March 2, 2019

Crisis: On The (sick) NYT, Surveillance Capitalism, Big Tech vs Democracy, Scheer, Ocasio-Cortez

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 2, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, March 2, 2019.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than three years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

. Selections from March 2, 2019:
1. Trudeau Embroiled in Scandal
2. Age of Surveillance Capitalism

3. Big Tech Stole Our Data While Democracy Slept

4. The Uncomfortable Truth About Journalism's Glory Days

5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New Face of the Democratic Party
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Trudeau Embroiled in Scandal

This article is by Catherine Porter and Ian Austen on The New York Times. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada promised a fresh approach to politics, one that was based on openness, decency and liberalism.

Now he is embroiled in a scandal involving accusations of back-room deal-making and bullying tactics, all to support a Canadian company accused of bribing the Libyan government when it was run by the dictator Muammar el-Qaddafi.

Canadian newspapers are filled with outrage and opposition parties are calling for a resignation. Elections are still seven months away, but some members of Mr. Trudeau’s own governing party fear the scandal has armed opposition parties with rich campaign fodder against its leader, who promised “sunny ways” in politics.

“This is a huge, huge blow to Justin Trudeau’s personal brand and Justin Trudeau’s promise of doing politics differently,” said Shachi Kurl, the executive director of the Angus Reid Institute, a nonprofit polling firm based in Vancouver.

She added: “That shine is not dented or scratched. It’s been completely scuffed.”

The case revolves around accusations that SNC-Lavalin, a multinational engineering company based in Quebec, paid 47.7 million Canadian dollars in bribes to officials in Libya to win contracts there, and defrauded the Libyan government and its agencies of 129.8 million Canadian dollars.

This is the last time I copy from The New York Times, which - in my opinion - is a lying bit of moral degeneracy (like The Guardian).

They are since months preparing to go over to a non-copiable format, also with very much less journalism shown, and I have now experienced many times the same sickness:
I can copy nothing or very little from The New York Times, except by first converting it to plain text (that removes all links).

I do not have these problems with any other paper, except the sick fraudulent ones I cannot copy at all (without considerable trouble) namely The Guardian and Mother Jones. I stop this nonsense of trying to copy from a lying and fraudulent paper.

2. Age of Surveillance Capitalism

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Corporations have created a new kind of marketplace out of our private human experiences. That is the conclusion of an explosive new book that argues big tech platforms like Facebook and Google are elephant poachers, and our personal data is ivory tusks. Author Shoshana Zuboff writes in “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power”: “At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.”

This is a very good article, as I hope you will see below, but I can't make much of "Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism" etc. (and I have read a lot of Marx).

But OK, and I agree with the statements that "
surveillance capitalism is parasitic" and that it "feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience", and indeed I will also try to get a copy pf Zuboff's book (and will write later about it when I have read it).

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!,, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. “Facebook planned to spy on Android phone users, internal emails reveal.” That’s a headline in Computer Weekly. “You Give Apps Personal Sensitive Information. Then They Tell Facebook.” That’s from The Wall Street Journal. Those are just two of the headlines this past week. This comes as a new report in Britain calls Facebook “digital gangsters.”

We end today’s show looking at how corporations have created a new kind of marketplace out of our private human experiences. This is the focus of an explosive new book that argues big tech platforms like Facebook and Google are elephant poachers, and our personal data is ivory tusks. The book is titled The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power. Its author, Shoshana Zuboff.

Yes indeed - and (being a psychologist), I am sure that Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos are not only "digital gangsters" but also extremely unsympathetic sadists.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: OK, well, let’s start at the beginning. Define “surveillance capitalism.”

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) [S]urveillance capitalism claims private human experience for the market dynamic as a free source of raw material that is translated into behavioral data. These data are then combined with advanced computational abilities to create predictions—predictions of what we will do, predictions of our behavior, predictions of what we will do now, soon and later. And these predictions are then sold to business customers in a new kind of marketplace that trades exclusively in human futures.

