The G.O.P. Rejects Conservatism – by David Brooks – NYT

“. . . First, conservative policy intellectuals tend to have accepted the fact that American society is coming apart and that measures need to be taken to assist the working class. Republican politicians show no awareness of this fact. Second, conservative writers and intellectuals have a vision for how they want American society to be in the 21st century. Republican politicians have a vision of how they want American government to be in the 21st century.

Republican politicians believe that government should tax people less. The Senate bill would eliminate the 3.8 percent tax on investment income for those making over $250,000. Republican politicians believe that open-ended entitlements should be cut. The Senate health care plan would throw 15 million people off Medicaid, according to the Congressional Budget Office. (This is the program that covers nearly 40 percent of America’s children.)”

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval at NYT comments:

Great piece David Brooks. Thank you. Regarding a good comment by Uncle Jetski, I found The parable of the blind men and the elephant in Wikipedia :
“The earliest versions of the parable of blind men and elephant is found in Buddhist, Hindu and Jain texts, as they discuss the limits of perception and the importance of complete context. The parable has several Indian variations, but broadly goes as follows:

A group of blind men heard that a strange animal, called an elephant, had been brought to the town, but none of them were aware of its shape and form. Out of curiosity, they said: “We must inspect and know it by touch, of which we are capable”. So, they sought it out, and when they found it they groped about it. In the case of the first person, whose hand landed on the trunk, said “This being is like a thick snake”. For another one whose hand reached its ear, it seemed like a kind of fan. As for another person, whose hand was upon its leg, said, the elephant is a pillar like a tree-trunk. The blind man who placed his hand upon its side said, “elephant is a wall”. Another who felt its tail, described it as a rope. The last felt its tusk, stating the elephant is that which is hard, smooth and like a spear.

(In one of many versions) a sighted man enters the parable and describes the entire elephant from various perspectives, the blind men then learn that they were all partially correct and partially wrong. While one’s subjective experience is true, it may not be the totality of truth.

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You Don’t Want to Buy Groceries From a Robot – by Stacy Torres – NYT

“The next time you check out at Whole Foods, you might meet my friend Esther at the register. In a few years, you might meet a robot. Or no one at all.Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods is expected to revolutionize the grocery business, accelerating a trend toward increasing automation and the elimination of cashiers and other human workers. The Amazon Go store in Seattle, devoid of sales clerks and checkout lines, offers a glimpse of what this “just walk out” grocery shopping experience might look like.

I’m not looking forward to it. While interactions with cashiers may seem insignificant, or at times even a nuisance, they also foster sociability between strangers.I first met Esther 10 years ago when she worked as a cashier at a mom-and-pop bakery in Manhattan, where I’d come to study how adults over 65 used neighborhood spaces to develop social connections that helped them avoid social isolation and live independently.”

I’m with this lovely op-ed by Stacy Torres. I can’t stand it that the supermarkets I shop in are trying to force us into the robot check out machines. Stop It, Stop and Shop. Do Right, ShopRite! Let our neigbors keep their jobs.
Under employment is a giant problem. As I’ve written before, I propose a new, national, full employment tax on all business and business people. The proceeds of this 1-2% tax would go to support make work progams so that all Americans who wish to can work. It would go down, as the employment rate went down, and up, when the unemployment rate went up. This would penalize those retailers who think they can replace all working Americans with robots.

There are many good comments. Here are some that caught my attention:

CV Danes

Upstate NY 6 hours ago

Will these robot workers pay taxes?

If you want a view into what our society will look like when the robots are doing all the jobs, look no further than the hopelessness behind the opiate crisis that is currently unfolding in many of our rural areas. And if you think the government will come to the rescue, note that many of these same people voted for an administration that is poised to redirect a trillion dollars to tax cuts for the rich that before that would have went to health care for many of these addicts.

Father Eric

Ohio 6 hours ago

The Amazon takeover of Whole Foods is a harbinger of yet another withdrawal from our ever-decreasing store of social capital. There’s a direct link between this development and our political leaders’ willingness to deprive large chunks of the populace of health care; both betoken lack of kindness, a failure of human interaction, the loss and destruction of a sense of community and commonality. “Love your neighbor” and “doing unto the least” lose their meaning and moral force when there is no contact with the neighbor and the least; giving us fewer and fewer opportunities for such contact will be the inevitable result of retail automation. Shredding the social network will lead to more shredding of the social safety net.

Maybe it is  more complicated than I think. Here is what might be a contrarian point of view.

