2:00PM Water Cooler 1/11/2018

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Trade

“If North American car companies ‘don’t have a functional Nafta — if it becomes too complicated, too bureaucratic, too costly that you can’t get low-cost, high-labor products into this region — then all of a sudden we have damaged the whole Nafta region,’ said Magna International Inc. Chief Executive Officer Don Walker. ‘It’s going to be a lose-lose-lose'” [Bloomberg]. Could be. OTOH, Don, last I checked, we the people didn’t elect officials to take care of a region, eh?

“Trump Speech React: Trade Fears Calmed” [AgWeb]. “‘Corrupt politics left our communities hurting, our economy stagnant and millions of hardworking Americans completely forgotten, but they, guess what, are not forgotten anymore. No more,’ President Trump told a cheering crowd at the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) convention on Monday. ‘They are forgotten no more. Remember that, you’re forgotten no more.’ Trump also understands how important farmers are to him politically, according to Ray Starling, special assistant to the president on agriculture and agriculture trade. Starling said, the President recognizes that American farmers give our country an “edge.'” The devil is in the details of the deal, of course.

“A bipartisan group that shares many of President Donald Trump’s populist goals on trade is urging the president to impose a “global tariff” on solar imports from China and other foreign suppliers in a case brought by Suniva and SolarWorld. Trump is due to announce his decision in the closely watched trade remedy case by Jan. 26, which is about when he will be in Davos, Switzerland, for the annual World Economic Forum” [Politico].

“Canada is taking a tough stance with the U.S. on trade just as talks between North American countries are set to resume. The country is formally complaining to the World Trade Organization over tariffs the U.S. imposed last year on Canada’s softwood-lumber producers” [Wall Street Journal].

Politics

2020

“The Case Against Joe Biden” [Paste]. A very good and detailed takedown, well worth a read. Amazing that a guy with such a lovable smile could be so terrible on policy.

Oprah Boomlet

“Rasmussen poll: Oprah leads Trump by 10 points” [The Hill].

“Watch as Oprah trudges through shin-deep mud after powerful rainstorm pummels her neighborhood” [Los Angeles Times]. Holy moley. Content-free puff pieces already. Did Oprah’s publicist just plant this, or what?

“Pope Oprah” [The American Conservative]. “Oprah’s spirituality is consonant with Moralistic Therapeutic Deism, in that it is non-doctrinal, and sees matters of religion and spirituality as essentially about self-expression (telling “your truth”) and self-improvement. As Christian Smith and his colleagues have shown, this is the de facto religion of tens of millions of Americans, though it is expressed in different ways.”

Universal enthusiasm:

2018

“Democrats should end the year with more governorships than they hold now. One reasonable way to measure Democrats’ success is whether they get into the 20s — they have 16 governorships now, so that would mean a gain of four or more” [Center for Politics]. “To really have a strong year, Democrats need to win some of the bigger states, and several major states with Republican governors should be very competitive: Florida, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio all qualify. Democrats realistically have only one big-state governorship that might be tricky to defend, Pennsylvania.” And: “[Of] Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, Republicans hold all but the Keystone State right now. Three are Toss-ups, while Republicans start the year with a modest edge in Ohio and Democrats a modest edge in Pennsylvania. [A]ll five governors play a key role in congressional redistricting, which is coming after the 2020 census and will be overseen by the governors elected this year in these (and many other) states.” Here I’d put in a plug that governorships are good because governors govern, if it weren’t for New York’s truly horrid Cuomo, and the unseemly odor emanating from CalPERS in Brown’s one-party state, California.

House: “Issa Retirement Moves CA-49 from Toss Up to Lean Democratic” [Cook Political Report]. “Republicans’ best hope for holding the seat in the current lopsided political environment probably involves Democrats splitting the vote in the June top-two primary and allowing two Republicans to advance, but that would require a very elaborate set of circumstances. The race moves to the Lean Democratic column.”

House: “California 49 Ratings Update: Issa’s Open Seat Remains a Toss-up for Now” [Inside Elections]. “[S]imilar to California’s 39th District, where GOP Rep. Ed Royce just announced his retirement, the 49th District in recent history has usually voted for Republican candidates yet rejected Donald Trump and nearly threw out Issa, who had become known for his Benghazi investigations. The scope of the Democratic takeover opportunity depends on whether Clinton’s performance is the new normal or whether 2016 was an aberration.”

New Cold War

“The Digger Who Commissioned the Trump-Russia Dossier Speaks” [The New Yorker]. “[Glenn Simpson, of Fusion GPS] also said Steele told him that the F.B.I. already had another source on Russia, one inside the Trump campaign.” Interesting if true. I wonder if the FBI has moles in all the campaigns?

UPDATE Charles Cook is usually even more mild-mannered than this:

FISA Reform

Sadly:

“Thoughtful leaders”:

“Trump Opposes His Own Surveillance Bill” [PoliticalWire]. Paraphrasing Jonathon Chait: “[Trump] immediately tweeted out his alarmed confusion that the House was apparently on the verge of approving the very law the sinister Deep State had used to ‘tapp’ his phones.” Sadly, Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance, of which this bill is the twisted, evil, Chucku-like descendant, gutted the Fourth Amendment (“secure in their [digital] papers and effects”) and is indeed “sinister.” NTDT, but taking him seriously but not literally, he’s quite right. (Chait’s snark on a typo is just icing on the cake of liberal Democrat idiocy on this issue.)

For those who came in late: Hey, remember way back in 2008, where Obama promised to filibuster the first FISA “reform” bill in January — remember the “professor of Constitutional law” talking point? Good times — and then flip-flopped and voted for it in July? Obama gave the telcos retroactive immunity for felonies created under Bush’s program of warrantless surveillance — thereby presaging, did we but know it, how Obama’s “Justice” Department let criminal banksters off the hook after the crash.

