Tuesday, October 20th, 2020


Cocktober Surprise

Apologies in advance, but I really, really need to get this out. Maybe we owe Jeffrey a debt of gratitude for Toobin in public; after all, isn't it nice to finally have a different dick in the news, another jerk to circle, a stump without a speech, another apprentice to fire, a tower not named Trump, an attempted rub-out not involving White Supremacists, a nonpolitical pole to analyze, and after six months, a reason to use wipes that doesn't involve a deadly virus? Yes, by now you've heard that the legal analyst and cable news p(o)undit did not maintain proper social distancing between himself and his member (in fairness, the CDC only said not to touch your face). In short (nothing personal), Toobin dropped trou before dropping his Zoom connection, exposing his nub on the wrong hub, and there's the rub. Thus, colleagues from WYNC and The New Yorker were treated to a gratis peep show as they prepped for election night—at least in this simulation, the results were not delayed. While one assumes there were very fine people on both sides, there's still no word whether The New Yorker greeted Toobin's staff meeting with Shouts or Murmurs; however it's quite clear that this wasn't what was meant when someone remarked, "We really need to pull it together." In fairness, Toobin's first error was one of split seconds, since, at any given moment during the quarantine—and this won't come as much of a news bulletin—pretty much every middle aged American male is either on Zoom or working checkout at the Banana stand. (What, you thought we were spending the whole friggin pandemic learning to bake sourdough?) The second error was one of positioning. Everyone knows you stay seated when multitasking during a work call (or you can get yourself a standing desk). So while Toobin's overly cocky timing and technique provided a teachable moment on how not to go full Divinyls, maybe we shouldn't hold it against him. (Not that we should hold it for him either.) These days, any signs of unity are welcome, even if it's just between a man and himself.

+ FastCo: I can't believe we need to say this, but it's never okay to masturbate during a work meeting. (This is exactly the kind of middle management mumbo-jumbo that made me decide to work alone...)


Energy of the State

"It would end a promising career that had just catapulted him into the ranks of senior CIA leadership, and threw him into the middle of a growing international mystery that has puzzled diplomats and scientists, and raised concerns on Capitol Hill. In the months ahead, he would come to realize that it wasn't a spoiled sandwich that had mowed him down. Rather, it was his macabre initiation into a growing club of dozens of American diplomats, spies, and government employees posted abroad who were suffering in much the same way he was—targets of what some experts and doctors now believe were attacks perpetrated by unknown assailants wielding novel directed energy weapons." Julia Ioffe in GQ: The Mystery of the Immaculate Concussion. "American diplomats and spies ... believe they've been targeted with this secret device all over the world—and even at home, on U.S. soil. Now, as a CIA investigation points the blame at Russia, the victims are left wondering why so little is being done by the Trump administration." (I know people who are paid to worry about the big challenges threatening America, and they are worried about this.)


Search History

"Countless advertisers must pay a toll to Google's search advertising and general search text advertising monopolies. American consumers are forced to accept Google's policies, privacy practices, and use of personal data; and new companies with innovative business models cannot emerge from Google's long shadow." The US government has filed antitrust charges against Google. Google went from being a search engine that sent you to other sites to being the Hotel California—you can check things out but you can never really leave.

+ "The Silicon Valley company has leveraged the act of looking for something online into such a vast technology empire over the years that it has crept into my home, my work, my devices and much more. It has become the tech brand that dominates my life — and probably yours, too." NYT: It's Google's World. We Just Live in It.

+ Why now? You might be asking yourself that question when it comes to a Justice Dept more interested in deregulating business and serving the president. Well, this Bloomberg article from June might present a clue: Rupert Murdoch Could Soon Reap Reward in His Long War Against Google.


Lapdogs and Laptops

You may have noticed that I haven't covered the salacious stories around emails supposedly found on Hunter Biden's laptop. That's because I think the story is bullshit. Worse, as more than 50 former senior intelligence officials have suggested, the story, "has all the classic earmarks of a Russian information operation."

+ I mean, does this headline suggest hell froze over or what? Fox News Passed on Hunter Biden Laptop Story Over Credibility Concerns. (They'll still cover it nonstop now that it's out though.)

+ In other election blotter news, the president of our former democracy has called on his personal attorney general to appoint special prosecutor to investigate Bidens before Election Day. But don't think the cheating will hamper the lying. For fact checkers, the period from Friday through Sunday was one of the most challenging of Trump's entire presidency.

+ Meanwhile, the president continues to attack "Fauci and all these idiots," even as 14 states recently have set hospitalization records.


Counting Votes? What a Concept

"The Supreme Court ruled Monday that absentee ballots in Pennsylvania can be received up to three days beyond Election Day, setting a precedent that could apply to some other states as well." It was a 4-4 tie, just in case you're wondering how the nominated justice could change election rules when she's confirmed.

+ WaPo: The U.S. has already hit 70% of total 2016 early voting.

+ Meanwhile, when it's the other person's turn to talk, microphones will be automatically muted during the final presidential debate. (Just to be sure, I'm going to preemptively mute my TV, stick my fingers in my ears, and hum for 90 minutes.)


Not Gonna Give Up Their Shot

"Researchers at the University of California, Davis, found that 110,000 people in California purchased a firearm in direct response to the coronavirus. About 47,000 of the buyers were first-time gun owners. Buyers cited concerns over civil unrest, economic downturns, and the release of thousands from state prisons."


The Crazy is Spreading

"It is always disconcerting to hear that complete strangers are (digitally) shouting at your mom about pedophilia. But it turns out this is happening to many Biden text-bankers. 'I have been doing a lot of text banking and the number of people who think Biden is a pedophile is astounding,' one volunteer tweeted last week. Another volunteer in Pennsylvania ranked it as the second most common response from Trump voters in her text-banking conversations." Biden Volunteers Are Encountering a Shocking Number of Voters Pushing an Unhinged Smear.


Dustin the Wind

"The barrage of late money — which includes at least $22 million from Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz — figures among one of the most expensive and aggressive plays yet by tech billionaires, who have spent years studying how to maximize the return they get from each additional dollar they spend on politics. Moskovitz is placing his single biggest public bet yet on the evidence that TV ads that come just before Election Day are the best way to do that." Recode: Silicon Valley megadonors unleash a last-minute, $100 million barrage of ads against Trump. Yes, there's some irony in the fact that tech geniuses are turning to last minute TV ads to turn an election. And yes, there's too much money in politics.


Art of the Steal

"Trump bought a $10 million Super Bowl ad when he didn't yet have a challenger. He tapped his political organization to cover exorbitant legal fees related to his impeachment. Aides made flashy displays of their newfound wealth — including a fleet of luxury vehicles purchased by Brad Parscale, his former campaign manager. Meanwhile, a web of limited liability companies hid more than $310 million in spending from disclosure, records show." AP: How Trump plowed through $1 billion, losing cash advantage. This plus all the rest and it's still too close to call, folks.


Bottom of the News

"My acting teacher told us to perform a dramatic monologue from any movie and I did mine from Austin Powers and no one noticed."

+ Apple Launches ‘Apple Music TV,' a 24-Hour Music Video Livestream. (And you thought they'd stopped innovating!)