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Sunday, February 24, 2019

Going Down Together

Proles,

John Ward, expat Limey in not-Paris-France gives update in general, which lead I sorta' follow with the rest of the stories today...
In a period of just nine days during February, a US search engine with links to the NSA has been caught conspiring to record Americans secretly, and censoring news about the populist movement Les Gilets Jaunes; while the French energy supplier EDF has been continuing to force an instrument of domestic surveillance into every French home on the direct orders of a President in the tertiary stages of a Napoleon complex.As Jackie Mason often said, “Now you should worry”.
Yesterday, Google told the media (having been caught in the act of illegal surveillance) that it had made an “error” in not disclosing that its Nest Secure home security system has a built-in microphone in its devices. Consumers could, if they wished, turn the integral mic off, Google insisted.
Except, of course, it’s hard to turn off a mic if you don’t, as it were, know it’s there. “The feature was never meant to be secret,” Google whined.

​Charles Hugh Smith sent this article on surveillance capitalism.
Industrial capitalism depended up-on the exploitation and control of nature, with catastrophic consequences that we only now recognise. Surveillance capitalism depends instead upon the exploitation and control of human nature,” writes Shoshana Zuboff, a professor in the Harvard Business School. The prototypes of surveillance capitalism are Google and Facebook, which extract information from their users and deploy it to re-engineer their behaviour for maximum profit. Human experience is raw material to be mined. Individual autonomy is usurped by ubiquitous monitoring, with techniques of behaviour modification digging deep into what was once a private and subjective world. Personal experience is commodified, and reshaped in the interests of capital. Whatever utopian claims may have been made for it as a force that emancipates individuals, this is a type of collectivism that subverts what has in the past been described as free will.
“Surveillance capitalism is best described as a coup from above, not an overthrow of the state but rather an overthrow of the people’s sovereignty and a prominent force in the perilous drift towards democratic de-consolidation that now threatens Western liberal democracies,” says Zuboff. Big-data companies present the future as a new era of transparency and freedom. In fact, the end-point of information capitalism is a social order that can only be described as totalitarian.
https://www.newstatesman.com/culture/books/2019/02/new-tech-totalitarianism

​Charles sent this, too.
“China is not just cheap. It’s a place where, because it’s an authoritarian government, you can marshal 100,000 people to work all night for you,” said Susan Helper, an economics professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland and the former chief economist at the Commerce Department. “That has become an essential part of the product-rollout strategy.”
Ms. Helper said Apple could make more products in the United States if it invested significant time and money and relied more on robotics and specialized engineers instead of large numbers of low-wage line workers. She said government and industry would also need to improve job training and promote the development of a supply-chain infrastructure.
But, she added, there is a low chance of all that happening.
Apple still assembles Mac Pros at the factory on the outskirts of Austin, in part because it has already invested in complicated and custom machines. But the Mac Pro has been a slow seller, and Apple has not updated it since its introduction in 2013.

​Charles Hugh Smith on taking steps to restore and enforce the intent of the US Constitution.
The founders feared exactly what has come to pass: a government that no longer represents the interests of the citizenry. They did their best in a fractious debate to stipulate safeguards, but it's clear that many of the Founders understood that no document could completely safeguard the Republic against a leadership that sought to undermine the Republic at every turn for personal gain.
It is also constructive to recall Jefferson's observations on the need for dissent to maintain liberty:
When Jefferson said, “God forbid we should ever be 20 years without such a rebellion,” he was expressing the idea that “liberties are ensured by the spirit of resistance” and that all great nations had rebellions (again justifying that liberty shouldn’t be sacrificed by conservative worry). (source)
It seems to me that adding strict limits to the government's powers and closing the loopholes that now threaten the Republic are forms of dissent that deserve an open airing. I offer these proposed amendments as a start. I consider them common-sense ways to limit the abuses of power and rank corruption that are undermining the Republic. The penalties have to be severe enough to thwart all who seek to exploit the government's many powers for their private enrichment and gain.
https://www.oftwominds.com/blogfeb19/constitution-revisions2-19.html

