January 7, 2019

Crisis: Facebook To Court, Neoconservatives, 10 Climate Cataclysms, De Niro, Capitalism Is Killing


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 7, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, January 7, 2019. 

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 January 7, 2019:
1. We Should Be Able to Take Facebook to Court
Neoconservatives Are Ascendant in Donald Trump's America
3. 10 Cataclysmic Scenarios if We Fail to Control Climate Change

4. Robert De Niro calls ‘huckster … no substance’ Trump on his ‘bullsh*t’

5. How Capitalism Is Killing Us
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. We Should Be Able to Take Facebook to Court

This article is by Neema Singh Giuliani on The New York Times. It also has a subtitle:
A privacy violation is a real harm.
I quote this subtitle - which I think is or ought to be evident to all rational living adults - because this is the second time in two days that I downloaded an article that takes around 20 Kb of text (in total) but comes in a file of nearly 234 Kb, with 214 Kb being filled with all manner of Javascript (that again can download more).

I decided I will not copy directly anymore from The New York Times, because I very strongly dislike being followed by undeclared code (that is also very difficult to read), simply because for me personal privacy comes first, whereas for
The New York Times (as for Facebook and Google and more, it seems) getting to know as much about anyone reading an article on it comes first.

That is: I think The New York Times is quite purposively doing me and every other reader of it "real harm", simply because they are trying to learn as much about their readers as they can, which these days is very far beyond the decency level (I would say).

This also explains why links are missing. (I could include them, but this is more work for me, and as The New York Times anyway refers mostly to its privacies-stealing self, I decided not to do this.)

Here is more:
After The New York Times revealed last month that Facebook continued to share personal information of millions of consumers with companies like Netflix, Yahoo, Spotify and Google — despite contrary assertions to Congress — many people decided to delete their Facebook accounts. But if Facebook’s actions, as described by The Times, violated the law, consumers should be able to send an even more powerful message, one that could leave a much larger imprint on the company’s ledger books: suing the company for damages.

Facebook knows this and has been working to make it near impossible to do so.

For example, consumers recently filed a lawsuit in Illinois claiming Facebook violated a state privacy law by using facial recognition technology on their uploaded photographs without their consent. Facebook is fighting the lawsuit by trying to get the court to buy into troubling arguments that would make it even more difficult for consumers to sue lawbreaking companies for damages.

Facebook is arguing that the law at issue doesn’t grant consumers the ability to sue companies, otherwise known as a “private right of action,” based solely on the fact that a company violated the law. Instead, according to Facebook, consumers should have to show that the lawbreaking practice caused additional harm beyond a mere violation to get their day in court and damages.
That is, the morally totally degenerate neofascistic Facebook insist that they can steal all the privacies they want to steal from over 2 billion of its members, but none of its members are - according to the sick and degenerate neofascistic Facebook - are even allowed to go to the law unless they can prove "that the lawbreaking practice caused additional harm" (which will be difficult or impossible, because the neofascistic Facebook regards everything it steals as its private and secret property).

This is like argueing that if you find someone who broke into your house before he could steal anything, he should be released and not prosecuted because you found him before he stole anything - but with this difference that Facebook did steal the privacies of all its members.

Here is more:

It’s not the first time we’ve seen this argument, and other companies have made similar arguments in privacy lawsuits. In addition, major industry players, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, have put forward similar views. They are fighting legislation that would grant consumers the ability to sue companies for privacy violations and are lobbying for federal privacy legislation where enforcement is tied only to “concrete” harm, not necessarily to violations of the law.

It’s easy to see why.
That is to say: Facebook, probably Google, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce insist on stealing the privacies of billions of users of the internet in order to make their own billions in profits based on these billions of thefts, and also want to change the law so that those whose privacies they stole are not even able to prosecute them legally.

Here is more:
[I]n most cases, the harm, while staggering, can be virtually impossible to measure. For example, how do you prove the collective impact of having companies profile you based on sensitive health data, affecting things like the content you see and the ads you’re served? How do you measure the national-security or societal impact of having people targeted with divisive and exploitative ads? How do you determine the collective impact of consumers’ being stripped of control over information they own and having intimate details of their life, like relationship status and political views, shared with countless entities?
This is true in one sense - and you will never be able to say how many millions Zuckerberg earned in his private profits from stealing your private information and the private information of your family and your friends, simply because what Facebook stole is - according to Facebook - the private property of Facebook, but then again I have been argueing from the beginning that no one has the right to steal any private information from anyone (except in case of a criminal suspicion, and then overseen by a judge).

