Sunday, April 23, 2023

On Our "Weekly Route 66" This Week: Out & About in Our World

It has been quite a week in our World, exemplified by the headlines above and two key missions we've embraced here at the Daily Outsider.  

On our "Virtual Route 66"  we noticed a week that saw  China continue to assert its' power;  US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy presented a debt plan that was dead on arrival (based on our assessment), Bashar Assad's rehabilitation in the Arab World continued, the exiled Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi went to Israel to honor Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel, The UK continued its' struggles as another UK Senior Minister resigned and as the Scottish National Party fought for its existence and relevancy as the UK Labor Party continued its ascent on the eve of local elections throughout the UK.   In the United States, Governor Ron Desantis continues its' war on Disney as he gears up for his expected campaign to run for President as former President Trump continues to dominate the polls despite the New York Indictment and other looming indictments.    Joe Biden teased a re-election announcement. We have also been assessing the situation in Africa as Sudan has exploded into civil war.  We also visited Venezuela as it once again recorded the highest inflation rate in the World.   Buzzfeed News also died this week as AI continued its' ascent (and our team released a notation in our Visions property that will be available soon). 

We present a snapshot of the week that was with thoughts courtesy of Politico, France24, Atlantic, Financial Times, The National, Crooked Media & other leading thinkers around the World:

Monday, April 17, 2023

State-Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-FL) on Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) trying to do his little 2024 dance

Congressional Republicans have taken the U.S. dollar hostage, and, characteristically, don’t seem to have a plan on the other side of it. 

  • The Republican Party’s failson House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced today that he would pass legislation to raise the national debt ceiling (or “agree to pay what the country already owes,” if you prefer) but only if the legislation also caps future federal spending increases at 1 percent. In a speech at the New York Stock Exchange, McCarthy lashed out at president Biden, whom he falsely claimed was “missing in action” from this debt limit negotiation. In fact, it was McCarthy who went silent for weeks because Republicans did not have a fucking economic plan other than “take government assistance away from everyone except the rich.” (Also on McCarthy’s Christmas list: means testing!)

  • Since there’s no way the Senate will pass the conditions McCarthy is proposing, the package doesn’t seem like much more than a way to shift blame to the Democrats once the clock runs out on negotiations. McCarthy really wanted to go after Medicare and Social Security, but that blew up in his face in the first weeks of his speakership after President Biden backed him into a corner during his State of the Union address, spotlighting how wildly unpopular such measures would be with both parties’ constituents. 

  • Washington is hurtling towards a massive potential crisis. Republicans have threatened to tank the economy for decades, but in recent years they’ve become crazy enough to get way too close to the real thing. The Treasury has already taken emergency measures to continue paying the government’s bills, but the money is expected to run dry this summer. McCarthy is playing with fire, but he’s not even smart enough to make a good arsonist. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was exacting in his criticism of McCarthy, saying: “President Biden and I are happy to meet with the speaker when he has something to talk about…He went all the way to Wall Street and gave us no more detail. No more facts, no new information at all.” Hell yeah, get his ass, Chuck.

Outside of the halls of Congress, the Fed is ramping up for more expected interest rate hikes. 

  • Just as the stock market is not actually a good stalking horse for “the economy” as a whole, or for the financial prospects of everyday Americans, a dip in corporate profits isn’t necessarily bad, even if TK are calling it an “earnings recession.” Despite all the complaining from executives that labor “costs too much” now, the federal minimum wage has remained $7.25 for fourteen years, which depresses wages far above the seven-and-a-quarter level. When inflation ran wild in 2021-2022, corporations had no problem jacking up the prices of their products—remember the egg crisis?—which led to these historic profit margins. Corporations continue to announce massive stock buybacks to line shareholder pockets while paying workers insufficiently, or even laying them off en masse. 

Between the Fed and Congressional Republicans, an unintentional joint narrative has emerged: In order to help the economy get back on track, working Americans will have to put up their quality of life as collateral. This is a false choice: Reduced inflation doesn’t have to come at the price of low wages and unemployment. We don’t have to make a deal to pay what we owe on our debt instruments by trading away social programs. Conservatives have a vested interest in selling the American people these false narratives, but we don’t have to let them get away with it.

Get ready to be transported back to 1973 New York City with Stiffed, the new podcast from Crooked Media and iHeartRadio. In this eight-part series, host Jennifer Romolini takes you on a wild ride through the rise and fall of Viva, the erotic magazine for women  started by porn king publisher Bob Guccione  that rocked the publishing world. With a team of feminist writers and editors behind it, Viva in its original form had full frontal male nudity, a fashion section run by Anna Wintor, and cover stars like Bianca Jagger, but were they doomed to fail from the beginning? Check out the first 4 episodes of Stiffed right now. 

