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Nederlog

February 2, 2019

Crisis: Apple's Censorship, A Border Story, Hearings By Congress, Psychiatry & Trump, Neutrality


“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.







Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 2, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 2, 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 February 2, 2019:
1. New Site Exposes How Apple Censors Apps in China
2. The Border Story Our Leaders Don’t Want You to Hear

3. 12 Congressional Hearings That Are Shamefully Overdue

4. A Yale psychiatrist warns Trump will resort to ‘extreme measures’

5. 'Nothing Less Than Fate of the Internet'
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. New Site Exposes How Apple Censors Apps in China

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

A new website exposes the extent to which Apple cooperates with Chinese government internet censorship, blocking access to Western news sources, information about human rights and religious freedoms, and privacy-enhancing apps that would circumvent the country’s pervasive online surveillance regime.

The new site, AppleCensorship.com, allows users to check which apps are not accessible to people in China through Apple’s app store, indicating those that have been banned. It was created by researchers at GreatFire.org, an organization that monitors Chinese government internet censorship.

In late 2017, Apple admitted to U.S. senators that it had removed from its app store in China more than 600 “virtual private network” apps that allow users to evade censorship and online spying. But the company never disclosed which specific apps it removed — nor did it reveal other services it had pulled from its app store at the behest of China’s authoritarian government.

In addition to the hundreds of VPN apps, Apple is currently preventing its users in China from downloading apps from news organizations, including the New York Times, Radio Free Asia, Tibetan News, and Voice of Tibet. It is also blocking censorship circumvention tools like Tor and Psiphon; Google’s search app and Google Earth; an app called Bitter Winter, which provides information about human rights and religious freedoms in China; and an app operated by the Central Tibetan Authority, which provides information about Tibetan human rights and social issues.

Well... what shall I say?

I think this: The above is a truly frightful list of how Apple is actively helping the Chinese Communist Party to repress more than one billion Chinese. And I add that I am not amazed at all: I think since 20 years (at least) that Apple in fact only looks at its own profits, and is prepared to lie about anything. (And no, I never owned an Apple, never want to own an Apple, and only very briefly used some of them in the university, in the 1980ies.)

Here is a part of the reasons how Apple can do this (functioning as an arm of the Chinese communist security system):

Some bans – such as those of certain VPN apps and the Times – have received media coverage in the past, but many never generate news headlines. Charlie Smith, a co-founder of GreatFire.org, told The Intercept that the group was motivated to launch the website because “Apple provides little transparency into what it censors in its app store. Most developers find out their app has been censored after they see a drop in China traffic and try to figure out if there is a problem. We wanted to bring transparency to what they are censoring.”

Smith, who said that the website was still in a beta phase of early development, added that until now, it was not easy to check exactly which apps Apple had removed from its app stores in different parts of the world. For example, he said, “now we can see that the top 100 VPN apps in the U.S. app store are all not available in the China app store.”

Indeed. To generalize this a little to something that is also true of Microsoft: Apple tells non-Apple folks and its own users and buyers as little as possible about their own policies, plans and actions.

Here is more about Apple:

An Apple spokesperson declined to address removals of specific apps from China, but pointed to the company’s app store review guidelines, which state: “Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where you make them available.”

In other words: Apple will work for communists or for fascists or muslims or anyone else without the least problem (except perhaps in lies by a few of its leaders) as long as Apple profits sufficiently.

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

Apple CEO Tim Cook has presented himself as a defender of users’ privacy. During a speech in October last year, Cook declared, “We at Apple believe that privacy is a fundamental human right.” It is unclear how Cook reconciles that sentiment with Apple’s removal of privacy-enhancing software from its app store in China, which helps ensure that the country’s government can continue to monitor its citizens and crack down on opponents.

Evidently Cook was lying: You cannot believe in privacy or human rights when your own machines and software actively ruin the privacies and human rights of more than a billion of Chinese. Then again, I am sure this betrayal of freedom, privacy and human rights undoubtedly will be very profitable for Apple and Cook. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The Border Story Our Leaders Don’t Want You to Hear

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. This is from the beginning of the interview:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of Scheer Intelligence. And we’re taking a topic that is of great political, national security concern. And I’m talking to someone who’s written a book that is basically a book of poetry and memory: Octavio Solis. And the book is “Retablos.”

