Thursday, December 27, 2018

I'll Buy That For A Dollar!

The fastest growing retail chains in America continue to be Dollar Tree and Dollar General, together they account for 30,000 stores nationwide and they plan on 20,000 more as the Trump economy drags America into the next deep recession.

Dollar-store chains like Dollar General and Dollar Tree are rapidly expanding by targeting the poor, particularly in predominantly black neighborhoods and rural areas, while planning for a permanent American underclass, according to a new report from the community development nonprofit Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR).

Though dollar stores sell no fresh vegetables, fruits or meat (Dollar General is testing produce in fewer than 1 percent of its stores), they are quickly becoming one of the primary ways lower-income Americans eat, with the combined grocery sales of Dollar General and Dollar Tree outstripping Whole Foods by more than $10 billion.

Selection is limited to processed or canned foods such as cereals, microwaveable meals and snacks. A section on the Dollar General website for “Fresh Food” advertises Banquet Mega Bowls fried chicken, frozen pizzas, Lunchables, Hot Pockets, blocks of cream cheese and pumpkins.

There are nearly 30,000 dollar stores nationwide, more than Starbucks and Walmart combined, and up from 20,000 in 2011. Dollar General and Dollar Tree are planning 20,000 more. Dollar General is opening four stores a day, a rate the company is expected to maintain through 2019.

Their customers are made up of three demographics: poor people, black people and rural people. The ILSR documented, with Tulsa, Oklahoma, as its test case, how the presence of dollar store chains can correlate even more strongly with race than income, with locations opening in food deserts historically neglected by supermarket chains.

“Essentially what the dollar stores are betting on in a large way is that we are going to have a permanent underclass in America,” real estate analyst Garrick Brown told Bloomberg in 2017.

Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos agreed, telling The Wall Street Journal, “The economy is continuing to create more of our core customers.” In other words, the more lower-income Americans struggle, the better dollar stores do.

The market tends to agree as well, with Dollar General Corp. valued far above the largest grocery chain, Kroger Co., which still has revenue five times that of its dollar-store competitor. One reason is the dollar-store profit margin, which is significantly higher than grocery stores thanks in part to small-quantity packaging designed to keep prices low even as the value drops, providing customers less for their money.

That isn’t a result of consumer irrationality, but rather is a necessity for lower-income households, whose pinched budgets don’t allow for bulk purchases. Dollar General store manager Damon Ridley spoke to the Journal about helping older children put together enough food for younger siblings with scarce dollars. “I am more of an outreach manager,” he said

With tens of millions of Americans having shifted down the ladder from Kroger and Wal-Mart and Target down to Dollar Tree and Family Dollar, these companies expect the bulk of America to stay there for good.  Everyone talks about how Amazon deliveries and internet shopping will be the future of American commerce and for some, it will be.

But the fact of the matter for most of us in a Trump recession future, the future is dollar stores because we can't afford anything else.

Russian To Judgment, Con't

One of the big mysteries involving Michael Cohen, the Steele Dossier, and Russia is "was he in Prague meeting with Russians during the 2016 campaign?"  The Mueller team hinted strongly that Cohen was in Prague in the summer of 2016 back in a McClatchy story in April.

The Justice Department special counsel has evidence that Donald Trump’s personal lawyer and confidant, Michael Cohen, secretly made a late-summer trip to Prague during the 2016 presidential campaign, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Confirmation of the trip would lend credence to a retired British spy’s report that Cohen strategized there with a powerful Kremlin figure about Russian meddling in the U.S. election.

It would also be one of the most significant developments thus far in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of whether the Trump campaign and the Kremlin worked together to help Trump win the White House. Undercutting Trump’s repeated pronouncements that “there is no evidence of collusion,” it also could ratchet up the stakes if the president tries, as he has intimated he might for months, to order Mueller’s firing.

The Cohen/Prague story is important because it's basicallt collusion 101 if Cohen was there on behalf of Trump.  Now the same McClatchy reporters in the April story, Peter Stone and Greg Gordon, go one step further detailing at least one piece of evidence that Cohen was in Prague at the time...or at least his cell phone was.

