Social Articles from 2019
Amazon’s Ring Planned Neighborhood “Watch Lists” Built on Facial Recognition
by Sam Biddle
Posted December 29, 2019
Once known only for its line of internet-connected doorbell cameras marketed to the geekily cautious, Ring has quickly turned into an icon of unsettling privatized surveillance. The Los Angeles company, now owned by Amazon, has been buffeted this year by reports of lax internal security, problematic law enforcement partnerships, and an overall blurring of the boundaries between public policing and private-sector engineering. Earlier this year, The Intercept published video of a special online portal Ring built so that police could access customer footage, as well as internal company emails about what Ring’s CEO described as the company’s war on “dirtbag criminals that steal our packages and rob our houses.”
Previous reporting by The Intercept and The Information revealed that Ring has at times struggled to make facial recognition work, instead relying on remote workers from Ring’s Ukraine office to manually “tag” people and objects found in customer video feeds. The automated approach to watch-listing described in the documents reviewed by The Intercept may seem less unsettling than that human-based approach, but it potentially allows for a litany of its own problems, like false positives and other forms of algorithmic bias.
Anyone moving past a home equipped with Ring cameras is unavoidably sucked into a tech company dragnet, potential fodder for overeager chatter among the suburban xenophobe set. More…
Amazon’s Ring camera network is working closely with law enforcement to essentially massively expand surveillance of US citizens.
The government is somewhat limited by the Constitution when it comes to spying on US citizens. Corporations do not have that resistant barrier. Consider the consequences of allowing corporation spy on Americans and provide the data to law enforcement allowing them to effectively by pass Constitutional protections.
The ‘Hidden Mechanisms’ That Help Those Born Rich to Excel in Elite Jobs
by Joe Pinsker
Posted December 21, 2019
When two sociologists interviewed highly paid architects, TV producers, actors, and accountants, they encountered work cultures that favor the already affluent.
Over the past five years, the sociologists Daniel Laurison and Sam Friedman have uncovered a striking, consistent pattern in data about England’s workforce: Not only are people born into working-class families far less likely than those born wealthy to get an elite job—but they also, on average, earn 16 percent less in the same fields of work.
The authors describe a series of “hidden mechanisms”—such as unwritten codes of office behavior and informal systems of professional advancement—that benefit the already affluent while disadvantaging those with working-class backgrounds. More…
How Would Jesus Fare in the American Police State?
By John W. Whitehead
Posted December 20, 2019
The Roman Empire, a police state in its own right, had ordered that a census be conducted. Joseph and his pregnant wife Mary traveled to the little town of Bethlehem so that they could be counted. There being no room for the couple at any of the inns, they stayed in a stable (a barn), where Mary gave birth to a baby boy, Jesus. Warned that the government planned to kill the baby, Jesus’ family fled with him to Egypt until it was safe to return to their native land.
Yet what if Jesus had been born 2,000 years later?
What if, instead of being born into the Roman police state, Jesus had been born at this moment in time? What kind of reception would Jesus and his family be given? Would we recognize the Christ child’s humanity, let alone his divinity? Would we treat him any differently than he was treated by the Roman Empire? If his family were forced to flee violence in their native country and sought refuge and asylum within our borders, what sanctuary would we offer them? More…
Now That We’ve Incentivized Sociopaths–Guess What Happens Next
by Charles Hugh Smith
Posted November 30, 2019
“Sociopath” is a word we now encounter regularly in the mainstream media, but what does it mean? One key trait is a lack of moral responsibility or conscience; the sociopath feels no remorse if he/she takes advantage of people or exploits them.
Sociopaths are masters of superficial charm, intelligence and confidence, and adept at massaging or misrepresenting reality up to and including outright lying to persuade others or get their way.
Conscience-free capital is an easy mark for a conscience-free sociopath. It’s a marriage made in heaven, a perfect match. Those with a conscience are essentially squeezed out of the system. The choice is binary: either play and lose or opt out. More…
Death by Oligarchy
by Chris Hedges
Posted November 28, 2019
The repugnant characteristics of the rich are skillfully masked by armies of lawyers and publicists, a servile and intimidated press, good manners and the fig leaf of philanthropy. Jeff Bezos, Jamie Dimon, Bill Gates, Jimmy Wales, Peter Thiel, John Mackey and the late Steve Jobs and David Koch—whatever their carefully packaged public image—champion or championed economic and social models that are designed to create a new form of serfdom for the working class and further consolidate the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of the oligarchs. When a society falls into the death grip of an oligarchic class, the result is always catastrophic.
