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SEK on Graphic Policy Radio talking about the politics of Daredevil

[ 20 ] April 21, 2015 |


I know I always encourage you to listen to my appearances on Graphic Policy Radio — co-hosts Elana and Brett really bring out the best in me — but in this case I really think you should, as the conversation was exceptional. (Likely because I’ve been thinking quite a bit about Daredevil, as tomorrow’s Lawyers, Guns & Money podcast on the show will demonstrate, as well as an interview I did with NPR which may or may not have already aired.)

I should note, however, that the conversation addresses all 12 episodes, so if you haven’t finished the series and want to avoid spoilers, bookmark this and listen later.


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Solar Energy Batteries

[ 29 ] April 21, 2015 |


Some potentially positive developments in the cost of batteries to collect solar energy from home-based systems, which right now is holding back solar energy development. There is some real reason to think major developments are in the offing, including that the traditional energy providers are nervous about it. Of course, we’ve been hearing these sorts of predictions for almost 40 years now. I’m also a bit curious about the water requirements of a giant new battery factory in the deserts east of Reno. But that might be a secondary concern.

Hard Brutal Living

[ 28 ] April 21, 2015 |


Your must read of the morning is William Finnegan’s essay on the highest settlement in the world, which is an unregulated gold mine town in Peru. As I’ve said before, I’ve been to Potosí in Bolivia and those conditions were unbelievable enough. To think of an even colder, harder, worse life, yet one that thousands of people choose to do (they are working for themselves after all), is remarkable and says a lot about the economic options for the poor in these nations.

Do Minimum Wage Increases Necessarily Lead to Reduced Employment?

[ 82 ] April 20, 2015 |

Well, no. But if the facts don’t fit the theory so much worse for the facts…

What Political Scientists Wish Pundits Knew

[ 44 ] April 20, 2015 |

A good summary.

…Julia Azari has more.

Gawker Unionization

[ 46 ] April 20, 2015 |


I suppose I should say something about Gawker’s decision to unionize and the CEO’s seeming decision to let it happen. I don’t have all that much real insight to have. The site has been excellent on labor issues for some time. It should be said though that the limits of the bargaining unit may be pretty tight–full-time employees in a heavily contingent world. Is there some generational shift happening here? Who knows. I think it’s significant if it means that young, relatively well-educated people are going to be seeking to create unions in newer forms of business. In any case, it’s at least an interesting data point that needs further monitoring.

By the way, the above image is from a 1948 strike in New York. Mostly, I was looking for an excuse to put it up here.

Unpredictable Work Schedules

[ 199 ] April 20, 2015 |

AK Plastic Bags 1

The plague of unpredictable work schedules, with employers changing workers’ weekly schedules as their whim, must end. It causes all sorts of problems for those workers. A few examples from Gillian White:

According to a recent study from the Economic Policy Institute, this is life for about 17 percent of the labor force. So called “just-in-time scheduling” is far more common for those who work for hourly wages or are part-time employees, or both. Part-time workers—more than six million Americans—are more than twice as likely to have unpredictable hours than full-time employees.

Many workers had one week or less of advanced notice about their upcoming work hours, the study found. Such haphazard scheduling has been linked to not only lower levels of job satisfaction, but also to greater levels of work-family conflict, according to the Lonnie Golden, the study’s author. Another study, published in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, had similar findings, linking irregular shift schedules to diminished cognition and physical health, with workers who were exposed to such schedules for extended periods showing decreases in their ability to reason, think, and recall information.

In some cases, the differentiation in weekly work hours or varying start times may reflect a move toward increasingly flexible work places, but that’s not likely the case for low-income, part-time workers, who make up such a large portion of those working with unpredictable schedules, says Golden.

Additionally, the phenomenon may be contributing to the growing economic inequality in the country, according to Golden. For example, a lack of predictable hours can lead to difficulty obtaining or keeping government benefits for some workers. A 2014 study from researchers at the University of Chicago noted that in some states, qualification for child-care subsidies are tied to the number of hours worked. That can mean that decreased hours lead to a loss of child-care benefits, which then leaves parents unavailable to work, even when shifts become available. “Work-hour requirements are based on the assumption that workers decide how many hours they work, yet because hours are a key component of labor costs, corporate policies often restrict their availability,” write Susan Lambert, Peter J. Fugiel, and Julia R. Henly, the study’s authors.

There’s no actual reason for this sort of scheduling to exist. It should not be that hard for employers to give workers a consistent schedule that can be set weeks or even months in advance. It’s just that employers don’t want to do it.

What Does It Mean to be a Just Ruler in Westeros?

[ 43 ] April 20, 2015 |

"Game of Thrones" politics: Is a fair and just ruler possible for Westeros?

I’m very happy to announce that I’ll be writing some political essays on Game of Thrones for My first essay is on the topic of a just ruler – what does a just ruler look like? What do they do about justice and punishment, war and peace, inclusion and exclusion?

Feel free to kibitz in-thread.

BREAKING: Earl Warren Still Dead

[ 18 ] April 20, 2015 |

Via Sean McElwee, this is remarkable:


Sure, this is the most conservative court since 1937, and sure its decisions tip well to the right. But if you are the most common type of Republican in 2015, if not literally every politically salient decision produces a conservative result than the court is liberal.

America’s Favorite War Criminal

[ 40 ] April 20, 2015 |


The fact that Henry Kissinger continues to not only be given a pass for his many crimes but is feted as the elder statesmen of American foreign policy on the most exclusive stages is infuriating.

The Three-Fifths Compromise

[ 7 ] April 20, 2015 |


As this essay suggests, the Three-Fifths Compromise was a terrible deal for the North from the very beginning and would establish that slaveholders would use their slaves to make money and go the mat to enforce the return of their property, but then would say they weren’t property at all when it was in their interests to do so, i.e., be taxed on it.

Foreign Entanglements: Civil War Memories

[ 1 ] April 20, 2015 |

On this week’s episode of Foreign Entanglements, I spoke with Kevin Levin about the 150th commemoration of the Civil War:

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