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2:00PM Water Cooler 8/19/2016

2:00PM Water Cooler 8/19/20162:00PM Water Cooler 8/19/2016

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.


“The two major party presidential candidates may be singing the same tune against free-trade agreements on the campaign trail, but their voters are at odds over whether the deals are a good or bad thing for the country. A new Pew Research Center study shows that more than two-thirds, or 68 percent, of Donald Trump’s supporters say trade deals have hurt the country, while a majority of Hillary Clinton supporters, or 59 percent, say the opposite” [Politico] (original). In other words, after the pesky election is over, if Obama doens’t get TPP done in the lame duck, Clinton will go all nuanced and get TPP passed, because her base won’t punish her for it. Also too, ka-ching.

“[USTR Michael Froman] talked about the risks of not having the trade pact in place. ‘I think it is serious one’ without the TPP, Froman told reporters, pointing to movies like ‘Sound of Music,’ ‘Dr. Zhivago,’ ‘Ship of Fools” and ‘A Patch of Blue,’ which are bumping up against the 50-year term in some countries” [Variety]. “‘That are all 1966 vintage, which without TPP will be off protection next year,’ he said.” Yeah, sheesh, what if studios actually had to finance and create new content?

“These Are Your 28 TPP House Democrat Targets” [Dave Johnson, Campaign for America’s Future (Re Silc)]. Handy list, with Wasserman Schultz at the top.



“Hillary Clinton’s family foundation will no longer accept foreign and corporate donations if she is elected president, and will bring an end to its annual Clinton Global Initiative meeting regardless of the outcome of the November election” [Yahoo News]. From The Department of How Stupid Do They Think We Are?


UPDATE “IAVA to Host Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for First-Ever Commander-in-Chief Forum” [IAVA]. Trump has been willing to call out Iraq and Libya for the clusterfucks they are, Clinton having enabled the one and engineered the other. Will he stay on message?

“Leading liberal group comes out against [single payer] ColoradoCare” [9News]. Progress Now (love the name) Executive Director Ian Silverii: “It breaks my heart. I would love to support single payer healthcare. But you get details wrong, [and] people get hurt. And: “Silverii was joined by other progressive groups, including NARAL and UCFW as well as Democratic House Majority Leader Crisanta Duran” [KDVR]. Really? “People getting hurt”? It’s not about Clinton deploying her stooges to appeal to “moderate” Republicans? And it is about breaking rice bowls: Progress Now Executive Director Lonnie Scott, “served as State Director for Enroll America, a national non-profit working to educate people about the new healthcare options made available by the Affordable Care Act,” so Scott’s a shill for ObamaCare, and collecting walking around money for disentangling the needless complexity ObamaCare creates.

“The idea of allowing the government to offer a health plan directly to families was blocked in 2010 because private insurers didn’t want to face the competition” [Paul Krugman, New York Times]. Krugman really shouldn’t lie about this. Obama traded away the so-called public option in a deal with Big Pharma. And in any case (from alert reader benefict@large) public option math never worked, so Obama sold Big Pharma a bill of goods anyhow. Beautiful!

Our Famously Free Press

“Clinton campaign goes nuclear on health rumors” [Politico]. Watching David Brock and Brietbart’s Bannon fight it out in the sewers on this one is entertaining. As readers know, I’m deeply skeptical, on any topic, of any digital evidence whose provenance is not ironclad (for example). At the same time, my family’s own medical history makes me wary of the Clinton campaign’s fierce denials: My mother’s first stroke happened when her Coumadin dosage went out of whack, Clinton takes Coumadin, and Coumadin dosage needs to be adjusted for stress (as, for example, the stresses of a Presidential campaign). Clinton’s family also has a history of stroke (her father died of it, at 82). And then of course there’s the “concusssion” (fall with related head trauma) story, correlating to blood clots from airplane travel. I pointed all this out in 2014. Now, to be fair to Clinton: She’s gone out in high-stress situations like Congressional testimony and Presidential debates this year, so although she’s not holding pressers, it’s not because she can’t deal with stress. Therefore, readers, I would be interested not in the latest, breathlessly promoted digital evidence-that-is-not-evidence, but in your own personal experiences, if you have had them, with women of Clinton’s age (68) and her medical history. Symptoms, treatment, prognosis, after-effects: all of that. Let’s try to bring some actual evidence into the discussion, instead of going all meta.


