By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
“Trump Pressures GOP Allies to Block Restrictions on Tariff Power” [Industry Week]. “Senate Republicans are under intense White House pressure to quash a bipartisan attempt to curtail President Donald Trump’s authority to impose tariffs on national security grounds, as he did last week when he slapped duties on steel and aluminum imports from some of the U.S.’s closest allies.”
Sanders on not endorsing his son, who is running for Congress in NH:
“Levi has spent his life in service to low income and working families, and I am very proud of all that he has done. In our family, however, we do not believe in dynastic politics.”https://t.co/ZrU45PDRI4
— Edward-Isaac Dovere (@IsaacDovere) June 7, 2018
“Democrats are totally blowing it” [The Week]. “[I]t’s not just that institutional Democrats seem to have lost their 2017 fighting spirit this year — the president is also benefiting from normalcy. Despite the ugly, bewildering spectacle of rage, incoherence, and abuse staged by the president on his Twitter machine every day, the world is still spinning. And that’s because despite all the president’s bluster, the policy status quo from 2016 remains almost completely untouched. Despite instigating what are thus far minor spats with Mexico, Canada, and the EU, the Trump administration has not actually started trade wars that could unravel the underlying arrangements of the World Trade Organization or disrupt business for more than a few industries.” And we’re not at war, either, or are at war no more than Obama was (less, if you count Libya). However, I don’t agree with the writer on the “the policy status quo.” In fact, the Administration has been very effective in picking judges, rolling back rules and regulations, sabotaging via appointment, and getting Democrats to line up with them on key pieces of legislation, like undoing Dodd-Frank. We experience the status quo as more or less the same — possibly not if we’re immigrants, but all the liberal yammering ignores that Obama was terrible, too — but that’s because the effects of the changes haven’t kicked in yet (or can be attributed to the slow crapification of everything, and not to the administration, like health insurance prices).
“A Strong Economy Presents Democrats with a Challenge in the Midterms” [John Cassify, The New Yorker]. “Democrats will also have to contend with Republican efforts to distract from Trump’s manifest unfitness for office. It’s now clear that these efforts will focus on the economy. Democrats will need to hone their economic message, too—not as a substitute for attacking Trump but as a supplement to it. At the local level, many Democratic candidates are already doing this effectively, talking about issues like wages, childcare, the G.O.P.’s attack on Medicaid and Medicare, and how Republicans slanted their tax bill toward the ultra-rich. That is the best way to expose the hypocrisy of Trump and the Republicans. Now it’s up to Democrats at the national level to hammer home the same message.” Lol no.
VA: “Virginia’s Busiest Federal Primary Day in Modern History” [Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball]. “With nine contested U.S. House primaries and one U.S. Senate primary, June 12 will be the busiest federal primary day in Virginia’s modern history, surpassing the seven total contests held in 2012 (one Senate, six House)…. Six Democrats are running for the right to face Rep. Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10), one of the most endangered Republican House incumbents in the country. Four of the Democrats seem to have at least some chance of winning the nomination. Comstock is a prodigious fundraiser and has a history of outpacing the partisan lean of districts she has represented, but the district’s Democratic shifts in 2016 and 2017 show why she is one of the Democrats’ foremost targets in 2018. Democratic primaries in VA-2 and VA-7 will determine the nominees to face two other potentially endangered Republican incumbents: Reps. Scott Taylor (R) and Dave Brat (R), respectively. The other contested primaries for the House are unlikely to alter the general election outlook in their respective districts.”
CA: “After their apparent success in California, Democrats can come close to retaking the House majority just by sweeping away the last remaining Republicans in otherwise Democratic-leaning states” [The Atlantic]. But it’s always been “close.” But the outcome depends on individual districts (knowable, with a level of effort) and their relevant “investor blocs” (not knowable, except well after the fact). “pending the final vote counts that may stretch on for weeks, it appears likely that the Democrats weren’t shut out in any California House seats, including the three targets in Orange County. That result is a testament, in part, to the extraordinary efforts by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and state party leaders to weed out second-tier candidates, rally behind one contender, and weaken targeted Republicans. But the outcome also reflected the party’s underlying growth in the five Republican-held suburban House districts around Los Angeles where Clinton beat Trump in 2016.” That’s their story, and they’re sticking to it. Brownstein:Democrats::Johnny Fontane:The Godfather.
