January 24, 2018

Crisis: Impeaching Trump, Killer Drones, Amazon, Trump Not Trusted, Facebook´s Fakeries


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from January 24, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, January 24, 2018.

1. Summary

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

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 two 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from January 24, 2018

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:
1. A Billionaire Keeps Pushing to Impeach Trump. Democrats Are Rattled. 
2. Inequality, Revolution, and Drones That Kill
3. Amazon, City Killer?
4. Poll: 60 Percent of Americans Don't Trust Trump With His Big Nuclear

5. Facebook’s Fake News Fix
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. A Billionaire Keeps Pushing to Impeach Trump. Democrats Are Rattled.

This article is by Alexander Burns on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

Democratic leaders have pressed one of their most prolific donors privately, urging him to tone down his campaign calling for President Trump’s impeachment. They have prodded him in public, declaring on television that they consider impeachment an impractical idea. And party strategists have pleaded with Democratic candidates for Congress not to join in.

But that donor, Tom Steyer, a California billionaire, has only intensified his attacks in recent weeks. Buoyed by tens of millions of dollars in television commercials — financed out of his own pocket and starring him — Mr. Steyer has become one of Mr. Trump’s most visible antagonists, firing up angry Democrats and unnerving his own party with the ferocity of his efforts.

I did not know this, but on reading this I sympathize with Steyer. Here are some of my reasons:

First, I think the Democrats are mostly corrupted by their lobbyists and by the millions the banks pay to corruptible Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton. You may disagree, but there
are now ten years of crisis logs
(!!), and I think the case has been made there sufficiently well: There are a few Democrats I trust - Elizabeth Warren, for example - but most I simply cannot trust, not because I know specifically they are corrupt, but because I do not know specifically they are not corrupt.

Second, while I tend to agree with Democrats who say that in the present circumstances - the Republicans have the majorities in the Senate and the House - the chances on the success of an impeachment procedure are fairly small, I also think that (i) judicial success is different from political success, and (ii) Steyer is a billionaire who can afford some money.

Third, I strongly agree with Steyer: I am a psychologist who agrees with 70,000 other psychologists and psychiatrists that Trump is not sane (and I disagree with the 1 psychiatrist
whose case for Trump is inconsisent
), and I think everything that is reasonably possible should be done to remove his finger from the nuclear trigger - and also see item 4 below.

And I think these are good points that support Steyer´s position, even if his chances of impeaching Trump are less than 1/2: What you risk if Steyer does not succeed is being blown up in a nuclear war that is triggered by a madman.

Here is more on Steyer´s point of view:

Mr. Steyer is likely to unsettle national Democrats further in the coming weeks, with a new phase of his campaign aimed at pushing lawmakers in solidly liberal seats to endorse impeachment. Having collected more than four million email addresses from people who signed an impeachment petition, Mr. Steyer has begun prodding those voters to call congressional offices and lobby them for support.

In an interview, Mr. Steyer was dismissive of party leaders’ reservations about making impeachment an issue in 2018. He described Mr. Trump as lawless and unfit for office; acknowledging the practical obstacles to impeachment, he said raising a popular outcry was a necessary first step.

“We’re just telling the truth to the American people, and it’s an important truth,” Mr. Steyer said of his campaign. “And if you don’t think it’s politically convenient for you, that’s too bad.”

I agree with Steyer: Trump is ¨lawless and unfit for office¨; there are ¨practical obstacles to impeachment¨; he is ¨telling the truth to the American people, and it’s an important truth¨ and also as I said above, political success and judicial success are two different kinds of things, and Steyer has the money to at least try for judicial success.

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

While Democrats intend to run on a fiercely anti-Trump message this year, party leaders envision a campaign of broad attacks on the president’s economic agenda rather than a blunt-force impeachment pledge. There is no realistic chance of impeaching Mr. Trump while Republicans control Congress, and Democrats from moderate and conservative districts fear the idea could alienate voters otherwise likely to vote their way in November.

I am somewhat sympathetic to the argument that this year ¨there is no realistic chance of impeaching Mr. Trump while Republicans control Congress¨, but I dislike the strategic convenience the Democrats make out of this.

For let us assume that chance is p and p is considerably smaller than 1/2 - and this what the Democrats say. What they forget to add is that there is a chance q - that may also be smaller than 1/2 but that is very difficult to measure - that Trump may proceed to blow up the whole world with nuclear arms.

So what you should measure is: ¨
impeaching Mr. Trump while Republicans control Congress¨ (p) vs. ¨being blown up by Mr. Trump while the Democrats are busy not alienating voters who might vote for them¨ (q).

And my own view is that I support Steyer, especially as he pays for himself and his plans.
There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

2. Inequality, Revolution, and Drones That Kill

This article is by Paul Buchheit on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
When average Americans were oppressed in the 18th century, they knew where the plutocrats lived, and they didn't have military-style police forces holding them back. The Stamp Act drove the New York masses to ransack the houses of Governor Cadwallader Colden and the British major who was pointing army artillery toward the local town. Another mob looted the house of pro-English aristocrat Thomas Hutchinson, carrying away his fine furnishings and emptying his wine cellar in part of what the British called a "war of plunder" to take away the "distinction of rich and poor." 

