[Plura-list] Feds gouge states, subsidize corporations; Cadillac perfects the murdermobile; Solar's "miracle material"; and more!

Cory Doctorow doctorow at craphound.com
Tue Oct 20 11:26:49 EDT 2020


Today's Attack Surface Lecture:

Tech in SciFi with Ken Liu and Annalee Newitz


Full schedule: https://attacksurface.com


Today's links

* Feds gouge states, subsidize corporations: The Federal Reserve is
overcharging local governments and showering money on zombie corporations.

* Cadillac perfects the murdermobile: "It took 13 children seated in a
line in front of the Escalade before the driver could see the tops of
their heads."

* Solar's "miracle material": A perovskite breakthrough.

* This day in history: None

* Colophon: Recent publications, upcoming appearances, current writing
projects, current reading


🎲 Feds gouge states, subsidize corporations

The scariest zombies this Hallowe'en aren't trick-or-treating, they're
the zombie corporations that are borrowing cheap money from the Fed,
declaring special dividends and stock buybacks, shambling on despite
their inevitable demise.


Wage stagnation, crushing consumer debt and mass layoffs means that no
matter how much money we give these zombie companies, they're not going
to create jobs or invest in new capital - the only people with money are
their shareholders, who don't need their products.

Meanwhile, the same Fed that is offering a public subsidy to the richest
people in America in the form of preferential interest rates in
corporate loans is gouging state and local governments whose tax-bases
have collapsed.


As Matthew Cunningham-Cook writes for the Daily Poster, "budget-strapped
states and cities are being forced to choose between high-interest loans
or mass layoffs of teachers, firefighters, emergency workers and other
public-sector employees."

A coalition of grassroots groups and state/local politicians have called
upon the Fed to offer states and cities the same interest rates that
blue-chip zombies are getting.

This wouldn't just help avoid mass layoffs and fund desperately needed
services to residents whose lives were shattered by covid, it would also
let cities roll over their Wall Street debt, which currently accounts
for $160b/year in interest payments alone (!).

What could our state and local governments do this year if they didn't
have to shell out $160b in interest to Wall Street?

* help 13m families avoid eviction by covering their annual rent

* provide all 31.5m unemployed workers $600/week for 8 weeks


The Fed has provided unlimited liquidity for corporate junk bonds, but
its $500b Municipal Liquidity Facility is dormant, having been used just
twice since the start of the crisis for a total of $1.6b. That fund
lends at 0.5%, but cities and states can't get at it.

Corporations get a great deal, states not so much.

Chevron was able to borrow for 0.9% over 4.5 years; the State of
Wisconsin, which has the same credit rating as Chevron, is borrowing at
1.28% over 3 years.

Phillip Morris sold its bonds to the Fed at 0.9%. The State of Kentucky,
which has the same credit rating as Morris, is paying 2% over 3 years.

The Fed offered NYC 1.9% over 24 months - a worse deal than they'd get
from Citibank.

That slumbering Municipal Liquidity Fund is overseen by  Kent Hiteshew,
the Obama-era bankster enabler who bailed out the predatory bondholders
who had buried Puerto Rico under an avalanche of debt. He's a finance
crime lifer: ex-Bear Sterns, ex-Drexel Burnham Lambert.

By starving cities and states of credit, Hiteshew is able to pile up
lucrative business for Wall Street, which is able to borrow Fed money
for almost nothing, then turn around and loan it to state and local
governments at massive markups.

"The Fed has two bazookas. One of them is a municipal bazooka and the
other is a corporate credit bazooka. They have the municipal bazooka
setting on low and the corporate bazooka setting on high." -Nathan Tankus


🎲 Cadillac perfects the murdermobile

I am not a car person. Until we moved back to LA in 2015, the only time
I'd ever been a car owner was 12 months in 2006-7, when I moved to LA
for a Fulbright chair at USC and bought a used Hyundai Elantra to get to
the university in.

When we moved back here in '15, we bought a used Prius. Both cars were
fine - they got us around, took us to the beach, and were good for
grocery runs.

But two years ago, I did a consulting gig that came with a one-year
lease on a luxury SUV. I admit, I was curious about what life would be
like behind the wheel of a land-yacht.

It was terrible.

The car handled like a tank, had multiple, massive bind-spots, and while
it boasted a massive touchscreen with seven millions features, they were
impossible to access, switched themselves off and on at random, and were
a huge distracted-driving risk.

It looks like my lux SUV experience was par for the course. Andrew J
Hawkins reviewed the new Cadillac Escalade for The Verge and the thing
sounds like a lumbering murdermobile.


It's the largest SUV Cadillac ever made, 18' long, 6.5' high,  with a
grille "like a sheer cliffside, obstructing my view several feet out in
front of the wheels."

