America's gargantuan new corporate landlords evict the shit out of Americans

The housing recovery has been famously uneven, in every way: for one thing, it's allowed hedge-fund and publicly listed landlords to acquire a greater proportion of America's housing stock than ever, even as mass foreclosures created a new class of desperate tenants who pay rent to these corporate giants, who charge higher rents than ever. Read the rest

The average FTSE 100 boss earns as much in 2.5 days as his (yes, his) median employee earns in a year

The great recession and austerity have been very good to the chief executives of Britain's biggest companies: according to the High Pay Center, the average compensation for FTSE 100 CEOs rose 10% in 2015, to £5.5m -- meanwhile, UK workers' wages have stagnated year on year, averaging £28,200. Read the rest

When robots take routine middle-class jobs, those workers drop out of the workforce

In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of "routine" jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment. Read the rest

Kirkus just gave me an AWESOME Christmas present: this starred review for WALKAWAY

Kirkus Reviews is one of the publishing industry's toughest gauntlets, used by librarians and bookstore buyers to help sort through the avalanche of new titles, and its reviews often have a sting in their tails aimed at this audience, a pitiless rehearsal of the reasons you wouldn't want to stock this book -- vital intelligence for people making hard choices. Read the rest

Tribute album to help pay radical singer Anne Feeney's cancer bills

Evan Greer writes, "Anne Feeney has been raising hell with an acoustic guitar since you were in diapers. She's toured the world, rambling from protest to picket line with the likes of Pete Seeger and Billy Bragg. She was the first woman to become the president of a musicians union in the U.S. and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for striking workers. Anne has been battling cancer, and winning! for the past several years, prompting Anne's daughter, Amy Sue Berlin, to gather a notable lineup of musicians to contribute to a tribute album for Anne, with acts like punk icons Anti-Flag, Peter Yarrow (of Peter Paul and Mary), and Dan Bern covering her rabble rousing songs. With the fights we have ahead of us in the next four years and beyond, we're we're gonna need songs like these stuck in our heads." Read the rest

AI Alarmism: why smart people believe dumb things about our future AI overlords

Maciej Cegłowski (previously) gave this talk, "Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People," at Web Camp Zagreb last October, spending 45 minutes delving into the origin of the idea that computers are going to become apocalyptic, self-programming, superintelligent basilisks that end all live on Earth (and variations on this theme) and then explaining why this fundamentally evidence-free, fuzzy idea has colonized so many otherwise brilliant people -- including people like Stephen Hawking -- and why it's an irrational and potentially harmful belief system. Read the rest

Indiana's "educational achievement" bonuses: teachers in rich schools get 20x more than those in poor districts

Indiana is one of many GOP-led states that assume that the poor performance of schools in poor neighborhoods is the fault of bad teaching -- and not, say, systemic poverty, the absence of funds raised by rich parents, hunger, mass incarceration -- and so teachers are offered bonuses for "improving" their students' outcomes, which generally means their standardized test scores (since presumptively bad teachers can't be trusted to evaluate their students' qualitative improvements). Read the rest

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder's MIDAS program had a 93% error rate and falsely accused 20,000 workers of unemployment fraud

Under the cruel austerity of Michigan governor Rick Snyder -- whose policies led to the mass-poisonings of children in Flint -- any claims for unemployment insurance were vigorously investigated, with the state operating on the assumption that any worker who claimed a benefit was probably committing fraud. Read the rest

Lawmakers' support for bank bailouts was correlated with their individual investment in banks

In The Personal Wealth Interests of Politicians and the Stabilization of Financial Markets, researchers from the London Business School and Tillburg University demonstrate the likelihood of US members of Congress voting in favor of bank bailouts was correlated with those politicians' individual investments in banking stocks. Read the rest

Folding Beijing: the 2016 Hugo-winning novelette about the obsolescence of labor and the preservation of privilege

Belatedly, I've finally read Hao Jingfang's novelette "Folding Beijing," which won the Hugo Award last summer in Kansas City: it's a story about a future in which the great cities continue to be engines of economic power, but where automation eventually makes most of the people in the cities obsolete -- a problem solved by dividing the city's day and geography up by strata, using marvellous origami buildings that appear and disappear, and suspended animation technologies that whisk away great portions of the city's unneeded proletariat for most of the day. Read the rest

Silicon Valley's CEOs are just like CEOs everywhere: banal financial engineers, not superheroes and supervillains

The financialization of everything is just as real in the boardrooms of technology as it is everywhere else; though the deferential press likes to paint the tech-sector leaders as geniuses, superheroes (Elon Musk as Iron Man), and super-villains (Peter Thiel as Lex Luthor), the reality is that they're basically run-of-the-mill financial engineers, whose major creation is stock bubbles, not "revolutions." Read the rest

Lazyweb: build me the Augmented Reality social proof to make charitable giving more effective?

I just got through dropping off several bags of groceries and wrapped presents for my daughter's school's annual, very successful charitable drive that benefits local families living in poverty as well as our local, excellent food bank. Read the rest

Interviewing for Amazon: a literal Orwellian experience

Shivan, a computer science student in Montreal, applied for a job at Amazon; the second round interview was conducted remotely by a proctor from an online service called Proctor U who insisted that Shivan install a remote-access trojan on his computer that let the proctor completely control his machine; then he was made to use the camera on his laptop to give the proctor a view of his room and all the things in it (with the proctor barking orders at him to shift his belonging around to give a better view. Read the rest

Company town + Internet of Things + Drones = total surveillance of remote mine workers

Rio Tinto is a giant UK/Australian mining corporation that operates many facilities in Australia's remotest reaches, where there is no housing for workers, so the company ends up building "company towns" where their laborers live, closing the loop between home and worklife, and putting them both under control of a corporation; now the company is flirting with the kind of "smart city" technology that has been tried elsewhere, but generally in places where the residents are citizens, not employees, and the governing law is created by a legislature, not a non-negotiable employment contract. Read the rest

Robots vs the middle class: everyone's endangered, white people less so

On Common Dreams, Paul Buchheit rounds up a ton of scholarly/economic papers on the ways that automation is coming to employment niches occupied by well-educated middle-class professionals, who face the same dilemma their "low-skilled" industrial colleagues have been living through for three decades and counting. Read the rest

Portland proposes a special tax on companies where CEOs make 100X more than median employee

Environmental lawyer-turned-Portland City Commissioner Steve Novick has a cool use for the new SEC rules requiring companies to disclose executive pay starting in 2017: he's going to impose special taxes on businesses where the ratio of CEO pay to median worker pay exceeds 100:1 -- an increase of 10% for 100:1 companies, and 25% for 250:1 companies. Read the rest

Trump Department of Labor pick is a foreign labor exec who's brought "over 40,000" cheap workers to the USA

Veronica Birkenstock is Practical Employee Solutions, a company that boasts of having brought "over 40,000" cheap H-2B workers from 80 countries to the USA to work in "hospitality, landscaping, welding, and construction" for companies like Marriott and Starwood Hotels, for whom it is the "preferred vendor." Read the rest

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