That doesn't happen today. The super-rich are safely ensconced in their gated estates with private security forces and 9-foot walls and surveillance systems and sniper posts. But now they have good reason to fear the future. We all do. The too-rapid evolution of intelligent machines, with the ability to make decisions that can impact human life, is bringing us closer to a man-made epidemic that we won't be able to control. As armed drones become tinier and cheaper and smarter and more readily accessible, they could launch the modern revolution of the undervalued human being.
I say - and I admit that I have also thought about the dangers of drones and of AI, but I have considerable problems in doing so, because (i) I am a psychologist who doesn´t believe that
human beings are computers, but who agrees computers are much faster reckoners and have virtually infinite memories; because (ii) while I can program fairly well in several languages, I have not followed most of AI the last 20 years; and also because (iii) I do not like to worry about things or events that are quite uncertain, and the development of both AI and drones (and how (flying) drones are legalized) are both rather uncertain and rather unclear, at least in my eyes.

Here is the type of development Paul Buchheit is considering:
Oppressed people won't be advancing on the well-secured houses of the rich and powerful. Instead, artificial intelligence (AI) may take the place of axes and torches. In a terror-filled scenario for the future, a tiny gnat-like micro-robotic creature, armed with a lethal explosive charge or an injectable poison, and programmed with facial recognition software that targets a single individual (even in disguise), may be released in the vicinity of that person and instructed to wait patiently, perhaps indefinitely if solar-charged, and to surreptitiously sweep in to the target's head to complete its deadly mission. Silent and unseen, unidentifiable and untraceable, it hurries away to self-destruct in the final act of a perfect crime.
I grant that is all possible in the future, but I think none of it - nano-technology + drones + AI - is capable of it now (and while my knowledge of AI and technology is limited, it is better than that of most others).

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Mention of such killer drones can elicit responses of disbelief or ridicule. But it's happening. Technology, as we all know, moves faster than expected, each day creating new apps and concepts that hadn't been imagined just months before. The specifications for these drones are all available -- or soon to be available -- to any skilled tech enthusiast. And to anyone with deadly intentions. 

Experts are divided on the prospect.
Well... I grant I am not an expert on AI, drones or nano-technology, but I know sufficiently much of programming and of AI to say that currently these are mere dreams of possibilities that - at least - cannot be realized at present.

So I leave this alone at present, but this is a recommended article.

3. Amazon, City Killer?

This article is by Gabrielle Gurley on AlterNet and originally on The American Prospect. It starts as follows:

Trying to figure out where Amazon will set down roots or, depending on your perspective, spread its tentacles, is the newest capitalistic cage match. Nineteen American cities and one Canadian metro area, down from the original 238, now go into overdrive to secure what promises to one of the most transformative economic decisions in the world: a single $5 billion investment in a second headquarters that brings 50,000 high-tech workers and their families, plus thousands more jobs in associated sectors.

This competition spurred the type of collaboration between private sector and political leaders that only develops when a trophy like an Amazon comes into view, according to Susan Wachter, a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School professor of real estate and finance and co-director of Penn Institute for Urban Research, which assembled a group of urban experts to weigh in on the Amazon competition.

I very much dislike Amazon (and Facebook and Google and Apple and Microsoft and more),
and one of my main reasons is that I think that the growths of each of these show the growth of neofascism:

Neofascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with a centralized powerful authority, where the opposition is propagandized and suppressed or censored, that propounds an ethics which has profit as its main norm, and that has a politics that is rightwing, nationalistic, pro-capitalist, anti-liberal, anti-equality, and anti-leftist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy in which multi-national corporations are stronger than a national government or stateb. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.

More specifically, these enormous multi-national corporations are forms of neofascism, simply because thet are now ¨stronger than a national government or state¨ and also richer, and can dictate their desires to national governments or states (especially - at present - the smaller ones), and can do so simply by dangling their turnover and their riches in front of politician´s eyes.

And this is just a single example of the neofascism of multi-national corporations - and I also like to point out that the above definition of the term ¨neofascism¨ has the possibly somewhat interesting property that it fully suits president Trump.

Here is some more on Amazon:

Amazon has turned Seattle, its current headquarters, into a 21st-century exemplar of income inequality. Living in the Pacific Northwest’s largest city is a beautiful thing for a worker with the skill set to slip effortlessly into a high-tech job. For everyone else, Seattle now features all the disturbing traits of any place that rewards knowledge workers at the top of the food chain and flushes away just about everyone else: from astronomical housing costs that have long since displaced middle- and lower- income people to punishing commutes for everyone who has to move in and out of the city.

I guess that is correct. There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

4. Poll: 60 Percent of Americans Don't Trust Trump With His Big Nuclear Button

This article is by Jon Queally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Sixty percent of Americans do not trust President Donald Trump with his authority over the nation's nuclear arsenal—the world's largest and most sophisticated—and, according to the new ABC News/Wall Street Journal poll out Tuesday, more than half worry he might order a nuclear strike "without justification."

