Archive for the ‘USA’ category


Navigating the Julian Assange arrest

12.04.2019

I’m finding it disturbing that some of the talking heads here we’ve seen are giving the Julian Assange story the same bias that much of the US mainstream media are. To me, it’s dangerous territory: it either shows that our media wish to be complicit with Anglo-American interests, that they do little more than repeat the UK Government’s official statements, that they lack any originality, or that they lack basic analytical skills expected of professional journalists. Or all of the above.
   You don’t have to like Assange. You can find him rapey or creepy. You don’t even have to respect Wikileaks. We can all disagree with whether we believe Wikileaks is a publication and Assange a journalist. But you should be also aware of how stories are being reported to paint a one-sided picture, and how this has been going on for seven years, with blatantly obvious factual omissions in all that time.
   Jonathan Cook sums it up incredibly well on his blog, and I recommend his piece.
   The only major media outlet I have come across that is allowing commentators defending Assange is the Russian government-backed Russia Today.
   Some of what Patrick Henningsen said in the wake of Assange’s arrest is already coming to pass, and confirms his suspicions that Assange will not get a fair trial.

   The occident, especially the Anglosphere, cannot hold its head up high as a defender of basic human rights. It hasn’t been able to for quite some time with its interference over others’ sovereignty and its yielding to globalist multinationals at the expense of its own citizens. Now the rest of the world is watching this event and seeing how it’s desperate to crush one of its own to keep its wrongdoings from coming out. China, with its kidnappings of publishers and booksellers critical of the Communist Party, will simply say that the US and UK are pots calling the kettle black when this issue is raised in the future.
   And given their willingness to join the throng, some of our media won’t be able to complain if any of our journalists are silenced using the same techniques in future.

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Facebook: Kiwi lives don’t matter

10.04.2019

As someone who read Confucius as a young man, and was largely raised on his ideas, free speech with self-regulation is my default position—though when it becomes apparent that people simply aren’t civilized enough to use it, then you have to consider other solutions.
   We have Facebook making statements saying they are ‘Standing Against Hate’, yet when friends report white nationalist and separatist groups, they are told that nothing will be done because it is ‘counter-speech’. We know that Facebook has told the Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, that it has done absolutely nothing despite its statements. This is the same company that shut off its ‘View as’ feature (which allowed people to check how their walls would look from someone else’s point-of-view) after share price-affecting bad press, yet when it comes to actual humans getting killed and their murders streamed live via their platform, Facebook, through its founder, Mark Zuckerberg, essentially tells us, ‘There are no problems, nothing to see here.’


   We may differ on where we draw the line on what is permitted speech and what isn’t, but where we can agree is that Facebook, once again, has said one thing and done another, leading Edwards to say on Twitter, ‘Facebook cannot be trusted. They are morally bankrupt pathological liars.’
   He is right. Just as Facebook said it would support the drag community while kicking off its members, just as Facebook forced highly suspicious downloads on people after false claims of malware detection, just as Facebook says you can opt-out of its ad targeting while collecting more data on you, its latest feel-good announcement was a blatant lie, to make unquestioning sheeple believe it was a good corporate citizen. More people will have seen the Facebook announcement than Edwards’ Tweet, so it would have weighed up the consequences of doing nothing or getting bad press.
   Basically, as far as Facebook is concerned, Kiwi lives don’t matter, because it believes it can ride the negative press. Apparently, however, getting accused by Wired for questionable downloads does matter, hence they stopped doing them after getting exposed. The priorities are massively screwed up.
   I would actually respect Facebook and Zuckerberg more if their pronouncements were in line with their real intent:

We’re just a platform
We take no responsibility at all for what gets shared through us. You can say what you like, but we think we can weather this storm, just as we weathered the last one, and just as we’ll weather the next.

Kiwi lives don’t matter
White nationalist groups make for great sharing. And sharing is caring. So we won’t shut them down as we did with Muslim groups. The engagement is just too good, especially when we’re only going to upset fewer than five million New Zealanders.

Hate is great
Hate gets shared and people spend more time on Facebook as a result. Whether it’s about New Zealanders or the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, we’ll be there to help distribute it. Genocide’s fine when it doesn’t affect our share price.

Facebook users are ‘dumb fucks’
Our founder said it, and this is still our ongoing policy at Facebook. We’ll continue to lie because we know you’re addicted to our platform. And no matter which country summons our founder, we know you won’t have the guts to issue a warrant of arrest.

