Ordinary World: Labor Day
[LD1] Why America has 8.4 million unemployed when there are 10 million job openings in Washington Post
At heart, there is a massive reallocation underway in the economy that’s triggering a “Great Reassessment” of work in America from both the employer and employee perspectives. Workers are shifting where they want to work — and how. For some, this is a personal choice. The pandemic and all of the anxieties, lockdowns and time at home have changed people. Some want to work remotely forever. Others want to spend more time with family. And others want a more flexible or more meaningful career path. It’s the “you only live once” mentality on steroids. Meanwhile, companies are beefing up automation and redoing entire supply chains and office setups.
The reassessment is playing out in all facets of the labor market this year, as people make very different decisions about work than they did pre-pandemic. Resignations are the highest on record — up 13 percent over pre-pandemic levels. There are 4.9 million more people who aren’t working or looking for work than there were before the pandemic. There’s a surge in retirements with 3.6 million people retiring during the pandemic, or more than 2 million more than expected. And there’s been a boost in entrepreneurship that has caused the biggest jump in years in new business applications.
“The economy is going through a big shift overall and that has ramifications,” said Ben Bernanke, the Federal Reserve chair from 2006 to 2014. “We are reallocating where we want to work and how we want to work. People are trying to figure out what their best options are and where they want to be.”
It doesn’t help that the abundance of job openings right now are not in the same occupations — or same locations — where people worked pre-pandemic.
There is a fundamental mismatch between what industries have the most job openings now and how many unemployed people used to work in that industry pre-pandemic. For example, there are 1.8 million job openings in professional and business services and fewer than 925,000 people whose most recent job was in that sector. Leisure and hospitality, as well as retail and wholesale trade, also have more openings than prior workers, and many workers who lost jobs in those industries have indicated they don’t want to return.
There’s a similar mismatch in education and health services, where there are 1.7 million job openings and only 1.1 million people whose last job was in that sector.
In recent months, heath care workers and educators have quit their jobs at the highest rate on record, stretching back to 2002, Labor Department data show.
[LD2] It’s Still the Coronavirus Economy By John Cassidy in The New Yorker
From February to July, total employment in the covid-sensitive leisure-and-hospitality industry increased by about three hundred and fifty thousand per month. In August, this hiring stopped dead: the industry added zero jobs on net. Although businesses associated with the arts, entertainment (gambling), and recreation added thirty-six thousand jobs, this gain was more than offset by a loss of forty-two thousand jobs in restaurants and bars. The most convincing explanation is that, as the number of covid cases rose sharply, some people stopped going out, and owners of restaurants and bars reassessed their staffing needs. Such a theory is consistent with OpenTable data for restaurant reservations, which show a significant dip since July. Something similar appears to have happened in the retail industry, where the most recent spending figures—for July—also came in weaker than expected. The jobs report showed that retailers shed twenty-nine thousand jobs last month, with most of the drop concentrated in food and beverage stores.
The upshot of all this is depressingly clear. Despite hopes earlier this year that mass vaccination would finally break the link between the pandemic and the economy, this hasn’t happened—not yet, at least. According to the Labor Department’s monthly survey of households, which is part of the employment report, the number of people saying that they had been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business rose from 5.2 million in July to 5.6 million in August. Yet another sure sign that the Delta variant is biting: the rate of participation in the labor force among women aged twenty and over, which fell sharply in the early months of the pandemic before rebounding somewhat, slipped again last month.
The good news? “There isn’t any,” Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a circular to his clients this weekend. “September likely will be weak too, and we’re becoming nervous about the prospects for a decent revival in October, given that behavior lags cases, and cases are yet to peak.” This pessimism could turn out to be justified, but it isn’t universal. “The August employment report was very reminiscent of April payrolls, when employment slowed sharply, only to rebound within the next two months,” Aneta Markowska and Thomas Simons, two economists at the investment bank Jefferies, wrote in another analysis out on Friday. “If anything, this one will likely be followed by an even quicker/sharper rebound given the likely influx of labor supply in September.”
[LD3] Afghanistan: Taliban claim to have taken control of Panjshir valley by Emma Graham-Harrison and Akhtar Mohammad Makoii in The Guardian
If Taliban control is confirmed it would be the first time the valley has fallen since the start of Afghanistan’s four decades of conflict. It was a centre of anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s, and then a holdout against the Taliban in the 1990s.
Massoud said on the group’s Facebook page on Sunday that he welcomed proposals from religious scholars for a negotiated settlement to end the fighting.
The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, was due to arrive in Qatar on Monday as he seeks a united front with regional allies shaken by the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan three weeks ago, taking power in Kabul on 15 August after the western-backed government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani fled the country.
