September 17, 2018

Crisis: On Programs, On Kavanaugh, Trump & "Resistance", Three Lessons, More Resistance


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 17, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Monday, September 17, 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 17, 2018:
1. How algorithms reproduce social and racial inequality
2. Kavanaugh's Accuser Comes Forward
3. Donald Trump May Be the Leader of the Resistance Inside His Own

4. The Three Big Lessons We Didn’t Learn from the Economic Crisis
5. Giving Resistance a Good Name
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 algorithms reproduce social and racial inequality

This article is by Chauncy DeVega on Salon. It starts as follows:

Though we can’t perceive them directly, we are surrounded by algorithms in our day-to-day lives: they govern the way we interact with our devices, use computers and ATMs, and move about the world. Algorithms situated deep within computer programs and AIs help to manage traffic patterns on major roads and highways. Algorithms are also used by banks and other lenders to determine if a person is deemed "worthy" of a loan or credit card. Algorithms also determine how information is shared on search engines such as Google and through social media platforms such as Facebook. The Pentagon in conjunction with private industry are developing algorithms which will empower unmanned drones to independently decide how and in what circumstances to use lethal force against human beings.

Technology is not neutral. How it is used and for what ends reflects the social norms and values of a given culture. As such, in the United States and around the world, algorithms and other types of artificial intelligence often reproduce social inequality and serve the interests of the powerful — instead of being a way of creating a more equal, free and just social democracy.

Well... this is more or less correct, except for (i) the use of the word ¨algorithm¨ (which is very common nowadays) and (ii) the confusion of ¨algorithms¨, ¨progams¨ and ¨artificial intelligence¨.

In fact, these are all mistakes by a non-programmer, but then again it seems between 1 and 2% of the people on the internet know how to program (somewhat decently). I am one of the few, so that I can tell you immediately that the best term for programs (of any kind) is ¨programs¨ (and not ¨algorithm¨).

And a program is essentially a set of instructions to a computer what it should do if it encounters a certain kind of information, and also what it should do in case it doesn´t find that kind of imformation.

Finally, most programs other than explicit open source is hidden source: it is a secret what the programs look for and decide.

I think all of the above information I just gave should have been in the article (but then I know how to program).

Here is more:

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with professor Safiya Noble, a professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Communication and the author of the new book "Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism". Professor Noble is also a partner in Stratelligence, a firm that specializes in research on information and data science challenges. She is also a co-founder of the Information Ethics & Equity Institute, which provides training for organizations committed to transforming their information management practices toward more just, ethical, and equitable outcomes.

This definitely is a good idea, although the answers to these questions should be fairly obvious: Of course, any secret program may encode for anything, and since it is secret, you probably will not find out (unless you are the CEO of the same company you like to know the programs of).

Here is more:

What narrative would you craft about the role of Facebook, Twitter, and the Internet more broadly in this political moment, when democracy is under siege in the United States and in other countries as well?

The public was sold a bill of goods about the liberatory possibilities of the Internet back in the 90s. When the full-on datafication of our society began to develop — and which of course we're in now — and in which our every move is tracked and our almost every sense and every touch are collected and profiled, it is changing who we are and subverting our freedom. These processes have really undermined our civic liberties and civil rights. This is a perfect moment for the public to have become numb to losing control. Moreover, to have lost even the capacity to know they have lost control. This is the perfect moment for an autocratic authoritarian regime to be in place. We are seeing this now in the United States with Trump and with authoritarian movements around the world.

I got internet in 1996 but I never believed in ¨the liberatory possibilities of the Internet back in the 90s¨ simply because I could program; I knew almost all programs (outside Linux) were secretive; and I knew anything whatsoever could be in a secretive program.

Then again, I also was one of the few. Here is more:

Where did the wrong idea that the Internet would save us by being a type of great social leveler and space to create opportunity and freedom come from?

The early Internet users and evangelists, if you will, always talked about the Internet as a site of liberation. That it would be this kind of nationless, borderless, raceless, classless, genderless place. This is in the early pre-commercial Internet days. Over time of course, as the Internet became wholly commercialized for many people, the Internet became Facebook. The Internet is Google. The average user couldn't really understand what the Internet is beyond those sites. They are relegated to Google and its products as kind of a knowledge or sense-making tool that people rely upon.

