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April 26, 2018

Amazon Enjoys Subsidies While Its Employees Must Rely On SNAP to Eat

Later this year, Amazon will begin accepting grocery orders from customers using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the federal anti-poverty program formerly known as food stamps. As the nation's largest e-commerce grocer, Amazon stands to profit more than any other retailer when the $70 billion program goes online after an initial eight-state pilot.

But this new revenue will effectively function as a double subsidy for the company: In Arizona, new data suggests that one in three of the company's own employees depend on SNAP to put food on the table. In Pennsylvania and Ohio, the figure appears to be around one in 10. Overall, of five states that responded to a public records request for a list of their top employers of SNAP recipients, Amazon cracked the top 20 in four.

...

The American people are financing Amazon's pursuit of an e-commerce monopoly every step of the way: first, with tax breaks, subsidies, and infrastructure improvements meant to lure fulfillment centers into town, and later with federal transfers to pay for warehouse workers' food. And soon, when the company begins accepting SNAP dollars to purchase its goods, a third transfer of public wealth to private hands will become a part of the company's business model.

Link

Amazon has wormed its way into our lives to the point where i don't think we'd know where else we could go for some of the things we buy. We're a slave to the convenience even though it means we're subsidizing Amazon's greed and implicitly supporting its poor treatment of its workers. It's a terrible excuse. We're terrible people.


By min | April 26, 2018, 12:51 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Collective Bargaining is Ruining Men's Future Prospects

Or not. Link

A recent academic paper by economists Michael Lovenheim and Alexander Willén argues that men who lived as school-age children in states where teachers were allowed to bargain collectively are less likely to work as adults and, when they do work, they earn significantly less than men who grew up in states where teachers were not allowed to bargain collectively.

There are at least three reasons to be deeply skeptical of their findings.

First, the chain of causal links is extremely circuitous. The reasoning runs from a student's initial potential "exposure" to teachers' right to collective bargaining all the way through to the conclusion that this "exposure" significantly worsened labor market outcomes decades later as an adult. In most of their analysis, the authors rely on data that let them know the state where a person was born and the employment situation of that same person in a single year between the ages of 35 and 49. The researchers use this information to construct a simulated educational history for each adult, where they assume that the person attended K-12 school in the state where they were born. The researchers, however, don't actually know that an individual lived in the state of birth while at school age, or whether the school the individual attended was unionized, or even whether the individual attended a public or private school.

I think it's a stretch to call these guys "researchers". They couldn't be bothered to actually research the thing their entire argument hinges on - what state these men lived in while they were school-aged. Who let them publish this in the first place? Next, they'll be submitting academic papers with "research" that involves reading an encyclopedia entry.


By min | April 26, 2018, 12:39 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 24, 2018

Neoliberal Arguments Concede the Main Point

Here's a write-up in Current Affairs that talks about how neoliberal arguments are based on conservative premises.

For example: Republicans argue that their tax cut will increase GDP, reduce the deficit, and reduce taxes for the middle class. Democrats reply that the tax cut will not increase GDP, will not reduce the deficit, and will not reduce the middle-class' tax burden. Both parties are arguing around a shared premise: The goal is to cut taxes for the middle class, reduce the deficit, and grow GDP. But traditional liberalism, before the "neo" variety emerged, would have made its case on the basis of some quite different premises. Instead of arguing that Democrats are actually the party that will reduce the middle class' taxes, it would make the case that taxes are important, because it's only through taxes that we can improve schools, infrastructure, healthcare, and poverty relief. Instead of participating in the race to cut taxes and the deficit, Old Liberalism is based on a set of moral ideas about what we owe to one another.
...
I gave a similar example recently of the difference between the way a neoliberal framework looks at things versus the way a leftist does. Goldman Sachs produced a report suggesting to biotech companies that curing diseases might not actually be profitable, because people stop being customers once they are cured and no more money can be extracted from them. The liberal response to this would be an empirical argument: "Here's why it is actually profitable to cure diseases." The leftist response would be: "We need to have a value system that goes beyond profit maximization."

Neoliberalism, then, is the best existing term we have to capture the almost universal convergence around a particular set of values. We don't have debates over whether the point of teaching is to enrich the student's mind or prepare the student for employment, we have debates over how to prepare students for employment. Economic values become the water we swim in, and we don't even notice them worming their way into our brains. The word is valuable insofar as it draws our attention to the ideological frameworks within which debates occur, and where the outer boundaries of those debates lie. The fact that everyone seems to agree that the purpose of education is "job skills," rather than say, "the flourishing of the human mind," shows the triumph of a certain new kind of liberalism, for which I can only think of one word.

