Monday, November 30, 2020

YouTube suspended OANN over supposedly misleading coronavirus claims


Last week, YouTube suspended One America News Network (OANN) in San Diego, after it posted a video discussing a possible cure for coronavirus which YouTube says is bogus.  The network was suspended from posting for one week and has to reapply to the YouTube partner program. YT apparently says it does not consider OANN and “authoritative news source”, as it is sort of a “Baby Fox News”.  Adi Robertson explains for The Verge.

I’m not sure what that cure was.  I know that hydroxychloroquine and I believe ivermectin have not been approved by FDA or been considered sufficient for prophylactic use by peer studies, but I keep hearing anecdotal reports that sound interesting.  We should find something to give to people by mouth once they test positive.  How much biochemistry did we learn from HIV?

Brian Stelter at CNN has excoriated the network. Stelter notes that OANN often got called on a lot at Trump’s White House press conferences.  In the early days, especially when Sean Spicer was press secretary, Trey Yingst was the representative from OANN.  Trey, along with Ford Fischer, created News2Share (which Ford runs today, covering major protests and demonstrations all over the country and sometimes Europe – and has paid special heed to Chelsea Manning’s situation with a grand jury, which the “leftist” gay media has ignored).  Trey decided to work for corporate media and went to OANN (he now reports from Israel for Fox News).  Trey’s questions were usually quite balanced and probing and not necessarily “easy”.  OANN’s site looked sparse on line, but I didn’t have the impression that is views or reporting was extreme.  It does seem, to me at least, that Trump’s claims of election fraud are way over the top (and so far the courts have not sided with Trump’s claims). We do need a peaceful transition.

Again, what counts as an “authoritative news source” is becoming an important question as the tech industry ponders other likely changes (like to Section 230).

Sunday, November 29, 2020

Do my blogs amount to "news aggregation"?


Is my set of blogs the logical equivalent of a news consolidation site?

You have to be familiar with my set up (look at the home page of and Blogger profile).  But persons familiar with it that I do “connect the dots” and sometimes come up with warnings about serious problems especially with free speech, sometimes including my own personal narratives.

I link to many stories, but I don’t copy them onto your computer or device.

That makes this different from, say, Smartnews which is used as an app and is ultimately paid for by advertisers.  Most of my content is self-funded, with Adsense and Amazon providing minimal revenue.  As I have noted elsewhere, some people might see that as a problem.

I have “warned” about somethings glossed over by mainstream media – like EMP.  But I really did not see the paradigm for the novel coronavirus coming, that it could lead to lockdowns, and to the emphasis on the “moral” problem of exposing others to a disease you are more likely than they are to recover from easily.

Neither did anyone else (except maybe Avi Schiffmann, who started his coronavirus tracker in Dec. 2019.

Many of the stories I link to are now behind paywalls.  Some of them I do subscribe to: several newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, Dallas, Houston, Atlanta, Los Angeles), and a few periodicals (Atlantic, Wired, National Geographic, Scientific American).  Keeping up with them is clumsy, and I have talked in the past about the idea of news bundles.  Some of them offer a few free articles a month free, but fewer do now. When I give a link on a blog post, it is likely that the reader will need a subscription to read the content in the kink.

This is more of an issue today than it was 15 years ago, when most sites were free.  Remember the days of footnotes, bibliographies, and trips to the public library?

Hyperlinks (even embeds) are still like footnotes (although there is Goldman v. Breitnart, see Feb. 17, 2018). But some news sites write warnings that their stories cannot be rewritten or reused, although the facts that the links present cannot be owned or copyrighted.

This leads to the attempts in the EU to discourage news linking with the “link tax” (Article 15), which may have slowed down because of the distraction of the pandemic.

Frankly, a lot of this (along with Article 17) reflects a belief that amateurs should not be distributing global information on their own without gatekeepers;  they should pursue activism through solidarity. This is a view that has become popular on the Left, of course, but also includes a lot of protectionism for legacy media jobs, from competition from those who do it to feel important (sort of sigma male news) but not for a living. And there is now radicalization, foreign manipulation, and “fake news” – looping back to the recent attack on 230 (even Biden’s).

In any case, my setup is much less sustainable today than it looked a decade ago.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

The tale of two David Hogg's : what do we expect of people who are "luckier" in a pandemic?


David Hogg (the “Harvard” one) wrote a particularly moralistic tweet yesterday, “There’s a special place in Hell for the people that have the power to help millions but choose instead to help only themselves.”   There was another tweet about the unprecedented hunger of millions (though from the lockdowns, which he doesn’t mention), and a couple other tweets that the “military industrial complex” has enough wealth to offer free this and that. TheRealFranGSF responds “Every American should have mandatory public service experience or in college curriculum. Everyone needs a hand sometime in their lives. What goes around comes around. People helping people. That’s how it works.”  Another response to that tweet mentioned the military draft (my pet subject, from DADT 1).  Remember the Selective Service System doesn’t’ recognize non-binary.

