The Land of Somewhat Normal

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership.

S2: Hello. Welcome to the land of somewhat normal edition of Slate Money, your guide to the business and Finance News of the Week.

S3: I’m Felix Salmon of Axios here with Anna Shamansky of Breakingviews. Hello here with Emily Peck of Huff Post. Hello. And a very, very special guest. It’s caviar, Neal. She’s back on the money. There was a headline about a cock in a box being asked, and there was no there was no way that Kabi could not come back on the money. So welcome back to Candy is going to be talking to us about hacking penises. She is going to be talking to us about that’s going to go my Twitter bio-fuels. She’s going to talk to us about the parlor hack. We’re going to talk about how CEOs and corporations are exercising political power in unprecedented ways. And, of course, we are going to talk about the one point nine trillion dollar stimulus proposal that Joe Biden has just come out with. We hope it will happen. All of that coming up on Slate money. Emily, one point nine trillion dollars, I have a rule that we don’t talk about vaporware on this here show, so if someone does something big, then we talk about it. But if someone just talks about some vague promise of big things in the future, we wait until that actually happens, except for one point nine trillion dollars is so big. We should talk about this. What am I talking about?

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S4: Yeah, we should talk about it. This is the Biden coronavirus rescue plan that he unveiled on Thursday. It’s a one point nine dollars billion package. And it’s like at a store when everything is 99 cents. They couldn’t go to two trillion. They just kept at one point nine. And it includes lots of goodies. It’s basically it’s a message. And the first message is you can’t rescue the economy if you don’t stem this awful pandemic. So there’s lots of money to do that. There’s money to ramp up vaccine distribution, including like a jobs corps of people that would go out and help actually administer vaccines. There’s money for schools so they can reopen if they weren’t able to because they couldn’t afford PPE or like distancing or ventilation. There’s a lot of women stuff that makes me really super happy. There is money to rescue the ailing child care industry, which has been really in bad shape right now. This is kind of like a back door small business rescue, if you look at it in one way, because these are small businesses that are absolutely crucial to the functioning of the economy, that let allow mostly women and parents work. There’s robust paid family medical and sick leave. It’s a huge a huge momma.

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S3: And did we mention the 15 dollar minimum wage that goes on there as well and a 15 dollar minimum wage recommendation?

S4: And I believe and I was asking them about this this morning, a proposal or a pitch to get rid of the tipped minimum wage, which is like a nightmare thing we have.

S3: Yeah, that’s when they get rid of the tipped minimum wage, get rid of the low. You know, there’s a lower minimum wage for disabled people. I think getting rid of that. Yes.

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S4: Get rid of these things. They’re so discriminatory. The minimum wage really discriminates against against women, especially women of color. Right. Like in some places you make like two dollars and change an hour. It’s just it’s absolutely wild. So it’s a package that recognizes the people who have been really disproportionately hurt by the pandemic and it recognizes how the pandemic and the economy are intertwined. And I’m sure you will want to talk about how it’s also like a package that’s like, yeah, we’re going to borrow money to spend to do this. Like the deficit doesn’t matter.

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S3: There’s no pay for in this at all. This is one of the most refreshing things about this package for me is that it divorcées the taxing in the spending. Right, like fiscal policy is made up of taxes and expenditures. And in Congress for decades, there’s these two have been very closely linked. And every time you come out with a spending program, you need to come out with this thing called to pay for like some kind of like, how are you going to pay for it? And I have no problem with taxes going up, revenues going up, deficits coming down. I have no problem with that. But like, that’s separate. And so I feel like it really makes sense to me. It’s like, let’s just do the spending that we need to do. And if we need to raise taxes for whatever reason, at whatever time, we can do that in a separate bill. And you don’t need to tie them together.

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S1: Yeah. Also, because if you are significantly increasing taxes, that could also offset some of the spending that you’re doing. So while it is perfectly reasonable to say that once the economy is on sounder footing, we can consider various spending increases, I think that that’s reasonable. But I don’t think it makes any sense to do those right now when the economy is still very weak.

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S3: So, Kathy, this is every liberal’s wet dream, right? This is exactly what everyone wanted. All the right thinking leftists.

S5: Can I be honest? I didn’t read as much about it as you guys just said, but it does sound pretty good. The only sort of pause I have is what you said about like the minimum wage for people with disabilities, which is that like I have a friend who has an entire company based on giving people with disabilities an opportunity to work, and they just can’t be as productive as people without disabilities. Like she specifically wants to give them jobs. And that’s going to ruin her business. She won’t be able to employ them. You know, it’s actually a company that builds things for people with disabilities. Like it’s a really, really wonderful company that really needs that exception to stay in business. But anyway, I’m just saying, like, that’s a relatively minor detail in this larger a very good story. And I hope it works. I mean, the real question, of course, and feel like you’re right to point out that we shouldn’t pretend to pay for everything as we go. But like the real question is, can this actually happen?