Last week in Kansas City, MO, An 85-year-old White man named Andrew Lester shot and critically injured a Black teenager named Ralph Yarl, after Yarl had simply gone to the wrong house to pick up his younger brothers. The Clay County Prosecutor said Monday that there was a racial component to the case, and charged Lester with armed assault. Missouri is one of at least 28 states with barbaric “Stand Your Ground” laws, which give homeowners more leeway to shoot people on their property with legal impunity. Cool country. Love this. An arrest warrant has been issued, but Lester is not yet in custody. In a horrifyingly similar story, a 20-year old woman was shot and killed in upstate New York over the weekend after she and her friends turned down the wrong driveway in a rural area. The homeowner, 65-year-old Kevin Monahan, fired two bullets at the vehicle as they were trying to leave, one of which struck Kaylin Gillis, who died shortly thereafter. Monahan surrendered after initiating a standoff with police, and is now charged with second-degree murder.

Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell is back to his hard work of ruining American lives for profit after a head injury. Too bad!


The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a Texas inmate convicted of robbery who argues, (rightly!) that the 27 years he was forced to spend in solitary confinement violated the constitution’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual” punishment. 


The Republican-led House Judiciary Committee held a sham hearing on Monday in a federal building two blocks away from Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s offices to embarrass him for daring to bring charges against disgraced former president Donald Trump. 


Rep. George Santos (R-NY) has announced his bid for reelection


The new math of carbon emissions offsets Weyerhaeuser Co. has allowed the logging company to greenwash its reputation despite cutting down more trees than ever


The architects of the 1998 Good Friday Accords Celebrated the 25th anniversary of the agreement, which ended most sectarian violence in Northern Ireland after 30 years. Former Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern, former British prime minister Tony Blair, and former U.S. Senator George Mitchell urged Irish leaders to break through the stalemate that has resulted from Brexit. 


The trial of Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation lawsuit against Fox News will begin on Tuesday after a one-day delay, sparking assumptions that the network is pushing to settle out of court. 

“Stop the Steal” founder, right-wing extremist loon, and vocal “anti-groomer” Ali Alexander apologized after being accused of making unwanted sexual advances and soliciting nude photos from young men and teenage boys. Every. Single. Time.


Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) continues to neither retire nor give any indication of when (or if) she will be back to work. She has asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to replace her on the Judiciary Committee so that the Biden administration can confirm judicial appointments, but any replacement would require unanimous approval from the entire Senate. Naturally, a number of Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) are already threatening to block it. In other words, after an influential and storied career, Dianne Feinstein should resign for the good of the country.


Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) has returned to the Senate

The Writers Guild of America has voted to strike with a staggering 97.85 percent of members voting to authorize the action. The guild set a new record for both voter turnout and percentage of support. 

Conservative school board candidates in battleground states who ran culture-war issues posted a bunch of L’s in recent elections.


Grand Delusion — America’s imposition on incompatible Middle East realities

UAE President Sheikh Mohamed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Abu Dhabi. Abdulla Al Neyadi / Presidential Court
UAE President Sheikh Mohamed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Abu Dhabi. Abdulla Al Neyadi / Presidential Court


Clashes and explosions shook Sudan's capital despite the army and RSF agreeing to a 24-hour ceasefire from yesterday. Sudanese people are increasingly fearing food and water shortages, humanitarian agencies said as they called for better access to help civilians. Follow the latest news from the Sudan crisis here


Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan arrived in Syria yesterday in the first visit by a senior Saudi official to the country since the civil war erupted in 2011, Syria’s Information Ministry has said.

There is no place for a “revenge mentality” in decisions Arab states are making over relations with the Syrian regime, a former political adviser to the country's Minister of Information told The National.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed that Israel would continue its “fight” to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, during a Holocaust ceremony attended by Iran's exiled crown prince on Monday.

A Palestinian gunman fired shots at a vehicle in the Sheikh Jarrah area of East Jerusalem yesterday, wounding two people, Israeli emergency services said.


President Ebrahim Raisi has threatened to flatten the cities of Haifa and Tel Aviv while marking his country’s annual Army Day.


Hundreds of workers from Lebanon’s public sector protested in front of the seat of government, as the nation’s caretaker cabinet convened to discuss their salaries. Meanwhile, Lebanon’s Parliament convened yesterday, despite a boycott by some members of the assembly.

On the anniversary of the 1983 bombing of the US embassy in Beirut, the US State Department announced a multimillion-dollar reward for information that would lead to the capture of a leader of Hezbollah, the group that claimed responsibility for the attack.


The UAE and Qatar are working to reopen embassies as part of a move to re-establish ties two years after the 2021 AlUla declaration signalled an end to the Gulf rift.

President Sheikh Mohamed held an iftar banquet yesterday in honour of Jordan's King Abdullah II in Abu Dhabi.

The UAE's Ramadan food drive has raised more than Dh1 billion to help tackle global hunger.



Running my 14th Full Marathon to Raise Awareness of the Importance of Indepedent Palestinian Media

Israel Is Losing 'Deterrence':

What Does it Mean? 


The Rise of a New Global Superpower?

