Happy Treat Yourself Wednesday!💸

Not for nothing, but I’m not a huge fan of Black Friday/Small-biz Saturday/Cyber Monday/Giving Tuesday/etc.  Yeah, there’s power in focusing our economic force on these specific days (obviously)—but also, there’s power in you just spending money on what you want when you want it.

Anyway, I love the denim from these cats in California, Brave Star.  The cuts work for my particular body, the construction is quality, and the materials a delight (more of my thoughts on Brave Star—who, incidentally, are still using some of the final bolts of historic Cone Mills denim I mention in the post at that link).

If you wanna give them a whirl, you can save $10 on dope-ass, sanely priced, all-American-made denim with that link. (DISCLOSURE: If you use that link and coupon code you save $10 and I get a $10 credit.  FURTHER DISCLOSURE: These are basically the only pants I wear anymore. I’m wearing a pair of indigo x brown Cone Mills selvedge Slim Straights right now, although my favorite are the various blacks. They are all good jeans.)

REBEL NELL X NELSON FOUNDATION #GIVINGTUESDAY

Rebel Nell works with local organizations to hire women transitioning from homelessness and teaches them to craft unique, wearable accessories made from the fallen layers of graffiti that grace the buildings and underpasses of Detroit.

DISCLOSURE: I’m from the Detroit Metro Area. My dad was born and raised in Detroit. We love that stupid city, my family has planted their hearts there, and I’ve bought Rebel Nell jewelry for my wife. It’s neat stuff!

But Rebel Nell isn’t just mining the lead-flecked ruins of Detroit to sell bougie baubles.  Through their non-profit arm—Teaching. Empowering. Achieving. (T.E.A.)—Rebel Nell provides all the wrap-around services to empower vulnerable women and families as they transition to a life of independence.  T.E.A. invests in training, education, skills development, coaching, and mentorship services (including basic employment opportunities), in addition to other support and assistance to these women. 

This ain’t giving away fish; it’s teaching folks how to fish, and making sure they’ve got a decent rod and reel to get them started.

This is Azzie. She’s Rebel Nell's production manager and an alum of their programs.
This is Azzie. She’s Rebel Nell’s production manager and an alum of their programs.

The Nelson Foundation provides financial support to individuals and organizations that use art to create opportunities that better our community.  (Note conspicuous name similarity—this is something my folks and older sister make happen.)  These usually take the form of direct grants and tuition support to underrepresented students in the arts in Michigan.

This Tuesday—November 27, 2018—The Nelson Foundation will be giving up to $5,000 to Rebel Nell/T.E.A. in matching funds. 

You give $1, and the Nelson Foundation matches that.  Everyone together gives $5,000 and the Nelson Foundation doubles that—boom!, $10,000 goes directly to supporting women and families getting free and building up their communities.

Click to give! Pay it forward. Spread the word. 

Thanks!

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Email yr Reps: Mick Mulvaney is unfit to head OMB/CFPB 🇺🇸🔥

Mick Mulvaney currently heads the White House Office of Management and Budget (which you likely don’t care about), and serves as the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (which you really should care about).  Last week he was pretty damned brazen about being totally fine with prioritizing lobbiest/industry wishlists over the welfare of your average American, provided that 1) the average American in question wasn’t from his home state and 2) the lobbiest in question had ponied up (for real; he straight-up said this to a roomful of bankers.  Once again, we’ve crossed the line into cartoonish super-villainy.)

Anyway, he’s unfit to serve, both because he’s actively averse to the mission of the agency he’s heading and because he encourages corruption.  Here’s what I wrote to my reps; maybe you wanna contact yours today.

subject: Mick Mulvaney is unfit to head OMB/CFPB

Dear [NAME],

I’m writing as one of your constituents, deeply concerned about Mick Mulvaney’s current roles in the Executive Branch.  As was widely reported (and, I believe, confirmed by Mulvaney himself) this past week, he has a “pay-for-play” policy for lobbyists and special interests:

“We had a hierarchy in my office in Congress,” Mulvaney told those gathered at an American Bankers Association conference in Washington. “If you’re a lobbyist who never gave us money, I didn’t talk to you. If you’re a lobbyist who gave us money, I might talk to you.”  (He then went on to urge those gathered to buy influence.)

Not shockingly, those lobbying for payday lenders donated roughy $63,000 to his various campaigns. Earlier this year, in his role as interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Mulvaney dropped probes and enforcement actions focused on payday and high-interest lenders.

Given current reporting and his own statements and conflicts of interest, Mick Mulvaney seems generically unfit to head the White House Office of Management and Budget, and nauseatingly unfit to serve as the interim head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau—let alone White House Chief of Staff (his rumored next role).

For that matter, I’m not particularly comfortable seeing a man who so clearly accepts corruption as a “cost of doing business” return to the Legislature—but that’s for the people of South Carolina to sort out, may God have mercy on their souls.

Thank you again for your time and for continuing to fight the Good Fight in D.C.

All Best,

David Erik Nelson . . .

