Top Takeaway from Yahoo!'s testimony to Congress

If you recall, we are to believe that it took Yahoo! leadership years to both recognise that their data storage systems had been breached, and then notify users that their data, including some personally identifiable information had been stolen.

When put in the context of the scandal around the recent Equifax breach, and the emerging understanding of how state actors may be infiltrating US data systems, Senator Bill Nelson seems to have said what everyone was thinking:

 “...only stiffer enforcement and stringent penalties will help incentivize companies to properly safeguard consumer information.”

Meyer had to be subpoenaed after she refused to appear voluntarily. You can read more about the hearing here.

Solar jobs growing 12x faster than US economy

A couple interesting points below based on the article, which you can find here.

  1. What it takes to pop solar on rooftops takes far more workers than the big industrial stuff that would replace coal fired power plants. The efficiency at scale is real.

    Rooftop installations drove much of the growth this year. Household projects accounted for 63 percent of the industry’s jobs, with 15 percent of the workforce tackling commercial projects and 22 percent building utility-scale installations. That points to an interesting disjoint in the way the industry operates: the type of solar installation that replaces the most greenhouse gas emissions represents a smaller share of the solar workforce. The report says this is because utility-scale projects are less labor-intensive.

  2. If this sort of growth continues, then Solar jobs will be the energy sector's most dominant type of work. That can seriously change the way Congress is lobbied. to be sure, Congressional representatives of places that still extract fossil fuels will be against it, but all that means is that companies need to look at the map and choose sunny places to hire people so that they can break those representatives constituencies and thus ensure long term growth with government support. Let's not forget-- government always picks winners and losers.

  3. Going back to point #1 above-- there's a huge win-win-win for the president if he can see past the sterotypical GOP dislike of renewable energy. Power plants are usually government monopolies, which means that they receive corporate welfare. If he gave incentives to solar companies and the 50 states to ramp up on rooftop solar, it would begin the obviation of traditional power companies while ramping up the need for these workers. The third win is that opposition party Dems would have to work with him or look like they're not genuine about energy and the environment. Whether the opposition party works with him or not, he'd look like he was putting "America First" with regard to jobs and any dependence the US has to foreign energy sources.
    You save a lot of oil if you don't have to transport coal by truck or diesel locomotive.
    You also require less natural gas and oil pipelines if most electricity is coming from people's rooftops. 
    And a bonus? The idea of each homeowner generating and managing their own electricity usage falls inline with the individual responsibility and self-reliance ideals and principles of US conservative politics. 

The environment, specifically, the carbon crisis, is probably the most important issue of our time. Let's use political and scientific realities to solve it.

 

85% of Manufacturing Job Losses are due to Robots.

 Alison Burke wiring for. Too king's Now with Regard to the Manufacturing Question:

"...the predominant force behind losses in manufacturing employment has been technological change (85 percent), not international trade. As she explains, automation has transformed the American factory, and the advent of new technologies (like robotics and 3D printing) has rendered many low-skilled jobs unnecessary."

The fault is not with other nations, it is with ourselves.

Those without skills will lack the opportunity to earn the purchasing power necessary to fare well.

The solution? We must simply change course and do what we have not done in the past-- ensure that all have access to opportunity.

Make it easy to access, or affordable or vocational or whatever label one has to put on it but tie those qualities to a universal message that we all must have it and in doing so compete with one another for meaningful, gainful employment.

Clinton did poorly at making such a fact based appeal. Indeed the winds of discourse flew from these truths. On this issue, Trump's misrepresentation of America's trade deficits and outsourcing as the reason for US manufacturing's decline won the day.

The truth of this matter, however, is something we have yet to actually contend with. 

America, Properly Defined By German Automotive Engineering

In this time of discord about what makes America great, this 30 second ad spot (yay capitalism?) could be the greatest, most significant message about what the USA is. It is fitting that it was designed around and relies upon the Olympics.
Not surprisingly, it is a view from the outside that looks in to tell us the truth about ourselves. Thanks BMW.

"Facebook Decides Which Killings We’re Allowed to See"

Joseph Cox and Kason Koebler writing for Motherboard:

A video of the aftermath of a fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer was temporarily removed from Facebook. The company has said the removal was due to a “technical glitch.”

“We're very sorry that the video was inaccessible,” a Facebook spokesperson told The Telegraph. “It was down to a technical glitch and restored as soon as we were able to investigate.”

They go on to say:

The video has since been restored, but with a “Warning—Graphic Video,” disclaimer.

“Videos that contain graphic content can shock, offend and upset. Are you sure you want to see this?” the disclaimer continues.

Judging by the timestamps on tweets, the video was restored within around an hour of being removed.

Facebook did not respond to a series of questions about the apparent glitch, or if the video was flagged by a user or by Facebook itself.

This is problematic. Just last week, Facebook announced that they were going to change their news feed algorithms to favour content generated and uploaded by users rather than news sites like Upworthy and CNN. Here we have someone attempting to make sure the world sees the injustice she believes that her lover and her are facing and Facebook essentially silences her for a time.

Now it could be that of the millions of users who viewed the video, thousands or tens of thousands flagged the content as inappropriate. If that's the case, then they should just say so. 

