Category Archives: Culture

Uber Implements In-App Tipping

I don’t like this at all (from the email).

In-app tipping is here. From 5-star ratings to compliments, and now with tipping, our app gives you many ways to say thanks. To ensure a smooth, uninterrupted ride, you can tip drivers after your trip at a time when it’s convenient for you. Tips go directly to drivers; Uber takes zero service fees.

I am a frequent Uber user. One of the selling points for it is the ease of use and the fact that I can grab a ride without the need to carry cash or tip. I did occasionally tip, but only if the driver did something out of the ordinary (like stop at a shop or run through a drive through for me). There was never, however, any expectation of a tip.

The problem is that while Uber has a rating system where I can rate the driver, it also has a rating system where the driver can rate the passenger. The intent of that is that if a passenger is abusive, messy, drunk, or just gross, a bad rating will discourage other Uber drivers from having to put up with a bad passenger. Eventually, bad passengers will never be able to get an Uber ride.

Now that there is tipping, however, there is an incentive for the passenger to give big tips – even when it is undeserved – just to prevent being blackballed by bad ratings from grumpy drivers. Uber should have one or the other. Either have tipping or do away with the passenger rating system. Having both promotes undeserved tipping. It also increases the overall cost of using Uber versus other transportation alternatives.

Officer Acquitted In Killing of Philando Castile

This case is very troubling.

The jury of 12, including two black people, had to sort through the competing narratives. Both prosecutors and defense lawyers said the video footage supported their version of events.

At Officer Yanez’s trial, in this small courtroom in downtown St. Paul, defense lawyers made repeated mention of Mr. Castile’s and Ms. Reynolds’s use of marijuana. The drug was found in Mr. Castile’s car after the shooting, and Mr. Gray said that Mr. Castile had been under the influence of marijuana and delayed in his reactions at the time of the shooting.

“We’re not saying that Philando Castile was going to shoot Officer Yanez,” Mr. Gray said. “What we’re saying is that he did not follow orders. He was stoned.”

But Mr. Paulsen, the prosecutor, said that version of events was contradicted by video. He said footage showed that Mr. Castile was driving normally, pulled over quickly and was alert and courteous when talking to Officer Yanez. He accused the defense of blaming the victim.

“He offered no resistance,” Mr. Paulsen said of Mr. Castile. “He made no threats. He didn’t even complain about being stopped for such a minor offense.”

In the end, I think the jury got it right. While I think a preponderance of the evidence points to wrongdoing on the part of the officer, there isn’t enough evidence to meet the threshold of “beyond a reasonable doubt.” The details really matter in this case.

First, Castile properly declared that he had a gun in the vehicle. He did it calmly, but he did not specify that he had a concealed carry permit. Such a declaration does indicate that he was not trying to be deceptive, but it also puts the officer on edge.

I have been pulled over more than once when carrying a firearm. I was instructed to behave in a way that was as non-threatening as possible. I turn on the dome light and keep my hands on the steering wheel. When the officer asks for my ID, I present it with my concealed carry license. At this point, the officer usually asks if I am carrying and where the firearm is. Then we go about our business. I had one officer in Texas once ask me to surrender my firearm for the duration of the stop, which I did. He returned it at the end of the process and we were both on our way. At no point do I ever utter the words, “I have a gun.” Even when said nicely and calmly, such a declaration has ominous overtones. That being said, Castile’s action was ill-advised, but shouldn’t have gotten him killed.

Second, it seems clear that Castile was stoned. That, in and of itself, is also no reason to shoot him, but it would make his behavior unusual. If he was moving erratically, speaking oddly, and reached for something, it would not be unreasonable for the officer to read malicious intent in Castile’s behavior – especially when the officer was already suspicious that Castile might have just committed a robbery.

Third, the officer could have been much clearer with his instructions. When Castile informed him that he was armed, the officer could have queried him about it more. And if the officer already thought that Castile might be a threat, he should have clearly instructed him to remain completely still.

In the end, it looks like a series of poor decisions and misinterpreted actions led to the officer killing Castile. It should not have happened, but I lean toward thinking that the jury got it right. I suspect that a civil suit will have different results.

