How Stable Are Democracies? ‘Warning Signs Are Flashing Red’ ★
Amanda Taub, in an eye-opening piece for the NYT:
Across numerous countries, including Australia, Britain, the
Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United States, the
percentage of people who say it is “essential” to live in a
democracy has plummeted, and it is especially low among younger
The graph showing the results for this question is terrifying.
Support for autocratic alternatives is rising, too. Drawing on
data from the European and World Values Surveys, the researchers
found that the share of Americans who say that army rule would be
a “good” or “very good” thing had risen to 1 in 6 in 2014,
compared with 1 in 16 in 1995.
That trend is particularly strong among young people. For
instance, in a previously published paper, the researchers
calculated that 43 percent of older Americans believed it was
illegitimate for the military to take over if the government were
incompetent or failing to do its job, but only 19 percent of
millennials agreed. The same generational divide showed up in
Europe, where 53 percent of older people thought a military
takeover would be illegitimate, while only 36 percent of
Militaries that answer to democratic civilian authority are the bedrock of Western civilization.
Mark Gurman: Amazon Planning Alexa Speaker With 7-Inch Display ★
Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:
Amazon.com Inc. is developing a premium Echo-like speaker with a
screen, a sign the world’s largest online retailer is trying to
capitalize on the surprise success of its voice-controlled home
gadgets and fend off competition from Google and Apple Inc.
The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven
inches, a major departure from Amazon’s existing cylindrical home
devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the
company’s voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two
people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to
access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments,
and news, the people said. They asked not to be identified
speaking about a product that has yet to be announced.
The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the
screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is
standing, one of the people said.
Interesting — but unsurprising — to see Gurman getting scoops about companies other than Apple.
Andy Baio on the Decline of Independent Blogging ★
Andy Baio, earlier this month:
More people than ever before are able to express themselves on
Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Medium, YouTube, Pinterest,
and countless other social platforms. All of that is great.
But there a few reasons why I’m sad about the decline of
independent blogging, and why I think they’re still worth
Ultimately, it comes down to two things: ownership and
Last week, Twitter announced they’re shutting down Vine.
Twitter, itself, may be acquired and changed in some terrible way.
It’s not hard to imagine a post-Verizon Yahoo selling off Tumblr.
Medium keeps pivoting, trying to find a successful revenue model.
There’s no guarantee any of these platforms will be around in
their current state in a year, let alone ten years from now.
Here, I control my words. Nobody can shut this site down, run
annoying ads on it, or sell it to a phone company. Nobody can tell
me what I can or can’t say, and I have complete control over the
way it’s displayed. Nobody except me can change the URL structure,
breaking 14 years of links to content on the web.
Couldn’t say it better myself.
Jonathan Chait: ‘Trump Wants You to Burn Flags While He Burns Constitution’ ★
Donald Trump, in a seemingly bizarre (even by his standards) tweet this morning:
Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag - if they do,
there must be consequences - perhaps loss of citizenship or year
This is an unusual “issue” for the president-elect to highlight,
given the dire conditions he claims the country faces. The odd
protester has torched the odd flag every so often for decades. The
Supreme Court in 1989 held that burning the flag constitutes
political speech, and thus cannot be banned. Republicans have
occasionally used the issue as a cheap political stunt, since a
majority of the public viscerally opposes flag-burning. To that
standard tactic, Trump added the new Trumpian touch of proposing
to revoke citizenship for violators, which would make his
unconstitutional proposal even more unconstitutional, and also
more attention-getting. And he did not send this one in the middle
of the night, as he often does, but at 6:55 a.m., a moment
probably calculated to seize the morning news cycle.
But why would he choose to pick this strange fight? Here is a case
where the common complaint that he is distracting the public from
unflattering stories rings true. Proposing a flag-burning ban is a
classic right-wing nationalist distraction, and Trump has a number
of ugly stories from which to distract: his plan for massive,
unprecedented corruption, the extreme beliefs of his
appointees, a controversy over a recount that highlights his
clear defeat in the national vote.
Trump using this as a distraction aside, the 1989 Supreme Court decision that held flag-burning to be a legal form of First Amendment protest is an interesting one. It was a 5-4 decision, but the split among justice was not along party lines. The majority decision was written by William Brennan, perhaps the staunchest liberal ever to sit on the court, and joined by Harry Blackmun, Thurgood Marshall, conservative Anthony Kennedy, and arch-conservative Antonin Scalia. Dissents were written by conservative chief justice William Rehnquist and liberal John Paul Stevens. Different times.
