The Talk Show: ‘A Total Landscaping’ ★
Mike Monteiro returns to the show to talk about the Capitol insurrection and riot, Twitter and Facebook permanently banning Donald Trump, the shutdown of Parler, the fate of liberal democracy, and Mike’s new book, The Collected Angers.
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‘The Event’ ★
Peter Jamison, Carol D. Leonnig, and Paul Schwartzman, reporting for The Washington Post on how Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s refusal to allow their Secret Service detail to use any of the bathrooms in their home forced the agents to look elsewhere in the neighborhood:
The porta-potty was the agency’s initial solution to the
protective detail’s dilemma, but it was removed in the face of the
neighborhood’s protests. After that, according to the law
enforcement officials, the agents began using a bathroom in a
garage at the Obamas’ house, which the former president’s
protective detail had turned into a command post.
The Obamas did not use the garage, so the extra traffic to and
from the command post caused no problem. Yet this solution, too,
was short-lived after a Secret Service supervisor from the
Trump/Kushner detail left an unpleasant mess in the Obama bathroom
at some point before the fall of 2017, according to a person
briefed on the event. That prompted the leaders of the Obama
detail to ban the agents up the street from ever returning.
This, as they say, is a metaphor.
Friday, 15 January 2021
‘Sooner or Later a False Belief Bumps Up Against Solid Reality, Usually on a Battlefield’ ★
George Orwell, writing in 1946:
The point is that we are all capable of believing things which we
know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong,
impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right.
Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an
indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a
false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a
Apt, as ever.
The Deplorables ★
As Joe Biden prepares to take office just days after a deadly riot
inside the U.S. Capitol, 64% of voters express a positive opinion
of his conduct since he won the November election. Majorities also
approve of Biden’s Cabinet selections and how he has explained his
plans and policies for the future.
Donald Trump is leaving the White House with the lowest job
approval of his presidency (29%) and increasingly negative ratings
for his post-election conduct. The share of voters who rate
Trump’s conduct since the election as only fair or poor has risen
from 68% in November to 76%, with virtually all of the increase
coming in his “poor” ratings (62% now, 54% then).
Trump voters, in particular, have grown more critical of their
candidate’s post-election conduct. The share of his supporters who
describe his conduct as poor has doubled over the past two months,
from 10% to 20%.
Hillary Clinton in September 2016:
“You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of
Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables.
Right?” Clinton said. “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic,
Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people
like that. And he has lifted them up.”
She said the other half of Trump’s supporters “feel that the
government has let them down” and are “desperate for change.”
Nice NYT Profile on Letterboxd ★
Calum Marsh, writing for The New York Times:
Early last decade, Matthew Buchanan and Karl von Randow, web
designers based in Auckland, New Zealand, were seeking a passion
project. Their business, a boutique web design studio called
Cactuslab, developed apps and websites for various clients, but
they wanted a project of their own that their team could plug away
at when there wasn’t much else to do.
Buchanan had an idea for a social media site about movies. At the
time, he reflected, he used Flickr to share photos and
Last.fm to share his taste in music. IMDb was a database;
it wasn’t, in essence, social. That left a gap in the field. The
result was an app and social media network called Letterboxd,
which its website describes, aptly, as “Goodreads for film.”
Letterboxd harks back to an earlier era of the internet: it’s just nice. It’s nice to look at, nice to use, and serves several useful purposes. It’s a great place to track what you’ve watched and to find new things to watch. But also: that’s it. There’s no world domination plan. It’s just an exquisite app and website made by people trying to make something nice for movie lovers.
Wednesday, 13 January 2021
‘We Told You So’ ★
Representative Cedric Richmond, on the House floor:
In the first impeachment, Republicans said, “We don’t need to impeach him because he learned his lesson.” We said if we didn’t remove him, he would do it again. Simply put, we told you so. Richmond out.
Tuesday, 12 January 2021
‘Hey Siri, Who Invented Chess?’ ★
Siri: “Chess was invented in 1959 by Mr Chess.”
Lost Passwords Lock Would-Be Millionaires Out of Their Bitcoin Fortunes ★
Nathaniel Popper, reporting for The New York Times:
Stefan Thomas, a German-born programmer living in San Francisco,
has two guesses left to figure out a password that is worth, as of
this week, about $220 million.
The password will let him unlock a small hard drive, known as an
IronKey, which contains the private keys to a digital wallet that
holds 7,002 Bitcoin. While the price of Bitcoin dropped sharply on
Monday, it is still up more than 50 percent from just a month ago,
when it passed its previous all-time high of around $20,000.
The problem is that Mr. Thomas years ago lost the paper where he
wrote down the password for his IronKey, which gives users 10
guesses before it seizes up and encrypts its contents forever. He
has since tried eight of his most commonly used password
formulations — to no avail.
“I would just lay in bed and think about it,” Mr. Thomas said.
“Then I would go to the computer with some new strategy, and it
wouldn’t work, and I would be desperate again.”
Matt Levine, in his column at Bloomberg, makes the point that no one loses stock this way. But another lesson: use a good password manager, and print your most important passwords and recovery codes on paper, stored where you store other important documents.
Twitter Suspends 70,000 QAnon Accounts ★
Given the violent events in Washington, DC, and increased risk of
harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that
were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content on Friday
Many of the individuals impacted by this updated enforcement
action held multiple accounts, driving up the total number of
accounts impacted. Since Friday, more than 70,000 accounts have
been suspended as a result of our efforts, with many instances of
a single individual operating numerous accounts. These accounts
were engaged in sharing harmful QAnon-associated content at scale
and were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy
theory across the service.
Better late than never, again, but they knew these kooks were spreading poison months ago. It’s shocking how many people I know with immediate family members who’ve been consumed by this QAnon conspiracy cult.
