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Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Linkee-poo T-day edition with things you shouldn't discuss at the table

Earth's history as compared to a football field's length. Visualization can sometimes help people understand huge concepts (like deep time) better.

"The search for alien life is taking a shortcut. The Hubble Space Telescope is set to spend hundreds of hours over the next year running reconnaissance on a shortlist of worlds to identify those we should scour for life first."

So how much is that movie based on a true story actually truthful. A visualization approach. (Grokked from Dan)

So, what harm can this language against Muslims do? So, not only did this teach support abusive behavior against this 5 year old, but joined in and then choked the kid. Just WTF are these people thinking? (Grokked from Saladin Ahmed)

A screen grab of Mark Zuckerberg coming out against fake news… framed by two ads for fake news sites. (Grokked from Xeni)

How to detect fake news. (Grokked from Robert J Bennett)

"This (fake news about a pizza joint as a front for a Clinton child abuse ring) isn’t about saving children from the Satanic baby-killers. It never is. It wasn’t during the earlier years of the Satanic Panic in the 1980s. It wasn’t during the Salem Witch Trials. It wasn’t during the centuries of anti-Jewish violence rallying around the blood libel… That’s the precise and direct lineage of this. And it has nothing to do with 'fake news.'… The folks spreading 'PizzaGate' lies know that they’re spreading lies. They know they’re pretending, and playing a game, because they enjoy it." Fred Clark on one of the lies. And this is the part that bothers me, right now this is being done by people who don't have much of an agenda beyond making money or continuing some self-stroking mental game of who is good, who is smart, who can "shape" the world (it's a very deep form of pretending you have superpowers). Imagine what happens when actual intelligence warfare professionals get in on the act (actually I think some of them have already).

"We tracked down a fake-news creator in the suburbs. Here's what we learned." NPR does some actual journalism on "fake news" sites. I don't entirely believe this guy's stated motives (I think it is more about the money). Also, I think I've mentioned before that this election cycle I spent way too much time figuring out if many of these sites were real or not. I'm pretty happy that (I don't think) I let anyone of them through to make links. But some days it was really hard work.

So how is Facebook's new policies and attempts at controlling harmful information going? Let's check in with our friend Jim Wright (who has a very large Facebook presence and is very active there) to see what's happening. Ah, about as well as could be expected (in case you didn't want to click on that link, Jim has been booted off of Facebook for a day for pointing out that a person who calls themselves a Nazi is actually a Nazi). So we're going to add another phrase to the lexicon used here. Fuck Nazis.

Seriously, in this day and age, and we have to say "Fuck Nazis." I used to crack the joke during the campaign about people whispering to each other, "Hail Hydra." And I think what we've all seen as they've come out of the woodwork and into the light, yeah, fucking Nazis. Now, most of these people are really Nazi-fetishists (because, while they mostly line up with Nazis on the big outward things, my guess is most of the economic theory of nationalizing businesses, control of monetary markets, and all the rest is lacking), but that still makes them dangerous as fuck. Because the worst atrocities were performed in service of their social, racial, and nationalism ideals. Which these skinhead wannabes seem to have latched onto, mixed it with American Exceptionalism, and shat it out in a stinking mess of "My Country." So, remember when a lot of us were asking, "what does it mean when you say, 'I want my country back'?" we now have the answer. Yes, they were fucking racists, or at best they were being played by racists.

"A woman protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline who was wounded earlier this week might lose her arm as a result of the injury, her family says. Sophia Wilansky's injury is the most gruesome to date of the months-long standoff at Standing Rock, N.D… 'The doctor just said she may need as many as 20 surgeries over very many months to have any hope of saving her arm and her hand,' Wilansky's father, Wayne Wilansky, told a group of reporters outside a Minneapolis hospital." Ah, those less-than-lethal methods of crowd control.

