Welcome to Bookmarker!

This is a personal project by @dellsystem. I built this to help me retain information from the books I'm reading.

Source code on GitHub (MIT license).

10

This attention to trivia is not new. Joan Didion flayed insular, vapid political coverage as well as any writer alive in her 1988 New York Review of Books essay, “Insider Baseball.” Rather than die under Didion’s withering gaze, the genre grew: Politico was born in 2007, in part to monetize a certain subset’s addiction to incremental, insider-oriented political coverage. The benefit of such a model is that it allows for a certain degree of remove. If politics are treated as a mere game, and not, for instance, a contest between those who want to deny you health care coverage or give you more, the news organization loses all stake in the matter. The neutral pose can be adopted—and calcified. If a game is being played, the journalist is to referee. And the journalist, in this construct, is made to feel free of all bias. It’s not about who’s right or wrong, what policy works or doesn’t. “Who’s going to win?” is always the easiest, and most pointless, question to ask. “The game changer, the horse race, the Hail Mary—apt, perhaps, for the party politics of the 1990s and 2000s—are painfully inadequate for the movement politics of a new era, with higher stakes, higher passions, and far wider interest,” Ben Smith, the former editor in chief of BuzzFeed and a former Politico staffer, wrote in 2018, disavowing an approach he once celebrated. (Smith has since joined the Times as its top media columnist.) The thing about “who’s going to win?” is that we always find out the answer eventually.

—p.10 The Gray Zone Lady (6) by Ross Barkan 5 months, 1 week ago

This attention to trivia is not new. Joan Didion flayed insular, vapid political coverage as well as any writer alive in her 1988 New York Review of Books essay, “Insider Baseball.” Rather than die under Didion’s withering gaze, the genre grew: Politico was born in 2007, in part to monetize a certain subset’s addiction to incremental, insider-oriented political coverage. The benefit of such a model is that it allows for a certain degree of remove. If politics are treated as a mere game, and not, for instance, a contest between those who want to deny you health care coverage or give you more, the news organization loses all stake in the matter. The neutral pose can be adopted—and calcified. If a game is being played, the journalist is to referee. And the journalist, in this construct, is made to feel free of all bias. It’s not about who’s right or wrong, what policy works or doesn’t. “Who’s going to win?” is always the easiest, and most pointless, question to ask. “The game changer, the horse race, the Hail Mary—apt, perhaps, for the party politics of the 1990s and 2000s—are painfully inadequate for the movement politics of a new era, with higher stakes, higher passions, and far wider interest,” Ben Smith, the former editor in chief of BuzzFeed and a former Politico staffer, wrote in 2018, disavowing an approach he once celebrated. (Smith has since joined the Times as its top media columnist.) The thing about “who’s going to win?” is that we always find out the answer eventually.

—p.10 The Gray Zone Lady (6) by Ross Barkan 5 months, 1 week ago
17

Performing unskilled jobs may demand skills, but it is a different story when it comes to the management of these workers. The rhetoric we often hear about robots eating our jobs usually relates to the low-paid end of the labor market; less common are discussions about the automation of management. This can include things like just-in-time employee scheduling, which is increasingly optimized using technology and disproportionately affects unskilled work. A BLS report for the period 2017-2018 found that among workers over twenty-five, 31 percent of workers in unskilled jobs knew their schedule less than one week in advance, compared with only 14 percent of workers who held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Such precarity requires people working unskilled jobs to be organized and resourceful, to manage their personal lives around paid work, in ways that are required of those working jobs classified as skilled much less often.

—p.17 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago

Performing unskilled jobs may demand skills, but it is a different story when it comes to the management of these workers. The rhetoric we often hear about robots eating our jobs usually relates to the low-paid end of the labor market; less common are discussions about the automation of management. This can include things like just-in-time employee scheduling, which is increasingly optimized using technology and disproportionately affects unskilled work. A BLS report for the period 2017-2018 found that among workers over twenty-five, 31 percent of workers in unskilled jobs knew their schedule less than one week in advance, compared with only 14 percent of workers who held a bachelor’s degree or higher. Such precarity requires people working unskilled jobs to be organized and resourceful, to manage their personal lives around paid work, in ways that are required of those working jobs classified as skilled much less often.

