May 4, 2018

Crisis: A New Internet, Eugene Debs, The Kochs, Hannah Arendt, On The USA, DeleteFacebook


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from May 4, 2018
     B. One extra bit

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 4, 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from May 4, 2018
1. Internet Pioneer Tim Berners-Lee Calls for 'New Web' That Reclaims
     Original Democratic Principles

2. An Ode to Eugene V. Debs and the End of Capitalism
3. Behind the Complex and Secretive Koch Conspiracy Against Democracy
4. What Did Hannah Arendt Really Mean by 'the Banality of Evil?'
5. The ‘Values,’ ‘Vision,’ and ‘Democracy’ of an Inauthentic Opposition
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. Internet Pioneer Tim Berners-Lee Calls for 'New Web' That Reclaims Original Democratic Principles

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As open internet advocates pressure governments and major tech companies to respect the free flow of information online and users' privacy, World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee spoke Wednesday about how his creation has gone "from utopia to dystopia in 29 short years," and how it can be reimagined "to empower the hopes we had for the original web."
I say! And I do so because Berners-Lee has rather the same idea as I had, somewhere between 2006 and 2010. (I am writing these Nederlogs early every morning and am ill. I cannot find the reference right now, but will find it later, although it probably was in Dutch.)

In any case, what I proposed then - around ten years ago - was another www (for example: wwn) that would be different from the present www in being completely non-commercial (in the sense: yes to universities, but no to any corporations or companies or advertisers) and also has encrypted e-mails.

And I am a bit amazed it is Berners-Lee who proposes this now, but I do agree with him.

Here is some more:

"The assumption we made in the '90s was that, if we succeed in keeping an open web and a neutral internet, there would emerge a cornucopia of constructive, collaborative things and the world would become better," Berners-Lee said. Speaking about the prevailing mindset among his colleagues at the time, he said they believed it wouldn't matter "how much junk" was out there.

"It's not email, it's not forced upon you," he said. "You only have to read what you want to read. If there's a lot of bad stuff out there, it's okay because you don't have to read it. What could go wrong?"

Like many inventions, over nearly three decades, the web has evolved in unexpected ways, which has led Berners-Lee to call for the creation of "a new web," or a reimagining of the internet as we know it so that it can live up to its founders' expectations.

In fact - although I admit I was more naive than I should have been between 1996, when I joined internet, and around 2006 - I never made the assumptions ¨we made in the ´90s¨, and indeed have done my best, ever since 1996, to avoid mentioning my real name, except from very rarely, and only in e-mails.

Then again, originally this was not due to my distrust of internet (although that would have been quite justified) but to the fact that I had been - literally: I almost died - gassed by either my landlord or the illegal drugsdealers I was forced to live above from 1988 onwrds, and - literally - threatened with murder by the illegal drugsdealers in these words: ¨If you do anything we don´t like we will kill you.¨

And then I found out that Amsterdam´s city police supported the drugsdealers and refused to do anything for me; Amsterdam´s Building and Housing Service (¨Bouw- en Woningdienst¨) supported the drugsdealers and refused to do anything for me, but lied copiously to help the drugsdealers; all other Amsterdam bureaucracies helped the drugsdealers rather than myself; the mayor Ed van Thijn and his responsible alderman Aboutaleb refused to answer any of my - very urgent, very clear, very rational e-mails, and even refused to acknowledge receiving them, and this was all because Van Thijn and others were putting together an illegal schema in which the Dutch dealers in soft drugs would be quasi legalized and could deal soft drugs and were protected by the police (in spite of the fact that soft drugs are illegal since 1965, and still are).

This illegal schema to help the dealers in illegal drugs has been working for 30 years now, and worked not just for illegal dealers in soft drugs but for illegal dealers in all drugs and made - according to the one parliamentary report: Het Van Traa Rapport (in Dutch) - around 10 billion dollars in turnovers each year, which sums to 300 billion dollars in 30 years.

And this leaves hard drugs totally unmentioned, though Holland has become, thanks to mayor Ed van Thijn, the Columbia of Europe as regards soft drugs and hard drugs, simply because these are protected, and ordinary citizens who are gassed and threatened with murder are denied all hearings and all replies by any Dutch bureaucrat and by any Dutch politician.

For thirty years, this year (2018).