The Republicans Are Turning on Trump ★
Two links from The Times this afternoon illustrate how quickly Trump is falling into political ignominy and shame. First, Republicans in the House began inching away:
House Republican leaders have decided not to formally lobby
members of the party against voting to impeach President Trump,
making a tacit break with him as they scrambled to gauge support
within their ranks for a vote on Wednesday to charge him with
inciting violence against the country. While Representative Kevin
McCarthy of California, the minority leader, has said that he will
“personally” oppose impeachment and sought to steer Republicans in
a different direction, his decision not to officially lean on
lawmakers to vote against the move constituted a subtle shift away
from the president.
Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, the No. 3 House Republican
who was considering backing the impeachment charge against Mr.
Trump, privately told colleagues on a call Monday the matter was a
“vote of conscience.” Ms. Cheney, the scion of a storied
Republican family, was also privately counseling fellow
Republicans on how to navigate a vote that could shape their
Second, Mitch McConnell, who leads Republicans in the Senate, (and who is a measure twice, cut once sort of fellow):
Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has told
associates he believes President Trump committed impeachable
offenses and that he is pleased that Democrats are moving to
impeach him, believing that it will make it easier to purge him
from the party, according to people familiar with his thinking.
The House is voting Wednesday to formally charge Mr. Trump with
inciting violence against the country.
And, just a few hours after trying out the “I’m not for impeachment but it’s OK if other Republicans are” line, McCarthy moves even further:
At the same time, Representative Kevin McCarthy, the minority
leader and one of Mr. Trump’s most steadfast allies in Congress,
has asked other Republicans whether he ought to call on Mr. Trump
to resign in the aftermath of last week’s riot at the Capitol,
according to three Republican officials briefed on the
Political bankruptcy, just like the financial sort, happens two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.
‘The American Abyss’ ★
Staggering essay by historian Timothy Snyder, published last weekend in The New York Times, accompanied by startling photographs of the Capitol insurrection by Ashley Gilbertson.
There’s a drumbeat to this essay I find remarkable. It is a sprawling, serious, and complex argument, but the essay wastes not a word. Each sentence builds upon the last; each paragraph furthers the argument toward its inexorable conclusion:
America will not survive the big lie just because a liar is
separated from power. It will need a thoughtful repluralization of
media and a commitment to facts as a public good. The racism
structured into every aspect of the coup attempt is a call to heed
our own history. Serious attention to the past helps us to see
risks but also suggests future possibility. We cannot be a
democratic republic if we tell lies about race, big or small.
Democracy is not about minimizing the vote nor ignoring it,
neither a matter of gaming nor of breaking a system, but of
accepting the equality of others, heeding their voices and
counting their votes.
I implore you not merely to read it, but to study it.
Monday, 11 January 2021
The Legend of Sean Hannity’s Olive Garden Lifetime Pasta Pass ★
This, without question, is the funniest thing I’ve seen all week. My friend Louie Mantia tweeted a parody statement from Olive Garden, and it was so convincing to humorless wingnuts that Sean Hannity made it a segment on his show.
Bill Belichick Declines Presidential Medal of Freedom From Trump ★
New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick, formerly “great friends”, in a statement:
Recently, I was offered the opportunity to receive the
Presidential Medal of Freedom, which I was flattered by out of
respect for what the honor represents and admiration for prior
recipients. Subsequently, the tragic events of last week occurred
and the decision has been made not to move forward with the award.
Above all, I am an American citizen with great reverence for our
nation’s values, freedom and democracy. I know I also represent my
family and the New England Patriots team. One of the most
rewarding things in my professional career took place in 2020
when, through the great leadership within our team, conversations
about social justice, equality and human rights moved to the
forefront and became actions. Continuing those efforts while
remaining true to the people, team and country I love outweigh the
benefits of any individual award.
The passive voice is doing a lot of work in that statement: Belichick was offered the award, a decision was made not to “move forward” with it. I don’t blame Belichick for the PR dance, but here’s what he means: President Trump offered me the Medal of Freedom but because of what he did and the shame and disgrace he brought upon himself and our nation, I will not accept it.
Beyond the pure schadenfreude, consider how deep this stain is on Trump’s reputation. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is our nation’s highest honor, and Trump is so disgraced that Bill Belichick declined to accept it from him. There’s a lot of unprecedented stuff going on right now, but declining a Presidential Medal of Freedom? Has anyone ever declined this award previously? A cursory search suggests no.
I’m sure the MyPillow guy will accept his medal though.
New York State Bar Association Launches Inquiry to Expel Rudy Giuliani ★
The New York State Bar Association:
But the president did not act alone. Hours before the angry mob
stormed the Capitol walls, Trump’s personal attorney, Rudolph
Giuliani, addressed a crowd of thousands at the White House,
reiterating baseless claims of widespread election fraud in the
presidential election and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs. “If
we’re wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we’re right a lot of
them will go to jail,” Mr. Giuliani said. “Let’s have trial by
NYSBA’s bylaws state that “no person who advocates the overthrow
of the government of the United States, or of any state, territory
or possession thereof, or of any political subdivision therein, by
force or other illegal means, shall be a member of the
Association.” Mr. Giuliani’s words quite clearly were intended to
encourage Trump supporters unhappy with the election’s outcome to
take matters into their own hands. Their subsequent attack on the
Capitol was nothing short of an attempted coup, intended to
prevent the peaceful transition of power.
Mr. Giuliani will be provided due process and have an opportunity — should he so choose — to explain and defend his words and
So among his other troubles, the president’s personal attorney is going to be
disbarred disgraced by the New York State Bar Association. “America’s Mayor”.
Update: The NY Bar Association is a voluntary organization — more like a private club — and neither bars nor disbars anyone. But it’s a bad look for Giuliani. And, unsurprisingly, he has been referred to the NY State Senate’s judiciary committee for proper disbarment.
