Linked List: January 2021

Listen Notes 

My thanks to Wenbin Fang for sponsoring last week at DF to promote Listen Notes, a podcast search engine. He sponsored DF to share his story of building an API business and the technology behind it. “An accidental API business” he calls it — it’s really a neat story, and like most successes, it’s not what he expected.

If you want to jumpstart your podcast project, try the Listen Notes podcast API, or if you want to find all podcast interviews of a person, just search for their name on listennotes.com. Just a website, really well done.

Apple in 2020: The Six Colors Report Card 

Jason Snell:

It’s time for our annual look back on Apple’s performance during the past year, as seen through the eyes of writers, editors, developers, podcasters, and other people who spend an awful lot of time thinking about Apple.

This is the sixth year that I’ve presented this survey to a hand-selected group. They were prompted with 12 different Apple-related subjects, and asked to rate them on a scale from 1 to 5 and optionally provide text commentary per category. I received 55 replies, with the average results as shown below.

The consensus scores, once again, are very much in line with my own. I’ll post my personal report card later today, but Snell’s collected report card is a must read. So many good observations.

See also: Michael Tsai’s commentary.

5-4-3-2-1: Robinhood’s Reputation Drops Along With the Number of Shares They Let Users Buy 

Mitchell Clark, writing for The Verge:

Robinhood only wants users to have a limited number of shares of companies like GameStop, and that number keeps getting smaller and smaller. On Thursday, the company halted users’ ability to buy stocks that were associated with r/WallStreetBets, including GameStop, AMC, and Nokia, but the company promised that users would be able to buy limited quantities on Friday. Today, it released a shifting support document that details just how limited things are — and to slightly paraphrase Lando, the deal’s getting worse all the time.

When trading opened earlier today, users were limited to owning five shares of GameStop in aggregate, meaning they could only own up to five — if they already had three GameStop stocks, they could only buy two more — but even that restriction hasn’t lasted. Soon, the number of shares you could buy in GME dropped to two and then finally down to a single share. That’s right: you couldn’t buy more than one.

One share. At least the stock that so many Robinhood users wanted to buy only went up 70 percent today, so I’m sure no one is angry.

Robinhood’s old slogan: “Let the people trade.”

New slogan: “Play with us at the kiddie table.”

‘Meme Stock’ Rally Rescues AMC Theaters From $600M Debt 

Owen S. Good, writing for Polygon:

Just Monday, AMC was warning investors that “there is substantial doubt about our ability to continue as a going concern.” The reason is obvious: the COVID-19 pandemic has savaged the movie theater business, and the broader stimulus, payroll, and recovery actions by the U.S. government have done little to prop it up.

Wiping out more than half-a-billion dollars in debt, though, should take a lot of pressure off AMC in the short term. “A week ago, it was not crazy to think this company was doomed,” Bloomberg’s Matt Levine wrote on Thursday. “Now it is entirely possible that it will survive and thrive and show movies in movie theaters for decades to come because everyone went nuts and bought meme stocks this week.”

What a week.

Hover Text on MacOS 

Cool MacOS accessibility feature I did not know about, from Sommer Panage:

One of my fave Mac #accessibility features: Hover Text. I have 2 displays; one is always harder for me to see, especially content to the far right. Hover Text is an awesome and super lightweight way to bring things into view! Find it in System Preferences → Accessibility → Zoom

Turn this on, and when you press the Command key, whatever is under the mouse pointer gets a large text tooltip. Hover over a small button labeled “Foo” and the tooltip will show a big “Foo”. But it works for buttons and controls that don’t have text labels too, thanks to accessibility. So if you hover over the red close button in the top left corner of a window, the tooltip will say “Close”.

Dave DeLong points out that this feature could be very useful when screensharing too. Steven Aquino points out that there are options for font size, colors, and the modifier key that triggers it.

‘BlastDoor’: iMessage’s New Sandbox in iOS 14 and MacOS 11 

Catalin Cimpanu, writing for ZDNet Zero Day:

Named BlastDoor, this new iOS security feature was discovered by Samuel Groß, a security researcher with Project Zero, a Google security team tasked with finding vulnerabilities in commonly-used software. […]

While iOS ships with multiple sandbox mechanisms, BlastDoor is a new addition that operates only at the level of the iMessage app. Its role is to take incoming messages and unpack and process their content inside a secure and isolated environment, where any malicious code hidden inside a message can’t interact or harm the underlying operating system or retrieve with user data.

The need for a service like BlastDoor had become obvious after several security researchers had pointed out in the past that the iMessage service was doing a poor job of sanitizing incoming user data. Over the past three years, there had been multiple instances where security researchers or real-world attackers found iMessage remote code execution (RCE) bugs and abused these issues to develop exploits that allowed them to take control over an iPhone just by sending a simple text, photo, or video to someone’s device.

Samuel Groß’s report on Google’s Project Zero blog is chock full of technical details and analysis.

This is a big deal, and from what I understand, a major multi-year undertaking by the iMessage team. Cimpanu’s report makes it sound like it’s an iOS 14 feature, but it’s on MacOS 11, too — it’s an iMessage feature. The basic idea is that parsing untrusted input is always a potential source for bugs. Rather than whack-a-moling these bugs one-by-one as they’re discovered, BlastDoor puts the entire process of parsing input (the text of messages, any file attachments, or even just generating URL previews) into a very sturdy vault. Anything inside the vault has almost no file system access and no network access. Open the attachments inside the vault, and only then pass them on for display.

Very clever. It doesn’t just close a bunch of specific exploits, it should close an entire class of potential exploits. But it’s the sort of thing Apple can’t really announce or promote, so it’s nice to see the effort get some publicity.

Also: “BlastDoor” is a great name for this.

