I caught the CNN GOP debate last night – a little late, but I did see most of it. More than 2 hours of it.
Was the thing even moderated? Good goddess – there was so much over talk and the moderators really didn’t even try to gain control. Dana Bash had one point where she pushed Trump over and over for an answer, but overall a roomful of toddlers have better self-control.
Democratic presidential primary candidate Bernie Sanders live-tweeted the event until he got bored and went home.
Immediately after the debate Republican presidential primary candidate Ben Carson very articulately said that the format sucked. He was right.
And that being said, in all honesty, I don’t know how you could have a real honest-to-god debate with 10 people standing on the stage. What could be done? The only thing I can come up with is to handle it Jeopardy-like, and force them to write their answers. Or perhaps they should have a red light and a green light like the US Supreme Court, and cut off their mike. They’ll learn real quick that they better speak with substance, or at least I’d hope that’d be what would happen. Frankly, I’m not sure.
There was little substance, and that was the problem – but the moderators’ inability to control the debate resulted in a verbal barb sparring match. I almost wonder if it weren’t intentional? Media coverage today would almost suggest that it was – there’s a significant number of articles out there (or video coverage) like this: Best one liners and zingers from the GOP debate and Best Trump zingers of the CNN Republican debate. Or this one Donald Trump’s top moments insulting GOP rivals.
The most substance we got for what was probably the longest continue period of policy discussion was on incarceration rates, justice and marijuana. (Thank you Rand Paul.)
Is there another cause? Is having 15 or 17 or 19 or however many candidates that are in the GOP presidential primary truly a good thing? How are they all lasting? In the past they drop out as they lost money, which could happen with any bad 15 seconds of fame. Now every special interest group has its own granddaddy gold card subsidizing their own private Super PAC…keeping them in the race.
Of course, then there’s Trump, spending his own money.
It’s hard to criticize Republicans publicly trading insults and zingers (I’ll kindly except John Kasich, Ben Carson and Rand Paul from that category,) because at least they’re having debates. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, head of the DNC, is only going for 6 debates, saying that American’s don’t want them, and they’ll have to wait until October for the first one. Which may end up backfiring for her friend Hillary.
I do hope they try to figure out some better format for the next GOP debate. Everyone deserves better – the voters, and the candidates. Otherwise, whoever is doing the planning is all but paving the way for another shit-show of insults and one-liners.
At least it wasn’t the front front page.
I don’t remember when it was that Lee made steep cuts in staffing at the Missoulian – maybe 9 months ago? But this morning’s paper edition, B1, came up with this headline, right below the fold:
Oh boy. I guess if you’ve got people in Iowa proofreading and editing, this is what western Montana readers are going to get.
Absent being contacted by Jay the other day, I was and have always been hoping to get back to writing. There were less than a dozen reasons why I sort of dropped off regular blogging about three years ago. It coincided with a period in my life where I think I decided I didn’t want to be angry all the time. The rape situation in Missoula was eating me up and I felt like I was screaming into a vacuum. Blogging was getting hostile, even though I rarely commented. Had people telling me what I should write about, if not how I should do it. And as Liz mentioned in something somewhere, I do feel I paid a price. Personally, if not professionally.
While I’ve always been wanting to get back to writing, it’s something that’s been on my mind with great weight in the last week or so. I’ve suffered a tremendous loss, and any writer knows that writing is cathartic. With this loss though, I’ve also had to fight that anger I was pretty much able to rid myself off three years ago.
So while I’ve wanted to come back to writing, I’ve concerned myself with that anger that can rise up in me.
What three years of rest from regular blogging has given me is a better perspective on utilizing anger. I hope. I think I know a little better now that there is nothing in life that will benefit from coming from a place of anger. That actually may be coming with age, lol. My east coast industrial upbringing has given me a pretty thick skin, and I know blogging has gotten pretty rough. Let’s just say I’m not expecting any welcomes and I’m OK with that.
I am dealing with an immense loss. What has occurred here has added to that. Fate is what it is, and this month is an example to me that a 2 by 4 can come out of no where and whop you on the head without any warning, at any time, and try and take you down. But it is because of the things I am personally dealing with that I am rather ungracefully saying that I can not and will not insert myself into situations between others. I won’t even say I wish I could, but know that I am simply too mentally and physically exhausted to do so. If that upsets anyone – anyone – I apologize. I wish I were stronger.
With that, I’ll say that interim committees are starting into swing in the legislature, and Stacy Rye is back on the political scene, throwing her hat in the ring for Missoula County Commissioner. With the loss of Supermontanareporter John S. Adams, and now Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson from the state capital, I’d like to do my part and get back to facilitating awareness of legislation in action.
In other words, some pretty milquetoast stuff.
And electing Stacy Rye to Missoula County Commissioner should be a no-brainer.
Finally, I want to thank all of you who have offered support and sympathy this last week or so. It is not only much appreciated, but much needed. I am grateful for the support.
by Jay Stevens
When I started 4 and 20 blackbirds — what? — nine years ago, I had a vision for the site. It was simple. I’d create a blog that would give a platform for progressive voices in a media environment that shut out all but the most saccharine of “conventional wisdom” and grating right-wing voices on cable television and talk-show radio. And it was in the context of some crazy times — we were in the middle of an ill-conceived, poorly planned, poorly run and unethical war in Iraq. Republicans ran Congress and beat down all opposition voices with the club of 9/11 and specter of terrorism.
The blog was also started, then, to tout the candidacy of Jon Tester for Senate.
How things have changed.
Jon Tester is a US Senator. We’re no longer in Iraq. We have a Democratic president. And there are still plenty of issues that should energize us, unite us.
One thing that’s changed is that there’s no shortage of voices in 2015. Everyone has access to blogging tools and social media, and can comment on forums like Reddit. Anybody with an opinion can voice it anywhere. If there’s a problem now, it’s that incivility and extremism drowns out good, productive conversation and information. You don’t need to look much further than Gamergate or the trollish response to Reddit’s decision to ban its “Fat People Hate” to understand that.
There’s still a need for a good progressive voice, though. Now, instead of having to cut through the bloc of mainstream media, it needs to rise above the cacophony of angry, irrational voices.
I’ve been away for awhile. I stopped writing for the Montana blogosphere in 2012. Recently, I’ve had my attention somewhat forcibly drawn back to this site. Imagine my surprise when I saw the discussion here — fantastic plots equating Bernie Sanders with Hilary Clinton’s conspiracy to….what? Well, it’s hard to say. Only that the international Jewish conspiracy is involved somehow. And Vladimir Putin is a hero.
Whatever. Maybe some of it is true. Who knows? What I do know is that whatever content that is on the site isn’t very popular. The readership has dropped 75 percent in the past year or so, from its high-water marks in 2011 and 2006. And it’s likely a majority of today’s hits are from a few obsessive readers and commenters who check in and post dozens of times a day. But, honestly, with Lee Enterprises cutting its state political bureau, now is the time for informative writing about state and local politics. Now is the time for reasoned views about the critical issues that affect everyday Montanans and Missoulians.
Which is why I put a lockdown on the site for now. It’s time for a reboot.
I don’t know what will happen to the site. I hope it will continue. I’ve asked jhwygirl to step up again, and I think she’s game. We’ll try to recruit new writers, and we’ll keep some of the old ones. But we’ll redirect the site to opinions and news that people need and like. Maybe there’ll be a redesign. Maybe not!
In any case, I think it’s time to get back to the site’s original vision. Thanks to all who have been a part of this site. I do appreciate it, despite my harsh words. I’ll leave the comments open for discussion. I’m sure not a few of you will simply call me names, but I’m hoping for some positive feedback and ideas for the future.
Today’s read is an interview by the Saker of Michael Hudson, who the Saker refers to as “the best economist in the West”. We can quibble about politics and the economic fallout designed and approved of by the rentier class as they prepare their August meeting, but how often is it that we look to history and economic theory when trying to understand the present, and plan for the future?
Hudson’s voice in the debate rising about how to structure economies, in the face of the failure of the Soviet-style communism and the failure of “free market” capitalism to meet the needs of any but the elite, is a welcome respite to the usual left-right and neolibertarian-socialist views on economy. Throw in the debates over the so-called “free trade” agreements, and we have a global economy swirling down the drain into a 21st century economic version of the dark ages.
The missing item in today’s economic reforms is what classical economics focused on, from the French Physiocrats through Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill to Marx and his contemporaries: freeing industrial economies from the rentier carry-overs of European feudalism. The focus of classical value and price theory was to free economies from economic rent, defined as unearned income simply resulting from privilege: absentee land rent, mineral and natural resource rent, monopoly rent, and financial interest. The aim should be to prevent rent-extracting activities – defined as purely predatory transfer payments, an economically unproductive zero-sum activity.
The classical labor theory of value aimed at isolating those forms of income (land rent, monopoly rent and interest) that were socially unnecessary, and simply were legacies of past privilege. The halfway alternative was to tax land rent and monopoly rent (Henry George, et al.). The socialist alternative was to take natural rent-producing sectors into the public domain.
Europe did this with the major public utilities – transportation, communications, the post office, and also education, public health and pensions. The United States privatized these sectors, but created regulatory commissions to keep prices in line with basic cost-value. (To be sure, regulatory capture always was a problem, especially when it came to railroad charges…
Classical economics was a doctrine of how to industrialize and become more competitive – and at the same time, more fair – by bringing prices in line with actual, socially necessary costs of production. The resulting doctrine (with Marx and Thorstein Veblen being the last great classical economists) was largely a guide to what to avoid: special privilege, unearned income, unproductive overhead.
The aim was to create a circular flow model of national income distinguishing real wealth from mere overhead. The idea was to strip away what was unnecessary – what Marx called the “excrescences” of post-feudal society that remained embedded in the industrial economies of his day. When the great classical economists spoke of a “free market,” they meant a market free from rentier classes, free from monopolies and above all free from predatory bank credit.
