It’s Never Been More Important to Support Independent Content Creators

Michael Krieger
June 30, 2017

When I first started this website I didn’t have a plan for monetization. While I certainly believe people should be compensated for hard, useful work, all I wanted to do was read, write and think. The “business side” of running a blog felt like a nuisance and wasn’t something I had much passion or energy for. That hasn’t changed.

What has changed is passively putting third party code like Google Adsense on your website doesn’t really earn someone like me any money. While it was never a significant amount of cash in the first place, it wasn’t totally worthless. At this point it has become basically worthless, but that’s ok. I’m not going to complain about Google. Google doesn’t owe me anything and neither do the corporations that use the network. It was never a smart way for writers, particularly anti-establishment type writers highly critical of our economic system based on cronyism and fraud, to earn money. It never really made any sense, but I went down that road anyway because it was easy and allowed me to focus on what I really cared about, my work. But things have changed.

Advertisers have begun to flex their muscles over the past year or so, with YouTube demonetizing videos with any sort of unconventional political bent. From the advertisers’ perspective this makes perfect sense and there’s no point in complaining about it. This has forced many content producers to shift to a more reader supported model, which I think is far more empowering and healthy in the long-term despite painful short-term hits to revenue. Indeed, we shouldn’t trust any media that relies on large corporate advertisers to fund their “journalism,” as the product will be more like public relations than any hard-hitting truth to power. We’ve already seen that advertisers are willing to flex their muscles when it comes to content they don’t like, and we can expect that to accelerate going forward.

The latest warning sign comes courtesy of a Washington Post policy that forbids employees from disparaging advertisers. The Washingtonian reports:

A new social-media policy at the Washington Post prohibits conduct on social media that “adversely affects The Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.” In such cases, Post management reserves the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”

The Post‘s Guild sent out a bulletin Sunday night protesting the policy. “If you’re like most of us, you probably acknowledged its receipt without reading it,” says the note, which was written by Guild co-chair Fredrick Kunkle.But what you don’t know could hurt you.”

The guild wants to jettison other parts of the policy, which the Post confirms to Washingtonian went into effect on May 1 and applies to the entire company:

  • A provision that prohibits employees from “Disparaging the products and services of The Post’s advertisers, subscribers, competitors, business partners or vendors.”

  • A demand that employees “Refrain from using social media while on your work time, unless using Social Media is an authorized part of your job.”

  • A clause that encourages employees to snitch on one another: “If you have any reason to believe that an employee may be in violation of The Post’s Social Media Policy … you should contact the Post’s Human Resources Department.”

I thought part of the appeal of a billionaire like Jeff Bezos owning a “paper of record” is that it might make it less beholden to large powerful interests than you might otherwise expect. Guess not.

One thing the last twelve months should make clear to everyone reading this is that billionaire-owned corporate media cannot and should not be trusted to provide honest information, and will definitely never challenge the true centers of power in society. This makes the need for independent publishers more crucial than ever, and since such publishers cannot and should not depend on corporate advertisers, readers need to step up and support them. I’m not talking about my work specifically, I’m talking about all of the independent content creators you enjoy. Support all of them.

On Friday, I plan to publish an article outlining my plan for turning Liberty Blitzkrieg into a reader-supported publication in the years ahead. I think that’s the only sustainable way to stay on point, refrain from the temptations of clickbait, and avoid the whims of corporate advertisers and Google.

Stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, if you enjoyed this post, and want to contribute to genuine, independent media, consider visiting our Support Page.

In Liberty,
Michael Krieger

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Do You Own Your Stuff, or Does it Own You?

Christina Sarich
September 6, 2016

Americans, arguably, have more ‘stuff’ than any other group of people on this planet. We have plastic stuff, fluffy stuff, cute stuff, and ‘cool’ stuff.  We have too many clothes, too many gadgets, and profuse knick-knacks. Yes, even other ‘stuff’ to hold our overflowing ‘stuff.’ There’s a great George Carlin quote that sums it all up – “Your house is just a place to store your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.” All this stuff is wrecking havoc on our health, though. In fact, it’s messing with our heads.

