Morning Ed: United States {2017.01.10.T}

West is best, Dixie is good, and more can be gleaned from this Lucky 13 map. It’s interesting that a population and economic boom in so much of the west seems to have passed New Mexico by, and Montana is probably wishing that instead of having its population split between six decently sized small cities that they had their own Boise or SLC.

Maybe this will help New Mexico grow, once prices are back up again.

Dan Walters looks at the positive and negative effects of the declining population growth in California.

Kudos to Rhode Island, the most empathetic state in the country.

Vice has a good article on how Chattanooga turned itself around with high-speed Internet.

It seems to me that this is mostly a case of advertising transparency, rather than “blaming the minimum wage hike.” There’s nothing to stop them from using the bill to outline the discounted price (what it would be without the minimum wage hike) and the price with a surcharge, as long as it’s clear the price with the surcharge is the price they will be paying.

Here is a handy article on where states get their revenue.

Lyman Stone points out that interstate migration is mostly going not to super-deep red states, but to purple states. The definition of purple is sufficiently broad so as to include Texas, but interesting all of the same.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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195 thoughts on “Morning Ed: United States {2017.01.10.T}

  1. “The city is trying to do damage control, but instead of reassessing the aggressive minimum wage hike they are blaming the unintended – but not unexpected – effects on the business community. What better a way to galvanize citizens behind misguided policy then to make businesses and employers the villains?”

    This is a typical response from gov’t.

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  2. Why am I not shocked that a sordid family gothic tale is the most popular Netflix show in Alabama, Florida, and South Carolina? Nor am I shocked that a show about political trickery is the most popular show in Virginia and that a comedy about working class dysfunction is big in Pennsylvania. Fuller House would seem more up Minnesota’s alley than Making a Murderer, nice bland entertainment with blondes. There are also many jokes you can make about West Virginia’s choice.

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  3. Lyman Stone points out that interstate migration is mostly going not to super-deep red states, but to purple states. The definition of purple is sufficiently broad so as to include Texas, but interesting all of the same

    Texas is way up there in terms of net internal (and foreign) migration. But it’s not Texas as a whole. It’s Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio. All very blue places.

    Houston is a dystopia for the caricature far-right conservatives that make up most of the real Republican congressional delegation. It’s urban, it’s minority majority, it has hundreds of miles of bike trails, and until recently it had a (regretfully term limited) lesbian mayor.

    The vast majority of states are geographical constructs that have very limited no no socio cultural significance. Houston and Midland might not be in the same planet, much less the same state, but the same happens to Miami and central Florida (home of a very significant percentage of the USA neonazis). When people migrate they don’t migrate to a state, they migrate to a place. No one says “I’ll move to Washington state, but it doesn’t matter if it’s a Seattle or Yakima. I’ll flip a coin when I get there because it’s all the same”

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  4. – I’ve long thought the displayed prices in stores and restaurants should be the actual price you pay, including any and all applicable taxes, fees, surcharges, sales, etc.

    – When I think “Netflix shows”, I think shows made by Netflix, not shows available (for the moment) on Netflix.

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      • My Belfast born and raised significant other still can’t get it in his head that he has to add 8.75% to most everything (round it to 10%)

        And then it’s grocery buy time and there he is, ready with the (now unneeded) sales tax money in his hand. And another ranting about the silliness of it all coming my way

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          • I do. Taxes should not be obscured, not because I think taxation is theft, but because being aware (even if that awareness is light) of how much you pay in taxes is just good civic awareness.

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            • I don’t think Taxes are theft, but I’m slightly flabbergasted that people think they should be hidden.

              There are two totally different exchanges going on… one is for the goods/services you’ve contracted, the other is a use tax that we’ve collectively decided is a good way to raise funds for public works.

              There’s no relationship between the merchant and the tax… forcing the merchant to obscure the tax and present one price would be a huge civic disservice… if, as Saul contends, nobody can calculate a tax when it is known and visible… I can only imagine how much we’d miscalculate the cost when it is hidden.

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              • Forcing every single business or contractor that charges a sales tax, and by extension most of their employees, to know and calculate the tax rate, is a pretty poor way of “hiding” the tax. That’s probably something like 10% of the adult population.

                Businesses are currently able to display multiple prices on stickers in the store (e.g. the current sale price for the package, the regular price, how much you’re “saving” if you buy the thing at the current price, and the price per kilogram or litre or avocado or whatever. Sometimes even two different units – price both per pound and per kilo, e.g.). They can display the price both with and without taxes included.

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              • This is an interesting point. I was thinking about the ease and convenience for the consumer (and, likely, the business). But this certainly throws a bit of a wrench into the gears.

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            • I don’t see how withholding taxes is making them hidden. I see how much of my paycheck is withheld by reading my paystub and for what. It tells me how much went to Fed, State. Unemployment, Social Security, etc.

              And it is much easier to have it withheld than for me to guestimate how much needs to be taken out.

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              • My mistake… was responding more to the idea that the sales taxes should be absorbed into the price of the goods sold and made invisible to the customer (in the name of showing the “full” price).

                Like Will below, if we are going to tax on Income, then we have to withhold the taxes lest we ruin people (in the financial sense) en masse come April 15th.

                To Oscar’s point, though, paying taxes in toto rather than in passing certainly makes one take notice in new ways. I’ve done this for Property Taxes and they feel very different when you write one check on Dec 5th vs. having it as part of your monthly payment.

