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15 Feb 07:56

Welcome to Seattle, New Person! Here Are Some Tips (and My Condolences)

by Derek Erdman
by Derek Erdman

four_way_stop_col2.jpg
DEREK ERDMAN

This story is presented as part of this week's New to Town issue.

Congrats on the new job, Deb. (Mind if I call you Deb?) Good for you for getting that signing bonus (God, I hope you have one) and moving to a city you've heard so much about.

As a person who lived in Seattle for the last seven years, I have some thoughts about what Seattle is like to live in. I know what it's like to be new here, because I was new here seven years ago. And I also know what it's like to move away: I recently moved back to the Midwest, to a part of the country not frantically under construction, an area where the overall attitude toward life has eased into menopause. As innocuous as that analogy may seem, I can assure you that a Cap Hill resident is seething wildly after reading it.*

When I first moved to Seattle, the complaints from longtime residents were mostly that the old days of the early 2000s were long over—music venues with boxing rings or laundromats with pancake bars were replaced by off-white storefronts with a fiddle-leaf fig in the window. When I left Seattle six months ago, the sole complaint on everyone's lips was that Amazon had ruined everything. I don't know about that, but you should know there's a neighborhood with an Amazon chute system that delivers items to your Fjallraven Kanken backpack before you even know that you want them. I can't remember the name of that neighborhood, but I know they sell "keep [neighborhood] weird" T-shirts.

13 Feb 22:09

Seattle's Better Billionaires Fear Trump Too

by Katie Herzog
by Katie Herzog

Melinda and Bill Gates with the last decent president.
Melinda and Bill Gates with the last decent president. Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images

In their 2018 Annual Letter, Seattle-area billionaires Bill and Melinda Gates address some frequently asked questions about influence, inequality, the perils of aid, and, of course, the Twitter troll currently sullying the White House.

It's an interesting read: While the couple's optimism may seem slightly out-of-touch to those who don't have a few billion dollars at our disposal, they are fairly candid and they acknowledge the problems with charitable giving. Just look at the Red Cross—the No. 1 organization in charitable giving has long been plagued by allegations of corruption and mismanagement, and the Gates Foundation has detractors of its own, especially those against their vision for education. The foundation, which has spent billions on education in the US, bankrolled and pushed for the development of Common Core, a set of national educational standards that proved to be hugely controversial (and which Trump promised to do away with, even though he can't). They also funded hundreds of new secondary schools in the US, and paid for some of the most aggressive school reforms in the last 20 years—with very mixed results.

However, unlike some people, the Gateses are committed to giving away their fortune, not collecting more and more of the world's capital while putting everyone from booksellers to grocery checkers out of business, and so despite what the Lord God Jesus Christ said about it being easier for a rich man to jump through a needle than get into Heaven, perhaps the clouds will part for the Gates family yet.

Here's what they had to say about Trump:

How are President Trump’s policies affecting your foundation’s work?
Bill:
In the past year, I’ve been asked about President Trump and his policies more often than all the other topics in this letter combined.
The administration’s policies affect our foundation’s work in a number of areas. The most concrete example is foreign aid. For decades the United States has been a leader in the fight against disease and poverty abroad. These efforts save lives. They also create U.S. jobs. And they make Americans more secure by making poor countries more stable and stopping disease outbreaks before they become pandemics. The world is not a safer place when more people are sick or hungry.

President Trump proposed severe cuts to foreign aid. To its credit, Congress has moved to put the money back in the budget. It’s better for the United States when it leads, through both hard power and soft power.

More broadly, the America First worldview concerns me. It’s not that the United States shouldn’t look out for its people. The question is how best to do that. My view is that engaging with the world has proven over time to benefit everyone, including Americans, more than withdrawing does. Even if we measured everything the government did only by how much it helped American citizens, global engagement would still be a smart investment.

We have met with President Trump and his team, just as we have met with people in previous administrations. With every administration—Republican and Democrat—we agree on some things and disagree on others. Although we disagree with this administration more than the others we’ve met with, we believe it's still important to work together whenever possible. We keep talking to them because if the U.S. cuts back on its investments abroad, people in other countries will die, and Americans will be worse off.

Melinda: We need to work with the administration to garner as much support as we can for policies that will benefit the most impoverished people in the world. In our U.S. work, one premise we start with is that a college degree or career certificate is critical to a successful future. In short, a college education should be a pathway to prosperity for all Americans. The Trump administration’s leadership, along with Congress’s, will have a lot to do with whether it is.

Specifically, student aid programs need to work better for low-income students. Right now, 2 million students who are eligible for aid don’t even apply for it, because the process is so burdensome. Some go into debt. Even worse, many don’t go to college at all. The government must continue to be generous in funding aid programs while following through on simplifying the application process. The futures of millions of young Americans are on the line.

I would also say that I believe one of the duties of the president of the United States is to role model American values in the world. I wish our president would treat people, and especially women, with more respect when he speaks and tweets. Equality is an important national principle. The sanctity of each individual, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, or gender, is part of our country’s spirit. The president has a responsibility to set a good example and empower all Americans through his statements and his policies.

Later in the letter, they acknowledge something perhaps even more disturbing than the current state of the White House: Why they have so much power and the rest of us have so little.


Is it fair that you have so much influence?

Melinda: No. It’s not fair that we have so much wealth when billions of others have so little. And it’s not fair that our wealth opens doors that are closed to most people. World leaders tend to take our phone calls and seriously consider what we have to say. Cash-strapped school districts are more likely to divert money and talent toward ideas they think we will fund.

But there is nothing secret about our objectives as a foundation. We are committed to being open about what we fund and what the results have been. (It’s not always immediately clear what’s been successful and what hasn’t, but we work hard to assess our impact, course correct, and share lessons.) We do this work, and use whatever influence we have, to help as many people as possible and to advance equity around the world. Although we’ve had some success, I think it would be hard to argue at this point that we made the world focus too much on health, education, or poverty.

