Squashed

A blog of politics, law, religion, and the tricky spots where they collide.

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On Ice Buckets and Giving

Over the last month, I’ve learned that a lot of us have enough money that we can be persuaded to give a chunk of it to a worthy cause if presented with the opportunity to publicly douse ourselves with ice water. If that’s all it takes, most of us really ought to be giving away more. And we should be doing it regularly and with sufficient generosity that we notice it.

What do I want that I don’t have because of all the money I’m giving away? I’m particularly fond of the question because it doesn’t let anybody entirely off the hook—but it gets increasingly tricky as your income goes up.

If there’s not a good answer to the question, find a nonprofit. These folks are awesome. Or, for the slightly less radical, these guys. Or a local food bank. Or reblog with a suggestion you prefer.

Labor Day (And the Future of Organizing.)

continuations:

Today is Labor Day which is meant to celebrate the workers movement (as an aside, in Germany and much of the rest of the world this is held on May 1). That might be a good time to think about what organizing labor might mean in the future.

One of the major economic trends we are currently seeing is the breakdown of traditional employment and the rise of labor marketplaces for free lancers, such as Uber, Task Rabbit and WorkMarket (to name just a few). The valuations for at least some of these companies suggest that investors expect them to be very profitable in the longrun. During the growth phase it is entirely possible to create value for both freelancers who participate in the marketplace and for the investors who own it but eventually there is a tradeoff where on the margin an extra dollar for investors means a dollar less for labor.

So what influences the bargaining power in the future that determines how these marginal dollars get split? I would suggest that it is information. To the extent that the marketplaces have a lot of information and each participant (e.g., driver) has only very limited information the bargaining will heavily favor the marketplaces. One might argue that there could be competition between marketplaces, but due to network effects there are likely to only be a couple of big ones that matter.

[Read the rest]

With respect, I’d like to imagine the labor movement could dream a bit bigger than aspiring to marginally increase decentralized individual’s bargaining power against massive corporations. Bargaining parity on those terms will never be anywhere close to equal.

If you’re working essentially full time as an Uber driver, an App store developer, an Amazon seller or in any of the other “labor marketplaces of free lancers,” your job is propping up these companies. You may have a significant capital investment in it. But you’re not really a free lancer. You’re drawing all your income from one company—and there isn’t generally an easy way to switch to another. So if Uber changes its policies, you’re screwed. You have no rights. You have no recourse. More information won’t solve the underlying problem.

Are traditional labor markets actually breaking down? (Not really, but let’s pretend they are.) Wouldn’t labor be better served by organizing Uber drivers into a union so they could bargain collectively? Or by pushing for legislation or legal precedent to recognize Uber drivers as employees?

This isn’t to say that there aren’t glorious innovations in labor’s future—but I’m inclined to ask a bit bolder.

If you’re ever tired of looking for your shoes, I recommend training a border collie.

If you’re ever tired of looking for your shoes, I recommend training a border collie.

Still not sure how I feel about being back from vacation.

Still not sure how I feel about being back from vacation.

I should probably stop responding to pretty much every question anybody asks on Facebook with “Patriarchy.” Curiously, it’s a reasonable answer around half the time.

invisiblelad:

spillboy:

More proof that Paul Ryan is a despicable human being.

Objectivisim at its finest. When the cause he defunded becomes a pop culture fad, why let’s get our photo op in! 


I think the ALS folks are cannier than we realized. Look at that picture. They play a long game.

invisiblelad:

spillboy:

More proof that Paul Ryan is a despicable human being.

Objectivisim at its finest. When the cause he defunded becomes a pop culture fad, why let’s get our photo op in! 

I think the ALS folks are cannier than we realized. Look at that picture. They play a long game.

(via rhpolitics)

Georgia cops fired Taser 13 times ‘as a cattle prod’ to make tired man walk before he died

letterstomycountry:

From the article:

A Georgia man died after police shocked him with a Taser as many as 13 times because he said he was too tired to walk due to a foot chase, his attorney said this week.

At a press conference on Tuesday, attorney Chris Stewart said that police records showed that East Point officers had discharged their Tasers 13 times to make Gregory Towns, who was handcuffed, get up and walk.

