning.  Silly boy. Who needs language when you have images on color TV?  In my defense, that was before my time.

      1. hamstak

        The crux of the problem might be that everybody (who “counts”, at least) speaks dollar.

        1. GramSci

          Well, $dollar$ are the most abstract form of propaganda-worship, and they hardly require even the pretense of understanding the ‘language of state’. Alpha male$ get the breeding right$, despite this recent NC Links item.

          To paraphrase Veblen and Darwin it’s all a matter of prominent display (see also J. K. Galbraith, also recently memorialized hereabouts).

        2. Carla

          Many of the things we can count don’t count while many of the things we can’t count really count.

            1. Carla

              Don’t know who came up with it, but I printed it out about 35 years ago and it has adorned my refrigerator ever since. Words to live by!

              1. Wukchumni

                Einstein came up with it…

                Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.

                1. rowlf

                  “Wer viel misst, misst Mist.” – German saying (English Translation) : “Those who measure a lot, measure garbage”

                  I have to deal with machine telemetry and crappy human imputed data.

          1. Jeff H

            Carla You hit the nail squarely on the head. As a society we have been manipulated into valuing things of no substantial meaning while dismissing the most important as frivolous personal whims.
            I think were Shakespear alive today he would not say lawyers should be the target but it would be economists.

    2. hunkerdown

      “No” is to the right of the first decision point. To get to English in the lower left corner, go left, take the first left then take a right at the circle K. If you reach Ireland, you went too far.

    3. JCC

      Since the answer is Yes to F, G and R, I think you meant to say follow the blue line and go left. We American english speakers, tracking that line would eventually end up at English. The tilda N would bring spanish speakers to español

    4. DJG, Reality Czar

      Just the Facts: Here is how I would explain it. The circle FGR is the start, and to its right are languages without F, G, or R, which are peculiar to the Roman alphabet. So the languages to the right include those in Cyrillic, in Armenian, in Georgian, and in Greek.

      The way the chart works, very roughly, is that one follows the blue “yes” line till one hits a letter that doesn’t show up. Then one skips, which gets confusing. Lithuanian is to the left of the č (a letter it uses), skips a few letters, and is at the end of the row at left because it uses the e with a hook.

      The two long vertical columns are the big classifiers. English is way down by the languages with “ch”–and English has “th” and “k.” Italian has “ch” and is distinguished by “q”–weak, given that Italian is more easily identified by its use of ì, ù, and à and extensive use of “gh.”

      As the tweeter writes, it is a work in progress. Often, though, it is handy in looking at texts to recall such peculiarities: Portuguese and all of its ã and õ. Catalan and is use of ç and l.l (the dotted doubled letter l): intel·ligent. The chart includes the peculiar “ieuw” of Netherlands and the “eau” of French.

      It’s a quick guide, I s’pose.

  4. fresno dan

    He didn’t go beyond that in explaining the illegitimacy of the election, but he didn’t have to. The “it is clear” speaks volumes to those who haven’t bought into the official narrative that the 2020 election was “the most secure” in the nation’s history.
    I have said it before, but I always find it amusing. Obama is president, the 2016 election is illegitimate… The election in 2020 under the Trump administration is the most secure in history…
    human logic

    1. GramSci

      I noted that he (author Miele) didn’t touch the War/Deep State’s insistence on the Russia! Russia! Russia! narrative. Dominion may have won its libel suit against Fox, but I remember well how formerly-Dominion Diebold stacked the deck against Kerry in 2004 (we hosted workers from the audit committee in Ohio, the main swing state). Nothing to see here, folks, move along…

      Good move by the Dems to buy Diebold as ‘Dominion’ and move it offshore!

      1. Pat

        Can never forget Rove’s meltdown when Obama won Ohio. (Anonymous claimed they took out the improvements in the vote counting software, but however it occurred the agreed upon result had obvious not occurred as expected) I distrusted electronic voting systems before that, but now never consider our elections secure. Paper ballots hand counted in person, or nothing.

        And I don’t think any election in NYS has been trustworthy since the lever machines. Yeah, I trust them more than the current scantron machines. They at least had to be fixed individually….

    2. Pat

      I didn’t view the Carlson coverage, but none of it surprised me. As I have said before I took a deep dive into social media on January 6. I wasn’t watching the media coverage of that day most of the time. I was watching and reading posts from the protesters. Some who blew off going to the Capitol, some from outside of it, and some, shocker, from inside the Capitol.

