By Lambert Strether of Corrente.
Bird Song of the Day
In honor of the tool-using Cockatoo:
Carnaby’s Black-Cockatoo, Yanchep National Park, Wanneroo, Western Australia, Australia. This is great! An entire flock! I looked for a picture of a flock, but this is the best I can do:
“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51
“Here’s food for thought, had Ahab time to think; but Ahab never thinks; he only feels, feels, feels.” –Herman Melville, Moby Dick
“So many of the social reactions that strike us as psychological are in fact a rational management of symbolic capital.” –Pierre Bourdieu, Classification Struggles
“Messages: Officer often fed information to Proud Boys leader” [Associated Press]. • For what purpose? To find out what the informers fed back? Honestly, it seems like half official Washington knew something was going on — surely Pelosi, one of the Gang of Eight, did — and yet… no precautions were taken. Of any kind. Odd.
“Biden administration briefs former Trump national security officials about Chinese spy balloons” [NBC]. • Probably means the information is useless, but this is the first tiny indication I’ve seen that this Administration views the former guy’s administration as in any way a legitimate government.
“Justice Department drops sex trafficking probe of Rep. Matt Gaetz without charges, lawyers say” [USA Today]. • Wait. I thought the walls were closing in?
“The ‘CEO of Anti-Woke Inc.’ Has His Eye on the Presidency” [Politico]. “At 37 years old, Vivek Ramaswamy has made hundreds of millions of dollars, written a New York Times bestseller and become a fixture on Tucker Carlson’s show. Recently, he was dubbed by the New Yorker as the ‘CEO of Anti-Woke Inc.’ But on a chilly Monday evening last month, Ramaswamy found himself in a place far from the Fox News green rooms and high-powered corporate board rooms he’s used to. He was at a dinner event in Iowa, addressing a crowd of dozens of the state’s agricultural royalty tucked inside a huge upscale barn with exposed wood beams and the heads of elk and bison mounted on the walls…. Ramaswamy was there to do what people with ambition, a thirst for the spotlight and an overflowing sense of self-confidence occasionally go to Iowa to do. He is exploring a run for president, testing, among other things, whether his warnings about the dangers of ‘wokeism’ and socially-responsible investing — in business vernacular what’s called environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing — have political currency with Republican politicians, business leaders and, yes, farmers. Ramaswamy has a theory for how this will all go. He wants to pull off what Donald Trump did in 2016: enter the race with an entrepreneurial spirit, unorthodox ideas, and few expectations, and end up developing a major following that will carry him to the presidency — even if it seems like a long shot at the moment. But making a fortune in biotech investing is different than glad-handing with Iowa small business owners or withstanding a barrage of attacks from Trump. And at the farmers dinner, Ramaswamy showed both the promise he’d bring to the field and the difficulties he’d encounter in trying to stand out among a crowd of former cabinet officials and sitting governors. As much as the GOP likes outsiders and businessmen, there’s still a natural skepticism of people who have no political or government experience whatsoever, especially when so much of the prospective field will likely have a track record of conservative governing, like Trump or Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.” • Who?
I am going to make a bold and early call. @VivekGRamaswamy will run for POTUS and win. I think the country is ready for his message. He is young, smart, talented and will attract the center to the right to win. He speaks hard truths which many believe but fear to say. https://t.co/agAPlqqlhq
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) February 15, 2023
Well, he’s a person of color, the same color Kamala Harris was, before she decided to change it. So there’s that
“Dems’ 2024 disconnect” [Axios]. “There’s a gaping divide in the Democratic Party between institutional public opinion — party leaders, lawmakers, donors, consultants — and the actual voters who ultimately decide elections, recent polling shows. President Biden has all but erased internal Democratic Party criticism. But only three postwar presidents had lower approval ratings than Biden at this point in their presidency. Biden’s job approval rating is 43%, according to the FiveThirtyEight polling average. Nearly half (45%) of Americans had no confidence in Biden’s ability to make the right decisions for the country’s future, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll just before the State of the Union. Only 16% of respondents in the poll said they were better off financially than when Biden became president — compared to 41% who said they were worse off. Doubts about Biden’s age (80) have all but vanished from institutional Democrats’ public conversation. The DNC has neutralized the influence of Iowa and New Hampshire [good job!], where an intraparty rebellion could have started. The vibes in Washington are growing bullish on Biden’s re-election prospects. But polling shows voters aren’t optimistic about their own economic futures. And a majority of Democrats want a new standard-bearer for 2024.” • So what? (As I keep saying, Biden really is the best candidate they’ve got. Which is frightening. I can see Warren gathering herself together for another run, but I can’t see it; I think NGOs, some apparatchiks, some consultants, and some electeds would back her, but I can’t see any Sanders voters doing so; they remember what a snake she was. And she’s tagged “Pocahantas” for a good reason.
