Ways to moderate Facebook’s influence in your life

Well, for starters, of course, you can just not use it. But if it’s a useful online watering hole/neighborhood pub/back fence, here are some ideas. I’m not an expert, but some of these are actually based on experience.

  • Do your writing on a blog and post the links on Facebook instead of writing in the posts. You can either customize or automate an excerpt or teaser to get people (hopefully) to go to your blog to read it.
  • And speaking of that blog, if you aren’t paying a webhost for it, that means there’s probably advertising on your blog that you may or may not have any control over, and which the blog host is using to make money off of you and your visitors.
  • Join some other social networks and do the same thing there (post links to your own hosted content).
  • Get your news from a news organization. If it is online, be prepared to pay for it.
  • If you see great information or entertainment (on Facebook or elsewhere), take the time to go to the original source and share that link on Facebook. If you are not already familiar with the source and confident in its veracity, try to confirm the facts first (or, you know, just don’t share it).
  • Don’t use Facebook to log in to anything that gives you an alternative.
  • Don’t imagine that Instagram is where you will go: it is owned by Facebook.
  • Google Plus is at least in the business of using your personal information for its own benefit, but don’t depend on it not  selling your information to others.
  • Always remember that if you are not paying for it, you are the product, not the customer. Keep asking who benefits and where the money is going.
  • Recognize your own role in whatever you think is a problem. Learn how to set your privacy settings; be skeptical; unfollow or unfriend people and pages liberally; remove the app from your phone. (If you can’t stop checking Facebook, that’s not Facebook’s fault, that’s something you need to figure out a way to deal with. /end cranky old man mode)
  • Don’t engage on Facebook with things you don’t want promoted. Facebook does. not. care. if you think something is funny, untrue, outrageous, or awful. If you respond in any way, it just increases the likelihood that your friends (who might never otherwise have seen it) will see it. If you share it, even to ridicule or debunk it, you are just helping to spread it around.
  • Look for other, niche social networks that will meet some of your needs. I am on a very quirky, obscure platform called Plurk (seemingly popular with teenage Korean girls), which is an outpost for groups of people from Second Life. One of the original attractions was that it didn’t police identity or names.

Thank you, Google

(This post is starting in the middle of a conversation. It’s in response to Google’s account name policy for its new social networking service, Google+. In brief, Google has conflicting policies about what you can call yourself and is implementing them inconsistently. Try an internet search for “real names policy” or #nymwars.)

Ha! I cleared out my gmail accounts (one for “suttonkenneth” and one for “otenth.paderborn”), and so I also figured I’d clear out my contacts. That resulted in erasing all the people I had in G+ circles. Oh well, that’s probably for the best. I’ll put back in only the people I want to communicate with via G+ (which may end up being vanishingly few, after all).

As of tonight, I’ve found a replacement for Google Reader (I’m using NewsBlur); I’ve set up an Otenth email account on my own internet host as well as a “use this email when some website requires one” account (as I should have done long ago), cleared out the gmail box, and set up a “vacation” responder on the Otenth one with no end date; I’ve deleted all Google docs that were mine alone, leaving some Radio Riel shared docs that I’m just not sure what would happen if I wipe them (I’m happy using Dropbox to share files); I’ve deleted my YouTube account and will carefully assess whether I “need” to have an account; turned off or deleted analytics, and several other arcane services. I’m no longer staying signed in to Google when I leave a Google service, so that if I want to use Google search it’s not getting all gummed up with whoever Google thinks I am or thinks I know.

I’ve turned off Gchat, which I actually enjoyed quite a bit with a tiny handful of people. I haven’t set up any replacement, but there are lots of alternatives.

That leaves only the AetherChrononauts calendar created with my otenth.paderborn gmail account as the unresolved, not easily replaced service. I *have* fully shared permissions with my “real name” self, should anything happen to the pseudonymous account.

Time will tell if Google plus becomes something irrelevant to my life, or if they manage to articulate (and practice!) a coherent policy on account names that will allow any of us to feel secure using their services. I had a thriving, nascent community of online friends for the first couple of weeks I was in Google+. Almost all of them are either gone or ignoring it now.

