Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America blast House Majority Whip James Clyburn after the congressman likens President Trump to Adolf Hitler and says the Trump family is the greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime. They’re also aghast as CNN receives a Cronkite award for their disastrous Parkland Town Hall from 2018. And they wonder what is going on as George Conway, husband of White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway, engages in a very public Twitter spat with President Trump.

 

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America are glad to see New Yorkers souring on Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez despite her glowing media coverage and roll their eyes at her explanation for her dip in popularity. They also question the journalistic integrity at Reuters after reporter Joseph Menn held on to a story about Beto O’Rourke’ being a member of the hacker group “The Cult of the Dead Cow” until after his loss to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. And they argue that long shot candidates like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who attracted a measly six supporters to his last event, should quit crowding the field and let more experienced and recognizable candidates fight it out.

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Don’t Let Terrorists Ruin the Internet

 

As of late Friday, it was still incredibly easy to access video of the New Zealand terror attack. Only a bit of searching found it still available on Facebook, where the massacre was first live-streamed before going viral on other social media platforms such as Twitter and YouTube. The gunman wanted amplification, and he got it. It was even easier to find the shooter’s rant, infused with white supremacy and deep familiarity with the online world and associated subcultures.

Not that tech companies aren’t trying to counter it. Indeed, they have every incentive to — both in the name of human decency and as companies already under tremendous pressure for inadequate content moderation. But a fast as the videos are pulled down, they are reuploaded. The platforms, despite cutting-edge AI and thousands of human moderators, are again proving “no match for the speed of their users; new artificial-intelligence tools created to scrub such platforms of terrorist content could not defeat human cunning and impulse to gawk,” writes Charlie Warzel in The New York Times.

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As Facebook celebrates its 15th anniversary, it is coming into controversies on all sides: political, psychological, social, and more. Thus, Jack assembles a panel of youth to discuss their own experiences with Facebook and how it has affected them. They also reveal their thoughts about the site’s effect on themselves, their peers, and society as a whole.

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The Microsoft Myth: We Shouldn’t Assume More Antitrust Will Give Us More Tech Innovation

 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren argues that if Washington breaks up Big Tech — and more aggressively reviews acquisitions going forward — the result will be more competition and thus more innovation than would occur otherwise. Just look at history. As the Democratic presidential candidate explains in a blog post:

The government’s antitrust case against Microsoft helped clear a path for Internet companies like Google and Facebook to emerge. The story demonstrates why promoting competition is so important: it allows new, groundbreaking companies to grow and thrive — which pushes everyone in the marketplace to offer better products and services.

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America argue that Beto O’Rourke running for president is actually a good thing because it will either show media infatuation can get you elected or burst O’Rourke’s hype bubble. They are also concerned by the alarming rise in mental health disorders in teens that is linked to social media use. And they also give Elizabeth Warren a molecule of credit for defending capitalism, only to watch her then say markets don’t work for health care or education.

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The 61st Anniversary of Vanguard 1

 

I hope that people will forgive another semi-vanity post. This Sunday the 17th marks the 61st anniversary of the launch of Vanguard 1. It’s the fourth satellite and is the oldest one still in orbit. Here are a few pictures of it and various Vanguard people (some of which I’ve posted before). Pictured below are […]

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Blockchain: The Most Over-Hyped Technology

 

I went looking recently for success stories in the blockchain space. I was looking for real projects, actual implemented applications that use the unique qualities of blockchain architecture — distributed, open, anonymous, secure, redundant — to achieve some real-world task.

What I found was what I’ve found every time I’ve done this: lots of breathless articles with misleading titles and no substance, full of links to “real world success stories” that turn out to be puff pieces about the future of blockchain with no references to existing systems or real-world implementations.

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Elizabeth Warren’s Wrongheaded Plan to Break Up Big Tech

 

An encouraging result of Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s mega-ambitious plan to break up Amazon, Alphabet-Google, and Facebook is her interview with The Washington Post tech reporter Cat Zakrzewski. At the end of the Q&A, Zakrzewski asked the Democratic 2020 contender, “How do you avoid unintended consequences on innovation if you break the companies up?” To which Warren replied, “I think what we have right now is the unintended consequence. The giants are destroying competition in one area after another.”

This is good. Warren allows for unintended consequences when implementing public policy. Little of the activist feverishness about a Big Tech breakup has acknowledged their existence or that of trade-offs. More should be expected of policymakers. Conceding the reality of both provides a starting point for debate. That said, Warren seems oblivious to the potential unintended consequences or trade-offs of her proposal.

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From the Ineluctable Truths Department

 

The universe allows for considerable diversity of opinion on a variety of topics, and in myriad domains, we are free to disagree without consequence. But there is a natural order, and, as the poet Stephen Crane observed, the universe feels no sense of obligation to us, no duty to conform the inflexible vertices of its […]

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A Perplexing Trend: Visually Complicated Menus

 

I have been noticing that menus of all kinds–from websites to restaurants–have become more complicated and thus more and more difficult to navigate. The trend toward clean and simple seems to be reversing. Now, I would say most of the time when I go to a website, I am overwhelmed with visual tiles on the landing page, plus information revealed only to the enthusiastic scroller, menus layered under other menus, and pages that do not deliver as promised. It can take several minutes of clicking around to figure out what to do next.

