When conspiracy theories start to appear not to be so crazy after all

With the self appointment Juan Guaidó in Venezuela the interesting part of this whole turn of events is how there was a plan of regime change that pre-dates Trump – that the ‘deep state’ (a term that some on the left and the right like to use – a term I try avoid because it undermines ones credibility given the air of ‘conspiracy theorist’ that comes with it) has an agenda already and the most can do is nudge it a particular direction but has very limited scope on changing the over all policy. For example, Elliott Abrams (yes, the same person involved in Iran-Contra) was rumoured to have been rejected for an undersecretary position by Trump  has come back as the COO of regime change (link).

Remember the Trump promise of no more regime change? No more foreign wars? No more nation building? I think about this in the light of Obama where his slogan was ‘no more stupid wars’ and ‘no more nation building’ and what happened? The United States went from 2 wars to 7 wars, then there was the Arab spring and given what is known about the Venezuelan opposition the obvious question is how organic were those protests in Syria for example or was it the dirty tricks department within the government doing some off the books shit stirring to necessitate the actual government to officially do something or say something what is happening in said countries.

What is also interesting is the degree in which Jair Bolsonaro was supported by outside actors particularly when you consider that the United States support far right paramilitary groups within Ukraine that carry paintings of Stepan Bandera at their rallies – branding him as a ‘nationalist patriot’ when in reality he was a NAZI collaborator. The media of course branding all these rallies as ‘Ukrainians yearning for their freedom from the yoke of Russian oppression’ whilst spending zero time investigating the man in the painting that any given participant was carrying at the front of the rally.

Anyone starting to see a pattern here? Supporting the far right – be they the far right fascist organisations I Ukraine, Brazil, Venezuela etc. or militant Islamic fundamentalist groups that the United States supported in Syria whilst the mainstream media labelled these vile groups as ‘freedom fighters’. When it comes to the heavy lifting about researching into the background of these groups it is left up to the alternative media, primarily left wing, to do the necessary heaving lifting to find out what these so-called ‘freedom fighting’ groups are actually about – we quickly find that they do a lot of fighting but they do very little in the way of advocating for freedom other than the freedom for multinationals to screw over the bottom half of the population. It goes back to the troubling practice of supporting groups that happen to be the enemy of Americas enemy (aka the enemy of my enemy is a friend of mine) whilst ignoring the blow back that can occur  Here is a great book on that very topic (link) where the author outlines that this strategy is hardly new and yet it appears that nothing is learned – either that or that the powers that be in the United States don’t care about the blow back.

Trump is a symptom not the cause: Don’t ignore 50 years of drifting to the right

I was watching a video from Vanity Fair (link) and it was a great interview with ex-Republicans but I was disappointed that there was very little time spent on the historical roots of how the Republican Party ended up where it is. Sure, they touched on it but it never really went into any depth – it is like when the media talk about how civility has disappeared in politics but they ignore the Willie Horton ads during the 1980s, the conspiracy theories regarding the Clintons and Vince Foster, the rumours spread by the GWB campaign regarding McCain and an illegitimate child by asking a question that instilled distrust of McCain in the minds of primary voters, then there is the Cadillac welfare queen to which there was no evidence, then there was the work that Lee Atwater talked about in this video (link) and then there is the war on drugs by Nixon which was a way to undermine the anti-war hippies and the black liberation movement like the Black Panthers as noted in this article (link)

Americans have been criminalizing psychoactive substances since San Francisco’s anti-opium law of 1875, but it was Ehrlichman’s boss, Richard Nixon, who declared the first “War on Drugs” in 1971 and set the country on the wildly punitive and counterproductive path it still pursues. I’d tracked Ehrlichman, who had been Nixon’s domestic-policy adviser, to an engineering firm in Atlanta, where he was working on minority recruitment. At the time, I was writing a book about the politics of drug prohibition. I started to ask Ehrlich man a series of earnest, wonky questions that he impatiently waved away.

“You want to know what this was really all about?” he asked with the bluntness of a man who, after public disgrace and a stretch in federal prison, had little left to protect. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or blacks, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”

Nixon’s invention of the War on Drugs as a political tool was cynical, but every president since — Democrat and Republican alike — has found it equally useful for one reason or another. Meanwhile, the growing cost of the Drug War is now impossible to ignore: billions of dollars wasted, bloodshed in Latin America and on the streets of our own cities, and millions of lives destroyed by draconian punishment that doesn’t end at the prison gate; one of every eight black men has been disenfranchised because of a felony conviction.

