Overreaching Moderation

This is at Pinterest.

https://www.projectveritas.com/2019/06/11/tech-insider-blows-whistle-on-how-pinterest-listed-top-pro-life-site-as-porn-bible-verses-censored/

The pro-life group, Live Action, was put on Pinterest’s porn list as well as PJMedia.com. Clearly the moderators are seeing things no one else is seeing. If you watch the video you will see also how a site can minimize content. The slant is in. The video at the link is about 20 minutes and you will see from a Pinterest insider how the “sausage is made”.

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Privacy and Chromebook: an Oxymoron?

My wife  uses my hand-me-down Macbook Air (mid 2013), which she received when I bought my new(er) Macbook Air in early 2015 (wow, that went fast!). Hers is getting a bit quirky running updated OS, and the trackpad has been erratic responding to clicks since forever. So, we are near the point that a new laptop will be needed. She uses it exclusively for web browsing – no word processing or spreadsheet or anything. Maybe stores some photos downloaded from her cell phone. Hasn’t used even half the 120GB flash storage.

Being my frugal self, I can’t see spending $1000 (plus the 7% Commonwealth of PA extortion for the privilege of purchasing it online from another state/country) for a new one – 90% of the use is for online solitaire or jigsaw puzzles, with the occasional email or web search. So, I investigated Chromebooks, and found a reconditioned Acer Chromebook 14 with 32GMB flash storage, 4GB RAM, and a 14 inch full HD 1080 IPS screen for $155 shipping included! It arrived and I have been exploring it now for about a week.

I am impressed! The all aluminum case resembles the Mac’s stylishness. The screen is large, sharp and bright, way better than the old 13 inch Macbook Airs and awakens from sleep instantly. Pages also load instantly. It is easy to use. However, all this, as best I can tell, is dependent on my continuing (at least nominally) my gmail account and using the Chrome browser and Google’s search engine. I am invited to sync everything like payments and passwords across accounts and devices. No thanks. From what I have read, one can search using DuckDuckGo as I do on my Mac and can install and browse with Firefox, but both seem to function with extra hassles and cannot be made defaults. I am not surprised by this.

My most important question for the more learned of Ratburger is: say I use this machine to access my Protonmail account. I enter my username and password; would I then, in effect hand these over to Google? Does using Chrome, in effect, eliminate all privacy by making everything accessible to Google? This enterprise, I regard as an adversary – a self-appointed censor and manipulator of public opinion and news. I believe it to be inimical to individual liberty and free speech, as evidenced by the film The Creepy Line. One of the contributors to that film, a respected academic psychologist and researcher (and no conservative) has scientifically documented Google’s manipulation of search results and, for his efforts, had his accounts and all stored material disappear!

As a result of this and other reports, I have attempted to reduce my Google use and footprint. In addition to getting an answer to my question about usernames and passwords becoming available to them, I ask: can I use this excellent machine with an operating system other than Chrome? Would that defeat the seamless usability? This convenience is desirable – not essential – to me as an average-ability computer user, but it is essential to my wife – a self-described Luddite.

Thank you for answers to my questions, as well as any other thoughts or observations.

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Sinister Kullberg Network

Are you influenced by the sinister Kullberg Network? If you have any conservative Facebook friends, chances are you have been influenced in your thinking by this shadowy group.

The Kullberg network is not a foreign entity. It is a collection of at least 24 Facebook pages apparently run by a small group of people based out of Columbus, Ohio, that purports to represent the views of a diverse cohort of Americans. In many other respects, the network is quite similar to these examples [Russian and Philippine troll farms] of foreign social media manipulation. In the view of  Joshua Tucker, a professor of politics and data science at NYU, the fact that these activities stem from domestic, rather than foreign, actors complicates things. “I think if you came to Facebook and said, ‘Hey, the Russians are doing this,’ they would have taken the pages down,” he told us in a phone interview. So far, Facebook has not responded to our questions or multiple follow-ups about the Kullberg network’s practices, and the network remains online.  

