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  • Comm Check

    Posted by David Foster on January 20th, 2021 (All posts by )

    When the First World War broke out, a British cable ship set sail with orders to cut the German undersea cables.  Given the British control of the seas, the cables could not be repaired during the course of the war, and this led to a British dominance of communications with neutral countries–especially the United States.  While Germany was not totally cut off from the world–they had a powerful radio transmitter at Nauen–communication from the Allied Powers was more convenient and subject to British influence; war correspondents, for example, tended to file their reports from Britain.  In the opinion of many writers (here, for instance), this gave the Allied Powers a considerable advantage in propaganda.  (Also in message interception for purposes of espionage, of course)

    Availability of communications is of great importance in conflicts of all kinds. “Congress can make a general, but only communications can make him a commander,” is how the American general Omar Bradley put it.

    We have seen in recent how control of communications can influence political outcomes, with, for example, the playing down and outright banning of the Hunter Biden story perpetrated by both traditional and social media.  How many people would have voted differently had they been aware of this matter?  One survey suggests that the number would have been quite significant.

    And is it beyond the realm of the possible that certain ‘tech’ and infrastructure companies might go beyond the blocking of political communications with which they disagree and…actively or passively…block government operational communications that they don’t like?  See this post:

    The Department of Defense uses software created, delivered, and maintained by many of the same high-tech companies now engaged in shutting down online speech. If the titans of tech can pull the plug on public communications tools people have come to rely on, some observers fear, they might do the same to the Pentagon in response to a military action deemed unacceptable by San Franciscans.

    Something along those lines already happened with Project Maven, a major Pentagon initiative using Google algorithms to identify drone targets. The software was well under way when, in 2018, thousands of Google’s workers protested their company becoming a defense contractor. 

    Could companies, acting on their own opinions or in order to placate key groups of employees, really get away with refusing to supply urgently-needed capabilities to the government?  From the article:

    The Hudson Institute’s Clark says that if a tech giant withdrew access to services it had agreed to provide to the military, it would likely have to pay penalties for breach of contract. Such fines might make little difference to the bottom line of Big Tech. But the loss of cloud capabilities in the middle of a conflict could be disastrous for warfighters.

    During the Iraq War, the Swiss company Swatch refused to supply parts for the JDAM missile.  I don’t know whether litigation was filed by the DoD to recover damages. But the consequences of such refusals could well involve lives as well as money.

    (Gregory Sanders, a fellow at the Defense-Industrial Initiaves Group) says the Pentagon could always invoke the Defense Production Act “if a company pulled out of a service provision in a crisis environment in a non-orderly manner.” As the Congressional Research Service puts it, the act “allows the President to require persons (including businesses and corporations)” to “prioritize and accept government contracts for materials and services.”  But that isn’t a guaranteed strategy for success. “The quality of work you get when compelling an objecting vendor wouldn’t necessarily be the best, so DoD wouldn’t want to invoke those authorities needlessly.”  It’s well-known that ‘working to rule’ can greatly slow things down in activities of all kinds; much more so, surely, where creative thinking is a big part of the work to be done.

    H G Wells’ 1933 novel The Shape of Things to Come posits the emergence of the Air Dictatorship: global rule established by a technocratic group that begins with the imposition of a monopoly over global trade networks and especially control over the air.  Benevolent, rule, of course, as Wells saw it.

    Are we in danger of de facto rule by a Communications Dictatorship, or at least a Communications Oligarchy?

     

     

    27 Responses to “Comm Check”

    1. Mike K Says:

      The whole purpose of the Internet was to ensure communications in a war. I wonder what percentage of the Google employees who objected were non-citizens? Many of these executives are foreign born. Google’s CEO for example.

      Pichai Sundararajan (born July 12, 1972[1]), known as Sundar Pichai (/ˈsʊndɑːr pɪˈtʃaɪ/), is an Indian-American business executive.[4] He is the chief executive officer (CEO) of Alphabet Inc. and its subsidiary Google.

