Sunday, November 19, 2017

Deuteronomy 25:11-12


WaPo  |  The United States and its allies are under attack. The cyberwar we’ve feared for a generation is well underway, and we are losing. This is the forest, and the stuff about Russian election meddling, contacts with the Trump campaign, phony Twitter accounts, fake news on Facebook — those things are trees.

We’ve been worried about a massive frontal assault, a work of Internet sabotage that would shut down commerce or choke off the power grid. And with good reason. The recent exploratory raid by Russian hackers on American nuclear facilities reminds us that such threats are real.

But we failed to prepare for an attack of great subtlety and strategic nuance. Enemies of the West have hacked our cultural advantages, turning the very things that have made us strong — technological leadership, free speech, the market economy and multi-party government — against us. The attack is ongoing.

With each passing week, we learn more. Russia and its sympathizers have cranked up the volume on existing political and cultural divisions in the West, like some psychic version of the Stuxnet hack that caused Iran’s nuclear centrifuges to spin so fast they tore themselves to pieces. They’ve exploited the cutting-edge algorithms of Facebook and Google to feed misinformation to Americans most likely to believe and spread it. They have targeted online ads designed to intensify our hottest culture wars: abortion, guns, sexuality, race. They have partnered with WikiLeaks, the supposed paragon of free speech, to insert propaganda into influential Twitter accounts — including @realDonaldTrump. 

They have created thousands of phony online identities to add heat to political fever swamps.
The genius of this cyberwar is that unwitting Westerners do most of the work. Our eagerness to believe the worst about our political opponents makes us easy marks for fake or distorted “news” from anti-American troll farms. Our media — talk radio, cable news, every variety of digital communication — seek to cull us into like-minded echo chambers. The West has monetized polarization; our enemies have, in turn, weaponized it.

Weaponization of Monetization? Nah, Just Look In the Mirror For the Problem...,


DailyMail  |  The wildly popular Toy Freaks YouTube channel featuring a single dad and his two daughters has been deleted, amid a broader crackdown on disturbing children's content on the video streaming platform.

Toy Freaks, founded two years ago by landscaper Greg Chism of Granite City, Illinois, had 8.53million subscribers and was among the 100 most-viewed YouTube channels before it was shutdown on Friday. 

Though it's unclear what exact policy the channel violated, the videos showed the girls in unusual situations that often involved gross-out food play and simulated vomiting. The channel invented the 'bad baby' genre, and some videos showed the girls pretending to urinate on each other or fishing pacifiers out of the toilet.

Another series of videos showed the younger daughter Annabelle wiggling her loose teeth out while shrieking and spitting blood. 

'He is profiting off of his children's pain and suffering,' one indignant Reddit user wrote about the channel last year. 'It's barf inducing and no mentally stable person or child should ever have to watch it.'

A YouTube spokesperson said in a statement: 'It's not always clear that the uploader of the content intends to break our rules, but we may still remove their videos to help protect viewers, uploaders and children. We've terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Government Treats Citizens The Exact Same Way Sexual Predators Treat Victims


counterpunch |  The New York Times recently published a list of 25 men “accused of sexual misconduct” since the Harvey Weinstein revelations first came out in early October. The list is a who’s-who of “players” in the entertainment, political, media and corporate worlds.  Even scandalous stories about Bush-the-elder are finally coming out after decades of suppression.  In being outed, many of the male predators have lost their jobs or contracts, some of their marriages ended, high-priced defense lawyers have been retained and a few say they are seeking professional counseling.

Many of those identified as being or having been a sexual aggressor are being subject to public shaming.  For a while, their lives might be miserable, under a public magnifying glass as to how he could have done what he is “accused” of doing and, therefore, who really is this man?  However, for some, the price to be paid may be far harsher, including an arrest, trial and (if found guilty) jail as a sex offender.  Prosecutors in New York, Los Angeles and London are sharpening their legalistic claws as they seek criminal indictments against Weinstein.  Who will be the next player to fall?

Since the Reagan-era of the 1980s, the U.S. has engaged in two domestic wars – a war on drugs and a war on sex.  Both have roots dating from the 1920s Prohibition campaign; both rejected the 1960s-70s countercultural insurgency. Both have been played out at federal and local levels — and both are failures!

