Google Made a Booboo

Turns out that some Nest products have built-in microphones, which fact was only recently disclosed to users. The possibilities for abuse are endless. Looks like Bruce Schneier’s predictions, expressed in his book Click Here to Kill Everybody, are coming true. From the book’s blurb:

From driverless cars to smart thermostats, from autonomous stock-trading systems to drones equipped with their own behavioral algorithms, the internet now has direct effects on the physical world. [emphasis added]

Don’t worry, though. Google admits that not disclosing the microphone “…was an error on our part.” Rest assured they are very sorry. You’ve had a hidden microphone in your house but don’t worry; nobody was listening. Move along; nothing to see (or hear).

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A Study in Fake News

A friend and former colleague sent me a link to the following brief article: A Strong Start to Sierra Snowpack. It purports to be a factual report of the water situation in California. Such stories are always interesting for the things they leave out: the dog that didn’t bark.

Start with the title. Since the snowpack is already above the normal peak, which is referenced to April (seasonal peak), it would be more accurate to say that the snowpack is already well above average for the whole season though it’s still only February. That’s more than a strong start. Furthermore, though the 2017-2018 year was below average, the prior year was well above average. Together, they were about average.It is in the nature of snowfall to fluctuate from year to year.

Next, the article states that “…most of the reservoirs are already more than half-full, and several have water levels that are above the historical average for the middle of February.” It would be more accurate to write that all the reservoirs but one are at or above the historical average for February. The exception is Oroville, which is low because of a major structural failure two years ago. Furthermore, all of the reservoirs are more than half full, which is also misleading because it’s not normal for them to ever be full. Should they ever be almost full, the headline would be “Reservoirs Nearly Full: Flooding Crisis Looms” since they would need to release large amounts of water, which could raise downstream rivers to flood stage.

This 300-word article manages to pack in a tremendous amount of misinformation, brought to you by NASA. This brings to mind the Gell-Mann amnesia effect, or in more modern parlance, fake news. Also relevant is Mencken’s observation  that

Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.

I would only change the last half to read “…the whole aim of practical media is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.”

Snow is forecast for tomorrow and Thursday in the Sierra.

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Farmlands

Lauren Southern,* a Canadian independent journalist and activist, made the documentary film Farmlands about the attacks on white farmers in South Africa and the movement to expropriate their land. The film was released on YouTube and is free to watch. It has over 2 million views.

Southern traveled to South Africa to investigate. Even though she has strong political views, she made an effort to be as objective as possible.

The film begins with a review of South African history beginning with the arrival of Europeans in 1652 to the present. Unsurprisingly, it is a history of violence. It provides a useful context to understand the current political situation and the land claims.

Upon arriving in South Africa, she summarizes the current state of affairs, including a significant amount of political violence and destruction of property. She interviews a group that specializes in crime scene cleanup, some of the victims’ families, an official of the ruling party (ANC), and an official of the more radical Black First Land First party, unapologetic communists.

It’s a well-produced, professional documentary. That’s a testament to her crew’s skill and to the capabilities that current technology brings to independent creators given that the project’s budget was probably small. The leftist press characterizes Southern as “far right” and her film as “white nationalist agitprop.” When it comes to agitprop, the Left are certainly the experts.


*Southern also appears in the film Hoaxed, reviewed here. She was interviewed by Dave Rubin two years ago. For a 23-year-old, she’s accomplished a lot.

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Hoaxed

Mike Cernovich’s documentary Hoaxed was recently released on Vimeo, where you can view the trailer and rent the film for $5. It is a comprehensive review of the news media bias through the experiences of Jordan Peterson, Scott Adams, Stefan Molyneux, James O’Keefe, and Cernovich himself. These are likely familiar names to most of you but lest you think that only one side of the political divide is represented, filmaker Cassie Jaye, Vice journalist Tim Poole, and BLM activist Hawk Newsome are also featured. Sharyl Attkisson is quoted extensively, though she’s not credited as a cast member.

Among the key points made in the film are

  • The current business model of news departments requires them to be profit centers, whereas in the past they were loss leaders for newspapers or TV networks. This means that controversy is more important than accuracy.
  • Mainstream journalists rarely do much traditional reporting. Instead, they read each other’s tweets and articles. “A lot of people who claim they are journalists are just repeaters.” In the words of a historian at UT Austin, “they [journalists] seem to play a game of telephone.”
  • Independent news is a significant and growing challenge to the mainstream media. While the legacy media once had a monopoly on the tools of news gathering and reporting, independent journalists can use new technology (GoPros, smart phones) to cover events as well or better at a negligible cost in comparison.
  • Fake news is not new. The film describes New York Times reporter useful idiot Walter Duranty’s lies about the Soviet Union and, in particular, about the Holodomor. “The biggest headcount [bodycount] for fake news is Communism.” There’s a similar, more recent example from NBC News about North Korea.
  • The term “fake news” gained popularity in the immediate wake of the 2016 election, promoted by the MSM (see graph below), but immediately successfully turned against them by Trump.