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                • Though property taxes also indicate what would happen in a non-withholding alternative universe. My bank handles my property taxes for me and just charges me a little bit extra every month, put into an escrow account, so I get a little interest. So it’s just a little bit every month rather than two semi-annual bills. If there was no withholding companies would offer withholding to their employees as a minor perq and ADP would just charge your employer for the service.

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                  • Heh, your bank “handles” it because your bank owns the property and doesn’t want to have it encumbered with tax liens when you default and they have to sell.

                    If we wanted to sell people to clear their tax liens in extremis, then maybe that would work. This is how you get Trump. {wait, I’m still not getting that meme}

                    But yeah… I get the general point. Back when I used to do payroll for the family business, we had a few workers claim 10+ exemptions, which effectively zero’ed out their Fed/State deductions (but not FICA… FICA owns all). So they were sort of Self-medicating, as it were.

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              • You still have to guesstimate, or does your 1040 always balance to zero every year?

                I guess you could do you W4 so you always pay in too much, but that’s just giving the IRS an interest free loan. I work my W4 so that I am paying in at the end, but not too much, because apparently the IRS gets all pissy if you pay in too much at the end of the year, for too many years in a row.

                So no matter what, you are still making at guess at what you will owe.

                Personally, I would prefer withholdings be an ‘opt in’ kind of thing. Barring that, an ‘opt out’ without penalty would be nice. I’d much rather dump my estimated withholding into an interest bearing account for the year and pay it out at the end.

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          • I favor withholding, primarily because if we don’t we’re going to create problems that we can avoid. Real problems, involving revenue shortfalls and sending people to jail.

            Forcing people to learn arithmetic doesn’t fall into either of these categories.

            Further, I think the point is made when it comes to income taxes. People know how much they’re getting paid. They know their take home is less. It can be mysterious how much they’re taking out, but unless we want to go with a flat tax (and I don’t favor one), that’s just something we’re going to have to live with.

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            • Seems to me there are two types of excise taxes: those that are designed to get hidden and passed onto consumer, and those that are directly a function of end-use price. For example, a federal tax on tires is imposed between the manufacturer and the retailer (it effectively is built into the manufacturer’s sales price and constitutes the actual cost to the retailer) and is therefore hidden from the end user’s view. Other taxes – like state or local sales taxes – are imposed on the transaction as function of end-use point-of-sale price.

              Some of these taxes are obviously (and perhaps, from a functional pov, almost necessarily) obscured, and whether they should or shouldn’t be is an interesting question from an efficiency pov. But not from the pov of effective governance. If anything, we should move in the opposite direction, with greater transparency and clearer accounting.

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              • I know gas pumps back home used to say something like “53c per gallon go to state and federal government”… but the posted prices incorporated the 53c. I think that’s fair. I also wouldn’t object to tire companies doing the same, but they shouldn’t assume we even know about the tax when they post their prices.

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        • I don’t see how the penny problem is a real problem. If you have four pennies and a total that ends with a four or a nine, why wouldn’t you use them? If you manage your change right, the worst-case scenario is that you have three quarters, two dimes, and four pennies. Nine coins isn’t really a lot to keep track of.

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        • This might be my background speaking but how many people really do tax calculations in their head when determining how much something really costs? I’ve never seen anybody do these calculations in real life. They simply know that a certain percentage is going to be added and take that as a given rather than thinking about whether they could afford it after taxes. Life shouldn’t be made artificially hard to potentially teach lessons.

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          • They know how much they’re paying before they pay, though. So for the most part (I can’t think of any exceptions, but I’ll assume they exist) they should know whether they can afford it or not. And it’s predictable that there will be more, in contrast to special taxes like hotels and rental cars.

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          • In my town, the sales tax (on EVERYTHING, including groceries) is 9.375%. I’m pretty damn good at math (I teach stats) but I still couldn’t figure to the penny what my stupid grocery bill will be. (Simple enough to add 10%, but if you care about exactitude…)

            Count me in the group who would prefer shelf prices to reflect any and all taxes and fees. I know math but there are a lot of times when I’m shopping where I’d rather not have to do it in my head – there’s a screaming child in the store, it’s 4 pm, I’m tired, I spent the whole day using my brain already…..one of the reasons I almost always buy groceries on a credit card is to avoid the annoyance of totting up the bill in my head and hoping I have enough cash in my wallet for everything.

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          • how many people really do tax calculations in their head when determining how much something really costs? I’ve never seen anybody do these calculations in real life.

            I’m just going to leave that there…

            (FWIW, I have certainly seen people carefully tracking their total as they buy groceries, to make sure they can get enough food for the week. Sometimes an item is taxable that they didn’t realize would be, and they have to leave something at the till. I imagine this can be somewhat embarassing.)

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      • Can’t tell whether you mean that sarcastically, though I can’t see why you would in this context, but they couldn’t actually do that without having information about your family and financial situation that’s probably illegal to ask for in a job interview.

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        • For a low-paying job, much of it is payroll taxes that they can predict, and the rest can be estimated pretty accurately by assuming the standard deduction. For young people, it also matters whether their parents are reporting them as dependents, and, you’re right, they can’t ask that.

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          • If they have children, there are also child tax credits and the EITC.

            Edit: If they have student loans, there’s a deduction for that, too, which I believe is independent of the standard deduction. I guess they could give it for a couple basic scenarios, but there’s a lot of individual variation it won’t cover.

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          • Still, not really. There are tons of other assumptions. Are you married or single? Kids? Second job on the side?

