URLs du Jour

2022-04-23

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  • Aren't "crusades" considered Islamophobic? Well, maybe not when a charter member of the Elect is leading. Michael Brendan Dougherty looks at a recent speech: Obama’s Crusade against Fake News.

    Former president Barack Obama went to Stanford yesterday to explain how “disinformation” is a threat to our democracy. Selected media outlets hinted that the subject of disinformation was likely to become a major theme of Obama’s post-presidency.

    Obama did Obama things. For instance, he noted that social media had enabled exciting movements, like his own election, but that it also had serious downsides and risks, like the election of Donald Trump.

    And he endorsed pleasant-sounding generalities. He’s for “whatever” changes to social media and tech companies will assist in an “inclusive democracy.” He’s against things that are against an inclusive democracy.

    MBD's summary: Obama's speech was "vague, self-serving, and contradictory." But there's probably a good reason for (at least) the vagueness…


  • Even lefties are shakin' their heads. Techdirt is a reliably "progressive" source, excoriating Republicans at every opportunity (and Republicans have given them many). But he's unafraid of pointing it out when the Emperor is less than fully dressed: Former President Obama Is Reasonably Concerned About Disinformation, But Still Doesn’t Have Much In The Way Of Solutions.

    On Thursday, former President Barack Obama gave a speech at Stanford University talking about “Challenges to Democracy in the Digital Information Realm.” It’s worth watching, even if I have some issues with it. My very short summary is that he’s much more willing than most of the pundit class to grapple with the nuances and tradeoffs (which is good, and honestly, slightly refreshing to hear!) but that doesn’t make the speech necessarily good. It still overly simplifies things, somewhat misdiagnoses the issues, and comes up with weak platitudes, rather than actual solutions.

    On the whole, it feels like he’s actually done the reading, but hasn’t fully grasped how all of these issues play together. So he can hit on some high points in a more reasonable way than most newbies to the tech policy space, but he fails to understand them at the deeper level necessary to recognize the actual tradeoffs and challenges with his ideas.

    Masnick's post is long and thoughtful. You might not agree with all of it. But this bit is telling:

    […] parts of [Obama's] speech also demonstrate the risks inherent in all of this as well — suggesting that perhaps there are some simple solutions that will magically fix things, when at this point it’s clear that’s just not true.

    That's something that should be posted above every pundit's and politician's computer screen: "WARNING: if you think you have a simple solution that will magically fix things, stop typing, and back away from the keyboard."


  • Speaking of simple solutions that will magically fix things… Nate Hochman looks at the worldview behind The Tyranny of ‘Public Health’.

    The Washington Post ran an op-ed yesterday, “Now’s not the time to dispense with covid-19 precautions,” by two public-health bureaucrats. Lucky Tran, described as “a scientist, public health communicator, and organizer with March for Science and the People’s CDC,” and Oni Blackstock, “a primary-care and HIV physician and founder and executive director of Health Justice,” lambaste “the court order this week lifting mask mandates in transportation settings” as “disastrous.” Masks, the authors argue, keep “essential spaces accessible to all, and they are far more effective when everyone wears one.”

    Aside from the dubious scientific basis for the claim (we now have evidence from more than two years of Covid policy to show that mask mandates have little to no effect on Covid infection rates), there’s one particularly telling paragraph in the piece that illustrates the broader defects in the public-health worldview:

    Pundits and even the CDC itself are emphasizing that it’s up to individuals to make their own choices about how to protect themselves depending on their risk tolerance. But this narrative goes against the foundation of public health. When a virus capable of serious illness is so widespread and not everyone has equal access to tools to protect themselves, the best way to keep everyone safe is through collective policies.

    If the past two and a half years are any indication, the authors are right to argue that the “narrative” of individual liberty “goes against the foundation of public health.” But not in the way that they think: In the Covid era, public-health experts consistently argued for the most extreme, destructive, and draconian restrictions precisely because they monomaniacally viewed the goal of public policy as reducing Covid infection rates at all costs. They recognized no other inputs — mental health, drug addiction, education outcomes, basic constitutional freedoms, and so on — in their evaluation of any given policy.

    I think I have some more on this in the pipeline for tomorrow, so stay tuned.


  • Pass the popcorn. Michael Graham looks at some fallout from a couple NH congresscritters scrambling to get re-elected: 'Shame On You!' Rep. Perez Takes to House Floor to Call Out Hassan, Pappas Over Border Policy.

    In an emotional speech from the floor of the New Hampshire House, Rep. Maria Perez accused members of the state’s federal delegation of treating voters of color like “tokens” while supporting Trump-era immigration policies.

    “I will say to the congressional delegation who’s been criticizing the previous administration about going to the border and speaking negatively about immigrants — What happened to you? You tokenized us to talk negatively about the previous administration, but now you’re utilizing immigrants to win some votes. Shame on you!” Perez said.

    Perez echoed complaints from the New Hampshire Democratic Asian American Pacific Islander Caucus which is critical of U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan and Rep. Chris Pappas’ right turn on immigration.

    The Hassan/Pappas sin against progressivism is in supporting the retention of "Title 42", which makes it more difficult (or impossible) for would-be immigrants to make asylum claims. I assume they both are betting this position will gain them more votes in the middle than they lose on the left. Either way, it will be forgotten after November 8.


  • We don't use the word "tawdry" enough. George F. Will provides an example of its correct usage: Biden has a tawdry new scheme to cripple charter schools.

    There is honor, of a sordid sort, in the Biden administration’s showing more gratitude to a major donor than concern for the needs of millions of children, disproportionately minorities. The administration prefers the donor, a government-employees union, over the children, even though this tawdry fidelity to a funder will exacerbate Democrats’ growing problems with Black and Hispanic voters. This is the significance of the number 97.9.

    From 1990 on, that is the lowest percentage of the American Federation of Teachers’ campaign contributions that went to Democrats. It explains the administration’s contemptible pettiness in persecuting charter schools with punitive regulations intended to be crippling.

    Charter schools are tuition-free public schools authorized to exercise wider discretion in educational practices than most public schools that are tightly enveloped in union rules. Although charters do not divert public funds from public education, teachers unions generally oppose them because charters expand parents’ choices, thereby infusing into public education something teachers unions dread: competition.

    Another thing teacher unions dread: repealing compulsory schooling laws.

    No, that's not a simple solution that will magically fix things. Just looking for marginal improvements here.