Professional Golf Cuts Ties to Trump Courses ★
Russ Choma, reporting for Mother Jones:
Sunday night, the PGA of America announced that it was nixing
its plans to hold the 2022 PGA Championship at Trump’s New Jersey
golf course. It’s not a small move. Championships are named far in
advance — the PGA website currently lists the site of future
Championships through 2034 — and the PGA has been planning on
using Trump Bedminster for its 2022 Championship since 2014. Since
he started purchasing and developing golf courses, Trump has
avidly pursued PGA events at his properties. These events not only
bring media attention and crowds of visitors, but they confer the
kind of acceptance Trump has always struggled to win from the
moneyed and powerful classes. […]
In a nearly simultaneous blow, the R&A, golf’s Scotland-based
governing body outside of the United States, issued its own
statement early Monday morning. It announced that it will avoid
using Trump’s premiere Scottish golf course, Turnberry, for the
“forseeable future” for any of its championships. Turnberry is a
legendary course and is one of a handful of courses in the United
Kingdom that has been allowed to host a British Open Championship — one of the most prestigious events in all of golf.
When you’re a Republican and you lose the PGA — of all professional sports — you’re done.
Why Parler Is Likely to Fold ★
Good thread on Twitter by Dave Troy, on the troubles facing Parler if they try to rebound after being cut off by AWS. Technical hurdles, for sure — AWS is hard to replace, and most of the top alternatives, the ones that are closest to drop-in replacements, are unlikely to want Parler’s business — but perhaps the bigger problem is financial:
Should Matze/Wernick/Bongino/Peikoff decide to soldier on and go
full zombie mode, they can try to do that. They probably can’t do
so without Mercer support. Or material help from foreign
nationals. Any US person risks sedition charges. And indeed, so
Given the near zero possibility of survival, I assess that all
involved will likely terminate this kamikaze mission, take the
data they harvested, use it for future ops, share it with the
Russian government in trade for something, and move on to a new
Sounds like they’ve inadvertently shared their entire data store with the world, actually. This trove includes geolocation data for uploaded images and video (Parler apparently didn’t strip EXIF data), private DMs, and “deleted” posts that weren’t actually deleted from the database but just marked as “deleted”.
Always seemed pretty obvious that the minds behind Parler weren’t exactly sharp knives, but it’s looking more and more like they’re on the plastic cutlery end of the spectrum.
Sunday, 10 January 2021
My thanks to Motion for sponsoring last week at DF. Motion is a Chrome extension that reduces sources of friction people experience using their browser to do work. Think of it sort of as a productivity tool for Chrome power users. It’s not some sort of tool that makes you do more work by adding a “system” to manage, but rather a set of extensions to Chrome’s interface to make streamline and provide quicker access to the things you already do, all day every day.
Among other features, Motion gives you instant access to your Google Calendar and Google Docs from any tab (instead of waiting for the entire web apps to load in new tabs, each time you want to use them); tab search and tab de-cluttering tools (like workspaces and vertical sub-tabs); and ways to block distracting sites in a non-intrusive way.
If you’re a Chrome power user, check it out. If “like Superhuman, but for calendars” sounds interesting to you, you should definitely check it out. Motion is just a Chrome extension — easy to try. They offer a 7-day free trial, and it’s just $15/month after that.
‘They Absolutely Do Not Believe Their Own Bullshit, but It’s Useful for Them to Pretend They Do.’ ★
Wonderful thread on Twitter by Lili Saintcrow, on her dealings with an old racist neighbor:
One afternoon, Gene mentioned whatever the current outrage du jour
on Fox was. (This was well before Der Trumpenfuhrer’s reign, by
He fixed me with his baleful, watery stare, and said, “Obama was
born in Kenya, you know.” […]
So I dead-eyed Gene and said, “You don’t really believe that. I
know you don’t.”
I will never forget the look that crossed his face. Because it was
familiar. It was the same shit-eating grin my racist stepfather
used to wear when spouting Rush Limbaugh dittohead shit at the
dinner table. It was the same wink-wink-nudge-nudge all the
fucking white supremacists and Satanic Panic assholes give.
Gene absolutely, positively did not believe that Obama was born in
Kenya. But he would continue to say he believed it, no matter who
asked, to the end of his life. Because he thought saying he
believed it absolved him of responsibility.
“You know that isn’t true” — I’m going to remember that reply. She also includes this Zen koan, which I don’t recall seeing before, but which I just love, and is perfectly apt for our moment: “You cannot wake someone up who is pretending to be asleep.”
Stripe Stops Processing Payments for Trump Campaign Website ★
The Wall Street Journal:
Stripe Inc. will no longer process payments for President Trump’s
campaign website following last week’s riot at the Capitol,
according to people familiar with the matter.
The financial-technology company handles card payments for
millions of online businesses and e-commerce platforms,
including Mr. Trump’s campaign website and online fundraising
apparatus. Stripe is cutting off the president’s campaign
account for violating its policies against encouraging violence,
the people said.
The Trump campaign directly incited an insurrection against Congress in an attempt to overturn an election that Trump lost. How can any legitimate company do business with them henceforth?
Bare Metal Parler Tricks ★
Parler CEO John Matze, late last night in a post on Parler whose URL will likely soon stop resolving:
Sunday (tomorrow) at midnight Amazon will be shutting off all of
our servers in an attempt to completely remove free speech off the
internet. There is the possibility Parler will be unavailable on
the internet for up to a week as we rebuild from scratch. We
prepared for events like this by never relying on amazons [sic]
proprietary infrastructure and building bare metal products.
We will try our best to move to a new provider right now as we
have many competing for our business, however […]
12 hours later, here’s how that was going, from a report on Deadline:
Parler CEO John Matze said today that his company has been dropped
by virtually all of its business alliances after Amazon, Apple and
Google ended their agreements with the social media service.