I like Robert Scheer and that is the reason why I review this article. And I should say directly that while I am quite sympathetic to migrants, I also think Solis makes some mistakes. In fact, here is the first:

OS: We’ve always been here. Humans, like the buffalo, like birds, like butterflies, are a migratory animal. We move all the time. And for centuries, we moved freely without borders, up and down this continent and into the next continent, and over rivers and streams and territories. And never had to deal with a border until it was declared that in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, around 1848, designating the Rio Grande as the border between the U.S. and Mexico. And still, people found a way to get across. Still people found a way to move to both sides of that river, because communities were there, families were there, opportunity was there. And they were there to make new lives, to escape war and strife and poverty and need, droughts and famine. That’s sort of the story of peoples around the world. It’s going on now.

Well... yes and no, but mostly no.

Yes, many humans have migrated and are trying to migrate, often because of war or repression or poverty in the territories they lived in. But no, saying that humans are a migratory animal, and insisting that this should go on, and appealing to the fact that most borders (plus securities, plus passports) date back to the 1850ies or the early parts of the 20th century, does not do justice to the real situation and the real problem.

Since I am a European and not an American, I will talk about Europe: As far as I can see, there are - at least - tens of millions of non-Europeans who would love to be Europeans, especially in Western Europe, and they are trying their best to get in.

The problem is - rather simply - that there are far more willing to immigrate into Europe than there are places for immigrants in Europe. I also think this will always be the case as long as (Western) Europe offers far better chances to live and find work than the countries were these immigrants come from.

And mind you: I do not think this is good or desirable, but I think it is true. Also, I strongly dislike the problem, but I am also convinced that saying something like "Let everyone who desires to migrate to Europe, migrate to Europe" will - if it were to get practiced - soon cause great problems in Europe.

Finally, in case someone wants to object that the situation in the USA is quite different from that in Europe: I quite agree.

Here is some more by Solis:

OS: (..) Because it’s actually gotten worse because of this, because we are now as Mexican-Americans, and especially as Dreamers, we’ve become chips in this bargaining game to build this wall. And it’s become a symbol for a redefinition of what it means to be an American. And we are offended by that, we are confused by that, because we thought that we had the same rights and privileges as everyone. But living where I’ve been living, those things were always complicated. They were never simple. I was raised by American teachers in my elementary school to recite word-for-word the Pledge of Allegiance, every morning, hand over heart, and to know what that meant, so that we would understand what it meant to be American. But on the street, that was always questioned. We were always asked by the Border Patrol cruisers that went around, by the people in them, the officers in them, we were always asked to offer up our American citizenship, questioned about where we lived, asked to recite the Pledge of Allegiance to them, in order to prove that we were Americans. And that always kind of set it in question.

I think this is mostly true, and clearly the Border Patrol cruisers were demeaning and discriminating.

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

RS: There’s something incredibly honest about the way you wrote this book. “Memory is its own muse.” I’m quoting from your book. “Every time we recall a specific moment in our past, we remember it differently. We embellish upon it, we turn it into a story or a fable, something that will draw a straighter line between the person we were then and who we are now. Consciously or unconsciously, we trim away the details that seem inconsequential in order to endow the things we remember with greater clarity, with even more weight and significance."

I am sorry, but I disagree.

It so happens that I have a very good visual memory, and that I have mental films from very many aspects of my life, starting at age 4 and, while I do not want to deny there is or may be some editing in the memories of my life, I am rather certain that most of the mental films I do have (which most people I know simply do not have) are more or less as I saw them originally.

Besides, the mental films I do have remained the same (while they could have been edited to be far more pleasant to my self), which I know because they simply appear the same, sometimes for over fifty years or more, while my own feelings and values may have (and sometimes did) considerably alter.

Finally, I note two related things. First, this probably is rather specific to myself, because I do have visual memories that tend to be much sharper than the memories of people who experienced the same things as I did. And second, I think that my memories of things that happened to me are fairly accurate, and while I do not want to dogmatize about the memories of others, all reports about the failures or successes of one's own memories are personal and extremely difficult or impossible to control.


3. 12 Congressional Hearings That Are Shamefully Overdue

This article is by Ralph Nader on Truthdig, and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Earlier this month I wrote a column listing 12 major redirections or reforms that most people want for our country (see: “It’s Your Congress, People!” Make it work for you!). All of which require action by Congress—the gate-keeper.  Now Congress must hold informative and investigative public hearings to inform the media and to alert and empower the people.