Back to the article:

Such an endeavor would entail bringing together "the brightest minds from business, technology, government, civil society, the arts, and academia" to establish a system "in which people have complete control of their own data; applications and data are separated from each other; and a user's choice for each are separate."

The overarching goal? "To build a new web which will again empower science and democracy."

I agree, although my own proposals of around ten years ago were clearer. But then again I only know about Berners-Lee proposal for a new internet from the present publication, and he may have said considerably more elsewhere.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

"Let's re-de-centralize the web," Berners-Lee declared. "It was designed as a de-centralized system, but now everyone is on platforms like Facebook," he added, detailing how social media can be polarizing to a degree that it threatens democracy.

"We read things from narrower and narrower circles, and meet more people just like us. These people support the views we express, which validates us and makes us feel more and more sure of our opinions, and makes others seem more and more weird," he explained. "Social media maybe fun for the individual but destructive of society."

I agree, although I am old enough to know there is no cure for genetical stupidity and probably also no cure for ignorance after age 30. A new internet, even if is mostly for those with an IQ over 120, is urgently needed, and - at least on the basis of my knowledge - technically quite possible.

But it does need money, and I do not know who would be willing to invest in a real, democratic internet without advertising and without profitmakers. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. An Ode to Eugene V. Debs and the End of Capitalism

This article is by Jordan Rieff on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Once upon a time, the word “socialist” wasn’t considered a dirty word. In fact, in 1912, roughly a million people (6 percent of the popular vote), voted for a socialist for president. He is the subject of filmmaker Yale Strom’s new documentary, “American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs,” in limited release in New York from April 27 through May 3 and in Los Angeles from May 4 through May 10.

A straight chronology using archival photos and footage, Strom’s movie tells the story of the pioneering union leader and founding member of International Workers of the World (IWW). Early in his career, Debs was a member of the Democratic Party with a focus on union issues and workers’ rights. He co-founded the American Railway Union (ARU), which galvanized a wildcat strike over pay cuts into a nationwide Pullman Strike that landed him six months in prison. Emerging from incarceration, he was the founding member of the Socialist Party of America and ran for president five times between 1900 and 1920. The first political figure jailed for anti-war speech, Debs was sentenced to 10 years in prison for urging people to resist the military draft of World War I.

As people who know more of my - quite large - site know, I had - intelligent, very courageous, but not highly educated - communist parents, and also one communist grandparent and two anarchist grandparents, which in fact gives me a better leftist family-background than anyone else I know, with the exception of my brother.

Therefore I did know a bit about Eugene Debs since the 1950ies, and I agree he was an intelligent and courageous person. I have not written about him earlier, mostly because he died in 1926. But I like it that a film was made about him, because he was an important man while he lived.

Here is some more about the present time:

Opening and closing the film are remarks by the prominent Marxian economist, professor Richard D. Wolff, who has taught at Yale University and City College of New York. He is currently visiting professor at The New School and professor emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He has written and co-authored numerous books, including “Democracy at Work,” “Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism” and “Contending Economic Theories: Neoclassical, Keynesian, and Marxian,” all released in 2012.

Strom and Wolff spoke with Truthdig, offering insights on the current resurgence of socialism.

I do know about Richard Wolff and have read some by him. But with communist and anarchist parents and grandparents I know a lot about Marxism (and I also studied philosophy) while I gave Marxism up in 1970, when I was 20. And while I have remained a - real - leftist ever since, and am quite willing to review almost anything, I simply don´t like Wolff much.

Then again, here he is:

Richard Wolff: I’m getting more inquiries about socialism than I have ever had before in my life. If you’re talking about people 35 and younger, it’s overwhelming. But I’m noticing older people are beginning to rethink, partly because their children are talking to them.

JR: Many of them are Bernie’s age.

RW: Bernie Sanders, a moderate kind of socialist, has to open it up. It takes a little time to discover that the scary thing isn’t scary, and a nice old man from Vermont helps you do that. He’s been the right guy at the moment. I have been told by people close to him that he is going to run again.

