March 25, 2018

Crisis: Facebook & Google, Torturers, John Bolton, Journalism + ¨Elites¨, Karl Marx


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 25, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 25, 2018.

1. Summary

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

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from March 25, 2018
1. How Calls for Privacy May Upend Business for Facebook and Google    
2. We Should Not Reward the Authors of Torture
3. In the Terrifying John Bolton, Trump Finds His National-Security Soul

4. Journalism of, by and for the Elite
5. Read Karl Marx! A Conversation With Immanuel Wallerstein
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. How Calls for Privacy May Upend Business for Facebook and Google

This article is by David Streitfeld, Natasha Singer and Steven Erlanger on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
The contemporary internet was built on a bargain: Show us who you really are and the digital world will be free to search or share.

People detailed their interests and obsessions on Facebook and Google, generating a river of data that could be collected and harnessed for advertising. The companies became very rich. Users seemed happy. Privacy was deemed obsolete, like bloodletting and milkmen.

I am sorry, but I was there, for I have a personal computer since 1987 and indeed used a personal computer - an Apple II, from a friend - now and then from 1979 till 1986.

And what you are telling the world is an utter, sick, and extremely degenerate totally conscious lie.

Here is my explanation:

First of all, the contemporary internet was not at all built on a bargain. What there were, from the early 90ies onwards (which I did follow on internet computers in the ¨university¨ of Amsterdam) was extreme millionfold repeated enthusiasm about democracy, about freedom, about free books, about personal and intellectual development of everyone etc. etc.

I heard or read absolutely nothing about your duty (and the duties of billions of others) to
Show us who you really are and the digital world will be free to search or share.

It is an utter and total lie. (I agree the reception of the internet was sickeningly positive and almost completely ignorant. But somebody who tells me anybody ever told me or anyone else in the Nineties that we had to show the - aspiring - neofascist billionaires ¨who [we] really are¨ so that thereby ¨the digital world will be free to search or share¨ is a sick and sickening total liar.)

Next the second paragraph also is composed of utterly conscious total lies:

¨People¨ did NOT ¨detail their interests and obsessions on Facebook and Google¨ for Facebook started some 10 or more years after the internet started, and Google did not offer many opportunities to ¨detail their interests and obsessions¨, though it is true most people did their searches from the beginning on Google.

Then absolutely no one in Facebook or Google ever told anyone in the beginning that their searches and their stolen emails ¨could be collected and harnessed for advertising¨, or if these possibilities were touched on Facebook it was mostly in the manner of: ¨If you become a member of Facebook, then Facebook will send you advertisements that may help yoy save you money.¨

Also, while it is probably true that most users of the internet between 1995 and 2005 were ¨happy¨ about the internet almost no one had ever told them about the extreme dangers of - secret - downloading of everything and anything anybody did with an internet computer, it is utterly false that ¨Privacy was deemed obsolete¨.

It may be true that privacy was not often discussed until Edward Snowden showed in 2013 how utterly corrupted the privacy of billions of computer users was, but is is again a total lie that ¨Privacy was deemed obsolete¨.

Then there is this, also lies or utter ignorance:

The recent revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a voter profiling company that had worked with Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, harvested data from 50 million Facebook users, raised the current uproar, even if the origins lie as far back as the 2016 election. It has been many months of allegations and arguments that the internet in general and social media in particular are pulling society down instead of lifting it up.

For it is a total lie or else a token of utter ignorance that ¨the origins lie as far back as the 2016 election¨: The origins lie in 1992, when the DARPA opened an internet that since 1967 had been intended to spy, spy, spy and spy on all users of the internet, and which had been designed to enable precisely that: Spying, without any limit, on absolutely everybody.

Here are more lies:

That has inspired a good deal of debate about more restrictive futures for Facebook and Google. At the furthest extreme, some dream of the companies becoming public utilities. More benign business models that depend less on ads and more on subscriptions have been proposed, although it’s unclear why either company would abandon something that has made them so prosperous.

More bullshit. In fact, under the existing legal systems that allow almost anything to be done by Facebook, Google, Amazon etc. the only sensible solution is that everyone encrypts everything and especially his or her emails (which are totally readable, and have been designed to be totally readable) and browsing (Tor-browsing).

Here is the only more or less honest pair of paragraphs in this series of lies, propaganda and deceptions:

There are other avenues still, said Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, the chief marketing officer of Mozilla, the nonprofit organization behind the popular Firefox browser, including advertisers and large tech platforms collecting vastly less user data and still effectively customizing ads to consumers.

“They are just collecting all the data to try to find magic growth algorithms,” Mr. Kaykas-Wolff said of online marketers. This past week, Mozilla halted its ads on Facebook, saying the social network’s default privacy settings allowed access to too much data.

