Tag Archives: globalization

Jigsaw puzzle

Google’s Prebunking: Eyes that never close

Google has come up with a potent antidote to conspiracy theories, misinformation, and misleading statements. Yes, even more potent than ubiquitous algorithms unleashed upon poor souls who do not understand the need to conform and stay in one’s place.

The new fakery fighters are short videos, akin to public service ads, intended to inoculate (Google’s word) Internet users against various forms or fakery. These videos, now being tested in Eastern Europe, were developed by Jigsaw, a unit within Google that “explores threats to open societies, and builds technology that inspires scalable solutions.” Jigsaw calls the inoculation approach by the clever name of “prebunking.” Debunking occurs after a particular claim is made. Prebunking works to counter any and all falsehoods continuously.

Now, the videos are actually very useful at teaching basic critical thinking. They illustrate methods commonly used by fakes, like emotional language, scapegoating, and false dichotomies. Jigsaw’s objectives as delineated in its website have value: counter disinformation, toxicity, censorship, and violent extremism. No one wants to fall victim of a targeted well-organized disinformation campaign, or experience incivility in a toxic environment, or heavens forbid be prevented from expressing one’s ideas.

So enter prebunking. What could go wrong?

* It is difficult to imagine the existence of an untargeted ad. Should Facebook, for example, purchase a set of prebunking videos, one would imagine such videos might be placed in the vicinity of a targeted post. This would be a distraction from the information on the post. Google uses a similar approach with its Redirect Method.

Redirect Method placed ads next to search results for terms indicating interest in potentially harmful content, including queries related to joining extremist groups.

* The sample prebunking videos available on the Internet provide general information and look harmless per se. But some sneak in quick unobtrusive preaching. The friendly voice explaining “ad hominem” says sometimes attacking individuals as well as their claims is OK, such as in the case of cigarette manufacturers that claimed their product was safe. One would wonder what other preaching will show up in future examples.

* Although facilitating change to make the world better is a commendable endeavor, some pronouncements can be unnerving, like the title of Jigsaw’s “Issues” page: “Creating future‑defining technology.”

Technology has become our source of knowledge, avenue for social interaction, livelihood for work-from-home bread winners, and prolific provider of convenience gadgets. Whatever future technology decides to create, we will all be in it. We might only see what technology wants us to see – the rest will be relegated to the dustbin of misinformation.

* Clever workers and entrepreneurs that create remarkable systems are not the only source of technology’s power. There is also power that comes from corporatism. Corporatism is perhaps the most worrisome characteristic of gatekeeping tools like prebunking. Here is why.

Corporatism is today’s popular public-private partnership. Large corporations, non-profits, and government agencies mention their public-private partnerships with pride. Corporatism is called “stakeholder capitalism” in polite society; however, critics like Vivek Ramaswamy, author of Woke Inc., argue that corporatism, social capitalism, and stakeholder capitalism are all one and the same. Regardless of wording, it is a collectivist political and economic ideology intended to benefit government and corporations through shared power.

Teddy Roosevelt when campaigning for President in August 1912 spoke in general and hyperbolic terms about public-private alliances. When in office, he did not just talk about the subject, he did break up the big cartels of his day. His words:

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics, is the first task of the statesmanship of the day. Theodore Roosevelt, His Life and Times, Library of Congress

Not all corporations are corrupt. But partners in the unholy alliance share not only power but also agenda, making them a questionable choice for gatekeepers of the public knowledge.

* Monopolies in advertising media, principally enabled by corporatism and armed with tools like “fact checking” and prebunking, can easily cripple any endeavor. Here is an example:

Hillsdale College, a private liberal arts college in Michigan founded in 1844, posted an ad on Facebook promoting its lecture series The Great Reset. Guest speakers in the series explain the origin and objectives of The Great Reset. They describe The Great Reset as an incubator of corporatism that encourages adoption of controlling tools like universal electronic payment systems (cashless societies) and elimination of private property (you will own nothing).

Facebook labeled the post “False Information.”

It should come to anyone’s mind that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prevents the U.S. government from censoring Hillsdale’s ad. But it does not prevent a private entity like Facebook from doing so, limiting the ability of Hillsdale to share inconvenient opinions about The Great Reset.

Cute prebunking videos targeting any ad would have been equally effective.

Although the purpose of Jigsaw is not directly to shut people up, it would not be unreasonable to surmise that anyone who does not follow whatever prescribed agenda Google/Jigsaw need to follow would be served with a cute audience-distracting video.

