Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Hear The First Track From The Messthetics' Debut, Featuring Fugazi's Rhythm Section

from NPR:

photograph by my friend Antonia Tricarico

As Fugazi spurred the wild innovation of punk in the 1990s, the rhythm section grounded its momentum with mutations all their own. With compositions tangled in dueling guitars and vocals, drummer Brendan Canty and bassist Joe Lally stayed locked into instinctive grooves, proving crucial to the band's success. Fugazi went on hiatus in 2003, but Canty and Lally are back, this time as The Messthetics.

The band formed as bands often do: Canty had heard about a younger guitarist around D.C. named Anthony Pirog, and was promptly floored after attending a live performance. Having grown up in the suburbs, Pirog is already a veteran on the scene, largely in improvised and experimental music circles. I've seen him shred in free jazz groups and wield doomy noise, but he can just as easily pick up a delicate melody in more conventional concerns. He really is one of D.C.'s most thoughtful and versatile guitarists.

The versatility will come in handy in The Messthetics. The latest addition to Dischord Records is a power trio descended from the likes of Jimi Hendrix's Band of Gypsys or Red-era King Crimson, with an eye towards punk reinvention. The band's self-titled debut woodsheds different moods and modes of instrumental fury and reflection, and today we're going to hear some of the former.

"Serpent Tongue," aptly named, sideswipes with a hard-charging riff. Lally is liquid as ever, his bass slipping between Canty's melodic, swinging drums, both offering a dynamic balance as Pirog scales (pun very much intended) his guitar with impeccable precision before descending into fits of Sonny Sharrock-ian shred. It's an enormously fun sound sprung from a trio ruled by a thunderous pocket, as if The Messethetics scored a laser show atop Mount Olympus.

The Messthetics' self-titled debut comes out March 23 via Dischord Records (physical, digital).
HIT that play button below!

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Gary Harris Remembered: The Record Man Who Signed D'Angelo & Got 'Rapper's Delight' on the Radio

I went to the memorial today for my great friend, it was really nice...
They reprinted this article in the "program"

from Billboard by Touré
Harris, who died Jan. 15 at the age of 57, helped hip-hop move from the New York underground to the national forefront.

Gary Harris was a record man. He was a music business player, a man with ears who could hear a demo and know how to make it into a great record or maybe even a timeless career. Someone who knew how to get along with creative people and accept all the turbulence that creative genius fosters and help them make the best music they could. And more than just a record man, he was part of the first generation of record men who helped hip-hop move from the local New York underground club scene to the national forefront. Gary was all about culture and for most of his adult life he was working at the center of it. Wherever he went, he knew the doormen, he knew the execs and he knew the stars. He truly was the Inside Playa.

On Jan. 15, he died at the age of 57 from natural causes. He is survived by the culture he loved so dearly, the community he nurtured, the conversations he had, the ideas he sparked and the music he made.

Like an old school full-service record man, Gary mastered every part of the music executive skill set -- he could scout new talent, he could get acts signed, he could A&R their record, he could shape their branding, he could market and promote their project, he could get their songs played at radio and in clubs. And after the album was released, Gary would stick around, advising artists over many years and helping them grow. And if they fell into real trouble he would rescue them. He was someone who people turned to when they were lost and struggling and he was always there for them. He always knew how to help and he always had time for a friend.

Gary was also a renaissance man, a bon vivant, a cosmopolitan player, a walking encyclopedia of music history, a writer, a blogger, a DJ and more. He was a sophisticated man of the world who closely followed politics and obscure indie films and every record he could get his hands on. He knew every cool spot in the city. He was a killer at backgammon and often beat the house at blackjack. He loved giving carefully curated iPods to friends and family. He read avidly and broadly, loving everything from Toni Morrison to Moby Dick to Ta-Nehisi Coates to Dick Morris. He was a true intellectual who always seemed to be up on everything going on in the world and a huge sports fan who especially loved basketball. He was a diehard New York Knicks fan who watched every game.

Gary loved trying to read the Zeitgeist and figure out which way the cultural winds were blowing. He did more than participate in the culture business, he helped shape the culture. He was the first person to walk "Rapper's Delight" into a major radio station, WBLS, and get it played. He was immensely proud of the fact that he was the first to put a rap record on mainstream radio. He was a longtime advisor to A Tribe Called Quest. He put together the New Jack City soundtrack, which became a classic celebration of New Jack Swing. He gave "I Wanna Sex You Up" to Color Me Badd and helped them sell millions of records. And his crowning achievement in the business: As an A&R man at EMI Records, Gary signed D'Angelo. He saw D'Angelo's potential when he was raw and helped him become a generational artist. This was proof he could be part of both finding and grooming an icon. It was proof that he had ears and vision and taste to match the best of them. But the journey to making Brown Sugar was not easy.

With Brown Sugar, D'Angelo had set out to change the sound of R&B and soul. He wanted it to sound more hip-hop than R&B normally did. Gary had to understand D'Angelo's vision, help him articulate it and help him find people who could bring it to life. Gary also had to get everyone at the label to buy into it. That took all of Gary's interpersonal skill and music business experience to pull off. The album turned out to be one of the seminal albums of its day and it reshaped the sound of modern soul music. Just as Gary had been part of the creation of hip-hop, here he was once again part of creating another important part of modern culture.

Gary loved culture deeply and felt it was an important part of life. He loved all sorts of music. He wasn't just a fan of hip-hop and R&B, he loved jazz, punk, hardcore, new wave, pop, anything with a beat. He revered creative people of all sorts and counted among his close friends rappers, actresses, writers, singers, poets and more. He was also a consigliere to many of the leading music executives of his time -- including Russell Simmons, Andre Harrell and Ed Eckstine. But he had a special love for hip-hop because, as he would say, he was there at its birth.

Gary Juan Harris was born at Englewood Hospital in Englewood, New Jersey, on April 26, 1960, to James Colson and Althea Harris Rudrow. His father was a chemist and his mother was an elementary school teacher in the Bronx. Gary grew up in Englewood, New Jersey, a place he loved and he nicknamed Soul City. He attended Shiloh AME Zion Church in Englewood and learned to read at a very early age. As a child he loved reading, writing, music, movies, cooking and the Knicks. Some things never change. He attended Dwight Morrow High School and Northeastern University, which he loved. He got his first DJ job there at Northeastern's student radio station WRBB 91.7. He went on to DJ at North Carolina A&T State University's WNAA 90.1 and then at Greensboro's WQMG 97.1 and WEAL-1510.

After college, he moved to New York City and got hired to do record promotions at Sugar Hill Records under Sylvia Robinson. He went on to work in promotion at Def Jam, Uptown, Jive and Wing Records. In 1990 he moved into A&R at Giant Records and continued in A&R at EMI and then ArtistDirect. They say Gary worked at every record label ever created and it might be true. When not at a label he worked in independent promotion and consulting and remained a critical industry connector, linking artists and companies, reporters and subjects and people who should be friends.

