Let Them Eat Crack
tuesday report #14 // dueling urban chaos stories (crime: pretty bad, or a good thing actually?); tech winter meets AI spring; a white pill microdose to keep us going
Welcome back to the Pirate Wires weekly digest. Every week, the Tuesday Report delivers a brief, lead story followed by a storm of fire links to catch you up on everything you need to know. A couple extra bylines this time given I wrote the lead, and Nick and River tag-teamed the rest.
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“Male with machete is back.” A couple weeks ago, citing the problem of rampant crime, Whole Foods announced it was closing its newest location in downtown San Francisco, and ‘anti-corporate’ columnists for the San Francisco Chronicle laughed. But with the city’s transformation into a national symbol of ‘libs gone wild,’ Machine Democrats have begun to turn against their crazy base. Following the Chronicle’s latest attempt at normalizing violence, insanity, and endemic human misery, the New York Times sharply dissented with reporting that seemed to indicate a belief San Francisco’s government was responsible for maintaining law and order — even at Whole Foods. The dueling stories, sharply at odds, are a bellwether for conflict within the ranks of America’s political left, now in heated disagreement over the question of crime. Namely: should crime be considered criminal again, or is the existence of crime actually just a figment of the panicky fascist’s imagination?
Well, gotta hear both sides. Let’s start with the crazy assholes.
Immediately following the Whole Foods closure, the Chronicle’s coverage wasn’t actually terrible. First, a couple reporters accurately covered the shutdown as it was happening, and a third followed up the next day with a story about a drug addict who died in the store’s bathroom, which was possibly the final straw for management. But as the days followed, and the issue became politicized, the Chronicle pivoted with a piece from Nuala Bishari and Soleil Ho. The real reason Whole Foods closed? They tried selling caviar to poor people, and poor people can’t afford caviar. Business 101!
Almost every note in this piece is a banger: daily violent crime is not a problem, our justice warriors argue, “national pundits” who talk about crime are a problem; Whole Foods is mockingly referred to as a “corporate victim,” with the implication being no such thing exists, and theft from Whole Foods is therefore not a crime at all; impoverished locals are implicitly characterized as uniformly criminal, with a recurring, dehumanizing reference to the actual criminals and meth-addicted psychopaths making their lives hell as simple community members “in need;” people who live and work in the area are not worried about theft or drugs or violence, it is casually noted with no citation, they are worried about the prospect of more police at Whole Foods; and then, most importantly, the company didn’t properly research the area. If Amazon executives had done their job, they would have known [more uncomfortable implications about everyone who lives in the area, while also framing these people as victims, while also arguing it’s fine these people lost their only grocery store because farmers markets still exist].
Case closed? Not quite.
The New York Times helpfully provided a few further details:
People threatened employees with guns, knives and sticks. They flung food, screamed, fought and tried to defecate on the floor, according to records of 568 emergency calls over 13 months, many depicting scenes of mayhem.
“Male w/machete is back,” the report on one 911 call states. “Another security guard was just assaulted,” another says. A man with a four-inch knife attacked several security guards, then sprayed store employees with foam from a fire extinguisher, according to a third.
In September, a 30-year-old man died in the bathroom from an overdose of fentanyl, a highly potent opioid, and methamphetamine.
Say it with me one more time: MALE WITH MACHETE IS BACK. 568 emergency calls over 13 months means endangered workers called for help almost twice a day, and the city did nothing.
By reacting to a controversy over rampant violent crime with a position amounting to “evil corporation turns nose up at poors” the Chronicle’s two main points implicitly reduce to 1) the very existence of some grocery stores is de facto immoral, and 2) every poor person is a criminal. This first point is just insane, so whatever, we’re setting it aside. But the second point is important — I think they really do believe this, whether they realize it themselves or not, and the notion needs to be unpacked.
Leading up to the Chronicle’s piece, local fury surrounding Whole Foods had nothing to do with poor people. Criticism centered on crime, and especially the city’s government, which has effectively legalized crime. Back here on earth, the average person understands most poor people aren't criminals, but they are disproportionately victims of crime. They also need to eat. And yes, despite the Chronicle’s almost belligerently ignorant argument to the contrary, poor people are capable of shopping at Whole Foods.
