Assorted links for Monday

The Tragedy of Donald I: Act 1, Scene 1. The Trump story as told by Ellis Wiener (aka Will Shakespeare). Now is the discount of our winter tents.

If wind and solar power are quicker and cheaper, do we really ned Hinkley Point?. Thoughtful piece by Terry Macalister.

Brexit Armageddon was a terrifying vision – but it simply hasn’t happened. Strange piece by Larry Elliott, normally a pretty thoughtful economics editor, which seems to draw premature conclusions from a few weeks’ data. Still, he did vote for Brexit, so perhaps there’s an element of wish-fulfilment here?

Journalists grappling with Trump, day 2. Very insightful blog post by Dave Winer on why American journalism can’t handle Trump. For example, why no explicit discussion of his implicit encouragement of assassination as a way of overcoming political obstacles? Winer asks why journalists weren’t talking about the substance of what Trump said, as opposed to trying to discern why he said it.

Trump’s win-win scenario

Further to John Cassidy’s musings about what Trump is up to, this NYT OpEd by Neal Gabler is interesting:

People run for the presidency for all sorts of reasons. But Donald J. Trump may be the first to run because he sees a presidential campaign as the best way to attract attention to himself. There seems to be no other driving passion in him, certainly not the passion to govern.

He isn’t an ideologue like Ted Cruz, an opportunist like Marco Rubio, a movement builder like Bernie Sanders, a political legatee like Jeb Bush or a policy wonk like Hillary Clinton. For all of them — for any serious candidate — attention is a byproduct of a campaign, not its engine. For Mr. Trump, attention is the whole shebang.

That may be the lesson of his campaign “shake up” earlier this week. The shift is from politics to grabbing attention, and, quite possibly, from winning the election to winning the defeat, which is how he has spent practically his entire career…

Fascinating. Might mean that those of us who are watching the campaign as though it’s about ‘politics’ might be being naive!

Dispatch from a vanished media universe

The New Yorker recently republished Calvin Trillin’s wonderful profile of R.W. ‘Johnny’ Apple, the famous New York Times journalist.


There is a consensus in the trade, I am pleased to report, that Johnny Apple—R. W. Apple, Jr., of the New York Times — is a lot easier to take now than he once was. Even Apple believes that. When I asked him not long ago about the paragraph in Gay Talese’s 1969 book on the Times, “The Kingdom and the Power,” which presents him as a brash young eager beaver, he said it was, alas, “quite an accurate portrait,” although he doesn’t recall boasting in the newsroom that while covering the war in Vietnam he had personally killed a few Vietcong—the remark that, in Talese’s account, led an older reporter to say, “Women and children, I presume.” In speaking of those early days, Apple said, “I was desperate to prove myself.” You could argue, I suppose, that, in the words of a longtime colleague, “he doesn’t have to argue the case anymore.”

It’s long, but well worth a read. A report from a vanished media world.

Sharp practice at the FT? Or just sub-editorial licence?


Now, what does this column heading in the FT Magazine suggest? That the paper’s star American editor was on holiday with the Prez.

The impression is corroborated by the puff on the front of the paper.


Now, here’s what the piece actually says:

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend with friends on Martha’s Vineyard. This verdant island off the coast of Massachusetts has long been a playground for the well-heeled, (mostly) liberal crowd, epitomised by the Kennedys and Clintons…

The ‘friends’, however, were not the Obamas. And the article is mostly a complaint about how inconvenient the presence of the President and his entourage makes life in the Vineyard for the mostly well-heeled liberal crowd.

One expects this kind of misleading puffery from the Daily Mail. But from the august FT???

Phones, photography and the Snapchat factor

This morning’s Observer column:

Living and working, as I do, in a historic city that is swamped by tourists in the summer, I regularly get the opportunity to do some photo-ethnography. You can tell someone’s age by the kind of camera they are using. Elderly folks are still using point-and-shoot compacts. Middle-aged folks are sporting “prosumer” digital single-lens reflex cameras (DSLRs) from Canon, Nikon, Fuji and Panasonic. But as far as I can see, everyone under the age of 25 is using a smartphone, possibly with the assistance of a selfie stick.

This is partly because the main reason young people take photographs is to post them on social media, and smartphones make that easy to do. But that’s not the whole story. Those who are more serious about photography tend to upload their pictures to photo-hosting services such as Flickr. Guess what the most popular camera for Flickr members is? Apple’s iPhone – by a mile… Read on

Assorted links for Saturday

Joe Stieglitz on what’s wrong with the EU, why policy-makers persist with bad ideas, and more.

