Tom Hanks Introduces the Cleveland Indians’ New Team Name 

A+ choice of name. Feels right, looks right.

MacRumors: ‘Apple to Pull “iDOS 2” DOS Emulator From App Store’ 

Cited for violating rule 11.38, which prohibits excessive harmless nostalgic fun.

A Natively Flexible 32-Bit ARM Microprocessor 

Worth it just for the name: PlasticARM.

Anti-Vaccine Groups Changing Into ‘Dance Parties’ on Facebook to Avoid Detection 

Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny, reporting for NBC News:

Some anti-vaccination groups on Facebook are changing their names to euphemisms like “Dance Party” or “Dinner Party,” and using code words to fit those themes in order to skirt bans from Facebook, as the company attempts to crack down on misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines.

The groups, which are largely private and unsearchable but retain large user bases accrued during the years Facebook permitted anti-vaccination content, also swap out language to fit the new themes and provide code legends, according to screenshots provided to NBC News by multiple members of the groups.

One major “dance party” group has more than 40,000 followers and has stopped allowing new users amid public scrutiny. The backup group for “Dance Party,” known as “Dinner Party” and created by the same moderators, has more than 20,000 followers.

Collins has an accompanying thread on Twitter where he includes a bunch of screenshots showing the coded language. These people are clearly fucking nuts. Here’s one example, all spelling and spaces exactly as posted:

After being around many dancing folks, my teenage son’s Ly mph No des on his neck swelled into little lumps like gum balls. Our very wise, non-dancing doctor says he has an ear infection and a sinus infection. Could this be related to other dancer’s glitter? Has anyone else had this experience? My side F X were different (exhaustion and mega moon occurrences).

Collins, in his tweet thread:

When Facebook reports on vaccine misinfo, they don’t mention Dance Party’s 40k members. They can’t. They don’t know it exists.

It’s also how these groups actually operate. They know what gets caught by moderation bots. They maneuver around it.

The second part of that is clearly true: the groups are obviously evading moderation with these transparent coded terms. The first part I think is wrong: Facebook could identify this and they almost certainly already know what’s going on. They don’t moderate it because letting it go allows them to have their cake (“Look, no more explicit anti-vax propaganda on our platform, see?”) and eat it too (actual engagement continues unabated).

Texas Has Seen Nearly 9,000 COVID-19 Deaths Since February; All but 43 Were Unvaccinated 

Colleen DeGuzman, reporting for The Texas Tribune:

Of the 8,787 people who have died in Texas due to COVID-19 since early February, at least 43 were fully vaccinated, the Texas Department of State Health Services said.

That means 99.5% of people who died due to COVID-19 in Texas from Feb. 8 to July 14 were unvaccinated, while 0.5% were the result of “breakthrough infections,” which DSHS defines as people who contracted the virus two weeks after being fully vaccinated.

I got an email yesterday from a reader (well, supposedly former reader now) who was angered by my item linking to the “I’m sorry, but it’s too late” story from the Alabama ICU doctor who said the last thing her unvaccinated patients, hospitalized and unable to breathe on their own, do before being intubated is to beg for the vaccine. His email:

Your incessant corona whinery is getting rather long in the tooth, but this disgusting gloating piece takes the cake. Even though it probably is fake Facebook bullshit anyway, to even imply that this disgusting ‘told you so, now you’re dead’ attitude is somehow commendable is just tasteless, and it reflects on you personally as you are sharing it.

Unsubscribed.

I’m a natural born gloater, I know, but there’s nothing gloating about my posts about COVID and vaccinations. These stories are heartbreaking at the micro level, and infuriating at the macro level. I am sad and I am angry about the state of vaccination denial, and the roles that powerful sources like Fox News and Facebook — neither of which should be trusted by anyone but both of which are trusted by zillions — have played in promoting it.

You don’t need any aptitude for numeracy at all to look at numbers like these from Texas to see that if you can get vaccinated for COVID, you should, as soon as possible. Both for your own personal good and for the good of humanity.

Sarah Miller: ‘All the Right Words on Climate Have Already Been Said’ 

Sarah Miller, who wrote a widely-read feature story two years ago on the real estate market in Miami in the face of rising ocean levels (linked from DF here), on declining an offer to write about climate change again:

Let’s give the article she was starting to maybe think about asking me to write that I was wondering if I could write the absolute biggest benefit of the doubt and imagine that people read it and said, “Wow this is exactly how I feel, thanks for putting it into words.” What then? What would happen then? Would people be “more aware” about climate change? It’s 109 degrees in Portland right now. It’s been over 130 degrees in Baghdad several times. What kind of awareness quotient are we looking for? What more about climate change does anyone need to know? What else is there to say?

(Via Kottke.)

Activision Blizzard Sued by California Department of Fair Employment and Housing Over ‘Frat Boy’ Culture, Harassment 

Maeve Allsup, reporting for Bloomberg Law:

According to the complaint, filed Tuesday in the Los Angeles Superior Court, female employees make up around 20% of the Activision workforce, and are subjected to a “pervasive frat boy workplace culture,” including “cube crawls,” in which male employees “drink copious amounts of alcohol as they crawl their way through various cubicles in the office and often engage in inappropriate behavior toward female employees.”

The agency alleges male employees play video games during the workday while delegating responsibilities to female employees, engage in sexual banter, and joke openly about rape, among other things.

Female employees allege being held back from promotions because of the possibility they might become pregnant, being criticized for leaving to pick their children up from daycare, and being kicked out of lactation rooms so male colleagues could use the room for meetings, the complaint says.

Some seriously fucked-up allegations, to say the least.

The Talk Show: ‘Holes in the Blast Door’ 

Matthew Panzarino returns to the show. Topics include: Apple’s new MagSafe Battery Pack, the Amnesty-International-Led exposé of NSO Group’s state-sponsored phone hacking, Safari 15’s controversial new UI and Apple’s response, and a look back at year one of Apple silicon for Macs. Also: pizza.

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Breathable 1.0 

New app from Garrett Murray (who should be familiar to long-time readers):

Air quality has become an increasing concern for many people around the globe. While stressing about it constantly isn’t necessarily helpful, the goal of the Breathable widget is to provide a quick, glanceable answer to a new daily question: Is it safe to go outside?

Breathable can use AQI data from two services: IQAir.com and, optionally, AirNow.gov (in the USA). Both of these services offer free accounts and API access for personal use. Breathable uses the United States Air Quality Index for all values world-wide.

