How Apple single-handedly lays waste to conservative ideology

[Note: This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis. DLH]

How Apple single-handedly lays waste to conservative ideology
By kos
Apr 28 2015
<http://m.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/28/1380920/-How-Apple-single-handedly-lays-waste-to-conservative-ideology&gt;

Tuesday morning, riding high after yet another gangbusters quarter, Apple reached a new high, worth more than $760 BILLION. This makes it worth more than, well, a ton of things, including all but 18 COUNTRIES in the world.
Think about that … Apple is worth more than the GDP of Saudi Arabia, or Switzerland, or Sweden. And despite being this financial juggernaut, the company is still experiencing double-digit growth. In just the past three months, Apple booked profits of $13.6 billion on $58 billion in revenue. Four years ago, the last of Steve Jobs’ reign, he bragged about hitting $50 billion in revenue … for the YEAR.

Not only are those numbers eye-watering, but that profit margin is the envy of the entire business world. The company has just shy of $200 billion in its cash horde, even as it has stepped up efforts to return cash to its shareholders. A $1 trillion valuation isn’t far away.

So by all objective measures, Apple is the most successful company in the modern era. (The Dutch East India Company wins overall top honors, with an inflation-adjusted valuation of $7.3 trillion.) Yet, keep in mind the following:

* Apple is based on California, and continues to expand its operations in the state. Conservatives bray incessantly about the Golden State’s “high taxes and burdensome regulations,” yet the world’s most high-value and innovative companies continue to be based here. You don’t see Apple or its peers fleeing to tax havens like Alabama. Why? Because those taxes and regulations actually create a favorable business climate for Apple, delivering it the talent it desperately needs.

* Apple is a corporate leader in diversity. Sure, CEO Tim Cook is the most powerful out-gay person in the corporate world, if not the entire country, but the company itself has long been a champion for gay rights, even excluding anti-gay material from the iOS app store. It seems that unlike conservative orthodoxy, tolerance and respect for people’s private life are good for business.

* Apple takes global climate change seriously, as the image at the top of this post makes crystal clear: “We don’t want to debate climate change. We want to stop it.” To that effort, Apple is spending gazillions on reducing its carbon footprint and generating its power via renewables. Not only is it good for the environment, however, but Apple makes the case that it is good for the bottom line, a reality that conservatives insist on glossing over in their desperate attempts to destroy this planet. (And yes, right wingers are waging proxy battles to reverse Apple’s investments.)

In short, conservatives are convinced that it is impossible to profit without trashing the world we live in, that environmental regulations are overly burdensome, and that our natural resources exist only to be exploited. Apple proves that profit and environmental degradation can be mutually exclusive.

[snip]

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The sharing economy is here to stay

The sharing economy is here to stay
By YOAV VILNER
Apr 30 2015
<http://thenextweb.com/insider/2015/04/30/the-sharing-economy-is-here-to-stay/&gt;

The sharing economy has been taking a bit of a beating recently. Uber continues to attract controversy, Airbnb seems to be in the news for all the wrong reasons, and car sharing is yet to become a genuine replacement for inner city vehicle ownership.

But, innovators are a lot like tightrope walkers in the circus. They require a delicate balancing act between many masters – clients, practitioners and others. Every year we may have heard the same old story, but we’re at a time where innovation is taking the road less traveled. Sustainable startups in the sharing economy are exploding. A recent survey from PricewaterhouseCoopersshows that the sharing economy is growing faster than ever.

Of the 44 percent of American adults who are familiar with the sharing economy, 86 percent say it makes life more affordable, 83 percent say it makes life more convenient and efficient and 78 percent say it builds a stronger community, according to NPR.

Take for instance the case of VIA, an up and coming transit app. They are the latest startup to attract funding and recently raised $27 million. The startup is a ride-hailing app that connects several passengers who are headed in the same route, sends a professional driver to pick them up within 10 minutes and drop them off in one spot. Likewise, Yeloha, a peer-to-peer solar network is gaining attention in the same market. The trend of ‘sharing is caring’ seems to be unavoidable, from sharing cars to homes.

Sharing, being the operable word, as this is one of the first lessons we learned as a child in kindergarten. While traditional businesses follow a simple formula: create a product, sell it and make money. In the past few years, an alternative model has come into play based on a childhood exercise. One where consumers have more choices, tools, information and more peer-to-peer power.

