Daily Blog – August 2019

Everything is heating up, the weather, the 2020 campaign, the voters irritation with the ridiculously oversized Democratic field and #Moscow Mitch’s refusal to take action on protecting the 2020 election from Russian meddling. Here’s hoping we learn more about McConnell’s connection to the Russian oligarch who is opening an aluminum milling plant in his home state of Kentucky.

p.s. Don’t forget to check the Mystery Audio Box at the bottom of the right sidebar from time to time, you’ll never know what you’ll hear.

148 thoughts on “Daily Blog – August 2019

  1. Social media is the perfect petri dish for bias. The solution is for tech companies to slow us down.

    Stanford psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt, the author of Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, says Nextdoor reduced racial profiling by 75 percent by introducing a tiny bit of friction for users.

    Like the drug-resistant superbug pictured here, our biases against other people can “migrate to other spaces,” psychologist Jennifer Eberhardt says. WILLIAM WEST/AFP/Getty Images

    No matter how well-intentioned their creators were, tech products can encourage and amplify existing racial biases. And Stanford University psychology professor Jennifer Eberhardt says companies can take meaningful steps to reduce that effect — although it may come at the cost of the twitchy virality that has helped them grow so quickly.

    “Bias can kind of migrate to different spaces,” Eberhardt said on the latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. “All the problems that we have out in the world and in society make their way online. … You’re kind of encouraged to respond to that without thinking and to respond quickly and all of that. That’s another condition under which bias is most likely to be triggered, is when you’re forced to make decisions fast.”

    In her most recent book Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do, Eberhardt recounts how the local social network Nextdoor successfully reduced racial profiling among its users by 75 percent: It introduced some friction.

    Read more.

  2. Recode Daily: The buried cost of Amazon’s next-day delivery

    Plus: Facebook will join Instagram in hiding “Like” counts.

    A new BuzzFeed News report details how drivers employed by small companies work under “relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift.” Paul Hennessy/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    Amazon next-day delivery’s real cost. Yes, Amazon uses UPS and the US Postal Service to make deliveries. And it has grand plans for futuristic drone delivery, which does not exist yet. But to maintain its gigantic delivery network’s amazing next-day and same-day targets, it relies on a home-grown network of hundreds of small companies. A new BuzzFeed News report details how drivers employed by these small companies work under “relentless demands to deliver hundreds of packages each shift — for a flat rate of around $160 a day — at the direction of dispatchers who often compel them to skip meals, bathroom breaks, and any other form of rest, discouraging them from going home until the very last box is delivered,” according to BuzzFeed.

    • The real cost: Amazon’s local system cuts costs and shields the company from liability. These standalone companies take packages directly from Amazon facilities to the consumer — “covering what’s known in the industry as ‘the last mile.’” When things go wrong for employees of these small companies — as they often do under the pressure to meet Amazon’s punishing targets — the system allows Amazon to avoid any responsibility.

    Read more.

  3. Facebook confirms 419m phone numbers exposed in latest privacy lapse

    The information was stored in an online server that was not password protected, according to a report from TechCrunch

    Facebook has confirmed that hundreds of millions of users’ phone numbers were exposed. Photograph: Dado Ruvić/Reuters

    Hundreds of millions of Facebook users’ phone numbers were exposed in an open online database, the company confirmed Wednesday, in the latest example of Facebook’s past privacy lapses coming back to haunt its users.

    More than 419m Facebook IDs and phone numbers were stored in an online server that was not password protected, the technology website TechCrunch reported. The dataset included about 133m records for users in the US, 18m records for users in the UK and 50m records for users in Vietnam.

    The database was taken offline after TechCrunch contacted the web host.

    Facebook confirmed the report and said it was investigating when and by whom the database was compiled. A spokeswoman for the company also claimed that the actual number of users whose information was exposed was approximately 210m, because the 419m records contained duplicates.

    The records were likely amassed using a tool that Facebook disabled in April 2018 in the aftermath of the Cambridge Analytica controversy. The revelations showed how Facebook’s lax approach to privacy had allowed a political consultancy to obtain personal information from tens of millions of profiles.

    Facebook emails seem to show Zuckerberg knew of privacy issues, report claims
    Read more

    Until then, Facebook allowed anyone to search for users by their phone number, a seemingly benign tool for finding an individual with a common name that was also readily hijacked by data scrapers.

    “Malicious actors have also abused these features to scrape public profile information by submitting phone numbers or email addresses they already have through search,” chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer wrote at the time. “Given the scale and sophistication of the activity we’ve seen, we believe most people on Facebook could have had their public profile scraped in this way.”

