The lottery and social despair in America

powerball-web

9 January 2015

This mania, so generally condemned, has never been properly studied. No one has realized that it is the opium of the poor. Did not the lottery, the mightiest fairy in the world, work up magical hopes? The roll of the roulette wheel that made the gamblers glimpse masses of gold and delights did not last longer than a lightning flash; whereas the lottery spread the magnificent blaze of lightning over five whole days. Where is the social force today that, for forty sous, can make you happy for five days and bestow on you—at least in fancy—all the delights that civilization holds?

Balzac, La Rabouilleuse, 1842

The jackpot in the US Powerball lottery has hit $800 million, since there were no winners in Wednesday’s drawing. In the current round, which began on December 2, over 431 million tickets have been sold, a figure substantially larger than America’s population.

Go into any corner store in America and you will see workers of every age and race waiting in line to buy lottery tickets. With the current round, the lines are longer than ever. Americans spend over $70 billion on lottery tickets each year. In West Virginia, America’s second-poorest state, the average person spent $658.46 on lottery tickets last year.

Powerball players pick six random numbers when they purchase their tickets, with a certain percentage of sales going to the jackpot. If no winning ticket is sold, the jackpot rolls over to the next round.

The totals for the Mega Millions and Powerball national lotteries have been growing every year. This year’s jackpot has eclipsed 2012’s record of $656.5 million, the $390 million payout in 2007 and the $363 million prize in 2000. The jackpots have grown in direct proportion to ticket sales.

State-run gambling programs such as Powerball have been promoted by Democrats and Republicans alike as a solution to state budget shortfalls, even as the politicians slash taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals and gut social programs. From the standpoint of government revenue, lotteries and casinos are nothing more than a back-door regressive tax, soaking up money from the poor in proportion to the growth of social misery.

The boom in lotteries is global. Lottery sales grew 9.9 percent worldwide in 2014, after growing 4.9 percent in 2013.

Psychology Professor Kate Sweeny has noted that lottery sales grow when people feel a lack of control over their lives, particularly over their economic condition. “That feeling of self-control is very important to psychological well-being,” Sweeny says.

There is ample reason for American workers to feel they have no control over their lives. According a recent survey by Bankrate.com, more than half of Americans do not have enough cash to cover an unexpected expense of $500 or more—roughly the price of four name-brand tires.

Some 62 percent of Americans have savings of less than $1,000, and 21 percent do not have any savings at all. Most Americans are one medical emergency or one spell of unemployment from financial ruin.

For all the talk about “economic recovery” by the White House, the real financial state of most American households is far worse than before the 2008 financial crisis and recession. As of 2013, Americans were almost 40 percent poorer than they were in 2007, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center. While a large portion of the decline in household wealth is attributable to the collapse of the housing bubble, falling wages and chronic mass unemployment have played major roles.

The yearly income of a typical US household dropped by a massive 12 percent, or $6,400, in the six years between 2007 and 2013, according to the Federal Reserve’s latest survey of consumer finances. A large share of this decline has taken place during the so-called recovery presided over by the Obama administration.

In addition to becoming poorer, America has become much more economically polarized. According to a separate Pew survey, for the first time in more than four decades “middle-income households” no longer constitute the majority of American society. Instead, the majority of households are either low- or high-income. Pew called its findings “a demographic shift that could signal a tipping point” in American society.

“Is the lottery the new American dream?” asked USA Today, commenting on this month’s Powerball jackpot. The observation is truer than the authors intended. For American workers, achieving the “American Dream” of a stable job and one’s own home is becoming increasingly unrealizable.

Following more than 10 million foreclosures during the financial crisis, America’s home ownership rate has hit the lowest level in two decades, and for young households, the rate of home ownership is the lowest it has been since the 1960s.

For the tens of millions of America’s poor, and the more than 100 million on the threshold of poverty, the dream of winning the lottery has replaced the “American Dream” of living a decent life. A lottery ticket is a chance to escape to a fantasy world where money is not a constant, nagging worry, where one is not insulted and bullied at a low-wage job by bosses whose pay is matched only by their incompetence. The lottery is, as Balzac aptly described it, the “opium of the poor.”

Using the same phrase to describe religion, Marx noted that the “illusory happiness of the people” provided by the solace of religion is, in fact, a silent protest and distorted “demand for their real happiness.”