Trump Transition

“Infrastructure deficit threatens booming U.S. economy, U.S. Chamber CEO warns” [Logistics Management]. Another angle on Donohue’ speech. “Donohue called for a ‘forward-looking infrastructure’ program, adding: ‘We must pay our way our way into the future. We need to rebuild our roads and bridges for changes to come, including driverless cars.'” We’re going to spend billions optimizing real-world inputs for robot cars because Silicon Valley can’t get its algos to work without doing that, and you know those optimizations won’t be organized on any basis of fairness or public good.

The odious very well-paid Jack Lew on the the Obama and Trump administration economies: “‘They’ve had a lot of luck so far. We, in our first few years and for a long time, there was a crisis that exploded that you just had to deal with,’ Lew said from his office at investment firm [of course] Lindsay Goldberg in midtown Manhattan. ‘The world is on the edge right now but is not breaking through on most of those issues. The question is what happens if one of those crises actually switches from being potential to real” [Politico]. “A crisis that exploded that you just had to deal with.” And they did deal with it! They did! The smugness makes me want to put my fist through the screen.

“Trump’s disavowal of Bannon, his former campaign chief executive and White House strategist, and Bannon’s ensuing contrition, reminds fractious Republicans that this is Trump’s party now. Political leaders must be either feared or loved. Trump showed that he should be feared by his rivals” [Christopher Buskirk, WaPo].

“Trump Suggests 2-Phase Immigration Deal for ‘Dreamers'” [RealClearPolitics]. From the public Cabinet room meeting. “The head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Michelle Grisham Lujan, D-N.M., said late Tuesday she was ‘encouraged’ by Trump’s words and would work ‘in good faith’ toward a deal. Some of the group’s members have taken a hard line against surrendering too much in a compromise with Trump.”

Realignment and Legitimacy

“In the heart of Anti-Trump Country, voters still pine for an America better than its president” [Will Bunch, Philadelphia Inquirer]. “This is the push-pull of Anti-Trump Country. On one hand, there is a kind of conformity in the universal dislike of Trump — his tweets, his casual embrace of racism and misogyny, his policies that slam the poor — to the extent that the shock of his election victory made some Mount Airy/Germantown residents more aware they are living in a kind of progressive bubble. Yet no one seems to agree on how to best respond to Trump.” How about a program of universal concrete material benefits?

“Heartland Democrats to Washington: ‘You’re Killing Us'” [Politico]. “From the Appalachian regions of Ohio to the Iron Range of Minnesota and the northern reaches of Michigan and Wisconsin, across Iowa and Missouri and through the southern swaths of Indiana and Illinois—areas in which Bill Clinton triumphed and Hillary Clinton tanked—the quotes from the 72 rural Democrats Johnson interviewed read like a pent-up primal scream. And Terry Goodin’s comments pop out in particular. In the report, he says the Democratic Party is ‘lazy,’ ‘out of touch with mainstream America,’ relying on ‘too much identity politics’ where ‘winners and losers are picked by their labels.’ The Democrats in his district, he laments, ‘feel abandoned.'” I searched on the word “Sanders.” Of course, no hits.

“A New Poll Shows the Public Is Overwhelmingly Opposed to Endless US Military Interventions” [The Nation]. “The study, ‘Battlefield Casualties and Ballot Box Defeat: Did the Bush-Obama Wars Cost Clinton the White House?,’ which was released last summer, found that ‘a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not.’ That divide, which the authors termed ‘the casualty gap,’ may have contributed to Donald Trump’s surprise victory. Indeed, ‘even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, the authors found there was ‘a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump.'”

Stats Watch

Brief pause to note that reports are rolling over into 2018, starting with the weeklies. I’ll type “2017” a few times, I am sure…. –lambert

Jobless Claims, week of January 6, 2018: “In what might be an early sign of loosening in the labor market, initial jobless claims rose 11,000 in the January 6 week to a higher-than-expected 261,000. The gain is widespread and not centered in Puerto Rico” [Econoday]. “Initial claims, aside from hurricane distortions in September and October, were remarkably steady and favorable throughout last year which makes the gain in the first week of this year stand out.” Yes. Jobless claims have been boringly flat for as long as I can remember…

Producer Price Index (Final Demand), December 2017: “Yesterday’s weakness in import and export prices did in fact point to wide weakness in today’s producer price report” [Econoday]. “Down is definitely the theme of this report which points squarely at disappointment for tomorrow’s consumer price report where expectations are already soft, at an Econoday consensus gain of only 0.1 percent and 0.2 percent for the core (ex-food and ex-energy). The absence of inflation is a stubborn theme of the economy.”

Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index, week of January 7, 2017: Rose sharply [Econoday]. “Strength in consumer confidence was a major theme of the 2017 economy and today’s report points to more of the same for 2018.”

Shipping: “Transportation is awash with information. There’s information about rates, exceptions, additional accessorial charges, discounts and other mountains of data. And due to the fact that shippers and carriers have the ability to exchange and capture information more than ever before, the volume of information is rising exponentially. The issue now is: What to do with all that data?” [Logistics Management]. U.S. Bank and Cass Information Services are the two largest freight payment companies in North America. U.S Bank says “that communication flows can be data exchanges, such as EDI, and the main flow of invoices and information. And the competition to control that flow is fierce. Like Cass, U.S. Bank Freight Payment is huge. It processes around $23 billion in global freight payments annually for some of the world’s largest corporations and government agencies.” That’s real money!

Shipping: “U.S. Ports Update Part 1: Expanded Panama Canal Changes the Balance” [Logistics Management]. ‘According to its latest throughput figures, the Panama Canal transited a total of 13,548 vessels during its fiscal year 2017, representing a 3.3% increase compared to totals the year before. Thanks to the larger Neopanamax vessels now able to transit the expanded Canal, the growth in traffic translated into a 22.2% increase in total annual tonnage from 2016, and helped the Panama Canal surpass the already ambitious cargo projection of reaching 399 million tons… Fitch Rating’s latest “U.S. Transportation Trends” report indicates that all major U.S. ports are “stable” from an investment perspective, and forecasts this “neutral” status will continue in 2018. And while government funding of port infrastructure remains uncertain, there’s some evidence that the private sector is wiling take a chance.”

