American Democracy Is in Crisis

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

American Democracy Is in Crisis
Our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back.
By HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON
Sep 16 2018
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/09/american-democracy-is-in-crisis/570394/

It’s been nearly two years since Donald Trump won enough Electoral College votes to become president of the United States. On the day after, in my concession speech, I said, “We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.” I hoped that my fears for our future were overblown.

They were not.

In the roughly 21 months since he took the oath of office, Trump has sunk far below the already-low bar he set for himself in his ugly campaign. Exhibit A is the unspeakable cruelty that his administration has inflicted on undocumented families arriving at the border, including separating children, some as young as eight months, from their parents. According to The New York Times, the administration continues to detain 12,800 children right now, despite all the outcry and court orders. Then there’s the president’s monstrous neglect of Puerto Rico: After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, his administration barely responded. Some 3,000 Americans died. Now Trump flatly denies those deaths were caused by the storm. And, of course, despite the recent indictments of several Russian military intelligence officers for hacking the Democratic National Committee in 2016, he continues to dismiss a serious attack on our country by a foreign power as a “hoax.”

Trump and his cronies do so many despicable things that it can be hard to keep track. I think that may be the point—to confound us, so it’s harder to keep our eye on the ball. The ball, of course, is protecting American democracy. As citizens, that’s our most important charge. And right now, our democracy is in crisis.

I don’t use the word crisis lightly. There are no tanks in the streets. The administration’s malevolence may be constrained on some fronts—for now—by its incompetence. But our democratic institutions and traditions are under siege. We need to do everything we can to fight back. There’s not a moment to lose.

As I see it, there are five main fronts of this assault on our democracy.

First, there is Donald Trump’s assault on the rule of law.

John Adams wrote that the definition of a republic is “a government of laws, and not of men.” That ideal is enshrined in two powerful principles: No one, not even the most powerful leader, is above the law, and all citizens are due equal protection under the law. Those are big ideas, radical when America was formed and still vital today. The Founders knew that a leader who refuses to be subject to the law or who politicizes or obstructs its enforcement is a tyrant, plain and simple.

That sounds a lot like Donald Trump. He told The New York Times, “I have an absolute right to do what I want to with the Justice Department.” Back in January, according to that paper, Trump’s lawyers sent Special Counsel Robert Mueller a letter making that same argument: If Trump interferes with an investigation, it’s not obstruction of justice, because he’s the president.

The Times also reported that Trump told White House aides that he had expected Attorney General Jeff Sessions to protect him, regardless of the law. According to Jim Comey, the president demanded that the FBI director pledge his loyalty not to the Constitution but to Trump himself. And he has urged the Justice Department to go after his political opponents, violating an American tradition reaching back to Thomas Jefferson. After the bitterly contentious election of 1800, Jefferson could have railed against “Crooked John Adams” and tried to jail his supporters. Instead, Jefferson used his inaugural address to declare: “We are all republicans, we are all federalists.”

Second, the legitimacy of our elections is in doubt.

There’s Russia’s ongoing interference and Trump’s complete unwillingness to stop it or protect us. There’s voter suppression, as Republicans put onerous—and I believe illegal—requirements in place to stop people from voting. There’s gerrymandering, with partisans—these days, principally Republicans—drawing the lines for voting districts to ensure that their party nearly always wins. All of this carries us further away from the sacred principle of “one person, one vote.”

Third, the president is waging war on truth and reason.

Earlier this month, Trump made 125 false or misleading statements in 120 minutes, according to The Washington Post—a personal record for him (at least since becoming president). To date, according to the paper’s fact-checkers, Trump has made 5,000 false or misleading claims while in office and recently has averaged 32 a day.

