From deities to data - "For thousands of years humans believed that authority came from the gods. Then, during the modern era, humanism gradually shifted authority from deities to people... Now, a fresh shift is taking place. Just as divine authority was legitimised by religious mythologies, and human authority was legitimised by humanist ideologies, so high-tech gurus and Silicon Valley prophets are creating a new universal narrative that legitimises the authority of algorithms and Big Data." [more inside]
These days, everybody's betting on Uber. In the firm's seven years of existence, it has attracted nearly $15 billion dollars in funding via a nearly-unprecedented 14 rounds of investment. While Uber's management have made it intentionally difficult for small investors to own shares of the company, big investors are betting on Uber in droves. All this led Quartz's Steve LeVine to wonder — What if they're wrong? Can somebody make the opposite bet? Is it even possible to short Uber? [Spoiler: Basically, no.]. Earlier this year, Uber announced its expansion into subprime lending, and on Thursday, announced that it had lost $1.2 billion in the first half of 2016.
In his follow-up to Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari envisions what a 'useless class' of humans might look like as AI advances and spreads - "I'm aware that these kinds of forecasts have been around for at least 200 years, from the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, and they never came true so far. It's basically the boy who cried wolf, but in the original story of the boy who cried wolf, in the end, the wolf actually comes, and I think that is true this time." [more inside]
As you read this story you will recognise that the economic system that continues to keep black people very, very poor in this country has been broken for so long, and the private sector has been so strong for so long, that we have a vast imbalance that has been allowed to flourish unchecked. We the people have not been demanding when it comes to scrutiny of corporate conduct. [...] This story – this one you will read about Coca-Cola - is part of a rich canon. It exists because of First and Gqabi and Nxumalo and Jaffer and countless others.via [more inside]
In 2013 computer researcher David Kriesel discovered that certain Xerox scanners were altering numbers in the documents they scanned (MeFi post) At the recent FrOSCon, Kriesel gave an hour-long talk recounting his experiences discovering and reporting the problem, with lots of details on what it was like dealing with a large multi-national corporation like Xerox, and what the impacts and fall-out of his discovery have been. (SPOILER: Germany has eliminated JBIG2 as a legally admissible scan format.)
The secretive business havens of Cyprus and the Cayman Islands face a potent rival: Cheyenne, Wyoming. At a single address in this sleepy city of 60,000 people, more than 2,000 companies are registered. The building, 2710 Thomes Avenue, isn't a shimmering skyscraper filled with A-list corporations. It's a 1,700-square-foot brick house with a manicured lawn, a few blocks from the State Capitol.[more inside]
Many of America's biggest corporations rely on temp workers to make up an ever increasing portion of their work force. This has led to a boom in the temp agency industry and a sharp decline in temp workers' quality of life.
Steve Lovelace created a map that shows the corporation that best represents each state of the US.
Call it municipal disobedience: communities like Sugar Hill, New Hampshire, are defying laws they deem illegitimate.
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
"Louisiana is the world's prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana's incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran's, seven times China's and 10 times Germany's. The hidden engine behind the state's well-oiled prison machine is cold, hard cash." Louisiana Incarcerated is a tour de force eight-part series on the Louisiana prison system. [more inside]
Employers and colleges are now asking applicants for their Facebook logins and passwords in an attempt to get around privacy settings.
If you believe the US government is too heavily influenced by corporations, perhaps apps like No More SOPA are the future of "voting". Will technology enable us to directly push back on corporations influencing government policy?
“On the face of it, shareholder value is the dumbest idea in the world” — Jack Welch, 2009. As GE’s CEO in the 80s, however, Welch championed corporate focus on shareholder returns. “Converts to the creed”, the Economist summarizes, “had little time for other ‘stakeholders’: customers, employees, suppliers, society at large and so forth.” What went wrong? Steve Denning describes how such a stance is counterproductive, creates turmoil in capitalism and fosters an environment in which “CEOs and their top managers have massive incentives to focus most of their attentions on the expectations market, rather than the real job of running the company producing real products and services.”
Corporations don't dodge taxes. People do. "The report found that the CEOs of 25 major companies paid themselves more than their companies paid in Federal income taxes. Exhibit 1 on page 31 names and shames them (well, assuming they are capable of shame), and they include John J. Donahoe of eBay, Robert Coury of Mylan Labs, Jeff Immelt of GE, and Robert Kelly of Bank of New York. The New York Times article on the report elicited some not-convincing rebuttals." NYT version [via]
AT&T has announced plans to acquire T-Mobile USA from Deutsche Telekom, creating the largest wireless provider in the United States. [more inside]
Wired: "Who 'Ruled the Air' in 1910, and Who Rules It Now?". Also see: Vintage AdBrowser (Previously): Communications Ads of the: 1910's, 20's, 30's, 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, 80's and 90's.
Edward Mike Davis was the owner or Tiger Oil, an oil company operating in Houston during the 1970's. His irascible memos have been an Internet sensation for the past few years. Good things are not meant to last forever, and in 1980, Tiger Oil filed bankruptcy. Davis' hatred of people did not confine itself to the office, as this case shows. Tiger Oil was in litigation in relation to the bankruptcy filing as late as 1989.