The entire point of Breathable is to offer widgets — the app itself just lets you configure how the widgets look. Brilliantly simple, and in a way, fun, with its clever “emoji scale”. I started using it last week after Murray pinged me about it, but only because I was interested in the idea of a widget-only weather app — Philadelphia generally doesn’t have air quality issues. I should have known better. Turns out, the whole world now has air quality issues.

Breathable costs just $2, and Murray is donating a portion of the proceeds to foundations focused on climate change initiatives.

‘I’m Sorry, but It’s Too Late’ 

Dennis Pillion, reporting for AL.com:

Dr. Brytney Cobia said Monday that all but one of her COVID patients in Alabama did not receive the vaccine. The vaccinated patient, she said, just needed a little oxygen and is expected to fully recover. Some of the others are dying.

“I’m admitting young healthy people to the hospital with very serious COVID infections,” wrote Cobia, a hospitalist at Grandview Medical Center in Birmingham, in an emotional Facebook post Sunday. “One of the last things they do before they’re intubated is beg me for the vaccine. I hold their hand and tell them that I’m sorry, but it’s too late.”

Good link to spread. Fox News should put this doctor on the air in prime time. (Via Dave Winer.)

‘Let’s Get More People Vaccinated’ 

Matt Yglesias, writing at Slow Boring:

In other words, they are acting about the Covid vaccines the same way they’d act about a long-approved antibiotic or the measles vaccine, not the way they’d act about a dietary supplement. They are not saying you are allowed to get vaccinated, they are saying you should get vaccinated. Indeed, that’s not just their medical advice to you — it’s their stated belief (and I agree) that getting vaccinated is a pro-social means of safeguarding your entire community.

So I am saying, with a full understanding of the process, that the FDA ought to bring the official regulatory status of mRNA Covid vaccines into line with the scientific community’s actual understanding and attitude toward the vaccines.

The government is not worried that Pfizer and Moderna might be running a scam on us. They are charging $20 a dose, not $56,000. We are begging people to take these shots. So we should act like it.

FDA formal approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines isn’t the entirety of his argument, but it comes first because it’s so obvious. And the next steps — mandating the vaccines in places like schools and the military — require FDA formal approval.

Apple’s 1998 Developer Documentation on Window Proxy Icons 

Re: yesterday’s piece about window proxy icons, Zack Katz found this archived version of Apple’s developer docs on the feature for Mac OS 8.5:

An application typically tracks the modification state of a document. A common reason to do so is to inform the user that they have made changes to the document which they might wish to save before closing the window.

When your application uses proxy icons, it should inform the Window Manager when a document has unsaved changes. When you do so, the Window Manager displays the document’s proxy icon in a disabled state and prevents the user from dragging the proxy icon. Disabled proxy icons cannot be dragged because unsaved documents cannot be moved or copied in a manner predictable to the user. Figure 1-3 shows a proxy icon in a document window with unsaved changes.

Katz tweeted::

@gruber I found this Mac OS 8.5 proxy icon documentation a great read. It made me nostalgic — imagine being able to see saved state quickly just by seeing the icon and title color!

Things have gotten so low-contrast…

Low contrast indeed. What a joyful little feature this was (and could be again). Clarity is the ideal that the Mac user interface used to celebrate but now largely ignores. I crave its return.

Someone Get This Clip on Fox News So You-Know-Who Sees It and Chokes 

Tom Brady today at the White House, where President Biden honored the Buccaneers’ Super Bowl victory:

“Not a lot of people think that we could have won and in fact, I think 40% of the people still don’t think we won.”

I might be turning into a Brady fan.

Chair of Trump’s 2017 Inaugural Committee Arrested on Charges of Being a Foreign Agent 

The AP:

The chair of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested Tuesday on charges alleging he conspired to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates and commit crimes striking “at the very heart of our democracy.”

Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, California, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent as they tried to influence foreign policy while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president. […]

Prosecutors said Barrack not only agreed to promote UAE foreign policy interests through his unique access and influence, but also provided UAE government officials with sensitive information about developments within the Trump administration — including how senior U.S. officials felt about the Qatari blockade conducted by the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

I’m starting to think Donald Trump didn’t surround himself with the best people.


Document Proxy Icons in MacOS 11 and 12 as a — Ahem — Proxy for Apple’s Current UI Design Sensibilities

You should only see a button when you need it” seems to explain many of Apple’s recent UI directions. File proxy icons in MacOS document windows, for example, disappeared last year in MacOS 11 Big Sur — or rather, were hidden until you moused over them. This post from Michael Tsai has documented reactions and tips regarding this change over the last year — including the fact that in the MacOS 12 Monterey betas, proxy icons can be turned back on using an Accessibility setting in System Preferences. (If you think Accessibility is just for people with vision or motor skill problems, you’ve been missing out on some great system-wide settings for tweaking both MacOS and iOS.)

Does removing proxy icons from document window title bars reduce “clutter”? I can only assume that’s what Apple’s HI team was thinking. But I’d argue strenuously that proxy icons aren’t needless clutter — they’re useful, and showing them by default made them discoverable. Keeping them visible reminds you that they’re there. There’s a one-to-one relationship between a document icon in the Finder and the open application window for that document; showing the document icon in the window title bar reinforced that concept. This hidden Finder preference for MacOS 11 Big Sur delights me, because in addition to showing proxy icons, it also restores grabbable title bars in MacOS 11.

In a sense, no personal computer interface can out-minimalize an old terminal command line — just a blinking cursor on a black screen, awaiting your commands. The Mac’s breakthrough was establishing an interface where you could see — and thus discover through visual exploration — not just what you had done, but what you could do. Proxy icons in title bars weren’t added to classic Mac OS until version 8.5 in 1998, but they exemplified that philosophy. They said: Even though this document is open in an editing window, you can still do things with the file — here it is.

It’s devilishly hard work deciding what to expose at the top level of a user interface. Microsoft went overboard for decades of versions of Windows with way too many inscrutable tiny toolbar icons. But like almost every design challenge, it’s a Goldilocks problem — you can go too far in the other direction, and there is no “just right” that will please everyone. 