This now widespread tendency to present the customer with confusing arrays of choices, and make it difficult to complete such simple actions as viewing a product sample, makes me wonder whether sprawling menus are not some kind of marketing strategy that increases sales. Non-profits are guilty of it–note the inscrutable internal workings of the College Board site–but most private companies are doing it, too. Just the other day my index finger got a big workout with the mouse merely trying to locate a demo for a tech product that the company was presumably wanting to sell to interested schools. Also, our school’s online portfolio and PD credits system is not really something one could teach to a colleague. You simply make selections and click the mouse, because neither logic nor intuition helps with the opaque setup. You just keep boldly advancing, and somehow the work gets done.

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The Creepy Line (2018 Documentary)

 

In 1987, Milton Friedman published an article in the WSJ about how polls on Bork were being deliberately biased against him. The ideological gatekeepers have advanced far beyond this with search engines.

This scary documentary is available on Amazon Prime. It details the massive power of Google (Alphabet) and Facebook and their ability to shift elections to the Left. Particularly chilling is how Google can do it on search results in an indiscernible manner. I wondered why Google was able to act so blatantly using corporate resources on behalf of Obama in 2008; the documentary explains that its two top execs have controlling shares of the voting stock and thus, short of fraud, are pretty able to do whatever they want. Both of these companies are creatures of the Left and are using their powers to advance its agenda.

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Jim Geraghty of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America applaud President Trump for demanding that California return the $2.5 billion it received from the federal government for its high-speed railway after the project was dramatically scaled back. They also raise their eyebrows at Arizona’s plans to collect the DNA of state residents and charge them a fee to do so. And they explain that while our society is very forgiving, it might be asking a bit much to welcome back an ISIS propagandist with open arms. 

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There Is No More Valuable ‘Digital Dividend’ Than Technological Progress

 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s “digital dividend” plan suffers a fatal flaw. Consumers are already sharing in the wealth “that is created from their data,” as Newsom puts it. They are already receiving tremendous value from the zero-price content their data supports via targeted advertising. That may seem trivial to those politicians who want Big Tech to start cutting checks. (Or more checks since they do pay taxes and cut paychecks to their workers, who then spend the money, which turns into income for someone else.) But what consumers get in return indisputably is worth something.

Maybe quite a bit. Studies put the value of that content as somewhere in the multiple trillions. This from “The Economics of Attention Markets” by David Evans: “In 2016, American adults spent 437 billion hours mainly consuming content on ad-supported media based; that time was worth $7.1 trillion using the average after-tax hourly wage rate and $2.8 trillion using the average after-tax minimum wage rate.”

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Must There Be a Facebook?

 

It’s a real “… and the problem is what exactly?” sort of headline. This from Axios: “Facebook’s new cash-for-data debacle.”

If you’ve been paying any attention at all to data privacy issues — involving Facebook and other technology companies — then you might be aware some activists and academics have suggested users be paid for their personal data. They criticize the current system as “a massive transfer of wealth from ordinary people to the tech titans.”

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The Future Is Now

 

I was promised flying cars. A robot butler. Vacations on the moon. Living in the 21st century, I do have access to all kinds of technology I never would have dreamed of as a kid. Still, one of my most common interactions with robots is waving my hands back and forth hoping that the machine will grant me access to a piece of paper towel so I can dry my hands. And it could get worse…

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Alexandra DeSanctis of National Review and Greg Corombos of Radio America unload on the media for running with the Buzzfeed story on the Mueller investigation that the Mueller team itself has now debunked, and for piling on a group of high school students over the incident at the Lincoln Memorial before almost any of the facts were in. Alexandra also explains how Planned Parenthood’s own report for fiscal year 2017-2018 debunks four of it’s most oft-parroted talking points. And they shake their heads as Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono questions whether a member of the Knights of Columbus can be trusted to hold public office and then suggests a resolution condemning religious tests for nominees addresses a problem that does not exist.

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Why I Don’t Have a Smart Phone: Five True Stories

 

1. I was carpooling with some people on a six-hour trip (to Urbana), but before we could start, we had to get on the highway. Our GPS navigator took us right past the highway on-ramp we all knew, down some other road, then on a crazy four- or five-mile detour through other neighborhoods and odd side streets, finally coming full circle, back to the same on-ramp where we had started, which, this time, we took.

2.  For the next six hours, an extroverted older guy (maybe in his sixties) sat next to a younger guy (early twenties) and tried to make polite conversation. Even though they didn’t know each other previously, the older guy was friendly and full of energy, and it was clear that he really valued human interaction. The younger guy sometimes engaged, but his talking and even his listening eventually trailed off, as he lost interest in the conversation and paid more and more attention to reading whatever was on his phone. Perhaps unintentionally, the younger guy’s visible boredom sent the message loud and clear that he wasn’t interested in talking to the older guy. I ended up feeling bad for the older guy, and spending a lot of the trip engaging with him, even though we were sitting in different rows and had to crane some to make it work.

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Imagine Googling Your Name and Finding Your Entire Childhood Online

 

There’s a certain breed of mommy bloggers that really, really get under my skin. It’s one thing to write about your experiences using your own frame of reference, but there are a number of women out there who write using their kids’ hardships and travails as fodder, exposing their personal lives (with pictures and names) to the world without their consent. One of the latter groups of mommy bloggers just wrote an exceptionally awful piece at the Washington Post that I wanted to highlight:

The day after Christmas, she hunkered down to explore her laptop. First stop: an Internet-wide search on my name. Second stop: a furious march to my room, where she thrust the shiny new device in my face.

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