Does Trump Have a Brain Fingerprinting Scandal?

Trump Aide Partnered With Firm Run by Man With Alleged KGB Ties – Bloomberg 122316

David Kocieniewski and Peter Robison: Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Michael Flynn, partnered this year with a controversial technology company co-run by a man once convicted of trying to sell stolen biotech material to the Russian KGB espionage agency.

Subu Kota, who pleaded guilty in 1996 to selling the material to an FBI agent posing as a Russian spy, is one of two board directors at the company, Boston-based Brainwave Science. During years of federal court proceedings, prosecutors presented evidence they said showed that between 1985 and 1990 Kota met repeatedly with a KGB agent and was part of a spy ring that made hundreds of thousands of dollars selling U.S. missile defense technology to Russian spies. Kota denied being part of a spy ring, reached a plea agreement in the biotech case and admitted to selling a sketch of a military helicopter to his co-defendant, who was later convicted of being a KGB operative.

Flynn served more than three decades in the military and rose to become director of the Defense Intelligence Agency before he was fired by President Barack Obama in 2014 over policy disagreements. He formed a private consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, which has sought business with an array of cyber security firms and defense contractors. He began collaborating with Brainwave Science last spring.

Lie Detectors, Russian Spies, and an Expert in Kung Fu | Slate 011717

Daniel Engber: TThe weirdest scandal of the Trump transition—the one involving brain electrodes, Russian spies, Hillary Clinton’s email server, and an expert in kung fu—probably should have been a bigger deal. But I’m sorry to say that Bloomberg reporters David Kocieniewski and Peter Robison’s gift to journalism, published on the morning of Dec. 23, barely registered before it disappeared into the tinsel.

Their delightful scoop, headlined “Trump Aide Partnered With Firm Run by Man With Alleged KGB Ties,” describes a business link between Donald Trump’s incoming national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and a shady biotech startup called Brainwave Science. In February, Brainwave, which sells a “helmet-like headpiece fitted with sensors” as a sort of lie detector for law enforcement and counterterrorism efforts, brought on Flynn as an adviser. At that point, a biotech entrepreneur named Subu Kota was serving on Brainwave’s board of directors. As Kocieniewski and Robison point out, Kota (whose name has since been scrubbed from the company website) happens to have been indicted for trying to sell hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of stolen micro-organisms, as well as classified information on missile-defense systems and stealth bombers, to KGB agents during the Cold War. (He signed a plea agreement admitting to the sale of the biotech material in 1996). Flynn, who has been criticized for his own coziness with Russian officials, allegedly promised to help Kota’s company sell its sensor helmet to U.S. agencies.

This would seem to be the perfect story for the Age of Trump, encapsulating as it does a sad mélange of foreign intelligence, questionable business deals, and suspect science. But a closer look at the Brainwave scandal suggests an even deeper resonance with our present, post-factual predicament. It’s a story, after all, that layers lies on top of lies about lies: whether lies can be detected in a person’s brain waves; whether people have been telling lies about that method of detecting lies; whether other people have been telling lies about the telling of those lies; and, finally, inevitably—insanely—whether it means anything to “lie” at all, since according to the neuroscientist at the center of this mess, each one of us has the mental power to bend reality to our will.


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Attention Economy January 16, 2017

