Disney CEO apologizes to LGBTQ employees, halts political donations in Florida

Chapek said Disney was rethinking how it approaches political donations on Wednesday; on Friday, he said the company would pause them altogether pending an internal review. However, Disney will increase its “support for advocacy groups to combat similar legislation in other states,” Chapek said.

Source: Disney CEO apologizes to LGBTQ employees, halts political donations in Florida

To be clear, Disney considers stopping political donations in Florida to be a “sanction” against the State for trying to pass this law. Regardless of any personal stance on the proposed bill, I just want people to stop and think about what this says about how our government works, the power that political donations gives to corporations, and how the press reports this threat.

The Amazon lobbyists who kill U.S. consumer privacy protections

In Virginia, the company boosted political donations tenfold over four years before persuading lawmakers this year to pass an industry-friendly privacy bill that Amazon itself drafted. In California, the company stifled proposed restrictions on the industry’s collection and sharing of consumer voice recordings gathered by tech devices. And in its home state of Washington, Amazon won so many exemptions and amendments to a bill regulating biometric data, such as voice recordings or facial scans, that the resulting 2017 law had “little, if any” impact on its practices, according to an internal Amazon document.

The architect of this under-the-radar campaign to smother privacy protections has been Jay Carney, who previously served as communications director for Joe Biden, when Biden was vice president, and as press secretary for President Barack Obama. Hired by Amazon in 2015, Carney reported to founder Jeff Bezos and built a lobbying and public-policy juggernaut that has grown from two dozen employees to about 250, according to Amazon documents and two former employees with knowledge of recent staffing.

Source: The Amazon lobbyists who kill U.S. consumer privacy protections

Basically, this is everything you need to know about the state governance in the US. Literally all of our current national social issues take a backseat to what the Fortune 500 wants. Our governments, federal and state, do nothing but the bidding of big businesses, collectively decided by who’s in power, and which corporations are currently donating the most to campaigns. There’s nothing else to debate until Citizens United is fixed. Nothing. You can argue about gerrymandering and voting rights all you want, but personal voting does not matter in the slightest. Big business will always get what they want. If you happen to get something you want in the process, then just consider it a happy accident, and be on your way.

Nota bene, I’m NOT singling out a Democratic administration on this. There are innumerable examples of this sort of insider-turned-“lobbyist” on both sides of the aisle. Comcast, AT&T, and the FCC have had three-way incestuous relationship, stretching back for decades, across many administrations.

We’re Already Past the Point of No Return

From the Left
From the Right

These were literally back-to-back posts on Imgur’s “front page.” The underwritten war of the political class being waged by PAC’s and foreign governments on social media is literally saying the exact same things about each other, and make it seem like they are trying to tip the party balance in this country. It makes no difference.

I also see that ZeroHedge has posted a graph about sharply-increasing inflation, which I’ve been predicting for awhile now. To wit, it’s nearly doubled in just the last 6 months. The supply chain issues in every sector are the problem. They’ve all been strangled for short-term profits for at least a decade, and there’s nothing stopping the continued accretion of power through mergers in every industry.

The oligarchs have taken over this country, and are extracting all the profits from every financial sector. The top 1% own more than half the wealth in the country, and this situation can only get worse, exponentially. The tipping point has been passed. The most galling part of this is that they’ve gotten the rest of us to bicker about which party has doomed us to economic collapse, when they own both of them, top to bottom.

The oligarchs, through their media channels, will tell us that COVID has brought about this inflation, and the looming disaster to follow, but it was their profit taking which has stretched our supply infrastructure so thin that it couldn’t handle a predictable world-wide stress to begin with.

I don’t think the average person can see the utter futility about arguing Right-vs-Left politics when we’re living in a reincarnated feudalistic society, with modern-day versions of kings and lords, and vassals and serfs. Make no mistake: The idea of a democratic republic put forth in the US Constitution is dead and buried. Whatever we have right now, it is no longer a democracy nor a republic. It makes no material difference which “party” controls the government. Everyone in Washington is there to do the bidding of the largest corporations (and their officers) and the richest people (and their business interests), and they will, without fail, defer to them over the common man on every issue.

The reason we haven’t gotten socialized medicine yet is because the people running the largest health insurance companies haven’t figured out how to make even more money in such a system. As soon as they do, we’ll get an American version of the UK’s NHS the very next day.

Give Amazon and Facebook a Seat at the United Nations

Given the scope of their ambitions and our dependence on them, behemoth brands should be treated, and held to account, for what they really are: commercial superpowers.

