Jay Porter owned a San Diego restaurant called The Linkery where tipping was not allowed; instead, a flat 18 percent service-charge is added to each bill, and that charge is divided among the servers, bus-people, and kitchen-staff. In a six-part series, Porter sets out the case for his experiment and reports on the result, covering the bad gender dynamics, motivation and microeconomics, and a comparison with a tip-friendly restaurant he also owns. It's a compelling tale about economic fairness versus locked-in dysfunctional conventions. He summarized his findings in an easily digested article for Slate.
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Canadian band Godspeed You! Black Emperor won the Polaris Music Prize, awarded at a giant gala sponsored by Toyota. The band celebrated by releasing a scathing statement condemning the whole affair as a "FUCKING INSANE" and "tone-deaf to the current horrifying malaise." It's a pretty remarkable and brave statement. I knew GY!BE's frontman, Efrim, in high school, where we were in the same writing workshop. It's good to see that he's still in top form (if you're reading this, Efrim, seriously: good one). The band is using the prize money "to try to set up a program so that prisoners in quebec have musical instruments if they need them."
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Prince Jefri Bolkiah is the younger brother of the Sultan of Brunei, and he is believed to have blown $14.8 billion on a series of follies including grotesque mansions; enormous collections of sportscars; haremsful of exotic prostitutes kept on standby at home and abroad; fleets of jets; musesumsworth of gaudy gems; private football tutelage from NFL greats for his pampered son; private concerts by Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston (the former in a purpose-built, single-use stadium); and more (and more).
Vanity Fair had Mark Seal cover a New York court battle between Jefri and two of his advisors, whom he alleged bilked him out of a paltry few millions. As Seal explains, the case had wider significance: it was key to a narrative that the prince and the sultan have created about the prince's wastefulness, blaming it on sharp foreigners who bilked him out of his money.
The story goes into eye-glazingly weird lists of the prince's excesses. Reading it, I found myself tuning out, losing the ability to focus on the lists of spectacular waste, only to be brought back to reality by an extravagance so over-the-top that it shocked me out of my stupor. It's a kind of pornography of capitalism, a Southeast Asian version of the Beverly Hillbillies, a proof that oil fortunes demand no thought, no innovation, no sense of shared national destiny: just a hole the ground, surrounded by guns, enriching an elite of oafs and wastrels.
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I've told you before about Ghosts With Shit Jobs, Jim Munroe's mockumentary about "a future where China's the first world and North America’s the third world." Jim and co took the movie to the Beijing International Film Festival and documented their experience showing it to a Chinese audience.
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One million of the worst-paid people in Britain will have to attend welfare caseworker assessments, and if they are deemed to be "not working enough," they face having their benefits cut -- even if no additional shifts are available to them. Of course, once their benefits are cut, they'll be homeless and then (shortly) jobless, and they can get back on the rolls. So it's not completely daft.
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More evidence that American travel is headed for a two-tier security theater
that is reasonable and light for rich people and business travellers, and increasingly awful and invasive for everyone else: as Pre-Check expands
, people who fly often enough to make it worth spending $85 will be able to keep shoes, jackets and belts on and avoid pornoscanners (including the new more radioactive versions
). Us dirty foreigners, as well as people who save carefully for one trip every couple of years to see their families, will get the ever-expanding Grand Guignol treatment, especially since everyone with any clout or pull will be over there in Pre-Check land, getting smiles and high-fives from the TSA.
David Graeber, who wrote last year's incredible Debt: The First 5,000 Years, has an extraordinary essay up called "On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs," which explores the phenomenon of people in productive industries (nursing, teaching, etc) being relentlessly ground down on wages, job stability and working conditions; while all the big money aggregates to the finance industry and a layer of "bullshit jobs" like corporate attorneys, administrators, etc -- who do jobs that produce no tangible benefit.
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ProPublica raised $23,000 on Kickstarter to hire an intern whose job is to investigate unpaid interns. The successful applicant, Casey McDermott, sounds great -- a recent grad with a double major in Journalism and Sociology who edited Penn State's newspaper during the Sandusky scandal, and oversaw the paper's mobile app rollout. She says that her proximity to the issue -- having lots of friends who are interning, being an intern herself -- gives her great perspective.