Shipping: “One of container shipping’s fastest-growing operators appears to be trying to get ahead of a vessel glut before it begins. China Cosco Shipping is deferring delivery of 10 big vessels from this year to 2019, Lloyd’s List Maritime Intelligence reports, pushing off what would have been a 30% increase in the shipping line’s cargo capacity” [Wall Street Journal]. Because what’s a cartel for?

Manufacturing: “Toyota will build a $1.6 billion factory it will share with Mazda Motor Corp. in Huntsville, Ala., the latest in a series of big-dollar expansions by Asian and European car companies in Southern states. The investments, including a $1.1 billion factory Volvo Cars is opening in South Carolina this year, are creating new backing for rail, road and port expansions to help move parts to the plants and finished cars to export gateways. Other foreign auto makers say they are considering expanding or establishing U.S. operations, adding to the drive to build a broader new eco-system of automotive manufacturing” [Wall Street Journal]. Watch out for that word “eco-system,” a Silicon Valley buzzword. I don’t think a market is an eco-system; and although eco-system sounds all earthy-crunchy, every ecosystem has its apex predators.

The Bezzle: The headline: “Turning brain signals into useful information” [The Economist]. The deck: “Once data have been extracted from the brain, how can they be employed to best effect?” Making the dopamine loop look like child’s play. And my idea of “best effect,” in this context, can best be expressed in visual form… Actually, I can’t bring myself to do it. Here’s a link.

Lambert here: Readers know my temperament; I’m a Maine bear. And I don’t invest. I couldn’t sleep nights if I did.

Fodder for the Bulls: “In his remarks, Donohue, hardly a wild-eyed optimist, waxed very optimistic about the outlook for 2018 and well into 2019, saying the strong economic gains achieved last year will extend for months to come, and will likely get stronger. Donohue acknowledged the possibility that unforeseen events or major policy errors could derail the recovery. However, the U.S. economy’s current strength is so ‘deep and wide’ that it could withstand severe shocks, he added” [DC Velocity]. Another angle on Donohue’s speech….

Honey for the Bears: “Opinion: The man who called a new bull market in 2012 says take your profits now” [MarketWatch]. “‘One out of every four trading sessions in 2017 was an all-time new high,’ [Piper Jaffray’s Craig] Johnson said….. Johnson thinks we’re just moving into the market’s euphoric stage. ‘There is euphoria, but it’s not off the charts,’ he told me.”

Honey for the Bears: “Japan is the catalyst that could bring the record-setting bull market for stocks across the globe to a screeching halt, according to Société Générale’s uberbear Albert Edwards” [MarketWatch]. “The prominent SocGen strategist says surprise monetary tightening in Japan could be the trigger that finally upend what has been an protracted and unrelenting global rally for assets considered risky.”

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 76 Greed (previous close: 75, Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 72 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed. Last updated Jan 10 at 11:28am.

Health Care

Oh good:

“JAMA Forum: The Problem With Work Requirements for Medicaid” [Journal of the American Medical Association]. “The true number of healthy, able-bodied adults who could work but choose not to is small. Given that, it’s worth considering the costs to administer programs such as these. They aren’t cheap, nor are they easy. Forcing those who have jobs to prove that they are employed adds an extra layer of administrative burden that could cause eligible people to lose their coverage if they don’t comply with more regulations.” An “extra layer” of means-testing and gatekeeping is also designed into ObamaCare (“extra” in that there should be no eligibility requirement in the first place, except residence). So, for Democrats, the so-called “administrative burden” is a feature, not a bug, since it’s a Jobs Guarantee for their professionall base; they also believe that only those who are worthy of assistance should get it. The Republicans believe this too, but they also believe that the unworthy should be kicked, and such a feature is worth laying out public money for.

“Here’s a breakdown of the Medicaid recipients who aren’t working” [MarketWatch]. Handy chart:

Gaia

“Trump Administration Resurrects Mining Lease in N.E. Minnesota” [Daily Yonder]. “Portions of Minnesota’s rural ‘Arrowhead,’ with its vast freshwater lakes and forests, have experienced years of growth and development as a center of outdoor recreation. That trend could change as the Department of Interior re-authorizes a controversial copper and nickel mining lease beside the region’s key attraction and nation’s most visited wilderness area, the Boundary Waters Canoe Area…. The potential mining project is within the Rainy River watershed, where the majority of land and impacted waters are owned by the state and federal governments. The watershed drains into both the Boundary Waters and nearby Voyageurs National Park in Canada. Twin Metals, a subsidiary of the Chilean mining giant Antofagasta, is proposing a massive $2.8 billion underground mine and other facilities and hundreds of jobs. The company says it has already invested $400 million in exploration and pre-feasibility planning.” I thought that mine was killed… Minnesota readers?

Guillotine Watch

“The 52 Places Traveler: Meet the Applicants” [New York Times]. “We received over 13,000 applications for our first-of-its-kind job: a traveler who will go to each and every place on this year’s Places to Go list.” Paul Blest comments: “the future of job applications is that you and 15,000 other people whose jobs have been automated out of existence have to create a ‘short, fun video,’ like you’re trying out for master chef, that explains why you’d be the best person for a copywriting job.”