In its quest for religious war, Israel is uniting Arabs, Muslims around Palestine

Chaotically Human

An image of a person on their phone

(Christopher Anderson / Magnum)

View in browser

My colleague Charlie Warzel worked at BuzzFeed News in the 2010s. He identifies those years as a specific era of the internet—one that symbolically died yesterday with the news of the website shutting down. Yesterday, Charlie offered a glimpse of what those years felt like for people working in digital media:

I worked at BuzzFeed News for nearly six years—from March 2013 until January 2019. For most of that time, it felt a bit like standing in the eye of the hurricane that is the internet. Glorious chaos was everywhere around you, yet it felt like the perfect vantage to observe the commercial web grow up. I don’t mean to sound self-aggrandizing, but it is legitimately hard to capture the cultural relevance of BuzzFeed to the media landscape of the mid-2010s, and the excitement and centrality of the organization’s approach to news. There was “The Dress,” a bit of internet ephemera that went so viral, we joked that that day might have been the last good one on the internet.

Charlie goes on, and his essay is worth reading in full, but today I’d like to focus on the point he ends on: that the internet of the 2010s was human in a way that today’s is not. Charlie doesn’t just mean human in the sense of not generated by a machine. He’s referring to chaos, unpredictability, delight—all of the things that made spending time on the internet fun.

Charlie explains how Buzzfeed News ethos emphasized paying attention to the joyful and personal elements of life online:

BuzzFeed News was oriented around the mission of finding, celebrating, and chronicling the indelible humanity pouring out of every nook and cranny of the internet, so it makes sense that any iteration that comes next will be more interested in employing machines to create content. The BuzzFeed era of media is now officially over. What comes next in the ChatGPT era is likely to be just as disruptive, but I doubt it’ll be as joyous and chaotic. And I guarantee it’ll feel less human.

The shrinking humanity of the internet is a theme that Charlie’s been thinking about for a while. Last year, he wrote about why many observers feel that Google Search is not as efficient as it used to be—some argue that the tool returns results that are both drier and less useful than they once were. Charlie learned in his reporting that some of the changes the Search tool has rolled out are likely the result of Google’s crackdowns on misinformation and low-quality content. But these changes might also mean that Google Search has stopped delivering interesting results, he argues:

In theory, we crave authoritative information, but authoritative information can be dry and boring. It reads more like a government form or a textbook than a novel. The internet that many people know and love is the opposite—it is messy, chaotic, unpredictable. It is exhausting, unending, and always a little bit dangerous. It is profoundly human.

It’s also worth remembering the downsides of this humanity, Charlie notes: The unpredictability that some people are nostalgic for also gave way to conspiracy theories and hate speech in Google Search results.

The Google Search example raises its own set of complex questions, and I encourage those interested to read Charlie’s essay and the corresponding edition of his newsletter, Galaxy Brain. But the strong reactions to Google Search and the ways it is changing are further evidence that many people crave an old internet that now feels lost.

If the internet is becoming less human, then something related is happening to social media in particular: It’s becoming less familiar. Social-media platforms such as Friendster and Myspace, and then Facebook and Instagram, were built primarily to connect users with friends and family. But in recent years, this goal has given way to an era of “performance” media, as the internet writer Kate Lindsay put it in an Atlantic article last year. Now, she wrote, “we create online primarily to reach people we don’t know instead of the people we do.”

Facebook and Instagram are struggling to attract and retain a younger generation of users, Lindsay notes, because younger users prefer video. They’re on TikTok now, most likely watching content created by people they don’t know. And in this new phase of “performance” media, we lose some humanity too. “There is no longer an online equivalent of the local bar or coffee shop: a place to encounter friends and family and find person-to-person connection,” Lindsay wrote.

I came of age in the Tumblr era of the mid-2010s, and although I was too shy to put anything of myself on display, I found joy in lurking for hours online. Now those of us looking for a place to have low-stakes fun on the internet are struggling to find one. The future of social-media platforms could surprise us: IOS downloads of the Tumblr app were up by 62 percent the week after Elon Musk took control of Twitter, suggesting that the somewhat forgotten platform could see a resurgence as some users leave Twitter.

I may not have personally known the bloggers I was keeping up with on Tumblr, but my time there still felt human in a way that my experiences online have not since. The feeling is tough to find words for, but maybe that’s the point: As the internet grows up, we won’t know what we’ve lost until it’s gone.


Today’s News

  1. Less than a year after overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court is expected to decide tonight on whether the abortion pill mifepristone should remain widely available while litigation challenging the FDA’s approval of the drug continues.
  2. The Russian military stated that one of its fighter jets accidentally bombed Belgorod, a Russian city near the Ukrainian border.
  3. Dominic Raab stepped down from his roles as deputy prime minister and justice secretary of Britain after an official inquiry found that he had engaged in intimidating behavior on multiple occasions, one of which involved a misuse of power.


We close out with the following images (generated by AI) that brought Persopolois, the Ancient Persian Capital, back to life: