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Innovators, Mind Your Mother

This article is an excerpt from a book in progress, titled The Silica Papers: Who Technology Is and What She Wants. Silica is the name I have given to the technosphere—the totality of human artifacts constructed over eons by human beings that allows us to survive and improve our lot. Except that things don’t necessarily get better in every way. To underscore how technology drives us as much as we drive it, I have personified Silica as sort of a demigod-in-waiting, a female force of nature I also call Stepmother Earth, who’s not quite sentient but quickly becoming so.
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Guest post: How Cambridge Analytica wants to bend your mind

If you are upset that in behalf of Trump’s campaign, Cambridge Analytica siphoned  personally identifying information on 50 million Americans from Facebook to microtarget voters, chances are that you may be missing the point about what they do and what it signifies. They are involved in psy-op electioneering on at least five continents similar to their efforts for Trump. Their data revelations are consulted in military and intelligence operations around the planet and their gluttony for personal data knows no bounds.

To get a handle on how these machinations play out, take a look at Roberto Gonzales’ (chair of the anthropology department at San José State University) recent article in CounterPunch, which shines a light on how CA and its parent company operate; by no means a complete accounting of the technologies or aims involved but enough to make you lose a few hours of sleep.

The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections

Read it, and let me know how happy you are now to expose yourself to social media. The task ahead for the citizenry, as I see it, is to immunize ourselves to behavioral manipulations, regardless of source or intent.

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Steal This Book: The Publishing Misadventures of a CIA Whistleblower

The decorated cold-warrior Air Force Colonel Leroy Fletcher Prouty would have turned 100 last June. Today few remember him, but those who do may recall him as an arch military intelligence insider who alerted the nation to the capture of reins of government by the intelligence establishment, from the Korean Conflict forward to this day. He served his country under five presidents, first as an Army Air officer who saw service in Africa, South Asia, and Japan in WWII, ending up an Air Force Major assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.[i] As Chief of Special Operations there, he coordinated CIA and military activities between JCS, directorates of the CIA, the National Security Council, and teams in the field. A key player, Prouty was privy to top-secret planning and policy documents and lists of CIA plants in civilian and military organizations, including CIA front companies. There was little he didn’t know about how the agency operated its clandestine operations and little anyone around him knew more about. His Rolodex must have been amazing. Continue reading “Steal This Book: The Publishing Misadventures of a CIA Whistleblower”

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America’s Slow-Motion Coup d’état Advances

I wonder how Rex Tillerson feels about being the first high-level federal official to be fired publicly and online, in one brutal tweet. I’m sure he expected the hammer to come down on him, but not like that. And I wonder if he will come forward to describe what led up to it. Unlikely, as he’s an extremely wealthy and still influential corporate player who would have but book royalties and speaker fees to gain from breaking his NDA to tell all. Still, some intrepid journalist should take Rex to lunch and encourage him to cry in his beer. Continue reading “America’s Slow-Motion Coup d’état Advances”

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Presidents’ Day Gets a Makeover

President Trump has signed an executive order changing the date of President’s day, a national holiday established to celebrate President Washington’s birthday (February 22, 1732) and observed the third Monday in February. Most states have declared the day a holiday, often including Abraham Lincoln (b. February 12, 1809) and our third president, Thomas Jefferson (b. April 13, 1743).

His unexpected decree moves the holiday to the second Monday of June, a date he said is more favorable for shopping and parades. “No more schlepping to dealerships in a blizzard to get those great Presidents’ Day car deals,” he said, noting the change is effective immediately. “So this year, we’ll celebrate twice, and we’ll have the biggest military parade the world has ever seen, all the way down Pennsylvania Avenue. And I’m hoping the Marine Band will play ‘Happy Birthday.’ Nice if Xi could show up.”

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Notes from Inside a Glass Prison

Liberation from drudgery isn’t what it used to be. It’s now mostly become a matter of upgrading our masters. Continue reading “Notes from Inside a Glass Prison”

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From Russia with Trepidation

The Rocky Ride of Eddy Robinson

Every one of us bears within him the possibility of all passions, all destinies of life in all its manifold forms. Nothing human is foreign to us. ~ Edward G. Robinson

In the darkest days of World War II, Hollywood went to bat for Russia—our ally then—by adapting Soviet propaganda films for the American audience and making some of its own on their behalf. This amazing documentary, a paean to the heroism of the Russian people and the Red Army, was shot before, during, and after Hitler’s siege of Moscow. Filmed between October 1941 and January 1942 during a time of invasion, privation, agony and death in the depths of the Russian winter, Moscow Strikes Back (Russian version here) may be a little hard to take in spots, but is well worth an hour of your time. Should the following video start in the middle, rewind by dragging the red button all the way to the left. Makes me think: wouldn’t it be nice to be able to rewind America away from the right? Continue reading “From Russia with Trepidation”

