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robertogreco : newjersey   13

A Business With No End - The New York Times
"Where does this strange empire start or stop?"



"Trying to map the connections between all these entities opens a gaping wormhole. I couldn’t get over the idea that a church might be behind a network of used business books, hair straighteners, and suspiciously priced compression stockings — sold on Amazon storefronts with names like GiGling EyE, ShopperDooperEU and DAMP store — all while running a once-venerable American news publication into the ground.

While I searched for consistencies among disparate connections, the one thing I encountered again and again on websites affiliated with those in the Community was the word “dream.” “Find the wooden furniture of your dreams” (Hunt Country Furniture). “Read your dreams” (Stevens Books). “Our company is still evolving every year, but our dream never changed” (Everymarket). “The future belongs to the one who has dreams; a company with dreams achieves the same” (Verecom).

Indeed, at some point I began to feel like I was in a dream. Or that I was half-awake, unable to distinguish the virtual from the real, the local from the global, a product from a Photoshop image, the sincere from the insincere.

Still harder for me to grasp was the total interpenetration of e-commerce and physical space. Standing inside Stevens Books was like being on a stage set for Stevens Books, Stevens Book, Stevens Book Shop, and Stevensbook — all at the same time. It wasn’t that the bookstore wasn’t real, but rather that it felt reverse-engineered by an online business, or a series of them. Being a human who resides in physical space, my perceptual abilities were overwhelmed. But in some way, even if it was impossible to articulate, I knew that some kind of intersection of Olivet University, Gratia Community Church, IBPort, the Newsweek Media Group, and someone named Stevens was right there with me, among the fidget spinners, in an otherwise unremarkable store in San Francisco."
jennyodell  2018  internet  olivetuniversity  amazon  business  scams  fraud  storytelling  gifs  animatedgifs  sanfrancisco  newjersey  nyc 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Mark Zuckerberg and the Rise of Philanthrocapitalism - The New Yorker
"The announcement, on Tuesday, by Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, that, during their lifetimes, they will donate to philanthropic causes roughly ninety-nine per cent of their Facebook stock, which is currently valued at close to forty-five billion dollars, has already prompted a lot of comment, much of it positive. That is understandable. The fact that Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and a number of other billionaires are pledging their fortunes to charity rather than seeking to pass them down to their descendants is already having an impact.

Last year, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which was founded in 2000, dispensed almost four billion dollars in grants. A big slug of this money went toward fighting diseases like H.I.V., malaria, polio, and tuberculosis, which kill millions of people in poor countries. Zuckerberg and Chan have also already donated hundreds of millions of dollars to various causes, including eradicating the Ebola virus. In their latest announcement, which they presented as an open letter to their newborn daughter, on Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, they said that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the new philanthropic organization that they are setting up, would focus on “advancing human potential and promoting equality.”

It’s not just the size of the donations that the wealthy are making that demands attention, though. Charitable giving on this scale makes modern capitalism, with all of its inequalities and injustices, seem somewhat more defensible. Having created hugely successful companies that have generated almost unimaginable wealth, Zuckerberg, Gates, and Buffett are sending a powerful message to Wall Street hedge-fund managers, Russian oligarchs, European industrialists, Arab oil sheiks, and anybody else who has accumulated a vast fortune: “From those to whom much is given, much is expected.”

Speaking at Harvard in 2007, Gates attributed this quotation to his dying mother. (A slightly different version of it appears in St. Luke’s gospel.) In 2010, Gates and Buffett challenged fellow members of the ultra-rich club to give away at least half of their wealth. Since then, more than a hundred billionaires have signed the “Giving Pledge.” Some of these mega-donors, such as Buffett, are content to let others direct their donations. (In 2006, he signed over much of his fortune to the Gates Foundation.) Increasingly, however, wealthy people are setting up their own philanthropic organizations and pursuing their own causes—a phenomenon that has been called “philanthrocapitalism.”

That is the positive side. It is also worth noting, however, that all of this charitable giving comes at a cost to the taxpayer and, arguably, to the broader democratic process. If Zuckerberg and Chan were to cash in their Facebook stock, rather than setting it aside for charity, they would have to pay capital-gains tax on the proceeds, money that could be used to fund government programs. If they willed their wealth to their descendants, then sizable estate taxes would become due on their deaths. By making charitable donations in the form of stock, they, and their heirs, could escape both of these levies.

The size and timing of the tax benefits to Zuckerberg and Chan are uncertain, but they are likely to be large. In the initial version of this post, based on the open letter Zuckerberg and Chan posted on his Facebook page, and on the opinions of several tax experts, I said that the couple, in donating stock to the new philanthropic organization, would gain immediate tax credits equal to the market value of the stock, some of which could be rolled over into future tax years. Typically, that is what happens when a rich person donates stock to a family foundation or to certain types of L.L.C.s constituted for philanthropic purposes, such as ones owned by family foundations.

On Wednesday, in a follow-up post on Facebook, Zuckerberg provided more details about the couple’s plans. Evidently, the L.L.C. that he and Chan are setting up will not be seeking tax-exempt status. “By using an LLC instead of a traditional foundation, we receive no tax benefit from transferring our shares to the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, but we gain flexibility to execute our mission more effectively,” Zuckerberg wrote. “In fact, if we transferred our shares to a traditional foundation, then we would have received an immediate tax benefit, but by using an LLC we do not.”

