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Interesting YouTube Channel: This is Dan Bell

May 15, 2017 3 comments

A few weeks ago, I came across a YouTube channel detailing the sorry state of malls and non-4/5 star hotels in USA. The videos on this channel might, at first sight, just seem entertaining- if a somewhat odd way. They do however hint to a much bigger problem underlying problem, namely, that things in many parts of USA are going downhill at a pretty alarming rate.

It is worthwhile to note that many of the malls and motels/hotels featured on this channel were not always places full of decay and abandonment. In fact, even a bit of googling reveals that more than a few of the malls and hotels covered in these videos were once very functional if somewhat unremarkable places filled with people who had money to spend and fulfilling lives to live.

Today they are either empty and decaying or used by marginalized people who once had “normal” jobs and lives. In other words, these videos show (if somewhat inadvertently) how far things have fallen for the majority of people in USA- especially outside a few nice coastal enclaves and other islands of relative affluence.

Here is a link to the YouTube Channel: This is Dan Bell

Clip 1: Dead Mall Series: Hickory Ridge Mall, Memphis, TN

Clip 2: Another Dirty Room Ep. 9: Regal Inn and Suites, Rosedale, MD

Enjoy! Comments?

Interesting Links: May 3, 2017

Here are links to three interesting posts which I came across recently. At first glance, they appear to be about three different topics. However once you read them it is obvious that they are describing various aspects of the same basic problem- namely, what happens when you let capitalism and legalism run amock. To be more precise, all of them describe the disastrous (but very predictable) consequences of celebrating the gaming of proxy measures of reality by greedy people aka credentialed “meritocrats”.

The first link is about how the “healthcare” system in USA ends up providing quite shitty and ridiculously expensive medical treatment. The second one is about “innovation” in Silly Valley is now largely about trying to DRM everything, extract even more rents and working precariously employed people to a slow death- all without providing any added value to rest of society. The third link talks about the real motivation behind establishment democrats blaming Putin for Trump’s “surprising” electoral victory. As some of you might know, one of my older posts said something very similar.

Link 1: How Economic Incentives have Created our Dysfunctional US Medical Market

In my new book “An American Sickness: How Healthcare Became Big Business and How You Can Take it Back,” I began with a list of 10 Economic Rules that seem to govern the Dysfunctional U.S. Medical Market. Some readers reacted with disbelief: How could such seemingly callous and absurd-sounding principles form the underpinning of something as precious as our healthcare? So here, I’ve illustrated each of the 10 rules with some real-life examples from the book to show you how they do, indeed, come into play. What you’ll see is that the economic forces and incentives that motivate our health system often lead to medical practices that are not especially good for our health — or our wallets.

Link 2: The Three Hot Trends in Silicon Valley Horseshit

The purpose of these companies is to take whatever tiny sense of social responsibility businesses might still feel to give people stable jobs and destroy it, replacing whatever remains of the permanent, salaried, benefit-enjoying workforce with an army of desperate freelancers who will never go to bed feeling secure in their financial future for their entire lives. These companies are for people who think temp agencies are too coddling and well remunerative. The only service they sell is making it easier to kill minimally stable, well-compensated jobs. That’s it. They have no other function. They valorize Doers while killing workers. They siphon money from the desperate throngs back to the employers who will use them up and throw them aside like a discarded Juicero bag and, of course, to themselves and their shareholders. That’s it. That’s all they are. That’s all they do. They are the final logic of late capitalism, the engine of human creativity applied to the essential work of making life worse for regular people.

Link 3: The Anatomy of Liberal Melancholy

Liberals see no such system. Instead, they see more or less qualified individuals who either have the right ideas or not, in government or business: cultural diversity, a fervent belief in incremental rather than structural change, and a firm commitment to meritocratic success. Rather than thinking historically—and preferring to avoid the whole idea of neoliberalism—they profess an ethos. And since they cannot recognize neoliberalism as a system, they cannot acknowledge its political and economic dissolution, its steady descent into incoherence. They cannot acknowledge the loss of the historical soil of their selfhood.

Enjoy! Comments?

Interesting Links: Mar 17, 2017

March 17, 2017 2 comments

Here are three interesting links I came across recently. Though they are apparently about three different fields, namely, drug discovery, higher education and establishment liberalism- all three are about manifestations of the same underlying trend. And what is that trend? Well.. let me put it this way. The rather disappointing results for what was hyped as the next multi-billion dollar drug, the role of credential inflation in the success of for-profit colleges and the willingness of supposedly ‘liberal intellectuals’ to spout ideas that are conservative in all but name are three aspects of the same problem.