CA: “If Democrats want a blue wave, they need to try voting” [Los Angeles Times]. “[The Republicans, an] ever-shrinking political minority scored an outsize success on Tuesday. With just a quarter of the state’s registered voters, Republicans won a spot in the gubernatorial runoff against Gavin Newsom in November and recalled a Democratic state senator, effectively crushing Democrats’ hope of regaining a supermajority in that house — all while their candidates easily finished first in the seven Republican-held congressional districts that Democrats had targeted for flipping. Democrats were lucky they weren’t shut out of the November election in any of those races. It was a real possibility. How did Republicans pull off such a feat? It’s simple: They voted. Registered Republicans (along with those who may be Republican in spirit, if not party affiliation) simply cast ballots in greater numbers than Democrats and their liberal allies.” So the enthusiasm gap is not where the pom-pom wavers predicted it would be…
CA: “The Feinstein Problem” [Slate]. “While California is heavily and increasingly Democratic, it isn’t terribly progressive. The electorate, as FiveThirtyEight’s Clare Malone wrote, is dominated by white voters and relatively well-to-do homeowners rather than the voters of color and renters that might boost more left-leaning candidates. Tuesday’s results suggest Feinstein really is, as her supporters say, a candidate who reflects the current preferences of the Democratic electorate in the state of California. That fact does not fundamentally resolve, though, the question of whether it is good for the Democratic Party—and for a country whose democratic institutions are already wildly and intentionally unrepresentative of the population by age—that a 26-year incumbent, who will end her likely next term at the age of 91, will be returning to the United States Senate.” Start out with “white voters and well-to-do homeowners” vs. “voters of color and renters” and ends up with “unrepresentative of the population by age.” It’s like playing 52 Pickup with demographic categories. Left-Handed 52 Pickup, I suppose.
UPDATE NY: Same old, same old:
Surprise, surprise: last-minute pollsite changes in concentrated communities of color are being announced in NY-14, just ahead of the June 26th Democratic primary.
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@Ocasio2018) June 5, 2018
Realignment and Legitimacy
“House Dems seethe over superdelegates plan” [Politico]. “The first proposal — a product of the “Unity Reform Commission” established at the 2016 convention to “revise and reduce” the role of superdelegates — would create three categories of superdelegates. Some superdelegates would be allowed to vote in the first roll-call vote for the presidential nominee, while others would not. However, Perez warned members that this proposal wouldn’t win enough backing to be adopted at the August DNC session. The second option, which Perez supports and which appears far more likely to be enacted, would allow superdelegates to continue to exist, but they couldn’t vote during the first round of the presidential roll-call vote. They could, however, vote during the second round or any subsequent roll call, and they would still be permitted to support any candidate they wanted.”
“Bill Clinton’s Lewinsky fail is a symptom of something bigger: Democrats’ lack of integrity” [Salon]. “This is a story about the Democrats’ culture of impunity — one where they assert the moral high ground as they go after Trump while also claiming that they have no accountability whatsoever for their own ethical failings. This twisted logic has created a real ethical quagmire. The harsh reality is that Bill and Hillary Clinton, along with the leadership of the Democratic National Committee, have long engaged in moral double-speak, where they are quick to blame their opponents for a lack of integrity but unwilling to practice integrity themselves.”
“I’ve got to comment on the statement by Mulvaney’s henchman that ‘The outspoken members of the Consumer Advisory Board seem more concerned about protecting their taxpayer funded junkets to Washington, D.C., and being wined and dined by the Bureau than protecting consumers’ [Credit Slips]. “What’s remarkable here is that Mulvaney’s flunky believes that people serve in government or on advisory boards for the perks and self-enrichment. In a world of Pruitt’s first class flights, mattress, and security detail, Carson’s dining room set, and Mnuchin and his Marie Antoinette jaunting off to see the eclipse on a military flight, not to mention the President and his emoluments plus tax-payer-funded vacations at his Mar-a-Lago timeshare, well, it’s just natural to assume that’s how everyone operates. It’s a new twist on ‘government for the people.’ It’s really sad that it doesn’t enter the Mulvaney’s dude’s head that maybe some of us actually act out of true volunteerism and a desire to make the country a better place.” Granted, Mulvaney’s flunky is projecting. But the Democrats have given him plenty of cause to project.
