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Tech

Josh Hawley's SMART Act Is So Goddamn Dumb

Hot new Missouri senator wants to break Facebook and Twitter for all the wrong reasons.

Missouri's new Republican Senator Josh Hawley is the dashing, baby-faced freshman who thinks he's got big tech all figured out. He keeps introducing bills aimed at slapping tech companies who've become too big for their bits. The only problem -- and really, it's so minor! -- is that Hawley is a fucking idiot who doesn't have a clue what he's talking about.

As the rest of Congress is getting ready to bugger off for a month, Hawley quietly dropped a bill that would turn Uncle Sam into a social media nanny. Called the Social Media Addiction Reduction Technology Act (SMART), Hawley's bill would force social media platforms to limit the amount of time people spend dicking around on their platforms each day. Hawley's bill would also force social media companies to kill off trademark features like autoplay and infinite scrolling, and similarly ban systems that reward users for their engagement, like Snapchat streak trophies.

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Tech

Sadsy The Clown Bitches About His Twitter Follower Count

And more highlights from the saddest fucking thing we have ever seen!

Thursday afternoon, the most amazing, embarrassing, terrible and sad thing happened at the White House. Donald Trump convened a posse of his grossest friends and his weirdest looking family (Don Jr.) so that he could stand on a stage and bitch about his Twitter follower count going up and down. And the White House livestreamed this behavior. That's right, it was the big White House Social Media Summit, and we watched it for you!

By CNN reporter Daniel Dale's count, Trump told six out-and-out lies, which actually seems low to us. Then again, Dale admits he's not counting the part where Trump claimed that he's actually very good at spelling words, but his fingers simply aren't always as good as his brain. We can see how Dale felt pulled between the fundamental honesty of Trump saying his fingers are bad vs. him pretending he can spell.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves, here is video of the entire event, so you can watch it every day with your children and tell them "this is your brain on too many Big Macs" or whatever cautionary tale you'd like to use:

President Trump Delivers Remarks at the Presidential Social Media Summit www.youtube.com

Here are some things we learned from Donald Trump, the president of America, during his speech:

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Nice Time

It's Cows And Cows And Cows And Cows, And That's A Nice Thing

We're saying we're having a cow, man.

Welcome to another edition of Yr Sunday Nice Things feature, where we take a break from the daily craziness so we can decompress for a little while. Today, we're going to relax with the ineffable mental calm that comes from an oddly rectangular English cow. It's really beautiful to see what can happen when people all over the internet come together to collaborate on a little art project. We call it...

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Education

Kamala Harris Gonna Buy You A Job

Job training? Sure, to be a COP!

Sen. Kamala Harris introduced a bill Wednesday that would give people money -- directly! -- for job training. As is mandatory, it includes a clever acronym: the "21st Century Skills are Key to Individuals' Life-Long Success (SKILLS) Act." The proposal would provide individual accounts up to $8,000, which could be used for education or training programs as well as for transportation or childcare to allow people to attend such training. Harris's office says as many as 78 million Americans could be helped by the plan. Just as long as none of them sign up for "Trump University."

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Environment

How We Doin' On That Green Energy Thing? Better Than You Might Expect!

The good news is that it's not all bad news. Also, we need to change things radically is all.

Somewhat encouraging news for the prospects of human survival! Over at Vox, David Roberts offers a brief review of data from the "Renewables Global Status Report," an annual report on the world's use of renewable energy from a great big energy think tank, the "Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century." And the story, as he presents it in 12 graphs, is that we hu-mons are not doomed to Global Warm ourselves to death. What's that, you heard an implied "But..." there? What a very perceptive reader you are!

The really impressive news is that when it comes to generating electricity, renewable energy sources are growing faster than any other:

The shift in the electricity sector has effectively become unstoppable. Globally, more renewable energy capacity has been installed than new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity combined, for four years running. Some 181 GW of new renewables capacity was installed in 2018; it now makes up more than one-third of global installed power capacity. These are mainstream power sources, here to stay.

