by Shane Ormond
On May 21, 2020
Target reported that online sales on an average day in April exceeded last year’s Cyber-Monday sale, because if you’re not going to buy a Cuisinart Perfectemp 14 Cup Programmable Coffee Maker at the end of the world, when are you gunna buy one?
- Leaked Zuckerberg Speeches
- Schwab & TD Ameritrade Ditch Commissions
- UPS Drone Fleet Gets Federal Approval
- China Engaged in Widespread Organ Harvesting
(Editor’s note: You might have noticed a conspicuously One Last Thing shaped hole in your inbox yesterday. Unfortunately, your editor had a family emergency mid-issue yesterday and had to skip out. But if you’re curious as to what I was going to write about, it was going to be — checks notes — China bad, Brexit funny, Trump tweets.)
Leaked Zuckerberg Speeches
“I don’t want to see the congressional hearings on that one”
A secret recording has leaked to the press of the lizard prince of Facebook preaching the good word of total market domination to a roomful of uneasy employees.
The recording was made at two hour-long internal town halls where Zuckerberg fielded questions from concerned employees and gently reassured everyone that Facebook will CRUSH EVERYTHING THAT STANDS IN ITS WAY.
Now, I could just post the two-hour-long transcript right here, call it a day, and head home to spend time with my family. But instead, we’ve combed through the whole obnoxious diatribe and broken it down to some key takeaways.
When asked if he was worried about the threat of the U.S. government breaking up big tech, ole Zuck put on his sports thong and said bring it on.
“You have someone like Elizabeth Warren who thinks that the right answer is to break up the companies,” said the human skin suit being worn by Zuckerberg. “If she gets elected president, then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win the legal challenge.
“And does that still suck for us? Yeah. I mean, I don’t want to have a major lawsuit against our own government. … But look, at the end of the day, if someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and you fight.”
(And then he ripped off the one shirt that he owns and went “Raaaargh.”)
As we learned last week, the FTC is currently taking lunch with every Facebook competitor in the Valley as part of an investigation into the drunk-photo machine’s “overly competitive” practices.
One of those questionable practices is meeting with small app makers and giving them an ultimatum: sell your company to us or we will copy your crappy app and drive you out of the market.
Now, Facebook doesn’t deny these claims. It says that this is just good competition and good competition is good for the consumer. But you’d think the company would ease off on this tactic for a while — or at least as long as the FTC was up their butts about it.
According to Mark, the company is running a scheme right now to take down Facebook competitor and source of the worst content of all time, TikTok. We just haven’t noticed because it’s beta-testing it in Mexico first (and anything that happens outside the U.S. is invisible to the media).
“We have a product called Lasso that’s a standalone app that we’re working on, trying to get product-market fit in countries like Mexico,” said Zuckerberg.
“We’re trying to first see if we can get it to work in countries where TikTok is not already big before we go and compete with TikTok in countries where they are big.”
When asked by an employee about Libra’s rocky rollout, Zuckerberg downplayed the outpour of negativity from lawmakers, saying that behind-closed-doors discussions are a lot “less dramatic.”
“The public things, I think, tend to be a little more dramatic,” said Zuckerberg and I have never been more offended in my life.
“But a bigger part of it is private engagement with regulators around the world, and those, I think, often, are more substantive and less dramatic.
“Those meetings aren’t being played for the camera, but that’s where a lot of the discussions and details get hashed out on things.”
One employee asked the most awkward billionaire in the world if Facebook would use its terrifying brain-computer interface technology for ad-targeting purposes.
Zuckerberg said he’s excited about the prospect of integrating the interface tech with its products but only if the technology is “non-invasive” (i.e. you don’t have to stick huge electric spikes in your brain to use it).
“You think Libra is hard to launch,” says Zuck. “Facebook wants to perform brain surgery. I don’t want to see the congressional hearings on that one.”
Schwab & TD Ameritrade Ditch Commissions
Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade announced they will no longer charge commissions on online stock trades, marking the end of an era. (An era of charging folks a tidy fee for not doing very much, but an era none the less.)
For the last few years, the old guard has resisted price-matching with free online traders like the dorks over at Robinhood. However, as it becomes clear that these e-traders aren’t going away and the financial institutions lose more and more customers to them every year, the big boys are being forced to compete.
Shares of banks and brokerages declined across the board as analysts warned that Schwab has broken the floodgates and all other online brokers will be forced to follow its lead.
“There is no way to sugar coat this development,” said analysts at Wells Fargo who were thinking about lunch at the time. “We were hoping the challenging macro environment (i.e. declining interest rates) would prevent the industry from competing on price like this, but that is clearly not what is happening.”
After Schwab’s announcement, shares in the company (SCHW) fell 9.7% and continued to tumble another 3% when the markets opened this morning.
Meanwhile, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) had its worst day of trading since The Phantom Menace ruined everybody’s lives forever (1999), dropping 26% in a single session.
TD Ameritrade estimates this awfully embarrassing decision will wipe out 16% of its revenue, or about $960 million a year.
The end of trading commissions is a red-letter day for Wall Street, marking a historic shift from the “old ways” (typified by getting drunk at 10 am and engaging in some light market manipulation before lunch).
“There are certain parts of finance that have become commoditized,” Devin Ryan, an analyst at JMP Securities LLC, wistfully told the Wall Street Journal. “Trading is one of them.”
