Ello

Say Ello: six observations about the world’s newest social network

elloA month ago most of you had probably never heard of Ello. By now a lot of you have. And at the pace the news has been getting around in the past few days, this time next week even hermits will know about it.

The short version is that Ello is the brainchild of a team of designers and developers who are committed to preserving user privacy. Sort of an anti-Facebook, if you will. As you can imagine, there’s going to be interest in something predicated on that kind of philosophy, and interest this past week got so intense that they had to throttle new user add/invites briefly to make sure the system could handle the load.

I was one of the early adopters – I heard about it and went to the site to request an invite months ago, and I was in the door quickly when they opened it up to beta last month.

Here are some observations, in no particular order.

1: The creative factor is through the roof. Continue reading

Business

CVS announces it will stop beating its wife

CVS HEALTH today.

Perhaps you heard: CVS has announced that it will stop selling cigarettes.

I know what you’re thinking – this is awesome! But before we all break out the kneepads and chapstick, let’s ask ourselves a question: why the fuck was a HEALTHCARE COMPANY selling GODDAMNED CIGARETTES in the first place?!

Here’s a fun question. How many people who bought cigarettes at CVS are now dead from cancer? Continue reading

CATEGORY: BusinessFinance2

What do Nestle and Zyklon B have in common?

Nestle sells you chocolate farmed by child slaves and is okay with that, because profit

As San Francisco Chronicle reports: U.S. court rules OK to sue chocolate firms over child slave labor

The companies, which also included Archer Daniels Midland and Cargill, were well aware – from their own frequent visits and independent studies – that they were selling the products of child slavery, but insisted on “finding the cheapest sources of cocoa,” said the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

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CATEGORY: BusinessFinance2

How do you know the collector you’re paying really owns your debt?

You don’t.

Just in case you don’t have enough to worry about already, here’s just one more thing: debt collectors and the twisted games they play. Trust me, you’ll want to invest the few minutes it takes to read this article from The New York Times Magazine. Odds are good the plot twist will surprise you, maybe even leave you a bit more sleepless than you already are. And for good reason.

Sure, those of us who have mastered the art of living within our means *ahemcoughsplutter* will never know the joys of being contacted by debt collectors. More power to you. May you never have an unplanned misfortune that changes that state of affairs. For the rest of us, debt collectors are a reality. An ugly one.

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CATEGORY: BusinessFinance

Zuckerberg donates $10K to anti-gay politician: time for a billionaire lesson

Somebody needs to teach Facebook’s CEO how to wield wealth and influence.

This started out as a brief comment on Frank’s post about leaving Facebook. If you haven’t read it yet, go do so now. It’s an important piece of writing and gods would America be better off if we all followed his lead. Ello, you can’t arrive soon enough (and you better not suck when you do get here).

My first thought on the Zuckerberg/Reyes donation controversy was that it reminded me of the Target/Minnesota Forward debacle back in 2011, which I wrote about in some detail at the time. In both cases, you have biz folks ponying up to support “pro-business” candidates who also happen to not believe in things like basic social justice, fairness, equality, etc. Continue reading

ArtSunday: LIterature

The state of literary art I: who is an artist?

American literary fiction over the last 50 years has been, it seems, in a struggle to find an audience…

Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millennium by Joe David Bellamy (image courtesy University of Missouri Press)

Another book from the 2014 reading list composed of essays. This one, Literary Luxuries: American Writing at the End of the Millenium, is a collection of essays by writer, writing teacher, and litfic cheerleader Joe David Bellamy. Since this is a book of essays that range over a number of issues confronting the literary community, it seems logical to look at Bellamy’s book in sections. So, as I’ve done with a book of scholarly essays on popular music as protest, I’ll be looking at this work over a number of weeks. This will allow me to share Bellamy’s wide ranging discussions of issues such as  of support for the arts (particularly literature), writers’ conferences, creative writing programs, and styles of literary fiction.

Bellamy has a lot to say about each of these areas (and others) and his opinions are – interesting might be the best word. I agree with some of his assessment of the state of litfic, some of it I would say probably needs updating, and some of it smacks of his personal biases. That last is not necessarily a bad thing – except when he resorts to trying to make literature style an object of political analysis. Continue reading

Facebook - Unshare

Goodbye, Facebook. Supporting anti-gay marriage, anti-human rights candidate was finally too much.

After all Facebook has done, there’s only so much a person can take.

And kittehs. Can’t forget about the kittehs.

By now, anyone who has been paying attention is well aware of Facebook’s general user-unfriendly shenanigans, with the possible exception of Facebook’s support for net neutrality, to say nothing of all the minor aggravations users put up with on a daily basis…continually refreshing advertisements, live video popping up in the news feed, a news feed that doesn’t show you everything you mean to see, a newsfeed that occasionally reverts to Top Stories in spite of your every wish and command. Oh, but hey, there’s kittehs!

What kind of user-unfriendly shenanigans, one might wonder?

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Politics

The Obama administration’s latest dose of political irony

Campaigned on transparency, had a Bush administration assist, and still drops ball

In 2006, Congress passed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. President Bush signed it into law. From the USASpending.gov website, the law:

requires that the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) establish a single searchable website, accessible to the public at no cost, which includes for each Federal award:

  1. the name of the entity receiving the award;
  2. the amount of the award;
  3. information on the award including transaction type, funding agency, etc;
  4. the location of the entity receiving the award; and
  5. a unique identifier of the entity receiving the award.

USAspending.gov was first launched in December 2007 to fulfill these requirements.

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Infographic

Infographic best practices: learn how math works

What would happen if you put Yogi Berra in charge of making infographics?

We’ve written about the problems with infographics before, but this one takes the cake.