“Every vendor from text message services to email providers to our
lawyers all ditched us too on the same day,” Matze said today on
Fox News. […]
He added: “We’re going to try our best to get back online as
quickly as possible. But we’re having a lot of trouble because
every vendor we talk to says they won’t work with us. Because if
Apple doesn’t approve and Google doesn’t approve, they won’t.”
Here’s what Parler is (was?): pretty much 8kun/4chan for people who want something modeled on social media conceptually (a service with atomic “posts”) as opposed to a web forum, with the added veneer of Fox News-ish celebrity affirmation, having “stars” like Sean Hannity, Dan Bongino, Michael Cernovich, and whoever else they recognize from the Fox News cinematic universe, shitposting links to rightwing “news” sites on it.
4chan with rightwing celebrity endorsements. That’s Parler.
Arnold Schwarzenegger on Trump and the Attack on the Capitol ★
Powerful and deeply personal message, directly equating the Proud Boys and the storming of the U.S. Capitol to the Nazis’ Kristallnacht of 1938.
Saturday, 9 January 2021
Amazon Will Suspend Parler From AWS Web Hosting ★
John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Amazon on Saturday kicked Parler off its Web hosting services.
Parler, a social network favored by conservative politicians and
extremists, was used to help plan and coordinate the January 6
attempted coup on Washington D.C. It has recently been overrun
with messages encouraging “Patriots” to march on Washington D.C.
with weapons on January 19.
Amazon’s suspension of Parler’s account means that unless it can
find another host, once the ban takes effect on Sunday Parler will
(And trust me, having spent more time today digging into Parler than I’d recommend to anyone, Parler is a haven for fucking Nazis. Like, however many Nazis you think are cavorting on Parler — and let’s just say for the sake of argument that you’re a pessimist and you think there are a lot of them — there are more than you think.)
Update: A bit more, including their monthly bill to AWS:
“[W]e cannot provide services to a customer that is unable to
effectively identify and remove content that encourages or incites
violence against others,” the email continues. “Because Parler
cannot comply with our terms of service and poses a very real risk
to public safety, we plan to suspend Parler’s account effective
Sunday, January 10th, at 11:59PM PST.”
On Amazon Web Services, Parler had gone from negligible spend to
paying more than $300,000 a month for hosting, according to
Apple Suspends Parler From App Store ★
Apple, in a statement to MacRumors:
We have always supported diverse points of view being represented on the App Store, but there is no place on our platform for threats of violence and illegal activity. Parler has not taken adequate measures to address the proliferation of these threats to people’s safety. We have suspended Parler from the App Store until they resolve these issues.
Kieran Healy: ‘What Happened?’ ★
I don’t know what happened. But here’s my current theory of what
the White House thought was going to happen. […]
From the White House’s point of view, the crowd was not actually
supposed to get inside the Capitol. The MAGA/Q contingent are the
useful marks in all this. They believe all the crap they’re fed.
But obviously they’re not going to get into the building. It’s the
US Capitol for God’s sake! The very idea that the rush of events
would propel them right into the chambers was not something the
White House wanted to happen, or thought was going to happen.
Of course, before the rally some of the actually dangerous
Q-marinated nutters absolutely did want to get inside the
building, find Pence, and Pelosi, and the rest, and literally take
them hostage and string them up.
This is so, so good. And I think it’s exactly what happened.
Friday, 8 January 2021
Google Suspends Parler From the Google Play Store ★
Not a good day for Nazis, fascists, or kooks.
Pretty good day for the rest of us.
The MAGApocalypse: Twitter Also Bans Michael Flynn, Sidney Powell, and 8Kun Co-Owner Ron Watkins ★
Caroline Haskins, reporting for BuzzFeed News:
Twitter is permanently suspending major accounts that are “solely
dedicated to sharing QAnon content,” following the far-right
insurrection at the nation’s Capitol.
Banned accounts include former national security adviser Michael
Flynn, Trump attorney Sidney Powell, and 8kun co-owner Ron
Watkins, who some journalists and researchers have speculated
has the log-in information for the account “Q”, whose posts fuel
the mass delusion, but doesn’t necessarily write Q’s posts.
I’d make a “Today I settle all family business” joke, but if Michael Corleone ran Twitter these crackpot wingnuts would’ve all been banned years ago.
Apple Gives Parler 24 Hours to Implement a Moderation Plan or It Will Be Removed From the App Store ★
From Apple’s letter to Parler, as published by BuzzFeed News:
We require your immediate attention regarding serious App Store
guideline violations that we have found with your app, Parler.
We have received numerous complaints regarding objectionable
content in your Parler service, accusations that the Parler app
was used to plan, coordinate, and facilitate the illegal
activities in Washington D.C. on January 6, 2021 that led (among
other things) to loss of life, numerous injuries, and the
destruction of property. The app also appears to continue to be
used to plan and facilitate yet further illegal and dangerous
Our investigation has found that Parler is not effectively
moderating and removing content that encourages illegal activity
and poses a serious risk to the health and safety of users in
direct violation of your own terms of service, found here:
It’s just a chef’s kiss to encapsulate so much with “(among other things)”. Consider what it includes: the breakdown of society, an attempted coup, the disgrace of our nation in the front of the world, all the way down to evidence of poor personal hygiene. Truly a parenthetical for the ages.
Twitter Permanently Bans Trump ★
After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump
account and the context around them we have permanently suspended
the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence.
Behold his account. It’s a beautiful thing to see. We never have to read another Trump tweet again.
Can I just take a moment, while we’re dancing on his Twitter account’s grave, to talk about how stupid the “real” prefix in his account handle was? Even the way it was camel-cased was stupid and cut-rate.
Anyway, good fucking riddance.
