Category Archives: Media

Quote if the day: There’s too much democracy


That’s not our opinion: In esnl‘s opinion there’s too little of it, because democratic governance governance depends first and foremost on free and informed decisions by a fully informed citizenry, and we live in an information age characterized, sadly, by the lack of a broad-based common forum.

Instead,m we exist in a world characterized by an increasingly fragmented mediascape, where each of us in enclosed by a filter bubble, where we receive information tailored by us and the corporateers running the media to prey upon our basest impulses and desires, while excluding other inputs that might challenge us to actually think about viewpoints other than our own.

Additionally, he rise of the anonymous comment system has brought about the rise of new levels of incivility, where the commenter is freed from any responsibility for her/his own remarks, allowing for new levels of sheer ugliness in public discourse.

One of those who has profited most handsomely from this new mediascape is Peter Thiel, Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of Pay-Pal and a major early investor in Facebook.

Thiel is also the co-founder of Palantir Technologies, a cyberspook firm with corporate and government clients and one of the principals in a Bank of America-backed plan to sink Wikileaks and journalist Glenn Greenwald.

From Palantir's proposal to use cybertechology to destroy Wikileaks.

From Palantir’s proposal to use cybertechology to destroy Wikileaks.

Thiel has garnered abundant headlines of late from his successful backing of Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy action against Gawker Media, owners of the website that also outed the German-American billionaire as gay.

And now he’s taking the platform at the GOP convention in Cleveland tonight to hail the virtues of his chosen exemplar, Donald Trump.

And with that, our QOTD from Ben Tarnoff of the Guardian:

What Trump offers Thiel isn’t just an excuse to be contrary and politically incorrect. Trump gives Thiel something far more valuable: a way to fulfill his long-held ambition of saving capitalism from democracy.

In a 2009 essay called The Education of a Libertarian, Thiel declared that capitalism and democracy had become incompatible. Since 1920, he argued, the creation of the welfare state and “the extension of the franchise to women” had made the American political system more responsive to more people – and therefore more hostile to capitalism. Capitalism is not “popular with the crowd”, Thiel observed, and this means that as democracy expands, the masses demand greater concessions from capitalists in the form of redistribution and regulation.

The solution was obvious: less democracy. But in 2009, Thiel despaired of achieving this goal within the realm of politics. How could you possibly build a successful political movement for less democracy?

Fast forward two years, when the country was still slowly digging its way out of the financial crisis. In 2011, Thiel told George Packer that the mood of emergency made him “weirdly hopeful”. The “failure of the establishment” had become too obvious to ignore, and this created an opportunity for something radically new, “something outside the establishment”, to take root.

Now, in 2016, Thiel has finally found a politician capable of seizing that opportunity: a disruptor-in-chief who will destroy a dying system and build a better one in its place. Trump isn’t just a flamethrower for torching a rotten establishment, however – he’s the fulfillment of Thiel’s desire to build a successful political movement for less democracy.

Snowden: ‘This is not about me. This is about us.’


Visitors to the Roskilde Festival, the massive music festival held ever year in Denmark, were greeted by an unexpected guest lats month, Edward Snowden.

From the festival:

Amongst the sense of community, exotic food, colourful camps, unique live shows and much more, there is something else that stands out clearer than most other things from the festival for thousands of guests: Edward Snowden’s talk about digital surveillance related to the festival’s focus on equality.

Focus on digital surveillance

The famous whistleblower’s talk – via satellite from Moscow – followed a much-debated prank conducted by the activist art group The Yes Men that involved them setting up fake signs stating that the festival would be collecting and indefinitely storing all text and phone conversations while on festival grounds.

Before the nature of the signs was revealed, many festival-goers showed both despair and anger. This was exactly what The Yes Men had hoped to achieve with the stunt: to put emphasis on digital surveillance as a topic that needs to be discussed on a much broader scale.

The whole process has been documented by The Yes Men. Their 12-minute film about digital surveillance, the data stunt and Edward Snowden’s talk at Roskilde Festival 2016 is out now.

And with that, here’s the video, just posted by festival organizers:

Edward Snowden and The Yes Men surprise crowd at Roskilde Festival

Program notes:

At Roskilde Festival 2016, activist art group The Yes Men set up signs at the festival site saying that the festival would collect, store and pass on data from the festival-goers whenever they texted and talked on the phone.

But the message on the signs was of course untrue: it was all part of an art project thought up by the satirical activist and art group The Yes Men in collaboration with Edward Snowden. They wanted people to be aware of the consequences of digital surveillance. The festival-goers were in for a surprise…

Political topography: Two different nations


The stark outward differences between the two major party presidential candidates are also reflected in the “likes” of the Facebook followers, as revealed in a new state-by-state analysis reported by the Wall Street Journal.