Huawei’s Losses Are Apple’s Gain in China 

Catherine Shu, reporting for TechCrunch:

The impact of United States government sanctions on Huawei is continuing to hurt the company and dampen overall smartphone shipments in China, where it is the largest smartphone vendor, according to a new report by Canalys. But Huawei’s decline also opens new opportunities for its main rivals, including Apple. […]

Apple benefited from Huawei’s decline because the company’s Mate series is the iPhone’s main rival in the high-end category, and only 4 million Mate units were shipped in the fourth quarter.

Robinhood Needed Emergency $1 Billion Cash Injection, Yet Remains Underfunded 

Kate Kelly, Erin Griffith, Andrew Ross Sorkin, and Nathaniel Popper, in a multi-byline report for the NYT:

On Thursday, Robinhood was forced to stop customers from buying a number of stocks like GameStop that were heavily traded this week. To continue operating, it drew on a line of credit from six banks amounting to between $500 million and $600 million to meet higher margin, or lending, requirements from its central clearing facility for stock trades, known as the Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation.

Robinhood still needed more cash quickly to ensure that it didn’t have to place further limits on customer trading, said two people briefed on the situation who insisted on remaining anonymous because the negotiations were confidential.

Robinhood, which is privately held, contacted several of its investors, including the venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Ribbit Capital, who came together on Thursday night to offer the emergency funding, five people involved in the negotiations said.

Basically, Robinhood blew it by not being honest about this. They should have just come clean and explained that they were short of cash to cover all the action on these stocks. But because they were embarrassed to appear insolvent, they destroyed their ethical reputation instead. And now it’s come out that they were in over their heads financially anyway.

Even today, Robinhood is not even close to allowing users to trade GameStop freely. A friend with a Robinhood account was only able to buy five shares before getting an error message that he held the maximum number of shares. And when you sell GameStop on Robinhood, you can only sell at market price, not a limit order. It’s a complete clown show.

‘Best Quarter in the History of the Smartphone’ 

Kif Leswing, CNBC:

Apple doesn’t provide unit sales for its products anymore, but according to an estimate from research firm IDC, Apple shipped 90.1 million phones during the quarter. That’s the largest number in any single quarter since IDC started tracking smartphones, analyst Francisco Jeronimo said.

90 million total units — in one quarter — puts some context to reports that Apple has dialed back production of the iPhone 12 Mini by 2 million. Even if it’s true that Apple is ordering 2 million fewer 12 Minis than they originally projected (and I don’t believe any such reports — no little birdies I’ve ever spoken to have ever given any credence whatsoever to reports like that) the 12 Mini could easily be selling well enough to justify its continuing position in the lineup. Stay strong, Macalope.

Anyway, these strong sales for the iPhone 12 lineup call for some delicious claim chowder. Matt Krantz, Investors Business Daily, 14 October, “Apple’s New iPhone 12 Gets The Worst Reception Ever”:

Did you hear the thud during Apple’s new iPhone announcement? That was the new iPhone 12 falling flat with S&P 500 investors.

I did not hear the thud.

iPhone Saw Strong Sales in China Last Quarter 

Reuters:

Apple Inc on Wednesday reported holiday quarter sales and profits that beat Wall Street expectations, as new 5G iPhones helped push handset revenue to a new record and sparked a 57% rise in China sales.

As my friend Ben Thompson has long theorized, the Chinese market might be particularly sensitive to new iPhone designs. Chinese buyers, the theory goes, want new iPhones that look like new iPhones, so that everyone knows they have the newest iPhone. So the iPhones 12 Pro scratched an itch in that regard that the 11 and XS models did not.

Hard to believe it was just two short years ago (I kid — last year alone was 10 years long) we were seeing (not entirely unreasonable) stories with headlines like “The iPhone Has Big Problems in China — and Across the Globe”.

Apple’s Q1 by the Numbers 

Jason Snell’s usual roundup of charts illustrating Apple’s quarterly results. One thing that sticks out is that while Mac sales were up year-over-year, they were down slightly (4%) from the July–September quarter, which, on the surface, makes no sense. How could Mac sales go down during the quarter when Apple launched the M1 Macs — Macs that were universally acclaimed and which many users were waiting for?

The answer, seemingly, is that Macs were supply-constrained during the quarter. Apple couldn’t make them fast enough. (That’s a link to a tweet from the excellent MacJournals, who also observed that, adjusted for splits, AAPL shares 20 years ago were $0.30 per share.)

Update: Neil Cybart points out that the July–September quarter is always big for the Mac because it’s back-to-school season. That’s true — a glance at Snell’s chart shows that the Mac’s annual cycle has big quarters in July-September (back to school) and October-December (holiday). But most years the holiday quarter ekes ahead as the biggest of the year. It’s clear that the COVID pandemic, with students of all ages around the world preparing for school-at-home, resulted in an unusually large back-to-school boost for Mac sales.

Quite the Turnaround 

Yahoo Finance story that ran not a month ago, not a week ago, but yesterday:

Robinhood, which is responsible for popularizing both commission-free trades and fractional investing, has long had the goal of democratizing investing. In an interview with Yahoo Finance, CEO Vlad Tenev explained that the investing climate of the past few days has illustrated a key problem in the world of investing — inequity.

“Retail investors and individuals have felt like they’ve been talked down to. Lots of them felt like they haven’t been taken seriously,” he said. “There’s this term ‘sophisticated investor’ that’s been thrown around, so there’s an idea that they’re unsophisticated.” […]

“I think people are seeing now that [retail investors] now have the ability to invest and they’re empowered,” Tenev said.

Yesterday: Robinhood customers are empowered.

Today: Robinhood customers can’t buy the stocks they want to buy.

I don’t see how Robinhood ever recovers from this reputation-wise. Who would ever trust them after this? Their slogan was literally “Let the people trade.” They’re already in legal trouble too.

