ISIS is Back "With a Vengeance," NY Times Dying Because...Email?!, Americans Don't Support $15 Minimum Wage, Permanent Brain Damage from a Peanut Allergy (The Five for 04/13/21)

Hey, Welcome to The Five.

Before We Begin: I’m sure you’ll notice that there’s no coverage of the Duante Wright shooting in suburban Minneapolis in this issue. That’s because A). the bodycam footage has been released, and pretty much everyone is in agreement that this is manslaughter and B). what could I possibly add at this point?

Wright did try to flee, and was killed when the officer (somehow) thought she had pulled her taser rather than her Glock.

I’m going to paraphrase my Illinois Hunter Safety Course training from 1994 here. “If you own a gun, you’re responsible for every round that leaves the barrel. Each time you pick it up, you take the power of life and death into your hands that could kill a friend, family member or stranger if you’re not diligent while hunting.”

On the other side of the coin, Wright’s warrant was for two relatively minor misdemeanors. I wish he had simply submitted to arrest and fought the charges in court.

I have had one incident where a police officer in suburban Chicago pulled me over, demanded that I answer why he pulled me over, and became irate when I kept responding “I don’t know.” (Turns out I had picked up my phone while at a stoplight, then put it back on the dash holder before the light turned green, which I didn’t think was illegal).

My advice is to go live on social media when you’re pulled over, keep your hands on the wheel until you’re instructed to remove them and obey all the officers’ commands. In the rare case the officer becomes irate or abusive, you’ll have your day in court.

Don’t risk your life by escalating the situation.

Now, on to the news.

[one]

The New York Times has admitted…that the New York Times is absolutely terrified of Substack (the platform The Five is published on).

This new direct-to-consumer media also means that battles over the boundaries of acceptable views and the ensuing arguments about “cancel culture” — for instance, in New York Magazine’s firing of Andrew Sullivan — are no longer the kind of devastating career blows they once were. (Only Twitter retains that power.) Big media cancellation is often an offramp to a bigger income. Though Substack paid advances to a few dozen writers, most are simply making money from readers. That includes most of the top figures on the platform, who make seven-figure sums from more than 10,000 paying subscribers — among them Mr. Sullivan, the liberal historian Heather Cox Richardson, and the confrontational libertarian Glenn Greenwald.

This new ability of individuals to make a living directly from their audiences isn’t just transforming journalism. It’s also been the case for adult performers on OnlyFans, musicians on Patreon, B-list celebrities on Cameo. In Hollywood, too, power has migrated toward talent, whether it’s marquee showrunners or actors. This power shift is a major headache for big institutions, from The New York Times to record labels. And Silicon Valley investors, eager to disrupt and angry at their portrayal in big media, have been gleefully backing it. Substack embodies this cultural shift, but it’s riding the wave, not creating it.

Legacy media has taken a hit, in my opinion, because consumers now trust individual content creators over institutions.

Rather than restore trust and work on the quality of their own product, the NY Times is content to whine about their writers being able to make more money solo, especially as Substack is offering book-advance-like-deals to big names willing to break up with their legacy employers.

[two]

Well…this is bad. The terrorist paramilitary group Islamic State has returned.

Alarabiya News reports:

ISIS is “coming back with a vengeance” in Iraq with daily attacks on civilians and security forces, Peshmerga General Sirwan Barzani told Al Arabiya in the latest episode of “Face to face” series.

The terrorist group is sowing unrest in the country’s north, feeding off sectarian rivalries while being fueled by an ideology that has not disappeared despite the group’s military defeats in recent years, according to Barzani.

Speaking to journalist Rola al-Khatib, Barzani outlined the complexities of combat against a decentralized enemy that uses guerilla tactics and blends in with the civilian population.

“There’s still sectarian rivalry and the extremist ISIS ideology is still there. Even when ISIS was defeated by military force, they weren’t all killed,” he said.

“Many of them trimmed their beards and became civilians waiting for the opportunity to join ISIS.”

The group’s shift from controlling cities and large areas of land to fighting an insurgency from remote hideouts has not eradicated the threat entirely, and Barzani believes ISIS is looking to return to its former strength.

[three]

As tech companies have moved largely to a permanent work-from-home policy, Silicon Valley is bleeding residents.

Business Insider reports:

San Francisco lost the most residents between 2019 and 2020 out of every major city, according to a new analysis.

The Bay Area city lost about 18 residents per 1,000 people in 2020, compared to losing just 9 residents out of ever 1,000 the year prior, according to a new report by the commercial realty firm CBRE Group.

Though most people moved out of San Francisco to other areas in California, the share of people moving to Texas and Florida soared compared to 2019, the data showed. The number of people who moved from San Francisco to Texas increased by 32.1% between 2019 to 2020, and the share of those who moved to Florida rose by a whopping 46.2%.

CBRE Group, based in Dallas, Texas, obtained USPS records through a Freedom of Information Act request, a spokesperson told Insider. CBRE used the USPS records of individual permanent address changes between 2019 and 2020 to analyze how the pandemic impacted migration patterns.

Tech companies' transition to work-from-home during the COVID-19 pandemic incentivized employees to move out of San Francisco to less costly areas, CBRE estimates. As many as 89,000 households moved out of San Francisco between March and November 2020.