The film is well made, with high production values. It is engaging, not a boring recitation of facts. As documentaries go, this is an exciting one. Highly recommended.

Google searches for fake news
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For All The Facebook Fans

Quillette has an interesting piece from a former Facebook employee describing the leftist culture at Facebook and the rise of censorship. The original content policy was quite free-speech friendly:

We prohibit content deemed to be directly harmful, but allow content that is offensive or controversial. We define harmful content as anything organizing real world violence, theft, or property destruction, or that directly inflicts emotional distress on a specific private individual (e.g. bullying).

However, all this changed after Trump was nominated.

Employees plastered up Barack Obama “HOPE” and “Black Lives Matter” posters. The official campus art program began to focus on left-leaning social issues. In Facebook’s Seattle office, there’s an entire wall that proudly features the hashtags of just about every left-wing cause you can imagine—from “#RESIST” to “#METOO.”

The current policy is quite different from the pre-2016 one:

We define hate speech as a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics—race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability. We also provide some protections for immigration status. We define attack as violent or dehumanizing speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion or segregation.

According to this author,

Simply saying you dislike someone with reference to a “protected characteristic” (e.g., “I dislike Muslims who believe in Sharia law”) or applying a form of moral judgment (e.g., “Islamic fundamentalists who forcibly perform genital mutilation on women are barbaric”) are both technically considered “Tier-2” hate speech attacks, and are prohibited on the platform.

The poor author has, sadly, adopted politically-correct modes of writing. This is not meant at a criticism of him specifically; he can’t help it when he’s immersed in the world of doublethink.

…a colleague declared that I had offended them by criticizing a recently installed art piece in Facebook’s newest Menlo Park office. They explained that as a transgender woman, they felt the art represented their identity, told me they “didn’t care about my reasoning,” and that the fact they felt offended was enough to warrant an apology from me. [emphasis added]

Who would have guessed that the Thought Police would be headquartered in Silicon Valley?

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We Got Some Snow

And by we, I mean the local mountains. On my ride into work this morning* I was treated to this vista:

Baldy is a 10,000 ft (~ 3100 m for your foreigners) summit, the highest point in my county, though not the highest peak near me. Only 15 months ago, I joined a bunch of folks, including some from the legacy site, on the summit of Baldy. I’m the one wearing shades. Some of you may recognize one or two others.


*using the most expansive definition of morning, i.e., about 1 pm local time (1300 for you foreigners).

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New Moral Panic: Knife Violence

Britain is taking strong measures against knife violence. Since they’ve already banned guns, all the bad guys are turning to knives to kill people. It’s a bit messier but it still works OK.

Knife Crime Prevention Orders would impose sanctions, including bans on using social media to stir up trouble.

The possession of knives has increased by almost a third in five years, figures released earlier this month showed.

Requirements to attend special knife awareness courses to change their thinking.

I got this story from YouTuber Vee, who helpfully suggested that Britain should ban all semi-automatic knives to make the country safer. Trigger warning: his video is hilarious so you might hurt yourself laughing. It also contains many bad words.

@haakondahl, you’ve created a monster.

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Novel Wall Funding Concept

Someone from the legacy site linked to this article. The essence of it is to offer the Mexican government a “loan” to fund the border wall with some oil fields as collateral.

…draw up the papers, call up President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, give him a 2.25 interest rate over 30 years, put a clause in there that says if he falls behind on payments we can send the Navy down to Yucatán to claim the Cantarell Oil Field in the Gulf. And that’s his collateral.

The Mexican Navy has three boats, we’ve got destroyers equipped with Tomahawk Missiles.

No way this could actually happen but, you gotta admit, it would be fun. Just imagine the MSNBCNN heads exploding at the mere mention.

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Wall Update

While many are bemoaning the supposed Pelospocalypse, there are folks actually working on building the wall (or barrier if you prefer). Some of you may recall the GoFundMe campaign, discussed in these pages, to raise money for a government-built wall. Over $20M were raised in this effort.

Once it became clear to the Left would obstruct this (and besides, who would trust them with the money), the campaign was redirected to building the wall on privately-owned border land with the support of the landowners. Donors were offered refunds since the mission of the fundraiser had changed and the $1B goal was not reached; hardly anyone took that option. The GoFundMe page is still up and people are still adding to the $20M. What’s new is that the president has endorsed this effort.

Perhaps some of you who had, understandably, a wait-and-see attitude will have seen now that you waited and “get back to you all with specific financials” or “jump in with my weekly cigarette money”. Or not. I know those specific financials can get real tricky.

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Leftists With a Nazi Face

By now, most Ratburghers are familiar with the Notre Dame story in which limp-wristed, quisling administrators (repetitive?) are covering up some murals depicting the achievements of Columbus because someone got offended. Well, I don’t want them to simply cover them up; they should strip them off the wall and paint over. Erase the past, don’t just cover it up.

