Good Guy in Davos? Not So Fast

Videos of the historian calling out the billionaires in Davos have been circulating online a lot over the past few days.

Kind of makes you wonder how he got in the room in the first place, doesn’t it?

Well, my colleague from Save Maine Schools pointed out today that Rutger Bregman, author of Utopia for Realists, is a Universal Basic Income pitchman. Rather, he’s promoting a variation on UBI call the Basic Income Guarantee (BIG). Bregman wrote a piece for the World Economic Forum last spring in which he proposed financing BIG via a negative income tax structure. For those who don’t know, Milton Friedman, University of Chicago Economist and father of neoliberalism, came up with that idea in the 1960s. See William F. Buckley’s interview with him below. If you need a refresher on Friedman and neoliberalism, this is a great overview by Tim Scott, “From the Neoliberal Revolution to the Supremacy of Financialized Austerity: A Brief History.”

From Bregman’s WEF piece:

“Instead of a universal basic income, we could have a basic income guarantee. Or, as economists prefer to call it, a negative income tax.”

“This is an idea that could rally voters across the board, with something to please both the left and the right:

For the left, a world without poverty.

For the right, no more nanny state.

For the left, livelihood security for all.

For the right, an economy that always rewards hard graft.”

This, of course, aligns well with recent bi-partisan support for privatizing the commons, as long as outsourced public services demonstrate “evidence” of “efficacy.”

Bregman is from the Netherlands where they’re piloting blockchain identity systems. My instincts say he was tapped to play the “good cop” in this performance. When the fin-tech oligarchs get around to pitching UBI or BIG in a year or two, folks will be conditioned to think “Hey, isn’t that the guy I saw on social media blasting the billionaires at Davos? Surely this must be a great thing; where do I sign up?”

It should also be noted that Time Magazine’s logo was prominently displayed behind the panelists, which caused me to wonder who owns the publication? As it turns out Marc Benioff of Salesforce bought Time last fall. His company maintains lucrative contracts with US Customs and Border Patrol and invested last year in SocialSuite, a platform designed to measure impact in social services. Salesforce is working with the IXO Foundation on social impact investment digital identity systems. IXO Foundation partnered with Innovative Edge to prototype Amply, a digital identity pre-k, impact-tracking app that is being deployed in Cape Town, South Africa. Benioff also happens to be close friends with the new Governor of California, Gavin Newsom. Newsom is recommending sizable investments in pre-k as part of his state budget.

This panel and the viral video clips flying around the internet are a brand-building exercise for Bergman’s neoliberal snake oil. If UBI is implemented in the current climate of austerity, economic precarity, and social entrepreneurship, you can be sure payments will be linked to digital identity to track “impact.” That $1,000 a month distribution will be just enough to scrape by. But hey, you’ll be able to sell personal data if you want more than gruel for dinner. Check out the Netherlands’ foray into personal data curation via the here. It’s being run in partnership with NESTA, the global impact innovation unit out of the UK.

If it seems too good to be true…

If they are telling you exactly what you want to hear…

Stop for a minute and think about why that is.

There’s a reason.

And if you still don’t quite get why UBI could be a problem, below are excerpts from my seven-part story Building Sanctuary. Citi Badges and Global Coin are the stand ins for digital identity and UBI.

You can read the whole thing here.

“Those in the know who shifted their investments made a handsome profit, but many more who did not change course lost it all. As poverty decimated the middle class, authorities rolled out a basic income program in digital currency called Global Coin. Everyone’s Global Coin account was linked to a unique digital identity through a system known as Citi Badge. The Citi Badge system relies on biometric information to confirm validity of payments and other transactions associated with a particular citizen.” Part One

“A few times a week students unplugged and participated in a community-based learning program related to their career pathway, but RFID chips associated with their Citi Badges ensured they remained visible to the system. Any organization accepting even a micropayment from Global Coin vouchers like maker spaces, art studios, community theater, and apprenticeship programs had to comply with set standards and participate in evidence-based, outcomes-driven programs that fed children’s data back into government systems. Student data was used to assess a program’s “success” and determine payments to the service provider and those who had invested in it.

When the Solutionists rolled out learning ecosystems, they also made skill dashboards public. Skills dashboards are dynamic visualizations of each person’s academic, behavioral, and job training data. The dashboards, tied to Citi Badges, foster a culture of fierce competition among citizens since choice opportunities are limited, of course, to top performers. As long as most people remain strivers and focus on competing against one another to get to the top, organized resistance remains unlikely.”  Part Two

“In the post-labor era, people have become more valuable for the data they produce than for their capacity to do physical work. Thus all but the off-liners have been integrated into the global corporate value chain as commodities. With biometrically-enabled Citi Badges, Cam and Li are not unlike tagged calves or farmed salmon, managed and processed without agency or recourse; lives controlled for the profit of others. The bio capitalist economic model values them only to the extent that they contribute their digital labor to the Solutionists’ data-driven system of outcomes-based results.

Algorithms hold tremendous power over Cam and Li. Using data generated through the Internet of Things, Oracle can make predictions about the type of adults the children are likely to become. What their cost to society will be. What they might contribute as human capital. Should their family should fall into poverty, Oracle can evaluate how much profit there could be made providing services to “impact” their situation through Pay for Success contracts. Would the predicted rate of return on their lives justify expending the Global Coin required? The Solutionists say, “Just run the data; the data will tell us.”

Talia tries to shelter the family from the data stream as much as possible, but that is has proven difficult. Accessing any public services demands data. Walking outside means you are under surveillance. Even at home devices keep tabs. Data has also become a currency people use to supplement their insufficient Global Coin stipends. The pretense that a person “owns” their own data and can monetize it is supposed to make them feel better about their situation. It doesn’t. Each data transaction puts another piece of one’s soul on the auction block, scrutinized by a predatory system that thrives on want and suffering. And it’s always a buyer’s market. No person in need is going to get ahead selling bits of data. These transactions are just stopgaps until the next Citi Badge stipend hits, a release valve that has thus far kept rebellion at bay.

At first the sensors seemed innocuous, uploading information about when a trashcan was full or telling people where parking spots were available. There were sensors that monitored air quality and ones that made sure streetlights were efficiently managed. People were enthusiastic. But then came the noise sniffers, and the motion sensors, and the drones. Parks and recreation officials were brought on board and encouraged to incorporate cyborg roses into public landscape projects. When first introduced, people were astonished at Eleni Stavrinidou’s work transforming plants into transistors, and now there were rumors of computational forests being grown in remote outposts. Once plants had sensors, people started to get really worried.

Teachers never imagined how sensors would alter classrooms and eventually eliminate them altogether. Adoption of 1:1 devices eroded teacher autonomy until students were spending most of their day with volunteer aides, eyes glued to screens. The teachers that remained were left evaluating student data. In classes where teachers were still allowed to lecture, movement, vibrations and sounds were monitored through sensors embedded in seats. The aim? Supposedly to provide continual feedback regarding student engagement and quality of instruction, but everyone knew it was really to keep track of the content delivered and how students responded. It was chilling.” Part Three

“In addition to facilitating and recording transactions, the ledger also calculates citizen scores, something no one with a Citi Badge can escape. These scores rise and fall based the data each person generates within the Solutionists’ “smart systems.” People are constantly evaluated against the norms set by the authorities. If your behavior, or that of your family or even friends or acquaintances, deviates from these standards, your score drops.

People who question the system have low scores. People with extensive social networks have low scores. People who travel widely have low scores. People who access “the wrong” online materials have low scores. People who are financially unstable have low scores. Your score can be lowered for being too educated or not educated enough. People who use public services have low scores. If you have a low score, you become a target of social impact interventions, programs underwritten by private investors designed to bring your score up and reorient you to the values Solutionist society demands.

Citizen scores determine access to jobs, housing, leisure opportunities, and social relationships. They affect the prices people pay for goods and services and even the type of education and medical treatment they get. At birth Cam and Li, like everyone born outside a sanctuary zone, were assigned unique identity numbers linked to retinal scans and were each issued a Citi Badge. Their Citi Badges are connected to the ledger and hold funds from their Global Coin government stipend, student vouchers, and data currency transactions.

Both badges are tied to Talia’s, so the family’s citizen scores rise and fall together. When Talia or the girls make purchases in the real world or in a virtual world the cost is directly debited from their Global Coin balance after biometric authentication. This can be accomplished via facial recognition, retinal scan, thumbprint or heartbeat/ECG signature. Prices and fees paid are dynamic and influenced by their scores. Low score? You can expect to pay more for food, rent, and medical care. High score? You get across the board discounts and special perks like invitations to official receptions and preferential treatment when filing government paperwork….

