Monday, July 16th, 2018


The Depths of Helsinki

Vladimir Putin could have inserted an ethernet cable into the base of Donald Trump's brainstem, and still, the performance by the American president could not have been worse. In recent days and weeks, President Trump has heaped endless praise on Kim Jong Un, humiliated America in front of our NATO allies, called the European Union a key US foe, and fist-bumped Turkish president Recep Erdogan, saying, "He does things the right way." And yet, none of these ominous markers on the ever-accelerating descent down a near-treasonous mountain of idiocy and lies could have fully prepared America and its allies for the disgrace we saw on the international stage today. Trump held Russia blameless for their election hacking, sided with Putin over America's intelligence agencies, brought up Hillary's emails, criticized Democrats and past administrations, and touted his own election victory. About the investigation that has led to indictments of dozens of Russian operatives, Trump said, "I think the probe has been a disaster for our country. It's ridiculous what's going on with the probe." George W. Bush once said he saw into Putin's soul. Donald Trump just stared into his colon.

+ From Reuters: Shock as Trump backs Putin on election meddling at summit. And from The Atlantic: Trump Sides With the Kremlin, Against the US Government.

+ About the bad state of relations between the two countries, Trump played his all too familiar both sides card, explaining that he holds "both countries responsible" and said that, "We've both been foolish." And that was the good part of Trump's performance. Think I'm exaggerating? Try this quote on for size: "President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today, and what he did is an incredible offer—he offered to have the people working on the case come and work with their investigators."

+ Trump: "I don't see any reason why" Russia would interfere in election. (That's why. Right there.)

+ Former CIA Chief John Brennan: "Donald Trump's press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???"

+ John McCain: "Today's press conference in Helsinki was one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory. The damage inflicted by President Trump's naiveté, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake."

+ James Fallows: "There are exactly two possible explanations for the shameful performance the world witnessed on Monday, from a serving American president ... Either Donald Trump is flat-out an agent of Russian interests ... Or he is so profoundly ignorant, insecure, and narcissistic not to realize that, at every step, he was advancing the line that Putin hoped he would advance, and the line that the American intelligence, defense, and law-enforcement agencies most dreaded. Conscious tool. Useful idiot. Those are the choices, though both possibly true."

+ The New Yorker: "We have never before had an American President who shared Moscow's goals."

+ What did Trump get in exchange for letting Putin off the hook, humiliating America, and throwing his entire intelligence community under the bus? A soccer ball...

+ I know there are some who will think my statements are too harsh or somehow based in partisan politics. Those people are wrong. This presidency has been an epic disaster for America. Now, remarkably, we've reached a new low. It doesn't matter if Donald Trump really peed on a mattress in front of a hidden camera, because today, he shat the bed in front of the whole world.


Less is (Balti)more

"Just before a wave of violence turned Baltimore into the nation's deadliest big city, a curious thing happened to its police force: officers suddenly seemed to stop noticing crime. Police officers reported seeing fewer drug dealers on street corners. They encountered fewer people who had open arrest warrants. Police questioned fewer people on the street. They stopped fewer cars." USA Today: Baltimore police stopped noticing crime after Freddie Gray's death. A wave of killings followed.


Murdoch, He Wrote

"There is something deeply unsatisfactory about the Rupert Murdoch story – the lack of consequences, the triumph of cynicism – and it trips those who tell it into making the same mistakes over and over again. He has attracted a coterie of chroniclers, many of very high quality, who are tempted to contrive comeuppances for him. "You have to write something at the end," one biographer told me, so they suggest that his journalists might stand up to their boss (this has happened a couple of times, but not for decades), that he might be spayed by regulators (never happened), that he might be overcome by second thoughts. All wishful thinking. 'If I was going to be shot tomorrow morning, I bet I could get out of it,' Murdoch said once, and he does." Let's face it, Trump and Putin aren't the only ones running the world. Here's Richard Cooke with a very interesting look at The Endless Reign of Rupert Murdoch.


Immigrant Throng

"The French team, now the finest in the world's most popular sport, is entirely dependent for its greatness on immigration, on the extraordinary things that only a cosmopolitan civilization can achieve." Adam Gopnik on The French World Cup Win and the Glories of Immigration.


Vax v Cracks

"Approved after a measles outbreak that originated at Disneyland, the law makes California one of only three states that bar parents from citing their personal beliefs to avoid having their children vaccinated ... Yet, even with the strict new law, there remain schools and neighborhoods with dangerously low vaccination rate." LA Times: Pushback against immunization laws leaves some California schools vulnerable to outbreaks.


Wise Guise

"If Silicon Valley wants to help the world, there is a lot it can do, starting with making its own products safer and its own companies more just. Perhaps most important, it can develop respect for hard-earned expertise in areas other than its own." Zeynep Tufekci in the NYT: What Elon Musk Should Learn From the Thailand Cave Rescue. (Zeynep is so right on this. Everyone in my industry should read it to get a better understanding of how the rest of the country perceives us.) "Mark Zuckerberg, the chief executive of Facebook, donated $100 million to New Jersey schools as part of a multiyear plan to improve them. The centerpiece of the plan was teacher evaluation and charter schools, but it didn't work well. Some aspects of the plan even made things worse. Education is a complex topic, and making a lot of money in tech is not a qualification for solving educational problems."


State Fair?

"30 percent of the population of the country will control 68 percent of the seats in the U.S. Senate. Or, more starkly, half the population of the country will control 84 percent of those seats." WaPo: In about 20 years, half the population will live in eight states. (In addition to the obvious political ramifications, this is not going to help my commute.)


The Play’s The Thing

"Alvio de Vera is playing San Andreas not simply because it's his favorite game, although he'll certainly tell you it is. He's playing it because it's the only game at Papelaria Joel. The game came with one of the three computers when Alvia bought them a year ago. Since then, village kids have flocked here, and it's not just to finish their homework." Video games are a powerful draw, even when it's really hard to access a video game. Polygon: The video games of Ecuadorean fishing village Santa Marianita.

+ The Verge: The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one. (Hey, I'm not one to point fingers. I only assume someone is on the other end of this...)


Tax Cuts Like a Knife

"'Now, economic confidence has been good, we're in a strong economy, GDP is growing, but the question has been, where's the paycheck?'" said Katie Bardaro, vice president of data analytics at PayScale. The answer is, largely, in the companies' coffers. Businesses are spending nearly $700 billion on repurchasing their own stock so far this year." CBS News: Worker wages drop while companies spend billions to boost stocks.


Bottom of the News

"As Morad, Cohen has the mission to get guns in the hands of schoolchildren as young as four years old, saying that efforts to arm teachers are insufficient ... Cohen gets gun lobbyists to not only support his effort, but one even helps publicize a line of stuffed animal guns especially designed for young children. Aim at the head, shoulders, not the toes, not the toes, sings gun-rights activist Philip Van Cleave at one point. Then with the help of lobbyist Larry Pratt, Cohen manages to get a few prominent Republicans to back his plan to arm preschoolers." Sacha Baron Cohen's parody plan to arm preschoolers will leave you crying from laughter. And then just crying.

+ It's Not Your Fault If You Can't Get Anything Done in the Summer.