This was first invented in the context of online targeted advertising at Google back in 2000, 2001, in the teeth of financial emergency during the dotcom bust. But the same economic logic has now traveled not only from Google to Facebook and throughout the tech sector, but now throughout the normal economy into virtually every economic sector.

In fact, I do not think that Zuboff is very good at defining "surveillance capitalism", but she is good at describing it, and the above description is quite adequate. Incidentally, I wrote a rather deep analysis of what Zuboff called "surveillance capitalism" and that I called "capitalist fascism" in 2012, which I still think is quite interesting. See Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS, which was written half a year before I learned of Edward Snowden's existence, whose evidence strongly supported my analysis.

Also, there is one principal difference (it seems to me) between Zuboff's analysis and my own: My own analysis was much more directed against the security organizations that almost ever country has, and less against Google and Facebook (and the rest).

I think both are important, and I think that the internet was created on purpose by DARPA so as to find out as much as possible about anyone (see here for more), while Google and Facebook used the internet to likewise find out as much as possible about anyone, but with another end: Not so much checking their political values and ideas, which is what every county's spies do, but checking their personal values and ideas to find out which advertisements will appeal to them - but the mechanism is the same, for both rely on the total loss of any privacy of anyone who is not very rich or a spy for a country.

Here is more:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) [In Great Britain] there’s been a parliamentary committee investigating Facebook. This committee was able to get leaked documents, secret documents, from Facebook that had not been reviewed by the public. And just last week, they issued their 108-page report. It’s very powerful, very damning. And among other things, they refer to Facebook as behaving like “digital gangsters,” because they have understood that Facebook has been essentially stealing—in other words, as I’ve described, illegitimately taking—our private human experience for its production processes that create these prediction products, which is what they sell and how they make money.

Yes, this is all correct - but the English parliamentarians who called Zuckerberg (quite correctly) a "digital gangster" also pretended not to know about their own secret service - the GCHQ and associated secret services - who do the same things with every Brit, but as I explained with a different purpose, namely to check essentially on their political correctness (in the literal sense).

Here is more:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: One of the things that surveillance capitalists learned is that the most powerful predictions of human behavior come from actually intervening in our behavior, touching our behavior, to nudge, to influence, to tune, to herd our behavior toward its commercial outcomes. And what this has done is made them take hold of the digital milieu, all of the devices, beginning with our phones and our laptops, but the sensors, the facial recognition, the smart dishwasher, the smart television set, the smart car, the smart city. All of this digital infrastructure now has been taken by surveillance capitalism as a way to nudge and tune and herd our behavior toward its guaranteed outcomes. It does this with subliminal cues. It’s a highly scientific process. It does this in ways that it brags about are always outside of our awareness, so that we have no right of combat, we cannot resist, we cannot say no, and we cannot exit. So, this is what I call a global means of behavioral modification, where essentially this great digital architecture, that we built in order to be an emancipatory and life-giving process for us and help us in our lives, has now become commandeered by surveillance capitalism as a means to modify our behavior toward its commercial ends, which is a direct assault on human autonomy, a direct assault on our decision rights, a direct assault on the whole notion of individual sovereignty.
Today, in the year 2019, we’ve just spent the last two decades where, as democracy slept, the private sector, under the aegis of surveillance capitalism, has been able to command the digital to create a, literally, ubiquitous means of behavioral modification, without anybody saying no, and without most of us even noticing or understanding what has occurred.

Yes, I completely agree - but again should add that it all started with DARPA's desires - back in the late 1960ies: See here -  which were not based on selling things to invisibly manipulated people without any privacy but on finding out in secret what anybody's political, economical and sociak beliefs were, so as to check them for political correctness, and interfere (in secret) with them in case they were not.

