Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘due diligence

I don’t reflect: I am Haunted

Adult have no idea how they managed to learn anything in childhood.

And yet, they barely apply the best ways to learn and understand, the ways kids learn.

Fiction or the real false stories and events precedes our comprehension of reality: Fiction stories allow us to access reality.

Even the literary genres labelled “real stories” or autobiography are mostly fiction and the protagonists must have said: “What? In my wildest imagination I never contemplated that this will happen to me...”

Sleep dreams might have the job of “recomputing” the default values in your world vision.

Reading different literary genres preempt you to understand reality, and accept that you are a potential “Statistics”, a term that drives people to the wall and make them furious “What? Am I not that special?

But it is writing, drawing, painting, composing, playing musical instruments… that restructure and fine-tune your world view. 

Acts that don’t involve the fingers to record the acts are Not registered properly in the brain archives.

Children doodle and draw before they they learn to write.

They listen to stories, memorize stories and write characters before they learn to read.

The world vision of children is etched in graphics and colors before content in books are appreciated.

What we assimilated in artistic vision reflects the way we see nature. The more artistic our mind is developed the more structured and complex our vision of nature are.

Otherwise, nature and the environment are a bundle of colors and shapes left for the subconscious to navigate us through.

Art is never imitating nature: The artist is representing what he is looking at inside his world vision.

The mind first “see” before the eyes register what the mind has seen.

We see how our accumulated world view see the world, nature and reality  

And yet, we have no idea what is our world view. We might fathom what we “see” through observing and analyzing our actions and behaviors.

The content in articles, of political and scientific nature, is essential to get engaged with eyes wide open, assuming that the context has been clearly developed.

Without context, articles can be classified as “general”, regardless of how much you develop on the opinion and fake to provide details.

An opinion not backed by the context, even personal experience, is not worth publishing.

An opinion devoid of context smack of ignorance and the regurgitation of what the “common literature” is disseminated.

In all other topics, it is the form of the written style that grabs me most.

A single sentence can open up deeply hidden emotions that an entire volume will fail to do.

After all, everything has been said, if we can read in many languages (old and new) and read enough to last several life times.

I find myself furiously editing repost of articles so that the form matches my own style. I even edit “quotations” to suit my writing style. Why?

Eventually, I might have to re-read what I have posted, and I want to enjoy what I’m reading.

For example, I loath the journalistic style of splitting a quotation in order to insert “He said”, “sic”,”the author resumed”…

The sentence should flow smoothly to convey the emotion of the quoted person. Any insertion is a rational gimmick to preserve a semblance of objectivity, authenticity, neutrality…

I have no qualm in editing what the other have published, and the heck of what they say, and how their frustrated ego is mishandled… as long as the reader can access the original text and can do his due diligence

Very often I read “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure”… And I wonder: these expressions are excellent in verbal conversations, but they don’t fit in the written text.

Make sure you know before addressing your reader, otherwise, keep your opinions in your notebook until they germinate into a viable position

Send me a valid post within context in the preamble or in an after-note, and I’ll repost it: The audience of readers is varied and with multiple interests

To end corruption, start with the US and UK.

They allow the most flagrant corruption ways in broad daylight

The fight against corruption entails no small amount of absurdity, since so much of the corruption these days occurs in broad daylight. The corruption is so blatant, so indefensible, that attempts at justification are necessarily surreal.

Recently, 300 economists, including me, made the point thanks to Oxfam’s mobilization. Prime Minister David Cameron’s job at Thursday’s Anti-Corruption Summit is not to whisper about the corruption of Nigeria or Afghanistan but to end the deep and historic role of the United Kingdom in this sordid mess. Ditto for the US and other major parties to the abuse.

One of the pervasive elements of corruption is the use of shell companies, which are legal entities (called moral entity?) designed purely to protect real owners from disclosure, liability and accountability.

When the Panama Papers were leaked, the law firm at the center of the disclosure, Mossack Fonseca, had this astounding justification:

Finally, the instances you cite in your reporting represent a fraction – less than 1% – of the approximately 300,000 companies that Mossack Fonseca has incorporated in its over 40 years in operation.

