August 21, 2018

Crisis: On Privacy, Catholic Sex Abuse, On Censorship, On The Climate, 10 Years Of Crisis


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 21, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, August 21, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from August 21, 2018:
1. Self-Invasions and the Invaded Self
2. Pope on Sex Abuse: We Showed No Care for the Little Ones
3. Taibbi: Censorship Does Not End Well
4. Humankind Is Rapidly Exiting Its 'Safe Zone,' New Climate Report Finds
5. 10 Years After Global Meltdown, Lehman Brothers Planning 'Disgraceful'
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. Self-Invasions and the Invaded Self

This article is by Rochelle Gurstein on The Baffler. It starts as follows:
What do we lose when we lose our privacy? This question has become increasingly difficult to answer, living as we do in a society that offers boundless opportunities for men and women to expose themselves (in all dimensions of that word) as never before, to commit what are essentially self-invasions of privacy. Although this is a new phenomenon, it has become as ubiquitous as it is quotidian, and for that reason, it is perhaps one of the most telling signs of our time.
And, of course, there are now unprecedented opportunities for violating one’s own privacy, furnished by the technology of the internet. The results are everywhere, from selfies and Instagrammed trivia to the almost automatic, everyday activity of Facebook users registering their personal “likes” and preferences. (As we recently learned, this online pastime is nowhere near as private as we had been led to believe; more than fifty million users’ idly generated “data” was “harvested” by Cambridge Analytica to make “personality profiles” that were then used to target voters with advertisements from Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.)
Yes, but I am not much concerned about men and women exposing themselves (provided they know more or less the risks they take, which is frequently doubtful), while I am very much concerned with ¨violating one’s (..) privacy, (..) by the technology of the internet¨. Also, about the latter it is valid to say that only a small number of computer users have any reasonable idea of how much has been gathered from them, and fewer about blocking it (which in fact needs very much knowledge of computers and programming).

Then there is this:
Given our widespread obliviousness to the current situation, we might be better served by asking: What did people used to believe they lost when they lost their privacy? Surprisingly, it turns out that a large number of people began to speak of privacy in a self-conscious way only toward the end of the nineteenth century.
In fact, I don´t think that question is interesting, for the simple reason that it is only since around 2000 that the NSA, GCHQ, Facebook (a little later), Google and others can pick everything that is send over the internet (including your private mails and private porn), while at least the NSA and the GCHQ also can break in into virtually any computer (tablet, iphone etc.) with an internet connection.

This also means that since 2000 at least the 4 billions with internet computers are - in principle - fully known to the secret services, including their health, their doctors, their incomes, their values, their ideas, their private correspondence etc. etc.

And this situation is totally new in history: Since 2000, the secret services from anywhere, know almost everything about almost everyone.

Here is some more:
The legal recognition of Sir Edward Coke’s famous dictum, “A man’s house is his castle,” according to Godkin, was “but the outward and visible sign of the law’s respect for his personality as an individual, for that kingdom of the mind, that inner world of personal thought and feeling in which every man passes some time.” Here Godkin was drawing on the liberal understanding of privacy as articulated by J. S. Mill in On Liberty (1859).
Well, yes - and the reference is interesting (and here is my copy of On Liberty, with my extensive notes) but Mill lived long before the secret services had entry to absolutely everything that can be gathered about anyone on the internet.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Like the self-conscious understanding of privacy, the cult of exposure is of recent vintage, emerging during the last part of the nineteenth century. Its reigning faith was that people—good, honest people—have nothing to hide. “Live in the open air!” Mary Putnam Jacobi, a doctor and suffragist, exhorted her audience in a public lecture before the New York City Positivist Society in 1871. “A thing that one is not willing the whole world should know,” proclaimed Jacobi, “is wrong.”
Putnam Jacobi did not have the faintest idea how much could be found out about her by way of the internet, and besides, she seems extremely naive, also in the 1870ies, for men have different morals, different values, and different interests that make for quite different opinions on what they think others should and should not know about them.

But in the 1870ies, one still had a choice; since 2001 people with a computer no longer
have any choice about what the secret services know about them, and it is best to assume they know everything one has on one´s internet computer.

2. Pope on Sex Abuse: We Showed No Care for the Little Ones

This article is by Nicole Winfield on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the world Monday condemning the crime of priestly sexual abuse and its cover-up and demanding accountability, in response to new revelations in the United States of decades of misconduct by the Catholic Church.
“With shame and repentance, we acknowledge as an ecclesial community that we were not where we should have been, that we did not act in a timely manner, realizing the magnitude and the gravity of the damage done to so many lives,” Francis wrote. “We showed no care for the little ones; we abandoned them.”
Yes indeed - but then again this went on for decades at least (and possibly for centuries) and all that time the Catholic Church did almost nothing but covering up.

