Escaping California Plans Progressing

My family’s plans to escape California took several big steps forward this past week.

First, we are getting proper access to our property installed from the main road by a contractor that we hired. The driveway should be completed in a few weeks. The house plans are slated to be ready soon as well.

We also took steps to get utilities installed on the property. The final price is unknown but the local government overseeing everything has had their preliminary fees paid to do the necessary engineering. We also met with the person installing electrical service to the property. Unlike California, where we are moving, hydroelectric is considered a reliable renewable energy source.

As part of our plan, I have accepted a promotion with a new agency, the dreaded Employment Development Department (EDD). Per conversations with some folks working there, it’s supposed to be an improvement from where I was before. The only concerning part is that the interview process was very minimal which makes me think they are just throwing as many people as they can at their problems. It is a “limited term” assignment which means I could be there 12 to 24 months, unless they convert me to permanent. I’d settle for the 24-month option. It will be more pay which of course will allow me to get more when I retire in two years …such a bargain.

I find it funny that after all these months of working from home, two weeks before I leave my current agency, I finally was issued the official department laptop. This laptop from Dell is perfectly fine, or it was before the IT department got ahold of it. Folks, I’m a better IT guy than almost anyone they have on their payroll. After years of trying to get hired by them, I finally gave up. Anyway, the laptop that I was issued was missing the accounting program and the VPN (Virtual Private Network) software. I had to get our building’s IT guy to install the programs. When I got it home and tried to use it, I found even more problems. The IT department stripped out the default Windows Power Plans and set it to use one of their own design. The max CPU usage I can get out of the thing is about 15 percent. My Excel program tops out at 2 percent CPU usage when under load and running macros in Excel. My Windows XP box from ten years ago was faster. Due to all the Group Policies, poor patching, and other nonsense, this thing is 85 percent brick and 15 percent computer. Oh, i7 processor and 16 GB of RAM should be faster. If I didn’t know any better, I’d think it was a 32-bit OS. The IT guy tried to remote in and fix it, but he doesn’t even know that Windows has Power Plans or how to configure them. Oh, this thing is so slow that web pages won’t resolve because they time-out’ thus looking for help on the Internet is impossible with this machine.

Also, there is no antivirus program on the laptop. I should have McAfee End Point Enterprise AV but that too is missing.

When transferring to the laptop, I abandoned about 90 percent of the files on my desktop machine and only transferred a few working files, and my photos and podcasts that I had accumulated over the last ten years. It’s a good thing I didn’t try to transfer everything. I have about 250 GB of data on my desktop and the laptop SSD is about 250 GB so it wouldn’t all fit anyway.

In light of my impending move to EDD, my question was how to get my personal stuff off of the laptop. Over the years the IT guys have gradually blocked thumb drives, DVD burners, and cell phones. I tried file transfer via network and Bluetooth but that didn’t work. Since I can’t get webpages to resolve, I couldn’t even use email to move anything. I know BIT Locker has been hacked but I had decided not to brute force any solution.  I had about 50 podcasts and about 25 GB in photos that I wanted to move plus a few other odds and ends. (In most cases, the photos were copies that I probably had elsewhere but I wanted to compare them to my master copy on my home computer before deleting them.) I did many web searches on my desktop computer before I found a solution that worked. Thankfully, the IT guys don’t run Windows 10 in the real world so what I did was use something already baked into the OS.

Here is the solution that I found:

On both your home computer and the laptop, go to Setting > Shared Experiences and turn on both sharing buttons.

Then in Windows Explorer you can select files and broadcast them from one machine to another. I found that this usually worked but I was limited to about 14 files at a time. To move 25 GBs of photos at this rate would take forever. As a workaround for this file limit, I found that I could zip a whole directory of photos and transfer them as one file. I was able to move 8.5 GB of photos in a single zip file. I then deleted the stuff on the laptop. I recommend that you add Shared Experiences to your toolbox of things to consider as a method for moving files. The speed is limited only by your Wi-Fi.

See Solution 3 at this link

I’m trying to tie up a few other loose ends before leaving my current agency but its time for a change. I just hope this is the right move.

Microsoft Involved in Second Major Security Breach This Year

Yep, if you thought the “Velvet Sweatshop,” as their employees call Microsoft, was in the clear after plugging holes in the mega security breach of SolarWinds, you would be wrong. Yesterday, I saw this article reporting another huge securing breach, this time by China. (FYI that I know of, no one has taken credit for SolarWinds.)

The quiet release of an out of band patch for a flaw in Microsoft’s Exchange server is rapidly turning into a major story, with credible reports of at least 30,000 organizations in the USA, and possibly hundreds of thousands around the world, being hacked by a Chinese hacker group, who now has full control of the servers and the data on them.

Microsoft Exchange flaw may have led to 30,000+ US organizations being hacked

For those that don’t know, Microsoft Exchange is their flagship email server software.

Krebs on Security reports that a significant number of small businesses, towns, cities and local governments have been infected, with the hackers leaving behind a web shell for further command and control.

Microsoft said the original attacks were targetted at a range of industry sectors, including infectious disease researchers, law firms, higher education institutions, defense contractors, policy think tanks, and NGOs, but Krebs notes that there has been a dramatic and aggressive escalation of the rate of infection, as the hackers try and stay ahead of the patch Microsoft released.

