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Good Job Vox Part II

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.29.15

Nick S. writes: Second "The government just redefined what it means to be an employer." Which concludes

The NLRB has leaned toward labor recently
The Browning ruling is the latest in a spate of recent NLRB decisions that have fallen in favor of labor. In 2014, the board made the union election process much speedier (opponents call the new standards the "ambush election" rules) and in a separate case said that employees can organize on workplace email systems. In January 2013, the board ruled that speech on social media is protected speech -- in other words, your employer can't ban you from complaining about your working conditions on Twitter.
These actions have angered the business community, causing some to see the Obama-era NLRB as activist.
However, Fick sees a different kind of coherence to these decisions. It's not so much that they're pro-labor as that they're adapting old labor rules to a new world -- one in which employees have public conversations about their jobs on Twitter, and also one in which huge corporations increasingly rely on subcontracted or franchise workers. "As industrial relations change, we have to figure out how to apply the old rules to the new situation," she says.
The NLRB doesn't have the final word
The board's ruling won't necessarily hold. The case could still be challenged in appeals court, and the pro-business DC Circuit Court of Appeals especially has displayed a willingness to overturn NLRB judgments.

I hadn't followed any of those rulings, so I was glad to have that context.


 

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Names

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.28.15

A student introduced herself as Joanie and I spent the first class almost distracted by how anachronistic a name it was, for an 18 year old. Today she turned in an assignment, signed "Joni" and it all made sense.


 

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Guest Post - Vox Explaining Things Well

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.28.15

NickS writes: Two very good articles on Vox today, both of which explain interesting things, while giving a useful amount of context*. First "Tech nerds are smart. But they can't seem to get their heads around politics." which uses a very smart framing of addressing people who are intelligent, used to teaching themselves things, and who find American politics obnoxious and annoying. Compared to an article explaining politics for dummies that gives it a reason to emphasize the ways in which it is interesting and useful to pay attention to political science research. The article is also generally well written and very clear. For example, this excellent observation, which isn't original, but which is very well stated.

I think that these two narratives -- disdain toward politics, and the parties as mirror images with rational thinking in the center -- are connected. That vision of the political spectrum implies that one is partisan precisely in proportion to one's distance from rational thinking. It defines partisanship as irrationality, as blind, lemming-like behavior, the opposite of approaching things "from a standpoint of rationality and what I think makes sense." The independent thinker takes a bit from this party, a bit from that one, as rational thinking dictates.

Since the loudest voices in politics are partisans, people who have chosen a side, seeing the political spectrum this way is inevitably going to lead to an irritation and disdain toward politics, a desire to wash one's hands of it and proclaim, as Urban does, that "I am not political." But that just won't do.
Incidentally, Kevin Drum responds to this article by arguing that the tech community, in general, doesn't get politics because it doesn't get marketing.
Back in the dark ages, this was a little more obvious. Steve Wozniak invented, Steve Jobs sold. It was so common for tech companies to be started by two people, one engineer and one salesman, that it was practically a cliche.
The modern tech community has lost a bit of that. Oh, they all chatter about social media and going viral and so forth. As long as the marketing is actually just some excuse for talking about cool new tech, they're happy to immerse themselves in it. But actually selling their product? Meh. The truly great ideas rise to the top without any of that Mad Men crap. Anyway, the marketing department will handle the dull routine of advertising and....well, whatever it is they do.

* I note that both of these articles are significantly longer than the typical vox article and both benefit from extending a narrative thread over that length. Both of them would be much weaker as a card stack (though I note that both contain numerous links, external and to other vox articles). That is just to say that I'm still not convinced that vox has figured out exactly what it's supposed to be doing but those articles made me glad to see that it is, at least, generating some quality writing.


Heebie's take: Stay tuned for Good Job Vox, part II.


 

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Ed Graf

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.27.15

Post-Cameron Todd Willingham, Texas eventually revamped its Fire Marshall Office, and among other reforms, is reviewing all old arson cases based on faulty forensic evidence. Ed Graf is the first case to be reviewed. He was convicted in 1988 of murdering his stepsons, and was re-tried in 2014. I found his story totally riveting.


 

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Go Jump In The Lake

Posted by Ogged
on 08.26.15

So,

WAUKESHA, Wis. -- This city, once famous for its bubbling natural springs, sits about 17 miles from the shore of Lake Michigan. So when the state and federal authorities began demanding that the city address a growing contamination problem in its aquifer, the answer seemed simple: Get water from the big lake.

Hey Waukesha,

Go fuck yourself.

Before we rape yet another natural resource to sustain whatever piece of shit lifestyle people have grown accustomed to, maybe try some real conservation beyond "no daytime lawn watering" and teaching kids about conversation. That's not even a joke.

Or just make beer and soft drinks. That totally makes sense.

It would also be nice to see some proactive conservation in places like the one I live, which does get its water directly from the lake, so that we can actually keep the water we have. Rahm is ON IT. (Actually, Milwaukee is on it.