If we accept the conservative framework when responding to conservative points, we've already lost the debate.


By min | April 24, 2018, 3:22 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 22, 2018

The 'Kill Bernies In The Cradle' Proposal

Ruby Cramer at Buzzfeed:

In a forthcoming study for New York University's law journal, [DNC member Elaine Kamarck] said, she will propose a number of changes to the nominating system, from an increase in superdelegates to a new pre-primary endorsement process where the party's top elected officials would meet with the candidates, question their positions, and issue votes of confidence or no-confidence. Candidates who fail to meet a certain threshold would be barred from debates or from a spot on the ballot, depending on how the party decided to structure the system, she said.

"This whole idea runs completely counter to where the public is," Kamarck admitted, referring to the broad support particularly among Sanders supporters for a reduction in superdelegates. "However, if the Trump presidency crashes and burns and takes the GOP with it, which is not unrealistic, this dialogue will start."

Unclear what "Trump presidency crashes and burns and takes the GOP with it" actually means and why it would have any relevance on the DNC's rules. But this is definitely a good way to ensure that a huge percentage of potential Democratic voters never trust the party again.


By fnord12 | April 22, 2018, 11:24 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



The mask slips

I think Wolf Blitzer had a black-out and said the wrong part out loud.

After Rand Paul talked about the moral and constitutional problems with the US's role in Saudi Arabia's bombing of Yemen, Blitzer responded:

So for you this is a moral issue... Because you know, there's a lot of jobs at stake. Certainly if a lot of these defense contractors stop selling war planes, other sophisticated equipment to Saudi Arabia, there's going to be a significant loss of jobs, of revenue here in the United States. That's secondary from your standpoint?

Jesus.


By fnord12 | April 22, 2018, 2:32 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 17, 2018

Richard Cohen proves male privilege just by continuing to have a job

I had no idea that Even The Liberal* Richard Cohen was still being published, but his latest column came to my attention and he sure hasn't gotten any better.

The mere existence of this column, and the fact that he's allowed to publish such poorly argued and poorly written trash, defeats his thesis. Imagine writing lines like "The many dead of our national cemeteries suggest otherwise" and not having an editor reject your entire piece. Let along front loading your piece with six fucking paragraphs disproving your main point thinking that you can then follow it up with a BUT! followed by a personal anecdote and think that you've made a coherent argument.


*Richard Cohen's function has always been to exist so that conservatives can say "even the liberal Richard Cohen hates affirmative action", "even the liberal Richard Cohen supports the Iraq War", etc..


By fnord12 | April 17, 2018, 2:18 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 13, 2018

D&D rules


By fnord12 | April 13, 2018, 3:12 PM | D&D| Link



April 12, 2018

Why US?

Even if it turns out that the Iraqis did take the babies out of the incubators - oh sorry, i mean the Syrian government did use chemical weapons (this time), why does it mean that the US - or the US and a small coalition of western European countries - gets to bomb Syria? We have a United Nations. If we really have a case, take it to the UN, and if it's determined that an intervention is necessary, then we could join it under their banner.

I'm not talking about the procedural reason; i'm talking about the moral justification. (Also, i know the answer.)


By fnord12 | April 12, 2018, 1:59 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 11, 2018

Recap 83

Retrieving Crulicar's Lore


By min | April 11, 2018, 9:12 PM | D&D| Link



Get your act in order

DDay at the Intercept:

The trend of senators disclaiming their power began in the opening statements. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., told Zuckerberg, "If you and other social media companies do not get your act in order, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore." This is a ridiculous sentence for a government official to utter. It's not up to a social media company to govern privacy. It's up to Congress.

Reminds me of Clinton claiming she told Wall Street to "cut it out!".


By fnord12 | April 11, 2018, 12:02 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Hahahahahahaha -- what?!

The good news is that if there's any more erosion, we'll form a new Grand Canyon.

(The article itself is fine, but that subtitle blurb!)


By fnord12 | April 11, 2018, 11:07 AM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 9, 2018

Thinking about this in the context of a Job Guarantee

Ryan Cooper on the continuing mess that is the ACA:

This kind of thing is what I mean when I wrote that the United States government is not good at complicated policies. Not only do we have to assume that such a thing will be overseen by unhinged lunatics roughly half the time, the liberal policy wonks who push this style of policy turn out to be lousy at building a Rube Goldberg machine that will actually do what it's supposed to. And one group of people paying a steep price for this failure are poor people in blue states.

By fnord12 | April 9, 2018, 4:50 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Dirt Can Make You Happy

No wonder my mother's in her garden 8hrs/day.