The country’s drug-addiction “epidemic” has shifted from black to while, from the inner-city or urban ghettos to the suburbs and rural heartland.  Throughout the country, low-level drug offenses are being decriminalized, criminal penalties are being lessened and the traditional ethos of harsh punishment is being undercut by calls for restorative justice.

When launched, the war on sex drew politicians, law enforcement and people of good intentions, conservative and liberal (including anti-porn feminist and gay-rights advocates), into alignment with the religious right.  They joined forces in a campaign to forcefully suppress what was broadly conceived as a domestic security threat, violation of the sexually acceptable.

The sex offender was – and remains — a perfect target for moral outrage.  He (mostly) is someone who crossed a moral line and committed an unpardonable offense.  If he cannot be executed for his affront to civil and religious decency than, at least, he can be shamed or stigmatized, imprisoned, placed in indefinite detention and listed on a sex-offender’s registry.

The 25 men identified by the Times are “players” in the entertainment, political, media and corporate worlds.  Others will surely be added to the list.  Their outing is a friction point in the seismic shift in American social values now underway.  Those so far identified come from the celebrate sector, not most people everyday life. Unfortunately, misogyny is endemic to American life, but gets little local media or public attention until it becomes a media spectacle like what’s happening today.  Its all-to-often considered a private matter, rather than a social practice.

Glasses Could Not Conceal Her Secret Identity



twitchy |  The lengths some people are willing to go to in order to defend Al Franken …
Huh. So because she is a Playboy model and has been on Howard Stern that apparently means what? That she doesn’t count? Oh and please with that last line, ‘… she was on USO tour as part of a comedy skit so that she could be groped.’

Sadly this oddly angry meteorologist wasn’t the only one playing the ‘her skirt was too short’ game with Leeann Tweeden, but this is certainly one of the uglier tweets we’ve seen on Twitter. Fist tap MVD.  


#MeToo Mika "Know Your Worth" Brzezinski - Priceless Comedy Gold....,


dailywire |  While it’s certainly encouraging to see progressive pundits, politicians, and celebrities finally give some credibility to Bill Clinton’s accusers, it all feels forced. It’s as though progressives are being forced to acknowledge these women — at least in passing — simply because the topic of sexual abuse is so prevalent in the news. It’s all too little, too late.

Clinton was accused of several heinous crimes. Juanita Broaddrick says Clinton violently raped her in 1978; Kathleen Willey says he sexually assaulted her in 1993; Paula Jones says he exposed himself to her in 1991.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hillary Clinton Rape-Enabler


theatlantic |  If the ground beneath your feet feels cold, it’s because hell froze over the other day. It happened at 8:02 p.m. on Monday, when The New York Times published an op-ed called “I Believe Juanita.”  

Written by Michelle Goldberg, it was a piece that, 20 years ago, likely would have inflamed the readership of the paper and scandalized its editors. Reviewing the credibility of Broaddrick’s claim, Goldberg wrote that “five witnesses said she confided in them about the assault right after it happened,” an important standard in reviewing the veracity of claims of past sex crimes.

But Goldberg’s was not a single snowflake of truth; rather it was part of an avalanche of honesty in the elite press, following a seemingly innocuous tweet by the MSNBC host Chris Hayes. “As gross and cynical and hypocritical as the right’s ‘what about Bill Clinton’ stuff is,” he wrote, “it’s also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.”

As gross and cynical and hypocrtical as the right's "what about Bill Clinton" stuff is, it's also true that Democrats and the center left are overdue for a real reckoning with the allegations against him.

What happened next can only be compared to the moment when Glinda the Good Witch of the North came to Munchkinland and told the little people that it was finally safe. Come out, come out, wherever you are!

Senator Franken Caught Doing What Preznit Trump Was Accused of Doing


thewrap |  Donald Trump drew outrage in October 2016 for his “Access Hollywood” boast about kissing and grabbing women without their consent. Now Los Angeles radio host Leeann Tweeden says Sen. Al Franken kissed her without consent on a 2006 USO tour — and produced a photo of him groping her while she slept.

So how did Franken respond when the video emerged of Trump talking about doing something very similar to what Franken is now accused of doing?

Cautiously.