Source: Give Amazon and Facebook a Seat at the United Nations

Here we go. Calls to take another step towards a grim, cyberpunk dystopian future.

New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust

The Amazon H2Q fight in 2019 woke up the anti-monopolists in New York. Now they are moving forward with a new stronger trust-busting law.

“Too Much Power in Too Few Hands” – An Interview with Senator Michael Gianaris:

Senator, first of all, thanks for talking to me. I’ll start with a simple question. Do we have a monopoly problem? And if so, can you frame the issue in terms that anybody could understand?

Sen. Gianaris: The best way I can put it is that there is too much power in too few hands. This concentration of power creates the opportunity for corruption, and not just corruption in the traditional sense, although it creates that opportunity as well. But it just corrupts the way the marketplace is supposed to work. It diminishes competition, and it squashes small and medium sized players, who can’t compete with not just the size of the biggest players, but the tactics that they’re using and their reach into multiple aspects of economic life.

For goodness sake, they are reaching into multiple aspects of governmental life, and they’re trying to dictate to governments how we should be making our decisions. And we saw it, of course, with Amazon’s second headquarters situation. They created a bidding war amongst local governments! And you saw it again, with Amazon trying to change the makeup of Seattle City Council because they weren’t happy with a proposal to help homeless people.

This power is changing the very nature of our democracy and our economic democracy, to have so few people making all the decisions.

Source: New York State to Revolutionize Antitrust (emphasis mine)

This is the key to the issue. As a theme, in my writing, I’ve complained that government regulatory power has been “captured” by corporations through campaign contributions. But here’s a guy who’s campaign doesn’t need the kind of money that Amazon can give him through a PAC. He’s a state senator, with a very comfortable seat. He can speak up. And he’s asking the right question: who’s in control?

People who seek office presumably have a mind to, you know, govern. And the money that Amazon throws around is routinely taking that power out of their hands. We need more people like Senator Gianaris who stop this bribery for control, and tell the people running Amazon, “No.” No, you can’t have this, if it means that we have to set aside ethical concerns. No, you can’t have this, if you intend to abandon your implied social responsibility to the people you employ or the city in which you run your business.

If we are going to avoid the currently-predictable, grim meathook cyberpunk future of a world of corporate states, this and this alone is the motivation that can put a stop to the trend: elected representatives with a long-term view who act like adults, and tell whining, spoiled toddlers no.

The Two Middle Classes – Quillette

The struggle between the two middle classes is not just a matter of wealth and power, but also of retaining the social basis for democracy itself. Without a strong, independent middle class operating outside the control of large institutions, be they tech giants or governments, we may be heading towards a technocratic future, that as one Silicon Valley wag put it, resembles  “feudalism with better marketing.”

Source: The Two Middle Classes – Quillette

I’ve been calling our corporatocracy a modern form of fuedalism for awhile now, which is where this article ends up. However, along the way, it explains the ascendancy of the “clerisy” — a liberal middle class made up of people like college professors and government bureaucrats — which does a good job at explaining the historically-different battle lines of the cultural war we witnessed in the last election. Expanding the thesis: It’s no longer about race, because race is no longer the determinant factor in which sector you work. I think this nails the current political climate, and current social evolutionary stage, much better than my small pull quote and comment would suggest.

The REAL Reason McDonalds Ice Cream Machines Are Always Broken – YouTube

TL;DW: The McDonald’s corporation forces franchisees to purchase a particular model of Taylor ice cream machines. These ice cream machines are finicky, prone to error, and hard to diagnose, which makes franchisees call someone to repair them. By contract, only Taylor’s repair department is allowed to work on Taylor ice cream machines. It’s expensive. Service makes up 25% of their yearly revenue. There is a secret system to diagnose and repair these machines that most people don’t know about. Someone else made a device to attach to the machine, and an app to read what it detected, and started having some success at bypassing this slow and expensive repair process. McDonald’s told licensees that they could not use this system or they would void their warranty and breach their contract. Taylor is implementing a similar system, but which will continue to keep the franchisees dependent on them to fix the machines.

Gee… This sounds an awful lot like John Deere, huh? This is another good case study for the right to repair.

This is just another naked play to unethically and forcefully create a monopoly on some vertical slice of economic activity, which a perfectly-competitive version of capitalism would have fixed on its own. It’s what all companies strive for now.

The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots – WSJ

The U.S. government has built robust programs to track terrorists and criminals through warrantless access to commercial data. Many vendors now provide global location information from mobile phones to intelligence, military and law-enforcement organizations.