“We’ve worked on dozens of cases so far where web shells were put on the victim system back on Feb. 28 [before Microsoft announced its patches], all the way up to today,” said Volexity President Steven Adair, who discovered the attack . “Even if you patched the same day Microsoft published its patches, there’s still a high chance there is a web shell on your server. The truth is, if you’re running Exchange and you haven’t patched this yet, there’s a very high chance that your organization is already compromised.”

“It’s police departments, hospitals, tons of city and state governments and credit unions,” said one source who’s working closely with federal officials on the matter. “Just about everyone who’s running self-hosted Outlook Web Access and wasn’t patched as of a few days ago got hit with a zero-day attack.”

Folks, this is a really big deal but unless you read tech blogs, I doubt you’ve heard about this. Again, this breach includes schools, police departments, hospitals, financial institutions, and businesses. I encourage you to read the article which I linked above. I suspect we will hear more about this breach before long. Oh, and if you don’t that doesn’t mean everything is better.

Don’t forget that whatever the outcome of this most recent breach, your smart phones are sending all your text messages, address books, location, and other data to both China and Big Tech on a regular basis. Your privacy is an illusion in a digitally dependent world. How people use the information they are collecting is probably above my paygrade. If knowledge is power, then we’re likely in trouble…

February Thoughts on forming the Ministry of Truth

Folks, if you want to see what’s likely on tap for your digital future, then one country to watch is Australia. Australia is doing many things differently than we are, but many of the tech companies in the United States are wanting to see their policies adopted here.

First, in Australia, Microsoft and Google are in a fight about a proposed policy that directly affects online news articles.

February 11, 2021

Australia is currently in the process of passing regulation which would force Google and Facebook to pay publishers for linking to their news articles, a controversial proposal which appears to go against the whole ethos of the web, which is in the end all about linking to pages for free. Importantly Australia would not allow Google to avoid paying the newspapers by simple delisting them from their index.

Microsoft says the controversial Australian link tax should come to USA, explains why

In the blog post, Smith explains the 4th Estate is a very important element in democracy, and that the weakness of news organizations and the strength of social media is what resulted in Donald Trump being able to convince tens of millions of Americans that he won the election he actually lost.

“It was far from unusual for a losing candidate to request a recount or take a dispute to court – both parts of the democratic process,” Smith noted, “But, this year, even after losing more than 50 lawsuits in a row, President Trump waged a sustained campaign that successfully persuaded tens of millions of his supporters that the election was rigged. Without this sustained disinformation barrage, it’s hard to imagine that January 6 would have become such a tragic day.”

Smith notes that while Google and Facebook has generated billions in revenue from aggregating news,  since 2000, newsroom revenue in the United States has fallen by 70% and employment has been cut in half. More than 2,000 newspapers have closed entirely. In many places, local news has been decimated.  The majority now got their news (and disinformation) from social media, often only reading the headlines and not even clicking through to the news website.

Microsoft notes that news publications have been powerless to fight back, due to the monopoly position of Google and Facebook, but that Microsoft has always supported paying publishers for news and that they are well prepared to do this on a large scale if they gain market share.

February 15, 2021

Microsoft has turned into one of the most ardent advocates for the proposed Australian media code, which would see Google and Facebook pay news publications a share of their profits.

The proposal has been called a link tax which would break the internet, but Microsoft insists funding newspapers is important for the health of democracy and fighting fake news.

Microsoft offers myth-busting FAQ on anti-Google Australian news tax

Conceptually it is easier to think of the proposal as a tax on Google and Facebook, similar to the TV License in UK, where TV owners have to pay a £157.50 tax per year to support public access TV and news. In this case, the tax is being directed to trillion-dollar companies rather than the citizens of the country, and the benefit would be spread wider than simply the state publisher.

The FAQ does not address concerns that the proposal would fund newspapers which are equally involved in spreading fake news as Moldovian content farms and that it would place the power to decide which news outlet succeeds or fails in the hand of the government rather than the market.

February 17, 2021

In response to Australia’s proposed new Media Bargaining law, Facebook today announced that it will block publishers and users in Australia from sharing or viewing news content. This is applicable for both Australian and international news content. The proposed law will force platform providers like Google and Facebook to pay news publishers for using their content. To continue operating Google search in Australia, Google today signed an agreement with News Corporation for sharing the revenue obtained through news content. However, Facebook refused to sign any such deal citing the below reasons.

Facebook will restrict publishers and people in Australia from sharing or viewing news content
FAANG is Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google

Second, Australia is putting together a coalition of corporations to fight fake news.

February 22, 2021

Microsoft today announced that it is partnering with Adobe, Arm, BBC, Intel and Truepic to form the Coalition for Content Provenance and Authenticity (C2PA). C2PA is a Joint Development Foundation project formed to address the prevalence of disinformation, misinformation and online content fraud through developing technical standards for certifying the source and history or provenance of media content.

Microsoft partners with Adobe, BBC and others to battle against disinformation

“There’s a critical need to address widespread deception in online content — now supercharged by advances in AI and graphics and diffused rapidly via the internet. Our imperative as researchers and technologists is to create and refine technical and sociotechnical approaches to this grand challenge of our time. We’re excited about methods for certifying the origin and provenance of online content. It’s an honor to work alongside Adobe, BBC and other C2PA members to take this critical work to the next step,” said Eric Horvitz, Chief Scientific Officer and Project Origin executive sponsor, Microsoft.

