Month: April 2020

This is F%$#ing Evil

It looks like a bipartisan group of lawmakers are lobbying to allow payday lenders to make bailout loans, because campaign donations don’t grow on trees, and predatory lenders are reliable campaign contributors:

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is pressing the Trump administration to let payday lenders gain access to small business rescue money, going to bat for companies that have been accused of engaging in predatory behavior toward lower-income people.

The move comes as officials try to quell public criticism by stopping hedge funds and publicly traded companies from benefiting from the program, which is designed to avert massive job losses and resumes on Monday after running out of funds because of high demand.

In a letter signed by 24 House Republicans and four Democrats, lawmakers asked the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration to open up Paycheck Protection Program loan applications to “small-size nonbanks,” including installment lenders and so-called community development financial institutions, which focus their lending on underserved populations.

Payday lenders weren’t explicitly mentioned, but a spokesperson for Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), one of the lawmakers who led the letter, confirmed the intent was to include them in the request.

In the letter sent Thursday, the House members said the companies provide their constituents with access to financial services and have been deemed “essential” businesses allowed to stay open amid stay-at-home orders. They said that many have fewer than 500 employees and that they don’t plan to offer Paycheck Protection Program loans to their customers.

Included in this group are Democrats Henry Cuellar and Collin Peterson, plus 2 other Democrats not named in the article.

Cuellar and Peterson are some of the worst Democrats in Congress, and they should be hung out to dry over this.

Fire Dean Banquet

Donald Trump says that people should drink, inhale, or inject household disinfectants to prevent Covid-19 infection.

The initial response of the New York Times was to write that “some experts” found this dangerous.

We’ve deleted an earlier tweet and updated a sentence in our article that implied that only “some experts” view the ingestion of household disinfectants as dangerous. To be clear, there is no debate on the danger.

— The New York Times (@nytimes) April 24, 2020

No, anyone with two brain cells to rub together gets that this is dangerous.

Even if this was not the result of an edict from Dean Banquet, the editor-in-chief of the Times, this is clearly a product of the (toxic) newsroom culture that that he has inculcated there.

This Is Why We Should Piss on Robert Bork’s Grave

Robert Bork, and a collection of self-interested capitalists, rewrote antitrust law by buying the (rather small) academic antitrust law community.

Bork supplied the intellectual masturbation that has always served as a cover for the corporatist agenda.

It took anti-trust from an effort to regulate the abuse of corporate power to a a lord of the flies scenario where only an immediate increase in consumer prices was the only justification for limiting corporate power.

Amazon is the bastard child of this policy, and in what is one of the best examples of abuse of monopoly power, the online retailer used its extensive data collected from the 3rd party sellers it serves to launch competing products.

This is directly analogous to John D. Rockefeller’s owning all the oil tanker rolling stock in the United States to control the market: Inc. employees have used data about independent sellers on the company’s platform to develop competing products, a practice at odds with the company’s stated policies.

The online retailing giant has long asserted, including to Congress, that when it makes and sells its own products, it doesn’t use information it collects from the site’s individual third-party sellers—data those sellers view as proprietary.

Yet interviews with more than 20 former employees of Amazon’s private-label business and documents reviewed by The Wall Street Journal reveal that employees did just that. Such information can help Amazon decide how to price an item, which features to copy or whether to enter a product segment based on its earning potential, according to people familiar with the practice, including a current employee and some former employees who participated in it.

In one instance, Amazon employees accessed documents and data about a bestselling car-trunk organizer sold by a third-party vendor. The information included total sales, how much the vendor paid Amazon for marketing and shipping, and how much Amazon made on each sale. Amazon’s private-label arm later introduced its own car-trunk organizers.

“Like other retailers, we look at sales and store data to provide our customers with the best possible experience,” Amazon said in a written statement. “However, we strictly prohibit our employees from using nonpublic, seller-specific data to determine which private label products to launch.”

Amazon said employees using such data to inform private-label decisions in the way the Journal described would violate its policies, and that the company has launched an internal investigation.

Break it up now.

Responsible Performers, How Do They F%$#Ing Work

There are performers out there live for their live shows, and whose fans also live for their live shows.

If you were to ask someone to name a band that fits this criteria, the first band most people would list would be The Grateful Dead.

The second band that comes to mind is Insane Clown Possee, and they just canceled this year’s ICP gathering to protect their health.

