Trump’s Secretary of Labor Pick: What’s the Story?

Noam Schreiber, writing for The New York Times:

President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday chose Andrew F. Puzder, chief executive of the company that franchises the fast-food outlets Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr. and an outspoken critic of the worker protections enacted by the Obama administration, to be secretary of labor.

Ah, yes. The tits-and-burgers guy. But is that the story? Maybe to Trump and to his supporters, sure. But, no, that’s not the story. So what else? Ah—he’s also an outspoken opponent of raising the minimum wage. So is that the story? Again, maybe to Trump, maybe to his supporters—although less likely. But no, no, that’s not the story either. So what is the story?

Dara Lind, writing for Vox:

As an executive in a low-wage industry dominated by “low-skilled” workers (many of them immigrants, and often unauthorized immigrants), Puzder has been an outspoken supporter of low-skilled immigration to the US — and of immigration reform that would legalize unauthorized immigrants who are already here.

*Tim Curry in Home Alone 2 smile*

I know—I’m deluding myself here. The odds that you voted for Trump—even more so if you voted for him with reservations, but out of a desperate economic moonshot—and you give even one shit about what The New York Times or Vox has to say about this issue are slim to none.

But my goodness—did you ever get suckered.


J.D. Vance, the False Prophet of Blue America

Sarah Jones, writing for The New Republic:

Set aside the anti-government bromides that could have been ripped from a random page of National Review, where Vance is a regular contributor. There is a more sinister thesis at work here, one that dovetails with many liberal views of Appalachia and its problems. Vance assures readers that an emphasis on Appalachia’s economic insecurity is “incomplete” without a critical examination of its culture. His great takeaway from life in America’s underclass is: Pull up those bootstraps. Don’t question elites. Don’t ask if they erred by granting people mortgages and lines of credit they couldn’t afford to repay. Don’t call it what it is—corporate deception—or admit that it plunged this country into one of the worst economic crises it’s ever experienced.

No wonder Peter Thiel, the almost comically evil Silicon Valley libertarian, endorsed the book. (Vance also works for Thiel’s Mithril Capital Management.) The question is why so many liberals are doing the same.

I’ve been one of those liberals, pushing this book and some of the ideologies within it. I think this piece may flatten out the depth a bit, but I felt it necessary to post it, since it is one of the few on-the-contrary piece I’ve seen about what has otherwise been a universally praised book.

I think one of the reasons liberals have flocked to it is because it’s written in a “language” people unfamiliar with the terrain can understand, while acting as a door into that terrain, and because of that, I still think it is worthy of reading.


An American in a Strange Land

Jim Yardley, writing for The New York Times Magazine:

Then I moved to Rome and watched the European Union grow ineffective and paralyzed, as the dream of a vibrant, unified Europe seemed to wither. Democracy was losing ground in Hungary and the Philippines; it had all but surrendered in Russia. Syria became a slaughterhouse. The Islamic State dispatched terrorists around the world. China’s politics became more oppressive, as President Xi Jinping cracked down on dissent and nurtured a Maoist-style cult of personality. Economic globalization was supposed to accelerate political liberalization around the world, but instead authoritarianism appeared to be on the rise. The West, it seemed, had failed to anticipate the possibility that globalization could contribute to the destabilization of — or pose a threat to — democracy, even in the United States.

This summer, I decided I wanted to explore this place that had become a foreign country to me. I didn’t understand what had happened since I left, why so many people seemed so disillusioned and angry. I planned a zigzag route, revisiting places where I once lived or worked, a 29-day sprint through 11 states (and four time zones). I knew I would be moving too fast to make any sweeping declaration about the state of America, and I wouldn’t ask people which presidential candidate they were voting for. I was more interested in why they were so anxious about the present and the future. I wanted to find out why the country was fragmenting rather than binding together. Most of all I wanted to see with my own eyes what had changed — and so much had changed.

I won’t lie—the final quote of this piece has stuck with me. I don’t necessarily agree with it—but I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve severely misjudged just how many people do.


The Prison-Commercial Complex

Chandra Bozelko, writing for The New York Times:

Unless they’ve known someone who’s been incarcerated, most people don’t know that the corrections system has an entire commerce arm of its own. Everything an inmate can buy — phone calls, commissary, copays for substandard medical care, video visitation or the new email service — is purchased through a special account created by the prison or a private company.

Merely to add funds to an account, the family or friends of inmates must pay a service fee. I have an account myself with the prison phone giant Securus so that inmates I want to keep in touch with can call me. In February, I’d loaded my phone account without any fee. Then, a few weeks ago, I was charged $6.95 to add $5 of call time. So, the $11.95 that used to buy 49 minutes then purchased only 20.

On a day full of disturbing news, this article might have unsettled me the most. What a horrible way to treat people.