They are all examples of what happens when large centralized systems are run by people who want to live in their manufactured reality- even when it has no connection to the real world. Putting hundreds of millions into a drug discovery program based on the trendiness of the idea is really not that different from hiring people based on paper credentials or ‘liberal intellectuals’ spouting dubious conservative talking points about race and class. They are different manifestations of the so-called ‘meritocratic’ elite repeatedly fooling themselves to the detriment of others without suffering any personal negative consequences.

Link 1: PCSK9: Real World Data Arrives, Unfortunately

This morning we have three-year data from Amgen and their drug Repatha (evolocumab), an announcement that has been eagerly awaited. And it’s honestly not all that impressive. There’s a 15% relative reduction in cardiovascular risk (heart attack, stroke, etc.) relative to placebo, but investors were looking for something more over 20%. Insurance companies were probably looking for that, too, and given the price they’d have been happier to see something more like 25%. Amgen is defending the data (as quotes in this Adam Feuerstein piece show), but I don’t think that’s going to do the job. The numbers shouldn’t have to be interpreted and spun; in a three-year study with over 13,000 patients in each arm, the numbers should be able to speak for themselves, and they don’t.

Link 2: Credentials, Jobs and the New Economy

That kind of professionalization and educational inflation falls under the “declining internal labor markets” rubric of the new economy. Unlike in the past, when experience and subsequent licensures might be obtained through an employer — in this case, a hospital — the expectation now is that workers will increase their human capital at personal expense to “move up” the professional ladder. Janice’s choices for promotion were limited: she could hope for favorable reviews from a sympathetic management culture (a risky proposition) or earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Political wrangling over job statistics looks like action, but it is mostly a distraction. Sociologist David Brown has shown that credentials can be created without jobs to justify them. We produce risky credentials when how we work changes dramatically, and the way we work shapes what kind of credentials we produce. If we have a shitty credentialing system, in the case of for-profit colleges, then it is likely because we have a shitty labor market. To be more precise, we have a labor market where the social contract between workers and the work on which college has previously relied has fundamentally changed and makes more workers vulnerable.

Link 3: Liberals and diversity

More and more, it seems like liberals in The Discourse agree with this basic conservative assessment of how diversity affects society. But, despite that underlying agreement, they somewhat bizarrely resist the conservative conclusion. Despite telling you that they think increasing diversity will result in children going hungry, as well as the mass incarceration and widespread discrimination of minority groups, they nonetheless support it. If liberals are going to adopt the conservative view on how diversity operates in society, then they really do need to also work out what they think the implication of it is. Conservatives are very clear: diversity has all these problems and so it should be restricted. But the liberal view — that diversity has all these problems and yet it should be expanded without restraint — is just incoherent on its face.

Beauchamp’s article gives a clue as to where liberals will go with this. Since they believe 1) diversity is incompatible with justice, and 2) that diversity is important and good, they will reach the conclusion that 3) justice should be sacrificed in order to “beat” right-wing populism. As Beauchamp notes, pursuing a more economically just society “could actually give Trump an even bigger gun” because it flies in the face of the immiseration of racial minorities that majority groups in diverse societies necessarily demand. Thus, it would seem the only way forward is to give in to the bloodthirst a bit in order to stave off an even bigger atrocity.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Blog: McMansion Hell

February 11, 2017 3 comments

A few months ago, I came across a blog called McMansion Hell. As you might have guessed, it is about the overall poor quality of design and construction of large and expensive houses in suburbs and exurbs. While the blog is mostly about McMansions in USA, it does has some posts about similar monstrosities in other countries- especially Canada.

On another note, I wish that he had not hosted it as a Tumblr Blog as finding older posts can be real pain. Here is the link to the index – McMansion Hell Archives.

It is important to understand the critique (and mockery) in that blog is largely directed towards poorly designed and built houses which happen to be large, as opposed to living in or buying a large house. The person who writes that blog is trying to point out that people who buy such ugly and dysfunctional monstrosities have more money than taste or common sense.

Here are a few of her most interesting posts:

Mansion vs McMansion (Part 1) – The real thing Vs its pale imitation- Part 1

Mansion vs McMansion (Part 2) – The real thing vs its pale imitation- Part 2.

Aesthetics Aside, Why McMansions Are Bad Architecture – Many ways McMansions suck.

The McMansion Scale, Explained! – Quantifying the shiftiness of any given McMansion.

Where and Why Do We Build McMansions – Factors enabling these abominations.

and here are a few examples of her brutal and much deserved take down of these shitty stucco-boxes. Browse her tumblr blog archives for more..

