For 40 years, American Conservatives have filed down the definition of "corruption," turning the Framers' spear into a blunt stub

Zephyr Teachout's (previously) 2014 book Corruption in America is an incredibly important, timely book about the way that American policy and politics have been distorted by money, something that's gotten steadily worse as it is supercharged by (and supercharges) wealth inequality. Read the rest

Democrats are polling high, progressive candidates are having a great fundraising year, but the DNC is broke

The DNC continues to struggle to raise cash, holding only $6.3M in the bank on Dec 1, compared to the RNC's $40M. But the numbers are deceiving, because 50% of the country want the Democrats to control Congress in 2018 (compared with 39% who want the GOP to retain power) and individual Democrat candidates are having banner years fundraising, especially the progressive, "Sanders Democrats" who break with the party's coziness with the finance industry and big business. Read the rest

Even when a Chicago cop is convicted of wrongdoing, a secret appeals court usually overturns it

Chicago boasts one of the nation's most corrupt police forces: Chicago PD ran an off-the-books secret torture site; stole millions from innocents and used the funds to buy illegal surveillance gear; has more than 125,000 outstanding abuse complaints; conducted an illegal extortion racket and a coverup that went to the highest levels; is systemically racist and corrupt; a force that tolerates cops who cover up and celebrate murder (no surprise that the force trained the ex-Gitmo torturer who beat Dr David Dao unconscious for refusing to give up his seat on a United flight). Read the rest

Cheap dates: here's how much it cost the telcoms sector to buy Congress and murder Net Neutrality

Congress took $101 million in donations from the telcoms sector, and then, by an amazing coincidence, 107 Republican Congressjerks sent a letter to Donald Trump's FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, exhorting him to kill Net Neutrality without delay. Read the rest

Massachusetts state senator busted for kickbacks including Dunkin’ Donuts coffee

Brian Joyce, former Democratic assistant majority leader in the Massachusetts State House, was incited for running a "criminal enterprise" that included "racketeering, extortion, honest services fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and other charges," according to Newsweek. Part of Joyce's $1 million worth of dirty money and kickbacks included a free jeep given to him by an insurance company along with “hundreds of pounds” of Dunkin’ Donuts from a franchise owner seeking permits. Read the rest

Ajit Pai made a funny: leaked video shows his presentation at the Telecom Prom where he "pretends" to be a Verizon shill

Trump FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is a former top Verizon executive and now he's about to hand Verizon billions of dollars in public subsidy by striking down net neutrality rules, which is a really funny coincidence! Read the rest

Here are some of the lavish, lobbyist-funded parties that Congress and the Trump administration will attend this month

CropLife America (pesticide lobbyists); the Financial Services Roundtable (lobbyists for Citigroup, Jpmorgan, etc) and Lockheed Martin (largest arms-dealer in the world) are just some of the entities throwing lavish parties for Congresscritters, Senators, administration officials and their staffers this Christmas. Read the rest

Bell is leading the push to end Canadian Net Neutrality with a secret, extrajudicial Star Chamber that will decide what Canadians can and can't see

Canada has a grotesquely concentrated telcoms sector and a grotesquely concentrated media sector, and thanks to a series of extremely anticompetitive mergers, the two sectors are one in the same. Read the rest

Comcast flushed its 3 year old net neutrality promise down the memory hole the instant the FCC announced its plan to allow network discrimination

Comcast fought the last net neutrality regulation in 2015 by making a bunch of promises about how fair it would be, whether or not the FCC regulated its behavior; this week, Comcast has put on charm offensive by repeating all but one of those promises, namely, its promise not to create internet slow lanes and then extort money from web publishers by threatening to put them there unless they paid for "premium access" to the Comcast subscribers who were trying to retrieve data from them. Read the rest

Wells Fargo execs sealed their bonuses by gouging the bank's business customers

Wells Fargo didn't limit its fraud to robbing 2,000,000 ordinary depositors, struggling mortgage borrowers, 800,000 car loan borrowers, mom and pop businesses, and home owners -- the bank's top foreign-exchange desk bankers robbed hundreds of the company's large business customers, in a move that inflated the Fargo execs' annual bonuses. Read the rest

A million anti-Net Neutrality comments reportedly fake

Over on Hackernoon, data scientist and "language nerd," Jeff Kao, has posted the results of a data analysis he did on Net Neutrality comments submitted to the FCC between April-October 2017. Using natural language processing techniques, he was able to look for suspicious patterns in the language used. What he found was alarming.

