The developers of Element; a decentralized, federated, and secure messaging client; were just informed that their application has been suspended from the Google Play Store, which means Android users cannot currently install Element unless they do it through F-Droid or side loading. Why did Google suspend the app? At first Element’s developers weren’t given a reason but they were eventually informed the suspension was because of abusive content. Both the lack of transparency and citing abusive content have become staples of application store suspensions, which are two of many things that make centralized application stores like the Apple App Store and Google Play Store so frustrating for both users and developers.
The abusive content justification is bullshit because Element is no different than any other messaging application in that all content is user created. If Element is removed due to showing abusive content then by that very same justification Signal, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Google’s own Gmail should be removed. Furthermore, Element actually has a pretty complete set of moderation tools so Google can’t even argue that the lack of moderation is the culprit. But this doesn’t matter because there are no consequences for Google if it suspends an application for incorrect reasons. Agreements between developers and Google (and Apple for that matter) are one-sided. The only option for developers when their applications are suspended is to beg for clemency.
The suspension of Element is yet another example on the already extensive list that shows why centralized application stores and closed platforms are bad ideas. Without prior notice or (initially) any reason Google made it so Android users can no longer install Element unless they jump through some hoops (fortunately, unlike with iOS, Android generally gives you some options for installing applications that aren’t in the Play Store). Google might decide to be magnanimous and change its mind. Or it might not. In any case there’s very little that Element’s developers or Android users can do about it.
I’m going to start this post by quoting myself from yesterday:
It is also easy to see how the state was able to become more authoritarian as more and more people migrated into tightly packed cities (there’s a reason the most authoritarian regimes tightly control travel) and as the state claimed monopoly powers over critical infrastructure such as electricity, power, and sanitation. If you live in a city, the very things you depend on to survive are likely entirely controlled by the state and that gives it literal power of life and death.
I think the universe may be conspiring to prove my point:
The mayor went on to announce the “business ambassadors program” — an effort to get nonessential businesses to close.
“This behavior is irresponsible and selfish,” he said of those that remain open.
He said the Department of Water and Power will shut off services for the businesses that don’t comply with the “safer at home” ordinance.
If you ask a random Joe on the street why the state usually claims a monopoly on providing utilities like power and water, the odds are extremely good that they will claim that those things are natural monopolies. It’s a bullshit claim because natural monopolies don’t exist. The real reason the state claims a monopoly on those things is because those things provide it tremendous power. A lack of power and water will cripple most businesses (and residences) this day and age.
Remember Minneapolis’s Hooverville? As usual the overlords of the city wanted to sweep their homeless problem under the rug but were hampered by the fact that the media was giving heavy coverage to the camp. So instead of the usual tactic of sending the police in under the auspice of “public health” to breakup the camp, Minneapolis’s overlords had to go through the work of setting up a homeless shelter. Now that the media coverage has subsided, the homeless individuals who were brought to the shelter are being kicked to the curb:
On Monday, officials in Minneapolis capped a yearlong effort to clear the state’s biggest homeless encampment by closing the temporary emergency shelter on Cedar Avenue, where they had forced residents of the camp to move roughly five months ago.
Won’t this result in another Hooverville popping up? Of course it will and the city official know that:
Officials are aware of plans for another tent settlement this year and are working on a plan for responding to it.
I’m betting the plan involves nipping the Hooverville in the bud before it gets national coverage. Nobody involved in the Minneapolis government wants a repeat of last year’s embarrassment (which wasn’t the existence of the Hooverville but the media coverage that prevented the government from sending in law enforcers to confiscate the tents and crack some homeless skulls in the hopes of convincing them to go be homeless somewhere else).
Gun restriction advocates haven’t enjoyed much recent success in their political efforts so they’ve switched gears. They’ve been leaning on corporations to lean on gun retailers. This has resulted in banks refusing to do business with gun retailers and other such nonsense. Now Salesforce has decided to cave to the unwashed masses and is telling gun retailers to either stop selling modern firearms or abandon its platform:
SAN FRANCISCO — On its website, Salesforce.com touts retailer Camping World as a leading customer of its business software, highlighting its use of products to help sales staff move product. A Camping World executive is even quoted calling Salesforce’s software “magic.”
But behind the scenes in recent weeks, the Silicon Valley tech giant has delivered a different message to gun-selling retailers such as Camping World: Stop selling military-style rifles, or stop using our software.
The pressure Salesforce is exerting on those retailers — barring them from using its technology to market products, manage customer service operations and fulfill orders — puts them in a difficult position. Camping World, for example, spends more than $1 million a year on Salesforce’s e-commerce software, according to one analyst estimate. Switching to another provider now could cost the company double that to migrate data, reconfigure systems and retrain employees.