Andre Damon

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/01/09/pers-j09.html

Odell Beckham and the NFL’s fear of of gay men

“Football is the most homophobic subculture this side of the Westboro Baptist Church”

New York Giants star blames gay slurs for losing control on field. Because in the NFL, there’s still nothing worse

Odell Beckham and the NFL's fear of of gay men: "Football is the most homophobic subculture this side of the Westboro Baptist Church"
New York Giants’ Odell Beckham Jr. leaves NFL headquarters in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2015. Hearing officer James Thrash upheld the suspension for multiple violations of safety-related playing rules after hearing an appeal by the New York Giants wide receiver earlier in the day. Beckham will miss the game Sunday night at Minnesota. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)(Credit: AP)

Last Sunday, the New York Giants star wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. lost his composure quite publicly in the team’s loss to the Carolina Panthers. He attacked his defender, Josh Norman, in a manner best described as weaponized helmet assault, and was eventually suspended for a game by the NFL.

Beckham has suggested, through proxies, a plausible motive for his nutter: various Panthers hurled gay slurs at him.

Because if there’s one thing that justifies a pro football player going crazy on national TV—at least in the eyes of other football players and fans—it’s being called a faggot.

And why might that be? Maybe because football is the most homophobic subculture this side of the Westboro Baptist Church?

Think about it, folks: the entire football universe freaked out last season at the mere prospect of welcoming its first openly gay player, Michael Sam.

Of course, nobody ever just comes right out and says, “football hates fags.” Instead, players and sports pundits speak in a familiar code.

Here, for instance, is how all-pro receiver turned broadcaster Michael Irvin defended Beckham.

For some reason, everybody goes after him with gay slurs. He’s a different kind of dude. He has the hairdo out, he’s not the big muscular kind of dude. The ladies all love him. He’s a star. I wonder why people are going in that direction. It blows my mind. I told him he can’t let stuff that people say get to you.

Translation: the fact that Beckham bleaches his hair and doesn’t have big muscles puts his heterosexuality in doubt, which is why he gets called a faggot all the time. But he has sex with lots of “ladies,” which makes him totally legit, so he shouldn’t worry about it.

Beckham’s own teammate, punter Brad Wing, offered the same brand of frat boy logic. He hinted that a photo of Beckham embracing a former LSU teammate may have triggered rumors of his homosexuality, then went on to elaborate that Beckham “was kind of actually happy about it, because all the girls he’s messing around with weren’t fighting with each other anymore.”

Got that? If, as an NFL player, you hug another man, you’re under suspicion as a homo—until such a time as a teammate can vouch for your heterosexual promiscuity.

Officially, of course, the league condemns all forms of discrimination. But football is, and always has been, a cult of hyper-masculinity. It’s a realm in which the attitudes around gender and orientation aren’t just out of date. They’re medieval. Men are defined as big, strong, violent, physically courageous warriors. Women are defined as sexual hood ornaments. Homosexuals aren’t just abhorrent, they’re aberrant, betrayers of the given order.

Think about it this way: dozens of NFL players have been accused of rape, or domestic abuse, or even animal abuse stemming from dog fighting. None of their teammates are expected to experience existential anguish when these guys rejoin the league. Nobody says, “Geez, is the NFL really ready for a violent criminal?”

And why would they? Violent transactions—of the sort that would be illegal in any other context—are the profit center of pro football.

Every now and again, of course, some player will be foolish enough to express his honest feelings toward homosexuality. At which point the rest of the football world will loudly revile them.

That’s what happened to San Francisco 49er Chris Culliver two years ago, when he was asked about Ravens defensive tackle Brendan Ayanbadejo, a vocal advocate for LGBT equality.

“I don’t do the gay guys man,” Culliver told a local radio host. “I don’t do that. No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do … Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”

If you want an even more revelatory peek inside the sanctum of an NFL locker-room, take a look at the so-called Wells Report, which was prepared, at the NFL’s request, to investigate the locker-room bullying that led a Miami Dolphins offensive lineman named Jonathan Martin to quit the team in the middle of the 2013 season and check into a hospital for psychological treatment.

Back when this news broke, much was made of the racist invective used by Richie Incognito, the white bullying ringleader, against Martin, who is bi-racial. What got overlooked was the overt sexual nature of the harassment.

Incognito, for instance, made numerous vulgar comments about Martin’s mother and his sister, a medical student he had never met. “I’m going to bang the shit out of her,” he explained, “and spit on her and treat her like shit.”

