September 28, 2018

Crisis: Kavanaugh, Google's Privacy Law, Amazon's Exploitations, A Dying Empire, The Future


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 28, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 28, 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 28, 2018:
1. Why Brett Kavanaugh Wasn’t Believable
2. New U.S. Privacy Law Could Be Good for Google, Bad for You
3. Leaked Video Reveals Amazon's Belligerent Anti-Worker Tactics
4. In the Heart of a Dying Empire
5. Harbingers: Florence, Forest Fires, and the Future
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. Why Brett Kavanaugh Wasn’t Believable

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

What a study in contrasts: Where Christine Blasey Ford was calm and dignified, Brett Kavanaugh was volatile and belligerent; where she was eager to respond fully to every questioner, and kept worrying whether she was being “helpful” enough, he was openly contemptuous of several senators; most important, where she was credible and unshakable at every point in her testimony, he was at some points evasive, and some of his answers strained credulity.

Indeed, Dr. Blasey’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday was devastating.

With the eyes of the nation on her, Dr. Blasey recounted an appalling trauma. When she was 15 years old, she said, she was sexually assaulted by Judge Kavanaugh, then a 17-year-old student at a nearby high school and now President Trump’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

Her description of the attack, which she said occurred in a suburban Maryland home on a summer night in 1982, was gut-wrenchingly specific. She said Judge Kavanaugh and his friend, Mark Judge, both of whom she described as very drunk, locked her in a second-floor room of a private home. She said Kavanaugh jumped on top of her, groped her, tried to remove her clothes and put his hand over her mouth to keep her from screaming. She said she feared he might accidentally kill her.

Yes, indeed. Then again, I should also say that I selected today just this one article on Kavanaugh, while I could have selected hundreds, for it seems almost every journalist who has any name whatsoever, can write about Kavanaugh and does write about Kavanaugh.

Anyway. Here is Kavanaugh's reply:

Judge Kavanaugh, when it was his turn, was not laughing. He was yelling. He spent more than half an hour raging against Senate Democrats and the “Left” for “totally and permanently” destroying his name, his career, his family, his life. He called his confirmation process a “national disgrace.”

“You may defeat me in the final vote, but you will never get me to quit,” Judge Kavanaugh said, sounding like someone who suddenly doubted his confirmation to the Supreme Court — an outcome that seemed preordained only a couple of weeks ago.

Well... if Kavanaugh's appointment is pushed through by the Senate, I will call him the sado- fascistic rapist, I think, and the Supreme Court, which anyway is a strange institution in the USA (for it seems, among other things, that no other Supreme Court nominates judges for life) will be given up by me.

And no, I do not think my opinions make any political difference, but I do like to write what I think is true, and nominating an uninvestigated possible rapist in the highest court in the USA makes the whole Supreme Court ludicrous.

We just heard about Kavanaugh. This is about Blasey:

In contrast, Dr. Blasey bolstered her credibility not only by describing in harrowing detail what she did remember, but by being honest about what she didn’t — like the exact date of the gathering, or the address of the house where it occurred. As she pointed out, the precise details of a trauma get burned into the brain and stay there long after less relevant details fade away.

She was also honest about her ambivalence in coming forward. “I am terrified,” she told the senators in her opening remarks. And then there’s the fact that she gains nothing by coming forward. She is in hiding now with her family in the face of death threats.

Precisely. This is from the ending of this article:

[T]he Republican majority on the committee has scheduled a vote for Friday morning.

There is no reason the committee needs to hold this vote before the F.B.I. can do a proper investigation, and Mr. Judge and possibly other witnesses can be called to testify under oath. The Senate, and the American people, need to know the truth, or as close an approximation as possible, before deciding whether Judge Kavanaugh should get a lifetime seat on the nation’s highest court.

Yes, I totally agree. This is a strongly recommended article.

2. New U.S. Privacy Law Could Be Good for Google, Bad for You

This article is by Marcy Gordon and Matt O'Brien on Truthdig and originally on The Associated Press. It starts as follows:

Congress is taking the first steps toward setting national rules governing how companies use consumers’ data — although one of its goals might be to prevent states from enacting stronger privacy protections of their own.

The approach being pondered by policymakers and pushed by the internet industry leans toward a relatively light government touch. That’s in contrast to stricter European rules that took effect in May and a California law that takes effect in 2020. Other states are also considering more aggressive protections.

However it works out, any regulatory push will find it challenging to reconcile the concerns of privacy advocates who want people to have more control over the use of their personal data — where they’ve been, what they view, who their friends are —and the powerful companies who mine that information for profit.

