Posts Tagged ‘Software’

Moshe Machover, Israeli Anti-Zionist, Speaking at Labour Against the Witchhunt Meeting

March 2, 2019

This is another excellent video from the public meeting of Labour Against the Witchhunt on the 29th January last year, 2019. LAW was founded to stand up for people, who had been unfairly targeted by the right in the Labour party for expulsion, chiefly, but not exclusively, on bogus charges of anti-Semitism. Although one young woman was suspended or expelled because – gasp! Shock! Horror! – She was a fan of the Foo Fighters! LAW’s chair is Jackie Walker, a Black, Jewish anti-racist activist, who was falsely accused of anti-Semitism. Here she introduces Professor Moshe Machover, a very well respected Israeli mathematician and a staunch critic of Zionism. Here he tells the story of how he was also smeared, expelled and re-admitted for ‘supporting another party/not supporting another party’.

Walker states that many people were uplifted when the NEC were forced to go back on their knee-jerk response and reinstate him. This happened because they were at the Labour party conference and the offending article that many have spoken about that Moshe wrote, which touched on some of the issues that Ken [Loach?] spoke about, was in a paper on the side. And Jeremy Newmark, the chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, came out, took a photo of them, smiled, and said something like ‘Well, we’ll have you now.’ Within hours Machover had been fingered. What is extraordinary is that in two years, 18 months, more people have been suspended and still do not know what the allegations against them are. It is extraordinary that at times, given that, Labour’s disciplinary unit can respond so quickly. She then hands over the Mike to Prof Machover.

Machover’s rather elderly, so he apologises for speaking from a sitting position. He states he wants to make a few technical points. It is not only about false allegations of anti-Semitism. There are two things that are combined, and in his case they were combined. The allegations of anti-Semitism are the most despicable, they are a form of character assassination. But they can only suspend you for it. They did not use that allegation to expel him. There is a more draconian rule that was used him against him and many other people, which has zilch to do with allegations of anti-Semitism. It is the infamous Rule 2.14.4b in the Labour party rule book. This allows the bureaucrats not to suspend, but to expel automatically. The procedure shares with the allegation of anti-Semitism the absence of natural justice. There is no due process. This is about who the accuser, the prosecution and the judge are. They are the same people: the committee that is expelling you or adjudicating in your suspension. They are the judges and the prosecution. You cannot cross-examine the witnesses. You cannot know who is accusing you. This applies to both cases. The draconian rule that allows automatic expulsion, or prevent you joining the party. Some of this would be just, if it was accompanied by due procedure, natural justice. For example, if you demand people vote for a rival candidate to a Labour candidate in an election. That would be a just case for expulsion. If someone is caught with a bloody knife over a corpse, they still have a trial. They’re not sent to prison automatically. Unlike this rule.

And some of the ground for automatic expulsion are absolutely absurd, a bureaucrat’s dream. This is membership or support for a political organisation not affiliated to the Labour party. But they do not define what a political organisation is. It could be Refuge. It could be Momentum [which was not at the time affiliated to the Labour party]. it could be anything. And what does ‘support’ mean? In Machover’s case, it was comical. Membership is a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ thing. But what does ‘support’ mean? They accused him of supporting a rival organisation. Why did they pick on this organisation? They did not call for voting against Labour. On the contrary, they encouraged people to vote for Labour candidates. What does support me? It’s not a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ issue. He supports some things, but not others. He says he did not respond to that part of the question when the bureaucrats wrote to him about it, because he didn’t really give him any definition of what support meant. When he was expelled, the evidence against him was the article he had published in the weekly journal of the CPGB [Communist Party of Great Britain]. This is something a lot of people do. Jeremy Corbyn has published many articles in the Morning Star, a lot of Labour leaders have published articles in journals inimical to the Labour Party. When they grudgingly reinstated him they said that they construed his reply as evidence that he did not support this organisation. He did not admit or deny support, but they arbitrarily decided that first he did, then he didn’t. That shows the arbitrariness of the whole procedure.

