June 20, 2016

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Imagine this interview…

Journalists Steve Brill, Jonathan Alter and Merrill Brown have chimed in here amid frustration with many of the interrogations of Donald Trump. I’ve now asked Keith Olbermann for his suggestions for journalists. Here they are:

-Have you ever received treatment for, a diagnosis of, or a recommendation to undergo an evaluation for, psychopathy or any other disabling personality disorder?

-Given your erratic and frequently self-contradictory and angry behavior, in public and on the record, would you agree to an evaluation of your psychological health by a panel of independent and medically qualified experts?

-Have you ever paid employees, contractors or others to whom you have agreed to pay a fee or salary, significantly less money than your agreement called for, and insisted that if these people wanted the full amount, they should sue you?

-If the answer to that is “yes,” would you estimate that the average amount you fail to pay on contracts and other debts is 10 percent? Twenty percent? Higher?

-Given that many of your personal holdings and business agreements may or may not be potentially in conflict with the international goals of the United States of America, will you either reveal all of these holdings and agreements before the election, or place full control of all of your business and financial interests in a blind trust to take effect if and when your electoral opponents concede defeat?

An early morning tweet from The Donald

Fox News was showing Father’s Day photos of co-hosts this morning as MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” was battering Trump for weekend comments on, well, just about everything. Joe Scarborough’s latest Howard Beale-like venting was focused on comments clearly suggesting that we’d been better off if some people at the Orlando club had guns. Yes, more guns at a bar.

As the show was going on, Trump tweeted, “When I said that if, within the Orlando club, you had some people with guns, I was obviously talking about additional guards or employees.” (@realDonaldTrump) Mika Brzezinski talked about his “vomiting out” whatever he sees or hears anywhere, regardless of substance, and said GOP leaders should “walk away” as she exhibits her 180-degree about-face after months of Trump boosting. Over at CNN, doubts about Trump were underscored, albeit in rather less theatrical fashion, with Trump backer Jeffrey Lord urging us not to forget how wrong we all were about him. And his arguing that when it comes to fundraising, Hillary Clinton is the new Jeb Bush, so don’t fret, Trump fans.

Then, a last turn of the dial to Fox, where a “duct tape artist” was showing us trendy ways to use tape, including making a waterproof, easy-to-clean beach bag. That segment segued to informing us that Apple is pulling support of the GOP convention and asked viewers who own an iPhone how they feel about that. Hey, maybe they can hide their phones inside a red, white and blue duct tape beach bag in protest.

A busy Friday at The Washington Post

Not long ago, papers waited until Sunday to unload notable investigations. No more in the digital age. Thus, Friday brought:

-A look at how Trump has cozied up to the Russian leadership, notably for commercial reasons (The Washington Post)

-How a late, long-notorious New York attorney, Roy Cohn, was central to assisting Trump with his overall strategy in combatively dealing with the world. (The Washington Post)

The Cohn saga has been highlighted earlier by Politico, as it detailed how red-baiting 1950s Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s lawyer henchman became a key Trump mentor. (Politico)

A tweetstorm

Republican consultant Rick Wilson has been an active member of the #NeverTrump movement. Despite other anti-Trump Republicans swallowing hard for the aim of party unity, Wilson is unceasing, especially with harsh rebukes not fit for family consumption. Last week “he unleashed an epic tweetstorm, denouncing Republican National Committee staffers for working to get Trump elected. ‘You own this, he warned. ‘You’re covered in his stench.’ In the course of his Twitter rant, Wilson coined a new nickname for Trump, ‘Cheeto Jesus,’ which fast became a meme.” And it’s all yours if desirous. (Mother Jones)

Apple’s Chinese surprise

“Shenzhen Baili, a little-known startup, won a surprise injunction against sales of Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in Beijing, based on a patent covering smartphone design. Apple said the order had been stayed pending appeal and sales remain unaffected.” (The Wall Street Journal) The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos, who was Beijing bureau chief for the magazine and the Chicago Tribune, told me, “The government will seek to give Chinese companies an edge, and U.S. companies will be kept on a short leash. Over the last three years, the sentiment among Western companies has soured, and the Apple case is the latest reason.”

