Frederick Douglass in Your Kitchen

“Power concedes nothing.” So observed Frederick Douglass in an 1857 speech, 30 years before Lord Acton’s famous riff on the point.

The point applies at all levels of applied power, too.

Very probably, we presently live in the early stages of a world-historic ecological crisis requiring a collective acknowledgement that the teenage fantasy of endless wealth accumulation can’t work. I order to save civilization, we will have to make huge changes in our main institutional priorities. The way we design and make products will have to be very seriously altered.

Soon. Like yesterday.

Meanwhile, despite this, per Douglass, power concedes nothing:

Behold Lasso, the (supposedly) forthcoming kitchen appliance for sorting and packaging your recycling!

Here is how Engadget describes this dishwasher-sized machine’s ideal operation:

The still-in-development Lasso will have a vertical slot or tray for depositing items. A series of cameras and sensors will then analyse the packaging and decide if it’s recyclable. No good? Then the object will be returned to you, rather like a vending machine spitting out change. Otherwise, the material will be steam-cleaned to remove leftover food, grease, dirt and labels. Finally, it will be ground down and placed in a dedicated compartment at the bottom of the Lasso. When one or all of these boxes are full, you’ll use a smartphone app to organize a kerbside collection. A driver can then pick it up…

Yes, nothing could possibly break in that chain, could it?

Meanwhile, the entire scam here presumes continuing purchaser ignorance about the severe limitations of recycling.

As social order that permits its runaway elite to continue to pursue endless commercialism and commodification is not long for this planet. Yet, here we see it — redoubling, as always.

Power, remember, concedes nothing.

Holy Truths

Since the United States remains corporate capitalism’s flagship and proving ground, the forms of publicly-subsidized waste that sustain it have long been sacrosanct in American culture. When it comes to discussing these vital flows in public, rational questions are forbidden, and cover stories consist of the wildest fictions.

Consider what The New York Times says about today’s Congressional over-ride of a Presidential veto of the Pentagon’s new $740,000,000,000 budget:

The vote reflected the sweeping popularity of a measure that authorizes a pay raise for the nation’s military.

NYT, January 1, 2021

It would be very hard to cram more untruth into fewer words.

Is there, in fact, “sweeping” support for increased military spending? There certainly is among Congresspersons. But there absolutely is not such a sentiment among the population, as the slightest fact-check shows:

It is also difficult to decide which is more petulant and hateful: The appeal to raising soldiers’ compensation, or the use of the phrase “pay raise for the nation’s military” to denote this topic.

This is the kind of thing that makes it rather hard to get much worked up when this supposedly canonical source carps about other entities’ disdain for basic facts and logic. On topics where power requires it, prevarication here is just as brazen as it is in certain Floridian brothels and country clubs.

Facebook’s One True Fear

According to The Washington Post, as a move in its defense against now-pending anti-trust litigation, Facebook has recently done this:

In an attempt to illustrate its commitment to competition, the company’s top lawyers signaled that they would be open to changing some of its business practices, according to three people familiar with the matter. One of the ideas Facebook floated would have allowed another firm or developer to license access to its powerful code — and its users’ intricate web of relationships — so that they could more easily create their own version of a social network, said the individuals, who spoke on the condition of anonymity

The Washington Post, December 22, 2020

The Post, of course, never for a second considers what this action ultimately discloses. Yes, Facebook dislikes being sued for excessive market power, as this report has it. But what Facebook really fears is the utterly obvious thing that would actually kill it: a public, not-for-profit version of itself.

As this Post report confirms, Facebook will be quite happy to have its would-be competitors arise from the private sector. That’s because the private sector will never dare do the things the public-sector would do as a matter of course — and hence will never do more than slightly dent Facebook’s artificial dominance.

Only if and when the public modernizes the United States Postal Service and includes in that effort a non-commercial, reliably private forum for quick interpersonal internet communication will Facebook’s empire face its true comeuppance.

Alas, in our almost completely corporate media ecology, this simple prospect — despite surely being an object of serious worry inside the Facebook boardroom — remains unmentioned and unmentionable.