Here is more:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) We think we’re searching Google; Google is actually searching us. We think that these companies have privacy policies; those policies are actually surveillance policies. We’re told that if we have nothing to hide, then we have nothing to fear. The fact is, what they don’t tell us and what we are forgetting, that if you have nothing to hide, then you are nothing, because everything about us that makes us our unique identities, that gives us our individual spirit, our personality, our sense of freedom of will, freedom of action, our sense of our right to our own futures, that’s what comes from within. Those are our inner resources. That’s our private realm. And it’s intended to be private for a reason, because that is how it grows and flourishes and turns us into people who assert moral autonomy—an essential element of a flourishing, democratic society.

Yes, I agree - and "our private realm" has been intentionally and completely destroyed, both by DARPA and the internet, and by the internet, Google, Facebook and many more: I think that everyone is almost fully known - in all of his or her privacies, including mails - by both the political spies of almost every country and by the economical spies of Google, Facebook and many more.

Here is some more:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) So, these apps that The Wall Street Journal
researched—and I cover this in depth in the book—just about every app that you download is shunting your data to third parties. Virtually every app is doing that. When you look at those third parties, the two Goliaths among those third parties are Facebook and Google. Most of the sites, the URLs that these data get shunted to, are owned by Facebook and Google.

Yes indeed - which is the main reason I am on Linux and not on Apple or Microsoft (which are especially and secretively targeted for spying) and why I use only Firefox, Thunderbird (for mail) and a quite old FTP programs and an old opensource html-editor. Otherwise I use nothing, though I still think everything about me is known, in secret (which is why I get almost no mail since 10 years, though I have two very large and quite interesting sites).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this very fine article:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) [W]e’re entering the 21st century now with a new domain of social inequality. We’ve been focused on economic inequality. It’s tremendously important. We now enter the 21st century, where private surveillance capital has institutionalized asymmetries of knowledge unlike anything ever seen in human history. They know everything about us; we know almost nothing about them.

Yes, I completely agree - but I also warn you again this is not just Google, Facebook and - meanwhile - very many more, but also the spies from your own country, and the spies from every other country. And this is an excellent article that is very strongly recommended. Finally, this is continued in the next article:

3. Big Tech Stole Our Data While Democracy Slept

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Corporations have created a new kind of marketplace out of our private human experiences. That is the conclusion of an explosive new book that argues big tech platforms like Facebook and Google are elephant poachers, and our personal data is ivory tusks. We continue our interview with Shoshana Zuboff, author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism: The Fight for a Human Future at the New Frontier of Power.

As I said at the end of the previous article, this article continues the previous one:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) Well, surveillance capitalism is a further evolution of capitalism that follows in the old pattern of taking things that live outside the market, subordinating them to the market dynamic as commodities that can be sold and purchased—but with a dark twist. Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims our private human experience as a free source of raw material for its own production processes. It translates our experience into behavioral data. Those behavioral data are then combined with its advanced computation capabilities, what people today refer to as AI, machine intelligence.

Yes indeed - and also "Surveillance capitalism unilaterally claims our private human experience as a free source of raw material" while being almost completely dishonest that it is stealing all our privacies either for its own profit or to know how politically correct anyone is, where the standard is the standard of real spies, from your own government or virtually any other government.

Also, while I agree with Zuboff, I do like to point out that there are two kinds of spies on everything you do in your own house (and anywhere else): Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and many more who want to know what you (really) think, feel, want, desire, and how healthy, how rich etc. etc. you are, and next each and every "security organization" in every country, who want to know what you (really) think, feel, want, desire etc. etc. especially about politics.

Here is some more:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) I go into about 16 explanations for [how they got away with it]. But there are a couple that are right at the top of the list, that we should talk about.

One is our ignorance, because key to this whole methodology, and why it’s called surveillance capitalism, is that all of this is conducted in secret. All of this is conducted through the social relations of the one-way mirror, ergo surveillance. The vast amounts of capital that have been accumulated here are trained to create these systems in a way that keeps us ignorant. Specifically, the data scientists write about their methods in a way that brags about the fact that these systems bypass our awareness, so that they bypass our rights to say yes or no, I want to participate or I don’t want to participate, I want to contest or I don’t want to contest, I want to fight or I don’t want to fight. All of that is bypassed. We are robbed of the right to combat, because we are engineered into ignorance.