Also, global adoption of electric vehicles is rapidly growing, especially in China, where lots of city bus fleets are now electric. China is leading the world in green energy generally, which is pretty important since it's also got some of the dirtiest energy to move away from. As China adopts more solar photovoltaic generating capacity, the costs of solar panels is also dropping rapidly, and hooray, solar is also creating the most jobs!

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Post-Racial America

Elizabeth Warren Wants To Know Why Banks Made Their Computers Racist

White and black borrowers: Same credit scores, very different results.

Elizabeth Warren may be running for president, but she hasn't stopped doing her whole Being A Senator thing, either. Which is why Warren is asking the heads of various agencies that regulate banks and financial services to explain what they intend to do about a problem with financial technology programs that have largely automated a lot of loan decisions. You see, a study published in October found that while systems like Quicken Loans have the potential to eliminate discrimination in lending, by removing the potential for loan officers' biases to affect lending decisions, in actual practice those algorithms still result in higher interest rates for black and Latinx borrowers, even when their credit scores are exactly the same as white customers.

Yes, we have made the robots racist.

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Class War

Congress Slaps TurboTax Right In The Dick, For America

Well-done, ProPublica!

Congress is running away in shame and taking back a very big gift to the very profitable tax preparation industry, thanks to public opposition following a tenacious investigation by ProPublica. The series showed, in outrageous detail, the big tax prep companies doing all they could to steer taxpayers away from software the companies had agreed to provide for free. In April, the House passed the "Taxpayer First Act," which would make permanent the "Free File" arrangement that currently sends taxpayers to use private companies' "free" tax software -- which they then won't let you use but shunt you off to the paid version. But the bill stalled in the Senate, so now the Free File section will be stripped out of a new version of the bill, which still "contains a range of provisions including restrictions on the private debt collection of unpaid taxes," so hooray for real consumer protection.

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2020 presidential election

Liz Warren And Joe Biden's Climate Plans: Maybe We WON'T All Die In A Fire-nado?

Vote smart: It's only life on Earth.

Elizabeth Warren, look what you've done! Suddenly, EVERYBODY is releasing great big policy papers so they can try to keep up with you. Way to go -- now all we need to do is let the cable shows know that there are plenty of ideas to talk about in this election, not just stupid "electability" nonsense. Haha, we are a dreamer like you!

Yesterday, Joe Biden released a great big climate plan, and it is good! And Elizabeth Warren, who's been incorporating climate action across several policy proposals instead of doing one single climate document, released a biggie, a proposal for expanding American industry in green manufacturing, exports, and trade policy. Let's take a look at both of 'em!

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Media/Entertainment

In Fight Between Nancy Pelosi And Facebook, Laura Ingraham Chooses White Supremacists

You are shocked, shocked.

Professional terrible person Laura Ingraham was in the highest possible dudgeon last night over what her diseased mind believes are Democrats' attempts to "shut down the Right." She called out recent comments from Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton that Ingraham admits sound superficially "innocent" yet when you "dig deeper," there's something "far more nefarious at play." That's the same sort of conspiracy-laced explanation your cousin gives for why he doesn't have a credit card.

Pelosi and Clinton both dragged Facebook over the company's refusal to pull an obviously doctored video of the House Speaker looking like a common Dame Peggington. Pelosi used to give Facebook the benefit of the doubt. Maybe it was just too stupid and millennial to understand that it was helping spread Russian propaganda. She's past that now, which is why you shouldn't enable the defamation of someone's character. It can ruin a relationship. Clinton, during a commencement address at Hunter College, called the video "sexist trash" that even YouTube took down. Ingraham considered this the first strike against freedom and democracy.

INGRAHAM: They're trying to bully social media, satirists, people with comedic flair.

On the "Lucifer" TV series, the Devil describes hell as a "torture of your own making filled by guilt with a little bit of flair thrown in for fun." Maybe that's what Ingraham means because the doctored video isn't "satire." It's not a "Saturday Night Live" sketch where a reasonable person understands that Kate McKinnon isn't actually Pelosi. Just as there's no crying in baseball, there's no "comedic flair" in libel.

