Monday, April 25, 2016

Monday afternoon link dump

Randomly assorted items I've bookmarked over the past few weeks.  They have to go somewhere.

Bloomberg: "How to Hack an Election"

This is a profile of Andres Sepulveda, in prison now for various counts of fraud and espionage related to Colombia's 2014 Presidential election.  He is believed to have worked on similar election tampering operations across Latin America for a decade.
SepĂșlveda’s contention that operations like his happen on every continent is plausible, says David Maynor, who runs a security testing company in Atlanta called Errata Security. Maynor says he occasionally gets inquiries for campaign-related jobs. His company has been asked to obtain e-mails and other documents from candidates’ computers and phones, though the ultimate client is never disclosed. “Those activities do happen in the U.S., and they happen all the time,” he says.
International Business Times: "Panama Papers: Corporations Shifted A Half-Trillion Dollars To Offshore Tax Havens In 2012"

And, no, the problem here isn't that the US tax code just isn't "business friendly" enough.
American companies' shift of their profits to their offshore subsidiaries has occurred even though the United States' effective corporate tax rate is among the lowest in the industrialized world. A related report issued last week by CTJ found that the United States is the fourth-least taxed nation in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, at 25.7 percent of its annual GDP.
Atlantic's City Lab: "How 'Maintainers,' Not 'Innovators,' Make the World Turn
Lee Vinsel, an assistant professor of science and technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology, wrote a dissertation on innovation and regulation in the early days of the automobile. But lately, he finds that the word “innovation” is overused to the point of meaninglessness—and worse, that it can obfuscate the bleak realities of the status quo. “In a culture where we forget about things like crumbling infrastructure and wage inequality, those narratives about technological change can be really dangerous,” Vinsel says.
This is an NYT opinion piece by Dan Lyons called "Congratulations! You've been fired"
Treating workers as if they are widgets to be used up and discarded is a central part of the revised relationship between employers and employees that techies proclaim is an innovation as important as chips and software. The model originated in Silicon Valley, but it’s spreading. Old-guard companies are hiring “growth hackers” and building “incubators,” too. They see Silicon Valley as a model of enlightenment and forward thinking, even though this “new” way of working is actually the oldest game in the world: the exploitation of labor by capital.

Village Voice: "O.G. Rightblogger Andrew Sullivan Returns — to a Changed World"

Sullivan is really one of Earth's Worst Humans and this article does a good job of describing why. I'd like to highlight the concluding three paragraphs,  though. They suggest somehting I've come to suspect is happening in politics and in media this year.
Will Sullivan return to his previous preeminence? Some things have changed since 2001. One thing I doubt he can put over anymore is the dance between left and right that originally distinguished him. The past fifteen years have been such a polarizing experience — as my rightblogger columns show every week — that it is hard to imagine anyone looking to Andrew Sullivan or anyone else for a conservative way to be liberal, or vice versa.

Also, whereas in 2001 Sullivan helped convince Americans that 9-11 meant Democrats were traitors, if there were another big terrorist attack in the United States today, we already know exactly how many Americans would think it meant Democrats are traitors — because it would be the same number of Americans as think Democrats are traitors now; the exhortations of a Sullivan would not change anything.

But who knows? There may be a pivotal role for him yet. Bill Clinton's BLM burst suggests the Hillary Clinton faction is looking for a way to straddle the left and right camps, and they could certainly use some friends in the press. It wouldn’t be a natural fit — Sullivan has had little good to say about either Clinton in the past — but as the old saying goes, it's a living.
As exciting and hilarious as the primary season has been, I'm starting to see the story of the 2016 Presidential Campaign as a story about the return to dominance of elite consensus. The first act of the election may have been about the rise of the angry populists but the later acts are more about the shouting down and, now, inevitable defeat of those populists.

This is accompanied by a similar trend in media toward a "wonkish" centrism cultivated to flatter the dominant economic class in Silicon Valley and on Wall Street. Independent voices in media are being marginalized. For an almost tl/dr examination of this trend at work (at least on the "left" side of the world) I recommend this Vox article by Emmet Rensin on "The smug style in American liberalism." I'd especially recommend tracking the indignant response coming from corners of the professional "liberal" punditry Rensin has called out. It has been illuminating.

