Boing Boing 

World War 3 Illustrated: prescient outrage from the dawn of the Piketty apocalypse

The Reagan era kicked off a project to dismantle social mobility and equitable justice began. This trenchant, angry, gorgeous graphic zine launched in response.Read the rest

Grim meathook future, Singapore style


Charlie Stross's "Different Cluetrain" is a set of theses describing the future we live in, where capitalism not only doesn't need democracy -- it actually works better where democracy is set aside in favor of a kind of authoritarian, investor-friendly state.

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The Tory war on science in Canada: a chronology

Nine years of cuts; muzzlings; bad science, retaliatory firings, burned libraries, layoffs, closed investigations, censorship, withdrawal from international accords;

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Livestream: students occupy Newark school superintendent's office to protest forced privatization

Greg Costikyan writes, "Newark public school students have occupied the office of Cami Anderson, the state-appointed superintendent of Newark's public school system, in protest against plans to privatize the entire city school system over the protest of the city's mayor and virtually its entire population."

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Gov Walker caught lying about his rewrite of the U Wisc mission


Since 1904, the State of Wisconsin and its university system have been governed by the public service mandate of the "Wisconsin Idea" -- until Governor Scott Walker's office leaned on the university to change the Idea to be all about providing workers for the state's businesses, and then lied about it.

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No future for you: cultural institutions can't afford to play along with pointy-headed bosses


My new Guardian column, Go digital by all means, but don't bring the venture capitalists in to do it, is an open letter to the poor bastards who run public institutions, asking them to hold firm on delivering public value and not falling into the trap of running public services "like a business."

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David Graeber's The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joys of Bureaucracy

Anarchist anthropologist David Graeber follows up his magesterial Debt: The First 5000 Years with a slim, sprightly, acerbic attack on capitalism's love affair with bureaucracy, asking why the post-Soviet world has more paperwork, phone-trees and red-tape than ever, and why the Right are the only people who seem to notice or care.Read the rest

Bottom line: are humans sensors or things to be sensed?


A magesterial longread from Hans de Zwart of the Netherlands' Bits of Freedom steps carefully through all the ways in which the modern technological landscape focuses on ubiquitous surveillance for the purposes of social control and increased profitability for corporations.

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Philadelphia schools have $5/student/year for supplies


"Education reform," the charter school movement (that siphons state funding for well-off kids into private hands), the racialized segregation of inner-city and suburban school districts, No Child Left Behind, and the scapegoating of teachers' unions has produced an education system that hardly even qualifies as a 12-year babysitting service.

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Hungary's Internet tax arouses mass opposition

The economically precarious country has a remarkably low rate of corporate tax, and makes up the difference with high, regressive consumption taxes, including the one of the highest rates of VAT in Europe.

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What's financialism, and how is it destroying your life?

As businesses start retaining and investing larger cash-reserves, they're turning into banks. Banks, meanwhile, need to find another line of work: they become asset traders. Meanwhile, your wages have been stagnant for decades, which means that in order to survive, you must become a debtor.

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SF predicting the present: novel anticipated Detroit water crisis

Paul Di Filippo describes Ben Parzybok's new novel, Sherwood Nation: "The book is obviously as headline-friendly as the Ferguson riots, inequality debates, Occupy protests and climate change reports; but there's also a Joseph Conrad-Grahame Greene-Shakespeare style concern with the nature of power, the roles that are thrust upon us, and the limits of friendship and love."

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Stephen Harper sells Canada: China can secretly sue to repeal Canadian laws


Under the terms of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, approved by PM Harper on Friday, China can sue Canada in secret tribunals to repeal national and provincial laws that interfere with Chinese investments, including laws limiting construction of the Northern Gateway tar sands pipeline.

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How anti-slavery law created American corporate personhood


Jeff Reifman sez, "In light of this week's ruling that for-profit corporations should have protection for their religious beliefs, I thought I'd summarize the timeline of Supreme Court decisions that established corporate constitutional rights US law." tl;dr: most of it comes from the anti-slavery 14th Amendment.

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SWAT teams claim to be private mercenaries, immune to open records laws


The ACLU reports [PDF] that when it made Freedom of Information requests for Massachusetts SWAT team records, the SWATs claimed that because they were organized as "law enforcement councils" (jointly owned by many police departments, with additional federal funding) that they were not government agencies at all, but rather private corporations, and not subject to open records laws.

SWATs are the white-hot center of the increasingly brutal and militarized response of US police forces, which have outfitted themselves with ex-Afghanistan/Iraq military materiel and have deployed it in an escalating violent series of attacks, largely as part of the war on drugs. As Radley Balko writes in the Washington Post, the SWATs' claim to be private companies doesn't pass the giggle test: they are funded by the government, pay government employees, and do the government's business.

