Republican healthcare plan is “mean”? Every time you parrot Trump’s words you let the GOP off the hook.

“Mean” is when you make fun of someone’s shirt. This bill isn’t “mean.”

There’s this thing people are saying here recently and it needs to stop. Now. The thing they’re saying? The GOP “healthcare” bill is mean.

These were President Donald’s words on Tuesday.

“Mean” is reportedly the word President Donald Trump used Tuesday to describe the House GOP’s American Health Care Act, which passed Congress’ lower chamber last month. Per the Associated Press, “One source said Trump called the House bill ‘mean, mean, mean’ and said, ‘We need to be more generous, more kind.’ The other source said Trump used a vulgarity to describe the House bill and told the senators, ‘We need to be more generous.'”

Now everybody is saying it. Continue reading

Spotify’s “sponsored content”: payola by any other name…

by Amber Healy

SpotifyIt’s too soon to know whether the new “sponsored content” policy helps artists or harms them.

Payola is the practice—the illegal practice—of a record label paying a broadcaster to play a song or artist at a higher rate than other artists.

There was a massive scandal decades ago in which radio stations were found to accept bribes to favor this artist or that one. It brought down some of the biggest names in the then-fledgling industry, including Alan Freed, the man credited with coining the phrase “rock ‘n’ roll,” and Dick Clark.

But times have changed. Things are different. And there’s no law governing the use of cold hard cash to encourage streaming platforms to promote artists for the right price. It also indicates a change in practice for Spotify, which called for a halt to payola-type practices back in 2015. At that time, the Swedish company announced it would “explicitly prohibit” users from taking cash to include songs on its curated playlists, the Financial Times reported.

Tech Crunch first noted this week that there was a new opt-out feature on Spotify, titled “Sponsored Content.”

Continue reading

Where is my tribe?

drums-2026535_960_720In the last two days I’ve been tone policed for being unkind, uncool, and tribal. Mind you, the single person doing the tone policing had nothing to say about what I signified. Typical of tone policing, it’s all about style over substance, the signifier, not the signified.

So I confess. Surprising nobody, I’m both unkind and uncool. Looked at across the great spectrum of human behavior where, oh, let’s say Hitler occupies one extreme, lacking in both kindness and coolness (well, there’s that whole fashion sense/propaganda style thing, but I digress), and on the other end there’s some saint or other noted for both kindness and coolness. Bono, maybe? I’m sure the tone police will pardon me for falling somewhere closer to the middle than not.

But am I tribal? Damned skippy. Let me tell you a little about my tribe.

We abhor political violence. Continue reading

Democrats need a lesson in humility. Consider what Mike Dukakis learned.

Donald won. Hillary lost. Now the Democrats face what The New York Times called “a widening breach in their party.”

Fashion Consistent CandidatesPerched ever farther on the left is Bernie Sanders, perhaps still smarting from being stiffed by the Democratic National Committee while leading revival-style rallies of millennials and urging stiff resistance to the Donald agenda — and to the DNC’s approach to political reclamation. Then there’s the DNC and the party’s elected leaders demanding a more conservative, data-driven approach to finding votes where Hillary didn’t get them.

Oh, well. Good luck with that, Dems. Neither approach is destined for electoral redemption. Professional Democrats have tended toward elitism when selecting and supporting candidates. The national party assumed (as did virtually all media and pollsters) Hillary had an easy road covered with rose petals to the White House. The 2016 version of the Democratic Party continued its longstanding march away from those who had always supported it. The party’s elites oozed a “father knows best” attitude. Cockiness ruled after Donald became the GOP standard bearer.

Perhaps the Democratic Party, and especially the DNC, ought to consider … humility. Consider the example of Michael Dukakis as a Democratic candidate. No, not presidential candidate Dukakis of tank-driving infamy. Look at gubernatorial candidate Dukakis.

Continue reading

Who really pays for cutting back rules limiting toxic emissions?

President Donald’s administrative minions, since day one, have been “reviewing” federal regulations they argue are so costly they curtail growth in American manufacturing, and worse, put American jobs at risk. Thus they are focusing on rules that govern environmental reviews in permitting processes and regulate impacts on worker health and safety.

