September 9, 2018 in 2,456 words

Robert Reich: The next crash

It’s important to understand that the real root of the Great Recession wasn’t a banking crisis

September 15 will mark the tenth anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers and near meltdown of Wall Street, followed by the Great Recession.

Since hitting bottom in 2009, the economy has grown steadily, the stock market has soared, and corporate profits have ballooned.

But most Americans are still living in the shadow of the Great Recession. More have jobs, to be sure. But they haven’t seen any rise in their wages, adjusted for inflation.

Many are worse off due to the escalating costs of housing, healthcare, and education. And the value of whatever assets they own is less than in 2007.

Last year, about 40 percent of American families struggled to meet at least one basic need — food, health care, housing or utilities, according to an Urban Institute survey.

All of which suggests we’re careening toward the same sort of crash we had in 2008, and possibly as bad as 1929.

Clear away the financial rubble from those two former crashes and you’d see they both followed upon widening imbalances between the capacity of most people to buy, and what they as workers could produce. Each of these imbalances finally tipped the economy over.

The Perils of Indifference

In 1999, a Holocaust survivor gave us a powerful reminder.

Elie Wiesel had been invited to the White House by Bill and Hillary Clinton as a part of their Millennium Lecture series. He was there to talk about his story and his vision for the future.

He began with a memory of a particular day in April, 1945.

It was the day that he was freed from Buchenwald concentration camp. He remembered, specifically, how grateful he felt for the reaction of the soldiers that liberated him; their rage and their compassion at what they saw.

It’s something he would never forget.

He contrasted their reaction with the response of the world leading up to that moment: the reluctance of most world leaders, the corporations that helped drive the Nazi German economy, and the general willful blindness.

He ended by reflecting on how we might look back on the past century and whether or not we had learned from our mistakes. In many ways, he left the stage with an air of hope.

The lesson, which extends far beyond just the fight for human rights, was about the cause and effect of indifference. It was about why those atrocities were allowed to take place in spite of the world knowing about them.

It was about the indecision that was made.

Let’s check in on Alex Jones, who is not handling his Twitter ban well at all

Alex Jones and his dangerous Infowars platform were permanently banned from Twitter yesterday, with Jones’ benign insults against CNN reporter Oliver Darcy finally doing the job that his xenophobic rhetoric and smear campaigns against the parents of murdered children should have a long time ago. Now, with literally no mainstream social media platforms with which to stream his lunacy, Jones should see his star slowly drift into irrelevancy in much the same manner as Milo Yiannopoulos’ did following his own ban. But, before we forget Jones entirely, let us just take one last peek at how things are going for him in the wake of his ban. Just fine, we imagine.

Oh. Oh wow.

In the above video, you’ll find Jones in a donkey mask, adopting the rasp of a cartoon demon as he enlightens us on “Operation 666,” which we’re sure is definitely a real thing. “On the sixth of August we banned Infowars on 27 platforms!” he screeches. “And now on September sixth we banned you from Twitter! And on October sixth, we will destroy your president and set fire to every major U.S. city and have our Communist forces launch their attack while Silicon Valley sits in their bunkers in the middle of the pacific ocean in New Zealand!”

So, you know, we have that to look forward to.

Wait, there’s more? There’s more.

Picking The Audience For ‘The Price is Right’ Is A Weird Job

The Price Is Right has managed to stay on the air for almost five decades in a time slot only popular with the elderly, people in hospital waiting rooms, and kids faking sick to get out of school. In fact, the first thing you notice when you watch it on one of those aforementioned sick days is that the audience is going nuts, acting like they’ve been waiting their whole lives to sit in that studio.

Well, that’s because in many cases, they totally have. We talked to a guy we’ll call “Ned,” who used to work for The Price Is Right as an usher and audience coordinator, helping decide who to call up on stage. He says …

5. A Lot Of Those People Are Drunk

If you’ve seen the show, you know the contestants are drawn from the audience, which consists of people who snag tickets and then wait in line for hours before taping. This, as it turns out, is more complicated than you’d think. The producer and associate producer screens each person as they queue up for the showing to find the ones in that happy medium between “boring” and “might assassinate the host.”

“It was the confident but not crazy people that were picked,” says Ned. “That’s why a lot of college kids were on so much — they had the energy and excitement, but were not balls-out insane in the audience.”

Since the show has been on the air for about half a century, there is a whole subculture of fans/aspiring contestants who have learned how to work the system. “Tons of people told us sob stories,” says Ned, “telling producers for the five seconds they got to meet them how ‘My mom has cancer’ or ‘My brother is in jail’ or ‘I have no money,’ and those people were never picked. Neither were the people who performed cheerleading or singing or even flashed the pages in hopes of being picked. If they did that to producers, who knows what the hell they were going to do in front of Bob Barker or Drew Carey.”

He describes one guy who tried to sneak in a huge knife, then ran away when security was called. And yes, plenty of women exposed themselves to the staff (both, uh, upstairs and and downstairs). And if that sounds implausible, please note that lots of these people are straight up intoxicated.

“Oh yeah, drunk people were great. Why do you think so many of them are excited? It can be older ladies nursing a breakfast of mimosas or some kids coming up from UCLA who throw entire empty bottles of Jack in the trash on the way inside. As long as they aren’t too in the bag, they’ll come in and be excited for a long time … I’m not saying getting drunk will guarantee you a seat, but it can help.”

Microsoft ‘Confirms’ Windows 7 New Monthly Charge

sers running Windows 7 (pictured) now have little choice but to upgrade to Windows 10.

Microsoft has always described Windows 10 “as a service” and leaks have already revealed new monthly charges are coming. Of course, for Windows 7 owners this was never something they expected to pay. But times change…

In a new blog post entitled “Helping customers shift to a modern desktop”, Microsoft has announced that it will indeed start charging Windows 7 customers a monthly fee from January 14th 2020, if they want to keep their computers safe.

If this date rings a bell, that’s because it is the day Microsoft will end ‘Extended Support’ for Windows 7 according to the company’s Lifecycle page. This means no more patches or security updates unless, as we now learn, you pay. Furthermore, Microsoft says it will increase the cost of this every year.

“[T]oday we are announcing that we will offer paid Windows 7 Extended Security Updates (ESU) through January 2023. The Windows 7 ESU will be sold on a per-device basis and the price will increase each year,” explained Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Office and Windows Marketing, and author of the company’s blog post.

Amazon has patented a system that would put workers in a cage, on top of a robot

Amazon in 2016 was granted a patent for a system to transport humans, enclosed in a cage and on top of a robotic trolley, for work in areas full of other automated robot.

A patent Amazon has received would pair humans and machines. In this case, the humans would be in a cage.

Illustrations that accompany the patent, which was granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office in 2016, show a cage-like enclosure around a small work space sitting atop the kind of robotic trolleys that now drive racks of shelves around Amazon warehouses.

The patent was called “an extraordinary illustration of worker alienation, a stark moment in the relationship between humans and machines” by researchers who highlighted it in a study published Friday.

Amazon says it never implemented the technology and has no plans to, but the design appeared to be an effort to allow humans to safely enter robot-only zones in Amazon’s highly-automated depots to make repairs or pick up dropped objects.

In an Amazon facility in Kent, for example, 750-pound robots topped with shelves scoot around an area surrounded by high chain-link fences, bringing merchandise like iPhone cases and coffee mugs to waiting employees who place or retrieve items from windows built into the fence.

Video Goodnesses
and not-so-goodnesses

In 2012, fifth-generation beermaker Nick Shields had an epiphany.

