A good, semi-long read from a 30+ year veteran coal miner on why the jobs are disappearing, why they're probably not coming back (hint: it's not Obama, and it's not Stupid Environmentalists), and why people who work in that field have such a strong emotional attachment to the work.

It's a nice, sympathetic way of telling people in coal that they have to deal with the exact same reality that people in every other field are dealing with: in our economic system, we all have to find ways to adjust to the reality that whole industries will disappear when technology or global economic forces replace the need for us to do them. This neatly summarizes how I feel when people in blue collar industries go on and on about the hardship of being in a field where jobs are disappearing: "Really? Join the clu(r)b."

94 thoughts on “COAL COMFORT”

  • I have a similar reaction to people who blame Obamacare for their medical coverage complaints. Premiums went up! Deductibles went up! I had issues with coverage pre-certification! I had to change my doctor!

    One of these types was complaining he wanted his pre-Obamacare medical plan. I want the employer sponsored medical plan I had on 12/31/2016. Welcome to American healthcare pal.

  • There's a strong whiff of educational and urban privilege to this post. When you have a strong tertiary education and the kind of CV that urban white collar workers acquire, adjustment is difficult but not impossible. When you're a HS educated machinist in Erie, PA, that adjustment is nearly impossible.

    Further, the coal example doesn't scale up especially well. Coal is going away as an energy source while industrial jobs have simply changed locale due to political decisions made by people who knew they wouldn't suffer for it. We would be hearing thoroughly different arguments from entirely different sectors if NAFTA or China MFN had included outsourcing of professional certifications.

  • @mojrim

    Ever heard of H1B visas and "offshoring" of IT?

    There are plenty of urban professional jobs that have gone overseas or been replaced by cheaper foreign labor here in the US. I used to work in IT and I've been complaining for years about how the H1B visa program has been misused far beyond its original intent.

    Meanwhile "flag of convenience" airlines like Norwegian Air are going to do the same thing to my industry.

  • That's a good post. There's a reason Suzanne Collins centered 'The Hunger Games' on District 12, the coal mining sector. Of course, the premise was that if you tried to escape the grueling hardship and poverty of working in the mines, they'd hunt you down with atomic powered hovercraft which suggests that they weren't using that coal for energy. The book is supposed to present a dystopia, but life in the mines seems to have an allure for some.

    The problem is capitalism, and the fact that capitalism is a successful system that can adapt to changes by inventing the bus and then throwing people under it. It was this vision of capitalism creating new industries on the corpses of older ones that inspired Charles Darwin among others. The old land owning elite of Jane Austen's day saved its genetic legacy by cross breeding with the new industrialist class, but those less well off had to deal with worse things than an arranged marriage.

    When I was a kid in NYC, there were still working docks all around the island of Manhattan and ships were still unloaded by men and cranes hauling bales and pallets, but the business of loading and unloading ships was moving to the growing container port in New Jersey. The longshoremen were hammered, but they had a union that at one time could shut down trade along the entire coast, so they cut a deal that let workers get bought out and pensioned off. It wasn't fun or pretty. Your children had to find a new line of work, but you weren't flat busted in Brooklyn.

    Today, if you walk around Manhattan, there are a few piers and moorings, but their use is mainly commercial, recreational or even residential. When I last visited, there was a miniature golf course near the trapeze school. There are still a few longshoremen, but they work in New Jersey operating heavy equipment that unloads ships truckloads at a time.

    The longshoremen had advantages that coal miners didn't. Dock work died quickly. Coal work has been vanishing for a century. The unions were weakened, and now they aren't there to negotiate an exit. Dock work was in a big city with opportunities in other lines of work and education was available if it was needed. Coal work is out in small towns at the end of long roads isolated from other jobs and resources.

    The whole industrial mid-west was about access to energy, ore and water transportation. Once the Erie Canal came through, the entire area was open. Detroit became the motor city because of its access to iron ore. Muncie became the glass capital because of its natural gas. Industries used to locate like that. The Catskills, home of the borscht belt and its comedians, made leather because it was good grazing country and the right kind of trees for tanning grew there.

    The railways took over from the canals and then the interstate highways and pipelines competed with the railways. The culprit was the diesel engine developed by an industrial utopian who sought an alternate to the hulking steam prime mover that the individual workman could own. Instead, the diesel engine had immense economies of scale which cut the cost of shipping dramatically. This happened on land, making it easier to move industry to the labor hating south, and it happened on sea, making it easier to move industrial goods from one nation to another.

    It's easy to blame it for the decline in industrial jobs in the US, but those jobs had been vanishing thanks to automation since the early 20th century. Moving them to the south or overseas to take advantage of cheap labor was just a stopgap delaying automation. Robots keep getting cheaper. They are going to keep taking jobs. We're actually seeing this in agriculture with weed killing, pruning and harvesting robots being tested in the field.

    The challenge is what to do with the people, and that is just as much about giving them purpose as keeping them fed. Walt Whitman heard America singing, each man singing the song of his occupation, each woman singing the song of her societal responsibilities. (Read the poem and note who got paid for his work and who didn't.) Capitalism has taken us this far. It taught us to use a tool, then discard it when a better one comes along. America needs a new song, and it needs a new tool, ideally a better one.

  • @mojrim:

    True; everything you say is true.

    However…the Appalachians were settled, in large part by Scots-Irish immigrants (which the British favored, as they were loyalists). As the U.S. was formed, enlarged, ripped apart by the U.S. Civil War* an then transformed into a transcontinental world power, the people in Appalachia were left alone, so long as they were willing to do the scutwork and furnish the coal for U.S. industrial growth.

    Coalminers were used, abused and, ultimately, discarded by the mine operators/owners until unions were formed and eventually, slowly, conditions began to improve–not that those jobs became safe or had pleasant working conditions.

    King Coal, like King Cotton and other abusive, monopolistic enterprises had many well paid employees–elected to congress but employees of the oligarchs, none the less. By pitting the miners against the OTHER (basically anyone who wasn't one of them) they managed to stave off the sort of savage attritional warfare that the miners ancestors had engaged in with the romans and the britons for over a millenia.

    Their pride, insularity and bone-deep distrust of a government/society that ill used them, or outright physically attacked them is a badge of honor and a millstone. It serves the people who've hurt them, in every way conceivable, for the last 100+ years to keep things at that horrible status quo.

    The miners want they good payin' union jobs back–sans the union. And they don't want no damned furriners' (people from outside their area) comin' in and preachin' to em.

    The bosses want nothing more than a return to simpler times when they, as the chinese do currently, could pay miners a wage and offer whatever benefits (a free turkey for the family of a miner killed in a collapse? sounds about right) and get rid of all of that costly, complicated OSHA crap.

    Truly a marriage made in hell.

    * The 2nd U.S. Civil War, imo, the 1st having been fought during the American Revolution.

