A Glimmer of Hope for a Decentralized Internet

If you don’t own your online services, you’re at the mercy of whoever does. This rule has always been true, but hasn’t been obvious until recently. Service providers have become increasingly tyrannical and arbitrary with the exercise of their control. More and more people are finding themselves banned from services like Facebook and YouTube. Compounding the issue is that the reasons given for the bans are often absurd and that’s assuming any any reasons is given at all.

This type of abusive relationship isn’t good for anybody, but is especially dangerous to individuals with money on the table. Imagine investing years of your life in building up a profitable business on a service like YouTube only to have Google take it away without providing so much as a reason. Some content creators on YouTube are beginning to acknowledge that risk and are taking actions to gain control over their fate:

Whether he’s showing off astronomically expensive computer gaming hardware or dumpster-diving for the cheapest PC builds possible, Linus Sebastian’s videos always strike a chord, and have made him one of the most popular tech personalities on YouTube.

But Google-owned YouTube gets most episodes of Linus Tech Tips a week late.

Now, they debut on his own site called Floatplane, which attracts a much smaller crowd.

A handful of content creators are mentioned in the article. Most of them are too nice or perhaps timid to state the real reasons they’re seeking alternatives to YouTube: YouTube has become a liability. Google; like Facebook, Amazon, Twitter, and other large online service providers; has been hard at work destroying all of the goodwill it built up over its lifetime. There’s no way to know whether a video you upload to YouTube today will be available tomorrow. There isn’t even a guarantee that your account will be around tomorrow. If you post something that irritates the wrong person, or more accurately the wrong machine learning algorithm, it will be removed and your account may be suspended for a few days if you’re lucky or deleted altogether if you’re unlucky. And when your content and account are removed, you have little recourse. There’s nobody you can call. The most you can do is send an e-mail and hope that either a person or machine learning algorithm sees it and have a bit of pity on you.

I’m ecstatic that this recent uptick in censorship is happening. In my opinion centralization of the Internet is dangerous. Large service providers like Google are proving my point. They are also forcing people to decentralize, which advances my goals. So less anybody think I’m ungrateful I want to close this post by giving a sincere thank you to companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and Amazon for being such complete bastards. Their actions are doing wonders for my cause of decentralizing the Internet.

When Journalists Go to War

I’m a big fan of those rare moments when a journalist decides to throw away his access to interviewees, fancy dinner parties, hookers, blow, and yacht trips (involving hookers and blow) by going after the people who dole them out. Unfortunately, It’s such a rare event that when it does happen you can never know if you’ll get to see it again in your lifetime so it must be savored.

Glenn Greenwald is having one of those moments. Greenwald possesses a rare trait when it comes to journalists: integrity. When he started reporting on the Edward Snowden leaks, he left The Guardian for a new site he helped found called The Intercept. He did this in part because he wanted to have a freer hand to write the stories that journalists are dissuaded from writing. However, as with most “news” sites, The Intercept has developed a severe political bias. Greenwald attempted to release a story about the recent Hunter Biden controversy (the one the mainstream news organizations are trying to pretend doesn’t exist). His editors apparently demanded that he remove everything from the story that was critical of Joe Biden so he resigned and posted the final draft of the story he submitted to The Intercept. He has also promised to release copies of the communications between himself and The Intercept after the organization released its claims against Greenwald

This is a ballsy move by Greenwald. He threw away a steady paying job rather than be censored. He also jeopardized his access to interviewees, press events, and other niceties that journalists often rely on in order to obtain content for stories. He will also likely be blacklisted by other major media organizations, which will make finding another regular paying job difficult.

However, all of those things are also restraints used to keep journalists in line. Now that he’s tossed them aside, he’s free to report on whatever he wants no matter who his stories embarrass. He’s one of the few truly free journalists and few things are as entertaining as a truly free journalist. They often become hubs for the dirt mainstream journalists are unwilling to report. I suspect Greenwald will be reporting a lot of stories that have been waiting in the shadows for a truly free journalist. Or he’ll end up committing suicide by shooting myself in the back of the head… twice… with a pump-action shotgun. Either way, I think this is the beginning of a terribly entertaining ride.