If you look through the eyes of a corporation, the role of customers and employees have become blurred. Conceptualize a scenario, where you walk into a convenience store and they announce that a specific brand will pay you $100 to help fill shelves that need restocking. Since you’re already in the store, you might as well take the opportunity to make a few dollars. There’s a company that does just that called, Wonolo.

They find workers to complete odd jobs and the crowd can become apart of your company. You’ll be able to crowd-augment every single business unit on demand, flexibly, at a local level. This startup actually belongs to a major retailer brand, Coca-Cola, and if corporations such as these are getting on the ‘sharing’ ship, one should board before it sails away.

Amiad Soto, CEO of Guesty (a fellow sharing economy enthusiast) is right on point when he explains that,

“the emerging sharing economy represents an entirely new way of doing business – such a different model from the past that it could even be defined as a new economy altogether. This new economy is already disrupting many aspects of the old one. “

Many economists refer to this as the era of Hypercapitalism.

Taking into account all the buzz about the sharing economy, one cannot argue that this year we’ll see a dramatic change in this industry, how it works and what it means.

[snip]

The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it?

[Note: This item comes from friend Mike Cheponis. DLH]

The case for cuts was a lie. Why does Britain still believe it?
The austerity delusion
By Paul Krugman
Apr 29 2015
<http://www.theguardian.com/business/ng-interactive/2015/apr/29/the-austerity-delusion&gt;

In May 2010, as Britain headed into its last general election, elites all across the western world were gripped by austerity fever, a strange malady that combined extravagant fear with blithe optimism. Every country running significant budget deficits – as nearly all were in the aftermath of the financial crisis – was deemed at imminent risk of becoming another Greece unless it immediately began cutting spending and raising taxes. Concerns that imposing such austerity in already depressed economies would deepen their depression and delay recovery were airily dismissed; fiscal probity, we were assured, would inspire business-boosting confidence, and all would be well.

People holding these beliefs came to be widely known in economic circles as “austerians” – a term coined by the economist Rob Parenteau – and for a while the austerian ideology swept all before it.

But that was five years ago, and the fever has long since broken. Greece is now seen as it should have been seen from the beginning – as a unique case, with few lessons for the rest of us. It is impossible for countries such as the US and the UK, which borrow in their own currencies, to experience Greek-style crises, because they cannot run out of money – they can always print more. Even within the eurozone, borrowing costs plunged once the European Central Bank began to do its job and protect its clients against self-fulfilling panics by standing ready to buy government bonds if necessary. As I write this, Italy and Spain have no trouble raising cash – they can borrow at the lowest rates in their history, indeed considerably below those in Britain – and even Portugal’s interest rates are within a whisker of those paid by HM Treasury.

On the other side of the ledger, the benefits of improved confidence failed to make their promised appearance. Since the global turn to austerity in 2010, every country that introduced significant austerity has seen its economy suffer, with the depth of the suffering closely related to the harshness of the austerity. In late 2012, the IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, went so far as to issue what amounted to a mea culpa: although his organisation never bought into the notion that austerity would actually boost economic growth, the IMF now believes that it massively understated the damage that spending cuts inflict on a weak economy.

Meanwhile, all of the economic research that allegedly supported the austerity push has been discredited. Widely touted statistical results were, it turned out, based on highly dubious assumptions and procedures – plus a few outright mistakes – and evaporated under closer scrutiny.

It is rare, in the history of economic thought, for debates to get resolved this decisively. The austerian ideology that dominated elite discourse five years ago has collapsed, to the point where hardly anyone still believes it. Hardly anyone, that is, except the coalition that still rules Britain – and most of the British media.

I don’t know how many Britons realise the extent to which their economic debate has diverged from the rest of the western world – the extent to which the UK seems stuck on obsessions that have been mainly laughed out of the discourse elsewhere. George Osborne and David Cameron boast that their policies saved Britain from a Greek-style crisis of soaring interest rates, apparently oblivious to the fact that interest rates are at historic lows all across the western world. The press seizes on Ed Miliband’s failure to mention the budget deficit in a speech as a huge gaffe, a supposed revelation of irresponsibility; meanwhile, Hillary Clinton is talking, seriously, not about budget deficits but about the “fun deficit” facing America’s children.

