I'm siding with the San Francisco Displacement and Neighborhood Impact Agency in this debate. I don't think Google should be allowed to use city bus stops for free, and I think that corporations should take responsibility for their roles in creating gentrification. But getting a local union organizer to play the role of an outraged Google employee is a shitty move. The Unite Here Local 2850 organizer we see in the below video, Max Bell Alper, released this statement when he was questioned about his involvement:
This is political theater to demonstrate what is happening to the city. It's about more than just the bus. These are enormous corporations that are investing in this community. These companies, like Google, should be proud of where they're from and invest in their communities,
Here's the video of Alper pretending to be a Google employee:
This is a bad protest technique. Sure, it got a few hours of attention on social media, but all that outrage just blew back in the protesters' faces when it was discovered that Alper was putting everyone on. I'm not saying that satire doesn't play a role in protests. It absolutely does. But misleading people this way is not the way to make friends. You have to be better than the forces you're fighting against—you can't lie the way they do. When you get caught in a lie, you're going to be marginalized and ignored, and everyone who fights alongside you is going to be labeled a liar and a cheat, too.
Of course, this advice was meant for their swimming-in-cash corporate execs, not their drowning-in-cooking-oil poverty-level workers.
The tipping guide from etiquette maven Emily Post on McDonald's website lists several high-ticket suggestions for givers during the holiday season, including "a gift from your family (or one week's pay), plus a small gift from your child" for an au pair, "one day's pay" for a housekeeper and "cost of one cleaning" for a pool cleaner.
The site also lists suggestions for dog walkers, massage therapists and personal fitness trainers.
Via the great QT, who headlined it "Marie McAntoinette Update," which would be a great new Slog category.
Oh, for Christ's sake. Quartz's John McDuling says that auto sales are way, way up, which is a very good sign for the economy. Then he says this:
But as we’ve previously discussed, there’s good reason to be at least slightly concerned: The boom in auto sales coincides with a massive increase in cheap auto loans, many of which are subprime. These loans are packaged together and sold on to increasingly yield-hungry investors. Issuance of securities backed by subprime auto loans have more than doubled since 2010 to $17 billion this year, but remain below their 2005 peak, Businessweek reports, citing Deutsche Bank.
Does any of this sound familiar to anyone? Is there any reason to think that this story will end well?
Raw Story's Travis Gettys says that prominent Virginia teabagger Jonathon Moseley took issue with Pope Francis's claims that unfettered capitalism is hurting the world. Moseley wrote an essay titled "Jesus Christ is a capitalist" that tries to take the Pope on using scripture.
Moseley, a Virginia business and criminal defense attorney, supports his claim with a verse from the Book of Luke in which Jesus declines to act as arbitrator when someone asks him to compel a brother to divide their family inheritance.
“In just one verse, we see that God rejects the left-wing ‘Jesus Christ supported socialism’ heresy,” Moseley writes. “When Jesus was asked to support redistribution of wealth — to tell one brother to share the family inheritance with the other — Jesus refused...Jesus Christ is weeping in heaven hearing Christians espouse a socialist philosophy that has created suffering and poverty around the world,” Moseley writes. “It is impossible to love one’s neighbor as yourself without fighting against socialism, meaning government meddling in private lives.”
As an atheist, I don't usually play this scripture game. But this is too easy:
...we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
But as for you, O man of God, flee these things.
I could go on. Meanwhile, other Republicans are arguing against Francis's comments by saying that unfettered capitalism doesn't exist. I don't know which argument is more divorced from reality.
It's not a long list, but it does include Costco, Nordstrom, and REI.
This is a mistake for the history books:
Nov 20 (Reuters) - An advertisement placed in The Seattle Times on Wednesday by a group hoping to encourage Washington state to keep up its fight to secure the coveted work on the new Boeing 777 includes a notable miscue.
At the top of the full-page ad, under the all-caps text "The Future of Washington," is pictured not a Boeing jet, but rather an A320 from archrival Airbus.