Good for them. Lord knows that this cannot be cheap for them:

It’s a bummer to have to report on all the stuff that’s getting postponed, which is why it brings us no joy to add this to the sadness pile:

Stale News Break…

— Insane Clown Posse (@icp) April 22, 2020

The annual Gathering of the Juggalos is canceled until 2021 due to the coronavirus. While that shouldn’t surprise anyone at this point, it’s worth talking about what this does to the Juggalos. For the unfamiliar, the Juggalos are a group of people united in their love for the band Insane Clown Posse and discount soda. Over the years, and in response to the FBI’s unfair gang designation, they’ve taken a Fast & Furious “It’s all about family” approach in describing their group.


This festival is quite a big deal to the Juggalo community. They don’t waste time trying to bring it to New York or Los Angeles, instead choosing the Midwest as its hosting grounds like a trailer park Coachella (Not an insult BTW). That makes it even more impressive that The Gathering has been able to land some of the performers it has over the years (Ice Cube ain’t cheap.).


What’s of note here is that Juggalos tend to be blue-collar (or no collar) workers. The same type of people you may have noticed getting crapped on extra hard by current events. So while we really couldn’t give a shit about some rich silicon valley douche missing out on this year’s Burning Man, this kind of hits a little different.

The Gathering of the Juggalos is an independent event — they don’t have corporate sponsors telling them that they have to cancel anything. It seems like they’re genuinely doing this out of love for their Juggalo family. The tweet from ICP leaves us with a final uplifting message from Fred Fury, “You can’t replace what you mean to our team. Without you, tell me where the f%$# we’d be?”

(%$# mine)

This is f%$# load more concern for these people than their employers would ever show.

Reality Has a Well Known Liberal Bias

Someone finally did a comprehensive catalogue of the sparse research on gun safety, so now, despite the best efforts of the NRA and Congressional Republicans to shut down testing, we have the the beginnings of a knowledge base on fun safety:

Gun control discussions often get mired in competing academic claims regarding the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of various policy options.

Do concealed carry laws increase violent crime or make communities safer? Do assault weapon bans reduce mass shootings or do they have no effect? Do background checks reduce homicides and suicides or are they ineffective?

With so many disparate findings swirling about, it can be difficult to determine where the balance of evidence lies. But a report from Rand Corp., a nonprofit think tank, has distilled reams of gun policy research published since 1995 to tease out the scholarly consensus.


Not all academic studies are created equal. Many simply show correlations between various phenomena — links between assault weapon bans and mass shootings, for instance, or between suicide rates and gun purchasing habits. Such research can be useful when higher-quality data isn’t available.

But policymaking requires higher-caliber evidence, from studies that go beyond simple correlations to demonstrate a causal effect. Distinguishing those studies from less-powerful ones was one of the chief objectives of the Rand report.


They narrowed down thousands of studies to those that met high standards for causal evidence — just 123 of them since 1995. Taken together, this research yielded a number of conclusions.

First, there was a clear consensus (indicated by three or more high-quality studies in agreement) that stand-your-ground laws, which allow people to use guns to defend themselves in public even if retreating is an option, result in higher overall rates of gun homicide. The higher rates aren’t simply from “bad guys” getting shot; the research shows the additional deaths created by stand-your-ground laws far surpass the documented cases of defensive gun use in the United States.

There was also a broad consensus that child access prevention laws, which set requirements for how guns must be stored at home, are effective in reducing self-inflicted gun injuries among children and adults.

No other policy realm showed the clear scholarly consensus as did stand-your-ground and child access prevention, although there were a number of cases in which the research yielded more moderate evidence of a policy’s effect, by way of two or more high-quality studies in agreement.

This could be a basis for common sense gun laws, which is why the NRA has strenuously opposed any funding for studies for decades.

It’s the Little Things

I would not have thought that a minor change to KC-135 wiper blades can improve fuel efficiency by over 1%:

The U.S. Air Force has discovered that vertically mounted wiper blades on the KC-135 Stratotanker reduce aircraft drag by about 1% during cruise conditions, potentially saving the service $7 million annually in fuel costs.

The wiper blades on the Boeing KC-135 traditionally are positioned horizontally on the windshield as part of the original 1950s-era design. As aviation aerodynamics research later indicated, placing wipers vertically when not in use could improve aerodynamic efficiency.


The team used a KC-135 from Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base in Ohio for comprehensive airframe ground testing. A computational fluid dynamics model revealed a reduction in drag of 0.8% for repositioning the blade vertically and 0.2% for a slimmer wiper design. After collecting sufficient data, the team is ready to begin airworthiness testing and certify the updated design with the FAA.

