Your price-gouged “service fee” dollars at work

As a live music fan, I am duty-bound to hate Ticketmaster (a.k.a. Ticketbastard). I’ve been railing against their ridiculous fees for years, and doing everything I can to avoid them – which usually involves a trip to the venue box office during the limited hours that it’s open.

But now the cavalry is on the way to help – the Taylor Swift Army. Because hell hath no fury like a Swiftie scorned (they learned from TS herself… just listen to her lyrics).

The Taylor Ticketmaster debacle might finally break up the Live Nation/Ticketmaster monopoly – a merger that never should’ve been allowed to happen in the first place. (Hmm, combining the largest artist management and venue company with the company that sells tickets to shows… what could possibly go wrong?)

I’m not against for-profit businesses making a profit. But I am against profiteering. And when the various and sundry “fees” for a ticket wind up adding an additional 50% to the price, that seems really excessive to me.

The Royal Crescent Mob reunion shows are a Exhibit A.

[Music-heavy sidebar – feel free to skip ahead if you’re not into that sort of thing – Hi Kelly! The Royal Crescent Mob was a punk/funk band from Columbus, Ohio – their heyday was the late 80s/early 90s. They disbanded in 1994, but are reuniting to play two shows in December — one in Columbus and one in the Cincy area — as cancer research fundraisers, because three members of the band have been impacted by cancer.

With drummer Carlton Smith recently diagnosed with brain cancer (Glioblastoma), singer David Ellison, recently treated for Prostate Cancer and the loss of guitarist B’s wife, Cincinnati Attorney, Sallee Fry in May, 2022, to Pancreatic Cancer, the four band members, decided there is no time like the present to celebrate life and revel in the joy of playing music together and the healing spirit music embodies in the human soul.]

Same band, similar venues in Columbus and Cincinnati on consecutive nights. The Columbus show tickets sales are through TicketWeb (a company that is dedicated to working with independent venues and promoters). Face value of the ticket is $30. TicketWeb service fees add another $7.95… and the fees are clearly shown on the site.

Meanwhile the Cincy show (it’s actually in Northern Kentucky) is a Ticketbastard show… Face value of the ticket is $30, but fees add $14.45 to the price tag… and the fees are hidden unless you know to click on the tiny carat symbol by the price.

“Service fee”… “facility charge” (keep in mind Live Nation/Ticketmaster owns a lot of these venues)… “order processing fee”… they just make up names for the various line items to make it seem like it’s not all going into their pockets. Don’t be fooled!

But the fees for a club show are chump change compared to the large venue shows like T-Swizzle and Bruce Springsteen. For a Bruce arena show in Columbus, the Ticketbastard “service fee” on a $518 ticket is a whopping $76.65. Oh, and don’t forget that order processing fee of $6. $82.65 for Ticketmaster to perform the same services that they were willing to do for a paltry $14.45 for a club show. Talk about paying the cost to be see the Boss!

(We’ll save the topic of “dynamic pricing” for another post…)

How does Ticketmaster get away with it? You don’t need a top hat and monocle to see the answer:

Apparently the Justice Department has been investigating Live Nation. I say it’s long overdue.

Story is here

They claim the investigation predates the Taylor fiasco, but Taylor’s travails will certainly add a bright, hot spotlight to the investigation. Ticketmaster has been ripping off customers for years… something music fans know “all too well.”

A green wave

The 2022 midterm elections are over (for the most part). So who won the races?

Well, the Democrats will probably still control the Senate… they might pick up one or two extra seats.

The House is still divided, but Republicans will probably have a very slim majority there.

It was the most expensive midterm election ever, according to the non-partisan group Open Secrets. So forget about a “red wave” or a “blue wave”… it was a green wave, and the real winners were political consultants and TV station ad salespeople.

$16.7 billion dollars... to bring us the same gridlock we’ve experienced the past few years.

In Ohio, U.S. Senate candidates J.D. Vance and Tim Ryan combined to spend more than $100 million (if you include outside spending, most of it “dark money” from anonymous sources… which is where the lion’s share of Vance’s money came from). $100 million… for a job that pays $174,000 a year.

Here’s the most telling stat of all:

Outside groups spent about $1.9 billion to influence federal elections through Oct. 31, blowing past the 2018 midterm outside spending record of $1.6 billion, adjusted for inflation. The biggest outside spenders are super PACs aligned with Republican and Democratic congressional leadership. 


When candidates get that much cash pouring into their coffers, you know they’re beholden to these special interest groups. “He who pays the piper calls the tune.” Is your lone-vote voice really being heard over the whir of the money machine?