“In the eight states with competitive Senate races and both pre- and post-conventions polling,2 Trump had previously been down an average of about 6 percentage points; he’s now down an average of 9 points.3 And while Republican Senate candidates had been up by an average of a little more than 1 percentage point before the conventions in these eight states, they are now down by a little more than 1 point. That is, Republican Senate candidates in key states are still running ahead of Trump, but that cushion may no longer be enough to win now that Trump’s fortunes have worsened” [FiveThirtyEight].


“And Now for Some Conspiracy Trutherism About Trump’s Sinking Poll Numbers” [Esquire]. Interesting from the realignment perspective, as FOX’s Megyn Kelly comes in for some praise. As far as the polls go, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Our famously free press and the great bulk of the political class are all in for Clinton in the general. (The primaries were a little different, as the media companies cashed in on Trump’s ratings, while with equal cheerfulness suppressing Sanders. But now it’s serious.) Presumably, the campaigns aren’t lying to themselves in their internal polling. Therefore, campaign body language in the form of spending and scheduling is a better guide than the public polls, which one might with justice regard as performative speech. Which isn’t to say that Clinton’s body language and Trump’s body language are equally readable.

“As our regular readers know, we’ve been the Rock of Gibraltar when it comes to a Clinton victory. Our first electoral map, issued at the end of March, showed Clinton at 347 EVs to 191 EVs for Trump, and all subsequent maps have maintained those totals — until now. After looking carefully at Nebraska’s 2nd District — Nebraska being, along with Maine, a state that awards one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district — we’ve decided that NE-2 is leaning toward Clinton. It isn’t much of a lean, and it’s possible that if Trump can tighten up the contest, this one will wobble back to the Republicans. But for the moment, adding NE-2 to the Democrats makes Clinton’s total 348 EVs and Trump’s total 190 EVs” [Larry Sabato]. “Not only is Clinton investing ad money in Omaha, which also bleeds into the western parts of swing state Iowa, she is also spending actual campaign time in the city, a sign that her campaign believes it can win this extra electoral vote. And did we mention Warren Buffett, a huge Hillary fan, dominates the economic landscape there?”

“The reaction to the news of the latest Trump campaign shake-up has ranged from shock and disbelief to laughter… But there is one strategic way it makes sense: Team Trump views the 2016 presidential contest as a race to 40%. Under that scenario, you somehow assume that Libertarian Gary Johnson will get more than 15% of the popular vote, and that the Green Party’s Jill Stein will get more than 5%” [NBC]. “And then you make a play for the base to carry you across the finish line. It’s essentially the game plan that helped elect — and then re-elect — controversial Maine Gov. Paul LePage in 2010 and 2014.” What the national press consistently leaves out of the LePage narrative is that (a) the Democrats were (and are) corrupt, and (b) the 2010 election was a three-way, in which Democrat candidate, who faded down the stretch, did not — as the Iron Law of Institutions predicts she would not have — throw her votes to LePage’s Independent competitor, Eliot Cutler. In other words, the Maine Democrats are deeply complicit in LePage’s victory. Corruption may still favor Trump 2016, since his flaws are individual, instead of a collective rot infecting and symbolic of the entire political class. Whether multiple parties favor Trump in 2016, I don’t know: If the entire Pioneer Valley voted for Stein, I don’t think that would change the outcome in Massachusetts. (It would be entertaining if Mormon Evan McMullin were some kinda electoral college stalking horse for Mormon Mitt Romney in Mormon Utah. #JustSaying.)

“Growing up, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan were my icons. My sense of party fealty is such that I worked on the paid GOP convention staff in Philadelphia in 2000, and again, just recently, as a professional volunteer on the speechwriting staff in Cleveland” [Baltimore Sun] (Richard J. Cross, III, who wrote the “Benghazi Mom” GOP convention speech.) “But the only prospect more terrifying than voting for Hillary Clinton is not voting for her. The reality of American politics today is, she is the only choice.” As usual, why vote for a fake Republican when you can vote for a real one?

Clinton Email Hairball

UPDATE “Clinton Told FBI Colin Powell Recommended Private Email: Sources” [NBC]. So Clinton throws a black man under the bus. That’s classy!

UPDATE “Powell has ‘no recollection’ of Clinton email dinner conversation” [Politico].

