.@facebook’s role as a digital archive threatened by #Russia and itself…

Robert Mueller’s indictment of thirteen Russian nationals for defrauding the United States by using fraudulent means to leverage social media in order to spread during the 2016 campaign season doesn’t intentionally pick on Facebook as a villain. Members of Congress are asking how the Russian-based Internet Research Agency using 100 or so employees, could have circumvented 22,000 Facebook employees and introduce their “digital political hack” into American cyberspace.

Members of Congress have been acting since last fall when Facebook provided documentation that its platform via paid advertising had been used to send targeted messaging via certain Facebook pages to divide the electorate. For example, H.R. 4077 is a bill designed to increase the amount of transparency in electioneering communication.  Introduced in October 2017, the bill aims for accountability and disclosure of who is behind the financing of paid social media users or, as they are affectionately called, “trolls.”

A companion bill, S. 1989, was introduced at the same time in the U.S. Senate.

S. 625, introduced in the U.S. Senate in March 2017 provides the Unites States Attorney General with investigative tools to flesh out foreign agents using social media to disrupt U.S. elections.  The bill requires prosecution of social media users failing to make this disclosure.

Congress hasn’t gone directly (yet) at Facebook or other social media properties. For the political left, especially members of the net neutrality posse, passing any legislation that hints at slowing down the growth of the very same edge providers that they have been protecting would send a message that they are as dysfunctional as some of the electorate already thinks. Facebook, along with Google and Twitter, has been a proponent of net neutrality rules. They have, to various degrees, built their business models on advertising driven by the free content and personal information that they “hack” from consumers. They make their advertising services available globally and unfortunately for them, their social media levers were pulled expertly by Russian nationals.

Facebook, probably inadvertently, has become a digital archive of America’s thoughts and opinions. Instead of having to rummage through personal libraries in order to learn about what Americans are thinking, historians now have access to digital living history, ironically made open by the openness of the internet. Crackdowns on social media would do more damage to openness than poorly forecasted bad gateway behavior of internet access providers. Net neutrality proponents wouldn’t have to worry about degraded access to content. They would have the bigger problem of congressional regulation of content.

Mr Mueller’s indictment has surmised that the digital hacking of the United States’ electoral system is continuing. Russian nationals may have done some adjusting since 2016 to better avoid detection, problem via some more openness themselves by complying with foreign agent registration laws. As for Facebook, changes in its business model may be on the way.

A New #Republicanism: Value-based connection between tribes is all the “#diversity” we need

A friend and I were shopping at a farmers’ market in Dekalb County, Georgia yesterday. I enjoy the atmosphere in that market, an atmosphere containing multiple languages and dialects; different ethnic groups and races. The happy-go-lucky liberal would argue that what I saw was an example of people coming together as one to participate freely in commerce as one. To that I would say, bullshit.

What I saw and enjoyed was that multiple ethnic groups could go to that store and find items sold in lanes that catered to a particular culture’s tastes. There was no attempt at fusion, at trying to melt people into one pot for the purpose of creating some “universal multi-chrome of social mush.” Differences were actually respected.

I get the feeling that the left doesn’t get this. Rather than strengthening institutions that support these differences, that create the lanes that say being different is expected, the left argues that we are all “one”; that we are “equal.”  I don’t know what world liberals live in, but I would argue, based on the configuration of that store and the body language of the shoppers, that separate lanes were not only appreciated but demanded.

Saying that I am equal to or the same as a blonde white girl is insulting. The universal multi-chrome of social mush model that espouses this nonsense erases her background and my background from discussion. It ignores the different perspectives from which we view the world. The model dilutes us. As unique people spawned by unique peoples, we owe it to ourselves and our tribes to promote our uniqueness as much as possible, whether through marriage, voting, work, or art.

This runs counter to liberal government, an institution that would rather you stifle your own uniqueness than remain free. Liberals, in order to maintain a nation-state of diverse tribes, need to push a narrative of “diversity” and “equality” in order to maintain the broadest tax base possible. Liberal governments cannot afford tribes splintering off from the collective. Tribes falling for such narratives are the poorest inhabitants of a nation-state and without sufficient capital as a buffer, they are reliant on the false promises of diversity laws and equality policies.

Diversity and equality are poor substitutes for capital and when the marginalized rely on diversity and equality laws that were written by the people with capital, further failure is guaranteed.