Of course, we know now that Marx was too optimistic. He described the destiny of industrial capitalism as being to liberate economies from the rentiers. But World War I changed the momentum of Western civilization. The rentiers fought back – the Austrian School, von Mises and Hayek, fascism and the University of Chicago’s ideologues redefined “free markets” to mean markets free for rentiers, free from government taxation of land and natural resources, free from public price regulation and oversight. The Reform Era was called “the road to serfdom” – and in its place, the post-classical neoliberals promoted today’s road to debt peonage.
Today’s Cold War may be viewed in its intellectual aspects as an attempt to prevent countries outside of the United States from realizing that (contra Thatcher) there is an alternative, and acting on it. The struggle is for the economy’s brain and understanding on the part of governments. Only a strong government has the power to achieve the reforms at which 19th century reformers failed to achieve.
The alternative is what happened as Rome collapsed into serfdom and feudalism.
by William Skink
In a few flurries of tweets between myself and former Blackbird blogger, Jay Stevens, I’ve witnessed the ease in which progressives are manipulated. It started with his tweets about the FIFA scandal. I, of course, tried to point to the geopolitical implications, which obviously makes me a Putin fanboy. Here is one tweet from Stevens:
Can’t wait to see how @madpoet19 spins the Fifa-arms-for-votes story…
The story referenced in the above tweet is about arms deals being traded for World Cup votes, which the Guardian covered a few days ago. From the link:
The shockwaves from the corruption scandal that brought down Sepp Blatter continue to reverberate, with claims in Germany that the 2006 World Cup vote was influenced by a shipment of rocket-propelled grenades and allegations in Egypt that a Fifa executive solicited bribes during the 2010 bidding race.
As seven Fifa officials continued to fight extradition to the US over claims they were involved in a “World Cup of fraud”, Blatter’s right-hand man Jérôme Valcke remained at the centre of speculation over what he knew about a $10m payment to the disgraced former Fifa vice-president Jack Warner. And pressure on the Football Association of Ireland also grew amid the fallout from its admission that it agreed a secret €5m (£3.6m) payment after threatening legal action in the wake of Thierry Henry’s handball that led to the goal that ended their chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
Instead of looking at a geopolitical contrast to this latest iteration of FIFA corruption, we have no further to look than the cesspool of corruption the State Department became under Hillary’s tutelage. If Jay thinks the FIFA arms-for-votes story is bad, I wonder what he thinks about chemical weapons deals for Clinton Foundation donations:
The approval of American chemical weapons sales to Egypt as Mubarak’s associates were stocking Clinton family interests with cash is but one example of a dynamic that prevailed though Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. During the roughly two years of Arab Spring protests that confronted authoritarian governments with popular uprisings, Clinton’s State Department approved $66 million worth of so-called Category 14 exports — defined as “toxicological agents, including chemical agents, biological agents and associated equipment” — to nine Middle Eastern governments that either donated to the Clinton Foundation or whose affiliated groups paid Bill Clinton speaking fees.
That represented a 50 percent overall increase in such export approvals to the same countries over the two years prior to the Arab Spring, according to an International Business Times review of State Department documents. In the same time period, Arab countries that did not donate to the Clinton Foundation saw an overall decrease in their State Department approvals to purchase chemical and biological materials. The increase in chemical, biological and related exports to Clinton Foundation donors was part of a larger jump in overall arms sales authorized by Hillary Clinton’s State Department to foreign governments that gave her family’s foundation at least $54 million, according to a previous IBTimes analysis.
The State Department, the Clinton campaign and the Clinton Foundation did not respond to questions about the deals.
I don’t know if this constitutes me “spinning” the FIFA corruption, but it certainly provides an example of domestic corruption that a Democrat supporter like Jay Stevens may want to take into consideration as the inevitable Clinton campaign chugs along.
I can anticipate Jay’s response because in an earlier spat he distanced himself from supporting Clinton by stating he’s a Bernie supporter. Well, allow me to spin that as well, because there is more going on with Bernie Sanders campaign than meets the eye. Michael Arria asks a good question in a Counterpunch piece today, titled Why is the DNC Sending Out Pro-Bernie emails? Good question. And the answer may be found in Sanders’ promise not to run as an independent when he inevitably folds to the Clinton Juggernaut:
Ironically, it seems that the DNC and left-critics of the Sanders campaign agree on a very important fact: they believe Sanders will attract a number of young voters and activists, then dutifully tell them to vote for Hillary when he drops out. The DNC sees that outcome as a win and leftists see it as a loss, but both perceive his dropout as inevitable. “Hillary Clinton certainly doesn’t regard Sanders as a threat,” writes Ashley Smith at Jacobin, “She knows that the national election business follows the golden rule: whoever has more gold, wins.
The early disclosures of Hillary Clinton’s disgusting use of the State Department won’t negatively impact her candidacy because they are coming out at a time when progressives like Jay Stevens will default to his Bernie support. Bernie provides the progressive cover by getting attention for his progressive positions, then, when smashed by Clinton cash, he will bow out and tout the pragmatic lesser evilism support of the sociopath, Hillary Clinton.
Well played, DNC.
by William Skink
If you want to brutally murder someone and not spend the rest of your life in prison, Montana seems like the place to do it.
Earlier this month a woman (oddly referred to in the title of the article as a “murderess”) was arrested in Hamilton for a DUI. While this woman luckily didn’t kill anyone with her car, in 1987 she did kill another woman by stabbing her 30 times in a motel room. Why? This woman stole her friend’s coat:
Redcrow, formerly of Hot Springs, was convicted in Missoula of the August 1987 murder of Marie Ila Richie, 22, who was stabbed to death in what was then the Sweet Rest Motel.
Richie angered Redcrow by stealing a jacket of Redcrow’s friend, Kathy Glover. The two women beat Richie as she walked west along the south bank of the Clark Fork River.
When police responded, they found Richie covered in blood, but she refused help.
Redcrow and Richie returned to a room at the Sweet Rest that Redcrow shared with her boyfriend, Paul Regudon. Once there, Redcrow stabbed Richie repeatedly while Regudon watched television, according to testimony at the trial in 1988.
Richie was stabbed more than 30 times before Redcrow and Regudon carried the body to a nearby island in the Clark Fork River, where they were found by police a short time later. Regudon was later acquitted of a charge of accountability to murder.
This brutal murder, a later escape from prison, and multiple parole violations didn’t stop our criminal justice system from putting this woman back on the streets. I found this part of the article particularly confusing:
Missoula County District Judge Doug Harkin sentenced Redcrow to 50 years in prison for deliberate homicide and another 10 for use of a weapon. He also designated her a dangerous offender, which meant she had to serve half her sentence, less good time, before being eligible for parole.
In 2000, the state Sentence Review Board increased Redcrow’s sentence from 60 years to 90 years, but suspended 40 years of the term. The result was her prison term was trimmed by 10 years, which made her eligible for parole earlier.
The second story in the paper today features a man who stabbed his wife in trouble for now threatening to stab his girlfriend:
A Missoula man who in 1990 was convicted of mitigated deliberate homicide for fatally stabbing his wife faces new charges for allegedly threatening to stab his girlfriend and her 25-year-old son early Saturday morning.
Frank Belmarez, 48, is charged with two counts of assault with a weapon.
Belmarez has been out of prison since 2011, and had been dating the victim for two years prior to the most recent assault.
According to charging documents, he came home to a residence on the 2100 block of Kensington Avenue early Saturday. He was reportedly intoxicated and wanted to continue drinking with his girlfriend, who was asleep in a bedroom.
When she refused his reportedly drunken request, Belmarez allegedly became angry and pulled out his folding knife.
“I’m going to stick you, then gut your son,” he allegedly said to her.
To contrast these killers and the freedom they somehow managed to acquire, we have the sad story of Barry Beach, serving 100 years without the chance to parole. Last month Beach lost at the Montana Supreme Court:
Montana’s Supreme Court dealt the latest blow to Barry Beach’s quest for freedom today –and again it was by a single vote.
In a 4-3 decision, the court ruled Beach should not be re-sentenced simply because he was a juvenile at the time of the 1979 murder of Poplar Montana valedictorian Kim Nees-the crime for which Beach is serving a sentence of 100 years without parole.
Beach confessed to killing Nees but soon afterwards insisted that confession was coerced by detectives in Louisiana, where he was picked up on a minor charge and later confessed to the Nees murder. No physical evidence connects Beach to the killing.
His case has captured international attention since Dateline began reporting on the case in 2008.
Dateline’s reporting turned up new witnesses, whose testimony led a judge in 2011 to order a new trial for Beach and to free him on bond.
After serving 27 years in prison, Beach was released in 2011 and lived and worked without incident in Billings, Montana for 18 months. But in 2013, Montana’s Supreme Court -again in a vote of 4-3–voided the decision to grant Beach a new trial and sent him back to the state prison in Deer Lodge, where he remains today.
I guess this is how we do “justice” in Montana.
Sometime this month a psychopath by the name of Kevin Lino will be sentenced for beating, torturing and executing a fellow homeless person under the Reserve Street bridge last summer. I wonder how quickly the state will try to put this killer back into our community? Stay tuned…
by William Skink
A pastor friend of mine put a New York Post article on his Facebook feed. The article is about a massive, silent cultural revolution that has changed America. Here is the opening salvo in the next iteration of the culture war:
It happened without a Summer of Love, without Timothy Leary, without a groovy anthem or a shaggy new national look. In the past decade or so, there’s been a silent revolution in American culture, one at least as profound as the ’60s upheavals.
We’ve hardly taken notice of it, because it happened in people’s minds instead of in the streets, happened in ordinary people instead of in the elites and the punditocracy.
Compared to just a few years ago, we have a completely different set of ideas about what constitutes acceptable behavior. As Caitlyn Jenner puts it in her new reality show, “I’m the new normal.”
I am reluctant to perpetuate the culture war by referring to the “upheavals” of the 60’s in those terms, but that is the language Kyle Smith, writing for the New York Post, chooses to use.
What follows is a weird mix of polling showing the cultural shifts with issues like gay rights, marijuana use and raising kids born out of wedlock. To provide contrast to where we are in 2015, post-Caitlyn Jenner, Smith takes us back to the long-gone days of 2002:
Consider America circa 2002: Not that different from today, seemingly. A time traveler who spent a few hours walking around your town then and now might have a difficult time filling a small notebook with observations about what’s changed. Maybe there are more Starbuckses. And what happened to Blockbuster Video?
