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]

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]

David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’

[Note: Given the ongoing events in Baltimore, I thought it appropriate to post this 2013 piece from David Simon, the creator of ‘The Wire’, which took place in Baltimore. It has speaks to the current situation there and in this country quite well. Little has changed since 2013. DLH]

David Simon: ‘There are now two Americas. My country is a horror show’
The creator of The Wire, David Simon, delivered an impromptu speech about the divide between rich and poor in America at the Festival of Dangerous Ideas in Sydney, and how capitalism has lost sight of its social compact. This is an edited extract
By David Simon
Dec 7 2013
<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/08/david-simon-capitalism-marx-two-americas-wire&gt;

America is a country that is now utterly divided when it comes to its society, its economy, its politics. There are definitely two Americas. I live in one, on one block in Baltimore that is part of the viable America, the America that is connected to its own economy, where there is a plausible future for the people born into it. About 20 blocks away is another America entirely. It’s astonishing how little we have to do with each other, and yet we are living in such proximity.

There’s no barbed wire around West Baltimore or around East Baltimore, around Pimlico, the areas in my city that have been utterly divorced from the American experience that I know. But there might as well be. We’ve somehow managed to march on to two separate futures and I think you’re seeing this more and more in the west. I don’t think it’s unique to America.

I think we’ve perfected a lot of the tragedy and we’re getting there faster than a lot of other places that may be a little more reasoned, but my dangerous idea kind of involves this fellow who got left by the wayside in the 20th century and seemed to be almost the butt end of the joke of the 20th century; a fellow named Karl Marx.

I’m not a Marxist in the sense that I don’t think Marxism has a very specific clinical answer to what ails us economically. I think Marx was a much better diagnostician than he was a clinician. He was good at figuring out what was wrong or what could be wrong with capitalism if it wasn’t attended to and much less credible when it comes to how you might solve that.

You know if you’ve read Capital or if you’ve got the Cliff Notes, you know that his imaginings of how classical Marxism – of how his logic would work when applied – kind of devolve into such nonsense as the withering away of the state and platitudes like that. But he was really sharp about what goes wrong when capital wins unequivocally, when it gets everything it asks for.

That may be the ultimate tragedy of capitalism in our time, that it has achieved its dominance without regard to a social compact, without being connected to any other metric for human progress.

We understand profit. In my country we measure things by profit. We listen to the Wall Street analysts. They tell us what we’re supposed to do every quarter. The quarterly report is God. Turn to face God. Turn to face Mecca, you know. Did you make your number? Did you not make your number? Do you want your bonus? Do you not want your bonus?

And that notion that capital is the metric, that profit is the metric by which we’re going to measure the health of our society is one of the fundamental mistakes of the last 30 years. I would date it in my country to about 1980 exactly, and it has triumphed.

Capitalism stomped the hell out of Marxism by the end of the 20th century and was predominant in all respects, but the great irony of it is that the only thing that actually works is not ideological, it is impure, has elements of both arguments and never actually achieves any kind of partisan or philosophical perfection.

It’s pragmatic, it includes the best aspects of socialistic thought and of free-market capitalism and it works because we don’t let it work entirely. And that’s a hard idea to think – that there isn’t one single silver bullet that gets us out of the mess we’ve dug for ourselves. But man, we’ve dug a mess.

After the second world war, the west emerged with the American economy coming out of its wartime extravagance, emerging as the best product. It was the best product. It worked the best. It was demonstrating its might not only in terms of what it did during the war but in terms of just how facile it was in creating mass wealth.

Plus, it provided a lot more freedom and was doing the one thing that guaranteed that the 20th century was going to be – and forgive the jingoistic sound of this – the American century.

It took a working class that had no discretionary income at the beginning of the century, which was working on subsistence wages. It turned it into a consumer class that not only had money to buy all the stuff that they needed to live but enough to buy a bunch of shit that they wanted but didn’t need, and that was the engine that drove us.

It wasn’t just that we could supply stuff, or that we had the factories or know-how or capital, it was that we created our own demand and started exporting that demand throughout the west. And the standard of living made it possible to manufacture stuff at an incredible rate and sell it.

And how did we do that? We did that by not giving in to either side. That was the new deal. That was the great society. That was all of that argument about collective bargaining and union wages and it was an argument that meant neither side gets to win.

Labour doesn’t get to win all its arguments, capital doesn’t get to. But it’s in the tension, it’s in the actual fight between the two, that capitalism actually becomes functional, that it becomes something that every stratum in society has a stake in, that they all share.

The unions actually mattered. The unions were part of the equation. It didn’t matter that they won all the time, it didn’t matter that they lost all the time, it just mattered that they had to win some of the time and they had to put up a fight and they had to argue for the demand and the equation and for the idea that workers were not worth less, they were worth more.

Ultimately we abandoned that and believed in the idea of trickle-down and the idea of the market economy and the market knows best, to the point where now libertarianism in my country is actually being taken seriously as an intelligent mode of political thought. It’s astonishing to me. But it is. People are saying I don’t need anything but my own ability to earn a profit. I’m not connected to society. I don’t care how the road got built, I don’t care where the firefighter comes from, I don’t care who educates the kids other than my kids. I am me. It’s the triumph of the self. I am me, hear me roar.

[snip]

When Bots Collude

When Bots Collude
BY JILL PRILUCK
Apr 25 2015
<http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/when-bots-collude&gt;

On the day after Easter this year, an online poster retailer named David Topkins became the first e-commerce executive to be prosecuted under antitrust law. In a complaint that was scant on details, the U.S. Department of Justice’s San Francisco division charged Topkins with one count of price-fixing, in violation of the Sherman Act. The department alleged that Topkins, the founder of Poster Revolution, which was purchased in 2012 by Art.com, had conspired with other sellers between September of 2013 and January of last year to fix the prices of certain posters sold on Amazon Marketplace. Topkins pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a twenty-thousand-dollar fine. “We will not tolerate anticompetitive conduct, whether it occurs in a smoke-filled room or over the Internet using complex pricing algorithms,” Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer, of the department’s antitrust division, said. “American consumers have the right to a free and fair marketplace online, as well as in brick and mortar businesses.”

