Sunday, January 7, 2018

Beating Trump At His Own Game

I still haven't bought a copy of Michael Wolff's new tell-all book on the first year of the Trump Regime, Fire & Fury, and I don't plan on it.  I'm pretty angry that the anecdotes about Trump in the book clearly show he's unfit for office and that the rest of the Village stenographers covering Trump all seem to think Wolff's profile of Trump as an incurious, clinical narcissist who can't handle the physical, emotional, or intellectual rigors of the job are "common knowledge" and "an open secret".  I'm angry that these same journalists didn't have the guts to expose Trump time and again 18 months ago when our Republic might have been spared.

But over at GQ, Drew Magary makes the argument that Wolff is the man who beat Trump at his own game with his book, doing what our fourth estate wouldn't do when it decided to become a fifth column instead.

I’m gonna begin this post with the same disclaimer that needs to come with every post about Michael Wolff, which is that Wolff is a fart-sniffer whose credibility is often suspect and who represents the absolute worst of New York media-cocktail-circuit inbreeding. But in a way, it’s fitting that our least reliable president could finally find himself undone at the hands of one of our least reliable journalists.
All of Wolff’s excerpts from Fire & Fury so far (the book was rushed into stores today) read like jayvee fan fiction. They read like a pilot that Steve Bannon himself wrote, pitched to Hollywood, and had rejected 17 times over. They read, in short, like bullshit. And yet…Wolff has audio. He’s got hours upon hours of audio. Not only that, but the book has already caused legitimate upheaval in the administration, opened a permanent rift between President Trump and Bannon, AND it confirms what we have all always known to be true: that the president severely lacks the cognitive ability to do this job, and that he is surrounded at all times by a cadre of enablers, dunces, and outright thieves. As much as I wanna discredit Wolff, he got receipts and, more important, he used them. Wolff got it all. Wolff nailed them.
And look how he did it. He did it by sleazily ingratiating himself with the White House, gaining access, hosting weird private dinners, and then taking full advantage of the administration's basic lack of knowledge about how reporting works. Some of the officials Wolff got on tape claim to be unaware that they were on the record. Wolff denies this, but he's very much up front in the book's intro about the fact that he was able to exploit the incredible "lack of experience" on display here. In other words, Wolff got his book by playing a bunch of naive dopes.

Thank God for that. Wolff has spent this week thoroughly exploiting Trump and his minions the same way they've exploited the cluelessness of others. And he pulled it off because, at long last, there was a reporter out there willing to toss decorum aside and burn bridges the same way Trump does

The argument that it took a journalist who trashed the usual presidential coverage norms in order to expose a chief executive who trashed the usual norms is pretty solid, frankly.  I'm still not buying Wolff's book.  But I understand why people would, and I'm glad he went the regime when our more...credible...journalistic outfits are still playing Access Journalism Bingo.

The Emperor has no brains.  Everyone can see that now.  Trump is seething on Twitter and will continue to seethe for days, if not weeks.  But he's been pantsed on the national stage, by the people he most dearly wants to buy respect from, and they know he's a joke.

Maybe this is where Trump starts to go down along with the ship, I don't know.  But at least somebody took action, even if it was a fart-sniffing asshole like Wolff.  Trump's exposed now, and the rest of the news outlets finally smell blood in the water, even though it's been red for months.

Here's CNN's Jake Tapper destroying Trump adviser slash neo-Nazi Stephen Miller for ten minutes. It's brutal.  Miller gets decimated.

Maybe the Village is learning, or is at least now seeing the benefits of enlightened self-interest.  I'll take that.

Sunday Long Read: Trash Can't

In a pretty sobering piece, Kiera Feldman at ProPublica takes a long look at the most dangerous job in the Big Apple: working the private garbage trucks that roam the city in the darkness.

Shortly before 5 a.m. on a recent November night, a garbage truck with a New York Yankees decal on the side sped through a red light on an empty street in the Bronx. The two workers aboard were running late. Before long, they would start getting calls from their boss. “Where are you on the route? Hurry up, it shouldn’t take this long.” Theirs was one of 133 garbage trucks owned by Action Carting, the largest waste company in New York City, which picks up the garbage and recycling from 16,700 businesses.

