Tuesday 20 April, 2021

The way the wind blows

Quote of the Day

”You’re not a celebrity until they can spell your name in Karachi.”

  • Humphrey Bogart

Musical alternative to the morning’s radio news

Liam O’Flynn, Arty McGlynn & Rod McVey | Two reels – O’Rourke’s & Colonel Fraser’s


Long Read of the Day

The real scandal of the David Cameron affair

By James Ball, writing in The New European:

If he were a more sympathetic figure, David Cameron would have a certain air of pathos about him – the longer he lives, the worse his reputation gets. Born to riches and elected to the highest office in the UK, everything since has shattered whatever self-esteem he had.

Cameron built a reputation in opposition as a reforming Conservative, a change from ‘the nasty party’. Hoodies and huskies alike would be hugged. Gay people would no longer be condemned. The Conservatives would match Labour on public spending. There was even such a thing as ‘society’.

And, of course, Tory sleaze and corruption would be a thing of the past…

Oh yeah. Read on.

The normalisation of Facebook delinquency

John Waters has a timely piece in the FT (and therefore behind a paywall) in which he asks the kind of weary question that most of us have asking for quite a while: “Is there anything left to be revealed about the extent and the frequency with which large volumes of personal data leak from Facebook?”

In a way, the answer is ‘no’.

A collective yawn seemed to be the appropriate response this month at the latest news. If the information about users’ social networks that leaked out in the Cambridge Analytica scandal was like the plutonium of social media, then this latest slip involved a decidedly low-grade fuel. Details such as names, phone numbers and birth dates of more than 530m people had been scraped from the site, in what amounted to a mass harvesting of data that was already publicly available.

The regulators, on cue, said they would investigate, as regulators must. Irish data protection officials, who take the lead in overseeing Facebook in Europe, now have 15 different reviews going on into the company’s apps.

But while this might look like a misdemeanour without any real victims, it raises more troubling questions. It does — apart altogether from the fact that some of the people whose data has been leaked might be real victims. The resigned approach to Facebook’s toxic behaviour reminds one of the way in which intolerable behaviour of people like Harvey Weinstein was passively tolerated because of the “Oh, that’s just Harvey”, or “that’s the casting couch syndrome” shrug. And we know how long that intolerable behaviour persisted before it was called out and punished.

So how long will it take until Facebook is brought to heel? And how many more billions of dollars will Zuckerberg & Co have amassed until that happens?

Jeff Bezos has begun writing his epitaph

Nice piece by Spencer Soper in Bloomberg’s Fully Charged, about Jeff Bezos’s efforts to secure his legacy during his closing months as Amazon’s CEO.

Bezos wants you to feel as good about Amazon the company as you do about its lickety-split delivery of phone chargers and paper towels.

One result of this push is that Jassy, who is slated to take over as CEO in the third quarter, will have an even more difficult job—both running one of the fastest-growing companies in American history, and fulfilling Bezos’ pledges to do it in a more humane and sustainable way. Trying to fill Bezos’ shoes would be tough enough without the executive cramming shoe trees in them to stretch them a size or two before passing them over.

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