The major technology companies and social networks in Austalia have signed up for the Australian Code of Practice on Disinformation and Misinformation, a voluntary code of practice by the Digital Industry Group Inc (DiGi), a non-profit industry association advocating for the digital industry in Australia.

Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter sign up for Australian misinformation code

The code has 7 key principles:

  • Protection of freedom of expression:
  • Protection of user privacy:
  • Policies and processes concerning advertising placements:
  • Empowering users:
  • Integrity and security of services and products:
  • Supporting independent researchers:
  • Without prejudice commitments:

The policy was developed at the request of the Australian government and will be reviewed in 12 months.  Companies involved are required to have a working complaints procedure in place within 6 months. The code excludes private messaging services, email services, and enterprise services. Notably, it also excludes content authorised by an Australian state or federal government; political advertising or content authorised by a political party registered under Australian law.

Folks, please read the links of these stories if you want more information.

What you are beginning to see is that Big Tech is setting themselves up as the arbitrators of all truth. While some of the things mentioned above, sound good and perhaps even noble, the bottom line is that tech companies are deciding what information that you can or cannot access. Microsoft has kept a lower profile than other companies, but they are right there with the FAANG companies and Twitter.

Fake News

Before I go further, it will be helpful to note that the concept of fake news is not monolithic. There are several different types of fake news. Here are a few examples:

Microsoft often talks about the potential for fake news using digital manipulation. Think the movie Looker (1981) or Carrie Fisher being digitally added to Star Wars after her death. What if a video of a politician was faked for the purposes of fomenting rebellion or aiding the point of view of a media outlet hating said politician? Wouldn’t that be bad? In theory yes, unless its Donald Trump.

Click on link for video

But Microsoft is envisioning a video technology or capability that is even more manipulated than that of Trump or Carrie Fisher. What if we entered an era when no one would trust what they see? We are a very visual society, if people don’t see something, it is not real to them but what if someone took advantage of that?

Another type of fake news is the good ‘ole Dan Rather using Microsoft Word kind. For those too young to remember, Dan Rather faked a memo about then President George W. Bush in an effort to influence the 2004 Presidential election.

Dan Rather CBS news

“Rathergate” is the derisive term applied to a set of four documents allegedly written by the former commanding officer of President George W. Bush in the early 1970s, and broadcast on the CBS program 60 Minutes Wednesday, September 8, 2004. The resultant exposure of these documents as forgeries, coupled with a lack of proper news investigating techniques, led to the ouster of four senior producers at CBS several months later, as well as the departure of long-time anchorman Dan Rather, for whom the scandal was named. Because of this, the event was also infamous for coining the phrase “fake but accurate”, referring to Fake news.

Rathergate

See also:

The Truth About Dan Rather’s Deceptive Reporting on George W. Bush

Dan Rather Should Shut Up about Memos

Sometimes fake news is just a refusal/denial to acknowledge something is true because it might be perceived as either hurting the side you support or benefitting someone that you disagree with. Instead of “We report, you decide” becomes “We decide, then report”. Or as Steve Taylor sang in Meat the Press (1983):

When the godless chair the judgment seat

We can thank the godless media elite

They can silence those who fall from their grace

With a note that says “we haven’t the space”

So fake news is sometimes the sin of commission or conversely the sin of omission; both are equally fatal for the person trying to make an informed decision. As I’ve stated before, without agreeing to the same set of information (or facts) we can’t have a dialogue, debate, or discussion about anything.

I’m not against polarization when it comes to certain issues. Some things just have no middle ground. As Gary North is fond of pointing out, a posture of neutrality is an illusion where one side tries to gain the upper hand on the other.  The important things in life ultimately come down to the broad way or the narrow way. Lesser things can be negotiated or reduced to personal preference.

What bothers me about the fake news debate is that the purveyors of fake news have appointed themselves as the arbitrators of what is fake news; thus, when the fox places itself in charge of the henhouse, there can be only one outcome.

Let’s look at the previous election

To the is day, not a single liberal will admit to any voter fraud in any state during the 2020 presidential election. This is an unreasonable and unrealistic claim. There is always voter fraud. The question is whether it is widespread, systemic, organized, and enough to sway the outcome.

When liberals claim there is no voter fraud, it just doesn’t compute. Look at it this way, “The results after Michigan’s 83 counties finished canvassing showed Mr. Biden beating Mr. Trump by over 154,000 votes.” and then a few months after the election, comes a court victory with this headline: Michigan Removes 177,000 Voters From Voter Rolls After Legal Challenge Why am I the bad guy when I see such things and say it doesn’t pass the smell test?

If Michigan and other states would voluntarily clean their voter rolls on a regular basis then we conservatives would have more faith in the system; however, the reality is that it takes years of lawsuits to force Secretary’s of State in Democrat controlled states to do their job. Oh, and even prevailing in court is no guarantee that the voter rolls are ever cleaned up.

Folks, I know that California does not care about election integrity or keeping clean voter rolls. As long as Democrats continue to win elections, there will be no meaningful election reform in the once golden state.

Prior to the election, was this report from Judicial Watch:

New Judicial Watch Study Finds 353 U.S. Counties in 29 States with Voter Registration Rates Exceeding 100%

Media Matters and other groups on the left, throw hammers at Judicial Watch but where it counts, Judicial Watch wins.