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S3: It’s clear that the only reason he came out so big and so bold was because of the results of the Georgia election right now that. Yeah. Control of the Senate, he feels that he can ask for something big and it’s really interesting, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been in the pocket of the Republican Party for as long as I can remember, came out within about five minutes and said, this is a great plan. We support it. I do think there are going to be Joe Manchin, fiscally conservative Democrats who don’t want to spend this much money. But I also think it’s entirely possible, depending on how sort of constructive and cooperative Mitch McConnell is feeling, that there will be Republicans, Lisa Murkowski, people like that, who will want to sign onto this. The centerpiece of this proposal is raising the checks to two thousand six hundred. So that’s an extra fourteen hundred dollars. That’s something that not only Donald Trump has called for, but that’s something that Marco Rubio has called for. So I think it’s doable, not only doable, that they might be able to get something very similar to this through, but also given the way that horse trading works in the Senate, it’s actually possible that the total bill will become bigger rather than smaller in reconciliation. In order to get votes, they’ll throw some money, extra money at some senators pet project. And that’s going to be what gets over the line.

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S1: It’s possible that if I if I was betting, I’d say it’s probably going to be end up being slightly smaller. I mean, I think you’re right that it is entirely possible that you will get Republican support. It is entirely possible that some of the more conservative Democrats will be upset. However, I think, you know, because you have things like the two thousand dollar checks, which we can argue if that’s like the best use of, you know, there are ways you could say, well, if I cut a little bit here and then you try everything else. So I would be shocked if it was bigger.

S4: I do want to say that just seeing a coherent plan released by the president elect was really. Mind blowing to me, because I realize I mean, it’s no secret we don’t like Trump, obviously, but I realize that like this pandemic has been going on for almost a year. They never put out a plan. I never got a plan from them that I was able to understand and read that had any kind of vision or any kind of recognition of the scope of crisis we’re facing. So to bring it some positivity here, like it’s heartening to see some leadership and vision. And there’s definitely little like squabbles. I noticed, you know, progressives having with the plan. But just to have an acknowledgement that there’s a huge crisis that’s been going on and we need to address it. And here are ways and like here’s our rationale is like truly seems revolutionary right now.

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S3: The whole thing is a rebuke of Trump and a not very subtle way. So it’s like we’re going to spend 20 billion dollars just distributing the vaccine. There’s no way that should be necessary in twenty twenty one, you know, distributing the vaccine and stuff that should have been put through legislation sometime in the summer before the vaccine even existed. They’re going to spend nine billion dollars on extra. Basically, it’s security stuff in the wake of that massive Russian hack to try and rebuild the information infrastructure of the US government, which has now been just completely infested by Russian worms and Trojans and all the rest of it. And again, that’s something that the Trump administration should have done months ago and hasn’t done. And there’s a whole bunch of stuff in this bill that you’re just looking at and saying, well, I’m glad it’s happening, but there’s no reason, there’s no good reason why the federal government shouldn’t have done this a long time ago.

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S4: The money to schools to like that should have happened in the summer before schools opened in September. This is basically the Biden administration paying off the deaths of of the Trump administration. They’re coming in and paying off the credit card bill, basically cleaning up the mess, half of it.

S1: It’s a return to normalcy. Right. You know, like we’ve I think we’ve existed in this Trump world for so long that really obvious things seem somewhat like, oh, wow, we actually have a real plan. We actually have, like, these very obvious things you would do, which probably even other Republicans would have done in the situation. They were interruptus, but he didn’t. And I think hopefully now we will at least, you know, be back in the land of somewhat normal.

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S5: If you guys don’t mind me pooping on your positive, please do just a little bit. That’s your job. Kept coming up with you. We need that. And you know it. So be it. If that’s my job. No, it’s just like if you’ll excuse me, because I’m thinking I just turned in my book, by the way, which is why I have time to be here today. I’m so glad I have. But I just turned in my book called The Shame Machine to my editor. And like, I’m very fixated on the concept of norms. And like, when can we shame people? When can we not shame people? And what’s happened? Of course. And I’m not I’m just restating what you guys just said in my way of thinking about it is like we went from being completely unable to share norms and to even consider shaming Trump to being like, OK, well, at least by then speaking our language, we might not agree with him in every way, but at least he’s in our normal group and we can, like, be upset when he doesn’t represent our full view. And like, that’s really good because it’s a huge difference. Like, it goes from inescapably away from us to something that we feel a little bit of control over. But I’m just getting ready. I’m girding myself for the fact that it’s like it’s going to be really frustrating because we’re like, oh, wait, you speak my language, but you’re not listening, you know, to me, like we’re going to go back to the same frustrations we forgot we loved so much. We forgot we hated so much. That’s what I mean. It’s like it’s good because he’s within our normal group. But it’s going to be just so frustrating, but not scary and chaotic and actually existentially threatening. So that’s good.

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S1: Well, but I’m glad that, like, what Biden as a moderate now represents is so much more far to the left than what would have been a moderate five years ago.

S3: So, I mean, this is this is not a moderate policy. There’s nothing in this one point nine trillion dollar bill that really especially not when you add in the extra two trillion or so that he wants to do. On top of this, once this emergency bill is done, he’s got this whole build back better plan to turn the economy green. And everything like this is he is not a moderate, economically speaking. He is a moderate sort of in his soul. Perhaps he’s, you know, an older gentleman who doesn’t he has never been the firebrand. But economic orthodoxy and the Democratic Party have moved significantly to the left since he’s got that.