Well... I never believed the Internet ever was non-commercial, and my reasons were (and are) essentially these two: (i) everything that is not open source, that is, some 98% of all source is a deep commercial secret owned by commercial entities, and (ii) almost nobody is capable of reading closed commercial source.

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

Algorithms are sequestering and creating markets, consumer markets of people who see certain kinds of messages or certain kinds of advertising. It's not a free for all. It's a highly curated space.

Democracy vis-a-vis technology and these platforms are not a replacement for real democracy on any level. If anything, they are foreclosing the possibilities of people thinking critically because what moves through these spaces is advertising-driven content. That's actually very different from  evidence-based research or other forms of knowledge which are critically important to democracy.

Yes, but the reasons are in my comments:

All non-open source programs are deep secrets owned by commercial companies; all programs most users see are also seen by programs that score who see it and for how long; and these two facts make it possible to make most users read and see mostly what programmers like them to read and see, and little or nothing else. (And this means mostly Facebook + Google.)

And this is a recommended article, but it would have been pleasant if it had been written by someone who knows how to program (which I learned in 1973, and again on an early PC in 1979).

2. Kavanaugh's Accuser Comes Forward

This article is by Darlene Superville on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:
The woman who has accused Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when they were in high school has come forward, alleging in an interview that Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed, clumsily tried to remove her clothing and covered her mouth when she tried to scream.

“I thought he might inadvertently kill me,” Christine Blasey Ford told The Washington Post in her first interview. “He was trying to attack me and remove my clothing.”

Ford, now 51 and a clinical psychology professor at Palo Alto University in California, says she was able to get away after Kavanaugh’s friend jumped on top of them and everyone tumbled.

Kavanaugh, now 53 and a federal appeals judge in Washington, has denied the allegation. He repeated that denial again Sunday through the White House.

I say, for I did not know this. And the first question is: Do I believe this? My answer is immediate:

While I do not believe all accusations of #MeToo, I do believe the present one is probably correct, simply because (i) the woman who made the accusation is well educated and a professor, and because (ii) she knew she would get a lot of trouble with sympathizers of Kavanaugh.

And - of course - the above is not a proof she is correct, but to prove it requires considerably more time and more investigations.

Here are some on the consequences:

Top Senate Democrats, including New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, immediately called for postponement of a Thursday vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee on whether to recommend that the full Senate confirm Kavanaugh to replace retired Justice Anthony Kennedy on the nation’s highest court. Republicans gave no indication Sunday that they would do so.

I infer from this that ¨Top Senate Democrats¨ reasoned as I just reasoned, and I also think they are correct in calling for a postponement (at least), which I can reformulate as follows:

Until there is good evidence that Kavenaugh did not try to rape Ford, you cannot nominate Kavanaugh for life as a Supreme Court Judge, for you do not want to nominate possible rapists.

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

Kavanaugh’s nomination by President Donald Trump has divided the Senate, with most Democrats opposing him and most Republicans supporting him.

But the allegations of sexual misconduct, particularly coming amid the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, coupled with Ford’s emergence could complicate matters, especially as key Republican senators, including Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, are under enormous pressure from outside groups who want them to oppose Kavanaugh on grounds that as a justice he could vote to undercut the Roe v. Wade ruling legalizing abortion in the U.S.

I think this is simply true and this is a recommended article.

3. Donald Trump May Be the Leader of the Resistance Inside His Own Administration

This article is by Joshua Holland on AlterNet and originally on Raw Story. This is from near the beginning:
Nobody’s done more to keep Russian interference in the 2016 election in the headlines than the “president.” Vanity Fair reported this week that former Trump henchman Michael Cohen appears to be cooperating with the Mueller probe in part because he “listened as Trump railed against anyone who makes a plea deal” on Fox News, and Cohen “bristled at the feeling that he has taken the fall for a man who has refused to take any responsibility or face any consequence himself.” Remember that there would be no Mueller investigation in the first place if Trump hadn’t fired FBI director James Comey and then told NBC’s Lester Holt that he did so to derail the Russia investigation.
Well... I first like to say something about Joshua Holland and his style of writing this article:

I do not know anything about Joshua Holland other than that AlterNet asserts he works for, but I do know that this is the first article that I read that seems to consist fundamentally of a series of Tweets separated by ¨*********¨.

