April 5, 2018

Crisis: Facebook, Russia Madness, Martin Luther King, Zuckerberg, Clinton's Propaganda


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 5, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, April 5, 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 April 5, 2018
1. Facebook Scandal Affects More Users Than Thought: Up to 87M
2. Russia Madness on the Eve of Destruction: Hegemony Trumps Survival
3. King’s Legacy Betrayed
4. Critics Scoff at Zuckerberg's Promise to Comply With New Privacy Rules
     'In Spirit'

5. We Have Bill Clinton to Thank in Part for Trump's Propaganda Machine
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. Facebook Scandal Affects More Users Than Thought: Up to 87M

This article is by Barbara Ortutay on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Facebook revealed Wednesday that tens of millions more people might have been exposed in the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal than previously thought and said it will restrict the user data that outsiders can access.

Those developments came as congressional officials said CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify next week, while Facebook unveiled a new privacy policy that aims to explain the data it gathers on users more clearly — but doesn’t actually change what it collects and shares.

I say!

Then again, this is not very clear, because it does not say (i) how many of the possibly 87 millions of people whose data were scanned by Cambridge Analytica are Americans (and it seems as if most of the earlier 50 million were Americans), nor does it (in any way) treat the - fairly realistic, it seems to me - possibility that most of the voters in the last American elections were made part of the voting propaganda done by Cambridge Analytica.

But the article is clear about one thing: Zuckerberg will change as little as possible, for the simple reason that his very many billions of dollars are derived from stealing as many data from as many users as he can (or so it seems to me).

Then there is this about Facebook:

In a call with reporters Wednesday, Zuckerberg admitted he made a “huge mistake” in failing to take a broad enough view of what Facebook’s responsibility is in the world. He said it isn’t enough for Facebook to believe app developers when they say they follow the rules. He says Facebook has to ensure they do.

Facebook is facing its worst privacy scandal in years following allegations that Cambridge Analytica, a Trump-affiliated data mining firm, used ill-gotten data from millions of users through an app to try to influence elections. Facebook said Wednesday that as many as 87 million people might have had their data accessed — an increase from the 50 million disclosed in published reports.

Well... I have to admit that - especially since I know that Zuckerberg referred to his members as "dumb fucks who trusted me" - I do not trust nor believe anything Zuckerberg says. And what he is saying in the above quote is that Facebook - that steals all the data it can get from each and any of its users, to the best of my knowledge - should ensure that those who pay Facebook for Facebook's stolen data do not get more data (such as the 50 million or 87 million sets of data appropriated by Cambridge Analytica) than they ought to.

As I have said before: The only way to tame Facebook is by making it sure that everything from everyone is (solidly and unbreakably) encrypted. (I agree that is probably impossible, but I also think it is quite true.)

Finally, there is this bit that I quote from this article:

This Monday, all Facebook users will receive a notice on their Facebook feeds with a link to see what apps they use and what information they have shared with those apps. They’ll have a chance to delete apps they no longer want. Users who might have had their data shared with Cambridge Analytica will be told of that. Facebook says most of the affected users are in the U.S.

As I said above: There is the realistic possibility that most of the voters in the last American elections were made part of the voting propaganda done by Cambridge Analytica.

And while I do not know this to be true, I think it is rather likely, which is strengthened by the last sentence of the last quote: "Facebook says most of the affected users are in the U.S."

This is a recommended article.

2. Russia Madness on the Eve of Destruction: Hegemony Trumps Survival

This article is by Paul Street on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Noam Chomsky’s 2016 book “Who Rules the World?” contains a passage in which the great left thinker asks readers to “imagine you’re a historian a hundred years from now—assuming there are any historians a hundred years from now, which is not obvious—and you’re looking back on what’s happening today.” This reflection appears in a chapter titled “The Eve of Destruction.”

It’s a bracing thought. Given the current state and rate of environmental destruction, the continuing advance in the destructive power of nuclear weapons systems, and the likelihood of pandemics in a warmer and more globalized world, there are good reasons to wonder if a human civilization with historians will exist a century from today. We may well be standing near the “end of history,” and not the glorious bourgeois-democratic one that Francis Fukuyama imagined with the end of the Cold War.

