SocraticGadfly: 11/19/17 - 11/26/17

November 24, 2017

#BasicIncome and the 'gig economy'

Approximately a seven minute read; part of an ongoing occasional series on basic income issues.

I appreciate the work Basic Income evangelist Scott Santens does. I would like for us to have some sort of basic income — with certain caveats about what type of basic income, what it will include or not, and how effective it will be.

One big concern of mine, related to many touters of basic income and their actual or perceived political leanings, relates to where our economy has been headed more and more in the last 10-20 years, especially with the rise of Net 2.0.

I'm talking about the "gig economy."

Even if it's not outrightly libertarian, but more, say, tech-neoliberal, the gig economy raises issues for basic income. And, the libertarian basic income and the socialist one are NOT THE SAME. That piece is a must-read, as it talks about how UBI in Silicon Valley is based on the gig economy.

The first is how much your version of basic income is actually going to pay out.

If basic income isn't set at $1,500 a month or more, people will still need to work. That's especially true as long as American doesn't have national health care, which to me would benefit workers even more than a piddly $200-a-month or similar basic income. (See below.) They may have more options if they have income assistance, but they're still going to need to work. It's going to take some massive shifting to have half of Americans or more working primarily as freelancers. That's going to have to start with getting them in the right mindset. It's also going to have to include a higher minimum wage, and other protections for freelancers.

And, none of that's any good without single-payer national health care. Remember, the gig economy doesn't offer health insurance bennies.

And, that, in turn, gets me back to what I see as the single most important tool and aid for working America today. It is single-payer national health care.

For that matter, the gig economy doesn't offer bennies in general. There's no paid vacation time. In fact, there may not even be unpaid vacation time, as in "You say you're unavailable for a week, we say we don't want you any more."

Of course, even the non-gig economy doesn't offer guaranteed-by-law paid vacation rights. Yet another way we're behind every other "developed" nation in the world.

There's also the issue of regulating businesses in an ever-more-freelance economy. Federal laws for timely payment of freelancer checks (already needed now) come to mind. Enforcing federal fraud on bogus employment ads.

And, as the Equifax scamming has shown, laws for control of information in a Net 3.0 information services economy are vital.

In short, we're looking at a lot more moving parts in a lot more places than a first-level impression of basic income might make you think.

The likes of Santens probably says that BI will, of itself, empower employees that much.

Nope. Not as long as you're still that focused on work and not that focused on employer regulation.

I said in that earlier post that Santens seemed caught between two stools. One is an Alaska Permanent Fund type "supplement," whether its $200 a month or slightly more. The other is between true income replacement, which, even in more rural areas, probably needs to be more like $1,500 a month, with Santens' $1,000 a month an attempt to straddle those two stools. (He'd be eyeing true replacement income at closer to $2,000 a month in metro areas perhaps, and $1,000 just about splits the difference between $200 and $2,000.)

But, behind that is two different stools of philosophy.

Does Santens merely want to give employees more leverage within the current system, even while knowing that this means more people will have to get better at hustling up gigs, since that's where the current system is headed in the US? Or does he, per the original "Fuck Work" title of James Livingston's "The End of Work," really want to attack, ultimately, the full sociological infrastructure of labor and markets in the US?

He's said before that BI is "neither capitalism nor socialism." Well, that may or may not be true. But, he, even with some social justice emphases, seems to tilt more capitalism.

Livingston is adamant, per this Baffler interview, that we need to break the current sociology. The subhead to the story specifically attacks the Protestant work ethic, after all. If you want to read more, the book is here in PDF.

From my own current employment path, I can tell you that we need something more radical than I think Santens theorizes.

Matt Bruenig offers up supporting evidence. Getting outside of the big picture of income inequality, similar differentiations exist within different age groups, and different educational levels. The most logical conclusion in my world is that this is structural.

And, the failure to think outside the box inhabits the corporate world, too, to be sure.

The media industry, at the corporate level, remains glued to capitalism, even as its capitalism, plus its own mistakes within a radically shifted, yet still quite capitalistic, playing field, that literally decimates it. (Per the actual Roman meaning, the media world is expected to lose another 10 percent of employment in the next decade or so.)

