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Reforming Rigged Capitalism

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Source: Financial Times

 

Today’s must read column comes from Martin Wolfe of the Financial Times: How to reform today’s rigged capitalism.

Highlights:

• US and UK have succumbed to demagogy. These long-stable democracies are also the most unequal of the western high-income countries. This is no coincidence;

• Rentier capitalism, weakened competition, feeble productivity growth, high inequality and, not coincidentally, an increasingly degraded democracy is is an unstable.

• US markets have become less competitive: concentration is high, leaders are entrenched and profit rates are excessive.

• Unit cost of financial intermediation has not fallen in the US over 140 years, despite technological advances

• The narrow focus on maximizing shareholder value has exacerbated the bad side-effects;

• Money in politics has damaged the idea of one person one vote. Money buys politicians, turns nations into plutocracies, not democracies. Our democracies need refurbishing.

• Finally, In­equality is corrosive.

Strong words. To fix Rigged Capitalism, Wolfe believes we need a dynamic capitalist economy that gives everybody a justified belief that they can share in the benefits

We must recognize the existential threat that exists to fragile democracies, and Wolfe proposes returning to our roots as a free market democratic state. It is radical in its simplicity.

 

 

 


Source: Financial Times

 

 

 

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Unpaid labor

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In Birth Strike, Jenny Brown argues for an analysis of the politics of reproductive rights that is rooted not in religious or moral concerns, but in economics—specifically, the economic power of women’s unpaid labor.

The standard explanation for anti-abortion politics in the United States is that politicians are appealing to conservative “values voters.” It’s easier to argue that when abortion is at issue, but as birth control has come under increasing fire, the explanation that politicians are buckling to grassroots pressure has become less reliable. The U.S. may be a religious country, but 99 percent of sexually active U.S. women have used birth control. According to surveys, even among men and women who oppose abortion, 80 percent support access to contraception. Far from pandering to a religious base, in attacking birth control, politicians are taking a stand that is wildly unpopular.

Planned Parenthood, long under attack for providing abortions, calls this “the glaring contradiction at the heart of the anti-choice movement…. The same forces who oppose abortion also vigorously oppose expanding access to the information and services that prevent unintended pregnancy and reduce the need for abortion.”

But it’s only a contradiction if the goal is to reduce abortions. If the goal is to increase childbearing, both abortion and contraception would be targets, along with accurate sex education.

Brown, Birth Strike, page 4

And why would the goal be to increase childbearing? Brown continues:

A higher birth rate does serve an economic goal: An ever-expanding workforce raised with a minimum of public spending and a maximum of women’s unpaid work. Why would employer’s pay for parental leave if they can push us into maternity leave for free? Why would corporations pay taxes for a national childcare system if families can be induced to take that burden upon themselves? But women are refusing—by some measures our birth rate is the lowest it has ever been—so they can only achieve that goal if they further deprive us of reproductive control.

Brown, Birth Strike, page 11

This is one of those analyses that seems so obvious as soon as you see it, and leaves you agog that you couldn’t see it before. Brown provides gobs of data to back up her case here (including many a conservative politician and thinker saying the quiet part loud), but it didn’t take much to convince me. I’ve long been certain that restrictions on reproductive rights were not really about faith, but about controlling women—but I never took the next step and asked why women needed to be controlled. Brown does, and the answer is clear: to wrest as much economic value from them as possible.

Most politicians portray themselves as “pro-family,” but none do it more vigorously than conservative Republicans. This might seem ironic, as it is the most loudly pro-family who try to block increases to the minimum wage, cut Head Start childcare and school lunch programs, slash welfare payments for parents and health care for children, oppose any kind of family leave (even unpaid), and generally make life less livable for children and families.

But it is not just hypocrisy, and it is worth decoding. What “pro-family” really means is families instead of government. Cut government, and put the work on families. And by “families,” they mean women, and women’s unpaid labor.

