Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Facebook is killing the open web?

Hossein Derakshan says Facebook and Instagram are creating bubbles of personal comfort:
Zuckerberg killed links (and the web) because he has created a space that is more like the future of television rather than the internet. Unlike what he preaches, Facebook has divided us into small personal bubbles of comfort. We don’t need to do anything, but to swipe with our thumbs (soon even that wouldn’t be necessary with eyeball detection systems).
All the videos, images, and articles we see in our newsfeeds are picked for us based on our habits, based on our previous likes and reshares, which have taught Facebook about our preferences. Naturally, most of us only like what or who we agree with, and Facebook therefore rarely upsets, challenges, or surprises us.
While Zuckerberg laments at walls and admires bridges, the fact is that his Facebook algorithms have created billions of these comfort bubbles that are even more isolating than walls. Also, he has destroyed the most powerful bridges that perhaps ever existed in the human history, the hyperlinks.
Remember AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy? Those services dominated the internet back in the early 90's. You paid a monthly subscription fee, and they provided internet access along with their own content feeds: news, stocks, weather, forums, etc. You could reach the early Web, but only after passing their portals.

Two things changed that: the spread of local ISP's, and the Netscape browser. ISP competition lowered subscription prices and increased innovation. Having a cheap browser meant people could break away from the big ISP's portals. They could go anywhere on the Web (even AOL's and Compuserve's sites).

That's about the time that content creation took off as well.

I agree with Derakshan that Facebook is a bad deal, for many of the same reasons those early service providers were a bad deal. But Facebook has something they didn't: networking.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Stunning Stupidity from Salon

How deep in the echo chamber do you have to be to publish this? Unbelievable.

Note: that tweet from Salon was published Dec 16, a full five weeks before President-Elect Trump will be inaugurated.

When Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. say something stupid, you file it away and remember. Then when they say or write something that you're inclined to agree with, you remember the stupid things they've said and you pause to reflect. You take time to examine what's been said, to make sure it really is good and that you really do agree with it.

Or you don't, and you go ahead and pass on whatever stupid nonsense you encounter. Like Salon.

Hat tip Instapundit.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trump Talks to Celebrities

President-Elect Trump is talking to lots of celebrities. What's that about?

If attention is what Trump wants, it’s certainly what he’s getting. None of these people are experts in the fields he’s asked them to speak on, but they’re sure bets as far as drumming up news posts. The media is much more eager to cover Trump’s transition activities when they involve celebrities — a simple Google search for “Trump Kanye” will pull up hundreds of news articles from just the last few hours. Perhaps the closest a political meeting has come to the media frenzy of celeb spottings is former Vice President Al Gore, who fittingly will debut a sequel to his climate change documentary at Sundance next month.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Laugh Out Loud, Soulless Hacks Edition

Ryan Cooper writes (The Week) that Democrats need fewer soulless hacks and more true believers:
The narrowness of Hillary Clinton's stunning loss to Donald Trump — especially given the fact that she actually won the popular vote by 2.5 million and rising — has led many liberals to conclude that the Democratic Party only needs a slight adjustment to win future presidential elections. A better candidate, a more competent campaign, or a more credible message on economic issues — any one of them might have kept the presidency in Democratic hands.
There are many things the party must do to rebuild. Here's one more to add to the growing list: The Democrats need a better breed of operative. 
He goes on to describe how Rahm Emanuel and David Brock have abandoned liberal principles in favor of soulless political partisanship. True enough, but then goes on to say this about Terry McAuliffe, Governor of Virginia and close Clinton confidante:
This is a guy so obsessed with party politics that he once left his wife and hours-old infant in the car while he dropped in on a fundraiser. (He's also got a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease.) Yet as governor, he has worked diligently to get ObamaCare's Medicaid expansion in his state, and more importantly, used his pardon power to restore voting rights to 13,000 ex-felons...[H]e is one of only a handful of the Democratic old guard who seems to grasp that sometimes doing the morally right thing (on the advice of left-wing activists, no less) is also smart tactics. Re-enfranchising felons not only guarantees Democrats several thousand votes come election time, it also lends the party extra credibility among black voters (Virginia is 20 percent black) on the most pressing racial justice issue of the day, and among white liberals in the D.C. suburbs. 
Hang on: leaving your family for a fundraiser makes you a true liberal? And enfranchising felons so they'll vote Democrat, that's a liberal principle too? And McAuliffe, a bought and paid for Clinton partisan, is supposed to be a true believer? In what?!