Robinhood Shenanigans Draw the Ire of Congressional Democrats 

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, linking to Motherboard’s story on Robinhood blocking its users from buying GameStop:

This is unacceptable.

We now need to know more about @RobinhoodApp’s decision to block retail investors from purchasing stock while hedge funds are freely able to trade the stock as they see fit.

As a member of the Financial Services Cmte, I’d support a hearing if necessary.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib:

This is beyond absurd. @FSCDems need to have a hearing on Robinhood’s market manipulation. They’re blocking the ability to trade to protect Wall St. hedge funds, stealing millions of dollars from their users to protect people who’ve used the stock market as a casino for decades.

There might be bipartisan outrage in Congress targeting Robinhood’s actions, if this tweet from Ted Cruz is indicative. (Don’t miss AOC’s response.)

Robinhood Blocks Buying – but Not Selling – GameStop, AMC, and BlackBerry Stock 

Chaim Gartenberg, writing for The Verge:

Robinhood has added new limits to its app to restrict users from buying or trading any of the popular Reddit r/WallStreetBets stocks, including GameStop ($GME), AMC ($AMC), BlackBerry ($BB), Bed Bath & Beyond ($BBBY), Nokia ($NOK), and more. Users will still be allowed to close out existing positions but won’t be able to buy more of the stocks. The company is citing “recent volatility” in the market as the reasoning behind the change.

The development is the latest in an ongoing saga that has seen a group of Reddit users from the WallStreetBets subreddit band together in an effort to drive up the stock prices of companies like GameStop and BlackBerry, in defiance of traditional hedge funds that had shorted those firms. Robinhood — a popular stock market application that allows amateur day traders to purchase those stocks without fees — has been a key tool in the Reddit group’s ability to push prices up.

Preventing their users from buying — but not selling — a particular stock is bananas. It absolutely reeks of market manipulation.

The basic problem, as I understand it, is that Robinhood is beholden not to its users, but to hedge funds. Robinhood’s big hook to users is that they don’t charge any fees on trades. On the surface, that sounds like the classic First CityWide Change Bank SNL skit. But Robinhood does make money — just not from its retail customers. What they do is charge hedge funds for access to the firehose of Robinhood retail transactions, and these big traders have milliseconds of advance notice of trades, during which they can play arbitrage. Here’s a good thread on Twitter explaining it. Update: I’m not saying there’s anything fishy about no-fee brokerages. I’m only pointing out that they do make money on trades, just that when you look at how they do make money, you can see how they might have a conflict of interest.

So Robinhood doesn’t exist to make money from its users. They exist to allow hedge funds to make money by giving them access to what Robinhood retail users are buying and selling a fraction of a second in advance.

This whole GameStop mania is in large part driven by the fact that hedge funds are short on GameStop, and need GameStop’s bubble to pop now. I’m not saying Robinhood is trying to help hedge funds who shorted GameStop, but if they were trying to do that, the obvious way would be to do what they’re doing — disallow buying GameStop (et al.) but allow selling, to facilitate a sell-off panic. And Robinhood isn’t just any broker — they’re a favored broker of the WallStreetBets crowd, with a remarkable 56 percent of Robinhood users owning some amount of GameStop stock. Update: Motherboard has since retracted this number, but there’s no question Robinhood is — well, was — incredibly popular with the WallStreetBets crowd.

Apple Q1 2021 Results: Record-Breaking Revenue and Profit 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced financial results for its fiscal 2021 first quarter ended December 26, 2020. The Company posted all-time record revenue of $111.4 billion, up 21 percent year over year, and quarterly earnings per diluted share of $1.68, up 35 percent. International sales accounted for 64 percent of the quarter’s revenue. […]

“Our December quarter business performance was fueled by double-digit growth in each product category, which drove all-time revenue records in each of our geographic segments and an all-time high for our installed base of active devices,” said Luca Maestri, Apple’s CFO.

Double-digit growth in every category. That’s the story. Apple’s no GameStop, but they have a nice little business selling phones, computers, and services.

‘GameStop Nihilism’ 

Jim Ray:

There is, suffice to say, a lot to unpack here. Once again, the real and virtual worlds are blurred beyond recognition. “Jokerfied”, pandemic-bored redditors moving markets for the lulz, or because they hate bankers and other “globalists”, possibly making millions of dollars on a joke. GameStop’s stock halted several times over the past few days given its “bitcoin-like volatility”. On the one hand, that’s mildly horrifying, on the other, it’s a more democratic, for lack of a better word, form of what the hated bankers do to the world every single day.

And there’s a through line that runs from r/wallstreetbets to r/thedonald to Gamergate and 4chan. There’s a shared aesthetic happening here but also a common worldview, the nihilism that Levine talks about that comes from some combination of boredom, lack of purpose (shared or individual), and a disintermediated, hyperconnected network that brings together enough individual sociopaths to create something that resembles a community.

I don’t see how anyone could prove it, or even try to prove it, but my gut feeling is that the timing of this WallStreetBets/GameStop escapade coming on the heels of the dissipation of QAnon/StopTheSteal collective madness is not coincidental. There’s a certain Fight Club-esque feel to it, too: just wanting to fuck with The Man. And, also, gambling is maddeningly good fun when it works in your favor.

WTF Is Up With GameStop’s Stock? 

Jason Koebler, writing for Vice, has another good high-level explanation of just what the hell is going on:

What is going on is that GameStop, a company that sells physical copies of video games next to Auntie Anne’s pretzel shops in dying malls, is the most highly traded asset in the United States, a “meme stock,” and currently the primary front in a micro class war. GameStop’s stock price jumped from $4 last summer to $20 at the end of 2020, to $40 two weeks ago. It was worth $100-ish at times on Monday and Tuesday, and as I write this it is worth close to $300. Essentially, many normal-ish people have made a huge bet against gigantic financial institutions and are currently winning. In practice this means we are seeing one of the largest wealth transfers from the financial ruling class to the middle and middle-upper classes in recent memory, so it is, understandably, the only thing anyone is talking about.