​Sister Caitlin in Oz talks about Richard Branson's fake photo op and glitzy benefit concert for invasion of Venezuela.
They’re lying to us about Venezuela. Anyone with access to alternative media has access to the fact that they’re lying to us about Venezuela. We know this for a fact. We also know for a fact that Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves on planet Earth, and that in spite of all these appeals to the humanitarian impulses of the US empire the Trump administration is openly interested in controlling that oil. We also know for a fact that US interventionism in modern times is consistently disastrous, and consistently never truly about humanitarianism. We also know for a fact that PNAC neocon Elliott Abrams, who is spearheading this “humanitarian aid” initiative, has previously used humanitarian aid as a pretext for arming militia groups in Nicaragua.
If you have access to alternative media, all of these facts are easily available to you. If all of these facts are easily available to you, and yet you still support the US government’s interventionism in Venezuela, you are a complete f***ing moron.
https://medium.com/@caityjohnstone/anyone-buying-this-venezuela-bullshit-is-a-complete-fucking-moron-5cff6b5b2af8

​Charles also sent this from George Monbiot, who sees the Brexit crisis as opening the door for vulture capitalists to take everything that the people of England, Wales and Scotland have left, like the cleaner places which remain there.
With Liam Fox in charge of trade policy, and the US demanding the destruction of food and environmental standards as the price of the trade deal he desperately seeks, nothing is safe. A joint trade review by the British and Indian governments contemplates reducing standards on pesticide residues in food, and hormone-disrupting chemicals in the plastics used in toys. This must be heartening for Jacob Rees-Mogg (known in some circles as Re-smog), who has proposed that we might accept “emission standards from India”, one of the most polluted nations on Earth. “We could say, if it’s good enough in India, it’s good enough for here.”

George Galloway, the honest politician in the House of Commons, until they got rid of him, has further insights about the stress fractures taking place in UK politics. (via some Russian fake-news propaganda site)
Having laboured mightily for more than two years Labour’s Blairite wing brought forth a mouse – or a rat – depending on your point of view.
Just seven MPs announced their departure from Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and though there may be others to come this was their first rank. And there lies the first problem.
Other than Chuka Umunna virtually nobody has ever heard of the new Independent Group of MPs who were quickly dubbed the ‘Seven Dwarfs’. One of the seven had to issue a humiliating public apology for a shocking racist blunder live on TV during an interview discussing...racism! And this was just the first hour. The rest of their first day didn’t go too much better.
From a crowded field I’d say the next biggest blunder was registering their parliamentary factions as a private company in a transparent effort to avoid...transparency!
It’s true that Chuka and co are the corporate suit types and most of them are more familiar with the boardroom than the boiler room but no parliamentary group in history has turned themselves into a business!
The reasons – millions of them – are not hard to discern. A political party must declare who’s funding it and how much. A private company doesn’t. But again what seemed like a wheeze is in fact a blunder. I’m now free to speculate that they’ve already received millions from Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and President Putin. It’s probably not true, but how can one tell?
Perhaps George Soros will favour their rampant and so out of touch Europhilia? Perhaps Mr Netanyahu will respond to their unconditional unrequited love of Israel?
Perhaps the military industrial complex will be turned on by the group’s love of NATO weaponry? Again, how can one tell?
And of course if we can’t tell we will all just speculate as I’ve just done there.

Jonathan Cook has more observations on the pre-brexit-regroupings.
The announcement by seven MPs from the UK Labour Party on Monday that they were breaking away and creating a new parliamentary faction marked the biggest internal upheaval in a British political party in nearly 40 years, when the SDP split from Labour.On Wednesday, they were joined by an eighth Labour MP, Joan Ryan, and three Conservative MPs. There are predictions more will follow.The chief concern cited for the split by the eight Labour MPs, though, was a supposed “anti-semitism crisis” in the party...  The breakaway faction seemingly agrees that anti-semitism has become so endemic in the party since Jeremy Corbyn became leader more than three years ago that they were left with no choice but to quit.Corbyn, it should be noted, is the first leader of a major British party to explicitly prioritise the rights of Palestinians over Israel’s continuing belligerent occupation of the Palestinian territories.