S4: The economists advising him are so much to the left of what we saw with Obama. Like Summers is gone.

S3: He’s got burned summers his gosh, we just have a moment of silence. I think some of them are to the left of Obama. Some of them are the same. But the. Economists have moved to the left like someone like Janet Yellen. I think it is fair to say that she has moved to the left since she was fed chair under Obama.

S5: Well, I think it’s fair to say that things have gotten a lot worse. Inequality is much worse. We’re in a depression. I mean, God, if there was any moment to do something real, it’s now. Right? So that’s just not a complete proof to me. Like, we’ll see. We’ll see. Like, I’m I’m glad you guys are happy.

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S3: The proof point is a good old friend, Larry Summers, who I know you love very much. Gabbi. Oh, my God. Who came out back when we were talking about the chicks and he was saying, well, if we give two thousand dollar checks to people, that is going to, quote, overheat the economy. Oh, my God. So, like, if Larry Summers had any influence in the Biden administration and we can all be thankful that he doesn’t, this kind of thing would never get off the ground. And on some level, given that we’ve already had trillions of dollars of stimulus in 2020, if we’re going to add another two trillion at the beginning of 2021 and then even more trillions later on in 2021, we are genuinely entering completely uncharted fiscal territory. No government has ever done this kind of thing. I went back to the New Deal, to the Marshall Plan to like, you know, this is bigger than any of that. And it’s way, way bigger than anything we saw after the financial crisis. So I don’t know what overheat means. If it means more inflation, I might bring it. We need more inflation, but I’m not worried about it. But this is clearly something that the Larry Summers of this world are worried about.

S5: Felix, I love how you got us to agree on, like, at least Larry Summers hates this, you know?

S3: Yeah. I mean, the way you put you, the way you get this through the Senate is just by wheeling out Larry Summers to say that it’s a bad thing and then everyone will vote for it.

S4: This is also kind of like a do over for the way that they didn’t go big in the Great Recession. Everyone, I think, kind of regrets that not enough money was spent and they capitulated to deficit hawks or whatever. So I think there’s a big push from the left and the progressives to be like, don’t f this up again. Like, we don’t want to go through, like, ten years of a sluggish recovery again, like, get it right this time. Go big.

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S3: Moving out of the White House and the Senate and the legislature, I am particularly interested this week in the way that there’s this what I called the fourth branch of government seems to have emerged and its CEOs and I wrote about this in the context of basically Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg seemingly having more power than Congress to censure Donald Trump. We’ve also seen a huge swathe of corporations basically suspending all political donations or certainly political donations to members of Congress who voted not to certify the election. And we’ve seen across the board a bunch of CEOs and corporations flexing political money muscles in very explicit ways and in very explicitly anti Trump ways. And they’re taking sides in the way that we don’t normally see corporations taking sides. And I feel like that’s new. And it’s something that once it has escaped, it can’t go back into the tube again. What do you think about this guy?

S5: I would go further. Like, this is just a conspiracy theory that I’ve I’ve cooked up, but I don’t think it’s wrong, which is like you see McConnell sort of open to impeachment and stuff all of a sudden. Why? Probably because the lobbyists are like, you’re not going to get money from us. You know, it’s like and of course, I’m actually all for impeachment. And I’m also, like, really happy that Trump doesn’t have Twitter as a weapon against the congressmen and senators who vote to impeach. That’s a major, major deal. But at some level, we’re just like, OK, we don’t have to worry about the base. I mean, the GOP is thinking they don’t have to worry about the Trump base anymore relative to how much they have to worry about the money drying up. And so, like, even though it’s working for me in a certain way, it is like a terrible precedent, like literally saying that never mind the democratic masses, we need the money. I mean, do you agree?

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S3: I totally agree. That’s absolutely the wrong way. There’s absolutely nothing democratic about this. Right. So the rank and file, I mean, even if you like, there’s nothing democratic about the people in America voting for how Trump is treated, but there’s nothing even democratic within these companies. You’ve seen large positions in the rank and file that Facebook and Twitter for years saying we’ve got to take Trump off our platform. He is causing extreme harm. And the CEOs at those companies and I guess the boards of directors saying, no, we’re not going to do that. It is really a very, very tiny number of people. It’s it’s really just Jack Dorsey and Mark Zuckerberg and perhaps their boards who are making these decisions. And they have extraordinary amounts of power. They’re completely unelected and they’re basically completely unaccountable. That just seems like a massive democratic deficit, even if we agree with what they wound up doing.

S1: Well, one, I would say that companies aren’t democracies. Big companies never will be democracies. That’s not what companies are designed to be. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to be concerned about what this says about concentration of power among a small number of companies. I mean, I think that that’s totally reasonable. And, you know, part of what we’re seeing is also just that by definition, because of the way government is structured and because of the way corporations are structured, corporations can be a lot more nimble. They can do things a lot more quickly. And again, partly that is because they are not democratic, that you can have an individual say, OK, this is what we’re doing. That’s just simply not how government is designed to be. This doesn’t mean that people shouldn’t be concerned. This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t think moving forward. Is there any way to somewhat counter this? But I also think, as you said, this is a change that has been made. Companies are now expected to take political positions, and if they don’t, that silence is seen as taking a stand. So I don’t think this is going to change.

