2:00PM Water Cooler 9/29/2015

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Readers will remember that yesterday I lamented that I couldn’t find a copy of Sandor Levin’s memo listing “a dozen major unresolved issues” in TPP, prepared in advance of the TPP meeting in Atlanta. Well, alert reader No One threw a scan of it over the transom; here’s a link to it, and I’ve embedded a copy of it below. I urge you to read the whole thing and distribute it widely.

So, since nobody else seems to have this, I’m going to type in and excerpt some of the high points here, both to make discussion easier and so that this material shows up in Google. (I apologize for any typos, and the fact that the rest of Water Cooler will be attenuated.) So herewith:

To: Democratic Members of the House Advisory Group on Negotiations
From: Sander M. Levin, Ranking Member, Committee on Ways and Means
Date: September 24, 2015
Re: Meeting with USTR Michael Froman on the TPP

You will be joining USTR Michael Froman as part of the House Advisory Group on Negotiations (HAG) on Friday, September 25 at 7:45am to discuss the resolution of outstanding issues in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), which the Administration is seeking to conclude in principle as soon as possible — and as early as next week.

Readers will recall that yesterday I flagged my concern at the weasel wording “in principle,” and noted that, on TPP, the only good progress is no progress; not even a fig leaf like “agreement in principle.” (Perhaps another alert reader, more adept than I am with the Google, could list the names and numbers of the HAG; it would be good if they were fully aware of the public’s views).

Levin’s memo summarizes twelve outstanding issues, and gives the status for each. I’m going to focus primarily on the status, unless his discussion of each issue presents material with which readers are unfamiliar. We see right away that the issues outstanding are — hold on to your hats, folks — far more numerous and complex and press coverage would suggest.

1. Currency Manipulation

….Status: The Treasury Department has been engaging in conversations with TPP countries about currency manipulation and hopes to reach a final agreement in the coming days. The text has not been available for Members to review in the secure reading room. It will not be enforceable and will be a side agreement, not a part of the TPP agreement itself.

An unforceable side agreement on currency manipulation? I can imagine that won’t be greeted with universal applause.

2. Labor Rights

….Status: The TPP is expected to include the May 10 labor obligation with enforceability through the basic dispute settlement structure [i.e., ISDS] in TPP. However, the TPP does not yet have a mechanism to ensure that certain TPP parties that have labor laws and practices that fall far short of international standards will actually live up to the promises contained in the “May 10th Agreement.”

So here we have enforceability, but nothing to enforce. Alrighty, then. Levin lists Vietnam, Peru, and Mexico as countries falling short. And Malaysia:

In Malaysia, human trafficking is a major concern. This remains true even and especially as the 2015 U.S. Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report issued by the State Department at the end of July upgraded Malaysia from Tier 2, the ranking reserved for countries with the worst record on human trafficking, a decision that has been widely criticized and scrutinized in Congress.

Malaysia’s human trafficking problem — which is a forced labor problem — puts it in violation of the ILO’s basic standards and the TPP agreement.

Any ‘consistency plans’ (i.e., agreement on how the labor obligations will be implemented) for these and other TPP countries are not available for Members to review in the secure reading room.

(See NC commentary on Malaysia, slavery, and the TPP.) It’s worth noting that any agreement in principle, at this point, also accepts the practice of slavery, in principle.

3. Environment

….Status: The TPP environment will look very different from the May 10 Agreement. The environment chapter covers a broad range of subjects, ranging from shark finning, to fish subsidies, to trade in illegally harvested plants and animals. But the obligations themselves — the ‘verbs’ used — are weak.

4. Invester and Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS)

….Status:… [O]ther serious shortcomings remain. For example, any action that an ISDS tribunal may consider “arbitary” could still be found to constitute a breach of the MST [Minimum Standard of Treatment] obligation. Further, the TPP text does not contain a diplomatic screening mechanism of any sort, nor the preambular language on investment agreed to as part of the May 10th Agreement.

(Do any readers know of preambular language is normative?) I’m sure the irony of the completely unaccountable, and deeply conflicted, ISDS tribunals issuing rulings on what is or is not “arbitrary” is not lost on readers.