 

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Wednesday

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.26.15

Let's make a list of all the things that are annoying us. I'll start.


 

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The N-word

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.26.15

I laughed.

Via Jammies


 

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Guest Post - Helicopter parenting

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.25.15

Witt writes: This woman is comparing her life in Montreal to friends in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Not sure I buy her whole theory, but it's interesting to contemplate.

Compare these two mothers of 18-month-old toddlers: Jen [in Quebec] spent the first 10 months of her kid's life taking care of him at home, relatively free of financial worry since she was getting paid a portion of her salary. For the past eight months she's been back at work, while her kid is at a daycare that never costs her more than $300 a month. Her rent hasn't gone up by more than $20 a month in the past five years, and isn't likely to change.
Meanwhile, Lisa in Brooklyn spent two months at home with her baby, and he has been in daycare ever since -- at a cost of over $1,200 a month. (Which by the way, makes it one of the more affordable options. Even in lower-rent Philadelphia, full-time daycare will easily run upwards of $1,200 a month.) Her cost of living is subject to change based on what the market can withstand, which in 2015 Brooklyn, appears to be a lot. She is living under the sword of Damocles that hangs over every new parent back at work: Let family life derail your focus on work and you risk losing your job.
Can you blame Lisa for being a little more anxious, a bit more of a helicopter mom?

Heebie's take: that article is long...

It seems odd to attribute helicopter parenting to being financially strapped, as though being financially strapped was this brand new thing that just got invented by hipsters a few years ago and now they're all partnered and having financially strapped Brooklyn babies. There are lots and lots of poor people who are not helicopter parents.

I'm much more inclined to attribute helicopter parenting* to class anxiety. If you were to buy the premise of the article, I think you'd have to rephrase it like this: "People who think of themselves as upper-middle class now find the ever-increasing trappings of upper-middle classdom very stressful, in part because the basics, like childcare, are such a huge financial toll. Whereas poor people find the basics to be sufficiently stressful."

*helicopter parenting being one of those concepts that I read about far more than I witness. I'm never exactly sure how prevalent this actually is.


 

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Guest Post - Penelope Trunk is back!

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.25.15

E. Messily sends along: She's still crazy.

Heebie's take: I defended her in the past, but this is indefensible. I'd rip it more but I have to go be bored in convocation.


 

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Virginia

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.24.15

J. Robot sends along this profile of an entertainingly shameless Joe Morrisey.


 

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Reading Group: BTWAM, Part 1

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.24.15

Below are responses from LW and LB to the first section of TNC's book. Enjoy!

LW writes: Coates' book is an intelligent, angry, personal reaction to Darren Wilson's 2014 acquittal. It's written as a letter to his teenaged son.

It's a loose book, interweaving history, autobiography, and analysis. I liked reading it a lot. I have a few notes on specific pages and a couple of reactions.

Coates is dissatisfied with people who he calls "the Dreamers." I had a hard time telling if he meant people who bought into the American dream (picket fence, good job in a good neighborhood variation), or whether he also included people who wholeheartedly bought into MLK's dream as well. I'd be interested to read who others think Coates means when he says "the Dreamers."

Coates is extremely unhappy with people who are willing to discount today's problems in the service of tomorrow's ideals. Coates sees young black people as the ones who will pay today. I can't disagree with that perspective. I see that idealism has been valuable for people who have lost hope, or who have no practical short-term hopes. Idealism has value, but I'm with Coates in distrusting anyone who raises it in today's USA. Today, getting the details right is what matters, for the whole country-- McCulloch is still the county prosecutor in St Louis, and his charity (Backstoppers) hasn't posted this year's tax returns yet. The justice department wrote and published a scathing report on this shitty little place, explaining that pointless tickets paid the bills. Perhaps things will change there: "Ferguson has begun talks with the U.S. Justice Department over police reforms - which could cost millions - following a scathing report by the agency last spring." So, begun talks and a handful of firings in the PD, that's what's actually happened a year later. Same mayor. A bill's passed to limit local government revenues from fines, good as far as it goes. There are now good local legislators-- I hope Antonio French gets authority. But overall, a year later, I can't disagree with Coates for staying mad.

Coates is an atheist who sees the recent wave of undeniable and unpunished police brutality as an expression of the will of the majority. As far as I'm concerned, I am happy to see that the book is into a 5th printing even though he clearly argues for these unpopular ideas-- I'm with him on keeping the focus on what happened this moth and how last month's problems again disappeared into fine print failure to punish anyone or change anything.

I liked Coates' autobiographical segments a lot. He points out that for people who get the message that they're born to lose, "fear rules everything around me," disagreeing with Wu-Tang's CREAM. He talks about the ways he's internalized the tactic to stay scared and stay angry, how he likes seeing that his son's outlook is different. Coates learned a lot at college, for him being able to go to Howard really worked well. One great sentence: "I didn't yet realize that the boot on your neck was as likely to make you delusional as it is to ennoble." He doesn't give a pass to well-intentioned bad ideas, and he has a persistent ability to detect generalizing as a bogus tactic to change the subject from today's problem.