Why We Collect Stuff

To be fair, we collect things for different reasons. Maybe a rusted out old car is sitting on the front lawn because someone intended to repair it. An old sweater that we will never wear again collects dust in our closet because it is the only relic we have left of a special relationship. Even smaller items that we collect, though, add to the clutter that is starting to take over our lives, and our minds. It can be a killer pair of shoes or even an old novel that is taking up space in our abodes, but it turns out that those things are taking up precious space in our heads, too.

Physical Pain Mapped in the Brain When We Let Go of Possessions

Arguably, there is real, physiological pain experienced by many people when we have to give u pour stuff, too. Yale researchers have identified two areas of our brain that associate letting go of our things with pain. It is the exact same type of pain we experience from getting a paper cut or drinking too-hot coffee. We seem to value our possessions so much that the loss of them causes us real, palpable discomfort.

The Advertising Cult Takes Advantage

Advertisers are well aware that we like our stuff, and use that to their advantage too. Among other techniques to get us to purchase more stuff that we might not need, like mimicking our physical gestures, or being rude so that we’ll spend more, retailers also encourage us to touch products so that we will start to ‘own’ them mentally before we’ve ever even laid out cash to pay for them. This tactic is so effective we’re willing to spend up to 40 percent more for something in its physical form that we can touch and feel, rather than a product that is just presented in pictures.

Types of Stuff-Collecting

You can be a full-fledged hoarder, or ‘chronically disorganized’ as the mental health profession likes to call it, but even just a few extra things in your surroundings can cause you to be disjointed mentally, and pulled forward or back in time, making it impossible to be present and engaged with life.

Going Into Debt for More  – The Trap of Materialism

Ironically, Americans are also some of the most debt-ridden people in first world nations, too. While an indigenous tribe member in Papa New Guinea isn’t collecting more than they need, Americans collectively owe more than $700 million in consumer debt. This is a drop in the bucket in comparison to our banks and government, which have now capped the debt ceiling at around $17 trillion, while it mysteriously grows larger behind a secretive cover, but we definitely pay more than we ever dreamed to own another thing that doesn’t really bring us joy or peace. When we pay exorbitant interest on all that stuff we’ve collected, it also means we’ve shelled out around three to five times what its actually worth.

Though reduced income, unemployment, divorce, and medical expenses are among the reasons we go into debt, many of us are also financing a habit of collecting more stuff.

Don’t take my word for it. OfferUp, a mobile marketplace that traffics in used goods, conducted a poll which revealed that more than 1,300 adults surveyed, revealed that many Americans consider themselves burdened with material objects they no longer want nor need. More than half of those surveyed said they though their homes were too cluttered. Unsurprisingly, 84 percent of those people said they were also facing financial challenges. One in seven said that they had rooms in their homes that were so full of junk that they didn’t even use them any more.

What All this Clutter Does to Our Brains

Study after study has proven that excess clutter interferes with our creativity, shuts down centers in the brain responsible for feelings of joy and calm, and makes people feel overwhelmed with life.

Clutter signals to our brains that the work is never done, and therefore we never really relax. Having too much stuff can also stop new things, people, and ideas from coming into our lives. We’ve essentially got no room for them, and so the Universe doesn’t send more of what we really need. It’s waiting for us to let go of the things we don’t need, first.

From a Feng Shui perspective, too much stuff causes low, stagnant, blocked energy that drains you and lowers the quality of your life.

There has even been an association between holding onto clutter and being overweight. A mess causes stress, there’s no getting around that fact, but there are ways to get control of the clutter, and your life.