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One Regime to Rule them All

It is considered bad form for journalists to refer to the US government as a “regime.” Apparently, that moniker is reserved for our country’s enemies, of late Russia, North Korea, Iran, and Syria. Maybe Myanmar too; that’s still being sorted out. But what is a regime, really, and is it really true that we don’t have one here? Continue reading “One Regime to Rule them All”

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America 💖s Islamic Terrorists (abroad)

ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries

By all accounts, wherever the Islamic State has gained and held territory, its residents suffer terrible oppression and deprivation. Unless you are on their wavelength, you most likely agree that ISIS rule has been calamitous for its subjects. Both Obama and Trump have pointed out their badass nature on numerous occasions, not so much in sympathy for those they oppress but to raise fear levels of ISIS-inspired badassery here at home. And yet, both regimes have actively, secretly, and materially supported the advance of ISIS in Syria and Iraq, fully aware of who they were and what they were up to. Say what? Isn’t “material support of terrorism” a Federal crime?

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Living with Truth Decay

“Once a policy has been adopted and implemented, all subsequent activity becomes an effort to justify it” Barbara Tuchman, The march of folly: From Troy to Vietnam (1984. p. 245).

In the 20th-century but still fun party game called Telephone, people sit in a circle and someone whispers a phrase or sentence to the person to the left, who whispers it to their left, around the clock, until it reaches the original speaker, who enunciates what s/he sent and received. The final utterance may make sense, but it is almost never the one sent and is often complete nonsense. This is one form of truth decay.

Truth is a relatively scarce commodity. Science progresses by disproving theories, not proving them (that only happens in mathematics). In the real world, everything you know to be true just hasn’t been disproved yet, so it’s a good idea to stay tuned. Continue reading “Living with Truth Decay”

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Watching Watchbirds: On Surveillance, Watch Lists, Disinformation, and Secrecy

 

Watchbird, spotted at FishDucky

Watchbirds were those annoying little stick-figure birds who perched in some Munro Leaf children’s stories, always ready to instruct kids in proper protocols when they were misbehaving. Our current flock of watchbirds rarely have to instruct us because we mostly maintain civil decorum knowing they’re there. Talk about the nanny state.

 

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The Net’s Good Old Boys (3)

Part 3: Dr. (Don’t Be) Evil Meets Dr. Strangelove

Former Google EC Dr. Eric Schmidt has called for intelligence agencies to stop illegally prying into personal information and has been doing his best to convince the government to pay Google to do it legally instead. That said, in 2009 he was widely rebuked for telling CNBC:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, but if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines including Google do retain this information for some time, and it’s important, for example that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act. It is possible that that information could be made available to the authorities. ~ Dr. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, 2009

Schmidt didn’t add that Google is obliged to turn over email content under court order and not tell users it did so. He didn’t have to. We all know about FISA and PATRIOT. Same goes for Hotmail, AOL, or any US email provider, only Google has much more to give. Continue reading “The Net’s Good Old Boys (3)”

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How Not to Unwind a Clockwork Orange

According to [Michael] Wolff’s book [“Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”], various White House staff, advisors and acquaintances referred to Trump as an idiot, dope, moron and dumb as shit. However, another said he could be a halfwit if he applied himself. ~Humorist Ben Alper

Bottom line on top: We might make more traction against the empire if we quit name-baiting Donald Trump. The empire will strike back if we fail to prevail.

Continue reading “How Not to Unwind a Clockwork Orange”

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The Net’s Good Old Boys (1)

Part 1: Hacking the Arpanet

It’s hard to imagine now, but there was a time before the Internet, a time when computers took up more space than the acolytes who tended to their needs. In the 70s I was one such boffin, a postgrad hacking FORTRAN in a university R&D lab. Computers then were still quite dear, and so we made do with terminals that sucked electrons from the teat of a minicomputer several blocks away through fiber cable. Our digital host had recently been hooked up to the Arpanet, the Internet’s predecessor, giving us real-time access to several dozen academic, government, and military computers scattered across the US. We used it to chat and exchange files and email with people we knew here and there, but mostly we wasted time and bandwidth psyching out the robot psychotherapist Eliza and playing text-based games like Adventure and Hunt the Wumpus, just like today’s youth do but more primitively.