Franken-Furter: #YouToo? Troglodytes Eating One Another Alive


weeklystandard |  Anyone who has followed the career of Al Franken should be unsurprised to learn that he was a jerk to Leeann Tweeden. Because if you go back to Live from New York, Tom Shales’ brilliant oral history of Saturday Night Live, Franken appears as a lying, drug-abusing (and distributing), jackass.
A couple choice excerpts—remember, this is an oral history, so they’re from the primary sources:
Al Franken: There was not as much cocaine as you would think on the premises. Yeah, a number of people got in trouble. But cocaine was used mainly just to stay up.
There was a very undisicplined way of writing the show, which was staying up all night on Tuesday. We didn't have the kind of hours that normal people have. And so there was a lot of waiting until Tuesday night, and then going all night, and at two or three or four in the morning, doing some coke to stay up, as opposed to doing a whole bunch, and doing nitrous oxide, and laughing at stuff.
People used to ask me about this and I'd always say, "No, there was no coke. It's impossible to do the kind of show we were doing and do drugs." And that was just a funny lie that I liked to tell. Kind of the opposite was true, unfortunately, for some people, it was impossible to do the show without the drugs.
So Franken liked to tell funny lies about not using drugs when he wasn’t writing a book castigating Republicans which was titled—this is so great—Lies: And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. 

Maybe now when he says that he “doesn’t remember” his encounter with Tweenden the way she describes it, this is a funny lie, too.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Tapper Tweeden - The Franken Full Monty


Pompous Posturing Democrats Serve No One But Themselves...,


"Another example of giving the game away in few words came two nights ago when the liberal-elitist 'Inside Elections' political analyst Stuart Rothenburg spoke on the PBS NewsHour.   'The Democrats as a party'  Rothenburg told NewsHour host and Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) member Judy Woodruff,  'are divided between the Bernie Sanders wing and Hillary Clinton wing, the pragmatists and ideologues.'

For Rothenburg, the Clinton wing members are the 'pragmatists,' the realistic adults who want to 'get things done' (one of the great neoliberal president Obama’s favorite phrases and claims).  The Sanders folks are 'ideologues,' a pejorative term meaning people who are mainly about ideology and who are carried away by their own flighty and doctrinal world view. 

This was a slap (an ideological one I might add) at the more progressive and social-democratic faction of the Democratic Party – a blow masquerading as 'objective' and detached political analysis."

Paul Street, Giving the Game Away

If you watch this relatively short video much of what has been puzzling you about the failure of our political system will be made clearer.

Franklin Roosevelt could work tirelessly for the common person because he was already comfortable in his own skin with regard to his social status.  And more importantly, as a result of his long term paralysis he knew how little social status really meant.   As suffering sometimes does, it introduces compassion and empathy, even among the upper crust.

But the New Deal principles were shunned for the credentialed aspirations of those class-climbing, middle class kids who would be rich and acknowledged as members of an elite crowd with the right kinds of bona fides.   There are probably few better recent examples than the Clintons.   Their attitudes towards the average American are paternalistic at best, and highly cynical and patronizing at worst.

They attempted to disguise their credentialed, professional class preferences with 'identity politics.'   But if you look at the culmination of actual policy initiatives, versus platform platitudes, the Democrats, similarly to the GOP, serve no one but themselves.   Winning...

They rely on the 'lesser of two evils' to scrape out the occasional win, when the excesses of the other party drive people to embrace 'hope and change,' and to be largely betrayed once again.

Sheer Hypocrisy and Undemocratic Control Killed The Democratic Party...,



therealnews |  PAUL JAY: All right, let me introduce our guest, Norman Solomon. Norman is the co-founder of rootsaction.org, and he's co-author of a new report, "Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis." Thanks for joining us, Norman.

NORMAN SOLOMON: Thanks, Paul.PAUL JAY: There's kind of two arguments there. One, let's start with the first, that now's not the time to rehash all of this, that Trump represents a kind of -- they are not using this language, but I will -- a kind of neo-fascism. There's a broad front called the Resistance, and people like Hilary Rosen and others are saying that this isn't a time to, they use the word re-litigate what the DNC did or didn't do. There should just be a constructive outlook in terms of reforming the DNC. Don't rehash who did what to whom, and focus on attacking Trump. How do you respond to that?

NORMAN SOLOMON: Ideally, there's a united front against the horrific Trump presidency. There's not usefulness in getting united behind bad strategies and undemocratic internal processes of the Democratic Party. After all, "Democratic" is the first name of the party, and when we see so clearly that contempt for basic democratic principles were in play and in force inside the Democratic National Committee, then it doesn't work to just shrug and say well, that's the past so let's move on. The reality is that the same basic forces, the political corporate tendencies and power, that held the DNC last year still control it this year. So it's all well and good to say hey, just move on, but we can't move on without being real about what happened and what continues to be in play in terms of the top-down power at the DNC.

