Sunday, August 19, 2018

Crucifix won't ward this off

From the pen of Adam Zyglis

In the beginning

From the pen of Rob Rogers

Trump administration hates the air we breathe

And as part of their overall campaign to damage the United States beyond repair, the Environmental Protection Agency has been effectively re-missioned as the Environmental Pollution Agency.
As a corporate lawyer, William L. Wehrum worked for the better part of a decade to weaken air pollution rules by fighting the Environmental Protection Agency in court on behalf of chemical manufacturers, refineries, oil drillers and coal-burning power plants.

Now, Mr. Wehrum is about to deliver one of the biggest victories yet for his industry clients — this time from inside the Trump administration as the government’s top air pollution official.

On Tuesday, President Trump is expected to propose a vast rollback of regulations on emissions from coal plants, including many owned by members of a coal-burning trade association that had retained Mr. Wehrum and his firm as recently as last year to push for the changes.

The proposal strikes at the heart of climate-change regulations adopted by the Obama administration to force change among polluting industries, and follows the relaxation of separate rules governing when power plants must upgrade air pollution equipment. Mr. Wehrum, who has led the E.P.A.’s clean air office since November, also helped deliver the changes in several of those rules.

The rollbacks are part of the administration’s effort to bring regulatory relief to the coal industry, and other major sources of air pollution. But to proponents of a tougher stance on industries that contribute to global warming, Mr. Wehrum is regarded as the single biggest threat inside the E.P.A., with Tuesday’s expected announcement to weaken what is known as the Clean Power Plan the most recent evidence of his handiwork.

“They basically found the most aggressive and knowledgeable fox and said, ‘Here are the keys to the hen house,’” said Bruce Buckheit, an air pollution expert who worked for the Justice Department’s Environmental Enforcement Section and as director of the E.P.A.’s air enforcement office under Democratic and Republican presidents.

Mr. Wehrum has been able to push his deregulatory agenda without running into ethics troubles because of a quirk in federal ethics rules. The rules limit the activities of officials who join the government from industry — but they are less restrictive for lawyers than for officials who had worked as registered lobbyists.

The end result is that the ethics rules generally allow Mr. Wehrum to help oversee the drafting of policies that broadly benefit the industries or clients he represented in recent years.
Trump himself won't live long enough to suffer from the damage he is doing, but the next several generations will. And it will take that long to re-clean the air after the destructors are gone.

The value of torture

In the September 11 trials at Guantanamo the judge has thrown a monkey wrench into prosecution plans by refusing to allow post CIA torture FBI interrogations to be used in court.
The judge in the death-penalty trial of those accused of carrying out the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in the U.S. has ruled that prosecutors may not use key FBI interrogations conducted at the Guantánamo detention center soon after years of CIA black site abuse ended.

Under the war court system, confessions must be voluntary. So prosecutors had already pledged not to use what the captives told their CIA interrogators during their years of secret spy agency custody that included torture. Instead, as a substitute, prosecutors had planned to have FBI agents describe what the suspects told them soon after their September 2006 transfers to Guantánamo in supposedly consensual interviews.

But the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, excluded the FBI interviews, known as “clean team statements,” from trial in a 36-page ruling.

“Protective Order #4 will not allow the defense to develop the particularity and nuance necessary to present a rich and vivid account of the 3-4 year period in CIA custody the defense alleges constituted coercion,” Pohl wrote in the ruling issued Friday and obtained by McClatchy.

“In order to provide the defense with substantially the same ability to make a defense as would discovery of or access to the specific classified information, the government will not be permitted introduce any FBI Clean Team Statement from any of the accused for any purpose.”

Defense attorneys, who have top-secret security clearances, argued that the prosecutors’ cascading restrictions and threats over trying to find and question potential witnesses of their clients’ torture, notably CIA agents, deprived the accused 9/11 plotter Khalid Sheik Mohammed and four alleged accomplices of a fair trial.

Prosecutors countered that restrictions on defense attorneys were a national security necessity — and that the U.S. government had given defense lawyers enough CIA-screened and redacted documents or court-approved substitutions of actual evidence about the black sites, to let them try to get the Guantánamo interrogations excluded.

To defend prohibitions on defense investigations, chief prosecutor Army Brig. Gen. Mark Martins told the judge in a Jan. 11 hearing: “The mere seeking of interviews with people — and wandering up and ambushing people at the Piggly Wiggly — is a serious thing.”