   Actions speak more loudly than words, and in Facebook’s case, their words are a form of Newspeak, where they mean the opposite to what everyone else understands.

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Posted in business, culture, internet, marketing, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | No Comments »


The end of the long Instagram video

27.03.2019

After the last 11 months, only two Instagram users—myself and an Indonesian user called TryAink—uploaded videos of over a minute (his were up to four). It looks like he and I were experimenting to see how much Instagram would really allow. I guess we were the guinea pigs before IGTV was launched, though unlike those using that service, our videos were all landscape.
   You’ve seen plenty of mine, so here’s one of his.

   It does seem that all good things come to an end, and neither TryAink nor I have access to the longer video uploads any more. I can try, but Instagram refuses to make the video live.

   Mind you, we were the first to get long Instagram videos, then the public got them. Maybe Instagram is going to phase out videos, as we’re the first to suffer an inability to upload them? (I jest for the most part—as stranger things have happened with Facebook-owned properties.)
   What is interesting is that with life being so busy, and with the massive increase in ads, Instagram has not been holding my attention. I also became very spoiled with the longer videos, so much so that 60 seconds feels bizarrely short. Then there’s the problem of Instagram videos being incompatible with Android 7, so all my videos had to be Bluetoothed to my old, damaged phone for uploading.
   The result of the above is that I have reduced my time on the platform considerably, because why am I jumping through hoops created by the incompetence of boffins when it is technology that should be serving me?
   The loss of Instagram maps all those years ago was an inconvenience, but the loss of a feature that I regarded as the norm, plus advertisements that are irrelevant—not to mention undesirable—are turning my cellphone into a cellphone, rather than a portable leisure device where I shared and enjoyed photos.

Speaking of Facebook incompetence, I caught a few minutes (while cooking) of a documentary called Inside Facebook, airing on Aljazeera English. An undercover reporter secretly films a moderators’ training session on what Facebook’s standards are.
   Did you wonder why so many of the Christchurch terrorist attacks’ videos remained online? Turns out Facebook’s policy is that screened deaths are OK. The default position is that they’re marked with a warning, not removed. As to child abuse, none of those videos are removed as a rule.
   This is a sick company that appears to prey on the inhuman impulses some have, for the sake of monetizing them. I cannot be high and mighty about this, because I haven’t deleted my account, and keep saying that I’m on there for a few clients who ask me to look after their social media. When I think more deeply about this, it ain’t good enough. I need to find a way out, including for my clients who receive DMs for their businesses on there.

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Posted in internet, media, New Zealand, technology, USA | 2 Comments »


In the wake of terrorism in your own country

20.03.2019


Above: Flowers at the Islamic Centre in Kilbirnie, Wellington on Monday.

