Boing Boing 

Obama moots mandatory voting


I agree that mandatory voting is a powerful check against moneyed interests hijacking the government, but Australia, which has both mandatory voting and preferential ranked ballots, has still managed to elect some fucking awful politicians.

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IT feudalism: the surveillance state and wealth gaps


My latest Guardian column examines the relationship between technology, surveillance and wealth disparity -- specifically the way that cheap mass surveillance makes it possible to sustain more unequal societies because it makes it cheaper to find and catch the dissidents who foment rebellion over the creation of hereditary elites.

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Finnish millionaire gets EUR54K speeding ticket

Finland has progressive fines for driving offenses, so the more you earn, the more you pay.

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HSBC boss used tax havens to keep underlings from discovering his outrageous pay


HSBC CEO Stuart Gulliver admitted that he used two secretive banks -- one in Switzerland, the other in Panama -- not just to avoid taxes, but to hide his amazing compensation package from other HSBC bankers, lest they wax jealous.

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$10,000 robot leggings


In 2009, Balenciaga rolled out "Transformer" leggings: made to order, from non-precious metals, at $100,000 per.

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Nuanced view of corruption: money doesn't buy elections, it buys influence

Jonathan Soros, son of George Soros and heavy donor to campaigns to get money out of politics, writes a nuanced account of what huge, open campaign contributions do to electoral politics.

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Money talks: policy with a business model


It must be Groundhog Day, because British politicians are making us debate their repeatedly-failed spying legislation -- how is it that some policy initiatives never die, while others can't get any traction at all?

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Koch brothers raise 2016 election warchest that's on par with either party's spend

The Kochs will raise $889M from conservative millionaires and billionaires to spend in the 2016 election, which, thanks to Citizens United, can be used to buy effectively unlimited political advertising to support policies that will make more money for the donors.

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House of Lords demands its own caterer because Parliament's Champagne isn't good enough


A move to save money by merging the Lords' and Parliament's catering has come under fire because some Lords fear that the quality of the free Champagne will decline as a result.

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Walmart holds food drive...for Walmart employees (again!)


Once again, a Walmart store has set out a collection box for food donations to support its own employees, who are paid so little that they depend upon social assistance (and public generosity) to survive.

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$100K life-size T-Rex skeleton replica


It's 40' long from nose to tail, is composed of 190 bones, is billed as "museum grade" and comes with an assembly crew that will stage it in any "anatomically possible" pose. His name is Stan.

American businesses devour themselves to enrich the 1%


A Goldman Sachs report on stock buybacks shows a suspicious clustering in the fourth quarter, just when management bonuses are being calculated.

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HK police arrest "triad gangsters" who attacked Umbrella Revolution camps


The protesters accuse the police of working with the thugs, who wore masks as they attacked the encampments; the violence has led to postponement of the planned talks between the Umbrella Revolution leaders and the Hong Kong administration.

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Walmart heirs' net worth exceeds that of population of a city the size of Phoenix


It's grown 6,700% since 1983, to $144.7B in 2013 -- greater than the net worth of 1,782,020 average Americans.

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Daughter of Hong Kong leader thanks "taxpayers" for diamonds on Facebook


Chai Yan Leung thanked the taxpayers who paid for it, and then dismissed her critics as non-taxpayers, since employed people wouldn't have time to comment on Facebook.

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Canadian gov't economists insist that stats on collapsing middle class mean just the opposite


Dave sez, "Last year, Employment and Social Development Canada put together a report suggesting that the Canadian middle class has seen wage stagnation and is experiencing record levels of debt; Finance Canada felt that this 'appears to conflict with the general message in Budget 2014 and previous internal briefings' so they made a new report -- that says the opposite, while looking at the same data."

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Market Basket victory: worker-friendly, fair business trounces looting klepto-investors


(WBUR)

The beloved, profitable, worker-friendly Market Basket grocery chain is back in the hands of former CEO Arthur T Demoulas, following a mass worker and management revolt at the news that Demoulas's cousin, Arthur S Demoulas, was taking over the company, bringing in a notorious former Radio Shack CEO, and getting set to break up and sell off the company in order to extract higher dividends for shareholders.

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Infamous SF "eviction" lawfirm abuses DMCA to censor video of protest

The offices of Bornstein and Bornstein are notorious for running "boot camps" advising San Francisco landlords on legal loopholes for evicting long-term tenants so they can rent to the high-flying tech sector.

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Trans Pacific Partnership meeting switched from Vancouver to Ottawa, ducking critics


What could make the secretive Trans Pacific Partnership process even less legit?

Moving it at the last minute, under cover of darkness, from Vancouver to Ottawa, in order to avoid critics of the treaty and how it is being negotiated. The TPP is a secretive treaty that allows corporations to sue governments that enact environmental, health and governmental regulations that interfere with their profits. It also calls for vastly expanded Internet spying and censorship in the name of protecting copyright.

Only trade negotiators and corporate lobbyists are allowed to see the drafts of the agreement (though plenty of these drafts have leaked) -- often times, members of Congress and Parliament are denied access to them, even though the agreement will set out legal obligations that these elected officials will be expected to meet.

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Dear fellow zillionaires: they're coming for us with pitchforks


Nick Hanauer, a hereditary millionaire who increased the family fortune with some shrewd early dotcom inventions has written an open letter to his fellow "zillionaires" warning that their corruption of the US political system has given rise to an unstable situation of wealth inequality that has turned their potential customers into impoverished pitchfork-wielding revolutionaries who are coming for their heads.

