Posts tagged ‘politics’


This was the natural outcome of greed, in the forms of monopoly power and sensationalist media

11.01.2021

I did indeed write in the wake of January 6, and the lengthy op–ed appears in Lucire, quoting Emily Ratajkowski, Glenn Greenwald and Edward Snowden. I didn’t take any pleasure in what happened Stateside and Ratajkowski actually inspired the post after a Twitter contact of mine quoted her. This was after President Donald Trump was taken off Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
   The points I make there are probably familiar to any of you, my blog readers, pointing at the dangers of tech monopolies, the double standards that they’ve employed, and the likely scenario of how the pendulum could swing the other way on a whim because another group is flavour of the month. We’ve seen how the US has swung one way and the other depending on the prevailing winds, and Facebook’s and Twitter’s positions, not to mention Amazon’s and Google’s, seem reactionary and insincere when they have had their terms and conditions in place for some time.
   Today, I was interested to see Chancellor Dr Angela Merkel, referred to by not a few as the leader of the free world, concerned at the developments, as was President López Obrador of México. ‘German Chancellor Angela Merkel objected to the decisions, saying on Monday that lawmakers should set the rules governing free speech and not private technology companies,’ reported Bloomberg, adding, ‘Europe is increasingly pushing back against the growing influence of big technology companies. The EU is currently in the process of setting up regulation that could give the bloc power to split up platforms if they don’t comply with rules.’
   The former quotation wasn’t precisely my point but the latter is certainly linked. These tech giants are the creation of the US, by both Democratic and Republican lawmakers, and their institutions, every bit as Trump was a creation of the US media, from Fox to MSNBC.
   They are natural outcomes of where things wind up when monopoly power is allowed to gather and laws against it are circumvented or unenforced; and what happens when news networks sell spectacle over substance in order to hold your attention. One can only hope these are corrected for the sake of all, not just one side of the political spectrum, since freedom—actual freedom—depends on them, at least until we gain the civility and education to regulate ourselves, the Confucian ideal. Everything about this situation suggests we are nowhere near being capable, and I wonder if homo sapiens will get there or whether we’ll need to evolve into another species before we do.

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January 2021 gallery

01.01.2021

Let’s kick off January’s images right here!

 
   Click here for all months (or hit ‘Gallery’ at the top of the screen, if you’re on the desktop), here for December, and here for November. This post explains why I wound up doing the gallery here.
   I append to this entry through the month.

Sources
Changan Uni-T, more at Autocade.
   Cartoon from Textile Cartoons on NewTumbl.
   A friend models a bikini by another friend: Tania Dawson models a bikini by Shek, on Tania’s Instagram.
   Twenty seventeen newspaper clipping with Donald Trump from The Herald.
   BMW image from Kolbenkopp on Twitter (more at this post).
   Bestune B70 Mk III, more at Autocade.
   Bridal gown by Luna Novias, and featured in Lucire.
   Citroën AX-330 advertisement from 1970 sourced from here.
   Chilean Peugeot 404 advertisement sourced from here.
   Ford US full line from 1972 from Consumer Guide.

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Facebook leaves up over 95 per cent of hate speech; ‘embarrassing to work here,’ says ex-staffer

16.12.2020

Buzzfeed’s article, on departing Facebook staff who write ‘badge posts’, wasn’t a surprise; what was a greater surprise was just how long it took for such news to surface.
   Badge posts are traditional farewell notes at Facebook, and not everyone has had rosy things to say. One wrote, ‘With so many internal forces propping up the production of hateful and violent content, the task of stopping hate and violence on Facebook starts to feel even more sisyphean than it already is … It also makes it embarrassing to work here’ (original emphasis).
   Buzzfeed noted, ‘More stunning, they estimated using the company’s own figures that, even with artificial intelligence and third-party moderators, the company was “deleting less than 5% of all of the hate speech posted to Facebook,”’ a claim that Facebook disputes, despite its points having already been addressed in the badge post:

   The rest is worth reading here.
   Meanwhile, this Twitter thread from Cory Doctorow, sums up a lot of my feelings and has supporting links, and it is where I found the above. Highlights:

   I realize US conservatives feel they are hard done by with Facebook, but I know plenty of liberals who feel the same, and who’ve had posts censored. Even if Silicon Valley leans left, Facebook’s management doesn’t, so I’d go so far as to say right-wing views get more airtime there than left-wing (actually, also right-wing by anyone else’s standards) ones. On Facebook itself, during the few times I visit, I actually see very few conservatives who have complained of having their posts deleted or censored.
   That isn’t a reason to shut it down or to break it up, but misinformation, regardless of whom it supports is. Inciting genocide is. Allowing posts to remain that influence someone to commit murder is. Facebook has proved over 15 years-plus that it has no desire to do the right thing, in which case it may well be time for others to step in to do it for them.