Yet support for gay marriages to be treated the same as straight ones went from 39% just nine years ago to 60% today, according to Gallup. As recently as 2010, a clear majority opposed gay marriage. Today, a large majority support it.
As for the broader issue of whether gay and lesbian relationships are even morally acceptable, only 40% said yes in 2001. Today that number stands at 63%.
In other words, more Americans are OK with homosexuality than were OK with divorce (59%) in 2001. A decade ago, a plurality of Americans did not even believe that homosexuality is innate.
This silent victory in the ongoing cultural war, which includes LGBT rights, is compared to the less successful push to normalize Marijuana use. And some how morality gets dragged into the picture. And Ellen DeGeneres. It gets confusing:
Today, by a margin of 51% to 30%, Americans think if you’re gay, you were born that way.
What caused all these changes? It’s hard to say. Older Americans are dying off. Popular culture not only deals with homosexuality approvingly, but has added more and more gay personalities to the mix.
In 2002, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” had not yet debuted. As my colleague Sara Stewart noted, today she’s “our culture’s lovable gay grandma.”
Are we more attuned to pop culture than we used to be? Maybe. In the 1960s and 1970s, marijuana usage became a hugely popular theme in entertainment. Public opinion, though, did not follow.
In 1969, the year of “Easy Rider,” support for legal pot stood at 12%. As recently as 2003, it was still only 34%. But in the last two Gallup polls on the subject, in 2013 and 2014, support hit an outright majority for the first time.
And yet only 7% told Gallup in 2013 that they themselves currently take marijuana.
Choosing to use a substance like Marijuana (or caffeine, alcohol, nicotine) is not analogous to trying to understand and live according to one’s sexual/gender orientation.
In a fantastic twist of irony, some guy tried to call into question Caitlyn Jenner’s bravery on Facebook, contrasting her coming out with an image of war-time heroism. The irony arrived when the viral post led to the eventual provenance of the image:
Soon after he shared the photo, it went viral. However, several commenters quickly identified the irony in the photo Coffey shared.
The image is credited to Mark Hogancamp, who created the photo as part of an exercise to manage his pain after he was nearly beaten to death by five men in New York 15 years ago because he was crossdressing. He suffered serious brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder, which he combats by creating World War II narratives in one-sixth scale using dolls.
I cried when I read this story, just like I cried when I listened to the story of Sissy Goodwin on NPR driving to work one day in April:
Sissy Goodwin teaches power plant technology at Casper College in Wyoming. The 68-year-old Vietnam veteran dresses in women’s clothing, wears bows in his hair, likes his skirts exactly 17 inches short, and prefers his toolboxes in pink.
Sissy is also straight. And he wasn’t born with that name. His given name is Larry, but one day after a woman on the street called him sissy in a derogatory way, he chose to fully adopt the name. He says he was initially upset, but felt that by taking on the name he was taking ownership of her insulting comment.
His wife, Vickie, didn’t know he wore women’s clothing when they met, but has stood by his side for more than four decades.
“I knew I had to hide my behavior,” Sissy told 66-year-old Vickie during a recent visit to StoryCorps. “So I tried to be very macho, as you know. The second or third date I took you on I rode in a rodeo.”
I desperately hope that the acceptance of gender fluidity is the new normal, because my youngest son’s life may depend on it.
He is only four years old, but his preferences began emerging well over a year ago. He would take towels and ask his mother or myself to tie them to his waist, like a skirt. He preferred the “girl” colors over the boy ones, and gravitated to Lego Friends instead of Star Wars. Eventually he began raiding my wife’s closet for colorful tops. I distinctly remember buying him his first dress at Target.
My son still dresses like a boy at pre-school because he knows his classmates may make fun of him. He isn’t feeling brave enough to confront that just yet. Otherwise, even in public, he prefers dresses.
So far the only negative reaction has been some old woman at the Good Food Store telling my wife that my son should be wearing jeans. Thankfully her generation is dying out.
Earlier today, I joined my friend’s family in beating the late spring heat at Frenchtown Pond State Park. I was admittedly relieved when my son traded his dress for swim trunks. After swimming, though, it was back to wearing the dress. Nothing bad happened, but part of me is always subconsciously ready for confrontation.
I can’t put into words how amazing my kids are. My oldest has had his moments of being embarrassed and annoyed that his brother likes to wear dresses, but we address it as honestly and directly as we can. We tread carefully, though, because parental attention between siblings is a precious commodity, so we don’t want little brother’s inclination to be an attention-suck that older brother becomes resentful of.
If my son doesn’t have the support of his immediate family, the statistical probability that he will some day attempt suicide is staggering:
According to surveys, 4.6 percent of the overall U.S. population has self-reported a suicide attempt, with that number climbing to between 10 and 20 percent for lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents. By comparison, 41 percent of trans or gender non-conforming people surveyed have attempted suicide.
The most recent, comprehensive data on suicide attempts was gathered by The Williams Institute, in collaboration with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Its report, Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults, analyzed responses from 6,456 self-identified transgender and gender non-conforming adults (18+) who took part in the U.S. National Transgender Discrimination Survey. The results are staggering.
Beyond the overall number of suicide attempts, the rates are consistently high from respondents ages 18 to 65, when they begin to recede. Trans men are the most impacted, with 46 percent reporting an attempt in their lifetime. Trans women are close behind at 42 percent, and female-assigned cross-dressers report rates of 44 percent.
What we are seeing is not some silent revolution, as reported by the New York Post. It’s evolution.
And it has nothing to do with smoking weed or single parent households, Kyle Smith.
Vladimir Putin sat down with several Italian newspapers recently, in advance of his visit to Italy, and weighed in on many topics: relations with Europe and the U.S.; Ukraine; empire; and much more.
Consider this an open thread on the resurgence of the Cold War.
“…As for some countries’ concerns about Russia’s possible aggressive actions, I think that only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO. I think some countries are simply taking advantage of people’s fears with regard to Russia. They just want to play the role of front-line countries that should receive some supplementary military, economic, financial or some other aid. Therefore, it is pointless to support this idea; it is absolutely groundless. But some may be interested in fostering such fears. I can only make a conjecture.
For example, the Americans do not want Russia’s rapprochement with Europe. I am not asserting this, it is just a hypothesis. Let’s suppose that the United States would like to maintain its leadership in the Atlantic community. It needs an external threat, an external enemy to ensure this leadership. Iran is clearly not enough – this threat is not very scary or big enough. Who can be frightening? And then suddenly this crisis unfolds in Ukraine. Russia is forced to respond. Perhaps, it was engineered on purpose, I don’t know. But it was not our doing.
Let me tell you something – there is no need to fear Russia. The world has changed so drastically that people with some common sense cannot even imagine such a large-scale military conflict today. We have other things to think about, I assure you…”
by William Skink
The Guardian has some of the latest updates regarding the FIFA scandal after Sepp Blatter resigned a few days ago, including an FBI investigation into Blatter and Interpol issuing red notices for former FIFA executives. Quite the mess if you’re a soccer fan.
I’m not, and really could care less about this scandal. I see this through the lens of geopolitics, which I think is a much better way of understanding what is going on. Corruption? Ha, the United States comes off as immensely hypocritical when it selectively goes after corruption for its own political reasons.
To contrast this FIFA scandal, let’s take a look at recent developments in Ukraine.
Because it’s not in America’s interest for these developments to be making big, splashy headlines, it’s sources like Robert Parry at Consortium News we must rely on. And Parry doesn’t disappoint. The latest? President Poroshenko has appointed the Neocon darling, ex-Georgian President Saakashvili, to “govern” Odessa. Yes, that’s right, the corrupt ex-prez of Georgia, who picked a fight with Russia by attacking Russian peace keepers in South Ossetia, has been given Ukrainian citizenship and control of this ethnically Russian province. And instead of a media feeding-frenzy, the compliant NYT actually tries to justify the coup government’s penchant for appointing foreigners to top-level positions. From the link:
New York Times correspondent David M. Herszenhorn justified this imposition of a newly minted Ukrainian citizen on the largely Russian-speaking population of Odessa by saying that “the Ukrainian public’s general willingness to accept the appointment of foreigners to high-level positions underscores the deep lack of trust in any government after nearly a quarter-century of mismanagement and corruption.”
But Herszenhorn made no apparent effort to gauge how willing the people of Odessa are to accept this choice of a controversial foreign politician to govern them. The pick was made by President Petro Poroshenko and is just the latest questionable appointment by the post-coup regime in Kiev.
For instance, shortly after the Feb. 22, 2014 putsch that ousted elected President Viktor Yanukovych, the new U.S.-endorsed authorities in Kiev named thuggish oligarch Igor Kolomoisky to be governor of Dnipropetrovsk in southeastern Ukraine. Kolomoisky, regarded as one of Ukraine’s most corrupt billionaires, ruled the region as his personal fiefdom until he was ousted by Poroshenko earlier this year in a dispute over Kolomoisky’s use of strong-arm tactics to maintain control of Ukrainian energy companies. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine’s Oligarchs Turn on Each Other.”]
Poroshenko also has granted overnight Ukrainian citizenship to other controversial foreigners to hold key positions in his government, including Finance Minister Natalie Jaresko, an ex-U.S. State Department official whose qualifications included enriching herself through her management of a $150 million U.S.-taxpayer-financed investment fund for Ukraine. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Ukraine Finance Minister’s ‘American Values’.”]
Before this fugitive from his own country—wanted for human rights violations and embezzlement—had his political career resurrected by a corrupt Ukrainian billionaire, he was chilling in Brooklyn, living a charmed life:
Mikheil Saakashvili, who served as the president of Georgia for nine years before being voted out in 2013, now lives a charming existence in a cozy Williamsburg high-rise, rumored to be the same building where Tumblr founder David Karp resides. When he isn’t riding the L train to Cafe Mogador or making poignant observations about his fellow Brooklynites (“[Hasidic Jews] walk around in these big hats!”), Saakashvili spends his time plotting his return to Georgia, a move he thinks will be made possible by growing anti-Putin sentiment.