Here is more:
Under the view that consumers must show “concrete” harm, it would not be enough to show that a company violated the law by, for example, sharing information without permission. And it would not be enough to show that millions of consumers were affected or that billions of pieces of information were improperly shared. For a fine or damages to be imposed, consumers would instead have the difficult burden of demonstrating that the unlawful collection of their own data damaged them in a tangible and measurable way, like causing physical, emotional or financial harm.

In other words: According to Facebook, Facebook can steal the privacies of more than 2 billion persons (most of whom can't even program); insists that once stolen these privacies are the private property of Facebook, which can do whatever it pleases with them, without any regard for the private interests of those they stole the privacies from, and also totally uncontrollable for them; and insists they are free to steal the privacies of billions, but each and everyone of these billions are subhumans who have no right to know what Facebook gathered about them; have no right to know what Facebook does with their privacies; and also should not have any right to complain about the thieves from Facebook.

Why not simply pronounce everyone a criminal with no rights whatsoever, except for those persons who earned more than 75 billion dollars or are corporations (which are persons according to the Supreme Court)?!

2.  Neoconservatives Are Ascendant in Donald Trump's America

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

As Stephen Wertheim argues in The New York Review of Books, the neoconservatives are ascendant in Trump’s America, reasserting themselves within GOP and, more troublingly, renewing their ties to the Democratic Party. Together they constitute the “neo-neoconservatives” or “post-neoconservatives,” as he’s dubbed them.

“Today, neoconservatives are riding high once more, in the White House, on Capitol Hill, in the most prominent organs of opinion,” Wertheim writes. “The Weekly Standard may have shuttered, but anti-Trump neocons enjoy increasing influence in the center of the Republican and Democratic parties and in publications like The Atlantic and The Washington Post.”

In fact, I reviewed Wertheim's article on January 5, and found it almost completely unreadable, indeed mostly because he doesn't define "conservatives", doesn't define "neoconservatives", doesn't define "neo-neoconservatives", doesn't define "post- neoconservatives" - but insists he knows all manner of things about them nevertheless.

Jacob Sugarman is "the acting managing editor" of Truthdig (which is, in my opinion, together with Common Dreams, the best leftist political magazine in English that I know), but he also seems to know what Wertheim speaks about without the least definition or clarification on Sugarman's part.

Here is more from this article:

Trump’s presidency has proved a clarifying moment. “[He] has forced neoconservatives to decide, for the first time, whether they are more against ‘totalitarianism’ or ‘globalism,'” continues Wertheim. “If anti-totalitarians take Trump to be perverting what they hold dear, anti-globalist neocons have found in Trump a kindred spirit and vehicle for power. Yet, even as they are fracturing, neocons are flourishing. They have bypassed the political wilderness and vaulted themselves to the vanguard on either side of the Trump divide.”

In ordinary English, there is at least a slight difference in meaning between any term X and its quotation (as "X") but neither Sugarman nor Wertheim seems to see any difference between "totalitarianism" and totalitarianism (and both leave both terms totally undefined).

And I am sorry, but I find this very unclear. Perhaps this is because I studied logic (as extremely few journalists do)?

In any case, I find in the last quotation at least six terms (in a single sentence) that should have been defined somehow but are not. I am sorry, again, but I - really! - do not understand this.

Here is the last bit that I quote:

For Republican apostates like Jennifer Rubin, David Frum and Max Boot, Wertheim contends, the president has offered the “next best thing” to a foreign dictator: “an enemy within.” His personal degeneracy and unabashed corruption have allowed them to “reclaim their preferred role as the moral truth-tellers in America.”

All I can deduce from this is that Wertheim and/or Sugarman doesn't like the three people named. Otherwise, this is as unclear as Wertheim's original article.

3. 10 Cataclysmic Scenarios if We Fail to Control Climate Change 

This article is by Lorraine Chow on Truthdig and originally on the Independent Media Institute. This is from near its beginning:

Globally, 2018 is on pace to be the fourth-hottest year on record. Only 2015, 2016 and 2017 were hotter. The Paris climate agreement aims to hold temperature rise below 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius, but if humankind carries on its business-as-usual approach to climate change, there’s a 93 percent chance we’re barreling toward a world that is 4 degrees Celsius warmer by the end of the century, a potentially catastrophic level of warming.

Yes indeed - and since I do maintain that at least since 1972 (when "The Limits to Growth" first appeared, which I also read then) has for the most part carried "on its business-as-usual approach to climate change", I fear that this business-as-usual will continue.

Here is more (and 1992 is meanwhile 27 years ago):

In 1992, 1,700 scientists around the world issued a chilling “warning to humanity.” The infamous letter declared that humans were on a “collision course” with the natural world if they did not rein in their environmentally damaging activities.