Pollution Free ZoneIndustry groups oppose one particular regulation — the rule tightening ozone emissions under the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

According to a Reuters story by David Lawder, “The National Association of Manufacturers said the EPA’s review requirements for new sources of emissions such as factories can add $100,000 in costs for modeling air quality to a new facility and delay factory expansions by 18 months.”

According to Lawder, “Several groups argu[ed] this would expose them to increased permitting hurdles for new facilities, raising costs.” [emphasis added]

Continue reading

How do we earn loyalty? Or lose it?

Should I remain loyal to the men and women in the three branches of that government who have shown more loyalty to self and self-service than to the electorate?

Trump meets Comey at an Oval Office reception (Image Credit: Andrew Harrer / POOL / EPA)

The ousted director of the FBI sat in front of a Senate committee and told the panelists the president of the United States had demanded the director’s loyalty.

Meanwhile, Joseph Kennedy III, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, spoke about loyalty for two minutes on the floor of the House of Representatives. Kennedy pondered President Donald’s loyalty to the nation’s citizenry, asking whether the president “put his own personal and political interests above the interests of the American people.”

“Americans,” Kennedy said, “should never have to doubt the loyalty of our commander-in-chief.”

Given that loyalty has again entered the national conversation, I’d like to remind S&R readers of one man’s perspective about assigning — and retracting — loyalty. Here’s the post from February 2014: “A contrarian’s disheartened view of loyalty.”

Continue reading

Sports

Arab world cutting ties with Qatar: FIFA’s four-point plan

What should FIFA do now that the Arab world has had enough of Qatar’s bullshit? Double down, baby!

A number of Arab countries including Saudi Arabia and Egypt have cut diplomatic ties with Qatar, accusing it of destabilising the region.

They say Qatar backs militant groups including so-called Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda, which Qatar denies.

The Saudi state news agency SPA said Riyadh had closed its borders, severing land, sea and air contact with the tiny peninsula of oil-rich Qatar.

Seriously – Qatar is so bad that Saudi Fucking Arabia is stepping away from them. Continue reading

President Donald on coal: ‘Yes.’ His chief economic adviser: ‘No.’

EnergyIs there a sane mind in the White House, one who believes the resurgence of coal promised by President Donald is a fiction concocted to garner November votes? Or who at least believes the coal industry is dead on its feet?

Even after his election, the president continued to promise coal renewal. In an address at the Environmental Protection Agency in March, he said:

We will unlock job producing natural gas, oil and shale energy. We will produce American coal to power American industry. [emphasis added]

President Donald has taken steps to unleash coal. He’s rolled back clean-air policies and regulations of previous administrations. He’s taken aim at President Obama’s Clean Power Plan with the goal of killing it. He has ordered the lifting of a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands. Continue reading

Ethics rules matter little to an authoritarian White House …

CATEGORY: PoliticsLawGovernmentA code of ethics defines behaviors. Many professions have such codes. For physicians, for example, the code of medical ethics of the American Medical Association prescribes how they should interact with patients. For many, if not most, journalists, the code of ethics from the Society of Professional Journalists dictates acceptable practices.

The executive branch of the American government also has a code of ethics and an office to oversee it. The United States Office of Government Ethics, whose tagline is “Preventing Conflict of Interest in the Executive Branch,” issues regulations titled “Standards of Ethical Conduct for Employees of the Executive Branch.”

The OGE rules say any political appointee must sign an ethics pledge regarding conflict of interest. Continue reading

Dear Donald, the FBI needs to enforce federal law not resurrect the spirit of J. Edgar Hoover

Dear Donald,

Two nights ago, after firing now former FBI director James Comey, you tweeted the following:

With all due respect, Donald, what the FBI needs is someone who will enforce federal law. I’m not even sure what you mean by the “spirit and prestige” as it applies to the FBI. Are you talking about the good old days, like when J. Edgar Hoover was in charge and the FBI illegally hunted down communists, both real and imagined? Or the good old days when J. Edgar Hoover was in charge and had agents infiltrate the civil rights movement? Or the good old days when the FBI infiltrated various governments within Latin America?

