US infrastructure spending as a proportion of GDP is at a low not seen since WWII, and that's why America's bridges, dams, roads, power plants and other key infrastructure are such easy fodder for Hurricane Harvey (and the impending Irma devastation). Trump's plan for infrastructure spending is a "ludicrous patchwork of tax breaks and privatizations" that will do nothing to solve the problem. Read the rest
America paid about $16 billion to five companies last year for 80% of our contracted domestic and international surveillance: Leidos Holdings, CSRA Inc., SAIC, CACI International, and Booz Allen Hamilton, recently in the news following an employee arrest on cyberweapons theft charges.
Tim Shorrock at The Nation did the legwork to to come up with the numbers.
“The problem with just five companies providing the lion’s share of contractors is that the client, the U.S. government, won’t have much alternative when a company screws up,” says David Isenberg, the author of Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq. [...] “There comes a point when the marketplace is so concentrated that the service provider simply becomes too big to fail, no matter how lousy their performance,” says Isenberg, who closely monitors the privatization of national-security work. “If that makes you think of the financial-services industry, well, that’s exactly what I’m talking about.”
• 5 Corporations Now Dominate Our Privatized Intelligence Industry (The Nation)
Image: Thomas Tolkein Read the rest
In a lead editorial in the current Nature, John Wilbanks (formerly head of Science Commons, now "Chief Commons Officer" for Sage Bionetworks) and Eric Topol (professor of genomics at the Scripps Institute) decry the mass privatization of health data by tech startups, who're using a combination of side-deals with health authorities/insurers and technological lockups to amass huge databases of vital health information that is not copyrighted or copyrightable, but is nevertheless walled off from open research, investigation and replication. Read the rest
A scorching editorial by public education advocate Marion Brady describes the 30 year program of sneak-attacks on public education in America. It starts by whipping up fear that foreign workforces are "eating our lunch" because of education standards in the US (rather than, say, multinationals taking jobs to places with lower wages and fewer labor protections), then blaming "unaccountable" teachers and insisting on charters, de-unionization, standardized testing (which can be used to prove that teachers aren't "accountable") and standardized curriculum (so there's something to test on the standardized test). Read the rest