===============

SOURCES:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2018/04/25/trumps-rumored-next-chief-of-staff-mick-mulvaney-admits-to-selling-access-a-congressman

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/24/us/mulvaney-consumer-financial-protection-bureau.html

http://thehill.com/policy/finance/379919-mulvaney-ends-consumer-bureau-probe-of-payday-loan-collector-report

One by one, folks! We shall defeat them one by one.☝️

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Support Art and other Good Things™: Get $120 in DIY/Makerspace Books for $1!

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The Humble “Makerspace” Book Bundle from No Starch Press is live an insanely good deal!  Pay a buck, and get six rad DIY-ish books (including my first book—Snip, Burn, Solder, Shred—as well as a few of my No Starch favorites). Pay $8, and get another six books (including my second DIY book, Junkyard Jam Band).  Pay a bit more…well, you get the picture.  All in, you can drop $20 and get more than $400 worth of DIY while supporting excellent charities. HUMBLE-00ca3c278db017f39d002720c906997f81f5958d

There are so many books I love in this one! Yoshihito Isogawa’s LEGO Technic books are both amazing and agelessly inspiring, Carlos Bueno’s Lauren Ipsum has been huge for my son (he read it twice in a row when it first came out, and still hits it again a few times a year now—it’s like the Information Age’s Phantom Tollbooth), No Starch’s Scratch and Arduino books are rock solid, and Jason R. Briggs’s Python for Kids is an excellent intro to Python for everyone (i.e., it’s how I learned enough Python to work on a documentation project with a U-M roboticist last year).

Also, I’ll level with you: These bundles (and book/game bundles in general) are a huge boost to authors/creators, both in getting our names and ideas out there, and in getting money into our pockets.  When you buy a bundle like this, you’re doing a Good Thing™ for the dissemination of new art and human knowledge, in addition to getting a good deal.

Humble Book Bundle: Makerspace by No Starch Press (pay what you want and help charity)

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A Modest Proposal in the Wake of the Repeal of Net Neutrality

SILVER LINING ALERT: While the imminent repeal of Net Neutrality will, over time, prove to be a major net loss for folks in general, there are three groups that could make hay while this new, crappy sun shines:

  1. Victims of revenge porn
  2. Victims of child pornography
  3. Their lawyers

Why? Internet providers have fought for and won the freedom to build revenue streams around regulating which packets traverse their networks how fast—and even to completely throttle some packets based on whatever criteria they like.  If they can do that, then they can certainly be held accountable for what is distributed through their networks.  They are no longer neutral conduits of information—and they have deep pockets.

I, for one, am saddened by this likely fatal blow to a free and open Internet—but I really, really look forward to watching victims—of hacks, of interpersonal betrayal, of privacy invasion, of documented childhood sexual assaults—sue the ever-loving shit out of Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, et al.

Go get ’em, Tigers!

Freelancers: You’re Freaking Out too Much about Working too Little

Short version: Most office workers in the United States have a nearly 9-hour workday, but are only productive for about 3 hours.  I.e., if you are a freelancer doing work that an office worker might do, then you can almost certainly make a decent living on ~3 hours per day. 

Please stop beating yourself up and running yourself ragged.  Focus on doing good work for half of each day and you’ll be just fine.

Here’s the Chart Your Bigoted Cousin Needs to See

You know when your cousin–or whoever–archly intimates that Those People don’t really need food assistance or tuition assistance or healthcare subsidies or whatever, because “You always see Them with nice clothes or a new iPhone or a big flatscreen TV!” or whatever?

Remember this chart.  And then show him this chart. 

Similarly, when he points out that folks used to be able to work a summer in a factory and pay for a full year of college, back before affirmative action and illegal immigrants took all the decent jobs from hard-workers and gave them to the under-qualified and under-productive–please, once more, remember this chart.  And then show him this chart.

Poor people have nice TVs because wages have gone up a little and the price of TVs has dropped like a brick.  Cousin Bigoty can’t afford to get his kids an education because wages have gone up a little and tuition has shot the moon.

inflation-wages-veblen-commodityDWSmfpSXUAADG2t

That said, economically speaking this chart is by no means a slam dunk for any particular political worldview. Check this article, with its nearly 180-degree interpretations of this chart: The same data can be read as either an indictment of failed socialism being inevitably co-opted and driving up the cost of necessities, or as an indictment of late capitalism giving the masses their “bread and circus” while denying them the necessities of serviceable healthcare, housing, and education.

For my part, it looks to me like what happens when you have massive (and growing) income disparity: Everything divides into either run-away Veblen goods or near-disposable commodities (from the perspective of those at the nose-bleed heights of the top of the hockey stick). This chart illustrates why, for many Americans, America no longer feels great, and similarly why all the trade protectionism and corporate tax giveaways and draconian immigration restrictions in the world will never make America great again. 

Looking for Something to Call Your Reps About? May I suggest Mick Mulvaney?🇺🇸📞

Long story short: Mulvaney the current head of the Office of Management and Budget, and last week the President also made him acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).  This is a little odd, since Mulvaney is on the record calling the agency a “joke” that he’d eliminate—but that’s all just talk.  What’s fundamentally rotten is that Mulvaney received roughly half a million dollars in donations from financial organizations that have been fined muy mucho dinero by the CFPB.

