After the party
We had a nice family gathering in the garden one night last week. After everyone had departed I sat at the table, admiring the little Hay light that I got as a present. It’s a really lovely piece of kit.
Quote of the Day
”It’s fairly common to say that Google is the new Microsoft, but from a regulatory perspective Apple is the new Microsoft and Google is the new AT&T. (Amazon is the new Walmart and Facebook perhaps the new Murdoch.)”
Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news
Ry Cooder and David Lindley | Promised Land
Recorded in the Vienna Opera House (not what one usually associates with that staid institution).
Beautiful Reggae number. If it doesn’t improve your breakfast, then nothing will.
Long Read of the Day
The best books on the Industrial Revolution
Recommended by historian Sheilagh Ogilvie. Plus an interview in which she talks about the topic and the books.
Annoying, though, that Humphrey Jennings’s wonderful Pandaemonium, 1660-1886: Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers wasn’t mentioned. Maybe it’s because it’s just an anthology.
What We Leave Behind
Wonderful blast from Scott Galloway from a year ago, as the extent of the pandemic was beginning to become clear (at least to those who were disposed to think about it.)
Essential workers. The term essential means we’re going to treat you like chumps but run commercials calling you heroes. Just stop it. We lean out our windows and applaud health-care workers, as we should. We don’t, however, lean out our windows to salute other front-line workers — the guy or gal delivering your groceries or dropping Indian food through the window in your back seat.
Why? Because, deep down, we’ve been taught to believe that we live in a meritocracy and that billionaires and minimum wage workers all deserve what they get. We’ve conflated luck and talent, and it’s had a disastrous outcome — a lack of empathy.
There is so much that’s jarring about American exceptionalism. An enduring American image of the pandemic is a makeshift morgue in a refrigerated tractor-trailer in Queens. Worse? We idolize the founder of Tesla, who’s added the GDP of Hungary to his wealth (all tax-free/deferred) during this crisis, even as we discover 25% of New Yorkers are at risk for becoming food insecure. This isn’t a United States, it’s The Hunger Games.
This country was built by titans of industry even wealthier than today’s billionaires — Vanderbilt, Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan. But 1 in 11 steel workers didn’t need to die for bridges and skyscrapers to happen. We are a country that rewards genius. Yet no one person needs to hold enough cash to end homelessness ($20 billion), eradicate malaria worldwide ($90 billion), and have enough left over to pay 700,000 teachers’ salaries. Bezos makes the average Amazon employee’s salary in 10 seconds. This paints us as a feudal state and not a democracy.
Our lack of empathy for fellow Americans is vulgar and un-American. We can and should replace the hollow tributes with a federally mandated $20/hour minimum wage. This “outrageous” lift in the hourly wage would vault us from the 1960s to the present. As of 2018 the federal minimum was worth 29% less than in 1968.