Dec 24, 2016

Crisis: "Virtual Reality", Greenpeace USA, Economy, USA More Neofascistic
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The Dark Side of VR
2. "Absolutely Frightening": Greenpeace Responds to
     Trump's Call for a New Nuclear Arms Race

3. Is There a Historic Economic Shift Underway?
4. US Government Quietly Starts Asking Travelers for
     Social Media Accounts

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, December 24, 2016.

This is a crisis log with 4 items and 4 dotted links: Item 1 is about the dark side of virtual reality (which will rapidly grow a lot worse, I fear); item 2 is about Greenpeace USA about Trump's call for a new nuclear arms race; item 3 is about an interesting interview with a rich man; and item 4 is about the fact
that to enter the USA you are now asked to hand over all your social media accounts to "customs officers": the USA is very rapidly growing into the NUSA (= the New/Neofascist United States of America).

-- Constant part, for the moment --
B. In case you visit my Dutch site: It keeps being horrible most days and was so on most days in November 2016. But on 2.xii and 3.xii it was correct. Since then it mostly wasn't (until and including 23.xii).

In any case, I am now (again) updating the opening of my site with the last day it was updated. (And I am very sorry if you have to click/reload several times to see the last update: It is not what I wish, nor how it was. [0]

In case you visit my Danish site: This was so-so till 18.xi
and was correct since then (most or all days).

I am very sorry, and none of it is due to me. I am simply doing the same things as I did for 20 or for 12 years, that also went well for 20 or for 12 years.

I will keep this introduction until I get three successive days (!!!) in which both providers work correctly. I have not seen that for many months now.

1. The Dark Side of VR

The first item today is by Joshua Kopstein on The Intercept:

This is from near the beginning (and in case you didn't know or - like me - dislike acronyms [1]: "VR"="Virtual Reality"):

“Avatars are going to form the foundation of your identity in VR,” said Oculus platform product manager Lauren Vegter after the demo. “This is the very first time that technology has made this level of presence possible.”

But as the tech industry continues to build VR’s social future, the very systems that enable immersive experiences are already establishing new forms of shockingly intimate surveillance. Once they are in place, researchers warn, the psychological aspects of digital embodiment — combined with the troves of data that consumer VR products can freely mine from our bodies, like head movements and facial expressions — will give corporations and governments unprecedented insight and power over our emotions and physical behavior.

First, about avatars (<-Wikipedia): These are - among other things, but this seems to be THE prominent reason for their existence - the means by which several billions of ungifted unlearned people can hide their real identity from internet, and instead project their own fantasies, lies and deceptions, and also can scold, offend and threaten anyone they like without running any risk.

For while the internet giants seem to be manned by people who wipe their asses with decency, ethics, and laws, and use it to further their own interests by virtually any means, the ordinary billions are on average not more honest or more decent - and they can say what they please to anyone and never be found out by writing through an anonymous avatar.

And I think I am now against their use, and against anonymity on the internet, for I find it very hard to swallow that just anyone can scold, offend and threaten anyone while remaining completely anonymous to anyone they thus threaten, while both the internet giants and the secret services probably know about most avatars who is the real person behind it. [2]

Next, as to Virtual Reality (to expand the acronym): I agree, although I also suppose that the vast majority has little or no idea about the threats involved in them, indeed just as they have no idea, and generally also do not seem to care, about which information Facebook gathers about them.

Here is some more about it:

Virtual reality as a medium is still in its infancy, but the kinds of behaviors it captures have long been a holy grail for marketers and data-monetizing companies like Facebook. Using cookies, beacons, and other ubiquitous tracking code, online advertisers already record the habits of web surfers using a wide range of metrics, from what sites they visit to how long they spend scrolling, highlighting, or hovering over certain parts of a page. Data behemoths like Google also scan emails and private chats for any information that might help “personalize” a user’s web experience — most importantly, by targeting the user with ads.

And I think almost everything that Facebook, Google etc. gather in secret is or ought to be completely illegal - which also is the reason I refuse to use them.

