Let Them Eat (Starbucks’ Coffee) Cake

A couple of older billionaire white dudes have been shooting off their mouths. One of them is partially clued in. The other one apparently lives on a different planet where the sky is a groovy coffee-colored plaid.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir when I point out these facts:

The links above include scolding by financial experts who say Americans need to do a better job of saving. But…

Don’t get me started on what college tuition and subsequent debt does to Americans’ ability to save.

We all know that health care costs have not improved and remain the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S. even though more Americans have health insurance under ACA.

And rich older white dudes are completely, utterly, hopelessly out of touch about the financial facts of life for nearly half of Americans let alone the next 2-3 deciles.

Like Wilbur Ross — our Commerce Secretary who lied about his assets and clearly knows nothing about Americans’ daily commerce — struggled to comprehend why federal employees might need to use a food bank after missing a paycheck.

Just get a loan, Ross thinks. Sure, sure, banks give signature loans to people without any collateral let alone a source of income all the time. Come on, Wilbur: would you invest in a bank offering those kinds of terms to the average Joe/Josephine off the street?

And then there’s Trump, who thinks we can just ask the grocer to extend some credit for an unspecified period of time. Right — a nationwide grocery chain clearing 1-3% a year in profits can afford to extend credit.

So goddamned clueless he is. I’m only surprised he didn’t tell furloughed federal workers he’d give them a 5% discount to play golf at one of his courses during their free time.

76-year-old billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who thinks he’s still young enough to run for president in 2020, trashed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal as “probably unconstitutional,” thereby revealing his brain’s atrophy. If taxing higher levels of income wasn’t unconstitutional under Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, then it probably isn’t unconstitutional.

And then Seattle coffee magnate Howard Schultz popped off at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’ proposals to increase marginal tax rates on the uber-wealthy, calling her “a bit misinformed” and her proposal “un-American.”

Except the U.S. had higher tax rates on the wealthy, for most of the 20th century. The country could afford to build more infrastructure; it built a successful public school system and went to the moon. How nice for Schultz that he could grow up and become a young entrepreneur in that economic environment.

(Put a pin in here for future reference, as a reminder that Schultz not only called AOC “un-American” but Sen. Kamala Harris, too. It’s as if he has a problem with women of color…)

Schultz thinks he has become a billionaire all on his own, as if the increasingly fascist political system with its active suppression of younger, marginalized citizens played no role in his wealth accumulation.

As if the last two decades of stagnant wages due to employment monopsony, repressive Federal Reserve policies, and the real estate market haven’t helped line his pockets by assuring low-wage workers get locked in and unable to move to better paying jobs.

Schultz has been able to accumulate massive amounts of wealth on the backs of people who aren’t being paid living wages, out of the wallets of those whose limited resources allows them to buy a coffee but not a house or health care. He’s rolling in a sea of cash because minimum wage workers are living in little more than indentured servitude.

You know what’s really un-American?

An ungrateful and narrow-minded billionaire white dude who doesn’t think living wages and health care for everyone are fair, who thinks that higher taxes after his first $50 million are theft.

A purveyor of luxury beverage products unable to grasp the unselfish commitment it will take to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for all the people.

At least Bloomberg sees the danger Schultz’s presidential candidacy poses to this country.

But Schultz isn’t in it for the country’s benefit. He’s in the race for himself. It’s clear he’s done the number crunching and determined that it’s cheaper to run for POTUS even if he were to cause Trump to win re-election. (I’ll bet he’s even figured out how to write off his exploratory trips around the country as a business expense.)

Because the campaign expenses are less than the cost to his personal wealth if he were taxed at a higher rate and if he were also forced to pay living wages to his workers.

What a pity Schultz hasn’t calculated how much more overpriced, excessively roasted coffee minimum wage workers can buy if they didn’t have to worry about health care expenses on top of their rent.


Treat this as an open thread.

197 replies
  1. fastenbulbous says:

    I don’t drink coffee so I’m always down for a Starbucks boycott.
    It’s past time to take more money from the rich. They should give back before it’s taken willy nilly….

    • Rick Howe says:

      Yeah, my 1st thought as well, boycott.  I live in a borough that reliably votes Democrat, & we have a central Starbucks + a really annoying drive-thru!   Just stop buying their wares!  They will get the message.  There are multitudes of alternatives that are good.

      • Rayne says:

        Welcome back to emptywheel, it’s been quite awhile. Your last comments were under ‘RHowe’; please use the same username each time so community members get to know you. Thanks!

  2. Tom says:

    I’ve only ever been to a Starbucks once when I had a coupon for a free spiced apple cider.   I find the atmosphere and “branding” way too lah-di-dah and I can’t see spending almost five bucks Canadian for a friggin’ “cof o’ cuppee”, as my grandmother used to say. Wasn’t there some blind taste test a few years ago where people said they preferred McDonalds coffee over Starbucks?

    • Rayne says:

      I don’t buy Starbucks, rarely McDonald’s. I may buy the latter when I’m on a road trip. I suspect the appeal of Starbucks over McDonald’s is its former cachet which is now wearing thin due to ubiquity.

      All I know based on a business case study I did is that I’m not paying dollars plural for $0.50 of coffee, paper, labor when I can simply carry a thermos.

        • Pat says:

          We have this amazing device in our kitchen.  It’s called a “coffee maker.”  We can have coffee in the morning without even getting dressed.

          • Tom says:

            A few weeks ago I read a report stating that, due to global warming, many popular varieties of coffee plant will likely go extinct in the next few decades.   So there you go, problem solved!

        • jaywalker44 says:

          Starbucks selects its locations when it can near successful small independent coffee shops that have proven the site.  They put in a Starbucks across the street and drive them out of business.

          • Rayne says:

            Predatory capitalism. Mooching off other’s proven success so as to avoid the expense of data collection, analysis, and individual store business case development.

          • Tracy Lynn says:

            Yep. That happened in our neighborhood, except that the Starbucks didn’t survive all that long, maybe 18 months to 2 years. Once it left the spot, a small local coffee/breakfast place moved in and has been there about 4 years now. Coffee’s better, too.

        • P J Evans says:

          Once upon a time, we had an independent – or at least very-small-chain – coffee place in the building where I worked.

          It got bought by Schultz’s company. (That was back when they still could have local specialty products.)

          • William Bennett says:

            One their earliest victims when they moved to the E. Coast was Coffee Connection in Harvard Square. Connection had a truly impressive range of beans, and they weren’t on a mission to convince the world that burned coffee was a desirable flavor.

  3. BobCon says:

    Dave Weigel at the Washington Post, among others, endlessly delights in pointing out that these people have no clue how much popular support there is for taxing billionaires. They still think it is 20 years ago. The GOP realized last year that running on the GOP tax cuts was a nonstarter, and I suspect they are wishing the billionaires would shut up and let them gin up their next racist campaign in peace.

  4. Alan says:

    > Bloomberg … trashed Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal as “probably unconstitutional,” thereby revealing his brain’s atrophy. If taxing higher levels of income wasn’t unconstitutional under Hoover, Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Carter, then it probably isn’t unconstitutional.

    FYI, as far as I understand it, Warren’s asset tax would not be the same as an income tax.  Some people believe it would be a “direct tax” under the Constitution (Article I, Section 9, Clause 3) and would have to be apportioned to the states according to population.  The Supreme Court opinion in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Company, 157 U.S. 429 (1895), would seem to indicate they are correct.  To quote the opinion:

    First. We adhere to the opinion already announced—that, taxes on real estate being indisputably direct taxes, taxes on the rents or income of real estate are equally direct taxes.

    Second. We are of opinion that taxes on personal property, or on the income of personal property, are likewise direct taxes.

    Third. The tax imposed by sections 27 to 37, inclusive, of the act of 1894, so far as it falls on the income of real estate, and of personal property, being a direct tax, within the meaning of the constitution, and therefore unconstitutional and void, because not apportioned according to representation, all those sections, constituting one entire scheme of taxation, are necessarily invalid.

    • Rayne says:

      Capital acquired from profits = accrued income.

      I have a suspicion Mr. Schultz is going to lose some income any way we look at it.

      • Arianity says:

        That’s still an income tax, not what Warren is proposing. Warren’s wealth tax doesn’t only trigger on income (capital or otherwise), it’s based on wealth. If someone does nothing for a year, if their total wealth is over the threshold, they would still get taxed.

        The distinction matters because an income tax wouldn’t do anything to reduce the currently wealthy (although you could probably target most of it with inheritance taxes). It also causes different incentives on spending it after it’s earned (can’t sit on it), and it’s different (not sure if harder or easier) as far as structuring to avoid the IRS.

        Both are good, but the distinction does matter. A wealth tax helps to cover some gaps that an income tax wouldn’t, but constitutionally it’s trickier than just using a big income tax.

        • Rayne says:

          Aim small, miss small. We’re talking the 1% who manage to move their wealth offshore readily because they can afford the accountants and the financial vehicles to do so.

