April 19th – The Day’s Most Fascinating News

Dominion Wins, America Loses. Netflix' Mail Stripper.

Stephen Shackelford, one of the lawyers who led Dominion Voting Systems legal shellacking of Fox News, said of the surprise settlement: “Money is accountability.” When it comes to civil cases, he couldn’t be more correct, and Fox just got held accountable to the tune of $787.5 million. Dominion gets the cash and the reality-based public got plenty of pre-trial discovery to confirm things we already knew: Fox News lied about voting machines (and a lot more) following the 2020 election, they knew they were telling lies, and they did it in service of a candidate they held in contempt. Like that candidate, they were held hostage by an increasingly rabid base with a growing number of viewing options to feed an endless appetite for fear mongering and conspiracy theories. The reason this devastating court loss for Fox leaves you with a pit in your stomach is because while Dominion won, America lost.

Fox viewers will not finally see the light and realize they’ve been lied to by Murdoch, Inc for years. They will not be told that Fox News holds them in the same contempt they hold their favorite candidate and manipulates them for money. Because the settlement holds no required admission or apology, Fox viewers aren’t hearing much of anything about this case, which was predictable as this particular settlement falls into a broader category Fox News insistently avoids: Reality. If Fox learned any lesson, it’s that lying is good business, insomuch as you avoid directing those lies at deep-pocketed, well-lawyered corporations. In terms of the damage to truth and the ongoing threat to American democracy, we’re basically back where we started, give or take about $800 million (which, when you think about it, is a small price to pay for several billion).

+ “In the Murdoch universe, paying such settlements is just the cost of doing business Murdoch-style. The alternative to settling with Dominion for telling a series of lies about voting fraud would have been a painful and long courtroom drama … The Fox brand would have been further stigmatized, and shame and disparagement would have been leveled at Murdoch, Fox executives and Fox hosts Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, Laura Ingraham and Bret Baier, all of whom Dominion planned to put on the witness stand. Getting out from under all of that hurt for $787.5 million is a kind of bargain for a company with a market cap of $17.3 billion. Fox has $4.1 billion in cash and warrants on hand.” Jack Shafer: Rupert Wins Again.

+ Margaret Sullivan: “The public’s memory is short. There will be no apology required as part of the settlement, pointless as that would have been. Fox is already back to bragging about their ‘continued commitment to the highest journalistic standards’, which would be funny if it weren’t so tragic.”

+ “Dominion’s choice to settle comes as a great disappointment to many critics of Fox, and is also probably a smart financial decision. For the critics, this case was about democracy and disinformation and provided an opportunity to hold Fox accountable for years of broadcasting hogwash. For Dominion, it was primarily about business. No matter how lofty the language its spokespeople used, the company didn’t sue to fix the American media landscape.” David A. Graham in The Atlantic: Fox News Lost the Lawsuit but Won the War.

+ The war over damages is far from over. “Most notably, Fox News faces a $2.7 billion case brought by election technology company Smartmatic.” (Then there’s a broader war to secure America’s democracy. No corporation or court case is going to do that, and we shouldn’t expect that it will.)


Laws and Effect

“A 2007 Missouri law allows people to use deadly force under certain circumstances, including against someone who ‘attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling, residence or vehicle’ that is occupied. The legislation, backed by the National Rifle Association, was passed overwhelmingly by the Republican-led Legislature.” Following the shooting of “16-year-old Ralph Yarl, an honor student who went to the wrong Kansas City address while attempting to pick up his younger siblings,” AP wonders: Can a doorbell ring justify a ‘stand your ground’ shooting?

+ The Guardian: ‘Stand your ground’: the US laws linked to rising deaths and racist violence.

+ WaPo (Free Article): America’s toxic mix of guns, concern over crime — and fear-mongering. (Fox News hasn’t had to pay a dime for its role in this disaster.)

+ In addition to the kid who went to the wrong house and the young woman who pulled into the wrong driveway, we now have the case of 2 Texas cheerleaders who were shot after 1 tried to get in the wrong car after practice. For thousands of gun violence victims a year, being in the wrong place at the wrong time means being in modern day America.


Mail Stripper

“Shortly before Netflix broke it off from video streaming in 2011, the DVD-by-mail service boasted more than 16 million subscribers. That number has steadily dwindled and the service’s eventual demise became apparent as the idea of waiting for the U.S. Postal Service to deliver entertainment became woefully outdated.” Netflix will end its DVD-by-mail service. From cool to woefully outdated in just a few years. Now Netflix’s DVD business knows what it feels like to be a parent.

+ You won’t be reading about Netflix in the latest issue of a print computer magazine. With Maximum PC and MacLife’s abandonment of print, the dead-tree era of computer journalism is officially over.


Mas Production

“What are the ideal Cheez-It dimensions to guarantee that the tostada won’t crack inconveniently when bitten into? … What safeguards can be implemented to prevent the orange Doritos dust from staining a consumer’s hands or clothing? Can fourteen Flamin’ Hot Fritos corn chips be added to the middle of a burrito and retain their crunch? … These are all problems of architecture and scalability; fast food is assembly, not cooking.” The New Yorker: Taco Bell’s Innovation Kitchen, the Front Line in the Stunt-Food Wars. Make a run for the border. And then the bathroom.


Extra, Extra

Mom Genes: “A Tennessee man and his mother were convicted on Tuesday of charges that they stormed the Capitol, where they brought plastic zip-tie handcuffs into the Senate gallery as a mob attacked the building, court records show.” (I mean, in a weird way, it’s nice that a mother and son like to do things together.)

+ Taylor’s Version: “Adam Moskowitz, the lawyer handling a class action lawsuit against FTX promoters like Shaquille O’Neal and Tom Brady, said Taylor Swift was one of the only celebrities to check if the exchange was selling unregistered securities.” Taylor Swift did her homework on FTX and dodged a bullet. (This would make a good Taylor song: My FTX boyfriend.)

+ Speed Bump: While case of the leaked military docs has been solved, WaPo is still combing through the contents. “The Chinese military could soon deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound… a development that would dramatically strengthen China’s ability to conduct surveillance operations.” (We’re gonna be nostalgic for the days of slow moving balloons.)

+ Gold? Don’t Rush: “The notion that there’s a mother lode beneath the California peak, which is about 100 miles northeast of Barstow, was popularized in the 1930s by a miner who claimed to have seen it during a daring, four-day voyage. But he and his contemporaries never extracted any treasure from the mountain. These days, a different mining outfit is trying — on land it leases from a private company that owns the property. The miners are led by an 84-year-old who has spent more than half his life looking for the bonanza beneath 6,038-foot Mt. Kokoweef.” LA Times (Free Article): Is gold hidden under a California peak? This treasure map says so.

+ Joe Dough: “President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, made $579,514 last year and paid $137,658 in federal income taxes. That works out to a 23.8% tax rate, more than the average of roughly 14% for all U.S. households.” (Oh, man. We have a president who pays taxes now? This country is going to hell.)

+ Cat’s Cradle: “A children’s cat-hunting competition in New Zealand has been cancelled following backlash against the event.”


Bottom of the News

“US Secret Service stepped into action on Tuesday after a toddler slipped through the bars of iron fencing surrounding the White House. Officers swept across the North Lawn to retrieve the child, who had entered from the north side of the lawn.” The last time a toddler got into the White House, he stayed for four years.

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