$380:

Class Warfare

“What the dip in US life expectancy is really about: inequality” [Vox]. “Living in the US increasingly looks like a health risk. Average life expectancy here dropped for the second year in a row, according to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The grim trend stems from a toxic mixture of more drug- and alcohol-related deaths and more heart disease and obesity in many parts of the country. And it puts Americans at a higher risk of early death compared to their counterparts in other wealthy countries. But what’s often lost in the conversation about the uptick in mortality here is that this trend isn’t affecting all Americans. In fact, there’s one group in the US that’s actually doing better than ever: the rich. While poor and middle-class Americans are dying earlier these days, the wealthiest among us are enjoying unprecedented longevity.”

“Consumers demonstrate a willfully ignorant memory after learning products they like were unethically made, according to new research published in the Journal of Consumer Research. In an effort to “avoid emotionally difficult ethical information” like the use of child labor or non-sustainable practices, the Ohio State University study found, people either forget it entirely or misremember unethical aspects as ethical” [Moneyish]. Sounds rather like commodity fetishism….

“Walmart To Hike Its Minimum Wage To $10, Raise Pay For 1.2 Million Employees” [HuffPo].

Walmart raises (1):

Walmart raises (2):

“Who’s picking your food? A record number of foreign laborers” [Los Angeles Times]. “California’s recruitment of foreign laborers, virtually all of them from Mexico, grew by 3,121 workers, a 28% increase from the previous year, and nearly three times the national growth rate, according to the data analysis.”

“A new study says much of the rise in inequality is an illusion. Should you believe it?” [Vox]. I think the life expectancy statistics tell the story. Income is a proxy for social relations — for power — and not necessarily a good one.

“As you may recall, shortly after Blue Ivy’s birth, Beyoncé and husband Jay Z filed to register “Blue Ivy Carter” with the USPTO in 2012 in 14 classes of goods, including cosmetics/fragrances, baby products, kitchen supplies, hair accessories, playing cards. etc.” [The Fashion Law]. Hard to find a more telling anecdote of what it means to be black and bourgeios. Not that the Beyoncé isn’t an artist; she is, like Shakespeare, the highly successful entrepreneur…

News of the Wired

I am so [family blogging tired] of helping to create a data set to train Google’s robot car AI. For free, I might add.

“Incredible ‘Hypatia’ Stone Contains Compounds Not Found in the Solar System” [Popular Mechanics]. “[M]ost of the rock in the Hypatia stone has the opposite ratio of carbons to silicons that you find in the vast majority of the asteroid belt as well as the planets Earth, Mars, and Venus. Not only that, but the mineral matrix of Hypatia also contains a significant amount of interstellar dust not generally seen in the rocky stuff of the solar system…. [P]erhaps the best indications that the Hypatia stone—or components of it—formed before the solar system are the mineral grains, the fruits and nuts of the fruit cake. These embedded grains contain phosphorus and metallic elements such as aluminum and iron, but not in ratios or configurations you would expect.”

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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, pleas s e place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (AM):

AM writes: “Evergreen trees with cones at the top and moss with icicles on one of carriage roads in Acadia National Park at Thanksgiving.”

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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.

66 comments

  1. Louis Fyne

    a bunch of Sam’s Clubs closing.

    IMO, this is a clear-as-day sign that small businesses are squeezed despite the positive headlines from NYC corporate news outlets. .

    As it’s the mom/pop restaurants, small business office/coffee room supplies, etc. that are Sam’s Clubs base. The locations that I’m familiar w/on the list should be going gangbusters as they are in areas w/solid demographics

    http://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-suddenly-closes-sams-club-stores-2018-1

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      I have for a long time predicted “Walmart declares bankruptcy” to be a headline in 2025. Now I don’t mean all – or even most – of Walmart’s stores will go dark, I just mean that they will use it as a way to shrug off their creditors. It’s just the normal American progression anymore:
      1) Expand slowly
      2) Expand like mad
      3) Expand beyond reason
      4) Contract using the courts – “gentlemen choose which debts they will pay”

      So the Sam’s Club thing doesn’t surprise me. It will be played as “Walmart intelligently reacting to conditions” and that will actually be true, but that truth is still part of what will turn into a long term downward arc.

      Anyway, almost right under it is a link to a piece we all should love, about a restaurant for those of us who make $11 in, on a bad day, every 6 minutes:

      >Everything is Tiffany Blue. The café seats 40 guests. You can opt for $29 breakfast, $39 lunch, or $49 Tiffany Tea.

      But there isn’t any real inequality in America. Nope.

      Reply
    1. Pavel

      Our last hope. No doubt Chuckie Schumer will be supporting the filibuster, right? /sarc

      I’m sadly old enough to remember when Democrats were on the side of civil liberties.

      Reply
  2. Dita

    Re: Medicaid Work Requirements, the ultimate public/private partnership. Thanks to Walmart et al., so many low wage employees already need to supplement their wage with food stamps, the system is already in place. Just add Medicaid or any other public “benefit” and presto – be employed in the low wage service sector as a requirement or earn your keep fighting fires through penal system. I hope I can escape to Mexico before that wall goes up!

    Reply
    1. Wukchumni

      If push>meets<shove to get Medicaid benefits, I guess i'll have to become an 'exiter' @ Wal*Mart, which largely entails making sure your customers haven't stolen from the store, by comparing their receipt to what's in their shopping cart.

      25 years ago the position would have been called a 'greeter' and you would have merely said hello to customers as they were walking through the front entrance.

      Reply
  3. Katy

    Mining group sues Dayton over Twin Metals access

    I wasn’t following this story. But I just bought a Minnesota State Parks pass and now I’m invested!

    Dayton ordered the DNR not to allow Twin Metals to prospect on state-owned land. This would be undone if we vote in a Republican governor this year.

    A pro-mining group just sued Dayton on this issue in … obviously … the State District Court in Virginia.

    Reply
    1. ejf

      I heard about this project a couple of summers ago in 2016 from a pro-Trump relative. She lives up near there. Of course, there’s promises for jobs, lots of jobs. And that’s been the disappointment with other mining operations in Northern Minnesota for years: the jobs just never stay there; the mines close.
      So: a) get up there and enjoys the place before Interior shrinks any land in the Boundary Waters;
      b) raid the Capitol building in St. Paul and make your thoughts known.

