Big Tech has no friends in Washington anymore

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QUOTE OF THE DAY

“The CEOs don’t want to be testifying. Even having this collective hearing creates a sense of quasi-guilt just because of who else has gotten called in like this – Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Banks. That’s not a crowd they want to be associated with.”Paul Gallant, a tech policy analyst, on Wednesday’s Big Tech antitrust House hearing.

WHAT’S HAPPENING

Bill Barr 5Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Big Four tech CEOs will testify Wednesday before the House antitrust subcommittee. In the most anticipated antitrust hearings in decades, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, and Google bosses will be interrogated about a variety of market-dominating practices.

AG Bill Barr is testifying before the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats are challenging him on his intervention in the Stone and Flynn cases, the Lafayette Square assault, and the Portland protests, among other matters. Barr is unapologetic and accused Democrats of trying to discredit him.

The Trump campaign has “masked” $US170 million in campaign spending, alleges campaign finance watchdog. The nonpartisan Campaign Legal Centre filed a complaint with the FEC that that campaign “disguised” spending by funelling it through organisations controlled by people involved in the campaign, such as Brad Parscale. The FEC has no quorum and so can’t enforce campaign finance laws.

The Trump administration dispatched another 100 federal agents to Portland. They join the 114 feds already there. Nightly protests have grown since the feds stepped up their presence two weeks ago.

VIEWS OF THE DAY

Big tech ceosANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images/Rich Fury/Getty Images/Stephen J. Cohen/WireImage/Mateusz Wlodarczyk/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Big Tech has no friends in Washington

On Wednesday the CEOs of the four biggest tech companies – Amazon, Facebook, Google and Apple – will testify before a House subcommittee via Zoom. They will have no friends.

Over the last few years both Republicans and Democrats have begun to look at Silicon Valley with a great deal of scepticism, and there are now pro-antitrust factions on both sides of the aisle. This hearing will be conducted by the House Judiciary subcommittee on antitrust, which is helmed by Democratic Rep. David Cicilline. The committee has a history of supporting antitrust legislation that goes back to before the Trump administration started. Expect the politicians on this subcommittee to know their stuff in a way we have not seen in previous hearings.

It’s also become clear that politicians on both sides of the aisle think they can score political points with their base by beating up on these executives. On Monday, GOP Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida – who is more known for partisan stunts than any productive legislation – filed a criminal referral to the Department of Justice for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Gaetz accused Zuckerberg of lying to Congress in 2018 when Zuckerberg denied that there was any bias against conservative speech on Facebook.

Facebook’s own internal reports actually show a bias toward conservative content, and the top 10 most shared posts on the platform every day are consistently from conservative outlets. But it’s clear Gaetz thinks his base will appreciate this spectacle.

A few things to know going in:

  • Americans are forming fewer small businesses than they ever have in decades.
  • In this hearing Facebook is going to try to argue that we need it to counter similar platforms coming out of China. I don’t expect anyone on this subcommittee to buy that argument, especially not when it comes to breaking up Instagram, Facebook, and Whatsapp.
  • Expect Jeff Bezos to get beat up over the fact that Amazon pays so little tax. In 2019 Amazon paid about $US162 million in federal tax while rival Wal-Mart paid $US3 billion.
  • Apple will likely get knocked for “rent seeking,” as gatekeeper to the app market. Spotify has been arguing that Apple Music has an unfair advantage because it doesn’t have to pay Apple to be in the App Store. It will also get knocked for undercutting rivals with Apple TV+.
  • Google will, of course, be called to answer for its dominance over search and the hellscape that is YouTube. -LL

Yes, but “Big Tech” has a point: It’s a global market. If we hobble US companies, we’ll open the door even wider for China, et al.

Many Americans are frustrated with the power and influence of tech-powered American companies like Facebook, Google, Apple, and Amazon. The answer, many people say, is to break the companies up.

At the same time, many Americans worry that heavily regulated American companies are losing ground to companies based in other countries that aren’t subject to the same rules.

Well, we can’t have it both ways.

We live in a global economy, with global companies. If we want US companies to be competitive with global companies, we need to remember that US regulators don’t set the rules for the whole world. – HB

More local COVID deaths mean less support for Trump

Houston Texas hospital coronavirusMARK FELIX/AFP via Getty ImagesHealthcare workers push a patient into a less intensive unit from the Covid-19 Unit at United Memorial Medical Centre in Houston, Texas on July 2, 2020.