  • It's all about automation. Today my company got a project to connect a robotic combine to sensors in grain elevators, so the combines will start and stop harvesting as available space changes. I have a friend whose company has largely automated process servers out of business in Illinois, and another getting rid of bank tellers. It's going to happen slowly, and then all at once, and in a few decades 99% of humans will have no jobs.

    Ever wondered what the people not on the Enterprise do for a living? it's time to start.

  • 10SecondNews says:

    Didn't Obama try to push Alternative energy production policies to coal-bearing states. He was told to go fuck himself, no? Seems like that would have helped.

  • @mojrim–

    Major Kong is right; it's not just the "blue collar" jobs being outsourced or automated. The implication that pointing out the reality of coal going the way of the dodo is somethin' them big-city high-falutin' liberals say (another stereotype that makes no sense; there is plenty of underprivilege and poverty in cities) is a means of dividing us into "rural" and "urban" (which also nicely intersects with "white" and "black" in the minds of white America) so that we will fight each other over the table scraps left to us by our oligarchical overlords.

  • @Aurora, The reality of coal going the way of the dodo is something a lib'rul EEEEleeeete would say, because those are the type of people who actually paid attention in school. As my sister once hurled at me in an argument where I refuted her wishful-thinking with facts, "Knowing stuff is GAY!" The USA has had at least 30 years of rightwing noise assuring them that wishful thinking is just as good as actually learning the facts, and a lot of the people thinking coal would come back…if only we hadn't had a Muslim Atheist Kenyan in the White House. The Great Businessman (with multiple bankruptcies and failed businesses behind him) is going to make them all rich again!

  • @rustonite —

    I think it's going to be bad, but not apocalyptic. We'll probably see a Neo-Luddite movement and have a degree of social unrest due to 10%-15% unemployment becoming a new norm, but Moore's Law is already flatlining. Advances in computing power are going to hit a wall, and then it's going to be a back-to-the-drawing board scramble to redesign it from the ground up.

    In the meantime we can reach full employment by letting everyone become New York arthouse film critics.

  • Among the many depressing "what if onlys" , one is to imagine what would have happened if Hillary had gone to West Va and truly, honestly explained how coal was going the way of the buggy whip and among her jobs as pres would be to help them transition,etc blah blah as coal eventually petered out, we just might not be stuck with Drumph – and all that that entails: Bannon et al, ditto if only Alison Grimes had done the same with the KY minors we might not be stuck with Turtle man leading the Senate – oh what a joy that would have been!

  • @Noel B: Hillary told them and even said they'd get full support and training, but they didn't want to hear her because it's much easier to live in fantasy-land where a white man with a 3rd grade education can land an extravagant-paying job.

  • Remember the Farm Bills? Back when GI Joe came back from the war, (the big one) he wanted to go back to farming just like his dad and grandad before him.

    We have a bunch of BOOMERS who were fed, clothed, housed and educated because the government made farming just profitable enough to make all that happen.

    Too bad nobody learns anything even by experience.

    The American electorate waits until election day to begin to think about why they might want to vote one way or another. After the election they can BS their way through any conversation about why X or Y won.
    It's not just Republicans, it's most of America.

  • Death Panel Truck says:

    imagine what would have happened if Hillary had gone to West Va and truly, honestly explained how coal was going the way of the buggy whip…

    …they would have basically told her to fuck off and to get out of West Virginia.

  • "…they would have basically told her to fuck off and to get out of West Virginia."

    That would have been the "Smiley face" outcome, instead of the "2nd Amendment Solution".

  • Somebody upthread said the real problem is capitalism.

    You're probably not using the word in its dictionary sense (system of private ownership of the means of production, resources, capital). It sounds more synonymous with greedy schmucks grabbing everything in sight.

    Greed isn't an emergent property of capitalism. It predates private ownership.

    When greedy schmucks grab everything it's not a problem of any specific system.

    It happens due to lack of oversight, lack of regulation, lack of the right sorts of laws and the rule thereof.

    It's a lack of *government*. Blaming capitalism is just lazy and barking up the wrong tree.

    /*end rant about one of my many pet peeves*/

  • Probably gonna get slammed for this ("bring it ON, bitches!" fingers in weird positions with hands thrust in the air) but I'm kinda glad Hilz lost. Hear me out, hear me out…she was going to be facing a repug congress with the orange cheeto on the side criticizing everything she said or did, and frankly, would probably have gotten very little, if anything, done. And no matter what happened it would have been her fault. And so the myth of "libruls screw up your lives" would have continued.

    The situation now is the repugs own EVERYTHING – everything that happens, every shit result….if we survive (and I acknowledge that might be a really big IF) the damage done might FINALLY be enough to wake some of those stupid fuckers up.

    And, as I've said before and as others have commented, H1B visas are misused to bring over foreigners to take professional jobs as well.

  • "/*end rant about one of my many pet peeves*/"

    Might been me, doing that. I don't think of them as that, they call themselves that. I think of them as fuckbags who use paper and lawyers to rob people, instead of a gun.

  • April –

    The situation now is the repugs own EVERYTHING – everything that happens, every shit result….if we survive (and I acknowledge that might be a really big IF) the damage done might FINALLY be enough to wake some of those stupid fuckers up.

    My post-election thoughts were pretty much that.

    However, re-reading Taibbi's Insane Clown President, trying not to fling myself out of my chair and start chewing the carpet every other paragraph, the ugly realization is that if these fuckers abandon the Republican party, it won't be for the welcoming arms of the Democrats. It will be chaos. And we know whose Hate Librul Elitist sentiments are shared by our police, immigration, and fucking Oath Keepers.

    Are we in for another Terror, will Tyson Bird Flu decimate the population, will the NSC follow the example of the Chinese Communist Party and assume control of the Internet as a way of keeping the lid on things so the oligarchy don't have to abandon their private estates?

    So many questions.

  • Time was, you wanted to accrue enough time as a pilot to qualify for an airline you flew checks (or found a rich uncle to pay for the jp4). That's right, little pieces of paper that had to be back to their original bank within 3 days of being accepted. Lotta checks flying across the country. All those check-flying jobs are gone. Now you get "check images" on line. Is Captain Queeg going to bring back all of those jobs too?

  • Davis X. Machina says:


    rustonite: jobs that won't be outsourced: anything involved with live theatre.

    Tell that to the musicians who used to play in pit bands.

  • Want to see real chaos? Wait until they hold that constitutional convention and have the Feds go to a balanced budget.

  • @Quixote: Interesting point, but you're kind of splitting hairs. Yes, greed predates capitalism, but capitalism kicks greed into overdrive. It's a system that not only encourages greed but legitimizes it. You can't really separate the two.

  • Greed, as a vice, is one of the seven deadly sins–according to that book that so many KKKristians–including our newly Born Again, Pricksident–swear by.

