scharrison's blog

Too big to regulate: Facebook's manipulation of Congressional review

Using opposition research to undermine government:

“At the same time that Facebook was publicly professing their desire to work with the committee to address these issues, they were paying a political opposition research firm to privately attempt to undermine that same committee’s credibility,” Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the top Democrat on the panel, said in a statement. “It’s very concerning.”

The documents obtained by The New York Times provide a deeper look at Definers’ tactics to discredit Facebook’s critics. The Times reported on Wednesday that Definers also distributed research documents to reporters that cast the liberal donor George Soros as an unacknowledged force behind activists protesting Facebook, and helped publish articles criticizing Facebook’s rivals on what was designed to look like a typical conservative news site.

You almost have to be a professional conspiracy theorist to even understand the machinations involved. But that complexity might just be an integral part of the program, and not just a by-product. Because it introduces an element of uncertainty for lawmakers, especially those who have a few skeletons in their closet. They might be on the verge of a career-ending sudden release of damning information, if they push too hard on his royal majesty Mark Zuckerberg, who has mastered the art of strategic denialism:

UNC students harassed online by associate of Pittsburgh mass-murderer

And apparently he lives in the area, too:

Another one of the website’s more prolific users, known as Jack Corbin, is ideologically allied with the suspected killer, Robert Bowers, 46, who would often repost Corbin. And Corbin -- whose real name is unknown, but has generated a following of more than 2,000 people on Gab -- has been harassing college students online, notably activists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, near where Corbin says he lives.

On Gab, Corbin took delight in coming up with a nickname for a graduate student who has protested Silent Sam -- calling her “lampshade.” One of Corbin’s followers had taunted the student, saying he would take her to the lampshade factory, apparently a reference to stories of Nazis who made lampshades from human skin. The student declined to be interviewed but told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Corbin has posted comments about her “looks, ethnicity and background” since August and she had started learning cardio kickboxing because she feared potential violence.

I have nothing but contempt for punks like this who hide behind an alias so they can threaten women with impunity. It's bad enough they have to deal with casual sexism and misogyny on a daily basis from males they do know, but some faceless stranger "joking" about brutal violence is beyond the pale. The 1st Amendment was not written to support predators and bullies, it was written to protect the voices of the oppressed; to keep the government from stifling legitimate complaints. The only thing "legitimate" about this stuff is that it's legitimately disgusting:

The Nazi next door: White Supremacy on the rise

And the mentally ill seem to be more susceptible:

A Cary police officer and an FBI agent met with Warden two days before the incident at the synagogue to discuss fliers that appeared twice in Cary neighborhoods in October, according to the application for a warrant to search Warden's home on Preston Grove Avenue.

On Oct. 16, fliers were found at homes on Roebling Lane that contained a swastika, the words "Aryan Youth" and a link to a channel on the online music-sharing platform Soundcloud that contained neo-Nazi music, the application states. Two days later, at least 60 fliers were in Cary with a swastika and the statement, "White man, are you sick and tired of the Jews destroying your country through mass immigration and degeneracy? Join us in the struggle for global white supremacy at the Daily Stormer."

It's long past time to shut down that particular website. I've held my nose and lurked a few times, and they have mastered the use of code words to (barely) conceal their hatred for blacks and Jews. But that platform (unless I'm mistaken) also provides the capability for private messaging, and even private "group" messaging. I haven't explored either Gab or 4Chan, and don't plan to, but it's safe to say that these platforms serve as an incubator for domestic terrorists. If law enforcement discovered al-Qaeda or Daesh (Islamic State) operating sites like this in the U.S., there would be a fricking task force rounding them up for an express trip to Guantanamo. But this dude will probably get probation:

Tuesday Twitter roundup

No respite for the weary:

I don't even want to speculate what kind of mischief BergerMoore will get up to this time. In the past, they've always floated rumors about some heinous act of repression, and then bait-and-switched it to something (slightly) less horrible. As if playing games with our democracy is a form of recreation, as opposed to an incredibly shameful act.

Massive Solar farm planned near Elizabeth City

solarfarm.jpg

Duke Energy's monopoly is about to get a little thinner:

Pasquotank County officials find themselves in a quandary over whether to welcome or discourage a proposed solar farm that would be one of the largest east of the Mississippi River. Adani Solar USA of Texas plans to build a 2,940-acre solar farm stretching more than four miles on agricultural land along U.S. 17 west of Elizabeth City. The site would operate as Birchwood Solar.

The project would lie within sight of a 104 turbine wind farm – the largest in the state – and could set Elizabeth City apart as a hot bed for renewable energy in North Carolina. The company’s application did not specify the projected megawatt production or the amount of investment, but a project in Currituck County of 500,000 solar panels on 2,000 acres produces 120 megawatts, which can power about 13,000 homes. The $250 million Currituck site generates about $225,000 annually in tax revenues.

I hesitate to say anything before the new General Assembly is sworn in come January, but this (could be) a prime example of how important flipping that Veto-proof majority is. Republicans are reactionary by nature, and no doubt conservatives are already planning to fight this record-breaking renewable energy project. It also demonstrates how important local government elections can be, and citizen participation in meetings:

Rachel Hunt pulls ahead of Bill Brawley after mail-in votes counted

In case you're still jaded, every vote does count:

Absentee ballots put Democrat Rachel Hunt ahead of Republican Rep. Bill Brawley on Friday night in one of the state’s closest legislative races. Brawley, who lives in Matthews, led by 52 votes on Election Day. But Friday’s count of absentee ballots gave Hunt a 64-vote lead, according to the Mecklenburg County Board of Elections.

The race was one of the highest-profile in North Carolina, matching a powerful committee chair and the daughter of a four-term governor. It was also one of the most expensive. Hunt raised over $1.2 million and got about $900,000 in support from the state Democratic Party. Brawley raised over $410,000.

To be honest, when I saw reports that mail-in absentee ballots were yet to be posted, I assumed the worst. That Brawley's lead would actually grow. I've always associated mail-ins with octogenarian Republicans determined to make their regressive voices heard at least one more time, and I am deliriously happy to have that prejudice shattered. It's still way too close for comfort, and I have little doubt that Brawley will stretch this thing out as long as he can by demanding a recount. And he won't be the only one doing so:

Three Americas? Jobs growth study dispels myths, exposes flaws

A rising tide actually drowns a lot of people:

When such cities as Atlanta and Charlotte enjoyed a job surge in the 20 years that began in 1990, for example, the job gains mostly bypassed residents — often African-American — who had been born into poverty. That is among the findings of a study led by Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist whose newly launched Opportunity Atlas found no association between job growth and economic mobility for poor residents of the affected areas.

“Job growth is not sufficient by itself to create upward mobility,” Chetty said. “It’s almost as though racial disparities have been amplified by job growth.” His finding challenges much of the conventional thinking, of government officials, business executives and economists, that job gains are the surest way to lift up people in impoverished communities.

I think one of the biggest mistakes many government officials make is placing high value on high average salaries, when it comes to recruiting businesses using incentives, anyway. Said company might "create" 300 good jobs, but when 85% of those jobs are taken by people moving to the area for just that reason, what has that accomplished in reducing local unemployment? Not a whole lot. And the more professional skills and certifications those jobs require, the less value to the community that new business represents. I realize many reading this may not agree, but take a quick look at your zip code before attempting to correct me:

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