So this whole hysteria about the lack of civility is a fig leaf for what the establishment are really pissed off about – not the policies that Trump is doing because they’re quite happy with that as demonstrated by corporations happy to wave the ‘we’re socially aware and inclusive’ then turning around as Tim Cook did and turn up to a Republican fund raiser after 40 years of running on a platform of being anti-LGBT rights not to mention anti-women legislation around reproductive rights. So the complaints but the biggest so-called ‘anti-trumpers’ has nothing to do with the policies but the presentation – if it were a Mitt Romney or a John McCain then the establishment would be happy because there would be a velvet glover over the iron fist – the sweet chaser to go down after the bitter and unpopular medicine that those in the top 1% want passed for their own benefit.

Getting back to the right wing drift – this has been occurring for over 80 years right back to when the modern welfare state (at least in a pretty weak form when compared to other anglophone countries not to mention continental Europe) that was set up by the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration. Ever since the establishment of the modern welfare state in the United States the Republican Party could never accept it in the same way that centre right parties around the world accepted that it is now the reality – that the debate was around the edges on how things could be done better rather than getting rid of such policies in their entirety. The anti-FDR didn’t really start to heat up until the late 1960s with the move of the Dixiecrats from Democrats to Republicans with the dog whistle politics of the southern strategy then add the unholy alliance with the religious right and then there was the ‘Reagan revolution’ that did ZERO during the 1980s as HIV/AIDS rampaged through the LGBT community all whilst white middle America looks back fondly on the very president who allowed a manageable situation to spiral out of control. Then there was the Willie Horton ad – an ad that would never have gain steam if it weren’t for the mainstream media outlets playing it over again over again (Barbra Streisandeffect anyone?) then the super predators by the Clintons to one up the Republicans, then there ‘end of welfare as we know it’ which the unholy alliance between the Republicans and Bill Clinton – all during this time the Republicans moved further to the right and the Democrats followed them.

So this drift to the right and the drift to the extremes isn’t some sort of new creation thanks to Trump but rather Trump threw away the dog whistle and replaced it with a vuvuzela, gone are the code words, the ‘wink, wink, nudge, nudge’ and now it is just up front with it. Where as in the past the Republicans were able to BS around the edge and give themselves plausible deniability in polite company, in the case of Donald Trump there is no filter – what you hear is what he believes and when given the opportunity to walk it back he then doubles down on what he said and says some more. Trump is the Republican Party when what is talked about close doors at fancy dinner parties is bought out into the open and the pretence of politeness is removed. When you hear the mainstream media treat Trump as an aberration what they’re really saying is, “don’t focus on the policy, don’t focus on how Trump’s economic policies are no different than the corporate Democratic side…get angry at how he uses mean words and doesn’t say nice things”. Case in point; Nanacy Pelosi ‘pay-go’ promise (link) which will necessitate one of two choices; reversing the Bush and Trump tax cuts or institute heavy cuts to balance the budget which will put the US into a recession. It appears that where the Republicans go the Democrats are sure to follow under the guise of being ‘moderate’ and ‘bipartisan’ even if the end results are horrific and anything but moderate.

Be careful of what you wish for

I have to admit that I too had a damn good laugh at what happened to Alex Jones not because I agree with what happened but rather because of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that unfolded afterwards where Alex Jones insisted that his rights were being violated. Now, I have have some issues with what took place but I laughed primarily because the same ones who complained about Alex Jones so-called rights being taken away were the same ones who claimed that a private business had the right to refuse service for what ever reason when it came to the gay couple wanting to have a wedding cake baked. You can’t have it both ways – claiming to say that private businesses have the right to discriminate and do what they want yet when you’re on the receiving end of a business decision that you suddenly turn around and say, “well, I’m going to carve out an exemption here, here and here because I was negatively impacted so therefore I’m exempted to the philosophical stance I declared before”.

