Net neutrality, again, still

I know it sounds boring, but if you’re on the net (and I know you are because you’re reading this) you need to care. Many times I’ve written about net neutrality, posted about it on Facebook, replied with links, etc. For a while it seems to be solved, or at least the issues have reached some sort of a compromise.

Then it comes up again, and I find myself looking for that link to the good article that I sent a few day, weeks or years ago. Is it in the links that I saved in a file on my computer (so I could find them easier)? Is it in an email? In OneTab? In a post, a Saved Article, a Reply or any of the other places that Facebook makes things difficult to find?

It’s time to put some of my favorites where everyone can find them, because I’m tired of looking for them (yet again). There is a lot of variety, so pick whatever suits your style of learning. Continue reading “Net neutrality, again, still”

The illusion of control

I was recently reading “Press me! The buttons that lie to you” (

In brief, psychologist Ellen Langer, now a professor at Harvard, dealt one set of cards in a haphazard order during a five card draw game of poker. “Everybody,” she says, “got crazy. The cards somehow belonged to the other person even though you couldn’t see any of them.”

In 1975 she wrote a paper that described the significance of these beliefs and coined a term for the effect that they had on people. Langer called it the “illusion of control”.

When I read that phrase, there was a disjointed part of me that felt like I was reading an article about politics. It sometimes seems like we are just pressing a Placebo Like Button, especially when our only choices are to vote for one of the slightly lesser of two evils.

It turns out that there are quite a few buttons that exist only to make us feel better. Sometimes it’s that “press button to cross street” one, sometimes it’s voting Democratic in a district that has been gerrymandered into Republican control. Or vice versa.

Battle For The Net

Battle for the Net

If you woke up tomorrow, and your internet looked like this, what would you do? Imagine all your favorite websites taking forever to load, while you get annoying notifications from your ISP suggesting you switch to one of their approved “Fast Lane” sites.

Think about what we would lose: all the weird, alternative, interesting, and enlightening stuff that makes the Internet so much cooler than mainstream Cable TV. What if the only news sites you could reliably connect to were the ones that had deals with companies like Comcast and Verizon?

On September 10th, just a few days before the FCC’s comment deadline, public interest organizations are issuing an open, international call for websites and internet users to unite for an “Internet Slowdown” to show the world what the web would be like if Team Cable gets their way and trashes net neutrality. Net neutrality is hard to explain, so our hope is that this action will help SHOW the world what’s really at stake if we lose the open Internet. If you’ve got a website, blog or tumblr, get the code to join the #InternetSlowdown here:

Everyone else, here’s a quick list of things you can do to help spread the word about the slowdown: Get creative! Don’t let us tell you what to do. See you on the net September 10th!

via Battle For The Net.

Letter from Al Franken

Every now and then I’m briefly and happily surprised that the famous comedian Al Franken, formerly with Saturday Night Live, is writing to me. Then I realize that it’s just Senator Al Franken. And it won’t be funny, at least not on purpose.

I know that it is the same person, you don’t have to inform me of that.

Fact checking websites

PC Magazine’s article Election 2012: Fact-Checking the Candidates
provided a great list of places to check the veracity of what we’re being fed. Most of the article is consolidated here on one page rather than being spread over 6 pages in its original form.

  • Run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center and staffed by journalists and academics, calls itself a “consumer advocate” for voters. Readers can not only check up on the ads, speeches, and other comments of the candidates and their campaigns, but also post a question to Ask FactCheck, become Spin Detectors by sending in campaign materials they believe might contain false claims, find out who’s funding the campaigns in the 2012 Players Guide, and make sure chain emails they receive from friends and relatives aren’t part of the Viral Spiral.
  •, a Pulitzer Prize-winning offshoot of the Tampa Bay Times, susses out the truth in national and state elections and monitors how already-elected officials are living up to campaign promises, with an Obameter and GOP Pledge-O-Meter built into the site. PolitiFact’s most famous meter is the Truth-O-Meter, which has settings that go from “Truth” to “Pants on Fire.” Lest flip-floppers think they can walk away, candidates are tracked for when they “Half Flip” and “Full Flop” on earlier sentiments and positions. The Truth-O-Meter is available to-go as an app.
  • Super PACs (political action committees) number in the hundreds and go by generic or just flat-out odd names, making it hard to distinguish them, not to mention determine where they stand. The Super PAC App works like Shazam for super PACs; download the TuneSat-powered audio-recognition iOS app, open it during an ad, and get the name of the super PAC, how much funding it has, how much it’s spent, and the facts behind the ad. Super PAC App got its start in the MIT Media Lab and is now housed under Glassy Media, a company founded by former management consultant Dan Siegel and journalist Jennifer Hollett.
  • Nobody owns the truth, especially when everybody owns it. TruthMarket aims to crowdsource what’s factual and what’s fictional. The site’s users put their money where others’ mouths are; when a user hears a questionable statement, he or she can start a campaign and stake money on disproving it. The TruthMarket’s “jury of neutral, professional, scientifically trained adjudicators” then weighs in and the bounty gets divvied up depending on where the truth lies.
  • The Washington Post has a somewhat whimsical take on political truth-telling. Its blog, The Fact Checker, run by in-house fact-checker Glenn Kessler, doles out a check mark for factual accuracy or up to four Pinocchios for fallacy from candidates and Congress. Readers can submit statements for scrutiny by email, a form, or via Twitter using #FactCheckThis.

Forfeiture: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

Forfeiture laws are great for the government: none of that messy court and lawyers stuff. Just accuse someone of a crime and take their stuff. There’s more about forfeiture elsewhere on this website. Now there’s something new being appropriated: domain names. In two separate cases last week, the Justice Department seized domains for web sites that it claimed were engaging in illegal activity.

In one of those cases, the sites were allegedly used to sell drug paraphernalia such as bongs and roach clips. Visitors are now greeted with a message from the government. So what’s the big deal? The Justice Department’s privacy policy allows it to hand over information it collects from people visiting seized web sites to “appropriate law enforcement officials” for criminal prosecution.

It’s legal to read any web site (with the possible exception of one with child porn), but in our new security-conscious climate it’s easy to imagine the Justice Department assuming the worst about an innocent visitor and not be terribly sensitive to their First Amendment rights. There are clear notices on the sites that the government seized last week. But you won’t see them if you send an e-mail, and any that is sent to the postmasters and Webmasters of those sites is now read by the Justice Department.

Read more at the ZDNet article: Police Powers Move Into Your Browser.