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Ikea's founder was a Nazi, and never stopped praising the Nazi leader he called "Best Brother"

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Ingvar Kamprad founded Ikea and invented some of the modern tax-evasion playbook, while amassing billions; despite this, he is lionized both in Sweden and abroad for his quirky frugality and the ubiquity of his stores and their products.

But Kamprad was also a member and patron of the Swedish Nazi party, enlisting at 17 years old in 1943, as Member No. 4,014 of Swedish Socialist Unity (Sweden's Nazis). He was an active recruiter to the Nazi cause and brought in several friends to join the party. There's no record of Kamprad ever leaving the Swedish Nazis, and as an adult, he fell in with Per Engdahl and his Swedish fascist organization, the New Swedish Movement. He hosted fascist meetings in his home, published one of Engdahl's books, and had Engdahl give a speech at his wedding in 1951, and in correspondence, Kamprad and Engdahl called one another "BB" for "best brother."

Engdahl was instrumental in smuggling Nazi war criminals out of Europe, and he knit together the post-WWII pan-European fascist network that encompassed fascists in the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Denmark and Norway. He gathered the leaders of these movements together for a meeting in Malmo, and dubbed the outcome of this meeting the "Malmo Movement," AKA "Europäische Soziale Bewegung." The Movement published a Holocaust denial journal called Nation Europe, and Engdahl published a book that was the central text of the movement, called "The Renewal of the West" which Kamprad praised in a 1951 letter to Engdahl.

When all this came to light through Elisabeth Åsbrink's 2011 book "Och i Wienerwald står träden kvar," and Ikea headed off the negative publicity by making its largest-ever charitable donation, $51m for the UN High Commission on Refugees.

Åsbrink interviewed Kamprad in 2010 and asked him about Engdahl, and Kamprad reiterated his support for his Nazi "Best Brother," saying, "There’s no contradiction as far as I’m concerned. Per Engdahl was a great man, and I’ll maintain that as long as I live."

When did Kamprad leave the Swedish Nazi Party? No one has so far managed to find out the answer to that question. On the other hand, we know that his involvement in Per Engdahl’s fascist organization, the New Swedish Movement, continued after the end of the war. He invited comrades from the movement to his home in Elmtaryd and was regarded as their benefactor. There are letters where he is asked to donate or thanked for the latest contribution. Kamprad also acted as publisher for one of the fascist leader Per Engdahl’s books. The two had become close friends and called each other “BB”: best brother. Engdahl was invited to Kamprad’s first wedding in 1951, a quiet affair in a church outside Stockholm, at which he gave a beautiful speech.

On the Far Right Past of Ingvar Kamprad, Founder of Ikea [Elisabeth Åsbrink/Lithub]

(Image: Ardfern, CC BY-SA)

(via Kottke)

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petrilli
60 days ago
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Arlington, VA
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Linkedin to libraries: drop dead

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For years, libraries across America have paid to subscribe to lynda.com for online learning content; four years ago, lynda.com became a division of Linkedin, and this year, the company has informed libraries that they're migrating all lynda.com users to Linkedin Learning, which would be fine, except Linkedin only allows you to access Linkedin Learning if you create and connect a Linkedin profile to the system.

If libraries accept this change, it will mean that any patron who uses this publicly funded service will also have to have a publicly searchable Linkedin profile. Linkedin's explanation of why this is OK is purest tech-bro PR bullshit, condescending and dismissive.

Libraries are fighting back: California State Libraries is recommending that libraries boycott the service, and the American Library Association has publicly condemned the move.

If you work in a library and want to give feedback to Linkedin about this, the right person to email is Farhan Syed, Vice President of Client Solutions, whose email address is fsyed@linkedin.com.

ALA has long affirmed that the protection of library users’ privacy and confidentiality rights are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethical practice of librarianship. ALA’s Library Bill of Rights and its interpretations maintain that all library users have the right to access library resources without disclosing their personally identifiable information (PII) to third parties, and to be free from unreasonable intrusion into, or surveillance of, their lawful library use.

