2:00PM Water Cooler 8/15/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Meetup reminder: Burlington, VT Thursday, August 17 at 8:00PM; Montreal, Quebec Friday, August 18, at 6:00PM. Hope to see you there!

Venue for Montreal: Café Cherrier, 3635 St Denis, a 2 minute walk from the Sherbrooke metro station.

Venue for Burlington: Not decided. These three look good to me:

1) Vermont Pub and Brewery. It looks like they don’t have any events on Thursday, so not too much noise.

2) Zero Gravity Brewpub at American Flatbread. A gastro be nice if people want dinner, because of the advanced hour.

3) The Farmhouse Tap & Grill. A gastropub, also nice if people want dinner.

One requirement is that we be near the Downtown Transit Center off Church Street (45-68 St Paul Street). What do readers think?

* * *

Trade

“Rather than ordering immediate tariffs or taking other moves that could violate WTO rules, President Donald Trump signed an executive memorandum directing U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to ‘consider all available options’ to pressure China to change course on policies that have forced American companies to hand over valuable technology to do business in the world’s second-largest economy. That includes a potential investigation under the little-used and obscure Section 301 of the 1974 Trade Act — a step that could take as long as a year before any action is taken” [Politico]. “The move could buy Trump some time to find ways to pressure China to use its influence over North Korea to get Pyongyang to scale back its nuclear ambitions.”

“Labor and environmental groups are warning the Trump administration that a NAFTA 2.0 that looks too much like the Trans-Pacific Partnership will likely end the same way that trade deal did – unsuccessfully. And winning their support will start, they warn, at the very beginning: with a process that they argue should be open, transparent, and heavily influenced by input from stakeholders” [Politico].

“A glut of low-cost solar panels in the U.S. is triggering an unusual fight over tariffs and environmental policy. The U.S. International Trade Commission this week will hear arguments over calls by bankrupt solar-panel maker Suniva Inc. for new barriers on imported solar cells” [Wall Street Journal]. “The imports have been a boon to U.S. solar installers, with the cheap prices spurring adoption of rooftop solar panels, but they’ve pushed Suniva to close factories in Michigan and Georgia and enter bankruptcy.”

Politics

2017

“[V]oters in Alabama are headed to the polls on Tuesday for the first round in the special election to serve the remainder of former GOP U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions’ term” [Cook Political Report]. “At this point, though, it is really a three-way race between U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who was appointed to the seat when Sessions resigned, U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks, and former state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore. The race has had two themes. The first is a battle over which of the candidates is the staunchest supporter of President Trump. The second is which candidate is most opposed to the current Republican Senate leadership.”

Charlottesville

An Image of Revolutionary Fire at Charlottesville” (photo) [The New Yorker]. “The next day, for the A.P., the photographer Steve Helber shot an image of peculiar symmetry, in which a man of fortitude was bearing a different light. Two men extend weapons: one is the Confederate flag, furled, hiding its retrograde design, and the other is an aerosol can, modified to eject fire.” Interesting piece of art/media criticism, until the very last line: “The resistance has its fire, too.” Appropriating the events in Charlottesville for Neera Tanden’s so-called resistance is, I think, a little much, even for the sadly diminished New Yorker.

“”Interview: How Corey Long Fought White Supremacy With Fire” [The Root]. “But inside of every photograph there’s an untold story. If you look closely at Long’s picture, there’s an elderly white man standing in between Long and his friend. The unknown man was part of the counterprotests too, but was afraid, and Long and his friends were trying to protect him. Even though, Long says, those who were paid to protect the residents of Charlottesville were doing just the opposite.” Here is how the New Yorker, which cites the Root story, describes what Long did: “An old man hunches behind him, as if taking shelter.” There’s no “as if” about it! What a grotesque erasure.

“JPMorgan chief executive Jamie Dimon has spoken out about the racism-fuelled violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, describing it as having ‘no place in a country that draws strength from our diversity and humanity'” [Financial News]. “In a note sent to JPMorgan, seen by FN, Dimon said the violence was ‘a stark reminder that we must recommit ourselves every day as a society to stand up and uphold the values that bind us as Americans.’ Dimon also chairs the Business Roundtable, a lobby group of US CEOs.” Well, that was easy. Now, back to business as usual.

Woo woo:

UPDATE “Amateur Sleuths Aim to Identify Charlottesville Marchers, but Sometimes Misfire” [New York Times]. “The internet vigilantes claimed some successes over the weekend. One rally participant, Cole White, resigned from his job at a hot dog restaurant in Berkeley, Calif.” ‘Twas a famous victory… d

UPDATE “On principle, I am against taking down monuments. I think it was wrong to take them down in New Orleans recently… After Charlottesville, the ‘heritage, not hate’ argument is never going to be taken seriously. The Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and other alt-right protesters in C’ville have made it much harder to defend those monuments and Confederate insignia” [The American Conservative]. Well worth a read.

2016 Post Mortem

“Hillary Clinton’s pastor plagiarized portion of new book” [CNN]. “In an interview with CNN last week, [Rev. Bill Shillady, a United Methodist minister] described rising at 4 a.m. on the morning after Clinton lost the presidential election to write the devotion. He did not mention borrowing material for it, which is listed first in his soon-to-be published book.” Terrible, inexcusable staffwork. Clinton has surrounded herself with sycophants more concerned with their places than her, and hence does not receive reliable information (a phenomenon well understood in Third World countries).

Realignment and Legitimacy

“From five top Washington insiders like Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham, Republican Main Street Partnership chief Sarah Chamberlain, and former top advisers to 2016 candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, came increasingly pointed laments about Trump’s ‘lack of presidential leadership,’ his bombastic party-bashing tweets, absence of a governing philosophy and political compass ruled by a ‘collection of impulses’ rather than a coherent strategy” [Politico]. From the party factions that collectively couldn’t deliver a better Republican plan than ObamaCare after eight years in opposition. Why does anybody take any of these clowns seriously?

Stats Watch

Retail Sales, July 2017: “The consumer was back in the stores last month in a July retail sales report, headlined by a 0.6 percent monthly gain, that not only exceeds top expectations but also includes sizable upward revisions” [Econoday]. “One the weakest of all the consumer readings, retail sales are now back into the fold with other indications on consumer spending, which are positive and in line with full employment. Note that the upward revisions to June and May will be positives for second-quarter GDP revisions.” And: “stronger than consensus” [Economic Calendar]. “Gasoline sales fell slightly on the month and there were also reported declines for electronics and clothing sales. In contrast, there was a 1.2% gain in building material sales and a stronger rebound in sales at miscellaneous retailers.” And: “The relationship between year-over-year growth in inflation adjusted retail sales and retail employment are now correlating” [Econintersect]. And but: “Note: Amazon Prime day boosted retail sales in July” [Calculated Risk]. And: “A mysterious decline in spending at the end of the second quarter, meanwhile, vanished after fresh government revisions based on newly incorporated sales data” [MarketWatch].

Empire State Manufacturing Survey, August 2017: “The gains keep coming for the regional manufacturing reports. The Empire State index is up very sharply this month” [Econoday]. “Now the superlatives ease back with employment showing only moderate monthly growth, at 6.2, and unfilled orders remaining in contraction at minus 4.7. But August’s burst in new orders is certain to help unfilled orders going forward which in turn should help employment. … Advance indications on the factory sector have been on fire all year and only lately, and to a comparatively limited degree, have hard factory data been showing the same kind of life. But this report is still a standout and points to another month of strong regional readings. Watch Thursday for the August report from the Philly Fed.” And: “substantially above consensus expectations of 10.0 and the strongest reading since September 2014” [Economic Calendar]. “The number of employees increased again on the month and at a faster pace while there was a significant increase in the average workweek after no change the previous month.” And but: “As this index is very noisy, it is hard to understand what these massive moves up or down mean – however this regional manufacturing survey is normally one of the more pessimistic” [Econintersect].

Business Inventories, June 2017: “businesses built up their inventories by a sharp 0.5 percent” [Econoday]. “In an uncertain result in the report, the rise in inventories exceeded the 0.3 percent rise in underlying sales to lift the inventory-to-sales ratio 1 tick to a less lean 1.38. This could mean that supply is exceeding demand, or however that businesses are stocking up ahead of what see as better business ahead.”

