Posts Tagged ‘corpocracy’
* Reviews of Disability in Science Fiction at Tor and wordgathering focus on my chapter in particular, each taking up a different half of it; read them together and you get a pretty good sense of what I was on about.
* Confirm your suspicions about who the worst people at Gawker are: What Should Be Done About Detroit? A Gawker Internal Debate.
* Boy with Asthma Dies After School Confiscates His Inhaler. “Zero tolerance policy against asthma inhalers.”
* That’s not what the Left wants. We want to give people the chance to do something else with their lives, something besides merely tending to it, without having to take a 30-year detour on Wall Street to get there. The way to do that is not to immerse people even more in the ways and means of the market, but to give them time and space to get out of it. That’s what a good welfare state, real social democracy, does: rather than being consumed by life, it allows you to make your life. Freely. One less bell to answer, not one more.
* A team of scientists led by chemist Richard Kaner had just finished devising an efficient method for producing high-quality sheets of the Nobel-prize winning supermaterial known as graphene — with a consumer-grade DVD drive. That was groundbreaking in and of itself, but the real surprise came when Maher El-Kady, a researcher in Kaner’s lab, wired a small square of their high quality carbon sheets up to a lightbulb.
* More massive profits for banks. I guess the crisis really is over!
* Tennant says he’s starting to ‘give up hope’ for Who 50th return. You bastards. This was a gimme.
* Foreman Says These Jobs Are Going Boys, and They Ain’t Coming Back: Bob Dylan Lays Off 2,000 Workers From Songwriting Factory.
“This is a rapidly evolving industry, and frankly, there’s no way we can compete by relying on equipment and a manufacturing process that haven’t changed much since the 1970s,” said Valentine, noting that Watchtower’s board of directors had already broken ground on piano and Hammond organ facilities in Taiwan. “Despite our best efforts to continue assembling songs the old-fashioned way, we can’t overlook the increased efficiencies offered by fully automated symbolism generators and the use of mass-produced chorus components.”
* Toxic lies about culture are afoot in Silicon Valley. But I suspect other industries will recognize themselves in this discourse too.
We make sure to hire people who are a cultural fit
What your culture might actually be saying is… We have implemented a loosely coordinated social policy to ensure homogeneity in our workforce. We are able to reject qualified, diverse candidates on the grounds that they “aren’t a culture fit” while not having to examine what that means – and it might mean that we’re all white, mostly male, mostly college-educated, mostly young/unmarried, mostly binge drinkers, mostly from a similar work background. We tend to hire within our employees’ friend and social groups. Because everyone we work with is a great culture fit, which is code for “able to fit in without friction,” we are all friends and have an unhealthy blur between social and work life. Because everyone is a “great culture fit,” we don’t have to acknowledge employee alienation and friction between individuals or groups. The desire to continue being a “culture fit” means it is harder for employees to raise meaningful critique and criticism of the culture itself.
* Star Wars we can believe in: LucasArts rumored to be developing a Knights of the Old Republic film.
* And a Montana Bill Would Give Corporations The Right To Vote. Not an Onion link! Not an imaginary story!
Democracy ‘Has a Hidden Failure Mode, We’ve Landed in It, and We Probably Won’t Be Able to Vote Ourselves Out of It’
The great Charlie Stross, elaborating on his sense that we are living in the aftermath of an alien invasion:
Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. They have done so by converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the “peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off” mechanism that prevents revolutions…
So the future isn’t a boot stamping on a human face, forever. It’s a person in a beige business outfit advocating beige policies that nobody wants (but nobody can quite articulate a coherent alternative to) with a false mandate obtained by performing rituals of representative democracy that offer as much actual choice as a Stalinist one-party state. And resistance is futile, because if you succeed in overthrowing the beige dictatorship, you will become that which you opposed.
* Great research opportunity for any PhD student studying science fiction, fantasy, horror, and/or utopia: the R.D. Mullen Fellowship. I loved the time I spent in that archive.
