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Interesting piece by a Cambridge professor on the divide between London and the rest of the UK

from Dissent magazine:

Britain’s EU Problem is a London Problem
Peter Mandler ▪ June 24, 2016

Yesterday the UK voted to leave the European Union after thirty years of a halting, sometimes noble, often messy experiment in international cooperation. In my circles—professional, well-educated, Cambridge and London—the principal reaction was incredulity. How could this happen? Who could want this? A natural reaction. In my electoral district, 75 percent voted to Remain. In the hip parts of London where my daughter lives, a similar result. But a look at the electoral map showed (inevitably, given that a substantial majority of England—though only a narrow majority of the UK—voted to Leave) that huge swathes of England outside of London voted by similar proportions to Leave—the poorer areas on the East and South coasts, depressed former industrial districts in the North, though also more prosperous parts of the West Country and the Midlands.

In shorthand, Britain’s EU problem is a London problem. London, a young, thriving, creative, cosmopolitan city, seems the model multicultural community, a great European capital. But it is also the home of all of Britain’s elites—the economic elites of “the City” (London’s Wall Street, international rather than European), a nearly hereditary professional caste of lawyers, journalists, publicists, and intellectuals, an increasingly hereditary caste of politicians, tight coteries of cultural movers-and-shakers richly sponsored by multinational corporations. It’s as if Hollywood, Wall Street, the Beltway, and the hipper neighborhoods of New York and San Francisco had all been mashed together. This has proved to be a toxic combination.

For the rest of the country has felt more and more excluded, not only from participation in the creativity and prosperity of London, but more crucially from power. That gap had begun to yawn dangerously in Thatcher’s 1980s, when deindustrialization in the North and the finance and property boom in the South East meant that growing inequality acquired a grave geographical component. London was not the sole beneficiary. There are pockets of London-like entitlement scattered all over the country—in university towns like Brighton, Cambridge, and Bristol, in select neighbourhoods of Manchester and Leeds. But the big money—and all those elites—remained firmly in London. In recent decades it has felt as if the whole country had been turned upside down and shaken, until most of the wealth and talent had pooled in the capital. One of the most striking features of this period has been the turnaround in London’s educational performance; in the 1990s, it had among the worst educational outcomes in Britain, today it has the best. Some of this is owing to immigration—striving immigrant groups are helping London’s schools to thrive. But some of it is owing to a different kind of migration—talented and ambitious young people from all over the country thronging to London to teach. London’s gain is the rest of the country’s loss.


Where was the Labour party in all this? To many people Tony Blair’s New Labour party looked indistinguishable from the rest of the metropolitan elite. A lot of its leaders were professional politicians parachuted into Northern working-class heartland seats. Tony Blair himself represented a former coal-mining community, Sedgefield. His henchman Peter Mandelson represented nearby Hartlepool, a former shipbuilding centre. His successor Ed Miliband represented Doncaster North, at the heart of the Northern coal and steel belt. All went to Oxford, all have spent their entire adult lives in politics, all live in London—wherever their “main home” was nominally located. Recently Labour tried to break with this legacy. Last year it elected a rank outsider, Jeremy Corbyn, as its leader, on a wave of anti-elitist revulsion. Corbyn stood for “Old Labour,” a politics of class and welfare and redistribution. Or did he? Corbyn too is a Londoner, representing a deeply bohemian inner London suburb, Islington North; he was my MP for ten years. He too has spent his lifetime in politics—not in think tanks or PR outfits, but in a range of London-centered “movement” groups, for nuclear disarmament, Irish republicanism, Palestinian liberation. He came to power on a wave of youth and student enthusiasm. Undoubtedly he does represent young, creative, multicultural London. But from Sedgefield, Hartlepool, and Doncaster that London doesn’t look all that different from the London of fat-cat bankers and thieving politicians. .................(more)


What the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Case Was Really About

What the Supreme Court's Affirmative Action Case Was Really About

Friday, 24 June 2016 00:00
By Nikole Hannah-Jones, ProPublica | News Analysis

Update: The Supreme Court has upheld the University of Texas's consideration of race in admissions. The case had been brought by Abigail Fisher, who argued she had been denied admission because of her race.

