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Nederlog

May 15, 2019

  Four Crisis Articles


“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 May 15, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

I bought a computer on May 9 with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE and am for the coming months (at least) "between two computers".  I shall continue - for the time being - to write and upload my files from 16.04 LTS (that is: from the old computer, that I bought in 2012) because that is easier right now and the old computer still works (and may continue to work for another two years or more, although I do not know that).

Also, and in any case, I decided to write less on the crisis (I did review over 10,000 files since 2013), in part because it makes no difference and in part because I am 69.

But I'll continue Nederlog. At present this is in a midway position between the old style (five reviews each day) and some new style, that I do not know yet, and that for the time being I fix on three or four reviews each day (but that may change and probably will).

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

A. Selections from May 15, 2019:

The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:
1. Google’s Censored Search Would Help China “Be More Open,”
     Said Ex-CEO Eric Schmidt

2. Robert Reich: America Urgently Needs a Wealth Tax

3. Jair Bolsonaro Poses a Legitimate Threat to Humankind
4. Redacting Democracy


1. Google’s Censored Search Would Help China “Be More Open,” Said Ex-CEO Eric Schmidt

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

Former Google CEO Eric Schmidt has defended the company’s plan to build a censored version of its search engine in China.

In an interview with the BBC on Monday, Schmidt said that he wasn’t involved in decisions to build the censored search platform, code-named Dragonfly. But he insisted that there were “many benefits” to working with China and said he was an advocate of operating in the country because he believed that it could “help change China to be more open.”

As The Intercept first revealed in August, Google developed a prototype of the censored search engine that was designed to remove content that China’s ruling Communist Party regime deems sensitive. The search engine would have blacklisted thousands of words and phrases, including terms such as “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize” in Mandarin.

Yes indeed. As to Schmidt's saying that "he believed that [Dragonfly] could “help change China to be more open”": I think Schmidt is a sick and degenerate extremely rich liar. He could as well have said (and would have been much more honest) that helping to repress over a billion persons with the help of Dragonfly (an obvious piece of sadodascistic code) contributes enormously to democracy and personal freedom in China. And what he really meant was: This is very good because it will make me even more billions.

Here is some more:

A major complaint from Google employees about the plan for the censored search engine was that they felt the end uses of their work had been withheld from them. For instance, some employees discovered that they had been working on code or improvements to aspects of Google main search platform, which was then being implemented without their knowledge or approval into the censored version of search for China.

In a protest letter published last year, Google employees said that they did “not have the information required to make ethically-informed decisions about our work, our projects, and our employment.” They called for “more transparency, a seat at the table, and a commitment to clear and open processes,” adding, “Google employees need to know what we’re building.”

Yes, I think these Google employees are right, but then again I also think they are working for a neofascistic firm.

Here is some more:

During Schmidt’s tenure as CEO, in 2006, Google launched a search engine in China but pulled out of the country in 2010, due to concerns about Chinese government interference. At that time, Brin said the decision to stop operating search in the country was mainly about “opposing censorship and speaking out for the freedom of political dissent.”

Schmidt revealed in his BBC interview that he had argued against Brin — believing that the company should remain in China, despite the censorship requirements. He said he felt that it was better “to stay in China and help change China to be more open.”

I am rather certain that when a stinkingly rich major fraud like Schmidt says he wants to "help change China to be more open" what he means is that repressing over a billion Chinese will make him and Google a whole lot richer.

And here here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Today, according to analysts, the level of internet freedom in China has continued to degrade. The country’s government has ramped up constraints on the flow of information into the country. In 2016, the Communist Party regime passed a new cybersecurity law, which Human Rights Watch said “strengthens censorship, surveillance, and other controls over the internet.” The group noted that “internet control has reached new heights since President Xi Jinping assumed power in March 2013.”

Schmidt told the BBC that Google was no longer pursuing Dragonfly but couldn’t rule out that changing in the future. “I am no longer involved in the management of the company so I shouldn’t comment,” he said.

Quite so (and notice that Schmidt again was lying saying that "I shouldn’t comment” while he evidently did comment). And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Robert Reich: America Urgently Needs a Wealth Tax

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

The crisis of income inequality in America is well-known, but there is another economic crisis developing much faster and with worse consequences. I’m talking about inequality of wealth.

The wealth gap is now staggering. In the 1970s, the wealthiest tenth of Americans owned about a third of the nation’s total household wealth. Now, the wealthiest 10 percent owns about 75 percent of total household wealth. 

America’s richest one-tenth of one percentnow owns as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.