“The requirement for users of LinkedIn Learning to disclose personally identifiable information is completely contrary to ALA policies addressing library users’ privacy, and it may violate some states’ library confidentiality laws,” said ALA President Wanda Kay Brown. “It also violates the librarian’s ethical obligation to keep a person’s use of library resources confidential. We are deeply concerned about these changes to the terms of service and urge LinkedIn and its owner, Microsoft, to reconsider their position on this.”

(Thanks, Ruok!)

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petrilli
137 days ago
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Arlington, VA
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Heirs' property: how southern states allow white land developers to steal reconstruction-era land from Black families

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Back in 2017, The Nation ran a superb, in-depth story on "heirs' property," a legalized form of property theft that allows primarily rich white developers to expropriate land owned by the descendants' of Black slaves.

Now, an in-depth Propublica investigation returns to the American south and its landgrabbing white grifters, with a piece that blends the personalities of the brave Black landowners who are willing to serve long jail sentences rather than cave in to legalized theft (brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels are two of the longest-serving inmates for civil contempt in American history, having spent eight years in lockup for refusing to knock down their ancestral homes).

To understand how heirs' property expropriations work, you have to place them in the context of Black expropriation, which starts with the expropriated bodies of kidnapped Black people who were enslaved, and continues through the ages: the (marshy or arid) properties deeded to formerly enslaved Black people who carefully worked the land and prospered until white mobs came and chased them away with arson, murder and threats; many of the ones who stayed were chased off with massive tax-hikes directed at Black landowners (in South Carolina, property taxes levied on Black lands went up as much as 700% in a decade; Hilton Head had thousands of acres of heirs' property and now it has fewer than 200).

As the remaining property owners began to die off, they were (correctly) mistrustful of white southern lawyers, so they did not draw up wills, leaving their family land to their descendants through a regime called "heirs' property," under the incorrect view that this would keep the land in the family. Instead, as those descendants flew Jim Crow only to find themselves frozen out of home ownership through redlining, they became targets for predatory wealthy land developers who could exploit the complex and unfair law governing heirs' property to seize and expropriate hundreds or even thousands of acres at a time.

The main system for doing this is called "partition": if a single heir with even a tiny claim to family land can be found and convinced to sell their title, the developer can use the courts to force a sale of the whole family property, and the "cash poor, land rich" people who live on the family land are unable to outbid their expropriators.

This is exactly as bad as it sounds: consider Wendy Reed who lost her family home in Summerville, South Carolina because she was late paying a $83.81 tax bill -- the property was purchased for a mere $2,000 by a powerful local politician and resort owner named Thomas Limehouse (owner of a nearby luxury resort) for $2,000. Reed was unable to stop the sale by paying her $83.81 because her grandmother had died intestate.

The intersection of partition actions and unclear titles from intestate family elders is bad enough, but it gets especially toxic when mixed with an antiquated, discredited law called the Torrens Act, which allows would-be expropriator to pay a court-appointed lawyer to review their claim to a title and seize land without going through a full court procedure.

14 states have passed laws limiting evictions and partitions and many have repealed the Torrens Act, through model legislation called the Uniform Partition of Heirs Property Act, but eight southern states still support and encourage this kind of white-on-Black land-theft. One notable culprit is North Carolina, especially Carteret County, whose 70,000 residents are 94% white, but whose losers in heirs' property cases are 42% Black.

I've previously said that the difference between "grifters" and "con artists" is that "Grifters put on the veneer of respectability. A grifter doesn't pick your pocket, he gets you to sign a contract full of dirty fine-print. He buys off the judge. He operates out of a 'made town' where the cops are all on the take. The grifter doesn't mount a one-man performance piece. He constructs an immersive LARP in which all the trappings of law and order are present, but filtered through a dream-logic where if he has to pick your pockets, it's only because you don't respect the law enough to empty them voluntarily. A grift is what happens when a con-man hires a lawyer, or a judge, or a legislature, or the President."

In a companion piece, Propublica's Lizzie Presser shows how states can easily stem the tide of disposessions with commonsense legal tweaks. The fact that they don't do this tells you everything you need to know about whether this is an accident or a deliberate campaign of legalized theft.