We need election reform. Get rid of dark money. Truly “drain the swamp” of lobbyists. Put non-partisan citizen panels in charge of redistricting to eliminate the ridiculous gerrymandering that makes most districts “safe” and therefore encourages the most radical elements from both parties to come to the forefront. Institute ranked choice voting to encourage candidates to appeal to a broader swath of their constituents, instead of playing to their base.

Until we do that, it’ll be a green wave every time.

It’s getting dark, too dark to see…

If you don’t think campaign finance reform is long overdue, please read this post from Judd Legum on his Popular Information site. (Which, IMHO, is well worth the subscription, btw.) A few excerpts are below.

One of the most powerful groups in the 2022 midterm elections is the Senate Leadership Fund (SLF), the Super PAC controlled by Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). 

In September, the SLF spent a total of $82 million on campaign ads. Meanwhile, all Republican Senate campaigns combined spent just $33 million.

But the largest donor, by far, to the SLF is One Nation. Through June 30, 2022, One Nation donated $33.5 million to the SLF. What is One Nation? Like the SLF, One Nation is run by Steven Law, a former Chief of Staff to McConnell. But unlike the SLF, One Nation is organized as a 501(c)4 non-profit organization. That allows One Nation to keep its donors secret. One Nation can collect unlimited donations from corporations and individuals, keep their identities secret, and then pass the money on to the SLF. 

If the same corporations and individuals donated directly to the SLF, their identities would have to be disclosed. It seems that many supporters of the SLF’s efforts are interested in maintaining their anonymity. Donations to 501(c)4 groups are not tax deductible. The only benefit, from a donor perspective, is secrecy.  [emphasis mine – DD]

Republicans have a similar structure to finance their efforts to retake control of the House of Representatives. The dominant Republican Super PAC running ads in House races is the Congressional Leadership Fund (CLF). The top donor to the CLF, by far, is the American Action Network, a 501(c)4 non-profit run by the same people as the CLF. Through September 12, 2022, the American Action Network has donated $38.1 million to the CLF this cycle. The people or organizations that are donating to the American Action Network remain secret. 

This tactic is not limited to Republicans. On the Democratic side, the Sixteen Thirty Fund, a 501(c)4 non-profit, donated $57 million to Super PACs supporting Democratic candidates, including Future Forward USA, American Bridge 21st Century, Priorities USA Action, and Unite the Country. The Sixteen Thirty Fund’s direct political involvement appears to have scaled back in 2022, donating about $6 million to date to political committees. The group says it supports legislation that would make political donations more transparent, including bills that would require the Sixteen Thirty Fund to disclose its donors. For now, however, the Sixteen Thirty Fund says it will use “the legal rulebook in place today.”

Let’s run those numbers again. $82 million. $38.1 million. $57 million. All “dark money.” All in secret. It’s a shell game. It’s three-card Monte, and Joe and Jane Citizen lose every time, because the cards are stacked against them.

Undue influence. Burning money on a surfeit of attack ads that fuel the fires of political polarization.

If the goals of these donors were noble, wouldn’t they want to be transparent about it?

One of the comments on the post has it exactly right:

Most people would not want to submit to being controlled by the extremely wealthy & corporations who almost always use their money and influence for their own benefit but not the benefit of the larger good… By basically equating money with free speech, Citizens United was a terrible blow to fairness and democracy in this country… It just keeps getting worse as both parties have to crank up the spending. 

Citizens United was — and is — awful.

Campaign finance reform — and in particular getting rid of dark money — is long overdue. If these wealthy individuals and corporations want to keep pouring millions into political campaigns, they should at least have the guts to put their names to it.

Voting is the best revenge

Yesterday was National Voter Registration Day. (As usual, your ol’ pal Dubbatrubba is a day late and a dollar short… actually make that a day late and $10 million in “dark money” short, because corporations are people too!)

It’s not too late to register.

It’s not too late to make sure your registration is accurate.

It’s not too late to get #VoteReady, by finding out who is on the ballot… and learning about the particular hoops you need to jump through in your state.

Make no mistake, there are folks who are trying to make it tougher and tougher for you to vote. Especially if you’re poor, or car-less, or disabled. Some of those folks are elected officials. Voting them right out of office will be extra satisfying.

Yes, the cards are stacked against you — gerrymandering is at an all-time high. (“If you can’t beat ’em, crack, pack and stack ’em” seems to be the official motto.) But don’t let them win by not voting.

Exercise is good for you.

Exercising your right to vote is good for the future of democracy.

One World, One Big Problem

I hate to rain on your parade… actually, I can’t rain on your parade because there are widespread droughts.

On the plus side, no water hazards… (photo credit: Paul Bilodeau, the North Andover (MA) Eagle-Tribune)

Please take five minutes to read this Substack post from Bill McKibben.