In short order, bio-capitalist data-mining operations became nearly as profitable for investors as the extractive industries they had replaced. The automation of huge swaths of labor markets initially posed a serious problem for global capitalists. With a majority of people now jobless, what good were they to the economic system? Sure, they could still consume some products since Citi Badge provided a basic income, but how else could value be extracted? Consumption on a basic income would have to go down.

Alphadata, the world’s most powerful cloud-based computing company, had anticipated the answer. The company deftly maneuvered to a spot at the top of the extraction pyramid by providing “free” online services: communications, software, and data storage. Data would be the new oil, and the convenience the company prudently offered the world built a level of corporate wealth in data that was unsurpassed.

The complete privatization of public sector services combined with outcomes-based government contracting created a windfall for the data-mining industry. To expand these programs, success would have to conform to specific metrics that could only be cheaply aggregated via digital platforms. As global poverty rose, prospects for the data-mining sector seemed rosy indeed. Looking back, people realized how false the narrative of “free” services had been. They had given away their most valuable assets, their identity, without blinking an eye. Their online lives, their digital shadows, were now contained within the Alphadata cloud. It was a parallel universe of millions of digital lives pooled to fuel machine learning. It was these storehouses of data that powered the company’s research in artificial intelligence and led to innovations that put so many out of work.

People had been handing off their data to more companies than Alphadata, of course. All the social media platforms and e-commerce sites mined data, too. More and more people clamored for data control and ownership, which was eventually granted through digital sovereign identities stored in the ledger. Essentially, Citi Badges now serve this function. The datasets they hold are private, but people have the option of making them available for a price.

Progressive interests pitched digital identities as a way for people to monetize their data, perhaps enhance their meager Global Coin stipends. In the Global North, digital sovereign identity was ushered in through adoption of municipal identification programs associated with Smart City improvements, the precursor to Citi Badge. The technology had been beta-tested on the Global South and refugee populations years prior. Perpetual war and displacement created an ideal laboratory in which to refine these new technologies.” Part Four

Internet of Things technology, combined with Citi Badges, allows the ledger to control Cam and Li’s access to online education resources. Besides the ability to edit or veto the content of the online modules, education administrators have the ability to adjust algorithms to steer students towards certain pathways, into VR warehouses, or in extreme cases offline entirely….

If an investor’s online systems can attain “evidence-based” status, it is given a preferred ranking in the Citi Badge platform, which means significant profits. It’s every programmer’s dream to create the next Skyward Skills, the global ed-tech giant that has dominated the market since it had been introduced into regular schools twenty years ago as a blended learning program….

For years activists had petitioned the government to implement weighted student funding: this meant allocating more money to students living in poverty as well as to students whose first language was not English and students with special needs. No one realized then that education funds would wind up in Citi Badges rather than school budgets; that weighted funding would make vulnerable children targets of predatory education schemes; and that in short order school buildings would disappear entirely. No one expected Artificial Intelligence philanthropy would replace public funding for education, either.

As austerity ate away at funding for education, foundations, benefit corporations, and impact investors used outcomes-based smart contracts to direct private dollars into communities using the ledger. Dwindling public funds opened the doors to this private investment, but a condition of that investment was that it had to yield measurable results. Education administrators in the various sectors now redistribute private education investments into students’ digital wallets according to weighted formulas.

At first the program was well received. Once Pay for Success rate cards were approved by municipal procurement, and learning management systems were selected, the process of securing online learning services became fully automated. Now it is the ultimate free market with deliverables in student data driving access to and pricing of various platforms. Payments are contingent on student performance. If an educational app is not meeting required growth targets among users it can be put on probationary status and may ultimately become ineligible for Citi Badge compensation. The most popular apps tend to be the least expensive, but for strivers who have money to supplement their account, specialized instruction is available at higher price points.

The structure of the payment system means most instruction now takes place online, though with Tin Can API, even non-digital activities can be captured and uploaded for evaluation. Every time Cam or Li finishes an e-book, watches a video, or participates in an activity, documentation of the standards that have been met is uploaded via Citi Badge to their e-portfolio. That way Oracle can keep track of what everyone knows and what information they are accessing at all times.

No one particularly likes relying on private investors to fund public education, but the Solutionists claim it is efficient, transparent, and keeps everyone accountable. The ledger, remember, is all about trust. People’s feelings changed dramatically, however, after DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations) took over. DAOs run smart contracts automatically, without any human control. Once put into place and activated, they draw on vast pools of capital from a growing network of benefit corporations and can run indefinitely. The system, designed to generate “impacts” upon which venture capital profits are built, completely disregards human life. When problems arise, as they inevitably do because glitches and hacks are intrinsic to the system, no humans are there to address it.” Part Five

“Even though Mak owns the building, the community directs how it is used and gives the space its vitality. Most people come from the cemetery encampments at Maple Hill and Cypress Grove, settlements created shortly after the work camps closed. Targeted by the authorities, people of color, immigrants, the homeless, and veterans comprised the first wave of forced labor. Disenfranchised, lacking papers, or with mental health diagnosis, they found it impossible to acquire Citi Badges.

They were the original off-liners, people who never had to unplug, because they’d been written out of Solutionist society from the outset. They gathered together among the gravestones under the shelter of venerable trees to build their own community. With no stake in the old system, the cemetery contingent became the core of resistance in the borough.” Part Six

Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

Stanley Druckenmiller, also a hedge fund manager, recruited Gary Cohn of Goldman Sachs for the board of the Harlem Children’s Zone. As board chair, Druckenmiller shaped the leadership of the organization, which came from the highest echelons of New York’s finance sector. Druckenmiller and Geoffrey Canada had gone to school together at Bowdoin in Maine. Druckenmiller serves on the endowment management team there. This may shed light on Maine becoming a early testing ground for Ed Reform 2.0. Perhaps the HCZ’s financiers viewed the state as a useful rural counterpart to the experimentation being carried out in Harlem?

Druckenmiller is a commodities trader of considerable renown. He ran George Soros’s hedge fund between 1988 and 2000, and they collaborated on a scheme to short the British pound in 1992. That day, known as Black Wednesday, brought down the Bank of England, and netted the men a profit of a billion dollars. Druckenmiller managed his own fund, Duquesne Capital, which was heavily invested in the petroleum industry until 2009 when he closed up shop and created an “anti-poverty” foundation with over $700 million in assets. That was the year before the very first social impact bond ever was launched in the UK. After closing out Duquesne, Druckenmiller took up the position of board chair at Blue Meridian Partners, a capital aggregation fund comprised of ten donors who aim to invest $1 billion into “high impact” youth-serving non-profits using HCZ as a model.

harlem children zone druckenmiller 3

Harlem Children’s Zone: Druckenmiller interactive version of map here.

Another major funder of HCZ and Blue Meridian is the Edna McConnell Clark Foundation (EMCF). Its assets come from Avon. EMCF was the force behind the creation of an experimental Growth Capital Aggregation Fund that tested idea of making big philanthropic bets. Their pilot began in 2007 with large sums directed to Youth Villages, Citizen Schools, and the Nurse Family partnership, which has become the model for “pay for success” home visit programs.

In 2003, the Rockefeller Foundation and Goldman Sachs brought representatives from fifty venture philanthropies to New York to discuss the importance of establishing common metrics for social impact investing, see this report. That was a crucial step in establishing the parameters for a futures market in human capital data. Four case studies were presented during that gathering, one of which was EMCF. Key features of the EMCF case study were an emphasis on systemic collection of outcomes data and insistence on demonstrated effectiveness. The philanthropy had dropped the number of grants is provided from 188 in 1992 to just 53 in 2002. Everyone who accepts EMCF grants must get on board with the data collection program.

Nancy Roob, Harvard MPA, was EMCF’s contact with HCZ and became president of the foundation in 2005. She serves concurrently as CEO of Blue Meridian Partners with Druckenmiller as board chair, a position she took in 2015. EMCF was a funder of the Arnold Foundation-backed Coalition for Evidence Based Policy that spent fourteen years laying groundwork for the passage of Foundations for Evidence-based Policy Making Act HR4174.