The lawsuit confirmed that Los Angeles County has on its rolls more than 1.5 million potentially ineligible voters. This means that more than one out of every five LA County registrations likely belongs to a voter who has moved or is deceased. Judicial Watch notes that “Los Angeles County has the highest number of inactive registrations of any single county in the country.”

The Judicial Watch lawsuit also uncovered that neither the State of California nor Los Angeles County had been removing inactive voters from the voter registration rolls for the past 20 years.

California and Los Angeles County to Remove 1.5 Million Inactive Voters from Voter Rolls – Settle Judicial Watch Federal Lawsuit

Please note the last line in the quote above, California voter rolls have not been cleaned up in over 20 years which I’m willing to bet was the last time a Republican was Secretary of State.

Meanwhile, after a brief internet search…

Yep, it was Bill Jones, the last Republican to win the office of California Secretary of State. Jones served from 1995 – 2003.

Bill Jones 1995

This allows me to circle back to a claim made by Brad Smith, “… even after losing more than 50 lawsuits in a row, President Trump waged a sustained campaign that successfully persuaded tens of millions of his supporters that the election was rigged.”

Folks, Trump lost zero trials on the voter fraud issue because none was ever heard in court. Even the Supreme Court has taken a pass on this issue. The courts refused because they view this as a political issue and since the election is over, it’s a moot point. Thus, no determination is or will be made on election fraud or if it was significant enough to change the election outcome. I think the federal courts are taking a pass on this not due to the substance of the issue, but because they know that if the case is heard, it will be used politically as a way to even further politicize the court system and make it even less independent than it is now. Packing the court is a likely outcome of any judicial relief granted to Trump. Also, I don’t think the courts are comfortable being the arbiters of last resort in Presidential elections.

If during the first two years of the Trump administration, a national system or standard was set for vote I.D. in federal elections, I think the outcome would have been different last November. But when the leadership on both sides of the political aisle are all in very safe seats then little incentive exists to fix a very broken system. Oh, and yes, I would prefer a state solution over a federal one but see my comments above on California. No chance it ever happens here.

Conclusion

Much of the time, fake news is in the eye of the beholder. We see what we want and ignore much of the rest. This trend will continue into the future. Soon we will go from memes with fake quotes and funny captions to fake videos with words never uttered. Discerning truth will become more difficult. Look for some to just give up on trying and resort to feelings to guide them—half our population is predisposed to do this already. “Trust your feelings Luke.” Those of us that believe there is only one Truth will become fewer.

I know that digital information will be even more scattered and fragmented in the future. As our culture becomes more splintered and fragmented, we become even more isolated, even living amongst other people. Sin divides us from God, His creation, our fellow man, and ourselves.

More and more you will hear some variation of the mantra, “you have your truth and I have mine.” Or the sugarcoated Disney version of “follow your heart.” This is a lie. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9

 There is only One Truth. Denial of its reality does not change Reality. Believing faerie tales like there are more than two genders, or evolution explains creation, or abortion is not murder, or “gay marriage” only proves your denial, self-delusion, and spiritual blindness.

The controversy over fake news is a microcosm or a much larger battle; a spiritual one.

Here’s what our future looks like unless we change our ways. Take a look at Deuteronomy 28 starting at verse 15.

Below are a few selections from this passage:

The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies. You will come at them from one direction but flee from them in seven, and you will become a thing of horror to all the kingdoms on earth.

The LORD will send on you curses, confusion and rebuke in everything you put your hand to, until you are destroyed and come to sudden ruin because of the evil you have done in forsaking him.

The LORD will afflict you with madness, blindness and confusion of mind.

You will become a thing of horror, a byword and an object of ridicule among all the peoples where the LORD will drive you.

The foreigners who reside among you will rise above you higher and higher, but you will sink lower and lower. They will lend to you, but you will not lend to them. They will be the head, but you will be the tail.

Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot.

There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart. You will live in constant suspense, filled with dread both night and day, never sure of your life.

The good news is the God has promised believers that His Spirit will lead you into all Truth. Only God can cut through all the “white noise” in our culture and give you the wisdom to discern which spirits of our age should be shunned or followed.

Trusting in Big Tech to decide what’s best for us is just another name for tyranny. That Big Tech wants to work hand-in-hand with big government instead of hold government accountable, is no surprise. In a way, this marriage of convenience; looks to be the ideal power couple… for now.

Quick Note on Disney’s Star Wars Library

The family voted to get one month of Disney Plus to watch the Mandalorian and see what else that they have to offer. We did a quick binge on the Marvel movies less anything Spider-Man (Sony stills owns the rights so not much Peter Parker on the Mouse channel) and then moved on to Star Wars.