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S4: I have a bunch of thoughts, some more coherent than others. First, with Trump getting kicked off Twitter and Facebook, like I give no credit to Twitter and Facebook for doing that. I mean, better late than never. Absolutely. It’s wonderful to not have Trump tweets in my life anymore. In our lives anymore. Great. But like congratulations to the businesses of America for taking their support away from a president who’s out going like, yeah, they were they were all tacitly supporting Trump for the past four years while he was in power. Now he won’t be in power. So now they’re taking a stand. It’s like and I don’t celebrate this. I think it’s it’s like one step above Lahm, basically. Yes. Taking support away from the guy not in power. Congrats. You’re so brave CEO’s of America, you know what I mean? Like, I give these people no credit. And it is like Cathy was saying, it’s it is really disturbing that it’s not the people who have the power to censure Trump. It’s like companies whispering. To Mitch McConnell, like, we won’t give you money anymore, that actually turns the page from this. It’s disturbing that companies have this much power and when you see them wield it and it’s on kind of like our side, there’s a tendency, I think, to celebrate it. But we should not celebrate it because one day it could be on the other side, too.

S5: I think we’re there’s two different issues here. I’d like to separate them. And one of them is like the Twitter Facebook misinformation problem, which I think our government should and will eventually regulate. So I do think that the like the Zuckerberg Dorsey, they have too much power thing should be, you know, modulated or mitigated in the next few years as we figure out what the rules are. The second issue, though, is a Citizens United issue. And it’s about like the finance industry as a whole saying we’re not giving you guys any money. I mean, finance doesn’t pick and choose, really. As we know, finance gives a lot of money to both sides. But the point is that they give so much money so consistently that, like, those people depend on that money. So that’s a different problem and is, I think, a bigger long term problem because it’s like that’s the real river of money that they’re worried about that that Mitch McConnell is worried about.

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S3: I don’t think that river is drying up. I think that the corporate America in general understands the importance of having a two party system and they will wind up trying to push back against whatever excesses they think that Democrats are playing at. And they’re going to start funding Republicans pretty soon. I think this is very temporary, like the people who are suspending all political donations, that’s going to be temporary. And in terms of the permanent suspensions, that’s just for the individual members of Congress who voted against certifying the election. And I don’t. So I think Mitch McConnell doesn’t have too much to worry about that. What I do worry about is what Janan Ganesh wrote this really good column in the F.T. this week about how the Republican Party just it’s not really a thing anymore. Right. So Trump ism is not going away. Trump is not going away. They do dominate the base. They do dominate the elections. They will elect the people they like and not the tools of the corporate elite. But they have now shown themselves that wing of the Republican Party has shown itself to be completely unacceptable to the corporate donors. And the Republican Party can no longer really encompass both of those. It can no longer encompass the corporate donors and the Trump ists like that. That’s what happened when the capital was stormed, was that that broke. And it’s it kind of impossible to imagine how that’s going to get fixed and how there’s going to be a coherent Republican Party or financed Republican Party. And this isn’t a political bug, so don’t get too much into this. But that, I think, is going to be one of the huge stories of the next two to four years.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, if you look at the history of the political parties, I mean, they used to actually be much more ideologically diverse, for better or worse. I mean, some of the ideologies that was in that diversity were horrible. I’m not necessarily saying that’s always a good thing, but the Republican and the Democratic Party were very, very different in the past. You obviously had the Dixiecrats who were extraordinarily conservative, very, very racist. Part of the reasons that a lot of the policy, the NewDeal policies and such excluded African-Americans. So it will be interesting to see if now if we end up with these parties that end up going back to something like that and having just a much wider swath. I mean, I would love if the Trump is just went away, but as you said, that is probably unlikely. But as you said, in a world where you need so much funding in order to get elected, I don’t know if that’s possible. That was obviously a very different world than the past.

S4: I guess the question that, Ana, you just made me think of is like the Republican Party has always been the business party. Right. Republicans are supposed to be better for business, but now is that over?

S1: I mean, I think you still have a obviously large swath of the Republican Party that, you know, that that is still a big focus. But there is a not insignificant part, especially in the House, that that isn’t really the focus, like the kind of Trump I can’t think of many moderate Republicans out there.

S3: I mean, this is this is where I was trying to define the ideology of the CEOs. Right. And I basically they love tax cuts. They love corporate tax cuts. They’re small C conservative, but they’re also liberal. You know, they are happy to come out and say that climate change is real and we need to address it. They’re happy to come out and say that systemic racism is real and we need to address it. They align themselves with the Democrats on social issues and they want tax cuts and there’s basically no party for them.

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S1: Yeah, I mean, I do those and I think often. And that is correct, and obviously, like CEOs or corporate leaders, whoever, obviously it’s not everyone’s not exactly the same. And yes, it is definitely true that you had a lot of people who were very, very much supported the Trump tax cuts. But you also had a lot of people who are like they probably tax rates didn’t need to go quite that low. They didn’t need to include the individual tax cuts. So while, yes, I think in general, a lot of people in the kind of, you know, corporate world would have lower taxes rather than higher taxes, I don’t think it’s as simple as that. Every single tax cut they will support.

