Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Crisis: Irma's Aftermath, On Facebook, On 9/11, Climate Change,  On NYT's Propaganda

Sections                                                                     crisis index

1. Summary
Crisis Files
    A. Selections from September 12, 2017 


This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, September 12, 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 will continue with it.

On the moment 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 will continue.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from September 12, 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 Alexander Burns on The New York Times. It starts like this:

Florida emerged from Hurricane Irma on Monday as a landscape of blacked-out cities, shuttered gas stations, shattered trees and flooded streets, while the now-weakened storm kept sweeping northward.

Major streets remained underwater in cities from Miami to Jacksonville, with even more roads snarled by debris. As many as nine million Floridians lost electricity at some point during the storm, and the chief executive of a major utility, Florida Power & Light, said that it could take weeks to restore full service.

Officials were still assessing Irma’s impact in the Florida Keys, which may have borne the worst of the storm.
Later on Monday, the Defense Department said that damage to the Keys was so extensive that it might be necessary to evacuate the 10,000 residents who rode out the storm on the islands.
And it also seems to be the case that there is less destruction and there are also fewer deaths than were expected, although it also is quite early.

Here is some on the damages Irma caused:

Insurance experts began offering projections on Monday for the total cost of the storm’s damage, with initial estimates running in the range of $20 billion to $50 billion.

Throughout Florida, local officials implored residents to be cautious about returning to their homes. Conjuring images of surprise floods and electrocution by downed power lines, they asked residents not to misinterpret their state’s less-severe-than-expected ordeal as a sign that life could quickly and easily snap back to normalcy.

And that seems quite correct. Here is some more:

Power losses appeared to be the state’s most widespread affliction. In news conferences up and down the state, mayors and utility executives delivered the dispiriting statistics: In densely populated Pinellas County west of Tampa, about 70 percent of Duke Energy’s customers, or 395,000 people, were without electricity, with no immediate restoration in sight. Mayor Tomás Regalado of Miami said a similar fraction of his city was dark, with roads left impassable and traffic lights not working. In Orlando, about half the city’s utility customers had no service.

The article, which contains a lot more information, ends as follows:

Still, areas that had braced for a lethal catastrophe felt lucky to get away with just prolonged discomfort and a mess to clean up.

“We survived pretty well,” the mayor of Tampa, Bob Buckhorn, said. “Not a lot of flooding. Tree removal, debris — don’t want to say it’s negligible, but it’s manageable.”

It would seem as if the damages and the loss of lives were less than feared (but they are still enormous).

2. Make Mark Zuckerberg Testify

This article is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Last week, after what must have been a series of extremely grim meetings in Menlo Park, Facebook admitted publicly that part of its revenue includes what appears to be politically motivated fraud undertaken by a shady Russian company. The social network, perhaps motivated by a Washington Post scoop on the matter, released a statement outlining the issues at hand, but leaving the most important questions unanswered. Only Facebook knows these answers, and we should assume they won’t be eager to volunteer them.
Given that Facebook reaches a little under 30 percent of the entire population of our planet, the answers to these questions matter.

Yes indeed. Since I also strongly despise Facebook (see here, which is from 2011) and since I think such a worldwide monopoly urgently needs breaking up, I am not quite impartial here, but then how can one be partial to sick lies like these:

The response I received from Facebook PR (“We are not commenting beyond the blog post at this time”) is typical. But even when Facebook does decide to talk to journalists, it has the tenor of an occult priest discussing something from beyond an eerie void: Just last week, when faced with a report that its advertising numbers promised an American audience that, in certain demographics, well exceeded the number of such humans in existence, judging by U.S. Census Bureau numbers, Facebook told the Wall Street Journal that its numbers “are not designed to match population or census estimates. We are always working to improve our estimates.”

Here is more on the spies and the data-thieves of Facebook:

Facebook, even more than Apple, which has taken corporate secrecy to quasi-military lengths, operates as a black box. No one outside of the company knows exactly how the site’s algorithms, by which media and advertising industries now live and die, function.