Coming to the accusations of anti-Semitism, it is true, as Walker said, that the accusations started when Corbyn became a candidate. That was a shift of gear in a campaign that started a few years previously, which had little to do with the Labour party, Britain, or specifically Jeremy Corbyn. It is a campaign orchestrated by the Israeli government, specifically by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs led by the cabinet minister Gilad Erdan. This was a response to Israeli’s declining reputation and falling support internationally,  among the left but also among liberal opinion, and particularly among the young, including young Jewish people. And so they decided to fight against it by accusing people who were against Israel and its crimes, and against the Zionist project of colonisation, branding them as anti-Semites. And the bastards fight dirty. You don’t need to go further than look at the al-Jazeera expose. He recommends that if you haven’t watched the four part series, you should, as he found it personally entertaining in a macabre way, but also import to see how the whole thing works.  He then goes to make the following points:

The campaign against Corbyn by the right, including the Labour right, which still holds very important bureaucratic positions, latched onto it and used it as a cudgel against Corbyn. This was a confluence of those who believed in Israel almost like a religion, who were prepared to eat alive anyone who dared to make even the most justified criticism of Israel. This coincided with the people on the right, both inside and outside the Labour party, who care zilch about Israel, Palestinians and anti-Semitism. They just want to use anti-Semitism as a weapon against Jeremy Corbyn personally. This is combined with a characteristic of the elite, not just in this country, but generally in the international community, in what used to be called ‘the free world’. This is led by the United States, which is led by, you know who. And Israel is playing a very important role for the US, not only as their regional watchdog, but as their supplier globally of the hardware and software of mass repression, such as the drones used not just for reconaissance but also assassination. Israel is the United State’s rottweiler, which is at the head of the international community. And so if that rottweiler pisses on your shoe, you don’t kick it, but say ‘Good dog! Good dog!’

He then ends his talk with a remark about Momentum. Many branches of Momentum mobilised to pass resolutions in his defence and in the defence of other victims. But where are Momentum’s national leaders? John Lansman, Momentum’s leader, is on record as saying ‘You mustn’t mention Zionism.’ But you can’t open an Israeli paper without Zionism being discussed – ‘Is it consonant with Zionism, is it not consonant with Zionism?’ Zionism is the ideology of Israel. It is not possible to mention Israel without mentioning Zionism, like Communism was the ideology of the old Soviet Union. What stops the central leadership of Momentum from saying a word about this. He thinks they should raise this question.

Daily Mail Labeled ‘Fake News’ by Microsoft News Software

January 23, 2019

Ho ho! Another fascinating story Mike put up today is a piece reporting that Microsoft Newsguard, a piece of plug-in software designed to warn users if the news website they’re looking at is unreliable, has flagged up the Daily Mail’s Mail Online as fake news. If you onto the Daily Mail while using the software, you get a message telling you that

“this website generally fails to maintain basic standards of accuracy and accountability” and “has been forced to pay damages in numerous high-profile cases”.

Mike quotes the Guardian on the software, which says that it is run by veterans of the news industry, who are trying to establish industry-standard benchmarks for judging how trustworthy news sites are. It employs experts to analyse sites to see if they meet certain journalistic standards. It makes all its judgments public and invites news outlets to respond to criticism and improve their standards.

So how bad is the Fail? Well, according to the site Tabloid Corrections, it’s pretty terrible. In fact, it’s worse even than the Scum. It was sanctioned 28 times by the press regulator, IPSO, last year, 2018. The Times was second with 18 sanctions. Behind the Times came the Scum, with 16, the Mirror with 10, the Express and Torygraph with 7, and the Star with 4. Still, the Fail has improved. In 2017 it violated journalistic rules 50 times.

Mike comments that this probably won’t affect the Daily Mail, as most people regard it more as a comic. They only read it to laugh at the nonsense inside. And, sadly, some probably read it only to ogle the scantily clad women in the very sexist newsroll on the right of its webpage. I’m not so sure about this. Years ago a friend of mine said that he thought the Mail was more dangerous than the Scum, because while the people who read the Scum treated it as a joke, those who read the Heil take it seriously. I think he’s partly right, but even this is far too optimistic. Yes, the Scum and the Mail are viewed with contempt by very many people, with more sophisticated tastes and attitudes to the news and journalism, at the same time I’m sure that their readers do take them absolutely seriously.