Massoud, whose forces have been the last resistance against the Islamist hardliners, said in his Facebook post that he wanted “to reach a lasting peace”.
“The NRFA in principle agree to solve the current problems and put an immediate end to the fighting and continue negotiations,” Massoud said.
“To reach a lasting peace, the NRFA is ready to stop fighting on condition that Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements on Panjshir and Andarab,” he said, referring to a district in the neighbouring province of Baghlan.
A large gathering of all sides with the Ulema council of religious scholars could then be held, he said.
Earlier, Afghan media outlets reported that religious scholars had called on the Taliban to accept a negotiated settlement to end the fighting in Panjshir.
There was no immediate response from the Taliban.
Massoud, who leads a force made up of remnants of regular Afghan army and special forces units as well as local militia fighters, called for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban before the fighting broke out around a week ago.
Several attempts at talks were held but they eventually broke down, with each side blaming the other for their failure.
A Taliban spokesperson, Bilal Karimi, claimed earlier on Sunday that their forces had fought their way into the provincial capital, Bazarak, capturing weapons and ammunition.
The situation was complicated by reports that Fahim Dashti, the spokesman for the resistance, was killed in a battle on Sunday. Dashti was the voice of the group, an adviser to Massoud and a prominent media personality during previous governments. He was the nephew of Abdullah Abdullah, a senior official of the ousted government who has been involved in negotiations with the Taliban on the future of Afghanistan.
[LD4] How a Small Town Silenced a Neo-Nazi Hate Campaign by Elizabeth Williamson for New York Times
Richard Spencer, the most infamous summer resident in the town of Whitefish, Montana, once boasted that he stood at the vanguard of a white nationalist movement emboldened by President Donald Trump. Things have changed.
“I have bumped into him, and he runs. That’s actually a really good feeling,” said Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent targeted in an antisemitic hate campaign that Andrew Anglin, founder of neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer, unleashed in 2016 after Spencer’s mother made online accusations against Gersh.
Leaders in Whitefish say Spencer, who once ran his National Policy Institute from his mother’s $3 million summer house in Whitefish, is now an outcast in this resort town in the Rocky Mountains, unable to get a table at many of its restaurants. His organization has dissolved. Meanwhile, his wife has divorced him, and he is facing a trial next month in Charlottesville, Virginia, over his role in the deadly 2017 neo-Nazi march there but said he cannot afford a lawyer.
The turn of events is no accident. Whitefish, a mostly liberal, affluent community nestled in a county that voted for Trump in 2016 and 2020, rose up and struck back. Residents who joined with state officials, human rights groups and synagogues said their bipartisan counteroffensive could hold lessons for others in an era of disinformation and intimidation, and in the wake of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
“The best way to respond to hate and cyberterrorism in your community is through solidarity,” said Rabbi Francine Green Roston of the Glacier Jewish Community/B’nai Shalom, who now lectures other groups on how to ward off hate campaigns like the one Whitefish endured. “Another big principle is to take threats seriously and prepare for the worst.”
Mayor John Muhlfeld agreed. “You have to act swiftly and decisively and come together as a community to tackle hate and make sure it doesn’t infiltrate your town,” he said.
On Saturday, Spencer said he kept a “very low profile” in Whitefish, and though he had been denied service in local establishments in the past, “I don’t have any anxiety dealing with anyone.” He said he does not run from Gersh and understood why people would be angry with him.
“I don’t want any battles with them here in Whitefish,” he said, “and I hope they take a similar attitude, that it’s best to move on.” His mother, Sherry Spencer, did not respond to requests for comment.
[LD5] The Problem With Being Cool About Sex By Helen Lewis in The Atlantic
The chasm between what we say and what we do has always made sex an irresistible topic. These books have been written in the shadow of #MeToo, and their authors dwell on the contradictions surfaced by that movement: Being available for sex is the mark of a liberated woman, but so is the ability to refuse it. Srinivasan observes that, for all our permissiveness, our language still lacks the words to describe the many varieties of bad sex that do not rise to the criminal standard of rape or assault. “A woman going on with a sex act she no longer wants to perform, knowing she can get up and walk away but knowing at the same time that this will make her a blue-balling tease, an object of male contempt: there is more going on here than mere ambivalence, unpleasantness and regret,” she writes. “There is also a kind of coercion … the informal regulatory system of gendered sexual expectations.”
