Monday, November 15th, 2021


Super Bad True Gov Story

I'm so lucky to have discussed my book and the news with Phil Bronstein and Peter Coyote, who reads the prologue. Bonus: my background is a fake bookshelf with only my books on it! Check it out.

So you're a tough guy / Like it really rough guy / Just can't get enough guy/ Chest always so puffed guy. Billie Eilish wrote those lyrics about a romantic relationship, but they could just as easily work as an international anthem for dictators and autocrats who are more aligned and connected than ever. "Nowadays, autocracies are run not by one bad guy, but by sophisticated networks composed of kleptocratic financial structures, security services (military, police, paramilitary groups, surveillance), and professional propagandists. The members of these networks are connected not only within a given country, but among many countries. The corrupt, state-controlled companies in one dictatorship do business with corrupt, state-controlled companies in another. The police in one country can arm, equip, and train the police in another. The propagandists share resources—the troll farms that promote one dictator's propaganda can also be used to promote the propaganda of another—and themes, pounding home the same messages about the weakness of democracy and the evil of America." Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic: The Bad Guys Are Winning. "If the 20th century was the story of a slow, uneven struggle, ending with the victory of liberal democracy over other ideologies—communism, fascism, virulent nationalism—the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse."



"Bannon arrived at the FBI Washington field office in a black SUV shortly before 9:40 a.m. He was met by a swarm of media and was defiant when addressing TV cameras outside the building, saying, 'We're taking down the Biden regime.'" Steve Bannon surrenders after his indictment on two counts of contempt of Congress. There may be no person who better fits the definition of contempt than Steve Bannon. But don't kid yourself. For him this isn't about law. It's about marketing. And as David Frum explains in The Atlantic: Steve Bannon Knows Exactly What He's Doing.


My Life in Turnaround

"This is the day that you hope will come when you do this work," Richardson said in a statement emailed from his office. "We are so grateful that Danny will finally be able to reconnect with his loved ones, who have been advocating for him all this time, against immense odds." U.S. journalist is freed from Myanmar prison with ex-diplomat Richardson's help. (A few days ago, he was sentenced to 11 years hard labor, so this is a pretty great turnaround.)


Home Home on Derange

"Unvaccinated people will only be allowed to leave home for limited reasons, like working or buying food." Austria introduces a new lockdown, but just for the unvaccinated.


Platform Shoos

"There is no way to escape the machine systems that surveil us, whether we are shopping, driving or walking in the park. All roads to economic and social participation now lead through surveillance capitalism's profit-maximizing institutional terrain, a condition that has intensified during nearly two years of global plague." Shoshana Zuboff in the NYT: You Are the Object of a Secret Extraction Operation.

+ "If you think that some companies want to make money the honest way, by selling you stuff, while other companies are full of evil wizards who want to spy on you in order to deprive you of free will, then the answer is simple: just pay for stuff, and you'll be fine. But time and again, we learn that companies spy on you – and abuse you in other ways – whenever it suits them – even companies that make a lot of noise about how they don't need to spy on you to make money." Cory Doctorow: Vizio makes more money spying on people who buy TVs than it does on TVs themselves.


Race to Replace Human Race

"The competition was a major test of the proposition that someday teams of robots could help first responders assess disaster zones before risking human lives. It also marked an audacious step toward robot independence, since the robots would have to do their work mostly beyond human control." WaPo Magazine: The Pentagon's $82 Million Super Bowl of Robots. Inside a three-year competition that raises the question: How long until humans are obsolete? (Some days it feels like the decent ones already are...)


Gun Shy

Judge Bruce Schroeder has run a pretty weird trial in Wisconsin. And ahead of closing arguments, it got a little weirder as he dismissed the gun charge against Kyle Rittenhouse.


International Shell Game

"A padded FedEx envelope arrived at the Calgary International Airport. It had been shipped from an address in Levittown, Pennsylvania, and on the customs form it had been labelled "Book." As it was being sorted, a customs agent saw the package move. Inside the envelope was a slim cardboard box with holes along its sides. Inside that box were two small fabric pouches with duct-taped edges. An agent carefully opened the pouches into a plastic mail-carrying bin. Golf ball–size baby turtles emerged, crawling toward corners, scrambling over one another's shells, and shuffling up the box's walls. There were eleven turtles in total." To Catch a Turtle Thief: Blowing the Lid Off an International Smuggling Operation.

+ Police come across, stop illegal turtle selling on Las Vegas Strip.


Cat Snatch Fever

"Inside most converters, there's a ceramic honeycomb that contains trace amounts of 3 precious metals: platinum, palladium, and rhodium." Those metals, particularly rhodium, is why thieves love to steal catalytic converters.


Bottom of the News

"The wide availability of coronavirus vaccines in the U.S. is making more people feel comfortable flying longer distances for Thanksgiving. If you're among them, brace yourself for long lines in crowded airports and jam packed flights, because the early pandemic days of half-empty planes are long gone." Flying for Thanksgiving? Expect packed planes, unruly passengers and cancellations. (I knew things would eventually get back to normal.)

+ The strange history of "It was a dark and stormy night."