Friday Quick Takes

A short review of items in the news in the last week, including Facebook’s latest disregard of its members, Democratic plans for the new Congress and new food stamp rules.

Privacy Breaches and Facebook Arrogance

The New York Times reported this week that Facebook had allowed large companies to pay to get around some of its privacy policies, and to access personal information and that of your friends, including private conversations.

Almost daily we hear about large data breaches, where personal information is stolen from large companies who house millions of records of key information that makes identify theft easy if someone can get at it. Large technology and financial companies have been among the most compromised. Equifax, the credit reporting agency that literally holds records of every adult in the country had the financial records of millions of people stolen. Facebook has had multiple breaches and has been guilty of having its data used in questionable ways. And every time it happens, Congress holds hearings, has people like Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg come and testify and then ends up doing very little to force companies to take stronger protection measures.

With Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives in January, one change that we can hope they make is in regard to personal and data privacy. Almost daily we hear about large data breaches, where personal information is stolen from large companies who house millions of records of key information that makes identify theft easy if someone is able to get at it.

Cultural Appropriation Applauded?

Until recent years, we never heard the term ‘cultural appropriation’. That term, coined by those on the political far left is intended to mean taking a culture that isn’t your own and using it as if it were.

Once upon a time, people like Elvis Presley were celebrated because they incorporated diverse influences into their music and art. Acknowledging the contributions and influences of every part of the ‘melting pot’ was something positive. But no more, at least among an group of elitist that have, for example, criticized artists such as Bruno Mars for incorporating a wide cross section of heritages into his music.  In the more silly situations, criticism has come for celebrities (or other special targets) for the way they wear their hair, or for the clothes they may wear because it may be distinctively Asian, for example, and the target is not ‘Asian’.

However, one of the more interesting parts of this phenomenon is on display recently when the Miss Universe pageant (which some call sexist and exploitative, by definition) announced that it had its first transgender contestant. The contestant from Spain was a man, who had his sex changed to appear as a woman. Yet, while this ‘first’ was being celebrated as a new sign of inclusiveness, it’s odd that it’s being celebrated by many of the same people who are concerned about ‘cultural appropriation’.  I mean, by definition, isn’t changing yourself to something other than what you were ‘appropriation’ of an identity?

New USDA Proposed Regulations

The US Dept. of Agriculture this week proposed a rule that would require able-bodied adults, without dependents, aged 19-59, work at least 20 hours a week in order to get SNAP benefits or food stamps.

Who would oppose something like that and why is it controversial?!

“We Want Your Money”

Organizing in preparation for the new Congress that takes office in January, where Democrats will control the House of Representatives, the Democratic caucus met, elected leaders and passed rules that will govern the body when they take control.

Telegraphing one of the items that they appear to want to make a priority (and reinforcing the things their opponents say about them), Democrats changed House rules to make it easier to raise taxes. Previously, and as it should be when you are taking someone’s money, it was more difficult to raise taxes and required 60% to approve any increase. Democrats have now done away with that rule.

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