Bill: As much as we try to encourage feedback, we know that some of our critics don’t speak up because they don’t want to risk losing money. That means we need to hire well, consult experts, learn constantly, and seek out different viewpoints.

Even though our foundation is the biggest in the world, the money we have is very small compared to what businesses and governments spend. For example, California spends more than our entire endowment just to run its public school system for one year.

So we use our resources in a very specific way: to test out promising innovations, collect and analyze the data, and let businesses and governments scale up and sustain what works. We’re like an incubator in that way. We aim to improve the quality of the ideas that go into public policies and to steer funding toward those ideas that have the most impact.

There’s another issue at the heart of this question. If we think it’s unfair that we have so much wealth, why don’t we give it all to the government? The answer is that we think there’s always going to be a unique role for foundations. They’re able to take a global view to find the greatest needs, take a long-term approach to solving problems, and manage high-risk projects that governments can’t take on and corporations won’t. If a government tries an idea that fails, someone wasn’t doing their job. Whereas if we don’t try some ideas that fail, we’re not doing our jobs.

Under normal circumstances, I would disagree with them here. If the United States (and Washington State) taxed our rich adequately (say... anyone with more than a half billion dollars in wealth has a tax rate of 100 percent), the government could distribute that money in an equitable way that doesn't depend on the whims of billionaires and their pet causes. However, with Cadet Bone Spurs (as Tammy Duckworth has so vividly named him) in the White House, and the GOP running (or failing to run) Congress, it seems unlikely that the feds would spend Bill Gates' tax dollars on anything more important than say... a military parade.

There's a lot more in the letter, from how they resolve disagreements to why they work with corporations. And while I'm generally more in favor of eating the rich than complimenting them, it's refreshing to see that not all billionaires (or, in the case of Donald Trump, "billionaires") are ego-driven blood-suckers—just most of them.

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10 Feb 02:50

Re: Dino Rossi Hid My Comment on Facebook

by ROThornhill
Poor butterfly! Look in your own backyard when it comes to hiding peoples comments, restricting people or outright banning people who dare to differ in opinion from your echo chamber. It’s probably why even the online readership and “Shares” are minimal at best. I recommend a crying towel for your tears of oppression and those future days at unemployment office as The Stranger becomes less and less relevant.
Posted by ROThornhill
09 Feb 15:53

This Letter From a Stoner Was so Cute It Made Me Cry

by Chase Burns
"Nice to know there are more wanderers out there." by Chase Burns

Its not hate mail!
It's not hate mail! CB

A person named Phil recently wrote to The Stranger to let us know that he would never pick up another issue of our dirty, danky, bi-monthly city zine because we've become "a rag just featuring pot stories and tonnes (sic) of pot ads." While Phil may have missed that our High-Brr-Nation issue was a special issue devoted to surviving Seattle's winter with weed, other readers were not as offended by our ode to the green aphrodisiac. Today, I received the sweetest letter I've ever been sent from a reader, all about the glorious shittiness of Seattle and how it's best appreciated while stoned—a sentiment I share.

February 3, 2018

Apologies for the flowery card... I am very high right now and couldn't locate an appropriate card/envelope set for a basic ~fan~ letter. I don't apologize for the LOVE stamp—I have a ton of them that I'll keep using until the orange dick-in-chief is in chains or dead.

I'm writing to thank you for the wonderful article, "Smoke a Bowl and Go for a Walk," from the January 17th issue of The Stranger.

I have been in love with the shittiness of Seattle since the '70s, when my mom and her boyfriend would bring my sister and I over here from the Tri-Cities. It was going to be my home someday, I knew. When I finally arrived I continued my love and wandered over hill and dale of the urbanscape. My love of marijuana developed later, in college, where it helped me focus my whirling brain into a semblance of a know-it-all, tireless academic. Undergrad moved to grad and a PhD. Whoopee.

So it was when I returned to the PNW and moved into Seattle proper that the two great tastes of shittiness and "shit," in the Cheech & Chong sense, blended for me so nicely—just as you put it in your article.

My overworld music on these strolls consists of Jean Michael Jarre's "Oxygene," Yes (Fragile album), and any Led Zeppelin my fingers can find. "Can't Find My Way Home" is also a mainstay/must-play.

Anyway, thanks for the great read. Nice to know there are more wanderers out there.

(Whoa. My penmanship really went to shit there.)

Thank you, stoner! While I didn't grow up in the Tri-Cities, I did grow up on a pastor's farm in rural Idaho. When I was a kid, my mom once described Seattle as a "dreary place filled with drug addicts and strippers," and, looking out over the poop-filled cow fields that stretched before us, I secretly thought, "That sounds magical." I still think Seattle's magical, and the city's stoners and strippers have become my new family. I wouldn't trade Seattle weed walks for anything.

P.S. It would be very remiss of me to post all this touchy-feely weed-love without mentioning an uncomfortable dank fact:


Seattle is erasing pot possession convictions, but will Washington follow?

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01 Feb 19:39

Graffito of the Year (So Far)

by Dave Segal
Graffito at Vermillion captures what every left-leaning American is thinking right now. by Dave Segal

Bathroom inspiration at Vermillion Gallery, January 31, 2018.
Bathroom inspiration at Vermillion Gallery, January 31, 2018. Dave Segal

Unbeknown to me, somebody has expressed my mantra of the last eight months on Vermillion's men's room wall. I raise my urine stream to you, anonymous channeler of the resistance's collective consciousness. (I would've added a comma after "hurry," but I didn't have a Sharpie® on me.)

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28 Jan 04:56

Re: Savage Love

by tensor
@248: I thought the woman who raped him was the "ex-lover".