First up, their favorite actors:

BLOG CW Actors

Next, their favorite musical performers:

BLOG CW Music

And then there’s their favorite books:

BLOG CW Books

When the mass paparazzi instinct turns lethal


The invention of the cell phone [thanks, Hedy Lamar] and the decision to use it to house first still, then moving image cameras, complete with sound capability, have transformed daily life.

Throw in the Internet and the rise of viral videos and still images made each of us all vigilant for opportunities for images to share, both free and for profit.

As Benedict Evans, trend analyst for the Silicon Valley investment bankers at Andreessen Horowitz noted last year, “more photos will be taken this year than were taken on film in the entire history of the analogue [film] camera business.”

While this technology enables us to creative a documentary record unparalleled in human history, the omnipresence of the camera plus the egoistic drive to assert olur being in the world can lead to mishaps, especially when we all turn paparazzi simultaneously when presented with an irresistible image.

We’ve heard of lethal selfie accidents, when folks seeking to self-immortalize end up proving self mortality.

But then there the time times when the same drive leads to death of the object of our visual obsession.

From the Associated Press:

A mountain goat in Alaska jumped into the ocean to get away from crowds snapping its picture, and the animal drowned when it couldn’t get back to land because of the crush of people on shore.

Alaska State Troopers say it’s imperative to give animals adequate space. That didn’t happen Saturday in downtown Seward, and troopers say in an online post that it “resulted in a wild animal dying for no cause.”

It comes amid a series of incidents of people getting too close to wildlife, including tourists in Yellowstone National Park who picked up a bison calf they thought was abandoned. It had to be euthanized.

 In Alaska, troopers got a call about people harassing the goat and another about a large group following it onto the breakwater rocks.

Jeff Danziger: Choice 2016


From the nationally syndicated editorial cartoonist:

Uncle Sam, 2016 presidential race, Trump, Hillary, political cartoon

Which prompts a graphic response to a graphic. . .

Trump and why the media can’t beat him

The news media and their critics are full of columns and op ends on the deplorable Mr. Trump, all revealing that The Donald is a sociopathic hustler willing to say anything to keep the attention focused on the man with the orange adornment and diminutive digits.

But all the rant and raving doesn’t change a thing, and Trump remains a genuinely viable candidate for the commander in chief of the most powerful military on earth.

Admittedly, Trump’s viability owes much to the loathsomeness of his opponent, a candidate who, unlike the exuberantly spontaneous Trump, seems to be a product of a calculating artificial speech technology that hasn’t yet managed to find the way to add warmth to its synthesis.

So while you can’t believe anything Trump says, you do somehow get the sense that he believes it, even though it contradicts something he said five minutes earlier.

In other words, Clinton is a cold, calculating liar, while Trump is a passionate impulsive and wholly egotistical liar.

Back to the question

So why doesn’t all that media fact-checking and hand-wringing make a dent in the Donald?

Simple.

Because Trump’s supporters don’t trust the media, save for Fox News, and that only with qualification.

They know that the media really are run by a liberal elite, that “effete corps of impudent snobs” as former Spiro Agnew speech writer Pat Buchanan once described them, those “nattering nabobs of negativity.”

Now having spent our working lifetime moiling in the vineyards of the newspaper craft, we must add that most of the journalists we worked with were good, honest folk who really worked hard to report on matters of vital import to their communities.

But during those same years, we also saw journalism debased as locally owned publications either closed down or were subsumed by conglomerates, more interested in pandering that in community service.

The rise of social media, devoid of any filters, has unleashed both a powerful organizing tool [just ask Hosni Mubarrak if you have any doubts] and transformed a medium of public discourse into the digital equivalent of bathroom graffiti, allowing us to indulge both our highest aspirations and our basest instincts.. . .Occupy and cyberstalking.

Trump, the message of the media. . .

Our new media landscape is a perfect fit for a Donald Trump, a man who, as with most sociopaths, is preternaturally attuned to cunningly manipulating feedback to gratify his own infantile needs.

Trump plays to suspicion and fear, the offers simplistic and easily graspable — and thoroughly flawed — solutions, conveying with them a promise of security.

Trump eagerly lays blame — sometimes, and sadly, quite accurately — at the feet of the media for ignoring or trivializing the deepest concerns of his target “marks.”

To an audience well-primed by their own experiences, Trump can easily brush off all that fact-checking and hand-wringing as simply ploys by the establishment to his pursuit of a White House he vows to use in support of their interests, not those of the establishment elite.