A mobile phone traced to President Donald Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen briefly sent signals ricocheting off cell towers in the Prague area in late summer 2016, at the height of the presidential campaign, leaving an electronic record to support claims that Cohen met secretly there with Russian officials, four people with knowledge of the matter say.

During the same period of late August or early September, electronic eavesdropping by an Eastern European intelligence agency picked up a conversation among Russians, one of whom remarked that Cohen was in Prague, two people familiar with the incident said.

The phone and surveillance data, which have not previously been disclosed, lend new credence to a key part of a former British spy’s dossier of Kremlin intelligence describing purported coordination between Trump’s campaign and Russia’s election meddling operation.

The dossier, which Trump has dismissed as “a pile of garbage,” said Cohen and one or more Kremlin officials huddled in or around the Czech capital to plot ways to limit discovery of the close “liaison” between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The new information regarding the recovery of Cohen’s cell phone location doesn’t explain why he was apparently there or who he was meeting with, if anyone. But it adds to evidence that Cohen was in or near Prague around the time of the supposed meeting.

Both of the newly surfaced foreign electronic intelligence intercepts were shared with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, people familiar with the matter said. Mueller is investigating Russia’s 2016 election interference and whether Trump’s campaign colluded in the scheme. Mueller also is examining whether Trump has obstructed the sweeping inquiry.

McClatchy reported in April 2018 that Mueller had obtained evidence Cohen traveled to Prague from Germany in late August or early September of 2016, but it could not be learned how that information was gleaned.

Cohen has vehemently denied being in Prague, and so far Mueller hasn't mentioned Prague in any of his filings, "proof" according to the right that Cohen was never there and "proof" the entire Steele Dossier is a lie and that the Mueller probe should be ended.

But this story makes things somewhat less cut and dried.  Cloning a cell phone certainly isn't above the CIA (or our Russian friends) however if this is true, than yeah, this is kind of the smoking gun, and it would make sense that Mueller was going to sit on it until it was going to be used.

[UPDATE: McClatchy is not the only news outlet working on confirming Cohen's Prague trip.

Stay tuned.

I've Got Five On It

Seal Team Five, that is, and the Orange Crapsack-in-Chief can't help himself with his malignant narcissism.  A day after being rightfully blasted in the press for failing to visit the troops for Christmas (amid a continuing government shutdown no less that has dropped his popularity numbers back down to under 40% again) Trump trucked all the way to Iraq (and didn't fool anyone where he was going) to let everyone know that he and he alone is responsible for a raise that Obama never gave troops only that he did every year, oh and that should any of our enemies want to know, Seal Team Five is in Iraq right now and here's a picture of them so you know exactly who they are.

Prior to November, Donald Trump had little interest in visiting troops stationed in a combat zone, a routine occurrence in a normal presidency. According to a senior White House official, it was, in part, because he was scared: “He’s afraid of those situations. He’s afraid people are going to kill him.”

On December 26, on the fifth day of a partial government shutdown, days after he announced his intention to withdraw from Syria and Afghanistan, the president decided to cross a trip to combat zone off his list of presidential experiences. The surprise visit began with Trump in a bomber jacket, welcomed by a soundtrack of “USA! USA!” chants and Lee Greenwood’s gushing patriotism. “Our presence in Syria was not open-ended and was never intended to be permanent,” Trump said. “We’re no longer the suckers folks.”

But Newsweek reports that we may, indeed, suck. In the pool report of the trip — which was embargoed to help protect the Trump’s presence in Iraq — the president asked the chaplain of Seal Team Five, Lieutenant Commander Kyu Lee, to take a picture with him, revealing the presence of the special ops team at the al-Asad Airbase in western Iraq. When Trump left Iraqi airspace, he posted a video in which he and the First Lady pause for photos with members of Seal Team Five, decked in full battle gear and night vision goggles.

Now Seal Team Five was doing exactly what they were ordered to do, it's Trump who posted the photos of our spec ops guys all over goddamn Twitter.  Because he's a malignant narcissist and his ignorance gets people hurt, maybe killed.

He is entirely incapable of running a taco stand, let alone America.
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