This fact shows that the vast majority of our clients use companies we incorporate for legitimate uses and that our due diligence and compliance procedures are overwhelmingly successful in thwarting those who have other intentions.

The very idea that the law firm has done “due diligence” on 300,000 companies, even over 40 years, is beyond ludicrous.

Even over 40 years and 250 working days per year, incorporating 300,000 companies would entail an average of 30 companies per day. Of course there is no due diligence (as the corrupt cases plainly demonstrate). There is blatant abuse of incorporation.

The UK is at the center of this network of impunity, a legacy of the British Empire and a measure of the continuing role of the City of London in transferring tax-free funds around the world.

The British Virgin Islands, a UK oversees territory, has a population of 28,000 people and more than 1m registered companies, roughly 35 companies per resident population.

It is by far the most popular tax haven of the Panama Papers companies. Recent estimates hold that the British Virgin Islands host about 479,000 active companies.

The tentacles of corruption reach deep into the UK (and US) financial systems. Banks in the City of London and Wall Street have paid tens of billions of dollars of fines for insider trading, financial fraud, price rigging and other financial crimes in recent years.

Yet almost no leading bankers have taken a hit for their organization’s malfeasance. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the major financial firms are part of a global network of organized financial crime.

the tax havens and the bankers certainly have their defenders. That’s the real point. The impunity is so strong that even the most flagrant abuses such as 479,000 shell companies in the British Virgin Islands, lead to little if any action.

Consider the recent statements by Conservative MP Dominic Grieve, who claims that the British Virgin Islands are “entitled” to run their financial haven as they see fit.

Of course this is all the more shocking because Grieve is former attorney general of England and Wales and a member of the Privy Council.

The UK and the US are at center of the system of global abuse. Britain created the modern world of global finance in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and Wall Street became co-leader with the City of London after the second world war.

In both countries, hundreds of thousands of lawyers, bankers, hedge fund operators, politicians, accountants and regulators have consciously built a system of global tax havens of the rich, by the rich, and for the rich that now hosts more than $20tn (yes, trillion) of funds hiding from taxes, law authorities, environmental regulation and accountability (Mind you that the global value of products in a year is barely 5 trillion)

Good that the UK is hosting the Anti-Corruption Summit. But let’s be clear. As serious and tragic as is the corruption in Nigeria, Afghanistan and elsewhere, it has long been facilitated by the UK itself (including through Royal Dutch Shell, not just tax havens). We should distinguish the big and small operators. As the famous old English ditty puts its:

The law demands that we atone

When we take things we do not own

But leaves the lords and ladies fine

Who take things that are yours and mine.

Moral bias behind your search results

Unless you do your due diligence

Remember that behind every algorithm is always a person, a person with a set of personal beliefs that no code can ever completely eradicate

What are you searching for?

Am I looking for an isolated fact? The Capital of this nation…

Or are you searching for a complex issue such as “Why is there an Israeli-Palestine conflict?”

So whenever I visit a school and talk to students, I always ask them the same thing:

Why do you Google? Why is Google the search engine of choice for you? Strangely enough, I always get the same three answers.

One, “Because it works,” which is a great answer; that’s why I Google, too.

Two, somebody will say, “I really don’t know of any alternatives. It’s not an equally great answer and my reply to that is usually, “Try to Google the word ‘search engine,’ you may find a couple of interesting alternatives.” And

Third, inevitably, one student will raise her or his hand and say, With Google, I’m certain to always get the best, unbiased search result.” Certain to always get the best, unbiased search result.

Now, as a man of the humanities, albeit a digital humanities man, that just makes my skin curl, even if I, too, realize that that trust, that idea of the unbiased search result is a cornerstone in our collective love for and appreciation of Google. I will show you why that, philosophically, is almost an impossibility.

01:23 But let me first elaborate, just a little bit, on a basic principle behind each search query that we sometimes seem to forget.

