Boing Boing 

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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Privatized offshore cities: the new climate apartheid


Financier-developers with ties to some of the century's most notorious war criminals are building Eko Atlantic, an offshore city near Lagos, to house the burgeoning, confiscatory millionaires of Nigeria, while in the oft-bulldozed slums of Lagos genuine, climate-resilient floating buildings are taking to sea.

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London: the dead-eyed banker psycho dream

PSYCHO

"Its protagonist lives in a world of almost continual night, with the hungry eyes and dead affect of an Ayn Rand wet dream: his world is constituted of chrome, glass, a palette of white-to-taupe, a spatter-pattern rug and one book, a single book, on graphic design" - Piercepenniless on the Redrow London property development promo video.

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Finding out that you're not the Rebel Alliance, you're actually part of the Empire and have been all along

Laurie Penny weighs in with an important addition to the discussion about privilege and pain, making the important point that privilege is not the absence of pain, discrimination or hellish conditions -- but that doesn't mean that the nerds who suffered through school bullying are without it.

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The high cost of being poor

An excerpt from Linda Tirado's 2014 book Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America lays out some of the ways that being poor costs more than having a comfortable income -- it's more than having to pay for high daily rents in a motel because you can't afford first-and-last.

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Chicago schools lost $100M by letting Wall Street engineer their finances


In 2007, the school raised $1B, and instead of issuing bonds, it let the bankers who'd been courting it talk it into issuing a floating-rate bond that it swapped into a fixed-rate issue.

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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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Plutocrats' visual guide to rigging elections


From the Mayday.US super PAC (which backs candidates who promise to abolish super PACs).

42 rich white people account for 1/3 of Super PAC spending


35 of them are old white men, the rest are women.

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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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Paolo Bacigalupi's "The Doubt Factory"

From one of science fiction’s most versatile writers comes a caper novel about corporate sleaze and net-savvy guerrilla activists that is as thrilling as it is trenchant. Cory Doctorow reviews Paolo Bacigalupi’s The Doubt Factory.

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Umbrella Revolution's projector guerrillas splash huge messages on public buildings


The Add Oil project lets anyone in the world write a message of support to Hong Kong's protesters, which is then beamed in 16' tall letters on the sides of buildings near the protests.

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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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Human beings are the gut flora of immortal, transhuman corporations

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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Hong Kong protest: drone flyover

The throngs of Hong Kong pro-democracy demonstrators, captured by Nero Chan's drone.

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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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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).

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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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Oligopolistic America: anti-competitive, unequal, and deliberate


A brilliant, enraging op-ed in the Washington Post from analysts from the New America Foundation and the American Antitrust Institute shows how the Reagan-era policy of encouraging monopolistic corporate behavior has made America unequal and uncompetitive, creating a horror Gilded Age where the Congressional consensus is that laws cannot possibly put a check on bad corporate actors.

It's another look at the problems set out in Matt Taibbi's brilliant book The Divide, tracing the policies that created both the private prison industry and banks so big that even the most depraved criminality can't be punished lest the bank tremble and collapse on wider society.

Particularly galling and illuminating is a quote from a Goldman Sachs report that advises investors to seek out "oligopolistic market structure[s]" where there's "lower competitive intensity, greater stickiness and pricing power with customers due to reduced choice" as the ideal way to maximize your return on capital.

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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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Piketty's methods: parsing wealth inequality data and its critique

I've been writing about Thomas Piketty's magisterial economics bestseller Capital in the Twenty First Century for some time now (previously), and have been taking a close interest in criticisms of his work, especially the Financial Times's critique of his methods and his long, detailed response. I freely admit that I lack the stats and economics background to make sense of this highly technical part of the debate, but I think that Wonkblog's analysis looks sound, as does the More or Less play-by-play (MP3).

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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.

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David "Debt" Graeber evicted, implicates NYPD intelligence, claims revenge-harassment for OWS participation

David Graeber, author of Debt: the First 5000 Years, was evicted from the home that his family had lived in for 52 years yesterday. He says that the NYPD intelligence department played a role in establishing a "technicality" on which his family could be evicted, despite not having missed a single payment in 52 years. He blames the eviction on retaliation against high-profile Occupy Wall Street activists, whom he says have been targeted in a wide-ranging series of administrative attacks: "evictions, visa problems, tax audits..."

Abi Sutherland has a great post on this on Making Light:

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Loomio: democratic decision-making tool inspired by Occupy


Here's a good writeup of Loomio, a collective decision-making tool that is raising funds to add features, stability and polish to its free/open source codebase. Loomio grew out of the experience of Occupy's attempt to create inclusive, democratic processes, and attempt to simplify the Liquid Feedback tool widely used by Pirate Parties to resolve complex policy questions.

I'm very interested in this kind of collective action tool -- I wrote about a fictionalized version in Lawful Interception that allowed crowds of people to coordinate their movement without leaders or hierarchy -- and Loomio seems to have a good mix of political savvy, technical knowhow, and design sense.

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Why the hyper-rich turn into crybabies when "one percent" is invoked

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal published a letter by Tom Perkins (the "Perkins" in the venture capital firm "Kleiner Perkins") in which he compared rhetoric about the unjust riches of the "1 percent" to the events of Kristallnacht, the overture to the Holocaust. In a terrific editorial, Josh Marshall explains why the hyper-rich turn into such crybabies when it's pointed out that they've gamed the system so that they grow richer and richer while everyone else gets poorer:

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Ukraine government sends text to protesters: "Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance"


Ukraine's dictatorship is revelling in its new, self-appointed dictatorial powers. The million-plus participants in the latest round of protests received a text-message from the government reading Dear subscriber, you are registered as a participant in a mass disturbance.

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Oxfam: 85 richest humans own more than all assets held by half the human race


A new Oxfam report entitled Working for the Few (PDF), documents a "power grab" by the world's wealthy super-elite, who have amassed astonishing assets while the rest of the world grew poorer. Not only do the top 1% of the world's richest own 65 times more than the world's poorest 50%, but the 85 richest people own more than half the world. Oxfam is clear that this wealth expansion at the top is the result of a horribly corrupt political process by which elected representatives end up making policies to enrich the already-wealthy.

They're at Davos this week, asking the world's elites to pledge support for progressive taxation; an end to tax-avoidance; an end to financial corruption of legislation and policy; transparency in their own fortunes; universal healthcare, education and social protection; and a living wage for all.

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