Yes indeed: Both Facebook, Google etc. etc. etc. and the NSA, the CIA and the FBI (etc. etc.) are collecting all the data to try to find magic growth algorithms”, although this should have been completed (and may be was, in the original) by the statement that all these ¨magic growth algorithms¨ [programs - MM] are the secrets of those who (ab)use them.

Here is more from the article - yet more total lies (by others, but reported):

In interviews, Mr. Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, seemed to accept the possibility of increased privacy regulation, something that would have been unlikely only a few months ago. But some trade group executives also warned that any attempt to curb the use of consumer data would put the business model of the ad-supported internet at risk.

Surely ¨some trade group executives¨ were in fact the neofascist, sadistic, power greedy, and money greedy degenerates who make millions a year by deceiving billions of naive and ignorant internet users.

Besides, their ¨warning¨ that ¨any attempt to curb the use of consumer data¨ was a sick, total, neofascist and utterly sadistic lie.

Then this neofascistic and sadistic utter liar is quoted:

“You’re undermining a fundamental concept in advertising: reaching consumers who are interested in a particular product,” said Dean C. Garfield, chief executive of the Information Technology Industry Council, a trade group in Washington whose members include Amazon, Facebook, Google and Twitter.

No Garfield, as you very well know you are much less interested in advertising than in manipulations of those you reach.

Anyway... I am so disgusted by all this sick lying that I stop here: What horrible utterly degenerate liars work for The New York Times!!!

2. We Should Not Reward the Authors of Torture

This article is by Eugene Robinson on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
President Trump vowed during his campaign to bring back torture as a weapon against terrorism. Now the Senate must stop him from installing as CIA director a woman whose resume includes overseeing a disgraceful episode of torture—and then joining in a cowardly effort to cover it up.
Yes indeed, and I thoroughly agree. Here is more on why:

You will recall that the Bush administration used the Orwellian term “enhanced interrogation techniques,” perhaps in an attempt to convince those implementing the policy that what they were doing was legally and morally acceptable. But the euphemism is a despicable lie. Waterboarding is torture, and it is clearly against the law.

After World War II, at the Tokyo war crimes trials, a number of Japanese soldiers found guilty of waterboarding prisoners of war were hanged or given long prison sentences. U.S. victims testified to the gruesome horror of these episodes of simulated drowning. No one questioned the fact that waterboarding was a particularly sadistic form of torture. No one should question it now.

Precisely - and incidentally, the Dutch waterboarded the Javanese (and were proud of their conscious tortures and often also of their sadism) in the 17th Century.

Here is more:

The torture of al-Nashiri was videotaped. Acting on orders from her CIA supervisor, Haspel wrote a cable ordering the destruction of those tapes—even though she and the supervisor had been told to preserve them as evidence in an ongoing investigation. The videotapes were indeed destroyed.

And they were very probably destroyed because Haspel knew this was strong evidence of something that was and is internationally forbidden by law.

Here is the last bit I quote:

It can be argued that Haspel was just following orders, but she should have known that those orders were illegal. And if she and others who played a role in waterboarding did nothing wrong, then why did they destroy the videotapes of those supposedly legitimate “enhanced interrogation” sessions?

Yes again, although I add that the Nuremberg Trials insisted - quite correctly - that those who are ¨just following¨ illegal ¨orders¨ are guilty of the crimes they commit.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. In the Terrifying John Bolton, Trump Finds His National-Security Soul Mate

This article is by Heather Digby Parton on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near its beginning:
Of course it's terrifying. John Bolton is a certifiable loon and everyone knows it. But then, so was Michael Flynn, who briefly served as the president's first national security adviser before tumbling into disgrace, guilty pleas and a deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller.
I more or less agree, although I do not know that ¨John Bolton is a certifiable loon¨, that is, in a psychological or psychiatric sense.

But I do agree that he sounds quite crazy:
Bolton has always been seen as a neocon, but that's not quite right. During the George W. Bush years he was an insider in the crowd that included Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz, the guys who wrote the manifesto for the Project for a New American Century, which served as the theoretical basis for the Iraq war. The idea was that America would be a benevolent unitary global superpower, spreading democracy and capitalism across the world and taking down "bad guys" two at a time so "freedom and liberty" would prevail. It was a Hollywood style starry-eyed utopianism, at the point of a gun, that allowed a lot of hawks to sing "Kumbaya" as they marched us off to war. We know how that turned out.
In fact, that was all propaganda + deception. And here John Bolton´s crazy ideas are quoted in his own words:

There is no United Nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that's the United States, when it suits our interests and when we can get others to go along. ... The United States makes the UN work when it wants it to work, and that is exactly the way it should be, because the only question, only question, for the United States is what's in our national interest. And if you don't like that, I'm sorry, but that is the fact.
-- Speech before the Global Structures Convocation in New York, Feb. 3, 1994

If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member, because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world — the United States.
-- Interview with Juan Williams on NPR, June 6, 2000

As I said: It is possible - to the best of my knowledge - that Bolton is not insane as Trump is, but his opinions are utterly crazy.

