Monday, August 15th, 2022


Profound Incites

There were two massive stories that emerged during my time off: the FBI's retrieval of top secret material from Mar-a-Lago and the attempted murder of Salman Rushdie, who has had a target on his head since Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa related to his 1988 book, The Satanic Verses. Both stories are connected. That we had an American president commit a nonstop crime spree is the second most damning political story in America. It stands behind his party leadership's continued support of him. Over the past several days, that support has taken the form of blasting the FBI, attacking a judge, accusing the Justice Department of crimes, and often idiotic rage directed at people doing their jobs. These aren't just soundbites. From NPR: "Since the FBI search ... researchers who track extremism have sounded the alarm about an escalation of violent rhetoric from the far-right, including talk of another 'civil war' and threats against federal law enforcement. By Thursday, an attempted attack on an FBI field office in Cincinnati appeared to underscore the real danger behind those threats, particularly given a digital trail of ominous posts that were left under the name of the suspect." Meanwhile, the synagogue attended by the judge who approved the Mar-a-Lago search warrant had to cancel a weekend service following an onslaught of violent antisemitic threats.

Given his track record, it shouldn't surprise anyone that Trump spent the weekend attacking the FBI despite ‘unprecedented' threats to agents. But it should worry you more that his enablers got on board and, "immediately after the search, congressional Republicans, including members of leadership, reacted with fury, attacking the nation's top law enforcement agencies. Some called to 'defund' or 'destroy' the F.B.I., and others invoked the Nazi secret police, using words like 'gestapo' and 'tyrants.'" A supposedly law-and-order party's leadership is inciting violence against America's own legal agencies to further genuflect at the altar of a serial criminal who attempted to overthrow an American election. And these are not just words. These words can incite people to commit deadly acts, just as the words about Salman Rushdie inspired a violent act decades later.

Did Trump and his enablers issue a fatwa ordering the killing of FBI agents? No. But he's done nothing to lower the heat or violent rhetoric among his most rabid followers. The message continues to be "stand back and stand by." Like with the Rushdie story, there's no gray area here. There's a clear right and wrong. America doesn't have a polarization problem. America has a GOP leadership radicalization problem. It's time the media covered it that way.

When Rushdie was attacked, I was reminded of the words of his friend Chris Hitchens when the threat on Rushdie's life was issued—words that have a much broader meaning at this moment in America's history: I felt at once that here was something that completely committed me. It was, if I can phrase it like this, a matter of everything I hated versus everything I loved. In the hate column: dictatorship, religion, stupidity, demagogy, censorship, bullying, and intimidation. In the love column: literature, irony, humor, the individual, and the defense of free expression. Rushdie survived the attack. Hopefully, America will.


Watch Me Work

"In lower-paying jobs, the monitoring is already ubiquitous: not just at Amazon, where the second-by-second measurements became notorious, but also for Kroger cashiers, UPS drivers and millions of others ... Now digital productivity monitoring is also spreading among white-collar jobs and roles that require graduate degrees." NYT (Gift Article): The Rise of the Worker Productivity Score.

+ "Surveillance makes worker coordination and solidarity harder, and big data makes capital coordination easier, so the need for both pro-labor and antitrust laws is greater than ever before." An interview with Zephyr Teachout on resisting surveillance and enforcing labor law.


Keep ‘Em Separated

Caitlin Dickerson's tour de force Atlantic piece on the secret history of the U.S.
government's family-separation policy provides a detailed look at who created the border separation policy and who pushed for it to continue even after tragic outcomes. It also provides a look at how bad things can happen when every layer of bureaucracy assumes it's someone else's job to stop it. We need to take away children. "It is easy to pin culpability for family separations on the anti-immigration officials for which the Trump administration is known. But these separations were also endorsed and enabled by dozens of members of the government's middle and upper management: Cabinet secretaries, commissioners, chiefs, and deputies who, for various reasons, didn't voice concern even when they should have seen catastrophe looming; who trusted "the system" to stop the worst from happening; who reasoned that it would not be strategic to speak up in an administration where being labeled a RINO or a "squish"—nicknames for those deemed insufficiently conservative—could end their career; who assumed that someone else, in some other department, must be on top of the problem; who were so many layers of abstraction away from the reality of screaming children being pulled out of their parent's arms that they could hide from the human consequences of what they were doing."


How The Turntables Have Turned

"The company that made its name on authenticity had been deceptive about its practices. The episode is part of a crisis MoFi now concedes was mishandled ... 'It's the biggest debacle I've ever seen in the vinyl realm." WaPo (Gift Article): How a Phoenix record store owner set the audiophile world on fire.


Extra, Extra

Lean on Green: "The report directly states that their sustainability claims have misled consumers into making purchases they thought benefitted, or at least posed less of a threat to, the planet. Spoiler alert: They didn't." Your Favorite 'Sustainable' Brand Might Not Be So Green After All.

+ Doesn't Smell Like Victory: "In Ukraine, tragedies are a backdrop to everyday existence, piling up in numbers that seem inconceivable, an inescapable reality that feels like the very air in your lungs." NYT (Gift Article): In My Homeland, the Smell of Death on a Summer Afternoon. Also from NYT: Six Weeks of ‘Hell': Inside Russia's Brutal Ukraine Detentions. And Anne Applebaum in The Atlantic on ordinary citizens fighting the good fight: The Other Ukrainian Army.

+ Gas Can Opener: "The most expensive US state pays far less than the UK." The Hustle explains why gas is actually cheap in America.

+ Peeling Back the Robe: "He grew up speaking a language of the enslaved on the shores of Pin Point, Georgia. He would become the most powerful Black man in America, using the astonishing power vested in a Supreme Court justice to hold back his own people. Now he sits atop an activist right-wing court poised to undo the progressivism of the past century. What happened?" (And more importantly, can it be reversed?) Mitchell S. Jackson in Esquire: Looking for Clarence Thomas.

+ Broadband Leader: "Rosenworcel, the first woman ever confirmed by the Senate to chair the FCC, spends her days planning what an ideal internet should look like in America. That includes getting every U.S. home a broadband connection, as well as protecting Americans as billions of our appliances, vehicles, and consumer goods start connecting to each other." Meet the Woman Working to Get Internet Into Every U.S. Home, While Keeping America's Enemies Out. (I can barely manage WiFi tech support in my own house...)

+ Et Tu, Lesotho?: My family just got back from Venice and Rome. Apparently, we wanted to witness climate change firsthand because it was hot as hell. I should have gone to Lesotho instead. Tiny African kingdom has skiing as Europe sweats summer heat.


Bottom of the News

"Adam Neumann, the co-founder and former CEO of the shared office startup WeWork, is working on a new rental real estate business that has received funding from Andreessen Horowitz." (This will either be a great comeback story or we'll get a new television series made about the flop. It's a win win.)

+ "Drive the two-lane highway of Oahu's North Shore and you'll discover a foodie phenomenon. From Haleiwa to Kahuku, this coastline — most known for its big waves — is also famous for its garlic shrimp." Giovanni's is the Hawaii garlic-shrimp food truck that started a craze. (I don't even eat shrimp and I love going to this place...)