Yes indeed.

And as I have said several times, my own estimate that there will be "historians a hundred years from now" is 1/2, although that estimate is mostly based on my psychologist's assessment of his mental health and my philosopher's assessment of his policies. (And as to Fukuyama: I think he is a fool since 1992, but then again there are many academic fools, especially in "sciences" that are not real sciences, and Fukuyama studied "political philosophy" and "comparative literature".)

Here is more:

Speaking of Cold Wars, United States neoconservative and liberals have in the last three decades teamed up to create a “new” one with still heavily nuclear- weaponized Russia. The risk of a nuclear war catastrophe is greater today than it was during the Cold War, when humanity came close to disaster on numerous occasions. This reflects the ongoing development of nuclear weapons technologies and a series of U.S. and U.S.-allied Western actions that have provoked Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European empire:

In fact, there is something rather crazy about the new Cold War with Russia, that I agree is quite real. What is rather crazy about it is that Russia is since over 25 years very firmly capitalistic and has shed nearly all of its socialism.

And why would there be a Cold War with a capitalist state?! This is a fine question, and it becomes even more relevant when the ten points Paul Street mentions that "have provoked Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union" are considered.

I did not list them in this review but they are in the original. Then there is this:

Perilous as the nuclear situation may be, the environmental danger is arguably greater. This is thanks to the shrinking time window for averting a climate catastrophe that is unfolding before our very eyes. Nuclear weapons don’t kill off the human species just by existing. If we continue to miraculously escape launch (and even a first strike could start nuclear winter on its own) for a century, we can thank our lucky stars and proceed to dismantle nuclear weapons in 2118.

I like this article, but I don't agree with this paragraph, although I admit that my reasons are not conclusive: I think the dangers that a mad and neofascist president poses to the world are more serious for the survival of humanity than the environmental dangers, but I also agree this may well be a matter of values (and specific knowledge) rather than facts.

Here is more:

Can we survive and even maintain a decent or better existence into another and future centuries? Perhaps. But surviving will require massive, and combined, dialectically inseparable transformations in our relationships with each other and with nature, of which we are of course part. It will require a radical restructuring and revolutionary makeover.

Well... I have little faith in "combined, dialectically inseparable transformations in our relationships with each other", and my own pessimism is based on - what I regard as - two rather firm facts:

(1) a nuclear war will very probably destroy human civilization, and (2) there simply are too many human beings to take proper care of within the exististing economical realities (and I have no patience with people insisting that "in a different system" this would or might be different: there is no different system).

Then there is this:

As Thomas Ferguson and his colleagues have recently shown in an important study at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, Russian interference was of tiny significance compared to the impact of big American money in helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton (and in helping Clinton defeat herself). At the same time, the U.S. and many of its close allies commit the same crimes attributed to Russia by American New Cold Warriors. The world’s and history’s only global superpower, the United States, regularly interferes in other nation’s politics and kills people en masse abroad. It does both these things on a much bigger scale and much farther beyond its own borders than does Russia.

I completely agree with the above quotation, and I also regard it as an important indication of how far the mainstream media have meanwhile sunk: Very far, for I completely agree with Ferguson and Street (bolding added): "Russian interference was of tiny significance compared to the impact of big American money in helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton", but the contrary bullshit is being maintained now for 1 1/2 years, without any decent factual evidence.

Here is some more:

The present moment is dire. We are witnessing the remarkable and dangerous continuation of a bizarre right-wing, prefascist U.S. presidency, subject to the weird whims and tweets of a malignant narcissist who doesn’t read memorandums or intelligence briefings. (...)

I completely agree. And this is the ending of this article:

The Clinton-Obama neoliberal Democrats and their many allies in the corporate media that helped create the Trumpenstein have spent more than a year running with the allegation that Russia magically subverted our nonexistent “democracy” to put Trump in the White House. The climate crisis holds little interest for the Trump and Russia-obsessed corporate media. The fact that the world stands at the eve of ecological self-destruction, with the Trump White House in the lead, elicits barely a whisper in the commercial news media.