Not many better examples of corporate mutually assured destruction exist than this one. One the one hand Camp World could fold and decide to stop selling modern firearms. If it did, it would almost certainly incite the wrath of gun owners and, as Dick’s Sporting Goods can tell you, pissing off gun owners can hurt your bottom line. On the other hand Camp World could tell Salesforce to go pound sand, which would cost the company both money and public relations, since it spent so much time touting Camp World as one of its success stores. Either way this move could cost Salesforce many other accounts since I’m willing to bet that Camp World isn’t the only gun retailer using Salesforce.
There is a lesson to be learned here. Becoming dependent on a third-party platform is a liability. If you make your business dependent on a third-party platform, your business is suddenly at its mercy. The third-party might come to you some day and tell you that you need to change your business model or it will pull the rug out from under you. If you’re a business owner that values your independence, then it’s in your best interest to avoid becoming dependent on any single third-party.
Once again proving that the concept of due process isn’t acknowledged even in so-called liberal democracies, the overlords in New Zealand have announced that in the aftermath of the Christchurch attacks they’re not just punishing the shooter, but they’re also punishing every gun owner in the nation:
New Zealand will ban all types of semi-automatic weapons and assault rifles following the Christchurch attacks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said.
The announcement comes less than a week after 50 people were killed at two mosques, allegedly by a lone gunman.
Ms Ardern said she expected new legislation to be in place by 11 April, saying: “Our history changed forever. Now, our laws will too.”
Just because you had no hand in the commission of a crime doesn’t mean you can’t be punished. Now the slaves in New Zealand will join their counterparts in most of the other Commonwealth nations in being all but entirely disarmed.
Fool me once; shame on you. Fool me 500,076 times, still shame on you. Trump has been in the White House for three years and he, despite having broken pretty much every political promise he made, still has zealous supporters. What’s his secret? His secret is that his supporters are very good at self delusion. Whenever news breaks that Trump is ready to support some reduction of state power his supporters are quick to say, “See? I told you he would reduce government!” Then when he fails to follow through his supporter say, “This is just part of his three dimensional chess game against the libtards!”
I’ve lost count of how may dimensions Trump’s chess game supposedly has at this point. I think it’s somewhere around 96 dimensional. But he decided to add an extra dimension yesterday when he reneged on his claim to support pulling American troops out of Syria:
WASHINGTON — Two months after declaring all U.S. troops are leaving Syria, President Donald Trump wrote to members of Congress that he now agrees “100%” with keeping a military presence in Syria.
This news comes as a shock to nobody who has paid attention to his track record.
Of course Trump isn’t unique in this regard. Lies are political capital and finding an honest politician carries worse odds than even the most rigged boxing match. While those who oppose Trump will scream at the top of their lungs about the importance of electing anybody else in 2020, the only thing electing a different president will do is shuffle the same shit around. After all, Trump’s predecessor campaigned on getting the United States out of its endless state of war and ended up getting the country into a few extra wars before his time in office was up.
I’m a huge fan of the Hardcore History and History on Fire podcasts so I was excited when I saw that the hosts, Dan Carlin and Danielle Bolelli respectively, posted a conversation they recently had. The two discussed several things including modern political discourse.
One thing Dan said really resonated with me. He noted that he remembers a time when certain concepts, such as support for freedom of speech, were so close to universal in the United States that you could take them for granted in a political discussion and how he has a difficult time operating in an environment where that is no longer the case. I’m not a very old man but even in my relatively short life I’ve seen some dramatic shifts in political discourse. When I was in college certain near universals still existed including support for freedom of speech (although that was dying) and due process (which was also beginning to die). While an individual may not actually have believed in those concepts, they almost always, especially if they were a politician, paid lip service to them. Today’s world is a different one. Consider this fiasco that just went down here in Minnesota:
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A Minnesota House committee has passed a proposed “red flag” law that would allow families and police to get court orders to temporarily remove guns from people judged to be an imminent danger to themselves or others.
Due process, at one time, meant that an individual was only punished after a trial. Today due process isn’t even paid lip service. Rather legislation, of which this is just the latest example (civil forfeiture probably remains the most overt example), blatantly violates the concept of due process. What’s fascinating though is that these violation of due process aren’t met with widespread opposition. Gun owners are opposing this instance for obvious reasons but most people seem to either not care or, worse yet, enthusiastically support it.
I’ve even seen comments from professors who have reported surprise that students have expressed disagreement with the idea that authoritarianism is bad. Even my short life witnessed a time when the concept of authoritarianism was almost universally reviled (if not necessarily in practice, at least in words) here in the United States. Now support for authoritarianism is growing on both sides of the political spectrum.