On 9-11, I wrote an editorial in Lucire immediately. It was clear to me what I needed to write, and the editorial got quite a few readers at the time.
   Today is March 20, five days after a terrorist attack on our country, and it’s only now I’ve had some idea of how to put my thoughts into a longer-form fashion, rather than a lot of Tweets, some of which have had a lot of support.
   I guess it’s different when the attack happens to your own people in your own country.
   One of the earliest points I made, when the death toll hit 49, was that this was “our 9-11”, at least when you consider the per capita loss of life. When it hit 50, it actually exceeded the number of lives lost per capita in 9-11. This helps put the matter into some context.
   While the terrorist is a foreign national, who was most likely radicalized by foreign ideas, it has generated a great deal of soul-searching among New Zealanders. Even the right-wing talking heads have suddenly changed their tune, although, if a friend and colleague’s experience as a waiter in New York City in September 2001 is anything to go by, they will return to their regularly scheduled programming in two weeks’ time. Certain media bosses, especially among foreign-owned companies, would have it no other way, since they are not here to benefit New Zealanders, only their foreign shareholders and their own pockets. Stoking division is their business and I do not believe leopards change their spots.
   Therefore, the majority of right-thinking New Zealanders are not complicit, but a minority of us harbour bigoted thoughts, and enough of that minority infect the comments’ sections of mainstream media websites and social networks to make it seem as though they are more numerous in number. The outpouring of support for our Muslim community highlights that the good far outnumber the rotten eggs in our society. And I think more of us are now prepared to call out racism and bigotry knowing that, in fact, public opinion is behind us.
   So many Kiwis, myself included, say that hatred toward Muslims is not in our national character. But it is sufficiently in our national character when Muslim groups have pleaded with government agencies to step up, to be met with endless bureaucratic roadblocks; and many political parties have stains on their records in appealing to Islamophobia, something which indeed was foreign to this nation for all of my childhood.
   I grew up with a Muslim boy and we remain friends to this day, but I never thought of him by his creed. If I was forced to “label” him I would have called him a Pakistani New Zealander. I am willing to bet many Kiwis were in the same boat: we probably knew Muslims but never thought once about their religion.
   It takes certain people to make changes in mainstream thinking. I thought I might be labelled a ‘Chinese New Zealander’ till Winston Peters, now our deputy PM, droned on about ‘Asians’ out of some fear about the weakness of New Zealand culture; and we might have only become aware of Islam to any degree after 9-11. But these are, in fact, foreign ideas, adopted here by those who lack imagination or a willingness to do some hard work. They have been imported here through the sharing of culture. While I support the exchange of ideas, in some misguided utopian belief that dialogue is good for us all, I certainly did not anticipate, during the first heady days of the web, that we would have so much of the bad come with the good. I believed in some level of natural selection, that educated people would refrain and filter, and present their country’s or community’s best face. But as each medium boganfied (yes, I am making up words), the infection came. Newspapers changed thanks to Rupert Murdoch cheapening them, eventually morphing into publications that sensationalized division, especially against Muslims after 9-11. Television went downhill as well largely thanks to the same bloke and his lieutenant, Roger Ailes. The web was fine till each medium became infected with negativity, but Google, Facebook and Twitter were all too happy for it to continue because it increased engagement on their properties. Each fuelled it more with algorithms that showed only supporting views, deepening each user’s belief in the rightness of their ideas, to the exclusion of everyone else’s.
   Most Americans I know believe in civility. I’ve spoken often enough in their country to know this. They don’t believe their freedom of speech is absolute, and personally draw the line at hate speech, but their big websites act as though this is absolute, and allow the negative to fester. It seems it is for profit: we see Twitter remove Will Connolly’s (‘Egg Boy’) account but not racist Australian politician Sen. Fraser Anning. It is tempting to believe that Twitter is following the dollars here without regard to their stated policy. We have, after all, seen all Big Tech players lie constantly, and, for the most part, they get away with it. We let them, because we keep using them. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need to say anything about Christchurch, because we’ll keep using his websites (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp) and he’ll keep finding ways of monetizing us, dehumanizing us. He won’t show up to the UK when summoned, and Facebook will continue to lie about removing videos and offensive content when we know many reports go unheeded.
   Umair Haque wrote in the wake of the Christchurch terrorist attacks: ‘Facebook and Twitter and YouTube etcetera really just bring the American ideal to life that there should be extreme, absolute freedom of speech, with zero consequences whatsoever, even for expressing hate and violence of the most vile and repellent kinds.’
   As people become dehumanized through words and campaigns, it makes it easier for people to commit violence against them. They no longer see them as deserving of respect or protection. In the foulest version, they no longer see them as having a right to life.
   Now, I don’t believe that this absolute approach can be branded American. And I do believe Big Tech has very different values to Americans. Their newsmedia have, too. When regular people are censored, when big money talks more loudly than their laws, then there is something very wrong with their companies—and this is the common enemy of both Republicans and Democrats, not each other. And this wrongness is being exported here, too. I’ve said it for years: we are a sovereign nation, and we have no need to copy their failed idea of a health system or even their vernacular (on this note: retailers, please cease using Black Friday to describe your end-of-year sales, especially this year). We do not need to import the political playbooks, whether you are a political party, a blogger, or a local newspaper. There are Kiwis who actually talked about their ‘First Amendment rights’ because they may have watched too much US television and are unaware we have our own Bill of Rights Act. Even the raid on Kim Dotcom’s home seemed to be down to some warped idea of apeing their cop shows, about impressing the FBI more than following our own laws on surveillance and our own beliefs on decency.
   I honestly don’t see the attraction of turning us into some vassal state or a mutant clone of other nations, yet foreign-owned media continue to peddle this nonsense by undermining the Kiwi character and everyday Kiwi unity.
   Did the terrorist see any of this? I have no idea. I equally have no idea if the people he came into contact with here cemented his hate. However, I think he would have come across sufficient international influences here to validate his imagined fears of non-whites and women. By all means, we should call out bad behaviour, but when we do, we shouldn’t restrict it to individual cases we see in our daily lives. There are entire institutions that are doing this, strings pulled from faraway lands, and to them we must also say: enough is enough. The way you do business isn’t in line with who we are. We need to be aware of who the non-Kiwi players are, often masquerading under locally grown brand names (such as ‘Newstalk ZB’—a quick peek of shareholders suggest the majority are as Kiwi as Ned Kelly), and, if need be, vote with our time and money to support those who really understand us. Be alert to who’s really trying to influence us.

