Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Crisis: Fossil Fuels, NSA Spies, Trump*2, The Rich And The Poor - On my eyes

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from July 11, 2017 

    B. On my eyes

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, July 11, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 11, 2017

The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Even as All G20 Countries Except U.S. Affirm Paris Deal, Nations Pour $72B a Year into Fossil Fuels

This is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

On Saturday, world leaders broke with the United States on climate change and reaffirmed their commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which they called "irreversible." The final joint statement from the G20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, took the unusual step of acknowledging the U.S. rejection of the Paris deal while reiterating the rest of the world’s support for the landmark climate agreement. Meanwhile, a group of environmental organizations have released a new report claiming G20 governments provide an average of $72 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels—nearly four times as much as they provide for clean energy. The report is titled "Talk is Cheap: How G20 Governments Are Financing Climate Disaster." We speak to the report’s lead author, Alex Doukas, senior campaigner at Oil Change International.

Note the part that says: "G20 governments provide an average of $72 billion per year in public finance for fossil fuels—nearly four times as much as they provide for clean energy". That is, they all do, and on average each supports the oil industry four times as much as for clean energy.

In brief, "the public" gets frauded by "the politicians" (as I first saw in 1969, after reading quite a lot in the official parliamentary recods, of Holland). There is more under the last bold link.

2. In a Lawsuit Affidavit, NSA Whistleblower William Binney Confirms U.S. Government Spies on Citizens

This starts with a nice and fully correct image:

This is by Eric Ortiz on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Elliott J. Schuchardt is suing Donald Trump for violating Schuchardt’s rights under the Fourth Amendment. The Tennessee lawyer has filed a civil lawsuit in Pennsylvania against the president of the United States, the director of the Office of National Intelligence, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the director of the National Security Agency who is also chief of the Central Security Service. Schuchardt contends that the defendants are “unlawfully intercepting, accessing, monitoring and/or [his] private communications.”

The lawsuit represents a longstanding legal battle Schuchardt has waged against top U.S. intelligence officials that started when Barack Obama was president. William Binney, a former U.S. intelligence official and NSA whistleblower, is supporting Schuchardt’s most recent legal case.

The plaintiff claims that his Fourth Amendment rights have been violated by government surveillance programs. According to Ars Technica, “Schuchardt argued in his June 2014 complaint that both metadata and content of his Gmail, Facebook, and Dropbox accounts were compromised under the PRISM program as revealed in the documents leaked by former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden.”

That case was dismissed for “lack of standing,” but Schuchardt has continued to file amended complaints related to U.S. intelligence activities.

Incindentally, the "case was dismissed" not because of real "lack of standing", but because the judges followed the government, and the government insists it has the right to spy on anyone and keep this spying a state's secret.

Or that is what it comes down to, in the end (which means the USA is not a democracy anymore).

This is a very interesting article, that I strongly recommend.

3. Is Trump Simply the Worst Human Being We Can Imagine? 14 Experts Weigh In

This is by Don Hazen on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

No doubt, there are historians who are already willing to call Donald Trump the worst president in history. It is hard to imagine how, in such a short time, an elected president could reveal how truly bad he is; how ignorant, insensitive, mendacious, dysfunctional, self-centered, and at times borderline psychotic. But all this may add up to more than just "worst president." Trump may be the worst human being alive—the most hated person in America and throughout the world today.

How do you decide whether someone is the worst person alive? You probably include in your criteria stupid behavior, lies and cheating, lack of grace and charm, cruelty, obsession with revenge, and constantly putting other people down—the weaker the better. But it's also important to check in on public opinion, or rather media opinion, to contextualize Trump's horrific standing.

And in fact this is what Hazen does: You get 14 opinions from well-known journalists, quite a few of whom have been quoted in Nederlog. But this is quite interesting, although I guess a similar list might be made with people praising Trump - except that they will mostly be from the Republican Party or be paid by people behind the Republican Party.