But of course the damage is deepest in the poorest places. Somalia, and the surrounding region in the horn of Africa, are in the fifth straight rainy season without rain, and the toll is almost unimaginable. A million people have been internally displaced; the ones who haven’t managed to move to grim camps will soon starve. “They have no chance,” one refugee explained. “It is just a matter of time until they die. Even here we might die because we have nothing”.

From the Substack post linked above

And of course, what goes up (evaporation) must come down… we’re seeing that in Pakistan.


(At least they have a Climate Change Minister… that’s more than you can say for the U.S. of A.)

We’re taking baby steps to address the climate crisis, but we need one giant leap for mankind. And the things that may prevent that, ironically, are the short-term consequences of not acting boldly enough.

In such a world of climate disruption and destabilization, the prospects for positive futures are bleak.  At the national and international levels, the capacity to move forward with bold and carefully conceived plans for emissions reductions and climate adaptation will be severely impaired.  A world consumed with the consequences of climate chaos will have little time for anything else. The multiple inadequacies and failures of global governance, never strong except in certain economic spheres, will likely be magnified by international tensions and conflicts as well as domestic preoccupations. And at the community level, energies will be monopolized by efforts at simply surviving and coping.

From this essay by James Gustave Speth

Sorry to be all gloom and doom, but water is life. Without it — or with too much of it –things are looking pretty gloomy.

Not done yet

Dani (rhymes with “Sunny”) Isaacsohn won the Democratic primary for Ohio State Representative in District 24 this past Tuesday. That’s my home district, and because it’s roughly 2/3 Democratic, Dani has a very strong chance of winning the November general election.

Only 8.4% of eligible voters cast ballots. Granted, some of that apathy is because it was an unusual second primary, in the dog days of summer… and that happened due to some voting map shenanigans by Dani’s future counterparts across the aisle. But due to the paltry turnout, Dani only needed to get nearly 3600 people to vote for him. Actually, in hindsight, he would’ve only needed 800 votes.

Those results may make it seem like Dani was a lock, but that’s not the case at all. Dale Mallory had name recognition out the wazoo, and sometimes — especially when there’s low turnout — that’s all you need.

Mallory’s father, William Mallory, Sr., served 28 years in the Ohio General Assembly and became the first Black majority floor leader. His brothers are former state legislator and former Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory, municipal court judges Dwane and William Mallory Jr., and Cincinnati NAACP president Joe Mallory.

From this article

I met Dani at a “voteraiser” at a friend’s home. Seems like a nice young man. Smart kid for sure – he graduated from Walnut Hills High school as valedictorian, went to Georgetown and then graduated from Yale Law School. But it seems he learned just as many valuable lessons on the high school hardwood.

Dani credits his time at Walnut Hills for solidifying his love of Cincinnati. Those years – especially his years as captain of the basketball team – shaped his belief that friendships, trust, and love across the barriers of geography, race, and class are critical to unlocking our full potential as a city. He remains firm in his conviction that our diversity should be a source of strength, not weaponized to create barriers and drive us apart.

From Dani’s website

our diversity should be a source of strength, not weaponized to create barriers and drive us apart“… sounds like your typical political platitudes. And maybe it is. But here’s a sign that Dani walks the walk:

Dale Mallory didn’t have the support of some Democrats in leadership. An endorsement committee moved to endorse Isaacsohn. After a heated debate, Isaacsohn said he urged the Hamilton County Democrats to not endorse for the sake of party unity. 

From the same article cited above

In the backstabbing win-at-all-costs world of politics, Dani put a common cause before his own ambitions. Would that more politicians were like that.

I work from home most days, and usually try to get out for a walk to break the monotony of my bland basement (and the creativity-sapping barrage of Zoom meetings). A few weeks ago, I was out for a walk and ran into Dani. He was out knocking on doors, trying to convince folks to vote for him. It was hotter than blazes that day. You’ve gotta really want it to go door-to-door in 2022 trying to get people to vote for you. But that hard work paid off.

Now comes the really hard work. Trying to win a general election. And if you win that, the work gets even harder: trying to find common ground across the aisle, when that aisle can seem as wide as the Grand Canyon.

Too much of our politics at the State House is about tearing each other down, scoring points, and honing in on what separates us. We have real divisions and challenges, but if we allow them to consume us, everyone loses. Dani believes that when we lift as we climb, we are able to celebrate each others’ success and come together to solve shared challenges.

From Dani’s website

I hope Dani wins in November. More importantly, I hope he’s able to find some common ground, and work out sensible solutions to the challenges we face in our city and state.

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