            When my wife and I first got married and did our taxes. She owed a lot of money in taxes come tax time and I did not. This is despite the fact that I made >2x what she did because she was finishing up her PhD. However, she did a bunch of short term or consulting gigs, where each of them withheld taxes like they were 100% of her annual income instead of 1/3 of it.

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  5. Two issues with the surcharge:

    1. It should be stated clearly up front before the people order. To add it onto the bill when there is no mention of it on the menu or clear signage visible throughout the restaurant is basically bait-and-switch. “Yes, we told you the hamburger was $12, but you actually owe us $15.” While many restaurants do not do this with tax, tax is fundamentally different in a number of ways. Customers should know what they are being asked to pay, full stop.

    2. Separate from that, I’d want to check the math. How are they determining the surcharge? How do they determine each diner’s responsibility? Is it a percentage of the total bill? How does that make sense? Is it based on the number of people at a table? The length of time they spend there? I mean, businesses can obviously determine prices any way they see fit so their isn’t really a moral or ethical issue with them coming up with whatever way of calculating the surcharge they want. But there is room for them to game the system, charging customers more than they are actually paying out in additional wages and blaming the government while they profit. Which is dishonest.

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          • It’s not the profit so much as the dishonesty.

            “Look, we don’t want to charge this but we have to because of mandated wage hikes. We hate it as much as you do.”

            When in reality they are paying a portion of the collected money out to the wage hike and pocketing the rest.

            Depending on how it is structured, there might be some months where the money collected is more than the increased wages and some where it is less. That just might be what is. What I’m talking about is a restaurant that says, “Well, we’re going to have to pay an addition $2K/month in wages. We can tack on a surcharge of 3% and cover those costs. But, hey, while we’re at it, why not make it 5%? The customers won’t know the difference.”

            Upping prices to make a profit while insisting that you had no choice because the big bad government made you is dishonest. Legal, probably. But dishonest.

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            • Restaurants are low margin & the customers are often very price sensitive. Tacking on 5% instead of 3% might net them some extra cash, but it might also lose them customers if the other restaurants they compete with don’t jack up prices a similar amount.

              In other words, the problem will likely take care of itself (if it’s a problem at all).

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              • Pretty sure you’re right about this. If a restaurant could charge you an extra $5, they’d do it regardless of whether they could pretend it was a tax or not. It’s a really competitive market.

                Contrast this with cable, which invents fake surcharges all the time because there’s minimal competition and barriers to changing providers.

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              • Maybe this is my own bias/bubble peeking through, but are most customers really that price sensitive?

                I mean, if we’re talking about a pizza place, let’s say a pie costs you $15. The 3% surcharge takes you to $15.45. The 5% surcharge+ takes you to $15.75. Is anyone going to change their habits based on 30-cents? Enough to outweigh an extra 2% per pie?

                On the other end, you have high-end restaurants. And if you’re willing to plunk down a few hundred for dinner for two, you probably aren’t fretting a couple bucks here or there.

                Now, if you add a couple bucks to the cost of the pizza… sure, now you may have an issue. But if we’re talking a point or two, I’d be surprise that makes a difference for most customers. But, again, I may be biased.

                More to the point though, maybe restaurants won’t do that and, if not, I got no problem with passing the surplus along and noting as much. Again, my objection is ONLY to those restaurants that would pass along something that wasn’t related to a mandatory wage increase as being related to the mandatory wage increase. I just abhor that sort of dishonesty.

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                • My understanding is regulars tend to be pretty price sensitive.

                  Still, if the price jump isn’t enough that you’d notice, why would you care? Maybe the extra profit goes in the owners pocket, or back into the place, how can you tell?

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                          • It’s analogous to the “Service charge 18% for groups over X” on a restaurant bill. Usually, this goes straight to the restaurant to compensate for lower turns of those tops (which is usually the case for larger groups, they camp longer). However, it’s frequently framed on the bill as if it’s a replacement for the gratuity, and thus the tipped wage personnel get shafted on the deal if you don’t also tip. This is intentional and dishonest (and ubiquitous). If you instead called it a “Large Group Surcharge” and added it to the top line costing rather than the tax & gratuity area, people would be less inclined to pay it or might question it.

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                          • Sure. But if it was ever to come out.

                            “Man… you guys make out like bandits there. They increased prices 10% because of wage hikes!”
                            “Huh? We were already making close to the new minimum so wages barely went up.”
                            Something like that.

                            Nothing can really be done about it and I’m certainly not advocating doing so. It’s just a slimy thing to do that can and does happen sometimes in these situations.

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        • well, unless you’re mark up is greater than the wage increase impact, you aren’t. didn’t read the link. If that’s what they are doing, that’s dishonest, but passing through 100% of a higher cost of doing business isn’t.

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      • Right… that would obviate the silly charge of “false advertising.”

        The city just doesn’t like the advertising at all… false or otherwise. It is nothing more than a price hike of about $0.35 per $10 spent… hardly the “shocking” experience some people are claiming. Less than many local townships will collect *directly* as a hospitality tax.

        Whether it is calculable directly back to the labor increase doesn’t matter… it’s just a price hike. Oddly, they would probably get less pushback by making the prices on the menu:

        Hamburger – $12 + 1 (wage surtax)

        Which, ironically, would be 2x or 3x what they were actually charging at “upto 3.5%”

        Heck, I’m still waiting for the “Fuel Surcharges” to come off my bills from back when gas was $4.

        Bottom line is that we have somewhat ridiculous notions of what food and food preparation costs… that’s the bubble that will burst.

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    • My concern about the math is in part due to how many restaurant owners lack a business background. This sort of dovetails with the conversation yesterday about the difficulty in successfully running a restaurant.

