Trucks backed up along the M20 as part of Operation Stack
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
To pass the time, Stoian Georgel was watching the B-movie Operation Rogue on a laptop in the cab of his truck. Once he was done, the Romanian long-haul driver planned to clean the cab’s living space again, browse the internet, and go for a short walk by the side of the M20 motorway—which was closed off to all non-freight traffic—to stretch his legs and chat with other marooned drivers.
Stoian was seven hours through what he estimated would be a 13-hour wait. Behind and in front of him, the same monotonous scene was repeated by thousands of other bored truck drivers, prevented from crossing into Europe because of what’s happening across the Channel in Calais: ferry workers striking over 600 job losses, as well as blocking access to the port by setting fire to tires laid across the road; and migrants trying to cross into the UK by making their way onto the Channel Tunnel.
Over the last week, up to 2,000 people at a time have repeatedly rushed the port’s fences, leaving one Sudanese man dead and a French police officer in the hospital. Ten other migrants have died attempting the journey since June, including a baby.
At its peak, the line—named “Operation Stack”—was 36 miles long and contained 7,000 trucks. All of the vehicles were being held on the motorway because there are only 550 parking spaces for HGVs in Kent, and delays to cross-Channel services mean these spots fill up fast.
To ensure the rest of the county’s roads aren’t blocked by trucks unable to get to France, a section of the M20 is closed to regular traffic, allowing the HGVs to stack up there instead. Though the M20 opened back up to normal traffic on Friday, a couple of days after I visited, Prime Minister David Cameron warned that the crisis would last all summer.
On the motorway last week, the drivers were bearing the delays—which, at their worst, were lasting up to 18 hours—the same way anyone stuck in traffic does: aimlessly. Among the bumper-to-bumper lines, which looked a bit like an attempt to create the world’s biggest freight train, drivers paced, smoked, and talked.
“[The migrants] are a big problem in France. They get inside the trailers and the police do nothing about it. They are already in the EU, but for some reason they want to get here. Maybe the UK government needs to do something,” said 36-year-old Polish driver Robert. “The ferry workers think they can make a change by striking. But setting fire to the roads achieves nothing, and their actions are very bad for all the people. As for me, I am tired and bored.”
Forty-year-old Stoian was more philosophical about the situation. Shrugging his shoulders, he said: “I’m too small to attack anybody. They’re doing what they feel like they need to do, I guess. But my routine is messed around. I am used to driving, resting, and eating in an order. In this queue [line], I have to move when they tell me to move, and I’m thrown out.”
Another Romanian driver, who did not want to be named, said that he was paid per kilometer and that waiting in line for so long was eating into his wages. Adding to the stress of those caught up in the jam were porta-potties that looked like they’d endured two weeks at Glastonbury.
‘Disco Boy’ dancing around in an M20 tunnel
Kent County Council and charities distributed thousands of water bottles and meals, though many long-haul lorry cabs are self-sufficient. The Sun was also handing out pizzas, but the most any driver could really hope for was a motorway services close enough to walk to. Canterbury-local Lee Marshall, a.k.a. “Disco Boy,” did attempt to cheer up the stranded drivers last week, though not with hot food. Dressed in lycra shorts, sunglasses, and a hat, Marshall held a 40-minute mobile disco in an M20 tunnel, fist-pumping to “The Roof Is On Fire” in the way of oncoming traffic.
The mood of Kent’s residents, facing a summer of congestion, also needs improving. Roads have been gridlocked, and there have been disruptions to public transport and refuse collection. Local businesses have also suffered because people were fearful of getting caught up in traffic; an estimated £1.5 million [$2.3 million] per day is wiped off Kent’s economy when Operation Stack is in full swing.
The port of Dover
“The delays are getting more and more frequent,” said 27-year-old dockworker George McMullan. “The lorries are starting to take short cuts through the town now. The traffic is literally imprisoning Dover. You can’t go anywhere. I don’t blame the migrants. If I came from a place that had nothing and there was the chance to come here and prosper, I’d do the same thing.”
George also didn’t blame the strikers, saying he “couldn’t knock them for it—they’re getting their point across, aren’t they?”
He did, however, blame the authorities. “I don’t think the government are making much of an effort to solve the problem in Calais,” he said. “They need to do more to give the French a hand. They can’t just throw money at the situation.”
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In response to the delays, which have occurred on 27 of the past 40 days, the UK government has pledged £7 million [$10.9 million] for higher fences and more sniffer dogs at Calais. There are also plans to cut a £37-a-week living [$58] allowance for family members of failed asylum seekers still in the UK, and to allow fast track evictions of “illegal immigrants” from British properties.
There’s debate as to whether these kick-em-out and keep-em-out policies will actually work. For many, the journey to reach Calais is incredibly dangerous and expensive—so why give up when you’ve already risked so much? Away from Westminster, there are vocal activists shouting about both sides of the argument in public. In Folkestone on Saturday, a solidarity demonstration for migrants was met by a counter-protest from right-wing groups Britain First and the EDL.
This month, Home Secretary Theresa May announced that a secure zone will be set up in Calais to prevent migrants from climbing onto lorries bound for the UK, after 8,000 attempts were made in three weeks. She also pledged to work more closely with French authorities in “returning people to West Africa,” failing to mention that many of the Calais migrants are asylum seekers from war-torn countries, such as Syria and Iraq, where repatriation isn’t possible.
David Cameron said he would “work hand in glove” with the French authorities to deter and prevent what he referred to as a “swarm” of migrants from trying to cross the Channel. Understandably, the comments drew criticism from the bishop of Dover, Rev Trevor Willmott, who said that when “we forget our humanity then we end up in these standoff positions.”
The Swedish justice and migration minister, Morgan Johansson, reacted by declaring that if Britain took its fair share of asylum seekers the problems in Calais would be lessened—a call echoed by the European Commission.
Sweden allows anyone from Syria into the country. Last year it accepted 30,000 claims in total, compared to Britain’s 10,000. According to the UNHCR, last year the UK received just 31,000 asylum claims, whereas Germany had 179,000. This year, German officials expect that number to more than double.
But none of this European altruism seems to have made much of a mark over here. To reiterate the government’s anti-asylum seeker stance, Theresa May wrote a joint article for the Sunday Telegraph with her French counterpart Bernard Cazeneuve over the weekend, announcing that “our streets are not paved with gold.”
The British government is determined to make it as difficult as possible for asylum seekers and other migrants to enter the country, and is not prepared to discuss the possibility of a humanitarian imperative. Until that changes, it seems likely that massive interruptions to the running of Kent’s transport infrastructure will remain a regular feature, as people willing to risk their lives to reach Britain continue their struggle for a way in.
Follow Ryan Fletcher on Twitter.
The Lunada Bay Boys are not your stereotypical LA gang. For one thing, they’re in their 40s and 50s. They’re white. They come from old money. They’re also surfers, and according to the residents of their posh community, they’ve been assaulting outsiders with the tacit approval of the police for decades, keeping tight control over one of the most coveted surf spots in Southern California.
The Bay Boys have been protecting their precious surf break since at least the 60s, by way of intimidation, threats, and even beatings. They’ve have slashed tires, graffitied cars, and thrown rocks at people who tried to visit the beach. In 1995, a schoolteacher who tried to surf the break got his pelvis broken by Bay Boys. In 1996, Bay Boy member Peter McCullom, who was 34 at the time and living on an inheritance, had to settle out of court for $15,000 after an altercation.
The ultra-rich claiming public beach property as their own is not a new thing in Southern California. In Malibu, the homeowners around Malibu’s “Billionaire’s Beach” illegally painted curbs red, erected giant walls in beach pathways, and put up fake tow signs, all to discourage outsiders. (After years of fighting, the community has finally opened up access to the public.) It’s a more passive-aggressive approach than the one taken in Lunada Bay, but the rationale is the same: The moneyed locals believe they deserve private access to beachfront land that legally belongs to the public.
Yes, the “Bay Boys” aren’t exactly the Crips or MS-13—and there’s certainly something deeply silly about rich grown-ups pretending to be Anthony Kiedis in Point Break. But the violence they perpetuate is real. So why aren’t they being treated like any of LA’s other gangs?