First, I find this intensely amusing, and second, why did it take until 75 years into the jet age to discover this?

I Can’t Even

I don’t know why centrist Democrats hate progressives more than they hate Donald Trump, but it is clear that they are willing to destroy themselves to troll progressives.

Case in point is the public admission that the Biden campaign is consulting with Larry Summers on the economy.

It appears that the whole “Own the Libs” shtick is something that is shared by both Republicans and centrists.

Why else hire a glib, obnoxious, incompetent, (Obama stimulus, repealing Glass Steagall) and corrupt (Andrei Shleifer) lightning rod.

It’s pretty clear that the self-declared “Adults in the room” simply aren’t:

Former Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers is advising Joe Biden’s presidential campaign on economic policy, including its plans to revive the U.S. economy after the coronavirus pandemic, according to five people familiar with his involvement.

The Obama and Clinton administration veteran’s role will likely roil progressives who view his past work on the 2009 recovery as too favorable to big banks. That’s awkward for the Biden campaign at a time when it is trying to win the trust of former supporters of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
Summers was the first name on the “Biden do not reappoint list” published last month by the American Prospect’s Robert Kuttner, who wrote that Summers in 2009 “not only lowballed the necessary economic stimulus and ended it prematurely, but he successfully fought for rescuing the biggest banks rather than taking them into temporary receivership.”


Opposition from the left kept Summers from being nominated for Federal Reserve Chairman by President Barack Obama in September 2013, when a handful of Senate Democrats, including Warren, Sherrod Brown, Jon Tester and Jeff Merkley, complained to the White House that he was too lax on financial regulation. Summers withdrew his name from consideration after weeks of debate within the White House about a possibly difficult confirmation fight.

I would note that Jon Tester is one of the most conservative Democrats in the Senate, as well as being from one of the most conservative states to have a Democratic Senator.

This is a stupid and self-destructive, but hell, stupid and self-destructive seems to be what passes for  Democratic Party branding, I guess.

Another 4.4 Million Initial Jobless Claims

That comes to about 27 million initial claims over the past 5 weeks, and an unemployment rate something north of 15%.

We are going to be seeing an unemployment rate in excess of 25% by the end of June:

An additional 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week adding to a total of over 26 million since the coronavirus pandemic shut down swaths of the US and brought its economy to a standstill.

The latest Department of Labor figures show the pace of layoffs appears to have slowed slightly but a backlog of claims mean millions more are likely to file in the coming weeks. States across the country are encountering problems with the sheer number of people applying for unemployment benefits.

This is not going to be pretty.

The Washington Generals of ……… Well ……… Washington

I swear, the Democratic Party establishment (There is no Democratic Party establishment) plays to lose.

In the most recent abomination, Democrats have completely folded to Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump in the latest pandemic stimulus package, where (I sh%$ you not) the Democrats are claiming victory because they got additional funding for testing.


Calling this a victory, or even a meaningful negotiation is delusional:

Progressive groups are outraged with the nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus rescue package the Senate passed on Tuesday, urging House Democrats to oppose the “pathetic” deal they say doesn’t come close to providing the relief vulnerable people need while giving away all Democratic leverage for future legislation.

The “Phase 3.5” bill, which is expected to sail through the House this week, left out almost everything Democratic leaders were advocating for. There’s no additional funding for state and local governments, no expanded food stamp benefits, no hazard pay for front-line workers, nor money for the U.S. Postal Service, which had all been basic Democratic priorities. The lack of progressive opposition in Congress has been

The Democrats control the house, and over the past 15 months, they have spent their time doing nothing but passing feel-good that will never get a vote in the Senate.

This is a recipe guaranteed to depress voter enthusiasm and voter turnout for the Democratic Party.

especially noteworthy, after members of the progressive caucus promised to help make future legislation more comprehensive following the hastily passed Phase 3 bill.

OK, This is Important

I am not an epidemiologist, but the fact that the first Covid-19 death occurred 3 weeks earlier and about 800 miles south of the Seattle nursing home that was supposed to be where this started in the US is a significant development.

This particularly true given that these cases almost certainly had to be community transmission:

Officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., announced late Tuesday that two residents there died of the coronavirus in early and mid-February, making them the earliest known victims of the pandemic in the United States.