But “the RealDavidHogg” near Charlotte NC, now 19, an undergraduate at UNC and grocery store worker, organizes food deliveries to incapacitated seniors in his neighborhood, and says he is a
“conservative”.  He does the values, not preach them.  He even sponsored an essay-writing and food delivery project on kindness.  Actually, the liberal and conservative David Hogg’s (about the same ages) are more alike than they think.  I personally don’t like to run these kinds of things (publicly on social media) myself (I talked about this issue Nov. 26).

We come back to my situation.  I am 77.  I participate in the political process with my own citizen journalism which is self-funded (and that’s controversial – because, other than voting, I don’t join with others in political participation much, except loosely with some others on the more-or-less libertarian “right”).  I don’t volunteer at all right, although I did until 2017.  In 2016, while still in a big (inherited) house I considered sheltering an asylum seeker, and it got worse under Trump.  I would up selling the house as the clock ran out.

I notice that a lot of pundits online on social media (including some rather precocious teenagers) do what they normally would do (and social distancing hasn’t been a problem because they can do videos and blogs alone – and virtual learning – and sometimes teaching – isn’t a problem).  That goes for me.

My own donations activity is relatively narrow and related to issues I have been personally involved in, not to what a social media company wants me to do for “social credit worthiness”.

But I also realize that external events can create needs so compelling that people should not ethically ignore them.  We could very well look at this as wartime.  We talk about natural rights, but you don’t have a natural right to be born into more fortunate circumstances or to avoid natural disaster events that affect all (although personal behavior over a very long time affects nature – climate change and possibly the course of pandemics).  In fact, it’s stepping up to unusual demands when they come up are kind of a “final exam” on one’s character.

You could step up by working mainly alone.  Indeed, I fear that Biden’s talk of a crackdown on the web (Section 230) and his dismissive attitude toward user generated content could preclude the next teen’s coronavirus – or climate change – tracker from even being deployed at all.  As I noted yesterday, the Left wants to see people working inside recognizable groups getting visible results for other people.

But is sounds more convincing to volunteer in person at something, consistently, even if that means movement and being around people.  For seniors (especially those with some means) there is a bit of a moral paradox.  Yes, staying home and avoiding all contact with people indoors is possible for some of us like me, but it also seems evasive, letting others take more of the risk, after I have already led some life of unreturned “privilege”.  That even gets into the issue of being open to bonding with people in a way that requires complementarity that I usually avoid (although this is getting into another subject). 

 “Merely” getting vaccinated, if that can happen soon, can change a lot.  This all sounds like "social credit", which the Left buries with "critical theory". 

But until then, for someone with my karma, the pandemic can create many problematic situations besides actual illness.  It can destroy my own personal agency first. 

Friday, November 27, 2020

Trump tweets that "Section 230 must be immediately terminated", "for National Security purposes", on Thanksgiving night; is he talking about anything "new"?


Donald Trump wrote a bizarre tweet on Thanksgiving Day, at 11 PM, “For purposes of National Security, Section 230 must be immediately terminated”, link.

I found out about it in a tweet from Tim Pool “what Trump is calling for would destroy independent media overnight”. 

Section 230 shields platforms from most liability for user posts, but the more subtle second provision is that it allows platforms to moderate content in good faith without liability.

I’m not sure why Trump mentions “national security” so boldly.  One possibility is that “gratuitous content” from speakers with no direct interest or authority over a national security matter (say power grid security, which I talk about, or even theories as to how the pandemic started in China) might entice bad actors to carry them out.  This concern was noted shortly after 9/11 with discussions about “steganography”, but it quickly faded.  There was a bizarre incident at the end of 2005 when I was substitute teaching that may illustrate this concern, about “gratuitous” content, however unpredictably, enticing an unstable person into committing a crime or dangerous act.

It’s hard to imagine that Trump could have been thinking this (although there is some history with the North Korea threat, especially in early 2018, that I would wonder about).  One commentator said on Twitter that he might be thinking of Tiktok or Wechat  -- but most platforms don’t have that connection to China.  (Also, there is a new report that Astra-Zenecka has just been hacked by North Korea, unsuccessfully, but that sound unlikely to be related.) 

Also, there is a question of hosting companies, who are protected by the first prong of 230, but who don’t moderate content so the second prong doesn’t apply.  Even Blogger (which this post is on) is more like a hosted platform than what we usually see as social media;  Google doesn’t moderate it in any meaningful way.

CNN has a video by Jon Sarlin explaining both Trump’s and Biden’s opposition to 230 (from Sept. 15).   Biden sounds plainly hostile.  But his complaint is mainly about fake news and radicalization (content that “sane” people ignore, like Qanon, but that others take action on – PizzaGate, etc).

