The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Molly White is exactly who we need right now

Accused fraudster Sam Bankman Fried did what every prosecutor hopes a defendant will do: start a blog. Researcher Molly White annotated his first post:

Sam Bankman-Fried has apparently decided to fill his time spent confined to his parents' Palo Alto home with blogging, perhaps in the hopes that he can just blog his way out of the massive criminal and civil penalties he's facing.

Although many of his statements here repeat things he's said elsewhere, I think it is useful to be able to analyze some of the story he's trying to spin all in one place, rather than cobbling his narrative together from multiple sources.

It's remarkable the extent to which SBF outright lies, or at the very least twists his version of events to distort reality in his favor. I don't intend to annotate further posts from him—which I suspect will be many—but instead hope that this will be sufficient to give some idea of just how thoroughly misleading his statements are.

Sample annotation:

If I was going to try to pick out a crypto firm that suffered large losses in an attempt to say "look, it was happening to everyone!", I might not pick the one whose founders have allegedly been in hiding for the last six months.34

And this:

It's clear that SBF's definition of "accurate" differs from most people's. SBF seems to think that if you tell someone that you have $1,000, and then later you say "...in monopoly money", it was still an accurate and defensible statement.

You know, I'm beginning to think 2023 will be the year people lose patience with lying fraudsters.

The news doesn't pause

Speaking of loathsome, misogynist creeps, former Bishop of Rome Joseph Ratzinger died this morning, as groundbreaking journalist Barbara Walters did yesterday.

In other news showing that 2022 refuses to go quietly:

And just a couple of blocks from me, Uncharted Books will reopen next week after the state closed it down for failing to file a required sales-tax form. For months. They might want to fire their accountants for this, as the state requires every business that has taxable sales to file the "quarterly sales tax report" every 3 months. I hope their soon-to-be-former accountants also filed their income taxes...

Is it post-empire time yet?

I can't quite draw a line between all of these stories, but it feels like I should:

Finally, a million-liter aquarium in a central Berlin hotel collapsed spectacularly today, causing millions of euros of damage. No people were hurt but 1,500 tropical fish drowned or froze to death in the aftermath.

Anals (?) of bad URLs

Crain's reported this morning that a company I used to work for has laid off 180 workers, about 10% of its workforce. I hope none of the people I'm still friends with was affected.

Also unfortunate is the URL that Crain's content server generated, which makes the story seem much more complicated than the news would otherwise suggest:

https://www.chicagobusiness.com/technology/west-monroe-lays-180-workers

really hope that (a) none of my friends had that happen to them, and (b) some prankster gamed the system to produce that URL. Because in a way, yes, some employees definitely got screwed.

How is it 6:30?

With tomorrow night having the earliest sunset of the year, it got dark at 4:20 pm—two hours ago. One loses time, you see. Especially with a demo tomorrow. So I'll just read these while devops pipelines run:

Finally, John Seabrook takes a few pages to explain how to become a TikTok star. Hint: do it before you turn 22.

Nobody knows nothin', more eruditely

James Fallows wants to put the domestic political press in a time-out:

[I]n historic terms, the midterm results under Joe Biden in 2022 are likely to be far better for the incumbent party and its president than for other modern presidents. As Biden would say, it’s a BFD.

[But] what has happened appears to be entirely at odds with what the political-reporter cadre — the people whose entire job is predicting and pre-explaining political trends — had been preparing the public for.

The Democrats have “defied expectations,” as the Post headline above puts it, largely because of the expectations our media and political professionals had set.

The premises of “analysis” pieces and talk shows over the past year-plus have been:

  • Biden is unpopular,” which may be true but seems not to have been decisive.

  • Afghanistan was the effective end of his presidency,” a widespread view 14 months ago. You can look it up.

  • Democrats have no message” — which in turn is an amalgam of (a) “Roe was a long time ago,” (b) “no one cares about infrastructure,” (c) “it’s all about crime” [or immigrants], and (d) “it’s all about Prices At The Pump.”

  • Dems in disarray.” On the day before people went to the polls, the Times’
    front page had two “analysis” stories on how bleak the Democratic prospects looked.

It’s not so much that this proved to be wrong. It’s that they felt it necessary and useful to get into the "expectations" business this way

How about this, in practical terms: For the next three stories an editor plans to assign on “Sizing up the 2024 field,” or the next three podcasts or panel sessions on “After the midterms, what’s ahead for [Biden, Trump, DeSantis, etc.],” instead give two of those reporting and discussion slots to under-reported realities of the world we live in now.