Wealth isn’t like income.  Income is payment for work.  Wealth keeps growing automatically and exponentially because it’s parked in investments that generate even more wealth.

Wealth is also passed from generation to generation. An estimated 60% of the wealth in the United States is inherited. Many of today’s super-rich never did a day’s work in their lives.

Yes indeed: I think all of the above is quite correct. Here is some more:

America is now on the cusp of the largest intergenerational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers die, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.

Over time, this wealth will continue to grow even further – without these folks lifting a finger. This concentration of wealth will soon resemble the kind of dynasties common to European aristocracies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

It’s exactly what our Founding Fathers sought to combat by creating a system of government and economy grounded in meritocracy.

Yes indeed - and this raises a question for me, which is as follows: Reich wants to save capitalism (the title of a recent book of his), which I do not quite understand because I do not know what he understands by "capitalism" - but if the rich have over the last 40 years succeeded in making most of capitalism serve the rich, then why are "the kind of dynasties common to European aristocracies in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries" they presently form still capitalist? Or worth saving?

And I am not saying there are no rational answers to my question, but I am saying I do not know them from Reich.

Here is some more from this article:

Dynastic wealth also magnifies race and gender disparities. Because of racism and sexism, women and people of color not only earn less. They have also saved less. Which is why the racial wealth gap and the gender wealth gap are huge and growing.

Today, government is financed almost entirely by income taxes and payroll taxes – totally ignoring the giant and growing wealth at the top.

So how do we address the crisis of wealth inequality?

Yes, I agree - and here is Reich's answer:

A wealth tax, as proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren, would begin to tackle all this by placing a 2 percent tax on to wealth in excess of 50 million dollars

According to estimates, this tax would generate 2.75 trillion dollars over the next decade, which could be used for health care, education, infrastructure, and everything else we need.

Not only would a wealth tax raise revenue and help bring the economy back into balance, but it would also protect our democracy by reducing the influence of the super-rich on our political system.

We must demand an economy that works for the many, not one that concentrates wealth in the hands of a few. A wealth tax is a necessary first step.

I agree, but this does not answer my own question above - which I agree is probably hard to answer.

3. Jair Bolsonaro Poses a Legitimate Threat to Humankind

This article is by Greg Wilpert on Truthdig and originally on The Real News Network. It starts as follows:

GREG WILPERT: It’s The Real News Network and I’m Greg Wilpert in Baltimore. Eight Brazilian former ministers of the environment issued a warning last Wednesday that the government of right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is in the process of systematically destroying Brazil’s environmental protection policies. The ministers from across the political spectrum say that the environmental ministry’s powers are being stripped, and that after a period of slowing the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest, it is now on the rise again. Marina Silva, who was Environmental Minister under President Lula da Silva called him “an exterminator of the future.” Joining me now to discuss what is happening with regard to Brazil’s environmental policies is Alexander Zaitchik. He is a freelance journalist (..)

I fear all of the above is quite correct. Here is some more:

Alexander Zaitchik: (..) [L]oggers, miners, and agribusiness interests, who are emboldened by the rhetoric coming out of the government where they just feel like the laws won’t be enforced. In fact, that is exactly what’s happening. The agencies that have been empowered to protect what’s left of the Brazilian Amazon— and again, we’ve already lost a fifth of it— are being held back. They’re being defunded. They’re being reshuffled, put under hostile ministers, the environmental protection agency, IBAMA. I think the exact number is something around a quarter has been cut from its funds. The conservation agency, ICMBO, is being staffed by right-wing police officers from Sao Paulo. All of the scientists who were running that organization have been fired.

I fear this is correct as well. Here is some more:

ALEXANDER ZAITCHICK : (..) Pretty much all of the scientific boards are being replaced with agribusiness hacks and the politicians from the [inaudible] bench. And, you know, it’s a sort of an echo of what’s happening in the US where the scientific community is, sort of, seen as a hostile force working against the development of the Brazilian economy and this authoritarian vision of development in the Amazon, which goes way back. It’s worth mentioning that this precedes Bolsonaro, it precedes the military junta that he is nostalgic for, that ran the country during the 60s, 70s, and 80s. I mean, it’s a long strain in Brazilian history to see the Amazon as this wild territory that has to be settled and populated with “real Brazilians,” both as part of some modernization drive but also as a geopolitical imperative. There’s this paranoia that the Amazon will be taken over by Brazil’s neighbors, that it will be somehow internationalized as some sort of commons because it’s so crucial to the global climate. So it’s being militarized (..)