Casual observers might wonder why, for its first Sherman Act antitrust case against an online-sales executive, the Department of Justice targeted a relatively small-time retailer in the wall-décor industry. After all, Silicon Valley is no doubt replete with e-commerce executives who have colluded to bend rules and harm consumers. And the department’s case rested on allegations of fairly standard price-fixing behavior: according to prosecutors, Topkins and his co-conspirators, who were unnamed in the complaint, collected, exchanged, monitored, and discussed how much to charge for posters that were sold, distributed, and paid for on Amazon’s auction site from California to other states. Coupled with the details of the complaint, however, Baer’s statement suggests that prosecutors might have been interested in a tool underlying Topkins’s apparent misdeeds: an algorithm he had coded to instruct his company’s software to set prices.

The first section of the Sherman Antitrust Act, which was passed in 1890, amid the heyday of American oil, steel, and railroad monopolies, suggests the breadth of the activities that prosecutors and regulators have traditionally been able to challenge. “Every contract, combination in the form of trust or otherwise, or conspiracy, in restraint of trade or commerce among the several States, or with foreign nations, is declared to be illegal,” it states. Since the Sherman Act was bolstered, in 1914, with the passage of the Clayton Act, the country’s antitrust apparatus has allowed the federal government to go after all kinds of businesses, and has typically encompassed new industries as they have emerged. Algorithm-driven (or bot-driven) selling, however, poses a new and formidable challenge to existing antitrust laws. If the practice hasn’t yet become a full-blown conundrum for prosecutors and regulators, the Topkins case suggests that it soon might. In capturing a plea, the Department of Justice was apparently able to rely on evidence of a “meeting of the minds” among co-conspirators. Topkins’s algorithm wasn’t an impediment to prosecution, because the seller had otherwise demonstrated a will to collude with other parties and then coded the algorithm to carry out the agreement. But often there is no evidence of a prior agreement when computers are in play, which means that antitrust prosecutions involving algorithms could be harder to prove in the future.

It’s likely that bot-driven price-fixing is more prevalent than the lack of prosecutions suggests. Algorithms are in high demand, and robotic sellers can combine with other automated pricing and selling mechanisms to monitor human activity and mine data in retail, services, and other areas, with few or no people involved. They can also make pricing predictions and decisions, reacting seamlessly to changes in the marketplace. Uber’s infamous surge pricing, for example, uses an algorithm to push up prices or, as Uber would put it, to balance supply and demand when many cars are needed simultaneously. When such algorithms go deeply awry, we notice: recall when, in 2011, Amazon priced “The Making of a Fly,” a paperback biology textbook, at $1,730,045.91, and that, during a snowstorm in 2013, Uber charged Jessica Seinfeld, the wife of Jerry Seinfeld, four hundred and fifteen dollars to drop off her kids at a sleepover and a bar mitzvah.

[snip]

Nonviolence as Compliance

Nonviolence as Compliance
Officials calling for calm can offer no rational justification for Gray’s death, and so they appeal for order
By TA-NEHISI COATES
Apr 27 2015
<http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/04/nonviolence-as-compliance/391640/&gt;

Rioting broke out on Monday in Baltimore—an angry response to the death of Freddie Gray, a death my native city seems powerless to explain. Gray did not die mysteriously in some back alley but in the custody of the city’s publicly appointed guardians of order. And yet the mayor of that city and the commissioner of that city’s police still have no idea what happened. I suspect this is not because the mayor and police commissioner are bad people, but because the state of Maryland prioritizes the protection of police officerscharged with abuse over the citizens who fall under its purview.

The citizens who live in West Baltimore, where the rioting began, intuitively understand this. I grew up across the street from Mondawmin Mall, where today’s riots began. My mother was raised in the same housing project, Gilmor Homes, where Freddie Gray was killed. Everyone I knew who lived in that world regarded the police not with admiration and respect but with fear and caution. People write these feelings off as wholly irrational at their own peril, or their own leisure. The case against the Baltimore police, and the society that superintends them, is easily made:

Over the past four years, more than 100 people have won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of brutality and civil rights violations. Victims include a 15-year-old boy riding a dirt bike, a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who had witnessed a beating, a 50-year-old woman selling church raffle tickets, a 65-year-old church deacon rolling a cigarette and an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson ….

And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all. In an incident that drew headlines recently, charges against a South Baltimore man were dropped after a video showed an officer repeatedly punching him—a beating that led the police commissioner to say he was “shocked.”

The money paid out by the city to cover for the brutal acts of its police department would be enough to build “a state-of-the-art rec center or renovations at more than 30 playgrounds.” Instead, the money was used to cover for the brutal acts of the city’s police department and ensure they remained well beyond any semblance of justice.

Now, tonight, I turn on the news and I see politicians calling for young people in Baltimore to remain peaceful and “nonviolent.” These well-intended pleas strike me as the right answer to the wrong question. To understand the question, it’s worth remembering what, specifically, happened to Freddie Gray. An officer made eye contact with Gray. Gray, for unknown reasons, ran. The officer and his colleagues then detained Gray. They found him in possession of a switchblade. They arrested him while he yelled in pain. And then, within an hour, his spine was mostly severed. A week later, he was dead. What specifically was the crime here? What particular threat did Freddie Gray pose? Why is mere eye contact and then running worthy of detention at the hands of the state? Why is Freddie Gray dead?

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