December 20, 2018

Crisis: On Trump, On Facebook, On Amazon & War, On Zuckerberg, On Crises


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 20, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, December 20, 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 20, 2018:
1. It Is So Much Worse Than I Thought
2. Facebook Rebuked for Failing to Disclose Data-Sharing Deals

3. “Alexa, Drop a Bomb”: Amazon Wants in on US Warfare

Facebook Bombshell Reignites Calls for Zuckerberg's Resignation
5. Watch Your Wallets
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. It Is So Much Worse Than I Thought

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

I will be going on book leave soon — today is my last column for a while because of the holiday schedule — to write what I believe to be the most important thing that I’ve ever written.

No, it’s not about Donald Trump, just in case you were wondering.

But since I have written almost exclusively about Trump for more than two years, please allow me this parting assessment: It is so much worse than I thought.

My original objections to Trump, the things that pushed me into the Resistance, were his immorality, dishonesty, fraudulence and grift.

I freely admit now that I was seeing only the pointy edge of an enormous machine. I had no idea how immoral Trump actually is.

Well... I will suppose this is honest. But my own assessments differ from Blow´s, and an important reason is that I am a psychologist (among other things). Also, another important reason is that I am not American but Dutch (and the Dutch political system, although it is far from perfect, is rather different from the American political system, and a lot better).

Here are some of my own assessments of Trump and his government:

First, I think I know since the beginning of 2016 that Trump is insane. In fact, I did know Trump existed in 2015 (or perhaps earlier) but I never had paid any attention to him. When I did, because of the presidential elections, I was rapidly pointed to opinions by psychologists and psychiatrists that insisted he is insane, to which I had to agree after seeing videos of Trump´s baloney and reading some more about him. In case you are interested, my first report is here, on March 14, 2016.

Ever since then, I have only seen confirmations of that first conclusion about Trump that I drew. (As an aside: I did not drew any such conclusion about the other members of Trump´s govern- ment, because I do not know them and there are not enough videos about them.)

Second, I disliked ¨the Resistance¨ nearly as soon as I had heard about it, for the simple reason that I do not believe in a resistance that is supposedly conducted by leading lights from TV who earn many millions each year. Besides, I also disagreed with the diagnosis of ¨the Resistance¨, because this seemed to me to be a copy of Hillary Clinton´s baloney.

And finally, I think I did realize ¨
how immoral Trump actually is¨, indeed in good part because he is insane.

Anyway. Here is some more:
The fact that Trump would be directly implicated in a federal crime that took place on the verge of the election and may have helped hand that election to him is mind-blowing to me.

Trump, for his part, lied about these payments and denied them — while also having those around him lie about them on his behalf — until he could simply no longer lie about them anymore. Then came the roulette wheel of revolving explanations that makes one dizzy because of their silliness.

Just this week, the Trump Foundation agreed to dissolve under pressure from the New York attorney general, who found that the foundation functioned “as little more than a checkbook to serve Mr. Trump’s business and political interests” and engaged in “a shocking pattern of illegality,” including coordinating with Trump’s presidential campaign.

How can a family that can’t run a charity run a country?
Yes indeed:  I mostly agree.  Here is some more:

Nearly every aspect of Trump’s life is now under investigation for wrongdoing, something I could not have foreseen.

I could not have predicted the extraordinary lengths to which the president would go to obstruct justice and undermine the rule of law, nor that he would do these things in full view, for everyone to see.

I could not have predicted, when I first wrote that Trump was a pathological liar, that his rate of lying would increase with his time in office, rather than decrease. As The Washington Post Fact Checker put it in September:

“Trump’s tsunami of untruths helped push the count in The Fact Checker’s database past 5,000 on the 601st day of his presidency. That’s an average of 8.3 Trumpian claims a day, but in the past nine days — since our last update — the president has averaged 32 claims a day. When we first started this project for the president’s first 100 days, he averaged 4.9 claims a day. He passed the 2,000 mark on Jan. 10 — eight months ago.”

I was quite prepared for Trump´s lies and deceptions, indeed again because I am a psychologist.