Last year's (smaller) Escalade has a blindspot so huge that "It took 13
children seated in a line in front of the Escalade before the driver
could see the tops of their heads."

Here's Hawkins's 3-y-o standing in front of the new Escalade's grille:


The Escalade is a true road-hazard: at 6.75' wide, it barely fits in a
highway lane (or a driveway).

As bad as it is to be in a car that gets hit by one of these things,
pedestrians fare even worse: peds murdered by SUVs have soared 81% in
ten years.

Not surprising: these things are so tall that they strike the head or
torso, and they have so much clearance that they trap their victims
beneath them.

The Escalade tries to make up for this with a cluster of cameras and
haptic feedback mechanisms (my SUV had this too).

I found those mechanisms helpful, but agree with Hawkins: "When you need
a suite of high-definition cameras and other expensive sensors to safely
drive to the grocery store, there might be something inherently wrong
with your design."

GM (who make the Cadillac) is phasing out *all* car models *except* SUVs
for the US market.

SUVs are the second largest cause of the global rise in carbon dioxide
emissions over the past decade.

We barely drove our free SUV - a couple trips to the beach, some grocery
runs. When the lease expired last month, we bought an all-electric Kia
that we run off our rooftop solar.

The Kia is frankly great. It has fantastic handling, and dashboard
controls based on buttons and knobs that you can find without taking
your eyes off the road. We still barely drive it, but when we do, it's
1,000 times nicer than the SUV.

My only complaint is that Kia's leasing department insisted on using my
home address for correspondence (I only give out a nearby mailbox as a
precaution against doxing, SWATing, etc), and now I'm getting TONS of
junk mail from people they've sold or given my name to.


🎲 Solar's "miracle material"

Back in 2017, University of Utah researchers caused a stir when they
published findings on a material called "perovskite" that was called a
"miracle" for its potential to increase the efficiency of photovoltaics
from 3% to 20%.

At the time, the consensus was that implementing this research would
take at least a decade, while a means of stabilizing the material in
direct sunlight was developed.

But now a joint Monash University and the University of Sydney team have
announced a major breakthrough that they say will allow for rapid
development of practical devices.


The researchers say that focused, high-intensity light does not degrade
the material the way diffuse sunlight does, and that adding a focusing
lens will yield PV cells that perform with perovskite's efficiency but
without its rapid breakdown.


The researchers also speculate that this discovery will allow them to
make much higher-density digital storage devices.


🎲 This day in history

#15yrsago Finnish copyright minister carries fake Prada bag on official
business https://hietanen.typepad.com/copyfraud/2005/10/karpela_is_a_vi.html

#15yrsago Chinese activist to Jerry Yang: You are helping to maintain an
evil system

#10yrsago Scary Godmother: delightful, spooky graphic storybook for kids

#5yrsago The Welcome to Night Vale novel dances a tightrope between
weird humor and real pathos

#5yrsago Reality check: we know nothing whatsoever about simulating
human brains

#5yrsago How the market for zero-day vulnerabilities works

#5yrsago How a lobbyist/doctor couple are destroying Worker’s Comp
across America

#1yrago Yahoo Groups archivists despair as Verizon blocks their
preservation efforts ahead of shutdown


🎲 Colophon

Today's top sources: Super Punch (https://www.superpunch.net/), Naked
Capitalism (https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/), Slashdot

Currently writing: My next novel, "The Lost Cause," a post-GND novel
about truth and reconciliation. Yesterday's progress: 573 words (74504

Currently reading: Harrow the Ninth, Tamsyn Muir

Latest podcast: Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town (part 17)

Upcoming appearances:

* The Attack Surface Lectures: 8 nights of bookstore-hosted events in
which I and a massive group of entertaining and knowledgeable experts
discourse on my latest novel's themes, Oct 13-22

* Milehicon (Guest of Honor!), Oct 23-5, https://milehicon.org/

* Coding Democracy/Toronto International Festival of Authors, Oct 24

Recent appearances:

* TWiT: The J to J Protocol

* Writing Excuses: Researching the FCK out of Things

* SRSLY WRONG: Stop Techno Dystopia!

Latest book:

* "How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism": an anti-monopoly pamphlet
analyzing the true harms of surveillance capitalism and proposing a

* "Little Brother/Homeland": A reissue omnibus edition with a new
introduction by Edward Snowden:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250774583; personalized/signed copies

* "Poesy the Monster Slayer" a picture book about monsters, bedtime,
gender, and kicking ass. Order here:
https://us.macmillan.com/books/9781626723627. Get a personalized, signed
copy here:

Upcoming books:

* "Attack Surface": The third Little Brother book, Oct 20, 2020.

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*When life gives you SARS, you make sarsaparilla* -Joey "Accordion Guy"

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