“The concept of ‘cat face'”. Terrific (long) LRB article by Paul Taylor on machine learning. Best non-technical account I’ve seen.

The leak of alleged NSA hacking tools is genuine. For those who are interested in the UK’s Investigatory Powers bill, this is what ‘Equipment Interference’ looks like.

The 98 things that Facebook knows about you — just so you get the right ads, you understand.

A new kind of apprenticeship

Now here’s a really interesting idea. The Office of national Statistics is offering data analytics apprenticeships to school leavers with good mathematics results.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has begun recruiting the UK’s first data analytics apprentices.

Aimed at people with relevant A levels or equivalent experience, the ONS data analytics apprenticeships scheme provides an opportunity for talented individuals to work on some of the most exciting analytical and policy questions facing decision-makers and wider society. The scheme will lead to an accredited level 4 diploma.

ONS Deputy National Statistician for Data Capability Heather Savory said: “ONS is looking for the best people to take full advantage of cutting edge tools and technologies and to help ONS make the most of the data revolution.

“Our role here at ONS is to provide high quality, trustworthy and relevant analytical evidence about our economy and society to help people make informed decisions. There could not be a better and more exciting time to join us, and start a career in data analytics as the UK’s first apprentices in this field.”

There are six places on the scheme, based at the ONS’s Newport office, where its new Data Science Campus is located…

Terrific idea. Terrific. Also neatly undermines the widespread notion that apprenticeships are all about plumbing.

Assorted links for Friday

Intellectuals are freaks – and that’s not a criticism.

The Best Bookshops in Copenhagen. If you like bookshops (and I do), Copenhagen is a great place to live.

Puzzled by the rise of Snapchat? Hint: it’s about fleeing the performance anxiety induced by Facebook and Instagram. Perceptive piece by Farad Manjoo. There is, however, a downside: people want to escape the news.

Twitter suspends 235,000 more accounts over extremism. Yep, that’s 235,000. But Trump is still there.

If you think the US Presidential election is over, think again

If, like me, you consult Nate Silver’s prediction page (which is updated every two hours) then you may have relaxed a bit. I’ve just looked at it and it’s currently showing a 78.4% to 21.6% margin for Clinton in its ‘polls+forecast’ estimate, and a 89.5% to 10.5% margin if the election were held today. So the prospects for a Trump win look dim.

But something happened yesterday that might change things. Trump appointed a guy called Steve Bannon, the brains behind Breibart News, as his new campaign chief. The mainstream media are largely unimpressed by this move – just another right-wing nutter hooking up with Trump. (Roger Ailes, ex Fox News, is also aboard, apparently.)

I’m not so sanguine. Bannon may be very right-wing, but he’s not a nutter. See this long 2015 Bloomberg profile for a good impression of how he operates. Most importantly, he probably knows more about the strange finances of the Clinton Foundation than any man living. My hunch is that Hillary is in for a rougher ride than most people expected. Stay tuned.

LATER Interesting New Yorker piece by John Cassidy touting a conspiracy theory that I hadn’t heard before. The gist of it is that Trump knows that he’s bound to lose, and that that’s of little concern to him, because what he’s after is the creation of a new media empire focussed on the segment of the population that he’s identified as being under-served by mainstream media — even Fox News.

Here’s the relevant extract:

The appointment of Bannon isn’t merely another affront to establishment Republicans, such as Paul Ryan, whom Breitbart News has lately been targeting. It is an acknowledgment by Trump that he no longer has any interest in modifying his strategy to appeal to college-educated voters in places like the suburbs of Philadelphia and Milwaukee, where he is running miles behind where Mitt Romney was in 2012. Instead, he has decided to retreat to his base, which is a surefire recipe for political failure. But not necessarily business failure.

Back in June, Vanity Fair’s Sarah Ellison reported that Trump was “considering creating his own media business, built on the audience that has supported him thus far in his bid to become the next president of the United States.” A person briefed on Trump’s thinking told Ellison that it went like this: “Win or lose, we are onto something here. We’ve triggered a base of the population that hasn’t had a voice in a long time.” One of Ellison’s sources also reported that Trump resents the fact that he has helped raise the ratings of certain news organizations, such as CNN, without getting a cut of the additional revenues. Trump has “gotten the bug,” the source said, “so now he wants to figure out if he can monetize it.”

Bannon, a former investment banker who took over Breitbart News in 2012, after the sudden death of its eponymous founder, also has large ambitions, and they involve taking on the mighty Fox News…

Interesting, eh?