Tim Wu runs for New York State Lieutenant Governor, promising to clamp down on big business


Tim Wu, the Columbia law professor who coined the term "Net Neutrality," is running for Lieutenant Governor of New York State on a leftist, reform platform that starts with blocking the Comcast/Time-Warner merger. Wu wrote The Master Switch, a brilliant 2010 novel on the history of networks and competition in America, and his paper Copyright's Communications Policy is a classic.

I've known Tim for more than 30 years; we went to the same small alternative elementary school in Toronto together. I rate him as one of the best thinkers and activists on these issues around and wish him the best of luck. If I were a New York voter, he'd have my vote.

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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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Podcast: News from the future for Wired UK

Here's a reading (MP3) of a short story I wrote for the July, 2014 issue of Wired UK in the form of a news dispatch from the year 2024 -- specifically, a parliamentary sketch from a raucous Prime Minister's Question Time where a desperate issue of computer security rears its head:

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How Hayek bred a race of elite monsters

Though he's been dead for more than 20 years, Friedrich Hayek is the darling of the free market, practically a saint. But as Bill Black explains, Hayek's predictions -- used to justify and glorify unlimited enrichment of the ruling class -- never came true, and the states that followed his prescriptions most closely ended up the barbaric situation that he warned about in re-distributive democracies.

As the gap between the rich and the poor widens, as the proportion of GDP that goes to "guard labor" in our militarized police forces and our bulging private prisons, as the most corrupt captains of industry grow richer while the rest of us are faced with an old age in poverty -- and a working life dominated by caring for our own sick and elderly relations -- it's worth reviewing Hayek's record, and the greedy, selfish, corrupt world it produced.

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Dada vs Hitler: the anti-Nazi collages of John Heartfield


In the runup to WWII (and during it) Dadaist photographer John Heartfield and his collaborator George Grosz produced a startling series of anti-Nazi collages that echo through to today's practice of political shooping. An informative Metafilter post by Adamvasco has lots more links.

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House Republican leader defeated by Tea Party challenger

LORDSOFTHEMANOR

USA Today: "The demise of the Tea Party has been greatly exaggerated."

How Heinlein went from socialist to right-wing libertarian


A review in the New Republic of volume two of the authorized biography of Robert A Heinlein takes the biographer, William H Patterson, to task for his uncritical approach to Heinlein's famously all-over-the-place politics. But there is enough (uncritical) details in the book that the reviewer feels able to parse out Heinlein's swing from socialist to right-wing libertarian (here's my review of part one).

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Dystopia Tracker: science fiction fears that have come to pass

Dystopia Tracker collects the "predictions"* of science fictional dystopias and examines the ways in which they've come true. You can add your own, or suggest ways in which they've come to pass.

*Science fiction doesn't really predict anything except the present. Even sf writers who think they're predicting the future are (like all of us) so mired in the technological fears and hopes of the day that their work ends up telling you more about that than any future.

Dystopia Tracker

Help raise $5M in 30 days to send anti-corruption politicians to America with Mayday.US PAC

More than 90% of Americans believe that the US government is unduly influenced by money, and the Mayday.US super PAC is raising $5M to fund the election campaigns of politicians who'll pledge to dismantle super PACs and enact other campaign finance reforms. They raised more than $1M in 30 days last month, and this month, the goal is $5M. It's the brainchild of Lawrence Lessig, who's going to prototype the project by running five electoral campaigns in 2014, and use the lessons of those projects to win enough anti-corruption seats in 2016 to effect real change.

Again, I'm not able to contribute to Mayday.US, because I'm a Canadian and Briton. But I ask my American friends to put in $10, and promise that I'll put CAD1000 into any comparable Canadian effort and/or £1000 into a comparable UK effort. We all win when countries embrace evidence-based policy guided by doing what's best for its citizens, rather than lining the pockets of corrupting multinationals.

Mayday.US (Thanks, Brian!)

Let the People Draw the Lines Act: longshot bill to fight gerrymandering

Let the People Draw the Lines Act, a bill introduced by Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), would appoint panels of independent experts to adjust electoral district boundaries in an attempt to remove the "safe seats" created through gerrymandering, by which electoral districts are torturously redrawn to include as many voters likely to keep the incumbent in and to exclude everyone else. As Wonkblog explains, the bill is a long-shot, but it's also a shining example of the kind of legislation that fights corruption and creates a climate of real representative democracy. The fact that this bill is wildly unlikely to pass doesn't make it laughable: it makes Congress irredeemable.

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Red states are most dependent on federal money


Wallethub compared the direct and indirect federal subsidy to all 50 states and DC by comparing federal taxes remitted; federal funding as a fraction of state revenue; and number of federal jobs per capita and produced a ranked list of the states with the greatest federal dependency. Unsurprisingly, the top ten are overwhelmingly Republican dominated "red" states with low state taxes and low average per-capita incomes thanks to harsh labor laws -- these states necessarily depend on federal money to make up the shortfall from their own politically expedient tax-holidays, and lack the robust middle-class who pay the largest percentage of their income in tax.

The top ten in order of dependency are Mississippi, New Mexico, Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Montana, Tennessee, South Dakota and Arizona. The five states most independent of federal subsidy are (in order): Delaware, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Connecticut.

The article is good and full of interesting footnotes -- for example, Delaware's seeming independence is largely illusory, an artifact of its stock franchise tax drawn from out-of-state companies.

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Colbert viewers learned more about super PACs than news-junkies


In Stephen Colbert's Civics Lesson: How Colbert Super PAC Taught Viewers About Campaign Finance in Mass Communication and Society [paywalled], a study by researchers at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, scholars surveyed people whose knowledge of campaign finance issues came from watching The Colbert Report's segments on super PACs. They concluded that, when compared to people who learned about campaign finance from traditional news sources (as opposed to a satirical program), Colbert viewers had a better grasp of the issues, thanks to the satirical structure and the use of narrative. The study specifically calls out the traditional reporterly convention of the "inverted pyramid" as a poor way to capture interest and convey nuance to an audience.

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FCC's website crashes, John Oliver's army of Cable Company Fuckery trolls blamed

The FCC's website has fallen over, and many blame John Oliver's incandescent exhortation to Internet trolls to flood the Commission with comments about its assault on Net Neutrality (or support of "Cable Company Fuckery"). The comedy potential is rich ("Hey, FCC, you shoulda paid Comcast for the fast lane, huh?") but to be fair, I think it's equally possible that the site's been brought to its knees by a denial-of-service attack.

FCC Website Hobbled By Comment Trolls Incited By Comedian John Oliver

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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Canadian scientists accuse govt of using junk science to prop up pipeline

Dave Ng sez, "The Canadian government is poised to once again abhor evidence-based decision making. 300 scientists have looked over the Joint Review Panel Report that is being used to push forward the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project have concluded that it 'has so many systemic errors and omissions, we can only consider it a failure.'"

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