Nobody cares about the future of the Internet

John Oliver told us that "If you want to do something evil, put it inside something that sounds incredibly boring," and there's no domain in which that is more true than the world of Internet governance.

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Brazil's Internet-enabled activism kicks all kinds of ass


Airshowfan writes, "Over the past several years, various citizen groups in Brazil have used the power of online crowdsourcing in creative ways to tackle social problems large and small."

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China sends high-profile dissidents on forced luxury holidays


China spends even more on internal "stability maintenance" and security than it does on its army. Some of that incredible budget goes to forced holidays for dissidents that get them out of the way during events like the 25th anniversary of Tienanmen Square. It's called "being traveled."

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Failed Oklahoma GOP nominee condemns opponent as secret replicant


Tim Murray, a self-identified "human," is contesting the Republican Congressional nomination in Oklahoma City's third district, on the grounds that his opponent, the incumbent Rep. Frank Lucas, was secretly replaced with a body-double after being executed by the World Court in Ukraine "on or about jan. 11, 2011."

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Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century

Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century is a bestselling economics tome whose combination of deep, careful presentation of centuries’ worth of data, along with an equally careful analysis of where capitalism is headed has ignited a global conversation about inequality, tax, and policy. Cory Doctorow summarizes the conversation without making you read 696 pages (though you should).

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Bangalore's garbage crisis and America's invisible trash


Noah Sachs uses the years-long Bangalore garbage crisis to ask some pointed questions about America's secretive waste-disposal industry, which treats the treatment of American waste as a military-grade secret, protected by barbed wire and vicious lawyers.

Bangalore's drowning in rubbish, it's contaminating the water and poisoning the Earth, tens of thousands labor in filthy, unsafe conditions to sort and recover it -- and the average Bangalorean is only generating about one pound of trash per day. Americans throw away seven times that amount, and the fact that it's whisked away doesn't mean it's not a problem. In Sachs's view, the Bangalore situation just makes visible the lurking consequences of America's own profligacy.

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt wants YOU to support Mayday.US and fight Congressional corruption

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has recorded this video message endorsing the Mayday.US super PAC, through which Lawrence Lessig and supporters are raising $5 million in small-money donations to elect lawmakers who will promise meaningful reforms of campaign finance law to curtail the undue influence of money on politics. The cynics say that lawmakers like getting bribes in exchange for bad policy, but the reality is that lawmakers are locked in an awful, brutal arms-race to raise funds for the next election cycle, and devote most of their days in office to sucking up to plutocrats to raise money that they don't get to keep, but will have to blow on ever-more-lavish political campaigns. Limits on campaign spending will force politicians to focus on winning votes by introducing popular, sound policies, not by being puppets of the American plutocracy.

I'm not entitled to contribute to Mayday.US (I'm a foreigner), but if you are, I would consider it a personal favor if you'd kick in a couple extra bucks for those of us who worry about American politics but don't get a direct say.

(via Lessig)

Mathematics as the basis for leftist reasoning


Chris Mooney of the Inquiring Minds podcast interviewed Jordan Ellenberg about his book How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking, and in a fascinating accompanying post, Mooney investigates whether mathematics are "liberal." His argument is that liberal thought is characterized by "wishy washy" uncertainty and that math professors tend to vote left:

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Greenhouse: browser plugin that automatically annotates politicians' names with their funders

Greenhouse is a browser plugin created by Nicholas Rubin, a 16-year-old programmer. It seeks out the names of elected US officials on any web-page you load in your browser and adds a pop-up link to their names listing the major donors to their campaigns. It uses 2012 election-cycle data drawn from Opensecrets's repository.

I've long suggested something like this as a way of improving political coverage. Indeed, you could imagine it going both ways -- any time the name of a company or individual who had made some big campaign contributions shows up in a webpage, you get a list of their political beneficiaries. Ideally, this would be an open framework to which data from any political race could be added.

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Public opinion of Congress reaches a new low

A new Gallup poll on Americans' attitudes towards their institutions finds the nation in a massive crisis of confidence, with low levels of confidence in many institutions. Congress's public perception continues to fall, reaching an all-time low of 7%.

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Boy, 9, creates library in his front yard. City, stupid, shuts it down.

KMBC-TV, Kansas.


KMBC-TV, Kansas.

In Kansas, 9-year-old Spencer Collins has been told by authorities that he must stop sharing books with his neighbors, and close the little free library--honestly, it's just a bookshelf--in his yard. Its slogan was "take a book, leave a book," but city government is mostly about the taking.

Collins loves reading. He doesn't just dive into a book -- he swims through its pages.

"It's kind of like I'm in a whole other world and I like that," he said. "I like adventure stories because I'm in the adventure and it's fun."

When he tried to share his love for books, it started a surprisingly frustrating adventure.

"When we got home from vacation, there was a letter from the city of Leawood saying that it was in code violation and it needed to be down by the 19th or we would receive a citation," said Spencer's mother, Sarah Collins.

Leawood said the little house is an accessory structure. The city bans buildings that aren't attached to someone's home.

The family moved the little library to the garage, but Spencer Collins said he plans to take the issue up with City Hall.

"I would tell them why it's good for the community and why they should drop the law," he said. "I just want to talk to them about how good it is."

"Bookcase considered illegal accessory building" [KMBC-TV, HT: @lizohanesian]

As many as 75 federal scientists may have been exposed to anthrax

Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)


Anthrax bacteria. (Photo: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Up to 75 scientists who work at a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biosecurity lab in Atlanta may have been exposed to anthrax, because researchers there did not follow procedures for inactivating the deadly and highly contagious bacteria.

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Every congresscritter now has an email address, thanks to Sunlight and EFF


Many congresscritters don't have public email addresses -- instead, they have hard-to-locate webforms that slow down activist email campaigns and make it harder for constituents to get in touch. EFF and the Sunlight Foundation has fixed this, giving every member of Congress her or his own email address -- an address that you can send to that will be automatically forwarded through the appropriate webform.

Sunlight has some spam-checking to stop this from being abused, and gathers some of the other information the forms collect so that they can be fully populated by the scripts. Once you're setup in the system, you can email "myreps@opencongress.org" and your message will automatically be forwarded on to you senators and house reps.

88% of Congressional staffers say that their bosses' decisions are affected by constituent email. The data and scripts are up on Github for you to build on.

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John Oliver to FCC Chairman: prove you aren't a dingo!

When John Oliver smote the FCC over its pro-cable-company-fuckery policy, he compared hiring Tom Wheeler away from his job as top cable lobbyist to run the FCC to hiring a dingo to babysit your kids. Wheeler responded by assuring the American public that he was not a dingo (because metaphor). In his latest segment on the matter, Oliver challenged Wheeler to prove it.

Econobollocks: three ways that economic figures are misused in politics


Financial Times economist Tim Harford writes about how "three sensible propositions from economics have somehow been crumpled into a mess of public relations and politics" -- how the misleading precision of economic forecasts can be used to paper over purely political decisions, making them seem to be objectively true:

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