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Bring back humour to all, please!

10.12.2020

Very humorously, Nigella Lawson mispronounced microwave, only to have Those Who Have No Humour get up in arms and Ms Lawson having to clarify that she indeed knew how to pronounce the word the Tory way. Maybe it’s the Brexit age, where we can’t even reference the Continent, because of the Empah or some such, but sadly it might be down to the demise of humour in parts of our society. Britain may be leaving the EU but parts of society are about as cheerful as a bureaucrat from Brussels as they realize it’s a fait accompli. Oops.
   Back in April, I Tweeted this:

   Got plenty of positive replies and likes except one chap was concerned:

   So even in New Zealand, free from the stresses of COVID-19 infections, humour is dying in parts of our nation. (In this country, it’s spelled humour.)
   The reason the joke isn’t offensive or even distressing is that it’s highly unlikely. That’s often the essence of a good joke. (‘Let’s send an astronaut to the sun.’ ‘They’d get burnt up.’ ‘Not at night.’) If you took exception to it, then the explanation that follows is that you think the scenario is likely, and, therefore, you’re in a defensive mode.
   And come on, most of us wouldn’t drive hundreds of kilometres to take a meeting during a pandemic, so if you choose to make an odd decision, then expect some mirth at your expense.
   This entire episode brings up so many other thoughts: what did he tell his wife? (‘Just popping out to have a chat to some people at work.’) What did she respond? (‘Come back by 11 p.m.’) What crossed his mind then? (‘Cool, she didn’t say which day.’) There’s an entire sitcom episode about the drive down.
   I believe Mrs Bridges is English by birth and it’s completely in line with her country’s sense of humour. (‘Another woman? Pull the other one, I couldn’t even get Simon to drive back to Oxford.’) I’d even say she loves a good joke because of some of the things her husband says. Simon Bridges showed his more jovial and relaxed side once freed from the pressures of leading the Opposition, so clearly he has a sense of humour, too. You’d need it to have taken on that job.
   I used to wonder why this country no longer does political satire as often as it once did, but the humourless are being given positions of responsibility. Ever been to a party where certain staff from a certain ministry are present? (I won’t name which one, in case they change their mind about my being the New Zealand ambassador to Someplace.)
   This has been happening since Labour got elected in 1984. McPhail & Gadsby, endless critics of Sir Robert Muldoon, and The Billy T. James Show vanished. The powers-that-be didn’t want to risk their own lot being lampooned. Being a National MP, Simon clearly wished to reverse that by entertaining all of us in the absence of such shows. How we all laughed at David ‘I’m not that guy off Red Dwarf’ Seymour twerking, and look at the votes he got! And how he converted the votes from Dancing with the Stars to political ones in 2020! There’s something to be said for the Wally act. If we no longer fund such programmes then it is over to the politicians.
   How I wish that were not the case and Melanie Bracewell could appear more often as Jacinda Ardern. Is Liz Mullane still keen to don the Helen Clark costume? Who’d play Dr Ashley Bloomfield? Calls to Jacinda. (Episode 1: Helen Clark calls Jacinda Ardern. ‘If you want my advice …’ ‘I don’t.’ Episode 2: Jack Dorsey calls Jacinda Ardern. ‘Why don’t you Tweet much?’ ‘With Jack and Maurie on there? Are you mad?’ Episode 3: James Shaw calls Jacinda Ardern. ‘Come round, I’ll brew some tea the Green Party way.’ We would entitle this ‘The Billy Tea, James Shaw’.) I’d watch that.

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To Scotland with love

10.11.2020


Danjaq LLC/United Artists

Time for another podcast, this time with a Scottish theme. I touch upon how fortunate we are here in Aotearoa to be able to go to the ballet or expos, and, of course, on the US elections (thanks to those who checked out my last podcast entry, which had a record 31 plays—sure beats the single digits!). That leads on to a discussion about A. G. Barr, Richard Madden, and Sir Sean Connery, who never said, ‘The name’s Bond, James Bond.’

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Language lines on NewTumbl

24.10.2020

This post was originally posted to NewTumbl.