—p.17 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago
18

By streamlining and cost-cutting management, employers end up effectively offloading responsibilities onto the lowest-paid staff. I spoke with Josh Cullinan, the secretary of a union for fast food and retail workers in Australia. He explained that workers in customer-facing jobs are often told they bear responsibility for being abused in the workplace on the basis that they failed to de-escalate tensions. Rather than providing a safe workplace where abuse could be dealt with by properly trained security staff, says Cullinan, “management asks, ‘How did that occur?’ and they get the workers to do de-escalation training.” Workers then internalize the idea that the unsafe nature of their workplace is not the responsibility of management. Despite being employed to take food orders, service workers are increasingly expected to have refined skills in managing difficult customers, which can be a daily or hourly occurrence. Because of this, one of Cullinan’s union’s campaigns is organizing around the security of service workers. This includes, in supermarkets, supporting calls by the union’s members for specialized security staff to protect workers.

—p.18 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago

By streamlining and cost-cutting management, employers end up effectively offloading responsibilities onto the lowest-paid staff. I spoke with Josh Cullinan, the secretary of a union for fast food and retail workers in Australia. He explained that workers in customer-facing jobs are often told they bear responsibility for being abused in the workplace on the basis that they failed to de-escalate tensions. Rather than providing a safe workplace where abuse could be dealt with by properly trained security staff, says Cullinan, “management asks, ‘How did that occur?’ and they get the workers to do de-escalation training.” Workers then internalize the idea that the unsafe nature of their workplace is not the responsibility of management. Despite being employed to take food orders, service workers are increasingly expected to have refined skills in managing difficult customers, which can be a daily or hourly occurrence. Because of this, one of Cullinan’s union’s campaigns is organizing around the security of service workers. This includes, in supermarkets, supporting calls by the union’s members for specialized security staff to protect workers.

—p.18 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago
19

[...] Taylorism encourages the creation of discrete, de-skilled jobs in the interest of improving efficiency and productivity. The industrial consequence has been to generate a set of jobs that any worker could perform, making them easily replaced. In this sense, many unskilled jobs have been designed that way—and as a result, the daily experience of these jobs is a landscape of grim tedium.

Put differently, the skills required of workers in unskilled jobs don’t always relate to the actual job itself, but rather to the experience of doing that job relentlessly. As well as working the night shift in a supermarket for years, Spring is a union delegate. When I asked whether she thought of her job as miserable, she was emphatic. “The primary skill you need is psychological fortitude to put up with drudgery, to put up with working in such depressing environments,” she said. The boredom of unskilled work is unyielding; like a deep winter chill, it gnaws away at your sense of life’s possibilities.

—p.19 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] Taylorism encourages the creation of discrete, de-skilled jobs in the interest of improving efficiency and productivity. The industrial consequence has been to generate a set of jobs that any worker could perform, making them easily replaced. In this sense, many unskilled jobs have been designed that way—and as a result, the daily experience of these jobs is a landscape of grim tedium.

Put differently, the skills required of workers in unskilled jobs don’t always relate to the actual job itself, but rather to the experience of doing that job relentlessly. As well as working the night shift in a supermarket for years, Spring is a union delegate. When I asked whether she thought of her job as miserable, she was emphatic. “The primary skill you need is psychological fortitude to put up with drudgery, to put up with working in such depressing environments,” she said. The boredom of unskilled work is unyielding; like a deep winter chill, it gnaws away at your sense of life’s possibilities.

