Posts Tagged ‘corruption’
WNYC and The Record asked, separately, for documentation of NJ Transit’s hurricane preparedness plans. Both news organizations received the same reply: a three-and-a-half page document with the words “New Jersey Rail Operations Hurricane Plan” atop the first page.
* From the too-good-to-check file: Samuel Beckett Used to Drive André the Giant to School, All They Talked About Was Cricket.
* This scandal has everything! Jeb Bush caught up in LEGO-related corporate corruption.
* Today in Kirk/Spock slash: On “The Footnote.”
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Not ever having to fill out this questionnaire.
* Increasingly extreme weather is worsening food insecurity, displacement and other problems for rural families in Bangladesh, effectively robbing them of basic human rights, argues a report released on Monday.
* To be a philistine, before we dismiss the possibility of major public support for the humanities, we need to picture ourselves with money. Humanities faculty, I suggested in Austin, should then come together to design the proper infrastructure–staff research support, research-learning undergraduate courses, the copy writing, editing, and printing facilities, the relationships with institutional advancement, the distribution channels, travel and meetings, conference circulation and return invitations, the whole ensemble of people and activities that define healthy, modern, and socially valuable research divisions. We need to cost it out at each of our institutions. Then we need to enlist chairs, deans, and administrations to develop a multi-year plan to make this redevelopment happen.
* Every day, offenders are sent out to perform high-risk police operations with few legal protections. Some are juveniles, occasionally as young as fourteen or fifteen. Some operate through the haze of addiction; others, like Hoffman, are enrolled in state-mandated treatment programs that prohibit their association with illegal drugs of any kind. Many have been given false assurances by the police, used without regard for their safety, and treated as disposable pawns of the criminal-justice system.
* It’s not that I think liberals support torture. No, I think liberals want to be forced to support torture. What liberals want is ultimately to do what conservative hawks want to do, but only after experts and leaders assure them that they have no choice. They want extreme events to make the choice for them.
* ‘The despair that I felt was overwhelming’: on teaching in a New Orleans charter school.
* “A lot of us are campaign officials — or campaign professionals — and we want to do everything we can to help our side. Sometimes we think that’s voter ID, sometimes we think that’s longer lines — whatever it may be,” Tranter said with a laugh.
* Is an education crisis good for business? As the Ed Week reporter cited above pointed out, “There are market trends that support that theory. The commercial education market grew significantly in the past four years, but no segment grew faster than instruction and services. Companies like the virtual learning providers K12 Inc. and Connections Academy, or the publishers-turned-service-providers Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, fit that bill.”
* How MIT students beat the lottery How state officials conspired with MIT students to rig the lottery. Via.
* Competing feminist impulses duke it out when women’s volleyball goes up against competitive cheerleading for Title IX supremacy. I declared this one “insolvable” on Twitter and I think I’m standing by that.
A survey released Wednesday by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that despite the many challenges they face, the nation’s lowest-income individuals are nonetheless thankful they don’t have to endure the unique hardships of the nation’s long-suffering middle class.
According to the report, the 46 million Americans who fall below the federal poverty line, though struggling mightily, are at least glad they don’t have to live up to some rapidly vanishing American dream of advancing in their career, making more money, and improving their lifestyle, the way their middle-income counterparts do.
Washington Monthly quotes Chris Hayes’s book Twilight of the Elites:
And we might ask what a society that has been corrupted entirely by the Iron Law of Meritocracy would look like. It would be a society with extremely high and rising inequality yet little circulation of elites. A society in which the pillar institutions were populated and presided over by a group of hyper-educated, ambitious overachievers who enjoyed tremendous monetary rewards as well as unparalleled political power and prestige, and yet who managed to insulate themselves from sanction, competition and accountability; a group of people who could more or less rest assured that now that they have achieved their status, now that they have scaled to the top of the pyramid, they, their peers and their progeny will stay there.
Such a ruling class would have all the competitive ferocity inculcated by the ceaseless jockeying within the institutions that produce meritocratic elites, but face no actual sanctions for failing at their duties or succumbing to the temptations of corruption. It would reflexively protect its worst members; it would operate with a wide gulf between performance and reward; and it would be shot through with corruption, rule-breaking and self-dealing, as those on top pursued the outsized rewards promised for superstars. In the same way the bailouts combined the worst aspects of capitalism and socialism, such a social order would fuse the worst aspects of meritocracy and bureaucracy.
