Usher’s News & Analysis for Sept. 25, 2020

Via political scheming, productivity gains over the last 40 years in the US went to the top rather than being shared throughout.

... you can't have things like democracy without having the time to participate in civic institutions, in political activism, in anything outside of your work.

Practicing our freedoms and having a basic democratic existence requires having free time. If people are working 50, 60 hours a week, or they're desperately trying to scrape together a hodgepodge life, it’s hard to organize. All those things are disrupted when we have the kind of working rhythm that we do.

In addition to being unable to participate in democratic life, the workplace itself is the furthest thing from a democracy. It’s a dictatorship, in which your boss is king. And then when you’re home, in your time that you were supposed to have to do whatever you want, you’re instead worrying about work—the undemocratic regime of the workplace extends into your home.

Statistics capture leisure as time, but what we call leisure is typically spent recovering from work in order to return back to work. And even aside from democratic norms, we need time for holidays or enjoying breaks or the great outdoors. You need space and real distance to actually ponder and consider your life. And if all you're doing is thinking about the job you just came from and preparing to go back to it the next day, you don't have time to do it.

American Workers Have Lost Control of Their Time

What would still be standing if we hadn't put the profits of the carbon-fuel industry first?

Oregon Grieves For Natural Places Wiped Out By Wildfires


Previously, an investor had to hold at least $2,000 of a company’s stock for one year to file a proposal – a threshold the SEC raised to three years on Wednesday. It also raised the proportion of the vote a proposal must win in order to be resubmitted to the ballot year-on-year.

SEC Toughens Rules on Shareholder Proposals

Oregon Issues Insurance Emergency Order for Wildfire Victims

I think the following doesn't nail it down.

... a worker would be considered a company’s employee if he or she is economically dependent on the company for work. But a worker who operates an independent business and has opportunities for profit or loss would be deemed an independent contractor.

Define "economically dependent." Who decides whether the person operates as a business or employee?

Labor Department Eyes Simpler Rule for Classifying Independent Contractors

Secondary perils are generally defined as smaller to mid-sized events, or the secondary effects, which follow a primary peril. Secondary effects of a primary peril could include hurricane-induced flooding, storm surges, hailstorms, tsunamis, and fire following an earthquake. Other secondary perils are independent events, often not modeled and receive little monitoring from the insurance industry, said Swiss Re’s sigma, which has described these types of secondary perils, in part, as torrential rainfall, thunderstorms, drought and wildfire outbreaks.

Catastrophe Losses Driven Higher by Secondary Perils – And Climate Change

Very predictable:

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating the trend of robots replacing humans in the workplace, which could result in a recovery from recession that nonetheless costs jobs, according to a new report.

During pandemic, more workers being replaced by robots, new study finds

Who's Amy Coney Barrett? She's being seriously considered by Donald Trump as his nominee to fill the vacant seat on the US Supreme Court. I think the following video lays out her judicial philosophy quite well: textualism (originalism); let the Congress bring forth legal changes and leave the courts to interpret the law according to what the legislators had in mind when passing it. The trouble is, we don't always have enough information to know exactly what the legislators had in mind. Let's not forget that there are deals made and secret reasons for backing or opposing various legislation.

Hesburgh Lecture 2016: Professor Amy Barrett at the JU Public Policy Institute

We already knew the following. We already knew it was wrong and against the written rules.

... Obama administration officials ignored clear warning signs about ethical conflicts ....
... State official George Kent, one of the Democrats' star impeachment witnesses, testified and wrote in contemporaneous memos that Hunter Biden's role on Burisma's board created the appearance of an "awkward" conflict of interest that undercut U.S. anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine being led by Vice President Joe Biden, the report said.

Kent was so concerned that he canceled a State Department partnership with Burisma, reported the alleged Burisma bribe to the Justice Department, and tried to raise concerns directly to Vice President Joe Biden but was rebuffed, the report said, citing testimony and U.S. government records.
"People who talk the talk need to walk the walk, and for the U.S. government, collectively, when we talk about the need to have high standards of integrity, again, as I've said, the presence of [Hunter Biden] on the board created the perception of a potential conflict of interest," he testified.

Senate report slams Bidens for conflicts of interest

... the Fed would then be able to scrap "anonymous" physical currency entirely, and track every single banknote from its "creation" all though the various transactions that take place during its lifetime. And, eventually, the Fed could remotely "destroy" said digital currency when it so decides. Oh, and in the process the Fed would effectively disintermediate commercial banks, as it would both provide loans to US consumers and directly deposit funds into their accounts, effectively making the entire traditional banking system obsolete.

