Archive

June 12th, 2016

Gagging on the Gig Economy

    No doubt you’ll be thrilled to learn that we now live and work in a “gig economy.”

    That’s the latest corporate buzz-phrase from Silicon Valley.

    CEOs there are hailing a Brave New Workplace in which we lucky worker bees no longer have to be stuck in traditional jobs with traditional hours — or traditional middle-class pay scales, traditional benefits, traditional job security, and all those other fusty “traditions” of the old workplace.

    In fact, in the gig economy, you don’t even get a workplace. Rather, you’re “liberated” to work in a series of short-term jobs in many places. And instead of being stuck in a 9-to-5, you’ll always be on-call through a mobile app on your smart phone or through a temp agency.

    How exciting is that?

    Nerve-wracking is more like it. The gig economy means you’re on your own — you’re not an employee, but an “independent contractor,” with no rights and no union.

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Trump finally dropped his racist attacks on Judge Curiel. Here's what this episode tells us.

    A chastened Donald Trump came out last night to celebrate his victories in yesterday's primaries, speaking at one of his country clubs, perhaps to illustrate the breadth of his appeal to voters. He read the speech from a teleprompter, one of the few times he has done so during this campaign. It sounded like a mixture of Trump's own sentiments ("Recent polls have shown that I'm beating Hillary Clinton") and things someone else wrote for him ("This is not a testament to me, but a testament to all of the people who believed in real change").

    But what we didn't hear was another round of shots at Gonzalo Curiel, the judge presiding over the Trump University fraud case. For now, anyway, Trump seems to have finally been prevailed upon to shut his mouth on that subject.

    What did that bizarre episode show us about who Trump is and what the implications are for the rest of the campaign? A number of things:

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The Hillary and Bernie Road Trip

    Do you remember back in 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton betook themselves to Unity, New Hampshire, for post-primary bonding? Clinton-Sanders seems like a tougher merge. Maybe they could be a little less ambitious and just get together in Friendly, West Virginia.

    There’s also Smileyberg, Kansas. Although it’s sort of a ghost town, which isn’t great for analogies.

    So far, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to be in a Smileyberg state of mind. He’s meeting with President Barack Obama on Thursday, but in his post-primary speech to supporters he was vowing to battle on to the convention.

    “I am pretty good at arithmetic and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight,” he said, in what may have been the biggest understatement of the campaign.

    “We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.,” he added.

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Paying respects to Sanders' campaign

    After Tuesday night, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, is going to need a political psychopomp, a mythological creature that guides the dead from Earth to the afterlife. Win or lose California, Hillary Clinton is the Democratic presidential nominee, and her hold on the nomination will be stronger after Tuesday night's primaries. It won't be easy for Sanders to let go. Why should it be? For months, he has looked out on crowds of hope, worked rope-lines of urgency and seen his candidacy soar. The braying of those in his newly adopted party and the gaggle on cable, calling for him to give up, must seem so unfair to him. To them, politics is merely a transactional game: You lost, now get out. And, by the way, if you don't get out, you won't just be a loser; we'll turn you in to a sore one.

    I have never met a good loser in politics. I have seen many gracious concessions, but most have been preceded by anger, denial and delusion. Candidates who lose an election go through the same stages of grief as when losing someone precious to them. The difference is that the stages are public and must be compressed into a time frame as short as an evening.

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Our Immigration Policies Are Ridiculous

    I recently stayed with a friend who lives just a few miles from the Mexican border — and from the start of the Pacific Crest Trail.

    Since I was there anyway, I thought, what the heck? I might as well hike a bit of it.

    I’d walked less than a quarter mile from the wall at the border — yes, there’s already a wall along much of the border — when Border Patrol stopped me.

    “Out taking nature photography, Miss?” the man asked. “That your Toyota?”

    The next time I went out, I returned to find Border Patrol parked behind me, inspecting my car.