Amazon Redefining Retail

What an amazing development

Online retail giant Amazon is making a bold expansion into physical stores with a $13.7 billion deal to buy Whole Foods, setting the stage for radical retail experiments that could revolutionize how people buy groceries and everything else.

Amazon could try to use automation and data analysis to draw more customers to stores while helping Whole Foods cut costs and perhaps prices. Meanwhile, the more than 460 Whole Foods stores in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. could be turned into distribution hubs — not just for delivering groceries but as pickup centers for online orders.

“The conventional grocery store should feel threatened and incapable of responding,” Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter said.

Moody’s lead retail analyst Charlie O’Shea said the deal could be “transformative, not just for food retail, but for retail in general.”

Amazon’s online business model has contributed to the destruction of brick and mortar retail, and now they are pivoting into main street retail? Fascinating.

Shooter Was Left Winger

Shocking, I know. The liberal leaders in this country hold some responsibility for condoning and encouraging the kind of escalating hate rhetoric against Trump and Republicans that creates an environment where some folks resort to violence. It is a small step from riots and violent protests to assassination.

(CNN)James T. Hodgkinson, the man identified as shooting a Republican member of congress and four others on Wednesday morning, was a small business owner in Illinois who defined himself publicly by his firm support of Bernie Sanders’ progressive politics — and his hatred of conservatives and President Donald Trump.

This is based on CNN’s review of Hodgkinson’s Facebook profiles, public records, and three years of impassioned letters to his local newspaper.
“Trump is a Traitor. Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.” he posted on his personal Facebook page on March 22.
“Republicans are the Taliban of the USA,” he posted in February.

Vikings Slasher Pleads No Contest

It does beg the question… if the case had gone to trial, would a jury of Packers fans have convicted him?

A Madison man pleaded no contest Monday to misdemeanor battery and disorderly conduct charges for slashing the face of a Stoughton man who was trying to defend his inflatable Minnesota Vikings lawn decoration from vandalism.

Jacob A. Justice, 22, faces up to 15 months in jail on each of the battery convictions and up to six months for the disorderly conduct conviction when he is sentenced at a later date by Circuit Judge Nicholas McNamara.

Justice was arrested on Oct. 9 after he fought with Vikings fan David Moschel in the yard of Moschel’s home in the 700 block of South Van Buren Street in Stoughton. According to a criminal complaint, Moschel said he caught Justice cutting a hole in the large, inflated figure, and when he confronted Justice a fight ensued. Moschel received eight cuts, mostly to his face and head, requiring 67 stitches and eight staples, the complaint states.

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Nationalism v. Globalism

True for the UK. True for the US.

Our two main political parties were founded and evolved to deal with the social and economic challenges of the industrial revolution.

Conservative and Labour, left and right, capitalism and socialism – these ideological movements were a response to the economic and cultural challenges of power moving from the field to the factory.

But power is moving again, from the national to the multinational.

How citizens think we should respond to that shift is the new divide in our politics.

It is less about left v right and more about nationalism v globalism.

The 9.5% increase in the vote share for Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party and the 6% increase in Theresa May’s Conservative support might be held up as evidence that the British electorate is once again becoming more “tribal” in left-right terms.

But I suspect old-fashioned political tribalism is actually on the wane.

Frustrated by the profound limitations of a first-past-the-post electoral system, voters are striving to get their voice heard as best they can.

Delta Pulls Sponsorship of New York Hate Group

Good for them. As a frequent Delta flyer, I’m glad they don’t support such hate speech.

Delta will not longer sponsor New York Public Theater due to a re-imagined production of Shakespeare’s classic play – Julius Caesar- which shows a Donald Trump lookalike being stabbed to death on the senate floor.

[…]

Delta will not longer sponsor New York Public Theater due to the reimagined production of Shakespeare’s classic play

Henry, who has played Trump’s character before, has a reddish-blond combover, wears a suit and sports a red tie that hangs a few inches below his belt.

The character meets his end when he is stabbed by suited conspirators, mainly women and minorities, after being dragged down from his podium in the senate.

And the Trump similarities to the president don’t stop there. A woman who attended an early session of the play said Caesar’s wife, Calpurnia – who begs him not to attend the senate due to a premonition she had foreshadowing his murder, resembles Melania Trump and speaks with a ‘Slavic accent’.