I make no effort to hide my disgust with politics. Part of my disgust stems from the fact that many previously near universally supported concepts such as freedom of speech are no longer near universal. Expressing support for such concepts in today’s political environment oftentimes leads not just to disagreement but to a complete breakdown of civility (for example, depending on the other person’s political views, you might find yourself being labeled a fascist or a communist). Trying to have a reasoned debate in an environment where no ground rules exist most people appear disinterested in either being civility or establishing ground rules is, frankly, impossible.
A piece of legislation will generally do the opposite of what its title claims, which is why it should come as no surprise that the passage of the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) preceded a significant in crease in sex trafficking:
When the SESTA-FOSTA bills were being hashed out in Congress, sex workers loudly advocated against them, saying that rather than decrease sex trafficking, these laws would make it more likely. According to new police statistics, they were right.
New statistics shared by the San Francisco police show that sex workers, unsurprisingly, were right about the effect this law would have on their profession and on sex trafficking. According to KPIX 5, while most violent crime is down in San Francisco, sex trafficking shot up 170 percent in 2018.
I’m fairly certain that the politicians who pushed for SESTA see this as a feature, not a bug. After all, consensual sex work is a mutual exchange of money for sex. It harms nobody. But most people don’t base their morality on harm alone and the puritanical history of the United States has etched certain oddities in the societal psyche such as the idea that sex itself is dirty. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t matter because politicians would legislate based on their personal morality, they would legislate based entirely on whether a certain act causes real harm. But this isn’t an ideal world and these moralists we call lawmakers legislate their morality all the time and, I’m fairly certain, feel a rush or joy whenever they see somebody who they consider immoral harmed by legislation.
The best argument that can be made for the abolition of government is the fact that people with power cannot be trusted to not use that power to target and hurt anybody they personally dislike.
Never underestimate a bureaucracies absolutism when it comes to following its own rules:
As the plane was preparing to take off for a second time and depart from the Great White North, the aircraft ran into a mechanical issue. Natalie Noonan, a United Airlines spokeswoman, told Global News that the door of the aircraft wouldn’t shut because it had likely frozen in the frigid temperatures.
However, because the airport had no customs officers on duty overnight, passengers were unable to leave the plane.
As the hours ticked away, temperatures continued to drop, sinking to as cold as -26 degrees Fahrenheit around 8 a.m. AST in Goose Bay, according to Weather Underground data.
I’m sure United Airlines is relieved to not be the source of the problem. However, I’m doubting the passengers sitting on a plane with a door that wouldn’t close in subzero weather were seeing the wisdom of barring them from deplaning because a bureaucrat wasn’t present to process their papers.
Apple’s quest to make its products thinner at any cost is once again making some customers unhappy. There have been reports of iPad Pros arriving bent out of the box. I would be unhappy even if a $100 table arrived bent out of the box so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’d be unhappy if an $800+ tablet arrived bent out of the box. But now that Apple is positioning itself as a luxury products company, it’s striving to provide the same level of customer satisfaction as, say, Patek Philippe, right? After all, if you purchased a new Patek Philippe watch and it had any defect whatsoever, the company would likely bend over backwards to remedy the situation since it knows that, as a luxury products company, it lives an dies by its reputation for customer satisfaction. If you believed that, you would be incorrect.
Instead of addressing the issue of bent iPad Pros, Apple has taken the route of using corporate euphemisms to explain why bent iPad Pros are something with which customers will just have to live:
These precision manufacturing techniques and a rigorous inspection process ensure that these new iPad Pro models meet an even tighter specification for flatness than previous generations. This flatness specification allows for no more than 400 microns of deviation across the length of any side — less than the thickness of four sheets of paper. The new straight edges and the presence of the antenna splits may make subtle deviations in flatness more visible only from certain viewing angles that are imperceptible during normal use. These small variances do not affect the strength of the enclosure or the function of the product and will not change over time through normal use.
That’s a lot of words to say your brand new $800+ iPad Pro may arrive at your doorstep bent.
This issue reminds me a lot of the issue with the iPhone 4 where holding it in your left hand could cause cellular signal degradation (and thus drop your call). Instead of addressing the issue right away, Steve Jobs tried to argue that the solution was to hold the phone “correctly.” Eventually Apple opted for the half-assed solution of providing a free case, which was at least better than publishing an official page that used a lot of words to try to hand wave the problem away.
Between this and the high failure rate of the MacBook butterfly switch keyboards, Apple is having a rough start to its transition from a consumer electronics company into a luxury products company.