Trump did issue a limited executive order in May, which didn’t really do much.  Trump was trying to allow “free speech” for conservatives, given big tech deplatformings of conservative speakers (but some have been against radical Leftists, too).

It’s not clear if Trump is “threatening” some kind of order now.

The major newspapers hadn’t reacted to the tweet as of Black Friday morning (no pun).  The Post has a generic story yesterday mentioning Biden’s opposition to 230.  But the New York Times had run an op-ed by EFF’s Elliot Harmon on Oct 16.  Big Tech, he warned, could become more like a regular publisher and not allow a lot of people to have accounts at all, based on their “social credit”. Of course, the Senate has held two recent hearings on 230 (Oct 28, Nov 17). 

Imagine (as I hinted in a post yesterday) if you had to “raise money” for nonprofits or needy children (think, the inequities of the pandemic)  in your own name before you were allowed to express your own views.  (Think of Angela Merkel’s recent statement that for you to express an opinion in public does not come at “zero cost”).

In general, remember, the “Left”, as it is today, doesn’t value “free speech” by individuals the way the moderate Right does.  (The alt-right, it gets more complicated and more tribal.)  The Left wants organizing into movements, protests, and actions, not speech.  In a way, it’s a twist of “skin in the game”.

 Later Friday, CNN wrote that this tweet was an example of Trump's "misinformation" and that the reference to national security is unclear, and all networks are reporting that Trump could be a security risk himself when leaving office. 

Picture: "Protest" sign in Lafayette Park in Jan 2017 shortly after Trump's inauguration. 

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Facebook pushes fundraising as an essential part of your "online reputation"


Here we go again.  Facebook is trying to have a money-raising contest on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1.

Yes, we should be giving, and I can think of a lot of “causes”.  But I still have a problem with the “quid pro quo” idea, that you are supposed to become part of someone else’s speech to have your own, which seems to be where we are headed.

The illustration shows I have done four fundraisers (ALS, World Central Kitchen, Best Friends Animal, and First Amendment Coalition).  Actually, I think I did ALS and FAC.  The others I probably donated to.  I think I did another one for protecting journalists.

I would have a problem with having a personal reputation as someone begging for money all the time online.  Or writing messages to sound personal, when I have no right to presume such a personal relationship.  (“Truthout’ is one of the worst offenders for email, crying that is about to go under every two weeks.)

I do feel differently if I have a very specific, personalized connection to the issue and spend time and effort on it.  For ALS, I had one cousin pass away of it, another has it, and I might have the warning signs of some sort of non-progressive variation of it (like muscle twitches). So I did that as a birthday fundraiser.

One the food issues, it’s complicated.  Right now, most non-profits don’t want persons over 70 working on their premises.  That would change with a vaccine.  It might even change with a pseudo-vaccine (like MMR, which is surprisingly effective according to a UK study and little known), or if some sort of protease inhibitor turns out to be an effective prophylactic. So the obvious reaction is, well, you can raise money in public for us.  That’s no good if I’m not involved otherwise. 

OK, get over it.  What if something happens to me, say, because others don’t wear masks and don’t have an obligation to me?  This can quickly escalate into an existential crisis that determines how you die and what legacy you leave.

I have actually worked in “telefunding” before, for two symphony orchestras, in 2002 and 2003, in the post-9/11 world.

The food charity of choice would be “Food and Friends” in DC.  But that doesn’t work now because I backed out of an auto delivery Thanksgiving when I found out I would have to venture into a crime-ridden neighborhood.  Cowardly?  But if something happens, that’s it.  I don’t belong to anything.

Covid is certainly challenging out ideas of “personal responsibility” and personal agency in a way HIV never did.

Update:  Nov. 28

I created a fundraiser for The Innocence Project.  That is justified by the fact I have some credible connection to it outside of Facebook (which is pretty much my standard for participation in this mode). 

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Questions about Astra-Zeneca surface; more on what it takes to get out of this pandemic


Getting three major vaccines approved quickly by mid December seems to be an important part dealing with this second wave, but some news on Astra-Zeneca may erode some confidence, as explained by Rebecca Robbins and Benjamin Mueller for the New York Times. Ars Technica weighs in on this with a critical article by Beth Mole, claiming that Oxford's "best result" was a "fluke". 

The half-doses given to some volunteers the first time seem to have come from a contractor error, and apparently did not include older persons, so the usefulness of the 90% with the lower first dose is questionable.

Getting back to normal means one of these two things must happen (or both) (1) some of the vaccines work and start getting to the greatest need quickly (2) a rapid-test program of at-home tests accompanied by automated contact tracing and much clearer procedures and requirements for quarantine and isolation (whose periods might be shortened).  For those isolated, procedures for genuine emergencies (home repairs) need to be specified.  Major improvements in indoor ventilation everywhere seem essential, too.