"If the children are the future, the future might be very ill-informed… That's one implication of a new study from Stanford researchers that evaluated students' ability to assess information sources and described the results as 'dismaying,' 'bleak' and '[a] threat to democracy.'" From an informal look at the students in my wife's courses, for one she had them do exercises on spotting "false information" sites. They didn't do well. Also, from an informal study of my coworkers, booth at the day job and (distressingly) at the hospital (these people have actual "science" and technical instruction), yeah, young people score very low in figuring out what is fake and what isn't (I'll leave it to the reader to look at their own Facebook feeds for "shares" from friends and how many of them are fake, propaganda, framing stories/graphics - that last one are items meant to change how people respond to seemingly unrelated materials by pre-loading the brain with thoughts and images).

We don't need no stinkin' regulations! "Levels of highly toxic mercury contamination in Atlantic bluefin tuna are rapidly declining, according to a new study… it does represent a major break in the long-standing, scary connection between tuna and mercury, a source of public concern since 1970… Tuna consumption continues to be the source of about 40 percent of the mercury contamination in the American diet… The new study… links the decline directly to reduced mercury emissions in North America. Most of that reduction has occurred because of the marketplace shift by power plants and industry away from coal, the major source of mercury emissions. Pollution control requirements imposed by the federal government have also cut mercury emissions." Yeah, what good are regulations? "Progress on both counts could, however, reverse, with President-elect Donald Trump promising a comeback for the U.S. coal industry, in part by clearing away such regulations." What could possibly go wrong (note, the coal industry is not charged for the health issues they cause, of which mercury is just one of a few thousand, but that's picked up by the American Taxpayer and factored into your health insurance premium).

John Marshal of TPM on the reports of election hacking. All very salient points. And overall, I agree with him. Except for number 5. Again, were I to do it, with the resources available to the "foreign power", and I wanted to make sure it wasn't traceable ("plausible deniability" for those of you old enough to remember that concept), it would look very close to what we saw. Everybody is thinking along, "well the results were so unpredicted that nobody could have hacked the election in that direction." Wrong. If you start with the premise that 1) actor doesn't want to be "seen" causing problems (such as his point 8), 2) actor is basing hack on internal/exclusive polling, and 3) one way to avoid suspicion is to make it appear random and not fit preconceived notions (ie. not make it look like one of the "accepted" scenarios). So, yes, I don't think it was hacked. We should certainly do the audit to remove any doubt (because there will be). But many a lot of people have forgotten how the Cold War was played, with multitude of small moves and slight deflections to bring about a desired end. That is, you don't actively push the desired end, you entice the players to come up with the desired solution for themselves by giving them information programmed to bring about the end. Or, if you want to fill a bathtub with water, you can turn the faucet open to full blast, or you can set it to drip faster than evaporation can take water away. Either way, the tub will fill, but you won't notice it so much with the dripping until it's almost full.

So, how's the election fallout playing in the general populace? "In the two weeks since the election, Planned Parenthood Federation of America has seen a huge increase in volunteers and donations – over 200,000 donations in a single week. But this surge in support hasn't reached many other reproductive health organizations. And many of these centers are already struggling to meet a spike in demand for long-acting contraception after the election of Donald Trump." Yep. Full disclosure, for what I still buy off of Amazon, I recently changed my "smile" account donation to Planned Parenthood (before was the Carter Foundation, and it was a close choice with ACLU). "It's not an unfounded concern… In the last several years, numerous bills have been introduced in Congress to block Title X funds from organizations that also provide abortions, like Planned Parenthood. In 2011, the House voted to defund Title X in its entirety, but the measure didn't pass the Senate. Still, for the last several years Title X funding has decreased, from $317.5 million in 2010 to $286.5 million in 2016. Under a Trump administration and with a Republican Congress, those numbers could shrink even more." Say, I wonder which party is trying to do this?

Tweet of my heart: ‏@nkjemisin I've listened to Trump voters who insist they aren't racist. What I've learned: They do not think discriminating against PoC is racism. (Grokked from Ann Leckie)

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