What's Good: Jul. 24, 2020

Conspiracies, securities, and a good dog.

Hello, good morning, happy Friday. Last week I picked up my Mixed Berry Ryeway and spent the evening with some friends, which was the first hangout I’ve had in months and it was really nice. We ate Indian food and played Halo and Tetris. Real throwback hours.

Also, remember how I said I was going to play through the original three Halo campaigns? I did it, Halothon 2020 was a success, it was incredible. It took me 15 hours, 32 minutes, and 20 seconds, including biobreaks. I had a large breakfast beforehand, but didn’t eat for the whole run. Had a beer after and a big breakfast again the next morning. Oddly, I wasn’t even hungry when I was done! I guess adrenaline makes for decent sustenance. If you want to, for some reason, you can watch the VOD.

Things fall apart

I suppose it makes some sense as to why people would turn to conspiracy theories in the middle of a pandemic. Conspiracy theories develop as a means to explain a terrifying world, of course, and the world is currently full of terrifying things. Here is a good John Oliver segment on that:

This week Twitter banned 7,000 accounts related to the “QAnon” conspiracy theory, which if you’re not familiar with it is a general conspiracy that covers every conspiracy that has ever existed. It is completely detached from reality. It is also, of course, growing exponentially. Here is a terrifying headline: “Pro-Trump OAN attacks bans of ‘the new mainstream’ QAnon: ‘The deep state appears to be fighting back’” - truly, what the fuck.

Oh and here’s this:

This is Agent Margaritaville. He’s a YouTuber, a QAnon conspiracy theorist, and, since May, a wanted man. The 57-year-old, whose real name is Gerald Brummell, is wanted on two charges of engaging “in conduct to impede performance of justice duties.”

Toronto police told VICE that Brummell has yet to be arrested or turn himself in and they are “actively looking for him.”

Elsewhere in bullshit conspiracy theories and the terror they impose on others:

A national organization fighting to end human trafficking says the believers in the unfounded Wayfair human trafficking conspiracy theory are overwhelming the organization with reports and making it harder to do its work. 

Polaris, a non-profit that runs the National Human Trafficking Hotline, said in a press release on Tuesday that "the extreme volume of these contacts has made it more difficult for the Trafficking Hotline to provide support and attention to others who are in need of help."

I kept trying to think of a kicker for this section but I think I’m too exhausted. Conspiracy theories are awful and harmful and if you see people sharing them, please talk to them and try to help guide them back to reality. Sometimes folks are too far gone, but it’s up to all of us to keep these unhinged things from hurting people.

Let’s play the blame game

As we all know, when anything goes wrong at a university, it is the students’ fault:

Despite serious public-health concerns, Tulane and other campuses are slated to reopen for in-person instruction in the fall. Students will get infected, and universities will rebuke them for it; campuses will close, and students will be blamed for it. Relying on the self-control of young adults, rather than deploying the public-health infrastructure needed to control a disease that spreads easily among people who live, eat, study, and socialize together, is not a safe reopening strategy—and yelling at students for their dangerous behavior won’t help either.

I cannot believe that some schools are still planning on “reopening,” this is how you spread the virus, come on, what the fuck. It is decidedly not the students’ fault. You are the ones in charge here. They pay you to make the decisions to keep them safe. They are literally paying you to teach them how to be better people.

Is this securities fraud?

Yes, absolutely:

Over a two-year period until September 2014, the market-maker removed hundreds of thousands of large OTC orders from its automated trading processes, according to Finra. That rendered the orders “inactive” and so they had to be handled manually by human traders.

Citadel Securities then “traded for its own account on the same side of the market at prices that would have satisfied the orders,” without immediately filling the inactive orders at the same or better prices as required by Finra rules, the regulator said….

But the amount they got fined for it is basically a crime tax, there is no enforcement, hahaha isn’t our economy great.

Steel Justice Warriors

Okay so license plates probably aren’t made of steel, whatever, but I couldn’t resist the acronym:

KylSean was one of 20,000 requests for personalized plates that the California DMV received that month; nearly 250,000 were fielded by the department in 2018. Applicants are required to fill out a form listing the personalized plate they desire, along with a brief explanation as to why they want it. Whether or not the plate sees the light of day falls to a panel of four beleaguered bureaucrats, who weed through the slush pile and ferret out requests that are racist, tawdry, or otherwise offensive. It’s a tougher job than you might think. Ever since vanity plates were introduced in 1972, Californians have tried sneaking all manner of sly euphemisms and overt obscenities past the department’s guardians of civility.

This is a fun story that you will enjoy reading.

Everything old is new again

Omegle is good, actually:

First there was the Zoom boom, followed quickly by Zoom fatigue. Then everyone became a gamerinviting visitors to their virtual islands and sending friends digital gifts. There were raves, meetings, meditations and movie nights, all of which took place on the internet.

Now, months later and with no sign of the virus’ end in sight, it seems we’ve reached the taking-to-strangers online stage of boredom and isolation.

Omegle, a website that pairs random visitors through video and text chat, has spiked in popularity over the last four months. (“did i miss something why is everyone on omegle?” one person recently tweeted.) The site is similar to the once wildly popular Chatroulette, which is also experiencing a renaissance of sorts, in that it is free, requires no registration and promises a surprising social experience. Visitors can submit keywords to filter for people with shared interests. Those in college can enter a .edu email address, which the site uses for verification, to find other students. There is also, predictably, an “adult” section.

Someday I’ll be part of a trend before Taylor Lorenz writes about it, but today is not that day.


Wikipedia doesn’t have a page called “List of Wars Lost by the United States Army,” but if it did, we would have another entry:

Now, facing criticism from First Amendment advocacy groups who say the ban is unconstitutional, the Army said Wednesday it would pause streaming on Twitch to “review internal policies and procedures, as well as all platform-specific policies.”

In a letter sent to Army and Navy recruiting officers Wednesday, the Knight First Amendment Institute demanded that the military branches’ channels change their moderation policies and restore access for Mr. Uhl and 300 others who have made similar comments in the past few weeks.

Two weeks ago I wrote about the military’s stupid bans of people posting about its war crimes in Twitch chat and how it probably violated the First Amendment, citing the case brought by the Knight Institute. Turns out I was right! Or at least right enough that the Army is running scared, which I am counting.

What the Army probably does not have the foresight to realize is that banning people (for posting criticism) will still be illegal whenever they start streaming again, so it’ll be fun to see what they do when they think the heat has faded.

Good dog

After Cleo the 4-year-old Labrador went missing, her owners found her somewhere they didn't expect: At home.

Except that it was the family's previous home in Lawson, Missouri, rather than their home in Olathe, Kansas.

The family hadn't lived in their Kansas home for nearly two years, but Cleo made her way back to its porch, where the new homeowner found her.

"My wife and I had just gotten home from work," Colton Michael, the house's new owner, told CNN. "Cleo was laying on the front porch at the front door, just laying there, waiting for somebody it seemed like."

It’s a heartwarming story about a dog that wanted to go home. I expect they will sell the film rights and you’ll watch a movie about it on an airplane sometime in the next ten years.

You deserve some good animal content

Have a good weekend.