The ad, which prominently displays the logo of the Washington Aerospace Partnership, a coalition of business, labor and government groups championing the industry, urges state lawmakers to pass a large-scale roads-and-transit tax package that Boeing executives have said would make the state a more desirable venue for future projects.
The Washington Aerospace Partnership includes the cities of Auburn, Everett, Kent, Marysville, Redmond, and so on, as well as the ports of Seattle, Everett, and Port Angeles, and the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, which placed the ad.
The screwed up ad is a sideshow, but it's a sharp reminder of our screwed up real-life situation: Washington state has agreed to give Boeing $8.7 billion in tax breaks—the biggest state tax break to a business in US history—to keep it here, but the machinists have voted down another part of the Boeing plan.
As Tim Egan summed up the pathetic (on the political level) and greedy (at the corporate level) state of affairs a few days ago in the NYT:
The events of the last few days show the utter bankruptcy of economic policy prescriptions offered by both political parties. You want tax breaks and deregulation — the Republican mantra? The $8.7 billion granted Boeing this week is the largest single state-tax giveaway in the nation’s history. It wasn’t enough. You want government training for schools and highly skilled workers — the Democratic alternative? There was plenty of that, to Boeing’s liking, in the package.
What Boeing wants is very simple: to pay the people who make its airplanes as little money as it can get away with. It needs to do this, we’re told, to stay competitive. It has all the leverage, because enough states — and countries — are willing to give it everything it asks for. Who wouldn’t want a gleaming factory stuffed with jet assemblers, a payroll guaranteed for a generation?
Boeing is on a roll, its stock at a record high despite the troubled rollout of its 787 Dreamliner, and the pay of its C.E.O. boosted 20 percent to a package totaling $27.5 million last year. It is not impelled, as the auto industry was five years ago, in the midst of bailouts and cutbacks. Boeing could afford to be generous, or at least not onerous. But it’s easier to play state against state, the race to the bottom.
Meanwhile, councilperson-elect Kshama Sawant is suggesting that Boeing workers "re-tool the machines to produce mass transit like buses" instead of "war machines." Which does not seem like an auspicious start for the newly elected socialist's uphill battle to make socialism seem sensible to the rest of the city—and the country.
Jason Lajeunesse—who, with business partner Dave Meinert, is reopening the beloved grime pit/venue after the previous owner abruptly closed the doors in early October—said he thinks the amount taken from the ceiling was close to $1,000. However, he says, "The value wasn't the issue, of course, it's the years of history attached."
This American Life was a rerun this weekend, but it contained a short piece that'd be an entertaining and informative listen for anyone tracking Seattle's path toward universal preschool.
In the '90s, a lawmaker snuck universal preschool into Oklahoma state law—that's Oklahoma, one of the most conservative states in the country. And the state legislator who snuck it in, Joe Eddins, says to the TAL reporter that it would've been aboslutely impossible to pass otherwise:
Eddins: I don't see it ever being funded if you had to do it like other states do. If you had to say, "Here's a program that we want to implement, here's how much money it'll take." Whew! Where are you going to get the money? Okay? If you would have to have a line-item appropriation, nobody would've supported it except the young mothers, and they have no political clout.
Alex Blumberg: Say other stayes want do something like this—
Eddins: They don't have a prayer. They don't have a prayer. They don't have a prayer. Because it's expensive, and state legislatures are run by people who want to cut programs, not add programs.
As Goldy's mentioned, "everybody agrees"—even Republicans—that quality early learning gets results. It's undeniable. But just like Eddins says, our legislature just doesn't have the balls to fund it. So, like other cities, Seattle's gonna have a go at it ourselves, thanks largely to leadership from city council member Tim Burgess.
Check out the TAL story if you have 20 minutes to kill today:
"Won't you help me make this dream become a reality?" pleas Jason Wohlfeil. His dream? Crowdfunding to buy a bikini-barista stand outside Seattle and make it a "make it into a family friendly stand."