      The lack of weapons, the lack of serious injuries (and the later Pat Tillmaning of Brian Sicknick), the truly minimal damage to the Capitol weren’t all, one big reason I have never believed the official narrative is because of my own eyes. There were numerous items that showed the police basically acting like museum security guards, not men desperately trying to protect Congress from crazed insurrectionists. Hell they weren’t even as involved and confrontational as the NYPD can be towards people trying to avoid being herded into but rather trying to get out of Times Square on NEw Years Eve in my experience from years having to be there.

      For me the story has always been how it occurred without standard police response and National Guard support. Items the show trial seriously avoided.

      1. flora

        Someone over at Conservative Tree House (yes, I read both left and right) has an interesting timeline of the Jan 6 day events. It could just be a coincidence of timings, or the writer could be wrong about the timeline. I don’t know. It had to do with stopping the Constitutionally allowed challenges to certifying states’ votes during the election certification process. (Dems offered objections to certifying the 2016 election and W’s elections, for example.)

        I don’t know if any of it holds up. I do know the hysterical reaction by both parties’ estabs to Tucker showing even that mild video seemed like over reaction to what was shown.

        1. JBird4049

          >>>(yes, I read both left and right)

          What is embarrassing about that? With the siloed echo chambers they want us in, it helps to read different sources; even in less fractious times, nobody is always right or knows about everything, never mind the current derangement, yes?

        2. Pat

          I can’t speak to the timeline, but will say that for me the whole reaction to Republican challenges was over the top. For all the indignant insult at not trusting the election it was amazing how afraid the Democrats were about allowing any legal challenges to work their way through courts. It never felt like they were really all that secure. I always felt the correct reaction would have been to welcome any legal challenges with grace, humor and confidence. perhaps “We know this election and it’s results were all above board. But after The President being unable to accept that the majority of the American people voted for Joe Biden we understand why so many of his supporters might have doubts. We want people to check, and to use their legal options to be sure, “ rather than scorn, ridicule and indignant screams. But that would require some respect for people outside their bubble.

          1. marym

            I don’t know about the timeline or procedures, but there were votes taken on challenges to AZ and PA electoral votes when congress reconvened after the riot.

            Whether or not the dems were afraid of republican electoral challenges in general, there were more than 60 court cases – many that went through several levels of appeal – and recounts, audits, and investigations. At some point the other side should have gotten around to replacing scorn, ridicule, and indignant screams with a little grace and humor too.

            1. Pat

              Not for nothing all that legal satisfaction hasn’t really led to much replacement of the scorn and indignation with Grace and humor on the part of the “winners”, in fact not at all. But for the record when it could have really possibly mattered and been influencing in a good way for public opinion would have been in the first months following the election. But that also might have meant recognizing that Clinton lost, it wasn’t stolen from her either, and that investigating Russian influence didn’t succeed either. And we all know that still hasn’t happened either.

      2. Diogenes

        At the time, Pro Publica posted a huge cache of personal videos taken by individual Parler users on the scene. After spending quite a bit of time poking about in them, I came away with much the same impression: i.e., that the the “legacy media” (or whatever term you prefer) was enaged in a hysterical overreaction.

        There was undoubtedly SOME “there” there (not terribly unlike RussiaGate and its infantile Facebook memes that few people saw, and fewer still were influenced by) but nowhere near in proportion to the response.

        The Pro Publica videos are still up, if anyone cares to peruse them https://projects.propublica.org/parler-capitol-videos/?fbclid=IwAR30sRYIZ8Krn6GXH5Nu1_5mCUPfDB3_EKoSplCI_tg61O5IwqamR5Zu88E

        1. Michael Fiorillo

          That “Russian Facebook Memes” hysteria was always preposterous, all the more so since Mueller dropped the charges against the Internet Research Agency (the troll farm that sent them) when they showed up in court and demanded Discovery.

      3. Buzz Meeks

        How about Pelosi’s daughter being there as a videographer? Another happy coincidence?

  5. Mark Gisleson

    Transcript of Glenn Greenwald’s show with Matt Taibbi:


    Sample: “… after the 2016 election when the Democrats were humiliated by losing to essentially a host of a game show on television – because they ran the most unpopular presidential candidate in two generations, Hillary Clinton – instead of accepting responsibility for their defeat, they sought out villains and culprits to explain why they lost. And along with the long list of villains – the Russians, James Comey, WikiLeaks, Jill Stein, and the media – they really concluded that free speech on the Internet was something they could no longer tolerate.”

    1. griffen

      Thanks for linking to this, if it was not for the ongoing Silicon Valley Bank debacle and associated responses by the US Treasury, etc…I would probably devote that time to catching up on this topic. I know that a few video clips were dropped last week either the day of or the next day, from the Taibbi appearance in front of the Congress Clown Show. I’m hopeful the drip continues of what was happening.

