Weekly Readings and other things

It has been more that a week since I updated my weekly readings, so here goes

  1. A positive piece about what is happening in the US, with lessons and ideas for how to improve any community (hint: get involved)
  2. Kanye West made some headlines this week around US politics and his red hat, Sean Fennessey wrote a good piece discussing Kayne
  3. The weekly Ben Thompson piece, this one about the trade off between openness and privacy
  4. Surveillance capitalism is a term now
  5. I finally read the New Yorker piece about a young girl kept of life support for years after a post operation complexity
  6. A reporter re-visits their experience covering the the democratization of eastern Europe, and how their hope and naivety let to them reporting fake news
  7. The problems with the hugely unregulated Facebook in countries with less resources and similar types of actors willing to (and able to) exploit the algorithm
  8. The world of Liberty University, the huge christian university making lots of money in Virginia, US
  9. How Trump uses Christian TV to get his message across
  10. A great essay about the myth of past America
  11. The New York magazines series on founders and early pioneers of the internet apologising for what it has become
  12. The culture of the Philadelphia 76ers and how they cultivated it
  13. Palantir, the scary data analysis company used by many government agencies (in Australian too)
  14. A positive story about the growth of the NBA compared to the NFL (in a “conservative” publication)
  15. A story on people renting families in Japan
  16. Michelle Wolf at the White House correspondents dinner (who knew it happened?) – maybe laughter isn’t the best medicine.
  17. The US Gov is not pretending to care about Palestine anymore. Unsurprising but still depressing.

Recent readings and other things

Here is what I have been reading and doing this week:

  1. Trumps new economic adviser wrote about the state of the economy in 2007 (comical considering the GFC happened months later)
  2. Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammond and how far she can go in the NBA
  3. Journalism before fake news, when it was just America’s fake idealism
  4. A more realistic version of whats happening in the background at the New England Patriots
  5. A seemingly less hysterical version of what the Michael Cohen raids mean for DJT
  6. On that, I try to stay away from this stuff but I couldn’t help it – a summary of James Comey’s interview with ABC News – hard to believe some of the stuff covered
  7. Zach Lowe writes about his awards ballots in the NBA: Part 1 and Part 2
  8. A look at how season 2 of Atlanta is tracking and it’s narrative style
  9. Paul Ryan and conservatism
  10. Ross Douthat on abortion extremists as per Kevin Williamson’s short-lived tenure at the Atlantic’
  11. An oldie from Stratechery, but relevant in explaining how Zuckerberg seems so disconnected to reality
  12. Another episode of Exponent – Facebook fatigue. The last 30 mins really nails it in my view
  13. Why Facebook is not well placed to have good public relations
  14. Patagonia’s response to the disaster for the environment that is DJT

Happy Reading

Facebook goes to DC and Paul Ryan quits

I once had a dream about Paul Ryan. I landed in Wisconsin and we met for dinner at a diner. He was a nice guy with blue kind looking eyes. Then we argued for ages about cutting taxes for the rich and doing more to screw over poor people (he was in favor of both). I woke up feeling very depressed, far more than I should have been as an Australian with no stake in the game. He wasn’t even speaker by then, but the argument would prove to be a true representation of the type of rubbish he supported for his entire career. He announced his retirement from the House today to go spend time with his kids. His great achievements are seemingly being normalising the chaos of the Tea Party movement, supporting a racist that pissed on his party to get elected, helping that same racist by stalling the Mueller investigation, and getting big tax cuts through (adding trillions to debt). That he was once known for his supposed morals (lol) and his fiscal austerity (seriously) is obviously now lost.

He represented the normalisation of terrible ideas that should have been too extreme to get attention. He looked like a normal Republican and acted like one in public so fraudulently gave voters the comfort that he might legislate like one too (I guess his initials are PR). It is hard to know what is left of the normalised Republican movement (or worldwide, the normalised “conservative” movement). Who are the people in Congress that are centrist in any context? The end of Paul Ryan perhaps signals the end of that lie. But with only two parties, most people still vote with their party. The next Republican on the ticket in PR’s seat is an anti-semite who was kicked out of Breitbart. I guess we can no longer pretend we couldn’t see it coming. I used to think it was good if extreme people had a chance to get voted in, as we would prove their ideas would fail in the spotlight and they would never win. I am no longer so confident. Thanks to Paul for helping fascism to be normalised.

Facebook goes to DC

Meanwhile the other happenings of DC was the arrival of the cyborg and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg to get “interrogated” by Congress. This appears to be a largely symbolic event where he agrees to look intimidated in front of a lot of camera’s and allows members of Congress to pontificate and ask “hard” questions before he goes back to Silicon Valley and continues to do his thing. Facebook’s stock was up 4.5% on the performance, so any concept that it was troubling is probably a bit off. Nonetheless there were a few pieces written about it that nice covered the key takeaways of the day, particularly:

  1. Statechery with the best reality of the meaning of the performance by Zuckerberg
  2. New Yorker on the Dorm Room defence put up by Zuck
  3. NY Times on how we can protect ourselves against Facebook
  4. Bill Simmons Podcast on the topic (second half)

My thoughts are that nothing is going to happen quite yet, so we will be stuck with Facebook yielding a bunch of power over our data for a while. Obviously, the best way to get out of this is to stop using Facebook (and delete your data). Unfortunately Facebook also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, so best not to use those either. But as most of us are convenience driven and there is no alternative to Facebook for a lot of people in regards to keeping in touch with friends and family without having to actually speak to them, it’s likely people will keep using it (the convenience trap).

The long term view is starting to be less about whether Facebook will become regulated, but rather how Facebook will be regulated.  This seems mainly to be because Facebook has decided that the alternative to that is likely antitrust – which is breaking the company up because it is a monopoly. Zuck also begs for regulation because he wants the cash from the monopoly of Facebook but none of the responsibility in making meaningful decisions.

In this line, many even argue that regulation would help entrench their advantages so might be a positive for their business model. Needless to say, this is a complicated space, and the potential for ideologically driver 70 yr old white guys to come up with the right answer is pretty remote. Plus tech has so much money that regulation will likely be written by Facebook than imposed upon them. More likely a better answer comes in Europe where privacy is taken much more seriously.

A couple of other thoughts on the topic which I will expand on further at some point

  • Zuckerberg has too much power to be able to functionally run the company well (60% of voting rights – this is a monopoly with an authoritarian at it’s head). He is young and makes poor decisions over and over. This is guaranteed to get worse.
  • Along that line, “self regulation” (lol) of something with the potential to influence so many people is unlikely to improve anything (more likely for it to get worse in the near term)
  • Facebook has no idea what they are doing – they gave all their data away for free until recently, and continually earnestly deny their ability to influence in public, whilst directing a business model further towards convincing companies that advertising on Facebook can influence people. I actually can’t tell if they see the hypocritical nature of this or not. Silicon Valley drinks so much of it’s own kool-aid that they I think they believe both can be true. Troubling.
  • In 10 years (maybe less) we will look back and wonder how it was that we all gave so much information to a random company controlled by one person we don’t know at all for free.
  • So much for oversight, half of Congress just want’s some of Facebook’s money