I am sorry, but I am not stupid, and I despise Tweets - and I also feel that those who Tweet, or write articles like a collection of Tweets, may be too stupid to understand that intelligent persons dislike Tweets, but nevertheless it is so.

Well... here is the first Tweet-like message:
The Trump regime’s teetering on the precipice because of Donald Trump. One could plausibly argue that nobody has done more for the anti-Trump #resistance than the Orange Shitgibbon himself.

Consider how different things might be if he were articulate, displayed some rudimentary knowledge of how the world works, didn’t make headlines with outlandish lies every day and had a modicum of self-control.

For one thing, I do not believe in "the anti-Trump #resistance". Otherwise, this is a sort of hypothetical question that is not formulated as a question but as an assertion.

Here is another Tweet-like message:

Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that “the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded — a significant counternarrative to the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the United States.” There’s been a lot of attention on family separations but when you include kids who are locked up with their families, the total is almost 13,000.

According to The Washington Post, the regime is tripling the size of a “a tent camp for migrant children in the desert outside El Paso” in order to accommodate all the kids the xenophobic fuckers running our government are detaining.

I suppose this is correct (but I can scold myself if I want to, and do not see much use for either "the Orange Shitgibbon" or "the xenophobic fuckers running our government"), although I know many Tweets are essentially scoldings (which is one important reason why I don't like them and never use them).

Here is the last Tweet-like message I quote:

Finally, we leave you with this good news: A series of recent polls suggests that the Senate is very much in play this November. It was long viewed as nearly impossible for the Dems to take the upper chamber, but handicapper Stuart Rothenberg wrote this week for Rollcall that “Democratic prospects have improved noticeably, giving the party a difficult but discernible route for control.”

Quite possibly so. Then again, I do not like Tweets nor Tweet-like messaging, and indeed also like to add that this is the first such "article" that reaches me from writers for, that otherwise generally were good and well-written articles.
4. The Three Big Lessons We Didn’t Learn from the Economic Crisis

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

Ten years ago, after making piles of money gambling with other people’s money, Wall Street nearly imploded, and the outgoing George W. Bush and incoming Obama administrations bailed out the bankers.

America should have learned three big lessons from the crisis. We didn’t, to our continuing peril.

First unlearned lesson: Banking is a risky business with huge upsides for the few who gamble in it, but bigger downsides for the public when those bets go bad.

Which means that safeguards are necessary. The safeguards created after Wall Street’s 1929 crash worked for over four decades. They made banking boring.

But starting in the 1980s, they were watered down or repealed because of Wall Street’s increasing thirst for profits and its growing political clout. As politicians from both parties grew dependent on the Street for campaign funding, the rush to deregulate turned into a stampede.

Yes, I basically agree with the above, except for the usage of "We", which is false both for Reich and for me, and also for quite a few intelligent others. (And why not say: "Many didn’t, to our continuing peril."?!)

Anyway. Here is the second lesson:

The second lesson we should have learned but didn’t is how widening inequality makes our economy susceptible to financial disaster.  

In the decades leading up to 2008, stagnant wages caused many Americans to go deep into debt – using the rising values of their homes as collateral. Much the same thing had happened in the years leading up to 1929.

Wall Street banks were delighted to accommodate – lending willy-nilly and often in predatory ways – until the housing and debt bubbles burst.

And now? The underlying problem of stagnant wages, with most economic gains going to the top, is still with us. Once again, consumers are deep in debt – inviting another crisis.

Again: Quite so, except for "we" (which should again have been "many"). Here is the third lesson:

The third big lesson we didn’t learn concerned the rigging of American politics. After the crisis, many Americans realized that Wall Street, big corporations, and the wealthy had essentially bought up our democracy. 

Americans saw the Street get bailed out while homeowners, suddenly owing more on their homes than the homes were worth, got little or nothing.

Millions lost their jobs, savings, pensions, and homes, but the bankers and big investors came out richer than before.

Bankers who committed serious fraud escaped accountability. No executive went to jail.
I am sorry I have to correct Reich's grammar, but in the first paragraph quoted above he is contradicting himself: He says "we" didn't learn the lesson, and in the next statement says "many" did. These can't be both true (and I studied a whole lot of logic).

