Big Tech to face its Ma Bell moment? US House Dems demand break-up of ‘monopolists’ Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google • The Register

Of course, there is still a long way to go before any of the report’s recommendations become a reality. Even within the committee, there is not unanimity, with some Republican members expressing concerns over breaking up companies in particular. Republicans will also be more ideologically opposed to adding regulations or removing companies’ ability to arbitrate disputes themselves, rather than through the courts.

And then of course there is the enormous collective power of Apple, Amazon, Facebook and Google – some of the world’s largest and richest corporations – who will be willing and able to do anything to protect their markets and profits.

Source: Big Tech to face its Ma Bell moment? US House Dems demand break-up of ‘monopolists’ Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google • The Register

I note, for the record, that AT&T was broken up long before Citizen’s United was decided, when our government still worked, because both sides actually  compromised on legislation. I also remind everyone the the Supreme Court is NOT, in fact, the final say in our laws. If Congress doesn’t like the way a decision went, they can write a new law in light of what was decided.

But do you really think that a bunch of Congress-people are going to forego campaign funding from Silicon Valley by voting to break up four of the biggest corporations in the world? Even if they weren’t getting money from those companies before, you can bet their primary challengers would, the next time around. You can’t fix our corporatocracy until you get rid of Citizen’s United, and we will never be free of it now. As if we didn’t have a big enough problem with it before, the decision guarantees regulatory capture forever. Campaign funding and the life-and-death polarization of our two-party system will never allow for reversing it.

There’s no public interest in these hearings. There is literally zero chance that anything will substantively change. Even if they do break Instagram out of Facebook, or YouTube out of Google, what will that really do? Nothing. If this is really about the advertising market, then all you’re going to do is split your existing spend, and if there are just 4 entities involved in the market instead of 2, they’ll collude on pricing, as a middle finger to the government. And, like AT&T before it, they will eventually just reassemble themselves into something even more monstrous than before.

This is about money. It’s always about money. Congress thinks that these companies should be giving more of their money to their campaigns, and this is how they go about getting that done. Watch campaign contributions rise in the wake of these hearings, note that nothing effectively changes, and then remember I was right. This isn’t rocket surgery. We’ve seen this before from the Microsoft trial.

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Stop the EARN IT Bill Before It Breaks Encryption | EFF Action Center

The House and Senate are both pushing forward with the so-called “EARN IT” Act, a bill that will undermine encryption and free speech online. Attorney General William Barr and the DOJ have demanded for years that messaging services give the government special access to users’ private messages. If EARN IT passes, Barr will likely get his wish—law enforcement agencies will be able to scan every message sent online.

Source: Stop the EARN IT Bill Before It Breaks Encryption | EFF Action Center

Once again, I remind conservatives and Christians that every surveillance and law enforcement power we accede to the government in the name of terrorism or child pornography will eventually be used against people who quote and speak about the verbatim contents of the Bible, when they make such acts illegal.

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Google And Oracle’s Decade-Long Copyright Battle Reaches Supreme Court : NPR

Source: Google And Oracle’s Decade-Long Copyright Battle Reaches Supreme Court : NPR

I don’t want Oracle to win on the basis of software copyrights, but I do want Google to lose, and get hit with an astronomical penalty. I also would love to see a general chilling effect on the use of Java and Oracle, which I think are terrible technical choices today. But everyone involved here is part of the problem of our country being a captured corporatocracy now, so I’m very conflicted. If there’s a way that they both lose, and the public wins, I’d be for that.

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Alas Twitter

I’ve tried to work with Twitter. I’ve tried pruning my follow list. I’ve tried blocking terrible people and muting terrible subjects. I’ve tried turning off retweets for people who, otherwise, had interesting things to say. But all of this is hopeless. Even the people who are left coming through in my feed only want to talk about the people and things I’m specifically trying to prevent coming through my feed.

Look, I get it. I do. The world is pretty messed up. But I don’t want to hear about the terribleness of everything all the time, and I really don’t want to see petty, stupid, ad-hominem attacks, literally non-stop. It may not seem like it, but I really do have better things to do than get dragged down the rabbit hole into yet another stupid and pointless argument that takes 72 tweets to make sense of, which changes nothing, and only leaves everyone more angry than when they started.