That all being said I’m going to do some numbered observations in no particular order other than it allows me to keep track of what I want to say without it turning into a spaghetti mess:

1) YouTube, Twitter, FaceBook/Instagram constitute what one could classify as a natural monopoly – a monopoly by itself is marketing dominance but there is always a change that a competitor can emerge assuming where as a natural monopoly has barriers to entry that are necessarily the result of the action by the dominant player but because of high barriers to entry because of high start up costs, long periods of losing money before one creates the economy of scale before even the remotest possibility of profitability even appears to be possible. That doesn’t even touch on the inertia associated with getting people to not only look at your platform but to also entice content producers to target your platform such as offering a greater share of advertising revenue. Earlier on it may have been easier on the early days before YouTube gained traction but these days unless you’re aiming for a niche such as Vimeo being for independent films along with Vimeo charging for additional services, storage space, live streaming facilities and other services that YouTube doesn’t offer.

2) Because of that natural monopoly one could compare YouTube (and others) to something akin to say a transmission network which in the case of New Zealand it is Kordia which runs the television transmission network and thus might need to come under some regulation due to its dominance and the natural monopoly like position that it has in the market. Justice Kennedy for example in the case of Packingham vs. North Carolina where he compared Facebook (and by extension social media such as Twitter, YouTube etc) as the public square – where people come to meet and organise in much the same way that 100 years people would meet and form political parties or organise a protest or hold meetings to share ideas.

3) There as been anger focused at YouTube/Google for demonetisation of videos that touch on sensitive subjects but one has to remember that this started originally by those on the crazy left (or as Martyn Bradbury calls them ‘the woke left’) and the crazy right where both sides threatened to boycott companies that advertise on videos that said groups of people find objectionable with the crazy left getting a lot more traction than the far right but the effect has been YouTube just going, “fuck it, I don’t want to have to deal with this shit” and thus putting their algorithm on paranoia level 11 so even the most innocuous videos discussion a sensitive matter is instantly demonetised. The effect has been that it has reduced revenue streams for independent media which has necessitated the rise in the number of outlets now pushing for people to make Patreon contributions just to keep their head above water.

So in a fit of self righteous indignation the extremes have not only hurt the other side they’ve also hurt themselves in the process. The same situation is happening now with some left wing outs crowing and gloating about Alex Jones being kicked off but now it has kicked off a round where left wing groups and activists are also being kicked off as well with claims that they’re ‘bots’ even though such people have been interviewed and said, “yes, this is actually a legitimate group and we actually do have legitimate members”. Jimmy Dore noted this recently on his show:

4) If there are going to be rules then there should be a consistent application of the rules rather than ignoring a problem then only acting when there a spotlight put on is there a knee jerk reaction by said organisations to make it appear as though they actually give a toss. I’ve reported so many scam pages and phishing pages along with spammers on Facebook yet they do nothing – months later (when I used to have a account) those accounts would continue existing, those pages still operating their scams and Facebook doing nothing. If Facebook were serious they could deal with it tomorrow but they don’t in much the same way that Twitter could deal with it but they don’t.

5) There was much opining by some about how algorithms create echo chambers because on what you watch or read on the various platforms by suggesting you more and more content along that line fo thinking thus is speculated by some that it cements extremist views in some peoples minds. If they want to provide Alex Jones with a platform but not elevate him then there is simple solution – STOP CURATING CONTENT. If you stop curating content and users were forced to look for what they wanted then it would slow down the propagation of conspiracy theorist nutcases. For someone like me, if I am interesting in something I will go and find it, I don’t want these platforms second guessing what I want.

6) The situation with the Apple iTunes Podcast is slightly different in that the iTunes Podcast system is merely an aggregation service where the hosting is done by a third party, you open up an account with Apple iTunes then point your podcasting account on Apple to where your podcasts are hosted through the use of RSS feeds. Long story short it is akin to an advertisement platform saying, “no, we won’t advertise your content” so it is slightly different to the situation with Facebook/Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.

Freedom of speech

With the whole fiasco regarding what Israel Folau said in an interview I have to put some points out there because it appears that some people believe that ‘freedom of speech’ means ‘freedom to speak your mind and there to be no consequences as a result’ which is as far from what the meaning of ‘freedom of speech’ mean.

