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Interesting Writers: Caitlin Johnstone

October 5, 2018 4 comments

Over the past few months, I have read many interesting posts on Medium by a journalist/writer known as Caitlin Johnstone. Her more well-known work is on contemporary new items, though she does write on more abstract topics. In any case, it is well worth a visit and read.

Link to Medium Homepage: Caitlin Johnstone on Medium

Link to Twitter handle: Caitlin Johnstone on Twitter

And here are links to three recent and relevant posts.

Link # 1: Forgiveness Is Overrated

The concept of forgiveness is a recurring theme in any abusive relationship, and necessarily so, because without extensive value being placed upon that concept there wouldn’t be a relationship. You wouldn’t have a battered wife, you’d have a story about how a woman’s boyfriend hit her one time and she grabbed all her stuff and split. You wouldn’t have a brainwashed and exploited cult member, you’d have a story about how someone met a group of people and left when things got weird. You wouldn’t have a major world religion consistently embroiled in horrifying scandals, you’d have people dismissing that religion and placing their energy and attention elsewhere. You wouldn’t have a society that constantly allows itself to be manipulated into consenting to abuse and exploitation by an aristocratic class, you’d have a people’s uprising in which the vastly outnumbered elites are shrugged off and replaced with a system which benefits humanity.

Link # 2: The Enemy Of Humanity Will Never, Ever Look Like This Again

Despite all the warnings that we were given in the lead-up to the 2016 election about the Nazi dystopian future America would quickly find itself in should Queen Hillary fail to be properly coronated, what we have actually seen since Trump’s election is a foreign policy that is in practice almost indistinguishable from that of his globalist predecessors, and a domestic policy which sees George W Bush campaigning for Trump’s virulently pro-establishment Supreme Court nominee. When you strip away the blind, fawning hero-worship of his supporters and the shrieking, garment-rending hysteria of his opponents, instead examining the actual behavior of this administration, the sitting president looks an awful lot like a fairly conventional Republican scumbag with about as many differences from Obama as Obama had from Bush.

Link # 3: Trump’s “Opposition” Supports All His Evil Agendas While Attacking Fake Nonsense

The US Senate has just passed Trump’s mammoth military spending increase by a landslide 92–8 vote. The eight senators who voted “nay”? Seven Republicans, and Independent Bernie Sanders. Every single Democrat supported the most bloated war budget since the height of the Iraq war. Rather than doing everything they can to weaken the potential damage that can be done by a president they’ve been assuring us is a dangerous hybrid of equal parts Benedict Arnold and Adolf Hitler, they’ve been actively increasing his power as Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful military force the world has ever seen. The reason for this is very simple: President Trump’s ostensible political opposition does not oppose President Trump. They’re on the same team, wearing different uniforms. This is the reason they attack him on Russian collusion accusations which the brighter bulbs among them know full well will never be proven and have no basis in reality. They don’t stand up to Trump because, as Julian Assange once said, they are Trump.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting YouTube Channel: Rambalac

October 3, 2018 Leave a comment

As some of you know, the majority of JBloggers and Jvloggers are white attention-whores using Japan (and Japanese people) to build up an internet presence- especially on YouTube. Did I also mention my disdain for click-baity content? There are only so many times you can watch a white guy or girl visit japanese restaurants, traditional hotels and nightspots before it becomes boring.

But once in a while, you do come across a YT channel which actually has unique, interesting and well-shot content. The channel linked to in this post contains a number of long walks through various locations in Japan. It helps that the videos are well stabilized, without commentary and have footage of locations that are normal rather than touristy.

Link to YouTube Channel: Rambalac

Clip # 1: Backstreets of Japan at Night. Not sure about the precise locations shown in this sequence, but the photographer displays a high degree of familiarity with this area. Two things struck me about this video: a] Even the low-rise parts of Japanese cities are pretty crowded with buildings and b] Even these less busy mixed-use parts are really clean and well maintained.

Clip #2: Morning Walk through Yoyogi Park. Contains footage of a large and picturesque park during the cherry blossom blooming season. It is interesting that they can build and maintain such nice public places in Japan, especially when you compare it (and others like it) to the dismal state of equivalent public spaces in USA. Says a lot about the priorities of both cultures.

What do you think? Comments?

On Linkage Between Nasim Aghdam and YouTube’s Monopolist Policies

April 5, 2018 6 comments

I am sure that, by now, most of you heard about the shooting at YouTube’s headquarters by Nasim Aghdam. Regardless of what you think about her personality, the unintentional meme-friendliness of her videos or her general mental stability- its is clear that the incident in question was triggered by YouTube’s (and by extension, Google’s) completely unaccountable behavior towards its content creators and users. In that respect, Google is part of the general trend of Silly Valley corporations being monopolistic, autocratic and totally unaccountable. Given the amount of online hate about YouTube’s corporate behavior, policies and decision-making, I am surprised that such an incident did not occur sooner.

