Tuesday, 20 October 2020

The New Pirates Of The Wild New West.

I saw this article about the now-famous Hunter Biden Affair, and I dunno about you but something about it niggled at me. Are your Spidey senses tingling yet? Because mine are off the bloody wall tingly as hell. 

First up - we already know Facebook and Twitter are dodgy as hell and that the former did what might be called quite unethical experiments a few years back where they quite meticulously and deliberately censored several groups of people's news feeds to skew the news they saw, and took notes on what those unfortunate people's reactions were for their precious algorithms. Lives were pretty much screwed over for the sake of science, Long Live FB Ultra.
We know that Twitter has been - questionable - in their treatment of certain people, and their 'reasons' for some of the decisions they made. These are large corporations and those actions affected (and still affect) literally billions of people. (I'll come back to this a bit later.)

What they've done in this affair (much as I dislike Murdoch's bastardisation of news sources into organs of propaganda, censoring them "for the good of the children" is as invasive, egregious, and objectionable as their inexplicable nipple aversion) is a direct act of propaganda in itself. Propaganda consists not only of implanting a desired message, it also includes the suppression of conflicting messages. Between them, these two corporations have done that quite ruthlessly and efficiently. 


Twitter seems to be more of a hands-on manipulator of their platform, in that a human seems to make the decision and then enacts the ban. (Sorry if I'm repeating anything that's already well known, I've never been too interested in articles written by people who have skin in the game, as in MSM sledging Social Media. Call me cynical.

Facebook on the other hand has algorithms. (But when the Zuck wants to censor a piece of news or promote another, there seem to be some 'god mode' flags that can be attached to articles.)

They're in effect 'cooking the books' 

 - sorry, couldn't resist the joke. (BTW I have two of these little eco pots and might whack an Eco Pot recipe or two up on TEdAMENU Tuckertime now that I'm blogging a bit more again.)

Anyone at any of those organisations that says they have no political agenda are lying. Of course they do. But perhaps they're not pushing the same kind of politics that we're used to... 


So what sort of politics are being played? Well, let's get back to that I'll come back to this a bit later from earlier. It's later now. 

India holds the dubious distinction of having the most FB users, at 250,000,000 - that's quarter of a billion users in India, out of 1.4bn population. That's 1 in 6 people there. 

Closely following India in sheer number is the USA, with 240,000,000 out of a population of 331,000,000, or 2 in 3 people being- on Facebook. 

The most populous country, China, has a population of 1.5bn but only 1.5 million Facebook users. (Officially. . .)

But if you stop analysing where the users come from, Facebook has as large a population as Pakistan. In other words, Facebook would be the fourth or fifth most populous country in the world. Here's a link to world populations by country, if you're interested.

Twitter users seem to make up about quarter of a billion, which is still close enough in numbers to almost be another USA, certainly more than Pakistan. 

And buried in the original article, 

about halfway down, are a few interesting points: 

Facebook limiting distribution is a bit like if a company that owned newspaper delivery trucks decided not to drive because it didn’t like a story. Does a truck company edit the newspaper? It does now, apparently.


"THAT THE FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHT of free speech is inapplicable to these questions goes without saying. That constitutional guarantee restricts the actions of governments, not private corporations such as Facebook and Twitter."

The first speaks to the inflated sense of self-importance that Mark Zuckerberg must feel, that his corporation isn't a publisher of news when it suits them, but is a publisher when they feel a need to censor news. 

The second quote is the more worrying to me. No single country's laws (that reference to the First Amendment, e.g.) seem to apply to them. They're fighting the Australian government to avoid paying for content. Why? Well, among other things, it would admit that they need - and use - news to keep their users engaged. That act of paying for news would make them a publisher. 

And once they were a publisher, they'd be forced to admit that the news articles they've been using for free, are worth money, and then nek minnit they'd be liable for all that news they used in the past. 

And on top of that they'd also have to admit that content they paid for is copyrighted and fair use policies applied. And that particular can of worms would just unravel them. They'd finally have to come down on the curator or publisher side of the fence.

Then there's Google. It's THE search engine for most of the 4.8 billion (!!!) daily Internet users out of the 7.8bn-strong world population and its business model is entirely predicated on curating the content of the entire online catalog. And they readily admit that they adjust their algorithms but are just not quite as definite as to why they make over half their decisions ... 

