Thursday, Feb 23, 2017

Crisis: On Palantir, Helping The Police, "Fake News", Arrow's Theorem, George Carlin

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole

2. Law Enforcement Using Facebook and Apple to Data-Mine
     Accounts of Trump Protest Arrestees

NYT’s Fake News about Fake News
4. Bill Black: Kenneth Arrow’s (Ignored) Impossibility Theorem
5. Three fine items by George Carlin

This is a Nederlog of Thursday
, February 23, 2017.

This is again a normal crisis log. The reason my site has changed is explained here, but this will take time, and does not mean there will be no more crisis  items, though I expect to write more about ME/CFS because this - at looooong last indeed - finally has turned into a real disease, which my ex and I happen to have for more than 38 years, while over 90% of the medical people we saw insisted we were crazy, in spite of excellent evidence we were not. But they could not find anything and therefore they blamed us: We must be insane ("psychosomatizers") to think we were ill, for that was said about us by medical persons since April 1979, and is probably still the opinion of most Dutch medical doctors and all Dutch psychiatrists.

In the present Nederlog there are 5 items and 7 dotted links: Item 1 is about a corporation owned by the billionaire Peter Thiel, called Palantir, that very much helps many secret services to spy in secret on everyone; item 2 is about how Facebook, Apple and Google are much helping the police to know absolutely everything about anyone arrested; item 3 is about the fake news that is spread by the fake news
media that are propagandizing Western values - and that often also is not given at
because it casts doubt on Western propaganda; item 4 is about Arrow's Theorem, that I know about since the 1970ies, and that indeed is completely void, like very much of mathematical economy: it validly describes a pure fantasy world, and not the real world at all; and item 5 consist of three very fine and mostly quite true items by George Carlin.

As for today (February 23, 2017): I have changed my site on February 1, 2017 to make it easier that it might be read, because it now happened for most of last year that both of my sites are not uploaded properly:

On it may be days, weeks or months behind to show the proper last date and the proper last files (in the last 4 years always on the date it was that day), and it was this morning correct; on it may be shown as December 31, 2015 (and often was!!!) but was correct this morning; and indeed I am sick of being systematically made unreadable and therefore changed the site to allow most readers to find it more easily. [1]

It has been going on like this for more than a year now: Sometimes it works, but often it does not work, and it also is competely unpredictable
except for the fact that it most often is not uploaded correctly.

Incidentally, I do not earn anything with my sites, but if I did, I would have lost a great amount of money, simply because both of my sites are not properly readable for more than a year now.

For more explanations, see
here - and no: with two different sites in two different countries with two different providers, where this has been happening for a year (and not for over 20 and over 12 years before) now I'm absolutely certain that this happens and that it's not due to me.

Incidentally, IF you reached February 1, 2017 on one of my sites you are in the new set-up and from there you can find the latest Nederlog, and all others you may not have read and did not get informed about because my sites were properly uploaded by me but NOT by the companies I pay to show them properly.

I pay them but they do NOT show them properly.
1. How Peter Thiel’s Palantir Helped the NSA Spy on the Whole World

The first item is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept:

This starts as follows:

Donald Trump has inherited the most powerful machine for spying ever devised. How this petty, vengeful man might wield and expand the sprawling American spy apparatus, already vulnerable to abuse, is disturbing enough on its own. But the outlook is even worse considering Trump’s vast preference for private sector expertise and new strategic friendship with Silicon Valley billionaire investor Peter Thiel, whose controversial (and opaque) company Palantir has long sought to sell governments an unmatched power to sift and exploit information of any kind. Thiel represents a perfect nexus of government clout with the kind of corporate swagger Trump loves. The Intercept can now reveal that Palantir has worked for years to boost the global dragnet of the NSA and its international partners, and was in fact co-created with American spies.

I say. And while I do know about governmental spying, it is interesting that in fact, as this article explains quite well, the government spies with - quite expensive - commercial software (that again is also quite secret, as is the governments' spying by the governments' secret services).

Here is a bit more on Palantir, its cont(r)acts with governments, and its secrets:

Palantir has never masked its ambitions, in particular the desire to sell its services to the U.S. government — the CIA itself was an early investor in the startup through In-Q-Tel, the agency’s venture capital branch. But Palantir refuses to discuss or even name its government clientele, despite landing “at least $1.2 billion” in federal contracts since 2009, according to an August 2016 report in Politico. The company was last valued at $20 billion and is expected to pursue an IPO in the near future.