Import and Export Prices, July 2017: “A boost in petroleum gave a lift to import prices while a boost from agricultural gave a boost to export prices” [Econoday]. “[W]hat is good news for exporters is the tangible decline underway in the dollar. This points to increasing pressure for import prices which, though making them less affordable to U.S. buyers, will help the Federal Reserve in its efforts to stimulate inflation.” But and: “The elephant in this month’s changes were fuel / oil and agriculture commodities. If one ignores these commodities, the year-over-year inflation rate for imports declined and exports were much lower” [Econintersect].

Housing Market Index, August 2017: “The housing market index joins retail sales and Empire State as major upside surprises this morning” [Econoday]. “Lack of traffic hints at lack of first-time buyers who appear to be getting locked out of the new home market by high prices and lack of supply on the market.” And: “The reading was above consensus estimates of a reading of 65 for the month and all three main components reversed last month’s losses to make gains on the month” [Economic Calendar]. “On a three-month moving average basis, there were slight gains for the Northeast with the other regions registering unchanged readings on the month.”

Debt: “This kind of deceleration [for commercial and industrial loans] has always been associated with recession” (charts) [Mosler Economics]. “So for the last 6 months the Fed is seeing a steep decline in credit growth and a softening in price pressures, wage growth, employment growth, auto sales, home sales and permits, retail sales, and personal income. Apart from that things are looking up!”

Retail: “Why isn’t Home Depot quaking at the prospect of Amazon disrupting its business? There are probably several reasons, not the least of which is the hands-on nature of buying the goods that Home Depot sells” [247 Wall Street]. “Would you buy 20 gallons of paint at around $40 a gallon from Amazon to paint your house without actually holding a chip in your hand? How about a new entry door? Or new flooring or new tiling for the bathroom? Or garden soil and plants? You want to see this sort of thing live and in person.”

Retail: “The real customer journey doesn’t start and stop with one brand or one experience with a product — their day is a perpetual series of interactions with different products and brands” [Womens Wear Daily]. “Just the other day, I used Amazon Echo as an alarm, ordered my girlfriend birthday flowers from BloomThat, bought a blazer from Nordstrom online, checked into my flight on the Delta app, grabbed a Lyft home from the airport and scheduled a Postmates delivery for dinner. That’s only six of the separate brand experiences across just one of my days. This repetitive cycle of beginning and ending interactions between brands is where the opportunity lies for traditional retailers, and brands in general.”

Retail: “‘[Macy’s and Nordstroms] are two very different companies,’ [Howard Davidowitz told Retail Dive. ‘Macy’s made a gigantic mistake, where they doubled their size in one gulp and got a lot of cats and dogs for stores when they bought the May Company” [Retail Dive]. “The consequences of that have been wide-ranging. To begin with, it added hundreds of what would become Macy’s stores in sub-optimal locations. ‘The May Company was in a lot of mid-level malls in the Midwest,’ noted Davidowitz. ‘Macy’s was always the number one or number two store, and the May Company was never the number one or number two store. That doubled the size of Macy’s and was a critical strategic error that Nordstrom never made.’ … The over-expansion of Macy’s also led to tactical changes that have are contributing to its downfall, including substituting local buying talent with a national merchandising approach that eroded loyalty in many markets….”

Retail: “While Amazon is unlikely to start building fighter planes and tanks, the Department of Defense and the federal government buy a lot of other stuff from U.S. companies. To make those purchases easier, the U.S. House of Representatives has included in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a proposal that the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service engage at least two online marketplaces that government buyers could use to buy commercial products. Not just defense buyers, but all government agencies” [247 Wall Street].

Shipping: “‘It is so important that another Hanjin debacle does not happen again. Companies may fail, but the responsibility lies with everyone, at least to the extent that we do not have the damage that occurred post-Hanjin,” [Federal Martime Commissioner William] Doyle said” [Splash 247]. “When Hanjin sought court protection on August 31 last year, more than $14bn of cargo was left stranded on Hanjin’s 100-plus strong fleet, sending global supply chains into chaos. Doyle said: ;I firmly believe that if a carrier joins an alliance, it is the responsibility of the alliance members to ensure the cargo gets to where it needs to go.’ Doyle praised THE Alliance, a new container grouping, for its contingency fund which it has created to be prepared in the event that any of its members run into financial difficulty.” In other words, this is the price the cartels will pay for Doyle to wave through concentration in the shipping industry.

The Bezzle: “Uber defies Philippine suspension order” [The Star]. “Philippine authorities announced on Monday that they would suspend Uber for one month for failing to have the proper permits to license its drivers. Uber initially obeyed the order and shut down its app on Tuesday morning, triggering anger from commuters who lashed out at the government for taking away what had become a trusted alternative to notoriously bad public transport. But on Tuesday afternoon Uber relaunched the app, telling commuters via Twitter that it had launched a legal appeal and would continue operations until the dispute was settled.”

The Fed: “Opinion: The Fed’s idiosyncratic excuses for inflation’s ‘anomalies’ are wearing thin” [MarketWatch].

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 36 Fear (previous close: 39, Fear) [CNN]. One week ago: 61 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Aug 15 at 12:15pm.

Big Brother Is Watching You Watch

UPDATE “On 17 July, the DoJ served a website-hosting company, DreamHost, with a search warrant for every piece of information it possessed that was related to a website that was used to coordinate protests during Donald Trump’s inauguration [#J20]. The warrant covers the people who own and operate the site, but also seeks to get the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited it, as well as the date and time of their visit and information about what browser or operating system they used” [Guardian]. “The website, www.disruptj20.org, was used to coordinate protests and civil disobedience on 20 January, when Trump was inaugurated.” Go long VPNs.

Our Famously Free Press

Why are these men smiling?

Ka-ching!

Fact-checking at a scholarly journal. Excellent thread:

I’m sure this process can be easily automated…

Health Care

“The number of insurance companies dropping out of the Obamacare exchanges is beginning to have a measurable impact on consumer choice and competition” [BallotPedia]. “Just 141 qualified health plans have applied to provide coverage on healthcare exchanges in 2018. That’s a 38% decline from the 227 applications filed last year. As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimates that at least 2.4 million Americans will have only one insurance option available through the exchanges.”

“A Short-Term ObamaCare Fix” [Wall Street Journal]. “Sen. Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) this summer sent a letter to the Health and Human Services Department about an Obama rule on short-term, limited-duration health insurance plans, which as the name suggests offer coverage for certain periods, often insuring against hospitalizations or other unexpected events. A person could hold such a plan for 364 days, but a rule issued last year limited the duration of the policy to a mere 90 days, effective April 1…. Health and Human Services could restore the duration length to a year and allow the plans to satisfy the coverage mandate. The point is to recreate some portion of the individual market that the Affordable Care Act destroyed. Short-term plans have traditionally been a small share of the insurance market, but perhaps more consumers will sign up as insurers continue to flee the ObamaCare exchanges and premiums continue to increase.”

Class Warfare

UPDATE “How SB Nation Profits Off An Army Of Exploited Workers” [Deadspin].

The SB Nation network itself, consisting of 319 team websites, has remained in place, a vast operation read by millions of people every month and powered by unpaid and underpaid labor.

These sites are run by managers who are expected to post articles and videos, track and sometimes break news, manage writers, conduct interviews, assign stories, find contributors, edit posts, write analysis, and generally do the work of journalism. These responsibilities can add up to a demanding job—or, in some cases, a close to full-time one—but site managers are independent contractors who are paid a monthly stipend that varies widely. According to more than a dozen former and current site managers I spoke to, that stipend tends to hover around $600. The stipend often doubles as a budget.

Venture-backed SB Nation was, of course, founded by liberal Democrat goodthinker and enforcer Markos Moulitas, so this news comes as a shock. Not. Ka-ching.

“What Does the National Opioid Emergency Mean for States and Cities?” [Governing]. “the White House has to decide what kind of emergency the opioid epidemic is, exactly. There are several different kinds of emergency declarations. While they accomplish similar things, they serve different purposes…. As public health officials wait to see Trump’s plan of action, they hope he doesn’t single-mindedly focus on the law and order aspect of the crisis.”

