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Thursday Throwaway

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It’s going to be 75 degrees in Oakland today, again. But the weatherman tells us today is going to be the last day of summer, in effect: starting tomorrow, the first winter weather system of the season will come blasting down from the Gulf of Alaska, bringing our record warm Spring, Summer and Autumn to an end, and also bringing a little rain, to the great relief of the firefighters.

Two of the statewide ballot propositions I voted for actually went my way, a rare event given my voting history! If you don’t live in California, you might not be aware of them, but both are important and have national repercussions. The first was Prop 16; it sought to overturn a previous ban on affirmative action, meaning that California would once again be allowed to consider race in such things as university admissions. I voted against it. I have some sympathy with affirmative action, but generally, I think it’s not a good idea to mandate it. One huge problem is that affirmative action is a form of reverse-discrimination. Asian-Americans, particularly of Chinese descent, feel that giving Black- or Brown-skinned people preferences is a form of discrimination against them. I can see their point. Affirmative action is a form of identity politics. I think people ought to be admitted to universities, or hired into jobs, based on their actual merits, not on the color of their skin. And apparently most Californians agree with me; Prop 16 was defeated by more than 12 percentage points, which is pretty much a landslide.

The other ballot proposition that went my way was Prop 22. It sought to preserve the right of “gig workers” to remain independent contractors, rather than force them to be fulltime employees. Prop 22 was sponsored by the big gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, who argued that they would be forced out of business, or compelled to leave California, if they had to pay full benefits to their employees. That argument resonated with me, but of far more importance were stories—anecdotal as well as based on polls—showing that most Uber and Lyft employees prefer to be independent contractors. It was the big labor unions that sought to defeat Prop 22, and while I’m a strong union supporter (I was a union member when I worked), it seems to me that forcing gig workers to be something they don’t want to be was a little extreme. The success of Prop 22 has national implications. It means that there’s a “third way” of being an employee, midway between being a fulltime worker and an independent freelancer. That’s a good thing. Our national economy is changing in radical ways we can’t foresee, and it no longer makes sense to offer workers only two options from the menu.

And now on to the presidential election. It’s absurd, isn’t it, that Trump wants to stop the vote count in places like Michigan but allow it to go forward in Arizona and Nevada. But then, we’ve come to expect absurdity from Trump and his minions. And it’s a particularly ridiculous form of absurdity: complete contradictions coming from either side of Trump’s rather small mouth. Right now, it looks like Joe Biden will become the 46th President of the United States. He might not, but I’m hopeful. On Tuesday night, I was so depressed, I had to go to bed by 9 p.m. When I awoke on Wednesday morning and went to get my morning paper, I expected the headline to be IT’S TRUMP. Instead, it was “too early to call.” And all day Wednesday the news got better for Biden, even as Trump began his latest baby-romp through absurdity.

The most interesting thing I heard yesterday was a remark from the presidential historian, Michael Beschloss. He predicted that within two years the word “Trumpism” will be like the word “McCarthyism,” a political philosophy with negative, and even evil, connotations that is named after a politician. I not only hope that’s true, I expect it will be. Trump, the person, will live out the rest of his life in infamy, shunned in much of the country and the world. His children will find life difficult, as their peers turn their backs on them, and don’t want to do business with them. I’m not normally vindictive, but these Trumps have inflicted so much pain on so many people that they deserve a little suffering in retribution. May it start now.

  1. “Prop 22 was sponsored by the big gig companies like Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, who argued that they would be forced out of business, or compelled to leave California, if they had to pay full benefits to their employees.”
    I have trouble with companies that complain, in effect, that they can’t afford to pay a living wage. There’s something wrong with that.

  2. I guess there’s room for disagreement here. The issue was very contentious, and both sides made valid points. I “get” the “living wage” argument. But to me, it’s outweighed by the fact that most Uber and Lyft drivers prefer to remain independent contractors.

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