Those expectations inflect a woman’s “yes” as well as her “no.” Like Clark-Flory, Angel begins her narrative with a vignette from the world of porn. A young woman—Girl X—arrives at the home of the porn actor James Deen to participate in “Do a Scene With James Deen,” a reality-television-style stunt in which the porn actor solicits applications from his fans to have sex with him on camera. “It is mostly a long, flirtatious, fraught conversation, which circles repeatedly back to whether or not they are going to do this: have sex, film it, and put it online,” Angel writes. The young woman’s reluctance is only partly feigned. She is deciding, right then and there, if she wants to be seen naked on the internet, forever, an object of desire as well as derision. Some men will masturbate to her; others will despise her. Some will do both. In a sense, as Angel notes, the scene dramatizes “the double bind in which women exist: that saying no may be difficult, but so too is saying yes.”
What’s more, desire makes hypocrites of us all. Srinivasan reports that some of the feminists who watched the hard-core slideshows prepared by Women Against Pornography as part of its tours of Times Square in the 1970s were turned on, rather than repulsed, by the abhorrent filth they were there to condemn. Clark-Flory recounts taking refuge from the horror of her mother’s terminal cancer in rough, degrading sex, uncomfortably aware that she was enacting everything those dried-up old second-wavers claimed was true about BDSM—that only people who hate themselves hurt themselves. In a similar vein, Srinivasan quotes the transgender theorist Andrea Long Chu, who has confessed that she transitioned in part to wear tight little Daisy Duke shorts and experience the “benevolent chauvinism” of being bought dinner. “Now you begin to see the problem with desire,” Chu has written. “We rarely want the things we should.”
But how much do culture and politics shape those wants? Porn-aggregator sites, to take one example, use algorithms, just like the rest of the internet. Pornhub pushes featured videos and recommendations, optimized to build user loyalty and increase revenue, which carry the implicit message that this is what everyone else finds arousing—that this is the norm. Compare porn with polarized journalism, or even fast food: How can we untangle what people “really want” from what they are offered, over and over, and from what everyone else is being offered too? No one’s sexual desires exist in a vacuum, immune to outside pressures driven by capitalism. (Call it the invisible hand job of the market.)
Little wonder, then, that these writers are all interested in how malleable sexual desire might be, and that they veer away from tidy prescriptions to fix “problematic” sex. Even as the cerebral Srinivasan subtly unpacks the public meaning of private acts, she sees “no laws to draft, no easy curriculums to roll out.” In a raw, gonzo style, Clark-Flory asks how she can pursue “the right to be sexual” in a world where “women’s desire is narrowed to being desired.” Meanwhile, Angel borrows her ironic title from the great theorist of power Michel Foucault, joining him in mocking the idea that political liberation will usher in a world of angst-free sex. United by a refusal to offer sweeping answers, these writers are honest about the clash between our political pronouncements and our revealed preferences.
[LD6] Do You Hate Catcher in the Rye, or Are You Just a Ball of Perpetual Insecurity and Self Doubt? by Freddie deBoer
It seems the crowd has turned from performatively hating David Foster Wallace to performatively hating The Catcher in the Rye. (That tweet is just the seed of a whole tiring conversation.) As usual, this is mostly expressed in terms of vague, quasi-political complaints about the author or book’s proximity to an equally vague notion of masculinity; Catcher in the Rye is a boy book and Charles Bukowski is a boy writer and Hemingway writes about boy stuff and this is somehow meant to be deeply embarrassing for their fans. As I said about Infinite Jest, this stuff has the strange knock-on effect of further elevating the targeted authors and books as important, while conspicuously not improving the fortunes of the books they’d rather you read instead. But people really, really enjoy letting everyone know which books or authors are “deal breakers,” a concept promulgated by people who seem to think that there is no use for books other than serving as criteria for who you would be willing to make out with behind the bleachers during free period. There are many actual lists of books that you are forbidden to read if you want the approval of a lot of sneering and dismissive readers who, I suspect, don’t read.
For the record, I think The Catcher in the Rye is… OK? It’s fine. It’s definitely a book of an earlier era and it felt as such when I read it as a teenager. I was hoping to connect with it on a deep level (uh, not a Mark David Chapman level) the way some adults in my life had, and I didn’t and was kind of bummed out. But it was fine. As is so often the case with these things, there’s a really dumbass reading of the book lurking in the discussion about it, which is that you’re somehow commanded to identify with Holden Caufield and to want to act like him. This is… not a good interpretation. You certainly can identify with him, but I don’t think that’s suggested very strongly, let alone mandated. As with Fight Club, another boy story for boys about boys being boys, you are invited to empathize with the alienation and loneliness of the main character while recognizing the juvenility and pointlessness of his reaction to it. But, well, now I’m actually engaging with the book, which is more than social media critics of books ever do. They never seem to want to go deeper than saying “TOXIC MASCULINITY” or whatever, which is particularly bizarre here. (Is the idea that Holden Caufield is supposed to be some sort of symbol of an idealized man? What?) It’s all uselessly Manichean – I know this headline is partially a joke but it makes me wince anyway. The important work is always to say a) this book/author is bad and b) liking it is not a matter of bad taste but of some sort of failure of political and moral sophistication.