Folks, the Star Wars franchise is one that editors tweak on a regular basis. Even before Disney bought the franchise from George Lucas, the original trilogy had been released in at least three different edits. As a rule, each of the edits added more special effects and content to the films. When Disney bought the franchise, they promptly killed-off almost every spin-off, series, or story idea marketed during the thirty or so years that Lucas owned the rights. In effect, Disney purged the “Star Wars cannon” so they could make the new Star Wars universe in their image—oh and market the crap out of the galaxy far, far away…

The latest trilogy—episodes seven thru nine—haven’t been out that long. Tonight, we watched #8 The Last Jedi (2017) and while the movie is much as I remember it, there was a noticeable edit at the end that didn’t escape my attention. I’m not that immersed in the Star Wars lore, but I do remember the end of episode 8 because it completely undid everything in all the previous films except maybe Jar Jar Binks. After Luke Skywalker dies, goes to his reward, or whatever— (“Die” just seems like the wrong word because just like a comic book, when is someone really dead enough not to come back to life? Even the grave didn’t keep Carrie Fisher out of the ninth movie.) — anyway, the last scene of the movie had shots of random children exercising “The Force” with the idea that it was now freely available to everyone. The Force was unleashed. When I saw it the first time, I was really angry that the whole idea of wrong versus right was gone and replaced by shades of gray and moral relativity. At the time I even blogged on my feelings. However, watching it this time, the stuff that offended me was absent. Magically, some uncredited person at Disney removed the offending material and set the story on a path more in tune with the concept used by Lucas of good versus evil. Star Wars was again a morality play in a galaxy far, far away…

As much as I disliked the theatrical release of The Last Jedi, I have a problem/gripe/concern with what I witnessed (or in this case didn’t witness). Most people will never own a physical copy of this or any other film that they can stream from the internet but folks, doesn’t the idea that some mega corporation can change content on a whim bother you just a little? If something can be added or removed without letting you know then isn’t that just a step or two nearer the dystopia of Orwell? Truth is reduced to what government or mega-corp. says it is. Isn’t that why many of us have left Facebook and Twitter? Yet when it comes to digital media, we usually don’t notice when they edit your eBook or flat out delete it from your Kindle reader. Real books are portable and immutable, but the internet and other forms of digital communication are malleable, ethereal, and transient.

So, while in this particular case, I think the edit strengthens the story, it bothers me that it was done without notice or disclaimer. How many other things have I streamed into my living room that have received edits which change the plotline of the story and I never knew the difference?

Folks, please keep my experience in mind when you interact with anything digital. It can be manipulated or removed from your device without any notice to you. If it’s important enough then buy a copy of the physical media whether that be a book, DVD, or whatever. If the content lives on some else’s computer then you don’t really own it no matter how much you paid for the illusion of ownership.

Reducing My Digital Footprint Part II Options

In my last installment I talked about cancelling some of my social media accounts and then detailed cancelling my 11-year-old Facebook account. In the course of these discussions, I also mentioned exploring options. This post is to provide more information on that search. This post will explore Internet options which are either friendly to conservatives or those wishing more privacy and less tracking by “Big Tech” companies. As always, I value feedback from readers.

Brave

Many of the companies that make web browsers have censored Conservatives or have pledged to punish them for their views. These include Google (Chrome), Apple (Safari), Microsoft (Internet Explorer, Edge), Mozilla (Firefox). An exception to this trend appears to be Brave. It is made by a guy that helped found Mozilla and another guy that created JavaScript. These guys have made a Chromium based browser with privacy built in. You can opt-in to their system of advertising but if you do, it won’t track your computer with personally identifiable information or your IP address as you sail the Internet.

Brave is on a mission to fix the web by giving users a safer, faster and better browsing experience while growing support for content creators through a new attention-based ecosystem of rewards.

Oh, and Brave has DuckDuckGo baked-in as a choice for Internet searches. If you’re tired of being tracked by Google and others, try browsing with privacy.

DuckDuckGo

DuckDuckGo is the go-to search engine for privacy and searches not prioritized by Google’s pay-to-play advertising and political bias algorithms.

MeWe

Wanna ditch Facebook? Try going to MeWe.

MeWe is not as mature and feature rich as Facebook is but it also lets you speak your mind without repercussions or warning banners placed on your posts because you dare to disagree with Big Tech.

Rumble

Ditching YouTube and want a choice, try Rumble.

Signal.org

Now that Donald Trump is off Twitter, there’s no reason to be on there anymore. You can try Signal.org if you want to communicate mostly on an IOS or Android device.

Parler

When Amazon, Apple, and Google coordinated their attack on Parler, Parler was claiming 15 million users and a valuation of over half a billion dollars. I expect Parler to be back up soon. Perhaps with new software and backend support.

Wouldn’t it be funny if Parler found a home in Russia or some Eastern European country? Then suppose they let Trump have a big presence there too. CNN and the Huffington Post would really go ballistic with conspiracy theories. Fact is, such a move would be an indictment of the Democrats. Think about it, this would show there’s more freedom in the former Soviet Union than in the United States.

That’s my Internet alternatives round-up for now. Watch this space for more as the situation warrants.

Big Tech Censors Where You Sleep

This will be a recurring theme in the years ahead, but the obvious question is how do they know? Who is providing Airbnb with a list of people that they should be banning? Google? Facebook? Microsoft? Apple? Amazon?

“If we confirm that guests are associated with a violent hate group or otherwise not allowed on our platform for violating certain community policies prohibiting violence or engaging in criminal activity, we will cancel those reservations and ban them from Airbnb,” the San Francisco-based home rental company said on Sunday.

Airbnb said that it could also share information with local law enforcement.

