The Insightful Troll

Rants and ruminations.

Silenced Futures: 50% Surge in Gun Deaths Among U.S. Children and Teens

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Gun deaths among us kids increase by 50%

John Gramlich reporting:

The gun death rate among children and teens – a measure that adjusts for changes in the nation’s population – rose from 2.4 fatalities per 100,000 minor residents in 2019 to 3.5 per 100,000 two years later, a 46% increase.

Both the number and rate of children and teens killed by gunfire in 2021 were higher than at any point since at least 1999, the earliest year for which information about those younger than 18 is available in the CDC’s mortality database.

The rise in gun deaths among children and teens is part of a broader recent increase in firearm deaths among Americans overall. In 2021, there were 48,830 gun deaths among Americans of all ages – by far the highest yearly total on record and up 23% from the 39,707 recorded in 2019, before the pandemic.

With approximately 120.5 guns per 100 residents, the United States has the highest rate of gun ownership per capita anywhere in the world. The next country is Yemen with approximately 52.8 guns per 100 residents. Is it really surprising that America resembles a war zone?

Google's Return to Work Hypocrisy

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Google

CNBC on Google’s updated hybrid work policy:

Last week, Google updated its hybrid three-day-a-week office policy to include badge tracking and noted attendance will be included in performance reviews. Additionally, employees who already received approval for remote work may now have that status reevaluated.

As expected, this is not going over well with the workforce.

On Friday, YouTube held its own all-hands meeting with employees about the office policy update. At the event, executives presented the plans virtually, a paradox that didn’t go unnoticed.

Afterward, a popular meme showed an image of “The Big Bang Theory” TV show character Leonard Hofstadter saying, “What are you looking at? You’ve never seen a hypocrite before?”

The insanity of the tech industry never ceases to amaze me.

The Best and Worst Companies - Axios Harris Poll

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From Axios:

This survey is the result of a partnership between Axios and Harris Poll to gauge the reputation of the most visible brands in America, based on 20 years of Harris Poll research.

Here are the top 10 brands with the best reputation:

  1. Patagonia
  2. Costco
  3. John Deere
  4. Trader Joe’s
  5. Check-fil-A
  6. Toyota Motor Corporation
  7. Samsung
  8. Amazon.com
  9. USAA
  10. Apple

Nothing too surprising - although I am surprise Apple makes up the bottom of this list. The real interesting ones are the 10 worst (listed in reverse order from 100 to 91):

  1. The Trump “Organization”
  2. FTX
  3. Fox Corporation
  4. Twitter
  5. Meta
  6. Spirit Airlines
  7. TikTok
  8. Bitcoin
  9. BP
  10. Balenciaga

The poll nailed the worst companies I would have picked and the exact order I would have placed them.

The Continuing Battle Against COVID-19 Deaths

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covid-death-rate

While the world has largely moved past the Covid-19 epidemic, an analysis by The Economist reveals that approximately 3 million people globally are still dying each year due to Covid-19.

At current rates, it would kill more people in the next eight years than in the past three.

This statistic is sobering, highlighting the ongoing impact of the pandemic on global health.

Why Do Lowriders Bounce?

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Anyone who knows me knows of my willful ignorance when it comes to all things rap and hip hop. However, I have always been curious about the origins of the ‘lowrider bounce’ phenomenon, as seen in the video above. This fad originated in California in the late 1950s.

Mike Johnston over at The Online Photographer has the full story:

So basically a modification to allow you to drive a lowered car on the street, that got out of hand and turned into a thing of its own.

Henry Kissinger Turns 100 - Still a War Criminal

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Henry Kissinger

As the meida celebrates Henry Kissinger, David Corn writing for Mother Jones:

Kissinger is routinely lambasted by his critics as a “war criminal,” though has never been held accountable for his misdeeds. He has made millions as a consultant, author, and commentator in the decades since he left government. I once heard of a Manhattan cocktail reception where he scoffed at the “war criminal” label and referred to it almost as a badge of honor. (“Bill Clinton does not have the spine to be a war criminal,” he joshed.) Kissinger has expressed few, if any, regrets about the cruel and deadly results of his moves on the global chessboard. When Koppel gently nudged him about the secret bombing in Cambodia, Kissinger took enormous umbrage and shot back: “This program you’re doing because I’m going to be 100 years old. And you are picking a topic of something that happened 60 years ago? You have to know it was a necessary step.” As for those who still protest him for that and other acts, he huffed, “Now the younger generation feels if they can raise their emotions, they don’t have to think.”