In his later years Gary left New York for North Carolina in order to take care of his mother and grandmother in their final days. He was very close to both of them. But even then, he stayed close to the industry and continued working on his book about the musical history of his beloved hometown Englewood, New Jersey, which produced Dizzy Gillespie, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Wilson Pickett, Sugar Hill Gang, Lil' Kim and more. In his last years, Gary was an announcer and co-conspirator on Q-Tip's Beats 1 show, Abstract Radio. Into his final days all sorts of creative people continued seeking Gary's counsel because he was brilliant, he had great taste and he loved to talk. Gary was a world class conversationalist.

Gary looked at a conversation the way an artist looks at a canvas. He could talk to anyone about anything for any length of time and never have an awkward pause. His calls were legendary. They could easily last hours. They were filled with opinions, advice, wisdom, connections, gossip, inspiration, music business stories, ideas on how to brand and position artists, his discussions of important new books, movies, shows and, of course, music. A typical conversation late in the life might start with the joys of watching Giannis Antetokounmpo aka the Greek Freak from the Milwaukee Bucks and then flow into a deep dive on Ta-Nehisi Coates's book and then touch on the positioning of the upcoming Black Panther movie and the insanity of Trump and the joys of Virginia rapper Bay Bay's underground hit "Massagin." He loved high and low culture and more than that he loved people. He enjoyed seeing their potential and nurturing it, telling them how great they were and figuring out how much better he could help them be. It was as if he were being an A&R man for all of his friends as they made albums out of their lives. He loved to say, "Every conversation is an opportunity for growth." All the growth was ours, Gary. Thanks for everything. Love you.

He is survived by his cousin Cliffodine Beatty, his cousin Michelle Beatty-Schofield, his two godchildren Sydney Beatty Schofield and Sammy Koppelman, his godbrothers Leondis Long and Gordon Cureton, his special cousins Evelyn Brisbon, Sonya Kirkland, Charles Gooch and a universe of brothers from other mothers and sisters from other misters. He is also survived by the culture he loved so dearly, the community he nurtured, the conversations he had, the ideas he sparked and the music he made.

Monday, January 29, 2018

School of Life Monday:
In Praise Of Bias

We're taught to think that 'bias' is automatically a bad thing, but everything depends on what sort of bias it is. There might be bias towards wisdom, self-understanding, tolerance and kindness - in other words, bias worth valuing.

“A presumption among many thoughtful people is that the great enemy of a good life and a decent world is something called ‘bias’.
By bias, people have come to understand a twisting of the facts towards dark and entirely nefarious ends. According to this interpretation, bias is invariably and necessarily bad. In some quarters, the word has simply grown synonymous with evil…”

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The world's richest 2000 billionaires could wipe out extreme poverty with one seventh of what they gained last year

from Boing Boing:
Oxfam's released its annual report on inequality, timed to coincide with the World Economic Forum, and unlike previous reports (which focused on attractive but misleading stats about the relative wealth of poor and rich people), the new one focuses on the growth in the fortunes of the world's richest people, a stat that is a much more reliable indicator of growing inequality.

In the new report, Oxfam reveals that the planet's richest 2,000 billionaires got $762 billion richer in 2017 -- an average of $381 million each. One seventh of that gain, if apportioned to the world's poorest, would eradicate extreme poverty.
Oxfam is absolutely right, then, to shine a light on the extreme inequality of the world in 2017. Wealth creation is all well and good, but giving new wealth primarily to the world’s billionaires is literally the worst possible way to distribute it. Oxfam’s longstanding proposal for a wealth tax on billionaires makes perfect sense. They don’t need the money; the world’s poorest do. What’s more, as the Oxfam report details, the top 1% too often make their money by exploiting the very poor. Nothing about this is just, especially when a good 35% of billionaire wealth was simply inherited.
Reward work, not wealth [Oxfam]

Oxfam's excellent inequality report [Felix Salmon/Cause and Effect]

(via Late Stage Capitalism)

Friday, January 26, 2018

Kent Sherwood R.I.P.

Kent Sherwood was known on these pages as the step father of the illustrious Jay Adams, amateur photographer, and the founder of Z-FLEX skateboards, my only hourly employer! Most recently at Jay's request we made a book together compiled of Kent's photographs he made of Jay from the 1960's up til about 1977. It came out independently at first some years back, but was recently re-released with an updated design and some new text via Universe/Rizzoli Publications last year.

Artist, Cultural historian, and photojournalist C.R. Stecyk III wrote about Kent in the introduction of the JAY BOY book:
Kent survives via getting contracts from the U.S. government to sculpt fine technological marvels out of composite materials.

The politicians issue official proclamations which state Sherwood is a credit to us all. And maybe he is, cause he don’t ever look at the awards. Just like his son Jay don’t watch the films. Of the legend he forged before which he cannot now care to remember.

Kent Sherwood is retired and resides in Malibu. He is the holder of a number of patents for pioneering achievements in composite material construction techniques. As many of these innovations involve advance technology and are deemed to be of militarily strategic importance, they are highly classified.

Despite his tremendous success Kent remains the same unassuming Honolulu beach boy I met decades ago in Dave Sweet’s surf shop.

... These photographs reek of Sherwood’s insider perspective back then as the armorer of choice for fun along the oceanfront. And of the kid’s intrinsic role as the test pilot for sidewalk surfing’s future. Forever in a day.

Kent's only request he asked of me, concerning the book was to be sure that 100% of his royalties and advance were split equally among Jay's widow Tracy and his children, Seven and Venice. He loved the way it came out (both times).

Here is the latest edition of the wonderful book
"Jay Boy: The Early Years of Jay Adams".

and here's some "dialogue" Kent wrote upon the re-release of the JAY BOY book:
I was born and raised in Hawaii. When I was four, I was taken out surfing by a beach boy at Waikiki. From that moment on, surfing was my life. Our family moved to California when I was twelve where I finished Junior and Senior High School. I went back to Hawaii after graduation in 1959 where I worked as a beach boy at the Hawaiian Village Hotel for three years.

When I returned to California in 1962 I took up photography as a hobby and began doing all of my own film developing and printing.

In 1964 I was living in the old Alan Gomes surfboard fiber glassing shop on Pacific Avenue in Venice which I had purchased shortly before. I met Jay and his mother, Philaine, at a party in Venice when he was three. We took up residence in my small building in Venice for a year, and then moved to a house on the Venice Canals. Jay was a very active kid and into everything and ready for anything.

That same year I opened up a beach equipment rental business under the P.O.P Pier, which lasted for two years. I would take Jay to the beach daily and let him play in the shore break on a surf mat. After he turned four I made him a small multi-colored surfboard and had a custom wetsuit made for him. I started getting him out on small inside waves. From that point on he was a surfer for life. I hate to admit it but by the time he was ten or eleven he was a better surfer than me. I loved watching him in action and it was very easy to get good photos of him.

In 1972 Jay was eleven and on the Zephyr surf and skate team. Jeff and Skip decided that they would like to get into the skateboard business. Jay and I designed the original fiberglass Zephyr Skateboard which I produced in a small manufacturing building that I owned in Inglewood. We were a family until 1978 when he and his mother decided to move to Hawaii. Jay and I stayed in close contact over the years through thick and thin.

In the late 1990’s Stacy Peralta asked me if I had any old photos of the early skateboarding period. I gave him a box of negatives from that time, some of which he used in his documentary, “Dogtown and Z-Boys”. Stacy returned the negatives to me contact printed in a binder which I gave to Jay as a wedding present.

