Friday, March 25, 2016

Friday Water Cooler

Mass Shootings Are Contagious (scientificamerican.com). It turns out rampages do not turn up randomly; an outbreak of gun violence tends to trigger further outbreaks. The paper (free online) by Towers et al. is here.

The Election in Arizona Was a Mess (motherjones.com), with some people alleging fraud. Bottom line: Be prepared for Third World voting conditions in November. Bring food, camping gear, bottled water. Occupy the polls!
So meanwhile, here's a front-runner (by his own account: a winner) whining about "unfairness." The unfairness is what, exactly? That other people are running.

I like front-runners who don't whine.

The gangster candidate: Donald Trump and his supporters behave like the mafia, with veiled threats and acting above the law (salon.com). 

Secret Service manpower shortage as campaigns ramp up (reuters.com).

Hillary the Hawk (thecairoreview.com). Hillary supporters (far too many of whom simply don't know their candidate, IMHO) need to read this and understand it before signing us all up for more war. This is probably the single best long-form article, so far, on Hillary's track record on interventionism, although it overlooks her role in pushing Bill to bomb Serbia and has nothing to say about Honduras.

Does Hillary have an NSA problem? (observer.com). 

‘Chilling Effect’ of Mass Surveillance Is Silencing Dissent Online, Study Says (motherboard.vice.com). A paper in Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly found that "the government’s online surveillance programs may threaten the disclosure of minority views and contribute to the reinforcement of majority opinion."

Mekong Delta is drying up.
Vietnam’s Mekong Delta hit by worst drought in years (asiancorrespondent.com). Story mentions El Nino but makes no reference to global warming.

Worst Mediterranean drought in 900 years has human fingerprints all over it (theguardian.com).

US Secretly Acting Like China Does in Public (emptywheel.net). "The government has demanded source code [from tech firms] in civil cases filed under seal but also by seeking clandestine rulings authorized under the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA)."

Five Major Hospital Hacks: Horror Stories from the Cybersecurity Frontlines (spectrum.ieee.org). “We’re attacked about every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day,” says John Halamka, CIO of the Boston hospital Beth Israel Deaconess. And the strikes come from everywhere: “It’s hacktivists, organized crime, cyberterrorists, MIT students,” he says.

10 of the Worst Big Pharma Company Rip-Offs — and Their Plan to Keep the Gravy Train Rolling (alternet.org). Martin Shkreli is not an aberration. He's the norm.

One boy, two girls win Intel U.S. Talent Search (reuters.com).

Military Admits Billion-Dollar War Toy F-35 Is F**ked (thedailybeast.com). Does it make sense for any airplane to cost over $100 million each? Doesn't matter. Too late to pull the plug.

National Insider Threat Task Force will monitor government employees for disgruntlement (theuardian.com). See the Task Force's official statement for details. This is basically the U.S. government deciding whistleblowers are mentally unstable traitors who need to be guarded against via a special program. Quite amazing. How is this legal?

Something really weird is driving inequality in the UK and economists don't understand why it's happening (businessinsider.com). As unemployment goes down, wages flatten (when they should go up). Welcome to the new economy.

Silicon Valley's Unchecked Arrogance (medium.com). Disregard the headline and give this story a careful look. The first thing to note is that the Ycombinator folks (who fund high-tech startups) believe most jobs are going away. Secondly, they believe that (as a result) there needs to be a universal basic income program (or negative income tax; call it what you will) to allow the idle masses to continue to afford the fruits of Silicon Valley triumphalism. It's a breathtaking admission: technology is putting people out of work en masse, and we have no answers for mass employment other than some kind of program in which the winners directly transfer wealth to the losers, since ordinary capitalism isn't sufficient to keep the economy functioning. My take? Arrogant or not, the basic facts here are true. Inequality is real, and getting worse; and the endgame we're hurtling towards is indeed a society of minimum-wage and/or out-of-work workers sitting around doing nothing (or working on their resumes) while billionaires try to sell the Next Great Thing to people who can't afford it. But meanwhile, government employment statistics are designed to show that unemployment is at a historical low, precluding meaningful discussion of the deeply significant qualitative changes that have occurred in the workplace. Many policy wonks continue to hawk the standard "free markets can fix themselves" line of bull, even as the economic value of a college education becomes provably zero and good jobs keep leaving the country, etc. But are presidential candidates discussing any of this? No. Sadly, no. We're rioting over other things. For now.

Thanks for visiting. Be sure to check out prior weeks' Water Coolers (see links at right).



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