URLs du Jour

2021-10-18

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  • Regulatory capture: it's real and it's spectacular. J.D. Tuccille notes (I've probably said this before) a large corporation running a play from a decades-old playbook: Facebook’s Blacklists Are Another Way To Constrain Competition.

    … [L]ike other large companies in the past, Facebook has recently found a new affection for increased regulation, such as repeal or modification of Section 230 legal protections for online platforms from liability for user-generated content.

    "Section 230 was vital to Facebook's creation, and its growth," Jeff Kosseff, a cybersecurity law professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, told Reason earlier this week. "But now that it's a trillion-dollar company, Section 230 is perhaps a bit less important to Facebook, but it is far more important to smaller sites. Facebook can handle defending a bunch of defamation cases on the merits much more than a site like Yelp or Glassdoor."

    That's why supposed "whistleblower" Frances Haugen's demands that Facebook engage in more content moderation and be subject to increased government oversight play to the tech giant's strengths. Large firms and small businesses compete on a level playing field when it comes to free speech. But regulatory compliance and content moderation give the advantage to established companies with lawyers and resources to spare. If Facebook hasn't paid Haugen a bonus for her congressional testimony, Mark Zuckerberg should at least send her a nice card for the holidays.

    Soon enough, Facebook will be slapping muzzles on whatever "domestic terrorists" the politicians claim need to be silenced.

    Somebody needs to say: Dude, they're just pixels.


  • When you tire of panicking about Facebook, there's always 1/6. Glenn Greenwald has a keen eye for dangerous absurdities: Civil Liberties Are Being Trampled by Exploiting "Insurrection" Fears. Congress's 1/6 Committee May Be the Worst Abuse Yet. Sample:

    With more than 600 people now charged in connection with the events of 1/6, not one person has been charged with conspiracy to overthrow the government, incite insurrection, conspiracy to commit murder or kidnapping of public officials, or any of the other fantastical claims that rained down on them from media narratives. No one has been charged with treason or sedition. Perhaps that is because, as Reuters reported in August, “the FBI has found scant evidence that the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol was the result of an organized plot to overturn the presidential election result.” Yet these defendants are being treated as if they were guilty of these grave crimes of which nobody has been formally accused, with the exact type of prosecutorial and judicial overreach that criminal defense lawyers and justice reform advocates have long railed against.

    Dozens of the 1/6 defendants have been denied bail, thus being imprisoned for months without having been found guilty of anything. Many are being held in unusually harsh and bizarrely cruel conditions, causing a federal judge on Wednesday to hold “the warden of the D.C. jail and director of the D.C. Department of Corrections in contempt of court,” and then calling on the Justice Department "to investigate whether the jail is violating the civil rights of dozens of detained Jan. 6 defendants.” Some of the pre-trial prison protocols have been so punitive that even Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) — who calls the 1/6 protesters "domestic terrorists” — denounced their treatment as abusive: “Solitary confinement is a form of punishment that is cruel and psychologically damaging,” Warren said, adding: “And we’re talking about people who haven’t been convicted of anything yet.” Warren also said she is "worried that law enforcement officials are deploying it to 'punish' the Jan. 6 defendants or to 'break them so that they will cooperate.”

    Elizabeth Warren makes sense. Insert stopped clock metaphor here.


  • A remedy for polarization? I'm not going all in on the nostrum Patterico recommends here: What About a *Moderate* Third Party? But I think he makes a decent argument.

    As crazy as the Republican party seems these days, I'm not sure that the Republican party, on the ground, is made up overwhelmingly of anti-vaxxers, nutjobs who think Biden stole the election from Trump, lovers of the Trumpiest Trumpy candidates, etc. There are plenty of people, I think, who will go along with that crowd if they think that's what they have to do to win. There are plenty of politicians who will pander to that crowd if that’s what they think will get them elected. But I don't think most members of the party are that extreme in their heart of hearts.

    Similarly, I'm not sure that the Democrat party, on the ground, is full of people who resemble the Most Online Democrats, who love them some Ilhan Omar and Bernie and AOC. Conservatives can't be the only ones worried about the extremes taking over. There were enough moderate voters on the left to elect Joe Biden—who, although he has governed like an extreme leftist, won the election by portraying himself as a far more moderate alternative to crazy socialist Bernie.

    Even if there were a "moderate" candidate in the mix against a Trumpist Republican and a Sanders Democrat, I'd probably still vote for whatever lunatic the Libertarian Party manages to get on the ballot. But that's me.


  • Our state's Congressional delegation is probably silently thanking her. Chris Stirewalt notes that Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema is Saving Seats of Silent Dems. For example, Mark Kelly, who's up for reelection next year:

    So far, progressive activists seem content to leave the obstinately opaque Kelly alone. And that’s even as he’s built a very impressive war chest with money from some of the same sources that are now used to call Sinema’s loyalties into doubt. But Kelly has gotten better at hiding than an elf owl in the arms of a saguaro cactus. It’s a good strategy, too. Republicans have only just begun the work of damaging one another in the primary. Tech bro Peter Theil is gushing money into the GOP primary on behalf of one of his lieutenants, Blake Masters, while frontrunner Attorney General Mark Brnovich is engaging in a very weird flex. With no real primary challenge, Kelly is free to save his money and wait for the general.

    But Sinema is part of Kelly’s strategy, too. And he’s not the only one. Kelly is just one of many Democratic senators who are happy to stand silent while Sinema and Manchin take the heat for opposing what will be a massively unpopular spending measure. The refusal of his home-state colleague and Manchin obviates any further discussion on the subject. Without all 50 Senate Democrats, there’s no need for Kelly to even take a vote on the $3.5 trillion package. There’s no question that Kelly would be better off not having to vote on the Sanders-backed bill. Sinema may make that possible.

    I can't help but think that our state's junior Senator, Maggie Hassan, is roughly in the same spot as Kelly. And she isn't even a former astronaut.

    (She isn't, is she? I think I would have noticed.)


  • Michael Bay turns out to have been right all along. Gizmodo brings the welcome news: Nuking an Incoming Asteroid Could Actually Work, Study Suggests. Follow the science:

    The simulation demonstrated the effects of a one megaton bomb that ignited near the surface of a 328-foot-long (100-meter) asteroid. The scientists ran the simulation multiple times, with asteroids traveling along five distinct orbits.

    The results were very encouraging. For all asteroids tested, nuclear strikes performed months in advance of an impact served to significantly reduce the volume of incoming material.

    Plus which, about half the Earth gets to see a pretty neat fireworks show.


Last Modified 2021-10-18 10:14 AM EST