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

"Dark money" used to create fake "ghost" candidates to divert votes in Florida race; more on Covid and mass outdoor protests and what public health experts say


Various media sources even outside Florida report the placement of “ghost” candidates by Republicans to confuse voters and divide off a (Democrat) competitor’s vote in races for the Florida State Senate, with the use of “dark money”, leading to a defeat of a Democratic candidate by a mere 32 votes. Here are two of them: WWNYTV and KION546.

CNN has reported on the matter today.

The incident is significant in that it is at least tangentially related to concerns in the early 00’s with campaign finance reform, where unaccountable entities (even Bloggers with their own resources) could unduly influence policy and political race outcomes with no transparency or accountability. I had written about this in an important Wordpress post in 2014. 

I also wanted to call attention to an article in Vox in early June 2020 by Brian Resnick, “What public health experts want critics to know about why they support the protests” with the subtext, “For black folks, the cost of not doing something is potentially a lot greater than potentially getting a virus.”

Indeed, throughout the summer it did not seem that there was a lot of spread in all the outdoor protests, even to the journalists who covered them. People would bus together and put each other up in apartments at what we would see today as a considerable risk of contagion.

The rhetoric seems tribal and overheated, but maybe if you are a parent of black sons and have to worry what happens when they start driving alone.  We do have a problem  (the "Am I Next?" meme).

Monday, November 23, 2020

NYTimes op-ed questions whether private social gatherings in homes are driving the Thanksgiving spread, but then what is it?


Aparoova Mandavalli has a long article in the New York Times today questioning whether family and interhousehold social gatherings are driving the extra spread in November.  The data doesn't support the idea. 

Instead, data from some states suggests it’s still the big places known before.  Look at Colorado especially. Jails.  Nursing homes.  Restaurants and bars weren’t even as big.

But there is more virus everywhere.

One biggie:  in many places the air is drier, and that could make the virus more transmissible through aerosols, like in buildings, even with masks.  This hasn’t been talked about that much yet.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Personal stakes and coronavirus restrictions (and hidden risks in winter)

I thought I would talk a moment on where I have to draw lines on what is asked of me, in situations that call for sharing of risks, or sacrifice.

Let’s talk a moment about the extent of lockdowns, which some people think should be very severe, to drive the virus to zero in one effort so that contact tracing can work. OK, that makes sense. It has worked somewhat in smaller countries (like New Zealand).

I was skeptical about masks at first, like at the end of March when the CDC made an about-face in about 10 days (after WHO).  There was no supply.  Our “prepper” skills were to be tested to see if we could make our own.  Now you can buy N95 clones on Amazon.  And you probably should.

I first wondered if it made sense that masks would stop particles the sizes of viruses.  But it’s the droplets that contain the particles that they stop.  The concern is whether they stop aerosols – very small droplets.

By the first of April I had realized that Asian cultures, which are used to mask wearing, were faring much better on controlling the virus than the West, and beside their superior automated contact tracing (like South Korea’s), masks had something to do with it   Asian culture preached the humility that sometimes man does face perils from nature “they” are not ready for, abeit radioactivity, or maybe pathogens from animals.

The quirky thing is that, if the entire public were to be supplied with N95’s, men would have to give up beards (a nono in some cultures).  One thinks about that scene in Michael Chricton’s novel “The Andromeda Strain” (including the first movie version in 1971) where all male body hair is removed by a photoflash out of fear that the virus could infect hair cells (I don’t think there has ever been a pathogen that does that).

One major reason for the severity of the pandemic (and the severe cases showing up at hospitals suddenly, especially as reported in Europe and in some northern states) is that the drier air in winter makes the virus even more transmissible as aerosols evaporate and become smaller, getting through masks.  Buildings and homes would need to pay a lot attention to humidity.  This could make common areas and elevators in buildings even more dangerous in winter.

As for restrictions on businesses, yes, it makes sense to close those which require consumers to stay inside without masks for a long time, and to compensate the owners and employees to stay home (and pay the business rents).

In the US we haven’t done this, but does it make sense to restrict me to within one mile of my residence, or require texting or a pass to go out an shop?  In Australia, the only justification from “dictator Dan” was to make law enforcement’s job easier in “saving lives” (I am 77).  If I go out to any store, I will wear my N95, and avoid crowds.  I will drive alone (rarely use public transportation). It seems like the main purpose is to hinder congregation in private residences, which I won’t do anyway.  I am restricted for someone else’s (someone more extroverted and connected to other family than me) likely behaviors.

Lockdown restriction would be very serious if major hardware failed and I could not keep up my websites (after not being able to replace the hardware).  I do have some backups (like a Verizon hotpspit should cable fail, and more than one laptop, although only one is new, and I should have a newer Windows laptop).  Of course, the bigger risk is that I get sick myself and cannot maintain the sites from the ICU.  Due to inattention, they could be shut down and I might never get them back.

