Week of September 10, 2018

A few things of note from around the Internet this week…

No

There are striking similarities between Facebook and global financial system before the crash (Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy 10 years ago this week). Both are incredibly complex systems that have connections and repercussions that no one (literally, no one) can imagine, understand, or control. It’s hard for me to imagine exactly what a Great Social Crash will look like but it seems like it’s on the horizon. Evan Osnos on whether Mark Zuckerberg can fix Facebook before it breaks democracy:

Facebook engineers became a new breed of behaviorists, tweaking levers of vanity and passion and susceptibility. The real-world effects were striking. In 2012, when Chan was in medical school, she and Zuckerberg discussed a critical shortage of organs for transplant, inspiring Zuckerberg to add a small, powerful nudge on Facebook: if people indicated that they were organ donors, it triggered a notification to friends, and, in turn, a cascade of social pressure. Researchers later found that, on the first day the feature appeared, it increased official organ-donor enrollment more than twentyfold nationwide.

Magic

On the one hand, buying a Christmas tree is time-honored tradition for a lot of families. On the other hand, how can one resist the magic of having a Christmas tree appear at your door without strapping it on top of or stuffing it your car? I have a feeling that Tim O’Connor isn’t going to be feeling quite as smug in the near future.

Will people buy a Christmas tree sight unseen? Tim O’Connor, the executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association, said picking out a tree and hauling it back home is part of the fun for families. The association estimates that only about 1 to 2 percent of the 27 million real Christmas trees purchased last year were bought online, mostly from grower’s own sites. “It’s so small, it’s almost undetectable,” O’Connor said.

Christmas tree farm near Starks Mountain in Fryeburg, Maine (Robert F. Bukaty/AP)

Perpetual

Nothing changes. A few may lose their wealth, status, or power but the vast majority of the “Master’s of the Universe” will continue along as if nothing had ever happened; it’s human nature. A unique look at the financial crisis through the eyes of Julian Niccolini, the maitre d’hôtel and a co-owner of the Four Seasons restaurant in New York.

“It’s about money. It’s about power,” he continued. “It hasn’t changed. In fact, it’s getting much worse.”

Proposal for a book to be adapted into a movie starring Dwayne The Rock Johnson

Everything Robin Sloan writes is pure gold.

Twisted

Ken Norton on why Trump’s pronouncement about Puerto Rico this week is truly insidious:

Ken Norton@kennethn

1/ He's a monster, but he’s not lying: he’s making a coherent argument that many in his party share. And here’s why that’s worse... pic.twitter.com/yGzTyCUF6t

September 13, 2018

To him, Puerto Rico is a “shithole country” (although by now he may finally grudgingly admit that it’s part of the USA). If you live in a shithole, tough luck. Of course you’re going to die of stuff that doesn't kill white people. ¯\(ツ)/¯ When he sees reports that people died because they couldn’t reach a hospital, or had no generator for their oxygen tank, or lacked drinking water, he thinks “hey that would have happened anyway: it's just shithole country stuff!” Unless you were killed by flying debris, what does that have to do with a hurricane, and therefore what does that have to do with him? His accountability began and ended with the winds. That’s just a political ploy. He’s not just denying the suffering of those 3,000 Puerto Ricans (and he is), he’s discounting the humanity of everyone on that island. 3,000 people died since the hurricane because people just die in shitholes. It’s not like that should matter to him. And that view is shared by the majority of his party when it comes to PR, or Flint, or black men murdered by cops, or children sitting in detention centers, and that’s why we can’t let them pretend he’s lying or out of step. Brown lives not mattering is official policy.