Street art in Cali, Colombia,
by artist SHAGÜ.
Photo by SHAGÜ.
Street art in Cali, Colombia,
by artist SHAGÜ.
Photo by SHAGÜ.
As the numerous and obvious ethical conflicts surrounding the Clinton Foundation receive more media scrutiny, the tactic of Clinton-loyal journalists is to highlight the charitable work done by the foundation, and then insinuate — or even outright state — that anyone raising these questions is opposed to its charity. James Carville announced that those who criticize the foundation are “going to hell.” Other Clinton loyalists insinuated that Clinton Foundation critics are indifferent to the lives of HIV-positive babies or are anti-gay bigots.
That the Clinton Foundation has done some good work is beyond dispute. But that fact has exactly nothing to do with the profound ethical problems and corruption threats raised by the way its funds have been raised. Hillary Clinton was America’s chief diplomat, and tyrannical regimes such as the Saudis and Qataris jointly donated tens of millions of dollars to an organization run by her family and operated in its name, one whose works has been a prominent feature of her public persona. That extremely valuable opportunity to curry favor with the Clintons, and to secure access to them, continues as she runs for president.
The claim that this is all just about trying to help people in need should not even pass a laugh test, let alone rational scrutiny. To see how true that is, just look at who some of the biggest donors are. Although it did not give while she was secretary of state, the Saudi regime by itself has donated between $10 million and $25 million to the Clinton Foundation, with donations coming as late as 2014, as she prepared her presidential run. A group called “Friends of Saudi Arabia,” co-founded “by a Saudi Prince,” gave an additional amount between $1 million and $5 million. The Clinton Foundation says that between $1 million and $5 million was also donated by “the State of Qatar,” the United Arab Emirates, and the government of Brunei. “The State of Kuwait” has donated between $5 million and $10 million.
Theoretically, one could say that these regimes — among the most repressive and regressive in the world — are donating because they deeply believe in the charitable work of the Clinton Foundation and want to help those in need. Is there a single person on the planet who actually believes this? Is Clinton loyalty really so strong that people are going to argue with a straight face that the reason the Saudi, Qatari, Kuwaiti and Emirates regimes donated large amounts of money to the Clinton Foundation is because those regimes simply want to help the foundation achieve its magnanimous goals?
Read the full article at The Intercept.
At the very moment of its ultimate triumph, capitalism will experience the most exquisite of deaths.
This is the belief of political adviser and author Jeremy Rifkin, who argues the current economic system has become so successful at lowering the costs of production that it has created the very conditions for the destruction of the traditional vertically integrated corporation.
Rifkin, who has advised the European Commission, the European Parliament and heads of state, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, says:
No one in their wildest imagination, including economists and business people, ever imagined the possibility of a technology revolution so extreme in its productivity that it could actually reduce marginal costs to near zero, making products nearly free, abundant and absolutely no longer subject to market forces.
With many manufacturing companies surviving only on razor thin margins, they will buckle under competition from small operators with virtually no fixed costs.
“We are seeing the final triumph of capitalism followed by its exit off the world stage and the entrance of the collaborative commons,” Rifkin predicts.
The creation of the collaborative commons
From the ashes of the current economic system, he believes, will emerge a radical new model powered by the extraordinary pace of innovation in energy, communication and transport.
“This is the first new economic system since the advent of capitalism and socialism in the early 19th century so it’s a remarkable historical event and it’s going to transform our way of life fundamentally over the coming years,” Rifkin says. “It already is; we just haven’t framed it.”
Some sectors, such as music and media, have already been disrupted as a result of the internet’s ability to let individuals and small groups compete with the major established players. Meanwhile, the mainstreaming of 3D printing and tech advances in logistics – such as the installation of billions of intelligent sensors across supply chains – means this phenomenon is now spreading from the virtual to the physical world, Rifkin says.
The creation of a new economic system, Rifkin argues, will help alleviate key sustainability challenges, such as climate change and resource scarcity, and take pressure off the natural world. That’s because it will need only a minimum amount of energy, materials, labour and capital.
He says few people are aware of the scale of danger the human race is facing, particularly the growing levels of precipitation in the atmosphere, which is leading to extreme weather.
“Ecosystems can’t catch up with the shift in the planet’s water cycle and we’re in the sixth extinction pattern,” he warns. “We could lose 70% of our species by the end of this century and may be imperilling our ability to survive on this planet.”
Convergence of communication, energy and transport
Every economy in history has relied for its success on the three pillars of communication, energy, and transportation, but what Rifkin says makes this age unique is that we are seeing them converge to create a super internet.