Rebecca

Mill Valley 4 minutes ago

I was a cashier at Whole Foods for 5 or 6 years and it was miserable. My feet hurt so much at the end of each day that I could barely walk home after work without bursting into tears and my eyes took several hours to stop blurring at the end of each shift which made it difficult to do what I enjoy most (reading & writing) during my evenings away from the store. So, I often listened to music by candlelight just to calm my nerves after being stuck under the fluorescent bulbs at the registers for too long. Even so, the high pitched beeps of my workplace seemed to keep ringing in my ears. So, I became even more deeply depressed after work than I had been at the store, where I was often putting up with unwelcome sexual advances from customers and mean spirited demands from my bosses. “Smile more!” is the refrain that comes to mind, but even once I acted like a phoney just to get a meager raise, then I’d be given my next instruction, which was usually “sell more”. I hope Amazon figures out a way to make customers & employees happy at the grocery store, because it’s not as easy as it sounds lately…

Opioids- a Mass Killer We’re Meeting With a Shrug – Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“About as many Americans are expected to die this year of drug overdoses as died in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars combined.For more than 100 years, death rates have been dropping for Americans — but now, because of opioids, death rates are rising again. We as a nation are going backward, and drug overdoses are now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

“There’s no question that there’s an epidemic and that this is a national public health emergency,” Dr. Leana Wen, the health commissioner of Baltimore, told me. “The number of people overdosing is skyrocketing, and we have no indication that we’ve reached the peak.”

Yet our efforts to address this scourge are pathetic.”

Yes. Here is one of many comments I support:
Mindy Ohio 5 hours ago
Sadly, there is still so much stigma surrounding the disease of addiction. Not one single person wakes up and each and every day and chooses to use. The brain is hijacked and rational decisions are impossible. We have ridden this roller coaster for many years. Our son, for today, in recovery, started in high school with OxyContin and then soon moved on to the cheap alternative, heroin. Our years of terror, fear and anger have morphed into compassion and rebuilding. But there are no guarantees. We have spent untold sums over the years, and are fortunate that we have not wiped our resources clean. Yet, even with the wherewithal to access good care, the system is overwhelmed. Treatment, i.e., evidenced-based therapies, medical-assisted-treatment (Suboxone etc.), is limited in availability because of overwhelming demand. Our son, who recently relapsed, was prescribed Suboxone and we called every pharmacy in the area to no avail.
The “Drug War” must end. We cannot arrest our way out of this crisis! As has been demonstrated in other countries, legalization works!! However, I fear, our Puritanical, judgmental, holier-than-thou white male-dominated lunatic right will continue to wag their fingers at these “losers.”

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Democrats Seethe After Georgia Loss: ‘Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump’ – The New York Times

“Democrats scrambled to regroup on Wednesday after a disappointing special election defeat in Georgia, with lawmakers, activists and labor leaders speaking out in public and private to demand a more forceful economic message heading into the 2018 elections.

Among Democrats in Washington, the setback in Georgia revived or deepened a host of existing grievances about the party, accentuating tensions between moderate lawmakers and liberal activists and prompting some Democrats to question the leadership and political strategy of Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader.

A small group of Democrats who have been critical of Ms. Pelosi in the past again pressed her to step down on Wednesday. And in a private meeting of Democratic lawmakers, Representative Tony Cárdenas of California, Ms. Pelosi’s home state, suggested the party should have a more open conversation about her effect on its political fortunes.”

Mark Louis

Boulder 16 hours ago

Enough of the hand wringing, Democrats! You ran an untried 30-year-old against a veteran politician in a traditionally red district and thought that you might pull off an upset because liberals were upset about Trump! This was the same mistake that Hillary made — Democratic leadership needs to learn how to run candidates who actually can speak to the needs of the working class — and who can walk the walk. You don’t need to be an Ivy Leaguer to figure this one out.

David Lindsay Hamden, CT Pending Approval
I second this, and my partner and I, in Lindsay and Schomaker, feel that since the Republicans did choose to run agains Nancy Pelosi, the Democrats should test in focus groups of swing voters to figure out if Nancy Pelosi, despite her talents, is too toxic to swing voters to be an asset as the face of the party.

Amazon Bites Off Even More Monopoly Power – By LINA M. KHAN – NYT

“Amazon on Friday announced plans to acquire Whole Foods, the high-end grocer. If approved by antitrust enforcers, the $13.7 billion deal would give Amazon control of more than 400 stores, an extensive supply chain and a new source of consumer data.Amazon will argue to federal authorities, most likely the Federal Trade Commission, that the deal should be blessed because the combined entity’s share of the American grocery market will be less than 5 percent.

But antitrust officials would be naïve to view this deal as simply about groceries. Buying Whole Foods will enable Amazon to leverage and amplify the extraordinary power it enjoys in online markets and delivery, making an even greater share of commerce part of its fief.