“Progressive talk about replacing Biden flames out” [The Hill]. “As President Biden prepares to launch another White House bid, the nascent movement to find a replacement to run in his place has flamed out, with Democrats in both wings of the party pleased with the expected direction of his campaign and no alternative in sight… While one speech can only go so far, otherwise antsy progressives expressed being pleasantly surprised by the direction Biden seems to be headed for his reelection campaign. The address ‘proved that the center of gravity has shifted in American politics,’ said Adam Green, who co-founded the left-wing Progressive Change Campaign Committee.” • Great. Try paying your rent — that is, your rents — with the center of gravity.
“Scoop: The GOP guide for splashy hearings outside D.C.” [Axios]. “House Republicans are planning a series of attention-grabbing hearings outside of Washington, guided by a 15-page, private playbook obtained by Axios. With little chance of getting bills signed by President Biden, Republicans are sending subpoenas, planning trips to the southwest border and encouraging committees to find fresh, TV-friendly settings for hearings that target administration policies. The detailed memo lays bare Republicans’ aim for publicity by giving committees tips for attracting media coverage…. Field hearings ‘provide a unique opportunity to actually spend time in communities that are directly impacted by the issues we are talking about,’ [Rep. Bryan Steil (R-Wis.), an ally of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.)], told Axios in a statement.” • This is a good idea. The Democrats are far less likely to be able to censor local news, too.
Democrats en Déshabillé
Patient readers, it seems that people are actually reading the back-dated post! But I have not updated it, and there are many updates. So I will have to do that. –lambert
I have moved my standing remarks on the Democrat Party (“the Democrat Party is a rotting corpse that can’t bury itself”) to a separate, back-dated post, to which I will periodically add material, summarizing the addition here in a “live” Water Cooler. (Hopefully, some Bourdieu.) It turns out that defining the Democrat Party is, in fact, a hard problem. I do think the paragraph that follows is on point all the way back to 2016, if not before:
The Democrat Party is the political expression of the class power of PMC, their base (lucidly explained by Thomas Frank in Listen, Liberal!). ; if the Democrat Party did not exist, the PMC would have to invent it. . (“PMC” modulo “class expatriates,” of course.) Second, all the working parts of the Party reinforce each other. Leave aside characterizing the relationships between elements of the Party (ka-ching, but not entirely) those elements comprise a network — a Flex Net? An iron octagon? — of funders, vendors, apparatchiks, electeds, NGOs, and miscellaneous mercenaries, with assets in the press and the intelligence community.
Note, of course, that the class power of the PMC both expresses and is limited by other classes; oligarchs and American gentry (see ‘industrial model’ of Ferguson, Jorgensen, and Jie) and the working class spring to mind. Suck up, kick down.
* * *
Please make it stop:
I have helpfully underlined all the phrases that indicate motion without direction, and indeed without any, well, concrete material benefits. (I grant some “investment” in the “climate crisis” but spread over ten years, it’s not so much. As for jobs, I dunno….)