Such apocalyptic thinking might be easy to mock, and not entirely helpful in inspiring political action if end times are nigh. In 2017, however, more than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries co-signed their names to an updated—and even bleaker—version of the 1992 manifesto.

The latest version, titled “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice,” asserts that most of the environmental challenges raised in the original letter—i.e., depletion of freshwater sources, overfishing, plummeting biodiversity, unsustainable human population growth—remain unsolved and are “getting far worse.”

“Especially troubling is the current trajectory of potentially catastrophic climate change due to rising [greenhouse gases] from burning fossil fuels, deforestation, and agricultural production—particularly from farming ruminants for meat consumption,” the paper states.

“Moreover,” the authors wrote, “We have unleashed a mass extinction event, the sixth in roughly 540 million years, wherein many current life forms could be annihilated or at least committed to extinction by the end of this century.”

Yes, I think this is all true. Here is more:

More recently, President Trump’s own administration released on November 23 the 1,600-page Fourth National Climate Assessment, a quadrennial report compiled by 13 federal agencies. This report paints a particularly grim picture, including more frequent droughts, floods, wildfires and extreme weather, declining crop yields, the rise of disease-carrying insects and rising seas—all of which could reduce U.S. gross domestic product by a tenth by the end of the century.

So what we saw this summer? Unless humanity gets its act together, we can expect much worse to come. Here’s a peek into our climate-addled future.

Next, there are 10 "cataclysmic scenarios" that probably will be realized in the next fifty to a hundred years if what's done to the climate is as decisive as what was done to the climate since 1972 (or 1959, which is when Aldous Huxley spoke about ecology in "The Human Situation").

I can strongly recommend you read all of them, but the present review is too small to review any of the texts associated with the titles, and for that reason you only get the titles in this review:

Species Extinction
Food Insecurity and Nutritional Deficiencies
Farewell to Coastal Cities and Island Nations
Social Conflict and Mass Migration
Lethal Heat
Surging Wildfires  
Hurricanes: More Frequent, More Intense
Melted Polar Ice and Permafrost
The Spread of Pathogens
Dead Corals

As I said, all of the above titles come with texts that are quite important. To read them go here and click on the title.

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

Half a Degree Matters

Since the 19th century, the Earth has warmed by 1 degree Celsius. Now, a major IPCC special report released in October warns that even just a half-degree more of warming could be disastrous. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II.

The panel said that “limiting global warming to 1.5°C compared to 2°C could go hand in hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society.”

With President Trump saying he doesn’t believe his own administration’s climate report, that sustainable and equitable society remains a distant dream.

I agree again, and this is a very fine article that is strongly recommended.

4. Robert De Niro calls ‘huckster … no substance’ Trump on his ‘bullsh*t’

This article is by Elizabeth Preza on AlterNet. It starts as follows (and is in fact a short version of a longer article, written by someone else, on The Guardian, which I cannot copy anymore without excessive trouble, which makes me despise the Blatcherist The Guardian, but OK):

Two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro unloaded on Donald Trump in a scathing interview published Sunday by the Guardian, calling the president both a white supremacist and a “buffoon.”

De Niro said that when Trump was originally elected, “I thought, well, OK, let’s see what he does – maybe he’ll change.”

“But he just got worse,” De Niro explained. “It showed me that he is a real racist. I thought maybe as a New Yorker he understands the diversity in the city but he’s as bad as I thought he was before – and much worse. It’s a shame. It’s a bad thing in this country.”

Describing Trump as a white supremacist, De Niro mused that the president could also qualify as a fascist.

In fact, I agree with De Niro, except that I would call Trump a neofascist (and the last link is to a proper definition, and Trump has agreed with each of its 10 characteristics).

Here is more:

De Niro also recalled Trump’s attack on former personal attorney Michael Cohen, who the president described as a “rat” for cooperating with federal investigators.

“I mean, a mob boss calls people ‘a rat,’” De Niro—who played Al Capone in the 1987 film “The Untouchables”—explained. “That means you lied and somebody snitched on you, so you did commit the crime.”

“So that’s interesting and he makes mobsters look bad because there are mobsters who will shake your hand and keep their word,” the actor continued. “He can’t even do that.”

“[Trump’s] a con artist,” he added. “He’s a huckster. He’s a scam artist. And what bothers me is that people don’t see that.

I think I mostly agree again, although I do have an explanation that satisfies me for the - correct - fact that tens of millions of American voters "don’t see that": These voters are too stupid or too ignorant (or both) for clear rational and informed judgements on American politics and politicians.