That alarm was raised in a bulletin at Snopes.com dated May 15, 2019, by Alex Kasprak. Snopes is concerned about these networks of mysterious reactionary operatives who spread extremist memes on social media. They are extremely concerned that conservative ideas will spread on Facebook by this astroturf activity.

Though the actual authorship of the posts within these pages is opaque, their titles imply diverse representation from a broad swath of American demographic groups, including “Jews & Christians for America” and “Blacks for Trump.” In reality, however, the pages in this network are all connected to evangelical activist Kelly Monroe Kullberg. But  she is neither black nor Jewish, and her views appear to represent an extreme subset of the broader evangelical movement in America.

Ah-Hah!  Curse those Evil Evangelicals!

I have seen some of this activity, in a few cases shared by a couple of my conservative Facebook friends. It is garden-variety information, spreading true statements about Muslims in hyped-up language. That is what Snopes labeled “Islamophobia.”

Snopes did a follow-up the next day. Then on May 26 they posted an update:

Though Facebook has still not responded to any of our requests for comment, as of 26 May 2019, all 24 pages identified in Snopes’ reporting appear to have been removed from the platform.

In their update, Snopes shares how they had contacted Facebook multiple times, making the case that those “Kullberg Network” pages meet Facebook’s definition of “objectionable content.” They included part of their correspondence to Facebook:

These pages claim that Islam is “not a religion,” that Muslims are  violent and  duplicitous, and that Islamic refugee  resettlement is “cultural destruction and subjugation.” Just  hours after the April 2019 Notre Dame spire collapse in a catastrophic fire, this network went into overdrive sowing doubt about the  possible role Muslims had in its collapse. Multiple  pages within this network have stated that their  purpose is “message boosting & targeting.” […]

These pages, however, are steeped in fantastical notions of “globalist” conspiracies linking Islam, Socialism, and multi-billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party supporter George Soros to the  decline of  Western civilization. Some of these pages also claim that survivors of the Parkland High School massacre in the U.S., for instance, are on a  Soros-funded “Leftist-Islamist payroll.”

They also described Ms. Kullberg’s partner in crime:

Snopes also found that at least one prominent GOP donor,  William Millis, funded and/or exploited the efforts of the Kullberg network. Millis was a fundraiser and campaign board member for current HUD Secretary Ben Carson’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Did you see that map that was circulated after Notre Dame Cathedral burned? I saw it on my Facebook feed three times. The time that it landed there because it had been shared out by one of my friends, I responded with a correction:

This map says that those places are all “churches that were destroyed,” but it is actually a map of churches, synagogues and cemeteries that were vandalized. Only a handful were actually destroyed. This does illustrate a staggering level of destruction that has gone unreported by mass media.

Likewise, I had seen the thing about Parkland High students being funded by George Soros. I followed up on that one also, and learned that travel expenses for several appearances had been paid by anti-gun organizations that are primarily funded via Soros’s front organizations.

The predicable capper is that they don’t dispute anything based on facts, but include a quote calling these pages “Islamophobic” that they got from CAIR.

Though they had included some spin-doctoring, I think everything cited by Snopes as hateful conspiracy theorizing was actually mostly true. This is another indication of how Snopes is a thoroughly Leftist project, just like Facebook.

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Enemy of the People –Antifa connections

RedState has an interesting post up about recent work by Dr. Eoin Lenihan to establish that a scattered collection of journalists have multiple ties to Antifa.

Antifa, yeah, those guys.   The violent mask-wearing thugs who roughed up Trump fans and shut down some free speech rallies.   Real terrorists.

What the good professor did was to start with a handful of known Antifa Twitter accounts.   Then he collected a long list of associated Twitter accounts and screened for Twitter accounts with multiple associations to the known Antifa accounts.   Then he searched that list for journalists, and, sure enough, found plenty.

It is good to have a little sunlight into the dark world of journalism.

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Any Microsoft To-do Users Here?

A friend just told me about a free app by Microsoft that is great for keeping track of getting things done called To-do. At first I thought it was Outlook but it was a stand-alone program. Since it was free I downloaded it. It is a multi-platform app so it can be used in Windows, iOS, and Android. My friend is sold on it and this person knows To Do lists.

