Saturday, September 2, 2017

Crisis: Charlie Hebdo, A.I. Regulated (?), Trump´s Insanity, Greenpeace, Nuclear Threat

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
2. Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 2, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Saturday, September 2, 2017.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last four years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I probably will continue with it, but on the moment I have several problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health.

As I explained, the crisis files will have a different format from July 1, 2017: I will now list the items I selected as I did before (title + link) but I add one selection from the selected item to give my readers a bit of a taste of the item linked.

So the new format is as follows:

      Link to an item with its orginal title, followed by
      One selection (usually) from that item (indented)
      Possibly followed by a brief comment by me (not indented).

This is illustrated below, in selections A.

2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from September 2, 2017

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:

This article is by Glenn Greenwald on The Intercept. This starts as follows:

The newfound free speech crusaders borne of the January 2015 murders of 10 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists in Paris sought to promulgate a new and quite dangerous standard. It was no longer enough to defend someone’s right to express their ideas while being free to condemn those ideas themselves — long the central tenet of the free speech movement (I defend their right to free speech even while finding them and their ideas repugnant). In the wake of the Hebdo killings, one had to go much further than that: It was a moral imperative to embrace and celebrate the ideas under attack and to glorify those who were expressing them, even to declare ourselves to be them (#JeSuisCharlie).

As a result, criticizing the content of Charlie Hebdo’s often-vile cartoons became virtually blasphemous.
I think this is more or less correct, and in fact this is strong evidence, indeed because these attitudes were very widely spread in 2015, that the majority of presently living people are primarily totalitarian much rather than (really) for freedom and democracy.

And indeed I agree with that: See totalitarian and ordinary men in my Philosophical Dictionary (that date from long before Charlie Hebdo, and indeed also from long before 2004, when they were published: in fact I think so since the 1970ies, and also with strong evidence).

Here is some more:
What was clear all along, and what I argued repeatedly, was that it was not a belief in free speech that was driving these demands that Charlie Hebdo cartoonists be honored and revered and their cartoons be celebrated. Free speech was just the pretense, the costume.

Indeed, most of the political leaders who led the “free speech parade” in Paris (pictured above) had long records of suppressing free speech, and few of these new free speech crusaders uttered a word as the free speech rights of Muslims have been assaulted and eroded throughout the West in the name of the war on terror.
I think I am a bit more pessimistic than Greenwald seems to be, for I think it is quite possible that most who praised Charley Hebdo in 2015 (and who criticize it now, in actual fact both times driven more by their totalitarian attitudes than by their knowledge of or respect for free speech and the rule of democratic law) were quite sincere in believing they were for a ¨free press¨, indeed also while being mostly ignorant about what this means and involves.

In fact, here is my own reaction from January 14, 2015 (between the two following horizontal lines):

I agree with Greenwald that "terrorism" (the term) is almost only used these days in the papers and on TV as a propaganda term, and I also agree that one group's "freedom fighters" are another group's "terrorists" and conversely (which makes the U.S. - state - terrorists or, if you please, "state terrorists" in quite a few regions [1]) but I do not quite see that this makes it necessary to - completely - avoid the term.

Here is my own definition of "terrorism" (in part) which dates from August 2004:

Terrorism: Attempt to get one's way in politics or religion by violence and murder. [1]

Very many religious and political groups have indulged in terrorism, if given the chance, though the perpetrators of terrorism almost always call it by a different name, such as "fight for freedom", "guerilla", "righteousness of the faithful", or "Holy War".

One of the functions of the state is to protect its population from terrorism, which often happens by denying the population the right to bear arms. The great danger of states is that state-terrorism has been by far the most dangerous and succesful form of terrorism: Hundreds of millions of individual human beings were murdered in the 20th C alone by state-terrorism. (Fascism, Communism).

The normal effect of terrorists who oppose some state - including those merely called so by organs of state security - is to increase the powers and practices of state-terrorism in order "to fight terrorism".

Clearly, by the above definition the Muslims who indulge in terrorism (violence and murder) are terrorists, and so are the state terrorists who oppose(d) them: Bush, Blair, Obama, and Cameron, for example. [1]

And clearly, you may like one kind of terrorism a lot better than the other kind of terrorism, but it also remains an evident fact that both groups do use terror (that is: violence and murder or also - by the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary - 
coercive intimidation).

The main reason I am doubtful that it is wise not to discuss terrorism at all is this quotation from George Orwell - who does not praise this, but who sees it as totalitarian and as deeply immoral or amoral:
"Actions are held to be good or bad, not on their own merits but according to who does them, and there is almost no outrage - torture, the use of hostages, forced labour, mass deportations, imprisonments without trial, forgery, assassination, the bombing of civilians, which does not change its moral colour when it is committed by 'our' side." (The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, vol 3, p. 419, written in May 1945.)
But that is the card most politicians and all terrorists try to play: Their violence and murder is terrorism; our violence and murder is a fight for the good.