Amazon, Paypal, Facebook and pretty much every other large Silly Valley corporation have, in recent years, displayed very similar behavior when it comes to acting like autocratic monopolies. I hope to, soon, write a more detailed post about my views on the effect of such behavior as well as the kind of pushback it will eventually engender. Having said that, I am sure that this little incident is unlikely to change the attitude at Google anytime soon. Many of you must also be aware that YouTube is soon going to ban channels about guns. Surely such a move will be hailed by the public as an uncontroversial “common sense” decision without any pushback..

Link 1: Tragic YouTube shooting casts new light on creators’ “adpocalypse” complaints

As news unfolded about Tuesday’s YouTube shooting, a chilling motive emerged. Ahead of the incident, the alleged shooter had posted videos maligning the service—doing so as a former money-making user of the site. “I’m being discriminated [against] and filtered on YouTube, and I’m not the only one,” alleged shooter Nasim Aghdam said in a video that was shared after her identity as the shooting’s current, sole fatality was revealed. “My workout video gets age-restricted. Vegan activists and other people who try to point out healthy, humane, and smart living, people like me, are not good for big business. That’s why they are discriminating [against] and censoring us.”

YouTube’s automatic filters have wreaked demonetization havoc through a wide swath of video types, including those about conservative politics and LGBTQ issues. However, keeping track of which videos are impacted (and for how long) is itself quite difficult, owing to how many channels may be temporarily hit only to have those strikes reversed after an inefficient reviews process. The above-linked video about LGBTQ videos, for example, was itself demonetized when it was uploaded; it has since been whitelisted for ads.

One video made by alleged YouTube HQ shooter Aghdam, which was successfully archived before most of her online presence was wiped, focused primarily on YouTube flagging a video she’d recently made. Her complaint video included footage of the demonetized video, which showed a fully clothed Aghdam working out via sit-ups and leg lifts, as well as an allegation that YouTube rejected her appeal, telling her that the video was “inappropriate.”

Link 2: Livid over site’s policies, YouTube shooter trained for attack, shot randomly

Barberini provided a few more details about the incident, confirming that she was upset with the company’s “policies and practices.” Earlier videos—which have been removed from YouTube and Facebook but remain scattered in other places across the Internet—include clips of Aghdam railing against perceived grievances concerning age restrictions and demonetization. Last year, Google overhauled its age restriction rules and enforcement policy. This resulted in a wave of videos being demonetized, which angered YouTubers who could no longer attach money-making ads to their videos. Ruchika Budhraja, a Facebook spokeswoman, confirmed to Ars that the company had deleted Aghdam’s Facebook and Instagram accounts and wrote that the company would also “delete content that praises or supports the shooter or the horrific act as soon as we are aware.”

Link 3: YouTube shooter IDed as woman angry at site’s “age-restricted” policies

The San Bruno Police Department has identified the suspect in Tuesday’s shooting at the YouTube campus as Nasim Aghdam, a 39-year-old woman from San Diego. The confirmation came hours after numerous media sources had initially named Aghdam as the suspect. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Aghdam’s car was towed from the YouTube parking lot. Aghdam seemingly had a website in which she promotes numerous YouTube channels, including ones in English, Turkish, and Farsi. All of her social media channels appear to have been deactivated or removed. The woman seemed to be upset at YouTube over what she called “age-restricted” policies.

Link 4: YouTube Attacker’s Complaints Echoed Fight Over Ad Dollars

While the police did not specifically say what those policies were, they likely had to do with a concept called “demonetization.” In response to pressure from advertisers and consumers, YouTube has been pulling ads from thousands of videos that it decides do not meet its standards for content. That has sparked an outcry from many of the people who post videos to the service. One of those creators was Nasim Najafi Aghdam, the woman the police said had shot YouTube employees in San Bruno, Calif. She frequently posted videos to several YouTube channels and had become increasingly angry over the money she was making from them.

When YouTube pulls ads, it tells creators which videos violated the standards, though it doesn’t elaborate very much on what they did wrong. It’s unclear whether YouTube pulled ads from Ms. Aghdam’s videos.The anger around demonetization has been growing for more than a year. One of YouTube’s most popular personalities, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, who goes by PewDiePie, posted videos with Nazi imagery, including a sign that called for “Death to Jews.” As a punishment, YouTube demonetized some of his videos in early 2017, though it didn’t outrightly bar him. Mr. Kjellberg, now calling himself “family-friendly,” still posts regularly and has a booming business on the platform.