Well... I think that (1) ALL consumer data should be hidden, and I also think (as a European) that the European laws are very bad for consumers (for they also further rather than limit the usage of consumer data), while (2) NO company should have the right to mine personal information for their personal profit: it is sick sadistic theft that totally destroys all privacy.

Then again, I also know that the whole internet has been set up since the late 1960ies (!!!) to become what it has become:

To provide the most complete personal and private information on each and every person who uses the internet that will allow the secret services - each and every secret service, anywhere - to arrest persons even before they plan anything; that allows a whole new kind of society that was called "the technotronic society" in the late 1960ies, but should honestly have been called neofascism (which has both private information on any user anywhere accessible to any secret service, but also has nearly the same private information on any user anywhere accessible for each and every of the rich corporations Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft); and that intentionally breaks each and every personal privacy of each and every user.

But it seems that very few users of the internet are interested in the incredible extremely vast abuses that the internet has been designed to install since the late 1960ies, indeed in part because you need to know quite a lot to be intellligently interested.

Anyway... I have been explaining this over and again since 2012 when I discovered this, but it seems nobody is interested. For more see
Crisis: propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968

Here is more on present developments (which are ridiculous in my eyes):

The Senate Commerce Committee hearing comes amid increasing anxiety over safeguarding consumers’ data online and recent scandals that have stoked outrage among users and politicians. The committee’s chairman, Republican Sen. John Thune of South Dakota, said both Republicans and Democrats now want to reach consensus on a national privacy law that “will help consumers, promote innovation, reward organizations with little to hide and force shady practitioners to clean up their act.”

An early move in President Donald Trump’s tenure set the tone on data privacy. He signed a bill into law in April 2017 that allows internet providers to sell information about their customers’ browsing habits. The legislation scrapped Obama-era online privacy rules aimed at giving consumers more control over how broadband companies like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon share that information.

In brief: Forget it. Trump and Google and Facebook and Apple plus all secret services from anywhere do NOT want it, and what they want happens.

The new developments will be excellent for Google and Facebook and Apple and all secret services from anywhere. The human rights of any private user simply are completely irrelevant. That is the future (and at 68 I am glad that I lived in about the first and the last period of relative freedom in the world, in Western Europe, that lasted from 1946 till the 1990s).

3. Leaked Video Reveals Amazon's Belligerent Anti-Worker Tactics

This article is by Jake Johnson on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As Amazon works to combat its public image as a starvation-wage employer by doling out mere pennies in pay hikes and deploying an army of workers to sing the company’s praises on Twitter, a video leaked on Wednesday revealed that the trillion-dollar company is continuing to work feverishly behind the scenes to crush any attempts by workers to unionize and bargain collectively for better wages and working conditions.
Yes, this seems quite true. Here is some more:

Amazon’s aggressively anti-union video—which recommends tactics that one commentator said “should be illegal“—was sent to Whole Foods managers just weeks after employees of the grocery chain took initial steps toward unionizing in an effort to achieve a higher minimum wage and better benefits.

The training video emerged as Amazon and company CEO Jeff Bezos—the richest man in the world—have faced intense scrutiny from progressive lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who last month introduced the “Stop BEZOS Act,” which would impose a “100 percent tax on large employers equal to the amount of federal benefits received by their low-wage workers.”

“While Mr. Bezos is worth $155 billion and while his wealth has increased $260 million every single day this year, he continues to pay many Amazon employees wages that are so low that they are forced to depend on taxpayer-funded programs such as food stamps, Medicaid, and subsidized housing just to get by,” Sanders said in a statement.

Quite so - and I also have a personal conclusion about Jeff Bezos, Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Tim Cooke and Bill Gates (all recent billionaires it seems): It seems to me that the richer you get, the more sub-human, neofascistic, and morally degenerate you get - as is illustrated in the present case by the infinite greed joined to the complete personal irresponsibility of Jeff Bezos.

4. In the Heart of a Dying Empire

This article is by Tom Engelhardt on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:
Think back to that year when the other superpower, the lesser one of that era, so unbelievably went down for the count.  Try to recall that moment when the Soviet Union, its economy imploding, suddenly was no more, its various imperial parts -- from Eastern Europe to Central Asia -- having largely spun free. It’s hard now to remember just how those months after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and that final moment in 1991 stunned the Washington establishment. Untold sums of money had been poured into “intelligence” during the almost half-century of what became known as the Cold War (because a hot war between two nuclear-armed superpowers seemed unimaginable -- even if it almost happened). Nonetheless, key figures in Washington were remarkably unprepared for it all to end. They were stunned. It simply hadn’t occurred to them that the global standoff between the last two great powers on this planet could or would ever truly be over.
Imagine! After so many centuries of rivalries between great powers and that final showdown between just two superpowers, it was all over (except for the bragging). Only one power, the -- by definition -- greatest of all, was left on a planet obviously there for the taking.
Yes, this is true and it also was the first time just one country in the world - the USA - was and indeed still is by far the strongest country in the world (for the USA also has by far the largest budget to make war).