"I'm not sure if this is crazy, or genius," says Slog tipper Sam, "but here you go."
Forget a $15-an-hour minimum wage—why not just give everyone money? It's called a basic income. The New York Times:
Basic incomes... even are whispered about in the United States, where certain wonks on the libertarian right and liberal left have come to a strange convergence around the idea...
The case from the right is one of expediency and efficacy. Let’s say that Congress decided to provide a basic income through the tax code or by expanding the Social Security program. Such a system might work better and be fairer than the current patchwork of programs, including welfare, food stamps and housing vouchers. A single father with two jobs and two children would no longer have to worry about the hassle of visiting a bunch of offices to receive benefits. And giving him a single lump sum might help him use his federal dollars better. Housing vouchers have to be spent on housing, food stamps on food. Those dollars would be more valuable—both to the recipient and the economy at large—if they were fungible.
Even better, conservatives think, such a program could significantly reduce the size of our federal bureaucracy. It could take the place of welfare, food stamps, housing vouchers and hundreds of other programs, all at once: Hello, basic income; goodbye, H.U.D.
Let the head-exploding begin!
The future King of England is about to begin collecting his:
Prince Charles plans to claim the government pension he qualifies for when he turns 65 on Thursday, but he still hasn't started the job he was born to do.
Just another reminder that the demands of the Boeing Machinists are really quite modest.
The American Prospect takes a look at it:
From the end of World War II through the mid-1970s, American jobs—and with them, the American economy—steadily improved. President Kennedy’s description of how the economy worked was substantially accurate: “A rising tide lifts all boats.” Pay raises matched increases in the nation’s productivity at all points along the economic spectrum. Workers at the bottom of the pay scale saw their wages increase in tandem with everyone else’s. In growing numbers, employers provided pensions and health insurance to their workers. But beginning in the ’70s, the rising tide began leaving some, then most, and today nearly all boats behind.
This may be familiar ground for some—Mother Jones covered it in chart form a while back—but if you've been waiting for a scrollable narrative of the 40-year slide to our current state, dive on in!
Forty percent of Americans think it’s fairly common for someone to start off poor, work hard and eventually rise to the top of the economic heap.
In reality, however, only 4% of Americans travel the rags-to-riches path, according to new research from the Economic Mobility Project of the Pew Charitable Trusts. And a great many who are born into the poorest segments of the population are stuck there for life, a finding that suggests the U.S. has much to do to improve social mobility.
One interesting sub-finding: "Despite the debate over the value of a college education, a college degree remains the single biggest predictor that a person will move up the ladder."
God bless the U.S.A., where headlines like that are a Constitutional right. Trent wants to know: "What songs do you like to dedicate to super-greedy CEO assholes?" He can only think of five off the top of his head, and none of them seem quite right.
After a month of question marks and rumors over what would become of Capitol Hill's favorite/least favorite dive, the Comet Tavern is officially under new management. Guess who the new owners are...
Of the $507,000 Constantine has spent, $154,000 went to Newman Partners, his campaign fundraising consultant. Another $75,000 went to "event" rental, catering, staging, entertainment, etc., presumably to pay for campaign fundraising events. That's $229,000—about one shiny quarter out of every dollar raised, and more than half of every campaign dollar spent.
It takes money to raise money, and all that. Even in politics.
Constantine's campaign has also paid $63,000 to its general consultant, Northwest Passage, while transferring another $50,000 to Constantine's "surplus funds account" (whatever that is). But throw in (or out) another $65,000 in miscellaneous expenses, and Constantine still has more than $400,000 left in his campaign war chest with only a week to go before his sure-thing reelection.