The argument boils down to this: we are not the police, we are private mercenaries armed with automatic weapons and military-grade vehicles and equipment, and when we attack and kill in the streets of American cities, we do so as private soldiers who happen to be funded by the police departments' budgets.

The ACLU is suing the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council to challenge this ruse, but even if they win, this should be setting off alarm bells for anyone who believes in good government and responsible policing. The cornerstone of democratic legitimacy is a duty to the public, with all the transparency and respect that implies. When police forces up and down the state structure themselves to create and exploit a loophole that lets them obscure the details of their most violent, most spectacular screw-ups -- which generally result in gruesome injuries and deaths to innocent members of the public -- there is no way they can claim to be acting in the public interest.

The fact that the city governments that oversee these departments and the federal agencies that fund the LECs have been complicit in this suggests that this isn't a matter of police overreach, but rather is a policy that goes literally all the way to the top of the policing regulatory structure in America.

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Piketty goes post-secondary: why a university education is so goddamned expensive


Thomas Frank is scorching on the subject of university tuition hikes and the complicity of the press in blaming everything except for bulging administrations and cuts to state universities for the 30-year spiral of super-inflationary price-hikes from America's post-secondary sector. Where he really nails it, though, is about two thirds of the way through, when he discusses the mental shift that allowed all this to happen: once universities started advertising themselves as paths to individual high-earnings (instead of seats of learning and forces for national prosperity), there was no reason for anyone to want to see them as subsidized, universal, accessible institutions:

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Most-misused scientific concepts


Annalee Newitz rounds up scientists' ten least-favorite misused scientific concepts, from "proof" and "theory" to "natural" and "learned versus innate." The thing that most of these misconceptions have in common is that they're very profitable: clouding the idea of "proof" and "theory" helps oil companies sell climate denial (and were the go-to tactic when tobacco giants were claiming that their products didn't cause cancer). "Natural" is a label that helps sell woo. "Learned versus innate" is a great way to justify crappy policies as being somehow "innate" to our species (see Love of Shopping is Not a Gene).

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Econobollocks: three ways that economic figures are misused in politics


Financial Times economist Tim Harford writes about how "three sensible propositions from economics have somehow been crumpled into a mess of public relations and politics" -- how the misleading precision of economic forecasts can be used to paper over purely political decisions, making them seem to be objectively true:

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The more your job helps people, the less you're paid (and vice-versa)


In this spectacular, long interview with Salon, David "Debt" Graeber builds on his bullshit jobs hypothesis and points out the horror of modern American work: if your job does some good, you are paid less; jobs that actively hurt people are paid more; and no one seems to want a world where no one has to work anymore. But have no fear: it ends on a high note: a proposed "revolt of the caring classes."

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Picketty vs politics: where does the rate of profit come from?


Suresh Naidu analyzes Thomas Piketty's groundbreaking economics book Capital in the 21st Century (previously), disagreeing with one of Piketty's core assumptions: that the rate of profit is a given, not the product of things like trade union law, global treaties, and other political decisions. This is wonkier than last night's post about Piketty, but a lot more interesting, in my view.

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Critical thinking vs education: Teaching kids math without "correct" answers


Brooke Powers assigned her middle-school math class a probability exercise with no single correct answer and was monumentally frustrated by her kids' inability to accept the idea of a problem without a canonical solution. After a long and productive wrangle with her kids about how critical thinking works and why divergent problem-solving is much more important than mechanically calculating an answer that you could just get out of a computer, she salvaged the exercise and made something genuinely wonderful out of it.

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Harvard Bluebook: more threats to those who would cite the law

Carl Malamud writes, "On May 16, Boing Boing brought us the story of five years of intimidation on the Uniform System of Citaiton required in the United States, a system otherwise known as The Bluebook. Based on your story, a stern keep off the grass warning was dispatched from the ever-growing Bluebook Legal Task Force at the eminent white shoe firm of Ropes & Gray."

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Steve Wozniak explains Net Neutrality to the FCC

Steve Wozniak, the co-founder of Apple, has published an open letter to the FCC in support of Net Neutrality; Woz explains his view of traditional American fairness and the role of good government, and decries regulatory capture, and warns the FCC that it will lose its "white hat" if it helps corporate America break the Internet.

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Nutritionists' professional events catered by McD's, sponsored by High Fructose Corn Syrup


An alarming report from the California Dietetic Association describes a kind of corporatist apocalyptic nightmare where junk-food companies pony up fat sponsorships in order to pervert the agenda and distort the science. Nutritionists, like other medical professionals, have to attend educational meetings in order to keep up their credentials.

Their professional bodies have seemingly been totally co-opted through corporate sponsorships, and nutritionists who try to document this are thwarted by "no photography" policies. But even without pictures, it's obvious that a panel on corn sweeteners that's paid for by the corn growers and only sports employees of high-fructose corn syrup is not going to produce a rounded picture of the science of obesity and HFCS.

