Thursday, March 8, 2018

Critiquing Evil On Evil Platforms

The main reason I never "monetized" this blog with Google AdSense, Amazon affiliate ads and the like is that getting paid mere pennies while enriching major corporations off my labor was an offer I could very easily refuse. I write here because I enjoy it, because it's cathartic, and because there is no pressure to meet deadlines and quotas or adhere to repressive standards.

Even so, I find that certain keywords and topics in my blog posts do have this weird way of translating themselves into ads which follow me wherever I go on the Internet. After publishing my last piece critiquing Obama's presidential library, for example, I suddenly got inundated with photos of his smiling face, urging me to congratulate him on a job well done. Naturally, a click took me directly to a page soliciting money for his $500 million presidential library.

I've tried free trials of gizmos like AdBlocker, which only slowed down my already slow Internet connection on my ancient operating system. A slick marketer promising me complete protection from other slick marketers is another highly refusable offer. So whenever I remember to, I just temporarily clear my browser cache of "cookie" trackers. And voila, Nobama! For now.

I've previously written about my mild discomfort using the "free" Google Blogger platform to write my posts, especially in the wake of revelations that the Silicon Valley tech giant was joining forces with the "intelligence community" to censor content from independent writers and suppress certain sites on its search engine. Their "Don't Be Evil" public relations slogan from yesteryear gets more ironic by the day.

A new revelation that Google is now partnering directly with the Pentagon to track human beings via drones makes me even more uncomfortable. As reported by Gizmodo,
Google’s pilot project with the Defense Department’s Project Maven, an effort to identify objects in drone footage, has not been previously reported, but it was discussed widely within the company last week when information about the project was shared on an internal mailing list, according to sources who asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the project.
Some Google employees were outraged that the company would offer resources to the military for surveillance technology involved in drone operations, sources said, while others argued that the project raised important ethical questions about the development and use of machine learning.
 Google’s Eric Schmidt summed up the tech industry’s concerns about collaborating with the Pentagon at a talk last fall. “There’s a general concern in the tech community of somehow the military-industrial complex using their stuff to kill people incorrectly,” he said. While Google says its involvement in Project Maven is not related to combat uses, the issue has still sparked concern among employees, sources said.
Eric Schmidt sounds like he's been canoodling with Obama and taking a page from his placatory playbook. Schmidt says that the tech community, like any other citizen-subject category, has this emotional problem leading them to crazily believe that the War Cartel is killing people incorrectly, rather than as legally permitted by a once-secret opinion written by former Attorney General Eric Holder. Holder ramped state-sanctioned murder up a huge notch, from killing people legally (via capital punishment, during the fog of war, and whenever the backs of black and brown people present an existential threat to police officers) to killing them "correctly." The correct use of drones, as former Obama CIA Chief and current NBC analyst John Brennan once outlined in his proudly leaked "Disposition Matrix" manual, is defined as the downgrading of people from human beings with civil rights to "militants," or any nameless pseudo-humans existing in the prime of their lives.

Forget about Don't Be Evil. Google's new motto should be "Don't Be Incorrect."

Gizmodo continues,
The project’s first assignment was to help the Pentagon efficiently process the deluge of video footage collected daily by its aerial drones—an amount of footage so vast that human analysts can’t keep up, according to Greg Allen, an adjunct fellow at the Center for a New American Security, who co-authored a lengthy July 2017 report on the military’s use of artificial intelligence. Although the Defense Department has poured resources into the development of advanced sensor technology to gather information during drone flights, it has lagged in creating analysis tools to comb through the data.
This is one small step for the Pentagon and one giant leap for official unaccountability.  Notice how the Neoliberal Thought Collective always uses the weasel word "efficiency" to justify everything from draconian cuts to domestic social programs and education, to the killing and maiming of people through the endless War On Terror. The poor confused warmongers just can't keep up with all that vast death-data as they scramble to decide who to track and kill next.