—p.19 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago
22

There is now a widely held belief that those working unskilled jobs are getting the pay they deserve. Rather than acknowledging the demands of such work, or appreciating the psychological toll exacted by such labor, the prevailing view is that if these workers had an aptitude for something greater and more worthwhile, they would be unable to tolerate such miserable monotony. “It’s a weird thing,” says Spring, of the cultural connotations that attach to long term work in retail. “It’s like a charitable stigma.” Spring compares this to an aspect of the way people often respond to sex workers: perceiving them as people who couldn’t possibly choose this life, as people without autonomy who need to be rescued. This stigma has political consequences. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently spoke about her time in hospitality working twelve-hour days. She earned less than a living wage and was without health insurance. “I didn’t think that I deserved any of those things,” she said. When the dominant cultural thinking is that unskilled jobs contribute little (if anything) of value, is it any wonder that many who perform them feel the same about themselves?

Unskilled jobs are the ideological insignia of a society founded on industrial alienation and philosophical indignity. Another way of looking at them is simply as work that is undervalued and underpaid. These are jobs in which the downward pressure applied on all cost inputs—labor, safety, management— has been largely successful. In the same way that care workers are underpaid because they draw on skills that the market has not traditionally valued, the skills required of workers to cope in unskilled jobs are considered unimportant. This framing allows employers to monopolize the gains of intense exploitation and defray the emotional, physical, and spiritual costs of it back onto the workers. “Capitalism has no interest in improving the lives of workers,” Cullinan reminds me. It’s the logical practice of a system that values money more than people.

—p.22 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago

There is now a widely held belief that those working unskilled jobs are getting the pay they deserve. Rather than acknowledging the demands of such work, or appreciating the psychological toll exacted by such labor, the prevailing view is that if these workers had an aptitude for something greater and more worthwhile, they would be unable to tolerate such miserable monotony. “It’s a weird thing,” says Spring, of the cultural connotations that attach to long term work in retail. “It’s like a charitable stigma.” Spring compares this to an aspect of the way people often respond to sex workers: perceiving them as people who couldn’t possibly choose this life, as people without autonomy who need to be rescued. This stigma has political consequences. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently spoke about her time in hospitality working twelve-hour days. She earned less than a living wage and was without health insurance. “I didn’t think that I deserved any of those things,” she said. When the dominant cultural thinking is that unskilled jobs contribute little (if anything) of value, is it any wonder that many who perform them feel the same about themselves?

Unskilled jobs are the ideological insignia of a society founded on industrial alienation and philosophical indignity. Another way of looking at them is simply as work that is undervalued and underpaid. These are jobs in which the downward pressure applied on all cost inputs—labor, safety, management— has been largely successful. In the same way that care workers are underpaid because they draw on skills that the market has not traditionally valued, the skills required of workers to cope in unskilled jobs are considered unimportant. This framing allows employers to monopolize the gains of intense exploitation and defray the emotional, physical, and spiritual costs of it back onto the workers. “Capitalism has no interest in improving the lives of workers,” Cullinan reminds me. It’s the logical practice of a system that values money more than people.

—p.22 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago
23

[...] We are told these jobs are unskilled, but the work is actually skilled; we are told it is often pointless and superfluous, and yet many workers find it to be meaningful. Unskilled jobs may be miserable and alienating, but it is the task of critical thinkers to ask: To what extent is this a regrettable, inevitable reality rather than a socially constructed phenomenon? To what extent does the category of unskilled work bolster the idea that we live in a meritocracy and therefore justify egregious exploitation? If the meritocracy is illusory, then so is the idea of unskilled work.

love this framing

—p.23 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] We are told these jobs are unskilled, but the work is actually skilled; we are told it is often pointless and superfluous, and yet many workers find it to be meaningful. Unskilled jobs may be miserable and alienating, but it is the task of critical thinkers to ask: To what extent is this a regrettable, inevitable reality rather than a socially constructed phenomenon? To what extent does the category of unskilled work bolster the idea that we live in a meritocracy and therefore justify egregious exploitation? If the meritocracy is illusory, then so is the idea of unskilled work.