The accused plotters were brought to Guantánamo after three and four years of secret detention in the CIA’s secret overseas prison network. There, to get them to spill al-Qaida secrets, CIA agents subjected them to a program of “learned helplessness.” They slammed their captives’ heads into walls, strung them up in painful shackled positions, deprived them of sleep, kept them nude or in diapers, subjected them to dietary manipulation and rectal abuse. Mohammed was water boarded 183 times.

FBI agents, taking some directive by the CIA, questioned the five men in their first months at Guantánamo before they were allowed to see lawyers.

Defense lawyers had begun to argue that the alleged 9/11 plotters were so systematically broken, that what they told the FBI agents were programmed responses, lacking free will to say anything else.

But Pohl did not specifically rule on the issue of whether the FBI interviews were contaminated by the CIA abuse.

Instead, he found that the screened evidence Martins and his prosecutors gave defense lawyers did not provide enough details about the CIA period to let the defense effectively argue for suppression of the FBI interviews. So Pohl suppressed them.

In the same ruling, however, Pohl he agreed with prosecutors that the defense attorneys could be deprived of some graphic details of what went on in the black sites. So he found that, if the men are eventually convicted, prosecutors have given the defense attorneys enough information about what the CIA did to the alleged terrorists to argue against the death penalty.
Torture doesn't work, even after you stop doing it. It just taints everything that follows. And it's illegal.

Reading from Trump's Daily Schedule

Trevor Noah

He has the body of a Greek Diner

Bill Maher monologue

Another Sunday

Saturday, August 18, 2018

July Flame

Laura Viers

What a Snowflake!

From the pen of Adam Zyglis


From the pen of Pat Bagley

Big Pharma fights to keep its gravy train

When the president doesn't give a damn how much your prescription costs despite pretending to do so and Congress is too busy passing laws to help pharma companies and then trading pharma stocks before announcing those laws, some states try to step in with their own laws to help the consumer. And Big Pharma is willing to spend a big chunk of their profits fighting those laws tooth and nail.
States around the country are clamping down on pharmaceutical companies, forcing them to disclose and justify price increases, but the drug manufacturers are fighting back, challenging the state laws as a violation of their constitutional rights.

Even more states are, for the first time, trying to regulate middlemen who play a crucial role by managing drug benefits for employers and insurers, while taking payments from drug companies in return for giving preferential treatment to their drugs.

The bipartisan efforts by states come as President Trump and his administration put pressure on drug companies to freeze prices and reduce out-of-pocket costs for consumers struggling to pay for drugs that often cost thousands of dollars a month.

Twenty-four states have passed 37 bills this year to curb rising prescription drug costs, according to Trish Riley, the executive director of the National Academy for State Health Policy, a nonpartisan forum of policymakers, and several state legislatures are still in session.

The burst of state activity on drug costs recalls the way states acted on their own to pass laws to expand health insurance coverage in the years before Congress passed the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

“In the absence of federal action, states are taking the lead in combating high drug prices,” said State Representative Sean Scanlon of Connecticut, a Democrat.

A bill passed unanimously this year by the Connecticut General Assembly illustrates a popular tactic: States are shining a spotlight on drug price increases as a first step toward controlling costs.

Under the Connecticut law, drug companies must justify price increases for certain drugs if the price rises by at least 20 percent in one year or 50 percent over three years. Insurers must identify their 25 highest-cost drugs and the 25 with the greatest cost increases when they file their annual rate requests with the state Insurance Department.

In addition, the middlemen, known as pharmacy benefit managers, must disclose the amount of rebates and other price concessions they receive from drug companies.

California has adopted a law requiring drug companies to provide advance notice of price increases, together with a detailed statement of the reasons for the increases. In addition, insurers must file annual reports showing the percentage of premiums attributable to drug costs.

“Californians have a right to know why their medication costs are out of control, especially when pharmaceutical profits are soaring,” Gov. Jerry Brown said.

Drug companies have filed suit to block the California law, which they describe as “unprecedented and unconstitutional.”

The law “exports California’s policy choices” to the rest of the country and violates the First Amendment by compelling drug manufacturers to explain their price increases, said the lawsuit, filed by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

PhRMA, along with the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, also went to court to challenge a law signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada, a Republican.
You make get a break on your prescriptions but at what cost ?? If these laws are allowed to exist, pharmaceutical CEOs will have to subsist on ordinary CEO compensation and only afford yachts under 100 ft. Can you have that on your conscience ?

He speaks what's left of his mind

Bill Maher New Rules

You like to eat

Sam Bee examines where it comes from

Why would Kavanaugh be any better?