Whatever you say about the 2024 race now will be wrong. And what you say about the world of 2022 could be valuable.

Fallows, I should remind everyone, started his career as a speechwriter for President Carter and went on to write some of the most salient and prescient analyses of news media in the last 30 years.

Right now, however, I'm just glad I won't get 30 texts a day from candidates I've never heard of.

Lunch reading

I'm starting to adapt my habits and patterns to the new place. I haven't figured out where to put everything yet, especially in my kitchen, but I'll live with the first draft for a few weeks before moving things around.

I'm also back at work in my new office loft, which is measurably quieter than the previous location—except when the Metra comes by, but that just takes a couple of seconds.

I actually have the mental space to resume my normal diet of reading. If only I had the time. Nevertheless:

Finally, does anyone want to go to New York with me to see a play about Robert Moses starring Ralph Fiennes? Apparently tickets are only $2,000 a pop...

Nobody goes there anymore, it's too crowded

Last night while packing I caught this interview with Rebecca Jennings, whose recent trip to Positano, Italy, taught her something important about travel in the Instagram era:

Positano is blessed with a mild Mediterranean climate and a proximity to luxury and wealth; it is home to one of the most famous and majestic hotels in the world and provided the backdrop for Diane Lane’s whirlwind romance in Under the Tuscan Sun. Twenty years later, the town has become synonymous with the grandest of influencer travelscapes, clogging Instagram with photos of beautiful people on boats, staring back in wonder at the skyline behind them.

It is also the most unpleasant place I have ever been.

The problem of travel at this particular moment is not too many people traveling in general, it is too many people wanting to experience the exact same thing because they all went to the same websites and read the same reviews. It’s created the idea that if you do not go to this specific bar or stay in this exact neighborhood, all the money and time you spent on being here has been wasted, and you have settled for something that is not as perfect as it could have been.

A vacation is not, or at least shouldn’t be, a to-do list, something to be optimized with meticulously timed reservations months in advance, though increasingly this is what travel is: Unless you’ve secured a reserved time slot, the must-see museums of Florence and “you have to eat here” pasta spots in Rome are inaccessible for those unwilling to spend hours in line or so cramped that being there is no longer enjoyable.

I agree with Jennings, but she hasn't exactly gone to uncharted journalistic territory here. This sort of column or essay comes up all the time: a young person discovers something that has always existed, attributes this to a new technology or something unique to her generation, and gets accolades from her cohort. I have once or twice followed the herd while traveling, but usually only because I got to the museum too late to see the interesting bits.

Why do you think I prefer to go to Europe in March and October?

Complete pile-up in my "to be read" stack

I've had a busy day. I finally solved the token-authentication problem I've been working on all week for my day job (only to discover another flavor of it after deploying to Azure), while dealing with a plumber ($1600 repair!), an HVAC inspector ($170 inspection!) and my buyer's mortgage appraiser (not my problem!). That left some reading to do tonight:

Finally, despite the crashing temperatures outside my window right now (down 5.5°C in the past 2 hours), Illinois had a pretty dry and mild start to autumn.

Margaret Sullivan retires

In her last column, the Washington Post veteran warns that journalists still have a long way to go to properly deal with the anti-democratic party to the right:

Here’s the good news: The media has come a long, long way in figuring out how to cover the democracy-threatening ways of Donald Trump and his allies, including his stalwart helpers in right-wing media. It is now common to see headlines and stories that plainly refer to some politicians as “election deniers,” and journalists are far less hesitant to use the blunt and clarifying word “lie” to describe Trump’s false statements. That includes, of course, the former president’s near-constant campaign to claim that the 2020 presidential election was rigged to prevent him from keeping the White House.

And yet, I worry that it’s not nearly enough. I don’t mean to suggest that journalists can address the threats to democracy all by themselves — but they must do more.

The deeper question is whether news organizations can break free of their hidebound practices the love of political conflict, the addiction to elections as a horse race — to address those concerns effectively.

For the sake of democracy, they must.

Journalists certainly shouldn’t shill for Trump’s 2024 rivals — whoever they may be — but they have to be willing to show their readers, viewers and listeners that electing him again would be dangerous. That’s a tricky tightrope to walk.

James Fallows has said a lot of the same things. Maybe mainstream journalists will listen?