Friday, December 31, 2021

Censorship in Cyberspace 1991-2021

I placed myself outside the accepted norms on two discussion boards for amateur astronomers, The Sky Searchers and Cloudy Nights. I withdrew from TSS though I still participate with CN. 


To me there is no doubt that the owners of the discussion boards can have any rules they want: it’s their property. My problem—and it is entirely my own—is that the privately-own spaces are marketed as forums for discussion and in those discussions I found myself marginalized for not sharing common though unstated assumptions.


On The Sky Searchers, I posted a negative review of The Science and Art of Using Telescopes by Philip Pugh (Springer 2009). I placed similar though somewhat different versions on Cloudy Nights and Stargazers Lounge. You can read another here on Necessary Facts. On TSS, I received a nastygram from a moderator demanding to know how I could “launch an unprovoked attack on one of our special authors.” (The quote is inexact. I no longer have access. My IP address is blocked.) I said that they would not have a problem in the future and deleted the review. When I went back to find the exact exchange, I found the block. 


Cloudy Nights LLC is a discussion forum for amateur astronomers. It is hosted by Astronomics, a second-generation family-owned retailer of telescopes and related instruments and accessories. The discussion board is now over 30 years old and has more than 115,000 unique usernames. Their policies and processes are time-tested and mature. However, they do include contradictory applications. 


They say that they do not allow discussions of religion and politics. And that’s fine with me, except that several people do quote the Bible in their signature fields. Psalm 19:1 is perhaps the most common: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handywork.” In fact, my Austinite neighbor, Ed LaBelle has an outreach called “Psalm 19 Astronomy” and he writes under that label for the local astronomy club newsletter as well as Cloudy Nights. They do work hard at urban sidewalk outreach taking their telescopes to the public and I applaud their successes.


On The Sky Searchers, when birthdays come around, one of the frequent contributors places her good wishes in an off-topic chat area. As it was November, I followed suit by quoting astrological forecasts for the day as a nod to other Scorpios. Those were pulled down by the moderator because astrology is not allowed on TSS. If that stricture is in the published rules, I missed it. In a wider context, however, astrology is a religious practice and I wonder if the moderator would have pulled down a Christian benediction. 

On Cloudy Nights, in the off-topic forum, I placed a version of my Christmas star essay, which in the past I placed in the Austin Astronomical Society newsletter. (Two versions are 2015 here and 2017 here on NecessaryFacts.)

The article was only a historical view of a popular problem. The International Planetarium Society website ( lists over 100 citations to the Star of Bethlehem. Writing in Archaeology Vol. 51, No. 6 (Nov/Dec 1998), Anthony F. Aveni cited 250 “major scholarly articles” about the Star of Bethlehem. 

The moderator, csa/montana, pulled it because it discusses religion, which is not allowed on Cloudy Nights. And that would be fine, if people did not have Scriptural quotes in their  signatures. 

Cloudy Nights hosts a forum for discussing Light Pollution. The guidelines are very clear. They do not allow people to advocate shooting out lights with BB guns. 

LP Forum Guidelines - Please Read

Started by Glassthrower, Jan 21 2008 10:23 PM

Cloudy Nights wishes to foster a positive environment where the science of light pollution can be discussed. People seeking to learn more about light pollution should be able to come here, peruse the information available, discuss the issue, and walk away with something positive gained - and hopefully a new appreciation (or at least a curiosity) for starry dark skies the way nature originally intended them. 

We want to provide useful information that will help people take civic action on their own, or with local/national networks (like the IDA) - to implement dark-sky friendly regulations in their area. Working with local and state governments, zoning commissions, lighting boards, and utility departments can be an intimidating experience for the uninitiated - we'd like to offer a place for others to share their experiences and resources in this respect. But the politics of the day should always take a back seat to the academic and the science. Stick to the facts and leave the feelings out of it. 

