Squashed

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

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What New York really says (and could say): #ZephyrTeachoutOneLastTime

lessig:

There’s a meme spreading fast through the tubes of the Internets about what explains Governor Cuomo’s refusal to debate Zephyr Teachout. Here’s one tweet:

It’s a fun way to be angry about the outrage of the Governor refusing to debate. But I don’t think this is really about sexism. It’s…

Democratic Gubernatorial Race

A few thoughts on the candidates:

  1. Steve Grossman, whose mother got him a SuperPac, is basically an old rich guy trying to pander to millennials. “More summer internships.” “My mother contributed to an independent expenditure campaign. I of course had nothing to do with that.” He says things like, “I believe in solutions first and lawsuits last.” Great buddy. You believe in solutions. Except you said that you believed in solutions rather than offering some kind of specifics. He seems like the rich guy wing of the Democratic Party.
  2. Don Berwick is basically the single-payer anti-casino guy. Needless to say, I’m sympathetic. I like him. I’m not sure he’s serious. He listed his biggest weakness as “my big heart.”
  3. Martha Coakley seems like the most serious candidate. Not the best campaigner. But she’s clearly concerned about income inequality in a serious and credible way.

Full disclosure, I may be biased toward Coakley for her excellent work suing banks. Also I’m worried the male candidates are going to pull a Spitzer and embarrass the state.

I should have called the Estonians when we were setting up our health care website.

—President Barack Obama, after noting that in Estonia, people can access children’s grades and health records online. (via officialssay)

Could we have a rule that unless it’s a really slow news day you have to at least pretend not to play into manufactured controversies? Maybe lead with the lead. Try this, for example:

ISIS is striving to be the worst group of people ever. This is an opportunity to report on the Thing That Is Happening.
The United States is responding to this. This is an opportunity to report on the current and likely future responses of the United States to the Thing That Is Happening.
Some folks are concerned that Obama doesn’t have a clear policy on what to do in response to ISIS’s atrocities. This is an opportunity to report on whether the United States generally and Obama particularly are sufficiently consistent and deliberative in their current and likely future responses to the Thing That Is Happening.
Republicans and a Democrat or two are criticizing some statements of Obama. This is a chance to report on Critical Voices Regarding Obama’s Articulation of the United States’ Response to the Thing That Is Happening.
Obama’s media strategy in response to Republican Criticism has maybe not lived up to the expectations of Instant Media that offers a hungry public reheated talking points with the speed and quality of a Microwave Dinner. This is an opportunity to talk about how you took a dump that looked sort of like the State of Delaware because you clearly have forgotten that nobody but you cares about your bowel movements.

Could we have a rule that unless it’s a really slow news day you have to at least pretend not to play into manufactured controversies? Maybe lead with the lead. Try this, for example:

  1. ISIS is striving to be the worst group of people ever. This is an opportunity to report on the Thing That Is Happening.
  2. The United States is responding to this. This is an opportunity to report on the current and likely future responses of the United States to the Thing That Is Happening.
  3. Some folks are concerned that Obama doesn’t have a clear policy on what to do in response to ISIS’s atrocities. This is an opportunity to report on whether the United States generally and Obama particularly are sufficiently consistent and deliberative in their current and likely future responses to the Thing That Is Happening.
  4. Republicans and a Democrat or two are criticizing some statements of Obama. This is a chance to report on Critical Voices Regarding Obama’s Articulation of the United States’ Response to the Thing That Is Happening.
  5. Obama’s media strategy in response to Republican Criticism has maybe not lived up to the expectations of Instant Media that offers a hungry public reheated talking points with the speed and quality of a Microwave Dinner. This is an opportunity to talk about how you took a dump that looked sort of like the State of Delaware because you clearly have forgotten that nobody but you cares about your bowel movements.

The net worth of the average black household in the United States is $6,314, compared with $110,500 for the average white household, according to 2011 census data. The gap has worsened in the last decade, and the United States now has a greater wealth gap by race than South Africa did during apartheid.

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.