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The Top Left Corner — 2021/01/06

Welcome to this week’s show!

Stuff we talked about:

LIGHT (OR NOT)

  • Is your cat cheating on you? This writer recounts her experience as the “other human” for a neighborhood cat named Eddie who would stop by for tuna, belly rubs, and a snooze on the couch and then head back to his “real family.” It made us wonder whether anyone ever “owns” a cat.

LOCAL

photo of Yuki Cohen, guest on the show.
Pittsfield City Councilor-at-Large Yuki Cohen, known also as the owner of popular late-night destination, Methuselah Bar & Lounge, on North Street; submitted photo.

Our guest today is Yuki Cohen, (scrub forward to the 51-minute mark to go directly to the conversation) who was elected as an at-large member to the 11-seat city council in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in January 2020. Cohen also owns and operates the downtown Pittsfield late-night destination Methuselah Bar & Lounge. Recently, Methuselah was the subject of a complaint for violating the City of Pittsfield’s COVID-19 regulations. We’re thrilled to have Yuki join us today to talk about that and other issues facing small businesses trying to survive in the midst of the pandemic. Yuki, welcome to the show. Follow Yuki at Methuselah on Facebook and Instagram (and perhaps TikTok one day!) Links mentioned during the conversation. The exchange traded fund, SPDR (SPY).  

  • Advocates Concerned for Pittsfield Unsheltered as Winter Deepens. By Brittany Polito for iBerkshires (Pittsfield, Saturday, Jan. 2): The Recovery Learning Center, an organization that helps connect homeless and unhoused people with resources reports 72 such people in Pittsfield right now, although the real number has got to be larger. Anthony Maffucio, the city councilor representing Ward 7, told iBerkshires, “I don’t believe our homeless are being well taken care of, I believe the city is painting a pretty picture when there’s not one there. People are treating these individuals like a pack of wild animals and not like human beings, and I have an issue with that.” Compounding the homelessness crisis was the closure of the shelter at St. Joseph’s, run by ServiceNet under a contract with the city, in July.
  • Jan 4, 2021Williamstown Select Board eyes next steps in police reform, chief search By Scott Stafford, The Berkshire Eagle January 4, 2021WILLIAMSTOWN — The Select Board moved closer to consensus Monday on steps it will take to reform the Williamstown Police Department and find a new chief.While no votes were taken, the board seemed to favor seeking an independent probe of the department, in light of allegations of racial bias and sexual harassment contained in a federal lawsuit that since has been withdrawn.• Williamstown Select Board Favors Investigation of Police Lawsuit Allegations By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires.com January 06, 2021WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday agreed to pursue an independent investigation into allegations of racism and sexual misconduct in the Police Department. But it struggled with how that investigation and a parallel effort to re-envision policing in the town of 7,700 will fit into a timeline for replacing the chief of police. The board held a special meeting to gather for the first time since mid-December announcements that then-Chief Kyle Johnson was resigning and the plaintiff in a lawsuit raising those allegations was dismissing the action. The panel faced a number of complicated questions embedded in its single-item agenda, which advertised a discussion of “Next steps for the Police Department.”

Stuff we MEANT to talk about:

LIGHT (OR NOT)

  • Where are all the robo-taxis? Elon Musk, our capitalist P.T. Barnum, has been promising for years that self-driving cars are just around the corner. Musk’s dopey techno-utopianism is great for boosting Tesla’s stock price, but could it also be dangerous?

LOCAL

  • Rebelle Offers a New Kind of Cannabis Dispensary Experience. By Brittany Polito for iBerkshires (Great Barrington, Thursday, Jan. 1): The owners of cannabis dispensary Rebelle say they are bringing a normalized cannabis retail experience to the Berkshires while prioritizing social, racial, and environmental justice. Rebelle — woman and minority-owned — sits across from Guido’s Marketplace in a renovated townhouse that Wild Birds Country Store previously occupied. 
  • Thief makes off with Louison House donations. By Tammy Daniels for iBerkshires (North Adams, Wednesday, Dec. 30): An opportunistic burglar made off with Louison House donations worth $1,000 or more, along with a sleeping bag and coats early Tuesday morning. Executive Director Kathy Keeser said the theft was discovered Tuesday when a staff member entered the office at Flood House on Church Street to find the stack of mail she’d picked up the day before was missing. She speculated that the burglar saw cards and donation envelopes in the mail and thought they could get some quick cash. 
  • General Dynamics Runs Strong Through Pandemic, Donates to Community. By Brittany Polito for iBerkshires (Pittsfield, Saturday, Jan. 2): One of Pittsfield’s largest employers has been able to maintain successful operations and help its neighbors during the pandemic. General Dynamics Mission Systems has given back to the community with donations, modified its workplace to prevent transmission of the virus, preserved their internship program, and were even able to expand in these unprecedented times. More than three-quarters of the Pittsfield company’s employees switched to remote working during the pandemic.

THE COMMONWEALTH

  • A speakership without limits is a bad idea. Boston Globe Editorial Board (Saturday, Jan. 2): The new Massachusetts House should restore term limits for its leader as one small way to restore public trust and curb the power unlimited years breeds.
  • Maine man charged with attempted arson for fires at predominantly Black church in Springfield. By Stefania Lugli for the Boston Globe (Saturday, Jan 2, 2021) A Maine man was arrested Friday and charged with attempted arson in connection with three fires set at a predominantly Black church in Springfield last month, authorities said Saturday. Dushko Vulchev, of Houlton, Maine, was charged with several counts of malicious damage and three counts of attempted arson, according to a statement from the state Department of Fire Services.
  • In a positively Orwellian move, Heather Levine, a high school English teacher in the Lawrence public schools, has succeeded in banning Homer’s Odyssey from the curriculum. When the columnist who wrote about this in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece asked Levine to confirm that The Odyssey had in fact been banned, Levine replied that the inquiry itself was “invasive.” We’ve never been big fans of the Wall Street Journal’s infamously narrow-minded opinion page, but this is worth a read. We’re not sure how the necessary project of broadening the canon is furthered by excluding works that depict racism, sexism, and violence. Don’t we need to understand where we came from to figure out where we want to go?

NATION

  • Trump Calls Georgia Senate Races ‘Illegal and Invalid.’ By Richard Fausset for the New York Times (Atlanta, Friday, Jan. 1): President Trump continued his assault on election integrity, baselessly claiming the presidential results and the Senate runoffs in Georgia were both invalid — which could complicate G.O.P. efforts to motivate voters.
  • We’ve been reading Atrios, the nom-de-blog of the Philadelphia-based economist Duncan Black, for years. In the wake of last week’s disastrous display of bipartisan malpractice in the Senate, he wrote a scathing post that you can find here. The people who run things, he writes, “would prefer plunging the economy into a deeper recession and the misery of millions of people on the off chance people might realize government is actually capable of doing things for them.” This won’t come as news to those of us who have been paying attention for the past 30 years or so, but it’s still worth a read for Black’s typically clear, straightforward, and uncompromising analysis. 
  • If you’ve been hearing your friends “yass kweening” the nomination of Janet Yellen as Treasury Secretary, please read this. Yellen has taken millions in speaking fees from Wall Street banks and other financial firms. Can someone explain to us how this is not straight-up corruption?

The pandemic has revealed a lot of dysfunction in the US, sort of like when the tide goes out on your favorite beach and you see a bunch of water-logged mattresses, rusted shopping carts, and old tires half-buried in the sand. What happens when the people finally wake up to the immense wealth inequality that’s been orchestrated and perpetuated by the 1% and their bought-and-paid-for politicians and media outlets? It could look something like this.  

TLC Episode 95

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