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

This is huge, and the longer we pretend that it isn’t, the more damage we do to the health and stability of our own country.

While I am away, I will enjoy not having to follow the hourly insanities too closely, but every day I will worry about the republic in which we live. Trump has the capacity to damage or even destroy it. That’s not hyperbole. That’s an observation informed by a close reading of history.

Yes, and this is a recommended article.

2. Facebook Rebuked for Failing to Disclose Data-Sharing Deals

This article is by Michael LaForgia, Nicholas Confessore and Gabriel Dance on The New York Times. It starts as follows and is in fact the second part of two parts, of which I reviewed the first part yesterday:

Facebook and some of the other largest technology firms in the world faced sharp criticism on Wednesday for failing to disclose the extent of its data-sharing deals, many of which went back to the social network’s early years.

Details of the deals, revealed in a New York Times report on Tuesday, set in motion a fresh round of rebukes from legislators who had singled out Facebook’s sharing practices in the recent past. And they came at a moment when the Trump administration, Congress and even some Silicon Valley executives are calling for stricter privacy laws that would govern Facebook and other businesses that trade in huge amounts of personal information.

Lawmakers in the United States and Britain on Wednesday called for greater oversight of Facebook, the world’s dominant social media platform. But critics also focused on statements that Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, had made in recent months while defending the company.

Senator Roy Blunt, the Missouri Republican, said the revelations made him question Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision making. “I know he’s smart, but sometimes I think he’s got no sense,” Mr. Blunt told Fox News, adding that the disclosures were cause to consider stricter privacy laws. “Congress is going to have to regulate them and stop this, and I hate to do it, but by God I will if they can’t clean up their act.”

Yes, I mostly agree, but with a major difference: It is my strongly considered opinion that
  1. I think that neither Facebook nor Google nor any other corporation has any right whatsoever on owning or reading anyone´s private data, and in fact the same holds (in my opinion) for any security organization, while also
  2. the billionaires who own Netflix, Spotify, Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo are given all the personal information - about you, your friends and their friends - but each and all refuse to tell honestly to the non-rich how their private information is abused, who abuses or has it, and what it is used for.
Here is more:

News of the deals on Wednesday further roiled the technology industry as policymakers and privacy advocates directed anger at Facebook’s leaders and its partners.

Senator Ron Wyden, the Oregon Democrat, attacked Mr. Zuckerberg for not disclosing the full scope of the agreements during a Senate hearing in the spring, when Mr. Zuckerberg assured officials that users had complete control of their data.

“Mark Zuckerberg had a lot of chutzpah telling Congress that Americans could control their data, when seemingly every other week Facebook faces a new privacy scandal for abusing our personal information,” Mr. Wyden said.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, the Connecticut Democrat, called for the F.T.C. to police the company more aggressively. “Facebook’s seemingly unrestrained sharing of user data is the privacy equivalent of the BP oil spill,” Mr. Blumenthal wrote on Twitter. “Ongoing, uncontained & toxic. We will be paying the price for decades.”

Yes indeed: Zuckerberg lied and lied against Congress, where he should have spoken the truth.

And once again:
  • I think the harm done by not catching a few terrorists because we do not have each and every private e-mail read by AI is very much less than the harm that can be done by each and everyone of the national securities that meanwhile know everything about everyone (with some internet-computer)
in principle, for that is the cookbook recipe for a takeover of power by the very few, and the institution of a new type of society that I - already in 2012: See here - described as the combination of corporate fascism (later called neofascism by me, that I also properly defined) and surveillance by the national securities and the big and rich corporations.

Here is more, again illustrating Facebook´s enormous dishonesties:

Facebook has sought to contain the damage in part by winding down many of its data-sharing partnerships. Facebook said on Wednesday that it had brought more than 60 of its agreements to a close.

But deals with two giants of the technology world — Amazon and Apple — remain in place. Facebook officials said the deals must continue because of contracts the social network signed with the companies.

Records obtained by The Times showed that the social network granted Apple devices broad access to people’s personal data, even when users had disabled sharing. Facebook gave Amazon access users’ email addresses without permission, among other things, the records revealed.