The Lunada Bay surf break. Photo by Flickr usertiarescott
In many beach communities, local authorities tend to see localism-minded groups like the Bay Boys as an unfortunate but inevitable element of surf culture. In Lunada Bay’s case, the gang of local “trust fund babies“—as they were called bySurfer Magazine‘s editor Steve Hawk—has the money to settle if things get too hairy. The gang’s members are thoroughly entrenched in the affluent community, and their authority is rarely challenged.
The Palos Verdes Estates Police Department has long been criticized for failing to clamp down on the violent locals, although some officers have acknowledged that the Bay Boys are an organized, oppressive force in the area. In May 2015 an unnamed Palos Verdes police officer told reporters from the Guardian that the Lunada Bay Boys group is “literally is like a gang.”
Being “literally like a gang” would make you think they are, in fact, literally a gang. But what to do about a gang that is literally is like a gang? If only there was some way to address the issue of people committing crimes who tend to congregate in a single area… Oh, wait! There is. It just isn’t applied to gangs like the Bay Boys.
A group of protesters lined up at Lunada Bay in 1995. Photo courtesy of Geoff Hagins
In California, the primary course of action taken to combat gangs is issuing injunctions. These injunctions are sort of like the gang equivalent of a restraining order—they make it a crime for the gang members to congregate in public areas or even associate with one another. Injunctions are controversial, but they have been noted for being effective: A 2011 injunction issued against the Puente 13 and Bassett Grande gangs in the San Gabriel Valley, for example, was credited with a 32-percent drop in gang-related violence and homicides.
A 2010 report from the ACLU noted that there are over 150 gang injunctions currently in effect in California, but that zero of those apply to white gangs despite “documented evidence of their existence.” The Lunada Bay Boys fit into that category.
In an interview on KPCC public radio last month, Palos Verdes Estates Police Chief Jeff Kepley explained that while his department has been aware for years about the Bay Boys problem, they have not made a concerted effort to address the issue as systemic, considering they’ve only received “four complaints in four years,” and have not arrested a member for three years.
Still, Kepley admitted that he is aware that it is a “huge problem” for outsiders who unknowingly show up to surf a public beach only to be pelted with rocks and come back to their car to find it vandalized. He called the whole situation “embarrassing.”
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Geoff Hagins, a local from nearby Torrance who’s been surfing in the area since the early 60s, is all too familiar with the issues plaguing Lunada Bay: He was the person who was assaulted by Bay Boy Peter McCollum in the 90s.
“I first had an incident with those guys in ’69, when I was a freshman in high school,” Hagins told me. “I was friends with a guy from PV [Palos Verdes], and he took me surfing. I had no idea about localism. After we went surfing, they pelted us with rocks for half an hour.”
Hagins said his experience with Lunada Bay came to a head in 1995, when members of the Bay Boys began hassling and threatening his 10-year-old nephew “just for wanting to catch some waves.” He returned to the bay with a news crew in tow and was subsequently assaulted by Bay Boy McCollum, which resulted in the $15,000 settlement.
A newspaper clipping from the Daily Breeze, a newspaper in Torrance, California, circa 1995. Photo courtesy of Geoff Hagins
And Hagins believes the violence will only get worse, unless authorities step in. “They’ve hassled thousands of people over the years, slashing tires, scraping cars with keys, putting wax on windows, breaking off radio antennas,” he said. “Throwing rocks at people. Threatening to kill people by throwing them off the cliffs.”
“I think it’s a bad omen for the future,” Hagins added. “I think whether the Bay Boys throw someone off a cliff, or someone does it to them, there will be a tragedy that could have been avoided if the police had done their job earlier.”
According to Kepley, there are two main problems with issuing an injunction against the Bay Boys. First, he claims the Bay Boys can’t be identified as a singular group (although other reports claim there are only “six to ten” closely related individuals responsible for carrying out the enforcement of Lunada Bay localism). Second, although the Bay Boys throw rocks, yell threats, and assault individuals, Kepley said they’re just not quite violent enough, since “there’s not shooting and stabbings and things that you typically associate with street gangs.”
While many of the California gangs with injunctions are certainly very violent, not all of them have been accused of robbing and killing people, or even of committing violent felonies at all. This kind of violence isn’t requisite for an injunction—the only thing a judge needs is evidence that the people named on the injunction are a “public nuisance.”
In 2012, the eight members of the MTA (Metro Transit Assassins) in LA received a modified gang injunction, although they had not engaged in any violent activity. They weren’t even a gang, but a group of graffiti artists. But after putting up a giant mural on the banks of the LA River protesting the city’s Metro Transit Authority, which had made huge cuts to the regional bus system used predominantly by poor minority communities, while funneling money into a rail system for white-collar commuters, the activist taggers got the gang treatment, and were barred by the city from associating with each other.
In defining why injunctions exist, the LA City Attorney says that “criminal street gangs share one common trait: They lay claim to turf. The gangs take over neighborhoods… threatening outsiders who dare encroach on the turf, and, most importantly, threatening and intimidating the law-abiding residents of the area with their presence.”
If using violence to keep the public from using a public space defines a gang, the Lunada Boys appear to be, by definition, a gang. The beach they guard is public property and anyone should be able to surf there. Especially since, as Hagins lamented, “the Bay Boys aren’t even very good surfers.”
Follow Jacob Harper on Twitter.
A Nitty-Gritty Look at the Machines of Budget Science
An image from the Getaway games series, via PS4home.com
In the past I’ve lamented the death, or at least the falling out of fashion, of World War II games. Compared to the shooters of today, which bear only the slightest resemblance to the real world, when I play WW2 games, especially the early Medal of Honor titles, I get a real sense that I’m being educated, or at that the developers are at least trying to be educational.
Albeit to a lesser extent, I feel the same way about The Getaway, Team Soho’s open-world gangster effort from late 2002. The writing is preposterous rubbish, the kind of Mockney hokum even Guy Ritchie would arraign, and it plays very badly, with enemy cars smashing endlessly into you during the driving sections and sluggish controls turning each shootout into a caracole.
But The Getaway, even if it is in a marginal or tangential sense, has an adherence to real-life that I wish existed in more mainstream video games. The devil’s in the details. The fact that, in The Getaway, I can drive down Barbican tunnel, or walk past a Royal Mail delivery van, or shoot up a warehouse filled with pallets of Foster’s lager, lends even the game’s most ludicrous conceits some gravitas.
I admire the effort, basically. Even 13 years on, when The Getaway‘s digital recreation of W1 London looks more simplistic than ever, I can’t help but be impressed when I round a corner and bump into a location or piece of set dressing that I’m familiar with from reality. Like Medal of Honor’s historical re-telling, The Getaway‘s verisimilar backdrop gives a short, sharp connection to the game and its drama that I think is much harder to achieve – and feels inherently strained – when you’re dealing with pure fantasy.
It’s not a complete success. On the contrary, The Getaway was one of the first games, at least that I can recall, to take this kind of wholesale approach to photographic research, and try to render a 3D city as we would already recognise it. Post The Getaway, there was a lot to learn and finesse about this process – rather than a comprehensive report, this game might have been the start of something, a new discipline in regards to open-world design. So what happened?
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is what happened. Where The Getaway tried to take contemporary crime games, and by extension mainstream video gaming, into a real-world aesthetic, Vice City plundered for inspiration TV shows and movies. Miami Vice, Scarface and the music videos of Steve Barron were visual springboards for Vice City, and it formed a bricolage of other people’s fantasies, a hyper unreality where you recognised everything not from real-life, but from media and entertainment.
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Step outside of Tony Montana’s mansion in Vice City – wearing if you like the bank heist outfit from Heat, or the cop uniform from Cop Land – and you can drive the Ferrari that belonged to Crockett and Tubbs, or a taxi with “Kaufman” written on the side. Your friends are played by Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Lee Majors – you are voiced by Ray Liotta. Vice City is an obliteration room of cultural references, a tribute to mass-market dreams from the past and present.
And it’s wacky. You can run over pedestrians in a golf cart, or don a hockey mask and go tearing around with a chainsaw. You can buzz around Vice City in a helicopter. You can shoot up a shopping mall. You can use a spotlight to project a giant pair of breasts against the side of a building. In the narrow, depressing, video game sense of the word, Vice City is fun. It’s the progenitor for what we now understand as open-world games.
And it absolutely destroyed The Getaway. Despite launching late in October 2002, by NPD estimates Vice City became the best-selling game that year. It remained in the chart throughout 2003, outshining The Getaway even as it launched in two more territories, Japan and North America.
