“The officers responsible are rarely prosecuted.”

Protests over the murder of an unarmed black man at the hands of a white police officer have reached every single US state, in a level of nationwide demonstration not seen since the 1968 assassination of civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr.

Curfews are in place across dozens of cities and National Guard troops have been deployed to back up an already heavily militarised police in at least 23 states.

The arrest on Friday of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s case, has not quelled the demonstrations which look set to enter their seventh night in some areas.

This Is How Absolutely Massive The George Floyd Protests Are Across The US

You get the feeling that the cops in the USA just aren’t held accountable to any reasonable standard.

No officers were ever charged” “all four officers acquitted” “No police officers were charged” “was fired but not charged”

Is anyone really surprised the pot boiled over?

Tim Bray takes a stand

Tim Bray, now ex-VP in Amazon, quit his job in protest at the treatment of the warehouse workers:

Amazon is exceptionally well-managed and has demonstrated great skill at spotting opportunities and building repeatable processes for exploiting them. It has a corresponding lack of vision about the human costs of the relentless growth and accumulation of wealth and power. If we don’t like certain things Amazon is doing, we need to put legal guardrails in place to stop those things. We don’t need to invent anything new; a combination of antitrust and living-wage and worker-empowerment legislation, rigorously enforced, offers a clear path forward.

Don’t say it can’t be done, because France is doing it.

Poison · Firing whistleblowers isn’t just a side-effect of macroeconomic forces, nor is it intrinsic to the function of free markets. It’s evidence of a vein of toxicity running through the company culture. I choose neither to serve nor drink that poison. ¶

What about AWS? · Amazon Web Services (the “Cloud Computing” arm of the company), where I worked, is a different story. It treats its workers humanely, strives for work/life balance, struggles to move the diversity needle (and mostly fails, but so does everyone else), and is by and large an ethical organization. I genuinely admire its leadership. ¶

Of course, its workers have power. The average pay is very high, and anyone who’s unhappy can walk across the street and get another job paying the same or better.

Spot a pattern? · At the end of the day, it’s all about power balances. The warehouse workers are weak and getting weaker, what with mass unemployment and (in the US) job-linked health insurance. So they’re gonna get treated like crap, because capitalism. Any plausible solution has to start with increasing their collective strength. ¶

Worth reading in full.

Silent Skies

I can usually see a stream of little silver slivers on the horizon, landing and taking off from Dublin Airport. Now, the skies are empty and silent. Global air traffic has collapsed:

The tiny yellow aircraft symbols speak volumes. Anyone familiar with the flight-tracking website Flightradar24 knows the scores of miniature aircraft on the interactive world map, swarming all over the globe like insects. Usually it’s fascinating to watch the pulsating traffic patterns and movements between continents, varying according to local times and peak hours.

Currently, a look at global flight activities reveals an eerie picture as the swarms have all but disappeared. Clicking on the plane symbols allows users to identify what is still in the air — it’s mainly cargo aircraft, planes bringing home stranded tourists plus a handful of remaining regular flights.

Exactly 101 years after the world’s first international scheduled air connection in February of 1919, the new coronavirus has almost brought the world air transportation system to a virtual standstill.

The roads are empty too. Although, as everyone is limited to 2km exercise trips, there’s a lot more people out walking, cycling, at all hours. It’s been nice not to have to commute every day, luckily we both work in IT so our jobs are pretty much doable anywhere. It makes the day calmer, it’s something I’d like to continue after all this is over. Why battle into an office every day?

Enoch Powell did such harm to this country. When he did his Rivers of Blood speech in 1968 everything changed. I went from being “Lettsy” in the playground to “that black bastard” and “golliwog” overnight. And, thanks to Brexit, it’s happening again. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. I still believe in the power of music and culture to change peoples lives, but I’m struggling.

Don Letts, ‘Punk was a refuge from racism’

“Prison often isn’t about correction”

It’s ironic that people go to prison for committing crimes, but inside a prison it’s so lawless. People forget that about 95% of American prisoners get out one day. I did an interview once with a host who prided himself for being tough on crime. I said to him: “Let’s say your future neighbor does 10 years in prison. Do you want him to get a college education in prison? Or do you want him to learn how to brew prison hooch really good while he’s in there?”

When you subject people to very violent and dangerous conditions, that abuse and harm comes back to our communities. Prison often isn’t about correction; it’s about control and repression. It would be nice if it fixed people rather than made them worse.

Christopher Zoukis interview by Poppy Noor https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/feb/28/harvey-weinstein-prison-consultant

Porn, unsurprisingly widely watched

It’s hard not to be sarcastic when these surveys come out – they’re often of the surprise! people watch porn variety. Or maybe, to be fair, that’s just they way they’re often presented. Anyway, this one by the UK’s BBFC which “combined a statistically representative survey of secondary school-age children with in-depth interviews and focus groups with parents” has some interesting results:

While 75% of parents did not believe their children would have watched pornography, the majority of these parents’ children told the researchers that they had viewed adult material.

The report also found that while parents thought that their sons would watch pornography for sexual pleasure, many erroneously believed that their daughters would primarily see pornography by accident. It said: “This is contrary to the qualitative research findings showing that many girls were also using pornography for sexual pleasure.”

The researchers also said that one side-effect of early exposure to online pornography is that gay, lesbian or bisexual respondents often understood their sexuality at a younger age. They said: “It was common for these respondents to start by watching heterosexual pornography, only to realise that they did not find this sexually gratifying and then gradually move to homosexual pornography.”

It seems that the old view of what porn is for, and who watches it and why is becoming a cliche.

Better or Worse?

Thought provoking:

While previously the public’s news consumption was shaped by powerful gatekeepers such as newspaper editors or the bosses of heavily regulated broadcast news channels, on their phones it is shaped more by the hands-off approach of companies such as Facebook. The social network has decided against taking a patrician approach of pushing straightforward reporting into newsfeeds alongside user-generated memes asking Was Enoch Powell Right?, or hyperpartisan posts spreading distorted information about Jeremy Corbyn.

With limited human involvement in choosing the news stories people are seeing, the researchers said the general public were being asked to take responsibility for their own news diet with the hope that they seek out accurate information without any intervention.

Revealing Reality’s analysis of the volunteers’ election news consumption concluded: “If everything that people are seeing is via social media – who is accountable? There is very little human intelligence or decision-making behind it, no attempt to give a balanced view. That seems to leave all responsibility on the reader.”


The end of Economic Man

Very interesting article by Paul Collier – Greed is dead. Humans aren’t the rational, selfish ‘Economic Man’ as economists like to assume we are and base their models on. We’re a collaborative, social, altruistic animal.

Thankfully, we now know that Economic Man is a travesty. Blueprint: The evolutionary origins of a good society by Nicholas Christakis is the latest study to affirm this. It shows why, through the forces of evolution, Homo sapiens emerged as a uniquely social species. Far from being evolutionarily inevitable, Economic Man was culled almost to extinction, surviving only as the highly deviant behaviour we call psychopathic. In hunter-gatherer societies, hunters do not “eat what they kill”: such behaviour would bring social ostracism, so the hunters share their catch. The theorems derived from Economic Man explain the conditions under which a society of psychopaths would be able to function. In most contexts, those conditions turn out to be fanciful: the efficient paradise depicted in economics textbooks has never existed, and never will. Instead, in well-functioning societies, humans construct and abide by a vast web of kindness and mutual obligations of which Economic Man would be incapable.