  • Trump’s divided state of America – POLITICO 011617
    Edward-Isaac Dovere: Donald Trump has done more since being elected to court Vladimir Putin than the 74 million Americans who voted for other presidential candidates—or the tens of millions who didn’t vote at all. | Many Democrats and Republicans alike argue that’s contributing to the incoming president’s historically low, and falling, approval ratings, and could set the country on course for a fractious four years of distrust and division while damaging the institution of the presidency. | Trump, who is most at home stirring and then surfing controversy, spent much of the 10-week transition revving up supporters still exulting in his win. He boasts in private and public about how he pulled off the upset, taking to Twitter to mock Democrats and anyone else upset that he won.
  • Inauguration: Donald Trump, and the world, readies for a ‘leap into the dark’ – POLITICO 011617
    Shane Goldmacher: The holiday weekend was a blunt reminder that no one knows what exactly comes next with Trump. | He attacked a civil rights icon as “all talk, talk, talk – no action” on Twitter. His staff floated the idea of moving news conferences — and possibly reporters’ work space — out of the White House itself. He suggested lifting sanctions on Russia in exchange for a nuclear reduction deal. And he said in an interview with the Washington Post that the health care package he’s crafting would have “insurance for everybody” — a radical departure from GOP orthodoxy. | “It really is a leap into the dark. And I think that’s true for the country and that’s true for Trump,” said veteran GOP Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who has previously held several top Republican posts, including chief of staff to the Republican National Committee. “And that’s what the country wanted to do.”
  • Trump Is Making Journalism Great Again – POLITICO Magazine 011617
    ack Shafer: Now, before the Committee to Protect Journalists throws up the batsign and the rest of us bemoan Trump’s actions as anti-press—which they are—let’s thank the incoming president for simplifying our mission. If Trump’s idea of a news conference is to spank the press, if his lieutenants believe the press needs shutting down, if his chief of staff wants to speculate about moving the White House press scrum off the premises, perhaps reporters ought to take the hint and prepare to cover his administration on their own terms. Instead of relying exclusively on the traditional skills of political reporting, the carriers of press cards ought to start thinking of covering Trump’s Washington like a war zone, where conflict follows conflict, where the fog prevents the collection of reliable information directly from the combatants, where the assignment is a matter of life or death. | In his own way, Trump has set us free. Reporters must treat Inauguration Day as a kind of Liberation Day to explore news outside the usual Washington circles. He has been explicit in his disdain for the press and his dislike for press conferences, prickly to the nth degree about being challenged and known for his vindictive way with those who cross him. So, forget about the White House press room. It’s time to circle behind enemy lines.
  • Donald Trump as foodie in chief – POLITICO
    Helena Bottemiller Evich: Donald Trump’s culinary tastes are known to range from KFC and taco bowls to well-done steaks. At the famous 21 Club in New York, known for its rack of lamb and Rohan duck, Trump goes with the house hamburger — well done, of course. | Despite owning more than a dozen luxury restaurants, Trump is, by all accounts, not all that interested in food. But the elevated role of White House chef — paired with the growing food policy debate that has been front and center in the current administration — has the culinary world buzzing about who Trump will bring in and what it might mean for the food landscape. | Historically, first ladies have made many of the decisions about food at the White House, but there are some indications that Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who said in a statement last week that she would take a leave of absence from her executive positions at the Trump Organization and her own business, could play a big role in promoting nutrition and cultivating the culinary image of the new administration.
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Attention Economy January 15, 2017