A trailer for American release of ‘The Getaway’
Whatever The Getaway was trying to evince in regards to world design got lost amidst GTA’s monumental success. In the short term, Vice City was the “better” game, bigger, cooler and more competently made, but nowadays it’s The Getaway that feels like the real revolutionary. It took an approach to design that, to this day, belies what I’d expect from open-world games.
The central promise of video games is that they allow you to experience things you can’t do in real-life, at least not from your armchair. And it seems that, in the echo of Grand Theft Auto’s success, open-world designers have conflated that promise with exploration and fantasy – the more a sandbox game lets you do, and the less it ties you to the rules of the real-world, the closer, ostensibly, it adheres to principal gaming ideology.
But that idea is bunkum, because although I am unable to do the things I do in GTA, or Assassin’s Creed, or Saints Row in real-life, I’m also unable to jump in a car and simply cruise around London. I don’t have the money. I don’t have the time. There are dozens of places – real places – that I wish I could visit and just see, but the myriad pressures of adult life prohibit expensive travel.
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And so, after repeatedly playing through the same sandbox paradigm – wackiness, “content”, a location that’s either entirely made up or merely based on reality – the idea of walking around, say, a comprehensively recreated Los Angeles sounds to me a very special and vivid experience, something which I can’t readily do in real-life and that only video games can provide. I’m sure there are simulators for this kind of thing, dry technology showcases for virtual reality or haptic feedback, but those don’t fulfil the other half of this wish: for games, specifically games, to aspire towards education, for them to teach me the physical and social geography not of a close approximation of a city, but a city itself.
The Getaway, quite often a bad game, and itself sadly bound to the idea that open worlds should be playgrounds for driving and shooting, is not a wholesale rebuttal to the kinds of sandbox games that exist today, but it could have been – should have been – the nexus point for a different strain of open-world design. Its defeat to Grand Theft Auto highlights how narrow the idea of a special experience is in video games, how made-up worlds are considered more vibrant than real ones, how fiction is considered more interesting than fact, how fantasy – childishly, tragically – is preferred to reality.
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The Irving press is not an all unusual in our news world. It lies, it propagandizes, and it’s so obvious you wonder how they get away with it. “ISIS cuts off head”s. Big story. U.S. invades Iraq, kills well over a million, destroys economy, Bush lies about reason for war (there was no legal reason), U.S. uses chemical weapons, depleted uranium shells that go on killing decades after the war…but precious little of this stirs any interest in our news media. Ditto with Canada sending troops to Afghanistan. Why? Nobody asks and nobody tells. Canada has aircraft (Read more…)
When Brits began posting pictures of pink pigeons to social media, the mystery took flight.
Had the rare Columba mayeri, a pink pigeon unique to the small Indian Ocean island Mauritius that belongs to the same family as the dodo and narrowly avoided extinction itself in the 1990s, suddenly migrated to Britain?
Finally, it seems the riddle has been solved, and the conundrum was in fact much ado about nothing.
The baffling birds appear to be the work of one pigeon keeper in Bristol, who dyed the pigeons pink to protect them from predatorsaccording to the area’s local newspaper.
The Bristol Post cites cash-and-carry worker Sher Singh, 39, as the man responsible.
“I put the colour on because the Falcons will get confused,” he told the paper. “He will see the colours but won’t see the pink so well. I didn’t know if the colour for the pigeons was bad. I won’t colour them again . . . I’m sorry for colouring them, it was a mistake.”
Unfortunately, local experts in Ontario, where falcons have been thriving recently, say the man’s logic is flawed on most counts.
The pink dye would not ward off predators, and it may ostracize the birds among their fellow pigeons, according to Marion Nash, 54, vice-president of The Canadian Peregrine Foundation.
“I don’t see how that could possibly work, it’s nonsense,” she said. “Falcons eat all different kinds of coloured birds. They eat red cardinals, so why would they ignore pink birds?”
Nash doesn’t think the dye would necessarily hurt the birds because the feathers are similar to human hair and will moult quickly.
Her organization has even employed a similar practice, albeit for different reasons. The Peregrine Foundation will dye young falcons’ tail feathers to distinguish and protect them when they are learning to fly.
Where it could have an effect is in the pigeons’ relationship with its own kind.
“Pigeons will avoid others if they see them acting strange or sick,” she said. “They’ll wonder what’s wrong and might attack or avoid them.
“It could make the birds more of a target than before, from fellow pigeons or other animals. It could possibly stand out more because of the pink dye and be more of a disadvantage than an advantage.”
By using dye, the Bristol bird lover might have made it more likely his pigeons will die.
To most ears, there’s nothing wrong with Afra Boissevain’s voice.
A trained singer who enjoyed performing in plays at university, Boissevain speaks in a melodic alto register, her vowels rounded and consonants crisp from years of study.
It’s actually quite nice sounding, something she’s been told throughout her childhood. But there’s one thing “off” about it, at least according to some academics and cultural critics — she uses vocal fry.
Vocal fry is a vocal style marked by a low, slightly creaky sound, often at the end of sentences. Popularized by mostly female celebrities like Zooey Deschanel and Kim Kardashian, and much maligned by the popular press, it’s a pattern of speech that can be found everywhere from the boardroom to the classroom.
But while the speech style is criticized for making grown women sounding ‘ditzy’, many women say they use it say it because it sounds more authoritative because it’s striving to be pleasant and womanly.
“No, I’m giving it to you flat and low, I’m not doing anything with my voice to make you feel comfortable,” Boissevain said.
Boissevain, who’s studying for her Masters degree in women’s studies at the University of Toronto, said that when she first started university, she made an effort to speak as clearly and naturally as she could. But when she dropped her voice to a lower register, she found that people actually paid more attention.
“I was actually being taken seriously,” she said. “I definitely noticed a difference in how people listened to me.”
Not everyone hears vocal fry this way. Often lumped in with other “girly” ways of talking, such as uptalk and babytalk, vocal fry has been accused of being the vocal scourge of working women everywhere.
In her column for The Guardian, Naomi Wolf, an acclaimed feminist and public speaker, argues that women who use vocal fry are undermining themselves and their careers by dumbing down their own voices.
“‘Vocal fry’ has joined more traditional young-women voice mannerisms such as run-ons, breathiness and the dreaded question marks in sentences (known by linguists as uptalk) to undermine these women’s authority in newly distinctive ways,” Wolf wrote.
That column sparked a firestorm of criticism, with many criticizing Wolf, who rose to fame for criticizing how the beauty industry tried to control women’s bodies, for betraying her feminist roots.
Speaking on CBC’s The Current, Wolf defended her column against the backlash, although she said she did not come up with the title, “Young women give up the vocal fry and reclaim your strong female voice.”
“I would never tell young women how to speak,” she told the CBC. “When young women are using this combination of vocal fry, uptalk and indeterminacy, they just don’t get respect.”
But linguistically, vocal fry is the polar opposite of these other girly tropes, argues Deborah Cameron, who teaches language and gender at Oxford University in England.
While uptalk raises the pitch of the voice at the end of a sentence, vocal fry produces a guttural growl. While baby talk is uttered in a breathy whisper, vocal fry is spat out.
“But because women do it, they [the listener] immediately project onto it,” Cameron told the Star. “Young women are girly and unconfident, so that’s what any way that they speak must mean.”
Cameron, who wrote a well-read rebuttal to Wolf’s column on her blog, says she thinks feminists like Wolf critique other women’s voices because they hope that sexism can be “fixed.” If you just speak the right way, or dress the right way, or weigh the right amount, society will take you more seriously.
But far from fixing sexism at the work place, Cameron argues that policing women’s voices reinforces the idea that when in public, women should keep their mouths shut.
“People are finding reasons to justify what is really a prejudice against having women’s voices heard and taken seriously,” Cameron said.
While it is mostly women who are accused of using this speech style, Cameron says it’s been used for a long time by upper-class British men. Ira Glass, the host of This American Life, has also admitted he uses it and that no one has ever complained. Cameron said we just don’t notice it, because we don’t question how men present themselves.
“What men do isn’t a problem, this is how you can tell that the prejudice isn’t really against the speech, it’s against the speaker,” Cameron said.
