September 19, 2018 State of the Union

 

Wall Street Plutocrats

“Ten Years After the Crash, We’ve Learned Nothing” [Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi] “history is written by the victors, and the banks that blew up the economy are somehow still winning the narrative. Persistent propaganda about what happened 10 years ago not only continues to warp news coverage, but contributed to a wide array of political consequences, including the election of Donald Trump.” ♣ Well worth the read. Keep the blood pressure medicine handy

“Ten Years After The Financial Crisis, The Contagion Has Spread To Democracy Itself” [HuffPost] “Except they didn’t really rescue the banking system. They transformed it into an unaccountable criminal syndicate. In the years since the crash, the biggest Wall Street banks have been caught laundering drug money, violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba, bribing foreign government officials, making illegal campaign contributions to a state regulator and manipulating the market for U.S. government debt. Citibank, JPMorgan, Royal Bank of Scotland, Barclays and UBS even pleaded guilty to felonies for manipulating currency markets. Not a single human being has served a day in jail for any of it. The financial crisis that reached its climax on that Monday morning 10 years ago was not fundamentally a problem of capital, liquidity or regulation. It was a crisis of democracy that taught middle-class families a grim lesson about who really mattered in American society ― and who didn’t count.”

“JP Morgan Is Investing $500 Million in Reviving US Cities” [Quartz] “The bank is taking applications from cities until November and will announce the winning cities by the middle of next year. In that, JPMorgan follows in the footsteps of Amazon, which turned location-hunting for its second US headquarters into something more akin to America’s Next Top Model, forcing US cities to bid against each other to land the $5 billion complex.”      ♣ 21st century feudalism 

Mmmm…”Study shows synchronous human energy consumption over the past 10,000 years” [PhysOrg]

Silicon Valley Plutocrats

“Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announces $2 billion fund to build preschools, help homeless families” [USA Today] ♣ Maybe he could just pay his employees a living wage and not make them urinate in bottles out of fear of being punished for taking a break.

“Google Is Handing the Future of the Internet to China” [Foreign Policy] “The ethical dilemmas raised by Google’s plans are sweeping. For Chinese individuals who somehow cross the government, the prospect of being erased from existence on Google is a new and dehumanizing digital version of being declared stateless, persona non grata, or otherwise unworthy of the right to simply exist in the country in which you live. For ordinary users who take advantage of Google’s services, the government’s right to access personal data—such as search histories—housed on corporate servers would be absolute….Moreover, once it has re-established its leverage over Google, Beijing is unlikely to confine its demands within its borders. This year, China demanded that global airlines begin to list Taiwan as part of China, not just within the mainland, but on all websites, fare listings, and promotions globally. Almost all carriers complied immediately. With the growth of China’s film market, Hollywood studios now factor in Chinese censors in the production of action movies in order to ensure that the final cuts—slated for global release—pass muster with the country’s minders. The result is that major blockbusters are written and filmed to avoid irking Beijing. The growing influence of Chinese government-funded Confucius Institutes at U.S. universities has resulted in a shadowy hand of censorship being felt at academic conferences and on campuses.”

“Strap on the Fitbit: John Hancock to sell only interactive life insurance” [Yahoo Finance] “John Hancock, one of the oldest and largest North American life insurers, will stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices and smartphones” ♣ Just kill me.

“The Super Rich of Silicon Valley Have a Doomsday Escape Plan” [Bloomberg] “The remote island nation, clinging to the southern part of the globe 2,500 miles off Australia’s coast, has 4.8 million people and six times as many sheep. It has a reputation for natural beauty, easy networking, low-key politicians who bike to work, and rental prices half those of the San Francisco Bay Area. That makes it an increasingly popular destination not only for those fretting about impending dystopia, but for tech entrepreneurs seeking incubators for nurturing startups.” ♣ They sure love their sheep.

“The tech elite is making a power-grab for public education” [Code Acts in Education] “Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and other super-wealthy Silicon Valley actors, are forming alternative visions and approaches to education from pre-school through primary and high schooling to university. They’re the new power-elite of education and their influence is spreading.”

Lest we forget…”Silicon Valley parents are raising their kids tech-free — and it should be a red flag” [Business Insider]

 

Living the American Dream

“Black Patients Miss Out On Promising Cancer Drugs” [ProPublica] “A ProPublica analysis found that black people and Native Americans are under-represented in clinical trials of new drugs, even when the treatment is aimed at a type of cancer that disproportionately affects them.”