‘The GameStop Game Never Stops’ 

Matt Levine, writing two long days ago in his Money Stuff column for Bloomberg:

Here is a YOLO story, a story of utter nihilism. You know this story. This story is perhaps best told with a series of rocket emojis, but let’s try words instead. The people on the WallStreetBets subreddit sometimes all get into a stock at once. This is fun, a nice social outing in an age of social distancing, a risky but potentially lucrative collective entertainment. Recently they decided to do GameStop. Because, I don’t know, they’re gamers, or because it’s a little comical to pump the stock of a chain of mall video-game stores during a pandemic, or because a lot of professional investors are short GameStop and they thought it’d be funny to mess with them. Or, especially, because their friends on Reddit were buying GameStop and they figured they’d join in the fun. Or all of those things in different combinations. Take one person who’s long for fundamental reasons, add 100 people who are long for personal-amusement reasons like “lol gaming” or “let’s mess with the shorts,” and then add thousands more who are long because they see everyone else long, and the stock moves.

As good an explanation of what the hell is going on with GameStop’s stock as you’ll find, I think.

iOS 14.4 Fixes Three Security Bugs That ‘May Have Been Actively Exploited’ by Hackers 

Zack Whittaker, reporting for TechCrunch:

The technology giant said in its security update pages for iOS and iPadOS 14.4 that the three bugs affecting iPhones and iPads “may have been actively exploited.” Details of the vulnerabilities are scarce, and an Apple spokesperson declined to comment beyond what’s in the advisory.

It’s not known who is actively exploiting the vulnerabilities, or who might have fallen victim. Apple did not say if the attack was targeted against a small subset of users or if it was a wider attack. Apple granted anonymity to the individual who submitted the bug, the advisory said.

Two of the bugs were found in WebKit, the browser engine that powers the Safari browser, and the Kernel, the core of the operating system. Some successful exploits use sets of vulnerabilities chained together, rather than a single flaw. It’s not uncommon for attackers to first target vulnerabilities in a device’s browsers as a way to get access to the underlying operating system.

Bug fixes to close potential exploits aren’t uncommon, but the lack of details around these is a little curious.

Most Google Apps for iOS Still Have No Privacy ‘Nutrition’ Labels 

Juli Clover, writing a week ago at MacRumors:

As of December 8, Apple has been requiring developers submitting new apps and app updates to provide privacy label information that outlines the data that each app collects from users when it is installed. Many app developers, such as Facebook, have complied and now include the privacy labels alongside their apps, but there’s one notable outlier — Google.

Google has not updated its major apps like Gmail, Google Maps, Chrome, and YouTube since December 7 or before, and most Google apps have to date have not been updated with the Privacy Label feature. […]

On January 5, Google told TechCrunch that the data would be added to its iOS apps “this week or the next week,” but both this week and the next week have come and gone with no update. It has now been well over a month since Google last updated its apps.

One week later and still, none of Google’s flagship apps have privacy nutrition info. I don’t get it. Suck it up like Facebook did and put it out, no matter how bad it looks. And it’s not like Google was surprised by this requirement — Apple made it very clear at WWDC that this would be mandatory. They’ve had 7 months to prepare for this. What is going on here?

I’m curious too which other high-profile apps are out there that still haven’t submitted their privacy label information. If you spot any, let me know (send me an email, or reply to the tweet for this post).

Animated Timeline of the All-Time MLB Home Run Leaders 

I need a fun baseball link to wash out the taste of the no-fun Hall of Fame voters, so here’s a fun tweet from Greg Harvey:

In memory of Hank Aaron after his passing on Friday, I have created an interactive timeline of the Top-10 Career Home Run leaders since the beginning of the Modern Era.

Check out how different players enter and exit through different eras of baseball.

One thing that jumps out here is how far ahead of his time Babe Ruth was — why his home run hitting was such a cultural phenomenon. When Ruth hit his 500th homer, second place was Rogers Hornsby at 264. When Ruth hit his 714th (and final) homer, no one else had hit 400, and only three had even gotten to 300. (And the next player to get to 400 was Ruth’s own teammate, Lou Gehrig.)

Via Dave Mark.

No One Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2021 

Bradford Doolittle, reporting for ESPN:

No player on the Hall’s 2021 Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot reached the 75 percent threshold needed for enshrinement in Cooperstown. The results of the voting were announced by Hall of Fame president Tim Mead on MLB Network on Tuesday night.

The leading vote-getter was controversial pitcher Curt Schilling, who was named on 71.1 percent of the ballots, 16 votes shy of the minimum needed for selection. Schilling was followed by all-time home run leader Barry Bonds (61.8 percent) and 354-game winner Roger Clemens (61.6) in the voting.

These BBWAA voters need to get over themselves. It’s embarrassing to the sport that Bonds and Clemens aren’t in. Same for Pete Rose. Put them in the hall and explain what they did in the exhibit of their careers.

Schilling is a good counter-example. I think he’s a borderline hall of famer, based on performance alone. Letting his personal odiousness be the deciding factor to leave him off your ballot is reasonable. Same thing with a guy like Sammy Sosa — borderline, statistically, so sure, let your feelings about his use of PEDs be a factor in your vote. But Clemens and Bonds? There’s nothing borderline about them.