Precisely - and as I said earlier, I am attending to Facebook since 2011, but the only honest statement that I have ever read by Mark Zuckerberg in the seven years that since passed is that he regards his users as ¨dumb fucks who trust me¨: That is completely true.

Here is more on how Zuckerberg makes billions by sharing everyone´s private data, that he nor anyone else should have any right to, with each and every corporation that paid him enough:

Facebook also had a deal to share the data of users’ friends with Microsoft, and agreements that gave Spotify and Netflix full access to users’ private messages. Users were especially incensed at the Spotify and Netflix deals, which appeared to go far beyond what the companies required for their integrations.

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

“This story exposes the myth of control,” Kate Crawford, a founder of the A.I. Now Institute at New York University, wrote in a tweet referring to Facebook’s partnerships with Spotify, Netflix and other companies.

“The total lack of respect for user wishes is the infinitely repeating scandal of 2018,” she added.

Well... yes and no, but mostly no, for Crawford completely seems to miss that

  1. Facebook etc. do control and deceive and trick their users, to whom they also are constantly lying (though I grant the above quotation is far from clear), while also
  2. she seems to miss that I am not interested in ¨respect of user wishes¨ if - as is the case- at most 1% of these users know how to program or know the relevant laws, for it is extremely easy to trick and deceive the ignorant, and also
  3. she seems to miss completely the fact that the national security services also know everything (and possibly more) than any of Facebook, Google, Amazone, Spotify, Netflix, Apple and Microsoft (and more) know, at the highest levels of their owners.

But I grant Ms Crawford may have been misquoted, although I insist that the three points I made are true. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. “Alexa, Drop a Bomb”: Amazon Wants in on US Warfare

This article is by Nick Mottern on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Amazon is seeking to build a global “brain” for the Pentagon called JEDI, a weapon of unprecedented surveillance and killing power, a profoundly aggressive weapon that should not be allowed to be created.

Founded in 1994 as an online book seller, Amazon is now the world’s largest online retailer, with more than 300 million customers worldwide, and net sales of $178 billion in 2017.

Amazon has built a vast, globally distributed data storage capacity and sophisticated artificial intelligence programs to propel its retail business that it hopes to use to win a $10 billion Pentagon contract to create the aforementioned “brain” that goes by the project name Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, a moniker obviously concocted to yield the Star Wars acronym — JEDI.

As of the October 12, 2018, deadline for submitting proposals for JEDI, Amazon is the betting favorite for the contract, which will go to just one bidder, in spite of protests by competitors, chief among them Microsoft and IBM.
Yes - I either agree or know most of this. Also, this is very frightening. Here is more:

JEDI is intended to not only improve information sharing, but to dramatically increase the US military’s ability to collect and sort through huge amounts of surveillance information from many, many sources on individuals and groups – governmental and non-governmental – around the world. This will be part of a process of using artificial intelligence and algorithms to identify probable targets for killing.

This means that as soon as JEDI is working any individual anywhere may be killed by the Americans, probably by some drone. Also, all the information JEDI uses - ¨surveillance information from many, many sources on individuals and groups¨ - seems completely illegal to me, who insists and will insist that private mails and private information should have been kept secret, and that the private mails and private information are shared now (by virtually all secret services and all major corporations) because that was one of the points of the internet-as-designed by DARPA and Brzezinski: See Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968

Here is more:

JEDI will do what is being done now on a less coordinated scale and with a smaller volume of surveillance data, but JEDI, The Guardian reported recently, “promises to find those enemies faster – even if all it takes to be considered an enemy is exhibiting a pattern of behavior that a (classified) machine-learning model associates with hostile activity. Call it death by big data.”

In addition, JEDI will very likely to be at the heart of managing the first generation of operational US robotic land, sea, air and space weaponry.

Decisions on who and when to kill based on human and JEDI’s massive, fallible artificial intelligence will almost certainly be significantly guided by the concept of pre-emptive killing — that is, assassination or larger attack based on suspected threat.