How to Clean up the Clutter

There is no reason why you can’t eliminate massive amounts of clutter, and free up lots of energy in the process. You’ll be giving your brain a well-needed reboot, and coming home will feel like entering a sanctuary again. Don’t be surprised if you start seeing changes in your personal health, your relationships, and even your income as a result of letting go of stuff. Here are some simple steps to take to get the process started:

  1. Don’t try to do it all at once – Commit to spending 30 minutes a day cleaning out the clutter. More than that can be too emotionally taxing for many people.
  2. Take it in three’s – You can take three large boxes, and label them, ‘trash,’ ‘give away,’ and ‘charity. The trash box is going to recycle or the dump. The give away box can be items you know friends and family can still use, and the charity box will serve as a way to get rid of everything else.
  3. Don’t think too hard – You can start with things that are easier to let go of – like a pile of junk mail you haven’t had time to go through or clothes you know for sure don’t fit you or are out of style. When you get to things which you are more emotionally attached to, say to yourself, “I set you free to bring someone else happiness,’ and let them go. Don’t think too much about it. You’d be surprised how little that ‘thing’ means to you once its been out of your life for a little while, and what wonderful new things or experiences come to replace it.
  4. Treat yourself – Make sure that you offer yourself a psychological reward for cleaning out clutter. If you just gave ten pairs of jeans to Goodwill that you’ll never wear again, give yourself permission to buy ONE perfect pair that fits you. Did you just dump piles of paper from your office desk? Pretty up that space with some fresh flowers, and enjoy the extra life and joy that this brings you.

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    Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao Tzu, Paramahansa Yogananda, Rob Brezny, Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and *See the Big Picture*. Her blog is Yoga for the New World . Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing The Body And Mind Through The Art Of Yoga.

Mobile Advertising Company Fined $950,000 for Using Wi-Fi Signals to Secretly Track Phone Users

Amando Flavio
July 7, 2016

An India-based multinational mobile advertising company, Inmobi, has agreed to pay a fine of $950,000 to the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for using Wi-Fi signals to secretly track phone users in the country, obtaining their locations for adverts on their mobile phones.

InMobi was founded in 2007. The company has financial support from the Japanese telecommunications giant, Softbank, and the American venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. In 2013, InMobi won a spot in MIT Technology Review’s 50 most disruptive companies of the year.

In a civil lawsuit filed on June 22, 2016, at a District Court in San Francisco, California, FTC alleged that InMobi undermined mobile phone users’ ability to make informed decisions about the collection of their location information.

According to the lawsuit, InMobi’s software used nearby Wi-Fi signals to infer locations when permission was not given. The company then archived the location information and used it to push targeted advertisements to individual phone users.

Also, InMobi collected nearby basic service set identification addresses, which act as unique serial numbers for wireless access points. The company, which thousands of Android and iOS app makers use to deliver ads to end users, then fed each BSSID into a “geocorder” database to infer the phone user’s latitude and longitude; even when an end user had not provided permission for location to be tracked through the phone’s dedicated location feature, Ars Technica reports.

Ars Technica quoted part of the lawsuit as saying: “In fact, defendant collected and used BSSID and other Wi-Fi network information to track the consumer’s location and serve geo-targeted ads regardless of the application developer’s intent to include geo-targeted ads, and regardless of the consumer’s location settings.”

According to the FTC, the InMobi advertising network has reached more than one billion devices worldwide through thousands of popular apps integrating the InMobi code.

s-3-48-e1466862587410The FTC said it acted swiftly to bring the lawsuit against InMobi. Many of the third-party app makers have revealed that their software was designed for children, many under the age of 13. The FTC claimed this makes the locations collection a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.

“Collectively, hundreds of millions of consumers have downloaded the thousands of child-directed applications from which defendant collected and used personal information. Defendant collected such personal information each time an application made an ad request to their network—typically every 30 seconds when an application is in use,” the lawsuit said.

InMobi maintained that its software collected geographical whereabouts of users, but only when the users provided opt-in consent. However, the company agreed to enter into a settlement with the FTC in order to end the case.

The company has, therefore, agreed to pay a civil penalty of $950,000 and delete all information it collected from children and adults who did not give consent. The FTC requested for a $4 million civil penalty, but the amount was reduced to $950,000, due to InMobi’s current financial condition.

The settlement also requires InMobi to implement a comprehensive privacy program that will be independently audited every two years for the next 20 years.

From what transpired in court, privacy advocates recommended that users turn off their Wi-Fi receivers in their mobile devices if connection is not needed. Because, by leaving it on, it can be used by both access point operators and ad networks tracking the comings and goings of user’s mobile devices, which can result in more damage than what InMobi has done.

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