A civic black hole?
A civic black hole? Charles Mudede

Chicago Offers Amazon's Execs the Taxes of Their Workers: Danny Westneat's column, "This City Hall, brought to you by Amazon," should be read everyone who lives or cares about this city. It examines 30 of the 238 proposals that Amazon received from North American cities for its much-publicized H2Q contest. If you win, you get the spectacular prize of 50,000 jobs, $5 billion in investments, and a chance to survive the worst of the next great recession. Much of what's in these proposals is cringe-worthy. Chicago, for example, actually offers to tax the people who work for Amazon and to hand over the cash to the company.

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"'The result is that workers are, in effect, paying taxes to their boss,' says a report on the practice from Good Jobs First, a think tank critical of many corporate subsidies." (One wonders what Boeing got for moving to Chicago in 2001.) But what we see in all of this is not just the bleak future of American democracy, but a complete lack of public spirit and sense of shame. We live in a society that's all about not shaming people. Trump has no sense of shame; same goes for Roy Moore, many voters in Alabama, and that congressman from Montana who assaulted a reporter for asking a perfectly good question. The GOP has had enough of shame and is dumping it on the Dems (“embarrassed and ashamed”). But now we see that Chicago, the once-proud "Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation," has no shame in the H2Q game, and neither does the defining corporation of our age, Amazon, which, as a consequence, has become a "civic black hole."

For more on shame, I recommend reading Diana George's 2003 excellent piece, "Shamefaced with Triumph."

Is This Your Big Snake? It was found by a child in the toilet bowl of a Lake City apartment. That child will need therapy for the rest of his/her life. The found snake is a ball python, which is non-venomous and popular with humans who love reptiles. But to find a snake in your toilet, to see it in there, legless and slithering below where you often plant your ass is enough to crack a good part of your mind permanently.


Seattle Spends $1 Million On Fences That Keep Homeless Out of Orphaned Spaces Beneath Freeways: The spaces orphaned by highways have always been ugly and hard to manage. Weeds grow there. The sun don't shine there. People rejected by society sometimes find refuge there. Seattle has, according to the Seattle Times, spent a lot of money ($1 million) keeping these rejected people from these troublesome spaces. But one might ask: Why not spend that huge sum of money on just helping the homeless? But that question is the same as this one: Why don't we build schools instead of prisons? The problems of crime and homelessness can, of course, be solved very easily. The welfare of humans is not rocket science. The better question to ask is: Why do we need homeless people? In fact, they are so needed that a city like ours is willing to pay lots of money to make their lives as miserable as possible. I think the answer is found in the ideology of American individualism. Because it justifies obscene concentrations of wealth, it must also justify obscene amounts of poverty. You are homeless because of choices you yourself made. If it wasn't a choice, then you would not be so smelly, so desperate, so awful-looking. You would do something about it. You are on the street because you are doing nothing about it. The rich are rich because they always make the best choices. And so on, and so on.

Jeff Bezos Is The First Human Ever To Have a Net Worth of $100 billion: Do not make the mistake of asking this question: Why should one man have $100 billion while millions live on the streets or have no wealth at all? The only value much of this money is not concrete but psychological. With this understanding, the question you have to ask is: Why is there a stock market? And why do rich people prefer to buy shares in corporations instead investing it in some enterprise that makes or builds things? Shares are preferred because of their liquidity. A business, on the other hand, often requires a lot of capital to be fixed and hard to revert to cash. The illiquidity of a factory is terrifying to most investors. Capital can be sunk into it and stay there for years without returning. When the rich get their tax break, they will send it straight to the stock market, and Bezos will get richer.

Black Friday Was Buy Guns Day: After reading about guns that were selling like hot cakes on Black Friday (and now on sale for Cyber Monday), read Sean Nelson's excellent essay about buying, owning, and living with a gun for the first time.


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Macy's Eating Itself to Stay Alive: New York Times reports that because Macy's "real estate is now worth more than its market value," it is weathering the retail apocalypse by selling parts of its "vast network of more than 600 stores across the country." The most stark example of this is found in downtown Seattle. The Macy's here sold six floors of its handsome and historic building to a Connecticut developer. This investment firm is now transforming these floors into office spaces for Amazon—the black hole that's sucking the life out of thousands of department stores and malls around the country. Seattle's Macy's is now a ghost of its former self. It occupies only three floors in the building (one of which is the basement). I wrote about this situation here.


What Can It Mean?


I Want Some of Your Brown Sugar: Very white and upper-crust Prince Harry is now engaged to Meghan Markle, a black American woman. Sing your song: "Brown Sugar babe, I gets high off your love, don't know how to behave."