One of the most pernicious legal mechanisms used to dispossess heirs’ property owners is called a partition action. In the course of generations, heirs tend to disperse and lose any connection to the land. Speculators can buy off the interest of a single heir, and just one heir or speculator, no matter how minute his share, can force the sale of an entire plot through the courts. Andrew Kahrl, an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia, told me that even small financial incentives can have the effect of turning relatives against one another, and developers exploit these divisions. “You need to have some willing participation from black families — driven by the desire to profit off their land holdings,” Kahrl said. “But it does boil down to greed and abuse of power and the way in which Americans’ history of racial inequality can be used to the advantage of developers.” As the Reels family grew over time, the threat of a partition sale mounted; if one heir decided to sell, the whole property would likely go to auction at a price that none of them could pay.

When courts originally gained the authority to order a partition sale, around the time of the Civil War, the Wisconsin Supreme Court called it “an extraordinary and dangerous power” that should be used sparingly. In the past several decades, many courts have favored such sales, arguing that the value of a property in its entirety is greater than the value of it in pieces. But the sales are often speedy and poorly advertised, and tend to fetch below-market prices.

On the coast of North Carolina, I met Billy Freeman, who grew up working in the parking lot of his uncle’s beachside dance hall, Monte Carlo by the Sea. His family, which once owned thousands of acres, ran the largest black beach in the state, with juke joints and crab shacks, an amusement park and a three-story hotel. But, over the decades, developers acquired interests from other heirs, and, in 2008, one firm petitioned the court for a sale of the whole property. Freeman attempted to fight the partition for years. “I didn’t want to lose the land, but I felt like everybody else had sold,” he told me. In 2016, the beach, which covered 170 acres, was sold to the development firm for $1.4 million. On neighboring beaches, that sum could buy a tiny fraction of a parcel so large. Freeman got only $30,000.

The lost property isn’t just money; it’s also identity. In one case that I examined, the mining company PCS Phosphate forced the sale of a 40-acre plot, which contained a family cemetery, against the wishes of several heirs, whose ancestors had been enslaved on the property. (A spokesperson for the company told me that it is a “law-abiding corporate citizen.”)

Their Family Bought Land One Generation After Slavery. The Reels Brothers Spent Eight Years in Jail for Refusing to Leave It. [Lizzie Presser/Propublica]

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petrilli
147 days ago
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Buying Computers Properly

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There's been a bit of a fuss lately about a New York Times article that said that Baltimore city computers were hacked in part by an exploit known as EternalBlue that was stolen from the NSA a couple of years ago. I don't know if the attackers targeted the vulnerability used by EternalBlue, nor if they used the actual purloined code. What's more interesting to me is that Microsoft released a patch for the vulnerablity in March 2017, but many city government systems remained unpatched and hence vulnerable. Why? What did Baltimore (and other organizations, especially governments) do wrong? Why were these systems unpatched and hence vulnerable for so long?

(A semantic note: a vulnerablity is the actual flaw in some software package. An exploit is the code that takes advantage of it. EternalBlue is NSA's exploit for the CVE-2017-0144 vulnerability.)

Don't get me wrong; as I've written before, patching is hard and risky. I also noted that sometimes, it's important to take the risk. (And yes, in that latter blog post I was writing about EternalBlue.) But this incident shows a more serious failing: EternalBlue and other exploits targeting that vulnerability have been a threat for more than two years. Baltimore's systems have remained unpatched for that long.

The root of the problem is attitudinal: in many places, computers are treated as capital equipment with a fairly long lifespan, and as devices that need operation but not maintenance. These attitudes may date back to the 1950s, when the first was fairly true and the cost of maintenance was hidden in the operational cost. Neither is true today. Computers are consumables that require regular, skilled care. Skipping this care is like not changing the oil in your car: you can get away with it for a little while, but at some point you're in trouble. In fact, and as I explain below, it's worse than dirty engine oil: not only are you at risk for a security incident, you end up in a maintenance trap.

