ANDREW KOS

2021-02-22 - Welcome to BrainMatter!

Of course this is a pre-COVID work of fiction. Everything here is complete fiction. I dreamed it up in a totally context-less void and any similarities are coincidental. Please don't sue me.

Welcome to Brainmatter! Here is our beautiful office which will be your home now because we're a replacement for your family. We're all NoBrainers here together. We eat together, we sleep together, we cry together, and we worship our immaculate CEO together (he's just like one of us). Look, we get the jokes about working for a startup cause we've all seen Silicon Valley! Haha!

Oookay, let's go this way past the local art pieces that cost more than your yearly salary and the diversity mural that help us forget the horrible things our customers are doing! Still worried about our customers? Well our rotating selections of beers on tap, free coffee, snacks, and kombucha will help ease that existential anxiety. You might ask, "Why are we helping white supremacists with our platform?", but remember your coworkers are your friends and the CEO is just one of us, so you wouldn't want to let them down would you? Besides, we pay you a great salary as far as you know! Also, look, if we're gonna get down to it, don't forget that you signed an NDA, non-compete clause, and binding arbitration, so good luck finding another job in the industry when we fire you and sue you into bankruptcy! Oh, those student loans aren't covered by bankruptcy? Well I guess you might be out of options! Anyways, who wants to talk about that kind of stuff, let's go meet the CEO! Here he is!

(CEO) Hey new hires! Welcome to Brainmatter, I'm a NoBrainer just like you! Look at my plain looking clothes, I dress just like you! Look at the way I talk, it's just like you! Okay I want to know your questions. What have you got? Great questions! I'll think about them as I drove home in my Maserati, park in my rotating 10 car garage, and kick my feet up in my $10 million dollar mansion! What were your questions again? Anyways, you are my top priority! And the board. And the investors. Actually, come to think of it, those people are more important. Well, get to the hustle 'cause this thing ain't building itself and I've got a tee time in an hour!

2018-10-25 - Press Freedom

Blind Hate

Last week Trump endorsed the violence by Montana Rep. Greg Gianforte against The Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs. "Laughter as Trump lauds politician's body slam of Guardian journalist – video report" - The Guardian Whether it was meant to be serious or humorous, inciting violence against journalists is no joke. When the press has to live in fear of violent retaliation they cannot be free to challenge power. Chilling, also, that Trump says this soon after journalist Jamal Khashoggi was likely tortured and murdered by the Saudi crown prince. "In death, Saudi writer’s mild calls for reform grew into a defiant shout" - The Washington Post

I feel strongly about this because I've worked at a media company that received threats of violence and it's not a fun situation to consider as a possibility. This is terrifying a reality again this week for CNN and others sent suspicious packages and bombs. "Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and CNN Offices Are Sent Pipe Bombs" - The New York Times

No matter your political alignment, threats and physical violence against individuals should never be a part of a political strategy. Leaders, like the President, have a platform to amplify their messages into action and that platform has been abused to endorse violence and hatred towards organizations and individuals who can put powerful checks on those same leaders. Good journalism has unparalleled power to uphold democratic ideals by challenging power head on. Without a strong journalistic tradition power becomes invisible and oppressive. In the modern political landscape, there’s a lot of hate towards the media, but if you hold these views, please consider there are many people working hard within good journalistic institutions and it’s worth it to find them.

Supporting a Strong Journalisitc Tradition

Stay informed by reading quality journalism. Recommend articles you read to friends and family. Some of my favorites:

Pay for quality media with a strong tradition of journalism. These are some media outlets I pay for:

Supporting local media institutions is particularly important now because conglomeration is ravaging this landscape.

Now go forth and spread the good news!

2018-06-20 - Book Review

Propaganda - Edward L. Bernays

By laying out a framework for public relations that is mostly unconcerned with the potential for abuse, Bernays' Propaganda is propaganda for propaganda. The ideas contained within are compelling and I'm convinced that this is the most effective way to sell ideas to the public; it's not a surprise that reading through this book, almost a century after it was written, much of what Bernays lays out is still feels very relevant.

However, I felt that Bernays glossed over the dangers of this framework. Bernays attempts to envision the future of marketing via movies, television, radio, and all other forms of media, but I don't think he imagined the super-charged world of marketing we live in today, large segments of which are devoid of ethics or responsibility to the public.