Of course, there is that pesky indictment for allegedly using the country’s money to pay for stuff like Botox and art created using the body of a naked lady, but that’s nothing an enterprising hipster ex-president can’t get past.
Anyone who thinks this country gives two shits about corruption hasn’t been paying attention. Corruption is everywhere, so when it’s used as an excuse to go after an organization like FIFA, astute observers understand there are deeper motivations at play.
by William Skink
There’s a curious piece from NBC Montana about a new shelter for Veterans opening near Whitefish (h/t @Lgpguin). Maybe @Lgpguin will get some clarification on what is intended by the use of the word “shelter” since she asked for a definition. Here’s the opening details:
This summer, a shelter for homeless veterans is opening up near Whitefish.
Glacier Hope Homes will house 35 veterans.
The site currently operates as a resort on Hodgson Road. The new shelter will take over in the same location on August 4.
The property features 17.5 acres of land and 12,000 square feet of indoor space.
Officials are paying for the project via private investors, a federal grant and funds from Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Administration benefits.
Glacier Hope Homes will cost residents $1,500 per month.
Um, ok. Kind of expensive for homeless Veterans to afford, but saying you’re helping Veterans does seem to create a warm glow that resists skepticism.
It would be great if the reporter (who looks like she just graduated J-School) employed some skepticism, though. Who are these officials? Who are the private investors? What’s the name of the federal grant? Will there be medical staff? If not, how does this “shelter” plan on billing Medicaid and Medicare?
There are no answers to any of these questions. Instead there’s this:
“We are going to take care of veterans, senior veterans and homeless veterans and encompassed in that is more than room and board,” said Glacier Hope Homes Executive Director Jason Stevens. “We are going to provide educational opportunities. We’re going to provide job opportunities. We have a lot of amenities.”
Stevens says the facility plans to launch a kind of buddy system, where veterans of different generations can pair off and get to know each other.
Maybe it’s just the short format of NBC Montana reporting, but to me Glacier Hope Homes sounds like a scam. I hope Glacier Hope Homes gets a little more scrutiny before they start serving homeless Veterans. Veterans have complicated issues that often require clinically trained professionals to address, especially if those issues have resulted in episodes of homelessness. Launching a buddy system just won’t cut it.
If this new shelter hasn’t done it’s due diligence, politicians will hear about it quickly. For all the criticism I’ve heaped on Jon Tester, his office has been very responsive to Veteran issues.
Thank you @Lgpguin for catching this one!
NBC Montana changed the article to better clarify who will cover the 1,500 dollar cost per resident. The first stab at this story clearly stated that Glacier Hope Homes, and I quote, “will cost residents 1,500 per month.” That apparently wasn’t accurate, so the article now reads:
Officials are paying for the project via private investors, a federal grant and funds from Medicaid, Medicare and Veterans Administration benefits to cover the $1,500 monthly cost of operation per resident.
by William Skink
Well, this may be my last post. When the clock strikes midnight tonight our defenses against the terrorists will sunset, and who knows what tomorrow may bring. If you are reading this during the daylight hours of June, 2015, then you haven’t already succumbed to the onslaught. Good. I imagine a movie scene similar to the zombie hordes breaching Israel’s defenses in World War Z. Upon seeing that zombie flick, David Denby, writing for the New Yorker, described his feeling walking through New York:
On Broadway, there were no zombies in immediate sight, only a happy and friendly crowd. Yet I felt a vague uneasiness at the sheer number of people milling about—a sense that they could all be transformed into something malevolent or frightened. Absurd? Mere paranoia?
Chilling. God only knows what seemingly happy and friendly crowds may harbor.
It’s clear from the hashtag #standwithRand the apocalypse is near. We can only hope the anarchy let loose will purify the hinterlands so the libertariat can uninhibit themselves wherever they choose.
By the time most of you read this it will be June. If your homes haven’t yet fallen to ISIS, that’s probably because you aren’t in the hostile zones, once referred to as “Texas” and “Utah”. Here’s words from a fringe site you can laugh at:
Apparently it was two homegrown ISIS fighters from Arizona that showed up in Dallas bent on a shooting spree at a cartoon contest lampooning Islam earlier this month in what seemed a staged event, the same state deemed “hostile” by the Jade Helm game plan. Then came the bizarre mass biker gang shootout killing 9 in Waco, Texas a week ago. Evidence is coming to light that hidden ISIS recruiters are presently embedded in US, UK and Canada college campuses around those Western nations attempting to entice non-Muslims to join their cause. Based on a recent UN report almost two months ago, more than 25,000 new recruits did join from most countries in the world just since June last year. Whether ISIS is really here in North America amongst us or not, Washington’s been hyping the eminent dangers posed by right wing domestic terrorists lurking to kill government authorities like police, almost as if to prep us for an upcoming false flag that could occur during Jade Helm.
A different take about the same military exercise from the same site wonders if watching the reactions from strategic leaks like this isn’t more to the point:
On a higher, meta level, the intention is to gather game theory-style data on the target audience, which in this case is not merely the alternative media and tea party niche, but also the mainstream media and its response to the tea party response, and back and forth. Like a game of Pong, the game theorist can sit back and watch mass trends, movements and reactions between these two sides with social media and search engine algorithmic tracking.
I’d like to report to the meta level that fear is working. But you already knew that. Still, you should have seen how annoyed my dad was when my mom talked about moving some of their money from stocks to something more tangible, like gold. He’s a smart guy, but he cannot face the degree of deceit we’re dealing with. He’s had nothing but post-WWII prosperity as the backdrop for his contextual understanding of the systems and processes he believes in. Questioning core assumptions is too disorienting for him. I can sympathize.
Anyway, good luck tomorrow, dear citizens. For the preservation of the stars and stripes, stay locked and loaded.
by William Skink
This country makes me sick. The rapacious greed and corruption will destroy us, eventually. And the next crash is just around the corner.
While health insurance executives get six figure bonuses for the disaster that STILL is our health care system, my take home pay went down because my employer-provided health care plan keeps going up and up and up, a trajectory that shows no signs of abating. From the link:
Health insurance companies that sold policies on the Montana Internet “marketplace” reported some substantial losses in 2014 – but that didn’t stop their executives from collecting some big bonuses.
Patricia Hemingway Hall, the head of Health Care Service Corp., which is the Illinois-based parent firm of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana, received a $10.4 million bonus for 2014, on top of her $1.25 million salary, for total compensation of $11.7 million.
The company increased its 2014 revenue from $22.7 billion to $27.7 billion, but had a net loss of $281 million – about $1 billion lower than its 2013 net revenue of $684 million.
In Montana, Blue Cross President Mike Frank’s total compensation for 2014 was $849,000, including a $355,000 bonus and salary of $488,000.
Montana Blue Cross spokesman John Doran said Frank’s total compensation package in 2014 was slightly lower than Frank’s $870,000 compensation for the previous year.
If you want to hear the hilarious reason for this obscenity, check out the rationale:
“Compensation is a way to attract and retain experienced professionals who will serve our members’ long-term interests at a time when the health-care system is undergoing historic changes,” he said. “We need the best and the brightest at all levels of our business to ensure insurance works for everyone over the long term.”
I can just imagine this statement being made, then the fucker who made it laughing maniacally. Long term interests of your members? Insurance that works for everyone? Yeah right, you worthless parasites. Fuck off.
It’s also maddening to think a Lee Newspaper is reporting this when their corporate leeches siphon bonuses for themselves while destroying their capacity to report news.
The other article about the insurance industry woes, written by Mike Dennison, is one of the last articles to come from the shuttered state bureau. It tells the tale of these pieces of shit going hat in hand to Monica Lindeen asking to fuck its rate payers just a little bit more next year:
Blue Cross’ parent company, Health Care Service Corp., reported losses of $282 million for 2014 – almost $1 billion less than its $684 million net gain for the previous year.
Blue Cross, the co-op and two other companies are now filing rates for next year’s policies in Montana. Those rates haven’t been made final or reviewed yet by Montana’s insurance regulator, state Auditor Monica Lindeen, but insurance officials said they’ve asked for increases.
Lindeen said Friday her office has just begun reviewing the 2016 rates. She’ll likely object to parts of the increases, and it’s possible insurers are overestimating some expected costs or other factors, she said.
“There are a lot of different issues on why these rate increases may be so high,” Lindeen said. “We’re hoping through our process we can decrease the increases.”
I have a wild idea? No increase unless every goddamn bonus is returned. Now. Or fuck you. Please, Monica, relate my subtle message to these assholes.
Speaking of greed-driven insanity, since there were no real consequences for the Wall Street fuckers who blew up the economy, housing is once again a re-inflated bubble waiting to burst. From Zerohedge:
And now we come to present day and something really smells fishy again. Home prices crashed by 40% between 2005 and 2012, putting prices back to 1978 on an inflation adjusted basis. All of the bubble gains were wiped out in the blink of an eye. Bernanke and his Wall Street owners had a real problem with this development. Wall Street banks had/have billions in toxic mortgages on their books and only accounting fraud by not having to mark them to market has kept these banks from having to declare bankruptcy. Bernanke, Geithner, and the Wall Street banks hatched their master plan to save themselves at the expense of young people in 2011/2012.
We know for a fact that real median household income is still 7% below 2007 levels and sits at the same level as 1989. We know for a fact that wages have been stagnant since 2007. We know for a fact GDP has barely broken 2% since 2009. We know for a fact the price of healthcare, food, energy, tuition, rent, and a myriad of other daily living expenses are dramatically higher since 2009. We know mortgage originations are at 1997 levels. We know housing starts are 60% below the 2005 highs and at levels seen during the 1991 and 1981 recessions. Existing home sales are 30% below the 2005 high, only up 10% from 2012 levels, and sitting at levels reached in 1999 before the boom.
A critical thinking person might wonder how median single family home prices could possibly skyrocket by 37% in the last three years when household incomes are falling, living expenses rising, and the number of houses being sold are at recessionary levels. The stinking rotting fish again sits in the hallways of the Eccles Building in Washington D.C. Janet “Yellowfish” Yellen has inherited the bubble blowing machine from Ben “Blowfish” Bernanke and has continued to inflate a new housing bubble, because one housing bubble just isn’t enough.