A gig economy, like that to which more of the media is moving, plus $1,000 a month of basic income, even as the gig economy swamp gets larger and employers bid would-be employees off against each other more and more, is no answer.

And, true empathy of Santens aside, and noting that his website notes he's been self-employed for several years, he's an IT-type person. He's been in the gig economy by nature of his profession. At the same time, the IT world, and related Internet-driven career paths, are more and more transnational. That may make it easier to look outside current nation-state boundaries, but it also makes it easier to overlook that, for all of its faults, the nation-state still has relevance in today's world.

Let's look at, say ... the low-seniority person on a two-man trash truck, out of a job when the city goes to new one-man trucks. He's not an IT person, and a month's worth of training at the unemployment office isn't going to change that. Besides that, other people, even if they're work-at-home telecommuters, still want the stability of a regular full-time job with a single employer.

And that's not all.

I mean, businesses that aren't losing jobs, at least not yet, have already been shoving people into "gigs." In the US, if you drive a truck, you're now a "contractor" and not an employee.

Is that the fault of nation-states in general? No, it's the fault of the US, where conservative Republicans have pushed this mentality and tech-neoliberal Democrats have stood by and accepted it, or in some cases, helped push.

Transnational labor protections? Let me know when the International Labor Organization, for the good it actually does do on occasion, writes world-wide labor safety laws and other protections and has the teeth to enforce them.

Until the United Nations becomes something like a world government, I'll take the 500-year-old nation-state over libertarian or tech-neoliberal alternatives.

Otherwise, along with Branko Milanovic, yes, I know the nation-state as welfare state is going to struggle further with more globalization. I also, and again along with him, know that answers aren't going to be easy. And, he, along with Rutger Bregman, agrees with me that we need to rethink work, and do it before going too far down the BI path.

And, cryptocurrencies (separate post in the future) won't help either. Indeed, to the degree they undermine nation-states, they'll be part of the problem. And, Santens has repeatedly on Twitter supported not just Bitcoin, but cryptocurrencies in general.

And, Santens also follows on Twitter both Turning Point USA and founder Charlie Kirk. Now, follows, and even retweets, don't mean endorsements, with most of us. But, one can quote-tweet, or now, with the new 280-character limit, easily add commentary. The fact that TPUSA considers Black Lives Matter a terrorist group should tell one enough about it.

Meanwhile, Santens, who says in his bio that he's been self-employed since 1997, even before the start of today's gig economy, has reasons to support a libertarian version of BI that kills workman's comp and makes at least part of Social Security replaced by BI. The self-employed pay the "double share" of FICA taxes, so that's the Social Security angle. They're also not eligible for worker's comp, which explains that angle.


Fix that, along with fixing other things, like how ever more US states are becoming "right to work get fired" states, making worker's comp worth ever less. Fix that, and allow the self-employed to be eligible for worker's comp with whomever they're contracted to at the time.

Update: WeWork, as profiled by the Guardian, seems like a hypercapitalist gig economy partial overlap with a gig economy version of BI, or at least swimming in the same circles.

Meanwhile, while we are indeed NOT "all in sales," the gig economy, as driven by neoliberalism, is trying to get us to believe we all should be in marketing — self-marketing.

November 22, 2017

Impeach the president? Why not?

Earlier this week, Ross Douthat, in claiming to be nonpartisan, but actually being quite partisan and perhaps firing a shot across the bow at Al Franken, said that, in hindsight, impeaching Bill Clinton was justifiable.

Well, for sexual peccadillos or for other reasons, I can find a bunch of presidents of both major parties who should have been impeached.

In any case, as Bob Somersby takes Douthat down a notch, nobody accused Clinton of sexually harassing or assaulting either Gennifer Flowers or Monica Lewinsky.  On the other hand, while it was pre-presidential, Bob sullies his own narrative by not mentioning Juanita Broaddrick.

And, to frost old Ross and hoist him on his own petard, the first such president would have been a Republican in today's political economy — John Adams.

Portions of the Alien and Sedition Acts clearly violated the First Amendment. Adams had pushed for them and signed them into law. Impeach him!

