THE BEST SITE ON THE WEB

At the start of April, one of the film editors at the English newspaper/website The Guardian asked me to write a piece about what I was doing in the lockdown: what films I was watching, what music I listened to, what I was reading and where I got my news. I wrote the piece (you can read it here) within the required word limit, fired it off to them, and it was published … sort of. What got published was the first half, about films and songs. What got omitted was the stuff I wrote about sources of information.

To be fair, I expected this. The Guardian has become so conservative in its politics that any mention of The Canary, say, will be thoroughly excised. The editor of The Guardian is traditionally a timorous person from a private school, who can be relied upon to shop whistleblowers and quake before the fearsome might of the “intelligence community.” But during the general election campaign, the former newspaper excelled itself in doing its master’s bidding, and going out of its way to stop Corbyn winning a general election: peddling anti-semitism smears and red-baiting one of the very few decent individuals left in English politics. Pretending the Labour leader was a Russian dupe is par for the course for the BBC and the Murdoch press. When The Guardian joined the pack it was a media fait accompli.

One might argue that really it was the Blairite fifth column in the administration of the Labour party which sank the ship. There’s a long article about that here. which discusses an 841-page Labour investigation into its various failings. The leaked document “shows that some of the most senior employees of the Labour Party held its elected leadership in contempt, despised their own party members and even acted in a conspiratorial manner that undermined our 2017 general election campaign.”

So the Blairite faction in the Labour Party preferred to lose an election than win one. Their only goal was to ensure that their own, moderately-leftish, socialist candidate wasn’t elected. Does that remind the American reader of anything? Is there another political party anywhere with an entrenched neoliberal administration who despise their own supporters and would rather lose than see a moderately-leftish, socialist candidate win?

In the general election, the Conservatives didn’t pick up many extra votes. What won it for them were the 800,000 Labour voters who didn’t turn up at the polls. In several cases, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs lost their seats – including the egregious Ruth Smeeth, peddler of the “anti-semitic” calumny against her own party. There are surely numerous reasons why those Labour voters didn’t vote. They may have detested the local candidate that the London-based party imposed on them. They may have opposed Labour’s support of a second Brexit referendum. They may have believed the “anti-semitic” or “Russian agent” propaganda of the mainstream media. They may have felt the opposite, and given up on Corbyn and the party for not responding strongly and forcefully to obvious lies and bullshit. I don’t imagine we shall ever know.

Nor, I suppose, will we ever know why Bernie Sanders threw in the towel so early, in the face of blatant vote-stealing and vote suppression by the Democratic Party. Sure, the DNC were stealing primary votes and making voting difficult, just as they did in 2016. What did he expect? The Coronavirus affects everything, which is why we need a political class who understand the need for universal health care and a minimum basic income. In terms of the presidential race, Sanders was the only candidate close to such positions. Now that he is gone, what professional politician represents us?

Anyway, the point I have wandered from is, if one doesn’t read MSM any more, or watch stupid-ass TV “news”, how does one get one’s information? I have no social media, and a cheery disposition as a result, so I’m reliant on books, of course, and for daily information on those old-fashioned things called websites.

Which news-oriented websites to visit? Here we are in luck. A few years back an “anonymous” propaganda outfit called Prop Or Not was heavily promoted by the Bezos Shopper. Prop Or Not had a website, and the website told you which other websites were secret channels for Russian disinformation. I made a little informational video about the Prop Or Not blacklist, which you can watch here.

Prop Or Not remains entirely anonymous (“an independent team of concerned Americans”) unlike other state-sponsored propaganda outlets like SmellingRat and the Integrity Initiative, which offer contact info. But the Bezos Shopper article promoting their wares turned out to be fantastically useful, as it directed me to several excellent blogs and websites I hadn’t known before.

Of course, antiwar.com and Counterpunch were old favourites.

But have you visited Naked Capitalism? I think this is the most fascinating and useful site on the web. It contains commentary on finance, economics, politics and power. Its valiant team daily scour the internet for articles of interest, commission their own pieces, and provide links. There is always a focus on the environment, a cute animal or plant picture, and an extremely informed and informative commentariat. I love this site, and encourage you to visit it. Thank you, Prop Or Not!

(None of the sites I visit hide behind paywalls. It’s always possible to make a contribution to the project, which I try to do.)

Among the other sites which I mentioned in my [redacted] Guardian piece are Craig Murray’s blog (very valuable news regarding the dreadful trial-by-judge of Julian Assange and the attempted stitch-up of Alex Salmond. The authorities are coming after Craig Murray now, accusing him of contempt of court which means he, like Assange, will be tried by a politically appointed judge, not a jury. He faces two years in jail, with no freedom of speech defence permitted. Please support Craig if you can!), Consortium News, TeleSUR (a Venezuelan daily news site, in English), Mint Press News, The Gray Zone (some excellent reporting from Latin America), and EU Referendum, the site of a pro-Brexit philosanitary expert, Richard North: he is very knowledgeable about the complexities of Brexit (and disease communication) in a way that politicians and the MSM aren’t. And Black Agenda Report! And World Socialist Website! And also Wildfire Today, a very useful site about fighting wildfires, which probably Prop Or Not and The Guardian won’t mind if you visit.