5. Access to Medicines

….Status: Absent some change of course, the final text is likely to provide less access to affordable medicines than than provided under the May 10 Agreement. For example, developing countries will likely be required to ‘graduate’ to more restrictive intellectual property rights standards before they become developed — a clear inconsistency with May 10. There are also a number of concerns that the TPP agreement will restrict access to medicines in other developed countries (e.g., by having long periods of data exclusivity for biologic medicines,) and that these disciplines, even if they are consistent with current U.S. law, could make changing U.S. law in the future more of a challenge.

Note that the “challenge” would not exist were not U.S. sovereignty to change U.S. law at least partially surrendered. (I’m guessing that “challenge,” like “concern,” is a Beltway word that translates, operationally, to “hair on fire.”)

6. Automotive Market Access

….Status: The Administration has not stated a specific period of time for when the phase-out in U.S. tariffs for autos, trucks, and auto parts would begin, and there is no text available for Members of Congress to review on this issue.

Sausage still being made on auto!

7. Rules of Origin (ROOs)

….Status: There are a number of rules of origin being negotiated in the TPP for different products, including in the sensitive textile and apparel, agricultural, and automotive sectors. Some of the rules are largely settled while others — including the rules for automotive products — remain open and controversial. These rules have not been included in the documents available for Members to review in the secure facility. … [T]he automotivec rules of origin remain one of the most difficult outstanding issues coming out of the meeting of TPP Ministers that took place in Maui at the end of July.

No unmade sausage in the secure facility!

8. Tobacco Controls

….Status: … While the USTR hopes to reach an agreement in principle as early as next week, USTR staff has informed us that the USTR does not have a position on this particular issue. In any event, USTR has not shared its bottom line, or even its next move, with Members of Congress or cleared advisors.

Really? Mitch McConnell is from a tobacco-growing state, right?

9. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)

….Status: The extent to which an SOE provision will help level the playing field, will be determined by the degree to which parties seek very broad country-specific carve-outs for particular SOEs and how SOEs are defined. … While significant challenges [emphasis mine] remain with a handful of countries, progress with Malaysia appears to be particularly slow and difficult. It is difficult to assess the status of these carve-outs, however. Members of Congress do not currently have access to these draft schedules.

Also concerning is the fact hat the defintion of SOEs (considered by the negotiators to be a closed issue) is very narrow, allowing enterprises that are effectively controlled by foreign governments (but where the government owns less than a majority of shares) to circumvent the obligations.

This all seems tuned to enable Malaysia, whose political economy (“bumiputra preferences”) is heavily based on SOEs, and ethhically based ones, at that, to slide by on SOEs much as they did on slavery, because Straits of Malacca. One wonders what Vietnam, Mexico, and even Canada (CBC, Canada Post) think of this double standard, and whether domestic pressures mean they’ll try to retrade this “closed issue.”

10. Agricultural Market Access

….Issue: In my [Levin’s] view, the TPP needs to either virtually eliminate tariffs on virtually all products or, in the exceptional circumstances where a product is not subject to full tariff elimination, TPP needs to obtain signigicant new market access opportunities, substantially equivalent to the opportunities afforded TPP party exporters to the U.S. market.

Flinging down the gauntlet? (I extracted issues, and not Status which, boiled down, seems to imply that some sausage, at least, will be successfully made on dairy.)

11. Food Safety Measures

….Status: We have asked the Administration to confirm that existing U.S. laws, regulations, and practices will not be impacted by these obligations. There is also a concern that we do not have adequate resources to monitor the safety of food imports.

‘Tis a confirmation devoutly to be wished….

12. Copyright

….Status: The status is unclear. Although discussions occurred in Maui, USTR has indicated that the TPP parties have had no follow up discussions since Maui. While USTR hopes to conclude the negotitiations as soon as next week, it does not yet have a position on the issue.

There’s more, much more. Again, I urge readers to read the whole thing, and especially the concluding section on the timeline.

I’d sum up my concerns this way: It looks to me like the USTR is trying to package up a victory with sausage-making deals on dairy and maybe auto, and an agreement “in principle.” We’ll then hear lots of loose talk about “momentum.” And our famously free press — at least the part of it accessible to me — has helped this process along by focusing mostly on those deals, and not on the larger issues of betrayal of national sovereignty.

