Edition 7: I pay more income tax than Trump

Trump's tax returns, is Amy Coney Barrett a cultist, what makes TikTok tick, and more

Another diverse spread of interesting content for you this week:

Long-Concealed Records Show Trump’s Chronic Losses and Years of Tax Avoidance

Donald J. Trump paid $750 in federal income taxes the year he won the presidency. In his first year in the White House, he paid another $750.

He had paid no income taxes at all in 10 of the previous 15 years — largely because he reported losing much more money than he made.

At long last, Trump’s tax returns are out - and it’s clear why he was keen to keep them hidden. This incredibly thorough reporting lays out the full extent of Trump’s questionably successful business interests and tax-dodging maneuvers, a damning investigation that indisputably challenges the “suave businessman” brand Trump has been preaching to his choir. The Biden campaign has been quick on the take, releasing hilariously poignant merchandise for the occasion:

$7.50 for a two pack - can’t wait to start seeing them on cars around San Francisco.


Should Americans Worry About Amy Coney Barrett and 'People of Praise'?

This piece by David French explores the suitability of Amy Coney Barrett as Trump’s nominee for Supreme Court Justice. While both French and Barrett identify as strictly evangelical, I’ve been trying to open myself up to read articles from viewpoints other than my own, to reduce my internal bias when approaching deeply partisan issues.

It makes me uncomfortable to accept the nomination of a deeply conservative and originalist judge to the lifetime appointment of the Supreme Court, but it’s important to understand why many Americans are supportive - at the end of the day, if the Court is to represent the interests of all future Americans, so should it represent those whose political and religious ideologies differ from mine.

From the comment section, a fair take:

Like many, I think it was not a great idea to rush this nomination, primarily because of its potential to further ratchet up the rhetoric. But now that it is done, I wish judge Barrett the best, and I hope people can be decent and keep the criticism of her to issues and judicial philosophy, and avoid the nastiness and hysteria as much as possible.


Jonathan Rothberg’s Race to Invent the Ultimate Rapid At-Home COVID-19 Test

His optimism was, according to his employees, characteristic; Owen Kaye-Kauderer, a co-founder of Homodeus and one of the many bright, industrious twentysomethings with whom Rothberg regularly collaborates, told me that Rothberg’s ideal company featured “one domain expert surrounded by seven kids who don’t know that what they’re trying to do can’t be done.”

This spotlight on one wealthy entrepreneur’s personal journey to spearhead a rapid COVID-19 test shows how private industry continues to step up as the United States’ lackluster national response continues to disappoint. Convenient and affordable take-home testing will go a long way to accelerating reopening, and may become an aspect of the new normal in a post-pandemic world.


Seeing Like an Algorithm

This  is, as of right now, the most popular TikTok ever. By the time I publish this post, its 34.1M likes will likely be outdated. You can read  the story of how this TikTok even came to be  and it will still feel like a cultural conundrum wrapped in a riddle stuffed in a paradox, and you love to see it. I showed this to my niece, we looped it a few dozen times, then we started chanting “M to the B, M to the B” and laughing our asses off and it was one of the only times in this pandemic I’ve truly felt anything other than despair.

Understanding how the algorithm achieves its accuracy matters even if you’re not interested in TikTok or the short video space because more and more, companies in all industries will be running up against a competitor whose advantage centers around a machine learning algorithm.

One of the hottest tech writeups of late has been Eugene Wei’s dissection of what makes TikTok so effective at capturing our attention, and how its simple design enhances an AI-driven feedback loop of increasingly addictive content. As my personal usage of TikTok has been on an upwards spiral (the algorithm is, of course, nailing my interests to a tee), and as the TikTok “takeover” continues to make headlines, this type of deep product analysis is incredibly insightful and salient.


To Anybody Going Through It

That’s the thing that people on the outside don’t fully understand. Nothing major has to happen to start a spiral. It can happen over the smallest thing in the world. Because when you have depression you can fall apart at any moment disproportionate to the circumstances.

Though mental health awareness has improved by leaps and bounds in the prior decade, it can still be difficult for individuals to open up about their inner demons. In this raw personal letter, Kevin Love (all-star NBA player on the Cleveland Cavaliers) gives his frank portrayal of what it’s like living with depression, even while being a public figure and operating at the peak of athleticism. It’s a humbling and timely reminder that we are all human, our minds can be deeply imperfect, and it’s always okay to ask for a helping hand.