It Never Rains In Southern California
 

 

In this edition: (1). Notes about what I’ve been up to workwise; (2). I’m looking for articles, essays, arguments, or books to review; send them in!

Personal note: I’m moving to Nashville. Later this week I’m driving the 30 hours or so from Riverside, CA, to Nashville, TN, where I’ll be living for a little while. I should get there by the 13th, my birthday. I’ll be working from the road.

 

Share The Stringer by Daniel Mollenkamp

 

I let production on the newsletter slip for the past couple of weeks, while I’ve delved into other projects. The newsletter is, therefore, launching back in full force starting this week. 

In lieu of the usual content, I thought I’d throw some light on the work that tore me away, as well as a note at the bottom about future content.

  • Lecture: First, and most dear to my heart, I was lucky enough to be invited to give a lecture at my alma mater, The College of William and Mary. On Friday, March 26th, I spoke about identity, realization, and the limits obstructing real advancement to a musicology/history class. I also read from an unpublished essay regarding some of the ironies of my background. The class is a survey of American history through the slave spirituals, and so I was able to spend a chunk of time unwinding the significance of the spirituals for later civil rights movements and to bring in parallels from other protest music around the world. Congratulations to the professor who is teaching it, by the way, as he is retiring and this will be the last time that class was offered. 

    • I’m looking to do more of this sort of thing in the future since I’ve enjoyed the few times I’ve done it. If you know someone who needs a speaker or debater, feel free to reach out to me.

  • Continuing the series on inequality for Investopedia, I wrote pieces about legal milestones in income inequality, the racial gap in financial literacy, and a deep dive into the history and data on policing budgets in America. They have either been published or are in the process of being published as this goes out. I’m also finishing a piece on LGBTQ+ income and unemployment. 

    • I am considering putting together a reader’s guide explaining the main points of the pieces I’ve done for Investopedia so far.

  • A couple of times a year I check in with some of the publications I worked a lot for in the old days, especially Tamarind Media, in order to keep some of the expertise I developed on the vaping, cannabis, and gene editing tech industries. Last month I published a piece evaluating a proposal to create a state bank in Oregon in order to smooth out some of the contradictions in the regulation. Those contradictions have led to poor oversight, violence, and equity problems in Oregon and elsewhere. In short, I’m not convinced a state bank is the right proposal to fix these problems.

  • I moved desks, in my working day coverage, from health policy to foreign affairs, which is much more my speed. Here are some smaller pieces from the last week or two:

    • IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva says the world economy will see a multispeed recovery, emphasizing the need for fast Green Infrastructure investments, which would create millions of jobs, and for increased assistance to the developing world. 

      • For me, this also highlights the importance of debt-issuing for recovery or infrastructure investments.

    • A panel of democracy scholars says the U.S. system is broken. When trust in the legislature fell to single digits around 2013, the five-alarm bells started ringing. The Capitol riots only underscored the ferocity of the problem.

    • The U.S. sponsored the first-ever counterterrorism joint ops in West Africa, which included countries like Mali, a country whose security forces are beset by allegations of slaying civilians and “forced disappearances,” as well as rampant government corruption. On the other hand, the country is also beset by terrorists.

    • The U.S. pledged about $80 million in relief funds to the Sahel crisis, one of the worst and fastest-growing displacement crises in the world. 

      • I had a line or two censored from the published piece which explained—objectively, I assure you—that this is like dropping a thin dime into a beggar’s cup: good but not even close to enough.

CALL FOR MATERIALS TO REVIEW.

  • As part of this newsletter, I will be incorporating analysis of articles, essays, videos, books, etc. If there’s something you want me to review please send it my way. Feel free to get creative or ambitious in selecting materials.

 

For a start, I’ll paste some exceptionally brief and reviews of a few randomly selected articles from American Prospect, which I had to do for an unrelated exercise:

 

  • "The Moment When the Democrats Recovered Their Soul"--Fell short. I think the core of this piece—its argument that Biden has lurched the Democrat party into “progressive” territory—is sufficiently interesting, and it has some intuitive appeal. However, the content of this could have been summarized in a tweet thread because the writer avoided building out the argument. I would summarize the takeaways as: (1) Biden is an FDR-style progressive. Debatable, but I could grant this for the purposes of an article. I would probably reject this characterization myself, as I think we're in a unique situation where spending would've happened regardless (if you believe these reforms are not simply necessary but in some cases vital to actually keeping the republic from collapsing in on its own ironies then this is a no-shit comment), but I also happen to think Biden has been lighter on reform than he needed to be. (2) This momentum could build ("success builds on success") or it could fail and the Democrats could fall back to sleep ("The Democrats could lose their nerve..." or "A Democratic Senator could die..."). Deep analysis of these points is mostly avoided (explicitly, in the "we can speculate" bit). 

    In regards to syntax and grammar, the piece is readable. The sentences are short and clear. Even if I reject some of the analysis, it isn't overwrought. The piece builds well. I just think it tries to do too much.  The content of the article was brief enough that if I had written it I would have focused on either (a) the possibility of the backlash to this progressive momentum, particularly from within the party, or (b) the reasons behind the move to progressivism, but not both. Having tried to cram too much in articles in the past myself, I'm sensitive to this in other pieces, I suppose.

 

  • "Janet Yellen's Blind Spot on Regulation"-- Works well. I'm a softie for pieces that skeptically look at financial regulations which often embody that old cliche: the real scandal isn't what’s criminal, but what's legal. I think this one builds well. It's important, and the argument is reasonable and well-made. However, centering so much on Elizabeth Warren upfront, while justifiable, will probably get it dismissed out of hand by conservative Democrats. The messaging is that this will play to that crowd, when, in fact, I think this piece could plausibly pull in moderate party members. It might have been nice to try to bring in a moderately branded politician more prominently to build the case that this is just bad policy, although that's mostly a tone consideration. 

 

  • "The Digital Divide Pushed My Dad's Life to the Brink"-- Works well. Immediately, I like the premise. It's personal, but its hook was strong enough to pull my mouse over the title and click it. The article also touches on an aspect that's not over-explored: it shows both the immediate, heartwrenching struggles of the elderly, but also implies some of the ways intergenerational gaps occur (and drive up inequality) since it opens up by highlighting how the writer's father's situation also requires her to act as his "tech support." 

    In short, this piece builds well, is readable, and the use of anecdotes hammers home the big picture points it is making. It also incorporates a lot of voices for such a quick piece (for instance, covering both elderly Americans and Americans who have additional barriers, like being non-native English speakers, which builds out some of the nuances a policy fix would need to address).

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