A wide spectrum of YouTube creators, from the conspiracy-minded to the most popular stars, have been vocal about what they see as censorship on YouTube. After a popular video blogger who posts about news, Philip DeFranco, saw his videos demonetized, he called demonetization “censorship with a different name.” On Twitter, he wrote: “Producer just got off the phone with Youtube and it wasn’t a mistake. Feels a little bit like getting stabbed in the back after 10 years.” Luke Rudkowski, an independent journalist who describes conspiracy theories to his more than 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, has repeatedly complained about the site pulling ads from his videos.

In August, he posted a video criticizing news that YouTube would start removing more terrorist content. “We are seeing the purging, the cleaning of this major online institution to be more favorable towards corporations and governments,” Mr. Rudkowski said. “Now that’s why I think we’re finally reaching the end time of this beautiful and amazing platform.” A few days later, he said YouTube had pulled ads from 660 of his videos, “basically eviscerating my main source of revenue for this news organization.”

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Oct 28, 2017

October 28, 2017 6 comments

Here are three interesting articles I came across in the previous few days. They are about three distinct topics, namely deterrence and revenge, vertical vs horizontal censorship and the repulsive logic behind the process of financialization.

Link # 1: The Psychology of Revenge and Deterrence

Why is the instinct for vengeance so strong even when it is clear that widespread death and destruction would be a much more likely outcome than any kind of “victory”? In the event of a nuclear war, why is second-strike retaliation so certain when it may gain nothing of social or material value? We believe these things because humans share a universal thirst for retaliation in the face of threat and in the wake of loss, no matter what classical economists may say to the contrary about how people “should” behave. Indeed, the psychology of revenge and the hatred on which it rests make a seemingly irrational second strike entirely credible. We can apply this analysis to nuclear weapons, but the basic drive is no different than the one that makes most people want to kill anyone who threatens their child, or to hurt a cheating spouse. The instinct for revenge is universal, automatic and immediate. It also serves a function: to deter the threat of future exploitation.

Link # 2: The geometry of censorship and satire

As Dorenko explained it, Kremlin censorship under Putin is “vertical”—top-down censorship that is brutal and frightening when you’re targeted; but also flawed and inefficient as censorship strategies go, because the top-down vertical approach is too narrow, too concentrated under one tyrannical locus at the top. There are too few censors, and too many people and too much material to censor, meaning there’ll always be someone you miss, and there’ll always be journalists or satirists looking for ways to circumvent the narrow-minded censors. This was contrasted to our “horizontal” censorship in the West: rather than coming from a tyrannical top-down force, our censorship is carried out horizontally, between colleagues and peers and “society”; through public pressure and peer pressure; through morality-policing; and from within oneself, one’s fears for one’s career, and fears one can’t necessarily articulate, fears that feel natural rather than imposed upon.

Link # 3: Finance isn’t just an industry. It’s a system of social control.

Our way of thinking about it starts from the idea that the logic of the market doesn’t enforce itself — the logic of the market has to be enforced. And one way of looking at the role of finance is that it enforces the logic of the market and ensures that a whole range of decisions that could potentially be made in many different ways in fact end up being made according to the logic of commodities and of accumulation. Here we’ve been inspired by the economists Gérard Duménil and Dominique Lévy, among others. So, the most obvious case we highlight is the corporation. On one level, we think of the corporation as a typical organizational form of modern capitalism. But in another sense it’s simply a body of people with some sort of hierarchy and defined roles, engaged in some kind of productive process.It’s not inherently engaged in producing commodities for profit. And if we go back to the prehistory of the corporation, the corporation was just a legally chartered body that carried out some kind of function.

It got appropriated as an organizational form for capitalism specifically, but it didn’t start out as that. The other side of the coin is that there’s a long tradition of thinkers, including Galbraith, Keynes, Veblen, and many others, who saw a natural, or at least possible, evolution of the corporation into the basis of some kind of planning or collective organization of production —that it could easily cease to be oriented toward the needs of profit maximization. So if you think that type of evolution is possible, then you ask, why hasn’t it happened? I would argue that the answer is that somebody stopped it from happening — that there are people in society whose job it is to prevent that from happening. There are people and institutions whose job it is to ensure that corporations remain within capitalist logic, that they remain oriented towards production for sale and for profit. On some level, this is the fundamental role of shareholders and their advocates, and of institutions like private equity.

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: Jun 30, 2017

June 30, 2017 3 comments

Here are links to a few interesting articles which I came cross over the previous few days. All of them are about different facets of the ongoing slow-motion decline of contemporary liberalism, aka neoliberalism. Will post something original tomorrow.