As he enters his second century, there will be no apologies coming from Kissinger. But the rest of us will owe history—and the thousands dead because of his gamesmanship—an apology, if we do not consider the man in full. Whatever his accomplishments, his legacy includes an enormous pile of corpses. This is a birthday that warrants no celebration.

Facebook Fined $1.3 Billion

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Facebook Fined

Adam Satariano, for The New York Times:

Meta on Monday was fined a record 1.2 billion euros ($1.3 billion) and ordered to stop transferring data collected from Facebook users in Europe to the United States, in a major ruling against the social media company for violating European Union data protection rules.

The penalty, announced by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission, is potentially one of the most consequential in the five years since the European Union enacted the landmark data privacy law known as the General Data Protection Regulation. Regulators said the company failed to comply with a 2020 decision by the European Union’s highest court that Facebook data shipped across the Atlantic was not sufficiently protected from American spy agencies.

But it remains unclear if or when Meta will ever need to cordon off the data of Facebook users in Europe. Meta said it would appeal the decision, setting up a potentially lengthy legal process.

I don’t care how big you are - $1.3 Billion dollars is going to hurt.

How Is This Legal???

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This man was seen carrying an assault rifle across the street from a neighborhood school bus stop. He was posing with an AK-47, the same type of gun that has been used in the majority of school shootings.

What is wrong with Americans? How is this even legal? The police had to “talk him into leaving.” This mentally unstable individual needs to have his AK-47 confiscated and be taken into custody pending a psychological evaluation. It is individuals like this who eventually snap and cause harm.

It’s disheartening that our country prioritizes guns over the safety of our children.

The Metaverse Wasteland

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metaverse

John Herrman writing for the Intelligencer:

The metaverse was another supreme executive fantasy. Most broadly, it offered the prospect of a new frontier, the likes of which Zuckerberg hasn’t seen since, well, his conquest of the last one. More immediately, it was a way to make remote work more like in-office work for everyone, but especially for bosses, who understood it as a way to regain control and authority over their newly WFHing employees. It was a theoretical solution to the suddenly pressing problem of expensive and empty real estate — replacing a finite resource with an infinite one. (Meta has long talked about being a remote-work-friendly company but pays for millions of square feet of office space around the world.) From one executive to an audience of other executives, the metaverse — at least Zuck’s take on it — offered a vision of the future in which everything was different but also pretty much the same: a disruptive technology that maintained the basic order of things, and where you once again knew what your employees were up to, even if they were just avatars.

The ‘metaverse’ was idiotic from the get-go, an out-of-touch vision from an executive class disconnected from reality. Furthermore, wasn’t a comparable concept already explored in the 2000s with Second Life?

How is it that Zuckerberg still holds a leadership role at Facebook?

Edit: Looks like Second Life is very much still afloat.

Clarence Thomas Corruption Scandal

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Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski, reporting:

In 2008, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas decided to send his teenage grandnephew to Hidden Lake Academy, a private boarding school in the foothills of northern Georgia. The boy, Mark Martin, was far from home. For the previous decade, he had lived with the justice and his wife in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Thomas had taken legal custody of Martin when he was 6 years old and had recently told an interviewer he was “raising him as a son.”

Tuition at the boarding school ran more than $6,000 a month. But Thomas did not cover the bill. A bank statement for the school from July 2009, buried in unrelated court filings, shows the source of Martin’s tuition payment for that month: the company of billionaire real estate magnate Harlan Crow. […]

“You can’t be having secret financial arrangements,” said Mark W. Bennett, a retired federal judge appointed by President Bill Clinton. Bennett said he was friendly with Thomas and declined to comment for the record about the specifics of Thomas’ actions. But he said that when he was on the bench, he wouldn’t let his lawyer friends buy him lunch. […]

“This is way outside the norm. This is way in excess of anything I’ve seen,” said Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, referring to the cascade of gifts over the years.