Then there is this on the present capacities of computers:

The value of collecting physiological and behavioral data is all too obvious for Silicon Valley firms like Facebook, whose data scientists in 2012 conducted an infamous study titled “Experimental evidence of massive-scale emotional contagion through social networks,” in which they secretly modified users’ news feeds to include positive or negative content and thus affected the emotional state of their posts. As one chief data scientist at an unnamed Silicon Valley company told Harvard business professor Shoshanna Zuboff: “The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. … We can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad.”

I do not know who this "chief data scientist" is, but when he (or she) told that "The goal of everything we do is to change people’s actual behavior at scale. … We can capture their behaviors, identify good and bad behaviors, and develop ways to reward the good and punish the bad."

I can tell him (or her) that he (or she) seems a sick sadist to me, and that my behavior will never be manipulated by a sick sadist like he (or she) must be if he (or she) is capable of doing what he (or she) says.

Indeed, I much rather suicide than give my all to sadists like him (or her): What a degerate piece of doubtful humanity must he (or she) be!

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Fred Jennings, an attorney with the digital rights-focused law firm Tor Ekeland, PC, says that if the plaintiffs in the Illinois biometric privacy case prevail, it could establish a foothold for future efforts to limit the intimate data collected by VR and AR platforms. But unlike traditional biometric data, like fingerprints and DNA, the murky legal definition of data that records a wide range of voluntary and involuntary physical movements makes it difficult to legislate what can and can’t be done with that data once it’s collected.

“The problem is it falls into this gray area in between medical data, which is pretty well litigated and protected, and communications data,” says Jennings.

Transparency would also need to be a crucial part of any regulation, he says, because in many cases it’s not clear to what extent behavioral analytics platforms have already been integrated into consumer VR products and apps.

I am sorry, but I do not know anything about Fred Jennings. Also, it seems to me that he is indulging in attorneys' bullshit when he says that there is a " murky legal definition of data that records a wide range of voluntary and involuntary physical movements":

I think it is or ought to be clear that these data are private (for they convey private information) and ought to remain private (and I reject any claim that emails differ from ordinary mails "because they are electronic": that is a sick lie, though indeed not of Fred Jennings, to the best of my knowledge).

Anyway - this is a recommended article, and it is my prediction that until this whole industry is legally forced to decency and responsibility, it will try to get anything and everything they can get from anyone, and sell it to others, and will generally succeed, since the governments normally help and protect them.

2. "Absolutely Frightening": Greenpeace Responds to Trump's Call for a New Nuclear Arms Race

The second item is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now!:

This starts with the following introduction:

President-elect Donald Trump raised the prospect of a new global arms race on Thursday, after he suggested on Twitter he would increase the size of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Trump’s tweet read, "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." Trump’s tweet came on the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin said his country needed to "strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces." This morning, MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski said Trump told her today, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all." We speak to Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA.

I say. Quite incidentally, Mika Brzezinski, who herself earns $2 million a year for presenting this MSNBC program, is the daughter of Zbigniev Brzezinski (<- Wikipedia) who served as a counselor to Lyndon Johnson and as Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor, and - I find quite interesting, though you may not - already in 1968 had quite definite and it seems now remarkably good ideas about what personal computers would be made like: The perfect tools for the secret services capable of spying on everyone. [3] My reference is to something I wrote in 2012: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski (and I spelled B's name then as did the texts I then referred to).

In case you want some more, here is father Brzezinski in 1968:

For one thing, 'it will soon be possible to assert almost
continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-
date, complete files, containing even personal information
about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in
addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be
possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the
future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the
rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.

But this was an aside, triggered by Brzezinski's name. [4] Here is the beginning of the interview:

AMY GOODMAN: (..) Joining us now is Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA. A new nuclear arms race, Annie? Can you talk about the significance of this?

ANNIE LEONARD: You know, Amy, it is absolutely frightening. Every day, Trump says something that makes us worried, but this may be the most terrifying yet. A nuclear arms race is the last thing that the world needs. I think about climate change. I think about economic inequality. I think about all of these major threats that we’re facing as a country and as a world. Why would we add on top of that a totally manufactured, unnecessary threat? We already have so many nuclear weapons. We have over 7,000 nuclear weapons in the United States. We’re the biggest military spender in the world. A new nuclear arms race is the last thing the world needs. It’s the last thing our country needs.