I’m surprised that a clip from a front page of a British tabloid newspaper was ruled M by a moderator here after I made it O. It was critical of British cabinet minister Matt Hancock and made fun of his surname, with two words that rhymed with its two syllables.
   The words on the headline included the work wank, which was even starred there (w*nk) for the really sensitive. I realize this is an American website but I didn’t even think that was a word they used. For most of us in the Anglosphere, it’s nowhere near offensive. It’s not uncommon to call someone a wanker and the word is never bleeped on television—it’s that throwaway. I learned of the word wank when I was 11, and wanker I heard before that. Kids would probably know of it even younger now. A younger reader would not link it to anything sexual and if they did, they’re a dirty little kid. (Same with bugger, which infamously even appeared on television commercials for Toyota here, and I know in Australia, too.)
   The second word that appeared was cock, a colloquialism for penis, but also it has other meanings. Let’s not get into those: it’s clear the context suggested penis—in the same way an American might call someone a dick, I suppose. Again, hardly offensive, never bleeped, and, I don’t know about the US, but here it’s the word that children might learn to refer to male genitalia.
   But, here’s the real kicker: the image was from the front page of a national newspaper. Not the top shelf wrapped in a brown paper bag or plastic at a convenience store.
   Looking at the classifications, M is for adults-only stuff, with ‘strong suggestive or violent language.’ O was already suggested by NewTumbl staff as suitable for politics, including COVID-19 posts (this qualified), and the language by any standard was mild (feel free to come and give your reasoning if you were the mod and you want to defend your decision).
   So I’ve had a post removed for a word that an 11-year-old uses (remember, O is for ‘older teens’) and another word that children use, and both appeared on the front page of a national newspaper.
   I have used these words on a website run from a country that thinks it’s OK to show people getting blown away in violent movies and cop shows (oh, sorry, ‘police procedurals’), where guns are commonplace, but words are really, really dangerous. Thought you guys had a First Amendment to your Constitution.
   The conclusion I am forced to draw is that the post was removed because, like Facebook, there is a right-wing bias shown by a moderator who does not like a conservative government criticized here. Good luck, because I’ll continue to criticize a bunch of dickheads that even my right-leaning, pro-market, lifelong-Tory friends in Britain dislike. If this post is classified M then I will have to conclude that the reason is also political, because there’s not a single word here that any right-thinking user of English would deem ‘strong suggestive or violent’.
   I came here because I objected to the censorship at Tumblr, where, for instance, they hide posts referring to NewTumbl in searches. That’s pretty tame but enough for me to insist on free speech over silly, petty corporate decisions, the sort of games that other silly, petty corporations like Google play. I can live with NewTumbl’s male nipple rule and other attempts to be non-sexist, but I also believe that if you’re moderating, you should be apolitical.

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If you’re in the ‘New Zealand can’t’ camp, then you’re not a business leader

04.10.2020


Which club is the better one to belong to? The ones who have bent the curve down and trying to eliminate COVID-19, or the ones whose curves are heading up? Apparently Air New Zealand’s boss thinks the latter might be better for us.

