Farid’s Clear Explanation of Apple’s Client Side Scanning

Here’s an important podcast with Hany Farid, definitely worth a listen for anyone interested in the facts related to Apple’s client-side scanning for child sexual abuse material (CSAM)

In this Safeguarding Podcast with Hany Farid, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley: PhotoDNA, what is is and how it works, what PhotoDNA doesn’t do, what are Hashes and do they work in an End-to-End Encrypted world, is Apple’s NeuralHash child safety proposal the incipient slippery slope as many claim, Apple’s Secret Sharing Threshold and why that’s a problem, and “WhatsApp’s hypocrisy”.

New war is old war: Propaganda targeting activists is a norm

A new article makes the strange claim that propaganda networks have “shifted” targeting from drugs to political activism.

New war: How the propaganda network shifted from targeting ‘addicts’ to activists.

The problem with such “new” analysis, any historian could probably show, is that activists historically have been called things like drug addicts to make them targeted more easily (avoid scrutiny of anti-democratic actions).

There is no shift, just recognition a system of heavy-handed criminalization uses encoding to escape proper scrutiny.

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Today extremist right-wing Americans just overtly say they are going with war with the “left” instead of pretending to care about drugs.

50 Waymo Per Day Reportedly Stuck in a Dead-end Street

Sad to see how driverless car “learning” is failing so badly:

“We have talked to the drivers, who don’t have much to say other than the car is programmed and they’re just doing their job,” King says.

“There are fleets of them driving through the neighborhood regularly,” says Lewin. “And it’s been going on for six, eight weeks, maybe more.”

How many driverless cars does it take to map a dead-end? Apparently up to 50 every day for two months… so far.

Not just a massive failure of learning, a colossal waste of resources.

The Day Churchill Called Mussolini “greatest living statesman of our time”

This very typically biting and insightful anecdote about Churchill comes from a military history book describing Allied preparations for D-Day:

Air Superiority in World War II and Korea: An Interview with Gen. James Ferguson, Gen. Robert M. Lee, Gen. William W. Momyer, and Lt. Gen. Elwood R. Quesada. (1983). United States: Office of Air Force History, U.S. Air Force. Page 56

The General probably should not have been shocked. Everyone surely knows Churchill was known for his failure to admonish Mussolini, right?

Mosley was to put it more concisely later when he repeated that the British Fascists wanted to turn Parliament ‘from a talk-shop to a work-shop’. When Churchill praised Mussolini’s Italy for its economic realism, it was of course the British Chancellor of the Exchequer envying the Fascist dictator for the room for manoeuvre which the absence of an effective opposition gave him.

The offensive declarations of January 1927 were of a different nature, in that they clearly justified the introduction of Fascism as a bulwark against Bolshevism.

However, a careful reader of history will note that Churchill preferred death to either Fascism or Bolshevism and thus was crudely thinking of himself as above either.

…his Commons speech of 14 April 1937 he suggested that a self-respecting Briton would face death rather than accept ‘to choose between Communism and Nazism’ :

I hope not to be called upon to survive in a world under a government of either of these dispensations.

Self-respecting here is taken to mean a Briton who hasn’t stooped so far as to allow extremism to take hold. Or to put it another way, as I described in a 2014 blog post, fall victim to what Germany experienced:

The stock market crash of 1929 led to extremely heated conflict by radical groups trying to split votes; intellectual communism versus ultra-nationalism. This led to violence, which led to mob rule by fascist militia and 1932 end of the republic.

Britain arguably rested upon a representative government that had increasingly allowed for mass dissent. And while it was far from an ideal system it didn’t end with abrupt violent revolution in the “European” way.

Seems almost natural for Churchill to claim to appreciate the very thing that he also detested so much, through dark sarcasm and sharp wit.

Why Doesn’t Peter Thiel Denounce Nazism?

Recently I noticed in an old USAF study that a Dr. Walter Thiel was credited as Germany’s “best propulsion expert” until he was killed by a 1943 Allied bombing run on a Nazi weapons research center.

This (perhaps with a nod to Operation Paperclip) prompted me to start looking into the Thiel family after they emigrated from Germany elsehwere. Some obscure French news sets the context:

…Thiel, convicted in France under Holocaust denial laws…

Denial of history and science? That mindset allegedly fits Peter Thiel.

Thiel said no to investing [in electric cars]. “He doesn’t fully buy into the climate change thing,” said Musk.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Here’s another obscure example from 1942. Werner Thiel was caught by the FBI with “coal-shaped bombs” and Life Magazine ran a piece called “The Eight Nazi Saboteurs Should be Put to Death

Source: Life, July 13, 1942. FBI mugshot of Nazi terrorist Werner Thiel.