Delta Airlines typically donates between $100,000 and $499,000 annually to the New York Public Theater, and pulled its sponsorship late Sunday afternoon, according to Deadline.

“Very Frustrating to be an Anarchist in America”

It has been five years sine Governor Walker won his recall election. Let’s celebrate by remembering this gem of an interview with Walker Recall supporter and avowed Anarchist, Thistle Pettersen.

“Peaceful” Rally

I was reading about the protesters in Portland, the arrests, and such. On Twitter, I found this picture of the weapons allegedly seized during the protest. One of them got my attention.

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Mowing While Watching the Weather

“I was keeping an eye on it.”

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Live Facebook Arrest

That’s hilarious.

A Florida man joyfully flashing money live on the internet got a sudden surprise when police officers barged in and arrested him for allegedly selling drugs.

A man identified by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as 22-year-old Breon Hollings went on Facebook Live to show friends a handful of money, saying, “It don’t stop, man, it don’t stop.”

He then retrieves more money from another room and starts shuffling it when he hears Jacksonville officers warning over a loudspeaker they are about to raid the house. A stunned Hollings runs out of the room. Seconds later, officers barge in. Hollings was arrested off camera.

Hollings faces numerous drug charges and was being held on $425,000 bail Saturday. It could not be determined if he has an attorney.

FBI Investigating Pedophile at Wreath Laying Ceremony

What the

Washington (CNN)The FBI is seeking information about someone who allegedly made “illicit sexual contact with a minor female” at Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day.

The bureau is seeking information about the unidentified individual — who the FBI described as a Hispanic male believed to be between 50 and 60 years old — in connection with an incident that occurred in the crowd during the wreath laying ceremony. An unnamed adult male allegedly “repeatedly inappropriately touched” the victim while standing in the crowd.

Kathy Griffin

No, it wasn’t funny, but neither is she. Griffin is a C-rate grotesque attention whore, but she is a darling of the Left. Let that sink in.

Kathy Griffin admitted Tuesday she “went too far” on her latest photo shoot with controversial photographer Tyler Shields in which she is holding a bloodied mask of President Trump.

The gory photo first published in TMZ from Griffin’s photo session with the famed Shields, known for his shocking pictures.

In a Twitter post late Tuesday, Griffin said the image “is too disturbing,” and that “it wasn’t funny.”

Humbled and Thankful

My column for the West Bend Daily News is online. No politics this week. Here you go:

What became Memorial Day began during the aftermath of the American Civil War. In an effort to find a way to grieve and remember the hundreds of thousands of Union and Confederate soldiers whose graves were strewn around virtually every community in the newly reunited United States, Gen. John Logan, in his role as commander-inchief of the Union veterans group called the Grand Army of the Republic, designated May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day. He set aside the day for the purpose of decorating the graves of those who had given their lives in defense of their country during the Rebellion.

In the first national celebration of Decoration Day, former Union General and future President James Garfield, who was then a congressman from Ohio, gave a speech at the site of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s former property, which had been designated Arlington National Cemetery. After the speech, 5,000 participants decorated the graves of more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers in an act of national healing.

In the ensuing years, Decoration Day was renamed Memorial Day, fixed at the last Monday of May, and expanded to honor all those who have died in defense of liberty in all of America’s wars. The list of honored patriots is long — more than 1.1 million souls — and growing with each passing year. The price of liberty is indeed very, very high.

For most of our nation’s history, military service was compulsory. Men were expected to, and forced to by the government, serve in the armed forces in times of war and peace. Many men volunteered, as did many women, and after the draft was ended in 1973, every member of the armed services is a volunteer.

Although he was almost certainly not the first American soldier to die in combat, the honor of that distinction is generally given to Capt. Isaac Davis. One of the famed Massachusetts Minutemen, Davis set the mold for Americans for generations to come. He stepped forward when called to defend his nation, which was not even a nation yet, from the invading British Red Coats.

