Links for your weekend browsing 6/7/13

Here are links to articles that I found interesting, and I think you might find interesting, too.

The Banality of ‘Don’t Be Evil’ by Julian Assange.

The founder of Wikileaks reviewed The New Digital Age by Eric Schmidt, executive chair of Google, and Jared Cohen, former aide to Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton and now head of Google Ideas.   He said Google epitomizes the death of personal privacy and the shift toward authoritarianism.

The section on “repressive autocracies” describes, disapprovingly, various repressive surveillance measures: legislation to insert back doors into software to enable spying on citizens, monitoring of social networks and the collection of intelligence on entire populations.  All of these are already in widespread use in the United States.  In fact, some of those measures — like the push to require every social-network profile to be linked to a real name — were spearheaded by Google itself.

Student Loans as Medieval Indentures

types of debt[1]

Click to enlarge.

Dave Dayen writing for Salon points out that U.S. student loan debt now exceeds $1 trillion.  It has exceeded credit card debt for some time.  Unlike ordinary debt, student loans can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and are virtually impossible to refinance.  Dayen said people now collecting Social Security are still paying on their student loans.  It is a terrible drag on the economy.   Indebtedness keeps young people from buying homes, buying automobiles, starting businesses or getting jobs based on what they love to do.  But the problem is not just the student loan system.  It is the lack of affordable education and the lack of decent jobs for people with high school educations.

Scam Alert! Press Sleeps Through Great Post Office Fire Sale.

The Postmaster General is selling off Postal Service property, much of it prime downtown real estate, at bargain prices.   It is a great deal for the buyers and a bad deal for the public.   Maybe this is why Congress has imposed unusual financial burdens on the Postal Service, such as funding retirement 75 years in advance, and refuses to allow the Postal Service to take normal business steps to stem its losses.

Why Does Eastman Chemical Fear for Its Reputation?

The Washington Spectator reports on how Eastman Chemical, a Kodak spinoff, paid scientists to write journal articles saying its baby-bottle plastic is safe.   There was a time, 30 or so years ago, when I would have presumed Kodak executives were above such conduct.  Maybe they were, then.

This Is Your Brain on Coffee.

Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times says academic research says that moderate amounts of coffee—four or five ordinary cups a day, or one Starbucks drink—are good for you.  I’m glad to think that, because I’ve never weaned myself from my coffee addiction.  I hope and presume that none of these studies was paid for by the coffee industry.

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