PAUL JAY: The media has on the whole been very antagonistic to Donna Brazile, at least the media I've seen, led of course by MSNBC, and I've seen CNN, especially the first few days after Brazile's book was started to be released by the Washington Post. There was one report I saw, it was a CNN journalist, who just lambasted Brazile. We couldn't find the clip, but NBC had released this agreement between the Clinton campaign and the DNC, and according to a couple of sentences in that agreement, the money that Clinton was controlling and the power she had over the DNC was all supposed to be directed towards the general election, which would have been appropriate. But NBC later actually, it got revealed, when people look at the dates, and I understand NBC even had to retract this, that the dates actually showed it was clearly about the primary, and Donna Brazile clearly makes that this control of Clinton was all about the primary. But the attack continued. Here's Robby Mook, a former campaign manager for Clinton, on CNN.

Russiagate Cognitive Dissonance: What Being Wrong Feels Like



medium  |  We know from the Snowden leaks on the NSA, the CIA files released by WikiLeaks, and the ongoing controversies regarding FBI surveillance that the US intelligence community has the most expansive, most sophisticated and most intrusive surveillance network in the history of human civilization. Following the presidential election last year, anonymous sources from within the intelligence community were hemorrhaging leaks to the press on a regular basis that were damaging to the incoming administration. If there was any evidence to be found that Donald Trump colluded with the Russian government to steal the 2016 election using hackers and propaganda, the US intelligence community would have found it and leaked it to the New York Times or the Washington Post last year.

Mueller isn’t going to find anything in 2017 that these vast, sprawling networks wouldn’t have found in 2016. He’s not going to find anything by “following the money” that couldn’t be found infinitely more efficaciously via Orwellian espionage. The factions within the intelligence community that were working to sabotage the incoming administration last year would have leaked proof of collusion if they’d had it. They did not have it then, and they do not have it now. Mueller will continue finding evidence of corruption throughout his investigation, since corruption is to DC insiders as water is to fish, but he will not find evidence of collusion to win the 2016 election that will lead to Trump’s impeachment. It will not happen.

This sits on top of all the many, many, many reasons to be extremely suspicious of the Russiagate narrative in the first place.

Humans are storytelling creatures. The most significant and most underappreciated facet of our existence is how much of our interface with the world consists not of our direct experience of it, but of our mental stories about it. Combine that fact with the century of research and development that has gone into refining propaganda tactics and the US plutocracy’s stranglehold on mainstream media, and you get a nation lost in establishment narratives. People forming their worldviews based on phantasms of the mind instead of concrete facts.

I’ve noticed a strange uptick in establishment loyalists speaking to me as though Trump-Russia collusion is already an established fact, and that I’m simply not well-informed. There is still the same amount of publicly available evidence for this collusion as there ever was (zero), so this tells me that the only thing which has changed is the narrative. Pundits/propagandists are increasingly speaking as though this is something that has already been established, and the people who consume that propaganda go out and circulate it as though it’s an established fact. When you’re not plugged into that echo chamber, though, it looks very weird.

This is why Russiagaters find my certainty that collusion will never be proven so intensely abrasive. Their entire worldview consists of pure narrative — literally nothing other than authoritative assertions from pundits who speak in a confident tone of voice — so when they encounter someone doing the same thing but with hard facts, it causes psychological discomfort. This discomfort is called cognitive dissonance. It’s what being wrong feels like.

 

Dollah, Dollah, Bill Y'all...,


slate |  Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and his wife, Louise Linton, have already gotten in hot water more than once for acting like out-of-touch snobs whose primary hobby is wasting taxpayer money on their extravagant lifestyle. (Linton went so far as to label an Instagram picture of herself deboarding a government-funded private jet with the names of the numerous luxury products she’s depicted wearing in it.) Helpfully, as you can see above, they have now provided the media with a perfect distillation of their public image for use if and when Mnuchin is axed from the administration as a PR scapegoat after the backlash against Trump’s extremely rich-person-friendly tax bill reaches a fever pitch.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Smearing Trump: A Hack of a "Scoop"


medium |  The author of the Atlantic article, Julia Ioffe, put a period rather than a comma at the end of the text about not wanting to appear pro-Trump or pro-Russia, and completely omitted WikiLeaks’ statement following the comma that it considers those allegations slanderous. This completely changes the way the interaction is perceived.