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WinCo is a
midwestern chain of worker-owned stores that consistently underprice WalMart, while still paying a living wage to their staff and decent prices to their suppliers. Their secret appears to be a smaller selection of goods, sourced directly from factories -- but surely the fact that they're not extracting billions in profits for a family of rapacious plutocrats also helps keep prices low.
Burt Flickinger III, a reputable grocery store analyst, called them "Walmart's worst nightmare." They provide health benefits to all employees who work 24 hours per week or more, as well as pensions. They are expanding into Texas, and Time's Brad Tuttle predicts that they'll double in size every five to seven years.
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In 1988, Kitchen Sink Press broke ground in the comics world with its publication of Kings in Disguise, a six-issue comic series by Jim Vance and Dan Burr (later collected in a graphic novel with an intro by Alan Moore). Kings was one of the first modern American comics to tackle straight historical subjects, and it succeeded brilliantly. It told the Depression-era tale of Freddie Bloch, a Jewish kid from California who ends up on the road and on the bum, who becomes involved in a bloody labor uprising in Detroit.
Earlier this year, the sequel, On the Ropes was published. To call this book "long-awaited" is to commit violent understatement. Kings had attracted high praise by the likes of Art Speigelman, Will Eisner, Harvey Kutzman, and Alan Moore, and had swept the awards when it was published. It took twenty years for the sequel to emerge, and you know what? It was worth the wait.
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The major check against the unreasonable, horrible practices on the part of the TSA is that people who fly are wealthier, on average than people who don't -- and people who fly a lot are wealthier still. That meant that the worst stuff the TSA did was felt disproportionately by people who had a lot of political juice -- people who get listened to. Increasingly, though, rich people can opt out of the worst of TSA treatment by buying voluntary background checks and bypassing the rigmarole of the plebs. Now, the TSA is expanding its Pre-Check program
, ensuring that pretty much everyone with any political clout will be spared the worst of it, letting the TSA's treatment for aviation's 99 percent spiral steadily downward, moving from mere Security Theater to Security Grand Guignol.
Members of the decadent nouveau riche of Shenzhen in South China have provoked online outrage by taking up breast-milk consumption as a high-status health treatment. According to sources quoted in the Times of India, agencies recruit wet nurses from among recent mothers and pay them $2,000-$4,000 to allow rich people to nurse from their breasts, or to pump milk for later consumption.
"This adds to China's problem of treating women as consumer goods and the moral degradation of China's rich," wrote Cao Baoyin, a writer and regular commentator in Chinese media, on his blog.
Breast milk drinking by rich adults provokes outrage in China [Saibal Dasgupta/Times of India]
sez, "Insightful article
about the protests in Brazil, which make clear that it's absurd for a government to spend billions in public funds for sports tournaments that (a) bring no clear benefits to the country and (b) violate citizens' rights. Boing Boing readers will be familiar with the many unreasonable demands made by the International Olympic Committee to their hosts, from restricted use of the word 'Olympic'
to disallowing political speech
. (The article recaps these issues by describing the trials of people who violated such rules during the recent World Cup in South Africa). Key take-away: If current trends continue, these games will soon only agree to be hosted by the (hopefully decreasing) number of nations with overly authoritative regimes."
Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's is riding around the country in a rainbow colored van, stamping $1 bills with messages like "not to be used for bribing politicians," as a way of raising consciousness about the impact of money in politics in the wake of the Citizens United Supreme Court verdict, which opened the doors to infinite campaign financing by special interests.
He's seeking a constitutional amendment that overturns the verdict, and he's got 15 states onboard. You can sign a petition, buy a stamp and stamp your own money, and hold stamping parties with your friends. The full list of stamp messages is:
"Not to Be Used for Bribing Politicians".
"Stamp Money Out of Politics"
"Corporations are Not People"
“Not To Be Used for Buying Elections”
Back in May, Mark wrote about a Kickstarter project to fund a mobile app that will help you locate the hidden entrances to Malibu's public beaches, which the local rich and famous people have done everything they can to obscure (including putting up illegal fake signs that falsely declare passage to be trespassing).
The Kickstarter was fully funded and the app is out, and the public is finding its way to Malibu's public beaches, which is great news -- unless you're one of those people who's spent decades treating a public beach as your own private patch. Local residents are pissed:
“I don’t think it’s a snobby thing. It’s like letting someone into your backyard. You’re paying for the beach house and the property you own is technically the beach in front of your house,” said Emma Ravdin.
Battle Over Access To Malibu Beaches Goes High-Tech With New App [CBS]