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Linked List: January 2021

The Talk Show: ‘A Total Landscaping’ 

Mike Monteiro returns to the show to talk about the Capitol insurrection and riot, Twitter and Facebook permanently banning Donald Trump, the shutdown of Parler, the fate of liberal democracy, and Mike’s new book, The Collected Angers.

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‘The Event’ 

Peter Jamison, Carol D. Leonnig, and Paul Schwartzman, reporting for The Washington Post on how Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s refusal to allow their Secret Service detail to use any of the bathrooms in their home forced the agents to look elsewhere in the neighborhood:

The porta-potty was the agency’s initial solution to the protective detail’s dilemma, but it was removed in the face of the neighborhood’s protests. After that, according to the law enforcement officials, the agents began using a bathroom in a garage at the Obamas’ house, which the former president’s protective detail had turned into a command post.

The Obamas did not use the garage, so the extra traffic to and from the command post caused no problem. Yet this solution, too, was short-lived after a Secret Service supervisor from the Trump/Kushner detail left an unpleasant mess in the Obama bathroom at some point before the fall of 2017, according to a person briefed on the event. That prompted the leaders of the Obama detail to ban the agents up the street from ever returning.

This, as they say, is a metaphor.

‘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.