      So asking someone to determine how a sudden wage increase should impact their pricing is a pretty complex thing to do… especially if you lack the business background or even basic math sense to figure it out.

      And that is before you even figure out what is the best way to divy up the extra charges… per customer? Per table? Time spent in the restaurant? Price of food?

      If I order the $50 steak and you order the $20 chicken, there is a good chance the latter actually takes more attention to prep and cook properly. So which one of us should contribute more to the bus boy’s new wage?

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  6. The odd thing about it is that you very rarely see surcharges thrown on for other inputs getting more expensive. I can’t say that I’ve seen a menu that said, “Due to the high price of pork belly futures, there is a 15% surcharge on the BLT.” Airlines occasionally throw on fuel surcharges, but those are naked cash grabs (as evidenced by the fact that they remained for 2 years after oil prices bottomed out again).

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  7. Vice has a good article on how Chattanooga turned itself around with high-speed Internet.

    Why doesn’t it mention that government programs like that misallocate resources and are the first step to the Gulag? If high-speed internet were the right thing for Chattanooga, the free market would have supplied it.

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  8. The empathy study seems to be based entirely on self-reported data, according to the Pacific Standard story linked from the story you linked. That doesn’t strike me as a particuarly reliable way of measuring empathy, but the correlation with various measures of prosocial and antisocial behavior is interesting, depending on how strong it is.

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  9. New Mexico has a number of problems. What ought to be its largest city, and hub for a lot of transportation and energy services, is actually Texas’s red-headed stepchild El Paso. Albuquerque and Santa Fe are poorly positioned to compete with metro Denver as a regional hub. Its national lab was late to diversify from weapons work. The large White Sands test range is not geared towards pulling in large amounts of related civilian work. They’ve been consistently screwed by Colorado and Texas over water in the Rio Grande and Pecos Rivers (in recent years, dumping water in the middle of the desert to avoid clearing Colorado’s water debt, and buying up and idling farm land to meet their obligation to Texas).

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    • SE NM has pumped more oil out of the ground than Texas as long as I can remember.
      I grew up out there.
      The big benefit is that the state owns all mineral rights & leases them out, 50 yrs a whack, to the drillers. That’s how they fund their social programs, which is very much a part of their culture, from time immemorial.

      Still, there is a lot that’s unsaid that feeds into M. Cain’s (excellent) prologue as the top of the page.
      The drilling contaminates groundwater, often intentionally, as a matter of increasing profits. Doesn’t pay the roustabouts any better though.
      Dumping nuclear waste in the area is a big thing now.

      I sort of agree with Michael’s point about El Paso, but I’m more inclined toward Las Cruces, New Mexico’s second-largest city.

      New Mexico needs intrastate passenger rail in a big way.

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  10. Re the Lucky 13 article… I tend to focus on who’s shrinking as opposed to who’s growing: the Rust Belt (somewhat extended version), the Great Plains, the LA/MS/AR trio. The GP’s main economic model died in the 1930s. At the county level, parts are doing well. The GP/prairie-dominated state I know best is Nebraska; Omaha and Lincoln (three of the 99 counties) are doing well enough to absorb the rural losses, but not to pull immigration from out-of-state. The Rust Belt’s economic model died somewhere in the 1950s/60s/70s, take your pick. LA/MS/AR (and WV probably goes in this category) seem like poor states w/o a big enough metro area to carry them, probably in positive feedback territory by now.

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    • I was struck how the Legacy states are getting a lot more international immigration coupled with massive domestic emigration… there’s a 5.5M swing if you factor them both. That’s interesting in and of itself; and counter-intuitive.

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    • notme,
      Sessions is allowed to say good things. Booker is allowed to walk alongside him when he does.
      This does not make either of them anything but politicians.

      Lying is a decent thing in a politician, I’m sure you’ll agree. You’re a lawyer after all, and I’m certain you know exactly the amount of lying you’re allowed to do on your client’s behalf.

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    • There seems to be nothing mutually exclusive about those things. One can believe that it is good to honor the Selma protesters and also that publicly stated law enforcement priorities of that same person is bad. Also, can you provide a guide on which traditions it is ok to break (like not even holding a hearing for Garland) and which ones are bad to break (saying something mean about a Senator in a confirmation hearing)?

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      • Maybe it isn’t. I find it odd that Booker would partner with someone that he finds so dangerous and unfit. But maybe Booker needs attention and press, he’s only been a senator since 2013 so he probably is trying to beef up his liberal cred for his next election or higher office.

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        • When you’re in the Senate, you don’t have much choice who you work with and if they’re helping you achieve your desired goals, then all the better. FFS, we allied with the Soviets in WWII because they were better than the alternative. Yet somehow we found them so dangerous that we had a 4 decade long Cold War with them immediately after that.

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  11. Don’t forget to watch Obama’s fairwell address tonight, he has one more chance to talk about himself and all his great accomplishments. It’s only scheduled for 30 min so he better talk fast.

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  12. Talk about a dystopia. Shit’s getting real for DJT.

    From CNN:

    Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.

    From Buzzfeed, the documents.

    The journalism in the CNN report is actually surprising good.

    Add: I can’t cut and past, but about 8 pages in is a juicy tidbit: that Trump and Manafort are happy with Russia being the focus of his corruption to deflect away from “more extensive corruption” in China and other countries. This is gonna be good!

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    • I like the bit where part of the deal was Trump keeps the US out of Russian Ukraine fun.

