Items filtered by date: Friday, 05 July 2019

After a 67 year run, Mad magazine will cease publication and join its one time (and only real) rival publication Cracked magazine in going “the way of the dodo.” Cracked closed shop in 2007 and Mad magazine will no longer publish new content as of next month. 

 

Of course, “no longer publish NEW content” is far from “closing permanently.” Cracked ceased publication but evolved into a highly successful website: Cracked.com. Mad magazine will cease publishing “original content” and instead will revert to publishing “new” monthly issues that contain recycled material from its previous 67 year run. Of course, the “new” issues will still have original cover artwork and it sounds as if the planned end of the year “holiday” issue will actually have new art and new content. The other kicker is that Mad magazine will no longer be widely available in, say - supermarkets or bookstores. In order to receive a copy you will have to either subscribe or visit a specialty comic book shop (Mad magazine is now owned by DC comics).  So, Mad magazine is not exactly ceasing all publication as reported at the beginning of the week. I mean, at least for now. 

 

A subscription based model that reprints recycled bits from Mad’s long history, um … miiiiiight work.  But, probably not. Which is too bad because, like many, I grew up reading Mad (and Cracked) thinking that Mad host character Alfred E. Neuman and his moniker, “What, me worry” was pretty damn cool. Spy vs. Spy was my jam and Mad introduced me to artist Don Martin and all his various characters up to and especially including, The Mad Adventures of Captain Klutz (which was published in the Mad magazine paperback line of books, not the actual magazine itself). 

 

So, it appears as if Mad is not exactly going out of print; however, it is changing to subscription only that reprints previously written material which means that it’s not exactly dead but it might as well be. I mean, if you want to publish collections of old material in a Volume 1, Volume 2 compilation, well - that’s a totally legitimate thing to do. Lot’s of comic runs do that. But, that’s not exactly what is happening here. In fact, I would say just dump the “new” monthly recycled material magazine and only publish a holiday “year in review” with all new content and all new art. Just make it a once a year magazine. Make it an event. Make it something special. 

 

The recycled once a month model really seems to be a - we’re going out of business  but, um not really. But, kind of. But we’re shutting down, but not really. But … you know … we kind of are.  But we also - kind of aren’t. 

 

Which, to be honest - is driving me a bit …. Mad.  =)

Published in News & Information

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that momentum is building for the U.S. government to subject Google and other Big Tech firms to antitrust scrutiny for fears that they have become too big and too powerful.

In today’s digital ecosystem, politicians, political parties, organizations and media all rely on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Google and Youtube to get the message out because that’s where consumers by and large go to in order to consume information.

A Pew report found 68 percent of adult Americans use Facebook, or over 170 million. 24 percent use Twitter, or about 61 million. A separate Pew report found 73 percent, or 185 million, use broadband internet. Statista reports that Google’s family of sites are the most popular in America, with 255 million unique U.S. visitors in March 2019 alone.

So, the internet is indisputably a huge part of the way people are getting information nowadays.

Now, conservatives and Republicans have become alarmed as many of these platforms are censoring and restricting speech that does not coincide with Big Tech’s social justice agenda. Deplatforming is real. Actor James Woods has been censored on Twitter, Stephen Crowder has been demonetized on Youtube (owned by Google) and Candace Owens was temporarily suspended on Facebook before the company did a reversal and declared it “an error.”

Political discrimination is destructive as it creates an incentive to silence your political opponents. Suddenly you have countrymen reporting on one another to get them deplatformed. Is this healthy for a society?

But it is not merely the reporting features that are being abused on these platforms.

Project Veritas’ James O’Keefe released a video on June 24 that showed how the algorithms that produce Google search results (and other machine learning) are programmed with algorithmic “fairness” in mind to prevent, per an internal 2017 Google document, “unjust or prejudicial treatment of people that is related to sensitive characteristics such as race, income, sexual orientation or gender, through algorithmic systems or algorithmically aided decision-making.”