It would, in other words, look a lot like the American elite in the first years of the twenty-first century.
* 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.
* Wisconsin State Sen. Glenn Grothman: There’s no need for an Equal Pay Law because money is more important for men. Scott Walker’s on board. What decade is this? Honestly.
* One of my earliest political disillusionments was discovering how bad Clinton’s trumpeted “welfare reform” really was. Everything old is new again.
* And Ze is back. Hooray for everything.
* Facts are stupid things: Growth In Government Spending Under President Obama Slower Than During Bush, Reagan Administrations. But don’t worry! The White House’s generous offer for even more cuts is still on the table.
“For decades the military has been using video-game technology,” says Nina Huntemann, associate professor of communication and journalism at Suffolk University in Boston and a computer games specialist. “Every branch of the US armed forces and many, many police departments are using retooled video games to train their personnel.”
Like much of early computing, nascent digital gaming benefited from military spending. The prototype for the first home video games console, the 1972 Magnavox Odyssey, was developed by Sanders Associates, a US defence contractor. Meanwhile, pre-digital electronic flight simulators, for use in both military and civilian training, date back to at least the second world war.
Later, the games industry began to repay its debts. Many insiders note how instruments in British Challenger 2 tanks, introduced in 1994, look uncannily like the PlayStation’s controllers, one of the most popular consoles of that year. Indeed, warfare’s use of digital war games soared towards the end of the 20th century.
“By the late 1990s,” says Nick Turse, an American journalist, historian and author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, “the [US] army was pouring tens of millions of dollars into a centre at the University of Southern California – the Institute of Creative Technologies – specifically to build partnerships with the gaming industry and Hollywood.”
But Daisey’s version wasn’t even substantially true. It was substantially false. The version of the story that aired on the radio gave listeners a clear and false impression of the abuses at Foxconn. It inflated the prevalence and massaged the data. How much deeper could the lies have gone?
Apple employees are being mistreated in China, but perhaps not so much or so often that it really matters to most people, harsh as that may sound.
Related: zunguzungu on The McNulty Gambit.
* In Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruled that corporate donations to campaign Super PACs were legal because there was no reason to think they led to “corruption or the appearance of corruption.” This was a remarkably specious argument in the first place, but now we’re apparently going to test it to destruction.
* More on the SCOTUS beat: If you believe that the Court’s conservative majority is itching to strike down Obamacare, then the task is to launder this decision of partisan motivation. The Paul Clement court.
* Still more: Obamacare on Trial: Case of the Century?
* Fresh from arguing that the female orgasm doesn’t exist, science now concludes women can have orgasms from exercising. Make up your mind, science!
Malcolm Harris, who is building his Internet celebrity on this issue, doubles down on all of the bad impulses this kind of thinking engenders. He is here using the language of revolution to justify what is, at its essence, a dispute among the ruling class. He reminds me of nothing so much as the autoworker who curses the “foreigner” who he imagines has stolen what he thought was coming to him. Because Harris knows that his complaint is ultimately a direct expression of entitlement, and the entitlement of those who presumed they would be rewarded by our corrupt system, he has to build a case that is simply antithetical to the left-wing project: the notion that recent college graduates are the dispossessed around which a revolutionary movement deserves to be mustered. Read his piece. I don’t exaggerate.
It should go without saying that this is a project I want nothing to do with. I feel for those struggling under student loan debt, in part because I am myself, but I will not engage in the sophistry and dishonesty that asserts that they are the class that most requires liberation.
Freddie deBoer takes on the New Inquiry issue on “youth” I linked to yesterday. My response to Freddie would just be sure, sure, yes, everything you say is also true—but we can think about more than one type of thing at once.
