All posts by Daily Links

4.26.16 TOF

One chronicler has stated the matter under consideration like this: ‘The division of labor among nations is that some of them specialize in winning and others in losing.  Our part of the world, known today as Latin America, was precocious: it has specialized in losing ever since those remote times when Renaissance Europeans ventured across the ocean and buried their teeth in the throat of Indian civilization.’

CC BY by pete_weis
CC BY by pete_weis

The winners are frequently easily recognizable, among them the likes of Henry Kissinger and Citibank; Richard Helms and the Central Intelligence Agency; the Guggenheim interests, the Rockefeller interests, and the panoply of well-heeled conquerors who dot the modern prospect.  The losers often seem less obviously noteworthy or famous—Salvador Allende, Victor Jara, and Rene Schneider simply don’t have the same name recognition as, say, Richard Nixon, catastrophe, holocaust, nuclear, nuke
Those whose lives the winners snuffed out, sometimes in a hail of bullets and other times through hunger and more protracted forms of attrition, had many different hopes and dreams.  Though one might easily have chosen differently, this essay focuses on some of those ‘losers’ who believed in social justice and social democracy, particularly in Chile during the 1960’s and 1970’s.rect3336 space
The ‘winners,’ on the other hand, possessed a much more uniform consciousness and set of goals.  They sought profit over all else; most importantly, they organized to crush the merest hints of any workable expression of sharing, of mutuality, of popular empowerment.  They organized themselves in trust-funded operations that served a single purpose: the promotion and persistence of monopoly empire.  Understanding these points about the commonly-held attitudes among history’s victors is at least half the problem of understanding why these travails have played out as they have.

With very few exceptions, the dramas and conflicts, the heroics and horror, that took place in and around Santiago Chile during the thirty years from 1960-1990 did not happen to the readers of this document.  Thus, in order to dig into the heart and soul of these struggles for human decency and the battles of the above ‘winners’ against them, one needs a willingness to identify with both sides of the ‘class war’ that unfolded in these environs plus-or-minus forty years ago.rect3336 space
Identification with those who prevailed is much easier, since they own or control, along with most everything else on our fair planet, the means of production of information and knowledge.  They hold the keys to the secrets that they still hide away.  Identification with those who lost, often dying for their actions and beliefs and songs, presents a thornier problem.  We have to try harder to see and feel what they underwent.

One might picture a large stadium in one’s mind’s eye, at the cusp of a Southern Hemisphere Spring, ten days from the Vernal Equinox.  The pitch has a huge table in the very center, its top splotched with mottled blood and pieces of flesh, patches of hair and tissue.  At all the exits and facing the stands are uniformed men, most carrying assault rifles, all their faces grim and sleep-deprived except when the occasional joke or comment elicits derision and cackles; a few gather in groups around .30 and .50 caliber machine guns.  They point these instruments of management and death casually at the stands.

At one point during the third day of this ‘spontaneous’ upwelling of fascism that took place in Santiago de Chile in the period after September 11, 1973, this man, whose name is Victor, approaches one of the commandantes with a request from an ailing comrade.  The officer, at first impassive, grins with sadistic glee when he recognizes the speaker, mimicking a simpering guitarist, eyes arched inquisitively.
          (Soon enough, too quickly), (s)eated at the grimy table spattered with slime and fluid, he finds himself surrounded.  Two men restrain him from rising.  A third man extends his right arm, a fourth his left, into the bloody mess on the sturdy wooden surface where he sits, trembling.  Another teniente smacks him in the head each time that he balls his fists.  Ultimately, he splays his fingers, and the pistol-whipping stops.rect3336 space
Already battered and bruised from ‘interrogation,’ he breathes unevenly.  He begins to weep.  Standing nearby, a man with a machete—or is it a hand-axe of some sort?—whistles a tuneless, psychotic dirge.
           (The brutal and psychopathic severing of the fingers that had played for revolution was easy to accomplish, of course, under these circumstances so fully supported by the CIA and big business; this leads to a precis of the primary point).  To state this overviewsuccinctly, we might employ a more or less definitive clause here: That the United States Proceeded in Chile as Elsewhere With MALICE Aforethought.  This combination of subject and verb and modifiers itself contains an acronym: MALICE—Murder, Antipathy, Lies, Individualism, Conspiracy, Emiseration—that perfectly and more or less completely summarizes the period from 1960 till now in Chile and the so-called ‘Southern Cone.’  In fact, this is one of the many environments where John F. Kennedy disingenuously called for continuing a ‘good neighbor policy’ that had arguably not existed when Franklin Roosevelt advanced it during the 1930’s and had close to zero correspondence to actuality during JFK’s Presidency or the administrations that followed.rect3336 space
An arguably crucial point in this regard is as follows.  As Victor Jara, hands dripping gore and painful beyond sore, croaked out a last song—he had stood, stumps of fingers that spurted blood, and the leader of the butchers had commanded ‘sing for us now, poet’—in a voice choked with pain and fear, as he stared down the barrels of the automatic weapons that would end his life, he understood these things about empire and power and knew their central place in any future resistance to such events’ transpiring again.”

