Amazon wants to draft model facial recognition legislation

Between its line of Ring-brand surveillance doorbells and its "Rekognition" facial recognition product (both of which are used in law-enforcement and immigration-enforcement contexts), Amazon is at the center of the controversy over facial recognition technology. Read the rest

Elizabeth Warren profile: portrait of a savvy politician who appeals to working people, and who can get stuff done

Sheelah Kolhatkar's 10,000 word New Yorker profile of Elizabeth Warren is mostly a "color piece," giving a sense of where Warren is coming from, personally and politically; as such, it's a good read, but mostly redundant if you've already read Warren's (very good) 2018 book This Fight Is Our Fight: The Battle to Save America's Middle Class; that said there's a couple of key political insights that are very timely for anyone trying to figure out whom to support in the Democratic presidential primary (I am a donor to both Warren's and Sanders's primary campaigns). Read the rest

Europe's top trustbuster thinks it'll be impossible to break up Facebook

Margrethe Vestager (previously) is the EU Commissioner responsible for handing out billions in fines to Big Tech to punish them for monopolistic practices. Read the rest

Politicians like it when economists disagree because then they can safely ignore the ones they dislike

In a new paper in International Studies Quarterly, John Quiggin and Henry Farrell argue that politicians get in trouble when they buck a consensus among economists, but when economists are divided, they can simply ignore the ones they disagree with -- so politicians spend a lot of time looking for economists who agree with their policies, then elevate them to the same status as their peers in order to create a safe, blame-free environment to operate in. Read the rest

Deliberate leaking is a time-honored government tactic that Trump doesn't understand

Governments have "official" unofficial leaking policies, releasing tons of confidential material to the press without any attribution or public acknowledgement: they leak stuff to maintain good press relations, to test out ideas, to hurt their in-government rivals, or to let information be generally known without having to answer difficult questions about it (for example, letting the press report on "secret" drone strike in Yemen without a press-conference where embarrassing questions about civilian casualties might come up). Read the rest

Video that explains how to become a dictator

This 20-minute explainer video lays down three rules for becoming a dictator:

1. Get the key supporters on your side.

2. Control the treasure.

3. Minimize key supporters.

The video is based on a book called, The Dictator's Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics

For eighteen years, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith have been part of a team revolutionizing the study of politics by turning conventional wisdom on its head. They start from a single assertion: Leaders do whatever keeps them in power. They don’t care about the “national interest” — or even their subjects—unless they have to. This clever and accessible book shows that the difference between tyrants and democrats is just a convenient fiction. Governments do not differ in kind but only in the number of essential supporters, or backs that need scratching. The size of this group determines almost everything about politics: what leaders can get away with, and the quality of life or misery under them. The picture the authors paint is not pretty. But it just may be the truth, which is a good starting point for anyone seeking to improve human governance.

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