Even if the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative doesn’t obtain tax-exempt status, over time its activities will most likely have a big impact on the taxes its founders pay. The I.R.S. treats ordinary L.L.C.s as “pass-through” structures, and shifting financial assets to such entities doesn’t usually generate any immediate credits or liabilities. But whenever the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative issues grants to nonprofit organizations, it will almost certainly do so by donating some of its Facebook stock, and that will generate tax credits for Zuckerberg and Chan equal to the market value of the stock at that time. As the years go by and the Initiative steps up its charitable activities, these credits seem likely to add up to very large sums.

Unlike a regular family foundation, the L.L.C. may also generate some tax liabilities for Zuckerberg and Chan. If it invested in a commercial enterprise, such as an online-learning company, taxes would be owed on any profits the investment generated. And if, as Zuckerberg also pointed out, the L.L.C. sold some of the Facebook shares that he and Chan have donated to it, they would have to pay capital-gains taxes on the proceeds. But since the couple will control the L.L.C., they will be able to decide how it finances itself, and whether it sells any stock.”

If what Zuckerberg is doing were an isolated example, it wouldn’t matter much for over-all tax revenues. But the practice is spreading at a time when the distribution of wealth is getting ever more lopsided, which means the actions of a small number of very rich people can have a bigger impact. In 2012, according to

By transferring almost all of their fortunes to philanthropic organizations, billionaires like Zuckerberg and Gates are placing some very large chunks of wealth permanently outside the reaches of the Internal Revenue Service. That means the country’s tax base shrinks. As yet, I haven’t seen any estimates of the over-all cost to the Treasury, but it’s an issue that can’t be avoided. And it raises the broader question, which the economists Thomas Piketty and Anthony Atkinson, among others, have raised, of whether we need a more comprehensive tax on wealth.

Arguably, there is another issue at stake, too: democracy.

Although organizations like the Gates Foundation portray themselves as apolitical, nonpartisan entities, they aren’t completely removed from politics. Far from it. The Gates Foundation, for example, has been a big financial supporter of charter schools, standardized testing, and the Common Core. (It has also given some money to public schools.) Zuckerberg, too, has also provided a lot of money to charter schools. They featured prominently in his costly and controversial effort to reform the public-school system in Newark, New Jersey, which Dale Russakoff wrote about in the magazine last year. In the letter posted on Facebook, Zuckerberg signalled that he isn’t done with such efforts. “We must participate in policy and advocacy to shape debates,” the letter said. “Many institutions are unwilling to do this, but progress must be supported by movements to be sustainable.”

My intention, here, isn’t to enter the education debate. It is simply to point out what should be obvious: people like Zuckerberg and Gates, by virtue of their philanthropic efforts, can have a much bigger say in determining policy outcomes than ordinary citizens can. (As Matthew Yglesias pointed out on Vox, one of the advantages of registering the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative as an L.L.C. is that it can spend money on political ads.) The more money billionaires give to their charitable foundations, which in most cases remain under their personal control, the more influence they will accumulate. And relatively speaking, anyway, the less influence everybody else will have.

Some Americans—not all of them disciples of Ayn Rand—might say that this is a good thing. I have already cited some of the Gates Foundation’s good works. Isn’t Michael Bloomberg, with his efforts to reform gun laws, promoting the public interest? Isn’t George Soros, through his donations to civil-rights organizations, lining up on the side of the angels? In these two instances, my own answers would be yes and yes; but the broader point stands. The divide between philanthropy and politics is already fuzzy. As the “philanthrocapitalism” movement gets bigger, this line will be increasingly hard to discern.

So by all means, let us praise Zuckerberg and Chan for their generosity. And let us also salute Gates, who started the trend. But contrary to the old saying, this is one gift horse we should look closely in the mouth."