Malcolm Harris in The New Inquiry #2: Class politics have become intelligible as a generational politics, the forces of what is and what has been arrayed against what else could be. For some the divide is the result of a promise betrayed, whether that promise was that they could maintain their inherited class positions or improve them. For others it’s a recognition that existing institutions are so riddled with predation and corruption, or tied inextricably to ecological devastation, that even their maintenance is unthinkable work. For still others it’s the trauma of service in the latest set of American wars, always declared by the old and fought by the young, or the accumulation of years of police harassment. Some occupiers hardly know why they’re there…
* Occupy Wall Street as Obamaism’s “rotten fruit”? John Hellemen speculates on 2012 as 1968.
– Don’t Mention Capitalism: Luntz said that his polling research found that “The public…still prefers capitalism to socialism, but they think capitalism is immoral. And if we’re seen as defenders of quote, Wall Street, end quote, we’ve got a problem.”
– Empathize With The 99 Percent Protesters: Luntz instructed attendees to tell protesters that they “get it”: “First off, here are three words for you all: ‘I get it.’ … ‘I get that you’re. I get that you’ve seen inequality. I get that you want to fix the system.”
– Don’t Say Bonus: Luntz told Republicans to re-frame the concept of the bonus payment — which bailed-out Wall Street doles out to its employees during holidays — as “pay for performance” instead.
– Don’t Mention The Middle Class Because Americans Don’t Trust Republicans To Defend It: “They cannot win if the fight is on hardworking taxpayers,” Luntz instructed the audience. “We can say we defend the ‘middle class’ and the public will say, I’m not sure about that. But defending ‘hardworking taxpayers’ and Republicans have the advantage.”
– Don’t Talk About Taxing The Rich: Luntz reminded Republicans that Americans actually do want to tax the rich, so he reccommended they instead say that the government “takes from the rich.”
* I don’t care who is drawing it; a Watchmen sequel is still the worst idea anyone has ever had.
* 131 members of Congress are now co-sponsoring a bill that will forbid members of Congress from insider training, leaving a mere 304 who support the laughably corrupt status quo.
* And speaking of the laughably corrupt status quo… Via my brother.
When it comes to their most basic political sensibilities, most Americans are deeply conflicted. Most combine a deep reverence for individual freedom with a near-worshipful identification with institutions like the army and police. Most combine an enthusiasm for markets with a hatred of capitalists. Most are simultaneously profoundly egalitarian, and deeply racist. Few are actual anarchists; few even know what “anarchism” means; it’s not clear how many, if they did learn, would ultimately wish to discard the state and capitalism entirely. Anarchism is much more than simply grassroots democracy: It ultimately aims to eliminate all social relations, from wage labour to patriarchy, that can only be maintained by the systematic threat of force.
But one thing overwhelming numbers of Americans do feel is that something is terribly wrong with their country, that its key institutions are controlled by an arrogant elite, that radical change of some kind is long since overdue. They’re right. It’s hard to imagine a political system so systematically corrupt – one where bribery, on every level, has not only been made legal, but soliciting and dispensing bribes has become the full-time occupation of every American politician. The outrage is appropriate. The problem is that up until September 17, the only side of the spectrum willing to propose radical solutions of any sort was the Right.
As the history of the past movements all make clear, nothing terrifies those running the US more than the danger of democracy breaking out. The immediate response to even a modest spark of democratically organised civil disobedience is a panicked combination of concessions and brutality. How else can one explain the recent national mobilisation of thousands of riot cops, the beatings, chemical attacks, and mass arrests, of citizens engaged in precisely the kind of democratic assemblies the Bill of Rights was designed to protect, and whose only crime – if any – was the violation of local camping regulations?
David Graeber on anarchism, politics, and Occupy Wall Street. There’s more highly quotable words at the link.
* The headline reads, “Zombies Worth Over $5 Billion to Economy.”
* Also in zombie news: The Walking Dead will get a third season. Fans of the jail arc can rejoice.
* Wall Street through the augmented eyes of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. Wall Street Isn’t Winning – It’s Cheating. American Studies and Occupy Wall Street. How Does Occupy Wall Street Speak To A Broken Education System? A Manifesto.
‘A Judicial Officer or Employee Shall Not Accept a Gift from Anyone Who Is Seeking Official Action From or Doing Business with the Court’
Forty-three members of Congress have now joined Chris Murphy’s call to end the Supreme Court’s ethics immunity. This number should be much, much higher. Via @_machinic_.