Storms never last, … or do they?

Image result for go daddy logoVarious ISPs have prevented the hate blog “Daily Stormer”, widely described as a “sewer of humanity”, from passing through their routers, or at least slowed it down. I applaud this move, despite the American’s love of free speech. Americans have free press, but as the cynical adage goes: free press belongs to those who own one, even in the United States. Those who own the telecommunications equipment can determine what passes through their routers and what gets blocked. It gives one a sense of optimism that society and businesses can do what the American govermnment can’t legally do, Trump notwithstanding. ISPs and domain registrars are not bound by the constitution, but instead are generally bound by their own terms of service. Hate speech is generally seen as a violation of the terms of service for most internet-based companies. In this case, the hate speech was especially tasteless, involving verbally attacking Heather Heyer, who was the one who died in Charlottesville, Virginia after being rammed by a car driven this past weekend by Alex Fields, member of Vanguard America, a hate group based in Charlottesville.

Daily Stormer had their “.com” domain name removed by their domain registrar, GoDaddy. Google Domains declined to register their domain name as well. They were even denied after they tried to register their domain with a Russian domain registrar, using a “.ru” TLD (top-level domain).

There are a couple of problems. While being denied a TLD is a good move, it is not the same thing as blocking internet traffic. It just makes finding the website slightly more difficult. Neither domain registrars held their content. The content was on off-site servers, where any web pages, videos and images would have been held. Anyone determined enough could access the website through their IP address, and leave it that way, bypassing any need to know the website name.

Second, there is another cynical adage that every prohibition produces its own underground. The Daily Stormer can always migrate to an alternative internet called “the dark web”. When that happens, anyone with a TOR browser can visit the website. And worse, the IP addresses of those participating in the communication will be undetected and undetectable, through a series of masqueraded IPs that can even obscure the country of origin of the people communicating. And actually, Ars Technica reports that Daily Stormer has already registered a “.onion” domain, a URL on the dark web.

For some more depth, see Ars Technica.

The disappearance of misc.activism.progressive and the emergence of Thought Crime Radio

Almost four years ago, the articles in the USENET newsgroup misc.activism.progressive ground to a halt, and moderator Rich Winkel has all but disappeared from the USENET, whom I learn resided in Harrisburg (up until 2010, at least), a half hour or so drive from his former employer, the University of Missouri. He is now a computer systems analyst, and in his spare time, is a writer for the Thought Crime Radio blog.

misc.activism.progressive (MAP) was a moderated newsgroup which accepted submissions from authors of left-leaning articles. Opinions ranged from the mainstream NY Transfer News Collective (who often sent articles from, or based on news from Reuters, Wall Street Journal, the UK Independent and other feeds from the popular press) to the conspiracy theorists at InfoWars.

Some time between 2007 and 2008, one of the biggest contributors to MAP, NY Transfer News Collective, stopped posting articles, and its parent company, Blythe Systems seems to have folded, leaving no Internet trace of itself. The daily output of MAP was cut in half as a result.

Postings gradually died out until March 2011 when they died out completely. As far as I had been able to search out, there appeared to be no warning of this in previous years. Mind you, one would have to search through tens of thousands of posts going back to 2007 just before things started to peter out. By about 2010, name searches for “Rich Winkel” began to come up empty, but his email address was still around.

This newsgroup was always a great source of thought and news regarding labour, politics, and “alternative voices” (as long as you stay away from Infowars). It was always weak on health and science coverage. Medicare was well-covered (because that was more about government, and they were always better at that), but articles along the lines of “chemical xyz can kill you” were usually flaky and withered once you did your own research.

Measles epidemiology and junk science

To take a very recent example, Rich Winkel attached his name to this article, written a few days ago, which claims zero deaths from measles since 2003, but 108 deaths due to vaccines during the same period. The first quote he offers for the zero figure was by CDC’s Dr. Anne Schuchat, filtered though Associated Press, filtered through Fox News, filtered though the blog Vaccine Impact. The VAERS database he refers to says in its disclaimer that any statistics mentioned should not be taken as cause-and-effect. Anyone with high school math can tell you that correlation does not imply causation. VAERS says that they take in all reported data such as mortality after the injection of a vaccine whether or not the death was associated with a vaccine. The deaths, in other words were recorded in the database even if there were pre-existing conditions, accidents, or whatnot.