I’ll probably get shit for this extremely obvious statement of fact, but only middle class Americans are priced out of Whole Foods, and thanks to housing policies resultant of the Chronicle’s preferred politics, middle class Americans don’t exist in San Francisco. Over a tenth of the country is on food stamps, and we’re no longer living in the days of government cheese; Whole Foods accepts food aid, a practice increasingly standard pretty much everywhere. That Nuala and Soleil don’t know this says more about their “privilege,” their strange quest to help poor people by starving them, and their strange belief that being attacked with a knife at work is not a big deal than it does about corporate greed, or gentrification, or whatever other leftist bogeyman they’d rather focus on than legalized urban hell. Whole Foods isn’t only selling “gourmet cheese and caviar,” which, as dumb as these women seem to be, I think they have to know. Whole Foods is selling groceries, which people need to live. Milk, eggs, produce, meat, grain — all of these things are more expensive in corner stores. Oh well, says the columnist on behalf of the poors, let them eat crack.
The Times is standing firm, now, on the question of crime. Their position? It’s bad. Maybe it’s a moral position, or maybe Donald Trump has already made urban decay a cornerstone of his campaign, and Machine Democrats understand if they want to win the next election they’ll have to at least pretend the existence of grocery stores is preferable to coddling a “community member in need,” who is by the way wielding a literal machete, and threatening to kill the cashier.
THIS WEEK IN PIRATE WIRES
Dispatch from the front lines of ByteDance’s new social media app. Lemon8, marketed as the lovechild of Pinterest and Instagram, is surging in popularity in the US. Specializing in beauty and wellness content, this one is for the girlies (or, the hot, rich girlies, anyway). After spending some time on the app, Nick Russo describes the vibe as follows: a land of demigoddesses telling their followers that they, too, can be divine — in three simple steps, on a budget. The name of the game is flaunting unattainable beauty, then assuring the envious onlooker they can reach the same aesthetic heights. Read more here.
The White Pill: A Glimpse of Intelligence as a Commodity. In this week’s White Pill — our weekly roundup of evocative, inspiring, and excellent news on the frontiers of tech, science, space, and medicine — our lead story is about Grimes’ intention to license her ‘voiceprint’ to anyone who wants it and split the revenue with anyone who comes up with a banger (she detailed her plan on Sunday, a day after the Pill had published). Also: “holy grail” of hearing loss discovered, fascinating study on ‘human hibernation’, rocket plume ballistics on Mars, and tons more. Read it.
We don’t have a child labor problem, we have an immigration problem. States seeking to loosen child labor restrictions have faced a backlash from the left, which accused them of rolling back progress. However, progress on child labor has already been rolled back — not because of a change to child labor law, but because of a change in immigration policy. Concerned about the optics of “kids in cages,” the Biden administration is handing over migrant children to human traffickers who force them to work long hours for food, rent, and smuggling fees under the guise of “sponsorship.” Read more here.