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Quel suprise! The Harper Cons have announced another tax credit, this time for home renovations:
The tax credit would apply to renovation costs between $1,000 and $5,000, allowing a taxpayer to get back up to $750 a year.“The home renovation tax credit helps every homeowner regardless of income,” said Harper
Yeah sure, except that people making lower salaries don’t usually have even a thousand dollars to spend upgrading their houses, and don’t benefit much from the plethora of Harper Con tax credits anyway. But bribing us with our own money is a Harper Con tradition.
Hat Tip to (Read more…)
MONTREAL—New Democrat Leader Thomas Mulcair said raising the corporate tax rate would serve the public interest because it would allow the federal government to pay for expensive programs like universal child care.
“What we are saying is this: that we have lowered (the corporate tax rate) so much, to the tune of about $50 billion, that we have removed the capacity of the state to do a lot of the things that we want to do in the interest of the public,” Mulcair said Tuesday morning at a campaign event at a park on Mount Royal in Montreal.
“So, when we talk about quality child care at maximum $15 a day — 1 million places across Canada — part of that money is going to come from a slight and graduated increase in the tax rate for Canada’s largest corporations,” said Mulcair.
The NDP has long been known as a party that calls for the creation of large-scale national programs — they were the ones who pushed for universal health care, after all — but with that always come questions as to how they plan to pay for it.
The party has pledged not to raise personal income taxes, beyond cancelling the income-splitting for two-parent households brought in by the Conservatives this year, and has promised to keep the expanded Universal Child Care Benefit as well.
It has also committed to lowering the tax rate for small businesses — one percentage point at a time — to nine per cent from the current rate of 11 per cent.
That leaves going after larger corporations, which also has the benefit of being more populist in its appeal to voters who would traditionally be more interested in supporting the NDP.
The Conservative government lowered the corporate tax rate to 12 per cent in 2012.
They had previously lowered it to 18 per cent in 2010 and 21 per cent in 2006.
Mulcair has not yet announced the rate he would like to see, but has dropped many hints.
He has said it would be lower than the U.S. combined rate and on Tuesday added it would be “far below the average that the Conservatives had for the 10 years they’ve been in power” and “well below anything the Liberals have ever had.”
In June, Mulcair said in an interview with on CBC Radio that he would raise it to 18 or 19 per cent.
That interview also drew sharp criticism when he provided an incorrect number when asked about the current rate.
Tuesday, Mulcair was vague when asked what he would do to attract foreign investment to Canada while also raising the corporate tax rate.
Mulcair focused his answer on foreign trade agreements, an issue on which the NDP has evolved since its knee-jerk opposition to them.
“We’ve been enthusiastically in favour of trade deals that were fair and that were on an even playing field,” said Mulcair, noting his party’s support for trade agreements with South Korea and Jordan.
At the same time, Mulcair said he would be “prudent,” such as when his party decided not to take a position on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union (CETA) before seeing the full text and expressed concerns over the investor-state dispute resolution.
He also reiterated his concerns over the Trans-Pacific Partnership and expressed concern that during an election campaign, Harper would be more likely to acquiesce to provisions that would undermine the supply management system that protects egg, dairy and poultry farmers in Canada from foreign competitors “What is going to be on the table with Mr. Harper negotiating right in the middle of an election campaign? He’s vulnerable,” said Mulcair.
Ruth Garnett, Reverend Ken McKoy, Reverend Cornelius Brown, and Dr. Reynaldo Anderson in North St. Louis. Photo by the author
St. Louis is one of the most dangerous cities in the United States. In the spring of 2013, the so-called North City—where much of the killing takes place—had two neighborhoods on the list of the “25
Most Dangerous”in the country. This part of St. Louis has been called one of the worst ghettos in America, where drugs, poverty, and violence
reign supreme, and brutality, narcotics, and gangs are a way of life.
Unfortunately, the area has been making headlines again this summer with the murder rate reportedly on the rise. St. Louis may not have the same urgent grip on the cultural imagination as nearby Ferguson—the old stomping ground of former cop Darren Wilson and late teenager Michael Brown—but it’s in a bad way. While local politicians and city officials bemoan the the effects
of the drug trade, law enforcement is
busy implementing various anticrime methods to stop the flow of heroin. Last month, a local man perched himself atop a billboard in protest, vowing not to
come down until the city went a whole week without a murder (he finally
came down on Sunday, even though the gap in killings was a few hours short of seven days). But despite all the discussion, posturing, and police tactics, the violence continues.
Enter Reverend Ken McKoy of the Progressive African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church, who three months ago started organizing
walks down the Hodiamont streetcar tracks that cut through the middle of North City. No longer occupied by street cars, the tracks now serve as the main strip where addicts, drug dealers, and gang bangers
congregate—and where some of them die when disputes turn violent.
“I did a funeral for a
17-year-old whom I had baptized when he was 14,” Reverend McKoy told me.
“He got caught up in some kind of little drug thing, he was beaten to
death, rolled up in a rug, doused in bleach and thrown into a ravine. I
remember how absolutely, I mean, I felt like a complete failure. He had called
me and asked me to help him get a job, and I don’t think I looked as hard as I
should have, because at the time, I swear, I didn’t know he was caught up like
that. I don’t think I worked hard enough. I should have done more. And at that
point I decided I needed to do something, but what that something was I didn’t
McKoy—whose own son is a Crip who was hit in the leg during a shooting—now journeys through the most
dangerous neighborhoods in the city on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights
from 10:30 PM to 2 AM. As he told me, “That’s when all the action occurs—it’s a different world out there
On Friday night, I drove down to North City and met the Reverend at
the Burger King on Kingshighway and Delmar to see for myself. We were joined by three of his
colleagues and set out on the walk down the Hodiamont tracks, armed with only
matching yellow reflective vests as we started the sojourn into the night.
I didn’t really know what to expect, though I recently lived in Dismas House—a halfway house just a couple of blocks away—when I first came home from prison. Still, it’s one thing to pass through an area in a car and another to walk with the Reverend and his partners.
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“I wanted to feel like I was
doing something more then just going and listening to a sermon and giving
somebody some money,” Dr. Reynaldo Anderson, a professor of communications
at the city’s Harris-Stowe State University, told me as we got on our way.
“I just wanted to get out and walk around and meet people at night
[because] that is when all the stuff as going on.I don’t have to rely on the news to tell me what is going
on in this neighborhood because I was here.”
Anderson believes in getting his
research in the field—not
something many academics are inclined to do when the “field” is north
St. Louis. We walked up Kingshighway, which is the main thoroughfare, and turned
onto the Hodiamont tracks. Immediately after we walked past the barriers that
blocks cars from the street, we were surrounded by a group of locals—older
men, a couple of women, and a few younger guys. Reverend McKoy engaged them promptly.
you all doing?” he
asked. “I’m looking for my friend Mario. Have
you all seen him?”
A few of
the gentlemen were friendly and shook hands with the Reverend and the others. A
few even shook my hand, but I noticed a lot of the younger guys dispersed
quickly. One older black man, who was clearly intoxicated, told the group, “Don’t tell him nothing,” referring to McKoy. He turned to the Reverend and said, “You can’t come around here asking for people.”
To his credit, Reverend McKoy just
my friend. I haven’t seen
him. If you all see him, tell him I’m looking for him,” he replied. We walked on down the track, the night becoming more complete as dilapidated houses towered over us ominously.
Ruth Garnett, an activist and writer
on the African American experience, was with us on patrol. As the only woman
in the group that night, she had her own reasons for walking the tracks. “We are hoping to engage the young people, and if they want to turn around
what they are doing, we can give them hope. It’s about providing them a sense
of identity that doesn’t
culminate with self destruction,” Garnett told me. “It’s a mental
been this way for three decades or more, and the suicide rate and the despair
and the drug cocktails that fuel this irrational behavior are basically coping
mechanisms that are really deadly.”
Still, I felt quite secure on the
walk. The Reverend McKoy emanates a sense of confidence and warmth that seemed to infect those around us. We were
accompanied by another reverend, Cornelius Brown, and together they went out of
their way to engage the street walkers, addicts, drug dealers, alcoholics, gang
bangers, and derelicts of the night. This isn’t something I’d have been up for by myself, but
in their presence, I felt pretty comfortable in the hoods of North City.