      You know, the only actual consistent political position he’s had? The one he insisted go into the GOP platform? His ONLY insisted addition?

      It’s probably not true, but….talk about playing into expectations.

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    • Interesting… lots of fun stuff about Trump.

      Three non-Trump nuggets:
      1. Maybe Kimmi is right about Clinton’s, um, personality quirks?
      2. Heh, Jill Stein sending emissaries to Putin looking for funding.
      3. Putin’s quid appears to be intel about Russian Oligarchs’ holdings in US… and Ukraine (duh).

      Its been a while since I was in the foreign policy game… but I’m pretty sure these are raw reports, not “intelligence” reports. That is, every rumor and every piece of info from anyone remotely credible is collected… it still needs digesting and verifying (where possible).

      Not saying that the info is false, just that we don’t know the false bits from the fun bits from the true bits.

      [And, reading to the end of the CNN link, yeah, it seems to be the collected info from a former MI6 operative hired by Repubs/Dems to get info on Trump]

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      • The outcome of this that I see happening:

        There will be a huge amount of focus on the most lurid pieces of raw intelligence and those will prove to be, let’s say, unsubstantiated to the point where it will cost credibility on the part of the journalists who ran with this and, get this, will do damage to the CIA. “Hook, line, and sinker” is the phrase to look for over the next day or so.

        The reporting will be seen as nakedly partisan in hindsight at best and this dynamic will completely overshadow the nuggets of real stuff in there.

        My best guess: This will not kill Donald J Trump.

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        • It’s timed pretty well, right off the Russia hacking stuff AND someone high-up corroborated it by sharing some of the classified conclusions of that report that support it.

          Trump has his first presser tomorrow as well (which probably dictated the timing). It’s going to be very difficult for him to avoid taking questions on it — and ignoring them will feed the “are you hiding something” vibe.

          So someone released it at the best moment AFTER the election to do damage.

          I’m not sure how much damage it’ll do Trump. Depends on a lot of things, including what else remains to be leaked. If nothing else, given his low approval and personality history, it’s going to finish off any hopes he had for a honeymoon.

          After all, this report basically says “Trump’s thin-skinned, revenge obsessed, and a sexual deviant who’d do anything for a buck or personal gain”. Which, you know, we already knew.

          I’ll probably knock him no lower than 40% approval, unless there’s some sort of Bush-esque tipping point.

          I will say that, as for as pure propaganda goes, it was well timed and well aimed. It fits into the established narrative and has a lot of lurid details to keep people speculating, and he’ll be stuck facing questions on it tomorrow or hiding from a press conference. He’ll look suspicious no matter what he does.

          I think the magnitude of any damage will depend on how much more leaks, or who else comes forward with information. Which I think depends on what other people have, and more importantly who is leaking it and why.

          In the end, the problem is this: I don’t know if I believe it, it’s pretty outlandish. On the other hand, it’s not like it’s entirely out of character for Trump. That’s a pretty nagging doubt. (I admit I’m biased, but…Trump’s honenymoon numbers are awful and dropping. How many people who might still be trying to extend an olive branch will have the nagging feeling that, well, it’s not out of character for Trump? Some? None? A lot? Who knows).

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          • Did the Trump campaign somehow conspire with Russia? That’s CRAZY damning but I think very unlikely.

            Does Russia have compromising information on Trump? This is hard to answer, because it is predicated on the notion that Trump can be compromised. I mean, Pussygate didn’t hurt him so who knows.

            Does Russia have negative info on Trump? It’s hard to believe they don’t. I mean, everyone has negative info on Trump. The question then is how negative and what are the specifics?

            I doubt this sinks Trump insofar as he gets impeached or anything. Russia wanting to blackmail him is Russia’s crime, not his own.

            But… if it becomes believed (true or not cuz we be post-truth!) that he is susceptible to Russian (or other) blackmailing, he could become tainted in such a way that the GOP largely abandons him. Right now, they’re circling the wagons. But if they reach a point where they fear they’re being played, they may just basically aim to cut him out, work with Pence, and leave him a figurehead. All of which can happen regardless of what Russia does have or doesn’t have and does or does not do with whatever they do have. It’s a perception game… a trust game. Will the GOP hitch their wagon to Trump if they sincerely believe his wagon may be hitched (by coercion) to Russia?

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            • Did the Trump campaign somehow conspire with Russia? That’s CRAZY damning but I think very unlikely.

              What was the only political position Trump asked to be put into the GOP platform?

              What’s the only thing he’s never flip-flopped on?

              I can’t see how it’s unlikely. Not true, perhaps, but sticking up for Russia has been the ONLY consistent thing Trump has done since he started running. Even when a simple pro-forma denunciation with no actual commitment (like “Nation’s shouldn’t interfere in other nations elections”) he couldn’t do, and there have been reams of reporting on the rather large number of high-level connections between his close circle and Putin’s.

              I can see it being false, but I can’t call it “unlikely”.

              FWIW, I read McCain was involved in bringing this to Comey. (Although props to FISA, as they were reluctant to give out warrants. As they should be, given the target is the other political party’s primary candidate. They finally did, apparently, but much narrower).

              Will it hurt Trump? Who knows. He won’t get impeached or forced to resign until the GOP sees him as an albatross though. By and large they’ve chosen party above country already, and they’ll chose party over Trump IF it gets to that. I mean, worst case — President Pence, eh? Do-over, right? Wipes the slate clean will be the GOP motto there.

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                • Fair. But I think there’s a difference between “They worked together” and “He’s scared of them.”

