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Technology Thoughts

China silences its bloggers

I’ve written a couple of times on freedom of speech on the Internet and how its going to be taken away.

Here

And here

The threats of regulating and licensing speech are real and we’ve heard the increasing drumbeat of it in the last year. With Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more de-platforming people for what they say, entire sites like Parler getting de-facto removed from the web by Amazon, Apple, and Google, and the blackballing of a sitting President of the United States (yes Trump was still President when he got blackballed) from all of social media, we have moved dangerously close to increasing the cost of speech on the Internet. I suspect we will follow China’s lead as we did with COVID-19 lockdowns and it will have a chilling effect across the Internet that will only benefit existing media, social media, and Internet giants.

Beginning next week, the Cyberspace Administration of China will require bloggers and influencers to have a government-approved credential before they can publish on a wide range of subjects. Some fear that only state media and official propaganda accounts will get permission. While permits have been needed since at least 2017 to write about topics such as political and military affairs, enforcement has not been widespread. The new rules expand that requirement to health, economics, education and judicial matters.

Associated Press

The culmination of COVID-19 and the controversy of government lockdowns and rushed vaccines caused social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube to either flag posts as misinformation or outright remove content from their platforms. It wasn’t done by government but by these organizations privately. Is it legal? Sure. Is it right? Absolutely not.

But how is this going to get applied to the rest of us? The push for “net neutrality” will mean a government takeover of the Internet with regulation. The push has been on for years. I suspect the FCC at some point will step in and nothing will be safe. They will eventually require everyone to have a license to publish content that is publicly accessible from the Internet. That means websites, blogs, social media, and even podcasts.

Podcasts, the last bastion of free expression. It’s the hardest to moderate (because there are no moderators for independent podcasts) and the hardest to regulate and will come under increased scrutiny. We already have media organizations like ProPublica and The Verge posting stories about this. So-called journalists are advocating for less free speech because they believe that some speech is right and other speech is wrong. What they don’t get, and I blame our piss poor education system, is that one day it will be applied to them.

While social media companies have become more willing over the past few months to censor accounts that engage in hate speech, podcasts are still largely unmoderated. Part of that has to do with the industry’s structure: The main podcast portals merely index the shows, like Google indexes websites. Despite canceling Bannon’s YouTube channel, Google Podcasts still indexes “War Room.” (Apple accounts for more than half of the number of podcast streams, with Spotify a distant second.)

ProPublica

A disparate network of companies makes up the podcasting world, including apps, hosting services, sales teams, and networks. Moderation will need to happen across these companies to be effective, and in this current moment, that effort doesn’t work the way it does at tech monoliths like Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, which can remove someone with a push of a button. Put simply, podcasting isn’t ready for full-scale, widespread moderation — if that’s even what the industry wants.

The Verge

Broadcast, print, cable, big tech, and big social media will align forces to raise the barrier to entry for independent content producers (“creators” if you like). I believe they will put pressure on the government to introduce regulations over the Internet in order to prevent Joe Schmo from publishing his thoughts and gaining an audience. Their motives won’t be to prevent “misinformation” or “fake news” it will be to protect their advertising revenue and prevent competition from being able to gain a foothold.

Right now absolutely anyone can start a website, blog, or podcast with virtually no extra money than they already spend every month. You can get your own domain name, host your site, and launch your podcast for less than $20/month using services such as Dreamhost (where this blog is hosted) and using a laptop or a phone. That’s literally all you need to start. If you want to do it for nothing you can use free services like WordPress to host your site and use a public computer at a library.

