Give This a Read

http://thefederalist.com/2018/08/17/screenshots-show-google-shadowbans-conservative-pro-trump-content/

In the article a video was considered hate speech because the crawler had “witch hunt”. I can’t believe it but I couldn’t believe “Never Trumper” was considered forbidden either. Why are people considered children with the inability to handle any negativity? Are we in the age of needing “padded rooms” so no one gets hurt on the Internet?

People need to know what they are seeing is what someone wants them to see. The filter is in. The fight is fixed. It reminds me of this.

“We control the …”


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Shutting Down the Debate

Why is there such a rush to shut down conversations and individuals? Let us take the concept of shutting things down because they are not true. Good way of thinking, right? But it has always amazed me the bias that is involved. For example, if people lie in a “positive” way no one pulls out this rule and think this person needs to be silenced. Positive could mean saying nice things based on lies or it can even mean saying negative things about people who disagree with you. Someone fighting your fight is on the side of the angels and must be “truthful”.

Examples
“You have been suspended for repeatedly giving credit to the wrong person. If this happens again your suspension will be longer and lead to banning.”

“Telling people ‘Staff was right when they were wrong.’ is clearly a falsehood and you will be suspended till you get the information correct. Please move on from the falsehoods and correct the history. Write a post to apologize to everyone.”

The problem with any standard is keeping it yourself and not using it to punish people who disagree with you. We ALL do this to some extent. The temptation is to let your friends slide and to even the score with those who you don’t like. To stop this from happening, the First Amendment was made. The freedom of expression is that valuable it needed an amendment to the Constitution. This means a lot of things that are not the most productive are allowed. The court of public opinion needs both sides to show up.

There is another temptation in thinking one’s way of thinking is the best. “We all know the earth is flat.” “We know the universe rotates around the earth.” “We know something happened this way because the newspaper, book, news, etc says so.” Unfortunately or maybe fortunately we are wrong at times and by listening and engaging we can correct our thinking.


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“Fairness” Doctrine for Social Media?

Private companies’ content censorship raises important public concerns of a magnitude meriting book-length treatment. Not here, however, and not by me. The left, for example, saw its near-absolute content control of most public media – print, broadcast, movies, education – as insufficient because of talk radio. Leftist radio programs fell flat while Rush Limbaugh, intolerably, soared to prominence. We know that tolerance has a very restricted meaning for leftists, thus their regulatory effort to quash conservative talk radio with the “fairness doctrine” was a case study in the use of state power in furtherance of their illiberal – totalitarian, actually – impulses and tactics.

The left never hesitates to enforce its rubrics, on pain of abusive name-calling (amplified by their “media”) or ruination at the hands of some public agency or other with enforcement powers. For instance, a Christian baker in Colorado is being singled out yet again.  All sense of proportion has been lost, to such an extent that definitions of basic language and process must be re-examined. Does what we have referred to as media up until now still qualify as media?

Are newspapers and TV newscasts merely  neutral means of communication for all or do they now zealously advocate one single worldview, to the vituperous exclusion of all others? It is no longer merely a medium when the New York Times “news” pages are blatantly editorial and read like daily DNC talking points. Do administrative agencies, whose rules are enacted at every level – federal, state and local – by leftist activists (who are the pervasive and permanent denizens of these administrative swamps) really represent the will of the voting majority? There are literally scores of thousands of such rules – many with huge fines or even prison sentences for non-compliance – at every level of government, so that virtually anyone could be ruined by merely coming to the attention of a “public servant” with an axe to grind – particularly vis-à-vis an uppity, outspoken conservative. Legislative or judicial oversight of such agencies, as a practical matter, is non-existent.

While it would be a terrible idea to attempt to impose a “fairness doctrine” on Silicon Valley, I am heartened that President Trump tweeted today on the subject of censorship of conservative viewpoints by social media and said “…we won’t let that happen”.  As a proponent of small government, I do not advocate promiscuous use of state power to right all wrongs. However, the situation today is intolerable. With the status quo – where we cannot even be heard to object – we can only lose our rights. The power of the state is being used regularly to stifle non-progressive speech and this is being perpetrated in part by state-sanctioned companies with monopoly power. Trump’s statements are useful push-back and very necessary, as the progre$$ive $ilicon Valley types have had a free ride up until now, doing as they like to squash our views.