Just throw in political affiliation, philosophy or religion, and one can immediately recognize how Republicans, conservatives or Christians might feel marginalized on social media platforms, but Google did not end up looking into that. A study by Google in 2018 on algorithmic fairness stated, “due to our focus on traditionally marginalized populations, we did not gather data about how more privileged populations think about or experience algorithmic fairness.”

As a Google executive in the video who was quoted in an undercover camera noted, “Communities who are in power and have traditionally been in power are not who I’m solving fairness for.”

But if Google had looked at other groups, they would have likely found that supposedly “privileged” populations can feel marginalized, too. The 2018 study unsurprisingly found that participants expressed, “In addition to their concerns about potential harms to themselves and society, participants also indicated that algorithmic fairness (or lack thereof) could substantially affect their trust in a company or product” and that “when participants perceived companies were protecting them from unfairness or discrimination, it greatly enhanced user trust and strengthened their relationships with those companies.”

The thing is, nobody wants to be discriminated against, and if they are it will affect their perception of the company or companies that are doing it. Deplatforming, censorship and manipulating search and news results undermines trust in these Big Tech firms, and suddenly makes them a problem that many want to solve. No need for another focus group.

So, what responsibility does Big Tech have to foster our way of life and our competitive system of representative government, if any?

I would argue just as much responsibility as they feel to tackle the issue of fairness for historically marginalized groups, if for no other reason than it is good, sound business to cater to all comers, particularly in the political and governmental sphere. Why make enemies? It’s provocative.

Many solutions have been proposed to help there to be a level playing field on the Internet. Some are heavy-handed and appear to miss the target, while others are more narrow.

There is the Federal Communications Commission route, which might seek to make public utilities out of Big Tech companies, and all the regulation that comes with that. Net neutrality springs to mind, although that appeared more focused on throttling broadband speeds due to how much data was being used, whereas the issues today appear to focus on content-based censorship.

There is antitrust approach, whether via the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice Antitrust Division, that might envision breaking up these large companies. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has come out for this approach. In a recent statement, she said, “As these companies have grown larger and more powerful, they have used their resources and control over the way we use the internet to squash small businesses and innovation, and substitute their own financial interests for the broader interests of the American people. To restore the balance of power in our democracy, to promote competition, and to ensure that the next generation of technology innovation is as vibrant as the last, it’s time to break up our biggest tech companies.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act exempts “interactive computer services” from liability of what their users post, and grants them the power to remove items at their discretion they find objectionable. Some have proposed simply removing the liability protections, which would render sites that allow users to write whatever they want suddenly subject to liability of hundreds of millions of users. It would also effectively destroy the Internet, since nobody would be willing to assume the risk of hosting somebody else’s material that might be defamatory.

Some have called for conservatives to boycott these platforms and to take their business elsewhere or to make their own platforms, but what sort of echo chamber would we wind up with? More to the point, to win elections, Republicans have to appeal to independents and unaffiliated voters. You buy ads where there’s ad space to reach undecideds. Insular practices of exclusively only talking to partisans on your side is a recipe for being in the minority for a very long time. It does not grow a political movement to do that.

This author has posited that perhaps Congress could narrowly expand the franchise of protected groups under civil rights to include politics, philosophy and the like (although excluding employment hiring for exclusive organizations like political parties and organizations) and defining interactive computer services as public accommodations so that services cannot be denied on the basis of partisan differences. Throw in banking, DNS resolution, web hosting and email services as public accommodations while we’re at it for good measure.

From the perspectives of the Big Tech companies, surely they have noticed a marked uptick in calls to regulate their firms? Conservatives complain about censorship. Elizabeth Warren is worried about smaller businesses. The calls for regulation are directly proportionate to how powerful these firms have become. Do any of the above options sound profitable or more like a regulatory headache that will cost millions or billions of dollars to manage?

And these are not even things we would normally consider, but throw in the prospect of censorship and suddenly it’s an existential matter of survival. Republicans who might normally defend these companies from regulation might look the other way when it comes up now. See how that works?