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Larry Lessig explains how Mayday.US can win the fight on corruption


Slashdot recorded a must-watch video with Lawrence Lessig about the Mayday.US anti-PAC that is raising money to elect politicians who'll enact meaningful campaign finance reform.

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British Airways' "Happiness Blanket" sensor detects the totally obvious


British Airways is trialling an in-flight sensor blanket called the "Happiness Blanket" to determine what makes first class passengers happy.

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Rich get richer, faster

A research report from business school professors at Imperial College, Columbia and U of Maryland found that wealthy investors get returns on bonds and stocks that are "up to 70 per cent times greater returns on their investments than those with modest wealth." This is a point that Piketty makes strongly, backing it up by analyzing data from the Harvard endowment, which gets 10% returns on its ~$80B nest-egg, while the rest of us barely clear inflation with our savings.

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century

Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century is a bestselling economics tome whose combination of deep, careful presentation of centuries' worth of data, along with an equally careful analysis of where capitalism is headed has ignited a global conversation about inequality, tax, and policy. Cory Doctorow summarizes the conversation without making you read 696 pages (though you should). Read the rest

Best-paid CEOs perform the worst


In Performance for Pay? The Relation Between CEO Incentive Compensation and Future Stock Price Performance , a paper from U of Utah business-school professors, the relationship between executive performance and executive pay is intensively investigated. The authors carefully document that the highest-paid executives in the 1,500 companies with the biggest market cops from 1994-2013 perform the worst, and that the higher a CEO's pay, the more likely it is that he'll perform worse than his low-paid colleagues. The effect was most pronounced in the 150 highest-paid CEOs.

The authors propose that sky-high pay leads CEOs to be overconfident -- after all, if they're getting $37M for a year's work, they must be pretty damned smart, so anyone who disagrees with them is clearly an idiot, after all, look at how little that critic is paid! The longer a CEO is in office, the worse his performance becomes, because he is able to pack the board with friendly cronies who keep hiking his pay and overlooking his underperformance. And CEOs suck at figuring out when to exercise their stock options, generally getting less money than they would by following conventional financial advice.

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Piketty's inherited-wealth dystopia: private capital millionaires multiply


Thomas Piketty's much-discussed economics bestseller Capital in the Twenty First Century prophesies a future where inherited wealth dominates the world, because the rate of return on capital outstrips the rate of growth in the economy, meaning the money your ancestors earned will always outstrip what you could earn. A new Boston Consulting Group report confirms Piketty's hypothesis, concluding that the share of wealth due to capital increased by 14% last year

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Matt Taibbi's The Divide: incandescent indictment of the American justice-gap

Matt Taibbi's The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap is a scorching, brilliant, incandescent indictment of the widening gap in how American justice treats the rich and the poor. Taibbi's spectacular financial reporting for Rolling Stone set him out as the best running commentator on the financial crisis and its crimes, and The Divide -- beautifully illustrated by Molly Crabapple -- shows that at full length, he's even better. Cory Doctorow reviews The Divide.Read the rest

UK Tory MP who helped kill Legal Aid is wiped out by defending himself against sexual assault claim

Alan sez, "At least he's got the sense to own up and say he's sorry. Nigel Evans used to be in Parliament. While there he helped cut legal aid. As a result, people who are charged by the government but found innocent can't recover costs. Mr Evans is now looking at a (UKP) 130,000 legal bill (plus VAT) after defending successfully against an allegation of sexual assault. Of course, were he in the US he'd be in the same or worse shape."

He's been wiped out, and has pledged to try to undo the damage he's done to Legal Aid if he gets reelected. Meanwhile, the real victims of this are poor crime victims, especially women in abusive relationships, who are grappling with a system where only rich people get lawyers.

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How airlines treat the one-percenters

Qantas A380's fully flat Skybed in business class

In the April 21 edition of The New Yorker, David Owen describes the luxuries of premium-class seating and visits the firms that design jet interiors.

Seven years ago, I flew business class on Qantas from Australia to California, a thirteen-hour trip. I hadn’t had much experience outside economy, but I didn’t want to look like a front-of-the-plane rookie, so I stowed my “amenity kit” without ripping it open, declined the first cocktail a flight attendant offered me, and tried to appear engrossed in a book while the passenger nearest me bounced around like a four-year-old at a birthday party. I didn’t begin to play with my own seat until after dinner, when I lowered it into its fully extended position, and stretched out -- not to sleep, which is something I hardly ever manage on airplanes, but to see how the thing worked. The concave back of the seat shell formed a domed enclosure over my head, like a demi-cocoon. Suddenly, I heard people speaking in loud voices and banging things around. I sat up, indignant -- and realized that the noise was the sound of breakfast being served. I’d slept for eight hours straight, something I never do even at home. In a little while, we began our descent into Los Angeles.

Game of Thrones: How airlines woo the one per cent

Study: American policy exclusively reflects desires of the rich; citizens' groups largely irrelevant

In Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens [PDF], a paper forthcoming in Perspectives on Politics by Princeton's Martin Gilens and Northwestern's Benjamin Page, the authors analyze 1,779 over the past 20+ years and conclude that policy makers respond exclusively to the needs of people in the 90th wealth percentile to the exclusion of pretty much every one else. Mass-scale intervention from citizens' groups barely registers, while the desires of the richest ten percent of America dictate practically the entire national policy landscape.

In a summary in the Washington Post, Larry Bartels writes,

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