Monthly Archives: October 2020

Franklin Foer calls Facebook “the public square”

Mr Foer, when discussing the abuses that Facebook et al perpetrate on US civil society, refers repeatedly to the platforms as “the public square”. But the metaphor fails for me. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, … are all private entities, and IMHO should be allowed to define their own rules, to a certain point. They’re not the corner at Hyde Park, they’re the line inside Starbucks. If Starbucks wants to allow/disallow certain kinds of behavior, within limits (physical assault, for example) they can do it. The Hyde Park corner is constrained to allow freedom of speech precisely because it is real “public space”.

This elides the other obvious, more practical question: how are these entities supposed to censor the posting of all the individuals who use their services, without (for example) introducing moderators to all spaces who are liable for errant postings? So, does everyone want all their posts submitted through a moderator before they appear?

He does note, later in the cast, the contradiction between, for example, ACLU supporters protecting speech while calling for private companies to censor their users’ posts. But, to me, the contradiction doesn’t exist, precisely because of the distinction that he fails to draw between public and private institutions.


Headlines from the front page of the NYT as of tonight:

  • “Trump lashes out at his aides with calls to indict political rivals”, about Trump lambasting his cabinet, his AG, and anyone in shouting distance about not indicting Hilary Clinton for “the worst crimes in American history”; some think he’s gone off the deep end because of his steroid prescription following his Covid infection;
  • “Top Trump fundraiser charged in foreign influence case”, about a Trump ally wrapped up in a Malaysian embezzlement case;
  • “As partial NYC lockdown nears, confusion and anger rattle city”;
  • a map showing the US in bright red as a “leader” in the pandemic;
  • “Inside the People of Praise, Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s faith community”, about a looney religious organization of which our next Supreme Court justice is a member, with the designation “handmaid”;
  • “FBI says Michigan group plotted to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer”, and also take the state capital by force with concomitant loss of life.

This is all on one night’s headline page. If I had read this five years ago, I would have thought someone had created a Times mockup in very bad taste.

Outbreaks in Seattle

I heard on the radio this morning that there’s something like 150 cases of Covid19 amongst six or seven fraternity/sorority houses around the UW campus. Worried neighbors have provided evidence that there’s lots of late-night partying happening; the inference is no social-distancing, limited masks, etc etc, and the residents are putting the neighborhood, and thence the city, at risk.

The University has … sent a letter, and asked politely that residents get tested if they display symptoms and self-isolate. They say they have no authority to do anything more. The national fraternity/sorority organizations that run these houses have … done nothing, as far as I could determine from the article. The public health authority in Seattle has … done nothing.

Contrast this with the description of a small outbreak in Christchurch, described here.

My suggestion: lock the houses, post a cop at the door to stop anyone going in or out. Have groceries delivered and left on the porch. All residents are to remain inside the building(s) for two weeks; they can party as much as they like, but they can’t leave and infect anyone else. Anybody needing to get in (eg EMTs to take anyone who displays serious symptoms to hospital) are required to be in full-body PPE. All done under the authority of Seattle Public Health, with appropriate criminal punishment for violations.

Unclear on the concept, guys. Time for the adults to take control.

Update: searching on the web reveals that this started in June of this year, and case counts have only accelerated since then. Hello? Anyone out there?

And, when you’re done with that …

Before she left for work this morning, Shelley left instructions:

  • for dinner, if I make lecsó, make enough to freeze
  • mow the verge out front
  • mow the area alongside the foundation slab
  • if I have time, please make stock from the chicken backs in the fridge

Hmm. I don’t remember leaving lists for her when I was the principal breadwinner. Maybe it’s a Catholic thing.

Another bad bailout

An MIT team concluded that the PPP handed out $500 billion in loans yet saved only 2.3 million jobs over roughly six months. Assuming that most of the loans are ultimately forgiven, the annualized cost of the program comes out to roughly $500,000 per job.

Of course, when responding to emergencies and improvising, It shouldn’t be surprising that things cost more than they should. But … ? By an order of magnitude?