President Trump was “bored” by the pandemic, until he realised it was hitting “our people.” Here’s why he better keep paying attention to Covid.

In a remarkable display of data wizardry, the New York Times merges disparate information about COVID and polls to show that higher local death rates are associated with a drop in support for Trump and other Republican candidates.

The drop isn’t huge: A doubled death rate causes Republicans to lose one-third of a point. But it’s real: That decline is not occurring in states such as Wyoming that have so far ducked Covid. The Times likens this Covid shadow to historical polls showing that combat deaths grind down politicians’ popular support.

If this effect continues through Election Day, it could make a genuine difference in presidential swing states and tight Senate races, given that the virus is ravaging Arizona, Florida, Texas, and Georgia.

More than anything, this data might cause President Trump to keep paying attention to the pandemic. Even if he cares little about Americans in swing states dying, he cares a lot about Americans in swing states voting. – DP

Yes, this Georgia Senate ad was anti-Semitic

GOP Sen. David Perdue of Georgia has yanked down a Facebook ad he was running against Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff. The ad showed a photo of Ossoff in which his nose – and only his nose – was digitally lengthened and widened, along with a message that Democrats were trying “to buy” Georgia. The ad also included an image of Sen. Chuck Schumer, who, like Ossoff, is a Jewish Democrat.

Perdue’s campaign deleted the ad, feebly claiming that an “unintentional error” by a contractor had distorted the photo, and that Perdue had never seen it.

But this is textbook anti-Semitism, Jews trying to use their money to deceive the good people of Georgia. It’s not even a dog whistle. It’s a whistle. – DP

Disney is strange during COVID Times

Disney World Masks coronavirus castleqJoe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)Disney World guests wear masks in front of the park’s iconic castle on the first day of re-opening following a nearly four-month shutdown due to the coronavirus. Florida continues to be one of the worst-hit sates by the

The parks are largely empty, public health warnings klaxon every few minutes, the costumed characters keep their distance, you never have to wait in line, Graeme Wood writes in the Atlantic.

“The experience of Disney World under these circumstances is one of unsettling solitude‚Ķ.What is an amusement park in which visible smiles are forbidden, and laughter and screams of delight are muffled to the point of inaudibility?”

Working there is not so hotsy-totsy either. An anonymous Epcot employee describes their job now as an experience of cognitive dissonance – trying to maintain the trademark Disney good cheer while being deadly serious about masks and distancing. – DP

Is it just me, or does $US250 billion seem cheap for some peace of mind?

Republicans have released their proposal to Democrats for the next coronavirus aid bill. It includes reducing the federal boost to unemployment checks from $US600 a week to $US200 a week. Then in October states would start reimbursing 70% of pre-pandemic wages.

Analysts at Raymond James estimate this plan will cost $US100 billion. Keeping the $US600 a week payments til the end of the year would cost $US250 billion more.

Maybe I’ve become desensitised to eye-popping numbers. Maybe I just remember that the Federal Reserve spent $US500 billion buying corporate bonds a few months ago and no one batted an eye, so what’s $US250 billion to keep people in their homes during a pandemic?

After all, the sooner the government gets the pandemic under control, the sooner people can get to work. Until that happens, Republicans are trying to push people to go back to jobs that don’t exist. The people who should really be pressured into going to work right now are in Washington. – LL

BUSINESS & ECONOMY

Ed Yardeni: Stock investors could be “delusional” if prices continue to rise faster than earnings forecasts. He also said the V-shaped recovery of May and June looks like it’s stalling.

The top 5 cities for young professionals in 2020. Based on job opportunities, number of millennial residents, and access to affordable housing, Cambridge, Mass. is tops, but both DC and Arlington, Virginia make the list.

LIFE

Olympics simone bilesClive Brunskill/Getty ImagesSimone Biles performs on the beam during the 2016 Rio Olympic Games


Jaw-dropping images of Simone Biles, the most dominant athlete on the planet. In a regular time, she’d be crushing it at the Tokyo Olympics this week.

There are 16 EGOT winners, and one double winner. Here they all are.

THE BIG 3*

Donald Trump Jr.REUTERS/Rick WilkingDonald Trump Jr.

Hundreds of teenagers wrecked a mini-golf facility in Memphis. The Putt-Putt Fun Centre closed because of overcrowding. Furious that they didn’t get refunds, the kids vandalised it.

Twitter limited Donald Trump Jr.’s account and deleted a tweet. He had shared COVID misinformation about hydroxychloroquine from controversial Houston doctor.

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