They both are; it's just the neutral term, "ex-lover," is insufficiently scolding or judgy for you when applied to his mother. Given that his wife's cruel abuse of him was the reason he wrote to Dan, it's entirely possible this more recent sexual relationship may be the more damaging one of his life. (Not that you would ever admit it, of course.)
Posted by tensor
26 Jan 03:50

Re: Slog AM: Baseball Hall of Fame Robs Edgar Martinez, Face Swap Porn Secures Humanity’s Place in Hell

by anon1256
@42 As seen from their continual comments, there is very little content they approve of here. I can only conclude they are here to provoke and in some cases disrupt and derail comments sections, i.e. trolling. Nobody needs to invade the opponent's' comments section to know what they stand for. I have other purpose in life than explain to dimwits why a major modern metropolis needs mass transit or why voting for douchebags who slash the safety net and more NAFTA like treaties make them accomplices to many of the problems they continually bitch about like undocumented immigration and homelessness (often in degrading terms and with hateful rhetoric). I am not necessarily against some diversity of opinions but this is getting a little too much.
Posted by anon1256
25 Jan 21:29

The Internet Has Come for Erykah Badu

by Katie Herzog
Erykah Badu didn't say Hitler was right; she said he was human. by Katie Herzog

Erykah Badu
Erykah Badu Paras Griffin/Getty Images

Singer Erykah Badu made the seemingly unwise choice of speaking frankly about her opinions, as a recent interview with David Marchese in Vulture has set the internet mobs ablaze. The entire interview is worth a read, but here are the offending sections:

I know this is maybe a weird pivot, but I think it’s relevant. When I was doing research for this interview I came across an article from after you’d gone to Israel, where the Israeli press was linking you to Louis Farrakhan and his alleged anti-Semitism and it seemed that you were being criticized for defending him rather than denouncing anti-Semitism. I don’t know if those reports were accurate, but isn’t it valid to criticize the hurtful idea in an instance like that? Even if you respect the person who holds that idea?
Absolutely. But I never made a statement about Louis Farrakhan — ever. What you’re talking about happened in Palestine. At the time, the working title of my album was Saviours’ Day — which is a holiday for the Nation of Islam but also my birthday. So I’d gone to Palestine and journalists asked me, “Do you believe in Louis Farrakhan? Do you follow him?” Sure I do. I’ll follow anyone who has positive aspects. He single-handedly changed half of the Nation of Islam to clean eating, clean living, caring for their families. He has flaws — like any man — but I’m not responsible for that. I said I’ve appreciated what he’s done for a lot of black Americans. I mean, I’m not Muslim, I’m not Christian, I’m not anything; I’m an observer who can see good things and bad things. If you say something good about someone, people think it means that you’ve chosen a side. But I don’t choose sides. I see all sides simultaneously.

That’s not something most of us are good at.
We’re not, and I’m okay with that. I’m also okay with anything I had to say about Louis Farrakhan. But I’m not an anti-Semitic person. I don’t even know what anti-Semitic was before I was called it. I’m a humanist. I see good in everybody. I saw something good in Hitler.

Come again?
Yeah, I did. Hitler was a wonderful painter.

No, he wasn’t! And even if he was, what would his skill as a painter have to do with any “good” in him?
Okay, he was a terrible painter. Poor thing. He had a terrible childhood. That means that when I’m looking at my daughter, Mars, I could imagine her being in someone else’s home and being treated so poorly, and what that could spawn. I see things like that. I guess it’s just the Pisces in me.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that you might be operating on a higher moral plane than I am, but I think going down the route of “Hitler was a child once too” is maybe turning the idea of empathy into an empty abstraction.
Maybe so. It doesn’t test my limits — I can see this clearly. I don’t care if the whole group says something, I’m going to be honest. I know I don’t have the most popular opinion sometimes.

But don’t you think that someone as evil as Hitler, who did what he did, has forfeited the right to other people’s empathy?
Why can’t I say what I’m saying? Because he did such terrible things?

Well, yes. But it’s also disheartening to hear you say that at a time, like now, when racism and anti-Semitism are so much in the air. Why would you want to risk putting fuel on that fire?
You asked me a question. I could’ve chosen not to answer. I don’t walk around thinking about Hitler or Louis Farrakhan. But I understand what you’re saying: “Why would you want to risk fueling hateful thinking?” I have a platform, and I would never want to hurt people. I would never do that. I would never even imagine doing that. I would never even want a group of white men who believe that the Confederate flag is worth saving to feel bad. That’s not how I operate.

I appreciate that. But I really struggle with the idea of how much we’re supposed to make an effort to understand or have empathy for people who have dangerously backwards or hateful thinking. You want to take the moral high ground, but sometimes that also feels the same as ceding territory.
You got that Pisces in you, that two-fish.

I am a Pisces, actually.
I thought so. So am I. One fish is swimming upstream, one’s swimming downstream. We are all living in a cognitive-dissonance reality. We want to live a certain way or do a certain thing, and we don’t because we are emotionally attached to how the group thinks. The hive mentality takes over. But you know what’s right in your mind and your heart, and if you’re strong enough to detach from the hive then sometimes, just sometimes, you may be able to do the right thing.

The Anti-Defamation League's Jonathan Greenblatt immediately denounced Badu, as did much of Twitter.

While outrage may be the dominant emotion currently fueling the world at this moment in time, it's worth looking at what Badu actually said before we order her vocal cords cut: that bad people, including, yes, Hitler, can have some good in them. And why is that such a thought crime? It is possible to be both good and bad—in fact, it's what all of us are. You can indeed be a bad husband and a loving father; you can be horrible president but a good golfer. You can be a shitbag sometimes and an angel others. Does the fact that Hitler loved animals forgive the fact that he killed 10 million people? No, of course not. If there were a Hell, Hitler will be burning in it eternally. But human behavior isn't black and white, and neither is good and evil.

