2:00PM Water Cooler 9/19/2017

By Lambert Strether of Corrente

Patient readers, this Water Cooler is also abbreviated. Today is a travel day for me. Here’s a trip report from the Bangor Meetup. Otherwise, talk amongst yourselves! –lambert

We had our Bangor meetup on Friday, September 15, at Giacomo’s. Three NC readers attended, one coming up from Belfast, the other two from the Bangor area (although one had recently come from the West Coast and bought a house in the woods). The nights are still warm, and so we sat and ate and talked outside, and had a very pleasant meeting. In fact, we closed the place!

Here, suitably anonymized, are some of the things I learned. Readers and attendees please correct:

Because I’m really up the road from Bangor and don’t drive, I don’t know much about Bangor or its twin city across the Penobscot, Brewer. In fact, Brewer has always struck me as a town that one drives through, perhaps on the way to Bar Harbor, but in fact there are families who have lived there for generations.

Brewer once had a mill. Of course, the mill is closed now.

In lieu of a mill, Brewer has a ginormous natural gas compressor complex (I think this one; map, but who knows whether it’s informative or disinformative?)

The Maine State Democrat Party went 66% for Sanders in 2016. When elections for officers were held, the number of Sanders supporters elected was 0%. “They wouldn’t even give us a token.” As a result, this NC member is doing food sovereignty and permaculture.

A ninety-year-old grandmother drives all the way from Mount Desert Island to Boston for her cancer treatments. Her house was built IIRC in the 1700s.

A Fitzgerald family has been buying up a lot of land near Dover Foxcroft, north of Bangor. But they’re not doing anything with it at all. (Lambert: This could be connected, for good or ill, with the oft-mooted, never started East-West Corridor project.)

The Big Sort (paraphrasing) seems well underway among undergraduates at Harvard, but along the lines of identity politics.

Medicare starts out at about $300 a month. You’ve got parts A, B, C, and D, and there are co-pays. Lambert here: I always pictured myself hopping from rock to rock across the rushing river of the American health care system until I finally reached the safe shore of Medicare. How naive. Now that #MedicareForAll is becoming a real possibility, we need to understand that “Medicare” is more aspirational than programmatic; the neoliberal infestation is bad. (To be fair, both SandersCare and ConyersCare make major changes to Medicare; they don’t simply expand it by increasing eligibility.)

* * *

It’s interesting to think that wherever you go in America, you’d be able to hold a Naked Capitalism meetup and attract at least a few readers. (Granted, in some of the less peopled areas in the West, people might have to drive hundreds of miles to get there, but then they do that.)

Talk amongst yourselves!

* * *

Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please 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 (WB):

WB writes: “I know nothing about the specific plants in this photo, taken in Oakland, CA last May, except that they’re beautiful.”

* * *

Readers: Do feel free to use the dropdown and click the hat to make a contribution today or any day. Here is why: Regular positive feedback both makes me feel good and lets me know I’m on the right track with coverage. When I get no donations for five or ten days I get worried. More tangibly, a constant trickle of small donations helps me with expenses, and I factor that trickle in when setting fundraising goals. So if you see something you especially appreciate, please click the hat!


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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. cocomaan

      If they’re anything like the nasturtiums in my yard, they are also invulnerable to just about anything except winter.

      1. HotFlash

        Tasty, nutritious (I am told, check wiki etc) and cheap. Grow them yourself or forage, they are prolific enough that you don’t have to worry abt extinguishing them. A stack of 5 or 6 of the leaves (they are *round*!) on a nice Portuguese bun are really wonderful. Eat your hearts out, watercress sammidges!

    2. Off The Street

      In various parts of the world, nasturtiums or their cousins are considered delicacies. A former colleague was awakened one morning by a noise in his yard. When he peered through the blinds he saw some new neighbors plucking off the flowers. He also noted that the stray cats in the neighborhood had been harvested. Now that is living off the fat of the land.