I also want the Left to start burning books. It’s not enough to vilify the dead white men who wrote them and remove their works from the curriculum. I want to see great bonfires, with flames licking the sky, of the books of those dead white guys the Left despises. Start with Aristotle and Aristophanes and work your way up to Hemingway. San Francisco would be the perfect place to kick this off.

Enough with soft despotism, socialism with a human face, and the tyranny of low expectations. I want to see Lefty try hard despotism, socialism with boot stamping on a human face, and tyranny of fascism. Some would argue that’s already begun and they would not be wrong. But we need more, way more, and faster.

Why? Because that’s the only way the Normals* will understand what’s at stake. Some already do but not everyone is so prescient. For example, Dave Rubin left the Left a few years ago because he saw it coming, viz.,

So bring it on, Lefty MFs.† The sooner the better so we can get over this and move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science.‡


*Kurt Schlichter’s term
†MF does not stand for mutual fund
‡Thanks for the words, Mr. Churchill

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GoFundMe Weasels

GoFundMe has removed the Trump Wall fundraiser from its main page listing top fundraisers. The crowdfunding of the border wall is one of the biggest GoFundMe campaigns ever, currently at $18.5M. The only larger one I was able to find is the Time’s Up fundraiser from 2017 at $22.1M. However, note that more than half the funds have been raised from a handful of $1M-plus donors who donated offline, thus it would be more accurate to characterize it as elite-funded virtue signaling rather than crowdfunding. Several of them are entertainment industry businesses assuaging their guilt over the MeToo scandals.

What has replaced the Wall funding at the top of the GoFundMe main page of top fundraisers? The Ladders to Get Over Trump’s Wall campaign, which has only raised $0.16M, less than 1% of the Wall campaign. Arguably, the Ladders campaign is in support of an illegal activity, which would violate their terms of service. Highest contributor to the Ladders campaign? The GoFundMe Team, of course.

Lefty tech has really let the mask drop in 2018. They’re not even trying to hide their biases anymore.

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On the elites

In an interview promoting his book Ship of Fools, Tucker Carlson makes some good points. None of them are new but rarely are they stated with such clarity and forthrightness. In no special order:

  • Capitalism is not a religion. We should celebrate its results but it is not to be venerated in and of itself. Just because something is consistent with capitalism doesn’t mean it’s sacred. If your system doesn’t help my family and people I care about, I’d just as soon “set the system on fire.” [paraphrasing the part not in quotes]
  • The elites (among whom he counts himself) are out of touch in a way that they were not before in the US. In the past there was an effort at least to appear to be in solidarity with the common man. He gives the example of Claiborne Pell, a senator from old money who drove a beater around DC. The elites aren’t even trying now.
  • The elites also aren’t even trying to justify their views or policies anymore. In a reference to Paul Ryan: “Whenever an authority figure prefaces a sentence with ‘obviously’  what they’re really saying is ‘I’m not bothering to explain my thinking to you. Shhh!'”
  • He goes after globalist corporations, especially the tech giants, for putting virtue signaling above being profitable.
  • Democracy is inherently unstable in the sense that the authority to govern comes from the consent of the governed, which can vanish suddenly. He contrasts with monarchy, which is stable because its legitimacy comes from God. In the latter case, the elites need not be in touch with the masses but in the former it’s fatal.
  • He calls Bill Kristol a “buffoon” and Max Boot an “idiot.” I just threw those in for fun.

Since I don’t watch regular TV, and certainly not political shows, I was only vaguely of Mr. Carlson. I was impressed by his humility in acknowledging past errors and his own fallibility even as he expressed his dismay that others (like Bolton) can not or will not. He seems like a smart, honest guy.

Carlson notes that he doesn’t know or care about the price of gas, and neither do his fellow elites. I get it. Those kinds of things don’t affect me but I also get that they affect most people a lot. And so does Trump. If that’s populism, I’m for it because the alternative is revolution.

It’s interesting that his interviewer, Matt Schlapp, is a card-carrying member of Conservative, Inc. Nevertheless, Schlapp seems to understand, and to be largely in agreement with, Carlson’s points. Maybe there’s hope.

I got the link to the interview from today’s Z Blog. The Zman compares Carlson to Cicero, noting that

That’s the interesting thing about Carlson’s book. It’s being bought and read by the hoi polloi, but it is aimed at his neighbors in Georgetown. It is a warning to them that they better start paying attention to what’s happening on the other side of the great cultural wall that separates us and them. What’s even more interesting is the people who should be reading it, are not reading his book. Instead they are attacking Carlson for it. They want his severed hands to be put on display in the Capitol rotunda.

I’m not enough of a classicist or expert on Carlson to know if he’s right to make the comparison but it’s fun to know the elites are getting their knickers in a twist over his book.

Edit: Fixed a quote.

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