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starsholland: I’m obsessed with these pictures of the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders wearing their...



I’m obsessed with these pictures of the Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders wearing their real world professional work attire as their cheer uniforms

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14 days ago
Oakland, CA
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Trump So Mad At Nick Ayers He Might Not Even Eat 10 Big Macs Today

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Donald Trump, whose political instincts are approximately as good as his "don't obstruct justice on Twitter" instincts and his "how to hire a good lawyer" instincts, is ANGRY. You see, he really thought Nick Ayers, Mike Pence's chief of staff, was super excited to become his new chief of staff, but it turned out Nick Ayers is a political operative who'd like to have a career after the Trump presidency self-destructs, so Nick Ayers told him to fuck off. And Ayers said it like a surprise, on Twitter! The way Trump does! ASSHOLE.

And as all the major media organizations are reporting, Trump didn't have a Plan B. (Which is why he's probably paid for so many abortions and lied to his evangelical followers about it, BA-DUM CHING, ALLEGEDLY!)

CNN says Trump is "super pissed," and that he had already given Nick Ayers his first work assignment, before Nick Ayers left him on his ass. Another source CNN talked to said Trump feels humiliated, and that's on top of the normal humiliation of waking up every day and looking in the mirror and seeing that you're still Donald Trump.

It's not that Trump is so mad he's gonna explode or anything, because at least Nick Ayers is going to run Trump's re-election super PAC. BUT GRRR ARGH ANYWAY.

As for the search for a chief of staff, well ... it's not going so well, because nobody wants to work for the smoldering trashfire that is the Trump White House. Steven Mnuchin, Mick Mulvaney and Robert Lighthizer all are telling Trump to fuck off. So is Randy Levine, president of the New York Yankees.

Sure, House Freedom Caucus idiot Mark Meadows is salivating for it, because Mark Meadows is a very stupid and sycophantic man who just wants to be near Donald Trump always. Acting Attorney General Meatball is still on the list, because he's such a good little Meatball. Piers Morgan is begging for the job on the internet, so that's pathetic, but we think he's trying to be #humorous, so that's also pathetic.

Here is the rest of The List, as reported by the Washington Post:

David N. Bossie, Trump's former deputy campaign manager and an outside adviser; White House counselor Kellyanne Conway; Chris Christie, a former New Jersey governor and former Trump transition chairman; Energy Secretary Rick Perry, a former Texas governor; Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania; and Wayne Berman, an executive at the investment firm Blackstone and a veteran Republican operative.

Wow, that is a damaged, discontinued clearance rack full of deplorables. But reportedly there are some names we don't even know yet, so maybe they are the "best people"? (NARRATOR: They are not.)

Angelina Jolie's unstable dad, Jon Voight, was at the White House yesterday. Maybe he was interviewing for the position?

Trump lied and tweeted on Tuesday morning that people are just kicking down his door for the job, stating that "many, over ten" are competing for it. Poor thing thinks he's still hosting "The Celebrity Apprentice."

But maybe there really are ten people? Let's count up, based on the ones we know of and the ones we are just wildly speculating probably want the job.

1. Mark Meadows.

2. Meatball.

3. David Bossie, maybe?

4. Kellyanne, except they don't even know if she wants the job.

5. Rick Perry, OK sure LOL.

6. Chris Christie, except Jared hates him so nope.

7. Rick Santorum? Really?

8. Wayne Berman.

9. Piers Morgan.

10. Jon Voight.

11. Diamond.

12. Silk.

13. Jacob Wohl.

14. David Duke.

15. Ted Nugent.

We take it back. Sounds like we got a real competition here!

Except, meh, fuck it, Trump already has a chief of staff, and his name is Vladimir Putin. Search over! Take down that Craigslist ad, Mr. President!

As for John Kelly, who is quit-fired and getting the fuck out of here by the end of the year? Tell us a scoop, New York Times!!

Mr. Kelly, meanwhile, is said to be furious with Ms. Trump and Mr. Kushner. One senior administration official said that Mr. Kelly was known to have kept written notes about Mr. Kushner and Ms. Trump and the things that they had done or requested, which he conspicuously left on his desk in view of his staff.

