Sunday, August 26, 2018

Last Call For All About The Garbos

At least in Sweden, money does indeed buy you happiness, as a new study from two Stockholm University researchers (and one from NYU) finds, and there's direct evidence that increased overall life satisfaction can be attributed to people who win lotteries. Justin Wolpers from the NY Times explains.

New research suggests that more money really does lead to a more satisfying life. Surveys of thousands of Swedish lottery winners have provided persuasive evidence of this truth.

Lottery winners said they were substantially more satisfied with their lives than lottery losers. And those who won prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars reported being more satisfied than winners of mere tens of thousands.

These effects are remarkably durable. They were still evident up to two decades after a big win
. (The researchers lacked the data to trace out even longer-term consequences.)

The findings appear in a research report, “Long-Run Effects of Lottery Wealth on Psychological Well-Being,” that has generated a lot of buzz among economists over the summer. The working paper, by Erik Lindqvistfrom the Stockholm School of Economics, Robert Ostling from Stockholm University and David Cesarini from New York University.

It is certain to feed a long-running debate about the role that personal finances play in shaping subjective well-being.

Many previous analyses — including several that I have conducted with my partner, Betsey Stevenson, a fellow University of Michigan economist — have documented that people with higher incomes tend to report higher levels of life satisfaction. The relationship between income and satisfaction is remarkably similar across dozens of countries, suggesting that findings about Sweden likely apply to the United States.

Those earlier studies merely documented a correlation. What’s new here is the evidence that higher income is causing higher life satisfaction.

The study also makes the distinction between happiness and life satisfaction, much like the difference between weather (a snapshot in time) vs climate (a long-term observable trend).  Not having to worry about basics like food, shelter, and the like does relieve a lot of stress, turns out.

That's something America should keep in mind, I think.  We still believe that being able to eat and live in a place is something that must be earned through a lifetime of hard work, and then through the discipline of a lifetime of frugal savings once retired, resulting in being able to pass a home on to your children, or having a home passed down to you from a parent or grandparent that did the same to earn the privilege of land ownership, otherwise you're "lazy" and deserve to be homeless.

It's not right, but there it is, and of course that will never change while we have the current administration in power.

The End of the Session(s), Con't

Donald Trump has definitely settled on Attorney General Jeff Sessions as the bad guy in all this after the worst week of his regime (so far at least) and Trump continued to attack Sessions over the weekend on the Tweeting machine.

President Trump lashed out again at Attorney General Jeff Sessions, saying he lets "real corruption" go untouched while special counsel Robert Mueller's team is "having a field day."

Trump appeared to be responding to an unusual statement by the attorney generals this week defending himself against the president’s attacks, with Sessions saying: "While I am Attorney General, the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

The president shot back in a tweet Saturday morning that Sessions "doesn't understand what is happening" beneath him. The tweet reiterated the president's attack on the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election as politically motivated and a distraction from "real corruption."

The president also quoted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said this week that he thinks the president may fire Sessions and appoint a new attorney general, though the senator said he hopes that won't happen until after the November midterms. 

Again, the goalposts here will be moved: Sessions is gone before the end of the year for sure, he may be gone before the end of the summer. Maybe he'll resign, maybe he'll be fired, but he won't be Attorney General in January, that much is clear.

Trump doesn't have much of a choice left.  The wall of secrecy that has protected him for thirty years of criminal activity is cracking.

The result has been a moment where Trump seems politically wounded, as friends turn and embarrassing revelations about his alleged affairs and his charity trickle out, uncontained. In coming months, certain cases could force Trump’s company to open its books about foreign government customers, or compel the president to testify about his relationships with ­women.

“The myth of Trump is now unraveling,” said Barbara Res, a Trump Organization executive from 1978 to 1996. “He’s becoming more obvious and people are starting to know what he’s like, and what he’s doing.”

Whether the president faces legal peril is not clear, but his presidency is at a precarious point. Recent polls suggest his repeated attacks on Mueller for leading a “witch hunt” have lost their effectiveness. And if the Democrats win a majority in at least one house of Congress in the midterm elections, now less than 10 weeks away, they would gain the power to investigate or even impeach.

