Facebook Bends Over for China

"China bans all internet searches for 'big yellow duck' as part of Tiananmen Square anniversary"
Facebook: Still Literally the Worst

The social network has quietly developed software to suppress posts from appearing in people's news feeds in specific geographic areas, according to three current and former Facebook employees, who asked for anonymity because the tool is confidential. The feature was created to help Facebook get into China, a market where the social network has been blocked, these people said. Mr. Zuckerberg has supported and defended the effort, the people added. [...]

Facebook does not intend to suppress the posts itself. Instead, it would offer the software to enable a third party -- in this case, most likely a partner Chinese company -- to monitor popular stories and topics that bubble up as users share them across the social network, the people said. Facebook's partner would then have full control to decide whether those posts should show up in users' feeds. [...]

"We won't actually censor anything -- we'll just give unfettered access and control to the Chinese government."

The suppression software has been contentious within Facebook, which is separately grappling with what should or should not be shown to its users after the American presidential election's unexpected outcome spurred questions over fake news on the social network. Several employees who were working on the project have left Facebook after expressing misgivings about it, according to the current and former employees. [...]

"Several Facebook employees discovered that they do, in fact, have ethics, claim anonymous sources."

Some analysts have said Facebook's best option is to follow a model laid out by other internet companies and cooperate with a local company or investor. Finding a partner -- and potentially allowing it to own a majority stake in Facebook's China operation -- would take the burden of censorship and surveillance off the Silicon Valley company. It would also let Facebook rely on a local company's government connections and experience to deal with the difficult task of communicating with Beijing.

"When an American company wants to cave to the demands of a foreign totalitarian regime, it always plays better in the media to launder that activity through a shell company."

Facebook's descent into the rabbit hole of censorship is suicidal:

But the intent here is the real problem. In the first place, it shows a decidedly broken moral compass. You know how they keep telling us that open and free trade and relations with totalitarian countries will someday soon lead to more freedom in those countries as its people become more and more exposed to our way of life?

All of that goes out the window when the businesses and politicians trading and dealing with those countries agree to censor the things that make free society free in the first place. Facebook is guilty of this every time it agrees to erase even the evidence of American political free speech with censorship. Politicians are guilty of this every time a female American envoy agrees to ignore our firm belief in religious pluralism by donning a hijab when visiting even non-religious sites in a Muslim country. The list goes on, but the exchange of free ideas and principles is killed by these kinds of unjustified concessions and they destroy the very best reasons for international relations.

Hey, remember when Twitter pulled this same shit and nobody cared?

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Autocracy: Rules for Survival

Several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler's anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes."
Autocracy: Rules for Survival

However well-intentioned, this talk assumes that Trump is prepared to find common ground with his many opponents, respect the institutions of government, and repudiate almost everything he has stood for during the campaign. In short, it is treating him as a "normal" politician. [...]

But Trump is anything but a regular politician and this has been anything but a regular election. [...] He is probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan. Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat -- and won.

I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin's Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

  • Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable. Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler's anti-Semitism was all posture. [...]

  • Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. [...] Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people. Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words [...]

  • Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed. The capture of institutions in Turkey has been carried out even faster, by a man once celebrated as the democrat to lead Turkey into the EU. Poland has in less than a year undone half of a quarter century's accomplishments in building a constitutional democracy. [...]

  • Rule #4: Be outraged. If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one's capacity for shock. This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself. [...]

  • Rule #5: Don't make compromises. Like Ted Cruz, who made the journey from calling Trump "utterly amoral" and a "pathological liar" to endorsing him in late September to praising his win as an "amazing victory for the American worker," Republican politicians have fallen into line. Conservative pundits who broke ranks during the campaign will return to the fold. Democrats in Congress will begin to make the case for cooperation, for the sake of getting anything done -- or at least, they will say, minimizing the damage. [...]

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The Manchurian Candidate and vote hacking

Hey, remember that time the KGB got their goon elected President of the United States? It's like if in The Manchurian Candidate, Laurence Harvey was going around saying "Chairman Mao is a good friend of mine, he's got some great ideas. Yuge ideas."

Russian Officials Were in Contact With Trump Allies, Diplomat Says

MOSCOW -- The Russian government maintained contacts with members of Donald J. Trump's "immediate entourage" during the American presidential campaign, one of Russia's top diplomats said Thursday.

"There were contacts," Sergei A. Ryabkov, the deputy foreign minister, was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. "We continue to do this and have been doing this work during the election campaign," he said.

Mr. Ryabkov said officials in the Russian Foreign Ministry were familiar with many of the people he described as Mr. Trump's entourage. "I cannot say that all, but a number of them maintained contacts with Russian representatives," Mr. Ryabkov said.

Want to Know if the Election was Hacked? Look at the Ballots.

How might a foreign government hack America's voting machines to change the outcome of a presidential election? Here's one possible scenario. First, the attackers would probe election offices well in advance in order to find ways to break into their computers. Closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which states would have close electoral margins, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines in some of these states, rigging the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor their desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, do its dirty business during the election, then erase itself when the polls close. A skilled attacker's work might leave no visible signs  --  though the country might be surprised when results in several close states were off from pre-election polls.

Could anyone be brazen enough to try such an attack? A few years ago, I might have said that sounds like science fiction, but 2016 has seen unprecedented cyberattacks aimed at interfering with the election. [...] In all these cases, Federal agencies publicly asserted that senior officials in the Russian government commissioned these attacks. [...]