Another segment I liked were his related points a) that painted depictions of Africans by Europeans changed a lot as the slave trade grew-- dignity before, but not after. and b) back when "Irish race" was a thing, popular depictions of brutal Irishmen shared a lot with depictions of blacks.

All of this is kind of scattered-- it's a short book, buy it and read it. I hope that my son and his wind up with more similarities than differences in outlook and fate even 10 years out.

LB writes My initial, impressionistic response to Coates' book was that someone else should be writing up their initial, impressionistic response to it. I'm the wrong person. As I may have mentioned here before, I'm a lawyer. And people often use lawyerly words to react to books about society: a stunning indictment; puts forth evidence; argues; makes a case. Generally, that's how I read books -- poking at the arguments, nitpicking, and looking for holes. That is not how to read this book -- it's not an argument, much less one that's structured to defend itself against being attacked.

Coates is talking about how hard it is to be black in America, and more precisely about how it is hard: that it is hard in terms of physical danger, and physical and emotional effort required to protect against that danger. But he's not trying to compel anyone who doesn't believe already to change their mind -- this book isn't going to make converts (maybe it will? But it doesn't seem to me to be trying to). To get anything out of it, you have to trust that he's telling the truth -- that the physical danger he's talking about, the danger to 'the body' is a result of how America treats black people -- or know it already from your own experience.

And of course I do. I don't know anything at all first-hand about what it's like to be black in America. But I'm a fairly good demographic match for Coates in a lot of ways. We're within five years of the same age, grew up in inner cities in the high-crime years, I wasn't living in a desolate slum (half a mile from one, yes), but I'm pretty sure he wasn't either. If you take race out of it, our parents sound pretty close in terms of class and education: his father worked as a college librarian, so at least some college, probably; mine's some college, no degree. He was a public school kid who everyone recognized as bright, but had kind of terrible grades through being a big flake about school; I was a public school kid too: my grades weren't, maybe, that bad, but I certainly wasn't a good student.


But my life has been, and has felt, incomparably safer than Coates', even when it was happening in what should have been pretty much the same environment. Bumbling around NYC in its highest crime years, I was cautious sometimes, but I never seriously worried that anyone was going to physically hurt me. Why would that happen? Screwing up in school was sort of an emotional, self-esteem issue, but had nothing at all to do with my physical safety in the way Coates talks about, where being an academic screwup can put you out on the streets where you are, again, in physical danger. (Gender plays into this a bit, maybe, but the white boys I was friends with in high school lived in the same safe world I did.) Being black is, from the news that everyone's seen over the past year or so, and from the decades before that, and from Coates' vivid account, living in a world where being in physical danger doesn't require a reason beyond being black, and where a white and a black person acting the same way, in the same environment, are in wildly different levels of danger.

And it's still like this. A couple of years ago Sally's rugby team (which did a lot of educational and social support for the girls outside of practice), had a session on safely interacting with the police. We live in a mostly minority neighborhood, where she walks around unsupervised, and where she rides public transportation between home, and school, and rugby practice. So she isn't geographically or socially isolated from the sort of interactions with police the session was about. But most of the black and Dominican girls on the team, girls her own age, had stories about being hassled by cops, and she was really thrown, because a cop had never given her a moment's notice -- blue eyes and pale skin have been enough to mark her as 'not a problem' all along. She went to public schools (again, in a mostly minority neighborhood, where the white kids were a very small minority in the classroom), and we thought her elementary school was great, and never had a concern for her safety. She's got a friend -- Dominican boy from the Bronx -- who went to the same kind of public schools. He's got stories about the gym teacher in his school setting up fights between the kids, and making him fight other boys. Same environment, wildly different levels of physical safety, and the only difference is race.

What do you do with any of this? I have no idea; Coates isn't offering solutions either. But at least seeing what's in front of our faces is something.


 

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Is It Just Me

Posted by LizardBreath
on 08.23.15

or are the Americans who stopped the shooting on the train in France really implausibly photogenic?

I suspect the whole event of having been staged as propaganda.


 

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Those Near and Far Wars

Posted by Heebie-Geebie
on 08.23.15

The kids really wanted to watch the Star Wars movie. They felt strongly about starting with Episode 1. Jammies had a medium preference for them to start with Episode 4. I have zero preference since I have never followed the plot of these movies. But I do enjoy explaining things, and so I undertook to explain to the kids why 4 was the right place, and I did a sufficient job.

As of last night, I more or less follow the plot of #4. I also have been informed about Machete Order, which I assume you all know about. Maybe it shows up in Heinlein books.

(This is my favorite thing about Star Wars. And hey! How bout that nutty Star Wars bar?)


 

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