And I still agree with what I wrote over 2 1/2 years ago. Here is more from Glenn Greenwald now:

The proof of this was delivered yesterday. Charlie Hebdo published a characteristically vile cartoon depicting drowning victims of Hurricane Harvey in Houston as being neo-Nazis, with the banner that declared “God Exists”: because, needless to say, white people in Texas love Hitler, and it’s thus a form of divine justice if they drown.

That led to a virtually unanimous tidal wave of condemnation of Charlie Hebdo, including from many quarters that, just two years ago, were sanctifying the same magazine for its identical mockery of Muslims.
Yes, and here is Greenwald´s conclusion now:
Whatever else is true, let this episode bring about the full and permanent death to the new, warped principle that to defend free speech, one must celebrate the ideas under attack and honor those expressing them. It should have never been difficult to grasp the basic yet vital distinction between defending the right of ideas to be expressed and celebrating those ideas.
In fact, I think there is no ¨new, warped principle¨ involved: It was all simple, plain, obvious and indeed quite sick and warped totalitarianism. But indeed these totalitarian attitudes are now both very widespread and are being pushed by the mainstream media, which is disquieting.

2. How to Regulate Artificial Intelligence

This article is by Oren Etzioni on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

The technology entrepreneur Elon Musk recently urged the nation’s governors to regulate artificial intelligence “before it’s too late.” Mr. Musk insists that artificial intelligence represents an “existential threat to humanity,” an alarmist view that confuses A.I. science with science fiction. Nevertheless, even A.I. researchers like me recognize that there are valid concerns about its impact on weapons, jobs and privacy. It’s natural to ask whether we should develop A.I. at all.

I believe the answer is yes. But shouldn’t we take steps to at least slow down progress on A.I., in the interest of caution? The problem is that if we do so, then nations like China will overtake us. The A.I. horse has left the barn, and our best bet is to attempt to steer it. A.I. should not be weaponized, and any A.I. must have an impregnable “off switch.” Beyond that, we should regulate the tangible impact of A.I. systems (for example, the safety of autonomous vehicles) rather than trying to define and rein in the amorphous and rapidly developing field of A.I.

I say. First, here is the Wikipedia on Oren Etzioni: He indeed is a computer scientist, but he also is - like Elon Musk - first listed as ¨entrepreneur¨, which seems correct.

Second, I don´t believe Elon Musk is credible or sincere in his call ¨to regulate artificial intelligence “before it’s too late”¨, and my point is not that there is nothing to regulate, but that very much about A.I. is mostly unknown, mostly private, mostly secret, mostly completely closed and secret source, while it also is quite often protected, directly or indirectly, by the military.

That is: You simply cannot regulate most developments of A.I. for these developments are mostly secret and proprietary.

Here is the second and last bit that I´ll quote from this article:

I propose three rules for artificial intelligence systems that are inspired by, yet develop further, the “three laws of robotics” that the writer Isaac Asimov introduced in 1942: A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm; a robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except when such orders would conflict with the previous law; and a robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the previous two laws.

I say. Etzioni points out that these laws are not as clear as one would desire them to be, but he has said nothing about the fact that most - not: all - A.I. research is secret. And I must say I find it personally odd that he has to go back to 1942 - before there was any computer - to find rules.

Anyway - I think that I cannot take this seriously.

3. Forceful Chief of Staff Grates on Trump, and the Feeling Is Mutual

This article is by Glenn Trush and Maggie Haberman on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

President Trump was in an especially ornery mood after staff members gently suggested he refrain from injecting politics into day-to-day issues of governing after last month’s raucous rally in Arizona, and he responded by lashing out at the most senior aide in his presence.

It happened to be his new chief of staff, John F. Kelly.

Mr. Kelly, the former Marine general brought in five weeks ago as the successor to Reince Priebus, reacted calmly, but he later told other White House staff members that he had never been spoken to like that during 35 years of serving his country. In the future, he said, he would not abide such treatment, according to three people familiar with the exchange.

I say, although I am not amazed, which I am not because I am a psychologist (one of at least 53,000 psychologists, I learned recently) who believes that Donald Trump is not sane (which is also quite frightening, since he has the command over the U.S.s nuclear arsenal - and see item 5 below).

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

The question now is how long Mr. Kelly will stay, with estimates ranging from a month to a year at the most. White House officials say that Mr. Kelly has given no indication he intends to leave anytime soon.

Yes indeed. For more see item 5.

4. Greenpeace & Indigenous Water Protectors Respond to Lawsuit Accusing DAPL Activists of Eco-Terrorism

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
We examine the corporate crackdown on environmental activists challenging the fossil fuel industry and human-driven climate change. The company that owns the Dakota Access pipeline—Energy Transfer Partners—has sued Greenpeace International and other environmental groups, accusing them of inciting "eco-terrorism." We speak to Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, and Tara Houska, national campaigns director for Honor the Earth. She is Ojibwe from Couchiching First Nation.
I say: Now those trying to stop the eco-terrorists who exploit and ruin the earth to get themselves very much richer than most others are accused by these eco-terrorists of being ... eco-terrorists!