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More reminders that Google lies

21.02.2019


Nest/Creative Commons

We’ve been here countless times before since last decade. Funny how many of these “errors” Google has, and funny how they only admit to these “errors” after they get busted. How many more “errors” are there?

The link that Grady features is here.
   Just how many times do I need to remind people that this is “business as usual” for Google?
   If I lied to you this often, and spied on you through different gadgets, wouldn’t you stop trusting me? So why trust Google?

Hat tip to Vincent Wright.

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Posted in internet, technology, USA | 1 Comment »


Why Twitter’s stock went down in my book in 2018

01.01.2019

Twitter bird fallen
Pixabay

Of my friends, about eight or nine voted for President Trump. Two voted for Brexit. These are my friends, who I vouch for, who I like. Other than a difference of opinion on these topics, we remain friends. I still think incredibly highly of them.
   Since I know them well, I know a little bit about why they voted their way.
   Of the Americans, some wanted an end to the neoliberal order and hoped Trump would deliver. Others saw Clinton as corrupt and that Trump would actually be better. Of the Brits, their reasons were more complex, but among them were the thought of an unwieldly EU bureaucracy, and the belief that a customs’ union would be sufficient to keep trade going with the Continent.
   None of these people are racists or xenophobes—the opposite, in fact. None of them are hillbillies or gun-loving, NRA-donating hicks, or whatever narrative the mainstream media would like to spin. Most of them would be regarded by any measure in society as decent, intelligent and compassionate.
   I have found little reason to dislike someone, or not vote for someone, over one relatively minor disagreement. If their hearts are in the right place, it is not for me to condemn them for their choices. Indeed, when it comes to these issues, I find that while our actions differ (hypothetically, in my case, since I cannot vote in countries other than my own), our core views are actually quite similar.
   In the US, strip away the hatred that vocal fringe elements stoke, and you’ll find that most people have common enemies in big business, tax evaders, and censorship. In 2018 we have seen Big Tech silence people on both the left and the right for voicing opinions outside the mainstream. My two Brexit-voting friends share some concerns with Remainers.
   Therefore, in August, when one of these American friends wrote a Tweet in support of her president, it was horrible to watch Tweeters, total strangers, pile on her.
   I’m not saying I like Trump (quite the contrary, actually), but I will give him props when he does things that I happened to agree with. If I’ve Tweeted for years that I disagreed with US military involvement in Syria, for instance, which at least one US veteran friend says lacks an objective, then I’m not going to attack the man when he pulls his country’s troops out. However, it was interesting to see some viewpoints suddenly change on the day. Those who opposed the war suddenly supported it.
   I can’t say that I praise him very often, but I like to think I’m consistent. I was also complimentary about his withdrawal of the US from TPPA, something I have marched against.
   And this friend is consistent, too.
   In fact, her Tweet wasn’t even one of actual support. Someone called Trump a ‘loon’ and she simply said, ‘You don’t have to like my president,’ and added a few other points in response.
   The piling began.
   It seems almost fashionable to adopt one prevailing view peddled by the mainstream (media or otherwise) but there was no attempt to dissect these opposing views. My friend was measured and calm. What came afterwards did not reciprocate her courtesy.
   Since I was included in the Tweet, I saw plenty of attacks on her that day. I was included in one, by a black South African Tweeting something racist to me.
   When the mob goes this unruly, and it’s “liked” or deemed OK by so many, then something is very wrong. These people did not know my friend. They didn’t know why she supported Trump. They were just happy to group her in to what they had been told about Trump supporters being ill-educated hicks, and attacked accordingly.
   Call me naïve, but social media were meant to be platforms where we could exchange views and get a better understanding of someone else, and make the world a little better than how we found it. The reverse is now true, with Google, Facebook et al “bubbling” data so people only see what they want to see, to reinforce their prejudices, and having been convinced of their “rightness”, those espousing a contrary view must be inhuman.
   I don’t like dominant viewpoints unless it’s something like ‘Intolerance is bad’ or a scientific fact that is entirely provable, though you could probably take issue with where I draw the line. Generally, I like a bit of debate. No position is perfect and we need to respect those with whom we disagree. That day, Twitter was a medium where there was no such respect, that it was OK to pile on someone who fell outside the standard narrative. To me, that’s as unhealthy was a socialist being piled upon by conservatives if the latter group’s view happened to prevail. It doesn’t take much imagination to extend this scenario to being a Chinese republican in the early 20th century in the face of the Ching Dynasty. I’m always mindful of how things like this look if the shoe were on the other foot, hence I was equally upset when Facebook and Twitter shut down political websites’ presences on both the left and the right wings. We should advance by expanding our knowledge and experiences.
   It encouraged me to head more to Mastodon in 2018, where you can still have conversations with human beings with some degree of civility.
   And, frankly, if you disagree with someone over something relatively trivial, then there is such a feature as scrolling.
   Twitter became less savoury in 2018, and it has well and truly jumped the shark.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, politics, UK, USA | 3 Comments »