S3: I’ve never seen a tax cut they didn’t support. But maybe maybe you’re right.

S4: I don’t think a party can just be the tax cut party.

S1: Like, there’s got to be a little bit more some fake rhetoric about rah rah rah and like a. win races and like having a party that is, you know, kind of aligned with corporate interests is something that has always existed. And know you don’t need that to be so dominant that labor doesn’t have any control.

S5: But like, again, you need these multiple interests and to exist in our major parties as inequality increases and fewer and fewer people actually care if there’s a you know, if the market goes up on a given day, like there’s fewer or fewer people to vote pro corporate. So I don’t have a party just to sustain that stance.

S1: No one’s going to vote for the pro corporate tax cut party last year, even like a number of people, you know, I spoke with at different banks and such were actually much more aligned with like we need to spend more. We need demand.

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S3: We understand that, like ultimately like the second best form of fiscal stimulus is spending. The first festival in fiscal stimulus is give me my tax cut.

S1: But none of these people are calling for tax cuts that a single person I spoke with says, like, we need more tax cuts. They were saying no. But you’re absolutely right. We understand that the supply side solutions don’t work for the problems we have right now. I’m not saying they’re saying, oh, let’s let’s have wealth taxes. Obviously not. But if you have part of the party where their focus is on more economic growth, you will find people that are more interested in spending.

S3: Hence the Chamber of Commerce coming out in favor of Joe Biden’s spending plans.

S4: It’s possible that business interests got everything they wanted and now, like, realize that that wasn’t enough. So they have to switch party affiliations for a little bit to balance things out. Like Trump ism was so wild and crazy and irrational that, like the businesses never supported Trump.

S3: Right. Not in the primary. They but they you know, they won’t come around once he was the candidate. Kathy, I want to ask you about the other massive trumpet’s cancellation of the past week. It was not just Trump who got his accounts canceled, it was also Paula, tell me. Yes. What is Paula and how much of a garbage fire is and what will happen to them?

S5: Oh, my God. So Parla is the alternative social media platform for Nazis. And like a lot of the planning of the riot happened on parler and then they got shut down. You couldn’t get the app on the various app stores. Eventually Amazon booted them off their server. But before that happened, can I talk about the hack that I read? Yes. Yes. So exciting. I should tell you that I woke my mom up this morning in order to talk to her about computer security. She’s amazing. And you’ll find out why in a few seconds. So what happened was Twilio, which is a company that does backend services for companies, including Parler, was in charge of their passwords and security. And, of course, they just hosted it. They didn’t actually control it. They weren’t in charge of the settings. But when they backed out at, like, you know, the night of the riots and they sent out a press release, they had enough information in their press release saying we’re not we’re no longer hosting their back end, that hackers were able to sort of infer, you know, how to sort of start a new account in parler. And because parler hadn’t bothered to, like, set the situation up like, well, at all, including meeting a meeting of email verification to set up a log in. They were able to create administrative accounts, administration accounts, and they did millions of administrative accounts. And then they sort of categorically downloaded all of the information from parler that had ever been there, included like so-called deleted conversations of parler members for posterity and including the data the individual users needed to submit in order to prove who they were, if they wanted to be verified.

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S3: It’s just like verified with my license and stuff.

S5: Exactly. So that’s going to be helpful for the FBI.

S3: And so with your mom on that list.

S5: I know, but my mom. OK, so this can we Segway to like the reason I’m actually on this show today and like your favorite topic, which is Internet of Things, sex toys. So I found out that there was an Internet of Things chastity belt that was hacked this week. And so I called my mom to, like, understand how this particular Internet of thing hack worked.

S3: Is she the expert on the Internet of Things?

S5: Chastity Belt Mom is a computer science professor at UMass Boston. By the way, I should mention she’s still actively teaching. She’s like seventy nine. She’s writing a book about JavaScript. Right. So she’s amazing. And I told her the sort of premise of my question and she was like, oh, I wrote an Internet of Things app last summer. I wasn’t controlling any penises, though. I was controlling a fish tank feeder, which is like similar thing. She’s like every now and then, like, you know, remotely you could feed the fish. And I was like, OK, I can see the parallels here, but explain it to me. And she is like, well, here’s how it works. Your app talks to a service, the service talks to the cloud server, and then the cloud server talks to your device. But she said, I originally made it so that my app talked directly to the cloud server. But then I realized it wasn’t secure because basically, do you know, if you like, if you’re on your browser, you can look at the e-mail code of the web page.

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S3: You saw the greatest thing in the world. We love you.

S5: Yes. Well, she says it’s kind of like that. It’s exposed when you’re using an app. So people who know how to do it with a right click or something can look at the underlying HTML code or the JavaScript code that’s sort of executable for any kind of app. And that will sort of if that’s directly talking to the cloud server, it will actually, because it’s executable code, have to show you how it gets in, what are the passwords, everything. And so that if you see that happening, you can sort of bypass you can just write your own sort of entrance into the cloud server and you can control the device directly.