“The whole reason he is freaking out is he can’t get rid of any of this,” said a longtime adviser to Trump, who, like others interviewed for this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House dynamics.

The president’s sense of betrayal came through last week when he derided cooperating witnesses as “flippers.” “Everything’s wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and they — they flip on whoever the next highest one is, or as high as you can go,” he told Fox News. In contrast, he tweeted that his “brave” former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who was convicted last week of bank fraud and tax fraud, had “refused to ‘break.’ ”

Trump has also focused his ire on Attorney General Jeff Sessions, whom he has repeatedly and publicly attacked for his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. White House aides have explained to him that firing Sessions would not end the probe, but he remains livid, officials said, particularly after Sessions responded last week with a statement declaring that “the actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations.”

Again, in the end, Trump will try to save himself.  He will do whatever he thinks is necessary.

That is when we find out if we still have a Republic.

Sunday Long Read: Hack The Planet

Wired's Andy Greenberg gives us this week's Sunday Long Read, with the story of Russia's most wide-ranging cyber warfare strike to date.  Last summer's NotPetya worm devastated Ukraine and the European Union and served as a clear warning shot that Russia could disable computer networks around the globe if it chose to, and the truth behind the attack was that it was far more powerful and destructive than first thought, reading like a modern Bond villain's plot.

IT WAS A perfect sunny summer afternoon in Copenhagen when the world’s largest shipping conglomerate began to lose its mind.

The headquarters of A.P. Møller-Maersk sits beside the breezy, cobblestoned esplanade of Copenhagen’s harbor. A ship’s mast carrying the Danish flag is planted by the building’s northeastern corner, and six stories of blue-tinted windows look out over the water, facing a dock where the Danish royal family parks its yacht. In the building’s basement, employees can browse a corporate gift shop, stocked with Maersk-branded bags and ties, and even a rare Lego model of the company’s gargantuan Triple-E container ship, a vessel roughly as large as the Empire State Building laid on its side, capable of carrying another Empire State Building–sized load of cargo stacked on top of it.

That gift shop also houses a technology help center, a single desk manned by IT troubleshooters next to the shop’s cashier. And on the afternoon of June 27, 2017, confused Maersk staffers began to gather at that help desk in twos and threes, almost all of them carrying laptops. On the machines’ screens were messages in red and black lettering. Some read “repairing file system on C:” with a stark warning not to turn off the computer. Others, more surreally, read “oops, your important files are encrypted” and demanded a payment of $300 worth of bitcoin to decrypt them.

Across the street, an IT administrator named Henrik Jensen was working in another part of the Maersk compound, an ornate white-stone building that in previous centuries had served as the royal archive of maritime maps and charts. (Henrik Jensen is not his real name. Like almost every Maersk employee, customer, or partner I interviewed, Jensen feared the consequences of speaking publicly for this story.) Jensen was busy preparing a software update for Maersk’s nearly 80,000 employees when his computer spontaneously restarted.

He quietly swore under his breath. Jensen assumed the unplanned reboot was a typically brusque move by Maersk’s central IT department, a little-loved entity in England that oversaw most of the corporate empire, whose eight business units ranged from ports to logistics to oil drilling, in 574 offices in 130 countries around the globe.

Jensen looked up to ask if anyone else in his open-plan office of IT staffers had been so rudely interrupted. And as he craned his head, he watched every other computer screen around the room blink out in rapid succession.

“I saw a wave of screens turning black. Black, black, black. Black black black black black,” he says. The PCs, Jensen and his neighbors quickly discovered, were irreversibly locked. Restarting only returned them to the same black screen.

All across Maersk headquarters, the full scale of the crisis was starting to become clear. Within half an hour, Maersk employees were running down hallways, yelling to their colleagues to turn off computers or disconnect them from Maersk’s network before the malicious software could infect them, as it dawned on them that every minute could mean dozens or hundreds more corrupted PCs. Tech workers ran into conference rooms and unplugged machines in the middle of meetings. Soon staffers were hurdling over locked key-card gates, which had been paralyzed by the still-mysterious malware, to spread the warning to other sections of the building.