As America the global cop goes after FIFA corruption, it might want to consider cleaning its own house first.
There is a word for the appropriate type of housing the banksters responsible for this mess deserve: prison. Or maybe they want to see how far they can push the US population before we start considering the French approach: guillotines.
Because, seriously, fuck them.
by William Skink
I’m going to start this post with the simple premise that politics = corruption. And because politics touches everything from birth to death to the air we breathe, so does corruption.
There are of course gradations of corruption throughout the various political systems that govern the people on this planet, but one surefire way of gauging the level of corruption is determining how much money is involved. If it’s a lot of money, then there’s sure to be a lot of corruption.
Defenders of corrupt politicians, like Hillary Clinton, will want to see the nitty-gritty quid pro quo before acknowledging this obvious axiom about politics. The most recent analysis, I think, speaks for itself:
Under Clinton’s leadership, the State Department approved $165 billion worth of commercial arms sales to 20 nations whose governments have given money to the Clinton Foundation, according to an IBTimes analysis of State Department and foundation data. That figure — derived from the three full fiscal years of Clinton’s term as Secretary of State (from October 2010 to September 2012) — represented nearly double the value of American arms sales made to the those countries and approved by the State Department during the same period of President George W. Bush’s second term.
The Clinton-led State Department also authorized $151 billion of separate Pentagon-brokered deals for 16 of the countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation, resulting in a 143 percent increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. These extra sales were part of a broad increase in American military exports that accompanied Obama’s arrival in the White House. The 143 percent increase in U.S. arms sales to Clinton Foundation donors compares to an 80 percent increase in such sales to all countries over the same time period.
I don’t know why I’m still amazed at the capacity of partisans to rationalize away these icky implications, but they do, over and over and over again.
Yesterday I was involved in a Twitter spat with Jay Stevens, one of the founders of this humble blog. He was incredulous that Putin would defend FIFA corruption. But Putin, IMHO, isn’t defending FIFA corruption, he’s just playing geopolitics, same as the US. Anyone who thinks Russia is more corrupt than the US when it comes to getting the World Cup (or the Olympics) to gravy train corporate loot into their respective spheres is delusional.
So what’s the deal with America’s sudden interest in FIFA corruption?
At Moon of Alabama, b opens his post with this:
Today the U.S. ordered Swiss police to raid, incarcerate and extradite to the U.S. six FIFA officials for alleged corruption. The raid, with obviously pre-alarmed New York Times reporters on the scene, comes shortly before a FIFA vote to expel Israel from the association.
This Friday the world football association FIFA is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, for its 65th regular World Congress. One of the votes on the agenda (pdf) is about the “Suspension or expulsion of a member”. There is also an “Update on Israel-Palestine”.
When dealing with equally corrupt nation-states, especially cold war adversaries, there’s always something else going on than what the surface story describes. I wish more people in this particular nation-state were more discerning.
But we’re not, so any Putin-demonizing angle that can be conjured up will be enthusiastically consumed.
Politics = corruption. Proceed from that premise, and you may start understanding the movements behind the posturing.
by William Skink
If this sounds like a set-up for a Mad Men episode, don’t blame the Missoulian. The paper exists solely for passing cash up to the bosses, and it’s not in the interest of the Lee overlords to report on how it’s toxic work environment has bred defectors jumping ship with alleged proprietary material.
David Crisp covers how the story of Lee Newspapers closing its Capitol bureau wasn’t covered by Lee Newspapers. News spread instead via social media. Ed Kemmick slightly amends Crisp by acknowledging the Billings Gazette did at least run two guest editorials and a letter to the editor.
And now we have the juicy account of a demoted publisher leading a coordinated defection from the Missoulian. Reported by David Erickson, writing for…the Missoulian. Go get ’em, Tiger!
In a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday in Missoula County District Court, Lee Enterprises Inc. seeks a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction against Jim McGowan, Tia Metzger, Brooke Redpath, Tara Halls and Megan Richter.
Their conduct is allegedly “continuing to cause immediate and irreparable injury to Lee Enterprises,” the lawsuit contends. It also accuses the former employees of deliberate and malicious conduct and of violating several Montana laws, including the Trade Secret Act.
Thems fighting words. And frankly, the whole scenario just heightens the absurdity of what our local media has become.
But weight, it gets even more ridiculous.
I clicked over to ID and read Pogreba’s reaction to the Independent Record trolling him so hard it’s like he’s been sucked down the rabbit hole:
Today the daily paper of record in Helena—part of the same chain that can’t afford to pay its top political reporters salaries commensurate with their experience—put on its web page a slideshow called Ranking the best facial hair in Montana political history.
Among the featured politicians were eminent politicians like Wm. Clark, Marcus Daly, Jon Tester and more.
The only catch about the slideshow (aside from the fact that the paper has the resources to “cover” this but not the statehouse) is that last Friday, I posted my own slideshow called “the best facial hair in MONTANA POLITICAL HISTORY” in an effort to satirize the direction the Lee papers seemed to be embracing. Nine minutes of work later, I felt like I had captured the direction of a news chain more interested in Facebook shares than real reporting.
It’s hard to understand what motivated the IR to post their homage to my work today. Did someone at the Independent Record read my story and actually think to himself that it was a good idea for a story? Worse yet, did someone independently come up with the idea? Is the IR giving up its waning credibility to troll me?
Trolling bloggers, litigation against defectors…is this what our local media has become?
This morning there are sketchy reports that Sheri Devlin, the Missoulian editor, is part of the Lee Newspaper purge. I guess the hits just keep coming. Stay tuned…
by William Skink
Lee Newspapers’ further degradation of the media landscape with wikipedia rip-offs (Pogreba says plagiarism because Walsh’s take down still stings) is sad, but small potatoes compared to what the New York Times can pull off with it’s reporting on foreign affairs. The most recent example, ferreted out at Moon of Alabama, involves a smokescreen excuse of a sandstorm for why US air strikes weren’t more vigorously pursued against ISIS as they took Ramadi.
Most Americans probably think it’s preposterous that the psychos running US foreign policy would want ISIS to take Ramadi, but as far back as 2007, politicians like Joe Biden were advocating for breaking Iraq into three pieces:
At least Caesar was just commenting on reality when he wrote that “all Gaul is divided into three parts.” Last week, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Joe Biden attempted to create reality when an overwhelming majority of the U.S. Senate voted for his non-binding resolution to divide Iraq into three parts — Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish autonomous zones. Shailagh Murray of the Washington Post reported that the 75-23 Senate vote was “a significant milestone …, carving out common ground in a debate that has grown increasingly polarized and focused on military strategy.” Murray added, “The [tripartite] structure is spelled out in Iraq’s constitution, but Biden would initiate local and regional diplomatic efforts to hasten its evolution.”
In Iraq, the plan was termed a “disaster” by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki; a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called the Senate resolution “a step toward the breakup of Iraq.” He added, according to Juan Cole’s Informed Comment website, “It is a mistake to imagine that such a plan will lead to a reduction in chaos in Iraq; rather, on the contrary, it will lead to an increase in the butchery and a deepening of the crisis of this country, and the spreading of increased chaos, even to neighboring states.” In the meantime, Sunni clerics and various political parties joined in the denunciations. Only the Kurds, eager for an independent state, evidently welcomed the plan.
Seymour Hersch also wrote about this plan 8 years ago for The New Yorker, in a piece titled The Redirection.
So why would this be a US objective? Because destroying Iraq and creating a power vacuum has significantly increased Iran’s influence in the region. The US reaction has been to assist our lovely allies in the region, like Saudi Arabia, in the creation of a jihadist counter-weight to this influence.
This isn’t some whacked out conspiracy theory. Former ambassador to the UN, Joe Bolton, recently stated the goal explicitly on Fox News:
I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists. What’s left of the state of Iraq, as of right now, is simply a satellite of the Ayatollahs in Tehran. It’s not anything we should try to aid.
This puts the deceit regarding the taking of Ramadi into sharper focus. ISIS isn’t a bug, it’s a feature. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.
by William Skink
Quick hits for a short week. Here are some articles I’ve been meaning to write posts about, but haven’t had the time.
First, when that daylight gunfight erupted in Waco, Texas, plenty of astute observers looked at the pictures of bikers mulling around amidst law enforcement and wondered if the scene would look different if the gun-toting gang members were black. Well, a leaked report examined by The Intercept sheds a little more light on the demographics of these bike gangs, and some of its membership may surprise:
A year before the deadly Texas shootout that killed nine people on May 17, a lengthy report by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives detailed the involvement of U.S. military personnel and government employees in outlaw motorcycle gangs, or OMGs. A copy of the report was obtained by The Intercept.
The report lays out, in almost obsessive detail, the extent to which OMG members are represented in nearly every part of the military, and in federal and local government, from police and fire departments to state utility agencies. Specific examples from the report include dozens of Defense Department contractors with Secret or Top Secret clearances; multiple FBI contractors; radiological technicians with security clearances; U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees; Army, Navy and Air Force active-duty personnel, including from the special operations force community; and police officers.
It’s unclear what incentive drives these people to join outlaw biker gangs. Maybe they pay better than Uber? On that topic, Naked Capitalism has a piece on a surprising Wall Street Journal article about the “sharing” economy. One would assume the WSJ would be an ally of Uber, but the report doesn’t seem to pull any punches as it unpacks the myth of the sharing economy, calling out Uber specifically. From the WSJ article:
In the minds of critics, perhaps the worst offender in how it controls its labor force is Uber. Uber sets the prices that its drivers must accept, and has lately been in the habit of unilaterally squeezing drivers in two ways, both by lowering the rates drivers are paid per trip and increasing Uber’s cut of those wages….
Boosters of companies like Uber counter that they allow for relatively well-compensated work, on demand. When I asked them for comment, Uber officials pointed to previously released data suggesting just that. The most recent report, a collaboration between Uber and economist Alan Krueger, paints a fairly rosy picture of Uber’s job-creation abilities. Uber has said in the past that world-wide it is hiring 20,000 new drivers a month, and in this report it claims that in major American cities like Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., drivers are averaging more than $17 an hour.
