URLs du Jour

2021-10-28

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  • It's (mostly) Facebook Day! I'm not a Facebook addict, but I use it mostly to keep up with goings on in my town, my high school class, my college house, and stuff like that. I unfollow friends who post intelligence-insulting political bullshit, which makes me less likely to post ill-tempered responses. All in all, I consider it a minor win.

    So I've been a little bemused by the recent anti-Facebook agitation, and the efforts to get government regulation involved. Bad idea.

    So, first up today is Glenn Greenwald, claiming that Pierre Omidyar's Financing of the Facebook "Whistleblower" Campaign Reveals a Great Deal. (If you're like me, you're wondering: "Who the hell is Pierre Omidyar? Read on.)

    It is completely unsurprising to learn, as Politico reported last Wednesday, that the major financial supporter of Facebook "whistleblower” Frances Haugen's sprawling P.R. and legal network coordinating her public campaign is the billionaire founder of EBay, Pierre Omidyar. The Haugen Show continues today as a consortium of carefully cultivated news outlets (including those who have been most devoted to agitating for online censorship: the New York Times’ "tech” unit and NBC News's “disinformation” team) began publishing the trove of archives she took from Facebook under the self-important title "The Facebook Papers,” while the star herself has traveled to London to testify today to British lawmakers considering a bill to criminally punish tech companies that allow “foul content” or “extremism” — whatever that means — to be published.

    On Sunday, Haugen told The New York Times that her own personal Bitcoin wealth means she is relying on “help from nonprofit groups backed by Mr. Omidyar only for travel and similar expenses.” But the paper also confirmed that the firm masterminding Haugen's public campaign roll-out and complex media strategy, a group "founded by the former Barack Obama aide Bill Burton,” is “being paid by donors, including the nonprofit groups backed by Mr. Omidyar." He is also a major donor to a shady new group calling itself “Whistleblower Aid” — bizarrely led by anti-Trump lawyer and social media #Resistance star Mark Zaid, who has been one of the most vocal critics of actual whistleblowers Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, both of whose imprisonment he has long demanded — that is now featuring Haugen as its star client.

    If such a coordinated campaign were launched for conservative/libertarian purposes, the MSM would be all over the funding details, looking for evidence of the Kochtopus or some other shadowy puppeteer working behind the scenes.

    Greenwald's article is also interesting for his old outlet's connections with Omidyar.


  • The only good encryption is end-to-end encryption. Scott Shackford has a bone to pick with Ms Haguen, too: Whistleblower Absurdly Attacks Facebook’s Privacy-Protecting Encryption Efforts.

    Frances Haugen, widely known as "the Facebook whistleblower," surprised opponents of government surveillance over the weekend by speaking skeptically of end-to-end encryption in an interview with the London Telegraph.

    Haugen is testifying today before a committee of the British Parliament, as lawmakers there hammer out an online "safety" bill intended to tell online platforms what content the government will and will not allow.

    Haugen has come forward with internal Facebook documents she believes show a lack of concern with the safety and welfare of platform's users. One might think, then, that Haugen would be happy to see Facebook implementing end-to-end encryption on its private messaging. End-to-end encryption helps protect users from predatory hackers and corrupt governments by making it much harder for them to secretly access your data.

    This is a long standing bugaboo of mine. Back in the early days, when I was working as a sysadmin at the University Near Here, the bosses wanted to know how to make email "secure" against snooping. The answer then (and now, I'm pretty sure): you and your correspondent learn how to use encryption tools, generate keypairs, exchange public keys, and … just do it. The problem: it's a hassle, there's a learning curve, and I'm not sure if anyone used it besides me.

    If Facebook has figured out how to extend this to the masses, good on them.


  • I'd like two bacon nothingburgers to go, please. Robby Soave is unimpressed with the latest hoopla too: The Facebook Papers Are a Big Fat Nothingburger.

    More than a dozen mainstream media organizations published reports today on the so-called Facebook Papers, a trove of internal company documents obtained and released by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen. The headlines promised dramatic revelations and damning indictments.