Montville Township, NJ – This lovely home, built in 2004 can be yours for the low price of $2,250,000.

Fort Worth, TX – This week’s house, a Mansard built in 1993 (but is totes 1987) is pushing 5,000 square feet, and is currently on the market for $1.3 million USD.

Scottsdale, Arizona – This house, built in 1996 and boasting around 4,000 square feet can be all yours for just under a million dollars!

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Nov 18, 2016

November 18, 2016 Leave a comment

Here are links to a few more recent articles by Michael Tracey on the factors underlying victory of Trump and defeat of HRC and her supposedly impressive political machine.

Link 1: How Hillary Lost North Carolina: Most People Disliked Her

As the 7:30pm deadline in North Carolina approached, there was not a soul waiting on line at one Fayetteville, NC voting location. Earlier in the day I had been told by an election judge to expect a late rush, but it never seemed to come. As of 3:00pm, the judge said that turnout had decreased by around 6% in one heavily black precinct. Working that same site was Justin Shumpert, 21, a young black man and aspiring rapper. (Also the claimed cousin of Cleveland Cavaliers defensive monster Iman Shumpert.) He’d been paid $100 to hand out Democratic Party literature in front of the polling site, but when queried as to his own beliefs, he said he wouldn’t vote. “She lied too many times,” he said, explaining why he couldn’t stand Hillary Clinton. Asked who he’d prefer between the two candidates if forced to choose, Shumpert said Trump. “At least he says what he’s going to do. She just hides it,” he said. He added that he would’ve gladly voted for a third term of Barack Obama.

Link 2: Trump Was Always The Republican Candidate Best Positioned To Defeat Hillary

Which leads us to the question: would any of the other 2016 GOP candidates have beaten Hillary? My inclination is to conclude that another GOP candidate could have ran up the votes in traditional GOP strongholds (such as Texas) where Trump won but atrophied support compared to the Republican norm. It’s not clear, however, that any other GOP candidate could have performed as well as Trump did in the electorally-crucial states. One or two of the other GOP candidates could have possibly still beaten Hillary — Rubio, Kasich — but they would’ve had to figure out another path to do so. I don’t think either of them could have replicated Trump’s path.

Link 3: How The Cult of “Fact-Checking” Helped Trump Win

If you want to find someone to blame for Trump, blame your local idiot journalist who spent 1.5 years in 24/7 anti-Trump meltdown mode, overwhelming the vast majority of news consumers with hysterical “FACT-CHECK!!!!!!!” pronouncements and forcing them to tune out most of the coverage, including anti-Trump coverage that was totally warranted, such as his history of stiffing small business owners. Why did the Hillary campaign focus on lunatic Russia conspiracy theories instead of Trump’s bilking of mom-and-pop cabinet-makers? You’ll have to ask them.

I imagine these fact-check cultists screaming “Fact check! Fact check!” in an obnoxious, nasally nerd voice, all in unison, as if they’re so convinced that they are the final arbiters of truth in the universe. They are so insulated, and cocky, and lack any capacity for self-criticism or self-awareness, that they don’t realize their “fact-checking” crusade is the product of ideology, not direct communion with universal divine wisdom.

This gets to the “fake news” craze now sweeping the punditocracy. Rather than reckon with their own profound failures, the pundit set wants to turn its attention to the abyss of the internet, and get rid of all news they deem “fake.” First amendment implications of the endeavor aside, “pivoting” to this effort gets them off the hook for failing every step of the way for 1.5 years straight. (“You had one job!!!!!!!!!”). How about instead of going to town on random internet content-makers, these elite content-makers grapple with their own failures? That should be step one.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Nov 6, 2016

November 6, 2016 5 comments

Here are links to a few recent articles by Michael Tracy which explain the extent of corrupt, unethical and criminal behavior by Hillary Clinton, her husband and her cronies.

Link 1: Yes, The Clintons Are Uniquely Corrupt: A Grand Finale Essay

A question asked far less frequently, however, is how the Democratic Party entered the thrall of a widely-despised, historically unpopular, scandal-ridden candidate who at present appears to be statistically tied in the polls with the beauty pageant proprietor. Hillary Clinton’s flaws are manifold and have been well-known for ages; as just one example, prominent Democratic operatives groused behind the scenes long before the 2016 campaign formally began that malfeasance related to the Clinton Foundation would certainly become a major electoral liability. Their surmise was correct.