(Scalia, notably, is Trump’s proclaimed model for the type of justice he plans to nominate to the court.)
Update: Fox News ran a segment on flag-burning at a Massachusetts college half an hour prior to Trump’s tweet. So it probably wasn’t strategic. He just tweets grotesquely unconstitutional thoughts that pop into his head while watching Fox News.
AP Style Guide on the ‘Alt-Right’ ★
John Daniszewski, vice president for standards at the Associated Press:
“Alt-right” (quotation marks, hyphen and lower case) may be
used in quotes or modified as in the “self-described” or
“so-called alt-right” in stories discussing what the movement
says about itself.
Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however,
because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a
public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs
less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience. In the past
we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.
Again, whenever “alt-right” is used in a story, be sure to include
a definition: “an offshoot of conservatism mixing racism, white
nationalism and populism,” or, more simply, “a white nationalist
Trump’s Lease for His Brand-New D.C. Hotel Forbids Him From Being ‘An Elected Official’ ★
Steven L. Schooner and Daniel I. Gordon, reporting for Government Executive magazine:
The Post Office Lease differs from many of Mr. Trump’s other
business arrangements. That’s because, in writing the contract,
the federal and D.C. governments determined, in advance, that
elected officials could play no role in this lease arrangement.
The contract language is clear: “No … elected official of the
Government of the United States … shall be admitted to any share
or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise
The language could not be any more specific or clear. Donald Trump
will breach the contract on Jan. 20, when, while continuing to
benefit from the lease, he will become an “elected official of the
Government of the United States.”
One gets the sense Trump hasn’t thought this through.
James Fallows: ‘A Reflexive Liar in Command: Guidelines for the Media’ ★
Most people would hesitate before telling easily disprovable
lies like these, much as shoplifters would hesitate if the store
owner is looking at them. Most people are fazed if caught in an
outright lie. But in these cases and others, Trump never blinked.
As part of his indispensable campaign coverage this summer, David
Fahrenthold (and Robert O’Harrow) of The Washington Post offered
an astonishing documentation of Trump being caught in a long
string of business-related lies and simply not caring.
The news media are not built for someone like this.
Our journalistic and political assumption is that each side to a
debate will “try” to tell the truth — and will count it as a
setback if they’re caught making things up. Until now the idea has
been that if you can show a contrast between words and actions,
claim and reality, it may not bring the politician down, but it
will hurt. For instance: Bill Clinton survived “I did not have
sexual relations with that woman,” but he was damaged then, and
lastingly, when the truth came out. To close the loop, knowledge
of the risks of being caught has encouraged most politicians to
minimize provable lies.
None of this works with Donald Trump. He doesn’t care, and at
least so far the institutional GOP hasn’t either.
How can the press gird for action? Here are three early
indications from the news.
A very good read, including this note from one of Fallows’s readers, on dealing with a narcissist:
The Times got in trouble by trying to make sense of his words.
It’s an easy mistake for people in a word-saturated medium to
make, but anyone who’s dealt with a narcissist knows you never,
ever believe what they say — because they will say whatever the
person they are talking to wants to hear. DT is a master at
phrasing things vaguely enough that multiple listeners will be
able to hear exactly what they want. It isn’t word salad; it’s
overt deception, which is much more pernicious.
But the Times fell for it. I’m watching the same mistake get made
over and over again, but I don’t know how to help journalists get
out of the trap. If we are going to survive the days ahead,
someone needs to teach reporters the difference between naming
narcissism vs. dealing effectively with a narcissist.
Case in point, The New York Times staff seemed buoyed by Trump’s claim during his interview that he would keep “an open mind” about “pulling out of the Paris climate agreement.” It was bullshit. He was simply telling The Times staff what they wanted to hear.
The Ethical Double-Standard ★
E.J. Dionne, writing for The Washington Post, “An Ethical Double Standard for Trump — and the GOP?”:
“If Hillary Clinton wins this election and they don’t shut down
the Clinton Foundation and come clean with all of its past
activities, then there’s no telling the kind of corruption that
you might see out of the Clinton White House,” Sen. Tom Cotton
(R-Ark.) told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt.