GM Unveils New Logo ★
Thumbs down. Lowercasing the letters looks unserious, a bit childish, and the letter combination makes it look a bit like the icon for a chat app.
GM’s new logo looks like an app that came free with CorelDraw in 2014.
China Banned ‘Christopher Robin’ Because Xi Jinping Looks Quite a Bit Like Winnie the Pooh and He Feels Bad About That ★
Benjamin Haas, reporting for The Guardian in 2018:
The Winnie the Pooh character has become a lighthearted way for
people across China to mock their president, Xi Jinping, but it
seems the government doesn’t find the joke very funny. […]
As comparisons grew and the meme spread online, censors began
erasing the images which mocked Xi. The website of US television
station HBO was blocked last month after comedian John Oliver
repeatedly made fun of the Chinese president’s apparent
sensitivity over comparisons of his figure with that of Winnie.
The segment also focused on China’s dismal human rights
Another comparison between Xi and Winnie during a military parade
in 2015 became that year’s most censored image, according to
Global Risk Insights. The firm said the Chinese government
viewed the meme as “a serious effort to undermine the dignity of
the presidential office and Xi himself”.
No need to read too much into it. All sorts of men look like puffy little cartoon bears.
Chinese Solar Companies Tied to Use of Forced Labor ★
Ana Swanson and Christopher Buckley, reporting for The New York Times:
According to a report by the consultancy Horizon Advisory,
Xinjiang’s rising solar energy technology sector is connected to a
broad program of assigned labor in China, including methods that
fit well-documented patterns of forced labor.
Major solar companies including GCL-Poly, East Hope Group, Daqo
New Energy, Xinte Energy and Jinko Solar are named in the report
as bearing signs of using some forced labor, according to Horizon
Advisory, which specializes in Chinese-language research. Though
many details remain unclear, those signs include accepting workers
transferred with the help of the Chinese government from certain
parts of Xinjiang, and having laborers undergo “military-style”
training that may be aimed at instilling loyalty to China and the
Communist Party. […]
In a statement, a representative for the Chinese Embassy in
Washington called forced labor in Xinjiang “a rumor created by a
few anti-China media and organizations,” adding that all workers
in Xinjiang enter into contracts in accordance with Chinese labor
law. “There is no such thing as ‘forced labor,’” the
No need to read too much into it.
Hong Kong Police Arrest Dozens of Pro-Democracy Leaders ★
Vivian Wang, Austin Ramzy, and Tiffany May, reporting for The New York Times:
The Hong Kong police arrested 53 elected pro-democracy officials
and activists early Wednesday for their involvement in an informal
primary election, the largest roundup yet under the new national
security law imposed by Beijing to quash dissent.
The mass arrests — which included figures who had called for
aggressive confrontation with the authorities as well as those who
had supported more moderate tactics — underscored Hong Kong
officials’ efforts to weaken any meaningful opposition in the
city’s political institutions. The police also visited the offices
of at least one law firm and three news media organizations to
demand documents, broadening the burst of arrests that started
before sunrise and sent a chill through Hong Kong’s
already-demoralized opposition camp.
The moves suggested that the authorities were casting a wide net
for anyone who had played a prominent role in opposing the
government. The national security law, which the Chinese
government imposed in June, has been wielded as a powerful tool to
crack down on the fierce anti-Beijing protests that upended the
city for months. Since then, the Hong Kong authorities have
detained pro-democracy leaders, raided news media offices and
ousted opposition lawmakers.
No need to read too much into it.
‘Where Is Jack Ma?’ ★
Jeanne Whalen, writing for The Washington Post:
China’s most famous billionaire has suffered months of mounting
trouble, with regulators turning the screws on his tech empire.
And now social media is abuzz with the darkest speculation yet: Is
Jack Ma missing?
The charismatic founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, known for
his frequent Davos appearances and Michael Jackson dance moves,
hasn’t been seen in public since late October, when he criticized
Chinese regulators in a speech.
His absence, combined with regulatory troubles including a recent
antitrust probe, have fueled wild speculation on social media
about his whereabouts, with some fearing he is under house arrest.
In China, it’s not unusual for powerful figures to disappear with
little public explanation when they fall afoul of authorities — such as in 2018, when the country’s most prominent movie star, Fan
Bingbing, fell off the map for months before reemerging to
confess to tax evasion.
No need to read too much into it. I’m sure he’s fine.
WHO Team Investigating Virus Origins Denied Entry to China ★
A World Health Organization (WHO) team due to investigate the
origins of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan has been denied entry to
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he was “very
disappointed” that China had not yet finalised the permissions for
the team’s arrivals “given that two members had already begun
their journeys and others were not able to travel at the last
“I have been assured that China is speeding up the internal
procedure for the earliest possible deployment,” he told reporters
in Geneva on Tuesday, explaining that he had been in contact with
senior Chinese officials to stress “that the mission is a priority
for WHO and the international team”.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told the BBC
“there might be some misunderstanding” and “there’s no need to
read too much into it”.
“No need to read too much into it.” I like that. We can use that for everything related to the Chinese government, whose behavior throughout this whole pandemic has been perfectly normal, and not at all suggestive of a serious cover-up.
Kara Swisher: ‘Ban Trump Forever’ ★
Kara Swisher, writing for New York Magazine:
That is why Twitter and Facebook and YouTube, which are the three
main conduits of online communications for most Americans, must
now de-platform Trump permanently.
I do not call for this lightly and have always thought that he
should get a wider berth owing to being the most newsworthy
person on the planet. But it’s long past time to make an example
of him as a persistent violator of platform rules who cynically
games their laudable impulse toward allowing as much speech as
Twitter — Trump’s favored online communications vehicle — says
as much in its civic integrity policy, noting that “you may not
use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or
interfering in elections or other civic processes.” Well, he has
done that over and over on social media, raging like the monster
that he has always been.