Erykah Badu didn't say Hitler was right; she said he was human. And I'm not sure why she is being pilloried for that when the much greater sin here is clearly that she believes in astrology.

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24 Jan 04:59

Call-Out Culture is a Toxic Garbage Dumpster Fire of Trash

by Katie Herzog
Among far too many leftists, if you disagree, you are wrong. And if you are wrong, you are bad. And if you are bad, you are trash. by Katie Herzog

A visual representation of our national discourse.
A visual representation of our national discourse. Baloncici/Getty Images

Trash. He’s trash. She’s trash. They’re trash. You’re trash.

“Trash”—as well as its sister term “garbage”—has become the word du jour to describe everything from men to Tinder to, perhaps most frequently, Lena Dunham. It’s a term hurled, not tossed, and the feeling it seems to convey is, “You are a terrible person/place/thing, no better than a pile of wet newspapers moldering in a roadside ditch.” While plenty of terms convey exactly the same thing (“scum,” “vermin,” “dregs”), “trash” has an extra bite to it, because it doesn’t just mean you suck, it also means you aren't woke.

"Woke"—for those of you who don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter—indicates, roughly, that one is enlightened to the social causes of the day. You believe black lives matter (or you believe it enough to put a sign in the window of the palatial $1.5 million townhouse you just built in the Central District); you unequivocally support the #MeToo movement; and you would never, ever, ever, ever vote for Donald Trump (although you might vote for Jill Stein, which is basically the same thing). “Woke” may have entered Internet consciousness in the last few years, but according to the invaluable internet resource Know Your Meme, “The earliest known instance of the ‘woke’ as slang for political or social awareness comes from an article in the New York Times magazine. On May 20th, 1962, the Times published a piece on white beatniks appropriating black culture by African-American novelist William Melvin Kelley entitled ‘If You’re Woke, You Dig It.’” Woke, today, is still being appropriated by white people, plenty of whom will happily tell you, if you’re not woke, you’re trash.

I know this because I am trash. Or at least, that’s the impression you may get from the things people write to and about me. My take on dogs on planes? Trash. My take on the place of lesbians in the queer hierarchy? Trash. My take on Aziz Ansari? So trash that a former Stranger writer spent several thousand words refuting what is essentially my opinion on her own blog. This Slog post? Definitely trash.

The criticism of these pieces, and of me personally, doesn’t actually bother me all that much—my job requires that one acquire a certain thickness of skin, and besides, hate clicks are still clicks—but I can see why people are afraid to voice their opinions if their opinions are even slightly outside the tide of contemporary thinking. When it emerged recently that Harper’s Magazine was supposedly planning to publish an article outing the creator of the now-infamous Shitty Media Men list in a forthcoming issue, people across Twitter—primarily women in media, including a number of journalists—sprung into action, declaring that the apparent author of the unpublished article, Katie Roiphe, was trash, and that Harper’s was trash, too. Writer Nicole Cliffe offered to pay anyone willing to pull pieces they had promised to Harper’s. A number of writers took her up on it and at least one advertiser dropped the magazine entirely. It didn’t matter than the rumor hadn’t been confirmed, or that no one had actually read the piece, or that Roiphe told the New York Times that the article didn't actually out anyone at all; the outrage machine was already rolling. And it was journalists—people who should know how to fact check first—who were fueling it.

There’s a name for this behavior: witch hunts. Someone is accused, judged, and condemned for an alleged or apparent transgression, and the townspeople on Facebook and Twitter grab their pitchforks and rush to the burn pile. There may be little evidence to support the prevailing narrative, but that hardly matters. The trial is conducted via social media, and the judges are anyone with access. Take a recent incident in Seattle, when the (ironically, Jewish) founder of the Punk Rock Flea Market was widely accused of being a Nazi sympathizer after a false and unsubstantiated claim that he kicked a woman of color out of his event was circulated on social media. I often write about social media mobs exactly like this, and what I have found is that they are not frequently misinformed, they are almost always misinformed. You just don't know what happened unless you were A) there, or B) someone has actually investigated whatever claims have come forth. But that's not how mobs work.

This atmosphere makes it difficult, if not impossible, to dissent. I was recently talking to a friend about the #MeToo movement. In hushed tones, she told me she had a confession to make. “Don’t tell anyone,” she said, “but I don’t think Woody Allen raped his daughter.” Luckily for her, she was in good company—I also doubt the veracity of Woody Allen’s guilt because the evidence just doesn’t support the claims—but she said this as though she were confessing a terrible crime. And she was: a thought crime, one so potentially harmful to her standing among her own friends that expressing it to anyone besides a known thought criminal was unthinkable. The resistance, it seems, is intersectional in everything but opinions.

In a recent Wired piece, techno-sociologist Zeynep Tufekci wrote about contemporary censorship, which comes not from governments but from our own social networks. “The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself," she wrote. "As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out.”

I see this every day. Just this week, a complete stranger tagged me in a tweet:


This person, Guy, finds my opinions so “incendiary”—so trash—that he wants me to get fired from my job for expressing my thoughts. That blows my mind. I’m a critic at an alt-weekly, not a politician. My views are just that: my own views. The idea that my opinions are so dangerous that I should be fired from my job isn’t just silly, it’s scary. It’s not like I’m over here advocating that everyone go out and club baby seals.

Progressives used to be the able to handle dissent. The Democrats were the party of free speech and free thought. No more. Among far too many leftists, if you disagree, you are wrong. And if you are wrong, you are bad, and if you are bad, you are trash.

This is a shame, and not just because I’m sick of getting angry emails. It’s a shame because this call-out culture prevents people from actually speaking their minds, because they are too scared of being unfriended, unfollowed, blocked, shunned, or dismissed as simply trash. But we shouldn't be shutting opinions we disagree with down; we should be seeking them out. You don’t learn much if everyone around you believes—or professes to believe—the exact same thing as you do, and if we don't expose ourselves to a diversity of opinions, we are never going to get out our self-imposed echo chambers. These echo chambers didn’t just bring us President Donald Trump; they brought us a liberal establishment so unable to see and believe that other people actually liked the fucker, that we all laughed at his candidacy instead of taking it as the very real threat that it was all along.