“Michigan agency review finds 70% error rate in jobless fraud findings” [Detroit Free Press]. “The state will refund close to $21 million to Michigan residents after reviewing cases in which an Unemployment Insurance Agency computer system falsely accused tens of thousands of people of committing benefits fraud, the agency said Friday after completing a review of affected cases.” Well, no. Computers don’t have agency — although the people who write code and manage them do — and so can’t “accuse” anyone.

The false fraud accusations began after the agency began using its $47-million Michigan Integrated Data Automated System (MiDAS) for a variety of functions, including fraud identification. The agency continues to use the system today, though with more human supervision, and has refused to say exactly how the huge number of false fraud allegations were made.

Those falsely accused of fraud were hit with highest-in-the-nation quadruple penalties, and in many cases subjected to aggressive collection techniques, such as 25% wage garnishes and seizure of income tax refunds.

Refunds really aren’t a sufficient answer for the damage done here. Of course, no heads ever roll for an IT debacle, from the ObamaCare launch on down.

News of the Wired

“Supreme Court 2016 Term in Review: (Apparent) Mistake, Another Textualist Possibility Unexplored in SW General” [The Narrowest Grounds]. Reads like literary criticism!

“Linux Load Averages: Solving the Mystery” [Brendan Gregg’s Blog]. More literary criticism! This technical material is so lucidly written that the common reader might enjoy it, and if you want to really understand the technical world that Clive, for example, lives in, give it a go. (It’s also an answer to why “The computer did it!” isn’t quite as dumb as you might think; often, we don’t really know how running code works any more, even if it’s been running for years.)

Ha:

(You might need to click the image, since Twitter’s censorship algo seems to be pretty stupid.)

“Google’s Perspective API Opens Up Its Troll-Fighting AI” [WIRED]. “Enter a sentence into its interface, and Jigsaw says its AI can immediately spit out an assessment of the phrase’s ‘toxicity’ more accurately than any keyword blacklist, and faster than any human moderator.” All it needs is a little training…

* * *

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 allegic 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 put it in the subject line. Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (HM):

HM writes: “Long time reader, first time “plant” submitter. Enclosed is I believe a chanterelle observed last week along an old gravel road near Highlands, NC.” Fry ’em with butter!

* * *

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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.

126 comments

  1. john c. halasz

    If anyone intends to go to Lambert’s Burlington meet-up and is leaving from (or passing through) Montpelier VT, I would need a ride. Would share gas. can be reached at 223-6704.

    Reply
      1. Barbara Kurth

        Response to choices in Burlington: the Farm House Pub and Grill is about the noisiest place around Church St. although I will meet anywhere you choose.

        Reply
      1. polecat

        You’all going to pass out complimentary cheap plastic nose-n-glasses, to all attendees, a block or two from said venues ? … or an army of w00kies perhaps ??
        Gotta keep the Sp’00’k$ guessing u k n o w …

        Reply
  2. WobblyTelomeres

    Re: primary in Alabama

    Voted today. NO LINES. A bored “poll watcher” was filling out a crossword. Giant posters on the walls warn about the new rule banning cross-over voting. Put another way, our Sec. of State, John Merrill, is a party hack and a Univ. of Alabama Machine operative who absolutely hates any and all attempts at rat-f**king HIS party.

    Reply
    1. Vatch

      Regarding the prohibition against cross-over voting: as I understand it, this is not a requirement that voters register for a particular political party. Instead, it means that if nobody wins more than 50% in a party’s primary election, and then there’s a runoff election, that only the people who voted in that party’s initial primary election will be allowed to vote in the party’s runoff. So this is less restrictive than the rules in states which require a voter to declare a political party when registering. Have I misunderstood something?

      Alabama voter registration web site:

      http://sos.alabama.gov/alabama-votes/voter/register-to-vote

      Reply
      1. WobblyTelomeres

        You have it right. I have a friend, an older woman, who escorted at the local women’s clinic with me, that just loves to mess with Republican primaries although I doubt she has ever made a difference. Maybe she just loves growling “Let’s rat-f**k those b**tards!!!”.

        Reply
  3. Tim

    Regarding Home Depot: “Why isn’t Home Depot quaking at the prospect of Amazon disrupting its business? “Would you buy 20 gallons of paint at around $40 a gallon from Amazon to paint your house without actually holding a chip in your hand? How about a new entry door? Or new flooring or new tiling for the bathroom? Or garden soil and plants? You want to see this sort of thing live and in person.”

    Yeah, well I would have thought the idea of buying shoes and clothes without trying them on would have been a moat for brick and mortar retailers, but alas…People are pretty good at using their imagination, so touchy feely isn’t as much of a barier as promoters wish it was.

    On the other hand, Home Depot’s real moat, is that much of the stuff they sell is heavy, and therefore, most efficient to deliver to stores in bulk, and not be shipped direct to consumer so costs tend to be better.

    Perhaps best, is for the DIYs that find out they are short on something 5 hours into their project, are you going to buy something from Amazon and wait at least a day or two or are you go to drive down to HD and pick up what you need so you can keep going?

    Reply
    1. sid_finster

      This is why many DIY auto repair projects involve either multiple trips to the parts store, or multiple halts while waiting for deliveries, only to find out that something else is needed.

      Then again, the old-fashioned speed shop is largely a thing of the past.

      Reply
    2. Arizona Slim

      Okay, brand me as a heretic, but I recently bought a Price Pfister shower handle rebuild kit from Home Depot. (Gasp!) It was a snap to install, unlike the one I bought from a locally owned store back in 2015. (The horror!)

      It gets worse.

      My home remodeling project also includes new window blinds. Which I’m ordering through Home Depot. (Yikes!) So far, the buying process has been a breeze. Installation should happen early next month. I’m hoping that my good fortune continues.

      Reply
      1. marku52

        Watch out for the installers, They don’t always hire (subcontract) the best. OTOH, the carpet installers we had from HD were competent and quick.

        But I’ve heard tales of woe.

        Reply
        1. Art Eclectic

          I have a HD installer story famously cross linked all over the web (the blog asked for stories, I had no idea mine would end up syndicated every where.) HD has tended to put their service contracts out to bid and take the low bidder so they can tack their 10% on top and still be in the running with comparable bids. If the installer turns out to be crap, they’ll disavow any responsibility and you have to fight it out with the contractor.

          Not all their subcontractors are bad, but the best people in the area won’t bother bidding on HD work because they have plenty of jobs coming in from happy referrals and Yelp. On the flip side, it’s next to impossible to get on the calendar for the best people in your area because they’re busy as hell.

          Reply
      2. PinkFlamingo

        If you are relatively picky and OK with paying for more than the cheapest option, HD and Lowes can be quality options. I got my blinds from Lowes, for the whole house. Ordering was easy, there was a promotion for 15% off of everything and I had no issues. Granted, I did all of the measurements and installation myself…there is no way that I am going to roll the dice with their subcontractors.

        Reply
    3. Lambert Strether Post author

      The problem with buying clothes online:

      I settled on one kind of pants I really liked, originally found at Macy’s, then ordered online. Every year I would order a couple of pairs, and that would take care of my clothing needs for pants.

      So, last year, the same ad, the same brand, the same pants, everything the same — except the actual pants, which had been crapified with an inferior kind of zipper, and visibly worse stitching.

      Of course, Macy’s is closed now, so I have no place else to go, so now I have to randomly go through an online crapshoot (and returns may be called free, but there’s a tax on time).

      Reply
      1. Lee

        For physical work, Arborwear tree worker pants with double knees and a crotch gusset are the best and most durable I’ve found. I buy them at a local Ben Davis store. Don’t know if you have them where you are but Arborwear clothing can be ordered online. For travel and hot weather wear, Ex Officio is pricey but durable, comfortable, and available at REI.
        https://www.arborwear.com/
        https://bendavis.com/our-brand/

        Reply
      2. polecat

        Yeah Lambert, I hear ya … ! Whenever I find an item of clothing, I try to purchase at least 3, if not half a dozen !! (budget allowing)… with shoes, I buy pairs .. in ‘pairs’, being as styles never stay static, as you implied …

        Reply
      3. Jen

        The problem with ordering clothes online if female: completely arbitrary sizing. I have items in my closet ranging from size 2 to size 10, and they all fit perfectly. But I’d only know that from going to a store to try things on.