The U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) explains a congressional hearing as follows:

“A hearing is a meeting or session of a Senate, House, joint, or special committee of Congress, usually open to the public, to obtain information and opinions on proposed legislation, conduct an investigation, or evaluate/oversee the activities of a government department or the implementation of a Federal law. In addition, hearings may also be purely exploratory in nature, providing testimony and data about topics of current interest.”

Here are my suggestions for a dozen long-overdue hearings in the House of Representatives, now run by the Democrats:

I like and admire Nader, and I did review “It’s Your Congress, People!” Make it work for you!": You will find it under the last link, and it bears rereading.

And I strongly likes Nader's suggestions "
for a dozen long-overdue hearings in the House of Representatives". In fact, here they are, although with quite a few deletions indicated by "(..)".
In case you want to read Nader's original articles, here are two links: The first is to the first article mentioned in the previous paragraph, which is here, and the second to the present article, which is here.

This is my excerpt from the list of hearings Nader desires:
  1. Hearings on the corporate crime wave, which is often reported by the mass media. (..)
  2. Hearings on the causes of poverty – e.g. the frozen minimum wage, tens of millions uninsured or underinsured for health care, unaffordable housing, criminal justice reform, and low utilization of tort law. (..)
  3. Hearings on the need to fund the small Congressional Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) to provide in-house advice to Congress about big technological/scientific decisions – whether the boondoggle ballistic missile defense, electromagnetic or cyber-attacks, driverless car hype, runaway artificial intelligence, nanotech, biotech (..)
  4. Hearings on the overwhelming tilt into speculation, rather than investment, by the financial markets (e.g. Wall Street). (..)
  5. Hearings on consumer protection – the myriad of recent controls and manipulation of consumers and their spending, savings and credit, along with the first real investigation of contract fine-print servitude or peonage. (..)
  6. Hearings on fundamental reform of our tax laws. Aggressively examining our tax laws’ perverse incentives, unjust escapes, privileges and immunities, and estimated (by the IRS) $400 billion a year of uncollected tax revenue will enlighten taxpayers and members of Congress. (..)
  7. Hearings reviewing and evaluating our failed military and foreign policies – their costs, their boomerangs, and their unlawful violent impact on innocent peoples and communities abroad are vital.
  8. Hearings on the planet’s environmental disruptions from the climate crisis to water usage, to soil erosion, deforestation, and the oceans’ pollution and deoxygenation could increase grassroots action.
  9. Hearings on electoral reforms – dealing with campaign finance corruption to gerrymandering, to voter repression, ballot access obstruction, unequal treatments, and more might really help to “drain the swamp.”
  10. Hearings on needed and unneeded government-funded and operated projects, including varieties of infrastructure or public works and how to make them more efficient and clean will make the case for rebuilding our communities.
  11. Hearings on shifts of power from the few to the many, so long denied and abused will help empower the people to more easily band together as workers, consumers, small taxpayers, voters, litigants and as audiences of the public airwaves and cable channels.
  12. Hearings on the benefits of opening up an increasingly closed Congress, with concentrated power in the four leaders of the House and Senate at the expense of committee and subcommittee chairs as well as individual members. Doing so will help make Congress more accountable for the people. (..)
As I said, there are quite a few bits of text missing in this summary, but I completely agree with Nader, and would much like to see/read about these hearings, if they are going to be held.

Here is the end of Nader's article:

There you have it—people, citizens, voters, students and teachers. We need these and other such Congressional hearings to make up for the years of deliberate inaction and avoidance. Send your Senators and Representative your suggestions and the above list. Demand more production from their $5 billion a year Congressional budget.

Yes indeed, and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. A Yale psychiatrist warns Trump will resort to ‘extreme measures’

This article is by Tana Ganeva on AlterNet, and originally on Raw Story. It starts as follows:

On Thursday, President Donald Trump declared that he was not concerned about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe.

He claimed that departing Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein had told him he was not a person of interest in the investigation.

“He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump told the New York Times.

Nevertheless, the probe seems to be circling closer to the president and his family.
    (...)
Raw Story spoke with Yale psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee about how the latest developments are likely to impact the president. Lee’s views are her own, not a reflection of Yale’s position.

I think all of the above is correct. Also, I reviewed this year an earlier interview of Bandy Lee by Tara Ganeva, and I think it makes sense to reread that earlier interview - it is here - at least if you want to understand my psychologist's reactions to psychiatry, which I summarized in the earlier interview in these terms:
So while I agree with Bandy Lee about her diagnosis of Trump, I certainly disagree with her about the scientific status of psychiatry - which, incidentally, is something I do have in common with most psychologist who got their education around my time, for in Holland (at least then) most psychologists thought that psychiatry is either not wellfounded or else a pseudoscience, and indeed in my time the majority of psychologists did not get any psychiatry apart from one book of Freud.
There is considerably more in my earlier review, which is the reason I recommend (re)reading it.