In fact, I think the ignorance of nearly everyone about Facebook's "algorithms" [2] does not merely amount to "not knowing exactly" but to almost complete ignorance.

Then there is also this:

At the same time as it operates in near-total opacity, Facebook trumpets just how well the black box works; its advertising case study library is ample, including stories boasting how Facebook can swing political elections. Facebook crucially never makes it clear exactly how it will help you win an election (or sell more fried chicken, or bracelets, or subscriptions). It just does. This magical efficacy, the company’s apparently unparalleled power to make people look at and maybe even click on things, is helping Facebook reach quarter after quarter of mammoth profits and swallow whole larger and larger chunks of advertising and media around the world.

Yes indeed. And here is one of Sam Biddle's conclusions:

Zuckerberg should publicly testify under oath before Congress on his company’s capabilities to influence the political process, be it Russian meddling or anything else. If the company is as powerful as it promises advertisers, it should be held accountable. And if it’s not, then we need to stop fretting so much about it. Either way, threats to entire societies should be reckoned with publicly by those very societies and not confined to R&D labs and closed-door briefings. If democracy can be gamed from a laptop, that shouldn’t be considered a trade secret.

I wholly agree, although I also think Facebook should be taken apart (like Google, Amazon, Apply and Microsoft, indeed) - although in fact I fear nothing will happen to either of these supermonopolistic worldwide giants until the whole economy they profit so much from and partially produced collapses in the next major economical crisis.

Meanwhile, I think you are a moron if you are using one of these monopolies: They are far too powerfull and they are almost completely uncontrolled.

3. 9/11: The Beginning of the End of the US Empire Project

This article is by Dahr Jamail on Truthout. It starts as follows:

Today, it has been 16 years since the events of September 11, 2001, in the United States. Nearly 3,000 people died in the attacks, and more than 6,000 were injured in the spectacular violence across New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, DC.

The Bush/Cheney administration used these horrible events to justify projecting the US empire deeper into the Middle East by invading Iraq, as well as launching into war-torn Afghanistan. They also used the opportunity to pass the so-called PATRIOT act, which amounted to a vicious attack on civil liberties and human rights at home.

Any pretense that the US intended to seek justice or increase world stability via its so-called War on Terror has been dramatically overshadowed by increased global resentment toward the US, which has in fact generated more terror attacks around the world.

Quite so. This article is here because it is now a full 16 years ago that the age of terrorism started and also because it is quite good.

Incidentally, although Jamail does not discuss that particular fact, my own conviction is that 9/11 was an internal affair produced by people working for Bush. I also will not insist on that here and now, but anybody who took a good look at the evidence (I did, some years ago) should know that that is the most probable hypothesis.

In any case, here uis what the "War on Terror" produced in terms of terror:

Authors of a report titled "Body Count: Casualty Figures After 10 Years of the 'War on Terror,'" told Truthout the numbers of dead in Iraq and other countries the US had waged war on since the events of September 11 had reached "genocidal dimensions" and "could also be in excess of 2 million, whereas a figure below 1 million is extremely unlikely."

And that is just Iraq. There is this on the noble hero Obama, who was no noble hero at all, but simply a more polite and much better speaking warmonger:

While President Obama rode this wave of anti-Bush and anti-US Empire sentiment into office by promising "hope" and "change," he did not bring an end to either of these wars.

Obama simply followed Bush administration policy by making a slow withdrawal from Iraq while maintaining a US presence there in the form of "advisers," surveillance, air strikes, artillery, drones and later, troops. All of this continues under the Trump administration, but with more troops on the ground.

And Obama, who got the Nobel Peace Prize very early in his government, without having done anything to merit it, did decide, rather late in his government, to extend the investments in nuclear arms by 50 billion dollars in the coming years.

Here is why the so-called "War On Terror" was state terrorism inspired and conducted by the American governments since 9/11:

Human Rights Watch, in a 2004 report titled, "Above the Law: Executive Power after September 11 in the United States," stated, "The Bush administration's anti-terrorism practices represent a stunning assault on basic principles of justice, government accountability, and the role of the courts."