Law enforcement isn’t often prestigious, Donald, locally or federally. And frankly, given you embedded a slavishly loyal racist as your Attorney General, the FBI needs a director who will be independent of you. Continue reading

Yakuza leisure dōjō

Let’s alcohol with happy gangster human…

Third in my ongoing S&R Tokyo Series. Here’s part one and part two.

In Asakusa at Kamiya Bar (神谷バー) you never know who you might meet. My wife and I were drinking there one night in November, 2015 with an Australian friend and her Japanese husband. The tables in Kamiya Bar are packed closely together, so we couldn’t help notice that the people at the next table were having a hell of a good time.

I took a chance and asked if I could photograph them. They happily agreed.

Continue reading

Betrayal of trust: surviving sexual abuse in the age of Trump

Having that man as president is like having to face my attacker all over again. Every. Single. Day.

by Lea Booth

I read last week’s article here, and comments on it, about a pedophile who managed to hide within boundaries of what should be a safe environment. The man in question was a school teacher and coach at the junior high/middle school I attended. I’ve heard discussions of “why was I not chosen,” “how could I have trusted, even admired, this person” and “what if it had been me.”

There are even people who have expressed doubts about why the victims would wait 30 years to come forward. Such conjecture does what is often done with victims of abuse or rape – cast doubt on their accounts of what they endured. At a time when the focus on campus rape has, rightfully, increased, and people in power believe they can treat women as less than human, I’ve been having flashbacks and issues arising from being raped almost forty years ago. Continue reading

Donald’s new executive order gives really rich people another dark-money weapon

President Donald signed an executive order this week, intending to relax tax-law consequences on churches that endorse political candidates. In his zeal to “protect and vigorously promote religious liberty,” he opened the door to yet another avenue for really rich people to subvert democratic choice in U.S. elections.

https://www.legalzoom.com/sites/legalzoom.com/files/uploaded/articles/maintaining_tax_exempt_status_in_a_nonprofit.jpgDonald’s language a few months ago foreshadowed this: “I will get rid of and totally destroy the Johnson Amendment and allow our representatives of faith to speak freely and without fear of retribution.” Well, he can’t do that. Congress makes law, not presidents.

However, his executive order “discourages the IRS from going after churches aggressively for their political expression.” The Johnson Amendment “prohibits tax-exempt charitable organizations such as churches from participating directly or indirectly in any political campaign to support or oppose a candidate. Continue reading

Pedophilia and our sexualized media: is naïveté a good thing or a bad thing?

The Mr. C case has me wondering if widespread familiarity with sexual themes and content makes today’s youth more or less susceptible to pedophiles.

Part 2 of a series.

UPDATE: As explained in the update to part 1, Mr. C is Thomas Tilman Cridlebaugh, a longtime teacher and coach at Wallburg and Ledford Jr. High Schools in Davidson County, NC.

_____

Yesterday I reflected on the conflict I’m facing in light of the revelation that one of the most important influences in my life, a junior high teacher and coach, had been convicted of sexually abusing several minor students. In closing, I wondered how close I came to being one of those victims.

I was a naïve, deeply religious boy. Prosecutors said Mr. C’s dirty jokes and “locker room talk” were “grooming” behavior designed to figure out who might be amenable to his advances. Continue reading

My mentor, the pedophile [UPDATED]

What do we do when those who meant so much to us are found guilty of the worst of crimes? There, but for the grace of God, go I…

Thomas CridlebaughPart 1 of a series.

Many of us, if we were lucky, had people in our lives when we were young who shaped us, molded us – important, vitally influential characters without whom we would be less than we are. Teachers, coaches, perhaps church leaders, family friends or relatives – we learn values from these figures that we never unlearn, and we can feel their presence, if we concentrate, decades later, in both our most pivotal and banal moments.

Can you name the five most influential people in the history of your life? I can, sort of. There’s about a ten-way tie for fifth, but the first four are my grandparents, my former teacher and now S&R colleague Jim Booth, and a junior high coach and teacher I’ll call Mr. C. This post is about him, and it’s one I have dreaded writing because I really have no idea what to do with my feelings.