Here is some background:

Notably, the partnership has included building software specifically to facilitate, augment, and accelerate the use of XKEYSCORE, one of the most expansive and potentially intrusive tools in the NSA’s arsenal. According to Snowden documents published by The Guardian in 2013, XKEYSCORE is by the NSA’s own admission its “widest reaching” program, capturing “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet.” A subsequent report by The Intercept showed that XKEYSCORE’s “collected communications not only include emails, chats, and web-browsing traffic, but also pictures, documents, voice calls, webcam photos, web searches, advertising analytics traffic, social media traffic, botnet traffic, logged keystrokes, computer network exploitation targeting, intercepted username and password pairs, file uploads to online services, Skype sessions, and more.” For the NSA and its global partners, XKEYSCORE makes all of this as searchable as a hotel reservation site.

And this is about the cont(r)acts between the British secret spies (who spy on absolutely everyone, to the best of my knowledge) and Palantir's quite expensive programs:

However anxious British intelligence was about Palantir’s self-promotion, the worry must not have lasted very long. Within two years, documents show that at least three members of the “Five Eyes” spy alliance between the United States, the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, and Canada were employing Palantir to help gather and process data from around the world. Palantir excels at making connections between enormous, separate databases, pulling big buckets of information (call records, IP addresses, financial transactions, names, conversations, travel records) into one centralized heap and visualizing them coherently, thus solving one of the persistent problems of modern intelligence gathering: data overload.

There is a lot more in the article, which is recommended.

2. Law Enforcement Using Facebook and Apple to Data-Mine Accounts of Trump Protest Arrestees

The second item is by Sarah Lazare on AlterNet:

This starts as follows:

Law enforcement is compelling Apple and Facebook to hand over the personal information of users who were mass arrested at protests against the inauguration of Donald Trump in Washington, D.C., AlterNet has confirmed. The tech giants appear to be complying with the data-mining requests, amid mounting concerns over the heavy-handed crackdown against the more than 200 people detained on January 20, among them journalists, legal observers and medics.

“This is part of an increasing trend of law enforcement attempting to turn the internet, instead of technology for freedom, into technology for control,” Evan Greer, the campaign director for Fight for the Future, told AlterNet. “This trend started long before Trump and seems to be escalating and growing in scale now."

I say. I agree with Greer and want to point out that the above privacy-breaking information gathering happens - presumably - on top of the secret spying by the secret services.

Here is some more on The Heroic Internet Corporations:

The communication states that “Apple will be producing the requested data in a timely manner as required by the legal process.”

The individual who received the notice told AlterNet, “My phone wasn't present at time of arrest and wasn't taken.” That individual does not know whether the data has been handed over to prosecutors.

“I wasn’t surprised by it, but it was also very unsettling and made me feel very vulnerable and exposed,” the individual said. “That some federal grunt could be looking through old texts, personal stuff and selfies. This is exposing and gross and creepy.”

Goldstone emphasized, “It’s an outrageous overreach by the government to try to data-mine personal property that wasn’t even seized at the demonstration. This will be fought vigorously.”

Note that the phone of the individual was requessted by the police after he was arrested: You have been arrested (and the police has access to much of the secret information about you that was secretly gathered) and "therefore" the police desires access to your computers and cell phones to know even more (without stating any legal purpose: they just want to know everything).

Here are three of the internet companies all of which seem to collaborate in telling the police everything, namely Facebook, Apple and Google:

Stephanie Lacambra, a criminal defense staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told AlterNet that, in addition to Facebook and Apple, Google has also been sent requests for information by law enforcement. None of the companies responded to a request for an interview.

There is considerably more. And I would conclude that people who want to be activists must look for other means of communication than computers or cell phones. Or use - encrypted - computers that are never connected to the internet. 

3. NYT’s Fake News about Fake News

The third 
item is by Robert Parry on Consortium News:
This starts as follows:
A grave danger from the Western mainstream media’s current hysteria about “fake news” is that the definition gets broadened from the few made-up stories that are demonstrably false – often fabricated by kids to get more clicks – to include reasonable disputes about the facts of a complex controversy.