I formulated my plan in 2011-12: The Monetary-and-Banking-Democratization Platform for The United States of America. It differs from the above in that I would eliminate the Federal Reserve and would instead use the US Treasury as the central bank, which would be the only bank in the US. The monetary authority, so to speak, would be computer algorithms. It would be automated rather than having human appointees make the decisions. The system would be tweaked democratically as directly/purely as practicable. There would be no interest rates, no loans, no governmental borrowing, no national debt.

In Unprecedented Monetary Overhaul, The Fed Is Preparing To Deposit "Digital Dollars" Directly To "Each American"

The number of unemployed is much worse than reported. Many people haven't been able to even get started collecting unemployment. They haven't been counted as unemployed even though they have been unemployed for a long time now.

When Fed Chair Jerome Powell was asked during the last FOMC press conference how he would reconcile the jarring discrepancy between the nearly 30 million people claiming UI under all state and federal programs, amounting to over 18% of the labor force, and the 8.4% unemployment rate reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, he did one of his infamous dodges that included a reference to how the BLS classifies certain non-working people, and when you add those back in, he said, the unemployment rate would be three percentage points higher. So over 11%.
Fitch Ratings weighs in on the data chaos.

So I will conclude with a note from Fitch Ratings about this unemployment data chaos. Fretting about states’ fiscal situation, and given the unreliability of the official unemployment rate, Fitch has come up with its own “Fitch-Adjusted Unemployment Rate” for each state. And here’s why:

There has been an unprecedented decline in the labor force count this year, and to gauge the full effect of the pandemic-driven recession, employment recovery cannot be measured by just the official unemployment rate. Employment recovery is a key factor driving overall economic and tax revenue recovery for states. The pace of the recovery for each state depends in part on how quickly exited workers are able to return to the labor force.

So next time when a reporter confronts Powell about the huge discrepancy between the still dismal UI claims data and the spectacularly improved unemployment rate, he’ll get to perform another one of his elegant dodges.

California Tries to Stem the Unemployment Insurance Chaos: Week 27 of U.S. Labor Market Collapse

If those who exited the labor force were to be considered unemployed, the unemployment rate in some states would be significantly higher than what the official unemployment rate indicates.

True Unemployment Effects on US States Masked by Workforce Exits

Greed is evil and needs to be put down. Profits over children's brains:

Dismissing extensive scientific evidence showing that even low levels of chlorpyrifos damage children's brains, the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday released a risk assessment calling the toxic pesticide's effects "unresolved" and allowing its continued use in a wide variety of agricultural products ....

Unresolved in a pigs eye.

Rejecting Scientific Evidence of Harm to Children's Brains, Trump EPA OKs Continued Use of Chlorpyrifos

The objective, in other words, is to force Facebook to alter its hate speech definition so that its own “detection algorithm” will characterize any criticism of Israel as hate speech and automatically remove the pertinent content from the platform.
This definition, which has been endorsed or adopted in some official capacity by over thirty countries, includes eleven examples of anti-Semitism, seven of which involve criticism of Israel. This is just the latest concrete manifestation of the how any critique of the Israeli government and its politics now assumes the taint of anti-Semitism.

There is, to be sure, an irony here. Historically, the fight against anti-Semitism has sought to advance the equal rights and emancipation of Jews; yet, in the IHRA definition those who speak out against the subjugation of Palestinians are called anti-Semites.
While urging Mark Zuckerberg to: “Fight all forms of hate speech on Facebook,” we called upon him to refrain from “adopting and applying a politicized definition of antisemitism, which has been weaponized to undermine free speech, in order to shield the Israeli government and to silence Palestinian voices and their supporters.”

If Facebook does eventually bow down and include the full IHRA definition in its algorithms, free speech on Israel/Palestine, which is already under immense pressure, will receive a lethal blow. It is up to Facebook users to voice their concern by notifying Zuckerberg and Sandberg that they will abandon the platform the moment the media giant decides to adopt the IHRA definition. Ultimately, we, the users, do hold the power.

Redefining Anti-Semitism on Facebook

... Zhang continued: “With the most advanced medical technologies and system in the world, why has the US turned out to have the most confirmed cases and fatalities?

“If someone should be held accountable, it should be a few US politicians themselves.”

World in disarray: Angry exchanges at top UN meeting on COVID-19

Krystal and Saagar: STUNNING Analysis Reveals Young Black Voters Contempt For Democratic Party

Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti break down the recent report from Nate Silver's 538 that details the generational gap among black voters when it comes to support for the Democratic Party.