This is malpractice. Putting an ellipsis (…) and then omitting the rest of the sentence would have been sleazy and disingenuous enough, because you’re leaving out crucial information but at least communicating to the reader that there is more to the sentence you’ve left out, but replacing the comma with a period obviously communicates to the reader that there is no more to the sentence. If you exclude important information while communicating that you have not, you are blatantly lying to your readers.

There is a big difference between “because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source” and “because it won’t be perceived as coming from a ‘pro-Trump’ ‘pro-Russia’ source, which the Clinton campaign is constantly slandering us with.” Those are not the same sentence. At all. Different meanings, different implications. One makes WikiLeaks look like it’s trying to hide a pro-Trump, pro-Russian agenda from the public, and the other conveys the exact opposite impression as WikiLeaks actively works to obtain Donald Trump’s tax returns. This is a big deal.

And it made a difference in the way WikiLeaks was perceived, as evidenced by the things people who read the article are saying about Ioffe’s version:

CIA Blog Agrees - Something Indeed Wrong With These Interwebs..,


WaPo |  “Something is wrong on the internet,” declares an essay trending in tech circles. But the issue isn’t Russian ads or Twitter harassers. It’s children’s videos. 

The piece, by tech writer James Bridle, was published on the heels of a report from the New York Times that described disquieting problems with the popular YouTube Kids app. Parents have been handing their children an iPad to watch videos of Peppa Pig or Elsa from “Frozen,” only for the supposedly family-friendly platform to offer up some disturbing versions of the same. In clips camouflaged among more benign videos, Peppa drinks bleach instead of naming vegetables. Elsa might appear as a gore-covered zombie or even in a sexually compromising position with Spider-Man. 

The phenomenon is alarming, to say the least, and YouTube has said that it’s in the process of implementing new filtering methods. But the source of the problem will remain. In fact, it’s the site’s most important tool — and increasingly, ours. 

YouTube suggests search results and “up next” videos using proprietary algorithms: computer programs that, based on a particular set of guidelines and trained on vast sets of user data, determine what content to recommend or to hide from a particular user. They work well enough — the company claims that in the past 30 days, only 0.005 percent of YouTube Kids videos have been flagged as inappropriate. But as these latest reports show, no piece of code is perfect.

Local Grandstanding Blowhard Whoops Gums About Googol...,


WaPo  |  Missouri’s attorney general said Monday that he has launched an investigation into whether Google has mishandled private customer data and manipulated its search results to favor its own products, a further sign that Silicon Valley’s political fortunes may be on the descent.

The probe comes after European antitrust regulators levied a $2.7 billion fine against Google in June and as Washington is taking a harder look into the influence of dominant tech companies in American society.

Attorney General Josh Hawley said that the investigation will focus on three issues: the scope of Google's data collection, whether it has abused its market position as a dominant search engine and whether the company used its competitors content as its own in search results. The state has issued Google a subpoena seeking information about its business practices.

Hawley, who recently announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, said that the investigation was prompted in part by the fine levied against Google by European officials for favoring its own search results, as well as concerns that Google was engaging in similar behavior in the United States. Hawley said that a preliminary  investigation suggests that Google may not be accurately disclosing how much data it collects about customers and that people don't have a meaningful choice to opt out of Google's data collection.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