I’m not casting aspersions on Mulvaney or claiming he’s done—or would do—anything wrong; I’m sure he’s a great guy, and plausibly has many good ideas that make him highly qualified to filly two essential 120-hour/week gov’t positions.  But just as a thought experiment, say you had a kid in day care, and that day care hired someone who seemed like a fine pick and totally passed the criminal background check, but had also accepted millions of dollars from a group of notorious and powerful pedophiles.  Would this cause you concern?

Anyway, please take a minute and call your reps, and explain that you think there is maybe a moral hazard here.

*Record Scratch* *Freeze Frame* Yup, that's me; you're probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Lemme tell ya; it all started…
*Record Scratch*
*Freeze Frame*
Yup, that’s me; you’re probably wondering how I ended up in this situation. Lemme tell ya; it all started…

Call yr reps!🇺🇸🔥📞 Today’s Topic: EPA funding

This is an easy one: the budget currently under consideration cuts the Environmental Protection Agency’a funding by ~30%. Right now the EPA has one (1!) toxicologist serving the six-state region that includes Michigan (where we just had an enormous lead-tainted-public-drinking-water problem). That’s down from four toxicologists a few years back—and even with 4x the staff they were overburdened.

It simply isn’t possible to assure safe air and water with the EPA running at two-thirds power—and if we want to increase domestic manufacturing, then we’re going to need to be even more diligent than we are today. Call yr reps and urge them to push for full funding of the EPA.

Take 5 Minutes to Tell the FCC to Preserve Net Neutrality

Long story short:  “Net Neutrality” means that, just as the phone company must route all calls with the same priority and quality, broadband providers (like Comcast and AT&T) must treat all web traffic the same, and not, for example, make connections to Netflix super crappy so that you feel obliged to pay for OnDemand in order to watch Mad Max: Fury Road or Sophia the First.

You have until July 17 to tell the FCC how you feel about that.  Submitting an official comment—one someone actually reads and takes seriously—is super easy:

  1. Go to this link and click “Express” (to get a form you can fill out and submit right there) or click “New Filing” (to upload a document you’ve already written).
  2.  Express your feelings about Net Neutrality hitting on one (or more) of three key points:
    1.  How has Net Neutrality impacted your life? Do you have an online business that would be FUBAR if Amazon got priority connections?  Did a service that organically arose as a result of the net being an equal access zone improve your life (examples: Things you’ve learned off of YouTube, clients/jobs you’ve connected with over LinkedIn or Monster.com or a freelancing community, relatives you re-connected with via Facebook or genealogy websites, supportive communities you found in this forum or that sub-reddit, etc.)
    2. What do you understand you are buying when you pay for broadband? Is it more like a telephone line—a “telecommunications service” that creates value by giving you a clear connection to the information and services you want—or is an an “information service” in and of itself, that is, a service that creates value by giving you information?  (Under FCC rules, telecommunications services require greater regulation than information services.)  If you go online and go to YouTube to watch a video, then Facebook to kibitz with pals, then check your Gmail, your broadband is a telecommunications services.  If, on the other hand, you boot up your laptop, rub your hands together, and say “Ah!  Time to go check the Comcast website for the latest news and weather, then go to the Comcast Cat Video service to watch some cat videos, then head on over to ComcastBook to chat with my pals!”, then it probably makes more sense to call Comcast an “information service.”  (Yes, I realize most of the “Comcast information services” I listed don’t exist; that’s the point.  They offer few “information services,” and most other ISPs don’t even offer those.)
    3. Competition.  If your current ISP decides to start blocking YouTube traffic and slowing Netflix to a crawl, can you just lickety-split change services to one that treats all traffic equally, or is it hard, expensive, or impossible to switch, or even shop around, because competition is too scarce?

(Ars Technica has a great article going into detail about this approach to discussing Net Neutrality with the FCC.  Highly recommended read!)

Here’s a draft of my comment:

I do not believe that the FCC should reclassify broadband as an “information service.”  As a consumer, it’s plain as day that I’m purchasing “telecommunications service” from Comcast when I pay for my broadband access.

Although I’ve had broadband Internet access through either AT&T or Comcast for at least 15 years, I have never used either company for any of their “information services.”  I currently use Apple, Amazon, and Google for cloud storage, FastMail and Apple for email hosting, NearlyFreeSpeech.net for web hosting, DynDNS for domain name services, ArborDomains for domain name hosting, the University of Michigan for my VPN, and Verizon, Skype, or Google for telephony.  Heck, even though Comcast *does* offer cable TV and streaming video, I don’t use that service (they dropped the only channel I wanted), instead relying on Netflix, YouTube, Apple, and Amazon.

Comcast actually does a pretty good job of providing me with a telecommunications service–but to call that an “information service” is as obtuse as calling the highway system a “grocery service” simply because the grocery store has produce delivered via truck.

When I pay Comcast, I’m paying them for fast and reliable broadband service, connecting me to the many “information services” I want, value, and pay to use.

Thank you for your time and attention.

All Best,

David Erik Nelson . . .

Go forth and tell your government how you want them to handle regulating this vital public utility.