I'll only briefly mention Amazon / Ebay / other huge Internet properties that turn over hundreds of millions to billions of dollars every year because they're not so much propaganda-mongers as they are robber barons/plantation owners who take our income which by rights we should spend within our own countries and corporate structures. (Again, I'll get to them in more detail in a moment.)

Google too has strongly fought against the Aussie demands that they pay for the content that they currently need for their core business, probably for the same reasons as Facebook, that is, to retain deniability.

Not suggesting that social network, search, or media properties are pirating content - but they are textbook pirates, amassing fortunes at the expense of other traders, living outside the geographic system and having no allegiance to any country or domain. FSM (Ramen!) would have a field day with them. 

Of course, there are a few outliers. I use MeWe as my social network platform of choice for their enlightened view of anonymity (IF you want it - there's nothing stopping you from supplying your correct details - I certainly have my salient details correct but if I needed anonymity there's also nothing stopping me from fabricating an alt.) and I use Telegram as my chat/messaging app of choice. 

There are dozens of properties out there that offer the same features (give or take - they ARE smaller so they need more support before they can become stronger contenders) as the big ones at the top - DuckDuckGo is a fine search engine that doesn't track or target you, Brave web browser is as full-featured as Chrome but without phoning Google every time you click a link or type a word. Libre Office is a very competent alternative to Microsoft Office and Google Docs. 

What Does That Mean, Captain Bligh?

The Internet HAS become the "Wild West" that was predicted by pundits two decades ago. The other Wild West was in what was then a new country to European people. Pioneers DID carve out a variety of empires in that earlier Wild West. New ways of doing things came about, and it wasn't all for the better.

Now we're providing a very large income to these corporations by way of their advertising fees that they charge for the privilege, by way of passively allowing their version of the news to be the only one to reach us, and by giving them our data to use to even further increase their income.

We buy goods promoted and advertised to us by those media giants over and above perfectly good locally-produced variants. In the process we're facilitating a huge transfer of wealth from our locale, our country, and smaller competing businesses - straight to the pockets of people like Jeff Bezos - a new 'trader baron' if you will, who's set up his shops all along the Wild Wild Internet Trail and as entrepreneurs bring him goods to sell, makes copies and sells them cheaper in direct competition until the original seller goes bankrupt.

Who also - and now famously - pulled out of building a new HQ because, among other things, the reduction in taxes he was offered (and which in effect gave an already wealthy and privileged company an even more unfair edge over those competitors) were so strongly defended against and defeated. In effect he was saying "no-one here likes me and they want me to pay my fair share of taxes so I'll find another place that I can bend over."

It's really imperative that we as a whole population limit these new robber barons and plantation owners before we become their victims, serfs, and slaves. And I'm not even kidding - when America was colonised - when America's "Wild Wild West" played out and people carved out new niches, new opportunities, and new fortunes (Gee doesn't that sound familiar all of a sudden?) the one group that suffered was the native Americans. 

Remember them? The American natives suffered diseases that ravaged them, powerful people with hitherto unknown advantages (New TECHNOLOGY such as firearms and explosives - there, does THAT throw my concern into sharper focus?) that mercilessly decimated and exterminated them, deprived them of their lands and resources, and has left only a shell of the culture that existed before they came.

Now WE'RE the native Earthers, and the Internet properties are the ones seeking to carve out empires. Grab those trade beads while you can!

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Postcard From The Edge

The other edge, though – our local government area (LGA, or Shire as they were/are also known) has had eleven cases of COVID-19 since records began, our largest outbreak was four at one time, and the last case reported cleared up almost five weeks ago.

What That Says For The World:

We have around 37,000 people in the district, scattered between a handful of small towns, a few larger with populations greater than 5,000, and farms.

The region is, besides a farming district and foodbasket region, also a holiday destination due to the coastal towns, Phillip Island, and a series of visit-worthy spots.

After restrictions came into force, the number of visitors/tourists slowed to a trickle, and most recently, you may as well say it has stopped. Most of those visitors used to come from Melbourne, which is now under a hard lockdown and curfew.