  6. griffen

    After all the bailout discussion and ensuing debacle, why could not the SVB senior managers just walk into the street and declare bankruptcy ? If it is good enough for Michael Scott, who can disagree ?



    1. GramSci

      I don’t know about Michael Scott (never watched TV much), but how about Donald Trump’s bankruptcies, etc.: “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”? The problem is that the Directors of SVB all had friends. It would have been embarrassing.

      Donald Trump never had a friend.

      1. griffen

        There are times these little anecdotes from The Office serve the purpose. I can’t always be adding clips from Mel Brooks films.

        The US tax code is a friend to Donald J Trump, and that has been so dating to those heady days of casinos and such in Atlantic City. A corporate bankruptcy is not a good business model, but it never stops some I suppose. And, it all depends on the laws and regs, and which bankruptcy is being utilized after all. I still think the Apprentice bought him new found fame and a modicum of bitter respect right or wrong.

        Speaking of good friends to have, I caught the odious Representative of CA, Maxine Waters on CNBC earlier today. I figure the politicians of California have an undue influence on these outcomes, you know, but it’s for the right and proper reasons ( I digress for sure ). I can’t stand it.

      2. LifelongLib

        There seem to be certain businesses (real estate, restaurants) where going bankrupt now and then is almost routine, and those involved just pick up and move on to the next thing. Too bad the rest of us can’t do the same…

  7. Glen

    Anybody got a good read on what’s happening with bank stocks world wide? I thought the non-bailout bailout was supposed to calm the markets so what’s up?

    Does having a multi-polar world change perceptions of a Fed bailout? Figuring this one out is beyond my pay grade…

    1. notabanker


      the non-bailout bailout wasn’t to calm markets, is was to prevent a massive bank run on any account with more than $250K for any bank that is not a GSIB. And so far that seems at least somewhat effective. We won’t know for sure for a couple of days.
      Bank stocks that are not GSIB’s are getting punished for any exposures they have on held to maturity securities, which are mostly either UST or MBS. These are not marked to market and are hiding losses. If you look at YOY available for sale securities, the banks are taking 10-20+% haircuts on these because they had to mark to market. Just sort by percentage down and you’ll see who has the most exposure.

      Stockholders are going to get wiped out in any bank takeover, and just because the latest alphabet soup program protects deposits, doesn’t mean it protects insolvency. Any banks that have to use that facility will be outted with leaks in due course and poof they will go. The funding available to insure these deposits is less than 2% of the notional value.

      1. Glen

        Ah, thank you! Very clear explanation!

        Any thoughts on what this will do to crypto?

        And as part of trying to contribute, here’s something I know more about – Chromium is a nice browser, but it does tend to report everything to Google. Here is a version of the browser with all the tracking code removed:

        Ungoogled Chromium

        I’m using it (Linux version) – seems to work fine, but you need to use a bit of trickery to get extensions installed without using the Google Store:

        How to Manually Install Extensions (Ungoogled Chromium)

  8. Jason Boxman

    So my only communication from my various banks and credit unions on the SVB debacle and possible contagion, is from only one credit union. It mentions that they’re well capitalized, that they insure up to 250k per NCUA, and that they aren’t involved in long-term, fixed-rate investments, or that crypto thing. Also links to their latest financials and annual report. Offers to help with maximizing deposit insurance, I assume for depositors with balances greater than 250k.

    I’m kind of disappointed I haven’t gotten any other level headed communication from my other FIs so far.

    1. Stephen V

      I was on the audit committee of a local CU during the ’08 crash and watched as they had to write a check for over $400k because the Bank holding some of our deposits went upside down on, surprise: mortgage backed securities.
      No one got spanked because everyone trusted the (private!) Ratings agencies–which was considered reasonable. (Maybe it still is?)
      Reg’s forbid CU’s from making loans to incorporated entities.

    2. Daryl

      Nothing’s more worrisome than those “everything’s fine” emails. It’s like when a sports team says they aren’t in discussions to trade someone… means they definitely are.

  9. wendys

    Alexander Mercouris mentions Yves and NC as a starting point for an economic talk about the United States and possible systemic problems that may be happening. This starts at about the 39th minute in his talk dated today March 13th on YouTube.

    It sounds logical to me, but I am not an economist. I became interested in the economy back in the crisis of 2008 and was fortunate to find this blog sometime after that. I have been lurking here every since. I really appreciate the great knowledge base here, and I think that I have learned a lot.

    1. JE McKellar

      I’d like to see Yves and Alexander discuss MMT someday, a practical in-the-weeds discussion of how things play out with business and trade, not just theoretical macroeconomics. SVB is probably as good of a case study as any.

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