Guitar Center and the parasite economy

Eric Garland writes on how the musical instrument business is "a microcosm of every other problem in the global economy":

How to get beyond the parasite economy (Eric Garland)

This is the logic at play with Guitar Center. Financial parasites have taken over the host company and could not care less about the industry itself. They install some CEO who used to be selling DVD players. They swap private equity firms in and out. It doesn’t matter – it’s just another place for loose capital to suck out a few extra dollars or a tax break. After all, the entire value of the company is less than what JPMorgan paid in fines last year without breaking a sweat.

In the final analysis, this is less about business sense and more about business domination. There are dozens of industries that have been locked up by a few players in this way: mortgages, cars, pharmaceuticals, retail, you name it. Since the chances of antitrust suits under “leaders” like George W Bush and Barack Obama are so low, the tiny tranche of society with all the money can run a time-worn playbook – consolidate companies, squeeze vendors, push manufacturing overseas, lower wages, wash, rinse, repeat, discard. The numbers of the business – which suck in GC’s case – do not matter as much as control of yet another industry. As long as you have dominance over an industry, your positions are hedged for risk automatically because there is no other game in town – or at least people believe that. In the meantime, you get management fees, income from bonds, the occasional IPO payout.

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All of this cold-blooded nonsense stands in stark contrast to the amazing people I have met in every other corner of the industry, including the actual long-time employees of Guitar Center who have reached out to me. I have had the tremendous honor to speak with inventors, entrepreneurs, retailers and fellow musicians about current events and I have been astonished by their intelligence, kindness, creativity and overall sense of humanity. All of this is diminished by the presence of these rapacious colonialists and it is time for them to take their leave of our economy, starting with the musical instrument industry.

Palestine's first female commandos

While Saudi Arabia still won't permit women to drive, Palestine is training female special operations soldiers. Yet the U.S. remains buddy-buddy with the Sauds while refusing to recognize the existence of Palestine.

First women joining Palestinian commando unit (Yahoo News)

The 22 future commandos are trailblazers in a still largely male-dominated society, set to become the first female members of the Presidential Guards, a Palestinian elite force of 2,600 men. Their inclusion is the result of gradual changes in the West Bank in recent years.

Some gender barriers have fallen, with a few women assuming posts as mayors, judges and Cabinet ministers or starting their own businesses. At the same time, unemployment is on the rise, and families are more open to women entering non-traditional jobs if it means another paycheck.

Women make up just 3 percent of 30,000 members of the Palestinian police and other security agencies in the West Bank, but there's a push to recruit more, said Brig. Rashideh Mughrabi, in charge of gender issues in the National Security Forces.

Eich is out as Mozilla CEO

He should never have gotten in in the first place, but this is good news.

Brendan Eich Steps Down As Mozilla CEO - Slashdot

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He's made this decision for Mozilla and our community. Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard ..."

and that about wraps it up for democracy in the U.S.

Taking Citizen's United to the next level, SCOUTS rules 5-4 that capping the amount of influence one can buy in politics is unconstitutional. So much for the last shreds of the American experiment in democracy. The only question now is whether 99% of us can eke out a living as rats in the wainscotting of the ruling class, or whether we manage to sneak out in the middle of the night and eat them, or if they exterminate us -- with continuing advances in tech, once machines start making machines what need have the 1% of the working classes?

SCOTUS Strikes Down Aggregate Campaign Donor Limits in Citizens United Sequel (Slate Magazine)

The Supreme Court is out this morning with its big ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which court watchers had billed as everything from the "blockbuster money-in-politics case of the current term" to a "sort of sequel to Citizens United," via Politico:

The Supreme Court ruled, 5-4, that caps on the total amount of money an individual can give to political campaigns and PACs are unconstitutional.

The court's Republican-appointed justices joined in overturning the so-called aggregate limits on the grounds that they violated the First Amendment. Democratic appointees dissented and said the limits were constitutional as a means to guard against corruption

odd recyclables

Some interesting ways to recycle stuff, from old CDs to coffins.

20 Recyclable Objects That Might Surprise You (Mental Floss)

According to the EPA, Americans send 250 million tons of trash to the landfill each year. That’s 40 percent of the world’s waste. Here are a few things you may have been throwing out that, with a little effort, you can actually recycle....