John Kelly's book is gonna be LIT, Y'ALL.

[Washington Post / New York Times]

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42 days ago
“Wow, that is a damaged, discontinued clearance rack full of deplorables.”
Oakland, CA
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Transformers: Stairs That Turn Into Wheelchair Access Elevators

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This is a video highlighting several examples of Sesame Access's wheelchair access elevators, which magically appear out of stairs with the push of the elevator's call button. The concept originated to provide wheelchair access to buildings while preserving their original design. Sure, whatever works. I mean it might not be as an ingenious solution as the one I came up with, but now what am I supposed to do with all these helium balloons? Keep going for the whole video.
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44 days ago
Oakland, CA
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You Didn’t Build That


The title of NPR’s How I Built This podcast perfectly describes its contents. It’s a series of interviews with founders and CEOs about how they built their companies. The “I” is critical: in How I Built This, it is the executive, not the workers, who does the building. In fact, workers hardly appear at all in How I Built This. The typical narrative is of a scrappy young entrepreneur with nothing but a vision and some grit, who manages through a combination of individual hard work and flashes of serendipity to find themselves presiding over a billion-dollar corporation. The story of the company is the story of its founders, who Create it through their dedication and insight.

How I Built This fully swallows the Silicon Valley mythology about “changing the world,” describing itself as “a narrative journey about innovators, entrepreneurs and idealists—and the movements they built.” Movements! The founders of LinkedIn and Edible Arrangements did not just build companies, they built movements. The host, Guy Raz, struggles to contain his giddy enthusiasm for the world of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. The New York Times remarked that he “sounds like no matter what he is saying, he is also saying ‘Wow,’” and he seems positively agog whenever a guest cites some absurdly large valuation or sales figure. Raz is captivated by the drama of business, saying he is interest is in “human experiences” and narratives.

As you might expect, there are not many critical questions asked on How I Built This. Raz, a veteran news correspondent, apparently “does not consider himself a reporter anymore,” and he isn’t one. The program is a 40-minute infomercial for some of America’s largest companies subsidized by NPR listeners. (Those who donate to NPR may want to bear this in mind and consider giving their money to less sycophantic media outlets.) Founders and CEOs get to spin out whatever self-serving Horatio Alger story they have honed over the years, with Raz offering the occasional “Wow” or “How did that feel?” Raz seems to believe he is extracting some important confessions from these people—“I ask them, ‘Are you willing to come to this interview and surrender?’,” he told the Times, which reports that he “gets founders to open up and tell wrenching stories about sacrifices, late nights, self-doubt and the mistakes that led to success.” But every CEO loves to tell a story about sacrifice, late nights, and the bumps on the road to success—they’re just telling Raz exactly the story that they would put in their “How I Made It” business book.

A few examples of the Raz technique, from my sampling of the podcast. Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is known for being viciously anti-union, calling labor unions “parasites” that “don’t create value” and “are not part of the solution at Whole Foods Market.” Allegedly, the company tells its workers that “unions are deceptive, money-hungry organizations who will say and do almost anything to ‘infiltrate’ and coerce employees into joining their ranks,” and gives them a pamphlet entitled “Beyond Unions.” Whole Foods has successfully stopped organizing campaigns at many of its stores. Naturally, when Mackey came on How I Built This, awkward questions about labor rights were avoided in favor of Mackey’s feel-good personal story about the building of his empire and his creation, in Raz’s words, of “an organic food revolution that changed the way Americans shop for groceries.” (Personally I still shop for groceries the same way I did before the local Whole Foods opened, because I can’t afford to go to Whole Foods.)

Here is a representative selection of the dialogue exchanged between Raz and Mackey:

RAZ: Were you scared? I mean, you were still a kid.

MACKEY: No. I wasn’t scared at all.

RAZ: You thought this was going to work.


RAZ: Were you freaking out?

MACKEY: No, but the investors were.

RAZ: I bet!


