👓 Bullshit jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism | The Economist

Read Bullshit jobs and the yoke of managerial feudalism (The Economist)
Populism, pointless work and panicked youth: an interview with David Graeber of LSE

An interesting thesis to be sure. I’d bookmarked his book to read a while ago. Certainly looks more intriguing now.

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👓 An inside look at how Trump’s infamous jobs day tweet roiled some government economists | Quartz

Read An inside look at how Trump’s infamous jobs day tweet roiled some government economists (Quartz)
The email subject lines run the gamut: "Interesting," "In case you didn't see this," "Holy moley," "Breach by POTUS," "Is it OK for us now too?"
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As the new school year draws near and #edtech enthusiasts continue to push the benefits of #OER, let’s also take  a moment to remember and celebrate the ability of students to choose their own educational resources and books.

Teachers need to do a better job of providing options, flexibility, and guidance in the panoply of choices available to students of all income levels and abilities. Increased choice at the student level will drastically improve both the literal and proverbial marketplace of ideas.

Here’s some additional detail I wrote on this day a few years back:

On Choosing Your Own Textbooks

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👓 Community, Privatization, Efficiency | Kathleen Fitzpatrick

Read Community, Privatization, Efficiency by Kathleen FitzpatrickKathleen Fitzpatrick (Kathleen Fitzpatrick)
Thanks to a recommendation from Danica Savonick, I’ve been reading Miranda Joseph’s Against the Romance of Community. Danica pointed me toward it as a corrective for some of the ways my gestures toward community flirted with the romanticized notions Joseph seeks to question, and hard as it is for me (an optimist, for better or for worse) to open some of the ideals I hold to harder questioning, that questioning is proving fruitful.
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👓 U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials | New York Times

Read U.S. Opposition to Breast-Feeding Resolution Stuns World Health Officials by Andrew Jacobs (nytimes.com)
Trade sanctions. Withdrawal of military aid. The Trump administration used both to try to block a measure that was considered uncontroversial and embraced by countries around the world.

You know what I want for my birthday? Stupidity like that described in this article not to exist.

Nestle gave a half-assed response here. They can do far better. Now that their US headquarters has left Glendale, California for Virginia, I suspect their political stance will actually get worse on these issues.

A 2016 Lancet study found that universal breast-feeding would prevent 800,000 child deaths a year across the globe and yield $300 billion in savings from reduced health care costs and improved economic outcomes for those reared on breast milk.  

Pure corruption here. Protectionism to prop up profits of approximately 630 million versus major benefits and savings of 300 billion. Even if you look at the calculus of the entire industry of 70 billion it becomes a no brainer.

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👓 There is no single solution to making the internet more decentralised – The art of the possible | The Economist

Read There is no single solution to making the internet more decentralised (The Economist)
Stopping the internet from getting too concentrated will be a slog, but the alternative would be worse

This has generally been an interesting series of articles in The Economist.

As John Sherman, the senator who gave his name to America’s original antitrust law in 1890, put it at a time when the robber barons ruled much of America’s economy: “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”  

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👓 After decades of triumph, democracy is losing ground | The Economist

Read After decades of triumph, democracy is losing ground (The Economist)
What is behind the reversal?

I’m just hoping our institutions aren’t so heavily weakened that there’s no turning back for us.

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👓 The Theranos Story and Education Technology | Inside Higher Ed

Read The Theranos Story and Education Technology (Inside Higher Ed)
A great new book has me thinking about ed tech.

This is an interesting and useful analogy.

In ed tech, schools are the customers, but students are the users.

This also reminds me of the market disconnect between students and their textbooks. Professors are the ones targeted for the “sale” or adoption when the actual purchasers are the students. This causes all kinds of problems in the way the textbook market works and tends to drive prices up–compared to a market in which the student directly chooses their textbook. (And the set up is not too dissimilar to how the healthcare industry works in which the patient (customer) is making a purchase of health care coverage and not actually the health care itself.

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🔖 Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber

Bookmarked Bullshit Jobs: A Theory by David Graeber (Simon & Schuster)

From bestselling writer David Graeber, a powerful argument against the rise of meaningless, unfulfilling jobs, and their consequences.

Does your job make a meaningful contribution to the world? In the spring of 2013, David Graeber asked this question in a playful, provocative essay titled “On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs.” It went viral. After a million online views in seventeen different languages, people all over the world are still debating the answer.

There are millions of people—HR consultants, communication coordinators, telemarketing researchers, corporate lawyers—whose jobs are useless, and, tragically, they know it. These people are caught in bullshit jobs.

Graeber explores one of society’s most vexing and deeply felt concerns, indicting among other villains a particular strain of finance capitalism that betrays ideals shared by thinkers ranging from Keynes to Lincoln. Bullshit Jobs gives individuals, corporations, and societies permission to undergo a shift in values, placing creative and caring work at the center of our culture. This book is for everyone who wants to turn their vocation back into an avocation.

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👓 This Is How a Newspaper Dies | Politico

Read This Is How a Newspaper Dies by Jack Shafer (POLITICO Magazine)
It’s with a spasm of profits.