The world is falling apart around us, and we—liberals, progressive, leftists, whatever you want to call us—are too busy fighting with each other to actually do anything concrete about it, even though we agree on most of the big, important issues. The reality is, we are more alike than we are different. Like every other progressive worth my “I voted” sticker, I think Trump is the biggest threat to world stability that we’ve seen in the past 50 years. I think women should be able to procure abortions easily, cheaply, and legally. I believe that climate change is an existential threat to humanity, that white supremacy and unfettered capitalism are bad for us all, and that every single person on this planet should have access to housing, health care, clean water, good jobs, fair wages, and food to feed their kids. But that doesn’t matter—all that matters are these tiny, minute disagreements about pussy hats or emotional support animals or disgraced celebrities or whatever outrage of the day has captured the national attention. All that matters, is that you are woke, and I am trash.

A year after Trump’s inauguration, the left should be celebrating. Trump marked his one-year anniversary in the White House with a government shutdown. The Republican Party is in such disarray that 19 incumbent Republicans are retiring from public office because they know they cannot win. Democrats have had strong victories around the US. Courts have struck down gerrymandering left and right. The left should be in a good—no, a great—position to take over Congress in 2018, and the White House two years after that. And maybe we will succeed at that oh-so-vital task. But if we do, it won’t be because we’re united; it will be because the one thing we can all agree on is that the alternative is so much goddamn worse.

But, of course, this is just my opinion, so be careful before you repeat it. After all, I’m trash.

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22 Jan 21:38

SNL Skewers Amazon's Search for HQ2

by Katie Herzog
by Katie Herzog

Saturday Night Live took on Amazon's search for their next headquarters on Saturday. Unlike otherkins, it wasn't exactly funny, but what did you expect? It's SNL.

Anyway, here is it. Kill a few minutes while you're waiting to flush.

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19 Jan 00:32

Why I Recently Defaced a Sign at a Private East Coast College

by Christopher Frizzelle
Unnecessary hyphens are the grammar problem no one is talking about. by Christopher Frizzelle

This is the sign in question.
This is the sign in question. CF

On a trip to a private East Coast college where I was doing a brief teaching gig, I noticed this sign above a men's room urinal. Instantly, I thought of Dave Segal. It's not normal to think about Dave Segal while I'm at the urinal, but the sign made me think instantly of his grammar tirades—like this one and this one and this one and this one and this one.

I completely agree about the "it's"/"its" problem, and the phrases "free gift," "brutally murdered," and "it goes without saying." But unnecessary hyphens are the grammar problem no one is talking about.

Quick refresher: Hyphens are that little dash used to link words together.

If you are modifying a word, but the modifier itself is more than one word long, you usually need a hyphen. For example: If you want a not-that-hot latte, you need those hyphens, otherwise someone might look at that phrase and see the last two words (hot latte), misunderstand your meaning, and go off and make you a scalding hot latte.

Another example: If you're serving peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, you need those hyphens in there, otherwise people might think you're serving vats of peanut butter along with jelly sandwiches.

Sure, it's possible that without those hyphens, people will still understand your meaning, but your meaning will be murky. The hyphens are clarifying. They eliminate confusion.

I stood there looking at the above sign, very confused.

FAUCET SHUTS-OFF AUTOMATICALLY

Whoever made the sign was probably thinking about how "shut-off" is often a self-contained phrase modifying something else (eg., "fire valve shut-off"). There, the hyphen is needed, because, well, it's not a "valve shut," it's a "valve shut-off." Has to be there. But "faucet shuts off automatically" is just a sentence. "Shuts off" is not modifying "automatically." (In fact, the modifier here is "automatically.")

Or maybe since "Easy-Off" Faucet seems to be a brand name (judging from the rest of the sign), whoever made the sign thinks there needs to be a hyphen before other instances of "off." They are wrong, but at least it's understandable.

Nevertheless, it was frustrating to stand there looking at this mistake while teaching at a graduate writing program. Think of the students!

So... I did some light copyediting.

First I had to leave and come back with a Sharpie.
First I had to leave and come back with a Sharpie. CF

Then make sure the coast was clear while I colored in the extraneous hyphen.
Then make sure the coast was clear while I colored in the extraneous hyphen.

Thats better.
That's better.

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17 Jan 20:36

Palestinian unity in doubt before summit on Jerusalem

Hamas, Islamic Jihad to skip event, raising questions about how to proceed with campaign for statehood.
16 Jan 23:07

The Nostalgia of The Final Year Doesn't Address the Fierce Urgency of Now

by Eli Sanders
by Eli Sanders

The stars of The Final Year, a documentary about the close of the Obama era in foreign policy.
The stars of The Final Year, a documentary chronicling the last days of the Obama approach to our world and its problems. Getty Images

There are probably more important things you can do in response to the Trump era than spend 89 minutes of your time watching The Final Year, a wistful documentary about former President Barack Obama's foreign policy worldview.

Having given 89 minutes of my own time to this film, I feel it's likely the people in it—Obama, former Secretary of State John Kerry, former UN Ambassador Samantha Power, and former Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes—would agree you should do something else. Or, at the very least, something more.

By the end of the movie, as all of them grapple with the unexpected 2016 presidential election results, the unanimous consensus seems to be that the tens of millions of Americans who helped propel Obama to two terms in the White House are now a sort of ark. They are, in this view, the repository of noble ideas and aspirations temporarily washed out of power by a perfect storm of resentment, technological disruption, media failure, and enthusiastic demagoguery.