Incognito also made it a point to ask a male Asian trainer for “rubby rubby sucky sucky.” He nicknamed a mild-mannered teammate “Loose Booty.” At one point, one of Incognito’s henchmen grabbed “Loose Booty” and told another bully to “come get some pussy.” The second bully then simulated anal penetration with his victim.

What rascals!

Such grab-ass hijinks are typical of locker rooms, where internal homoerotic anxieties often get projected onto suitable victims.

Which is what makes Incognito’s targeting of Martin so fascinating. Based on the record, it seems to stem, at least in part, from Incognito’s forbidden feelings of affection for Martin, whom he calls (without apparent irony) “my bitch.”

The Wells Report describes the two as inseparable. They exchanged 13,000 text messages in the course of their fourteen-month relationship, or nearly 30 per day. They sought each other out “at all hours of the day or night” and discussed “the intimate details of their sex lives, often in graphic terms.”

When Martin declined Incognito’s offers to hang out, Incognito reacted like a spurned lover. At one point, Incognito pressured Martin to vacation with him in Las Vegas. This text exchange caused Martin to back out:

Incognito: No dude hookers [male prostitutes] u faggot

Incognito: Don’t blame ur gay tendancies on [Player A]

Martin: I’m gonna get more bitches in 2 nights than all of you combined

Incognito: Stop it. By bitches u mean cocks in ur mouth

Incognito: U fucking mulatto liberal bitch

Incognito: I’m going to shit in ur eye

Incognito: Goodnight slut

What’s almost touching about the Wells Report is the tenderness that bleeds through all the profane banter. “Let’s get weird tonight,” Incognito wrote to Martin, at one point. And a bit later, “What’s up pussy? I love u.”

Even after Martin left the team, the two texted. “I miss us,” Incognito wrote.

The Dolphins eventually fired Incognito. But he was never ostracized by teammates. Just the opposite. He was a popular player, a guy seen by many of his brethren as the victim of a politically correct witch-hunt.

Within the culture of the NFL, teasing dudes for being gay isn’t some radical act. It’s part of the whole juvenile male gestalt.

After a season and a half out of the game, Incognito was signed by the Buffalo Bills, for whom he played this season, and made the Pro Bowl.

Which brings us back to Odell Beckham, who is definitely not gay, even if he has a funny hairdo and a slender physique, because he has sex with lots of women.

Fans have every right to love football for its many merits. It’s a thrilling game that showcases astonishing feats of grace and valor. But gay and female fans shouldn’t delude themselves. To many of their heroes, the only thing worse than being called a pussy is being called a faggot.

 

http://www.salon.com/2015/12/27/odell_beckham_and_the_nfls_fear_of_of_gay_men_football_is_the_most_homophobic_subculture_this_side_of_the_westboro_baptist_church/?source=newsletter

Google Accused of Tracking School Kids After Promising Not To

google_tunnel-100432147-primary.idge

In a complaint (PDF) filed Tuesday with the Federal Trade Commission, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) claims that “despite publicly promising not to, Google mines students’ browsing data and other information, and uses it for the company’s own purposes.” The EFF says Google’s practice of recording everything students do while they’re logged into their Google accounts, regardless of the device or browser they’re using, puts the company in breach of Section 5 of the Federal Communications Act.

A SANDWICH COMMERCIAL OFFERS PERFECT CRITIQUE OF BURNING MAN

By Playboy.com Staff SEPTEMBER 8, 2015

The annual festival Burning Man is over and, as always, it was pretty insane. It’s hard to imagine everything the festival has to offer if you’ve never been, but try to imagine what would happen if the characters from The Maze Runner were dropped off in the middle of it. Well, Quiznos did and in addition to a hilarious video, it created one of the best critiques of Burning Man we’ve ever seen.

 

http://www.playboy.com/articles/sandwich-commercial-offers-best-critique-burning-man

Rio’s Olympic preparations under the spotlight

By Adam Talbot On August 21, 2015

Post image for Rio’s Olympic preparations under the spotlightIn the run-up to the Rio Olympics people have been forced from their homes and killed in the streets, while the environment has been permanently damaged.

Photo: violent eviction of the Vila Autódromo communtiy (by Kátia Carvalho).

In August 2016, Rio de Janeiro will host the 31st summer Olympic Games. Preparations have been underway for the past six years. With one year to go, it is time to look at how these preparations are shaping up compared to recent mega-events, which, as a rule, often serve to ensure the continued dominance of neoliberal capitalism.

