The US used to be a much worse place to live...

Now that the Mueller findings is old news, the news-cycle is already changing and going back to the old standby that world is going to die from a environmental disaster in a decade or two.

People who believe this crap need to take some refresher courses in history.

Things used to be much much worse. We produced released more CO2 into the air a century ago than now. By WE, I am referring the United States. We do not talk about it because it does not fit the current political narrative and we simply did not have a way to even track it.

Go look at the living conditions in any US city at the turn of the 20th century. Air quality was horrible due to using things like coal for heating and cooking. Disease was common due to the lack of clean water and sanitation services like sewage and regular trash pickup. Tenement housing was common.

Now go to the industrial areas. Companies simply did what they wanted. There was no consequences for unsafe conditions or environmental harm. Places like mines did so much harm that they destroyed entire water tables and ecosystems. Look at Lake Tahoe's history on that. This kind of thing was common. Yet somehow we have to go to history books or museums to learn about this? Where did all of these damaged sites go to? Places like New York City and St. Louis should have layers of soot baked onto their buildings if all of this was true and old building soot dust in the sub floors and walls.

If you lived in the Midwest the odds are that you did not see any trees that were close to any town. Trees were such a big deal that if one survived in town, a park usually developed around it. Look at pictures from any town in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and you will not see trees in the pictures. Entire forests were leveled in places like central Missouri to build the big cities. Almost all of the modern forests in the Midwest are new growth forests. The only old growth forests in the US are in extremely rural parts of the Northwest, Alaska, and protected lands.

If this was true, why are forests and trees common almost everywhere in the Midwest?

What has changed? Technology and public policy.

Technologies like electricity created the possibility for natural gas and water to be delivered to homes and businesses, negating the need for coal to be used in the cities. This led to a massive shift in public policy to electrify and install water and sewage to everyone. We all benefited from this and the diseases that were common in the 19th and early 20th century are now in history books or something you find in third world nations.

Next, oil products like kerosene and fuel oil, eliminated the need for rural and urban homes to use coal, wood, and whale oil to heat and light their homes. Once electric and natural gas/propane became common even K1 ( kerosene) and fuel oil has been mostly phased out.

We used to put lead in gasoline as a requirement for engines of that era. That caused its own issues. Engines were improved to not need it. It is impossible to find leaded fuel in the US.

Smog used to be a major problem in the US. Now it is not that common in most cities because public policy shifted to place an economic cost on existing technologies. This drove for increases in public transportation and more importantly improvements to engines became affordable to where even the most affordable entry level vehicle produces far less pollution than even a generation ago. Today, smog is only common on extreme days in most US cities.

Overall the US is actually one of the cleanest first world nations. We tend to change things by creating affordable improvements in technology that is sometimes driven by public policy.

Look at hybrids and electric cars. Electric cars pre-date gas powered cars. They never got popular as a common vehicle because they have major limitations and are expensive.

Hybrids were developed to address the limited range problem and initially were quite expensive, demand drove research and the technology has improved to the point that hybrid models cost the same as a gas car with significant less long term operation costs. Now they are a very practical vehicle for things like commuting and some kinds of long distance travel.

Electric cars are growing in popularity and is driving research. Right now the problem is the same problem electric cars have always had, cost, range, and charging infrastructure. This is starting to change. Once a model that can carry a family, 500 miles on a single charge for under $30,000 and that family can drive across the US in the same amount of time as a gas car, you will see the era of gas powered cars end. They will be used only for extremely rural areas and expensive to operate.

People do not study history, thus they have forgotten their past. If people did remember their past, they would automatically reject ideas that the US is destroying the world though its technological advances. Of course we can improve things, but under a capitalistic system, viable affordable improvements are the solution. Banning and taxation will only harm the economy and force people to revert to older technologies to survive.

We Live in the era of Fake News, be careful for what you wish for.

We are seeing a push for algorithms and actions from our tech leaders to solve the fake news "problem."