Here is more about recent findings of Catholic priests who raped children, and then were usually covered up by their Catholic superiors:
The Vatican issued the three-page letter ahead of Francis’ trip this weekend to Ireland, a once staunchly Roman Catholic country where the church’s credibility has been devastated by years of revelations that priests raped and molested children with impunity and their superiors covered up for them.
In addition, a grand jury report in Pennsylvania last week reported that at least 1,000 children were victims of some 300 priests over the past 70 years, and that generations of bishops failed repeatedly to take measures to protect their flock or punish the rapists.
Yes indeed. Here is more about the pope´s letter:

[Francis] said, looking to the future, “no effort must be spared to create a culture able to prevent such situations from happening, but also to prevent the possibility of their being covered up and perpetuated.”

Francis didn’t, however, provide any indication of what concrete measures he is prepared to take to sanction those bishops — in the U.S. and beyond — who covered up for sexually abusive priests.

I am sorry, but without ¨concrete measures¨ of some kind, these are mere words.

There is only one difference:

Unlike the U.S. bishops’ conference, which has referred only to “sins and omissions” in their handling of abuse in response to the Pennsylvania report, Francis labeled the misconduct “crimes.”

I agree that a Catholic priest who rapes a child is a serious criminal, but once again: Without real and effective ¨concrete measures¨ I am afraid this will simply continue.

3. Taibbi: Censorship Does Not End Well

This article is by Matt Taibbi on Rolling Stone. This is from near its beginning:
Google’s former head of free expression issues in Asia, Lokman Tsui, blasted the tech giant’s plan to develop a search engine that would help the Chinese government censor content.

First reported by The Intercept, the plan was called “a stupid, stupid move” by Tsui, who added: “I can’t see a way to operate Google search in China without violating widely held international human rights standards.” This came on the heels of news that the Israeli Knesset passed a second reading of a “Facebook bill,” authorizing courts to delete content on security grounds.

I agree with Tsui, but I can find a - nominally - very good reason why Google would want to cooperate with the totalitarian Chinese and help with a totalitarian Google: Their profits will get even better, possibly by a lot (for there are over 1 billion Chinese).

Here is some more:

Both the Jones situation and the Facebook-Atlantic Council deletions seem an effort to fulfill a request made last year by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Last October, Facebook, Google and Twitter were asked by Hawaii Senator Mazie Hizono to draw up a “mission statement” to “prevent the foment of discord.”

Companies like Facebook might have balked before. They have long taken a position that’s very Star Trek, very Prime-Directive: We do not interfere. Mark Zuckerberg, as late as 2016, was saying, “editing content… that’s not us.”

Part of this reluctance was probably ideological, but the main thing was the sheer logistical quandary of monitoring published content on the scale of a firm like Facebook. The company now has 2.23 billion users, and experts estimate that’s more than a billion new entries to monitor daily.

Incidentally, the main reason why Facebook can monitor its users is that its users are all members of it. I do not know how this would be if its 2.23 billion users were not members of Facebook, and wrote their own sites in their own html, as I do, but I suspect this would be far more difficult. (And someone who wants to remove something from my site must ask me, much rather than Zuckerberg.)

Here is more:

Now that we’ve opened the door for ordinary users, politicians, ex-security-state creeps, foreign governments and companies like Raytheon to influence the removal of content, the future is obvious: an endless merry-go-round of political tattling, in which each tribe will push for bans of political enemies.

In about 10 minutes, someone will start arguing that Alex Jones is not so different from, say, millennial conservative Ben Shapiro, and demand his removal. That will be followed by calls from furious conservatives to wipe out the Torch Network or Anti-Fascist News, with Jacobin on the way.

We’ve already seen Facebook overcompensate when faced with complaints of anti-conservative bias. Assuming this continues, “community standards” will turn into a ceaseless parody of Cold War spy trades: one of ours for one of yours.

Yes, I think Taibbi sees this quite well. Here are some of the pretty ridiculous ¨norms¨:
Depending on the platform, one can be banned for “glorifying violence,” “sowing division,” “hateful conduct” or even “low quality,” with those terms defined by nameless, unaccountable executives, working with God Knows Whom.

The platforms will win popular support for removals by deleting jackasses like Jones. Meanwhile, the more dangerous censorship will go on in the margins with fringe opposition sites — and in the minds of reporters and editors, who will unconsciously start retreating from wherever their idea of the line is.

Quite so. Here is Taibbi´s ending:

Americans are not freaking out about this because most of us have lost the ability to distinguish between general principles and political outcomes. So long as the “right” people are being zapped, no one cares.