Trump is also going after journalists with even greater fervor and intent than before. No one likes to be torn apart in the press—I certainly don’t—but when you’re a public official, it comes with the job. You get criticized a lot. You learn to take it. You push back and make your case, but you don’t fight back by abusing your power or denigrating the entire enterprise of a free press. Trump doesn’t hide his intent one bit. Lesley Stahl, the 60 Minutes reporter, asked Trump during his campaign why he’s always attacking the press. He said, “I do it to discredit you all and demean you all, so when you write negative stories about me, no one will believe you.”

When we can’t trust what we hear from our leaders, experts, and news sources, we lose our ability to hold people to account, solve problems, comprehend threats, judge progress, and communicate effectively with one another—all of which are crucial to a functioning democracy.

Fourth, there’s Trump’s breathtaking corruption.

[snip]

The Internet of Garbage

The Internet of Garbage
By Sarah Jeong
Aug 28 2018
https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/28/17777330/internet-of-garbage-book-sarah-jeong-online-harassment

Today, The Verge is publishing an interim edition of Sarah Jeong’s The Internet of Garbage, a book she first published in 2015 that has since gone out of print. It is a thorough and important look at the intractable problem of online harassment.

After a year on The Verge’s staff as a senior writer, Sarah recently joined The New York Times Editorial Board to write about technology issues. The move kicked off a wave of outrage and controversy as a group of trolls selectively took Sarah’s old tweets out of context to inaccurately claim that she is a racist. This prompted a further wave of unrelenting racist harassment directed at Sarah, a wave of coverage examining her tweets, and a final wave of coverage about the state of outrage generally. This is all deeply ironic because Sarah laid out exactly how these bad-faith tactics work in The Internet of Garbage.

Lost in all of this noise was the fact that Sarah Jeong is an actual person — a person who was an integral and beloved part of The Verge’s team and a deeply respected journalist for years before that. Her extensive reporting on online communities, norms, and harassment is rigorous and insightful in a way that few others have ever matched. Discussing Sarah’s tweets in a vacuum without contending with her life’s actual work in the very field of online communities and harassment is, quite frankly, ridiculous.

The Internet of Garbage provides an immediate and accessible look at how online harassment works, how it might be categorized and distinguished, and why the structure of the internet and the policies surrounding it are overwhelmed in fighting it. Sarah has long planned to publish an updated and expanded second edition, but in this particular moment, I am pleased that she’s allowed us to publish this interim edition with a new preface. 

In that new preface, Sarah stresses that her original text was written from a place of optimism. But the years since have not been kind to internet culture. She writes that the tactics of Gamergate, so clearly on display during the harassment campaign waged against her over the last few weeks, have “overtaken our national political and cultural conversations.” That new culture is driven by the shape of the internet and the interactions it fosters. “We are all victims of fraud in the marketplace of ideas,” she writes.

I hope everyone with a true and sincere interest in improving our online communities reads The Internet of Garbage and contends with the scope of the problem Sarah lays out in its pages. We are making the entire text of The Internet of Garbage 1.5 available for free as a PDF, ePub, and .mobi ebook file, and for the minimum allowed price of $.99 in the Amazon Kindle store. Below, we have excerpted Chapter 3, “Lessons from Copyright Law.” 

—Nilay Patel, editor-in-chief, The Verge

The intersection of copyright and harassment

On December 15th, 2014, a full en banc panel of 11 judges of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals sat for oral arguments in Garcia v. Google. Cris Armenta, the attorney for the plaintiff, began her argument:

Cindy Lee Garcia is an ordinary woman, surviving under extraordinary circumstances. After YouTube hosted a film trailer that contained her performance, she received the following threats in writing:

Record at 218: “Are you mad, you dirty bitch? I kill you. Stop the film. Otherwise, I kill you.”

Record at 212: “Hey you bitch, why you make the movie Innocence of Muslim? Delete this movie otherwise I am the mafia don.”

Record at 220: “I kill whoever have hand in insulting my prophet.” 

Last one, Record at 217. Not the last threat, just the last one I’ll read. “O enemy of Allah, if you are insulting Mohammed prophet’s life, suffer forever, never let you live it freely, sore and painful. Wait for my reply.”