Trump is the biggest problem (and the immediate threat), no question, but this needs to be less about Trump personally and more about branding Trumpist viewpoints as beyond the pale. Intolerable. Twitter says “you may not use Twitter’s services for the purpose of manipulating or interfering in elections or other civic processes”, but by their actions, clearly the opposite is true. Donald Trump has used Twitter for just such purposes. And now Twitter has let him back on their platform to keep doing it.
Capitol Police said that white nationalist MAGA louts were not allowed to storm through the Capitol, humiliate both houses of Congress, steal with impunity and fart in Nancy Pelosi’s chair. But they did allow it. Federal law enforcement is facing a reckoning in the aftermath of Wednesday’s debacle not because of their words or intentions, but because of their actions and the results.
Twitter can say anything they want about what’s allowed on their platform. But we can see, plainly, that they have allowed, and continue to allow, Trump and his cohorts to debase American democracy.
Thursday, 7 January 2021
George Will on the Trump-Hawley-Cruz Seditionist Triumvirate ★
George Will, writing at The Washington Post:
“I want to take a moment to speak to my Democratic colleagues,”
said Cruz. “I understand your guy is winning right now.” Read
those weaselly words again. He was not speaking to his
“colleagues.” He was speaking to the kind people who were at that
instant assaulting the Capitol. He was nurturing the very
delusions that soon would cause louts to be roaming the Senate
chamber — the fantasy that Joe Biden has not won the election but
is only winning “right now.”
The Trump-Hawley-Cruz insurrection against constitutional
government will be an indelible stain on the nation. They,
however, will not be so permanent. In 14 days, one of them will be
removed from office by the constitutional processes he neither
fathoms nor favors. It will take longer to scrub the other two
from public life. Until that hygienic outcome is accomplished,
from this day forward, everything they say or do or advocate
should be disregarded as patent attempts to distract attention
from the lurid fact of what they have become. Each will wear a
scarlet “S” as a seditionist.
Bonus points for the use of louts.
Those Radical Left-Wingers on The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Call on Trump to Resign ★
The Wall Street Journal editorial board:
We know an act of grace by Mr. Trump isn’t likely. In any case
this week has probably finished him as a serious political figure.
He has cost Republicans the House, the White House, and now the
Senate. Worse, he has betrayed his loyal supporters by lying to
them about the election and the ability of Congress and Mr. Pence
to overturn it. He has refused to accept the basic bargain of
democracy, which is to accept the result, win or lose.
It is best for everyone, himself included, if he goes away
‘The Biggest Mistake I’ve Ever Made in My Life’ ★
Bryan Lowry, writing for The Kansas City Star:
Former Missouri Sen. John Danforth spent years promoting Josh
Hawley as the future of the Republican Party, a
“once-in-a-generation” candidate destined to contend for the
presidency, perhaps in 2024.
But a day after the riot at the U.S. Capitol left four people
dead, Danforth blamed his former protégé for sparking the
“I thought he was special. And I did my best to encourage people
to support him both for attorney general and later the U.S. Senate
and it was the biggest mistake I’ve ever made in my life,” he said
Thursday. “I don’t know if he was always like this and good at
covering it up or if it happened. I just don’t know.”
Trump is out of office in 13 days. Hawley and Ted Cruz are not.
Simon & Schuster ‘Has Decided to Cancel Publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s Forthcoming Book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech”’ ★
Simon & Schuster:
As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety
of voices and viewpoints; at the same time we take seriously our
larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support
Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to
our democracy and freedom.
Every tech platform could and should follow Simon & Schuster’s lead and justification here. (Via CNN’s Brian Stelter.)
Update: Hawley’s crybaby response, expressing an utter disregard for basic civics.
Twitch Suspends Donald Trump’s Channel ★
Nathan Grayson, reporting for Kotaku:
In an email to Kotaku, a Twitch spokesperson explained the
“In light of yesterday’s shocking attack on the Capitol, we have
disabled President Trump’s Twitch channel,” the spokesperson
wrote. “Given the current extraordinary circumstances and the
President’s incendiary rhetoric, we believe this is a necessary
step to protect our community and prevent Twitch from being used
to incite further violence.”
For now, the suspension is indefinite. “We are focused on
minimizing harm leading up to the transition of government and
will reassess his account after he leaves office,” the
I don’t know what Twitter is thinking reinstating his account after yesterday. This was the time to sever it.
Thursday, 31 December 2020
Joe Rossignol, MacRumors, “HomePod Mini Now Works With Select 18W Chargers Following 14.3 Software Update”:
As noted in a Reddit thread spotted by The 8-Bit, and
confirmed by MacRumors, the HomePod mini now works with Apple’s
own 18W USB-C power adapter and select third-party 18W power
adapters from brands like Aukey. One user was even able to power
the HomePod mini with an 18W battery pack from Cygnett, allowing
for portable use.
Previously, when attempting to use the HomePod mini with a power
adapter rated below 20W, the speaker would simply display an
orange light and not function. This may still be the case with
certain 18W power adapters, as certain power profiles may be
If you don’t know a little about how AC adapters work, it might seem crazy that the difference between an 18W charger and 20W charger could be significant. If you think it’s all about wattage, they sound so similar — how could 2 watts make a difference? And Apple’s own 20W charger (that they started selling this year, and which is included with the HomePod Mini) looks identical to Apple’s previous 18W charger (which was included with some iPads and the iPhones 11 Pro). The only way to tell Apple’s new 20W charger apart from their old 18W charger is to look at the hard-to-read small print (light gray text on a white background, a veritable crime against accessibility). And even when you read the small print, you have to know that Apple’s 20W chargers say “20W” on them and their 18W chargers aren’t labeled with a wattage. Seriously, Apple’s 18W charger doesn’t say “18W” — the only way to know it’s an 18W charger is to examine the even-harder-to-read smallest-of-small print and know or calculate that its stated maximum output of “9V × 2A” is 18W. (Their 20W charger is 9V × 2.2A, so it’s really a 19.8W charger.)