Anti-Identity-Theft Firm Lifelock was fined $12 Million in March for deceptive business practices by the FTC. More bad news: their CEO had his identity stolen 13 times after posting his own social security number in company ads as proof they could protect him. [more inside]
Home Depot was having an issue with employees cutting their fingers off while sawing wood for customers. Michael Powell invented a safety device that Home Depot then copied without Powell's permission. Today, Powell won a $25 million judgment in federal court. [more inside]
This has not been a good year for SCI, the worlds largest funeral services corporation. Now allegations have surfaced that groundskeepers for Eden Memorial Park were secretly instructed to desecrate graves (possibly in excess of 500 individual bodies) in order to make room. [more inside]
Gazprom is the greatest corporation in the world/All other companies are run by little girls. This is the most moving corporate anthem I've ever heard (and I include Devo's "Corporate Anthem" in that assessment.)
The head of a small company may still choose to be a tyrant; a large organization is compelled by its structure to be one
In an artificial world, only extremists live naturally. Or: You weren't meant to have a boss. On the other hand, maybe you are.
In 1996, Al Pope from the National Coalition for Advanced Manufacturers announced "Our goal is to change the way schooling is done." And, with the School-to-Work program, corporate and educational interests became further intwined, a trend that now reaches every level and comes in many guises. The ever-present crisis of American education continues, but few ask: does it have to be this way, and just who benefits? [mostly via]
If Art Bell is to be believed, up to 11 million Australians could be calling USA home due to years of severe drought in the country's food bowl. The story picked up, and given appropriate treatment by the venerable News Corporation online mouthpiece news.com.au. Is it hard being a climate change sceptic when your boss is a convert? Is climate change a left wing plot?
SEIU President Andy Stern says unions should be less like unions. He recently teamed up with Wal-Mart to call for incremental healthcare reform, and has said that unions should assist employers in outsourcing their employees. His union once teamed up with CA nursing home operators to limit the rights of abused patients. This is the same union that promoted this insipid PR campaign.
From cooperation to complicity. In 1988, the German chemical giant Degussa commissioned a study (by American historian Peter Hayes) on its collaboration with the National-Socialist regime. The corporation's involvement in the production of Zyklon B has been well publicised, due to the controversy over the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, but it's only one chapter of a larger story that, according to the author (PDF), "suggests that most people, when presented with opportunities or imperatives that they have every imminent or material reason to accept or accede to and only potential or moral grounds to reject, will choose the course of least resistance, internalize the arguments that legitimate it, and balk at admitting that one could or should have done otherwise."
The world's oldest family companies start with a 1,400 year old Japanese family business that has always built Buddhist temples. On the corporation side, only one of the great chartered companies survives, Canada's Hudson Bay Company, founded in 1670, and now a large retailer, though there may be much older corporations. There is even a club with an interesting web site, Les Hénokien, for companies that are over 300 years old. If companies aren't your thing, there is always the world's oldest restaurant in Spain.
Walmart Murders Customer In Broad Daylight? They thought he shoplifted something, so they tackled him and held him down, shirtless, against the hot pavement...for ten minutes, he begged for his life and the 30-strong crowd did too...and when his heart finally stopped, the Walmart employees didn't even try to give him CPR. Somehow, this changes the discussion.
A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing? Walgreens, a nationwide drugstore chain, has been unsuccessful in obtaining city approval for a new store in a south Austin neighborhood. Now, they're trying a new approach:
“Along with plan revisions and numerous neighborhood meetings, they made public in February their intention to build a permanent home for a nearby icon, Maria Corbalan's Taco Xpress.”...and they've hired a political consultant, reportedly with green leanings and a history lobbying the city of Austin, to drum up support for this cause (specifically the Maria's Tacos portion of their strategy). Insidious? Benign? Is this a new trend?
—Austin American Statesman, 6-13-04
Sure, we all know the story about how Detroit developed, and then kept under wraps, a 100mpg carburetor is false. However, affordable 80mpg family sedans are real: behold the Supercar! They are the results of a nearly decade-long partnership between The Big Three and the Clinton administration. However the program was quietly shelved last June, the victim of the Bush administration, and corporate backpedaling. Read the whole sordid tale here. [use username/password for login] In the meantime, you'll have to settle for one of these.
“There are ethical ways to cut costs, and then there is executive greed. Your comment at the recent shareholder's meeting will be your legacy, like it or not (‘I have to make that much money, I have an expensive wife.’).” –says a disgruntled EDS employee to his CEO, Dick Brown in an internal company memo. FuckedCompany rides the corporation bashing bandwagon and branches out to give you further insight into some of your favorite companies. Subscribers to the mother site get complete access. Non-subscribers can view the free rotating posts. Described in NYTimes (password).
I'll Trade You A Harken for an ImClone. Corporate scandal trading cards, certainly not a limited edition.