But this data doesn’t reflect what Uber drivers actually make, for the simple reason that it doesn’t include drivers’ expenses. Work by investigative journalist Emily Guendelsberger, for example, shows that Uber drivers in Philadelphia, a fairly typical city for the service, are probably earning only a fraction of that. According to Ms. Guendelsberger’s admittedly limited sample of 20 drivers, including herself, it was around $10 an hour after expenses.
Exploiting labor is as American as apple pie. And it’s even easier to exploit if you own the labor directly. I’m not talking about slaves, I’m talking about the products of procreation, exemplified by the cult of Duggar. This extended work camp referred to as a “family” recently came under fire after revelations that one of its cult members enjoys molesting girls, presumably including his sisters. Luckily this family has a presidential contender willing to go to bat for them:
Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee made a statement on Facebook Friday addressing the revelations that eldest son Josh Duggar admitted to sexually molesting “girls,” presumably his own sisters, as a teenager.
The former Arkansas governor largely defended the actions of the family since the abuse and said he wanted to “affirm” support for the family. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” Huckabee’s statement said. The Duggar family endorsed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the 2012 election, but have backed Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination this time around.
Huckabee continued, “No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story. Good people make mistakes and do regrettable and even disgusting things. The reason that the law protects disclosure of many actions on the part of a minor is that the society has traditionally understood something that today’s blood-thirsty media does not understand—that being a minor means that one’s judgement is not mature.”
I’m sure Huckabee would say the same thing if this family was black, right? And I’m sure Huckabee will make reforming laws that charge minors with adult crimes a major plank in his bid for the presidency, right? Here is an article from last year about minors in New York:
Every year, almost 50,000 16- and 17-year-olds are prosecuted as adults in New York State, and more than three-quarters of these charges are for misdemeanors like shoplifting and marijuana possession. Some 70% of the children arrested are black or Latino, as well as 80% of those incarcerated.
As Cuomo reminded us, now is the time for a change. The New York State Legislature needs to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility, and they need to do it this year.
Teens are far from perfect, and they certainly are not always innocent. That’s part of growing up. A teen’s brain develops well into his or her 20s, and as cognitive skills improve, so does impulse control. As a result, teens are often unable to focus on the consequences of their behavior.
Yeah, I won’t hold my breath in hopes that Huckabee sees minority teens in the same glowing light as the cult of Duggar.
Have a good week!
by William Skink
Nostalgia for this 36 year old is me buying a CD at Best Buy (the new Faith No More album). Before I was old enough to have my own moments of nostalgia, I was sold Baby Boomer nostalgia for their counterculture movement. I distinctly remember watching the movie The Lost Boys (though not when it was first released in 1987). The Doors were a featured part of the soundtrack. I was hooked.
Discovering the music and writing of the 60’s, and the Beats they sprouted from, felt like a rite of passage to a new level of understanding. This was the rebellion against the cul-de-sacs of suburbia I was trapped in. This was how to dig the deeper veins of reality, where the truth hides.
I’m not sure when the disillusionment began, but 9/11 was the shock that re-calibrated my senses. I had just turned 22, and was still jumping through undergrad hoops at UM. It’s fair to say the government’s conspiracy theory explaining events that day didn’t sit well with me, so I looked elsewhere. I didn’t know it at the time, but this was the beginning of a journey into the depths of chapel perilous.
The link is to a post by horror writer Matt Cardin, from his blog The Teeming Brain. It’s a good exploration into the concept of chapel perilous, weaving his personal experiences with the deep history of the term, which can be traced back to mythical quests for the Holy Grail.
What got me thinking about all this is the movie Inherent Vice, Paul Thomas Anderson’s adaptation of Thomas Pynchon’s crime novel of the same name. The movie is a brilliant take on the paranoia that infused the decade of decadence, a decade that killed off any lingering hope that the opening of the doors of perception would lead to something good, something positive for our species on this planet.
I no longer buy into 60’s nostalgia as peddled by the aging Baby Boomer generation. My coming of age occurred as the end of the millennium turned into the age of terror. Whether you know it or not, we are all stuck in chapel perilous.
by William Skink
Lee Newspapers, an innovator in self-destruction, sent two seasoned reporters from its State Bureau walking with buy-outs. The news is just now breaking, and my TL on Twitter has erupted with tweets of dismay. Rightly so. Here’s Ed Kemmick reacting:
The news is out that news coverage in Montana is taking a huge hit.
Lee Newspapers is closing its State Bureau in Helena, the Great Falls Tribune has reported, and KXLH TV in Helena has a story that adds some details. Chuck Johnson, who has been covering Montana politics for more than 40 years, will take a buyout and retire.
Mike Dennison, who has done the same kind of reporting for almost 25 years, will be taking a buyout while he looks for a new job. I couldn’t reach Johnson, but Dennison told me Lee offered the two veteran reporters continued employment—if they would accept quite substantial pay cuts.
I get people reacting strongly to this news about news, but no one should be surprised. The slow self-immolation that is perversely rewarded at the executive level continues. A post from Pogreba a year ago tracks the continued decline. It ends with a quote from media analyst Ken Doctor:
If the company continues to cut staff in order to make repayments, it risks diminishing its product to a point that readers won’t pay for it.
If you are reading this post you and I are partly to blame for this critical diminishment of traditional reporting. This is what disruptive technology looks like. Old methods get broken apart and people lose their jobs.
So what fills the vacuum? If the answer is bloggers, we’re screwed.
jhwygirl retweeted an interesting tweet from @bozelandia about one MT blogger who recently gussied up “her” virtual space:
Notified today @TEDTalks starting investigation into similarities between @_ericstern’s Ted talk & Cowgirl posts/possible plagiarism #mtpol
Curious. Maybe plagiarism is contagious?
Regardless, Cowgirl is definitely an important source of news from Helena, trafficking tips from little birds all across the state, but that’s no replacement for 70+ combined years of reporting from real-name professionals. What articles will I copiously quote from and link to now? How does Lee Newspapers expect to cobble together this new gaping hole in their state-wide coverage?
Maybe they just don’t.
Don Pogreba has done a great job tracking the years of newsprint decline, repeatedly bringing attention to the fact Lee Newspapers seems to reward failure:
Lest anyone forget, Lee’s CEO Mary Junck took a bonus of $500,000 during a quarter when the company she leads lost $26 million dollars.
On the surface, this seems absurd. How can a bonus for losing money be justified? But what if losses to justify stripping newsrooms is the actual objective?
As the old salaries go away, freshly minted journalism students will happily snatch up the crumbs. Give them a job and a byline, and you know they’ll work their social media platforms 24/7.
Retaining seasoned professionals just doesn’t pencil out for shareholders. It’s a brave new world. Act accordingly.
by William Skink
Los Angeles didn’t become the largest city to increase its minimum wage to $15 because people waited around every few years to cast votes for politicians, it happened because there is a growing worker’s movement changing the reality on the ground, day by day, city by city.
Elections still have consequences, but what politicians say—their “message”—is inconsequential because we know politicians say what they think we want to hear in order to get elected. Once in office, their true allegiance is to the deep donor pockets that got them there.
Democrats have a serious problem in 2016 and her name is Hillary Clinton. There is a lot of grass roots momentum on a variety of fronts building up, and the best way to destroy that momentum is to allow Clinton to transform it through her billion dollar alchemy into useless votes for a hopelessly corrupted political product.
By now it’s pretty obvious that Big Money has totally corrupted our political system. The Citizens United era is obscene and getting worse. But there are political conquerers within this cesspool who know how to win elections, and if you’ve limited yourself to swimming within the cesspool, the sage advice from someone like Jim Messina probably seems worth considering.
For a quick take, Pete Talbot boiled down the Politico piece to these four take-aways:
Of all the ways of communicating to voters, using Facebook and other social media, was the most effective because it was often a message shared by their friends or others they trusted versus politicians and the media that they don’t trust. We found that the undecided voters were moving our way as a result.
… an emphasis on enlisting known friends and trusted influencers to share the campaign’s message–restoring some believability to political messaging for low-information voters.
Mick (Jagger) was right, of course. No matter where you go, successful election campaigns are always about the future, not the past.
(And in the U.S.) by demonstrating that the Democratic Party had moved beyond an old agenda and toward a platform of nurturing a vibrant global economy and making the United States the dominant player in it … (that’s how) President Clinton and President Obama won two elections each.
Using social media to unwittingly con your Facebook friends with political calibrations geared toward some hopeful future won’t mean a goddamn thing if the future we’re talking about is a continued delusion about America’s dominant role in the world (as an antidote, check out Pepe Escobar’s piece, titled U.S. Wakes Up to New (Silk) World Order).
The work to produce incremental change is slowly being realized thanks to the relentless efforts of people on the ground. The work of establishment politicians, on the other hand, is producing Arctic drilling and sovereignty-killing trade agreements because that is the work they are being paid to do by the carousel of corruption.
Where you choose to allocate your time and energy is up to you. I’m glad I know where I stand.
by William Skink
Until Uber is able to replace humans drivers with robots, problems between the company and the drivers will continue. To Uber, drivers are nothing more than portals to profit, and apparently Uber isn’t satisfied with its margin, so the company is “testing” a higher fee, 30%. From the link:
Uber Technologies Inc. is experimenting with taking 30% of the revenue from fares booked through its car-hailing app, the highest commission it has charged drivers.
The higher so-called take-rate quietly went into effect in April in two cities, San Francisco and San Diego, and only applied to drivers who signed up for its UberX service since then, a company spokeswoman confirmed.
Uber’s rise is stratospheric, and the numbers are mind boggling. Forbes digs into Uber’s 50 BILLION dollar valuation to try and understand what velocity of growth must be achieved for Uber to deliver:
If you assume a normalized long-term free cash flow margin of about 35% (yes, this is quite high, but Uber’s business model is very efficient), Uber’s $50 billion valuation means that they will need to generate about $35.7 billion dollars of gross revenue and about $7.1 billion dollars of net revenue to justify the recent valuation. Perhaps more interestingly, the company will have to have an annual growth rate of about 286% each year over the next five years to hit these numbers. To put those numbers into perspective for a moment, it means that Uber is currently valued at 125x trailing annual net revenue.