This case was cited in 1954 government records that discuss “…Thiel, an ardent Nazi…” coming by boat to the U.S.

Smith, H. A. (1954). The Far East and South Asia. United States: U.S. Government Printing Office.

It was only a decade after this 1954 U.S. government report that Susanne and Klaus Friedrich Thiel (Peter’s parents) in the 1960s emigrated to America from Germany with their 1-year old son Peter.

They then spent significant time working for the apartheid regime in South Africa, helping with (coal?) mining operations, while sending Peter to a whites-only school.

You might guess where that ended up:

[Peter] said, with no facial affect, that apartheid was a sound economic system working efficiently, and moral issues were irrelevant.

The weird thing about being the white kid of parents bouncing from one brutally oppressive society to another, is that their kid ends up extremely scared, really really scared of the world (e.g. false-paranoia of Nazism).

…he was bullied to some extent as a child and I think sort of comes into the world feeling a little bit aggrieved and maybe justifiably aggrieved…

Justifiably? Think about that in terms of what Thiel published in a book regarding his views on victims of a crime:

…there’s a line in the book that describes, you know, rape – date rape as, you know, seductions later regretted…

Or think about what he published later about citizenship and rights:

He also writes in that essay that, you know, women’s suffrage is kind of an unfortunate thing because women tend to vote… he’s never actually, like, changed his point of view there.

He called raping women just “seductions later regretted” and suggested their right to self-representation — their voice — be entirely removed.

But wait, it gets worse. Thiel used an encoded phrase (“welfare beneficiaries”) to argue non-whites should lose the right to self-representation in government.

Just to give the full context, the quote is “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women, two constituencies that are notoriously tough on libertarians, have rendered the notion of a capitalist democracy an oxymoron.” So it’s not just women, it’s welfare beneficiaries.

As an immigrant, he also hates immigration, which probably surprises nobody.

…he was donating money to this group called NumbersUSA, which is a very, very hard-right immigration group. You know, it’s – the idea is reducing the amount of immigration drastically…

It appears from his writing that Thiel lacks empathy of any kind and neither sides with victims of obvious crimes, nor even more importantly believes women or non-whites should be given voting rights.

This seems very curious because if he was so “justifiably aggrieved” by experiencing bullying inside white insecurity militancy as a child, then do you think he would feel the pain of others and help liberate targets… or turn into the world’s biggest proponent of that same “cultural populism, white grievance” bullying model to harm people even more than he was?

And what if it’s the latter?

People try to position Thiel’s gross disregard for limits on power as some kind of normalized political thinking (e.g. libertarianism), yet clearly that’s not what is going on.

DAVIES: And, of course, it’s a little odd that a libertarian would want to shut down a publication.

CHAFKIN: It’s completely inconsistent with libertarianism, I think. And I think there’s lots of stuff about Thiel that, you know – I think describing him as a libertarian, you know, is way off. He also, you know, started this gigantic surveillance company, Palantir, which I think is about 180 degrees from what you and I would think of, probably, as libertarianism.

Indeed, a thirst for excessive unregulated power may be the only consistent thing in the Thiel story. He was in law, but didn’t really do law, he was in finance, but didn’t really do finance, and ends up in tech, but doesn’t really do tech. Morality seems to have gotten in his way…

Across them all, he just craved unrestricted power and tech (the least regulated of all) became his break out.

…Thiel was not a techie guy. He was not a computer geek. How did this happen? How did he have money to invest in something like a startup like PayPal?

CHAFKIN: No. And this is what’s so amazing because he didn’t have the technical skills, as you say. He’d kind of washed out of corporate law. And he’d only lasted – he didn’t last very long in finance either – comes back and basically scrounges together some money from friends and family. You know, we’re not talking about a huge sum here, but it’s enough to make a small investment, you know, on the order of $100,000 in PayPal, which at the time was – it was basically a one-man operation, this other coder that he found, Max Levchin. And they kind of zig and zag and eventually, you know, found their way to become a tech startup. But as you say, it almost happened by accident. Or maybe it happened because he had the, you know, ambition and skill to put himself in that position.

I want you to think seriously about what transpired at this moment in his life and the unregulated industry where his financial “success” is rooted.

Thiel poured his family money (seemingly from Nazi Germany and apartheid South Africa) into what has been called a vision for “…the equivalent of a Swiss bank account in your pocket… governments can’t stop their citizens from moving money out of the country”.

We earlier read how he thought about a racist white police state as a “sound economic system”.