Policy that addresses the differences in tribal or ethnic group values and provides infrastructure where different groups can exchange value without given up their uniqueness is the appropriate approach. A true republic would do just that where self-sustaining groups choosing to go their own way would be left alone to thrive without being subject to onerous rules created by people who do not even look like them.

Government defined by distraction

The past 85 years have created an illusion as to what American government is. In the 1930s, government became a fuel injector for the American economy where the Executive branch pumped money into public works programs designed to employ idle labor. New regulatory regimes were created to regulate away the excesses of speculation and manage the extraction and use of natural resources.

By the 1960s, government took on the additional role of social justice guarantor, crafting and delivering legislation designed in part to further incorporate black Americans into national society and to provide other social services including healthcare to children and the elderly.

Through its military and science branches, government continued its research, development, and investment into computer networks and outer space. It was out of these activities that the internet was spawned allowing my five faithful followers to read this blog.

It is no wonder that Barack Obama said in 2012 with some authority the following:

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.”

The reality is that government as a noble entity is a myth; that the past eight plus decades have been a distraction from what we should only expect from government; that it is an entity that expands its control over jurisdictions anywhere in the world for the benefit of its financiers. What we should expect from government should be more in line with Donald Trump’s views on Iraqi oil:

“If we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money in the first place, so we should have kept the oil, but, OK, maybe we’ll have another chance.”

While many were taken aback at the bluntness of Mr Trump’s statement, the President honed in on the primary expectation we should have of government, an entity that acquires and manages resources.

Americans have an issue with ugliness being exposed. They are weary of the guilt-fest they have endured over the past sixty years in particular, from scenes of police dogs attacking black Americans in Birmingham, Alabama to American military personnel being accused of murdering civilians in Iraq. But in the words of Mr Trump, “There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers. Well, you think our country is so innocent?”

Unbeknownst to him, Mr Trump summed up the core expectation of government; that of acquirer of resources. Any “noble” distribution is a response to the distractions caused by the powerless who are able to sneak into democracy’s nooks and crannies to agitate just long enough for social benefits that pale in size to the benefits flowing to the holders of government bonds. An irony, that there is distraction on both sides ….

 

Net neutrality rules proceeded from a no value premise

Back in the early 1990s, a higher value was placed by the consumer on her use of the internet and the dial-up services that were used to access it. It was expensive paying either per use or per minute or hour or day depending on your AOL package. The analog telephone service sometime required additional toll fees to access online providers. You didn’t take for granted your time used to access or be online. You made a cost=benefit analysis regarding the time online and paid for the value of the information you retrieved.

Our perspective on value for being online has changed. We have gone from waiting till after 9 pm or weekends to make a long distance call in order to save on toll fees to having bundled wire or wireless services that have eliminated toll calling. You no longer wait minutes for a 100-page document. Such a document can be downloaded in and shared with others around the globe in seconds. Our appreciation for the cost of being online has fallen so low that a significant number of Americans believe that using online resources to transmit videos of singing cats has equal value to data containing vital procedures for surgery.

Net neutrality has spawned the delusion that democracy requires equal treatment of all traffic, no matter how mundane, non-substantive, or perverse. It is time to reverse this perversion by imputing a value component to online access and data exchange. A crucial first step toward bringing back value is the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 open internet order and the no-value rules that it created.

True network neutrality cannot occur if agreements on the pricing of the exchange of traffic are overseen by the federal government.  Content delivery networks, internet information portals, and broadband access providers should negotiate traffic exchange freely and allow their assessment of the value of traffic exchange determine price. These carriers have data on the value the consumer places on their content and access services and can design the proper price points for recovering costs and generating profits.

For the end-use consumer, a day of reckoning will occur. Will they meet the new demand for price recovery issued by content providers by paying higher prices?  Or will they spend less time on the internet? Some may see value by paying additional fees to content providers. For those who don’t, they will threaten to abandon internet networks or reduce the time spent on them. This will provide content and network providers to become innovative by providing tiers of services that give the consumer additional flexibility on payment and usage.

In the end, network neutrality won’t “destroy democracy” on the internet. To be technical, democracy is about choosing political leaders and until we have elections via the internet, the democracy argument is nonsense. What we will have, with the elimination of these rules, is a conduit of commerce being subjected to market rules voluntarily entered into by its participants.

