Kickoff For December 23, 2019

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday Kickoff, a collection of what I’ve found interesting, informative, and insightful on the web over the last seven days.

The silly season is well and truly upon us. Not that I really care. Christmas isn’t my thing. But if it is yours, I hope you have a merry one. And if it isn’t, I hope you get some time to kick back and relax.

Let’s get this Monday started with these links:


The True-Crime Writer in Cellblock B4, wherein we discover how convicted fraudster Matthew Cox used writing to come to grips with himself and to learn about his motivations for his crimes, and to try to turn his life around.

The Tragic, Violent History of the Brooklyn Waterfront, wherein Nathan Ward tells the tale of how the murder of New York City longshoreman and labour activist Pete Panto not only inspired his fellow dock workers but also quite a bit of literature and film.

Inside the Phone Company Secretly Run By Drug Traffickers, wherein we delve into the murky world of firms that provide custom, encrypted smartphones to criminals.

Business and Economics

High finance is wrecking the economy and the planet—but it won’t reform itself, wherein we learn that the financial world’s touted reforms are like lipstick on a particularly hideous pig, and that deeper, systemic changes are needed to truly change the industry.

I Worked at Capital One for Five Years. This Is How We Justified Piling Debt on Poor Customers., wherein we learn just how low one financial company goes to try to boost its customer numbers and to keep those hapless customers in its thrall.

Inside TurboTax’s 20-Year Fight to Stop Americans From Filing Their Taxes for Free, wherein we get a glimpse of the dirty tricks one company has been using to retain its market share and its profits.

Odds and Ends

What it was like to fly the baddest airplane the world has ever known, wherein former test pilot and astronaut Joe Engle recounts his experiences at the controls of the X-15 rocketplane.

Union Station, wherein David A. Banks argues that we need more public train systems, despite what some right-wing commentator say, and explains how doing that contains lessons for nationalizing digital infrastructure.

The Smartest People in the Room? What Silicon Valley’s Supposed Obsession with Tech-Free Private Schools Really Tells Us, wherein Morgan G. Ames reminds us that people with deep expertise in one area don’t, despite what those people may believe, don’t have deep expertise or knowledge in other fields.

And that’s it for this Monday. Come back in seven days for another set of links to start off your week.

Scott Nesbitt