Then again, I must also say that I have been expecting this for quite a while now: When the mainstream media keep lying and propagandizing and not saying what is important for everyone to know, then you may expect that propagandists and rich exploiters will be able to invert and falsify anything. And indeed they do:

AMY GOODMAN: As the unprecedented flooding exacerbated by climate change continues in Houston, Texas, we end today’s show by looking at the corporate crackdown on environmental activists trying to stop the fossil fuel industry and human-driven climate change—at least challenge the industry. The company that owns the Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfer Partners, has sued Greenpeace International, Earth First! and other environmental groups, accusing them of inciting "eco-terrorism" against the pipeline’s construction.

Annie Leonard, you are named both personally and as executive director of Greenpeace USA in this lawsuit brought by Energy Transfer Partners. Can you respond?

ANNIE LEONARD: Yeah, actually, I brought the lawsuit here. For those on the radio, you can see I’m holding up a four-inch stack of papers. We were just served yesterday with this lawsuit. This lawsuit is a SLAPP suit. "SLAPP" means strategic lawsuit against public participation. And that’s what it is. It is an attempt to criminalize and silence protest, at the exact time that this country needs people rising up more than ever. suit. "

I quite agree with Leonard - and indeed the term "SLAPP" implies it is anti- democratic (for democracy depends on and requires public participation).

Here are the supposed crimes of Greenpeace according to the eco-terrorists that own Dakota Access pipelining:

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what it is that this suit alleges that you’ve been involved with, using terms like "eco-terrorism."

ANNIE LEONARD: Right. Well, the term "eco-terrorism" was used, really, just to taint constitutionally protected, science-based free speech advocacy. They’re trying to criminalize healthy, righteous protest. The suit alleges two specific charges. One is defamation, which is sort of lawyerspeak for lying. They’re saying that we lied to exaggerate the environmental and human rights impacts of the pipeline. The second one, that is really ludicrous, on so many levels, is that they’re claiming that Greenpeace was the head of a criminal enterprise that orchestrated all of this protest. And that’s the RICO part of this lawsuit. But again, it’s not really about the facts. It’s not really about the law. If you read this massive document, the allegations are absolutely ludicrous. What it’s about is trying to intimidate, silence and chill protest.

Right now, our government has stepped back from offering any kinds of protection for human rights and public health. And the fossil fuel industry thinks that they have just absolute free rein to go for it. The one thing in the way is public opposition. It’s civil society. It’s activism. And so they’re trying to squelch that (..)

Again I agree with Leonard. Here is some more by her:

ANNIE LEONARD: (...) The response is, is number one, nothing that was done was criminal. It was nonviolent. It was science-based. It was by values-led. It was peaceful. And the second thing, as my sister here said, is that this movement was indigenous-led. Greenpeace was very proud to stand up and support in solidarity, but this was an indigenous-led movement. And it is false and really offensive to say that Greenpeace orchestrated this. We were not the leaders here. We were a strong ally, and we don’t regret a bit of showing up there.
And I agree this sounds very much like a - totalitarian - inversion of all real values, but I have to admit that these totalitarian inversions get more and more common the longer Trump is president.

This is a recommended article.

5. Former Defense Secretary William Perry on the Nuclear Threat

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

William Perry has had a long career in government, serving  in the Pentagon under Presidents Carter and Reagan before becoming President Clinton’s secretary of defense in 1994.

“We stand today, I believe, in greater danger of nuclear catastrophe than we faced during the Cold War,” Perry tells host and Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in this week’s episode of KCRW’s “Scheer Intelligence.”

And I agree with Perry, though possibly not for Perry´s reasons. My main reason is that I think that Donald Trump is not sane (and I am a psychologist).

Perry and Scheer discuss how the expansion of NATO in the 1990s factors in to the rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia. Perry calls this expansion “the first step” in escalating tensions. The “second step,” he says, was “installing ballistic missile defense systems in Eastern Europe.”

“Our response to Russia on the objections to these various actions we were taking basically was, ‘What can you do about it? You’re an insignificant power today,’ ” Perry says. “The reason Putin is so popular today is that he has taken actions that, in [Russians’] view, allow Russia to stand as a great power and overcome this humiliating position they were in … so we stand today in a position of hostility between the United States and Russia, comparable to where we stood in the Cold War. In the meantime, we still have many thousands of nuclear weapons.”

The conversation concludes with a discussion on the possibility of nuclear war with North Korea.

“This regime is ruthless, and reckless, but they are focused entirely on their own survival,” Perry says of North Korea. “They’re not going to be conducting a preemptive attack on the United States or Tokyo or Seoul. They’re going to use [nuclear weapons] to threaten and bluster.”

I mostly agree with Perry, although I want to stress that it is - in actual fact, and from a rational point of view - rather insane that the Russians still are seen as the main enemy of the USA (in the USA) even though Russia is since 1991 (26 years now) at least as capitalistic as the USA.

Then again, this is - again - what totalitarian thinking is like. And this is a recommended article, in which there is much more.


[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 1 1/2 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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