Friday, August 17, 2018


Cat Power


From the pen of Tom Toles

Woodsman Beware!

From the pen of Milt Priggee

President WATB won't get his parade

At least not this year
. The vainglorious highlight of Cheeto Mussolini's maladministration was to be his vanity military parade on Veterans Day. It has now been cancelled because its high cost has been revealed and roundly condemned.
President Trump on Friday canceled plans for a military parade this fall in Washington, blaming local officials for inflating the costs and saying they “know a windfall when they see it.”

Washington’s mayor, Muriel E. Bowser, pushed back on Twitter, saying that she had “finally got thru” to the president to convey the “realities” of what it costs to stage events like military parades in the city.

Ms. Bowser put the number at $21.6 million, though the city’s costs are just a fraction of the total, with federal agencies also kicking in millions of dollars. A day earlier, the Pentagon said Mr. Trump’s parade to celebrate the military could be postponed to 2019, as officials acknowledged that the event could cost more than $90 million.

The parade, which was never widely embraced, was initially scheduled for Nov. 10 — Veterans Day weekend — of this year.

While the District of Columbia would incur only about a quarter of the parade’s estimated cost, the city, a Democratic bastion where Mr. Trump is nearly universally unpopular, is an easy target for him.

In a pair of tweets, Mr. Trump allowed for the possibility of a parade in 2019. He said that this year he would instead attend another parade planned at Joint Base Andrews and a military parade in Paris.

The president also took a jab at the local government in Washington, saying the city is “poorly” run. Ms. Bowser, a Democrat, hit back, mocking the president by ending her tweet with a parenthetical “sad” — a word Mr. Trump often uses in his own tweets — and calling him “the reality star in the White House.”
Whiny Donny Dumbass has to wait until next year for his mighty parade. In the meantime he will go to France to see a real parade to celebrate the end of the War to End All Wars 100 years ago on Nov 11, 1918. I can't wait to hear how he will make that all about himself.

But Lying will get you the Electoral College

Stephen Colbert

A Closer Look at TrumpOmarosa

Seth Meyers

Trump's Vanity Parade

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Maigret Theme

The London Film Orchestra Feat.Olive Simpson

All the same to him

From the pen of Christopher Weyant

Just ask my BFFs

From the pen of Adam Zyglis

Big Beer & Wine moves to be Big Weed

When you are a player in a mature industry and you want to grow, you generally look for a compatible industry with the room to grow that you need. For Constellation Brands that meant investing in a business that is growing, literally.
What does a beer company do to hedge against slowing growth in its main business? In the case of the parent company of Corona, the answer is to invest heavily in the marijuana industry.

Constellation Brands, which also makes Robert Mondavi wine and Svedka vodka, announced on Wednesday that it had invested $4 billion in Canopy Growth, a publicly traded Canadian cannabis producer. The deal comes nearly 10 months after Constellation first took a 10 percent stake in Canopy to help create nonalcoholic cannabis-infused drinks and other products.

Constellation’s investment in Canopy, the biggest known deal in the marijuana industry, shows just how far traditional alcoholic beverage companies are willing to go to find growth. As sales of beer fall in the United States, brewers have begun to bet that legalization of marijuana around the globe, especially the United States, will continue to build momentum and sales of cannabis products will take off.The research firm Euromonitor estimates that the American market for legal marijuana products will reach $20 billion by 2020, up from $5.4 billion in 2015.

While a number of states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana in recent years, purchasing or possessing it remains a federal crime. Constellation said in November that it does not plan to sell cannabis products in the United States while it remains illegal on the federal level.

But as cannabis becomes legal in more countries — in Canada, for example, recreational use will become legal on Oct. 17 — alcoholic beverage companies are trying to buy into the cannabis industry before they become disrupted by it.

How concerned are beer companies? Molson Coors listed legal cannabis among the biggest possible risks to its business in its annual shareholder report earlier this year:

“The emergence of legal cannabis in certain U.S. states and Canada may result in a shift of discretionary income away from our products or a change in consumer preferences away from beer.”

So far Heineken and Molson Coors have moved to sell cannabis-infused drinks. Heineken’s Lagunitas brand has started selling nonalcoholic sparkling water featuring THC, the active component of marijuana. And Molson Coors has formed a joint venture with Hydropothecary, a weed producer, to make cannabis-infused beverages.
And all this time I though the most likely industry would have been Big Chips, like Frito-Lay. Never was very good at calling the market.