Brown, Birth Strike, page 34

It’s hard for me not to see my own choices in Brown’s critique. I do not have children; I never wanted to be a mother. As a close friend oft reminds me, at 40 years old, I am among the first generation of women for whom access to contraception and abortion has been a given my whole life. This was not an ecomonic choice by any means. But I also grew up keenly aware of how hard it is to balance motherhood and work, and I entered the workforce at a time when paid maternity leave was even less generous than it is today. Brown argues that women have been participating in an uncoordinated work slowdown for years now, simply by electing to have fewer children, and that it’s past time to organize into a proper strike. I’ve thought about it, and I can seem to muster only one response to that calling: I’ll see you on the picket line.

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dougsmith
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sarcozona
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I need to read this book

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Entropy

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Hovertext:
First parent to admonish their kid to not create so much information gets 10 Weinersmith Points.


Today's News:

It's a double update day. Stay tuned.

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Manhattan DA Made Google Give Up Information on Everyone in Area as They Hunted for Antifa

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When Gavin McInnes—founder of the violent, far-right group The Proud Boys—spoke to a Manhattan Republican club last October, the neighborhood response was less than welcoming. Protesters took to the normally sedate Upper East Side block with chants and spray paint. The Proud Boys responded with fists and kicks. Nearly a year later, as the assault and riot charges against four Proud Boys go to trial, prosecutors revealed that they had turned to an alarming new surveillance tool in this case: a reverse search warrant.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office admitted it demanded Google hand over account information for all devices used in parts of the Upper East Side. They didn’t do this to find the Proud Boys; they did it to find Antifa members.

Reverse search warrants have been used in other parts of the country, but this is the first time one was disclosed in New York. Unlike a traditional warrant, where law enforcement officials request information on a specific phone or individual, reverse warrants allow law enforcement to target an entire neighborhood. Police and prosecutors create a “geofence”—a map area—and demand information on anyone standing in the zone. This flips the logic of search warrants on its head. Rather than telling service providers the name or phone number of a suspect, reverse search warrants start with the location and work backwards.

It’s a big change. Depending on the size and location of the geofence, a reverse search warrant can easily target hundreds or even thousands of bystanders. That scale is what makes reverse search warrants so enticing to law enforcement and so concerning to civil liberties groups. One concern is that the more broadly law enforcement uses surveillance, the higher the risk for “false discovery.” That’s a clinical way to say that the more people you spy on, the more innocent people will wrongly go to jail.

The phenomenon is well-documented in the sciences, where researchers have long known that “high false discovery rates occur when many outcomes of a single intervention are tested.” Essentially, when you look for too many patterns at the same time, you increase the danger that the data will fool you. When police officers request the data for hundreds or even thousands of devices, there’s a higher chance that they’ll wrongly think that one of those bystanders is a suspect.

This isn’t just theoretical. That’s what Jorge Molina discovered in 2018, when Arizona detectives wrongly arrested him for a brutal murder, jailing him for nearly a week before he was exonerated. Officers demanded that Google hand over information on every single laptop, phone, tablet, and smart device in a two-block area. We don’t know how many accounts that includes, but it’s no surprise that while sifting through that many devices that they quickly found a “match.” Only he was innocent.

In response to the Manhattan DA’s reverse search warrant, Google provided information that investigators used—along with images given to a private facial recognition company—to target two people who turned out to be innocent bystanders. Thankfully, unlike in Molina’s case, the two “matches” in Manhattan were never arrested—and the Antifa members have not been identified, even as several Proud Boys have stood trial.

But with the seal broken now in Manhattan, there are likely to be more geofence warrants and more false discoveries. While a judge needs to sign off on a reverse warrant, that formality provides little protection to the public. A traditional warrant application asks for information about the individual being targeted and the reasons they are suspected. With reverse warrants, judges don’t even know how many people’s data will be compromised. They simply don’t have enough information to do their job.

It’s also unclear how judges will evaluate reverse warrants around sensitive sites: political protests, houses of worship or medical facilities, among others. The practice is even more alarming when you consider the ways that ICE and other federal agencies could use a reverse warrant to pursue their deportation campaigns and target American immigrants.