Presumably Cotton will take the lead in advising Donald Trump to
“shut down” his business activities and “come clean” on what came
before. Surely Cotton wants to be consistent. […]
“The deals that she and her husband were pocketing — hundreds of
thousands of foreign money,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.)
told the Breitbart website, the right-wing outlet once led by
the soon-to-be White House chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon.
Issa added that Clinton wanted her activities “to be behind closed
doors” and “did that because she doesn’t know where the line is.”
We can assume that Issa will press the president-elect about the
dangers of doing business deals “behind closed doors” and instruct
him about where the ethical “line” should be.
My only objection to this column is the question mark in the headline.
It’s pure hypocrisy. And no, both sides don’t do it. There is no precedent for this.
Justin Pot: ‘The Mac App Store Is Full of Scams’ ★
Justin Pot, writing for How-To Geek, on top result for “Microsoft Excel” in the Mac App Store:
It’s possible for a collection of templates to be worth $30, and
for all I know these are really great. But let’s review:
- This is the top result if you search for “Microsoft Excel.”
- The word “template” is not in the name of the product.
- The word “template” is not in the product’s description.
- The product’s description outlines several functions that are
specific to Microsoft Office, and have nothing to do with what
customers will acquire by purchasing a collection of templates.
- It’s literally impossible to find this product by searching for
It’s easy to see that users could be deceived by this, and it’s
hard to imagine that it’s not intentional on the developer’s part.
Whatever the intention here, people were deceived.
Matt Yglesias on Apple’s Functional, Rather Than Divisional, Corporate Structure ★
Matt Yglesias, “Apple May Have Finally Gotten Too Big for Its Unusual Corporate Structure”:
Even Apple’s more popular laptop products show some signs of the
same kind of neglect. The latest iteration of the MacBook Pro
offers a number of impressive features, but it maxes out at a
relatively low level of RAM, doesn’t offer many ports, and isn’t
equipped with truly top-of-the-line internal chips. The computer
is impressive in many ways — certainly the innovative new
TouchBar looks cool — but, like most of Apple’s other products,
it appears to be optimized for lightness and thinness rather than
for true professional use.
But this all raises a more fundamental question. If GE can build
jet engines, tidal energy farms, freight rail data systems, mining
equipment, and medical devices, how is it that the world’s most
valuable company can’t find the time to make a full line of
personal computers and PC peripherals alongside its market-leading
smartphones and tablets? The answer goes back to Apple’s corporate
structure, which, though fairly common for a startup, is extremely
unusual for an enormous company.
It’s an interesting read, especially for anyone who isn’t aware of just how atypical Apple’s functional, rather than divisional, structure is for a large corporation (let alone for the largest, by market cap).
I think it’s almost certainly true that if there were, say, a “Macintosh” division within Apple, that we’d see more frequent updates to all Mac hardware. That doesn’t mean Apple should change its structure, though — and in the long run, I don’t even think that would be good for the Macintosh. Apple’s functional structure is absolutely central to their success over the past 20 years.
I think what Yglesias shows is that Apple’s functional structure is not a panacea — but not that their structure should become more traditional. Like with almost everything else in the world, there are tradeoffs. The Mac going through a years-long period of sporadic (or non-existent) hardware updates is a downside of these tradeoffs. But if Apple had a standalone Macintosh division, there might never have been an iPhone or especially iPad, because the Mac division chief would have been motivated to protect the Mac. We would have had a MacPhone and MacPad instead, and they’d have been lesser products for it.
Also, this problem is not new at Apple. There are certainly growing pains with regard to Apple’s enormous size today. The iPhone’s extraordinary success creates a sort of gravity that has warped the company. But Apple ran into “can’t walk and chew gum” problems even when they were a much smaller company.
Auto Safety Regulators Seek a Driver Mode to Block Apps ★
Neal E. Boudette, reporting for the NYT:
The guidelines call on electronics manufacturers like Apple and
Samsung to design future operating systems that limit the
functionality and simplify interfaces while a vehicle is in motion
and to develop technology to identify when the devices are being
used by a driver while driving. That would ensure the limits are
placed on drivers and not other vehicle occupants.