This story comes on the heels of a piece from former Hedge Fund Manager/Podcaster James Altucher who declared that NYC is “really dead” this time:

Every subculture I loved was in NYC. I could play chess all day and night. I could go to comedy clubs. I could start any type of business. I could meet people. I had family, friends, opportunities. No matter what happened to me, NYC was a net I could fall back on and bounce back up.

Now it’s completely dead. “But NYC always always bounces back.” No. Not this time. “But NYC is the center of the financial universe. Opportunities will flourish here again.” Not this time.

“NYC has experienced worse.” No, it hasn’t.

A Facebook group [Into The Unknown] formed a few weeks ago that was for people who were planning a move and wanted others to talk to and ask advice from. Within two or three days it had about 10,000 members.

Every day I see more and more posts: “I’ve been in NYC forever but I guess this time I have to say goodbye.” I’ve been screenshotting them for my scrapbook.

This is purely anecdotal, but as a Chicago expat, each time we return to the area, I have fewer friends there to see. With a few exceptions of people I know with very high profile careers, most of my Chi-town contacts are A). already gone B). trying to move to Nashville or C). literally in line at the U-Haul store right now.

Big cities bring innovation, high wages, opportunities, culture, excitement, tourism, new ideas. And along with those things come high taxes, headaches of density, higher crime and more risk to personal safety and (often) less permanence and local community as people who make more money are always in search of a “better” neighborhood.

Due to COVID and work from home, half those benefits are now less tied to location (innovation, wages, opportunities) while the other half are, at best, on hold (culture, excitement, tourism).

Which leaves…taxes, crime, headaches.

No wonder NYC/Chicago/San Fran residents are pulling up stakes.

I don’t expect this trend to slow down.

[four]

This one is highly personal to me, as I suffer from a life threatening peanut allergy.

The Las Vegas Journal Review reports:

A jury awarded $29.5 million on Friday to the family of a woman who was left brain damaged after being treated for a severe allergic reaction in 2013 by MedicWest Ambulance.

“At least my daughter will be taken care of. I’m happy about that,” her father, Jack Giacalone, said after the verdict was read. “All the anguish that we’ve been through for the last eight years, I’m not happy about. I just hope MedicWest changes their ways.”

Attorney Christian Morris argued in the three-week civil trial that MedicWest negligently treated Chantel Giacalone’s allergic reaction.

In February 2013, Chantel Giacalone took a bite out of a pretzel infused with peanut butter while in Las Vegas for a convention. Afterward, the then-27-year-old aspiring actress and model went into anaphylactic shock.

The lawsuit was over the ambulance not having Epinephrine on hand, which led to Giacalone’s throat closing completely, and part of her brain dying from oxygen deprivation.

About 10 years ago, I attended a conference for work which had Chick-fil-A as one (of many) lunch options. I was unaware that 500 sanwhiches were being brought in and when they were opened, so much peanut oil was put into the air that I wound up in the E.R.

One of the more curious things about the COVID hysteria this year is that the disease averages a median death rate of 0.66% (although the death rate does increase with age). Meanwhile, I have no choice but to walk around with a condition much more likely to kill me if things went south…and I still choose to live my life.

If I treated my nut allergy with the same level of hysterical paranoia I’m seeing many people in their 20’s and 30’s treat COVID (including refusing to leave the house after being fully vaccinated), I would be forced to spend my entire life hiding in the basement, shunning friends, family and experiences.

Not worth it.

You must make this decision for yourself, but I’d much rather have a rich, fulfilling life than a certain one characterized by an attempt to delay the inevitable.

[five]

While most Americans want to see the minimum wage increased, the majority don’t approve of the current push to $15 per hour.

Democrats in Congress want to raise the hourly minimum wage to $15, but while most Americans support increasing the minimum – currently $7.25 an hour – they balk at proposals to more than double it.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone and online survey finds that 48% of American Adults believe raising the hourly minimum wage will help the U.S. economy, up from 42% two years ago. Thirty-three percent (33%) think raising the minimum wage will hurt the economy instead, while 10% say it will have no impact. Nine percent (9%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

I don’t claim to be an economic expert…but one question I have about a $15 minimum wage is how it will increase the cost of consumer goods, which in turn hits the poor (minimum wage earners) the hardest. Inflation is already skyrocketing in 2021.

[Table courtesy of Statistica]

The other result of a $15 minimum wage almost certainly will be a smaller number of minimum wage jobs available, as large corporations double down on automation to replace human labor. Last year, McDonalds spent $300 million on startup technology to replace the drive-thru order taker position.

The move towards automation of many unskilled jobs may be inevitable, but there’s little doubt a $15 minimum wage will increase the push by major companies to replace people with algorithms.

[epilogue]

Mad Jack Churchill was a Scottish WWII infantryman who famously carried a broadsword, long bow, arrows and bagpipes into battle. He utterly terrified the Germans, and waged psychological warfare (imagine seeing a fellow soldier pierced with an arrow seemingly out of nowhere in the middle of a modern battle or one of your finding the body of a countryman hacked to death by a Braveheart style broadsword).

The Nazis were also enraged and terrified of hearing bagpipe music before or after a firefight.

Somehow, there’s never been a proper biography written on Mad Jack (one of the bajillion projects I’d be interested in, but I’ll never have time to write that book), but this article is a good start for a slightly deeper dive on a curious, extraordinary hero of WWII.

Until the next one,

-sth