This article outlines an intriguing method for plundering the carcass of a dying business to reap as much profit from it as it dies as one can. I suppose that if one is sure a segment is on its way out, one may as well exploit its customers to turn a profit.

I wonder how long it will take for traditional television and cable related businesses to begin using this model as more and more people cut the cord.

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👓 Everything You Should Know About Karl Marx | Teen Vogue

Read Everything You Should Know About Karl Marx (Teen Vogue)
The anti-capitalist scholar’s ideas are often memed (and probably more prevalent than you think).
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👓 Save Barnes & Noble! | New York Times

Read Opinion | Save Barnes & Noble! by David LeonhardtDavid Leonhardt (nytimes.com)
It’s in trouble. And Washington’s flawed antitrust policy is a big reason.

There are some squirrel-ly things that Amazon is managing to get away with, and they’re not all necessarily good.

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🎧 Barges and bread | Eat This Podcast

Listened to Barges and bread: A new book looks at London and the grain trade by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast

Time was, not so long ago, when you could barely move on the Thames in London for ships and boats of all shapes and sizes. Goods flowed in from the Empire in tall-masted sailing ships and stocky steamers and were transferred to barges and lighters for moving on. The canals, too, were driven by, and served, the industrial revolution, bringing coal and other raw materials to factories and taking away the finished goods by water, the cheapest and quickest system for bulk transport. By the late 1960s, much of the waterborne traffic had gone. Ships unloaded in the docks and goods were transferred by road and rail. A bit of freight continued to move on the water, some of that in the hands of Tam and Di Murrell. Di Murrell’s new book, Barges & Bread: canals & grain to bread & baking traces the interwined development of the grain trade and bread as it played out in the Thames basin and beyond.

The importance of bread (and beer) to the people is encapsulated in the Assize of Bread and Ale, a statue of 1266 (though it appears to have codified earlier laws) and the first law in England to deal with food. Loaves were sold by size for a penny, a half-penny and, most commonly, a farthing (quarter of a penny). The finer the flour, the smaller the loaf you got at each price point. The price of grain naturally varied from year to year and from place to place, but the Assize fixed not the price but the weight of a penny loaf and also regulated in minute detail the baker’s profit and allowable expenses.

Very roughly, if the price of wheat was 12 pence a quarter (a quarter weighing 240 pounds) then the baker had to ensure that a farthing loaf of the best white bread, called Wastel bread, weighed 5.6 pounds. Wastel bread was not the most expensive. Simnel bread, “because it has been baked twice,” cost a bit more and so called French bread, enriched with milk and eggs, a bit more still. The coarsest “bread of common wheat” was less than half the cost of wastel bread.

From every quarter of wheat, the baker was permitted to sell 418 pounds of bread. Anything he could squeeze above that was called advantage bread, and was essentially pure profit. There was, naturally, every incentive for bakers and millers alike to add all sorts of things to increase the weight of flour and bread.

It is the connection between money and the weight of bread that is most intriguing. Weights, like money, were expressed as pounds. A pound in money was the pound-weight of silver, while the penny – the only coin in circulation – was a pennyweight of silver. But how much was a penny weight? 32 Wheat Corns in the midst of the Ear according to the Assize of Bread and Ale, which then explained that the 20 pence-weight made an ounce, and 12 ounces made one pound.

Notes

  1. Di Murrell’s book Barges & Bread: canals & grain to bread & baking, is available from Amazon and elsewhere, including direct from the publisher, Prospect Books.
  2. Di also has a website, Foodieafloat.
  3. If you really want to get to grips with the Assize of Bread, you need to read Alan S. C. Ross. “The Assize of Bread.” The Economic History Review, vol. 9, no. 2, 1956, pp. 332–342. JSTOR.
  4. Incidental music is the Impromptu from Zez Confrey’s Three Little Oddities, played by Rowan Belt

Sad that they managed to win their court case for shipping grain, but were still frozen out of the market.

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🎧 A visit to Hummustown | Eat This Podcast

Listened to A visit to Hummustown: Doing good by eating well by Jeremy Cherfas from Eat This Podcast
Refugees selling the food of their homeland to get a start in a new life is, by now, a cliché. Khaled (in the photo) joined their ranks a year ago. But cliché or not, selling food is an important way to give people work to do, wages, and hope. If it’s happening on your doorstep, which it is, and the food is good, which it is, what’s a hungry podcaster to do? Go there, obviously, and report back. Which is why, a couple of weeks ago, I found myself, microphone in hand, waiting patiently in line for a falafel wrap.



Truth be told, there aren’t that many Syrian refugees in Italy. The most recent official statistics put the total at around 5000 with a little over 600 in Rome. Hummustown is helping a few of them.

Notes

  1. The Hummustown website tells more of the story and has a link to the GoFundMe campaign.

Somewhat different than the usual episode here, but in the best of ways. Still a wonderful look at food, culture, and humanity wrapped up in a fantastic story.

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🎧 Trump’s Tariffs | The Daily – New York Times

Listened to ‘The Daily’: Trump’s Tariffs by Michael Barbaro from nytimes.com
President Trump said that protections on steel and aluminum imports were in the interest of national security. But could the threat be the tariffs themselves?

A nice breakdown of the history of trade in the 20th century.

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