The new guidelines from N.H.T.S.A. are the agency’s first
recommendations specifically for portable devices that are used
while driving. The agency cannot force electronics companies to
comply, but in the past it issued a set of guidelines for the
navigation and entertainment systems built into cars by the
manufacturer and carmakers adopted them, for the most part. […]
A driver mode would present a simplified interface and detect when
the device is being used by a driver. In this mode, a smartphone
would block any video or distracting graphics; eliminate scrolling
text; and prohibit keypad use for texting or email. Any social
media content or content from web pages like news reports should
be blocked as well, the guidelines say.
In theory, this is a great idea that I would support wholeheartedly. Studies suggest that drivers distracted by their phones are more dangerous than those who are intoxicated by alcohol. But how could it work? A phone with GPS can detect when it’s moving at a high speed, but how could you detect that the phone belongs to the driver of the vehicle, and not a passenger?
Blocking everyone — drivers and passengers alike — from using their phones in a moving vehicle is not going to fly. The only solution I can think of is to greatly increase the penalties for causing an accident while using your phone. We greatly decreased incidents of drunk driving the same way — serious legal penalties, combined with making the act socially unacceptable.
Trump Picks El Chapo to Run D.E.A. ★
Just days after picking Betsy DeVos to run the Department of
Education, President-elect Donald Trump has tapped another wealthy
outsider by naming Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán to head the Drug
In an official statement, Trump said that El Chapo’s “tremendous
success in the private sector” showed that he has what it takes to
“shake things up” at the D.E.A.
How Serenity Caldwell Drowned Her Fiancé’s iPhone 7 Plus on Vacation ★
Unfortunately, even if you wind up with a defective model — as we
did — Apple doesn’t officially cover water damage in its
warranty. You’ll need AppleCare+ not to pay an outrageous sum to
replace your device. Thanks to the phone being covered, it was
just $99, but you only get two incidents at that price — drown
your iPhone a third time, and you’ll be paying half of your
original purchase price for a replacement.
The Genius we spoke to did note that one-time drownings were rare;
they were sending our phone to Apple’s engineering department to
dissect and check on the seals, and if one of the display seals
was indeed found to be faulty, we might get our money and
AppleCare+ incident back. But that’s a long shot, and not one I’m
necessarily banking on.
My general takeaway from the week’s misadventure is this: You can
probably use your iPhone in the shower, at the beach, or wash
debris off its screen under the faucet with no ill effects. But
when you completely submerge it, you’re putting stress on every
water-resistance gasket in the phone — and if just one of those
gaskets fail, you’re looking at an Apple Store visit and a costly
to very costly repair.
How to Fight iCloud Calendar Spam ★
Most of the calendar spam I’ve seen has originated from China.
Somebody has a big list of email addresses and sends out calendar
invites with spammy links embedded. By default, the Mac looks at
these invites and gives them to you via the calendar app along
with a notification.
Historically, I’ve really liked this feature. My family uses
multiple calendars and we routinely send each other invites. If I
need to drive my daughter to a particular event, she sets the
event in her calendar and sends me an invite. (We also have a
shared family calendar but that includes everyone and in this case
it would just be me and my daughter.)
This is what makes me so pissed about calendar spam. It’s taking
something I use often and corrupting it. My guess is this is only
going to get worse and I really hope Apple intervenes. In the
meantime, there are a few steps you can take.
I started getting these last week. Same as a lot of you, I’ll bet: spam for Ray-Ban sunglasses and Ugg boots. Knock on wood, but I haven’t gotten one in about three days as I write this, so maybe Apple figured out a way to stop this? If you’re still getting them, let me know.
Update: A large number of readers report being hit by this spam yesterday and today, so I must just be lucky that it has (temporarily?) subsided for me. The most interesting thing about this is that it’s a way to send completely unauthenticated spam, and it has been just sitting around unexploited until now. This feature has been around for years, but the spammers seemingly didn’t find it until very recently.
Update 2: Apple is “actively working to address this issue by identifying and blocking suspicious senders and spam in the invites being sent.”
Doxie Q ★
My thanks to Doxie for sponsoring last week’s DF RSS feed to promote their new Doxie Q. It’s a smart new rechargeable document and receipt scanner that flips open to scan stacks of paper automatically — anywhere, with a rechargeable battery, built-in Wi-Fi, and no computer required. Get all the power of a big desktop scanner with the flexibility of being able to scan anywhere. You’ve never seen anything like it.