An interesting, plausible theory on the murder rate

There were more murders in big cities last year, compared to the year before, which constituted the first substantial such hike in 25 years. This has baffled criminologists. Now there’s a possible explanation via a Justice Department report, namely that “after a number of widely discussed law-enforcement killings of young Black men during the past couple of years, residents of predominantly Black and disadvantaged urban neighborhoods further lost confidence in the police.” An analysis of this government analysis suggests why this might be plausible and, if you live in Chicago, why the hike was so great. (The Washington Post)

Ex-Twitter boss our latest hacking victim

“Even the former CEO of Twitter isn’t protected from the occasional security hack.” On Sunday tweets were sent from Dick Costolo’s account claiming to be from a group called OurMine. (Recode) The tweets were deleted but Costolo then indicated it wasn’t his Twitter account that was targeted. (@dickc)

A caveat about Uber anxiety

There are lots of pieces these days about the Uberization of our lives, including the rise of a contingent workforce, more jobs with mediocre wages and few, if any, benefits. Lots of investors figured that Uber was a window onto revolutionary change everywhere, notably every service business. (The New York Times)

“The fundamental flaw in citing Uber that has led to, well, Uber-esqe fatigue, has been the notion that Uber’s model can be simply forklifted into another domain or industry. Instead, what businesses need help with in fact is the polar opposite: not the forklifting but the unpacking of Uber to identify the two or three most applicable elements from its operating machinery and growth execution that can spark transformative opportunities in your industry.” (TechCrunch)

Golf champ almost “screwed”

It was a weird couple of hours for golf fans watching Fox’s coverage of the U.S. Open Sunday because the leader was potentially held hostage to a pending ruling about an alleged infraction he’d committed while putting. It was the golf equivalent of a baseball game continuing amid word that officials would decide at day’s end if a run scored in the second inning would be counted. It quickly prompted Slate, which isn’t normally associated with breaking news analyses of sports, to run an analysis while Dustin Johnson was still playing. “Dustin Johnson Screwed by Dumb Rules Officials Who Want Everyone to Hate Golf.” (Slate)

Ultimately, he was not screwed since he won despite being given a one-shot penalty after he’d completed his round. Still the United States Golf Association’s prissy moral code “is still dumb,” given the specifics of the alleged infraction (a ball moving on the green before he even attempted to hit it).

What’s in a name? A lot.

Tribune Publishing becomes Tronc Inc. today. This is supposedly about becoming a different sort of company, including one aimed at “content and monetization” (as if the old company was not involved in either). There was instant head-scratching and derision. Several weeks after the announcement, that hasn’t changed markedly. “The name change had some marketing experts and corporate renaming specialists scratching their heads.” (The New York Times) Says one supposed branding expert, “The renaming thing blows up way more often than there’s any benefit. The wrong way is when people confuse brand for identity.”

A data analysis firm discovers its hacking vulnerability

“Palantir Technologies has cultivated a reputation as perhaps the most formidable data analysis firm in Silicon Valley, doing secretive work for defense and intelligence agencies as well as Wall Street giants. But when Palantir hired professional hackers to test the security of its own information systems late last year, the hackers found gaping holes that left data about customers exposed.” (BuzzFeed)

“The Whole Foods of content?”

Ev Williams is the “Forrest Gump of internet media,” who’s a big reason we all call blogs blogs, ran Twitter and founded Medium. He’s gotten very rich. But does Medium aim to be the “Whole Foods of content,” as The Atlantic suggests in a profile? “’Maybe we are,’ he said. ‘Not that Whole Foods is perfect, and we’re not perfect either, but we are trying to figure out how to optimize for satisfaction and nourishment, not just activity or calories.’” (The Atlantic)

George Clooney and Big Pharma

Megan Thielking in STAT’s “Morning Rounds” notes how Brill published last fall a 15-part exposé, “America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker,” about Johnson & Johnson covering up the antipsychotic drug Risperdal’s side effects while marketing it to children and elderly individuals. (Huffington Post) “That story is the inspiration for the new series, a project from George Clooney and the minds behind Netflix’s hit ‘Making a Murderer.’ If a miniseries isn’t your thing, you can hold out for the Theranos movie.”

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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