On a side note, all the attention to Internet safety and good hygeine made me take a closer look at Facebook’s settings, too. I’ll no longer be playing a couple of games I quite enjoyed, because they “require” permission to get information about my friends that they have no business having. (I may be willing to give them my [now fake] birthday or my political or religious affiliations [which are blank], but I can’t justify handing over my friends’ information just so I can play Scrabble.)

So, thank you, Google, for showing me how foolishly I put so many of my eggs in your basket, for opening my eyes to my ignorance about the risks of internet identity theft, and for making me an advocate for pseudonyms.

Religious bigotry

I’m feeling burdened by the bigotry and ignorance of people who are objecting to the Cordoba Institute’s community center (and yes, mosque) at a location in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center. (The so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.”)

Although some of the rhetoric has de-escalated to “they may have the right to build it, but it is insensitive,” I find that most of what is said is out-and-out religious bigotry. People who say Western Civilization is built on Judeo-Christian ethics. People who call Muslims ragheads. I won’t link to it, but if you search for “Joseph Phillips Ground Zero Mosque” you’ll find an opinion essay with this ugly morsel:

There is a small segment of the left that simply hates America. There is no other way to describe it. These hard-core leftists do not respect America’s traditions or institutions, so they are comrades-in-arms with any force that seeks to undermine or insult those institutions and they rush to stand in opposition to anything that smacks of patriotism or national pride.

If you read the version that’s at bighollywood, you’ll find a commenter named “TrueBlueMormon” who defends his use of the term “ragheads” by saying “facts are facts, they do wear rags on their heads, it is a cultural thing.” Well then, I suppose he won’t mind when I refer to his magic underwear. The irony is so, so sad.

But my support for the Cordoba Institute’s community center is not just a reaction to know-nothings, xenophobes, and religious bigots.

I support the community center because local government is an American value. The elected regulatory boards and the mayor of New York City have approved and defended the community center construction.

I actually think that most Americans treat private property as an idol, but since the laws do, indeed, tend to privilege private ownership over public good, then those laws should be equally applied.

I support the community center because freedom of religion is a bedrock American value. I support the community center because this is the result of not supporting freedom of religion:

statue of Mary Dyer by Sylvia Shaw Judson

That is a statue of Mary Dyer by Sylvia Shaw Judson. It sits just down the street from where I work, in front of the Massachusetts State House. Mary Dyer was hanged on Boston Common on June 1, 1660 for being a Quaker. She had earlier been sentenced with William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, who were hanged on October 27th, 1659.

Joan Walsh has written a wonderful essay reminding Roman Catholics of their history in the United States.

Until today, I had always thought the belief that Catholics couldn’t be “unambiguously Catholic and American,” or that the Catholic Church had “illiberal tendencies,” represented prejudice, the kind of prejudice that collided with and eventually gave way to American ideals about equality and religious freedom. I didn’t realize my people had to be “inspired” into fully embracing “the virtues of democracy” by Nativists, often by violence: from Charlestown, Mass, where Nativists burned a Catholic convent in 1834, to Philadelphia in 1844 (where thousands of Nativists attacked Irish Catholics, derided as “scum unloaded on American wharfs,” burned Catholic churches and convents, invaded the homes of Irish Catholics and beat residents), to St. Louis, where a Nativist riot against Irish Catholics killed 10 and destroyed 93 Irish Catholic homes and businesses, or Louisville, Ky., where Nativist mobs killed at least two dozen Catholics on “Bloody Monday,” Aug. 6, 1855.

There are, sadly, two American approaches to freedom of religion. I’m glad that the one that hangs people of other religions and burns down their houses of worship lost. I support the Cordoba Institute’s community center because all the arguments I’ve seen against it boil down to religious intolerance at best or religious bigotry and hatred or worse.

Blind to their (our) addiction

Andrew Sullivan linked to an article by Bradford Plumer on The New Republic, “There’s More to Oil Use than Massive SUVs.” He, in turn, bases part of his essay on research published on Grist in “How we can end our addiction to oil,” by Craig Severance.

Plumer seems to be saying, “sure, we need to cut back on how much oil we use when we drive, but gee, look at all these other non-essential things we’re using oil for.”

That’s true of course, as far as it goes: We need to be looking at all the ways we have built our lives around the use of petroleum products. But give me a fucking break. 47% of U.S. oil use is for passenger travel. 47%. If everyone in the U.S. drove and flew one-half as much, starting tomorrow, our dependence on oil would be reduced by a quarter. But no. That, according to Plumer, “is probably the trickiest item to fix and needs to be attacked from a whole bunch of different angles.” (He makes a point of saying that passenger travel “only” accounts for 47% of our oil use.

Plumer: “There’s a lot of other oil use out there that may be easier to tackle in the short run. About eight million buildings, mostly in the Northeast, use oil for heating, and this accounts for 15 percent of the country’s crude consumption. Renovating these buildings so that they can get their heat from natural gas or electricity would be a worthy endeavor.” Oh yeah, that’s lots easier than not driving as much tomorrow.

Both of them say we shouldn’t be using oil to produce electricity. Right on! How much of our oil use goes to making electricity? 1%. Yep, we better get right on that if we want to get off our oil addiction!

Severance’s essay (by far the superior of the two) goes on in some detail about changes in vehicle fuel efficiency and rail transportation, including a brief family reflection on the age of oil.

My grandfather grew up in a world before air travel, and the affordable personal vehicle was unknown. Yet, steel rails connected the country, and the leaders of America’s largest cities already understood that a city needs a subway system to prosper. Almost all long-distance travel and freight hauling was by rail.

I look at my one year old grandson, and I realize he will see the end of the Age of Oil. He won’t need to ride a horse to get around, as we now have electric cars for local use. Yet, there won’t be any electric airplanes, and we need to save what little oil we will have left to use as feedstock for essential products, construction and farm use, national defense, and intercontinental air travel.

May they rot in Hell

I’ve just seen the first image in the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” blog for today, of seabirds caught in the oil in the Gulf.

May the people responsible for this rot in Hell.

Failing that, BP’s executives should be held criminally liable. The assets of the corporation and all of their profits should be directed to the people of the Gulf Coast and to environmental organizations that are taking whatever small steps of amelioration are possible. This should happen not just now, but in perpetuity.

The role of every employee of BP and of the company that owns the oil rig itself, as well as every regulatory official in the U.S., state, and local governments who was involved in any way should be examined for misconduct, and if found, they should be fired and, if applicable, held criminally liable.

Automobile manufacturers should be required to research and create fuel-efficient automobiles.

Gasoline taxes should be doubled or tripled.

Yes, I am pissed. I am filled with grief. I feel vindictive and I want revenge. I also feel helpless and guilty in the face of this disaster, and so I can only add my own venom to the poisons humanity is unleashing on the earth: May they rot in Hell.

I may be dim

. . . but isn’t boarding a ship in international waters (by dropping from a helicopter, no less) an act either of piracy or of war?

I acknowledge the right of Israel to decide who and what can enter Israel, and what ships can enter Israel’s territorial waters or dock. I find it incredibly offensive, however, for Israel to attack ships while still in international waters and then say its soldiers were firing in self-defense when they killed civilians on board those vessels. If Israel wishes to continue its blockade of Gaza, it must do so within its own territorial waters. End of story, as far as I’m concerned. (Except, of course, that the relationship of Israel to its non-Jewish citizens and to the residents of the territories it occupies is a terrible, seemingly never-ending story of evil behavior from both parties that appears to be making Israel into an Apartheid state.)

We need to build a parallel system

Robert Paterson has one of the most consistently bleak yet optimistic takes on reality that I’ve come across. Today he critiques the economic system we live in as being dominated by finance to the detriment of “making and doing things that benefit us really.” He looks to the end of the Soviet Union and of the Raj for solutions.

What worked was that they then stood aside and built a new system in parallel. That worked.

Gandhi took the same path in India. How was he to get the Raj to leave? He could not take the British on directly. He could not persuade them morally. What he had to do was to help the mass of Indians recognize that THEY did not need the Raj any more.