                  Scared? Doesn’t have to be. “In it for money” is legit too.

                  Whatever the reason, Russia is the ONLY thing Trump is consistent on even as it makes him look bad.

                  Can you think of ANY other stance he held to like that? At all? Not even a sheet anchor or a mealy-mouthed attempt to distance himself?

                  It could be just that Putin’s really good at flattering Trump and Trump won’t turn on his bestie.

                  If this story has legs, it’ll be because of that particular unwavering relationship, whatever the cause. Because Trump certainly acts like a man who really, really, really likes Russia and Putin a lot more than anything else.

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          • In the end, the problem is this: I don’t know if I believe it, it’s pretty outlandish.

            There’s a tweet out there linking to the part of the report that said that Trump rented a movie theater in which he watched hentai with Russian prostitutes that said something to the effect of “I’m not saying that it’s a 4chan troll, but it *READS* like a 4chan troll.”

            Also the part where Trump was talking about taking “the biggest dumps, believe me”, struck me as being an obvious fabrication.

            And it’s too bad because there’s some other stuff in there that isn’t particularly lurid that, if true, would indicate to all but the most partisan that Trump should probably be in jail.

            But it’s going to be overshadowed by the Trump #goldengate stuff.

            That weird stuff smears the entire report and makes it look like partisan Trump Derangement Syndrome stuff.

            We aren’t even close to peak TDS. We’re just getting started.

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            • Burt links to this excellent article on the twitter.

              The article points out that the report is chock-full of all sorts of unverifiable stuff (see: tinkle) but also stuff like Michael Cohen meeting with Russian agents in Prague.

              Well, Michael Cohen said “I’ve never even been to Prague!” and the response to that was “Man, if I was accused of meeting with Russian spies in Prague, answering with ‘not in Prague!’ is a fairly damning response!”

              Now, whether Michael Cohen was in Europe during the period mentioned in the report is something that, you’d think, is verifiable.

              Let’s wait to find out if Michael Cohen was in Europe during that period. (Because we all know how easy it is to take a train to Prague from Germany.)

              If he was in Europe, we get to follow on rabbit trail. If he was on US soil, we get to follow another.

              But there are signs that we ought to know we should be looking out for when it comes to (President) Derangement Syndrome. We’ve played this game before.

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            • I was thinking that if you knew that Trump had all sorts of dirt and you were worried about it coming out, regularly dumping tantalizing but fake-ish looking intel dumps on him would be a great way to muddy the water, especially if you already benefited from massive amounts of fake news and weirdly timed leaks.

              The only thing people seemed to learn from the “fake news” debacle is that you can shout the words “fake news” to justify ignoring any facts you don’t like. We as a country are already hopelessly confused about what to believe. Our ability to do critical analysis is on the ropes, so finishing it off completely with a few more planted stories seems like an easy and sensible thing to do. If you were in the business of disrupting US politics and protecting Trump, you’d be crazy not to, right?

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              • The only thing people seemed to learn from the “fake news” debacle is that you can shout the words “fake news” to justify ignoring any facts you don’t like.

                It’s like that terrible joke in a terrible sitcom you can see coming five minutes ahead of time but are powerless to stop because your stepfather is tightgripping the remote.

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              • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head.

                For the watersports angle, I understand that, on November 1st, 4chan put together a story about Trump liking watersports and going to a hotel in the presidential suite and peeing on the bed that Obama slept in.

                I think that’s the narrative.

                Anyway, they put together this story and sent it off to Rick Wilson, the biggest #NeverTrump guy out there.

                Now, today, Rick Wilson is saying that he knew about this story from a memo in July. *JULY*. Waaaaaay before November 1st.

                If you knew that there was a “Trump paid prostitutes to (whatever)” story out there that would eventually be leaked, what would the best way to blunt that story be?

                Well, you have some people concoct the story on 4chan. Talk about sending it to the people most likely to leak it.

                Then, when the people leak it, point to the thread on 4chan and brag about trolling the CIA.

                Sure.

                But that’s a conspiracy theory that can’t be falsified and suggests a level of human insight and gamesmanship that I am not certain we can assume. I mean, good god. If you saw that in a movie, you’d say it was over the top.

                What in the hell is true?

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                • Apparently, the Buzzfeed dossier was what Mother Jones reported on on October 31, which is also before November 1 and the fact that that is when it was published indicates that they received it weeks before. What is likely is that some 4channers got the dossier sometime around the MJ publication or a few days before and then created the thread to sow doubt..

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                  • my analysis –

                    -4chan made up the story about the Anime party (because that’s not in the Buzzfeed Trump file

                    -The anime story gets mixed in with the golden shower story (which is in the Buzzfeed Trump file*) in the twitter tellings (and on comments sections like this)

                    -thus, ‘hey that’s a 4chan hoax’ gets applied (incorrectly) to any or all of the salacious stories in many fora.

                    *I personally think all the lurid sexual stuff in the file is BS. Trump strikes me as the type of person that likes a lot of sex, but likes it boring. It’s similar to his predilection for fast food (something you can have a lot of, and it’s boring)

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                    • K,
                      Jesus christ people! Can’t you at least read the FUN 4chan posts?
                      Like the one that says that Kaine is gay and married to a Pence clone? (And includes John Trump and John Titor)? Because, man if you’re going to do a fucking conspiracy theory, do it right.

                      And, yes, Trump ain’t got the brains to like weird sex. Slick Willie on the other hand… well, that’s a different story.