UPS Drone Fleet Gets Federal Approval
UPS has locked down federal approval for a nationwide drone delivery service, beating out competitors Google and Amazon in the race to the skies. (Though its flying robots will still have to wear those cute little shorts.)
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) gave the green light to the men and women in brown shorts yesterday to roll out its terrifying drone delivery service, starting with life-saving medical supplies and eventually whatever crap you people are buying online these days.
(The most recent online purchase I made was stilts to make my kitchen table higher. Now my kitchen table is too high to eat off and I need to buy stilts for all my chairs. This is not a joke.)
UPS’s Flight Forward unit will immediately start shipping medical supplies to hospitals in North Carolina. However, the FAA’s broad approval opens the door to making deliveries in rural and suburban areas nationwide. (But not urban areas. The last thing our cities need is giant robots flying in the windows and scaring all those cats.)
“It just gives us a lot of capabilities,” said David Abney, the company’s chairman and chief executive, speaking with the Wall Street Journal. “We’re going to move ahead quickly and expand rapidly. It’s not going to be a small operation.”
Shares of UPS (UPS) fell 3.4% on Tuesday as investors tried to do the mental math on the cost of a nationwide fleet of delivery drones.
In Other News
That seems a little high but it’s hard to tell with game prices.
ONE LAST THING
China Engaged in Widespread Organ Harvesting
If you’re a fan of One Last Thing, you know it’s something of a hobby of mine to chart the modern Chinese government’s descent into Nazi Germany. (It’s a terrible, upsetting hobby that relieves zero stress.)
Undoubtedly, you’ve read here or elsewhere about the persecution and imprisonment of a racial minority in China known as the Uighurs. (Though as in-progress genocides go, it doesn’t get a whole lot of media coverage.)
As an entire racial minority is funneled into “re-education centers” (a fun new word for concentration camps), the international community has largely kept its mouth shut. (Because China is an economic powerhouse and you don’t want to upset the party and risk losing all your trade deals.)
Now, according to a human rights charity called the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (guess what they do), China is engaged in widespread harvesting of organs from the imprisoned Uighurs as well as from a religious minority known as the Falun Gong.
Last week, a lawyer from the group told the UN Human Rights Council that China was “cutting out the hearts and other organs from living, blameless, harmless, peaceable people.”
China has denied the claims because that’s what China does. Bizarrely, the party acknowledges that it used to harvest prisoner’s organs in the past but stopped the practice al-l-l-l-l-l the way back in 2015. (They are definitely lying. But even if they weren’t, 2015 is so recent, my dudes. Pick an earlier date.)
According to a report released by the human rights organization, victims were “cut open while still alive for their kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs, cornea and skin to be removed and turned into commodities for sale.”
The report, which was compiled by the lead prosecutor in the trial against Slobodan Milošević, cites the ridiculously low waiting times for organ transplants in Chinese hospitals as evidence of the claim. (Which must be nice for regular Chinese folk but probably not great for the minorities the organs are being taken from.)
As usual, the international community (except for Ted Cruz for some reason) is quiet on this circus parade of atrocities. But, if history is any guide, China’s next step should be to (hmmm, let me see here)… invade Poland.
That should spice things up a bit.
Closing Data for 10/1/19
|S&P Index 500||$2,940.16||↓ 1.23%|
- Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) settles Ohio opioid lawsuit for $20.4 million, avoiding a federal court case slated to begin later this month.
- U.S. factory activity shrank in September to its lowest point in over a decade. All sectors dropped on the news.
- A federal appeals court mostly upheld the FCC’s move to end net neutrality protection, but also ruled that states can write their own rules.
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On Monday, I asked you if Elon Musk offered you a trip to Mars tomorrow, would you go? Some called Musk crazy. But I was inundated with mail from folks who said it was their lifelong dream:
No, I wouldn’t go. That’s a very long trip. They don’t yet have an adequate way to protect the space travelers from radiation. And it’s far from clear that you could live on Mars — we have no experience with how the human body would do in 1/3 gravity over the long term. There are reasons to think it would not go well. — David W.
Absolutely!! Even if it’s a one way trip, with no place to spend the money!!! What a way to go! Unfortunately, getting my wife to agree might be a little difficult. — Charles W.
Hell yes, I’d go. I’m 82 and I’ve been dreaming of going into space since I was young enough to actually be eligible for a berth on a space ship, since I read my first Heinlein novel. — Amy D.
Count me in! When I was born we still started the engines on a B17 by turning the props by hand. I’m only 76 and can still walk, talk and chew gum at the same time. — Alan D.
I wouldn’t like living on Mars. Humans need air and Mars has no air, would I like wearing a space suit all the time, absolutely not. Mars is too far away. We have everything we need here on Planet Earth so why is Mars such an attraction? — Verjean G.
Usually, I like to field the final question myself, Verjean. But we got so much mail yesterday, somebody else already answered the question for you. Take it away, Rich:
Mars is a planet that needs to be terraformed to support human life. We should have been there in the year 2000 to 2010. Unfortunately NASA ended the Apollo program before a moon base could be established. It would be a good jumping-off point to get us to Mars. Now that water has been discovered on the moon Rocket Fuel can be manufactured and used to make the trip. If progress in rocketry moves along I would predict a permanent human presence on Mars by 2045. It cannot be soon enough. Since it is in our nature to destroy ourselves (remember mutually assured destruction?) It would be best if we occupied more than 1 planet to assure the continuation of our species. — Rich M
Editor, One Last Thing