Soros visits early childhood education center

Quotable Quotes from George Soros

To those right of center, George Sorors is evil incarnate. Whatever goes wrong, it’s Sorors fault. Given such position, the specifics of what he does goes unaddressed.

George Soros, the billionaire investor and philanthropist founder of Open Society Foundations, has made his philosophy, objectives, and modus operandi perfectly clear, especially in the numerous very quotable quotes in his books, speeches, and public conversations.

Soros is an intellectual who is considered one of the best hedge fund managers in the world. His fortune, estimated at $8.6 billion, attests to his acumen. His Open Society Foundations, endowed at around $18 billion, is a grant-making machine amply capable of transforming markets and societies.

His objectives, as clearly expressed in his own words, matter.

A man with a mission

Soros objectives could be boiled down to two of his quotes:

When I had made more money than I needed for myself and my family, I set up a foundation to promote the values and principles of a free and open society.

An open society is a society which allows its members the greatest possible degree of freedom in pursuing their interests compatible with the interests of others.

Back in the late 1970s, when Soros started his philanthropic work, he funded educational initiatives for Black South Africans and gave financial support to dissidents of the Communist regime in the European Eastern Block. When South African apartheid dissolved and the Soviet Union collapsed, Soros turned his attention to other “enemies of open societies.”

The main obstacle to a stable and just world order is the United States.

According to information on its website, Open Society Foundations spends approximately one in five dollars in the United States.

Why? Because most people, including George Soros, view the U.S. as the hot bed of capitalism.

The main enemy of the open society, I believe, is no longer the communist but the capitalist threat.

Capitalist threat?

Such view of capitalism espoused by someone who made his fortune in the world’s capital markets is surprising.

However, today, Soros views his same theory of reflexivity that led to his success in the capital markets as a destabilizing force that needs government regulation.

Reflexivity is the “gap between perception and reality.” According to Soros markets often operate on perception, so prices reflect perception not reality. Reliance on past performance and ideas of how markets should behave can become useless when perceptions of the day interfere with prices.

Add to reflexivity what Soros sees as a tendency of markets toward excess, and we have, according to Soros, a recipe for instability, uncertainty, and economy mayhem.

His solution is to regulate institutions and the market

Throughout the 19th century, when there was a laissez-faire mentality and insufficient regulation, you had one crisis after another. Each crisis brought about some reform. That is how central banking developed.

A global regulatory system would be even better, as Soros explains in one of his books, The Crisis of Global Capitalism.

To stabilize and regulate a truly global economy, we need some global system of political decision-making.

In short, we need a global society to support our global economy.

Soros explained during his remarks on October 1, 2013, at the Global Economic Symposium,

Behind the invisible hand of markets lurks the visible hand of politics. Both the markets and the authorities are fallible; that is what makes their interaction reflexive.

The downside? According to Soros, reflexivity applies to society as a whole, not just to capital markets. He willingly admits that his views and actions are a result of his perceptions of reality. As his perceptions change given new information or new developments, he recalibrates.

Unfortunately political decision makers are seldom blessed with such wisdom. Their perceptions mushroom into eternal rules

More downsides

* Soros view of the ideal society “which allows its members the greatest possible degree of freedom in pursuing their interests compatible with the interests of others” clashes with his desire to achieve stability through heavy regulation. Nevertheless, he acts on his perception that wide-spread regulation is desirable.

* The perception is that capitalism, especially American capitalism, is the cause of imbalance, uncertainly, and economic disaster. The reality is that capitalism has been transformed into cronyism. Already excessive regulation exclude competitors from markets, low interest rates facilitate acquisitions and monopolies, largess showered on the populace disincentivizes workers.

* Power corrupts. Thus, it stands to reason that politicians with the power to heavily regulate and control markets, especially on a global scenario, face temptations to act in corrupts ways.

* Soros is quick to clarify that when he refers to global decision makers, he means a decision-making body that supports sovereign open societies. A nation that must take orders from a global decision maker cannot be called sovereign, whether it is an open society or not.

Watch who supports your political candidates

George Soros’ Open Society Foundations aim to transform economic and social systems in America. Some systems like the creation of elites through inflated stock or real estate prices, for example, could use improvement. But transformation from a sovereign nation with still some semblance of free markets and still some semblance of individual freedom into a subsidiary of a global decision-making body is not what we should want.

Open Society Foundations has created a vast network of grant-making entities that target candidates who will support George Soros’ vision of what America should look like.

Voters need to pay attention for whom they vote. Voters that reject the U.S.’s form of capitalism as does Soros are certainly free to vote for Soros-supported candidates. However, voters who still place faith in our markets and our sovereignty, might want to choose other candidates.

In this article the JVN blog discussed Soros’ economic objectives and how he is advancing those objectives in the U.S. In an earlier article, published in California Political News & Views, JVN discussed Soros’ focus on transforming America’s judicial system by funding selected candidates for district attorney.

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Pictured: This picture, from a timeline of initiatives on the Open Society Foundations website, shows Step by Step, an early childhood education institution funded by Open Society. These institutions are now in 120 countries, including the U.S.

Source of Soros’ Quotable Quotes: Most of the quotes in this JVN article come from Everyday Power: Daily Inspirational Quotes

Big Tech as Ideological Enforcer

Big Digital, also known as Big Tech, has joined Big Oil, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma in the pantheon of industries capable of exercising vast control over the lives of average people.

However, at present, Big Digital enjoys greater potential for control than do the other biggies. Big Digital, via the growing Internet of Things, is literally everywhere. One can do without a private automobile, refuse to smoke, or try alternative remedies when unwell. But living without some government entity or business requiring on-line interaction for some needed service is becoming increasingly difficult.

Baby monitor over child's cribActually, most consumers welcome the Internet of Things. Many cannot imagine living without a baby monitor over their child’s crib or going anywhere without their GPS navigation device. Many welcome the concept of smart cities, where everything and everybody is connected.  Cell phones are always at the ready to post one’s dining experience or one’s successful business endeavor.

Big Digital and Corporate Socialism

The assumption that Internet usage is universal combined with consumers’ love affair with digital gadgets translates into fertile ground for control. As in the case of imaginary worlds such as predicted in 1984 or of real worlds such as the former Soviet Union, the objective of control is ideological enforcement that benefits ruling entities.

Michael Rectenwald, retired New York University liberal studies professor and author, recently published The Google Archipelago, in which he discusses “corporate socialism.” One’s first intuition might be to reject such expression. Isn’t Google a big capitalist corporation, and doesn’t socialism hate capitalism? Not so, says professor Rectenwald.

An article in The Epoch Times, The Endgame of Big Tech Is Corporate Socialism, explains Michael Rectenwald’s view of corporate socialism, and how closely the objectives of monopolies align with the objectives of socialism.

Rectenwald acknowledges that Big Digital leaders genuinely believe in leftist politics. He points out, however, that many aspects of leftism align with practical corporate interests too, at least for companies with monopolistic ambitions.  The Endgame of Big Tech.

Three good examples of alignment:

* Open borders = free flow of labor
* Identity politics = market niches
* globalization = only one set of rules applied to corporations

Hardly a Free Marketplace of Ideas

If we accept the premise that Big Digital benefits from and thus espouses global socialism, then we need to also accept that Big Digital cannot be the free marketplace of ideas it purports to be. It needs to be a place where control maintains dogma. A free marketplace is where all goods, services and ideas are civilly exchanged without fear of banishment. Is that what today’s on-line or social-media experience offers?

Joseph Stalin made the landed Kulaks and other dissidents disappear. Although not by means as drastic as those of Stalin, one can also easily disappear at the hands of Big Digital by simply using the “wrong” pronoun.

A Just Vote No Blog Postscript

It is the prerogative of private companies to run their business as they wish within the legal framework in which they operate.  If a private company wishes to espouse the religious principles of its owner, fine.  If a company wishes to adopt progressive views, fine too.  The challenge for average consumers is the growing power of government-encouraged monopolies to control thought and action.

In the case of Big Tech, as controlling monopolistic growth becomes harder to camouflage, a new strategy is emerging, one that embraces control as beneficial to consumers.  This will be the subject of another Just Vote No Blog post.  Stay tuned.

 

 

UN Climate Action: Anybody Left Out?

The last few days have been significant for those who have been watching the development of the climate change movement.

The Children’s Marches

The September 20th children’s Climate Action marches throughout the world were a model of effective organizing. The chosen face of the children’s demand for action, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, performed admirably in event after event.

UN Climate Action Summit

In New York City, the United Nations Climate Action Summit 2019 on September 23rd was a wonder to behold.  World leaders meticulously selected for their commitment to fighting climate change reported on their country’s progress in implementing the mandates of the Paris Agreement.