A spokeswoman for Powell’s office issued a statement following the Times’ story: “General Powell has no recollection of the dinner conversation. He did write former Secretary Clinton an email memo describing his use of his personal AOL email account for unclassified messages and how it vastly improved communications within the State Department.”

“At the time there was no equivalent system within the Department. He used a secure State computer on his desk to manage classified information,” the statement continued. “The General no longer has the email he sent to former Secretary Clinton. It may exist in State or FBI files.”

Despite constant attempts by Clinton acolytes to conflate the two, an email account is not the same as an email server. It’s the server — and Clinton’s concomitant pattern and practice of concealing or destroying material on it, which she could not do with a mere account, whether on AOL or Gmail — that’s at issue. Heck, the NSA and the Russkis already have it all anyhow, along with whoever hacked the Clinton server when she left it unprotected for three months. The only people who haven’t read Clinton’s email, all of it, are, unsurprisingly, the voters.

Stats Watch

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Friday in in the dog days of August: No stats!

Employment Situation: “Men at Work: Are We Seeing a Turnaround in Male Labor Force Participation?” [Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta]. “The incidence of self-reported nonparticipation among prime-age men because of poor health or disability has been declining recently. According to the Current Population Survey data, this reason represented 5.4 percent of the prime-age male population in the second quarter of 2016. Although this is still 0.7 percentage points higher than in 2007, it is 0.3 percentage points lower than in 2014.”

Employment Situation: “Over the first two quarters of 2016, an average of 11.3 percent of job seekers relocated for new positions. The relocation rate reached 12 percent in the second quarter, which was the highest percentage of job seekers relocating since the fourth quarter of 2014, when 15 percent of job seeker found employment in new towns” [Econintersect].

Employment Situation: “The prime-age employment data suggest that it has done about as well since 2007 as the euro area, a region that includes high-unemployment economies such as Spain and Greece. That can’t be described as a desirable outcome” [Narayana Kocherlakota, Bloomberg].

UPDATE Employment Situation: [New research by Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson], which breaks down the forces propelling U.S. growth since 1947—the year the transistor was invented—and projects them forward to 2024, anticipates a boom in low-skilled work that rekindles economic growth to the tune of 2.49% a year from now till then, a little above the 2.34% experienced from 1990 to 2014″ [Wall Street Journal, “How Low-Skilled Workers Could Rescue the U.S. Economy”].

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Jobless Claims: “Still looks to me like this is perhaps the most misunderstood statistic, as analysts believe it is signaling strength in the labor markets. Instead I’m suggesting claims are extraordinarily low because the unemployment benefits have become much harder to get” [Mosler Economics]. “Even with a much higher population and labor force, and with a higher unemployment rate,

new claims are at 40 year lows.” Could also be that people are terrified to leave, no?

Shipping: This is cool–

The Bezzle: “Aetna, Obamacare and health insurers’ 10 dirty secrets” [MarketWatch (!)]. “The entire health-insurance industry consists simply of taking our money — and then paying us back around 80 cents on the dollar, or less. That’s all. They add no value, and serve no other purpose. … They shuffle money — at a high cost. You and I are paying about 30% too much for our health insurance each year just to support these middlemen. It’s an undeclared private tax.” And: “Medicare covers 54 million of us over the age of 65, and it is a full-blooded, bona fide, Marxist-Leninist, communist, Soviet, government-run health-insurance plan. Any politician opposed to “socialized medicine” should be required to run for re-election on a platform of abolishing Medicare and replacing it with private health insurance. Good luck with that. Oh, and compared to private health-insurance companies, it is staggeringly efficient. Medicare’s administrative costs last year were $9 billion, compared with benefits of around $640 billion. That’s around 1.4 cents for every dollar paid out. Private insurers: around 20 times as much.” MarketWatch! Gee, it’s hard to see why Clinton and her stooges in Colorado don’t go full Bolshevik on this.

The Bezzle: “The biggest heavyweight in the ‘gig’ economy is putting its considerable capital and research capabilities behind self-driving trucks. Uber Technologies Inc. is buying Silicon Valley trucking startup Ottomotto LLC, the WSJ’s Greg Bensinger and John Stoll report, in a deal worth around $680 million that promises to accelerate the push toward autonomous technology in trucking” [Wall Street Journal]. “The agreement comes as Uber is stepping on the accelerator In its broader push toward self-driving technology, laying out a plan to offer autonomous vehicles for passenger rides in Pittsburgh. The move into trucking may have a more immediate impact, however. Ottomoto believes regulators would look more favorably on vehicles that operate primarily on highways, rather than through dense urban streets.” Note that this means one key argument for self-driving cars — saving lives from crashes — is being erased.

