Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Sunday, March 23, 2014 9:09 pm

America, land of free markets. … Oh. Wait.

It would appear that up to several dozen tech companies have been conspiring to artificially suppress wages for their employees. In other words, they’ve been stealing from their employees, although because they used email instead of a knife or gun no one will go to prison. At first it was just Apple, Google and Intel that we knew of; now, well …:

Confidential internal Google and Apple memos, buried within piles of court dockets and reviewed by PandoDaily, clearly show that what began as a secret cartel agreement between Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt to illegally fix the labor market for hi-tech workers, expanded within a few years to include companies ranging from Dell, IBM, eBay and Microsoft, to Comcast, Clear Channel, Dreamworks, and London-based public relations behemoth WPP. All told, the combined workforces of the companies involved totals well over a million employees.

At the link you can also find embedded court documents bearing out the claims.

This is money that went to a very few officers and directors at these companies. It is money that was taken from hard-working employees and will never be returned. And do not kid yourself that tech is the only sector in which this is happening. One reason the government has been so easygoing on monopolies and near-monopolies the past 30 years is that they make this kind of thing easier. In other words, if you’re a CEO, this is a delightfully profitable feature, not a bug.

Worse, this conspiracy to suppress wages likely is going on in every major sector of American private industry. I can’t prove it, but I’m certain of it right now, because if there’s one thing I learned from investigative reporting, it’s that corrupt organizations are almost never just a little bit corrupt. Indeed, I would not be surprised to find that this phenomenon, along with daisy chains of CEOs sitting on each other’s board compensation committees, is a significant driver behind the fact that the overwhelming majority of profits from productivity gains are going to the top 1 or 2 percent of earners in the work force.

The CEOs involved knew that what they were doing was wrong, that it involved the permanent, unlawful taking of the property of others. They should be doing at least as much time as your run-of-the-mill bank robber, in facilities no more luxurious. But they won’t. And that’s why we can’t have nice things.

Thursday, August 1, 2013 6:32 pm

Why do I oppose a surveillance state? Must be the money.

Because arguing constitutional principles, righteous as they are, is getting us nowhere, we’ll have to argue financial principles. But maybe this argument will succeed where others have failed. James Fallows, prompted by an essay by John Naughton in the Guardian, explains:

In short: because of what the U.S. government assumed it could do with information it had the technological ability to intercept, American companies and American interests are sure to suffer in their efforts to shape and benefit from the Internet’s continued growth.

  • American companies, because no foreigners will believe these firms can guarantee security from U.S. government surveillance;
  • American interests, because the United States has gravely compromised its plausibility as world-wide administrator of the Internet’s standards and advocate for its open, above-politics goals.

Why were U.S. authorities in a position to get at so much of the world’s digital data in the first place? Because so many of the world’s customers have trusted* U.S.-based firms like Google, Yahoo, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, etc with their data; and because so many of the world’s nations have tolerated an info-infrastructure in which an outsized share of data flows at some point through U.S. systems. Those are the conditions of trust and toleration that likely will change.

The problem for the companies, it’s worth emphasizing, is not that they were so unduly eager to cooperate with U.S. government surveillance. Many seem to have done what they could to resist. The problem is what the U.S. government — first under Bush and Cheney, now under Obama and Biden – asked them to do. As long as they operate in U.S. territory and under U.S. laws, companies like Google or Facebook had no choice but to comply. But people around the world who have a choice about where to store their data, may understandably choose to avoid leaving it with companies subject to the way America now defines its security interests.

Other countries will refuse to do business with U.S. tech firms for the same reason they would if the U.S. were mixing corrosive chemicals in with its exported petroleum products: The product is tainted and will damage whoever/whatever uses it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013 9:00 pm

Still a few bugs in the system

Filed under: Fun,Geek-related issues — Lex @ 9:00 pm
Tags: , ,

A number of local folks, including the editor of the N&R himself, have written lately about the problems the N&R is having with its new website.

Well, just moments ago, I found, and got a screen shot of, evidence that bad things can happen to anyone:

GoogleInvestorRelations

The outage, if such it was, lasted only a couple of minutes, but it was quite real. I hope this makes everyone feel better.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 9:26 pm

What the next generation of maps is telling us that we don’t want to hear

As I think I’ve mentioned a time or three, I’m a map geek. Old, new, paper, digital, real, fictional, silent or talkative, I love ‘em. (I do mute the talkative ones sometimes, but still.)