Greta Thunberg’s presentation before the heads of state made headlines. The teen environmental activist strongly rebuked the grownups for thrashing the Planet and leaving a mess that will shorten or effectively end lives in her generation and that of her progeny.  Ms. Thunberg spoke of the abject fear the “existential crisis” of climate change has wrought upon today’s youth.

Mr. Antonio Guterres, current UN Secretary General and former Socialist Party Prime Minister of Portugal, echoed the children’s concern. His young granddaughters, he said, would not inherit a hospitable Planet unless we fixed our destruction through the collective action and distribution of resources prescribed in the Paris Agreement.

Some Reminders

Yes, our Planet has been warming. And yes, just as ice floating in the surface of your sangria melts faster in hot weather, so does Polar ice floating in the oceans. The meltdown might even eventually return the Poles to their ice-free condition during the time of the dinosaurs.  Ocean-front cities will be the first to go.

Chart showing Earth's cold and hot cycle
NOAA Climate Information – Extreme Events, Trends

However, if industrialization contributed to a current natural warming, perhaps we can delay the inevitable through some lifestyle changes.

We could use some lifestyle changes anyway to clean up our air and quit dumping non-biodegradable garbage everywhere.

The 74th Session of the U.N. General Assembly

Leaders of the United Nations member states met in New York City on September 24th for the 74th Session of the UN General Assembly and Debate.  All presentations are available for watching on YouTube or the UN WebTV.

In his opening presentation, UN Secretary General Guterres once again insisted on the end of talk and the start of evidence of prescribed action under the Paris Agreement. He views the Agreement as a social and moral contract that signatories need to honor if we are to avoid climate catastrophe. The Agreement principally calls for a drastic world-wide reduction in CO2 through phasing out of fossil fuels.

By contrast, recently elected Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro , clearly and forcefully indicated to the assembled dignitaries that Brazil is a sovereign nation that has demonstrated in words and actions that it is committed to environmental protection that is specifically adapted to the country’s own characteristics. President Bolsonaro took the opportunity to indicate his distaste for widespread media fallacies, political correctness that replaces reality, and socialist ideology that routinely leaves a “trail of misery.” Socialism is working in Venezuela, he said – everybody is now poor.

Compliant leaders like Emmanuel Macron of France, Angela Merkel of Germany, and Sebastian Pinera of Chile did report their progress in implementing climate fighting mandates contained in the Paris Agreement.

In a show of inclusiveness, organizers of the 2019 UN Session invited the input of entrepreneurs who could contribute to the climate fight through technology and customer reach. Entrepreneurs spoke of devises farmers in poor countries can use to predict the approach of threatening weather conditions. Representatives of Google, Microsoft, Ubisoft and other gaming companies reported on their success in reducing the energy consumption of their games and data storage, and including ideas on Planet protection in the theme of their games.

Who Did the UN Leave Out?

The United Nations mostly called for action from governments and corporations. They should have asked who they were leaving out! The Summit left out people – buyers, consumers, trend setters, and boycotters.

Consumer distaste wiped the Ford Company’s Edsel and the New Coke off the market within a short time of the products’ introduction. Conversely, The Blair Witch Project was a 1999 movie produced for $60,000 that grossed $140.5 million, because people thought the low-budged viral marketing and the shaky camera effect were really cool.

Maybe if all those children that demanded climate action from government refused to ride on gas guzzlers, gave up watching anything on energy-sucking plasma entertainment screens, and reduced their meat consumption they might set a trend. Their Climate Action Fridays could be spent reaching out to consumers and featuring companies that work on making their premises as carbon neutral as possible.

American Worker

In most American cities, the once prosperous middle class has been decimated. In major cities like San Francisco and New York, where living costs are high and lower-wage service jobs dominate a large portion of the economy, the rich thrive and the working poor live off government programs. The middle class is too poor to afford the living costs and too rich to qualify for government subsidies.

The Fixes

The easy fix to the problem of the disappearing middle class is to subsidize people who are above the poverty line. The very hard fix is to increase the availability of higher-paying trade jobs, reform the current misguided education system so it produces workers that are able to fill those jobs, and re-think collective bargaining as we know it today.

Most major cities employ the easy fix, while the federal government is attempting to implement a version of the hard fix. This version, however, relies heavily on mercantilism, focusing on tariffs and other methods of discouraging U.S. imports. Worker skills and challenges posed by today’s globalization-influenced and automation-prone economy are not being addressed as forcefully as trade.