Wolff very probably does get a lot more inquiries about socialism than he ever did, but he also is - and since a long time - one Marxist professor, so I do not really know what this means. And I did not know Bernie Sanders ¨is going to run again¨, and I hope he does.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

RW: Jeff Bezos sits on $120 billion, the richest person on earth. But that obscenity is also something that led Warren Buffet to say that he shouldn’t be paying a lower tax rate than his secretary. So even at other levels of society, there’s a recognition, not necessarily that socialism is the way to go, but that capitalism has worked its way into a dead end, and something fundamental has to change.

JR: Define “dead end.”

RW: Here’s the craziness of capitalism: The more successful the employers are in lowering the wages or automating jobs, the more problems the public will have in buying the crap they’re producing. They are shooting themselves in the foot. This is an internally contradictory system.

Well... (i) this not just the craziness of capitalism, but has always been the case when there were a few rich and many non-rich, and (ii) it is ¨an internally contradictory system¨ only if (apart from dialectical materialism) the rich do not succeed in repressing the many non-rich rather like they did in the 19th Century. I see no real reason for that (and also do not believe there is ¨a moral arch¨ is history, nor that things can only get better, on average, through the generations).

Anyway. This is a recommended article.

3. Behind the Complex and Secretive Koch Conspiracy Against Democracy

This article is by Jim Hightower on AlterNet. It starts as follows:
In 1933, a handful of wealthy Wall Streeters were upset that the newly elected president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, had dared to tax the rich in order to fund programs to lessen the painful poverty people were experiencing due to the Great Depression. They were so upset that they came up with a ridiculous plan to overthrow Roosevelt and install a military government. Due to their own ineptitude and hubris, their plan failed, and important poverty-busting programs of the New Deal like Social Security, the Works Progress Administration and the Tennessee Valley Authority put people to work, pulled them out of desperate poverty and propelled the country into the 20th century.
Yes indeed, and in fact there is some decent documentation about this ¨plan to overthrow Roosevelt and install a military government¨, namely by way of Smedley Butler, about whom I have written several times. Here is a reference to a long video interview with Gore Vidal about him. The interviews with Vidal are from 2000, and are listed here, and are - still - quite interesting and well worth seeing.

Here is more from the present article:

But while the 1933 plot was hairbrained, their plutocratic intent is no laughing matter. Their presumption of class privilege -- the warped idea that their great wealth entitled them to rule over and even impoverish the many -- is not unique. The Wall Street Putsch died and was buried in 1934, but it is just one manifestation of a deadly serious social disease that has infected the history of democratic struggles.

And now, that sickness has grown more virulent, confronting us in the form of a complex, sophisticated web of efforts funded by brothers Charles and David Koch and their billionaire buddies who share the same set of extreme, kleptocratic beliefs that guided last century's class-war militants, including making property rights supreme over all of the people's political rights and replacing majority rule with a new governing order that empowers the owner class (the "Makers," as they dub themselves) to overrule regulations, taxes, unionization and other collective actions that the lower classes (the "Takers," or so we're called) try to impose on the property-rich minority.
Yes indeed. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
The Koch coup is not one they're planning to spring someday with a brash, illegal military takeover of Washington. Don't look now, but they've already sprung it! It's a quiet, multifaceted coup that has been underway for some 40 years and has been astonishingly successful ... and disturbingly legal. Measure by measure, the Koch brothers and their allied extremists have used their fortunes to gain a grip on nearly every level of government (including the courts and whole states like Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas), corporatized many of our most basic laws and institutions, and largely had their plutocratic wish list adopted as the agenda of the Republican Party.
I agree and there are more details in the article, that is recommended.

4. What Did Hannah Arendt Really Mean by 'the Banality of Evil?'

This article is by Thomas White on AlterNet and originally on Aeon. It starts as follows:

Can one do evil without being evil? This was the puzzling question that the philosopher Hannah Arendt grappled with when she reported for The New Yorker in 1961 on the war crimes trial of Adolph Eichmann, the Nazi operative responsible for organising the transportation of millions of Jews and others to various concentration camps in support of the Nazi’s Final Solution.

Arendt found Eichmann an ordinary, rather bland, bureaucrat, who in her words, was ‘neither perverted nor sadistic’, but ‘terrifyingly normal’. He acted without any motive other than to diligently advance his career in the Nazi bureaucracy. Eichmann was not an amoral monster, she concluded in her study of the case, Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil (1963). Instead, he performed evil deeds without evil intentions, a fact connected to his ‘thoughtlessness’, a disengagement from the reality of his evil acts. Eichmann ‘never realised what he was doing’ due to an ‘inability… to think from the standpoint of somebody else’. Lacking this particular cognitive ability, he ‘commit[ted] crimes under circumstances that made it well-nigh impossible for him to know or to feel that he [was] doing wrong’.