Answering this frightful reality by watching nostalgic movies does not seem to be anyone's idea of how decent Americans, including ex-Obama officials, should be leaping into action.

And yet, if you have arrived at a moment of exhaustion with organizing and Congress-calling and marching and talking to conservative relatives, and if you feel so spun around by the Trump administration's rapid-fire lies and manipulations that you can't remember what it used to be like, then yes, The Final Year will remind you what has been lost. Even watching the movie on mute would do this.

Here is a parade of admirable people who represent a very particular type that no longer seems in vogue at the White House: dedicated, compassionate, cerebral, studious, morally serious, exceedingly fit.

Here is Samantha Power flying to Africa to listen empathetically to families who have lost loved ones to Boko Haram. Here is John Kerry, with the president's full backing, entering into high-level, face-to-face negotiations with the Iranian government in order to slow its nuclear program.

Here is Ben Rhodes with the president in Laos, staring soberly at a display that suggests the massive number of artificial limbs that country has churned through as a result of America's secret bombing campaign during the Vietnam War.

Here is President Obama, alone at Hiroshima, directly facing the horrific consequences of nuclear war and then comforting survivors, including an elderly Japanese man who appears to weep in Obama's arms.

What Obama says at Hiroshima is about as far from reckless, "fire and fury" bombast as one can get:

Seventy-one years ago, on a bright cloudless morning, death fell from the sky and the world was changed. A flash of light and a wall of fire destroyed a city and demonstrated that mankind possessed the means to destroy itself.

Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima? We come to ponder a terrible force unleashed in a not-so-distant past. We come to mourn the dead, including over 100,000 Japanese men, women and children, thousands of Koreans, a dozen Americans held prisoner.

Their souls speak to us. They ask us to look inward, to take stock of who we are and what we might become.

The film makes clear, however, that if masses of Americans were ever inclined to deeply ponder such things, they certainly were not being encouraged to do so during the 2016 presidential campaign.

"None of this stuff is being discussed in the United States," Rhodes says of the weighty topics explored during one Obama summit meeting with Chinese leaders. "Instead they're talking about Donald Trump's Twitter feed."

In contrast, the administration officials in this documentary are all deeply concerned with Syria, the Paris Climate Agreement, the global refugee crisis, Cuba, and a world in which, as Power prophetically warns, "all the trend lines in democracy are going in the wrong direction."

If The Final Year reveals anything of particular significance, it may in fact be that Power—full of righteous drive, but easy to caricature as the embodiment of extreme liberal hand-wringing—might have understood the global moment best.

Vladimir Putin, she comes to see clearly, doesn't wake up every morning thinking, "How can I prevent mass atrocities today?" At the UN, she confronts the Russian ambassador over the bombing of a humanitarian convoy in Syria, saying loudly and for the world to hear: "Are you truly incapable of shame?"

In this encounter, as in the US presidential election, the Obama coalition, writ narrowly and broadly, seems to have been unprepared for the answer.

The members of Obama's foreign policy team all say repeatedly and insistently that they are not naive about the world we live in, and this is clearly true from the way they wrestle with its intractable problems. Yet they do not have the winning (at least in the moment) response when faced with a shameless adversary with no moral center.

Based on the election results, most Americans don't, either.

After Trump's victory, a devastated and confounded Rhodes confesses: "I can't put it into words. I don't know what the words are."

Earlier in the film, however, it is put quite clearly.

"The irony of the Obama years," one member of his foreign policy team says, "is going to be that he was advocating an inclusive global view rooted in common humanity and international order, amidst this kind of roiling ocean of growing nationalism and authoritarianism."

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12 Jan 18:15

"Shithole Countries": This Is An Actual Headline at The Washington Post

by Dan Savage
by Dan Savage

Not just a headline. The top headline:

1515710089_tmp_shitholestrump.jpg

From the story:

President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they floated restoring protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to two people briefed on the meeting. “Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to African countries and Haiti. He then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries like Norway, whose prime minister he met Wednesday.

From the Twitter:











Take us out, Jake...

Totally out-of-the-closet racist @realDonaldTrump refers to countries with dark-skinned people "shithole" counties and, in by doing so, continues to turn America into one.
pic.twitter.com/Vps0qZ4rE7
— Mrs. Betty Bowers (@BettyBowers) January 11, 2018


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08 Jan 20:16

Re: Pesca to Green Party Voters: "You screwed up, you screwed us."

by tiredofeverything
Weird how a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama was able to win in 2008 and 2012 (and with Stein in the race in 2012 at that!) while facing much stronger opponents than a rapist game show host.
Posted by tiredofeverything
03 Jan 04:10

ICYMI: Absolute Fucking Moron Tim Eyman Once Again Fails to Siphon Money from Sound Transit

by Heidi Groover
He's still trying to ban an income tax. by Heidi Groover

When will he be held accountable for these long-sleeved t-shirts?
When will he be held accountable for these long-sleeved t-shirts? HG

Back in July, initiative peddler Tim Eyman stood at King Street Station in flip flops to announce his latest anti-transit initiative. As usual, the measure was billed as a consumer protection against expensive car tab fees but was actually just an effort to choke off funding for Sound Transit. The initiative would have capped car tab fees at $30. Those fees are crucial for funding light rail projects. Eyman hates light rail.

In the final days of 2017, for the fourth time in a row, Eyman failed to qualify for the ballot.

On Friday, Eyman sent supporters an email saying he was "really disappointed to announce" that he didn't gather the signatures required to get the initiative on the ballot.

Eyman hoped to ride a wave of fervor over car tab fees during the last legislative session. But he said the failure "boils down to money—we just didn't raise enough funds to hire paid petitioners to supplement our volunteers." Whether to believe a man accused of profiting off his initiative campaigns, well, I'll leave that up to you.

Eyman is now pushing an initiative to ban income and capital gains taxes.