At this point, Armenta was interrupted by Judge Johnnie Rawlinson. “Counsel, how do those threats go to the preliminary injunction standard?” 

Indeed, her opening was an odd way to begin, and the observers—mostly lawyers deeply familiar with copyright who had followed the case with great interest—were confused by it. Wasn’t Garcia a case about copyright law and preliminary injunctions?

For Cindy Lee Garcia, of course, it wasn’t. It was a case about her right to control her exposure on the internet. But in her quest to end the barrage of hate aimed at her, she ended up in a messy collision with copyright doctrine, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the Communications Decency Act (CDA), and the First Amendment.

[snip]

Google Knows Where You’ve Been, but Does It Know Who You Are?

Google Knows Where You’ve Been, but Does It Know Who You Are?
By John Herrman
Sep 12 2018
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/magazine/google-maps-location-data-privacy.html

In August, The Associated Press published an investigation into how Google handles the data it collects, following a curious discovery by a graduate researcher at U.C. Berkeley. For years, the company has allowed users to control their “location history,” which stores a detailed record of where they’ve been, based primarily on their activity in Google Maps. This, the researcher suggested — and The A.P. confirmed — did not work as advertised. “Some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking,” the reporters found. The revelation has since resulted in at least one lawsuit, as well as renewed public criticism from lawmakers.

We’re often aware that Google is logging our whereabouts. Google Search, for example, helps us find all sorts of things, and it uses our location to try to supply more relevant information (by guessing the language we speak, for starters). Obviously Google Maps gives us particulars about where we are and where we’re going. The more creative, indirect ways in which Google employs our location data can be noticeably helpful, too, or at least technically impressive. (Yes, Google, good guess. That is the restaurant I went to — but I would not like to review it, thanks.) More often, however, the details of place and movement are being processed in the background, where that information is recorded because it can be, and made available to tools we largely take for granted. These tools are good at showing us what Google wants, as well at what it thinks it knows. It is something else to see what Google has.

To its credit, the company has long given users ways to see portions of the data collected from and about them. Google Takeout, a tool for downloading your own Google data, debuted in 2011 and now enables you to export some sort of material from at least 50 different services, including Gmail, Search, chats and payments. The overwhelming volume of this information demonstrates just how deep, and inescapable, our relationships with the company have become. And it can be sneakily transformative. To see months of your own search history repeated back to you in list form is to suffer a strange mixture of your most mundane and anxious — and largely forgotten — moments.

Takeout offers some straightforward utility: The ability to download your photos, for example, lets you upload them elsewhere. And it is genuinely good that Google doesn’t hold your contacts hostage. Google also makes it possible for users to browse their recorded location history. This interface is very Google-ish in that it makes a huge amount of information feel approachable; it is less like Google in the way it makes the material feel useless and hardly worth investigating. In Takeout, however, location data can be exported in raw form. In my case, this produced a file containing hundreds of thousands of entries, each encoding time (down to the millisecond), latitude and longitude (with an estimate of their accuracy) and a guess at my activity (“ON_BICYCLE,” for instance).

Laid out in a vast spreadsheet and isolated from Google’s own interfaces, this data becomes both conceptually clear, as quintessential surveillance, and literally incomprehensible. In 2014, a high school student named Theo Patt released a tool, Location History Visualizer, to give shape to this information, placing users’ entire Google location histories on an intensely color-coded map, like something that might hang on the wall at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It became a minor sensation, and tens of thousands of visits to his site followed. It was a rare chance for Google users to see their own slice of the company’s same old data, presented just outside the context in which it was gathered, rendering it utterly new.

When you stare down from on high at the last few years of your life — as recorded by your laptop and phone, and then self-subpoenaed from your Google account — your first impulse is forensic. And whether you assume the role of defense, prosecution, judge or juror, you’ll have plenty to work with. If you fully opt in to certain Google products (in my case, various Google apps on an iPhone, including Google Maps), years of location history will be rendered as glowing circles, shaded from violet to green to yellow to red and overlaid on a map of the world. To explore this data is to toggle, in seconds, among wildly disparate emotional states: surprise, disorientation, curiosity, disappointment.

