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Social Media Dump July 16-31 (2021)

See   July 1-15 and August 1-15  (View All)

Miami Herald reporter Julie K Brown described how Kenneth Starr used his political connections to get the Trump DOJ to review Epstein’s case. Related: In 2018 David Brock (ex-conservative who runs Media Matters) talks about how Kavanaugh and others really hated Bill Clinton. The gang who was behind the Paula Jones lawsuit are the who’s who of Trump’s extremism.

Wow, I just checked my spam filter for something and noticed that in the last 2 weeks I have been pelted with junk email asking me to buy toenail clippers. What’s the deal? Maybe I buy some clippers once a decade (or two?). I can’t even remember the last time I used them. To the spammers who are are trying to lure me with the prospect of low-cost toenail clippers, maybe you should try a different product?

Related: Aaron Osborne defends single payer with lots of recent research. Here’s more research. Osborne has written some mythbusting articles: defending anti-poverty programs and understanding the effects of increasing the minimum wage

With regard to minimum wage, I use the livable wage calculator to figure out what income you need to meet the level needed to afford basic experiences. The biggest problem behind raising minimum wage is the propagation of the idea that there is a labor shortage and that companies have no choice but to raise wages. These stories arise because major companies are shooting off press releases about wage increases, but somehow these wage increases only seem to occur to a segment of the company’s workforce (and not everybody), plus this may apply to one national region but not the rest. It can be hard to figure out how low-paying retail jobs are, but in my experience, starting pay at these jobs tend to be lower than what these business articles are reporting. I live in a part of the country where wages are low to begin with, so that complicates things as well.

Related: low wages and the tip-based economy (2019).

One author points out why the opponents of raising minimum wage tend to win the argument at the end:

The claim that if wages go up, jobs go down isn’t a description of reality at all. Nor, in my opinion, does it reflect legitimate economics. It is a negotiating strategy. It is a scam, a con job, a threat—more precisely, it is an intimidation tactic masquerading as a legitimate economic theory. I believe this is where being a businessperson and not an economist leads to greater clarity. Very few economists have ever run a business or negotiated wages. But the first rule in the businessman’s handbook on wage negotiation and suppression is always, always, when they ask for a raise, threaten their jobs. It works like a charm, and has since the invention of capitalism. You see, the claim if wages go up, employment goes down isn’t made because it is true. It’s made because if people like me can get people like you to believe it is true, I’m going to get richer, and you are going to get poorer. The lower your wages are the higher my profits will be. It’s that simple.

I realize this is harsh, but I believe this claim is best understood as a way of subtly and legally threatening the economic, and hence, physical security of the most vulnerable people in our society. If you haven’t already lived through it yourself, imagine what life must be like for a typical minimum wage worker, barely hanging on, always a paycheck away from financial ruin and the economic abyss. And by abyss, think homelessness—think real hunger: not the hunger that comes from working through lunch or from starting a new diet, but from not having enough money in your pocket at the end of the week to buy food. Imagine seeing your own children go without the basics that all children need to succeed and to thrive. Imagine not having enough savings or credit to smooth over the rough patches; imagine not having a safety net, because your friends and family are as desperately poor as you. It must be terrifying, particularly if you have children, to be constantly threatened in this way.

Nick Hanauer, Democracy, (reprinted on PBS Newshour)

A recent roundup of reactions from climate science about all the weather events:

“The scientific community has done a really good job, projecting when we would get to like 1.2 degrees Celsius, which is about where we are now,” Kalmus said. “The community hasn’t done as good of a job projecting how bad climate impacts would be 1.2 degrees Celsius.”.. It’s already worse than what I imagined. I feel like the heat dome event in the Pacific Northwest moved up my sense of where we are at by about a decade, or even more,” said Kalmus. “I think a lot of my colleagues probably feel the same.

How to escape quicksand. (Starts at 1:10). TL;DR version is to put your hands on one side and twist the opposite leg to the side of you to gain enough momentum to get it above ground. That will make it easier when you do it with the second leg (although you may have to alternate a few times).

Larry David does a twisted tribute to Steve Martin at the Mark Twain awards.