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                • One thing that isn’t clear to me – and maybe someone has dug deeper and can explain it to me – is why the info that was passed to the FBI in Rome in July by an independent operative paid for by Republican then Democratic supporters wasn’t leaked on, let’s say, Buzzfeed, in October just prior the vote.

                  That’s sort of a missing piece for me… this isn’t “breaking news” in one sense; and the sort of news that it is would have been far more useful before the election than after.

                  I mean, timing the leak to embarrass the new president has some value, but not the same value as timing the leak so that the new president is the Clinton one you wanted.

                  If Obama indicts trump, I’ll sit up and take notice; but if he doesn’t, I’ll expect that its mostly data about prostitutes and bribes in foreign lands. Heck, he’s already told us he knows how to buy domestic politicians… I’m 100% sure he’s bought foreign ones for his business as well. Not nothingburger, I suppose, but still just a burger.

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                  • 1) The document that Buzzfeed released were scans of paper memos. It is possible that none of these were ever in an electronic format (other than a stand alone computer) until the release. Limited copies of the source document made more limited opportunities for release.** (see edit)

                    2) The company that created the documents more than likely has NDA’s regarding them, not so much to protect sources, but because their business model is based on being a to provide one of a kind products to their customers. There’s allegations that the NDAs at the Celebrity Apprentice have been strong enough to deter leaks from those files, this might be the same.

                    3) After Trump wrapped up the nomination, there was literally no incentive for Republicans to leak it. The oppo shop probably worked for a candidate, all of whom more or less got in line. (& Cruz seems like the most likely candidate to have sponsored this oppo research – and he went all-in on Trump more than most)

                    4) There may have been something not quite professional about the FBI vis a vis Trump during this cycle, as the most charitable reading of Director Comey’s actions is that he had to say something about the re-openned Clinton investigation wrt Weiner before someone else pre-empted him and leaked it. But it is also possible that the Rome FBI people, and people they worked with are a different faction, but professionalism *did* preclude them from leaking this wholesale before the election.

                    5) I can’t explain why nobody in Clinton’s camp was able to drop this on the public before the election. Other than its just another mistake on top of all the other ones that cost her the election. (it’s possible that someone thought this was *too* sensational and the dump would backfire. We know in hindsight that to be unlikely, but that is indeed hindsight)

                    edit – well, apparently even Senator McCain had seen these docs sometime in the middle of last year, so who knows how widely available they were.

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                    • K,
                      Alternative idea: If the CIA and alia are going to make up shit about where Wikileaks got its DNC data, why wouldn’t they make up shit about Trump too? Lends a bit more credibility to the Ruskies doing their job right, at any rate.

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                  • What in the hell was Clinton’s oppo team freaking doing between July and the end of October?

                    The other 14 Republican candidates had, like, half a billion dollars behind them. What in the hell were *THEIR* oppo teams freaking doing?

                    The fact that this information is coming out *NOW*, rather than when it might have mattered is creating weird credibility questions and I suspect that we’ll come out the other side of this with Buzzfeed having been Gawkered and a bunch of people standing around and saying “huh, I was sure that that news story would have been the end of Trump” as if it were 2016.

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                    • This was out before. This was what Mother Jones was talking about in October. However, media orgs weren’t going to report the salacious stuff if they couldn’t verify it and a lot of the stuff is difficult or impossible to independently verify. One theory bandied around is that this refresh is actually being pushed by pro-Pence Rs annoyed at Trump’s wavering and undercutting of Congressional Rs.If they can get Trump to step down, then they get Pence as their rubber stamp. Of course, that completely ignores the second order effect that if there’s enough to impeach/force Trump to resign, the Congressional R delegation is going to pray the bloodbath is only as bad as 2010.

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                      • They sure as hell could have found some vaguely unethical “Nu News” website that would have cared more about clicks than whether they’d have credibility in a month to print out everything even including the stuff involving pee.

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                      • Mo,

                        So the notion is that the Clinton camp had this and were shopping it to news orgs, and they couldn’t get the to run with any of it? Why didn’t they finally just throw up their hands and dump it themselves with a press release?

                        Maybe they just didn’t realize how desperate they were. That does seem to fit with Occam.

                        Or maybe they didn’t have the Trump-Putin contact (Cohen, Prague, whatev) dimension that’s really powering this.

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                        • I suspect that if they dumped this themselves with a press release and nothing to validate it, it would likely blow up in their face. It would also be seen as very desperate. Judging by their on the ground actions, they didn’t have the sense of urgency needed.

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                          • Can’t remember who said it (presumably a reporter) but the dossier apparently was shopped around before election day and (again, presumably) nobody ran with it since none of the most significant claims could be corroborated.

                            Eta: Ahhh, I see that you guys are talking about something else. Nevermind!!

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                        • I doubt very much they would ever have dropped it with a press release and a DNC handle with care note… that’s not in the mix.

                          The only thing I can think is Dan Rather and the Bush allegations.

                          But then… that just points to probably a lot of dead ends, and makes me think that the 2/3 false – 1/3 true assumption casually mooted is probably optimistic.

                          I’m leaning more and more towards the likelihood that there are only 2 maybe 3 “nuggets” in there, and I have a 10% hunch that one of them isn’t about Trump.

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                              • It’s really looking to me like this is one of those things that Trump actually going to be able to turn around, make the IC look bad (despite the fact it’s not their document) in part due to the exuberance of his critics (which never said that the IC produced it, but did rest credibility on the IC briefing it.)

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                                • I feel like most of his critics have been quite careful that it’s not verified and that only a fraction may be true, but enjoy discussing because it’s funny.