While the radical changes in communication are already well known, he claims a revolution in transport is just around the corner. “You’ll have near zero marginal cost electricity with the probability of printed out cars within 10 or 15 years,” he says. “Add to this GPS guidance and driverless vehicles and you will see the marginal costs of transport on this automated logistics internet falling pretty sharply.”
Rifkin is particularly interested in the upheaval currently rippling through the energy sector and points to the millions of small and medium sized enterprises, homeowners and neighbourhoods already producing their own green electricity.
The momentum will only gather pace as the price of renewable technology plummets. Rifkin predicts the cost of harvesting energy will one day be as cheap as buying a phone:
You can create your own green electricity and then go up on the emerging energy internet and programme your apps to share your surpluses across that energy internet. You can also use all the big data across that value chain to see how the energy is flowing. That’s not theoretical. It’s just starting.
He says the German energy company E.ON has already recognised that the traditional centralised energy company model is going to disappear and is following his advice to move towards becoming a service provider, finding value by helping others manage their energy flows.
He urges large companies across all sectors to follow suit and, rather than resist change, use their impressive scale and organisational capabilities to help aggregate emerging networks.
Network neutrality: key to success
While Rifkin believes the economic revolution is likely to be unstoppable, he warns that it could be distorted if individual countries and corporations succeed in their intensifying battle for control of the internet:
If the old industries can monopolise the pipes, the structure, and destroy network neutrality, then you have global monopolies and Big Brother for sure.
But if we are able to maintain network neutrality, it would mean that any consumer who turns prosumer, with their mobile and their apps, already can begin to feed into this expanded internet of things that’s developing.
People think this is off on the horizon but if I had said in 1989, before the web came, that 25 years later we’d have democratised communication and 40% of the human race would be sending information goods of all kinds to each other, they’d have said that couldn’t happen.
The paradox of over-consumption
Isn’t Rifkin concerned that the ability to produce goods so cheaply will just lead to more strain on the planet’s limited resources as a growing global population go on a buying frenzy?
He believes there is a paradox operating here, which is that over consumption results from our fear of scarcity, so will go away when we know we can have what we want.
Millennials are already seeing through the false notion that the more we accumulate, the more we are autonomous and free. It seems they are more interested in developing networks and joining the sharing economy than in consumption for consumption’s sake.
Nonprofit sector to become preeminent
What about the concern that the end of capitalism would lead to chaos? Rifkin believes the gap left by the disappearance of major corporations will be filled by the nonprofit sector.
For anyone who doubts this, Rifkin points to the hundreds of millions of people who are already involved in a vast network of co-operatives around the world:
There’s an institution in our life that we all rely on every day that provides all sorts of goods and services that have nothing to do with profit or government entitlement and without it we couldn’t live and that’s the social commons. There’s millions of organisations that provide healthcare, education, ministering to the poor, culture, arts, sports, recreation, and it goes on and on.
This isn’t considered by economists because it creates social capital which is essential to all three of the internets, but doesn’t create market capital. But as a revenue producer, it’s huge and what’s interesting is it’s growing faster than the GDP in the private market system.
At the age of 69, Rifkin admits he may not live long enough to see his hope for a better future materialise, but says the collaborative commons offers the only viable way forward to deal with the sustainability challenges faced by humanity.
“We’ve got a new potential platform to get us to where we need to go”, he says. “I don’t know if it’s in time, but if there’s an alternative plan I have no idea what it could be. What I do know is that staying with a vertically integrated system – based on large corporations with fossil fuels, nuclear power and centralised telecommunications, alongside growing unemployment, a narrowing of GDP and technologies that are moribund – is not the answer.”
President Obama made a perfunctory visit to flooded areas in Louisiana Tuesday, after facing sharp criticism for refusing to cut short his two-week vacation in Martha’s Vineyard to respond to the worst natural disaster in the US since Hurricane Sandy in 2012. In public comments, which together with questions lasted merely 13 minutes, the president praised the miserly federal response and suggested that flood victims should chiefly rely on private donations because “volunteer help actually helps the state because it can offset some of its costs.”
The flooding, which began in earnest on August 12, killed 13 people and resulted in the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declaring 20 parishes (counties) natural disaster areas. The amount of rain unleashed by this unnamed storm was immense. Over 7.1 trillion gallons of water, more than three times that dropped by Hurricane Katrina, fell in the course of a week. Some areas received over two feet of rain within just a few days.
The impacts are far reaching. Within the state capital of Baton Rouge an estimated 146,000 homes have been damaged. At least a quarter of the state’s students saw the start of school delayed as districts shut down and many school facilities were flooded. Since floodwaters carry sewage, chemicals and heavy metals, crops exposed to the flood waters are considered unfit for human consumption. The agricultural impact of the flood is at least $110 million, according to the Louisiana State University AgCenter.