Here’s a profile of Dr Mercola, a leading “COVID disinformer” according to the Biden Administration.

I am a giant fan of Eurovision — embarrassingly so, and I am delighted to see that Eurovision — which blocks a lot of stuff to US viewers is making available full shows of earlier years. It looks like these shows stay up only for a short time though. Currently the 1980 show is available to US viewers on Youtube. It is a lot less flashy, with more original language songs; I even heard Arabic from the Morocco performer (their first year).

I’ve started wearing a mask again — shazbut, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Probably the most shocking thing was ready the comment section in a NYT article about breakthrough infections and reading that a number of vaccinated people are reporting being infected and getting sick anyway. None of them are getting hospitalized or anything like that, but these people report being out of sorts for a week or more. The thing I really want to know is whether breakthrough infections are causing problems related to long COVID. That’s what keeps me up at night.

“An analysis by Media Matters found that the NBC, ABC, and CBS morning shows devoted 212 minutes to Bezos’ little jaunt. In comparison, those same shows spent 267 minutes covering climate all of last year.” (Source).

Nice interview with Mel Blanc — the “man with a 1000 voices.” This was on public access TV in 1979, but Dennis Tarden is a well-respected interviewer (who hails from Austin, no less).

It’s strange. I’m a heavy consumer of news, and yet these posts contains a small fraction of newsworthy stuff. Maybe it’s because I assume that certain news stories get ample attention. I’m just mentioning the things that don’t get mentioned elsewhere.

Here’s a report on Chinese censorship and Hollywood. Little by little the Chinese government has been taming Hollywood (and the videogame industry) to remove any speech which might offend the authoritarian Chinese government.

Biden must persuade Germany and Austria to stop the “Schroederization” of Europe by Anders Åslund and Benjamin L. Schmitt. Apparently, further German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has been paid by Putin/Gazprom to lobby Western Europe to have a massive gas pipeline from Russia to Western Europe. Germany has been trying to influence Russia through expanded trade, but the reverse has happened (also, it is contributing to climate change).

I’ve been shocked and horrified by the downfall of the Texas unemployment insurance system. I mentioned in a previous column that my unemployment was canceled inexplicably after the deep freeze in February, and the appeal process has just not taken place (noting that historically Texas has been very slow in handling appeals). Now it appears that the State of Texas claims that massive fraud is siphoning off unemployment funds from Texas. In a May 2021 piece by Jody Barr on KXAN, there are reports of many people’s benefits getting stalled because Texas Workforce claims that cybercriminals have been stealing 1 billion dollars from the agency. I am skeptical. All the accusations seem to come from Texas Workforce, very few arrests have been made, and the so-called evidence is the observable increase in unemployment claims. Perhaps fraud has increased; I don’t know. I have been waiting 5 months for the Texas Workforce to acknowledge that they seriously erred on my case. My case has nothing to do with identity theft or fraud, but I fear that it has been a victim of the agency’s obsession with rooting out fraud. Update: Wow, just realized that the agency also messed up on the accounting as well…par for the course.. Update 2: Well, at the end of August, they had the hearing and ruled in my favor (as I predicted). To my delight, apparently I was owed more money than initially expected, and it seems that I am eligible for 3 more months of unemployment — albeit with conditions. They are going to paperwork me to death. That’s okay because I’ve been close to getting some sort of job.

Annie Lowrey has written the definitive piece on this phenomenon: The Time Tax. She documents in excruciating detail how state governments set up meaningless rules and means tests to complicate aid programs. The aim and the result — is to discourage people from using the system in the way that was intended:

This is not easy to do, by design. The United States has no unified social security agency. Instead, federal, state, and local offices administer dozens of different programs with different rules and application processes. Some are direct-benefit programs; others are complicated tax expenditures. Some are entitlements, where everyone gets the benefit if they qualify; others are rationed benefits, where submitting an application means spinning a wheel and hoping for the best. Some benefits have easy online applications; others are old-fashioned paper nightmares. (And many digital systems are just as bad as the analog ones.) The Johns Hopkins political scientist Steven Teles has memorably described this system as a “kludgeocracy.”