CIA False-Flagging and Impersonating Kaspersky

wikileaks |  Hive solves a critical problem for the malware operators at the CIA. Even the most sophisticated malware implant on a target computer is useless if there is no way for it to communicate with its operators in a secure manner that does not draw attention. Using Hive even if an implant is discovered on a target computer, attributing it to the CIA is difficult by just looking at the communication of the malware with other servers on the internet. Hive provides a covert communications platform for a whole range of CIA malware to send exfiltrated information to CIA servers and to receive new instructions from operators at the CIA.
Hive can serve multiple operations using multiple implants on target computers. Each operation anonymously registers at least one cover domain (e.g. "perfectly-boring-looking-domain.com") for its own use. The server running the domain website is rented from commercial hosting providers as a VPS (virtual private server) and its software is customized according to CIA specifications. These servers are the public-facing side of the CIA back-end infrastructure and act as a relay for HTTP(S) traffic over a VPN connection to a "hidden" CIA server called 'Blot'.
The cover domain delivers 'innocent' content if somebody browses it by chance. A visitor will not suspect that it is anything else but a normal website. The only peculiarity is not visible to non-technical users - a HTTPS server option that is not widely used: Optional Client Authentication. But Hive uses the uncommon Optional Client Authentication so that the user browsing the website is not required to authenticate - it is optional. But implants talking to Hive do authenticate themselves and can therefore be detected by the Blot server. Traffic from implants is sent to an implant operator management gateway called Honeycomb(see graphic above) while all other traffic go to a cover server that delivers the insuspicious content for all other users.
Digital certificates for the authentication of implants are generated by the CIA impersonating existing entities. The three examples included in the source code build a fake certificate for the anti-virus company Kaspersky Laboratory, Moscow pretending to be signed by Thawte Premium Server CA, Cape Town. In this way, if the target organization looks at the network traffic coming out of its network, it is likely to misattribute the CIA exfiltration of data to uninvolved entities whose identities have been impersonated.
The documentation for Hive is available from the WikiLeaks Vault7 series.

Unintended Consequences of #MeToo Viral Weaponization


medium  |  Human civilization is made of rape. For millennia, all over the world, women have been commodified and kept as property for the purpose of receiving male reproductive fluids and raising their progeny, regardless of our will. During this time we were kept at home while men invented religion, money, economics, war, government, hierarchy, class, culture, rules, laws and traditions, including the laws of the marital bed. Civilization has been arranged so that each man receives a woman to own, with whom he may have sex whenever he wishes, between building, fighting, destroying and conquering in accordance with the will of whatever ruler happened to be running the show at the time.



This is only just now beginning to change. A woman’s will for her own sexuality is only just now becoming culturally relevant, a blink of an eye from a historical perspective.

Spousal rape was not considered a crime in all 50 states until 1993, and there are still seven states where there is a marital exception to certain sex crimes. The full anatomy of the clitoris wasn’t recognized by western science until 1998. The G-spot was given its name in the 1980s after a male gynecologist, Ernst Gräfenberg, who spent time in the 1940s studying the stimulation of the urethra. Birth control pills kill sexual desire. A third of women reported pain in their last sexual experience. There is a little-known, virtually unresearched and untreatable condition called vulvodynia that causes such intense nerve pain that some women consider suicide, and it is more common than breast cancer.

Just sit with that. A third of women reported pain in their last sexual experience. They didn’t just not enjoy it, they gritted their teeth through it. Why? Because for a myriad of reasons, we don’t feel like we have a choice. That’s rape culture.

Given that interest in a woman’s will for her own sexuality is just barely beginning to enter social consciousness on a large scale, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that it is only just now in 2017 that sharing our experiences with rape culture is beginning to go mainstream.

Rape dynamics are woven into the fabric of society far more pervasively than anyone realizes, and by pulling this thread, the whole mad tapestry will necessarily unravel. This can only be a good thing.

Our species is at a crossroads. It’s become self-evident that we’re about to either collectively experience some kind of enormous transformation, or go the way of the dinosaur. Parallel to our unprecedented ability to network and share information and ideas with our fellow humans all around the globe is a death march toward either ecosystemic disaster or nuclear holocaust which so far shows no signs of slowing down, and one of these two factors will necessarily win out at some point in the near future. Thus far our attempts to shift trajectories have failed spectacularly. If something is going to save us, it’s going to come from way out of left field.

Women everywhere feel the significance of the #MeToo phenomenon. A lot of us are scared to say anything about it for fear of hurting the feelings of the men we love, fear of retribution, and fear of being eaten alive by the intimidating, debate-culture defenders of patriarchy, but there’s a widespread sense that this thing is much bigger than it seems. Some leaders of conventional feminist thought have been speculating about some kind of progressive political upheaval, but in my opinion this is infinitely more revolutionary than that. We are about to experience a plunge into completely unknown and uncharted territory.