    3. Harold

      The flowers in the background appear to be Erigeron karvinskianus, sometimes called Mexican fleabane. They are native to Mexico and Central America and naturalized elsewhere. According to the books, they look like and are closely related to true daisies (Bellis perennis), except more everblooming. Not frost hardy where I live, unfortunately.

  1. ChiGal in Carolina

    marym posted this yesterday but worth a repeat
    scroll down and you’ll get info and contact for the Senators–McCain, Murkowski, Collins, etc. who need not to cave on repeal.

    We need to go forward from the disastrous ACA, not backward!

    1. marym

      Thank you for the repost.

      A bipartisan group of governors sent letter (PDF) to McConnell and Schemer opposing Graham-Cassidy, endorsing the “bi-partisan” fixits.

      CO, OH, AK, MT, PA, VA, LA, NV, MA, VT

      The Alaska governor had not opposed previous Republican bills, so this should give a boost to Murkowski, who hasn’t committed yes/no as yet.

      Separately, Republican governors of MD and NH also opposed.

      Per random twitter browsing, and, as indicated below from dcblogger, on-site and phone calls have been less robust this time around.

    2. sleepy

      A couple particularly odious notes on the Graham-Cassidy bill: 1) it imposes a work requirement on all medicaid beneficiaries and 2) it prohibits any federal funding that a state receives under the bill from being used by the state to establish any form of single-payer.

  2. Lee

    My Medicare medical premiums are about $400 per month. This includes a supplement that eliminates deductibles and copays. This is important. That 20% copay in the event of expensive procedures and care can wipe you out financially. The copays on my medications are another $300 per month and looking to rise in the near future to the point I will hit the gap, which will further raise the cost.

    This is in addition to having paid Medicare payroll taxes for five decades.

    1. HotFlash

      Interesting. Commenters, do you find this typical? I am in Canada, we pay nada for our health ins, no copays, no deductible, no limits. We are not covered for prescriptios, though, nor dental, optometrics, chiro, and other useful stuff.. But we are working on it.

      I know a bit about one case, in Michigan, which is Medicare, incl copays and the infamous ‘donut’, but no idea of what the rest of the county is like. Does anyone know of a source for good info on this? Stats are great, of course, but anecdotal fine, too. Thank you.

      1. Synoia

        Donut =

        We’ll (Medicare) pay (some of) your prescription costs up to x,

        then YOYO until you’ve paid y,

        then we’ll (Medicare) pay (some) again.

      2. CanCyn

        Another Canadian here – I know that you know this HotFlash, but of course our health care isn’t free – we share the payment for it via our taxes … I don’t think that Americans pay the same income taxes, etc. that we do – much less right? We can’t write off our mortgages, etc. … it would be most interesting to know where it all shakes out. From what I hear of the costs of healthcare coverage in the US, in spite of our higher taxes, I think Canadians are still coming out on top with regard to costs to the individual. Not to mention the time spent shopping for services, figuring out plans, etc. In Canada, we see our GP, get the tests necessary and carry on. Yes we do need to advocate for ourselves and I sometimes have to follow-up because I haven’t heard from my doctor. And don’t get me started about senior citizens, long term care, etc. It ain’t perfect and it ain’t as good as it used to be …. So long winded way of trying to figure out, as individuals, who really does pay more? Maybe this is naive and the answer is obvious to everyone??

        1. nippersmom

          We still have to advocate for ourselves and follow up with our doctors, who may or may not get back to us with test results, answers to questions,etc. Our inflated “healthcare” costs don’t translate to better service.

        2. cj51

          Health care in Canada, or in any industrialized country other than the USA for that matter, is better than what we have in USA.
          Prior to Obamacare, health care costs in USA were a leading cause of bankruptcy which also led to people dying because they could not afford medical expenses anymore.
          And even with the ACA, the performance of health care system in the USA is far below where it should be.
          Single-payer in other countries is not without problems, but it would be far better than the ACA or any insane plan the Republicans can come up with.