      Born in Chennai, India,[1] Pichai earned his degree from IIT Kharagpur in metallurgical engineering. Moving to the United States, he attained an M.S. from Stanford University in materials science and engineering and further attained an MBA from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was named a Siebel Scholar and a Palmer Scholar, respectively.[1]

      And so it goes.

    2. Mike K Says:

      Speaking of Google, “second city cop” blog has gone dark.

      Well, this was certainly a long time coming. Fifteen years, over 22,000 posts, almost two million comments and God knows how many attempts to silence us. But it might finally be over…at least this version of it.

      Over the weekend, we received information from a contact at Google that internal chat/e-mails led them to believe that certain precautions we had taken over the years had been breached by Google. We had gotten similar warnings from others in the past, and we dealt with or ignored them as the situation warranted. But this one was different.

      More here.

    3. Brian Says:

      I don’t understand why the NY Post, and others who have/had access to Hunter’s laptop, haven’t been running daily stories from it for the last few months. So twitter shut them out, who cares? That is a major problem, that “conservatives”/”the right” have zero media megaphones that have any interest in actually going for the jugular.
      “We” still have radio, and I’m pretty confident people will still find a way to communicate, they can’t literally put 74 million people each into their own little box.

    4. Ginny Says:

      David, Your posts are wonderfully informative and thoughtful – but they are also downers. Fictional but quite perceptive dystopias are bad enough; this information would be merely interesting before Biden’s speech and the arguments that the new government intended to hunt the enemy within – racists, Proud Boys, white supremacists (like Trump). On the positive side, it would seem that big tech would be less likely to stage a coup against an administration and congress that re Democratic given the choices they clearly have made the last four years and the donations. But I’m not sure that is very reassuring.

    5. Xennady Says:

      The Hudson Institute’s Clark says that if a tech giant withdrew access to services it had agreed to provide to the military, it would likely have to pay penalties for breach of contract. Such fines might make little difference to the bottom line of Big Tech. But the loss of cloud capabilities in the middle of a conflict could be disastrous for warfighters.

      What to do, what to do….ohhhh!!!

      I take this as yet another of the endless examples of what a feeble and feckless regime the present American government has managed to become.

      Any sane regime would retort to such treason by feeding these traitors a tasty bullet.

      But, you know, Merika…

      This won’t last.

    6. ed in texas Says:

      Here’s the thing:
      Google is the enemy.
      They’re at the head of the table when the facebook, twitter, media types discuss their strategies.

      I arrived at that conclusion when, during the late unpleasantness, one of my sons (a medic) was assigned to the Ibn Sina hospital in Baghdad. He was with the 28th CASH hospital unit, and they were split between the airport (for US personnel) and Ibn Sina (for everybody else). This hospital is physically in the ‘green zone’, just barely. Right across the river from Sadr City. (In overhead pics, it’s the big concrete building at the bend in the river with the helipads next to it.)
      Anywho, when I looked it up on Google Earth, the image came with a handy “north/east and range scale” indicator in the corner of the image. Next time I talked to the boy, I commented on it, and he said, yeah, they all knew about that, the DOD had been trying to get Google to remove it, but so far, no joy.
      I said, “So, yall get mortared a lot?” He said “Every time the Blackhawks circle to land. It’s got to the point that they put concrete road dividers at the corners of the pad so you have a place to take cover from incoming.”

      That’s when I came to the conclusion that Google is actively the enemy.

    7. PenGun Says:

      “That’s when I came to the conclusion that Google is actively the enemy.”

      I’ll let them know. I’m sure they will reconsider their actions. ;) Actually with Google, its a real problem talking to a human, its mostly AI now, the stuff that evolved from their various automatons, that used to run the place. The stuff Googles does is so vast, no human can really keep tabs anyway.

    8. Xennady Says:

      …they all knew about that, the DOD had been trying to get Google to remove it, but so far, no joy.