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The Net’s Good Old Boys (2)

Part 2: If We Only Knew Then

Continued from Hacking the Arpanet

Although it seems like it, the Internet just didn’t assemble itself from a kit. Engineers made it. Engineers just want to design and build cool useful things. Generally they like this much more than repairing things they have sent into the world. And, for the most part, they are not wont to worry how their darlings might be used to destructive ends or what unforeseen consequences their adoption might occasion. Except for the evil ones, inventors steer clear of the dark side of their bright ideas as they push on to their next big thing.

Not that the rest of us can take much pride in foreseeing un-wished-for effects of technologies (or our actions, for that matter); due diligence is not most people’s thing. Somebody should be doing that but unless we engineer something, why should figuring out what could go wrong be our job? Well it is, because elites make rules, build stuff, and write code conducive to their own hegemonic aspirations. We the people are supposed to suck it all up without a peep, occasionally acknowledging that shit sometimes happens.

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The Company We Sadly Keep

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” ~ Upton Sinclair

A triple-threat epidemic is sweeping the land—not just some deadly virus, water-born disease, or auto-immune reactions to toxins, although those too plague us—but of secrecy, unaccountability, and impunity, bypassing checks and balances, impervious to any outside scrutiny or supervision. This cancer on the Republic has metastasized throughout halls of power and workplaces almost everywhere.

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NPR, the CIA, and Assault of Corporatism

In her five-minute interview with Ursula Wilder, a CIA psychologist whose job there involves counseling returning spies, NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly (their alleged National Security Correspondent) went over what makes someone who reveals state secrets tick. Kelly failed big-time to probe Wilder about whether she ever thought an insider might ever have a patriotic motivation to inform the public of illegal behavior on the part of the agency. Based on Wilders’ profile of leakers, the answer would surely have been No, but it sure would have been nice to ask.

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Harvard, the CIA, and All That

After Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government rescinded its invitation to Army whistle-blower Chelsea Manning (whom Obama sprung from the brig by pardoning her), a chorus of protest (led by 19,000 Harvard alumni and 169 professors) ensued. The main issue, according to them and the press, was how the Institute of Politics (IOP) at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) caved to deep-state pressure. Specifically, current CIA Director Mike Pompeo cancelled his talk at the school, and former CIA deputy director Michael Morrell tendered his resignation to Harvard’s Belfer Center, saying “I cannot be a part of an organization…that honors a convicted felon and leaker of classified information,” apparently believing that only the best and brightest war criminals deserve such honorifics (horrorifics?). When, after all, has the CIA ever taken Harvard publicly to task for slack on the national security front?

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The Daily (or whenever) Eruption


Archive

Evolution As a Team Sport: Thursday 4/5/18

Chances are you are a cultural, political or economic malcontent if your eyeballs have come to rest right here. You probably worry about what it might take to set society on a sustainable path, so here’s a suggestion.

Teacher, author, media critic and activist Douglas Rushkoff has been tracking the digital revolution for decades and knows what has made it go so terribly wrong. He’s said so in books like Present Shock and Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus and at innumerable meetings and interviews. The nub of most of our problems, he asserts, are bugs in how public corporations are programmed, causing them to strip-mine value from society, stupefying, surveilling, and stiffing the public. He’s a tireless advocate for generative social and economic arrangements that create value for local and online communities rather than extracting it to faraway investors.

For several years, he has been working to build a community of the like-minded online. Team Human has a couple of hundred members who pony up $5 to Patreon to network with Douglas and one another. It’s quite an interesting group, reminiscent of The WELL, an Internet community gathered by Whole Earth Catalog refugees like Stewart Brand, Howard Rheingold (in conversation here), John Perry Barlow, and it’s still going strong after 35 years. (WELL stands for Whole Earth ‘Lectric Link.)

Every week or so, Team Human issues a podcast. Douglas riffs on some topic for ten minutes and then interviews some interesting folks from technology, the arts, or some innovative community. He’s just finished writing a book on that project that will come out next year.

It may seem like all this is to Rushkoff’s greater glory, and perhaps it is. I don’t have a problem with his success because I support what he stands for; Team Human is simply its latest efflorescence. On its Slack site (members only) I’ve encountered some curious good-hearted characters, along with their ideas and endeavors. Completely civil conversations snake around communitarian topics to which Rushkoff often adds his two cents. As one team member said, “If even 2ppl connect on TH and make something happen, that, imo, is a win.”

If you’re feeling lonely online, consider alternatives to the toots, tweets, and trolls of solipsistic social media, whether down the block or out on the Net. Involve yourself in something bigger and get a piece of the action.

Continue reading “The Daily (or whenever) Eruption”