How do you prevent demagogues from abusing propaganda? How do you enforce ethics in the practice? Bernays mostly glosses over these questions. He imagined a meaningful interplay of ideas between the public and propaganda as a regulating force, but this is not realistic in today's world, especially when schools are shuttering their liberal arts programs, politicians are unconcerned with real facts, and big businesses can run propaganda campaigns without changing the harmful ways they operate. We got here because of propaganda, how do we get ourselves out without slipping back in?

I imagine it will have to be a new age of propaganda by good people, with provable honesty and enforceable ethics.

- See this review on Goodreads

2017-12-24 - Book Review

'Capital in the Twenty First Century': An Introduction - Thomas Piketty

Giving in to the hype machine, I too purchased Thomas Piketty's 2013 Capital in the Twenty-First Century becoming one of the 97.6% of readers that stopped reading and never finished "The Summer's Most Unread Book Is…" - The Wall Street Journal [Paywall]; Hint: it's Capital. the formidably sized book. Browsing the bookstore recently, I found this tiny summary on the shelf and picked it up, intrigued by the prospect that I might be able to at least understand a summary of Capital in the Twenty-First Century without needing to read all 685 pages of the full-sized book.

In this introductory text, Stephan Kaufmann and Ingo Stützle give a well-rounded summary and discussion of Piketty's work. Covering not just the content of the book, the authors also discuss the economic conditions and events that hyped this book and what to make of Piketty's policies going forward.

Piketty's central theme is that a fundamental tenant of capitalism is the relation r > g (r = returns on capital, g = growth of income, r is greater than g). The ratio (r/g) changes over time in response to power dynamics between those whose primary economic function is gaining wealth versus those whose primary economic function earning income. This ratio has historically been large (r sometimes near 7x g) since the 1700s but dropped significantly to historic lows--as low as 2.5 in Britain--after WW1 and WW2 literally destroyed vast amounts of wealth. Since then, the ratio has steadily increased, with a more rapid increase after the rise of neoliberalism in the 1980s. Piketty's primary argument is that in order to sustain long-term growth and productivity in capitalism r > g must be kept at a low ratio. Mechanisms to do this include high taxes on inheritance and capital gains through a global tax system, providing more equal economic participation through welfare from those who's primary economic function is earning income.

According to Piketty's theories, without imposing higher taxes, the r > g ratio will continue to rise and give way once again to highly unequal economies where the vast majority of the population is poor and the wealthy are so because of familial relationships and vast inheritances.

Though there are some criticisms of Piketty's work, this introduction finds that Piketty's work is pretty strongly grounded in objective statistics and a fairly non-partisan perspective of economics.

I highly recommend this introduction to anyone who picked up Piketty's book and ended up not reading it as I did. You might find that this will inspire you to pick up the full volume once again and read it to completion. Even if that's not the case, Piketty's ideas are important in this volatile ideological climate especially for those left-of-center who might be looking for objective material to combat the rising power of an increasingly nihilistic conservative ideology. Kaufmann and Stützle's quick primer provides a good overview of the important points and material to meditate on.

- See this review on Goodreads

2017-01-08 - Book Review

The Democrats: A Critical History - Lance Selfa

The party’s liberals performed their tried-and-true role: endorsing some reforms to win movement support while simultaneously trying to undermine the movement’s independence and radicalism.

The Democrats: A Critical History

Selfa provides a critical progressive perspective on the Democratic Party that I'm sure many left-leaning readers will have wished they read prior to the 2016 election upset.

The Democrats dives deep into the history of the party, starting at it's roots in Jefferson's Democratic-Republican party, where many of the party's machinations were first put into practice in the U.S. political system. The historical analysis shows that the Democratic machine has been a powerful pro-capital force, suppressing leftist movements while still maintaining a pro-minority, pro-labor, pro-feminist face. Absorption of leaders undermined many radical movements that presented a threat to the party and "Lesser-Evilism" plays a large role, especially in modern times as the entire political spectrum moves farther rightward. The themes Selfa points out in his analysis no doubt played a large part in 2016, and will serve as a good guide book for progressives moving forward.

As the book concludes, it dismantles even the most left-leaning aspects of the Democratic Party like the Democratic Socialists of America as well as external leftist forces like the Green Party. In doing so, Selfa advocates for a strategy of party building outside of the Democratic machine. This is my only criticism of the book, that in a time when I think progressives need fresh leaders and more actionable policy, the book doesn't go far enough in showing the path forward. But, after all it is a Critical History and perhaps the future will be written by another.

Either way, this book serves a powerful purpose in criticizing the policy and rhetoric of the Democratic Party and exposing some of its political toolbox. A must read for anyone who wants a better perspective on the U.S. political system and the Democrats.

- See this review on Goodreads