All the while, the US military maintains roughly 300,000 active military personnel in over 150 countries and nearly 800 bases globally.

So, has the so-called War on Terror succeeded?

Even if we take seriously the criteria by which it was propagandistically sold to the US public, as well as the rest of the world, the answer must be a resounding "no." The Global Terrorism Index revealed that, as of 2014, there had been a fivefold increase in global terrorism fatalities since 9/11.

Then again, as I have been saying from 2005 onwards (see here: it is in Dutch but it still seems quite good and quite true to me, after 12 years), in we substitute the non-propagandistic aims of the US governments since 9/11, which may be described as giving American state terrorism all the military and the spying powers to conduct

"a stunning assault on basic principles of justice, government accountability, and the role of the courts"

then it seems to have quite spectacularly succeeded, with

"roughly 300,000 active military personnel in over 150 countries and nearly 800 bases globally."

And this is a recommended article.

4. Scientists: Climate Change May Wipe Out a Third of World's Parasites, with Disastrous Ripple Effects

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:

As the United States continues to deal with unprecedented floods and hurricanes, a new study has revealed climate change is also driving the mass extinction of parasites that are critical to natural ecosystems, and could add to the planet’s sixth great mass extinction event that’s currently underway. The report in the journal Science Advances warns that about a third of all parasite species could go extinct by 2070 due to human activity. The loss of species of lice, fleas and worms could have profound ripple effects on the environment and might pave the way for new parasites to colonize humans and other animals with disastrous health outcomes. We speak to Colin Carlson, lead author of the report "Parasite biodiversity faces extinction and redistribution in a changing climate." He’s a Ph.D. candidate in environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2011, Business Insider included him in a roundup titled "16 of the Smartest Children in History," alongside Mozart and Picasso. At the time, he was 15 years old. He is now 21.

In fact, this is here mostly because of something I wrote in 1972, after having read The Limits to Growth (which still seems remarkably adequate in its predictions or foresights), namely that one of the things I feared from the vast environmental changes that were predicted (in 1950, when I was born, there were 2 billion persons, and now that I am 67 there are over 7 billion, and that simply seems to be too many persons) were all manner of feedback problems.

This is precisely one of those feedback problems:

AMY GOODMAN: The report in the journal Science Advances warns that about a third of all parasite species could go extinct by 2070 due to human activity. The loss of species of lice, fleas and worms could have profound ripple effects on the environment and might pave the way for new parasites to colonize humans and other animals with disastrous health outcomes. For more, we’re joined by Colin Carlson, lead author of a report published last week which revealed climate change is driving the mass extinction of parasites that are critical to natural ecosystems. He’s a Ph.D. candidate in environmental science, policy and management at the University of California, Berkeley.

Incidentally, the vast majority of parasites is not dangerous to human beings, while the vast majority of parasites does contribute a lot to the continuing stability of the ecosystems they are part of. That is, until they are (partially) exterminated somehow:

COLIN CARLSON: Parasites are a huge part of what holds ecosystems together. They can be the majority of biomass in an ecosystem. They can be 80 percent of the links in a food web. They control wildlife populations. They keep populations down, just like predators do. And just like predators in the 18th and 19th century when we were eradicating them, parasites are, obviously, a hard sell. But it turns out they play this important regulatory role. And what we think could happen in a changing climate is, with these very high extinction rates, the loss of that stabilizing role could produce opportunities for new patterns of wildlife in human disease that are genuinely concerning.

And here is Colin Carlson (who is extremely smart) on basic real science, and how this is destroyed by political prejudices:

COLIN CARLSON: I think it’s incredibly concerning to see science not only deprioritized, but actively worked against, by the administration. The view from the ground is that a lot of researchers are incredibly worried about our ability to keep doing research that is scientifically ethical, that is valid, that presents issues like climate change objectively, and our ability to continue to be funded to do that research. I think this is one in a set of decisions by this administration that really do give us reason to be worried.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

5. Has the NYT Gone Collectively Mad?

This is an article by Robert Parry on Consortiumnews. It starts with the following summary:
Special Report: Crossing a line from recklessness into madness, The New York Times published a front-page opus suggesting that Russia was behind social media criticism of Hillary Clinton, reports Robert Parry.
I have been reporting on "the Russia-mania" since last year, and I quite agree with Robert Parry, William Binney and the VIPS that there really is hardly any evidence that Russia did do what it has been accused of doing by the New York Times and by  many other American mainstream media and also by mainstream TV.