          If Warren thinks she can aim at the 1% and nail them, on capital which isn’t accrued income as well as that from income, I say go for it. I feel confident she can make the case the public has been denied property which should have been theirs and not private property; only need to look at the surplus the U.S. had been working toward until Bush became president and pissed it away.

          • pdaly says:

            Good point. Hoping Elizabeth Warren can do just that.

            Would like Aaron Sorkin to have a West Wing reunion episode and have Sam Seaborn revisit his soliloquy about the 1% already paying their fare share.
            Several Progressive Caucus members are at the White House in a meeting with Sam Seaborn. They hope, in vain, to have him add to the President’s upcoming speech a line about the rich looking for tax cuts to buy ‘faster jets and larger swimming pools.’  
            Excerpt from the West Wing episode “The Fall’s Going to Kill You”:

            Henry, last fall, every time your boss got on the stump and said, “It’s time for the rich to pay their fair share,” I hid under a couch and changed my name. I left Gage Whitney making $400,000 a year, which means I paid twenty-seven times the national average in income tax. I paid my fair share, and the fair share of 26 other people. And I’m happy to ‘cause that’s the only way it’s gonna work, and it’s in my best interest that everybody be able to go to schools and drive on roads, but I don’t get 27 votes on Election Day. The fire department doesn’t come to my house 27 times faster and the water doesn’t come out of my faucet 27 times hotter. The top one percent of wage earners in this country pay for 22 percent of this country. Let’s not call them names while they’re doing it, is all I’m saying.  
            You’re not using the line?  
            Or anything like it?  
            No. And I hope you’ll make it clear to your people that this has nothing to do with diluting our position or cozying up to Republicans.  
            HENRY [sarcastically] 
            No, why would they think that?

          • Mona Williams says:

            Piketty has a good discussion of the wealth tax toward the end of “Capital in the Twenty-first Century.” I believe it is his #1 proposal to address inequality, due in part to the differential between increase in the rate of return and economic growth. He does not minimize the difficulties involved. The tax would have to be global, to avoid offshore dumping. There would also have to be international agreement on transparency in reporting assets to tax authorities. Like Warren, he proposes a low rate, since the tax would be collected annually.

            • Rayne says:

              Yup, we need to tackle r>g head on by taking a bigger chunk of r and legislating away the influence of r’s accumulating power.

              H.R. 1 is one of those steps, reducing political power concentrated corruptly over the last couple decades on behalf of wealthy campaign donors.

              Good luck with a global tax. We should start by discouraging offshoring assets while developing incentives to re-home them.

            • BobCon says:

              I’m not a constitutional scholar, but my understanding is that a wealth tax doesn’t have a clear case against it from a constitutional perspective — although I have to admit the current Supreme Court would kill it in a second.


              I think as much as anything Warren and AOC are making a deliberate attempt to push back against years of Overton Window work by the GOP. They’ve moved the framing of tax issues so far to the right that reasonable tax policy is now seen as radical by the press.

              Warren and AOC want to get us back to a world where reasonable tax rates on the rich, elimination of corporate tax deductions, and significant estate taxes are no longer nonstarters.

  5. Tom says:

    The last few weeks have shown that it is the career politician with knowledge and experience in handling the levers of government who can really get things done, not the wealthy entrepreneur who poses as an outsider and thinks the country should be run more “like a business.”

  6. Tech Support says:

    Full disclosure: I can almost walk to Starbucks HQ from where I am now. I’ve got family who were back office careerists there. My daughter baristas for them right now. Within the category of “national retail food service chains” Starbucks has what seems like one the most labor-friendly regimes around, both in terms of compensation/benefits and workplace policies. Yeah that’s a low bar to jump over but I think it’s worth mentioning.

    All that said, Schultz has a very poor reputation among the locals up here. Aside from creating a grudge with many Seattleites by selling the Sonics to Clay “I’d NEVER relocate them to OKC” Bennett, that ridiculously tone deaf and awkward “Race Together” initiative (https://stories.starbucks.com/stories/2015/race-together-conversation-has-the-power-to-change-hearts-and-minds/) goes a long way to convey how his wealth and ego are way out in front of his ability to perceive how the world actually works.

    Since he has experience with embarrassingly walking stuff back after he falls flat on doing ANYTHING other than growing retail operations, I look forward to his earlier-than-he-could-have-expected withdrawal from the 2020 campaign.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Howard is far more talented than Don Trump; he really did earn his billions – on the backs of lowly paid baristas – having started from nothing.  The Don was a millionaire about the time he entered grade school.  But Howard sometimes matches Trump in how easily he becomes bored.  His sale of the Sonics is a good example.  More generally, he has the CEO personality: high-energy, narcissistic, top down manager, where disagreeing with the boss is a court martial offense.  Added to that is his not quite Trumpian level of localism and xenophobia, notwithstanding his former company’s global (and tax-avoiding) presence.

      And, yea, American retailers set the bar for employee treatment so low that Howard’s former company exceeded them.  It was also a price he had to pay to stay in high-growth, union-conscious Seattle.

  7. Rayne says:

    Oh superb question!

    Alexandra Petri @petridishes

    why doesn’t Howard Schultz just try to go to space like a regular billionaire


    Is it just me or does this sound like somebody is getting cold feet?

    Sahil Kapur @sahilkapur

    New: @HowardSchultz may not decide on a presidential run until “summer or fall,” his political adviser Bill Burton tells me.


    • harpie says:

      ha! Maybe he read this post!

      nycsouthpaw noted:

      Watching a CNN segment on @jaketapper’s show that characterizes Schultz and Bloomberg as the “moderate wing” of the Democratic Party while highlighting those two billionaires’ opposition to M4A and it’s literally false and insane.

      Max Kennerly replied:

      Polls just this month show 59% of registered voters agree with raising the top marginal rate to 70%, and 71% want to “guarantee health insurance as a right for all Americans.” Schultz and Bloomberg are not “moderate” among voters, much less among Dems. They are “conservative.”

      …not sure I can take another election where the media behaves like this.

      • Rayne says:

        Yup. Kennerly is spot on. Health care for all is the great unfinished business as Teddy Kennedy said back in 1980, yes? It’s a core belief for Democrats.

        Schultz also isn’t keen on Social Security. Oh hell no. No Democrat will mess with Social Security except to improve its funding. Schultz is no Democrat.

  8. P J Evans says:

    @BobCon January 29, 2019 at 5:15 pm
    The GOP-T may have realized that, but they’re sure not acting like it. They’re now going in for repealing estate taxes, because in their mental universe everyone who has to pay them goes broke – and they think that having $2million in personal property means your estate shouldn’t be subject to that tax. (Cue the sob stories about family farms going broke.)

    I want multi-millionaires to have to pay 50% to 90% on that excessive income they think they have to have.

    • BobCon says:

      Oh, they’ll still try to sneak in as much grift as they can. But the ones who have to run for office are getting nervous that taxes and health care are turning into losers on the election trail, and it’s getting harder to scare Democrats from talking about them.

      One annoying thing about Schultz is how he is bringing out the implicit bias of the media against taxing the rich and in favor of austerity. They are reflexively taking his side despite years of insisting that they stand for facts and balance. They are dopes when it comes to economics, but they think anything that corrects decades of failed supply side economics is impossible.

  9. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Perfect topic. Schultz and Bloomberg, each in his own way… Rome, by all means, Rome. Uh, no, that was the young Audrey Hepburn.

    Bloomberg and Schultz perfectly illustrate the self-serving perspective captured in a scene from the Good Shepherd: Matt Damon, playing a version of James Jesus Angleton, wants a mafia don, played by Joe Pesci, to help him topple Castro. Before responding, yes, Pesci waxes about what’s important to American immigrants like those from Italy. In a word, family. He asks Damon’s character, a hard-right Mexican-American yet establishment wasp from Yale, what “his people” have: “The United States of America. The rest of you are just visiting.”

    The CEOs have the United States of America. The rest of America is just visiting. Schultz does have the ego and the superficial bonhomie of the perfect CEO from central casting. All of America is his to command, as if it were a team of baristas from Brooklyn. Paying homage without knowing it to the old GM slogan, what’s good for Howard is good for America, what’s good for America is good for Howard. Like John Foster Dulles, he can’t distinguish between his needs and his country’s.

    We don’t need another president with those priorities. But since Howard is already attacking AOC as if she were demanding that he sell real pastry and a cup of coffee for less than a dollar, he’s likely to crash and burn before the coffee turns cold.

  10. Rusharuse says:

    Staff canteen – flat white, four sugars. You can’t always get what you want, but sometimes . . .

    2020 vision
    *Koala Harris for potus!
    *Cute furry marsupial, very sharp talons and teeth, known to urinate on predadors.

    • Rayne says:

      I would be very careful about linking a political campaign of a woman of color with any animal, even if cute and furry.

      ~side eyeing you~

        • Rayne says:

          Which part? That the U.S. patriarchy — which is white, in case you didn’t notice — insists on maintaining control by flapping its gums whenever it feels threatened?

