Continuing my few-parts "series" on news of the past three weeks or so.
Now I'd like to gripe about Parler being shut down. And once again before I wade into this, yes I am anti-Trump or rather anti-Trumpism. And yes I currently vote Democrat and in particular I voted for Biden. But if your mind blows up that I can be anti-Trumpism yet still hate CNN and the oppression of free speech like a Trumper might, then you probably aren't intelligent enough for this blog. Or, I'm too schizophrenic to be maintaining one. Pick your conclusion.
Anyway. When you get right down to it it's not so much scary that Parler was shut down as a service but rather its hosting was shut down (which of course shuts it down as a service). For years and years and I have espoused the merit of privately hosting your blogs and web expressions on your own hosted services on the theory that you can't be moderated away in a deplatform event. But here we are in 2021 and that is exactly what happened to thousands of noisy if not also delusional Parler users.
To catch you up, Parler didn't effectively moderate the dangerous sounding people, so its host, Amazon, did it for them in one fell swoop. Thousands of people who for sure consisted of some plotting to storm the Capitol were evaoprated, but so were harmless kooks enjoying their life preaching about elves living in their basement, or reasonable people who just wanted to duck the destructive and diminishing effect of commercialism on their rants. Even I had an account in which I dabbled with to carry on my (perfectly valid) diatrabes against the media and the demise of the open World Wide Web. As dangerous as it was, Parler represented freedom -- sort of.
Not Truly Free But More Fun
It turns out that Parler only represented freedom in the same way that one neighborhood garage for teenage friends to hang out in is more free than another. But it still wasn't free. The Parler dad was just cooler than the Twitter dad. Eventually a rule could be broken and everyone sent home. Or into the woods.
I cannot keep saying this enough. The first step to real online freedom is reclaiming in large part what the early web was. Millions of HTML web pages by people speaking and ranting about all kinds of topics. Some poorly and loosely, but many with talent and a sense of presentation. Back then these millions and millions of web pages were mansions unto themselves, and bringing down one, if it had to be rightly or wrongly targeted, did not bring down them all.
The topics were often redundant, sure. But while talking about the same general concepts of UFOs or the town ordinance on how far to keep your trash cans away from the curb might cluster around the same angle, the invidual voices of each author made each new encounter an enriching and often rewarding consumption.
A fair search engine was supposed to tie all these web pages together to your sense of curiosity, but alas, search became a monetized thing. Now, the findable answer is tied more to how much SEO an author has invested in and how more by the rules of commerce they abide by. If your knowledge is not packaged for financial return upon its discovery, your knowledge will not be noticed.
But, a renewed interest in creating personal web pages would still work. Twitter or Parler could be replaced by interlinks (remember "web rings" -- something like that but not quite so flashy), and of course RSS, which I believe went away because Google was hell-bent on destroying on the profitless intimate web.
As Doomed As Anything I'd Write
The final irony of Parler is that it was probably doomed anyway. It billed itself as an enterprise solution of sorts but in reality (and if you understood how buggy it was, you sort of guessed) it was amateur coding that I put "slightly" above my own in terms of skill set. This is to say, it was apparently a security nightmare that somehow even failed to strip geo-location metadata from the pictures you might have uploaded.
Its producer was probably relieved to have a "cover of principle" to maybe die under forever, but the fact is that it would have been sued out of existence before long, once the freedom privacy-loving population learned that every picture posted was a map to their house.
As of this writing, Parler is back online, but I am sure with the challenge of reworking its reckless bubble-gum-glued-together gears.
More power to'em if their team can do it. I mean, if they are willing to not home-school government revolts. But I would hope that a fraction of people with Parler fever would simply look into a cheap shared hosting account and feel free to unite with others doing the same. The open WWW is your resilience and if you claim it to be, is your resistance.
Okay let's cut into my annoyingly nuanced position on the events of the past 72 hours. You really need to know where I stand. I'll start here with this post and bang out a few others, just to make it all digestible.
The Capitol Siege
The issue is the breach, period. We need not wonder whether the specific terminology in Trump's speeches actually caused the "siege", and we can only choose, but not necessitate, to engage in an examination of every individual who participated for purposes of prosecution.
But let's be honest: Nothing Trump said that day directed a small group of buffoons in particular to storm the Capitol and begin taking selfies. Yes, he did lay the foundation of unwarranted mantra against the United States with his election fraud campaign that was easy to pick up and run with, if some people were so inclined, which of course some buffoons were.