    Read more.

  4. From the “Change Has Gotta Come” department


    Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., speaks on the phone before a meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 22, 2018. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

    WV is ripe for some egalitarian/social justice populism akin to the miner’s strikes of the early 1900’s that eventually led to unionization. More Joe Manchin is not the answer.

    AFTER MONTHS OF deliberation, Sen. Joe Manchin, the most conservative Democrat in the Senate and a frequent Donald Trump ally, announced on Tuesday that he will not run for governor of West Virginia in 2020. Manchin’s decision to pass on a challenge to billionaire Republican Gov. Jim Justice practically clears the field for Stephen Smith, a 39-year-old community organizer who is running a progressive-populist campaign like no other in the state’s recent history.

    Smith’s anti-establishment campaign, dubbed West Virginia Can’t Wait, recently out-raised all of its Republican opponents — including the incumbent — combined, almost entirely through small-dollar donations. And in late July, his campaign became the first in West Virginia history to unionize, ratifying a collective bargaining agreement with Campaign Workers Guild.

    “West Virginia needs a movement, not a king,” Smith’s campaign said in a statement following Manchin’s announcement. “No elected official–not Jim Justice, not Joe Manchin, not me–can save us. We have to save ourselves. So while the media and political class were watching this soap opera unfold, our volunteers were busy building a people’s political machine around the state.”

    Read more.

  5. Part 2 of 5

    The American left’s 2020 mission: not just defeat Trump – but change the world

    In the second part of our five-day series we hear from progressives whose goal is to secure victory in 2020 as a means to pursue fundamental political change

    A young Elizabeth Warren supporter at a campaign event in Minnesota in August. A set of policy proposals on the left that were once deemed marginal are now mainstream. Photograph: Craig Lassig/EPA

    In some ways, it feels like the left in America has been here before.

    Shortly before the 2004 election, previously inactive liberals were being energized into the electoral process to prevent George W Bush’s re-election, which they believed would fundamentally undermine American democratic norms.

    In Derry, New Hampshire, I met Pam and Patrick Devaney, a shy couple who felt compelled to canvass for Democratic nominee John Kerry. “I’m not comfortable doing this but it has to be done,” said Pam. “Our democracy is at stake. This is the most important election in my lifetime.”

    Patrick added: “I always thought someone else was out there doing the job for us. Now I wonder what we’re doing.”

    This was essentially defensive. Working to make sure a bad situation did not get worse. That year I drove over 2,000 miles from Kerry’s home in Boston to Bush’s former home in Midland, Texas, and met a lot of people like Pam and Patrick, who were drawn into the process for the first time. But I never met a single person who was enthusiastic about John Kerry. They just wanted to get rid of Bush.

    Four years later I saw people inspired to work for Obama. There was a delirium, bordering on the messianic, among many liberals at that time, that could be challenged but rarely penetrated. The transformative nature of his candidacy, while clear symbolically, was often mistaken for substance. When Obama won in South Carolina, where the Confederate flag still flew on the statehouse, the crowd chanted: “Race doesn’t matter!”

    What is different about this moment is that the momentum on the left seems to be propelled by a potentially combustible combination of both sentiments: an urgent need to prevent the rapid and deep degradation in national politics that has escalated since the election; but also an inspiration that something better and more robust must also follow.

    Read more.

  6. Opinion

    A Change Is Gonna Come

    The first signs of a changing season remind us that nothing — bad or good — is bound to last.

    NASHVILLE — The hardwood trees are still bright green, and temperatures remain stubbornly in the 90s here, but the chipmunks have already lost their minds. If I spill the bird seed, it’s no time at all before they are up the spindles and onto the deck, stuffing their cheeks to the point of comedy and then rushing back to their burrows under the house, stocking up for winter.

    Chipmunks are not cooperative creatures. Except during mating season, or when barking out warnings of a predator on the prowl, they forsake the companionship of their own kind. Their tunnels spread like arteries beneath the crawl space of our house, but I rarely see them in summer. Now, with autumn coming on, they are scooping up seeds like warm-blooded Roombas, ignoring one another, maneuvering under my chair and between my feet as if I weren’t there at all.

    The chipmunks are not alone in preparing for a changing season. Hot as it still is, the winter-flocking birds — starlings and robins and blue jays and crows — are already gathering again. All summer they kept to their individual tasks, building their nests and tending their young, but their fledglings are more or less self-sufficient now. I love to hear the young jays crying out for a meal, like teenagers perfectly capable of making their own sandwiches but hoping a sandwich will miraculously appear even so.