Twitter Acquires Revue, a Substack Competitor 

Kayvon Beykpour and Mike Park, writing on the Twitter blog:

To jumpstart our efforts, Twitter has acquired Revue, a service that makes it free and easy for anyone to start and publish editorial newsletters. Revue will accelerate our work to help people stay informed about their interests while giving all types of writers a way to monetize their audience — whether it’s through the one they built at a publication, their website, on Twitter, or elsewhere. […]

Starting today, we’re making Revue’s Pro features free for all accounts and lowering the paid newsletter fee to 5%, a competitive rate that lets writers keep more of the revenue generated from subscriptions.

Substack charges 10 percent, so this gives Revue a leg up on that front. The path forward for Twitter seems obvious:

  • Let Twitter users attach a credit card (or a Square Cash account — I’m sure Twitter’s CEO can get a few minutes of time with the folks at Square) to their Twitter account.
  • Let those users with a card attached sign up for “Twitter Pro”, which would give them a badge on their avatar like the blue-check verified badge.
  • Sell access to Revue content right in the Twitter app. See a tweet with a link to an article from a subscriber-only newsletter? Subscribe to the newsletter in two taps, right in the app, just like buying apps from the App Store.

This seems rather obvious, and a good idea, so I’m sure Twitter won’t do it.

Apple Exec Shuffle: Dan Riccio Takes Secret Position; John Ternus Now SVP of Hardware 

Apple Newsroom:

Apple today announced Dan Riccio will transition to a new role focusing on a new project and reporting to CEO Tim Cook, building on more than two decades of innovation, service, and leadership at Apple. John Ternus will now lead Apple’s Hardware Engineering organization as a member of the executive team.

My quick take, after asking around a bit: This is nothing but good news for Apple. Riccio and Ternus are both all-star A-Teamers — very smart, very effective, and well-respected and liked. This is not an easing-out-the-door of Riccio: he really is taking over something big and new. And Ternus is incredibly well-suited to take over as SVP of hardware for all existing product lines.

I still don’t know which project Riccio is heading, but my guess is that it’s the headset, not Titan, simply because I’m certain the headset is closer. I think it’s a sign that the headset is ready to get real, and Apple wants someone as capable as Riccio to lead it with nothing else on his plate.

‘Why iPhone Is Today’s Kodak Brownie Camera’ 

Om Malik:

Neither device was necessarily built for the sake of disrupting the art of image taking. The Brownie was built to sell film. The iPhone’s camera was built, improved, and advertised to sell the phone. But Apple quickly realized that photography, as something that connected with humans at an emotional level, was the killer app for the iPhone. That insight has paid off handsomely. Brownie certainly hastened the demise of the old-fashioned photography, but the smartphone cameras really made a meal of the demand for consumer standalone cameras. Erstwhile giants, such as Nikon and Canon, have been left to fight over scraps.

Towards the end of my first on-stage interview with Phil Schiller, I asked him something to the effect of, “With the iPhone, do you consider Apple a leading camera company?” And he replied instantly and emphatically, “The. The leading camera company.”

Rudy Giuliani Sued by Dominion Voting Systems Over False Election Claims 

Nick Corasaniti, reporting for The New York Times:

The 107-page lawsuit, filed in the Federal District Court in Washington, accuses Mr. Giuliani of carrying out “a viral disinformation campaign about Dominion” made up of “demonstrably false” allegations, in part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.

The suit seeks damages of more than $1.3 billion and is based on more than 50 statements Mr. Giuliani made at legislative hearings, on Twitter, on his podcast and in the conservative news media, where he spun a fictitious narrative of a plot by one of the biggest voting machine manufacturers in the country to flip votes to President Biden.

I’m sure Giuliani can cover $1.3 billion, easily, once he gets paid by Trump for his services.

Honk 

My thanks to Honk for sponsoring last week at DF. Honk is a brand-new real-time messenger that displays what you and your friends type in real time. With no send button and no chat history, it’s the closest a chat can feel to a real life conversation. Since launching at the end of 2020, users have typed over 250 million characters on Honk.

To get someone’s attention, Honk them. Once you’ve typed a message, clear it, and it’s gone forever.

Back in ancient times (the 1990s), when we college students used the internet by telnetting into Unix servers at college (ssh hadn’t been invented yet, we just sent our passwords over the wire in plain text — true story) there were programs like talk and ntalk that did this same basic thing. You talk at the top, I talk at the bottom, we each delete what we wrote whenever we want. Super casual, very fun. Honk has that same casual, fun feel — just totally modernized for today’s mobile/emoji era.

Download Honk from the App Store.

Larry King Dies at 87 

CNN:

Larry King, the longtime CNN host who became an icon through his interviews with countless newsmakers and his sartorial sensibilities, has died. He was 87.

King hosted “Larry King Live” on CNN for over 25 years, interviewing presidential candidates, celebrities, athletes, movie stars and everyday people. He retired in 2010 after taping more than 6,000 episodes of the show. […]

King had been hospitalized with Covid-19 in late December at Cedars-Sinai, a source close to the family said at the time.

Only seems right to link to CNN for the obituary. But for a terrific read, don’t miss Mark Leibovich’s wonderful profile for The New York Times Magazine in 2015: “Larry King Is Preparing for the Final Cancellation”.

Hush: Noiseless Browsing for Safari 

Lovely new Safari content blocking extension for Safari (iOS and Mac) by Joel Arvidsson. It targets those insipid, never-ending, utterly pointless “cookie notices”, popovers begging you to join email newsletters, and other bits of tracking. It kills dickbars and dickbar-like annoyances. I’ve been running it for days and it’s the sort of thing you don’t notice at all until you disable it and all of a sudden you’re back to approving cookie access every single goddamn time you load an article at The Guardian and squinting to find the hidden “X” that closes a popover asking if you’ll sign up for something you don’t want and never asked for.