Painter said that when he was at the White House, an official who’d taken what Thomas had would have been fired: “This amount of undisclosed gifts? You’d want to get them out of the government.”

Time for Thomas to go.

U2 Tiny Desk Concert

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Bono, the Edge and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts Choir peform four songs at NPR for their Tiny Desk Concert series. Amazing stripped down performance letting you really appreciate the masterful song writing of U2.

This is my new favorite Tiny Desk Concert.

From the description:

Traveling without bassist Adam Clayton or drummer Larry Mullen Jr., Bono and The Edge made the trip from Ireland to the States specifically for the Tiny Desk, arriving in D.C. after five days of rehearsals at Bono’s New York apartment. When they settled in for the performance, they treated the office to four songs, including a deeply emotional version of “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of,” written for the late INXS singer Michael Hutchence, and a reworked version of “Walk On,” which Bono said was inspired by and dedicated to the people of Ukraine.

Making People Uncomfortable Can Get You Killed

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us guns

Roxane Gay, writing in the NY Times about the rampant killings of people for simple arguments, disagreements or misunderstandings:

There is no patience for simple mistakes or room for addressing how bigotry colors even the most innocuous interactions. There is no regard for due process. People who deem themselves judge, jury and executioner walk among us, and we have no real way of knowing when they will turn on us.

The United States currently possesses the highest number of guns in circulation worldwide, estimated at 466 million, while its population stands at 334.4 million people as of 2023. This equates to nearly 1.4 guns for every person in the United States. Given these figures, it is worth questioning whether the rise in gun-related deaths should come as a surprise.

Firmin Debrabander wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times regarding freedom in an armed society:

Arendt offers two points that are salient to our thinking about guns: for one, they insert a hierarchy of some kind, but fundamental nonetheless, and thereby undermine equality. But furthermore, guns pose a monumental challenge to freedom, and particular, the liberty that is the hallmark of any democracy worthy of the name — that is, freedom of speech. Guns do communicate, after all, but in a way that is contrary to free speech aspirations: for, guns chasten speech.

This becomes clear if only you pry a little more deeply into the N.R.A.’s logic behind an armed society. An armed society is polite, by their thinking, precisely because guns would compel everyone to tamp down eccentric behavior, and refrain from actions that might seem threatening. The suggestion is that guns liberally interspersed throughout society would cause us all to walk gingerly — not make any sudden, unexpected moves — and watch what we say, how we act, whom we might offend.

This is precisely the situation we are witnessing: a society that is fearful, paranoid, and gripped by anxiety. In order to safeguard the well-being of our children and preserve our democratic values, America needs stop worshipping our great Gun god.

Isaac Asimov on Ignorance

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Came across this quote by the great Isaac Asimov:

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti- intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’

American Children Are Drowning in Self-esteem

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James Astill in The Eonomist:

Yet my children’s experience of school in America is in some ways as indifferent as their swimming classes are good, for the country’s elementary schools seem strangely averse to teaching children much stuff. According to the oecd’s latest international education rankings, American children are rated average at reading, below average at science, and poor at maths, at which they rank 27th out of 34 developed countries. At 15, children in Massachusetts, where education standards are higher than in most states, are so far behind their counterparts in Shanghai at maths that it would take them more than two years of regular education to catch up.

[…]

At the heart of the problem is an educational ethos that prizes building self-esteem over academic attainment. This is based on a theory that self-confidence leads to all manner of other virtues, including academic achievement, because children who feel good about themselves will love learning – right?

It is not the self-esteem educational ethos; it is the American ethos against education itself. Just look at the political climate in America today: book bannings, rewriting American history, attacking and blaming underpaid teachers. Not to mention that American schools are turning into war zones. These are just a few obvious issues that highlight the situation.

Warren Buffet on Apple

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Warren Buffet when asked about Berkshire Hathaway’s largest holding, Apple:

If you’re an Apple user and somebody offers you $10,000, but the only provision is they’ll take away your iPhone and you’ll never be able to buy another, you’re not going to take it. If they tell you if you buy another Ford car — they’ll give you $10,000 not to do that — you’ll take the $10,000 and you’ll buy a Chevy instead

Apple’s greatest asset is customer loyalty and the excellent job the executive team has done nurturing that loyalty.