 

So far, so gloomy in Atlanta

Prior to today’s election, Mary Norwood was nursing a six percentage point lead over mayoral rival Keisha Lance Bottoms. That lead is compounded by the gloomy looking weather outside, although supporters holding campaign signs on the corner of Tenth Street and Peachtree this morning offset the cloudy day with their enthusiasms.

What kind of signal would a Mary Norwood win send to Atlanta? It would an indication that the city has changed demographically. As I was telling my Uber driver this morning while we sat at the corner of Tenth and Peachtree, Atlanta in 1985 was just black and white. Blacks didn’t live in Buckhead. We just visited Lenox Square Mall every now and then. We saw white people at work and that was about it. The phrase, “the city too busy to hate” really meant “Everyone has other things to do so we aren’t interested in hanging out together.” That phrase has fooled a lot of people looking at the city from the outside thinking that Atlanta was becoming a mecca for racial harmony.

Quite the opposite. “Too busy to hate” was merely a blueprint for a new kind of segregation, a blueprint that also served as a marketing scheme to attract more Yuppies and Buppies to the capital city of Georgia. It included a truce, that Blacks would enjoy the political privileges stemming from having a majority of the city’s voters while kept what was really most important: economic power.

The thing with political power based on the number of people with black skin is that even if that power can be passed down the nepotism chain to other people with black skin, it is only a matter of time before that power becomes diluted. As the demographics changes and the city became more diverse, the power base naturally became diluted by other groups that did not share either skin color or the struggle narrative as promoted by Atlanta’s political elite.

Not only did economic power stay with whites (and it is only reasonable to expect this), whites also distributed opportunities stemming from economic power to non-black groups typically under the argument that these groups brought more value because they had the high-tech skills a diversifying Atlanta economy needed.

If anything, this is where Atlanta’s black elite screwed up. The establishment types, led by old heads like John Lewis, never expressed any sophisticated knowledge about capital, finance, and technology. So immersed were they in continuing the 1950s and 1960s legacy of Martin Luther King and Ralph David Abernathy, that they didn’t appreciate changes in the domestic or global economy. So alluring was their Pied Piper flute playing, that the masses followed them over the cliff of complacency.

Now tonight, after a day of gloomy clouds, Black Atlanta faces a new uncertainty …

ISPs, not edge providers, reflect the reality of communications and connectivity

Within the Communications Act of 1934, Congress created the Federal Communications Commission for the purpose of regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communications. Congress intended the Commission to make available a rapid,efficient, nation-wide, and world-wide wire and radio communications network and provide that network at reasonable rates for the nation-state’s consumers. Congress wanted a nation-state, barely a hundred years into its industrial revolution and in the middle of its worst recession, to have the ability to connect all of its citizens.

The episodes of connection via a phone call were not expected to take up the 135 minutes a day that the average person spent on social media in 2017. Earlier today in an op-ed on Axios.com, Evan Spiegel wrote about the difference between social media and his communications app, Snapchat. In his words:

“The personalized newsfeed revolutionized the way people share and consume content. But let’s be honest: this came at a huge cost to facts, our minds and the entire media industry.

This is a challenging problem to solve because the obvious benefits that have driven the growth of social media – more friends! more likes! more free content! – are also the things that will undermine it in the long run.

  • New alternatives for self-expression, including services like text messaging, WhatsApp, and Snapchat are part of a shift towards using communication applications to express yourself rather than posting on social media, because communication apps are oriented around talking with your close friends, free from judgment.
  • Social media fueled “fake news” because content designed to be shared by friends is not necessarily content designed to deliver accurate information. After all, how many times have you shared something you’ve never bothered to read?”

Social media is a bulletin board that you placed on the front of your dorm room, open to a myriad of Post-It notes left by dorm mates and easily read by everyone else, is my summation of Mr Spiegel’s distinction between his service and Facebook. Snapchat; another form of private communication similar to texting or voice calls versus the barroom brawl that is social media.

As concerned as progressive congressional Democrats appear to be about Russia’s ability to use the permeability of Facebook, Twitter, and Google to allegedly upend an election, they do not appear to be in any rush to apply onerous privacy rules to social media, a business model designed for fake news.

Social media was a “god send” for the State. Social media aggregates people into groups that can be operationalized and manipulated. A lot less expensive than tapping phone lines in order to get the pulse of society. Facebook, Twitter, and Google are media outlets and as such are in a position to create messaging and target it toward certain groups. Facebook doesn’t ask “What’s on your mind” for no reason.

