Thoughts – Saturday 13th June 2020

As the clock ticks towards my 65th birthday (eek), and I work to get Mary mobile and well again so I can schedule my overdue hernia surgery, the Western world teeters on the brink of a massive recession and social unrest is bubbling.

  1. London 

Black Lives Matter was planning a demonstration in London today, but decided to call it off. This may have been a very smart move, since all of the fascists who were planning to show up to fight them did show up. However, having nobody to fi…er, demonstrate against,they were left to take out their drunken anger on whoever from the media happened to be too close, or the police. 

It is rather obvious that these people are not fans of democracy, inclusion and the equitable treatment of minorities. They are, however, for many people outside of the UK, the face of modern England.

2. The irrelevance of Nigel Farage

Poor Nigel Farage. A 7 time (count them) failed parliamentary candidate in the UK, a long-term mostly-absentee MEP (get Nigel to tell you how many EU Fishery Committee meetings he attended while he was a member of that committee), and now he has been released from his LBC contract.

The problem with leading a single-issue pressure group is that if the issue is resolved, you have no rationale for public existence. I suspect that Nigel’s backers no longer need him, so he is old hat, yesterday’s man. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

3. Brexit fiascos, continued

The UK seems determined to ignore most of the normal rules about negotiation, as it tries to look tough. The problem with these normal rules is that they exist for a very good reason: they are smart.

One fundamental rule of negotiations is: keep your options open. If you are ever faced with a scenario where you have only one option, you have no leverage, and your opponents will squeeze you.

The UK just violated that rule (yet again) by announcing that it does not want an extension to the EU departure transition period.This means that at midnight on 31st December this year, all agreements that currently exist with the EU will disappear, unless they are replaced by new ones. If they are not superseded by new agreements, the UK will become a totally outsider country, with no trading,customs, aerospace, travel,fishing agreements…the list goes on. This will not end well. The UK’s current behavior is going to result in it becoming an international pariah.

The delusion that the UK is going to magically obtain a “good deal” on fishing rights and quotas is another area where the UK has violated fundamental rules of negotiation. The government and its supporters keep insisting that fishing is an important subject, and that the UK will get a good deal. (This persistently ignores that the fishing industry in the UK is less than 0.5% of GDP, and it is declining).

When you publicly put yourself in a box like this, there are going to be one of two likely outcomes, both of which will be bad for the UK:

  1. The UK, desperate to obtain some useful concessions on fishing that it can sell as a victory to its supporters, will end up making big and damaging concessions on other issues, which will end up severely damaging the UK economy in the medium term
  2. The UK will fail to get a good deal on fishing (because the other concessions would be way too damaging), and the fishing industry in the UK will be left to twist in the wind, amid allegations of betrayal and sellout

The right answer would have been to adopt a calm and measured approach to negotiations, not making bellicose statements in advance in an attempt to negotiate in public. But the bunch of unqualified juveniles currently running the UK government cannot manage something that simple.

4.  COVID-19 in Texas

The graph of new cases shows a worsening trend. The economy was opened way too soon here in Texas. This is not just true for new cases. The overall death chart is also worsening.

The idea that you could re-open the economy in states like Texas, Florida or Arizona is going to be seen, before long, as the naive and deluded actions of free-market idiots.

6. The NFL continues with virtue signals but…

…until they apologize to Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid, and ensure that they are signed to teams, the gestures are deficient, defective and hollow.

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Twitter’s uselessness for reporting bullshit adverts

All manner of advertisers promote content on Twitter. These appear looking like normal Tweets in many respects, except for the very small print string “Promoted” in the bottom left corner.

I found this Ad from a solar company this morning.

The ad looks exciting doesn’t it? “Sell excess electricity back to the grid at wholesale rates”. Yeah. Put big array on house, make money.

There is one snag. Texas does not have net metering laws. You cannot currently sell electricity back to your supplier using a net meter. Some suppliers offer sort-of-credits, but there is no net metering.

So this advert, for Texas, is bullshit. Or to be less polite, it is a lie.

OK. So let’s report the ad. I clicked on “Report”. This is what comes up.

“Adult Sexual Content” is indeed the default.

However, there is no line saying “advert is deceitful or incorrect” or similar.

I clicked on “Other”. There is no dialog box that allows you to define what “Other” means in this context. As in “in Texas, this is bullshit because Texas has no net metering legislation”. It just leaves the dialog and sends you to the option to Block the advertiser.

So, Twitter makes it next to impossible for  to clearly explain why an advert should be investigated or possibly removed from the platform.

In the UK, an ad like this in a newspaper or older medium would be reported to the Advertising Standards Authority, who would investigate. They would probably end up ordering the advertiser to change the wording, since is is clearly bullshit for residents of Texas.