That it’s an elite he was born into is ignored, as is the fact of his irreligious hedonism and his life of serial polygamy.

The Trumpian art of the deal is the art of the sociopath, an art sufficiently refined to overpower the reason and self-interest of his marks.

And then there’s Hillary. . .

Let’s put it this way. If Trump was a little bit more sophisticated he’d beat Clinton in a heartbeat.

esnl won’t be voting for the candidate who, as Secretary of State, pursued policies instrumental in the rise of ISIS, a candidate who refuses to tell us what she was so highly paid to tell the people who brought the country to the brink of total collapse. The kind of folks her own daughter married.

That’s why esnl won’t be picking up either revolver come November.

America’s poor children dwell in ‘book deserts’


Even the good doctor finds himself homeless in America's poorest neighborhoods.

Even the good doctor finds himself homeless in America’s poorest neighborhoods.

During our own childhood, many of our greatest pleasures were found in books, both function and non-fiction.

Books gave us inspiration as well as solace, and they’ve remained a constant in our life ever since.

But for the children of America’s poorest families, books are a rarity, as new research from New York University confirms [emphasis added]:

A study led by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development finds a startling scarcity of children’s books in low-income neighborhoods in Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles.

The lack of children’s books was even more pronounced in areas with higher concentrations of poverty, according to the findings published online in the journal Urban Education.

“Children’s books are hard to come by in high-poverty neighborhoods. These ‘book deserts’ may seriously constrain young children’s opportunities to come to school ready to learn,” said Susan B. Neuman, professor of childhood and literacy education at NYU Steinhardt and the study’s lead author.

Residential segregation has dramatically increased in recent years, with both high- and low-income families becoming increasingly isolated. In their study, the researchers looked at the influence of income segregation on access to children’s books, a resource vital to young children’s development.

Access to print resources—board books, stories, and informational books—early on has both immediate and long-term effects on children’s vocabulary, background knowledge, and comprehension skills. And while public libraries are critically important in giving families access to books, research has shown that the presence of books in the home is related to children’s reading achievement.

However, a 2001 study by Neuman found a sharp contrast between low- and middle-income neighborhoods when it came to being able to buy children’s books. In a middle-income community, thanks to plentiful bookstores, 13 books for each child were available. In contrast, there was only one age-appropriate book for every 300 children in a community of concentrated poverty.

To create a national picture of “book deserts,” the new study, funded by JetBlue, examined access to children’s books in six urban neighborhoods across the United States, representing the Northeast (Washington, D.C.), Midwest (Detroit), and West (Los Angeles). In each of the three cities, the researchers analyzed two neighborhoods: a high-poverty area (with a poverty rate of 40 percent and above) and a borderline community (with a roughly 18 to 40 percent poverty rate).

Going street by street in each neighborhood, the researchers counted and categorized what kinds of print resources—including books, magazines, and newspapers—were available to purchase in stores. (While online book sales have grown in recent years, three out of four children’s books are still bought in brick and mortar stores.)

There’s more, after the jump. . . Continue reading

Pokemon, the cyberstalker you love to play with


The newest versions of the game so many love to play is a super spy, collecting your every move and unless you read that end user agreement, it also gains access to your email and much more.

From BuzzFeed News:

In the five frenzied days since its American release, Pokémon Go has become an economic and cultural sensation. Downloaded by millions, the game has boosted Nintendo’s market value by $9 billion (and counting), made a major case for augmented reality as the gaming format of the future, and led to a plethora of strange, scary, and serendipitous real-life encounters.

And as millions of users wander the country collecting Pikachus and Jigglypuffs, the Alphabet spin-off Niantic, Inc. that developed the game is collecting information about the collectors. And it’s most definitely catching them all.

Like most apps that work with the GPS in your smartphone, Pokémon Go can tell a lot of things about you based on your movement as you play: where you go, when you went there, how you got there, how long you stayed, and who else was there. And, like many developers who build those apps, Niantic keeps that information.

According to the Pokémon Go privacy policy, Niantic may collect — among other things — your email address, IP address, the web page you were using before logging into Pokémon Go, your username, and your location. And if you use your Google account for sign-in and use an iOS device, unless you specifically revoke it, Niantic has access to your entire Google account. That means Niantic has read and write access to your email, Google Drive docs, and more. (It also means that if the Niantic servers are hacked, whoever hacked the servers would potentially have access to your entire Google account. And you can bet the game’s extreme popularity has made it a target for hackers. Given the number of children playing the game, that’s a scary thought.) You can check what kind of access Niantic has to your Google account here.

Gorget the NSA, it’s Pokemon who’s really the 007 of the digital age.

And would you let your kid play with a sociopath who tracked her every move and read your mail?