Did you know that there's a natural antidepressant in soil? It's true. Mycobacterium vaccae is the substance under study and has indeed been found to mirror the effect on neurons that drugs like Prozac provide. The bacterium is found in soil and may stimulate serotonin production, which makes you relaxed and happier. Studies were conducted on cancer patients and they reported a better quality of life and less stress. Lack of serotonin has been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder and bipolar problems. The bacterium appears to be a natural antidepressant in soil and has no adverse health effects. These antidepressant microbes in soil may be as easy to use as just playing in the dirt.

Link

But will it still work after we've poisoned the ground with pesticides and herbicides? Is it actually unhealthier to expose ourselves more to these toxins despite the anti-depression bacteria?


By min | April 9, 2018, 2:13 PM | Science| Link



April 5, 2018

Put Down the Bottled Water, People

Every few years, the media discovers this like it's new. So every time they do that, i need to dust off my Tank Girl rant.

Flint, MI can't get clean water, but Nestle can get as much as they want for a song.

Link

Last year, U.S. bottled water sales reached $16 billion, up nearly 10 percent from 2015, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. They outpaced soda sales for the first time as drinkers continue to seek convenience and healthier options and worry about the safety of tap water after the high-profile contamination in Flint, Mich., about a two-hour drive from Mecosta. Nestlé alone sold $7.7 billion worth worldwide, with more than $343 million of it coming from Michigan, where the company bottles Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water and Pure Life, its purified water line.

The Michigan operation is only one small part of Nestlé, the world's largest food and beverage company. But it illuminates how Nestlé has come to dominate a controversial industry, spring by spring, often going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that's scarce for millions. Where Nestlé encounters grass-roots resistance against its industrial-strength guzzling, it deploys lawyers; where it's welcome, it can push the limits of that hospitality, sometimes with the acquiescence of state and local governments that are too cash-strapped or inept to say no. There are the usual costs of doing business, including transportation, infrastructure, and salaries. But Nestlé pays little for the product it bottles--sometimes a municipal rate and other times just a nominal extraction fee. In Michigan, it's $200.

You've seen/read Tank Girl, right? We all know how this ends.

The United Nations expects that 1.8 billion people will live in places with dire water shortages by 2025, and two-thirds of the world's population could be living under stressed water conditions. Supply may be compromised in the U.S., too. A recent Michigan State University study predicts that more than a third of Americans might not be able to afford their water bills in five years, with costs expected to triple as World War II-era construction breaks down.
...
Nestlé has been preparing for shortages for decades. The company's former chief executive officer, Helmut Maucher, said in a 1994 interview with the New York Times: "Springs are like petroleum. You can always build a chocolate factory. But springs you have or you don't have." His successor, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, who retired recently after 21 years in charge, drew criticism for encouraging the commodification of water in a 2005 documentary, saying: "One perspective held by various NGOs--which I would call extreme--is that water should be declared a human right. ... The other view is that water is a grocery product. And just as every other product, it should have a market value." Public outrage ensued. Brabeck-Letmathe says his comments were taken out of context and that water is a human right. He later proposed that people should have free access to 30 liters per day, paying only for additional use.

Stop buying bottled water. Stop supporting these psychopaths who think water shouldn't be a human right. Get a water filter if you have to, but ultimately, we must fight to get our infrastructure repaired and maintained. We must fight to improve water quality standards, not rely on out-of-date standards and water treatment techniques that don't factor in new contaminants (e.g. anti-psychotic medication and birth control).


By min | April 5, 2018, 10:23 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



April 4, 2018

Pretty sure we are all butt heads


By fnord12 | April 4, 2018, 8:01 PM | Ummm... Other?| Link



April 3, 2018

"Restrictive supply-side climate policies"

The nerds have signed on to the concept of shutting down pipelines as a means of fighting climate change. If only the Water Protectors of Standing Rock had had created a bunch of fancy acronyms and charts back during the Obama administration.


By fnord12 | April 3, 2018, 8:33 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



The NeoLibrul Media

As soon as i saw Corey Robin's headline, i said "Because they're happening in red states while Trump is president", and that's basically what Robin concludes.

I'm still glad that the strikes are happening and getting support!


By fnord12 | April 3, 2018, 2:31 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



Job Guarantee FAQ

JG proponent Pavlina Tcherneva has a comprehensive FAQ addressing (not necessarily conclusively) some of the issues brought up in my previous posts on the subject. As i've said before, i think it's great that this (vs. UBI or otherwise) is being seriously discussed (and endorsed by several probable Democratic presidential candidates, etc.). Probably seems like fantasyland to most people.


By fnord12 | April 3, 2018, 1:46 PM | Liberal Outrage| Link



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