The Piketty Panic

“But how do you make that defense if the rich derive much of their income not from the work they do but from the assets they own? And what if great wealth comes increasingly not from enterprise but from inheritance?” After reviewing Capital in the Twenty-First Century by french professor Thomas Piketty, Paul Krugman reflects on why this particular book is reshaping the debate on wealth and inequality.

The danger of fetishizing BlackBerry Messenger security

“I would suggest that it is more useful to take a holistic democratic accounting of lawful access laws and their implications. Where such laws are prospectively damaging to the fabric of the democracy, perhaps by threatening rights of free speech, association, and limitations of governmental search powers, then those are the areas that we as citizens, journalists, and commentators must focus our attention. Such democratic narrative can be supported by technological and legal facts and opinions, but critically the basic narrative is not on corporate products, whiz-bang technologies, nor legal minutia, but the very principles of a democracy.” Christopher Parsons in 2012, more than one year before Edward Snowden, is right on the money pinpointing the implications of unrestrained government surveillance.

What the fluck!

“I think there is an equally diffuse malaise today—waiting for a new kind of journalism to bring it into focus. Like with McClure’s it won’t be just a catalogue of shocking facts—it will be an imaginative leap that pulls all the scandals together and shows how they are part of some new system of power that we don’t fully comprehend.” Adam Curtis attempts to define the point at which journalism fails and modern power begins.

How the NSA threatens national security

“Our choice isn’t between a digital world where the agency can eavesdrop and one where it cannot; our choice is between a digital world that is vulnerable to any attacker and one that is secure for all users.” Bruce Schneier regards ubiquitous surveillance as a quixotic undertaking that does nothing to keep us safe and does everything to undermine the very societies we seek to protect.

Brainwashed by the cult of the super-rich

“The rich are not merely different: they’ve become a cult which drafts us as members. We are invited to deceive ourselves into believing we are playing for the same stakes while worshipping the same ideals, a process labelled ‘aspiration’.” Priyamvada Gopal does not regard vast economic inequalities as either natural or just.

In praise of pessimism

“We do not arrive at any idea of what is best for the collective unless we are prepared to seize the day and practise it on our own behalf. Most mature individuals understand what this means in respect of themselves—it’s just all those feckless others that they don’t trust to act appropriately.” Things may be for the worst in a less-than-perfect-world, but Will Self is determined to hold on to his idealism.

The special dread of terrorism for Muslims in the west

“Contrary to some hyperbolic depictions of Muslim minorities as a nefarious fifth column within society, the average Muslim has about as much control of, or connection to, the vile actions of terrorists as the average white American does to school shootings or movie theater massacres”, contends Murtaza Hussain.

How Starbucks avoids UK taxes

“Over the past three years, Starbucks has reported no profit, and paid no income tax, on sales of 1.2 billion pounds in the UK.” Tom Bergin explains how Starbucks makes certain that we are #allinthistogether.

Thankfully, a recent investigation provides sufficient evidence to conclude that the UK government has got this covered. Not.

Airport security — this house believes that changes made to airport security since 9/11 have done more harm than good

“Spending billions to force the terrorists to alter their plans in one particular way does not make us safer. It is far more cost-effective to concentrate our defences in ways that work regardless of tactic and target: intelligence, investigation and emergency response.” Bruce Schneier debates the former head of the Transportation Security Administration, Kip Hawley, on airport security. This is from the first of Schneier’s three statements on the topic. 20 March, 23 March, 28 March

The eurozone, the ant and the grasshopper

“When the ants and the grasshoppers are distributed across the division separating surplus from deficit nations within a badly designed monetary union, the stage is set for a depression that sets all against all in a vicious spiral from which only losers can emerge.” Yanis Varoufakis explains why he thinks that countries in the euro zone can neither bail out nor be bailed out of the current crisis.

Der Anruf des Bundespräsidenten

In German
“Für alle, die keine Fans der ‘Bild’ sind, ist es schon schwer erträglich zu lernen, daß der Bundespräsident das Blatt als eine Art Verfassungsorgan behandelt. Besonders deprimierend aber ist der Umstand, daß er auch in dieser einseitigen und insgesamt übersichtlichen Kommunikation zu keinem klaren Wort fähig ist.” Nils Minkmar explores Christian Wulff‘s attitudes towards the editorial independence of the press.

“German President Wulff reportedly sought to prevent tabloid Bild from publishing a damaging article about his private loan arrangements.”

The curse of TINA

“Think Tanks surround politics today and are the very things that are supposed to generate new ideas. But if you go back and look at how they rose up—at who invented them and why—you discover they are not quite what they seem.” Adam Curtis looks at the history of the Think Tank in the UK and asks why modern politics, for all its Think Tanks, seems so paradoxically short of new ideas.

NHS turmoil is just the start of Tory ideology run wild

“Cameron’s government can be voted out but it will be virtually impossible to return services to a public realm that no longer exists. Ownership of the contracts and companies moves on, and the public sector loses any capacity to take them back.” Polly Toynbee casts doubt on public service reforms in the UK.