Well... to answer both points this introduction raises:

First, clearly - I would say, but I did study a lot of philosophy - one can do evil without being evil. (In fact, I think every adult who does not regard himself or herself as evil should admit he or she did evil sometimes.)

And second, I know about Arendt and read at least three books by her, but (i) I think she was mistaken about Eichmann, and also (ii) I do not think she was a great philosopher or indeed an interesting one (but then again, I have read and studied philosophy for 45 years, and very few did).

Here is some more about the ¨banality of evil¨ thesis:

The banality-of-evil thesis was a flashpoint for controversy. To Arendt’s critics, it seemed absolutely inexplicable that Eichmann could have played a key role in the Nazi genocide yet have no evil intentions. Gershom Scholem, a fellow philosopher (and theologian), wrote to Arendt in 1963 that her banality-of-evil thesis was merely a slogan that ‘does not impress me, certainly, as the product of profound analysis’. Mary McCarthy, a novelist and good friend of Arendt, voiced sheer incomprehension: ‘[I]t seems to me that what you are saying is that Eichmann lacks an inherent human quality: the capacity for thought, consciousness – conscience. But then isn’t he a monster simply?’

The controversy continues to the present day.
Well... the critics were right (and my grandfather was murdered by the Nazis while my father was forced to spend over 3 years and 9 months as ¨a political terrorist¨ in German concentration camps) although I do have a remark on ¨banality¨, which I will articulate after the last quotation from this article:
Instead of using the Eichmann case as a way forward to advance the tradition’s understanding of radical evil, Arendt decided that his evil was banal, that is, ‘thought-defying’. By taking a narrow legalistic, formalistic approach to the trial – she emphasised that there were no deeper issues at stake beyond the legal facts of Eichmann’s guilt or innocence – Arendt automatically set herself up for failure as to the deeper why of Eichmann’s evil.

My remark on ¨banal¨ and ¨the banality of evil¨ is that ¨banal¨ does not mean ¨thought- defying¨: it means ¨something that is common in a boring way" - see the link. (And ¨banal¨ or ¨banaal¨ is a common term in German and Dutch.)

I can give some defense of Arendt´s thesis, namely that ordinary people are quite capable of doing considerable evil, indeed without necessarily (!) being evil themselves, but - if they are not - mostly out of conformism.

And while I think that is correct and may - perhaps - describe many members of the ordinary German army in the Thirties and Forties, I think it is quite incorrect about a man like Eichmann (or Himmler or Hitler). But this is a good article, which is strongly recommended.

5. The ‘Values,’ ‘Vision,’ and ‘Democracy’ of an Inauthentic Opposition

This article is by Paul Street on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
Never underestimate the capacity of the United States’ Inauthentic Opposition Party, the corporate Democrats, for self-congratulatory delusion and the externalization of blame.
Yes, I agree - and in fact one way of describing the present Republicans and the present Democrats is that while the Republicans are almost all bought by the rich (the Kochs, the Mercers etc.) the Democrats almost all bought by the rich bankers (Dimon etc.)

And while that may be a slight exaggeration - but who knows how much money each Senator does get, and from whom?! - it is much more correct than presenting either class as a collection of persons who are trying to do good to the many, simply because neither collection is: Street is right that both are - for the most part - corporatists, who are being paid by the rich, who do want repayments in laws that benefit them.

Hee is more:

Yes, Russia, like numerous other nations living under the global shadow of the American Superpower, may well have tried to have some surreptitious say in 2016 U.S. presidential election. (Why wouldn’t the Kremlin have done that, given the very real and grave threats Washington and its Western NATO allies have posed for many years to post-Soviet-era Russian security and peace in Eastern Europe?)

Still, charging Russia with interfering with US-“American democracy” is like me accusing the Washington Capital’s star left winger Alex Ovechkin of interfering with my potential career as a National Hockey League player (I’m middle aged and can’t skate backwards). The U.S. doesn’t have a functioning democracy to undermine, as numerous careful studies (see this,this,this,this,this,this,this,this, and this) have shown.