Of course, some don’t receive the peaceful message too kindly. One group of three men we encountered were drinking beers and a whiff of pot smoke lingered in the air. The reverends engaged them. One was open
to talk, one seemed nonchalant, but the third was a bit hostile, telling our group, “You need to move on… We’re not
trying to hear it.”
the Reverend smiled and kept it moving. He wasn’t there to argue or even to
encourage an end to the violence and help those looking for another way of
life. We had a bunch of encounters, and the two reverends handled all the
conversations with tremendous care and delicacy, even with those who were
clearly out of their minds on drugs. But I was surprised how receptive a lot of
the people were to their message.
We didn’t witness anything too crazy that night, but Reverend Brown described some of the stickier situations he and McKoy had faced in the past.
“There was this one your man
pacing back and forth, he was so geared up he wanted to kill someone,”
Reverend Brown said. “He kept raising up his shirt to show his gun, and
Reverend McKoy grabbed him and said, ‘Nah man. I don’t want to lose you like
that.’ We continued to talk to him and convinced him to go home.” It seems
the denizens of the block just want to know that someone cares, and Reverend
McKoy and his group offer that sense of community.
“I made up my mind this is what
I need to do,” McKoy explained. “Going out at night on a regular
basis, just engaging and challenging people—I decided I need to get out in the streets and do
this… Missouri has a real problem, not only when you talk about racial
profiling and police brutality and militarization and all that stuff, but St.
Louis has real problem when you talk about fratricide and social
This night’s watch holds no illusions
about the community of young gang-bangers and drug addicts they’re trying to
enormity of the challenge.
“We know exactly who is doing
the killing,” McKoy told me. “A lot of these dudes are on
prescription stuff—percocets… That’s
what a lot of the spontaneous crime is about. It’s not necessarily something
they sit down and plan. It’s very spontaneous: They kill each other over that
kind of stuff because they’re tripping on those drugs.
“We have a major gang
problem,” he continues. “We have a lot of gang activity here, and you
mix that with drugs, you combine that with very very few economic
opportunities, failing public schools, the whole nine yards and it is a
cocktail for disaster.”
McKoy was a bit spooked
the first night he went out on this patrol.
“Before I brought anybody out, I
walked this whole track by myself to get a feel for it, to walk the whole area—Fountain Park, Wells Place, Lewis
dangerous areas where people can’t come outside because they are shooting so
much,” McKoy said. “The first night was very intense.
There was like 15 to 20 addicts walking the track. It was like something out of
the Living Dead
them walking out of the mist. I was a little nervous.”
As the murder rate in North City
continues to draw headlines, one man with a small group of allies is out in the
thick of it. McKoy has vowed to keep going out every Thursday, Friday, and
Saturday night at a time when many of the people out on the street are up to no
good. The only question is whether the powers that be will match his urgency
and deliver the resources St. Louis so desperately needs to break this
cycle of violence.
Law school was supposed to be Erika Stallings’ path to
financial stability. The first in her family to attend college, Stallings
earned a full ride to the University of North Carolina, and then chose to
attend Georgetown Law because the school offered her a partial scholarship. But
she graduated with $115,000 in student loans anyway, and today, the $1,000
monthly loan payment eats up a big chunk of her paycheck. So despite her white-collar
job and fancy diplomas, she remains in a
state of financial precariousness.
“I’m probably as well-off as someone age 30 can be,” Stallings
said in an interview. “But even I feel the panic of knowing if I lost my job
today, because I’ve been trying to pay off as much debt as possible, I don’t
have the Suze Orman emergency fund. If I were unemployed for a while, trying to
keep up with these $1,000 a month payments would be terrifying.”
Of course, Stallings situation is not unique. Across the
United States, women like Stallings are
staring down piles of student debt—bigger piles, in fact, than the ones facing
their former male classmates. They’re also making less money with which to pay
off that debt. The combination is making women poorer, more dependent, and
setting them up for a more tenuous retirement. And it’s creating a systematic
gender wealth gap that persists for women’s entire lives.
“I don’t have a familial safety net,” Stallings said. “If I
didn’t have this student loan debt, I could start building my own safety net.
There would be more money for me to send home. I could switch careers. Last
year I had major surgery—adding those bills onto the student loan debt is
With more women attending college and graduate school than
ever before, it naturally follows that more women are also racking up student debt.
more likely to take out student loans than men, in an economy where college
costs significantly more than it did a generation ago. While it’s a significant
feminist achievement that women now account for 57 percent of graduates earning
bachelor’s degrees, those women are more likely than their male peers to start
their careers in a financial hole:
68 percent of those
female graduates are leaving school with some amount of student loan debt,
compared to 63 percent of men.
More on the Student Debt Crisis:
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These Debt Strikers Are Refusing to Pay Their Student Loans
That happens for a few reasons. Women make up 62 percent
of students at private and often pricey four-year institutions, where tuition
costs are often in five-figure range; there are also a million more women than
men in community colleges, which are more affordable, but have high drop-out
rates – just
one in five first-time full-time community college students graduates in five
years, leaving the ones who don’t with limited job prospects and accumulated
Women also make up a larger number of first-generation college students than men, and students who are the first in their family to go
to school are
more likely to come from low-income families, more likely to take out loans, and more likely to drop out before completing a degree than students
who have a parent with a bachelor’s degree. Female college students are also more
likely than men to be from poor families, whether they’re first-generation
students or not, and that financial disadvantage requires them to borrow more.
Once they graduate—if they graduate—women
make less money than men
, and so spend a greater proportion of their
salaries to pay off their loans. So while their male peers have more money to
play with – to put into a 401k, to invest, to save for a home, to put in an
emergency fund, to use as a cushion when they take a big career risk – women
throw much of their income down a student debt hole that often stretches on for
The Business of Life: Why Is College So Expensive?
But while Democratic politicians have called attention to
the gender pay gap, and proposed legislation to close it, there has been less
of an emphasis on how student loans help turn the pay gap into life-long gender
A 2013 study
by the American Association of University Women found that women who graduated
in college in 2008 saw an immediate gap in their earnings compared to their
male classmates: One year out of college, women working full-time made just 82
percent of what men who graduated the same year made.
Some of that gap can be accounted for by factors like the
number of hours worked, the kinds of occupations women tend to work in, and
employment sector. But even when all else is equal, women still make 7 percent
less than men one year out of college.
“Because women earn less, paying back their student loans is
effectively more difficult for them because a higher proportion of their
earnings is devoted to the student loan payment,” said Catherine Hill, AAUW’s
vice president of research and one of the study’s authors. “Because of the pay
gap, the student debt is taking out a bigger chunk of their smaller paychecks,
leaving them with less money to live on.”
There is some degree of “choice” involved in the pay gap – insofar as women
funneled into certain careers and men into others is a “choice.” More women
major in the humanities than in fields like business, engineering and the
sciences, which usually lead to better-paying jobs after graduation. Within employment sectors, men gravitate toward
high-paying specialties, while women may focus on areas that are more fulfilling
or more flexible, but less remunerative.
But even when researchers account for those factors, women
still make less than men when in the first year of their careers, even when
doing the exact same jobs—a trend that persists throughout their careers. Gender
discrimination, intentional or not, seems to be the only explanation.
Almost no industry is immune. In business and management
jobs, women a year out of college make 86 cents to their male peers’ dollar. If they work in sales, it’s 77 cents. Among
nurses, a field dominated by women, the handful of men in the industry
make much more over the course of their careers—an average of $5,100 every year.
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This financial burden can impact every major decision
a woman makes for the rest of life—from her career to her marriage to her
children to caring for her aging parents to her retirement. Research shows that
women who have student loans are
less likely to marry—and the more in debt they are, the more their marriage
prospects decrease—while the same doesn’t hold true for men.
According to the female-focused financial site LearnVest,
nearly half of in-debt college graduates delayed buying a home because of their
student loans, and nearly a quarter postponed having kids.
“You think about the expense of kids and it’s like, how
would I ever take that on and maintain the loan payments? It gives me pause,”
Stallings, the first-generation college student, said. She added that while she
wants to be able to plan for children, the weight of her debt makes that
“I have a BRCA II mutation, so one consequence of that is
I’m probably going to have my ovaries taken out when I’m 38,” Stallings said.
“If I had the money right now I would get my eggs frozen, but trying to find
another $15,000 to do that is not easy.”