4.25.2016 Day in History

Portugal today marks Freedom Day as Italy commemorates a different sort of release in Liberation Day, while around the planet celebrants recognize DNA Day, World Malaria Day, Remembrance of Parental Alienation Day and Red Hat Society Day; among contending groups of Greeks two thousand four hundred and twenty years ago, Sparta’s soldiers overwhelmed the Athenians, thus ending the Peloponnesian War on terms unfavorable to even the limited form’s of Athens’ ancient democracy; twelve hundred forty-one years in advance of today’s dawn, the Battle of Bagrevand ended to the Abbasid Caliphate’s decided advantage, crushing the Armenian rebellion and causing leading proponents of the uprising to flee to the shelter, risky thought it might prove, of the Byzantine Empire; two dozen years later, in 799, a third Pope Leo absconded with himself to the court of Charlemagne after Roman opponents of his rule attacked and disfigured the pontiff; eight hundred forty-five years subsequently, in 1644, the final Ming Dynasty emperor killed himself as peasants rose in a fiery uprising against his regime; a hundred forty-eight years after that, in 1792, Claude Joseph de Lisle composed La Marseillaise as an appropriate national anthem for art revolution french art-Eugène_Delacroix_-_La_liberté_guidant_le_peuplerevolutionary France, and a hapless highwayman lost his head as the first victim to suffer execution via ‘Madam’ Guillotine; eight years beyond that, in 1800, the acclaimed and widely popular hymn writer William Cowper sang his final verse; another four years past that point, in 1804, a Georgian kingdom adjacent to Ukraine acknowledged Russian rule for the first time; seventeen decades back, the so-called Thornton Affair unfolded with fierce fighting along the Texas-Mexican border that quickly erupted in the Mexican-American War; three years thereafter, in 1849, a different imbroglio erupted in North America when Canada’s Governor General acceded to the Rebellion Losses Bill and induced riots among Montreal’s English speaking residents; a decade additional in the direction of now, in 1859, workers under the guidance of French and British engineers broke ground for the Suez Canal; in a further extension of imperial sway, even further from home, twenty-three years hence, in 1882, French troops fought Vietnamese as the Europeans sought dominion over Indochina; a thousand four hundred sixty-one days more in the vicinity of now, in 1886, the New York Times editorialized that the movement for an eight hour day was tantamount to a treasonous plot to undermine the sacred imprimatur of property and capital, a plot against property that other sources guaranteed would lead to licentiousness, dissolution, and non-stop vice; twelve years farther along time’s pathway, in 1898, the U.S. inaugurated its first extracontinental imperial conquest with a declaration of war against Spain; three years yet later on, in 1901, New York required America’s first license plates on cars; seven years afterward, in 1908, a male infant opened his eyes who would rise as the celebrated journalist, Edward R. Murrow; eight years nearer to now, in 1916, in the aftermath of an uprising, the English colonial authorities declared martial law in Dublin and Ireland; a mere three hundred sixty-five days down the pike from that, in 1917, across the wide Atlantic, a little baby girl entered our midst en route to a life of magnificence as a performer and lyricist by the name of Ella Fitzgerald;ten hundred ninety-six days subsequent to that conjunction, in 1920, the ‘victors’ of World War One at the San Remo Conference proceeded to divvy up the ‘spoils of war,’ parceling out former Ottoman territories as ‘mandates’ of England and France for the most part; another three years onward exactly, in 1923, International Workers of the World Maritime Workers Union adherents began a wave of West Coast strikes; half a decade later, in 1928, a baby boy cried out who would become the renowned fiddler and bluegrass performer, Vassar Clements; a decade henceforth, in 1938, the Supreme Court decided in the Erie Railroad case of that year that no Federal diversity jurisdiction necessities permitted any establishment of a ‘Federal common law,’ meaning that reactionary states could not face compulsion, except according to statutory provisions, to adhere to a uniform standard of justice; six years still more proximate to the present pass, in 1944, the United Negro College Fund first solicited money to assist Black scholars and historically black colleges and universities in, respectively, obtaining and providing higher education; a single year past that juncture in time and space, in 1945, across the sea in fire, catastrophe, holocaust, nuclear, nukeEurope, American G.I.’s and seasoned soldiers of the Red Army met at the River Elbe, sundering German lines and effectively ending the war, and Italian partisans captured Benito Mussolini as he sought to escape with his mistress, and six thousand miles to the West, representatives of fifty nations met in San Francisco to grapple with what international organizations could do to avoid a World War Three scenario; five years even closer to the current context, in 1953, Frank Crick and James Watson published Molecular Structure of Nucleic Acid: A Structure for Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid, claiming credit, whether with complete accuracy or not, for discovering the DNA that sits at the base of all life; a year thereafter, in 1954, Bell Laboratory scientists first released a practically functional solar cell, though even now the Modern Nuclear Project impedes its full utilization for human benefit; five years onward from that intersection, in 1959, Canadian and American engineers and workers opened the St. Lawrence Seaway, thereby permitting ocean-going ships to penetrate deep into the heart of North America via the Great Lakes; two years on the dot after that, in 1961, researcher Frank Noyce garnered the first patent for a fully integrated circuit, on which most all consumer and production output now rests; four years on the road to today, in 1965, one of the first outbreaks of male teenage mass murder unfolded in California, as Michael Clark shot highway bypassers, murdering three, before he blew his own brains out; a farther four year trek en route to the here and now, in 1969, Ralph David Abernathy and more than a hundred cohorts faced arrest and solidarityincarceration rather than give up their pickets for workers’ union rights at a Charleston, South Carolina hospital; five extra years on the trajectory toward this moment, in 1974, Portuguese citizens rose up in a ‘Carnation Revolution’ that for the most part consigned fascists and reactionaries to the sidelines in their portion of the Iberian Peninsula; back across the Atlantic four years yet later on, in 1978, the Supreme Court held that pension plans that required higher contributions from women were inherently unconstitutional; a half decade even more subsequent to today’s dawn and passage, in 1983, young Samantha Smith met with Mikhail Gorbachev in the Soviet Union after he read her letter of concern about nuclear war, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Pioneer 10 spaceship hurtled past Pluto on its way to the stars; seven years beyond that, in 1990, Violetta Chamorro became the first woman to lead war-torn and blood-drenched Nicaragua; fifteen years more on the trek toward our light and air, in 2005,Bulgaria and Romania became part of the European Union, more fodder for Russia’s worries of geopolitical isolation and attack; five further years along the temporal arc, in 2010, the writer and storyteller of working class narratives and socially real plots, Alan Sillitoe, lived out his final scene; a half a decade subsequent to that exact instant, in 2015, citizens of Baltimore burst forth in riotous protest against the murderous impunity of the Baltimore police, on display in the crucifixion of Freddie Gray just a short time before their uprising.