“Bad Faith and Worse Hairstyles” [Ecosophia]. “[A]s Sartre pointed out, one of the great longings most people have is the desire to be something the way a rock is a rock, to get out from under the terrifying burden of freedom that’s hardwired into human consciousness. People use religion, politics, ethnicity, gender, and a vast array of other things as resources in that attempt to flee from their own freedom, to convince themselves that they are what they are and aren’t responsible for the choices that have made them what they’ve chosen to be. Sartre’s term for this cascade of evasions is as simple as it is useful: ‘bad faith.’ The essence of bad faith is the habit of claiming some enduring identity that doesn’t depend on the accidents of circumstance or the free and constantly repeated choices of the self. Normally, since the lure of bad faith is strongest to those who are most dissatisfied with what they are but don’t have the courage to embrace their freedom and change it, the supposed identity people choose in an act of bad faith is usually very, very far from the identity they’ve defined by their past choices and actions. Seen in isolation, as a mere verbal abstraction, that seems harmless enough, but there’s a catch. It’s a curious fact of history that the deeper people get into bad faith, the more likely they are to commit atrocities. There’s a reason for that propensity, too, and understanding it will take us a good step closer to the unmentionable realities of our time.” And speaking of bad faith–
UPDATE “Black women candidates feel slighted by Democrats” [Axios]. “There are at least 43 Democratic black women running as challengers for U.S. House seats, but only one — Lauren Underwood of Illinois — has the backing of the national campaign organization.” Remember all the liberal Democrats yammering “Listen to black women!” after they beat a child molester in Alabama by less than 2%? I guess the listening had strict limits…. Of course, I regard Democrat national campaign organizations as a blight and a curse, so being backed by them isn’t necessarily a good thing, but the virtue signaling! It b-u-r-r-r-n-s!!!! And speaking of bad faith–
UPDATE “Manchin goes full MAGA” [Politico]. “At times, Manchin was the only Democrat who clapped during Trump’s State of the Union address. This spring, Manchin killed liberals’ hopes of blocking Gina Haspel for CIA director by getting behind her early. Manchin supported Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, voted for now-embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and even backed the president’s hard-line immigration proposal. ‘I’m with him sometimes more than other Republican senators are with him,” Manchin said.” But Bernie’s not even a Democrat….
* * *
“Jack Lew blasts Trump on economy: ‘You do the hard work, and someone else spends it on their priorities'” (interview) [MarketWatch]. “[LEW:] [Y]ou can look back at the track record in the Clinton years and the track record in the Obama years, they were years of fiscal responsibility because we left in place a sustainable fiscal position and time to deal with some of the longer-term challenges in a bipartisan way MR SUBLIMINAL Grand Bargain.
UPDATE “Democrats Vow to Bring Back Stupid and Harmful Spending Rule if They Win Back the House” [Splinter News]. “the top two Democrats in the House, minority leader Nancy Pelosi and minority whip Steny Hoyer, are already saying that they’d adopt a ‘pay as you go’ rule, which vows not to pass legislation that increases the deficit without offsetting it in spending cuts or tax increases within a given ‘budget window.’ The conservative Blue Dog* caucus pressured Pelosi into adopting this rule during her reign as speaker from 2007 to 2010, and then Barack Obama into signing a version of it into law the year before most of them were swept out of Congress. (As Chris Hayes noted in 2009, pay-as-you-go very notably exempted funding the Iraq War. How convenient!) How did Republicans get their $1.5 trillion tax cut past this legislation, you might ask? They passed a waiver. What did Republicans do when they passed the Bush era tax cuts? They waived it. Because the Democratic leadership is perpetually campaigning for the endorsement of both Simpson and Bowles, they now want to bring this terrible rule back. A Pelosi spokesperson told the Hill that ‘Democrats are committed to pay as you go,’ while Hoyer reportedly told the Hill last week that it’s ‘a good rule and we ought to reinstitute it.'” Liberal Democrats are why we can’t have nice things. NOTE * The DCCC is working hard to elect more Blue Dogs, exactly as Rahm Emmanuel did in 2006, so it’s not like the “pressure” comes from anywhere other than the liberal Democrat leadership. I’m not sure whether they genuinely believe this nonsense, or they’re servicing the donor class, or they enjoy kicking the poor and the working class. Could be all three, of course!