Second? Thomas Jefferson. Slavery was legal, but the extortionate nature of his twilight-world relationship with Sally Hemings was arguably impeachable.

Andrew Jackson? Violated federal laws and the Supreme Court, complete with infamous retort to John Marshall, during Indian removal.

James K. Polk? First of several presidents to lie us into war. And per an Illinois Congressman who got the moniker of "Spotty" Lincoln, Mexico still didn't accept the Rio Grande as Texas' border. Yes, Santa Anna signed a treaty to that effect after San Jacinto, but, under international law, treaties signed under duress are never binding, and besides, the Mexican Legislature never approved it.

James Buchanan? Arguably, not just an aider and abetter of treason, but by not immediately firing, and trying in court, treasonous cabinet members like John Floyd, a committer of treason himself.

Andrew Johnson? The Tenure in Office Act was unconstitutional. He could have been impeached for something like deliberately undercutting the Freedmen's Bureau.

Ulysses S. Grant? Arguably for obstruction of justice in the Babcock investigation.

Teddy Roosevelt? Violation of the portion of his oath of office as commander in chief of the armed forces, over the Brownsville dishonorable discharges.

Woodrow Wilson didn't quite lie us into war, but he did certainly connive us into war. And, like Adams, a clear violator of the First Amendment.

Warren Harding? More idiotic than Grant, and no clear indication he came close to obstructing justice.

Franklin D. Roosevelt? Did not lie us into war. Race-based application of many New Deal programs, though, seem to be a clear violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Harry S. Truman? Probably not.

Ike? Covert war vis-a-vis both Mossadegh and Arbenz, and matters related.


LBJ? Lied us into Vietnam. And plans to expand our presence there existed months before Tonkin Gulf.

Nixon? Besides Watergate, his Logan Act violations in the 1968 campaign, even if pre-election, were an arguable cause for impeachment. The Cambodia bombing certainly so.

Jerry Ford? The pardon for Nixon, if it was some sort of quid pro quo, certainly runs afoul of the Emoluments Clause.

Ronald Reagan? Iran-Contra.

George H.W. Bush? If any of his gropes and mistressing involved preferments? Impeachable. Lies about Kuwait for the Gulf War — both the PR-paid lies about Kuwaiti incubator babies, and whatever April Glaspie told Saddam Hussein — lied us into war.

Bill Clinton? Sure, Ross, you can have him.

George W. Bush? Lied us into war.

That's 18 presidents. Nine of them Republican or proto-Republican. Or, 19 and 10, assuming Trump's already racked up Emoluments Clause violations.

You playing, Rosty? What about you, Ken Starr?

See, Rusty, this is what happens when you combine being a political hack with being a dumb fuck.

In reality, this shows yet another failure of our Founding Fathers.

They assumed members of Congress would be disinterested civil servants, rather than politicians. They assumed that political parties similar to the type already existing in Britain, and to some degree the US (Tories and Patriots, or the Federalists and anti-Federalists even before the Constitution was approved didn't come from nowhere), wouldn't be part of the US body politic.

And, despite the evidence in front of their faces that they were wrong, they persisted.

And, a side note undercutting American exceptionalism? Nineteen of 45 presidents. More than 40 percent.

November 21, 2017

Joe Morgan has numbskulls' panties in a wad

Hall of Fame second baseman, and sometimes clueless TV baseball color guy, Joe Morgan, released a letter this morning urging voters not to elect roiders. Red Satan has more.

He got a lot of flack, most of it partially to totally undeserved. (Why B-Ref has him in an Astros hat, I don't know. B-Ref's normal policy has been to do cap photos by team WAR, not games played, and his numbers were a lot higher with the Reds.)

First was that he was clueless about roiding.

Second, that he might be speaking out of turn about teams pushing players in HOF votes. Don't know how much is team-related, but do writers push players? You bet your ass they do.

