The Wage of Reason

Every day, I open 50 or so tabs, find the day's most fascinating news, and edit the internet down to a selection of bite-sized, pithy takes that I like to refer to as a modern day column. In 2020 parlance, I'm what you'd call an inessential worker. During our peak pandemic year, we learned just how essential some of our workers are, and for the first time in a long time, we started paying them as such. "That surreal period underscored a truth that activists had been pointing to for years but that hadn't made its way into mainstream politics: Many of the workers we couldn't live without are paid the least for their so-called essential labor. Company hazard pay didn't last long, but a few dozen cities and counties in California extended the practice for a few months this year in a kind of natural experiment: Would a boost in salary for lower-wage workers lead to tangible benefits for them and their communities without bankrupting their employers?" Alexander Nieves in Politico: Hazard pay changed the lives of California grocery store employees during the pandemic and may have begun a long-term shift for lower-wage workers.

+ Higher wages for essential workers wasn't the only econ experiment during the pandemic. NYT (gift article for ND readers): Pandemic Aid Programs Spur a Record Drop in Poverty. "The number of poor Americans is expected to fall by nearly 20 million from 2018 levels, a decline of almost 45 percent. The country has never cut poverty so much in such a short period of time, and the development is especially notable since it defies economic headwinds — the economy has nearly seven million fewer jobs than it did before the pandemic."


You Mad Me at Hello

"One woman, afraid to take a bathroom break, kept a jar under her desk in case she needed to urinate. Another, afraid to call in sick, paused calls to vomit. A third, afraid to hang up on a customer, didn't know what to do when she realized a caller was masturbating to the sound of her voice." Think it's torture to be on the line with customer service? Imagine how it feels being on the other end of that call. All day long. ProPublica: We're Not Allowed to Hang Up: The Harsh Reality of Working in Customer Service.


Fire in the Whole

"Dozens of families forced from Paradise and surrounding communities about three years ago have resettled in small towns around Lake Almanor, about 40 miles away, finding comfort in stunning wilderness and shared pain among survivors. But as California's biggest blaze of the year raged toward that haven this week, they relived a nightmare." It's getting harder to find a place to hide from California's wildfires. WaPo (gift article for ND readers): Survivors of California's deadliest wildfire haunted as new blaze nears: ‘I can't do it again.'


Sub Required

"If the U.K. is turning the corner, it's a pretty good indication that maybe we're further into this than we think, and maybe we're two or three weeks away from starting to see our own plateau here in the United States." U.K.'s Delta wave seems to have peaked sooner than expected. Could the same thing happen in the US?

+ "Even though they were able to make that decision themselves, they didn't want to have to deal with the peer pressure or the outbursts from other people about them ... 'giving in to everything." Some people in Missouri are getting vaccinated in secret to avoid backlash from loved ones.

+ "Anthony Fauci probably never considered that dommes convincing subs to get jabbed would be an effective way to boost the U.S. vaccination rate. Yet dommes across the country, who are slowly opening up their dungeon doors as lockdown restrictions lift, say that their efforts to persuade subs to get the shot have largely been quite successful. 'I've had at least a dozen [subs] who have said, ‘If this is what I have to do to see you, I'll do it.'" Rolling Stone: Meet the Dommes Who Are Demanding Their Submissives Get Vaxxed.


Time To Go to the Mattresses

"When you contemplate the end of democracy in America, what kind of person do you think will bring it about? Maybe you picture a sinister billionaire in a bespoke suit, slipping brown envelopes to politicians. Maybe your nightmare is a rogue general, hijacking the nuclear football. Maybe you think of a jackbooted thug leading a horde of men in white sheets, all carrying burning crosses. Here is what you probably don't imagine: an affable, self-made midwesterner, one of those goofy businessmen who makes his own infomercials. A recovered crack addict, no less, who laughs good-naturedly when jokes are made at his expense." The Atlantic's Anne Applebaum: The MyPillow Guy Really Could Destroy Democracy.


A Kodiak Moment

"The 8.2 magnitude earthquake that struck off Alaska's coast Wednesday night was the strongest one since 1964." I happened to be awake and this was massive news for about an hour. Tsunami warnings were issued in Alaska and even Hawaii was on alert. Through it all, I listened to live coverage from KMXT in Kodiak where the calmest broadcaster of all time guided the community through the various warnings.


Kiwi Shall Overcome

"To assess which nations would be most resilient to such a collapse, countries were ranked according to their ability to grow food for their population, protect their borders from unwanted mass migration, and maintain an electrical grid and some manufacturing ability. Islands in temperate regions and mostly with low population densities came out on top." New Zealand rated best place to survive global societal collapse.


Five Ring Circus

Photos are often the best way to tell a story. But during the Olympics, it can be difficult to tell if you're looking at tears or joy or just tears. From AP: Tears of victory, defeat for Tokyo Olympians.

+ One thing you'll see in a lot of Olympic photos: The five rings tattoo.

+ One COVID-19 concession may actually make for a beautiful new Olympic tradition: Athletes on the podium are helping each other don their medals.


Life’s a Pitch and Then You Die

"Ron Popeil, the quintessential TV pitchman and inventor known to generations of viewers for hawking products including the Veg-O-Matic, the Pocket Fisherman, Mr. Microphone and the Showtime Rotisserie and BBQ, has died, his family said." I owned the Pocket Fisherman. And if you're of a certain age, you definitely owned at least one of the products Popeil pitched.


Bottom of the News

"The question is why the relationship is changing so quickly right now. For America's newest adopters, a dog can be many things: a dry run for parenthood, a way of putting down roots when traditional milestones feel out of reach, an enthusiastic housemate for people likely to spend stretches of their 20s and 30s living alone. An even more primary task, though, is helping soothe the psychic wounds of modern life." Amanda Mull in The Atlantic: Why So Many Millennials Are Obsessed With Dogs. (Because they're used to following others and having to deal with the shit they left behind?)

+ McSweeney's: Are You Allowed to Criticize Simone Biles?: A Decision Tree.