“This is a direct violation of their own rules,” Stewart explained, according to WSB-TV. “You cannot use a Taser to escort or prod a subject.”

“They used their Tasers as a cattle prod on Mr. Towns.”

Stewart said that he pieced together what led up to Towns’ April 11 death using official city records and eyewitness accounts.

“He wasn’t cursing. He wasn’t being abusive. He was saying, ‘I’m tired,’” the attorney pointed out.

Taser logs showed that Sgt. Marcus Eberhart fired his Taser 10 times, and officer Howard Weems pulled the trigger three times. However, the logs did not indicate how many times the Taser made contact with Towns.

In all, records indicated a total shock time of 47 seconds. Stewart called the situation “indefensible.”

Autopsy results obtained by WSB-TV showed that Towns’ death was ruled a homicide because the Taser shocks — combined with physical activity and heart disease — contributed to his death.

But Police Benevolent Association lawyers representing Weems continued to insist that the officer’s actions did not cause Towns to die.

Attorney Dale Preiser issued a statement saying that the “use of drive stun to gain compliance is permitted under federal and Georgia law.”

Stewart said that he would file a lawsuit against the city this week.

"Use of a stun gun to gain compliance."

That’s pretty horrible. The taser isn’t being used for defense. It’s being used to punish somebody for being uncooperative. At this point it’s basically an instrument of torture. Or if you want choose a different word for when you inflict unbearable pain on people to make them do what you want. I’m sure there are synonyms for torture.

A couple days back SDS wrote, ” I mean, compare fracking to green tech.” I believe this was supposed to be a rhetorical flourish about how everybody knows that fracking is hugely profitable and “green tech” investments were a comical waste of money.

It’s would be a reasonable rhetorical point around 2010. Except now we have electric cars. And my conventional car gets around 39 mpg. I’m writing this in a room where the efficient fluorescent bulb that I’ve never had to replace for years is a relative dinosaur next to the suddenly affordable LED bulb that paid for itself in about a year and will last (approximately) forever. I’m writing this on three pound laptop so think I’m not actually sure how the advanced battery fits in it. Ditto with the iPhone next to me.1 None of this was possible in 2010—and it’s unlikely that any of these awesome things would have existed without subsidies for these sorts of green tech.

Then there’s fracking. Here’s the chart showing that natural gas production has increased like a whopping 25% over the last few years. That’s a lot. It’s taken a major bite out of coal’s market share.

But I think “green tech” is really a reference to solar and wind power. I put the chart for solar power above. It’s a bit more dramatic. By contrast, electricity generated from wind has only gone up by 1,000% in the last decade. The state leading the charge in wind energy is the pinko bastion of Texas. More resources are coming online each year—so the trend is continuing.

Let’s address the obvious objection. Wind and solar combined still only make up around 5% of electrical generation in the United States. With that said, both show a pattern of geometric growth. Neither shows signs of abating. If five percent of the town’s is infected with the zombie virus with that rate of growth, you can make some reasonable predictions about where the movie’s growing. When the numbers look more like, say, coal at 50% and falling, the movie is over.



Full disclosure: My assertion that the advanced batteries are partially attributable to the various tax subsidies and whatnot for advanced battery research and production is an educated guess. I’m not really inclined to crack the very sealed devices open to confirm one way or the other. If you know whether I’m right or wrong, let me know. ↩

A couple days back SDS wrote, ” I mean, compare fracking to green tech.” I believe this was supposed to be a rhetorical flourish about how everybody knows that fracking is hugely profitable and “green tech” investments were a comical waste of money.

It’s would be a reasonable rhetorical point around 2010. Except now we have electric cars. And my conventional car gets around 39 mpg. I’m writing this in a room where the efficient fluorescent bulb that I’ve never had to replace for years is a relative dinosaur next to the suddenly affordable LED bulb that paid for itself in about a year and will last (approximately) forever. I’m writing this on three pound laptop so think I’m not actually sure how the advanced battery fits in it. Ditto with the iPhone next to me.1 None of this was possible in 2010—and it’s unlikely that any of these awesome things would have existed without subsidies for these sorts of green tech.