Full statement here:

Personally, I believe that concerns about light pollution and the associated problem of new constellations of artificial satellites are mostly Luddite rants against progress. The recent launch of the James Webb Space Telescope dramatically caps 64 years of progress in placing sensors and recorders away from the Earth, its atmosphere, and lights. That said, I am not insensitive to the frustrations of ground-based astronomers. In fact, I share them. But I tally the convenience of electricity and night-time lighting as a diminutive cost to myself. (Against Dark Skies on NecessaryFacts here. and I Like Satellite Constellations here.

In response to a post, I quoted from those two essays. The moderator csa/montana closed the discussion saying that it had become political. So, it is appropriate to call for the United Nations to regulate the launching of satellites and further for your local government and the UN to debate whether and how to address light pollution. However, it is not allowed to question the need for those interventions.

                                ==Phrack Inc.==

                 Volume Four, Issue Thirty-Eight, File 2 of 15

                          [-=:< Phrack Loopback >:=-]

                                By Phrack Staff


     Phrack Loopback is a forum for you, the reader, to ask questions, air problems, and talk about what ever topic you would like to discuss.  This is also the place Phrack Staff will make suggestions to you by reviewing various items of note; magazines, software, catalogs, hardware, etc.


Date: March 22, 1992

From: "Michael E. Marotta" <>

Subject: Censorship in Cyberspace

To: Phrack Staff


I have been hired to write an article about the control of information in

cyberspace.  We all know that Fidonet moderators and sysops devote their OWN resources for us to use.  There is no question about the "right" of the sysop or moderator to delete messages and users.  The practice of censorship is nonetheless newsworthy.


If YOU have experienced censorship on Fidonet or Usenet, Prodigy or CompuServe,or another BBS or network, I am interested in learning about your story.  If you can supply downloads of actual encounters, so much the better.


If you have ever been censored, send me physical world mail about the event.


               Michael E. Marotta

               5751 Richwood  #34

               Lansing, Mich. 48911

Computer underground Digest    Wed Feb 17, 1993   Volume 5 : Issue 14

                           ISSN  1004-042X


       Editors: Jim Thomas and Gordon Meyer (TK0JUT2@NIU.BITNET)

       Archivist: Brendan Kehoe

       Shadow-Archivists: Dan Carosone / Paul Southworth

                          Ralph Sims / Jyrki Kuoppala

       Copy Editor: Etaion Shrdlu, Seniur


Date: Thu, 11 Feb 93 20:17 EST

From: "Michael E. Marotta" <MERCURY@LCC.EDU>

Subject: File 5--Censorship in Cyberspace


Excerpts from "Censorship in Cyberspace" (c) 1993 by Michael E. Marotta the complete text (2000 words) appears in the ($5) 1993 Retail Catalog of Loompanics, P. O. Box 1197, Port Townsend, WA 98368. Founded in 1974, Loompanics, publishers of unusual books, features about 300 titles on privacy, underground income, self-defense, etc.


As Ayn Rand noted, when people abandon money, their only alternative when dealing with each other is to use guns.   Yet, the anti-capitalist mentality permeates cyberspace.  Most public systems and networks actually forbid commercial messages.  So, computer sysops and network moderators are reduced to cavalier enforcement of their personal quirks.


When Tom Jennings created Fidonet, Omni magazine called him an "online anarchist."  Since then, Fidonet has developed a governing council and lost Jennings.  Over the last two years, I have been banished from

these Fidonet echoes: 

         * Stock Market for saying that Ivan Boesky is a political


         * Virus for saying that viruses could be useful

         * Communications for saying that telephone service

           should not be regulated by the government

         * International Chat for asking "How are you" in Hebrew

           and Japanese.