Yes, I agree (and in case you don´t: read some of the above references under ¨this¨). Here is more:

We have, rather, a corporate and financial oligarchy, an open plutocracy. U.S.-Americans get to vote, yes, but the nation’s “unelected dictatorship of money” reigns nonetheless in the United States, where, as leading liberal political scientists Benjamin Page (Northwestern) and Marin Gilens (Princeton) find, “government policy…reflects the wishes of those with money, not the wishes of the millions of ordinary citizens who turn out every two years to choose among the preapproved, money-vetted candidates for federal office.”

Yes, I agree again. And here is more:
Russia and WikiLeaks “destabilized the U.S. political environment”? Gee, how about the 20 top oligarchic U.S. mega-donors who invested more than $500 million combined in disclosed campaign contributions (we can only guess at how much “dark,” that is undisclosed, money they gave) to candidates and political organizations in the 2016 election cycle? The 20 largest organizational donors also gave a total of more than $500 million. The foremost plutocratic election investors included hard right-wing billionaires like casino owner Sheldon Adelson ($83 million disclosed to Republicans and right-wing groups), hedge-fund manager Paul Singer ($26 million to Republicans and the right), hedge fund manager Robert Mercer ($26 million) and packaging mogul Richard Uihlein ($24 million).

Like Bill Clinton’s two terms, the Obama years were richly consistent with Sheldon Wolin’s early 2008 description of the Democrats as an “inauthentic opposition” whose dutiful embrace of “centrist precepts” meant they would do nothing to “substantially revers[e] the drift rightwards” or “significantly alter the direction of society.”
Again quite so - and in case you want to know more about the quite interesting Sheldon Wolin, there is a series of fine interviews with him by Chris Hedges in 2014, that is all collected on Nederlog here.

This article ends as follows, after considerably more:
Whatever happens during the next biennial electoral extravaganza, “the crucial fact” remains, in Wolin’s words nine years ago, “that for the poor, minorities, the working class and anti-corporatists there is no opposition party working on their behalf” in the United States – the self-declared homeland and headquarters of global democracy.
I agree and this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is considerably more.

B. One extra bit

Persons who read considerably more of Nederlog than a few daily bits - Nederlog exists since 2006 (or indeed, but the first two years only about Holland, since 2004) and is fully present on my site - know that until a couple of years ago I regularly reviewed seven or eight articles a day.

I stopped doing so for various reasons some years ago. The most important one is that I have a serious chronic disease since 1.i.1979 (and meanwhile am almost 68, and also got serious eye- problems in 2012, that have lessened but have not disappeared), while a secondary important one is that I thought reviewing 5 of the best or most interesting articles I could find every day on 35 sites was generally sufficient (while it is also something I do not know anyone else does).

But occasionally I do find special bits, and this is one:

It starts as follows:

Dear free software supporter,

On Tuesday, at the Facebook developers conference, CEO Mark Zuckerberg once again asked the social media site's users for their trust, when he announced a new privacy control for the site. Called "clear history," Zuckerberg claims it will allow users to clear their browsing history on Facebook, apparently including activity like which Web sites one has visited.

This is an empty gesture. Facebook is clearly attempting to placate an angry public and defend itself against scrutiny by the US government, but it is still putting the impetus to protect user privacy on users, rather than simply choosing not to collect information on Facebook users in the first place.

It will surprise many people clicking this new button to learn that, while Facebook says you will be able to clear your history, the company will still have a copy of that activity -- it just won't be associated with your account.

This is a symptom of a fundamental problem. When you interact with Facebook, you are giving up control over your computing to a server run by someone else -- it's Service as a Software Substitute. The parts of it that do run on your local system are nonfree JavaScript.

Even if they did promise to delete your activity from their servers, there is no way to verify that, because you cannot inspect either the nonfree JavaScript or the server-side software. Users are left to trust that the code only Facebook can read does what Facebook says it does. No company can be trusted with that kind of power over users, least of all one with Facebook's track record.

And therefore Facebook should be deleted. I quite agree, although I do not think it will be - and I also do not think that the writer of the article believes so. But I am a Free Software supporter, and this is a recommended short 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 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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