    My favorites are the crows. After a summer of near silence in the shady woods as they raised their young, the crows are talking among themselves again. Their own foolish teenagers are learning to balance on the power lines, their glossy tails spread wide as they wobble, trying to keep from tipping over and hanging upside down.

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

  7. Part one of a five part series

    A journey in search of the American left: fragile and feisty, hopeful and fearful

    The first in a five-day series where our writer gauges the mood of US progressives during a 10-day trip across the country.

    * American flag Illustration: Guardian Design/The Guardian*

    A few months after the 2016 election, 29-year-old Emily Marburger posted an update on a private Facebook group, Pantsuit Nation, that had been set up to support Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid.

    “Like the rest of us last November, I woke up to a situation I didn’t know existed,” she wrote. “I knew I had to get involved. I felt driven to help. But I never imagined I’d find myself, at 29, running for Mayor in the heated Democratic primary in my tiny square mile borough of 8,000 (just outside Pittsburgh).”

    The incumbent mayor of Marburger’s small Pennsylvania town of Bellevue was an open Trump supporter. His sole opponent – until Marburger entered the race – was a conservative pastor.

    “I thought: No. This Can’t Happen,” Marburger wrote. “The main criticism (so far) is that I don’t have the experience. Here’s what I say to that: Yes, I do have the experience. Yes, I can do this job”

    Marburger’s post went viral. Donations flooded in from as far away as Hawaii. She raised $10,000 in 48 hours. The incumbent mayor was knocked out in the first round. Marburger won the second round easily. From the debris of Clinton’s loss Marburger had built an unexpected triumph.

    Her experience is by no means exceptional. Trump’s win was a devastating setback for American progressives. But it has also galvanized them in ways a Clinton victory would not have, stoking them to campaign, advocate, donate or run for office – to engage politically in ways and at levels they never previously imagined. Put bluntly, there’s a lot going on with the left in America, producing a realignment that is at one and the same time ideological and structural.

    Read more.

  8. George Conway Cooks Up Savage Reminder Of Donald Trump’s Most Blatant Lies

    Kellyanne Conway’s husband made a mocking hashtag — that exposed Trump’s untruths — trend on Twitter.

    Twitter was awash with President Donald Trump’s lies early Saturday, thanks in part to conservative attorney George Conway.

    The lawyer helped the #PresidentPinocchiosTopLies hashtag trend on the social media platform after Preet Bharara ― the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who was fired by Trump in 2017 ― asked followers to identify Trump’s “most demonstrably provable intentional lie as POTUS.”

    Read more.

  9. Thousands protest against Boris Johnson’s parliament shutdown

    Crowds march, wave banners and chant ‘stop the coup’ in cities across UK

    ‘Stop the coup!’: thousands protest against prorogation of parliament – video

    Tens of thousands of demonstrators are taking to the streets across Britain and outside the gates of Downing Street in protest against Boris Johnson’s move to suspend parliament.

    Crowds brandished banners pledging to “defend democracy”, chanted “stop the coup” and waved EU flags in London in a bid to resist the parliament shutdown.

    Demonstrators are massing at protests in dozens of locations around the country including Manchester, Glasgow, Birmingham, Brighton, Swansea, Bristol and Liverpool.

    Boris Johnson is trashing the democracy fought for with the blood of our ancestors
    Owen Jones
    Read more

    One Facebook group for the capital’s protest event, called “Stop the coup, defend democracy”, said: “Boris Johnson is trying to shut down our democracy so that he can deliver on his Brexit agenda. We can’t just rely on the courts or parliamentary process to save the day. We all have a duty to stand up and be counted.”

    Organisers have backed the use of peaceful civil disobedience at the protests. It comes after critics have accused the prime minister of trying to circumvent parliamentary democracy to stop MPs blocking a no-deal Brexit. The protests are being organised by a series of groups including Momentum, the grassroots campaign organisation set up to support Corbyn.

    In London, crowds chanted outside the gates of Downing Street and waved homemade placards. Laura Parker, Momentum’s national coordinator, told the crowd from a nearby stage: “This is our democracy and we will not let an unelected prime minister manage this power grab.

    “He wants to shut the system down and hide … We know where you live, Mr Johnson.”

    Read more

  10. Trouble in paradise: Trump attacks Fox News – and Fox News hits back

    Neil Cavuto becomes the latest network host to reject Trump’s criticism, saying: ‘My job is to cover you, not fawn over you’

    Trump with Fox News host Sean Hannity at a rally in Las Vegas last September. In Thursday’s segment, Hannity’s colleague Cavuto catalogued a series of Trump’s lies. Photograph: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    The honeymoon between Donald Trump and his TV network of choice is showing signs of strain. Following a series of swipes at Fox News from the White House this summer, Neil Cavuto has become the latest network personality to push back against the president’s expectations of uninterrupted praise.