I first looked at my map zoomed all the way out and thought, That’s it? A glowing red blast radius surrounded New York City, where I live; fainter orbs floated over towns where I visited family. That time in Nashville, for a conference. A failed reporting trip to Northern California. A few vacations, some layovers at airports, some weekend trips near the city. The full force of Google’s apparatus had been summoned here, it seemed, to tell me to travel more. (According to Google, the company does not share users’ location histories with advertisers, nor does it serve ads to users based on specific places in their location histories.)

[snip]

The Hacking of America

The Hacking of America
Political and technological disruption have fed off each other since the nation’s founding. Now they are dangerously out of whack.
By Jill Lepore
Sep 14 2018
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/14/sunday-review/politics-disruption-media-technology.html

Every government is a machine, and every machine has its tinkerers — and its jams. From the start, machines have driven American democracy and, just as often, crippled it. The printing press, the telegraph, the radio, the television, the mainframe, cable TV, the internet: Each had wild-eyed boosters who promised that a machine could hold the republic together, or make it more efficient, or repair the damage caused by the last machine. Each time, this assertion would be both right and terribly wrong. But lately, it’s mainly wrong, chiefly because the rules that prevail on the internet were devised by people who fundamentally don’t believe in government.

The Constitution itself was understood by its framers as a machine, a precisely constructed instrument whose measures — its separation of powers, its checks and balances — were mechanical devices, as intricate as the gears of a clock, designed to thwart tyrants, mobs and demagogues, and to prevent the forming of factions. Once those factions began to appear, it became clear that other machines would be needed to establish stable parties. “The engine is the press,” Thomas Jefferson, an inveterate inventor, wrote in 1799.

The United States was founded as a political experiment; it seemed natural that it should advance and grow through technological experiment. Different technologies have offered different fixes. Equality was the promise of the penny press, newspapers so cheap that anyone could afford them. The New York Sun was first published in 1833. “It shines for all” was its common-man motto. Union was the promise of the telegraph. “The greatest revolution of modern times, and indeed of all time, for the amelioration of society, has been effected by the magnetic telegraph,” The Sun announced, proclaiming “the annihilation of space.”

Time was being annihilated too. As The New York Herald pointed out, the telegraph appeared to make it possible for “the whole nation” to have “the same idea at the same moment.” Frederick Douglass was convinced that the great machines of the age were ushering in an era of worldwide political revolution. “Thanks to steam navigation and electric wires,” he wrote, “a revolution cannot be confined to the place or the people where it may commence but flashes with lightning speed from heart to heart.” Henry David Thoreau raised an eyebrow: “We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate.”

Thoreau was as alone in his skepticism as he was in his cabin. “Doubt has been entertained by many patriotic minds how far the rapid, full and thorough intercommunication of thought and intelligence, so necessary to the people living under a common representative republic, could be expected to take place throughout such immense bounds,” a House member said in 1845, but “that doubt can no longer exist.” Less than 20 years later, a nation tied together by 50,000 miles of wire, 1,400 stations and 10,000 telegraph operators fell into civil war.

Even that savage war didn’t diminish Americans’ faith that technology could solve the problem of political division. In the 1920s, Herbert Hoover, as secretary of commerce, rightly anticipated that radio, the nation’s next great mechanical experiment, would make it possible for political candidates and officeholders to speak to voters without the bother and expense of traveling to meet them. NBC began radio broadcasting in 1926, CBS in 1928. By the end of the decade, nearly every household would have a wireless. Hoover promised that radio would make Americans “literally one people.”

That radio fulfilled this promise for as long as it did is the result of decisions made by Mr. Hoover, a Republican who believed that the government had a role to play in overseeing the airwaves by issuing licenses for frequencies to broadcasting companies and regulating their use. “The ether is a public medium,” he insisted, “and its use must be for the public benefit.” He pressed for passage of the Radio Act of 1927, one of the most consequential and underappreciated acts of Progressive reform — insisting that programmers had to answer to the public interest. That commitment was extended to television in 1949 when the Federal Communications Commission, the successor to the Federal Radio Commission, established the Fairness Doctrine, a standard for television news that required a “reasonably balanced presentation” of different political views.

Radio, though, was also a tool of tyrants. Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s minister of propaganda, had a device installed in his office that allowed him to pre-empt national programming. He also hoped to sow division in the United States, partly through a shortwave radio system, the ministry’s “long-range propaganda artillery.” It spread lies about a “Communist Jewish conspiracy” that sounded like news reports, which the newspapers at the time referred to as “fake news.”

In 1938, Orson Welles tried to raise the alarm about fake news with his notorious radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds.” Fifteen minutes into the program, listeners began to call the station in terror, believing that the earth was really being invaded by Martians. A station supervisor asked Welles to halt the broadcast; Welles refused. Dorothy Thompson was grateful to him, writing in her column in The New York Herald-Tribune that Welles had “made a greater contribution to an understanding of Hitlerism, Mussolinism, Stalinism, anti-Semitism, and all the other terrorism of our times, more than will all the words about them that have been written.”

[snip]

Borrowing strategy from NRA, activists quietly overturn knife restrictions across U.S.

Borrowing strategy from NRA, activists quietly overturn knife restrictions across U.S.
By Todd C. Frankel
Sep 15 2018
https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/borrowing-strategy-from-nra-activists-quietly-overturn-knife-restrictions-across-us/2018/09/15/3585d724-b789-11e8-94eb-3bd52dfe917b_story.html

He ordered the 20-ounce rib-eye, and so the waitress at the upscale restaurant dropped off a wood-handled serrated steak knife. Doug Ritter ignored it. Instead he pulled out a folding knife, its 3.4-inch blade illegal to carry concealed here in Clark County. He flicked it open with one hand. When the steak arrived, medium-rare, he started cutting. 

The steak dinner came as Ritter was savoring his many successful attempts at repealing the nation’s knife laws. Decades-old restrictions on switchblades, daggers and stilettos have fallen away in state after state in recent years. Much of this is because of Ritter and his little-known Arizona-based advocacy group Knife Rights, which has used tactics borrowed from the National Rifle Association to rack up legislative victories across the nation. And many of the changes have escaped widespread notice, obscured, in part, by the nation’s focus on guns.

But knife fans know. The morning after his steak dinner, Ritter walked like a celebrity into a major knife convention here.

“Thank you for everything you’re doing for us. Really,” an official with knife maker Ka-Bar told him.

“I live in Louisiana, so thank you,” said another convention-goer, hailing from a state that abandoned its switchblade ban this summer.

Ritter, 65, said that knives, like guns, should be considered arms protected by the Second Amendment. He doesn’t support any restriction on knives — not on switchblades or push daggers or even the ballistic knives that shoot like spears from a handle.

That’s become a winning argument. Twenty-one states have repealed or weakened their knife laws since 2010, many of them with bipartisan support, including Colorado, Michigan and Illinois. New York came close to doing the same last year. Ohio could be next. Texas passed its bill last year despite a high-profile stabbing death just days before lawmakers voted. And Knife Rights, with little financial backing, has been working behind the scenes to help make it happen.

“A lot of people said it would be impossible to repeal a switchblade law in any state. Insane. Tilting at windmills,” Ritter said. “Turns out they were wrong.”

The success of Knife Rights comes as calls for weapons bans have intensified following mass shootings, such as the one here in Las Vegas last year that left 58 people dead.

Guns are by far the leading cause of homicides in the nation. 

But knives are No. 2, according to the FBI, making up 11 percent of killings in 2016 and a growing number of violent crimes.

Yet knives have escaped comparable scrutiny.