To paraphrase George R.R. Martin's famous line “valar morghulis”, all code must die. In fact, software is rarely healthy even to start with; vendors constantly issue patches for their products. Eventually, though, the patches stop: there's a new version of the product, and vendors have no interest in continuing to support ancient versions. Not only would they rather sell you something new, there's no viable economic model to pay for continued patch development for older versions. The cost of the first few years of patching is, of course, built in to the initial price of the software. Ultimately, of course, a software package is succeeded by a newer version. Switching versions is in some sense the ultimate patch, and just as patching can be hard, upgrading can be very hard.

Worse yet, patching and upgrading are expensive. System administrators and application programmers need to test and perhaps modify their code for compatiblity with the new version. Extra hardware may be needed, partially as test machines but also because at some point, newer vendor packages (especially operating systems) simply won't run on older computers. If money is tight, it becomes very tempting to postpone patches and upgrades. After all, the reasoning seems to go, if things are working now, why bother changing?

Government agencies are particularly vulnerable here. Year-to-year budgets aren't that predictable; they're at the mercy of political winds, and tax increases are never popular. (Partisan anti-tax rhetoric is another factor, of course.) If there's a funding crunch, deferring software maintenance is an easy thing to cut, especially since it's hard to lay off civil servants and city governments can't easily sell off agencies. (Privatization? That's a political question I won't go into, and ultimately it doesn't matter: whatever the irreducible core of governmental functions, that core will be susceptible to the same dilemma.)

So: software maintenance is deferred. What are the consequences? If the problem is a delayed security patch, your site is vulnerable until the patch is installed. But if you miss a version upgrade, you're in big trouble. For one thing, security patch support tends to end soon thereafter. For another, upgrading to the next version is much harder: there are generally tools to help you migrate to the next version, but tools that reliably upgrade two versions are much, much harder to build, and may not even be available.

The net result is a system that is insecure, unsupported, and more expensive to maintain and upgrade than one that had been patched and upgraded properly all along.

Ultimately, this boils down to money: where will maintenance money come from? The way to solve this problem is to accept, in a tangible form, that a computer is first, a consumable item, and second, one that requires ongoing expenditures. Think of it as a leased automobile: while you have it, you have to insure it, refuel it, and change the oil and tires; when the lease is up, you have to replace it—or do without a car as a means of transportation. In other words, a leased car costs you something to own and operate, and has a relatively short lifespan.

It's the same with computers. An enterprise computer should be regarded as having a lifespan of about four years, and an enterprise's budget should include money for the expense of operating and maintaining each and every computer it owns. Furthermore, budgets should include money for operating system and major application upgrades. They will happen, and doing these upgrades will cost money—but these upgrades are utterly necessary. (No, I'm not saying that a corporation should instantly switch to the next release of WhateverOS as soon as it comes out—I learned “never install .0 of anything” back in 1970—but not all that long after WhateverOS X.0 comes out, release X-1 will drop out of support.)

In a well-run corporation, the CIO would put advice like that into practice. (In a corporation with a well-run IT department, they already know this and do it.) It would be an interesting exercise to try to mandate it for government agencies, either by law or by executive order. I'd be interested in suggestions on how to do it.

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acdha
177 days ago
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Washington, DC
petrilli
177 days ago
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Arlington, VA
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Buried in Uber's IPO, an aggressive plan to destroy all public transit

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Uber is a wildly unprofitable company with no conceivable path to profitability in any universe, under any circumstances, but the company's founders and early investors (having already taken massive write-downs on their investments) are hoping to get at least some of their money back through the time-honored "greater fool" methodology. Specifically, they're floating the company on the stock market and hoping that naive investors hoping to wring above-inflation gains out of their 401(k)s and avoid being made into dog-food in their old age (we're waaaaay past the era in which impoverished old people get to eat dog-food) take their shares off their hands.

The prospectus for the IPO is 300 grifty pages long, an entire spaghetti dinner of possible profitability strategies thrown at the wall in the hopes that a few strands will stick. Buried page 160, under the "Total Addressable Market," is a plan to eliminate the world's public transit systems and replace them with "Uber Bus" and "Express Pool." The company estimates that if the world's public transit riders all switch to Uber, they'll be able to serve an 11.9 trillion miles/year market.

But they still won't be profitable.