    1. Israel Folau is contracted by a private organisation and part of that contract will include certain stipulations because when you come under contract for that company you are, for all intents and purposes, a representative of that company including the embodiment of all the values that said company embraces. What does that mean? it means when you open your mouth to voice your opinion you might wish to ask yourself, “will this opinion portray the organisation in a negative light given the nature of society these days”? what you might be able to get away with in private company simply will not fly in public especially when given a platform on which you are an ambasidor of the said organisation.
    2. You are well within your rights to express yourself in what ever way you see fit but that doesn’t make you immune to the consequence of your actions. You’re free in society to wear what ever you want but if an organisation says that the requirement is that you wear a certain attire or conform to a certain standard then you cannot turn around and cry persecution because you refused to conform to the requirements of your employment contract. You aren’t being persecuted you are being hired to do a job with certain conditions attached that are reasonable expectations that any employment court would back.
    3. If you believe that private organisations should be covered by regulation relating to freedom of speech then by all means you’re entitled to make that argument but at the moment the current legislation doesn’t cover such a scenario. There could be a legitimate argument to make especially given the almost natural monopolistic nature of some online services where economies of scale and high setup costs in the form of long term losses undermine the ability for alternatives to be created and spread one an established player is already entrenched.
    4. Just because someone has been raised in a certain way doesn’t make one immune to personal responsibility. I’ve seen copious amounts of hand ringing of people practising the age old art of ‘soft bigotry of lower expectations’ in justification for Israel Folau’s behaviour and quite frankly none of those excuses hold water. At some point, when you become an adult, you start taking responsibility for who you are as a person – when you move out and become your own man/woman you can re-craft and re-invent yourself in an image that reflects who your authentic self is (hence young people experiment and try things till they find something that ‘gels’ with them). If you want to remain the reflection of what your parents moulded you as then that is the choice you made but lets not try to play this game of absolving individuals of their autonomy because they said something stupid.

 

It’s been a while: Catching up over the last week

Life has been been busy these days getting things sorted out at work then followed by the joy of folding up washing at home and getting things organised for the next week. Part of that has been getting my heater out of storage (well, the cupboard) and heating it up to see whether it worked and thank goodness I did given that today it has been pretty damn cold with it hitting 6°C over night tonight or even lower if things keep the way they do. The one saving grace is he fact that where I live I have good insulation in the ceiling, floors, walls along with heavy curtains which all help retain that heat over night which makes winter that little more comfortable. For me I don’t mind the cold it is the constant rain and dampness I cannot stand so lets hope that this winter it isn’t overly dominated by wet weather.

I’ve bought a copy of Compressor 4.4.1 which, although it isn’t as fast or 64bit like ffmpeg there is the benefit that the outputted file is standards compliance so you aren’t stuck in a situation of making a great file, compressing it, uploading it to to a service then finding that either the file cannot be read or if it can be read the result is the video being out of sync between the picture and what is being said. The big question is which service I’ll use but at this point I’m leaning towards Vimeo since it avoids the trollage and false flags that YouTube attracts due to it being a paid service with a more niche focus rather than attracting Joe Random who wants to upload stolen content from someone else channel to milk for ad revenue. The big question is whether my content creation will be suffice to justify at least to myself that it is worth while or whether I should just upgrade my WordPress account so it pools it altogether into a single point which will easy to manage.

I forgot to mention the other ‘small thing’ I enjoy which is the iTunes podcast service which doesn’t provide hosting but it is an aggregation service that allows me to subscribe to services like Democracy Now! videos so that I can watch it on my Apple TV. I also enjoy the first class experience with the YouTube application on Apple TV, and no, I’m not joking. Having used YouTube on Android on nVidia Shield TV and the embedded smart television version of Android, nothing beats the speed and reliability of YouTube on Apple TV – everything just works and I’ve never had an issue whether it is a playback of a video or streaming a live feed. On the subject of live feeds, the big move by Sky TV is to move to an IP TV based system which will mean the ability to download an app for ones Apple TV and sign up to a Sky TV service as easily as one can with Netflix – live streaming all the channels one wishes. They haven’t given a time line other than noting that it’ll be built by Cisco so it’ll be interesting to see what the final product is like.

A great weekend so far

I picked up my scooter from the local motorcycle shop – everything that needed to be fixed has been fixed – brand new back tyre, odometer is fixed up plus a few other odd bits and pieces with the net result is a bike that has improved acceleration from standing still, the back suspension appears to have been tightened up which makes the ride a lot more pleasant.

Things are going well with the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and I’m using Podcast Addict where I put all my rss feeds to catch up with the various outlets I follow. I’m looking forward to finishing off the review tomorrow night along with the usual photos. The Ionic one will be a little longer as I want to give it a good work out in terms of keep track of my power walking each night and so on.