Not to let him off the hook. We know Trump is guilty of something in all of this. We know he is at the center. Trump legitimized juvenile anger and the result was of course an explosion of it under the stress test of an election and Senate control loss.
Through his years-long vitriol and celebration of "mean" he and his followers who equated his bullying with being strong and relatable, lost an opportunity to sell genuinely great merits of conservative principles to moderates and independents to a level needed to win continued control.
Trump created a culture similar to the common prison yard where high level politics and gestures of reason are conducted by a hundred men stuck with a 5th grade intellectual ruleset. You can tell them that an entire week's of debate and contemplation over the insult of a shove or the wearing of certain colors that ultimately results in a shanking, is ridiculous and small-minded, but they wouldn't get it. They think everyone thinks the way they do.
What Actually Happened
What in fact happened at the Capitol was that, as is atypical of any mass gathering protest a small number of people got aggressive and somehow (cough) breached the line of security which then allowed a swell of people to pour into a place that they should not have been, and probably never expected to be.
In a BLM protest "a place" has often been something like a big box store -- whatever is easily accessible. In this politically-geographed protest, it was the Capitol, its notable symbolism as a logical focal point, over a random shoe store, recognized.
I will be honest, I am absolutely positive had I spotted a stream inlet into a building like the Capitol, with no-one apparently stopping me or anyone else, I would have gone in too. Obviously not because I am pro-Trump -- I'd be livestreaming or taking a bunch of selfies.
Which brings me back to my opening point. The issue was the breach. How did that happen?
The Right Wing Did It
The right-wing-did-it "conspiracy" is that the small number of people who were too aggressive and managed to get in were actually part of a radical group that had planned it. After all, one guy was photographed with zip ties, and another guy was found with explosives in the car he brought. Seems like a real possibility. To know for sure, these people are going to have to be confronted, as they are, and their activities and communications scrutinized.
If they were in fact tightly associated with each other, and in fact were planning on something more serious than an elaborate tresspass, Trump still had nothing to do with it if only out of his sheer ignorance of his own power of words and status. That someone could be that dumb is a reason we hope an intelligent voting body can spot someone like that and not let it happen in the first place. But here we are.
But, let's not get crazy without getting crazier.
The Left Wing Did It
The breach might have been a convenient happenstance of the left. I can knit this conspiracy too. We can assume that everyone knew how charged pro-Trumpers were, as the threats and dangerous insinuations by enough of them circulated in plain sight for months and years (Twitter, Parler, wherever -- plain sight).
So, if you know wagons of dynamite are headed to a protest, it might be all too easy to thin out the security and "allow" a breach so that the predictable bad actors get in. The value would simply be to garner the CNN loop coverage (to use them as the usual example; understand that I mean the MSM in general) to cement Trump in the brilliant storification of a man at the helm, out of control.
Or, let's get even crazier.
The Corporate Government of the United States Did It
What if it was the left and right working together, agreeing to pass the ball back and forth in post-calamity wrangling, but out of the public eye, tapping glasses with each other over a job well done?
Trump usurped everyone negatively, but "negatively" isn't the active ingredient. Trump usurped. And politically that's what gets you killed, figuratively or otherwise.
Personally, I would love to know the absolute anatomy of the breach at all levels, and will be looking forward to learn. Those details are the key to understanding everything.
These "President Trump is being censored in social media" milestones always put me in the awkward position of having to explain how I can concurrently reject Trump's presidency while going nuts whenever social media platforms take measures to curb him. As per the current action of Twitter suspending his account.
The answer of course is that the actions taken against Trump really have nothing to do with Trump. It has more to do with my advocacy of an open web, and, a basic understanding that Facebook and Twitter are really just capitalism's answer to China's Great Firewall. No government, no corporation lobby, and certainly no government comprised of corporation lobbies, is ever going to give the power of worldwide broadcast to any wahoo that wants to operate a broadcast station unless there was absolute control over them first. One of the only ways to do that effectively is to create a chokepoint.
China freely turned its entire internet infrastructure into a chokepoint. Every internet user in China is easily surveilled, and content from elsewhere around the world is easily blocked, all from a (relatively) central control position. A percentage of Chinese citizens that go the extra distance to beat those controls through proxies and the like is small so the censorship effort is still effective.