Towards the end, Raz does mention that that Mackey “inspires pretty strong opinions” and has both “fanboys” and “haters.” How does he respond to those with strong opinions? “My take is, of course, that the people that know me like me,” Mackey replies. Raz does not go into the reasons Mackey inspires such “strong opinions,” such as his statement that “climate change is perfectly natural and not necessarily bad… most of humanity tends to flourish more when global temperatures are in a warming trend.” Grilling Mackey on this might spoil the uplifting story. It would conflict with the purposes of the show, one of which is “to leave people with a sense of possibility.” Raz says he’s “not looking for news,” but “looking to get into your heart and mind.” It’s good he’s not looking for news, because he definitely hasn’t found it. 

So, when Raz interviews someone like Joe Gebbia of Airbnb, there will be no discussion about the allegations that Airbnb destroys communities by causing large percentages of historic neighborhoods to be converted to short-term rentals (leaving residents thinking “I’d like to have my neighbors back”). Instead Raz asks things like: “Last year Airbnb was valued at 20 billion or more. Is that crazy to you?” Here is Raz’s version of a critical question:

RAZ: [Some people say] ‘hey, you guys should be regulated like hotels.’ How do you respond to that?”

GEBBIA: I think about that question in the context of innovations over the last 100 years…. [insert predictable self-serving blather about how every important invention was opposed by haters who tried to destroy it because they weren’t visionary enough to understand it.]

When corporate executives talk like this, they should at least get a follow-up, e.g. “But people don’t necessarily demand regulation just because they don’t understand the value of a room-rental service, they support it because unchecked ‘creative destruction’ can cause significant damage to people’s livelihoods. Why are you incapable of understanding that?” Here’s Lyft’s John Zimmer talking about how his co-founder Logan Green realized that public transit was “broken” and in need of some good disruption:

[Logan] quickly grew to realize the challenges in public transportation and came to the conclusion that across the country when you pay to get on the bus, you’re really only covering about 30% of the operating costs, so what that means is that a 3 dollar bus far actually costs the government 10 and as the lines get more busy, they get harder to fund and harder to add service levels so actually the more busy they get the worse they get. So he came to the conclusion that public transportation was broken… He then traveled to Zimbabwe where he saw people sharing rides out of necessity and got inspired to build a website that would connect people going the same way to be able to sell a seat in their car, and that’s why he called the website “Zimride.”

Now, there are a number of questions here you can ask if you are a journalist, such as “Aren’t the failures of public transportation in part due to several decades of neoliberalism and a failure to provide adequate funding? Why would you adopt something Zimbabweans do out of necessity rather than pushing for greater investment in public transit?” These are not questions Guy Raz is interested in.

Okay, so the guests on How I Built This are self-aggrandizing and Guy Raz is a credulous bootlicker. So don’t listen to it, Robinson. But there’s something I honestly find disturbing about How I Built This. It’s the way workers, without whom none of these market triumphs are possible, simply disappear. You’ll rarely if ever hear the word “union” on How I Built This. Talk about labor conditions is nonexistent. You don’t really find out what kind of a boss they are, even though Raz insists that he only picks people who seem “kind” and have ethical business practices. I am certain that plenty of these people’s employees have listened and thought “That guy is an asshole who is lying through his teeth.” And by hosting such a podcast, NPR is contributing to the devaluation of workers’ lives. It’s putting out propaganda, because it’s allowing people at the top to tell the story, and not allowing anyone at the bottom to have a say.

My friend Max Alvarez has recently written for this magazine about the ways that workers are robbed of their voices. Everyone talks about The Working Class but nobody actually bothers to listen to them. NPR, that “liberal” radio network, only cares what the boss has to say. Max has tried to do something different, starting his own podcast that offers an instructive contrast with How I Built This. It’s called Working People, and on it you’ll hear average individuals talk about their lives, struggles, and aspirations. Max interviews the people who drive the Ubers and the people who work in the Amazon warehouses. Surprisingly enough, they often have a somewhat different view of the corporate world than the bosses on How I Built This.

Lately, Max has been interviewing people affected by GM’s recent mass layoff of 14,000 people. He doesn’t want to hear the inspiring success story of the one guy who founded a company, he wants to hear the less romantic day-to-day life stories of the thousands of people who work for that guy. Max’s GM interviews have been heartbreaking:

MAX ALVAREZ: When we hear these kinds of stories it’s very difficult to wrap our heads around the human costs to families in these industrial towns… How are y’all getting by?