Jay is now a legend but his fame never went to his head. He is sorely missed but at least I know he passed away doing what he loved best, surfing.

He was genuine with me always. A kind hearted man, who knew his time was up, and left us with dignity.

Kent and I catching up at the premiere of "DogTown and Z-Boys" circa 2002

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Iceland elects 41-year-old environmentalist as prime minister

from Inhabitat:

Katrin Jakobsdottir, the 41-year-old chairwoman of the Left-Green Movement, has been elected Prime Minister of Iceland. One of the most well-liked politicians in Iceland, Jakobsdottir, a former education minister and avowed environmentalist, has pledged to set Iceland on the path to carbon neutrality by 2040. As Iceland’s fourth prime minister in only two years, Jakobsdottir will take office at a time when national politics have been tainted by public distrust and scandal. A democratic socialist, Jakobsdottir is viewed as a bridge-building leader that may lead the country towards positive, incremental change. “She is the party leader who can best unite voters from the left and right,” said Eva H. Onnudottir, a political scientist at the University of Iceland, according to the New York Times. “Because this coalition includes parties from the left to the right, their work will be more about managing the system instead of making ‘revolutionary’ changes.”

Since forming its governing coalition, Jakobsdottir’s Left-Green party has already taken bold steps to assert its environmentalism. Rather than appointing a party member of parliament, the Left-Greens have picked Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, environmental activist and CEO of Landvernd, the largest nature conservation and environmental NGO in Iceland, to serve as Minister of the Environment. The government’s new coalition is expected to continue the work to address climate change began under previous administrations.

While climate change has proven to be somewhat of a boost for Iceland’s tourism industry, which welcomed approximately 2.2 million visitors in 2017, the nation of just over 300,000 recognizes the importance of shifting to a clean energy economy and preparing for disruptive changes in the coming decades. Iceland’s climate change action plan involves shifting to clean energy in transportation by improving infrastructure for electric cars, planting more trees, and sourcing all energy for public institutions from renewable sources.

via The New York Times

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The secret history of Facebook depression

from PHYS.ORG:

To early users, the internet held such promise for people and communities. Now, on the eve of Facebook's 15th birthday, social media is making people depressed. What happened?
Since it launched in 2004, Facebook has been working to "give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected."

This sounds great. But is it, actually?

Does connecting with everyone you've ever met ever on Facebook make you happy? Does sharing everything with them on Facebook make you jump out of your seat with joy? Probably not.

In fact, if the research is any indication, you may actually be finding Facebook and other social media sites aren't so great for your mental health. Instead of feeling blissfully open and connected with your friends, you feel inadequate or maybe even a bit depressed.

Is social media making us sad because technology is inherently alienating? Is Facebook actually just evil?
We've been asking questions about technology like this for a rather long time. But the answer is a bit more complicated.

Ye olde internet

If you were an internet researcher in the 1990s (when the internet was first going mainstream), you would have been aware of two key ways of imagining the future: utopian and dystopian.

In their 1998 review of the literature, British researchers Debra Howcroft and Brian Fitzgerald summarised these two strands and the internet's predicted impact on the world.

In the utopian vision, the internet was not only "the gateway to a new era of democracy, equity, plenitude and knowledge" but would also "liberate interpersonal relationships from the confines of physical locality and create opportunities for new personal relationships and communities".

Sound familiar? It sure sounds like a fancy version of Facebook's mission statement: to bring the world closer together.

In the dystopian vision, on the other hand, "technology exacerbates human misery as individuals become increasingly controlled by what they fail to understand."

Fake news anyone?

And, as they go on, online relationships could be described as "shallow, impersonal, and often hostile."
This may also seem familiar and perhaps more in line with today's lived experience of social media.

So is that it? Were the techno-dystopians right and the reason Facebook makes us depressed is simply because it's the nature of the internet to cause misery?

It depends. Let's look at some more clues.

Context collapse

If you were using Facebook back then, you may remember the drama created as the site's design started making people share more and be less private.

Once a largely locked-down site only for college and university kids (and thus populated with large numbers of photos featuring drunken antics), Facebook became open to everyone in 2006.

The trouble it caused went like this.

In everyday life, we tend to have different sides of ourselves that come out in different contexts. For example, the way you are at work is probably different from the way you might be at a bar or at a church or temple.

Sociologist Erving Goffman used concepts of theatre to explain these different aspects of our identities, for example, front stage and back stage.

But on Facebook, all these stages or contexts were mashed together. The result was what internet researchers called context collapse. People were even getting fired when one aspect of their lives was discovered by another (i.e. their boss!).

Meeting Mark Zuckerberg

In 2008, I found myself speaking with the big boss himself, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. I was in the second year of my Ph.D. research on Facebook at Curtin University. And I had questions.

Why did Facebook make everyone be the same for all of their contacts? Was Facebook going to add features that would make managing this easier?

To my surprise, Zuckerberg told me that he had designed the site to be that way on purpose. And, he added, it was "lying" to behave differently in different social situations.

Up until this point, I had assumed Facebook's socially awkward design was unintentional. It was simply the result of computer nerds designing for the rest of humanity, without realising it was not how people actually want to interact.

The realisation that Facebook's context collapse was intentional not only changed the whole direction of my research but provides the key to understanding why Facebook may not be so great for your mental health.

Your perfect self

The key to understanding social media depression lies in the social norm that has emerged around how we manage Facebook's context collapse in a way that is acceptable in all contexts. That social norm is being your perfect self. And the consequence of that is we are all performing our perfect selves, thus all making each other feel depressed and inadequate.

It didn't have to be this way

Before Facebook, there were many other sites that did similar things but in a different way. My favourite was LiveJournal (which still exists in a different incarnation, but that's a whole other story).

In its heyday in the early 2000s, LiveJournal had a strong privacy culture. People used pseudonyms and avatars rather than their 'real selves', which was the norm on the internet before Facebook came along.

Before I began research on Facebook, LiveJournal was the focus of my research. I found that the site culture fostered vulnerability, authenticity and mutual support. People would share the highs and the lows of their lives with each other.

LiveJournal was also run as an open source community project rather than a for-profit venture—users were the customers rather than eyeballs to sell to advertisers.

This alternate social media culture shows that social media can be (and was) different. It can support mental wellness rather than harm it.

Peak social media depression?

BJ Novak (who fans of the American version of The Office will recognise) just launched an app called Kiyo, whose tag line is "let's just be ourselves again."

The app's mission sits in stark contrast to Facebook's goal of connecting everyone, always. As the app's description on ProductHunt reads:

Perhaps we've reached peak toxic social media culture, and we're about to turn a corner.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

China built the ‘World’s biggest air purifier’
– and it’s actually working

from Inhabitat

What has been called the world’s largest air purifier by its operators is now up and running in the Chinese city of Xian in Shaanxi province. The 100-meter (328 feet) tall tower has already improved the local air quality, lead scientist Cao Junji told the South China Morning Post, adding that it could prove to be a valuable tool in the country’s fight against urban air pollution. “The tower has no peer in terms of size … the results are quite encouraging,” he said. Greenhouses covering the size of half a soccer field surround the base of the tower, into which polluted air is pulled. The smog is heated in the greenhouse by solar energy, then rises through the tower, passing through several layers of cleaning filters.