It’s worth mentioning that Druckenmiller’s wife, Fiona, serves on the board of the Bloomberg Family Foundation, one of the Bloomberg Philanthropies known for advancing public-private partnership, “what works,” “data-driven” government. During his administration Bloomberg held a competition to build a new applied sciences campus on Roosevelt Island. Cornell-Tech (Tech being Technion, the MIT of Israel) won that competition and now runs substantial research projects in data science around education and healthcare. Tata Consulting, a giant in tech in India contributed $50 million towards an innovation center that opened on the campus December 2017. The center was built to advance research in human computer interaction and “Business 4.0” development. It also supports initiatives promoting AI and cyber security education in New York City schools. Most of those funding the campus operate at the intersection of social impact investing and tech. Interactive version of map below here.

cornell tech 2

Cornell Tech / Small Data Lab Funders interactive version of map here.

Cornell Tech.jpg

During the years of HCZ’s rise, Bloomberg worked very closely with the Behavioral Insights Team (BIT), known as the “Nudge Unit,” which got its start in the UK and later became embedded in Harvard and New York. BIT has advised on 25 different behavioral science projects across the country as part of Bloomberg’s “What Works Cities.” Philadelphia has, in fact, spun off its own dedicated nudge unit, the first municipal level program in the country. Why nudge? Well, it manufactures acceptance that the quality of public services should be quantified as data on dashboards, and it normalizes the use of apps, which subtly influence human behavior and monitor public-government interactions.

philadelphia nudge unit 2

Philadelphia Nudge Unit interactive version of map here.

New York is a city that trades securities, and Chicago is a city that trades commodities. Consequently, the development of human capital futures trading is centered on the latter. I’ve written previously about economist James Heckman’s work out of the University of Chicago, and JB Pritzker’s financial support for his development of a “toolkit” that would somehow guarantee a 7-13% rate of return on early childhood education and health interventions. So, on the east coast we have a set of 168 poverty-intervention calculations (Robin Hood Foundation / Harlem Children’s Zone) and in the Midwest we have an early childhood education toolkit (Heckman). How do they connect?

Heckman Equation.jpg


Robin Hood metrics.jpg


As the map below shows, there are actually two points of contact. The first comes via Stanley Druckenmiller’s association with George Soros. Soros’s, Open Society, and William Janeway, of Warburg Pincus, are the primary backers of the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET). INET funds Heckman’s Human Capital and Economic Opportunities Working Group and also has a presence at Oxford University’s Martin School, which may be a conduit for exchange of intelligence regarding development of “innovative” government contracting mechanisms from one side of the Atlantic to the other. The second comes through Paul Tudor Jones, yet another hedge fund trader and founder of the Robin Hood Foundation. Interactive version of map here.

harlem children zone chicago

Every year Paul Tudor Jones and the Robin Hood Foundation hold a benefit to fund anti-poverty programs, much of proceeds going to the Harlem Children Zone. All who attended last May’s event received a goody bag with a copy of Ken Langone’s book “I Love Capitalism!” It was a souvenir perfectly suited to the gala, which many consider the premiere event of the New York finance sector’s fundraising season. In one night, Paul Tudor Jones secured $50 million from predatory philanthropists pledging tithes in support of the hedge-fund mogul’s poverty-mining programs.

Legendary among the hedge fund crowd, Jones chaired the New York Cotton Exchange in the mid 1990s and helped develop FINEX, the financial instruments and currency products division of the New York Board of Trade in 1985. He anticipated “Black Monday” in 1987 and holding onto short positions made $100 million that year. He maintains memberships in the New York Board of Trade, the Chicago Board of Trade, the Commodity Exchange, Inc., and CME Group, which is part of the Illinois Blockchain development program.

He grew up in Tennessee, home state of Lamar Alexander (ESSA), Chris Whittle (Edison Schools) and William Sanders (creator of VAM, Value Added Model equation that supposedly measures growth in education data, but was really about setting up impact investment metrics). After graduating from the University of Virginia with a degree in economics, Jones started a career in finance learning the cotton futures trade. Remember, we never escape history. He later worked at Commodities Corp, and set up his own firm, Tudor Investment Corporation based in Greenwich, CT.

harlem children's zone paul tudor jones

Harlem Children Zone: Paul Tudor Jones interactive map here.

Jones and his wife, who is involved with yoga and meditative practice, are major donors to the University of Virginia. They funded the construction of an interdisciplinary Contemplative Sciences Center. During the 2012 attempted ouster of UVA president Teresa Sullivan by board chair Helen Dragas, several media outlets speculated that Jones had played a role. At the time the school had come under fire for not being “innovative” enough around adoption of MOOCs, especially given austerity budgeting. Sullivan was reinstated (she left in 2017), and in the years following the Curry School of Education launched the Jefferson Accelerator to promote research into ed-tech “efficacy,” exactly the infrastructure needed to advance ed-tech impact investing contracts. Following an invitation-only academic symposium sponsored by all the main Ed Reform 2.0 funders in May 2017, the initiative morphed into the Jefferson Education Exchange, a program that funds teachers to use ed-tech and document how they implement it. Ed Tech Efficacy 2.jpg

ed tech efficacy 1


Katrina Stevens, former senior advisor on ed-tech to the US Department of Education and now head of Learning Sciences for Chan Zuckerberg, consulted on both projects.

Jones connects New York to Chicago via Robert Dugger who ran Tudor Investment Corporation between 1992 and 2009. During that period, Dugger co-founded the “Invest in Kids” working group with Jim Heckman in Chicago and Art Rolnick out of Minneapolis. Jones contributed a million dollars towards the effort. Rolnick, a senior economist with the Minneapolis Federal Reserve, facilitated the development of outcomes-based government contracts in partnership with Steve Rothschild at Twin Cities Rise. All three men have connections to INET.

Michael Weinstein was a Senior Vice President at the Robin Hood Foundation. According to a 2010 Harvard Business School case study, Weinstein’s focus was developing a Cost-Benefit Analysis approach to the foundation’s grant awards. He wrote a book with Ralph Bradburd, a Williams College economics professor, which provides a blue print for replicating their approach. Columbia University Press published “The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving” in 2013. The overview for the book notes the authors’ focus on “relentless monetization.” Surely given IoT, financialization of life, and securitized debt, the authors must have intended a double meaning in the use of “smart” in the title.

rules for smart giving

In 2017, Weinstein left Robin Hood Foundation to head a new consultancy to match “smart givers” with “high impact” non-profits. The organization, ImpactMatters, has a small board with an interesting range of experience. Paul Brest is one of these board members. A long-time professor of law at Stanford, Brest took on the role of Co-Director of Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, an incubator for impact investing and digital innovation, late in his career. He currently teaches courses in the business school on strategic philanthropy and impact investing. There are also connections between Brest and the pay for success initiatives in Santa Clara County. Brest co-taught a law school practicum on structuring social impact deals with Keith Humphreys that focused the Partners in Wellness SIB model.

harlem children's zone robin hood

I don’t have much information on Kevin Starr who manages a child-poverty NGO that is all about impact and start-up social entrepreneurialism. Dean Karlan is an economics professor at Northwestern who works in the area of global “fin-clusion.” His focus on behavioral economics led him to develop stick, a goal-setting app that leverages the power of the “commitment contract” and is being used on corporate “wellness” platforms. He founded “Innovations on Poverty Action” and is on the board of MIT’s Jameel Poverty Action Lab, too. His specialty is “impact audits” that assess whether an organization has produced “appropriate evidence of impact.”

ImpactMatters’s final board member is Tamara Fox. Educated in genetics and healthcare finance, she worked for the World Bank, Urban Institute, the Leona Helmsley Charitable Trust and the Elma Foundation; the last being of particular interest. While at Elma, a philanthropy that focuses on children’s issues in Africa, Fox was Senior Director of Research. Elma is a funder of Innovation Edge, who partnered with TrustLab and the IXO Foundation to create Amply, an app linking pre-k digital identity to government reimbursement and social impact finance on Blockchain. Amply was piloted through the Earlybird childcare chain in Cape Town, South Africa.

Amply: Blockchain and Early Childhood Development (ECD) in South Africa from ixo foundation on Vimeo.