In 2013, ProPublica's Nikole Hannah-Jones highlighted an overlooked, deeply ironic fact about the case: When one looked at Fisher's arguments, she had not actually been denied admission because she is white, but rather because of her inadequate academic achievements. Read that analysis, originally published March 18, 2013, below.

When the NAACP began challenging Jim Crow laws across the South, it knew that, in the battle for public opinion, the particular plaintiffs mattered as much as the facts of the case. The group meticulously selected the people who would elicit both sympathy and outrage, who were pristine in form and character. And they had to be ready to step forward at the exact moment when both public sentiment and the legal system might be swayed.

That's how Oliver Brown, a hard-working welder and assistant pastor in Topeka, Kan., became the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that would obliterate the separate but equal doctrine. His daughter, whose third-grade innocence posed a searing rebuff to legal segregation, became its face.

Nearly 60 years after that Supreme Court victory, which changed the nation, conservatives freely admit they have stolen that page from the NAACP's legal playbook as they attempt to roll back many of the civil rights group's landmark triumphs.

In 23-year-old Abigail Noel Fisher they've put forward their version of the perfect plaintiff to challenge the use of race in college admissions decisions.


So while the Fisher case has been billed as a referendum on affirmative action, its backers have significantly grander ambitions: They seek to make the case a referendum on the 14th Amendment itself. At issue is whether the Constitution's equal protection clause, drafted by Congress during Reconstruction to ensure the rights of black Americans, also prohibits the use of race to help them overcome the nation's legacy of racism. ..............(more)


As US Home Prices Hit Peak Bubble, “Smart Money” is Selling

As US Home Prices Hit Peak Bubble, “Smart Money” is Selling
by Harry Dent • June 24, 2016

[font color="blue"]What do they know that we don’t?[/font]
By Harry Dent, Senior Editor, Economy & Markets:

Two weeks ago, I wrote about an upcoming New York City condominium listing for $250 million. I mention this because, as I’ve explained before, it’s always the tallest buildings and priciest condos to get hit during major downturns.

Just look at the early 1930s and mid-1970s marking peak bubbles if you don’t believe me!

You’ll understand, then, why I smiled when I saw a Forbes slideshow called “The Little Black Book of Billionaire Secrets,” featuring the most expensive homes in each of the 51 states, including Washington D.C.

North Dakota held the honor of the least expensive home, at just under three million dollars, now that the fracking boom has burst. The most expensive home was not in Manhattan, but in Florida – Palm Beach – at $159 million.

That’s a wide range of values, where the top house is 57.2 times the lowest of the high! ................(more)


Sobering IMF report on U.S. economy cites dwindling middle class, growing income equality

JUDY WOODRUFF: The American middle class is shrinking and struggling. The six-year-long economic recovery is showing some signs of slowing. And the pronounced wealth divide in the U.S. may get worse without bigger steps.

That warning was part of a new report issued today about the U.S. economy by the International Monetary Fund.

I sat down with its managing director, Christine Lagarde, at IMF headquarters here in Washington earlier today to hear more of her concerns about what’s happening to the middle class and the poor, and what could be done about it. .............(more)


Muslim women kicked out of California cafe accused of ‘civilizational jihad’ by lawyer

(Guardian UK) A group of Muslim women who claim in a lawsuit they were kicked out of a California restaurant for wearing headscarfs have been accused of “civilizational jihad” by a lawyer for the restaurant, which has launched a countersuit.

The seven women, six of whom were wearing hijabs, were kicked out of Urth Caffe in Laguna Beach in April.