“Then saving for an
emergency fund,” she said, describing her financial priorities. “Then a house
or an apartment, not necessarily for myself — I’ve thought of buying my mom
property in North Carolina because it’s cheaper, and that would stabilize her
And unlike lots of women, Stallings has a well-paying job
that allows her to make her monthly payments in full. For the many women who
default or miss payments on their student loans, the hit to their credit scores can
compromise their ability to buy a car or a house or even rent an apartment for
years to come. For women with car payments or mortgages, piled-on student debt
forces some hard choices.
When women spend higher proportions of their income on
student debt—and 47 percent spend more than the recommended 8 percent, compared
to just 39 percent of men—they’re less able to make the kind of investments
that build long-term wealth. There’s less money to put into a 401k, to put
toward emergency savings, to buy a home. And after a lifetime of shoveling
money toward student loans, and getting paid less than their male counterparts,
women entering retirement could be looking at years of financial stability, even
“I joke all the time that I’ll pay off my house before I pay
off my student loans,” Suzanne Meyer, a 43-year-old high school English teacher
in North Carolina, told me. “I’m going to be 87 years old in a nursing home and
still paying off my student loans. That’s my reality.”
Meyer took out about $30,000 in loans to go to graduate
school and get her teaching license. After consolidating, deferring, and
missing payments, she now owes nearly $60,000.
“I pay my mortgage first, and we
need electricity and food, so the student loans are always last to get paid,
and a lot of times that means they don’t get paid at all,” she said. “Which
sounds awful, and it’s doing horrible things to my credit, but the reality is
they aren’t going to come take my licensure because I didn’t pay my bill.”
The $5,000 she’s hoping to get from the federal loan
forgiveness program will make a dent, Meyer said, but not a big enough one. She
would like to see the government consider more innovative ways people with student
loan debt could repay it—for example, by volunteering or tutoring in a state or
federal educational program.
“It’s unrealistic to say I want the whole loan to go away,”
Meyer said. “I did borrow the money. But I can give back in other ways that
the government needs. It’s a government loan and the government needs certain
things – there are programs out there that need assistance and I would be capable
of doing that. Let me pay it back in a different way.”
While she’s not making enough money to pay back her own
student loans, Meyer has another one looming in the near future.
“I have a kid in high school. I don’t have a college fund
for her,” she said. “I’m looking at the other side of student loans now for
my child, and that scares me.”
Follow Jill Filipovic on Twitter.
The most interesting thing about Black Hat 2015 keynote speaker Jennifer Granick isn’t her gender — though she appears against a backdrop of historically male keynotes. It’s that Granick is director of civil liberties at the Stanford Center for In…
Image via Flickr user Televisione Streaming
More on True Detective:
Warning: light spoilers ahead.
The main thing that people seem to remember from the first season of True Detective is the aphorism “Time is a flat circle.” This line, delivered by Matthew ‘s wizened Rust Cohle in a Louisiana interrogation room, essentially posits that in the context of the greater universe, everything that will ever happen to us has already happened, and we’re just perceiving it in a linear fashion. In real life, this idea is useless to us. Regardless of the alinearity of time, we perceive it as moving in one direction.
In storytelling, however, the reminder that we as viewers perceive stories in the way they’re presented to us is of paramount importance. When you read a book, the story is only going to turn out one way, and that’s the way that the author has determined the story will go.
However, you can jump to any point in the book, and experience the story’s events in any order you’d like. Scenes such as this one, in which Cohle almost seems to be aware that he’s a character with a pre-determined arc and he’s about to put the kibosh on the entire show and start yelling at showrunner Nic Pizzolatto to let him out of his cage, are why the first season of True Detective was such a brilliant deconstruction of the standard-issue cop procedural. Rust might have not been able to control his case, but you got the sense that that didn’t matter to him: Why care about the case when you’ve got an intimate understanding of the fabric of the universe in which you reside?
If I had to guess, this was a ploy on the showrunner Pizzolatto’s part to establish his characters as complex, tortured souls with deep-seated motivations that would inevitably drive them towards some sort of dynamic resolution. However, as True Detective‘s second season wears on, very little is actually accomplished in solving the actual mystery. By episode six, we found out that Ben Caspere, a powerful city official, was killed because he was involved with a West Coast Illuminati sex-party ring, and that the entire fictional town of Vinci was creepy and corrupt. All this stuff, or at least a very general version of it, seems inevitable to pretty much anybody who’s watched True Detective, participated in cultural conversations surrounding True Detective, or even heard the words true and detective in close proximity to one another.
A good murder mystery essentially asks the question, ‘What happens when someone is forcibly removed from society, and what about this society mandated that this person had to be removed from it?’
This season’s central mystery more or less falls in line with both the show’s first season, as well as The Killing, an AMC show whose first season Pizzolatto helped write and is one of TD‘s spiritual forebears. That season involved a murder that served as a MacGuffin for exploring all of the crazy shit going on in its home city, including high-class prostitutes, crooked city officials, and a general sense the evil had infected an entire municipality. That show featured two detectives—one, Joel Kinnaman’s Stephen Holder, was particularly True: a weird, philosophical recovering meth addict who smoked pot with teens and was probably in love with his partner Sarah. He was the show’s proto-Rust Cohle, a fundamentally good person who seemed crushed by his horrible understanding of the nature of man.
This season’s basic plot also contains slivers of Alan Moore’s From Hell, in which a bunch of Freemasons get together to kill a group of prostitutes who possibly might have squealed on a member of the royal family for frequenting a fancy prostitute house vis-à-vis one of them having his kid. From Hell‘s central character John Gull, in addition to being generally creepy and terrifying, has a Rustian sense of temporality—whenever he commits a murder, he disassociates and suddenly understands that he’s simply moving through time as he perceives it, and that the totality of human history has already happened.
While it’s a weird bit of clarity for an Illuminati-sanctioned killer of women to have, it goes a long way in terms of plainly laying out the fact that in lots and lots of murder mysteries, the actual murder isn’t all that interesting. Instead, it’s the stuff swirling around the murder that’s often so fascinating—a good murder mystery essentially asks the question, “What happens when someone is forcibly removed from society, and what about this society mandated that this person had to be removed from it?” Some people benefit from it, some get screwed over. Some people aren’t affected at all.
This, the idea that the “what” of a story is less important than the greater “why’s” surrounding it, remains True Detective‘s guiding theme. Which is fortunate, because as the show’s second season has unfolded, it’s become both increasingly harder to follow along with the show’s actual plot, as well as sort of boring. Until last week’s episode, the season’s sixth, TD had settled into something of a holding pattern, involving tense conversations between characters, vaguely ominous shots of Los Angeles’s labyrinthine highway system, and the occasional image of some sort of fruit tree just to really hammer home the fact that this is a California Noir we’re dealing with here, punctuated by bursts of brutal, delicious violence.
Related: The Real ‘True Detective’
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While viewers were waiting for the show to progress in the “solving the mystery” department, lots of fun, horrible stuff happened in the personal lives of the show’s principles. Vince Vaughn’s Frank Semyon was slowly dragged back into the role of “generic underworld guy” after he found out the dead rich guy stole his money. Rachel McAdams’s Ani Bezzerides got flagged for sexual harassment in the workplace. Colin Farrell’s Ray Velcoro lost his kid, his career, and his mustache. Taylor Kitsch’s Paul Woodrugh got his girlfriend pregnant, but also had sex with one of his old military buddies, who was a man. Meanwhile, these True Detectives (plus Vaughn, who is definitely True, and despite being a criminal, is trying to solve the mystery) hadn’t really made much headway in the whole “solving the mystery” thing. It turns out that in addition to being sad, helpless people rendered semi-shitty by the brutal world around them, none of them are particularly great at solving crimes.
In the past two episodes of the show, however, all of the show’s painful, semi-boring exposition has finally started to pay off. Vaughn, who at first felt like a black hole of suck from which nothing of quality could ever escape, is a lot more interesting now that he’s regularly acting like a murderous psychopath, breaking glasses over people’s faces and burning buildings down by spilling liquor everywhere and then setting stuff on fire. It turns out that Vaughn’s total blankness throughout the entire season was serving the greater purpose of establishing that Frank Semyon was at his heart, a guy who was really adept at management, and he just so happened to have ended up being the manager of a criminal organization. It’s chilling to watch what he’s willing to do, simply as an extension of his devotion to his self-perceived station in life.