love this framing

—p.23 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago
24

For some insight into how this might be done, it is worth looking to the account of a call center worker who became part of a collective effort to organize his workplace. Union delegates talked to members about a range of issues, but one catalyst for change concerned a particularly enchanting demand: the right to read. As an outbound call center for political and private polling, the phones automatically dial, meaning that workers can have a fair bit of time between calls, during which they would customarily read. When one worker was told by management to put her book away and instructed to leave, it became a lightning rod for resistance. The workers downed tools, won the right to read, and reversed the dismissal of their colleague. “The feeling of collectively coming together, to defy ‘business-as-usual,’ to stand up for our workmate and each other, is the most joyous and energizing feeling one could imagine,” wrote Michael Roberts.

—p.24 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago

For some insight into how this might be done, it is worth looking to the account of a call center worker who became part of a collective effort to organize his workplace. Union delegates talked to members about a range of issues, but one catalyst for change concerned a particularly enchanting demand: the right to read. As an outbound call center for political and private polling, the phones automatically dial, meaning that workers can have a fair bit of time between calls, during which they would customarily read. When one worker was told by management to put her book away and instructed to leave, it became a lightning rod for resistance. The workers downed tools, won the right to read, and reversed the dismissal of their colleague. “The feeling of collectively coming together, to defy ‘business-as-usual,’ to stand up for our workmate and each other, is the most joyous and energizing feeling one could imagine,” wrote Michael Roberts.

—p.24 We Keep You Alive (14) by Lizzie O'Shea 5 months, 1 week ago
30

Many news outlets have published stories lately describing this destructive force, a force so powerful that it controls the livelihoods of 5.8 million employees. That’s how many people work in the thirty-five thousand companies private equity firms own in the United States. And some of those articles angrily mock what looks like the ineptness of executives, who buy a company, say they’re going to improve it, then ruin it instead. It seems like repetitious failure. But when private equity executives trot out the line that they are going to improve a company, understand that what they mean is: improve it for their own interests. And when ministrations result in the company’s collapse, understand that that’s private equity working as intended.

“We assume the finance capital is there to create opportunities for capital more broadly to succeed, and I think that is a rather complacent assumption to make in relation to the way finance and business have been structured in the last twenty, thirty, forty years,” Matthew Watson, author of The Market and Uneconomic Economics and the Crisis of the Model World and a professor of political economy at the University of Warwick, told me over the phone in December.

“If we put a conventional framework of understanding business success and business failure onto private investors, we probably can’t really understand how it is they continue to survive and prosper in the modern economy. We have to move that frame of reference to understand how they can prosper from other people’s adversity.”

—p.30 Misery Makers (28) by The Baffler 5 months, 1 week ago

Many news outlets have published stories lately describing this destructive force, a force so powerful that it controls the livelihoods of 5.8 million employees. That’s how many people work in the thirty-five thousand companies private equity firms own in the United States. And some of those articles angrily mock what looks like the ineptness of executives, who buy a company, say they’re going to improve it, then ruin it instead. It seems like repetitious failure. But when private equity executives trot out the line that they are going to improve a company, understand that what they mean is: improve it for their own interests. And when ministrations result in the company’s collapse, understand that that’s private equity working as intended.

“We assume the finance capital is there to create opportunities for capital more broadly to succeed, and I think that is a rather complacent assumption to make in relation to the way finance and business have been structured in the last twenty, thirty, forty years,” Matthew Watson, author of The Market and Uneconomic Economics and the Crisis of the Model World and a professor of political economy at the University of Warwick, told me over the phone in December.

“If we put a conventional framework of understanding business success and business failure onto private investors, we probably can’t really understand how it is they continue to survive and prosper in the modern economy. We have to move that frame of reference to understand how they can prosper from other people’s adversity.”

