Things I’m Reading This Week: 12/26/2017

Things I'm Reading

Just some longform media I’ve been reading you might find of interest.

Ma Bell In Pixels?

Are big tech companies really making the world “a better place”? Or are they just maximizing profits and pursuing monopolies? Some really pertinent questions, as we watch our democracy erode.

“What has the greatest collection of humanity and IQ and financial capital been brought together to accomplish?” Galloway asked the crowd. “To save world hunger? To create greater comity of man? I don’t think so. … Their singular mission, simply put, it’s to sell another fucking Nissan.”

Today’s technologists work at for-profit businesses, doing what for-profit businesses do in America—maximizing shareholder profits by acquiring functional control of markets, as well as intimate details of our lives. Big Tech makes aspects of daily life more convenient (if more fraught), but that’s not the same as making the world a better place. Mainly, the goal has become making more money, via more monopoly.

and also:

We already know these firms have crippled entrepreneurship, by either buying out competitors or copying their features and using overwhelming market share to destroy them—tactics that would be familiar to the authors of the Sherman and Clayton antitrust acts. We already know they’ve concentrated economic gains in a few small enclaves, leaving large swathes of the country behind. We already know they religiously avoid taxes and cut special deals with intimidated public officials, burdening the rest of society. We already know their surveillance capabilities rival any in history, handing over a comprehensive profile of your every waking moment for advertisers and behaviorists to exploit. We already know the addictive qualities of their products have undermined social relationships, expanded divisiveness, and transformed what it means to be human. We already know their drive for profits ignores how their platforms can be weaponized, scarring millions and undermining democracy.

The rest of this article explores actual answers and options, which is really useful as a blueprint. We ignore this at our own peril. Included is a detailed look at European data privacy laws coming into effect next year, net neutrality, and more. The whole thing is worth a good read.

Expand Your Perspective

If there’s something we all should be doing, it’s stretching our comfort zones, and our minds. I am giving this book list (46 Books By Women of Color to Read in 2018) a thorough going through, to find some things to put on my commuter train rotation.

There Is No Bottom

There’s so much horrible news coming out of #45’s “administration”—everything from nearly eliminating two national monuments in Utah, to the world’s biggest tax gift to the super wealthy, to his war on sensible climate change mitigation—that it can be hard to keep up. Every day, though, there seems to be some little very uncontroversial protection for the vulnerable that he destroys, seemingly just for the joy of hurting little people. Here is one such:

The Trump administration is scaling back the use of fines against nursing homes that harm residents or place them in grave risk of injury, part of a broader relaxation of regulations under the president.

The shift in the Medicare program’s penalty protocols was requested by the nursing home industry.

If business—any business—asks, it will receive from this “administration.” I mean, it’s not like it’s commonplace to hear horror stories of seniors in nursing homes being abused or even dying from neglect, or anything.

When you think there’s a bottom, don’t look down, because you still haven’t hit it.

No, Jeff Flake Is Not The Center

In case you missed this excellent as well as entertaining Vox video on what the Overton Window is and how Trump is shifting it to the far right, it’s worth a watch.

Star Wars: The Middle Child

Todd VanDerWerff at Vox has a nice write up summing up the backlash to The Last Jedi from many fans, from a number of different directions. The article is super spoily, so I am not going to quote it at all, but it goes nicely into the issues some have, and why this particular critic liked the film.

Non-spoiler: I kind of liked it. Especially after sitting on it for a bit. It actually touched on themes I’ve long seen as potential and under the surface of the Star Wars universe, so in that respect it delivered some things for me that I’ve long thought in my head.

Mass Fiscal Alliance Cites Hate Group in Mailers


The Safe Communities Act has brought out the worst in the Mass Fiscal Alliance, who is trying to scuttle the bill, by sending out flyers with information produced by a white supremacist hate group.

If you don’t know much about the Safe Communities Act, it’s merely a legal framework to keep our local resources local, instead of being used for federal immigration work. There is nothing controversial about it. Unless you want to spend our local and state tax dollars doing someone else’s job, in order to scare and harass local immigrants…who will then in turn be disinclined to report crime in their communities, or come forward as witnesses to crimes. Shoving immigrants into the shadows only makes us LESS safe.

We need to call our state legislators! If you want to do something concrete about this issue, please visit the action page for the SCA at Progressive Massachusetts, they can get you everything you need.

I Like Donoghue. But No.