  • We the People: public art for the inauguration and beyond by Amplifier Foundation — Kickstarter
  • The Music Donald Trump Can’t Hear – The New Yorker
  • GOP Congressman, Overwhelmed by Constituents Concerned About ACA Repeal, Sneaks Out of Event Early
  • Cities of the Old
  • Donald Trump Press Conference Cold Open – SNL – YouTube 011417
    President-elect Donald Trump (Alec Baldwin) holds his first press conference since getting elected.
  • James Fallows: Happy New Year: See You in June – The Atlantic 010117
    Why a cold-turkey break? The external reason involves the new reality of the Donald Trump era. During the final six months of his campaign, I tried to keep up with the “norm-breaking,” unprecedented things the candidate kept doing and saying. That became a nearly full-time activity, and the number of entries ultimately reached 152. Since the election, the pace of Trump’s transgressions and aberrations has only increased. As a reporter you can keep up with this, in the full intensity it deserves, or you can do anything else. I am 100% on board in supporting the reporters, editors, and analysts at The Atlantic and elsewhere who are girding for daily engagement with the implications of Trump. But I think that the greatest journalistic value I can add is not by spending all my time as one more voice in the fact-check/ norm-defense patrol but instead in reporting on how the rest of the country can and should respond. And I know that the latter is the story I am more excited to tell.
  • Who Will Win the Presidential Debates Between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton? – The Atlantic September 2016
    James Fallows: The most accurate way to predict reaction to a debate is to watch it with the sound turned off. | The record of presidential debates since 1960 generally conforms to White’s maxim. In only a minority of cases have politicians gained or lost ground based on what they said, rather than how they looked while saying it.
  • The Man Who Became Donald Trump – POLITICO Magazine
    Annie Karni: The code name for the operation was “Royal Water,” English for the Latin-named “Aqua Regia” acid, which is powerful enough to dissolve gold. | That was how the small group of Hillary Clinton aides clued in to the top-secret identity of the man who played Donald Trump in debate preparations referred to him and his small team. | And for Philippe Reines—the colorful and famously combative longtime Clinton confidant who stepped into the role of Trump opposite his old boss in tense and testing mock sessions—it was the name of the project that drove him deep into Trump’s mind for three of the most bizarre months of his life. | Clinton’s chief gatekeeper in the Senate and at the State Department, Reines, 46, was a longtime clutch player in Clinton’s tight-knit and clubby inner circle. But until August, when the 2016 Democratic nominee signed off on his star turn as Trump, Reines had been kept at arm’s length from the ultimately doomed campaign, playing no official role. When he was finally handed one, Reines effectively took a three-month leave from his day job and went full method actor, cribbing from the all-in immersion techniques of Hollywood legends like Marlon Brando and Robert De Niro.
  • POLITICO Playbook 011417
    TRUMP vs. JOHN LEWIS — FIRST IN PLAYBOOK: BUTTIGIEG’s D.N.C. platform — TRUMP talks Russia, China with WSJ — SESSIONS’ Democrat problem — SPOTTED AT SEAN SPICER’s party — B’DAY: Susan Glasser
  • Dark Ecology | Orion Magazine2012
    In a 2012 essay for Orion magazine—a piece Nicolas specifically recommended—the writer Paul Kingsnorth argued that one of the things green-minded people should do at this moment in history is build havens. “Can you think, or act, like the librarian of a monastery through the Dark Ages, guarding the old books as empires rise and fall outside?” he wrote.
  • How Anarchists and Intentional Communities Are Reacting to Trump – The Atlantic
    Emma Green : Why some Americans are withdrawing from mainstream society into “intentional communities”—and what the rest of the country can learn from them
  • What Weird Obama Dreams Say About the President’s Legacy – The Atlantic
  • The End of Government Oversight? – The Atlantic
    Alexia Fernández Campbell: Republicans in Congress are working hard to remove business regulations that they believe are hampering economic growth. | Regulations, regulations, regulations. It’s a dirty word among Republicans in Congress, who are getting started on their plan to scale back federal oversight of U.S. businesses. Federal rules meant to protect the environment, consumers, and workers can cost businesses money, and Republicans believe those rules are strangling American economic growth. | Republicans have repeatedly accused the Obama administration of abusing its regulatory powers, such as the Labor Department’s creation of the fiduciary rule (which requires financial planners to put the interest of their clients before their own) and the overtime rule (which increases the number of workers eligible for overtime pay). As president, Trump can remove these rules, though doing so would likely take years.
  • Inside LAX’s New Anti-Terrorism Intelligence Unit – The Atlantic
    Geoff Manaugh•If the airport’s experimental team succeeds, every critical infrastructure site in the world might soon have its own in-house intel operation.
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Attention Economy August 12, 2016