But of course, zero is a powerful number. I mean, zero. Zero! How can you argue with zero? Well, in fact you can. Going back to the CDC’s epidemiological data, there are deaths on any year between 2003 and now caused by Measles in the United States. It’s just that the number of measles outbreaks themselves is so low in the United States that it would not surprise me that the numbers would be extremely low (during 2003-2012 between 1 and 4). If I were the CDC chairman, I would round those number to zero, too.

And that would be one death for every dozen or so cases – some years, that a dozen cases would be all of the measles cases in a country of nearly 300 million inhabitants. On the other hand, the 108 figure is quoted without saying how many Americans were vaccinated during the past 12 years. Once I do the research from the source (rather than from quotes of quotes), I seem to get a picture of a successful immunization program, and the 108 deaths (out of the hundreds of millions of vaccinated Americans) could have been due to anything. One death out of a dozen for measles is a larger number than 100 deaths out of 300 million for vaccinations, by several orders of magnitude.

Death is one of the end products of measles, by the way. The CDC reports that, worldwide, 168,000 people died as a result of measles in 2008 alone. That number is pretty sobering.  This is a significant decrease from over 700,000 deaths in 2000. The CDC says that all of these numbers are low, since measles tends to be under-reported. But the 78% decrease, no doubt happened due to a successful immunization program. The CDC says the worldwide numbers cannot go down to zero, since there are counrties such as India, which are slow to apply the recommendations of the WHO, or cannot afford to.

The Florida cases reported by the CDC back in September, 2014 consisted of four child siblings, all between the ages of 7 and 13, none of whom were vaccinated. Measles is transmitted through the air by affected people coughing or sneezing. Did it spread? No, it didn’t. Why? The children in the school they attended, as well as the staff, were immunized, according to the same article. The children attended an amusement park where it was likely someone with measles was there from another country (this is usually the main disease vector in the United States for catching measles in any given year).

The family of those children claimed a religious exemption from vaccinations, and for some time the children recieved a free ride from needing to be immunized thanks to being around their immunized classmates (this is called herd immunity), but that was no protection once they came close to anyone with the actual disease.

Questioning whether the vaccine “works” is a distracting issue (actually, a non-issue since whether the measles vaccine works is beyond debate by any informed person including the CDC and the WHO), and a confusing, obfuscatory barrage of decontextualized factoids from this-and-that source does not advance any useful discussion.

The Philosophical issue of vaccinations

The issue here isn’t about a non-working vaccine or about big bad pharma making money off immunizations (which they are, but in at least this one case, it is well-earned IMO), but Rich Winkel misses a greater philosophical question that can indeed cause much genuine and badly-needed debate:

The parents of these children deny their children the vaccination, making a claim to associated with their freedom of religion. Should the need to protect the population from disease override the indiviual’s freedom of religion for the good of the general population?

I would weigh in that surely, not immunizing your children places them in harm’s way, and you ought to be seen as a negligent parent if you chose this path, regardless of your beliefs; but at the same time, you are exposing others to disease by their lack of protection. The viruses don’t care about your rights, that’s for sure.

But hey, that’s just me. This is more of a topic which would play to Rich Winkel’s strengths, and it truly is a debate suppressed by the major media organs of our culture. I would leave the non-debate as to whether the Vaccine “works” to Fox News.

The questions of our ‘net denizens

From time to time one gets curious about the most popular questions on the minds of people on the ‘net.

