Wednesday 8 July, 2020

Quote of the Day

“What was crystal clear is that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance.”

  • John Apter, chairman of the UK’s police union, on what he’s learned from the decision to reopen pubs.

And of course they won’t wear masks either.

Publishing news!

New softback edition of Little Brother and Homeland is out, with an introduction by Edward Snowden. I’ve just ordered a copy.

Warehousing has become the new manufacturing.

From a terrific Financial Times piece on whether ‘critical workers’ will be properly paid after the pandemic crisis has eased.

Driven by ecommerce and the consumer economy, it has become an industry that employs many of the school leavers who 50 years ago might have taken jobs at Caterpillar or Ford factories.

While US manufacturing employment shrank 26 per cent to 12.7m people over the two decades to 2019, warehousing employment grew 141 per cent to 1.2m, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some of that growth has been fuelled by the use of low-paid, non-union staff with little job security.

Amazon instituted a $15 minimum hourly wage across the US in 2018 — double the $7.25 federal minimum. But warehouse workers make less in real terms than their factory predecessors: in 2018, the average transportation and warehousing employee in Will County, a former manufacturing hub in the Chicago suburbs, earned $43,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. That matches the average annual wage for a manufacturing employee — in 1998.

The mass industries of the Fordist economy evaporated, and with them the trade unions and class solidarity that characterised the era. What’s replaced them is atomising, alienating, individualising management-by-algorithms with no worker benefits, no stability and no security net.

Apple has a choice to make

From John Thornhill…

Apple has an interesting choice to make. It can simply tough out this regulatory scrutiny while it continues to generate an estimated $1bn of revenue a month from the App Store. It can count on the EU taking years to reach a ruling while the US Congress may never legislate. For some big tech companies, fines have become no more than the cost of doing business.

Yet Apple may also see virtue in defanging the most critical of its 23m developers by modifying the way the App Store operates to benefit all parties. The history of Microsoft in the 1990s is instructive. While Bill Gates was running the company, Microsoft was contemptuous of complainants and regulators, and ended up entangled in distracting legal fights for 16 years before finally rebooting its own culture. Led by the more consensual Satya Nadella, it has vaulted back to rival Apple as the top US companies by market capitalisation.

It is pretty certain that Jobs would have adopted Mr Gates’s combative approach. But that does not make it right for Apple today. It may make more sense, and may ultimately make Apple more money, for it to repay its cultural debt and negotiate more flexible terms with disgruntled developers.

The analogy with Bill Gates is spot-on.

Here’s what worries me about Mary Trump’s memoir

I’ve just been reading about it in the New York Times. It seems to be a tell-all account of a massively dysfunctional family headed by a psychopathic patriarch — Donald Trump’s father, Fred.

My concern is that if too many get to read the story they may begin to feel sorry for Trump, who will then be able to portray himself as a victim.

Tom Friedman on what Joe Biden must insist on before he agrees to a TV debate with Trump

From Friedman’s column

First, Biden should declare that he will take part in a debate only if Trump releases his tax returns for 2016 through 2018. Biden has already done so, and they are on his website. Trump must, too. No more gifting Trump something he can attack while hiding his own questionable finances.

And second, Biden should insist that a real-time fact-checking team approved by both candidates be hired by the nonpartisan Commission on Presidential Debates — and that 10 minutes before the scheduled conclusion of the debate this team report on any misleading statements, phony numbers or outright lies either candidate had uttered. That way no one in that massive television audience can go away easily misled.

Debates always have ground rules. Why can’t telling the truth and equal transparency on taxes be conditions for this one?

I don’t often agree with Friedman, and I think Trump should be allowed to continue to destroy his chances without any help from the Democratic candidate. But Friedman is right about these conditions if Biden does go ahead.

Birdbrain rules ok

This I loved.


This blog is also available as a daily email. If you think this might suit you better, why not subscribe? One email a day, delivered to your inbox at 7am UK time. It’s free, and there’s a one-click unsubscribe if you decide that your inbox is full enough already!