Uber’s massive market value surpasses 80%+ of all S&P 500 companies, many of which have been around for 20, 30, 50 or more years (Uber was started in 2009). At first glance, the $50 billion valuation seems absurd. However, if the company manages to continue its current growth trajectory (seemingly doubling revenue every 12 months or less), it is not as crazy as one might presume. Still, this sky-high valuation isn’t without risk.
Uber inching up its take-rate in select markets makes more sense now. Just imagine the take when those inconvenient human drivers, with those those sometimes inconvenient proclivities, can be removed from the equation. I think it’s safe to say these numbers will incentivize further take-no-prisoner tactics against anyone who stands in their way, be it journalist, regulator or aggrieved customer.
At Pando, Paul Carr reports on how a Clinton crony, David Plouffe, has been replaced by a Cameron crony, Rachel Whetstone. Carr does a deep dive on Whetstone, something his media peers have made little to no effort reporting on. And they should, considering Uber is tapping a Margaret Thatcher 2.0 type:
Everyone in UK politics who I asked about Whetstone was agreed on one thing: She’s the person you bring in if you need to convince everyone that your company isn’t quite as nasty as it appears, and if your current spin doctors aren’t delivering the results you want. First that was Google, and now comes the biggest challenge of her career: Uber.
I have low hopes when it comes to the American business press covering Uber, but even I was surprised at how few journalists bothered to share even the most basic details of Whetstone’s background with their readers. That stuff sits barely below the surface and speaks volumes about the famously ultra-libertarian Travis Kalbnick’s decision to replace Plouffe with her at Uber: An Obama liberal booted upstairs to make way for a multi-generation Cameron conservative/libertarian.
Less shocking is the American’s media’s unwillingness to delve any deeper into the other bizarre web of connections that link Uber with Whetstone and her British political pals. People who go up against those folks rarely come away unsmeared, and we all know what Uber is capable of on that front. In any case, it takes a whiteboard and a lot of patience to even begin to get the threads straight — and there’s little evidence that anyone in Washington, Wall Street or Silicon Valley really cares what lurks under Uber’s hood, so long as it keeps proving fancy limos and killer profits.
Closer to home, Pete Talbot wonders how progressives can get ahead of these times that be a-changin’. Unfortunately I think the way he frames this issue shows that the conversation is already passing him by:
On one side you have entrepreneurs, smart phones, and the trendy, on the other: unions, regulations and institutions.
What’s a progressive to do?
I will hazard an answer. Progressives should start by understanding the scope of what they’re dealing with. Uber has quickly grown beyond the trendiness of disruptive technology into a regulation-smashing juggernaut without concern for labor or consumer safety. Local support by Montana Democrats is short-sighted. The trendy are a fleeting lot, and opportunists who take advantage will just be on to the next self-serving opportunity, leaving the consequences of their short-sightedness for others to deal with.
by William Skink
After nearly 8 years of liberal apologists making excuses for the Obama regime, it might be time to start reflecting on a two-term reign that set the tone of fealty to Wall Street within the first months of Obama’s inauguration.
Paul Street did just that in a Counterpunch piece that appeared Friday, titled The Liberal Apologies for Obama’s Ugly Reign. The way Street frames the decisive moment Obama met with the 13 titans of Wall Street is gut-wrenching to read 7 years later. Remember, back then Democrats had full control of Congress, they had just taken the White House after 8 disastrous years of Bush, Wall Street was in shambles, so there were possibilities. There was hope. And then there was this:
In his important book Confidence Men: Wall Street, Washington, and the Education of a President (2011), the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Suskind tells a remarkable story from March of 2009. Three months into Barack Obama’s supposedly progressive, left-leaning presidency, popular anger at Wall Street was intense and the nation’s leading financial institutions were weak and on the defensive in the wake of the financial collapse and recession they had created. The new president called a meeting of the nation’s top 13 financial executives at the White House. The banking titans came into the meeting full of dread. As Suskind noted:
“They were the CEOs of the thirteen largest banking institutions in the United States… And they were nervous in ways that these men are never nervous. Many would have had to reach back to their college days, or even grade school, to remember a moment when they felt this sort of lump-in-the-throat tension…As some of the most successful men in the country, they weren’t used to being pariahs… [and] they were indeed pariahs. The populist backlash against the financial sector—building steadily since September—was finally beginning to cause grave discomfort on Wall Street. As unemployment ballooned and credit tightened, the country began to look inward, toward the origins of the panic and its disastrous consequences.”
In the end, however, the anxious captains of high finance left the meeting pleased to learn that Obama was totally in their camp. For instead of standing up for those who had been harmed most by the crisis—workers, minorities, and the poor – Obama sided unequivocally with those who had caused the meltdown. “My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks,” Obama said. “You guys have an acute public relations problem that’s turning into a political problem. And I want to help…I’m not here to go after you. I’m protecting you…. I’m going to shield you from congressional and public anger.”
For the banking elite who destroyed millions of jobs in their lust for profit, there was, as Suskind puts it, “Nothing to worry about. Whereas [President Franklin Delano] Roosevelt had [during the Great Depression] pushed for tough, viciously opposed reforms of Wall Street and famously said ‘I welcome their hate,’ Obama was saying ‘How can I help?’” As one leading banker told Suskind, “The sense of everyone after the meeting was relief. The president had us at a moment of real vulnerability. At that point, he could have ordered us to do just about anything and we would have rolled over. But he didn’t – he mostly wanted to help us out, to quell the mob.” When “the bankers arrived in the State Dining Room,” Suskind notes, “Obama had them scared and ready to do almost anything he said…. An hour later, they were upbeat, ready to fly home and commence business as usual” (Confidence Men).
Throughout the subsequent years, the stock market recovered. Wall Street recovered. And interest-free liquidity still flows to the too-big-to-jail financial institutions, keeping the party going.
But the party can’t go on forever.
On a day when plenty of graduates are still bleary-eyed from last night’s revelries, realistic market watchers hear the ticking of the clock counting down to the next crash. Because politics. From the link:
Warning bells just keep getting louder and louder as the countdown to the Crash of 2016 keeps ticking. Wall Street’s in denial, but the Washington Post warns: “U.S. economic growth slows to 0.2 percent, grinding nearly to a halt.” USA Today hears “Bubble Talk” at the Vegas “Davos for Geeks.” Earlier the Wall Street Journal warned, “declining population could reduce global economic growth by 40%.” Then recently the “slow-growth Fed” was blamed.
Wrong, former Fed chief Ben Bernanke counterattacked: “I’m waiting for the Journal to argue for a well-structured program of public infrastructure development, which would support growth in the near term by creating jobs and in the longer term by making our economy more productive.” But for years the Fed “has been pretty much the only game in town as far as economic policy goes.” Today “we should be looking for a better balance between monetary and other growth-promoting policies, including fiscal policy.”
Fiscal policy? No, Ben, not a chance. The GOP controls economic policy. And they will never give “growth-promoting fiscal policy” victories to President Obama and Hillary Clinton before the presidential election of 2016. Never. In spite of Bernanke’s obviously rational solution to the core problems of the American economy, one that would help the American people, the GOP will never, ever agree to fiscal stimulus programs that give the Democrats bragging rights and make Obama and Clinton look good before the elections.
I think it’s pointless to parse GOP/Obama/Clinton fiscal policy. Democrats had all the cards in 2009, and look what happened. Now it’s 2015, and Democrats are trying to fire up the Clinton engine again. Cue obligatory story on HRC money problem:
Almost a decade ago, as Hillary Clinton ran for re-election to the Senate on her way to seeking the presidency for the first time, the New York Times reported on her unusually close relationship with Corning, Inc., an upstate glass titan. Clinton advanced the company’s interests, racking up a big assist by getting China to ease a trade barrier. And the firm’s mostly Republican executives opened up their wallets for her campaign.
During Clinton’s tenure as Secretary of State, Corning lobbied the department on a variety of trade issues, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The company has donated between $100,000 and $250,000 to her family’s foundation. And, last July, when it was clear that Clinton would again seek the presidency in 2016, Corning coughed up a $225,500 honorarium for Clinton to speak.
In the laundry-whirl of stories about Clinton buck-raking, it might be easy for that last part to get lost in the wash. But it’s the part that matters most. The $225,500 speaking fee didn’t go to help disease-stricken kids in an impoverished village on some long-forgotten patch of the planet. Nor did it go to a campaign account. It went to Hillary Clinton. Personally.
Since the economy is going to more than likely blow up again in the next few years, maybe it would be preferable for a Republican take the White House. Crazy talk, I know.
Enjoy the real world, college graduates, you’re going to have one hell of a ride.
I’ve been spending far more time reading than writing lately, as writing and nursing blog posts eats up more time than I’m willing to expend. However, I think it time well spent to point folks to articles that begin to make sense of the precarious position our nation or world finds itself in.
So pull up a comfy chair on this grey and dreary spring day (thought the rain is most wonderful), pour a cup of coffee, tea or what have you and dig in.
Today’s reading comes from William R. Polk, Losing the American Republic. Here’s the end of Part 1 (Part 2 hasn’t been published yet, but I’m looking forward to it).
Lessons Needed Learning
It would be rewarding if one could say that our experience in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan has made us wiser in our approaches to Somalia, Syria, Libya and Yemen, but it is hard to substantiate that conclusion. Yet the lessons are there to be learned. There are more, but consider just these few:
- Military action can destroy but it cannot build;
- Counterinsurgency does not work and creates new problems;
- Nation building is beyond the capacity of foreigners;
- Piecemeal, uncoordinated actions often exacerbate rather than solve problems;
- The costs of military action are multifold and usually harm not only the attacked but also the attacker’s society and economy;
- Reliance on military action and supply of weapons to the client state encourages it to undertake actions that make peace-seeking harder rather than easier;
- War radiates out from the battlefield so that whole societies are turned into refugees. In desperation they flee even far abroad and create unforeseen problems.