R.I.P. Aretha Louise Franklin

Gospel, Soul, Jazz. If it had words and music you gave it feeling. Thank you for sharing your gift with us ordinary mortal.

Fascists to Watch 2018

Samantha Bee highlights a few of the new shits

A well educated black man

Stephen Colbert

Sad but True

Wednesday, August 15, 2018


Sierra Ferrell

Parchment tastes better than paper

From the pen of Kevin Siers

How times have changed

From the pen og Jack Ohman

NY Times thinks representing your district is bad

In the latest New York Times effort at concern trolling the Democrats, they worry that candidates who seek to find out what the voters in their districts actually want may be a bigly problem for the Democrats.
House Democrats, looking to wrest control of the chamber from Republicans in November, are discarding the lessons of successful midterms past and pressing only a bare-bones national agenda, leaving it to candidates to tailor their own messages to their districts.

It is a risky strategy, essentially putting off answering one of the most immediate questions facing the Democratic Party after its losses in 2016: What does it stand for? The approach could also raise questions among voters about how Democrats would govern.

Democrats say they have answered that question with a recently adopted slogan, “For the People,” a skeletal, three-point platform and a longer version, called “A Better Deal.” But with anti-Washington sentiment simmering; a deep divide between the party’s moderates and its left flank; and the brand of the party’s longtime leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, toxic in large sections of the country, they have concluded that a unified campaign framework emanating from Capitol Hill would do more harm than good.

And as Tuesday night’s election results made clear, the primary season drawing to a close has made the search for a unifying message that much more difficult, elevating self-described democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan to argue policy with a Trump-voting populist like Richard Ojeda in West Virginia and a centrist like Conor Lamb in Pennsylvania.

So across the country, Democrats will rely on their energized base and a loose message centered on a core promise of lowering health care costs and building a case that Republicans are using the government for their own advancement, which candidates are adapting as they see fit. If they are going to have a “blue wave,” Democrats say, it is going to come in varied hues.

“We trust our candidates to know their districts and the challenges facing their communities better than anyone,” said Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the chairman of the House Democrats’ campaign arm.
The Times seems to feel that if the Democrats don't all unite under some policy squuezed out of some overpaid DC wanker, they haven't got a chance. The Democrats, on the other hand, feel that representing the needs and wishes of their district is more in line with government outlined by the Founding Fathers. Pity the Democrats don't show more respect for their corporate masters like the Republicans do. The New York Times would never concern troll the GOP.

If you're grossed out by breastfeeding

Make like a baby and Suck It Up.
The Daily Show

You don't have to pay to watch them pee

Stephen Colbert

Nothing about thumbs up

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

All the Way Around

Kris Delmhorst

Known by the company you keep

From the pen of Dave Granlund

Hinky Zinke's solution to forest fires

From the pen of Jack Ohman

Livin' high off the hog

Who knew that working in a school cafeteria could be so lucrative. Or that a school administration could be so dumb.
In the well-to-do town of New Canaan, Conn., families pay top dollar to live on picturesque New England streets, frequent the area’s upscale boutiques and send their children to some of the best schools in the state.

But in recent years, a scandal had quietly been brewing at a couple of those schools: Someone had been taking the children’s lunch money — after it had been paid.

For years, cash was disappearing from cafeteria registers at the high school and middle school, apparently unbeknown to school officials. Nearly $500,000 was pilfered from 2012 through 2017, the authorities said.

On Monday, the New Canaan Police Department announced that it had arrested two women: sisters who worked in the cafeteria system.

Joanne Pascarelli, 61, and Marie Wilson, 67, turned themselves in over the weekend and were released on $50,000 bond. They are accused of underreporting how much cash had been collected and taking the remainder. Each was charged with larceny.

“Since it occurred over a long period of time in relatively small amounts, the district was unaware of these discrepancies until it instituted new financial controls specifically related to the collection and depositing of cash in the cafeterias,” Michael Horyczun, spokesman for New Canaan Public Schools, said in an email Monday night.

The New Canaan Board of Education, which governs public education in the town, filed a complaint with the police in December 2017. The women resigned under threat of termination the same month, according to their arrest warrants.

Ms. Wilson worked as the assistant food director at New Canaan High School, which reported thefts at the cafeteria totaling about $350,000 from 2012 to 2017, the police said. Under her supervision, cashiers did not count the money at the end of the day, but rather Ms. Wilson did that task herself, the police said.