A First

For the first time in the history of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) an officer has been found guilty of murder while operating in an official capacity:

Mohamed Noor became the first former Minnesota police officer found guilty of an on-duty murder Tuesday as a Hennepin County jury convicted him for the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk Damond in 2017.

Jurors reached their verdict after about 10 hours of sequestered deliberations in a case that was closely watched nationwide and in Damond’s native Australia. They convicted Noor of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter but acquitted him of the most serious count — second-degree murder.

I’ve been following this case through Lou Raguse’s Twitter account since he was one of the handful of journalists granted access to the trial. The main thing I took away from the trial was the extent to which MPD went to cover up the murder. From body cameras not being turned on at critical moments to Noor’s squad car being washed and returned to service the very next day it was pretty obvious that MPD went as far as it could to cover the up the evidence of this murder. However, the case was so blatant that those efforts ended up being in vain.

There is currently a pending civil case brought by the family of Justine Damond against the City of Minneapolis. The evidence revealed during Noor’s trial will likely provide a lot of legal ammunition for Justine’s family’s case. I hope the City of Minneapolis gets soaked for the entire $50 million being sought. It’s obvious that MPD and the government tasked with overseeing it are horribly corrupt and they deserve some swift and severe punishment.

Californians Receive Some Scraps from the Freedom Table

I frequently bitch about the People’s Republic of Minnesota but at least we have decent overall gun laws (although the politicians, not surprisingly, at constantly at work to change that). The denizens of California don’t even have that. However, a federal court tossed those poor saps a few scraps from the freedom table:

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — High-capacity gun magazines will remain legal in California under a ruling Friday by a federal judge who cited home invasions where a woman used the extra bullets in her weapon to kill an attacker while in two other cases women without additional ammunition ran out of bullets.

“Individual liberty and freedom are not outmoded concepts,” San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez wrote as he declared unconstitutional the law that would have banned possessing any magazines holding more than 10 bullets.

This case stems not from California’s original ban on standard capacity magazines, which allowed gun owners to continue possessing magazines they acquired before the ban, but from a 2016 change that demanded Californians surrender their pre-ban magazines. But that 2016 attempt may end up costing California its earlier magazine ban as well:

Chuck Michel, an attorney for the NRA and the California Rifle & Pistol Association, said the judge’s latest ruling may go much farther by striking down the entire ban, allowing individuals to legally acquire high-capacity magazines for the first time in nearly two decades.

This ruling is potentially good news for gun owners across the entire country. It could be used to invalidate magazines bans in other states that have them and prevent states like the one in which I suffer from implementing them.

In other related news, several California gun owners have miraculously discovered their boats full of standard capacity magazines that went under in 2016. This is great news for both those gun owners and the environment since those lost magazines can now be removed from those marine environments.

Grammar Matters

People are often surprised by what constituted a “classical” education. Education in ancient Rome was heavily focused on grammar. Why? Because the highest aspiration of an educated Roman was to make convincing arguments to get his (sorry ladies, the ancient Romans weren’t into gender equality) clients off the hook for whatever crimes they were accused of perpetrating (much like the decisions of the legal system here in the modern United States, the decisions of Rome’s legal system were more dependent on the ability of lawyers to spin a good yarn than what the evidence indicated).

A brief conversation with the average person will quickly prove that modern education isn’t terribly concerned with grammar. But I urge people to study grammar. While the highest aspiration of an educated person today may not be to impress a judge or jury with impeccable storytelling, the proper use of grammar can still pay dividends:

A pair of student drug dealers have been spared jail after a judge was impressed by the ‘spelling and grammar’ of the texts they sent advertising their product.

[…]

A court heard police examined their mobile phones to find text messages relating to their drug deals composed using perfect spelling and punctuation.