Best off, Doxie’s lightweight design and elegant Mac and iOS apps make it easy to go paperless. Doxie handles any workflow — save scans to your desktop, share with your favorite apps, or send to cloud services like iCloud Drive, Evernote, or Dropbox.
Check out the new Doxie Q here — and, through November 30, every Daring Fireball reader gets a super secret discount — $60 off every new Doxie Q.
Donald Trump Lost Most of the American Economy in This Election ★
Jim Tankersley, writing for The Washington Post:
In the modern era of presidential politics, no candidate has ever
won the popular vote by more than Hillary Clinton did this year,
yet still managed to lose the electoral college. In that sense,
2016 was a historic split: Donald Trump won the presidency by as
much as 74 electoral votes (depending on how Michigan ends up)
while losing the nationwide vote to Clinton by 1.7 million votes
and counting. [Note: It’s now over 2.2 million votes
But there’s another divide exposed by the election, which
researchers at the Brookings Institution recently discovered as
they sifted the election returns. It has no bearing on the
election outcome, but it tells us something important about the
state of the country and its politics moving forward.
The divide is economic, and it is massive. According to the
Brookings analysis, the less-than-500 counties that Clinton won
nationwide combined to generate 64 percent of America’s economic
activity in 2015. The more-than-2,600 counties that Trump won
combined to generate 36 percent of the country’s economic activity
I will say it flatly: Trump voters are ignoramuses, bigots, and/or fools. But time is not on their side. This is their last gasp.
David Remnick: ‘Obama Reckons With a Trump Presidency’ ★
David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker, had extraordinary access to Barack Obama both before and after this election. Regardless of your feelings on Trump’s election, this is a sharp and insightful take on Obama’s perspective:
Even in the midst of what he can only see as a disastrous turn of
history, Obama retained the uncanny capacity to view his
quandaries as if he were drafting a research paper. “A President
who looked like me was inevitable at some point in American
history,” he said. “It might have been somebody named Gonzales
instead of Obama, but it was coming. And I probably showed up 20
years sooner than the demographics would have anticipated. And, in
that sense, it was a little bit more surprising. The country had
to do more adjusting and processing of it. It undoubtedly created
more anxiety than it will twenty years from now, provoked more
reactions in some portion of the population than it will 20 years
from now. And that’s understandable.”
How did he speak with his two daughters about the election
results, about the post-election reports of racial incidents?
“What I say to them is that people are complicated,” Obama told
me. “Societies and cultures are really complicated.… This is
not mathematics; this is biology and chemistry. These are living
organisms, and it’s messy. And your job as a citizen and as a
decent human being is to constantly affirm and lift up and fight
for treating people with kindness and respect and understanding.
And you should anticipate that at any given moment there’s going
to be flare-ups of bigotry that you may have to confront, or may
be inside you and you have to vanquish. And it doesn’t stop… .
You don’t get into a fetal position about it. You don’t start
worrying about apocalypse. You say, O.K., where are the places
where I can push to keep it moving forward.”
If you read only one thing this Sunday night, this should be it.
Democrats Won the Most Votes in the Election. They Should Act Like It. ★
More Americans voted for Hillary Clinton than for Donald Trump.
More Americans voted for Democratic Senate candidates than for
Republican Senate candidates.
So why aren’t Democrats acting like it? Why aren’t they trying to
force Republicans, the media, and the emergent Trump White House
to act like it?
This is not an argument that the election was rigged, or that
Trump’s win is somehow illegitimate. The president is chosen by
the Electoral College. The Senate is built to favor small states.
Gerrymandering is legal. America does not decide national
elections by simply tallying up votes.
But the will of the voters still matters, or at least it should.
Thus far, Democrats have slipped comfortably into the position of
minority party. They aren’t demanding that Trump put forward
compromise candidates for key posts. They aren’t laying out a
proactive agenda that would serve as their basis for negotiations
with Trump and the Republicans. And they aren’t, in their public
messaging, emphasizing that most voters opposed Trump’s agenda,
and that both Democrats and Republicans need to take that
We lost the election, but we’re the plurality. That’s the truth. It doesn’t change the results, but it’s so uncomfortable for Trump that he’s just making shit up that he somehow actually won the popular vote.
