From NYRDaily, May 13th 2020
America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a shocking lack of preparedness for public health emergencies. But it has also revealed what must be, for the aspiring strongman in the White House and his coterie, a more embarrassing fact: if America were to move in an authoritarian direction, it would be shedding international allies in order to enter into a competition with nationalistic authoritarian states that it probably can’t win.
From NYRDaily January 15 2020
US Attorney General William Barr’s defense of unchecked executive authority in his recent speech to the Federalist Society had an unpleasant familiarity for me. It took me back to a time in my life—during the late 1990s, as a graduate student in England, and the early 2000s, teaching political theory in the politics department at Princeton University—when I seemed to spend altogether too much time arguing over the ideas of a Nazi legal theorist notorious as the “crown jurist” of the Third Reich.
It has become evident over the last few years that the wealthiest individuals in Europe and America, who we’re used to thinking of as anti-state libertarians, have in fact abandoned free markets in favour of state-supported monopolies; they wish to be oligarchs
On the Russian model of what is known as “state capitalism,” businesses that are strategically essential to the state receive various forms of state protection, including the absorption of economic risk. The billionaire owners of those businesses move their enormous profits off-shore and very little financial benefit accrues to the Russian people, so deep inequalities are endemic.
From Byline Times, 27 November 2018
From NYRDaily, August 27th 2019
On July 24, 2019, a buoyant Boris Johnson swept past crowds shouting “Bollocks to Brexit! Bollocks to Boris!” and was ushered into the hushed splendor of Buckingham Palace. There, he shook hands with the antique, bejeweled Queen Elizabeth II, and became the prime minister of Great Britain, elected not by popular mandate but by members of his Conservative Party. That same day, on the other side of the Atlantic, a frail and reluctant Robert Mueller took his oath before giving public testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, and later the House Intelligence Committee, on a controversial and difficult twenty-two-month-long investigation—made more challenging by multiple witnesses’ lying under oath—in which he had painstakingly examined Russian interference in the 2016 election of Donald Trump.
From NYR Daily, 13th September 2018
“This summer, the fifth anniversary of Edward Snowden’s revelations about NSA surveillance passed quietly, adrift on a tide of news that now daily sweeps the ground from under our feet. It has been a long five years, and not a period marked by increased understanding, transparency, or control of our personal data. In these years, we’ve learned much more about how Big Tech was not only sharing data with the NSA but collecting vast troves of information about us for its own purposes. And we’ve started to see the strategic ends to which Big Data can be put. In that sense, we’re only beginning to comprehend the full significance of Snowden’s disclosures.”
From nybooks.com, March 21st 2018
Apparently, the age of the old-fashioned spook is in decline. What is emerging instead is an obscure world of mysterious boutique companies specializing in data analysis and online influence that contract with government agencies. As they say about hedge funds, if the general public has heard their names that’s probably not a good sign. But there is now one data analysis company that anyone who pays attention to the US and UK press has heard of: Cambridge Analytica. Representatives have boasted that their list of past and current clients includes the British Ministry of Defense, the US Department of Defense, the US Department of State, the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and NATO. Nevertheless, they became recognized for just one influence campaign: the one that helped Donald Trump get elected president of the United States. The kind of help the company offered has since been the subject of much unwelcome legal and journalistic scrutiny.
From The New York Review of Books. April 5th 2018
The big Silicon Valley technology companies have long been viewed by much of the American public as astonishingly successful capitalist enterprises operated by maverick geniuses. The largest among them—Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Google (the so-called Big Five)—were founded by youthful and charismatic male visionaries with signature casual wardrobes: the open-necked blue shirt, the black polo-neck, the marled gray T-shirt and hoodie. These founders have won immense public trust in their emergent technologies, from home computing to social media to the new frontier, artificial intelligence. Their companies have seemed to grow organically within the flourishing ecology of the open Internet.