It’s also noteworthy that although Levin (rightly) complains about material not available to Members in the Double Top Sekrit Reading Room, that material mostly pertains to sausage-making, and not sovereignty. The sovereignty issues, like ISDS, are right out in plain sight (or, alternatively, are covered in side deals that never appear in the Reading Room at all). And I’m not sure exactly how to kill a zombie, but I’m sure that letting it “agree” to anything is at best a failure in technique. Hopefully, Atlanta ends in acrimony, with no agreement on anything.



Currently, 60% say that any budget deal must maintain funding for the organization, while 32% say that any agreement must eliminate its funding [Pew Research].


Campaigns and super-PACs aren’t supposed to coordinate, but the line between them at Fiorina’s events is extremely blurry, with the casual attendee not able to notice any gap between the two” [Bloomberg].

The Voters

“Why intersectionality can’t wait” [Kimberlé Crenshaw, WaPo]. Considering intersectionality solely as a data structure, I agree.

The Trail

“CNN confirmed that any candidate who has averaged 1 percent in at least three credible polls would be able to participate in the debate. Since most recent polls have tested Biden and found he would have double-digit support, he meets the threshold easily” [The Hill. “With that main hurdle past, Biden wouldn’t even have to file official paperwork by the debate — the criteria says that a simple public declaration will suffice.”

“CNN Begs Joe Biden To Run For President, Promises Debate Spot And Puppy” [Gawker]. “There is no chance at all that CNN is only doing this to fluff its own ratings, or to try to influence Biden’s decision-making process. The network is simply letting the vice president know it will hold a lectern for him at the Wynn Las Vegas, and all the other kids will be there, and there’ll be popcorn and games and a Spin Room.” Indeed. The Beltway l-o-o-o-v-es them some Joe Biden, even though — by which I mean because — his legislative record is far uglier and more pernicious than Clinton’s.

The Hill

UPDATE “[T]he same right-wingers animated by Boehner’s perceived slights are also animated against TPP” [David Dayen, Salon]. “What House Republican will vote to give Obama a long-sought victory [on TPP], after seeing the outcome of the House speaker who committed the offense of merely not wanting to embark on a futile fight over defunding Planned Parenthood?” It’s an ill wind….

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who “appears likely to succeed outgoing House Speaker John Boehner is a vocal proponent of abolishing the 60-vote threshold in the Senate in order to pass Republican-sponsored bills” [Bloomberg]. Of course, the House is not the Senate. That said, how much you wanna bet that the Republicans do what the Democrats did not do, when they had the power to do it, in 2009? That is, abolish the filibuster and ram their bills through?

“Now that House Speaker John Boehner has decided to quit Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has become the new Public Enemy No. 1 of dissatisfied conservatives” [McClatchy]. Speaking of the Senate…

Trey Gowdy (probably) won’t run for speaker [Politico]. Too bad. The guy has a great profile and good hair, but hasn’t been able to make Benghazi into anything other than the hairball it is.

Stats Watch

S&P Case-Shiller HPI, July 2015: “Case-Shiller is reporting what is becoming striking weakness in home prices” [Econoday]. “This report is very closely watched and offsets last week’s gain for FHFA prices which are trending slightly higher than Case-Shiller.” Crazy talk. This is best recovery ever.

Consumer Confidence, September 2015: “Consumer confidence was supposed to have fallen back this month as stock market losses took their effect. But instead confidence is inexplicably rising” [Econoday]. “The gain is centered in the present situation component which hints at ongoing strength in the labor market and immediate strength in consumer spending.”

State Street Investor Confidence Index, September 2015: “Volatility may be out of control in the financial markets but investor sentiment is very strong” [Econoday]. “The report attributes the month’s strength to September’s FOMC decision and indications that the Fed is set for a more shallow rate hike cycle than previously expected.” More free money (for those who already have lots of it).

Police State
“Map: 16 states have more people in prisons and jails than in college housing” [Vox]. Priorities!

Health Care
“33 Million Americans Still Don’t Have Health Insurance” [FiveThirtyEight]. “It’s hard to say why these [remaining] 14 million people weren’t insured, but the administration will have to figure that out if it wants to come close to the universal coverage the law intended.” I know why, even if the wonks at FiveThirtyEight don’t. The Democrats didn’t pass single payer when they had the chance.

“Bee tongues tell a tale of climate change” [Nature].