The new information may shift the timeline of the virus’s spread through the country weeks earlier than previously believed.

The first report of a coronavirus-related death in the United States came on Feb. 29 in the Seattle area, although officials there later discovered that two people who had died Feb. 26 also had the virus.

But Santa Clara County officials said that autopsies of two people who died at their homes on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 showed that the individuals were infected with the virus. The presence of the disease Covid-19 was determined by tissue samples and was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, county health officials said in a statement.


Dr. Cody said the individuals who died in February did not have any known travel histories that would have exposed them to the virus, which first appeared in China. They are presumed to have contracted the virus in the community, she said.

I don’t know what this means, but I’m pretty sure that this means a lot.

Nancy Pelosi’s Gift Just Keeps on Giving

It turns out that Nancy Pelosi’s under qualified pick to monitor the Federal Reserve’s bailout programs, Donna Shalala, somehow or other managed to forget to report her stock transactions as required by federal law.

And this woman is supposed to supervise the most powerful central bank in the world?

Miami Democratic Rep. Donna Shalala, the lone House Democrat on the committee set up to oversee $500 billion in taxpayer money being used for coronavirus-related payouts to large businesses, violated federal law when she failed to disclose stock sales while serving in Congress.

Shalala told the Miami Herald on Monday she sold a variety of stocks throughout 2019 to eliminate any potential conflicts of interest after she was elected to Congress in November 2018. But the transactions were not publicly reported as required by the STOCK Act, a 2012 law that prohibits members of Congress and their employees from using private information gleaned from their official positions for personal benefit and requires them to report stock sales and purchases within 45 days.

Shalala’s office said the congresswoman and her financial adviser made a mistake.

Shalala, the former head of the Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton, is in the process of setting up a blind trust for her assets, and transactions made within a blind trust without a lawmaker’s knowledge are not required to be disclosed. But the blind trust isn’t finalized, meaning any transactions would need to be made public.

While acknowledge her political skills, on policy, there is literally nothing on policy that Pelosi won’t make a dog’s breakfast of.

I have come to the conclusion is not that Madam Speaker is not a fachidiot, someone whose expertise in one area is mirrored by incompetence in unrelated areas, but that this is intentional.

She wants no meaningful change nor any accountability as it applies to the rich and powerful.

Genocide is the Goal of Missionaries

Even if the inevitable plagues that evangelizing clerics bring to isolated indigenous tribes don’t wipe them out, it is the goal of missionaries to destroy the culture and way of life of these people.

It has been the not particularly subtle policy Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro to practice genocide against Brazilian first peoples, witness his appointment of a former missionary to head the country’s missionary protection agency.

Well, now a judge has ruled that the plague ridden missionaries have to stay out of indigenous reserves.


A Brazilian judge has banned a group of Christian missionaries from entering a vast Amazon indigenous reserve with the world’s highest concentration of isolated tribes, citing risks from the coronavirus pandemic as one of his reasons.

Indigenous leaders and activists hailed the decision as “historic” and expressed hope that it could prevent a genocide in the Javari valley, a remote reserve the size of Austria on Brazil’s western borders.

“Facing with this new coronavirus pandemic we wanted to guarantee the rights of indigenous people to isolation,” said Eliesio Marubo, an indigenous lawyer who sought the ruling on behalf of Javari’s indigenous association Univaja.

Federal judge Fabiano Verli banned three missionaries, Andrew Tonkin, Josiah McIntyre and Pastor Wilson de Benjamin, from the reserve, along with the controversial missionary group New Tribes Mission of Brazil which recently bought a helicopter to convert isolated peoples in the region.

The judge referred to recent articles about isolated groups’ vulnerability to common diseases that decimated their populations in the past and authorised police and army to expel any of the missionaries found in the reserve. Brazil has so far seen three confirmed Covid-19 deaths among its indigenous population.

These missionaries would rather see 90% of these people dead if the remainder were baptized, so keep them away forever.

Fox Privilege

This is Shallow Beyond Belief

The folks at Fox News are in a tizzy over Donald Trump’s proposal to suspend green cards, because they will not be able to find immigrants to exploit as their au pairs, and that would an unimaginable horror.