  • Gianni Kovacevic's Travels With Tesla – Bloomberg View 080216
    Barry Ritholtz: In this week’s Masters in Business podcast, we chat with Gianni Kovacevic, a venture capital investor and energy expert. He is the founder of CO2 Master Solutions Partnership and author of “My Electrician Drives a Porsche? Investing in the Rise of the New Spending Class." | Kovacevic just drove a Tesla from Toronto, to Boston, to Florida, then to the Tesla factory in California. (He called his promotion of the book “the first zero emission book tour.”) He describes himself as a “realistic environmentalist,” and we discuss what that means from a practical perspective.
  • How to Build the Perfect Reading List in 3 Steps – Bloomberg View 081216
    Barry Ritholtz "Curate viciously.: In the wee hours of the morning, I open 50 or so tabs from a browser folder. Just about every major media outlet is included. Each afternoon, I do the same with a different 40 or so; these are more esoteric, special-interest and topic-specific. Alternating between a broad, wide scope and a narrow, deep one allows for a good mix. | Speed also counts. I follow Sturgeon’s revelation: 90 percent of everything is crap. Ruthless efficiency outweighs the occasional false positive. | Create a narrative. I try to weave together a series of (apparently) unrelated items, which often have a commonality. It is a puzzle, finding that common thread. | Be balanced, but have an opinion. It’s important to recognize that this reflects the views of one person — albeit one who is immersed in media as both a consumer and a producer."
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Attention Economy May 20, 2016

  • Trending Topics – On The Media – WNYC 051316
    Bob Garfield : Bob says: "Who cares?!" By asking him about policy flip-flops and speculating about his VP pick, the press is normalizing an abnormal candidate. Instead, they must stay on the real story: his dangerous statements about women, Muslims, and immigrants.
  • Nationalize Facebook – On The Media – WNYC 051316
    From its reach into the lives of over a billion people to the way it blurs the line between breaking news and personal posts, to the scope of its plans to provide global internet access — Facebook’s power is unlike anything we’ve seen before. That is, unless you count Standard Oil and the other great monopolies of the Gilded Age. | Bob talks to progressive author and professor Robert McChesney about the dangers of media consolidation and why economists on both sides of the spectrum have argued in favor of drastic measures when it comes to dealing with companies of Facebook’s size.
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Attention Economy May 5, 2016