This looks kind of similar...
Emmanuel Macron has declared anti-Zionism a form of antisemitism as he ramps up France’s crackdown on racism against Jewish people. 
Speaking at the 34th annual dinner of the Representative Council of Jewish Institutions of France, Mr Macron said a surge in antisemitic attacks in his country had not been seen since World War Two.
He promised a new law to tackle hate speech on the internet and said France would adopt the definition of antisemitism set by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). 
The IHRA definition does not use the phrase "anti-Zionism" but does say denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination "e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour," is antisemitic.
Some critics of Israel, its occupation of territory internationally recognised as Palestinian, and its isolation of the Gaza Strip, say they risk being unfairly branded antisemitic, although the IHRA definition says: "criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country" is not.

​I don't advise anybody to bike commute who is not confident in their survival skills when hit by cars, and  their abilities to narrowly avoid it.​
As cities strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, many are working to promote walking and biking. Such policies make sense, since they can, in the long run, lead to less traffic, cleaner air and healthier people. But the results aren’t all positive, especially in the short to medium term.
In Washington D.C., for example, traffic fatalities as a whole declined in 2018 compared to the year before, but the number of pedestrian and bicyclist deaths increased by 20 percent. Pedestrian deaths also have risen in New York, and pedestrian and cycling fatalities have increased in Los Angeles in the past several years.
Across the nation, cyclist fatalities have increased by 25 percent since 2010 and pedestrian deaths have risen by a staggering 45 percent. More people are being killed because cities are encouraging residents to walk and bike, but their roads are still dominated by fast-moving vehicular traffic. As my research has shown, this shifting mix can be deadly.

​Single stream recycling is the lie that is now exposed. Burning it for power requires a lot of specific conditions be met by the waste, so...
There isn’t much of a domestic market for US recyclables – materials such as steel or high-density plastics can be sold on but much of the rest holds little more value than rubbish – meaning that local authorities are hurling it into landfills or burning it in huge incinerators like the one in Chester, which already torches around 3,510 tons of trash, the weight equivalent of more than 17 blue whales, every day.
“This is a real moment of reckoning for the US because of a lot of these incinerators are aging, on their last legs, without the latest pollution controls,” said Claire Arkin, campaign associate at Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. “You may think burning plastic means ‘poof, it’s gone’ but it puts some very nasty pollution into the air for communities that are already dealing with high rates of asthma and cancers.”
Do something different, yourself, please...​
The world’s capacity to produce food is being undermined by humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity, according to the first UN study of the plants, animals and micro-organisms that help to put meals on our plates.
The stark warning was issued by the Food and Agriculture Organisation after scientists found evidence the natural support systems that underpin the human diet are deteriorating around the world as farms, cities and factories gobble up land and pump out chemicals...
It found 63% of plants, 11% of birds, and 5% of fish and fungi were in decline. Pollinators, which provide essential services to three-quarters of the world’s crops, are under threat. As well as the well-documented decline of bees and other insects, the report noted that 17% of vertebrate pollinators, such as bats and birds, were threatened with extinction.
Once lost, the species that are critical to our food systems cannot be recovered, it said. “This places the future of our food and the environment under severe threat.”...
Most countries said the main driver for biodiversity loss was land conversion, as forests were cut down for farm fields, and meadows covered in concrete for cities, factories and roads. Other causes include overexploitation of water supplies, pollution, over-harvesting, the spread of invasive species and climate change...
Two-thirds of crop production comes from just nine species (sugar cane, maize, rice, wheat, potatoes, soybeans, oil-palm fruit, sugar beet and cassava), while many of the remaining 6,000 cultivated plant species are in decline and wild food sources are becoming harder to find...
“The supermarkets are full of food, but it is mostly imports from other countries and there are not many varieties. The reliance on a small number of species means they are more susceptible to disease outbreaks and climate change. It renders food production less resilient,” warned Julie Bélanger, the coordinator of the report.
As examples, the report noted how overdependence on a narrow range of species was a major factor in the famine caused by potato blight in Ireland in the 1840s, cereal crop failures in the US in the 20th century, and losses of taro production in Samoa in the 1990s.
“There is an urgent need to change the way food is produced and ensure that biodiversity is not something that is swept aside but is treated as an irreplaceable resource and a key part of management strategies,” said Bélanger...
“Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years – our biodiversity – is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history,” Ireland’s president, Michael Higgins, said at a biodiversity conference in Dublin on Thursday. “If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries.”

C​oal Mining Canary​

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