Here is the last quote, on Bolton´s totally sick stance on international law:
On another occasion, Bolton declared that it was "a big mistake" for the U.S. “to grant any validity to international law even when it may seem in our short-term interest to do so — because over the long term, the goal of those who think that international law really means anything are those who want to constrain the United States.”
And the United States may not be constrained by anyone at all, no matter how sadistic, violent, neofascist, sick and contrary to international law the things it does are, according to John Bolton.

This is a recommended article.

4. Journalism of, by and for the Elite

This article is by Reed Richardson on Common Dreams.

As special introduction, I say that while the first article was an article by rightist liars, I am rather certain this is by a leftist (or ¨leftist¨) liar.

And I know, because similar things were argued in Holland, in the late Sixties and early Seventies, when all highschool educations had already been halved, and the university educations were started to be halved (or more), which task was completed by 2008, when many of the persons who were to get an engineering degree, in three years, had to spend the first half year on learning the mathematics I had acquired (like nearly all my class mates) by the time I was 13 (in 1963).

In the late Sixties and early Seventies this was a somewhat popular theme in Holland, because by then the existence of any - intellectual - elite was completely denied by almost everybody on ¨the left¨, which meant that everyone who wanted to become a medical doctor and had a highschool diploma was forced to partake in a national lottery to decide whether he or she was allowed to be part of the fixed number of medical students.

This also meant that a girl with a classical gymnasium diploma and an IQ over 150 was three times in sequence denied the chance of becoming a medical doctor, for real intelligence was then not admired but derided in Holland.

I also learned quite a lot about - intellectual - elites in Holland. The brief of it was that people who are really intelligent should not be Dutch. This point of view now seems to have become a part of the ¨leftists¨ in the USA:
Just how elite these papers have become was the subject of a new study from Jonathan Wai and Kaja Perina, a researcher at Case Western Reserve University and the editor-in-chief of Psychology Today, respectively. The two have just published a survey in the Journal of Expertise (3/18) [pdf] that looked at the educational backgrounds of hundreds of Times and Journal staffers, comparing them to the elite individuals these papers routinely cover. The survey reveals how the staffs of the Times and Journal are starkly different than typical journalists.
The reality is that the average New York Times reporter shares much more in the way of educational and cultural background with those they cover than with the general public.
In the first place (although I take it Mr. Richardson is quite unhappy about this) it is a fact that there are elites - in intelligence, in visual beauty, in talents for sport, for mathematics, for running, for chess etc. etc. and even (if one so cares) in length, paleness etc.

It so happened that my ex and I are members of two elites: We are quite intelligent (my ex had an IQ of 142 and I over 150 in 1978, and these numbers are very probably correct because my ex had been specializing as a psychological assistant in testing IQs - and no: I did not think then or now that IQs are a good measure of real intelligence, but they still are the least bad, at least for research) and we also are quite tall (both over 6 feet).

Incidentally, I have no idea of what Mr. Richardson means by an ¨elite¨ although I will assume that he means something like this: An elite is a class of persons who excel the great majority in some desirable characteristic (like intelligence, beauty, or talents for sport or chess) - and please note that the concept is vague (for where is the border between the great majority and the rest?).

Finally, I did know for a considerably longer time before knowing my IQ that I was more intelligent than most I met, and acted accordingly. Thus, I read many more books than anyone I knew, and I also tried to find the least stupid daily I could find in Holland.

And now about The New York Times:
As a result, the study concludes that, among those criteria, “top 1 percent people are overrepresented among the New York Times and Wall Street Journal mastheads by a factor of about 50.”
In fact, I take it this is rather similar to the situation in Holland. In fact, there is also this:
And even though most journalists do not possess a master’s degree in the field, at the Journal, more than half of reporters and editors had one (at the Times, the number was lower, 14 percent).
Whereas I have one excellent masters´ degree, one excellent bachelors´ degree in another subject,  while I could and would have had three masters´ degrees - in philosophy, psychology and Norwegian - if the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam had been run by competent and honest people instead of by incompetent and morally degenerate liars and sadists.

In any case: If the majority of journalists who write for the NYT did not get more than a bachelors´ degree, I would say it doesn´t seem to matter much with ¨the elites¨ in the NYT.