But look on the bright side:
Although Google’s involvement stirred up concern among employees, it’s possible that Google’s own product offerings limit its access to sensitive government data. While its cloud competitors, Amazon and Microsoft Azure, offer government-oriented cloud products designed to hold information classified as secret, Google does not currently have a similar product offering.
A Google spokesperson told Gizmodo in a statement that it is providing the Defense Department with TensorFlow APIs, which are used in machine learning applications, to help military analysts detect objects in images. Acknowledging the controversial nature of using machine learning for military purposes, the spokesperson said the company is currently working “to develop polices and safeguards” around its use.
There can be no accountability for digital death product, because nobody will know what they're doing anyway. Google, lacking the same secret status as the oligopoly known as Amazon, will never have its sensitivities bothered by the actual sight of mangled human bodies.  Perhaps Google can borrow John Brennan from NBC for a little while, so he can craft a new manual of safeguards absolving them from prosecution should their artificial intelligence ever accidentally kill more than the acceptable number of innocent people.


It's probably unfair to just pick on Google, when the whole Internet is bloated with so many other amoral, state and corporate-sanctioned, platforms.  When the acceptable content providers are not deliberately dressing evil up in shiny propaganda for American consumption, they're just being plain mind-numbing and innocuous. Take the New York Times -- or as I find myself doing more and more these days, leave it.

Like many other people, I enjoyed Adam Rippon's skating and offbeat humor during the otherwise stultifying Olympics telecasts on John Brennan's network. I especially admired Rippon's refusal of a job as a paid commentator for NBC before the Olympics even ended, because it would have entailed moving out of the low-rent Olympic Village and leaving all his friends.

So anyway, now that Rippon is the latest new bright $hiny iconic thing, the New York Times is on it.  

 "He became well known in America in less than a month. After his figure-skating Olympic bronze, what's next? We grilled him about where he's going," the Times burbled in the digital front page intro. Why not? He is now a "for-real" famous person!

For real. The questions asked by a whole posse of reporters and editors could have been lifted straight out of a Hard Copy or Inside Edition interview instruction manual. Read the whole thing, right down to the edgy vernacular language that is de rigueur for any hip digital journalist trying to beat the Click pack. They, like, really like using the word "like" a lot as they try to goad the skater into slipping into their own shallowness. Here's my published response:

I got a kick out of Adam Rippon during the Olympics.

I didn't get such a kick out of reading this "grilling" of him. By their questions you shall know them... and mourn for the Paper of Record's sad descent into tabloid journalism. If there is one thing that Donald Trump has accomplished as reality show president, it's been to bring the level of discourse, if not down to his level, then at least very close.

One of the grilling questions is how Rippon's celebrity status has affected how "brands and sponsors approach you." One of the reporters actually said "I feel like, just from someone who wasn't in Korea, the narrative blah blah blah." Is this real, or is this an "Onion" parody about how many shallow buzzwords can be forced into one annoying media question?

And, like, would celebrity life even be worth living without agonizing over "pushback on social media?" To engage with trolls or not to engage -- that is the grilling question on the minds of Americans, the majority of whom don't even have $200 in savings to pay for an emergency car repair.

And oh, just because we question you over and over and over again about your "body image" doesn't mean that "people" are saying you're fat. But again, how about those advertisements and endorsements? And for even more clicks, we'll ask if the Olympic village was "really like a hotbed... of sexual Tinder, Grindr, everything." Because inquiring minds want to know.

Soggy grilled cheese replaces depth journalism. Sad.


Anne Imaradicalova said...


Ads - You might try the Firefox browser which has a private browsing feature. It's offered for free by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. Do you remember the Netscape Navigator browser back in the day before Microsoft killed it off with Internet Explorer coming pre-installed on computers? Well, NN made a comeback as Firefox years ago, but naturally Google has been trying to dominate both IE and Firefox with the Chrome browser coming pre-installed on computers. The war of the browsers continues.