The only way to know whether a cyberattack changed the result is to closely examine the available physical evidence  --  paper ballots and voting equipment in critical states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, nobody is ever going to examine that evidence unless candidates in those states act now, in the next several days, to petition for recounts.

Former Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein intends to file for a recount in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

"After a divisive and painful presidential race, reported hacks into voter and party databases and individual email accounts were causing many [Americans] to wonder if our election results are reliable," Stein said in the statement. "These concerns need to be investigated before the 2016 presidential election is certified."

(Electronic voting machines have been a slow motion apocalypse for decades. It would be really ironic if Jill Stein ended up helping to keep Trump out of the White House, but hey, I'll take it. Petition.)

As additional votes have been counted in the presidential election, especially on the West Coast, Hillary Clinton's national popular-vote lead over Donald Trump now exceeds 2 million votes.

To put that popular-vote margin into perspective, Al Gore's popular-vote lead over George W. Bush in 2000 - when Bush won the Electoral College - was 547,000 votes. Also noteworthy: Clinton's 64-plus million votes is nearing in on the 65.9 million Barack Obama won in 2012.

Of course, presidents are elected by the Electoral College, not the popular vote, and what sunk Clinton's campaign was her performance in the key battleground states, particularly in the Midwest. And by Wasserman's count, Trump beat Clinton in 13 key swing states by a 48.5%-to-46.6% margin. In the non-swing states, though, Clinton is ahead of Trump 48.9%-to-45.6%.

Donald Trump, Voting Machine Truther, Should Demand Recounts to Prove He Won:

It is important to realize that there is a clear, non-partisan case for post-election audits of voting machines to be routine, rather than exceptional, and that there are alternatives to full recounts.

Interestingly, Trump has deleted a number of tweets he sent in 2012, including:

"He [Obama] lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!"'

"The phoney [sic] electoral college made a laughing stock out of our nation. The loser one!"

"More votes equals a loss...revolution!"

"This election is a total sham and a travesty. We are not a democracy!"

"The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy."

Yet on Tuesday, Trump tweeted:

"The Electoral College is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smaller ones, into play. Campaigning is much different!"

Republicans were wildly successful at suppressing voters in 2016. Three GOP-controlled states demonstrate the effectiveness of disenfranchising the opposition.

Last week, the first election in 50 years without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act propelled Donald Trump to the White House. [...] There has been relatively little discussion about the millions of people who were eligible to vote but could not do so because they faced an array of newly-enacted barriers to the ballot box.

Their systematic disenfranchisement was intentional and politically motivated. In the years leading up to 2016, Republican governors and state legislatures implemented new laws restricting when, where, and how people could vote -- laws that disproportionately harmed students, the poor, and people of color. In several instances, lawmakers pushing such policies said explicitly that their goal was suppression of voters who favor the Democratic Party. [...]

Republican Gov. Scott Walker signed Wisconsin's strict voter ID law in 2011, and it has been tied up in court battles for years. A federal court held that the law unconstitutionally burdens low-income people of color, but ultimately the Supreme Court allowed it to go into effect for the 2016 election. [...]

Federal courts struck down most of the [North Carolina] law after finding that it was passed with the intention to suppress African-American voters "with almost surgical precision." [...] Republican-controlled county elections boards tried to find a way around the verdict. No longer able to cut a full week of early voting, the state GOP instructed the boards to make "party line changes to early voting": cutting hours and locations. [...]

In the final weeks leading up to the election, voting rights groups discovered that Wisconsin officials at local DMV offices were giving false information to voters attempting to get the proper ID, putting those officials in violation of a federal court order. [...]

In total, roughly 1.5 million Florida residents (almost 2.5 percent of the state's population) are disenfranchised because of the law, which white lawmakers designed in the years after the Civil War in a deliberate attempt to dilute the voting power of freed slaves. This year, one in four of Florida's black residents could not cast a ballot.

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Gimp Time

Richard Ankrom:


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Infinity Puzzle

The infinity puzzles are a new type of jigsaw puzzle inspired by topological spaces that continuously tile. Because of that, they have no fixed shape, no starting point, and no edges.

The intricate branching shapes of our puzzle pieces emerge from a simulation of crystal growth and are lasercut from plywood. [...] Instead of mapping to a torus, this puzzle maps to a Klein bottle, an impossible 3D shape where the inside and outside are mathematically indistinguishable. This means that the puzzle tiles with a flip. Pieces from the right side attach to the left side but only after they have been flipped over. Just like the Klein bottle's surface has no inside or outside, the puzzle has no up or down side. You can start the puzzle anywhere on any side. This puzzle is adorned with a photograph of the galactic center from the Hubble observatory. The image is continuous from one side of the puzzle to the other, so it's not possible to see the entire image at once. Explore the galaxy while assembling the puzzle in multiple ways.

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"Blame is apportioned appropriately."

A git repository of Unix commits, 1970-present:

The project has achieved its first major goal with the establishment of a continuous timeline from 1972 until today:

  • snapshots of PDP-7, V1, V3, V4, V5, V6, and V7 Research Edition,
  • Unix/32V,
  • all available BSD releases,
  • the CSRG SCCS history,
  • two releases of 386BSD,
  • the 386BSD patchkit,
  • the FreeBSD 1.0 to 1.1.5 CVS history,
  • an import of the FreeBSD repository starting from its initial imports that led to FreeBSD 2.0, and
  • the current FreeBSD repository.

The files appear to be added in the repository in chronological order according to their modification time, and large parts of the source code have been attributed to their actual authors. Commands like git blame and (sometimes) git log produce the expected results.

Blame is apportioned appropriately.

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