December 7, 2018

Crisis: Republicans vs Democracy, On China, On Sanders, On 1968 and 2018, Facebook Lies


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 7, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, December 7, 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 three 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 December 7, 2018:
1. Republican Efforts to End Democracy
2. China Criticized over Persecution of Uyghur Muslims
3. Sanders and DNC Level Playing Field for 2020 Presidential Debates
4. How The Iconic 1968 Earthrise Photo Changed Our Relationship To The

5. Facebook lied about privacy fix
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. Republican Efforts to End Democracy

This article is by Charles M. Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Do not believe that we are still living in a functioning democracy. We are not. Republicans across this country are doing everything they can to impede, alter and override the power of the personal vote. This strikes at the very heart of democracy, both undermining people’s faith in it and contorting it until it no long resembles what it claims to be.

On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that Republicans succeeded in their wish:

“After hours of mysterious closed-door meetings that went past midnight, the Wisconsin Senate convened at 4:30 on Wednesday morning and passed by one vote a package of bills devised to curb the powers of the incoming Democratic leaders.”

And Wisconsin is not alone. As the The Washington Post reported Monday:

“In Michigan, where Democrats last month won the governor’s mansion as well as the races for attorney general and secretary of state, Republican lawmakers last week introduced measures that would water down the authority of those positions on campaign finance oversight and other legal matters.”

Altering the structure of power in a state to limit the influence of an incoming executive of an opposing party wasn’t something I thought I’d ever see in America, but unfortunately this isn’t even the first time we’ve seen it. This is not the first time Republicans have done it.

Yes, I mostly agree, although the question whether the USA is ¨still living in a functioning democracy¨ is a bit complicated to answer - rationally, that is - with a straight ¨yes¨ or ¨no¨. Then again, I agree that it is more No than Yes, and indeed especially so in Wisconsin and Michigan.

Here is more on voter purging:

Furthermore, a report this year by the Brennan Center for Justice found that voter purging was on the rise:

We found that between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls, and every state in the country can and should do more to protect voters from improper purges. Almost 4 million more names were purged from the rolls between 2014 and 2016 than between 2006 and 2008. This growth in the number of removed voters represented an increase of 33 percent — far outstripping growth in both total registered voters (18 percent) and total population (6 percent).

I say, for I did not know that ¨between 2014 and 2016, states removed almost 16 million voters from the rolls¨.

Here is more on gerrymandering:

As for gerrymandering, it isthe biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States,” according to Brian Klaas, a political scientist at University College London.

As Klaas noted in an article in The Washington Post: “While no party is innocent when it comes to gerrymandering, a Washington Post analysis in 2014 found that eight of the ten most gerrymandered districts in the United States were drawn by Republicans.”

Yes indeed. There is considerably more in this article, that ends as follows:

Republican power is increasingly synonymous with white power. The party’s nationalist tendencies are increasingly synonymous with white nationalism.

This group will not willingly cede its power just because demographics predict its downfall and current circumstances demonstrate its weaknesses.

If the Republican Party can’t maintain power in the democracy we have, it will destroy that democracy so that its power can be entrenched by limiting the impact of the vote.

Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.

2. China Criticized over Persecution of Uyghur Muslims

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! I shortened the title. It starts with the following introduction:
The United Nations and human rights groups have accused China’s government of setting up massive anti-Muslim “re-education” camps in the northwest Xinjiang province to disappear, jail and brainwash Uyghur Muslims. Some estimates put the population in the camps at up to 2 million. After months of denials, China acknowledged their existence in October, saying they are part of efforts to counter extremism. But Uyghurs say it’s a form of collective punishment—and that they live under a high-tech surveillance state designed to eradicate Islam. We speak to Rushan Abbas, a Uyghur-American activist based in Washington, D.C. After she spoke out against China’s repression of the Uyghurs earlier this year, her aunt and sister disappeared and have not been heard from since.
I say, if only because ¨2 million¨ persons in camps (for having a religion the Chinese Communist Party dislikes) is a lot. But there is considerably more:

AMY GOODMAN: After months of denials, the Chinese government acknowledged the existence of the camps in October. That’s when the local government in Xinjiang changed its laws to formally allow the formation of what they call, quote, “vocational skill educational training centers” to, quote, “carry out anti-extremist ideological education.” Satellite images show that dozens of these camps have been built in recent years.