While I am not thrilled with use of state power generally, one of its necessary powers is to “secure” our fundamental rights – like freedom of political speech. Maybe we ought to recall Obama’s rejoinder that, “You didn’t build that…” These huge companies, to some extent after all, exist at the sufferance of the entire public and the state functionaries which represent us. It is unacceptable for companies with monopoly power to censor speech with which they disagree and to do it by subterfuges such as “offensive” or contrivances like “hate speech”.  Although they are private companies and do have substantial commercial rights, such rights are not without limit and may not legitimately be used to infringe fundamental personal (and essentially political) freedom of speech rights of millions of individuals. To say otherwise is to make the Constitution into a suicide pact for conservatives and libertarians..

It is high time these behemoths began to fear negative consequences for some of their business practices, including censorship. If he chooses, President Trump can make their lives difficult and their bottom lines shrink by executive actions (and not necessarily executive orders). It is time, I think, to set the Department of Justice about the task of examining antitrust aspects of the business practices of Google (YouTube), Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, Apple, etc. The exercise will likely prove salutary.


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Verbal Judo: 11 Things Not to Say

I would like to give a shout out to Boss Mongo who let me know about “Verbal Judo” by George J Thompson. George Thompson was an English teacher before he became a police officer. As a police officer he learned to not make situations worse than they needed to be. He also was into judo therefore he called his techniques “Verbal Judo”.

The following things are the things you should not say because they will escalate a situation. One of my favorite ones is Number 6, “Calm down.” This is a very foolish thing to say to an adult. It just makes people angry and achieves the opposite of the goal.

Which is your favorite?*

* Richard Easton, there is no reason for you to answer for “You wouldn’t understand.”(2) 😉

http://www.nfhs.org/media/1018365/workshop48.pdf

11 Things You Never Say to Anyone

1.“Come here!”
2.“You wouldn’t understand.”
3.“Because those are the rules.”
4.“It’s none of your business.”
5.“What do you want me to do about it?”
6.“Calm down.”
7.“What’s your problem?”
8.“You never…You always…”
9.“I’m not going to say this again.”
10.“I’m doing this for your own good.”
11.“Why don’t you be reasonable?”


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Colorado v Christians

The process is the punishment.   Just a couple of weeks after the Supreme Court ended a six-year legal ordeal, the Human Rights Commission of the State of Colorado has started a new investigation of Jack Phillips the Christian Baker who owns the Masterpiece Cakeshop.

The complainant is a transgender person, who requested a birthday cake to celebrate “the 7th-year anniversary of my transition from male to female.”

Now this is harassment of a businessman for trying to exercise his traditionalist Christianity in his shop.   Even though the legal fees will be donated, this man has spent six years of time in a stressful series of hearings, interviews, interrogations, depositions, and other miscellaneous court proceedings, plus time spent with his own legal team.   He has been facing bankruptcy the entire time as the weight of the State of Colorado makes it difficult for him to tend to his family and his business.

When Leftists scoff that Christians are not under threat in America, Jack Phillips is exhibit A of the rebuttal.    He has just filed for a federal injunction against the Colorado Human Rights Commission.

“Colorado continues its practice of treating Phillips worse than other cake artists because it despises his religious beliefs and how he practices his faith,” the lawsuit claims.


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Torture Girl revealed

It is August and with all the usual blowhards taking vacation time, journalists have to recycle old stuff, brushing it up just a little so they can pretend that it is news.   I heard an episode of “The World” on NPR that made the usual reckless allegations.   “The World” is a Public Radio International show, produced in partnership with the BBC.   It is tailored for the American NPR audience, so it is thoroughly Leftist and anti-American.

Their most recent was a rehash of the allegations of torture and war crimes on the part of Gina Haspel, President Trump’s head of the CIA.   The allegations are old and stem from a three-month period in  when she was running a CIA black site in Thailand and where an al-Qaeda bad guy was waterboarded.