State Politics

Speculation runs rampant any time there is an open seat or leadership shakeup. With state Senate president Rosenburg taking, at minimum, an extended leave of absence due to the allegations against his spouse of sexual harassment or assault, everyone wants to know who will be taking over, and like seagulls over a french fry the swarm is immediate and fierce…at least according to the media, who loves a good scramble.

The Boston Herald seems to have been the first to the feast, naming three Democrats “jockeying” for the position. *rolls eyes* One of these named was our own state Senator, Eileen Donoghue.

Anyone who is an old fan of the blog knows that I’m pretty friendly towards Donoghue. She was, after all, a key member of the City Council majority that rid us of the graft-ridden administration of former City Manager, John Cox. She was always a level head on the Council, smart, savvy, and very measured. And I very much like her and her husband personally, as well.

If it weren’t for her voting record, I would be the first on the Eileen Donoghue cheerleading squad. But, I have serious reservations—on the issues.

We progressives have the absolute privilege of living in a state where we have an org like Progressive Massachusetts. Besides formulating a systematic and well-established methodology for advocating on a grassroots level for progressive legislation during every session (a session is two years) of our legislature, they also do the hard work of creating a voting record scorecard. And it is hard work, as the legislature does not make it easy to look at how they’ve voted. It’s a nightmare lack of transparency. (I am proud to be a member of PM and a donor, supporting such work!)

And Senator Donoghue, on her actual voting history on the bills Progressive Mass uses to produce the score, only manages to get a D. On the Senate side, among Dems, there are only two Ds (and 5 Fs). It is highly disappointing. And if you examine the bills PM uses for scoring, they are pretty comprehensive.

What’s more, on the recent criminal justice reform bill up in front of the Senate, which PM also did extensive work on (there were many proposed amendments) and for which they did a “mini scorecard,” Donoghue only managed a very dismal 33% of votes adhering to a progressive viewpoint (and really, the Democratic party platform for the most part).

I am consistently seeing disappointment on social media from other progressive activists from around the district, particularly on the criminal justice bill. It’s not just me, it’s many.

And so, as much as it pains me, and as much as I personally like Eileen Donoghue and her work in and for Lowell, I simply cannot endorse her for a leadership role in the state Senate. She clearly is smart and accomplished; and just as clearly, not voting in a way that I can support. I wish like hell it were otherwise.

I’m not one of those progressives that think the perfect needs to the be enemy of the good. I can be practical when I think it’s warranted. But we need a Senate President who is willing to vote with the party platform a majority of the time. I just don’t see that being Senator Donoghue.

Mayoral Glitch

Local Elections

In case you (probably) missed it, the behind-the-scenes mayoral selection (the phone calls, the meetings in the dead of night…erm, sorry, got carried away) just got not so behind the scenes.

Yesterday, it appeared that Councilor John Leahy had the votes needed to secure the mayoral honor. (Sun article here, you don’t have to click through.)

Those supporting Leahy are Councilors Rodney Elliott, Rita Mercier, David Conway, who was most recently elected to the council, Mayor Ed Kennedy and himself.

Councilor Bill Samaras is the other one in the running who was interested in the position as well.

Well, throw a wrench in that and—you guessed it—it’s over the high school. From a press release by current Mayor Kennedy:

Just yesterday, Councilor Leahy assured me that he was 100 percent committed to Downtown Option 3. Both of us clearly understand that my support for any candidate to serve as the next mayor is contingent upon that candidate’s 100 percent commitment to Option 3.

I am puzzled and troubled by Councilor Leahy’s most recent remarks in which he has stated that he “wants to take a look at all of the options” regarding the high school project. We have been considering all of the options for the past eight or nine months. The election results on November 7 made it abundantly clear that Option 3 is the preferred option of the people of Lowell. A supermajority of pro-Downtown candidates were elected with the understanding that Option 3 requires a six votes for eminent domain land-taking and for the loan order to pay for the project.

I think that Councilor Leahy needs to publicly clarify his position on the high school and indicate publicly which option he supports and intends to pursue if he were to be chosen as the next mayor of Lowell.

If you need to catch up further, Option 3 is one of the options for keeping the high school downtown, requiring the taking of an ugly little property next door which houses some medical practices. It is perfectly positioned to be an added property for the high school and would greatly aid in staging the renovation, as well, since you could start with a new building there, move students into it, and then work on an existing building that is largely emptied. But eminent domain as noted takes 6 votes.

So why is Leahy, who was a vote for keeping the school downtown previously, being so coy?

(Addendum: I forgot to add, by way of reminder, that medical practice group has John freaking Cox as their advocate in the matter. Yeah, that John Cox.)