  • End of Golden Era for Investors Spells Troubles for Millennials – Bloomberg 042716
    Rich Miller : Turning 30 just got a lot scarier. | A coming collapse in investment returns means that people that age today will have to work seven years longer or save almost twice as much to end up with the same nest egg as those of roughly a generation ago. | So says the research arm of McKinsey & Co. in a new report that argues that investors of all ages need to resign themselves to diminished gains. | The consulting company maintains that the last 30 years have been a “golden era” of exceptional inflation-adjusted returns thanks to a confluence of factors that won’t be repeated. They include falling inflation and interest rates, swelling corporate profits and an expanding price-earnings ratio in the stock market. | The next two decades won’t be nearly as lucrative, even on the optimistic assumption that the world economy snaps out of its recent funk and resumes growing at a faster clip, according to the McKinsey Global Institute report titled “Diminishing Returns: Why Investors May Need to Lower Their Expectations.”
  • Don’t Let McKinsey Scare You, Millennials – Bloomberg Gadfly 050416
    Nir Kaissar: Poor millennials. Up to their ears in student debt. Facing stagnant wages. Beset by obscene housing costs in the big cities where they are most likely to land a job – if they can land a job, that is. | And now a high-profile consulting firm, McKinsey & Co., is adding to millennials’ woes with a Debbie Downer report that warns that millennials will have to work seven years longer or save twice as much in order to live as well in retirement as their parents. The reason, according to McKinsey, is that returns for U.S. and Western European stocks and bonds will be far lower over the next 20 years than they were over the previous 30 years.
    Well, take heart Millennial Investors. Your futures are better than McKinsey would have you believe.
  • The Cost of Moving at Sub-Treasury Speed – Bloomberg Gadfly 050416
    Lisa Abramowicz: Treasuries, for example, move rapidly. Corporate bonds, on the other hand, trade about 3,000 times more slowly than U.S. government debt. So it would be much more expensive to quickly liquidate a pool of company debt than it would for Treasuries.
    That’s one of the conclusions of a research paper presented by Albert S. Kyle, a finance professor at the University of Maryland, this week at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta conference in Amelia Island, Fla. He highlighted how time is the main distinguishing factor between different securities and how they trade.
    The paper’s point is critical to anyone who invests in corporate-debt funds because it raises a question about relying on a quick exit from slow-moving securities. While mutual funds promise investors the ability to redeem their capital daily, the underlying securities often move much more slowly.
    So far, this liquidity mismatch hasn’t caused a crisis during market hiccups, even given the billions of dollars of mutual-fund money that has poured into corporate debt markets since 2008. And it seems unlikely to cause a systemic seizure in the near future because fund managers are taking actions to prevent selling debt in a down market, including holding more cash and securing credit lines.
  • Clinton’s Thinking Vs. Trump’s Feelings – Bloomberg View 050416
    Cass R. Sunstein: Donald Trump is an iconic System 1 candidate — more clearly so than any party nominee in at least sixty years. Hillary Clinton is an iconic System 2 candidate — as clearly so as any party nominee in the same period. That distinction may well end up defining the general election. | Let me explain. Psychologists, and most prominently Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, have distinguished between two ways of thinking — fast and slow. Fast thinking is associated with the brain’s System 1: It is intuitive, quick, and sometimes emotional. When you think that two plus two equals four, and when you immediately recognize a warm, smiling face, you are using System 1. | System 2 is deliberative and reflective. When you multiply 346 times 213, or struggle to fill out your tax forms, you are relying on System 2. If you are engaging in some kind of complex cost-benefit analysis, System 2 will be working hard. | System 1 is what leads people to fall in love. System 2 helps them decide whom to marry.
  • Tesla’s Talk Isn’t Cheap – Bloomberg Gadfly 050416WC
    Liam Denning: Investors should have known this was coming. As I wrote here a month ago, Tesla’s Kickstarter-like down-payment program for the mass-market Model 3 was not only a useful source of interest-free funding. By holding out the promise of huge potential demand, it created a perfect opportunity to open the door to selling more new equity. | Tesla, like any new-ish business with global ambitions, has long relied on the good graces of the capital markets to bridge the gap between voracious up-front spending and future growth.
  • Tesla’s Wild New Forecast Changes the Trajectory of an Entire Industry – Bloomberg 050416
    Tesla just took the most ambitious automotive production timeline since the Ford Model T and moved it up two years.
  • Tesla Powerwalls for Home Energy Storage Hit U.S. Market – Bloomberg 050216
    A year after Elon Musk unveiled the Powerwall at Tesla Motors Inc.’s design studio near Los Angeles, the first wave of residential installations has started in the U.S. The 6.4-kilowatt-hour unit stores electricity from home solar systems and provides backup in the case of a conventional outage. Weighing 214 pounds and standing about 4-feet tall, it retails for around $3,000. But hookup by a trained electrician is required, as is something called a bi-directional inverter that converts direct-current electricity into the kind used by dishwashers and refrigerators. The costs add up quickly — which has fueled skepticism about Musk’s dream of changing the way the world uses energy. | Net-metering policies, which allow residential solar customers to sell their excess solar electricity back to utilities, have limited the appeal of home batteries in many states. But that’s shifting: Net metering is being phased out in some states, making storage more attractive.
  • Billions Are Being Invested in a Robot That Americans Don’t Want – Bloomberg 050416
    The driverless revolution is racing forward, as inventors overcome technical challenges such as navigating at night and regulators craft new rules. Yet the rush to robot cars faces a big roadblock: People aren’t ready to give up the wheel. Recent surveys by J.D. Power, consulting company EY, the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, Canadian Automobile Association, researcher Kelley Blue Book and auto supplier Robert Bosch LLC all show that half to three-quarters of respondents don’t want anything to do with these models.
  • How Americans Blow $1.7 Trillion in Retirement Savings – Bloomberg 042716
    You’re traveling across the desert, feeling parched and looking dirty. You take a long drink of water from your canteen, then wash your face with the rest. As you’ll discover before you die of thirst in a day or two, you just made a huge mistake. | Outside of cartoons, nobody is this stupid. But people make the same kind of mistake all the time, putting their current happiness (vacations, flat screens, new cars) way above their future well-being. | Economists call this kind of irrationality “present bias.” And according to a National Bureau of Economic Research study, it and other biases are holding back millions of Americans from saving enough money for that ultimate future need: retirement. | How much money? Try $1.7 trillion on for size. That’s 12 percent of the $14 trillion in U.S. individual retirement and 401(k) accounts.
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Attention Economy May 3, 2016