Given the aforementioned algorithm change and the recent kerfuffle about the Trending News suffering from liberal editorial bias, Facebook is in jeopardy of losing the trust that it's re-gained over the last several years after multiple privacy issues. 

The bottom line is that while the social media giant is clearly a private company with its own processes, Facebook needs to come up with a clear set of guidelines for those within and without to work with. That would cease this confusion, as well as build and maintain trust.

Should Robots Pay Taxes?

Over in Europe, where they hate technology, Charles Riley, writing for CNN Money, reveals findings from a new draft policy report that seeks to penalize corporations by taxing them on robotic manufacturing techniques. The report, headed by Mady Delvaus, a Luxumbourg representative to the EU Parliment, states in part that the EU should secure tax revenue from not people, nor corporations, but from the machines that corporations use to generate goods: Robots. Here are some choice quotes:

"The proposal suggests that robots should have to register with authorities, and says laws should be written to hold machines liable for damage they cause, such as loss of jobs."

"If advanced robots start replacing human workers in large numbers, the report recommends the European Commission force their owners to pay taxes or contribute to social security. The establishment of a basic income, or guaranteed welfare program, is also suggested as a protection against human unemployment."

Switzerland's government just held an open debate and referendum on a "basic income" and it was roundly rejected.

Back to the point-- taxing companies for their gains at efficiency is problematic. For nearly a century, the Western World has dreamt and worked toward an agenda of productivity that frees humans from the sort of physical toil that can lead to workplace injuries and long-term health problems by building machines that can take over those roles and perform them more efficiently. These efforts, in turn, lead to (1) better quality of life for workers, (2) positive economic growth as productivity rises and (3) fuels growth in the standard of living as manufactured goods and devices become cheaper.

Amazon.com uses just such robots to make sure they can deliver purchased items to users quickly, while saving valueable space in warehouses.

In the case of autonomous cars, we'll see less taxis on the road, and less drivers taking the wheel, which will likely lead to less costly accidents, less traffic, and less injuries. Stopping manufacturers from pursuing this course of action by throwing a new tax in the way of the efficiency incentives tied to this new technology is a bad idea.

Let's not forget what happened when Google was told by Spain that their service of helping people find news stories was going to be taxed: Google News went away leaving Spain's public  less informed than the rest of their fellow EU citizens. 

There is some good news nestled deep within this report. It suggests we implement Asimov's three laws on all new artificial intelligence devices. They're simple to understand and are as follows:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

  2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Considering that the governments of the world have agreed to such pacts regarding Antarcticachemical weaponslasers, and even outer space, the above three principles shouldn't be too hard to agree upon.

Taxes, however, are an entirely different story.

 

Beijing Regulator Orders Apple to Stop Sales of Two iPhone Models

Eva Dou for the Wall Street Journal: 

"Beijing’s intellectual property regulator has ordered Apple Inc. to stop sales of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the city, ruling that the design is too similar to a Chinese phone, in another setback for the company in a key overseas market."

 

I was in Beijing a couple of weeks ago and on the subway I was surprised by the look of one Android phone that at first glance, looked like an iPhone 6/6S. It was white and it was everywhere.  

Court Backs Rules Treating Internet as Utility, Not Luxury

An important example of when it's important to maintain the status quo. still, while this is definitely a desired outcome in the view of the public interest, this won't be settled until it's been looked at by the Supreme Court.

Cecilia Kang of The New York Times wrote a great article about this and their video (below) is exceptionally informative.

The Business Model is Illegality

"Let's not pussyfoot around here. The business model of these tax havens, beit the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, beit Panama-- the business model is built around-- 'We will allow you to engage in practices for a small fee that would otherwise be illegal in your host country.' That's the business model."
- Senator Sam Dastyari of Australia

The Australian documentary/report about the #PanamaPapers is on YouTube right now. Given the nature of the leak (11 million documents), it's rather succinct at 45 minutes.

Where are they?

"Hong Kong’s chief executive Leung Chun-ying said that it was “not acceptable” for Chinese police to operate independently in Hong Kong, but Leung, a Beijing loyalist, said there was “no indication” this was what had happened.

But pro-democracy lawmakers said it appeared likely Lee had been kidnapped by Chinese police, and expressed shock, anger and fear.

If confirmed, lawmakers said, Lee’s abduction would be a serious violation of the 'One Country, Two Systems' principle and the Basic Law framework that has defined Beijing’s relations with Hong since the 1997 handover from British rule."

Worrisome. Is there an official investigation?

Quartz - More Americans are relying exclusively on their phones for Internet access

The cost of home broadband is just too high.

And paradoxically, we can't afford for it to be too high since:

(1) our economy requires rich connectivity to support its entertainment, software, and services-based sectors and

(2) young people need regular, cheap and abundant access to the Internet in order to become the workers and innovators of tomorrow.

The solution is simple: The broadband market must be made more competitive. Congress, in league with the FCC and the FTC can and should make this a priority.

War on Drugs Wanes as Demographics Shift

 "War" is how the US mainstream fights its enemies. Put another way, for many, the War on Poverty and War on Drugs were US lead conflicts against the poor and against people inflicted with addiction.


Perhaps now that these ills have taken hold

of the mainstream, we can, hand in hand, actually begin working on how to solve the problems we face rather than scheme to attack and exploit a faceless "other."