Jobless Claims, week of June 2, 2018: “Jobless claims remain very low and are consistent with a low unemployment rate and strong job growth” [Econoday].
Quarterly Services Survey, Q1 2018: “Information sector revenue for the first quarter of 2018 was $413.2 billion, up 1.7 percent from the fourth quarter. Year-on-year, information sector revenue grew 7.0 percent in the first quarter” [Econoday].
Capital Investment: “Healthy Gains in Combined U.S. & Canadian Industrial Spending” [Industrial Reports]. “Research by Industrial Reports, Inc. shows combined U.S. and Canadian planned capital spending increased 38 percent in May compared to April. May spending for the two nations totaled $43.65 billion compared to April’s $31.50 billion. The research organization reported 264 planned U.S. and Canadian projects in May. Planned U.S. project spending nearly doubled in May with $36.06 billion in planned investment compared to the April total of $19.60 billion. Canadian planned investment slipped 36 percent to $7.59 billion in May from April’s $11.90 billion. Projects in both nations ranged in value from $1 million to $9 billion.”
Commodities: “America’s Largest Private Company Reboots a 153-Year-Old Strategy” [Bloomberg]. “That business model of playing the middleman between farmers and their ultimate customers has enjoyed a lucrative 153-year run, turning Cargill Inc. into the largest privately held company in the U.S. It had revenue of $109.7 billion in 2017 and employed about 155,000 workers—more than the population of Dayton—in offices across 70 countries. And the roughly 100 members of the founding Cargill and MacMillan families who still own the company have become fabulously wealthy, with 14 billionaires among the ruling clan, one of the largest concentrations of wealth in any family-controlled business anywhere in the world…. [But] Cargill long made fat profits by having far more information about global commodity prices than the local farmers it negotiated with or the food companies it sold to. But today, even a small Iowa farmer with a smartphone or a tablet can get real-time data about weather conditions and prices facing his Brazilian counterparts. This change has decreased farmers’ dependence on the middlemen and lowered the spread….”
Banks: “Their bakery faced a cash crisis. The solution nearly cost them the business.” [McClatchy]. “The couple turned to two online companies that promised them all the cash they needed in a matter of days. That speed came at a cost. They received $133,000 and were on the hook for paying back a total of $193,000 – roughly one-and-a-half times what they had taken out. And the companies providing the funding, Can Capital and Yellowstone Capital, were given direct access to Bunnie Cakes’ bank account; they sucked out a portion of the bakery’s receipts each day until the full amount was repaid – in a matter of months, not years. Yellowstone and Can are among the most prominent providers of online loans and so-called merchant cash advances that are increasingly popular with small businesses. Unfortunately, a growing number of small business owners who have turned to these largely unregulated suppliers of capital have also filed for bankruptcy in the past five years, particularly in Florida. Call them payday loans for your corner grocer.”
The Bezzle: “‘Driver readiness’ and the rise of autonomous vehicles” [FreightWaves]. “As demonstrated by recent collisions involving autonomous vehicles, drivers must remain vigilant and ready to take control of the vehicle at any moment. ‘Driver readiness’—the state of drivers being aware of surroundings and able to respond if needed—is paramount to successfully operating an autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicle, and video-based safety plays a pivotal role in ensuring driver readiness.” Remaining hyper-vigilant while not actually doing anything sounds like a pleasurable driving experience, to be sure. And note, therefore, that all the “convenience” benefits of robot cars only apply when Level 5 kicks in, if in fact it ever does. Until then, you shouldn’t yammer on your cellphone while not-driving-yet-remaining-hyperfocused-on-the-road, any more than you should while actually driving. Idea: Take the train, where you don’t have to remain vigilant except for the station stop announcement?