Snap reports first sales decline since going public (NYT)
Meta: revenue up, spending up, profits down (NYT)
Lyft ends its remote work era (NYT)
Clubhouse axes half its staff (Axios)
Amazon’s growth is from ad business, not web services (Axios)
U.K. blocks Microsoft-Activision deal. Microsoft offered $69 billion to acquire video game giant Activision Blizzard. In the US, the FTC already expressed interest in blocking the deal. Tech antitrust advocates hail the ruling as a big win. (NYT)
Judge denies Google’s motion to dismiss digital ad antitrust suit. Another small win for the antitrust camp. (WSJ)
Meta secures dismissal of antitrust suits re: Whatsapp, Instagram acquisitions. This case sends exactly the opposite signal, as 48 U.S. states and territories could not muster the firepower to overcome Meta’s motion to dismiss the case from a federal appeals court. (Axios)
Coinbase rolls up sleeves, preps for SEC fight. In March, the SEC sent Coinbase a Wells notice, which typically means a lawsuit is in the pipeline. Last week, Coinbase clapped back in a public statement: “Each of the [SEC’s] purported legal theories—to the extent they can be discerned—is unsupported by law, untested in court, and likely to result in unintended consequences for the Commission, investors, and markets far beyond the digital asset industry.” (Axios)
Youtube music contractors unionize. More accurately: 49 of them, who work for a company called Cognizant. The NLRB recently accepted their argument that Google is their joint employer, but Google is appealing the ruling, so it’s not yet clear if this unionization vote actually matters. (Axios)
Former Apple employee sentenced to prison over $17M fraud scheme. Dhirenda Prasad will serve 3 years in prison after defrauding the company and failing to report his illegal earnings to the IRS. (The Hill)
New York transit authority quits Twitter. Officially because the “reliability of the platform can no longer be guaranteed.” Actually because the act has become a left wing virtue signal. (NYT)
Bluesky gaining steam. Media clout chasers are on their hands and knees begging for an invitation to the Twitter-like social network meant to guarantee immunity to speech-policing. (NYT)
Compact Mag: “We Must Declare Jihad Against A.I.” Two questions. First, must we? Second, I’m all for cultural appropriation, but can I humbly suggest we stick to appropriating good things, as opposed to the concept of violent holy war? (Compact)
Elon, Chuck Schumer chat about AI policy. Schumer’s been circulating an AI policy framework among experts, and Elon’s been vocal about the dangers of AI, while also working on an OpenAI competitor. It’s anyone’s guess what they talked about, but here’s to hoping neither of them read Compact. (Axios)
PwC announces $1 billion in AI investments over next three years (Axios)
Italy lifts ChatGPT ban after OpenAI modifies privacy policies. LOL @ Europe. (WSJ)
Screenwriter, actor unions want limits on AI in Hollywood. Below, a sample of the horror that has brought them to their knees. (NYT)
WHITE PILL MICRODOSE
Axon rolling out improved non-lethal weapons for police. The TASER manufacturer is looking to cut fatal police shootings 50% in 10 years by equipping officers with more effective, less deadly weapons. In a functional techno-utopia, investments in non-lethal weapons tech would’ve skyrocketed in 2020. (Freethink)
SpaceX eyes another early summer Starship launch. It appears the company will not be skipping a beat after the largest rocket ever launched eviscerated its launchpad. Godspeed, gentlemen, please conquer the cosmos. (WSJ)
Aurora taps Continental to help bring self-driving trucks to market. While we’re colonizing Mars, truck crash fatalities here on Earth will be eradicated. (Axios)
Feds seize First Republic Bank, sell to JP Morgan (NYT)
Vice might be headed for bankruptcy. The company has already shut down its global news and video game divisions, and unless it finds a buyer in the next few weeks, anonymous insiders say it’s toast. (NYT)
Disney slaps DeSantis with First Amendment lawsuit (NYT)
Florida legislature paves way for DeSantis presidential run. They passed an elections bill clarifying that he would not have to resign as governor early if he ran for president. (NYT)
Biden officially announces re-election bid. He made the announcement in a video which referenced “MAGA extremists.” (NYT)
Chief Justice’s wife paid handsomely by elite law firms after husband’s confirmation. Jane Roberts, wife of US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions at a legal headhunting firm between 2007 and 2014. The whistleblower alleges she “restructured her career” to benefit from her husband's position. (Business Insider)
NYC Mayor Eric Adams becomes unlikely GOP ally on immigration. The Democrat recently said the city is “being destroyed by the migrant crisis,” and that Joe Biden has “failed” New York on immigration. (Politico)
California to ban sales of new diesel trucks by 2036. The new mandate will deliver the state an estimated $26.5 billion in public health benefits, according to (completely unbiased) regulators. Given two Pirate Wires writers — River and Nick — grew up in the boonies, we consider this a hate crime. (CNBC)