In our culture, the same control is absolutely necessary (speaking as a hypothetical stakeholder of the status quo I mean) but the tact, as not to offend democratic narratives, is more delicate and far more decentralized.
To achieve this, a few simple ingredients along with a few simple rules about how they interact, are required. Left to their own devices these ingredients and rules self-evolve into (a superpower's requirement of) censorship and chill. Aside from the possibility that a few stupidhead 'socialists' can always complain about lack of regulation, there is no-body to blame.
One ingredient, and I can probably cite quite a few, is the commodification of curiosity and a taxing of human being's thirst for knowledge and understanding. In other words, search. The original search engines assumed that the point of their existence was to facilitate a breathlessly curious world -- not to monetize.
It didn't take long for Google and Google's early competition to realize that every search action was a goldmine and capitalist rules and zero ideas of counterweight regulations allowed it to grow into the behemoth it is now.
As Google proved it can dominate (as Microsoft proved it can dominate, as Twitter proved it can dominate, as Facebook proved it can dominate), the "government" of course forged its internal "off-book" relationships with each. Government regulation, action or inaction, came to exclusively favor these icons of what we now deem "Big Tech". For these big tech companies they reign supreme and get to keep making money. For the government, they get their chokepoints.
It doesn't take too much imagination to figure the sort of alliance this makes for, but if you need the picture, Snowden seems to have dumped them for you.
Twitter's decision acts specifically in response to what happened at the nation's Capitol. What happened there is a topic in its own right and I have ways of seeing how an out-of-control right-wing engineered it, and I have theories of how the left-wing engineered it. But I promise you this my dear reader, Trump was more part the mob than its leader.
You can read Twitter's blog posting on its reasoning for banning Trump's account, but as far as I'm concerned it's just a rationalization of tampering with something as sacred as free speech by stretching out the impact of a lot of subjective conclusions.
The real arguments have nothing to do with Trump's application of a social media platform, so Twitter and Facebook are truly creating their own relevance. Note how the debate itself solidifies themselves as "the internet" while the "real internet" is thus dissipated further without notice.
Trump, an apolitical sentient some time ago, simply picked up his inclination to run for president. Seeking the easiest path, he tuned into AM-right-wing radio, discovered an easy herd ripe for exploitation, and set out to do just that. It's that simple people. The mass media mediums that beget Trump were traditional radio and television. FCC stuff.
Point of fact, open expression to the widest gulf prevented this demigod from being re-elected. Can you even begin to imagine what a president like this one, traditionally bound to mere press releases and press conferences, might have done in the "usually" invisible political plane where backdeals and shady dynamics lurch? Fuck that. We needed to see this man's tweets.
It looks like Julian Assange isn't going to be extradited to the U.S. any time soon, apparently on the basis that he is is too depressed, and, our penal system, when it really hates a particular prisoner, is a bit too obvious about torturing them under the guise of enhanced security and suicide prevention measures.
Ripping from the Guardian:
But turning to evidence by medical experts about Assange’s precarious mental health, she said: “The overall impression is of a depressed and sometimes despairing man, who is genuinely fearful about his future. I find that the mental condition of Mr Assange is such that it would be oppressive to extradite him to the United States of America,” she concluded.
In her ruling, the judge accepted that Assange was likely to be held in conditions of isolation in a so-called supermax prison and that he would find a way to take his own life with the “single-minded determination” of the Autism spectrum disorder he had been diagnosed with.
Seems like a lot of presumptions are being made all the way around here, but the convenient end result for the UK is that they won't be sending him. The U.S. can continue to scrabble by appeal, and will, but at this point it just seems they are beating a dead horse with a stretched whip of reason for doing so in the first place.
The guy was holed up for years in the Ecuadorian embassy to duck what was, in my opinon, a CIA-engineered rape charge, or a CIA-amplified prosecution of an actual rape (high profile agitator pro-tip # 1: Don't mingle with cute women who show up at your weird activist conference and quickly bond to you. Particularly when they float with organization names like "Christian Association of Social Democrats" - which is just about the most C-I-A-iest name for a front group of as-needed traveling women poised to sting on official launch notice, that I can imagine). But I digress.
The guy has suffered enough, and I say that as one who would not disagree that he crossed a technical line in achieving "leaks". His "leaks" in fact were more like information suctioned out of a pipe, a characterization that says nothing about the rightness of the act, criminal as it was. That argument is not settled with me personally, or many others. But the point is, he's done enough time for actions not universally regarded as wrong. Let's let this one go.