Class Warfare

“On the bleeding edge of Center City, young, privileged, and plugged-in New Philadelphians have grown tired of apologizing for their presence.” As [Philadelphia Magazine] sucks up to its newest subscribers…

“Medium, the publishing platform started by one of Twitter’s cofounders 3 years ago, has 25 million users and is worth $400 million” [Medium]. More “sharing.” Of that $400 million, how much do the authors get?

“Unrealistic retirement expectations exist among millennials. The study found that 15 percent of millennials believe that winning the lottery is a viable retirement strategy” [CNBC]. Leaving aside the classification issues surrounding the concept “millenials,” has CNBC no concept of irony?

News of the Wired

“The definitive guide to YouTube’s 9 global production spaces”[Daily Dot]. Neat!

“We Emit Clouds of Microbes Wherever We Go” [Scientic American]. “Those microbe-laced clouds are sometimes unique enough to identify the person producing them.” Uh oh.

* * *

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 (Mike):

foxtail fern

Mike writes that this is a foxtail fern from Burnt Store Marina, between Ft. Myers and Punta Gorda, FL. “I particularly like* the red berries on the foxtail fern.”

* So do I, even if the photo is a bit small; I prefer 600px.

Readers, I’d also be interested in any projects you did this summer (now that the time to put the garden to bed is approaching)….

If you enjoy Water Cooler, please consider tipping and click the hat. Winter is coming, I need to fix my laptop, and I need to keep my server up, too.


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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. C

    Regarding Levin’s timeline point I find this part to be very worrisome:

    Under Trade Promotion Authority, before the President may sign a final TPP Agreement he must first notify Congress of his intent to do so 90 days before signing. Within that period and sixty days before signing an agreement, the draft text must be published. Because the President has not yet notified Congress under this provision, the 90 day clock has not started.

    The U.S. International Trade Commission, an independent agency, is to publish an assessment of the likely economic impact of the agreement within 105 days after an Agreement is signed. This is significantly less time than the ITC requested. Specifically, in a November 2013 letter the chairman of the ITS indicated the ITC needs “at least 150 days” to complete its analysis from the time the final agreement is submitted to the ITC.

    Press reports have suggested, however, that USTR has urged the ITC to expedite its analysis and to complete its assessment more quickly than the 105 days provided in the TPA.

    [Emphasis mine]

    If I read that right, this means that:

    1) Congress (and possibly the public) gets at most 60 days to look at a draft before Obama signs it.

    2) The only independent analysis of the deal’s economic impact will be started after it is signed.

    3) that analysis will be inadequate in any case.

    There is no part of this that is democratic, deliberative, or even remotely transparent.

    1. Vatch

      “There is no part of this that is democratic, deliberative, or even remotely transparent.”

      But, but, but, they have a Chief Transparency Officer! Timothy Reif! I read about it on the USTR web site after I learned about it here at NC!

      1. Synoia

        Depends on the objectives for the Chief Transparency Officer.

        Provide Transparency, or
        Prevent Transparency

    2. Yves Smith

      The good news is that there is so much up in the air at this late stage that it seems inconceivable that this will get done. And the Japanese have basically said that this meeting is the last chance. No Japan, no deal. See Clive’s comments yesterday here and here).

  2. Arizona Slim

    Surprising weakness in home prices? Why is there any surprise? When you price something beyond the buyer’s ability to afford it, watch that price come down. It’s nothing more than supply and demand.

  3. Louis

    The CNBC article strikes me as just another generational-warfare clickbait piece: i.e. the younger generation is [insert pejorative word].

    I don’t know who they surveyed but I’m a millennial and doubt I’ll ever be able to buy a home—let alone retire.

    1. Massinissa

      23 year old from Georgia, pretty much certain I will never have enough cash to own a home. I think when my parents die off in 15 years or so Ill see if I can live with my cousin (currently 31, not married, pretty much guaranteed to not be married ever, nice guy though) up in Tennessee or something.

      My parents used to own a home, but Dad (architect) was out of work for 18 months after the crash in the housing market in 2009 so we had to sell that half a decade ago.

      1. Louis

        The number of jobs that allow to buy a home and retire has dwindled—they still exist but there are too many people chasing too few of these jobs—not to mention that there aren’t enough jobs to go around period.

        At the same time housing prices seem to keep going up—this isn’t just in traditionally high-priced markets like Manhattan or San Francisco either—in many parts of the country. Mix these two together and it’s hard not to best pessimistic about the future.