    Alabama governor faces calls to quit over blackface incident – live
    Read more
    Cavuto said on Thursday: “First of all, Mr President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you. Just report on you – call balls and strikes on you.”

    Cavuto was responding to a Wednesday tweet in which Trump suggested his supporters look for another channel.

    The president tweeted: “Just watched Fox News heavily promoting the Democrats through their DNC Communications Director, spewing out whatever she wanted with zero pushback by anchor, Sandra Smith. The New Fox News is letting millions of GREAT people down! We have to start looking for a new News Outlet. Fox isn’t working for us any more!”

    Last month Trump took aim at Fox News with a host of grievances, including a suggestion that their polling is treating him unfairly.

    “Fox has not changed,” political anchor Bret Baier said on his program in response. “We have a news side and an opinion side. Opinion folks express their opinions. We do polls.”

    In Thursday’s segment, Cavuto catalogued a series of Trump’s lies, dismissing the president’s “fake news” motif – something he has begun to wield against the traditionally uncritical network.

    Cavuto said: “I’m not the one who said tariffs are a wonderful thing. You are. Just like I’m not the one who said Mexico would pay for the wall. You did. Just like I’m not the one who claimed that Russia didn’t meddle in the 2016 election. You did. I’m sorry if you don’t like these facts being brought up, but they are not fake because I did. What would be fake is if I never did.”

    He went on: “Hard as it is to fathom, Mr President, just because you’re the leader of the free world doesn’t entitle you to a free pass. Unfortunately, just a free press.”

    Read more

  11. Apple1 is going to stop listening to your Siri requests.

    Apple is changing the way its Siri audio review, or “grading,” works on all its devices. In an upcoming software update, Apple will make audio review, a process the company uses to improve Siri from the audio samples of users’ requests, an explicitly opt-in process. Going forward, contractors will not be able to review customers’ audio clips, and only Apple employees will be able to do so. And Apple will no longer retain audio recordings of Siri interactions. It wants its customers to know that the company “respects their data and has strong privacy controls in place.”

    • Apple is sorry for listening to Siri conversations: Earlier this month, Apple stopped its Siri review program after the Guardian reported that “some of the workers who were reviewing Siri requests heard personal medical details, drug deals, and more.”

    1. RecodeDecode 
  12. Opinion – Gail Collins

    Is Trump, Um, Slipping? Even More?

    Hard to judge when business as usual is bonkers.

    Not the picture in the article

    My favorite moment in Donald Trump’s trip to France came when our president was doing a little riff about North Korea and Kim Jong-un. Not only had he come to know Kim well, Trump told reporters, “the first lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un and I think she’d agree with me, he is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.”

    Melania Trump has never met Kim Jong-un. Paging the cleanup crew.

    “President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including the detailed elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim,” his press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, explained. “And while the first lady hasn’t met him, the president feels like she’s gotten to know him too.”

    Definitely the most creative explanation of the week for Stuff Trump Makes Up. Second prize may also go to Grisham, who tried to clear up her boss’s wildly meandering positions on China trade.

    After going back and forth several times, the president was asked if he was having second thoughts (or third, or eighteenth …) about the tariff war. He replied, “I have second thoughts about everything.”

    Apparently not the message the White House was hoping to send.

    Read more in a pdf of this article or go behind the paywall.

  13. When Ilhan Omar Is Accused of Anti-Semitism, It’s News. When a Republican Smears Muslims, There’s Silence.

    Rep. Ilhan Omar participates in a panel discussion during the Muslim Collective for Equitable Democracy Conference and Presidential Forum at the National Housing Center in Washington, D.C., on July 23, 2019. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

    —-“IT’S ALL ABOUT the Benjamins, baby.”

    That is, of course, what Rep. Ilhan Omar famously tweeted on February 10, in response to a tweet from my colleague Glenn Greenwald decrying “how much time U.S. political leaders spend defending a foreign nation” — namely, the state of Israel. Then, when a journalist followed up by asking Omar who she believed was “paying American politicians to be pro-Israel,” the congresswoman tweeted: “AIPAC!”

    The freshman Democrat from Minnesota “unequivocally” apologized the very next day, saying that she was grateful to Jewish allies and colleagues who were educating her “on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes” and insisting that she never intended to “offend my constituents or Jewish Americans as a whole.”