Meanwhile, an initiative to reform police de-escalation training turned in 100,000 more signatures than needed.

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21 Dec 07:10

Re: Value Village Brings in $1 Billion a Year, and According to AG Bob Ferguson, Gives Very Little to Charity

by Urgutha Forka
@9,
Yep. They're not charitable at all... they're just your typical hucksters.
Posted by Urgutha Forka
20 Dec 16:33

Re: The Awful Expression "Free Gift" Turns Up in an Unlikely Place

by seatackled
@6 totally murdered that to death.
Posted by seatackled
20 Dec 15:44

Would You Care to Hear Jeff Goldblum Think Out Loud for Two Hours? (Answer: Yes, You Would)

by Sean Nelson
by Sean Nelson

Presley and Goldblum, a king and a prince.
Presley and Goldblum, a king and a prince.

Christmas is almost here, Hanukkah's almost over, the House just passed the Rich People Are More Equal Than Poor People Tax Act, and the Senate seems likely to do the same. Plus it's raining, the sky is black, it will always be freezing.

What I'm saying is: Don't you deserve a gift? Yes, you do.

The wonderful elves at Shout! Factory have created just the thing, in the form of a new podcast, which employs the audio tracks of interviews and commentaries created for their (always stellar) reissues of cult films. The first installment accompanies the Blu-ray of Into the Night, John Landis's fantastic, oddly underseen 1985 comedy thriller starring a young Michelle Pfeiffer and a slightly less-young Jeff Goldblum.

The Jeff Goldblum interview captured on this podcast is pure joy from beginning to end. It's like he unscrews the top of his head and allows the fascinating, bizarre, discursive, halting, self-interruptive, self-aware, hilarious-but-secretly-very-serious thought process that clearly informs his acting choices and line readings to step into the spotlight where it has obviously always belonged.

He talks about his career, his co-stars (including Pfeiffer, David Bowie, and a ton of people from other films), his past, his music, his love of the brilliant and underrated Pfeiffer-and-Jeff Bridges film The Fabulous Baker Boys, and most intriguingly, the ways he wishes he had chosen to play the role of Ed Okin in Into the Night differently (while also pitching a sequel).

And it just goes on and on. The only flaw is that it isn't twice as long. (If you're one of those people who believe podcasts should be arbitrarily abbreviated, the second episode, featuring the differently-great-but-definitely-great John Lithgow on the decidedly-less-great The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai, is much shorter.)

Anyway, yes. The world is grim, but surely we can all agree on Jeff Goldblum, right? Happy holidays. Gold bless us, everyone.

jeff_goldblum.png

19 Dec 21:50

Re: The Morning News: Tax Bill Vote Expected Soon, Gorsuch Ate Trump's Ass, Crashed Amtrak Train Was Speeding

by Theodore Gorath
Perhaps I should note that this is with the standard, non-itemized deduction in regards to #23.
Posted by Theodore Gorath
05 Dec 23:25

'Peace Diamond' fetches $6.5m for Sierra Leone at New York auction

The diamond was found in a Sierra Leone village earlier this year and government promised money from the auction will benefit locals.
10 Nov 03:38

Re: How Do We Deal with the Problem of Men? Perhaps a Sex Strike Is in Order.

by Biggles
"The idea is presumably that men would talk to each other. and eventually the sentiment would reach the people who need to hear it. "

Well, the womenfolk could just as easily give up making us sandwiches. I know Mrs. Biggles would join in that strike and considering how yummy her open-face cucumber sandwiches are, I might listen.
Posted by Biggles
12 Sep 04:15

Comment on Yoga Alliance President, Richard Karpel, Announces Resignation by Stewart J. Lawrence

by Stewart J. Lawrence
Lilly Teal

stew

S.–
I have no predictions. I am not privy to internal deliberations. However, I think it’s hard to build a “Yoga Alliance” that is built solely around the narrow professional interests of the yoga companies, studios, and teachers.

A larger “alliance” must include the consumers — the students – and the broader public. Karpel was building a trade association without any regard for the long-term interests of yoga consumers — or the public — except as defined by their self-appointed “leaders.”

It’s the YOGA BUSINESS ALLIANCE. That’s fine — but let’s have truth in advertising. Let’s cal it YBA from here on out?

Richard was wrong on the Yoga-Glo issue and deeply deeply wrong on the DC taxation issue, which was very much about protecting the city’s tax base.

A good example of what happens when you are only representing your membership, and its own narrow selfish professional interests.

In the eye of a majority Black city, a majority Black council, and the DC taxpayers generally, the Yoga Alliance intervention in this local issue only further branded American yoga as a special interest promoted by a privileged white suburban constituency.

It was a disaster. I live here.

The dispute between the former Lulu ambassador/teacher who helped Wanderlust and Wanderlust who ripped off her stuff? Another disaster. Karpel, by omission or commission sided with Wanderlust, the big corporate player over the “little guy” — the struggling teacher who wanted her intellectual property protected.

This from the guy who pretended that he was against the Yoga-Glo patent on behalf of all yogis and the great and glorious common good.

There are natural tensions that develop between the more corporate entities reflected in YA’s board and membership– entities that naturally want to monopolize or at last dominate the industry — and the isolated little studios and teachers.

How does the head of Yoga Alliance sort out these disputes — or does he even try? Somebody needs to hold him accountable for how he handled this matter. Or maybe somebody did, since it resulted in a lawsuit.

Karpel approved Wanderlust’s application for teacher training certification AFTER the lawsuit against Wanderlust for stealing the intellectual property to build that training program was filed. Why? Ask him.

I think people also need to know why the YOGA BUSINESS ALLIANCE wasn’t interested in developing a real curriculum for teachers in the area of medical contraindications for yoga poses. Victoria McColm was doing some fabulous work in this area — but threw up her hands in disgust because she was getting stonewalled by Karpel &Co.