This danger has grown worse because The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations have merged their outrage over “fake news” with the West’s propaganda campaign against Russia by claiming without evidence that the Russian government is somehow putting out false stories to undermine Western democracy.
Yes indeed.

First about "Russian hacking". I agreed last year - with William Binney and Ray McGovern - that there is Russian hacking (of course: every secret service of every government tries to know as much as it can by hacking) but also that (i) there is no evidence of Russian hacking as - especially - touted by the Democratic Party, it seems because this takes attention away of Hillary Clinton's many failures, and also (ii) if there were such hacking, the NSA would have had evidence of it.

And second about demonstrable lies and fake news: I think Parry is quite right that what "
The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations" call "fake news" usually does not consists of demonstrable lies, but is their terms for information they disagree with.

The information may be completely true (or not), but it is called "fake news" because it disagrees with the propaganda that
"The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations" seek to spread and popularize.

That is, what
"The New York Times, The Washington Post and other major Western news organizations" call fake news is in fact propaganda that something does not rhyme with their own propaganda (that generally is presented as if it were fact, which propaganda
never is, even if you completely agree with the values it seeks to further).

Here are some explanations:

The article by Mark Scott and Melissa Eddy then goes on to blur these two separate concepts: “In a year when the French, Germans and Dutch will elect leaders, the European authorities are scrambling to counter a rising tide of fake news and anti-European Union propaganda aimed at destabilizing people’s trust in institutions.”

But it is this mushing together of “fake news” and what the Times describes as “anti-European Union propaganda” that is so insidious. The first relates to consciously fabricated stories; the second involves criticism of a political institution, the E.U,, which is viewed by many Europeans as elitist, remote and disdainful of the needs, interests and attitudes of average citizens.

Here is what then happens (and see my lemma groupthinking for some background):

Yet, rather than face up to legitimate concerns of citizens, the E.U. and U.S. governments have found a convenient scapegoat, Russia. To hammer home this point — to make it the new “groupthink” — E.U. and U.S. leaders have financed propaganda specialists to disparage political criticism by linking it to Russia.

Even worse, in the United States, the Times and other mainstream publications – reflecting the views of the political establishment – have editorialized to get giant technology companies, like Facebook and Google, to marginalize independent news sites that don’t accept the prevailing conventional wisdom.

There is an Orwellian quality to these schemes — a plan for a kind of Ministry of Truth enforced by algorithms to weed out deviant ideas — but almost no one whose voice is allowed in the mass media gets to make that observation.
Yes indeed - for once the Western propagandists have claimed that some information is fake news simply because it does not rhyme with their propaganda, they often refuse to show it on the ground that it misinforms: The media are deciding what you should think, and further this by simply denying you the information that counters what you should think, so that you simply do not know of information that might cast doubt
on what they think you should think.

And this is indeed what Orwell's Ministry of Truth also (supposedly) did.

There is considerably more that I leave to your interests. The article ends as follows:

Amid the West’s current hysteria about “Russian propaganda,” U.S. and E.U. citizens are not even given the opportunity to watch well-reported documentaries about key moments in the New Cold War, including an eye-opening investigative report debunking the Western propaganda myth constructed around the death of Russian accountant Sergei Magnitsky or a well-produced historical account of the Ukraine crisis.

Western news outlets and governments even take pride in blocking such dissenting views and contrary information from reaching the American and European publics. Like East Stratcom — the E.U.’s Brussels-based 11-member team of diplomats, bureaucrats and former journalists — establishment institutions see themselves bravely battling “Russian disinformation.” They see it as their duty not to let their people hear this other side of the story.

If that is what the West’s institutions have come to — dismissing reasonable criticism and thoughtful dissent as “Russian disinformation” — is it any wonder that they are losing the confidence of their people?

Yes indeed - The Western mainstream media (bolding added) "see it as their duty not to let their people hear [the] other side of the story" they themselves propagandize.

And incidentally, since yesterday it is impossible for me to read RT, which means specifically I can not see Chris Hedges "On Contact" anymore, that I could see unproblematically till the day before yesterday.

Has this been terminated by some secret service on the ground that it is "Russian propaganda" (which it is not)?!