- The sense that the attacker is a bully spreads and converts outsiders into enemies;
- Failure to understand the society and culture even of the enemy is self-defeating;
- Angry, resentful people eventually strike back where they can and so create a climate of perpetual insecurity.
The result of such actions is deforming to the central objective of an intelligent, conservative and constructive American foreign policy — the preservation of our well-being.
by William Skink
A recent move by the Obama administration is tantamount to letting a convicted pedophile run a daycare. There is such a high degree of complicit recklessness in what will inevitably happen, it’s difficult to comprehend.
Three years ago the pedophile equivalent, Shell, ran an oil rig aground off the coast of Alaska. An Interior Department report showed that Shell ‘screwed up‘ its exploratory drilling efforts. From the link:
Shell failed to oversee contractors that were central to its bungled efforts to explore for oil in the Arctic waters off Alaska last year, the Interior Department has concluded.
“Shell screwed up in 2012,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Salazar, whose agency released a review of Shell’s efforts Thursday, said the company won’t be allowed to drill again off the Arctic coast until it presents a plan showing that it can better handle conditions there.
The Interior Department’s report said Shell’s problems have raised serious questions about its ability to operate safely and responsibly in the challenging conditions off Alaska. The report said Shell entered the drilling season “not fully prepared in terms of fabricating and testing certain critical systems and establishing the scope of its operational plans.”
“One of the recurring themes that we identified throughout the review was the failure on the part of Shell to oversee contractors that they relied on for critical components of their operations,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau, who led the probe for the Interior Department, said in a conference call with reporters.
Despite this alarming incompetence, the Obama administration wants the pedophiles to run the day care. It’s beyond disgusting. It’s unfathomable. But the plan is moving forward anyway:
The US government has given Shell approval to restart drilling in the Arctic despite repeated warnings from environmentalists that it could lead to an ecological disaster.
The Obama administration on Monday approved Shell’s plan to resume drilling for oil and gas in the treacherous and fragile waters off the coast of Alaska, three years after the Anglo-Dutch oil giant was forced to suspend operations following a series of potentially dangerous blunders.
Scientists and environmental groups on Monday attacked the decision and warned that Shell’s “risky and ill-conceived exploration” plan could “lead to a disaster in the Arctic”.
I don’t think it “could” lead to a disaster, I think it absolutely “will” lead to a disaster. It’s just a matter of time before something happens.
Resistance to this insanity is now mobilizing in Seattle. The link is a recent piece from Democracy Now:
The Port of Seattle has voted to seek the blockade of rigs used by the oil giant Shell for its planned drilling in the Arctic this summer. Shell has signed a lease to station its rigs in the Puget Sound while it drills for oil in pristine and highly remote waters in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. The Port of Seattle’s board called for a legal review of Shell’s plans and a temporary postponement of its docking. The move came after a wave of activism in Seattle challenging Shell’s effort. On Tuesday, activists set up a tripod to block work at the site of a fuel transfer station. Meanwhile, thousands of kayakers will try to block the arrival of a Shell rig on Saturday, the start of a three-day Festival of Resistance.
It’s not just the Arctic drilling that’s posing new threats to the maritime environment. Despite the fact there are still 30 million gallons of oil polluting the Gulf of Mexico, new drilling is being ok’d there as well.
It’s hard not to let blind rage take over at this point. These are game over moves being undertaken by a truly despicable political regime.
Fuck this administration and the spineless Democrats who go along with destroying the planet. They are the enemies of my children’s children and must be stopped at all costs.
by William Skink
I was exposed to a new Twitter account that’s quickly become one of my favorite: @nihilist_arbys. At the writing of this post, there are only 241 tweets, but the account has quickly drawn over 60,000 followers. I’m not going to include any of the tweets in this post. Instead I’m going to share a poem the tweets have inspired.
But before I do that, I’d like to draw some attention to a collection of poems I first read 3 years ago, titled Letters To Wendy’s. I wrote a post about this collection of poems, which you can read here. I just reread the post, and had to kind of chuckle at this somewhat audacious claim: I’m only a third of the way through, but I already think this is one of the most important books of poetry so far written by my generation.
If the poet who wrote Letters to Wendy’s, Joe Wenderoth, were to transform the speaker of his poems into a Twitter feed, it would be @nihilist_arbys. Check it out, if you dare.
Anyway, I should probably just preemptively apologize for the poem you are about to read. It’s kind of gross. And perfect. Enjoy!
ARBY’S: SOMETHING TO FILL THE EMPTINESS WITH
breath moves your meat toward death
like gas fuels cars on the street
so eat Arby’s
embrace the post-feast meat-sweats
and erase guilt
with rivers of cheese drowning
mounds of roast beef
no point holding back
you started as a squirt from “dad”
into mom’s meat sack
Arby’s may hasten your fleshy demise
but it hurts so good
of course you’ll buy the lies
by William Skink
Thanks to the tireless efforts of political opportunists like Missoula Representative Ellie Hill, Montana’s regulatory landscape will be pried open for Uber—a company that investor Peter Thiel called the “most ethically-challenged company in Silicon Valley”.
Salon has conveniently compiled a number of controversies Uber faced last year, which you can read here. The article opens with this:
2014 has been the year of Uber, as millions have forsaken their city’s fleet of ubiquitous yellow and black cabs in favor of the handy, app-based ride-sharing system. Uber is one of the success stories of the sharing economy and has completely revolutionized how we think about getting from A to B. Yet its ascent has also come at a steep cost: This year has seen Uber racked by a seemingly endless string of scandals and P.R. disasters, with investor Peter Thiel calling Uber the “most ethically-challenged company in Silicon Valley.” Uber had its fair share of controversy in 2013 as well — particularly the debate over its controversial surge pricing tactics — but 2014 was truly the year of the Uber scandal.
For instance: Uber vs. its customers (as we have seen the many sexual assault and abuse claims against drivers); Uber vs. its drivers (as drivers around the world have protested the company’s unfair fare cuts, fee hikes and all-round bad business practices); Uber vs. its competitors (as seen in the ongoing sabotage war between Uber and Lyft); Uber vs. journalists; Uber vs. regulators around the world, and on and so on.
The list is long, but who cares about all that noise when you’re wasted downtown and in need of a ride home. Enter Rep. Hill to the rescue:
Hill said her own experiences trying to call a cab in Missoula played a role in her passion for this bill.
“I came to this issue as a former prosecutor who lives and works and plays in downtown Missoula,” she said. “And I frankly heard from constituents that you can’t get a taxi in downtown Missoula on any weekend night. The regulatory scheme was a lie. That’s why the Missoula County DUI Taskforce and the city of Missoula supported this legislation.”
Hill said the old law was out of date.
I have no doubt Rep. Hill has had plenty of experiences trying to call a cab in Missoula. And I agree the regulatory system is antiquated. But last years long litany of problems should serve as cautionary tales for Missoula and other Montana communities. Here are some of the stories the Salon piece has compiled:
March 24, 2014
A Chicago passenger sues her Uber driver Jigneshkumar Patel for sexual assault, alleging that he locked the car doors and groped her legs, breasts and groin before eventually letting her out.
March 28, 2014
Daily Beast writer Olivia Nuzzi shares an experience of Uber harassment: “At the end of the ride, the Uber driver asked me if I had been near Lincoln Center a few hours earlier. I said I hadn’t, since I didn’t remember walking past there. Then he took out his iPad. ‘Really?’ he asked. ‘Because you look like this girl.’ He turned the iPad around to face the back seat. To my surprise, I saw a full-length, close-up picture of me, wearing the workout clothes I’d had on an hour previously.” Her piece also reveals flaws in Uber’s privacy system, including the fact that drivers can see passengers’ full names.
June 3, 2014
An Uber driver is arrested for allegedly kidnapping a woman in West Hollywood with the intent to sexually assault her. After passing out drunk in the car, the woman reportedly woke up in a motel to find the driver in the bed with her.
Sept. 10, 2014
A lawsuit accuses Uber of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act after encountering numerous incidents of drivers refusing to drive blind passengers with service dogs, and once even putting a dog in the trunk.
Sept. 27, 2014
A San Francisco Uber driver hits a passenger on the head with a hammer after an argument. Recently it was revealed that his injuries may cause the passenger to lose his eye.
Uber sounds like a great opportunity for sexual predators to gain access to potential victims.
Weekend nights in downtown Missoula are identified by Rep. Hill as a specific time period where supply isn’t currently meeting demand. That’s because weekend nights in Missoula are totally saturated with young drunk people.
It’s a good thing Missoula police have made ‘tremendous‘ progress in responding to allegations of rape, because with Uber drivers starting to prowl downtown for “customers” it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens.
I hope I’m wrong.
by William Skink
Here are some Monday quick takes to get your work-week started. First, Seymour Hersh is making quite a splash with his reporting on The Killing of Osama bin Laden. Needless to say the Obama administration is not portrayed as altogether accurate or truthful in its account of what transpired. If there is more accuracy in Hersh’s account, it also exposes the movie Zero Dark Thirty as being shameless propaganda to solidify the lies told by the administration. For us cynics, no surprise there.
At the state level, Ochenski’s column this week reports on what those in the environmental community expected after Tester broke his promise to not use riders on must-pass legislation. Tester did anyway, in order to delist wolves from the Endangered Species Act, and now the precedent he set is being used again, this time to stall a potential listing for Sage Grouse.
Last Friday on Democracy Now, this segment focused on the Obama administration’s interest in doubling the money flowing to charter schools. Lisa Graves, executive director of The Center for Media and Democracy, lambasted charter schools and the “choice” argument for diverting federal taxpayer money into these privatized, money-making schemes. She was especially critical of the profit motive behind online schools, and explained that these charter schools are using millions to advertise and lobby congress for more taxpayer loot. If this sounds similar to the argument put forth by Rep. Hill (D-Missoula) regarding deregulating taxi service in Montana, it’s because online companies like Uber are making similar declarations that their interest in elbowing into new markets with the kind of legislation Rep. Hill co-sponsored is all about choice. That’s a lie, of course. It’s all about money.
Now, let’s get back to work!