There’s a fun one from Ethos3 up at SlideShare.net addressing the importance of nonverbal communication when making presentations. It’s generally pretty helpful, but it also provides us with a lesson in the value of not overreaching.

See if you can spot the problem.

Infographic

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Skin in the game? Let’s talk about who’s got skin in the game, shall we?

If there’s class warfare, us working SOBs aren’t the ones who started it.

Dani Rodrick has an excellent piece over at Project Syndicate.

“Schwarzman acts as if “he’s beset by a meddlesome, tax-happy government and a whiny, envious populace.” He has suggested that “it might be good to raise income taxes on the poor so they had ‘skin in the game,’ and that proposals to repeal the carried-interest tax loophole – from which he personally benefits – were akin to the German invasion of Poland.” Other examples from Surowiecki: “the venture capitalist Tom Perkins and Kenneth Langone, the co-founder of Home Depot, both compared populist attacks on the wealthy to the Nazis’ attacks on the Jews.””

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What if we treated our economy like a triage scenario?

$400 billion down the hole on the F-35, and that’s just one tip of one iceberg

There’s been a horrible accident. One patient has a punctured lung. Another one has a grievous wound at the femoral artery and is bleeding out. Another has a serious spinal injury. Three others are milling about with, between them, a bruise, a splinter, and a hangnail. Quick, what do we do?

To listen to the chatter from a variety of news sources, and especially in comments sections all over the place, we should damned well be focusing on the bruise, the splinter, and the hangnail. That femoral artery guy? To hell with him.

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Fact checking Lee Camp, and still to good effect

Lee Camp, one of the most scathing and brilliant commentators of the day, has a new macro up on Facebook. It makes a compelling case. Sadly, even one of our own occasionally needs a touch of fact-checking.

On the one hand, this didn’t stand up to PolitiFact, coming in at only “mostly true.”

On the other hand, the lowest percentage they came up with was 73%. So if the macro is simply reframed as “The candidate who raises the most money wins at least 73% of the time,” it will withstand fact-checking and still indicate something is horribly, horribly wrong.

Image credit: Posted by Lee Camp on Facebook, attribution included in image. Included in this post on the assumption that sharing is expected and encouraged.

Energy

What rough beast slouches toward Yellowstone?

Pop quiz: where is just about the last place you would like to punch a deep hole in the earth’s crust?

Drat. The headline gave it away, didn’t it? Well, yes. I would think Yellowstone would come readily to mind. As it turns out, if we’re worried about triggering the eruption of a supervolcano, we’re probably worried too much. For that matter, it seems there must be plenty of places to drill that don’t even involve the Sisyphusian futility of trying to drill through earth so hot it just seals the well, else this wouldn’t even be an issue. Oil giants don’t get to hoard obscene wealth by squandering it stupidly. It’s the environment they squander, and that, rapaciously. Continue reading

CATEGORY: BusinessFinance

If revoking corporate charter is capital punishment, this might be genocide

And I’m okay with that

Last Thursday, John Nichols, writing for the Nation, reported on some stellar news. It sounds like, for once, something major, some positive, actually got traction in the Senate and might be moving forward. “What’s that?” one might ask. That would be an amendment that will (or at least should) reverse the damaged caused by the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United ruling, among others. Naturally, there’s more to it, but that should certainly pique one’s curiosity enough to click through and see what Mr. Nichols had to say on the matter. Continue reading

If corporations are people, what about capital punishment?

Pun intended

It’s about damned time we remembered that corporations are chartered and that charters can be revoked. If they’re actually people, would that be the death penalty? On those terms, I am not opposed.

In aid of that cause, I recommend passing this absolutely brilliant idea by one Mr. Kyle Noonan along to your Congressperson at your earliest convenience. Send letters to your editors. Make a noise. There’s apparently good reasons why our current corporate sanctions don’t work, largely owing to the inability of state attorneys general to recognize the greater need of the nation as compared to their own state revenues and jobs. Continue reading

Drones

Drones—threat or menace?

Wait, what drones? Well, for starters, the ones that Amazon is testing, which have a 50 mile range, and a five pound payload. All so you can get that book faster. Of course, in the US this needs approval from the Federal Aviation Administration. Not only that, it requires that the FAA provide Amazon with an exemption from a bunch of regulations that currently prevent private companies from unmanned vehicle testing. Now, these might strike you as the kind of sensible regulation that you actually might want governments to enforce. The FAA, on the other hand, is currently preparing new rules that will loosen things up a bit, apparently. And if Amazon gets the approvals it wants? Get ready for “Amazon Prime Air.” Although five pounds doesn’t really seem to be a very large payload of books, or coffee, or lawn furniture, or whatever it is that’s so desperately needed from Amazon.
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Facebook - Unshare

Open letter to Mark Zuckerberg: you owe us one hell of an explanation

Did Facebook’s scientific study contribute to user suicides? We’ll never know, but statistics demand that we ask the question.

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg:

As the title of this post indicates, you owe us one hell of an explanation. Indulge me, if you will.

As you are undoubtedly aware, your company, Facebook, recently had a scientific study published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS). I would naturally assume, social media being your element, that you are aware of a degree of outcry about the ethical lapses that appear evident in your study’s methodology. I doubt you registered my own outrage, so ICYMI, here it is.

A key element of my expressed outrage is this:

Did you know that you were consenting to have your emotional state manipulated? Continue reading

Internet and Social Media

Facebook tramples human research ethics and gets published by PNAS for the effort

Facebook may have experimented with controlling your emotions without telling you

I start out an angry bastard on most days, but that’s just before coffee. After that, I actually lighten up and quite enjoy life and laughter. I’m really not the bitter old curmudgeon I tend to unleash when I write. Even much of my political ranting is spent more tongue-in-cheek and facepalming than actually risking a real aneurysm.

But this pisses me right off. Continue reading