September 14, 2018

Crisis: Google & China, Trump, Central Banks, Progressive Power, Nazis, Internet Is Soon Dead


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 14, 2018
B. Europe Just Voted to Wreck the Internet

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 14, 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 September 14, 2018:
1. Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over “Forfeiture of Our Values” in China
2. Trump Honors Only One Victim in Puerto Rico: Himself
3. Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk
4. How To Build Progressive Power
5. Nazis May Be Bad, But Tax Cuts Are Awesome! 
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. Senior Google Scientist Resigns Over “Forfeiture of Our Values” in China

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

A senior Google research scientist has quit the company in protest over its plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

Jack Poulson worked for Google’s research and machine intelligence department, where he was focused on improving the accuracy of the company’s search systems. 

In early August, Poulson raised concerns with his managers at Google after The Intercept revealed that the internet giant was secretly developing a Chinese search app for Android devices. The search system, code-named Dragonfly, was designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.

After entering into discussions with his bosses, Poulson decided in mid-August that he could no longer work for Google. He tendered his resignation and his last day at the company was August 31.  

He told The Intercept in an interview that he believes he is one of about five of the company’s employees to resign over Dragonfly. He felt it was his “ethical responsibility to resign in protest of the forfeiture of our public human rights commitments,” he said.

I think Poulson was one of the few - ¨one of about five of the company’s employees¨ - to resign over the idea that Google plans to be the extended service of the Chinese Communist Party´s security apparatus, for the Google plans for the internet in China is ¨designed to remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political dissidents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest¨.

And of course, there will also be a direct link to the computers of the Chinese security apparatus, though that may be made by the Chinese.

Here is some more about Poulson:

Poulson, who was previously an assistant professor at Stanford University’s department of mathematics, said he believed that the China plan had violated Google’s artificial intelligence principles, which state that the company will not design or deploy technologies “whose purpose contravenes widely accepted principles of international law and human rights.”

He said that he was concerned not just about the censorship itself, but also the ramifications of hosting customer data on the Chinese mainland, where it would be accessible to Chinese security agencies that are well-known for targeting political activists and journalists.

I believe Poulson is quite correct and also that he probably soon will have another job, in academia or elsewhere.

Here is how the Google bosses reacted to their employees: As they would have done in China:

Google bosses have tried to contain the anger by shutting down employee access to documents about the China search engine. Following leaks from an all-hands staff meeting last month, sources said, the company has tightened rules so that employees working remotely can no longer view a livestream of the meetings on their own computers — they can only watch them inside a designated room at a Google office overseen by managers.

Then again, Google will probably profit billions by working for the Chinese Communist Party, and it may need to hand over no more than a couple of millions of Chinese: after that, the Chinese will probably have learned.

To end this review, here is the neoliberal neofascist Milton Friedman in 1962:

"Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine. If businessmen do have a social responsibility other than making maximum profits for stockholders, how are they to know what it is? Can self-selected private individuals decide what the social interest is?"

That is: The only moral norm Google must satisfy is to make ¨maximum profits for stockholders¨ and this works in China as well as the USA. How this happens is not Google´s responsibility. How many ¨private individuals¨ Google will help hand over to the Chinese secret police is totally irrelevant. The only thing that matter is that Google will get maximum profits. This is a recommended article.

2. Trump Honors Only One Victim in Puerto Rico: Himself

This article is by The Editorial Board on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

If you’ve stopped being surprised by the flagrancy of President Trump’s deceptions, you’re not alone. Yet the president’s effort on Thursday to deny the nearly 3,000 American lives lost in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria last year — and to accuse Democrats of inflating the death toll for political gain — should amaze even the most jaundiced Trump-watcher.

Mr. Trump delivered his latest bit of mendacity with a one-two presidential Twitter punch:

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the island AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000 …”

“ … This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”

For most presidents, thousands of dead Americans would be a cause for grief. For Mr. Trump, they are evidence only of his own victimhood.

Yes, indeed - but for this psychologist Trump´s sick lies are evidence of Trump´s disordered sick mind: He is both a megalomaniac, i.e. he has the personality disorder also called narcissistic personality disorder, and he is a neofascist in my sense, for his policies match point by point the ten characteristics that define neofascists.

Here is the ending of this article:

Mr. Trump seems incapable of processing new information or learning from mistakes. Instead, he did what he always does: reject inconvenient data in favor of a story in which he is the hero. In the president’s view, increases in the official death toll cannot possibly stem from a more comprehensive analysis. They must stem from yet another conspiracy by his political enemies. The 3,000 lives lost, in other words, are all about him.