Well... you can call it ¨death by big data¨, but these big data have been gathered illegally, for no one´s mails and other private information should ever have become shared information, that is, information accessed and shared by the secret services from almost every country, and by most of the largest corporations there are: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook etc.

Here is more:

It appears very possible that if Amazon gets the Pentagon contract, the personal profiles of its customers around the world, developed to stimulate retail sales, will become, either individually or as aggregated, instruments of these customers’ intimidation and control. In a real way, the acquisitive impulses of hundreds of millions of people may well become the stuff of their imprisonment and, in some cases, their deaths.

Further, JEDI as a global presence represents the creation of a weapon that dramatically ups the level of global military rivalry and ensures more global human conflict. JEDI demonstrates a new level of US determination for global domination that can only be described as disastrous.

Precisely: The private data that have been harvested illegally by all or almost all the secret services, and by Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook etc. now will be used intimidate, control or kill you (if you have opinions that some secret service disagrees with).

Indeed: ¨
the acquisitive impulses of hundreds of millions of people may well become the stuff of their imprisonment and, in some cases, their deaths¨.

I also agree with the rest. Here is more:

JEDI would obviously “benefit” from having access to the millions of personal profiles developed by Amazon and other major cloud operators and any other personal information it can capture. Significantly in this regard, there is nothing in the JEDI RFP that specifically addresses the issue of privacy, an obvious human right, specifically defined as such in the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

As noted earlier, the long-standing Israeli state practice of preemptive assassination that informs the US drone war program will almost certainly be applied to all JEDI findings of potential threat, regardless of the gross human tragedies caused by US killer drones.

Yes, I think this is also all correct - and as to privacy: It simply has been erased in fact and in practice, but almost no one seems to care or to know.

Here is more, this time about the privatization of war, murder, and repression:

The transfer of a massive amount of military information into a privately owned and built cloud, as will happen with the creation of JEDI, raises the possibility that the owner or owners of that cloud will — because of their knowledge of the cloud structure, capabilities and content — become more powerful than military and elected officials. Such a transfer has never happened before, and the RFP for JEDI does not speak to the question of how JEDI will remain in governmental control.

The degree to which the JEDI cloud provider may be willing to assert control over US politics and military decisions in the absence of specific controls may depend solely on that provider’s ambitions.

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

As it gathers more and more information, JEDI will bring a major up-tick in ongoing systematic global killing through assassination by drones, special operations teams and, soon, robots. JEDI will mean an increased day-to-day threat level for millions of people, particularly in the world’s poorest places.

JEDI will further concentrate power in the hands of fewer people, controllers of technology who already have too much economic and political power. Giving these individuals control over such a powerful weapon, and making that weapon so completely dependent on technology that these individuals control it virtually ensures there will be no antitrust action to break up those companies to reduce their monopolistic power.

And further, nothing will likely be done by Congress or regulators to protect the public’s privacy from these companies because of damage that might mean to “national security.”

Precisely, except for the phrase ¨an increased day-to-day threat level for millions of people¨: I think that should have been an increased day-to-day threat level for billions of people, namely everyone who is alive. This is a very strongly recommended article (and - once again - I am glad I have no family and no children, and was born in 1950 and not later). 

4. Facebook Bombshell Reignites Calls for Zuckerberg's Resignation

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

Just hours after civil rights groups called on Facebook’s top executives to step down from the company’s board for allowing “viral propaganda” and “bigoted campaigns” to spread on the platform, demands for CEO Mark Zuckerberg to resign intensified after a bombshell New York Times report late Tuesday detailed a “special arrangement” the social media behemoth had with tech corporations that gave them access to users’ data and private messages without consent.

“An incredibly damning indictment of Facebook, every single paragraph,” Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, wrote of the Times report, which is the latest in a long line of recent revelations about Facebook’s intrusive—and possibly illegal—data practices.

Yes, I completely agree, and I also think Zuckerberg should be in jail. Also, the report that Johnson mentions is reviewed (part two) above, while part one was reviewed yesterday in Nederlog.