As I argued above, I believe Trump is more dangerous than the climate crisis, if only because he is mad, and he has maximally the common seven years to destroy the world.

But this is a fine article that is strongly recommended, and in which there is considerably more than I reviewed.

3. King’s Legacy Betrayed

This article is by Margaret Kimberley on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was the preeminent leader of the black liberation movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Millions of people engaged in the struggle against America’s shameful apartheid system but King was the most influential. His actions are remembered, his words are quoted by activists, politicians, and pundits. His birthday is a national holiday. Only the worst and most retrograde racists dare to speak ill of King.

But the lionizing is mostly a sham. In fact there are very few people who remember the importance of what King said, what he did or why and how they should replicate his work. His legacy has been subverted and is now understood only by the most conscious students of history.

Yes, I think this is mostly quite correct (though I would not bet on how few "very few people are).

Here is more:

Corporate interests are not alone in pretending to honor King while actually attacking him. King’s legacy is severely diminished because it has been used by cynical individuals for corrupt purposes. As we commemorate the 50th
anniversary of his assassination we see a nation that has moved backwards on nearly every front. Legalized discrimination was eliminated but powerful forces undermined progress and America in 2018 is devoid of the change that King fought to make real.

Much of the blame lies at the feet of the Democratic Party, who have an undeserved reputation for enacting progressive policies. In reality, Democrats actively targeted black people for joblessness, poverty, imprisonment and disenfranchisement. Democrats became the party of corporate interests and aligned themselves with every neoliberal initiative. They forsook the union movement, working hand in hand with finance capitalists to take living wage jobs out of the country. Bill Clinton oversaw the end of public assistance as a right, destroying what Franklin Roosevelt enacted 60 years earlier. He built on the work of Ronald Reagan and massively increased the prison population.

Yes indeed - and I completely agree on the assessment of Bill Clinton. Then there is this on the next Democratic president after Clinton:

Barack Obama offered a “grand bargain” of austerity to Republicans and continued the George W. Bush policy of tax cuts for the wealthiest. The banks which created the 2008 financial collapse were rewarded with huge bailouts of public funds. Black people ended up losing the small bit of wealth they held before the crash and now lead only in the negative measurements of quality of life.

I am afraid this is also quite correct, and Obama was about as bad as Clinton (but both now seem to owe more than $100 million: they did very reliably work for their own financial interests).

And here is more on the Democrats:
Democrats destroy public education through charter schools and refuse to raise the minimum wage even when they control Congress and have the power to act. They were never the party of peace and they are now most outspoken in encouraging an anti-Russian resumption of the Cold War and supporting imperialist interventions.
Precisely. And as far as I can see, the majority of the Democrats, like the majority of the Republicans, have been bought by the rich.

Here is the final bit I quote from this fine article:
A glaring example is the enormous increase in incarceration rates. When Martin Luther King was alive there were only 300,000 incarcerated Americans. There are now more than 2 million. The exponential increase is not coincidental. Mass incarceration was a direct reaction to the freedom movement. Segregation put black people under physical control and the system devised new ways to secure the same result when it ended.

Yes, though I am factually correct when I point out that there were about half as many Americans during Martin Luther King's life than there are now. But even if that is accounted for, still there are about three times more prisoners in the USA than there were during King's life.

This is a strongly recommended article - and also see the second article I reviewed above, and the fifth article below.

4. Critics Scoff at Zuckerberg's Promise to Comply With New Privacy Rules 'In Spirit'

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It has a summary which I quote because it is quite adequate:
"This interview should make clear Facebook will only self-regulate to the extent that it doesn't threaten its data-hoarding business model."
Precisely - and Fuckbook's "business model" is massive deception of - for the major part - extremely naive users to somehow squeeze all the data that can be squeezed out of them.

Here is some more:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made headlines last month after suggesting that perhaps his company should be more tightly regulated following the massive Cambridge Analytica breach, but the mega-billionaire said in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that his company doesn't plan to comply with the European Union's strict new data privacy regulations across the globe.
Well... if you believe that the European Union "new data privacy regulations" are strict, I take it either you are not a European or you are pretty dumb. For more on the European Uniob, see April 2, 2018.