Is there some good reason why deficit obsession should still rule in Britain, even as it fades away everywhere else? No. This country is not different. The economics of austerity are the same – and the intellectual case as bankrupt – in Britain as everywhere else.

[snip]

2014 Election results called into question by findings of electronic voting machine security experts

[Note: This item comes from friend David Rosenthal. DLH]

2014 Election results called into question by findings of electronic voting machine security experts
By windsong01
Apr 29 2015
<http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/04/29/1379263/-2014-Election-results-called-into-question-by-findings-of-electronic-voting-machine-security-experts&gt;

As Jeremy Epstein notes on his Freedom to Tinker blog, in great detail:

“If your States election was held in 2014 using the AVS WinVote touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine, and it wasn’t hacked, it was only because no one tried.

The vulnerabilities were so severe, and so trivial to exploit, that anyone with even a modicum of training could have succeeded. They didn’t need to be in the polling place – within a few hundred feet (e.g., in the parking lot) is easy, and within a half mile with a rudimentary antenna built using a Pringles can. Further, there are no logs or other records that would indicate if such a thing ever happened, so if an election was hacked any time in the past, we will never know.”

After receiving this report On Apr 14 2015, the Virginia State Board of Elections immediately decertified use of the AVS WinVote touchscreen Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine.
So how did Virginia get to decertification? It seems that in the November 2014 election, voting machines in one precinct were repeatedly crashing, so they invited the agency charged with providing IT services to the state government) to investigate the problem.

This part of the story caught my attention because the North Carolina 2014 and mid term elections had these same AVS voting machine crash issues reported as well.

I also found it curious that North Carolina just proposed a a bill in April 2015, that would delay voting machine upgrades in the state until 2020.

35 counties use direct record electronic voting machines, which create a paper receipt of a voter’s choices.
The idea of the bill is to give those counties more time to save money to purchase new equipment, Blackwell said. The bill delays the purchase of new equipment until 2020. It is up to counties to pay for voting equipment.

State officials have said direct record electronic voting equipment will need to be replaced because the machines are due for decertification in January 2018, here in north carolina. The decertification is due to a change in state law that will require a paper ballot for all certified voting systems.

How convenient that the decertification won’t happen in my state of North Carolina until 2018, two years after the critical 2016 presidential race. Also, it is curious that those changes could end up being delayed to span over our next midterm as well.

So how bad was the machine vulnerability? and how concerned should you be if your state is using these voting machines?

Epstein when on in his blog to point out just how incredibly easy hacking the AVS voting machine is:

[snip]

Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think

Eyewitnesses: The Baltimore Riots Didn’t Start the Way You Think
Baltimore teachers and parents tell a different story from the one you’ve been reading in the media.
By Sam Brodey and Jenna McLaughlin
Apr 28 2015
<http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/04/how-baltimore-riots-began-mondawmin-purge&gt;

After Baltimore police and a crowd of teens clashed near the Mondawmin Mall in northwest Baltimore on Monday afternoon, news reports described the violence as a riot triggered by kids who had been itching for a fight all day. But in interviews with Mother Jones and other media outlets, teachers and parents maintain that police actions inflamed a tense-but-stable situation.

The funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died in police custody this month, had ended hours earlier at a nearby church. According to the Baltimore Sun, a call to “purge”—a reference to the 2013 dystopian film in which all crime is made legal for one night—circulated on social media among school-aged Baltimoreans that morning. The rumored plan—which was not traced to any specific person or group—was to assemble at the Mondawmin Mall at 3 p.m. and proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue toward downtown Baltimore. The Baltimore Police Department, which was aware of the “purge” call, prepared for the worst. Shortly before noon, the department issued a statement saying it had “received credible information that members of various gangs…have entered into a partnership to ‘take-out’ law enforcement officers.”

When school let out that afternoon, police were in the area equipped with full riot gear. According to eyewitnesses in the Mondawmin neighborhood, the police were stopping busses and forcing riders, including many students who were trying to get home, to disembark. Cops shut down the local subway stop. They also blockaded roads near the Mondawmin Mall and Frederick Douglass High School, which is across the street from the mall, and essentially corralled young people in the area. That is, they did not allow the after-school crowd to disperse.