      I find this to be an absolutely fascinating anecdote, and people in my meatspace existence are going to hear about it. But I also find it to be utterly unsurprising and banal. It’s exactly what I expect these people to do.

      And exactly why so many people have given up on such a system that would allow such a travesty to occur.

      I wouldn’t expect an Iranian company to keep providing targeting data to a American invasion of Iran, yet somehow it has become accepted that American-based companies will imagine themselves to be neutral in American wars, and keep working with our enemies.

      Again, this won’t last, nor should it.

    9. Gavin Longmuir Says:

      Xennady: “… American-based companies …”

      That is exactly the point – quoted on the New York Stock Exchange, but not American. Remember, this is Google which has bought off enough of the US Political Class to ensure a large supply of H-1B visa foreign workers at low wages who are abused as effectively captive labor while simultaneously eliminating job opportunities for actual American citizens.

      The current conflict between Australia and Google is interesting. Australia, naturally, sees Google as a foreign corporation and thus is prepared to put its foot down and demand a certain level of Australian-friendly conduct from the foreign devil. Perhaps it would be better if Americans started thinking of the likes of Google as the trans-national rootless corporations they really are? But that would admittedly be difficult in a world in which China manipulates Google and both China & Google buy the service of our supposed “representatives”.

      As individuals, our only choice is to vote with our feet and avoid Google to the maximum possible extent.

    10. Xennady Says:

      Perhaps it would be better if Americans started thinking of the likes of Google as the trans-national rootless corporations they really are? But that would admittedly be difficult in a world in which China manipulates Google and both China & Google buy the service of our supposed “representatives”.

      I’m glad to see that you noticed my use of “American-based companies,” which was quite deliberate. That comment was originally much longer and contained quite a bit of rambling, which I deleted because it was both off-topic and tedious. American-based was what survived from all that.

      Anyway, I think your take about Google roughly applies to just about every “American” corporation we could name. They may or may not be listed on a US-based stock exchange- I don’t know and at this point, don’t care- but they’re all globalist in outlook. They’re all quite happy to hire foreigners to come work in the US and equally happy to move operations out of the US. They’ve arranged it such with their friends in DC that they can do so, as you’ve pointed out.

      If Americans don’t like this, too bad. Merchants have no country, as Thomas Jefferson noted long ago- and essentially the US is now ruled by merchants. Unfortunately for them, the people they rely upon to enforce their globalism- a “rules based international order,” as it was once described to me- are people who largely derive no commeasurable benefit from it, and hence have no great reason to seek its continuance.

      That’s a rather serious problem for them, which they’ve long noticed. Hence, the hysterical and endless attacks on Donald Trump and his supporters, long preceded by hysterical and endless attacks on any American who expressed doubts about globalism.

      Blah, blah, rambling. But Trump was quite willing to work within the system and did not explicitly attack it. For example, he did not condemn Pfizer for holding back the release the Covid vaccine until after the election, nor did he condemn the federal bureaucracy for holding back the development of a vaccine because of idiot bureaucratic rules. I think the next guy, or girl, won’t be so polite, and has an incandescent incentive not to be. There is an enormous political upside for an outsider to attack these globalist corporations, for their globalism and for their treason.

      Blah, blah. Ramble mode off.

    11. MCS Says:

      When evaluating Jefferson’s thoughts, it’s important to remember that he saw himself as a member of the landed gentry and above considerations of mere commerce. It underlies much of the friction between him, the other Virginian founders and the New Englanders, especially Adams and Hamilton. He spent his entire life indebted and at the mercy of merchants. It doesn’t make him wrong in this case.

      The merchant that loses sight of profit, ceases to be a merchant. Successful merchants also never forget that they depend on certain preconditions for simple survival. The U.S. has for the last 232 years been the most dependable place to find those preconditions.

      If you look at Google and the other “Big Techs”, you will find that they aren’t corporations in any real sense. Control is locked up in a tiny group of holders of privileged stock. The “public” stock holders have really signed onto a lottery with exactly as much input in the outcome as any other lottery ticket holder. They will do well only as long as there is someone willing to buy their shares for more than they did.

      The most surprising thing about the Google/Pentagon kerfuffle was that anyone at Google was allowed to get between the real bosses and a chunk of money. This leads me to the conclusion that this particular project started as one of their infamous “side projects” and blew up before the adults had time to think about just how much money was potentially at stake.

      The Apple saucer should be taken as a signal that they have ceased to matter in the tech world. The apparent answer to the question of what will top the I-Phone is: “We don’t know, look at our neat building”. They intend to milk the herd of Apple fans for as long as they can. The move to ARM based computers as well as phones will soon make it impossible to use any software not procured through Apple.

      Twitter and Facebook operate on the sufferance of Apple and Google. I believe that Apple’s new “privacy” initiative is really a way to divert some of the money that Twitter and Facebook make selling user data to itself.

      The tech “Wizards” are incredibly arrogant and self confident. They undoubtedly believe they are smart enough to play all sides and we are dumb enough to not catch on. The CCP plays a much different game. The clue that they have an army and nukes would be enough for most people to realize that an individual or business would never be anything but a very minor and painlessly disposable game piece. Jack Ma could enlighten them just how much they count for in his country, if you ever got him drunk enough or he became suicidal enough.

      Even my paltry sources of information tell me that China is becoming not just less hospitable, but increasingly, openly hostile to foreigners on a weekly basis. I expect that those businesses that have lost sight of the importance of the preconditions to their success that I alluded to above are soon to be forcefully reminded. Remember the thousands dead at Tiananmen Square, their remains literally flushed down the sewers and consider how much your bottom line matters there.

    12. PenGun Says:

      One thing the Pentagon worries about is the extensive Russian capacity to screw with underwater cables. They have invested heavily in submersibles, submarine deployed, to go and grab onto cables, to either listen to traffic, or destroy them if push came to shove. America too, is quite able to monitor and cut whatever cables they don’t like.

    13. jack burton Says:

      “The whole purpose of the Internet was to ensure communications in a war.”

      This is a widely held belief that is simply not true. Some of the tech borrowed to create the ARPnet was from strategies to create diversified communications routing during a time of war. That’s it.

      I highly recommend the book, “Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet” to get a good overview of the beginnings of the ‘net.

    14. Kenneth C Mitchell Says:

      Become amateur radio operators. The Technician class license no longer requires 5WPM in Morse code; just some technical and legal stuff for the license. Check out the ARRL web site for complete details. That gives you a nice bandwidth on VHF and UHF for voice, and if you’re REALLY cut off from comms, that might be a good emergency way to chat.

      http://www.arrl.org/getting-licensed

    15. Xennady Says:

      The most surprising thing about the Google/Pentagon kerfuffle was that anyone at Google was allowed to get between the real bosses and a chunk of money. This leads me to the conclusion that this particular project started as one of their infamous “side projects” and blew up before the adults had time to think about just how much money was potentially at stake.

      Or, alternately, Google’s Chinese masters told them to stop, because they didn’t want them to do anything to help the US military. If this sounds tinfoil-y, just remember how eager Google and the rest of these folks are to work with China and how hostile they are towards America.

      The tech “Wizards” are incredibly arrogant and self confident. They undoubtedly believe they are smart enough to play all sides and we are dumb enough to not catch on.

      No doubt, but I’d say the arrogance is well-enabled by their demonstrated ability to shut down any opposition and put in place a more than adequate number of hand-picked politicians, such as Kamala Harris. Their problem is that now they’re rather openly picked one political side and have set to out to make the other a mortal enemy- and they don’t even seem to have realized that, or maybe they just don’t care.