From Stuff today, certain ‘business leaders’ talk about the New Zealand Government’s response to COVID-19.
   We have Air New Zealand boss Greg Foran saying that elimination was no longer a realistic goal for us, and that we should live with the virus.
   This is despite our country having largely eliminated the virus, which suggests it was realistic.
   No, the response hasn’t been perfect, but I’m glad we can walk about freely and go about our lives.
   Economist Benje Patterson says that if we don’t increase our risk tolerance, ‘We could get to that point where we’re left behind.’
   When I first read this, I thought: ‘Aren’t we leaving the rest of the world behind?’
   Is Taiwan, ROC leaving the world behind with having largely eliminated COVID-19 on its shores? It sure looks like it. How about mainland China, who by all accounts is getting its commerce moving? (We’ve reported on a lot of developments in Lucire relating to Chinese business.) The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has adopted policies similar to ours with travel and quarantine, and I’ve been watching their infection figures drop consistently. They’re also well on their way to eliminating the virus and leaving the world behind.
   We are in an enviable position where we can possibly have bubbles with certain low-risk countries, and that is something the incoming government after October 17 has to consider.
   We are in a tiny club that the rest of the world would like to join.
   Let’s be entirely clinical and calculating: how many hours of productivity will be lost to deaths and illnesses, and the lingering effects of COVID-19, if we simply tolerated the virus?
   Work done by Prof Heidi Tworek and her colleagues, Dr Ian Beacock and Eseohe Ojo, rates New Zealand’s democratic health communications among the best in the world and believes that, as of their writing in September, we have been successful in executing the elimination strategy.
   Some of our epidemiologists believe the goal can be achieved.
   I just have to go with the health experts over the business “experts”.
   I’m not sure you could be described as a ‘business leader’ if you are a business follower, and by that I mean someone who desires to be part of a global club that is failing at its response to COVID-19. GDP drops in places like the UK and the US are far more severe than ours over the second quarter—we’re a little over where Germany is. Treasury expects our GDP to grow in Q3, something not often mentioned by our media. As Europe experiences a second wave in many countries, will they show another drop? Is this what we would like for our country?
   I’ve fought against this type of thinking for most of my career: the belief that ‘New Zealand can’t’. That we can’t lead. That we can’t be the best at something. That because we’re a tiny country on the edge of the world we must take our cues from bigger ones.
   Bollocks.
   Great Kiwis have always said, ‘Bollocks,’ to this sort of thinking.
   Of course we can win the America’s Cup. Just because we haven’t put up a challenge before doesn’t mean we can’t start one now.
   Of course we can make Hollywood blockbusters. Just because we haven’t before doesn’t mean we can’t now.
   Heck, let’s even get my one in there: of course we can create and publish font software. Just because foreign companies have always done it doesn’t mean a Kiwi one can’t, and pave the way.
   Yet all of these were considered the province of foreigners until someone stood up and said, ‘Bollocks.’
   Once upon a time we even said that we could have hybrid cars that burned natural gas cheaply (and switch back to petrol when required) until the orthodoxy put paid to that, and we wound up buying petrol from foreigners again—probably because we were so desperate to be seen as part of some globalist club, rather than an independent, independently minded and innovative nation.
   Then when the Japanese brought in petrol–electric hybrids we all marvelled at how novel they were in a fit of collective national amnesia.
   About the only lot who were sensible through all of this were our cabbies, since every penny saved contributes to their bottom line. They stuck with LPG after 1996 and switched to the Asian hybrids when they became palatable to the punters.
   Through my career people have told me that I can’t create fonts from New Zealand (even reading in a national magazine after I had started business that there were no typefoundries here), that no one would want to read a fashion magazine online or that no one would ever care what carbon neutrality was. Apparently you can’t take an online media brand into print, either. This is all from the ‘New Zealand can’t’ camp, and it is not one I belong to.
   If anybody can, a Kiwi can.
   And if we happen to do better than others, for God’s sake don’t break out the tall poppy shit again.
   Accept the fact we can do better and that we do not need the approval of mother England or the United States. We certainly don’t want to be dragged down to their level, nor do we want to see the divisiveness that they suffer plague our politics and our everyday discourse.
   Elimination is better than tolerance, and I like the fact we didn’t settle for a second-best solution, even if some business followers do.
   Those who wish to import the sorts of division that the US and UK see today are those who have neither imagination nor a desire to roll up their sleeves and do the hard yards, because they know that spouting bullshit from positions of privilege is cheap and easy. And similarly I see little wisdom in importing their health approaches and the loss of life that results.
   I’m grateful for our freedom, since it isn’t illusory, as we leave the rest of the world to catch up. And I sincerely hope they do.

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The accidental 9-11 post: their Republicans and Democrats still have the same concerns

11.09.2020


Above: I photographed this gentleman praying at Ground Zero during the 9-11 commemorations in 2005. A very moving day and my first return to the site since 2001.

This was never meant as a 9-11 post. I recorded this a few days ago, after chatting to my US friend Jerry, who had voted for Trump in 2016. I concluded that Americans largely had the same concerns, regardless of whom they voted for, yet other interests were stoking the divisions because they had everything to gain from the infighting. I also discussed the shift of their political centre from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s day to today. Back then, the people of the US showed unity, and I still believe they can if they wished, and rid themselves of the vitriol that comes through social media.

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Thoughts shared on Big Tech

28.08.2020


Tip of the iceberg. Something happening with greater frequency: I can highlight ‘Répondez’ or ‘Write a reply’ in Facebook’s comment boxes, but I can’t actually comment or type in them. But I can make graphics outside of Facebook and paste them in. This was a bug I used to see perhaps once a year, but now it’s every time I go on (a few times a week).

It’s interesting to note that someone as noted as Doc Searls encountered a Facebook bug, which prompted me to comment with the below.