Then again, apart from this contradiction, the rest is as I thought it was, since 2008.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article, and it is its ending:

Democrats don’t know whether to simply oppose Trump and his authoritarianism, or get behind a reform agenda to wrest control of politics and the economy from the moneyed interests. 

But to do the latter they’d have to take on those that have funded them for decades. I wish I had more confidence they will. 

Sad to say, ten years after the near meltdown of Wall Street we seem to have learned very little. Only worse: We now have Trump.

Well... the above quoted bit might have been put in quite a few different ways. I prefer this way:

Quite a few Democrats don't know what to do, because they disagree with the current leadership of the Democrats, but also don't know how to get rid of them, simply because the current leadership is so heavily funded by the rich, and especially by the Wall Street Bankers.

The rest - apart from "we" (and I wrote over 2000 articles about the crisis since September 1, 2008) - is more or less correct. And this is a recommended article, although you should read "we" as "many".

5. Giving Resistance a Good Name

This article is by David Swanson on Washington´s Blog. It starts as follows:
It’s popular to refer to the political line of a major corporate party in the United States as something like “the resistance” when the other of the two parties is on the throne of what both parties have, over many decades, actively converted into an unconstitutional position of something wildly beyond old-fashioned royal powers. Around 2004 the Democratic Party line was to pretend to oppose wars. Around 2018 it wasn’t. So the “resistance” of that party’s followers included war opposition in 2004 but not in 2018. Its essence was and is not resistance at all, but obedience.

When it comes to the general habit of resisting unproven, unworthy, illegitimate, and unpopular authority, the stance promoted by U.S. culture is quite mixed, and virtually everyone in the U.S. government is opposed to resistance as a matter of principle or as a matter of cowardice. For every whistleblower, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people who could have exposed the very same abuses and chose not to.

Yes, I basically agree with the above, though indeed I did not know that "the resistance" has been popular before 2016. Then again, I never believed in "the resistance" that I saw on videos taken from TV, that was presumably hosted by some of the best paid presenters on TV.

And I also believe that "[f]or every whistleblower, there are dozens, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of people who could have exposed the very same abuses and chose not to" - but then that has always been the case everywhere (that is, that many talk but few act, especially not if acting is risky to themselves).

Then there is this on Bruce Levine and "the people under 30":

Bruce Levine has written and spoken on this theme in the past, but his new book, Resisting Illegitimate Authority, is a powerful new tool that ought to be put into the hands of every young person, teacher, and parent. When George W. Bush was emperor, it was rare to attend a gathering of peace activists in the United States at which nobody asked “Where are the people under 30?”

I checked out Bruce Levine, and found that I basically do not know about him, which is to say that since he also is a clinical psychologist (while I am a psychologist but not a clinical one), I do not have much of an idea about what he wrote.

As to "the people under 30": I admit that I have asked that question (of myself, not in public) quite a few times the last 17 years or so. I still think it is a good question, although I grant that lately quite a few more young people seem to have protested than around 2005, say.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article (and this connects to a bit about Levine that I did not quote):

They never had it easy. That is actually the message that takes up the bulk of Levine’s book as he recounts the stories of such varied anti-authoritarians as Thomas Paine, Ralph Nader, Malcolm X, Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Edward Snowden, Frances Farmer, Ernest Hemingway, Phil Ochs, Lenny Bruce, Ida Lupino, Alexander Berkman, Leon Czolgosz, Ted Kaczinski, Henry Thoreau, Scott Nearing, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Helen Keller, Jane Jacobs, Noam Chomsky, George Carlin, and Levine himself. Historical anti-authoritarians have had it hard when they’ve opposed the wrong authorities, and dismissing them as mentally imbalanced is nothing new. But today a kid like Malcolm X in a foster home would be quite likely to be drugged. Threatening suicide, as teenage Emma Goldman did, might today land her in a psychiatric hospital.

I say, for I have read at least 15 of the "anti-authoritarians" Levine mentions, which is something like a first. And I think I may agree with the chances of modern Malcolm Xs or Emma Goldmans at least in the sense that they are now far more likely to be treated with psychiatric medicines than their real counterparts were in their time. This is a 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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