Not only will Twitter not give me the tools to prevent this, it feels like they’ve gone out of their way to make it seem like they do, while not actually doing so. The best change they could make is that if someone quotes or retweets someone I’ve blocked, or a keyword I’ve muted, I don’t want to see it. At all. Don’t show me a tweet with a quoted block that says, “This tweet has been hidden…” I don’t care about the tweet, nor do I care what someone else has to say about that tweet. To wit: I don’t want to see what Donald Trump tweets, and I REALLY don’t want to see what people say ABOUT those tweets. To me, that’s kind of the whole point of muting and blocking. And the fact that Twitter continues to shove stuff you’ve specifically said you don’t want to see in your face tells you a lot about their objectives.

<Andy Rooney>And another thing</Andy Rooney>, Twitter is supposed to be the people’s answer to traditional media. Why is it, then, that most of the substantive discussion on the service seems dominated by blue checkmarks from “print” and broadcast media outlets?

The even more-worrisome thing about this generally-acknowledged terrible situation is that these aren’t just little niggling details, or unfortunate side effects. This has all been specifically engineered to exacting standards. Like, hundreds of thousands of man-hours of meetings and coding — not to mention billions of investment capital — has been devoted to making this work precisely as it does. This is exactly what they want. How messed up is that? So, for (I think) the 14th time, I’m out. At least for now. I can’t find a way to live in peace while using the service any more.

For what it’s worth, the Bible predicted the general social trends that are happening right now, 2,000 years ago. Twitter (and Facebook, et. al.) is just another tool which accelerates the degeneration. But saying this on social media would, of course, immediately get me reviled. There was a time where the internet was cool, and interesting and respectful discussion about various topics could be had in many places. All of that is now gone. I know how to get it back, but the mechanics of how to do it will be left for another time.

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Dunbar’s Number – Wikipedia

Dunbar’s Number is a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships—relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person. This number was first proposed in the 1990s by British anthropologist Robin Dunbar, who found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, he proposed that humans can comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships. Dunbar explained it informally as “the number of people you would not feel embarrassed about joining uninvited for a drink if you happened to bump into them in a bar.”

Source: Dunbar’s number – Wikipedia

I have finally run across the term for my problem with Facebook: Dunbar’s Number. Old relationships from decades ago should be allowed to die off as you make new relationships. 150 people feels about right. Having 1,000-2,000 “friends” on Facebook makes literally no sense. Similarly, following 4,000 people on Twitter makes literally no sense. People require context to make sense of comments and pictures, and when you have that many people on a feed of any kind, context becomes impossible to distinguish.

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The Continuing Saga of ESO

So I continue to be tortured by ESO, and my inability to hit “high” DPS numbers. I can still only do about 32K DPS. I’ve reached a point where I don’t have to be ashamed about running any non-trial content in the game, but trials seduce me. There’s a pretty clear delineation between trials and the rest of game; you have to be intentional about playing them. You have to group up, and block out time to do it. But it’s the only way to get the best gear in the game, and if I can’t ever get to a point of being able to run veteran trials, it really turns me off from playing the game at all.

The reason this is all coming up again is because I tried to jump into a PUG to do a vet trial while I was running around scrying and collecting in Craglorn. Someone was pointing out that there were currently double drops happening! Well, count me in! Except that I was told that I needed to hit 70K to be able to join the effort. Oops. At least he wasn’t a jerk about it.

I’ve continued to gear up. I’m carrying around False God’s, New Moon Acolyte, Mother’s Sorrow, Law of Julianos, and a set of Willpower jewelry. (And I also have a set of Coward’s Gear, with swift-traited jewelry for collecting!) I’ve tried many combinations in the armor and weapon/jewelry slots, but all of these tests only seem to confirm that — despite the endless arguments about the “best” gear or traits or abilities or weapons or enchantments or Mundus boons — it’s all essentially a wash. There’s enough going on with all the math involved that losing particular bonuses seems to get made up for by gaining different ones.