So how should Constantine spend his remaining $400,000? We at The Stranger offer the following carefully considered suggestions:
The campaign to pass I-522, the initiative that would mandate labeling most genetically modified (or GMO) food, can point to its parades of supporters. More than 350,000 voters signed their petition, making it the second most popular initiative in Washington State history after pot legalization. Their donor list on the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission's website is a stunning 471 separate pages long. And then there's more: Elizabeth Larter, a 522 spokeswoman, explains that because campaigns aren't required to report contributions under $25, they've actually received more than 13,000 donations. It's a model of widespread, grassroots organization to make big businesses disclose what's in their products.
Then there is the other corner.
The No on 522 campaign has a decidedly different kind of backing. For all their TV ads full of amber waves of grain and local farmers, their entire donor list can be counted on your fingers. The top five are the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—a conglomerate of food manufacturers—Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience, and Dow AgroSciences.
"These are the same people who gave us DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and napalm," says PCC Natural Markets spokeswoman Trudy Bialic.
She's not exaggerating for effect—those dangerous chemicals were all manufactured and sold by Monsanto or Dow Chemical. The total raised by the corporate food and chemical giants? Just over $17 million, the most money ever spent opposing an initiative in this state.
The Seattle Times today introduced their new "Education Lab" project:
“The Education Lab,” a yearlong Seattle Times project in partnership with The Solutions Journalism Network, will spotlight promising responses to problems that have long bedeviled our public school system. We will examine innovative or effective approaches around the state and the nation, looking at how they were put in place, the pitfalls, the results and whether other school districts might emulate.
Great, because we need more reporting on education.
Except the one thing the Seattle Times glosses over in this announcement is that the bulk of Education Lab's funding comes in the form of a $450,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization that has spent millions championing market-based reforms like charter schools, standardized testing, merit pay, and the rest of the corporate education reform agenda. Likewise, the Gates Foundation is also a major funder of the Solutions Journalism Network, the Seattle Times' partner in this project.
Imagine if Exxon funded the paper's environmental reporting, or the Koch brothers funded the paper's political reporting, or Frank Blethen funded the paper's labor reporting. How can we possibly expect objective, neutral, fair, and balanced reporting on allegedly "innovative" reforms like those the Gates Foundation promotes, from a journalism project funded by the Gates Foundation?
Amazon reported its third quarter financial numbers today, delivering $17.09 billion in revenue at a loss of 9 cents per share. Revenues surpassed analyst expectations of $16.7 billion, though the per-share loss fell perfectly in line with Wall Street predictions.
As Deadline's David Lieberman explains, Amazon "had a net loss of $41M in Q3, an 85% improvement from the period last year." Because Amazon has trained Wall Street to keep an eye on revenue rather than losses, their stock is currently soaring.
UPDATE 2:20 PM: And Microsoft cleaned up, too:
Microsoft reported its fiscal first quarter results today, with revenue of $18.53 billion and earnings per share of $0.62. Analysts had expected the first quarter of Microsoft’s fiscal 2014 to generated revenue of $17.8 billion and earnings per share of $0.54.
It's heartening that the living wage discussion is finally inspiring Democrats to fight on behalf of the American worker. Salon's Josh Eidelson says:
A slide from Wal-Mart’s U.S. CEO’s presentation to Goldman Sachs’ retail conference boasts that “Over 475K” U.S. employees earned more than $25,000 last year. Activist workers and members of Congress seized on that statistic at a Wednesday press event, arguing it amounts to an admission that annual pay for the majority of Walmart’s 1.3 million-member US workforce falls below $25,000.
“Low-income people, poor people, have been demonized for being the ‘takers,’” Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky told reporters at a D.C. press conference. But because “taxpayers are the ones that are subsidizing Wal-Mart right now,” she contended, Wal-Mart elites are the true “welfare kings in this country.”
Thank you! Thank you! More like this, please!
After the FBI took out the Silk Road on October 1st, Bitcoin's value took a tumble. But as Slog tipper Preston points out, Bitcoin is back on the rise, and Tech Crunch indicates that the increase in Bitcoin value seems to be coming at least in part from China:
Chinese Internet giant Baidu started accepting Bitcoin as a payment method for Jiasule, its online security and firewall services, on October 14, for instance. And an influx of Chinese investment in Bitcoin is very definite contributory factor to the recent price surge.
