"Nothing in life is truly free" -Billionaire heiress Betsy Devos, explaining to Bernie Sanders why your kids won't get free college tuition

Convicted election fraudster and public education opponent Betsy Devos made her billions through hard work -- really, you can't overstate the effort required to emerge from the loins of someone who married a rich guy, nor the work of later marrying someone else who emerged from the loins someone who married a rich guy. Read the rest

Reminder: if you have one penny, your net worth is equal to the combined wealth of the world's poorest 40%

Every year, Oxfam publishes a headline number about global wealth inequality that takes this form: "The richest X people own more than the poorest Y billion people on Earth" (some examples: 2014, 2016, 2017, UK edition). Read the rest

The World Wealth and Income Database: data and visualizations from 110 researchers in 70 countries

Thomas "Capital in the 21st Century" Piketty endorses the World Wealth and Income Database, where you will find "open and convenient access to the most extensive available database on the historical evolution of the global distribution of income and wealth, both within countries and between countries" in English, with upcoming translations in Chinese, Spanish, Arabic and French. Read the rest

Obama's legacy: eight years of not holding executives criminally responsible for their companies' misdeeds

The most remarkable criminal justice story of 2017 is that the FBI has arrested a real corporate criminal, a VW executive who tried to engineer a coverup of the Dieselgate scandal, and that he might go to jail -- it's remarkable because the Obama administration spent eight years resolutely not sending criminal executives to jail, preferring instead to let their corporations buy their way out of criminal sanctions with huge fines, a doctrine pioneered by Obama Attorney General Eric Holder back when he worked for Bill Clinton's administration. But while Clinton rejected this idea, Obama put it into practice. Read the rest

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

Politics got weird because neoliberalism failed to deliver

Ian Welsh says that the USSR collapsed because its promises -- "a cornucopia and a withering away of the state" -- conspicuously failed to materialize; now, neoliberalism's promises ("If the rich have more money, they will create more jobs; Lower taxes will lead to more prosperity; Increases in housing and stock market prices will increase prosperity for everyone; Trade deals and globalization will make everyone better off") are likewise being shown to be lies, and so we're in crisis. 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

EFF is gathering data on illegal surveillance of Dakota Access Pipeline water protectors

During the Standing Rock confrontations, the Electronic Frontier Foundation got reports of police use of IMSI Catchers -- secretive surveillance devices used to gather data from nearby cellphones, often called Stingrays or Dirtboxes -- so it dispatched lawyers and technologists to monitor the situation, and filed 20 public records requests with law enforcement agencies. 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

America: a welcome home for corrupt foreign politicians and businesspeople

Some of the most notorious criminals of South and Central America and China have resettled to the USA with money they looted from their countries' treasuries or defrauded their fellow citizens of. Read the rest

Apple's tax-dodging offshore billions are sunk into Treasury Bills that pay out using Americans' taxes

Apple -- which is one of the multinational poster children for tax dodging, along with Google, Amazon, Ikea and others -- has billions of dollars "offshore" and in theory they can't bring that money into the USA without paying tax on it; but thanks to some fancy accounting, much of that money is sunk into US Treasury Bills (floated by the government Apple is starving through tax evasion), and the US taxpayers pay Apple, about $600M so far. 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

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

Italy's referendum: a vote against neoliberalism and authoritarianism

Soon-to-be-former Italian PM Matteo Renzi just lost a referendum he called on a set of reforms to Italy's constitution, promising to resign if he lost, which he did; many of Italy's far-right, trumpist and berlusconian elements latched onto the No side of the referendum and pitched it as a kind of Italian version of Brexit, a poll on whether Italy would be another stronghold of gamergate-inflected neo-fascism. Read the rest

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