Bob Hope, the original True Detective. Image via Flickr user Patricia M
Meanwhile, now that the show’s spent a few hours punching Ray Velcoro in the metaphorical dick, it’s a lot easier to understand why he acts how he does. If he plays the character as a mumbler, it’s because Ray’s life seems to be nothing more than a series of perpetual rock-bottoms. Much like Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Mad Max, Ray’s been so shell-shocked by life that he seems almost confused at the sound of his own voice. What once seemed goofy and superfluous now seems essential to his character. He’s emerged as something of a mentor to Ani and Paul, and through the power of teamwork, the trio’s finally gotten a big scoop! Ani went undercover as a prostitute at a weird drug-and-sex party while Paul broke into said weird drug-and-sex party and stole some documents from a desk. Not to be outdone, Ani stabbed some guy a bazillion times and then rescued one of the prostitutes, whose information promises to blow the case wide open. Except, well, she doesn’t want to testify. And now all the powerful people who were at the party are mad because Ani killed some generic tycoon. At this point, the True Detectives have ensconced themselves in a cabin somewhere while they try to figure out exactly what the hell is going on. But, in perhaps the billionth plot twist in the episode, Paul gets drawn back into the arms of the Blackwater-esque security organization he used to work for, who have since changed their name and started working solely for the organization that throws the weird orgies. Also, a bunch of diamonds appear to have suddenly started to play some sort of significant role.
I don’t want to spoil the episode’s ending if you haven’t seen it, but let’s just say that in the world of True Detective, life is hard, and if you want to survive you’ve got to smoke the cigarette of life down to the filter of mortality. And once the filter of mortality is bare, bare like the ass of a baby when it’s born into the cold and unloving shit factory we call life, you smoke the filter of mortality down to nothingness. Which is to say that in the last ten minutes of this season’s penultimate episode, every True Detective either fucks, dies, or kills someone in a dramatic and spectacular fashion.
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As the show’s final hovers over us like a gray cloud that happens to rain extraneous plot details, True Detective has left us with more questions than it can possibly answer. Who killed Ben Caspere? What the hell’s going on with the diamonds? Why did Ray shave his mustache? Who was the Rasputin-looking guy from Ani’s childhood? Who was that guy wearing the bird mask back in episode two, and why? Are humans inherently evil, or has, through the fault of no one in particular, society morphed into a construct that makes us evil? And wouldn’t spraying liquid MDMA into your mouth get you less high than if you just did it the normal way?
It might be that I’m actually a bad viewer and these questions have already been answered, and it’s very possible that Nic Pizzolatto has a four-hour season finale that will answer all these questions and more, and tie the whole show up with a nice bow. Or, and this is what seems most likely to me, it might be that many of these questions were never meant to be answered. The actual mystery of the show is why these four characters, once they’ve had every last sad and intimate detail of their private lives laid bare to us, have acted the way they did throughout the entire season. We know how True Detective will end: The case will be solved in some form or another. But it’s the people in the show’s universe, slowly getting hip to the fact that they’re being manipulated by forces larger than themselves, who serve as True Detective‘s ultimate mystery.
True Detective airs Sunday nights at 9 PM on HBO.
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The summer may have ended somewhat prematurely, but the mixtape mania has not. This month I welcome a new name to my illustrious team of compilers, one Florian Grill, head of the excellent Dying Victims Productions label, and author of the biblically-sized annual zine, Thrash Attack.
We’ve been corresponding rather sporadically since meeting a few years back, but I always keep an eye on the stuff his label puts out, as he’s always championing two things I love: forgotten 80s bands and new bands that raise the spirits of the ancient metal gods. So I asked him to compile some of his best stuff from this year and some forgotten gems. He did about the best job he could have done, showing some bands I hadn’t even heard of.
Over to Florian:
Having played some of my material previously on the Midnite Madness radio show, Dylan suggested I should put together a small mixtape with some material from Dying Victims Productions. I chose the more recent releases, which came out in the last three to four months, but I also included a second lot of tracks. Basically, it’s a mixture of killer bands from East Germany who have released—or are on the edge releasing—their debut albums, with the other half being American bands that never made it over the demo stage in the 80s, but easily tear apart many properly recorded albums. Enjoy!
Recent releases on DVP:
1. Deathstorm – “Massgrave”
2. Bastardizer – “Demons Unleashed”
3. Poseidon – “Beyond the Seven Gates Of Hell”
4. Dresden – “Sound Of Silence”
5. Vigilance – “Tower of Black Sorcery”
6. Throaat – “Evil Dead”
7. Sanctifying Ritual – “Carved in Rotten Remains”
8. Satan’s Cross – “Sumerian Night”
9. Witch Blade – “Ljusets Apostel”
10. Mion’s Hill – “Eaten Alive”
New bands from East Germany and old overlooked demo stuff from the USA:
11. Fatal Violence – “Violence Is Golden”
12. Have Mercy – “Show Me Your Rage”
13. Schafott – “Total Cleansing”
14. Gargoyle – “Burning Marrow”
15. Hellhound – “Killing Spree”
16. Division Speed – “Blazing Heat”
17. Savage Death – “Evil Dead”
18. Chörnyj Woron – “V2 Over London”
I’ve also been keeping up my monthly radio show on NTS, where I play the finest in forgotten metal for two hours. The shows are chronicled here, for those not in the know.
More from Dylan: †ROCKWELL†
Photo via Flickr user Cyril Caton
When someone becomes very, very old, people want to know how that person went so long without becoming a corpse, because we are all terrified of death and imagine that there is a secret to avoiding it that’s not “Exercise and eat right and then just keep getting lucky.” That’s the price you pay for living past 100—everyone wants to know how you did it, like your continued blood flow is a magic trick.
Back in March, a 104-year-old Texan named Elizabeth Sullivan revealed—presumably in response to someone asking her what her secret to not dying was—that she drank three Dr. Peppers a day. And on Tuesday, an article about a 110-year-old New Jersey woman named Agnes Fenton contained this tidbit:
Her secret, according to an interview from 2005, is three Miller High Lifes and a shot of Johnnie Walker Blue Label each day. Fenton said she did that every day for more than 70 years.
Fenton apparently claims that a doctor told her to start drinking the High Lifes when Fenton was diagnosed with a benign brain tumor years ago, and while “pound more suds” seems like unlikely advice from a medical professional, there’s an abundance of evidence that alcohol, when consumed in moderation, can help ward off heart disease. However, most people associate that kind of healthy drinking with a couple of glasses at wine at dinner.
When asked if her caretakers—who apparently don’t like her to drink—would let her take a celebratory shot, Fenton apparently replied, “They better.”
Follow Allie Conti on Twitter.
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Warren attacks Nathan in ‘Life Is Strange’
Early warning: this article contains story spoilers for episode four of Life Is Strange
The turmoil of teenage life can be a pretty sobering experience, young minds constantly scrambling to find their own sense of identity and self. With new, immediately alien feelings adding themselves into the mix, and basically ruining everything, teenage life is hard—and portraying that well is something that not a lot of video games have gotten right.
Dontnod just might have, though. The Parisian studio’s second game, Life Is Strange, is an episodically released point-and-click-like adventure, currently on its fourth episode of five, which mixes the drama and hormonal nightmare of being a teenager with a healthy dose of science fiction. It’s set in the fictional Blackwell Academy, in the equally fictional Arcadia Bay, in the really-there-in-real-life (seriously-just-look-on-a-map) Oregon. It has me thinking back to my school days, and I see a lot of myself in the game’s resident nerd, Warren Graham.
Warren’s a secondary figure in the game’s narrative, with Max and Chloe filling in the central protagonist positions, but he features in every episode and always leaves an impression. His cringe-worthy texts to Max, who he clearly lusts after, betray a general neediness that is something a lot of teenage boys (myself included) trap themselves in. Warren’s behavior towards Max and his overall attitude to women is something that really piqued my interest: Is there more to Warren than we’re being told? I asked Michel Koch, co-director of Life Is Strange.
“When we started to create every character, not only Warren, we really wanted to use known archetypes that people see in teenage drama and in movies.” Koch tells me that Dontnod wrote episode one with the intention of introducing the typical high school stereotypes, before building upon them with every episode.
Maybe cool it there a little, Warren
“Warren started as the shy nerd who is in love with the main character. He has his issues and his feelings, and has to deal with things like the ‘friend zone’ and getting rejected. I think this appeals to a lot of players and gamers, as it’s something we can relate to—we’ve all felt this way at some point. I see myself in Warren too, and a lot of people can also relate to his awkwardness. Like, his inviting of Max to see scary movies—that’s maybe not a good thing to do, when you’re trying to hit on a girl.”
Especially given what Max is going through in Life Is Strange, not that anyone but those closest to her actually knows what that is. (Just Chloe, basically.) Warren’s clearly into Max, but in true-to-life terrible nerd fashion, he struggles to express and deal with his feelings. I’ve seen comments amongst other Life Is Strange players saying that Warren is simply a “fuckboy that’s trying to get into Max’s pants,” but I don’t buy that. He’s clearly besotted—check out his “Don’t ignore this text” message in episode one, and some other pushiness—but I doubt that’s the real deal, the whole Warren.
Article continues after the video below
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“I think that he’s a good guy,” Koch says, “but, of course, a bit insecure with girls, so he tries to hide that underneath with some humor and bad jokes. He might seem a bit pushy, but he is in love with Max, and he cares about her. We didn’t see [his actions] as a creepy way to hit on Max. But, yes there is this kind of awkwardness [to Warren]. He is really messing up sometimes because he isn’t saying what he should say, but that’s because he’s shy and it’s funny to see how he tries and sometimes doesn’t get what he wants.”
Warren’s ham-fisted attempts at some sort of physical intimacy with Max did give me a bit of a chuckle. Koch tells me the inspiration behind the character. “I’m a huge fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This is why I like looking at archetypes, like, uh, Xander. He has this kind of awkwardness in him and is always saying the wrong things, but he’s a good guy!”
Spoilers definitely follow for episode four of Life Is Strange
Max and Warren’s bond is genuine, as little moments like this illustrate.
There’s a large character moment for Warren in episode four. He comes face to face with local bully (and so much more, but even more spoilers) Nathan Prescott, who’d given him a black eye just a few days earlier. Warren steps in when Nathan get violent towards Max, and we see Warren in a completely different light as he beats Blackwell’s resident terror into a bloody mess in the boys’ dorms. You, as Max, can step in and pull Warren back—but, equally, you can just let Nathan get what’s been coming to him for a few episodes. Koch is eager to share the team’s reasoning behind this scene.
“If you choose not to step in on the fight with Nathan, we start to see something a little different, a darker side of Warren. It’s very violent and gets a bit out of control. It shows us that, even if we’re good characters, we all have a side of us that can go out of control. Everyone has shades of grey, bits of darkness.”
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As Life Is Strange has progressed, so its tone has darkened and its influences widened, now encompassing internet culture with Warren, still pumped from his show of aggression, labeling himself a “white knight” and how he’s become an “alpha.” “I think when you’re insecure, it’s normal to show ourselves to others as something else using people, characters, and words,” Koch explains. “I mean, we are looking at memes, 4chan, Tumblr, and all that, and we are using Warren a lot for this.”
To me, it seems like Warren is Dontnod’s connection with online societies, and along with that comes the issues and problems that a lifestyle with web culture entails. He’s not a weirdo, nor a woman hater who is simply hanging around Max to get his end away. He’s merely going through his own changes, which might not be so life-or-death in design as Max’s, but are traumatic nonetheless as all of these new emotions are stirred up. Warren, aged just 16, is a character who isn’t black or white, but one that’s a little bit more than the usual shy nerd stereotype.
Possibly the worst T-shirt I’ve ever seen
The fact that we can explore a supporting-role character in this much depth is a testament to how Dontnod has been writing Life Is Strange, to the studio’s attention to detail in fleshing out their fantastical story with relatable real-life traits. And the series is only getting better with each episode, tackling some heavyweight themes and doing so with tact surprising for the games industry. The game’s reception so far, and its commercial success, should be enough for its publishers, Square Enix, to give the green light on a second season.
“Well, that’s up to them,” is all Koch will give me. Assuming there’s more story to tell come the climax of episode five, out later in 2015, they’d be crazy not to. Life Is Strange is building on the modern adventure format that Telltale helped to establish with The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, but Dontnod is arguably doing it better than their Californian peers. This is a special game, and one that its fans are always going to want more of.
More information at the Life Is Strange website.
Follow Sayem Ahmed on Twitter.
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“He can’t possibly win the nomination,” is the phrase heard most often when Washington insiders mention either Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders.
Yet as enthusiasm for the bombastic billionaire and the socialist senior continues to build within each party, the political establishment is mystified.
They don’t understand that the biggest political phenomenon in America today is a revolt against the “ruling class” of insiders that have dominated Washington for more than three decades.
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The Jays are appealing the suspension so Sanchez will be available Tuesday night against the Twins.
Jays manager John Gibbons was suspended for one game for coming back out on the field after he was ejected earlier Sunday. His suspension can’t be appealed.
Royals starter Edinson Volquez drilled Josh Donaldson in the first inning of Sunday’s game, after which umpire Jim Wolf issued a warning to both teams.
Donaldson was pitched inside in subsequent at-bats and Jays shortstop Troy Tulowitzki was hit in the forearm by reliever Ryan Madson in the seventh inning, without any ejections.
Then Donaldson was buzzed again after Tulowitzki was plunked and he took exception, arguing with Wolf before Gibbons interjected and was ejected himself.
Volquez later called Donaldson a “crybaby” and accused him of “pimping” home runs.
The following inning, Sanchez hit Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar with a pitch and was promptly ejected by Wolf, leading to both benches clearing.
Donaldson and Volquez had to be restrained, while Gibbons ran back on the field.
Wolf ejected both Sanchez and Blue Jays bench coach DeMarlo Hale.
“Our guy loses a two-seamer and hits a guy in the knee when we’ve had four balls thrown at our neck the entire day and our guy gets ejected, it just doesn’t seem proper,” Donaldson said after the emotional win.
FRANKFURT — The ruling body of world athletics has strongly rejected suggestions that it failed to follow up on suspicious blood test results involving thousands of athletes over more than a decade.
An existing BC salmon farm (Damien Gillis)
It was an unwelcome surprise on the eve of BC Day for critics of open net pen salmon farms: the Liberal government’s quiet doling out of four new tenures to the big three Norwegian aquaculture giants – Marine Harvest, Cermaq and Grieg Seafoods.
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WASHINGTON—The U.S.-led air war against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria has led to hundreds of civilian deaths, according to a report released this week. Next weekend marks the first anniversary of the campaign, launched by the Obama administration initially to roll back the jihadists’ gains in Iraq.
The range of the airstrikes soon expanded to include Syria. Over the past year, the U.S. has run thousands of sorties in the two war-torn nations and carried out hundreds of strikes each month that the coalition’s lead commander in June described as “the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare.”
But according to Airwars, a London-based group of independent journalists who have been assiduously tracking the campaign, “there are clear indications” that at least 459 civilians have been killed as a result of the strikes. It pointed to 57 incidents where non-combatants were likely killed by coalition air strikes.
U.S. authorities have only made public the details of one such incident, admitting in May that a strike last November killed two children. U.S. Central Command is investigating at least three other reports of suspected civilian casualties, according to the Associated Press. There was no immediate White House comment on the findings.
Airwars, which describes itself as “a collaborative, not-for-profit transparency project” with no agenda other than monitoring civilian casualties, accumulated its data through a range of sources. It corroborated military information made available by the coalition governments alongside local news coverage in a number of languages, social media reports, and the work of other monitoring and rights group.
Some of the worst incidents included a recent strike on an Islamic State munitions depot in an Iraqi town: The resulting explosion may have killed as many as 70 civilians, according to local reports. Airwars spotlights a December strike on an Islamic State facility near Aleppo, Syria, where it appears “at least 58 non-combatants appear to have died when aircraft struck an Islamic State local headquarters, which was also being used as a temporary prison.”
The worst casualty incidents, according to the study, are taking place in Iraq and Syria’s bitterly contested major cities.
“What we are seeing in Iraq and Syria is the coalition is bombing where ISIS is, and that’s in the cities,” Chris Woods, the lead investigative journalist on the project, said in an interview with the Guardian. “Unsurprisingly, that’s where we are tracking the highest number of civilian casualties.”
The report, among other things, calls for improved monitoring and transparency from the coalition governments, most of which do not consistently report when and where they carry out strikes.
“You can’t have an air war of this intensity without civilians getting killed or injured, but they need to be more transparent,” Woods said.
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