The Bezzle: “A judge has rejected Uber’s $100 million settlement with drivers” [Business Insider]. Robots can’t sue. Yet.

The Bezzle: “How Lending Club’s Biggest Fanboy Uncovered Shady Loans” [Bloomberg]. “Sims decided to take a look at the hundreds of loans he’d invested in, arranging them in a spreadsheet that displayed their amounts, interest rates, and information about borrowers’ salaries, employers, locations, incomes, and credit ratings (FICO scores, specifically). Two loans caught his eye. Both had been issued to individuals with the same employer in the same small town. So far, so coincidental. But looking deeper, Sims found that the salaries were nearly identical. Both borrowers had opened their first line of credit in the same month. This, Sims realized, is the same dude. It wasn’t a borrower who’d paid off one loan and happily returned for a second. It was one person with two active loans, and Lending Club was treating them as completely unrelated.” Sounds like a “Big Short” moment…

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The Fed: “The Fed Is Searching for a New Framework. New Minutes Show It Doesn’t Have One Yet” [Neil Irwin, New York Times]. So the guy in the front of the plane doesn’t know how to fly? So all those credentials don’t mean squat? To be fair, it doesn’t take much training to turn a placebo knob. But still!

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 76 Extreme Greed (previous close: 78, Extreme Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 76 (Extreme Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed).Last updated Aug 19 at 11:21am. It’s too hot to be greedy…

Our Famously Free Press

“NBC’s Olympics nightmare has all but come true: Prime-time viewership for Rio is down 17% from the London Games in 2012” [Business Insider].

Dear Old Blighty

Two splendid videos from the Corbyn campaign:

And then this, originally via Greenwald, but since the only embed is via the Corybn campaign:

Imperial Collapse Watch

“The NSA Leak Is Real, Snowden Documents Confirm” [The Intercept].

“Where Are NSA’s Overseers on the Shadow Brokers Release?” [Emptywheel].


“Major rivers of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta become unusually deeper” [Touitre News]. Not good news for Southeast Asia.


“Work stops at Dakota Access Pipeline site” [Bismark Tribune]. It’s not p-r-o-t-e-s-t-i-n-g. It’s p-r-o-t-e-c-t-i-n-g.

Guillotine Watch

Burning Man time again [San Francisco Chronicle]. The deeply spiritual experience of a 747 in the desert.

Class Warfare

“In 2013, families in the top 10 percent of the wealth distribution held 76 percent of all family wealth, families in the 51st to the 90th percentiles held 23 percent, and those in the bottom half of the distribution held 1 percent. Average wealth was about $4 million for families in the top 10 percent of the wealth distribution, $316,000 for families in the 51st to 90th percentiles, and $36,000 for families in the 26th to 50th percentiles. On average, families at or below the 25th percentile were $13,000 in debt” [Congressional Budget Office].

“A new study — presented Friday at the 111th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association in Seattle — found that when young men are the family’s breadwinner, it may not be good for them. ‘We find strong evidence that, for men, breadwinning has adverse effects,’ write the authors of the study. ‘As relative income increases — that is, as men take on more economic responsibility in marriage — psychological well-being and health decline’” [MarketWatch].

Read to the last line: “I feel so important. Everyone treats me like I’m rich” [New Yorker]. Rule #2 of Neoliberalism

News of the Wired

“Make Your Own Hitler Video” [Downfall]. Anyone want to check this out?

“NASA just made all the scientific research it funds available for free” [Science Alert]. Since the public owns it!

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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 (CR):


Palm trunk, San Diego. Palms creak in the night. Eerie.

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Readers, I know it’s the dead days of August, but if you can, 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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This entry was posted in Guest Post, Water Cooler on by Lambert Strether.

About Lambert Strether

Lambert Strether has been blogging, managing online communities, and doing system administration 24/7 since 2003, in Drupal and WordPress. Besides political economy and the political scene, he blogs about rhetoric, software engineering, permaculture, history, literature, local politics, international travel, food, and fixing stuff around the house. The nom de plume “Lambert Strether” comes from Henry James’s The Ambassadors: “Live all you can. It’s a mistake not to.” You can follow him on Twitter at @lambertstrether.

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