That leads to the discussion of the ethical or policy implications of the fact that I do not make a living from the sites and that the activity could be regarded as “inessential”.  Why am I not willing to join with others in their group activism?  That would be the next question.

(Posted: Sunday, November 22, 2020 at 8:30 PN EDT)

Friday, November 20, 2020

Second amendment does (not) protect a gun show from closure for COVID; can Substack help an independent blogger monetize?

A lawsuit in Virginia challenged a closure of a three-day gun show as a COVID19 safety measure, as a violation of the Second Amendment.

But a federal judge turned it down, claiming that the public health closure was in the “public interest” (Washington Times). 

There was no immediate hazard to self, or interference with a long-term goal of self-defense.

On another matter, there is some discussion over whether Substack would be a realistic way for independent writers to monetize their essays.   Timothy B. Lee (Arstechnica) comments on Twitter.   

I agree that this works only for established writers, or for those with expertise on a narrow and difficult topic.  But remember Blogtyrant used to advocate building email lists, even though people dislike too much inbox stuff (spam).  But given my circumstances, it would pay for me to look unto this further. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

YouTube changes terms of service, may place ads (and keep revenue) for channels that don't monetize (including mine)


YouTube is announcing changes to its terms of service effective Nov. 20 

Hoeg Law (Virtual Legality) explains

There seem to be two major changes.

One is that forbidden accumulation of PII for distribution, as forbidden, would include “faces”, because of facial recognition technology an AI.  This may relate to unwelcome photos in private premises, loke bars (when they can open again).

The other is that low volume content creators who do not or may not join the YouTube Partnership Program may find that YouTube places ads on their videos (or has the right to) and they cannot share in the revenues.  The use of their content for ad attraction is the “cost” or a “free platform”. This relates to concerns about “commercial viability” in the Nov. 2019 TOS.  Possibly at some point that would not let smaller channels continue to publish and would become more like Netflix. But that would be announced.  The ads could have appeared any time after Nov. 18 (yesterday) and I don't see any now. 

There is also an issue in that a group was not allowed to paint a “Black PreBorn Lives Matter” panel at BLM Plaza in Washington DC because the DC government had endorsed the original plaza as its own speech (Dcist story )

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

EFF starts series on "How to Fix the Internet': Gigi Sohn explains America's subpar broadband


Electronic Frontier Foundation has a new series of podcasts, “How to Fix the Internet’.

The navigation is a bit confusing, and at one point led me to a series that could be played only on iTunes.

But finally I got to one that plays on Windows 10, and here is Gigi Sohn explaining “Why Does My Internet Suck?

(Video from 2009) 

Sohn was, in the late 1990s, active with SLDN and the “don’t ask don’t tell” issue.  Later, she went into telecommunications and was at the FCC in the 2000’s.

One basic problem: In the late 90s, the days of dialup, a typical person had a choice of up to 13 ISP’s (you would do dialup through AOL and get to IE that way, or you would do it through Netscape, or at least I did).  DSL (Defined Subscriber List) came along around 2001, and in 2002 or so, cable companies started to offer broadband.  I used it on my iMac in Minneapolis.

In late 2003, after moving back to VA, I had Comcast, for years. Now (after a move), Cox.

But companies, after lax regulation, started to carve up the country and set up little monopolies or duopolies.

She talks about digital literacy.  My mother (who passed in Dec 2010) never learned to use a computer. She did learn to use a simple cell phone.

She notes that efficient broadband (much more available overseas) is necessary for virtual learning during the pandemic, and that structural racism in the past made it difficult for communities mostly of color to get the same level of service.

She also discussed network neutrality in terms of fair access as well as avoiding throttling issue.

Cindy Cohn and Danny O’Brien interview Gigi, and the transcript is here.

I covered the Senate Judiciary hearings today of Twitter and Facebook on Wordpress here.  There was a general antipathy to free speech and fear of radicalization and instability driven by immature people accessing social media, so it seemed in the eyes of Democrat senators.

Monday, November 16, 2020

Can Americans do COVID tests at home now, and if so when should they? Also, "variolation" by mask use and "dose-dependence" are becoming uncertain and controversial ideas


There is some concern as to whether persons who regularly ride public transportation, or who have participated in mass protest events outdoors or been present to film them (journalists), or who know they have been around people not wearing masks even though they wore them, should be tested or self-isolated.  These potential exposures do not count as CDC exposures (accumulated 15 minutes in one day within 6 feet of people known to be infected).  There would be a good question as to whether people who want to be regarded as legitimate “journalists” should prepare for the possibility of handling a positive test (would this discourage attempts by “hobbyists” not making a living therefrom attending rallies and events because of the unpredictable risk).