The first and largest cluster of pro-repeal documents was especially notable. Unlike the other clusters I found (which contained a lot of repetitive language) each of the comments here was unique; however, the tone, language, and meaning across each comment was largely uniform. The language was also a bit stilted. Curious to dig deeper, I used regular expressions to match up the words in the clustered comments:

It turns out that there are 1.3 million of these. Each sentence in the faked comments looks like it was generated by a computer program. A mail merge swapped in a synonym for each term to generate unique-sounding comments. It was like mad-libs, except for astroturf.

When laying just five of these side-by-side with highlighting, as above, it’s clear that there’s something fishy going on. But when the comments are scattered among 22+ million, often with vastly different wordings between comment pairs, I can see how it’s hard to catch. Semantic clustering techniques, and not typical string-matching techniques, did a great job at nabbing these.

Finally, it was particularly chilling to see these spam comments all in one place, as they are exactly the type of policy arguments and language you expect to see in industry comments on the proposed repeal, or, these days, in the FCC Commissioner’s own statements lauding the repeal.

Read the rest

Why we should cheer the DoJ's lawsuit to block the AT&T/Time-Warner merger

Susan Crawford, one of America's leading scholars of monopolism, competition and the tech industry, has an outstanding article in Wired laying out the principled case for killing the AT&T/Time-Warner merger, which the Trump DoJ has just filed a lawsuit to block. Read the rest

For more than half a century, the sugar industry has used Big Tobacco tactics to suppress sugar/cancer link and to confuse the science

UCSF researchers have published an important paper in PLOS Biology that draws on internal documents from the US sugar industry lobby that shows that the industry deliberately suppressed research on the link between sucrose and bladder cancer and heart disease, and then deliberately sowed misinformation about the health effects of sugar, using tactics straight out of the tobacco industry's cancer-denial playbook. Read the rest

Uber admits it breached 57,000,000 accounts, then bribed the hackers to cover it up, now they're paying a top ex-NSA lawyer to teach them transparency

Uber's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan and his top aide have both been forced out of the company in an act of penance for the revelation that the company suffered a breach in October 2016 in which hackers stole personal data from 50,000,000 riders and 7,000,000 drivers, including 600,000 drivers' US driving license numbers; Uber says the disgraced employees acted alone when they then paid the hackers who stole the data $100,000 to hush it up. Read the rest

After a Freedom of Information lawsuit, the White House visitor logs are now available online as a free searchable database

The DC-based transparency group Property of the People successfully sued the White House to force it to disclose its visitor logs; now, in collaboration with Propublica, those logs are online as a free, searchable database. Read the rest

Candid Wall Street barons worry that GOP tax plan will lead to literal euthanasia of the rentier

In 1936, John Maynard Keynes suggested that a fair economic system would lead to "the euthanasia of the rentier, and, consequently, the euthanasia of the cumulative oppressive power of the capitalist to exploit the scarcity-value of capital" -- implying that we have a choice between fairness and extreme wealth, and that the two couldn't peacefully co-exist. Read the rest

Poor Detroit neighborhoods, abandoned by telcos and the FCC, are rolling out homebrew, community mesh broadband

40% of Detroiters have no internet access. The Detroit Community Technology Project and similar projects across the city are skipping over the telcos altogether and wiring up their own mesh broadband networks, where gigabit connections are transmitted by line-of-site wireless across neighborhoods from the tops of tall buildings; it's called the Equitable Internet Initiative. Read the rest

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