Given that Chinese media was recently suggesting that the US dollar might not be the best currency to base the world economy on, this rise in Bitcoin looks like it could be an attempt to de-Americanize certain parts of the Chinese economy.
How often have conservatives complained that Washington State's tax policy is too mean to businesses and too nice to poor people?
That gripe is empirically bullshit, and has been for years, but two recent studies make it extra-plain:
1) Washington State is 6th in the nation when it comes to business-friendly tax climates. ("Only Wyoming, South Dakota, Nevada, Alaska and Florida are less burdensome for businesses.")
2) Washington State is 1st in the nation when it comes to over-taxing the poor. ("Poor families pay 16.9 percent of their total income in state and local taxes. Compare that to neighboring Idaho and Oregon, where the poor pay 8.2 percent and 8.3 percent, respectively, of their incomes in state and local taxes—far less than in Washington.")
Please make a note of it.
Homelessness is badass, according to this guided three day "sub-urban adventure" tour of the "gritty underbelly" of Seattle, which can be yours for $2,000.
Here's the website. The "Personal, Guided 3 day - 2 night Real View Tour™" promises to set you up with a disguise, a fake name, and a fake history, and then guide you through the life of a homeless person in Seattle. Here's day one on the itinerary:
The first day we will start at the Public Market and visit some of its homeless gathering spots. We'll walk down to Pioneer Square, via the waterfront, and visit some favored homeless spots, including the Compass Center; a major resource under the viaduct. We'll wander over to the International District via the Courthouse on 3rd and James.
We'll have to check in at our shelter, in the International District, by 7pm so we'll pick up some fruits and vegetables on the way for dinner.
Is this for real? I requested an interview through the site; I'll let you know if I hear back.
In a post on the Daily Weekly today, Seattle Weekly reporter Matt Driscoll writes about his change of heart on the $15 minimum wage. "We all have moments we’re not particularly proud of," he starts. "For me, one surrounds an issue that’s front and center in this year’s election: the debate over a $15 an hour minimum wage."
He's referring to a blog post he wrote on May 30, when fast-food workers in Seattle were first striking. On the workers' demands for a higher wage and the right to organize without retaliation, he wrote, "Presumably, this right to organize goes beyond smoking out the walk-in freezer." Then he called "toiling in poverty" an "unquestioned bummer" and said that $15 was "a bit steep." Yeesh.
But! His post today nicely details an evolution on the matter, the kind you go through when you read a lot and think a lot and talk to a lot of people. It would be hard (though not impossible, some people are heartless) to talk to all the fast-food employees organizing with Good Jobs Seattle and listen to their stories and come out of it thinking they're full of shit. They're working their asses off, both at their thankless jobs and then at organizing for better pay and working conditions. And they're right. They do deserve better. I continue to be impressed every time I talk to these workers—charming, thoughtful Caroline Durocher, who we've written about repeatedly. Or serious and moving Carlos Hernandez, whose firing from a Subway after his involvement in the strikes has led to federal labor charges and numerous pickets.
They're young people being radicalized by their own mistreatment, and I hope they all continue to kick ass.
Back to Driscoll, who continues:
In hindsight, my reaction was understandable – and probably not uncommon. My first job was at a McDonald’s in Federal Way, making $5 an hour taking the orders of hungry (and often moderately terrible) people heading to Costco or Wild Waves. It was one of the most thankless and exhausting jobs I’ve ever had. But as a 16-year-old high school student entering the workforce – an economic status that most of my coworkers shared - I considered it a rite of passage. I considered the par for the capitalist course. Why should I have been making enough to support a family when I was still in high school my only real qualification for the job was an ability to legibly fill out an application? I was a skill-less kid, after all. I was the kind of person who should have a low-paying job.
