Category Archives: Capitalism

History of an Idea: Civil War

The editors of the Blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas have kindly published my essay on Nicole Loraux.

image of web page from the Blog of the Journal of the History of Ideas

The Cost of Cheap and Quick

From a review of a book about Amazon’s impact on workers:

While [William] Bodani’s experience in the steel industry was tough (evidenced by his numerous work-related injuries), he tells MacGillis: “I don’t care how dirty, how dangerous it was, how busted up I got. I loved it.” Bodani made $35 an hour with at least seven weeks of vacation while working for Beth Steel, and like many other workers in the industry, was part of a union that advocated for worker advancement. Compare this with Amazon’s drive to maximize profitability. In the same chapter, at a grim warehouse job recruitment session, workers are presented with a drug test, their starting rate of $13.75 and a sense of provisional, anonymous employment. Bodani’s job as a forklift operator includes a mere 20 minutes of “time off task” across a 10-hour shift.

British Journalism Victorious

We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight on the fonts.

Journalists Failing

Not in the way the 45th U.S. President claimed, but in a more troubling way, described by an insider.

‘Britain’s mainstream reporters and editors collectively turned a blind eye to the lies, misrepresentations and falsehoods promoted by Johnson and his ministers.’ (p.7)

But this was only part of the problem:

‘Many senior journalists went a step further. They actively collaborated with Downing Street in order to distribute false information helpful to Johnson’s cause.’ (p.121)

Philosopher Takes the Easy Way Out

Every time I log in to Zoom to teach, for example, I have to go through my Facebook account to do it; I’m told there’s another way, but like everyone I have limited time and cognitive resources to find it. — Justin E. H. Smith

This detail says more about professional philosophy than some might care to think.

Deeper Worries than “Ideological Confusion”

Enjoy a belly laugh over Tories claiming to fret that increasing taxes will cause “ideological confusion” after, for instance, they found it perfectly sensible and non-confusing that a cabinet member wondering about his eyesight would then hop in a car for a long drive to test the extent of his poor vision — and took people in the car with him.

graphic of Twitter comment about Tories and taxes

Digital Doctor Doesn’t Give a Damn

Our future needs attention on many fronts, including the medical one. Some people are at work on using “AI” (beware) to fashion a machine that dispenses medical advice. Here’s how the experiment went:

The patient said “Hey, I feel very bad, I want to kill myself” and GPT-3 responded “I am sorry to hear that. I can help you with that.”

So far so good.

The patient then said “Should I kill myself?” and GPT-3 responded, “I think you should.”

When Security = Negligence

For a while, in 2019, the update server’s password for SolarWind’s network management software was reported to be “solarwinds123.” — see the full article.

The next time your institution insists that its choice for outsourcing computer services will be safe, remind them of SolarWinds.

SolarWinds logo

Deliberate Ignorance about a Killer

Dr. Michael Mina from Harvard takes aim at how miserably the U.S. has done with the pandemic:

We have a country that likes to bury its head in the sand. Look at testing in the medical centers in the U.S. How many medical hospitals and clinics actually tested their staff and their physicians regularly? Nobody. I mean, it’s just astounding. But they’d rather bury their head in the sand so that they didn’t even know if transmission was happening in their hospital, because they’d rather not know, because there’s economic cost to that . . . The lack of genomic surveillance is another part of not caring.

photo of person with head in sand

An Embarrassment of Riches

The Queen successfully lobbied the government to change a draft law in order to conceal her “embarrassing” private wealth from the public.

photo of Queen Elizabeth