Remember when liberals cared more about people than politics? Yeah, me neither.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Progressivism Indicted

Two interesting indictments of the progressive movement. First Mark Lilla, a historian at Columnia, with an op-ed in the New York Times:

It is a truism that America has become a more diverse country. It is also a beautiful thing to watch. Visitors from other countries, particularly those having trouble incorporating different ethnic groups and faiths, are amazed that we manage to pull it off. Not perfectly, of course, but certainly better than any European or Asian nation today. It’s an extraordinary success story.
But how should this diversity shape our politics? The standard liberal answer for nearly a generation now has been that we should become aware of and “celebrate” our differences. Which is a splendid principle of moral pedagogy — but disastrous as a foundation for democratic politics in our ideological age. In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.

He concludes:
Some years ago I was invited to a union convention in Florida to speak on a panel about Franklin D. Roosevelt’s famous Four Freedoms speech of 1941. The hall was full of representatives from local chapters — men, women, blacks, whites, Latinos. We began by singing the national anthem, and then sat down to listen to a recording of Roosevelt’s speech. As I looked out into the crowd, and saw the array of different faces, I was struck by how focused they were on what they shared. And listening to Roosevelt’s stirring voice as he invoked the freedom of speech, the freedom of worship, the freedom from want and the freedom from fear — freedoms that Roosevelt demanded for “everyone in the world” — I was reminded of what the real foundations of modern American liberalism are. 
Pretty strong stuff, to accuse progressives of abandoning FDR's principles.

John Tierney levels the second indictment in The Real War on Science - The Left has done far more than the Right to set back progress (City Journal). He notes that conservatives don't have much impact on science on way or the other, and finds the Left presents two "huge threats" to science.
The first threat is confirmation bias, the well-documented tendency of people to seek out and accept information that confirms their beliefs and prejudices. In a classic study of peer review, 75 psychologists were asked to referee a paper about the mental health of left-wing student activists. Some referees saw a version of the paper showing that the student activists’ mental health was above normal; others saw different data, showing it to be below normal. Sure enough, the more liberal referees were more likely to recommend publishing the paper favorable to the left-wing activists. When the conclusion went the other way, they quickly found problems with its methodology.
He includes a long list of examples where groupthink and dogma have set back both social and physical science. And that leads "to the second great threat from the Left...":
...its long tradition of mixing science and politics. To conservatives, the fundamental problem with the Left is what Friedrich Hayek called the fatal conceit: the delusion that experts are wise enough to redesign society. Conservatives distrust central planners, preferring to rely on traditional institutions that protect individuals’ “natural rights” against the power of the state. Leftists have much more confidence in experts and the state. Engels argued for “scientific socialism,” a redesign of society supposedly based on the scientific method. Communist intellectuals planned to mold the New Soviet Man. Progressives yearned for a society guided by impartial agencies unconstrained by old-fashioned politics and religion. Herbert Croly, founder of the New Republic and a leading light of progressivism, predicted that a “better future would derive from the beneficent activities of expert social engineers who would bring to the service of social ideals all the technical resources which research could discover.”
This was all very flattering to scientists, one reason that so many of them leaned left. The Right cited scientific work when useful, but it didn’t enlist science to remake society—it still preferred guidance from traditional moralists and clerics. The Left saw scientists as the new high priests, offering them prestige, money, and power. The power too often corrupted. Over and over, scientists yielded to the temptation to exaggerate their expertise and moral authority, sometimes for horrendous purposes.
Those "horrendous purposes" include, but are not limited to: eugenics, insecticide hysteria, bad health science on salt and fat, and last but not least climate change.

Tierney concludes:
To preserve their integrity, scientists should avoid politics and embrace the skeptical rigor that their profession requires. They need to start welcoming conservatives and others who will spot their biases and violate their taboos. Making these changes won’t be easy, but the first step is simple: stop pretending that the threats to science are coming from the Right. Look in the other direction—or in the mirror.
I would suggest that it cuts both ways. Politicians should stop proclaiming themselves scientific experts. And voters need to be more skeptical of politicians' appeals to science, as well as their appeals to morality, religion, and tradition.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

None of the Above

Just wanted to go on record: I oppose both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for President. Neither is offering to solve any of the problems facing the nation. Neither is offering to square foreign policy with American values and goals.

And no, I don't believe Trump will nominate conservatives to the Supreme Court. He supports gun control and abortion. He believes the Federal government should be stronger, and should control more of Americans' lives. Why would he nominate a conservative?

Besides the corruption, dishonesty, and cronyism, Clinton is every bit as dangerous as Trump. She has been wrong on every foreign policy decision that she's participated in. She has no sense of judgment, and will overreact to perceived threats and under-react to real dangers.

But Trump and Clinton aren't the problem. The real problem is us. Americans continue to demand lower taxes but refuse to cut entitlements. They insist on the best doctors, hospitals, and medicines, and scream over the cost, but largely avoid serving in the health industry themselves. They continue to re-elect their Senators and Representatives, even though Congress doesn't have a budget, acquiesces to every loss of freedom, and approves every foreign adventure.

It's clear to me that Trump/Clinton is exactly what Americans want. And they're about to get it, good and hard.