Disconnecting Maersk’s entire global network took the company’s IT staff more than two panicky hours. By the end of that process, every employee had been ordered to turn off their computer and leave it at their desk. The digital phones at every cubicle, too, had been rendered useless in the emergency network shutdown.

Around 3 pm, a Maersk executive walked into the room where Jensen and a dozen or so of his colleagues were anxiously awaiting news and told them to go home. Maersk’s network was so deeply corrupted that even IT staffers were helpless. A few of the company’s more old-school managers told their teams to remain at the office. But many employees—rendered entirely idle without computers, servers, routers, or desk phones—simply left.

Jensen walked out of the building and into the warm air of a late June afternoon. Like the vast majority of Maersk staffers, he had no idea when he might return to work. The maritime giant that employed him, responsible for 76 ports on all sides of the earth and nearly 800 seafaring vessels, including container ships carrying tens of millions of tons of cargo, representing close to a fifth of the entire world’s shipping capacity, was dead in the water.

Maersk recovered, but since businesses around the world treat IT as an grudging expense that destroys profit and data protection as a waste of resources that should never be needed, the NotPetya scenario will happen again and again.

The Old Pilot's Last Flight Ends

Sen. John McCain passed away last night, and his legacy is that of a veteran and senator who saw his party crumble into the abyss, his hand more than a bit responsible.  When it was clear he was done ten years ago, he made the call to bring in Sarah Palin as his running mate. McCain was not a "maverick" and the words of then candidate Barack Obama make that clear.

[T]he record’s clear: John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time. Sen. McCain likes to talk about judgment, but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right more than 90 percent of the time? I don’t know about you, but I’m not ready to take a 10 percent chance on change.

The truth is, on issue after issue that would make a difference in your lives — on health care and education and the economy — Sen. McCain has been anything but independent. He said that our economy has made “great progress” under this president. He said that the fundamentals of the economy are strong. And when one of his chief advisers — the man who wrote his economic plan — was talking about the anxiety Americans are feeling, he said that we were just suffering from a “mental recession,” and that we’ve become, and I quote, “a nation of whiners.”

A nation of whiners? Tell that to the proud autoworkers at a Michigan plant who, after they found out it was closing, kept showing up every day and working as hard as ever, because they knew there were people who counted on the brakes that they made. Tell that to the military families who shoulder their burdens silently as they watch their loved ones leave for their third or fourth or fifth tour of duty. These are not whiners. They work hard and give back and keep going without complaint. These are the Americans that I know.

The very next day, August 29, 2008, McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.

You can draw a direct line from that event to the Trump regime today.  I spoke my mind yesterday about it and I haven't changed my mind from then.

This is a man who voted against a federal Martin Luther King holiday in 1983 because it was politically expedient for him to do so then.  When it was no longer politically expedient because he was running for president, he announced he had been wrong.  He's not the first politician to do this, he won't be the last.  Very few did it regarding the legacy of Dr. King however.

Chuck Schumer wants to rename the Senate's Russell Office Building after McCain.  I don't particularly believe he deserves that honor, but this is why I'm not an elected official. Nine years ago to the day yesterday, Ted Kennedy passed.  Would that this be the Kennedy Senate Office Building, but no.

It is not something I will forgive McCain for anytime soon.  Maybe someday, when America emerges from the hell it is in today.  John McCain is a better man than Donald Trump to be sure, but that bar to clear is on the ground.  McCain requested that his eulogies be read by George W. Bush and Barack Obama.  Donald Trump?  He'll probably be at a rally.

But Donald Trump would not be in the Oval Office at all if it wasn't for John McCain.

I will forgive the man someday, yes.  He lived a full life, he served his country for decades, he suffered like no human being should ever have to suffer, but in the end he was flawed and he made terrible decisions that hurt the country he loved.

I will forgive the man someday, yes.  But not today.  I leave with this tweet from author Dianne Anderson:

And so, John McCain is gone.
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