      Reply
      1. Isotope_C14

        Indeed too early. The rock it is on is Canadian shield, some of the oldest crust material on the planet.

        That’s why it was utterly laughable when Tillerson said that global warming was a matter of engineering, just move the farms north. You can’t plant most crops on one inch of soil on a bed of ancient granite. At least Iowa cornfield style.

        Reply
  4. lyman alpha blob

    RE: The case against Biden

    And let’s not forget he and his family’s shady dealing in the Ukraine after the US-led coup there.

    Despite his avuncular demeanor, Biden has been a fixer in DC for decades and knows where a lot of bodies are buried. See here where corrupt lobbyist Stephen Payne suggests Biden as someone to talk to about favors for unsavory dictators. Do a search on some of the names in the Harpers piece and down the rabbit hole you go – connections to the uprising in Georgia in 2008 and all kinds of nasty dealings with lobbying firms and corrupt central Asian governments.

    Uncle Joe has been causing trouble for Russia for quite some time which is likely why the Borg is currently promoting him.

    Reply
    1. a different chris

      I would say his avuncular demeanor is because of, not despite the dealings listed. I would be insufferably pleasant if I had gotten away with that type of (family blog).

      Now this is not to underrate the loss of his son. I wouldn’t trade for that even if it meant living on a street corner. Heck if I lost my son I would be… lost.

      But the other aspects of his life… yeah that stuff would make somebody without a real moral center very happy.

      Reply
    2. Pavel

      Wow, I just clicked on the link… that’s a pretty scathing list of Joe Biden scandals and disgraces.

      Good to see they mentioned his early work on the so-called “PATRIOT” Act. He is the smiling, Amtrak-riding face of the Deep State. I’m really surprised Obama et al didn’t parachute him in to take HRC’s place last year during her litany of her own scandals and incompetent campaigning.

      Reply
  5. Amfortas the Hippie

    On Medicaid: This is why I despise republicans.(it’s also why i despise dems, but that’s a little more convoluted)
    When my hip died, almost 20 years after the big wreck, i couldn’t promise the boss that i would be there the next day…if i could walk at all,let alone if i could stand up for a few hours. I went as long as i could, working less and less, until i was deemed “unreliable”.
    so i did what my doctor said, and applied for disability. 6 1/2 years later, after being denied and going through the whole process 4 times, i finally fell into a portion of the SSI net that was not yet torn, and got on Medicaid.(ergo, disablity is not the “new welfare” and is hardly easy)
    I’ll never really recover, and i don’t expect to ever have a job again…because one day i can grit my teeth and get out and do stuff, and the next, i cannot.
    Throughout this experience(got my hip 4 years ago, so it’s been a ten year slog), I witnessed some pretty heartless behaviour on the part of my countrymen, both in government and out. within government, there is a default assumption that anybody who attempts to gain access to these programs must be a fraudster. Outside,a lot of folks are ugly and demeaning and often hateful(seems to be the minority, but they’re noticeable, and thus over-represented in my perceptions).
    Things like this work requirement/”dignity” nonsense only serve to reinforce these dysfunctions.

    Interestingly, the IG reports on medicaid fraud lump in individual fraud(almost non-existent) with Pfizer Level Fraud and two guys with a truck delivering wheelchair-level fraud…making overall Medicaid Fraud look like more than it is.
    Also…and for the record: I paid for this Insurance out of every paycheck I ever earned.
    That part get’s forgotten in all the poor bashing that usually accompanies these developments(see the comments on the Wapo article)

    Reply
    1. Earwig

      I feel your pain. I was injured while working in air traffic. The process amounted to years of torture and torment. Hard to believe that we treat injured people in such a sadistic manner. At least now I can understand Kafka. Wishing you many little pleasures.

      Reply
    2. Elizabeth Burton

      This.

      Frankly, the only people who truly understand just what a tragedy the “social safety net” is are those who for whatever reason have had to use it. Just out of curiosity, Amfortas, how long did it take you to get past the “unable to do any meaningful work” barrier?

      All of those programs are, as stated, designed on the basis anyone who applies for them is a cheating liar. This attitude is encountered every single time one has to engage with those responsible for administering them, and it’s a feature of the system that such encounters are many.

      Take home health care. A 90-year-old man lived over a restaurant, to which he descended once a day to obtain his single actual meal. He was denied home health care on the grounds he was clearly able to care for himself if he could manage stairs. Then there was the couple, she diabetic, he with severe vision loss, who were denied home health care on the grounds he was physically capable of filling her insulin syringes and so could handle her injections.

      Ever wonder how many people suffered during a hard freeze because they earned too much one month and had their LIHEAP cancelled, and had an overdue fuel bill they couldn’t pay because this month they had their hours cut?

      If you really want to know what poor people go through, the only way is to find some and listen. Because I’m willing to bet everything you think you know about the social safety net is wrong.

      Reply
      1. scoff

        That’s why it’s called a safety “net” and not a safety “barrier.”

        What we need is one that won’t let people “slip through.” Instead we have one they keep poking bigger holes into.