A Defense of the Safari 15 Redesigns 

Jeff Kirvin, in an essay titled “Safari 15 Isn’t Bad, Just Misunderstood”:

So what do we have? A new browser UI that shows as much of the page as possible when the user is interacting with the page, and surfaces UI chrome only when the user indicates that they need to interact with the UI. Adaptive and contextual. This, Federico, is why Apple declared war on buttons. You should only see a button when you need it. The rest of the time you should see as much of your content as possible.

There’s a general sense of “everyone dislikes the new Safari designs” and I know that’s not true, even though public sentiment is strongly against them. So even though I don’t find Kirvin’s arguments compelling, I thought it was worth linking to them, because I do think he explains what the designers of the new Safari UIs were shooting for. Content-first; hide more of the browser chrome. I stand by my take though, that they threw the baby out with the bathwater — the tradeoffs aren’t worth it. It’s good for web browsers to default to minimal browser chrome, but the chrome that is displayed should look like chrome, not part of the page. The web page and the web browser are two very different things, and the way they look should make that obvious — not obfuscate it. The Safari 15 UIs shown at WWDC are show-y off-y designs that solve problems that don’t really exist in the practical world. Across all three platforms — iPhone, iPad, and Mac — Safari’s previous (that is to say current, non-beta) designs devote as much screen space to showing page content as anyone could want while still exposing the most-used browser controls.

Update: One more comment. Kirvin wrote:

Again, I use the word “pages” instead of “tabs” deliberately. Federico asked why the tabs don’t look like tabs, they look like the address bar. Because that’s precisely what they are. The tabs are the address bars of other pages you have open. You’re not switching tabs, you’re switching pages. This is also why the title bar and toolbar take on the same background color as the page you’re on. The entire Safari window is the page. When you switch from one page to another, it all changes to match the new page.

There was no title bar in the original Safari 15 design. You got URLs in address fields, but page titles weren’t exposed other than in the Window menu. That was, in my opinion, a fundamental flaw in the design. Web page titles are useful, and should be more human-readable than URLs. But Kirvin is spot-on that the Safari 15 tabs on Mac and iPad weren’t really tabs at all. The problem for Kirvin and any other fans of the WWDC previews of Safari 15 is that people both like and understand tabs. For a long while, web browsers either didn’t have tabs, or offered tabs as a semi-power-user non-default feature. Web browsing was one page = one window for a long time. Tabbed web browsing isn’t the way things have always been — it had to earn its spot as the default way that every major desktop and tablet browser works.

Safari 15 no longer really has tabs” was always going to be a very tough sell for users with a decade (or two!) of tabbed browsing muscle memory, no matter how conceptually sound the new design was.

Flatfile Portal 

My thanks to Flatfile for sponsoring last week (and this week!) at DF to promote Flatfile Portal. If your application relies on ingesting customer data, you’ve probably built a CSV importer from scratch, and you probably didn’t like it. Flatfile is the turnkey solution.

Flatfile, the data onboarding platform, makes sense of the jumbled data your users import, and transforms it into the format your app relies on. You can quickly deploy Flatfile into any environment and upgrade your customers’ data onboarding experience in minutes.

No building a custom data importer. No complex import scripts. No need to build new features into an aging, in-house data importer. Get started today if you’re ready to never build a CSV importer again.

Yours Truly on Rene Ritchie’s Show Talking About iOS 15 Safari 

Rene Ritchie:

At WWDC 2021, Apple unveiled new interface designs for Safari on Mac, iPad, and iPhone. They’re all radical but none as in-your-face radical as the iOS 15 version for the iPhone, which pulls the address bar to the bottom and hides a ton of controls behind a menu-hamburger button.

We recorded this before today’s release of the third developer betas for iOS 15 and MacOS 12 Monterey, but it all holds up. The good news is that today’s betas show that Apple has taken criticism of the new Safari UI designs seriously — on MacOS, Safari once again defaults to showing the tab bar as a discrete UI element in the window, with one URL address bar. (Similar changes are coming for iPadOS, but didn’t make it for today’s beta.) The iOS changes today aren’t as significant, but, having talked to folks at Apple, there are a lot of changes and refinements still to come as summer progresses. I feel good about what I’ve heard.

(Something I missed in my critique of the Safari 15 betas two weeks ago: you can long-press on the domain name to the left of the “···” button in the floating toolbar to bring up a contextual menu. That contextual menu contains a Share item, and today’s beta 3 adds a Reload item (screenshot). I still say Share and Reload are both important enough that they should be exposed as top-level buttons, but knowing that this long-press menu exists is a great tip if you’re already using the betas.)

If an IBM Leadership Shakeup Falls in a Forest, but No One Is Around to Hear It, Does It Make a Sound? 

Tom Krazit, reporting for Protocol on July 2:

IBM President Jim Whitehurst is stepping down from the No. 2 leadership position at the company less than three years after IBM acquired his former company, in just one of several leadership changes announced Friday.

Bridget van Kralingen, senior vice president of global markets, will also leave the company, said IBM CEO Arvind Krishna in a press release right before the three-day holiday weekend. Rob Thomas, who has led IBM’s Watson initiative in the past, will become the new senior vice president of global markets.

Did you catch this story 12 days ago? I almost didn’t. IBM is still a very big company — #42 on the current Fortune 500 list — but they’re just not relevant in the way they used to be, or the way today’s big 5 tech companies are.

It wasn’t too long ago — 20, 25 years? — when a leadership story like this at IBM would have been all anyone in tech talked about for weeks to come. They’ve been diminished not because the government broke them up or curbed their behavior through regulations, but simply because they faded away. It is extremely difficult to become dominant in tech, but it’s just as difficult to stay dominant for longer than a short run.

I don’t offer this observation as an argument against any and all regulation and antitrust investigations of big tech companies. I’m simply arguing that regulation and antitrust lawsuits should be wielded with surgical precision, not broad strokes. Competition and progress work.

Facebook’s Right-Wing Outrage Machine, CrowdTangle, and Kevin Roose 

Facebook owns a data analytics service called CrowdTangle. CrowdTangle allows journalists and researchers to examine and study the “engagement” of link posts on Facebook. NYT columnist Kevin Roose has been using CrowdTangle’s engagement data to publish the excellent @FacebooksTop10 account on Twitter, which lists the 10 top-performing posts on Facebook every day. Unsurprisingly, most days, the list is dominated by right-wing commentators.

Roose today has a long column — incredibly well-sourced — that digs into Facebook’s response to this imbroglio, which, unsurprisingly, has been to treat it as a perception problem rather than a product problem:

Mr. Zuckerberg is right about one thing: Facebook is not a giant right-wing echo chamber.