[via: http://hackeducation.com/2015/12/23/trends-business/ ]
philanthrocapitalism  charitableindustrialcomplex  2015  facebook  markzuckerberg  johncassidy  philanthropy  influence  corruption  democracy  power  charity  capitalism  gatesfoundation  taxes  billgates  thomaspiketty  inequality  anthonyatkinson  dalerussakoff  newjersey  education  michaelbloomberg  georgesoros  priscillachan  warrenbuffett  policy  politics  philanthropicindustrialcomplex  control 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Chris Christie’s New Jersey Is Everything That’s Wrong With America - James Howard Kunstler - POLITICO Magazine
"These adjustments all hinge on the re-localization and downscaling of the major activities that add up to civilized life: we have to grow more of our food closer to home (as oil-based agri-business flounders); we have to move out of failing suburbia into more compact neighborhoods and towns; we have to prepare for the difficult, necessary contraction of our overgrown giant urban metroplexes (New York City in particular); we have to re-organize commerce away from the monocultures of car-dependent big box corporate despotism and rebuild resilient Main Street infrastructures of trade, and we have to do all these things with a kind of conscious and deliberate earnestness that amounts to a national sense of purpose—something sorely absent in these baleful days of Kardashians, universal obesity and comprehensive American anomie. In short, we have to become a lot less like New Jersey."
2014  urban  urbanism  suburbs  agriculture  chrischristie  newjersey  jameshowardkunstler  transportation  cars  publictransit  politics  policy  government  monoculture 
january 2014 by robertogreco
Cicada Tracker | WNYC
"WNYC invites families, armchair scientists and lovers of nature to join in a bit of mass science: track the cicadas that emerge once every 17 years across New Jersey, New York and the whole Northeast by building homemade sensors and reporting your observations."
arduino  crowdsourcing  data  diy  wncy  cicadas  insects  2013  sensors  newjersey  newyork  northeast 
march 2013 by robertogreco
The Endless Bookshelf : simply messing about in books by Henry Wessells
"Books are what I do : Write (very slowly), Read (rapidly or at leisure), Re-read (for pleasure or reference), Buy and Sell (my livelihood), Catalogue and Describe (ditto), Edit, Publish, Review (for The New York Review of Science Fiction and others), Recommend or Give away, Receive, and — unavoidably and repeatedly  — Lift (whether singly or in boxes). I concede a fondness for private eye novels, equalled by my interest in the quirky, erudite, or obscure, and surpassed only by my love of the literature of the fantastic."

— Henry Wessells
reading  newjersey  writing  books  art  henrywessells 
october 2012 by robertogreco
Next American City » Sympathy for the Suburbs
"But Foreclosed seethes with disdain for the suburbs, and the lack of an empathetic understanding of how the suburbs function and are changing, ultimately makes the exhibit look less visionary than ignorant…

These radical visions that are so insensitive to the suburbs remind me of the Modernist public housing projects that were once foisted on inner cities. Created by well-intentioned but essentially ignorant architects and planners, those buildings made sense in theory but not in practice. They didn’t respond to the rhythms and needs of the people who would be housed there, because the architects didn’t really respect or understand the lives of poor people. MoMA should have found some architects who could love and live in the suburbs, showing us the way to make the most of suburban housing instead of wishing it didn’t exist."
hilarysample  michaelmeredith  losangeles  oregon  illinois  california  florida  newjersey  templeterrace  theoranges  cicero  keizer  rialto  cities  edglaeser  misregistration  repurposing  revitalization  infrastructure  jeannegang  WORKac  foreclosed  barrybergdoll  housing  andrewzago  buellhypothesis  moma  design  planning  poverty  urbanism  urban  architecture  suburbia  suburbs  2012  foreclosure  housingbubble  housingcrisis 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Embark | Mass Transit Made Simple
"We make mass transit simple. Embark provides an accurate, reliable, and interactive transit experience that helps you get where you want to go."
navigation  mapping  maps  longisland  newjersey  philadelphia  dc  washingtondc  sanfrancisco  london  chicago  boston  nyc  applications  trains  transportation  transport  guidebooks  iphone  android  ios 
february 2012 by robertogreco
Doctor Hotspot - Video | FRONTLINE | PBS
"New Yorker writer and FRONTLINE correspondent Atul Gawande reports on a doctor in Camden, N.J., who actually seeks out the community’s sickest — and most expensive — patients."
healthcare  health  frontline  atulgawande  jeffreybrenner  towatch  us  policy  changemakers  gamechanging  medicine  newjersey  camden  money  cost 
july 2011 by robertogreco
A closer look at New Jersey taxes « Schoolfinance101's Blog
"often hear radio pundits ranting about NJ’s supposed highest in the nation taxes – that are driving people out of the state. I’ll tackle the migration issues in a later post, but any attempted link to tax policy as a single driver is a stretch...I have previously addressed absurdity of “Small Business Survival Index,” as a standard for measuring whether or not a business should or would locate in a particular state.
newjersey  taxes  schools  publiceducation  statistics 
february 2010 by robertogreco
Tuttle SVC: RI, the South, and the Chance for Success Index [Funny that this appears just after discussing California's constitutional and economic crises, Prop 13, high taxes in New Jersey, the state of public schools, and the such with the old man...]
[...When I mentioned that NJ taxes have bought some of the best public schools in the country, he scoffed.] "One thing that's funny is that the next day there was a post on Flypaper about the sad state of New Jersey's schools, which rank #2 on the unmodified CFSI score and #1 on the adjusted CSFI.

Beyond that, there is precious little movement in the top states based on this analysis: some middling states go down to low and some low go up to middling, but the top states, all in the northeast, mid-Atlantic, midwest or Virginia, are consistent.

Whatever this analysis is worth (and it may not be much), it is the kind of thing that makes me scratch my head about the steadily increasing Southern influence on education policy in Rhode Island and Providence. We keep pulling in more Southerners, who seem to have had some success in pulling their states from terrible to OK, but if we were just up to the level of our New England or Mid-Atlantic peers, we'd be way above Florida, Texas, etc."
policy  education  leaders  money  taxes  politics  us  national  tomhoffman  states  newjersey  california  texas  newengland  florida  experts 
january 2010 by robertogreco

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