URLs du Jour

2021-05-22

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  • USPS Delenda Est. In her Reason Roundup, Elizabeth Nolan Brown notes a story that only Yahoo News seems to be covering: USPS Uses Facial Recognition and Other High-Tech Tools To Monitor Social Media.

    Is every federal agency a surveillance unit now? With a plethora of law enforcement and intelligence agencies deputized to monitor American communications, it seems insane to think that the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) would also be enlisted for this task. But indeed it has been, as Yahoo News revealed earlier this year. Now, new details have emerged about the postal service's Internet Covert Operations Program (iCOP), including the fact that the agency has been using facial recognition software from Clearview AI and has a specific program to monitor people posting about protests.

    As part of the iCOP program, postal service employees have been monitoring Americans' social media posts and sharing things they deem suspicious with law enforcement agencies. "Yet the program is much broader in scope than previously known and includes analysts who assume fake identities online, use sophisticated intelligence tools and employ facial recognition software," writes Yahoo News' Jana Winter[…]

    More at the link. If Trump was still in the White House, this would be front-page at the New York Times and WaPo, and the MSNBC/CNN/etc media would be chattering about how it's yet another sign of incipient fascism.

    But it's Biden, so ho hum.

    I'll just point out the same thing I did last month: The USPS doesn't do its own job economically or effectively. Why would they think they'd be any good at ferreting out domestic terrorists? That seems as if it would be harder.

    This time I'll add (again repeating myself): repeal the USPS monopoly, and allow private companies to deliver mail to mailboxes. And, eventually, sell off USPS assets to the highest bidders.


  • But the USPS Can't Do It Alone. ENB also points out (in yesterday's Reason Roundup): Biden Wants To Spy on American Bank Accounts.

    Biden tax plan would cull financial data on masses of law-abiding, tax-compliant Americans. In the name of catching tax dodgers, the Biden administration is seeking serious snooping rights to oversee all American bank accounts and payment apps. "Instead of promising a chicken in every pot, Biden's plan promises an auditor at every kitchen table," commented Sen. Chuck Grassley (R–Iowa).

    Under President Joe Biden's proposal, 87,000 new IRS employees would be hired and everyone could expect more scrutiny of the flow of money to and from their financial accounts.

    ENB points out that those 87,000 new employees probably won't be exclusively going after "the rich".

    Rather, it's the folks who sometimes get paid "under the table" for informal gig work—babysitting, house cleaning, a stray manual labor job here and there, sex work, fixing a few cars, peddling homemade baked goods, occasional music gigs, selling things on eBay or Etsy, and so on—who probably aren't likely to have elaborate schemes for hiding a little stray income from their checking accounts and payment apps.

    It's worth pointing out that a steep barrier to starting and running a small business is the sheer complexity of the associated tax code. With all their paeans to "small business", the pols never seem to be very interested in fixing that.


  • The Government Has Plans, Peej. Sorry About Your Plans. P.J. O’Rourke nots that America's Worst-Made Plans Come Home to Roost.

    The Biden administration has a lot of plans…

    In his first 100 days in office, President Joe Biden has already proposed “The American Rescue Plan” ($1.9 trillion), “The American Jobs Plan” ($2.3 trillion), and “The American Families Plan” ($1.8 trillion). That’s $6 trillion so far.

    These plans… Do they mean families need to be rescued from jobs or your job needs to be rescued from you or you need to be rescued from your family? I can’t quite tell…

    The Biden administration has a lot of explaining to do – as the planning continues and the $6 trillion of your money gets spent.

    Six trillion dollars is about $18,000 for every person in the U.S. Hope you weren’t planning to do anything with that 18 grand…

    I was planning on buying a used pickup truck and a new roof for the chicken coop.

    But as the poet Robert Burns said…

    The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
    Gang aft a-gley.

    (“Gang aft a-gley” being Scots dialect meaning “after taxes and inflation.”)

    Good luck to Peej's wet chicks.


  • Because Too Many Jews Live There. Next Question? Victor Davis Hanson wonders: Why Does the Left Seemingly Hate Israel?.

    With more than 3,000 rockets having been fired into Israel by Hamas recently, the Democratic Party seems paralyzed over how to respond to the latest Middle East war.

    It is not just that it fears that “The Squad,” Black Lives Matter, the shock troops of Antifa, and woke institutions such as academia and the media are now unapologetically anti-Israel. It is also terrified that anti-Israelism is becoming synonymous with rank anti-Semitism. And soon, the Democratic Party will end up as disdained as the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

    A disdained Democratic Party would be good.

    But the serious answer to VDH's question, I think: As Arnold Kling pointed out long ago, the Left is devoted to viewing things on the "oppressor-oppressed axis". And they've successfully convinced themselves that the Israelis are the oppressors, the Palestinians fitting into the "oppressed" role.

    And once you start seeing things that way, facts matter less.


  • Don't Even Think About a 'Live Free Or Die' Shirt, Kemba. Hard to believe, but Gabe Kaminsky seems to have the story correct: Boston Celtics Delete Photo Of Star Player Wearing 'Don't Tread On Me' Gadsden Flag Shirt.

    The Boston Celtics posted a picture on social media of star point guard Kemba Walker sporting a “Don’t Tread On Me” Gadsden flag shirt and then quickly deleted the image after receiving backlash on Twitter.

    The Celtics’ official Twitter account shared the picture of Walker before a game against the Washington Wizards Tuesday. When Walker was asked about the shirt, he claimed he wore it because he was a fan of the colorway and the way it looked.

    NBA reporter Jared Weiss tweeted, “Kemba Walker was asked about wearing this jacket which has a flag associated with far-right politics. His answer made it pretty apparent he has no idea what it means, saying he liked the colors and the way it looked. No message meant by it.”

    Sigh. The Gadsden flag was designed in 1775. Apparently the ideal it represents is now considered "far-right".


Last Modified 2021-06-03 9:18 AM EDT