Meghann Harris, a teacher at a nearby school, described on Facebook what happened:

Police were forcing busses to stop and unload all their passengers. Then, [Frederick Douglass High School] students, in huge herds, were trying to leave on various busses but couldn’t catch any because they were all shut down. No kids were yet around except about 20, who looked like they were waiting for police to do something. The cops, on the other hand, were in full riot gear, marching toward any small social clique of students…It looked as if there were hundreds of cops.

The kids were “standing around in groups of 3-4,” Harris said in a Facebook message to Mother Jones. “They weren’t doing anything. No rock throwing, nothing…The cops started marching toward groups of kids who were just milling about.”

A teacher at Douglass High School, who asked not to be identified, tells a similar story: “When school was winding down, many students were leaving early with their parents or of their own accord.” Those who didn’t depart early, she says, were stranded. Many of the students still at school at that point, she notes, wanted to get out of the area and avoid any Purge-like violence. Some were requesting rides home from teachers. But by now, it was difficult to leave the neighborhood. “I rode with another teacher home,” this teacher recalls, “and we had to route our travel around the police in riot gear blocking the road…The majority of my students thought what was going to happen was stupid or were frightened at the idea. Very few seemed to want to participate in ‘the purge.’”

[snip]

Re: You Can’t Backdoor a Platform

[Note: This comment comes from friend Jock Gill. DLH]
From: Jock Gill <jock@jockgill.com>
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] You Can’t Backdoor a Platform
Date: April 29, 2015 at 08:17:36 EDT
To: Dewayne Hendricks <dewayne@dandin.com>

I propose that the level of interest in “back doors” is directly proportional to the the depth of the fear of change in the mind of the back door proponent. If our representatives in all branches of our government truly looked like America, this might not be true. But our officials in DC do NOT look like America. America is not a majority old white male country, no matter how hard old white males try to perpetuate that myth.

Jock Gill

You Can’t Backdoor a Platform
By Jonathan Mayer
Apr 28 2015
<http://webpolicy.org/2015/04/28/you-cant-backdoor-a-platform/&gt;

When AT&T promises broadband—but delivers only 300Kbps

When AT&T promises broadband—but delivers only 300Kbps
For new homeowners, accurate information from Internet providers is hard to find.
By Jon Brodkin
Apr 28 2015
<http://arstechnica.com/business/2015/04/28/when-att-promises-broadband-but-delivers-only-300kbps/&gt;

Dave Mortimer went house shopping in 2013, and he made Internet speed a top concern. His standards weren’t incredibly high—he just wanted 20Mbps or so to make sure he could avoid some trips to the office.

“I work in IT, so fast speeds are essential for me to work at home,” Mortimer told Ars. “I called AT&T on three separate occasions to verify that this home had U-verse capabilities or, at the very least, 20Mbps. I was told every single time ‘Yes, that service is available at that residence.’” (When contacted by Ars, AT&T was unable to comment on what company representatives told Mortimer in 2013.)

Mortimer also plugged the address into AT&T’s U-verse availability checker. The system reported that the home could get the service he wanted, Mortimer said.

But Mortimer learned the truth after moving into the house in Lowell, Michigan, a city of about 4,000 residents. Instead of AT&T’s U-verse fiber-to-the-node service, which could have provided up to 45Mbps, the best AT&T could actually offer him was up to 768Kbps download speeds over DSL lines.

Since it was the only wired Internet option available, Mortimer subscribed. He soon found that the “up to” in AT&T’s description was there for a reason; Mortimer said he could only get about 300 to 400Kbps, a fraction of the 25Mbps download speed that meets the US definition of “broadband.”

“Half the time, websites won’t even load,” he said. At those speeds, streaming video is out. Downloading files was difficult not only because of the low bit rate but also because the connection was often unstable, dropping many times a day.

Mortimer’s job involves helping employees with problems and maintaining the network.

“I go to an office most of the time but I’m on call at home, and the office is 30 minutes away,” he said. Getting work done at home requires logging in to a remote desktop. With AT&T, what should be 5-minute fixes could take 45 minutes, he said. Just restarting a server felt impossible from his home connection, so Mortimer made a lot more trips to the office than he’d like.

Fiber to 100 cities, but none in Michigan

In more lucrative areas than Mortimer’s town, AT&T has made sure to bring fiber closer to homes. In 100 cities, all outside Michigan, AT&T says it is considering building fiber-to-the-home gigabit service, more than 2,000 times faster than the real-world speeds it delivered to Mortimer.

[snip]