        If you look hard enough, you can always find people who are living in la-la land. However, I suspect more young people live in the real world than this article makes it appear.

        The article, and many of the comments, criticizes millennials for not saving or investing enough. Okay geniuses, if you’re underemployed and barely scraping by, where is the money to invest or save for a down-payment on a house supposed to come from?

        It’s a problem of math more than ignorance or unrealistic expectations.

        1. JTMcPhee

          Maybe it’s way past time for a very different model? Some people seem to be working some versions out, “intentional communities” and all, though how “we” can off-load the shit we have had preached and peddled to “us” by those of “us” who serve the Classical Middle Class Model and its suppliers and parasites, and escape the apparently innate preferences for greed and MOREism, I got no idea. Harking back to a personal 1970 foray into communal living with a gaggle of East Coast pseudo-hippies– who owns the stereo, will we share partners for sex, who buys the dope and cooks and cleans and would those of us who got “outside jobs” be expected to put it all in the Common Fund, all to the tune of Marx in the key of $. I found a nice farm, good buildings and land, easily affordable… but growing food is such HARD WORK for people with soft hands, and heads… We’ve changed the world, but not ourselves…

        2. ambrit

          I don’t know about your area, but here in the “Heart of Dixie,” oftimes confused with Bumf—, Egypt for some inexplicable reason, the City of Hattiesburg proudly declared the eternal ‘blight removal’ program to be a roaring success. Last year some eighty ‘neglected’ houses were demolished in the City, by the City, for the, er, City? Rents are still high by any measure. The homeless have been ‘disappeared’ but can still be spotted about town. Commercial rents are high and still rising. There are lots and lots of empty storefronts, and even a fairly new closed down Howard Johnsons Motel. All in all, not a pretty picture.

      2. jrs

        Generation X and I will never own a home either probably. Not in California where I reside anyway. So home affordability has been a problem for quite awhile (it was more doable for the Boomers I guess). Retiring somewhere more affordable someday might be doable, as I don’t see how it is possible here at all.

        1. truthaddict

          GenX here. Home ownership is completely out of the equation as is retirement and playing the lottery.
          I figure, should I make it to old age, I will take a trip to NY to see this infamous “Wall Street” and try to retire a few bankers before the police retire me.

          1. hunkerdown

            Cheers. A society is great when old men plant trees under whose shade they will not sit.

            I’ve no interest in owning a home either, and retirement, absent a public pension system with “everybody in, nobody out”, is no great prospect either.

    2. Oregoncharles

      Location, location, location.

      there are, and always will be, places where houses are essentially going begging – Detroit, for example. Or the Great Plains. Normally, of course, that’s because there are no jobs, or no one in their right mind would want to live there.

      Consequently, (and this is serious advice), there is great value in portable jobs. Could be online, work-from-home, or skills so in demand you can work anywhere. For a not-very-relevant example, doctors are greatly in demand in rural areas. (Of course, they can usually afford a home almost anywhere, but it’s a starting point.) If you’re still needed after a societal collapse, that’s a big bonus point.

      In all seriousness, I think both of these are important career considerations.

      But, full disclosure, I’m old and I own a home, with help from my parents. So I guess that’s a big grain of salt.

      1. Louis

        Maybe it’s just my imagination but there seems to be a hollowing out of job and housing markets: i.e. locations are increasingly separating into ones that either have cheap housing (compared to cities anyway) but few jobs, and ones with lots of jobs but problems with affordability.

        There are fewer and fewer places that have both good-paying jobs and affordable housing. Even places like Denver, Colorado, which for a long time had both decent job opportunities and reasonably priced housing, have been going to hell in terms of affordability.

        1. Hidflect

          It’s the Thailand economy model our betters have been assiduously working towards for 30 years. Rents in the gleaming city with the skeleton crew of good jobs are high while all around, beyond the perimeter, huddle the pool of labour in cheap.shanties from which only the most exceptional and compliant are beckoned for service.

    3. Uahsenaa

      It’s really quite infuriating the degree to which the young get dumped on by people whose lives are more or less stable. Of age demographics, people just getting out of high school or college have the highest unemployment rates of anyone, and the jobs they do end up getting pay so much less because the wage scale in most industries has already been broken. Then someone decides to write a think piece about how young people these days can’t hold down a job (that doesn’t exist) or have no sense of shared values (with those who are actively screwing them over). It’s beyond the pale.

