Thursday, July 6th, 2023


Better Off Thread

The world is burning. Democracy is teetering. Quick, choose a Twitter replacement!

People know that Meta is loose with our personal information, did little to stop the spread of false information during the election, let Cambridge Analytica harvest user data, has been used to incite violence around the world, suffered record fines for privacy violations, failed to stem political manipulation of governments around the world, and exhibited patterns that led whistleblowers to explain in detail how the company puts profits over people. Along with these and other scandals, we also know that Meta has a long and pathetic history of directly copying other company's products, and because of its scale some of these efforts have been successful. But we need our social media dopamine hits, we miss the community, and, in the end, we hate Elon more than Zuckerberg. So, like swaths to a flame, tens of millions of users have logged onto Threads, which is a basically a 2007 version of Twitter backed by the popularity of Instagram and the scale of Facebook. But social media is about quantity, not quality. The product features will come. In the meantime, Threads is where the people are. Can it ultimately defeat (or at least damage) Twitter? It's possible, in large part because Twitter's new owner seems so intent on that defeat. I'm a sick, needy addict that desperately misses the retweets and likes that once coursed through my veins, so yes, you can find me on Threads (using a phone with the Threads app installed), along with pretty much every other Twitter clone. I announce my presence there with the pride of a junkie in a back alley spending his last few bucks on a few hits of weak-ass dopamine cut with chagrin because access to the good stuff dried up when Twitter was sold. So give me, give me, I need, I need. This is the internet now, where we get to choose between Elon and Zuck. They've threatened to fight each other in a cage match. But we're the ones trapped in the cage.

+ Related from Steven Pearlstein in WaPo (Gift Article): Here's the inside story of how Congress failed to rein in Big Tech. "Over the past 30 years, the processes and norms that once allowed Congress to discover what the country wanted and needed have so badly eroded that few members can remember how it's done." (Who are we kidding? Members of Congress spend all day trying to go viral on social media just like the rest of us...)


Cues Fuse

"Syracuse is about to become an economic test of whether, over the next several decades, the aggressive government policies—and the massive corporate investments they spur—can both boost the country's manufacturing prowess and revitalize regions like upstate New York. It all begins with an astonishingly expensive and complex kind of factory called a chip fab." MIT Tech Review: The $100 billion bet that a postindustrial US city can reinvent itself as a high-tech hub.


Trip Advisor

"Greenberg was looping. Passing thoughts became black holes clawing him to untold depths, playing and replaying in a mad, warping whirlpool. Tricks that would have typically changed the channel—classical music, a splash of water to the face, waiting it out, crying it out—had no effect. Worst of all, he had no help. This wasn't a guided journey, after all, just a man alone in his house, losing his mind. Who do you call in such a state? Who could possibly understand this other­worldly misery with its indescribable new dimensions, its billowing revelations, its slithering dream logic?" Wired: Meet the Psychedelic Boom's First Responders. "With more tripping will come more psychic terror. A new movement of volunteers will guide you through your brain melt." (They should have a service like this for news curators.)


Getting the Shaft

"For dozens of Penuma patients who spoke to me, the shock of the new was the prelude to graver troubles. Some, like Mick, lost sensation. Others said they experienced stabbing pains in the shower or during sex ... The one time they tried to have sex, she told me, the corners of his implant felt like 'someone sticking a butter knife inside you.'" ProPublica: Inside the Secretive World of Penile Enlargement.


Extra, Extra

Suddenly, This Summer: "New precedents have been set in recent weeks and months, surprising some scientists with their swift evolution: historically warm oceans, with North Atlantic temperatures already nearing their typical annual peak; unparalleled low sea ice levels around Antarctica, where global warming impacts had, until now, been slower to appear; and the planet experiencing its warmest June ever charted ... And then, on Monday, came Earth's hottest day in at least 125,000 years. Tuesday was hotter." WaPo: Why a sudden surge of broken heat records is scaring scientists. This reminds me of a Hemingway quote, ironically from The Sun Also Rises: "How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly."

+ Author Killed: "Amelina died in a hospital from injuries sustained in the June 27 strike on a popular restaurant frequently visited by journalists and aid workers in the city of Kramatorsk. Twelve other people also lost their lives in the attack." Ukrainians honor award-winning writer killed in Russian missile attack on restaurant. "Before she was killed by a Russian missile strike, the acclaimed novelist and war crimes researcher wrote about growing up in Moscow's shadow, and how she came to understand what being Ukrainian really meant." Victoria Amelina: Ukraine and the meaning of home. (Her killing is a story about the meaning of unlawful invasions by genocidal maniacs.) Speaking of murderers, Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin - who led a short-lived rebellion in Russia last month - is in Russia and not Belarus.

+ Control Walt Delete: Walt Nauta, aide to Donald Trump, pleads not guilty in classified documents case. (Dude, seriously, take a deal.)

+ GQ Anon: GQ posted a negative article about top Warner Bro David Zaslav. When he complained, editors there acquiesced. Drew Magary: David Zaslav kills everything he touches, including GQ. And now there's this detail: GQ Editor Who Pulled Critical David Zaslav Story Is Producing Movie for Warner Bros. Whoops.

+ Speech Impediment: "District Court Judge Terry Doughty, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, issued a preliminary injunction on Tuesday that bars several federal departments and agencies from various interactions with social media companies." The ruling basically suggests that you can't fight real misinformation because it might impact imagined free speech issues. It's nuts. U.S. is barred from combating disinformation on social media. Here's what it means.

+ West Bank: WaPo has a pretty good overview of Israel's latest incursion into the West Bank. What is happening in Jenin in the occupied West Bank, and why now? But way too many articles on this topic are totally ignoring the backdrop for everything going on in Israel right now: Internal politics and the massive and endless protests.

+ Breaking Away: "Many e-bikes and e-scooters are perfectly safe, but bad batteries (and other bad hardware, such as chargers) at risk of igniting are making their way into some products. Policy makers are working on the issue, but no solution will arrive overnight." E-bikes Are Going to Keep Exploding.

+ Bean Counters: Inflation means having to pay for your coffee on your birthday. Companies rein in customer rewards programs.


Bottom of the News

"I thought maybe I could live with it, maybe it would fade into the background ... But it never did." Shattered Nerves, Sleepless Nights: Pickleball Noise Is Driving Everyone Nuts.

+ Slate nails the Seltzer wars: One Seltzer to Rule Them All. The sparkling bliss of Polar Beverages.