But it does contain a giant right-wing echo chamber — a kind of AM talk radio built into the heart of Facebook’s news ecosystem, with a hyper-engaged audience of loyal partisans who love liking, sharing and clicking on posts from right-wing pages, many of which have gotten good at serving up Facebook-optimized outrage bait at a consistent clip.

CrowdTangle’s data made this echo chamber easier for outsiders to see and quantify. But it didn’t create it, or give it the tools it needed to grow — Facebook did — and blaming a data tool for these revelations makes no more sense than blaming a thermometer for bad weather.

Fleets, We Hardly Knew Ye 

Twitter Support:

We had planned for Fleets to help people feel comfortable joining the conversation in a low-pressure way, but it turns out Fleets were mainly used by those Tweeting the most.

So now we’re ready to explore other ways for people to share on Twitter.

The @Twitter account put it better:

we’re removing Fleets on August 3, working on some new stuff

we’re sorry or you’re welcome

I’ll resist dunking on Twitter for this, because I think it’s better for Twitter to try more new ideas — even if many wind up abandoned — than to find itself paralyzed by indecision over how to evolve the platform. Fleets were a fine experiment because, other than taking up a bit of screen real estate at the very top, they didn’t interfere with Twitter’s core features.

(The above encapsulates my thinking on the filibuster in the U.S. Senate. It’d be better to abolish it and let the party in power pass its agenda by a simple majority, even knowing that eventually the other party will be in power, and they’ll do things you don’t like. Let the majority pass its agenda, and if they’re good ideas, they’ll prove popular, and if they’re not, they won’t. Fear of letting the other side achieve its goals when they’re in the majority has resulted in a legislature that can barely pass anything — and that hasn’t worked out well.)

TAG Heuer Connected Super Mario Watch 

Speaking of Mario:

The TAG Heuer Connected Super Mario Limited Edition brings you a cutting-edge experience with a surprise twist: four exclusive watchfaces focusing on playfulness through Super Mario patterns, an exclusive splash screen as well as a Mario animated watch face which encourages you to get out and step up your physical activity with Mario.

Goes on sale tomorrow for $2,150. Not for me, but it’s cheaper than a $1.5 million unopened Super Mario 64 cartridge.

Unopened Super Mario 64 Cartridge From 1996 Sells for $1.56 Million 

Makes more sense to me than buying an NFT.

2021 Emmy Nominations 

The New York Times:

Netflix’s The Crown and the Disney+ Star Wars drama The Mandalorian led the way with 24 nominations each. HBO led all the networks with 130 nominations.

Apple TV+ did well, too, with 34 total nominations, led, no surprise, by the delightful Ted Lasso. Maybe Apple TV+ isn’t the new HBO but just a new HBO. Just a lot of good stuff from these premium platforms last year. We loved HBO’s Mare of Easttown, which was justly rewarded with numerous nominations. I still think the HBO Max branding is off — just call the damn thing “HBO” — but HBO is holding its own in its decade-old race to become Netflix before Netflix can become HBO. They’re both in good shape.

What’s shocking now isn’t that premium streaming services do well with Emmy nominations, but that traditional network scripted shows — comedy and drama — are nearly shut out. All the best shows now are on the new streaming platforms.


If You Guys Are Really Us, What Number Are We Thinking Of?

A good mid-summer silly story from earlier today. Chaim Gartenberg, writing at The Verge, “Apple’s Weather App Won’t Say It’s 69 Degrees”:

If you’re an iPhone user, the weather is always a particularly nice 70 degrees. Or 68 degrees. Any temperature but 69 degrees, actually, because it turns out that the built-in weather app on some versions of iOS — including the current version, iOS 14.6 — will refuse to display the internet’s favorite number, even if the actual temperature in a given location is, in fact, 69 degrees, along with several other (less meme-able) numerals like 65 and 71 degrees.

It’s not clear if this is a bug or an intentional attempt from Apple to cut down on 69-related humor. The rounding is only visible in the weather app itself: clicking through to Apple’s source data from Weather.com will show the proper temperature, as do Apple’s home screen widgets. But the iOS weather app will refuse to show 69 degrees anywhere in the forecast, whether it’s for the current temperature, the hourly forecast for the day, or the extended forecast.

Marques Brownlee followed with a quick side-by-side demo with an Android phone. But it was soon pointed out by commenters on Twitter that while true for the Weather app in iOS 14.6, it’s not the case in the current betas for iOS 15. (It’s also not the case for iOS 13, which I still have running on a spare phone.) Gartenberg soon updated his story at The Verge with the following:

A possible explanation for the issue (as pointed out by several people on Twitter) is that Apple may be sourcing data for its iOS Weather app in Celsius and then converting it to Fahrenheit. For example, 20 degrees Celsius converts to 68 degrees Fahrenheit, while 21 degrees Celsius converts to 69.8 degrees Fahrenheit — which rounds up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The app appears to have similar issues with temperatures like 65 degrees (where 18 degrees Celsius converts to 64.4 degrees Fahrenheit, while 19 degrees Celsius is 66.2 degrees Fahrenheit).

This theory that it’s a side effect of converting Celsius integer values to Fahrenheit integer values strikes me as almost certainly correct — especially considering that it affects un-notable values like “65”. Or that even in iOS 14.6, negative 69°F displays just fine. But it’s amusing to me that so many people bought into the possibility that someone at Apple thought it was a good idea to avoid showing 69° as a temperature.

Apple’s Compass app will show you 69°. The Finder will tell you if you have 69 files in a folder. Once you start down this path it’s hard to find an app from Apple that won’t display “69” some how, some way, if that’s the value that ought to be displayed. Apple even has products that cost $69.

But Apple’s reputation for prudishness precedes it.

What didn’t pass the sniff test for me with this “won’t show 69°F” idea is that it would cross the line into losing integrity, or at least losing accuracy. Can I imagine a third-party weather app being rejected from the App Store because its screenshots show a big “69°F” current temperature? Yes. But to program the iPhone Weather app to avoid displaying 69°F when it really is 69°F? (Or to demand a third-party weather app not show “69°F” in the app?) No.

Sometimes a cigar is just an integer math conversion glitch.