        3. Propertius

          As Dr. Mrs Propertius (a proud Canadian) is wont to say whenever she has an encounter with the US healthcare “system”: “I don’t understand why things are so complicated down here. Back home, if you get sick you go to the doctor and you get well. Period”

      3. Annotherone

        Lee’s experience is very similar to ours. Husband and I each pay a supplement to Medicare’s usual payments; supplement = around $300 each, in order to avoid co-pays, which we have done so far. I’ve had a couple of mild “fights” over wrong billing causing demands for payments, but came out on the right side each time – but only after lengthy phone calls, correspondence and visits!

        Amount of regular paperwork involved, monthly, in the whole thing is ridiculous. Forests could be saved !

      4. sleepy

        Medicare Part A has no premium and covers hospitalization. I pay a premium of c. $120/month for medicare Part B which covers doctors, lab tests, etc. I also pay about $25/month premiums for medicare Part D which covers all the prescriptions I take, though with a $4.00 copay.

        Now, part A and part B have deductibles and 20% copays. Those copays have no caps.

        So I buy a private blue cross policy for $135/month which covers all deductibles and copays.

        So my total is $280/month. I have been hospitalized once and have been in the ER, and have seen several doctors. I haven’t been charged a penny.

        Prior to medicare, last year I was paying c. $600/month under a Cobra policy through my wife’s former employer.

        The medicare coverage is just as good if not better and $280 is far less than $600. But it is not free.

        1. JP

          I am paying $104 per month for A & B. I’m 70 healthy and don’t want C or D parts. I have been criticized for this but intend to die from a chainsaw accident. I don’t know if I will ever use part A because almost all simple surgeries are now “out patient procedures”. My advice is stay healthy and die quickly. I realize reality will have the last laugh.

      5. Croatoan

        I am on permanent disability and I pay $110.month. That’s pretty crazy huh? You would think us sick folk would get a break. But, nah.

      6. marieann

        I am in Ontario. For the over 65 crowd drugs are covered as are yearly eye exams. I’m not sure if any other province has this

      7. windsock

        I’m in the UK, and as you are aware, moaning and complaining is our national sport, especially about the National Health Service (NHS) which is, sadly, deteriorating after the New Labour investment.

        I’m going to tell a personal story – look away if squeamish!

        I’m nearly 60. In March I was diagnosed with a facial cancer which needed to be excised. I was in surgery in July for 12 hours with a team of ten surgeons working on me. They removed the tumour, part of the cancerous nerve which controls my ability to close my eye and lift my lip; part of the cancerous parotid gland which secretes saliva, some of the jaw muscle. It left a big hole which they filled with a patch from my arm, which needed its own blood supply to stay alive, so they also removed the artery and nerve already attached to it, and a nerve also attached to it. They put this in my face, attached the nerve to my facial nerves to attempt to restore function to the eye and lip and plumbed the artery and nerve into my neck with microsurgery. And they filled the hole in my arm with skin from my stomach.

        After surgery I was in intensive care for 48 hours and then on the ward for 5 days before discharge.

        I had multiple MRIs, CT scans, utlrasounds, PET scans. I was seen by a team of surgeons, an oncologist, speech and language therapists, dieticians and clinical nurse specialists and given all the painkilling drugs I needed. I was offered counselling.

        The day after discharge from hospital, I got a diagnosis of a second primary cancer at the other end of the digestion process. I am about to begin a six week five days per week chaemo-radiotherapy course to treat that (surgery, thankfully, ruled out as being too invasive). At the same time, I am having radiotherapy on my face to prevent the return of that cancer which was described after excision and biopsy, as aggressive and malignant and recurrent. Again, multiple scans for my rear end and ongoing care from all the professionals listed above for the next four/six months or so.

        All costing me the taxes I have already paid and nothing more. The only forms I have filled in, are the consent forms I have had to sign.