This is another example of the lack of seriousness and due diligence by Twitter. Their actions and the lack of attention to detail on Report facilities show that they are totally unserious and uncommitted to any form of useful content moderation.

 

 

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Twitter, your moderation is utterly useless

Eegads Twitter.

You put me in reduced functionality for 12 hours yesterday because I informed Bill De Blasio that he is behaving like a fascism-enabling asshole, standing around doing nothing while the NYPD tases, throws down and arrests media representatives.

Now you put me in reduced functionality for another 24 hours because I just called an idiot an idiot?

We have fascists on Twitter threatening to kill people with whom they disagree. We have the POTUS tweeting the words of a fascist who thinks that the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.

And you put my account in restriction because I called an idiot an idiot?

Knock this shit off. Your platform is teetering on the brink of implosion because, like all cynical money-grubbers, you are demonstrating that you know the price of everything and the value of nothing. You would rather act as juvenile scolds powered by stupid algorithms than address the matter of firing fascists off the platform, which you have every right to do.

Your values stink. Your actions are pathetic and mediocre, with no sound ethical or logical basis.

 

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Book projects – what the hell have I been up to?

Since I keep telling people I am a writer, it is logical that the next question I get is “Graham, what are you working on, and where is it?”

There is a single impediment that gets in the way of rapid progress. My day job. That takes up a LOT of time. It is a reasonably well-paid job, and it is secure in the short-term. This is good. I cannot complain on that score.

When I remove the time for the day job, It leaves me with a limited amount of time to devote to writing. I have too many things i would like to do, and there are not enough hours in the day.

Until recently, I was working on fiction projects, but Covid has nuked my creativity in that area. So I have turned back to non-fiction.

I have the core Corporate Realist book project in work, which is probably going to be a single volume drawn from Diaries of a Corporate Realist, which is going to be at least 2 volumes. Corporate Realist deals with a zone that never gets discussed in any real detail; that zone between front line and leadership, where misunderstandings, mis-communications and mutual disrespect abound. It is a zone poorly explored in management writings, which almost exclusively focus on how to be a better leader. This overvalues leadership,leading to the phenomenon of manifestly incompetent CEOs and such like being paid ludicrous amounts of money for mediocre work.

Also in work is a book that will discuss the many ways in which we reveal our thoughts, values and approaches to interaction to others, without realizing how. It builds to some extent from work done by Steven Pinker and others on indirect speech, but it is updated for the era we found ourselves in.

A medium-term project deals with accountability, why it has disappeared from societies,and why that is a Very Bad Thing.

One day, when I get rid of this day job, all of these projects will come to fruition. I will be self-publishing via WhiteCat Publishing.

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Social Media truths and why I am leaving Facebook

I will be deleting my Facebook account in a week’s time.

I have not been active on Facebook proper since April 2018. I still use Messenger occasionally for communication with a few friends, but I have posted to tell them that if they want to stay in contact, they will need to arrange different communication channels. This will be a wheat-from-chaff process. If they want to stay in contact they will let me know, if they don’t, then they won’t, and nothing more needs to be said.

My decision is the inevitable result of the deterioration of mass-market social media platforms into sinkholes of lies, bullshit, misinformation, and the credulous repetition of nonsense, wrapped up in juvenile rationalizations such as “I’m entitled to my opinion”. Well yes, you are entitled to your own opinion, but as Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, you’re not entitled to your own set of facts.

SIDE NOTE – 6 weeks ago, I went back on NextDoor, to see if there was any way in which I could assist local people who might be having challenges with Covid, and provide useful information about local events and stores. I left the platform again 3 weeks ago, after a passive-aggressive commenter started trying to tone-police my comments. Life is too short etc. etc. Literally. At age 64,I am not going to spend any significant time dealing with juveniles who want to whine about “tone” instead of engaging in substantive discussion. And, as I probably say too often, you don’t get to a la carte me on social media. You want less commentary about politics and society? Well then you probably need to go follow somebody else.

Facebook and Twitter are also the inevitable result of the idea that everything on the internet should be free. There is a saying that if something on the internet is free, then YOU are the product. This is true for all major-reach social media platforms. If you’re not paying for their use, somebody else is, and the only value-adds that a platform like Facebook can offer to third parties to offset the cost of the platform are (a) size and reach (to sell advertising) and (b) Your Data.

By using Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, InstaGram etc. users are giving over information about themselves and their activities, and in return, they get to use a platform whose entire economic model is based on size and engagement. The giveaway about what “engagement” for a mass market social media platform really means came over 10 years ago, when it became known that you could buy Twitter followers for so much per 1000. Then came the Fake Engagement farms – ranks of connected smart phones programmed to repetitively click on sites and pages to make it seem like they were popular. Again, you could buy engagement. Think of it as the 1960s through 1970s fake record sales tactic, transferred to the online world. In the world where any click is a good click, the inevitable result is the generation of fake traffic. Think about the websites that you see who have clickbait sections at the bottom of their home pages, pointing to scandal-mongering websites or articles. Those exist solely to generate click-throughs so that the site can gain some desperately needed revenue.