        Reply
      2. Amfortas the Hippie

        first time i made it to the “go before the judge” part, I was in San Angelo…the judge was on a big TV in Fort Worth. San Angelo is 90 miles away, and the federal courthouse had a gauntlet in the front(at the top of 20 stairs, no less) of metal detectors and 10 cop types, very suspicious people.
        the screws in my hip and ankle set off the machine, as well as the metal in my brace, so i was pulled aside. after that indignity, i got to the waiting room…elevators out of order, so stairs to third floor,lol…(remember, this whole exercise was for the 50 cripple people in the waiting room.) after 2 hours it was my turn.
        Judge had a little toady sitting in one of the folds of his robe. an employment expert of some kind.
        turns out there might be a position in American Samoa that would fit me…I was given a helpful dossier, indicating that i should look into being an “order processer” or a “cut and paster”.
        I had to look those up,lol.
        The latter had long ago been supplanted by machinery, and the former involved warehouses.
        I was denied, and made to feel like a criminal.
        The next 2 times, the judge cancelled, and i was denied any way.
        the fourth slog through the Process, I got only to the first denial(there are several layers of denial/appeal) when i was told that since i had been out of work for so long(because I was cripple), my “Credits” had dwindled away and I was no longer eligible for Disability.
        I had never specifically applied for SSI, so it was a shock when a year later I got the approval letter.
        But they had issues with me owning a broken down trailer house in my mom’s pasture.
        The local tax ass. figgered it was worth $16K, but I had never dickered with him b/c the tax bill was only $50.
        Now that had come back to bite me…I had too many assets.
        I was offered a deal…put it on the market, with an actual realtor, for a year.
        at $16K.
        Everyone involved knew it would never sell,lol.
        just a hoop to jump through.
        ….
        lol.
        I’ll stop now.
        I got the hip ( http://amfortasthehippie.blogspot.com/2013/02/im-back.html) but no ankle guy in Texas takes medicaid.
        You’re right…folks who haven’t dealt with this sort of thing have no idea.
        at the outset, doctor, mom and dad, all and sundry thought it would be stupidly easy to “get on disability”.
        The whole thing is, indeed, Kafkaesque.

        Reply
        1. Chris

          I don’t know how you can still laugh about your experience, amfortas, esp the denial process. I am so pleased you persisted, even if your present situation is still very precarious. Thank you for sharing, mate.

          I’ve witnessed the situation where workcover will routinely deny cover for workplace related anxiety, knowing that most people will give up at that point, but your SS is truly a safety net with no net.

          Give the extreme state our your political system, I understand how you got there and, as individuals and groups, have been unable to get any meaningful change. It just gets worse and worse and I’ve been coming here since 2007 or so, so I’ve seen the recent, more rapid decline in your living (cough, existing) standards.

          Yet, this just highlights what awaits all of you, if you are unable to obtain a dwelling in your life and arrange for some sort of stipend to live on when you get old. The State ain’t going to provide it for you.

          Both my brother 52 and sister 58 have had hip replacements – all paid for by the government, here in Australia. As the middle son, I have been lucky to play soccer until 50 and I still run on most days, not far but partner and I (she 54, me 56) motivate each other. The running has worked for me and I watch my weight. Hips never trouble me as the muscles around the joint mean they do less work, even when pounding the pavements. Running is not for everyone, although there is a time when I’d let myself go (at 51 and 20kg heavier than I am now) and I got myself going again 100 meters at a time, it’s just my story about trying to avoid a situation where I need a major health intervention.

          I read this and other alt media sites every day and feel the pain, anxiety and anguish of everyday Americans. I write fiction, and my action hero is an American. And, I try to blend in the reality that is your everyday existence into my books. Not a place I want to visit, and for that realization, I am truly sorry, but you have all warned me off here, in this place.

          Reply
          1. Chris

            …all paid for by the government, here in Australia.

            To be fair, Chris [another one], the funding of our public hospitals under the Medicare system includes a significant income-based contribution from taxpayers. Almost like partial single payer…

            Reply
  6. Summer

    “A new study says much of the rise in inequality is an illusion. Should you believe it?” [Vox]. I think the life expectancy statistics tell the story. Income is a proxy for social relations — for power — and not necessarily a good one.

    Indeed, the issue is one of power and social relations and definitions of wealth (I would add).

    This “new study” appears to dance around the inequality issue by focusing on the definition of income. Plenty of people are not exaggerating and they are distinctly talking about WEALTH inequality in many cases. And the overall issue is the rigging of the economy to transfer wealth upwards, no matter how it’s done on the ledger. So read the ledger one way and one word “income” produces the narrative of the Vox article. But people are talking about the overall effects of the system and not just how one ledger item is manipulated on corporate account books.

    Reply
    1. Darthbobber

      Yes. And the uberwealthy have vastly more discretion about how and when wealth gets realized as income than most of us. Its perfectly possible to have an income of a half million in a year in which your wealth grew by 15 million. In any case the higher estimates on the level of the change rhyme with what i can see all around me with the naked eye.

      Reply
  7. Summer

    “As you may recall, shortly after Blue Ivy’s birth, Beyoncé and husband Jay Z filed to register “Blue Ivy Carter” with the USPTO in 2012 in 14 classes of goods, including cosmetics/fragrances, baby products, kitchen supplies, hair accessories, playing cards. etc.” [The Fashion Law]. Hard to find a more telling anecdote of what it means to be black and bourgeios. Not that the Beyoncé isn’t an artist; she is, like Shakespeare, the highly successful entrepreneur…

    This is beyond black and bourgeios. These are two people who live in a world, more so than most us, where achieving a name “Brand” is the ultimate goal. I don’t know if we can comprehend the army of consultants, marketers, publicists, and agents that re-enforce the words “brand” and “branding” in their ears on a daily (maybe hourly) basis. They are brands and are making a telling statement about the future employment – “turning self into brand and selling self.”

    Reply
    1. Liberal Mole

      Another reason might simply be preventative. As celebrities, they are stopping anyone else from trying to cash in on their child’s name with whatever product line entrepreneurs can think up. I suppose we’ll know when they or someone else put out Blue Ivy Baby Bubbles or $400 Blue Ivy Jackets, or if their child manages to reach young adulthood without having any merchandising with her name on it.

      Reply
      1. Summer

        For sure, I also assume that they aren’t the only celebrities that have done that with their children’s names.

        Reply
  8. Michael Fiorillo

    Oprah?