So in response to a Freedom of Information Act Request, the “National Security Archive” obtained new documents that support stuff that everyone was guessing when she went through confirmation hearings.   The “National Security Archive” is a project at George Washington University.   Their main thing is revealing government secrets through a barrage of FOIA requests.   We haven’t heard much from them in a long time; they were very quiet through the Obama years.

Ho-hum.

I still like the idea that the world thinks of our Director of the CIA as “Torture Girl.”

Go, Trump, go.   MAGA


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1984? Money? Rabbit Holes? It’s complicated.

I am not an Alex Jones fan, so at first I had no interest or concern about anything involving him.  But then, the sheer number of headlines and articles about Him finally drew my attention.   I became curious to find out what really was happening (I believe about zero of what is promoted by the MSM).

The first online websites I went to, looking for more information/insight was actually talking loudly about censoring/faux news the prior day.  This is because they had themselves become targets that day.  More specifically there had been in excess of 4 pages of anti-conservativeMSM articles (all saying essentially the same things) attacking their website.  The articles were all disseminated via broadcast, print, and social media during the same timeframe, on the same day!  The obvious concerted ‘attack’ really had the website users excited.

The chatter on this website was focused primarily on the money/government angle and, since many think Jones is a ‘black hat’, they argued whether it was legit news/actual banishment,  or if Jones himself was involved and it was some sort of tactic to gain more direct subscribers to his website.  I have read the number of subscribers to Alex Jones’ website has soared.

Regarding the government/money, the focus was on H.R. 5181 which was passed by the house and which in the Senate became the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act.  This Act was signed by President Obama in December 2016 and quietly snuck into NDAA 2017 by the Senate.  Some speculated Obama and friends took this action to provide legal authority for strangling free speech.  Also, the ‘bad guys’ wanted to ensure the Left/Globalist/MSM would be able to legally retain control over information disclosure by blocking any information that independent websites attempted to be share.

There was also some noise being made about exactly how much of the people’s money was taken to fund implementation of the Act, which includes establishment of a Center for Information Analysis and Response,  (aka the Ministry of Truth).   Some on the website stated the amount is $160 million, some say it was only $20 million.   I could only find official confirmation of the $20 million figure for period 2017 to 2018.

Some speculated the current censoring activities are occurring now due to upcoming elections, some say it’s just the MSM extending the use of the “Russian Bots” narrative: in essence the theory is, if you support President Trump or conservative ideas then you must be a Russian Bot, so therefore you can be legally censored/countered as ‘permitted by H.R. 5181.  ???  But wait, it gets better, the MSM/Silicon Valley ‘Censors’ can also collect money from Uncle Sam for censoring you, or me … or even Alex Jones.

On still other websites folks were thinking about other aspects.  One website seemed to want to focus on the 1st Amendment vs. Private property.

On Ratburger, I found interesting thoughts about the potential legal and liability aspects of the situation, as follows:

Excerpt from post I Thought Libertarians were for Freedom of Speech by Mate De 08.08.2018

John Walker:
Platforms like Twitter and Facebook have taken the position, successfully so far, that they are common carriers like the telephone network, as opposed to publishers, and are therefore content-neutral.  In return, the federal government has granted broad exemptions from liability for content published on their platforms.  See Phil Turmel’s comment on the Alex Jones post and subsequent discussion for details.  By choosing to explicitly restrict access to their platforms based upon content, they are putting themselves into the position of a publisher, not a common carrier, and in so doing expose themselves to forms of liability from which they’ve been shielded so far.  It may be that whatever you think of the political consequences of explicit and acknowledged filtering, it may be a very bad business decision for these companies.  Imagine lawsuits from victims or their families of an attack by a jihadi recruited by a Facebook page.

Excerpts from post Alex Jones, unperson by Cyrano 08.07.2018

The Sinistral Bassist:
Doesn’t this open up those platforms to lawsuits over the content they choose not to ban? When they only banned people from doing illegal things, they could claim they were not content-providers and merely a platform for others to publish on. Once they start selectively choosing who to ban, they now become curators and publishers. They should be sued for every troll posting that is rumor or libel now because they didn’t ban it.

