🇺🇸 Tech Tussle

Plus, a strange safari souvenir...

The Flag

Good morning, and happy Monday. In San Diego, California, 24 prison inmates dawned their caps and gowns at the Richard J. Donovan Correctional Facility to graduate with associate degrees in sociology and liberal arts during a ceremony honoring their accomplishments.

Plus, federal customs agents pooh-poohed the plans of an Iowa woman who wanted to make jewelry from giraffe waste she picked up on a trip to Kenya and brought back to the US in her luggage.

Also, would you own a share of the Declaration of Independence? We hold this truth to be self-evident: some investments are more equal than others.

TRENDING

Right: Dems Puzzled as New Deal Politics Turns Upside Down Michael Barone, Washington Examiner

Left: Democrats Share the Blame for McCarthy's Fall Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg

QUICK CLICKS

Israel at War, Newsom Veto, Earthquake in Afghanistan

World: Israel declares war and bombards Gaza as fighting rages for second day after Hamas attack (AP)

US: At least 2 members of Congress were in Israel during attack (POLITICO)

US: Biden tells Netanyahu military aid "now on its way" to Israel with more to come (Axios)

US: California Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoes bill aimed at limiting the price of insulin (AP)

World: More than 2,000 people killed as earthquake strikes western Afghanistan (US)

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BIG TECH

Tech Tussle

In September, two notable lawsuits focused on some of the biggest players in tech: Amazon and Google. More recently, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an antitrust suit against Amazon. In September, the Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a civil case against Google’s search and advertising business.

Reporting from the Right: U.S. v. Google: What to Know About the Biggest Antitrust Trial in 20 Years (The Wall Street Journal)

Reporting from the Left: 9 questions about the government’s effort to break up Amazon (Vox)

From The Flag: The FTC is accusing Amazon of engaging in monopolistic practices that are inflating costs for consumers and making it difficult for sellers to be more competitive. The DOJ believes Google has used illegal agreements to maintain its dominance whiles while harming consumers and advertisers. Here’s how both sides are covering these cases.

RIGHT-LEANING SENTIMENT

Mixed: “This Is Government Overreach” vs. “Big Tech Has Stymied Innovation”

  • Lina Kahn is abusing her powers as an FTC commissioner and relying on vague antitrust laws, and flimsy arguments to go after Amazon.

  • These trials are flawed and send a message that could hamper innovation while preventing consumers from making their own choices.

  • Incidentally, it is Google’s dominance that has slowed down competition and innovation for decades.

Lina Khan’s Anti-Amazon Crusade The Editors, National Review: “The FTC’s argument in this case is not that Amazon should be broken up. The argument is instead that the FTC should be able to determine how Amazon runs its business. The standard now appears to be that if enough unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Trade Commission Building in Washington, D.C., believe a company’s business practices are problematic, the company is liable to be sued and forced to change its ways. … And U.S. antitrust laws are sufficiently vague and broad that just about anything can be considered illegal if the FTC decides it wants to go after a firm and courts go along. If prices are higher than competitors, that’s monopoly power. If prices are lower than competitors, that’s predatory pricing. If prices are the same as competitors, that’s collusion. … That’s why we are now treated to the spectacle of the FTC arguing the opposite of what Khan had previously argued about Amazon. It’s throwing everything at the wall to see if something will stick.”

Google’s Antitrust Trial Is a Misguided Crusade Threatening Innovation and Consumer Choice Mark A. Jamison, RealClearPolicy: “At the heart of this lawsuit lies the question of whether consumers will retain control over the digital ecosystem they have helped shape and guide. It also raises concerns about whether the next generation of search and online services will evolve through consumer choice or be dictated by antitrust lawyers. Regardless of the outcome, the message sent by the government is clear: any business that pleases large numbers of customers is at risk of being unreasonably targeted and restrained. The government's antitrust case against Google threatens to stifle innovation, hinder consumer choice, and disregard the competitive dynamics already at play in the digital sphere. While vigilance against anticompetitive behavior is important, it should not come at the cost of suppressing market-driven competition and the freedom of choice that consumers have worked to establish in the digital era.”

One more opinion piece from the Right: Why Conservatives Must Support The DOJ Against Google Mike Davis, Daily Caller

LEFT-LEANING SENTIMENT

Mixed: “This is Necessary” vs. “This Is Misguided”

  • “The feds are going after the companies’ power—in part for making the web a worse place to be.”

  • “Few companies have improved consumer welfare so broadly. The FTC is wielding fringe theories in service of misguided goals.”

  • Amazon has exploited end-user consumers and its business customers by initially offering favorable terms, but it eventually locked them in, catapulted prices, and decreased quality.

Amazon, Google, and the Garbage Internet Scott Never, Slate: “Searching on Google or Amazon these days means you’ll often have to endure half a screen of sponsored results before getting to the so-called organic stuff—what’s selected as the most relevant results by these companies’ black-box algorithms. The U.S. government thinks that this glut of ads is a symptom of a larger sickness within Amazon and Google. … In suing Google, the DOJ and 11 states called the search engine the “unchallenged gateway to the internet” for billions of people and noted that, in order to reach them, “countless advertisers must pay a toll.” Similarly, the FTC and 17 states allege that Amazon degraded the quality of its services and “litters its storefront with pay-to-play advertisements.” This digital payola is how Google and Amazon cash in on their dominance, the government says, but it’s also how it’s made these services palpably worse for everyone. The feds, in other words, are trying to do something about the garbage internet.”

Lina Khan is Wrong About Amazon The Editorial Board, Bloomberg: “As a start, the complaint simply asserts that Amazon is an illegal monopoly. Bloomberg Intelligence estimates that the company’s platform captures less than 30% of US retail e-commerce sales. Its share of total retail is perhaps 5%. Multiple studies have found that Amazon is consistently the cheapest online retailer; on average, its prices were 14% lower than its competitors last year. Only under a truly tortured definition of “market” could such numbers add up to unlawful dominance. And, sure enough, the FTC has two of them: the ‘online superstore market’ and the ‘market for online marketplace services purchased by sellers.’ Expediently, the first definition excludes brick-and-mortar stores, specialty retailers, brand-specific sites, online grocers, and other ‘online stores with a more limited selection’; the second doesn’t count Shopify Inc., BigCommerce Inc., or other direct-to-consumer platforms. (No mention is made of thriving upstarts such as Temu and Shein.)”

One more opinion piece from the Left: Amazon Is the Apex Predator of Our Platform Era Cory Doctorow, The New York Times

FLAG THIS

Americans Say, “Tech Has Too Much Power”

In mid-September, a poll from the American Economic Liberties Project found that a majority (60%) of Americans say Big Tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Meta have “too much power in the market.”

That majority remained across party lines, with 65% of Democrats, 63% of Independents, and 53% of Republicans sharing the sentiment.

The survey also found that 46% of Americans believed the government should do more to regulate Big Tech companies, while 35% believed the government was doing enough, and 14% felt it should do less (The Hill).

As far as regulating Big Tech companies, the government...

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FLAG FINDS

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WATERCOOLER

Che Executed, Food Prices Exposed, Selective Beams

On This Day in 1967: Socialist revolutionary and guerrilla leader Che Guevara, age 39, is killed by the Bolivian army. The US-military-backed Bolivian forces captured Guevara on October 8 while battling his band of guerrillas in Bolivia and executed him the following day.

Today I learned not everybody sees beams coming from light bulbs, and that the beams are a product of astigmatism where the cornea is slightly curved rather than round.

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