Cao stresses that the results are only initial while further details will be released in the spring. A comprehensive scientific assessment of the tower’s effectiveness is also forthcoming. Nonetheless, what is known is promising. While there have been other similar smog-removing towers, many of which were powered by coal-fueled electricity, the Xian tower is unique in its very limited electricity needs. “It barely requires any power input throughout daylight hours. The idea has worked very well in the test run,” said Cao. While locals have marveled at the tower’s size, it is in fact a miniature version of smog-removing towers that Cao and his team hope to install throughout China’s dense, massive cities. The full-size version could reach as high as 500 meters (1,640 feet) while the surrounding greenhouses could cover nearly 30 square kilometers (11.6 square miles).

Via South China Morning Post

Monday, January 22, 2018

School of Life Monday
PLATO ON: The Allegory of the Cave

Plato made up an enduring story about why philosophy matters based on an allegory about a cave…

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Report: Trump told porn star to spank him with 'Forbes', maybe one with him & Ivanka on cover

from Boing Boing:

Get your barf bag handy before you read this post. We're not joking.

Citing 2009 emails between political operatives, news reports today say adult film star Stormy Daniels, who is known to have had a sexual affair with Donald Trump, performed or was asked to perform an unusual sex act: “spanking him with a copy of Forbes magazine.

But wait, there's a truly disgusting detail.

The magazine in question may have been a 2006 edition of Forbes that featured Trump and two of his children, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, on the cover.

The porn performer also recalls Trump comparing her to his daughter, presumably Ivanka. “He told me once that I was someone to be reckoned with, beautiful and smart just like his daughter.’’ Daniels is quoted as having said in 2006.

Yep. Let that all sink in.

From Mother Jones:
In early 2009, Daniels announced that she was considering challenging Sen. David Vitter, the Louisiana Republican who two years earlier had been snared in a sex scandal. Vitter’s phone number was discovered in the records of the so-called D.C. Madam, who ran a prostitution ring in the nation’s capital. Vitter, who now is a lobbyist, was a prominent social conservative who opposed abortion and gay marriage. Daniels, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, told reporters she wanted to highlight his hypocrisy. She offered up a potential campaign slogan: “Stormy Daniels: Screwing people honestly.”

Daniels was serious enough about running that she embarked on a May 2009 “listening tour” of the state and held discussions with local political consultants. Those conversations included coming up with possible campaign contributors. According to a May 8, 2009, email written by an operative advising Daniels, who asked not to be identified, Daniels at one point scrolled through her cellphone contacts to provide her consultants with a list of names. The email noted that the potential donors included Steve Hirsch, the founder of an adult entertainment company; Theresa Flynt, the daughter of Hustler’s Larry Flynt; Frazier Boyd, the owner of a strip club chain; and Jenna Jameson, the so-called “Queen of Porn.” Also on the list: Donald Trump.

This email was sent to Andrea Dubé, a Democratic political consultant based in New Orleans. In response, Dubé expressed surprise that Daniels was friendly with Trump. “Donald Trump?” she wrote. “In her cell phone?”

“Yep,” the other consultant replied. “She says one time he made her sit with him for three hours watching ‘shark week.’ Another time he had her spank him with a Forbes magazine.”

Dubé and the other consultant confirmed to Mother Jones they exchanged these emails.

The campaign consultant who wrote the email to Dubé tells Mother Jones that Daniels said the spanking came during a series of sexual and romantic encounters with Trump and that it involved a copy of Forbes with Trump on the cover.

The Fall 2006 cover of Forbes features Donald Trump, his son, Donald Jr., and his daughter, Ivanka.

Trump's reps have denied it all, of course, please don't sue us, bla bla bla.

There's a lot of weird stuff in that family. It's creepy, and some of what's worst is what Trump himself says.

Friday, January 19, 2018


At the Latin Quarter circa 1985 in his O.G. Def Jam jacket.

Gary Harris was a great friend to many since the early days of Hip-Hop.

I first met Gary via Russell and Rick in the earliest Def Jam days. We got along well right from the start until the last time I spoke to him not many days ago.

A sharp mind like few others in the game.

Gary would often get teased by his closest friends for having worked for literally every major record label at one time or another, from his first label job at SugarHill in his hometown (and one of mine) in Englewood, New Jersey... Soon to Def Jam, as their first ever employee, on to the rest of them, often earning well into six figures for his talents, in promotions and A&R (you ever hear of D'Angelo?). You will find more about these feats in real "obits" as the days go by, from famous sorts of people I'm sure.

Gary wrote an incredible essay on myself and my work from his unique perspective for my MY RULES book. It was his first published piece in print. He honored me so well, so nicely, so intimately. If you read it as i did, you would know that he would eventually have many more opportunities to write for others, he was great at it, I encouraged it and he thanked me for pushing him in that direction. I am so sad he did not get to write any of the incredible books he had in his head, or was recently asked to do, before this dreadful day.

We used to joke so often about so many shared times, hanging out "around campus" during that golden age of hip hop, at that first time we both realized we had both attended the same elementary school (only several years apart), when we both shared lunch conversation with infamous actor Max "The Mack" Julien, both of us mimicking his "Yea maaaan!" voice countless times afterward, laughing at the movies we saw with friends, teaching him about the internet, and NO ONE played basketball harder than GH, I would never even attempt to defend against him no how, even if i did try to play. Gary knew more about sports than anyone i knew, but really he knew more than most people i knew about many subjects of cultural interest. He was an avid reader and music listener and movie watcher, he soaked it all in and spoke about it all like few others. I will always be happy for all the books he shared with me, most of which i have yet to read, but as he knew, were/are still sitting on top of my turntable.

I will never watch a Knicks game and not think about what Gary would be telling me about stats and personalities if he were on the phone or beside me at a game, trying to put me up.

He could be rough around the edges anyone who knows him well would have to admit, but he had a huge heart, great ear, and clearly a serious intellect.

I will miss him greatly, as I know will many others.

Got Damn.

My Man.

a.k.a. Insideplaya

"My man One Hundred Fifty Grand."

a more recent photo:

Gary chatting up Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and close friend "Q-Tip" to his left.

"Yo G, What about them Yankees?"

Thursday, January 18, 2018

0.0% of Icelanders 25 years or younger believe God created the world, new poll reveals

from Iceland magazine

FEWER AND FEWER ICELANDERS IDENTIFY AS CHRISTIAN While the poll found 61.1% of Icelanders say they believe in God, the share is significantly lower in younger age groups than the older age groups, indicating a continued secularization of Icelandic society. Photo/GVA.

Iceland seems to be on its way to becoming an even more secular nation, according to a new poll. Less than half of Icelanders claim they are religious and more than 40% of young Icelanders identify as atheist. Remarkably the poll failed to find young Icelanders who accept the creation story of the Bible. 93.9% of Icelanders younger than 25 believed the world was created in the big bang, 6.1% either had no opinion or thought it had come into existence through some other means and 0.0% believed it had been created by God.

The poll, which was conducted by the polling firm Maskína on behalf of Siðmennt, The Icelandic Ethical Humanist Association, an association of Icelandic atheists, found that 46.4% of Icelanders identify as religious, which is the lowest figure to date.