        Reply
        1. sierra7

          Can also happen with men’s clothing…..over the years purchased summer clothing (shorts for example)…..sizes were different with same numbers but never consistent. T-shirts the same…….with same #’s different sizes……depends where they are made.

          Reply
      4. JBird

        Clothes have been going through gradual crapfitication for over thirty years long before online ordering became so important. I saw it in the clothing I bought in the 80s, when I was in retail 90s, and read about its declining quality that had started before thing. This happened before internet ordering was big. However, Sears and Penneys had big catalog operations for at least 50-60 years before then with pretty easy returns via store or Postal service.

        No, I think the increasing poor quality including inconsistent sizes is the problem. Of course both companies focused on the middle and working classes, selling well made clothes made almost completely in the United States. I sound like a tricking ad, but with quality, service, and only a few big sales being the focus.

        Those pants bought years earlier probably would have lasted years but costs more to make. With the immiseration of a growing number of us, who could have a store that could sell such clothing at a profitable price?

        I can make the same rant on tools also.

        Reply
      5. Oregoncharles

        We buy nearly everything, especially clothing, at the thrift store or sometimes yard sales, so it’s strictly hands-on. Of course, you can’t just go get precisely what you need; OTOH, it’s a treasure hunt, and I have occasionally found treasure – usually some form of art, a couple of times actual precious metal. That hasn’t happened for awhile; everybody knows about silver now.

        Recently, I found a really nice pair of utility pants, but my wife got a look at them and forbade me to wear them for work – which ruins clothes pretty quickly. Ripped open a shirt today, feeding a chipper at my own place.

        I have ordered things I couldn’t get locally; my experience with shoes was negative because I ultimately got the size a little small, so next time I’ll either wait for the thrift store or track them down at the store.

        Reply
    4. PKMKII

      Don’t forget all those propane tank refills for people’s grills. I don’t think even Amazon has a way to get around the shipping restrictions on that sort of thing, even if they wanted to.

      Reply
    5. hemeantwell

      The cheery tone of the article is based on a narrow idea of what HDepot sells. Did they recently sell me a
      – wall switch? No.
      – an extension cord? No.
      – a generator? No.
      – a multimeter? No.
      – a couple of safety hex screwdrivers? No.
      – a battery-powered drill? No.
      – a battery-powered trimmer? No.
      – etc. etc.? No.
      – a bucket of paint? Yes.

      Save for the paint ‘zon beat them on price every time, and that’s not including time and driving. I loath Bezos, but Big Orange management is notoriously anti-labor — likely just blurting what Bezos keeps to himself — so that’s a wash.
      .

      Reply
      1. edmondo

        I received an Amazon gift card as a present for my birthday in April.

        I attempted to use it in late May and saw a new SLR camera on the Amazon website at an exceptional price. I purchased it immediately and received a confirmation for the purchase. Two days later I get an email telling me that the vendor has cancelled the sale and my credit card will be credited for the purchase and my gift card reactivated. No reason was given for the cancellation (but I assume it was the price since it was almost a 50% discount.)

        Next attempt was to purchase an electric razor. Transaction cleared and awaiting delivery. No prime for me. I am not a big believer in Amazon so I have to wait the “5 to 7 business days” for it to arrive. Get email telling me it was delivered. Contact Amazon (Try finding Amazon’s Customer Service phone number on the website. I dare you) and was told to wait 24hrs to report MIA electric razor. Called back the next day to find that the delivery people left it on the stairs of my condo building (which has open access to the street and numerous passersby. The Amazon Delivery people just kinda left it there and expected it to get to my door two storeys up own its own. Once again, no product but they replenished my gift card.

        Last week purchased a book on Amazon – I just want to get rid of this damn gift card – and deja vu all over again – the transaction that was verified at 8 pm on Tuesday, was undone less than 20 hours later through another cancellation by the vendor.

        Question: Are they really “vendors” if they don’t sell anything? also, how the hell do you actually use an Amazon gift card if no one ever fulfills an order?

        Reply
        1. Kokuanani

          Is there a local food bank or shelter to which you could donate the damn card? They could buy diapers & canned goods. Or an animal rescue outfit; they could buy pet food.

          Reply
          1. clinical wasteman

            Or maybe one or two food bank/shelter users who show up at the right time could even use the vouchers to buy books, or unedifying phone apps, proscribed food or some other such ‘luxury item’!
            Here in London homeless shelter policy varies depending which organization runs the shelter (i.e. some do grasp that the problem is actually lack of housing, while others “see [the problem in] the homeless person, not the homelessness“, as one of them openly avows.)
            But food banks in particular mimic the welfare police approach of “educating” At-Risk/Hard-To-Reach/Chaotic/next week’s euphemism poor people about “life choices”, by … denying them any semblance of choice about anything. “Irresponsible” donations of anything not on a list of suitably penetential products are actually refused. The prohibited list includes not just things considered actively harmful like vodka and cigarettes (think very carefully before deciding you would confiscate these, or for that matter meth or opoids, from a person in immediate physical need), but everything outside a basket of “necessities” apparently chosen by a focus group of characters from Dickens and Coronation Street (TV soap opera set in Manchester, running all over the Empire since the Crimean war, scheduled to stop portraying class and ‘Northernness’ as quaint cultural quirks the first Wednesday after sun implodes).
            It’s not quite even a strict “health” regime: more like plenty of tea, jam and, in a concession to the Jet Age, canned goods, plus Workhouse-standard childcare products; anyway, nothing that could ever be a “discretionary” purchase (or even a recognizable “necessity” for geographical or generational Foreigners), because discretion is a Privilege, innit?! (And one for certain people to earn three or four times over, if they were allowed to earn anything legally, and so on…)
            So books or media of any kind, let alone “frivolous adornment” (ok they don’t use those words, but the official language is generally that applied to “Natives” in the 18th-19th-20th century Colonies) are as far out of the question as “drugs”, casino chips and IED components.
            None of which is all that surprising, because large-scale food banks, created with ministerial blessing by “Christian Charities” at the exact moment when the George Osborne-Iain Duncan Smith junta applied an exponential turn of the screw to the previous 15 years’ Blairite chokehold on welfare and above all the personal and collective autonomy — i.e. capacity to talk back — of its recipients.
            On the blight side though, neighbors who snitch on suspected “welfare fraud” get even bigger cash prizes for it than they did during the previous decade, and they get to see their victims serving custodial sentences, sometimes even literally seeing them working out of doors for nothing, under military-style orders and wearing actual orange jumpsuits emblazoned with the legend “Community Payback”.

            Reply
    6. Huey Long

      On the other hand, Home Depot’s real moat, is that much of the stuff they sell is heavy, and therefore, most efficient to deliver to stores in bulk, and not be shipped direct to consumer so costs tend to be better.

      Bingo! Most of the Ole ‘Depot’s inventory isn’t exactly conducive to being shipped via FedEx/UPS/USPS either because it is heavy, awkward, or both.

      Furthermore, for those of us like myself who have to order Home Depot-esque type stuff at work there’s better options than Amazon, i.e. McMaster-Carr and Grainger.

      While I’m not huge on Grainger, McMaster’s website is superb and they ship most items overnight.

      Hopefully McMaster-Carr never sells out to Bezos because I think the ensuing crapification would kill me stone dead.

      Reply
  4. dcblogger

    Nissan Promoted Hundreds of Temps to Swing Vote – Littler Mendelson Did Union Busting Job – UAW Prez Talks Embezzlement Scandal
    http://paydayreport.com/nissan-promoted-hundred-of-temps-to-swing-vote-littler-mendelson-did-union-busting-job-uaw-prez-talks-embezzlement-scandal/

    In interviews with workers, it has become clear that Nissan promoted hundreds of temporary workers to full-time “pathway” status in the months leading up to the union election. Many workers complain that the new “pathway” employees were tough to organize since many of the workers felt a debt of gratitude to management for promoting them.