The FBI records about 1,600 knife slayings a year, a number dwarfed by the 7,100 annual handgun killings. But that is still four times as high as the number killed by rifles, including the assault-style rifles that are the focus of gun-control activists.

There are mass stabbings, too, but they tend to receive less attention. In 2014, a 16-year-old student wounded 21 people at a Pittsburgh high school with a knife. Last year, a man allegedly used a knife to kill two people and injure a third at a train station in Portland, Ore. In July, a man stabbed nine people, killing a 3-year-old girl, at her birthday party in Boise, Idaho.

But little is known about knife violence in the United States. No national statistics track the kind of knife used in crimes. There is no group opposing expanded knife rights.

“It certainly makes our job easier,” Ritter said.

This is contrasted with how knife crime is treated in countries such as Britain and Australia, where guns are more strictly regulated and knife crimes are publicly debated.

In the United States, knife activists acknowledge gun violence’s influence on attitudes toward knives. 

[snip]

Take Apple’s advice: Don’t rush to buy a new iPhone

Take Apple’s advice: Don’t rush to buy a new iPhone
The best iPhone is the one you already paid for—running the latest software.
By Jared Newman
Sep 14 2018
https://www.fastcompany.com/90237242/take-apples-advice-dont-rush-to-buy-a-new-iphone

Like most Apple events, last Wednesday’s big iPhone and Apple Watch reveal was a master class in manufacturing desire. For nearly two hours, Apple executives spoke of larger and more vibrant screens, faster processors, and better cameras, all in service of making your current iPhone or Apple Watch seem like stale bread.

So it was a bit jarring when Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of environment, policy, and social initiatives, took the stage and subtly suggested that you might not need a new iPhone after all. During her five-minute presentation on Apple’s sustainability efforts, Jackson claimed that iPhones are built to last, thereby reducing the environmental impact of making new ones.

“Because they last longer, you can keep using them,” Jackson said. “And keeping using them is the best thing for the planet.”

Protecting the environment isn’t the only reason to hold off on buying a new iPhone. With last year’s iPhone X, Apple increased the base price for a top-of-the-line phone to $999, up $230 from the iPhone 7 Plus in 2016. This year, Apple is pushing prices even higher with the $1,099 iPhone Xs Max, a larger sibling to the new $999 iPhone Xs. Even Apple’s new budget-priced model, the $749 iPhone Xr, is $50 pricier than last year’s second-tier iPhone 8. Waiting longer between upgrades is one way to offset those increasing costs.

Besides, Jackson has a point: Old iPhones are better than ever, so replacing them isn’t so urgent.

All in the OS

Rejuvenating old phones was one of the main goals of iOS 12, which will be available for download on September 17. Apple claims that the upgrade can help launch apps up to twice as fast under heavy loads, load the camera up to 70% faster from lock screen, and speed up keyboard display times by up to 50%. And for the first time, this iOS upgrade covers five previous generations of iPhones, stretching back to the iPhone 5S.

Older phones weren’t always as much of a focus for Apple and its iOS upgrades. With the original iPhone and iPhone 3G, Apple only offered two upgrades apiece, followed by three upgrades apiece for the iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4. And even if an old phone was eligible for a new iOS version, installing it was a gamble. The iPhone 4 struggled to handle iOS 7’s new animations, and the iPhone 4S neither looked right nor performed well under iOS 8. Effectively, users had to decide between stability and new features like Facetime or Notification Center.

Over time, though, Apple has both increased the number of upgrades each phone can get and improved the performance of those upgrades on aging hardware. Ars Technica, which has reviewed older iPhones on new iOS versions for years, was satisfied with both iOS 10 on the iPhone 5S and iOS 11 on the iPhone 5S, despite reporting some mild slowdown in both cases. (However, some people who installed iOS 11 did report severe problems, especially with the version available on day one.)