So on the one hand, because the HomePod Mini includes the 20W charger, it was fine that it didn’t work with the old 18W charger. But on the other hand, if you ever toss the 20W charger into a bag or drawer along with an Apple 18W charger, you needed an extraordinary amount of knowledge to know which charger the HomePod Mini required. Not sure how much work Apple had to put into the 14.3 software update to make the HomePod Mini work with the 18W charger too, but I’m glad they did. It’s too confusing otherwise.
This exact same sort of confusion — conflating two lookalike Apple-branded chargers — bit me earlier this year. In my April review of the iPad Magic Keyboard, I originally wrote that passthrough charging via the Smart Connector was slow. But other reviewers saw passthrough charging speeds that were as fast or nearly as fast as connecting the iPad directly to the charger. I checked with Apple and they confirmed that passthrough charging should not be slow, and I should make sure I was using the power adapter that came with the iPad Pro.
My mistake was using Apple’s slightly older 29W USB-C power adapter, which looks exactly like Apple’s more recent 30W USB-C power adapter. We’ve had that adapter plugged into our kitchen island for years, and it’s never before mattered. But with the Magic Keyboard, it did.
Turns out Apple’s 29W USB-C adapter is weird and limited. It only outputs two configurations: 14.5V × 2A = 29W (the maximum), or 5.2V × 2.4A = 12.48W.1 For high-power input, the iPad Magic Keyboard accepts 9V × 3A = 27W, but Apple’s 29W adapter can’t supply that. Apple’s 30W USB-C adapter, on the other hand, supplies a slew of output options:
- 20V × 1.5A = 30W
- 15V × 2A = 30W
- 9V × 3A = 27W (bingo for the Magic Keyboard)
- 5V × 3A = 15W
So the 29W adapter looks exactly like the 30W adapter, and if you make the perfectly reasonable but totally wrong assumption that the stated maximum wattage is all that matters, it sounds like it’s about 97% as powerful (29 ÷ 30), but what really matters when an adapter is negotiating with a device are the various voltage/amp configurations that the charger can supply as output, and the device can accept as input.
Plug the iPad Magic Keyboard into an Apple 30W adapter and the adapter can supply it with 27W (9V × 3A). Plug the Magic Keyboard into Apple’s 29W adapter, however, and the best output the charger can supply that the keyboard will accept is a measly 12.48W (5.2V × 2.4A). That closely jibes with my own observed estimate back in April, that the iPad Pro only charges at about 40 percent speed via passthrough when the Magic Keyboard is plugged into Apple’s 29W charger.
That 29W charger now lives in a drawer with a salty note attached. ★
Tuesday, 29 December 2020
Adrienne LaFrance, writing for The Atlantic, “Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine”:
People tend to complain about Facebook as if something recently
curdled. There’s a notion that the social web was once useful, or
at least that it could have been good, if only we had pulled a few
levers: some moderation and fact-checking here, a bit of
regulation there, perhaps a federal antitrust lawsuit. But that’s
far too sunny and shortsighted a view. Today’s social networks,
Facebook chief among them, were built to encourage the things that
make them so harmful. It is in their very architecture.
I’ve been thinking for years about what it would take to make the
social web magical in all the right ways — less extreme, less
toxic, more true — and I realized only recently that I’ve been
thinking far too narrowly about the problem. I’ve long wanted Mark
Zuckerberg to admit that Facebook is a media company, to take
responsibility for the informational environment he created in the
same way that the editor of a magazine would. (I pressed him on
this once and he laughed.) In recent years, as Facebook’s
mistakes have compounded and its reputation has tanked, it has
become clear that negligence is only part of the problem. No one,
not even Mark Zuckerberg, can control the product he made. I’ve
come to realize that Facebook is not a media company. It’s a
This is a very compelling and cogent essay, and I largely agree with LaFrance. But here I disagree: Zuckerberg clearly can control it. There are dials on the algorithms that control what users see in their feeds. What can’t be controlled is what happens as Facebook pursues engagement. What keeps too many people hooked to Facebook is exactly the sort of worldview-warping toxic content that is damaging society worldwide. To some degree Facebook’s addictiveness and toxicity are directly correlated. This isn’t conjecture or speculation, we have proof. Plus, we have eyes: in some ways the societal harm from Facebook is as easy for anyone to see as the respiratory problems caused by smoking. I honestly believe Zuckerberg would prefer to reduce the toxicity of Facebook’s social media platforms, but not enough to do so if it reduces Facebook’s addictiveness. Again, likewise, I’m sure tobacco company executives would have loved to invent tobacco products that didn’t cause cancer.
A key insight from LaFrance:
The website that’s perhaps best known for encouraging mass
violence is the image board 4chan — which was followed by 8chan,
which then became 8kun. These boards are infamous for being the
sites where multiple mass-shooting suspects have shared manifestos
before homicide sprees. The few people who are willing to defend
these sites unconditionally do so from a position of free-speech
absolutism. That argument is worthy of consideration. But there’s
something architectural about the site that merits attention, too:
There are no algorithms on 8kun, only a community of users who
post what they want. People use 8kun to publish abhorrent ideas,
but at least the community isn’t pretending to be something it’s
not. The biggest social platforms claim to be similarly neutral
and pro–free speech when in fact no two people see the same feed.
Algorithmically tweaked environments feed on user data and
manipulate user experience, and not ultimately for the purpose of
serving the user. Evidence of real-world violence can be easily
traced back to both Facebook and 8kun. But 8kun doesn’t manipulate
its users or the informational environment they’re in. Both sites
are harmful. But Facebook might actually be worse for humanity.