    …UAW President Addresses Corruption Scandal and Mississippi Loss in Detroit Free Press Op-ed

    UAW President Dennis Williams detailed the allegations against a former high-ranking union official, who, according to a Department of Justice indictment, conspired with Chrysler executives to use more than $2 million from the UAW-Chrysler National Training Center for personal use. During the Canton UAW drive, anti-union advocates used this story to paint the union in a negative light.

    Reply
  5. JohnnyGL

    Re: A Short Term Obamacare Fix…

    “You know what would be great? If we could make Health Insurance more like getting a payday loan!” – said by no one ever in the history of humanity.

    Reply
  6. Tim

    Retail: “While Amazon is unlikely to start building fighter planes and tanks, the Department of Defense and the federal government buy a lot of other stuff from U.S. companies. To make those purchases easier, the U.S. House of Representatives has included in its version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) a proposal that the General Services Administration’s (GSA) Federal Acquisition Service engage at least two online marketplaces that government buyers could use to buy commercial products. Not just defense buyers, but all government agencies” [247 Wall Street].

    Trust me this is a plus.

    The current arrangement is approved sources of supply for everything, meaning everything is single source (eg must use CDW for all electronics, and office products-prices are outrageous relative to other’s a quick google shopping search).

    Being able to to buy the identical product from the lowest cost retailer that still meets schedule would be a significant savings – perhaps 10-20%. If amazon is one such marketplace, so be it.

    Reply
    1. Octopii

      One of them I’m sure would be FedBid. Ads have been all over the news radio stations recently – a sure sign that a contract evaluation is going on, or legislation is before the Congress.

      Reply
  7. Rojo

    Re: Schindler. Didn’t racists always blame “outside agitators” for stirring up perfectly contented black people?

    Reply
      1. Shane

        Lived in Burlington while I was working on the Bernie campaign. Farmhouse is too expensive for the amount of food you get, and you may have difficulty getting a table without an hour wait, especially if there’s any significant number at all in your party. VPB was a staple for me since it was open late. They usually have a number of interesting craft beers available, and before I went vegan, I was a big fan of their broccoli and cheddar potatoes. Flatbread is my favorite of the three though. Great drinks selection, better food than VPB and in greater quantity than you’ll get at Farmhouse, great atmosphere, and probably Burlington’s best pizza (though the Three Needs may actually have it beat).

        Really disappointed I didn’t get to go to a meet-up the two times I’ve lived in Augusta since Bernie ended. I never comment and have only suggested links a few times, but I don’t know where I’d be without NC. You all do great work, and it’s refreshing to know there are still sane people in the world. I learn something every time I’m here (which is multiple times a day). Definitely let us know if you’re planning on doing a DC meetup anytime soon!

        Reply
  8. joe defiant

    I was messing around with that Google “troll fighting AI”

    typing “hillary” is 25% likely to be percieved as toxic
    “trump” is 42% likely to be percieved as toxic.
    “neoliberal” and “imperialism” is 57% likely to be percieved as toxic.

    “barney is a purple dinosaur” is 40% likely to be toxic.
    “Hillary Clinton was happy upon hearing news of Gaddafi’s death.” 66% toxic.

    The United States illegally invaded Iraq. 48% toxic
    The United States brought freedom and democracy to Iraq. 5% toxic
    great AI.

    Reply
    1. hemeantwell

      The United States brought freedom and democracy to Iraq. 5% toxic

      wow. It would be cool to see a comparison of this monstrosity and China’s Great Firewall.

      Reply
    2. dcrane

      “May the chocolate chips in your cookies turn out to be raisins.”

      17% toxic. It has a ways to go yet.

      (Yes, I stole that insult from some website…)

      Reply
      1. Outis Philalithopoulos

        More likely criticism thereof… the words are much more commonly used in the context of criticism, not praise.

        Reply
  9. Vatch

    UPDATE “How SB Nation Profits Off An Army Of Exploited Workers” [Deadspin].

    I don’t know whether this is directly relevant to the SB Nation situation, but people have a chance to comment on Fair Labor Standards Act overtime exemption rule changes. This was finalized by the Obama administration, then blocked by a federal judge, and the Trump administration refused to contest the judge’s ruling. So “management” people who earn more than $23,660 per year can be forced to work unpaid overtime — the cancelled rule change would have increased that to $47,476 per year. The Labor Department is accepting comments again. See:

    http://thehill.com/regulation/pending-regs/343632-labor-dept-seeks-public-input-to-revise-overtime-rule

    https://www.dol.gov/whd/overtime/final2016/

    You can post a comment here (the comment period expires on September 25, 2017):

    https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2017/07/26/2017-15666/request-for-information-defining-and-delimiting-the-exemptions-for-executive-administrative

    Reply
    1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      Wasn’t the Democartic party one of those entities defending slavery?

      Why is it still standing, especially since they are involved heavily with debt serfdom these days?

      Reply
      1. David

        Current Democratic hero Alexander Hamilton was both a slave owner and trader.

        Evidence suggests that Hamilton was himself a slave owner. Hamilton’s grandson, historian Allan McLane Hamilton, agrees with this assessment. As the younger Hamilton wrote in 1910, “It has been stated that Hamilton never owned a negro slave, but this is untrue. We find that in his books there are entries showing that he purchased them for himself and for others.”…

        …everyone agrees that Hamilton was a beneficiary of slave labour.

        The musical Hamilton, celebrating Hamilton’s life, won 11 Tony awards.

        Did I miss the protests?

        Reply
          1. Harold

            I understand he based it on a book that everyone acknowledges was not very good. Then is was a rap routine which I saw him perform at a function years ago (long before it was made into a musical) — which was pretty clever in a Gilbert & Sullivan type way. I don’t think he thought very deeply about it. It is just a product of industrial mass entertainment.

            Reply
    2. clarky90

      Charlottesville False Flag Theory– Something Strange is going on.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-tL6LXHaO4

      Here are some of the inconsistencies in the reports from the MSM.

      Let me guess? Because of “Nazi Violence”, Congress will unanimously rushes through new repressive (I mean “protective”) measures.

      Thanks CIA-Hollywood

      Reply
      1. blennylips

        That would be non-Ukrainian “Nazi Violence”.

        I just learned something useful! Following that YT link I see:

        Content Warning
        This video may be inappropriate for some users.
        Sign in to confirm your age

        A bit of goolaging about I find hooktube.com:

        HookTube is a hook for YouTube that uses its media files directly without tracking you or activating any of its scripts, enabling you to download YouTube music and videos or just share YouTube videos without giving Google and its partners ad revenue or views.

        HOW: Just replace the domain in any YT link with hooktube.com

        No doubt I’m late to the game and everyone knows this already.

        Now, trying to digest the content. Can I be cynical enough?

        Reply
        1. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

          Violence.

          Are computing services non-violent?

          IBM had business with one Axis power. That seems to be more relevant today than a statue a few of us here talked about in the last, say, 10 years.

          I mean, do you remove all its logo everywhere in the country?

          And do you allow VW wagons into the US at all?

          Reply
    3. Rosario

      Our hired goons in Ukraine are working the same aesthetic.

      Torches at night!
      http://theduran.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ukraine-neo-nazi-2.jpg

      The zeal for combat!
      http://www.globalresearch.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/ukraine-neo-nazis.jpg

      With friends like those what could possibly go wrong?!

      Mr. McCain and company (facist to the left of me, neoliberal to the right):

      http://static2.businessinsider.com/image/52af53516bb3f7a73c43dd69-1190-625/john-mccain-went-to-ukraine-and-stood-on-stage-with-a-man-accused-of-being-an-anti-semitic-neo-nazi.jpg

      And our politicians are wondering where it comes from. If my tinfoil hat were any tighter on my head I’d think that the Charlottesville assholes were working for the US government just like the Azov Regiment in Ukraine.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        Maybe in about 10 years some documents or a conscience will surface (assuming the Matrix does not close seamlessly over all), and the mopes will learn that, as in so many such events, the Blob was behind it all. Fred Hampton and Mark Clark? Oh poop, I was going to make a list of individual events, but will stop at COINTELPRO,the Red Squad, Fusion Centers, Chile, Iran, Nicaragua, now Venezuela, maybe, the whole panoply of Spook and Jackal “interventions” across the planet — to do “democracy,” as pointed out in a link today, that is an antonym to “participatory democracy.” Sets the do not intersect at any point, except a few letters in the alphabet.