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2020 presidential election

Jay Inslee Has A Climate Plan And It's A DAMN WHOPPER

Green Dreams are made of this. Who are we to disagree?

Washington governor and 2020 presidential candidate Jay Inslee has just published his comprehensive climate policy plan, a whopper of a proposal to restructure the US economy to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2030 and create millions of new jobs in the process. It's a doozy, at 15,000 words, but wow, even if he's not on the 2020 Dem ticket, could the nominee please promise to appoint Inslee as climate czar? The proposal, called the "Evergreen Economy Plan," invokes the New Deal, and is green AF, but doesn't actually use the phrase "Green New Deal," even though it overlaps a whole hell of a lot with the general GND framework. We shall Wonksplain, but first, let's get one thing very clear: Jay Inslee will not outlaw cows.

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Science

Has Your Granny Been Censored By Facebook? President Trump Is Standing By!

Why's your granny such a nazi, anyway?

Normal people do not lose their shit over a Facebook post that no one likes. We've all had it happen. Maybe your friends were watching Game of Thrones, maybe they all secretly hate you, maybe they're trying to tell you that paella with raisins is gross, Karen. Similarly, a not-crazy person notices that one of the thousands of people they follow isn't showing up in their Twitter feed and thinks, "Algorithms are stupid. I'll just click over and fave a couple of that guy's posts, and it should work itself out." The White House is not looking for those people.

If you are a paste-munching loon who thinks that @Jack and Zuck are OUT TO CENSOR YOU!!!1!! and steal your many hundreds of very real followers, then the White House invites you to step right this way and speak to the manager immediately!

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Nice Time

All These Nice Things Rock Like A Mother

BABY FOX BABIES, and some longreads and stuff

Happy Mother's Day, Wonkers! It's time for your weekly escape from the awful news of the week, which will still be there when you're ready to start paying attention to it again. Yr Dok Zoom is coming off a much-needed vacation since Wednesday, and wow did we ever need that chance to recharge our batteries. (Which involved shopping for a hybrid car; so hey, actual batteries.) So here we are, dragging our ass back to work and bringing you the Nice Things!

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Tech

Please Break Up Facebook, Says Co-Founder, Before Zuckerberg Kills Us All

Chris Hughes shreds old college buddy Mark in New York Times op-ed.

The weird thing about Facebook is that we all [most -- ed] still use it. The social media giant quite possibly helped destroy the country, but whatevs. There was also a major motion picture that depicted Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, as a Bond villain in flip-flops. Stock prices only increased. Do we really need cat videos that much? Probably, but Facebook doesn't have to be the sole provider of time-wasting and data mining.

Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook, thinks it's time to break up and actually regulate the company. In a New York Times op-ed today, Hughes argues that Facebook has grown "too big and too powerful." He also fears that Zuckerberg's "unchecked power" is taking him into cat-stroking diabolical mastermind territory.

HUGHES: Mark's influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook's board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook's algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

Hughes goes on to describe Zuckerberg as a "good, kind man," which in context sounds like Mark Antony subtweeting Brutus at Caesar's funeral. It angers him that Zuckerberg sacrificed "security and civility" for his own personal ambition ... like all "good, kind people" do, we guess. He also accuses Zuckerberg of surrounding himself with a bunch of sycophants and yes men who don't challenge him. But Hughes doesn't just rag on his old college buddy. He's also "disappointed" that he and the early Facebook crew didn't fully consider how the social media site would go on to "change our culture, influence elections and empower nationalist leaders." This is probably why "startup Facebook," along with baby Hitler, is a major target for time-traveling assassins.

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Nice Time

We've Got Some AI-Generated Nice Things For You Today. Isn't That Nice?

Attention Hu-Mons: AI-generated racehorses, AI-generated Death Metal, & some carbon-based neat stuff.

If it's Sunday, then it must be time for some of those Nice Things we need to keep us going! Have another cup of coffee, turn off the damn news, and relax for a little while, won't you? Honest, the jerkwads and evil will be waiting when we get back, and you need a little time to recharge. Today: The Robot FUNpocalypse -- and other stuff!

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