      When England cut those German cables, it was an act of war. Our Wonderful Wizards are attempting to do the exact same thing to conservatives today, in violation of the Bill of Rights, common law, contracts they have signed, and very likely their own terms of service.

      They’re placing mighty big bet that no one the other side will ever be in a position to return that favor.

      We’ll see…

    16. Andrew Lale Says:

      Funny, that’s not where I thought this blog post was going at all. Surely, by far the greatest threat to comms in 2021 is that the Chinese system of excluding any political opinions which are not explicitly allowed by the CCP will be blocked. The Tech companies and the US government between them control the internet. The very next thing to happen, in my view, is that if you don’t support the Democrats, if you don’t like starting unnecessary foreign wars, if you don’t believe in the Global Warming grift, if you don’t think killing unborn babies is cool, then you won’t have access to the internet. As a public policy issue, this makes the non-supply of military supplies look like kids play.

    17. MCS Says:

      Xennady,
      It would make even less sense under your scenario. If the Germans had been stupid enough to depend on Marconi for their communications, the Brits sure wouldn’t have ordered them to shut it down, they would have been all ears.

      Snowden shows just how good they are at policing “contractors”. I have no doubt that anybody that wants access to our sensitive intelligence has it. My Yahoo mail account is probably more secure than the NSA.

    18. Niels Olsen Says:

      Your comment on the Swiss suppliers of parts is not quite right. There were actually two issues, both with JDAM parts and with F-18 parts. They both stemmed from the suppliers having to verify with Swiss authorities that their export licences were still valid, now that they were delivering materiel to a country engaged in a war, which Switzerland was not a part of. This resulted in delays of about two weeks until deliveries were resumed. And never use Duncan Hunter as a source for information. He was an absolute nut-job on defense trade.

    19. Brian Says:

      Google does tons of business with the Pentagon. Letting the SJWs (mostly non-engineers) think they won something was not a sacrifice for them.

      “The whole purpose of the Internet was …”
      In the last couple years I’ve come around to the conspiracy theory that the purpose of the internet was to build a global surveillance state. Not that that was one outcome, but that that was the actual goal. Not that it matters too much, I guess, but that’s where we are, whether it was the intention or not.

    20. GWB Says:

      PenGun Says:
      January 22nd, 2021 at 5:16 pm

      The stuff Googles does is so vast, no human can really keep tabs anyway.
      Oh, I’m sure that will end well……

    21. miguel cervantes Says:

      wasn’t that the thing with crypto ag, the swiss firm, that the company had a pipeline in, finch in person of interest, said he invented social media

    22. GWB Says:

      Xennady Says:
      January 25th, 2021 at 2:57 am

      Their problem is that now they’re rather openly picked one political side and have set to out to make the other a mortal enemy- and they don’t even seem to have realized that, or maybe they just don’t care.

      I think one part of it is, in their bubble, they honestly don’t think there’s much real physical left to the world. They can order any food or goods they want, delivered. They can do almost anything virtually. They can call an Uber and get to their fancy, safe restaurant in moments. They can communicate around the world instantly. And they think the whole world is living like that. They can’t grasp the idea of a large group of Americans that can’t be controlled merely by shutting off their Twitter – that might have landlines, know how to write letters, gather in person without it being coordinated on Facebook, etc.

    23. Kristo Miettinen Says:

      A nit, to be sure, but I think your reference to H G Wells’ 1933 novel “The Shape of Things to Come” was meant to be a reference to Rudyard Kipling’s novels “With The Night Mail” and “As Easy as ABC”. The nations establish the Aerial Board of Control, with a charter to protect global transportation, and all that implies – and “all that implies” turns out to be global tyranny.

    24. Brian Says:

      Kristo: Nah, he’s right, look on wikipedia. I got that Wells book a few decades ago. He was a lunatic. And we’re ruled by lunatics now, the sort who think that psychohistory is real or something. It’s going to end with the world bathed in blood.
      Along those lines:
      https://twitter.com/JackPosobiec/status/1353724212842795009
      BREAKING: Xi Jinping tells Davos, “There is only one Earth and one shared future for humanity.”