Is Something Wrong With These Interwebs?


medium  |  Here are a few things which are disturbing me:

The first is the level of horror and violence on display. Some of the times it’s troll-y gross-out stuff; most of the time it seems deeper, and more unconscious than that. The internet has a way of amplifying and enabling many of our latent desires; in fact, it’s what it seems to do best. I spend a lot of time arguing for this tendency, with regards to human sexual freedom, individual identity, and other issues. Here, and overwhelmingly it sometimes feels, that tendency is itself a violent and destructive one.

The second is the levels of exploitation, not of children because they are children but of children because they are powerless. Automated reward systems like YouTube algorithms necessitate exploitation in the same way that capitalism necessitates exploitation, and if you’re someone who bristles at the second half of that equation then maybe this should be what convinces you of its truth. 

Exploitation is encoded into the systems we are building, making it harder to see, harder to think and explain, harder to counter and defend against. Not in a future of AI overlords and robots in the factories, but right here, now, on your screen, in your living room and in your pocket.

Many of these latest examples confound any attempt to argue that nobody is actually watching these videos, that these are all bots. There are humans in the loop here, even if only on the production side, and I’m pretty worried about them too.

I’ve written enough, too much, but I feel like I actually need to justify all this raving about violence and abuse and automated systems with an example that sums it up. Maybe after everything I’ve said you won’t think it’s so bad. I don’t know what to think any more.

This video, BURIED ALIVE Outdoor Playground Finger Family Song Nursery Rhymes Animation Education Learning Video, contains all of the elements we’ve covered above, and takes them to another level. Familiar characters, nursery tropes, keyword salad, full automation, violence, and the very stuff of kids’ worst dreams. And of course there are vast, vast numbers of these videos. Channel after channel after channel of similar content, churned out at the rate of hundreds of new videos every week. Industrialised nightmare production.

For the final time: There is more violent and more sexual content like this available. I’m not going to link to it. I don’t believe in traumatising other people, but it’s necessary to keep stressing it, and not dismiss the psychological effect on children of things which aren’t overtly disturbing to adults, just incredibly dark and weird.

A friend who works in digital video described to me what it would take to make something like this: a small studio of people (half a dozen, maybe more) making high volumes of low quality content to reap ad revenue by tripping certain requirements of the system (length in particular seems to be a factor). According to my friend, online kids’ content is one of the few alternative ways of making money from 3D animation because the aesthetic standards are lower and independent production can profit through scale. It uses existing and easily available content (such as character models and motion-capture libraries) and it can be repeated and revised endlessly and mostly meaninglessly because the algorithms don’t discriminate — and neither do the kids.

These videos, wherever they are made, however they come to be made, and whatever their conscious intention (i.e. to accumulate ad revenue) are feeding upon a system which was consciously intended to show videos to children for profit. The unconsciously-generated, emergent outcomes of that are all over the place.

To expose children to this content is abuse. We’re not talking about the debatable but undoubtedly real effects of film or videogame violence on teenagers, or the effects of pornography or extreme images on young minds, which were alluded to in my opening description of my own teenage internet use. Those are important debates, but they’re not what is being discussed here. What we’re talking about is very young children, effectively from birth, being deliberately targeted with content which will traumatise and disturb them, via networks which are extremely vulnerable to exactly this form of abuse. It’s not about trolls, but about a kind of violence inherent in the combination of digital systems and capitalist incentives. It’s down to that level of the metal.  Fist tap Dale.

Monday, November 13, 2017

None of These WEAPONS Products Is What It Appears To Be...,


nakedcapitalism  |  As the Philadelphia meetup, I got to chat at some length with a reader who had a considerable high end IT background, including at some cutting-edge firms, and now has a job in the Beltway where he hangs out with military-surveillance types. He gave me some distressing information on the state of snooping technology, and as we’ll get to shortly, is particularly alarmed about the new “home assistants” like Amazon Echo and Google Home. 

He pointed out that surveillance technology is more advanced than most people realize, and that lots of money and “talent” continues to be thrown at it. For instance, some spooky technologies are already decades old. Forgive me if this is old hat to readers:
Edward Snowden has disabled the GPS, camera, and microphone on his cell phone to reduce his exposure. As most readers probably know, both the microphone and the camera can be turned on even when the phone has been turned off. He uses headphones to make calls. This makes the recent phone design trend away from headphone jacks look particularly nefarious.
“Laser microphones” can capture conversations by shining a laser on a window pane and interpreting the vibrations. However, this isn’t really a cause for worry since there are easier ways to spy on meetings.
With a voice recording (think a hostage tape), analysts can determine the room size, number of people in the room, and even make a stab at the size and placement of objects, particularly if they get more than one recording from the same site.
But what really got this reader worked up was Amazon’s Echo, the device that allows users to give voice instructions to a device that will tell your TV to stream video or audio. order from Amazon or other participating vendors, provide answers to simple search queries, like “Tell me the weather,” perform simple calculations, and allow you to order around smart devices in your home that are on the networks. like tell your coffee maker to make some coffee. He said, “I’d never take one of them out of the box.”