One of the most worrying things about the current crisis – apart from the deaths and the sickness and the loss of jobs and ruin of small businesses – is the way gubmint and the tech companies are taking advantage of it to push their surveillance/censorship agenda. Some of the above sites you won’t find represented on Twitter or Facebook – their accounts were closed a while back. Yes, there is stupidity in the world and on the web, and much of it is amplified by social media, google, and youtube. But to deny dissenting voices the right to speak is worse than stupid. It is criminal. Indeed, in a “free” country it should be considered treason.

Meanwhile, Julian Assange, a journalist to whom all “free” people should be grateful, languishes in an English jail designed for terrorists. He has been convicted of no crime. He is denied access to his lawyers. Brought before the judge, he is confined in a glass box with uniformed guards. Assange_Glass_Box_Belmarsh He cannot hear the proceedings. The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Torture says he is being tortured.

What does The Guardian have to say about this?

Nothing at all.

Fortunately the alternative media do report on Assange’s situation. Mint Press has some good articles, and Consortium News – perhaps the oldest news reporting site on the Internet! – also pays close attention to the journalist / publisher’s plight.

THE BELATED POST ABOUT BILL

If you were following the Kickstarter campaign – maybe you even backed it – you already know that BILL THE GALACTIC HERO reached its goal and a bit more. Officially 1,106 backers gave the production a total of $114,957.

Most of those funds were raised by “direct traffic” to our Kickstarter page: in other words, people who already knew about the project and sought it out. Facebook was comparatively useless, but Twitter brought in more than fifteen grand. All this was thanks to other people’s social media, for which I am truly grateful, having none of my own. A link on The Guardian website brought us more than a thousand bucks, and a mention on io9.com gave us almost a thousand. My own wretched website netted us fifteen hundred bucks. Backers gave us everything from a dollar to $10,000: the average contribution was $103.

The biggest surprise in terms of funding came from two mentions on Slashdot, the venerable technology and free software site: $4,000 all told. This was due to BILL partnering with OpenShot, the multi-platform free software editing system which also raised funding via Kickstarter. So at last those years I spent going to the GNU/Linux users’ group paid off! And I can proudly own to being a pretty clueless GNU/Linux geek who uses the free software operating system on a regular basis.

Most of these posts and the Kickstarter page and updates were written on a little netbook which I bought from a Berkeley company, ZaReason, for three hundred bucks. It came with Mint, a derivative of the Ubunto OS, installed and worked flawlessly out of the box – you know, doing things like finding the wireless network, writing, printing, and downloading software like OpenShot.

Free software desktops really work. They will do what you want. You can dig out that cranky old computer which you put in the used media repository and install a handsome, working GNU/Linux desktop on it today. If it’s a really old ‘un, or you have trouble getting rid of Windows (the pestilential thing likes to hang on sometimes), try a 32-bit installation of Fedora XFCE. That pup is tough and will install itself on anything, and find your wireless.

Why bother to do this? Don’t get my dear friend Richard Stallman started on that. There are many reasons, besides the fact that erasing the OS which came with your computer and installing a different one is mysteriously empowering. But the main thing is that Microsoft and Apple are deplorable companies. MS used to be the number one villain, but Apple, with its overpriced toys and the horrible working conditions of its Chinese slave camps, is surely worse. All MS does is make bad software and dominate the office suite world. Apple’s business policy involves factories where the air explodes and workers commit suicide.

The thing which keeps users tied to Microsoft and Apple is specialist software – in my case, Adobe products like Photoshop and its plug-ins, and editing software like Avid and Final Cut 7. If OpenShot’s Kickstarter upgrade succeeds, it will be a fully-featured editing suite which works across all platforms – MS, Apple, and GNU/Linux. We’ll be editing BILL on it, others will come on board, and maybe I can persuade the buyers in the groves of academe to give up all those Macs and instead purchase a raft of made-in-America Linux boxes!

What Mrs Thatcher (DING! DONG!) said about there being no alternative wasn’t true, and still isn’t. We have alternatives. And thanks to the world-wide interwebs, some of them are free, as in liberty, and also free, as in beer. Speaking of which I’m off tonight to Under The Sun to take advantage of my free pitcher of beer coupon. (That’s enough product placement for now.)

If you’re interested, we didn’t get the full $114,957 to shoot Bill. Kickstarter takes a five percent commission, which is fair, and Amazon, their credit card “processor” take a 4-5% cut for processing credit cards, which usually costs only 2% of the transaction. Add to those commissions some atrophy from people whose credit cards were declined (we pay Amazon for that, too), and the final sum deposited in the Galactic LLC bank account, this very morn, was $104,497.54. So that is the budget of BILL!

Update — I am not alone tapping away on my little GNU/Linux box. The International Space Station has officially abandoned MS WIndows — henceforth all its onboard computers will run Debian GNU/Linux. NASA has used Linux for ground operations for many years – but the conversion of its inflight laptops to Debian (which also runs an experimental humanoid robot aboard the ship) suggests that earthbound computer users have nothing to fear from trying out a free software OS.