Third and related was that he is a hypocrite about greenies. Wrong. I've covered that one in depth, contra many people before this dust-up. People like Jeff Passan are wrong on that, wrong on the hypocrisy charge, and wrong on the story framing of smart young bucks like them having to clear up clueless stupidity of old coots. (Oh, Passan is now joining in with a few ESPNers and others to say he'll no longer vote. Good! He is also a Big HOFer, I think; another reason for him not to vote.)

Third was that there are roiders in the Hall already. Like Reggie Jackson, per my speculating on speculating? (If it wasn't Nolan Ryan.) Or racists like Cap Anson? And alleged but actually not racists like Ty Cobb? (People citing him in this conversation only show their cluelessness in the face of revelations that most the racism claims against Cobb were made up, primarily to sell books.)

So? Two wrongs don't make a right.

And, if you're willing to blink here, what cheating do you NOT find acceptable?

That said, if Morgan was implying there are no roiders in the Hall at this time, he is possibly wrong. So half wrong for easy tabulation.

Fourth was the insults claiming the fourth-greatest 2B ever, by JAWS, himself was unworthy of Cooperstown.

Next was his strong opposition to Ryan Sandburg in the Hall. Ryno wasn't bad, but as 2B JAWS shows, he wasn't a slam dunk. So, Joe was half-wrong.

Reality? Let Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens fess up. And Bud Selig as commish. And managers Joe Torre, Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox, as I have blogged before. Then, a truth and reconciliation committee. (Oh, and Mark McGwire still isn't a HOFer, and I say that as a Cards fan.)

So, of five issues, including, indirectly, the Ryno one, I'll give Joe two totally rights, two half rights, and three-quarters right on amphetamines in baseball. (Oh, and also contra Passan and other Gen X and younger kids? Diet-pill level amphetamines were legal even after steroids were banned.)

That's 3.75 points out of 5, or 75 percent. Re the Sandberg issue, I'll give Morgan a boost for, overall, being a "small hall" guy, also contra some of the oldsters at ESPN and many of the young bucks like Passan. So, bump him to 80 percent — a decent B grade.

And, I see that dumbshits at Deadspin have joined the greenies-related pile-on.

(I would like to have somebody directly ask Morgan the Byrnes-Boswell angle and see what he says about the possibility of a roider already being in Cooperstown.)

And, Buster Olney's got his panties in a wad over all this, per the header.

First, Buster, the 10-player limit's been in place for long before roiding.

Second, the Hall making a conscious decision, or semi-conscious one, about roiders is NOT "gerrymandering."

Third, to Passan, who also says the BBWAA in general wants both the 10-player cutoff expanded to 15 AND all writers' ballots to be made public?

First, there were people wanting a larger ballot before the "backlog." NO, NO, NO. This itself shows that the BBWAA has too many Big Hall writers still in its ranks. Like Passan. Like much of ESPN.

On the transparency issue? Canton for pro football, and Springfield for basketball don't release their writers' ballots either, as far as I know.

Passan's almost making some of ESPN's baseball writers look tolerable.

Finally, if Passan says he knows there are roiders in the Hall — how does he know?

TX Progressives have a pre-Thanksgiving roundup

The Texas Progressive Alliance sends its deepest condolences to the family of Steve Mostyn, who lost his short battle with an undisclosed mental health concern last week.

Off the Kuff explains what the special election schedule might look like in the event Sen. Sylvia Garcia wins the primary to succeed Rep. Gene Green in CD29.

Socratic Gadfly takes a look at the latest on the Julian Assange-Donald Trump Jr. entanglement, along with blank-check defenders of Assange.

Both Al Franken and Don Willett (the Texas Supreme Court Justice up for a seat on the Fifth Circuit) made jokes that weren't funny that recently came to light, as PDiddie at Brains and Eggs observed.

The Lewisville Texan Journal reports that Denton County Democrats have selected the leader of Indivisible Denton to run the county's coordinated campaign in 2018, but not without some internal bickering. (Your blogger has written some skeptical thoughts from a left-liberal, left-of-Democrats perspective about the national-level Indivisible Team.)

Jobsanger notes that fundraising for Doug Jones, the Alabama Democrat hoping to prevail over Roy Moore, has seen his fundraising surge to "Ossoff-level money" in the wake of Moore's sexual abuse scandal.  Is that a good thing, though, given Ossoff's fate? Are Dems setting themselves up for a letdown?