Airbnb to cancel Sacramento reservations for those linked to hate groups ahead of inauguration

Please note that Airbnb is not getting the list from law enforcement, they are offering to provide the information to law enforcement. This is scary dystopian future stuff. This is China or Soviet Secret Police tactics being practiced by US based corporations. The fact that US corporations are enabling China to rule over their people with such things as internet censoring and  social scores is the antithesis of want America stands for or at least the principles that we were founded upon.

Folks there is a theme in science fiction where nation states are virtually irrelevant (or impotent), and everything is run by large mega-corporations. Is this censorship and persecution of dissidents—which happen to be people on my end of the political spectrum—the result of the kids in Silicon Valley trying to implement on new social order which just happens to be indistinguishable from totalitarian rule? If politics is power and knowledge is power, then isn’t all that metadata they are collecting on us just a way of gaining political power over us? Coupled with the tech push for AI (Artificial Intelligence) aren’t we being culled into being sheep to be monetized to serve them?

The other aspect of the above story is this idea that violent protests are planned at the Nation’s Capital and the capitol buildings of all 50 states. Such protests are supposed to coincide with the coronation of Kamala Harris and her Crazy Uncle Joe. What a crock of excrement. Folks this is such a stupid claim. I don’t believe anybody that is a Trump supporter is behind such an idea. The fact that the FBI is the one ringing the bell is even more suspect. The FBI is a corrupt and partisan tool which has a track record of incompetence and partisanship. They don’t enforce the law and have no interest in justice.

Folks the bottom line is that you could do the Tom Clancy thing—fly a fully fueled 747 into the Capitol building and wipe-out the government—and nothing would change. Sadly, the replacements for these politicians would be worse than the guys in office now. Our people are corrupt, defective, irredeemable, and ungrateful. The people in office are just as immoral as the average guy on the streets of America. The bottom line is that our cure is not in power or party but in repenting and turning to God. Such is an unpopular notion. Thankfully, this is God’s department. We just need to pray for it to happen and try to live the way He instructs us.

Cancelling My Facebook Account

First, backup your data from FB. To get there, click on down icon next to your name.

Select Settings and Privacy then select Settings then select Your Facebook Information then select Download Your Information

On the Download page, you have the choice of two file formats: HTML file(s) or JSON. HTML is to view the information (think webpages), JSON is to create a copy that could be used on another server. I chose the default of HTML.

Facebook Backup creation screen
Facebook will show you any copies of your data made or requested on Available Copies tab

Below are screen shots showing the categories of data that you can download. Please note that the download file creation takes a lot of time. You might wish to request the file and then stay busy while the servers at Facebook crunch all the data that they are willing to share with you. Except for my blog posts which I’ve only been sharing on Facebook for about two years, I don’t really post that much. I usually just give people thumb’s ups or other reactions.

Above are all the categories of data that Facebook says they track on you. This information is how they make money off of something you think is free.

I was tired of waiting for FB to create the file, so I took to dog for a walk. Nothing appeared to change on the status of creating a backup file, so I hit refresh on my web browser and there it was. A shiny new 311 MB zip file, ready for download.

I downloaded and unzipped it and clicked on the index.html file and was able to view my data as a series of web pages.

You can click on any sub-heading to see what is there. Posts are listed from most recent at the top to oldest at the bottom.

Satisfied that I had all the data that I was able to retrieve, it was time to hit the back button and delete my account.

As silly as this sounds, you do need to know your Facebook password to delete your account. I guess this is why so many dead people remain on social media after reregistering as Democrats–oops, I mean dying. Please keep a paper copy of you passwords so your digital fingerprints can be removed after you go to your reward.

If you try to get back into Facebook you will see this warning or something similar.

So there you have it. I’m off Facebook for good. I know many folks are migrating to MeWE and other social media homes. As Isaac Air Freight used to say, “See you there or in the air.”

Reducing My Digital Footprint

I have grown tired of my friends being attacked by Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the rest. I’m tired of fearing for my employment because I disagree with the Liberal agenda. No, I don’t have a solution— although I am looking for alternatives to “Big Tech” and I hope to blog on that soon.

Folks, the boys in Silicon Valley only understand one thing and that’s money. Less users or subscribers is less money they can charge advertisers. To that end, I encourage you to do what you can to deprive them of revenue. Dump products and services that you don’t really need. To the extent that you can, demonetize FAANG (Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix, and Google). So far Netflix is sitting this latest purge out, as is Microsoft, but given a chance to get involved, they probably would.

FAANG is Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google

Is there a viable operating system for a computer that isn’t made by Apple or Microsoft? Nope, not one that does what I need for work or pleasure. Cell phones are dominated by Apple and Google (Android). There are Linux alternatives for PCs and even Smartphones but I don’t know if there are enough apps to keep casual users happy in this alternative ecosystem.

I have taken some actions and am considering more.

I have cancelled my Twitter account. I only got Twitter at the insistence of Sebastian Gorka. I got free tickets to hear him speak in Roseville a few years ago. He had worked for President Trump and had high praise for Trump. He encouraged folks to actually see what Trump was saying and not wait for the media’s take on what was said—because it was often out of context with what actually happened. I took Gorka’s advice, and you know what, Gorka was right. Rarely did Trump ever fire the first shot at anyone but he often responded to attacks from other platforms by posting his reaction on Twitter. (If Republicans had the spine to defend the President then the whole Twitter thing would never had been necessary.) As a platform, I was disappointed with Twitter because there was often a 12-to-24-hour delay between a Trump post and Twitter sending me a notification–which often never happened at all. Banning Trump for life left me with literally zero reason to keep my account open so I cancelled it a few days ago.