Here is more from the present article:

Bandy X. Lee: His anxieties are palpable, as he resorts to more and more extreme measures and unreal justifications for building a wall. We had the extended shutdown that put us at real security risk, according to the FBI, and declaring a national emergency is a very real possibility.

He needs to maintain his shrinking base as well as to give himself a sense of victory, and he will go to all lengths to achieve it. What concerns me, however, is our own lack of readiness for when the real crisis comes.
    (..)
With all the negative news for Mr. Trump, “rational” people may feel relief, as he is finally held to account, but while being driven to a corner, the president’s only desperate remaining diversion may be war. Forces around the globe—the Israelis and the Saudis, for example—want that for their own reasons, and with a foreign policy team that now reflects his psychology, times could turn incredibly dangerous.

Well... I said already that I agree with Lee about her diagnosis, but the above bits are all speculative. They may indeed be true, but I do not think there is strong evidence for this.

Here is some more from the article:

Bandy X. Lee: So it is with society, and we are now living a situation where a mental health crisis is engulfing the nation, and we scarcely recognize it as a mental health issue. Do we really know, for example, what it is like to lack a basic human characteristic, such as empathy, and be willing to destroy lives for the most casual reasons? Do we really appreciate what it is like to be so impulsive that one cannot think of consequences, no matter how dire? Can we understand how attractive violence can be to certain personality structures under stress, and what severe interventions are necessary? Do we know how close we are to nuclear war—and a nuclear winter would dwarf the current bitter cold of the arctic vortex—even without mental instability in the president?

These are almost only questions. I will say this about them:

(1) the answers psychiatrists will give to these questions will vary a lot, and (2) will very probably differ substantially from the answers psychologists will give to these questions, which wil also vary a lot, while (3) I do insist on the fact that I think psychiatrists and psychologists know some more about human psychology than those who didn't study these subjects, but (4) I do not think anyone knows much about human psychology that has any certainty.

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

Bandy X. Lee: [T]he American Psychiatric Association converted the perfectly reasonable Goldwater rule (the guideline against diagnosing public figures without a personal examination) into a gag order (a prohibition against making any comment of any kind on a public figure) shortly after Mr. Trump’s inauguration, so that no one could speak.

The American Psychological Association then came out with its own affirmation of that position. This showed that even mental health associations are behaving more like power structures that buttress other power structures, rather than representing a medical profession.
I quite agree on this with Lee, and this is a recommended article.

5. 'Nothing Less Than Fate of the Internet'

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Advocates of net neutrality had their eyes on a federal court on Friday, where the showdown over the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) repeal of the Obama-era open internet protections continued.

At the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, oral arguments in Mozilla v. FCC were heard. In that suit, which The Verge frames as "one of the most important cases in internet law history," technology and advocacy groups joined by over 20 state attorneys general challenge the FCC's 2017 gutting of net neutrality. 

"The appeals court judges today heard in full detail just how awful a job the Trump FCC did," said Matt Wood, policy director at Free Press.

While the case covered "complex issues," said FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voiced opposition to the repeal of net neutrality, one thing is quite clear.  She said "the court now has a chance to right what the @FCC got wrong when it made the misguided decision to roll back #NetNeutrality. I sat through it all. I'm hopeful."

I think the above is all correct, but I should add that I am not hopeful. Here is some more:

The stakes of the case are huge, say open internet defenders. "Without protecting net neutrality," Mozilla's chief operating officer, Denelle Dixon, told the Washington Post, broadband providers "will control the internet experiences of everyone. And that cannot be what happens."

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

Following Friday's oral arguments, Michael Copps, a former FCC commissioner who now serves as a special advisor to advocacy group Common Cause, said, "Our side's pro-net neutrality arguments before court today were light years more compelling than the time-worn and discredited arguments of those who oppose a truly open internet. And the Courts have agreed with us, twice upholding the FCC’s 2015 net neutrality rules."

He went on to urge the court "to vacate the FCC's reckless repeal and return to the sound legal framework that ensures the internet is free and open for everyone."

Well... I hope net neutrality will be restored, but I do not expect it (as a realist). And this is a strongly recommended article.

Note
[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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