In the greater Ratverse, has anyone had any experience with this. Why is this better or not? I see it keeps everything up to date between an iPhone and an iPad. Do you use a different product to keep track of things? If so, what?

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evil Google — curator of your information flow

I put up a couple of recent posts to observe on a surge of obituaries on the news business.   But all y’all internet denizens are still reading news.   You just don’t take daily newspapers anymore, and only a very tiny share of y’all subscribe to any kind of news provider.   That is the way most of us operate any more.   But information flow, especially the flow of recent events information, aka ‘news,’ is now screened for most receivers of news by evil Google.

Yeah, I know; some Ratburghers are boycotting Google by using DuckDuckGo and a couple of other search engine alternatives.   But the problem remains.   Over half of all news articles that are accessed on the internet were landed on through an evil-Google search, which means that evil Google gets a shot at screening the news for over half of all internet news consumption.   This finding comes from a Northwestern University study that was recently presented at the “2019 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems” that was held in Glasgow.

Continue reading “evil Google — curator of your information flow”

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The Threat of China

China has been attacking the U.S.A. ever since the days of Richard Nixon, in many ways subtle and not subtle.   But their attacks have grown more devious, more corrupting, and are preparing them for assaults on America that will be devastating when they are unleashed.

Yes, they have been spying and stealing technical secrets, violating copyrights, trademarks and the plain language of contracts for decades.   But the current state of affairs calls for a confrontation, and I am glad to see President Trump bring a confrontation that is clever and likely to succeed.

I am not prepared to debate the trade issues in the tariffs dispute.   What has me concerned at the moment is the leverage China is gaining over our internet.   It appears that evil Google is preparing to act as an agent of China to destroy America.

I think that if things keep going the way they are, China will position themselves to be able to kill American internet and cellphone communications, while disabling large portions of basic utilities such as electric power transmission and landline phone communications.

I will put links in a comment.   The first item is testimony this week by FCC Chair Ajit Pai, regarding the threat posed by Huawei if they could get embedded into our cellphone services:

“What I will say,” Pai told [Sen. James] Lankford, “is I believe that certain Chinese suppliers, such as Huawei, do indeed present a threat to the United States, either on their own or because of Chinese domestic law. For example, China’s national intelligence law explicitly requires any individual or entity subject to that law to comply with requests to intelligence services.”    He said that poses a problem for 5G networks deployed in one country that could be managed by software that is resident in another country.

The second item is a column at American Greatness by Brandon J. Weichert:

“A greater synthesis between the national security sector, the business community, academia, and the political leadership of the United States is needed if we truly and effectively want to prevent American tech firms from building the weapons of tomorrow for China to use against us today.”

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Incessantly-jumping Web Pages

Am I the only one being driven to near-distraction by the fact that most web pages never seem to quit loading and even when (I think) they have finished loading, they continue to intermittently jump up or down? It seems bits of content are added, deleted or moved non-stop on many pages I visit. I have begun to flinch, curse or just quit the page following extreme frustration. I get this recurring wish that my that screen (like the windows in some public transports with a sign “In Case of Emergency – BREAK GLASS.”) had a hammer affixed for emergency exit. It is that frustrating.

Are others suffering this phenomenon? Is it dependent on platform/OS/browser (I use MacOS, Safari)?

If any of our Ratburgher experts can explain, I would appreciate it. I would also be greatly indebted for a fix.

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Cubical Era Sayings…..

I found a CD that I made back when I worked for the government. These quotes are from one of the documents from That CD. Enjoy…
Inspirational Sayings For The Cubicle Era

Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

If you can stay calm, while all around you is chaos…then you probably haven’t completely understood the seriousness of the situation.

Doing a job RIGHT the first time gets the job done. Doing the job WRONG fourteen times gives you job security.

Eagles may soar, but weasels don’t get sucked into jet engines.

Artificial Intelligence is no match for Natural Stupidity

A person who smiles in the face of adversity…probably has a scapegoat.

Plagiarism saves time.

If at first you don’t succeed, try management.

