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Nederlog

February 4, 2015
Crisis: Society & Guardian, Secret Trade Deals, Anti-War, Stasi < NSA, "Terrorism"
  "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton
















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Sections
Introduction

1. Some deny society exists. Let’s prove them wrong
2. ‘Secret’ Trade Pact Stirs Up Suspicion
3.
Why There Is No Massive Anti-War Movement in
     America

4.
Examining the Stasi, Seeing the NSA
5. 
There Are Far Fewer Terror Attacks Now Than In the
     1970s
 


Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, February 4, 2015.

This is a crisis log. There are 5 items with 6 dotted links: Item 1 starts about an article of Monbiot in The Guardian that I found awful, and continues with an article by Chris Elliott on the major - horrible - changes in The Guardian's website (which you can skip if this is not interesting to you); item 2 is about an article on one of the secret trade deals that Obama wants to push through; item 3 is an article by Tom Engelhardt on why there is these days no massive anti-war movement in the U.S.; item 4 is about how very much the NSA resembles the Stasi - except that the NSA is vastly more powerful and richer; and item 5 is about the fact that there really are few terrorist attacks in the U.S. these days (and far fewer than in the 1970ies).

Also, this file got uploaded a bit later than usual. (It is also 52 Kb.)

1. Some deny society exists. Let’s prove them wrong

The first item today is an article by George Monbiot on The (Renewed And Destroyed: Verschlimmbesserte [2]) Guardian (in the font it prescribes:)
This article starts - and you do get this this in the awful extremely ugly font The (Renewed And Destroyed: Verschlimmbesserte [2]) Guardian imposes as if that is a service to the readers - with the following summary:
There’s more to life than consumerism. But to find it we need new models of supporting each other
O Lord! Please save me from the dumbos who think I am like them ("we"), and who impose their stupidities ("consumerism") on me as if I ever believed that, and who pretend everybody else is stupid and requires their lessons ("we need new models of supporting each other"?!?!).

I exaggerate? Here is "a thought" of George Monbiot:

Individuation, a necessary response to oppressive conformity, is exploitable. New social hierarchies built around positional goods and conspicuous consumption took the place of the old. The conflict between individualism and egalitarianism, too readily ignored by those who helped to break the oppressive norms and strictures, does not resolve itself.

So we are lost in the 21st century, living in a state of social disaggregation that hardly anyone desired but which is an emergent property of a world reliant on rising consumption to avert economic collapse, saturated with advertising and framed by market fundamentalism. We inhabit a planet our ancestors would have found impossible to imagine: 7 billion people, suffering an epidemic of loneliness. It is a world of our making but not of our choice.

I am sorry, but that - "Individuation", "conformity", "exploitable", "hierarchies", "positional goods", "conspicuous consumption", "individualism", "egalitarianism", "oppressive norms and strictures", "we are lost", "social disaggregation", "an emergent property" .... - among other things, in a mere two paragraphs, is just verbal diarrhea, baloney and crap.

Here is a contrast. Why not rather say (in my words, in Verdana font):
There are 7 billion people; half of them have an IQ below 100; in the West they have been tricked by advertisements and propaganda; and they - together with the clever greedy egoists who manipulate them - have the majority in the votes.
That also is a simplification, but it has the merits of being mostly without bullshit terms; being written in tolerably understandable English; drawing attention to two major human problems (stupidity and ignorance); and naming the mechanisms that misled the majority: advertisements and propaganda a.k.a."public relations”.

But no: we need to have intelligent attitudes about
"Individuation", "conformity", "exploitable", "hierarchies", "positional goods", "conspicuous consumption", "individualism", "egalitarianism", "oppressive norms and strictures", "we are lost", "social disaggregation", "an emergent property" before we even state the problem.