Evictions in the ‘State of Exception’

The Olympics create a state of exception, similar to Naomi Klein’s disaster capitalism, which capitalists are able to exploit. For the philosopher Giorgio Agamben, a state of exception refers to a “threshold of indeterminacy between democracy and absolutism” wherein the conventional process of governance is temporarily circumvented. Importantly, a state of exception can only be declared by the state. As Carl Schmitt put it back in the 1920s: “the exception reveals most clearly the essence of the state’s sovereignty.”

The imminent arrival of the Olympic circus provides a justification for governments to enforce new undemocratic laws and disregard planning legislation. In this state of exception, developers and civic elites systematically mislead governments to their own ends. Essentially, the Olympic Games are not about sport; they are about real estate development. While the overriding goals of the Olympic movement are presented as peace through games, the Olympics ultimately serve the real estate and construction sector in bid cities and constitute a healthy, untaxed profit for the IOC.

At previous mega-events, the state of exception has manifested itself in various ways. At the Brazilian World Cup in 2014, the so-called “Budweiser law” reversed government legislation banning the sale of alcohol in stadiums at the behest of the event sponsor. Perhaps more worryingly, the state of exception also frequently erodes civil liberties.

In Australia, for example, the powers available to police to detain people in Australian sporting arenas was greatly enhanced in the lead-up to the Sydney Olympics, and these powers continued to be used after the event. The state of exception in Rio has been used to justify not only the pacification of favelas, but also the wholesale removal of entire communities.

Vila Autódromo has been targeted for removal (and the community has resisted) for over twenty years. Now, with the state of exception induced by the impending mega-event, the removal of Vila Autódromo is being pursued ferociously by the city, given its location next to the Olympic Park.

In recent years, the city has attempted to avoid negative headlines by offering increasing amounts of compensation to residents, resulting in the first ever market-value compensation for favela housing. However, this is still executed in an underhand way, with residents approached individually, unable to know whether they’re being offered more or less than their neighbors. Many residents did not want to leave but felt they had no choice. Nevertheless, the sums of money provided in compensation mark a major achievement for activists in the face of the Olympic machine.

Many residents took these offers and left the community, but a determined few remained. As the opening ceremony draws nearer, however, the authorities seem to have changed their approach to a much more repressive policy of forced evictions. Dubbed “lightning evictions”, this is not confined to Vila Autódromo: forced evictions have also taken place in Morro da Providência, Favela do Metrô, and Santa Marta.

It appears that no warning was given to residents, who were in some cases unable to save some of their belongings, with the military police and municipal guard overseeing evictions. Where resistance was encountered, as in Vila Autódromo, the municipal guard responded with rubber bullets, pepper spray and police batons.

A judicial intervention suspended the evictions in the community and various activists from existing movements and organizations have bolstered the numbers resisting the evictions. Their struggle goes on, but based on evidence from previous Olympic cities, unfortunately, it will likely be in vain.

Repressive pacification of favelas

The Olympics are now characterized by repressive policing strategies and the removal of undesirable populations within the state of exception. Michel Foucault describes surveillance using the metaphor of the panopticon: a prison where each prisoner may be being watched at any time, but they do not know if they are being observed at any given moment.

This individualized surveillance forces people to self-regulate their behavior and can be seen clearly at Olympic events with huge investments in CCTV and in stadia designed so each individual spectator can be easily identified. For many years, particularly since 9/11, the threat of a terrorist attack on the Games has been used to justify spiraling security budgets.

At the first summer Games since the attacks, Athens 2004, the Greek government was pressured by NATO — and particularly by the US government — into spending US$1.5 billion on security. These inflated budgets allow the security industry to invest in the most advanced hardware available, which remains post-Games. The latest developments in security equipment, including military grade technologies, are then used to intimidate activists seeking to make political statements about the Games.

Undoubtedly, some of the security equipment used to quell protests in Athens recently is part of their Olympic legacy. The questions of social control raised by activists are routinely marginalized, with security fears cited incessantly.

Rio’s favelas have for a long time been strongly associated with drug gangs and criminal activity. To have such (perceived) hotbeds of criminality — areas where the safety of spectators could not be assured — so close to the Olympics and World Cup was considered untenable. Hence, the pacification program was launched, a collaboration between federal, state and city government, with the “laudable aim” of permanently removing criminal gangs from Rio’s periphery.