The company has established its level of dominance because of the failings of our current antitrust laws. To understand why, you first need to understand the scope of Amazon’s power. It has captured 43 percent of all internet retail sales in the United States, with half of all online shopping searches starting on Amazon. In 2016, it had over $63 billion in revenue from online sales in the United States — or more than the next 10 top online retailers combined. It controls 74 percent of e-book sales, is the largest seller of clothes online and is set to soon become the biggest apparel retailer in the country.”

“In building this vast empire, Amazon chased growth over paying dividends, pricing key goods and services below cost to chase out competitors. It invested heavily to buy out innovators like Diapers.com after waging price wars. (Amazon followed its acquisition by raising prices.)”

Yes, the diapers.com story was well described in Bloomberg Businessweek, and was a horrible story of abuse and  destruction of competition through market dominance. Amazon forced the two women who started and owned diapers.com to sell or loose everything. Amazon discounted everything that they sold, below cost to shut them down. Facing bancruptcy, they swallowed their pride and sold. This is how Amazon got to owning 43% of all sales on the internet in the US. In a better world, our anti trust department would break up Amazon now, starting with divisions like Diapers.com that were aquired illegally or immorally, and have hurt consumers.

The US Govt should allow Amazon to buy Whole Foods, or any one else for that matter, only if they are willing to divest themselves of Diapers.com, and other .com’s that were aquired through pressure and market power.

and:

Simon M Dallas 8 minutes ago
Two local bookstores (one of which was in a mall) within walking distance to me are now gone and I’m forced to drive into the wealthier part of town if I want to spend a leisurely Saturday or Sunday browsing in a bookstore as I used to do. I suspect this has been happening all over the country now for several decades and people wonder why retail stores and malls are having trouble staying in business. Amazon has driven away much of the walk-in and walk-thru traffic that used to be there.

1 Recommended by ME David Lindsay

Stuart Wilder

Doylestown, PA 3 hours ago

I am not anti-Amazon but I am pro-local economy, which means I use Amazon only when I have to, i.e., when stores in my town do not carry what I need. Amazon works because it gives people what they think they, and often do, need. If people understood that their local economies– their home values, their schools, they availability of summer jobs for their kids, a variety of local restaurants, the opportunity to spend less time driving, preservation of farmland, and the like that make up a good quality of life — turned on going to the stores in their neighborhood rather than online or big boxes, then Amazon and Walmart would not loom as such threats.

Good luck with anti-trust enforcement, by the way. When’s the last time the DOJ’s anti-trust division did anything in a timely manner–before hundreds of businesses were wiped out– that made a difference in consumers’ lives?

Sophia

Brooklyn, NY 2 hours ago

Thank you to Ms. Khan for writing this and the NYT for publishing it. Amazon is a real threat to our economy. Right now, consumers live under the short-sighted and misguided misapprehension that Amazon benefits us. However, given its practice of raising prices in the absence of competition, competition which it has quashed with predatory pricing among other nefarious practices, it should be obvious that it is just a matter of time before it engages in price gouging. Congress, FTC, and DOJ need to intervene before it is too late, but again, if past behavior is any indication, they will fail to do so.

Where Did ‘We the People’ Go? – By Thomas Friedman – NYT

“A few days ago I was at a conference in Montreal, and a Canadian gentleman, trying to grasp what’s happening to America, asked me a simple question: “What do you fear most these days?”

I paused for a second, like a spectator waiting to see what would come out of my own mouth. Two things came out: “I fear we’re seeing the end of ‘truth’ — that we simply can’t agree any more on basic facts. And I fear that we’re becoming Sunnis and Shiites — we call them ‘Democrats’ and ‘Republicans,’ but the sectarianism that has destroyed nation-states in the Middle East is now infecting us.”

It used to be that people didn’t want their kids to marry one of “them,” referring to someone of a different religion or race (bad enough). Now the “them” is someone of a different party.”

Good column. Here is a good comment I support:
Christine McM is a trusted commenter Massachusetts 5 hours ago
Brilliant analysis. This shift shaping of truth for me is the most dangerous aspect of what’s going on. Donald Trump is a master at it: and yet except for columns like this in the New York Times, and other reputable media, very few call him out on it.

So far nobody has been able to deal with a president who’s a serial liar. Add to that, this sickening sycophancy of his staff, praising him to the skies about things ordinary Americans despise, and you see Orwell unfolding before your eyes.

Yes the technology may be different and faster but the underlying premise remains the same: greed and lust for power or a recipe for crash and burn throughout history.

How do you trust officials Who live by different rules than you do? how do you trust officials spouting alternate versions of quickly verifiable data?