        Are the tech people of good will who are likely parsing the images and video from that set of events looking for markers and persons that might expose some of the Iron Fist that often is involved opaquely in such events?

        On the other hand, does anyone care any more? That we mopes are such, you know, MOPES?

        Reply
        1. JTMcPhee

          pc, i would bet you are right. You KNOW that these groups have been infiltrated for “security purposes” by the state security forces, it’s what they do and have always done. The only question to me is to what extent they ‘encouraged’ the mopes of one group or another. There are plenty of notorious examples of “our” protectors whipping up groups and individuals to do stupid sh!t that kills and hurts people, then getting all sanctimonious about the outcomes and figuring how to modify their limited hangouts so there are no consequences for the ‘agents et agentes provocateurs ou provocatrices).

          Hey, we got CIA dudes helping out “moderate rebels” who in turn are shooting up our Sainted Troops who are in turn “supporting” and via stupidity and corruption, arming yet others of the many “warbands” and warlords whose activities “we” are “provoking” all over the place. And a long history of various US entities on “both sides” of conflicts at home and all over the world… http://www.salon.com/2016/08/24/u-s-on-both-sides-in-syria-as-turkey-intervenes-to-fight-isis-and-kurds-try-to-defeat-isis/ Angola is an interesting place to examine some history on point… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Angolan_Civil_War

          Jeebus effing holy Son of God, I am so massively proud to be denominated an American, to have served (needs careful definition) in the Imperial Military… But then this sh!t has been going on for millennia, as self-serving little soulless sh!ts with claims of Divine Rights, or badges, or flags and ribbons, or turbans, have played the Great Human Game of looting and murder and accumulation.

          Reply
          1. Alex Morfesis

            Chloe hardins relatives/cousins…
            follow follow follow follow…follow the yellowbrick road…

            Not meaning her husbands…

            Reply
        2. The Rev Kev

          Anybody remember the story of how some rioters in Canada during, I think, a WTO meetup were trying to stir up some violence until someone noticed that these same people were wearing police-issue boots on their feet. Do’h! They were corned to make them helpless until the uniformed police came to pick them up. And that was a couple decades ago.
          Just last year there were riots after the 2016 US election results were made known. Then someone found that the groups that were rioting just happened to have strong financial links to Soros organizations. Personally I would have thought that this would be the subject of an FBI investigation to see if someone from overseas was trying to provoke violence in American streets but apparently they ignored it to go all in on the Rooskies story.

          Reply
            1. JTMcPhee

              Hard to get links-in-the-moment (shall they be called “blinks,” maybe?) to substantiate and expose covert disruption operations. Maybe I’m forgetting, but the stuff about COINTELPRO and the Phoenix Program and the Chicago Red Squad and the Chicago Gulag jail, and so many others, was not discovered or uncovered or revealed until long after the things had been in operation for what, a decade or more?

              Maybe it’s just speculation, maybe it’s hope that people will stop stopping at the Narrative’s boundaries, however tribally satisfying the Bernays glaze may be, and remember what these people have done before, and examine the “evidence” with a healthy dose of skepticism. And go looking for and outing the little sh1ts who are the infiltrators and instigators and Quislings…

              Reply
  10. Jim A

    Dimon also chairs the Business Roundtable, a lobby group of US CEOs.” Well, that was easy. Now, back to business as usual.

    And yet it was very difficult tor Trump to say something similar

    Reply
    1. Art Eclectic

      Trump doesn’t win in 2020 without the white supremacists. He knows it and they know it. They put him in the oval office and they own him.

      Reply
      1. polecat

        ‘white supremacists’
        Which ones? .. the racial nazies … or the Dempublican loge seaters in the shadows ?

        Reply
      2. Eureka Springs

        All 50 of them? Probably crossed many state lines on election day… with (wait for it) the Russians!

        Try counting those who refused to vote for either Trump or Her. A landslide result of No Confidence would have been best and most honest dare I say democratic assessment.

        Reply
  11. Altandmain

    Jimmy Dore on Libya
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BCdQOh78fJQ

    Apparently North Korea, as a result of Libya, which gave its nuclear ambitions up in the early 2000s and got invaded under Obama is unwilling to give up its nuclear weapons.

    I suppose the 2003 US Invasion of Iraq may very well have played a role too.

    What the neoconservatives have done has badly backfired on them. Iraq has not proven as easy to conquer as they advertised and ISIS has become one form of backlash. Meanwhile, other nations hostile to the US are not as willing to give up their bombs now.

    The dishonest term Bernie Bros
    https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/15/bernie-bros-and-alt-left-are-propaganda-terms-meant-to-disempower/

    The reality is that the centrists are desperate to prevent any real discussion about how they may have failed their constituents and how they are to blame for Trump.

    How We Got from George W. Bush to Donald Trump: Liberals Had More to Do with It Than We’d Like to Think
    http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/how-we-got-george-w-bush-donald-trump-liberals-had-more-do-it-wed-think

    The reality is that neoliberalism and the failures of Obama brought about Trump.

    People wanted a second Roosevelt. They may as well have gotten Bush’s 3rd and 4th term.

    Reply
    1. Tom_Doak

      It just struck me the other day that it wasn’t when we were concerned that Saddam had “weapons of mass destruction” that we invaded Iraq. It was right after the UN inspector told us we were wrong, that he didn’t really have them. Everyone back then seemed to think we invaded because we didn’t believe the inspectors, but perhaps we made the call once we found out there was no danger or reprisal.

      Reply
      1. John Wright

        I did not understand why it was a casus belli EVEN IF Saddam had WMD’s.

        Why the USA may have even provided WMDs to him in the 1980’s, just as it has a lot of other countries, so we KNEW he had them, at least at one time.

        On a micro level, the USA’s decision to go into Iraq because Saddam might have had WMD’s is like me shooting my neighbor because he MIGHT have a gun that he could kill me with.

        What still concerns me is the actual vote in the US Senate, it was 77 yeas and only 23 nays for the AUMF in Iraq.

        It was not even close, and two subsequent Democratic Presidential candidates (Kerry and Clinton) voted YEA.

        Obama gave a speech opposing it, but one wonders if he would have caved in and voted for it, after giving a “good speech”, if he had been in the Senate.

        In a production process, one wants design margin in the process, so if tolerances stack up or one gets a supply of marginal parts, acceptable products can still be made.

        The 77-23 vote indicated to me the USA has no “wisdom” margin in the US Senate.

        A wise senate would have voted the other way as there was no reason to rush to war with Iraq, a small country that had been under US sanctions for years.

        To me, the entire Iraq War debacle remains an epic US fail on moral, logical and simple decency grounds.

        We even had the Bush administration suggesting that Iraqi oil wealth would be used to rebuild Iraq.

        Imagine if an foreign power behaved in the same high handed way to the USA, invading, directly and indirectly killing a good percentage of the population (1 million excess deaths = about 3% of Iraq’s population = 9 million in the USA) and then asserting that USA Oil wealth would now be extracted to repair the damages?

        I don’t believe the national government, Democratic or Republican, is any wiser after about 15 years have elapsed.

        Reply
        1. sierra7

          This is American foreign policy writ large.
          “Killing Hope” William Blum “US Military and CIA Interventions Since WW2”
          Don’t leave home without it!
          American foreign policy makes Machiavelli look like a wimp.

          Reply
        2. Vatch

          I did not understand why it was a casus belli EVEN IF Saddam had WMD’s.

          Good point. The US has such weapons; should Colorado attack South Dakota and vice versa? To make a case for war, the WMDs would have to be used first.