Here is some more:

"This interview should make clear Facebook will only self-regulate to the extent that it doesn't threaten its data-hoarding business model," argued Gizmodo's Tom McKay in response to Zuckerberg's comments. "Got any complaints? Good luck complaining to the band of corporate-friendly stooges currently in control of the [U.S] government."

Set to go into effect in May, the EU's "General Data Protection Regulation" (GDPR)—which Reuters calls "the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet"—will require companies to receive clear consent from users before collecting their data and allow users to erase personal data that has been stored.

Tom McKay was right and Reuters was - intentionally or not - wrong:

The only rule that makes data stealing impossible is to encrypt absolutely everything. All other rules are deceptions, while the European Union is an explicitly designed neofascistic system ruled by non-elected super-bureaucrats who changed the excellent Human Rigths rules of 1948 into the utterly sick, extremely dangerous, neofascistic, degenerate rules that hands all power to the secret services (the states' own terrorists):

These anonymous states' terrorists are now assigned "the positive obligation" to know everything about everyone; do so in complete anonymity; and also with few people knowing anything about what these all-powerful secret and anonymous organizations may do to anyone exposed to them.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. We Have Bill Clinton to Thank in Part for Trump's Propaganda Machine

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truth-out and originally on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

If you spent any time on social media over the weekend, you've probably seen it by now. On Saturday, Deadspin's Timothy Burke published a supercut of news anchors for the Sinclair Broadcasting Group reciting a distinctly Trumpian promo. "We're concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country," each of them intoned. "The sharing of biased and false news has become all too common on social media. More alarming, some media outlets publish these same fake stories, stories that just aren't true, without checking facts first. Unfortunately, some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control 'exactly what people think.'"

The post quickly went viral, earning tens of thousands of retweets on Twitter and capturing the attention of "Last Week Tonight's" John Oliver, who compared Sinclair's staffers to "members of a brainwashed cult." Reporters and corporate watchdogs alike have voiced their dismay, decrying the American telecommunications company's abuse of the public trust. But what few have acknowledged, and what Oliver himself neglected to explore, is how the engine of Donald Trump's propaganda machine was constructed by none other than Bill Clinton.

In fact, in the last 22 years that I have been on the internet, I almost completely avoided each and any of the a-social media, precisely because these are extremely stupid, very a-social, and almost completely anonymous, and that leaves out the fact that they all seem to steal all the data they can get about their users and even about their visitors.

And I did not read Burke's item, but I am fairly aware (from other publications: I read 35 sites every day) of Sinclair and its enormous dangers.

Also, I think Sugarman is quite correct. Here is (bolding added) "
how the engine of Donald Trump's propaganda machine was constructed by none other than Bill Clinton":

In 1996, Clinton passed the Telecommunications Act, the first major overhaul of the country's telecommunications legislation in over 60 years. For decades, the FCC abided by what was known as the rule of seven, prohibiting any one company from owning more than seven AM or FM radio stations or seven television networks. Under President Ronald Reagan, the rule of seven became the rule of twelve. It wasn't until the subsequent Democratic administration, however, that the rule was abandoned entirely in favor of a national ownership cap, allowing a single entity to own as much as 35 percent of market share.

Precisely - and here is how this effects American democracy (that seems to have been upended mostly anyway, by Clinton and others):

Twenty-two years later, that deregulation threatens to upend our democracy. The far-right Sinclair Broadcasting Group, which allegedly struck a deal with Jared Kushner during the 2016 election to provide the Trump campaign with more favorable coverage, currently reaches approximately 38 percent of American households. If the organization is successful in its acquisition of the Tribune Media Company, that number could climb to 72 percent. 

"The Telecommunications Act of 1996 did not just permit consolidation in TV," noted Guardian reporter Kevin Carty last November. "It paved the way for radio monopolization as well. Before the law, it was illegal for one company to own more than 40 radio stations. Today, the company formerly known as Clear Channel -- iHeartMedia -- owns 858 stations."

Again precisely, and this is a strongly recommended article.


[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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