See how this works? We never escape the history. The financialization of the lives of Black and Brown people extends back to the Doctrine of Discovery and continues to be woven into new systems of economic oppression. They use the most vulnerable communities, Cape Town, Harlem, Jackson, or rural South Carolina, as laboratories for refining their weapons and means of social control, but no one is immune. Philadelphians have been briefed on Amply. I’m sure people in the inner circles are being on-boarded now. Digital identity tracking “social impact” will be a key piece of early childhood education and healthcare moving forward, across the United States. See the shipping container below. Look at it. That is Innovative Edge’s pre-k plan. When they speak of pre-k investments, realize that the goal is minimal investment and warehoused bodies, trained up to deliver data to run the machine.

pre-k cargo container

According to their website, overseers of the Harlem Children’s Zone use real time data and feedback loops to refine “best practices” that will “shift the culture of the community.” But community in question is here Harlem, already a center of creative genius and intellectual engagement, a locus of Black Power. Harlem, which during the period of HCZ’s rise, became gentrified to the point that the community’s rich history began to be erased, and the people who were supposed to be the ones being served started to be forced out. It seems hardly an accident that the likes of Goldman Sachs would target Harlem for its laboratory of social engineering. The hedge funds analysts know the long-range economic forecasts. Given expected market volatility that will come as this new industrial revolution plays out, it seems logical capitalist interests will seek to neutralize strong Black communities who would be to draw on a strong history of artful and committed resistance.

Bay Area tech oligarchs and New York hedge fund billionaires are not here to “solve” poverty. They are here to manage it to their advantage. The future we need is one that will be envisioned by those who have lived through generations of oppression. It won’t come from a grant. It won’t come from “innovative” financing. No Amazon robot is going to deliver it. No, we must build it together, and the last must be put first.

I hope these posts have given you a sense of the scope of the crisis we face but have not paralyzed you entirely, because the time to act is now. My next project is to show how the New York hedge funders and the Chicago human capital economists connect with the pay for success projects cropping up in the Silicon Valley.

What could go wrong??? A lot.

gavin newsom

This is the sixth in a series:

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown To Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Will We See A Pre-K TARP? (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Over twenty plus years, Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) grew from a one-block pilot offering integrated social service delivery to a vast enterprise overseeing 20,000 children and adults within a ninety-seven block area. Under the leadership of Geoffrey Canada, hundreds of millions of dollars flowed from finance interests into HCZ’s programs, including Promise Academy Charter Schools, which were prominently featured in the social impact documentary “Waiting for Superman.” Extended day charters, full day pre-k, parent academies, and health initiatives are all key to the effort and collect LOTS of data.

Canada had no problem funding these services with the support of deep-pocketed donors and a political climate created by Michael Bloomberg and Superintendent Joel Klein in which a privatized, business-like approach to education and social service delivery was more than welcome. Over the years, critics voiced skepticism that such an approach could ever scale, since private investors cover a majority of HCZs operational costs.

Perhaps not workable in the present climate, but very possible in a near future, “what works” world where the real money is to be made on hedged-investments in human capital data. It is no coincidence that the hedge fund managers are the ones so eager to help refine these data driven interventions that will eventually have debt-instruments attached. Predictive analytics is their wheelhouse.

With requirements for “evidence based” programs now on the books, ubiquitous computing coming online, and “innovative” financial pilots like the NPX impact security underway, the pieces are clicking into place. This week, the World Economic forum announced a three-year plan to “launch a platform for social sector transformation” in response to “new technological challenges.” Surely outcomes-based government and development aid contracts must be part of this plan.

npx impact security

civil society wef

View report here.

Gary Cohn, former president of Goldman Sachs who briefly served as Trump’s economic advisor, has long been a member of the HCZ board. During that time, Goldman Sachs led the build out of the US social impact bond market in the aftermath of the 2008 economic crisis. Cohn became President and Co-Chief Operating Officer of the firm in 2006. A decade later, the company was eventually fined $5 billion by the US Department of Justice for “serious misconduct” surrounding the sale of mortgage-backed securities between 2005 and 2007. Just the sort of folks you’d want handling pre-k, education and social service debt instruments, right?

At a 2014 gathering hosted by ReadyNation on early childhood impact investing, Ian Galloway of the San Francisco Federal Reserve noted that not only had Goldman Sachs been a leader in the space, they’d practically created the marketplace “out of thin air.” Listen to the clip. The map below shows the firm’s holdings in pre-k SIBs in Salt Lake City and Chicago as well as the ROCA SIB in Massachusetts.

harlem children's zone goldman sachs 2

Harlem Children’s Zone: Goldman Sachs interactive map here.

Goldman Sachs has also been a pioneer in the development of automated trading. So who is examining the potentially devastating consequences of AI-dictated trades of securitized public debt originating from pay for success contracts? Anyone? Anyone? As “smart city” interests seek to link 5g / Internet of Things (IoT) to public service deployment and digital surveillance and predictive policing of Black and Brown communities is on the rise, “Minority Report” is beginning to seem like a very real possibility.

The Structured Industry Finance Group and the Digital Chamber of Commerce commissioned a study from Deloitte entitled “Applying Blockchain in Securitization: Opportunities for Reinvention.” Page 18 of the report states in part: “In the specific case of securitized assets, and especially those ABS (asset backed security) asset classes where markets have suboptimal levels of liquidity and transparency (read debt tied to the outsourcing of public services via out-comes based government contracts), a Blockchain could fundamentally improve pricing efficiency and deepen the market.” Followed by: “Direct data feeds (read IoT, wearables, screen-based interactions tied to digital identity) from the Blockchain could also make it easier to automate analytics and develop more sophisticated investment strategies and risk-management techniques.”

deloitte blockchain securitization

deloitte blockchain smart contract


I draw your attention to the language: “risk management techniques.”

We cannot escape history. The legacy of the trans-Atlantic slave trade is very much with us. The management of “risk” associated with public service debt securitization, cannot be de-linked from “management” and control of the poor. The data of Black, Brown and Indigenous peoples will be stolen from them, taken forcibly in service of global financial interests. The abhorrent methods of constraint deployed by brutish masters over the centuries are being updated right now in cubicles by coders. The plan is for bondage to be put on Blockchain in time for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The system is not yet operational. There is still time to disrupt and change course.

This is the fifth in a series:

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown To Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Global finance has not underwritten “cradle to career” interventions to empower the poor or eliminate the source of their suffering. No, the intent of the 168 pages of calculations paid for by Paul Tudor Jones and the Robin Hood Foundation is to harness the human capital of oppressed communities so it can be scrutinized for “impact,” thus creating a poverty-mining pipeline to enrich themselves and further consolidate their power over the people.

The Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ) is the living laboratory in which the Robin Hood Foundation and other financier-backed “charities” incubated next-gen racial capitalism. Their “pipelines” are not intended to deliver the poor to seats at esteemed tables. The children that Strive Together’s minions will be putting on pathways have been assigned far less “lofty” trajectories. Strive has sown seeds across the nation, waiting for laws, technology, capital, and political will to coalesce. Anyone paying attention can see the machine is now in motion. Soon, these powerful white men will reap a harvest from seeds that have been lying dormant for a very long time.

paul tudor jones and bill gates galaStrive Together.jpg

The HCZ model for community-based wrap around services will be implemented through Promise Neighborhoods, an initiative launched by the Obama administration in 2010; HUD’s Choice Neighborhood program, a public-private partnership model for “distressed communities;” districts of innovation, and community schools.

This may account for the extreme police response to a small protest at the ribbon-cutting for a Big Picture Learning School in Sharswood in North Philadelphia a few years back. Sharswood was designated a HUD “Choice Neighborhood,” and as a result huge numbers of people were removed from their homes by imminent domain. Very little housing has been restored, and a large glass housing authority office building, which is much more suited to an office park, was constructed in the middle of the row house neighborhood. The school district also shuttered the local elementary school for two years only to later hand it over to a management company that is now issuing the first education social impact bond in the United Kingdom, Big Picture at Doncaster. The powers invested in this “wrap around services, or else” model must have been quite distressed by community members rallying on behalf of self-determination and local control.

I have wondered about the rationale behind the imperative for the managed “community school” model in cities like Philadelphia, where social supports are abundant and accessible. Why not simply hire additional certified school staff that can assist families if they want help navigating the system?

As I have done this research, and knowing how Obama gutted FERPA, it seems obvious that the services must be brought INTO the school AND outsourced via public-private partnerships. This allows the data to be more readily harvested and processed. In the “old way,” data would likely be siloed among various providers. The third party service provider arrangement thus becomes a key part of the impact-processing scheme. Their services can be made contingent on parents signing away their FERPA rights, thus the data they bring in is accessible and query-able, which makes it easier to locate and quantify cost-offsets (and take profit) cheaply and efficiently. To an impact investor’s way of thinking, it simply doesn’t make financial sense, for example, to invest in their albeit bastardized versions of “literacy” instruction unless there is some way to prove it kept children out of jail or marginally employed. See this helpful post from the blog Saving Maine Schools: “United Way to Parents: Give Us Your Gold.”