Most private insurers do not cover flood damage and many working class families cannot afford the flood insurance underwritten by FEMA. Only 42 percent of homes in high-risk areas of the state have flood insurance, according to FEMA, while 12.5 percent of homeowners in low and moderate-risk zones are covered. Many of the areas hit by flooding, including Baton Rouge and Lafayette, were not considered high-risk.
The full economic impact statewide is still unknown, but the FEMA response fails to address the immediate needs of those affected. So far over 100,000 people have filed for federal assistance and have received a total of $127 million, averaging a little less than $1,300 per application. According to theWall Street Journal FEMA is currently paying for just 700 families to stay in hotels and motels while they find housing. The maximum FEMA award for a family that has just lost its home and personal possessions is just $33,000.
In a callous decision reminiscent of President Bush during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Obama remained on vacation in the Massachusetts resort town, playing golf with the rich and famous, until this past Sunday. In the aftermath of Katrina, Bush was roundly criticized for his indifference to the crisis. Then as now, federal aid remained wholly inadequate and masses of poor people were left to effectively fend for themselves. After Katrina, those applying for assistance got an average of just over $7,000 from FEMA.
In his remarks Obama cited favorably the current condition of New Orleans as proof of the resilience of the state, saying, “I know that you will rebuild again.” In the eleven years since Katrina, however, the people of New Orleans have not recovered. The population of the city sits around 60,000 below its pre-Katrina level of 455,000. Public assets were privatized under the guise of “rebuilding,” and the public school system was dismantled and replaced with charter schools.
Obama’s remarks in Baton Rouge recall his similarly indifferent comments in Flint, Michigan whose residents have been poisoned with lead. After thousands of small children were exposed to the toxic chemical Obama insisted there was nothing to worry about. Unwilling and unable to outline an effective federal response or propose an infrastructure program to prevent the next disaster, Obama told Flint residents to rely on charities and philanthropists.
In comparison to the mere $127 million that FEMA has found so far for Louisiana, Obama and the rest of the political establishment can find unlimited amounts of money to bail out banks and drop bombs. In the current presidential race, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has already spent $256 million, more than double the FEMA flood relief. While Obama was not interested in cutting his vacation short for the flooding, he did find time to host a fund-raising dinner for Clinton on August 15, with 60 people paying between $10,000 and $33,400 apiece.
FEMA relief so far would only amount to less than 0.02 percent of the 2017 US military budget. It would not even cover eight of the Reaper drones used in Obama’s assassination program. The military has budgeted $4.61 billion on drones over the coming year.
Obama’s enthusiasm for the military and indifference to social crises in America is no accident. His political program of wars abroad and austerity at home demands it.
You may think you are discreet about your political views. But Facebook, the world’s largest social media network, has come up with its own determination of your political leanings, based on your activity on the site.
And now, it is easy to find out how Facebook has categorized you — as very liberal or very conservative, or somewhere in between.
Try this (it works best on your desktop computer):
Go to facebook.com/ads/preferences on your browser. (You may have to log in to Facebook first.)
That will bring you to a page with your ad preferences. Under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab.
Then look for a box titled “US Politics.” In parentheses, it will describe how Facebook has categorized you, such as liberal, moderate or conservative.
(If the “US Politics” box does not show up, click the “See more” button under the grid of boxes.)
Facebook makes a deduction about your political views based on the pages that you like — or on your political preference, if you stated one, on your profile page. If you like the page for Hillary Clinton, Facebook might categorize you as a liberal.
Even if you do not like any candidates’ pages, if most of the people who like the same pages that you do — such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — identify as liberal, then Facebook might classify you as one, too.
Facebook has long been collecting information on its users, but it recently revamped the ad preferences page, making it easier to view.
The information is valuable. Advertisers, including many political campaigns, pay Facebook to show their ads to specific demographic groups. The labels Facebook assigns to its users help campaigns more precisely target a particular audience.
For instance, Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign has paid for its ads to be shown to those who Facebook has labeled politically moderate.
Campaigns can also use the groupings to show different messages to different supporters. They may want to show an ad to their hard-core supporters, for example, that is unlike an ad targeted at people just tuning in to the election.
It is not clear how aggressively Facebook is gathering political information on users outside the United States. The social network has 1.7 billion active users, including about 204 million in the United States.
Political outlook is just one of the attributes Facebook compiles on its users. Many of the others are directly commercial: whether you like television comedy shows, video games or Nascar.
To learn more about how political campaigns are targeting voters on social media, The New York Times is collecting Facebook ads from our readers with a project called AdTrack. You can take part by visiting nytimes.com and searching for “Send us the political ads.”