“Robots Will Probably Help Care For You When You’re Old” [Quartz] ♣ Please just kill me.

“The Perfect Storm: How Climate Change and Wall Street Almost Killed Puerto Rico” [Rolling Stone] “It would be easy to dismiss the death and destruction in Puerto Rico as a freak event, a sorry collision of politics, economics and Mother Nature. In fact, what happened in Puerto Rico was a powerful warning that preparing for life in the new normal is about a lot more than updating building codes and convening blue-ribbon commissions to study sea-level rise and extreme-rain events. The story of rebuilding Puerto Rico demonstrates that virtually no aspect of our current way of life, including our legal and financial systems, is ready for what’s coming our way.” 

“Tell Me It’s Going to Be OK” [The Baffler] We crave hearing that we’re alright, we’re not alone, we’re accepted in spite of our flaws. Belonging is an essential human need. (Fascists understand this basic fact; neoliberals don’t.) Loneliness, it turns out, negatively affects not only our psychological well-being, but also our physical health. And yet we have apparently chosen, via liberal democracy, to live according to a system of social organization that requires us to be jumpy paranoids, suspicious of everyone and terrified of our own potential mistakes. Believers in capitalist liberal democracies may cluck at the over-the-top Maoist inquisitions devoted to revolutionary self-criticism, but our society encourages us to practice the same extravagant self-loathing, only privately. That’s why America’s vast therapeutic brain trust has steadily eradicated the language of solidarity and class consciousness, honed through collective struggle, and replaced it with exhortations to “do what you love” and “live your best life.” Both aphorisms imply that what we’re currently doing is not enough.

“Martin Shkreli Proves that Your Life Is Meaningless to Elites” [Ian Welsh] “So, a lot of people are happy that Shkreli, the infamous “pharma bro” who raised the price of Daraprim, a 62 year old life saving drug used for serious parasite infections and to treat HIV, by 5,500 percent has been sentenced to jail for seven years. The catch is that he was sentenced for securities fraud not for jacking up the price of the drug.Yes, that’s because securities fraud is illegal, but killing people by jacking up drug prices isn’t. And that’s the point. Your betters don’t want someone cheating them, but they don’t care if you live or die.”

“Insulin’s High Cost Leads To Lethal Rationing” [NPR] “Diabetic ketoacidosis is a terrible way to die. It’s what happens when you don’t have enough insulin. Your blood sugar gets so high that your blood becomes highly acidic, your cells dehydrate, and your body stops functioning. Diabetic ketoacidosis is how Nicole Smith-Holt lost her son. Three days before his payday. Because he couldn’t afford his insulin.”

“Medical Crowdfunding Guide” [GoFundMe] ♣ Truly enlightening. Reading through some of the campaigns really provides a sense of our national despair.

“Crowdfunding for Medical Expenses is Rising – When it Should Be Eradicated” [LA Times]

“Fundraisers for Sick Restaurant Employees Represent the Failure of American Health Care” [Eater] “Raising money for sick workers isn’t making up for a flaw in the restaurant industry; it’s making up for the fact that there’s no safety net for anyone.”

 

The Wasteland

“The Trouble With Uplift: How black politics succumbed to the siren song of the racial voice” [The Baffler, Adolph Reed] “we continue to indulge the politically wrong-headed, counterproductive, and even reactionary features of the “representative black voice” industry in whatever remains of our contemporary public sphere. And we never reckon with the truly disturbing presumption that any black person who can gain access to the public microphone and performs familiar rituals of “blackness” should be recognized as expressing significant racial truths and deserves our attention. This presumption rests on the unexamined premise that blacks share a common, singular mind that is at once radically unknowable to non-blacks and readily downloaded by any random individual setting up shop as a racial voice. And despite what all of our age’s many heroic narratives of individualist race-first triumph may suggest to the casual viewer, that premise is the essence of racism.”

Exports

“Made in America: Shrapnel found in Yemen ties US bombs to string of civilian deaths over course of bloody civil war” [CNN?!]

 

On the Bright Side

HOW A RAGTAG GROUP OF OREGON LOCALS TOOK ON THE BIGGEST CHEMICAL COMPANIES IN WORLD — AND WON [The Intercept]

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