Hush is a throwback to the days when good clever people made good clever things, polished them to perfection simply because they care, and just shared them with the world. Hush is free of charge, open source, specifically written for Safari (using SwiftUI), and it is very small and lightweight. It’s also completely private — everything Hush does, it does on your device and it doesn’t ask for permission to see what you’re doing on the web. And it’s super-simple: just download from the App Store and enable it in Safari’s preferences on Mac or Settings → Safari → Content Blockers on iOS.*

I’d recommend Hush to anyone who uses Safari, and I thank Arvidsson for making it.

* The one and only catch: Hush requires MacOS 11 Big Sur and iOS 14 or later. Honestly, though, I recommend both of those to everyone, too.

Brad Cox, Creator of Objective-C, Dies at 77 

From an obituary published January 8:

The late Steve Jobs’ NeXT licensed the Objective-C language for its new operating system, NeXTStep. NeXT eventually acquired Objective-C from Stepstone. Objective-C continued to be the primary programming language for writing software for Apple’s OS X and iOS.

What a lovely story:

He and his wife, Etta, enjoyed traveling for leisure, as well, and visited the Caribbean often as they both enjoyed scuba diving. Belize especially held fond memories for them. On one scuba diving excursion while in the compound having lunch, Brad engaged a couple from Germany in conversation. Brad asked about the fellow traveler’s occupation and discovered he was a computer programmer. Likewise, Brad was asked about his life’s work and stated “I am also a computer programmer.” “What do you do?” Brad was asked. “I wrote Objective-C.” Astonished, the gentleman said, “No, Brad Cox wrote that.” “Hi, I am Brad Cox”, was the response and the introduction. Needless to say, much conversation ensued after the scuba diving concluded.

It’s simply impossible to overstate how influential Cox and his masterpiece, Objective-C were. I wouldn’t begin to claim to be an expert on Objective-C, but I know enough to see how it was more than a language. It was a language — a thin layer of syntax on top of C — but also embodied the idea of a dynamic runtime. The result was a language that ran fast like C but enabled programmer expressiveness and introspection like Smalltalk. Running fast like C is always a good thing, but it was essential on the slow desktop hardware of the ’80s and ’90s — and then, once again, on the slow mobile hardware of the early iPhone era. Smalltalk-inspired expressiveness is what makes Objective-C great for writing nontrivial applications. No other language of the era achieved such a balance.

Great programming languages are great for writing certain types of software. Objective-C is great for writing apps and app frameworks. Turns out that made for a great language — and an enormous competitive advantage for the one company that banked its entire software stack on it.

Nicely Illustrated NYT Report on the Collapse of the U.S. Postal Service in December 

Anecdotally, I can say that my experience jibes with eastern Pennsylvania’s black coloring on these maps. All of our mail has been astoundingly late since mid-December, even by the standards of 2020 postal delivery problems. Christmas cards from family 50 miles away arrived 3-4 weeks after being put in the mail.

Fixing this should be a priority for the Biden administration: get the Postal Service back to its normal dependable service while the memory of what it was like under Trump remains fresh in everyone’s minds. This is absolutely something that everyday Americans notice and care about.

Amanda Gorman’s Closing of the ‘Some Good News’ Graduation Special 

Early in the pandemic, John Krasinski made a show on YouTube called Some Good News. It quickly became a sensation, and he sold it to Viacom, so that the show might continue while he continued his acting and filmmaking.

In May, as the original run wrapped up, the show finished with a graduation special. Featured, briefly at the 13:00 mark and more significantly in the closing minute: none other than Amanda Gorman, the 22-year-old poet laureate who became a star at this week’s inauguration.

The Complete List of Trump’s Twitter Insults (2015-2021) 

The New York Times:

As a political figure, Donald J. Trump used Twitter to praise, to cajole, to entertain, to lobby, to establish his version of events — and, perhaps most notably, to amplify his scorn. This list documents the verbal attacks Mr. Trump posted on Twitter, from when he declared his candidacy in June 2015 to Jan. 8, when Twitter permanently barred him.

What a great piece of programming and indexing. How great, too, that it can be said to be complete.

Vin Scully Calls Hank Aaron’s Historic 715th Home Run 

“What a marvelous moment for baseball. What a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia. What a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A Black man is getting a standing ovation in the deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol.”

Hank Aaron Dies at 86 

Terence Moore, writing for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

In March of 1954, with his place in the major leagues far from assured, Hank Aaron was granted a start in a Milwaukee exhibition game versus Boston, only because Bobby Thomson, the regular left fielder and Aaron’s idol, had just broken his ankle.

Already possessed of dramatic timing at the age of 20, the rookie promptly drilled a ball that carried the wall, flew over a row of trailers parked outside the Sarasota park and reverberated so loudly in the Red Sox clubhouse that the great Ted Williams emerged, as Aaron recalled, “wanting to know who it was that could make a bat sound that way when it hit a baseball.”

Everyone remembers Aaron for the home runs, but my god, look at his career numbers. 23 seasons, .305 batting average, 3,771 total hits. He not only finished as the all-time home run leader, but he also finished his career second on the all-time hits list, behind Ty Cobb. (Pete Rose eventually passed him on the hits list, and Barry Bonds on the home runs list. But Bonds finished 37th on the all-time hits list, and Pete Rose hit only 160 career home runs.) And Aaron did all this playing the bulk of his career, and his prime years, in an era so dominated by pitching that MLB lowered the height of the pitching mound in 1968. Aaron still holds the MLB record for RBIs (2,297), total bases (6,856) and extra-base hits (1,477), and he ranks fourth for runs scored (2,174 — exactly tied with a guy named Babe Ruth, what are the odds?).

“Who it was that could make a bat sound that way when it hit a baseball”, indeed.