Yes, this is quite correct again. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

SHOSHANA ZUBOFF: (..) So, it is against autonomy. It is against individual sovereignty and our decision rights over our own experience. That eats away at democracy from below, because we cannot have flourishing democratic societies without individuals who understand themselves as a moral center of critical thinking and autonomous action. That’s number one.

Number two, it assaults democracy from above, because it means that we enter the 21st century with a new kind of institutional paradigm that introduces extreme inequalities of knowledge. Under the aegis of private surveillance capital, we have institutionalized private companies with asymmetries of knowledge unlike anything we’ve seen in human history. They know everything about us; we know almost nothing about them. Their knowledge about us is used for others’ profit gain, not used to actually solve our problems and improve our lives.--

Yes again: "It is against individual sovereignty and our decision rights over our own experience" and indeed also "They know everything about us; we know almost nothing about them", but once again, apart from these sick and degenerate profiteers there also are the sick and degenerate spies from every country, who set up the whole sick and degenerate system to find out how politically correct each and everyone is, where the standard of correctness are set (in secret, again) by the spies. And this is a very strongly recommended article.

4. The Uncomfortable Truth About Journalism's Glory Days

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

At a time when journalism consistently is said to be imperiled, two esteemed reporters beg to differ. Los Angeles Times reporter Patt Morrison and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer point out a surprising fact about journalism through the ages.

“The paradox,” Morrison says, “is that [journalists] were always in the hands of rich people, because those were the people who owned the printing presses. Some of them were only comparatively rich, some of them were truly rich, like the Jeff Bezoses of the world.”

In her latest book, “Don’t Stop the Presses: Truth, Justice, and the American Newspaper,” Morrison traces the history of the Fourth Estate in the U.S. and delivers an impassioned defense of print news while highlighting crucial issues journalism faces today.

Actually, I never heard of Patt Morrison, but that may be because I am not am American. In any case, I did not find her opinions interesting, and I will not quote her, but I like Scheer, and I want to review three quotes from him. Here is the first:

RS: (..) I want to take us to page 59, my favorite quote about journalism, which comes from a guy named A. J. Liebling who was the media critic for The New Yorker. And he said something that I just think really has to be there: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” And in your book, while you pay homage to all the great journalists–a lot of them, anyway–you recognize the contradictions. That the good old days were far from perfect. And that statement, let’s start with that: “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.” Because the two of us worked for the Chandler family; we happened to work for a good Chandler, in the sense of a good publisher, Otis Chandler. But there were Chandlers who were not good publishers from the point of view of the community. They stole the water from Northern California, they wrecked the environment, and so forth. They rigged politics. And this was true of Hearst, as you point out in your book; it was true of Pulitzer, and all–Bancroft, all the great families. So this book, while a tribute to the print journalist, recognizes the enormous contradictions.

Well... "yes, but" in brief. And my buts are quite important, as I shall try to illustrate by a little personal reflection on "Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one."

In fact, I mostly agree - although "freedom of the press" means more than being able to print what you like, if it is legal, namely also being able to read something that more or less corresponds to your own beliefs, which - in spite of the fact that papers tended to be owned by rich men also in the past - was much strengthened by there being many papers, which is a thing
of the past.

Anyway... my personal reflection is that both of my parents were - sincere and intelligent, but not well-educated - communists for 45 years of their lives, and they mostly agreed to the "freedom of the press" quoted above - for which reason they owned a printing machine in their own house, that multiplied what they wanted to say by typing it on what is called "a stencil" in Dutch: Paper covered with wax, where the holes in the wax corresponded to the letters, and thus there could be thousands of copies with an appropriate printing machine. This allowed them to spread a reasonable amount of - mostly leftist or communist - news or comments by themselves to others.