      1. Louis


        If you look hard enough I’m sure you can find a 20 or 30 something that sits in their parents basement playing video games all day. However, most of the 20-30 demographic that lives at home does so because they don’t have a lot of other good options: e.g. they’re underemployed, have student loans to pay, and have been priced out of the rental markets.

        I periodically see articles quoting economists who talking about how eventually millenials living at home will “leave the nest” and buy homes and spend money, as if they don’t want to grow up. They’re not going to move out and buy homes if the jobs aren’t there and housing remains as expensive as it is.

        It feels like you can’t win: have a family and are working a menial job you get labeled as irresponsible for having children you can’t afford but postpone marriage and starting a family because of financial concerns and you get labeled as “not wanting to grow up.”

        1. Nigelk

          Haven’t you heard from your friendly GOP congressmen? People who don’t make enough money just shouldn’t have kids.

          And give up on ever having a house/retirement/your own business/hope to ever live in dignity.

          Unless you’re high-born. Not high-born? Nevermind. Accept your servitude.

          There, problem solved!

    1. Daryl

      So SuperPACs are not only a way for the rich to funnel giant sums to candidates, they can also serve as a killswitch for a candidate who isn’t performing well or (not in Paul’s case, but perhaps for other candidates in the future) is starting to get uppity policy ideas.

    2. lylo

      He’s trying to cash in on his dad’s popularity with a certain group while simultaneously distancing himself from that group on issues they view critical to support to get a better standing in the primary. Very untenable position without a broader base of support going in.
      Might have worked if he wasn’t getting so greedy with it and running after one term as a junior Senator with few notable accomplishments for both Senate and President simultaneously; he even talked the GOP into changing our primary system (now we get caucuses on the R side–great) so he could skirt the law on this issue. Doesn’t make him look good.
      Now he’s spent a lot of political capital before the primary is even really started. So much for that broader base of support.
      Yeah. Pretty much doomed.

      1. Ed

        Paul has the same problem as Sanders, in that they are essentially minor party candidates roped into the primaries of the two legacy parties, due to the duopoly. I don’t think you can somehow fool Republican voters, who are mostly not libertarian (despite many libertarians preferring the Republicans to the Democrats), to backing a libertarian as their nominee. Maybe you can in Kentucky, but not nationwide. Sanders is getting more traction as the alternative to Hilary Clinton, who many Democrats recognize as a dreadful potential nominee.

        So Paul should have at least waited. I actually think he would have a better chance against an unpopular Republican incumbent president in 2020.

        1. NotTimothyGeithner

          Sanders would be a Democrat in good standing prior to the rise of the Third Way. Sanders is much closer to what Democratic voters pretend Team Blue is. Voting for Sanders isn’t a leap for most Democratic voters except for the petty bourgeois team blue types.

        2. cwaltz

          Paul is a libertarian in the same sense that I’m the Easter Bunny.

          Yes, I fill baskets for my kids once a year, however the rest of the time I actually am known as someone else.

          He’s libertarian as long as you’re white, “Christian” and male. If you’re female then you don’t get body autonomy. If you’re gay then as far as he’s concerned you should not get the same rights as him(he presently is a co sponsor of a hateful bill that would allow people to discriminate against gays) and your lifestyle is a “moral crisis”(funny since I must of missed the bill where he called for Christian shopowners to be allowed to discriminate against adulterers even though that’s an actual commandment against adultery and I don’t hear him calling for an end to divorce unless you were the victim of adultery as the Bible defines marriage either.) No, I’d categorize Paul as hypocrite more than I would categorize him as libertarian.

  4. DJG

    As I was reading the maunderings of Levin about the trade unions and disparities–that the Vietnamese are forced to join commie unions, that the Mexican bigshots have fake unions for their workers–I wondered if one of the other advanced countries could sue the U S of A about right-to-work laws, which are nothing but glorified union-busting. Surely, Japanese or Australian law recognizes a right to unionize? I’m not holding my breath, since the whole group of trade treaties is meant to destroy the middle classes and whatever may be left of the working classes, but there is the law of unintended consequences. (And I won’t even go into the law of unintended consequences about Syria, which has Putin speaking sweet reason and Obama in his usual pissy state.)