    Greed as a virtue, per Gordon Gekko, is desirable when it means you can increase "shareholder" value–expeshly if you hold a metric fuckton of the shares.

    BTW, I haven't heard a lot about "stakeholders" since the Newoldboy network convened in D.C. It could be that they just figure that they no longer need to pretend that they give a fuck about the idiots who elected them. It also could be that they know not all of the folks in their districts are THAT stupid and will sooner or later figure out the etymology of the word, "stake":


    1. a stick or post pointed at one end for driving into the ground as a boundary mark, part of a fence, support for a plant, etc.
    2. a post to which a person is bound for execution, usually by burning.
    3 the stake, the punishment of death by burning:
    Joan of Arc was sentenced to the stake.

    They then might go on to deduce that they didn't have any input when the claims were staked by the "Haves".

    They might also deduce that the "stick" that they are holding has a clean end and "shit" end, the one that they are holding.

    They could, maybe, come to the conclusion that the thrird meaning might have some utility as a means of redress.

  • rustonite, time indeed to find out how those not on the Enterprise lived. My guess is a socialist-capitalist hybrid, few sharp edges, fewer wasted lives and opportunity to do new things, for those who must. The Mammonite alternative offers glory for a handful, chaos, premature death, lost opportunity and a distinct possibility of genetic bottlenecking and race extinction.

  • @Mo

    FYI, I'm told the Tyson Flu strain in Tennessee is not the same as the Chinese version of the same, tl;dr the one that was in Tennessee did not demonstrate the same infectiousness to people.

    See everybody? Puppies and rainbows for the weekend.

  • Robert Walker-Smith says:

    Two things this brought to mind.

    In "The Road to Wigan Pier", Orwell describes the living conditions in a North England coal town. It sounds utterly grim. Then I realized that the best case scenario for the miners was 'I keep working in the mine as long as I am physically capable'. Every other option is worse.

    A big motivator for Churchill and Eisenhower to nobble Mossadegh was the Royal Navy. After WWII they'd refitted for oil instead of coal, and were depending on a steady supply of below wholesale Iranian petroleum. When Mossadegh decided to nationalize, it hampered the UK's ability to function as an Arsenal of Democracy. I wonder what the Black Country miners thought about all that, and how little Churchill cared.

  • re April above saying there's some sneaking relief Hillary lost because they don't have her to crap on nonstop. The same thought came to me as word filtered through about the media, yet again, praising the Dump's latest big boy potty. All I could think was how differently they would have treated her.

    democommie, thinking of capitalism as robbery. Exactly. That's my point. Robbery also predates capitalism. And it's also held in check by *government*. Getting rid of capitalism without recognizing how ready people are to rob each other will just lead to new forms of institutionalized robbery / greed/ whatever word you want to use.

  • @ quixote:

    Yeah, and no.

    What allows the greed to run unchecked is a "property rights over human rights" mentality.

    When I have people tell me that they have a concealed carry permit or keep a loaded gun in the house, I tell them that I don't own anything worth killing or dying for. Obviously I have a beating heart, etc., but the shit in my house or car, wallet? All replaceable or do withoutable. Not so much a life.

    Capitalism is enabled by a secure state and a viable social compact. Viability has a pretty long arc, as does security. When either of them gets too far out of whack, really bad shit happens. We're not at the tipping point but we can certainly see it from the observation deck.

  • @Major Kong and Aurora S

    I use a strict definition of "professional" which excludes almost all IT work.* That said, the offshoring process has begun to creep up-stream into the white collar world, especially IT. Sadly, that misapplication of the word has kept most from seeing that they are skilled tradesmen whose interests are not aligned with those of management and the (currently protected) professional class. IT people need to unionize, and I'd say we bar airlines from US airspace that don't adhere to ALPA (yes? not really my field) standards for pilots, including compensation.

    My original point about how coal miners, other trades, professionals, and management relate on this stands. Certain white collar sectors are now feeling the pinch, but they are late to the party. The trades, meanwhile, have been enduring this carnage for more than a generation and have learned bitter lessons about the mitigation regimes offered by the establishment left. That is, they simply don't work. Those who undergo retraining under WIA or whatever rarely find work with equivalent compensation and generally not far above those that didn't bother. Meanwhile, 60% of the increase in tertiary education has sent people to jobs that don't require it and, it goes without saying, don't pay like it either.

    Like I said, threaten to include professional education and accreditation in these deals and watch how fast the doctors and lawyers turn on "free trade."

    *I use an older definition of "profession" which requires the following:
    1. Advanced educational requirement generally gained at personal expense.
    2. A governing board granting licenses under state authority.
    3. The ability to practise privately with said license.
    NB: It's not unlikely that parts of the IT world will eventually acquire professional status for the same reason everyone else did: turf defense.

    In fact, I'm kind of a stickler for word meanings in general. I cringe when people refer to "the military" as including the naval services.

  • Well…the other factor is that The Owners have consistently dealt with uppity proles by importing more workers. 11 million "illegals" is a lot of jobs.

    I know the common meme is these jobs are too nasty for Americans to do, but the replacement of American workers with cheaper, more pliant Mexican (and Asian) workers has had an impact and has moved "upstream" into some semi-skilled trades.

    Of course, the solution is not too demonize the imported workforce, and a Paperen Biten police state to cull the "illegals" will be horrific, but there is a reason these racist arguments resonate so well. And they always have…Know Nothing Party, Chinese Exclusion Act, etc.

    Cheap imported labor destroys working class incomes.

  • @mojrim

    I really hate getting into petty arguments over terminology. The NRA types just love to go off on a tangent if you say "clip" versus "magazine", even though I have heard infantry veterans use that very term.

    The Navy is considered to be part of the "the military" by the modern definition of the term. Yes, the Latin origin of the word meant "soldier" but the term has come to be synonymous with "armed forces".

    If told a sailor or marine (the USMC is part of the Navy) that they weren't part of the military they would at the very least look at you funny.

  • @Brian M: I'm now reading the book White Trash by Nancy Isenberg. It starts with the slums of England in the 1400s and 1500s, and the desire to drain their swamp of undesirables by sending them to the New World to work themselves to death securing riches for the English 1%. The early settlers on these shores were the cheap imported labor in their day.

    Also, a note on "jobs Americans won't do"–a couple of years back I attended a professional conference in Wheeling, West Virginia. The hotel I stayed in was staffed (housekeeping, hotel dining room) with Spanish-speaking help. We keep hearing about the overwhelming poverty there, yet clearly the locals are not interested in working in the hospitality industry.

  • @mojrim – Ok, I'll bite. Is not including the navy as part of the military one of those between-group in jokes ("Army and navy men pissing, the army man finishes, doesn't wash hands, navy man says "In the navy, we learn to wash our hands after a piss". Army man says "In the army, we learn how not to piss on our hands" For some reason that joke is funny to me everytime, but I don't care who says what to whom. No dog in that fight.) or is there a real reason the navy isn't part of the military?