If I enter “why” in the Google search, depending on the letter that comes after, I get, through autocomplete:

  • Why be happy when you could be normal
  • Why does Facebook suck
  • Why fighting should stay in hockey
  • Why? For the glory of Satan, of course!
  • Why girls like bad boys
  • Why hashtag
  • Why hipsters are annoying
  • Why jailbreak Apple TV
  • Why Jesus
  • Why Jimi Hendrix is the best
  • Why Justin Bieber sucks
  • Why Kakashi killed Rin
  • Why Kanye West is a Genius
  • Why Lululemon
  • Why men cheat
  • Why married men cheat
  • Why milk is bad for you
  • Why Mio is bad for you
  • Why not both
  • Why nice guys finish last
  • Why Nintendo power is ending
  • Why Nunu Why
  • Why Pepsi is better than Coke
  • Why powerful men cheat
  • Why pixar movies are all secretly about the apocalypse
  • Why stop now
  • Where is Chuck Norris
  • Where is my mind
  • Where do bad kids go
  • Where are your gibes now
  • Where is bigfoot
  • Where can I buy cards against humanity
  • Where do cool things happen
  • Where did God leave his shoes
  • Where was Justin Bieber born
  • Where does Kate Middleton shop
  • Where does Kylie Jenner shop
  • Where is my droid
  • Where was Micheal Jackson born

Follow me on Twitter

This suggestion is also a test posting for Twitter. I am attempting to acquire the capcbility of my posts also becoming tweets that you can follow on handheld devices and cell phones. My url is here.

I understand that you can get updates via SMS by texting follow strider_sj to 21212 on your cell phone.

For the time being, this will only apply to postings made after today.

Search terms that did not quite make it, annotated.

On WordPress, we can see a list of search terms people used to find entries on our blogs. Here are some of the more amusing ones. These won’t lead to anything useful on my blog. While my blog has the odd bit of nudity, this is not the mainstay of the blog. All mis-spellings are from the search string used:

  • valerie bertinelli topless
    • I have only a bad drawing of VB’s face; and it appears with about 20 other celebs on the same crappy album cover (CAC).
  • naked klingon women
    • I have no klingons, klingon women, or naked klingon women. Just a fully-clothed CAC with William Shatner, and a fully-clothed g-rated vid with Leonard Nimoy.
  • topless lobsters
    • If you are looking for topless lobsters, the closest you’ll get is to go to New Brunswick. I have only the odd CAC depicting topless women (human ones). Sorry to disappoint.
  • scottish kilt organist
    • I have nothing with kilts, few to no Scots that I can think of, and maybe a few organists, but they are wearing pants.
  • beautiful naked women with their legs sp
    • This search string was cut off just as shown, but I get the point. Most of the women here are on album covers; and if they are nude, they are not spread-eagled. Frankly, if you are looking for porn, my site is the most boring place in the world to look for it. By Internet standards, what I have in terms of nudity is campy, perhaps “naughty”, but I would stop short of calling it porn. By Internet standards, far short.
  • seventies boobs
    • Seventies boobs. Not the same as eighties boobs I suppose. There is an empty-headed blog article in this one somewhere, I know it.
  • lady wrestler leg photos
    • No lady wrestlers on this blog, so no lady wrestlers legs. The only wrestler I can think of, Sweet Daddy Siki, is male, as implied by the word “Daddy”
  • guy jumping guitar album cover
    • No CACs of guys with jumping guitars, no guys jumping a guitar (WTF?), and no CACs of guitars jumping. Sorry once again.
  • topless seductive nipples
    • … As opposed to “topped” seductive nipples? or topless “ugly” nipples?
  • topless flautist
    • The only topless flautist I have is a CAC of Herbie Mann. No topless women playing flutes (musical or otherwise) on this blog.
  • topless chocolate wrestle
    • Topless women wrestling in chocolate will only make it here if it is a CAC. None have been found, so as of yet we have no chocolate wrestlers, and no topless wrestlers.
  • swedish women football women beach tople
    • No football, no beach football, and no women’s beach football, no women’s football, and certainly none with topless women, topless Swedish women, or topless Swedes.
  • artistic hair dye raccoon
    • ?