          Reply
    2. NotTimothyGeithner

      Iraq and Libya were twin disasters. At least with Iraq and Obama’s nominal opposition, there was always the sense credible adults were waiting in the wings instead of the man child Shrub. Libya pretty much destroyed that notion.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disarmament_of_Libya

      Libya was an announcement agreements with the U.S. were worth less than the paper they were printed on. It wasn’t just Obama but the bipartisan consensus of Washington. The Chinese and Russians have responded to this. The fallout will be with the U.S. for a generation.

      Reply
      1. Mark P.

        The fallout will be with the U.S. for a generation.

        The price will be — is — the accelerated fall of the dollar as global reserve currency and the collapse of the empire.

        Reply
      2. JustAnObserver

        As per the Saker’s comment: The US is no longer considered “agreement capable” by the Russians & I suspect it won’t be long before this becomes the universal attitude; expressed in different language per different cultures. Once it does take hold, if it hasn’t already, I doubt very much if it will ever go away completely.

        Reply
  12. sleepy

    The John Schindler tweet implicating Russian spies as behind the Charlottesville unrest—

    American culture and politics is perfectly capable of dysfunction all on its own. We don’t need outside agitators. Beyond that, has Schindler ever considered how swift and brutal the reaction would be by both onlookers and the police if a group had paraded around Moscow waving swastikas and chanting Nazi slogans?

    Reply
    1. Adam

      My mom has recently done canvassing through DSA. They sent to her to an area with a lot of locked gates and a lot of spanish speakers (which she does not speak). Hopefully it’s generally more effective/better planned.

      Reply
  13. Vatch

    Trump to revoke Obama-era flood risk building standards

    http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-infrastructure-idUSKCN1AV1ZI?il=0

    U.S. President Donald Trump will revoke an Obama-era executive order on Tuesday that required strict building standards for government-funded projects to reduce exposure to increased flooding from sea level rise, sources said.


    Rafael Lemaitre, former director of public affairs at FEMA who worked on the Obama-era order, said Trump is undoing “the most significant action taken in a generation” to safeguard U.S. infrastructure.

    “Eliminating this requirement is self-defeating; we can either build smarter now, or put taxpayers on the hook to pay exponentially more when it floods. And it will,” he said.

    Flood policy expert Eli Lehrer, president of the libertarian R Street Institute who has been critical of many other Obama initiatives, agreed that revoking this order will end up costing taxpayers money.

    “The Trump administration is acting very rashly in part out of the desire to undo a climate measure under the Obama administration,” he said. “This is an enormous mistake that is disastrous for taxpayers. The rule would have saved billions of dollars over time.”

    Even the libertarian thinks that revoking this regulation is a mistake!

    Reply
  14. Carolinian

    This, by someone who lives in Charlottesville, is worth a look.

    https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/15/top-10-misconceptions-about-charlottesville/

    The racists who have begun coming to Charlottesville to campaign for governor, garner attention, threaten violence, engage in violence, and commit murder are almost all from outside Charlottesville, and extremely unwelcome here. Charlottesville is a slightly left-of-center, Democratic Party area. Most people don’t rally for good causes or against bad ones. Most people don’t want the Lee statue taken down. (Or at least they didn’t until it became a gathering point for neo-Confederates.) Most people want other memorials added to public space to diversify. And most people don’t want white supremacists coming to town with their hatred and their violence.

    He says there’s been no move to take down a Stonewall Jackson statue although Jackson was a whack job and much more controversial figure than Lee. He also, like many in the media apparently, prefers to blame all this on Trump for emboldening fringe elements. Perhaps, but I suspect it’s a lot more complicated than that with many factors. As the takeover at Malheur showed there is and likely always has been an active rightwing subculture that feeds on things like talk radio. The notion that racism elected Trump is probably a misperception but one the Dems very much prefer.

    Reply
    1. RUKidding

      I read that, as well.

      I’m more in the camp that feels that Trump’s election has emboldened the rightwing subculture that feeds on talk radio/rightwing websites.

      Yes, it is more complicated than that, but it’s hard to refute the fact that Trump has actively courted white supremacist groups, has gotten very public endorsement by certain known leaders, like David Duke, and has always been hesitant to call them out when they should be called out.

      It is more complicated than just Trump bc there’s been too much emboldening of these groups for a long time, imo. For example, the Feds tred very lightly and cautiously with the Malheur gang, as well as the Bundy gang stand-off. Imagine, if you will, similar situations involving only armed African American men? There would be no tip-toeing around.

      There’s also the fact that the 2009 Homeland Security Report about the rise of white supremacist extremism was basically Deep Sixed by Congress. Rather: let’s all shriek and yell about Sharia Law being rammed down our throats RIGHT NOW TODAY by Radical Extremist Islam, blah blah blah.

      Frankly the Southern Poverty Law Center has been warning about this for years, and more recently, so has the FBI. But clearly BOTH SIDES are always to blame, so let’s just move on and ignore it or something something. Or derail the discussion by talking about radical leftwing groups (who? where?).

      I agree that there’s something questionable about taking down these statutes, although I’m not personally sad to see them go. That article makes a good case that what most of these types of statutes in the United States represent are our love of and fealty to War, no matter where the war is fought. Can’t argue with that.

      Reply
      1. JTMcPhee

        And the FBI and other federal and state and local “forces of law and order” have never, EVER, infiltrated and instigated events like what has just peeked out of our collective id in Charlottesville…

        Reply
    2. ChrisPacific

      I visited Charlottesville a few times in the 90s. It struck me as a fairly typical college town, fairly diverse, with a significant black population (the family next door where I was visiting was black). In recent history it’s been known for the Dave Matthews Band and not much else, until now of course. I never caught even the slightest hint of white supremacist tendencies.

      That said, the linked article stops being about Charlottesville (the place) after point #2, once the author gets on his soapbox.

      Reply
  15. Indrid Cold

    I’m not sure using an improvised flamethrower and aiming it at some guy with a stick is cool. I know tempers were really high at this thing.

    What I’m curious about is, who decided to crank up the ‘Let’s get rid of Confederate monuments” thing. It seems that if the Democratic Party apparat or the Intelligence Agencies it’s now in open allegiance with wanted to discredit Trump with the mean redneck and alienated dweebie white guy vote, suddenly turning up the heat on threadbare symbols of the CSA would be the ideal way to do it.

    Also, is there anything the DNC types can’t weave a Russophobic angle into? Somehow angry Nazi types, which are a problem for the Russian government lately in case no one has noticed… ((The revival of the Galicia Division – http://www.axishistory.com/axis-nations/119-germany-waffen-ss/germany-waffen-ss-divisions/1295-14-waffen-grenadier-division-der-ss-ukrainische-nr-1)) … are in league with Russia. Prop or Not? You be the judge!

    Reply
    1. RUKidding

      I am also curious as to whose idea it was to start tearing down these statues NOW? It’s a farily recent activity. Of course, once one is torn down, then the ball gets rolling, so to speak, and other city/county councils decide to do it, too. One wonders who had the originating idea? And why now?

      Not sure that we’ll ever know for sure.

      Does seem to be adding some fuel to a fire that was perhaps unneccesary at this particular time.

      Reply
      1. Octopii

        In my little Virginia town, the do-gooder city council is planning to take statues down and rename roads. Meanwhile the taxes go up-up-up and small businesses downtown close. The mayor couldn’t manage her way out of a paper bag, but they can all make sure we’re being sensitive while the place turns into an ugly condo hell that strings up small shops in red tape.

        Reply
    2. VietnamVet

      Charlottesville looked just like Kiev minus 5 billion dollars and cookies handed out by Victoria Nuland. Color revolutions are becoming automated. Like the Mujahideen, the violence is blowing back towards those who profit from chaos. If you put yourself in the Russian, Chinese or American Middle-Class shoes; this is one hell of a scary time. The bad guys are out to get you.