So I was tickled that James Fallows at The Atlantic did a Q&A with Michael Jones of Google, one of the people who helped create Google Earth (now installed on a billion computers worldwide). And he talked about how mapping apps on smartphones are becoming even more personal because they can use info the phone already has gathered about your locations, likes, and so on to craft maps that not only show how to get from here to there but also tell you potentially interesting things about some of the places you’ll pass along the way, or the places around where you are right now. (One manifestation is Google’s new Android app, Field Trip, coming soon for iOS as well.

Then Fallows asks what I think is both a creative and perceptive question. He points out that some of the first photos of the Earth from space, such as the iconic Christmas Eve 1968 photo shot by Apollo 8 astronaut William Anders, “created a different kind of environmental consciousness.” (The American nature photographer Galen Rowell has described this image as “the most influential environmental photograph ever taken.” I was in the third grade at the time, and even now I can recall what that “different kind of environmental consciousness” meant: We — all of us — share one single planet, a planet that amounts to a speck in the vastness of space, and it’s the only planet we’re going to get. I think the first Earth Day and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, among other developments, are attributable in significant part to that photo.)

Could the current mapping revolution, Fallows asks Jones, have the same effect? Jones’s answer was both hopeful and heartbreaking:

My father is in his 80s. He wanted to know more about what I do, so I recently showed him Google’s underwater Street View. [This is an aspect of Google Earth that shows reefs, seamounts, and other underwater features in the oceans.] We dove in the water and we were basically swimming along. We stopped and zoomed in, looked at turtles, looked at fish. We went down under a big reef and we could see a tunnel in there, and there were fish resting in the tunnel.

After a while he said, “Son, this is so beautiful.” He’s never been scuba diving, but he said, “This is so beautiful. I just can’t believe how beautiful this is.” And I said, “Well, Dad, we chose beautiful places because most of the corals near islands around the world are already dead. They look like old concrete. No fish, just dead.”

He almost cried. He stared at me with a “What has the world come to?” kind of look, and we talked for a while about that. And so he was brought to an awareness of the grotesque damage that’s happening worldwide due to the ocean acidification that follows from the externalities of the way we live as a human race right now. It was powerful for him because he could personally experience the ocean in a way that, with his mobility challenges, he’s never going to see by scuba diving. Yet he felt what people who have experienced the sea know to be true and care about.

I believe that only this kind of understanding leads to activism, whether it’s a passive activism of a vote or an active activism of changing your lifestyle to protect the world.

The problem is that although this kind of activism is, as Jones observes, necessary, it is not sufficient. At current prices, there is something like $27 trillion worth of combustible carbon — coal, oil, gas and fuel wood — still in the ground. The industries that extract those resources will not willingly relinquish the opportunity to do so, and they have largely achieved a stranglehold on any other force that could force them to do so.

The way we live is killing the only planet we’ve got. The process has been proceeding even faster than we thought, so fast that my children, now adolescents, may well live to see global disruption and human suffering on a scale worse than that of World War II, with no country, no matter how geographically isolated or politically nonaligned, left unaffected.

No map, no matter how cool, is going to stop that. In fact, I don’t know that anything will.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 8:54 pm

And GOOG can bite my hind end

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:54 pm
Tags: ,

I had to go into the TRASH basket in my Gmail account just now to retrieve something I’d accidentally trashed before I was quite through with it. When I opened the trash basket, instead of the usual advertising link atop the list of trashed items I found this helpful suggestion: “You can make a lovely hat out of previously used aluminum foil.”

So, yeah, Google, keep talking like that, because you can make a Yahoo! Mail user out of me.

Thursday, January 14, 2010 9:57 pm

Odds and ends for 1/14

First, the important stuff: Links where you can contribute to Haiti earthquake relief:

Oxfam
American Red Cross
AmeriCares
Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders

As in most other major disasters, the main thing these organizations need right now is money.* Their experts will know how best to spend it, what’s needed where, etc. In other words, right at the moment, rounding up clothing or canned food or bandages or what-have-you, although certainly well-intentioned, is less helpful than giving these groups the resources to do what they know best how to do. As they identify particular needs, they’ll publicize them.