Adam Geitgey: ‘The New MacBook Pro Is Kind of Great for Hackers’ ★
But in some ways, the new MacBook Pro is the most techy and expandable laptop Apple has ever made. They are trusting their pro users to wade into murky USB-C waters in search of the holy grail of a universal, open standard for moving data and power between devices.
I’m not here to change your mind about the MacBook Pro. Yes, it’s probably too expensive and more RAM is better than less RAM. But everyone posting complaints without actually using a MBP for a few weeks is missing out on all the clever things you can do because it is built on USB-C. Over the past week or two with a new MacBook Pro (15in, 2.9ghz, TouchBar), I’ve been constantly surprised with how USB-C makes new things possible. It’s a kind of a hacker’s dream.
One of his observations: it makes life easier for high-end Android users, because it uses the same port.
Now Is Not the Time to Criticize the Galaxy Note 7 ★
Wen Powers, writing for McSweeney’s:
Here’s the thing though, we did choose, and you should all stop protesting against it. Yes, more of you voted for the iPhone, but you also seem to forget that the mail room staff liked how the Galaxy Note 7 has such fun games, and their votes count more. That’s the system that we have always used, that’s the system we will always use. Get used to it.
Jony Ive and Marc Newson Create Room-Size Christmas Tree for Claridge’s ★
The whole installation is the project, not the unlit, undecorated tree itself.
Bloomberg: ‘Apple Abandons Development of Wireless Routers’ ★
Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:
Apple Inc. has disbanded its division that develops wireless
routers, another move to try to sharpen the company’s focus on
consumer products that generate the bulk of its revenue, according
to people familiar with the matter.
Apple began shutting down the wireless router team over the past
year, dispersing engineers to other product development groups,
including the one handling the Apple TV, said the people, who
asked not to be named because the decision hasn’t been publicly
Not surprising, given that their current hardware hasn’t been updated in three years. Apple used to refresh its AirPort routers frequently, to keep up with the state of the art. They often weren’t first to adopt new standards, but they never sat still for three years.
The question is, are they really out of the router game (and will start selling Belkin or Eero routers in their stores), or are they working on something new, a HomeKit hub, that will include the functionality of a router?
Just seems like Apple is abandoning a lot of stuff without having replacements ready these days.
Victory: A Charting Library for React.js and React Native ★
My thanks to Formidable for sponsoring this week’s DF RSS feed to promote Victory, their data visualization library for React.js and React Native.
Simple question: are you building custom charts? Victory is used by companies like Airbnb, FiveThirtyEight, and speedtest.net. Victory makes it easy to get started without sacrificing flexibility. Use the same API to create charts for web and mobile devices. And the results are gorgeous. Seriously, even if you’re not a web developer, you should go check out their website and see how beautiful these charts are. And not in a show-y off-y bullshit way like using “3D” for two-dimensional data. No — Victory lets you easily create charts that are gorgeous in the sense of traditional graphic design and serious data visualization practices. The documentation is alive — you can play with the charts just by clicking and dragging.
Victory is created and supported by the open source team at Formidable, free use under the MIT license. There is no catch here. It’s an open source library that you can just use.
The Talk Show: ‘Fork the Universe’ ★
Jason Snell returns to the show to talk about the new MacBook Pros and the Touch Bar, and Apple’s new book chronicling the last 20 years of their industrial design, Designed by Apple in California.
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‘Quite Literally’ ★
Michael Jurewitz on why kakistocracy is even more apt a description of Trump’s incoming administration than I thought.
The Right Way to Oppose Trump ★
Luigi Zingales, writing for the NYT:
Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did
mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so
rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive
political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks,
the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity.
His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among
his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in
most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.
Perfectly applies this very morning. Twitter is full of people talking about Mike Pence getting booed by the audience at Hamilton last night. Now Trump himself is tweeting about it, focusing news media on the incident. Booing is not meaningful opposition. But it has served to distract from a legitimate scandal: Trump settling a fraud lawsuit for $25 million yesterday. The smart opposition is focused on that today.
And the real news — what is happening this week that will have serious repercussions — is that the Trump administration is being filled with cronies, fools, and white nationalist bigots. Trump just nominated an avowed racist to head the Department of Justice and we’re talking about Mike Pence getting booed at a play? If you’re truly opposed to Trump, get serious and stay focused.