Her sister, Ms. Pascarelli, was in charge of the food program at Saxe Middle School, which lost about $127,000 in the same five-year period, the police said. Co-workers told the police that Ms. Pascarelli came to the cash registers and removed large bills in between lunch periods.

Ms. Pascarelli told the police that her former co-workers were lying. “I would never take money,” she said. “I know better than that.”

But after Ms. Pascarelli left her job at the cafeteria, the police said, the average daily cash intake in the middle-school cafeteria — which once averaged below $40 — jumped up to about $150.
At least they never stopped a kid from eating because he didn't have the money that day.

Like thousand's of users before him

Nebraska has completed the first execution using Fentanyl. This was the first time it has been officially used with the intent of death for the user. Not surprisingly it worked very well.
Prison officials in Nebraska used fentanyl, the powerful opioid at the center of the nation’s overdose epidemic, to help execute a convicted murderer on Tuesday. The lethal injection at the Nebraska State Penitentiary was the first time fentanyl had been used to carry out the death penalty in the United States.

The execution, Nebraska’s first since 1997, represented a stunning political turnabout in a state where lawmakers voted only three years ago to ban capital punishment.

The condemned man, Carey Dean Moore, 60, had been convicted of killing two Omaha taxi drivers decades ago and did not seek a reprieve in his final months. But two pharmaceutical companies tried to block the execution in federal court, claiming their reputations would suffer if the killing proceeded.

The companies could not prove that their products would be used, however, because prison officials refused to identify the suppliers of the drugs to be administered to Mr. Moore. So the execution was allowed to continue.

Mr. Moore’s death, using a previously untested four-drug cocktail, could open a new method for states that have increasingly struggled to find execution drugs as suppliers have clamped down on how their products are used. But the unprecedented use of fentanyl in an execution chamber raised new ethical concerns amid a national opioid crisis that has led to an onslaught of fatal overdoses.

“We really don’t know how fentanyl is going to play out in an execution, as opposed to an opioid overdose,” Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University who has studied capital punishment, said in an interview on Monday. “Simply because people are dying as a result of fentanyl doesn’t mean they’re dying in a way that would be considered acceptable as a form of execution.”

The four-drug cocktail contained diazepam, a tranquilizer; fentanyl citrate, a powerful synthetic opioid that can block breathing and knock out consciousness; cisatracurium besylate, a muscle relaxant; and potassium chloride, which stops the heart.
The three other drugs do guarantee that the prisoner can not ber resucitated with Naloxone, but with the effectiveness of fentanyl and other opioids like oxycontin, are they really necessary? And now that the warden can get all he needs with a prescription at the local pharmacy, will we see an increase in executions?

Donny hired her 4 times

Stephen Colbert

Born on 3rd base and thinks he scored a touchdown

Seth Meyers

Good times, if you are rich enough

Monday, August 13, 2018

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Aretha Franklin

Who you gonna believe.....

Sparky talks to a MAGAt about the Trump Tower conspiracy and Tom Tomorrow records the takeaway.

Dan Roberts sucks dildo

Courtesy of Sacha Baron Cohen

Kemosabe better do something quick

From the pen of Adam Zyglis

Such a Bigly diploma

From the pen of Chan Lowe

Georgia primary election results still not official

One could easily imagine that the Georgia vote counting systen was devised in Dilbert's mythical country of Elbonia as 2 and 1/2 months after the May 22 primary the counts are not even near final.
In large red letters atop a Georgia Secretary of State’s office web page featuring precinct-by-precinct vote tallies from the May 22 primary election stand the words: “Official Results.”

But the data is hardly official. Two and a half months after the primary, many of the voter turnout figures are wrong – in some instances wildly wrong, excluding totals from the Democratic races in the red state.

A spokesperson for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor, said the data is “preliminary,” because the state’s system lacks computer programming to add totals from multiple parties’ primaries.

If so, some data on the site has been preliminary for quite awhile. Some 2016 data on the site is still inaccurate for the same reason, a review by McClatchy found. The errors have provided fodder for a lawsuit alleging that the state’s electronic voting system has failed catastrophically and asking a federal judge to order the state to scrap the equipment and switch to paper ballots in time for the November election.

Kemp spokeswoman Candice Broce said correct data is located elsewhere on the site, in a tab labeled “Voter Turnout by Demographics,” that is compiled “at least a couple of weeks” after the election.

“It is not an error,” Broce wrote in an email, referring to the problematic data. She said the state’s system is not designed for primary elections.