Facebook v. Apple

When they start talking about small business, you know you’re hearing bullshit.

Facebook, which exists to harvest data and place images on behalf of mostly-huge corporate capitalist organizations, is about to start running full-page ads objecting to Apple’s pending decision to make Facebook and its clients ask for permission, with in its mobile data environment, to gather marketing data from software users. The change is apparently coming in iOS14.

(It will be interesting to see if Apple follows through with the change, which it has already delayed at least once…)

Unmentioned in FB’s effort to stop the Apple change is: a) what share of FB revenues come from big businesses, and b) what people who use software actually prefer, in terms of advertising-versus-privacy issues.

McKinsey Caught Shredding

papers burning

In its work on behalf of Purdue Pharma, the corporate consulting agency McKinsey left a stray end: It forgot to delete the emails in which its executives agreed to commence shredding evidence of their work perpetuating a profitable addiction.

Here is what The New York Times reports, from the court records:

Though McKinsey has not been charged by the federal government or sued, it began to worry about legal repercussions in 2018, according to the documents. After Massachusetts filed a lawsuit against Purdue, Martin Elling, a leader for McKinsey’s North American pharmaceutical practice, wrote to another senior partner, Arnab Ghatak: “It probably makes sense to have a quick conversation with the risk committee to see if we should be doing anything” other than “eliminating all our documents and emails. Suspect not but as things get tougher there someone might turn to us.”

Mr. Ghatak, who also advised Purdue, replied: “Thanks for the heads up. Will do.”

This revelation is rare, but the behavior it documents certainly is not. Not the least proof of this is the nonchalance of the Ghatak reply to Elling’s idea: Not “Wait!, ” or “What…?,” or “please explain,” but this: “Thanks for the heads up. Will do.”

To say that this little report speaks volumes is to belabor the obvious.

One of the pertinent lesssons here is confirmation of the fact that we will never know the full degree and dimension of our ruling elite’s plans to keep killing for money. Records have been destroyed.

Can You Think of Anybody Else?

“They can’t treat our pledges like that.”

Tonight on “60 Minutes,” they are running a piece featuring rightist complaints about TikTok.

Here’s the complaint:

Klon Kitchen: Imagine you woke up tomorrow morning and you saw a news report that China had distributed 100 million sensors around the United States, and that any time an American walked past one of these sensor, this sensor automatically collected off of your phone your name, your home address, your personal network, who you’re friends with, your online viewing habits and a whole host of other pieces of information. Well, that’s precisely what TikTok is. It has 100 million U.S. users, it collects all of that information.

And more, like many U.S. social media companies, TikTok asks users for access to their cameras, microphones, photos, videos, and contacts. More obscure data, like “keystroke patterns,” are collected from everyone using the app.

Bill Whitaker: Keystrokes? What does that tell them?

Kara Frederick: The patterns and the rhythms of the way that you strike the keyboard, it can basically say, “This device belongs to this user.” And you can do a lot with that if you are a foreign government. It’s very, very invasive.

Gee, can we think of any other entities that do all that? If you change “China” to “big businesses,” “TikTok” to “corporate marketing,” and “foreign government” to “corporate planner,” nothing else in this complaint changes.

Not, of course, that CBS mentions this screamingly obvious fact.

The other unasked question is who are TikTok’s customers? The answer, again, is the same as it would be for the Columbia Broadcasting Service: big business marketers looking for access to eyeballs and eardrums.

As for China, the obvious question is what a Communist Party of the sort being conjured by clucking American conservatives would ever do with a warehouse full of data about American teenagers. If you can think of any plausible military or ideological use, let me know, because I can’t.

The truth there is what sociologist John Lie says it is: “the Chinese miracle has progressed along the same track as other miracle economies in post-World War II Northeast Asia.” As a result, its elite wants TikTok’s data flows not for politics but for the self-same reason our overclass (or that in Japan, South Korea, or Taiwan) does. It wants to keep selling people doodads, and desperately needs to figure out how to do that.