So whenever you set out to Google something, start by asking yourself this: “Am I looking for an isolated fact?” What is the capital of France? What are the building blocks of a water molecule? Great — Google away. There’s not a group of scientists who are this close to proving that it’s actually London and H30. You don’t see a big conspiracy among those things. We agree, on a global scale, what the answers are to these isolated facts.

01:57 But if you complicate your question just a little bit and ask something like, Why is there an Israeli-Palestine conflict?”

You’re not exactly looking for a singular fact anymore, you’re looking for knowledge, which is something way more complicated and delicate. And to get to knowledge, you have to bring 10 or 20 or 100 facts to the table and acknowledge them and say, “Yes, these are all true.” But because of who I am, young or old, black or white, gay or straight, I will value them differently.

And I will say, “Yes, this is true, but this is more important to me than that.” And this is where it becomes interesting, because this is where we become human. This is when we start to argue, to form society. And to really get somewhere, we need to filter all our facts here, through friends and neighbors and parents and children and coworkers and newspapers and magazines, to finally be grounded in real knowledge, which is something that a search engine is a poor help to achieve.

02:54 So, I promised you an example just to show you why it’s so hard to get to the point of true, clean, objective knowledge — as food for thought. I will conduct a couple of simple queries, search queries.

We’ll start with “Michelle Obama,” the First Lady of the United States. And we’ll click for pictures. It works really well, as you can see. It’s a perfect search result, more or less. It’s just her in the picture, not even the President.

03:26 How does this work? Quite simple. Google uses a lot of smartness to achieve this, but quite simply, they look at two things more than anything. First, what does it say in the caption under the picture on each website? Does it say “Michelle Obama” under the picture? Pretty good indication it’s actually her on there. Second, Google looks at the picture file, the name of the file as such uploaded to the website. Again, is it called “MichelleObama.jpeg”? Pretty good indication it’s not Clint Eastwood in the picture. So, you’ve got those two and you get a search result like this — almost.

Now, in 2009, Michelle Obama was the victim of a racist campaign, where people set out to insult her through her search results. There was a picture distributed widely over the Internet where her face was distorted to look like a monkey. And that picture was published all over. And people published it very, very purposefully, to get it up there in the search results.

They made sure to write “Michelle Obama” in the caption and they made sure to upload the picture as “MichelleObama.jpeg,” or the like. You get why — to manipulate the search result. And it worked, too. So when you picture-Googled for “Michelle Obama” in 2009, that distorted monkey picture showed up among the first results.

Now, the results are self-cleansing, and that’s sort of the beauty of it, because Google measures relevance every hour, every day.

However, Google didn’t settle for that this time, they just thought, “That’s racist and it’s a bad search result and we’re going to go back and clean that up manually. We are going to write some code and fix it,” which they did. And I don’t think anyone in this room thinks that was a bad idea. Me neither.

But then, a couple of years go by, and the world’s most-Googled Anders, Anders Behring Breivik, did what he did. This is July 22 in 2011, and a terrible day in Norwegian history. This man, a terrorist, blew up a couple of government buildings walking distance from where we are right now in Oslo, Norway and then he traveled to the island of Utøya and shot and killed a group of kids. Almost 80 people died that day.

And a lot of people would describe this act of terror as two steps, that he did two things: he blew up the buildings and he shot those kids. It’s not true. It was three steps. He blew up those buildings, he shot those kids, and he sat down and waited for the world to Google him. And he prepared all three steps equally well.

If there was somebody who immediately understood this, it was a Swedish web developer, a search engine optimization expert in Stockholm, named Nikke Lindqvist. He’s also a very political guy and he was right out there in social media, on his blog and Facebook. And he told everybody, “If there’s something that this guy wants right now, it’s to control the image of himself. Let’s see if we can distort that. Let’s see if we, in the civilized world, can protest against what he did through insulting him in his search results.”

And how? He told all of his readers the following, “Go out there on the Internet, find pictures of dog poop on sidewalks — find pictures of dog poop on sidewalks — publish them in your feeds, on your websites, on your blogs. Make sure to write the terrorist’s name in the caption, make sure to name the picture file “Breivik.jpeg.”