4.25.2016 Top of Fold

since the paltry opposition of Saddam or Muammar or Osama simply did not solve any of the underlying issues–between the real players at the table, which is to say the belly-of-the-beast bombardiers from the District of Columbia, the Dragon dragoons of Beijing and its capital accumulation parade, and the bearish boosters of strategic engagement who operate out of Moscow, a briefing that clearly counterpoints with an analysis  from Pepe Escobar in Information Clearinghouse, via Sputnik, about the brouhaha at Doha and what the recent uproar about a certain “twenty-eight pages” really indicates, both of which constructively complement the insights of another Grand Old Party stalwart, Lawrence Wilkerson, when he argues that the central role of the United States now is to act as the primary merchant of death for thugs and plutocrats and allies to the end of time, growth without end amen: “Washington is currently conducting economic and propaganda warfare against four members of the five bloc group of countries known as BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa.  Brazil and South Africa are being destabilized with fabricated political scandals.  Both countries are rife with Washington-financed politicians and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).  Washington concocts a scandal, sends its political agents into action demanding action against the government and its NGOs into the streets in protests.korean protest rally demonstration
Washington tried this against China with the orchestrated Hong Kong ‘student protest.’  Washington hoped that the protest would spread into China, but the scheme failed.  Washington tried this against Russia with the orchestrated protests against Putin’s reelection and failed again.

CC BY-NC by mrchrisadams
CC BY-NC by mrchrisadams

To destablilze Russia, Washington needs a firmer hold inside Russia.  In order to gain a firmer hold, Washington worked with the New York mega-banks and the Saudis to drive down the oil price from over $100 per barrel to $30.  This has put pressure on Russian finances and the ruble.  In response to Russia’s budgetary needs, Washington’s allies inside Russia are pushing President Putin to privatize important Russian economic sectors in order to raise foreign capital to cover the budget deficit and support the ruble.  If Putin gives in, important Russian assets will move from Russian control to Washington’s control.

(In the context of plenty of research to support the pendency of war), (a)s I have often pointed out, the neoconservatives have been driven insane by their arrogance and hubris.  In their pursuit of American hegemony over the world, they have cast aside all caution in their determination to destabilize Russia and China.

CC BY-SA by Elvert Barnes
CC BY-SA by Elvert Barnes

By implementing neoliberal economic policies urged on them by their economists trained in the Western neoliberal tradition, the Russian and Chinese governments are setting themselves up for Washington.  By swallowing the ‘globalism’ line, using the US dollar, participating in the Western payments system, opening themselves to destabilization by foreign capital inflows and outflows, hosting American banks, and permitting foreign ownership, the Russian and Chinese governments have made themselves ripe for destabilization.”—PaulCraigRoberts

money international yuan china trade tpp

“(In relation to the Doha imbroglio), (t)he City of London – via the FT – wants to convey the impression to global public opinion that it all boiled down to a dispute between Prince Mohammed bin Salman – the conductor of the illegal war on Yemen —  and Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi.  The son of  — ailing — King Salman has been dubbed ‘the unpredictable new voice of the kingdom’s energy policy.’money
A famous 3 am call did take place in Doha on Sunday.  The young Salman called the Saudi delegation and told them the deal was off.  Every other energy market player was stunned by the reversion.  Yet the true story, according to a financial source with very close links to the House of Saud, is that ‘the United States threatened the Prince that night with the most dire consequences if he did not back down on the oil price freeze.’

As the source explains, an oil production cut would have ‘hindered the US goal of bankrupting Russia via an oil price war, which is what this is all about. Even the Prince is not that erratic.’  (This fit with Iran’s plans, at the same time that even with a continuation of untrammeled output, prices have stayed above $40/barrel).

The House of Saud, by flooding the market with oil, believed it could accomplish three major feats.
1) Kill off competition – from Iran to the US shale oil industry.
2) Prevent the competition from stealing market share with key energy customer China.

stalin mao china communism
3) Inflict serious damage to the Russian economy.  Now it’s blowback time – as it could come from none other than His Masters’ Voice.
The heart of the whole matter is that Washington has been threatening Riyadh to freeze Saudi assets all across the spectrum if the House of Saud does not ‘cooperate’ in the oil price war against Russia.

(Living in the ‘Mutually Assured Threat’ territory of the magic 28 pages, the avowed dumping of just shy of a trillion dollars in Treasury Bills, and the paradoxical BFF allies that the Prince and President purvey), (f)or all the pledges of eternal love, it’s an open secret in the Beltway that the House of Saud is the object of bipartisan contempt; and their purchased support, when push comes to shove, may reveal itself to be worthless.  Now picture a geopolitical no exit with a self-cornered House of Saud having both superpowers, the US and Russia, as their enemies.  …Whatever happens, Washington needs to sell the fiction that the House of Saud is always an ally in the ‘war on terra,’ now fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh (even if they don’t.)  And Washington needs Riyadh for Divide and Rule purposes – keeping Iran in check.  This does not mean that the House of Saud may not be thrown under the bus in a flash, should the occasion arise.  As the source close to Riyadh advances, ‘the real nuclear option for the Saudis would be to cooperate with Russia in a new alliance to cut back oil production 20% for all of OPEC, in the process raising the oil price to $200.00 a barrel to make up for lost revenue, forced on them by the United States.’  This is what the West fear like the plague.  And this is what the perennial vassal, the House of Saud, will never have the balls to pull off.”—Information Clearinghouse

"Linotype machine" by Vitold Muratov
“Linotype machine” by Vitold Muratov

“‘I think Smedley Butler was onto something,’ explained Lawrence Wilkerson, in an extended interview with Salon.  In his day, in the early 20th century, Butler was the highest ranked and most honored official in the history of the U.S. Marine Corps.  He helped lead wars throughout the world over a series of decades, before later becoming a vociferous opponent of American imperialism, declaring ‘war is a racket.’  Wilkerson spoke highly of Butler, referencing the late general’s famous quote: ‘Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints.  The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts.  I operated on three continents.’