Generally, to get an appointment for a test, you are supposed to go through a physician who submits to insurance.  But often local governments offer mass drive-up testing, no questions asked or appointments, especially in hotspot areas.

Washington DC appears to make it easier to get tests quickly than the surrounding suburbs.

A good question would be whether, after being in a crowd for an unusual length of time where others did not wear masks or behaved in bad faith, one could order a self-test at home, even when having absolutely no symptoms needing a medical visit

I found two of them online, Everywell and Labcorp (offered by DC).  The results are not read at home, so I presume positive tests are reported to health departments and the subjects are isolated. YouTube search shows that Costco offers a (new) home test (video). Note: sudden loss of smell and.or test with no other symptoms is probably an indicator.  I had an odd experience with taste in early April which went away in two days. 

Austria and Slovkia appear to be moving in the direction of using rapid antigen tests, possibly at home. Note that Austria has a 34-year-old chancellor who would presumably be very tech savvy. 

There is an article by Ronald Bailey in Reason today examining the effectiveness of masks in preventing transmission. The article questions whether masks assist with “variolation”, referring to a NEJM article (and a strong LTE from Osterholm that contradicts the usual notion that severity of disease is related to dose, which mask use greatly reduces).  There is a disappointing result from a comparison at a Hajj ceremony.  There is some inconsistency in the tone of the article. Generally, locations with mask mandates that people observe seem to have lower rates of hospitalization or severe disease, but the case counts and total hospitalizations are spiking despite more widespread mask use.  My own personal observation of people I know is that variolation (slang is "immunization by osmosis") by mask use probably does happen with younger adults otherwise in good health. But we want to have access to the new vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer) as soon as possible.  

Update:  See followup on Major Issues Blog Wed, Nov. 18 about FDA approval of Lucira test. 

Friday, November 13, 2020

Twitch tries to explain why it plays rough with users on the DMCA, introduces new tool (Soundtrack)


 Hoeg Law has a major video on Twitch and the DMCA, continuing a story here Oct. 21, 2020.  The title of the video is

“Twitch is in serious trouble (can’t stop the music)”.

Hoeg points out that the DMCA is worded in such as way as to encourage platforms to terminate users based on complaints, not adjudications.  This encourages false claims and probably trolls (and the upcoming CASE Act could encourage more problems).  This sort of says, if you’re an amateur, stay in your assigned station in life.

In May 2020 several music companies started submitting video platforms with DMCA claims for overriding clips, after putting in automated tools. The companies may have felt motivated to do this by the EU Article 17, but if so the results are being felt in the US.

This put Twitch in the position to threaten users with termination unless they possibly deleted all their previous videos including videos, maybe their “life’s work”.

Twitch now puts apologetic language in new material sent to users.

Using material from games could be secondarily dangerous, because games often use music but other users wouldn’t have licenses to use it.

I haven’t heard much about how YouTube is handling this. YouTube does flag background music with its own content-id to remove from monetization but doesn’t issue copyright strikes if it is incidental background music, like outdoors.

At 35:00, Hoeg explains how live streaming and sycnronization differs from merely uploading videos already recorded.

Here is Twitch’s own blog post.  Twitch offers a new tool called Soundtrack.

Bijan Srefan discusses Twitch’s problems with the music industry on The Verge, here (Oct 2020). 

Users such as David Pakman have experienced invalid DMCA takedowns from major news organizations for livestreaming material in public domain, not including music.  

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Free speech does not presume entitlement to global "reach" (UK working group); more on risk taking and social equity (with and without "critical theory")


There are a couple of interesting articles on social justice, especially when it comes to “equity”, online today.

One is in Medium (Atlantic), by Ibram X. Kendi (associated with critical theory, BLM, etc).  He actually associates “individualism” with injustice, and “community” with justice.  He also mentions empathy in the sense that it needs to be emotional, more than just cognitive, and he speaks of the racial pandemic within the biological one, which to me comes down to unequal or asymmetric personal risk-taking in lower-wage work.

Another, by Amanda Mull, directly on the Atlantic, explores “The Difference Between Feeling Safe and Staying Safe”, and sees things in a totally tribal perspective.  Most “ordinary” people get their critical information through social hierarchies and not their own thinking.

Graem Wood, a historian, examines why the 2020's will be unstable in a long essay, where he argues that there are too many elites and not enough jobs to pay them for "higher work".  There is a hint of Maoism, or at least the idea of "pay your dues" in the essay.  Earn your social credit. Maybe elites need to take their turns becoming proles.  But he does not seem to be following the reasoning of "critical theory".

Chris Wylie (who had blown the whistle on Cambridge Analytica and especially Facebook in 2018) contributes to a report from the Forum on Information and Democracy, “Working Group on Infodemics, Design a Policy Framework”, subsequently summarized by Chris Fox in the BBC on how social media might be regulated (following the meetings on Section 230 in the US on Oct. 28).

