Friday, November 16, 2018

NYTimes offers booklet giving a chronicle of Facebook's gradual change of heart on the need to monitor user speech

On Tuesday’s New York Times, five writers: Sheera Frenkel, Nicholas Confessore, Cecilia King, Matthew Rosenberg, and Jack Nicas, describe the Facebook saga:  "Delay, Deny and Deflect: How Facebook’s Leader’s Fought Through Crisis", in a booklet-length article
At this point I need to mention Siva Vaidhyanthan’s book “Anti-Social Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracyhere  as well as several films and articles on that blog concerning Facebook. I attended a panel discussion about this matter in San Francisco in mid September, 2018.

The article notes that Sheryl Sandberg was at first angry at general counsel Alex Stamos for “throwing the company under the bus” as evidence of foreign (especially Russian) misuse of the site mounted in 2016.
Zuckerberg, as late as 2015, insisted that Facebook was a utility, not a publisher, and could not screen content for political consequences.  That is partly about Section 230.

Now the company is very choosy about accepting page boost for issue-oriented content separate from normal commercial business advertising, and seems unwilling to monetize controversial independent journalism (as News2Share and Ford Fischer have recently found out). 
Vanity Fair has a special issue “Moguls and Masterminds” in supermarkets now, with an article by Nick Bilton “Status Change” about Mark Zuckerberg on p.42. “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains”, according to Facebook ex-president Sean Parker (from “The Social Network”).  

Thursday, November 15, 2018

"Illegal", by John Dennehy, self-published on a blockchain site (Steemit)

I have started looking into Steemit (with the idea of signing up soon with some special material) and I did find that some authors, at least one, publish e-books on it.
There is a book “Illegal”, by John Dennehy, first chapter link is here.  The subtitle is “A True Story of Love, Revolution, and Crossing Borders”.

The author, a “na├»ve New Yorker”, travels to Ecuador and falls in love with Lucia, and gets deported back to the US after “getting involved”.

He is up to Chapter 20.

To buy a copy, it looks like you have to join Steemit (which I will do soon) and get your cryptoaccount set up first.  It can take some time to get your account verified first.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

"Inside Animal Minds", from NatGeo

Brandon Keim’s “Inside Animal Minds”, 112 pages, National Geographic, is available in supermarket checkout stands in November 2018.

The subtitle is “what they think, feel, and know”.  It's a lot that we don't know.  They're already doomsday preppers. 
There are three main sections in the book: Intelligence, Feelings, Relationships.

But there is a great emphasis on the likelihood that every individual animal has some minimal self-awareness.  Even a worker bee in a hive knows that it is a prole and obedient to the will of the hive.
Animals (even birds) have more language capabilities than we realize, and more tool-using.  They engage in altruistic behavior.  Among some fish, males will guard the females eggs, and if a male is eaten by a shark, another male, like a soldier on guard duty, will take its place.

Even some invertebrates, especially mullosks, have surprising intelligence.

There is a YouTube video of a cat encountering a stranded octopus on a deck near the ocean.  You find yourself “rooting” for the cat because she seems more like us than a mullosk, but an octopus may have intelligence comparable to a cat or dog.

Biologists disagree on the significance of the mirror recognition test (elephants, cetaceans, primates).
Some dolphins (especially orcas) may have human-equivalent problem solving ability and arguably should have the legal rights of persons.

Mammals vary as to whether they are solitary or live in colonies, which tend to have authoritarian tribal structures like early human tribes. Lions and tigers are very similar genetically, but split off, with lions living in prides and males developing manes as a sexual secondary characteristic not needed by solitary tigers. 

There are many videos which show that wild animals, especially carnivores (including most wild cats) learn to recognize people in their environment.  In Colorado, a rancher finds that the same four mountain lions appear on his property for water, and seem to remember and trust the rancher as a human individual.  When I had a house, a fox got to the point that he did not run when he saw me in the yard.

When I lived in a garden apartment in Dallas, a male cat simply invited himself in.  He would disappear for days and then return and remember the apartment, and bring birds to me.  He was called "Timmy" and seemed to have an interesting life.  He knew who he was. 
A friend and tech journalist and his wife have two daughters and a female cat who preceded them. The cat watched each baby as if the cat thought they were hers to raise (to learn to hunt). 

Bobcats are common in the Dallas area and often become illegal pets if they get used to finding food on a homeowner’s premises.  They cannot usually live inside a house but some will roam a large territory and return to people whom they like (who fed them).
In South Africa, in one film, a cheetah became a member of the family despite being allowed to roam.  He would always return and even knew how to turn on a television with a remote and knew that the images were not real.

There are some controversial videos on YouTube of bobcats and servals grooming and playing with teenage boys.  Maybe dangerous.  But for an adolescent to learn to communicate with a wild animal is a great way to develop social skills for life.

Back in 1993 there had been a Time magazine cover asking, “Can animals think?”  Yes they can.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Prager U exposes far-Left propaganda in established children's book industry

I open November with a video from Prager U, “Leftist Books for Brainwashing Kids” (Oct. 30)

"Story Time with Will" (that is, Will Witt), presents children’s books “Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights” (Rob Sanders and Jared Andrew Schorr) (from Barnes and Noble) and “The Little Book of Little Activists” (by Penguin Young Readers, a corporate author).   Yup, would four year-olds have jobs they can go on strike from?  What should they “resist”?  Maybe the volunteer banner is OK.
Will (the presenter) is certainly photogenic in the video (and youthful).