                                  The CNN report OTOH seems to be strongly sourced and confirmed.

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                                • Unfortunately for him, he held a press conference.

                                  His attempt to show he’d handle conflicts of interest was more a proof of how he’d have them, endlessly.

                                  Including bragging about how he didn’t have to obey the law because it didn’t apply to the President, and how big a deal he was already offered.

                                  And also, he won, so he doesn’t have to show us his taxes.

                                  In short, not reassuring.

                                  it was weird as heck him having a crowd of his supporters there to cheer and applaud for him.

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              • “The only thing people seemed to learn from the “fake news” debacle is that you can shout the words “fake news” to justify ignoring any facts you don’t like. ”

                Nah, we’ve also learned that people will put out false reports in the hopes of swaying public opinion. And lists of allegations not substantiated or from sources that can’t be revealed for *cough* national security reasons too. There’s a whole basket of stuff under “fake news”.

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                • Nah, we’ve also learned that people will put out false reports in the hopes of swaying public opinion.

                  That’s a lesson I would have hoped everybody wold learn, but I think that those of us who “learned” it during this cycle already knew that, and the people who really needed to learn it just learned a new excuse to continue drinking from their favorite propaganda sources.

                  I think this election cycle really may have killed off facts as a decision making tool once and for all. The net result appears to be a dangerous plurality of people saying, “All sources of information are equally valid, so I’ll just stick with the ones that stroke my preconceptions.”

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            • Watersports? Hentai? Hell, even prostitutes? I couldn’t care less. Whatever. If that is what this is all about and it’s all true, then everyone involved is acting like a big dummy. I mean, I guess there is a there there insofar as Russia *thinking* it can blackmail Trump with the info isn’t a good thing, but all that would take is one of these intelligence agencies going to Trump and saying, “Hey, it seems the Russians have evidence this happened. We don’t give a shit but thought you should know.”

              Now, if he allows himself to be blackmailed, then we have a problem. But that’s a whole ‘nother story.

              If it isn’t true, then it’d be good to figure out where in the chain things went wrong and hold those people accountable (even if that just means pointing-and-laughing and never buying their newspaper again).

              I’m only interested in this so far as the matters are pretty severe criminal actions or the sorts of personal/financial entanglements that compromise his judgement.

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              • The matters are pretty severe if true.

                They are an example of TDS if they are not.

                And too many of the stories are unverifiable in theory. So we’re stuck with stuff like “Was Michael Cohen in Europe when the report says that he was in Prague?”

                If he was a nighttime train away from Prague during that period, we’ve got reason to lean in and say “tell me more”.

                If he was in the US at the time the report says that he was in Prague, we’ve got a decision to make about how much effort we put into the rest of the report.

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              • I’m only interested in this so far as the matters are pretty severe criminal actions or the sorts of personal/financial entanglements that compromise his judgement.

                To be blunt, we already KNOW he has severe personal and financial entanglements that compromise his judgement.

                We’re just not sure with whom.

                I’d like to point out that, even if this story is incorrect on ALL particulars, Donald Trump has done his best to make it believable. He’s the one who broke from decades long tradition to hide his tax returns, he’s the one who insisted on the pro-Russian platform planks, he’s the one who can’t stop praising Putin, and he’s the one who literally asked for Putin to hack the DNC even more.

                And oh yeah, he’s on tap bragging about sexually assaulting women.

                So…..you know, like I said before. This can be untrue, but I’m afraid “unbelievable” is not an apt description. And that’s all on things Donald Trump has publicly done, not any inferences.

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                • Well, sure. I guess my point is that we should focus on the “real stuff” “that matters”. And while there is much debate about what constitutes “real stuff” and “what matters”, I’m sure we can agree that “false allegations” are neither and, if anything, hurt the cause.

                  This is in no way a defense of Trump or a criticism of the intelligence groups’ work. Given there is the potential for something truly meaningful, let’s wait and see if that comes to pass and then act.

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    • For the record, I’m leaning more towards CNN’s report as the more credible. This info being appended into the PDB is a concerning tidbit, because it means that the Executive Branch’s intel agencies either find the source to be credible OR have corroborating sources.

      I expect some, the very least, of the Buzzfeed full document to be wrong — which parts, I couldn’t tell you.

      Like I said elsewhere, the one thing Trump stands by even when it makes him look bad is Putin.

      Blackmail? Maybe. Money? Maybe. Gratitude? Maybe. Shared goals? Maybe.

      If this story has legs, it’s because Trump has been unable to step away from Putin. And if nothing else, the people in the know are at least concerned it might be true, or it wouldn’t have hit the daily briefings, been appended to the hacking report, or circulated in the classified committees of Congress.

      And that’s frankly pretty terrifying by itself.

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    • So the Russians have compromising personal and financial info about Trump, allegedly. Let me state unequivocally this: Like the us intelligence agencies don’t have the same shit on foreign leaders and our domestic leaders as well. Hell, we have documented proof that the us bugged Merkel’s cell phone.

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      • Damon,
        Hell, people who aren’t governmental have plenty of shit on everyone in the fucking government.
        Blackmail makes the world go round.

        And I don’t think the Russians have anything on Trump that’s nearly as politically damaging as what Romney hid inside his sealed tax returns. Salacious? Maybe, but sex sells.

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        • I’d love for some salacious sex stuff to come out about Trump, but only because I expect that he’d be tapping some hotties I could then google. Not like the last sex scandal we had in the papers. Monica just wasn’t the shizz…

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