        At times it has been frustrating trying to get the head and neck team to co-ordinate with the colo-rectal team and I have had to be a “difficult” patient at times to get it to happen. But on Monday, it all starts.

        How much would this have cost NC readers in USA?

        Thank heavens for the NHS, who, incidentally, did such a good job on my face the replacement skin patch is already losing its definition against the surrounding area. It will take about a year to see if the nerve connection works.

        I really don’t know what you Americans are waiting for. Do it!

        1. PlutoniumKun

          Wow, thats tough, I can only wish you the best of luck with the rest of your treatment!

          And yes, the NHS is a treasure. Those bastards plotting to undermine and destroy it should be treated as the criminals and psychopaths they are.

          One thing you didn’t mention – the total cost per person of the UK healthcare system is less than half the cost of the US system. The NHS isn’t just equitable and wonderful, its incredibly cheap.

          1. windsock

            Thank you for your kindness.

            And yes…people castigate ex-Tory leader David Cameron for the Brexit referendum fiasco… what was as bad (or in some ways worse, because he obviously lied) was his pre-2010 promise that there would be “no top-down re-organisation of the NHS” under any Conservative government, only for that to happen under prime sh*t Andrew Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act 2012. The effects are already damagin the NHS… and as for Brexit giving us an extra £350 million per week to spend on the NHS…. who really believed that complete b****cks?

    2. Phil in Kansas City

      Listened to a talk radio host today denigrate the single-payer idea. This host is a self-described libertarian. He said that repeal of the ACA was necessary in order to give back “control” of health care to doctors and patients. Well, prior to the ACA, “control” meant that your insurance company made decisions about your health care, or perhaps your doctor treated you for free, or maybe you paid cash for your health care, or maybe you decided to not insure at all and become a “free rider” at the local ER. He went on to say that several doctors have left their medical practices because of restrictions on what they can charge via the ACA.

      In other words, once the words “single payer” are uttered, we will be rushed quickly into a fact-free, evidence-scarce zone. Heavy sigh. I wish adults were in charge of the conversation.

      1. Big River Bandido

        The entire “cost argument” (in scare quotes because it’s not a serious argument) needs to be attacked at every turn. The first point is that any number floated must first *subtract* all the money that won’t be going to private insurance companies for ripoff, substandard “care”.

        Nearly everyone hates health insurance companies. It’s important to keep the focus on that point.

  3. dcblogger

    I went to a health care rally at the east side of the US Capitol. It was organized last night by MoveOn, Planned Parenthood, AFT and a few others. Not many people, less than 100. Ron Wyden was the first to speak, then Dick Durban, I left before Cory Booker was going to speak. Fewer people at this one than the night of the health care vote.

    1. Big River Bandido

      I’m willing to bet that MoveOn, PP and AFT (of which I am a completely disgruntled member) could not put together a real rally even if the issue were to save the cutest puppies on the planet.

      I think much of the left is by now aware that these groups are led by and for political grifters. After what the national president did vis-a-vis the 2016 nomination, I won’t lift a finger to support my own union.

  4. Jonathan Holland Becnel

    We will show up in the Deep South of New Orleans!

    Also, Christmas time is lovely with our light display in City Park :)

    1. Jim Haygood

      In a similar vein, the latest National Hurricane Center update shows a slight strengthening in Hurricane Maria to maximum winds of 165 mph and central pressure of 916 millibars (27.05 inches).


      If I recall correctly, Hurricane Camille in 1969 had a central pressure of 909 mb (26.84 inches). It ripped some stretches of US Hwy 90 out of the ground in southern Mississippi. Nothing but footprints of structures were left.

      Lookin’ grim for towns such as Guayama and Humacao on the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, on the eastern (forward punching) side of the eye according to the projected path.

    2. Shaken & stirred

      Live in Mexico City. It certainly was scary. I suppose that there will be surge pricing of detergent.