Phil Turmel:
The Digital Millennium Copyright Act includes a “Safe Harbor” provision for any site allowing users among the general public to post content, such that postings that infringe copyrights of others may be taken down with a simple process, and if followed with certain time limits, disallows lawsuits against the website operators.  One of the criteria to qualify for this clause is that the site must be content-neutral. Bingo.  Discriminating on political viewpoint (probably on much else, too) seems to open these social media operators to enormous potential liability for misconduct among their users.  We’ll see.

After reading the above, I stopped briefly to wonder if H.R. 5181 would will effectively act to eliminate the potential liability issues.   Not an attorney, so I don’t know.  But in a school debate, I think there is enough information conflict to argue either side of the debate successfully.

And, then I continued my searching.

More digging provided additional information from other websites, and articles on H.R. 5181 bill and its support for censoring of information:

Press Releases (from Senator Portman’s website)

Home / Newsroom / Press Releases

December 08, 2016

Senate Passes Major Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill as Part of NDAA

Portman/Murphy Bill Promotes Coordinated Strategy to Defend America, Allies Against Propaganda and Disinformation from Russia, China & Others 

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that their Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act – legislation designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations – has passed the Senate as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Senators Portman and Murphy in March, will improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work. This will better leverage existing expertise and empower local communities to defend themselves from foreign manipulation.

“The passage of this bill in the Senate today takes us one critical step closer to effectively confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us. While the propaganda and disinformation threat has grown, the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel. Today we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on,” said Senator Portman. “With the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against our allies and our interests will fail.”

“Congress has taken a big step in fighting back against fake news and propaganda from countries like Russia. When the president signs this bill into law, the United States will finally have a dedicated set of tools and resources to confront our adversaries’ widespread efforts to spread false narratives that undermine democratic institutions and compromise America’s foreign policy goals,” said Murphy. “I’m proud of what Senator Portman and I accomplished here because it’s long past time for the U.S. to get off the sidelines and confront these growing threats.”

NOTE: The bipartisan Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is organized around two main priorities to help achieve the goal of combatting the constantly evolving threat of foreign disinformation. They are as follows:

  • The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering foreign propaganda and disinformation. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China in addition to violent extremists. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.
  • Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.

https://www.portman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/press-releases?ID=3765A225-B773-4F57-B21A-A265F4B5692C

And, I found a couple of articles from ZeroHedge:

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-12-10/senate-quietly-passes-countering-disinformation-and-propaganda-act

https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-07/propaganda-bill-congress-could-give-america-its-very-own-ministry-truth

And a comment from a Dr. Mike Spaulding (I am including his comment for the links provided in his comment:

Much has been made over the past week or so following the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 by Obama of the insertion into it of HR 5181, the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act, and what it means for the independent media. I definitely urge everyone that reads this article to read those two pieces of legislation and come to their own conclusions on what this law means for free and independent media, and how it will affect the covering of world, national, and local level events.”

I found all of the above very helpful in clarifying my own thoughts about the issues surrounding the Alex Jones ban, and I hope the collected information contain herein proves to be of value to others as well.  That said, what really made me sit-up and pay attention is the following video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBo9uRuTVYk

I found it quite worrisome (if what MSM reports is real).  The video also proved to me that I am not as well informed as I thought I was.  I simply had not been paying enough attention in December 2016 and had not noticed that Obama, with the help of both Democrats and Republicans, the House and the Senate – effectively created The Ministry of Truth before he left office.

It will be interesting so see how tactics of the Ministry of Truth play out in our country’s future.

Then again, being an optimist, my mind smiles as it wonders how far this hand will be allowed to continue before the President shuts it down by playing his trump-suit ace, squashing the MSM/Globalists/Leftists dreams that they are actually going to be able to control dissemination of information in the digital age.

In closing, I thought the whole Alex Jones ‘thing’ was nothing of interest to me.  Now, I realize it could be very serious, or then again, maybe it is not.  Maybe I could go back to sleep pretending this is all a nothing-burger or perhaps just another false flag.