Once the heavy hand of government comes down all that goes out the window. I used to be in broadcasting. The book of regulations is huge. The cost of licensing, maintaining your license, and complying with regulations is huge. Bring that model to the Internet and independent voices will be relegated to dark corners of the Internet or be found on local street corners or town centers handing out pamphlets.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Image by harshahars from Pixabay
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R.I.P. Rush Limbaugh

https://rushlimbaugh.com

Love him or hate him no one can deny the influence Rush Limbaugh had on conservatism and broadcasting. Rush single handedly saved AM radio when it was all but abandoned for FM and its stereo quality sound. I began listening to him around 1990 and did so almost daily for about 10 years. There wasn’t another person out there with the ability to deliver entertaining and thought provoking content for 3 hours every day.

Rush at his core was a conservative, yes, but not a hard right conservative. He was a live and let live kind of personality. I enjoyed his program. I believe, however, that his take on the news of the day is partly responsible for the terrible media landscape we have today. Through jealousy or hatred competitors tried to clone or counter his program. Every host and program tried to lean harder to the left or to the right. They thought it was the controversy that made Limbaugh popular rather than his conservative values. This gave rise to the political talk that dominates today’s cable TV news.

People who never listened to Limbaugh don’t understand him. I didn’t find him bigoted, racist, or offensive. I found him thought provoking and ready to take on arguments. Those angry from things he said were looking for excuses to be angry. They didn’t want to actually think about the topic and present their side.

The “Doctor of Democracy” will be missed.

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Washington Post incites violence on pending impeachment vote

How is this not a threat on the public, the government, and civil society? Is this an attempt to threaten or coerce Senators into voting to convict? If anything happens in this country upon a Trump acquittal Jeff Bezos should be sued for damages and the Washington Post editorial board brought up on charges.

The above is a screenshot for posterity incase they remove the link to their actual tweet below.

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Thoughts

The Wall Street Journal is now the Babylon Bee

https://www.wsj.com/articles/15-minimum-wage-would-cost-1-4-million-workers-jobs-lift-900-000-from-poverty-cbo-study-finds-11612800875

The above is a screenshot of an actual blurb on the Wall Street Journal’s website. This should be in the Babylon Bee rather than on WSJ. Does anyone see anything wrong with the “study” saying over 1.4 million jobs will be lost but yet 900k people will be raised over the poverty line? My God we’ve become a bunch of stupid assholes to believe any of this.

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CBS couldn’t touch Biden with a ten foot pole

I didn’t watch the interview. I stumbled across this while scrolling through Twitter. Someone tweeted a link to the video and as I scrolled it started playing. I couldn’t help but actually laugh out loud when I saw this ridiculous frame from the interview. They are sitting at least 10 feet away from each other. What is the point of this? Why didn’t Biden just do the interview from the basement of the White House while Nora O’Donnell asks questions from the CBS studio?

#peakstupid

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Thoughts

What kind of country are we now?

Read the following story and tell me if you think this is reasonable.

Authorities in the U.S. have taken elaborate measures to curb protests against the impeachment of former President Trump, planned by his supporters for Saturday in more than 60 U.S. cities. 

Trump’s associates in D.C. and other regions have been detained in the lead-up to the rallies. Supporters and independent journalists have been approached by police officers with official warnings against protesting. 

Universities and colleges in different states have urged students not to attend rallies, with some saying they may be subject to disciplinary action, including expulsion.

Biden spokesperson Jen Psaki said Friday that “it is only natural that there are warnings … about the possible consequences related to noncompliance with the law,” since there are calls for “unauthorized, unlawful events.”

Sounds all too plausible in the United States today doesn’t it? Especially with stories like this one.

President Joe Biden has directed his intelligence community to study the threat of domestic extremism in the United States, an undertaking being launched weeks after a violent mob loyal to Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol.

The disclosure Friday by White House press secretary Jen Psaki is a stark acknowledgment of the national security threat that officials see as posed by American extremists motivated to violence by extremist ideology. The involvement of the director of national intelligence, an office created after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to prevent international terrorism, suggests that American authorities are examining how to pivot to a more concerted focus on violence from radical extremists at home.

Chicago Tribune

Here is the actual text of the real story from the PBS News Hour. What have we become?