As ABC reports: "Distrust fuels anxiety of a baseless attack. Among those who don't trust Trump with the nuclear button, 88 percent are concerned the president might spark a nuclear attack without justification, and 55 percent are "very" concerned about it. Those translate to 52 and 33 percent of all adults, respectively."

I say, which I do because I did not know this and I think these results are quite good:

I think that if 60% of the Americans do not trust Trump with the nuclear arsenal, while over 50% think he might start ¨
a nuclear strike "without justification"¨ is quite good and better than I expected - and yes, I agree with both the distrust and with the possibility of a strike without justification.

Here is something about the reliability of this poll (which is a significant question):

The new poll out Tuesday surveyed a national sample of 1,005 adults and was conducted in both English and Spanish by landline and cell phone last week betwee January 15 and 18, 2018. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 points.

That seems also quite good, and a sample of over a 1000 adults is quite fair. And this is a recommended article.

5. Facebook’s Fake News Fix

This article is by Sue Halpern on The New York Books Review. It starts as follows:
When Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg shared with his (then) 101,545,240 followers that his New Year’s resolution for 2018 was “to fix” Facebook, one might have asked, “Fix it for whom?” It is a question with a number of possible answers: for its shareholders, who saw growth level off in the last year and young people turning to other social media platforms; for its users, who saw their personal information appropriated by political operatives and sometimes used against them in insidious ways; or for the public more generally, which is living with the consequences of that appropriation and with the proliferation of propaganda, camouflaged as legitimate news, not only in the United States, but in countries such as Burma and South Sudan, where Facebook-generated “fake news” has been used to instigate ethnic violence.
Yes indeed, that is a good and sensible question. But the answer should be obvious, simply from generalizing on what you know of private corporations and rich men: Facebook works and changes for Mark Zuckerberg, for Facebook´s other rich men, and for Facebook´s shareholders, and it does so completely in accord with Milton Friedman´s thesis that (rich) businessmen are completely irresponsible, except in trying to make the biggest profits for themselves. Here is Friedman (from 1962):
"Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundation of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine. If businessmen do have a social responsibility other than making maximum profits for stockholders, how are they to know what it is? Can self-selected private individuals decide what the social interest is?"
I think that also applies to Facebook. This is how Facebook works - which I repeat here because I do not do and never did Facebook:
The Facebook news feed is not, as its name suggests, a compendium of topical stories from various news media. Rather, it is a collection of posts from one’s Facebook “friends,” from sites one has actively “liked,” from third-party sites that Facebook believes you’re interested in based on your previous online behavior, and from advertisers who have put you into a category that, theoretically, makes you predisposed toward buying what they are selling. None of this is random. Everything that appears in the news feed is there because Facebook’s proprietary algorithm has put it there. That algorithm sorts through and analyzes masses of digital signals, deciding which of your friends’ posts you’d most like to see and which silly cat videos and other material from greater Facebook will grab your attention. It then serves these up along with a slew of paid advertisements, delivering to two billion people a never-ending supply of individualized, targeted content.­­
For me, this means that the regular users of Facebook simply refuse to think: They leave what they come to see to the programs of those who earn billions from them and the other two billion members from Facebook.

Here is some more on the ¨fixes¨ of Facebook:
Then, a week later, Mark Zuckerberg announced a further fix, this one an attempt to limit the amount of “fake news”: Facebook will survey its users, asking them to rank the “trustworthiness” of various news sources. Those with higher rankings will get priority in the news feed, while those with lower scores, presumably, will be shut out. As a consequence, Zuckerberg said, the amount of news on Facebook will decline by 20 percent. There is no way to know, yet, if outsourcing discernment—if that’s what polling a random collection of two billion people is—will cut down on the amount of propaganda, lying, and deception on Facebook, or if such a survey will simply replicate existing ideological divisions. But it is also unclear where the more than 50 percent of Facebook users who get their news from the site will get it now, if anywhere, since there will be so much less of it.
Actually, I trust anything said by Facebook or Zuckerberg (who screwed 70 billion for himself from those he misled to be the members of Facebook) less than Sue Halpern may do (but I don´t know), so I take only one item as credible in the above: There will be - for the moment, till the next fix, although that one may, of course, be kept secret - less news shown on Facebook.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article, that is on how Facebook does work:
In the meantime, all this personal content, including our journalism preferences, may have another effect, that of delivering more of ourselves—our interests, desires, movements, passions, and emotions—to Facebook and the data brokers that, in turn, sell it to governments, credit agencies, political operatives, and marketers.
And about those marketers: missing from Facebook’s “fix” is any mention of advertising. This is a fundamental omission, given that Facebook, despite its founder’s insistence that his company exists to connect the people of the world, does not just happen to run a side-hustle selling things to fund his humanitarian project, but, rather, is the second largest advertising platform on the planet. All of the connecting that is done there is done in the service of all its advertising, since Facebook users are both the customer (who buys things) and the product (who provides the raw data that enables advertisers to target users with such precision). That is the real genius of Facebook, and why the company is so valuable.

Yes indeed: Facebook is the largest advertiser in the world that sells advertisements and propaganda to its users to make as much money out of its users as it can.

This is a recommended article, in which there is considerably more than I reviewed.


[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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