I’m reminded of the spate of articles a few years ago, when Apple’s original TV+ titles were ramping up production, that Apple executives were squeamish about R-rated content. E.g. this widely-cited report by Tripp Mickle and Joe Flint for The Wall Street Journal in September 2018, which claimed, “The tech giant wants to make scripted shows for streaming, only without violence, politics and risqué story lines.” It didn’t seem preposterous in the least that Apple might have been looking for a Disney-esque “family-friendly only” image for its original content.

Problem is: it wasn’t true. Ted Lasso sure is a feel-good show, but Apple’s acclaimed The Morning Show is just as surely not. Servant is R-rated horror (or pretty close to R-rated). See was a show about a future world where everyone is blind and they pray to their god by masturbating. Disney+ probably wasn’t bidding on that. 


Weather Strip 

New weather app for the iPhone and iPad (and, on Apple Silicon Macs, MacOS — thanks to their ability to run iPad apps) from data visualization researcher Robin Stewart. I’ve never seen weather forecasts presented quite like this. A very glanceable presentation of precipitation chances, cloud cover, and, of course, temperature. (Weather Strip cleverly only shows the “feels like” temperature when it differs from the actual temperature by at least 4 degrees Fahrenheit. The biggest downside is that it’s U.S.-only:

Weather Strip forecasts come directly from the U.S. National Weather Service (NOAA), so the app is currently limited to the United States. Forecasts usually span 168 hours (7 days) but can occasionally be longer or shorter.

Just $1/month, or a mere $4/year. Insta-buy for me at that annual rate — and there’s a one-month trial period.

Apple Launches $99 MagSafe Battery Pack 

It’s a little late in the annual iPhone cycle — we might learn about this year’s new iPhones in two months — but presumably this battery pack will work with MagSafe-compatible iPhones for a few years to come. (Mark Gurman first wrote about this product back in February.)

The closest competitor is probably Anker’s $46 PowerCore Magnetic 5K. Apple’s battery pack is smaller — maybe quite a bit smaller — but Anker’s has more storage capacity. With Apple’s, you can plug your iPhone into a wall charger and it will reverse-charge the battery pack, if attached. Anker’s only charges in one direction, from the battery pack to the iPhone, but you can charge the iPhone while the battery pack is connected to a wall charger.

Apple’s battery pack works at 15W — the full speed of MagSafe — but only when the battery pack itself is plugged into a wall charger. When it’s in your pocket, it charges your iPhone at 5W, the same speed at which Anker’s always charges. The other notable difference is that only Apple’s battery pack shows its charge level in the iOS Battery widget.

A bit of a shame that Apple is only selling it in white (for now?) — most of their recent battery cases have been available in both black and white (and sometimes pink and Product Red).

Techdirt: ‘Google Facing Yet Another Antitrust Lawsuit Over Its App Store Practices, Even Though Android Is Quite Permissive’ 

Mike Masnick, writing at Techdirt on the latest antitrust case against Google:

Even the market definition (the key to any antitrust case) is… weird. Obviously, how you define the market will show whether or not there’s a monopoly — and if you define the market as “the products that only this company makes” then of course that’s a monopoly. But that’s not really relevant for a question of whether or not there is anti-competitive behavior. But here, these states have come up with a market definition that is basically just Android. They’re not even doing the “mobile operating system” market. Instead, they claim that the relevant market is specifically “the licensable mobile OS market” — meaning that Apple iOS (which is not licensable from Apple) is excluded.

The licensable mobile OS market also excludes OSs that are unsuitable for mobile devices, such as OSs for simple cell phones, “flip phones,” or feature phones, or for other electronic devices (such as laptop computers, desktop computers, and gaming consoles, e.g., Nintendo DS, Xbox, PlayStation) that are not mobile devices.

If I’m reading this right, they’re actually suggesting that if Google had decided not to license its OS, and not to let competing device manufacturers build their own competing phones, then they would have less of an antitrust case against Google. And that seems … weird? And kind of nonsensical.

Maybe I’m missing something here, but it seems like Apple’s control of iOS is a lot more strict, ditto for Nintendo, Microsoft with Xbox, and Sony with the PlayStation. Google’s decision to license its OS and enable much wider competition, as well as allowing some sideloading and 3rd party app stores, seems a hell of a lot more competitive than all those other services — and yet that’s all being used against Google, but not the others?

What these attorneys general seem to want is something that’s not possible: mobile platforms that have the security and privacy of iOS and Android but the openness of PC platforms like Windows and Mac.

The lawsuit complains about the warnings Android shows to users before they can sideload an app from outside the Play Store. I’ve done that — I actually installed the Epic app store for Android last year, when Epic first filed its lawsuits against Apple and Google. The warnings Android shows aren’t misguided at all. They’re fair and sensible — installing a third-party app store on your phone is dangerous.

Going after Google for its stewardship of the Play Store feels a bit like going after Apple in the e-books case in 2013.

The Countries Where iCloud Private Relay Will Not Be Available 

Reuters, a month ago:

Apple Inc on Monday said a new “private relay” feature designed to obscure a user’s web browsing behavior from internet service providers and advertisers will not be available in China for regulatory reasons.

Apple said it also will not offer “private relay” in Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uganda and the Philippines.

A real rogues’ gallery of nations, that list.

Literati 

My thanks to Literati for sponsoring last week at DF. No one has time for bad books. Literati is the most exciting new way to find and discuss bombshell books with brilliant people — people like Richard Branson, Austin Kleon, Stephen Curry, Malala, and more. It’s the book club for people who don’t like book clubs. New books are revealed monthly, so you can explore every title and choose what you want to read. Then, join discussion threads and exclusive events in the app. Start your trial today.

News Corp Shutters Knewz Aggregator After 18 Months 

The Wrap:

News Corp shuttered its the aggregation site Knewz on Friday, just 18 months after its launch. Users who navigated to the site found an announcement declaring, “Knewz is no more.”

Yours truly, back when Knewz launched:

It’s like the design brief was “Coked-up Drudge Report”.

Richard Donner: The People’s Choice 

Nice piece by Glenn Kenny on Richard Donner, who died earlier this week at age 91. Donner is one of those directors with a string of “Oh, he directed that?” movies. I think Kenny nails it: Donner made movies people wanted to see. That’s something.

Tom’s Guide Awards 2021: The M1 Chip 

Tom’s Guide:

After creating the A Series for the iPhone and scaling it up for the iPad, Apple’s team of engineers set its sights on the Mac, but the M1 chip couldn’t just match what Intel had to offer. It had to handily beat it.