Having yoga teachers actually understood all the contraindications for the yoga asanas — the health risks. This is in the interest of everyone, right?

Not for the fascist yoga super-elite that thinks any questioning of yoga pedagogy puts you in the horrible William Broad “get yoga camp — rather than in a simple and highly reasonable consumer protection camp.

How much have Karpel & Co. done in the area of teacher liability insurance — now that the number of consumer lawsuits against studios and teachers that injured students are taking off?

I reported on this for Counterpunch. “Yoga’s Growing Threat of Legal Liability.” http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/07/04/yogas-growing-threat-of-legal-liability/

Finally, we cannot have heads of the YOGA BUSINESS ALLIANCE attacking and threatening to sue journalists like myself and the papers we write for simply because we are trying to hold people like Karpel and this pathetic self-serving commercial industry accountable.

It’s hard to serve two masters — God and the market — and the more you try, the more it wraps you into pretzels of internal contradictions like the ones that have developed at YA — and that will consume one leader after the next over time.

Let’s stop calling the yoga industry a “movement”? Please, it’s a movement like Amway is a movement. To use this term is an insult to anyone who’s actually helped build one.

31 Aug 14:37

Big Investors Push for Auditors to Sign Financial Statements

by Jesse Eisinger

An industry group which represents some of the nation's largest investors is urging regulators not to back away from plans to require auditors to sign the financial statements they prepare for companies.

In my August 13 "Trade" column, I wrote of a struggle between the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board, which regulates the accounting industry, and the Securities and Exchange Commission over reforms to auditor disclosure. The PCAOB, and many accounting reformers and investment groups had pushed for this change.

The accounting industry and the SEC have resisted. The negotiations have been going on for years.

In a letter dated August 15, Jeff Mahoney, the general counsel for the Council of Institutional Investors, a nonprofit that represents investment organizations with more than $3 trillion in assets under management, wrote, "to express our surprise and disappointment in the report earlier this week in the New York Times that the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board has decided to dramatically weaken" the reforms.

The bodies are coming to a compromise, with final rules slated to come out next month. As part of the compromise, the accounting firms will be required to disclose who the lead audit partner is, but the partner will not be required to sign the audited financial statements, according to a person familiar with the decision. It's not yet decided in what manner the auditing firms will disclose the lead engagement partner's name.

21 Dec 01:25

Comment on Urban Outfitters Pulls Ganesh Socks After Offending Hindus by Stewart Lawrence

by Stewart Lawrence
Lilly Teal

stew

How about firmly committing yourself to keeping the Divine source out of the marketplace. Cleaning the Temple of the Money-Changers has a strong foundation in Christianity, too. But alas, such strictures would put Yoga Dork and 90% of yoga out of business, too. What would we lose, if there were no yoga studios and no yoga blogosphere? More than a few hucksters and predators, I suspect. But would the angels really weep? Would Ganesh?

29 Oct 19:40

Comment on Lululemon ‘Brahmacharya’ Shopping Bags Depict Junk Food, Needles, Condoms and Alcohol to Promote ‘Moderation’ by Stewart J. Lawrence

by Stewart J. Lawrence
Lilly Teal

stew

Lululemon is like the court jester and whipping boy of the entire American yoga movement, which couldn’t survive without it. It’s your flagship ladies, your guilty pleasure, without which you would be absolutely nowhere. The same, dare I say, is true of Bikram. This is what spiritual materialism is all about. It breeds a lot of empty sanctimony.

06 Oct 00:48

Comment on Yoga Studio Shamed After ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ Class Ignites Outrage by Stewart Lawrence

by Stewart Lawrence
Lilly Teal

stew

It’s not one studio. It’s a deep and pervasive bias coming to the fore in one place in a very public way. Yoga suffers from what’s called “institutionalized racism.” That’s more about the culture you create than the by;laws you pass.

American yoga doesn’t seem racist because participants spout slogans of peace and joy and because you have already appropriated a “foreign” non-White culture and its symbolism — India and Hinduism.

But anytime you put this many young and stupid middle class American white girls in one place — problems ensue. Sorry.

06 Oct 00:47

Comment on Yoga Studio Shamed After ‘Ghetto Fabulous’ Class Ignites Outrage by Stewart Lawrence

by Stewart Lawrence
Lilly Teal

stew

By the way, how many of the leading yoga bloggers are women of color? And besides everyone’s favorite token, Faith Hunter, where are all the African-American or Latin yogis?
Anyone promoting “affirmative action” in yoga?

And the Yoga Alliance. What does it have to say about this important subject?

06 Oct 00:47

Comment on Yoga Alliance Starts Petition Urging YogaGlo to Withdraw Patent Application, Stop ‘Bullying’ by Stewart Lawrence

by Stewart Lawrence
Lilly Teal

stew

Wish it had. We’d all be a lot better off. And so would India.

15 Aug 10:25

Comment on What’s in a Name: Does Calling Yourself a Yoga Teacher Make You a Yoga Teacher? by semper fi

by semper fi
Lilly Teal

stew

The YA RYT 200 hour teacher training is a sham. It lines the pockets of RYT yoga schools like some kind of deranged Amway scheme. TT’s attract people who have attended a handful of yoga classes and want to be the next yoga rock star. Little do people know to achieve that status, you have to put in years of doing yoga. In this McSociety, we don’t have that kind of patience. To do it right, you have to practice with someone who knows what they are doing for 10 years. Then, start your own class for FREE in a park or some low rent place. You have to build your students up one at at time. After you have built a handful of students and taught them to the best of your ability, then consider “certification.” By that time you will not need Yoga Alliance to tell you that you are a yoga teacher. I doubt many of you can hack it, so go ahead and pay your $2K for 200 hours and and stamp. I just don’t want to be there when your first student with an injury shows up.