But things have changed, and my initial reaction to the demand for $15 an hour for fast-food workers failed to take this into account. As has been well-reported at this point, the fast-food worker of today is not the fast-food worker of the past. More and more, today’s burger flippers are not just skill-less kids.
It's great to be this public about transformations of thought. We all have 'em. Go read the whole thing.
Derek Thompson at The Atlantic points out maybe the most important fact of this whole shutdown fiasco: Paul Ryan's nightmare budget from a few years ago is now our reality.
The Senate bill funds the 2014 government at a level 18 percent below the president proposed five years ago; 17 percent below the Democratic Congress proposed four years ago; 10 percent below Paul Ryan and Republicans proposed three years ago; and 8 percent below the debt ceiling compromise two years ago (see graph, via Michael Linden and Harry Stein). The Senate bill is less than 2 percent away from Paul Ryan's own 2014 budget.
Republicans have gotten everything they want, and they've achieved most of their goals with possession of only one-half of the legislative branch of government. Are they going to keep trimming until they hit bone? Have they already hit bone? Is the shutdown just a glimpse of our normal, everyday future? This shit is getting depressing.
The Whole Republican Party Is Eastwooding: Here's a hell of an image, from ABC News:
Look for the Republican-appointed “negotiators” — including GOP heavy hitters Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp — to convene for “negotiations” across from empty chairs, demanding that Democrats at least sit down to talk.
But Then What Does? Sean Hannity says the shutdown "doesn't impact me mentally." Sarah Palin concurs.
What About My Meat? Here's what the USDA considers to be essential: "food stamp benefits will be delivered for the month of October, forest fires will continue to be fought, meat and poultry will still be inspected, grain inspection will continue, laboratory animals will be fed and the rural development division will still monitor government loans."
So Books Are Nonessential Now? The Library of Congress is closed.
"Stand Up for America" Did you see this passionate speech by Connecticut Congressman Jon Larson from last night?
Maybe you've read about the recent study that shows Washington State having the most regressive tax structure in the nation.
What's double depressing about this is that the exact same thing was true back in 2010, when voters had an opportunity to change things in this state by approving Initiative 1098. The measure would have raised $2 billion annually by taxing only individual incomes over $200,000 a year.
It went down hard, 64 to 36, and our social services continued to shrink, and our education system continued to be underfunded. But hey, at least we got a handy poster out of the whole thing! Pretty much everything on there is still relevant today.
All right. John Green, as conveyed in this video, is a little too breathless and animated for me (I've not read his books), but he gives a very succinct breakdown of the problems with the current American healthcare system, and backs his points up with a lot of data. Discuss.
BuzzFeed published a story this morning about a man who allegedly tried to influence the 2012 election results by spending lots of money on Mitt Romney "stocks" on Intrade:
Intrade is an online exchange where members make bets on various events, notably presidential elections, and is watched closely by political insiders to gauge the strength of a candidate. Intrade was thrust into the spotlight in 2008 when it correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential election.
[Microsoft Research’s David] Rothschild and [Columbia University’s Rajiv] Sethi found that a single trader accounted for one-third of all bets made on Romney during the two week period of the study, which saw about 3.5 million contracts traded. The total election cycle had 7.6 million contracts traded.
The trader bet solely on Romney and constantly sold on Obama, losing about $4 million in the process.
This makes absolutely no sense to me. It's the proverbial tail wagging the proverbial dog. Unless the attempt was to gin up support for Romney that just didn't exist, but even then, does anyone seriously believe that Intrade is a viable election prediction tool? Before the election, there were some contrarian essays that tried to deflate Nate Silver's predictions by quoting Intrade numbers, but those were dumb pieces written by dumb journalists seeking out dumb pageviews. Although I do like the possibility that a Romney supporter was so desperate to get his man into office that he was willing to surreptitiously manipulate a market to do it. Seems like an appropriate metaphor for the America that Mitt Romney believed in.