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August 14, 2014


Don't really have the time to whittle this into anything nifty and coherent, so it is what it is.  I spent the preponderance of last night, and a good bit of the late afternoon, watching with abject horror the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

It's not exactly leading the newshole the past couple days — and to be fair there is some pretty heavy shit going down all over the planet right now — so the nutshell is that a cop in this suburb of St. Louis killed an unarmed black teen on Saturday.  Bad enough!  But since then there have been protests, which have been met with this really unfathomable response from the St. Louis County Police Department that is milatarized to the nth degree.  Full camo, armored personnel carriers, laser-sighted snipers.

Maybe I'm supposed to be totally inured to that?  But last night the cops were tossing reporters (!!) in jail, loudspeakering "We are not infringing on your right to assembly!" as they were forcing crowds to disperse, tear-gassing news crews setting up TV shots.  Suffice it to say THIS IS NOT HOW COPS SHOULD BEHAVE EVER EVER EVER.

It's really the most upsetting domestic thing I've seen since Katrina, and nearly ten years later I STILL can't write about Katrina because I go into some rage fugue and ten thousand words later nothing still makes sense.  But last night a bunch of roided-up police officers cosplaying Call of Duty were pointing loaded weapons at unarmed, peaceful protesters.  Bullshit rhetoric aside, that is the sort of behavior that is not supposed to happen in this nation, and if it does, we are supposed to rally together to prevent this behavior from happening again.

PLUS ALSO in my Twitter fury last night (sounds silly but true) I got into it with some mildly popular conservative dude who was like, Not All Cops, which is like, so what not all cops?  Who's talking about all cops?  We're talking about the cops in St. Louis County.  And all that got me was him calling me sanctimonious and then refusing to address my points.  Par for the course, and reminder to self not to do that anymore.  But important to note that as egregious as this is, the political right will trivialize it out of kneejerk opposition to anything vaguely Obama.  Oh, and what else?  Racism, that's right.  (Compare Ferguson to the response to Cliven Bundy, who was actually training guns on law enforcement officials and who was largely applauded by the Sean Hannitys of the world.)

Okay.  Gonna try to work.  But that is some seriously fucked up shit out there and we all need to talk about it until it becomes an issue that needs to be addressed.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:55 AM

August 13, 2014

truckers and the failure of the market

Here's a little story from the weekend that totally escaped notice.  Apparently the trucking industry is experiencing a bit of a slowdown.  Why? They are "constrained by the challenging driver market," so says one of the big trucking companies, referring to a self-proclaimed driver shortage.

But is that really the case?  According to the author of the piece, Neil Irwin:

Yet the idea that there is a huge shortage of truck drivers flies in the face of a jobless rate of more than 6 percent, not to mention Economics 101. The most basic of economic theories would suggest that when supply isn't enough to meet demand, it's because the price -- in this case, truckers' wages -- is too low. Raise wages, and an ample supply of workers should follow.

But corporate America has become so parsimonious about paying workers outside the executive suite that meaningful wage increases may seem an unacceptable affront. In this environment, it may be easier to say "There is a shortage of skilled workers" than "We aren't paying our workers enough," even if, in economic terms, those come down to the same thing.

(Irwin sketches out the actual numbers in the piece, in case you think he's full of baloney.)

Now, to play L'il Economist for a second, the same people that believe that the unfettered market solves all ills would tell you that if demand for a product service increases beyond capacity, then the capacity will be increased.  Sadly, this is patently not the case, as the shining examples of humanity that run the long-hauling industry would rather turn down business than increase wages.

And even if this is an outlier, one teensy little example in a world filled with virtuous industrialists, keep in mind that long-hauling is responsible for pretty much every single thing in your house — that couch didn't walk it's way from whatever port it landed, and that box of Bisquick was not dropped into your pantry by a stork.

You can take capitalism or you can leave capitalism, but right now it's just broken.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:24 AM

August 12, 2014

robin williams

I'll keep it brief; you've probably read to much about this already.

The past twenty years or so, amongst my friends it was fashionable to dismiss Robin Williams as a sort of a one trick pony.  Possessed with a certain genius, but with a motor that ran way too high, to the point that each successive iteration of Robin Williams was a parody of the earlier one.

This was bittersweet, because we were all in high school when "Live At The Met" was relentlessly rebroadcast by HBO, and damned if back then we hadn't memorized every word of it.  And yes, our amateur comedy stylings — a sketch comedy show or two — very much resembled the sensibility of Robin Williams, as when we weren't busy ripping off Monty Python, we were ripping off Williams.

And we were of course wrong twenty years ago.  Williams on Carson may well have been predictably grating, let's say, but as the years wore on Williams learned that he could sometimes speak as himself and not in an dizzying array of funny voices.

He had a storied career.  I've never heard anyone in the industry say a bad word about him.  I had a pair of rainbow suspenders when I was nine.

It was a sad night, last night.

Posted by mrbrent at 1:09 PM