CC BY-NC by aftab.
CC BY-NC by aftab.

I think the problem that Smedley identified, quite eloquently actually,’ Wilkerson said, ‘especially for a Marine — I had to say that as a soldier,’ the retired Army colonel added with a laugh; ‘I think the problem is much deeper and more profound today, and much more subtle and sophisticated.’  Today, the military-industrial complex ‘is much more pernicious than Eisenhower ever thought it would be,’ Wilkerson warned.

As a case study of how the contemporary military-industrial complex works, Wilkerson pointed to leading weapons corporations like Lockheed Martin, and their work with draconian, repressive Western-allied regimes in the Gulf, or in inflaming tensions in Korea.  ‘Was Bill Clinton’s expansion of NATO — after George H. W. Bush and [his Secretary of State] James Baker had assured Gorbachev and then Yeltsin that we wouldn’t go an inch further east — was this for Lockheed Martin, and Raytheon, and Boeing, and others, to increase their network of potential weapon sales?’ Wilkerson asked.  ‘You bet it was,’ he answered

. ..
(Congress has essentially become a log-rolling operation for profiteering and plunder, in individual districts and around the planet).  Wilkerson — who in the same interview with Salon defended Edward Snowden, saying the whistle-blower performed an important service and did not endanger U.S. national security — was also intensely critical of the growing movement to ‘privatize public functions, like prisons.’  ‘I fault us Republicans for this majorly,’ he confessed — although a good many prominent Democrats have also jumped on the neoliberal bandwagon.  In a 2011 speech, for instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared, ‘It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity’ for U.S. corporations.

(Privatized war has become a huge money-maker, even as weapons sales remain key).  Lockheed Martin simply ‘plans to sell every aspect of missile defense that it can,’ regardless of whether it is needed, Wilkerson said.  And what is best to maximize corporate interest is by no means necessarily the same as what is best for average citizens.  ‘We dwarf the Russians or anyone else who sells weapons in the world,’ the retired Army colonel continued.  ‘We are the death merchant of the world.'”—Salon

4.25.2016 Quote of the Day

queue workers DEPRESSION BREAD LINEFactories sweat you to death, labour exchanges talk you to death, insurance and income tax offices milk money from your wage packets and rob you to death.  And if you’re still left with a tiny bit of life in your guts after all this boggering about, the army calls you up and you get shot to death.  And if you’re clever enough to stay out of the army you get bombed to death.  Ay, by God, it’s a hard life if you don’t weaken, if you don’t stop that bastard government from grinding your face in the muck, though there ain’t much you can do about it unless you start making dynamite to blow their four-eyed clocks to bits.
         (Of course, the army does try to whip resistance right out of you).  On his first parade the sergeant-major exclaimed that he couldn’t make out the shape of Arthur’s head because there was so much hair on it, and Arthur jocularly agreed to get it cut, intending to forget about it until the fifteen days was over, which he did.  ‘You’re a soldier now, not a Teddy-boy,’ the sergeant-major said, but Arthur knew he was wrong in either case.  He was nothing at all when people tried to tell him what he was.  Not even his own name was enough, though it might be on on his pay-book.  What am I? he wondered.  A six-foot pit-prop that wants a pint of ale.  That’s what I am.  And if any knowing bastard says that’s what I am, I’m a dynamite-dealer, Sten-gun seller, hundred-ton tank trader, a capstan-lathe operator waiting to blow the army to Kingdom Cum.  I’m me and nobody else; and what people think I am or say I am, that’s what I’m not, because they don’t know a bloody thing about me.

           (In any event), (i)f you went through life refusing all the bait dangled in front of you, that would be no life at all.  No changes would be made and you would have nothing to fight against.  Life would be dull as ditchwater.  (In this vein in fact), The art of writing is to explain the complications of the human soul with the simplicity that can be universally understood.

pfunked Deviant Art
pfunked Deviant Art
          (When a little slack is available, therefore, on) Saturday night, the best and bingiest glad-time of the week, one of the fifty-two holidays in the slow-turning Big Wheel of the year, a violent preamble to a prostrate Sabbath,(you can get ripped and let rip).  Piled up passions were exploded on Saturday night, and the effect of a week’s monotonous graft in the factory was swilled out of your system in a burst of goodwill.  You followed the motto of ‘be drunk and be happy,’ kept your crafty arms around female waists, and felt the beer going beneficially down into the elastic capacity of your guts.”  Alan Sillitoe; Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

