Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Facebook: anonymity is for trolls

Julie Zhou of Facebook would like to rid the internet of anonymity:

Some may argue that denying Internet users the ability to post anonymously is a breach of their privacy and freedom of expression. But until the age of the Internet, anonymity was a rare thing. When someone spoke in public, his audience would naturally be able to see who was talking.

Others point out that there’s no way to truly rid the Internet of anonymity. After all, names and e-mail addresses can be faked. And in any case many commenters write things that are rude or inflammatory under their real names.

It's hardly a surprise that a product design manager from Facebook thinks anonymity is something we might all want to get rid of. After all, the company makes money selling personal information and has been notorious for it's lack of concern about it's member's privacy.

Still, it's hard to believe she hasn't heard that even today there are very real reasons for people to write anonymously. And she'll be happy to know that her concerns about anonymous trolls are shared by the governments of Iran, Egypt and China.

But anonymity was rare thing until recently? Has she never heard of Poor Richard? Or Publius?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Of course Democrats should end the filibuster

Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein are worried that the Democrats shouldn't be too hasty about getting rid of the filibuster.

Here's Matt:
The concern I have is that the political timing is wrong.
and here's Ezra:
You can't return from an election in which the public decisively voted for the Republicans and then say that in the interests of democratic governance, you're taking away the tools Senate Republicans use to exert control over legislation.
Of course you can.

Did Mitch McConnell wonder about political timing after he’d lost 14 Senate seats over 2 consecutive elections? No. He decided the new rule was “Every bill needs 60 votes”. And just as quickly, the whole political world agreed with him. He had Tea Parties organized in protest of Obama barely a month after he took the oath of office. Nobody told him his political timing was lousy. And, likewise, nobody but the Republicans will care about the demise of the filibuster a month after it happens.

Here's Ezra again:
my favored option -- is for Democrats to join with Republicans to set rules that will go into place six or eight years from now.
I hate to break it to Ezra, but the Republicans aren't about to join Democrats to make the world a better place. They'll simply wait until they regain the majority and repeal the filibuster all by themselves. If the Democrats don't work every angle to figure out how to govern with 50+ votes then Republicans will get that majority, along with the presidency, in 2012.

Political timing? Seriously? We’re at the edge of another Great Depression. If Democrats are in the majority next January they need to get rid of the filibuster or the government will cease to function. If they hope to keep the majority and the presidency past 2012 they’ll need to solve real problems. That’s political reality.

I don’t know why Matt and Ezra constantly feel the need to be part of the liberal cold water brigade, but if they want to be part of a progressive solution, they'd be better off spending their time dreaming up ways to pass legislation with a mere majority instead of explaining to the rest of us why nothing can be done.

Monday, June 21, 2010

unknown unknowns

From the NYT:
DAVID DUNNING: Donald Rumsfeld gave this speech about “unknown unknowns.” It goes something like this: “There are things we know we know about terrorism. There are things we know we don’t know. And there are things that are unknown unknowns. We don’t know that we don’t know.” He got a lot of grief for that. And I thought, “That’s the smartest and most modest thing I’ve heard in a year.”

Just to keep the record straight, people were laughing at Rumsfeld, because he only discovered "unknown unknowns" when it was completely self-serving to do so. There was nothing he didn't know before the Iraq war became an obvious disaster. Before the war, he told us that we knew Saddam had WMD, we knew he was a real threat to the U.S., we knew he was assisting Al Qaeda, and we knew that the war would be easy and over in a matter of weeks.

Rumsfeld dismissed anyone who doubted the wisdom of starting a second war while we were still fighting in Afghanistan. Not only did he ridicule them, he typically accused them of treason for giving 'aid and comfort' to the enemy.

Rumsfeld was neither smart nor modest in his answer. He was just attempting to deflect responsibility for his failures.