While Microsoft has thus far not interjected itself into the jihad on Conservatives, I decided to dump my Linked-In account. I never used it anyway. I only had it because when Sue Blake was rising to power as chair of the Sacramento Republican Central Committee, she encouraged us to open Facebook and Linked-In accounts.

On my to-do list is dumping my Facebook account. If Zuckerberg lifts the Trump ban in the next few days, I might keep it, otherwise I’m gone from their platform too.

If you leave social media platforms, please be aware that there are usually ways to download your content before killing your account.

I plan to explore this option before dumping Facebook so I can keep some photos and other things. I will let you know what the file looks like after I’ve done that. Here is where to find it in Facebook’s settings.

Where to find download option in Facebook
Settings>Your Facebook Information>Download Your Information

Oh, I plan to write a blog dedicated to a scathing post on Facebook by an Admin for one of the groups that I have belonged to for many years. Folks, the post is long but its really eye opening in a bad way.

Meanwhile, if you have any comments or suggestions related to this topic, please pass them on to me.

NTSB Looks at Tesla Deaths

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the crash of a speeding Tesla that killed two people in a Los Angeles suburb, the agency announced Tuesday.


Agency spokesman Sean Rushton wouldn’t say whether the Tesla Model S was on Autopilot when it crashed on Dec. 29 in Gardena. That system is designed to automatically change lanes and keep a safe distance from other vehicles.


The black Tesla had left a freeway and was moving at a high rate of speed when it ran a red light and slammed into a Honda Civic at an intersection, police said.


A man and woman in the Civic died at the scene.

NHTSA investigating fatal California Tesla crash

Another Tesla crash killed a woman Sunday in Indiana. State police said the driver, Derrick N. Monet, 25, of Prescott Valley, Arizona, was seriously injured after he rear-ended a fire truck parked along Interstate 70 in Putnam County. His wife, Jenna N. Monet, 23, was pronounced dead at a hospital.

Folks, Tesla’s Autopilot is starting to attract the attention of regulators and I suspect the lawyers will soon follow. It will be curious how the company responds when it finally gets held to the same standards as other automakers.

NHTSA … has inspected a total of 13 crashes involving Tesla vehicles that the agency believed were operating on the Autopilot system. Results were published in two of those cases, one of which involved Autopilot. Results are pending in the other 10 cases, the agency said in a statement.

Not only is the Autopilot system being looked at for deaths, but a lawsuit in Florida is underway concerning the vehicle’s door design. The door handles retract into the door. A Tesla involved in a crash resulted in the driver’s door failing to open because electrical power was lost in the vehicle. This resulted in failed rescue attempts to save the driver while the vehicle burned.

Omar Awan was driving his dream car when he lost control. The sleek, blue Model S Tesla careened across a road in South Florida and slammed into a palm tree.


But it wasn’t the crash that killed him, his family’s lawyers said — it was the car’s futuristic design features.


The last moments of Awan’s life were gruesome and excruciating. After the crash, the Tesla’s lithium ion battery caught fire, according to a wrongful-death lawsuit. Smoke — and then flames — filled the car, suffocating Awan and burning him from his feet up. Outside, a crowd gathered but couldn’t help.


That’s because the car’s retractable door handles, which are supposed to “auto-present” when they detect a key fob nearby, malfunctioned and first responders weren’t able to open the doors and save Awan, the suit alleges.


“The fire engulfed the car and burned Dr. Awan beyond recognition — all because the Model S has inaccessible door handles, no other way to open the doors, and an unreasonably dangerous fire risk,” the complaint reads.

A man died in a burning Tesla because its futuristic doors wouldn’t open, lawsuit alleges

Awan’s death is one in a string of recent incidents that have been blamed on Tesla’s innovative technology. A lawsuit stemming from a May 2018 crash that killed two teens also blamed a battery fire for at least one of the deaths.

In Awan’s case and others, the carmaker has argued that high-speed crashes can result in fires whether the car is powered by gasoline or batteries. But Awan survived the crash, and he could have escaped the smoke and fire, too, Grossman said — if only the police officer who arrived on the scene could have opened the car’s doors.


The lawsuit asserts that the features rendered the car “defective” and “dangerous” — the door handles compounding the problem of an “inherently unstable” battery.


“Tesla failed to warn users about the scope and extent of the defective and unreasonably dangerous conditions of the Model S,” the complaint says.

The Broward County autopsy report, obtained by The Washington Post, lists Awan’s cause of death as “inhalation of products of combustion with a contributory cause of death of thermal injuries.”


The medical examiner who responded to the crash wrote that Awan “was not identifiable on scene.” His clothes and hair were burned and a yellow metal ring was found on his left ring finger.

Oh, if you recall the article that I posted a few months ago on Tesla fires, the following will be no surprise to you.

After the crash, and after firefighters extinguished the blaze, Awan’s Tesla was transported to a tow yard. Once there, it reignited and burned again.

Yep, reigniting of the vehicle following a fire is typical for Tesla and other electric cars. In the old days, we called this a Class D fire.