I am out. [1] So.... let's turn to another bit of
The (Renewed And Destroyed: Verschlimmbesserte [2]) Guardian: I found - at long last - an article by Chris Elliott (and if you are not interested in The Guardian, you can skip this and jump to item 2):
Chris Elliott seems to be about my age or a bit younger (though he looks a lot older) and he starts as follows:
The final stage of the rollout of the Guardian’s new website took place last Wednesday. For the team of 45 that has been working on rebuilding both front and back ends of the site for the last 18 months, it is the end of an epic journey, the result of which has received many good reviews among those commenting in publications around the world.
Wow! 45 persons have worked 1 1/2 years to produce this awful shit - and I am sorry, but that is an adequate description: I merely have a website since 1996 and use personal computers daily since 1987, but I have never seen a site before that got "improved" from a 9 1/2 on a score of 1 to 10 to a 1.

Also, while I am willing to grant that it must have been "
an epic journey" for these 45 (?!) I suspect also rather highly paid workers, I also note that I do not get one single bit of evidence for the in my eyes quite incredible statement that this complete destruction of a - formerly - excellent site
has received many good reviews among those commenting in publications around the world.
Then again, this gets continued as follows:
However, that is above the line; below it is a very different picture, with a majority of the commenters strongly criticising the changes, especially those affecting how readers navigate around the site. One of the almost 4,400 comments on the blogpost by Wolfgang Blau about the launch of the site summed up the general feeling: “Why have you made changes that everybody hates?”
Who draws "the line"? And isn't a change that is hated by nearly everyone at whom it was directed clearly wrong? And who is Wolfgang Blau? I've never heard of him. But yes:
“Why have you made changes that everybody hates?”
For the site as was (and I see at least 50 different sites a day) was very good indeed, and a joy to use - but that is a criticism that Elliott does not answer.

Instead, he has this:
Many remain unconvinced, although how many is not clear. Nearly 4,400 comments – left by more than 1,400 site users, including one commenter who posted around 200 of them – should not be dismissed lightly. However, the site has between six and seven million unique browsers site every day, and thus far there has been no dip, as is often seen after a website is redesigned.
First, this is not a matter of being "convinced": Twenty-eight years of daily computing, and over eighteen years of having my own site scream at me that this is by far the worst improdestruction [2] I've ever seen.

What Elliott does do is making the commenters look ridiculous by having the space to mention "
one commenter who posted around 200" comments (not by me: I do not comment, except on my own site), and of course he says there are "between six and seven million unique browsers" on The Guardian's site, each day, all without saying how long they use computers, whether they have their own site, have academic degrees, are at least tolerably intelligent etc. etc.

As to the dip: My visits dipped, for I think The Guardian's site currently looks as if it is 1992, almost without any pictures and in the most ugly font; I cannot find anything because everything changed and nearly all pictures - "one picture says more than a thousand words" - have disappeared, which forces me to read everything; I find the font shockingly ugly; I find it a morally degenerate choice to force that awful font upon the user (but see below); and I suppose there is no dip right now because most users who have seen the site before Wolfgang Blau and his 44 collaborators utterly destroyed it can't believe their eyes, and need five or ten clicks to find anything.

O, and "
seven million unique browsers site every day" is Elliott's mistake, not mine. (I suppose "site" should have been deleted.)

Then there is this:

Broadly, there are two kinds of complaints: those that deal with specific aspects of the redesign such as navigation, particularly the hierarchy of stories, and the colour coding of stories; and then there are those who just hate the redesign as a whole – and these are the most vociferous in the comment threads.
I suppose that "broadly" this is the most specific information users will get. As to the "navigation": It is horrible, it is ugly, it is stupid, and it doesn't work. As to the
"hierarchy": I missed it, and I don't see much use for it anyway. (What sort of
"hierarchy"? Based on what criterions? For which ends? This user does not get any information.) As to the "colour coding": It is ugly, it is utterly useless, it is manipulative - and did anyone ever ask for "colour coding"?!?! (C'mon!)

Next, there is this:
To deal with the first kind, the team analyse the feedback looking for clusters and have made many changes – and they will continue to do so. For the second, it is more difficult because it is very personal to the commenter – and much harder to address as only abandonment of the redesign will suffice.
What you call "the team" is here said to have a capacity to look for "clusters" - while Chris Elliott can't even say how many negative remarks he received.