This is the problem we, collectively, have not grasped. How do we regulate — via the law and/or social norms — a form of mass media with amorphous content? When you make a movie or write a book or publish a magazine, the speech that matters is the content of the movie/book/magazine. When you post something to Facebook, the “speech” that matters most isn’t the content of the post but the algorithm that determines who sees it and how. 3 billion users effectively means there are 3 billion different “Facebooks”. That’s the “megascale” which LaFrance equates to the megadeaths of a Strangelovian doomsday device.
A mere “website” — say, Wikipedia — that reaches an audience of billions is like the surface of an ocean: enormously expansive, but visible. Facebook is like the volume of an ocean: not merely massive, but unknowable.
We instinctively think that 8kun is “worse” than Facebook because its users are free to post the worst content imaginable, and because they are terribly imaginative, do. It feels like 8kun must be “worse” because its content is worse — what is permitted, and what actually is posted. But Facebook is in fact far worse, because by its nature we, as a whole, can’t even see what “Facebook” is because everyone’s feed is unique. 8kun, at least, is a knowable product. You could print it out and say, “Here is what 8kun was on December 29, 2020.” How could you ever say what Facebook is at any given moment, let alone for a given day, let alone as an omnipresent daily presence in billions of people’s lives?
A question I’ve pondered these last few post-election weeks: What would have happened if Mark Zuckerberg were all-in on Trump? What if instead of flagging and tamping down Trump’s utterly false but profoundly destructive “election fraud” anti-democratic power grab, Facebook had done the opposite and pushed the narrative Trump wants? What if Trump — or Rupert Murdoch — owned Facebook? What if Zuckerberg ran for president, lost, and pursued a similar “turn your supporters against democracy” strategy?
Is there any reason to believe that Facebook chose the pre- and post-election course it did because it was the right thing to do — good for the United States, good for the world, good for the principles of democracy and truth — rather than the result of a cold calculus that determined it was the optimal way to keep the most people the most engaged with Facebook?
I, for one, believe Facebook charted a course through this election primarily with Facebook’s continuing addictiveness in mind. But I know that whatever the reasons, they were ultimately determined by one person. That’s quite a thing. ★
Friday, 18 December 2020
Facebook’s second full-page newspaper ad attacking Apple, helpfully transcribed (and photographed) by MacRumors:
Apple vs. the free internet
Apple plans to roll out a forced software update that will change
the internet as we know it — for the worse.
Take your favorite cooking sites or sports blogs. Most are free
because they show advertisements.
It’s an unfortunate quirk of the English language that free as in freedom and free as in beer are very different meanings of free. But when you see an ad headlined “Apple vs. The Free Internet”, most people would assume they’re about to hear an argument about free as in freedom.
Not Facebook. They’re arguing about free as in beer. I mean, they’re alleging that Apple is taking away freedom — the freedom of small business advertisers to benefit from unrestricted tracking for ad targeting — but their argument to the public is that such privacy initiatives will cost users their free beer.
There’s nothing “forced” about the software update Facebook is talking about either, which, I think, is going to be iOS 14.4. It’s actually quite interesting that Apple does not force software updates, or perform them in a hard-to-disable-or-detect manner. What’s “forced” isn’t the software update, but Facebook’s compliance with new rules that they wish they could ignore.
Apple’s change will limit their ability to run personalized ads.
To make ends meet, many will have to start charging you
subscription fees or adding more in-app purchases, making the
internet much more expensive and reducing high-quality free
Are we talking about apps or websites? This is a very short ad — I haven’t omitted a word in my blockquoted text — but it suddenly veers from “cooking sites or sports blogs” to “in-app purchases” without explaining how it got there.
Apple clearly has no control over anything related to the advertising on websites, other than whatever privacy controls are built into Safari. Apple isn’t limiting the ability of apps on iOS to show personalized ads, either. They’re also not limiting the ability of ad-tracking technology to track users. What they’re doing is giving users awareness of and control over that tracking. In broad terms, changing tracking from opt-out to opt-in.
This may well result in diminishing the effectiveness of personalized advertising. If so, so be it. Facebook’s argument is along the lines of arguing that the police shouldn’t crack down on burglaries because doing so might hurt pawn shops that have been thriving during a years-long crime spree. The information used for tracking belongs to the users whose behavior and interests is being tracked, not to Facebook and the companies, no matter how small and noble, who advertise with them.
No fair! claims the company objecting to blinds being installed on windows it had long peered through unhindered.
Beyond hurting apps and websites, many in the small business
community say this change will be devastating for them too, at a
time when they face enormous challenges. They need to be able to
effectively reach the people most interested in their products and
services to grow.
Here come the pandemic waterworks. How dare Apple institute improved privacy controls during a severe recession. Boo-fucking-hoo. I do give some credit to Facebook for putting it so plainly that they’re claiming they need to invade our privacy without our awareness or permission.
Forty-four percent of small to medium businesses started or
increased their usage of personalized ads on social media during
the pandemic, according to a new Deloitte study. Without
personalized ads, Facebook data shows that the average small
business advertiser stands to see a cut of over 60% in their sales
for every dollar they spend.
Well if Facebook says so, it must be true. If only anyone could remember a time when advertising wasn’t based on privacy-invasive tracking, we could know whether there were any successful small businesses back then.
This whole ad reads more like an ad for Apple’s privacy initiatives than against them. Apple’s response to this campaign is simply to show the very simple easily-understood opt-in dialog box that Facebook is objecting to. Apple’s entire statement:
We believe that this is a simple matter of standing up for our
users. Users should know when their data is being collected and
shared across other apps and websites — and they should have the
choice to allow that or not.
It’s illustrated with this example permission dialog:
That’s what Facebook is objecting to. Given that their privacy nutrition label looks like this, you can almost sympathize. ★