They claim that they were targeted for ejection because of their hijabs, though the cafe denies that, claiming that they were violating a policy which limited seating time to 45 minutes, and have also claimed that there were other women wearing headscarves present who were not thrown out. ................(more)


From Investment-Grade to Bankruptcy in 4 Months: Why Ratings Agencies are Still a Joke

From Investment-Grade to Bankruptcy in 4 Months: Why Ratings Agencies are Still a Joke
by Wolf Richter • June 21, 2016

[font color="blue"]Whom are they trying to fool?[/font]

The largest bankruptcy in Brazil’s history occurred on Monday when telecommunications carrier Oi SA threw in the towel. On Tuesday, it also filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy protection in the US. A euro-denominated debt payment is coming due in less than a month, and it doesn’t have the money.

It owes creditors 65 billion reais ($19 billion). This includes 50 billion reais in bonds and bank loans, some of them denominated in foreign currencies.

It has been trying “restructure” its debt by stiffing creditors and practically wiping out stockholders. But ten days ago, CEO Bayard Gontijo resigned over a disagreement with some board members on the negotiations with the creditors. Last week, talks fell apart when board members rejected a plan by bondholders to swap their bonds for 95% of the company’s equity.

These creditors – among them Banco do Brasil and Itau Unibanco Holding – are licking their wounds. According to Bloomberg, the bankruptcy could also “trigger payments on $14 billion of derivatives contracts that are designed to pay out in an event of a default.”

Shareholders will be left with next to nothing. They include Pharol SGPS – a Portuguese telecom service provider – the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, the state-owned Brazilian development bank BNDES, and BlackRock. ................(more)


The Two Sides of Hate

from Dissent magazine:

The Two Sides of Hate
Michael Kazin ▪ June 21, 2016

The late philosopher Richard Rorty once credited the protest movements of the 1960s and ‘70s with one singular achievement: reducing the amount of sadism in American life. Thanks to the welcome ruckus stirred up by civil rights, feminist, and gay liberation activists, women, LGBT people, and members of racial and ethnic minorities came to be treated more fairly and respectfully than ever before in U.S. history.

In much of the United States, that is still true—although most Americans probably don’t recognize the activists who helped catalyze the change. But more recently, sadism has come roaring back. During Obama’s first term in the White House, hate crimes surged in number, and the public sphere remains fouled by all manner of attacks on vulnerable minorities.

Omar Mateen’s horrific mass murder last week in Orlando and Donald Trump’s vicious campaign for president demonstrate the peril we face. The orange-maned billionaire and the Orlando killer—who both grew up in Queens—would have despised one another. But they shared a common animus: both assaulted—literally or rhetorically—groups of people to which they did not belong (although Mateen may have been seeking to purge his own gay desire) and whom they believed were mortal threats to an order that no longer exists.


As with all forms of authoritarian fundamentalism—secular or religious—such beliefs lead to awful consequences. Of course, there are differences between the bigoted bluster of Trump and Mateen’s act of mass slaughter. But the Republican nominee-to-be has already made his animosities seem legitimate to tens of millions of Americans and would be in a position to act on them if elected. Mateen’s hateful act was inspired, although not led, by a jihadist brigade fueled by genocidal nihilism and curdled anti-imperialism masquerading as authentic Islam. Trump, for his part, has become a hero to and unintentional recruiter for white supremacist groups. ...............(more)


US Freight Drops to Worst May since 2010

US Freight Drops to Worst May since 2010
by Wolf Richter • June 20, 2016

[font color="blue"]Goods economy sinks, drags down trucking & railroads.[/font]

“May is usually a relatively strong month for freight shipments, but given the high inventories with ever slower turnover rates and the decline in new production orders, May could be another soft month,” predicted Rosalyn Wilson at Cass Transportation a month ago. It has now come to pass – only worse.

Freight shipments by truck and rail in the US, excluding commodities, fell 5.8% in May 2016 from the already anemic levels in May 2015, and 7.0% from May 2014, according to the Cass Freight Index, released today. It was the worst May since 2010.

“This year we have failed to see the robust growth in shipments that we expect to see this time of year,” Wilson lamented.