  • Gold Crosses $1,300 Threshold as Rates Outlook Undermines Dollar – Bloomberg
    After three years of being scorned, gold is making a powerful comeback. Prices briefly pushed above $1,300 an ounce on speculation that the U.S. central bank will be slow to tighten policy further, bolstering the metal’s appeal as the dollar sagged. | Bullion for immediate delivery climbed 0.4 percent to $1,296.20 an ounce at 10:17 a.m. in London. On Monday, prices touched $1,303.82, according to Bloomberg generic pricing. The metal has gained 22 percent this year, rising to the highest since January 2015, as a gauge of the dollar lost 6.3 percent. | Investors piled back into bullion in 2016 after prices sank for three straight years as risks to the global economy prompted the Federal Reserve to signal it will take a slower approach to rate increases. While the metal’s appeal has also been boosted by the spread of negative interest rates in Europe and Japan, gold’s latest push higher came after the Bank of Japan refrained from adding stimulus last week, which hurt the dollar. The spike above $1,300 on Monday came as many financial markets in Asia and Europe were closed.
  • Apple Takes a $4 Billion Bite Out of ETFs as Smart-Beta Shines – Bloomberg 050216
    When Apple has a bad run, it is devastating to many ETF investors. In the past two weeks, Apple has basically erased more than $4 billion in ETF assets during its 16.3 percent decline that was triggered by a disappointing earnings report. It gave the SPDR S&P 500 ETF Trust (SPY) a $1 billion haircut in a matter of days, not to mention wiping out hundreds of millions of dollars out of several other popular ETFs as seen in the table below which sorts ETFs by the size of Apple’s bite.
  • Put Buffett’s Advice Into Action With These Two ETFs – Bloomberg 050216
    Warren Buffett’s advice may now extend beyond the grave: “My advice to the trustee could not be more simple. Put 10% of the cash in short?term government bonds and 90% in a very low?cost S&P 500 index fund. I believe the trust’s long-term results from this policy will be superior to those attained by most investors—whether pension funds, institutions, individuals—who employ high fee managers.”
  • Bloomberg: Smart Beta Investing Awaits Its Advocate 050216
    Smart beta is going through some growing pains, and Rob Arnott, co-founder of smart beta shop Research Affiliates LLC and one of smart beta’s pioneers, is a natural candidate to help lead it past these early hurdles.
  • Bloomberg: The Super Rich Were the First to Bail During the Financial Crisis
    When the going gets rough, the 1 percent start selling. | That’s the finding of a new paper that says people with the highest income bailed from stocks disproportionately on the worst days of the financial crisis. The share of selling by the biggest earners rose “sharply” in days following spikes in volatility, according to data on millions of sales reported to the government in 2008 and 2009. | Mapping selling patterns in periods of tumult is of interest to researchers trying to get at the psychological underpinnings of events such as the financial crisis, when more than $10 trillion was erased from U.S. share values. Their main conclusion, that different people react with varying urgency to signs of trouble, could help identify behavioral biases that feed market meltdowns.
  • Here’s Your Degree. Now Go Defeat Demagogues. – Bloomberg View 043016
    Michael Bloomberg: “As durable as the American system of government has been, democracy is fragile — and demagogues are always lurking. Stopping them starts with placing a premium on open minds, voting, and demanding that politicians offer practical solutions, not scapegoats or pie-in-the-sky promises. | In 1928, Republicans promised a “chicken in every pot and a car in every backyard.” They won control of Congress and the White House, and a year later, instead of a chicken and a car, we got the Great Depression. | Today, when a populist candidate promises free college, free health care and a pony, or another candidate promises to make other countries pay for our needs, remember: Those who promise you a free lunch will invariably eat you for breakfast.
  • President Obama Messaging: The Selling of Obama – POLITICO Magazine May-June 2016
    Michael Grunwald
  • Bloomberg: The Real Hamilton: What’s Not to Love?
    The bipartisan Disneyfication of America’s first Treasury secretary began in earnest last fall when President Barack Obama spoke at a fundraising performance of the hit musical Hamilton and said it “happens to be the only thing Dick Cheney and I agree on.” The real Alexander Hamilton made no effort to be loved by all, as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant, rap-infused musical makes clear. He was vain and opinionated. He was also usually right. No libertarian, he believed the federal government could and should play a central role in economic development. His arguments deserve fresh consideration for today’s problems—even if taking them seriously will make it harder for everyone to agree on his wonderfulness.