Congressmen move to protect U.S. tech companies in Hong Kong. Under the bill, the Commerce Department would have to “compile a report detailing instances in which the Hong Kong government issues demands to U.S. firms.” (National Review)
Sequoia Capital gearing up for restrictions on U.S. tech investment in China. With the Biden Administration mulling limits for U.S. investments in Chinese semiconductor and AI companies, the major Chinese startup funder has hired Beacon Global Strategies, a leading national security consulting firm. (The Information)
The Kingdom of Bhutan has been running a secret Bitcoin mining operation. It and El Salvador are the only two countries known to have state-run Bitcoin mines. Chips are now Bhutan’s most valuable import, overtaking oil, steel, and rice. (Forbes)
R-rated Winnie the Pooh spinoff in the works. A successful Winnie the Pooh slasher film has spawned a new TV series. Tentatively titled “Christopher Robin,” it’s about “a disillusioned New Yorker navigating his quarter-life crisis with the help of the weird talking animals who live beyond a drug-induced portal outside his derelict apartment complex.” In another time, perhaps people would just make a show about a hallucinating drug addict without implicating Winnie the Pooh. But it’s 2023, and there can be nothing new on this earth. (Variety)
Montana Governor's he/they son comes out against drag- and trans-related bills. David Gianforte confronted his father over three bills currently percolating through Montana’s legislature: one banning medical transition for children, one defining sex as binary, and one banning public drag performances. The younger Gianforte never before spoke publicly about his non-binary identity. (Montana Free Press)
Mattel releases Down’s Syndrome Barbie. Belligerent rightwing pundits were faced with a pressing choice: was this another cringey case of corporate wokeness, or was it in fact a based pro-life stance in a world where genetics-informed abortion threatens to eradicate Down’s Syndrome? Of course, real men had to pick one or the other, because the populist right’s Howard Zinn moment is in full swing: you can’t be neutral on a moving train, and you certainly can’t ignore the latest Barbie merch drop. (Twitter)
Anheuser Busch faces calls to reaffirm support for trans community. After receiving massive pushback for their Dylan Mulvaney sponsorship, the Human Rights Campaign demands the makers of Bud Light double down. (The Hill)
Did a trans lawmaker in Minnesota try to outlaw discrimination against pedophiles? Depends on who you ask. Leigh Finke proposed removing a clause from the state code specifying pedophilia is not a protected category of sexual identity. To the unassuming observer, Finke was rejecting the problematic notion that the clause was even necessary — of course pedophilia isn’t a sexual identity. To Gays Against Groomers, the amendment was a Trojan Horse for preventing the ill-treatment of child rapists. Finke’s camp is adamant pedophiles would still be treated as criminals, but, even if that’s true, why are legislators sensitivity-reading state codes instead of, idk, doing literally anything of the slightest material importance? (Fox) (Yahoo)
Should indecent exposure to a minor be a felony? After a string of locally high-profile incidents — e.g., men publicly masturbating in the presence of young girls, getting released on misdemeanor charges, then doing the same thing only two months later! — Colorado legislators decided enough was enough, these sickos should be treated as felons. Some of their Democratic colleagues said: not so fast, if we make indecent exposure to minors a felony, won’t that put drag queens and the trans community at risk? Guys, if we can’t unite against deranged dudes sexually traumatizing little girls, then we’re not gonna make it. (Twitter)
Noam Chomsky, CIA director among latest drop of Epstein associates. The latest round of Epstein affiliate name-drops comes courtesy of his private calendar, which to the surprise of many included notorious billionaire-despiser Noam Chomsky — after Epstein was a convicted sex offender. When pressed for answers, Chomsky told the WSJ his meetings with Epstein were “none of your business.” (WSJ) (Insider) Based?
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a banger tbh
On point about the food stamps and San Francisco demographics. When COVID shut my stuff down in 2020 I got a ton of them, more than I could possibly figure out how to use on food. I would have been buying caviar at that Whole Foods if I had lived there! A single person with rollbacks would not get as much but these problems are not for lack of money to buy food. I saw a video in the aftermath of a Wal Mart that was ransacked. The saddest part of the whole thing was that although electronics and many others looked like apocalypse had struck, the produce aisle was pristine and untouched. Not a single banana or apple had been moved from their careful arrangements. This is not the sign of starving people. Just per verse incentives that lead the bad to get ahead by being that way