For years China has cracked down on the Uyghurs and other Muslim groups. In 2017, officials in Xinjiang banned men from wearing beards, women from covering their faces, and homeschool. Xinjiang has also become a high-tech surveillance state. Video cameras with facial recognition software track everyone’s movement on the streets. All vehicles must have GPS trackers. Checkpoints are set up throughout the region, where police scan people’s irises and phones.
Yes, and I concentrate on the ¨high-tech surveillance state¨ that has been surrected not only in Xinjiang, but throughout China, if only to insist that what is happening in China may be happening soon in Europe or the USA, for the simple reason that ¨the security services¨ aka spies for the government know as much about anyone as in China, which also is a lot more than virtually anyone can recall about himself or herself, and which is a totally new aspect in the world:

By now, the
spies for the government (any government, virtually anywhere) know extremely much more about each and every person than the KGB and the Gestapo ever did or indeed could know.

Back to the article:

AMY GOODMAN: Thank you so much for joining us, Rushan Abbas. If you can start off by saying: Have you heard anything at this point, even from other family members, what you believe has happened to your family? And also, the situation right now for the Uyghurs in China?

RUSHAN ABBAS: I have not heard anything about the disappearance of my sister and my aunt. I was one of the speakers at Hudson Institute, one of the think tanks in Washington, D.C., on September 5th. On September 11th, they both disappeared at the same day.

Currently, over 2 million Uyghurs are being held in those concentration camps. And the Chinese government is saying those are the vocational training centers, but my sister was a retired medical doctor and speaks fluent Chinese. I don’t understand: What is she being trained over there? The entire population of the region is being collectively punished right now, going through indoctrinations in those concentration camps with communist philosophy and propagandas.

Yes, I think Abbas is basically correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s turn to the 29-year-old Uyghur woman who testified before Congress last month about her time in a detention center in Xinjiang. This is part of Mihrigul Tursun’s statement, read by a translator.

MIHRIGUL TURSUN: [translated] I was taken to a cell, which was built underground with no windows. There were cameras on all four sides so the officials could see every corner of the room. There were around 60 people in one of the cells where I was held. At night, 15 women would stand up while the rest of us would sleep sideways, and then we would rotate every two hours. Some people had not taken a shower in over a year.

Before we ate breakfast, which was water with very little rice, we had to sing songs hailing the Communist Party. We had to repeat, in Chinese—in quote—”Long live Xi Jinping” and—in quote—”Leniency for those who repent and punishment for those who resist.” Anyone who could not memorize a book of slogans and the rules within 14 days would be denied food or beaten. …

There is lot more in the article, that is strongly recommended.

3. Sanders and DNC Level Playing Field for 2020 Presidential Debates

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld on Truthdig and originally on the Independent Media Institute. It starts as follows:

The Democratic Party’s best-known outsider, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, appears to be on the verge of notching yet another inside-track score that doubtless will come in handy when he runs for president in 2020.

One of the biggest complaints by Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign was the way that the Democratic National Committee collaborated with Hillary Clinton’s campaign to schedule its televised debates. In a nutshell, Sanders was cut out of that process, as WikiLeaks documented in its release of stolen campaign emails. The Clinton campaign outlined the schedule it wanted—and got. The debates were to be minimal, held on weekends when audiences were smaller, and were announced with no input from Sanders.

In striking contrast to the last presidential season, the DNC has been giving Sanders a seat at the 2020 planning table in ways that could barely be imagined during his first presidential run. The latest concession, according to a Washington Post report about the DNC’s efforts to avoid repeating its 2016 mistakes, is a soon-to-be-released plan where the well-known and lesser-known candidates will share the presidential debate stage, at least initially.