    25. David Foster Says:

      GWB…”I think one part of it is, in their bubble, they honestly don’t think there’s much real physical left to the world. They can order any food or goods they want, delivered. They can do almost anything virtually. They can call an Uber and get to their fancy, safe restaurant in moments. They can communicate around the world instantly. And they think the whole world is living like that.”

      But yet the Cloud is quite physical…data centers (that use a lot of electricity), undersea fiber-optic links, etc.

      Of course, newspapers and TV networks are pretty physical too, when it comes down to it…printing presses, etc…but in that industry, the technology people are rarely the policy people. In the on-line world, they often are. Which makes it odd that there isn’t more attunement to things like, say, the potential crippling of the US electrical supply.

    26. Xennady Says:

      The very next thing to happen, in my view, is that if you don’t support the Democrats, if you don’t like starting unnecessary foreign wars, if you don’t believe in the Global Warming grift, if you don’t think killing unborn babies is cool, then you won’t have access to the internet.

      I’m pretty sure the craziest of leftist ideologues would love to do such a thing, and much more. Their problem is that such actions would cost them and the companies they control quite a lot of revenue. I suspect the NBA has figured out that Republicans not only buy shoes- like Micheal Jordan famously noted- but also watched games and now some large fraction of their audience has departed. I bet any large scale effort to cut off half the country from the internet would have companies like Comcast and AT&T squealing like those proverbial stuck pigs. Hence, I also conclude a lot of the present threats are posturing, intended to intimidate conservatives into shutting up all on their own. That said, I don’t think that conclusion applies to the efforts to shut down Parler and other competitors for leftist-run companies. Those are ideologically and financially motivated- and quite illegal, I think. If only the law was enforced against democrats…

      If the Germans had been stupid enough to depend on Marconi for their communications, the Brits sure wouldn’t have ordered them to shut it down, they would have been all ears.

      Forgive me, I’m not sure where our disagreement is, or whether we have one. I would certainly agree that the US government has been thoroughly compromised. In my view, that example of Google refusing to develop targeting software would be more like the Germans preventing an English company from developing better range finders for the Royal Navy pre-WWI, not anything to do with communications.

      I think one part of it is, in their bubble, they honestly don’t think there’s much real physical left to the world.

      I think the physical simply doesn’t matter to them. They’re wealthy enough not to care- and they set the tone for an awful lot of people who aren’t. They simply take everything that has gone right in the US for granted and simply can’t conceive that things can go wrong, at least for them. And, at the end of the day, they’re globalists. They’ll just go find some place that suits them better, like that Facebook millionaire who emigrated to Singapore.

      Which makes it odd that there isn’t more attunement to things like, say, the potential crippling of the US electrical supply.

      That’s a problem for those grubby blue-collar people to handle, like truck driving, or keeping groceries stocked. They’ll always do what they’re told, because they always have.

      What could go wrong?

    27. Rich Rostrom Says:

      Kristo Miettinen @ January 25th, 2021 at 10:00 am

      …Rudyard Kipling’s novels “With The Night Mail” and “As Easy as ABC”. The nations establish the Aerial Board of Control, with a charter to protect global transportation, and all that implies – and “all that implies” turns out to be global tyranny.

      Global control, but not tyranny.

      “With the Night Mail” was published as if it were an article in a 21st century magazine – and was “framed” with several pages of other stuff from the magazine, such as advertisements, official notices from the A.B.C., a book review, and an advice column. Nothing dystopian at all.

      “As Easy As A.B.C.” is much more explicitly political. The A.B.C. world has rejected the fatuous nonsense of “the people” as a political force, and “democracy”. People live on their own estates in complete privacy, and mind their own business, except for a few back-sliding weirdos, who preach democracy and have to be rescued from angry mobs.