“I was sitting in a dive bar in Westport, Connecticut, and I noticed five patrons ordering vodka sodas, one after the other,” Shields told VICE News. “I realized in that moment that I could create something just as clean, crisp, refreshing and popular as a vodka soda, without the bite of distilled spirits and with lower alcohol content.”

Shortly after, he created the first-ever hard seltzer. His invention filled a giant hole in the beverage industry left by declining beer sales.

As consumers continue to move away from things like sugar and gluten, beer companies are positioning hard seltzer as the “healthy” option by comparison. However, dieticians warn that it’s really not all that different from light beer.

Hard seltzer sales have more than doubled since last year, but the secret to its long-term success isn’t how brands are marketing it, but who they’re marketing it to.

Beer companies realize they can’t survive on frat boys and Homer Simpsons alone and have set their sights on female customers. While women aren’t the only people drinking hard seltzer, few demographics have grown more in the last couple of years than educated women with disposable income and something to drink about.

THANKS to HBO and VICE News for making this program available on YouTube.

Donald Trump thinks that Silicon Valley is censoring conservatives, so now the whole government has to look into that nonsense.

THANKS to Comedy Central and The Daily Show with Trevor Noah for making this program available on YouTube.

まるのピザ屋オープン!?Pizzeria Maru New Opening!?

段ボールハウスを破壊するまる。Maru breaks the corrugated cardboard house.


Decentralisation: the next big step for the world wide web

The decentralised web, or DWeb, could be a chance to take control of our data back from the big tech firms. So how does it work and when will it be here?

The story that broke earlier last month that Google would again cooperate with Chinese authorities to run a censored version of its search engine, something the tech giant has neither confirmed nor denied, had ironic timing. The same day, a group of 800 web builders and others – among them Tim Berners-Lee, who created the world wide web – were meeting in San Francisco to discuss a grand idea to circumvent internet gatekeepers like Google and Facebook. The event they had gathered for was the Decentralised Web Summit, held from 31 July to 2 August, and hosted by the Internet Archive. The proponents of the so-called decentralised web – or DWeb – want a new, better web where the entire planet’s population can communicate without having to rely on big companies that amass our data for profit and make it easier for governments to conduct surveillance. And its proponents have got projects and apps that are beginning to function, funding that is flowing and social momentum behind them. In light of the Snowden revelations and Cambridge Analytica scandal, public concerns around spying and privacy have grown. And more people have heard about the DWeb thanks to the television comedy Silicon Valley, whose main character recently pivoted his startup to try and build this “new internet”.

What is the decentralised web?
It is supposed to be like the web you know but without relying on centralised operators. In the early days of the world wide web, which came into existence in 1989, you connected directly with your friends through desktop computers that talked to each other. But from the early 2000s, with the advent of Web 2.0, we began to communicate with each other and share information through centralised services provided by big companies such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon. It is now on Facebook’s platform, in its so called “walled garden”, that you talk to your friends. “Our laptops have become just screens. They cannot do anything useful without the cloud,” says Muneeb Ali, co-founder of Blockstack, a platform for building decentralised apps. The DWeb is about re-decentralising things – so we aren’t reliant on these intermediaries to connect us. Instead users keep control of their data and connect and interact and exchange messages directly with others in their network.

Why do we need an alternative?
With the current web, all that user data concentrated in the hands of a few creates risk that our data will be hacked. It also makes it easier for governments to conduct surveillance and impose censorship. And if any of these centralised entities shuts down, your data and connections are lost. Then there are privacy concerns stemming from the business models of many of the companies, which use the private information we provide freely to target us with ads. “The services are kind of creepy in how much they know about you,” says Brewster Kahle, the founder of the Internet Archive. The DWeb, say proponents, is about giving people a choice: the same services, but decentralised and not creepy. It promises control and privacy, and things can’t all of a sudden disappear because someone decides they should. On the DWeb, it would be harder for the Chinese government to block a site it didn’t like, because the information can come from other places.

Ed. More tomorrow? Probably. Possibly. Maybe. Not?