I fear again this is quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

ALEXANDER ZAITCHICK : The governments of Asia, Europe and North America are going to be crucial in making sure that another twenty percent of the forest is not destroyed by the policies that Bolsonaro is putting in place right now because scientists tell us that another twenty percent risks triggering this feedback loop called dieback, in which the forest will simply collapse and its systems will no longer be able to sustain themselves. There will be a, sort of, domino effect of dry-out and burns, and then you’ll have this enormous release of carbon as well as an absorption of heat that is now being reflected back into space. And of course, the huge loss of biodiversity, which is just—we don’t even really know how great it is because so little of the rainforest has been studied. Something like one percent of all of the plants of the Amazon have been studied, and from that one percent, we’re getting a quarter of our pharmaceutical products. So the potential there that would be lost, would be as significant as the impact on the climate.

And again I fear this is correct and this is a strongly recommended article.


4. Redacting Democracy

This article is by Karen Greenberg on Common Dreams and originaly on TomDispatch. This is from near its beginning:

With the release of the Mueller report, the word “redaction” is once again in the news, though for those of us who follow such things, it seems but an echo of so many other redactions, airbrushings, and disappearances from history that have become a way of life in Washington since the onset of the Global War on Terror.

In the 448 pages of the Mueller report, there are nearly 1,000 redactions. They appear on 40% of its pages, some adding up to only a few words (or possibly names), others blacking out whole pages. Attorney General William Barr warned House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler about the need to classify parts of the report and when Barr released it, the Wall Street Journal suggested that the thousand unreadable passages included “few major redactions.”
    (..)
Still, on the whole, while there was some fierce criticism of the redacted nature of the report, it proved less than might have been anticipated, perhaps because in this century Americans have grown used to living in an age of redactions.

Such complacency should be cause for concern. For while redactions can be necessary and classification is undoubtedly a part of modern government life, the aura of secrecy that invariably accompanies such acts inevitably redacts democracy as well.

Yes, I quite agree. And in fact I think the Mueller report should have been handed - quite possibly with a few "redacted" (i.e. disappeared) - bits to (at least) the members of the House and the Senate, for the simple reason that if these do not know what the government is doing, the government can more or less do as it likes, which already is the case under Trump and probably also since 9/11.

Here is once again the warning of Hermann Goering about how democracies are killed:

  

That is what has happened in the USA since 9/11. Back to the article:

(..) [T]he post-9/11 period stands out in American history for its relentless reliance on redacting material in government reports. Consider, for instance, the 28 pages about Saudi Arabia that were totally blacked out of the 9/11 Commission Report, an investigation of how the United States failed to prevent al-Qaeda’s attacks that fateful day. Similarly, the 2005 Robb-Silberman Report on Weapons of Mass Destruction, classified -- and therefore redacted -- entire chapters, as well as parts of its chief takeaway, its 74 recommendations, six of which were completely excised. (..) And the nearly 400-page executive summary of the extensive Senate Select Intelligence Committee’s Torture Report was partially redacted, too, even though it was already a carefully chosen version of a more than 6,700-page report that was not given a public airing.

I think I agree with Greenberg if I say that (nearly) all of these "redactions" (blackings out) of these reports were strongly anti-democratic - and indeed they have been going on since 9/11.

Here is some more:

In March, for instance, President Trump issued an executive order revoking the need for the Pentagon to make public its drone strikes in the war on terror or the civilian casualties they cause. In a similar fashion, the American military command in Afghanistan announced its decision to no longer report on the amount of territory under Taliban control, a metric that the previous U.S. commander there had called the “most telling in a counterinsurgency.” Similarly, President Trump has repeatedly displayed his aversion to any kind of basic note taking or record-keeping during White House meetings with aides and lawyers (as the Mueller report pointed out). 

I say, and I regard this again as strongly anti-democratic. It seems Greenberg agrees and here is the last bit of this article:

[D]emocracy itself can, in the end, be redacted if the culture of blacking-out key information becomes Washington’s accepted paradigm. And with such redactions goes, of course, the redaction of the very idea of an informed citizenry, which lies at the heart of the democratic way of life. Under the circumstances, perhaps it’s not surprising that polls show trust in government in steady decline for decades (with a brief reversal right after 9/11).

In the end, blacking out the record of the grimmest aspects of our own recent history will leave American citizens unable to understand the country in which they live. Informed or not, we all share responsibility for the American future.
Yes indeed, except perhaps for the very last statement, for I do not think American ordinary citizens can be made responsible for the deletions and false reportings that their government indulges in. 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 3 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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