Back in early July I posted ten links to long-form pieces that I’d had a chance to enjoy because of not having one of those nasty “full-time-job” things. I see that the browser tabs are bulking up again, so here we go. Just like last time, people with anything resembling a “life” probably don’t have time for all of them, but if a few pick a juicy-looking essay to enjoy, that’ll have made it worthwhile.

The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free by Nathan J. Robinson. I think we’ve all sort of realized that the assertion in the title is true. Robinson doesn’t lay out much in the way of solutions but does a great job of highlighting the problem. I dug into this this myself last year in Subscription Friction. It’s a super-important subject and needs more study.

Like many, I’ve picked up a new quarantine-time activity — in my case, Afro-Cuban drumming lessons. I’ve been studying West-African drumming for many years, but this is a different thing. Afro-Cuban is normally done on a pair of conga drums as opposed to djembé and dunum. At the center of the thing is the almighty Clave rhythm. In The Rhythm that Conquered the World: What Makes a “Good” Rhythm Good? Godfried Toussaint of Harvard dives deep on the “clave son” flavor (which is sort of the Bo Diddly beat with the measures flipped, and with variations) and has fun with math and music! I personally find the “rumba clave” variation just absolutely bewitching, when you can get it right. For more on this infinitely-deep rabbit hole, check out Wikipedia on Songo and Tumbao.

There’s a new insult being flung about in the Left’s internecine polemics: “Class Reductionist”. A class reductionist is one who might argue that while oppression by race and gender and so on are real and must be struggled against, the most important thing to work on right now is arranging that everyone has enough money to live in dignity. There is some conflict with “intersectional” thinking, which argues that the the struggles against poverty and sexism and racism and LGBTQ oppression aren’t distinct, they’re just one struggle. In some respects, though, the two are in harmony: A Black trans woman is way more likely on average, to be broke. In How calling someone a "class reductionist" became a lefty insult, Asad Haider takes on the subject in detail and at length and says what seem to me a lot of really smart things. Confession: I’m sort of a class reductionist.

In The New Yorker, Why America Feels Like a Post-Soviet State offers that rare thing, a new perspective on 2020’s troubles. By Masha Gessen, who knows whereof they speak.

As anti-monopoly energy starts to surge politically around the world, it’s important to drill down on specifics. It’s gotten to the point where I hesitate to point fingers at Amazon because I actually think the Google and Facebook monopolies need more urgent attention, but since details matter, here’s Amazon’s Monopoly Tollbooth, which tries to assemble facts and figures on whether and how the Amazon retail operation has a monopoly smell. And also on a related but distinct subject: The Harmful Impact of Audible Exclusive Audiobooks. The latter is open to criticism as being the whining of a losing competitor. But when you start to hear that a lot, you may be hearing evidence of monopoly.

In “Hurting People At Scale”, Ryan Mac and Craig Silverman dig hard into Facebook employee culture and controversy. I think this is important because the arguments Facebookers are having with each other are ones we need to be having at a wider scale in society.

Related: A possibly new idea: “Technology unions” could be unions of conscience for Big Tech, by Martin Skladany. It’s pretty simple: High-tech knowledge workers are well-paid and well-cared-for and hardly need traditional unions for traditional reasons. But they’re progressive, angry, and would like to work together. Maybe a new kind of “union”?

Most people reading this will know that I’m an environmentalist generally, a radical on the Climate Emergency specifically, and particularly irritated about the TransMountain (“TMX”) pipeline they’re trying to run through my hometown to ship some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels and facilitate exhausting their (high) carbon load into the atmosphere. Thus I’m cheered to read about any and all obstacles in TransMountain’s way, most recently having trouble finding insurers.

Also on the energy file, many have probably heard something about the arrest of the Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Larry Householder on corruption charges. An FBI investigation shows Ohio’s abysmal energy law was fueled by corruption, by Leah C. Stokes, has the goods, big-time. This is corruption on such a huge blatant scale that it feels cartoonish, with a highly-directed purpose: Directing public money into stinky bailouts of stinky dirty-energy companies. When the time has come that you have to bribe the governments of entire U.S. States to keep the traditional energy ecosystem ticking over, I’d say the take-away is obvious.

Finally, some good ol’ fashioned leftist theory. Recently, a few people out on the right (e.g. Tucker Carlson) have been saying things that, while they retain that Trumpkin stench, flame away at inequality and monopoly in a way that seems sort of, well, left-wing. It sounds implausible that Fox-head thinking could ever wear the “progressive” label, thus Mike Konczal’s The Populist Right Will Fail to Help Workers or Outflank the Left (Tl;dr: “Pfui!”) is useful.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Nik P (Aug 04 2020, at 22:36)

re: class reductionism

I think why it's a bit of a controversial take right now is because it feels like it's appropriating the specific individual struggle of disadvantaged POC/LGBTQ folk, and broadening it to a wider "let's help the poor white folk too who also suffer under capitalism." (yes, i'm also being a bit reductionist)

And we should! I completely agree that wealth inequality and the growing class divide is the biggest problem facing western society today (Arguably climate change is a bigger deal but we won't get to deal with that problem if we let wealth inequality get much worse because people's desires for investing into a healthier planet in a decade get overridden by the desire to not become homeless in a month).

I also do not doubt the motivations of anyone who wants to focus on this problem exclusively, for the betterment of all.

However I completely understand why it frustrates people who have been fighting for decades for equal rights and opportunities for minority groups only to see the focus of their allies shift and expand.

It's hard to care about sea level rise if you don't have healthcare and are one paycheck away from not being able to pay rent.

But it's also hard to care about the white person not being able to pay rent when you're a POC in the same position with the additional burden of being affected by police brutality.

Of course, I'm speaking for others here, so I best be careful to not misrepresent. This is my ASSUMPTION, I do not have any explicit anecdotes.

My own personal stance on it is a bit practical: Changing society to rid us of the evil (but inevitable) consequences of capitalism that we've let fester over the decades is going to be incredibly hard and I have no idea if it's even possible without a full on Revolution. And those haven't led to particularly good outcomes in the last 100 years either. (Obligatory: true Communism has never been tried without the sabotage and intervention of the West)

On the other hand, fixing fundamentally broken police systems through re-funding, dismantling systemic racism, and improving gender equality for trans folks feels more achievable in the next several years.


From: ForeverYoung (Aug 15 2020, at 15:12)

It's likely too late for tech to unionize regardless of form. Participation isn't usually something you can request after the fact. US tech employees already let tech companies amass capital, influence and power while having little themselves. Not only do you need those things to successfully hold your own, but a union is also a vehicle for those things. You organize so employees can have a greater collective voice in companies and society. Just because you also have a legal right to co-determination doesn't change how you have that voice. The Nordic unions have things like publications, academic institutions, real estate and war chests because those are the things you need.

As to what well-paid and well-cared-for employees should bargain for, here is a collective agreement for bank employees in Sweden (in English). []. It is of course based on Swedish labor law which is different from the US. But the principles are the same. Just because you might not face bodily harm doesn't mean there are less stakes. Not only may you have to deal with psychologically harmful conditions like a bad work environment, but an arbitrary firing or a delayed promotion could be a career killer.


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