An important statement: “freedom of speech is not an entitlement to reach”.  That would mean, I don’t necessarily have my right to “speak” ungated with my own money, even on this blog, and count on search engines to make me influential.  The article describes reach in terms of social media algorithms rewarding "clickbait", even as related to a newer concept of potential "commercial viability". Actually, the search engine (non-commercial) amplification is not effective so much today as it was maybe ten years ago, but in a few specific situations my blogs and writings really have affected things (for the better), and nobody elected me (to propagate policy decisions asymmetrically).

Monday, November 09, 2020

Florida's governor still stands by "herd immunity" and youth invincibility, but actual college youtubers prove him wrong


The Miami Herald, in a story by Mary Ellen Klas and Ben Conarck, explores in detail the arguments around DeSantis’s commitment to “herd immunity”, which today’s vaccine announcement (see Issues blog) seems to amplify, here. 

On early September, the Los Angeles Times had run an editorial that herd immunity means “let them die’.  It sounds like a Hitlerian “survival of the fittest”.

The argument ignores that an unknown portion of younger adults may survive but have lifelong disability.

However, it is tempting because we keep hearing reports of college outbreaks where very few students really report significant symptoms.

College YouTuber Elliot Choy and roommate Luke had reported last spring that when they were in Spain, everyone in their cohort had some symptoms, coming on suddenly at the same time.  They were chills and fever, which they say lasted about a day and went away, and cough or sore throat, which persisted a few more days. They became ill on a Monday and said they felt OK by late Wednesday while in strict quarantine. Subsequent videos by Elliot at Vanderbilt (in a dorm but with virtual learning) show complete recovery.

So in some college cohorts, many people have some symptoms.  A student from Ohio died in late September from a sudden cardiac arrest. One baseball player (a pitcher) for the Red Sox had extreme problems with performance after “recovering”.  Freddie Freeman of the Braves recovered but said it was not fun.  So young people should not take this lightly.

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Hard lockdowns (for coronavirus) target inessential activity, so what about my "gratuitous" (free) websites?

Monday we will see Biden announce his interim coronavirus task force, and with the growth of cases (and apparently hospitalizations and deaths) in many states (and even more so in western Europe – with the extra complication of a mutant strain from mink in Denmark), you’re going to hear more talk about stronger lockdowns.

One particular aspect of lockdowns in some other countries even this fall (especially Ireland, and a couple months ago, Victoria in Australia) is the restriction of people to within a very small distance from their homes, even if they are alone.  Another is the restriction of goods allowed to be sold in larger “chain” stores to absolute necessities, blocking off sections.  These superfluous restrictions seem merely intended to “discipline” the public to share hardship more equitably and make the entire lockdown easier to enforce.  (I used to complain to my father about restrictions "just for authority", like Dictator Dan's recent orders in Victoria.)  If people are restricted geographically, it may be easier to prevent new strains from moving (as with the case in Denmark).  In the US, some states are enforcing quarantines upon arrival from states with higher rates of transmission, especially with “unnecessary” travel.

These rules may have an effect on the web and Internet speech if lockdowns were to be strict enough. Travel between states by a photojournalist running a YouTube channel that is monetized and that makes “them” a living (even if that includes patronage).  If I did that, since I don’t have patronage or earn income from a video, would mean it was non-essential.  (The fact that I have a trust is potentially legally relevant, but beyond scope here). 

I haven’t heard much about how stricter lockdowns have affected Internet access – people would presumably not be able to get broken connections or hardware fixed. 

Internet services have been maintained in the US, and in practice platforms, hosting companies, and intermediate telecom services have performed fairly well, despite working from home and increased traffic for virtual learning.

But the idea that government will decide what is “essential” and what is expendable is dangerous to individuals, who because of circumstances may not be allowed to return to normal activity because of other circumstances (sometimes insufficient support for rent, etc, or various complications in starting up.

If could be argued that a lot of social media use is inessential, and that much of it should be shut down during a pandemic, to leave telecom resources (and people who still might have to move around to fix things) for only the most essential services (like fire and rescue). It might well be argued that blog sites like mine (including my Wordpress domains) are inessential because they provide “free” content and that I don’t need them for a living. It might then, however, be argued that some “amateur” coronavirus tracking sites are also inessential (even though many of them are very good and accurate, such as Avi Schiffmann’s).  One way to counter such an argument would be to use analytics, and regard user counts and bounce rate data as a kind of “cryptocurrency” because it represents effort by visitors.

If gratuitous websites or even video channels were taken down during such a (politicized, somewhat "Maoist" emergency, given the asymmetric hardships posed by the pandemic) emergency lockdown, it seems unlikely that they would be allowed to be restored, and that a concept of "commercial viability" (known from COPPA in late 2019) along with "social credit" would develop. No one is talking about this yet. 