Yet we still somehow managed eleven cases. Three of those happened within a fortnight of the Premier Andrews announcing the harsher lockdown restrictions for the Melbourne outbreak. Two more a few weeks later.

These were caused by the utter arseholes that thought they’d be privileged inconsiderate bastards and sneak out on the day of the announcement.

Almost half the cases, in other words, would have been avoided if people had actually given a shit for anyone else.

We can be fairly certain when we place the cause of these latest outbreaks as Melbournians, because a) it was our largest number of new cases in a four week period, and that includes as I said right before lockdown began, b) this was the time that several thousand families “suddenly decided to go for a holiday on the coast” c) just look what a total FUBAR they made of the initial outbreak and subsequent obedience to restrictions – Dan Andrews literally had to start enforcing the restrictions with a police and military presence. Not a single fuck was given by the usually much smarter than this Melbournians.

And that’s the fate of ALL the world while leaders continue to rail against the lockdowns and restrictions because it’s “hurting the economy – won’t someone think of the poor economy?” As long as they encourage and incite people to just get out there and get on with it while there’s a reservoir of virus still out there and no proven vaccine, SARS-CoV-2 will continue to flare and break out.

Anyone who thinks quarantine and contact tracing will “control the small outbreaks” are overlooking that this just hasn’t happened anywhere – Small outbreaks become big outbreaks, THEN people become compliant for a few weeks, then people start to rail against the “draconian measures” and you can rinse and repeat that ad nauseam, people will be people, and viruses will be viruses.

And of course, the fact that viruses mutate rapidly means you never know when the One True Virus will arise and start having a serious mortality rate. But you have to know that it WILL happen.

Tuesday, 8 September 2020

Why Different Versions May Or May Not Discourage Stealing:

I’m not much for English versions, and this is sort of why:

We've probably all sung this song at some time, yes?

A doggy stole a sausage, 

for he was underfed.

The cook she saw him take it,

And now the poor doggy’s dead.

Now all the other doggies 

were very sad that night.

They dug him a grave and a tombstone, 

and on it they did write-

A doggy stole a sausage, 

for he was underfed…

And so on. Such a trite cutesy-wutesy tune to sing to the children but it conveys nothing, no moral to this story, is there? What gutless lyrics, really, when the original (in German) runs like this:

Ein Hund lief in die Küche A dog ran into the kitchen

und stahl dem Koch ein Ei, And stole an egg from cook

da nahm der Koch die Kelle The cook took up a ladle

und schlug den Hund entzwei.         And struck the dog in two

(Getting the idea here? These are real lyrics with real impact. Don’t fucken steal! At least. not from this cook! You’ll get bisected! Now THAT my friends is a moral and a lesson!)

Da kamen alle Hunde

und gruben ihm ein Grab

und setzten ihm einen Grabstein

auf dem geschrieben stand:

Ein Hund lief in die Küche . . .

So yeah - the original may be a few centuries old and lack some political correctness but it sure as hell taught me that stealing gets you clobbered.

Monday, 7 September 2020

Today Is Going To Be A Great Day

(c)2020 RO (Ted) Russ

“F*ck this,” grumbled the square of sticky bandage. “Two extra days you kept me stuck on here because you’re too cheap to change your boop patches every seven days – just to save a few bucks!”

It detached itself from my shoulder, fell on the table, and humped inchworm-wise to the edge, where it paused, expectantly. A drop of sweat formed over my good eye and ran down. 

“THAT. That’s what I’m talking about” the TDS patch continued. “You say you’ve got chronic pain and yeah I notice that you do (I’m a pain patch ya know and it’s my job to notice those things ya know?) but then you go and do sh*t like this. Nuclear strength pain-causing noodles! AND you do it a full two days past my effing effective date. Sheesh!” 

The flippant little precious pain patch dropped off the kitchen bench and kept humping itself along towards the bin like some kind of caterpillar, but a caterpillar that was as wide as it was long and had been stuck on someone’s arm for a week. (And two days. I have to emphasise that cos I promised the little bastard that I’d give it a fitting memorial.)

