Category Archives: gilded age, redux

April 10, 2014, 3:34 am

I, the Gentry

Harvey Milk

A year ago, Rebecca Solnit wrote a “Diary” item for the London Review of Books titled “Google Invades”, complaining of the influx of moneyed Silicon Valley types, from Google, Apple, Facebook, Genentech, etc., into San Francisco. I sent in a short response, and the LRB published it (it’s appended to the piece online). Since then, the argument has grown livelier, and I’ve even heard from a couple of journalists. (See “The dawn of the ‘start-up douchebag’”, in the Independent. I’m not the douchebag — I almost wish I could boast I was.)  But I don’t think I’ve managed to get across what needs to change.

First, I should say that the problems Solnit and others are protesting are very real. Living is expensive, and getting worse. People without plush incomes have to weigh income against…

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February 27, 2014, 10:11 pm

Excitement at the Supreme Court

I was at the oral arguments for the Supreme Court yesterday with a group of students and we were lucky enough to catch someone standing up to protest the Citizens United decision. He was well-dressed, in a suit and a tie. The court artist caught it:

SSC140226 protester1

He had apparently smuggled in a video camera as well, and has now posted a clip of the experience:

The guards whisked him out pretty quickly, and the Justices went right on with their next case. Needless to say in a room full of reporters, the protest made the news.

February 20, 2014, 10:52 pm

The Future Is Unevenly Distributed

This map:


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reminded me of this map:


EngIndRevBig

The first is US economic output split 50/50, showing how concentrated much of the US economy is. The second map is the concentration of British population pre- and post-Industrial Revolution. The 1911 part of it, seen on the right, illustrates how concentrated the British people (and as a proxy, their economic activity) became as a result of the revolution. The William Gibson quote applies extremely well: “The future is already here – it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

It’s an obvious point, but the economy that those in the northeast megalopolis or southern California or the Miami axis experience is a completely different one than most of the rest of the United States. This is just as true as the point that the economy of those who lived in London or Liverpool/Manchester in 1890 was completely different than that of the rest of Great…

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January 22, 2014, 2:18 am

Answer to Kevin Drum’s Question “Can 3 Lawmakers Revive the Voting Rights Act After the Supreme Court Trashed It?”

No.

December 27, 2013, 7:32 pm

In Wonderful News For Freedom Everywhere

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A judge has ruled that the NSA can, in fact, collect lots of random information about Americans. Goody:

While robust discussions are underway across the nation, in Congress and at the White House, the question for this court is whether the government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful. This court finds it is.

Sigh. It does make it more likely that the Supreme Court will address this at some point, not that I’m particularly confident about that body’s ruling.

I wanted to note something, though, which is this paragraph in the Talking Points Memo story:

In arguments before Pauley last month, an ACLU lawyer had argued that the government’s interpretation of its authority under the Patriot Act was so broad that it could justify the mass collection of financial, health and even library records of innocent Americans without their knowledge. A government lawyer…

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November 20, 2013, 1:59 pm

Wait, What? You Can’t Have Poor People Doing This!

Sebastian Thrun, he of the MOOC evangelism:

The way Fast Company has it, Thrun chucks those San Jose State students under the self-driving Google car faster than he chugs up a hill on his custom-made road bike, leaving a panting Max Chafkin in the dust to ponder the following Thrunism: “These were students from difficult neighborhoods, without good access to computers, and with all kinds of challenges in their lives. … It’s a group for which this medium is not a good fit.”

Marie Antoinette called and wants her cake back.*

Oh, go and read Rebecca Schuman’s article. She does a much more extended job of demolishing him.


*Yes, I know it’s likely that she never said the cake thing. They also didn’t have phones in 18th century France, making it hard for her to call. Finally, she’s dead.

October 29, 2013, 4:57 pm

Do Not Read Each Other’s Mail

Henry Stimson
Henry Lewis Stimson cph 3b21803

David Kurtz, writing for Talking Points Memo, quotes Dianne Feinstein:

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, declares: “Unless the United States is engaged in hostilities against a country or there is an emergency need for this type of surveillance, I do not believe the United States should be collecting phone calls or emails of friendly presidents and prime ministers.”

He titles the post “Unilateral Disarmament?” Much of the discussion around the American bugging of (among others) Angela Merkel, PM of Germany, has centered around the idea that since everyone might be doing it, we should be as well. Example here. It’s all impressively Realpolitik and stuff. Hard men doing hard but necessary things to get an advantage. It would be more impressive it it didn’t exactly echo (at a much lower and less critical level) the debate over to…

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October 16, 2013, 6:44 pm

A National Blessing

(Guest Post! David Fitzpatrick is back. He’s still a retired US Army lieutenant colonel who taught military history at the United States Military Academy and who now teaches United States history at Washtenaw Community College in Ann Arbor, Michigan.)

“A national debt, if it is not excessive, will be to us a national blessing”
        ––Alexander Hamilton

Hamilton5I have been having numerous conversations with friends on Facebook regarding the deficit, the debt, and the debt limit. Several of them have encouraged me to consolidate much that I have written into one coherent essay. This is my (likely feeble) attempt. And let me here say that if this essay appears to privilege one side or the other of the argument, then so be it. Unlike much that is out there in the media and that appears to be dominating the public discourse, what follows has the benefit of being based in fact.

First,…

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October 8, 2013, 3:53 pm

FAQ on the GOP Temper Tantrum Government Shutdown

Answers to some questions on the shutdown:

So why is the government shut down?

Because of the Republicans. Unwilling to accept that both Houses of Congress, the Supreme Court, and the electorate have signed off on the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Republicans – notably the House GOP and the Koch Brothers™ – have decided to take the US government and the global economy hostage to demand that health care be defunded.

But, wait, aren’t the Democrats refusing to negotiate?

Yes, in the sense that when your teenager threatens to burn the house down unless they can go out past 10 pm, you don’t “negotiate” with them. No, in the sense that the Democrats aren’t actually demanding anything in this situation except, well, that the GOP not drive the car off a cliff. Also, no, in the sense that President Obama has made the quite reasonable decision that if he caves on anything…

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September 30, 2013, 1:23 pm

The New New Gilded Age

Ah, company towns raise their heads again:

“We had to sleep on the floor in overcrowded apartments,” said Allen, while paying their boss rent that sometimes exceeded the low wages and limited hours he provided them. “After getting a paycheck of zero dollars and zero cents” due to rent being deducted, said Allen, “we would still be getting texts from his wife saying that we still have balance of x amount” in remaining rent unpaid. When workers began organizing, he said, “we were threatened in writing from our boss.”

Company towns, like Pullman, Chicago, at least (sometimes) had a progressive (if paternalistic) sense of improving the workers’ lives. Today’s story isn’t quite the full company town experience, but it shares the essential problem: giving entirely too much leverage over workers to the company, with the firm serving as both employer and landlord. The…

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