So what to do? I think that we have to disengage from the system and start to engage with each other. We have to start in our small local way to build a paralel system that works for the planet and for people

Clarence Thomas is an asshat

Justice Thomas said the court should look to the practices at the time the Bill of Rights was adopted. Given that capital punishment could be imposed on people as young as 7 in the 18th century, he said, Mr. Graham’s punishment would almost certainly have been deemed acceptable back then.

via Court Bars Life Terms for Youths Who Haven’t Killed — NYTimes.com.

Justice Thomas should recall that the practices at the time the Bill of Rights was adopted condoned the practice of slavery.

Conservatives destroying marriage

Ed Gillespie, former counselor to President George W. Bush, whose wife Cathy has been friends with the Roves for 20 years, said: “It’s always sad to see a marriage end. These are two very good people, who came to a not-easy decision. But they care a lot about each other, and they love their son. And they’ll work through it.”

No, working through it usually refers to what you do in order to stay married.

via Karl Rove granted divorce in Texas — — POLITICO.com.

Just what the hell is he supposed to do? (a rant)

Okay, I do get why people are saying that giving Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize seems premature, when he’s been in office a bare nine months. On the other hand, the committee seemed quite clear that the award is meant as encouragement for his positions as much as for anything he’s accomplished. It’s a great honor, not only for Obama, but for the American people. He did not seek it. And I believe he has made some significant accomplishments already. And so I have very little patience for all the cavilling.

But for the people (on the right and on the left) who think he should “accomplish” something before he gets the prize: Just what is it you think he should accomplish? World peace? Is that what it takes before people stop bitching about whoever wins the Peace Prize?

I agree that Obama could get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq. And yes, I think he should, and yes, that’s a big part of why I voted for him. On the other hand, George W. Bush and company put us into a big, fucking mess. A BIG FUCKING MESS THAT WILL BE A BIG FUCKING MESS TO GET OUT OF. It seems likely there is no good outcome for either Iraq or Afghanistan. So I have some sympathy for Obama. But yes, I agree, Obama could put on his big boy pants, order us out of those wars, and take the inevitable shit that would come.

But Israel and Palestine? Islamist militants in a score of countries? The Iranian republic edging into a dictatorship? North Korean nukes? Give me a break. One person, even the president of the United States, cannot fix those problems. The Nobel Peace Prize committee has handed out awards for people who have “accomplished” something in the Middle East like candy, and Israel still illegally occupies the West Bank and Gaza, and Palestinian militants still illegally attack and terrorize Israel. They are going to have to find their own way out of the mess they’re in (and everyone else who is in a mess will, too). As for the unconscionable military aid the U.S. government gives to Israel, stopping that will require some backbone in the U.S. Congress, not the Executive Branch.

What do I think he’s accomplished? I think he was elected president. And if you don’t think that is an accomplishment on behalf of peace, I think you underestimate the depth of racial animosity that has characterized U.S. history, or are tone deaf to the hope and potential for reconciliation that Obama’s election represent.

And I think the effects of his words are accomplishments. Many comments are of the nature that he is, so far, all talk and no action. But see above: There are many problems in this world which no president of the United States can solve. But there are problems that the person holding that office can speak to, and if people listen, if their minds and hearts are changed or encouraged, then they might act. And really, talking is in fact how politicians act. The budget? Passed by Congress. Laws? Enacted by Congress. How? They talk to each other and try to convince one another. (Or lobbyists talk to them and try to give them convincing cover stories for getting in bed with big money concerns.) How does a president influence the budget and laws? Talking. (Excepting, of course, the use of the veto.)

Lasting goodwill among nations? Talking! Fairness in trade and international affairs requires acting in certain ways, but really, these actions need to be taken in concert, and need to reflect the desires and needs of all the parties. How do you do that? Talking! So don’t give me this “all talk and no action” crap. Talking is an act.

Here endeth the rant. And my non-ranting olive branch to the nay-sayers? Yes, I agree with many who say Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize because he isn’t George W. Bush. And you know what I say to that? Amen! Hallelujah! I just wish that war criminal and his war criminal cronies were in prison for the rest of their natural lives. (Oops! The ranting wasn’t all out of my system!)