Wednesday, July 24th, 2019


Bobby Three Sticks to the Story

Robert Mueller threw the book at 'em. Democrats sought to have Mueller confirm and elaborate on the findings of his report. Republicans sought to position the whole hearing as being part of some elaborate conspiracy. And Robert Mueller continually referred back to what he delivered in his book-length report. Yes, the Russians hacked our elections to help elect Donald Trump. No, the report did not exonerate the president when it comes to obstruction of justice. And, of course, the investigation was not a witch hunt. Those on team reality knew these things going into the hearing. I don't see how anyone who's watched Trump over the past two years (or even the past two weeks) and still approves of him can have their minds changed by anything Mueller might say. The bigger picture here is that Russia targeted America's elections and the administration has done nothing to protect us from a similar efforts in the future. In fact, there's been no presidential acknowledgment that the Russian hacking took place. That obstruction of justice, happening right before our eyes, is the most dangerous of all. Here are the latest updates from CNN and WaPo.

+ NPR: Asked whether Russia would attempt to attack future U.S. elections, as it did in 2016, Mueller replied: 'They're doing it as we sit here.'"

+ When asked about Trump's repeated praise for WikiLeaks, Mueller said, "Problematic is an understatement." I'd say that pretty well describes the last two years in American history.


Equity Bagged

Yes, the internet has dramatically disrupted the way we buy things. And, sure, the decline of the terrestrial retail business was a natural outcome of that disruption. But the internet isn't the only thing driving job losses. "Over the past decade, 597,000 U.S. employees working for retailers owned by private equity firms and hedge funds have lost their jobs, while the sector as a whole added more than a million positions." Bloomberg: Private Equity Has Killed 600,000 U.S. Retail Jobs, Study Says.


Heat Flashback

"Since the birth of Jesus Christ, the climate has sometimes naturally changed—some parts of the world have briefly cooled, and some have briefly warmed—but it has never changed as it's changing now. Never once until the Industrial Revolution did temperatures surge in the same direction everywhere at the same time. They're doing so now, the study finds." No Climate Event in 2,000 Years Compares to What's Happening Now.

+ "July is the warmest month of the year globally. If this July turns out to be the warmest July (it has a good shot at it), it will be the warmest month we have measured on Earth!" July is on track to become Earth's hottest month on record.

+ "There was no sea ice in sight. And rather than signs of international maneuvering or preparations for oil drilling, I encountered a sort of stunned silence among the people who have long lived in the 'high north' and are still coming to terms with the region's rapid, climate-induced changes. Everyone I spoke to was far more concerned about the fragility of the region's wildlife than any competing national interests." Vice: This Is What It's Like to Watch the Arctic Die.


Buyback Street Boys

"Before the 1980s, corporations rarely repurchased shares of their own stock. When they started to, it was typically a defensive move intended to fend off raiders, who were drawn to cash piles on a company's balance sheet. By contrast, according to Federal Reserve data compiled by Goldman Sachs, over the past nine years, corporations have put more money into their own stocks—an astonishing $3.8 trillion—than every other type of investor (individuals, mutual funds, pension funds, foreign investors) combined." So who gets ahead when these buybacks take place? Hint: Not mom and pop investors. The Atlantic: The Stock-Buyback Swindle.


Writ Large

"Without the discipline of meaningful market-based competition, digital platforms may act in ways that are not responsive to consumer demands. The Department's antitrust review will explore these important issues." The DOJ is launching an investigation into big tech.

+ In another sign of just how big the big tech companies have become, Facebook just got fined $5 billion for repeated privacy violations, and a whole lot of people think that number is too small to motivate much of a change of behavior. ReCode: Facebook will pay the US government a $5 billion fine for privacy failures — but it won't have to change the way it does business.


When the Shirt Hits the Fan

Boris Johnson officially became the UK's new prime minister and set about reshuffling government. On Brexit, he predicted: "The people who bet against Britain are going to lose their shirts because we are going to restore trust in our democracy." (With the heat in Europe this week, most people would voluntarily give up their shirts...)


Rerun Amok

"Copying and pasting made people look at what they shared, and think about it, at least for a moment. When the retweet button debuted, that friction diminished. Impulse superseded the at-least-minimal degree of thoughtfulness once baked into sharing. Before the retweet, Twitter was largely a convivial place. After, all hell broke loose — and spread." Buzzfeed: The Man Who Built The Retweet: We Handed A Loaded Weapon To 4-Year-Olds. (Editor's note: As a person who measures his self-worth in retweets, I am not in a position to provide valuable insight here.)


Scoot to Kill

Somewhere in San Diego, there are about "10,000 scooters languishing in a tow yard." Having just returned from San Diego, I can confirm that there are still plenty of them on the street. Welcome to a place where modern urban micro-mobility is meeting old fashioned repo men. The Verge: They said you could leave electric scooters anywhere — then the repo men struck back. (Occasionally, there is a battle in which you find yourself rooting against both sides...)


Kiss and Tell

"The fact is that the secret was actually hidden to the public until the 1980s, when a retired couple named Jean and Denise Lavergne thought they recognized themselves. When they confronted Doisneau, he did not initially refute their claim. Then, seizing the opportunity, the couple sued Doisneau for money for violating their privacy. That lawsuit led Doisneau to finally reveal that the subjects of the photo were actually hired models paid to pose for the photo." One of the Most Iconic Kissing Photos Was Staged. (After many years on social media, I'm convinced all public displays of affection are staged…)


Bottom of the News

"The researchers found that even if the laughter is fake — posed, and not actual spontaneous laughter — it'd still boost your opinion of an associated joke. But genuine laughs make it seem funnier still, and all this holds true even when everything is recorded. That means a scientific paper has actually shown that pre-recorded laugh tracks really do make jokes funnier. Oh, and also it reveals a little about how our brains process humor and certain social connections." Discover: Laugh Tracks Do Actually Make Jokes Funnier.

+ RBG: "There was a senator, I think it was after my pancreatic cancer, who announced with great glee that I was going to be dead within six months. That senator, whose name I have forgotten, is now himself dead, and I am very much alive."

+ Two words: Smart diapers. Two more words: No thanks..