The situation for nutritionists is a microcosm for the whole health industry. As Ben Goldacre details in his essential book Bad Pharma, doctors' continuing education is almost entirely funded by pharmaceutical companies that present multi-hour adverts for their products -- including dodgy studies that they funded -- in place of genuine, impartial scientific training.

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App lets you auction your San Francisco parking spot

A new mobile app called Monkeyparking allows people in San Francisco with good parking spots to auction them off when they're ready to leave, permitting circling rich people to engage in excitingly dangerous class warfare by bidding on spaces with their phones while they drive. The app's creators defend it as providing an "incentive" to leave your space for others to use.

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Standardized testing and schools as factories: Louis CK versus Common Core

Louis CK is the latest high-profile voice to join the chorus against the US educational Common Core and the educational system's emphasis on standardized testing. A great New Yorker piece explores the movement against standardized testing and one-size-fits-all pedagogy.

I think it falls short of the mark, though. The rise of standardized testing, standardized curriculum, and "accountability" are part of the wider phenomenon of framing every question in business terms. In the modern world, the state is a kind of souped up business. That's why we're all "taxpayers" instead of "citizens." "Taxpayer" reframes policy outcomes as a kind of customer-loyalty perk. If your taxes are the locus of your relationship with the state, then people who don't pay taxes -- people too young, old, disabled, or unlucky to be working -- are not entitled to policy outcomes that reflect their needs.

"Taxpayers" are the shareholders in government. The government is the board of directors. School administrators are the management. Teachers are the assembly-line workers. Kids are the product. "Accountability" means that the product has to be quantified and reported on every quarter. The only readily quantifiable elements of education are attendance and test-scores, so the entire educational system is reorganized around maximizing these elements, even though they are only tangentially related to real educational outcomes and are trivial to game.

The vilification of teachers and teachers' unions go hand-in-hand with this idea. At the heart of teachers' unions' demands is the insistence that teaching is a craft that requires nonstandard, difficult-to-quantify approaches that are incompatible with factory-style "accountability." The emphasis on the outliers of teachers' unions -- the rare instances in which bad teachers are protected by their trade unions -- instead of the activity that constitutes the vast majority of union advocacy -- demanding an educational approach that is grounded in trust, respect, and individual tutelage -- the "taxpayer" types can make out teachers as lazy slobs who don't want to jog on the same brutal treadmill as the rest of us.

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Podcast: Internet service providers charging for premium access hold us all to ransom

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Guardian column, Internet service providers charging for premium access hold us all to ransom, which tries to make sense of the disastrous news that the Federal Communications Commission is contemplating rules to allow ISPs to demand bribes from publishers in exchange for letting you see the webpages you ask for.

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Gutting Net Neutrality also guts innovation, fairness and democracy


My latest Guardian column, Internet service providers charging for premium access hold us all to ransom, explains what's at stake now that the FCC is prepared to let ISPs charge services for "premium" access to its subscribers. It's pretty much the worst Internet policy imaginable, an anti-innovation, anti-democratic, anti-justice hand-grenade lobbed by telcos who shout "free market" while they are the beneficiaries of the most extreme industrial government handouts imaginable.

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Radical press demands copyright takedown of Marx-Engels Collected Works

Lawrence and Wishart, a radical press founded in 1936 and formerly associated with the Communist Party of Great Britain, has asserted a copyright over "Marx-Engels Collected Works," a series of $25-50-ish hardcovers, and demanded that they be removed from the Marxist Internet Archive. As Scott McLemee notes, the editions in question were "prepared largely if not entirely with the support of old-fashioned, Soviet-era Moscow gold" and consist, in large part, of arguments about the moral bankruptcy and corrupting influence of claims of private property.

Marx-Engels Collected Works will be removed from Marxists.org on May Day. Here's a torrent of the full set.

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Obama official responsible for copyright chapters of TPP & ACTA gets a job at MPAA; his replacement is another copyright lobbyist


Stan McCoy is the assistant US Trade Representative who oversaw the creation of the disastrous, far-reaching copyright provisions in ACTA and the Trans Pacific Partnership. He's left the Obama administration for a high-paid job at the MPAA, which represents companies that stood to reap massive profits and permanent control over Internet governance and innovation thanks to his efforts while in government. Now, the Obama administration has headhunted a software industry lobbyist (who supported SOPA) to take over his job. McCoy is one of more than a dozen USTR officials who've left the government to work for copyright lobbying bodies, including former Obama copyright czar Victoria Espinel, who now gets her paycheck from the Business Software Alliance.

Timothy Lee has an excellent piece on the revolving-door relationship between the USTR and the entertainment industry and other copyright lobbyists. When Obama was campaigning for office, he vowed that "lobbyists won't work in my White House."

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