Money for nothing, kicks for free

This week: mobile-home millions; working is working; nostalgic nonsense; and animals attacking

There’s the 1%, and then there’s the interest rate they charge.

How do the rich keep on getting richer? For Warren Buffett, part of the secret is exploiting poor people trying to buy mobile homes, according to an extraordinary investigation by the Seattle Times & the Center for Public Integrity into the practices of Clayton Homes. Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns Clayton, a dominant player in the mobile home industry that controls home manufacturers, lenders, and retailers.

The company operates under multiple brand names to make customers feel like they’re shopping around; hikes interest rates when it’s too late for buyers to go back; and uses a network of related companies which “extracts value at every stage of the process” of purchasing a home. There’s a whole lot more, and it all reflects poorly enough on Buffett that the company responded in his hometown Omaha newspaper, which is something like posting a flyer at the company store.

A job’s a job, but it still seems like there would be health & safety issues around steaming milk.

So clearly there’s something weird about living in a part of the country that has a robust gray-market industry where women wear bikinis while making espresso for drive-thru customers, forcing publications like The Atlantic to use words like “lacey”, “magenta”, and “buttocks”. But that’s the Northwest, and work is work… and can you honestly say that your job isn’t weird?

Still, half-naked service work can feel a little too revealing about the underlying logic of customer service in a sexist culture. And it’s always been pretty transparent why suburban police departments seem to love running bikini barista sting operations. But maybe the weirdest part: mostly these women just sell coffee, even though (unlike at Starbucks), they report the money is good. Sex work in a world of extreme gender inequity is hella-complicated, and every worker deserves dignity… and it's all good reason to watch Live Nude Girls Unite, a fantastic documentary about strip club workers organizing — directed by one of the workers involved — which includes the best explanation of a union security clause that’s ever been put on film.

No, it’s not clear why acid-washed jeans failed to make the Kansas list

47% of Americans don’t save any money at all, according to an analysis by Deutsche Bank. The numbers have bounced around a bit, but this isn’t even a recent development: back during the first dot-com boom of the mid-90s, it was basically the same fraction of the population that wasn’t able to save a penny. So that's another reason to protect Social Security: almost half of us don’t make enough money to save for the next month’s rent, let alone retirement.

But Kansas has its own answer for poor people: legislators there have a proposal to bar people receiving state support from spending money on lingerie, psychics, and arcades, and limit their ATM withdrawals to $25/day. One the one hand, this a punitive policy based on a vision of bad behavior that seems to have its origins in 1990s infomercials and after-school specials. But on the other hand, you can’t help but build up a balance if you also don’t get to withdraw enough money to buy anything you need.

Even for a billy goat, that’s gruff

Twenty to thirty thousand bees sent several people to the hospital in Florida, and authorities say they may atttack again. In a strange form of gendered math, the men were reported to have “as many as 50 stings each” vs. "dozens of stings” for the woman.

Whales are stealing black cod from fishing boats to the sound of heavy metal music, motivating fishermen to complain about it in less-than-evocative language like: “it’s worse than bad weather.” (Apparently Hemingway had quite an imagination.)

And a disorderly goat head-butted a door in Paramus, New Jersey, and was detained by police. The goat was small and white, and the incident was not caught on video.