For 2021 I want (am?) to experiment blogging as if it were 1999. That means, blog "stream of consciousness", and without the usual barriers or filters.
I've pointed out repeatedly over the years how people first discovered self-expression online, then, rapidly chilled as they came to realize how much of what we would now call "over sharing", might grind up against their interests in the real world.
Chilling factors are why plates of food and videos of attractive women dancing, flow abundantly online but not stuff that would persistently and effectively offend a corporation or an entrenched political body, or any entity of power and profit. Nobody, including yours truly (let's be clear), wants to take the chance they'll figuratively or literally be left dead in a ditch like Carmine Pecorelli because of what they write and expose.
What the corporate-consumer oriented web wants from you is your money, not your revolutions. And this is fine with most people. Revolutionaries have to eventually appreciate that an overwhelming number of people just want to respectably live in the world, not rock it. At least too violently. They and the "money world wide web" comprise the biggest stakeholder in our digital culture for better or for worse.
Intimates might be offended, career chains might be shaken, local personalities so commented upon outside their usual control they might seek to "fix a wagon", and so on and so on.
So I'd like 2021 to be an expose' of sorts on where exactly the interests of the real world and the idealism of a single unimportant person collide. I'd like to blog in the uncomfortable space that existed in that era of "why would anyone care about what I write" nativity, somewhere in the late 90s and mid-2000s.
In doing so, I consider a number of different spaces I have to really be careful to achieve that balance.
The worst thing that can happen to someone who craves blabbing and being the overall "information maverick" is to be employed by anything even remotely touching a Microsoft Excel quarterly report. What you do and say is of vital interest to the employing agency because, especially now with advanced social media platforms, you represent a possible apologetic PR campaign to the media in the event that you screw it up by such examples as preaching proudly the tenets of racist principles or becoming a highly regarded online BSDM expert. You wouldn't want a racist out there representing you, after all, and neither does your company or employer in general.
I of course am not a "racist" -- and know nothing about "BSDM", but nowadays it seems, simply being brave enough to carry an esteemed (if not idiotic) principle of any sort is, alone, enough to represent risk. Strong opinions and thought leadership beyond such matters as earning your paycheck or football games are sedation targets for their veracity, not necessarily their content.
In blogging, people today are more jolted and alarmed by the fact that a person has one, than what a person says on one.
Vice: Porn and Boozing
If I really want to get down to the nitty-gritty and detail everything that I do, as an example, does that mean talking about my digital love life or the copious amounts of whisky I might drink? Or all the other troubles that a perfectly well-adjusted and happy person might otherwise find easy to avoid.
How to tastefully and acceptably write about "just being human" is a real stickler because to skip vice and pretend it isn't there deflates the authenticity of the entire genre. I don't want a blog that just highlights my donations to the United Way or "plates of food" pictures ala Instagram. But at the same time I don't want to amplify myself as a creep merely for having the honesty to suggest that, at some level, I might be a creep, however non-exceptionally.
The biggest fear I have with this is not some condemnation of my character, which, were I actually engaging of any of vice activity (none of this should be construed as an admission to anything!), would certainly be shameful and uncomfortable. Rather, it's the envy of the audacity that I claim for respect while concurrently dumping my dirty laundry over the heads of my subscribers. What sort of narcissistic ego-driven ass admits to their stink so freely and is offended then by blowback? We can't do that, some audience members would say. And rest assured, accordingly, they could become angry and resentful.
It's no secret to anyone that I have very few "relationships" outside of work -- and even there I tend to be "greyrocked" or I merely interact as a customer service rep to the higher IT process. There's nothing substantial enough to deem personal.
Growing up to the point I am at now I simply did not invest enough in personal relationship development or, perhaps more crucially, negotiation, though there may or may not be good reasons for that - let's not assume that this is not just and right. Weakness and fear are maybe just two reasons, but I'm also just pretty good at weeding out "deep nonsense" in order for me to survive, progress, and be happy.
While most may hold me to some deficiency for this stance, I feel some people are just born this way and feel stronger and more empowered by social solitude. My favorite fantasies involve manning an arctic science lab for years, or, doing a stint on the space station. Go figure. Were it not for my need and willingness to help people and mean something to their happiness and development - not to mention repair a .PST for them or two as needed, things that require I stay on the grid, I really would be a woodsy hermit.