S3: And she said that’s exactly what happened for the the chastity belt that somebody said, can you please talk a little bit more about this penis prison and the Bitcoin ransom? Because this story is just so when you say when you say chastity belt, I’m thinking women.

S4: But this is actually has to do with the male.

S5: The male. Oh, and my favorite things, like the person that hacker who, like, took control of people’s chastity belts, literally sent them the message, your cock is mine now, which is like, come on, your cock is mine now. And they demanded a ransom in bitcoins to be paid in bitcoins, which I think is so amazing.

S3: The one thing that the hacker couldn’t do, it turns out, is work out whether the penis look was actually on a penis at the talks.

S5: My question, Felix, and I’m glad you brought that up, because it looked to me like a lot of people were like, oh, I didn’t even know I still had that.

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S3: Yeah, exactly. So a bunch of. People got this thing saying, send me seven hundred and fifty dollars in Bitcoin or you’ll never be able to unlock your penis, which would be quite terrifying if it wasn’t for the fact that this chastity belt was obviously lying in the drawer somewhere nowhere near their penis. And basically what this Bitcoin hacker did was break that chastity belt, which obviously they don’t want unbruised because it is clearly a terrible idea and no one would ever use it again even if you did unlock it.

S5: That’s a good point. Well, they did. The company that made the chastity belt now claims that they have solved this problem.

S3: Oh, I’m so sure if they can unlock it for me, I’ll totally stop putting it up.

S5: Yeah, I think it would have been better if they’d actually found someone whose dick was in the chastity belt, like, at the moment, and it still hasn’t gone to the bathroom, you know, something like that. But no, we haven’t heard that yet.

S4: What is the takeaway from this used to the parlor hack and the penis hack? What are the commonalities?

S1: The takeaway is pretty clearly that you actually need to pay attention to security like you think you actually do. InfoSec done.

S4: If I was if I was a parlor Nazi, like what? What was my mistake besides being a Nazi using Parlette? Like, how do you pay attention to that stuff?

S5: Oh, the people who built the parlor app just don’t care. They just didn’t they didn’t do the standard. Right.

S3: I think I think this is the real lesson is that if you’re a user of social media apps or chastity belts or anything that is connected to the Internet, you do not have the ability unilaterally on your own to work out whether what you’re using is secure. So there’s so much that you just wind up taking on trust. And right now, one of the big debates on Twitter is whether WhatsApp is secure and WhatsApp is putting out all of this messaging and saying we’re 100 percent end to end encrypted. We don’t keep records of conversations, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And all of these infosec people are saying, that’s crazy, don’t trust WhatsApp. You signal instead. And you just need to kind of work out who do I trust? Because you, as a consumer, as a user of these services has you have no ability to look at polla and say this is not secure. To look at WhatsApp and say this is not secure, to look at signal and say this is secure, you need to just find some kind of trusted authority who you can trust to know these things. And honestly, given the secrecy of corporate America and Kathy, your job is to do like audits on companies. You know how hard it is to do this. Like, it’s basically impossible to know for sure, right?

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S5: Yeah. But on the other hand, I do think that’s a business model right there, like Consumer Reports might have it or might have it soon, you know, rent a hacker to try to break into a bunch of different devices and then rate them publicly. You know, I don’t know the problem with that, of course. I mean, the Consumer Reports model is tough because you want to know it once and then you don’t want to pay for a subscription to do it.

S3: And it’s not even third party hackers. Right. Like for something like WhatsApp, the thing that people are worried about is not that some hack is going to be able to read my messages, is that the NSA is going to be able to read my messages. And they can do that with, you know, subpoenas and things that individual hackers just have no access to.

S5: And that goes back to your original point about the undemocratic nature of these decisions, like that’s basically an executive decision, whether to turn stuff over to the NSA.

S1: I think one last takeaway would be maybe don’t be an early adopter of some of these things. Probably probably better not to be.

S5: I’m just going to push back. I mean, I feel like Internet of Things. Sex toys are worth the risk. As I like to say, one of the original sex toy shows I came on to do with you guys is a while ago when they were like, you know, some of the sex toy robots might be killer robots. And I was like, still safer than an actual man.

S3: Like, come on, the risks are that high at some point, Kathy, maybe in the maybe in the Slate plus segment, you’re going to explain to us the utility of Internet connected chastity belt for men and women, mostly upside, small downside risk is all I’m saying. Let’s have the numbers round. Why not? Kathy, did you bring a number this week?

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S5: I did bring a number. And this is like, you know, I wanted to sneak in this story about UT Austin Computer Science Department using an algorithm trained on their own personal data to decide who should be a graduate student in computer science at UT Austin. And I was like, I wonder if there’s a number attached to that, you know? And of course there was. And it was how much less time the professors had to spend on each folder. And the answer is seventy four percent. So that’s my number. Seventy four percent. And it’s kind of emblematic to me of like the only real thing they cared about was its efficiency. Like, how much time can we can we save by making a computer do this biased, racist, sexist thing that we don’t want to do because it takes too much of our time.

S3: Do you think, by the way, this algorithm was more biased, sexist and racist than the professors left?