Mike also states that the Beeb’s Politics Live has also been discussing fake news, but hasn’t mentioned the Mail, concentrating instead on a piece about the UK parliament but which confuses it with the American political system.

Mike concludes

The issue is one that This Site has highlighted recently – that anyone claiming to quote facts about political issues must provide proof, usually in the form of references to their sources. Then readers can check those sources.

If there aren’t any references then you assume the claim isn’t true – and draw your own conclusions about the person or organisation making it.

See: https://voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/01/23/daily-mail-website-flagged-as-fake-news-by-microsoft-mobile-web-browser/

Mike’s piece is interesting not just because of what it says about the Heil, but about the rest of the UK media. The Heil is Britain’s worse paper for misreporting, but the second and third worse are the Murdoch papers the Times and the Scum. The Scum will be no surprise to anyone. But the Times prides itself on being Britain’s paper of record. This shows how vacuous and spurious that claim is. And I don’t regard its sister paper, the Sunday Times, as any better. Not after the repeated way it has libeled Labour party leaders and members, like Michael Foot and Mike himself. It’s not up there on the list, but it still slanders and smears decent people simply for the benefit of the Tories, big business, and in Mike’s case, for New Labour and the Israel lobby.

It will also be interesting to see if Private Eye reports this in their ‘Street of Shame’ column. It’s always reported the findings of press regulators, particularly when one of the most notorious rags has been claiming that it is the paragon of journalistic standards and has never made anything up or libeled anyone ever. And Private Eye is now casting its critical gaze over the alternative news sites. Last issue, for the 11-24 January 2019, it carried the article ‘Skwawk-boxed’, reporting that ‘Britain’s sole state-approved press regulator’, Impress, had made its eighth ruling against the Skwawkbox because it misrepresents or distorts the facts, and confuses fact with comment. It claims the regulator oversees 111 titles, but over the past two years has been called in to deal with 15 complaints. More than half of these have been against the same publication, and at least five have been upheld. This is against the Skwawkbox, which it describes as

‘the ultra-partisan Corbynite website run by Labour activist Steve Walker, which specializes in paranoid conspiracy theorizing and simultaneous attacks on the “MSM” for fake news.’

I dare say that this piece is correct, as far as it goes, and its criticism of the failure of journalistic standards in the Skwawkbox is probably correct. But I trust the Skwawkbox far more than I trust mainstream news. The MSM does present appallingly slanted news, including the Beeb, which it hypocritically maintains is objective, trustworthy fact. The massively biased coverage of Corbyn and the Labour party is a case in point. The media has smeared him and his supporters as Trotskyites, misogynists and anti-Semites, when the opposite is true. And there are organisations with very hidden agendas manipulating both the news and government policy. These are the various intelligence agencies, right-wing thinktanks, and industry groups trying to manipulate official policy to promote the neoliberal agenda of privatization, poor wages, destruction of the welfare state and workers’ rights and the invasion and exploitation of the Middle East under the pretense of combating terrorism. You can read about this over at Lobster, Counterpunch, and in the books of and website of Greg Palast and the now sadly departed William Blum and his Anti-Empire Report. Walker might have to tighten up his journalistic performance, but I don’t doubt that there’s more truth in what he writes than in the Fail or the rest of the mainstream media.

And he and the other left-wing news sites supporting Corbyn and genuine socialism in the Labour party clearly are frightening Private Eye along with the rest of the old media. Otherwise the Eye wouldn’t have published this, and another story attacking the excellent the Canary. The genuine left-wing news sites are catching up on the old media very quickly. It’ll be interesting to see if next fortnight’s Eye includes this story, as it did the piece on the Skwawkbox.

Private Eye on the Software Which Creates Fake News Videos

October 27, 2018

The few fortnights, Private Eye has carried a series of articles warning about the dangerous possibilities opened up by new software. in their issue for 5th-18th October 2018 they ran the article below, about new software that allows the user to create fake video footage of a person doing or saying something they never did. It runs

Deep fakes – videos which have been digitally manipulated to present convincing footage of people doing and saying things they never really did or said – have been one of the recurring tech worries of 2018. Now the first commercial offering has sprung up to monetise their production.