Today we have a POTUS in the USA with over 70% of his followers on Twitter who are, as measured by analysis tools, fake accounts. He is not alone however, the level of fake traffic on the major platforms is scandalous. However, because volume of traffic is a key part of the business model, even fake traffic works for Twitter or Facebook.

Fake traffic is one of the two reasons why no major market social media platform gives a damn about content moderation, despite their blustering BS to the contrary. Eliminating spurious, dangerous or false content would blow a hole below the waterline of their business model, since it would probably halve their traffic overnight. It would also probably eliminate their Section 230 protection here in the USA, which makes them more or less immune for any content posted on the platform, since they can plausibly claim to be a common carrier (like the telephone companies, who are not responsible if a gang of terrorists, for example, happen to use the phone system to plot a terrorist outrage).

I made a decision 2 years ago to leave Facebook because of the above reasons, which collectively led to a poor signal to noise ratio.

I have moved most of my social media activity to counter.social. This is a social media platform where i pay a monthly fee of $5 to offset the cost of the platform. It is a small platform, there are currently tens of thousands of users, not billions. However, we have no trolls or bots on counter.social. They are eliminated via some very smart software to detect automated bot account creation and attacks, and also via a strict policy forbidding memberships from some countries that are notorious for generating spurious traffic.

Every time one of the major social networks does something fuckbogglingly stupid, we get a burst of new arrivals at counter.social. Most of them end up staying.

Counter.social has threaded commenting and chat, video conferencing, file sharing, and it even has streaming movies. Best of all, however, is that when I read a posting, I do not have to keep asking myself “is this even from a real person”? I end up doing this a lot on my less-frequent trips to other social media sites.

Anybody who balks at $5 a month for a social media site needs to seriously reconsider their attitude to social media and buying in general. Rule 1 of capitalism is that you don’t get something for nothing. Being on free social media platforms is costing you. I believe the cost is falling not just on us as individual consumers (WE are the product on mass market free platforms), but on society as a whole.There is a proliferation of un-verified information sources, generating total bullshit, allowed to do so by the absence of useful content moderation on those platforms. The proliferation of conspiracy-mongering web pages on such topics as the Flat Earth, 5G,and Qanon tells me that those platforms are no longer a positive benefit to wider society. Total nonsense is being normalized in front of our eyes.

After mid-June 2020,I also intend to shrink my overall internet footprint. Old emails will be abolished, old platform memberships, dumped, and I will focus down on:

  1. counter.social
  2. Instagram, which i use for images and nothing else
  3. this website (which will be revised and re-launched in the Fall of 2020) and this blog
  4. WhiteCat Publishing, which is my book publication website (see separate posting about that activity)

I am also transitioning all of my email to Protonmail, which is a secure email system with optional 2 factor authentication, and is another paid service which does not sell my data to any third party.

We are entering a new era in Western society. I am proactively reacting to illegal surveillance and information gathering by progressively more fascistic governments, by retreating from compromised platforms, shrinking my footprint and focussing on what I can personally control.

 

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Briefs – Sunday 31st May 2020

  1. Riots

The appearance of angry demonstrations in many US cities is no surprise to me. The peaceful protests from several years ago against entrenched and endemic racism were contemptuously dismissed at the time (see Kaepernick, Colin). So now the disaffected have moved beyond peaceful and passive demonstrations.

There is a lot of evidence that agents provocateurs are operating within demonstrations. This is SOP for fascists, it is one of the standard tactics from their playbook, going back to Germany in the 1930s.

Media members are being caught in the crossfire all over the place, but when you have a supine, non-inquiring media that insists on perpetuating a clearly false “both sides”narrative, and which refuses to take the correct action when confronted by a President who routinely dismisses them as enemies of the people, this is the logical end result. The media becomes a target for law enforcement, just like the demonstrators. The media, in a broader sense, have been demonstrating so far in 2020 that they have learned nothing from 2016. As Jay Rosen keeps pointing out, they are using a broken playbook for dealing with Donald Trump.

2. Covid-19

The Dallas County Covid-19 new cases trend is now upwards,following a decline in the number of new cases for over a week. I predicted this, but it is not good to see. I have not looked at the trend in other counties. I still worry about rural counties, which have limited to non-existent medical treatment capacity for people who become very ill. And many of those rural folks, here in Texas, are not going to be insured against medical costs.

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