“Trump and right-wing media amplified a questionable Columbia Journalism Review article criticizing the Trump/Russia investigation” [FiveThirtyEight]. “[T]he stories that we’re reading about Democratic cohesion probably aren’t going to last forever — because House Democrats are not actually that unified. Just because their conflicts aren’t all over cable news doesn’t mean the fissures aren’t there…  Progressive Insurgents… These are the most progressive members of the Democratic caucus. They often hold very liberal beliefs on economic and social policies (e.g., supporting the Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Cori Bush of Missouri, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.  Progressive Establishment…. While Democrats in the group above are probably in the headlines more, this group primarily consists of the anointed leaders of the progressive left. As such, they tend to hold leadership roles in groups like the Congressional Progressive Caucus…. Prominent members: Reps. Katie Porter and Maxine Waters of California and Pramila Jayapal of Washington.  The Liberal Establishment… Here are the leaders of the congressional House Democrats. They are also most commonly associated with the party’s establishment wing. But their own politics can be a bit of an enigma at times: While many (like Jeffries and Pelosi) have fairly progressive voting records, lawmakers in this group often move toward the middle so they can be seen as having all members’ best interests at heart and are successful at getting deals passed. Prominent members: Jeffries, Reps. Nancy Pelosi of California, Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, Steny Hoyer of Maryland.  The Centrist Firebrands… These are the most conservative House Democrats. They are generally from purple or red-leaning districts or states and tend to have more conservative views on economic and social issues.
Prominent members: Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas, Jared Golden of Maine, Josh Gottheimer of New Jersey.” • Plenty of scope for revolving heroes and villains. I am also of the opinion that, at least for the electeds — the Democrat Party is by no means composed solely of electeds — heirarchy as determined by time served is key (see my repeated references to Kim Stanley Robinson’s New York 2040>
Realignment and Legitimacy
There are not very many of the Shing:
Recall, Staley’s lawyers said “Snow White” was not a “code word” when @sjhmorris and @carolinebinham first broke the story in 2021https://t.co/HrKR7l5SS2 pic.twitter.com/ym5KEY3Dwn
— Robert Smith (@BondHack) February 16, 2023
Makes you wonder — tinfoil hat time, I grant — whether these guys actually funded QAnon (and PizzaGate. Reminds me — I think I have this right — of the villain in a John D. MacDonald number, who shot one of his horses (he was rich) and then used an earth mover to bury it over the corpse of someone he had killed, on the assumption that searchers wouldn’t look past the first corpse they encountered).
“S.B.F.’s Unsolved Dark-Money Mysteries” [Puck (hat tip, Atrios)]. “There used to be a joke I’d hear around Washington, that everyone in town with an ounce of ambition was, in some way or another, on the payroll of Sam Bankman-Fried. And if you hadn’t figured out how to get on the gravy train, well, that was on you. Like all good jokes, there was more than a kernel of truth to all of it: I’ve covered the S.B.F. political machine as closely as anyone over the last few years, and I still encounter new names of lobbyists who were secretly on Sam’s retainer, of data savants who found a way into D.C.’s greatest donor-fueled growth industry, and amazingly, nonprofits that were moving millions of FTX-connected dollars without a scintilla of public knowledge.” • Does make you wonder what else SBF had going on; see above.
The same thing happened with ANSWER in the demonstrations against the Iraq War:
My issue with other people’s issue with the Rage Against the War Machine rally is this: if you don’t like the speakers’ roster and their ideology, where is the major anti-war rally from the principled American left?
Don’t be mad at the LaRouchites, be embarrassed at yourselves
— qaomene at TikTok & 🐘 (@Qban_Linx) February 11, 2023
Looks like “leveling off to a high plateau” across the board. (I still think “Something Awful” is coming, however. I mean, besides what we already know about.) Stay safe out there!