    The last time I was on the trail, at about nine miles from the border, I could see the highway for a brief section of my hike. I watched a white and green Border Patrol vehicle pass. Then another.

    A monument for those who have died attempting to cross the US-Mexican border. Tijuana-San Diego border. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

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Mitch McConnell just made a devastating admission about Trump - and the GOP

    Mitch McConnell is getting a lot of attention this morning for his startlingly candid admission, in a new Bloomberg Politics podcast, that Donald Trump "doesn't know a lot about the issues" and has not displayed the requisite "seriousness of purpose" for the presidency. And it certainly is clarifying to have the top Senate Republican admit this about the party's standard bearer.

    But McConnell's quotes are actually more illuminating for what they tell us about today's GOP, and about the true nature of the decision by many Republicans to support Trump in spite of his bigotry, pathologically abusive tendencies, and temperament that's dangerously unfit for the job. Here's what McConnell said:

    "He needs someone highly experienced and very knowledgeable because it's pretty obvious he doesn't know a lot about the issues," McConnell said. "You see that in the debates in which he's participated. It's why I have argued to him publicly and privately that he ought to use a script more often - there is nothing wrong with having prepared texts."…

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A horrible day for Orlando, gay pride and US history

    One year after celebrating the most joyous pride month in U.S. history with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in this country, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the nation as a whole are now in mourning. As of this writing, at least 50 people are dead and 53 were injured when a madman unleashed hell inside a gay nightclub in the wee hours of Sunday, June 12.

    This is by far the worst mass shooting in American history.

    Law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen who lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was killed in a shootout with police inside the Pulse nightclub. In explaining a possible motive, Mateen's father told media that his son became "very angry" after seeing two men kiss in downtown Miami a few months ago. Authorities are calling this an act of terrorism.

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No Matter How You Do The Math, Sanders Loses

    OK, so the fix is in. In one sense, it's too bad the Associated Press and the TV networks called the Democratic race for Hillary Clinton before New Jersey, California and four smaller states voted on June 7. Judging by my email and Facebook feed, this has enflamed the Bernie-cult's belief that it's been cheated by the "establishment."

    Whatever the results, they've been rendered illegitimate in some eyes by the news media's premature call. Never mind that news organizations feel a professional duty to report the facts as quickly as they are ascertained. Not much imagination is required to grasp the mischief that could result from their doing it any other way.

    Never mind, too, that anybody who can do the electoral arithmetic knows that Hillary Clinton has been the inevitable Democratic nominee since April, when she prevailed in New York and Pennsylvania by 16 and 12 points, respectively. There simply weren't enough populous states left for Sanders to catch up -- unless he could win California by an impossible 60 points.

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Most people just want to find a regular job

    There's been a shift in the U.S. economy over the past decade toward more work being done by independent contractors, on-call workers and others in what the government calls "alternative work arrangements." Economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger documented that earlier this year, showing that these "gig economy" workers went from 10.1 percent of the workforce in 2005 to an estimated 15.8 percent in 2015.

    But there is also a long-established cyclical pattern in which people leave self-employment and contracting gigs for full-time work as the job market improves, and this economic expansion is proving to be no exception.

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I'm Mexican-American, and I was a judge. What Trump is doing is appalling.

    The people of the United States are increasingly diverse in our religious, ethnic and racial backgrounds. While we still struggle with discrimination, we have learned to live respecting one another.

    This respect has taken many decades to achieve, yet it can be fragile, particularly when political leaders challenge it. Our common progress has been jarred by Donald Trump's demeaning of U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel based on his ethnicity. Trump has responded to disappointment in the courtroom with bitter vitriol on the campaign trail: He says his plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border poses an inherent conflict of interest for the judge. Trump branded Curiel a "hater" and "very hostile" and noted that he was "Mexican." And he called Curiel to recuse himself from an ongoing class-action lawsuit over Trump's failed Trump University, after the judge issued several rulings against Trump in the litigation. (On Tuesday, Trump said his remarks were "misconstrued," though he did not apologize.)

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