      Reply
  16. ewmayer

    Re. Linux load averages – super wonkish, and thus unhelpful to most more-casual users who just want to know what’s running and eating CPU cycles. The solution for that is the ‘top’ command [which IIRC stands for Table of Processes] – on MacOS I alias that like so:

    alias top=’top -o cpu -n 5′

    to list only the top 5 current cycle-eaters. The header part of the ‘top’ output includes most of the load moving-averages described in the article. Here is the current output on my Macbook [It looks better live, since the output lines get wrapped when I posted-as-comment]:

    Processes: 64 total, 2 running, 62 sleeping, 262 threads 15:21:22
    Load Avg: 0.84, 0.72, 0.71 CPU usage: 14.13% user, 15.94% sys, 69.92% idle
    SharedLibs: 68K resident, 0B data, 0B linkedit. MemRegions: 91209 total, 1016M resident, 1348K private, 318M shared.
    PhysMem: 305M wired, 1119M active, 513M inactive, 1937M used, 110M free.
    VM: 145G vsize, 1024M framework vsize, 1339702(1) pageins, 1296630(0) pageouts.
    Networks: packets: 14765220/9006M in, 7618971/419M out. Disks: 2893965/61G read, 3260869/86G written.

    PID COMMAND %CPU TIME #TH #WQ #PORT #MREGS RPRVT RSHRD RSIZE VPRVT VSIZE PGRP PPID STATE UID
    62504 top 27.7 00:02.72 1/1 0 24 73 2068K 6080K 3908K 18M 2388M 62504 41092 running 0
    157 Terminal 20.2 38:44.22 4 1 760- 674 15M+ 69M 56M+ 41M 2880M 157 118 sleeping 501
    24974 firefox 4.3 19:53:01 32 1 1585- 68223- 427M- 105M 629M- 634M- 4392M- 24974 118 sleeping 501
    73 WindowServer 3.1 04:03:37 5 1 641 3888 7948K 78M 62M 59M 2869M 73 1 sleeping 88
    1298- BBEdit 2.9 23:10:09 5 2 2735 1011 96M 24M 105M 550M 1550M 1298 118 sleeping 501

    Since ‘top’ itself accounts for the largest CPU %, that means ‘mostly idle’, with just my
    browser and text editor consuming some small % of cycles.

    Reply
  17. D

    Re Google [Alphabet Jigsaw’s] Perspective API

    There are a number of horrid (yet not surprising whatsoever, to my thoughts) examples of Perspective API in ‘action’ in Yasha Levine’s Twitter posts, retweets, and responses, on August 9th and 10th (start here https://mobile.twitter.com/yashalevine?max_id=896086913160957952 , and then click Load older tweets at the bottom. You can do it from a laptop, you don’t need a smartphone to view ‘mobile’ twitter posts.) which can be read even if one doesn’t use twitter. Here are 3 of them:

    Yasha Levine
    @yashalevine

    Replying to @yashalevine

    Google thinks slavery is good. Makes sense. pic.twitter.com/2IuRDxP17N [https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DG1nN1qXsAIHcfK.jpg:small – D]

    8:22 PM – 9 Aug 2017

    Yasha Levine
    @yashalevine

    Replying to @yashalevine

    Calling rape a crime is a no-no in Google land, considered 87-97% toxic. pic.twitter.com/k8StIpJEuc [https://pbs.twimg.com/media/DG1n8oCXkAEBFkB.jpg:small – D]

    8:25 PM – 9 Aug 2017

    via Yasha’s retweet:

    Rachael Tackett
    @ractack

    Replying to @eeeebbbbrrrr @resentfultweet and 6 others

    #EverydaySexism Google’s API thinks Damore’s anti-diversity memo is 4% toxic, while Feminism is 55% toxic. perspectiveapi.com

    3:25 PM – 10 Aug 2017

    Hmmmmm, oops! the Wired author covering Perspective API neglected to mention that Google/Alphabet Jigsaw’s [formerly Google Ideas] founder and CEO, Jared Cohen, was an ex State Department advisor to both Condoleezza and Hillary??? From the Wiki page for Jared Cohen:

    Jared Cohen (born November 24, 1981) is the President of Jigsaw[1] (previously Google Ideas[2]) and an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.[3] Previously, he served as a member of the Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff and as an advisor to Condoleezza Rice and later Hillary Clinton.[4] Initially brought in by Condoleezza Rice as a member of the Policy Planning Staff, he was one of a few staffers that stayed under Hillary Clinton later referenced in an article entitled “Tweeting While Tehran Burns”.[5] In this capacity, he focused on counter-terrorism, counter-radicalization, Middle East/South Asia, Internet freedom, and fostering opposition in repressive countries.[6] According to The New York Times Magazine, right before his departure Cohen was one of the participating architects of what was labeled in 2010 as “21st century statecraft” along with Richard Boly and several foreign service officers in the Department of State’s Office of eDiplomacy [7][8][9] In 2013, Cohen was named by Time Magazine as one of its 100 most influential people.

    Reply
      1. sierra7

        Precisely!
        I advise my book club friends all the time (until nauseaum) when they whip out their e-books……..Once everything important is on e-books then overnight or in nano-seconds history will be changed to meet the standards of the rulers. Yes, save ALL history books in your possession. The “dark ages” of instruction is advancing at a violent pace!

        Reply
    1. blennylips

      Anyone remember Obomber’s Brain Initiative from Apr ’13?
      Brain being Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies of course.(gaww!)

      They were gonna map the whole shebang enough to simulate a brain, I guess to get the next batch of bernaysauce out quicker.

      Two years later, they lauded the first results!

      NEW YORK (Reuters) – The mouse walked, the mouse stopped; the mouse ignored a bowl of food, then scampered back and gobbled it up, and it was all controlled by neuroscientists, researchers reported on Thursday.

      The study, describing a way to manipulate a lab animal’s brain circuitry accurately enough to turn behaviors both on and off, is the first to be published under President Barack Obama’s 2013 BRAIN Initiative, which aims to advance neuroscience and develop therapies for brain disorders.

      We’ve a much better idea of what the goog consider a disorder now, don’t we?

      I think this recent spate of celebrity despairers over the “dangers” of AI is a head fake to distract us from the abysmal reality of what passes for “AI”; just fancier more efficient statistical pattern matching. The old don’t look at the man behind the curtain. Training data is everything in these tools and they are using a low paid army of temps to show how to judge social media converstations? puleeze shoot me now. Can we sue for incompetence?

      Reply
  18. D

    Summer August 15, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    Save your history books. It’s obvious that many crimes are going to be deleted by algorithm.

    Yeah, Summer, save all that can’t be altered (such as ‘pixels’) at a slight whim. I’ll bet Mark Zuckerberg read and admired Kissinger’s World Order from a well worn family Hardback. while the rest of us have been informed – for over a decade – that our Hardback and Paperback copies are worthless and obsolesced. December 10th, 2015:

    Robbie Martin
    @FluorescentGrey

    holy shit via @adamjohnsonNYC cc: @exiledonline @MarkAmesExiled pic.twitter.com/2UZVRohN0z [https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CV60gxLXIAAiZxr.jpg:small – D]

    8:49 PM – 10 Dec 2015

    Reply
  19. jerry

    If only America could get as collectively angry about the corporate oligarchy, healthcare, the financialization of our economy, decades of wage suppression, etc. as they do about a goddamn statue.

    It’s hopeless. 2018 and 2020 will be a rerun of the Trump/Clinton battle, no lessons will be learned, no narratives changed, no civic engagement of any kind, meanwhile the bernies and the true progressives with common sense will again be pushed out to the margin and their voices silenced.

    What a species..

    Reply
    1. Octopii

      Not only will their voices be silenced, they will be vilified for the current situation. Spend some time in the WaPo comments section….

      Reply
      1. clinical wasteman

        Not sure I’d wish that even on him.
        But I’d gladly leave him a few hundred thousand years to regret wishing it on himself.
        Then a few million more for wishing (indirectly, whatever) the opposite on others.

        Reply
  20. polecat

    Don’t be fooled ! .. That’s just his HyperDyne cybernetic muscle over-lay … wait tell you see the redofhiseyes !!

    Reply
  21. Kim Kaufman

    One point that doesn’t get made about health insurance: people who have car insurance (required in CA) are double-paying because they get medical coverage on their car insurance in case they get hurt and also medical coverage in case they hurt somebody. Also probably for home insurance, i.e., if a worker is injured on your property. So, some people pay for medical insurance two or three times.

    Reply

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