S5: I think it was probably pretty similar, right? It might have been noisier because it’s just a toy version of the humans that used to implement their bias. But the idea is that they just said, oh, like, we’ve done this so many years and it’s so time consuming, let’s just automate this. And they really should have known better. This is back in twenty thirteen. They really should have known better. I mean, this is not the first time this exact thing has happened with your book out in twenty thirteen. No it wasn’t. But that’s why these examples. Oh yeah.

S3: Know it’s only after your book was published that they really should have known that.

S5: But come on, they still used it last year. So there was something about hiding their head in the sand about this that was definitely I guess the answer is they were saving seventy four percent of their time, you know, so that’s why they kept using it money say that they could use to pay their new football coach.

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S1: Oh, is that right? Any football coach got a huge contract.

S3: I’m not saying it’s directly related, but I’m sure maybe his football coach might actually be related and I’m sure it’s not the same. Have we reached the point? Do we have money ball in college football where people are trying to hire football coaches on the basis of algorithms?

S1: No, no. Yeah. The problem with college, with college sports is that because in theory, you know, these are student athletes. You can’t do the like getting people for cheap and it’s a lot harder.

S5: Oh, yes, absolutely can. And I’m sure they do. Felix is the answer for coaching is a really expensive but also like the number of wins is directly related to alumni giving. So it’s absolutely money balled up there.

S3: But all right, enough sports full a what’s your non sports related number?

S1: My non sports related number is 66 percent. That is Renaissance technology there. Medallion Fund. It’s average annual return between nineteen eighty eight and twenty eighteen before fees. And I say this because Jim Simons, who’s the founder, actually stepped down this week. This story is actually somewhat connected to parler because obviously Robert Mercer, I think his daughter was one of the founders of Parler. And although I think the understanding is Jim Simons and Robert Mersa, very different politics. Having said that, this fund, which has been just like insanely profitable, obviously, is why Robert Mercer had that much money. But but it really is the story of Renaissance technologies. It’s fascinating. There’s a really good book by Gregory Zuckerman is The Wall Street Journal reporter that I highly recommend about Renaissance technology and Jim Simons.

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S5: I just I just need to say something about this. I used to work at the Desha. I’ve traded a futures. We are directly competing with the medallion fund. What I thought you were going to say, and I need to say, is that like that’s close to outside investors are the ones that are open to outside investors, have lost so much money for so long, they go down well for you for a year they had a terrible, terrible twenty twenty. So when I read that Jim Simons, who’s, by the way, huge Democratic donor, know very, very different from earlier. But when I read he was retiring, I was thinking, like the analogy here is like people keep investing in the outside investor funds for Rentech, kind of like Giuliani, try to work for Trump, you know, just like somehow you feel like he will like me and he will pay me for my loyalty work. I’m special.

S3: The difference in returns between the funds that are open to outside investment, which all dropped between 20 and 30 percent in twenty twenty, and the medallion fund, which went up I think like thirty five forty percent in twenty twenty after fees. And can I say the fees on the medallion fund are not two and twenty. The fees on the medallion fund are five and thirty six. Yeah. It’s the most expensive hedge fund in the world and it’s still not even after five and thirty six fees it still went up. Yeah. Rentech has this just astonishing money making machine, but yeah, it’s not available to you or anyone else. My number is twelve point one billion dollars, which is the amount of profit that JPMorgan made in the fourth quarter of twenty twenty. It is the largest profit the not only JPMorgan has ever made in a single quarter, but any bank has ever made in a single quarter. They made twelve point one billion dollars of profit on thirty. Point two billion dollars of revenue, which, if you do the math, works out to a 40 percent profit margin, which is insane for a bank, which. Basically provides a commodity product, it doesn’t have any kind of monopolistic moat on anything, and it may 12 billion dollars. Now, admittedly, a couple like two billion of that was loan losses. So they thought they might have to take. And then now they have said they probably won’t have to take. But still, this institution is just ridiculously profitable. It is more profitable than Facebook, which is meant to just be an algorithm that throws off money. And I just thought I’d mention that why they make so much money.

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S4: Is that why they haven’t gotten back to me about refinancing my mortgage?

S3: They’re too busy counting their money.

S4: They keep sending me letters to refinance my mortgage, but I was just responding to their letter. But so we don’t know why they make so much money right now or.

S3: Well, I mean, there was a lot of volatility in the markets when banks make money.

S4: Volatility, right. Volatility. Well, here you didn’t ask. But I’ll tell you what my number is. It’s your number. Thank you, Kathy, for asking. It’s three thousand dollars a month. That is how much the Secret Service paid to rent a basement studio. So the Secret Service agents who guard Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump could go to the bathroom.

S3: They basically rented a toilet, they the whole family to a ladies studio apartment.

S4: They also took naps in their basement. There’s a great story. It’s very entertaining in The Washington Post, basically detailing the the toilet woes of the Secret Service that were tasked with watching Ivanka and Jared’s house in Washington, D.C., which has six point five bathrooms, by the way. But they didn’t want the Secret Service to use any of the six point five bathrooms. And I guess they didn’t have an accessible one, like in a garage or something, which is, I guess, standard for the Secret Service. So at first they were using the toilet over at the Obamas house.