* CFP: The cultural impact of Dr. Who, at DePaul University. Saturday, May 4.
* On Getting a Ph.D. This is stirring, but all the same my unhappy advice hasn’t really changed since the last time a rebuttal to the just-don’t-go doomsayers was making the rounds.
* …But the most unfortunate part is that not one of the expert-amateurs seems to have given much thought to what MOOCs imply: that teachers are unnecessary. MOOCs don’t use teachers; they have curriculum designers and they have video presenters. Actors are the best for that latter role, seriously.
“If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it,” McCrory said. “But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
Again, I’d personally be very surprised if those gender studies classes weren’t paying for themselves and more.
* The wisdom of the market, in all its glorious efficiency: Confessions of a corporate spy.
* Over the last three months wind farms produced more electricity than any other power source in Spain for the first time ever, an industry group has said. To steal a line from Twitter: oh, if only we had wind!
ES: There’s a particular quote that I’ve seen as signatures in military forums or quoted, and for some reason military members identify it. That’s Tigh’s New Caprica silioquoy: “Which side are we on? We’re on the side of the demons, chief. We’re evil men in the gardens of paradise, sent by the forces of death to spread devastation and destruction wherever we go. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.” Why do you think that quote resonates with veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq in particular?
Parts 3 and 4 coming soon.
* The latest from Randall Munroe’s “What If?”: Will the Internet ever surpass FedEx’s bandwidth? What would happen if you tried to fly a normal Earth airplane above different Solar System bodies? What if I took a swim in a typical spent nuclear fuel pool?
* Special pleading watch: nearly all of the 600 recess appointments since the Reagan presidency would have been nullified if the hyperformalist interpretation applied to Barack Obama were applied universally.
* Some local pride! Milwaukee in top ten list for best urban forests.
* The e-Rater’s biggest problem, he says, is that it can’t identify truth. He tells students not to waste time worrying about whether their facts are accurate, since pretty much any fact will do as long as it is incorporated into a well-structured sentence. “E-Rater doesn’t care if you say the War of 1812 started in 1945,” he said. As Kevin Drum notes, this may less a bug than a feature in these benighted times.
Of course, all of us should be honored to be listed on the TIME 100 alongside the two men who will be slugging it out in the fall: President Obama, and the man who would defeat him, David Koch.
Give it up everybody. David Koch.
Little known fact — David, nice to see you again, sir.
Little known fact, David’s brother Charles Koch is actually even more influential. Charles pledged $40 million to defeat President Obama, David only $20 million. That’s kind of cheap, Dave.
Sure, he’s all for buying the elections, but when the bill for democracy comes up, Dave’s always in the men’s room. I’m sorry, I must have left Wisconsin in my other coat.
I was particularly excited to meet David Koch earlier tonight because I have a Super PAC, Colbert Super PAC, and I am — thank you, thank you — and I am happy to announce Mr. Koch has pledged $5 million to my Super PAC. And the great thing is, thanks to federal election law, there’s no way for you to ever know whether that’s a joke.
By the way, if David Koch likes his waiter tonight, he will be your next congressman.
* Podcast of the day: “Bombing Savages in Law, in Fact, in Fiction” from Sven Lindqvist.
Last quick point on student loans: If I am driving around while texting, and I negligently run over and kill a child, or if I am in a gambling institution and I have an 11 and the dealer has an ace, and I mistakenly double down and get a huge gambling debt—those kind of debts—hurting someone, killing someone, gambling debts, or all kinds of other debts—are treated less harshly under our bankruptcy code than the debts associated with trying to educate yourself. Student loans are the most repressive kind of debts under the legal structures that we have. These are democratic bills. People voted for them. Hillary Clinton voted for the 2005 bankruptcy bill. Biden voted for it; Biden pushed it. These are things we have chosen, and they are incredibly repressive for student debts.
* Academic advice: How to apply for things.
* zunguzungu explains the albatross on Johnny Depp’s brain.