What keeps this propaganda story up for more than 10 months?

It seems to be two things mostly (but I am less certain about this than about the fact that "
Russia-mania" is propaganda and deception without any real evidence):

Hillary Clinton's efforts to shift away her own failures, and the Deep State's efforts (that is: the NSA, the FBI, most of the CIA and the military-industrial complex that was first signalled by Eisenhower) to try to control Donald Trump.

Here is the start of Robert Parry's article (who wrote considerably more about this):

For those of us who have taught journalism or worked as editors, a sign that an article is the product of sloppy or dishonest journalism is that a key point will be declared as flat fact when it is unproven or a point in serious dispute – and it then becomes the foundation for other claims, building a story like a high-rise constructed on sand.

This use of speculation as fact is something to guard against particularly in the work of inexperienced or opinionated reporters. But what happens when this sort of unprofessional work tops page one of The New York Times one day as a major “investigative” article and reemerges the next day in even more strident form as a major Times editorial? Are we dealing then with an inept journalist who got carried away with his thesis or are we facing institutional corruption or even a collective madness driven by ideological fervor?

What is stunning about the [lead] story in last Friday’s print edition of The New York Times is that it offers no real evidence to support its provocative claim that – as the headline states – “To Sway Vote, Russia Used Army of Fake Americans” or its subhead: “Flooding Twitter and Facebook, Impostors Helped Fuel Anger in Polarized U.S.”

I think the best explanation for the fact that The New York Times (once again) "offers no real evidence" for its claims is that it is institutionally corrupted (much rather than mad).

Here is one of the current techniques of the current NYT:
As it turns out, the Times now operates with what must be called a neo-McCarthyistic approach for identifying people as Kremlin stooges, i.e., anyone who doubts the truthfulness of the State Department’s narratives on Syria, Ukraine and other international topics.
And there is a considerable amount about the reporter who reported purported facts without evidence, Scott Shane, but I skip all of that except for this bit:

So is Scott Shane a “Kremlin troll,” too? Should the Times immediately fire him as a disloyal foreign agent? What if Putin says that 2 plus 2 equals 4 and your child is taught the same thing in elementary school, what does that say about public school teachers?

Out of such gibberish come the evils of McCarthyism and the death of the Enlightenment. Instead of encouraging a questioning citizenry, the new American paradigm is to silence debate and ridicule anyone who steps out of line.

You might have thought people would have learned something from the disastrous groupthink about Iraqi WMD, a canard that the Times and most of the U.S. mainstream media eagerly promoted.

Yes indeed - and in case you miss the implications, I refer you to my entries for totalitarianism, groupthinking and ordinary men in my Philosophical Dictionary.

This article ends as follows:

But what is the real threat to “American free speech”? Is it the possibility that Russia – in a very mild imitation of what the U.S. government does all over the world – used some Web sites clandestinely to get out its side of various stories, an accusation against Russia that still lacks any real evidence?

Or is the bigger threat that the nearly year-long Russia-gate hysteria will be used to clamp down on Americans who dare question fact-lite or fact-free Official Narratives handed down by the State Department and The New York Times?

Clearly, the far larger danger is the continuing expanse of "fact-lite or fact-free" propaganda, and continuing rises of totalitarianism and groupthinking.

And this is a 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 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 (!!).

[2] Once again (and I can program in five or six programming languages) I think by now that the consistent use of the rather crazy term "algorithm" for what are in fact programs (which is an English term, unlike the strange contraction from Arabic that says "algorithm") may well be a bit of propaganda to prevent seeing that programs are nothing but simplified ways of saying "if so-and-so has this then do A, else do B".

It is like saying "l'entrée" for "the door" and pretending that is the best English term.

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