Wednesday, July 29th, 2020


Nerd Immunity

The much anticipated Congressional appearance by tech execs got underway at a moment when their companies are more powerful and valuable than ever, and when it feels like, as individuals, we need them the most. I assumed Jeff Bezos would show up in a cardboard box, Tim Cook would argue that his appearance meant Apple could take a 30% cut of all American tax revenue, Sundar Pichai would claim that Google had plenty of competition from Alta Vista and Lycos (just Ask Jeeves), and that Mark Zuckerberg would finally get it over with and annex America. Microsoft's Satya Nadella, who for some reason wasn't invited, delivered his remarks via a Word Doc, guaranteeing no one will open it or read them. It didn't quite go the way I anticipated. "Representative David Cicilline, the chairman of the antitrust subcommittee, grilled Sundar Pichai, Google's chief executive, about how Google steers traffic to its own search pages and products. Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York asked Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's top executive, about emails he wrote describing Instagram as a potentially disruptive competitor before the company acquired the firm. And Representative Hank Johnson of Georgia pushed Tim Cook of Apple on whether his company exerts unfair dominance over app developers in its app store." Here's the latest from the NYT. If I were on the House committee, I'd only have one question: We set out to build something great. We ended up ruining the world. What happened? (Maybe we should just unplug everything and wait thirty seconds.)

+ The Atlantic's Ross Anderson with a great look at the broader threat technology poses. China Is What Orwell Feared. "Xi wants to use artificial intelligence to build a digital system of social control, patrolled by precog algorithms that identify dissenters in real time." And then he wants to export that tech to other countries.

+ Reuters: Rite Aid deployed facial recognition systems in hundreds of U.S. stores.


Portland of the Lost

"Agents with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement will begin leaving the city's downtown area on Thursday." According to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Oregon governor says US agents will start leaving Portland.

+ Will Portland be the end of this story? For now, the Dept of Justice has plans to head to Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee. But Operation Legend could end up only being a legend in the administration's mind. If that's the case, we have the wall of moms and the leaf blower dads to thank.

+ NY Mag: Why Trump's Protest Crackdown Keeps Blowing Up in His Face. "Trump wishes to frame the election as a conflict between himself and anarchists. But the very act of inserting himself into the conflict changes its nature. Trump's strategy is failing because he thought he could isolate a static enemy. He wanted to beat up on a new caravan. This time, though, the caravan is all of us."

+ A factor to consider: The use of federal agents was all about politics. And the actions were not polling well.


Seed Demon

Twenty-one states are now considered to be in the coronavirus red zone as America approaches the sad milestone of 150,000 deaths. Meanwhile, the president is doubling down on the false information spread by the demon sperm doctor. "I guess Twitter took them off and I think Facebook took them off. I don't know why, I think they're very respected doctors."

+ Maybe they should have left it up. Dr. Stella Immanuel says Jesus will destroy Facebook if her COVID video doesn't go back up.

+ Taking videos down after a short time doesn't always do the trick. This nonsense was viewed more than 20 million times before it was removed.

+ It's not just bad messaging. It's more wasted time. CNN: Some doctors met with Pence after their group's video was removed for misleading info.

+ You'll never guess which country is adding to the administration's misinformation campaign.

+ A headline that sums up so much about why we're completely screwed as a country when it comes to fighting Covid-19. GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert Suggests Mask Wearing Gave Him Coronavirus.


Anon Believer

"According to Marc-André Argentino, who researches online extremism at Concordia University, 1.2 million Facebook users have joined QAnon groups in the four months since March — nearly matching the 1.64 million members that have joined since October 2017. Part of the cult's indoctrination includes pulling vulnerable people away from their families and loved ones. It's an occurrence so common, it's led to a common refrain in the community for those who say their family won't speak to them anymore: 'We are your family now.'" Mel Magazine: What It's Like to Lose a Loved One to QAnon. (I hope we don't lose a country to it.)


Barrbarian at the Gate

As I guy who spends all day surfing an insane news wave, I have my defense mechanisms. One is to never watch hearings in real time. I made the mistake of breaking that rule for the William Barr hearings. Nausea ensued. WaPo: Five takeaways from Attorney General Barr's contentious congressional hearing.

+ "Trump is contemptuous of post-Watergate norms and of congressional and judicial oversight. Trump has enabled Barr to pursue his decades-long goal of increasing the power of the presidency. And Barr has enabled Trump to stonewall congressional investigations to an extent not seen since Nixon. It's an ideologue meets grifter." Vox: How Bill Barr made Trumpism possible. (These days, it feels more like Barrism.)


Youth Movement

"As the death toll escalates in coronavirus hot spots, evidence is growing that young people who work outside the home, or who surged into bars and restaurants when states relaxed shutdowns, are infecting their more vulnerable elders, especially family members." Young people are infecting older family members in shared homes. (Very worrisome when it comes to school reopenings...)

+ NYT: More Than 6,300 Coronavirus Cases Have Been Linked to U.S. Colleges. (And it's Summer, folks...)


Umbrella Coverage

"A masked man who was seen in a viral video smashing the windows of a south Minneapolis auto parts store during the George Floyd protests, earning him the moniker 'Umbrella Man,' is suspected of ties with a white supremacist group and sought to incite racial tension." (I hear that's going around these days...)

+ "America's summer of anxiety and rage has swept up men like Diaz, energizing conservatives who are deploying to the front lines of the culture war. Across the country, conservative armed civilians have surged into public view — marching on statehouses, challenging Black Lives Matter protests, chasing Internet rumors — and bringing the threat of lethal force to local politics. Their emergence has prompted congressional hearings on the surge in anti-government militias and domestic extremism and has alarmed researchers who track hate groups." WaPo: Politics at the point of a gun.


A Polaroid Moment

"Just on Tuesday, the stock jumped 203 percent for its best day ever, after the U.S. government awarded the company a $765 million loan to start producing drug ingredients under the Defense Production Act, the first of its kind." What company is it? Eastman Kodak. This is a developing story... (I wonder if anyone of interest purchased Kodak stock earlier this week?)


Seed Divesting

"Residents in more than a dozen states recently reported receiving seed packets they did not order that appeared to have been sent by mail from China." Americans warned not to plant mysterious seeds. Maybe this is the demon seed Trump's experts were talking about...


Bottom of the News

The president was so jealous of Anthony Fauci's first pitch on opening day that he made up a story about throwing out his own pitch at a Yankees game, and then made up a story about being too busy and having to cancel. So this will sting a bit. "The Topps NOW limited-edition baseball trading card featuring Anthony Fauci shattered an all-time sales record run for the company in selling 51,512 cards in the span of just 24 hours."

+ Photos: Lonely Days for Sports Mascots.

+ Kottke: Cute Laundry Shop Couple Stylishly Models Clothes Left Behind by Their Patrons. (These are the only people who have changed their outfits in the past few months...)