Authorities in Russia have taken elaborate measures to curb protests against the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, planned by his supporters for Saturday in more than 60 Russian cities.

Navalny’s associates in Moscow and other regions have been detained in the lead-up to the rallies. Opposition supporters and independent journalists have been approached by police officers with official warnings against protesting. 

Universities and colleges in different Russian regions have urged students not to attend rallies, with some saying they may be subject to disciplinary action, including expulsion.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that “it is only natural that there are warnings … about the possible consequences related to noncompliance with the law,” since there are calls for “unauthorized, unlawful events.”

PBS News Hour
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Thoughts

The tragedy and lost opportunity that was the Trump Administration

President Donald Trump is leaving the Office of the Presidency exactly as he came in, unapologetic, obstinate, and hated equally by Republicans, Democrats, and the media. The funny fact is he was perhaps the most malleable of all people to hold that office in the last 200 years. Here was a man interested only in his own legacy and would have done anything to have been great and to be loved. Too bad members of congress were just as selfish and narcissistic as the man they hated to see the opportunity before them.

Some of the goals of the Democrat Party were universal healthcare, a path to citizenship for illegal aliens, redistribution of wealth from people with high incomes (not wealth) to low incomes, and Green New Deal levels of socialism. I believe they could have accomplished almost all of this under a President Trump. He would have been loved to be perceived as the President that provided for the citizens of this country. He has never believed in “conservatism”.

Instead the Democrats hated him so much that they had to create scandals out of thin air. The Russian collusion hoax, the “very fine people” hoax, the Ukraine impeachment, and on and on and on. For four years the Democrats with a complicit media wasted time and opportunity attacking someone they could have used. They ended up with less than nothing. For half the country they bred distrust in our media fostered the feeling that they are to be ignored. They helped to create a wide chasm between the large urban parts of the country and the rest of the nation. They never sought to inform the public or address their concerns. They only offered disdain and condemnation.

The Republicans are just as reprehensible. There was a sizeable contingent of Republicans that could not stand that such a crass individual defeated their long roster of “qualified” candidates. Trump berated them during the primary of 2016 and showed them to be the weak paper tigers the public already knew in their hearts they were. Trump could not be forgiven for his off-the-cuff insults and they did all they could to make sure he would not get the adoration he wanted. The Republicans were smarter than the Democrats in that they knew they had someone they could use. They rammed through more judicial appointments than maybe any other time in history. They were able to tip the balance of the Supreme Court for at least the next decade. They didn’t totally lose sight of their agenda.

And now, what is the United States to do with this fractured nation? Trump is finally out. He knows he’s out. Yet the Democrats and the media continue their blind hatred and want to force a resignation or another impeachment with 12 days to go in the Trump Administration. Joe Biden called out the protesters as domestic terrorists. What end does this serve other than their narcissism? Do they expect to bring the country together with this? Do they care? Nearly half the country support President Trump and the Democrats will again waste the opportunity to use this moment to win them over.

The last four years exposed us for not having the courage of our convictions. We no longer believe in freedom of speech and liberty and justice for all. We give lip service as long as people do what we want them to do and say what we want them to say. The last four years have been shameful. Shameful that the hatred of one man prevented what could have been the most enlightening four years in United States history.

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Media didn’t get what they wanted so they said it happened anyway

The Wall Street Journal makes it look like the capitol was ablaze.

I watched the so-called “riot” and “coup attempt” yesterday live as it was happening. I suspect thousands, if not millions, of people around the country and the world were watching as well. I was watching the electoral vote count and the debate on the opposition to Arizona’s electors on the PBS Newshour program with Judy Woodruff. They had extensive coverage of what was unfolding inside the capitol building and had a reporter inside the building as well. The scene I was watching was opposite to what they were reporting and the subsequent coverage by all the major news organizations in the aftermath are even more dishonest.