4.22.2016 Top of Fold

WEB RULERS & THEIR RULES  –  Considering how much of modern human existence flows through mediated channels–and this proportion certainly approaches 100%–a critically important and yet for reasons of complexity and excitement and technical content and more all too often simply overlooked arena of interest, here in the form of an analysis from The Verge about the subtleties and paradoxes of that which permits what we tweet and greet and bleat and meet online every day to come to pass, which is to say the content moderation that underlies all platforms and any publisher that seeks to engage users at all,which is to say up to the vast majority of the activity that happens in our online lives, a lengthy and fascinating–at once hilarious and spooky, nauseating and infuriating–take on things that an aggregation from supplements in interesting ways, and which an article in the Columbia Journalism Review complements compellingly with its documentation of how algorithms–tricky, biased, GIGO(Garbage-In-Garbage-Out), manipulative, Orwellian algorithms–can exercise oversight over the realm of the possible in human life in ways that are at once undemocratic, suboptimal, and more or less entirely hidden from view–in total a way of characterizing the underbelly or skeleton of the intermediated Earth that we currently occupy, where the surface bursts with conflict that probably would recede or at least appear in a different form if scrappy scribes and stalwart citizens understood it in terms of these deeper operational protocols, as in the case of copyright issues such as the general point made by an Atlantic piece that juxtaposes intellectual property and free speech, such as one briefing from TechDirt that presents a micro-review of a profoundlycritical-of-copyright copyright expert‘s–as in, he authored one of the standard law school texts on the subject–book on some of the subject’s current wrinkles, such as another TechDirt essay that offers a trenchant critique of a superficial acceptance of the notion that the recent Google-Digitization-case refusal of Certiorari has delivered a major blow towriters’, as opposed to publishers’, interests; as in the case of questions about access and secrecy and freedom of information, such as a truly frightening assessment from Rolling Stone that takes the Obama administration to task for its fatuous, false, and verifiably purposeful choice to seek to keep under seal vast troves of materials that embarrass or otherwise discomfit or inconvenience those who rule the roost and the rest of the world as well, such as an interview from TruthDig with a literal hero of Freedom of Information Act battles; as in the case of an additional bit of reportage from TechDirt about a recent unobtrusive bill from our erstwhile elected representatives that would serve to gut more or less entirely the possibility of any modicum of a robust defense of Net Neutrality; all of which serves to illustrate a much wider context of how we hope to live, whether we will have power and agency, the parameters of joy and freedom vis-a-vis alienation and oppression that bound our lives, as an article about possible web dystopias from Atlantic makes clear, and which comments from Noam Chomsky about Orwellian scenarios even more pertinently portrays, concerns about the viability of free people and free media that the recent travails of Information Clearinghouse and its founder illustrate with a graphic pathos that any writer ought to take to heart whose social base is not a trust fund and whose economic foundation is not a corporate sinecure: “(The capsulization of the problems that this topic brings to the fore requires a voluminous back story with many uncertainties and plenty of treachery.  Knowing that a moderation choice is right if often just impossible).  In 2012, for instance, when headlines were lauding social media for its role in catalyzing the Arab Spring, a Syrian protester named Dana Bakdounes posted a picture of herself with a sign advocating for women’s equal rights.  In the image Bakdounes is unveiled, wearing a tank top.  A Facebook moderator removed the photo and blocked the administrators of an organization she supported, Uprising of Women in the Arab World.  Her picture had been reported by conservatives who believed that images of women, heads uncovered and shoulders bare, constituted obscenity.  Following public protest, Facebook quickly issued an apology and ‘worked to rectify the mistake.’

social media - jmarketing - flickr
social media – jmarketing – flickr

The issue of female nudity and culturally bound definitions of obscenity remains thorny.  Last spring, Facebook blocked a 1909 photograph of an indigenous woman with her breasts exposed, a violation of the company’s ever evolving rules about female toplessness.  In response, the Brazilian Ministry of Culture announced its intention to sue the company.  Several weeks later, protesters in the United States, part of the #SayHerName movement, confronted Facebook and Instagram over the removal of photographs in which they had used nudity to highlight the plight of black women victimized by the police.

The majority of industry insiders and experts we interviewed described moderation as siloed off from the rest of the organization.  Few senior level decision-makers, they said — whether PR staff, lawyers, privacy and security experts, or brand and product managers — experience the material in question first-hand.  One content moderator, on condition of anonymity, said her colleagues and supervisors never saw violent imagery because her job was to remove the most heinous items before they could. Instead, she was asked to describe it.  ‘I watched people’s faces turn green.’

desk media computer journalism

Joi Podgorny is former vice president at ModSquad, which provides content moderation to a range of marquee clients, from the State Department to the NFL.  Now a digital media consultant, she says founders and developers not only resist seeing the toxic content, they resist even understanding the practice of moderation.  Typically cast off as ‘customer-service,’ moderation and related work remains a relatively low-wage, low-status sector, often managed and staffed by women, which stands apart from the higher-status, higher-paid, more powerful sectors of engineering and finance, which are overwhelmingly male.  ‘I need you to look at what my people are looking at on a regular basis,’ she said.  ‘I want you to go through my training and see this stuff [and] you’re not going to think it’s free speech.  You’re going to think it’s damaging to culture, not only for our brand, but in general.’

(Different corporate ‘cultures,’ Reddit versus Pinterest, for instance generate vastly different views about free speech and engagement protocols.  Protection from trolls and orchestrated campaigns of abuse are often tenuous at best.  Companies offload their responsibilities whenever possible to the lowest-paid and most exploited labor).  Sarah T. Roberts, the researcher, cautions that ‘we can’t lose sight of the baseline.’  The platforms, she notes, ‘are soliciting content.  It’s their solicitation that invites people to upload content.  They create the outlet and the impetus.’  If moderators are, in Dave Willner’s estimation, platforms’ emotional laborers, users are, in the words of labor researcher Kylie Jarrett, their ‘digital housewives’  — volunteering their time and adding value to the system while remaining unpaid and invisible, compensated only through affective benefits.  The question, now, is how can the public leverage the power inherent in this role?  Astra Taylor, author of The People’s Platform, says, ‘I’m struck by the fact that we use these civic-minded metaphors, calling Google Books a ‘library’ or Twitter a ‘town square’ — or even calling social media ‘social’ — but real public options are off the table, at least in the United States.’  Though users are responsible for providing and policing vast quantities of digital content, she points out, we then ‘hand the digital commons over to private corporations at our own peril.'”—The Verge

gmail, email computer

“(Three levels of analysis are available to algorithm assessors: content in, the operational programs themselves, and output.  In looking at any particular point of entry, or a combination, however, many times background complications–the assumptions of the code, the ‘learning’ parameters and how they encourage continued suboptimality or even abuse if users seem to engage with that–simply disappear).  Much of the reporting on algorithms thus far has focused on their impact on marginalized groups.  ProPublica’s story on The Princeton Review, called ‘The Tiger-Mom Tax,’ found that Asian families were almost twice as likely to be quoted the highest of three possible prices for an SAT tutoring course, and that income alone didn’t account for the pricing scheme.  A team of journalism students at the University of Maryland, meanwhile, found that Uber wait times were longer in non-white areas in DC.mouse computer technology