Judge David Hale said the ‘grammar and punctuation’ in the messages was of a much higher standard than normally seen from dealers and indicated a higher level of education.

The bar is set sufficiently low that the appropriate use of a single comma or period qualifies as a “much higher standard than normally seen.” But that’s good news for anybody who “don’t write so good.” They don’t have to study for long to become better than average.

The Hero We Need

Gun buybacks are not only improperly named (you can’t buy back something you never owned in the first place) but they’re also pointless. However, they’re often good for a few laughs. Take this wonderful woman for example:

I love it when people blatantly mock government nonsense.

Score One for the First Amendment

James Webb came across a law enforcer expropriating wealth from a motorist and did what any red blooded American would do, he cranked up NWA’s Fuck the Police. The officer, having no self awareness or sense of humor, cited Webb for violating the city’s noise ordinance. Instead of paying, Webb decided to take the matter to court. The jury quickly decided that the case was “>stupid and ruled in Webb’s favor:

A man facing jail time for blasting the song “F the Police” and allegedly violating Pontiac’s noise ordinance was found not guilty by a jury.

[…]

“The police officer’s reasoning was that he said this music was vulgar. And part of the vulgarity was that it used the F word, but we had on the video that the first man the officer had pulled over; the officer is dropping F-bombs with him. So why is it OK for this man to hear the F-word but not other people?” said Nicholas Somberg, who represented Webb in court.

Webb chose not to pay the fine for allegedly violating the noise ordinance and instead chose to take the case to trial. The jury took all of nine minutes to come back with a not guilty verdict.

Kudos to Webb for taking the citation to court rather than paying it. Kudos to the jury for only taking nine minutes to decide that the accusation against Webb was stupid. And kudos to the officer whose argument was based on the vulgarity of Webb’s music while he was on camera using vulgarities himself.

Score one for the freedom of expression.

More Effective than Voting

The French government decided it was going to bleed its subjects a bit more by passing a fuel tax hike. This didn’t go over well. By “didn’t go over well” I don’t mean the usual American response where people scream bloody murder and claim they’re going to vote the responsible parties out of office when the next election rolls around, I mean shit was literally on fire. In response the French government has reconsidered the hike:

Fuel tax rises which had led to weeks of violent protests in France have been suspended for six months.

PM Edouard Philippe said that people’s anger must be heard, and the measures would not be applied until there had been proper debate with those affected.

Smart move. Considering France’s history, the next step in the protest would have likely involve guillotines.

Unexpected Microsoft

Microsoft has been making all sorts of unexpected moves in the last few years. The company released Visual Studio Code, which is not only an excellent code editing environment but available under the open source MIT License. In addition to that, Microsoft also released an open source version of its .NET framework and Windows Subsystem for Linux. Needless to say, it’s becoming more difficult to hate the company lately.

Now to top it all off it sounds like Microsoft is going to abandon its customer HTML rendering engine and replace it with Chromium:

Because of this, I’m told that Microsoft is throwing in the towel with EdgeHTML and is instead building a new web browser powered by Chromium, which uses a similar rendering engine first popularized by Google’s Chrome browser. Codenamed “Anaheim,” this new browser for Windows 10 will replace Edge as the default browser on the platform, according to my sources, who wish to remain anonymous. It’s unknown at this time if Anaheim will use the Edge brand or a new brand, or if the user interface (UI) between Edge and Anaheim is different. One thing is for sure, however; EdgeHTML in Windows 10’s default browser is dead.

I have mixed feeling about this. On the one hand, it’s good to see Microsoft moving towards an open source rendering engine. On the other hand, I don’t enjoy seeing the rendering engine market turning into a duopoly (with the only major non-Chromium engine, Firefox’s, having a paltry percentage of market share).

Watching Microsoft do an about face from being the satanic figure to the open source community has been fun to watch. It probably is the greatest testament to the viability of open source software out there.