You can’t. But if you have a solid base of people for whom the truth doesn’t matter and who flock to the seductive promises of a salesman, you have the situation we face today.

Donald Trump is so dangerous because he’s never been seriously challenged when changing the norms and expectations of the presidency. People are cozying up to a strongman out of fear and/or opportunism.

Without institutional support Donald Trump crumbles. Unfortunately we aren’t there yet. And the only way to make sure he doesn’t change the rules by setting up his family for life is to vote.

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And:

Larry Eisenberg

is a trusted commenter Medford, Ma. 10 hours ago

Don’t give up…It could happen…

When things seem bleak
Our chances weak
I’d like to have a furtive peak
At Trump’s clear plight, his show of fright,
At probes that his name mention,
Is money laundering his grift,
Did Putin give his side a lift?
I simply long to get the drift
Of what’s got his attention.

And when the truth comes out at last
No fizzle, a bombastic blast
Revealing a pernicious past
Turning his hairdo white,
The Rust Belters will still deny
What’s evident to every eye
As juicy as Mom’s Apple Pie,
Trump always was alt-Right.

The Tea Party in futile rage
Impeachment refuses to wage
Their Donald is a Saint, a Sage,
Maliciously maligned,
And so two thirds is never reached
The tricky Trump is not impeached
Although Pence privately beseeched,
Don in a Tweet, resigned.

Calls for Shipping and Aviation to Do More to Cut Emissions – The New York Times

“Even though commercial aviation and ocean shipping are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, they were excluded from the Paris climate treaty, to be signed by more than 100 countries this week at the United Nations in New York.

Now governments and advocacy groups are pressuring these industries to take stronger steps to curb pollution.A coalition of European, North African and South Pacific nations is lobbying the International Maritime Organization, the United Nations agency that oversees shipping, to start discussing an emissions-reduction commitment at a meeting in London that will begin Monday.

“We need to do something and go beyond what we already have, and set some very specific targets,” said François Martel, the secretary general of the Pacific Islands Development Forum. The forum’s members include the Marshall Islands and the Solomon Islands, two of six nations that have made a proposal, expected to be taken up at the meeting, that shipping contribute a “fair share” to reducing emissions.”

Too Hot to Fly? Climate Change May Take a Toll on Air Travel – The New York Times

“In recent days, American Airlines has been forced to cancel more than 40 flights in Phoenix. The reason: With daytime highs hovering around 120 degrees, it was simply too hot for some smaller jets to take off. Hotter air is thinner air, which makes it more difficult — and sometimes impossible — for planes to generate enough lift.

As the global climate changes, disruptions like these are likely to become more frequent, researchers say, potentially making air travel costlier and less predictable with a greater risk of injury to travelers from increased turbulence.

“We tend to ignore the atmosphere and just think that the plane is flying through empty space, but of course, it’s not,” said Paul D. Williams, a professor in the Department of Meteorology at the University of Reading in Britain who studies climate change and its effect on aviation. “Airplanes do not fly through a vacuum. The atmosphere is being modified by climate change.” “

Can Amazon Be the Next Apple? – The New York Times

“In 2016, not a stellar year, Apple Inc. reported net income equal to 21 percent of sales — a ratio 12 times higher than Amazon’s. A large part of Apple’s profit is generated at its retail stores. Apple doesn’t disclose such information, but its Apple Stores are believed to have annual sales above $5,500 per square foot. No other retailer comes close. The corresponding figure for Macy’s, to take one example, is around $200.

Apple doesn’t need flashy stores in expensive locations to distribute phones and computers; those can be ordered on the internet. The Apple Stores, meticulously planned from their online appointment books to the transaction processing system that emails a receipt before you’ve walked out the door, sell an experience, not electronics. Their purpose is to persuade customers that Apple has extraordinarily exciting products for which premium prices are entirely justified.”

On Death Row- but Is He Innocent? – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“One June day in 1983, a California professor drove over to a neighbor’s house to pick up his 11-year-old son from a sleepover. Nobody answered the door, so the professor peered through a window — and saw a ghastly panorama of blood.

The professor found his son stabbed to death, along with the bodies of Peggy and Doug Ryen, the homeowners. The Ryens’ 10-year-old daughter was also dead, with 46 wounds, but their 8-year-old son was still breathing.This quadruple murder began a travesty that is still unfolding and underscores just how broken the American justice system is. A man named Kevin Cooper is on San Quentin’s death row awaiting execution for the murders, even though a federal judge says he probably is innocent.

“He is on death row because the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department framed him,” the judge, William A. Fletcher of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, declared in a searing 2013 critique delivered in a distinguished lecture series.”