Bias is also the one of the biggest concerns with predictive policing software like PredPol, which helps police allocate resources by identifying patterns in past crime data and predicting where a crime is likely to happen.  The major question, says Maurice Chammah, a journalist at The Marshall Project who reported on predictive policing, is whether it will just lead to more policing for minorities.  ‘There was a worry that if you just took the data on arrests and put it into an algorithm,’ he says, ‘the algorithm would keep sending you back to minority communities.’


(Even obvious cases are full of difficulty–teasing out discrimination from the necessary operation of profiteer corporate structures, a conclusion of which is that ‘not every story has a bad guy.’  Looking at the code itself can be more full-throated, as it were.)  Having access to the source code or the design of the algorithm provides a whole new level of insight.  That’s clear from The Marshall Project’s reporting on predictive policing.  In the piece titled ‘Policing the future,’ Chammah, together with Hansen, reported on software called HunchLab, which is similar to the more widely used PredPol, with at least one major difference: It is much more transparent.  Azavea, the company behind HunchLab, shared its methodology and models with The Marshall Project’s reporters.  While the piece doesn’t go into the details of how the software works, it does address how both HunchLab and the police agencies implementing the software are grappling with concerns about computed policing.  For example, HunchLab only maps violent crimes, not drug-related crimes, which is seen as an area of systemic racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

But the black box is difficult to access, both conceptually and literally.  Most algorithms, whether used by business or government, are proprietary, and it isn’t entirely clear what kinds of source codes would be available under FOIA.  Several cases have gone to court, on FOIA grounds or otherwise, to access source codes or documents related to them, but most are thwarted by the trade secret exemption or security concerns.  In one FOIA case, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, a nonprofit organization in Washington, DC, requested documents for a system that assigns threat assessments to air and land passengers traveling in the US.  The Analytic Framework of Intelligence, as it’s called, takes in data from a large collection of both governmental and nongovernmental databases, including internet feeds, and then spits out a risk assessment.

Computer scientists, says Hansen, ‘are putting into code our society’s values and ethics,’ and that process has to be out in the open so the public can participate.  In whatever form it takes, reporting on algorithms will likely become more of a required skill.  Journalists need to up their game, both with respect to demanding algorithmic transparency, and in augmenting the current journalistic skill set so we can deal with humanity’s augmented intelligence.”—Columbia Journalism Review

code binary computer geek horizontal

“(With a frank and rational creative-common, copyright-reform, open-source bias, the author contextualizes the Supreme Court’s refusal of Certiorari.  Unsurprisingly),the Authors Guild — which has been tilting at this particular windmill for over a decade — was upset about the refusal to hear the case, but I wasn’t quite expecting the level of ridiculous sour grapes that were put on display: ‘Blinded by the public benefit arguments, the Second Circuit’s ruling tells us that Google, not authors, deserves to profit from the digitization of their books,’ said Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild.privacy-policy-security data
Did you get that?  The Authors Guild is so completely out of touch that it actually thinks that ‘public benefit arguments’ have no place in copyright disputes, despite the very fact that the Constitutional underpinnings of copyright law is to maximize the public’s benefit.  And, of course, this all ignores the fact that the vast, vast majority of authors greatly benefit from such a searchable index in that it drives more sales of books.

(Calling hyperbolic claims of ‘colossal loss’ and noting assertions about threats to the very vitality of American culture, the author continues).  This is ridiculous on so many levels.  First, most authors cannot make a living today because most books don’t sell.  That’s not the fault of Google Books. In fact, as noted time and time again, Google Books acts as adiscovery mechanism for many books and increases sales (I’ve bought dozens of books thanks to finding them via Google Book Search).  Second, the gloom and doom predictions of legacy industries over new technologies is time-worn and has never been even remotely correct.eye spy security data information
What(Authors Guild Executive Director Mary) Rasenberger leaves out of her ignorant whine is the fact that in the time that Google Books has existed, the number of authors has increased massively.  No, they’re not all making a living, but the purpose of copyright law is to incentivize the creation of new works for the public, and the public is getting an astounding amount of new works — a totally unprecedented amount of new works actually — and it’s got nothing to do with anything the Authors Guild has done.

(Undaunted, the A.G. will continue a vigilant stance and intends to monitor library and Google practices for ‘fair use abuse.’)  To ensure that fair use isn’t abused?  Lovely people at the Authors Guild … outright declare themselves against public benefit, and then worry about the ‘expansion’ and ‘abuse’ of fair use.  Does no one at the Authors Guild recognize that their authors are protected by fair use as well and many of them rely on it all the time?  Who would ever join such a backwards looking and thinking organization?”—TechDirt

typewriter writer write

“In brief opening remarks this morning I brought up the crucial fact that rights are typically not granted, but rather won, by dedicated and informed popular struggle. …I also mentioned that the United States and Turkey, though differing in many respects, provide clear and instructive illustrations of the ways in which rights are won and once won, protected.  With regard to the United States, it is commonly believed that the right to freedom of speech and press was guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution over two centuries ago.  That is true only to quite a limited extent, first because of its wording, but more importantly because the law in practice is what the Courts decide and what the public is willing to defend.  I will return to this tomorrow, but would just like to point out now that it was not until the 1960s that the US courts took a strong stand protecting freedom of speech.  They did so under the pressure of the civil rights movement and other activism over a wide front.  And with the decline of activism, the rights are being eroded, as we heard today.