It’s complicated.   The truth is out there but I can’t figure out which money trail to follow to find it.  Alex Jones himself and all his new ‘business’, or the MSM and Ministry of Truth?  I guess time will tell.


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Game Review: Bioshock Infinite

Bioshock Infinite (game)

I’ve been writing about virtual reality, simulated worlds, and the new forms of entertainment and education they will engender for thirty years.  Other than Kerbal Space Program, which is more of a simulated world sandbox than a game (there is no specific goal and no conflict other than with the laws of nature), I have not played video games since the age of Pac-Man.  As we approach the threshold of the Roaring Twenties, I thought it would be a good idea to check in and see the current state of the art and whether it justified the things people were saying about contemporary games being a new art form and interactive medium of fiction.

The game I chose to play was Bioshock Infinite, the latest in the Bioshock series (but an entirely different story line from the previous games).  This game, originally released for consoles in 2013 and ported to Linux in 2015, was rated very high by reviewers, with most rankings 9/10 or 10/10.  The budget for the game was not disclosed by its privately-held developers, but was said to be around US$ 100 million for development and a comparable sum for promotion, larger than many major motion pictures.  It has sold more than 11 million copies since its release.  I learned of the game from a detailed description by James Lileks on his blog.

This review will be presented in a very eccentric manner.  I will not describe the plot from an omniscient standpoint (for that, see the links above), but rather things as I encounter them.  These are my notes, written in the style of a software development log or system narrative.  I will post items in comments, one or more per day, time permitting, running behind my play-through of the game (providing a buffer for days I have too many other things to do).  In each entry, I will provide links to an on-line play-through which will give you more details and screen grabs.  There’s no point in making my own, since the job has already been done superbly.  There will, of course, as in any play-through, be major spoilers in the comments.  I will make no effort to avoid or mark them.  If you want to experience the game without any foreknowledge, don’t read the comments that follow.

I am playing the game on an Xubuntu Linux system under the Steam gaming environment.  I am using 1920×1080 screen resolution in “High” resolution rendering mode with “Normal” difficulty.  As I am interested more in exploring this virtual world, how it is rendered, and how a visitor interacts with it than testing my prowess against the game engine, I am exploring it with the aid of play-throughs prepared by people who have made it all the way to the finish.  These are guides, however, not cheats—there is substantial randomness in the game and you’re on your own when the shooting starts—it’s generally up to you to figure out how to defeat the assaults you’ll face as you progress through the game.

This is a “first-person shooter” game: you are the protagonist and have to reach your objectives by defeating foes—human, mechanical, and supernatural—with weapons, wits, and capabilities you acquire as you pursue your quest.  If you find this repellent, so be it—that’s the model for many games, and it’s the one adopted here.  Personally, I find most of the combat episodes tedious, although it’s fun learning tricks to defeat adversaries and deploying newly-acquired weapons and “vigors” (supernatural powers) against them.  What is the most fun is exploring the huge, magnificently-rendered world here.  The production values are equal to contemporary CGI movies, but you’re not stuck in your seat munching popcorn but able to explore it at will, looking at things from various perspectives and interacting with this world you’re discovering.  The game is, as far as I’ve played it when I’m writing this, beautiful, with superbly-rendered three-dimensional models; an airy, misty ambience; and a musical track, both vintage and original, which complements the story line.  There is explicit violence (although nothing which would go beyond a “PG” rating in the movies), but no obscenity or nudity (at least as far as I’ve played).

I should note that the credits screen includes the following acknowledgements:

This software product includes Autodesk® Beast™ software,© 2013 Autodesk, Inc.,  Autodesk® HumaniK® software,© 2013 Autodesk, Inc., Autodesk® Kynapse® software,© 2013 Autodesk, Inc., and Autodesk® Scaleform® software,© 2013 Autodesk, Inc.

I had no idea Autodesk was such a player in the game space, as well as CGI movies.  You never know what the kids will do after they grow up and move out….  (Guys, you only need to use the “registered” or other marks on the first reference to the word.)

Remember that you can follow this post, receiving notifications for new comments without having your comment appear by posting  a comment consisting of just the word “follow”.

And here we go….


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