July 2018Spectacle

Good Reads for July 2018

PUBLIC TRANSIT – HURTS OUR OIL REVENUES, SO IT MUST BE BAD FOR THE COUNTRY…

Right-wing libertarian oil billionaires Charles and David Koch are employing a technologically sophisticated political strategy to block the expansion of public transit in the United States and defund transit systems that already exist, according to an article by Hiroko Tabuchi in the June 23, 2018 New York Times. According to the article, the Koch campaign against subways, light rail systems and buses is "an offshoot of their longstanding crusade for lower taxes and smaller government," and a network of Koch-funded activists is using a sophisticated data service, called i360, that helps identify and mobilize potential voters for the campaign who share the Koch brothers' ideology. The Nashville, TN area, Little Rock, AR, and central Utah and southeastern Michigan are among the places where the Koch campaign is trying to kill off public transit at the city and county levels.If you can avoid the Times pay wall, you can read more about it at Koch Brothers Are Killing Public Transit Projects.

CHEAP OIL AND THE UBER MENSCH:  PUBLIC TRANSIT USE DECLINES IN CITIES AROUND THE WORLD.

In many of the world’s wealthiest cities, the use of public transit has declined significantly over the past several years, according to a June 21, 2018 article in The Economist.  It isn’t just that rightwing oil billionaires like the Koch brothers are consciously working to kill off public transit systems on ideological grounds: the growth of ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft also seems to be driving declining ridership for many public transit systems.  In some cities, too, such as New York and Washington DC, public transit infrastructure has deteriorated and become less attractive, while in the meantime a general fall in oil prices has made driving cheaper for car owners.  The development of self-driving taxis could further accelerate the trend away from buses and subways.  For eco-socialists and others working to slow climate change by reducing CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use, the public turn away from mass transit is obviously bad news.  However, the Economist suggests that some of the trend reflects more people working at home and/or taking bicycles to work.  Indeed, bicycle use is the fastest-growing form of transportation use in the developed West, although it still accounts for a very small fraction of the total.

--Andy Feeney

ERODING THE RULE OF CAPITAL IN THE BELLY OF THE BEAST: AN ECOSOCIALIST PERSPECTIVE

Kurt Stand recommends David Schwartzman’s presentation on DC’s neolib social ecology, made at the recent Left Forum held in NYC:

“A panel at the Left Forum in New York City was organized around the theme of how housing struggles and strategies can be critical for revolutionary change.  This question takes on added meaning because gentrification intensifies the problem of environmental sustainability.  Below is the outline of the panel presention given by David Schwartzman -- Metro DC DSA member and DC Statehood Green Party candidate for City Council at Large -- under the title of Eroding the rule of capital in the belly of the beast: an ecosocialist perspective.  David, who is also a member of ONE DC, Empower DC, the Fair Budget Coalition and on the DC Public Banking steering committee, talked specifically about the local impact of displacement at Barry Farms and the racial discrimination at the center of neo-liberal urban policy being implemented in DC.

Schwartzman, Howard University Professor Emeritus, is a scientist with a focus on climate change and energy [policy.  The panel used as a focal point, Anitra Nelson's Small is Necessary: Shared Living on a Shared Planet which develops a construct for an alternative housing policy.

--Kurt Stand

LONG LOOK AT THE POTENTIAL OF THE ROBOT REVOLUTION TO CREATE NEW JOBS - OR DESTROY THEM.

 From MIT Technology Review:   The city of Pittsburgh is shaping up as a test case for whether the continuing development of industrial robots, self-driving cars and other AI technologies will create more good-paying jobs than it destroys, according to a long article by David Rotman in the June 18 MIT Technology Review.  According to Rothman, “There is no sillier—or more disingenuous—debate in the tech community than the one over whether robots and AI will destroy jobs or, conversely, create a great abundance of new ones.”  In truth, he argues, “the outcome depends on various economic factors. And how it will play out as the pace of AI intensifies, no one knows.”

The article cites several economists, including former Clinton administration advisor Laura Tyson, as opining new technologies in the past have eventually created an abundance of new jobs to replace those they destroy, but that this pattern now may be changing. Some observers of what high-tech jobs have meant to Pittsburgh so far also believe that they have helped to gentrify the city by creating new, high-paying positions for younger, tech-savvy workers while making driving up housing prices for older, less-educated workers who have been impacted by deindustrialization.  Across the U.S., according to a recent study by MIT researcher Daron Acemoglu, the growth of robotics and automation from 1990 through 2007 eliminated six older jobs for every new one created, for a net loss of some 670,000 jobs in all.  However, Rothman’s article suggests, it may be possible for society to channel the robotics revolution in ways that will be beneficial overall – by reviving the economies of once-devastated Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh, for example.  See here for the full article.

--Andy Feeney

TYRANNY  OF THE MECHANICAL TURK: THE RISE AND RISE OF DIGITAL PLATFORM WORK

So why does Jeff Bezos need an HQ2 here, or anywhere, when most of the wage slavery he profits from takes place in the cyberworld. Here's an article from the Brit radmag Red Pepper about Mechanical Turk, the casual-labor site. "Upwork commonly features jobs which pay low wages with intensive working hours and require workers to alter their sleeping schedules to accommodate clients in different time zones. Jobs are regularly posted which pay as little as $3 an hour, and that’s for those lucky enough to be able to take them. Because for most people, the hardest part is simply being able to access work."

--Woody Woodruff

 

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