For people who are making something north of ½ million a year, perhaps paying a fair wage for child care is not an unreasonable sacrifice:

Last night, Trump sounded like he thought he had finally found an answer to dealing with the coronavirus. No, not better testing or more PPE but an immigration ban. He tweeted, “In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

This morning, cohost Ainsley Earhardt briefly acknowledged that farmers rely on immigrants. Then she launched what looked like a direct plea to Trump, who never seems to let the pandemic interfere with his TV watching:

EARHARDT: Many families here, including mine, we have au pairs, and we rely on them. I go to work at three o’clock in the morning, so I need her there and I need her in my house so that she can help me with my daughter. So, many families rely on child care from other countries. These au pairs come here on work visas, they have to go back to their country to get the visas renewed, and we’ve been talking in my house about how that’s going to happen. So, these are all things, these are questions that we have that, hopefully the president will roll out a plan and we’ll all be informed on how this is going to affect all of our lives.


Apparently, when it comes to their own and their pals’ homes, these Trumpers don’t care so much about America first.

The selfishness and hypocrisy is stunning.

This is Truer than Taxes

Today, there’s a broad consensus that neoliberalism is making work more precarious. Indeed, for four decades and more, successive governments in developed countries have passed various measures to flexibilize the labor market. These measures increasingly allow businesses to use fixed-term contracts with a definite end date. Added to these are other measures that make it easier for employers to lay off staff.

In France, for instance, the creation of interim contracts dates back to 1972. This was meant to make it possible to substitute one member of staff with another in exceptional cases. Yet, over the years, it has become an instrument of flexibility in the hands of employers. When a company sees its levels of activity falling, it can choose not to renew temporary contracts. In so doing, it can get rid of some of its employees without having to enter a long and risky collective redundancy process.

In his famous book The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, Guy Standing concludes that it is no longer appropriate just to speak of a division in society between workers and capitalists. What we are instead seeing, Standing argues, is the emergence of a precariat underneath the old proletariat.


It is clear that their precarious status undermines trade unions. Temporary workers are reticent about unionizing, for they fear that it means their contracts won’t be renewed. Precarity gradually eats into the unions’ own ranks: in some companies, the core of stable workers is gradually replaced by temporary ones. There are not no conflicts involving precarious workers. But they are relatively rare.

For some, like Standing, precarity also has other malign effects — with the rise of far-right populism in Europe and the United States counting among its direct consequences. For want of any real alternative, the destabilization of the popular classes would, it seems, drive them to look for scapegoats among those even more precarious than they are: migrants, the unemployed, LGBT people, and so on.

Yet by no means is this division — the separation of workers into a multitude of different statuses — actually something new. It has existed in various forms throughout the history of capitalism. We could even say that it is functional to capitalism’s very dynamic. Whatever period we look at, we always find that permanent staff coexisted with their temporary counterparts — and that regular employment had to be fought for.
The Permanent and the Temporary

Precarity is, in a sense, inherent to the very nature of employment contracts under capitalism. In principle — at the juridical level — a worker is free to negotiate the price of her own labor power, on an equal footing with her putative employer. According to this liberal conception, the employment relation — whether or not it takes the form of a contract — is thus a commercial transaction between formally equal subjects.


In 1966, it was stipulated that employee-elected works councils should be informed of and consulted about any company restructuring plans, and in 1969, redeployment, early retirement, and redundancy compensation were introduced in order to limit the impact of restructuring. These measures sought to orient the employer toward solutions other than “straight” firings.

The idea of a stable, long-term job is, in fact, something relatively new, when we look at the history of capitalism as a whole. These measures were possible only due to the strength of the labor movement and the strong economic growth of the postwar decades. Once these conditions were gone, stable and long-term jobs in capitalism appeared rather more of a short-term “parenthesis.” Today, employment contracts are less and less associated with a protection from market forces. Both governments and employers use the vocabulary of the individual worker’s “mobility” and “liberty” to justify reforms to flexibilize the labor market.

Whenever capitalists talk about the need to increase flexibility to improve the economy, what they really mean is that they want to make work more precarious as a way of driving down wages and benefits.

Classic Pelosi

There is a congressional committee that is supposed to provide oversight of the Federal Reserve’s actions during the bailout.

One of the 3 members is appointed by the Democrats, and Pelosi ignored knowledgeable people who wanted the job and appointed freshmen Congresswoman, corporate stooge, and strike breaker Donna Shalala (D-Fla.), because bailing out rich people and f%$#ing the American worker is a core value of Speaker Pelosi:

For the past week, we’ve watched this absurd spectacle where money is flying out the door of the Federal Reserve bailout programs, and the only person in a position to conduct oversight has nothing more than a Twitter feed. Bharat Ramamurti, the former Elizabeth Warren staffer who I interviewed last week, was until yesterday the only member of the Congressional Oversight Commission, a five-member panel outside of the executive branch (so Donald Trump can’t fire anyone associated with it) charged with monitoring the bailout.