Here is more from the article:

Citing hundreds of pages of internal company records and interviews with dozens of former employees, the Times reported that “Facebook allowed Microsoft’s Bing search engine to see the names of virtually all Facebook users’ friends without consent” and “gave Netflix and Spotify the ability to read Facebook users’ private messages.”

Additionally, the Times found, Facebook “permitted Amazon to obtain users’ names and contact information through their friends, and it let Yahoo view streams of friends’ posts as recently as this summer, despite public statements that it had stopped that type of sharing years earlier.”

“Facebook is a public trust that has broken our trust,” wrote author and NBC political analyst Anand Giridharadas in response to the Times report. “Mark Zuckerberg must resign now.”

The New Republic‘s Jeet Heer added, “Facebook is evil, folks.”

Yes, but as I said: The CEO of an evil corporation is himself evil, especially if his name is Zuckerberg, and he ought to be in jail (rather than take a holiday the rest of his life on his over 100 billions of dollars, that were all gathered by lies and deceptions).

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

Roger McNamee, an early investor in Facebook, wholeheartedly agreed, declaring, “I don’t believe it is legitimate to enter into data-sharing partnerships where there is not prior informed consent from the user.”

“No one should trust Facebook until they change their business model,” McNamee concluded.

Yes, but its business model should be judged by specialists, and not by common users who do not even know how to program. Anyway... this is a recommended article.

5. Watch Your Wallets

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

The problem with the Fed hiking rates now is that Trump has already stressed the paychecks of most Americans. The rate hike will make matters worse.

Most Americans are still living in the shadow of the Great Recession that started in December 2007 and officially ended in June 2009. More Americans have jobs, but their pay has barely risen when adjusted for inflation.

Many are worse off due to the escalating costs of housing, healthcare, and education. And the value of whatever assets they own is less than in 2007.

Trump has added to their burden by undermining the Affordable Care Act, rolling back overtime pay, hobbling labor organizing, reducing taxes on corporations and the wealthy but not on most workers, allowing states to cut Medicaid, and imposing tariffs that increase the prices of many goods.

All of which suggests we’re careening toward the same sort of crash we had in 2008, and possibly as bad as 1929.

Yes indeed: I totally agree - and I also want to make two points:
  1. I am the only one I know who has insisted for the past ten years that the crisis of 2008 continued for everybody who did not belong the richest 5% or so, but - as Reich says - that is the truth, and
  2. while I was against a major economical crash before, mostly because of the suffering this entails, I am now for a major crash, and my reason is mostly the internet, which was set up expressly to steal the privacies of each and every of its users - see here: Crisis: Propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968 - and that totally succeeded in doing so: I think that the situation is so extremely dangerous that I prefer a crisis that is big enough to tame the existing internet that otherwise will create a kind of neofascism I detest and very much fear.
Back to the article:

Clear away the financial rubble from those two former crashes and you’d see they both followed upon widening imbalances between the capacity of most people to buy, and what they as workers could produce.

Each of these imbalances finally tipped the economy over.

The same imbalance has been growing again. The richest 1 percent of Americans now takes home about 20 percent of total income, and owns over 40 percent of the nation’s wealth. These are close to the peaks of 1928 and 2007.

The underlying problem isn’t that Americans have been living beyond their means. It’s that their means haven’t been keeping up with the growing economy. Most gains have gone to the top.

But the rich only spend a small fraction of what they earn. The economy depends on the spending of middle and working class families.

By the first quarter of this year, household debt was at a record high of $13.2 trillion. Almost 80 percent of Americans are now living paycheck to paycheck.

Yes, I think this is also all true. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

After the 1929 crash, the government invented new ways to boost the wages of most Americans – Social Security, unemployment insurance, overtime pay, a minimum wage, the requirement that employers bargain with labor unions, and, finally, a full-employment program called World War II.

By contrast, after the 2007 crash the government bailed out the banks and pumped enough money into the economy to contain the slide. But apart from the Affordable Care Act, nothing was done to address the underlying problem of stagnant wages.

Without wage growth, most American workers can’t continue to buy. They’re in the same sort of debt trap that preceded the 2008 and 1929 crashes.

I agree 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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