Harvard has library books bound in human skin

Harvard discovers three of its library books are bound in human flesh (Roadtrippers)

A few years ago, three separate books were discovered in Harvard University's library that had particularly strange-looking leather covers. Upon further inspection, it was discovered that the smooth binding was actually human flesh... in one case, skin harvested from a man who was flayed alive. Yep, definitely the creepiest library ever.

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Harvard's creepy books deal with Roman poetry, French philosophy, and a treatise on medieval Spanish law for which the previously mentioned flayed skin was used. The book, Practicarum quaestionum circa leges regias… has a very interesting inscription inside, as The Harvard Crimson reports.

The book’s 794th and final page includes an inscription in purple cursive: ‘the bynding of this booke is all that remains of my dear friende Jonas Wright, who was flayed alive by the Wavuma on the Fourth Day of August, 1632. King Mbesa did give me the book, it being one of poore Jonas chiefe possessions, together with ample of his skin to bynd it. Requiescat in pace.’

Amnesty International: Israeli forces display "callous disregard for human life"

"In all cases examined by Amnesty International, Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers did not appear to be posing a direct and immediate threat to life. In some, there is evidence that they were victims of wilful killings, which would amount to war crimes." Yet in spite of evidence of war crimes, the Obama administration wants to send $3,100,000,000 dollars in military aid to Israel

‘Trigger-happy’ Israeli army and police use reckless force in the West Bank | Amnesty International

Israeli forces have displayed a callous disregard for human life by killing dozens of Palestinian civilians, including children, in the occupied West Bank over the past three years with near total impunity, said Amnesty International in a report published today.

The report, Trigger-happy: Israel’s use of excessive force in the West Bank, describes mounting bloodshed and human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) as a result of the Israeli forces’ use of unnecessary, arbitrary and brutal force against Palestinians since January 2011.

Albuquerque police have killed 23 people since 2010

Maybe the introduction of cop-cams will finally end this...though of course, none of these murderers will every be brought to justice. Cop privilege.

The "Bounty" Police Force? Albuquerque Officers Face Protests, Probe over Spate of Fatal Shootings (Democracy Now!)

Video footage captured by a police helmet camera shows officers killing James Boyd, a homeless man who appeared to be surrendering to them at a campsite where he was sleeping. Boyd is seen picking up his belongings and turning away when officers deploy a flash grenade and then fire six live rounds at him from yards away. The Albuquerque Police Department has come under federal scrutiny for being involved in 37 shootings since 2010, 23 of them fatal. This week the FBI confirmed it is investigating the killing of Boyd, and the Justice Department has already been investigating the city’s police shootings for more than a year.

cop sues family for calling 911

No, this is not an April Fool's joke.

Many people are shocked to learn that there is no legal obligation for police to show up when you call 911, that the cops have no duty to protect you. I must admit that I've heard so many stories of police misbehavior and dereliction of duty that I find their surprise naive.

But even I was shocked to learn that cops can sue you for calling 911.

Kemal Yazar has an obvious mental health breakdown. His wife Marlene called 911. A paramedic arrives, but backs off when Yazar chucks a Bible at him. Deputy Brady Pullen and another deputy arrive. There is a struggle, and Yazar is shot and killed.

That shooting may or may not have been necessary, but what's clearly unnecessary is Pullen's lawsuit against Yazar's survivors.

Falkenberg: We expect more from our heroes than being sued by them (Houston Chronicle)

One of the deputies who was sent to protect the family decided to serve them instead - with a lawsuit.

Pullen, who according to an investigator's report, suffered "superficial wounds" during the incident, accused family members of "negligence and recklessness" for not fully warning him of the "violent threat" Kemal posed.

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Pullen says he suffered a broken nose, needed surgery that required him to miss work, and had a concussion which affected his memory of the events. The deputy is seeking at least $100,000 in damages, including medical expenses, mental anguish, pain and suffering and loss of past earning capacity. The first hearing in the case is set for April 14 in Judge Patricia Kerrigan's court.

PTSD in civilian trauma victims is being overlooked

From the "you mean no one thought of this before???" department:

Doctors Recommend PTSD Screening for Civilians (NBC Bay Area)

Post-traumatic stress disorder is often associated with troops coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan, but victims of violent crime are often developing PTSD at rates comparable to veterans of war, the Investigative Unit has learned.

Trauma patients may not be getting the help they need, however, and that may be costing entire communities in healthcare and public safety. A growing body of research shows that people who are shot, stabbed and beaten with untreated symptoms of PTSD can be more likely to carry weapons, have a harder time holding onto their jobs and end up back in the hospital.

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