Ramamurti and his tweets have been unusually effective, getting the Fed to agree to publish all transactions that use public funds, and some detailed information. But it’s clear that he needs some help: a staff, an office, and maybe the other four members on the panel to cover what could reach $4.5 trillion in corporate lending.

He got three of them yesterday. Republican leaders in the House and Senate chose nondescript Congressman French Hill (R-AR) and Chamber of Commerce mole Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA). The pick to watch was the House Democratic seat. There was no obligation to choose a sitting member of Congress, but Katie Porter (D-CA) was actively seeking the job, and really was the only member actively seeking the job. With deep experience in financial services and demonstrated aptitude with oversight, there was really no better person for the job.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi chose her friend, freshman Congresswoman Donna Shalala (D-FL).

This is a stunning selection. Shalala, according to sources, had no interest in the job. She has no expertise in the financial industry or the Fed. The two committees that would prepare you for this position are Financial Services and Oversight (Porter sits on both). Shalala sits on Education and Labor and Rules. She’s on the early childhood education subcommittee, so if that ever comes up in discussing the Fed’s corporate bond or high-yield ETF purchases we’re in good shape.

Yes, Shalala was Health and Human Services Secretary. In her public statement, Pelosi highlights that, saying Shalala will “ensure that this historic coronavirus relief package is being used wisely and efficiently to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people, and not be exploited by profiteers and price-gougers.”

But the oversight panel has nothing to do with public health or the pandemic. It’s supposed to examine Federal Reserve lending programs and whether they are assisting the public in economic stabilization and job recovery. These are deliberately complex programs that require for oversight someone with a passing familiarity with the financial system and corporate America. The only expertise Shalala has in all that comes from all the stocks she owns.

I know that Pelosi does a good job of keeping the House Democratic Caucus in line, but she has spent her entire career working for rich people at the expense of the ordinary working people.

Her career needs to end.

Your Mouth to God’s Ears

I will believe it when I see it, but I hope that this prediction that the United States will see a period or strikes and labor actions unseen since 1945-1946 is true:

In September 1945, a little-remembered frenzy erupted in the United States. Japan had surrendered, ending World War II, but American meat packers, steelworkers, telephone installers, telegraph operators, and auto assemblers had something different from partying in mind. In rolling actions, they went on strike. After years of patriotic silence on the home front, these workers, along with unhappy roughnecks, lumberjacks, railroad engineers, and elevator operators—some 6 million workers in all—shut down their industries and some entire cities. Mainly, they were seeking higher pay—and they got it, averaging 18% increases.

The era of raucous labor is long past, and worker chutzpah along with it. That is, it was—until now. Desperately needed to staff the basic economy while the rest of us remain secluded from COVID-19, ordinarily little-noticed workers are wielding unusual leverage. Across the country, cashiers, truckers, nurses, burger flippers, stock replenishers, meat plant workers, and warehouse hands are suddenly seen as heroic, and they are successfully protesting. For the previous generation of labor, the goal post was the 40-hour week. New labor’s immediate aims are much more prosaic: a sensible face mask, a bottle of sanitizer, and some sick days.

The question is what happens next. Are we watching a startling but fleeting moment for newly muscular labor? Or, once the coronavirus is beaten, do companies face a future of vocal workers aiming to rebuild lost decades of wage increases and regained influence in boardrooms and the halls of power? For now, at least, some of the country’s most powerful CEOs are clearly nervous. Late last month, Apple, faced with reporters asking about a company decision to furlough hundreds of contract workers without pay, did a quick about-face. Those employees, Apple now said, would receive their hourly wages. A few weeks earlier, after Amazon warehouse workers demanded better benefits during the virus pandemic, that company also reversed course, offering paid sick days and unlimited unpaid time off.


But if companies are responding to those who are protesting, they might also think ahead and preempt festering trouble down the road. “I like to believe people will say, ‘We treat these people as disposable, but they are pretty indispensable. Maybe we should do what we can to recognize their contribution,’” says David Autor, a labor economist at MIT and co-director of the school’s Work of the Future Task Force.