Democrats don’t need to lift a finger to make him look bad. He is managing that all on his own.

Well, yes - though I insist that what the first of these quoted paragraphs describe is (once again) madness rather than sanity, although I also strongly suspect that the major shortcoming of Puerto Ricans for Trump is that they are not white enough. This is a recommended article.

3. Central Banks Have Gone Rogue, Putting Us All at Risk

This article is by Ellen Brown on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Excluding institutions such as Blackrock and Vanguard, which are composed of multiple investors, the largest single players in global equity markets are now thought to be central banks themselves. An estimated 30 to 40 central banks are invested in the stock market, either directly or through their investment vehicles (sovereign wealth funds). According to David Haggith at Zero Hedge:

Central banks buying stocks are effectively nationalizing U.S. corporations just to maintain the illusion that their “recovery” plan is working. … At first, their novel entry into the stock market was only intended to rescue imperiled corporations, such as General Motors during the first plunge into the Great Recession, but recently their efforts have shifted to propping up the entire stock market via major purchases of the most healthy companies on the market.

First, I like Ellen Brown, simply because she is sane and rational on banking and banks. The above quotation (from Haggith) is more or less correct but more is involved:
The result, as noted in a January 2017 article at Zero Hedge, is that central bankers, “who create fiat money out of thin air and for whom ‘acquisition cost’ is a meaningless term, are increasingly nationalizing the equity capital markets.” Or at least they would be nationalizing equities, if they were actually “national” central banks. But the Swiss National Bank, the biggest single player in this game, is 48 percent privately owned, and most central banks have declared their independence from their governments. They march to the drums not of government but of private industry.
Precisely: The central banks are buying large parts of the stocks ¨of the most healthy companies¨ with money they can create freely themselves, and not with the intent of nationalizing healthy companies but of owning them as private industries, which most central banks are these days - which in terms of my definition of neofascism is pure neofascism.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In a paper presented at the 14th Rhodes Forum in Greece in October 2016, Dr. Richard Werner, director of international development at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, argued that central banks have managed to achieve total independence from government and total lack of accountability to the people, and that they are now in the process of consolidating their powers. They control markets by creating bubbles, busts and economic chaos.
Yes, I fear that is correct and this is a strongly recommended article.
4. How To Build Progressive Power

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Even in these dark times, I am confident that we can defeat Donald Trump and all he stands for. But it will require building a multiracial, middle, and working class coalition dedicated to renewing our democracy and creating an economy that works for all, not just the privileged few. Here’s how: 

First: At the heart of this coalition must be deep and abiding commitment to the democratic principles of political equality, equal opportunity, and justice for all.
Well... I think I am less ¨confident that we can defeat Donald Trump and all he stands for¨ than Robert Reich is. Part of my reasons are below.

And also I must admit that I regard this first norm of (unbolded) ¨
democratic principles of political equality, equal opportunity, and justice for all¨ mostly as propaganda.

That is: I don´t disagree so much as I disbelieve that it will hold for the majority.

Also, I will only be quoting the bold parts of Reich´s brief article, and here is the second part:
Second: Central to renewing our democracy is getting big money out of politics.
I agree with this - but it is very difficult to get big money out now that it is in.

Here is the third principle Reich enunciates:
Third: We have to ensure the economy works for all Americans, not just the wealthy and corporations.
In fact, I don´t quite see why the non-wealthy (at least 90% of the American population) should try to ensure that (unbolded) ¨the economy works for¨ ¨the wealthy and the corporations¨: Surely they have money enough to do so themselves.

And here is Reich´s fourth principle:
Fourth and finally: whether you voted for Bernie or Hillary or anybody else, we must put aside our differences.
No. There are big differences between Bernie and Hillary, and I see no reason whatsoever why ¨the left¨ should not discuss these (and indeed I am against Hillary for the presidency). In brief,
I don´t think Reich is radical enough in this article.

5. Nazis May Be Bad, But Tax Cuts Are Awesome!

This article is by Mike Lofgren on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

In the wake of Bob Woodward’s latest bombshell book and the publication of an anonymous op-ed by a purported senior member of the Trump administration claiming to be resisting the president’s agenda, the press and the blogosphere have erupted in one of America’s periodic moral fits about civic duty.

Are appointees who attempt to restrain Trump a pack of skulking cowards who should instead resign and oppose Trump openly, or does pragmatism dictate having clinically sane operatives in place who at least might stay the hand poised over the nuclear button, rather than granting alt-right stormtroopers the run of the West Wing? And those sympathetically portrayed characters in the Woodward book: how grateful should we be to them for supposedly preventing Trump from blowing up the world?