No battle to accrue profit is too small for oligarchs. The election for City Council in Seattle saw Bezos, the world’s richest man, spend $1.5 million to flip the council to serve his business interests. Bezos was incensed by a council decision last year to tax Amazon, which in 2018 paid no federal income tax, and other businesses to help provide housing for the city’s 11,000 homeless. Amazon got the city’s tax repealed within a month. More…
How the Deep State ‘Justifies’ Itself in America
by Eric Zuesse
Posted November 27, 2019
In America, the Deep State ‘justifies’ itself in the ‘news’-media that it owns, and does so by falsely ‘defining’ what the “Deep State” is (which is actually the nation’s 607 billionaires, whose hired agents number in the millions). They mis-‘define’ it, as being, instead, the taxpayer-salaried career Government employees, known professionally as “the Civil Service.” (Although some Civil Servants — especially at the upper levels — are agents for America’s billionaires and retire to cushy board seats, most of them actually are not and do not. And the “revolving door” between “the public sector” and “the private sector” is where the Deep State operations become concentrated. That’s the core of the networking, by which the billionaires get served. And, of course, those former spooks at the National Press Club said nothing about it. Are they authentically so stupid that they don’t know about it, or is that just pretense from them?)
Instead of America’s ‘news’-media uncritically trumpeting what government officials assert to be facts (as they traditionally do), we now have former spooks uncritically trumpeting what a mainstream ‘news’-medium has recently concocted to be the case — about themselves. They’ve come out of the closet, about being the Deep State. However, even in that, they are lying, because they aren’t it; they are only agents for it. More…
The Militarization of Everything
By William J. Astore
Posted November 18, 2019
When Americans think of militarism, they may imagine jackbooted soldiers goose-stepping through the streets as flag-waving crowds exult; or, like our president, they may think of enormous parades featuring troops and missiles and tanks, with warplanes soaring overhead. Or nationalist dictators wearing military uniforms encrusted with medals, ribbons, and badges like so many barnacles on a sinking ship of state.
But militarism is more than thuggish dictators, predatory weaponry, and steely-eyed troops. There are softer forms of it that are no less significant than the “hard” ones. In fact, in a self-avowed democracy like the United States, such softer forms are often more effective because they seem so much less insidious, so much less dangerous. Even in the heartland of Trump’s famed base, most Americans continue to reject nakedly bellicose displays like phalanxes of tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.
What do I mean by softer forms of militarism? I’m a football fan, so one recent Sunday afternoon found me watching an NFL game on CBS. People deplore violence in such games, and rightly so, given the number of injuries among the players, notably concussions that debilitate lives. But what about violent commercials during the game? In that one afternoon, I noted repetitive commercials for “SEAL Team,” “SWAT,” and “FBI,” all CBS shows from this quietly militarized American moment of ours. In other words, I was exposed to lots of guns, explosions, fisticuffs, and the like, but more than anything I was given glimpses of hard men (and a woman or two) in uniform who have the very answers we need and, like the Pentagon-supplied police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014, are armed to the teeth. (“Models with guns,” my wife calls them.) More…
The End of Accountable Government Is Close at Hand. Julian Assange and the CIA
By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Posted November 16, 2019
For about 70 years the CIA has been undermining a free press. It began with Operation Mockingbird, a Cold War operation against communism. The CIA recruited journalists into a propaganda network. The CIA paid journalists to write fake stories or to publish stories written by the CIA in order to control explanations that served the agency’s agendas. Student and cultural organizations and intellectual magazines, such as Encounter, were suborned into the CIA’s propaganda network. Thanks to the German journalist, Udo Ulfkotte, we know that every European journalist of any significance is a CIA asset.
What is astonishing about the CIA’s destruction of Julian Assange is the silence of American law schools and bar associations, the silence of universities, the absence of student and labor union protests, the absence of any protection of Assange’s rights from courts as the last news organization willing and capable of holding governments accountable for their crimes is destroyed openly in full view of the law schools, intellectuals, bar associations, courts, and print and TV media. More…
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