When it arrived at the bin it tried to hump its way up the side but the seven day adhesive was well and truly expired by then, and it lay there feebly swearing at me in fluent buprenorphine. Choice language, too. Probably more used to boop addicts than real work, if you ask me. It figures.

I took pity on it and picked it up and threw it in the bin, and went back to the bowl of cheap “Spicy Chicken-Like Flavor” ramen and took another forkful of the rubbery noodles and shovelled them in. 

Christ this stuff was like fiery paint stripper. Now I understood why they put the hot spice in a separate sachet, and why it was probably not a good idea to just dump the whole lot into the bowl. It’s most probably half cayenne pepper and half crystallised battery acid from the taste of it. And there’s no hint of any fowl-like flavour that you’d be able to detect if your taste buds weren’t already totalled by the heat.

I stopped eating again and went the Anything Cupboard and fished out the new boop patch I was supposed to have stuck on two days ago. “Yer not gonna leave me on ya to work unpaid overtime like you did with Raoul, are ya?” it grouched. I told it to STFU and stuck it on a new clear spot of skin. The grumble settled into silence as it got busy delivering painkiller.

I’d never thought about it before, but now I realised that of course, pain patches had to have names just like everyone else. It figures, right?

Meanwhile with every forkful, Freddy was going crazy in my other eye. Hi, folks, meet Freddy Floater, a huge chunk of eye jelly that detached itself a month ago to float around my left eye and is now making life hell whenever I try to read or type – waving around in there like a demented hairball vomited up by the cat. I don’t think Freddy appreciates the finer things in life like H2SO4 flavoured noodles…

I take a moment to catch you guys up on The News Of My Life so I’ll be sure and write it into the story. I mean, life’s life but sometimes it’s interesting to see how the other person lives, amirite? A catalog of “life events, other person’s, for the pleasure of.” You can’t beat vicarious living for a living.

They can’t fix Freddy but they’re going to remove a cataract in that eye, a cataract they found while checking that Freddy hadn’t smacked up my retina or anything else. Ain’t nothing so bad that they couldn’t find even more wrong… Figures…  

I wonder idly if the ‘cat‘ in the word ‘cataract’ is responsible for barfing Freddy into my eye, and why they can’t also just yank Freddy out along with the cataract, but that’s ophthalmologists for you, go in for a floater, come out with two problems instead of one, one’s inoperable and that’ll be two hundred dollars for this visit thank you sir.

Freddy likes Freddy Fender music. Figures. The only music that’ll stop Freddy’s energetic visual irritations is class 2 strength irritating music. I’ll put up with the frenetic waving and distortion thank you… 

Actually, I think the reason FF music seems to pacify FF is because it sends me catatonic, a natural defense mechanism designed to prevent me slitting my wrists or banging my head against the nearest hard surface. But then I’m not a doctor, so who knows? Hehehe, ‘catatonic’ d’ya see what I did there? No? Oh yeah, I’m getting ahead of myself. Hang in there!

I notice that the reddish haze over the bowl of ramen has decreased, and hopefully take another forkful. It’s definitely less destructive once the temperature drops, so I finish it off. The drop of sweat meanwhile has been joined by a couple dozen of its buddies and I’m mopping them away in waves.

My good eye waters and wavers. I wave back. Weird new thing in the story, category “waters, wavers, and waivers.” I watch people reading the story up to this point and realise I’m supposed to finish it off.

One of the cats wanders in and sits and looks at me. Pickle’s my familiar, he’s pretty humanised and socialised and I reckon he knows when I’ve got the irrits and comes to settle me down. (Also, it’s a perfect way to tie together all those ‘cat’ words. Yep, it was all just a plot device to catch your eye…)

“Geez buddy, I have had the weirdest morning. My pain patch backchatted me because I’m trying to make them last a bit longer, whoever it is that manufactures MY cat food is trying to kill as many people as possible by the feel of it, and our mate Fre… – ” I break off because talking to the cat is just whack, right? 

As I move, my little homebrew kitchen lighting setup picks up on the movement and switches on the light near the sink so I can rinse the bowl. The click stirs Pickle into action. He winks slowly, washes a paw, and then grabs a tinkly ball to play fetch with me. “C’mon hoomin, you need to unwind” he purrs. 

Today’s gonna be a great day..