Why is the US prison industrial complex so enormous? Why are addiction, gun violence, and chronic illness rampant? Certainly it is about controlling communities of color and profiting from their confinement and debilitation, but moving forward we must recognize how e-carceration and pre-carceration will be added to the mix. Those at the top of the economic pyramid have built up the prison industry, and abetted living conditions leading to widespread asthma, lead poisoning, diabetes, and addiction. Now we are at a tipping point, where it is fiscally prudent for those structures to begin to be slowly whittled down, so as to provide the “impact” cost-offsets speculators like Jones and Druckenmiller require. Community schools are a perfect vehicle to offer “impact-delivering” services in an integrated manner (read cheaper).

I spent time this week listening to a presentation, “Commodity Chains and Chained Commodities,” by Calvin Schermerhorn that outlines aspects of financial speculation that arose from trafficking enslaved people domestically after international trade of Africans was halted. You can watch it here, and I highly recommend it as it provides valuable context for our present situation. Schermerhorn describes the shipment of enslaved people, including a man by the name of Sam Watts, from the Chesapeake to the sugar cane fields of Louisiana.

Edmond Forstall; who later established the Union Bank of Louisiana, which underpinned the widespread sale of bonds in northern states backed by the collateral of enslaved people, mortgaged Watts and others to purchase cutting edge technologies. This technology allowed him to refine sugar on his plantation, putting him financially ahead of landowners that only sold raw cane syrup. Forstall did that through hypothecation, a financial arrangement that allowed property owners to mortgage the lives of the people they held while they remained laboring, enslaved on said property. According to a 1942 article on the Louisiana Banking Act of 1842, the 1830s and 1840s was a period of “revolutionary change and experimentation in banking” throughout the country. It feels like we are treading much the same ground as people try to imagine a future at the intersection of digital payments, social impact investing, and financialized life.

I would like to draw a connection between these public-private corporatized “community schools” and the sugar plantations. I believe interoperable data warehouses are today’s equivalent of Forestall’s sugar refinery, and “pay for success” is today’s hypothecation. If we adopt a model of free-for-all data mining starting in pre-k, that data will be the equivalent of the cane syrup; saleable, but minimally profitable. Siloed, that data has limited value. Sure, it can be used to advance the sale of hardware, software, and broadband access. That enriches the segments of the market looking to commodify public education through tech and 1:1 devices. It also benefits their venture capitalist backers.

That model doesn’t, however, enrich hedge fund managers. People like Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones need dynamic data; data as commodity, and that is EXACTLY what systems like Datazone and the Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust provide. They will be the sugar refineries for the data. The algorithms driving data visualization and predictive analytics will shape the product (liquefied debt instruments tied to social service delivery) in the same way that evaporating vats did the cane syrup.

sugar cane

Pay for Success is today’s hypothecation, a new form of innovative finance that will allow predators to draw capital out of the bodies (spirits? souls?) of bonded people. It is a way to mortgage future public assets and siphon them into private hands. Meanwhile, those who are bonded remain trapped in a system of surveillance that is intentionally designed so their chances of escape are very, very low. Mass escape would mean the profit-center would actually shrink, and investors want “growth” according to the agreed upon metrics, not the elimination of poverty. We must see this cruel system for what it is, NOT what’s being sold to us-progressive, fiscally prudent policy.

Dr. Justin Leroy’s talk on recidivism social impact bonds given in conjunction with an exhibit at the Whitney on debt is an important follow up. More about this research here.

Race, Finance, And The Afterlife Of Slavery from Whitney Museum of American Art on Vimeo.

This is a the fourth in a series.

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Interoperable Data To Fuel Human Capital Hedge Funds

An influential network of economists and billionaire-backed foundations have laid out this nefarious plan for a futures market in human capital data with the help of complicit academics and think tanks (here, here, here, here, and here). They did it piece by piece, so gradually that few realize the dangers that loom on the horizon. Sitting in oak-paneled rooms and minimalist C-Suites, these change agents bask in entitlement, gloating over the fact that people today needing services (including education) must submit to invasive tracking.

math to marksmanship

Their profit will be derived from speculation on the debt associated with “processing” children through “evidence-based” interventions, not unlike value chains associated with car parts, soybeans, and smartphones. Children will be triaged and risk-scored through an ever more tightly woven network of digital monitoring. That data will shape markets in human commodities, just as the insurance sector emerged to sustain deadly middle passage maritime trade. In the coming world of ubiquitous technological surveillance, spiritual death may be just as likely as physical death. I doubt they’ll be issuing insurance policies on that, but you never know.

Monopoly capital justifies its profit taking in “human capital performance bonds” using fabricated future cost-offsets, like the carbon credit trading infrastructure devised by social entrepreneur Bill Drayton, now at Ashoka. In this commodification scheme, future life outcomes are the mechanism of trade. People attempting to navigate life in a society where the dignity of living wage work and participatory parity have been denied, are thus compelled to generate data as they make their way through bureaucratic, automated social service and education systems.

human capital peformance bonds

Interoperable data warehouses are needed for hedge fund managers to run their commodities futures game. That, in fact, is where the real money is to be made. See the images below featuring Santa Clara County California’s Data Zone and Silicon Valley Regional Data Trust, a prototype investors want to implement nationwide via the National Interoperability Collaborative. It was initially funded through the National Science Foundation, but the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative dropped a sizable grant to expand it throughout the county in 2016. View the Datazone “Impact” slideshare here.

datazone chan zuckerberg


sccoe datazone impact

sccoe unique identifier

sccoe whole child

datazone 2018

marcy lauck sccoe 011619

silicon valley regional data trust upenn

Datazone now holds data from 44 school districts serving 300,000 children. You see how education, social service, health, behavioral health, foster care, and judicial involvement are co-mingled. While the claim is that the data permits service providers to more effectively (cheaply) help children and families, in reality the inoperability allows them to enact the cost-off set calculations, the ones embedded in the 168 pages paid for by Jones aka “Robin Hood.”

paul tudor jones

If you hear about social service, education, health, and juvenile prison and probation data being pulled together in one place, that should be a red flag. I fear the day universal digital identity systems fully interface with Blockchain smart contracts and privatized public services. When the next-gen slave ship draws up on the beach, you can be sure the investors disembarking will extend greetings and gifts of public programs that are “open,” “transparent,” and exhibit great “efficacy.” And all that flowery language will be thrown out to provide cover for the chains of digital identity, the rails upon which the entire vicious system will run.

That’s what the Gates is working on with his “Level One Project” and the “Better Than Cash Alliance.” The goal is to control the poor using mobile money platforms that are fully integrated with government and aid providers. At that point all economic activities can be factored into ongoing risk assessment and behavioral management.

blockchain ai mi

better than cash digital payments

gates level one

mobile money gates

In a “pay for success” world, the burden is continually placed on the individual to make the “good choice.” As if you can somehow solve poverty with an app delivering “just-in-time” nudges. No structural analysis is ever applied, for good reason. To do so would force financial predators to look in the mirror and see themselves for who they really are.

This new bondage trafficks in digital profiles, reducing the essence of a person to a metric: pre-k now or jail later, English proficiency now or high school drop out later, behavioral interventions now or addiction later, healthy habits now or diabetes later, fiscal prudence now or homelessness later. It is the measurement that matters, the counting, and the data, not the person’s humanity.

The value of the poor is in their data, and they will live or die by their digital dust.

This the third in a series:

Introduction: Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Accounting Ledgers Connect The Dots: From Jamestown To Harlem And Beyond

168 pages

168 pages of calculations

168 pages assessing people as commodities

168 pages estimating economic returns on “investment” in the poor

168 pages of financial depravity, inequality, callousness

168 pages of too few with too much and too many with too little

160 pages built on the trans-Atlantic slave trade

400 years from Jamestown’s ledger books

400 miles between Jamestown and the Harlem Children’s Zone

Robin Hood Foundation bought the calculations.

All 168 pages

We will be hearing a lot in the coming year about universal pre-k and community schools, wrap around services, and the cradle to career pipeline. What is coming has been at least two decades in the making. At its core, it is about a commodities market in human capital, one derived from our brutal national legacy of racial capitalism. I predict the coming sales pitch will evoke a tone of reconciliation and remorse, acknowledgement of harm done with generous “solutions” proffered as remedies to trauma meted out over generations on Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.