An American Factory

American Factory is a Netflix film by Higher Ground Productions, a partnership between former President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle Obama and Netflix. The 2019 original documentary describes the early days in 2016 of an automotive glass production facility owned by the Chinese company Fuyao Glass located on the site of a shuttered GM plant in Moraine, Ohio.  Film directors Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert filmed the company’s workers and managers for three years, and released American Factory in August 2019.

Residents of Moraine were jubilant at again having jobs available and a thriving town. But reality soon set in. The company brought in Chinese personnel to train and work along-side the local recruits. Pay stayed lower than at the GM former plant. Tasks often proved dangerous.

Union agitation soon followed, in spite of company warnings from the start that this was to be a non-union shop. A 2017 attempt to unionize failed. Several workers were fired.
Whether the company’s talk of automation was prompted by the unionization attempt or was in the plan all along is difficult to say.

The Changing Workplace

The American middle class, once the backbone of the U.S. economy, boasted strongly-unionized assembly workers. American families drove Ford, GM, Chrysler, and AMC automobiles as they enjoyed rising post-WWII prosperity.

But this period was an anomaly, even if wishful thinking sought to enshrine it as an indication of intrinsic American superiority: by the ’70s and ’80s, what was true all along finally became practicable. Markets opened, information began flowing, capital aggregated, and most of all people in other parts of the world proved that they were willing and able to do the work that Americans firmly believed only we could do.  The Obama Film American Factory Backfires, aier.org, August 26, 2019.

By the 1980s The European Common Market succeeded in cementing the fact that globalization was the new way of doing things. So, American leaders and workers alike convinced themselves that the gods of Competitive Advantage had allocated to us in perpetuity the technological niche. We could be OK with Toyota taking over our automobile market because we could make Cray Supercomputers.

However, we neglected a crucial challenge: Things seldom remain static.

A New Reality for Chinese Companies

China, for example, went from being a supplier of our kids’ plastic toys, to a supplier of technology equipment parts, to the manufacturer of the Sunway TaihuLight – the machine that beat the U.S. Cray Supercomputer in 2016. In 2018, China had 206 out of the top 500 fastest supercomputers in the world, while the U.S. had 124.

China’s leaders went from wearing stodgy Mao jackets to wearing dapper business suits. Their negotiating style changed to match their business attires.  China developed a moneyed class engaged in business and trade. Efforts to deal with rural poverty are on their way.

Needless to say, with the rise of a moneyed class, comes a rise in general living standards, and with that comes a rise in the cost and complexity of doing business.

China’s evolving life style brings us back to Fuyao Glass. According to some observers, Chinese companies are locating manufacturing facilities externally because of China’s rising labor costs, taxes, and regulations!  Among those companies is Fuyao Glass.

The American Worker

American Factory presents a picture of what the American marketplace looks like today:  a significant number of American workers employed by U.S.-based foreign companies and facing the turmoil that comes from cultural clashes. The film’s message, however, is open to interpretation.

Workers at Fuyao have filed lawsuits against the company for a variety of reasons,  including allegedly illegally punishing workers for trying to unionize. Meanwhile, Fuyao has not been shy in expressing dissatisfaction with the habits of American workers.  The threat of automation lurks in the background, as the company’s chairman, Cao Dewang, seeks what he euphemistically calls a future in technology.

The wearying and expensive battle of wills is not productive or conducive to worker satisfaction. However, is it avoidable? Would the scenario be any different if this glass company were owned and managed by Americans? Today marks the third day of a nation-wide workers’ strike against General Motors.  So, maybe the American worker faces a deeper challenge than Chinese employers.

An Unintended Wake Up Call

The status quo no longer works in today’s rapidly changing globalized automation-prone world. Would it be better to move on to another model?

One idea might be to return to training skilled production workers, which stopped when the college-loan industry figured it would be profitable to promote the paper-shuffling industry, thereby helping to kill American manufacturing in the U.S. The production of goods by American companies located in foreign countries does no good to the American worker.

Another idea, which goes in tandem with the first, is to promote college as a place you go because you want to be there, can handle a high-level level of purely mental work, and cannot be distracted by constant political agitation. Highly trained technicians can help the U.S. keep up with a modern world not at all lacking in first-class universities offering outstanding technical education.

American Factory succeeds as a wake-up call. However, that wake-up call might not be the one intended by the film’s producers. American Factory perhaps serves as a reminder how American workers have been deceived by their legislators, used by their modern-day unions, and left unprepared to compete in today’s market place.

American Factory ribbon cutting
American Factory:  Fuyao Glass ribbon cutting in Moraine, Ohio