Which doesn't mean we shouldn't be worried! Uber has a lot of cash sloshing around (there are a lot of "greater fools" sitting on piles of unproductive capital, thanks to the global shift to the unproductive financial sector at the expense of the productive real economy) and they've demonstrated an unlimited appetite for pouring their investors' money into ambitious policy entrepreneurship aimed at destroying any potential impediment to total dominance of mobility (taxis, taxi unions, regulation, etc).

That’s right: The “market” for Uber includes all of the passengers who now take public transportation.

More:

We estimate that our TAM comprised 11.9 trillion miles in 175 countries in 2017. As detailed in the table below, this estimate includes both vehicle miles and public transportation miles. Our TAM is based on 7.5 trillion vehicle miles. We derive the number of vehicle miles in our TAM by multiplying the number of passenger cars in each country, based on third-party data, by our country-level estimates of miles traveled per car, based on 2018 reports from the U.S. Federal Highway Administration and the International Road Federation (©IRF World Road Statistics). Our TAM also includes an estimated 4.4 trillion public transportation miles.

Here’s where you get the real point:

Increasing Ridesharing penetration in existing markets. Our large addressable market opportunity means that with approximately 26 billion miles traveled on our platform in 2018, we have only reached a less than 1% penetration of miles traveled in trips under 30 miles in the 63 countries in which we operate. We believe we can continue to grow the number of trips taken with our Ridesharing products and replace personal vehicle ownership and usage and public transportation one use case at a time, including through continued investment in our affordable Ridesharing options, such as Uber Bus and Express POOL.

Uber’s plans include attacking public transit [Tim Redmond/48 Hills]

(via JWZ) (Image: Tarcil, CC-BY-SA)

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petrilli
214 days ago
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Jack Dorsey, 'lifestyle guru,' touted as 'Gwyneth Paltrow for Silicon Valley'

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“The lithe, 42-year-old tech founder has become a one-man Goop.”

Oh yeah. It's that real.

In the New York Times, a profile of Twitter and Square (yes both companies) CEO Jack Dorsey presents the man as a 'lifestyle guru' akin to Gwyneth Paltrow, leading followers on to trends he's found interesting. Fasting. Cryotherapy. 'Optimum cognitive performance.'

You'd think with all that optimum cognitive performance, Twitter wouldn't be such a mess, but whatever.

Mashable has a related item about how Jack “recently purchased a sauna that is an electromagnetic field-shielded "little tent" with a freestanding stool in the middle.”

"No radiation EMF from power, from Wi-Fi, from cellular" gets through, Jack Dorsey observes about his in-home electromagnetic field-shielded infrared sauna, a device considered by scientists to be completely bogus.

"[It] feels a little bit different because you're not getting hit by all the EMF energy."

"I feel a lot more energized," Dorsey said of his EMF-free man-tent on a recent podcast. "I feel a lot cleaner."

From the Nellie Bowles profile in today's New York Times:

“[Jack] Dorsey finds time for himself. For 10 days a year, he sits in silence at a meditation retreat. Before getting dressed each morning, he experiments with using his home infrared sauna and then an ice bath, sometimes cycling through both several times before he leaves home. He walks five miles to work. He eats one meal a day and has said that on the weekends when he fasts from Friday to Saturday, “time slows down.”

He talks about starting each morning with salt juice — water mixed with Himalayan salt and lemon. It is dispensed in Twitter offices around the world.

[...]

He is very thin. He looks paler than usual. His beard is longer. The lines on his face have deepened, and he can seem to disappear in one of those high-end, overly long T-shirts. But to his followers, this monastic, pensive leader is a better direction for Silicon Valley. And while Mr. Musk’s acolytes seek to mirror an attitude, Mr. Dorsey’s have an 11-point lifestyle plan.

Just as an endorsement from Ms. Paltrow can make even the most spurious self-help objects instantly covetable, an endorsement from Mr. Dorsey can put products out of stock for weeks.

“We’re just really glad he’s spreading the message,” said Harpreet Rai, the chief executive of Oura Ring, which makes a sleep tracking device Mr. Dorsey endorsed.

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petrilli
221 days ago
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How embarrassing
Arlington, VA
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