2019: replicants beware

01.01.2019

Quick Tweet for the Blade Runner fans.

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My Avira scan shows Ccleaner v. 5.51 has a virus

15.12.2018

Avira informs me that Ccleaner 5.51 is infected with a virus, called TR/Swrort.ofrgv.
   I haven’t come across anything online about this threat, except for reports in 2017 when Ccleaner was distributed with malware, eventually found to be the work of hackers who compromised the servers of the company behind Ccleaner.
   The Hacker News said that hackers got in there five months before replacing the legitimate Ccleaner with their own.
   I’ve no idea where the blame should go this time, or even if my own computer has been compromised somewhere, but I’ve now downgraded to v. 5.50 and there have been no further alerts.
   Anyone else had trouble with their Ccleaners?

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Instagram’s slow frame rate is probably down to an incompatibility with Android 7

09.12.2018

I thought downgrading to an earlier Instagram would have solved the frame-rate problem, but I was wrong. Here are two videos using the same file. The first was uploaded using my new phone, but running v. 43 from April 2018, given that using the latest Instagram produced very stuttered video. However, it was the same story, so we can conclude there’s something wrong with using newer phones with Instagram. I’m not alone: others reported this bug earlier this year and the one solution appears to be upgrading the OS to Android 8. The conclusion I have to draw is that there is a fault with Android 7, or how Instagram works with Android 7.
   The second was uploaded using my old phone, running probably the same version from April 2018, since that was the last time I performed an Instagram update. The frame rate is now normal.
   The first took four attempts to upload. The second took nine attempts, meaning that I have uploaded this file 13 times on two phones, only to have Instagram show two. There is a problem with Instagram making videos publicly visible, a bug I first reported here earlier this year.
   I’m going to have to pray my old phone holds up despite its damaged screen. Looks like all video uploads will have to be done using it, at least till Instagram fixes the frame-rate issue.

New phone upload

Old phone upload

Failed uploads


Above: Finally, the video uploaded after nine attempts on the old phone. One attempt never made it to the wall. Instagram refused to show eight of the uploads.

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Americans like big numbers

24.11.2018

Scott Milne and I had a little fun over ‘American English’ recently on Twitter (and hopefully US friends will see this in the humour in which it was intended). He wrote:

   I responded that Americans like big numbers. It’s a big country, and everything must sound more impressive, even yuge. Therefore:


Rest of world: Audi 100
USA: Audi 5000


Rest of world: 2019 Range Rover Evoque
USA: 2020 Range Rover Evoque

‘Black Friday’
Western world: Friday 13th
USA: Friday 23rd (it was this year, anyway)

1,000,000,000
Originally in English: ‘one thousand million’
USA: ‘one billion’

1,000,000,000,000
Originally in English: ‘one billion’
USA: ‘one trillion’

   I realize Americans mean something different when they say ‘Black Friday’ (and it doesn’t mean we need to adopt a change in definition, though judging by the last two we probably will), and I realize how their model years work (and they have nothing to do with calendar years).

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