Goddess Aretha Franklin

From David Remnick’s lovely tribute this morning:

Prayer, love, desire, joy, despair, rapture, feminism, Black Power—it is hard to think of a performer who provided a deeper, more profound reflection of her times. What’s more, her gift was incomparable. Smokey Robinson, her friend and neighbor in Detroit, once said, “Aretha came out of this world, but she also came out of another, far-off magical world none of us really understood. . . . She came from a distant musical planet where children are born with their gifts fully formed.” Etta James once recalled listening to Franklin’s version of Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael’s standard “Skylark.” In the second verse, Franklin jumps an octave. “I had to scratch my head and ask myself, *How the fuck did that bitch do that?* I remember running into Sarah Vaughan, who always intimidated me. Sarah said, ‘Have you heard of this Aretha Franklin girl?’ I said, ‘You heard her do ‘Skylark,’ didn’t you?’ Sarah said, ‘Yes, I did, and I’m never singing that song again.’ ”

Saudi “scholarship students” leaving Canada

I’ve had a number of superb students at Kwantlen Polytechnic University from that country. This is awful news.

From Inside Higher Ed this morning:

Saudi Arabian students in Canada are caught in diplomatic crossfire.

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education is making plans to transfer students out of Canada to institutions in other countries after a diplomatic meltdown between the two countries sparked by Canada’s criticism of the kingdom’s arrest and detention of human rights activists.

A spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s education ministry said on Twitter that the ministry is “working on preparing and implementing an emergency plan to facilitate the transfer of our students to other countries.”

CNN reported that 7,000 Saudi students on government scholarships in Canada will be relocated.

Dan Drezner of the Washington Post has three “not mutually exclusive” explanations for the Saudi action:

– Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is “trying to demonstrate that he is in control [in his country], even if these sanctions will not lead to any Canadian concessions.” …

– “Another possibility is that these sanctions are less about compelling Canada and more about deterring other Western countries from criticizing Saudi Arabia.”

There is one final, more speculative explanation. There has been some recent international relations research into “prestige goods” or “Veblen goods,” things that states spend costly sums of money on with little tangible return. … As I explained this summer: “Veblen goods are positional goods, in which demand increases along with price because the good is seen as a display of prestige. Veblen goods can explain why some countries choose to invest in aircraft carriers or space programs when they should be allocating scarce resources elsewhere.” …

Maybe, just maybe, economic sanctions themselves have become a kind of Veblen good. Not many countries have the resources to impose economic sanctions of any kind on another state in world politics. The United States sanctions a lot, the European Union sanctions some, so do Russia and China, and then . . . crickets.

Except for Saudi Arabia. If Saudi Arabia is seen as a country that can sanction others, it starts to look more like a great power. The very fact that these sanctions are costly is what makes them such a compelling Veblen good. According to this logic, it does not matter whether they work: Most sanctions fail anyway. What makes them successful is that Mohammed has demonstrated that he can impose them in the first place.

To serve and house the homeless …

Seattle’s “technology community” is here to help.

Tech companies such as Amazon opposed Seattle’s short-lived head tax on large businesses to pay for homeless services and housing, but Mayor Jenny Durkan now says they can assist the city in other ways.

Rather than tap the companies’ bank accounts, she wants Seattle to tap their know-how. For example, they could help the city design apps for social services, Durkan says.

Sweet!

The mayor has convened an Innovation Advisory Council to seek advice on challenges such as homelessness and transportation. … She described the panel as a “new collaboration with Seattle’s technology community that will better highlight technology solutions.”

Besides Amazon, participants at this point include Microsoft, along with Zillow, Expedia and Tableau, whose leaders spoke out this year against the idea of a head tax. …

A Durkan executive order creating the council includes no concrete pledges of time or money by the companies.

“What we’ve heard from company to company as I’m talking to them is, ‘Tap us for our know-how … We have some of the most talented people on the globe right here in Seattle,’ ” the mayor said.