I ran the Maelstrom solo trial, and actually got a Crushing Wall inferno staff on the first try. (So the RNG actually worked in my favor for once. Meanwhile, I’m 0 for 9 on a 2-in-6 chance at getting the shoulders I need to complete one of my monster sets in a configuration that will satisfy the Undaunted Mettle passive.) This alone was supposed to boost my DPS numbers by “5-6K.” I can’t see that it makes any difference at all. (And, yes, of course, I’m pairing it with Wall of Elements.)

Because of the way the game stacks and scales the various modifiers, it gets very confusing to see which components of a build combine to produce a particular result. I understand that’s by design, and I guess Zenimax has enough people who can get past the learning curve and find enjoyment in that to make the service profitable, but I find I’m sliding back down the hill before getting over the hump.

I finally found this video, by one of the most detailed-oriented people I’ve ever run across on the internet (and that’s really saying something). I also just found this video as I looked for the other video. Both prove about the same thing. The difference between 300 CP and 810 CP is an increase of about 20-25% DPS.

The first video also tries to account for the difference between using end-game, trial-level gear versus mid-tier, dungeon-level gear. The difference from this also seems to be about about 20-25%. All of these examples are using all-gold everything, even at the lower CP, so it’s an unfair comparison with my setup, which is still limited to purple gear and blue jewelry. (The gold jewelry alone would cost $1M in-game gold to get to.)

I still can’t get anywhere near a number that gives my hope I will ever hit 70K. If I were to expect that getting gold-tier, end-game gear, and maxing out CP would get me to 70K, I estimate that I would have to be hitting about 50K right now, with current gear and CP. I’m only hitting 30K. I need to find another 20. This means I need to somehow find a way to increase my DPS by two-thirds, just by rotation and animation canceling. So it should be obvious why I despair at the prospect.

I actually stumbled on an unbelievably-helpful person a couple months ago, who ran me through Skyreach about 6 times, then took me to his guild’s house to show me how to weave. I shared my screen on Discord, and he respeced my character, setup my bars, and helped me break into the 30’s. I saw 34K at one point. Clearly not the answer to everything, but he got me to slow down, and actually be conscious of my button presses. I’m still not perfect at it, but I’m a lot better now. This video is pretty good at illustrating the timing of the pattern, where the others are not clear.

I’ve loaded up the “light attack helper” mod, to show when I’m actually hitting the light attacks. My percentage is around 0.77, which is low, I know. But I also understand the amount of DPS I would get if I could manage to hit 0.90, and it’s not the difference-maker. Even when I’m screwing up and only hitting, say, 0.58, my numbers only drop by 1-2K.

I’ve loaded up my bars with the best abilities everyone says I should be using. Different combinations of abilities always seem to work out about the same, if you do the math. Sure, you can use, say, the Psijic order ability to boost your next light attack, or, say, the Mage’s guild ability that gives you a 30-second spell crit boost, but then you give up a slot where you could be using a DoT effect. Again, like gear or boons, it all seems like six of one, half a dozen of the other to me.

The whole business just makes me feel like there’s this magical membrane which, if I could pierce, would usher me into a luminescent enlightenment. I’d smack my forehead, say, “Oh! Of course!,” and be able to hit 60K without even looking at the screen. This Zen-like state has eluded me, but, even if I were to suddenly “get it,” what would that mean? That I could run vet trials, finally? And so what if I did? I could start collecting the best gear? For what? Running harder trials? Running around, griefing noobs in PvE? Neither of those things particularly appeal to me. So I guess there’s not much point in mastering the technical mechanics of the game. Except for the principle of the thing, which I find I can’t escape.

My friends find enjoyment in playing the single-player aspect of the game, but I don’t, particularly. Which leaves me the multiplayer aspect, but I don’t enjoy the online-only nature of the relationships that this style requires to play. So, after 880 hours invested in the game, I feel like all the options are closing off to me, and I think I’m going to retire again. But they’re going to start the Halloween event soon, which tempts me, as it’s the only time you can get some of the best recipes in the game, which can sell for hundreds of thousands of gold. Gah! What to do!?

If all this seems obsessive, you’ll certainly get no argument from me. Of course, it’s this sort of obsessiveness that’s caused me to fight with computers for hours, weeks, months, and years, to learn their deepest secrets, and which makes me good at being a full-stack developer. So I guess I got that going for me, which is nice, even if I will never be good at ESO.