Anyway, to make a long story short, independent voices on the internet don't travel as far as they used to. Professional pundits are finding it's better, after all, to write opinions someone will pay them for. "Fringe" ideas are being marginalized and the corporate consensus is reasserting itself. The very different, yet similarly populist, campaigns of Trump and Sanders are being combined in the official narrative and cast as one one "dangerous" symbol by which all non-conforming ideas are discredited.  And so, as the consensus model is electorally reaffirmed through Clinton victory, look for more and more of the professional punditry to fall in line.  All of which is to say this precisely the moment for the triumphant return of a hack like Andrew Sullivan. He's (once again) the most probably poster child for the future of political punditry.

Politico: "How a Clinton insider used his ties to build a consulting giant"

Obviously, a return to politics as usual means... more politics as usual.   
Government employees are typically restricted in their ability to receive outside income. But Hillary Clinton’s State Department expanded the use of “special government employees,” a relatively rare status originally created for scientists and others with unusual technical expertise that cannot be provided in-house. This allowed certain workers chosen by her or her staff, including Kelly, to receive money from private firms, including those who might potentially have business before the federal government.
The New Republic: "Feminism for Sale"

This is actually a review of Andi Zeisler's book, "We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement
In the world of marketplace feminism, she writes, “the fight for gender equality has transmogrified from a collective goal to a consumer brand.” It is a world where “purchasing itself [is] a feminist act,” where status is confused with liberation, where freedom is measured in what we consume or who we control, where what we wear, watch, and wax is more important than what we organize and fight for. Under marketplace feminism, feminism is a commodity to be purchased, an identity to proclaim and print on a T-shirt, a litmus test to be applied to other commodities, rather than a collective social movement that aims to change the structures of a sexist society. The problem with marketplace feminism is simple: marketplace feminism is good for capitalism, but what is good for capitalism is not necessarily good for women. 
This pairs well with an excerpt from Tom Frank's new book published recently in Harper's
One of the motifs of that Clinton Foundation event I attended in 2015 was the phrase not there, a reference to the women who aren’t present in the councils of state or the senior management of powerful corporations. The foundation raised awareness of this problem by producing visuals in which fashion models disappeared from the covers of popular magazines like Vogue, Glamour, SELF, and Allure. According to a New York Times story on the subject, the Clinton people had gone to a hip advertising agency to develop this concept, so that we would all understand that women were missing from the high-ranking places where they deserved to be.

There was also another act of erasure going on here, but no clever adman will ever be hired to play it up. International Women’s Day, I discovered, began as a socialist holiday, a sort of second Labor Day, on which you were supposed to commemorate the efforts of female workers and the sacrifices of female strikers. It is a vestige of an old form of feminism that didn’t especially focus on the problems experienced by women trying to be corporate officers or the views of some megabillionaire’s wife.
Finally, there's this can't miss article from this weekend's Advocate. One way former Governor John McKeithen sought to ease Louisiana's  often violent path through the Civil Rights era was by paying off the Klan to tone it down a bit.
Whether McKeithen’s anti-violence strategy worked is unclear. U.S. Department of Justice and FBI investigations detail at least a half-dozen Klan-related homicides, scores of beatings and dozens of fire bombings in central Louisiana between 1964 and 1969. Whether it would have been worse without the payments will never be known.

Much clearer is that the KKK soon soured on McKeithen, whose moves toward improved race relations and rights for black people did not sit well in Louisiana Klan circles. By 1967, handbills circulating in Bogalusa accused McKeithen of asking for the Klan vote and then double-crossing them. The Klan called for McKeithen and other Louisiana officeholders to be “tarred and feathered.”

But the declassified FBI documents, obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act, point to McKeithen’s use of the Louisiana State Sovereignty Commission, which was created by the Legislature to keep state control of civil rights issues, to send the privately raised money to Klan leaders.

The goal, according to the FBI, was to “maintain law and order in the State of Louisiana and to contact the Klan on a liaison basis in order to ensure that no violence occurred.”
I think today we might call this approach "incrementalism." 

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