          You know where the exit is if you don’t like it.

          • Rayne says:

            I’d be more than willing to call them assholes prefaced by any number of colorful modifiers casting doubt on their intelligence and mental competence.

  11. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Given how often of late your keyboard has had coffee sprayed on it, great title and pic.

    And that Strbck’s coffee cake comes from a central warehouse miles and days away from most stores.  Lord knows where and how it’s made before it ends up at that warehouse.  But it’s a safe bet, as is true of the McDonald’s french fry, that little in it is perishable.  Once upon a time, before the MBAs and food engineers got to it, the pastries were tasty and almost fresh.  But never let quality get in the way of profit.

    • SteveR says:

      Thanks, Rayne.  Consider including a link to one of the many decent articles unpacking the lies Wilbur told about his net worth (and the economic benefits he derived from telling them).  It’s a “great” and revealing story in its own right that has implications beyond his misadventures.

      • Rayne says:

        I hope to gods Ross is also in the SCO’s sights especially with regard to his Cypriot bank role. There has to be a reason that lying old shitgibbon was nominated to Commerce besides his work allowing Trump to keep his casinos back in the day; Trump isn’t loyal to anybody.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Howard’s concern for racial justice, for example, does not seem to have moved too far down the food chain.  How many people of color have his former employees reported to the police in the last year for being, well, people of color.

      As Paul sez at the end, he fact-checked one thing from Howard’s bio and it was false. What are the odds he found the only mistake?

      Howard was not recruited to play college football, as he claimed in his bio, and he did not get a scholarship as a walk-on.  He paid his way through college through work and student loans.  In the early 1970s, you could do that easily.  Now, you end up with overpriced student loans the size of a hefty mortgage, and they’re not dischargeable in bankruptcy.

      If Howard were serious about his candidacy, he would point that out and fight to reverse it.  Instead, he says it can’t be done (and we shouldn’t try) – at least not without changing government’s priorities from those of billionaires like Howard to those of people like AOC.

    • Anon says:

      Yes, and when you read things like this:

      At 65, Schultz lived through this history. But he’s previously written that Vietnam didn’t bother him much: “Those were mostly fun years, a time with little responsibility,” Schultz wrote in a 1999 memoir. “With a draft number of 332, I didn’t have to worry about going to Vietnam.” (ht https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/howard-schultz-silent-majority-785679/)

      You figure that any mild oppo will tear him apart.

      • P J Evans says:

        IIRC, my brother ended up with a high-ish number – but he’d already fought his draft board into a CO classification. Which is quite genuine – his field of work is plants, and when my mother died, he donated the two pre-Civil War rifles my father had left him to a museum, rather than have them – even unloaded and not really safe to fire – in his house.

  12. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Howard pretty much deserves whatever he gets for stepping into politics.  It is a contact sport.  But I think he’s jumped in so early that the fear that he will be a Nader-like spoiler come autumn of 2020 is the MSM shoehorning Schultz into their standard horse race framework.  He’s unlikely to be around half that long.

    One reason is that his timing demonstrates his political obtuseness.  The Dems are on a post-election high, which they might be able to extend once the House begins street smart oversight hearings of the kind that the GOP has run away from since the days of Newt Gingrich.  Part of that Dem roll is built on the superb success of women candidates generally, and women of color most dramatically.

    Howard has come out of the blocks attacking them, claiming they are moving the Dems too far left.  I’m pretty sure opinion polls show that both parties are more conservative than Main Street Americans, who largely want what they’ve always wanted: homes, jobs, education, and health care they can afford.  Howard represents high-priced caffeine and sugar addiction for [his] fun and profit.  He is unabashedly promoting economic policies that are good for a multi-millionaire’s bottom line.

    Howard should give up on the Ross Perot, Ralph Nader independent gig and go all out Republican.  Unlike Sanders on the left, Howard would fit right in with the Wilbur Rosses, the Kochs and Mercers.

    • FarmerNed says:

      Agreed, regarding MSM. There is no reason to automatically assume Schultz would/will be a spoiler that will automatically sour a progressive win, especially with the stupid smack Schultz is spitting.

      From the WaPo article below:

      “As any political scientist will quickly point out, though, “independent” isn’t always truly independent, and most of these voters clearly favor one party over another. The same Gallup data show that 12 percent of voters — about one-third of all independents — don’t lean toward one party or another. Fully 88 percent of voters have a home base on one side or the other.”

      “Many of them are completely reliable voters — especially on the right, where the desire to label oneself “independent” is stronger than it is on the left. This consistently leads to more Americans identifying with Democrats rather than Republicans, even though the two parties generally split the vote pretty evenly.”


      So, the so-called independents (leaning or not) who will pull the handle for Sergeant Howard Schultz (I know nothing! I see nothing!) are conservative (like zee Germans).

  13. Savage Librarian says:

    Rayne, that was brilliant and downright inspirational. Dare I say to some contributors on this blog, “Wake up and smell the Kafka-ee”

    Of course I know this is not true, but sometimes the tone of some remarks on this blog feel like they have been taken hostage by incels.

    Just like DNA superseded RNA because it was more flexible and accommodating, Democrats need to remain true blue to retain advantage.

    This may be magical thinking on my part, but I keep getting this intuitive sense that DNA is on the cusp of morphing into something more spectacular.

    That’s why we have such a big responsibility to treat others with dignity. Our reward in that is that it grows hope. And that is the real magic. Just look at AOC.

  14. Eureka says:

    I very much enjoyed how you rolled the facts into a cadence, and then-

    You know what’s really un-American?

    An ungrateful and narrow-minded billionaire white dude who doesn’t think living wages and health care for everyone are fair, who thinks that higher taxes after his first $50 million are theft.

    A purveyor of luxury beverage products unable to grasp the unselfish commitment it will take to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty for all the people.

    YES! Sing it!

    And then reading through the comments I am reminded and annoyed anew at the decorative-dot-gov plastic water bottles and coasters SJC and others use, at our literal expense and impending expiration.  It’s yet another form of homogenized corporate aesthetic as normative, pure, clean, and right:  we can’t have variability, personal idiosyncrasies, unclean mixed-appearance drink containers on display.  Of course Schultz fits that sanitized neoliberal imagery well.

    It’s the small stuff that counts, and the small stuff that scales.  Bring your own water container or thermos.

    • Rayne says:

      One thing that really disturbs me, the kind of thing that makes me worry deep into the wee hours? Microplastic pollution.

      It’s in everything; we can’t drink a beer in the Great Lakes, the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, without consuming microplastics. We are looking at a ticking time bomb, an unrecognized toxin which will screw up our health around the globe. I see all manner of new studies finding biological agents like HSV-1 and porphyromonas gingivalis may be the cause of neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s because they cross the blood-brain barrier — and geez, so can microplastics. It’s flooded our environment so recently that we haven’t yet seen its cumulative impact on humans.

      Billionaires made a shit-ton of money relying on plastics — like the low-density polyethylene lining inside a paper coffee cup and the polystyrene lid on top — which in turn came from oil, demanding even greater contributions from the public in the form of military protection and environmental cleanup.

      These billionaires can pay the true cost of the damage they’ve caused — the geopolitical and environmental damage — as well as pay forward against the nightmare damage to come. Hello, microplastics and climate change.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Here’s something to ease your mind a little. And other innovative approaches are being sought, too.

        “The team of scientists originally began running tests to see how the bacterium, Ideonella sakaiensis, managed to produce an enzyme capable of degrading PET. Those tests, it turned out, inadvertantly made the enzyme, PETase, even better at degrading PET. The resulting mutant PETase now takes just a few days to break down PET, compared to the 450 years it takes for the stuff to degrade naturally.

        • Rayne says:

          Great, it’s a start. Not going to help the stuff deep in the environment. I just hope we can assess and deter its affects on children and young adults within the next decade; it’s probably too late for us.

            • Eureka says:

              Not trying to be a negative nelly on this, but just bear in mind that whether in the water, or in us (where we also have abundant  microflora running the show, far beyond the gut/skin*), introducing any species will change the microenvironment, and in unpredictable ways that often include undesirable effects.

              *Also I am not being a symbiont determinist- far from it, as this is about contexts- but e.g. bacterial genetics come to mind because their populations evolve so quickly (even- or maybe especially- in the presence of a ‘neutered’ visitor).

      • Eureka says:

        The microplastics terrify me too, Rayne.  They’re in the fish, us… it’s a global body burden.  I think about it often when I see laundry lint, because it’s a remnant of what didn’t get sent to the aquifers via the wash cycle (with ubiquitous microfleece products and certain outdoor gear, underlayers, some more common fabrics, etc being another route of environmental spoilage).

        Years ago, I had an ‘idea’ (thought experiment) for a ‘reality TV show’ in the style of all those home shows.  Color-film an entire room of someone’s home and then turn the photography to black wherever there’s a petroleum-based product.  Even hardwoods are usually sealed in a derivative.  Very expensive, complicated, and rare these days to have the true ‘green’ home.