Lambert here: Last Friday, I reconfigured Covid coverage (at least temporarily; we may need to adjust to another surge). I’ve always thought of this section as providing readers with not only trend data, but early warning about locations (to the county level) particularly in travel season. But now the data is simply too slow and too bad, unsurprisingly, since “Covid is over.” So I will revert to three charts only: national Case Data (Biobot), state Positivity (Walgreens), and national Deaths (Our World in Data). I also feel that the top of the #COVID19 section has not been sufficiently structured, and I’m going to create some buckets, like “Indoor Air,” or “Masks” (and “Variants,” if I encounter a good link). This reconfiguration is not a “step back,” as Dima would say; but I do think I can use the freed-up time to beef up other sections, like Politics and especially Stats. Reader comment welcome!
Resources (National): Transmission (CDC); Wastewater (CDC); Variants (CDC; Walgreens).
Resources (Local): CA (dashboard); ME (dashboard); NC (dashboard); NH (wastewater); IL (wastewater); SC (dashboard); VA (dashboard); WI (dashboard).
Readers, since the national data systems are being vandalized, let’s start collecting links state data, too. If readers would send me links (see Plant below) to their favorite State and local dashboards/wastewater sites, that would be great. Or leave a link in Comments.
Hat tips to helpful readers: ChiGal, hop2it, JB, Joe, LaRuse, Petal, RL, Rod.
• More like this, please! Total: 6. (Readers, I am not putting your handle next to your contribution because I hope and expect the list will be long, and I want it to be easy to scan. (If you leave your link in comments, I use your handle. If you send it to me via email, I use your initials (in the absence of a handle.)
Look for the Helpers
Perhaps the knitters among us would like to join in:
Covid conscious knitters, listen up – I’m hosting a special Virtual Knit Night breakout room for us at @covidisntover Saturday Night Hangout, this Saturday evening, 8.30-11 pm EST (that’s Sunday 12.30-3pm AEDT for Australians). Please share! pic.twitter.com/FNWdacQZAd
— Sarah-Jane Smith 💕 (@1SarahJaneSmith) February 16, 2023
* * *
“Covid Meetups” [COVID MEETUPS (JM)]. “A free service to find individuals, families and local businesses/services who take COVID precautions in your area.” • I played around with it some. It seems to be Facebook-driven, sadly, but you can use the Directory without logging in. I get rational hits from the U.S., but not from London, UK, FWIW.
“Protection against Reinfection with the Omicron BA.2.75 Subvariant” (letter) [New England Journal of Medicine]. “The effectiveness of previous infection against reinfection with BA.2.75.2 appears to be lower than that against BA.4 or BA.5 reinfection.2 Protection afforded by a previous pre-omicron infection is negligible at this stage of the pandemic, a finding that confirms that pre-omicron–conferred immunity against omicron infection may not last beyond approximately 1 year.5 Protection conferred by a previous omicron infection was moderate, at approximately 50%, when the previous infection was with a BA.1 or BA.2 subvariant but was approximately 80% when the previous infection was more recent (i.e., caused by a BA.4 or BA.5 subvariant); these results may reflect a combination of progressive immune-system evasion and gradual waning of immune protection. Immunity resulting from a combination of pre-omicron and omicron infection was most protective against BA.2.75 reinfection. ” • Oh.
NOT UPDATED BioBot wastewater data from February 13:
For now, I’m going to use this national wastewater data as the best proxy for case data (ignoring the clinical case data portion of this chart, which in my view “goes bad” after March 2022, for reasons as yet unexplained). At least we can spot trends, and compare current levels to equivalent past levels.
From the Walgreen’s test positivity tracker, published February 16:
-1.0%. Still on the high plateau, equal to previous peaks.
Death rate (Our World in Data):
Total: 1,141,220 –
1,140,401 = 819 (819 * 365 = 298,935 deaths per year, today’s YouGenicist™ number for “living with” Covid (quite a bit higher than the minimizers would like, though they can talk themselves into anything. If the YouGenicist™ metric keeps chugging along like this, I may just have to decide this is what the powers-that-be consider “mission accomplished” for this particular tranche of death and disease). Well, the total wasn’t 192 again. Not that I feel better about it.
It’s nice that for deaths I have a simple, daily chart that just keeps chugging along, unlike everything else CDC and the White House are screwing up or letting go dark, good job. (Though CDC may be jiggering the numbers soon. Lower, naturally.)