  • @Major Kong: While it's mostly a holdover from my days as Marine aboard a carrier there is some deeper meaning to the issue. Language affects how we perceive and think about things, and the universalization of the word "military" has helped to enforce the army's dominance of the post-1947 defense/war machine. Given that the US Army has been strategically irrelevant since about 1960 it concerns me to see that happen.

    @April: Not at all, though you cannot be blamed for thinking so. Up until about 50 years ago the definition of "military" made it refer only to land armies. Thus we had military forces and naval forces (to include marines) and combined operations referred to having them work together. For that reason there is still a Naval and Military Club in London, and West Point retains its title as the US Military Academy while the Annapolis school is the US Naval Academy. In fact, prior to defense unification in 1947 the US House had both a military affair committee and a naval affairs committee, which have since merged into the armed service committee.

    It's a bit of historical pedantry, but I maintain it for the same reason I use terms like "deck" and "bulkhead."

    Having worked through all that I look forward to your response on the substantive matters.

  • The hotel I stayed in was staffed (housekeeping, hotel dining room) with Spanish-speaking help. We keep hearing about the overwhelming poverty there, yet clearly the locals are not interested in working in the hospitality industry.

    Katydid: I'm not sure this common meme is all that true. I think The Owners despise the American working classes (there is a lot of that here, and even as I share in it, I also cringe a bit. Just a bit). Thus, as I said, they bring in a pliant, cowed foreign workforce, often of dubious "legality"

    Throw in the H1B visa program, and it is obvious that it is more convenient for The Owners to import labor.

    Maybe the locals don't want to work for the shitty conditions or for the shitty wages that Hilton wants to pay? As "progressives" shouldn't we recognize that maybe the best solution to this "problem" is not to advocate open borders (not saying you are saying that, but sometimes that is the feeling I get) so that it is easier for the owners to get cheap and cowed labor?

    As a disturbing blogger I read (Muricaderp) notes:

    "There might be less disability fraud if the United States didn’t use Honduras as a remote breeding colony for deracinated serfs. The funny thing is, “we” never asked the Midwest’s unionized meatpackers for their consent to invite cowed, utterly disposable Mexican scab labor into their communities as their replacements and dispossess them from productive, honest, well-compensated heavy craft labor into citywide tweaker death spirals intersectional with California’s cholo prison gangs, the guy who had his girlfriend help him balance on the rim of their bathtub for his twice-weekly bowel movements, and Tom Arnold. The unions objected strenuously to this program from the start, but noted SAG member Ronald Reagan had no interest in solidarity with a bunch of hayseed losers when he could instead help management teams from more Studio 60-compliant jurisdictions ensure that in Late Soviet America, ritz was a putin on YOU!

    For all our talk about how admirable and crucial it is to have a work ethic, one might expect this country to insist on justly compensating those who have the work ethic to hold down the same meatpacking job for twenty or thirty years straight. Just compensation in this case is generous compensation of workers who are so generous with their own time, effort, and wellbeing. But I’m knowingly overthinking the whole thing. All this talk about the work ethic is bullshit. Everyone who still sincerely believes in it and tries to put it into practice is a loser. It’s the damnedest thing for a nation that believes in the work ethic to trash pay scales and workplace conditions across the breadth of its productive economy and divert the savings to imperial warmaking and a bewildering variety of frauds. (I repeat myself, but not entirely.)"

    He is a very angry, perhaps even disturbed man, but he also brings an interesting perspective from the "fringes" of society too many of us (I use us very deliberately to include myself) feel free to disparage while avoiding any unkind words about the "protected class" minorities.

  • There are certainly comments here advocating fiercely for the "just compensation" concept in his post w/r/t coal miners, I should clearly acknowledge.

    I just don't like the "Americans won't do the work, so we need to import barely legal slaves" meme. Heck, when I was a kid (long ago), I washed dishes and slaved in a restaurant kitchen. Not sure society gains by closing off those kinds of jobs and importing its pliant workforce.

  • @mojrim; your history lesson was interesting, but perhaps not the whole picture? My father joined the Navy in 1962 and retired in 1983. I grew up on a series of military bases; sometimes Navy, sometimes Air Force, and sometimes Army. I encountered more hostility to the military (in general) from the non-military in the USA than I ever encountered inter-military. I joined the Air Force right out of college and made a career out of it, serving on a variety of bases. Currently I work in a location with all four branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) and from time-to-time some Coast Guard folks. Once again, the only animosity I encounter is from the civilians against all branches of the military.

  • Katydid, I've got to wonder if military folk are professionally concerned about the decline of American labor, in light of unpleasant events 75 years ago and how the United States responded to them. I can easily believe that the current denizens of Washington could turn most of the World into our foes.

  • @Kaleberg –
    May I quote your comment at length elsewhere (a knitting-and-politics blog, yes, really, we knit and talk politics) ?
    It's the most clear – and poetic – (and personal: my grandfather was a Brooklyn longshoreman) – essay on job loss. Other folks including our host have made important points, and your words are what resonate most with me today.

  • Repeat after me:

    Manufacturing jobs have been in a steady decline as a percentage of jobs in the US since 1970. Coal jobs started to decline in the 50s and 60s as a result of anthracite coal (hard, high BTU coal from Eastern PA) being too expensive to get out of the ground and the increase in technology to make mining less labor intensive.

    Coal is not coming back. And we shouldn't want it back, it was a dirty, nasty, dangerous job and we can find better ways to get energy.

    Having lived in the Rust belt for the past 10+ years, the amount of "immigrant" labor is very low in these areas. Youngstown is a shithole with no jobs, no immigrants are moving there to take "icky" jobs like working in a hotel. The midwest is full of migrant labor in Meatpacking plants because the unions were broken in the 70s and in the 80s the industry went to the govt to import cheap labor rather than be subject to market forces and "capitalism". If you want to get "rid" of illegal immigration, the solution is not a wall, but rather make the penalties for hiring illegal immigrants so high that no one will ever risk it, instead of what happens now, which is that ICE will delay raids and deportations so that meatpacking plants (for example) don't have to shut down production. Why the upper management at Smithfield or Tyson aren't slapped with huge fines or thrown in jail is beyond me, that would stop illegal immigration in it's tracks.

  • "Given that the US Army has been strategically irrelevant since about 1960 it concerns me to see that happen."

    This is 100% wrong.

    I'm an AF veteran. I see all branches of the armed services as part of the U.S. military.

    The USMC is the only branch of they U.S. armed forces who primary job is to kill people and blow shit up. They're better at it, on a "per unit" basis than the other branches.

    But they are at about half the personnel strength of the USA and that's active duty. When you look at the numbers for Reserve, Guard and AD, the USA is far out in front.