None of this is to say that reverse search warrants are unique, they are just the latest example of how the surveillance capitalism that powers tech firms can become a tool for the government. Maybe some users who happily hand their data to the tech giants will second guess that choice when they realize how quickly their digital sidekicks can morph into a big brother.

Albert Fox Cahn is the executive director of The Surveillance Technology Oversight Project at the Urban Justice Center, a New York-based civil rights and privacy organization. On Twitter @cahnlawny. 

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awilchak
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this is the scary stuff
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Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors, Sit Down. – Afroculinaria

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Dear Disgruntled White Plantation Visitors,

Hi! My name is Michael W. Twitty and I’m one of those interpreters who has watched you squirm or run away. I’m not a reenactor, because G-d forbid I reenact anything for the likes of you; but I am an interpreter, a modern person who is charged with educating you about the past. I take my job seriously because frankly you’re not the one I’m centering. I’m performing an act of devotion to my Ancestors. This is not about your comfort, it’s about honoring their story on it’s own terms in context.

For over a decade I have been working towards my personal goal of being the first Black chef in 150 years to master the cooking traditions of my colonial and Antebellum ancestors. Five trips to six West African nations and more on the way, and having cooked in almost every former slaveholding state beneath the Mason-Dixon line, my work is constant, unrelenting mostly because I have to carve my way through a forest of stereotypes and misunderstandings to bring our heritage to life. I also just want to preserve the roots of our cooking before they’re gone.

Because minds like yours created the “happy darky,” some people of color are ashamed of my work. Although I am none of the things they imagine me to be, I can understand why they are confused about what I (and many people like me) do. Once upon a time folks like yourselves wanted to have a national Mammy monument on the Mall, to remind us about the “proper” role we were meant to occupy and to praise our assumed loyalty. No, our forebears are the real greatest generation. With malice towards none they constantly took their strike at freedom and yet their heroism was obscured because you guessed it, white supremacy, had to have the final say.

Southern food is my vehicle for interpretation because it is not apolitical. It is also drenched in all the dreadful funkiness of the history it was created in. It’s not my job to comfort you. It’s not my job to assuage any guilt you may feel. That’s really none of my business. My job is to show you that my Ancestors, (and some of yours quiet as its kept…go get your DNA done…like right now…talking to you Louisiana and South Carolina…) resisted enslavement by maintaining links to what scholar Charles D. Joyner famously called a “culinary grammar” that contained whole narratives that reached into spirituality, health practices, linguistics, agricultural wisdom and environmental practices that constituted in the words of late historian William D. Piersen, “a resistance “too civilized to notice.” Want to read about it? Since you already know I’m a literate runaway from the American educational system, I wrote an award winning book called The Cooking Gene. Like Eddie Murphy said, “but buy my record first…”

(BTW it’s not a cookbook its the story of my family told through culinary history from Africa to America and from enslavement to freedom.)

What’s most telling about the above quote and others is how blithely unaware you are about the real American struggle for freedom. When you’re in one of those hot ass kitchens watching me melt you are secretly telling yourself you’re glad you’re not me–or them. And yes, I’m about to go Designing Women/Julia Sugarbaker (in that pink hoop skirt) on you…so you might want to run now.

Thanks to a viral tweet the whole country sees what me and my colleagues have seen for quite some time. We get it. You want romance, Moonlight and Magnolias, big Greek Revival columns, prancing belles in crinoline, perhaps a distinguished hoary headed white dude with a Van Dyke beard in a white suit with a black bow tie that looks like he’s about to bring you some hot and fresh chicken some faithful Mammy sculpture magically brought to life has prepared for you out back.

The Old South may be your American Downton Abbey but it is our American Horror Story, even under the best circumstances it represents the extraction of labor, talent and life we can never get back. When I do this work, it drains me, but I do it because I want my Ancestors to know not only are they not forgotten but I am here to testify that I am their wildest dreams manifest.