* “ ‘Moby-Dick’ is about the oil industry,” they said. “And the Ship of American State. The owners of the Pequod are rapacious and stingy religious hypocrites. The ship’s business is to butcher whales and turn them into an industrial energy product. The mates are the middle management. The harpooners, who are from races colonized by America one way or another, are supplying the expert tech labor. Elijah the prophet — from the American artist caste — foretells the Pequod’s doom, which comes about because the chief executive, Ahab, is a megalomaniac who wants to annihilate nature.
“Nature is symbolized by a big white whale, which has interfered with Ahab’s personal freedom by biting off his leg and refusing to be slaughtered and boiled. The narrator, Ishmael, represents journalists; his job is to warn America that it’s controlled by psychotics who will destroy it, because they hate the natural world and don’t grasp the fact that without it they will die. That’s enough literature for now. Can we have popcorn?”
* Suppose you were alive back in 1945 and were told about all the new technology that would be invented between then and now: the computers and internet, mobile phones and other consumer electronics, faster and cheaper air travel, super trains and even outer space exploration, higher gas mileage on the ground, plastics, medical breakthroughs and science in general. You would have imagined what nearly all futurists expected: that we would be living in a life of leisure society by this time. Rising productivity would raise wages and living standards, enabling people to work shorter hours under more relaxed and less pressured workplace conditions.
Why hasn’t this occurred in recent years? In light of the enormous productivity gains since the end of World War II – and especially since 1980 – why isn’t everyone rich and enjoying the leisure economy that was promised? If the 99% is not getting the fruits of higher productivity, who is? Where has it gone?
To me, this is the ultimate disproof of the secular liberal contention that religion is the biggest possible cause of violence. Literally nothing could be more rigorously secular than “reasons of state,” and yet this principle has led to millions upon millions of deaths in the 20th Century alone. Of course, one could always fall back on the same dodge that allows one to get around the deaths caused by International Communism, for instance — “yes, they may have been officially atheistic, but in the last analysis Stalinism and Maoism are really religious in structure” — in order to define away abberant forms of “national security.”
And I think this typical dodge shows why the notion of religion as chief cause of violence has such a powerful hold — what “religion” signifies in such statements isn’t a body of beliefs and rituals, etc., but irrationality itself. It’s this irrationality that makes “religious violence” violent, not the body count. Within this framework, then, when rational people — for example, legitimate statesmen calculating the national interest — use violence for rational ends, it is not, properly speaking, violence. It is simply necessity.
(That’s the same reason why my typical rejoinder to “religious violence” rhetoric — “ever heard of money?” — also doesn’t work: the profit motive is rationality itself and could never be violent.)
* Against lotteries: Taking money from people who have little and are powerless against even the slightest chance of escaping poverty is the kind of activity usually associated with the Mafia and street gangs. State governments are more than happy to play the part though, and they’ve gone far beyond anything organized crime ever did in terms of exploiting the desperation of the poor and selling them false hope with terrible odds. Lotteries that take their money for the explicit purpose of giving it to people who are financially better off is evidence of how completely our governments – particularly here in the South – have abandoned even the pretense of holding the moral high ground. They’ve identified the victims of an exploitative system and chosen to use that to their advantage. More here.
* Here’s an interesting wrinkle I’ve encountered in a few places. Many scholars sign work-made-for-hire deals with the universities that employ them. That means that the copyright for the work they produce on the job is vested with their employers — the universities — and not the scholars themselves. Yet these scholars routinely enter into publishing contracts with the big journals in which they assign the copyright — which isn’t theirs to bargain with — to the journals. This means that in a large plurality of cases, the big journals are in violation of the universities’ copyright. Technically, the universities could sue the journals for titanic fortunes. Thanks to the “strict liability” standard in copyright, the fact that the journals believed that they had secured the copyright from the correct party is not an effective defense, though technically the journals could try to recoup from the scholars, who by and large don’t have a net worth approaching one percent of the liability the publishers face.