I urge caution when dealing with foundations and their venture capitalist donors, especially those who got their start trading cotton futures like hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones. The United States has not reckoned with its past. There has been no soul-searching. Much of New York’s wealth came from shipping the commodities grown and harvested by enslaved Africans. Merchants sent luxury goods south, while the city’s financiers backed bills of exchange, allowing slave holders to mortgage human lives and expand agricultural empires built on bloody violence.

gates jones impact

The money being funneled into the Harlem Children’s Zone has its origins in that history. The legacy of chattel slavery has indelibly shaped our social relations, as again and again repressive systems of control are remade in new variations, no less devastating. Those at the pinnacle of power, and the executive and middle-manager accomplices who carry out their wishes, continue to devise ever more sophisticated mechanisms of control (mass incarceration) and tracking (digital identity / apps / electronic monitoring / drones) through which to extract profit through continued oppression. Programs endorsed by the financiers may at first glace appear benevolent, but foundation grants for “good work” will demand repayment in data. That’s what FEPA and SIPPRA put in place. Don’t kid yourself; the elite intend to use that “evidence-based” data to maintain their hegemony.

We would do well to remember that demands for “efficacy” could readily be twisted to bitter ends. Consider the parallels between growing interest in digital identity systems and Hollerith punch cards, the system used to track, deport, and murder targeted populations during the Holocaust. In the wrong hands, data tied to a workforce pipeline could easily become a pipeline to mass incarceration, peonage, or even extermination. You don’t have to try to hard imagine such a future given that Palantir and Amazon Web Services, both of whom draw considerable income from the surveillance state, are servicing “pay for success” projects in California already.

digital id omidyar wef

Will you allow human care to be reduced to data for viewing on a dashboard? When your funders impose a data collection regime, which they will, what do you do? We are what we have always been, a nation built on stolen bodies and stolen land. We have not yet moved beyond that disdain for human life, that toxic whiteness. Once we know better, perhaps some will choose to do better. I hope this post will open a door. In this perilous moment we must be willing to risk for one another; to own and address this past history. We must recognize how much is at stake.

What lies ahead is racial capitalism’s new operating system, one that embraces digital surveillance and predictive profiling just in time for the Fourth Industrial Revolution’s jobless future. Cue Omidyar Network’s digital identity for all with MIT’s Davos pitch for Blockchain+AI+Human=Magic (tracking “systemic risks” in real time). Understand our future is a continuum of our past, one where oppressed communities occupy landscapes, real and virtual, defined by their carceral potentiality. For this human capital market to operate, speculators must frame Black, Brown, Indigenous, and the poor as inherently “broken,” always a burden on the public coffers, the exact cost of that burden something to be monitored, assessed and calculated in real time, another justification for community surveillance.

This is a the second in a series.

Read the introduction, Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?” here.

Part Three: Interoperable Data To Run Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.

Could Newsom’s “Choose Children” Budget Advance Digital Slavery in CA?

In the aftermath of the well-funded “Choose Children” campaign, we are left to ponder what Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed 2019 budget really means for California’s children. Will he use his position to do the will of the people, or instead sacrifice the state’s youth on the altar of technological surveillance and venture capital? I see alarming connections between elements of his budget, early childhood education and healthcare pilots underway in Silicon Valley, and predatory social impact investment initiatives tied to digital identity that have surfaced abroad with support from Bay Area venture philanthropists, global banking interests, and NGOs.

For years, hedge funders have been building infrastructure for a futures market in human capital, a global poverty-mining enterprise. California is among a handful of states that are in the vanguard of such developments in the United States. San Francisco, Newsom’s stomping grounds, is home to the World Economic Forum’s Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which opened at the Presidio in the fall of 2017. Increased calls for transforming the “social” sector to fit the requirements of this technologized age were made this week at the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos. See this whitepaper, which outlines a planned three-year process to re-align the social sector, “Civil Society in the Fourth Industrial Revolution: Preparation and Response.”

Newsom’s proposals reflect broader trends seen in many states where innovation, technology deployment, and adoption of an “evidence-based” approach to public services, including pre-k and digital learning, are being pitched as an answer to our current social ills. Money has been poured into branding digital enslavement as a fiscally prudent, even progressive option. I urge caution. Dig deeper; things are not what they appear.

Elements in his budget that are of particular concern include:

  1. The creation of a longitudinal database linking education at all levels with workforce outcomes and social service delivery
  2. $200 million for home visits and ACEs screenings
  3. $10 million to explore funding options for universal pre-school
  4. $500 million (one time) investment to expand childcare facilities and professional development among childcare workers
  5. $50 million to create an Office of Digital Innovation

Taken together these items could advance a repressive system of technological surveillance. Such a system would control not only lives of poor people, but also the lives of those employed to manage them. The latter will be expected to implement “evidence-based” services that supposedly add “value” to the “human capital” of those in need of care and education, even if the programs required are fundamentally dehumanizing.

Such a system would harness data extracted from privatized public programs to serve the financial interests of the global elite, many of whom live in the Bay Area and comprise Newsom’s donor base. Among these is close friend Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce, a cloud based computing and analytics company with sizeable contracts with US Customs and Border Protection and recent investments in the social impact measurement software and workforce pipeline programs.

Children of the poor, black, brown and indigenous children, are being set up for ongoing data harvest: cognitive, non-cognitive, and health metrics. This is not just happening in California. With the passage of the Foundations for Evidence-based Policymaking Act, the ball is now rolling on Universal Pre-K everywhere. Priscilla Chan’s “The Primary School” has been a test bed modeling integrated education and healthcare delivery to low-income families. And we have Jeff Bezos whose Day One “impact investing” Fund was trumpeted last fall. I wrote about it here, positing what a tech-oligarch managed pre-k might look like.

Far from the cozy, nurturing atmosphere most parents and educators want for children, particularly children in crisis or who have experienced trauma, this new pre-k model channels industrial agriculture. Children’s developing brains managed like hydroponic lettuce heads, given a precision mix of digital toxic waste, apps touting stamps of “efficacy” from some impact-funded outfit like Common Sense Media. An oppressed workforce compelled to chart the neural “growth” of toddlers whose human capital will eventually be offered up via e-portfolios to global markets, having been tracked (one day perhaps on Blockchain) so that “damaged” product can be traced to the source for a proper accounting. It is a bizarre world at our doorstep, a mash up of Ready Player One and The Hunger Games for infants.

We must find new ways to care for one another in the spirit of mutual aid. Submitting to data surveillance cannot be a pre-condition for accessing help or education. Care should not constitute an “investment” opportunity for global monopoly capital. The idea of “human bonds” must be anathema. Yes, it is our history, but the time has come for us to chart a new way forward. We will not allow people’s futures to become debt instruments traded on global markets. We will recognize enslavement and reject it, even when it comes cloaked in progressive branding.

Do not fall for the “pay for success,” “what works,” open-data, public private partnership pitches that will soon come your way. We must deny elite financiers their plan to foreclose on the commons. We must prevent them from managing those who most need support as holdings in their vast and corrupt social investment portfolios. Once given the right lens, I am confident people will see outcomes-based contracting of government social services and education for what it is, a perverse system of control that devalues human life and inflicts harm on historically oppressed communities. I will be following up with additional posts that offer a detailed analysis of the budget items above.

Given what is happening in Davos right now, I felt like I needed to get this out today. Consider this post an epic red flag. More to come.

This is the introduction to a series. More below.

Part Two: Accounting Ledgers Connect the Dots: From Jamestown to Harlem and Beyond

Part ThreeInteroperable Data To Fuel Human Capital Hedge Funds

Part Four: Could “Community Schools” Be Today’s Sugar Refineries?

Part Five: Will We See A Pre-K TARP (Toxic Assets Relief Program) In 20 Years?

Part Six: Stanley Druckenmiller and Paul Tudor Jones: The Billionaire Networks Behind Harlem’s Human Capital Lab

I wish to express my appreciation for the research of Dr. Justin Leroy, Dr. Tim Scott, and Dr. Calvin Schermerhorn, which informed my understanding of finance and racial capitalism. To better understand our present situation of “surveillance capitalism,” I encourage you to explore their important contributions.


What Could Be Wrong With The “Community School” Model? Revisiting A November 2015 Piece, Post-FEPA

I wrote the piece below in November 2015 during the lead up to the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which passed the following month and cemented into place “Pay for Success” finance of education delivery in the United States. The Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools hosted that post, since I had not yet started my own blog. I am thankful for the hospitality they extended to me then.  I want to re-share it here on Wrench In The Gears, because yesterday Trump signed the bi-partisan HR4174 bill, “Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act” (FEPA).