“If somebody else could build a chip that was actually going to deliver better performance inside that enclosure, what’s the point? Why would we switch?” said Tim Milet, vice president of platform architecture at Apple. “And so for my chip architects, that was the target.” […]

The most striking thing about the M1 is its battery life. For example, the MacBook Pro lasted an astounding 16 hours and 25 minutes in our web-surfing test. The previous Intel model lasted 10:21. That’s a huge difference, and this increase caused more than one double take within Apple.

“When we saw that first system and then you sat there and played with it for a few hours and the battery didn’t move, we thought ‘Oh man, that’s a bug, the battery indicator is broken,’” said Bob Borchers, VP of worldwide product marketing for Apple. “And then Tim’s laughing in the background, ‘Nope, that’s the way it’s supposed to be’ and it was pretty phenomenal.”

‘Inside the President’s War Room’ — 9/11 Documentary Co-Produced by Apple and BBC One 

Benjamin Mayo, reporting for 9to5Mac:

Apple TV+ today announced a new documentary special airing later this year. The show is entitled 9/11: Inside the President’s War Room and will explore the 2001 terrorist attack from the perspective of the immediate response of the people in charge. The special will be narrated by Jeff Daniels and include testimony from ex-President George Bush, Dick Cheney, and more. In a notable move for the streaming service, the special will premiere simultaneously on Apple TV+ and on the publicly-funded broadcast channel BBC One.

As you might expect, the special will air in September in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of 9/11. In the UK, the special will first be broadcast on BBC One and appear on Apple TV+ later. In all other regions, it will debut on Apple TV+ exclusively.

They’ve moved beyond Carpool Karaoke, that’s for sure.

The Information: Apple in Early Talks With NFL for ‘Sunday Ticket’ Streaming Rights 

Sahil Patel, reporting for The Information:

The iPhone maker is one of a number of companies, including TV networks and other tech firms, that have had discussions with NFL executives lately about the package of games, including at this week’s Allen & Co. conference in Sun Valley for tech and media executives. The rights cover a package known as Sunday Ticket, which now airs on DirecTV. They are separate from a slew of licensing deals recently completed between the NFL, most major broadcast TV networks and Amazon. ESPN’s parent Disney is among those likely to be interested in Sunday Ticket.

Sunday Ticket is no small thing. It’s not like the deal Amazon has had for a few years where they have the streaming rights for a small handful of Thursday night games. Sunday Ticket packages include all games — it’s a super premium tier for big fans and sports bars that want to show every game.

I feel like TV+ is following an interesting trajectory: slowly and steadily building into a unique premium TV service. Some sort of major foray into live sports seems like a good next step.

Trump Files Class Action Lawsuits Targeting Facebook, Google, and Twitter Over ‘Censorship’ of Conservatives 

Cat Zakrzewski and Rachel Lerman, reporting for The Washington Post:

Former president Donald Trump on Wednesday filed class-action lawsuits targeting Facebook, Google and Twitter and their CEOs, escalating his long-running battle with the companies following their suspensions of his accounts. […]

The suits allege that the companies violated Trump’s First Amendment rights in suspending his accounts and argues that Facebook, in particular, no longer should be considered a private company but “a state actor” whose actions are constrained by First Amendment restrictions on government limitations on free speech. Traditionally, the First Amendment is thought to constrain only government actions, not those of private companies.

They should respond with Randall Munroe’s classic XKCD comic on “free speech”. That’s it, that’s their entire legal response.

Scrapped Intro From WWDC 2014 With Larry David as Head App Reviewer 

Sam Henri-Gold on Twitter:

Today’s vibe: scrapped WWDC 2014 intro film feat. Larry David, JB Smoove, and Evan Spiegel.

What a find. It’s effectively a 10-minute mini-episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm with Larry David as Apple’s head of app review for the App Store. Henri-Gold posted a 53-second clip to Twitter, but wrote:

The whole thing exists out there. I’m holding off on sharing the link to protect the party who inadvertently released it; I don’t want to cause any harm to their business over this. I encourage you to not publicly share the link either. Thanks for understanding.

A little late for that — the full version that was posted to Vimeo was pulled overnight. The whole video is funny in exactly the way Curb is funny, but Curb Your Enthusiasm-style humor is not Apple-style humor — and the difference has only widened since 2014. I don’t know how this project got so far, but the humor is such that I don’t see how Apple could possibly have used it, even in 2014. One joke that might have played as funny in 2014 but wouldn’t in 2021 is the central conceit of the video — that Apple’s head of app review is a capricious jerk who makes approval decisions based on inscrutable whims.

WSJ: ‘After Apple Tightens Tracking Rules, Advertisers Shift Spending Toward Android Devices’ 

Patience Haggin, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

After the tracking change took effect in April, many users of Apple’s iOS operating system have received a high volume of prompts from apps asking permission to track them—requests that most have declined. Less than 33% of iOS users opt in to tracking, according to ad-measurement firm Branch Metrics Inc.

As a result, the prices for mobile ads directed at iOS users have fallen, while ad prices have risen for advertisers seeking to target Android users. […]

Digital-ad agency Tinuiti Inc. has seen a similar pattern in its clients’ spending, research director Andy Taylor said. When iOS users opted out of tracking, Tinuiti advertisers couldn’t bid on them, he said. That dearth of iOS users drove up demand—and ad prices—for Android users. About 72.8% of smartphones world-wide use the Android operating system, and about 26.4% use iOS, according to Statcounter.

Tinuiti’s Facebook clients went from year-over-year spend growth of 46% for Android users in May to 64% in June. The clients’ iOS spending saw a corresponding slowdown, from 42% growth in May to 25% in June. Android ad prices are now about 30% higher than ad prices for iOS users, Mr. Taylor said.

If any part of this is surprising, it’s the claim that as many as one-third of iOS users have opted in to tracking.

Mux Video 

My thanks to Mux for once again sponsoring DF. Mux Video is an API to powerful video streaming — think of it as akin to Stripe for video — built by the founders of Zencoder and creators of Video.js, and a team of ex-YouTube and Twitch engineers. Take any video file or live stream and make it play beautifully at scale on any device, powered by magical-feeling features like automatic thumbnails, animated GIFs, and data-driven encoding decisions.

Spend your time building what people want, not drudging through ffmpeg documentation.