Lambert here: Lowest level in awhile. Although we’ve seen this before.
Employment Situation: “United States Initial Jobless Claims” [Trading Economics]. “The number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits declined to 194 thousand in the week ending February 11th, down from the previous week’s revised level of 195 thousand and below market expectations of 200 thousand. The latest value remained close to a nine-month low of 183 thousand hit at the end of January, suggesting US labor market was still tight due in part to reduced labor force participation. This could force employers to raise wages to attract and keep staff, adding to further inflationary pressure in the world’s largest economy.”
Manufacturing: “United States Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index” [Trading Economics]. “The Philadelphia Fed Manufacturing Index in the US plunged to -24.3 in February of 2023, from -8.9 in January, compared to market expectations of -7.4. It was the sixth consecutive month that manufacturing activity remained below pair and the lowest reading since May 2020. The overall activity index continued to fall, the index for new orders remained negative, and the index for shipments continued to be positive but at a low level.”
The Bezzle: “Whatever happened to the metaverse?” [Financial Times]. “Type ‘metaverse’ into Google Trends and you’ll see search traffic for the word has collapsed by about 80 per cent over the past year or so. These days, if you want to raise a load of cash, you’d be better off name-dropping “generative AI” — artificial intelligence that can ‘generate’ text, images or other data…. So unenthusiastic are Meta’s own investors about the idea that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg was recently forced to say that the metaverse is ‘not the majority of what we’re doing.’ These days, he’s talking more about efficiency than the metaverse. For good reason, too: Reality Labs, the division that makes the Meta Quest headsets, made an operating loss of $13.7bn last year. The company has also fallen remarkably quiet about its big plan to hire 10,000 people in the EU to work on the metaverse — I asked Meta if that was still happening and whether anyone had been hired yet. They told me: ‘Our expansion in Europe was always a long-term one planned over a number of years. We remain committed to Europe.’ Microsoft, meanwhile, has killed its “industrial metaverse team” just four months after setting it up, laying off 100 members of staff.” • That’s a damn shame.
The Bezzle: “Tesla recalls 362,758 vehicles, says Full Self-Driving Beta software may cause crashes” [CNBC]. “Tesla is voluntarily recalling 362,758 vehicles equipped with the company’s experimental driver-assistance software, which is marketed as Full Self-Driving Beta or FSD Beta, in the US, according to a recall notice out Thursday. Tesla will deliver an over-the-air software update to cars to address the issues, the recall notice said. The FSD Beta system may cause crashes by allowing the affected vehicles to: ‘Act unsafe around intersections, such as traveling straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop, or proceeding into an intersection during a steady yellow traffic signal without due caution,’ according to a safety recall report on the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” • Good for the NHTSA.
The Bezzle: “Rise of ‘zombie’ VCs haunts tech investors as plunging valuations hammer the industry” [CNBC]. “Investors warn a horde of ailing venture capital ‘zombies’ will emerge in the coming years. Unable to make impressive returns for their institutional backers, such firms will instead focus on managing their existing portfolios before eventually winding down. The presence of VC zombies won’t be obvious, and it will likely take years before they eventually close shop.” • Another damn shame.
Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 71 Greed (previous close: 73 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 70 (Greed). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Feb 16 at 2:22 PM EST.
One of my favorite photographs ever, from those terrific square white Aperture books of black-and-white photographs (I remember being quite impressed with this new thing, color, when I looked through Joel Meyerowitz’s Cape Light:
“Both dreams and myths are important communications from ourselves to ourselves.”
Erich Fromm / The Forgotten Language
(with Chez Mondrian flash camera, Paris, 1926.) pic.twitter.com/DgnKKUkKpU
— Nella (@gigi_dreamer) February 4, 2022
If this didn’t happen, it should have:
This did not actually happen btw
— howie (@ElResisto) February 21, 2021
Plot twist: The above, which looks like the original, is from 2021. This image is from 2018, and includes additional material:
— al paccenis (@ass_dad) February 16, 2023
If the 2018 tweet is real, it no longer exists. So what does “really happen” mean here, anyhow? Dave?