Younger people and inhabitants of Reykjavík are least religious

Older people are far more likely to profess religious beliefs and to identify as Christian than those who are younger. 80.6% of those older than 55 identified as Christian and only 11.8% said they were atheists. At the same time 40.5% of people who were 25 years or younger said they were atheists, and only 42% said they were Christian. Traditional Christian beliefs also seem more common outside of Reykjavík, where 77-90% of people identified as Christian and 7.1-18 were atheists, compared to 56.2% of people in Reykjavík who identified as Christian and 31.4% as atheist.

0.0% of people younger than 25 believe God created the world

The poll found an even more dramatic difference between different generations when it probed how people believed the world had been created. Of those younger than 25 93.9% said the world had been created in the big bang and 0.0% believed God had created the world. 77.7% of those between 25 and 44 years old believed the world had been created in the big bang and 10.1% believed God had created the world. In all but the oldest age category a majority accepted the big-bang theory. Only 46.1% of those older than 55 believed in the big bang, and nearly a fourth, 24.5% believed God had created the world.

People in the oldest category were also most unsure about the origins of existence, as 16.6% of those older than 55 saying they either didn’t know or had no opinion on the origin of the world.

Growing support for separation of Church and State
The poll also found a growing percentage of Icelanders support the full separation of church and state. Out of those who expressed an opinion on the subject 72% supported the full separation of church and state and 28% oppose the separation of church and state. Currently the Icelandic constitution stipulates that the state church of Iceland is the Icelandic Evangelical Lutheran Church.

Monday, January 15, 2018

School Of Life Monday:

Friedrich Nietzsche had a particular fondness for a concept called (in Latin) 'amor fati', a Stoic acceptance of one's fate and a commitment to embrace reality, in all its beauty and pain.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Friday, January 12, 2018

By Superbean

In the old days, punk rock was about the kids. Now that all the punks are old, it's the kids that are the problem. So we say "FUCK YOUTH!"

Thursday, January 11, 2018

HENRY ROLLINS, live like a Lion! circa 1991

HENRY ROLLINS at CBGB’s circa 1991 with The Rollins Band. This photograph appears in my book “The Idealist” and also on the book flap beside Henry’s commentary in the very first printing of “Fuck You Heroes”. I love this photo taken only with available light. It was around this time that i decided to stop using artificial light sources such as a flash... it was very rare after this point to use one, and of course i am talking about making photographs on FILM here so that stuff was not nearly as sensitive as digital technology is now, or even in the last 15 years. In order to make photos like this everything had to be just perfect and you’d never know if you made what you had hoped until you got your film developed and printed. This was a turning point. And of course Henry has always been one of the most incredibly intense singers around, emulated worldwide. He’s a killer, “as serious as a heart attack” when he’s in front of a group of musicians. You can say what you like about previous Black Flag singers (as they were all great in their own ways) and Henry as he was in S.O.A., but to front on him as Black Flag’s last true singer is a grave mistake. #Inspiration #FuckYouHeroes #TheIdealist #Integrity #PunkRock #Punk #HarDCore #SOA #RollinsBand #Badass #CBGB #SeriousAsAHeartAttack #MyRules #StateOfAlert #LionShot

A post shared by glen E. friedman Ⓥ (@glenefriedman) on

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Black Panther
the movie looks Dope.

found out today about a little something in this film, that's exciting for me personally, that I look forward to seeing....

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Typical DUMP News

In Michael Wolff's book "Fire and Fury," the reporter claims that Donald Trump never wanted to be president and that most of his administration thinks he's incompetent.

Monday, January 8, 2018

School of Life Monday:
Why We Should Not Watch Quite so Much News

We're always being told that the sign of a good and intelligent person is someone who keeps up with the news. But this addiction to the latest events may be a kind of illness that cuts us off from the real insights and information we need to lead good lives.

We're always being told that the sign of a good and intelligent person is someone who keeps up with the news. But this addiction to the latest events may be a kind of illness that cuts us off from the real insights and information we need to lead good lives.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday Interview:
‘Fire and Fury’ author Michael Wolff: ‘I absolutely’ spoke to President Trump

Michael Wolff, the author of a new tell-all book about President Trump' first year in office, said he stands by “absolutely everything” he has written and has notes and recordings to back up what was published, he said Friday in a TODAY exclusive interview.

He also dismissed claims Trump made overnight in a tweet that he never spoke to Wolff for the book.

“I absolutely spoke to the president. Whether he realized it was an interview or not, I don’t know, but it certainly was not off the record,” said Wolff, author of "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which was published Friday, four days ahead of the original release date after headlines about the book generated massive interest.

Wolff said he spent about three hours with Trump, both during the campaign and after his inauguration, for his book. But he also spoke to his key aides, “people who spoke to the president on a daily, sometimes minute by minute basis.”

Excerpts of the book leaked earlier this week included blistering comments from Steve Bannon. The former White House chief strategist ripped a June 2016 meeting by Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign aides with Russian officials in June 2016 as “treasonous.” The incendiary comments appear to have caused a deep rift between the former White House chief strategist and Trump.

In a tweet overnight, Trump said he turned down interview requests by Wolff “many times” and called his book “phony” and “full of lies, misrepresentations and sources that don’t exist.”

Wolff dismissed the criticism, pointing out it means little because of the person making the censure.

"My creditably is being questioned by a man who has less credibility than perhaps anyone who has ever walked on Earth at this point," he said.

Wolff said that, like any good reporter, he has evidence of his work and preparation for the book.

"I have recordings, I have notes, I am certainly and absolutely in every way comfortable with everything I have reported," he said, noting that after writing "millions" of words in media columns and other books, "I don't think there has ever been one correction."

In his book, Wolff features numerous behind-the-scenes anecdotes from Trump's White House and also describes numerous questions that Trump aides have about the president's intelligence and fitness for office. Wolff said those concerns came from "100 percent of the people around him," including many people who have described him as "a moron, an idiot."

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Here's Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan In 2018


No longer relegated to the fringes of society where for so long it was mocked for being ‘weird’ or ‘extreme’, veganism is going mainstream. Finally recognized for its positive impact on sustainability and animal welfare without the need to sacrifice taste or style, vegan living is starting to become the norm.

The continued proliferation of vegan and plant-based business stories and developments that have occurred during the past year demonstrate that this movement is just getting started in making its mark – and entrepreneurs are leading the way.

Here are some of the key reasons you should consider veganizing your business in 2018:

The numbers speak for themselves

Sales of plant-based food in the US went up by 8.1% during the past year, topping $3.1 billion, according to research carried out by Nielsen for the Plant Based Foods Association (PBFA) and the Good Food Institute.

Plant-based dairy alternatives are expected to represent 40% of the combined total of dairy and dairy alternative beverages within three years, up from just 25% in 2016, according to research firm Packaged Facts. The company predicts new types of dairy-free milks to find wider audiences in 2018, including barley, hemp, pea, flax and quinoa.

Vegan cheese has taken off in a big way, with the global market estimated to be worth just under $4 billion by 2024, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 7.6% from 2016 to 2024, according to a report by research firm Bharat Book.