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It’s Called the “War on Drugs,” and it Leads to Everything Else | Hacker News

Source: *I can imagine a scenario where I think many objective individuals would agree a… | Hacker News

I am for decriminalizing most drugs, because of the overwhelmingly net-negative effects on society by the so-called War on Drugs, which better people than me have expounded on for decades to an un-hearing legislature. I also think there’s been enough written about the way the CIA started the problem in the black community, in the first place, to justify its end. I just thought this comment was a good summary of how ridiculous no-knock raids are, prima facie, let alone in actual practice.

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Sacrifice for Thee, Vast Wealth for Me | Epsilon Theory

From 2014 – 2019, the same years that CEO and Chairman Doug pocketed $200 million in real money stock-based comp, American Airlines had *negative* free cash flow of $3.2 billion.

And took on an additional $14 billion in debt.

And bought back $13 billion of its stock. How did all this work out for American Airlines shareholders from 2014 – 2019?

Over this six year period, AAL stock was up 13%. Not 13% per year, but 13% over SIX YEARS of the best bull market in history.


Source: Sacrifice for Thee, Vast Wealth for Me | Epsilon Theory

This kind of thing is happening all the time. The system of government we have is no longer a democratic republic. It’s a corporatocracy. It’s a return to a modern version of feudalism. The C-levels of our largest corporations are the land-owning royalty, and “employees” work their “land” to be protected from our profit-seeking health care system. Whatever these executives want to do to increase their personal wealth and standing, no matter the harm to the company’s long-term prospects, or its employees and their long-term prospects, is fair game.

Meanwhile, the government has become a modern version of the Catholic Church, weaving their cross-“country” influence to help pick and choose their preferred benefactors in this version of clashing medieval kingdoms. The “priests” of this “church,” blessing the armies of these border skirmishes, are mostly geriatrics, who tend towards narcissism, and have a hard time connecting with the concept of what these battles will leave the field looking like for the next generation.

The American experiment in democracy has ended. Corporate power and political influence, expanded by the Citizens United ruling, has officially killed it. Right now, Congress is holding hearings on anti-trust against companies like Facebook and Google, but we all know how this circus will turn out. If penalties are applied, it will amount to a slap on the back of the hand. If actual regulation is enacted, it will be written by the lobbyists, and actually help the company is was supposed to limit, by hurting their competitors more. And the fact that we can know both of these things with perfect certainty, based on lots of previous (in)action, tells you everything you need to know about regulatory capture.

And all the time this is playing out, the emperors of our “free” press have us arguing about personal political and religious differences. They took the turkey while we were pulling on the wishbone.

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Hitting a Little too Close to Home

I ran across an article about the all-time most-favorited HN posts, and I clicked through a couple. If there were ever a contest to capture the essence of the modern internet in one screenshot, this would have to be in the running.

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Amazon Drivers Are Hanging Smartphones in Trees to Get More Work

A strange phenomenon has emerged near Inc. delivery stations and Whole Foods stores in the Chicago suburbs: smartphones dangling from trees. Contract delivery drivers are putting them there to get a jump on rivals seeking orders, according to people familiar with the matter.

Source: Amazon Drivers Are Hanging Smartphones in Trees to Get More Work

Our country has allowed companies like Amazon to extract and outsource an integral part of their product to individual contractors who are fighting over slivers of scraps. They have the money to hire real people, full-time, with benefits and everything — and pay for the fleet of vehicles — to deliver the products they sell from Whole Foods.

These delivery gig workers, in a lot of cases, aren’t even making enough to cover the mileage on their personal vehicles. Meanwhile, Amazon sits on $71.3B in cash, paid $0 in corporate taxes for the previous 2 years, paid just 1.2% this past year, and execs all laugh their way to the next exercised stock option worth hundreds of millions of dollars. As they say, “It’s good work if you can get it.”

People in Portland continue to protest, loot, and burn the place down, and the media wants us all to think this all about the Presidential race. In my opinion, this sort of inequality that’s really driving the rage behind these “protests.” Large companies in America have broken the implied social contract that a corporate charter implies. Amazon is just one of the handful of extreme examples. There are many others. It think it’s time to get serious about reforming unfettered capitalism, and limiting the size and scope of a company, based on how well they share their success with their employees.

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