Susan Glasser on Biden’s Inaugural Address: ‘A Love Letter to the Truth’ 

Susan B. Glasser, writing for The New Yorker:

Only after four years of the Trump Presidency would the mention of “truth” in an Inaugural Address become an applause line. But we are where we are. The country has had so much lying. Much will be made of Biden’s plea to “end this uncivil war,” and of his stirring language about democracy prevailing. But it was his love letter to the role of truth in a free society that rang loudest to me during his twenty-minute speech, which took place under a sunny Washington sky, amid a crisis like no other in our modern history.

I say don’t overthink it. Our reasons for optimism are simple: a new administration committed to the truth — political, scientific, medical, societal, economic — will alone bring about so much change.

Joe Biden’s Inaugural Address 

Two passages from Biden’s inaugural address. First, on the truth:

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love. What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans? I think I know. Opportunity. Security. Liberty. Dignity. Respect. Honor. And, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson. There is truth and there are lies, lies told for power and for profit. And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders, leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation, to defend the truth and defeat the lies.

Second, on change:

Here we stand looking out in the great mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream. Here we stand, where 108 years ago, at another inaugural, thousands of protesters tried to block brave women marching for the right to vote. And today we marked the swearing in of the first woman in American history elected to national office: Vice President Kamala Harris. Don’t tell me things can’t change.

Amanda Gorman’s 2021 Inauguration Poem: ‘The Hill We Climb’ 

CNN:

“Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished. We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming President, only to find herself reciting for one,” the 22-year-old Gorman said in her poem, entitled, “The Hill We Climb.”

A day later and I remain in awe. Just a stunningly well-crafted, beautifully written, perfectly delivered message. An incredible moment. If you haven’t watched it, watch it. If you have watched it, watch it again.

Masha Gessen, at The New Yorker: “Amanda Gorman’s Inaugural Poem Is a Stunning Vision of Democracy”.

Gorman is an excellent follow on Twitter, as well.

The White House 

New president, new administration, new website.

Update: With an Easter egg.

The Most Notable Lies of Donald Trump’s Presidency 

Daniel Dale, writing at CNN:

Trying to pick the most notable lies from Donald Trump’s presidency is like trying to pick the most notable pieces of junk from the town dump.

There’s just so much ugly garbage to sift through before you can make a decision.

But I’m qualified for the dirty job. I fact checked every word uttered by this President from his inauguration day in January 2017 until September 2020 — when the daily number of lies got so unmanageably high that I had to start taking a pass on some of his remarks to preserve my health.

If I were asked to sum up the entire Trump era in one word, the word I’d choose is lies.

Lies, lies, lies. Liars telling lies. One very talented liar telling lies that many others parroted. Lies. Lies are poison. We’re not hooked up to assume that when one side says A, and the other side says B, that one side (or both) might be lying. We’re hooked up to assume both sides are arguing in good faith, for what they perceive to be the truth.

Also: Daniel Dale gets a 3-month vacation, right?

Apple’s MLK Quote 

Martin Luther King Jr.:

True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.

Apt.

FeaturePeek 

My thanks to FeaturePeek for sponsoring last week at Daring Fireball. FeaturePeek is the easiest way for web development teams to collaborate on frontend work. Among their features:

  • Take and annotate screenshots.
  • Record session video.
  • Tag coworkers and leave comments.

FeaturePeek works with all frameworks and hosting providers and integrates with Linear, Clubhouse, Trello, and more.

Learn more about how it works, and how easy it is to integrate with your existing projects, and get started today for free at FeaturePeek’s website. And they have a special offer for DF readers: use code FIREBALL to save 30 percent off upgrades to FeaturePeek for business teams.

Election Fraud Misinformation Dropped Significantly After Twitter Banned Trump 

Elizabeth Dwoskin and Craig Timberg, reporting for The Washington Post:

Online misinformation about election fraud plunged 73 percent after several social media sites suspended President Trump and key allies last week, research firm Zignal Labs has found, underscoring the power of tech companies to limit the falsehoods poisoning public debate when they act aggressively.

The new research by the San Francisco-based analytics firm reported that conversations about election fraud dropped from 2.5 million mentions to 688,000 mentions across several social media sites in the week after Trump was banned from Twitter.

Sometimes it really is that simple.

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.

Sponsored by:

  • Techmeme Ride Home: The one podcast anyone who’s anyone in Silicon Valley listens to every single day. Subscribe in your favorite podcast app, including Overcast.
  • Squarespace: Make your next move. Use code talkshow for 10% off your first order.
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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.

‘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 battlefield.

Apt, as ever.

The Deplorables 

Pew Research:

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.

‘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.

‘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 

Twitter Safety:

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 afternoon.

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 careers.

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 conversations.

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.

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 combat.” […]

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 actions.

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 do they.

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 venture.

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.

Motion 

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 the way.)

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.

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 go offline.

Bye-bye, Nazis.

(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 multiple sources.

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?’ 

Kieran Healy:

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.

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 activities.

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: https://legal.parler.com/documents/Elaboration-on-Guidelines.pdf

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 

Twitter:

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.

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.

Scott Simpson:

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 record.

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 representative said.

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 

BBC News:

A World Health Organization (WHO) team due to investigate the origins of Covid-19 in the city of Wuhan has been denied entry to China. […]

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 minute”.

“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 possible. […]

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.

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 quietly.

‘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 insurrection.

“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 company’s rationale.

“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 spokesperson said.

I don’t know what Twitter is thinking reinstating his account after yesterday. This was the time to sever it.

Shopify Takes Trump Organization and Campaign Stores Offline 

Vipal Monga, reporting for The Wall Street Journal:

Visitors to TrumpStore.com and shop.donaldjtrump.com, which sold official Trump branded apparel, “Make America Great Again” hats and other merchandise, were greeted with error messages on Thursday morning.

A Shopify spokeswoman said President Trump violated the company’s policy, which prohibits retailers on the platform from promoting or supporting organizations or people that promote violence. “As a result, we have terminated stores affiliated with President Trump,” the company said.