He was at a party recently with about 15-20 people when the host decided to show off her Echo. She called across the room, “Alexa, tell me the capital of Wisconsin,” and Alexa dutifully responded.
Based on his knowledge of other technologies, here is what he argues was happening:
The Echo was able to pick a voice out of a crowd engaged in conversation. That means it is capable of singling out individual voice. That means it has been identifying individual voices, tagging the as “Unidentified voice 1″, Unidentified voice 2” and so on. It has already associated the voices of its owners, and if they have set up profiles for other family members, for them as well, so it knows who goes with those voices.
Those voices may be unidentified now, but as more and more voice data is being collected or provided voluntarily, people will be able to be connected to their voice. And more and more recording is being done in public places.
So now think of that party I was at. At some time in the not too distant future, analysts will be able to make queries like, “Tell me who was within 15 feet of Person X at least eight times in the last six months.” That will produce a reliable list of their family, friends, lovers, and other close associates.
CNET claims that Amazon uploads and retains voice data from the Echo only when it has been activated by calling to it and stops recording when the request ends. But given the Snowden revelations that every camera and microphone in computers and mobile devices can be and are used as viewing and listening devices even when the owner thinks they are off, I would not be so trusting. Even if Amazon isn’t listening and recording at other times, the NSA probably can. CNET adds:
Amazon Echo is always listening. From the moment you wake up Echo to the end of your command, your voice is recorded and transcribed. And then it’s stored on Amazon’s servers….
It’s unclear how long the data is stored, but we do know that it is not anonymized. And, for now, there’s no way to prevent recordings from being saved.
Reread the first paragraph. The Echo has to be listening at all times in order to respond to the “Alexa” command. So the only question is whether Amazon or some friendly member of the surveillance state is recording then too. 

This scenario ties into a recent development I find alarming: banks and other retail financial firms relentlessly offering to let you use your voice as your identifier if you wind up calling them. Every time I have called, I have to waste time rejecting their efforts to route me into that system. I’ve told the customer reps I never want that done but there is no way to override that even when I call in from a phone number they recognize as belonging to a customer.

Article About the Deep State - Pretending to Be About Riyaud...,


Independent |  The problem in resource-rich states is that corruption is not marginal to political power, but central to acquiring it and keeping it. Corruption at the top is a form of patronage manipulated by those in charge, to create and reward a network of self-interested loyalists. It is the ruling family and its friends and allies who cherrypick what is profitable: this is as true of Saudi Arabia as it was true of Libya under Gaddafi, Iraq under Saddam Hussein and his successors, or Iraqi Kurdistan that was supposedly different from the rest of the country.

Corruption is a nebulous concept when it comes to states with arbitrary rulers, who can decide – unrestrained by law or democratic process – what is legal and what is illegal. What typifies the politics of oil states is that everybody is trying to plug into the oil revenues in order to get their share of the cake.

This is true at the top, but the same is the case of the rest of the population, or at least a large and favoured section of it. The Iraqi government pays $4bn a month to about seven million state employees and pensioners. These may or may not do productive work, but it would be politically risky to fire them because they are the base support of the regime in power.

Anti-corruption drives don’t work, because if they are at all serious, they soon begin to cut into the very roots of political power by touching the “untouchables”. At this point principled anti-corruption campaigners will find themselves in serious trouble and may have to flee the country, while the less-principled ones will become a feared weapon to be used against anybody whom the government wants to target.

A further consequence of the traditional anti-corruption drive is that it can paralyse government activities in general. This is because all officials, corrupt and incorrupt alike, know that they are vulnerable to investigation. “The safest course for them is to take no decision and sign no document which might be used or misused against them,” a frustrated American businessman told me in Baghdad some years ago. He added that it was only those so politically powerful that they did not have to fear legal sanctions who would take decisions – and such people were often the most corrupt of all.