    Both the AF and Navy have more personnel and when you consider throw weight of nukes, either the AF or Navy have vastly more firepower.

    The USMC does their job, as well or better than it can be done by others. To denigrate the USA or any other branch does not put additional luster on their image.

  • As a USAF veteran, we're really good at blowing stuff up but not very useful for holding onto territory.

    You don't own it until some 18-year-old with a rifle is standing on it.

  • Berkeley '74 says:

    Have y'all seen the latest Boston Dynamics robot 'Handle':

    Say goodbye to manual labor of any sort. The biggest
    customer of these robots are the military, for the automated
    battlefield. Won't even need our unemployed teenagers
    for the wars soon to hit your front pages.

    Interesting times, indeed.

  • LOL USAF vets speak out!

    The military folks I work with now are mostly in their early-to-mid 20s and couldn't care less what happened 70 years ago (not picking on military folks; many people in that age range couldn't care less what happened so long ago). I currently share a 5-person cubicle bay with 3 Marines and 1 other civilian. The Marines are all from the very-deep south (Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi), huge Trump supporters, all married to petite blonds who look like they're about 16, and have a couple of little kids each, and all have both super-sized SUVs and motorcycles.

    However, about a decade ago I worked with a Marine in his late-30s who rode his bike to work (a huge commitment to ecology in an area where it's not safe to ride a bike), was politically liberal, and did a lot of reading. We had a lot of great discussions about 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and why they never should have happened. So these types of people exist.

  • @Brian M; I think you missed the point of my post about housekeeping in a particular WV hotel (that's probably my fault because I ramble). I was very surprised to be in a high-poverty area and see non-native-born housekeeping staff. Over the winter I've read Hillbilly Elegy, and I'm now working on Poor White Trash, and they've given me some insight–Hillbilly Elegy in particular, because it answers a lot of culture questions I've had in the area where I live, too.

    To wit; a lot of the south was settled by the Scots-Irish "hillbillies" of Scotland. These folks brought their culture with them. The plus is that the men were not afraid to do hard, dirty work (farming in crappy conditions, mining, and later, steel work), the negative is that they also have a very strong sense of "men's work" vs. "women's work". Steel mill work and coal mining work paid very, very well…but those jobs are gone and not coming back. Some of the men in the 1970s insisted their sons go into more white-collar jobs–some did, some didn't. The "Jobs Programs" and the social safety net kept these people alive for decades, but that's mostly gone now–or there are time limits, and that community is now in crisis and often turning to the making and the using of drugs.

    But hospitality work isn't "women's work" and it's not "men's work" in their minds. The Spanish-speaking workers are more focused on mere survival and are more willing to be exploited. This is obviously both good and bad.

  • One last note before I go out and brave the cold while running errands; one thing that does worry me about the "kids" in the military who don't plan on making it their career is just how good they have it–and they don't even know it. Mind you; I was equally clueless at their age, but I stayed in to retirement and was older and wiser (and had the retirement bennies to fall back on). What I'm seeing over and over and over again is the 24-year-old with a stay-at-home wife, a couple of kids, and a giant SUV in the garage plus whatever variety of 'toys' they're into. Their housing is covered. Their utilities are covered. Their medical care is covered. As long as they don't do something profoundly stupid, they've got a guaranteed job that meets all their needs. Yet so many of them did nothing but bitch and moan about Obama and how "terrible" the USA is.

  • @Katydid: Great point about servicemembers enjoying all the (very generous) safety nets of military service, while at the same time being uber-conservative and complaining about Obama, librulz, moochers,, etc. I used to be in the Navy and saw it all the time. They love the romantic idea of being tough, independent conservatives – and have no idea that they live in a bubble, completely protected from the economic realities of the real world.

    The only Trump voters I know are my old Navy buddies.

  • When I was in the AF we lived in barracks buildings that dated back to WWII or the Occupation (which seemed, to some of us, to be ongoing). The buildings were solid, well lit and ventilated, NEVER cold, had decent bathing and toilet amenities*. I paid bupkus. I was on separate rats and could still go the Dining Hall (and ours was a magnet for local USA and other branches to come to eat in) on Steak Day or any other time and buy an all you can eat meal for less than a dollar.

    My base pay, as an E-5 was $470/month. No decuctions except for taxes. No health insurance, no rent, no "contributory" retirement–so I spent most of it on smokes and booze. Other guys bought 200W Harmon Kardan amps, Sansui or Teac 10" reel-to-reel decks, AR LST speakers and the like. When I started getting stoned, on hash, it was .50/gram because I knew the dealers–they lived one floor up.

    In many ways it was an easy life. If only I had been (or was, even now) a person who didn't always have an axe to grind with management, I might have stayed.

    The real upside of spending those 4 years in relative safety, at the height of the US combat role in Vietnam was finding out that I was eligible for VA healthcare without being either service connected or a combat vet.

    The real downside of what Katydid describes is that those people who have all of the toys and young kidaloos, stay at home wife, etc., are also eligible for those same benefits. I know people whose dads were in Operation Ranchhand and spent time dusting crops with Agent Orange–their grandkids are getting VA medical care.

    Between the increase in enrollees, the costs of care–especially for those vets with combat trauma that has left them care dependent, at a very high level, and Congressional proclivity (read GOP) for level funding or cutting funds, that system will break just like medicare will break.

    * Nobody I knew ever got used to the efficient german toilets.

  • The Pale Scot says:


    "it was a dirty, nasty, dangerous job"

    The thing is, some people like doing those jobs if the money's right. I use to work in demolition, come home filthy and exhausted. But I really liked the job, it was more satisfying than most of the other jobs I've done.

    As to;
    "The hotel I stayed in was staffed (housekeeping, hotel dining room) with Spanish-speaking help. We keep hearing about the overwhelming poverty there, yet clearly the locals are not interested in working in the hospitality industry."

    I live in a Tampa area neighborhood which is a blend of retirees, WWC and a sprinkling of straight up crackers. The crackers tell me that they have applied for cleaning jobs at the local tourist storage facilities repeatedly (these places will have Help Wanted signs out front) and not get a call back. I think the hoteliers are worried they'd be hiring uppity white women.

    "I washed dishes and slaved in a restaurant kitchen." Me too. Then dishwashing paid about a dollar better than packing groceries and stocking shelves. I worked late and came home dirty with more money than my friends. Now the dirty jobs pay the same as working at Best Buy. Why work late and come home dirty for the same pay?

    I also landscaped in the 80's. On a recent visit back home I got to talking with the guys cutting my sister's grass. They were making the ten bucks an hour I did, 30 years ago.

    Don't tell me immigration doesn't keep down wages.

  • "Once again, the only animosity I encounter is from the civilians against all branches of the military."

    Is this "they're all murderers" animosity or "townies hating on the local college students" kind of animosity.