Let’s take a tour d’horizon. The unemployment-insurance system was the primary bulwark against the economic ravages of the coronavirus recession, keeping the country’s finances afloat. It is, in fact, not a bulwark, but a patchwork of 53 unemployment-insurance systems, many of which are meant to frustrate users. Its designers’ goal was to “put as many kind-of pointless roadblocks along the way, so people just say, ‘Oh, the hell with it; I’m not going to do that,’” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis admitted during the pandemic. “It was definitely done in a way to lead to the least number of claims being paid out.” An estimated 9 million Americans left jobless by the pandemic never got a single unemployment payment.

Or consider the tentpoles of American assistance for working families: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps; the earned-income tax credit; and the child tax credit. Food stamps reach some 40 million Americans in 21 million households. In many states, applying for them involves a quick online request, a quick approval, and a quick turnaround to start getting benefits. But not always. SNAP is workfare, meaning that adult participants judged to be “able-bodied” need to log their work hours or demonstrate that they are looking for a job. Folks get thrown off the rolls constantly for, say, not having a functioning computer. (These work requirements do not boost employment, by the way.)

TEXAS 10,000+ COVID CASES TODAY: Shockingly, today’s numbers are approaching peak levels. It appears that Governor Abbott’s executive order prohibiting schools from requiring masks now appears short-sighted and even dangerous.

Paste magazines has some great pieces about sitcoms with some analysis. Here’s Greg Garcia (creator of My Name Is Earl) talks about how he wanted to end the series:

I had always had an ending to Earl and I’m sorry I didn’t get the chance to see it happen. You’ve got a show about a guy with a list so not seeing him finish it is a bummer. But the truth is, he wasn’t ever going to finish the list. The basic idea of the ending was that while he was stuck on a really hard list item, he was going to start to get frustrated that he was never going to finish it. Then he runs into someone who had a list of their own and Earl was on it. They needed to make up for something bad they had done to Earl. He asks them where they got the idea of making a list and they tell him that someone came to them with a list and that person got the idea from someone else. Earl eventually realizes that his idea started a chain reaction of people with lists and that he’s finally put more good into the world than bad.

See also: a defense of Peggy Hill (on King of the Hill), an encomium to Columbo, and Third Rock from the Sun. FYI, I wrote a post about how to write a sitcom (still holds true today). In my alternate timeline I would have been a full time sitcom writer).

BRITISH COMEDY. The funny takes of British comic actress Flora Anderson (Twitter). What great calling cards! Below is Flora being a horse. Also, see Flora being the generic wife of movie hero and a sexy talking phone.

Finally, I just realized that I have never mentioned having a Twitter account. Here’s my current twitter account @nagletx and in fact I abandoned my original twitter account @idiotprogrammer because it had too many letters. Fun Fact: I had actually run into the Twitter guy Evan Williams back before he had even started twitter (but was doing blogger). I exchanged a few casual words with him — he was the wunderkind at SXSW and he could care less who I was. I had sat next to him at one or two events. Then Twitter made its big premiere in March 2007 at South by Southwest. I got what it was about, but I could care less. (I did find it moderately useful at a local geek event where people were having a chat commentary about my talk via twitter. I really don’t engage on twitter at the moment — although I follow it more closely for lists which I use for special topics. Also I use a private list of 16 people which I check most. These are people on twitter who post interesting/heady stuff, rarely retweet and don’t post a lot of garbage. I guess you can what I’m reading/enjoying by looking at my LIKE tab (I mainly like things as a form of bookmarking).

Speaking of social media, although I’m no fan of Facebook, I’m happy with how I use it… I mix politics with personal stuff and pop culture stuff and self-promotion (a teensy bit). I grasped what FB was from the outset — its benefits and dangers. I also saw the privacy challenges it posed. I simplified things by just making all my posts public — the default setting is for only your friends (or friends of friends) to see something. FB, like Snapchat, is all about the ephemeral; it’s not really interested in helping you to create an archive of your thoughts or interactions. Indeed, search on Facebook is so incredibly clumsy that I download an offline copy of my posts for reference and of course sticks things onto this blog.

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