    1. ambrit

      Wait until the Russians start warning off “Allied” air units from over Syrian Government territory.
      I am beginning to think that Syria is going to be the “put up or shut up” moment for the Neo-Cons Middle Eastern tough guy policy.

    2. JTMcPhee

      Hmmm… Which “investor” is likely to take that kind of claim to a Dispute Troika? Gotta have “skin in the game,” and a pretty big war chest, to even approach the process, I hear. Mopes by definition cannot be “parties” to the dispute, only victims of the “judgments of their owners.”

      A nice thought, though. Waiting for It All to finally explode, when the Greed Bomb finally reaches its critical mass…

    3. cwaltz

      Well Germany pretty much ignored the union vote in Tennessee and has the UAW bargaining on behalf of VW workers when the UAW initially lost the vote(possibly due to political shenanigans by the GOP.)

      1. hunkerdown

        It’s my understanding that many workers wanted the democratic VW workers’ council structure representing them instead of the Democratic UAW. The GOP may have lied for pathos, but what is authority other than the ability to get your money (or any other calls on labor) accepted?

        1. cwaltz

          Actually the GOP essentially told the workers that if they voted for the union than VW wouldn’t expand the plant and as it would have it apparently they told VW that they would not give them the state economic incentives if the company was not governed to the state of Tennessee’s satisfaction. It was pretty dirty pool.

          Oh and that works council actually REQUIRES there to be a union so there definitely was some misunderstanding if you thought it was an alternative to the UAW.


  5. DJG

    Speaking of the numbers of uninsured, I just received my “cancellation” letter from Blue. My plan is gone, you see, and during open enrollment, Blue will come up with something worse and more expensive. This a main reason why relatively few Americans are self-employed or own their own businesses–health care is a great destroyer of disposable income.

    And I won’t even mention people making much less than I do, the rent-a-maids, the Uber-drivers, none of whom can afford this health insurance…

    1. curlydan

      Exactly. When it comes to the “land of entrepreneurship”, the health care system here is an incredible barrier to innovation.

      And for the people who can’t land on Medicaid, maybe they went shopping to find a reasonable subsidized premium, but why pay a reasonable premium and its small drain on income when you’re just going to get jacked on the sky high deductible if you do go see a doctor?

        1. JTMcPhee

          Hey! Great entrepreneurial opportunity! Suicide, “death with dignity/assisted dying” is, thanks to interesting collections of interest holders, getting to be “legal” in more and more places! Surely there’s a rent profit to be extracted there (Shkreli, are you listening?). Hey, the Ancients would place coins in the mouths or pon the eyes of the dead, to “pay their passage!” Grab those, and the gold fillings and crowns, there’s precedent there a- plenty, and first thing you know, Death ‘R’ Us LLC does its IPO!

  6. cyclist

    YouTube’s London production space is in London’s ‘posh Soho’. It has been a few years since I’ve been in London, but posh is not a common adjective used to describe Soho.

  7. Carolinian

    A pity about Trey Gowdy. He would have been Majority Leader (not Speaker) from the same SC House district as House of Cards’ Frank Underwood. If the show is to believed then a few plot twists later he becomes President (might have to bump a few people off). The Secret Service black Suburbans SUVs would be exchanged for BMWs.

    However there’s still hope for Upstaters. Gowdy says he might accept a draft.

  8. Ed

    “On the bleeding edge of Center City, young, privileged, and plugged-in New Philadelphians have grown tired of apologizing for their presence.”

    As a refugee from the hyper-gentrification of New York, I see all the signs of it about to happen in Philly, with the Market East development a big harbinger. I figure I have two more years here before it becomes intolerable.

    1. edmondo

      Good God! How can you afford to in Philadelphia, between the outrageous wage tax and the onerous real estate taxes you have to be a real masochist.

  9. Jim Haygood

    The Clintons — still shockingly poor for their income level:

    Since Bill and Hillary Clinton left the White House in 2001, they have earned more than $230 million. But in federal filings the Clintons claim they are worth somewhere between $11 million and $53 million. After layering years of disclosures on top of annual tax returns, Forbes estimates their combined net worth at $45 million. Where did all of the money go? No one seems to know, and the Clintons aren’t offering any answers.