The humble pea is revolutionizing the plant-based sector as global revenues of pea protein are estimated to be worth $104 million by 2026, according to Future Market Insights.

While plant-based milk sales grew 3.1%, cow’s milk sales declined 5% and are projected to drop another 11% through 2020, according to Mintel. Market Watch reports that Dean Foods, the largest supplier of dairy milk in the US, recently posted a third-quarter net income of just $1.4 million, down from $14.5 million in the same period a year ago. This downward trend is not confined only to the US: Australia’s largest supplier of dairy products, Murray Goulburn, announced a 22% drop in milk sales in the past financial year. Meanwhile Elmhurst, one of the longest-running dairies on the US east coast, decided in 2017, after 92 years, to cut its losses and switch to producing solely plant-based milks.

The egg industry is starting to feel the pinch too. Shares in Cal-Maine Foods, an egg producer since 1969 in Jackson, Mississippi in the US, saw its shares drop 7% in July this year, after the company reported its first annual loss in more than 10 years. CEO Adolphus Baker blamed the growth in popularity of egg alternatives.

Finally, the global meat substitutes market is expected to garner a revenue of $5.2 billion by 2020, registering a compound annual growth rate of 8.4% during the forecast period 2015-2020, according to Allied Market Research.

These key developments and players are signs that this market will continue to grow

Competition is heating up in the race to produce plant-based burgers that look, feel and taste like their animal-based counterparts, even to the point of ‘bleeding’ red juice. American startups Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat continue to lead the way. The Impossible Burger is currently served at more than 150 eateries in the US, while the Beyond Burger, whose investors include Bill Gates, Leonardo DeCaprio, Twitter co-founders Biz Stone and Evan Williams, and meat company Tyson Foods, is available in more than 5,000 grocery stores across the US as well as on menus at selected restaurants such as the Veggie Grill Chain. In December 2017, Beyond Meat released its Beyond Sausage which it claims mimics the taste and texture of pork, but with less fat and sodium and higher protein than traditional sausages. On the other side of the pond, three companies in the UK, two of which are backed by Gates, are working on bringing their vegan burgers to market. British startup Moving Mountains claims it will be the first to get its B12 Burger into stores there.

Hampton Creek continues to innovate with its plant-based versions of egg products, including mayonnaise and its newest release Just Scramble, a vegan egg made from mung beans which the company says saves at least 65% more fresh water than conventional egg products and emits 24% fewer greenhouse gases.

Vegan cheese brand Kite Hill secured $18 million investment from General Mills and is on a mission to have its products sold in the dairy cases in more supermarkets across the US

Miyoko’s Kitchen has rebranded to simply Miyoko’s, named after its founder, vegan cheese pioneer Miyoko Schinner. The company recently opened its new, larger premises in Petaluma, California after receiving $6 million from JMK Consumer Growth Partners, and will be ramping up its production in 2018.

According to CB Insights, at least seven of the 15 most well-funded food and beverage startups are plant-based.

‘Vegan butcher’ was named a top new job trend for 2017 by Time Money.

Plant-based fast food is on the increase. As well as McDonald’s rolling out a vegan burger in its stores in Sweden and Finland, vegan chains Veggie Grill, Plant Power Fast Food and by Chloe. opened more locations throughout 2017 and are set to do the same in 2018.

The ‘grab and go’ market in the UK saw café chain Pret a Manger make its pop-up, plant-based Veggie Pret store in central London permanent, open a second location in east London and announce a third one for 2018. British department store chain Marks & Spencer introduced two vegan sandwiches, and iconic US plant-based meat brand Tofurky launched its range of four vegan sandwiches in the UK.

Daily Harvest, a New York-based subscription service specializing in frozen, plant-based, one-step-prep foods, secured $43 million investment from Lightspeed Venture Partners and VMG Partners who join existing celebrity investors Gwyneth Paltrow and Serena Williams.

Plant-based was noted by Organic Authority as the biggest trend at trade show Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California this year, while the UK held its first ever vegan trade show VegFestUK Trade at Olympia in London

Even animal agriculture industries are taking notice

Plant-based meat substitutes is one of the “six greatest ag challenges for 2018,” according to Chuck Jolley, the president of the Meat Industry Hall of Fame.

Germany’s agricultural minister Christian Schmidt called for a ban this year on the labeling of plant-based proteins as vegan ‘meat’. Schmidt has a problem with products with names such as ‘vegetarian schnitzel’ and ‘curry sausage’, arguing that they are “completely misleading and unsettle consumers”.

In the US the Dairy Pride Act, a bill introduced by Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin and Congressman Peter Welch of Vermont earlier this year, calls on the FDA to stop plant-based dairy alternatives from being labeled as ‘milk’.

Rather than resist the inevitable, smart animal agriculture businesses are getting in on the plant-based revolution by buying or investing in plant-based brands. Tyson Foods, the top US meat producer, increased its investment in Beyond Meat this year, after initially having taken a 5% stake. Canada’s largest meat distributor Maple Leaf Foods bought popular plant-based brands Field Roast and Lightlife Foods. Nestle acquired Sweet Earth Foods (which was founded by a former Burger King board chairman). Dean Foods struck an investment and distribution deal with plant-based milk and yoghurt startup Good Karma. Japanese pharmaceutical company Otsuka bought plant-based cheese brand Daiya. Danone, a multinational food company with a focus on dairy, completed its purchase of plant-based pioneer WhiteWave (becoming DanoneWave), and Saputo, Canada’s largest dairy processor, is on the lookout for an opportunity to buy a plant-based milk company.

In Denmark Naturli Foods created a plant-based minced meat which has been taken on by the country’s largest retailer Dansk Supermarked Group. The product, which translates as ‘Minced Veggie’, will be sold in the supermarket chain’s 600 stores in the new year. Meanwhile, Dutch meat company Zwanenberg Food Group, which has been in business since 1929, is shifting half its focus on to plant-based proteins with the aim of 50% of its turnover to come from non-meat products such as vegetarian snacks, soups and sauces.

International finance group Rabobank said that recent growth in plant-based and clean meat should serve as a “wake-up call to the animal protein sector” and encouraged the meat industry to invest in alternative proteins. Rabobank also estimates that within five years alternative protein could represent a third of protein demand in the EU.

Campbell Soup Company left the Grocery Manufacturers Association and joined the Plant-Based Foods Association and Walmart encouraged its suppliers to create more plant-based products.

Responding to these developments, Bruce Friedrich, executive director at the Good Food Institute, said: “The growth of the plant-based sector in 2017 exceeded even my optimistic projections. The news from the meat industry itself was especially encouraging and 2018 is sure to continue the accelerating growth of plant-based meat.”

But wait, it’s not just all about food

While the plant-based food sector is experiencing tremendous growth, interest in animal-free products is being piqued in other sectors too. Vegan fashion is cited as a major trend for 2018 in The Future 100 Report by global research firm J. Walter Thompson Intelligence. We’ve seen the creation of alternatives to leather made from pineapple waste, apple peels, mushrooms, kombucha and wine as well as the first biofabricated leather brand and vegan silk.

Luxury car manufacturers are responding to the demand for cruelty-free materials, with Tesla reported to have removed animal-based leather as an option for its seats and Bentley exploring alternative materials to leather to cater for high-wealth ethical consumers.