While your gall and nerve anonymously preserved for eternity online is cute, I thought you might want to be further disturbed not by the actions of the dead, but by those of the living:

Like remember when you took the form of the docent in Virginia who told me, “Look, you don’t have to go on about the history, just tell them you’re the cook and be done with it…”

Or remember when you waltzed in with a MAGA hat and told me “I know what it’s like to be persecuted like a slave. I’m an evangelical Christian in America. Its scary!” (More power to you for your faith, but that analogy? Or skewed perception? Or saying that nonsense to my face with the assumed confidence that I wouldn’t respond?)

My personal favorite was when I spilled some of the contents of a heavy pot of water as the light was dying and you all laughed and one of you said…and I could hear you…”This boy doesn’t know what he’s doing.”

“Boy.”

I was exhausted. I had been cooking over an open hearth for 7 hours. One enslaved cook in Martinique was thrown alive into an oven for burning a cake. How do we know? His mistress calmly showed his charred remains to her guest after the meal. Spilling or burning food could have meant my ass.

How about that time you asked me if I lived in that kitchen with the dirt floor. Or when you said I was “well fed” and had “nothing to complain about.” “This isnt sooo bad. White poor people had it just as bad if not worse.” I do so love it when folks like you ask me “What are you making me for dinner?”

In South Carolina there was that time four of you walked in grinning and salivating as you often do, and were all ready to be regaled of the good old days until a German tourist scratched your record. He said, “How do you feel as a Black American, dressing like your Ancestors and cooking and working this way?”

You started to frown.

I said, “Slavery was colloquial and discretionary, one story doesn’t tell all. But its important to remember that our Ancestors survived this. Survived slavery.”

He pushed me further. You gestured towards the door.

“How do people feel about slavery?”

My retort was fast. “How do you feel about the Shoah? How do you feel about the Holocaust?”

The German said, “The Holocaust was a terrible thing and never should have happened. We were children when Germany was coming out of the ashes. But it is a shame upon our nation.”

As the four of you turned to leave, I got in a good one: “That’s a phrase you will almost never hear some white Southerners say. “Slavery was a terrible thing and never should have happened.”

But…the South is not to be indicted on it’s own. Without Northern slave trade captains, merchants, mill owners, and even universities that had stock in the enslaved, the Southern economy could not have flourished. (And please miss me with “you sold your own people..” the corporate identity of Blackness was not a feature when African, Arab and European elites and merchants conspired during the time of the slave trades…you cant learn everything from the crossword section of StormFront…)

Furthermore your immigrant ancestors would never have had a land of opportunity to come to. Or a people to walk on as your folks climbed towards whiteness. The most valuable “commodity” in Antebellum America during the years of exponential growth was not wheat, corn, tobacco, rice or even cotton. The most important commodity of the mid 19th century in America, was the Black child, and behind the children, the body of the Black woman.

Dont get me wrong. This isnt about being anti-white. But if you do think I don’t like you because you identify as white that’s not it. I suspect what you might be doing—identifying with heathy slices of weaponized racial power, privilege, attainment and achievement obtained in a hierarchical exploitative American dream between two pieces of unexamined whiteness, I guess the plantation isn’t the ideal place for you to escape.

Facing my/our past has been my life’s journey. It’s also been at times devastating and painful. But reflection in no way equals one second in the lives of the enslaved women and men whose blood flows in my veins. I had the privilege of rediscovering my roots on a North Carolina plantation at a dinner we prepared for North Carolinisns of all backgrounds. Knowing that the enslaved people who once occupied those cabins could never have dreamed of that rainbow of people sitting together as equals in prayer, food and fellowship while my Asante and Mende roots were being uncovered after centuries of obfuscation was for me a holy moment.

You miss out on magic like that when you shut down your soul. Going to what few plantations remain, your job is to go with respect and homage and light. You know, like I felt at the Tenement Museum and learned about the first American experience of those who passed through Ellis Island. Your job is to be thankful and grateful. Your job is to not just hear but listen. Your job is to know that Black lives mattered then just as they do now. Your job is to face the reality that hardships and hurt have been passed down from the American Downton Abbey, the American plantation.

Rape happened there..to the point where almost every African American with long roots here bears that evidence in their DNA. Theft of our culture. Forced assimilation. The breaking up of families…like all of us. Of course there was economic and legal exploitation and oppression, the effects of which have never been extricated from the American story.

