Factoring Out

On the evolution of Indivisible; calls to stop doomsday fundraising emails; and more.


  • Who Killed O’Reilly?: Brave outspoken women and investigative journalists who exposed an extensive history of sexual harassment deserve the lions share of the credit for Fox News’ decision to fire its longtime primetime host Bill O’Reilly, but credit for finally toppling him from his perch also should go to netroots organizers at UltraViolet and Color of Change, along with the consumer boycott Resistance groups Grab Your Wallet and Sleeping Giants.

  • Trump watch: The U.S. Office of Government Ethics has received 39,105 public contacts (phone calls, emails and correspondence) during the first two quarters of this fiscal year, compared to 733 eight years ago, the last time a new administration came into power, the office reports.

  • Speaking of ethics, here’s a fun fact: in 2000, the Republican National Committee refused a $250,000 donation from Alexander Shustorovich, a Russian-American businessman whose close dealings with top Russians at state-owned companies raised national security concerns. In 2017, the Trump Inaugural committee happily cashed a million dollar check from him, as Rebecca Ballhaus reports for the Wall Street Journal. He was just one of three dozen donors who gave $1 million or more for the festivities.

  • As President-elect, Donald Trump promised that he’d appoint a team to tackle the Russian cybersecurity problem and have a plan of action within 90 days. Today is that 90-day mark, and as Edward-Isaac Dovere, Eric Geller, and Matthew Nussbaum report for Politico, “There is no team, there is no plan, and there is no clear answer from the White House on who would even be working on what.”

  • Trump’s new H-1 B policy proposal is putting foreign tech workers here in the United States in a new kind of limbo, as Deanne Fitzmaurice and Katie Benner report for The New York Times.

  • Opposition watch: Two of the co-founders of Indivisible, Leah Greenberg and Ezra Levin, discussed their organization’s evolution and current focus on congressional town-halls yesterday on C-Span.

  • Tech and politics: Are you tired of fundraising emails from party committees that insist the sky is falling (unless you donate NOW!)? Well, you have company in Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI), who told Gabriel Debenedetti of Politico that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee should stop its notorious “doom-and-gloom” style: “I don’t mind the occasional call to action that is based on a negative emotion, it’s the declaring final defeat at the start of the third quarter that bugs me. ‘All is lost’ is a preposterous thing to say to a voter or a donor, and to use words like ‘crushing’ is a total misunderstanding of how to motivate people,” he said on Tuesday, just hours before the DCCC sent out a Nancy Pelosi-signed note with the subject line ‘crushing loss.'”

  • London calling: With the U.K. holding snap elections for a new parliament June 8, the founder of Newspeak House, Ed Saperia, is crowdsourcing ideas on the creating a real-time “election war-room” for “‘tech-oriented’ pro-democracy people/organisations [to] work together to coordinate and share resources, expertise, coffee, strategy, camaraderie.”

  • The future is here: Technology Review’s Antonio Regalado reports on the launch of Google’s health spinout Verily, which is spending more than $100 million to pay 10,000 Americans to voluntarily self-track and share an unprecedented amount of personal data in the interest of discovering social and environmental factors that affect health.

  • Verily echoes The Human Project, a similar longitudinal study being led by NYU researcher Paul Glimcher that is collecting data from 10,000 volunteers in New York City.

  • The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Totty offers an update on smart city efforts to use real-time data collection from sensors mounted on lamp-posts and collected via apps like Waze and Yelp to improve city services.

  • Life in Facebookistan: The digital news folks at the Chicago Tribune have noticed a big drop in the reach of their posts in the last few months, and as their deputy editor Kurt Gessler explains in detail, they think it’s because the Facebook algorithm has changed (again).

  • Internet of Shit: If you’re using Bose’s wireless headphones, you might not like the fact that the company tracks its users’ listening habits and sells that data to third parties without permission. That’s the issue that led Kyle Zak to sue the company in federal court, as Jonathan Steeple reports for Reuters. His lawsuit notes that the information provided could easily expose a customer’s personality, behavior, politics and religious views, noting that a person who listens to Muslim prayers would “very likely” be a Muslim.

  • Long-read to savor: Maciej Ceglowski, the founder of Pinboard and Tech Solidarity, on the ethical challenges facing tech. He opens: “This year especially there’s an uncomfortable feeling in the tech industry that we did something wrong, that in following our credo of ‘move fast and break things’, some of what we knocked down were the load-bearing walls of our democracy.” Indeed. Read the whole thing.

  • Your moment of zen: Take a Shultz Hour. “No meetings, no phone calls, no email, no Twitter, no Facebook, no mobile alerts and no podcasts.” Imagine no emails. I wonder if you can.