Zuckerberg Bans Trump From Facebook 

Mark Zuckerberg, on Facebook:

The shocking events of the last 24 hours clearly demonstrate that President Donald Trump intends to use his remaining time in office to undermine the peaceful and lawful transition of power to his elected successor, Joe Biden. […]

We believe the risks of allowing the President to continue to use our service during this period are simply too great. Therefore, we are extending the block we have placed on his Facebook and Instagram accounts indefinitely and for at least the next two weeks until the peaceful transition of power is complete.

Straightforward and to the point. We can — and I would — argue that this should have happened long ago, but it really is better late than never. We collectively need to talk about this clearly: Trump and his supporters are anti-democratic. We cannot tolerate a threat to democracy itself.

Day 1 vs. Day 1,448 

These two pictures sum up the entire Trump presidency. If you voted for Trump, this is on you.

Twitter Locks Trump’s Account 

Better way too obviously late than never.

Sedition 

Merriam-Webster:

We define sedition as “incitement of resistance to or insurrection against lawful authority.” Many people differentiate between this word and treason, which we define as “the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance or to kill or personally injure the sovereign or the sovereign’s family.”

Donald Trump Should Be Impeached and Removed From Office Tomorrow 

John Podhoretz, Commentary Magazine:

Donald Trump unleashed a mob on Capitol Hill. What he has done is without precedent in American history. Even if he had seven minutes left in his presidency, he should not be permitted to spend another second as the President. Nancy Pelosi should call an emergency session of the House tonight and impeach the president, and Mitch McConnell should convene the Senate tomorrow and call a vote to remove Trump from the presidency.

Rioters and insurrectionists, and they took the U.S. Capitol armed with nothing more than MAGA flags.

‘The Lab-Leak Hypothesis’ 

Nicholson Baker, writing for New York:

What happened was fairly simple, I’ve come to believe. It was an accident. A virus spent some time in a laboratory, and eventually it got out. SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, began its existence inside a bat, then it learned how to infect people in a claustrophobic mine shaft, and then it was made more infectious in one or more laboratories, perhaps as part of a scientist’s well-intentioned but risky effort to create a broad-spectrum vaccine. SARS-2 was not designed as a biological weapon. But it was, I think, designed. […]

But I keep returning to the basic, puzzling fact: This patchwork pathogen, which allegedly has evolved without human meddling, first came to notice in the only city in the world with a laboratory that was paid for years by the U.S. government to perform experiments on certain obscure and heretofore unpublicized strains of bat viruses — which bat viruses then turned out to be, out of all the organisms on the planet, the ones that are most closely related to the disease. What are the odds?

A riveting, compelling, deeply researched read.

Windows Central: Microsoft Plans to Replace Mac and Windows Outlook Clients With Web Apps 

Zac Bowden, reporting for Windows Central:

Microsoft wants to replace the existing desktop clients with one app built with web technologies. The project will deliver Outlook as a single product, with the same user experience and codebase whether that be on Windows or Mac. It’ll also have a much smaller footprint and be accessible to all users whether they’re free Outlook consumers or commercial business customers.

I’m told the app will feature native OS integrations with support for things like offline storage, share targets, notifications, and more. I understand that it’s one of Microsoft’s goals to make the new Monarch client feel as native to the OS as possible while remaining universal across platforms by basing the app on the Outlook website.

I have no idea how big the “footprint” is for the current Mac Outlook app, but if it’s based on Electron how could the footprint not be enormous? “Hello World” in Electron is huge.

Steve Troughton-Smith:

Sad to see Microsoft consciously eroding its native platforms, drawn to the idea of a local ecosystem full of web apps like a moth to a flame.

Update: Michael Tsai:

Version 16.44 of Mac Outlook is 1.98 GB. The Electron version would only be a fat binary for the non-JavaScript portions, and it would likely remove lots of features and code, so it certainly could be slimmer despite using Electron.

2 GB for a purportedly “native” Mac app is impressive. My kudos to the sharp engineers at Microsoft for achieving this.

Mux Video 

My thanks to Mux for sponsoring last week at 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.

‘Four Seasons Total Landscaping: The Full(est Possible) Story’ 

Olivia Nuzzi, writing for New York Magazine, with my nomination for the best paragraph of 2020:

Whether it’s war and peace or public relations and gardening, sorting out the truth is a complicated endeavor when it relates to Donald Trump. Everyone involved in anything, no matter the size, no matter how stupid, seems to lie as a first resort, or to know very little, or to lie about knowing very little, or to know just enough to send blame in another direction, and the person in that direction seems to lie also, or to know very little, or to lie about knowing very little, but perhaps they have a theory that sends blame someplace else, and over there, too, you will find more liars, more know-nothings, and before long, a whole month will have passed, and you still haven’t filed your story about how the president’s attorney wound up undermining democracy in a parking lot off I-95 on a strip of cracked pavement in a run-down part of a city that ordinarily would command no consideration from the national political class or the very online public or the equally online mainstream media, which, when forced to look, found lots of reason to laugh.

‘I Just Want to Find 11,780 Votes’ – Trump, Unhinged and on Tape 

Amy Gardner, reporting for The Washington Post:

At another point, Trump said: “So look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have. Because we won the state.”

The rambling and at times incoherent conversation offered a remarkable glimpse of how consumed and desperate the president remains about his loss, unwilling or unable to let the matter go and still believing he can reverse the results in enough battleground states to remain in office.

Like a mad king, but he’s only the warlord of the Republican Party, not the country.

‘Rebuilding James Bond’s Apple IIc: A Software Forgery’ 

Max Piantoni: “I can’t imagine that there’s really anybody out there who wants to see a video this long about recreating an obscure computer program from a rather questionable Roger Moore movie.”

Pretty sure he’s wrong about that. What a delight.