In essence, pacification entails the occupation of favela communities by BOPE (Batalhão de Operações Policiais Especiais – Police Special Operations Battalion) followed by the establishment of a UPP (Unidade de Polícia Pacificadora – Police Pacifying Unit). These units then police the communities, with UPP Social, recently re-branded as Rio+Social due to its woeful reputation, providing services to these communities.

The Brazilian police responsible for administering this program have a well-deserved reputation for brutality dating from the years of military rule (1964-1985). The mentality of the police lumps favela dwellers with the drugs gangs targeted by the UPPs, tarnishing all as the “enemy within”. This is borne out by the statistics: in Rio de Janeiro alone, the state police were responsible for 362 killings in the first half of 2013. Favela’s undergoing pacification are essentially urban warzones, yet families continue to live in these communities through this process, with children as young as ten killed by police.

Investment has not always followed the UPP, and where it has, services have been provided by the market as opposed to state provision, meaning residents are often unable to afford to continue living in the favela. The state is absent from favelas and with the market barely regulated, residents are priced out and forced to leave, with nowhere else for them to go.

As such, the pacification program aims to incorporate land into the city and improve its value, leaving the population excluded and homeless. Therefore, pacification can be seen as part of a deliberate policy of gentrification, removing the poor from Rio de Janeiro and seizing their homes for profit. Similar processes of gentrification have occurred, albeit less violently, in almost all recent Olympic host cities.

Serious about sustainability?

In 1999 the IOC adopted environmental sustainability as the third pillar of the Olympic movement. Alongside this, claims are frequently made about the ability of sport to contribute to social development. These claims serve to ensure the support for the Olympic venture within the host cities, despite warnings about the nature of delivery affecting outcomes.

The potential benefits of sport, while genuine, should be approached critically, as social benefits are dependent on a plethora of factors and should not be taken for granted. It is a regular occurrence that marginalized populations are pushed further towards the periphery of society by Olympic events, as seen, in the case of Rio de Janeiro, in the pacification policy and evictions in Vila Autódromo.

Yet the evidence from previous games seems to suggest organizers of mega-events simply pay lip service to environmental and social issues, dropping their apparent principles the moment they become costly and inconvenient. This contributes to the feel-good, mythical rhetoric of ‘Olympic values’ and allows sponsors to enhance their social and environmental credentials.

No Olympic games has ever been, or will ever be, genuinely positive for the environment. The massive construction projects and the flying of athletes, media and spectators around the globe, among other issues, serve to ensure this. The question for Olympic organizers is never “how can we be good to the environment?”, but is rather “how much environmental damage can we avoid?”. This question then becomes interpreted as how much damage a host city can afford to avoid. This invariably results in commitments made for the environment being dropped when deadlines loom large and budgets spiral out of control.

In Rio de Janeiro, the organizing committee promised to clean up Guanabara Bay, where sailing events are planned to take place during the games. However, the state of the bay has regularly made international headlines due to the disgusting nature of the water, which has been described by sailors as an open sewer. The Mayor of Rio de Janeiro admitted in 2014 that the environmental commitments made during the bidding process would not be reached.

Not only are the promises to make improvements dropped at the first sign of a bill, the Olympics also actively damage the environment. For example, the natural wetlands of Eagleridge Bluffs on the outskirts of Vancouver were destroyed to make way for a new highway to Whistler, where the mountain events would take place.

Environmental destruction in preparation for the Olympics has been increased by the return of golf to the Olympic games for the first time since 1904. The construction of golf courses is intensely environmentally damaging, due to deforestation, large-scale use of chemicals, the destruction of natural habitats and large-scale water usage.

This is particular pertinent in Rio de Janeiro, as Brazil faced its most severe drought for decades in early 2015. While the problems were most keenly felt in São Paulo, steps were taken in Rio to cut down on water usage, but the irrigation of the golf course continued, suggesting that plush greens are prioritized over hydrated citizens.

A different role for the mass media

The role of the mass media is crucial for celebrating capitalism in disseminating the imagery of the spectacle across the nation and wider world. The Olympic Games, according to the IOC, are watched by over 4 billion people, making it one of the world’s largest media events. This global reach provides a platform for the spreading of neoliberal capitalist doctrine, through the spectacular imagery of the Games.

The mass media organizations often act as overt or covert promoters of the bid, providing value in kind donations and censoring critical journalism. Even when journalism critical of mega-events is published, it is then condemned.