As such, as incredible as it sounds, this is one area likely immune from potential damage. There will be little that I post that will offend anyone or push them away more than they already are. The open expression might only improve my personal relationships in fact.
Non-Digital 2021 Goals
I have some other ideas for 2021. I am seriously contemplating a new car, and, for sure, am finally getting some damn artwork on the walls of my apartment. As the COVID vaccine begins to reinvigorate the world again, I'll do what I can to support some of these local art studios as a patron. The neighborhood I live in is renowned for these but my enrollment has been seriously hampered by the pandemic.
It's been over a month (or so) now since the U.S. Presidential election secured Joe Biden as our next president, and I have yet to make my open WWW assessment, which of course is so very important. Your eyes may roll.
A darkness looms over USA-style democracy.
I was not happy with the outcome of this election. Yes, I was of course happy that Trump lost -- if we can all agree that actually happened. What I am not happy with is that he didn't lose by enough.
I wanted this election to be a repudiation of the reckless sentiments passed around in a circle on right-wing radio or general conservative media. Trump was never the election target because to me he never mattered. What does matter is is the source-fuel sewage basin from which Trump and likely future candidates of his ilk draw from.
I had hoped that Trump's failed presidency would have been enough to diminish the messaging of people like Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity which exploit angry people looking for simple answers to big problems, and, which massage a national paranoia against government or any institution that doesn't agree with their limited idea of a working democracy.
Biden's win was not by a wide enough margin on election night to convince me people are learning -- though the total ~80 million in his favor was quite impressive, suggesting America tried. And of course, we know that outside the presidential race, Trumplicans or classic republicans too fearful to contest them, actually did quite well.
The democrats lost seats in the House, and they didn't win any in the Senate -- though there is a runoff election in Georgia coming up that might change that. Nobody is holding their breath and the campaigns there resonate to me as if the democrats are just going through the obligatory motions; a process by which does not negate the bigger disappoint that there has to be a runoff race in the first place.
The United States of America is still in grave danger as long as we consider the Trumplican sharks that circle our boat a rationale legitimacy of any political process. By whose hand, we'll never know where these people came from, but I don't believe it is organic or by accident. We best brace ourselves because someone's plan is working.
Video demonstration of the speed camera ticket and its website. It's better full-screened.
I'm going to guess that most people here in Buffalo have yet to be issued a speeding ticket resulting from a violation caught by one of the city's new speed cameras.
I am ashamed to admit that I was negligent and reckless enough to be someone that was.
If eventually you do yourself, this video shows off the ticket that you can expect to receive, and a quick walk through of the website where you will be allowed to view your violation and either pay the fine, or initiate the process of contesting it.
As it appears, I apparently triggered the camera exactly one minute and 46 seconds into the control period (meaning, the 15 MPH speed limit I violated had just kicked in at 7:30 whereas I caught at 7:31) sooo, yay for my timing.
Buffalo has two (Amtrak) train stations. One is called the Depew station, and is certainly interesting. But the other is located downtown on Exchange Street, which is my lifeline to New York City -- as if I'm always rolling back and forth there, which I do not these days because it's always expensive to go, and because, well, now COVID. But, I like the idea of being in some way at New York City's doorstep.
The train to New York is both comfortable yet suspiciously impractical. Booked well enough in advance, some flights out of Buffalo to New York are actually about the same cost, or, certainly not much more expensive, than a two-way Amtrak ticket. And flights are usually listed as taking just an hour and a half, though, in practice, it takes about one hour. The train takes a whopping nine hours and it is generally accepted that in fact it will take longer. There's always some issue in the journey that causes a delay.
But that comfort thing is a big deal if you're in no particular hurry. There are no stifling crowds and none of the airport-grade security checkpoints. You just show up about a half hour before the train's arrival, board, then take advantage of plenty of leg room, wi-fi, and the occassional jaunt to the cafe car for drinks and snacks. It's nine (advertised) hours, yes, but they are actually pleasent making plane versus train worth the debate. The other real advantage is that the train slides into New York's Penn Station which is smack in the middle of where you likely want to be if you're going to New York, and connections to any other place you might.
When you consider the airport endpoint hassles, and the time getting from the airport to the places you want to actually be in the city when you arrive, the total time you need to spend in a discombulated transition state dramatically narrows the time gap advantage between the plane and train. For many, the comfort factor then settles the argument.