As to "
the second": No, Elliott, not at all, and you are trying to take me and your readers in. First, all esthetic judgements are "very personal", and this applies equally to those who agree (?!?!) or who partially agree with "the team" as well. Second, you pretend that those who reject te design have no specific criticisms, which seems to me an intentional falsehood: You simply offer the choice "those who (mostly) agree are Good; those who (mostly) disagree are Bad (and send 200 mails)". Besides, why is it hard to address those who reject the design? What you are saying, without saying it clearly, seems to be: We will persist in our mistakes even if it costs us our lives.

Next, there is this:

Some readers have expressed fears that the redesign is a precursor to “dumbing down” – or, as some put it, “further dumbing down”. Blau says: “I understand that some readers would think that such a comprehensive design change also means an editorial change, yet it doesn’t. We will continue to challenge you with our journalism. But we no longer wanted to challenge you with the old site’s rather confusing navigation.”
Sorry Blau: If you destroy most things that made the site a joy to use, and replace it by a 1992 look with a 1935 font you have made a major editorial change. That is also why I am not interested in your comments. Where is Alan Rusbridger? Besides... I choose not to believe someone like you: I believe this change was a major dumbing down, i.a. by leaving out all information to related stuff next to articles, and I also believe that the photographs of writers are so large because you plan asking payments of your readers for the joys of reading their articles.

And no: your site is so horribly off-putting that I will not be much "
challenge"d by what you claim (although I never heard of you) to be "our journalism": I fully intend to avoid The Guardian as much as I can (and certainly will not pay), simply because it does not look like a paper anymore, with many journalists and with many interrelations and many links, but like some sort of random collection of "narratives" without interconnection or shared vision; because it takes me a long time to find anything in your 1992 text-menus; and because I also do not know what you all have destroyed (and don't want to find out either, anymore).

Then finally there is this:
I am still getting used to the redesign and miss some aspects of the old R2 design in terms of navigation, but overall R2 feels like a design of its time, which was the mid-noughties. I enjoy the vibrancy and clarity of the colour-coding on the new site and can’t agree with those who complain about the fonts – a big issue for many – because it is the Guardian Egyptian typeface used in our print editions, which has always struck me as handsome.
O Jesus! Now we are at the Zeitgeist. Well, once again: I have been using a computer daily since 1987; I have a large website since 1996; I have truly excellent academic degrees and an extremely high IQ; I have really liked the website for 1 1/2 years that your Herr Blau now has nearly totally destroyed  (in which time I also saw very many other sites and daily wrote on mine, and as I said I really enjoyed yours) - and I think The Guardian improdestroyed [2] its website back to a 1992 site written in a 1935 font, where everything is reduced to 1980ies like textmenus, nearly completely without pictures.

Finally, about that font: There are three points Chris Elliott does not understand at all, it seems.

First, printed paper is not the same as a backlit screen. I know this may be difficult for some to get, but it is really so. Second, a strongly serif'ed font is nice on paper but ugly on screen.
I know this may be difficult for some to get, but it is really so - and this is also why I use Verdana much rather than Times, even though on paper Times often looks better. And third, what you do not seem to get at all, possibly because you know very little about computing:

Why did Herr Blau force me to look at his stupendously ugly font? I have at least a 100 ready fonts available on my computer; I can program in six languages; I know html - but no: For the first time in something like 15 years I cannot change the stinking font except by doing this in Firefox (and no one on The Guardian told me this):
Edit -> Preferences -> Content -> Advanced -> do not allow pages to select their own font
I suppose this helps quite a few readers who also object against the font, but they should note that this change also effects all other websites they move to - but either you do the above or else you are wedded to the incredibly ugly font Herr Blau insists on imposing on each of the seven million daily visitors. [4]

2. ‘Secret’ Trade Pact Stirs Up Suspicion

The next item is an article by Thor Benson on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:

The new Republican majority in Congress is oiling its trickle-down economics machine in the hope of passing the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an action that would have far-reaching impact.

The TPP is a massive and secretive trade agreement that would bring together the United States, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Japan, Vietnam, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico and Brunei. The U.S. has strongly supported its passage since talks began in 2010. If the pact is adopted, all countries involved will have to adhere to its rules, meaning some of their existing laws could be nullified and replaced by the dictates of the agreement. Copyright and environmental laws would be among the most affected statutes, according to the TPP’s most vocal critics. All the potential effects of the deal are not publicly known this point.

