Author Archives: Mitch

Uber & the Saudis

Uber’s No Good, Very Bad Deal with Saudi Arabia  [Dan Primack – Fortune]

Uber has taken a $3.5 billion investment from a government that effectively prohibits women from driving—let alone driving for Uber. Uber also has accepted a $3.5 billion investment from a government that requires women to have male guardians. Uber also has accepted a $3.5 billion investment from a government whose court system has sentenced men to jail time and corporal punishment for the “crime” of homosexuality—not to mention all of the harsh sentences, sometimes including death, for political protest.

Moreover, this is no passive investment. By naming political appointee Al Rumayyan, the company has basically invited the Saudi government into its board room. To my knowledge, no other Silicon Valley startup has a director from the sovereign wealth fund of a repressive political regime.

Too soon?

Redemption story

Chester Arthur’s entire career was based on political patronage. He was named Vice President in a deal with the New York political machine. But once he became President after John Garfield’s assassination, he cleaned up government, replacing patronage with professional civil service and paving the way for the reforms of the 20th Century.

Arthur is one of America’s least remembered Presidents, but he turns out to be one of the most interesting. In his early career, he fought for racial equality, integrating city streetcars nearly a century before Rosa Parks.

The redemption of President Chester A. Arthur – Lillian Cunningham – Presidential podcast – The Washington Post

There are 3 million civil servants who work for the U.S. government today. Many take entrance exams, they have standardized pay scales, they work in the State Department or the Department of Energy or the Department of Homeland Security, regardless of which president or political party is in office.

But this hasn’t always been the case. For the first 100-plus years of the country’s beginning, government jobs were basically handed out as political favors to people who, in many cases, had no qualifications or relevant experience. And it was a system rife with corruption and patronage.

So, how did one of the greatest beneficiaries of this spoils system end up being the president who passed civil service reform?

Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold and Stateline executive editor Scott Greenberger tell the amazing story of Chester Arthur’s personal transformation, from a political hack in the New York Republican party machine of the late 19th century to a president who began cleaning up the corrupt system that helped him rise to the top.


David French, the rumored #NeverTrump true conservative third-party Presidential candidate, is so terrified of being cuckolded that he won’t let his wife contact men by phone or email.

Meet David French, your next president – Rob Beschizza, Boing Boing

Sanders out

Why I think Bernie Sanders will drop out and endorse Hillary Clinton soon –  Matthew Yglesias, Vox

Yglesias doesn’t come right out and say it, but he appears to be predicting that Sanders will lose California next week, and then drop out of the race immediately afterward.

Sanders says he’s in it to the convention. But that’s just what you say as long as you’re an active candidate. You say you’re in it to win it. You have to say that. And you keep saying it right up until the second you concede.

Sanders’ stated strategy is to deny Clinton the supermajority needed to clinch the nomination before the convention, and then win over superdelegates. But those superdelegates are by nature party loyalists. Party loyalists aren’t going to switch to an insurgent candidate, particularly when the mainstream candidate (Clinton) won more votes. Why would party loyalists want to defy the will of the party rank-and-file in those circumstances, says Yglesias.

Interestingly, Yglesias says that Sanders will not only lose voters on the right and center – he’ll lose them on the left. When it becomes apparent that he’s not going to get the nomination, his supporters on the left will switch to the Green Party candidate.

Unclear on the concept of not looking for credit

“I wasn’t looking for the credit,” says the nut who stood at a podium on worldwide TV and announced he was doing the thing he didn’t want credit for.

If you don’t want credit for a thing, you do it anonymously. What a schmuck.

Also: If you say you’ve donated $6 million to charity, it’s perfectly reasonable for others to wish to confirm whether you actually did it. Especially when it turns out you didn’t.

Trump rails against scrutiny over delayed donations to veterans groups – David Fahrenthold and Jose A. DelReal, The Washington Post


A Palestinian teen killed an Israeli mom. Now their families struggle with why. – William Booth and Ruth Eglash, The Washington Post

He just ran into the kitchen and stabbed her for no reason at all other than he wanted to kill an Israeli Jew. The boy had never been to Israel, never set foot in a Jewish settlement, probably hadn’t spoken to more than a few Jews in his entire life.

Killing civilians is wrong, particularly mothers in their own kitchens. It’s wrong to do it to Jews, and it’s wrong to do it to Palestinians. That seems like such a common-sensical thing to say that it shouldn’t even need to be said, but it does.

Stay-put nation

How America Lost Its Nerve – Derek Thompson, The Atlantic

Americans today are strangely averse to change. They are less likely to switch jobs, or move between states, or create new companies than they were 30 years ago.

Increasing housing prices are keeping Americans where they are, and when they do move they move from wealthier areas – where housing is more expensive – to poorer areas, where housing is cheaper. That’s the opposite of the pattern through the 19th and 20th Centuries, when Americans moved to find work and prosperity in wealthier areas.

Moreover, entrepreneurship is concentrating in wealthier areas, widening the wealth gap.



A Renegade Muscles In on Mister Softee’s Turf – Andy Newman and Emily S. Rueb, The New York Times

Mister Softee drivers don’t go to midtown Manhattan for fear of literal, physical violence by drivers for rival New York Ice Cream.

It’s the latest chapter in decades of violence for the New York ice cream truck business.

Mister Softee says he has been muscled out of Midtown.

New York Ice Cream, staffed by drivers who used to cover Midtown Manhattan for Mister Softee, has had the area locked down for at least a year, Mister Softee said. The renegade is enforcing its dominance with threats and intimidation that sometimes get physical.

“If one of my drivers goes to Midtown, they’ll bring their trucks in and surround them — a bunch of guys,” said Peter Bouziotis, who runs the Softee depot in the Bronx, which covers Manhattan. “They’ll start banging on the windows.”

At the corner of 40th Street and Seventh Avenue in Times Square, a New York Ice Cream man in the window of his purple-trimmed white truck was unapologetic.

“From 34th to 60th Street, river to river, that’s ours,” he said on a recent afternoon, moments after handing a chocolate cone to a delighted-looking little boy. The vendor would not allow his name to be published for fear of losing his job.

“You will never see a Mister Softee truck in Midtown,” he continued. “If you do, there will be problems, and you won’t see him there very long.”

Boxing in a Softee truck so the driver cannot do business. Getting up in his face. Grabbing his collar and delivering some unsolicited advice.

“Happens all the time,” the New York Ice Cream man said.


“Let me tell you about this business,” Adam Vega, a thickly muscled, heavily tattooed Mister Softee man who works the upper reaches of the Upper East Side and East Harlem, said on Wednesday. “Every truck has a bat inside.”

And this: