Facebook Is The Devil

Josh Marshall has a good piece on Facebook VP of Advertising Rob Goldman’s earlier disingenuous tweets about the way Russians played Facebook like a fiddle to elect Trump, so I won’t rehash that.

But the later tweets embedded above are such classic Silicon Valley bullshit – “my company fucked up our country, shame on the government for not fixing it”. Never mind that Finland is a fairly homogeneous country of fewer than 6 million people which has been facing a real existential threat from Russia ever since WWII. Never mind that Facebook’s walled garden had (and, basically, still has) almost no content standards, no way for the captive audience of that platform to separate truth from bullshit in their feeds. And never mind that the whole platform is designed to keep people trapped inside rather than branching out to more reliable news outlets. No, on Goldman’s account, government needs to clean up the turds his company left on the sidewalk.

Facebook is bad, but Uber is the poster child for this Silicon Valley attitude. On one hand, they shit all over the attempts of government to regulate their ride service, when it’s obvious to anyone whose head isn’t buried in Atlas Shrugged that random strangers giving rides is something that needs a hell of a lot of oversight. On the other hand, as soon as their semi-moron “self driving” cars aren’t able to navigate the roads, government needs to build up road infrastructure so Uber can get rid of their army of underpaid drivers.

It is very god damned telling that a Facebook VP took to Twitter to defend Facebook, because media people generally don’t engage on Facebook. I’m not saying Twitter is an information paradise, but it reaches the low bar of being better than Facebook, which has been losing engagement as they try to deal with the fact that their feeds are garbage.

Browser Outrage Dump

Time for another thread, I’d say, and I don’t have the functioning synapses to come up with anything new to say about the moral and intellectual crater that is both the Republican Party and the right’s public intellection bunch. (Did you know that Ron Johnson’s mug is being considered as the “After” portrait in the upcoming “Don’t Eat Tide Pods” campaign? Or that Rod Dreher’s thought leading crunchy conservative Christianity is racist to its root?)

So here I’m just going to lock and load some stuff I’ve kept open in my browser, waiting for the moment to foam in rage over here.  Think of this not so much as considered analysis (don’t think of it as all). Rather, it’s a very partial catalogue of how much damage decades of GOP anti-government, and worse, anti-society sabotage has done.  A goad, perhaps, though I hope no new one is needed, to crush these sorry f**ks come November, and forever after.

So here they come, in no particular order:

From Stat: “Drop in U.S. life expectancy is an indictment of the American health care system”

According to the CDC, the average life expectancy at birth in the U.S. fell by 0.1 years, to 78.6, in 2016, following a similar drop in 2015. This is the first time in 50 years that life expectancy has fallen for two years running. In 25 other developed countries, life expectancy in 2015 averaged 81.8 years.

The article acknowledges the impact of the opioid epidemic on those figures but notes that cross-country comparisons reveal systemic failures that make the disaster so much deeper here.  And then there’s the way we treat — or don’t — our elderly:

It is widely accepted that the accessibility and quality of medical services strongly affect life expectancy among the elderly and elderly Americans fall behind their counterparts overseas when it comes to being able to get and afford the health care they need.

This may seem surprising given that Americans over 65 enjoy universal health insurance coverage under Medicare. But as valuable as Medicare is, it provides far less protection against the cost of illness, and far less access to services, than do most other Western countries. In a recent cross-national survey, U.S. seniors were more likely to report having three or more chronic illnesses than their counterparts in 10 other high-income countries. At the same time, they were four times more likely than seniors in countries such as Norway and England to skip care because of costs. Medicare, it turns out, is not very good insurance compared to what’s available in most of the western world.

Next: that GOP assault on environmental regulation and protection?

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Open Thread: The 2017 Bitcoin Adventure

(Drew Sheneman via GoComics.com)

Bitcoin prices climbed back above the $15,000 mark Saturday following a steep decline Friday when the cryptocurrency shed about a third of its value.

Bitcoin, which is known to be extremely volatile, sank below $11,000 at one point Friday, according to data from CoinDesk.com.

Prices had approached $20,000 as recently as a week ago….

I’ll concede that Bitcoin is as “rational” as any other highly speculative investment, but dear trickster god the stories…

Problem is, even if cryptocurrency is the most rational method of storing value, it’s being developed / used by human beings, who (per all historical records) may not be…

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They’re Still Coming for Your Retirement

Mitch Ohnstad: “Why do you rob banks?”

Willie Sutton: “Because that’s where the money is.”

After the Republicans last night voted to gut the law allowing you to sue the banks and the credit card companies (yes, pedants you technically can still sue, but what individual can take on Wells Fargo without a class action suit?), I am absolutely convinced this will happen:

Republican tax writers on Capitol Hill are still considering changes to 401(k) retirement savings programs, downplaying President Donald Trump’s repeated pledges not to touch retirement accounts popular with middle-class Americans in the GOP tax overhaul.

At a breakfast with reporters this morning, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said tweaks to the current system are possible in the tax plan, which Republicans are expected to release on as early as Nov. 1.

“We want more Americans to save more. We want them to save earlier in their lives,” Brady said, adding that congressional Republicans are “exploring a number of ideas” and share the same goal as Trump.

And why are they considering these changes? Because that’s where the fucking money is:

About 55 million Americans save in 401(k) plans, which hold more than $5 trillion in assets, according to the Investment Company Institute.

Americans are wedded to the idea of receiving tax deferrals when they save for retirement, with the ICI finding that 93 percent of workers with either a 401(k) or an IRA were against removing tax incentives. A majority also opposed reducing contribution limits.