But in 1981, President Ronald Reagan changed all that. Some 12,000 air traffic controllers went on strike, demanding higher pay and a shorter workweek. In a breathtaking decision, Reagan fired all but a few hundred of them. The Federal Labor Relations Authority decertified the controllers’ union entirely. The era of strong labor was over.

In the subsequent age of the no-excuses layoff, the number of major strikes has plunged. Starting in 1947, when the government began keeping such data, there were almost always anywhere from 200 to more than 400 big strikes every year. But in 1982, the year after the air traffic controllers debacle, the number for the first time fell below 100. In 2017, there were just seven. “There was damage to self-esteem every time there was a layoff. It took the militancy out of organized labor, and I don’t think it ever recovered,” Uchitelle says.


The current revival of worker activism precedes COVID-19 in the unlikeliest of places. In 2018, West Virginia teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation and four years without a raise, went on strike for nine days in a demand for higher pay. That they won a 5% increase was one astonishing thing. But the walkout itself was stunning, specifically because of the state where it occurred—a former bedrock of ultra-militant coal miners who had repeatedly gone to actual war for better pay and safety but more recently were a bastion of worker passivity.

I hope that this is true, but if labor keeps supporting politicians who offer their full throated support for destructive labor arbitrage policies, (“Free Trade” deals) then we are going to continue competing with people who work for a dollar an hour in Bangladesh.

ICANN is a Bitch

After a thinly veiled threat of legal action from the California Attorney General, ICANN has delayed the sale of the .org domain registry.

This is a good thing. It is clear that this deal smells to high heaven:

ICANN, the nonprofit that oversees the Internet’s domain name system, has given itself another two weeks to decide whether to allow control of the .org domain to be sold to private equity firm Ethos Capital. The decision comes after ICANN received a blizzard of letters from people opposed to the transaction, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

Becerra’s letter was significant because ICANN is incorporated in California. That means it’s Becerra’s job to make sure that ICANN is living up to the commitments in its articles of incorporation, which promise that ICANN will operate “for the benefit of the Internet community as a whole.”

Becerra questioned whether ICANN was really doing that. “There is mounting concern that ICANN is no longer responsive to the needs of its stakeholders,” he wrote.


California’s attorney general pointed to several specific concerns about the transaction. One was the shadowy nature of the proposed buyer, Ethos Capital. “Little is known about Ethos Capital and its multiple proposed subsidiaries,” Becerra writes. Ethos Capital, he said, has “refused to produce responses to many critical questions posted by the public and Internet community.”

Ethos Capital’s plan is to buy the Public Interest Registry (PIR) from its current parent organization, the nonprofit Internet Society. To help finance the sale, Ethos will saddle PIR with $300 million in debt—a common tactic in the world of leveraged buyouts. Becerra warns that this tactic could endanger the financial viability of the PIR—especially in light of the economic uncertainty created by the coronavirus.


Becerra ends his letter with a warning: “This office will continue to evaluate this matter, and will take whatever action necessary to protect Californians and the nonprofit community.”

This whole thing smells of self-dealing, which is contrary to US non-profit law, California non-profit law, and ICANN’s own rules.

Shut it down.

Canada Really Needs to Shut Down Its Southern Border

Because Corona Virus is the least of the dangerous diseases coming from the USA.

Now they are getting mass shootings:

On an overcast Nova Scotia morning, flags fluttered at half-mast and memorials sprouted up like flowers, as families and friends learned of losses, a province grieved, and a country struggled to comprehend the staggering toll of Canada’s deadliest shooting.

RCMP now say there are “in excess of 19 people” dead, and that number is expected to rise further. Police are investigating, and also mourning one of their own, RCMP Constable Heidi Stevenson, who was killed in the attack.

“I know this is a challenging time for Nova Scotians and that there are so many unanswered questions,” RCMP Chief Superintendent Chris Leather said at a press conference in Dartmouth on Monday. “I want to reassure you that we are working hard to find out as much information as possible in the days and weeks to come. We will be in this for months to come, I am sure.”

The perpetrator, who has been identified by police as 51-year-old Gabriel Wortman, was shot by police in a gas station parking lot in Enfield, outside Halifax, around noon on Sunday.

In the small community of Wentworth, which lost four residents to the violence, Lisa Owen and Darrol Thurier sat in front of their house on Monday, holding back emotion as they looked down the road toward where their neighbours’ house had been.

The couple who lived in the home, Sean McLeod and Alanna Jenkins, are missing, their cars torched and their house burned to its foundation.