Based on leaked drafts—the text of the TPP has not been disclosed by those involved in its creation—the agreement contains what have been called “draconian” copyright laws. Like SOPA and PIPA, the TPP legislation would allow websites to be shut down in any of the participating countries if there was any copyrighted material wrongfully posted on one of their pages. “It could remove whole websites from the Internet with next to no due process or judicial involvement,” David Christopher, communications manager at the Internet freedom organization OpenMedia, told Truthdig. He calls it a “wish list for the big Hollywood conglomerates” and others that want their products protected from piracy.

The main problem with this fascistic [3] "law" is that it is propelled by fascistic means: In total secrecy for almost anyone except the morally degenerate  corporate lawyers who drafted it:
The secrecy surrounding the agreement extends to Congress. “It’s next to impossible for even a congressman to try and read the text,” Christopher said. “They have to go to a secure room in the U.S. trade representative’s office; they’re not allowed to bring any legal experts from their staff … they’re not allowed to take notes.” He said members of Congress who see the text are forbidden by U.S. trade authorities to discuss it.
I said "fascistic" and I mean fascistic [3]:

A "law" that effects hundreds of millions of people that these people do not have any right to see; that their chosen representatives are only allowed to see if they do not "
bring any legal experts" while also they - the chosen representatives of the people! - are not even  "allowed to take notes", and who also are "forbidden by U.S. trade authorities to discuss it" must be a fascistic "law", which therefore is protected by these fascistic means that also aims at pushing this piece of corporate financial fascism through Congress while giving them no time to consider it, read it, discuss it with their lawyers, or even to take notes on it.

3. Why There Is No Massive Anti-War Movement in America

The next item is an article by Tom Engelhardt on Truthdig (originally on Tomdispatch):
This has the merit of starting with Bill Boardman's version of a Country Joe McDonald's song:
Well, it’s one, two, three, look at that amputee,
At least it’s below the knee,
Could have been worse, you see.
Well, it’s true your kids look at you differently,
But you came in an ambulance instead of a hearse,
That’s the phrase of the trade,
It could have been worse.
This is followed by a fair amount of I.F. Stone, whom I like, but which you can find out more about by clicking the last dotted link. On page 2 (of 3) there is this question, that mirrors the title:
Thirteen years after our set of disastrous wars started, where is the massive antiwar movement, including an army in near revolt and a Congress with significant critics in significant positions? 
That is a very fair question, and it gets answered by Tom Engelhardt as follows - and I give three quotes (from much more).

First, there is this:

In the years following the Vietnam War, the American people were effectively demobilized, shorn of that sense of service to country, while war was privatized and the citizen soldier replaced by an “all-volunteer” force and a host of paid contractors working for warrior corporations
That is: the draft was abolished; the army - in a nation of currently more than 300 million persons - was privatized; and the members of the upper class and middle class would not be drafted anymore, while the soldiers that fought since 1971 were “all-volunteer”, and - of course - nearly all lower class, with little education.

Next, there is this:

Today, the official role of a national security state, bigger and more powerful than in the Vietnam era, is to make Americans “safe” from terror.  In a world of war-making that has disappeared into the shadows and a Washington in which just about all information is now classified and shrouded in secrecy, the only way to be “safe” and “secure” as a citizen is, by definition, to be ignorant, to know as little as possible about what “our” government is doing in our name.  This helps explain why, in the Obama years, the only crime in official Washington is leaking or whistleblowing; that is, letting the public in on something that we, the people, aren’t supposed to know about the workings of “our” government.
Yes, but the "terror" is mostly made by the mass media, and serves as a dark cloud to prevent the people from seeing that there are "terrorists" on the one hand, and state terrrorists on the other hand, who exploit a few acts of terrorism to impose their own state terrorism, to impose surveillance of everyone and of all one's opinions and all one's behavior, and - indeed - to classify almost everything, including the law (secret courts, with secret decisions) and the imposition of new laws, like the horrible TTP and TTIP, which are pushed through in secret (see item 2).