We've Been Measuring the Economy All Wrong

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Annie Lowrey for The Atlantic:

In the inaugural paper using IMPA’s model, the economists Lídia Brun, Ignacio González, and Juan Montecino conclude that the Trump tax bill was “harmful to the economy”—it slowed down growth and amped up inequality. Slashing the corporate-tax rate from 35 percent to 21 percent did not boost workers’ wages by thousands of dollars a year, as Trump appointees had predicted. Nor will it boost GDP in the long term. The IMPA model finds instead that cutting the corporate-tax rate “reduced the funds used for productive investment” by shunting money into investor payouts. What’s more, it suggests that raising taxes on business monopolies might stimulate growth by lowering those firms’ stock-market returns and thus spurring investors to pour money into more dynamic businesses.

Is this a surprise? The huge $2 trillion tax cuts under Trump went directly to the top 1% of wealth holders in the country. Hardly any ‘trickled’ down to the average citizen.

What could those $2 trillion have done? The money could have provided meals to underprivileged children, paid teachers a proper salary, shore up retirement benefits, provided safety nets for the homeless, and funded healthcare for everyone. I would bet that these initiatives would boost the economy in a more substantial way for the average American family.

CNN Panel Cracks Up Over DeSantis' Disney Threat

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis floating the idea of building a competing theme park next to Disney World in Orlando:

What should we do with this land? And you know, okay. Its - I mean people have said you know maybe another - maybe create a state park, maybe try to do more amusement parks. Someone even said maybe you need another state prison. Who knows? I mean I think that the possibilities are just endless.

You can’t make this up - the Republican party is a clown show. Bomani Jones in this CNN clip said it best:

Warner Bros. Discovery to Drop 'HBO' Just Call It 'Max'

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Warner Bros. Discovery:

Warner Bros. Discovery today introduced Max, its enhanced streaming service, which will launch in the U.S. on May 23. Max is the destination for HBO Originals, Warner Bros. films, Max Originals, the DC universe, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, an expansive offering of kids content, and best-in-class programming across food, home, reality, lifestyle and documentaries from leading brands like HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, TLC, ID and more. Max will stand out amongst streamers by uniquely combining unrivaled breadth and superior quality with iconic franchises and strong product experience, all for great value.

This is just dumb - HBO is still the best brand in TV and to not brand with it is idiotic.

Cost of a Turkey Sandwich at the Airport

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Ever wonder whhy those sandwiches wrapped in plastic, looking a bit pale in the fluorescent light cost $14.99 ?

Hell Gate inquired as to why the high price of the sandwich here is what they found:

Food, drinks, and other goods sold at each of the region’s three airports must adhere to strict price standards established by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which limit costs to “street pricing” plus an additional 10 percent. This means, generally, that a turkey sandwich sold at an airport cannot cost significantly more than a comparable turkey sandwich in the NYC metro area.

Fair enough. New York City is an expensive place, and running a business out of an airport presents unique challenges. But this standard raises another question: If retailers like CIBO Express (and its parent company OTG, the main dining and retail operator for some of the country’s largest airports, including LaGuardia, Newark, and JFK) are indeed following the Port Authority’s rules, then who are these metro-area retailers charging $13.50 ($13.50 plus 10 percent = $14.99) for an unremarkable, prepackaged turkey sandwich on sliced bread?

Excactly. The real problem is that its a pricing system that is obviuosly rigged and the folks at Port Authority are refusing transperency.

“This should be an easy process to be transparent about,” Lund said of the OIG report. “Either Port Authority is not [releasing] it because they know that their process wasn’t good, which is entirely possible, or they’re not [releasing] it just to say ‘fuck you,’ which is also possible and also bad from a government agency.”

Lund added, “The cost of airport food matters, because if the Port Authority isn’t bothering to deal with this, what else is the Port Authority not bothering to do?”

Bingo. This is why I refuse to eat anything at the airport. Just pack lunch with you on carry on. Don’t even get me started on the in flight charges for food.