Then there’s fracking. Here’s the chart showing that natural gas production has increased like a whopping 25% over the last few years. That’s a lot. It’s taken a major bite out of coal’s market share.

But I think “green tech” is really a reference to solar and wind power. I put the chart for solar power above. It’s a bit more dramatic. By contrast, electricity generated from wind has only gone up by 1,000% in the last decade. The state leading the charge in wind energy is the pinko bastion of Texas. More resources are coming online each year—so the trend is continuing.

Let’s address the obvious objection. Wind and solar combined still only make up around 5% of electrical generation in the United States. With that said, both show a pattern of geometric growth. Neither shows signs of abating. If five percent of the town’s is infected with the zombie virus with that rate of growth, you can make some reasonable predictions about where the movie’s growing. When the numbers look more like, say, coal at 50% and falling, the movie is over.


  1. Full disclosure: My assertion that the advanced batteries are partially attributable to the various tax subsidies and whatnot for advanced battery research and production is an educated guess. I’m not really inclined to crack the very sealed devices open to confirm one way or the other. If you know whether I’m right or wrong, let me know. 

Seven protestors evicted at Wells Fargo eviction

I had a few friends arrested at an eviction blockade yesterday.1 Essentially Wells Fargo decided to evict a veteran firefighter and substitute teacher from his (very affordable) home rather than working something out.

There’s something to be said for paying your debts. I don’t entirely know Mr. Richardson’s situation or what happened in this case.2 Except … I know a few things about  mortgage loans. And Wells Fargo. This was a 2006 loan from Wells Fargo with a 9.8% interest rate. Put slightly differently, this is the sort of loan Wells Fargo (and Option One, the originator) doesn’t give to its white customers. But they’re pretty disproportionately willing to give them to black borrowers.3

If it’s important to pay debts, it’s important for everybody to pay debts. That includes Wells Fargo that made a boatload of money off discriminatory lending. And that includes Wells Fargo’s investors who made two boatloads of money off the same discriminatory practices.

At a minimum, this means negotiating in good faith so that the people like Mr. Richardson who can afford their homes and are willing to pay for them don’t end up homeless.



The linked article incorrectly states that folks were charged with resisting arrest. I believe the sole charge is trespassing. ↩



Let’s not diminish the violence it does to be forcibly removed from your home and watch people haul all your belongings away. All your belongings. A pillow. A bag of rice. A dog toy. Everything. But at the end of the day, Mr. Richardson is just a guy. A personal tragedy is a single tragedy … unless there’s some system in place forcing this sort of thing to happen again and again across the country. ↩



Should I qualify that statement before Wells Fargo claims libel? Or can we just use the Google. ↩

Seven protestors evicted at Wells Fargo eviction

I had a few friends arrested at an eviction blockade yesterday.1 Essentially Wells Fargo decided to evict a veteran firefighter and substitute teacher from his (very affordable) home rather than working something out.

There’s something to be said for paying your debts. I don’t entirely know Mr. Richardson’s situation or what happened in this case.2 Except … I know a few things about mortgage loans. And Wells Fargo. This was a 2006 loan from Wells Fargo with a 9.8% interest rate. Put slightly differently, this is the sort of loan Wells Fargo (and Option One, the originator) doesn’t give to its white customers. But they’re pretty disproportionately willing to give them to black borrowers.3

If it’s important to pay debts, it’s important for everybody to pay debts. That includes Wells Fargo that made a boatload of money off discriminatory lending. And that includes Wells Fargo’s investors who made two boatloads of money off the same discriminatory practices.

At a minimum, this means negotiating in good faith so that the people like Mr. Richardson who can afford their homes and are willing to pay for them don’t end up homeless.


  1. The linked article incorrectly states that folks were charged with resisting arrest. I believe the sole charge is trespassing. 

  2. Let’s not diminish the violence it does to be forcibly removed from your home and watch people haul all your belongings away. All your belongings. A pillow. A bag of rice. A dog toy. Everything. But at the end of the day, Mr. Richardson is just a guy. A personal tragedy is a single tragedy … unless there’s some system in place forcing this sort of thing to happen again and again across the country. 

  3. Should I qualify that statement before Wells Fargo claims libel? Or can we just use the Google