Someone who worked at a company for a few years in the early days and then left (often because they were pushed out or couldn’t scale) has zero moral authority to weigh-in on complex policy issues facing that company. Don’t trade on your good fortune.

America’s Great Divide: Steve Schmidt Interview | FRONTLINE

Steve Schmidt served as a political strategist for George W. Bush and the John McCain presidential campaign. He is a political analyst for MSNBC and NBC News.

Schmidt’s candid, full interview was conducted with FRONTLINE during the making of the two-part January 2020 documentary series “America’s Great Divide: From Obama to Trump.”

Watch Part One here: https://youtu.be/SnMBYMOTwEs
And Part Two here: https://youtu.be/l5vyDPN19ww

 

 

50:57
And so when you see Donald Trump and you see the servility of the coequal branch of government,
51:05
the absolute unwillingness to confront him, to confront his excesses, his dishonesty, his degradations of the office,
51:14
his attacks on the institutions, is an utter, complete, total abdication of a responsibility and duty that’s historic.
51:26
The “zero tolerance” policy, the family separation issue, you’ve written a little bit about this, I think.
51:34
What’s at stake here?
51:37
I think you sort of pointed to the fact that this was an important point to understand,
51:42
that Trump basically owned the GOP at this point.
51:45
Explain—explain what you’re thinking.
51:46
This is a question of national honor.
51:49
The United States of America should not separate mothers and children
51:55
and lock the children into cages, into detention facilities.
52:00
Should not.
52:02
And it recalls the worst excesses in American history: the separation of African American mothers and children
52:11
during slavery; the separation of mothers and children who were Native Americans.
52:20
We have had great injustice in the country,
52:26
but the greatness of the country is the ability to make great progress combating it.
52:31
It’s wrong.
52:32
When you see a government official with an American flag on their shoulder committing that act, it’s disgraceful,
52:45
it’s dishonorable, it’s cruel, and it’s inhumane.
52:51
But we have become desensitized in this era of Trump to cruelty, to inhumanity, to indecency, to dishonesty,
53:03
to all of our great detriment.
53:06
Why did you leave the party?
53:08
Because the Republican Party—well, I’ll say this.
53:14
I think the Republican Party and the Democratic Party are both broken institutions, the Republican Party more so.
53:24
But while broken, they also are two of the most important institutions in world history
53:32
for the advancement of human dignity and freedom despite all of their flaws.
53:38
For me, I could no longer be a member of a political party that was so corrupted by Donald Trump
53:47
that he consumed lock, stock and barrel, and the leadership of the political party fundamentally capitulated to him.
53:59
The Republican Party’s not a conservative party anymore.
54:02
It’s a party that’s populist, that’s nonsensical at times, that’s illiberal a lot of the time.
54:12
And all of the things that I’ve believed in and have steadily believed in, I still believe in,
54:20
but that institution is no longer the vessel for them.
54:25
… The 2018 midterm elections.
54:28
So Trump uses the [Brett] Kavanaugh story and immigration as a way to excite the voters.
54:37
The media, Fox, stokes it, supports it totally.
54:46
There are a lot of lies that are told about exactly what’s going on.
54:50
What’s—what’s the result?
54:53
As a man who believes in the system and in politics and the way it needs to—how campaigns are run,
55:01
what was your view of what was taking place?
55:04
Well, there was only one issue in the 2018 election.
55:07
It wasn’t immigration; it wasn’t Brett Kavanaugh.
55:10
It was Donald Trump.
55:11
And the question before the nation in 2018 was, are we going to put a check on Donald Trump and the party of Trump?
55:19
And the answer to that question was a decisive yes.
55:23
And part of that decisive yes were millions and millions of Republican voters
55:28
who voted Democratic for the first time in their lives.
55:31
Right.
55:32
This election was also fascinating in the Democratic Party because there was a split within the Democratic Party as well.
55:37
And you’ve got progressives like AOC [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and others who are—
55:44