For around 30 pounds per ten seconds of video, the DeepFakes website promises to produce a faked video based simply on the input you wish the face/voice to be taken from, and the output you wish it to be applied to. No questions are asked as to what the videos contain or what you might use the output for – there is simply a small disclaimer at the foot of the web page which reads: “Please do not misuse it”. Perish the thought…

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) recently launched a project called Deep Angel, which uses machine learning to automatically remove any element from any uploaded photograph. Techniques that would have taken weeks of work under Stalin, and more recently at least a bit of skill with Photoshop, are now available to anyone in seconds. Progress indeed. (p. 16).

As the article says, people and tyrannical regimes, like Stalin in the Soviet Union, have been producing fake photographs and film footage for over a century now. During the Boer War, the British shot a propaganda film supposedly in South Africa, but actually in Hampstead Heath in London. And Cassetteboi has been editing videos of the rich and famous to make them look stupid in a series of hilarious videos for several years now.

But the development of such powerful software now makes this much easier, difficult to disprove and therefore extremely dangerous. Does anyone not believe that this technology is going to be used by criminals, tyrants and fanatics? And I can see viciously aggressive groups like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism, which already has no qualms about smearing its victims with false accusations, and the rest of the Zionist lobby with the backing of the Israeli state using it to smear Corbyn and his supporters.

William Blum on EU Opposition to US Telecommunications Surveillance

February 22, 2016

I found this interesting little snippet about US electronic spying in issue 118 of William Blum’s Anti-Empire Report. In it, Blum discusses the Echelon system, that allows the US to spy on phone calls around the world. The systems works by tapping phones, listening for certain trigger words. When these get picked up, the call gets recorded and passed onto the NSA, the biggest of the US’ many intelligence agencies. It’s been known about for a very long time. The British conspiracy magazine, Lobster, had an article about it way back in the 1990s. What is interesting is that the EU was opposed to the system, and tried to block American spying on European citizens. Blum writes

ECHELON is carried out without official acknowledgment of its existence, let alone any democratic oversight or public or legislative debate as to whether it serves a decent purpose. The extensiveness of the ECHELON global network is a product of decades of intense Cold War activity. Yet with the end of the Cold War, its budget – far from being greatly reduced – was increased, and the network has grown in both power and reach; yet another piece of evidence that the Cold War was not a battle against something called “the international communist conspiracy”.

The European Parliament in the late 1990s began to wake up to this intrusion into the continent’s affairs. The parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee commissioned a report, which appeared in 1998 and recommended a variety of measures for dealing with the increasing power of the technologies of surveillance. It bluntly advised: “The European Parliament should reject proposals from the United States for making private messages via the global communications network [Internet] accessible to US intelligence agencies.” The report denounced Britain’s role as a double-agent, spying on its own European partners.

He then goes onto describe how the system is used by the NSA and CIA for industrial espionage against European firms. Among the victims of the US’ commercial spying have been Enercon, a German manufacturer of wind generators, Thomson S.A. and Airbus Industrie in France. He also reveals that in 1995
Germany demanded that the United States recall three CIA operatives for their activities in Germany involving economic espionage. The news report stated that the Germans “have long been suspicious of the eavesdropping capabilities of the enormous U.S. radar and communications complex at Bad Aibling, near Munich”, which is in fact an NSA intercept station. “The Americans tell us it is used solely to monitor communications by potential enemies, but how can we be entirely sure that they are not picking up pieces of information that we think should remain completely secret?” asked a senior German official. Japanese officials most likely have been told a similar story by Washington about the more than a dozen signals intelligence bases which Japan has allowed to be located on its territory.

The article also discusses the way the American intelligence services have also been active persuading the manufacturers of encryption software to hand over the keys to the code, and inserting trapdoor programmes in computer software in order to have access to the private data stored on individual computers.

This adds another, very interesting dimension to the current debate about whether Britain should remain in Europe. I’ve blogged about the way membership of the European Union protects us under certain human rights legislation, while the Social Charter guarantees certain minimal rights to European workers. It’s also sobering to find that the EU was concerned about US snooping on its citizens. And this wasn’t done for security, but simply for sheer commercial advantage.

