The President’s London Terror Tweets

I’ve GOT it! Make Trump move to the Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center! Problem Solved!

Flat learning curve. That’s really the most alarming thing about President Trump’s tweet barrage over the weekend, as he responded stupidly, irresponsibly and offensively to the terror attack in London. It proved that he hasn’t learned a thing, despite repeated Twitter-assisted catastrophes that in the past have turned potential victories into embarrassments, mere mistakes into disasters, and whimsy into large clubs for his enemies to beat him bloody with. How could he not be wary when he considers a tweet? What happened to “Once burned, twice shy?” How about 6,348 times burned? How analytical do you have to be to think, after hitting yourself in the head squarely with a 2 X 4 and realizing that it is permanently dented (the head, not the board), “Wow! That hurt! I sure don’t want to do that again!”?

And yet here we are.

I can’t say I’m surprised, and that itself is depressing. But I’ve dealt with enough alcoholics in my life who I have asked, following particularly devastating relapses that placed everything they cared about (or should have cared about) in jeopardy, “Why would you do that, after all you have been through?”…and watched them shrug, shake their heads, and say, in various words, “I can’t explain it, and you’ll never understand.”

After the two attacks on Saturday, the President’s tweets weren’t all terrible. The second one read, “Whatever the United States can do to help out in London and the U. K., we will be there – WE ARE WITH YOU. GOD BLESS!” Then, like a binge drinker out of rehab who takes a small sip of chablis at a reception, POTUS was on a Twitter bender—a Twender. He began exploiting the tragedy to lobby for his stalled travel ban. He blamed the attacks on political correctness. He mocked the Mayor of London. He somehow saw the episode as revealing the hypocrisy of gun control advocates. Metaphorically, the President of the United States was reeling and staggering all over the street, singing “Barnacle Bill,” stopping traffic and vomiting on pedestrians. Continue reading

Facebook Manipulation, Ben Rhodes And Hillary’s Tech Minion’s Missing Emails: Seeking A Path To Objective Analysis (PART 2 of 2)

suspicion

In Part I I examined the considerations involved in assessing whether the Ben Rhodes affair, which I also discussed here, is factual and justifies dire conclusions about our government.

Part Two will attempt to objectively assess the two other news stories that seem to compel progressives, in full confirmation bias mode, to deny, ignore, or trivialize, and conservatives, also driven by bias, to take as proof that conspiracies are afoot. Those stories both come down to suspicion and trust:

  • The claims from former Facebook employees that they were directed to suppress news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s “trending” news section, while pushing stories with positive implications for progressive readers.
  • The State Department’s revelation that it can’t locate Bryan Pagliano’s emails from the time he served as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s senior information technology staffer during her tenure there.

First, the Facebook charges. From the Gizmodo “scoop”:

“Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module.

In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”

And, like a typical newsroom, Facebook’s bias is heavily weighted to the left. The Senate has announced that it is investigating news manipulation at Facebook, though I can’t see on what theory.

Facebook unequivocally denied the charges, saying in part,

“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we’ve designed our tools to make that technically not feasible. At the same time, our reviewers’ actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense.”

Leaving aside confirmation bias and eschewing the six reactions to such stories I listed in Part I (I don’t believe it, AHA! I knew it!, So what?, ARGHHHH! We’re doomed!, Good, So how did the Mets do today?), we’re left with a “he said/they said” controversy that is either a stalemate, with the default judgment having to go to the side that actually has the guts to reveal its name, or a case of “Who do you trust?”

Does this seem like something Facebook would do? Well, let’s see, Facebook already admitted that it had performed unwilling experiments on random users to see if it could manipulate their moods. Facebook was credibly accused of restricting users from access to 30,322 emails and email attachments sent and received by Hillary Clinton during her tenure as Secretary of State.  Last month, a report found evidence of  Facebook censorship on pro-Trump and negative Hillary news, and a Facebook employee’s question about whether Facebook should actively take measures to impede Donald Trump was discussed here.  Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is a big Democratic donor. Facebook’s fellow social media giant Twitter has been censoring some high-profile conservative users lately.

Gee, are there any reasons not to trust these people? Continue reading

“What Responsibility Does Facebook Have To Help Prevent President Trump in 2017?”