Anyone who thinks that this is a good thing or even possible must sit back and dust off their critical thinking skills.

If this problem was solvable, then we would not have spam or phishing attacks on the internet.

We all know what spam is and that it is simple for a human to identify it. It is very difficult for a computer to identify it in any reliable manner. Spam detection is so unreliable that we all have lost important mail that got misclassified and placed in a SPAM or JUNK folder.

Email phishing is a social engineering attack where the target is tricked into going to an improper site on the internet to collect data or download malware. Sometimes it is a little bit harder to detect than spam, but once one is trained on how to identify it, a human can spot one almost instantly.

Media is something completely different. It is very difficult to identify if something is real or not. You have to be educated on how to vet something that you watch or read. This can take time and in some cases a lifetime to master.

The other problem is how does one define fake? Who or in this case what determines if something is fake? Previous generations would have said that is it the consumer of the information that must make this determination in a free society. A key part of the education of our children was to give them the tools to be able to do this. This is commonly called critical thinking. Have we lost these skills? If the answer is yes, we must ask ourselves why and what are the motives behind this.

Since this is a technical blog, one has to question how can we suddenly have algorithms which can identify "fake news" which in many cases are hard to identify in the first place, but have yet to solve the spam and phishing problems, which are easy for a human to solve, but has plagued us for over 30 years?

There is an answer on why and what is going on. Go pick out your favorite dystopian and see if you notice a common thread. All news and information is controlled by the central computer or committee and is used to control the masses. The masses are dumbed down to the point that they lack the language and critical thinking skills to object to their masters. 

Brazil - The entire story is based on the main character learning the truth about their society. The central committee controlled the media. The main character learns the truth because of an error. The masses are distracted with terrorism and mass media.

1984 - The entire story is based on the main character learning the truth about their society. A computer called Big Brother controls all information. Undesired information is either rewritten or simply destroyed in a memory hole. The language is restricted to keep the classes under control - Thinkspeak. People are controlled through work and mass media.

Brave New World - The entire story is based on the main character learning the truth about their society. A central group of Alpha citizens controls all information and keep the masses dumbed down to where they do not understand information outside of their social class. 

Babylon 5 - A key story arc is the change to the Interstellar News Network over the five seasons. INN starts off as an unbiased news network that told both sides of a story. Throughout the series, there would be news segments on the network that showed their interpretation of the events taking place. After the coup, the network is taken over and becomes a mouthpiece for Clark's government. As the revolution starts the network shows pure propaganda. After Sheridan wins Earth’s Civil War, a key INN segment shows just released newscasters from the first season break down on air and give out the first free news cast in years.

Wake up people, you are being manipulated into accepting censorship.

ISIS now has a secure messaging app!

Today on the internets, we are learning that ISIS has developed a "secure" messaging app.

The article gives a scary description how it can be used for terrorism. At the end of the article it talks about the current debate where the FBI wants all end to end communications to either have backdoors installed in them or be made illegal.

Here is the thing and where the skeptic in me cries out. The article states that this is an android app. All cellphones have a legally mandated backdoor installed in them as required by CALEA

Cellphones are essentially two computers in one. One is for the user interface(Android, iOS), the other is for the radio and to some degree the physical hardware (baseband.) Phone basebands are closed secrets that are absolutely illegal to modify or access. Not much is known about them or their function outside of interfacing with the phone network. Many people suspect that basebands can access microphones, keyboards, GPS, etc. 

Second, although there is debate with Apple and Google on the backdoor issue, they will work with law enforcement to unlock phones and recover information. What is recoverable is never disclosed. 

Finally, I really doubt that ISIS has access to world class crypto experts who can create unbreakable systems. Schneier's Law applies here: "any person can invent a security system so clever that she or he can not break it."

I am quite sure there are plenty of people who can.

This is simply FUD to get people to insist that "secure" backdoors are installed on consumer devices in order for all of us to feel safe.