Catastrophes are reliable levelers of inequality; inequality creates catastrophes

Stanford history and classics professor Walter Scheidel writes in the Atlantic that the only reliable ways for unequal societies to become more equal is to suffer catastrophes that upend the order of things; Scheidel concludes that our modern, unequal state may not be able to avail itself of a convenient catastrophe for this purpose because "Technology has made mass warfare obsolete; violent, redistributive revolution has lost its appeal; most states are more resilient than they used to be; and advances in genetics will help humanity ward off novel germs." Read the rest

Cyberarms dealer's weapons used against Mexican soda-tax activists

NSO is an Israel cyberarms dealer, which buys or researches vulnerabilities in software and then weaponizes them; claiming that these cyberweapons will only be used by democratic governments and their police forces to attacks serious criminals and terrorists -- a claim repeated by its competitors, such as Italy's Hacking Team and Gamma Group. Read the rest

Now in the UK! Pre-order signed copies of the first edition hardcover of Walkaway, my first adult novel since Makers

The UK's Forbidden Planet is now offering signed hardcovers of Walkaway, my first novel for adults since 2009 -- this is in addition to the signed US hardcovers being sold by Barnes and Noble. Read the rest

Piketty: the poorest half of Americans saw a "total collapse" in their share of the country's wealth

In a new analysis of the World Income Database published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, Thomas Piketty and colleagues from the Paris School of Economics and UC Berkeley, describe a "collapse" of the share of US national wealth claimed by the bottom 50% of the country -- down to 12% from 20% in 1978 -- along with an (unsurprising) drop in income for the poorest half of America. Read the rest

Multigenerational wealth makes white Americans richer than black Americans

Black American wage disparity can be offset by education; but even though black American families -- one parent, two parent, educated, uneducated, employed, unemployed -- save more and spend less than their white counterparts, white families have substantially more wealth than black families -- college-educated white adults have 7.2 times the wealth of their black counterparts. Read the rest

FBI offers employers alerts when their employees are arrested, regardless of charges or convictions

The FBI's Rap Back ("Record of Arrest and Prosecution Background") system is a service that employers can use to continuously monitor their employees' criminal and arrest records, getting alerts when an employee with a "clean" record is alleged to have gotten into some kind of trouble. Read the rest

It used to take 3 years for a British family to save for a home down-payment; now it takes 20 years

The Resolution Foundation's Living Standards 2017 is an eye-opening look at the current state of the British experiment in allowing wealth inequality to expand without any check, to use a combination of austerity, the elimination of protection for tenants, reckless lending, offshore money-laundering and public subsidies for speculators to turn the human necessity of shelter into the nation's leading asset-class. Read the rest

Financial Times columnist advocates imprisoning dirty corporate executives

Rolls Royce just arranged for a "deferred prosecution" with UK prosecutors over revelations that it had committed jailable offenses by bribing overseas officials in order to secure their business; under this arrangement, prosecutors have allowed Rolls Royce to pay to have the prosecution halted and to have their executives immunized from criminal repercussions for their actions. Read the rest

"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

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