Annie Leonard is quite right from my own perspective, but quite wrong from Trump's perspective, who very probably sees enormous amounts of profits involved in the production of even more atomic weapons.

Here is Amy Goodman on Obama, who basically was a cheat who said one thing and very often did the opposite. Arms racing is no exception:

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go back to something we played in the headlines, which is the issue of the continuum from President Obama to President Trump. Despite Obama’s call for an end to nuclear weapons, his administration has been quietly upgrading the nuclear arsenal as part of a massive effort that will cost up to one, I believe, trillion dollars over three decades. And this is something that Kellyanne Conway raised on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday, the former campaign manager who has just been named as part of the communications team [sic] of President Trump.

Amy Goodman is quite right: As usual Obama said he is "for an end to nuclear weapons" and then "quietly" (i.e. without press conferences) upgraded the nuclear arsenal for more than a trillion dollars in the next thirty years - which
according to Trump (but one must always ask oneself with Trump: what does he really know) is not enough.

As to Kellyanne Conway: She is defending the evil her president-to-be hopes to do by referring back to the evil the present president did (from my perspective) and Annie Leonard correctly pointed this out:

ANNIE LEONARD: Well, just because one president made a mistake certainly doesn’t give license to another president to make this mistake. Greenpeace and many of our allies, we fought against President Obama’s military spending, and we will fight against President Trump’s military spending.

This is a recommended article. [5]

Is There a Historic Economic Shift Underway?

The third item is b
y Lynn Stuart Parramore on AlterNet and originally on the Institute for New Economic Thinking:

This starts as follows:

Milwaukee-born Jim Chanos, founder and managing partner of New York-based Kynikos Associates, teaches University of Wisconsin and Yale business students about corporate fraud. During his life and career, he has witnessed seismic shifts in economic thinking and the relationship between labor and capital. Chanos shares his thoughts on the world emerging from the election of Donald Trump and the tumultuous political events of 2016.

I don't know - apart from Wikipedia - who Jim Chanos (<-Wikipedia) is, but he seems to be a rich man who earned his money by speculating (and winning) while I don't mind at all reading decent interviews with rich men, and this seems to be one.

Here is Chanos on a difference between Bush Jr. and Obama:

Jim Chanos: Bush was the MBA president who was going to be pro-business, cut taxes and deregulate. Meanwhile, he had two recessions on his watch, less employment than when he started, and two bear markets in the stock market — probably the worst president for business since Herbert Hoover. The business guy!
On these issues, I’d rather have Bush any day of the week than Obama. Both Eric Holder and Lanny Breuer of Obama’s Justice Department said in TV interviews and testimony that they factored in non-judicial aspects as to whether to mount prosecutions. I think that this had political costs to the Democrats. The crony capitalism still bothers people — the idea that Wall Street got off scot-free and they are still struggling.

I think he is right on that, and indeed I am bothered by crony capitalism and indeed am a lot bothered by dishonest frauds like Eric Holder.

And this is Chanos on Bill Clinton:

JC: In my overall view, stuff happens to change people. If we go back to Bill Clinton, his “Putting People First” manifesto in ’92 was quite left-of-center, but he didn’t govern that way. If you look at things like NAFTA, welfare reform and cutting capital gains taxes  — well, in many ways, Ronald Reagan would have been proud of him.

Yes indeed: Chanos is right on that as well. Then there is this on the changes that happened in the late 1970s and 80s:

JC: Part of my view is that in the 1930s, we rejected the individuality of the ’20s and before. After the crash and the Depression, we finally put the corporate class and bankers to the sidelines. Whether it was Keynesianism or the New Deal in the West, or state fascism or the advent of Stalinism, you saw more government control over the economy. This was good for workers and large governments.
The period from the late 1970s to 1980 changed all that. You had Thatcher and the U.K. and Reagan in the U.S. Mao died in 1976, the Solidarity movement in Poland began in 1978, and the Soviet Union peaked in power in 1979. You saw that the pendulum had gone too far and now we’re going to cut taxes on capital, we’re going to be more globalistic, and trade was going to improve. Since then, capital has risen and assets have done better than labor. Taxes have been light on financial assets and heavy on labor. Everything was reversed on its head.