Here is more, this time on Donald Trump:
In 2016, in what came to be known as the “homeland,” American voters responded to that reality in a visceral way.  They elected as president a truly strange figure, a man who alone among the country’s politicians was peddling the idea that the U.S. was no longer great but, like Putin’s Russia, would have to be made great again. Donald Trump, as I wrote during that campaign season, was the first presidential candidate to promote the idea that the United States was in decline at a moment when politicians generally felt obliged to affirm that the U.S. was the greatest, most exceptional, most indispensable place on the planet. And, of course, he won.
Yes. And this is on what Trump did:
You know that it's the wallets and pocketbooks of the 1% that are really booming, expanding, exploding at the moment; that the rich have inherited, if not the Earth, then at least American politics; that the wealth possessed by that 1% is now at levels not seen since the eve of the Great Depression of 1929. And, honestly, can you doubt that the next crash is somewhere just over the horizon?
I agree there will be a next crash, and I think it will probably be considerably (or much) larger than the crisis of 2008 (that still persists for everybody who does not belong to the 10% of the richest and their servants and bureaucrats).

No one knows when it will come. I am in favor of it, because I think far too much has gone wrong in major ways, such as the whole internet (which was designed to spy on everyone, and which does spy on everyone: see item 2 above) and the totally incredible earnings of the very rich, but then again I also know that virtually every revolution has had a quite different outcome from what the revolutionists wanted.

Here is Tom Engelhardt's vision of the future:
Believe me, folks, it’s going to be anything but pretty. Welcome to that most unpredictable and dangerous of entities, a dying empire. Only 27 years after the bells of triumph tolled across Washington, it looks like those bells are now preparing to toll in mourning for it.
I think this is probably correct and this is a recommended article.
5. Harbingers: Florence, Forest Fires, and the Future

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Climate change catastrophe is upon us. We see it in the record-breaking floods from storms like Florence, and in the record-breaking fires across the US once again this year. But the media – which barely mentioned the link between these catastrophes and climate change -- is preparing to move on to the next new, new, thing.  Can’t blame them.  Trump and the Republicans are providing enough fodder to feed a thousand news cycles with daily outrages that keep the country on the edge of chaos. 

But here’s the thing – climate change will affect us more profoundly, more negatively, and sooner than anything we’ve been led to believe. What we’re seeing now is just a taste of what the future holds, and the disasters we’re causing today with our continued use of fossil fuels will soon be a permanent feature of our existence, irrevocable in anything other than geologic time, if we don’t act immediately.

Yes, I think this is true (apart from "Can’t blame them") and I also think it is very probably true that climate changes is "a permanent feature of our existence".

Here is some more:

A recent report published in the prestigious Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, identifies ten feedbacks that could – and absent immediate action, likely will – increase the pace and extent of warming; something they refer to as the “Hothouse Earth” pathway. Hothouse Earth is not a planet compatible with the world humans evolved in, nor is it capable of sustaining civilization as we know it.  For example, under the Hothouse Earth pathway, sea level would ultimately rise by as much as 60 meters (about 197 feet) and stay that way for millennia. This would inundate virtually every coastal city in the world, and displace close to 3 billion people.  And these billions of refugees would come on top of others already displaced by heat, drought, disease, storms, hunger and the political unrest they would cause. 

In fact, I do not think that either the economy or the social structures that we have are capable of surviving the inundation of "virtually every coastal city in the world" or indeed the displacement of some "3 billion people".

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

I call Bullshit on the anti-doom and gloomers.  Again, standard risk management strategies suggest we use the utmost caution – which is to say, assume the worst, and spare no expense in adopting policies which will prevent an outcome that is potentially ubiquitous, cataclysmic and irreversible.  Nothing, with the possible exception of an all-out nuclear war, fits that category better than climate change.

But because of what James Hansen calls scientific reticence, scientists have been reluctant to raise alarms, and when they have, many were not particularly good at it, couching there concerns in the careful language of science.

As a result, people don’t fully understand the true nature of the threat that climate change poses, and the press – when they bother to cover it – understates it.

I agree and there are some quite interesting bits on the very weak standards that are being used, that I skipped because they are too long and complicated.

Also, I think James Hansen is too friendly on most scientists: Most scientists also know that they have relatively good incomes, which they like to keep, which substantially changes - in many but not all cases - their attitudes to such evidence as there is.

Then again, Atcheson is right in his above conclusion in his last statement, 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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