In the meantime, the total amount Americans have saved to fund their retirement falls short of what they need by as much as $14 trillion, depending on how one runs the numbers. (By comparison, total U.S. GDP is roughly $18 trillion.) More than one-quarter of working Americans have no retirement savings or pension, according to a Federal Reserve study published earlier this year.

And they’ll get the changes they want. And then they’ll give it to the rich in the form of tax cuts. While their wall street buddies whittle away at that 5 trillion with fees and charges.And they’ll call it fiscally conservative. And praise deregulation. And limit your right to sue. And our press will let them because they are too busy chasing Clinton’s skirt.

They’ll get it all because our democracy has failed, our electorate is stupid, our politicians are evil, and our media is worthless.

Good Read: Happy Nice (No, Really!) PR Relief Story

Look for the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would tell us. Rebecca Everett, for NJ.com:

Joseph Badame, 74, has spent most of his life building and outfitting his home and outbuildings for the day when, he believes, an economic collapse will make it all necessary for survival…

Badame is an educated, intelligent, mild-mannered architect who is involved in his church, among other things. Until the death of his beloved wife, Phyliss, in 2013, the passion for prepping was something they shared.

The shelter he built and his accumulation of supplies — enough so that 100 people could live there — was Badame’s life’s work. The couple built the place, with its subterranean living area and lead-lined bomb shelter, along with outbuildings. For forty years, they filled them with everything they’d need, from coal furnaces and kerosene refrigerators to barrels of food and other supplies.

But he’s losing it all now, after the bank foreclosed on his property…

“I described myself as a spirit in search of a purpose,” he said.

Remarkably, he found what he was looking for before the estate sale this past weekend, when he met Victoria Martinez-Barber, 30. She and her husband, Anthony Barber, were hired to provide food at the estate sale through Tony & Tori’s Grill, the food truck they run.

Martinez-Barber told Badame that all the money from the food truck was going to help her family in Puerto Rico. They were alive, but homeless and hungry in Arecibo thanks to Hurricane Maria.

He donated $100. Then he showed her his food store room.
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Labor Day Monday Open Thread

(Signe Wilkinson via GoComics.com)

I have reached the inevitable point during our vacation when I swear to all the gods that, if only we can reach home without disaster, I AM NEVER LEAVING AGAIN.

Apart from that, what’s on the agenda as we wrap up the holiday weekend?

So Step Away With Your Fist Fight Ways

This ain’t back in the day:

Many Americans can’t remember anything other than an economy with skyrocketing inequality, in which living standards for most Americans are stagnating and the rich are pulling away. It feels inevitable.

But it’s not.

A well-known team of inequality researchers — Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman — has been getting some attention recently for a chart it produced. It shows the change in income between 1980 and 2014 for every point on the distribution, and it neatly summarizes the recent soaring of inequality.

It’s been 40 years since the right wing long game to destroy the middle class and the poor began, and they are winning. Unprecedented propaganda efforts have coal miners slapping “Friends of Coal” bumper stickers on their cars, broken workers are chanting “right to work” as they struggle to crush the unions that would and once did protect them, and the courts have been stocked with corporate friendly judges. In my state, literally. There are things we can do about it (if we band together and chip away at the GOP stranglehold in Washington):

The problem is that wealth and capital income are not distributed evenly. In 2014, the average wealth of the bottom half was $349. For the top one percent, it was over $16 million.

Rich people in our society don’t just have high capital income levels. They also have high capital income shares. That is, a large portion of the income collected at the top of our society comes from capital rather than from labor. In 2014, just 5.1 percent of the bottom half’s income came from capital. For the top one percent, around 58.9 percent of income came from capital.

It is worth emphasizing just how much income at the top of society comes from passive ownership of investments rather than from working. The top 0.01 percent of individuals in society have an average income of $28 million. Three-fourths of that income, or $21 million, came from capital in 2014.

If we want to get serious about creating a fair and egalitarian society, we must confront capital directly. Wage levels are important. Benefit levels are important. But getting those things right will not be enough so long as nearly one-third of the national income flows out passively to a handful of people at the top of society.

Current liberal efforts to tackle wealth inequality are woefully inadequate. Policies aimed at building the assets of low-income families, the typical approach to this issue, rarely succeed on their own terms and, even if they did succeed, would only be an insignificant drop in the bucket. For wealth and capital income to become more fairly distributed throughout society, the ownership of existing assets must be reordered towards that end.

But, as we know, the perfect was the enemy of the good in the last election, and we have this:

Different policies could produce a different outcome. My list would start with a tax code that does less to favor the affluent, a better-functioning education system, more bargaining power for workers and less tolerance for corporate consolidation.

Remarkably, President Trump and the Republican leaders in Congress are trying to go in the other direction. They spent months trying to take away health insurance from millions of middle-class and poor families. Their initial tax-reform plans would reduce taxes for the rich much more than for everyone else. And they want to cut spending on schools, even though education is the single best way to improve middle-class living standards over the long term.

Most Americans would look at these charts and conclude that inequality is out of control. The president, on the other hand, seems to think that inequality isn’t big enough.

I don’t know what it is going to take to unite “the left”- whatever that means anymore. Hell, I don’t even know what to call myself anymore because I support single payer, higher tax rates, higher capital gains, decriminalization, demilitarization, reinstatement of the draft, am pro-choice, etc., ad nauseum, but because I voted for Hillary I’m apparently a neoliberal. At any rate, I thought the election of Trump would unify “the left,” but it has apparently made us more fractious than ever. But we need to get our shit together, because things done changed.