After seeing smoke in the town of Concord, the

Minutemen assembled on Punkatasset Hill decided to attack the British. Davis, accepting the honor, declared that, “I haven’t a man that is afraid to go,” and led his company down the hill to the Old North Bridge to confront the British. On the third volley from the disciplined British, a bullet pierced Davis’ heart just as he was raising his gun to fire. Private Abner Hosmer was also mortally wounded in the head during the same volley.

As of the time of this writing, we do not know the details of how Sergeants Joshua Rodgers and Cameron Thomas were killed. Aged just 22 and 23 years old, respectively, Rodgers and Thomas are the most recent casualties of America’s longest war. Both men were in the same unit and were killed by small arms fire on April 26 in Nangarhar province, Afghanistan. This Memorial Day will be especially difficult for their families in Bloomington, Illinois, and Kettering, Ohio.

When one strolls through one of the far-too-many cemeteries with countless rows of identical white stones or stands before the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier that honors those heroes without a stone of their own, the distinctions of how or why they entered the military, race, creed, gender, age, religion, and even time fall into insignificance. Every one of those heroes had one thing in common. When our nation needed them to pay the ultimate sacrifice, they paid it. And for that, we are humbled and deeply thankful.

Some Gave All

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Image source

Rehab For Jihadis

Wow. I didn’t know such a facility existed.

More than 3,300 inmates have “graduated” from the centre since 2005, according to the staff, including 123 who have been in Guantanamo Bay. The success rate, they said, is 80% with the remaining 20% returning to violence. (A similar scheme I visited in Yemen in 2003 had a significantly lower success rate).

Inmates spend a minimum of three months at the centre before being assessed to see if they ready for release, Their overall programme is divided into three parts:

  • A counselling phase, which takes place while they are still in prison and before they arrive at the centre
  • Rehabilitation (“ta’heel” in Arabic) comprising cognitive behaviour programmes, art, culture, religious and sports activities
  • After care. This continues after their release into society

“Welcome to the oasis of wisdom,” said Dr Hamid Al-Shayri, a sociologist from King Saud University. “This is where we try to steer them away from their deviant path so they no longer present a danger to society.”

He said his staff sit with the inmates for several hours a day, but added: “It’s not an easy task to get people to stop hating society and their families.

Art therapy plays a big role in their rehabilitation, according to their art teacher, Dr Badr Al-Razin. He told me that when they first arrive, many of the ex-convicts want to paint crude, violent images, often in red, but over time their images soften and become gentler.

Religious scholars are on hand at all times, men with a profound knowledge of Islam, who try to use this to explain why the aims and actions of violent jihadists are “haram” (forbidden).

Worst President Ever

While I suspect that these results will remain substantially the same over time relative to each president, I suspect that the huge variances are because the respondents to this poll suffer from recency bias.

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Following Script

How many times have we seen this scenario play out? How many more times?

Manchester, England (CNN)The 22-year-old behind the deadly bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester was known to security services, British Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Wednesday, as the country elevated its terror threat to the highest level for the first time in a decade.

Police have named Salman Abedi, a British-born national of Libyan descent, as the bomber in the attack on Manchester Arena, which killed at least 22 people, including children. Abedi died in the blast, in what appears to have been a suicide bombing.
Rudd confirmed in an interview with the BBC that Abedi was on the radar of intelligence services and that he had recently returned to the UK from Libya.

Attack in Manchester

Prayers for our British friends.

Nineteen people have been killed and about 50 injured in a suspected terror attack at Manchester Arena.

The blast happened at about 22:35 BST on Monday following a pop concert by the US singer Ariana Grande.

The cause is unknown but PM Theresa May said her thoughts were with those affected by “what is being treated by the police as an appalling terrorist attack”.

British Transport Police said the explosion was in the arena’s foyer.

Ringling Bros Calls it Quits

It’s sad to see this era pass. There was a time when the circus was entertainment for millions of people. Now, in an age of endless entertainment available 24/7, the circus just can’t compete.

After 146 years, America’s most celebrated circus Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus has staged its final performance in New York.

Owners of the company said the tough decision had been made due to falling ticket sales and high operating costs.

“As far as this great American institution, it is a sad moment,” ringmaster Johnathan Lee Iverson said.

For the performers, it also means the end of a tight-knit community that lived on a train in between shows.