Grits for Breakfast noticed another shooting by police of an unarmed black man, this time in Mesquite.

Texas jobs simply don't pay well enough, especially when they're staffed by women, says the Better Texas blog.

And The Rag Blog has a hefty podcast from last week, including Jim Hightower, some Vietnam vets reflecting on the war, a climate change scholar, a founder of the Weather Underground, and legendary Austin musicians performing live.

In their Texas roundup from last Friday, Abby Johnston at the Daily Post has details of Harris County suing Arkema, the company owning the chemical facility near Baytown that suffered flooding and then releases of gases and explosions in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. (Your friendly blogger has noted pseudoskeptics in Houston and beyond running flak for Arkema.)

In San Marcos, an undocumented immigrant left detention without being charged, but also without his DACA status, which was not due to expire until 2019, according to the San Antonio Current.

The Texas Observer has state Rep. Drew Springer in the crosshairs: he sits on the Ways and Means committee overseeing tax law while also serving as a director to one of the state's largest corporate tax (avoidance) law firms, a conflict of interest apparently invisible to him.

Did you vote against toll lanes in a recent election?  TXDOT is attempting a bait-and-switch, according to Somervell County Salon.

Zachery Taylor has a lengthy observation about how the Texas church shooting exposes the military's longstanding coverup of domestic abusers within -- and recently removed -- from its ranks.

Save Buffalo Bayou makes the case against building a third reservoir to accompany Addicks and Barker.

 The TSTA Blog argues that taking Confederate names off of schools is not denying history.

And Harry Hamid walked back home after crossing the street last week, detecting some astronauts underground in the process.

November 20, 2017

#HOF ballot — who will be, should be, going into Cooperstown?

This year's Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ballot just came out. Full list of eligible players here at B-Ref.

Let's look at the first-year players, first.

Chipper Jones should be in, and will be in, I think. He's a clear top-ten, and almost top-five, third baseman, and that's a spot underrepresented in the Hall.

Jim Thome should be in, and probably will be, but even at 600-plus homers, may not get in this year. He's never faced steroid whisperers, but being on a number of different teams, and spent half his career away from Cleveland, which means he could have less writers' loyalty than some.

Omar Vizquel should not be in, won't be in this year, but may have enough people fooled into thinking he's Ozzie Smith when he's actually more than 20 WAR below the Wizard, to eventually sneak in. There's a gap of 30 overall WAR and 15 dWAR. Vizquel is NOT a HOFer, but whether he fools too many people, or almost too many, is likely to become the new Jack Morris — who is now hoping he fools enough Veterans Committee voters.

ESPN HOF-fluffer/whisperer David Schoenfield is at work here, downplaying the gap between the two on offense, when it's not that close in terms of WAR.

Otherwise, yes, Vizquel has the record for most career games at SS. And? Ozzie could have played another two-three years, but was tired of getting rat-fucked by La Russa in St. Louis, wanted to retire a Cardinal, and didn't want to play two-three years of half-time work.

I mean, Rusty Staub is 13th, all positions, on career games played and nobody pretends he's a HOFer. (Vizquel is 12th, just a few games ahead.) Many on the longevity list are HOFers, but that's because they're good enough players to have been worth playing that long. Vizquel? Rounding off by half-WAR points, roughly, Omar was AAAA-replacement level, except his 200-appearance age-42 season, his last six years in baseball. His longevity testifies more to the suckitude of shortstops 10 years ago, his stubborn refusal to quit, and his being overvalued by managers and GMs, than it does anything else. OTOH, two of Ozzie's last three seasons, short only his injury-riddled 1997, were 1.5 WAR or higher.

Interesting case coming next.

Does Scott Rolen get so overshadowed by Chipper, even more than Alan Trammell was by Cal Ripken, to even miss the 5 percent cutoff? He shouldn't, but he may. Tramm stuck for the full 15, as of that time, years. Never broke 40 percent, though.