… .

(A)question about freedom of speech …arises when we consider longer-term objectives.  The question I have in mind is by no means new.  One person who raised it was George Orwell, who is best known for his critique of totalitarian enemies, but was no less acid in addressing the ills of his own society.  One pertinent example is an essay on what he called ‘literary censorship in England.’  The essay was written as the introduction toAnimal Farm, … . In this introductory essay Orwell instructs his British audience that they should not feel too complacent about his exposure of the crimes of Stalinism.  In free England, he writes, ideas can be suppressed without the use of force.  He gives some examples, and only a few sentences of explanation, but they capture important truths.  ‘The sinister fact about literary censorship in England,’ Orwell wrote, ‘is that it is largely voluntary.  Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without any need for any official ban.’  One reason is the centralization of the press in the hands of ‘wealthy men who have every motive to be dishonest on certain important topics.’  Another, and I think more important reason, is a good education and immersion in the dominant intellectual culture, which instills in us a ‘general tacit agreement that `it wouldn’t do’ to mention that particular fact.’

(Little known–it suffered perhaps ‘literary censorship’–its ideas demand consideration).  A little historical perspective is useful.  A century ago, in the more free societies it was becoming more difficult to control the population by force.  Labor unions were being formed, along with labor-based parliamentary parties; the franchise was extending; and popular movements were resisting arbitrary authority, not for the first time to be sure, but with a wider base and greater success.  In the most free societies, England and the US, dominant sectors were coming to recognize that to maintain their control they would have to shift from force to other means, primarily control of attitudes and opinion.  Prominent intellectuals called for the development of effective propaganda to impose on the vulgar masses ‘necessary illusions’ and ’emotionally potent oversimplifications.’  It would be necessary, they urged, to devise means of ‘manufacture of consent’ to ensure that the ‘ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,’ the general population, be kept ‘in their place,’ as ‘spectators,’ not ‘participants in action,’ so that the small privileged group of ‘responsible men’ would be able to form policy undisturbed by the ‘rage and trampling of the bewildered herd.’  I am quoting from the most respected progressive public intellectuals in the US in the 20th century, Walter Lippmann and Reinhold Niebuhr, both Wilson-Roosevelt-Kennedy liberals, the latter president Obama’s favorite philosopher.

pfunked Deviant Art
pfunked Deviant Art

At the same time the huge public relations industry began to develop, devoted to the same ends.  In the words of its leaders, also from the liberal end of the spectrum, the industry must direct the general population to the ‘superficial things of life, like fashionable consumption’ so that the ‘intelligent minority’ will be free to determine the proper course of policy.files square writing data info
These concerns are persistent.  The democratic uprising of the 1960s was frightening to elite opinion.  Intellectuals from Europe, the US, and Japan called for an end to the ‘excess of democracy.’  The population must be returned to apathy and passivity, and in particular sterner measures must be imposed by the institutions responsible for ‘the indoctrination of the young:’ the schools, universities, churches.  I am quoting from the liberal internationalist end of the spectrum, those who staffed the Carter administration in the United States and their counterparts elsewhere in the industrial democracies.  The right called for far harsher measures.  Major efforts were soon undertaken to reduce the threat of democracy, with a certain degree of success.  We are now living in that era.”—

Day in History 4.22.2016

jude jewish holocaust genocideThis date in Serbia is Holocaust Remembrance Day, while Brazil commemorates Discovery Day at the same time that the United States celebrates Earth Day, which the world marks as International Mother Earth Day; in imperial Rome, amid the depredations of ‘absolute power’s’ many corruptions, the Senate one thousand nine hundred and seventy-six years ago banned the venal and sadistic Emperor Maximinus Thrax and put forward two of its members to rule in the Year of the Six Emperors;fourteen hundred and sixty-two years past that passage of power, in 1500,  a not entirely unrelated extension of colonial imprimatur occurred when Portuguese navigator Pedro Alvares Cabral ‘discovered’ Brazil, an already occupied land of vast resources and tropical mystery; not quite two decades subsequently, in 1519, another extension of empire’s depredations—again from the Iberian Peninsula that was once the Roman province of Hispania—took place when Hernan Cortes, with plunder the first item on his agenda, oversaw the establishment of a fortified camp at what is now Veracruz, Mexico; seven years further down time’s course, in 1526, the first recorded incident of a slave uprising, less than a decade after Europeans first indulged in this vicious commerce in flesh, happened a thousand ninety-six days precisely hence, in 1529, in a yet more dramatic symbol of a certain sort of inherited imperial imprimatur, the Treaty of Zaragoza purported to divvy up a significant portion of the planet’s land mass between Portugal and Spain according to the Vatican Roman father’s sayso; exactly four centuries prior to today’s light and air, in 1616, the magnificent narrator of imperial fantasy, Miquel de Cervantes, left the realm that he had so immeasurably enriched; six years less past that passing of a fantastical chronicler of empire’s ideological madness, in 1622, a different geographical expression of an up and coming empire on which the sun might never set transpired with the capture of Ormuz by the British East India Company, ousting Portugal from a large part of its presence in exercising dominion over the vast wealth and ancient culture of the Subcontinent; eight and a half decades beyond that juncture, in 1707, the baby boy opened his eyes who would rise as the popular and prolific writer and storyteller, Henry Fielding; seventeen years still later, in 1724,another male infant first regarded the world en route to a life as the well-thought-of philosopher Immanuel Kant; thirteen decades thereafter, in 1854, a male child was born whose fate was to learn the law and become a writer who would win the Nobel Prize, as Henri la Fontaine;  another ten years further onward, in 1864, across the ocean in America, Congress mandated that all coins would in the future bear the inscription ‘In God We Trust;’ just shy of another decade along time’s arc, in 1873, the female baby entered our midst who would become the writer and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Ellen Glasgow; sizteen years additional on the path to today, in 1889, U.S. citizens rushed, ‘sooner’ rather than later, to ‘claim’ land that the U.S. had extorted from Native Americans in the opening of the Oklahoma territory; a decade later on the dot, in 1899, a baby male took his first breath in St. Petersburg who would mature as the innovative and compelling storyteller and thinker, Vladimir Nabokov; five years subsequent to that happy moment, in 1904, another male child first cried out on his way to a life of discovery and research as J. Robert Oppenheimer, whose work concerned nuclear physics and military applications thereof; seven years more proximate to the present pass, in 1911, Tsinghua University opened in China; three hundred sixty-six days henceforth, in 1912, to the West in Russia, Pravda first became available to ‘comrades’ and other readers; three years further down the pike, in 1915, poison gas use expanded with the release of Chlorine gas at the battle of Ypres; a decade and a half additional in the direction of the here and now, in 1930, England, Japan, and the United States agreed to the London Naval Treaty, which, in theory, limited the development of surface and submarine warships; eight years even closer to the current context, in 1938, a massive explosion at the Red Jacket Mine in Virginia snuffed out the lives of forty-five miners for the sake of higher profits; five years afterward, in 1943, the female child took an initial look around prior to maturing as the popular and acclaimed writer, Louise Gluck; three years after that, in 1946, the baby boy came along in the usual way who  would grow up to be the highly unusual filmmaker and writer, John Waters; seven hundred thirty-one days forward from that intersection, in 1948, Jewish forces seized the city of Haifa in Palestine; another half dozen years on the path to today, in 1954, the televised and in the event disturbing Army-McCarthy Hearings began; sixteen years later, in 1970, people around the world first celebrated Earth Day; two years past that particular point in space and time, in 1972, after the U.S. resumed large-scale bombing in Southeast Asia, tens of thousands of protestors turned out, 50,000 in New York City, 30,000 in San Francisco, and more elsewhere; an extra half-decade more towards this instant, in 1977, phone companies first deployed optical fiber cable to convey signals; six years after that, in 1983,across the Atlantic in Germany, Stern Magazine reported that the so-called Hitler Diaries were a doctored fraud; a mere year still later on, in 1984,the iconic nature photographer and thinker, Ansel Adams,