who rise up and are elected and become very important voices and define the divide within the Democratic Party.
55:52
What’s going on within the Democratic Party, and in the end, how does it—how does it play out from your perspective?
56:00
Well, you’re seeing a rising extreme in the Democratic Party that is the mirror opposite
56:10
And I think Democrats make a big mistake if they answer Trumpism with dishonest progressivism.
56:16
If you go out and say that we’re going to give everybody free health care, free education;
56:22
give everybody reparations; … we can go and spend hundreds and hundreds of trillions of dollars—this is all fantasy.
56:30
And in a political contest dominated by dishonesty and fantasy—
56:35
and I would suggest that competing against Donald Trump is the equivalent of running a foot race against Usain Bolt.
56:42
Not going to win a dishonesty contest with Donald Trump.
56:45
And so in this moment, what Democrats, in my view, should be focused on is the assemblage of a grand coalition
56:55
that is fidelitous to small “L” liberalism, to our democratic values,
57:01
that Americans of all different types of political persuasion can come into and feel at home in.
57:09
The progressive agenda represented by AOC, a, won’t pass; b, doesn’t have a national constituency;
57:21
and c, could well be the reason that we see a second term for President Donald Trump.
57:27
You think that’s a real possibility?
57:29
Sure do.
57:29
Trump’s rhetoric has been blamed for rising tensions, white supremacists sort of being more blatant in their demands
57:41
and their marches and such, and it is tied directly to the El Paso massacre.
57:47
What is your overview on the power of rhetoric and the repetition of that rhetoric, especially if it’s based on falsities?
57:58
Well, Trump has debased his office; he’s debased the culture; he’s debased our political conversation,
58:06
and he’s done it thousands and thousands and thousands of times over the last three years.
58:11
He’s a racist; he’s a race baiter; he has worsened racial divisions in this country.
58:18
He has energized the white supremacist movement in the country,
58:22
and we know that’s true because the white supremacists thank him openly for doing so.
58:29
Now, we see a president who divides, who stokes, who incites, who appeals in almost every instance
58:40
not to the better angels but to the worst impulses,
58:43
the worst instincts and the basest, darkest aspects of American history and American life.
58:51
And what does this mean long term for your GOP, your party that you used to belong to?
58:58
Well, the Republican Party will be completely transformed, probably fatally, by its contact with Donald Trump.
59:08
And that may play out over five years, over 10 years.
59:13
But when you look at the demographics in the country, there will always be a market for a conservative message.
59:21
But Trumpism is cancerous, and everything it touches will ultimately be consumed by it.
59:30
But far more important than the effect of the Republican Party is the effect on the country.
59:38
It weakens American democracy.
59:42
And I think it’s also important to understand that the Democratic Party will not remain untouched by Trumpism also.
59:52
How so?
59:53
Well, if crudity, if meanness, if vulgarity, if inhumanity become mainstreamed,
60:02
if the lesson of this generation of progressive politicians is to be like Trump but with different policies,
60:11
then the Democratic Party will be consumed by it as the Republican Party has.
60:16
The—both sides coming up to the upcoming elections warn about apocalypse.
60:26
The consequences if the other side wins are just unfathomable.
60:32
Is this the new norm?
60:35
Each election has always been the most important election in American history,
60:41
and the men and women running for president have always made it clear that their candidacy represents
60:48
the decisive moment and the last chance to avoid the apocalypse.
60:56
It may be true in this election.
60:58
This country will be changed in ways that will be difficult to unmake if Donald Trump gets a second term. …
61:10
Donald Trump is cruel, vile; he’s debased his office; he’s incompetent.
61:17
But it’s a mistake to dismiss him as inconsequential.
61:21
We are at the end of the long life spans of the people who stormed the beaches in Normandy,
61:28
who survived the death camps.
61:30
And what Franklin Roosevelt’s goal when he envisioned the world that we live in today,
61:35
when he architected the post-World War II U.S.-led liberal global order that was maintained
61:43
from President Truman through President Obama, his aspiration wasn’t that it would endure forever.
61:51
What he said is he wanted it to endure so long as every person
61:57
who was living in the country during the war was alive on the earth.
62:04
We’re at the end of that era.
62:06
And we see Donald Trump unraveling that U.S.-led liberal global order.
62:13
We see a regression of democracy all over the world.
62:17
We have an illiberal president who assaults our institutions, our values, our democracy, who debases our culture.
62:29
Another term for Donald Trump will validate his election; it will validate his behavior.
62:36
He will be unchecked, and the damage will be much, much harder to undo if it can ever be undone.
62:44
So we’ve talked about two presidents that were change candidates,
62:51
that the public turned to because they were so angry with the status quo in Washington and in the country.
62:59
What did we learn from that, and where do we go from here?
63:07
Another change candidate but in another direction?
63:12
I mean, as [David] Axelrod says, you always go to the opposite on the next election
63:19
because the people are tired of what the last guy did.
63:22
What’s your take on American politics and where we go from here?
63:29
The Democratic Party’s obligation in this election is to produce a political leader who can defeat Donald Trump
63:40
and to defeat Trumpism, not to defeat Trump by being a mirror of Trump, but to assemble a coalition
63:49
that can inspire the nation to move past this depraved era
63:54
and to face the challenges that the country has to face full-on, head-on.
64:00
And so when we look at the Democratic Party right now, it’s no accident that Trump is labeling Democrats,
64:07
and some of those Democratic politicians are making it easy for them when he calls them socialists,
64:12
because Trump understands this: In America, the socialist loses to a sociopath in every election,
64:21
every day of the week, and twice on Sunday.
64:25
I just have one question about Trump’s use of social media.
64:30
Some have said he’s the first politician to ever do that,
64:34
but it seems that Sarah Palin was really pretty instrumental in using Facebook as a way to reach her audience.
64:39
Can you just connect those two ideas?
64:42
Well, I don’t—look, I don’t think they’re analogous.
64:51
IPhones were invented in 2007, so the ubiquity of social media, the portability of social media, the instant nature
65:03
of social media is something that didn’t exist in 2008 but certainly does now, and he uses it to great effect.
65:12
… One other small thing is the use of divisive issues that he—that he falls back on, like the NFL.
65:24
How powerful is that, and why does he do it?
65:30
Well, Trump understands—Trump understands the power of symbols,
65:38
and he understands the emotional resonance of those symbols to millions and millions of Americans.
65:46
And so he is a—he is a very talented demagogue.
65:55
He is a very skilled liar.
65:59
He is an excellent communicator, and he speaks in a language that people can relate to and that people can understand.
66:10
That’s an important thing for his political opponents to understand also.
66:14
And this immigration issue, which is so central to—I mean, does it remain central in the upcoming elections?
66:22
I mean, why?
66:24
Does the potency wear off at some point?
66:28
Well, what you’re seeing now is a reciprocal extremism from a lot of the Democrats.
66:34
Now you watch the Democratic debates, it’s fair to ask, well, do you believe there should be a border at all?
66:41
And so most Americans, overwhelmingly, Republicans and Democrats, believe yes, there ought to be a sovereign border.
66:50
We should know who’s in the country.
66:52
And so there’s no constituency for the most extreme positions that you’re seeing on the Democratic side.
66:59
Trump understands that.
67:01
And so we have an immigration debate that’s not just venal; it’s completely detached from reality.
67:08
When the debate is we’re talking about Mexican-built walls,
67:12
we are sending military to the border in publicity-stunt exercises as if there was a Panzer division
67:20
about to break through the southern border en route to Washington.
67:24
It’s a theater of the absurd playing out as opposed to an issue that needs to be reckoned with
67:31
and dealt with in a humane, responsible and commonsensical way.

WT:Social is a New Social Network From WikiTribune

WT:Social is a new social network from Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. He promises it will never sell user data and rely on donors rather than ads (via BBC).

WT:Social

When you first sign up you’ll be put on a waiting list and asked to invite others, or you can sign up for a subscription. It costs US$13/mo or US$100/year.

We will empower you to make your own choices about what content you are served, and to directly edit misleading headlines, or flag problem posts. We will foster an environment where bad actors are removed because it is right, not because it suddenly affects our bottom-line.

WT:Social will be focused on news and members will be asked to edit misleading headlines. Articles will be shared in a timeline that presents content by the newest stuff first, rather than algorithmically-sorted like Facebook and Twitter.

Zuckerberg’s new privacy essay shows why Facebook needs to be broken up

Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t understand what privacy means — he can’t be trusted to define it for the rest of us

Zuckerberg’s new privacy essay shows why Facebook needs to be broken up
Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t understand what privacy means—he can’t be trusted to define it for the rest of us.
by Konstantin Kakaes March 7, 2019

In a letter published when his company went public in 2012, Mark Zuckerberg championed Facebook’s mission of making the world “more open and connected.” Businesses would become more authentic, human relationships stronger, and government more accountable. “A more open world is a better world,” he wrote.

Facebook’s CEO now claims to have had a major change of heart.

In “A Privacy-Focused Vision for Social Networking,” a 3,200-word essay that Zuckerberg posted to Facebook on March 6, he says he wants to “build a simpler platform that’s focused on privacy first.” In apparent surprise, he writes: “People increasingly also want to connect privately in the digital equivalent of the living room.”

Zuckerberg’s essay is a power grab disguised as an act of contrition. Read it carefully, and it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that if privacy is to be protected in any meaningful way, Facebook must be broken up.

Facebook grew so big, so quickly that it defies categorization. It is a newspaper. It is a post office and a telephone exchange. It is a forum for political debate, and it is a sports broadcaster. It’s a birthday-reminder service and a collective photo album. It is all of these things—and many others—combined, and so it is none of them.

Zuckerberg describes Facebook as a town square. It isn’t. Facebook is a company that brought in more than $55 billion in advertising revenue last year, with a 45% profit margin. This makes it one of the most profitable business ventures in human history. It must be understood as such.

Facebook has minted money because it has figured out how to commoditize privacy on a scale never before seen. A diminishment of privacy is its core product. Zuckerberg has made his money by performing a sort of arbitrage between how much privacy Facebook’s 2 billion users think they are giving up and how much he has been able to sell to advertisers. He says nothing of substance in his long essay about how he intends to keep his firm profitable in this supposed new era. That’s one reason to treat his Damascene moment with healthy skepticism.

“Frankly we don’t currently have a strong reputation for building privacy protective services,” Zuckerberg writes. But Facebook’s reputation is not the salient question: its business model is. If Facebook were to implement strong privacy protections across the board, it would have little left to sell to advertisers aside from the sheer size of its audience. Facebook might still make a lot of money, but they’d make a lot less of it.

Zuckerberg’s proposal is a bait-and-switch. What he’s proposing is essentially a beefed-up version of WhatsApp. Some of the improvements might be worthwhile. Stronger encryption can indeed be useful, and a commitment to not building data centers in repressive countries is laudable, as far as it goes. Other principles that Zuckerberg puts forth would concentrate his monopoly power in worrisome ways. The new “platforms for private sharing” are not instead of Facebook’s current offering: they’re in addition to it. “Public social networks will continue to be very important in people’s lives,” he writes, an assertion he never squares with the vague claim that “interacting with your friends and family across the Facebook network will become a fundamentally more private experience.”

By narrowly construing privacy to be almost exclusively about end-to-end encryption that would prevent a would-be eavesdropper from intercepting communications, he manages to avoid having to think about Facebook’s weaknesses and missteps. Privacy is not just about keeping secrets. It’s also about how flows of information shape us as individuals and as a society. What we say to whom and why is a function of context. Social networks change that context, and in so doing they change the nature of privacy, in ways that are both good and bad.

Russian propagandists used Facebook to sway the 2016 American election, perhaps decisively. Myanmarese military leaders used Facebook to incite an anti-Rohingya genocide. These are consequences of the ways in which Facebook has diminished privacy. They are not the result of failures of encryption.

“Privacy,” Zuckerberg writes, “gives people the freedom to be themselves.” This is true, but it is also incomplete. The self evolves over time. Privacy is important not simply because it allows us to be, but because it gives us space to become. As Georgetown University law professor Julie Cohen has written: “Conditions of diminished privacy also impair the capacity to innovate … Innovation requires room to tinker, and therefore thrives most fully in an environment that values and preserves spaces for tinkering.” If Facebook is constantly sending you push notifications, it diminishes the mental space you have available for tinkering and coming up with your own ideas. If Facebook bombards the gullible with misinformation, this too is an invasion of privacy. What has happened to privacy in the last couple of decades, and how to value it properly, are questions that are apparently beyond Zuckerberg’s ken.

He says Facebook is “committed to consulting with experts and discussing the best way forward,” and that it will make decisions “as openly and collaboratively as we can” because “many of these issues affect different parts of society.” But the flaw here is the centralized decision-making process. Even if Zuckerberg gets all the best advice that his billions can buy, the result is still deeply troubling. If his plan succeeds, it would mean that private communication between two individuals will be possible when Mark Zuckerberg decides that it ought to be, and impossible when he decides it ought not to be.

If that sounds alarmist, consider the principles that Zuckerberg laid out for Facebook’s new privacy focus. The most problematic of them is the way he discusses “interoperability.” Zuckerberg allows that people should have a choice between messaging services: some want to use Facebook Messenger, some prefer WhatsApp, and others like Instagram. It’s a hassle to use all of these, he says, so you should be able to send messages from one to the other.

But allowing communications that are outside Facebook’s control, he says, would be dangerous if users were allowed to send messages not subject to surveillance by Facebook’s “safety and security systems.” Which is to say we should be allowed to use any messaging service we like, so long as it’s controlled by Facebook for our protection. Zuckerberg is arguing for tighter and tighter integration of Facebook’s various properties.

Monopoly power is problematic even for companies that just make a lot of money selling widgets: it allows them to exert undue influence on regulators and to rip off consumers. But it’s particularly worrisome for a company like Facebook, whose product is information.

This is why it should be broken up. This wouldn’t answer every difficult question that Facebook’s existence raises. It isn’t easy to figure out how to protect free speech while limiting hate speech and deliberate misinformation campaigns, for example. But breaking up Facebook would provide space to come up with solutions that make sense to society as a whole, rather than to Zuckerberg and Facebook’s other shareholders.

At a minimum, splitting WhatsApp and Instagram from Facebook is a necessary first step. This makes the company smaller, and therefore less powerful when it comes to negotiating with other businesses and with regulators. Monopolies, as Louis Brandeis pointed out a century ago, and as Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, journalist Franklin Foer, and others have underscored more recently, simply accrue too much political and economic power to allow for the democratic process to find a balance in how to tackle issues like privacy.

Tellingly, Zuckerberg’s power has grown so great that he feels no need to hide his ambitions. “We can,” he writes, “create platforms for private sharing that could be even more important to people than the platforms we’ve already built to help people share and connect more openly.”

Only if we let him.

Facebook’s Monopoly Tyranny is no Longer a Zuckerberg Secret

Meanwhile a huge trove of Facebook emails that just leaked and it shows the true nature of the Zuckerberg legacy. The UK Parliament published a trove of top-secret Facebook executive emails on December 5th. tl;dr it’s exactly what you’d expect.

  • Mark Zuckerberg personally approved Facebook’s decision to cut off social network Vine’s data. (so much for a capitalism of fair competition)
  • Facebook tried to figure out how to grab users’ call data without asking permission. (likely spying on their real-time conversations)
  • Certain key apps were white-listed and given greater access to user data even after a broader clampdown. (Netflix and Airbnb among the favored friends)
  • Mark Zuckerberg privately admitted that what’s good for the world isn’t necessarily what’s good for Facebook. (Where’s the world tour Mark?)
  • Mark Zuckerberg suggested users’ data was worth 10 cents a year. (Heck, is that even worth selling?)

In the process of creating one of the most corrupt business models ever invented, Facebook chose profits over its users. In a weird twist of fate it’s the UK that seems to have stood up to Facebook, where American doesn’t even regulate its offending tech companies.

.. The leaked Emails show Execs discussed the single biggest threat to Facebook. They ended up disrupting journalism, diverting internet traffic and turning into a weaponized platform used against the state, democracy and capitalism, slowing down rivals and thwarting innovation itself allowing Chinese companies like Tencent and ByteDance to overtake them.

.. Facebook staff in 2012 discussed selling access to user data to major advertisers, basically selling your info without your consent. Facebook’s profit seeking greed led to the centralization of data where the richer get richer on the poor public’s data.

.. There is evidence that Facebook’s refusal to share data with some apps caused them to fail. Facebook picked the winners in a fake internet, even deceiving advertising that video (on its platform) was the next big thing. Facebook was later found to have falsified video metrics significantly to deceive advertisers and brands.

You can view all 250 pages of the Facebook documents right here.