Elections, not Zuckerberg

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Mark Zuckerberg seems no better and no worse than any other business owner/billionaire these days. His company makes huge profits and he still needs ever more to satisfy himself and his stockholders. This is our brand of capitalism and Zuckerberg is certainly not any more greedy than anyone else. I am not going back into the now-distant past to talk about whether he became sole owner of Facebook by trickery and theft of intellectual property. That has already been adjudicated and now is a matter for Zuckerberg’s conscience.

There are at least two different points being argued at the same time and they do connect, but they are not the same issue. One argument says here is a company that is owned by one man. It has a huge presence on the internet which gives Mark Zuckerberg a disproportionate influence over internet users. So the argument here is that Zuckerberg’s company needs some regulation.

But that depends on whether we are talking about consumerism or elections. Unlike Cambridge Analytica Mark Zuckerberg, I’m thinking, did not intend to influence a US election any more than he intended to make identity theft a more common type of crime. He did intend to use what all websites use and what Bruce Schneier, writing at cnn.com yesterday morning (March 26, 2018) called “surveillance capitalism.”

Facebook users are not that naïve. We know that, although Facebook has gotten quite picky about what privacy level we want for things we post, they still allow all kinds of other apps and sites to collect our data and that of our friends. How many times have you given up your contacts to gain quick access to a site? The problem is that this allows someone like Cambridge Analytica, an organization that has only a fiduciary relationship with Facebook to mine data that Facebook supposedly protects but actually makes accessible to all who pay to advertise on the platform.

Since our entire culture centers around making money, having money, making more money and stockpiling as much money as you can and since every company has the same goals – profit- it is hard to fault Zuckerberg for being a successful businessman. If no one ever used this data to spy, to meddle in an election(/s), then we would not be having this discussion right now.

We are at a time when meddling in American elections seems to be the project of the moment for way too many people and at least one nation. I am not talking about voter fraud. I do not think we the people are even on the list of election tinkerers. Are both the GOP and the Dems using the internet to feed false information to people who use social media? I don’t think so. Were those who stole data under false pretenses and used it to fix (or try to fix) an election only trying to stop Hillary, or did they only wish to elect Trump – or would they have tried to throw the election to any candidate on the right. It seems that the election of 2016 was very important to an awful lot of people, and that they were are all working for the right.

Regardless of who Cambridge Analytica was working for, or whether or not Putin had people trying to fix the election, or even if Hillary and the Dems were trying to fix the election against Bernie Sanders, clearly we must protect our elections from any kind of meddling. Free and fair elections are the basis of our democracy/republic. Given what we can see about the lack of any reliable privacy on the internet and the modern tendency to push media into our communities that offers partisan propaganda, but likes to pretend that it is offering unbiased facts, obviously, some real effort and study needs to be dedicated to protecting our “free and fair” elections. Since some people feel that all is fair in politics and elections this effort cannot be delayed. We have another election coming up. We have elections all the time.

It is disingenuous to try to make Mark Zuckerberg the scapegoat for what is happening with our elections. Perhaps this is more Conservative razzle-dazzle to distract everyone from noticing that most of the election meddling was done on behalf of the GOP and Donald Trump. Zuckerberg just uses the same “surveillance capitalism” that all sites use on the web (although it is possible he pioneered some of the methodologies currently in use). These tactics are invasive and annoying and they make hacking the web a gamble with a big payoff.

We do need some oversight on the internet or the internet will become so crime-ridden that it will be shunned by people who cannot take risks with their data or their money. And this very model of “surveillance capitalism” is used on all social media but Facebook has the biggest treasure trove of personal information. Can Facebook be fixed? Will we like it to death?

It also feels as if some people are feeling personally vindictive towards Mark Zuckerberg and some professional jealousy may be increasing their desires to force him to answer to Congress and take him down a peg or two. We need to keep our eye on the main focus here and that is to guarantee that our elections are free and fair. If we have to rein in capitalism on the internet, are we willing to do that at a time when our government is busily overturning all the regulations that are now in place? What we need most of all is a new government.

Social Darwinism and Overweening Egos

There are things the current incarnation of the GOP believes. They believe that social programs have been bad for the people at the bottom of the heap, robbing them of incentive to claw their way up the ladder. A lingering reptilian part of our brain is trying to whisper to us that this is a reasonable idea to explain why some people need government assistance for most of their lives. But the part of our brain that contains actual knowledge of history and intelligence to reach back and see if this is true tells us that this line of argument is wrong. This is Social Darwinism. Trump didn’t think John McCain was a hero because he got captured. Well the Social Darwinists (which apparently includes all of the GOP and their base) don’t think the less fortunate among us are worthy of any assistance because they are losers. They do not want to spend their millions and billions on losers. Let them survive or die. The fittest among them will survive. A few may even achieve greatness.

If you do some reading about the days before governments tried to “even the playing field” or at least put a livable bottom on our societies you will find that life without supports was very rough and hard scrabble indeed for those who were poor. But leaving poor people on their own without offering opportunities to legally improve their lives had consequences for everyone. Bandits roamed freely making travel difficult. Hygiene suffered when there were no funds to pay for infrastructure and when hygiene goes out the window, germs come in. So we know that plagues and diseases usually took root in poorer districts first and worked their way up. People who had to support families but had no skills turned to every type of crime and scam to make their meager way in the world. No country became great without some way to lift up those who were without honest resources.

