Russians claimed to have possible leverage over Donald Trump: Daily Bullshit, May 29-30, 2017

Updates

  1. May 30, 2017, 1:18 pm:
    • Labeling the investigation a “total fishing expedition,” Donald Trump’s lawyer has declined an invitation to appear before Congress.[1] (Golden Showers)
    • In a move that should convince no one, “Uber Technologies Inc. said Tuesday it fired Anthony Levandowski, the driverless-car executive at the center of its legal battle with Google parent Alphabet Inc., GOOGL 0.30% making good on its threat to dismiss him if he didn’t cooperate with court orders.”[2]
  2. May 30, 10:19 pm:
    • Added commentary on Uber.

Golden Showers

I hate the defense that merely points to “yet another round of false and unverified claims made by anonymous sources to smear the President,” offered by—get this—an unnamed “White House spokesman.”[3] I mean, really, no one notices the irony there?

But I’m thinking there really is a problem with anonymous claims on this story. Donald Trump has made himself a target, not only from the Left, but the news media and the intelligence community.[4] And here we have anonymous (presumably) intelligence community sources leaking information to the news media that can’t be independently verified.[5] It really is too neat a package—and worse, one that we can’t see the insides of.

That said, so far as I am aware, Trump’s lawyer is correct in asserting that “[t]hey have yet to produce one single piece of credible evidence that would corroborate the Russia narrative.”[6] For all the smoke—and my, oh my, look at all that smoke—my previous assessments of the evidence stand.[7]

Jim Acosta and Tom LoBianco, “Trump lawyer Michael Cohen won’t cooperate with Congress,” CNN, May 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/michael-cohen-wont-cooperate-with-congress/

Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, and Dana Bash, “Sources: Russians discussed potentially ‘derogatory’ information about Trump and associates during campaign,” CNN, May 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/russians-trump-campaign-information/index.html


Facebook

So here’s a problem. Facebook, for better or for worse (I’m inclined toward the latter), is the de facto town square of the Internet. A town square provides an essential function in a society as a meeting place and as a venue for an exchange of views. One of my professors at Saybrook, Joel Federman, who founded a Transformative Social Change program there, characterized such places as critical for nonviolent social movements. As such, a town square really needs to be a place that is safe from authoritarian (whether economic or political) influence and monitoring. That means that Facebook has some responsibilities that I think it has failed to live up to, particularly with regard to privacy. Its censorship policies also sometimes seem capricious.

Under proposed legislation, Germany would 1) impose its own notion of ‘hate speech’ on an international platform, and 2) require Facebook to censor such speech.[8] Yes, this is problematic. But Facebook’s response is also inadequate:

“The legislative state cannot pass on its own shortcomings and responsibilities to private companies,” [Facebook’s] statement read. “Preventing and combating hate speech and fake news is a public task that the state cannot avoid.”[9]

The trouble is three-fold: First, Facebook has in effect taken on a public function by becoming the de facto town square of the Internet. Second, as noted, “companies like Facebook will err on the side of restrictions rather than risk fines,” inhibiting public discourse with “monitors [who] are required to evaluate around 2000 posts a day, some involving extreme violence, pornography or other potentially traumatizing content. They are paid slightly above the minimum wage and are only given minimal training.”[10] Yes, this will certainly lead to cases where “Facebook will delete posts that shouldn’t be deleted in cases of doubt.”[11]

But third, I think some speech can inhibit other speech by making some potential participants feel unwelcome. Civil libertarians too rapidly respond that some on the Left have become overly sensitive and to a limited degree, they have a point: I think it really is true that the Left has taken its notion of what constitutes acceptable speech too far, particularly when it responds to some potential speakers with threats of violence.[12] But to say as much is not to say that there is no speech or expression that intimidates: Nooses hanging from trees, obviously intended to evoke a visceral memory of lynchings, are only one example. It’s simply too naïve to say anything goes in polarized contexts where participants have no interest in basic civility.

Jefferson Chase, “Facebook slams proposed German ‘anti-hate speech’ social media law,” Deutschewelle, May 29, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-slams-proposed-german-anti-hate-speech-social-media-law/a-39021094


Labor Force Participation Rate

It isn’t just white males who are dropping out of the labor force. Women are too—and often for similar reasons.[13]

Natalie Kitroeff, “Why are so many women dropping out of the workforce?” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-women-dropping-out-20170522-story.html


Whole Foods

The “conscious capitalism” that Nicole Aschoff refers to[14] looks a lot like organizational development theory that a Ph.D. student I have been unofficially mentoring studied in a recent class. This theory has serious issues that I may yet take up but to take Whole Foods as representative would be a mischaracterization.