The Bezzle: “Musk Fails to Quell Safety Doubts with Head-Scratching Data” [Industry Week]. “The rate of injuries per person at Tesla is 6% below industry average so far this year, after being “a little bit above” average last year, the chief executive officer said during the company’s annual meeting Tuesday. It’s difficult to assess Musk’s comments without more detail, according to David Michaels, who served as U.S. assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration under Obama….. ‘Injury rates are complex, and so it’s difficult to judge on the basis of a statement saying it’s 6% lower,’ Michaels, who’s now a professor at George Washington University’s public health school, said in an interview. ‘I’d want to see the rates, but also the data on which they’re based.'”
The Bezzle: “Shanghai will host Tesla’s first car plant outside the US, official says” [South China Morning Post]. I wonder if there will be suicide netting.
Infrastructure: “How Long Can a State Go Without Repairing Roads and Bridges?” [Governing]. This is a very good article focused on state and local politics in Mississippi. “[L]awmakers came tantalizingly close to a road improvement package. A week or so after they failed to pass a fix-up plan, Gov. Phil Bryant announced that the state Transportation Department would immediately shut down 83 locally owned bridges. Federal inspectors had found that the bridges — most of which were built with timber parts and located in rural areas — were deficient and unsafe for vehicular traffic. Since then, more bridges have been added to the list. All told, some 500 across the state are out of service.”
Five Horsemen: “All of the Fab Five are down today, as punters are seized with a sudden fear that the irrational exuberance may have gone too far” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood].
NakedCap Mania-Panic Index: “Yesterday’s market romp propelled the mania-panic index higher to 69 (complacency)” [Hat Tip, Jim Haygood]. (The NakedCap mania-panic index is an equally-weighted average of seven technical indicators derived from stock indexes, volatility (VIX), Treasuries, junk bonds, equity options, and internal measures of new highs vs new lows and up volume vs down volume … each converted to a scale of 0 to 100 before averaging, using thirty years of history for five of the seven series.)
“Feds, For Now, Won’t Block States From Circumventing Trump’s Obamacare Cuts” [Governing]. “Federal officials will not block insurance companies from again using a workaround to cushion a steep rise in health premiums caused by President Donald Trump’s cancellation of a program established under the Affordable Care Act, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced Wednesday. The technique — called ‘silver loading’ because it pushed price increases onto the silver-level plans in the ACA marketplaces — was used by many states for 2018 policies. But federal officials had hinted they might bar the practice next year.” More on “silver loading” at NC here.
“Bezos, Buffett and Dimon find the person they want to fix health care” [CNBC]. But they’re going to spin out the suspense and tell us who the person is in two weeks. But this:
Some employees have asked Dimon what the partnership means for them. His response: “We’re just going to try to do it better.”
“And you should expect we’re going to do it the right way with the same kind of heart we’ve had before, which will improve your lives and improve your wellness, improve the outcomes, give you more choice, which I believe you if you do all those things, it will effectively be cheaper,” he said. “And you’ll have much healthier employees.”
“[T]he same kind of heart we’ve had before.” Why am I not reassured?