A separate error cited in the suit, which was found on a similar web page, initially indicated that 670 people voted in this year’s Republican primary race in Habersham County’s Mud Creek precinct. That number, even without counting the 69 Democrats who voted, was nearly 2 1/2 times greater than the 276 people whom the county reported had registered to vote. Calling the latter figure “a typo,” the county election supervisor last week ordered the number of registered voters corrected to 3,704.

Disclosures of the inaccuracies have prompted election watchdogs to level harsh criticism toward Kemp’s office.

“It is a completely bogus and ridiculous answer to pretend that the [turnout] numbers are somehow okay and legitimate because they are only reporting one party,” said Marilyn Marks, the executive director of the Coalition for Good Governance, which filed the suit last year. “They are on a web page that says official results.”

The conflicting data could represent deeper flaws in the reporting system, Marks said.

“They should not have preliminary anything listed on that website,” said Sara Henderson, the executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia. “If [voters] can’t even trust the official website and the official information being shared from the election supervisor of the state, why would they bother to show up to vote?”

“This is sort of a repeating theme throughout the seven (years) and some months that Kemp has been in office,” Henderson said.
And Brian Kemp who is responsible for this disaster is now running for Governor. Not the best way to show off your governing chops.

Tomato fight !

Actually just the latest battle in a long standing fight between Florida and Mexico over who grows your favorite rock hard, tasteless tomatoes. Before jumping to the side of Florida, consider what the results may have on California and Washington agriculture.
Florida and Mexico are having a food fight over tomatoes and other fresh produce. Will farmers in California and Washington get caught in the crossfire?

That’s one question that swirls around the final negotiations between the Trump administration and Mexico on a revamped North American Free Trade Agreement. Growers of tomatoes, strawberries and peppers in Florida and the Southeast say they’ve been hammered by cheap imports of these crops from Mexico, particularly during winter months. They’ve lobbied the Trump administration to make it easier for them to bring “anti-dumping” and “countervailing duty” cases against Mexico in an updated NAFTA agreement.

But growers on the West Coast fear such a provision would prompt Mexico to retaliate, making it harder for them to sell south of the border. Mexico is the United States’ No. 1 market for apples, pears and sweet cherries. Washington state is the nation’s No. 1 producer of all three of these fruits. California is also a major producer, and the nation’s No. 1 cultivator of tomatoes.

“There’s not a consensus view among growers in the U.S. on this issue,” said Michael C. Camuñez, chief executive of Monarch Global Strategies and a former assistant Commerce secretary. If Florida and Georgia growers were allowed to go after Mexico, he said, “it would open the door toward retaliation against other products from the United States.”

U.S. and Mexican negotiators are scrambling this month to strike a NAFTA deal, so they can bring Canada on board and meet deadlines to give Congress a required 90 days notice on any negotiated agreement. But Camuñez says “there are still a number of issues that could cause this agreement to go sideways,” including claims of unfair trading in farm goods.

While tomatoes might seem like unlikely ingredients in a cross-border dispute, they have a powerful constituency in Florida, which has been producing them since the late 1800s. While California is the leading producer of tomatoes for ketchup and other processing, Florida outranks it in annual production value of “fresh market tomatoes,” which fetch a higher price in the winter. In 2016, the value of the Florida tomato crop was $382 million, followed by the state’s strawberry crop at $364 million, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Florida is also a crucial swing state for anyone running for president, including Trump, who campaigned on revising the 24-year-old NAFTA pact to be more friendly to U.S. industry and farmers.

Following talks in Washington earlier this month, both U.S. and Mexican negotiators said they made progress in resolving disagreements over automobile tariffs and other issues. “I think we are going to get there with Mexico in a relatively short order,” Gregg Doud, the U.S. chief agriculture negotiator, said Tuesday to a sugar industry conference in Michigan.

But when Doud was asked about the provision sought by Florida and Georgia growers, he declined to comment, stating the negotiations are ongoing.

Overall, U.S. agriculture has benefited from NAFTA. From 1992 to 2016, U.S. agriculture exports to Canada and Mexico grew from $8.7 billion to $38 billion, according to the Congressional Research Service.

But not all U.S. farmers have benefited. In Florida, farm land devoted to tomatoes dropped from 45,200 acres in 2005 to 32,000 a decade later. Mexico now tops Florida in U.S. market share of strawberries, peppers and tomatoes, a sea change from the 1990s.
It's a good thing there are still some capable professionals in DC working on trade. If we had to rely on Agent Orange's knowledge of trade we would all starve.

Astroturfing explained

Just in time for the elections, by John Oliver


Maybe if we sell advertising ?

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