Her order says the group will identify issues, make policy recommendations and implement projects related to “data analytics, dashboards, applications and software for the city.”

Dashboards!

(This is so fucked up.)

h/t @atrios

flaw design tragic

Three people have died in clothing donation containers in the Vancouver area since 2015.

Your organization needs someone whose main job is to wonder how this operation or that choice will bring calamity.

Greyhound’s departure from B.C. is bad news

From Global News:

Greyhound Canada says it is ending its passenger bus and freight services in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, and cancelling all but one route in B.C. – a U.S.-run service between Vancouver and Seattle.

Without reliable and inexpensive transportation in British Columbia’s rural areas, it’s inevitable that many people’s lives will be less safe, their health will suffer, their economic opportunities will shrink, and their families will fragment. Providing its residents access to transportation services is a vital duty of our government.

Women will be most at risk, particularly indigenous women. Writes Emily Riddle:

We have long known that lack of access to transportation in rural and remote areas in this country is a factor in the murder and disappearance of thousands of Indigenous women, girls and two-spirit people in Canada. …

I have travelled the Highway of Tears in my work with First Nations communities in British Columbia, past the billboards that read “Girls, Don’t hitchhike on the Highway of Tears: Killer on the Loose!” Of course, those who hitchhike on the Highway of Tears or anywhere else are not to blame for the violence enacted on them, but accessible transportation is an important means of harm reduction. …

Of course, Greyhound’s decision to end operations in Western Canada is a business decision. … A business isn’t responsible for the safety of Indigenous people or for the safety of those who must now hitchhike to their jobs; neither is it responsible for assuring access to medical appointments for people in Northern communities. …

The discontinuation of Greyhound services has made it abundantly clear that we should not rely on private companies to deliver vital, sometimes life-saving services. … As an Albertan living in British Columbia, I’m left wondering: Why can’t Canada nationalize intercity bus service when they have agreed to nationalize a failing pipeline project?

h/t JS

“patient advocate”

karen

On my way out the door after my first appointment with my new doctor up in Vancouver – this would be in 1996 – a clerk at the front desk noticed that I seemed puzzled. “Mr. Basil, in Canada, doctors offices don’t have cashiers.” I heaved a brief sob, I was so relieved and surprised. 

When I lived in the United States, my insurance was sporadic and when I had it often shitty. That fact touched every one of my days with real and awful anxiety.

Vice.com says my dear friend Karen Vogel is at the vanguard of a new profession in the United States – the “patient advocate”:

Karen Vogel, an insurance and administrative advocate, spent 29 years working in the insurance industry and became frustrated at the missed opportunities to really make a difference in patients’ lives.

“It was hard to come to terms with what was I doing and was I creating any good in the world, and who was I really serving?” Vogel told VICE News. “Because our healthcare system is so fragmented it’s so broken and there are so many opportunities to get into it to make it work for people. And I just wasn’t satisfied with the path that I was on.”

Over the past two and a half years of working as a patient advocate, Vogel has helped her 45 clients wade into the specifics of the insurance claim and reimbursement process.

About a quarter of what she finds are simple errors; the rest of her work is advocating on behalf of patients for out-of-network coverage or special considerations. Her biggest save was $109,000 by appealing out of state care to count toward in-state benefits.

I am very proud of my friend, who’s on the side of the angels.

More from Jenny Basil and her work with the Nautilus

Really cool interview, Jenny!

“They’re not highly visual,” [Jenny] says of the nautilus. “Like, if you look at a cuttlefish, they look at you. Their tentacles orient to you. They look at you. Some of them will come up… and try and touch you.” The nautilus? Not so much. “We see nautiluses in the aquarium in the daytime, which is when they sleep,” Basil says. “You know if you looked at me at 3 a.m., you wouldn’t think I was that complex either.” These nocturnal habits, combined with their unusual eyes, may make us less inclined to consider the nautilus as impressive as lab tests have proven it to be.

Jenny’s students are very lucky people. (Jenny would respond, no doubt, that she is even luckier.)