The GOP points to the 1890’s, the midpoint of the era of the Robber Barons, when fortunes were made and regulation was pretty much nonexistent. They want to create this wild-west economy again. Throw out all regulations, disregard the end-of-the-world nuts who say that without regulation the world’s climate zones will change in ways that we may not be able to adapt to, and we may face the same extinction many animals face today. Nonsense the GOP says. The world’s climate changes all the time and nothing humans do can affect that it any way. So they are willing to bet on this even though all of the evidence stands against them and even though they are betting the futures of many folks who don’t agree with them. But they say, if we reset to a time when people were left to their own devices without government interference we might see the same burst of innovative energy that we saw at the beginning of the Industrial Age. To many of us this seems like an enormous gamble to take and they plan to take us all along for the ride.

They interpret the meaning of our forefathers when they said that all men are created equal differently from those of us who think that means that we are all equally human and that a government that is of the people and by the people and for the people is not a government for only rich people. Some of us believe that in order to keep our democracy great we must try to give everyone in our society an opportunity to succeed and at least a minimum standard of living to maintain health and order in our society. Offering social programs is not a totally altruistic endeavor. It is a survival mechanism besides offering spiritual rewards to all.

The GOP however does not assume that the forefathers were saying that all humans deserve to be equal regardless of their talents or the accidents of their birth (fortunate or unfortunate). They say this phrase means that although we may start out as equals it is how we make use of our opportunities that causes us to thrive or fail. The logic that they offer us is pretty self-serving. They feel that everyone can fight and struggle his/her way to the top given enough grit. No grit, no gold.

So under the cover of the “orange one” they are “deconstructing” Washington, enacting their brand of Federalism which sticks strictly to the Constitutions which says that any rights not given to the Federal government belong to the states. The Federal role is only to deal with foreign powers, to fund, maintain and employ the military, and to make a Federal budget. They have no worries comparing America with a population of 3 million to America with a population of 324 million. They have no worries that our forefathers decided not to go with a strict interpretation of the states’ rights versus federal rights. In fact, in 1890 the population in America was 5 times less than it is today but the GOP believes that the math does not matter. We are a republic, which means that our democracy is a constitutional democracy and we have wandered too far from what our forefathers intended.

Two of the strongest proponents of this view are Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz and, right now, they are the overweening egos of which I speak. Both of these men are well-educated and quite comfortably well-off. Both are ambitious and, I assume, sincerely want to fix America. But one is enamored of a thinker from the 1930’s and the other is the son of a man we took in as a political refugee, a man who has preached fire and brimstone and hate and racism all across the American South (like father, like son). We can see the Paul Ryan/Ted Cruz ideology in their stand on health care in America. Both are of the Social Darwinist wing of the Party. They want to put health care back on the free market and those who can afford it will buy it and those who can’t will get no health care at all. See if that doesn’t make “them” strive to move up the ladder of opportunity (which had just been pulled up into the attic, for the most part unreachable by any of the lowly).

Ted Cruz said recently that he does not back the American Health Care Act because it is just Obamacare Lite. He is holding out for Ryan Care, the free market. We the wealthy don’t wanna’ pay for any more health care handouts. Buy or die. And, he now is offering a way to get this done, right quickly. Here’s the title of the article that tells what Ted Cruz is up to now,

Senator Cruz Found an Overlooked 1974 Rule That Could Be a Real Game-changer for Repealing Obamacare

 http://ijr.com/2017/03/822444-senator-cruz-found-an-overlooked-1974-rule-that-could-be-a-real-game-changer-for-repealing-obamacare/

 

Of course he did, after all he prides himself on being a whiz (or a genius) at Constitutional Law.

“Among the disappointed is Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who now says he’s found a decades-old rule that he hopes will allow Republicans to pass a more thorough, far-reaching health care reform bill.

However, Cruz’s strategy — which would leverage the power Vice President Mike Pence has as president of the Senate — “might blow up the Senate too,” Bloomberg Politics notes.”

“These special rules hinge on what is known as “reconciliation,” a process which allows legislation that affects the budget but has a limited scope to be passed with only a simple Senate majority, leaving such bills immune to filibuster.

Traditionally, it has fallen to the parliamentarian — who advises the Senate “on the interpretation of its rules and procedures” — to determine what should and should not be considered a reconciliation bill.”

“Under the Budget Act of 1974, which is what governs reconciliation, it is the presiding officer, the vice president of the United States, who rules on what’s permissible on reconciliation and what is not.

That’s a conversation I’ve been having with a number of my colleagues.”

“Still, it remains to be seen whether or not Cruz’s colleagues will be eager to employ the senator’s “radical” interpretation of the rule. Being similar to 2013’s filibuster reform, it runs the risk of “fundamentally altering the way Congress works.”

In terms of fellow Republicans eager to see a more thorough replacement of Obamacare, however, Cruz certainly has plenty of allies.”

 

So while those who disagree with Social Darwinism fight to keep the ACA we are up against a new “nuclear” option, as if a Party that controls all branches of our government has any need to employ nukes. It is difficult not to feel that we are helpless to turn back the tide of backwardness now that it has been given sway over the business of our nation. I, for one, already believe that the GOP way is not good for our nation and I am sorry that we seem to have to go “there” to find out and that we may never find our way back. The tides of political thought in the world seem to have turned against government of the people, by the people and for the people.