Category Archives: Capitalism

Another Comedy-free Zone

“Footage from the Queensland Parliament cannot be used for satire or ridicule under the terms and conditions of its use.”

photo of inside Queensland Parliament



Christmas Communists

It’s a wonderful life, isn’t it? Probably not for those who look at the image below and see a room full of communists.

photo from film It's A Wonderful Life

This is from a 1947 U.S. government document about the film It’s a Wonderful Life:

“With regard to the picture ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’, [REDACTED] stated in substance that the film represented a rather obvious attempt to discredit bankers by casting Lionel Barrymore as a ‘scrooge-type’ so that he would be the most hated man in the picture. This, according to these sources, is a common trick used by Communists.

“In addition, [REDACTED] stated that, in his opinion, this picture deliberately maligned the upper class, attempting to show the people who had money were mean and despicable characters. [REDACTED] related that if he had made this picture portraying the banker, he would have shown this individual to have been following the rules as laid down by the State Bank Examiners in connection with making loans. Further, [REDACTED] stated that the scene wouldn’t have ‘suffered at all’ in portraying the banker as a man who was protecting funds put in his care by private individuals and adhering to the rules governing the loan of that money rather than portraying the part as it was shown. In summary, [REDACTED] stated that it was not necessary to make the banker such a mean character and ‘I would never have done it that way.’”

Perhaps the same officials, were they alive today, would rethink their view of bankers, once they paid attention to what bankers do, say, the ones at Wells Fargo.

(Worrisome) Quotation of the Day

From Michelle Obama:

“I have been at probably every powerful table that you can think of, I have worked at nonprofits, I have been at foundations, I have worked in corporations, served on corporate boards, I have been at G-summits, I have sat in at the U.N.: They are not that smart.”

photo of michelle obama


It is the Best of Times; It is the Worst of Times

graphic of data about child mortality

Fernando Savater: What Happens on the Internet

The principal moral problem that the Internet poses is that of veracity. To tell the truth or not has become a more complicated problem than in the past. Now from home we can propagate false, erroneous, even injurious messages, to those known and unknown. This possibility is new, suggests a new moral challenge, because often it is a question of tapping a key or not, and everything occurs at home, without anyone watching, or being able to accuse us, and without having to render accounts to anyone. Our power has increased, and if we take life seriously, our responsibility has also increased.

With the Internet the power of acting with impunity has been redistributed, and people can perform their ration of damage without ever suffering the consequences. The new technologies allow us to know more, to be on more sites, and to hurt more people (although not in an irreparable manner, luckily) than the princes of some centuries ago. The Internet poses an enormous moral challenge for all its users.

Quotation of the Day

The grandmother of Jules Suldaltsev on some of the aftermath of the publication of the photograph of Baraboo high school boys in Wisconsin:

“It’s okay, dear, if Nazis are mad at you, then you’re doing something right.”

дорогой is Russian for “dear” — in case someone checks the article in which the Russian word appears in the quotation.

Throwaway Transportation

Car manufacturers pushed out public transportation across much of North America. Lately, it has been difficult for anyone to mount a campaign in favor of mass transportation. Many places have been persuaded to “privatize” public transportation. Small companies have made large profits from selling municipalities and universities contracts for bikes, scooters, mini-cars.

Besides the general problem that these contracts are usually not chosen by the public and thus don’t count as public transportation in the old sense (some universities restrict access to those who are members of the university community, for example), a new problem is that the devices provided by the companies are being treated as throwaway items by users, as described in a recent article by Matt McFarland.

Scooter startups also follow the Silicon Valley ethos of iterate, iterate, iterate, which runs counter to Segway’s perfectionism. The startups favor cheap scooters — they typically cost just a few hundred bucks — that were never designed for the rigors of heavy use and adverse weather. But why worry about such things when scooters are essentially commodities, easily replaced when they inevitably break or get thrown into trees, rivers, or San Francisco Bay? Bird, Lime, and all their competitors prefer to move fast, learn from mistakes, solicit customer feedback, and then introduce improvements like bigger batteries.

photo of ofo bicycles

In a place like College Station, Texas,  there is a Chinese-based company that provides bicycles to the community and to Texas A&M University. A&M is now rethinking a contract after scores of complaints about people abandoning the bikes like trash. In part, its marketing eating its own tail. The convenience of bicycles to “consumers” has translated into the convenience of people dumping bicycles because it’s convenient to leave them anywhere, once people have come to the end of their ride. This means bicycles are found in the middle of sidewalks, on the side of roads, in ditches. The psychology of the situation is elementary: “It’s not my bicycle. Where it ends up is someone else’s problem.” All the marketing about the bicycles helping with “sustainability,” the environment, etc., ends up as so much hot air on a planet that is suffering from too much hot air.