Anything you can give will help. And please give something. The suffering there is already horrendous, and it will quickly get even worse than most of us can possibly imagine.

*Unless you have a helicopter.

OK, then …

HUNGRY vampire squid: Goldman Sachs didn’t get just 100 cents on the dollar on its exposure to AIG, courtesy of the taxpayers. No, by reselling its AIG credit-default obligations while knowing the taxpayers were going to bail out AIG, but before that info became public, it effectively got more. About $1.2 billion more.

Which is a big part of the problem: Pat Robertson is far more important than you will ever be.

Remember, she reads every newspaper, too: Glenn Beck: Who’s your favorite Founding Father? Sarah Palin: All of ‘em.

Which dinosaur?: A shark described as “dinosaur-sized” attacked and apparently ate a swimmer Tuesday off Cape Town, South Africa. But they didn’t say whether they meant this dinosaur or this one.

Lighter backpacks: Obviously, colleges are going to switch to electronic textbooks to save students money. That move now has a deadline in California: 2020, which seems a bit far off considering that almost two-thirds of the roughly 13,000 textbook titles published by the six largest U.S. publishers already are available electronically.

“If you are watching this video, then I have been murdered by the president of Guatemala hit men I hired myself”: A UN commission concludes that the “assassination” of a lawyer, alleged in a posthumous video to have been ordered by Guatemala’s president, actually was arranged by the lawyer himself in an attempt to destabilize the government. Dude, if you wanted him out, why not just run against him?

You know that scene in “Waterworld” where Kevin Costner drinks his own pee?: The astronauts are feeling his pain.

China vs. Google: Is it really China vs. the U.S.? And was this hack attack, if not a cyber-Pearl Harbor, at the least a dangerous breach of national security?

Senate health-care bill: “A teacher tax, not a Cadillac tax.”

Related: Who needs Republicans when the unions are just as willing to screw the middle class?

Um, ‘cuz they’re, I don’t know, WHORES?!?: Retiring Republican Rep. John Shadegg, asked whether he supports a public option: “Well, you could better defend a public option than you could defend compelling me to buy a product from the people that have created the problem. America’s health insurance industry has wanted this bill and the individual mandate from the get go. That’s their idea. Their idea is, ‘Look, our product is so lousy that lots of people don’t buy it. So we need the government to force people to buy our product.’ And stunningly, that’s what the Congress appears to be going along with. Why would they do that?”

Except it wasn’t hindsight, jackass: I could’ve told you this on Jan. 20 and saved everyone a lot of time: Harry Reid has just now figured out that Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, was never going to vote for health-care reform.

AIG tick-tock: Firedoglake, which has published valuable analysis on such issues as torture and the Scooter Libby case by means of creating documented timelines, applies the technique to the federal government’s bailout of AIG (and its use of AIG to indirectly bail out Goldman Sachs), working with a cache of e-mails obtained and posted online by The New York Times. FDL cautions that it ain’t complete, and I haven’t even begun reading it yet, but if you’re interested in the subject, this is sure to be a valuable resource.

Speaking of torture: The brother of the Crown Prince of the United Arab Emirates is caught on videotape torturing and attempting to murder a guy he thought had screwed him in a business deal, but the court let him off anyway after he claimed he was too whacked on medication to know what he was doing. I’ll just say he must have been pretty damn whacked to run over a guy repeatedly without actually quite managing to, you know, kill him.

SCOTUS vs. the U.S.: As I suggested on Monday, the Supreme Court isn’t going to sign off on anything that could be a basis for its having to allow itself to be televised someday. Jackasses. Go ahead and keep talking about how this court’s majority is so strict-constructionist and all, but speak up: I’m going to have trouble hearing you over my own laughter.

Allegany County, Maryland, needs more alligators: Andy says so, and he’s there so he should know.

The Internet — the greatest collection of knowledge in history: How can I make my chicken taste just like the junk they serve at school?

Rupert Murdoch: plagiarist.

Teddy Pendergrass: RIP.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010 6:22 am

Hot damn! Now I can freelance for WorldNetDaily from the comfort of my home

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:22 am
Tags: ,

Google, bless ‘em, has indexed the Weekly World News.