The truth is, I’m taking time out of my column to focus on this issue and so are many other organizations that are worried they too could be censored. The platforms we’re talking about have such market saturation that is so pervasive it could be utilized to discriminate on the basis of politics in order foster conditions conducive to one-party rule, which I believe to be dangerous.

More broadly, groups like Americans for Limited Government and political parties depend on a competitive political system to function. If we and others like us were suddenly barred from posting on social media or hosting a website or sending emails, suffice to say we would not function for much longer.

In a representative form of government, political parties’ access to media and their followers are critical to building and growing constituencies, and in the digital age these represent a digital sort of civil rights, and they must be protected in order for that system to continue to exist. One party systems do not respect civil rights. They squelch dissent to consolidate power and they target political opponents and critics of the system.

The great Renaissance philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli supposed that there were but two forms of government, republics and principalities, perhaps for that reason. One is ruled by the consent of the governed and the separation of powers, and the other by the will and domination of the state and over time needs to instill fear in order to govern.

There are liberal democracies that foster debate, and then there are one party systems that demand loyalty to the state. There’s not much in between.

The alarming trends we’re seeing with Big Tech companies engaging in censorship in the pursuit of “fairness” look a lot like a bid for one party rule. And the thing about one party systems is, once you have one, it’s really, really hard to get rid of it and there’s no guarantee that your favored class will be represented in its leadership. Sometimes those who support the rise of such a system wind up being marginalized by it. Look no further than Elizabeth Warren to see what lies at the end of that tunnel. Is it worth the risk? Be careful what you wish for.

 

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Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government. He is also a guest contributor to the Penny Press - the conservative weekly "voice of Nevada." You can subscribe here at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

Published in Politics

Assuming you are reading this on the day this electronic newspaper is officially dated, this is the 243rd anniversary of some very brave men telling a king, 3,539 miles away, to stuff it and that they were going to chart their own destiny, create their own nation.

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

 

Back in those days, we had whatever government was installed by that king, 3,539 miles away.  And he enforced his dictates by military “persuasion.”

 

This was the Continental Congressional response:

 

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes.”

 

That was then.

 

Today, we no longer have a Continental Congress.  We have a congress in which the House of Representatives is dominated by clowns like Adam Schiff, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.  We have a Senate dominated by Republicans, some of who have higher political ambitions and some who just want to hold the nation together.  

 

And we have a President who many believe was the instrument that many citizens voted for to fix that government which they believe had become “destructive of these ends.

 

We also have a Supreme Court which recently held that it is not unconstitutional to ask a census question about citizenship BUT they didn’t like the attitude of the Secretary of Commerce so they sent it back to a lower court to try and run out the clock.  How judicial of them.

 

In 2020, we are going to have a referendum on what the citizens actually think of the dysfunction we find in our elected government.

 

The President will stand for re-election, so will most of the various clowns in Congress, as you and I get our official say.

 

My guess is that in the 244th year since those men appended their names to the document in the National Archives, you and I will make it clear what we decided in 2016, which is to say that we had enough.  That our government was becoming oppressive and was beginning—actually well past beginning—to take away from those unalienable Rights.  That is why we sent Donald Trump to Washington.

 

The opposition to the President wants open borders, state sponsored and controlled healthcare, the right to kill unborn babies with their hearts beating, the repeal of the right to keep and bear arms, taxing at obscene rates job creators and a host of other stupid ideas which would cripple the very reasons that those guys in Philadelphia wrote and signed that document.

 

They disguise their desires by couching the unacceptable with misleading words.

 

Gun confiscation becomes gun safety.  Killing babies with detectable heartbeats becomes reproductive health rights.  State sponsored and controlled healthcare becomes Medicare for All.  Open borders becomes sanctuary cities and sanctuary states.

 

These folks use their tongues prettier than the hookers who service some of the men in Congress.