Joshua Katcher, instructor of fashion at Parsons The New School and founder of men’s fashionwear store Brave Gentleman in New York, is most excited about biofabrication. “This coming year 2018 will definitely be about celebrating visionary solutions to some of the fashion industry’s most calamitous impacts: animal skins and hairs,” he said. “I also think we’ll see a lot of innovation around mycelium (fungus) textiles from companies like Mycoworks and entirely new ways of making synthetics from recycled and biodegradable materials like 10XBeta’s recycled C02 polyurethane-leather and Mango Materials’ biopolyester made from bacteria.”

Beauty brands are removing animal products from their formulations and even condom makers are recognizing this growing market and making their products vegan. The Green Condom Club in Switzerland, Hanx, a luxury brand created by a female gynecologist in the UK, and Australian brand Hero Condoms, all launched this year

Next-level high-tech products include 3D printed vegan cheese, candies and pizza crusts.

It’s a brave new business world, one in which growing numbers of consumers will continue to demand sustainable and ethical products. If you’re about to start a business, it’s worth making your products vegan-friendly from the start. If you already have a business, consider veganizing it by removing any animal-based ingredients or components (this includes bee products, wool and silk). Going a step further by gaining certified vegan status from the Vegan Society (UK) or Vegan Action (US) will help to set your brand apart from those that merely pay lip service to ethics.

The plant-based revolution is here to stay. Make sure you don’t get left behind.

Katrina Fox is the founder of, author of Vegan Ventures: Start and Grow an Ethical Business and host of the Vegan Business Talk podcast.

Friday, January 5, 2018

We’re witnessing the wholesale looting of America

from VOX

Unchecked by norms or political prudence, it’s smash-and-grab time for the GOP.
By Matthew Yglesias
Over the course of 2017, both in Congress and in the executive branch, we have watched the task of government devolve into the full-scale looting of America.

Politicians are making decisions to enrich their donors — and at times themselves personally — with a reckless disregard for any kind of objective policy analysis or consideration of public opinion.

A businessman president who promised — repeatedly — that he would not personally benefit from his own tax proposals is poised to sign into law a bill that’s full of provisions that benefit him and his family. Congressional Republicans who spent years insisting that “dynamic scoring” would capture the deficit-reducing power of tax cuts are now plowing ahead with a bill so fast that they don’t have time to get one done, because it turns out they can’t be bothered to meet their own targets.

Meanwhile, in the background an incredible flurry of regulatory activity is happening out of public view — much of it contrary to free market principles but all of it lucrative for big business and Trump cronies.

Throughout the 2016 campaign, the political class talked a lot about “norms” and how Donald Trump was violating them all. He brushed off fact-checkers, assailed the media, went on Twitter tirades against his critics, and dabbled in racism. Since taking office, his norm busting has spread. Members of Congress who under other circumstances might be constrained by shame, custom, or the will of their constituents have learned from Trump’s election that you can get away with more than we used to think.

Norm erosion is real, and it matters. Economists Daron Acemoglu and Matthew Jackson of MIT and Stanford have written about how rules are only effective when they are backed up by social norms “because detection relies, at least in part, on whistle-blowing.” Their Spanish colleague Patricia Funk emphasizes that in a variety of contexts, “the strength of the social norm of ‘not committing a crime’ is shaped by social interactions.”

These scholars are all considering deep, long-lasting differences in cultural norms, but we also know from experience that norms can sometimes shift dramatically in unusual circumstances. Sometimes a blackout or other disaster prompts a few people who would ordinarily be too cautious to break store windows in broad daylight to become more brazen. And the normal course of ordinary life flips into reverse, as those with some inclination toward bad acts recognize a moment of impunity and grab what they can, while those who would ordinarily be invested in upholding order are afraid and stay inside. The sheer quantity of bad acts makes it impossible for anyone to hold anyone accountable. Soon, a whole neighborhood can be in ruins.

Or a whole country.

Republicans love bank bailouts now
The tax bill pending in Congress this week is, naturally, front of mind and unquestionably represents the linchpin of the 2017 looting agenda. But in some ways, the clearest example of the difference between a regime of corporate looting and one of free market ideology came on the lower-profile topic of financial regulatory policy, where the Trump administration quietly signaled a major shift last month.

Back in 2009-’10, of course, the Obama administration responded to the financial crisis and the chaotic Bush-era bailouts by passing the Dodd-Frank law to overhaul America’s financial regulations. The goals of the law were twofold, on the one hand hoping to tighten the regulatory screws to make future bailouts less likely and on the other hand trying to bring some order to the question of what to do with large banks that do go bust in a way that risks a crisis.

Republicans opposed this approach, arguing that heavy-handed regulation was stifling the economy. But they said that they, too, deplored bailouts and that the real solution to the problem of banking crises was a need to tie the government’s hands to prevent any possibility of future bailouts.

The Trump administration has taken up the deregulatory baton with gusto, appointing Wall Street lawyers to run key agencies and turning what was intended to be an interagency working group on identifying financial risk into a forum for advancing deregulation.

But the free market fix for financial crisis has gone missing in action. In late November, the Trump Treasury Department quietly announced that it wants to keep the Dodd-Frank Orderly Liquidation Authority fund around after all. That’s an obscure little corner of the government, but it’s conceptually crucial — that’s the thing Republicans used to call a “permanent bailout fund.” They used to argue that eliminating it was the key to establishing a sound financial regulatory framework in which no bailouts would happen, and bankers would be disciplined by markets rather than bureaucrats.

Under Trump, the reality is that neither markets nor bureaucrats are going to be doing any disciplining.

In the short term, of course, lax banking regulation will almost certainly pay off in the form of higher bank profits and stock valuations. The problem is when the crisis hits down the road. But that’s exactly the triumph of short-term thinking that pervades everything Trump does, from debt-financed tax cuts for the rich to disinvestment in education, rollback of environment regulations, and approaches to the telecom sector that prioritize the profitability of today’s incumbent businesses over tomorrow’s regulators.

Across the board, it’s about letting whoever’s powerful now squeeze as much out as they can without worrying too much about the consequences — like enormous, deficit-financed tax cuts passed with no regard for budgetary or economic effects.

The strange death of tax reform
The tax bill is another case in point. It’s poised to pass Congress this week, and the swamp is overflowing with perks.

Somewhere in its murky origins, “tax reform,” as conceived by is Republican authors, was supposed to be a policy-driven bill aimed at creating a simpler and fairer tax code that would generate broadly superior economic outcomes for most people — a normal governing objective even if it was always the case that substantial disagreement would exist over the merits of marginal corporate tax rate cuts as a growth-boosting policy.

But along the way, virtually all of the high-minded aspirations were dropped and all of the normal aspects of congressional process broken — to the point where the bill’s leading architects won’t even mention the policy changes that are at the heart of the bill. In the end, instead of taking on the special interests as promised, it gives away the store to almost every lobby shop in town — with last-minute additions that personally enrich the Trump family and a decent chunk of the members of Congress voting for it.

Once upon a time, Republicans had a set of clear promises about what they called “tax reform.” The idea was to produce a simpler tax code, with fewer brackets and fewer deductions so that a typical individual could fill it out on a postcard.