I think Chanos is honest, but I disagree with an assumption he seems to make:

It is not as if there are two blocks, "the workers" and "the capitalists", both of which are roughly equal, and where "the workers" are helped by the leftish governments anf "the capitalists" by the rightish governments.

There is nothing like "equality" between the two groups, where "the workers" earn between 1/50th and 1/350th of what "the capitalists" earn, while "the capitalists" own most of the means of production, most of the wealth, and most of the stocks.

In fact, the reality is about the exploiters ("the capitalists") and the exploited ("the workers"), and this simply is a plain fact if you consider the enormous differences in power and wealth between the few rich and the many non-rich, indeed quite regardless of whether these live under a leftish or a rightish government.

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

[Xi Jinping] is a member the Chinese Communist Party, but the Party exists now as a political apparatus, not an ideology. China would not have the type of capitalism it has today if this were not the case. So these are not Marxist-Leninists, but rather just a fantastic single party in control. We have to understand it in that light.

I think Chanos is more right than wrong about this, but it is my guess that he
underestimates the powers of ideological thinking: I think he is mostly right about the fact that China is really a state-capitalist country ruled by a single
party, but I also think the Marxist-Leninist ideology still is important, were it only in propaganda.

And this is an interesting article that is recommended.

4. US Government Quietly Starts Asking Travelers for Social Media Accounts

The fourth and last item today is by Nadia Prupis on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows, and shows the US is very rapidly growing more and more totalitarian, which in the context of the USA especially means: Giving more and more powers to the secret services, that allows them, in secret also, to know everything they can find out about anyone, which will i.a. allow them to get - somehow - rid of anyone criticizing the government (if they want):

The U.S. government has quietly started to ask foreign travelers to hand over their social media accounts upon arriving in the country, a program that aims to spot potential terrorist threats but which civil liberties advocates have long opposed as a threat to privacy.

The program has been active since Tuesday, asking travelers arriving to the U.S. on visa waivers to voluntarily enter information associated with their online presence, including "Facebook, Google+, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube, as well as a space for users to input their account names on those sites," Politico reports.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security first proposed the idea in June, when it was met with opposition and criticism from rights groups, consumer advocates, and other entities, including the Internet Association, which represents Facebook, Google, and Twitter.

I have been saying for a long time now that media like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Youtube are sick a-social spies who illegally (by the Fourth Amendment) spy on everything their users do. And I am totally against them, do not use them at all, and never have been nor ever will be a member of these a-social institutions.

Here is more on the a-social media (for to call these spies who make their money by illegal spying "social media" seems just a cowardly lie to me):

Social media accounts are "gateways into an enormous amount of [users'] online expression and associations, which can reflect highly sensitive information about that person's opinions, beliefs, identity, and community," the letter stated.

But it appears the Obama administration ignored their warnings about the threat to privacy and free expression and finalized the program anyway.

Come on!! Stop treating Obama as if he is a noble man! Obama embraced the possibility of knowing even more about anyone, and therefore he "finalized the program" (or thus it seems to me).

Then there is this:

"There are very few rules about how that information is being collected, maintained [and] disseminated to other agencies, and there are no guidelines about limiting the government’s use of that information," Michael W. Macleod-Ball, chief of staff for the ACLU's Washington office, told Politico's Tony Romm. "While the government certainly has a right to collect some information ... it would be nice if they would focus on the privacy concerns some advocacy groups have long expressed."

Actually, I believe the Fourth Amendment (<-Wikipedia) is a valid and good guideline to how email should have been treated. [6]

The Fourth Amendment has been constantly raped for the last 15 years, it seems initially on the basis of some statement by some sadistic lawyer that it did not apply to electronic stuff, which was just a sick lie, but the Fourth Amendment still applies in my mind, and it still is the almost only legal rule about the internet that I know that makes sense, simply because nearly all other rules I've read seem to amount to "because of terrorism, everyone looses this, and that, and those, and more rights, to the secret services" (and now the secret services can shut up anyone, if not legally than by stealth, and can prosecute anyone, and keep this totally unknown by gag orders in the USA, and no one can prosecute them because they do everything in secret, and are allowed to do mostly as they please, in the deepest secret as well, while they are protected by the government whose interests they serve).

Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:

Nathan White, senior legislative manager of Access Now, said the program constituted a threat to human rights.

"The choice to hand over this information is technically voluntary," he told Ramm. "But the process to enter the U.S. is confusing, and it's likely that most visitors will fill out the card completely rather than risk additional questions from intimidating, uniformed officers—the same officers who will decide which of your jokes are funny and which ones make you a security risk."

Yes, indeed - and it is quite frightening that police-officers are capable of deciding whether your jokes are funny or constitute "a security risk" (and are able to arrest you if they decide your jokes are "a security risk").

And this is a recommended article.

[0] Alas, this is precisely as I said it does, and it goes on for months now. I do not know who does it, and I refuse to call the liars of "xs4all"(really: the KPN), simply because these have been lying to me from 2002-2009, and I do not trust anything they say I cannot control myself: They have treated me for seven years as a liar because "you complain about things other people do not complain about" (which is the perfect excuse never to do anything whatsoever for anyone).

[1] I really dislike acronyms, and for three reasons: (1) they do take some time to expand and recognize, and that takes generally more time than if they would have been written out (except if they abbreviate long phrases), and also (2) many acronyms sound a lot less dangerous and a lot less full of impli- cations than their full names would sound like, and especially (3) these days many acronyms have been chosen explicitly to mislead and deceive people, as e.g. with the PATRIOT law that Bush Jr. introduced.

Together, these three points are more than enough for me to desire that I don't get served acronyms in journalism (except rarely), and indeed also to suspect that if I do get them served, the probable reason is an attempt to
deceive me.

I am against their use now (I wasn't before) mostly because I have been forced to adjust my estimate of the average intelligence in view of Trump's winning the presidency (indeed also if he did not really win it), and because the main use of anonymity is "to guarantee" billions of users that they need not be responsible and need not be accountable in any way, and can say and threaten anyone as they like, simply because they are anonymous.

And indeed another reason why I am against anonymity is that while ordinary users cannot see behind them, the secret services and the dataminers can see behind them, which is to say that anonymity only helps you if you are not dangerous to the government.

[3] And I think that is what computers and iphones are now:
The perfect tools for the secret services capable of spying on everyone. I am totally against that, but guess I am in a small minority because the vast majority has no ideas about what risks they run when some secret servicemen knows more about their private persons than they themselves know, while if they do they normally will not care because "we know we haven't done anything, so we don't risk anything".

Indeed, this may hold for the vast majority, but it alas fails to hold for the intelligent minority to which I belong. (Then again, most of that minority may soon "have disappeared" - in "Night and Fog" (<-Wikipedia) - if they refuse to compromise.)

[4] Incidentally, the elder Brzezinski is still alive and 88, and is still active in various councils and as a professor. Also, I should add that his 1968 statement that

'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in addition to the more customary data.' Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
taken in conjunction with Snowden's revelations (that started in June 2013) has made it considerably more probable to me that the whole personal computer technology may have been invented and provided because it enabled what the elder Brzezinski "foresaw" in 1968 what he and the secret services might do with them (from 2000 onwards).

I do not know and must guess, but I find the 1968 statement to be completely accurate over 30 years later, and that is itself a feat which rarely occurs with that precision without special reasons.

[5] By which I mean - I repeat it again - that I recommend that you read the original article (which I only say if I think the article is good).

[6] And here is the Fourth Amendment once again:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and
seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
It seems to me that at present and since 2001 "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures" has been completely and very intentionally broken, and this has happened not because of "terrorism" but because governments (of nearly every kind, as well, all of which have their own state-terrorists manning the secret services, these days at least) want since several thousands of years (at least) to know everything about anyone, and now, at long last, they do.

And I think that is a very fundamental change, that gives the very few who govern from now on vastly more powers than any governor and any government ever held. I think that is very dangerous for almost everyone who does not belong to the government, and especially to those who dare to oppose it in any way.

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