The major obstacle to building any such system of immoral wealth accumulation (e.g. the Holocaust) ends up being how to avoid embargoes and sanctions.

A list has been discovered in Argentina that includes names of thousands of former Nazis and their Swiss banking accounts that may have held stolen profits from German appropriations during World War II.

The records were found in a Buenos Aires building that was formerly a Nazi headquarters, officials said.

Stolen profits from ill-gotten appropriations during a war sounds eerily relevant. Look at how Thiel’s “exit” from PayPal was described by his coworkers:

…this bunch of buccaneers who took a lot of gambling and porn transactions …this guy who had been their leader, who had been – you know, they were brothers in arms, you know, against the world and the banking system, you know – was leaving… from the point of view of some of the people who were there, you know, a bit of a betrayal or a sense of, you know, just him not really caring what other people thought…

That conclusion is backwards. In fact it is the exact opposite, which comes out later in the same article.

…he’s literally destroyed a media company for writing things that he didn’t like. …to kind of control the narrative about himself. And I think that’s been one of the sources of his power. …somebody who’s able to shape his own personal narrative and cultivate this army of followers that’s, you know, in some places, borderline – bordering on, you know, cult-like.

You’d think journalists could put this together better.

Thiel doesn’t care at all about people, he cares a lot about what people think and loyalty to him, which is a philosophy straight out of 1930s Germany.

He appears like someone whose life is centered on false abject fear always carrying the aim for total monopolization (whatever forms power takes — information, money, etc.) to avoid experiencing or dealing with anything real (e.g. other people’s needs).

It is super dangerous for anyone to align with his power quest, since he would presumably leave or double-cross them at any moment should they bring up something like morality or ethics perceived as threats to his desire for unrestricted power.

Thiel, like other particular Germans or South Africans overly obsessed with false power, never stops “really caring what other people thought”. That’s why he has poured his money into social programs, political campaigns and propaganda:

…he owned a sort of nightclub. He was publishing a NASCAR magazine, and it was staffed by all these conservative journalists. So it was sort of like a sports magazine, but it was attempting to kind of do some of the same culture war stuff that he had been trying to do as an undergraduate.

This “same culture war stuff” might not just be tied to him “as an undergraduate”. Was he in any way the funding source behind this?

Pundits and governments just might have given Russia too much credit, he says, when a whole system of manipulating people’s perception and psychology was engineered and operated from within the US. “Russia played such a minor role that they weren’t even a blip on the radar.”

To be fair it would be far easier to patch the hole that Russia comes through versus completely changing the business logic failure of America that enables constant domestic disinformation for profit/power from immigrants like Thiel.

Given what I’ve pointed out above in detail, what if such massive power grabs go all the way back to protection of family fortunes out of 1930s Germany or 1970s South Africa?

It all begs the question whether Thiel’s prolific writing and campaigning on social issues has ever formally denounced Nazism and apartheid. He clearly believes in standing against things, even fighting hard to cancel speech. So where has he stood against Nazism or cancelled Nazi speech?

The Four Freedoms, ratified by UN and USA, call for freedom of religion and speech, freedom from tyranny and want. Thiel objectively appears to oppose freedom of speech, promoting tyranny and want. That reads to me like someone already 3/4 on the wrong side of history and I haven’t looked at the other 1/4 yet.

In other words, after exhaustive reading I’ve been unable to find formal denunciations of Nazism. In Thiel’s latest book “Zero to One” (a barely hidden allegory for the Nazi binarism of extremist evaluation and value placement) expresses things like this:

Only one thing can allow a business to transcend the daily brute struggle for survival: monopoly profits. So, a monopoly is good for everyone on the inside… Monopoly is therefore not a pathology or an exception. Monopoly is the condition of every successful business.

More appropriate words for what he describes, such as fascism and Nazism, appear exactly zero times in the book.

Crooks and Liars reported Thiel’s philosophy and politics like this:

Peter Thiel, the German-American billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and one of the first investors in Facebook, loves to hang out with White Nationalist Nazis, apparently…

Seems at this point that a failure to denounce Nazism — while instead describing its core objectives as some kind of ideal, even spending quality time embracing Nazis — is something very important to highlight, especially for any government agencies doing business or aligning with him let alone political candidates he’s funding.

Also, back to Thiel family history, it probably is worth mentioning that to denounce Nazism is only a start. Nazis also have to stop participating in a Nazi party (America First).

Davis, J. C. B., Wagner, F. D., Putzel, H., Lind, H. C. (1946). United States Reports: Cases Adjudged in the Supreme Court at … and Rules Announced at …. United States: Banks & Bros., Law Publishers.

the poetry of information security