This legislation will advance the pay for success model by requiring extensive data collection with delivery of all public services. As a result, all those receiving services, including public school students, will be sucked into a never-ending cycle of micro-data collection for analysis of program “efficacy” in a world where neoliberal austerity, predictive analytics, and digital surveillance has come to rule. It is exactly what the tech, finance, and non-profit sectors have been setting up for many years.

We will soon see more and more “wrap around” services ushered into schools where student data has much weaker protections under FERPA, which Obama gutted, than under HIPPA. Non-profits will be incentivized to see students as potential interventions to be churned through systems of data-collection, offered up to justify their existence and maintain their payrolls. We will see more and more instruction delivered online so that “data” can be captured as “evidence.” This “evidence” will document not just the cognitive skills of children, but their social-emotional states and behavioral “competencies” as well. Of course the venture capitalist “social entrepreneurs” hold all the money and pull all the strings. “Pay for Success” is their game. They will remake the world, including our schools, to deliver the digital “evidence” needed to keep them in yachts and champagne. This will happen against a backdrop of grinding poverty, economic precarity, and militarized policing of low income communities.

At the time, some criticized my analysis. They couldn’t see it three years ago. Re-reading it today, it is clear we are much father down this road. ESSA and WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunities Act) and SIPPRA (Social Impact Partnerships Pay for Results Act) and IIOA (Investing in Opportunity Act) and now FEPA (Foundations of Evidence-Based Policy Act) are all now firmly in place. As I noted on social media yesterday. It seems perhaps now Google is our government, stored on Amazon Web Services and overseen by Palantir. This is a bipartisan program. Much of it was put in place by Obama, and now Trump has advanced the next phase.

For more background on HR 4174 see Cheri Kiesecker’s excellent 2016 post here. One of those testifying in favor of this approach at the time was a representative of defense contractor and NSA service provider Booz Allen Hamilton (see featured image). Video of that testimony is here, timestamp 3 hours 19 minutes.

November 23, 2015

If you read my SRC testimony it paints a troubling picture. Given that my testimony was limited to three minutes, I wanted to add some additional thoughts to the conversation. It’s particularly important to get these ideas out there, because Philadelphia’s mayor elect Jim Kenney and his new Chief Education Officer, Otis Hackney, just took a trip to Cincinnati with the express purpose of learning more about the community school model and how it could work in our city. While Oyler, the school they visited, is lauded for its program, the long term success of the model remains uncertain.

As I see it, two groups are working concurrently on community school initiatives. They hold opposing views about what community schools are. Corporate education reformers talk about eliminating the concept of “seat time,” instead they want to promote the idea that you can learn anywhere at any pace. I see that line of thinking as potentially very dangerous if you’re someone like me who values real bricks and mortar schools as a cornerstone of civil society. At the same time there are an increasing number of people who are involved with community school initiatives on the local level. They see community schools as neighborhood anchors. The problem is that they have absolutely no knowledge that there is another powerful group, the corporate education reformers, including Tom Vander Ark, working to undermine all they are doing.

Meanwhile, the corporate education reformers have set up the legislation so that once a network of non-profit and technological partnerships are in place, human teachers will no longer be necessary for their 21st century version of education. The federal government and partners like Citizen Schools move things along by putting resources behind this “transformation.” It won’t happen immediately. The timeline is probably 10-20 years. So the corporate education reformers can just sit back and wait for the first group, people like us, to do the work of acclimatizing the public to the concept that community=school and school=community. Which will be fine, until one day the neighborhood schools close their doors in favor of an online and outsourced community model and we’ve reached the end game.

I think it’s pretty clear that as a society, we simply don’t have the will to fund schools appropriately. Forty-three school districts in Arizona are now having children go to school only four days a week as a cost-saving measure. On Fridays, some students go to the local Boys and Girls Clubs for a “learning day.” So it looks like we are in the process of outsourcing public education already. When I first learned of this, I thought it would be more in the 5-10 year time horizon. I find it shocking that it’s already happening.

We thought with Pennsylvania Governor Wolf the funding situation would change. I’m still not sure how things will play out. If new funding comes in, and we don’t see librarians, five-day school nursing, counselors, and literacy aides come back to every school quickly, then we’ll know. If the Philadelphia School District instead directs that money to blended learning, we’ll know that they are taking our schools in a completely new direction. Even the article on setting up donated classroom libraries last week-what a farce. Donated bins of books ARE NOT THE SAME AS HAVING A CERTIFIED LIBRARIAN IN A SCHOOL! And it is part of the campaign to normalize a situation that should not be normal, and Kenney is just going along because he really doesn’t know better, and no one is telling him.

If you’ve ever sat through a Philadelphia School Reform meeting, you know that they are not going to give Philadelphia parents a “community school” in the sense of true community participation. We are on our third Broad Academy superintendent, and community engagement generally only qualifies as “theater.” Those community partners won’t supplement, they will replace, school staff. Will anyone demand that all schools be returned to pre-cut-back staffing levels before community partnership MOUs are issued? And where is the money going to come from to bring in those services? If they use social impact bonds, the accountability metrics will skyrocket because those partners will be accountable to the venture capitalists and if the rate of return varies based on success metrics, you can imagine there will need to be lots and lots of data gathered.

Even if non-profits underwrite the cost, there will still need to be data gathered to justify grants. There could be the move to medicalize situations where students really just needed a bit of down time and an adult to talk to, because the person will need to tie that to a billable code. What safeguards are in place around that health and mental health information being collected on students by partners probably in many cases without the knowledge of the parents? Outsourcing school functions means having children end up with data driven education and data-driven lives.

It’s also clear that the push is towards workforce development. Labor wants data they can use for their projections. They have the academic data, but they need the other stuff to make it work. They need that non-cognitive behavioral piece, because we all recognize that it’s important. How are they going to get that data? Do you think parents are comfortable with the idea that partners may be monitoring Johnny’s “grit” level? Maybe they’ll want to know does Sally show proficiency in teamwork? creative problem solving? conformity? ETS is setting up measures right now. Locally, at the University of Pennsylvania, we have Duckworth’s “Character Lab” and Seligmann’s initiatives for “Authentic Happiness.” Out of School Time Partners across the country are collecting aggregated student data now. I don’t know that it includes non-cognitive proficiencies, but that could be easily added.

The other piece you need to be aware of is ELOs, also know as Extended or Expanded Learning Opportunities. The folks behind ELOs include the National Governor’s Association and the Chief Council of State School Officers who brought us Common Core State Standards. In their view, education can just be broken down into bits, and in the future kids will collect them like digital badges through demonstrations of mastery that will eventually be done primarily online. Of course most parents are not digital natives and would chafe against this vision of education as essentially cyber school. So instead, certain competencies (also I think this is where the non-cognitive ones come in) are developed with partners through “real world” “community-based” problem solving. The sales pitch will be for THIS part of the blended learning model. They will sell parents on all these great projects combined with the most innovative technology, but what most students will get is a bunch of Rocketship Academies with vans that take kids to the local hospital for an internship (and maybe the hospital gets some volunteer labor). Maybe I’m jaded, but in my heart I feel that the innovative schools they have been set up in Philadelphia cannot be scaled to serve a majority of students. I believe they are part of a bait and switch plan.

The SRC just adopted a $22.5 million contract with Infinite Campus for a new student information system. This system will enable “student-centered” education and support “innovative” school models. Many large districts across the country are doing the same thing right now. I’m pretty sure that will the infrastructure needed to support the new competency-based education model with room for ELOs and student-directed learning. In fact, if parents check School Net there is a tab for Individual Learning Plan, that seemed to be total BS, but it is in fact a precursor to CBE.

This transformation has been in the works for 15 years. In many ways, I fear the issue of high stakes testing was perhaps a straw man so they could make their profit on the tests, knowing that the plan was always to walk away from them and move into stealth testing. For all the talking points we have, CBE offers an answer. Hate having a kid’s evaluation riding on one test? OK, we’ll gather their data all the time through stealth testing. Hate standardization? We’ll offer you “personalization.” Have we driven out thousands of experienced teachers through our emphasis on testing, test prep, and data-driven instruction? Oh, we can fix that. We’ll just raise class sizes using a blended learning model where the kids are online most of the time and out in the community the rest of the time. We really don’t need so many teachers, and the ones we want around are the ones who can tolerate spending their days in front of data dashboards.

It was all so very clever, and it will be hard to tell folks the emperor has no clothes. People want to believe the community schools concept is a good one. They want that. Who wants to be against a cool community project? Right? No one wants to be the one saying, hey the logical conclusion if you put no limits on how many credits can be earned online (see Gates-funded Great Schools Partnership) and in the community leads to the eventual outcome that schools disappear entirely.