        Anyway, such a show wouldn’t sell, even if done in grayscale degrees:  there’d be virtually no suspense from episode to episode, because the entire room would be blackened with oil.  Though now that I think if it again, maybe something like that could be done in an educative way— but then it would never make the air because, “interests.”

      • Eureka says:

        Also on the topic of microplastics and body burdens, I have to wonder to what degree such water- and ‘body-lodge-able’ plastics sources might be emitting any remnant plasticizers (like the phthalates found in breast milk, various body sera/tissues).

        (Pausing to look this up)  Of course yes:

        Occurrences of organophosphorus esters and phthalates in the microplastics from the coastal beaches in north China – ScienceDirect

        Anyway, I bring up the plasticizers because back in the late 90s/early aughts, animal studies began to accumulate re the developmental impacts of same, with e.g. rats (I believe it was) showing *reduced ano-genital distance* upon birth.  “Reduced anogenital distance” was being used as a marker for fucked-up man junk, attendant impaired fertility, etc.  As I recall it, the American Chemical Society got on that shit real quick with some research and talking points to dispute said findings.  But correlations were found in human male infants as well, e.g.: Decrease in Anogenital Distance among Male Infants with Prenatal Phthalate Exposure.  (Mal-impacts are not limited to males:  I was just making the pragmatic argument re:  what got ‘peoples” attention.)
        Of course decade(s) later these information wars wage on, but there are enough data that (I think) there is public awareness of the dangers.  Well, more likely these things are known as ‘bad’ but maybe not in all their specific glories.

        PHTHALATES AND HUMAN HEALTH- unbreak the link below- is a classic review, with plenty of newer content in the sidebars
        https: //www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1740925/

        • Tech Support says:

          I have a pretty well practiced rant at this point about the implications of the biological growth curve on human civilization. It typically ends with some form of “we don’t have to worry about the birth rate as long as we don’t mind the death rate eventually catching up and enforcing equilibrium.”

          The point of the rant is to argue for policies that drive a sustainable, global baseline of wealth and education since first world nations have largely shown it to be effective for curbing population growth, intentionally or otherwise.

          But hey, microplastics can help attack that equation on both ends apparently!

          • Rayne says:

            Universal education, access to family planning, reduced child mortality, access to work opportunities make a big difference in birth rates and sustainable growth as well as economic justice.

            Add national policies ensuring gender equity in political process. When educated women learn their breast milk is contaminated and may affect their infants, it’d be nice if they had the political power to change the outcomes.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            “Policies that drive a sustainable, global baseline of wealth and education,” might sound more persuasive in French or Swiss German, but I doubt it.

            There is a first world because there is a third; there is a third world because there is a first.  A “global baseline” of wealth distribution is likely to more effective in promoting change.  Your suggestion seems more suited to avoiding it.

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, Eureka,

      Just what the doctor ordered. I needed that!

      Appreciate all your tips and contributions. Very helpful!

  15. P J Evans says:

    @Eureka January 29, 2019 at 7:33 pm
    Hell, they could buy cases and pallets from Costco like many businesses do. (The company I worked at did that for the bottled water they handed out for various things from meetings to the full-building evac drill, where we needed the water after an hour or so outside. It certainly was Good Enough for that Fortune-500 company, so it shouldn’t be bad for Congress. Let people see them drinking Kirkland like rest of us.)

    • Eureka says:

      I agree PJ, it’s a layered issue with layered solutions.  Ideally they bring their own containers and fill ’em their damn selves (ok, fine, junior staff does it).  For circumstances of modern life ‘requiring’ provided bottled water they can use cheap no-name stuff like us plebs or something with no labels (junior staff can cut them off!).  The vanity-labeling-  and attendant homogeneity, and their televised modeling of the whole thing-  bothers me (can you tell, lol). In my view, they are escalating a problem (well, lots of problems if you count the symbolic aspects) that they are charged to repair.

      Also, in general, I am not trying to plastic (bottle) shame anyone.  I understand they are impossible to avoid at this point- along with other petroleum products.  But given our known (and impending, as Rayne writes) health crises and global deathspiral from petroleum products, our elected officials must do better on this.  Small things add up.

  16. Kokuanani says:

    Every time one of these entitled, out-to-lunch billionaires spouts off, he [it’s always a “he,” unless Meg Whitman or Carly Fiorina jumps in] bolsters the argument for taxing the hell out of all of them.

    Keep on talking, you weasels.

    • Rayne says:

      I looked for a list of U.S. women billionaires. Fiorina isn’t on the list and it’s current through today. Whitman is on the list but she’s only #37 out of 77 total, and a piddling one with only $3.2B today.

      77 American women are worth a total $355 billion combined, and we only hear from one of them regularly in national political circles.

      All we hear from are men. Keep talking, weasels.

      (I have to laugh because I just discovered the woman who created Spanx is a billionaire now. LOL)

        • Rayne says:

          Come on, bmax. You know she’s not a billionaire until the assets are distributed. They’re probably tied up in a bunch of on and offshore tax shelters.

          • bmaz says:

            Oh no, I bet she knows where most of it is, and will get half. By the way, Lauren Sanchez worked here at a local TV station at one point. Interesting where she has ended up.

            • Rayne says:

              I wonder, since MacKenzie Tuttle Bezos isn’t on this list, how many other hidden female American billionaires there might be?

              Martha Stewart’s not on the list; she was worth north of $600M in 2011, have a hard time believing she couldn’t crack the $1B mark by now (actually surprised she didn’t crack the list a decade ago). Wonder if she’s been transferring assets to her daughter…

      • BobCon says:

        A year ago some people were trying really, really hard to make the case that the Democrats were going to run a billionaire woman.

        Oprah was too smart to fall for that, though. I’m sure she’ll still have things to say over the next couple of years.

        • Rayne says:

          When you hear people talking up Oprah as a candidate, dig deeper — but carefully.

          I published a post a while back about a drive to recruit Oprah to run. It looked like an information gathering operation to me. Oprah has since said she wasn’t running. I suspect the “recruiting” operation was intended to determine the level of support for a woman of color as a 2020 candidate; I would not be one bit surprised if the information gathered will be used against the foolish participants who provided personal information to poison them against any candidate who is female or a person of color.

  17. Tom says:

    @ PJ Evans above at 8:46 pm There’s an old episode of “Leave it to Beaver” where Theodore (Beaver) is ridiculed for trying to sell bottles of water because, after all, who’s going to be dumb enough to pay for water? Of course, nowadays we do so without batting an eye, and the really weird thing is that bottled water is often more expensive than gasoline! At least here in eastern Ontario.

  18. Anon says:

    (I’ll bet he’s even figured out how to write off his exploratory trips around the country as a business expense.)

    Well he is selling a book after all.  In part I wonder if this is just marketing for that, or if it started that way, and if he is now on a roll.  After all if Cheryl Sandberg thinks that she gets the plight of lower income women and fixed feminism with her slogan, why can’t he be equally out of touch?

    • Rayne says:

      Oh yeah, the book…that’d be the perfect vehicle, offsetting income from the book with travel expenses. Meanwhile doing an exploratory tour.


      • Anon says:

        Well the first time Trump ran it was basically a book tour.  Perhaps Schultz is really out to copy his playbook.

  19. Anon says:

    On a different note, this is a great post but I think that the blindness goes further than the billionaires.  On NPR today they interviewed one of the Republican members of the bipartisan committee to prevent another sh*tdown.  In an unusually blunt question for them he was asked what he would say to the coast guard members and NASA members and the low-wage contractors in his district who lost pay, many of whom will never get it back.  He replied:

    “Thank you for your sacrifice.”

    I’m not sure if he meant that he viewed their suffering as some sort of noble deed like storming the battlements, or that he was genuinely thankful that they suffered.  Either way it sounded particularly out of touch coming from someone who is in congress and could, you know, have voted to prevent it or be voting now to restore contract pay, or give free credit, or basically anything but no:

    “Thank you for your sacrifice”

    If it were me, if I were one of his constituents, I’d feel like I had been spat upon and he expected to be lauded for it.

    • Rayne says:

      We know the blindness to the average Americans’ condition goes beyond billionaires.

      But who *owns* these miserable wastes of human flesh masquerading as conservatives?


      • Anon says:

        Fair point.  I guess I half expected someone closer to his constituents to at least be better about hiding it.

    • Tech Support says:

      NPR has gotten substantially more aggressive in their interviewing style since Nov. 2016. They seem to apply it in a fairly even-handed fashion, so I think it’s a positive thing overall but sometimes the interviewers get noticeably salty when they get evasive or otherwise unproductive answers. I’m all in favor of the pointed follow-up question, but the audible eye-rolling? Not so much.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        You must listen to a different NPR.  Take a recent interview about the death of a 92-year old Korean woman.  She had spent decades seeking recognition and to recover compensation for the women Japan forced into prostitution during WWII.

        The woman interviewer for NPR hemmed and hawed before saying that the Korean women were forced to “be with” as many as fifteen soldiers a day, as many as fifty on weekends. 