ROCHELLE CARLISLE: When we first saw the news, I was in total shock. And then your mind starts to wonder ‘Oh my gosh, it’s not just me that’s losing everything, it’s the whole community, I mean what’s going to happen to property values?…. It’s a trickle down effect because when people aren’t working, they don’t go out to eat, they don’t tip… I don’t understand how a CEO as a human being can wake up in the morning and say ‘You know, I’m going to take everything from these 14,000 people, and I’m going to sleep great tonight.’ How, in your heart, are you able to make that decision and be okay with it? … I understand they’re about profit, but where do you draw the line, as a person, to have compassion towards any other person?  


TOMMY WOLIKOW: When General Motors closes its doors, I’m not going to be able to sell my house and get what I put in for it. Who is going to want to buy a house when they know that two miles away the heart of the area just got closed? When I got laid off from GM everything was going really well. I had zero credit card debt, I was paying my mortgage… and I went from having that financial stability to now I am in the 20,000 dollar range of credit card debt… My kids, they want certain things for Christmas and it’s really hard scraping the money together to be able to get your kids what they want for Christmas at a time like this.

These are not fun stories to listen to. But they’re far more worth hearing than the autobiographies of millionaire entrepreneurs, because they show you what life is actually like in this country for most of the people who live in it. And Max isn’t simply collecting tales of woe. His podcast also asks important social questions, finding out what people think about unions, the extent to which there is a shared working class identity, the ways that people resist and survive. In the GM interviews, Nanette Senters talks about a phenomenon I’d never thought about: resentment of people who work at GM by people in the area who don’t work at GM:

“Because it’s so economically depressed around here… they look at an average line worker making $60,000 a year as an overlord or something. You know, we’re better than them and they hate us. This has been a common problem ‘Oh you work at GM, you can afford it.’ No, I can’t. I’m just scraping by… Most of us help our families and donate to charities out the wazoo.”

These are the kinds of barriers to solidarity that need to be understood, and if you don’t share these life experiences, you’re not going to find out about them unless you actually listen to people rather than theorizing about them in the abstract. The interviewees on Working People are unpolished, unlike the entrepreneurs who have spent years practicing their “elevator pitches.” The show isn’t as easily digestible as How I Built This—there’s no dramatic music, no carefully edited structured narrative, no cheerful “anyone can make it” message. But it has the advantage of being true.

There’s no better proof of Max’s thesis about the silencing of working class people than the fact that How I Built This is one of NPR’s flagship podcasts, while Working People is surviving on a few Patreon bucks. In a just world, NPR would hire Max and let Guy Raz go swoon over billionaires on his own time. But it tells you something about the “age of inequality” that “left-wing” radio consists of a man going “Gee whiz!” as bosses talk about how successful they are.

Read Max’s article here. Listen to Working People here.

If you appreciate our work, please consider making a donation, purchasing a subscription, or supporting our podcast on Patreon. Current Affairs is not for profit and carries no outside advertising. We are an independent media institution funded entirely by subscribers and small donors, and we depend on you in order to continue to produce high-quality work.

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46 days ago
Oakland, CA
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Possibly the finest thing I have read this year: Frank Wilhoit: The Travesty of ...


Possibly the finest thing I have read this year: Frank Wilhoit: The Travesty of Liberalism: "There is only conservatism. No other political philosophy actually exists; by the political analogue of Gresham’s Law, conservatism has driven every other idea out of circulation. There might be, and should be, anti-conservatism; but it does not yet exist. What would it be? In order to answer that question, it is necessary and sufficient to characterize conservatism. Fortunately, this can be done very concisely. Conservatism consists of exactly one proposition, to wit: There must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect...

...There is nothing more or else to it, and there never has been, in any place or time. For millenia, conservatism had no name, because no other model of polity had ever been proposed. “The king can do no wrong.” In practice, this immunity was always extended to the king’s friends, however fungible a group they might have been. Today, we still have the king’s friends even where there is no king (dictator, etc.). Another way to look at this is that the king is a faction, rather than an individual.