Kennita Watson, whom I met on Libernet, told me this story:


         When I was at Pyramid, I came in one day and

         "fortune" had been disabled.  I complained to

         Operations, and ended up in a personal meeting with

         the manager.  He showed me a letter from the NAACP

         written to Pyramid threatening to sue if they

         didn't stop selling racist material on their

         machines.  They cited a black woman who had found

         the "...there were those whose skins were black...

         and their portion was niggardly.... 'Let my people

         go to the front of the bus'..." fortune, and

         complained to the NAACP.  I suspect that she (and

         the NAACP) were clueless as to the meaning of the

         term "niggardly".  I (as a black woman) was

         embarrassed and outraged. Because of the stupidity

         of a bunch of paranoid people, I couldn't read my

         fortune when I logged out any more. "


It is important to bear in mind that to the censor, censorship, like all evils, is always an unpleasant but necessary means to achieve a good result.  Robert Warren is a sysop who replied to an article of mine on Computer Underground Digest.  He said: ... People have a right to say what they want in public, but some don't care about the responsibility that comes with it. So you zap 'em."  Now, there is no argument with his basic premise: Since he owns the equipment, he has the final say in its use.  This is his right.  Likewise, the administrators of publicly-funded university computers also engage in censorship under a mandate to serve the people who pay taxes.  "All power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely," the historian John E. E. Acton said.  It is no surprise that this applies in cyberspace.


   Political and social freedom have little to do with constitutions or elections. Congress could choose a new prime minister every day or the people could elect the secretary of state to a three year term. The details are unimportant.  Some places are free and some places are controlled because the people in those places need freedom or accept oppression.  It always comes back to the individual.


   Dehnbase Emerald BBS is home to libertarian and objectivist discussions and is a vital link in Libernet.  The number is (303) 972-6575.  Joseph Dehn is not interested in enforcing rules.


   Albert Gore and George Bush agreed on the need for a "data superhighway."  The Electronic Frontier Foundation has recommended that this national network be open to commercial enterprises.  This is good.  An open market is the best protection against power and corruption.



Previously on Necessary Facts


The Science of Liberty 

The Sociology of Freedom 

Why Evidence is not Enough 

Jerry Emanuelson's Algebraic Proof of Ricardo's Law of Association

Tycoon Dough is Democratic 

Crimes Against Logic: Exposing Bogus Arguments  


Sunday, December 19, 2021

Cultured Carrot Fermented Foods

How do you get your kids to eat sauerkraut? For Kristin Simpson, the solution was to develop a line of fermented foods that their palates would accept. The resulting array of garnishes is now available in Austin and around Texas

They say about themselves: 

Kristin Simpson and
The Cultured Carrot
Launched by two women in Austin, the Cultured Carrot has revolutionized ancient fermentation. While we were amazed at the exploding amount of information about the microbiome, gut health and the amazing benefits of fermented foods we knew there had to be a better way to get them onto our plate and into our families tummies. 

The Cultured Carrot was founded by Palak Sadarangani, a health coach practicing an Ayurvedic lifestyle and Kristin Simpson, a pharmacist with a holistic lifestyle approach. Both busy moms of young kids were blown away by the research and study of the microbiome. Up to 80% of our immune system is found in the gut. Eating fermented foods adds good bacteria to our guts to help maintain the balance we need for a healthy immune system.  A healthy microbiome was the key to our families overall health. We knew we had to get more probiotics from fermented foods into our families tummies. Currently all the fermented foods on the market were traditional kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir, miso etc. Remembering to take these traditional fermented foods everyday became difficult. We had to create something that was convenient and part of our everyday palates. That's when the idea was born, to create fermented vegetable dressings for salads, marinates and sauces. This concept is the new revolution of fermentation, making traditional ferments more convenient and bringing them to today's busy modern tables. --

Kristin told me that she graduated with a degree in pharmacy and worked for local hospitals in Florida before moving to Texas and working in a hospital here. Her goal has always been to introduce healthful, natural alternatives to the over-prescription of synthetic antibiotics. 

Her products have a three-month shelflife. She said that refrigerating it keeps the biotics more potent through that time.

It was really nice to meet another vendor at the Wheatsville coop. We went about 18 months without visitors from among our local providers. 