Putting the Price of ‘Designed by Apple in California’ in Context ★
Brian Fagioli, writing for BetaNews:
While you may disagree with me that the price is appropriate, let
us remember that this is not some book you will bring into your
bathroom to read on the toilet. It is intended to be a collectible
piece of art. You don’t evaluate the value of a Picasso painting
by adding up the cost of the ink and canvas. This is a collection
of Andrew Zuckerman photographs meant to be appreciated beyond raw
Heck, some design and art students may want to buy it for college.
If you haven’t bought a college textbook in a while, please know
that $200 or $300 is not out of line.
A better comparison would be to high-end coffee table books, particularly those from Taschen. I bought their James Bond Archives book for $200, and The Stanley Kubrick Archives was about the same price, but the collector’s edition version of The Making of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” was $1,250, and Stanley Kubrick’s Napoleon was even more than that.
Taschen came out with lower-priced editions of those books eventually, but $200/300 is not out of line for a premium book like this. I just think Apple would have been better served allowing someone like Taschen to do it for them, in terms of optics.
My guess is that Apple doesn’t care about the optics — Jony Ive wanted to do this, so of course they were going to do it their way, creating new papers and inks and photographic processes.
And here’s a devil’s advocate take: imagine if Apple had created this exact same book, but only made it available to Apple employees. If that were the case, I suspect there’d have been a clamor today from people begging them to sell it to everyone.
No, Apple Probably Should Not Have Bought Harman ★
Larry Dignan, in a piece titled “Why Samsung’s Harman Purchase Will Be Seen as Apple Blunder Decades From Now”:
Samsung’s purchase of Harman is strategically sound, worth the $8
billion, and positions Samsung well in the connected car market.
Meanwhile, Samsung diversifies from a saturated smartphone market.
The deal makes so much sense you have to wonder why Apple didn’t
There has been an argument floated for months if not years that
Apple should use some of its cash to acquire Harman. The crux of
the case, outlined by Jim Cramer repeatedly, is that Apple could
diversify and become the hub of the connected car.
I disagree. Arguing that Apple should have bought Harman is arguing that Apple should evolve into a conglomerate. It might make perfect sense for Samsung, because Samsung is a conglomerate — a company that makes everything from washing machines to refrigerators. They used to make construction vehicles. Samsung makes phones because there is money to be made making phones. Apple makes the iPhone because they love making personal computers.
Jacob Kastrenakes Reviews the MacBook Pro With Touch Bar ★
Jacob Kastrenakes, writing for The Verge:
I know a lot of people are concerned about how shallow the new
keyboard’s keys are — I was, too; I’m pretty picky about
keyboards — but this keyboard isn’t a problem at all. I don’t
even mean that in an “it’s an acceptable compromise for the size”
kind of way; this is simply a great keyboard with nice, clicky
keys. I didn’t need to adjust to it at all, and in the moments
I’ve gone back to type on my old Pro, I’ve found myself missing
the new one. (The keyboard is also much improved from the similar
one introduced on the 12-inch MacBook last year.)
After reading a slew of these reviews, Kastrenakes seems to be a bit of an outlier in terms of just how much he likes the keyboard. But the consensus seems to be “I don’t like it as much as the old MacBook Pro keyboard, but it’s not bad”.
I’m hearing from friends and DF readers who’ve already gotten theirs that they do think the keyboard is too loud. And one friend who thinks the clicking sounds “cheap”. Obviously a lot of subjectivity involved.
Andrew Cunningham on the New MacBook Pros With Touch Bar ★
Andrew Cunningham, writing for Ars Technica:
When you hook one of LG’s 5K monitors to one of the new MacBook
Pros, what you’re actually seeing on the screen is two pictures
stitched together to make a single seamless image. This is because
the version of the DisplayPort spec supported by Intel’s GPUs and
almost all monitors these days — version 1.2 — doesn’t have
enough bandwidth to drive a 5K display at 60Hz all by itself. This
will change with DisplayPort 1.3, which is right on the cusp of
going mainstream, but it’s not here yet. Apple is actually pushing
two DisplayPort 1.2 streams to the monitor over the single
Thunderbolt 3 cable.
These kinds of workarounds were common in the early days of 4K
displays before the DisplayPort 1.2 spec went mainstream, although
you’d typically actually need two physical DisplayPort cables to
make it happen. Apple actually uses a variation of the same idea
for the 5K iMac’s internal display.