Friday, December 4, 2009 9:40 pm

Odds and ends for 12/4

Hmm, roasted or fried? Um, I mean, we come in peace: Kara Swisher renders Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s Wall Street Journal op-ed into plain English.

Is your boss stealing from you? Could well be.

Good news/very bad news: In the week ending Nov. 28, first-time unemployment claims fell from 462,000 the previous week to 457,000. The very bad news: Emergency claims by people whose unemployment benefits have run out rose by 265,000. In one week. The total was more than 3.8 million, compared with 777,000 a year ago.

Will wonders never cease?: Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., does one worthwhile thing in his miserable, misanthropic life and carves Ben Bernanke a new orifice. Fellow tool Jim DeMint, R-S.C., actually asks helpful questions.

Yes, apparently wonders will cease: Sarah Palin, birther.

And then wonders that already have happened will un-happen: Sarah Palin Goes Rogue Fail.

Shorter Mitt Romney economic plan: “More money for me and my friends!”

You’re worried about health care and the deficit? Fine: Let’s talk about that: Republicans and some “centrist” Democrats say they worry about what health-care reform will do to the deficit. They need to worry more about what will happen to the deficit if health-care reform doesn’t pass. (But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Bush 43′s head of Medicare.)

Pwn3d!: Sens. Tom “Sanctimonious” Coburn and David “Diapers” Vitter introduce what they intend to be a poison-pill amendment to health-care reform that would require members of Congress to enroll in the public option … only to be swarmed by Democrats who think that’s a great idea and sign on as co-sponsors. Hee.

Quote of the day, from commenter “paradoctor” at Hullabaloo, on the douchiness of Senate Republicans: “To them, corporations are people and women are an abstraction.”

Nature strikes back: Asian carp are invading fresh waters of the upper Midwest and the Great Lakes. Bye-bye, trout. And apparently you shouldn’t use a motorboat to go fishing for them because the sound of the motor just pisses them off. (h/t: Nance)

New Internet meme: “There’s far too much detail here for this to be a fabrication.”

And he’d have lived forever if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids and their dog: Aaron Schroeder, composer of hundreds of pop hits ranging from “It’s Now or Never” and “Good Luck Charm” to the theme from the TV cartoon “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?,” is dead at 83.

Thursday, August 20, 2009 8:09 pm

Way too cool for AT&T

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:09 pm
Tags: , ,

I haven’t even had a cell phone that takes pictures for very long. I don’t have a Blackberry, let alone an iPhone, so to a certain extent all this is happening way over my head, practically speaking. But I get the ramifications:

Earlier this month, Apple rejected an application for the iPhone called Google Voice. The uproar set off a chain of events—Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt resigning from Apple’s board, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) investigating wireless open access and handset exclusivity—that may finally end the 135-year-old Alexander Graham Bell era. It’s about time.

With Google Voice, you have one Google phone number that callers use to reach you, and you pick up whichever phone—office, home or cellular—rings. You can screen calls, listen in before answering, record calls, read transcripts of your voicemails, and do free conference calls. Domestic calls and texting are free, and international calls to Europe are two cents a minute. In other words, a unified voice system, something a real phone company should have offered years ago.

Apple has an exclusive deal with AT&T in the U.S., stirring up rumors that AT&T was the one behind Apple rejecting Google Voice. How could AT&T not object? AT&T clings to the old business of charging for voice calls in minutes. It takes not much more than 10 kilobits per second of data to handle voice. In a world of megabit per-second connections, that’s nothing—hence Google’s proposal to offer voice calls for no cost and heap on features galore.

What this episode really uncovers is that AT&T is dying. AT&T is dragging down the rest of us by overcharging us for voice calls and stifling innovation in a mobile data market critical to the U.S. economy.

Bad enough that AT&T didn’t come up with this on its own, it had to keep anyone else from using it, too. Say what you will about the dinosaurotude of newspapers, at least newspapers didn’t t try to keep the Internet out of your house. (In fact, the N&R’s parent company was one of the first ISPs in this area, although it later got out of the retail ISP business in favor of more big-ticket enterprises.)

(h/t: Fec)

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