As for iOS 12, this week I installed the beta on an iPhone 6 Plus and started carrying it around in lieu of my usual Google Pixel 2 XL. While the iPhone occasionally needs an extra second or two to load an app or pop up the keyboard, using this four-year-old phone has been acceptable in the same way that using a four-year-old laptop might be. The display is bright and crisp even by today’s standards, and the camera–though not a fancy dual-lens system–loads in an instant and takes pretty good pictures in any lighting condition. I quickly recalled that even in 2014, I was confident enough in the iPhone 6 Plus camera to start leaving my DSLR at home. The experience has helped me realize that the habit of replacing a two-year-old phone these days is driven more by gadget lust than an actual need.

[snip]

Census Bureau Reveals Grim Facts about Real Earnings of Men

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

Census Bureau Reveals Grim Facts about Real Earnings of Men
By Yves Smith
Sep 14 2018
https://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2018/09/census-bureau-reveals-grim-facts-real-earnings-men.html

By Wolf Richter, a San Francisco based executive, entrepreneur, start up specialist, and author, with extensive international work experience. Originally published at Wolf Street

Women weren’t so lucky either. But who got the spoils?

On the surface, the annual household income data released by the Census Bureautoday, looks mediocre. But beneath the surface, it looks grim – grim for whom? Ha, we’ll get to that.

So the mediocre news right up front: < Median household income in 2017, adjusted for inflation (via CPI), inched up a measly 1.8% to $61,372. “Household income” is the entire pre-tax “money income” of a household, including wages, interest, dividends, Social Security, Workers Comp, child support, and the like, but excluding capital gains. The mediocre news is that median household income has finally inched above where it had been 18 years ago, in 1999:

Now the grim news: bitter reality for men.

But it’s not great for women either: For women who were working full-time year-round in 2017, median wages (income obtained only from working) declined 1.1% on an inflation-adjusted basis to $41,977 – from a record in 2016 of $42,448.

So a hiccup perhaps in a well-deserved series of increases going back to 1960. The female-to-male earnings ratio remained at the record level of 80.5%, first achieved in 2016, up from the 60%-range before 1982.

But for men – oh dude! Median real earnings for men who worked full-time year-round fell a full 3.0% in 2017 to $52,146. On an inflation-adjusted basis, men had earned more than that in 1972 ($53,609). This translates into 45 years of real-earnings decline for men:

Men have suffered the brunt of the real-wage repression over the past four decades, obtained in part via inflation, an insidious process where wages inch up, but not quite enough to keep up with the Fed-engineered loss of purchasing power of the dollar – a process Wall Street economists praise with conviction.

In addition, even a slight but systematic and purposeful miscalculation of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which is used to adjust this inflation-adjusted income data — for example a percentage point or less each year — is cumulative; and over the span of four decades, the real-real earnings decline is large. Wonder why many men are frustrated?

So who got the spoils?

“Earnings” in this data set are the fruits of labor – so wages, salaries, and the like. But “household income” includes “money income” from other sources:

• Earnings
• Unemployment compensation
• Workers’ compensation
• Social security
• Supplemental security income
• Public assistance
• Veterans’ payments
• Survivor benefits
• Disability benefits
• Pension or retirement income
• Interest
• Dividends
• Rents, royalties, and estates and trusts
• Educational assistance
• Alimony
• Child support
• Financial assistance from outside of the household
• Other income

“Household income” is measured on a pre-tax basis. But it does notinclude noncash benefits, such as food stamps, subsidized housing benefits, or healthcare benefits — a hefty amount for executives at big companies.

While household income includes income from investment (items 10, 11, 12, and 13 in the list above), it does notinclude capital gains and other forms of capital appreciation of any kind, from portfolio gains and home-price appreciation to stock options.

In terms of the income distribution, the proceeds from investment (items 10, 11, 12, and 13 in the list above) play a critical role at the upper end. Again, this income does not include capital gains! This is how the median household income, pre-tax and adjusted for inflation, has grown by income segment (quintiles) and for the top 5%:

[snip]