      Fodder for the tin-foil hat community.
      1) 11.00 there was a city-wide test of the alarm system. Which is almost useless. Last time the night 7-8th of September there was an earthquake and if you would have been asleep, you wouldn´t have heard anything.
      2) 13.10 starts a real earthquake.

      Otherwise, check out these articles




  5. audrey jr

    The small daisy flowers are a California staple called Fleabane. They are extremely drought resistant and are multicolored pinks ranging from nearly white to hot pink. The colors really come out with a proper amount of water. This is one of my favorite flowering plants. It is, however, like the nasturtiums shown with it, very invasive.

    1. Oregoncharles

      I think the bush behind them is pineapple guava, which has edible red flowers and edible fruit (not the same as tropical guavas). Gets really big – it’s pretty hardy here, down to about zero. The leaves are silvery and evergreen, so it makes a handsome bush.

      And of course stone has big advantages in a landscape: it doesn’t have to be watered, fertilized, or pruned.

  6. Elizabeth Burton

    In a household earning net under $30K a year, I must pay 15% of my very small Social Security payment for Medicare B. The idea I could also afford to pay for an advantage plan AND Part D is ludicrous. Granted, I have no need for the latter, since I avoid Big Pharma offerings as the plague.

    So, yeah, the neoliberal crapification, which includes the pathetic (and recently nonexistent) COLAs, is quite evident, which is another reason for supporting Medicare-for-All.

  7. BiteCoin

    Only 7 Senators voted against giving Donald effing Trump more $ than even he requested for the Pentagon.

    That this is not a scream-from-the-rooftops-and-pull-your-hair-out scandal is, even in an era of dumbed-down numbness, frankly, shocking.

    My only conclusion is that we are beyond saving.

      1. sid_finster

        @Jim: no, if soldiers’ paychecks start bouncing (not likely since we can print $$) we will engage in more overt forms of looting.

  8. Chris

    Thank you Lambert, have a day off. You can have four days off if you come to the Cairns meet up…

    Sanders’ and his supporters’ efforts suggest that the ‘con-versation’ is going in the right direction, to a discussion of single payer and how it can be funded (MMT considerations aside).

    Yet, I get the feeling that universal health care as a right, funded by the sovereign (who controls prices and the licenses to operate) – will remain aspirational for the US.

    Why do I think that? Too many vested interests earning rents off sickness. Big changes in policy are always made more difficult when they make powerful interests worse off.

    I can see a transition to public hospitals staffed by public servants and private hospitals, where you can jump the queue if you have the means or the insurance. So, still a role for the insurers and the private hospitals, but you don’t need all that expensive management, administration and medical coders. And the doctors and specialists will get on board when the public sector jobs with reasonable salaries are offered.

    It could be made to work, but I am not confident that the TPTB will ever work in the interests of us.

  9. JohnnyGL


    Bernie on Meet the Press. Chuck Todd asking smear-y questions. Bernie clearly knows what he’s dealing with. As usual, he keeps his poise and needles Chuck Todd for “an hour” a couple of times. He knows how effective he is with these ‘town hall’ style discussions on cable news.

    Lambert points out that he’s a sharp politician. He’s showing it again.

  10. Theo

    Only eat edible flowers that are grown organically. Flowers to which pesticides have been applied should not be eaten even though they are otherwise edible.

  11. allan

    Syracuse mayor may challenge Cuomo in primary [NY Post]

    Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner huddled with Democratic Party activists Tuesday as she weighs a primary challenge to Gov. Cuomo’s re-election bid next year, sources told The Post.

    Miner met in Albany with members of the left-leaning New York Progressive Action Network — self described “Berniecrats” who backed Bernie Sanders presidential campaign last year and are seeking an alternative to Cuomo. …

    Before anyone gets too excited, remember that Miner was one of the many Democratic mayors
    who oversaw the militarized suppression of Occupy in their cities

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