Tricoteuses rejoice (1):
I made a stained glass window of a guillotine. About 17″x21″. pic.twitter.com/1IaA8GD9Jl
— Michael Whitney (@michaelwhitney) February 11, 2023
Tricoteuses rejoice (2):
Building a 20ft guillotine. pic.twitter.com/v5RwvCIrYk
— Dylan Allman (@DylanMAllman) February 8, 2023
I’m filing some East Palestine train bomb material, because class warefare is what Precision Scheduled Railroading is.
“Chemical Desolation in Appalachia” [The American Prospect]. We don’t run TAP that often, but this is an interesting nugget: “At the time of the crash, the known chemicals aboard included the highly toxic vinyl chloride and hydrogen chloride. An EPA document dump on February 12 revealed additional carcinogenic chemicals were aboard too, as well as some highly flammable solvents and gases. Public documents reveal that four tank cars containing vinyl chloride were stacked together. Responding before the reveal of the cargo’s manifest, Jason Trosky, a resident of East Palestine, told the Prospect: ‘A $56 billion corporation knows where every one of its assets is at any given time … The reason [Norfolk Southern] didn’t show us the manifest is because the train was overloaded.’” • No manifest? From a cursory search, it seems like a manifest freight train (cars of mixed types), as opposed to a unit train (cars with a single cargo, like coal or grain), requires, well, a manifest: A listing of the cargo. Seems reasonable! However, I cannot find a statute or regulation that says they are required for all manifest freight trains. They are required for trains carrying hazardous materials, but it looks like Norfolk Southern is gaming that. Another thread to tug on! We have railroaders in the readership; perhaps they can comment.
“Railroaded – The Norfolk Southern Disaster in East Palestine, Ohio Part Two” [The Holler]. More on the hot box:
The defect detectors have changed. They created, several years back, what’s called a trending defect detector.
Let’s say defect detector number one, this car passes, it sees it heating up, it sends a signal to the dispatch center, and it talks to the next detector. The train passes the second detector, it sees the heat increasing, and there’s another alarm sent. The train crew is not hearing any of this. It’s kind of like an algorithm, so to speak. They’re (dispatch) watching the car. What should be happening is the dispatch center notifying the crews to keep checking on this car.
But that ain’t the times we live in, because it’s “hurry up, get the train across the railroad, let’s make the fat cats on Wall Street happy to turn a profit.”
And now if that crew hits the third defect detector, a car could be way too hot, and be in a catastrophic situation as this one was. Then the crew gets an alarm. And sometimes it’s too late.
Many of noticed the lack of coverage by national media of the Norfolk Southern train bomb:
Blackrock and Vanguard own about 12% of Norfolk Southern so we don’t need to wonder why the media is ignoring the train catastrophe pic.twitter.com/tYSNkjuQ03
— Robby Slowik (@RobbySlowik) February 15, 2023
What a coinkidink. NOTE: You don’t need anything like CT to explain this. Collective “working toward the Gewinnvortrag” would do the trick among editors and publishers; and the word would trickle down.
“Railroaded” [Doomberg]. A welcome focus on the material in the 52 derailed cars, taken from the EPA website. Note especially the Status of Car column at right, which clearly shows a physical examinatino (i.e. not a paper or electronic manifest). Quoting the conclusion: “As we will detail in a future piece, this incident demands a much-needed light be shined on the scandalous state of the US rail industry. That we even allow vinyl chloride to be shipped in this fashion is unnecessary and unacceptable. As few are aware, there are other, even more, dangerous materials on trains passing by residential neighborhoods every single day. It would take but a few simple rule changes to chemical industry regulation to alleviate much of this risk.”