4. Bill Black: Kenneth Arrow’s (Ignored) Impossibility Theorem

This is by Yves Smith (introduction) and Bill Black (article):

This starts as follows, with Yves Smith:

Yves here. For readers who (sensibly) have managed to avoid orthodox economics, Kenneth Arrow wasn’t merely a (Swedish Central Bank-so-called) Nobel Prize winner and Larry Summer’s uncle, but is most celebrated at the co-author of the Arrow-Debreu theorem. As we wrote in ECONNED:

The scientific pretenses of economics got a considerable boost in 1953, with the publication of what is arguably the most influential work in the economics literature, a paper by Kenneth Arrow and Gérard Debreu (both later Nobel Prize winners), the so-called Arrow-Debreu theorem. Many see this proof as confirmation of Adam Smith’s invisible hand.
Yes indeed. Here is a Wikipedia bit about it: Arrow–Debreu model. And I first heard about Arrow's Theorem (I don't think Debreu was mentioned in what I read) in the early 1970ies, and thought it then true, and concluded indeed it was quite irrealistic: 
The authors further assume forward markets (meaning you can not only buy butter now, but contract to buy or sell butter in Singapore for two and a half years from now) for every commodity and every contingent market for every time period in all places, meaning till the end of time! In other words, you could hedge anything, such as the odds you will be ten minutes late to your 4:00 P.M. meeting three weeks from Tuesday. And everyone has perfect foreknowledge of all future periods. In other words, you know everything your unborn descendants six generations from now will be up to.

In other words, the model bears perilous little resemblance to any world of commerce we will ever see. What follows from Arrow-Debreu is absolutely nothing: Arrow-Debreu leaves you just as in the dark about whether markets clear in real life as you were before reading Arrow-Debreu.

And remember, this paper is celebrated as one of the crowning achievements of economics.

Yes indeed. Bill Black (<- Wikipedia) outlines it, which I will not quote and leavve to your interests aparts from his ending:

Arrow made his absurd assumptions in his model not because they reflected reality, or proved reliable in prediction, but to make the “system of equations mathematically cohere.” When the math fails to explain reality and predict events it is a grave error (rather than a cause for celebration) when economists assume out of existence reality and torture the model until the math “coheres.”

The ultimate failure of economics as a field is to:

  • worship an economic model that is criminogenic,
  • hide that disaster from the public by assuming “silently” an “ADM God” that contradicts the model’s express assumption,
  • continue to worship and proselytize that model when its silent assumption of an “ADM God” repeatedly produces criminogenic policies and epic predictive failures, and
  • praise your models as “rigorous,” “scientific,” and “transparent,” and
  • define critics as anti-scientific and demand that their critiques be excluded as heresy.

Arrow was brilliant and well meaning. We celebrate his life and mourn his passing. The opportunity cost to our field is how much he could have accomplished had his research not been so distorted by neoclassical dogma.

I read in another article on Arrow that he was "a socialist". I cannot recall reading
anything that implies he was, but I quite agree (and do so since the early seventies) that his theorem only has "validity" if you make assumptions that are empirically totally impossible.

That is the case with most economics I read, and especially mathematical economics: It may be logically valid, but it only applies to a fantastical world and not to the real world.

And indeed it gets defended and praised as Bill Black said. Is there any real economics? Yes there is, but it is mostly political economy that is driven by close looks at the empirical facts.

5. Three fine items by George Carlin

The fifth and last item today consists of three very fine segments from shows by George Carlin in the 1990ies, and I especially recommend the first bit, although
all are very good:

And perhaps you'll find that very much George Carlin tried to convey simply were facts and they are still facts. But these facts are not conveyed by the mainstream media. And they are not, because they counter the propaganda the mainstream media seek to instill.



[1] Incidentally.... the reason I am complaining so much about the fact that my sites have not been properly uploaded is that if they are not, no one can find out what
is new there, unless they happen to be quite well acquainted with my site.

And since it was done well for resp. 19 and 11 years by both providers, and since I despise the NSA, I think this is done intentionally, for it doesn't work well since the end of 2015.

And of course I do not know, for the NSA is a secret service. But I have read Snowden,
and have been writing about the NSA ever since June 10, 2013, so I do think this is a fair assumption. Here is Snowden interviewed in 2013:

Q: What about the Obama administration's protests about hacking by China?

A: "We hack everyone everywhere. We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world. We are not at war with these countries."

Q: Is it possible to put security in place to protect against state surveillance?

A: "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying. We can plant bugs in machines. Once you go on the network, I can identify your machine. You will never be safe whatever protections you put in place."

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