Maybe this video helps explain the “snowflake generation” with its safe spaces and trigger warnings.

I looked up these booklets on Amazon, but I will refrain from emedding my usual Amazon Associates ads on these ones (my own "censorship" as a private person). It rather scares me that major publishers seem to support books like with age-inappropriate borderline Marxist propaganda, when some Big Tech companies are deplatforming conservative voices (although the lines between constructive speech and what may be hate speech are very subjective-- especially given "intersectionality"). 

Imagine what it would be like if, to be online, I had to write for pay what other people demanded of me.  Somebody got paid to do all this.  I can also remember in a summer "notehand" class in 1961, when I practiced my note-taking skills at a GWU class on "children's literature" in the English Department. 
If the Left were really able to get most individual Internet speakers shut down so the Left could control the message, I hate to think what the next generation would grow up to be like.  As it is, super Leftist (sometimes almost Marxist) columnist Umair Haque is optimistic in what looks like an open letter to David Hogg, here.  But David is actually much more “capitalistic” in the way he can use the media to grab attention and pull levers on irresponsible companies (related to the NRA issues) than a true socialist could ever accept.

Outside of nature (the Universe, cosmology, the biosphere) wealth and standard of living do not create themselves.  Any alien civilizations far enough along to discover the mathematics of blockchain know that.

Monday, October 29, 2018

"Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?" Controversial Foreign Affairs issue to end 2018

The November/December 2018 issue of Foreign Affairs has an eye-catching issue title, “Do Nuclear Weapons Matter?

There are six articles. “Nuclear weapons don’t matter, but nuclear hysteria does”, by John Mueller; “The vanishing nuclear taboo? How disarmament fell apart?”, by Nina Tannenwald; :”If you want peace, prepare for nuclear war; a strategy for the new great-power rivalry”, by Elbridge Colby; :”Armed and dangerous: when dictators get the bomb:, by Scott D. Sagan; :”Beijing’s nuclear option; Why a U.S.-Chinese war could spiral out of control”; “Moscow’s nuclear enigma; what is Russia’s arsenal really for?”

The most critical piece might be the Sagan one, where the writer characterizes North Korea as the first “personalist” dictatorship to acquire nuclear weapons, especially possibly thermonuclear with ICBM’s. The writer fears that this will set examples for other small state dictators (most of all Iran). But in much of 2017 there was increasing talk of the reach of DPRK missiles and, along with Trump’s reckless rhetoric at the time, the growing idea that an area of the continental US could face a nuclear strike someday, or at least an EMP incident, as a result of Trump’s intransigence to wipe out the country. We all know that during the February winter Olympics things started to change and the result was the controversial Singapore embrace of Kim and Kim’s unconvincing claimed start of disarmament. That logically can lead to doomsday prepper ideology (and influence the domestic gun control debate).  But it could also lead to a broader idea about the contingent responsibilities of citizenship.

The last article posits Russia’s (post Communist) “escalate to de-escalate” idea. Russia could have an incentive to develop novel tactical nuclear weapons (or flux devices) for action in the Baltics, or even conceivably Finland (where there was a bizarre assassination at the border in May 2016).  Russia created controversy last spring with claims of a new missile that could evade any NORAD defense.  

When I was in the Army (1968-1970), at both the Pentagon and later Fort Eustis, there was a common belief among many enlisted men that nuclear war with the Soviet Union was a real peril. The willingness to draft men to fight on the group in Vietnam was seen as a buffer. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Connecticut Supreme Court rules Adam Lanza's(from Sandy Hook) book-like manuscript notes must be released

CBS and other news outlets report that a court (the Connecticut state supreme court) has ordered the release of the writings of Adam Lanza, the perpetrator in the Sandy Hook shootings in Connecticut on December 2014, link.    This contradicts and reverses a ruling reported two years ago in the video below.

Lanza apparently had maintained a child-like notebook (maybe handwritten, maybe like a scrapbook) of a compendium called “The Big Book of Granny”.  It is reported to include a number of disturbing rants and stories.  It would seem likely that it (the text) will eventually be available for free browsing available online (as with Eliot Rodger, etc) but it is conceivable that, given recent public pressures since Charlottesville, that protest activists would pressure any hots to take it down.  Sandy Hook families had sued Alex Jones over his conspiracy theories and no doubt these plaintiffs had a role in the eventual deplatforming of Alex Jones from social media.

In retrospect, the Lanza incident, however tragic, shows the difficulty of keeping weapons away from very determined if demented people.

Picture: New London, CT, Coast Guard Academy, personal 2011 trip 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

"The Nation" examines an activism handbook ("Hegemony"), and its use in Trump country around Lancaster PA

The Nation (now with a paywall) offers a detailed booklet length article by Jimmy Tobias, Oct. 18, “Can a Group of Scrappy Young Activists Build Real Progressive Power in Trump Country?”

The narrative describes a couple Jonathan Schmucker and Becca Rast, who returned to Lancaster County, in SE Pennsylvania, in order to organize a “populist” bi-partisan presence to resist extremism in both parties, somewhat reminiscent of “Better Angels”.

The article does describe “door knocking” and “bird dogging”.  Now, when I had a house, I had a no-soliciting sign and tended to regard unannounced knockers as a possible home invasion, so I don’t know how you get past that mentality.
The article mentions a book by Schmucker “Hegemony How-To: A Handbook for Radicals” (2017, AK Press).