—p.30 Misery Makers (28) by The Baffler 5 months, 1 week ago
32

Private equity firms raise their money from a variety of external sources. One of the largest groups of investors is public pension funds, which means that ordinary taxpaying employees contribute to this misery-making project. Stockbridge’s $13 billion worth of funding, for example, comes mostly from two sources, one of which is the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System. (Private equity firms that buy mobile home parks can also get money from the U.S. government, as Stockbridge did when it got a $1.3 billion loan from Fannie Mae, which justified it by saying it was helping low-income renters.)

Why would public pensions invest in something so destructive? According to financial experts (who also happen to stand to make a buck with this assertion), private equity funds allegedly outperform public markets across the world—a necessity, from the pensions’ point of view, given that pensions around the country are underfunded to the tune of $1 trillion. And I say “allegedly” because there are plenty of studies that shed doubt on whether private equity firms are the cash cow they claim to be.

Whatever the justification, the deal we’ve struck is that for one group of people to retire after a lifetime spent teaching third grade, we’re willing to risk another group being made jobless or homeless.

to think about: when power is decoupled from its impact

—p.32 Misery Makers (28) by The Baffler 5 months, 1 week ago

Private equity firms raise their money from a variety of external sources. One of the largest groups of investors is public pension funds, which means that ordinary taxpaying employees contribute to this misery-making project. Stockbridge’s $13 billion worth of funding, for example, comes mostly from two sources, one of which is the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System. (Private equity firms that buy mobile home parks can also get money from the U.S. government, as Stockbridge did when it got a $1.3 billion loan from Fannie Mae, which justified it by saying it was helping low-income renters.)

Why would public pensions invest in something so destructive? According to financial experts (who also happen to stand to make a buck with this assertion), private equity funds allegedly outperform public markets across the world—a necessity, from the pensions’ point of view, given that pensions around the country are underfunded to the tune of $1 trillion. And I say “allegedly” because there are plenty of studies that shed doubt on whether private equity firms are the cash cow they claim to be.

Whatever the justification, the deal we’ve struck is that for one group of people to retire after a lifetime spent teaching third grade, we’re willing to risk another group being made jobless or homeless.

to think about: when power is decoupled from its impact

—p.32 Misery Makers (28) by The Baffler 5 months, 1 week ago
80

[...] it could be that you are so sensitive or defensive about your privilege that any little jibe about riding on “your corporate jet” seems beyond the bounds of decent discourse. I’m going to strain here for the most charitable interpretation: you felt singled out. You have a simpleton’s idea stuck in your head that recognizing that one class of Americans is pitted against another is dangerous.

This is how it always is with plutocrats: they believe the concerted efforts they make to protect their power and standing is nothing more than their rightful participation in politics. Meanwhile, anyone who points to their manipulation of the system—and wants to reverse trends toward the concentration of wealth—is accused of class warfare. Look into the ways we’ve had several decades of top-down class war, Cooperman. Ask your researcher to tally up all the money the Koch brothers have spent to support candidates who defend the wealthy, or to explain the effects of the Citizens United ruling in American politics. Today’s vast inequality isn’t a random event like the weather: certain people made it happen. You.

—p.80 An Open Letter to Leon Cooperman (76) by The Baffler 5 months, 1 week ago

[...] it could be that you are so sensitive or defensive about your privilege that any little jibe about riding on “your corporate jet” seems beyond the bounds of decent discourse. I’m going to strain here for the most charitable interpretation: you felt singled out. You have a simpleton’s idea stuck in your head that recognizing that one class of Americans is pitted against another is dangerous.

This is how it always is with plutocrats: they believe the concerted efforts they make to protect their power and standing is nothing more than their rightful participation in politics. Meanwhile, anyone who points to their manipulation of the system—and wants to reverse trends toward the concentration of wealth—is accused of class warfare. Look into the ways we’ve had several decades of top-down class war, Cooperman. Ask your researcher to tally up all the money the Koch brothers have spent to support candidates who defend the wealthy, or to explain the effects of the Citizens United ruling in American politics. Today’s vast inequality isn’t a random event like the weather: certain people made it happen. You.

—p.80 An Open Letter to Leon Cooperman (76) by The Baffler 5 months, 1 week ago