    "Insiders say Facebook's CEO chose growth over safety," reports The Washington Post. For Axios, the Facebook Papers paint the social media company as "a brutish corporate actor that prioritizes its business over safety." Bloomberg News tweets that the documents provide "rare, vivid insight into ways Facebook has faltered in its mission."

    The gap between those sensational claims and what actually appears in the articles is stark. If this is the best The New York Times, the Associated Press, etc., could do, then the Facebook Papers are a nothingburger.

    Robby (I call him Robby) makes the obvious point: people with political clout are really upset that Facebook isn't making the choices they want. And "journalists" see it as a too-successful competitor. (I'm sad that my beloved WSJ is part of that.)

    Furthermore, Robby says, Facebook is losing popularity with the youngs. (Certainly they're not represented in the folks I encounter there.) So government might be (as usual) "solving" a problem that's quickly becoming irrelevant.


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Jonah Goldberg knows: It’s Time to Go Nuclear on Climate Change.

    World leaders are heading to Glasgow to come up with yet another plan to tackle climate change. Joe Biden had hoped to have a stack of climate-related legislative accomplishments to brag about. But they’re being held up and threatened in the fight over the price tag of the Build Back Better reconciliation bill. 

    The stakes, we’re constantly told, couldn’t be higher. If Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin and the Republicans succeed in stripping just the proposed Clean Energy Performance Program alone it will “destroy the world,” according to Gizmodo. Joe Biden doesn’t go that far. But recently, at a CNN town hall, he repeated his oft-cited claim that climate change poses an “existential threat to humanity.

    Such rhetoric isn’t merely wrong—humanity can survive climate change—it’s also counterproductive. The fight against climate change will be long and messy, and implying otherwise will make it longer and messier. For 30 years, activists and politicians have said before these periodic climate confabs that this is our “last chance” to act or to save the planet.

    Normally, if you miss your last chance to do something—catch a flight, see a movie, etc.—you stop trying. If you think climate change should be the moral equivalent of war, then you should manage expectations like a wartime leader does. You don’t say, “We’ll lose the war if we lose this one battle”—unless it’s true. 

    Asking Joe to moderate his rhetoric, or even bring it more in line with reality… well, you should really look to do something with a larger probability of success.


  • But never mind working on that so-called "existential crisis"; we've gotta strategize our genders! The NR editors are not kind to Biden's Absurd Gender Strategy.

    Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have no clue how to deal with the many crises their administration has created, exacerbated, or failed to get under control, but as of last Friday they now have a 42-page gender strategy. Gender strategy?

    Yes, the “National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality,” the first-ever such declaration because in the near-quarter millennium of this country’s existence no one ever thought we needed one, lays out a list of goals and aspirations and solutions to alleged problems whose existence keeps being asserted without evidence. “Health care,” for instance, is a strange action item to list as a gender crisis when women outlive men in this country by 5.7 years and that gap has been growing over the past decade. But of course the “women’s health” issue that most excites the imagination of progressives is the continued right to exterminate the unborn. By the progressive definition of “equity,” in which disparate outcomes are proof of unfair treatment, national gender equity would mean curtailing women’s lifespans and/or increasing men’s.

    "Oh. We didn't mean that kind of equity."


  • It's dead, Jim. At least I hope so. Because as Ira Stoll details: Democrats' Proposed 'Billionaire Tax' Is Definitely a Wealth Tax, and It May Be Unconstitutional.

    President Joe Biden got himself elected partly by opposing the billionaires' wealth tax proposed during the primary campaign by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) and Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.). Now, in a reversal, Biden is preparing to embrace the idea.

    It wouldn't be the first time that a presidential candidate's plans changed after getting elected. The shamelessness of the way that Biden has shifted on the issue, though, is something else. It risks undercutting Biden's claim to being a voice of moderation. It also may reinforce voter cynicism. How's democracy supposed to work if a politician, once elected, brazenly abandons one of the policy positions that won him the job?

    Biden told wealthy donors during the campaign that they shouldn't expect a tax cut from him. "But! No punishment, either," he said.

    In all fairness to President Wheezy, he probably forgot that promise about 10 seconds after he made it.