But we should care. Censorship is one of modern man’s great temptations. Giving in to it hasn’t provided many happy stories.

Yes indeed. And this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

4. Humankind Is Rapidly Exiting Its 'Safe Zone,' New Climate Report Finds

This article is by Jon Queally on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Offering a stark warning to the world, a new report out Monday argues that the reticence of the world’s scientific community—trapped in otherwise healthy habits of caution and due diligence—to downplay the potentially irreversible and cataclysmic impacts of climate change is itself a threat that should no longer be tolerated if humanity is to be motivated to make the rapid and far-reaching transition away from fossil fuels and other emissions-generating industries.

In the new report—titled What Lies Beneath: The Understatement of Existential Climate Risk (pdf)—authors David Splatt and Ian Dunlop, researchers with the National Centre for Climate Restoration (Breakthrough), an independent think tank based in Australia, argue that the existential threats posed by the climate crisis have still not penetrated the collective psyche of humanity and that world leaders, even those demanding aggressive action, have not shown the kind of urgency or imagination that the scale of the pending catastrophe presents.

Yes, I completely agree with this (and I also fear this will not happen until it is really and definitely and irretrievably too late).

Here are three of the four principle points of Splatt and Dunlop:

As Splatt and Dunlop summarize at Renew Economy, their paper analyzes why:

  • Human-induced climate change is an existential risk to human civilisation: an adverse outcome that will either annihilate intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential, unless dramatic action is taken.
  • The bulk of climate research has tended to underplay these risks, and exhibited a preference for conservative projections and scholarly reticence.
  • IPCC reports tend toward reticence and caution, erring on the side of “least drama,” and downplaying the more extreme and more damaging outcomes, and are now becoming dangerously misleading with the acceleration of climate impacts globally.

I think I agree with this as well, though I cannot fairly judge ¨IPCC reports¨. Then again, I do know that the most recent trendlines of ¨The Limits to Growth¨, which was first published in 1972 and last updated in 2004, were then the same as in 1972 - in spite of strong warnings since 1972.

Here is some more by Spratt and Dunlop:

“It is no longer possible to follow a gradual transition path to restore a safe climate,” write Spratt and Dunlop in an op-ed published in the Guardian on Monday. “We have left it too late; emergency action, akin to a war footing, will eventually be accepted as inevitable. The longer that takes, the greater the damage inflicted upon humanity.”

Yes, I think I agree with this as well. Here is more:

The extreme risks which these tipping points represent justify strong precautionary risk management. Under-reporting on these issues is irresponsible, contributing to the failure of imagination that is occurring today in our understanding of, and response to, climate change.

“Either we act with unprecedented speed,” Spratt and Dunlop conclude, “or we face a bleak future.”

I fear ¨a bleak future¨ (simply generalizing from the past to the future) and this is a recommended article.

5. 10 Years After Global Meltdown, Lehman Brothers Planning 'Disgraceful' Reunion

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As millions in the United States, Europe, and throughout the world continue to suffer from the devastating losses of wealth and crippling austerity sparked by the 2008 global financial crisis, former staffers at the failed Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers—which was at the center of the greed-fueled economic crash—are reportedly planning to hold lavish gatherings in London, Hong Kong, and New York to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the firm's collapse.

First reported by the London-based Financial News, the planned celebration—which will apparently feature plenty of "cocktails and canapés"—was immediately denounced by Labour Party Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell as an "absolutely sickening" display of shamelessness "after a decade of people suffering austerity."

"It's particularly disgraceful in the context of all the people who lost their jobs and homes to pay for bailing out these bankers who caused the financial crash, as well as against a backdrop of firefighters, police officers, and other public servants facing years of brutal Tory pay restraint. People will be absolutely disgusted about this unacceptable and highly inappropriate gathering."

I say, for I did not know this about Lehman Brothers. Then again, I am writing so much about the crisis - more than 2000 files since September 2008, all in Nederlog - because I think the crisis is over for the few rich, but persists for the many non-rich.

Here is some more:

The failure of Lehman Brothers in 2008—which Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi argued was caused by the New York firm's widespread criminality—caused a "financial tsunami" that reached across the globe, spurring massive bank failures, a global market meltdown, and a foreclosure crisis that continues to this day.

In the U.S., no Wall Street executives were prosecuted for their role in the "obscene criminal scandals" that wrecked the global economy and devastated millions.

A decade following the financial collapse, the largest Wall Street firms are bigger than ever and pocketing record profits thanks to U.S. President Donald Trump's $1.5 trillion tax cuts.

As Common Dreams reported, massive banks are also set to benefit from a recently passed bipartisan deregulation bill that analysts argued will significantly heighten the risk of yet another financial crisis.

Quite so, 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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail