Facebook Fucks Another Loyal User

Facebook SucksHere’s a fun story. Facebook has a “white hat hacker” program where they give money to hackers who report security problems. Well, a guy named Khalil Shreateh found such a bug. But despite repeated attempts to get through to Facebook reps, he was unsuccessful. In fact, a rep told him, “I am sorry this is not a bug.” So Shreateh just used the bug to post his finding to Mark Zuckerberg’s private timeline. That got a Facebook engineer’s attention—within minutes! Facebook confirmed that he had indeed found a bug. And soon the company rewarded Shreateh by shutting down his account.

After some screaming and begging, Shreateh got Facebook to reinstate his account. But the company claims that they can’t pay him for the bug they admit he found because (1) he didn’t provide them with enough information and (2) he violated Facebook terms of service by using the bug. But they said, “We do hope, however, that you continue to work with us to find vulnerabilities in the site.” According to The Daily Dot, what this shows is, “It pays to fully document a vulnerability before you send in your report. It doesn’t pay to mess with Mark Zuckerberg’s privacy.” That strikes me as awfully cavalier.

A much better response comes from Samuel Knight who has been manning the Political Animal blog this weekend. He wrote, “Typical Silicon Valley libertarianism—cheating Shreateh out of money, while inviting him to continue to do work on the company’s behalf.” Indeed! It goes a lot further than that. I’m sure all the top people at Facebook see themselves as the very model of the libertarian ideal—meritocracy at work! But they’ll use any opportunity to screw over the non-billionaires. And what does this story really say other than, “Facebook doesn’t care about results; we have rules, damn it!”

I’m very concerned about the attitude of the article in The Daily Dot. I would think any normal high tech person would be outraged at this. And it’s pretty stupid for Facebook too. If you want to turn a White Hat into a Black Hat, this is the way to do it! My only hope is that if Shreateh does move over to the dark side that he finds something to destroy Facebook. Then maybe people will stop bugging me to join that evil enterprise.

By the way: the total amount of money Facebook is withholding is—Wait for it!—$500. What a totally fucked up company!

Antonio Salieri

Antonio SalieriOn this day back in 1657, the Italian architect Ferdinando Galli-Bibiena was born. Mathematician Brook Taylor was born in 1685. The last member of the House of Lords to be put to death, Laurence Shirley was born in 1720. No wonder England has gone to hell since then! Wildlife painter Carl Rungius was born in 1869. Film director Marcel Carne was born in 1906. The first and greatest female flying ace Lydia Litvyak was born in 1920. Writer Alain Robbe-Grillet was born in 1922. And chain-smoking heart throb Patrick Swayze was born in 1952.

Civil rights activist Amelia Boynton Robinson is 102 today. Discoverer of HIV, Luc Montagnier is 81. Seriously messed up human being but absolutely great film director Roman Polanski is 80. Here’s a great scene (admittedly, thanks mostly to Robert Towne and Faye Dunaway) from Chinatown:

Actor and quite a good director in his own right, Robert Redford is 77. Comedian Martin Mull is 70. Here he is on Fernwood Tonight:

Sculptor Robert Hitchcock is 69. Comedian Elayne Boosler is 61. Actor Madeleine Stowe is 55. And actor Edward Norton is 44.

The day, however, belongs to one of the great Classical period composers Antonio Salieri who was born on this day in 1750. Hugely popular in his own day, he was probably even more important as a teacher. Sadly, he is only quite recently being played with any frequency at all. As far as I know, there has never been an English language biography of him. I think this all stems from the fact that Mozart’s letters have been so picked over by historians. In those letters, the young Mozart was clearly jealous of Salieri’s greater success. But after Mozart started gaining success, he and Salieri were on very friendly terms and even worked together. But all those old letters stuck around and I’m afraid that people held it against Salieri as though he were responsible for holding Mozart in poverty and hastening his death. (Note: the last couple of years of Mozart’s life were quite successful financially and would have led to him becoming a very rich man had he lived.)

What Salieri did was live a long time—well into the Romantic period. In fact, he taught composition to Beethoven, Schubert, and Liszt. As a result of this, just as is indicated in Amadeus, he saw his music go out of style. Of course, the same thing happened to Mozart’s music, he just wasn’t around to see it happen. Of course, with Mozart, there is all the speculation that had he lived he would have turned into Beethoven—a patently absurd notion. But there is no doubt that Mozart was a better composer than Salieri. I can listen to straight Mozart for a lot longer than I can Salieri before each of their cliches start to drive me crazy. But Salieri is nonetheless a great composer who isn’t listened to nearly enough. Here is his Twenty-Six Variations for the Orchestra on a Theme called La Folia di Spagna, which is exquisite:

Happy birthday Antonio Salieri!

Welcome to Your New Police State

Glenn GreenwaldWelcome to your new police state! There isn’t a lot of information at this point, but Glenn Greenwald’s boyfriend was detained at the Heathrow airport for no apparent reason other than that Greenwald has been investigating the surveillance state. The man, David Miranda, was detained under schedule 7 of the United Kingdom’s Terrorism Act 2000. This law “allows officers to stop, search, question and detain individuals” for up to 9 hours without charge. Miranda was released after 8 hours and 55 minutes. According to the Guardian, only one out of 2,000 people detained are held by more than 6 hours.

By the provisions in this law, the person detained is not allowed a lawyer. What’s more, it is illegal for him to not “cooperate,” which basically means that the supposed right to remain silent is practically if not theoretically gone. Greenwald himself was contacted after Miranda had been held for 3 hours. As a result of this, lawyers from the Guardian and officials from Brazil (Miranda is Brazilian)—including the Brazilian Ambassador to the UK—could get no information until Miranda was released.

The purpose of the law is to detain people who are suspected of terrorism. That most clearly was not the case with Miranda. Instead, the officials spent the whole 9 hours questioning him about the work of Greenwald and his colleague documentary filmmaker Laura Poitras, who Miranda had spent the last week visiting. The officials also confiscated various electronic devices that Miranda was carrying—including his laptop, cell phone, and game consoles. They did not say when or even if these would be returned.

Greenwald noted, “They completely abused their own terrorism law for reasons having nothing whatsoever to do with terrorism: a potent reminder of how often governments lie when they claim that they need powers to stop ‘the terrorists,’ and how dangerous it is to vest unchecked power with political officials in its name.”

Greenwald remains defiant and determined. But I don’t think the point of this flagrant abuse of police powers is about stopping him. It is about stopping any other reporters who might want to follow in his footsteps. This is how empires fall: by desperately clinging to power. Welcome to your new police state.

Update (18 August 2013 6:55 pm)

The Brazilian government has released a statement. This is my modified Google Translate version in English:

The Brazilian government expresses grave concern about the episode today in London, where a Brazilian citizen was detained and held incommunicado at Heathrow for a period of 9 hours based on British legislation to combat terrorism. This is unjustifiable because it involves an individual against whom there are no charges that might have justified the use of such a law. The Brazilian government hopes that incidents like that today are not repeated.

The United States and the United Kingdom are totally out of control. I hope this causes change, but I’m not hopeful.

Faith Based Economics

William K BlackLast week, I discussed how ideology blinds conservative thinking to the full range of possible economic solutions to problems. In particular, I was talking about Milton Friedman and how his insistence on avoiding Keynesian solutions caused him to come up with some very clever economic tools—even if we have since found that those tools have limited usefulness and must be an addition to Keynesian tools, not their replacement. Yesterday, William K Black published a great article over at OpEd News, Rajan Calls Krugman “Paranoid” for Criticizing Reinhart and Rogoff’s Research. It is a rundown of recent economic history of the disintegration of the austerity economics coming out of the IMF. But more to the point: it discusses this issue of ideological blindness in economics.

The two major players in this story are Raghuram Rajan and Ken Rogoff. These are both guys who are first and foremost political ideologues. Then they are economists. And that means that their economic skills (unquestionably great) are used as weapons in persuit of their ideological goals. Again: this is not how science works! Although both men pretend to be regular economists, their actual job titles should be Conservative Apologist. Both men are laser focused on keeping inflation down at all costs. As I’ve discussed before, higher inflation would have been a good think over the past many years. It would only have been a bad thing for the rich who are sitting on piles of cash. So Rajan, who has been appointed the next Governor of the Reserve Bank of India, can be depended upon not to do what is best for the broad interests of the people, but rather just what is in the interests of the rich.

Black points out conservative economists have managed to miss major problems in the real economy by defining the issues away in their models:

By assuming finance and money away they implicitly assumed away fraud and the essential regulatory cops on the beat. Theoclassical economists pushed to eviscerate the institutional protections such as effective financial regulation…

In other words: “There can be no corruption because it doesn’t exist in my model. And because there can be no corruption, we don’t need any regulation!” And it just so happens that the people who make these models start with an ideology that says that regulation is bad. Funny that!

This also goes along with the whole theme of Black’s article. The conservatives have claimed that people like Krugman and Stiglitz are meanies who make personal attacks. But the truth is quite the opposite. The conservative attacks have been almost entirely personal. And there is a good reason for that: the conservative economic arguments have been weak from the start and are now basically nonexistent. That basically leaves, “You’re a potty head!” And, “All the real economists think just what I do!”

Black has coined a term for these people: theoclassical. As best as I can tell, these are economists who believe in classical economics as a matter of faith. It seems related to the Confidence Fairy. She was a creation of Paul Krugman to explain why conservatives thought that cutting spending would improve a weak economy. The Confidence Fairy is like the Great Pumpkin: if the government cuts social spending, she will magically appear to reward the good policy makers. It’s silly but this is in fact what conservatives claim. “Theoclassical economics” is a more serious notion: conservatives really do not have reasons for what they believe regarding the economy. It is all faith based: they start with the truth that they just know and try to come up with economic theories to justify the truth that cannot be questioned.

So maybe the Republican constituency isn’t so strange after all: it is faith based social conservatives on one side and faith base economic conservatives on the other. They are bound by their resistance to facts.