In the context of the recent shift to hosting mega-events outside the first world, particularly in the BRICS nations, the Western media has tended to become more critical of event preparations. The majority of criticisms in the lead-up to these events comes from external, Western sources. It has been suggested that this is due to reluctance from Western audiences to cede power and credibility to emerging nations.

A similar trend was observed in media coverage of the 1996 Cricket World Cup in South Asia, suggesting government attempts to present positive images of nations are hampered by existing stereotypes and criticisms. As such, critical journalism will be more likely at the Rio Olympics than at similar events in the Global North, although this coverage will not necessarily criticize the Olympics directly, instead focusing on organizational inefficiencies or poverty in an attempt to maintain the cultural dominance of the West.

The Rio Olympic games will undoubtedly be a spectacular festival of sport. But the production of this spectacle has transformed Rio de Janeiro, turning it into an even more divided city with expanded zones of exclusion in which the poor are no longer welcome. Residents have been physically and economically forced from their homes, they have seen their friends killed in the streets, and their environment has been permanently damaged. In response, residents have protested — and will continue to protest — even though they have had only small and symbolic victories so far.

As the Olympic machine rumbles on, the concerns of Rio’s residents will likely be drowned out by the cheers.

Adam Talbot is a PhD researcher in the School of Sport and Service Management at the University of Brighton. He tweets at @AdamTalbotSport.This article has benefited greatly from reports produced by RioOnWatch.org, a key source for news on the restructuring of the Olympic city.

 

http://roarmag.org/2015/08/rio-brazil-olympics-forced-evictions/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+roarmag+%28ROAR+Magazine%29

Windows 10: An operating system that gathers data on everything you do

Windows10_1

By Mark Blackwood
10 August 2015

Microsoft launched the latest version of its Windows operating system (OS) on July 29, promoting the event as the largest software update ever. Unlike previous releases, the new version has been offered by Microsoft to all domestic users as a free upgrade. Over 14 million users are reported to have downloaded and installed it within the first 24 hours of its release.

One question that remains unanswered, however, is: out of the 14 million who upgraded in the first 24 hours, how many had the time to read and study the 45 page privacy policy and service agreement in the End User License Agreement (EULA) prior to installation?

Following the customary corporate fanfare that generally accompanies a Windows OS release, reports rapidly emerged about marked changes to the company’s privacy policy and service agreement. The new agreement, by default, effectively gives permission for Microsoft to monitor users’ activities via the use of keylogger type spyware.

Spyware is software that enables the information about a computer and the activities that take place on it to be transmitted covertly from their hard drive to another computer. A keylogger is a type of spyware or surveillance software created to log every keystroke made on the infected machine.

A keylogger like the one in Windows 10 can record instant messages, emails, search requests, credit card details, the contents of documents and spreadsheets, or anything else that is typed on a keyboard. The log file created by the keylogger can then be sent to the designated receiver, in this case Microsoft.

According to the Guardian, the default settings of Windows 10 also permit Microsoft to control a user’s bandwidth in order to “upload data to other computers running the operating system, share Wi-Fi passwords with online friends and remove the ability to opt out of security updates.”

The main reason Microsoft wants to monitor its users en masse is to monetize information about them and their habits. With 90 percent of the world’s laptops and PCs running a Windows operating system, the company’s monopoly position gives it a huge potential for harvesting data on its customers and emulate the likes of Google and Apple.

According to Heini Järvinen, Community and Communications Manager at European Digital Rights, “Microsoft basically grants itself very broad rights to collect everything you do, say and write with and on your devices in order to sell more targeted advertising or to sell your data to third parties. The company appears to be granting itself the right to share your data either with your consent ‘or as necessary’.”

Many users, when installing Windows 10, will not know how to configure it to prevent the automatic installation of the new default software. Moreover, the vast majority of PC and laptop users download and install software without fully reading the EULA.

Web developer Jonathan Porta described the tactics used by Microsoft during the installation process of its OS, “Everything about this screen is urging me to just accept the default configuration and get on with life. … With all of these settings on these two screens enabled I might as well relocate my computer to Microsoft headquarters and have the entire company look over my shoulder.”

What makes Microsoft’s new operating system all the more concerning is the corporation’s close relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA) and FBI, which have been engaged in the systematic and illegal violation of the democratic rights of computer users for years.

In 2014, NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden described the aim of his employer as wanting to “collect it all”—in other words, capture the entire content of the world’s Internet activity in order to analyze and profile all potential opponents of the American government, above all, political opposition from the working class.