Class D fires involve combustible metals – especially alkali metals like lithium and potassium, alkaline earth metals such as magnesium, and group 4 elements such as titanium and zirconium.

Fire class

As attempts at creating self-driving vehicles continue, expect more such news reports of deaths and injuries.

Microsoft sadly proves war on Christmas is real

I was looking at a few of the tech websites that I regularly visited when I came across this article by an author that I think is Hindu and even he finally gets it.

The perceived wisdom is that the “War on Christmas” is merely a right-wing delusion and in general companies themselves are deciding to be more inclusive in celebrating the holidays rather than responding to complaints from anti-religious people who are offended by Christmas decorations.


It turns out Microsoft has proven that this was not the case, after responding to a complaint about adding a small Santa hat to VSCode, Microsoft’s open-source IDE.

Microsoft sadly proves war on Christmas is real
Offending Santa hat which is very tiny

Due to one complaint by an anonymous guy on the internet, the offending Santa hat was banished.

Here’s the complaint.

The Santa Hat on vscode insiders and pushing of religion is very offensive to me, additionally xmas has cost millions of Jews their lives over the centuries, yet even if that was not the case, pushing religious symbols as part of a product update is completely unacceptable. Please remove it immediately and make it your top priority. To me this is almost equally offensive as a swastika.

Christian-Schiffer referred to an article on Sefaria listing the sins associated with Christmas which include:

  • Christmas has always been a holiday celebrated carelessly. For millennia, pagans, Christians, and even Jews have been swept away in the season’s festivities, and very few people ever pause to consider the celebration’s intrinsic meaning, history, or origins.
  • Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus, a Christian god who came to rescue mankind from the “curse of the Torah.”
  • At its origin, Christmas is a 24-hour declaration that Judaism is no longer valid.
  • December 25 is a day on which Jews have been shamed, tortured, and murdered.
  • Many of the most popular Christmas customs – including Christmas trees, mistletoe, Christmas presents, and Santa Claus – are modern incarnations of some extremely offensive and violent rituals

Microsoft responded to the complaint by saying:

@Christian-Schiffer we’re sorry we hurt your and other’s feelings. We’ll remote the Santa Hat.

The author of the article concludes:

In short, the war on Christmas appears to be very real.

Folks, I’m glad whenever other people agree with us—especially, that there really is a war on Christmas. The logical fallacies in the article cited as the reasons to oppose Christmas are frankly ill-informed, inaccurate, and just dumb.

First, the swastika is a Hindu religious symbol and is not the exclusive property or emblem of the Nazi Party as constituted in Germany. Hindus and others have used the swastika symbol for thousands of years before Hitler was born.

Second, a Santa hat is a winter symbol not a Christian one and people really wear similar hats in certain cultures. Oh, and there is zero proof that the real Saint Nicholas ever wore said hat.

Third, any holiday—Christian or not—can be celebrated by tradition and the real meaning can be forgotten. For example, in the United Stated we celebrate our Independence Day on July Fourth, but do you really believe that our people shun tyranny as a result? No. We have forgotten the reason and lessons of the Revolution. Our current government is much more tyrannical and oppressive than the British rule of the 1770’s. Our tax rates are way higher than those of the Stamp Act and tea taxes imposed by King George back in the day.

Jesus came to rescue mankind from the curse of sin not the Torah. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Torah and perfectly kept the Law. He ever said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” Matthew 5:17.

Christmas is a 24 hour declaration of nothing anti-Jewish. Where does that come from? Christmas is a 12 day celebration in the Church’s liturgical calendar beginning on December 25th and going thru January 6th. Twelve days of Christmas anyone? Messiah has come, first to the Jews—angels declare peace on earth and goodwill to all men on December 25th and January 6th—known as Epiphany—celebrates salvation coming to the Gentiles, as symbolized by the arrival of the wise men. Jesus was probably not really born in December although the 25th day of a month is mentioned in some early Christian literature. Since we don’t use the same calendar as they did back then, this discussion can’t go much beyond what I have just stated.

Evil doesn’t take a holiday and not all Christians celebrate Christmas on December 25th so what does the fact that someone of a certain faith might be killed on a particular date? I’m sure I could find examples of people from almost any faith group that were killed on December 25; especially, over a span of over 2,000 plus years. I don’t deny that Christians have persecuted Jews at certain points in history but it’s not a teaching of the New Testament or tenant of our faith. In fact, persecution of Jews is the opposite of Christianity properly understood. There’s that pesky command to love our neighbor thing that gets in the way of such behavior.

The claim that popular Christmas customs are all the result of offensive and violent rituals is silly. We give gifts to others as a symbol of peace on earth and goodwill towards men—we keep circling back to this phrase—because God gave us His greatest gift in the form of sending His son to become a man and fulfill the requirements of the Law (Torah) and be the once and for all time sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Santa Claus is a composite of many traditions but Saint Nicholas was a real man that was best known for two things, giving gifts to the poor in the name of Christ and hitting a heretic (Arius) at the Council of Nicaea in about 325 AD. This was the first recorded time that any Christian decked someone in the halls.

Folks, the fact that one anonymous complaint can force a trillion dollar company to change something as trivial and innocuous as a Santa hat should really bother you and I hope it does. Especially when the same company is perfectly willing to repeatedly attack my Christian beliefs on issues of marriage and family and doesn’t care what I think.