Thursday, November 15th, 2018


The Social Nyetwork

The NYT is out with an investigative report on the way Facebook's overlords dealt with the Russian election hacking and other building controversies. Among the most damning aspects of the story is the way Facebook deployed a sort of if you can't beat them, join them strategy to deal with the nefarious exploitation of their massive platform. "While Mr. Zuckerberg has conducted a public apology tour in the last year, Ms. Sandberg has overseen an aggressive lobbying campaign to combat Facebook's critics, shift public anger toward rival companies and ward off damaging regulation. Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic." Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook's Leaders Fought Through Crisis. This disastrous Facebook story is one more example of a reality we need to come to terms with: Being knowledgeable about building viral internet properties does not qualify you to lead the thing Facebook has become. (I'm not sure anything does…)

+ How Facebook Wrestled With Scandal: 6 Key Takeaways From The Times's Investigation


Penny Wise Pound Foolish

"Die-hard pro-Brexit forces find it too compromised; die-hard pro-Remain forces see it as a needless exercise in wrecking existing E.U. arrangements." The twists and turns of Brexit deal have frustrated both the leaves and the stays. And that's not changing as Prime Minister Theresa May introduces the latest deal. CityLab: The Bitterest Lesson of the Brexit Deal..

+ Resignations are flowing and May's own job is on the line. Here's the latest from CNN and BBC.

+ BBC: Brexit: A guide to where we are.



"Whatever the outcome of Mueller's investigation, America is establishing new precedents. One precedent is that President Trump fired the FBI director—and Congress did nothing. Another is that Trump admitted the FBI's investigation of his campaign motivated the firing—and Congress did nothing. A third precedent is that Trump fired the attorney general after having railed against him publicly for refusing to intervene in the investigation—and Congress has done nothing. A fourth precedent is that Trump circumvented the Justice Department's order of succession so he could replace the attorney general with an individual who has directed partisan attacks at the special counsel." The former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics: This Is the Saturday Night Massacre. It's just happening in slow motion.

+ On Thursday, Trump described Mueller as angry and highly conflicted and referred to special counsel investigators as "a disgrace to our Nation." (Translation: More indictments could be coming soon.)

+ Bloomberg: McConnell Blocks Senate Bill Protecting Mueller Investigation. "McConnell told reporters the legislation is unnecessary, saying he hasn't heard the president or others threaten the Mueller probe."

+ Meanwhile, adding to the weirdness and endlessness of the Trump-related legal newscycle, there's this: After arrest, Michael Avenatti denies LA domestic violence.


Run On Sentence Reform

"The view that punishment is too harsh, and rehabilitative measures too scarce, is broadly supported in public opinion polls, especially as crime has hovered at a 20-year low. That popular support has translated into political backing. 'Out in the real world where people live, it's not even controversial anymore,' said Mark Holden, who leads Koch Industries' work on criminal justice issues." Towards the end of the Obama administration, prison sentencing reform was one of the few promising areas of bipartisan agreement. Even in these increasingly divisive times, that bipartisanship has held. NYT: Republicans and Democrats Cannot Agree on Absolutely Anything. Except This.


Letter of Intent

"He was the only American to devise an experiment that dramatically reduced suicide deaths. His technique didn't involve a complicated thousand-page manual to follow or $1 billion in pharmaceutical research and development. All he did was send occasional letters to those at risk. Right there in therapy, Whiteside found herself spouting out everything she knew about Motto's approach and career. She began to cry. 'Oh my God,' she said. 'What if this is what we should be doing? What if it's that simple?'" Jason Cherkis in HuffPo Highline: The Best Way To Save People From Suicide.


Princely Summary

"Saudi Arabia's initial explanations for Khashoggi's death have met with international skepticism that centers on Crown Prince Mohammed, who has shown a drive to silence dissent as he consolidates power. The uproar over the killing has also triggered suspicions that a scapegoat might be blamed, to protect the autocratic ruling family." Saudi Arabia's public prosecutor has indicted 11 suspects accused of involvement in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Five of those people face the death penalty, and according to the prosecutor, they've all confessed.


Smoke and Mirror Images

"As multiple devastating wildfires raged across California, a private firefighting crew reportedly helped save Kanye West and Kim Kardashian's home in Calabasas, TMZ reported this week. The successful defense of the $50 million mansion is the most prominent example of a trend that's begun to receive national attention: for-hire firefighters protecting homes." It turns out this is not really a story about wealthy celebrities getting special treatment to protect their homes. It's about insurance companies going to special lengths to protect their bottom line. But either way, it's yet another example of how the economic divide is everywhere, and extends to everything. The Atlantic: Kim Kardashian's Private Firefighters Expose America's Fault Lines.

+ FastCo: The depressingly big business of pollution masks.


Knit Picking

"She analyzed almost 100 interviews and 403,168 profiles of knitters and crocheters in the United States. She found that even on one of the Internet's great niche social networks, offline encouragement and feedback helped most talented hobbyists recognize their ability and take the first steps toward monetizing it." WaPo: This researcher studied 400,000 knitters and discovered what turns a hobby into a business.


Fruity Rebels

"These increases must stop. I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes." So said FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb as the agency moved to restrict flavored e-cigarette products to teens.

+ Federal regulations leave many legal cannabis companies unbanked. That means they operate as cash businesses. Even when it comes to paying taxes. ("Where do I drop off this truckload of dimebags?")


Bottom of the News

"Yoshitaka Sakurada said he had 'always directed my staff and secretaries to do that kind of thing.'" Buzzfeed: Uh, So Japan's Cybersecurity Minister Says He's Never Used A Computer Before.

+ The British publisher said 'toxic' was chosen over words like 'techlash' and 'gaslighting' thanks to the 'sheer scope of its application.'" Toxic is the word of the year.

+ The Ubiquity of Smartphones, as Captured by Photographers. (This is just about as depressing as you'd imagine...)