The data scientist who didn't have time to stop all the coups

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Zhang discovered inauthentic activity — a Facebook term for engagement from bot accounts and coordinated manual accounts— in Bolivia and Ecuador but chose “not to prioritize it,” due to her workload. The amount of power she had as a mid-level employee to make decisions about a country’s political outcomes took a toll on her health.

“I Have Blood On My Hands”: A Whistleblower Says Facebook Ignored Global Political Manipulation, Craig Silverman, Ryan Mac, and Pranav Dixit in BuzzFeed News

Boys State

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We watched Boys State this week. It’s a documentary that follows a cohort of Texan teenage boys going through an intense one-week political bootcamp at the Texas state capitol. They’re divided randomly into two parties*, given lessons in the state constitution, and then they run a compressed set of elections for party chairmen, gubernatorial candidates, and ultimately for state governor. I really enjoyed it, though I felt myself predictably enamoured with the charismatic and thoughtful liberals Steven and René.

How the Pandemic Revealed Britain’s National Illness

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Britain, I was told, has found a way to be simultaneously overcentralized and weak at its center. The pandemic revealed the British state’s inability to manage the nation’s health: to create a funding model that does not solely promote efficiency, to rise above short-term problems and tackle the problem of old-age care, and to mend the broken system of accountability that runs through so much of British public life. Throughout the NHS’s existence, British governments, both Conservative and Labour, have found the political will to tinker with it, but rarely to tackle its long-term challenges, fearful of losing votes. The NHS did not fail, but the system overall did—and people died as a result.

How the Pandemic Revealed Britain’s National Illness, Tom McTague in The Atlantic

No More Money For The Police

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Municipalities can begin by changing policies or statutes so police officers never respond to certain kinds of emergencies, including ones that involve substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness or mental health. Instead, health care workers or emergency response teams would handle these incidents. So if someone calls 911 to report a drug overdose, health care teams rush to the scene; the police wouldn’t get involved. If a person calls 911 to complain about people who are homeless, rapid response social workers would provide them with housing support and other resources. Conflict interrupters and restorative justice teams could mediate situations where no one’s safety is being threatened. Community organizers, rather than police officers, would help manage responses to the pandemic. Ideally, people would have the option to call a different number, say 727, to access various trained response teams.

No More Money For The Police, Philip V. McHarris and Thenjiwe McHarris in The New York Times

What a World Without Cops Would Look Like

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For those folks, the picture changes because hopefully they won’t have so many problematic things to deal with. The reality is a lot of people just don’t call the police as it is because they feel like it’s just going to make their lives worse. That is a deep truth. And so what we want to do is not just to leave them on their own, we want to try and start fixing their problems. Like domestic violence, which goes grossly underreported because huge numbers of survivors feel that getting the police involved is just going to make the situation worse. Police come, either do nothing, arrest both parties, or arrest the man whom the woman was financially dependent upon. He’s pissed off when he gets out of jail, and he comes and beats her up again. Where’s the community resource center? Where are the supports for families, so that maybe they can fix their problems? Where are the outlets for women so that they can live independently, to get away from an abuser?

What a World Without Cops Would Look Like Mother Jones, Madison Pauly in Mother Jones

Is It Safe to Keep Employing a Cleaner? Wrong Question, Lady



You are asking the wrong questions, which is callous at best. You should be asking if it is safe for Maria to be around you. Do you keep your home properly sanitized so she won’t contract Covid-19 when she is working? Do you wear a mask when speaking to her so you don’t infect her? Do you provide her with personal protective equipment like masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes to ensure her safety as she works on your behalf and imperils herself and her young children?

Is It Safe to Keep Employing a Cleaner? Wrong Question, Lady - The New York Times, Roxane Gay in The New York Times

American Police Departments

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The officers have since been placed on administrative leave but have not been charged with a crime.

Ms. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, told investigators he did not hear police announce themselves and was terrified when the door was knocked down. In a 911 call just after the shooting, Mr. Walker told the dispatcher that somebody kicked in the door and shot my girlfriend, according to a recording released on Thursday.

7 People Shot at Louisville Protest Over the Death of Breonna Taylor - The New York Times, Mike Baker in The New York Times

In other parts of the city and in St. Paul, police in riot gear clashed repeatedly with protesters amid reports of vandalized buildings and fires in businesses. In Minneapolis, at least one person was injured in a stabbing during the chaos, the police said. Late Thursday, protesters climbed over fences to breach a police precinct and set it on fire as officers retreated in squad cars. Smoke poured from the precinct and nearby buildings.

National Guard Called As Minneapolis Erupts in Solidarity for George Floyd, Matt Furber, John Eligon, and Audra D. S. Burch in The New York Times

Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism?

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A third feature of neofeudalism is the spatiality associated with feudalism, one of protected, often lively centers surrounded by agricultural and desolate hinterlands. We might also characterize this as a split between town and country, municipal and rural areas, urban communes and the surrounding countryside, or, more abstractly between an inside walled off from an outside, a division between what is secure and what is at risk, who is prosperous and who is desperate. Wood says that medieval cities were essentially oligarchies, “with dominant classes enriched by commerce and financial services for kings, emperors and popes. Collectively, they dominated the surrounding countryside … extracting wealth from it in one way or another.” Outside the cities were the nomads and migrants who, facing unbearable conditions, sought new places to live and work yet all too often came up against the walls.

US hinterlands are sites of loss and dismantlement, places with fantasies of a flourishing capitalist past that for a while might have let some linger in the hope that their lives and their children’s lives might actually get better. Remnants of an industrial capitalism that’s left them behind for cheaper labor, the hinterlands are ripe for the new intensified exploitation of neofeudalism. No longer making things, people in the hinterlands persist through warehouses, call centers, Dollar Stores, and fast food. Phil A. Neel’s recent book, Hinterland, notes patterns between China, Egypt, Ukraine, and the United States. They are all places with desolate abandoned wastelands and cities on the brink of overload.

Politically, the desperation of the hinterlands manifests in the movements of those outside the cities, movements that are sometimes around environmental issues (fracking and pipeline struggles), sometimes around land (privatization and expropriation), sometimes around the reduction of services (hospital and school closings). In the United States, the politics of guns positions the hinterlands against the urban. We might also note the way the division between hinterlands and municipality gets reinscribed within cities themselves. This manifests in both the abandonment of poor areas and their eradication in capitalist gentrification land grabs. A city gets richer and more people become homeless think San Francisco, Seattle, New York, Los Angeles.

The increased attention to social reproduction responds to hinterlandization, that is, to the loss of a general capacity to reproduce the basic conditions of livable life. This appears in rising suicide rates, increase in anxiety and drug addiction, declining birth rates, lower rates of life expectancy, and in the United States, the psychotic societal self-destruction of mass shootings. It appears in the collapsed infrastructures, undrinkable water, and unbreathable air. The hinterlands are written on people’s bodies and on the land. With closures of hospitals and schools, and the diminution of basic services, life becomes more desperate and uncertain.

Neofeudalism: The End of Capitalism? - Los Angeles Review of Books, Jodi Dean in Los Angeles Review of Books