Nicole Aschoff, “Whole Foods represents the failures of ‘conscious capitalism,’” Guardian, May 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/29/whole-foods-failures-conscious-capitalism


Uber

So if I understand all this correctly, Uber “fired [Anthony] Levandowski when he missed a deadline Uber set after pressing him to assist its investigation for months.”[15] Asserting his fifth amendment rights,[16] the suspicion would seem to be that Levandowski is sitting on evidence Uber needs for its defense against Waymo’s suit. And the judge in that suit was indeed sufficiently suspicious that he referred the matter for criminal investigation,[17] which would be just the sort of thing that Levandowski might well be asserting his fifth amendment rights over. Which would seem to suggest that Uber does not (and, I’m guessing, did not want to) know whether its self-driving technology is in fact derived from the intellectual property that Levandowski allegedly stole from Google (now Waymo).[18] That bit in parentheses suggesting plausible deniability is central in my thinking now: Uber’s defense may well amount to a claim that the company had absolutely no idea that its technology was in fact based on Waymo’s intellectual property. This would be right in line with the company’s method of operation, that is, asking for forgiveness later. Such a defense ought to work, maybe once or twice. But beyond that, they’re just playing the courts and everybody else for suckers.

Jack Nicas, “Uber Fires Driverless-Car Executive at the Center of Google Legal Battle,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-fires-driverless-car-executive-at-the-center-of-google-legal-battle-1496172294


  1. [1]Jim Acosta and Tom LoBianco, “Trump lawyer Michael Cohen won’t cooperate with Congress,” CNN, May 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/michael-cohen-wont-cooperate-with-congress/
  2. [2]Jack Nicas, “Uber Fires Driverless-Car Executive at the Center of Google Legal Battle,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-fires-driverless-car-executive-at-the-center-of-google-legal-battle-1496172294
  3. [3]Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, and Dana Bash, “Sources: Russians discussed potentially ‘derogatory’ information about Trump and associates during campaign,” CNN, May 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/russians-trump-campaign-information/index.html
  4. [4]Robert Parry, “Will Russiagate Hysteria Lead to an American ‘Soft Coup?’” Truthdig, May 15, 2017, http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/will_russiagate_hysteria_lead_to_an_american_soft_coup_20170515
  5. [5]Pamela Brown, Jim Sciutto, and Dana Bash, “Sources: Russians discussed potentially ‘derogatory’ information about Trump and associates during campaign,” CNN, May 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/russians-trump-campaign-information/index.html
  6. [6]Michael Cohen, quoted in Jim Acosta and Tom LoBianco, “Trump lawyer Michael Cohen won’t cooperate with Congress,” CNN, May 30, 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/30/politics/michael-cohen-wont-cooperate-with-congress/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Vladimir Putin’s motives,” Not Housebroken, December 15, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9162; David Benfell, “Blaming the Russians,” Not Housebroken, December 17, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9151
  8. [8]Jefferson Chase, “Facebook slams proposed German ‘anti-hate speech’ social media law,” Deutschewelle, May 29, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-slams-proposed-german-anti-hate-speech-social-media-law/a-39021094
  9. [9]Jefferson Chase, “Facebook slams proposed German ‘anti-hate speech’ social media law,” Deutschewelle, May 29, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-slams-proposed-german-anti-hate-speech-social-media-law/a-39021094
  10. [10]Jefferson Chase, “Facebook slams proposed German ‘anti-hate speech’ social media law,” Deutschewelle, May 29, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-slams-proposed-german-anti-hate-speech-social-media-law/a-39021094
  11. [11]Markus Hibbeler, quoted in Jefferson Chase, “Facebook slams proposed German ‘anti-hate speech’ social media law,” Deutschewelle, May 29, 2017, http://www.dw.com/en/facebook-slams-proposed-german-anti-hate-speech-social-media-law/a-39021094
  12. [12]David Benfell, “On violence,” Not Housebroken, April 29, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/?p=9289
  13. [13]Natalie Kitroeff, “Why are so many women dropping out of the workforce?” Los Angeles Times, May 28, 2017, http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-women-dropping-out-20170522-story.html
  14. [14]Nicole Aschoff, “Whole Foods represents the failures of ‘conscious capitalism,’” Guardian, May 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/29/whole-foods-failures-conscious-capitalism
  15. [15]Jack Nicas, “Uber Fires Driverless-Car Executive at the Center of Google Legal Battle,” Wall Street Journal, May 30, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/uber-fires-driverless-car-executive-at-the-center-of-google-legal-battle-1496172294
  16. [16]Alexandria Sage and Dan Levine, “Waymo-Uber judge says may grant injunction if key witness doesn’t testify,” Reuters, March 30, 2017, http://www.reuters.com/article/us-uber-tech-alphabet-lawsuit-idUSKBN17206X
  17. [17]Aarian Marshall, “Google’s Fight Against Uber Takes a Turn for the Criminal,” Wired, May 12, 2017, https://www.wired.com/2017/05/googles-fight-uber-takes-turn-criminal/; Jack Nicas, “Judge Asks Federal Prosecutors to Investigate Uber’s Driverless Car Program,” Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2017, https://www.wsj.com/articles/judge-asks-federal-prosecutors-to-investigate-ubers-driverless-car-program-1494559677
  18. [18]Adrienne LaFrance, “Can Uber Survive Without Self-Driving Cars?” CityLab, March 27, 2017, https://www.citylab.com/tech/2017/03/can-uber-survive-without-self-driving-cars/520911/

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