Thursday, May 31st, 2018


Flat Chance

Anyone in the news business should be willing to publicly share their biases, so here's one from me: I don't believe the Earth is flat. That said, I find the plausibility of the Earth's flatness to be greater than many of the conspiracy theories and outright lies that dominate our headlines. So, while Flat Earthers remain outliers, they've taken a few steps toward the intellectual center over the past few years (which, at least in their view of things, means a few steps away from the edge). So now is as good a time as any to examine what they believe and why. From The New Yorker's Alan Burdick: Looking for Life on a Flat Earth. "The flat Earth is the post-truth landscape. As a group, its residents view themselves as staunch empiricists, their eyes wide open. The plane truth, they say, can be grasped in experiments that anyone can do at home." (I tried a couple, but I must have made a rounding error...)


Dear Prudence

"Trump told reporters that Pompeo's meetings in New York were going 'very well' and that he expected Kim Yong Chol and the rest of the visiting North Korean delegation to make its way to Washington on Friday to give him a letter from Kim Jong Un. Never before has so much depended on a pair of pen pals." The Atlantic: So Is the North Korea Summit Back On, or What?


Coalition of the illing

"The EU said it would take immediate steps to retaliate, while Mexico vowed to impose duties on everything from U.S. flat steel to cheese. Canada's government announced plans to impose tariffs on U.S. steel, aluminum and other products." Forget peace with Iran and North Korea. America may need to make peace with its staunchest allies. From Bloomberg: Trump's Steel Tariffs Provoke Retaliation From Biggest Allies.

+ "I want to be very clear about one thing: Americans remain our partners, friends, and allies. This is not about the American people. We have to believe that at some point their common sense will prevail. But we see no sign of that in this action today by the US administration." That quote comes from Canada's foreign affairs minister. Here's the latest on the reaction to Trump's tariffs.

+ "In a market economy, businesses can thrive despite bad policies ... That's because those policies may be inefficient, but they are stable in their inefficiency." The NYT Upshot: The Economy Can Handle Steel and Aluminum Tariffs. The Real Risk Is Erratic Policy.


Pardon Hardon

Trump announced a pardon for conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza (and floated the idea of a Martha Stewart pardon, and a Rod Blagojevich commutation). "As with so many of Trump's maneuvers, this is entirely within the legal bounds of his power but still largely outside the realm of propriety and precedent. In addition to the possible implications that Trump's pardons have for the investigation into collusion with Russia—critics worry he'll use them to obstruct prosecution—his methods of wielding the pardon power are likely to have long-ranging effects." David Graham argues that Trump is weaponizing the pardon power.

+ Vox: How Dinesh D'Souza went from being a respected conservative intellectual to a conspiracy-minded felon.


Rain of Terror

"Monsoon rains in Bangladesh could kill thousands of Rohingya refugees by bringing flooding, landslides and disease. Our reporter witnessed the enormous effort to rebuild the world's largest refugee camp." The NYT with an amazing (and amazingly sad) look at a refugee camp on the brink. Race Against the Rains.


Microsoft? Word.

Somewhere along the way, Microsoft went from being an unstoppable behemoth to an internet underdog. You probably noticed that part. But you may have missed the company's steady (and at times, surging) comeback. Their marketcap has risen 40% over the past 12 months and Microsoft is now bigger than Alphabet/Google.


California Roll Call

"It has the feeling of one of those civil wars in the Middle Ages, where the king is fighting against barons and there's multiple alliances that form and collapse. It's a lot less straightforward than just you got your Democrat, you got your Republican. It's sort of organized chaos." Welcome to the weird and often wild world of California politics. From Vox: California's 'top two' primary chaos, explained.

+ "The odd alliance between these mayoral rivals ahead of the June 5 election is a function of San Francisco's system of ranked-choice voting, whereby residents can choose up to three candidates by order of preference instead of the usual one." In San Francisco, Rival Candidates Try an Unusual Election Message: Vote for Both of Us.


Their Separate Ways

"On April 6th, Jeff Sessions and Kirstjen Nielsen, the head of Homeland Security, announced a zero-tolerance policy for immigrants at the border. Anyone who didn't cross the U.S. border at an official port of entry would be criminally prosecuted, even if they were seeking asylum, and those travelling with their children would be separated from them. The policy was now official." The New Yorker: How the Trump Administration Got Comfortable Separating Immigrant Kids from Their Parents.

+ "Every month, thousands of deportees from the United States and hundreds of asylum-seekers from around the world arrive in Tijuana. Many never leave." California Sunday Magazine with a deep dive into Tijuana: City of Exiles.


Bare Mitzvah

Bill Black explains why the Alt-Right thinks porn is a Jewish conspiracy (aside from the fact that they think everything is): "The goal of this addictive material, supposedly, is to neuter and desexualize white men, and ultimately doom the white race. This is where the alt-right theory of porn ties into the larger theory of white genocide. The immigration of people of color into Europe and North America, coupled with the declining birth rate among white couples, will render white people a minority, if not altogether extinct, and then Jews will be the only high-IQ race left in the West, leaving them free to control the black and brown masses." (Porn is the most popular thing Jews have ever been blamed for. I guess that's progress...)


Bottom of the News

"While the amount of data about me may not have caused harm in my life yet–as far as I know–I don't want to be the victim of monopolistic internet oligarchs as they continue to cash in on surveillance-based business models. What's a concerned citizen of the internet to do? Here's one no-brainer: Stop using Chrome and switch to Firefox." Yes, Mozilla, maker of Firefox, is my sponsor. But no, they didn't ask me to link to this FastCo article. They didn't even invite me to some upcoming parties in SF (hint, hint).

+ The Atlantic: Unfortunately, the Electric Scooters Are Fantastic. (I was afraid of that...)

+ If these photos are any indication, the 2018 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest is going to be epic.