  • @ The Pale Scot; let's just say that the concept of nepotism in the fed gov't didn't start with the Trump family. Where I work, they're now on to the 4th generation of "jobs for life" folks who were hired in high school as work-study students and have stayed in until retirement for the pay and benefits–otherwise they would be lucky to get a job sweeping up the floor at the cheap haircut place. Their hatred of the military folks is often sheer jealousy; for all that the young military guys can be clueless about the way the world works, they arrive at work on time, technically-astute, and highly-trained. That's very threatening to folks who got hired simply because their relatives also worked there. I mean, how can a 40-year-old Homer Simpson justify his utter ineptitude when a 20-year-old is better at the job?

    Also, a lot of the folks I work around are "git yer gummit hands off mah medicare" folks with "smaller gov't now!" bumper stickers (I always want to say "Great, let's get rid of YOUR job first!").

  • quixote: The problem with capitalism is not greedy schmucks. As you pointed out, every system has greedy schmucks. The problem with capitalism is that it develops new ways of doing things, particularly new ways that require less labor and less expensive inputs. This is actually a good thing. The problem is that if you are that labor or provide the more expensive inputs, you get thrown under the bus. Society as a whole may benefit from your loss, but you may wind up much worse. That's the problem we are seeing with coal and in countless other businesses. There isn't all that much work for muleskinners, mica miners or telephone operators these days.

  • let them die says:

    once we get rid of H1-B visas (except for Slovenians models, duh), all of these coal miners can get the computer science job that indians currently steal.

  • Gerald McGrew says:

    A couple of things on the topics of this thread….

    First, as far as Republicans now owning everything and the hope that after they screw things up, many of their voters will "wake up", recent history shows that won't happen. Remember the W. Bush presidency? A lot of conservatives don't. After W crashed the economy, ran up the debt, got us into an incredibly stupid war, and limped out of office with terrible approval ratings, conservative media did an excellent job of pretending none of it ever happened. The end result is that now, a majority of Trump voters actually believe unemployment went up under Obama and the stock market went down. If Trump and the GOP Congress screws everything up, we may get a Democrat POTUS again, but it won't be long before the right-wing media gets to work creating a new alternative reality, the same way they did with W.

    Hopefully we're not now stuck in a cycle of "Republicans get elected, screw things up, Democrats get elected to clean it all up, Republicans blame them for the mess, Republicans get elected, screw things up…."

    On the coal jobs, sure Hillary was honest with coal people and directly said she supported re-training and investment in economic development in their areas. But what ended up being the only takeaway? "Hillary says 'We're going to put a lot of coal miners out of work'". Another example of how bad of a candidate she was.

    But beyond that flub, it showed that she didn't understand what those folks really want. They don't want "retraining"; that sort of thing sounds intimidating to them. Are they going to be expected to go back to school? Are they going to start working in an office at a desk? To people who come from a long line of coal miners, those aren't appealing prospects.

    That's why Trump's message connected so strongly with them. He didn't say he was going to get them jobs, he told them he would bring back THEIR jobs…the jobs their dads, grandfathers, and great-grandfathers did. Even if on some level they knew it's probably a con, it's far better than what they imagined under Hillary. "I'll put all of you out of work, but we'll send you to school so you can work at a computer all day" is just plain scary to a lot of them.

    So a lot of Trump's success will come down to one thing….blue collar jobs. If he actually does manage to bring back or restore a significant amount of them, he just may be a two-term president. If he doesn't, I'd say it's extremely unlikely he gets a second term.

  • "But beyond that flub, it showed that she didn't understand what those folks really want."

    It appears from a number of posts in this thread that they want what is unattainable; a return to a time whem men were men, KIng Coal ruled the hollers and black lung was proof that you worked hard to put food on the table.

    They may get back to that but it will be at a bad wage, low benefit, unsafe job. After gutting EPA and OSHA/MSHA I'm sure the FuckThePublicAns will have some other wetdream for returning so much money to the already obscenely wealthy 1% that they wil be tired of mon–, sorry, I got carried away.

  • I seem to be having real trouble communicating what I'm trying to say. Time to start working with a writers' group again, I think. Anyway. What I'm trying to say is:

    1) People are greedy.

    2) Yes, capitalism enables and can turbocharge that IF THERE ARE NOT ENOUGH REGULATIONS TO PREVENT IT. (Which is our current global situation, with relative exceptions in some of NW Europe.)

    3) If you got rid of capitalism — and did not make sure you had the right regulations to fence in greed — then the next iteration of an economic system could well turbocharge greed even more than capitalism.

    Feudalism and communism didn't exactly prevent exploitation, did they?

    The problem is that enough people (nobody here, of course) will take more than their share if they can get away with it. They'll turn *any* economic system into an example of "what's mine is mine and what's yours is mine." Only effective regulation can stop them. We're far from there yet.

  • WARNING – This is a white person with privilege whine and I know it…

    I now am an administrator with my own office. Most of my day is spent doing paperwork. In my previous life I either worked in a lab DOING SCIENCE or actively taught. (I now teach very little, but it's still the best part of my job. Gotta say, teaching Chinese students is a real treat. Once you get them, they are just adorable!) I hate it. I keep saying to my daughters I never once as a kid thought "I want an office job where I sit at a desk all day." At least we have an internet. I truly would go crazy without it. (And computer games. Anyone else know the Zoombinies? And P vs Z.)

    So I do understand the idea of people who do an active job where they go home dirty and tired at the end of the day but feel like they've actually DONE something real all day. That would be hard to give up.

    @ all you military people. Two years out of college I applied to the air force. While I passed all the tests with high scores they didn't take me. Apparently I didn't have the right temperament or respect for authority or something.

    Probably just as well.

  • @Quixote This is something that continues to perplex me. I think if I were really rich and in power I would want the people "below" me to be really happy, so I would do things that would give them better lives. I mean, really, what's the point of having more money than you could spend in a hundred lifetimes?

    But what I read about this is that, when people get really rich their mindset changes. Money – the numbers – becomes its own drug. So maybe if I were a multibillionaire I'd be as much of an asshole as they are.

    The world will never know.

  • @April; I have direct knowledge of that from when I joined a start-up company a few years back. I was employee number 3, right after the owner and another employee. The company was great to start…until it grew to the point that the owner could stop doing client work and just hang out in the main office. Next thing you know, his son was "working" for the company (nobody ever had any proof of that, but he was on the payroll and attended all the office parties), and his wife then got a job with the company (she made chili for an office meeting once, and she bought the furniture and pictures for the office walls…).

    Shortly thereafter, the entire extended family started taking multiple Disney cruises and the owner bought a vacation house at the beach. None of the actual employees got any raises because "money's too tight". Then the boss started taking off Fridays and Mondays during beach season to hang out at his beach home (his wife was never there Fridays or Mondays anyway). Then we started hearing talk at the company meetings about how the employees were "takers" (expecting a paycheck in exchange for billable client work, what chutzpah we had!), and I knew it was past time to go elsewhere.