Facebook qThis was one of the questions asked of Facebook employees in advance of a Mark Zuckerberg Q and A session in March; every week, the employees vote in an internal poll on what they want  Facebook CEO Zuckerberg to talk about. This week,  Zuckerberg openly criticized many of  Donald Trump’s various blatherings  during the keynote speech of the company’s annual F8 developer conference:

“I hear fearful voices calling for building walls and distancing people they label as ‘others.” I hear them calling for blocking free expression, for slowing immigration, for reducing trade, and in some cases, even for cutting access to the internet.”

This is his right, as much as any pundit, rock singer or blogger. Zuckerberg’s political positions on anything shouldn’t have any more influence than those of the guy next to you at the sports bar, because nothing about Zuckerberg indicates that he has any more expertise about national policy than Donald Trump.

Ethically,  every American has an individual ethical responsibility to prevent Donald Trump from becoming President, which means that everybody has a responsibility to keep him from being nominated. Do ponder that when you hear some of the worst of the Democrats and progressive biased journalists claiming that Trump cannot be fairly and democratically be denied the Republican nomination. They are either fools who assume that Hillary Clinton, who has proven herself capable of beating herself in any race, will waltz to the White House over Trump no matter what occurs in the chaotic future to come, or despicable Machiavellians who would knowingly roll the dice with the future of the country and the culture just to raise the odds of a Clinton presidency, itself a horrible prospect.

Facebook, however, is a communications medium that facilitates conversation, organization and the distribution of information among users. It does so under the illusion that users are in control of the process, but of course it is Facebook puling the strings. Facebook could definitely manipulate its service to undermine Trump. Gizmodo notes… Continue reading

Further Thoughts And Questions On “The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law” (Part 2)

Money-box-gift

As promised, here are some proposed lines regarding the ethics quiz on the lottery-enriched brother and whether his financially-challenged sibling  should ask for a cut—and had a right to expect one. (Part 1 of the “Further Thoughts” is here)

All of the following assume that the lottery-winner does not have a personal emergency or crisis of his own that would require him to spend all or most of the money.

1. The wealthy brother is ethically obligated to offer financial assistance, if he can afford it without excessive hardship, without being asked, if his brother or his brother’s family is facing a health crisis of other catastrophe.

This is true regardless of whether his new financial resources come from luck, planning, work or skill, and regardless of how much money he has. Offering a loan rather than a gift is still fair and ethical. Charging interest under these circumstances is not, unless the poor brother has a record of not paying back earlier loans.

Possible exceptions: Continue reading

Further Thoughts And Questions On “The Lottery Winner’s Sister-in-Law” (Part 1)

lottery win

The last ethics quiz posed the questions of whether a financially struggling (that is, like most people) brother [NOTE: In the earlier version, I incorrectly said they were twins. Why, I don’t know, except that it makes the set up more perfect. I apologize for the error. It didn’t change the issues any, or the commentary.]  in his Sixties should suggest to his lottery-winning brother, now 50 million dollars richer, that he could use some of that excess cash…and whether the brother would be unethical to refuse.

The more I think about it, the more I am sure that Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe was answering a fictional hypothetical carefully devised to coax out the answer it did. I write these things for a living, and the brothers element is suspicious. The idea was to emphasize the perception of unfairness: here we have two genetically similar human beings raised with the same advantages and disadvantages, not just metaphorically “created equal” but equal in fact. How cruel and unfair that, in “Dear Prudence’s” words,  “your brother-in-law, through no effort of his own—save the purchase of a quick pick—was smiled on by fate and now enjoys luxuriant leisure. Especially since the two brothers suffered from a start in life that would have crushed many, it’s disturbing that the lottery winner hasn’t been moved to share a small percentage of his good fortune so that his brother doesn’t spend his last years scrambling to meet his basic needs.”

I didn’t exactly give my preferred answer to the quiz, but I did suggest that Yoff’e’s answer and the orientation of the questioner were redolent of the prevailing ethos of the political left. This was met with some complaining in the comments, but come on: “it’s disturbing that the lottery winner hasn’t been moved to share a small percentage of his good fortune so that his brother doesn’t spend his last years scrambling to meet his basic needs” would be a great Occupy Wall Street poster if it wasn’t so long, and it perfectly states the ethically dubious mantra we can expect from Bernie, Hillary or Elizabeth and probably any other Democrat who is selected to be called “a lightweight” and “a loser” by Republican nominee Trump.  In fact, I think this hypothetical would be a great debate question….and better yet if we explore some of the  variables.

For example: Continue reading