* Senator Frank Church – who chaired the famous “Church Committee” into the unlawful FBI Cointel program, and who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – said in 1975:
“Th[e National Security Agency's] capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide. [If a dictator ever took over, the N.S.A.] could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.“
Now, the NSA is building a $2 billion dollar facility in Utah which will use the world’s most powerful supercomputer to monitor virtually all phone calls, emails, internet usage, purchases and rentals, break all encryption, and then store everyone’s data permanently.
Pennsylvania, where the Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution were signed and where the U.S. coal, oil and nuclear industries began, has adopted what may be the most anti-democratic, anti-environmental law in the country, giving gas companies the right to drill anywhere, overturn local zoning laws, seize private property and muzzle physicians from disclosing specific health impacts from drilling fluids on patients.
Corporate personhood’s origin in English law was reasonable enough; it was only by considering companies “persons” that they could be taken to court and sued. You can’t sue an inanimate object.
During the 19th century, however, the robber barons, aided by a few corrupt jurists deep in their pockets, took the concept to a whole new level in the United States. According to legal textbooks, the idea that corporations enjoy the same constitutional rights as you or I was codified in the 1886 decision Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad. But historian Thom Hartmann dug into the original case documents and found that this crucially important legal doctrine actually originated with what may be the most significant act of corruption in history.
It occurred during a seemingly routine tax case: Santa Clara sued the Southern Pacific Railroad to pay property taxes on the land it held in the county, and the railroad claimed that because states had different rates, allowing them to tax its holdings would violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The railroads had made the claim in previous cases, but the courts had never bought the argument.
In a 2005 interview, Hartmann described his surprise when he went to a Vermont courthouse to read an original copy of the verdict and found that the judges had made no mention of corporate personhood. “In fact,” he told the interviewer, “the decision says, at its end, that because they could find a California state law that covered the case ‘it is not necessary to consider any other questions’ such as the constitutionality of the railroad’s claim to personhood.”
Hartmann then explained how it was that corporations actually became “people”:
In the headnote to the case—a commentary written by the clerk, which is not legally binding, it’s just a commentary to help out law students and whatnot, summarizing the case—the Court’s clerk wrote: “The defendant Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
The discovery “that we’d been operating for over 100 years on an incorrect headnote” led Hartmann to look into the past of the clerk who’d written it, J. C. Bancroft Davis. He discovered that Davis had been a corrupt official who had himself previously served as the president of a railroad. Digging deeper, Hartmann then discovered that Davis had been working “in collusion with another corrupt Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Field.” The railroad companies, according to Hartmann, had promised Field that they’d sponsor his run for the White House if he assisted them in their effort to gain constitutional rights.
Hartmann noted that even after the ruling, the idea of corporate personhood remained relatively obscure until corporate lawyers dusted off the doctrine during the Reagan era and used it to help reshape the U.S. political economy.
* Obligatory Twilight backlash: But when a saga popular with pre-adolescent girls peaks romantically on a night that leaves the heroine to wake up covered with bruises in the shape of her husband’s hands — and when that heroine then spends the morning explaining to her husband that she’s incredibly happy even though he injured her, and that it’s not his fault because she understands he couldn’t help it in light of the depth of his passion — that’s profoundly irresponsible. A countervailing view. Counter-countervailing. More.
* North Carolina AFL-CIO: 9 Demands of the 99%.
* That’s the drawback of the modern lab mouse. It’s cheap, efficient, and highly standardized—all of which qualities have made it the favorite tool of large-scale biomedical research. But as Mattson points out, there’s a danger to taking so much of our knowledge straight from the animal assembly line. The inbred, factory-farmed rodents in use today—raised by the millions in germ-free barrier rooms, overfed and understimulated and in some cases pumped through with antibiotics—may be placing unseen constraints on what we know and learn.
“This is important for scientists,” says Mattson, “but they don’t think about it at all.” Via MeFi.
* And a big coup for Netflix: it will bring back Arrested Development.