    Moral of this ramble; money *can* absolutely change people.

  • @April; the trick to getting hired is when they ask you if you hear voices telling you to hurt people, you widen your eyes and shake your head in amazement and gasp, "Why, NO! Does ANYONE?" Fly *under* the radar, and often you can do what you want.

  • "the trick to getting hired is when they ask you if you hear voices telling you to hurt people, you widen your eyes and shake your head in amazement and gasp, "Why, NO! Does ANYONE?"

    Oh, great,nowwwwwwwww you tell me. I'll never get those 52 years back!

  • Oh, and while I'm here (and completely OT) I bought this charcoal toothpaste and it TOTALLY WORKS. My teeth are noticeably whiter. (Avoiding doing paperwork as long as possible, as usual.)

  • It's late, I'm exhausted. Please forgive me if this isn't 100% coherent.

    I seem to have been unclear in my description of these terms and why I'm a stickler. This is not about interservice rivalry or any kind of animosity. My first duty station was CV-41 and, so far as I could tell, we had it the easiest. Sailors work hard especially in shaft alley and on the flight deck. We give them shit for the same reason my two sons bicker. My entire point about the word military is that it incorrectly merges the values and beliefs of two very distinct cultures, giving primacy to the one that fights on land. This does not diminish their value or achievements, it is only to say that they are not the same.

    As for the current state of the US Army, I'm sorry, you're all utterly wrong. There has not been any worthwhile war for the US Army to fight since 1960. Nor will there ever be again. Western Europe was defended not by amy tanks but by SAC; everyone involved knew that any serious conflict with the USSR would be strategic nuclear within 72 hours. This is why France reserved control of it's own nuclear arsenal – to fight communism to last german. This is also why the UK created one at all – to force the US to launch rather than making a separate peace with the Kremlin. The 1st Cavalry Division was a tripwire for Minutemen and B-52's; the same could have been done with a platoon of MPs.

    Bottom line: unless you thought Vietnam was a good idea, and Iraq was a great one, the US no longer has use for an army.

    @katydid: Your start-up example was spot-on. It has never ceased to amaze me how quickly we can become rent-seeking assclowns.

  • @April; I'm not sure if they sell charcoal toothpaste in the USA? I'll have to look when I run errands today. Among other things, I had a dental appointment yesterday and brushed my teeth with a pinch of baking soda (just baking soda and water) before I went in the hopes of getting out of the chair quicker. Seemed to work.

    @mojrim; thanks for your perspective–and I mean that sincerely. My father rode nuclear subs in the 1970s-1980s, I mostly sat at a desk and did computer stuff in the 1980s-1990s when I wasn't climbing around equipment racks or running cable under the floor. I personally didn't encounter a lot of intra-service hostility (lots of kidding around, but not mean-spirited) and I've seen more hostility from Republican supporters toward any of the military.

    re: startups–not all companies are run by ass-clowns, but it's particularly disheartening to watch your own change before your very eyes. One of my supervisees busted her ass day-in and day-out and the customer loved her, and when her mother had a heart-attack in another state and she wanted to take an unpaid week off to go to the ICU, the customer took up a collection to help with expenses. The owner of our company accused her of stealing from him. I told her to go anyway and to hell with him. Neither of us is with that company anymore–can you imagine why? P.S. All company parties were at his beach house so he could write off the mortgage as a company expense, and it was profoundly demoralizing to be told you wouldn't get a raise as he was showing off his upgraded sound system in his home-theater room with 20 leather recliners and super-sized HD screen (I swear I'm not making this up).

    @demo; sorry for the late notice! I watched my father make the mistake of answering honestly and learned from it.

  • The Pale Scot says:

    "While I passed all the tests with high scores they didn't take me. Apparently I didn't have the right temperament or respect for authority or something."

    In the 90s Outback started opening units in my area. I had a good gig at a NYT's 4 star but decided to apply just see.

    They gave me two long multiple choice tests. One on service and one of those personality tests. Afterward the manager comes over to me with a weird look on his face.

    "You aced the service test, I've never seen that before. But I can't hire you because you failed the personality test." I laughed and left, I wasn't going to work there anyway.

  • @mojrim:


    has as a first definiton of the word:

    adjective 1. of, for, or pertaining to the army or armed forces, often as distinguished from the navy: from civilian to military life.

    It then goes on to offer other definitions and synonyms.

    I'm unaware of any country that deliberately separates the branches of their armed services so that only the army is considered to be the "military". Russia, at times, separates the navy from the rest of the military.

    If the world of men-at-arms, politicians and the English language were static and distinct from one another, they might all have stayed as they were at the time of the Roman Legions. They are not and have not.

    The term "military" like the term "soldier" both come fromImperial Roman or even more ancient roots. They both have original and secondary definitions. They have both been used, colloqually and politically as suits the users. They are accepted by most people to have meanings that are much looser than those accepted by you.

    Why do we still call naval personnel, "sailors", since the only naval vessels with sailors are not used for anything but display*? Why are Army troops who are in helicopter's "Air Cavalry" while we call Army troops in Humvees, "Mechanized infantry" or "Motorized Infantry". None of them ride horses and as far as I know they don't train cavalry troops in the use of the saber.

    Why do the Marines still call Gunnery Sergeants by that title? None of them, afaia, direct gunnery crews during cannonades from the decks of naval vessels.

    Use of the word, "military" is in common use. The sort of distinction that you make is fine, when you're dealing with military historians but most people are not engaged in that sort of thing as a profession or a hobby.

    The USMC is perfect for shock and awe"**, such asthe invasion of Iraq in 2003. They would not have been able to do what was done by the combined arms of the USN, USA, USMC and USAF–that's not my opinion, it's a fact.

    The Navy, The Army and the Air Force all fight/lobby for huge slices of the Defense Budget pie and the USMC and USCG (which is, last I heard, part of the DHS) get the stuff that sticks to the knife. The USMC, as I have said more than once, are far superior to the other services at what they are designed to do. They deliver relatively large bodies of troops who are well trained for fighting in all conditions, terrains and battle formations from small unit operations to divisional battles of maneuver.

    The USArmy was not in Germany just to be lambs for the slaughter in the event the Warsaw Pact was committed to battle by some crazy fuck in the Kremlin. Even most of the gung ho types I knew were certain that a show of force in the Fulda Gap would if nothing else give the Warsaw Pact troops/commanders/Kremlin hardliners something to think about. Additionally USAF bases in Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and elsewhere in Europe had no SAC bombers (publicly, anyway) but were heavy on C-130, KC-135, C-141 Starlifters and the like–and about two to three hundred fighter aircraft of various types.