As the core proposition of conservatism is indefensible if stated baldly, it has always been surrounded by an elaborate backwash of pseudophilosophy, amounting over time to millions of pages. All such is axiomatically dishonest and undeserving of serious scrutiny. Today, the accelerating de-education of humanity has reached a point where the market for pseudophilosophy is vanishing; it is, as The Kids Say These Days, tl;dr . All that is left is the core proposition itself — backed up, no longer by misdirection and sophistry, but by violence.

So this tells us what anti-conservatism must be: the proposition that the law cannot protect anyone unless it binds everyone, and cannot bind anyone unless it protects everyone....

The core proposition of anti-conservatism requires no supplementation and no exegesis. It is as sufficient as it is necessary. What you see is what you get...

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48 days ago
Oakland, CA
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Veterans Affairs Dept. tells congressional staffers it won't repay underpaid GI Bill benefits recipients

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For weeks, student veterans across the country have raised an alarm about delayed or incorrect GI Bill benefit payments, which the Department of Veterans Affairs has blamed on computer issues.

But on Wednesday, the department told congressional staffers that it would not reimburse those veterans who were paid less than they were owed, two committee aides told NBC News.

The news conflicts with a promise VA officials made to a House committee earlier this month that it would reimburse those veterans who received less than the full amount they were due.

According to the aides, however, the VA said it could not make retroactive payments without auditing its previous education claims, which it said would delay future claims. The aides asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

NBC News previously reported that some veterans were forced into desperate financial straits stemming from a change in calculating housing allowances under the Forever GI Bill, which President Donald Trump signed into law in July 2017. When its computers were unable to process that change, the VA quickly faced a backlog of veterans’ claims three times higher than normal.

Because of those issues, the VA had announced earlier on Wednesday that it would delay the Forever GI Bill housing allowance changes until December 2019 — and again promised that retroactive payments would be made to those who did not receive a correct amount.

But VA officials told congressional staffers in a telephone call on Wednesday morning that once the system is made right next year, they will not make retroactive payments to those who were underpaid because of the housing miscalculations.

"They are essentially going to ignore the law and say that that change only goes forward from December 2019," one aide told NBC News.

The reason the VA decided that it would not make the retroactive payments is because it would have to audit all its previous education claims prior to December 2019, meaning the VA would potentially have to inspect 2 million claims, the aide said.

VA officials said this could cause further delays in processing future claims, according to the aides, an issue that caused some veterans to suffer earlier this year.

While this decision could mean the agency is flouting the law because it would not provide the correct amount of money to student veterans as required by two sections of the Forever GI Bill, the VA told the congressional staffers that they have a legal justification that would allow them to move forward with this decision.

They did not share that justification, however.

When asked for comment, a VA spokesman did not address the issue directly. Instead he reiterated that the agency would delay paying housing allowances in accordance with the new Forever GI Bill until the spring term of 2020 and instead pay housing allowances based on Department of Defense's older Basic Housing Allowance rates.

Attempting to implement the law would put “an enormous administrative burden for schools in which some 35,000 certifying officials would have to track retroactively and re-certify hundreds of thousands of enrollment documents,” Curtis Cashour, the VA spokesman, said over email.

Cashour also said that students who were overpaid because of the law’s changes or because of issues in implementing the law “will not be held liable for the debt.”

But he did not comment on those who were underpaid and rampant confusion continues to surround the issue, as it is unknown how many students have been underpaid thus far, how many more could be underpaid because of the changes to the law and how much money these veterans are owed.

Congressional aides described the situation as “frustrating.” One, who commented on the shifting answers and constant confusion stemming from VA, asked, “I mean, am I taking crazy pills?”

Under Secretary for Benefits Paul Lawrence is scheduled to testify Thursday morning before the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

One of the committee aides said that members of Congress will attempt to clear this issue up before they move forward with the hearing.

“They need to figure it out,” the aide said.

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54 days ago
Veterans Affairs Dept. tells Capitol Hill it won't repay underpaid GI Bill benefits recipients
Oakland, CA
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