But because enslavement was so damn fuzzy…we forget that those maudlin moments of blurred lines passed down by sentimental whites were purchased with pain. I tell my audiences that enslavement wasn’t always whips and chains; but it was the existential terror that at any moment 3/5ths could give way to its remainder, and unfortunately often did.

Guilt is not where to start. If you go back start with humility. Have some shame that NONE of us are truly taught this. Be like the working class white lady whose family I met in Louisiana who brought her young kids because she “wanted them to know the whole story, the story of American history is Black history.” Too bad she ain’t going viral. Wherever you are my cousin, I salute you.

Right now we need people to exercise their compassion muscle over their dissatisfaction or disappointment. Right now we need people to see the parallels. Right now we need people to remember the insidious ways history repeats itself. Right now we need to be better humans to each other. Right now we need people to remember the righteous who sacrificed so we could tweet and leave awful online reviews.

Y’all come back now y’here?

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ScottInPDX
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This is something worth reading.
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Uber's IPO documents admit that they need to destroy public transit.

jwz
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In case you haven't heard, many Uber and Lyft drivers are on strike today nationwide, so if you use either of those services today, not only are you supporting a vile business model and an appalling corporate culture that is destroying your cities, but you're also crossing a picket line while doing so.

Oh, apropos of nothing, KC reports:

In the "tone deaf moves on the day of a strike" department, I just learned that Lyft chartered a boat I used to work on for a company yacht party today.

Uber has acknowledged in a federal filing that its long-term goal is to privatize public transportation around the world.

In a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the ride-hail company reports that it seeks, as part of its growth strategy, not just to get people out of private cars but to get them off public buses and trains. Those public services would be replaced by Uber Buses, now being tested in Cairo.

That stunning revelation is deep in a 300-page document called an S1, which the SEC requires for any company planning an initial public offering. [...] Uber admits in the document that it might never make a profit; that it continues to lose billions by underpricing its product (rides) to gain customer loyalty and market share; and that its entire business model could collapse if regulators or the courts decide that its drivers are employees, not private contractors.

So how is this company going to be attractive to investors? By about page 160, the company starts talking about its "Total Addressable Market." [...]

Increasing Ridesharing penetration in existing markets. [...] We believe we can continue to grow the number of trips taken with our Ridesharing products and replace personal vehicle ownership and usage and public transportation one use case at a time, including through continued investment in our affordable Ridesharing options, such as Uber Bus and Express POOL.

The company, as far as I know, has never admitted that before. Its PR materials always talk about the environmental benefits of getting people out of private cars. The idea of decimating public transportation in the name of profits for a global corporation is pretty scary.

We have seen this before, starting in the 1930s, when a handful of big companies including General Motors and Standard Oil bought up urban rail lines around the country to force people to buy private cars. This is now considered a dark moment in environmental and transportation policy that created, among other things, the freeways and smog of Los Angeles and the end of rail transit on the Bay Bridge.

There's a reason transportation, especially urban transportation, is public. Many Muni lines would lose money if they were treated as business ventures; they don't have enough passengers to justify their existence. But San Francisco has a policy of making transit available to everyone, in every neighborhood.

The 8 Bayshore and the 9 San Bruno, for example, serve southeast neighborhoods that badly need transit access -- but that likely wouldn't get an Uber bus.

But Uber is telling Wall Street that its future as a company may depend on its ability to convince people to take private cars and buses instead of public transit, starving transit and ultimately forcing everyone to pay Uber to get around.

Sup. Aaron Peskin, who chairs the Land Use and Transportation Committee and has long been critical of Uber, told me that "this sounds like a Machiavellian plan to harm the tens of millions of people who rely on public transit ... if there's a definition of evil, this is it." [...]

Uber would probably not exist in its current format if San Francisco and other cities had not allowed it to break the law and run illegal cabs for years. Now, as always seems to be the case, policy-makers are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the impacts of Uber-friendly policies.

Previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously, previously.

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zippy72
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Never use Uber. Never use Lyft.
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