 

Frankly, if we don’t put a stop to this nonsense in 2020, we’ll deserve everything we get.

 

I’ve never blamed the Democrats for Barack Obama.  I blamed the Republicans.  2008 and 2012 were winnable elections.  But you cannot beat somebody with nobody.  And John McCain was Obama light.  Mitt Romney invented Obamacare in Massachusetts when he was governor.  Why elect the diet drink when you can have the real thing?

 

That said, Trump’s opposition has done us a huge favor.  They have shown us who they really are.  It’s our job to vote NO!

 

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Fred Weinberg is a columnist and the CEO of USA Radio Network. His views and opinions are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GCN. Fred's weekly column can be read all over the internet. You can subscribe at www.pennypressnv.com. His column has been reprinted in full, with permission. 

 
Published in Opinion
Friday, 05 July 2019 16:29

Don't be civil in politics?

Here’s what we learned from the first democratic presidential debate last week. Do not fraternize with those you disagree with and never refer to a fellow politician as son, boy or anything similar.  It’s just not “politically correct.”

Former Vice President Joe Biden was roasted for talking about trying to find common ground with conservative southern senators when he served in the U.S. Senate. “At least there was some civility” Biden said about working with segregationists like former Mississippi Senator James Eastland. He should not have been so “civil” says a number of other democratic candidates.

I’ll tell you this. These presidential wannabes have never spent time around the Louisiana legislature.  When I was elected to the Louisiana State Senate back in 1972, I sat in the Senate chambers shrouded by older senators who had served in that body for a number of years.  They included Harvey Peltier from Thibodaux, Jackson Davis from Shreveport, Jesse Knowles, who survived the Baton death march in World War II, and J.E. “Boysie” Jumonville from New Roads.  They all were quite conservative, more so than me.

Many of these senators had served through the segregation era and had opposed any legislation involving civil rights. When I took office, we often disagreed and I did my best to bring them around to my point of view.  But we were always civil and we often socialized and shared a meal when the legislative day was done.

Should I have scorned those who disagreed with me as Joe Biden is accused of not doing.  Of course not. The whole focus of a democracy is to confect workable solutions where a consensus can come together.  Failing to confer with those you disagree with is, in my opinion, a dereliction of one’s oath of office.

I was affectionally referred to by these elder senators, as “the new kid” and “young Brown.” Boysie Jumonville, who sat right next to me, often called me son or boy.  I never took offense, nor did I think his term of “boy” had any racial connotations.  A far cry of the onslaught of criticism Biden is facing today.

Let me tell you how bad the racial tension could have become.  With much humor and gusto, Louisiana’s first black representative, Dutch Moriel from New Orleans, relished telling of his first day at the state capitol in Baton Rouge as a new legislator.  Representatives have seat-mates, with their two desks sitting side by side.  As chance would have it, Dutch sat right next to Representative Jesse McLain, who represented an archconservative district in southeast Louisiana that had been a hotbed of Klu Klux Klan activity.  Now Dutch was from a Creole background and quite light skinned.

Dutch told me that when he took his seat, Jesse leaned over and whispered: “Where’s that N…..? (Yes, the N word.)  Dutch said he just smiled, looked around the room for a minute, then leaned over to Jesse, got right up in his face, and said: “You’re looking at him.” Then he burst out laughing.  A flustered McClain excused himself from the legislature for the rest of the day.

McClain came back the next day and apologized.  Dutch told me that they became friends, and that he worked on McClain for the next four years to make him more enlightened on a number of social issues.

Of course you have to reach out when you are in public office.  We will never agree on all matters, but there is a middle ground on a number of social and economic issues that both make sense and serve the public interest. For some current presidential candidates to argue otherwise is bad policy and bad governing. 

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

 

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Jim Brown is a guest contributor to GCN news. His views and opinions, if expressed, are his own. His column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show, Common Sense, each Sunday morning from 9:00 am till 11:00 am Central Time on the Genesis Communication Network.

 

Published in Opinion