Week of September 2, 2019

A few things of note from around the Internet this week:

🚰

This story should make you feel great the next time you’re about to take off.

A few years ago, a controller guiding ten jets in a great curving arc toward Newark suddenly lost his frequency just as he had to turn the pilots onto the final approach to the runway. Watching in helpless horror as his planes careered farther and farther off course, the controller rose from his chair with an animal scream, burst into a sweat, and began tearing off his shirt. By the time radio contact was reestablished—and the errant planes were reined in—the controller was quivering on the floor half naked, and was discharged on a medical leave until he could regain his wits.

Hong Kong No. 1

Nick Taber examines what has made the ongoing protests in Hong Kong successful:

The protesters are fiercely resisting what most see as China’s inexorable absorption of Hong Kong. Given the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) clear interest in eroding much of what makes Hong Kong distinct from the mainland, its sheer power and resources, and its track record for how it handles dissent, such resistance seems naive, even suicidal, to many. And yet, for Hong Kongers, the desire to preserve their freedom and society isn’t something they are particularly willing to give up. Moreover, China’s rapid turn towards totalitarianism since Xi came to power only drives home the need for Hong Kong to resist this encroachment.

Hong Kong No. 2

Maciej Cegłowski with another report from the front lines in Hong Kong:

…the protesters have weaponized a civic virtue of Hong Kong, a sense of general responsibility and social order that extends beyond individual desires. I have noticed that protesters who talk to the press about their beliefs express them in the language of care. One of the greatest risks in the protests is arrest, which can have career-destroying consequences. The frontliners form a literal barrier between the police and the other demonstrators, putting themselves in danger to protect the great mass of people from arrest and beatings. They see that role as protective, even when it involves violent confrontation with the police.

In turn, the peaceful faction recognizes the moral and physical burden that the frontliners have to bear, and supports them with supplies, moral support, and by showing up at the protests in numbers. While the frontliners are fewer in number, their voice carries weight, because they bear a disproportionate share of the risk. There is a respect between the two sides, and a sense of mutual protection. Despite the lack of central leadership, the factions coexist and mostly succeed in maintaining their cherished value of unity.

Systemic

This investigation, by Lizzie Presser, looks at the legal system that has enabled generations of land owning African Americans to be stripped of their most valuable financial asset and of their identities. If you find the idea of systemic racism hard to imagine, this report makes it very concrete.

Between 1910 and 1997, African Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families. Now, as reparations have become a subject of national debate, the issue of black land loss is receiving renewed attention. A group of economists and statisticians recently calculated that, since 1910, black families have been stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars because of lost land. Nathan Rosenberg, a lawyer and a researcher in the group, told me, “If you want to understand wealth and inequality in this country, you have to understand black land loss.”

Monopoly

It seems difficult to write about Amazon and monopolies without the word count approaching novella length. Chris Gillett looks at how Amazon is trying to beat antitrust enforcement before it happens.

Amazon is also obsessed with guarding against internal and external threats to growth, primarily organizational sclerosis and antitrust enforcement. These are the interests around which Amazon—and every facet of the company—was devised.

Endurance

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