Financial Times columnist advocates imprisoning dirty corporate executives

Rolls Royce just arranged for a "deferred prosecution" with UK prosecutors over revelations that it had committed jailable offenses by bribing overseas officials in order to secure their business; under this arrangement, prosecutors have allowed Rolls Royce to pay to have the prosecution halted and to have their executives immunized from criminal repercussions for their actions. Read the rest

HP's Nonpology

The "nonpology" is a corporate standard: a company does something terrible, and then it tells you it's sorry that you found its behaviour upsetting. But HP's October 2016 public statement on its secret, aftermarket attack on its customers' property has made important advances in the field of nopologyology.

The secret to success in local politics: steal from the people, but not too much

In a new paper in Progress, Oxford economist Vuk Vukovic argues that the key to re-election in local politics is to be just corrupt enough: giving lucrative contracts and other benefits to special interests who'll fund your next campaign, but not so much that the people refuse to vote for you. Read the rest

After shutting down to protect user privacy, Lavabit rises from the dead

In 2013, Lavabit -- famous for being the privacy-oriented email service chosen by Edward Snowden to make contact with journalists while he was contracting for the NSA -- shut down under mysterious, abrupt circumstances, leaving 410,000 users wondering what had just happened to their email addresses. Read the rest

Mark Zuckerberg sues over 100 Hawaiians to force them to sell them their ancestral land

In 2015, Mark Zuckerberg (who insists that privacy is dead) bought 100 acres of land around his vacation home in Hawaii to ensure that no one could get close enough to spy on him. Read the rest

Judge rules that winning casino baccarat by taking note of asymmetries in card-backs is cheating

In July 2012, professional poker-player Phil Ivey won $4.8M from the baccarat tables at Atlantic City's Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in 17 hours; on other occasions, he took a total of $9M out of the Borgata: he did it by asking the house to deal Gemaco Borgata cards, whose backs contained minute asymmetries in their patterns. By asking the dealer to turn some cards upside down, Ivey's partner, Cheng Yin Sun, was able to track them as they moved through the deck. Read the rest

Indicted Dieselgate VW execs advised not to leave Germany, lest they be extradited to the USA

The five Volkswagen executives who were criminally charged in the USA for their role in the Dieselgate scandal have been advised not to travel to the USA because they are liable to arrest there: they've also been told that leaving Germany is risky because they might be arrested and extradited to the USA. Read the rest

Inside this Star Wars blanket's box, a card informing you that you've just waived your right to sue

When you open the box for a Storm Trooper snuggie blanket, you'll discover a card telling you that by buying the blanket, you've waived your right to sue the manufacturer and will subject yourself to binding arbitration if your blanket gives you cancer or burns you to death or any of the other bad things textiles can do. Read the rest

CVS is making a generic epipen: $110/2 pens

The price of Epipens -- purchased annually by people with severe allergies and stocked in the first-aid cabinets of schools, businesses, and ambulances -- more than quintupled in a decade, thanks to the tactics of Mylan CEO Heather Bresch (daughter of Senator Joe Manchin [D-WV]), who took home a 671% raise for her work, which raised this lifesaving technology's pricetag beyond the reach of many people, who turned to low-cost DIY alternatives. Read the rest

Why the Trump era is the perfect time to go long on freedom and short on surveillance

My new Locus column is "It’s Time to Short Surveillance and Go Long on Freedom," which starts by observing that Barack Obama's legacy includes a beautifully operationalized, professional and terrifying surveillance apparatus, which Donald Trump inherits as he assumes office and makes ready to make good on his promise to deport millions of Americans and place Muslims under continuous surveillance. Read the rest

The average FTSE 100 boss earns as much in 2.5 days as his (yes, his) median employee earns in a year

The great recession and austerity have been very good to the chief executives of Britain's biggest companies: according to the High Pay Center, the average compensation for FTSE 100 CEOs rose 10% in 2015, to £5.5m -- meanwhile, UK workers' wages have stagnated year on year, averaging £28,200. Read the rest

When robots take routine middle-class jobs, those workers drop out of the workforce

In Disappearing Routine Jobs: Who, How, and Why? economists from USC, UBC and Manchester University document how the automation of "routine" jobs (welders, bank tellers, etc) that pay middle class wages has pushed those workers out of the job market entirely, or pushed them into low-paying, insecure employment. Read the rest

Chinese social media went a-flutter at this photo of an apparent App Store clickfarmer

This year-old photo of a woman seated at a wall of Iphones went viral on Chinese social media, where it was identified as a clickfarmer whose job is to repeatedly install apps on multiple phones in order to inflate their App Store ranks. Read the rest

2016: Once again, piracy was so bad that the movie industry smashed all box office records

As has been the case for many consecutive years, the movie industry beat all box-office records in 2016, earning $11.4B at the US box office (while simultaneously insisting that piracy was destroying the industry and demanding the right to control and redesign the internet to save itself from this existential threat). Read the rest

White House report documents the "hidden fees" that pick America's pockets

In The Competition Initiative and Hidden Fees, the White House's National Economic Council documents the widespread use of deceptive "service charges" that businesses levy, allowing them to advertise prices that are wildly divergent from what you'll actually pay -- think of the $30, unavoidable "resort fees" added to a hotel bill; the $25 "processing fees" added to concert tickets, the random fees added to telecom bills, etc, all adding up to billions transferred away from American shoppers to big business. Read the rest

Robert Hulseman, creator of the Red Solo Cup, RIP

Robert Hulseman, creator of the iconic Red Solo Cup seen at frat parties, sizzurp celebrations, and Midwestern family reunions everywhere, has died at age 84. Hulseman, with friend Jack Clements, followed up that iconic container design with another: the Solo traveler coffee cup lid, such a classic design that one of them is now in the New York Museum of Modern Art. From NPR:

Solo was one of the first companies to market small paper cone cups that were common to see alongside water coolers in the 1940s.

The company went on to develop the wax-lined cups used by drive-in movie theaters and fast-food restaurants.

In the 1970's, Hulseman invented the Red Solo Cup for families to use at picnics but use of the ubiquitous cup took off and it was embraced by all beverage drinkers.

Paul Hulseman, Robert's son, told The Associated Press that "his father never fully understood how massively popular the large red plastic cup became in pop culture."

Read the rest

AI Alarmism: why smart people believe dumb things about our future AI overlords

Maciej Cegłowski (previously) gave this talk, "Superintelligence: The Idea That Eats Smart People," at Web Camp Zagreb last October, spending 45 minutes delving into the origin of the idea that computers are going to become apocalyptic, self-programming, superintelligent basilisks that end all live on Earth (and variations on this theme) and then explaining why this fundamentally evidence-free, fuzzy idea has colonized so many otherwise brilliant people -- including people like Stephen Hawking -- and why it's an irrational and potentially harmful belief system. Read the rest

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