Like a lot of kids in their early teens, I had no idea who I was. Continue reading

United Airlines and its ‘calculated misery’: happy customers just aren’t needed to make money

The future of Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, has just been re-accommodated.

You remember him, of course. After airport dragoons dragged a boarded, seated, paying customer off a United aircraft, Munoz’s first PR apology contained what Scholars & Rogues has called the “word of the year”: “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

telemmglpict000125651009-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqbe6o56qrl4zbrlmqqi7ubfvse9jsn00kzbur3ixhagoWell, that’s cost him. Munoz had been groomed to move upstairs from CEO to chairman of United Continental Holdings, the airline’s owner. (You do remember, of course, that Continental agreed to merge with United seven years ago.) Well, Munoz won’t get that top job.

United’s twin clusterfucks of policy execution (overbooking issues) and PR aftermath (“re-accommodated”) have derailed Munoz’s career — well, a little. He may lose about $500,000 from his bonus, because it’s tied in part to what airlines call KPI — key performance indicators, as indicated in consumer satisfaction surveys. But don’t shed a tear for Munoz — he received $18.7 million in total compensation for 2016, more than triple that of 2015. Continue reading

If Congress decides to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure, keep tabs on who gets it

The grades are in. The nation’s infrastructure is close to failing.

aging-infrastructureThe 2017 report card of the American Society of Civil Engineers, posted today, gives the infrastructure on which America depends for commerce, defense, recreation, flight, food, water, waste — almost everything — an overall grade of D+.

From the ASCE report:

The 2017 grades range from a B for Rail to a D- for Transit, illustrating the clear impact of investment – or lack thereof – on the grades. Three categories – Parks, Solid Waste, and Transit – received a decline in grade this year, while seven – Hazardous Waste, Inland Waterways, Levees, Ports, Rail, Schools, and Wastewater – saw slight improvements. Six categories’ grades remain unchanged from 2013 – Aviation, Bridges, Dams, Drinking Water, Energy, and Roads.

The areas of infrastructure that improved benefited from vocal leadership, thoughtful policymaking, and investments that garnered results.

Scholars & Rogues has long considered addressing the nation’s infrastructure needs essential for the nation’s economic, cultural, resource, and domestic security (see here, here, here, and here). Continue reading

delete-uber

Uber “Greyball” scandal: it’s time to consider the death penalty for corporations

delete-uberUber says they’ll stop using Greyball. But this is only the latest outrage from America’s most incorrigibly corrupt business. Time to#DeleteUBER. As in, delete the company. Permanently.

You may say I’m a dreamer / But I’m not the only one

The American corporation exists for one purpose: to “maximize shareholder value.” Thanks to a variety of factors, including a Supreme Court decision that codified this particularly sociopathic view, employees don’t matter, communities don’t matter, the environment doesn’t matter, and really the only commandment when it comes to bending the rules is “thou shalt not get caught.” Continue reading

Everything you need to know about the Sessions controversy in a few short paragraphs

The Attorney General should resign – whether he’s guilty or not. Here’s why.

Jeff SessionsBy now you have probably read a good bit about Attorney General Jeff Sessions and whether or not he unlawfully met with the Russian ambassador to discuss the 2016 Presidential election. There is a great deal of lawyering on the horizon, but for the moment here’s what we need to understand.

In his confirmation hearing Sessions was asked directly about contact with the Russians by himself or the Trump campaign. At that moment, there were a couple of ways to answer.

If his goal were transparency, he’d answer something like this: Continue reading

Through a glass darkly

I’m sharing this article from Independent Journal Review just to make a point.

hypocritesIndependent Journal Review: Those Outraged At Trump Blocking Refugees Didn’t Seem To Care About What Obama Did To Cubans

I learned of it from the Facebook page Conservative Daily. To hell with that page, no link. Thanks to my embrace of people at least as good-hearted as me however differently, people of widely differing viewpoints, I have the good fortune of seeing this kind of crap splatter across my screen on a regular basis, like I’ve just flown under a magpie’s flight path at exactly the wrong time.

For the moment, for the point I’m coming to, I actually don’t care if the claims in this particular case are true or not. The truth of the claims is beside the point. Continue reading