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“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses”*…

 

mpact investing

 

This month marks the anniversary of the U.S. Business Roundtable’s 2019 call for a shift from “shareholder capitalism” toward “stakeholder capitalism.”

Business leaders asked us to imagine a transformed world, but a bat virus in Wuhan had its own ambitious plans — and has, for the time being, transformed the world in quite another way. It has thrust government to the center, pushing business, whatever its approach to capitalism, to the sidelines.

Nobody could reasonably expect business alone to fix the pandemic. Nonetheless, some investors under the banner of “impact investing” argue that business alone will be able to fix the other big problems ailing the global economy, such as climate change or global female literacy, without sacrificing commercial returns. This view has garnered interest from major banks, consultancies, business lobby groups, and even former prime ministers. One of impact investing’s leading champions, Sir Ronald Cohen, believes that it could be the “revolution” that will save capitalism and solve many of the world’s greatest problems.

It is an enticing vision of an enlightened post-pandemic economy, and, as an impact investor and economist, we support its ambitions. However, if we really want to reform capitalism, then impact investing as it is traditionally conceived will not be enough. The pandemic is not a mere anomaly; there are profound limits to what business can do profitably in normal times too. We need to reform the rules that govern how our economy works — and impact investors have a critical role to play [in changing those rules]…

From Harvard Business Review, “Impact Investing Won’t Save Capitalism.”

* Shirley Chisholm

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As we endeavor to ensure equitable equities, we might recall that it was on this date (Friday the 13th) in 2013 that Google suffered an outage: all of its services were unavailable for five minutes, including Google Search, YouTube, and Google Drive.  During that brief window, internet traffic around the world dropped by 40 per cent.

Screen Shot 2020-08-06 at 3.49.04 PM source

 

 

Written by LW

August 13, 2020 at 1:01 am

Spinning a (World Wide) Web…

 

click here for larger, interactive version

In commemoration of Chrome’s birthday, Google enlisted Hyperakt and Vizzuality to create a celebratory chart of the evolution of the internet…  The interactive timeline has bunch of nifty features– your correspondent’s fave: clicking a browser icon allows users to see how the browser’s window has changed in each release…  a stroll down “memory lay-out,” if not memory lane– and a concrete reminder of the importance of design.

[TotH to the ever-remarkable Flowing Data]

 

As we resolve yet again to clean out our bookmark cache, we might wish an acerbic Happy Birthday to journalist, essayist, magazine editor, satirist, and critic Henry Louis “H. L.” Mencken; he was born on this date in 1880.  Mencken is the auuthor of the philological work The American Language, and is remembered for his journalism (e.g., his coverage of the Scopes Trial) and for his cultural criticism (and editorship of American Mercury— published by Alfred Knopf, also born on this date, but 12 years after Mencken ) in which he championed such writers as D.H. Lawrence, Ford Madox Ford, and Sherwood Anderson.  But “H.L.” is probably most famous for the profusion of pointed one-liners and adages that leavened his work…

The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

I believe in only one thing and that thing is human liberty. If ever a man is to achieve anything like dignity, it can happen only if superior men are given absolute freedom to think what they want to think and say what they want to say. I am against any man and any organization which seeks to limit or deny that freedom. . . [and] the superior man can be sure of freedom only if it is given to all men.

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it.

H.L. Mencken, photograph by Carl Van Vechten (source)

 

 

Hitting ’em where they ain’t…

The folks at Really Magazine have a bone to pick with Google and it’s Page Rank Algorithm, which determines the results that a search yields:

It is of course pure folly. It works by pushing up the pages which are already  popular and have lots of links to them. Although it is patented, there is and never was absolutely nothing new about it. It is just a computerized feedback version of ‘The rich get richer’ or ‘Nothing succeeds like success’ – which we all know too well.
full article

By way of remedy, Really commissioned Inframutt, which “is trained to automatically fetch and display the least popular results for any given search page.”

Try it here.

As we marvel at the ways in which democracy can seem positively random, we might recall that it was on this date in 1994 that the first phase of jury selection in the O.J. Simpson murder trial was completed (304 potential jurors were chosen).  It was exactly one year later– on this date in 1995– that the case was sent to the jury for deliberation.

source

Written by LW

September 29, 2010 at 12:01 am

Ignorance is strength…

From where Winston stood it was just possible to read, picked out on its white face in elegant lettering, the three slogans of the Party:
WAR IS PEACE
FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH.

– George Orwell, 1984

China’s State Council Information Office (SCIO), an arm of the Central Propaganda Department, operates an “Internet Affairs Bureau” to oversee all web sites that publish news, both the official sites of news organizations and independents.

This Internet Affairs Bureau sends very specific instructions to all large news web sites,  often multiple times per day. Sometimes these instructions ban contents outright, but often they instruct web sites to highlight or suppress certain type of opinions or information– in a very detailed manner.  Consider these directives (issued March 23, 2010; translated by the China Digital Times):

(The link to “China’s princelings” goes here.)

On the subject of Google’s exit from China (well, to Hong Kong; excellent background piece from PRI’s The World here), the Bureau had very specific instructions (again, translated by the CDT):

But technology marches on…  these government directives are meant to be confidential.  But while they are not showing up on web sites per se in China, some of their recipients– the web editors at whom they are aimed– are using Twitter, Sinaweibo (Sina’s popular micro-blogging service), and other social media to slip them into cyberspace.  To wit, the CDT coverage.

It should come as no surprise then that the SCIO is expanding:  an “Internet Affairs Bureau 2” is being established to control social media and other Web 2.0 services driven by user-generated content.  (More background on Chinese “management of web content” here.)

As we remark that a vigorous independent media is the infrastructure of democracy, and that it is an issue of some valence not just in China, but essentially everywhere in the world,* we might recall that it was on this date in 1936 that a German referendum ratified Deutschland’s armed occupation of the Rhineland earlier that month, in violation of the Treaty of Versailles.  Hitler acted when he did for a variety of reasons, main among them that France, the most directly-affected/threatened other nation, was in internal political and financial disarray, and that Germany was in the midst of an economic crisis of its own, from which the Fuhrer needed a foreign policy distraction…  the Chancellor’s timing was good: France’s response was limited to a strongly-worded condemnation, and 99% of the votes cast in the German referendum (44.5 million votes out of 45.5 million registered voters), were in support.

Fuhrer and Chancellor

* For peeks at two very different examples of action that can matter, check out The Censorship Research Center and The Media Development Loan Fund

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