What Donald Trump Doesn’t Understand About ‘the Deal’

Adam Davidson, writing for The New York Times Magazine:

The centrality of the ‘‘deal’’ to Trump­onomics is especially strange when you consider how tangential that concept is, or at least should be, to a modern economy. In Microeconomics 101, deals are an afterthought: Transactions have the most socially optimal outcome when buyer and seller reach a mutually beneficial agreement. The very idea of a ‘‘good’’ deal for one party and a ‘‘bad’’ deal for another suggests a suboptimal outcome; an economy built on tough deal-making, with clear winners and losers, will always be a poorer one. Meanwhile, in macroeconomics — which covers the big, broad issues that a president typically worries about — the concept of the ‘‘deal’’ hardly exists at all. The key issues at play in a national or global economy (inflation, currency-exchange rates, unemployment, overall growth) are impossible to control through any sort of deal. They reflect underlying structural forces in an economy, like the level of education and skill of the population, the productivity of companies, the amount of government spending and the actions of the central bank.

I think it's important to fight Trump on intellectual grounds, the same as you'd push back against any other conventional candidate. To sink to his level of name-calling and fear-mongering is to allow him to win, even if he loses. This piece is just another example of why, without just copying and pasting a picture of him with a Hitler mustache, he is unfit to be President.


'...magic flying puppies with winning Lotto tickets tied to their collars.'

Jackie Calmes, writing for The New York Times:

With his expansive plans to increase the size and role of government, Senator Bernie Sanders has provoked a debate not only with his Democratic rival for president, Hillary Clinton, but also with liberal-leaning economists who share his goals but question his numbers and political realism.

The reviews of some of these economists, especially on Mr. Sanders’s health care plans, suggest that Mrs. Clinton could have been too conservative in their debate last week when she said his agenda in total would increase the size of the federal government by 40 percent. That level would surpass any government expansion since the buildup in World War II.

Now go ahead—let me hear from a bunch of liberals about the media bias toward Bernie Sanders from The New York fucking Times.

Bernie Sanders supporters want to win a nomination; Hillary supporters want to win an election.

That's the difference.


Turkey’s Refugee Shadow Economy

Ben Hubbard, writing for The New York Times:

Mr. Abdul-Hamid’s swift success is a small part of the multimillion-dollar shadow economy that has developed in Turkey to profit from the massive human tide rushing toward Europe. Much of this new economy is visible in the streets here, where smugglers solicit refugees, clothing stores display life vests and inner tubes, and tour buses and taxis shuttle passengers to remote launch sites along the coast.

Money is flowing through Izmir, the third largest city in Turkey, now a grim hub for migrants and a boom town for residents. Hidden from view is an extensive smuggling infrastructure, with makeshift “insurance offices” that hold migrants’ money, covert factories that churn out ineffective life vests and underground suppliers of cheap rubber rafts that sometimes pop or capsize during the voyage to Greece, stranding or drowning people at sea.

There’s nothing better than reading something in bed before your day even begins that immediately sets your entire life, and how good you have it, into sharper focus.



Public Radio Can Capitalize on Its Popularity Without Selling Out Its Mission

Ira Glass:

Two weeks ago I told a reporter that public radio is ready for capitalism. People have been commenting online about what they think I meant. I’m writing this to clarify.

The hardest part of being a liberal is dealing with other liberals who refuse to be pragmatic. Not surprisingly, I.G. drops a truth bomb here. Sure, he was talking about radio and podcasts, but the general theme—stop shirking from the fiscal responsibility of art—would be useful for many areas of our culture.


America’s Epidemic of Unnecessary Care

Atal Gawande, writing for The New Yorker:

Virtually every family in the country, the research indicates, has been subject to overtesting and overtreatment in one form or another. The costs appear to take thousands of dollars out of the paychecks of every household each year. Researchers have come to refer to financial as well as physical “toxicities” of inappropriate care—including reduced spending on food, clothing, education, and shelter. Millions of people are receiving drugs that aren’t helping them, operations that aren’t going to make them better, and scans and tests that do nothing beneficial for them, and often cause harm.

Why does this fact barely seem to register publicly?

The closest you can get to mind expansion without taking LSD. Read this, but be prepared to question everything you thought you knew about the healthcare you receive.


An NPR Reporter Chauffeurs A Chinese Couple 500 Miles To Their Rural Wedding

Frank Langfitt, writing for NPR:

I went to Rocky's wedding in part to try to understand how he'd made the leap from farmhouse to Shanghai law firm — quite a feat in China's hypercompetitive society.

Xiao Piao offered one theory: "The entire village thinks his family sits on good land, good feng shui," she said, referring to the house's location vis-a-vis the natural environment.

Rocky politely disagreed: "Everyone's fate, career and job are the result of one's struggle. If I didn't take the bar and sat around at home, what use would good feng shui have been?"

There’s the single chocolate chip world that you know—and then there’s the entire rest of the cookie. Take five minutes out of your day and treat yourself to this piece—you won’t regret it.

/via Ben Thompson