Thursday, July 16th, 2020


Naked and Afraid

I spent the first fifteen minutes of the great Twitter hack of 2020 naked, in the fetal position, sobbing quietly. That was because I have a verified user blue checkmark next to my name (and these, along with likes and retweets, are doled out in quantities to produce just enough dopamine to prevent one from focusing on the fact that one is wasting one's life on social media). Because of the scope of the hack, people with blue checkmarks were blocked from tweeting. First, they hacked our election. Then, they hacked our democracy. Now, they'd escalated the attacks to our Twitter. All things considered, I was taking it pretty well. But then it occurred to me that the Bitcoin scam that had taken over the biggest accounts on Twitter—Gates, Obama, Musk, Biden, Apple, Uber—had not taken over mine. Yes, I'm an addict, but apparently I'm an addict who's not popular enough to count among Bitcoin scammers.

The sobs became screams. My two kids gingerly knocked on the sliding metal door of my man cave (where daddy does his work) and asked, "Dad, are you ok?" It wasn't the naked sobbing and screaming that concerned them (I'm a news curator in the Trump era, they're used to that). What concerned them was that I hadn't Tweeted for more than thirty minutes. They assumed I was dead.

The Twitter pause gave us some time to reconnect through the metal door, and it was nice. It turns out my son is heading to high school soon, and my daughter is also up to something exciting, but I didn't catch all of it because by the time she got to the point, Twitter had unlocked my account and I was focused on delivering an absolutely killer first Tweet back: "White House blames Fauci for Twitter outage." (42 likes, 2 retweets; just enough to distract me from what's become of my life).

We don't yet have all the details, but Vice reports that the hackers convinced a Twitter employee to help them hijack the accounts. Whatever caused the meltdown (Twitter's, not mine), it was big and widespread. The ramifications of this kind of vulnerability (Twitter's, not mine) are significant. Senator Ed Markey got it exactly right: "While this scheme appears financially motivated...imagine if these bad actors had a different intent to use powerful voices to spread disinformation to potentially interfere with our elections, disrupt the stock market, or upset our international relations." And let's face it, even without a hack, certain bad actors already use powerful voices to spread disinformation to potentially interfere with our elections, disrupt the stock market, and upset our international relations. Of course, he's got a blue checkmark next to his name, so at least the hack gave us a little break from his Tweets too. If only I had thought of the joke sooner, it would have done wonders for the platform (mine, not Twitter's).

+ On the plus side, my own technical glitch was entirely overshadowed by Twitter's. I left the link off yesterday's top story about a leader in the vaccine search. The blurb and the link are right here.


Crime Sans Punishment

"Britain, the United States, and Canada accused Russian hackers ... of trying to steal information from researchers seeking a coronavirus vaccine, warning scientists and pharmaceutical companies to be alert for suspicious activity." (Criminals will crime until they face repercussions for criming.)


Masked Winger

"Georgia's Gov. Brian Kemp is explicitly banning Georgia's cities and counties from ordering people to wear masks in public places." (I can't tell if this is an effort to kill people or put The Onion out of business.)

+ "A South Florida health official is concerned the disease could cause lifelong damage even for children with mild illness." Nearly one-third of children tested for COVID in Florida are positive.

+ By 3 to 1, Americans reject Trump's push to reopen schools. (The bullshit isn't selling anymore...)

+ The relocated Republican convention to be scaled back due to coronavirus. (There's nothing I'd be less likely to risk my life for than attending a political convention.)


Cannon Fodder

Nick Cannon apologized to Jewish community for some antisemitic remarks, and that's good. But as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar explains, this is part of a trend (maybe the oldest trend in human history). Where Is the Outrage Over Anti-Semitism in Sports and Hollywood? This stuff really bums me out. When minorities target each other with prejudice, it's a white supremacist's dream.


Hometown and Country

"Now America's culture war had arrived in the form of competing protests, held on the same July 3 afternoon, in the same town." Michael E Miller in WaPo: A teen led a Black Lives Matter protest in his small town. A cross was burned in his yard.


The Professional

"The killer, dressed entirely in black and wearing a black mask, followed the young technology entrepreneur from the elevator of his luxury condo building into his apartment. Then he used an electrical stun gun to immobilize the entrepreneur." NYT: Dismemberment of Tech C.E.O. Fahim Saleh Looks Like Professional Job. (Most of the details in this story actually make it seem like anything but.)


Consultants of Swing

"For the world's best-known corporate-management consultants, helping tackle the pandemic has been a bonanza. It's not clear what the government has gotten in return." ProPublica: How McKinsey Is Making $100 Million (and Counting) Advising on the Government's Bumbling Coronavirus Response.

+ Vice: Coronavirus Has Only Made the Mafia Stronger. (I'm not implying an connection between these stories, I'm just running out of space.)


Sleuth Fairy

NYT: How a Struggling Company Won $1.6 Billion to Make a Coronavirus Vaccine. "'The market wants to believe in fairy tales,' said David Maris, the managing partner of Phalanx Investment Partners and a longtime analyst covering the pharmaceutical industry. He said investors wanted to believe that — like Cinderella — the companies that couldn't go to the ball would eventually win the prince." (Considering the stakes, the strategy still makes some sense. It's like angel investing in startups. Fifty can fail as long as one hits it big. And in this case, we only need one fairy tale to come true.)


From Brad to Worse

President Trump announced Wednesday night that he is replacing campaign manager Brad Parscale with longtime political aide Bill Stepien. (Yeah, because his slide is Parscale's fault.) Parscale will climb his way back to the top just as soon as he finishes breaking down the outdoor stage in Tulsa...


Bottom of the News

Shopping showed some signs of coming back at the beginning of Summer. NPR: America Went Shopping For Clothes Again In June. (I didn't change my clothes in June.)

+ NYT: You Know What Else Has Sold Well During the Pandemic? Weed Edibles.

+ Nike's New Grateful Dead Sneakers Have a Hidden Pouch For Weed? (Yes, because there's no better place to hide weed than in your Grateful Dead shoes...)

+ How Much Marijuana Will NBA Players Need in the Bubble? (Probably about as much as it took me to get through yesterday's Twitter outage...)