Journal Entries By Tag: #politics

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Assorted journal entries with the tag #politics.

Things I Couldn't Say

TL;DR — My previous employer's policies prevented me from voicing my opinions on certain topics. As I am no longer employed by them, these are those opinions.

👓 2 minutes

As I mentioned before, I have recently ended my employment relationship with a certain telecommunications entertainment company, and while I don’t want to be seen as someone who bad mouths their former employer, the truth is that they had some policies in place that prevented me from voicing my opinions on certain topics while I was working for them. This is not me complaining so much as explaining why I feel the need to make the following statements now, as opposed to when they were somewhat more relevant to current events.

  • Net Neutrality is a good thing, and it needs to be re-instated ASAP - the major ISPs in the US have proven time and again that they can’t be trusted, and that they will use every opportunity to try and take advantage of their customers. IMHO, this is a result of the total lack of competition outside of the top 30-50 markets (and sometimes, even within them, meaning that most customers in the US only have one or maybe two competing ISPs available (and who knows how many are in the same position I am, where only one offers actual high-speed internet, with the other limited to offering DSL). This is why we need #NetNeutrality .

  • Targeted #advertising is not a good thing - I’m not a huge fan of surveillance capitalism in general, but I have a particular distaste for targetted advertising, mostly because of the (unintended?) side effects that we see all around us (filter bubbles, fake news, weaponized misinformation, etc.). That having been said, I do still have a number of Google products in my house, primarily because they are useful devices to have, and (IMHO) that usefulness justifies the data that Google can scrape about me from them. However, to suggest that targetted advertising itself is so useful that we should allow advertisers to collect data about us is, to me, not only the height of arrogance (assuming that these offers are so good that we’ll beg them to take our information), but (because those ads track you further) become something of a circular argument: we need to collect this data, so we can show you better ads, which will track you further, so we can collect more data, so we can show you better ads, which will track you further…

  • Media conglomeration is not a good thing - there was a time when various arms of the federal government would actually move in order to stop dangerous potential monopolies from forming, but with a few exceptions, that hasn’t happened much lately (even though it should). IMHO, telecommunication companies, as gateways to content, should be barred from owning entertainment companies that produce said content (or, if not barred, at least forced to operate those companies at arm’s length) in order to help guarantee competition.

  • Donald Trump is an unhinged, narcissistic ass-clown who is incapable of telling the truth, and who will go down as one of the worst (but hopefully not last) US presidents in history - I don’t think I need to elaborate on this one.

I may have more to add to these someday soon, but for now, the above statements will have to do.

Anti-GMO Scaremongering

👓 less than 1 minute

The people who push GMO labels and GMO-free shopping aren’t informing you or protecting you. They’re using you. They tell food manufacturers, grocery stores, and restaurants to segregate GMOs, and ultimately not to sell them, because people like you won’t buy them. They tell politicians and regulators to label and restrict GMOs because people like you don’t trust the technology. They use your anxiety to justify GMO labels, and then they use GMO labels to justify your anxiety. Keeping you scared is the key to their political and business strategy. And companies like Chipotle, with their non-GMO marketing campaigns, are playing along.

Unhealthy Fixation, William Saletan

Smartphone Cryptogeddon

👓 2 minutes

After yesterday’s Senate committee hearing on encryption, wherein both FBI Director James Comey and New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. made some pretty nasty comments about strong encryption on smartphones and the apocolyptic-problems it could bring, I thought it might be a good idea to remind everyone of what Representative Ted Lieu of California said back in April about why some users wanted smartphone encryption in the first place:

Why do you think Apple and Google are doing this? It’s because the public is demanding it. People like me: privacy advocates. A public does not want an out-of-control surveillance state. It is the public that is asking for this. Apple and Google didn’t do this because they thought they would make less money. This is a private sector response to government overreach.


[T]o me it’s very simple to draw a privacy balance when it comes to law enforcement and privacy: just follow the damn Constitution.

And because the NSA didn’t do that and other law enforcement agencies didn’t do that, you’re seeing a vast public reaction to this. Because the NSA, your colleagues, have essentially violated the Fourth Amendment rights of every American citizen for years by seizing all of our phone records, by collecting our Internet traffic, that is now spilling over to other aspects of law enforcement. And if you want to get this fixed, I suggest you write to NSA: the FBI should tell the NSA, stop violating our rights. And then maybe you might have much more of the public on the side of supporting what law enforcement is asking for.