S3: They would later run down the street to the Obamas and say, hey, can I use your bathroom?

S4: And the Obamas, the bathroom. The Secret Service there had like a command post. So they were using that. But then the Post says one of the the Vanka Trump Secret Service people, like, made a big mess in the Obama bathroom and then banned. Well, so what we had to follow a story about that for there were no details provided on the mess, but now they worked it out and have so far spent like over, I think, a hundred and forty thousand dollars on over the years, months, whatever, on this basement studio toilet. So there you go. Some toilet news for me.

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S5: I’m glad we heard that story now because I feel like there’s going to be a flood of such stories later that we’ll get, like, overwhelmed by. But I will always remember this one.

S4: Yes, so will I. I will cherish it.

S3: On which note, I think that’s it for Slate Money this week. Thank you, Kathy, for coming on. It’s my pleasure to be here. Amazing to have you back. Thanks to everyone who’s been writing in to Slate Money, Slate dot com and thanks to Jasmine Molly for producing this here show.

S2: We aren’t going anywhere. We’ll be back next week with more sleep money.

S3: So, Kathy, given that we don’t have anything more to add on the subject of chastity cages, tell us how bad this whole pandemic is going to go over the next couple of months?

S5: Well, it’s going to continue to get bad and stay bad until it gets better, which is pretty obvious. I was actually estimating as of a week and a half ago that Valentine’s Day would be the turning point. And when I say turning point, I don’t mean it would be good by Valentine’s Day, but it would be starting going down and it wouldn’t come back up ever. And it’s still possible. But there’s a couple of reasons. And here’s let me before I say why it might not be that fast, let me say why it’s definitely going to go up some more before it gets better, because we at least for the death rates, we have just finished the Thanksgiving death rate surge and you see the hospitalizations plateauing or even going down a little bit right now. But they will go back up because of the Christmas New Year’s Eve traveling surge. There’s a delay. I mean, that’s why it’s happening now on January 15th, two weeks after January 1st, is that what happens is young people go partying and they bring a home, the illness to their grandparents who live with them. And then those people, again, take a couple of weeks to get sick enough to go to the hospital. But you should see the hospital occupancy going up. And then the death rate is a couple of days after that. But it’s very correlated to the hospitalization. So you’ll see that going back up, staying high. My guess is you’re going to see consistently 3000 to 3500 deaths per day on average until February 14th around then. And then you’ll start. And then what will happen is because there’s no other big events like Christmas or anything else where people gather you’re going to see that sort of fading. And then the other effect that is also a good effect is you’re going to see finally the vaccinations kicking in. And the really good news about vaccinations once they start in earnest is that they are super linear as a as an effect, which is to say, like when you done half the country vaccinated, the numbers are going to get much better than half as bad. They’re going to be like way less than half as bad. Why? Because we’re vaccinating people at risk. First, we’re vaccinating older people first. We’re doing that badly and in an inconsistent fashion. But that is sort of how we’re going to do it. So, you know, as we get more and more of the highest risk people vaccinated, these numbers are going to drop precipitously rather than just linearly. And I still expect that this could happen around Valentine’s Day if Biden does his thing like we’re behind the schedule, but if we can catch up a little bit, if we can have a real push in the next few weeks, it could it could work. The other thing that is negative, though, the last thing I’ll say is this sort of more virulent strain, the more infectious strain, if that is really true and it’s really all over the place, it could interfere with a good effect of the vaccine.

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S4: By February, fewer people will be dying, but still a lot of people will be dying.

S5: That turn will take you. You know, if you if you’re like me every morning, you wake up in dread that things have gotten even worse since yesterday. You know, like, when’s it going to get better? That’s the 14th.

S3: When do you think we’ll be back to where we were in, say, August? When?

S5: Right. So the question is, when is it actually going to be good?

S3: Yeah, one answer to that is, I mean, August didn’t feel good at the time, but it definitely feels better than it is now. So, like, how long until we get back to, like, August levels? June. Wow.

S4: So can my kids go to school in September full time person?

S5: I think so. I think so. I think, you know, assuming two things that the vaccination rollout happens and that this violent strain isn’t just blowing us away, which I don’t think we have evidence that it does, that assuming those two things are true, I think it will be under control by September.

S3: And I think we will have more and more vaccines as well, which will help.

S5: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, my feeling is like February 14th is literally just the day we wake up and it’s better than yesterday and the next day will be better than that day and it’ll be monotonically better. But it will be slow and it’ll take a long time. It’ll take months, but then it will never go back up is the point really. It’ll be the last wave. Yes, that’s my claim. It’s going to be the last wave. The final wave.

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S4: Assuming this all works, I’m holding you to that. I’m leaving you one hundred percent. I’m believing you and putting all my faith into this prediction.

S3: OK, we’re going to get one one more month of getting worse. And then for the rest of that, it’s going to give our lives.

S4: It’s going to get better until the next plague comes along.

S3: I like I like that. Like my specific prediction. And it’s like this. We will have you back to find out whether it came true. Great Thanksgiving. Thanks, guys. Bye, Sleepless.