Trump's scandal-haunted Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is out

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke (previously) is leaving the cabinet at the end of the month. Read the rest

Europe's right-to-repair movement is surging -- and winning

Earlier this month, European right-to-repair activists sounded the alarm, warning that the model right-to-repair legislation that had been proceeding through the EU legislative process had been hijacked by lobbyists who had gutted its core protections and were poised to make repairs even harder in the EU. Read the rest

Wells Fargo blames "computer glitch" for its improper foreclosure on 545 homes

According to Wells Fargo, a "computer glitch" caused the improper denial of 870 loan modification requests, which led to 545 foreclosures in which Wells Fargo customers lost their homes; the bank is now offering those former homeowners -- some of whom saw the breakup of their marriages as the result of the stress of foreclosure -- insultingly small sums, like $25,000. Read the rest

New York City's municipal debt collectors have forged an unholy alliance with sleazy subprime lenders

New York City's "marshal" service is a throwback to the Dutch colonial days; the 35 marshals are appointed by the mayor, draw no salary, and earn their livings by skimming a percentage off of the debts they collect, operating with impunity and reaching around the world. Read the rest

Using data-science to evaluate whether Xi Jinping's anti-corruption sweeps were really about consolidating power

China-watchers observed the rise-and-rise of Chinese premier Xi Jinping with caution and sometimes alarm, but also held out some hope that despite his authoritarian tendencies and thin skin, Xi was genuinely committed to rooting out the rampant corruption that has plagued the country since its rapid industrialization under Deng Xiaoping: the creation of an untouchable elite and a hereditary princeling class immune to civil justice; looting by respected members of the business community; and a sense that the looters are exfiltrating their money, bypassing currency controls, and stashing the booty in apartments overseas, fueling both the Bitcoin and real-estate bubbles worldwide. Read the rest

America's big box stores sucked up corporate welfare and killed Main Street -- now they're ducking property tax

For a generation, big box stores have swept across America, using predatory pricing and other dirty tricks to kill the independent retail sector; they used their corporate lobbying muscle to tempt cities and towns into handing out massive corporate welfare checks to lure them to town, and now, with the help of hustling contingency lawyers, they are promulgating a property-tax scam called "the dark store theory" that is cutting their taxes in half or more, with further reductions every year, and no end in sight. Read the rest

Facebook hired GOP oppo firm to smear protesters by linking them to George Soros, an anti-Semitic trope: NYT

We are watching Facebook unravel in real time. I hope. Read the rest

The Florida of ballot-design mistakes is...

Florida. Read the rest

Wells Fargo cuts 26,500 jobs, shutters branches, declares "excess capital" and drops $40.6 billion on stock buybacks

Wells Fargo is America's most scandal-haunted bank, which is quite an accomplishment in a heavily competitive field; now the bank has started closing its branches and cutting jobs (after pressuring employees to commit mass fraud on pain of being fired and blacklisted from the industry). Read the rest

America's most notorious patent troll, now bankrupt, values its bullshit patents at $1

For more than a decade, Shipping and Transit LLC (AKA Arrivalstar) has been aggressively pursuing dubious patent claims against public transit companies, shippers, and other businesses whose practices overlapped with Arrivalstar's absurd, obvious patents on using GPSes to figure out where stuff was. Read the rest

The dialysis industry just set a campaign spending record to fight California limits on pricing

At $111,000,000, the California dialysis industry's campaign spending against Prop 8 (which caps the price of outpatient dialysis) is now the most expensive in US history. Read the rest

Thunder Bay: podcast about Canada's hate crime and murder capital is a cross between Serial and Crimetown

The remote north Ontario city of Thunder Bay leads Canada in murders and hate crimes and features a local government mired in scandal, from a mayor who was charged with extortion to a police chief who went on trial for obstruction of justice. Read the rest

America, Compromised: Lawrence Lessig explains corruption in words small enough for the Supreme Court to understand

Lawrence Lessig was once best-known as the special master in the Microsoft Antitrust Case, then he was best known as the co-founder of Creative Commons, then as a fire-breathing corruption fighter: in America, Compromised, a long essay (or short nonfiction book), Lessig proposes as lucid and devastating a theory of corruption as you'll ever find, a theory whose explanatory power makes today's terrifying news cycle make sense -- and a theory that demands action.

All the economists who told the FTC we shouldn't break up Big Tech are paid by Big Tech

From the Open Markets Institute's Mat Stoller and Austin Frederick, who analyzed the FTC's panel, "The Current Economic Understanding of Multi-Sided Platforms," in which economic experts told the regulator that Big Tech's monopoly power just isn't a problem: "every single economist testifying on the issue of corporate concentration derived income, directly or indirectly, from large corporations. Beyond that, the hearing itself was held at the Antonin Scalia Law School, which is financed by Google and Amazon." Read the rest

Wanna get into Harvard? Just ask your parents to donate a building.

A batch of internal Harvard admission-related emails have come into the public domain as part of a lawsuit alleging that Harvard discriminates against Asian applicants, and they reveal that the admissions process is tilted in favor of members of families who are major donors to Harvard. Read the rest

Deleting Facebook is not enough: without antitrust, the company will be our lives' "operating system"

Facebook is the poster-child for the techlash, the worst offender in the monopolistic bunch, and recent books like Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy by Siva Vaidhyanathan (previously) and Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now by Jaron Lanier present variations on the main critiques of Facebook with some prescriptions for what to do about it. Read the rest

Why Do-Not-Track browser settings are useless and what to do about it

The long fight over Do-Not-Track followed a predictable trajectory: a detailed, meaningful pro-privacy system was subverted by big business, and then published as a "standard" that offered virtually no privacy protections. Read the rest

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