  • You Can’t Escape Data Surveillance In America – The Atlantic 042916
    [Big Brother R Us] Sarah Jeong: In America, surveillance has always played an outsized role in the relationship between creditors and debtors. In the 19th century, credit bureaus pioneered mass-surveillance techniques. Today the American debtor faces remote kill switches in their devices, GPS tracking on their leased cars, and surreptitious webcam recordings from their rent-to-own laptops. And where our buying and borrowing habits were once tracked by shopkeepers, our computers score our creditworthiness without us knowing… We peer into a future where our software spies on us, our data defines us, and our hardware reinforces existing power imbalances. What’s slowing it down are a federal agency whose remedies often feel unsatisfactory, and a cohort of attorneys whose motivations are of course capitalistic. And while it’s tempting to simply call for more federal intervention, paternalistic impulses sometimes harm the most vulnerable among us.
  • How Are the Great-Grandkids of the Richest Gilded-Age Americans Faring? – The Atlantic 092015
    Ester Bloom: According to Time magazine, 90 percent of all rich families, from the Astors to the Ziffs, lose their fortunes by the third generation. This is remarkable, considering how comparatively easy it is to retain wealth once you have it. A recent analysis suggested that Donald Trump, for example, could be similarly wealthy if he had done nothing but put his eight-figure inheritance into the stock market: “If he’d invested the $200 million that Forbes magazine determined he was worth in 1982 into that index fund, it would have grown to more than $8 billion today.” | Conversely, climbing several rungs on the income ladder takes ingenuity, grit, resilience, opportunity, and a heaping tablespoon of luck. Currently, poor children have only a 7.5 percent chance of making it even to the top 20th percentile as adults. Making money is hard; holding onto money when you’re born with it shouldn’t be.
  • Bloomberg: Learning to Love (Tolerate?) Big Government
    Justin Fox: In December, Gallup asked 824 U.S. adults this question: “In your opinion, which of the following will be the biggest threat to the country in the future — big business, big labor or big government?”
  • Bloomberg: Trump Wins Big in Disability Country 042616
    The $150 billion federal disability program is a mess. It almost went broke (Congress had to give it an emergency infusion). It discourages employment and can be gamed. But woe to the office-seeker who tries to fix it.
  • One Easy Way to Make Wikipedia Better – The Atlantic 042216
    Adrienne LaFrance:: “It turns out it’s pretty difficult to fully access key sources on any given Wikipedia page. That’s according to a study from researchers at Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute who assessed the 5,000 most-trafficked Wikipedia pages, analyzing them for verifiability. In other words, they didn’t check to see if Wikipedia pages were accurate; they investigated how easily someone could make that determination for themselves. | Based on the presence of markers like International Standard Book Number and Digital Object Identifiers, which are unique serial codes assigned to books and papers, about 80 percent of book citations and nearly 90 percent of journal references were technically verifiable—meaning you could track down the source material if you wanted to figure out whether a characterization on Wikipedia was right. But practical verifiability was a different story. It might be possible to track down the source material—as in, that source material actually exists and the link to get you there is working—but it might be really difficult or impossible to get to it. Using Google’s API, the researchers wrote a program to classify the accessibility of Google Books citations, for instance, and found that most books (71 percent) cited on Wikipedia are only partially viewable online; while many others (17 percent) are not viewable online at all. (About 12 percent were fully viewable.)”
  • The Rise of Trump Studies – POLITICO Magazine 042216
    As Trump’s surprise candidacy disrupts everything it touches, it is now exploding into the academic realm, launching a yuuuuge new wave of what you might call Trump Studies. From philosophy to law to computer science and history, researchers are finding they can’t look away from Donald J. Trump. For some…. the astonishing popularity of the celebrity real estate developer is the perfect tent pole to hang their existing research on. For others, his candidacy is like an experiment on a national scale, blowing up conventional wisdom about how American politics and society work.
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Do We Need a “Do Not Track Me” List?