        Amy Goodman, for example, probably would have been more informative: “Thousands of women were taken from their families, forced into prostitution, and, to avoid punishment or death, were required to have sex with….”

        When it comes to news, euphemism is not the viewer or listener’s friend.

  20. P J Evans says:

    A lot of places I go don’t have water fountains, or else you have to pay for it (and the cup/bottle). I recycle plastic bottles, at least the sturdier ones, with tap water. (The bottles Howard’s company uses are among those sturdier ones that get reused.) And living in an area where it can hit 90F in any month, and the humidity tends to be well below 50% most of the time, bottled water, even if it’s just tap water, is a necessity when you’re out doing stuff.

  21. Richard Grant says:

    Except for the “if he were also forced to pay living wages to his workers.” because Howard Schultz went from Starbucks CEO to executive chairman in April 2017 and retired as executive chairman in June 2018.
    And except for the “if they didn’t have to worry about health care expenses on top of their rent.” because “Total Rewards – Your Special Blend October 20186 MEDICAL, DENTAL AND VISION COVERAGE Starbucks offers partners the choice of multiple coverage levels for medical, dental and vision coverage, provided by leading national and regional insurance carriers. Coverage levels, carriers and price are based on where a partner lives. MEDICAL Our medical plans include coverage for hospitalization, office visits, lab texts and x-rays, emergency care, prescription drugs, and mental health and chemical dependency treatment. Coverage of transgender surgery, ABA autism therapy, acupuncture and chiropractic care is also included in our plans.DENTAL Our plans cover preventive, basic and major services, as well as orthodontia.VISION Our plans cover eye exams, lenses, frames and contacts.” https://globalassets.starbucks.com/assets/C0365B376AED41F5A1DCEC519EB35DEF.pdf

    • Rayne says:

      Oh how nice…how long has all that been available to Starbucks workers, Mr. Starbucks PR? Before or after Schultz made his first billion? Before or after Starbucks had problems competing for low-wage workers?

      And why can’t *all* Americans have that same level of benefits at a minimum?

      And you’re going to tell me that nobody on Starbucks’ board of directors will pay any heed at all to Schultz if he popped in his two cents on management?

      You’re going to tell me Schultz doesn’t still participate in Starbucks’ Management Deferred Compensation Plan? That he’s not benefiting from deferred tax assets? Or deferred liabilities like rent from business facilities? Or use of a leased corporate aircraft?

      Meanwhile, none of Starbucks’ entry-level baristas can afford rent on the average local one-bedroom apartment in the U.S.
      Example: $11.27/hour for a part-time barista working no more than 20 hours a week in Hanover NH. A tiny one-bedroom apartment runs between $750-950/month, no idea if that includes heat/lights/water (probably not). But they have access to a health care insurance plan on whatever is left of their paycheck!

      • Tech Support says:

        You’re not wrong. The benefits described by the prior commenter along with all the other benefits that are atypical for foodservice work does not compensate for the fact that in the vast majority of situations, a retail Starbucks job does not provide a living wage.

        I can’t speak for @Richard Grant, but I know that for myself acknowledging how Starbucks compares to it’s industry competitors in terms of labor compensation is not an attempt to apologize for their participation in the gross wealth disparity in the US economy, but more of an attempt to prioritize what is ultimately a finite amount of bile to spew in a target rich environment.

        You said, way up at the top:

        I don’t buy Starbucks, rarely McDonald’s.

        From a social justice standpoint, the average Starbucks employee is better off than the average McDonald’s employee, full stop. If you’re going to tilt at a particular for-profit company’s windmills, or boycott their products or whatever, there are better targets.

        For me I’d argue that the best use of that energy is to push our elected representatives to prioritize a higher federal minimum wage and make other labor-friendly reforms. The fact that Schultz (bringing it back around) comes from retail and fails to discuss labor rights up front is IMHO the most glaring indictment of his beliefs and motivations. Even if he took completely hypocritical positions it would still be better than oblivious silence.

        • Rayne says:

          If you’re going to tilt at a particular for-profit company’s windmills, or boycott their products or whatever, there are better targets.

          Did you miss the part where the billionaire former CEO of Starbucks is thinking about running for the presidency and he doesn’t believe in Medicare for All?

          Fuck off with the tilting at generalized windmills. This one was goddamned specific for a reason.

          And this post made the point that workers don’t make a living wage, or did you miss that, too, in your haste to police what I’m writing here?

          • Tech Support says:

            If you want to characterize my fairly narrow and specific disagreement with your positions as “policing” your speech then you’re welcome to do so. Clearly I’m as incapable of policing that as I am anything else you (or anyone else here) chooses to say.

            My point is that attacking Starbucks’s labor policies as a proxy to attacking Schultz’s beliefs and/or policies is (in my personal opinion) a flawed approach. There are far more egregious offenders that could be cited. It leaves you open to people concluding that you’re putting Starbucks on blast as much because of how you feel about the coffee you drink as you do about economic justice, even though this post is ultimately about the former Starbucks CEO.

            You’re welcome to piss all over that conclusion to your heart’s content. I promise you that my positions are never intended to (uselessly in this forum) constrain anyone else’s speech.

            • bmaz says:

              I’m not going to to sub in here. But you are now, and it looks like a potentially good one, member of a community that has been around for a very long time. The key players here on the front end have been around and together, in one form or another, for well over 12 years give or take.

              So, we reserve the right to piss wherever we want. You might ask yourself, what makes this comment section unique in this day and age? It is because we pay attention, and that is who we are. You are not going to walk in and change our ethos in less than two months and a few handfuls of comments. Sorry if this is a bummer to you.

              • Tech Support says:

                I’m out of my depth on a lot of the topics covered here. I’d have kept my mouth shut if not for the obvious value of the discourse and the hope that I might occasionally have something of value to offer.

                I have no interest in changing the ethos here but I’m pretty married to the one I brought with me which for better or for worse includes pedantry, unsolicited advice and bear poking. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Howard is a serious micro-manager who has only recently given up the reins, but not his stock positions, in his former company.  There’s not yet much daylight between him and it.  Nor are he or it are as progressive as their claims.

              Some of the criticism of his former company’s products and employment practices are about what it sells, how that differs from claims about it, and how much it charges for them.  Given the ubiquity of its stores, all are fair game.

  22. Tommy D Cosmology says:

    History needs to name and shame the likes of Nicolle Wallace and Steve Schmidt, who are severely lacking “mea” in their “culpas” while they denounce the Republican Party and move on to do … what?? Milquetoast commentary on MSNBC for the former and launching a billionaire indy presidential campaign for the latter. These shitheads brought us the lies of Bush’s Iraq war and the likes of Sarah Palin into our political sphere, paving the way for the backward-assed TEA-banging bigots and then the Trumpsters. Irreparable harm. No culpability.

  23. Rusharuse says:

    Consumer is King –

    As long as you want/buy/use:
    Bottled water
    Plastic bottles/cups/shopping bags
    Sugary/fatty/salty foods
    Fast cars
    Someone will make and sell em to you!

  24. Milton Wiltmellow says:

    A fine rant!

    These billionaire messiahs should try to live a week without their entitlement, their support staffs, their condescension and without the toadies they pay to have their egos polished.

    But it is wonderful to hear them whine in self-pity and cluelessness. Turns out their catering crews for the board meetings are all temps with nothing left to lose but a bit of spit in the salad dressing.

  25. Diviz says:

    This is very OT. Didn’t Marcy already post this? That Trump had a closed-door meeting at G20 with Putin, Putin’s translator, Melania, and no US staff? Isn’t that where Marcy suspects that  Trump may have coordinated Jr’s adoption cover story for the June 9th meeting?

    FT: Trump sat down with Putin at G20 without US note-taker

    Donald Trump sat down with Vladimir Putin for several minutes of conversation at the end of an evening event at the G20 summit in Buenos Aires in November, with no translator or note-taker from the US side to record the dialogue between the leaders, according to people who had direct knowledge of the encounter or were briefed on it.

    • Rayne says:

      Luxury can be denoted by price, not actual quality. Consumers have been trained to believe the higher price of beverages delivered by a particular brand connotes quality.

      For all we know the beans used by Starbucks and McDonald’s come from the same places but the brands have built expectations around their positioning and pricing.

      • P J Evans says:

        I’m pretty sure that neither Starbucks or McD’s actually own a bean supplier. They’d need one as big as any of the Big Name coffee roasters – Folger’s, MJB, one of those. I suspect that instead they buy the cheaper beans and over-roast them in hopes of hding that they’re not buying the good stuff.

        But I’m not a coffee drinker – it doesn’t agree with my innards. It does remind me of my grandmother’s story about why she didn’t drink coffee: when she was young (well before 1900) strong black (bitter) coffee was the delivery agent for medicines. That’s what that expensive cr*p is good for: delivering medicines. Preferably to Schultz and his buddies who think that the rich earned the services and privilege they expect the rest of us to provide.