    From 2001 to 2014 the power couple spent $95 million on taxes. Hillary’s 2008 presidential run cost her $13 million. Their two homes cost a combined $5 million, and the Clintons have given away $22 million to charity. All of this is according to FEC filings, property records and years of tax returns. Add it up and you get $135 million. If the Clintons made $230 million, spent $135 million and have just $45 million left over, what happened to the other $50 million?

    “That’s kind of strange,” says Joe Biden’s accountant, Walter Deyhle. “You have to report all of your assets. You have to report assets that are owned by your spouse.”


    It would take a lot of hush money to add up to $50 million. And as poor ol’ Denny Hastert (who’s close to reaching a plea deal, as nearly all federal defendants do under our new trial-free justice system) learned, you can’t just hand it out in cash. That’s ‘structuring’ — a heinous offense that didn’t exist before 1986.

    Say … you don’t reckon they’ve got $50 million stashed offshore, do you?

      1. Jim Haygood

        Maybe the whole family is just bearish on the dollar, ambrit.

        I know I would be, if the Clintons were moving back into the White House … and Ellen Brown was gonna be signing the currency, as the presses hummed day and night.

        Short the dollar, long cattle futures: the Clinton stratagem.

        1. ambrit

          Yes, short the dollar. Long maybe not cattle, but definitely long on “Water Rights Management” corporations. I would have said long on farmland, but, with climate disruption looming, who knows where the arable land will be in fifty years?
          I hope the Witches were good to you.

    1. craazyboy

      Bill probably keeps it in his socks drawer. I like to have a little extra cash stashed in the house, and that’s where I keep mine.

      The other thing I wonder is how you make $230 million in 15 years, one spouse being a retired “civil servant” and the other an employed “civil servant” ?

      1. ambrit

        $230 million? Easy if you have amazing super powers to figure out exactly when to buy and sell your ‘friends’ securities.
        Poor Bill. That’s not the only thing he should have kept in his drawers.

  10. optimader

    Cheezeburgers, lawyers, blow and pantsuits… And the grandkids… including Chelsea’s shorty.

    Ok, I’m just a guess’in..

  11. ambrit

    Off topic, but I hope for forgiveness.
    Some local yahoos are opening up a proper shooting range soon in our fair city.
    Since, contrary to popular (mis)conception, the South is not awash in gun nut meeting places, this is fairly big news for the locals. However, if one were to read the local shoppers article about it, yes, the shopper is a source of ‘hard’ news, one would discover that it will be a membership required venue. Fair enough. If the fees aren’t onerous, it can be done. Lots of bells and whistles will be available: safety classes, firearm handling classes, groups for various sub types of gun nut, etc. etc. The last sentence pulled me up short. Mandatory background checks of potential members. Can we say police front organization boys and girls?
    Welcome to the New South.

  12. Gareth

    Hillary will survive the email scandal because the vast majority of citizens don’t care about the administrative vagaries of official email usage and so much information is inappropriately classified anyway, often after it’s already public, to make the designation of “classified” meaningless. Does anyone expect the Obama’s Attorney General to indict Hillary? Well then, how many more months can the heathens rage? When will Republicans and the smarmy Chuck Todds of the world realize that hyping scandals solely for the purpose of dirtying a candidates name only strengthens that candidate later, when she survives and then appears to be indomitable.

  13. allan

    Temporary Visas, Meant to Import Talent, Help Ship Jobs Abroad

    For four weeks this spring, a young woman from India on a temporary visa sat elbow to elbow with an American accountant in a snug cubicle at the headquarters of Toys “R” Us here. The Indian woman, an employee of a giant outsourcing company in India hired by Toys “R” Us, studied and recorded the accountant’s every keystroke, taking screen shots of her computer and detailed notes on how she issued payments for toys sold in the company’s megastores.

    File under STEM Warfare.

    1. jrs

      At least the employees should not train their replacements. But what about the severance? Yes, we need a strike fund equal to any severance to at least encourage employees to refuse to train their replacements.

      1. cwaltz

        If I were an employee asked to involuntarily train my replacement I’d have a lot of fun with that. I’d make sure to add steps to the process and take my sweet ol’ time with “training” them. What are they going to do? Fire you? I wonder how much more time THAT would add to their outsource training timeline? LOL

  14. Oregoncharles

    I know it’s trivial, but the header says “TTP,” not “TPP.” Just to be sure: is that what you meant?

    I just have a hard time ignoring these things.

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