And the “fix” that Bezos, Buffet, Dimon, and the dominant factions in the political class are trying hard to stop:
— West Suburban IL DSA (@WestSuburbILDSA) June 7, 2018
Black Injustice Tipping Point
“A Reparations Map for Farmers of Color May Help Right Historical Wrongs” [Civil Eats]. “Many organizations and individuals have called for reparations—financial payments made today to help make good on the systemic injustices of the past 400 years—as a way to begin to level the playing field and create equity. [Soul Fire Farm’s Leah Penniman’s] online mapping tool currently includes 52 organizations around the country led by farmers of color who are calling for reparations. The map details farmers in need of land, resources, and funding, and aims to connect them with organizations, foundations, and individual donors to support their work.” I’m too lazy to find the link, but I remember an incident from the Civil War podcast about (IIRC) the Union liberating one of the Sea Islands, and freeing the slaves who they then put to work as wage laborers, hoping to make the island a showcase. The former slaves, sadly, had expected land, on which they would grow their own crops. Maybe the great missed opportunity of Reconstruction was land reform. General William Tecumseh Sherman was not a nice man, but maybe “40 acres and a mule” would have been exactly the right thing, and would have disempowered the planter class more effectively than hanging them all (my previously preferred alternative to what actually happened).
“The New Yorker Staff Has Unionized” [New York Magazine]. “The era of white-collar organized labor is fully upon us: the editorial staff of The New Yorker wants to unionize. This morning, organizers sent a letter to the magazine’s editor, David Remnick, asking that the institution and its corporate owner, Condé Nast, voluntarily recognize their membership in the NewsGuild of New York. (Publications ranging from the New York Times to Jacobin have bargaining units with the NewsGuild.) Organizers say that of the 115 or so union-eligible employees, nearly 90 percent have signed union cards.”
What are their demands:
— The New Yorker Union (@newyorkerunion) June 6, 2018
“The Class Struggle According to Donald Trump” [Thomas Edsall, The New Yorker]. “The end of labor-management détente — and the emergence of a merciless assault by business and the Republican Party on workers’ pay, security and bargaining strength — have been especially cruel to workers without college degrees.” Let’s not forget NAFTA! To be fair, Obama got the unions card-check. Oh, wait….
“The gig economy is actually smaller than it used to be, Labor Department says” [MarketWatch]. “In May 2017, the Labor Department counted 5.9 million people, or 3.8% of workers, in what it calls contingent jobs, which are those that the workers don’t expect to last or that workers call temporary. In 2005, the last time the government looked into the issue, there were 4.1% of workers who classified themselves this way. Other classifications of these kinds of alternative arrangements either declined or stayed the same.” Big if true.
News of The Wired
“Caffeine dosing strategies to optimize alertness during sleep loss” [Journal of Sleep Research]. News you can use! Which unfortunately I cannot summarize.
“Overtaxed Working Memory Knocks the Brain Out of Sync” [Quanta]. “In 1956, the renowned cognitive psychologist George Miller published one of the field’s most widely cited papers, “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two.” In it, he argued that although the brain can store a whole lifetime of knowledge in its trillions of connections, the number of items that humans can actively hold in their conscious awareness at once is limited, on average, to seven…. In a paper published in Cerebral Cortex in March, three scientists found that a significant weakening in “feedback” signals between different parts of the brain is responsible for the breakdown. The work not only provides insights into memory function and dysfunction, but also offers further evidence for a burgeoning theory of how the brain processes information.” Do we have any neuroscientists in the readership who can comment?
“The Slow Death of the Shopping Plaza” [The American Conservative]. I went into the Bangor Mall yesterday (and the day before; long story) to activate my contract phone; Macy’s was already gone, Sears is gone (and it was the most depressing retail environment I’ve ever been in). The one anchor tenant left: JC Penney, which seemed alive, if not actually thriving. Walking through the mall, I saw that the food court was gone. Starbucks was gone. Many of the store-fronts were closed. The environment was dim and vaguely unclean. What’s going to happen to the enormous empty spaces that were Sears and Macy’s? What’s going to happen to the ginormous impermeable surface of the empty parking lots?
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 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 (pq):
pq writes: “NC’s botany knowledge base is impressive! Thank you to everyone who identified the 5/25 Plant as a sycamore. With a little research, I learned that its massive root system makes it the No. 1 recommended tree for preventing riverbank erosion in this flood-prone region of Upstate New York. Having fled Seattle not long ago, I need a crash course in the native flora. NC comments motivated me to venture out for a closer look, now that the river has dropped. It indeed appears that our tree ‘knows’ to send roots inward toward the bank (and down, of course). BTW, this tree is small — a mere teenager in a long line of wise elders.”
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