And while this is now out of date, so is the privacy they had in their lives: Whether they can print what they like or not, as the above two items show (here and here), these days whatever they think, said, believed, valued, wrote is somehow being copied from every house in which there is a standard computer (that can read and see everything around it, and does so unless it is very carefully and knowledgeably stopped - if possible), a standard phone, a standard TV, or indeed a modern standard refrigerator: All can copy anything said or done (in secret) and send it (in secret) both to Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos and others, and also to the spies in most countries.

This is no longer "freedom of the press" in any sense, even if you can print what you like in your own home, for it very probably will be known (at least in the sense of: being in your personal dossier) to hundreds or thousands of (unknown) others (who may be anywhere).

Back to the article:

RS: (..) And then, even in the heyday that you describe of the L.A. Times, the New York Times, the Washington Post, they had competition. There were lots of papers, and when I was growing up in New York there were, I don’t know, 25 newspapers competing with the New York Times and the Herald Tribune. Now you’re in a situation of media concentration. And media concentration, by the way, abetted by some people who claim to believe in the free press–like Bill Clinton, who did the Telecommunications Act that allowed television owners to buy print in the same market and so forth. And now, it’s a situation where print is increasingly owned by a very tiny group of ultra-wealthy people who can afford, in the case of the Washington Post–ah, here’s $250 million, I’ll buy your paper, maybe I’ll have some fun with it–besides I’ll make it, in a few months, I’ll make it back. And then the question is, can you have a free press?

Yes, this is quite correct, although it leaves the complete absence of doing anything that will not be known by Facebook, Google and spies from anywhere totally undiscussed.

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

RS: (..) I want to discuss some of the serious issues raised in this book. The most important is, were the good old days really better than the current? And as the editor of something called, and I’ve done a lot on the internet, I dispute that notion. I think, yes, the internet has a lot of problems, a lot of–and if they do away with net neutrality, and they destroy it, we’ll be in trouble. But I think we’re getting a lot of really terrific journalism on the internet.

Possibly so, though I am not impressed like Scheer is. I think myself "the good old days" were almost infinitely better, because then - even if writing for a millionaire with sick opinions - you had your own privacy in your own home, which in these days has been - intentionally - completely destroyed by (almost) all the "security organizations" there are in the world, and by Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and very many more (also quite secret) "private organizations.

5. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New Face of the Democratic Party

This article is by Natasha Hakimi Zapata on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Despite her short career in politics, there’s already a lot to praise about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Rising to fame by unseating Democratic heavyweight Joe Crowley in a shocking primary upset last year, the freshman representative from New York’s 14th District has scarcely been out of the limelight since. Even before she won the 2020 midterm election, she began to garner fame as the new face of the Democratic Party, much to the discomfort of some political elites: Young, female, queer, Latinx, democratic socialist—“New party, who dis?” indeed.

The 29-year-old campaigned on a progressive agenda shaped during her stint as an organizer in Bernie Sanders’ historic 2016 primary challenge, a campaign that ended up winning her a seat in Congress as the youngest member in U.S. history. She’s made Medicare-for-all, tuition-free college and other progressive goals the tenets of her tenure from the get-go, making good on her promise to fight for “a modern, moral … Society [in which] no American [is] too poor to live.”

I mostly copied this because I like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Also, as the end of this article shows, she is made "Truthdigger of the Month".

Here is some more:

While AOC, as she’s known, even has a comic book hero modeled after her now, her crowning achievement has no doubt been the drafting of the Green New Deal, which she introduced alongside Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts on Feb. 7. “The most visionary resolution to emerge from Congress in recent years,” writes Truthdig’s Sonali Kolhatkar, “encompassing both the climate crisis and economic inequality, has captured the imagination of many Americans.” The plan, which unites climate change concerns with a jobs guarantee, could change the nation’s course toward a greener, more equal and prosperous future at a time when the Trump administration is leading us in the opposite direction.

Yes indeed. And this is a recommended article.

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).
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