Manhattan: a city of empty luxury condos and overflowing homeless shelters

New York's luxury real-estate market has been in freefall for years, and now the city's super-luxe buildings are sitting empty -- even as property prices in the city remain stubbornly high, prompting 300 New Yorkers to move out of the city every day, and filling the homeless shelters to capacity and beyond. Read the rest

Welcome to 2020 and your annual State of the World discussion with Bruce Sterling, Jon Lebkowsky and The WELL

Every year (20190, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2014, 2012, 2010, 2007, 2005) Bruce Sterling and Jon Lebkowsky conduct a public salon with the users of The WELL on the "State of the World." It's always one of the highlights of the new year for me, and this year (which Sterling calls the first year in his life when it's "hard to find any genuine technical novelty") is off to an especially chewy and interesting start. Read the rest

The New Deal was partly motivated by a desire to kill the fake news epidemic of the Gilded Age

100 years ago, wealthy people bought up newspapers as fast as they could, then used them to smear progressive reformers, inventing lies ("Congressmen don't pay taxes!") to discredit the entire project of dismantling American oligarchy. Read the rest

Everything you wanted to know about money-laundering but were afraid to ask

"If we were serious about crime, we’d take most of the cops off the streets and replace them with accountants": this, from the introduction to CZ Edwards' amazing Twitter thread about the nuts-and-bolts of money-laundering and how it applies to modern geopolitics, including Trump's assassination of an Iranian government official and the role that Trump's real-estate, failed businesses and casinos played in the global money-laundry, without which most serious crime would collapse. Read the rest

The 2010s were the decade of Citizens United

Slate has dubbed the 2010s as the decade of Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that paved the way for unlimited, anonymous corporate election spending. In 2010, the year of Citizens United, the largest political donors were Robert and Doylene Perry ($7.5m for Republicans); in 2019, it was Sheldon and Miriam Adelson ($122m). Read the rest

The Oligarch Game: use coin-tosses to demonstrate "winner take all" and its power to warp perceptions

Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle created The Game of Oligarchy, which "shows that the 'free market' leads inexorably to one person getting all the money and everyone else going broke. And fast." Read the rest

Civil society groups protest the sale of .ORG to a private equity fund and a collection of Republican billionaires

Earlier this month, management of the .org top-level domain underwent a radical shift: first, ICANN dropped price-caps on .org domains, and then the Internet Societ (ISOC) flogged the registry off to Ethos Capital, a private equity fund, and a consortium of three families of Republican billionaires: the Perots, the Romneys, and the Johnsons. Read the rest

Trump pledged that Amazon would be forced to pay its taxes; thanks to his #taxscam, their profits went up and their taxes stayed $0.00

Amazon's tax bill in 2017 was $0. Trump was very vocal in his disgust at this situation and pledged he would make them pay their fair share. It's been a year, and Amazon's profits are way up ($11.2 billion!) but their tax bill remains precisely $0.00. Thank the #taxscam. Read the rest

Terabytes of data leaked from an oligarch-friendly offshore bank

The Distributed Denial of Secrets Twitter account has published links to terabytes of data identified as raw data from the Cayman National Bank and Trust; Phineas Fisher (previously), the public-interest hacker(s) behind the Hacking Team breach, is credited with the leak. Read the rest

Trump's signature tax break for poor people went to subsidize a superyacht marina in Florida

Trump's 2017 #taxscam transferred more than a trillion dollars to the richest people in America, but when Trump talks about it, he likes to tout the bill's "opportunity zone" provisions that provided massive tax breaks to investors who put money into places that would supposedly create jobs and housing for poor Americans. Read the rest

The world's "free trade zones": hives of scum and villainy

Institutions like the IMF like to encourage poor countries to set up "free trade zones" (AKA "freeports," "special economic zones," etc): effectively unregulated import/export zones where environmental, labor, tax, customs, financial and other rules are either nonexistent or much looser than in the rest of the country. These are billed as a means to stimulate the local economy by bringing in international corporations. Read the rest

The corrupt Brazilian prosecutors who locked up Lula now want to release him, to make him less sympathetic

In 2017, Brazil's "anti-corruption task force" secured a conviction against the incredibly popular former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had enacted a series of reforms that addressed the country's longstanding issues of corruption, racial discrimination and inequality. Read the rest

Having burnished their reputations with extravagant promises, the billionaires who pledged €600m. to rebuild Notre Dame are missing in action

Philanthropy is theoretically an expression of generosity and fellow-feeling, but in an increasingly unequal world, charitable giving is a form of reputation laundering for super-rich oligarchs who build their massive fortunes on savage programs of exploitation and immiseration. The idea is that you can paper over the fact that deliberately starting the opioid crisis made you richer than the Rockefellers by having your name plastered all over the world's leading art galleries and museums. Read the rest

Billionaire newspaper monopolist family cancels editorial cartoonist after anti-Trump drawing

Canada's Irving family is one of the richest in the world, owning more land than anyone except the British royals and the Catholic church; they also own virtually all the media in New Brunswick, as well as the industries that those newspapers cover, and they augment their media control over the public discourse with a ruthless approach to their critics. Read the rest

The UK grew rich by looting the world; now it launders billions for other looters

The British empire was a globe-spanning criminal enterprise that produced vast riches for England (and, to a lesser extent, Scotland and Wales) by stealing the lands of others while slaughtering and enslaving them; today the empire is in decline and the UK is no longer reliant on direct looting. Read the rest

Big Tech lobbyists and "open for business" Tories killed Ontario's Right-to-Repair legislation

In February, Liberal Party opposition MPP Michael Coteau introduced Right to Repair legislation after he was charged $400 to fix the cracked screen on his daughter's Samsung phone; that bill is now dead, as are dozens of Right to Repair bills introduced in US state houses, after Conservative MPs, heavily lobbied by US Big Tech firms, killed it before it could proceed to committee. Read the rest

What's wrong with blaming "information" for political chaos

David Perell's 13,000 word essay, "What the Hell is Going On?" presents a reassuring -- and contrarian -- view on how our current dysfunction in politics, media, and business has come to pass, drawing on orthodox economic theories about "information asymmetry" in a way that makes the whole thing seem like a kind of adjustment period between a middling old world and a fine new one. Read the rest

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