Before we move full steam ahead with Community Schools, could we take some time to seriously discuss full, fair funding of public education? We need real funding, sustainable funding, enough funding so that our schools can be safe and functional, and even joyous. If we have that, we would have staff to help families navigate community services that already exist in their neighborhoods. Hey, what an idea! But that would require reinstating jobs that come with benefits and pensions, jobs that strengthen labor’s position. My guess is that neoliberal interests are simply not going to let that happen.

I leave you with one observation. In all of these plans for “community schools” are the partners who will be providing the services and ELOs going to be big “C” community members or little “c” community members? I expect a majority will be the former, because they have the infrastructure to access the funding. Many of these initiatives seem to be linked to major players like the United Way and local universities and outposts of national non-profits and city agencies. I mean it’s not like your neighbors are actually going to be running the programs. If that is the case, why not just put the money directly back into the schools, so they can build the community there?

Is Universal Pre-K Legislation A Set Up For “Lifelong Learning?”

I’m worried about universal pre-k.

Let me repeat. I’m VERY worried about universal pre-k.

I worried when Michael Bloomberg and John Arnold supported it in Philadelphia.

I worried when I learned about social impact bonds and “pay for success” finance.

I worry few people know about these new methods of intrusive pre-k data collection:

vests holding digital recorders that count words spoken to babies;

play tables with video cameras to record and assess group play dynamics;

gamified education that tracks engagement with content;

apps to nudge proper parenting behaviors via text; and

playground equipment with QR codes for phone-based recreational learning

Today’s preschoolers will grow up in this new world order.

It is being built around them.

They’re the test cases for Global Education Futures’ dystopian 2035 agenda.

gef poster

The econometricians have crunched the numbers.

The pathways are finalized.

The badge systems and learning lockers ready.

They’ve lined up early adopter states to promote the “Swiss Model.”

2/3 of students will be shunted into work-based education with “stackable credentials.”

They’ll curate a personal brand to compete in globalized digital labor markets.


At each step, data will be vacuumed up.

Knowledge, mindset, and compliance captured digitally, indefinitely.

Predictive analytics and “risk scoring,” to evaluate human capital potential in real time.

Impact investors demand to know “what works” to net them the best rate of return.

Universal pre-k will push children into the “social impact investing” value chain.

Meanwhile, Lumina Foundation, chambers of commerce, venture philanthropists, tech, United Way, and their ilk await the legislation that will green-light this futures market.

Human Value Chain Infographic

Below is an infographic I developed to show how “re-designed” education, global digital labor markets and social impact investing intersect. This program of human systems engineering is framed as “lifelong learning.” You can also download a PDF here.

lifelong learning biocapitalism-2

California Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, chair of the budget subcommittee on education finance, dropped a package of universal pre-k bills in December, ready for the state’s new governor. Gavin Newsom, a tech/venture philanthropy-supported candidate, has come out strongly in support of expanded early childhood education. Click here for interactive version of map below.

kevin mccarty ece ca

But outgoing Governor Jerry Brown offered words of caution in a recent interview with John Harris of Politico. Though as one California parent noted, it’s actually a case of too little, too late, since the infrastructure that will subordinate public education to workforce interests was installed on his watch. While he may have protected the teachers somewhat, children remain on the front lines.

Brown does not mention impact investing or the Heckman Equation, even though Heckman and Pritzker spent a lot of time courting community foundations in the state. The Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s “Choose Children” Campaign had done a full court press on the “early childhood education” investment vehicle “No Small Measure” that featured Robert Dugger and Heckman’s work last September. I’ll be writing a follow up on that next.

Check out the trailer and then read what Jerry Brown has to say about computers, control, measuring and ranking.

choose children tour

Former Governor Jerry Brown’s words of caution on Cal-PASS Pre-K to Workforce Pathways:

Harris: What’s an example of that (totalitarianism) being pushed by the liberals?

Brown: An example would be measuring each individual child from preschool to beyond college, and keeping those as permanent records in the computer, that would measure discipline and mental attributes. Just the general centralization of information, which is being billed as the way to help the poor but which will enable an authoritarian to totally monopolize and control the society.

In fact, we have something called “Cal-PASS,” a state computer, which I kept in check. And I think now it’ll be full throttle to collect as much possible data and measure people in all sorts of ways. I think it’s dangerous. I don’t think it’s very useful, except for academics who have to write theses and do research. We had one on the teachers, which we stopped.

See, the trouble is the computer can collect a lot of information and regurgitate it in many different ways, and people are fascinated by that. Controlling and measuring everything. … We’re all ranked. And who’s it for? Now, if it’s for the academics, they’re relatively harmless. But then it’s going to ultimately be used, at some point, and it has kind of a smell of eugenics, that we want to purify this kind of motley race called human beings and if we can measure all the different attributes, we can then make normative the right path and the right way to be. I think that is the absence of diversity and the absence of freedom.

I would just say, spoken in a somewhat abstract level—it’s not just me who says that. I mean, there are political theorists who notice that the welfare state and the warfare state work hand in hand. They both want to see more power. They want more engineering of things. And, in many ways, that’s mass society, that’s an inevitable trend. But we do need to—we, the government—so that it can function is guard against that. And some of these big issues are not thought about.”

From Jerry Brown’s Midnight in America by John Harris for Politico


When “Community Foundations” Go Global (Or Coastal)

Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Part Five

Here for the introduction and parts onetwo, three, and four.

Community foundations were established a century ago to aggregate assets from individuals, families and businesses and advance the activities of nonprofits operating in a particular geographic area, hence the “community” designation. The first example is generally considered to be The Cleveland Foundation, which was started in 1914. Today, some community foundations are revisiting long-held policies around local giving and transitioning to a globalized grant making program. Staff and leadership have dropped any pretense that community foundations exist to promote local wellbeing, instead fully embracing the structure as a tax shelter for the wealthy that gives them considerable influence over how social services are delivered worldwide. Community foundations are extensions of the social impact sector. Investors can more easily manufacture data-driven “impact” in the grinding poverty of the global south and among refugee populations. Perhaps that is why they are increasingly sending their philanthropic “patient” capital abroad.

As the Silicon Valley Community Foundation’s assets ballooned, donors, staff, and board members expanded the foundation’s reach far beyond the Bay Area. In a 2013 article, “Redefining Community Foundations,” former CEO Emmett Carson stated, “ To some donors, community means their own neighborhoods. To others it is the town where they grew up. Still others see themselves as global citizens. Silicon Valley Community Foundation will meet donor partners where they are and support their personal definitions of building community—locally, nationally, and around the globe.”

In 2014 the foundation created a database that allowed donors to easily direct grants to international organizations. By 2017, two-thirds of SVCF’s awards were directed outside the United States with remaining going primarily to California-based nonprofits. The foundation’s 2017 990 tax form, shows this clearly. The list of international activities begins on page 37 and continues through page 66. Referenced on page 38 is an unspecified $875 million investment made in “Central American And The Caribbean” nations. I’d love to know more.

SVCF Investment South America 2017.jpg

That year SVCF’s international grants were directed to organizations pursuing projects in: education, human services, housing and transportation, youth development, workforce development, human services, environment, arts and culture, animal welfare, community development, civil participation, international development, sciences, health, general nonprofit support, food security, and religion.

Regional allocations were as follows:

$69 million: Europe, Iceland and Greenland

$12.9 million East Asia and Pacific

$4.4 million: North America (not US)

$2.9 million: Sub-Saharan Africa

$2.4 million: South Asia

$1.4 million: Middle East and North Africa

$1.2 million South America

$190,000: Russia and Neighboring States $190,000

$31,000: Central America and the Caribbean

Not all money channeled out of Silicon Valley went to such far-flung destinations. Some was simply directed across the country. An example of this is a series of grants, totaling tens of millions of dollars that flowed through SVCF to the New Jersey nonprofit Foundation for Newark’s Future starting in 2011. This money supported efforts by Mark Zuckerberg, one of the foundation’s largest donors, to turn the low-income school district into a laboratory to test “system transformation” and disruptive ed-reform policies.

Newark offered valuable R&D opportunities as Facebook refined its digital education offerings, which include Summit Learning. Most considered Zuckerberg’s foray a failure, but that would presume his goal was to actually improve learning conditions for Newark’s students. If “success” instead meant having free reign to move fast, break things, and use information gleaned to tweak business models and communication strategies, I expect the social media mogul probably considers it money well spent.

Families in Newark, NJ need to be comparing notes with Bridge International Academies’ families in Kenya and Uganda.