    Never, ever, ever…

    I rarely saw her show, but do recall coming across a fragment of one broadcast, right around the time Clinton was eliminating AFDC. Oprah had an AFDC recipient on, and it was clear that the entire purpose was to attack and humiliate her, scapegoat the poor, and justify what Clinton was doing, which was doing.

    Of course, she wasn’t honest enough tpo admit that what he was doing was undermining the wage floor of the entire country.

    Every single word out of that woman’s mouth has neoliberal premises behind it; it’s how she got the gig in the first place.

    While I might not vote for a Republican in her place, I would never, ever vote for her, and would make efforts to see that others didn’t, as well.

    Reply
  9. D

    Summer,

    Loved your branding comment above.

    Everytime I think of the word Brand and its derivatives, I never fail to think of live stock – including the newly born – being overpowerd and held down, always against their will, with flesh searing metal rods.

    Reply
  10. JTMcPhee

    Addendum to the bit about governors governing, or something else: in Fl, Gov. Scott, without would be senator and has presidential ambitions, does not “govern.” He loots. As does Walker on WI. And others too, of course. Who knows, with Jerry Brown? Some kind of pearlescent cloud seems that once enhance him and obscure him. Too bad there’s no full-coiurt “press” to shine spotlights on them 24-7…

    Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I’ve stopped believing that the FL Democratic Party has any interest in winning a statewide office. Including Senator.

      Reply
  11. Plenue

    “I am so [family blogging tired] of helping to create a data set to train Google’s robot car AI. For free, I might add.”

    This may be of interest to you:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r3snVCRo_bI

    He makes the point that tech companies should already be employing R&D people. The fake chummy ‘help us help you by helping us improve our service’ thing is basically manipulating people into doing unpaid work.

    Reply
    1. Mo's Bike Shop

      I was getting way to many robot challenges from Google when using my account on my home computer. So I resolved to spend one beer’s worth of time, every time, giving it ‘not even wrong’ selections. Seems to have gone away.

      Reply
      1. Skip Intro

        Excellent. I wanted to suggest that we all dedicate a few clicks on various image-based captchas to add noise to their ‘AI’ training signal. Just a few sets of wrong answers with each attempt, if spread widely, could make a difference… or maybe not. It is worth a shot.

        Anyone have some good URLs with these captchas we can vent on?

        Reply
        1. Mo's Bike Shop

          Probably most efficient to wait until they come for you. You’re dealing with a bully. You look for a fight, that’s just validation to them.

          Reply
  12. DJG

    Kruse of Politico parachutes into the “Heartland.”

    Some cultural problems here, in that: Of the Great Lakes States, only Hoosiers seem to take the term heartland seriously. And from the point of view of the other five quarrelsome sisters (yeah, you, cheeseheads), Indiana is still in the sixteenth century. Send in an untested reporter whose idea of the Midwest is Terminal 3 at O’Hare, and you end up with an article about the most conservative and most isolated part of a region that isn’t isolated or conservative.

    Specifically: People who live here in the Great Lakes States have known about the range within the Democratic Party for a long time. Also, I think that Cherie Bustos is more conservative than her district is–she’s not much of a leader in that regard, more of a professional middle-mind media mom now. I’m not sure that all of that gritty Midwest business about godliness, gunliness, and the untouchability of Muslims is going to play well in the Quad Cities, which she represents.

    And yet: I’m following the story breaking about the shitty men’s media list, the threats that the pure of heart are making against Harper’s Magazine, and the fact that the list was compiled by someone who is all of 27 and has now helped to eject some men from their jobs.

    How do you explain that to Delmis Burns? He’s a Democrat, too… unless he’s now on the media list.

    Reply
    1. curlydan

      Here’s a quote I read from the Politico piece where I couldn’t restrain myself:
      [Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff] Drew Hammill reiterated, “The single most unifying factor for Democrats is our commitment to working people in this country.” wow…

      I agree that Heartland is a strange name for the states covered by the article. In KS and MO, “Heartland” seems much more embraced.

      I kind of liked the article, though. I look at Missouri county by county results over time, and the Democrats’ slide is shocking from 1992 to 2016. For me, the Dems need to come out and say it’s OK to be anti-abortion and a Democrat–you may not be popular, we’re going to put a pro-choice person on the Supreme Court, but you can still have that viewpoint. It’s also OK to like guns and be a Democrat–the party is still going to try to limit crazy a$$ machine guns, but your deer hunting with a rifle is fine.

      Reply
    2. Big River Bandido

      One aspect of the “cultural problem” to which you allude: Southern Indiana is far more conservative than the Upper Midwest region as a whole; indeed, Indiana’s politics has historically been out of step with the six states (IA, MN, IL, WI, MI and OH) where the bulk of the Democrats’ old seats were to be found. Using an old-line Blue Dog legislative district it as proxy for why the Democrats have tanked in the region is the flimsiest of straw man arguments. Rather typical of Politico.

      And of course the Politico story doesn’t mention Sanders, inequality, universal health care, college tuition, $15/hour, the racist police state, FISA, immigration or climate change. I would frankly be surprised if Bustos’ report mentioned any of those things.

      Reply
  13. Jeff N

    my first job out of college was at a freight payment outfit… We offered it as a service or you could buy our software (and get it customized however you liked.) Of course, this was back in the 90s when you could sling code like the wild west and sell the resulting software to big companies.

    Reply
  14. Kim Kaufman

    “I wonder if the FBI has moles in all the campaigns?”

    I don’t know what people think about Seth Abramson over here. I take him with a grain of salt but this is a long thread from a month ago I can’t forget.

    “(THREAD) It’s time to tell the biggest untold story of the 2016 election: how a cadre of pro-Trump FBI agents and intel officers—some active, some retired—conspired to swing the election to Trump. The story involves Flynn, Prince, Giuliani, and others. Hope you’ll read and share. ”

    https://threadreaderapp.com/thread/939432544008921088.html

    Reply
    1. integer

      On this topic, my understanding is that the FBI’s source inside the Trump campaign was Papadopoulos, by way of his late night conversation at a London bar with Australian diplomat Alexander Downer being relayed to them (two months taking place, IIRC) by the Aus. govt.