But not according to Mr. Richardson:
Of course, it should be noted that both the Times and the Journal Times and Journal publish excellent, rigorous journalism every day. Both papers employ plenty of journalists with varied work and class backgrounds as well as educations, and our democracy, on the whole, would be poorer without them. And yet the more the staffs of the resemble those powerful politicians and wealthy public figures that they cover, the greater the risk they will become too credulous or incurious about them, whether intentionally or unwittingly.
From my perspective this is merely a ¨leftist¨ prejudgement, but then I suppose I must be an elitarian. Well... I am where intelligence is concerned, and I am not sorry in the least, for there simply are a few really intelligent persons amongst a great majority of those who lack their gift.

5. Read Karl Marx! A Conversation With Immanuel Wallerstein

This article is by Marcello Musto on Truthout. Since this article did turn out a bit different from how I expected it would, I need to say a few things about my own background:

Both of my parents were real (and very courageous) communists for 45 years, while my father´s father also was a communist, and my mother´s parents were both anarchists.

I do not know anyone else except my brother who is both Dutch and who has a more leftist background than I have.  (They may exist, but I did not find them in 68 years.)

And this implies that I did have excellent chances of reading a lot of Marx (and Engels and Lenin and Stalin) in my parents´ house, which I also did from age 14 onwards, which again had the consequence that I (who did not, as my parents did, have to survive Nazism, terror and resistance against the Nazis) gave up on Marx and on Marxism when I was 20.

Specifically - and see
Marx - I disagreed by the age of 20 with Marx (and Engels) about his dialectical materialism (nonsense); about his historical materialism (false: the human world is not only determined by what happens in the economy); and about his economy (quite clever but contradictory). I also found in the next 10 years quite a few of - leftist - agreements with my position - and see Marxism - and I never reverted from my conclusions.

And now to the article, that opens as follows:
For three decades, neoliberal policies and ideology have been almost uncontested worldwide. Nevertheless, the 2008 economic crises, the profound inequalities that exist in our society -- in particular between the Global North and South -- and the dramatic environmental issues of our time have urged several scholars, economic analysts and politicians to reopen the debate on the future of capitalism and the need for an alternative. It is in this context that today, almost everywhere around the world, on the occasion of the bicentenary of Marx's birth, there is a "Marx revival": a return to an author in the past wrongly associated with Marxism- Leninism dogmatism and, then, hastily dismissed after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This is more or less correct. I would have formulated it differently, but as I said: it is mostly correct (and a first paragraph).

Here is more on Wallerstein:
Immanuel Wallerstein, currently a senior research scholar at Yale University, is among the greatest living sociologists and one of the most appropriate scholars to discuss the current relevance of Marx. He has been a reader of Marx for a long time, and his work has been influenced by the theories of the revolutionary born in Trier on May 5, 1818.
I suppose this is correct. From now on I will only quote Wallerstein:
Immanuel Wallerstein: There is an old story about Marx: you throw him out the front door and he sneaks back in through the rear window. That is what happened once again. Marx is relevant because we have to deal with issues about which he still has a lot to say and because what he said is different from what most other authors argued about capitalism.
This is quite correct. Then there is this:
I believe that when people think of Marx's interpretation of the world in one concept they think of "class struggle." When I read Marx in light of the present issues, for me class struggle means the necessary struggle of what I call the Global Left -- who I believe endeavor to represent the bottom 80 percent of the world's population by income -- against the Global Right -- which represents maybe 1 percent of the population. The struggle is over the other 19 percent. It is about how to get them to come onto your side, rather than the other.
I will also take this as - at least - a valid interpretation of Marx. And there is this:
I would invite greater reflection on the subject "private property and communism." In the system established in the Soviet Union -- in particular under Stalin -- the state owned the property but it did not mean that people were not being exploited or oppressed. They were. Talking of socialism in one country, as Stalin did, was also something that never entered anybody's mind, including Marx, before that period. Public ownership of the means of production is one possibility. They can also be cooperatively owned.
I agree again. And there is this:
Marx's writings are illuminating and much more subtle and variegated than some of the simplistic interpretations of his ideas. It is always good to remember the famous boutade in which Marx said: "If this is Marxism, what is certain is that I am not a Marxist."
Again I agree. Here is the last thing I quote from this article:
The first thing I have to say to young people is that they have to read him. Do not read about him, but read Marx. Few people -- in comparison with the many who talks about him -- actually read Marx. That is also true of Adam Smith.
And yes again. I think that - supposing you are quite intelligent - you should read Marx (to some extent: to read all takes a lot of time), and you should also read Smith, and Ricardo, and Sraffa, but you should not stop at them.

And it is my general sense of mostly agreeing that I had not expected when I started reading this article, which also is recommended.


[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).

The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).

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