All of this can pose scenarios that are dangerous for me, and I’ll have some more official things to say soon.

Upate: Nov. 10.  Louis Rossmann talks about the "essential" problem, and makes some of the same observations, that many lives will never return to what they were because people weren't "essential" enough, a Maoist idea. I wonder what his kitty "Mr. Clinton" would say. 

Saturday, November 07, 2020

GOP maintains state courts can't change state laws "just" because of the pandemic (could this still affect Biden even as declared winner?)


Richard Hoeg (and Hoeg Law) dissected “The Pennsylvania Problem” on Oct. 29.  Apparently the Pennsylvania legislature had specified that all mail-in ballots have to arrive by 8 PM election day, regardless of postmark.

The state court took it upon itself to relax the arrival requirement “because of a natural disaster” (the pandemic).

Republicans sued on the groups that Article 2 of the Constitution allows only state legislatures, not state courts, to make the rules. 

The Supreme Court had denied cert on a motion in late October.  But it left open the idea that it would hear the case during the counting. 

There was a similar issue in North Carolina.

Since courts interpret the law, a good question is whether natural disasters give them prerogative. Originalists “just say no”.

Again, on calling Pennsylvania and the entire election for Biden, I can ask what the dentist asked Marathon Man, “Is It Safe?”

Thursday, November 05, 2020

Content creators generally don't "join" activist movements, and that may a problem (for activists, that is)


The new Blogtyrant is still out there, and, despite the prominence (and controversy over censorship) of video channels now (growing since about 2013) you still see columns like this once in a while, “The 7 DeadlySins of Blogging” on Prnewswire, by Anna Jasinski.  I still see emails about how to become an “influencer” by promoting products and sponsors on both formats.

Indeed, commerce is necessary to support speech, and that is where I have a problem “playing ball” right now.  There is bad karma;  I almost never answer solicitations or take calls (and there is the malware risk with email).

Umair Haque has his usual scolding about personal capitalist selfishness in “(Why) There Was No Biden Landslide” on his Eudaimonia Medium channel, and Eric Scholl writes similarly with “How Is This Race Competitive?”  Don’t get me wrong (or do me wrong);  Trump’s disregard of legal norms (and sometimes decency) scares me, a lot more than his policies.  Under more “normal” conservatives the country would do just fine.  (Larry Hogan, GOP governor of Maryland, would make a great president.  He has been humbled by recovering from cancer.)  

It seems as though not enough of us (who really want stability from an older mainstream “elistist” perspective) feel too ashamed personally to join in “allyship” with those whose sense of self is buried in intersectional oppression.  But that shame can set up a dangerous personal irony, if you need it to feel turned on yourself, and can only afford to be associated with “winners” personally.  Oddly, far Leftists never get around to saying this.

Watch Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Arizona.  If you have a camera, go film there and vlog it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Can bloggers film in all public places? what about businesses?

Ian Corzine presents Cody Wanner explaining “How to Vlog in Public Without Breaking the Rules”.

Ian says that you can film inside a business until an employee or manager or owner there tells you not to. In practice most retail businesses (especially now) won’t allow customers filming employees doing their work. That would be especially true of retail or restaurant franchises.

Bars vary on people filming their friends inside bars.  Most of them don’t have explicit rules.  But after 2010 or so, I noticed that people got more sensitive about being filmed by others dancing in bars, probably because of tagging in social media.  I’ve talked about this on the GLBT blog.  (in an extreme case, a circuit party in NYC maybe 8 years ago required patrons to turn in their phones at the door.)

It’s clear in this video that the focus is on video blogging, not on “Blogtyrant” text blogging.  Video started to become a much bigger part of the picture around 2013. 

The tone of the piece seemed to suggest that vanity or gratuitous content is OK, but that is something I have become increasingly concerned about since late 2017. 

Tuesday, November 03, 2020

Democratic pundits demand extreme diligence from voters, warning that their lives are on the line


There are a couple of op-eds that seem a bit hysterical in tone. 

One of them is by Dana Milbank in the Washington Post. “Yote as if our way of life depends on it. It does.  But you could take that order two ways.  The pandemic has already drastically changed our way of life, and we don’t know if we will ever get it all back.  China has recovered most of its own, but their population is used to a lot more collectivism and more self-sacrifice.

Milbank is warning about voters enduring harassment by Trump famatics in line.  They have to stand out in the Covid like soldiers and tough it out.

And Realclearpolitics” reproduced some of Thomas L. Friedman’s “This is the last weekend of America as We Know It” unless Biden wins an electoral victory decisively (and the Democrats take the Senate too).  That's what they said about the last Saturday in Oct. 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when I was a "patient" at NIH, wondering if our lot deserved to survive. 

By the way, don’t answer the robocalls that you may be hearing about.