These are good questions and I will give my own answers, that are mostly dependent on my psychologist´s beliefs that Trump is genuinely insane because he - very probably - has a narcissistic personality disorder (that also explains much about his lying).

The first question amounts to this: ¨does pragmatism dictate having clinically sane operatives in place who at least might stay the hand poised over the nuclear button¨. My answer is that I think Trump is insane; that most of the people who work for him are clinically sane (though I do not like them at all), and that therefore I am for clinically sane people working for Trump indeed in part because I believe Trump is capable of starting a nuclear war.

The second question amounts to this: ¨how grateful should we be to them for supposedly preventing Trump from blowing up the world¨. I am not grateful to them for I think that if they are there to keep Trump from starting a nuclear war, they are simply doing their human duty.

Then there is this about Gary Cohn, whose parents are Jewish, and who worked for Goldman Sachs before he worked for Trump:

But a more revealing incident than the paperwork switcheroo occurred after the August 2017 violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Trump’s pointed non-condemnation of the neo-Nazi marchers. Cohn was unnerved both by the violence and when his daughter found a swastika on her college dorm room; he tried to resign and was forthwith accused of "treason" by Trump. But the latter then persuaded Cohn to stay on: the chance to pass a tax bill was a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” as Cohn told the press. Hey, Nazis are bad, but I’ve got a chance to funnel money to my Wall Street pals. Duty before scruples.

I think Lofgren is correct here (and Cohn left Trump´s government soon after he had grabbed his
once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get a lot richer than he was already).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

It is undoubtedly a good thing that Pentagon appointees are doing what they can to prevent Trump from bringing on the Apocalypse with a tweet. That does not, however prevent the day-to-day erosion of ethical standards such as we have seen with national security adviser John Bolton’s jihad against the International Criminal Court and any nation that cooperates with it.

Yes, I think I agree with Lofgren, indeed basically because I am a psychologist who does believe Trump is insane and quite capable of starting a nuclear war (and not because I like or admire anyone working for Trump). And this is a recommended article.

B. Europe Just Voted to Wreck the Internet

This article is by Cory Doctorow on Common Dreams. It starts as follows (and may indicate I will have to stop writing Nederlog by 2020):

Lobbyists for "creators" threw their lot in with the giant entertainment companies and the newspaper proprietors and managed to pass the new EU Copyright Directive by a hair's-breadth this morning, in an act of colossal malpractice to harm to working artists will only be exceeded by the harm to everyone who uses the internet for everything else.

Here's what the EU voted in favour of this morning

  • Upload filters: Everything you post, from short text snippets to stills, audio, video, code, etc will be surveilled by copyright bots run by the big platforms. They'll compare your posts to databases of "copyrighted works" that will be compiled by allowing anyone to claim copyright on anything, uploading thousands of works at a time. Anything that appears to match the "copyright database" is blocked on sight, and you have to beg the platform's human moderators to review your case to get your work reinstated.
  • Link taxes: You can't link to a news story if your link text includes more than a single word from the article's headline. The platform you're using has to buy a license from the news site, and news sites can refuse licenses, giving them the right to choose who can criticise and debate the news.
  • Sports monopolies: You can't post any photos or videos from sports events -- not a selfie, not a short snippet of a great goal. Only the "organisers" of events have that right. Upload filters will block any attempt to violate the rule.
Well... Gore Vidal (see the links: he was a smart man) said in 2008 that he guessed that the internet-as-was in 2008 would continue for some 10 years, and then be destroyed as a free instrument.

If the above is right, and I fear it is, he may have been off by two years:

Here's what they voted against:

  • "Right of panorama": the right to post photos of public places despite the presence of copyrighted works like stock arts in advertisements, public statuary, or t-shirts bearing copyrighted images. Even the facades of buildings need to be cleared with their architects (not with the owners of the buildings).
  • User generated content exemption: the right to use small excerpt from works to make memes and other critical/transformative/parodical/satirical works.
Having passed the EU Parliament, this will now be revised in secret, closed-door meetings with national governments ("the trilogues") and then voted again next spring, and then go to the national governments for implementation in law before 2021.
I take it the general message is this: From 2020 onwards, the internet will be the exclusive tool of the secret services and the rich, and everyone who is neither a spy nor a very rich person will have to pay for anything, and will not be allowed any freedom. (And full neofascism will arrive very soon after.)

And I have been argueing a long time against this, but seem to have lost once again. Well... I am glad I was born in 1950 and not later, and I very well may be one of the last men who has known a life of some freedom in a non-neofascist society.

[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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