The first link is about the ongoing demise of the apex era of neoliberalism, from the viewpoint of somebody in UK. You too might have noticed that the west seemingly went into a holding pattern sometime in the early- to mid-1990s and has only recently started exiting that era, including its foundation beliefs. The second one is about how the sequelae of the 2008 financial crisis slowly but irreversibly resulted in the loss of public faith in contemporary liberalism, aka neoliberalism. The author of that post makes the point that contemporary liberalism now has more in common with a failing cult or religion than anything with a worthwhile future. The third one is a recent interview with Ralph Nader where he describes how the many missteps and miscalculations by establishment democrats in their attempts to suck up to the rich and professional classes (as republican-lite) have caused irreversible damage to its future electoral prospects.

Link 1: The end of the Long 90s

For the last 30 years, what David Goodhart called “the two liberalisms” have prevailed, the economic liberalism of the right and the social liberalism of the left, “Margaret Thatcher tempered by Roy Jenkins.” The Conservatives concentrated on deregulation, union busting and privatisation, while talking tough, but avoiding any action on, on immigration, political correctness and traditional values. Meanwhile, Labour focused on a socially liberal agenda without attempting to roll back the economic gains of the right. It was almost as though a tacit deal had been struck; you can have diversity, minority rights and discrimination laws if we can have privatisation, deregulation and tax cuts. The effect was to take policies that were popular with the public off the agenda on the grounds that they were publicly unacceptable. This applied both to left-wing and right-wing policies.

Link 2: The Blathering Superego at the End of History

Liberalism is not working. Something deep within the mechanism has cracked. All our wonk managers, our expert stewards of the world, have lost their way. They wander desert highways in a daze, wondering why the brakes locked up, why the steering wheel came off, how the engine caught on fire. Their charts lie abandoned by the roadside. It was all going so well just a moment ago. History was over. The technocratic order was globalizing the world; people were becoming accustomed to the permanent triumph of a slightly kinder exploitation. What happened? All they can recall is a loud thump in the undercarriage, an abrupt loss of control. Was it Brexit? Trump? Suddenly the tires were bursting and smoke was pouring into the vehicle, then a flash. The next thing they could remember, our liberals were standing beside a smoldering ruin, blinking in the hot sun, their power stolen, their world collapsing, their predictions all proven wrong.

Link 3: Interview by Intercept with Ralph Nader on Failure of Democratic Party.

The Democrats began the process of message preceding policy. No — policy precedes message. That means they kept saying how bad the Republicans are. They campaigned not by saying, look how good we are, we’re going to bring you full Medicare [for all], we’re going to crack down on corporate crime against workers and consumers and the environment, stealing, lying, cheating you. We’re going to get you a living wage. We’re going to get a lean defense, a better defense, and get some of this money and start rebuilding your schools and bridges and water and sewage systems and libraries and clinics. Instead of saying that, they campaign by saying “Can you believe how bad the Republicans are?” Now once they say that, they trap their progressive wing, because their progressive wing is the only segment that’s going to change the party to be a more formidable opponent. Because they say to their progressive wing, “You’ve got nowhere to go, get off our back.”

What do you think? Comments?

Interesting Links: June 9, 2017

June 9, 2017 4 comments

A few months ago, I came across another author/ journalist whose posts many of you might find interesting. Sam Kriss writes on a wide variety of issues and in a number of outlets. He also has a personal website.

Here are three of his articles that I found to be especially interesting.

Link 1: The Long Slow Rotten March of Progress

Desperation is everywhere; exhibitors make lunging grabs for any passers-by wearing an “INVESTOR” lanyard, proffer stickers and goodies, scream for attention on their convention-standard signs. These do not, to put it kindly, make a lot of sense. “Giving you all the tools you need to activate and manage your influencer marketing relationships,” promises one. “Leverage what is known to find, manage, and understand your data,” entices another. The gleaming technological future looks a lot like a new golden age of hucksterism. It’s networking; the sordid, stupid business of business; pressing palms with arrogant pricks, genuflecting to idiots, entirely unchanged by the fact that this time it’s about apps and code rather than dog food or dishwashers.

Capitalism doesn’t know what to do with its surpluses any more; it ruthlessly drains them from the immiserated low-tech manufacturing bases of the Global South, snatches them away from a first-world population tapping at computer code on the edge of redundancy, but then has nowhere better to put them than in some executive’s gold-plated toilet. This soil breeds monsters; new, parasitic products scurry like the first worms over the world-order’s dying body. The “Internet of Things” is meant to be the future, but it mostly looks like a farcical recomplication of what we already had: a juice press that needs to scan a QR code and connect to your wifi before it’ll exert functionally the same amount of pressure as a pair of human hands, a wine bottle that connects to the internet and only dispenses proprietary wines, light bulbs that burn out or flicker maniacally if you haven’t installed the drivers properly.

Link 2: Village Atheists, Village Idiots

The madman in this story is Neil deGrasse Tyson, and the frustrated punter is the rapper B.o.B. Near the start of this year—heralded by Tyson with the announcement that January 1 has no astronomical significance—B.o.B. began insisting (on Twitter, of course) that for centuries a vast conspiracy has existed for the purpose of convincing people that the world is a sphere, when it’s actually flat. And for some reason, Tyson immediately jumped in, skittle-bowl flapping noisily against his ass, to repeat endlessly that no, it’s round. He even helped create a genuinely unlistenable rap parody—“B.o.B. gotta know that the planet is a sphere, G”—that borrowed not only its backing track but its entire lyrical structure from Drake’s “Back to Back.” (See what I mean about rationalists and repetition?)

In the time of Kierkegaard and Marx and Parallax, there was still some resistance to the deadness of mere facts; now it’s all melted away. Kierkegaard’s villagers saw someone maniacally repeating that the world is round and correctly sent him back to the asylum. We watched Tyson doing exactly the same thing, and instead of hiding him away from society where nobody would have to hear such pointless nonsense, thousands cheer him on for fighting for truth and objectivity against the forces of backwardness. We do the same when Richard Dawkins valiantly fights for the theory of evolution against the last hopeless stragglers of the creationist movement, with their dinky fiberglass dinosaurs munching leaves in a museum-piece Garden of Eden. We do it when Sam Harris prises deep into the human brain and announces that there’s no little vacuole there containing a soul.

Link 3: Why won’t you push the button?

Imagine if a politician openly promised, during a campaign, that they would be willing to burn people alive. They come to knock on your door, bright and smiling in a freshly crinkled rosette: unlike my opponent, who doesn’t care about your security and the security of your family, I will personally subject someone to sixty million-degree heat, so that their fat melts and their bones are charred and their eyeballs burst and their bodies crumble into toxic dust. I will torture other people by burning their skin, I will torch their flesh away and leave them with open wounds bubbling with disease. They will die slowly. I will poison others; their organs will fail and they will shit out their guts in agony. I will do this to people who have done nothing wrong, to families, to children, to their pets; one by one, I will burn them to death. For you. For your security.

It’s striking how sharply the inhuman vastness of nuclear war contrasts with the pettiness and finitude and awfulness of the people who demand it. The first question on nuclear weapons came from one Adam Murgatroyd, who looks exactly how you’d expect, some simpering Tory ponce with his slicked-back hair and his practised raise of an eyebrow. ‘It’s disconcerting,’ he later told the press, ‘that we could potentially in six days’ time have a prime minister who wouldn’t be prepared to protect British lives over someone else’s life.’ Imagine the air poisoned, the soil dying, the biosphere eradicated, the grand flailing tragedy of humanity and its aspirations put to an abrupt stop, the families huddling their loved ones close as the shock wave hits, knowing they’re about to die – and all because some limp umbrella of a man wanted a leader who’d make the right kind of nationalistic hoots about defence. Now I am become Adam from the BBC studio audience, destroyer of worlds.

Enjoy! Comments?

Interesting YouTube Channel: This is Dan Bell

May 15, 2017 3 comments

A few weeks ago, I came across a YouTube channel detailing the sorry state of malls and non-4/5 star hotels in USA. The videos on this channel might, at first sight, just seem entertaining- if a somewhat odd way. They do however hint to a much bigger problem underlying problem, namely, that things in many parts of USA are going downhill at a pretty alarming rate.

It is worthwhile to note that many of the malls and motels/hotels featured on this channel were not always places full of decay and abandonment. In fact, even a bit of googling reveals that more than a few of the malls and hotels covered in these videos were once very functional if somewhat unremarkable places filled with people who had money to spend and fulfilling lives to live.

Today they are either empty and decaying or used by marginalized people who once had “normal” jobs and lives. In other words, these videos show (if somewhat inadvertently) how far things have fallen for the majority of people in USA- especially outside a few nice coastal enclaves and other islands of relative affluence.

Here is a link to the YouTube Channel: This is Dan Bell

Clip 1: Dead Mall Series: Hickory Ridge Mall, Memphis, TN

Clip 2: Another Dirty Room Ep. 9: Regal Inn and Suites, Rosedale, MD

Enjoy! Comments?