Regarding the Safari 15 Public Betas for Mac and iOS

Michael Tsai:

I think I like the changes for iPhone. The controls are easier to reach at the bottom of the screen, and it’s quicker to switch between tabs.

I get the move to the bottom, in theory — clearly this is about reachability. But I use Safari on my iPhone a lot and I have never minded using a second hand to get to the controls that, heretofore, were at the top: the “ᴀA” menu, the location field, and the reload/stop button.

Here are screenshots from Safari on iOS 14.6:

Screenshot of mjtsai.com in Safari on iOS 14.6.

and iOS 15 beta 2:

Screenshot of mjtsai.com in Safari on iOS 14.6.

Both the old and new designs put these controls one tap away: back/forward, location field, and the tabs button.

The only other one-tap control in the new design is the “···” junk drawer menu button, which can be long-pressed to toggle Reader Mode. All the other controls are inside the “···” popover menu.

The old design has no “···” menu because it doesn’t need one. It has an “ᴀA” button at the top which can be long-pressed to toggle Reader Mode and when tapped shows a popover menu of site-specific viewing options. At the bottom it has one-tap buttons for Share and Bookmarks. I use the Share and Bookmarks buttons all the time on my iPhone.

The system-wide standard iOS/iPadOS Share popover menu is one of the best UIs Apple has come up with in the last decade. It is extremely useful, very well supported by both first- and third-party apps, and extraordinarily consistent across the entire system. Because it is widely supported and very consistent, it is well understood by users. I realize that the nature of my work is such that I deal with URLs more frequently than most people, but sharing URLs is really common.

I also think the “ᴀA” button is a much better idea than putting all the options previously contained therein in the catch-all “···” menu. Long-pressing “ᴀA” to toggle Reader Mode feels intuitive; long-pressing “···” to toggle Reader Mode feels like they just didn’t know where else to put it. The new iOS Safari “···” menu could have been a “here’s what not to do” example from Apple’s own WWDC session this year on “Discoverable Design”.

Bookmarks are almost completely lost in the new design, and unless I’m missing something, there’s no longer any way to run bookmarklets. I know bookmarklets are an old-school web nerd thing, but I have a few I use frequently, which, if Apple sticks with this design for the next year, I guess I’ll have to rewrite as Shortcuts shortcuts or something.1

The only new thing the new iOS Safari design has going for it is that you can swipe side-to-side on the floating browser chrome at the bottom to switch between tabs. I don’t think that is significantly more convenient than tapping the Tabs buttons to switch tabs. How often you want to swipe through tabs one at a time rather than see your tabs and select one in particular? And if you swipe just a little bit too low, you wind up switching between apps, not tabs.

All that said, I agree with Tsai that the new Safari for Mac is even worse:

For Mac, the new design makes no sense to me, and I’ll likely switch to Chrome if it can’t be disabled:

  • Not only does the location bar move when you change tabs, but, because it changes width, all the other tabs move, too. It feels disorienting.
  • With everything on one line, there’s less space for tab text than before.
  • It’s harder to get at buttons and extensions hidden under the … menu.
  • There’s less empty space where it’s safe for me to click in order to drag the window.
  • Having the page background color bleed into the tab area makes it harder to read, and it feels weird for the current page’s color to affect the way other tabs look. It also works inconsistently, even on the same pages on Apple’s site. At least there’s a preference to turn it off.

You don’t have to install MacOS 12 Monterey to use the new Safari design; the latest versions of Safari Technology Preview have it too, and Safari Technology Preview is installed as a separate app, not a replacement for the current version of Safari.

Tabs in Safari on Mac (and, in my opinion, iPad) were a solved problem. The new Safari tab UI strikes me as being different for the sake of being different, not different for the sake of being better. The new design certainly makes Safari look distinctive. But is it more usable or discoverable in any way? I honestly can’t think of a single problem the new design solves other than saving about 30 points (60 @2× pixels) of vertical screen space by omitting a dedicated tab bar. But I think the tab bar was space put to good, obvious use with traditional tabs. Matt Birchler points out that horizontally, the new tab design uses space less efficiently. Good luck convincing Chrome users to switch to Safari with this design. Not to mention that every other tabbed app in MacOS 12 still uses a traditional tab bar. It’s consistent neither with other popular web browsers nor with the rest of MacOS 12.

Nick Heer, writing at Pixel Envy:

Over the past several releases of MacOS and iOS, Apple has experimented with hiding controls until users hover their cursor overtop, click, tap, or swipe. I see it as an extension of what Maciej Cegłowski memorably called “chickenshit minimalism”. He defined it as “the illusion of simplicity backed by megabytes of cruft”; I see parallels in a “junk drawer” approach that prioritizes the appearance of simplicity over functional clarity. It adds complexity because it reduces clutter, and it allows UI designers to avoid making choices about interface hierarchy by burying everything but the most critical elements behind vague controls.

If UI density is a continuum, the other side of chickenshit minimalism might be something like Microsoft’s “ribbon” toolbar. Dozens of controls of various sizes and types, loosely grouped by function, and separated by a tabbed UI creates a confusing mess. But being unnecessarily reductionist with onscreen controls also creates confusion. I do not want every web browser control available at all times, but I cannot see what users gain by making it harder to find the reload button in Safari.


There’s an axiom widely (but alas, probably spuriously) attributed to Albert Einstein: “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” But I don’t even think that applies to this new Safari design. It’s worse. It just looks simpler. All the old functionality remains — it’s just harder to access, harder to discover intuitively, and more distracting. One can only presume that Apple’s HI team thinks they’re reducing needless “clutter”, but what they’re doing is systematically removing the coherence between what apps look like and the functionality they offer.

Here’s another axiom, whose attribution is certain: “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” 


  1. “AppleScript scripts” has always felt a little repetitively awkward, but talking about shortcuts in Shortcuts is worse. I wish Apple had called them “workflows” or something instead. I might use that here at DF when I’d otherwise write “Shortcuts shortcuts” though. ↩︎


Jason Snell on the MacOS 12 ‘Monterey’ Public Beta 

Jason Snell, writing at Six Colors:

The Mac is also getting a boost with older iOS features finally being brought to the other side, most notably Shortcuts, the iOS automation tool that is the first sign of a renaissance of user automation on macOS.