Link 2: Here’s Exactly How We Know That Hillary Is Under Criminal Investigation

When an investigation is “closed,” it’s not necessarily “closed” for all eternity. “Closed” isn’t a technical term. It just means the investigation is no longer being actively pursued. Any criminal investigation can be “re-opened” if additional evidence were to surface. According to Comey’s letter today, just that has happened: additional evidence has surfaced. As Comey put it, the newly-recovered emails “appear to be pertinent to the investigation.” By “the investigation” he is referring to the “investigation of former Secretary Clinton’s personal email server.” That investigation was unambiguously criminal in nature, as demonstrated above. Therefore, if the investigation has resumed in light of newly-surfaced evidence, Hillary is once again under criminal investigation as of today, October 28, 2016.

Link 3: Hillary’s Harassment Brigades

As of late I’ve been on the receiving end of an absolute torrent of 24/7 vitriol. I can perfectly understand why this is so. First, we’re nearing the climax of a highly cantankerous presidential campaign, and tensions are heightened on all sides. On top of that, I regularly expound firm opinions about contentious topics, and some segment of internet users are bound to disagree with what I say. I like to think that my opinions are amply grounded in reporting and facts, but nevertheless, some readers will inevitably take exception and state their objections accordingly.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Sep 1, 2016

September 1, 2016 2 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles I came across recently. They are all about how the “security” or “law and order” agencies in the USA (and other western countries) have become addicted to uncontrollable growth- with openly voracious and cannibalistic behavior. One of the linked pieces also makes the point that such growth creates new vulnerabilities for the host society which are far worse than the problem this growth was supposed to solve.

Link 1: Former Anti-Terror FBI Employee now finds Himself a Target

As a FBI surveillance employee, Ray Tahir spent the last decade tailing Muslims in counterterrorism cases. Among the investigations whose surveillance Tahir led were those of the charity Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development in Texas and North Carolina’s Daniel Patrick Boyd, who with others was convicted of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorists and conspiracy to commit murder, maiming, and kidnapping overseas. Both FBI cases had their critics. The American Civil Liberties Union described the prosecution of Holy Land Foundation as “discriminatory enforcement of counterterrorism laws.” In the Boyd case, as in other informant-led FBI stings, there are questions about whether the men convicted would have done anything at all were it not for the FBI’s involvement. As the FBI targeted Muslims in the United States following the 9/11 attacks, Tahir was among the front-line employees who made some of these cases possible. Now, he alleges, he has become a target himself.

Link 2: Leaked Catalogue reveals a Vast Array of Military Spy Gear offered to U.S. Police

A Confidential, 120-page catalogue of spy equipment, originating from British defense firm Cobham and circulated to U.S. law enforcement, touts gear that can intercept wireless calls and text messages, locate people via their mobile phones, and jam cellular communications in a particular area. The catalogue was obtained by The Intercept as part of a large trove of documents originating within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, where spokesperson Molly Best confirmed Cobham wares have been purchased but did not provide further information. The document provides a rare look at the wide range of electronic surveillance tactics used by police and militaries in the U.S. and abroad, offering equipment ranging from black boxes that can monitor an entire town’s cellular signals to microphones hidden in lighters and cameras hidden in trashcans. Markings date it to 2014. Cobham, recently cited among several major British firms exporting surveillance technology to oppressive regimes, has counted police in the United States among its clients, Cobham spokesperson Greg Caires confirmed.

Link 3: Hacking the US with only a Sound

Unlike the classic example of yelling “fire” in a crowded movie theater, this panic can be induced by anything that sounds/looks/feels like a threat rather than the claim of a specific threat (like “fire”). Nearly anything can set them off. Here’s three examples of that over the last two weeks (there have been many more): JFK Airport- Unfounded reports of gunfire led to an evacuation of terminals. Police march passengers out of the terminal with their hands up. Police speculate that it was started by load fans of the Rio Olympics. CrabTree Valley Mall (NC)- Unfounded reports of an active shooter leads to a panicked evacuation of the mall. LAX Airport- Unfounded reports of a shooter led to people storming the jetway doors and spilling out onto the tarmac, people barricading themselves into bathrooms in multiple terminals, and more.

This public reactiveness may become the new normal both here and in Europe. If so, we can expect people take advantage of it. Here’s how. All it takes is a single audio clip. Like this or this either near a public space or done remotely on a timed playback device is all it would take to ignite the FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) that leads to a large-scale evacuation. In fact, people are so reactive now, I suspect it wouldn’t even take a sound that is explicit, only something that sounds similar. Think about this for a moment. The ability to shut down a public space for hours: anytime (just walk in and play the sounds); remotely (low-cost playback device on timer/remote activation); or on a large-scale (thousands of people playing the sounds on their smart phones in public spaces simultaneously)

What do you think? Comments?