Never put off until tomorrow what you can avoid altogether.

TEAMWORK… means never having to take all the blame yourself.

The beatings will continue until morale improves.

Never underestimate the power of very stupid people in large groups.

We waste time, so you don’t have to.

Hang in there, retirement is only thirty years away!

Go the extra mile. It makes your boss look like an incompetent slacker.

A snooze button is a poor substitute for no alarm clock at all.

When the going gets tough, the tough take a coffee (or Beer) break.

INDECISION is the key to FLEXIBILITY.

Succeed in spite of management.

Aim Low, Reach Your Goals, Avoid Disappointment. Amen!!

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Google “responsible development”

I am not suggesting that you perform a Google search for “responsible development.”   I just want to call attention to the demise of the “Responsible Development of AI Advisory Council” at Google.   It was just last week that Google announced the formation of the Advisory Council, intended to debate potential policy related to Artificial Intelligence.   They started announcing persons who were going to serve on the Advisory Council.   One of the persons named was Kay Coles James.

The histrionics from Google staffers were immediate and intense.   Tantrums were thrown and a clamor of angry rhetoric consumed much energy and attention for a couple of days.   Google promptly caved, and today they announced the dissolution of the Advisory Council.   Evidently placating the SJW staffers at Google was much more important than any effort to get ahead of the plethora of ethical pitfalls that beset the development of artificial intelligence.

What prompted the outrage?   Well, Ms. Kay Coles James is an African-American grandmother who held a variety of jobs in government and education.   She is currently on the Advisory Council for NASA.   And, by the way, she is also the current President of Heritage Foundation.

petition with more than 2,000 signatories from within the company was published on Medium on Monday, with the title “Googlers Against Transphobia and Hate.”

…Meredith Whittaker, who leads Google’s Open Research Group, posted on a private Google listserv that, “I would disagree that their views are important to consider, when those views include erasing trans people, targeting immigrants, and denying climate change.”

Other ringleader employees at Google vociferously trashed Heritage Foundation on a variety of charges, such as “anti-LGBTQ,” “anti-immigrant” and climate denial, etc.   When some employees said that the hoo-rah sounded intolerant, they were attacked with messages saying that there is no need to listen to such haters.

Both Daily Caller and Breitbart have the story.   Links are in the comments.

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Tele-Monsters revisited.

Tele-Monsters, or those dammed scam/spam/nuisance/marketing calls.

I’m sure a few Ratburgers remember my posts about them and my successes and failures to turn the tide of them.
Yep “NoMoRoBo” is still the premier answer. But with drawbacks. The drawbacks are when every tele-monster calls and NoMoRoBo intercepts the call, we get one ring. Sort of like on “The Hunt for Red October“, but ring instead of ping.

Continue reading “Tele-Monsters revisited.”

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Big Tech censorship

Donald Trump Jr. has an editorial at  The Hill,  about censorship on the internet.   He runs through a bill of particulars, which concern matters that we have talked about at Ratburger.org.   The following is the middle third of his editorial, which amounts to good old-fashioned journalism about something he saw while at CPAC.

 

Silicon Valley lobbyists have splashed millions of dollars all over the Washington swamp to play on conservatives’ innate faith in the free-market system and respect for private property. Even as Big Tech companies work to exclude us from the town square of the 21st century, they’ve been able to rely on misguided conservatives to carry water for them with irrelevant pedantry about whether the First Amendment applies in cases of social media censorship.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has been making a name for himself as a Republican prepared to stand up to Big Tech malfeasance since his time as Missouri’s attorney general. He delivered a tour de force interview with The Wall Street Journal’s Kimberly Strassel in front of the CPAC crowd, one that provided a clear-eyed assessment of the ongoing affront to the freedoms of conservative speech and expression.

Hawley demolished the absurd notion that “conservative principles” preclude taking action to ensure free debate online simply because Big Tech firms — the most powerful corporations in the world — are private companies.