      • Arj says:

        I must’ve missed the Consumer Training module – maybe I was at home making hot chocolate.  S’bucks will have to struggle on without me.

        • Rayne says:

          You’re talking to the woman who owns two electric, one microwave, and three stovetop espresso makers as well as two manual-pour and one electric drip coffeemakers. Oh, and a French press, as well as a dozen different whole bean, drip and espresso grind coffees in the freezer.

          I may have the wrong Consumer Training module installed.

          • Arj says:

            jasus.  You have ‘em all installed, by the sound of it.  I need a cup of tea now, to calm me down.  😳

            • Rayne says:

              LOL You would faint dead away if I opened my tea cupboard. Cupboards, I mean.

              I always have two pots of tea on the stove — one black, one green — and a selection of teapots at the ready since my BFFs have tastes for more frippery flavors of chai or Earl Grey (with or without lavender) or Irish or lapsong souchong or…

  26. Savage Librarian says:

    Here’s a thought- tying together economics, income inequality and education:

    1. Enable and multiply the creativity, determination and patriotism of the “Girls Who Code” and “Girls Can Code” communities.

    2. Challenge them to create a blockchain that would track, expose and tackle the dark money that weasels its way through the net.

    3. Challenge them to also create a blockchain that tracks, exposes and tackles the dark money permeating politics.

    4. Ditto with journalistic integrity.

    5. Finally, challenge them to find a way to tie these things together.

    • bmaz says:

      Jesus, enabling  bunch of young hacker punks to “track” economics, politics and journalism by “blockchain” sounds like one of the worst ideas in human history. No thanks.

    • Jockobadger says:

      Blockchain or Distributed Ledger Technology is a great thing, but it operates on consensus of the users.  I’m not sure how it might be used to “track” dark money because that’s the whole point of dark money – its source and end user want to remain as anonymous as possible.  They wouldn’t participate.  If we all suddenly switched to no-cash, 100 percent blockchain transactions on an enormous distributed network, that might limit/eliminate dark money.  Don’t see that happening too soon.  Nice thought though.

      OTOH, it should be a perfect tool for voting for a number of reasons:  transparency, permanence, timestamping, and blocks can’t be altered or removed once in the chain.  I’m far from expert, but have studied it a bit bc crypto intrigued me.  Cool tech.

      • Diviz says:

        I agree with Jockobadger. It would need to be a 100% blockchain economy (even into the informal economy–even barter, etc.) because money is fungible. That is, all of the dollars in a pot are the same; you cannot differentiate between this $1 and that $1. Money laundering would just migrate up to the parts of the economy that are off-blockchain and would remain “dark”.

      • Savage Librarian says:

        Secret code by DaVinci:


        And the Earth was flat until it was not.

        My grandfather had the 1st patent on the parking meter. Too bad he sold the prototype to a guy in a bar one night.

        Just because something is one thing doesn’t mean it can’t be something else.

        The mind is not in the brain. The brain is in the mind.

        Guess you never heard of thinking outside the box.

        But thanks for the mansplain, though.

        • Diviz says:

          So how would you get political contributing laundering not to migrate to the first node before the blockchain?

          • Jockobadger says:

            Thanks Savage L!  Some things for me to consider.  I appreciate it.  With respect, Diviz’ question is a good one.

            I’ll look up mansplaining, but I suspect it’s not particularly complimentary.  I replied to you downthread as well, but I do apologize if I offended.  Not my intent at all.   JB

    • Tech Support says:

      I’m going to roll my eyes every single time someone says “blockchain” until someone can math out for me how the long-term energy costs for any blockchain application can be justified relative to it’s social or economic value.

  27. Zinsky says:

    What these greedy, privileged white pricks don’t understand is that in societies where wealth is more evenly distributed, through rational, progressive taxation, the citizens up and down the income scale, are much happier.  This has been studied in great detail and found to be true.  Refer especially to <a href= https://www.amazon.com/Spirit-Level-Equality-Societies-Stronger/dp/1608193411/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1548851574&sr=1-1&keywords=the+spirit+level&gt; The Spirit Level</a>.  Sustained and ever-increasing inequality in a society leads to widespread discontent, unrest and eventually insurrection and revolution.  I would think Mr. Schultz would prefer paying a few more million in taxes than to be eventually swinging  by his neck from a light pole in the public square!

  28. Setlistthief says:

    As a long-time coffee connoisseur, Starbucks coffee pretty much sucks. (Heh, as if you all didn’t already know that).

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      I agree.  Oversold, over-roasted, mediocre beans and Italian sounding trademarked names, with too much sugar in everything but the plain coffee they’d rather not sell. If you want an unvarnished decaf, you have to wait while they drip-brew a single cup.  In the fast food business, that’s like saying, “Please don’t buy this here any more.”

      Like Borders, Strbcks once filled a niche and offered the possibility of something creative and novel.  For well over a decade, the food engineers and pricing predators have made its offerings much less desirable than the mythical experience they once promised.

  29. harpie says:


    FT: Donald and Melania Trump had a short and till now secret meeting w/ Putin at the G-20 w/ no US staff present. A Russian translator accompanied Putin.

    nycsouthpaw: Every time they’re near each other god damn

    Trump: “It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.”

    [Note: Laura Rozen retweeted 1] Beth Bryson who commented that Melania was at the meeting and

    2] Gary Armstrong who addded that both Putin and Melania speak German.]

  30. Grandma with a Memory says:

    @earlofhuntington 1/29 6:58pm

    “But I think he’s jumped in so early that the fear that he will be a Nader-like spoiler come autumn of 2020 is the MSM shoehorning Schultz into their standard horse race framework.”

    I just finished watching Morning Joe, and one of his regulars sputtered at Schultz: “Why are you undercutting Harris?” As if she were already the Democratic candidate before the primaries have even started.

    I went to MSNBC to see if I could match the talking head to a name, but he’s a contributor and not “the talent” at MSNBC. That’s what they call Rachel Maddow et al. – not journalists, but talent.
    At least it’s truth in advertising.

    • bmaz says:

      I saw Schultz’s appearance this morning. Screw that egotistical piece of platitudinal garbage. What a nightmare he is.

    • Trip says:

      Schultz is campaigning for Trump. His (fear and) attacks on AOC and other progressives makes it abundantly clear that he would rather tank the Democrats, bring Trump back, rather than allowing any change. He’s not so stupid that he actually believes he could win. His “I’ve always been a Democrat” is about as convincing as Alan Dershowitz’s same claim, while fluffing Trump. It’s just a form of providing cover for himself when he actually believes in oligarchical control.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      IMHO, this early in the game no one is the front-runner.  I wish the MSM would find another frame for its coverage than racing horses.  A handful of contenders are more probable long-term bets than the two or three dozen who will throw their hats in the ring, only to see them trampled on by reality and the odds.

      Harris and Schultz, like Schwarzenegger in California, have a temporary bump from name recognition.  It doesn’t mean they have what it takes to stay in it.  Schultz, for example, is too thin-skinned (among other debilities) to last long.  Harris is another matter.  I would prefer other candidates to her, but she would be head and shoulders above another CEO narcissist.

      As for CNN and MSNBC, they cast their “news” panels the way Hollywood does.  There’s no other excuse for having outrage buttons like Santorum opine about anything.  They seem particularly fond of pitting paid Republican spokespeople, with obvious axes to grind, biases, and clients to serve, against mid-stream Democratic voices, who seem bland – but raional – in comparison.  It’s an intentional mismatch: the Republicans give no ground, offer no rational debate, just paid talking points.  It’s Entertainment.  They should stop.

      • Trip says:

        Entertainment, yes. But Schultz (and others like him) also serve(s) as (an) ideological apparatus(es), especially for the CEOs and corporate owners of news chains. That’s why MSNBC and other ‘progressive’ MSM news outlets consistently have conservative never-Trumpers to be the “voice of reason” for conservative ‘values’, even though those people have contributed, in one way or another, to past horrible GOP administrations.

        Giving so much air time to Schultz works toward establishing, normalizing, or building consensus that his position is somehow the reasonable compromise to either party, in attempt to shift the Dems back to moderate conservatives. Either Schultz considered himself a blunt object for this project or someone else suggested this for him. It’s not about him winning. It’s about left-leaning concepts losing.

        Hopefully he is doing a shitty enough job at it, in being so blatantly obvious, that the majority of people see right through it. And hopefully, they recognize the excessive free campaign time Trump received was gravely unjust; the same for Schultz. After seeing him on 60 minutes, I refuse to waste another second watching.

        • Trip says:

          Steve Schmidt, prime example, just now. Lamenting that the Democratic party left people like him behind, and Schultz is talking to this segment.

          Um, wasn’t Schmidt a Republican? The one who brought us the genius of Sarah Palin?

          Are you fucking kidding me with this, MSNBC? Stop selling this crap. And no doorman LOVES his insurance company.

  31. Savage Librarian says:

    bmaz @9:36 –
    “young…punks” you say. Isn’t that what a lotta folks called AOC?