CC BY-NC by Elizabeth Haslam

drew his ultimate living breath; just under a decade still nearer to now, in 1993, the web browser Mosaic issued its Version 1.0; two years even farther along time’s journey, in 1995, the austere and adept poet, Jane Kenyon, lived out her final stanza; a year beyond that to the day, in 1996, the writer and humorist and cultural commentator Erma Bombeck also went to her grave; in an all-too-fascist move four years thereafter, in 2000, U.S. authorities seized a six year old boy, Elian Gonzalez, because he was about to return home to Cuba; half a decade subsequently, in 2005, Japan’s Prime Minister for the first time apologized for the carnage and mayhem that his country had caused in its imperial and martial activities in the 1930’s and 1940’s; a further half-dozen years on the trek to the here and now, in 2011, the beloved voice of labor, Hazel Dickens, sang her swansong.

Quote of the Day 4.22.2016

Jimmy Baikovicius flickr Close-up Photo of Salvador Dali’s painting ‘The Persistence of Memory"
Jimmy Baikovicius flickr
Close-up Photo of Salvador Dali’s painting ‘The Persistence of Memory”

“I confess I do not believe in time.  I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another.  Let visitors trip.  And the highest enjoyment of timelessness―in a landscape selected at random―is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants.  This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain.  It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love.  A sense of oneness with sun and stone.  A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern―to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.

        (Thus I can say), (l)et all of life be an unfettered howl.  Like the crowd greeting the gladiator.  Don’t stop to think, don’t interrupt the scream, exhale, release life’s rapture. …(Of course, this often leads to a need to use the Russian word, ‘toska’).  No single word in English renders all the shades of toska.  At its deepest and most painful, it is a sensation of great spiritual anguish, often without any specific cause.  At less morbid levels it is a dull ache of the soul, a longing with nothing to long for, a sick pining, a vague restlessness, mental throes, yearning.  In particular cases it may be the desire for somebody of something specific, nostalgia, love-sickness.  At the lowest level it grades into ennui, boredom.

(Naturally enough under such circumstances), (s)ome people—and I am one of them—hate happy ends.  We feel cheated.  Harm is the norm.  Doom should not jam.  The avalanche stopping in its tracks a few feet above the cowering village behaves not only unnaturally but unethically. …(In this vein), (l)iterature was not born the day when a boy crying ‘wolf, wolf’ came running out of the Neanderthal valley with a big gray wolf at his heels; literature was born on the day when a boy came crying ‘wolf, wolf,’ and there was no wolf behind him.
         (To take advantage of such beginnings), (a) writer should have the precision of a poet and the imagination of a scientist. …(After all), (l)ife is a great surprise.  I do not see why death should not be an even greater one.quantum physics science electromagnetic
         (Anomalously enough given these circumstances), I have often noticed that we are inclined to endow our friends with the stability of type that literary characters acquire in the reader’s mind. […] Whatever evolution this or that popular character has gone through between the book covers, his fate is fixed in our minds, and, similarly, we expect our friends to follow this or that logical and conventional pattern we have fixed for them.  Thus X will never compose the immortal music that would clash with the second-rate symphonies he has accustomed us to.  Y will never commit murder. Under no circumstances can Z ever betray us.  We have it all arranged in our minds, and the less often we see a particular person, the more satisfying it is to check how obediently he conforms to our notion of him every time we hear of him.  Any deviation in the fates we have ordained would strike us as not only anomalous but unethical.  We could prefer not to have known at all our neighbor, the retired hot-dog stand operator, if it turns out he has just produced the greatest book of poetry his age has seen.”   Vladimir Nabokov