There’s nothing wrong with this method, except that it cuts down
on the number of external displays your computer can support.
Intel’s integrated GPUs can drive a total of three displays, but
you use up two of those three streams to drive one 5K monitor and
one of them to drive the laptop’s internal display. AMD’s GPUs
support up to six displays, so you can use two of those
connections for one 5K monitor, two of them for the other 5K
monitor, one for the laptop’s internal display, and still have one
left over for yet another monitor if you really wanted to use one.
This is why the 13-inch Pros can only use one 5K Thunderbolt
display and the 15-inch Pros can use two of them, and it explains
why Apple chose to go with AMD’s GPUs across the entire 15-inch
lineup. It’s difficult enough to explain the differences between
the $1,499 “MacBook Escape” and the model with the Touch Bar;
imagine how much more complicated that becomes if you’re selling
some 15-inch models that can drive two 5K monitors and some that
can only drive one.
If you’re looking for a review with a thorough set of benchmarks — CPU, GPU, SSD, and more — this one is it. There’s quite a bit about the new MacBook Pro with function keys that’s different from its Touch Bar equipped siblings — the “MacBook Escape” feels apt.
Gizmodo: ‘Facebook’s Fight Against Fake News Was Undercut by Fear of Conservative Backlash’ ★
Michael Nunez, reporting for Gizmodo:
According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s
decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging
review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal
of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said
high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update
that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but
disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading
or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the
source, the update was shelved and never released to the public.
It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it
to be scrubbed.
“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the
source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution
from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about
upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of
product decisions got caught up in that.”
Paul Krugman, two years ago:
“The facts have a well-known liberal bias,” declared Rob Corddry
way back in 2004 — and experience keeps vindicating his joke.
Not long ago Ezra Klein cited research showing that both liberals
and conservatives are subject to strong tribal bias — presented
with evidence, they see what they want to see. I then wrote that
this poses a puzzle, because in practice liberals don’t engage in
the kind of mass rejections of evidence that conservatives do. The
inevitable response was a torrent of angry responses and claims
that liberals do too reject facts — but none of the claims
Just to be clear: Yes, you can find examples where some liberals
got off on a hobbyhorse of one kind or another, or where the
liberal conventional wisdom turned out wrong. But you don’t see
the kind of lockstep rejection of evidence that we see over and
over again on the right. Where is the liberal equivalent of the
near-uniform conservative rejection of climate science, or the
refusal to admit that Obamacare is in fact reaching a lot of
previously uninsured Americans?
Facebook can stay above the political fray, or they can filter out false news. They can’t do both.
Jason Snell on the New MacBook Pros ★
Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:
But what really surprised me were the animations. The Touch Bar is
an animated interface through and through. Items don’t just fade
in and out, but also slide smoothly back and forth. The arrow
pointing from the Touch Bar to the Touch ID sensor during a
request for an unlock grows and shrinks, practically begging you
to put your finger down. There’s a lot more personality here than
Another aspect of the Touch Bar that I hadn’t really thought about
is that every label can now provide context in a way that a fixed
key can’t. Yes, there’s a volume button on the Touch bar, but the
number of sound waves radiating out from the speaker on the
volume’s icon indicates the current volume level. When you tap the
Mute button, the sound waves disappear from the volume button. The
Play/Pause media control button isn’t a Play/Pause button — it’s
a pause button when audio is playing, and a play button when it’s
paused. When you’re editing text and you tap the Bold style
button, the button remains lit up as long as you’re still within
the bold style.
“More personality than I expected” is my take too.
Good observation here:
While I appreciate the idea of the Now Playing Control Strip item,
I don’t particularly like the way it’s implemented. When I expand
it while playing audio from iTunes, there’s an iTunes icon, a very
large scrubber, and playback controls. I can appreciate the iTunes
scrubber as a fun demonstration of alternate interfaces on the
Touch Bar, but for the life of me I can’t imagine how often I’d
want to scrub through the contents of a song. I’d rather have
volume control, the name of the song and artist, and a
I think it’s a sign of just how new the Touch Bar is, conceptually. Developers, even those within Apple, are only beginning to understand how best to use it. There will come to be a “Mac-like way” to use the Touch Bar, but we’re not there yet. Snell has a nice video review, too, which shows the Touch Bar in action very well.