It's hard to find Canadians who dislike @mec, the venerable, beloved co-operative outdoor store modeled on REI. Millions of us have paid $5 to join the co-op and make it our first port of all for outdoor gear.

It's being sold to a rapacious American Private Equity fund.

1/
No. Really.

It's a sordid and disgusting tale.

About a decade ago, the board started to favour members who had operational experience over traditional board members - drawn from the co-ops rank and file.

citynews1130.com/2020/05/20/mec…

2/
They rammed through by-law changes in '13 that let them:

a) Disqualify potential board candidates from nomination; and

b) Recommend slates of candidates to the membership

This kicked off a spiral of ever-more-rigged elections that changed the co-op's fundamental character.

3/
Board seats started going to people whose experience was in the C-suites of major for-profit corporations; while the executive ranks were filled with merchandisers from failed electronics stores who filled the co-op stores with stupid gadgets.

4/
The co-op underwent disastrous expansion under this new regime, and began to lose money - $23.5m in losses on $462m in sales in 2018/19.

The board ignored members and founders who called on it to return to selling good outdoor gear at good prices:

vancouversun.com/news/local-new…

5/
And then, in a stroke of absolute malfeasance, they voted to sell the co-op to a US private equity firm called Kingswood Capital Management.

theguardian.com/world/2020/sep…

6/
As a reminder, here's the private equity playbook: buy beloved companies, load them with debt, reduce the quality of their products, liquide their pension funds, collect gigantic "management fees" and walk away, leaving behind wreckage and sorrow.

7/
MEC's board undertook this decision without putting it to the co-op membership - you know, the actual owners of MEC - who could have rescued the co-op with a modest $5-10 fee per member.

8/
It's not clear what will become of the proceeds of the sale (the co-op owns $372m in assets) - I wouldn't be surprised if the board and C-suite of the co-op found a way to take the lion's share in "consulting fees" and similar grifts.

9/
I have served as a board member on a Canadian co-op. This is absolutely illegitimate, reckless conduct and I hope the board is sued over it. I think they acted illegally.

10/
Co-op members (savemec.ca) have started a petition - which has attracted 30,000 signatures in mere days. I signed it.

change.org/p/mountain-equ…

eof/

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More from @doctorow

28 Sep
This week on my podcast: Part 16 of my reading of my 2006 novel "Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town," a book Gene Wolfe called "a glorious book unlike any book you’ve ever read."

craphound.com/podcast/2020/0…

1/ Image
This week's installment deals with the early 2000s awe at the idea that eBay was "normalizing the contents of America's attics" (cf @GreatDismal), to say nothing of its ewaste dumpsters.

2/
Here's how to listen to the earlier installments:

craphound.com/podcast/?s=%22…

and here's a direct MP3 link (hosting courtesy of the @internetarchive - they'll host your stuff for free, forever, too!)

archive.org/download/Cory_…

3/
Read 4 tweets
28 Sep
It's inevitable: whenever I talk about the need to curb concentrated power in the tech sector, someone comes along to ask why I only care about tech - why not do something about concentration in telecoms or entertainment?

1/ Image
That's not wrong, but it's not right either. Yes, telecoms and entertainment are grotesquely concentrated and abuse their monopoly power to the great detriment of the rest of us.

2/
But no, gunning for Big Tech does NOT mean that we're not gunning for Big Content and Big Telco, too.

Bust 'em all!

eff.org/deeplinks/2020…

3/
Read 8 tweets
28 Sep
Today's Twitter threads (a Twitter thread).

Inside: Belarus's online/offline uprising; Newsletters' glorious history; Zombie banks; The Trump financial method; Attack Surface excerpt; and more!

Archived at: pluralistic.net/2020/09/28/cyb…

#Pluralistic

1/ Image
Belarus's online/offline uprising: The evolution of tactics, from ice cream to doxing.



2/ Image
Newsletters' glorious history: An Antidote for Falsehood in the Daily Press.



3/ Image
Read 21 tweets
28 Sep
In just two weeks, @torbooks publishes ATTACK SURFACE, the third Little Brother book! To celebrate, they're serializing Chapter 1 on the web at tor.com:

tor.com/2020/09/28/rea…

1/ Image
Attack Surface is a standalone novel intended for adults and set in the world of Little Brother. It's the tale of Masha Maximow, a surveillance contractor who's far better at computers than Marcus Yallow, hero of Little Brother and Homeland, and who works for the other side.

2/
Here's how Tor put it:

Most days, Masha Maximow was sure she’d chosen the winning side.

In her day job as a counterterrorism wizard for an transnational cybersecurity firm, she made the hacks that allowed repressive regimes to spy on dissidents and track their every move.

3/
Read 11 tweets
28 Sep
If you read the @nytimes' blockbuster report on Trump's taxes, you've likely come away with the (correct) impression that Trump is:

a) broke, and

b) dirty.

nytimes.com/interactive/20…

1/ Image
But you're also likely fuzzy on the details, not because they were missing from the report, but because there were SO MANY of them.

2/
Finance grifts deploy what @MizDanaClaire calls "The shield of boringness," a layer of performatively dull accounting provisions that obscure an otherwise simple and banal con.

pluralistic.net/2020/04/04/a-m…

3/
Read 15 tweets
28 Sep
It's an open secret that many of America's largest banks are "zombies" - institutions that are able to carry on despite having a negative net worth, thanks to "a combination of implicit and explicit government credit support."

1/ Image
"Masters of Illusion: Bank and Regulatory Accounting for Losses in Distressed Banks," is a new @INETeconomics paper by Boston College finance prof Edward J Kane, revealing collusion between bank accountants and financial regulators to conceal losses.

ineteconomics.org/research/resea…

2/
Bank accountants want to help their employers stay solvent, while regulators don't want the public to spook and stampede, which would cause a run on the bank. All this is laid out in a layperson-friendly article accompanying the paper

ineteconomics.org/perspectives/b…

3/
Read 8 tweets

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