    But it was too late. With those two (since-deleted) tweets, Omar kicked off a political and media firestorm that lasted for weeks and saw her condemned and castigated by, among others, cable news pundits, newspaper op-ed columnists, Jewish community groups, Donald Trump, congressional Republicans, and even the leaders and members of her own party.

    Republicans and Democrats Say Their Criticism of Ilhan Omar Is About Anti-Semitism. They’re Gaslighting You. Read more

    Now, fast forward to last week, specifically August 21. Rep. Mo Brooks, a right-wing Republican congressperson from Alabama with a long history of controversial and offensive remarks, was interviewed on WVNN, a radio station in Huntsville, about the decision by Israel’s government to deny entry to Omar and her fellow Muslim Democrat Rashida Tlaib.

    Read more

  14. From the “We all need some good news and inspiration” department

    Let’s do it now’: Greta Thunberg crosses Atlantic and calls for urgent climate action

    Greta Thunberg reaches New York after two-week sailing journey across Atlantic – video

    Greta Thunberg arrived in New York on Wednesday, stepping on to dry land after crossing the Atlantic in a zero-carbon yacht with a passionate message to tackle global heating.

    Crowds had gathered to welcome her for hours beforehand, ready to welcome Thunberg’s arrival on the unconventional solar-powered craft.

    Under cloudy skies at a marina near the southern tip of Manhattan, Thunberg’s supporters greeted the teenager who sparked a series of walkouts by students protesting against the lack of action to address the climate crisis.

    At a press conference, Thunberg urged people to come together to tackle the climate crisis. “We need to stand together and take action because otherwise it might be too late.”

    To cheers from the crowd, she said: “Let’s not wait any longer. Let’s do it now.”

    She added: “It is insane that a 16-year-old would have to cross the Atlantic to take a stand … [against] the climate and ecological crisis is a global crisis and the biggest humanity has ever faced.”

    Read more

  15. From the “Brexiting is hard to do” department

    Prorogation explainer: a simple guide to what just happened in UK politics

    If the past few years of Brexit debate have passed you by, here is what you need to know

    Nationwide protests as Boris Johnson suspends parliament – video

    If you’ve lost track of Brexit’s seemingly endless “cliff edges”, now is the time to pay attention as three years of argument appears set to come to a head.

    What is happening in Britain?
    The government, led by prime minister and arch-Brexiter Boris Johnson, has been granted permission by the Queen to suspend – or prorogue – parliament for a crucial five-week period before 31 October, when Britain is due to leave the European Union. The move leaves much less time for parliament and MPs to stop a no-deal Brexit.

    Doesn’t the Queen usually stay out of politics?
    Well, yes. And while she could technically have said no to the request, she is politically neutral, so refusing it could have caused an even bigger crisis.

    What difference will it make? MPs haven’t exactly been able to agree on Brexit recently
    That’s true – there has been precious little agreement on a way forward on Brexit since the 2016 referendum, and Theresa May’s attempts to get her deal with the EU through parliament ended in her resignation.

    How has the PM justified his move?
    Boris Johnson said the suspension would allow him to focus on his “very exciting agenda”, such as funding the national health service and tackling violent crime. He said MPs would have “ample” time to debate Brexit when the prorogued parliament returns on 14 October, 17 days shy of the exit date. His move is being widely seen as an attempt to stop MPs having a say in how Brexit plays out.

    What has the reaction been like?
    Apoplectic to say the least. The Commons speaker, John Bercow, said it was a “constitutional outrage” aimed at preventing MPs from debating Brexit. The former head of the civil service Robert Kerslake said public servants should consider putting the “stewardship of the country ahead of service to the government of the day”.

    What has Jeremy Corbyn said about it?
    The Labour leader has demanded a meeting with the Queen, saying the monarchy was being set directly against the wishes of the majority of MPs in the House of Commons. The feeling is that stopping the electorate, through their elected MPs, from having their say on Brexit is, at best, a bad look; at worst, unconstitutional.

    Read more

  16. Here’s One Way for the Never Trumpers to Find Redemption

    If Republicans want to shake free of the crazy, they can start by stopping their attacks on voting rights.

    The franchise is everything. If we all can’t agree on that, then none of the rest of it is worth a damn.

    I am asked, often, what would be a sufficient act of contrition from our Never Trump brethren for having created a political party in which Donald Trump could be nurtured as a presidential candidate, let alone a president*. I mean, I welcome their efforts but, truth be told, they’re all still conservative Republicans, still swept up in the cult of Reagan, still devoted to crackpot economics. But here’s what I always come up with when someone asks me what it would take for me to trust these folks thoroughly.

    Lay off the franchise, is always my answer.

    Read more

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