The goal was to cut tax rates without reducing government revenue because loopholes would be closed. From the beginning, they were counting in part on economic growth to make up the difference, but they said they would rely on serious, third-party analysis of the impacts.

“Not economic growth judged by us,” Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), the Chair of the House’s tax-writing committee, told Vox in March, “but by the independent Joint Committee on Taxation.”

And of course it wasn’t going to be a bonanza for the rich. Trump went so far as to promise that the rich wouldn’t benefit “at all” from his plan, and he certainly swore repeatedly that he would not personally benefit.

Neither the House nor the Senate came within a trillion dollars of hitting Brady’s deficit target, so the conference committee charged with reconciling the bills didn’t bother to wait for a dynamic score at all, and both houses are expected to pass the bill before the JCT can finish its analysis. The House bill slashed the top tax rate a little and the Senate bill slashed it a little more, so the conference committee compromised on a bigger rate cut than either had proposed.

Meanwhile, after all the months of work, Republicans ultimately settled on not actually eliminating any significant deductions or loopholes after all.

Why? Well it certainly seems to have had something to do with the orgy of lobbying that, according to the New York Times, led more than half of the city’s 11,000 registered lobbyists to report having worked on the tax bill. The swamp is running wild.

The committee also created a big new tax cut for owners of real estate LLCs — i.e., for Donald Trump’s family. Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) also stands to personally benefit from this provision, leading to early speculation that it’s the reason he flip-flopped and decided to back a bill whose deficit impact he’d earlier deplored. Corker denies this, offering the absurd defense that the new provision can’t possibly have driven the change since he hasn’t even read the bill he’s now decided to support.

Members swapping votes to secure special deals for their constituents is nothing new in the political process, but getting special deals for themselves personally is quite the innovation. And the ultra-rushed process means we have almost no time to kick the tires on how many new loopholes have been created and who stands to gain from them.

The new political dishonesty
Politicians have never been renowned for their honesty and have always liked to spin their policies in the most positive light possible. But not only does Trump lie a lot more than his predecessors — a New York Times analysis found six times as many lies in Trump’s first 10 months in office as across Obama’s eight years — but the Trump-era GOP has grown terrifyingly comfortable with a kind of large-scale misrepresentation of what their legislation says that’s totally unprecedented.

Speaker Paul Ryan’s official list of five policy highlights in the tax bill, for example, includes one point that is merely preserving the status quo on mortgage interest, and totally neglects to mention the corporate tax cut that is its centerpiece.

Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bills ultimately didn’t pass, but they also had this characteristic.

Reasonable people can disagree, for example, on whether it’s a good idea to cut Medicaid spending. But the GOP wrote a series of bills that entailed large cuts in Medicaid spending and then sent the secretary of health and human services out on television to say they weren’t proposing to cut Medicaid spending.

Not every member of the party was as brazen as that. But Trump and Ryan have completely dissolved the norm against dishonesty to the point where there are no longer any whistleblowers in the Republican caucus or the world of conservative media. You just say whatever you want, and dole out favors to your friends — moving at such a rapid pace that the country’s ability to process what’s happening gets overwhelmed.

There’s so much happening that we don’t notice
Back in April, Megan Wilson reported that there were 1,500 new lobbying registrations and a huge surge in lobbying revenue as firms moved to snatch up new staff with connections to Trump and key congressional Republicans in order to take advantage of a new bonanza of opportunities.

And it’s paid off enormously. While Americans are fascinated by major legislative drama, endless sexual abuse scandals, endless Trump-Russia scandals, and countless inappropriate presidential Twitter outbursts, key regulators — almost uniformly drawn from the ranks of corporate America — are doling out favors at a pace that boggles the mind.

Most people know about the Federal Communications Commission rescinding network neutrality rules, for example. But they’re also rescinding rules on overconcentration in the broadcast television industry, while Congress has moved to let ISPs sell their users’ private browsing data.

Trump’s Labor Department has been working overtime by making it easier for employers to steal servers’ tips but harder for workers to organize against chain restaurants. They’ve made it easier for employers to get away with not paying overtime, and while stories like Trump’s effort to destroy the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or his unprecedented shrinkage of protected national monuments at least garnered a couple of days of coverage, most of this labor stuff has passed in the night.

Some of this is dictated by free market ideology, of course. But the coal industry bailout Rick Perry is pushing doesn’t fit that bill, nor does the Transportation Department’s drive to reduce transparency in airline fees.

And while it’s unlikely that the famously detail-averse president is actually paying attention to the nuts and bolts of DOT rulemaking, he is absolutely setting the tone from the top.

The looter-in-chief
It takes a lot more than Donald Trump to orchestrate the kind of feeding frenzy that’s currently playing out in Washington. Nothing about this would work if not for the fact that hundreds of Republican Party members of Congress wake up each morning and decide anew that they are indifferent to the myriad financial conflicts of interest in which Trump and his family are enmeshed. Moral and political responsibility for the looting ultimately rests on the shoulders of the GOP members of Congress who decided that the appropriate reaction to Trump’s inauguration was to start smashing and grabbing as much as possible for themselves and their donors rather than uphold their constitutional obligations.

But it really is true that in this case, the fish rots from the head.

Trump has always operated in businesses in legal and ethical gray areas — during the transition, he had to pay out a $20 million fraud settlement arising from a fake university he used to operate, and the fraudulent part wasn’t even that the university was fake. His all-purpose excuse for shady, greedy behavior was, to quote the man himself, “that makes me smart.”

Yet in his business career he did once undertake solemn obligations to people other than himself, as the chief executive officer of a publicly traded company, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts.

Trump never turned THCR into a profitable business. But he did profit mightily from running it, bilking shareholders by transferring his personal debts onto the corporate balance sheet, having the public company pay extravagant sums to buy Trump-branded goods from separate companies that he owned personally, and of course paying himself a lavish salary for his troubles.

This is looting on the corporate level, tunneling financial assets out of the company the shareholders control into entities controlled by the CEO. Like many things Trump did over the years, it’s probably illegal, but enforcement of white-collar criminal law is spotty. Trump was fined by the Federal Trade Commission and separately by the Securities and Exchange Commission, and then separately again by the Treasury Department’s financial crimes division, but not in ways that were serious enough to put him out of business.

And in truth, we have no clear picture of the full extent of Trump’s personal corruption, since in violation of decades’ worth of tradition he’s refused to give us a clear sense of his income streams or financial interests. It would be trivially easy for congressional Republicans to force Trump to disclose his tax returns, but instead of holding his feet to the fire, they are taking their cues from him — even though many of them spent the 2016 campaign openly recognizing that he was unfit for office.

Trump’s victory, rather than inspiring a bipartisan movement to check the new president’s worst impulses, caused the party to snap, with as many factions as possible reaching to toss a rock and grab what they can as long as the party lasts.

The country is left only to hope that it doesn’t last too long.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Skateboarding is Awesome: Check out Nora Vasconcellos

In celebration of the first female Pro rider to join the global adidas Skateboarding team, we are proud to present "Nora", a digital short documenting the birth of skate icon, Nora Vasconcellos. Earning the respect of her peers, both on and off the board, Nora shares the experiences that have shaped her life.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018