      So, while Papadopoulos was technically a source, he did not pass any information directly to the FBI at this stage. Of course, since then he has been charged and pled guilty to lying to the FBI, so is now directly in contact with them.

      (YouTube link is to short clip of Alexander Downer being pwned by Paul Keating in Australian Parliament’s question time)

      Reply
    2. integer

      Just to clarify, I left my previous comment here in response to Lambert’s “I wonder if the FBI has moles in all the campaigns?”, which is quoted at the top of the above comment. On reflection, I should have just started a new thread at the bottom of the comments section instead, as my comment was incongruous with KK’s comment. My bad. Sorry.

      BTW thank you for letting me comment here again.

      Kind regards,
      integer :)

      Reply
    3. UserFriendly

      He is off his rocker. Totally a #russiagate nut and tried to make up some bs about his coverage of the primary being a postmodern experiment or something absolutely unhinged like that.

      Reply
  15. Darthbobber

    Will Bunch heads off to Weaver’s Way coop as the heart of something called “anti-Trump Country”. He oddly seems to portray Weavers Way and its immediate environs as sort of representative of Germantown and Mount Airy. btw, I like Wever’s Way. I’m there every couple of weeks.

    But- Mt Airy is 67% African American, Germantown about 80%. The WW clientele, which he semi-correctly sums up as aging hippies and young social workers is, on the face of it, about 90%+ white, and generally somewhat more upscale than the Mt. Airy/Gtown norm.

    The people are just fine, but also an illustration of the limitations of the New Agey, “Be the change you wish to see in the world” cultural approach to things political.

    Bunch is impressed with the “ethnic diversity” and the presence of “educated”(formal degree-holding) people. When I first moved to Philly Mt AIry was nicknamed the “PhD ghetto” in some circles. LaSalle, Philadelphia University and Drexel Medical School are all in Germantown, as well as the Prep Schools Germantown Friends and Penn Charter. But Germantown as a whole is working class, and the 80% African American figure sort of masks the fact that the area is segmented in areas ranging from about a 50/50 black/everybody else ratio to swaths which are approaching 100% black. And some of those areas are pretty destitute.

    Bunch could equally well have dropped in of Canaan Baptist Church on the next block over from me (probably the largest black Baptist Church in Northwest Philly) and he would have been interviewing a very different segment of anti-Trump country.

    ALso-he mentions the lopsided margin for Clinton in the area (and for any other Democrat who runs for anything), but doesn’t seem to realize that given the population this reflects a considerably lower turnout than one might have expected if one thought that Democratic vote-getting strategy made a lick of sense.

    Judging by my own neighbors (and co-workers who are from this area) the working-class population, emphatically including the black working-class population, is increasingly uncoupled from the Democrats’ usual means of mobilization (or what remains of it), and the black guys younger than myself generally seem unconnected to and unmoved by what is usually portrayed as the leadership of the hypothesized entity referred to as the black community.

    A last aside: Signage. I’ve noticed in Philadelphia that neighborhoods that have a large number of Black Lives Matter/March to the Polls/Hate has no Home Here signs prominently displayed generally are predominantly white middle/upper middle class neighborhoods. But I’m just rambling now.

    Reply
  16. JCC

    Regarding the Wolff interview on The View, and no, I have no intention of wasting money on the book, the statement about “quoting off the record. Wow” sounded to me like the same sorts of statements from the DNC raising hell about the Russians and wikileaks in order to get everyone to ignore the content of the emails.

    So what if he quoted things that were “off the record”? Does that also have to mean that they were not said? As the interviewer said, she never believes that statement, so why would she try to hold it against him? He’s a journalist and book writer doing his job, isn’t he?

    Reply
  17. Wukchumni

    Dear Abby,

    I fear I might be living in one of those shithole countries, the reign of error talked about today. I’m too old to leave and not young enough to care anymore, what should I do?

    Reply
  18. integer

    The Trump Dossier Timeline, A Democrat Disaster Looming by Publius Tacitus

    When the entire episode about the creation of the Trump dossier (by former Brit spy, Christopher Steele) and its dissemination (by Steele and the Democrat hired contractor, FUSION GPS,) to the FBI and the press, is fully exposed, the American people will be confronted with the stark dilemma of how to deal with the fact that there was a failed domestic coup attempted by members of the U.S. intel and law enforcement community. The facts will show that the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the CIA and the FBI conspired and meddled in the 2016 Presidential election. They lied to a Federal judge about the origins of the dossier and used those lies to get permission to spy on Trump and members of his campaign staff.

    Reply
    1. 3.14e-9

      Very good compilation, and great headline. Thanks for the link.

      In his story for The New Yorker (“The Digger Who Commissioned the Trump-Russia Dossier Speaks”), Cassidy leaves out some details and fudges some of the dates. I know, because I read all 312 pages of Simpson’s testimony.

      Further, he cites The New York Times:

      Steele, “after being questioned by the F.B.I., came to believe that the bureau’s human source was George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign foreign adviser. In fact, the source was an Australian diplomat who had spent a night drinking in London with Mr. Papadopoulos in the spring, and then shared with American officials what he had learned from the Trump aide.” Two weeks ago, the Times reported that it was the tip-off from the Australian diplomat that prompted the F.B.I. to open its investigation, in June, 2016.

      Er, no. The earlier Times article reported that the FBI opened the investigation in July, two months after the boys’ night out and after leaked DNC emails began appearing online (Wikileaks released the first batch of DNC emails on July 22). The Times didn’t, however, explain how “Steele came to believe” the mole was Papadopolous, and of course didn’t name its source.

      Reply

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