I did not know this and I agree with Rosenfeld that this is an improvement over 2016. Then again, what is not mentioned is the fact that Sanders will turn 79 in 2020 (before the elections).

I do not think that this is a fundamental objection, but I also think it does mean that - if he runs, which he may do because he is more popular than any (other) Democratic candidate - his choice for the vice-presidency will be important.

Here is more from the article:

Seeking Sanders’ input on the prospective televised debate schedule is only the latest example of the DNC consulting his team as the party turns toward 2020.

“They were genuinely interested in learning what went right, which was not much, and what went wrong, which was a lot,” Jeff Weaver, Sanders 2016 campaign manager, told the Post. “I recommended starting the process earlier, so it is not right on top of the primaries and caucuses.”

Sanders, who won 45 percent of 2016’s elected national convention delegates, has not officially announced his candidacy. But that step is largely a formality. Just days ago, he convened his brain trust for a “Sanders Institute Gathering,” where there were palpable expectations surrounding 2020. Months before, Sanders won a critical DNC concession: that only elected national convention delegates could vote in 2020’s first round for the next nominee. (That reform delayed voting by 700-plus appointed “superdelegates.”)

In fact, I do not think that (as the title says) Sanders and the DNC have levelled the playing field for 2020. But in any case, I suppose that the Democratic primaries of 2020 may be a bit more fair than those of 2016.

4. How The Iconic 1968 Earthrise Photo Changed Our Relationship To The Planet

This article is by Bill McKibben on Common Dreams and originally on the Huffington Post. It starts as follows:
1968 was a crazy year, its events moving at a horrific pace. The Tet Offensive. The My Lai Massacre. Bobby Kennedy announcing the news that the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Bobby Kennedy’s assassination. Riots across urban America and outside the Democratic National Convention. The human drama seemed out of control in a way it hasn’t in the years since ― till now, of course.
In fact, I selected the present article because I do recall 1968 quite well, since I was 18 that year (unlike McKibben, who got to be 8 in December of 1968). I also do not quite agree with him, for I think 1968 was more extreme than 2018 - but as I said, I was politically quite conscious (and quite active) both in 1968 and in 2018.

Here is more:
Rachel Carson had written Silent Spring earlier in the decade, beginning the process of wiping some of the shine off modernity. David Brower had led the Sierra Club through the great fight to save the Grand Canyon, turning it in the process into the first great green group. And soon there would be a major oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara, and the Cuyahoga River would burst into flames. People were beginning to realize that there were limits to the abuse nature could take at the hands of growth.
Yes, I think Rachel Carson and her Silent Spring (first published in 1962) were and are quite important. But in fact some people had realized quite some time before 1968 that ¨there were limits to the abuse nature could take¨ and in fact there is a quite sensible book by Aldous Huxley called ¨The Human Situation¨ that consists of lectures he held in 1959, that seems to have been first published in 1977 (and that was bought and read by me in 1981).

I recommend the book to anyone interested in ecology and the environment, since I liked it and because it is still available.

Here is more:

“Limits to Growth,” a 1972 treatise based on simple computer models that flagged our fast-approaching planetary boundaries, was an attempt at a troubleshooting guide for what we’d begun to call “Spaceship Earth.” The Whole Earth Catalog, with a picture of the Earth from space on its cover, was the hippie-ish operating manual. For a while, it looked as if it all might take: By 1978, a decade after Apollo 8 returned to terra firma, pollsters reported that 30 percent of Americans were “pro-growth,” 31 percent were “anti-growth,” and 39 percent were “highly uncertain.” We almost built a new world.

But then we didn’t. The election of Ronald Reagan signaled that we’d taken the other fork, the one that would keep the old epoch rolling.
Well... I was considerably influenced by The Limits to Growth”, which was in fact the first report to the Club of Rome, and indeed I was pleased to find that - while it was ¨refuted¨ time and again in the 1970ies and 1980ies - by the 2000s it was admitted that in fact "In hindsight, The Club of Rome turned out to be right. We simply wasted 30 important years ignoring this work." and that The Limits to Growth"has withstood the test of time and, indeed, has only become more relevant."