Snowden revealed the depth of collaboration between the NSA and Microsoft (and other IT corporations) as they sought to monitor and collect data on users of Microsoft products. Documents sent via Outlook.com, Skype and SkyDrive were monitored. Microsoft even worked with the NSA to create a backdoor to its own encryption software to ensure the agency’s fullest possible access to user data.

Rather than be greeted with excitement for being a free operating system upgrade, the question that should be asked by everyone is why is a corporation like Microsoft, with such history, is so willing to give out this operating system for free.

 

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2015/08/10/wind-a10.html

Why Apple’s response to Charleston is so stupid

Banning games isn’t the answer: 

When it comes to disowning the Confederate battle flag, there’s a right way and a wrong way. Apple chose the latter

Banning games isn't the answer: Why Apple's response to Charleston is so stupid
Tim Cook (Credit: AP/Richard Drew)

Earlier this week, in response to South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s call for the Confederate battle flag to be removed from the state’s Capitol grounds, I wrote a post commending the governor for doing what was obviously right.

But I also expressed concern that she was doing the right thing for the wrong reasons, and that, by defending her move with the language of feelings, she risked perpetuating a misunderstanding of why so many find the Confederate battle flag objectionable. It’s not about politeness or manners, I argued; it’s about fighting white supremacy.

In the mere two days since that post went live, it has become clear that Haley’s break with the flag, that once-unimpeachable shibboleth of Southern politics, wasn’t an act of bravery so much as good professional instincts. Not only has Haley been followed by fellow Southern Republicans in the South Carolina legislature, as well as inMississippi and Alabama, but private sector behemoths like Walmart, Amazon, Sears and eBay have decided to ditch the flag, too. And now comes word that mighty Apple has hopped on the bandwagon, kicking multiple rebel-flagged games from its App Store.

Unfortunately, however, it appears that Haley was ahead of the curve in more ways than one. Because just as Apple has joined her in no longer wanting to legitimize the trademark of the Army of Northern Virginia, its seems to have also done so without actually understanding why. The company claims it’s only zapping apps that feature the flag “in offensive or mean-spirited ways.” But when you look at some of their targets, including many games about the Civil War itself, that doesn’t hold up. A different, stupider explanation — that the company is treating the flag as if it were no less dangerous than the eyes of Medusa — makes more sense.

Take the “Civil War” game series by HexWar Games, for example, which saw at least four of its editions banned by Apple. To state the obvious, there are war games; and they’re war games about the Civil War. When it comes to the mission of the Confederate army, I’ll agree with Ulysses S. Grant’s famous description of it as “one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.” But that hardly makes the use of the flag in a game about the war “mean-spirited” or “offensive.” Apple says they won’t touch apps that “display the Confederate flag for educational or historical uses,” and though I doubt these war games are educational, they are historical, at least.

Now, if these games soon get their App Store privileges back and once again find themselves on Apple’s virtual shelves, I won’t be surprised. According to Kotaku, this isn’t the first time the people running the App Store have shown signs of being either confused or incompetent. And despite what the angry young men of #GamerGatemay argue in dozens upon dozens of ever-so-angry tweets, this is not exactly the greatest infringement on liberty the world has ever seen. Stipulating all of that, though, I still think Apple’s decision was ominous; and I still believe it should especially concern sincere anti-racists.
Because if we adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding the Confederate flag, you can guess, looking at the present, where it’s likely to lead. The idea that white supremacy is a distinctly Southern affliction would likely be reinforced, even though it has always been a fantasy. The mistaken view of racism as an artifact of history would likely get strengthened, too. People would likely treat the flag like we treat the word “nigger,” hoping that if they ban it from their consciousness, they can make racism disappear. And the myth that we can wall ourselves off from the nasty parts of our heritage, which is one of American society’s more distinctive neuroses, would become even harder to shake.

A superior course, I’d argue, would be to deepen our understanding of our past, so that we can see the connections between the injustices of history of history and the iniquities of the present. Instead of exiling the flag from the culture as if it never existed, we’d acknowledge how the legacy of the Confederacy is still with us today. We’d recognize white supremacy as an inextricable part of the country’s founding, but not one we can’t defeat so long as we have purpose and conviction. And the cherry on top? Nobody would have to give up their video games.

Elias Isquith is a staff writer at Salon, focusing on politics. Follow him on Twitter at @eliasisquith.