Let’s teach Google that that’s the face of the terrorist.” And it worked. Two years after that campaign against Michelle Obama, this manipulation campaign against Anders Behring Breivik worked. If you picture-Googled for him weeks after the July 22 events from Sweden, you’d see that picture of dog poop high up in the search results, as a little protest.

 Strangely enough, Google didn’t intervene this time. They did not step in and manually clean those search results up. So the million-dollar question, is there anything different between these two happenings here? Is there anything different between what happened to Michelle Obama and what happened to Anders Behring Breivik? Of course not. It’s the exact same thing, yet Google intervened in one case and not in the other.

Why? Because Michelle Obama is an honorable person, that’s why, and Anders Behring Breivik is a despicable person. See what happens there? An evaluation of a person takes place and there’s only one power-player in the world with the authority to say who’s who. “We like you, we dislike you. We believe in you, we don’t believe in you. You’re right, you’re wrong. You’re true, you’re false. You’re Obama, and you’re Breivik.” That’s power if I ever saw it.

 I’m asking you to remember that behind every algorithm is always a person, a person with a set of personal beliefs that no code can ever completely eradicate.

And my message goes out not only to Google, but to all believers in the faith of code around the world.

You need to identify your own personal bias. You need to understand that you are human and take responsibility accordingly.

And I say this because I believe we’ve reached a point in time when it’s absolutely imperative that we tie those bonds together again, tighter: the humanities and the technology. Tighter than ever.

And, if nothing else, to remind us that that wonderfully seductive idea of the unbiased, clean search result is, and is likely to remain, a myth.

Patsy Z and TEDxSKE shared a link.
Search engines have become our most trusted sources of information and arbiters of truth. But can we ever get an unbiased search result?
ted.com|By Andreas Ekström
Note: Writing a short story can be done by accumulating and linking dozens of simple isolated facts. That what the lazy-ass reporters do: They refuse to do their due diligence of discovering the other side story and opinions.
Writing an essay requires a vast general knowledge that only experience and consistent learning on a subject matter can provide. It is kind of weaving together dozens of comprehensive short stories

 

Get in touch with your MPs

One of the best ways to hold government accountable is to get in touch with your representatives and let them know how you feel.

Let them know what concerns you. Most of all, let them know you are listening and watching what they are doing.

In many “democratic” and developed countries, representatives coordinates and emails are officially available to contact.

In Lebanon, you have to do your due diligence in order to investigate “how to contact your representative“.

Even if you manage to link up with your representative, it is hardly likely that you will get any response.

Actually, your deputies don’t give a hoot about your opinion or your inkling to vote for him: They automatically vote to extend their tenure in the Parliament “two more years“. In due time, it is the leaders of the “political” parties and warlords who round up the chattel to vote for the representative.

Four years is not enough to amass millions and to trample your rights and dignity.

 posted this May 30, 2014:

Screen Shot of Nouweb site
 
 
 
 
Now thanks to a great new tool developed by local groups SMEX and Lamba Labs, you can actually contact your members of Parliament.
As I reported last year most MPs don’t even have email–which goes a long way toward explaining why our internet is among the world’s slowest.
But fortunately most, if not all of them, still have phone numbers, office numbers and secretaries and they are now available on Nouweb (deputies).
This is a really great tool, which could help spark something we desperately lack in Lebanon and much of the world: representative government. Remember, no matter where you live in the world, government will rarely work for you unless you let them know you are listening.
As my mom always says, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
So if you see something wrong, if the police are not enforcing laws–if people are dumping garbage in the valley, if you want 24 hour electricity, if you want traffic laws, if you are sick of being almost run over by reckless drivers, call your MP. Be civil. Be polite. Be clear and concise.
If they don’t answer, call again, leave a message. Make your voice heard, because no one is going to make it heard for you. No one is going to give you rights unless you demand them. And everyone has a right to speak to their MPs.
Don’t forget, we are paying their salaries!
Finally if the good folks that developed Nouweb can make this list possible, then it is also definitely possible that you can do something with it!

For non-Arabic speakers the site’s name is a clever play on words combining Nuweb– the Arabic term for parliamentarians–and web)  


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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