The good news is, for all the recent fears among Mac users that Apple might be attempting to collapse Mac, iPhone, and iPad into a single amorphous product, macOS Monterey still feels unreservedly like a Mac. Apple wants its platforms to share features, but it also recognizes that each serves a different (albeit overlapping) audience.

Worth pointing out again that Shortcuts for Mac is not a Catalyst app. In fact, there are no new Catalyst apps from Apple in MacOS 12. It’s seemed clear to me all along that Catalyst was a transitional framework and that SwiftUI is the future. MacOS 12 Monterey seems to be bearing that out. (Snell has a screenshot of the new Shortcuts for Mac with an interesting-looking shortcut based on a Perl script….)

The elephant in the room with MacOS 12 (and iOS, but to a lesser extent): the new Safari tabs interface:

To make matters even worse, the background color of the entire top of the Safari window is now matched to the color of the website you’re viewing. It’s a cute trick, but while I understand the desire to make Safari feel more like it’s a part of the content it’s displaying, it’s a readability disaster. Contrast with the text on tabs is frequently poor, and since the color shifts depending on which tab is active, it feels like my brain is constantly recalibrating how to read that particular text contrast. On top of that, there’s also the cognitive dissonance of seeing tabs for sites with a strong color identity displayed in a different color because they’re not the currently active tab. And you can’t see the title of the page you’re currently viewing, because the URL displays instead unless you hover the pointer over it.

Because the address bar is embedded in individual tabs now, it also means that when I type Command-L or Command-T, I have to hunt down the place where that URL is being entered — the URL box jumps around based on the location of the particular tab I’m currently using.

A lot of user interface elements have also been hidden away to provide more space for tabs. Tasks that were once a click away sometimes need to be searched for in a sub-menu.

I think the new Safari interface is a noble experiment — intriguing ideas that were worth trying out. But I don’t know anyone who thinks, in practice, that they’re not a huge regression in usability. I’d love it if Apple just went back to the previous Safari interface for tabs and browser chrome. It’s crazy to me that even the Share button is now an extra click or tap away. If Apple ships this design for the Mac it’s going to push a lot of current Safari users to Chrome or other Chromium-based browsers.

Charlie Warzel: ‘This Is the Awful Voice Inside My Head’ 

If you think I’m a jerk for my response to that leaked letter from a subset of Apple employees unhappy about the company’s new “three days per week on site, two days remote” policy, you might enjoy this piece from Charlie Warzel, on his new Galaxy Brain site, responding to it:

The voice says: You are free to choose your job. But once you’ve done that, it’s time to fall in line. It argues that you should be extra grateful for what your company provides you — a salary, purpose, any auxiliary benefits — and not to think as much about what you provide to your company. After all, you agreed to take this job. You signed the contract. And, most importantly, you have options. If you don’t like it, leave.

These are the words of a bully. This line of argument is designed to make those speaking up feel as if they’re being ungrateful, unreasonable and hysterical. The point is to intimidate employees into silence. Listen to Gruber’s tone, here, which quite literally asks: Who do these people think they are?

“And who are these people who took jobs at Apple not knowing the company’s on-site culture? Do they think Apple built a new $4 billion campus on a lark? Three days a week on site and two days remote is a huge change for Apple.

I don’t regret a word or emoji of my piece, and I’ve heard — privately — from a lot of Apple folks thanking me for it. So I think my take still speaks for itself, and I shan’t respond to much of Warzel’s take. But quite a few people who objected to my piece took away the same thing Warzel did regarding my mention of the new Apple Park campus. I’m not in any way arguing that Apple ought to keep people on site because they built the new campus; I’m saying the reasons they built the new campus haven’t changed.

Tellingly, he disguises this disdain for employee autonomy with a classic tactic: the ‘culture fit’ argument:

Given that these letters keep leaking to Zoe Schiffer at The Verge, I can’t help but think that the problem for Apple is that they’ve grown so large that they’ve wound up hiring a lot of people who aren’t a good fit for Apple, and that it was a mistake for Apple to ever hook up a company-wide Slack.

The culture fit argument might sound intuitive at first. It’s meant to suggest that “if you don’t believe in our mission, you probably shouldn’t work here.” But that’s not what it’s actually saying. Culture fit is really a way that power reproduces and sustains itself in an organization and silences any dissent.

That might be one way some people argue about “culture fit”, but it’s not what I meant. Apple has, since its inception, had a company culture that encourages dissent and individuality. What they don’t have is a culture that encourages passive-aggressive, meandering 1,400-word letters that claim to demand nothing but make demands nonetheless, or try to rhetorically paint anyone who disagrees as being against inclusivity, or, more ridiculously, the environment. Not getting everything you want is not being “unheard”. And more so, the company has the opposite of a culture that leaks internal discussions with the media. Or that leaks anything for that matter.

Compare and contrast that 1,400-word letter about remote work with Bertrand Serlet’s recently-released 2007 email laying out the entire plan for third-party apps on iOS in a mere 130 words. It’s pretty clear from the first word of Serlet’s email — “Fine, […]” — that Serlet was opposed to allowing third-party native apps. (I’m pretty sure Serlet had argued, and lost, in favor of sticking with — and improving —the web-apps-for-third-party-“apps” strategy that was announced at WWDC just before the iPhone’s release.) But, he lost the argument, so, fine, he acknowledges a decision had been made and he laid out what he deemed to be the best course forward from that decision.

That is very Apple. You argue, you tussle, you make your case, and then when a decision has been made you go for it, even if you don’t like it.

But if you still think I’m being an ass about this, enjoy and savor Warzel’s response. It is worth a read regardless.

‘How Donald Rumsfeld Deserves to Be Remembered’ 

George Packer, writing for The Atlantic:

Rumsfeld was the worst secretary of defense in American history. Being newly dead shouldn’t spare him this distinction. He was worse than the closest contender, Robert McNamara, and that is not a competition to judge lightly. McNamara’s folly was that of a whole generation of Cold Warriors who believed that Indochina was a vital front in the struggle against communism. His growing realization that the Vietnam War was an unwinnable waste made him more insightful than some of his peers; his decision to keep this realization from the American public made him an unforgivable coward. But Rumsfeld was the chief advocate of every disaster in the years after September 11. Wherever the United States government contemplated a wrong turn, Rumsfeld was there first with his hard smile — squinting, mocking the cautious, shoving his country deeper into a hole. His fatal judgment was equaled only by his absolute self-assurance. He lacked the courage to doubt himself. He lacked the wisdom to change his mind.