    So, who is successfully addressing these issues now? And how are they doing it? And didn’t I hear a lot of whining above but no ideas for solutions?

    What exactly are your suggestions on this?

    • Jockobadger says:

      Hi Savage,

      See my comment wrt blockchain upthread (your orig post.)  I’m pretty much with Bmaz on this one, though.  We’re getting hacked, jacked and whacked enough as it is.  Blockchain can certainly help by securing transactions, but it probably won’t work for “tracking” dark dinero.  Got to have buy-in from both sides.  Thanks for the post, though.

  32. Alan says:

    yeah, I’m all in favor of getting young people involved in governance, civics, media, etc., and if they can find ways to put technology to use, even better

    • Savage Librarian says:

      Thanks, Alan!

      That’s exactly what I meant. And since girls are underrepresented in technology, it seems we should encourage their civic involvement. I really do believe that there are plenty of people who want to do good. Not advocating Anon at all.

      • Alan says:

        Here in DC we have a “Women in Blockchain” group–underrepresented for sure and trying to make good things happen, so much respect to them and I hope they make a difference

  33. chris brooks says:

    I been following your blog on information, basically helping me understood what is going on with the Mueller investigation. much appreciation for the blog…. at any rate. This post you wrote here is very good. The average person has a clash flow problem. Anyone attempting to address that is being labeled as ‘un-american’ or ‘lefty’… instead of being labeled as pragmatic on all this wide ranging issues. The latest government shutdown we saw federal workers being hurt by missing paychecks. This isn’t a problem unique to these 800,000 workers. These are your average everyday people

    • Rayne says:

      Yup, exactly. Federal workers whether employees or contractors are our neighbors, friends, family, loved ones. They’re not making buckets of cash — many jobs pay better in private sector than they do in government. But they’re working for us and we should treat them as we expect to be treated.

      And we should further insist that all employers treat all of us better if they are making billions while we scrape by to pay the rent. It has nothing to do with partisan ideology or nationality — it’s a universal ethic called fairness.

      Welcome to emptywheel, by the way.

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      Seconding Rayne’s reply.

      Congress can take a step to fix a small part of this problem by giving contract workers back pay, so long as any appropriation for that mandates its specific use and prohibits a contractor, on pain of losing USG contracts, from diverting the funds to another use. It can be a one-off, outside the contract payment in the same manner as the government shutdown was.

      Those notionally outside contractors are as vital to keeping the government running as employees.  It’s not their fault that neoliberals attack government by forcing it to cut its own employees and hire people from the private sector.  The vast  majority of them are not well-paid professionals from Booze Allen.  They are janitors, nurses, drivers, stockists, delivery people, kitchen staff, maintenance workers and many others. They, too, live paycheck to paycheck.  They, too, keep the place running.  Give ’em a brake.

  34. Mark Ospeck says:

    Rayne, vg like always.  A really nice stark summation of one of the country’s main troubles.  Sounds like you wrote it while punching on a heavy bag :)  Coffee..wonderful joe.  I drink the black joe from the Maxwell House straight up, just like my grandma did.  Really miss her and the old blue tin, but now it comes in these blue plastic tubs.  The caffeine in the joe is a PDE inhibitor–it stops some of the PDE from chopping up too much cyclic A in your neurons.  That extra A is able to turn on more CNG channels that depolarize them by a couple more millivolts.  So, more spiking, and you wake up.  Obviously Schultzie drinks too many of those $4.50 café latte mocha joe cappuccinos.  Sugar bombs and the guy never really ever wakes up.

  35. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Apropos of billionaire Howard’s priorities and CEO obtuseness, Tom Sullivan at digby’s place critiques Howard and the Davos crowd. Historian Rutger Bregman, ““Fifteen-hundred private jets have flown in [to Davos] to hear David Attenborough speak about how we’re wrecking the planet.”

    Few of the participants noted the irony. They did notice and spoke as one in criticizing the idea that the wealthy should pay more in taxes to support the societies in which they live and whose people made them their money. They would rather we talk about making more wealth, assuming that it will be distributed just as before.

  36. Savage Librarian says:

    Hi, Jockobadger and Diviz,

    I sent you some thoughts which are above, under @Diviz 11:40.

    Hey, Alan, you might like to take a look see, too😉

    • Diviz says:

      GAH! I wrote out two long novels apologizing for mainsplaining and trying to tell you I was sincerely hoping to pick your brain, Savage Librarian. Sometimes I’ll press POST and the page refreshes and the post never shows up.

      I can’t retype every but, I also mentioned Orvium for blockchain academic publishing and (now defunct) Civil Media Company for journalism (but I don’t think they tried at all to use blockchain to verify journalists or source material which is what I think you were talking about wrt journalism part). I hope this post goes through. Def can get behind a hackathon to bring more girls into STEM.

      • bmaz says:

        Jesus, you think a “hackathon” is going to fix things??? What in the world? And are you whining about “The Reply Button“? If so, rethink your approach. Or donate a LOT of money so we can keep you happy.

        • Diviz says:

          I feel like a debutante at her ball. Let me just first thank everyone who has supported me on this journey to finally get my first bmaz flameout. Savage Librarian and Jockobadger for the alley-oop assist. punaise for always knowing the right verse to lighten the mood. All of the legal pro commenters for their patience explaining the law to the laity (you know who you are). Your good deeds are appreciated.

          First, I wasn’t whining about the Reply button; I was apologizing to Savage Librarian that my reply was not as detailed as I wanted it to be. I wasn’t sure if SL knew that was a thing, so I didn’t want to reference it with no explanation. I know that’s a soft spot for everyone who brings us this site.

          To answer the question you asked of The Lord for some reason, yes, I do think—no, I know hackathons bring women and other under-represented groups into tech, coding, and other STEM fields. While the proliferation of women-only hackathons get a lot of the press, there are minority-only hackathons spanning most any under-represented groups in tech. Frequently, instead of some prize money competition, they are to fill a tech need for a non-profit or a cause directly related to supporting the group.

          Anecdotally, I only became aware of statistical programming at an LGBTQ-only hackathon that my boyfriend at the time dragged me to. As a crunchy international development student at UCSD, I wanted nothing to do with a discipline populated almost exclusively by pathologically competitive, aggro-to-hide-their-weaknesses, manspreading, keg-standing brogrammers. But the gaymers in the computer science department didn’t know anything about the project’s survey design, and I did. I realized it was just like any group of queers. I felt immediately at home. I went to a few more. I still can’t code for shit, but it pushed me hard into the quantitative side of my field.

          So yeah, hackathons won’t solve toxic masculinity, fake news, or political corruption, but they do fix things.

  37. Jockobadger says:

    Hi Savage L. – Thanks for the reply. I apologize if my response offended you in any way. I was just trying to figure how that might work re: tracking dark money using blockchain. I did point out that it would seem to be perfect for providing nearly tamper-proof and transparent elections, though it couldn’t stop voter fraud, of course. And, I’m absolutely on-board with any/all campaigns to engage women and people of color in STEM/tech (or anything else for that matter!)

    You really ARE a Savage Librarian, aren’t you! Thanks again!

    PS – reply button wasn’t working above. It’s odd the way it does work sometimes, but not other times.
    PPS – I’ve lived in Seattle/Eastside since 1979 and Howie is roundly despised around here – especially by his employees – I’ve known many.

  38. Savage Librarian says:

    Hey, Jockobadger,

    It’s good to get to know you and fun to clean out the clock. Yes, I was aware about the application to voting and was pleased to see you were, too.

    We are all so caught up in the demands of daily living that it is hard to meet the challenges of such a dynamic existence.

    Of the 11,000,000 bits of data that are constantly bombarding us, we can only process 40. In all this confusion, it’s good to be able to share different perspectives.

    It was kind of you to take the time to respond. Good to know you have an open mind, too.

    Grrr, the other savages are calling. Ta ta, for now.

    • Jockobadger says:

      One of the many great things about EW is that it’s not an echo chamber.  It’s also not crawling with trolls either thanks to very hard work by the curators.  Delighted to make your acquaintance, btw.  What is it that Norskie FT says?  Namaste and keep the faith, but pass the ammunition(?) Something close to that.  He’s right.

  39. Doug R says:

    It’s a lot easier to tax income since it’s mostly transactions and easier to track.
    One of the big problems with taxing assets is it’s hard to know exactly how much they’re worth. As the saying goes, your house is only worth what the next guy pays for it. Although basing a tax on the value of the latest sale with an inflation adjustment might work.
    I think it’s much more worthwhile to tax estates when they’re transferred and a 0.1% tax on each stock trade would go a long way to discourage mass trading, stabilize the stock market and affect most of us not a bit.

  40. Hug H says:

    I’m a modestly financially secure retired older White Guy who was very fortunate to parlay an undergraduate Philosophy degree into a successful 34 year career as an Investment Management Executive. Over that career I worked for two very well run, conservative and highly ethical companies that treated employees and clients like human beings… an increasingly rare thing in today’s business world.