I also bought and liked
The Whole Earth Catalog (in 1970 or 1971), but I disagree with McKibben that by 1978 ¨We almost built a new world¨: No, ¨we¨ did not.

Anyway... back to the article:
Fifty years is barely a blip in the vastness of astronomical time, but Earth now looks quite different when seen from space. In the Northern Hemisphere, the summer sea ice that once covered the Arctic is now half gone. Some of the islands of the Pacific have begun to disappear below rising seas. The great forests that covered South America and Africa are shrunken and ragged.
Yes, I think that is correct. Here is more:

The Great Barrier Reef, easily visible from above and the largest living structure on Earth, is now half dead, its corals killed off by the ever-rising temperature. Siberia is on fire, five degrees of latitude north of where it ever used to burn. And as I write this, California is fighting the biggest fire in its history, the smoke all but blotting out the region in aerial shots. There are dead zones at the mouths of our great rivers, extending ever farther out to sea as the tide of fertilizer washes off the field, and at one point this summer, you could see five hurricanes at once, swirling off the coasts.

This view will, of course, get darker as the decades unwind.
Quite so. Here is McKibben´s lesson:
It’s clear by now that the only path to safety for the 99.99 percent of us who will never board a rocket lies in joining the fight for environmental justice. It’s the only battle we’re all in together. In a world riven by every kind of division, the one thing that really does unite us is our shared citizenship of that world.
Well... yes and no. I am not very optimistic, and neither is McKibben:
It’s possible that we had our chance ― that the vision vouchsafed us in the drama of the 1960s was the last realistic chance, and that we let it slip through our fingers as we opened them to grasp at more wealth.
Then again, I agree we have to plod on if we want to survive, and this is a recommended article.

5. Facebook lied about privacy fix

This article is by Nicole Karlis on Salon.
On Wednesday, British lawmakers published 250 internal Facebook emails spanning from 2012 to 2015, which bring to light the tech behemoth’s presumably long-standing goal: To turn a profit by monetizing its users’ intimate personal data. The emails shed further light on the corporation's history of blatantly ignoring privacy promises to users and granting special access to private data to favored clients.

The emails were originally obtained by the legal team of Ted Kramer, founder of the app company Six4Three, during the discovery of a 2015 lawsuit which was centered around Facebook’s policy of allowing third-party app developers to access the data of Facebook users’ friends. That same policy — which let third parties harvest the personal data not merely from people who had opted-in, but from their friends who hadn't — also enabled consulting firm Cambridge Analytica to mine user data in order to target voters on behalf of the Trump campaign.
Yes, quite so. I especially agree that Facebook´s aim is ¨To turn a profit by monetizing its users’ intimate personal data¨; I insist that Facebook simply has no right whatsoever appropriating personal data from anyone (which means that I think that Mark Zuckerberg is one of the biggest criminals on earth); and I also wholly agree ¨on the corporation's history of blatantly ignoring privacy promises¨ to their billions of members. (¨Dumb fucks who trust me¨, according to Zuckerberg.)

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

Collins summarized the emails that were seized in a preface, stating: “Facebook have clearly entered into whitelisting agreements with certain companies, which meant that after the platform changes in 2014/15 they maintained full access to friends data. It is not clear that there was any user consent for this, nor how Facebook decided which companies should be whitelisted or not.” The existence of a "whitelist" suggests that the company was not serious about protecting user data nor honoring the privacy agreements it claimed to have put in place at the time.

Recall that when news broke about Cambridge Analytica's misuse of users’ data, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said then that the company has a “responsibility” to protect its users’ information.

“We have a responsibility to protect your data, and if we can’t then we don’t deserve to serve you,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We also made mistakes, there’s more to do, and we need to step up and do it.”

I totally disagree with Zuckerberg: He has no right whatsoever on any of anyone´s data apart from his own. He is a thief and a voyeur who made billions by stealing the private and intimate details of billions. And 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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