Going 20 miles per hour above the city’s 25 mph limit, the Action truck ran another red light with a worker, called a “helper,” hanging off the back. Just a few miles away the week before, another man had died in the middle of the night beneath the wheels of another company’s garbage truck. The Action truck began driving on the wrong side of the road in preparation for the next stop. The workers were racing to pick up as much garbage as possible before dawn arrived and the streets filled with slow traffic. “This route should take you twelve hours,” the boss often told them. “It shouldn’t take you fourteen hours.”

Working 10- to 14-hour days, six days per week, means that no one is ever anything close to rested. The company holds monthly safety meetings and plays videos, taken by cameras installed inside the trucks, of Action drivers falling asleep at the wheel. “You’re showing us videos of guys being fatigued, guys falling asleep,” a driver told me. (All Action employees asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation.) “But you aren’t doing anything about it.”

“In the history of the company I am sure there have been times where supervisors have inappropriately rushed people,” said Action Carting CEO Ron Bergamini. “They shouldn’t be, and they’d be fired if they ever told people to run red lights or speed. But you have to find the balance between efficiency and safety, and that’s a struggle we work on every day. But you cannot turn around and say, ‘Hey just take your time, go as long as you want.’” He pointed out that workers can anonymously report concerns to a safety hotline. As to the questions of overwork and driver fatigue, Bergamini responded, “That’s a struggle that the whole industry has — of getting people to work less.”

In the universe of New York’s garbage industry, Action is considered a company that takes the high road. A union shop, it offers starting pay of about $16 per hour for helpers and $23 for drivers, far more than many other companies. And unlike some other companies, Action provides high-visibility gear and conducts safety meetings. But since 2008, the company’s trucks have killed five pedestrians or cyclists.

In New York City overall, private sanitation trucks killed seven people in 2017. By contrast, city municipal sanitation trucks haven’t caused a fatality since 2014.

Pedestrians aren’t the only casualties, and Action isn’t the only company involved in fatalities. Waste and recycling work is the fifth most fatal job in America — far more deadly than serving as a police officer or a firefighter. Loggers have the highest fatality rate, followed by fishing workers, aircraft pilots and roofers. From the collection out on garbage trucks, to the processing at transfer stations and recycling centers, to the dumping at landfills, the waste industry averages about one worker fatality a week. Nationally, in 2016, 82 percent of waste-worker deaths occurred in the private sector.

There are two vastly different worlds of garbage in New York City: day and night. By day, 7,200 uniformed municipal workers from the city’s Department of Sanitation go door-to-door, collecting the residential trash. Like postal workers, they tend to follow compact routes. They work eight-hour days with time-and-a-half for overtime and snow removal and double-time for Sundays. With a median base pay of $69,000 plus health care, a pension, almost four weeks of paid vacation and unlimited sick days, the Department of Sanitation workforce is overwhelmingly full time and unionized. It’s also 55 percent white, and 91 percent male.

But come nightfall, an army of private garbage trucks from more than 250 sanitation companies zigzag across town in ad hoc fashion, carting away the trash and recycling from every business — every bodega, restaurant and office building in the five boroughs. Those private carters remove more than half of the city’s total waste
Since each business chooses its own carter, a dozen garbage trucks might converge on a single block over the course of a night. In one five-block stretch near Rockefeller Center, for example, 27 garbage companies stop at 86 businesses, according to an analysis of city data by ProPublica and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute. Plenty of other U.S. cities split trash collection along the same lines — residential waste on the municipal side, commercial waste on the private side — but New York is singular in the scale of private collection operations.

Many waste companies pay workers a flat fee, some as little as $80 a shift, no matter the hours, with no health benefits, overtime pay or retirement plans. The practice of employing helpers off the books is widespread, according to a 2016 report by New York Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration. The workforce is more than 60 percent minority, and more than half of Latino workers and about a third of black workers earn less than $35,000 annually. Many of these jobs are non-union, and while the drivers tend to be full-time employees, the helpers are often contract workers with unstable hours — some scrambling to work enough to feed their families, others clocking 18-hour or longer days. A May 2016 study by the nonprofit New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health found that the underpayment or nonpayment of wages is “rampant in the commercial waste industry.”

$80 bucks a shift for 18 hours and no benefits whatsoever, paid cash off the books and you have to buy your own uniform and safety gear, if you get paid at all.  That's where "cheaper, private carting" gets you in NYC these days.  And that's just the start of this piece.

Hopefully DeBlasio will do something about it.  Cuomo too.
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