Some consumers want balance. They are using the ear buds to create space in the real world and don’t mind connecting where there is value in social media exchange, but they want the option of withdrawing to a position where their smartphone, at the end of the day, is merely for texting and sending/receiving voice calls.

Congress and the Commission should keeps their focus on the infrastructure aspect of communications and leave the bulletin board behavior to the kids.

Learning how to disconnect from the State’s political noise

It has been two months now since I got rid of cable. The noise out of Washington has gotten to be a bit much. Americans appear to be ever increasingly losing their minds over the man sitting in the Oval Office. In less than three years his critics in the electorate will have an opportunity to enter a ballot box near them and vote for someone else.

If engagement in the ballot box and with C-SPAN’s Washington Journal were so fruitful we would have less tension or at least fewer reports on Donald Trump. Social media would be quieter or at least focused on something hopefully less mind numbing (I know that’s a lot of hope.)

As the good people at Reason.com reported back in 2012, one’s vote, in the end doesn’t matter. Given that voting is about the most active political engagement most Americans will engage in, voting amounts to a colossal waste of time.  Citing work done by the National Bureau of Economic Research, of the one billion votes cast in 40,000 legislative elections between 1898 and 2001, only seven contests were decided by a single vote. There are higher payoffs from just about any other activity than voting.

And what does government provide that we feel so emotionally invested in calling each other names, not speaking to each other, or worse, unfriending people on Facebook? Not much for our tax dollar.

For example, do you like the state of your roads or other infrastructure? The American Society of Civil Engineers gave America’s roads, bridges, and ports a grade of “D+” in a 2017 survey. The score has stayed relatively the same for the last 20 years, and given Congress’ inability to fund budgets, especially the transportation portion, I believe that grade will be on the United States’ report card for awhile.

How about America’s education policies? Are policymakers effectively addressing how well the State educates kids? Well, no. Remember Common Core, the initiative detailing what children grades kindergarten through 12th grade should know at the end of each school year? While enthusiastically supported by a Republican and Democratic president, a report by the Brookings Institution in 2012 determined that the policy would have little to no impact on a student’s ability to learn.

The news isn’t so rosy on the collegiate level either. For all its equating of democracy to equality, Blacks and Latinos are equating democracy to a racial disparity in accessing college education. In a USA Today article citing statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics, it was reported that Blacks and Latinos, while enrolling in college on a relatively similar proportion as whites, were enrolling in for-profit schools and community colleges at a higher rate than whites. This is considered problematic, according to the article, because of complications surrounding financial aid.

These are just some examples of the State’s failure to deliver on the benefits that it promises to its “extended employees”, the constituents who vote for the politicians that promise the good schools, good roads, and bountiful opportunities. One would think that more Americans would disconnect from a government that hasn’t kept its word, but on the contrary, like the population who have endured abusive relationships, there is that small fraction of the population that somehow believe that abuse is love.

So how does one disconnect from the State’s political noise? First remember that you cannot avoid the State. The State influences you via its rules and statutes; its courts; the media; and the taxes it levies. You cannot violate its rules without bringing harm to yourself. Your actions should lead to maintenance and survivability of self and family; top optimize your sovereignty. Your goal is to minimize contact with the State and replace its “services” with services provided via voluntary, private arrangement.

A couple approaches that you may have already thought of. For example, avoid owning property. The State encourages its citizens to own property so that a nexus for taxation exists. Work hard to improve the value of your property and every year there is the State swooping in for its cut.

A mistake I made was having my son educated in State schools. If you can, educate your children at home. This way you can devote more time to inculcating life survival skills and critical thinking skills very early. Schools focus primarily on programming children for allegiance to the State’s values. An independent thinking, self-actualized child is one of the biggest threats to the State. Trust me. It’s not some teen-aged gang banger that the State is afraid of. The gang banger can be shot down and no one will raise a fuss.

Another approach, stop voting. Don’t feel bad about not going to the polls. First of all, you are not required to. As we discussed earlier, your vote doesn’t matter. More importantly, the tyranny of the masses that is democracy is fueled by the vote. Why further threaten your individual sovereignty by giving wanna be master any authority to write oppressive rules.

Finally, divorce yourself from government issued currency and form a trading community that uses a non-government issued currency, hopefully one backed by a natural resource. The Treasury issued, Federal Reserve Bank distributed currency is backed by  an economic infrastructure that may be working for some but not for the majority. The currency’s demand should be a reflection of the economy that lies behind it, one that is productive.