4.  Trump Is Trying to Destroy Society as We Know It in America

This is by Vijay Prashad on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Disabled Americans came in wheelchairs into the United States Senate to register their protest against the harsh Republican plan to slash health care. ADAPT, a disability rights group, staged a die-in right before the office of the leading Republican in the Senate, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. About 60 protesters tried to block the entrance to McConnell’s office. Their goal was to show the rest of America what would come out of the American Health Care Act. which the Republicans sought to push through as an alternative to Obamacare. The police arrested 43 protesters and wheeled out others from McConnell’s hallway. The McConnell plan would slash Medicaid, a government plan that provides health-care coverage for poor Americans and those with disabilities. One of the elements of the plan envisages cutting funds for in-home assistance that allows disabled Americans to remain in their own homes rather than move to nursing homes. Fourteen million Americans will lose any access to health insurance.

And here is another bit of it:

Let us return to Trump’s budget. He proposes to cut $2.5 trillion in programmes for the working class and the indigent. Food stamps, the essential means for the poorest Americans to access food, would go. It is important to underline that one in six Americans struggles with hunger—49 million Americans have a hard time putting food on their tables. One in five children is at risk of hunger, with the ratio higher—one in three—for African-American and Latino families. There will be no easy way for Americans who struggle with food insecurity to feed themselves. They will be left to starve, like “subordinate members of the species”.

So that's something like 49 million American people (more than 8 times as much as the number of Jews that were murdered in WW II) that seriously risk being starved by Trump. 

5. How Rich Would Bill Gates Be Without His Copyright on Windows?

This is by Dean Baker on Truthout and it starts as follows:

Suppose we lived in a world where Bill Gates could not get copyright or patent protection for Windows and other Microsoft products. Anyone who wanted could duplicate these products without charge, sending Bill Gates a thank you note, if they were so inspired.

In that world, Bill Gates would certainly not be the world's richest human with a fortune of more than $70 billion. Even without copyright protection Mr. Gates would probably still be doing fine -- he seems reasonably bright, works hard and comes from a wealthy family -- but he would not have amassed his huge fortune if he could not get government granted monopolies on his software.

This simple and obvious point matters because it is popular in many circles to claim that income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization. In fact, there is nothing inevitable about patent and copyright protection; these monopolies exist as a result of government policy. The fact that Bill Gates and many others have gotten hugely rich as a result of these protections is a result of government policy, not an inevitable outcome of technological progress.

The "many circles" that argue "income inequality is just an inevitable, even if unfortunate, result of technology and globalization" either are lying or they are blind.

What they are lying or being blind about is that in the end all human societies are based on ethical designs and ethical choices, that once made (and in power) design the societies' institutions and laws.

These choices in fact go back 2000 or more years ago, when it was decided that

(1) Money = Power.
(2) Both money and power are private, and depend on those who have them.
(3) One person a has power over another person b in respect of p if and only if
     b tries to cause p if and only if a desires that b tries to cause p
(4) One person a owns a good g
if and only if there is a person b (or: an institution,
     laws, courts etc.) that desires that a owns good g.

The first two are - in the end - ethical choices; the last two are clear definitions of what power and ownership are. In the end, the fact that Bill Gates got to be the richest man in the world is due to his living in a society where money equals power, and were money and power are nearly completely private: where one can do as one pleases if and only if one has a lot of money or a lot of power.

This was analysed in some more detail by my On Pessimism and On Pessimism - 2 that are both strongly recommended.

B. On my eyes

I have written the last few days about my changing from Ubuntu 12.04 to Ubuntu 14.04, that was forced by the fact that 12.04 is an OS that was terminated after 5 years (as planned), and by the fact that 12.04 had a service that - alas, alas, alas - is lacking on Ubuntu 14.04: The ability to switch the system colors black and white.

It was the presence of this service that allowed me to compute and write the last five years, because five years ago my eyes collapsed, which made it impossible and quite painful to look at white screens.

This turned out to be still impossible when I changed to 14.04 by the end of 2015, which meant that I was forced back to using 12.04.

What is the present situation with my eyes?

I have been dripping my eyes for more than five years now, and this helped rather a lot, though all quite slowly. My eyes were better now than they were in 2015, when it was simply impossible to use 14.04.

It seems at present as if using 14.04 is just possible, if I take care. More later.

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