Schoenfield is at it again here, poo-pooing Rolen a bit on defense, and even more, the career of future HOF 3B Adrian Beltre. And, NOOOO, David, Chipper is NOT arguably the second-best 3B ever behind just Mike Schmidt.

Reality? 3B is considered to have moderate positional scarcity on runs; flip side of that is that it is considered to have a moderate defensive premium. In fact, that positional scarcity increased half a run from 2000 on. And, the flip side of that means, increased defensive importance. Makes sense with the new live ball (in general), the increased power emphasis, and more pitchers throwing cutters making for grounders down the line.

Another one?

Andruw Jones played some great defensive CF at his peak. But, is it enough? And, will voting on him stir up new discussion about both the value of, and the accuracy of, defensive sabermetrics? I think he had too short of a peak, lost his D after 30, and should indeed stir such discussion.

Returning candidates?

Trevor Hoffman, just one percentage point off last year, gets in. Nobody's ever backtracked from that. Besides, with Malcolm Young of AC/DC, and specifically of Hoffman's walk-on music Hell's Bells, recently dying, he has to get in, right. In getting in, though, I hope he ignites new discussion about the true value, or lack thereof, of the modern one-inning closer.

Vladimir Guerrero, even though I consider him a borderline candidate, or maybe even borderline of borderlines, will likely get in.

When he announced his retirement in 2013, he cited bad knees. The Jays gave him a semi-shot the year before, but he didn't make the big club before opting out. Yes, per the commenter below, he had an arm as well as a bat — and a stone glove, too. And, that SI link in this graf? Story's by sabermetric guru Jay Jaffe, who has the same take as me.

Buster Olney joins Dave Schoenfield in having his ESPN knickers in a knot on Guerrero and Vizquel.

If Thome makes it along with Jones, that's four right there.

Sorry, Mike Mussina. Semi-sorry, Edgar Martinez, in next-to-last year of eligibility. Oh so sorry, Curt Schilling. You're probably running out of luck, Jeff Kemp.

Update: Joe Morgan, vice president of the HOF's board, has various numbnuts, most of them young punk sportswriters, combined with a few old guard of keyboard clatterers, shitting bricks over his "no roiders wanted letter.

Joe may not know, or get, sabermetrics, but he DOES know where to draw the line on HOF2018 entry — on roiders. And, he's right, despite the tired arguments of "that guy was innuendoed," or "but #greenies are as bad as #roiding," etc.

Who wants to live to be 110?

Not me, per the cautionary tale of Tithonus, and contra this New York Times piece which, shock me, focuses on a transhumanist.

Certainly, I don't want to live to be 110 in today's United States, with overpriced medical costs.

Per Tithonus, I don't want to live to be 110 and deaf, at least half blind, and having my replacement corneas now giving me a second set of cataracts.

The piece focuses on the subset of "supercentenarians" that are not totally debilitated. I have no way of knowing how much of a bullseye fallacy it commits, but have no doubt it commits at least a bit of it, from pictures and stories of supercentenarians I've actually seen and read.

It also is pretty unscientific. It does mention luck, but only in passing to move on to genes. To the degree it talks indirectly about nurture, outside of luck, rather than the genes of nature, it ignores that much of the long-living lore of said people is at least partially contradictory, and, in cases where smoking is mentioned, is contraindicated for the general population.

Beyond that, it has other problems.

First, we know ever more today that the "one gene = one phylogenetic manifestation" is simply not true. For many, many things, even simpler than the complex we call aging, they're controlled by dozens if not hundreds of genes.

On the flip side of that, a single gene, in multiple different combinations with different other genes, may control for a tendency for (can't forget that — genes generally do not control for "X" directly, with the rare exception of something like Huntington's) a dozen or more different physical expressions.

And, the story doesn't even discuss epigenetics.

That said, if there is "something" behind being super-elderly, Sardinia says it's at least in part diet. But, the typical drooler over extra-long life probably doesn't want to hear that.

Other than that, there's nothing wrong with the story scientifically, of course. Other than not mentioning that this is just as much "just around the corner" as strong AI or something like that.

Also not mentioned — as the homo sapiens population of planet Earth already passes 7.5 billion, can we afford a bunch of people living to be 110?