    NATO being NATO I'm pretty sure that there were/are agreements (that we will never get to see) stating what level of force committment the U.S. and its european allies will deploy and where. If a conflict ever went nuclear the only surviving military units would be in remote locations or highly mobile (ships at sea, aircraft).

    The U.S. currently has a much "leaner" military establishment than it did when I was serving in the period of 1968-1972 (safely, in Germany). Whether they are, as individuals, "better soldiers" can never be known until they are committed to battle.

    If I was in a place like Afghanistan, on an airbase, I would be thrilled to have USMC rifle platoons and snipers guarding my perimeter. I don't think that there are anywhere near enough to go around for that duty, they're too busy doing what they do best. Why do they have airplanes, anyway? {;>)

    We can argue about this forever, but it's not going to change either of our minds. Enjoy Sunday.

    * The USS Constitution is a commissioned Warship, the oldest in the world. It would last a minute or two against any moder vessel.

    ** As long as they have enough people, materiel

  • @ Pale Scot:

    Back in the early 90's when I was out of work I went to Sam's Club for something and filled out an ap for the hell of it.

    I was asked to take an "employment test" on the spot. Half of it related to things like, how to address a customer's request for directions or deal with someone who needed something that was not on an accessible shelf. The other half was a series of questions about honesty–mine, not theirs. They actually asked how I might feel about putting merchandise that I had removed from their warehouse, without paying for it, in my car's trunk; whether I thought it was alright to have someone else punch me in or out when I wasn't there, take money from a register and pocket it. I answered the questions, all the while thinking, "Are people really too fucking stupid to see these questions as having only one acceptable answer?". I gave someone the "test", waited a few minutes and then was interviewed by three different people in about 15 minutes.

    After the third interview, I was offered a job, on the spot, in the meat cutting department. I was thinking, "Well, I can cut a steak but I don't think I can break down a hind quarter (they actually did some meat cutting, back then) so I asked what my duties would be. "Well" the interviewer said, "You'd be grinding some burger and cleaning the equipment, saws, grindersa, wrapping equipment, that sort of thing.".

    I said, "For minimum wage?" and was told that that would be the case, but after 6 months or 90 days I'd have a review.

    I declined their offer–but, like you, I would have lasted as long as it took for some asshatted moron to give me a "pep talk".

  • @Katydid,

    Sounds like that county clerk who would produce marriage licences for LGBTs. Her mom had the same job, she seemed to think she was a medieval sheriff fighting the Faerie Robin Hoods.

  • @democommie,

    Yea, the test had those honesty queries. But I think they're optimized to ID the young and dumb. This was during the first wave of corp run restaurants hitting Wall Street. I never except for once worked for one. But they seem to expect that you'd say yes to getting called in to work a double on the day your sister getting married. And the corp rotated managers every couple of months, the only way they'd get noticed is to squeeze more blood out of the turnip than the last guy. I could never see not working for an independent owner run store.

  • @Pale Scot:

    Even if you could tolerate the idiocy of corporate run "fine dining" restaurant chains (a contradiction in terms, I think) you're stuck with the "doing 4,000 units, a week, just like that pitcher there above the sammich station." stultifyingly boring, soul-killing enervation of it all.

    I go to a small place in town where the chef is actually receptive to suggestions and LOVES to make, eat and talk about food. I take him my home made dulce de leche (it always looks more like cajeta) and some ice cream made with the ddl, chocolate, coffee and other flavors. He in turn lets me stand 18" away to take photos while he's sauteeing or grilling. Most people freak when someone is hanging that close but he worked in some pretty tiny kitchens and it doesn't seem to faze him.

  • @demo yes people are that dumb. I worked in retail for years and people would answer what drugs they took and how much they stole. I also had grown-ass people put down "Armenian" as a spoken language because they were looking for "American."
    The reason those dumbass questions are there is because if people are that stupid then you don't want to waste your time dealing with their application.

  • @demmocommie: I have a lot to say in response but it's starting to feel like hijacking the thread, something I hadn't intended. We can exchange emails if you want to continue.

  • @ Khaled:

    If only drug use and theft were the only undesirable traits that Walmart and the like looked to discover and use as an HR tool.

    I shop at a BJ's club every once in a while (I don't drive much and they're 30 miles from where I live) and at Costco when I visit my bother. Both Costco and BJ's have employees who are engaged, helpful and appear to be as happy as a person can be doing that sort of work.

    Walmart/Sam's Club/Best Buy–not even the managers appear to be happy.


    I will conced the field, not because I agree with you or find it hard to defend my position. I just find the exercise to be a waste of time after we arrive at the point where neither will make a dent in the other's beliefs.

    We have the same facts to look at, we have the same ability to find those that suit us and present them. It becomes an exercise in piling the stuff up and, frankly, I think both of us have plenty of work to do in other areas. I, for one, look forward to troll smashing on one of the other blogs I go to.

    Thanks for a spirited discussion and know that I appreciate the work you did on this and other threads, whether I agree with you or not.

    If you want to e-mail me, go over to my usually quiet blog, " and simply leave your e-mail in a comment of the most recent thread–it's not recent–and it will go to "moderation" where I will retrieve it and then, if you like, edit it out or delete the comment. I don't like leaving my e-mail on a page for everyone to find–it can end badly. {;>)


  • @ Khaled:

    Should have been:

    "If only drug use and theft WEREN'T the only undesirable traits that Walmart and the like looked to discover and use as an HR tool."

  • @Demo; a Costco opened 15 years ago, just a couple of miles from my house. I've seen a lot of the same workers the whole time I've shopped there. They don't look like they're being held there at gunpoint or that they hate their lives, the way the workers do in the Walmart that literally shares the same parking lot. It's such a stark difference. The closest BJ's to us is a half-hour's drive; I belonged there until the Costco opened and I don't remember ever having a bad experience there. I don't know how BJ's pays, but Costco offers a generous starting salary, good health care, and opportunity to advance through promotion. If the employees are treated well, it shows. There are days I wouldn't mind applying there.

  • Reminds me of a Sacramento Valley grocery store that I patronize (Nugget Markets). Definitely not the cheapest in town. And, the gourmet items do damage budgets. But, the employees stay there forever and it seems a very chill place to work. Much rather support this small company than the robber barons like Walmart.

  • @Brian M.:

    I have several markets to choose from where I live, all totally corporate (including Walmart) or owned by rabid republicans. I buy what I gotta from who I gotta, because I don't drive these days and "public transportation" is sort of a joke.

  • Not sure about the politics of the Nugget ownership. Given that they are based in the feudal empire of California (semi-rural Sacramento Valley), they may not be all that great.

    But, as with COSTCO, they treat their employees well, and there does not seem to be the miasma of depression one feels in a Walmart (heck…even Target feels more cheerful than the grim slog that pursuit of Always Low Prices requires).

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