Salsa Showdown: Jaime's versus Royitos

Biobash: Chamber Replicates Success



Two Hot Mamas Salsa

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Merry Newtonmas 2021

Nature and nature's laws lay hid in night;

God said "Let Newton be" and all was light.


If your neighborhood is like ours, then, it started with Halloween which began about Labor Day: lights; people lit up their yards and houses with displays of icons and arrays of sparkles. As soon as Halloween passed, Christmas was launched. I believe that this is a reaction to the continuing Covid crisis. People are resisting despair and fighting back against both biological and social malaise with symbols of hope and good cheer. 


Around our neighborhood;
the unicorn is snorting shifting colors.

In Newton’s time, it was the Great Plague of 1665. That was followed by the great London fire of 1666. When the plague struck, Cambridge University was closed and Newton went home to Woolsthorpe. There, isolated with his own thoughts, he expanded his work in mathematics, optics, and gravitation. 

Two Newtonian reflectors:
my first Celestron Equatorial 130-mm and
my current Besser 208-mm. 
Reflectors have no chromatic aberration
and are easy to make very large.

We can only wonder if forty years from now we will have time travel and warp drive (perhaps the same phenomenon) because some genius was isolated by Covid-19. 


We accept today that Leibniz and Newton
developed the calculus independently.
We generally use the Leibniz notation 
though Newton's can be a convenient shorthand.

The American Numismatic Association granted a George Heath Literary Award (2002) to a feature article that I wrote about Sir Isaac Newton’s 30-year career at the Royal Mint, published in November 2001. Historian David Berlinski called that time “uninteresting” ending his biography with the publication of the Principia

Not many people read Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica today in any language and surely not in Latin. I have two editions, one translated by I. Bernard Cohen whose work I already knew from reading ancient sources when writing about numismatics. 

Newton’s ideas are easy to explain today, especially using algebra and the Leibniz notation for calculus. The proofs in the Principia are—and could only have been—delivered via geometry. We do not know it so well today. Richard P. Feynman intended to develop and present his own proofs to a class as a treat to relieve the stress of up-coming semester final examinations. He could not do it. He did not know enough geometry. 


The book is the Principia, opened to the page proving
Kepler's laws and central force motion.

The core of that work is Newton’s mathematical proof that Kepler’s laws of motion are required by logic and determined by the nature of central force motion as measured for timekeeping, navigation, and astronomy. They are necessary factual truths


Previously on Necessary Facts

Newton versus the Counterfeiter 

Measuring Your Universe: Alan Hirshfeld’s Astronomy Activity Manual 


Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers 

Reminders of Newtonmas Past 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Funky Mello: Feel Good Marshmellows

We have not been treated to vendors at the Wheatsville Co-op since Covid started and it was a pleasant shock to see Delisa and Zach of Funky Mello set up in the front aisle

As kids we were obsessed with marshmallows,
but as adults our bodies couldn't handle
the unfriendly ingredients.
Determined to keep the beloved marshmallow in our lives,
we spent tireless hours in the kitchen
crafting a new kind of marshmallow.
Today, we are thrilled to bring happiness
back to marshmallows!

Their products are plant based, dairy-free, and gluten free. The three flavors--Vivacious vanilla, Satisfying strawberry, and Creamy cookie--also are free of the top eight allergens. Of course, the treats have no artificial colors or artifical flavors and have no genetically-modified organisms in their contents.

You can get read their story and get more details about their products on their website and you can find them on Instagram.  

Their website features recipes based on marshmellows.

They have developed an impressive presence at natural, organic, and alternatives retailers here in Texas and they have already established sales through stores in California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey. The three-pack sample goes for $18.99 at the register. 


Coffee at the Co-op: Tradition and Novelty

Awesome Austin Foods at the Wheatsville Co-op

At Oryana Co-op I Took My Change in Bay Bucks

Hot Dang Vegie Burger Mix