If you decide to try it, you don't have to uninstall IE. You can either open Firefox only when you want to try it out, or make it the default browser if it works well for you. I ran both for awhile, mostly because I had so many bookmarks in folders in IE, but then I gave up on IE completely when I had them all set up in Firefox. The browsers are similar enough that it's easy to quickly learn how to use them. I never see the ads you're talking about, so I guess no commercial enterprises are tracking me. Can't say the same about NSA.

NYT - While skimming the NYT last week, it struck me that they were becoming more like the National Enquirer. Anything for money. But since their paid subscriptions are going up impressively, they must be pleasing a lot of people.

Anna Radicalova said...

Speaking of John Brennan, his NBC network featured the candidacy of one of his cabalists (CIA not Opus Dei) on his propaganda broadcast tonight. I'm referring to Alyssa Slotkin, ostensibly honored in tribute to International Womens Day and to the unusual number of women running for office this year. How much was that free political ad worth? It seems the whole Deep State kit and caboodle is entering politics and media lately. Curiously, NBC never mentioned Slotkin's CIA credentials.

Here's what the WSWS 'The CIA Democrats' article tells us about Slotkin:

"A case in point is Elissa Slotkin, a former CIA operative with three tours in Iraq, who worked as Iraq director for the National Security Council in the Obama White House and as a top aide to John Negroponte, the first director of national intelligence. After her deep involvement in US war crimes in Iraq, Slotkin moved to the Pentagon, where, as a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, her areas of responsibility included drone warfare, “homeland defense” and cyber warfare"

Part 1 -

Part 2 -

Stay tuned for Part 3.

Karen Garcia said...


I use Firefox as my only browser. I will click on private browsing only to have a site tell me I have to accept cookies in order to continue. The New York Times, for one, installs "super cookies" which makes it difficult if not impossible to bypass the paywall after reading the monthly 10 articles -- or less, as I heard that they have decreased the freebie quota recently. I keep paying the introductory $7.50 subscription rate. As soon as the special offer runs out, I cancel, wait a minute and then they offer me the introductory rate again. Everything is negotiable, even cable. You have to call them and cancel and then they usually give you a special temporary rate.

Speaking of rate increases, if you get Netflix, watch out. The Obamas are now in "talks" to produce their own show. Since they don't work cheap, it will be the lowly viewer who ends up paying the tab. Or not, if too many people cancel. Way back when, I predicted that Michelle would be getting her own talk show after leaving the White House. Obama himself has been a slick performance artist his whole life, so why not? The difference between him and Trump is that one president deferred his compensation for serving the oligarchy, and the other one thinks deferred compensation is for losers.

By the way, thanks for the links to the WSW series on spooky Dems. My own district is among those affected by the "Red to Blue" DNC project.

Anna Radicalova said...

Poor Obama can't get enough of himself in the mirror. He also can't live like a billionaire on a millionaire's income. He already owns 3 or 4 million-dollar houses and each of those will sell for a fortune someday just on the basis on his name. But as we know about those who are hooked on money, it's never enough.

Part Three of 'The CIA Democrats' is up with more names, this time more of them from the ranks of the Hillitary. No wonder she set up Onward Together - she's funding the campaigns of her own former employees, getting them in place before her big comeback. Red-to-Blue also explains why Obama fought hard for Perez to head the DNC. This is fitting together like a jigsaw puzzle, especially with the recent promotion and glorification of the intelligence cabal, Russiagate, and all things war by the Democratic elite. We've got the full picture now. If Bernie doesn't form a third party, he's a fool.

"When the dust clears after November 6, 2018, there will almost certainly be more former CIA agents in the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives than former Sanders activists. It is the military-intelligence operatives who constitute the spine of the Democratic Party, not the Sanders “Our Revolution” group. This is a devastating verdict on the claims of the Vermont senator, backed by various pseudo-left groups, that it is possible to reform the Democratic Party and push it to the left.

The preponderance of national security operatives in the Democratic primaries sheds additional light on the nature of the Obama administration. Far from representing a resurgence of liberal reformism, as apologists for the Democrats like the International Socialist Organization claimed at the time of his election, Obama’s eight years in office marked the further ascendancy of the military-intelligence apparatus within the Democratic Party."