Here are Tom Engelhardt's last lines:

What’s missing is any sense of connection to the government, any sense that it’s “ours” or that we the people matter.  In its place—and you can thank successive administrations for this—is the deepest sort of pessimism and cynicism about a national security state and war-making machine beyond our control.  And why protest what you can’t change?
It sounds a bit defeatist, but I can understand why. Also, while I like the article, I liked retired Lieutenant Colonel's Astore's War Is the New Normal better - but that too was first published on Tomdispatch.

4. Examining the Stasi, Seeing the NSA

The next item is an article by Elizabeth Murray on Consortiumnews:
This is in fact an article about awarding the Sam Adams Award for Integrity in Intelligence to William Binney (<- Wikipedia). It is a good article.

I will quote two bits of it, because these express very well what is happening.

First, here is William Binney:

In accepting the award, Binney said he resigned from the NSA in 2001 after realizing that the agency was “purposefully violating the Constitution” with its “bulk acquisition of data against U.S. citizens … first against U.S. citizens by the way — not foreigners.”

Binney had worked the Soviet target for nearly 30 years at NSA, “so it was easy for me to recognize the danger” to democracy and individual freedom posed by bulk data collection — “that’s what the Stasi did, the KGB did it – every totalitarian state down through history did that” (albeit with a lot less technological power than was available to the NSA).

Second, here is Thomas Drake:

And, in earlier comments during the Sam Adams Award ceremony, former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake — who won the Sam Adams Award in 2011 jointly with former Justice Department attorney Jesselyn Radack — reflected: “Here we are, on what used to be the front lines of the Cold War, facing the greatest threat in terms of what we’ve created electronically – which is the real prospect of turnkey tyranny of a digital kind.”

Drake said he “never imagined that the model of the Stasi — which was to know everything — would turn into the collect-it-all digital dragnet.”

For more, including opinions of Annie Machon, Todd Pierce, and Coleen Rowley, click the above last dotted link. 

5. There Are Far Fewer Terror Attacks Now Than In the 1970s

The next and last item for today is an article by Washington's Blog on his site:
This - once again - gives the evidence that "terrorism" is basically bullshit and propaganda: Yes, some may be killed by some fanatics, but the evidence shows that very few Americans are killed by terrorists (and this graph is from the Washington Post, that has an interesting article with quite a few more graphs, that I recommend you check out, simply because it is good):

The text under the above graph on Wasgington's Blog is as follows:

Indeed, you’re now much more likely to be killed by brain-eating parasites, texting while driving, toddlers, lightning, falling out of bed, alcoholism, food poisoning, a financial crash, obesity, medical errors or “autoerotic asphyxiation” than by terrorists.

Obviously, a huge number of innocent Americans – 3,000 – were killed on 9/11 … a single terror attack.

However,  9/11 – like the Boston Bombing (and the Paris terror attack) – happened because mass surveillance replaced traditional anti-terror measures.   Similarly, Cheney and company were criminally negligent.

And the “War on Terror” has been counter-productive, and only increased the terrorism problem.

If we had stuck with tried-and-true anti-terror techniques, high-fatality events like 9/11 would never have happened.

I don't know about the last line, but as I said: There is, in fact, very little danger that an American will be killed by a terrorist, and if you doubt that, you can read
this in detail and with many graphics in the Washington Post.

---------------------------------------------------------------------
P.S. Feb 5, 2015: I corrected a few typos.

Notes

[1] Actually, I do have ideas (and am 64 with excellent degrees in psychology and philosophy) but this amount of utter verbiage is far too much.

[2] "Verschlimmbesserung" is a very nice German word that is a contraction of "making worse" and "making better", that I use to descruibe Herr Wolfgang Blau's (who seems to be German) efforts on "improving" the Guardian's website, that constitute - by far, also - the best example of how you can destroy an excellent site by handing it to a couple (or 45) of incompetents. I translate it is as "improdestruction".

[3] And I do know a lot more about fascism than most.

[4] I do not know how this is for non-Mozilla browsers. Also, until today I have for years allowed sites to set their own fonts.

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