    Since I began working in the early 80’s the transformation of the American Economy, Corporate Culture, Tax Policy, Government Regulation etc. etc. to the detriment of the lower and middle classes has been nothing short of breathtaking. While the technology revolution has played a part, front and center in that transformation is the increasing stranglehold of money on our Political System. Eisenhower warned of a Military Industrial Complex. America now has fully entrenched Financial/Banking, Health Insurance, Pharma, Fossil Fuel, Cybertechnology, Legal, Firearms Manufacturer, Media etc… Industrial COMPLEXES that have all achieved a high degree of REGULATORY CAPTURE in their respective arenas.

    My own experience in the Investment Management Industry gave me a front row seat to the manner in which regulatory, tax and public policy decisions were increasingly skewed to the benefit of stockholders and wealthy clients. I could ramble on, AND ON, cite myriad detailed examples, but suffice it to say that our current state of affairs is unsustainable and the rise of a Political Con Man like Donald Trump was a sadly foreseeable result. Until we significantly reform the role of Big Money in Politics we will continue to have elected officials largely incapable of making decisions for the Public Good. PERIOD

    -Yes… we need MANY more Marginal Tax Brackets (for decades there were 17+ brackets, despite what Reagan said reducing the number of brackets doesn’t “simplify” the Tax Code), significant changes to the tax treatment of Investment vs. Earned Income, significant restrictions on Stock Buybacks, reform of the Tax Treatment of Stock Option Grants etc. etc. All much to complicated for the average voter but NOT for duly elected representatives who aren’t…  Full Time Money Raisers-

    Thank you for all the hard work done here at Emptywheel, huge fan!

    • bmaz says:

      Hi Hug H! I see you have made two comments here at EW. Shockingly, as it involved Lou Reed, I seem to have  missed the first one in December. That said, welcome, and yes, you are right here. Please join us more often in comments.

  41. Howlnaround says:

    Sgt. Schultz

    When he said that could not contribute to Sen. Warren because I do not believe in her message, put a “fork in him, he is DONE”.

  42. Truthcanhurt says:

    Capital and labor have had some battles. Capital won. Warren and the other left leaning populists have zero chance of doing anything about this other than trying themselves to get rich (more capital). Greenspan is someone who gets it – And I’d tell him the way to start to stop inequality is to force the billionaires to live with section 8. This elite club all hang out way to much together leaving ladders up and out idle for a lot of people. In the end it’s all public property though you’d never know it based on how we all act. It’s all the publics money in the end, even what’s offshore. It’s all a big game that very few understand and we make believe other people are better because they are winning at it.

    • Rayne says:


      Capital won. Warren and the other left leaning populists have zero chance of doing anything about this…

      doesn’t sync with this:

      It’s all the public’s money in the end, even what’s offshore.

      Either some of the wealth belongs to the public and the public is eventually going to do something about it or no whether through Warren or another leader. What’s it going to be?

      Otherwise you just spit out a bunch of letters.

  43. Mo says:

    If Howard Schultz runs, he will ruin any chance for a Democratic nominee in 2020.

    Trump will get re-elected and Schultz should be blamed.

    None of these people have any chance of winning in 2020:

    Elizabeth Warren
    Bernie Sanders
    Kamala Harris
    Tulsi Gabbard
    Joaquin Castro
    Kirsten Gillibrand

    Young people going to come out in droves to vote? I don’t think so! Sadly, it seems Trump will win re-election just like Bush.

    • Rayne says:

      So you think Democrats are going to cross over to vote for an independent who doesn’t believe in Medicare for All/single-payer health care and has already made missteps about Warren, Harris, AOC?

      Democrats will select a nominee and then ignore them to vote for a guy who doesn’t even vote?


    • P J Evans says:

      I’m sure all the lurkers support you in e-mail, too. /s

      Srsly, you’re not living on the same planet I am. Some of those on your little list don’t have a chance – but it isn’t because they’re too liberal for Democratic voters!

    • Alan says:

      There’s no need to worry about Schultz–if anything, he’ll take more votes from Trump than from the Democratic nominee.

      OK, I take that back–if you’re a Trump supporter, then you should worry about Schultz–in fact, that might be why you’re here posting about him…

    • bmaz says:

      Lol Mo. Everybody on that list is  electable, save for maybe Gabbard (and she will never be the nominee).

  44. e.a.f. says:

    The guy is actually a riot. Its like I’m world’s greatest sprinter, so now I’m going to be world’s greatest brain surgeon, because, well I’m great. or I’m a great quilter so I’m taking up the long jump and I’ll be world’s best.
    What is it with those white males in the U.S.A. The guy isn’t qualified to run or be elected to town council with a population of over 10K

    if he wants to do something “good” for his country, go have a chat with the people at Habitat for Humanity or the SPCA, but President, who is he trying to fool.

    American billionaires first wanted to own a sports team. then they wanted to own a “big name” newspaper. Now they want to “own” the country. if Americans go along with this egoman trip, they’ll get more of the Trump show. The guy is the same as Trump, just spouts a little different, but they’re the same.

    Doesn’t think health care for all is a go? I live in Canada and we have it pretty close. We don’t loose our homes if you spend 17 days in hospital, its free. Took my sister to the E.R. yesterday. In and out in a couple of hours, no cost. Health care for all, as some of the American politicians call it, will save money and lives. More money is spent on health care in the U.S.A. than in Canada, but we still have better and more coverage. Just can’t figure it out. This billionaire who doesn’t support health care for all doesn’t care, because he has health care. Now ask him if all the people at Star Bucks have health care in the U.S.A. If not, why not.

  45. Savage Librarian says:

    @Diviz 8:32 –
    Gotch yer back! Enjoy pullin’ yer leg some, too. You already taught me a lot. Merci!

  46. Mark Ospeck says:

    Amy Klobuchar could win.  v logical, level-headed, even-keeled individual, as pointed out by George Will in his wapo op-ed today.

    • Rayne says:

      But it’s George Will’s opinion, he who isn’t a Democrat. Oy.

      (For future reference, when citing an article/essay/op-ed it’s a best practice to provide a link, or at least explain why you can’t, ex: I don’t link to certain right-wing outlets. Thanks.)

  47. Blaine Brown says:

    What Schultz really sells are huge containers of heavily sugared animal fat. It would be hard to measure the dimensions of his personal contribution to the global epidemics of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

  48. Mark Ospeck says:

    Rayne, sry that I got your goat out of the pen. I don’t agree with George, but do respect the man’s opinion. Agree with his thinking that right now we need practicality, a left moderate centrist, to reset the country and the world into a rational way of going forward. George got my goat by referencing Capote criticizing Kerouac On the Road, saying ‘that’s typing, not writing’ yea, right
    tx for the tech heads-up. In the future I will be more careful.
    Back to Nick’s, “the sound of breaking glass.” v underrated song

  49. Trip says:

    (Via southpaw). Schultz apparently lived in a middle class housing project growing up.

    Market Urbanism‏ @MarketUrbanism

    Public housing was segregated and his in particular (Bayview Houses) would’ve been for middle-class whites when he grew up there

    Mike Johnson‏ @mxjohnson 8h8 hours ago

    “Unlike other cities, New York effectively barred lower-income residents from public housing. From 1953 to 1968, it excluded most residents on welfare by screening applicants using a list of moral factors, including alcoholism, irregular work history…”Public building in Canarsie has also swung toward middle-income groups. Though one housing project, Breukelen, was built for low-cost rentals, another, Greenwood, was for middle income, and so was Bayview…” Investigation of Housing, 1955-1956,USCongress,p295 (via Google books)


      • Rayne says:

        Tell me he didn’t claim that…no, on second thought, he’s not worth the effort.

        The scary part about Schultz now is that Trump may feel he needs to sound more like Schultz and increase cognitive dissonance. I’ll bet his SOTU sounds more like other moderate rich dudes like Schultz all the while he is sabotaging our national security, ex. pulling out of the INF Treaty without consulting with Congress.

  50. Sharon says:

    Don’t forget the interstate highway system under Eisenhower…the largest engineering project in human history. That’s what the US accomplished when the rich paid a fair share.

    • Rayne says:

      Agreed — and Americans worked these jobs paying living wages instead of being shipped off to war under a draft nor did they feel obligated to pursue enlistment in forever war because there weren’t adequate jobs after high school.

  51. Mark Ospeck says:

    Rayne, posing a hypothetical based on your “..marginalized persons who have been denied..” cross. Say you were given a choice to come back either as a kid* in the Barron Trump universe or as one in the marginalized person otherverse, which one would you pick and why?

    *but you have to come back as a wee little kid, a tableau rasa

    • Rayne says:

      I’m mixed race. I see into both worlds because I pass — meaning I look white and white people act racist openly in front of me all the damned time. I’m also nearly 60 years old. The universe hasn’t changed much in a lifetime, only taunted with promise.

      I’ve already taken your little thought exercise for more than a quaint little spin. I only hope something changes constructively and positively before my as-yet unborn grandchildren reach adulthood.

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