In fact, aggregate shipment volume over the first five months, according to the index, was the worst since 2010. And freight is one of the most reliable gauges of the goods-producing economy.


The Index is not seasonally or otherwise adjusted, so it shows strong seasonal patterns. In the chart below, the red line with black markers is for 2016. The colorful spaghetti above that line represents the years 2011 through 2015. The only month this year that was not the worst month since 2010 was February; only February 2011 was worse. That’s how bad it has gotten in the Freight sector: ...............(more)


Smartphone Users Are Paying for Their Own Surveillance

Smartphone Users Are Paying for Their Own Surveillance

Monday, 20 June 2016 00:00
By Bill Blunden, Truthout | News Analysis

In the movie Sneakers, a motley gang of security experts chase after a little black box that can crack any form of encryption. Though the idea of a digital skeleton key may seem like the stuff of Hollywood thrillers, there are researchers at the University of Michigan who've recently created just that. They've built a stealthy hardware back door that can be inserted into the blueprints of a computer chip to give intruders complete access to a system after executing an obscure series of commands.

Consider the implications: This kind of low-level attack is extremely difficult to detect and even more challenging to defend against. If a small group of university professors can successfully cook up their own little black box, imagine what an intelligence service with federal backing can do. William Binney, the National Security Agency's (NSA) former technical leader for intelligence, claims that with the NSA's budget of over $10 billion a year, "they have more resources to acquire your data than you can ever hope to defend against."

But it's not just the government that's watching us. IBM recently filed a patent for "monitoring individuals using distributed data sources," a stark reminder that much of what people do with their mobile devices is scooped up and stored in corporate data silos for later analysis. It's an inconvenient fact that Silicon Valley prefers to drown out with marketing pitches.

A Misplaced Faith in Markets

Thanks to whistleblower Edward Snowden, we know that NSA spies think of smartphone users as "zombies" who pay for their own surveillance. Hence, in the aftermath of the Snowden revelations, corporate leaders in Silicon Valley have focused intently on linking technical innovation with cybersecurity. It's an approach that aligns the average user's desire for better privacy with the business interests of large tech companies. ...............(more)


FBI Still Concealing Almost All of What the Orlando Gunman Said

(The Intercept) Doing nothing to advance the heated political debate over what combination of factors might have prompted Omar Mateen to open fire inside a gay nightclub in Orlando last week, the FBI on Monday refused to release the audio or a full transcript of the gunman’s phone conversations with the police during the attack.

The FBI instead published a written timeline of the attack, which included a redacted transcript of one conversation between Mateen and a 911 operator, and a partial summary of what he said in three further calls with the Orlando Police Department crisis negotiators that lasted 28 minutes in total. The bureau argued that letting the public hear or even read the gunman’s justification for the attack in his own words risked encouraging further attacks.

Later on Monday, after that redaction was widely criticized, the FBI reversed itself, issuing an unredacted transcript revealing what had been removed: the name of the person the gunman said he dedicated his attack to, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

However, based on a previous description of Mateen’s 911 calls given by FBI Director James Comey last week, it appears that the federal investigators continued to withhold details of a second conversation Mateen had with the 911 operator, which was not referred to at all in the government’s timeline. “He made 911 calls from the club, during the attack,” Comey said last week. “He called and he hung up. He called again and spoke briefly with the dispatcher, and then he hung up, and then the dispatcher called him back again and they spoke briefly. There were three total calls.”

Also missing from the transcript and summary of the conversations was any mention of the fact that, as Comey also said last week, Mateen had expressed solidarity with the Tsarnaev brothers, who carried out the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, and Moner Mohammad Abusalha, a Floridian who carried out a suicide bombing in Syria in 2014 on behalf of al Qaeda’s representatives there, the Nusra Front. The FBI’s Boston office revealed that Mateen had referred to the Tsarnaev brothers as his “homeboys” during one of the 911 calls, despite a lack of evidence that he had ever been in contact with them. .................(more)


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