And American technology firms can be extremely predatory. The French found that out to their misfortune when they were busy working on a cure for the HIV virus. They made all their data available free of charge, as they felt it would be immoral to patent such important and potentially life-saving information. Unfortunately, no good deed goes unpunished. An American rival patented the information, and then sued them for infringing their copyright, even though they had not produced the data. This piece of information does not come from a fringe magazine like Lobster, but from New Scientist.

The antics of the American and British surveillance state, and its expansion under Bush, Bliar and Cameron, is a real threat to our liberty. We’re complacent about it at our peril. I doubt this issue will never be raised at the debate about membership of the European Union, but I feel that for sake of our liberty we need to remain inside the EU. The EU has voiced opposition to such increased electronic surveillance, and at the stage I think it’s only from the EU that further concerted opposition can come. It certainly isn’t going to come from our politicos, determined to deprive us of more of our hard-won traditional freedoms under the pretext of saving us from Islamist tyranny.

Sasson Hann on the Vital Help of the Disabled Student’s Grant, Now Under Attack by the Tories

May 21, 2014

I’ve reblogged Mike’s piece from Vox Political discussing the Tory’s proposed cuts to the Disabled Students’ Grant. This gives support to disabled people, who would otherwise find it extremely difficult to study at Uni. The Tories intended remove this grant from all but those they consider to be the most seriously disabled. Sasson Hann gives their account of how they were able, with the aid of the grant and through their own hard work, gain a degree in music despite their immense handicaps and the lack of sympathy or consideration from some of their lecturers.

There is no possible way that I would have been able to complete my degree and gain a good grade without the Disabled Students Grant.

Firstly, due to extreme fatigue and pain I only ever managed to attend the first couple of weeks of any semester, so it was vital that I had equipment at home. Even if I could have accessed the studios and computer rooms at the university they were rarely available, rather benefiting those who lived on campus who could pop in at various times during the day until they were free, whereas being a mature student I was living in my own home some distance from the university.

With regard to equipment, I not only received an excellent laptop, but since I was studying computer composition and experimental film as part of my music degree I was also entitled to claim for the associated music programs, monitor speakers, headphones, and hardware for inputting sound. These would have cost many thousands of pounds. My internet connection was also paid for. My travel in a taxi to university was also covered as the hour long journey by bus would have made me terribly ill.

Even with all of this extra financial help, it did not put me on a level playing field with the other students. I faced a lot of prejudice from certain lecturers. I had to work right through the the year without any breaks due to constant illness. I missed most lectures and had to study at home, which was a great disadvantage. In my final year, the exam department messed up one of my exam arrangement so I had to finish my exam half way through, and though all tutors had allowed me extra time before – typically to work through the holidays and hand assignments in a month to 6 weeks later – one tutor who was always supportive suddenly decided not to allow me the extra time. I appealed both counts to no avail, even though the leading professor said it would have only taken me 2 weeks to complete. Despite this I gained a high 2.1, but this would have translated into a first had I not faced such opposition, which greatly upset me at the time after how hard I had worked.

It really is hard enough to obtain a degree as it is, but now thousands like me won’t stand a chance. Unfortunately, I eventually had to give up my professional work a few years after graduating due to a chronic deterioration – perhaps this is why the government feel it’s not worth investing in disabled people – but many disabled people do go on to work for years. Without such a degree, they may not be able to work at all.

Sasson Hann

I’ve met other disabled people, who have similarly been helped through the provision of specialist equipment, to study at Uni. One of the women students I knew was blind, but was able to study through using brail materials and, I believe, recordings or electronic versions of some texts. And with the right support, other disabled people are also able successfully to pursue a career and reach a very high standard of excellence. I knew another lad, who was paralysed from the neck down and was dependent on the care of a nurse. He was, however, a computer whizzkid, who had reached a position of great respect in the company for which he worked, because of his skills as a software engineer.

The cuts the Tories propose will not only make it much harder for people like these to study at Uni, it will also deprive the rest of society of the benefits of their talents. And this will harm the ‘knowledge economy’ that we have been told is so vital to the country.

It is, like the raising of tuition fees, another way of excluding all but the extremely rich from education, or else keeping them in fear and debt for the rest of their lives.