Hawley pointed out that Big Tech companies already enjoy “sweetheart deals” under current regulations that make their malfeasance a matter of public concern. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, for instance, allows them to avoid liability for the content that users post to their platforms. To address this problem, Hawley proposed adding a viewpoint neutrality requirement for platforms that benefit from Section 230’s protections, which were originally enacted to protect the internet as “a forum for a true diversity of political discourse.”

“Google and Facebook should not be a law unto themselves,” Hawley declared. “They should not be able to discriminate against conservatives. They should not be able to tell us we need to sit down and shut up!”

It’s high time other conservative politicians started heeding Hawley’s warnings….

I looked at Senator Hawley’s website, but did not see anything there on this topic.   I hope he will bring forward some good initiative.

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“You can’t handle the truth.”

Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace has been airbrushed out by Google. This must be for our own protection.  If we knew the historical truth it might affect our thinking in the wrong ways.

Redactors just have to redact!

Your thoughts on airbrushing history.

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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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Experiment: Second Life Artificial Meet-Up (SLAMU)

Second Life Artificial Meet-UpShortly after the Ratburger.org site was created on 2017-12-09, we signed up for and implemented a text chat system called CometChat on 2017-12-12.  This was nothing but bother, with update after update failing to install and the last straw being when, at the end of the first year’s trial period, they wanted us to pay US$ 50/month for a shoddy service which we’d never actually used.  I deleted the hunk of junk on 2018-09-30.

Still, it would be nice to be able to host real-time events, perhaps with more interaction than is possible on our existing Audio Meet-Ups.  For this, I have been exploring using a platform many consider passé, but technologically perfectly positioned to burgeon in the Roaring Twenties, Second Life.

Second Life is a virtual world which, as of the end of 2017, had between 800,000 and 900,000 active users.  When you visit it, you’ll typically find on the order of 40,000 people logged on.  In Second Life you can visit a multitude of interesting destinations built by denizens, buy or rent land, build your own Bond villain redoubt, and create new objects which you can sell to others within the virtual world.

My ambition for Second Life and Ratburger is very modest at present: I’m thinking about using it as a chat room and place for meet-ups which don’t run up phone charges for participants.  Assuming you’ve set up your computer properly, you can chat in text or converse in voice after meeting at a location in Second Life.

Some time in the next month, I’d like to schedule an experimental Second Life Artificial Meet-Up (SLAMU) at some time chosen to accommodate the crazy quilt of time zones of our members (probably the same time as the Tuesday RAMU, but on another day).  If you’d like to participate, here’s what you’ll have to do.

Create a new account on Second Life.  Click the “Join Free” button and fill out the form.  Note that your Username cannot be changed after you join, so in the interest of privacy, do not chose a Username which discloses personal information.  Choose an avatar of your preference; you can be anybody you like—use your imagination!

Download and install a viewer on your computer.  I prefer the Firestorm Viewer, which is available for Linux, Macintosh, and legacy Windows systems.  You will need a relatively recent computer with lots of RAM and a graphical processing unit (GPU) to run this software.  The official Second Life Viewer is an alternative, but is generally behind Firestorm in features and device compatibility.

Log in to Second Life from your viewer application.  You will generally be taken to a starting point for new users such as London City, which will let you explore things you can do in the virtual world.  It will take some time to become familiar with moving around, interacting with objects, etc.  From there, you can go to myriad other places.

If you want to use voice communication, visit the Voice Echo Canyon:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Voice%20Echo%20Canyon/128/130/23

(This is a Second Life URL which will not work in your browser, but works in the Second Life destination bar.)  Try speaking (use the middle mouse button to toggle speaking off and on, or the microphone button at the bottom in Firestorm) and see if you can hear the echo.  If you don’t see a white dot above your head, audio is not enabled on your computer. If this happens and you’re on a Linux system, let me know in the comments and I’ll send you a fix which worked for me.

Visit some interesting places, such as the amazing International Spaceflight Museum:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Spaceport%20Alpha/48/78/23

and see what people have built in this virtual world.

My user name is “Fourmilab” and my humble abode (and SLAMU clubhouse until we build something more imposing) is at:

http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/Cowell%20Farm/216/12/42

This year in cyberspace!

SLAMU: Ratburger clubhouse

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