This is why we are where we are. If you watched it you know you didn’t see an insurrection, a coup attempt, or a riot. If you didn’t watch it and you’re only getting small clips now from the news you’re getting a different picture than the facts of the incident. Unlike the violent and city destructive protests over the summer of 2020 this protest was actually mostly peaceful. There was a small group of the protesters that broke into the capitol building. They did cause some damage and there were some injuries, including one death of a woman who was shot by security inside near the Speaker’s offices. But, there were no fires set. No destruction of statues, art, or structures inside or outside the building.

How can an honest media describe this as a coup attempt and a riot when the protesters “storming” the capitol strolled through the rotunda and actually stayed within the roped off path? The majority of them looked in awe of the building they were walking though. Take a look at the NBC report below. It’s over 4 minutes of peaceful protest and people strolling within the ropes but described as disturbing, rare, and troubling.

I listen to the No Agenda Podcast where they cover the media and deconstruct the reporting. They had clip after clip of the media mischaracterizing the events as they were unfolding. I encourage you to listen to at least the first hour of their podcast. It will illuminate the massive propaganda machine that is the American news media. Here are some examples.

The worst thing any of us can do right now is take the information being fed to us and just believe it. Question everything you see, hear, and read. You are not being told the truth.

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Technology Thoughts

Where do we go from here?

We’re all nuts. Fueled by a media that has no interest to keep us informed rather than inflamed.

Does President Trump deserve some blame for what’s happening right now? Sure. But he’s not solely to blame. The majority of the blame, in my opinion, goes to our media. They let their hatred for one man drive them into hysteria for 4 years. They could not believe that anyone could support him even though almost half the country does. That short circuit in their brains caused them to deride those people and we’re all paying the price.

I will be shocked if Joe Biden makes it to the end of one term. Heck, I’ll be amazed if he makes it beyond the first year. His speech while the capitol protests were happening showed a man that is in rapid decline. He doesn’t have the mental capacity to handle any of this and we are a short walk to the first woman president. A woman that couldn’t even make it to the first primary election because she was so disliked by her own party. That is not a good thing.

Will the allegations about the election ever get their day in the sun or will it all get swept under the rug post-inauguration day? If they don’t get resolved will we see a round 2?

Here’s what I hope will happen. I hope the media in the U.S. takes a huge hit from this. I don’t see how half the country will continue to trust them when virtually everything that is reported is slanted to fit an agenda. A person can take any news story and remove the bias to reveal the truth. But it takes work. Most people don’t even read past the headline or the first paragraph to get at the details. TV news is a cesspool of misinformation. They’ve become quite good of showing you something and telling you the opposite is happening. I think that type of persuasion confuses the crap out of people that aren’t willing to look at the cold dry facts rather than the sensationalism.

Social media companies and big tech have revealed themselves to be bad actors as well. They are not platforms for free speech and communication. When they plug their editorials about what is and isn’t fact onto someone’s opinion. They deserve to be treated as a publisher rather than a platform.

We’re not being served properly by old media or social media and their power to persuade needs to be dampened. There is hope in the Internet as a platform rather than the content silos. Technologies are being developed that use the Internet as a true platform where speech can continue to be open and free. Over the next 10 to 15 years I can see the future of a more federated independent media that can’t be de-platformed by advertisers or big tech.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay
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Silver Lining: COVID-19 killed the seasonal flu

In a shitty year of government authority run amuck and the new religion of “science” (not real science but the science of confirmation bias) taking over the globe it seems there is a silver lining in all of this. The SARS-CoV-2 virus resulting in the dreaded COVID-19 disease has successfully done what no vaccine could. It has virtually killed off the influenza virus.

Here are 2 maps from the CDC. The first is the flu map from this day last year. As you can see we were all dying from the flu.

cdc.gov

The next map is for this year. What a glorious time to be alive! We’re in the green!

cdc.gov

What does the science say about this? Is it possible that most people in the hospital now are really there because of the flu? We won’t know because the news media doesn’t seem to be interested in the question.