My feeling with this shit is always… why bother? You don’t like a book. Wow. I didn’t like John Grisham’s The Firm but you don’t see me constructing an entire fucking personality out of it. But the obvious answer to “why bother?” is that this expression of showy contempt has nothing to do with reading at all, and instead everything to do with appearing to be a certain kind of person.
[LD7] Eye Opener: Misery in Louisiana in Ida’s aftermath from CBS News
Misery in Louisiana in Ida’s aftermath. Also, federal unemployment benefits expire today for more than seven million Americas. All that and all that matters in today’s Eye Opener. Your world in 90 seconds
[LD8] Brazil-Argentina match halted over quarantine breach in DW.com
Global soccer superstar Lionel Messi and the rest of the Argentina national team were forced to abandon a World Cup Qualifier against Brazil on Sunday after Brazilian health officials said three Argentine players had broken quarantine rules.
In an incredible turn of events, officials from Brazil’s health regulator Anvisa walked onto the pitch at the Sao Paolo Neo Quimica Arena just minutes after kick off and suspended the game.
Players from both national teams argued for some time with health officials on the side of the pitch before marching back down the tunnel to their changing rooms.
“Why did they start the game and stop it after five minutes?” Messi said in a TV interview. “We’ve been here at the stadium for an hour, they could have told us.”
Under COVID-19 rules, anyone who has been in the UK 14 days before entering Brazil must quarantine for two weeks on arrival.
Four Argentine players who compete weekly in the English Premier League — Emiliano Martinez and Emiliano Buendia, who ply their trade at Aston Villa, and Tottenham duo Giovanni Lo Celso and Cristian Romero — all traveled to Brazil, three of whom started Sunday’s match.
Brazil’s health regulator learned that the details they had been given were “false,” which they said represented “a serious health risk.”
Brazil were without nine key players for the match because of quarantine rules, with many other international sides having suffered similar fates due to travel regulations around the globe.
[LD9] What Is Labor Day? A History of the Workers’ Holiday By Karen Zraick for New York Times
In the late 1800s, many Americans toiled 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often in physically demanding, low-paying jobs. Children worked too, on farms and in factories and mines. Conditions were often harsh and unsafe.
It was in this context that American workers held the first Labor Day parade, marching from New York’s City Hall to a giant picnic at an uptown park on Sept. 5, 1882.
“Working Men on Parade,” read The New York Times’s headline. The article, which appeared on the last page, reported that 10,000 people marched “in an orderly and pleasant manner,” far fewer than the organizers had predicted would attend. The workers included cigarmakers, dressmakers, printers, shoemakers, bricklayers and other tradespeople.
Because it wasn’t yet an official holiday, many of the attendees risked their jobs by participating in the one-day strike. On their signs, they called for “Less Work and More Pay,” an eight-hour workday and a prohibition on the use of convict labor. They were met with cheers.
The American labor movement was among the strongest in the world at the time, and in the years that followed, municipalities and states adopted legislation to recognize Labor Day. New York did so in 1887, and The Times reported that that year’s parade was larger than ever, even amid political tension over the role of socialist groups. Parks, shops and bars in the city were full.
“The barrooms were never more resplendent,” The Times wrote. “Liquidly, the first legal celebration of Labor Day may go down to history as an unqualified success.”
But it took several more years for the federal government to make it a national holiday — when it served a greater political purpose. In the summer of 1894, the Pullman strike severely disrupted rail traffic in the Midwest, and the federal government used an injunction and federal troops to break the strike.
It had started when the Pullman Palace Car Company lowered wages without lowering rents in the company town, also called Pullman. (It’s now part of Chicago.)
When angry workers complained, the owner, George Pullman, had them fired. They decided to strike, and other workers for the American Railway Union, led by the firebrand activist Eugene V. Debs, joined the action. They refused to handle Pullman cars, bringing freight and passenger traffic to a halt around Chicago. Tens of thousands of workers walked off the job, wildcat strikes broke out, and angry crowds were met with live fire from the authorities.
During the crisis, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law on June 28, 1894, declaring Labor Day a national holiday. Some historians say he was afraid of losing the support of working-class voters.
“There were many political advantages at that moment to provide recognition for Labor Day,” said Joshua B. Freeman, a distinguished professor of history at Queens College and the City University of New York Graduate Center.
But it wasn’t the only workingman’s holiday on the table. Starting in 1884, the labor movement had called for strikes and protests on May 1 to push for an eight-hour workday. That would-be holiday was called May Day, and it’s now celebrated around the world, though it’s not officially recognized in the United States.