New Yorkers couldn’t miss the Orwellian message of this Consumer Watchdog ad attacking Google CEO Eric Schmidt and his company’s Internet privacy policies. A short version of the ad ran repeatedly Sept. 2 on a 540-square-foot JumboTron screen looming over Times Square.

The ad urges citizens to ask Congress for a “Do Not Track Me” list similar to the “Do Not Call” list that seeks to limit the intrusiveness of telemarketers. An official with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission told the New York Times that the FTC is considering the idea. As the wags at This Week in Google pointed out, this capability already exists: turn off the cookies option in your browser.

For the record, Google responded to the ad with this statement:

We like ice cream as much as anyone, but we like privacy even more. That’s why we provide tools for users to control their privacy online, like Google Dashboard, Ads Preference Manager, Chrome incognito mode and ‘off the record’ Gmail chat. You can check out these tools at

Coverage by the NYT and BBC did not discuss where Consumer Watchdog gets its funding, but TWIG suggests that the group may have a less than transparent connection to Microsoft. The Techrights blog claims the group is an astroturf operation (yes, that means fake grassroots) hosted by Edelman.

I honestly don’t know where the creepiness begins and ends here. Even George Orwell would have a hard time fingering the Biggest Brother in this game.

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Straight, No Chaser: WordPress 3.0 “Thelonious”

Matt writes:

Arm your vuvuzelas: WordPress 3.0, the thirteenth major release of WordPress and the culmination of half a year of work by 218 contributors, is now available for download (or upgrade within your dashboard). Major new features in this release include a sexy new default theme called Twenty Ten. Theme developers have new APIs that allow them to easily implement custom backgrounds, headers, shortlinks, menus (no more file editing), post types, and taxonomies. (Twenty Ten theme shows all of that off.) Developers and network admins will appreciate the long-awaited merge of MU and WordPress, creating the new multi-site functionality which makes it possible to run one blog or ten million from the same installation. As a user, you will love the new lighter interface, the contextual help on every screen, the 1,217 bug fixes and feature enhancements, bulk updates so you can upgrade 15 plugins at once with a single click, and blah blah blah just watch the video.  Read more.

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NIH Peer Review Revealed

NIHOD — June 07, 2010 — A production of the Center for Scientific Review

NIHOD videos on YouTube:

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