Few things work on this site now. I’ve frequently been unable to share since I joined in 2007. Every now and then I can’t like things, and regularly, Facebook removes the choices of hearts, sad face, angry face, etc. If I type a link, Facebook sometimes appends some letters from the status update to the end of it, so when it generates a preview, that results in a 404. Every now and then, with increasing frequency, whatever I type into a status update appears in all caps and bold type (and no, I don’t have caps lock on). On almost all groups I see three posts—nothing older. Notifications and messages fail to load over 90 per cent of the time. Often I cannot comment, but I can highlight the words ‘Write a comment’, so I have to resort to making an image featuring text and paste it in the comment box! I cannot see my advertising preferences: they have not loaded for the last few years, even if I leave the window open for an entire day while I am out (I only get a spinning wheel).
   I’m no tech, but as a layman what I see is a website disintegrating, with more and more bugs weighing it down. Above is what I experience now but if I go back over the years (especially when there was a Getsatisfaction forum), there were other bugs. I still remember when Facebook stopped working on the 1st of each month! But 2020 certainly marks the year when I get a whole bunch of bugs simultaneously.
   My theory has always been that Facebook’s resources are all spent hosting bots that there is nothing left for legitimate users!

   I didn’t even add that I can’t see any Facebook video now (they don’t play at all), and there’s no point posting Instagram links as, despite the two companies having the same parent, Facebook won’t show the image:

   As to the new look, I have very little confidence. When asked why I was switching back to the classic template, something which will be impossible soon, I wrote (not that these schmucks will care):

You can’t tag companies when editing text. You have to begin writing on a clean line, often retyping the post to do it. Waste of time, you’re making Facebook less and less relevant.
   When looking at groups people in a group queue have joined, you can’t see as many, which makes it harder for group admins to detect fake accounts (as you guys are pretty useless at doing it).

   When a friend (a person of colour in the US) wondered why she was seeing a lot of attacks against the Republican National Convention and none against the Democrats’, even though she is apolitical, I responded (inter alia):

Facebook has plenty of ex-staff and insiders who point out it will always amp up things to get people upset or outraged, as scientifically—thanks to the work of Professor Fogg at Stanford—people engage more with these. Armed with what they have collected, the algorithms will make a call one way or another to ensure they show you things that will provoke a reaction. As the algorithms have been designed predominantly by white American men (and I know: not all white American men fit into this), I really believe they won’t take in the experiences of people of colour like us, and arguably they won’t understand the international nature of your work. For instance, Facebook used to stop working on the 1st of each month, as our walls would freeze on the 30th or 31st. We would have to wait till it was the 1st in California, which meant in our summer, we would have to wait 21 hours each month for Facebook to work normally. These folks aren’t smart when it comes to “outside California”, let alone outside the US.

   To confirm my theory, I looked on my wall and was being fed multiple posts by a Facebook friend I barely knew—someone whose request I must have accepted over a decade ago, with whom I have had no interaction. He is an American, and was dismissing the protests and the existence of racism in his country. Why would Facebook show me that of the 2,300 people I am connected to? Simple: to provoke a reaction. These were views contrary to what I believe in, and it probably gathered that. It’s no longer about being connected to your friends—and hasn’t been for a long time. It’s the outrage machine, where they want you to fight.
   And this is me, someone who no longer goes on there for personal stuff, still encountering bugs and its ongoing negativity like there was no tomorrow.
   I stand by my saying that Mark Zuckerberg is a compulsive liar on Radio New Zealand National on Tuesday in the ‘I’ve Been Thinking’ slot before The Panel, where yours truly made his début as a panellist. (Prior to that I called in as a guest, once in 2010, and once in 2020.) Facebook is a site that now does more harm than good.

   Finally, I will leave you with this gem (every now and then I come up with one) from Twitter:

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Going beyond a blacked-out image: thoughts on Black Lives Matter

04.06.2020

Usually I find it easier to express myself in written form. For once, Black Lives Matter and the protests in the US prompted me to record another podcast entry. I’m not sure where the flat as and the mid-Atlantic vowels come from when I listened to this again—maybe I was channelling some of the passion I was seeing in the US, and I had watched the news prior to recording this.

   My Anchor summary is: ‘Personal thoughts in solidarity with my black friends in the US. Yes, I posted a blackout image on my Instagram but it didn’t seem to be enough. This is my small contribution, inspired by a Facebook post written by my white American friend Eddie Uken where he reflects on his perspective and privilege.’ Eddie’s Facebook post, which is public, is here.

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