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

“He’s not even evil,” De Niro declared. He’s mundane.”

“The things that Trump has done; if Obama had done one fiftieth, they’d be all over him,” De Niro said, arguing Democrats “have to be more aggressive.”

“You have to fight fire with fire,” De Niro insisted. “You’ve got to say: ‘I’m sorry – let’s call a spade a spade. You are who you are and we’ve got to confront you at your own game and that’s what’s needed.’ You can do it in a nice way but you have to be hard and tough about it.”

“You need somebody who’s strong enough to outmouth him, because that’s all he is—mouth,” De Niro said. “And smart enough and well-informed enough in a debate, say, to override all that nonsense that he does, because basically it’s just name-calling. He has no substance. I don’t know how people fall for it.

I have stated my explanation for the fact that (some) "people fall for it" (which I fear will not be popular because it may offend people) and I think I disagree with De Niro's “He’s not even evil. He’s mundane."

My reasons are that Trump is not mundane (as I use that term), while I also think that, at least in those who have read some philosophy and theology, he is an excellent candidate (in my opinion) for an evil person. Then again, there are quite a few different meanings of "evil".

5. How Capitalism Is Killing Us

This article is by Belén Fernández on Common Dreams and originally on Al-Jazeera English. This is from near its beginning:

A December 2017 statement from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights notes that, while the US manages to spend "more [money] on national defence than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United Kingdom, India, France, and Japan combined", US infant mortality rates were, as of 2013, "the highest in the developed world".

The Special Rapporteur provides a barrage of other details from his own visit to the US, during which he was able to observe the country's "bid to become the most unequal society in the world" - with some 40 million people living in poverty - as well as assess "soaring death rates and family and community destruction wrought by prescription and other drug addiction". 

Capitalism, it seems, is a deadly business indeed.

I agree with Fernández (and would suggest that "US infant mortality rates" in 2013 "were the highest in the developed world" precisely because over half of the taxes gathered in the USA go to the Pentagon rather than the American people).

Here is more:
Recent reports that loneliness is in fact life-threatening meanwhile suggest that the neoliberal dismantling of interpersonal bonds and increasing isolation of the individual may also be inconducive to survival.

Alienation is compounded by the commodification of every aspect of existence and the enshrinement of consumerist materialism as a way of life, not to mention ubiquitous technological distraction and the conversion of human populations into cell phone-glued automatons.

Add to the toxic mix an all-powerful pharmaceutical industry - for which a nation of depressed and otherwise afflicted individuals is an obvious financial boon - and the future appears bleaker than ever.

I think I mostly agree, but would have to explain a lot to make this clear, which I do not have the time and space to do in this Nederlog.

Here is more:

Of course, it's not just bodies and communities that the US brand of capitalism is destroying at home and abroad; it's also the planet itself. Overconsumption, unbridled contamination, and resource exploitation have put us on a fast track to a "point of no return", as climate scientists have warned. 

Back in 1989, US economist Paul Sweezy described capitalism's view of the natural environment "not as something to be cherished and enjoyed but as a means to the paramount ends of profit-making and still more capital accumulation".

His summary of the major elements of the environmental crisis already under way three decades ago - from the greenhouse effect brought on by massive fossil-fuel combustion to the pernicious fallout of "predatory agricultural methods" to the "mounting pollution of the oceans once thought to be an infinite repository of all kinds of wastes" - raises the question of whether the point of no return may be already long gone.

Yes, I mostly agree, although I would say that "the environmental crisis" was already under way in the 1950ies (and see Aldous Huxley's 1959 "The Human Situation", and Rachel Carson's 1962 "Silent Spring" in case you doubt this).

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

And while Trump's assault on the environment is mirrored by ultra-right counterparts across the globe - like Brazil's new president Jair Bolsonaro, who has pledged to put an end to the Amazon rainforest as we know it - Dawson stresses that the "ideological opening" for such leaders was facilitated internationally by "centrist and even leftist governments… that remained wedded to fossil capitalism over the last couple of decades".

It bears emphasising, too, that, in the US, enthusiastic bipartisan support for war - a pillar of the imperialist enterprise - translates into not only mass death for people on the receiving end of bombs and drone attacks, but also large-scale environmental poisoning. As Newsweek observed in 2014, the US Defence Department is one of the top polluters on the planet. 

Now, as capitalism continues to kill us, the only real solution - however improbable - is to kill capitalism.

Yes, I fear I agree - and I say "I fear" for the simple reason that most attempted revolutions failed to achieve what the revolutionists desired. 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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