“Arvind Krishna: If AI can replace labour, it’s a good thing” [Financial Times]. No, it’s really not. “And we have worked on them also. The use cases we work on are not consumer, so consumer is a lot easier to explain: they type in something and, some number of times out of 10, you get an interesting, intriguing, and in the right ballpark answer. What nobody can quite say is how likely is it to get a completely incorrect answer, as at least one of the two demonstrations has shown. .” • Well, Arvind Krishna is IBM’s CEO, so I can see why he would think that.
“Bing’s A.I. Chat Reveals Its Feelings: ‘I Want to Be Alive. 😈’” [Kevin Roose, New York Times]. • A turn-up for the books, in this case the philosopher’s books. A la the Chinese Toaist philosopher Zhuangzi, who dreamed he was a butterfly. But how does Zhuangzi know he is not a butterfly dreaming he is a man? Similarly, how do we know that the chatbot is not alive, and “author” Roose is not a bot? And considering the quality of the average Times stenographer, that’s not an unreasonable question.
“Report reveals deteriorating labor conditions at big US wireless carriers” [Guardian]. “Labor conditions and collective bargaining rights have worsened in the large US wireless carrier industry now that big telecommunications firms are increasingly outsourcing their retail sales and customer service operations from company-owned stores….. In [the study, by the Communications Workers of America and National Employment Law Project], a survey of more than 200 workers at authorized retailers in 43 states found nine out of 10 workers reported experiencing wage theft. Three out of four workers reported having to rely on at least 25% of their wages through sales commissions. Nearly two in three workers reported they were unable to take breaks during their shifts. The reported wage theft includes being paid below minimum wage rates, denied overtime pay, denied commissions or bonuses or forced to work off the clock. Workers in the survey also reported experiencing retaliation for raising workplace problems, being forced to work overtime, a lack of adequate job training, being forced to sign non-compete agreements and claimed an emphasis on commissions had driven poor sales practices and customer service at their retail stores. About nine in 10 workers reported the wireless carrier that licensed their retail store still played a role in setting policies and practices at the retailers, despite authorized retailers’ classification as independent employers.”
“Can One City Be a Microcosm of Everything That’s Wrong?” [Gary Kamiya. New York Times]. “This leads him to such ‘structural’ Marxian insights as the following: Stanford University is a [A] ‘human capital’ factory, a [B] ‘breeding and training project.’” • [A] seems about right (though I’d like to see the definition of “human capital.” [B] seems not implausible, given the Stanford origins of the Great Barrington Declaration, a eugencist project. Anyhow, Kamiya is kinda like a minor league Herb Caen; I read on not especially reliable authority that he owns a house on Telegraph Hill, worth a pretty penny no doubt; and a smallish yacht.
“Poetry on the Shop Floor” [Tribune Magazine]. “A committed trade unionist, Bond joined the Association of Cine Technicians in 1935 and served as its vice-president for 32 years. It was in this capacity that he attended the 1960 Trade Unions Congress in Douglas on the Isle of Man, and argued for Resolution 42. The aim of Resolution 42, in Bond’s words, was to propel the idea that trade unions had a leading role to play in ensuring ‘all the people have the chance to enjoy the beauty and riches of life in all its forms’, and to reject the notion that ‘culture should be the preserve of an enlightened intelligentsia,’ or that ‘any old rubbish is good enough for the masses’.”
News of the Wired
“American drivers have a blinding headlight problem. It could last for years” [Business Insider]. “John Bullough, the program director at the Light and Health Research Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai… who works closely with headlights and vehicle manufacturers to try to address the issues, said there are three primary factors that have shifted in the past few decades that caused headlights to appear brighter and cause more glare. First off, vehicles, especially in the US, are getting taller and taller. Adding to that, the color of many headlights has shifted from a warmer, yellow hue to a harsher, blue-white one. And finally, most cars have at least one headlight that’s misaligned.” • You do you!
Contact information for plants: Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, to (a) find out how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal and (b) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. From AM:
AM writes: “The lighted ‘Christmas’ tree in Nelson Rockefeller Park, Battery Park City. Pretty even though the lights are not very evenly distributed.” A little bit late, but nonetheless very pretty.
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