Source: The Ease of Tracking Mobile Phones of U.S. Soldiers in Hot Spots – WSJ

It doesn’t really matter how much protection from government overreach we write into the Constitution, if we allow companies to do the things we won’t allow the government to do, in the name of the Almighty Dollar, and then let the government get the power we deny them in the Constitution through those reprehensible actions, regardless. The whole thing has become a sham thanks to unbounded Capitalism, propped up by our government enabling Amendment-defying behavior by companies, and then looking the other way when it comes to regulating them, while reaching a hand out behind them for campaign contributions.

I just watched The Courier last night. Great movie. When I was young, I would find it so funny the way the Soviet characters would ridicule their Western antagonists, mocking capitalism and the community-destroying greed it produced. I don’t find these things funny any more, because it’s really hard for me NOT to see some truth in that kind of dialog now.

In the post-war, pre-military-industrial-complex, pre-Wall-Street-investment-bank days, I wouldn’t have argued it. Now, monstrous companies are running this country, trampling the balance of power enshrined in our founding documents, and the result has been the decimation of the middle-class, which is crucial to upward mobility. And this is, after all, the American “dream.”

We mock China for having a social score and sham elections, but we incarcerate more people per capita than any other country, and then revoke their right to vote in a system that aggressively prevents any serious change to the status quo. We fly the flag, spend millions on fighter jet passes over stadiums, sing the nation anthem, praise our armed forces, and it all seems to me to be just as jingoistic as military parades in communist countries. How is our system any better, in actual practice?

There is, at least, one important — perhaps critical — difference, but I’ll save that for another time.

British Press Reacts to U.K. Press Has Hysterical Reaction to Oprah’s Interview With Meghan Markle and Prince Harry | Hollywood Reporter

Good Morning Britain host Piers Morgan, another long-time and very public critic of Markle, opened his show by repeatedly suggesting that Prince Harry had “spray-gunned” his family with the revelatory interview and that is was “so disloyal.”  “He’s been spray-gunning his entire family on global TV as Prince Phillip lies in hospital,” said Morgan, adding, “I see right through them,” and  that “Prince Charles has been bankrolling that couple for the last 5 years.”

Source: British Press Reacts to U.K. Press Has Hysterical Reaction to Oprah’s Interview With Meghan Markle and Prince Harry | Hollywood Reporter

The entire monarchy is bankrolled by the government. Anyone who has watched The Crown “sees right through” all of this nonsense, including Piers’ defenestration of the couple, in the defense of the institution.

Why is the country continuing to pay a small family of people $100M a year, and giving them governmental power, due to their having been born, and in very specific order? Note that this income is on top of the fact that the family owns vast amounts of the one thing no one is making any more: land. And, of course, it’s all the best real estate, with astounding homes and castles, which makes them a lot of money on top of the stipend.

Case in point: Who Owns England’s Woods?

The monarchy is a completely-historically-disingenuous proposition to begin with, as it has been more often knocked off and claimed by violence than by peaceful transition. Worse, in the 80 years following “the troubles,” the institution has increasingly shown itself to be an utter anachronism, without place in the modern world. The inhuman treatments that the family has used to extort behavior through the years is a matter of public record, and I’m surprised that anyone in the UK still supports the idea of it. The only reason it endures has to be the British press carrying their water, like this:

But I suspect that one day Harry will come to regret it, just as Diana did.

Source: PENNY JUNOR: Harry’s making the same mistake as Diana – and I fear he’ll come to regret it | Daily Mail Online

Netflix’s The Crown, while an otherwise-terrific show, always retrospectively paints the Regent in flattering colors, no matter how detestable her decisions have been over the past 60 years. It always depicts how she has been backed into a corner by society and government to make the calls she’s made, and makes her come off smelling like a rose, but that only serves to show how antiquated the entire institution is, in the post-war world. Especially given the intertwining of the Church of England alongside Parliament.

At the end of the day, the monarchy just a massive business. We have our own problems with massive businesses intertwining their wills with our government and our press. At this point, there’s probably, actually, little difference between the two systems, when you start to make a point-by-point comparison.

Our paranoid friend who fears Facebook’s power – Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

As a demonstration of how irrationally paranoid this guy is for imagining that a combination of political rulers and corporate cronies would suppress his speech via deplatforming, Facebook has deplatformed him…

Source: Our paranoid friend who fears Facebook’s power – Philip Greenspun’s Weblog

I have nothing to add.