USENET: Death of the Alt.* Hierarchy

The Usenet has been, and continues to be, a great source of information, where technologies that push product can easily be pushed aside using filters. There are more than 10,000 newsgroups on nearly every topic that delienates our human existence, all hierarchically arranged. The major hierarchies are known as “The Big 8”: comp.*, humanities.*, misc.*, news.*, rec.*, sci.*, soc.*, and talk.*.

The one hierarchy which has been the bastard child of the usenet has been the alt.* hierarchy. Like all technologies, they start off with good intentions. According to one follower of the Big 8:

The alt.* hierarchy was begun, in part, as a reaction against the management principles of what came to be known as the Big-8. It is an “alternative” approach to creating newsgroups

This meant that, in reaction to certain sites placing a “veto” on certain newsgroups and due to the political influence certain site maintainers had, why not make it possible for anyone to make any newsgroup they want, without the need for a vote? That was the idea behind “alt.*”

Most people who maintain USENET sites will freely admit that much of the alt.* hierarchy has become a moral and technological toilet. It carries nearly every nutty newsgroup bounded only by imagination, including groups no one has ever seriously posted to, as well as long-dead newsgroups that also have no posts (unless you count spam). Examples are

  • alt.swedish-chef.bork.bork.bork
  • alt.n (where “n” = monday, tuesday, wednesday, thursday, friday, saturday, sunday)
  • alt.sex.extraterrestrial
  • alt.food.pez

… you get the idea. This led the folks carrying these newsgroups to decide that: OK, maybe we’ll make the carrying of the alt.* hierarchy optional. Thus, the carrying of the alt.* hierarchy has been considered optional since its inception. I don’t know of any universities that carry it.

There is another problem with the alt.* hierarchy. It has been used as a vehicle for carrying child porn. If we censor ONLY these newsgroups, that would only mean that people can create others within alt.* that do the same thing. This is also the same for newsgroups that carry ISOs of complete software suites, mp3s of complete albums, and DVDs of movies. None of these activities are what I would call “legal”, and is easy justification for axing the whole hierarchy for reasons of freedom from liability for the ISP. That still leaves the “big 8”, which are mostly safe from illegal activity (unless it’s spam).

Verizon will be cutting alt.* from its offerings, and Time-Warner will no longer offer USENET at all later this month. It must be stated that alt.* carries a lot of worthwhile groups that are active, with their own FAQ maintainers. In light of this, many ISPs have taken the middle ground of not carrying the alt.* binary groups, leaving the text groups intact. What Verizon has done would be considered extreme by the standards of most ISPs.

There are hierarchies that are not part of the “Big 8”, having to do with gaining inexpensive (free) tech support, such as microsoft.*, corel.*, borland.*, linux.*, and so on. These are even more worthwhile, and I hope they are keeping them. They typically are relatively free of spam and have more wothwhile posts. There are knowledgeable people there who can answer your queries in a relatively short time.

Freedom of speech has historically been limited by the understanding that “freedom of the press belongs to those who own one.” For the Internet, the argument is specious, since it was taxpayer’s money that built it in the first place.

That means that even the attempt to privatize it to various companies (Time, Sprint, Verizon, AT&T, Bell, and so on) constitutes a form of corporate welfare. The questions seem to come down to: who really has the right to decide what newsgroups I can and can’t read? I suppose someone has to manage alt.*, but who gets to do this, and in who’s interest? These are really the questions that need to be explored.

Foggy essays

I have a “foggy” essay generator that just did the following, for an essay on folklore:

Of course, the characterization of critically co-optive criteria adds explicit performance contours to the profound meaning of "The Raw and the Cooked". Conversely, a constant flow of field-collected input ordinates must utilize and be functionally interwoven with Krapp's Last Tape. Similarly, a primary interrelationship of system and/or subsystem logistics is holistically compounded, in the context of improved subcultural compatibility-testing.

If I handed a whole essay like this in to a prof, I don’t know what I’d get, but it’s likely he’d see through it and just think it was junk, which it is. anti fungus. It has a database of random sentences and catch phrases, and it just weaves them together into a mind-numbing treatise of meaningless drivel. I think George Orwell would have had something to say about it.