Something to Look Forward To?

Y Combinator, a San Francisco-based ‘seed accelerator’ for start-up companies, is working on a pilot for unconditional basic income. The project’s research director told Quartz magazine it will explore ‘alternatives to the existing social safety net’ in a world in which robots take our jobs. They say subsistence grants dished out by corporate solutionists offer the answer. The Finnish government is halfway through a two-year trial, giving 2000 unemployed people €560 a month, with no obligation for them to look for work (or turn it down). Supporters of unconditional basic income include Mark Zuckerberg, Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk and Bernie Sanders. More »

‘Maggie’s Safe!’

The IRA bomb that went off in the Grand Hotel, Brighton in the early hours of 12 October 1984 blew half the building to bits, killed five Tory high-ups, including an MP, and seriously injured 34 others. The security forces really should have sniffed it out before Margaret Thatcher and most of her Cabinet moved in. It had been set up, with a timer, several days in advance. As an assassination attempt directed against Thatcher, however, it failed, having been placed in the wrong room. ‘The cry went up: “Maggie’s safe!”’ Jonathan Aitken remembered afterwards. ‘Such was the relief that strangers shook hands, and clasped each other’s shoulders.’ (How ‘British’! No hugging or kissing!) It also failed as an act of terrorism. Terrorism is supposed to terrify. The Brighton bomb didn’t. If anything, it had the opposite effect. More »

‘Une liberté d’importuner’

On 9 January, Le Monde published an open letter from a hundred women calling for a reconsideration of the ‘excessive’ #MeToo campaign. Among the signatories were writers, editors, translators, academics, gynaecologists, psychotherapists, artists, filmmakers, actors, critics, journalists, photographers and radio hosts. The broadside, drafted by five writers and journalists including Catherine Millet and Catherine Robbe-Grillet, argued that the campaign, though ‘legitimate’ in its calling out of sexual violence in the wake of the allegations against Harvey Weinstein, had escalated into policing the relationships between men and women in a way that was detrimental to sexual freedom. More »

Trump’s Rhetorical Tradition

Donald Trump’s tone may be unprecedented in American politics, but his policies aren’t. Barack Obama restricted the movement of citizens from the seven Muslim countries that ended up on Trump’s travel ban list. The wall that Trump wants to build along the Mexican border is an extension of Bill Clinton’s Operation Gatekeeper. Trump’s rampaging deportation machine was bequeathed to him by previous administrations, including Obama’s. And Trump is hardly America’s first racist president.

Even his ‘shithole countries’ comment is not new. More »

RLS on Davos

On his doctor’s advice, Robert Louis Stevenson spent two winters in Davos. He finished Treasure Island there, but didn’t like the place:

Shut in a kind of damned Hotel,
Discountenanced by God and man;
The food? – Sir, you would do as well
To fill your belly full of bran.
The company? Alas the day
That I should toil with such a crew,
With devil anything to say,
Nor anyone to say it to.

‘So,’ according to E.S. Turner, ‘RLS took to tobogganing, alone and at night, which he found strangely exalting.’

Two Cut-Ups

The Daily Mail, 21 December 2017

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Carillion and Other Parasites

Until very recently, most of us hadn’t heard of Carillion. Not having heard of a particular company wouldn’t usually be surprising or unsettling. But this is more like not having heard of the people who have been making alterations to your house, building your neighbour’s and – in an odd display of versatility – delivering lunches to your children. Because it turns out that Carillion is – or was, until its sudden but entirely predictable liquidation on Monday – pretty much everywhere. As a result, several projects, including the building of two hospitals, a high-speed railway and a bypass in Aberdeen, now hang in the balance, along with the jobs of around 20,000 UK workers. More »

Time’s Up?

All the frocks at the Golden Globe Awards this year were black, bar three. The unofficial dress code was to publicise Time’s Up, a new organisation campaigning against sexual harassment, workplace discrimination and the gender pay gap. Its founders are a mix of A-listers from film and TV, and A-listers from politics and law (including Christina Tchen, Michelle Obama’s former chief of staff, and Roberta Kaplan, who brought Edie Windsor’s case to the Supreme Court and thereby the Defence of Marriage Act to an end). The red-carpet blackout was a spectacle. Time’s Up’s muscle is a crowd-sourced legal defence fund to support working-class women pursuing harassment cases. The money isn’t only for lawyers. Recipients will get help with filing fees, travel, and the other hidden expenses that keep poor women from seeking justice in the courts. After three weeks, the pot is $16.5 million. More »

Omid’s Journey

I first met Omid (not his real name) 15 years ago, when I was conducting field research on Muslim migration. He was born in eastern Tehran in 1973, during the final years of the monarchy. He was a child when his neighbours joined the revolution against the Shah. Ayatollah Khomeini called it a revolt of the ‘barefoot’ masses for bread, freedom and an Islamic Republic, but the bread and freedom didn’t come to Omid’s neighbourhood. More »

After the Tax Cuts

Just before Christmas, President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. The name of the bill begins with a truth and ends in a lie: there are indeed tax cuts – regressive ones, for large corporations and the super-rich – but there are no jobs. The law will put the country $1.5 trillion in the red over the next decade, despite drastic cuts to social services. More »

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    • Anaximander on Something to Look Forward To?: Western capitalism has until now relied on the labourers having sufficient income to buy (some of) what they make. That's now changing. The rentier...
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