Then let me just conclude by saying I do agree with law enforcement that we live in a dangerous world. And that’s why our founders put in the Constitution of the United States—that’s why they put in the Fourth Amendment. Because they understand that an Orwellian overreaching federal government is one of the most dangerous things that this world can have.

It might be worth point out that Rep. Lieu is one of four House members with computer science degrees, is a Lieutenant Colonel in the United States Air Force Reserves, and served for four years as a member of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, making him (IMHO) someone knowledgeable in this area.

And it just so happens that fourteen of the world’s top computer security experts agree with him, but who’s counting.

An Act of Freedom, But For Whom?

👓 2 minutes

On this most auspicious day, when the USA FREEDOM Act passed through the Senate on it’s way to president’s desk, I spent the afternoon listening to some of law professors Eben Moglen’s excellent talks about Snowden and the Future.

One of the things that I noticed he mentioned, which I don’t recall hearing anywhere else, is our (the US citizenry) continued complacency about spying, as long as they aren’t spying on Americans.

Military control ensured absolute command deference with respect to the fundamental principle which made it all “all right,” which was: “No Listening Here.” The boundary between home and away was the boundary between absolutely permissible and absolutely impermissible—between the world in which those whose job it is to kill people and break things instead stole signals and broke codes, and the constitutional system of ordered liberty.

Of course, we all know how that turned out:

Not only had circumstances destroyed the simplicity of “no listening inside,” not only had fudging with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act carried them into the land where law no longer provided them with useful landmarks, but they wanted to do it—let’s be frank, they wanted to do it. Their view of the nature of human power was Augustan if not august. They wanted what it is forbidden to wise people to take unto themselves. And so they fell, and we fell with them.

Nearly every time that the USA PATRIOT Act is demonized in the press (even the leftist press), it seems to only be because the NSA dared to spy on us. But, shouldn’t we be questioning why they have to have such a large net at all, irrespective of the national boundaries?

Or, as professor Moglen so succinctly put it (emphasis mine):

The empire of the United States, the one that secured itself by listening to everything, was the empire of exported liberty. What we had to offer all around the world was freedom—after colonization, after European theft, after the forms of twentieth-century horror we haven’t even talked about yet—we offered liberty; we offered freedom. … It is, of course, utterly inconsistent with the American ideal to attempt to fasten the procedures of totalitarianism on American constitutional self-governance… Partly, as I shall suggest next time, because freedom is merely privilege extended unless enjoyed by one and all. But primarily because there is an even deeper inconsistency between American ideals and the subjection of every other society on earth to the procedures of totalitarianism.

Something to think about the next time someone talks about “freedom”.

Ethics in Shilling Videogames

👓 2 minutes

With a view 9 years on, I have decided to banish this piece into the dustbin of history.

I still have my doubts about the whole purpose of “video game journalism” (especially as it relates to YouTube), but I feel like this is one of those times where the bullshit around the topic (mostly by the hateful MRAs and their disgusting apologists) has made even the #GamerGate tag itself toxic, and I don’t want it anywhere on my site.

David Wolinsky has a great article on Unwinnable capturing his thoughts on the whole “ethics in game journalism” / #GamerGate thing.

It’s time we retire the term “videogame journalist.”

Most writers in the field need to accept that they, too, are marketers unless their approach or something else in the landscape shifts and changes.

Part of the problem, as he sees it, is that videogame companies aren’t driven to do PR with journalists that might give them serious criticism (a.k.a. bad reviews). As a result, traditional “videogame journalists” have to choose between being a PR puppet for the game companies, or not being at all.

Part of the reason for this all-or-nothing attitude are the YouTube streamers, whose undeniable popularity means that they are getting courted more and more often by the game companies in lieu of print / online journalists. For example, look at Pewdiepie, and his 36-million followers:

Thirty-six million subscribers means roughly anything he puts online is more popular than Nirvana’s Nevermind (somewhere around 30 million sales) or Michael Jackson’s Bad (also around 30 million).

Think about it. An audience that size, bigger than the population of Canada (a country), and they are all paying attention to one person’s opinions about videogames. That is staggering on a basic human level.

He hits on a lot of different notes, and it does tend to run long, but it’s an overall great read for anyone that wants to move beyond the black-and-white #GamerGate in-group / out-group fighting and into a serious discussion about marketing vs. journalism, and what ethics in gaming can (and should) be.