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Nederlog

July 31, 2018

Crisis: Amazon & War, Afghanistan, Human Survival, Tortures + Kidnappings, U.S. Wages


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 31, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, July 31, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was until 2013:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 31, 2018:
1. Amazon Promises “Unwavering” Commitment to Police, Military Clients
     Using AI Technology

2. The Best Chance in More Than a Decade to End the War in Afghanistan
3. Noam Chomsky: Survival of Organized Human Life is at Risk
4. A New Form of Torture in the Age of Xenophobic Cultural Warriors
5. Why Wages Are Going Nowhere
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. Amazon Promises “Unwavering” Commitment to Police, Military Clients Using AI Technology

This article is by Lee Fang on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

While some Silicon Valley giants grapple with the ethics of offering cutting-edge artificial intelligence technology to military and law enforcement agencies with histories of abuse, Amazon, apparently, has no reservations.

When asked about the culture “gap” between Amazon employees — who have protested the sale of facial recognition technology to law enforcement — and the company’s “executive level” interests, Teresa Carlson, vice president of the worldwide public sector of Amazon Web Services, was frank. “We are committed to our customer, and we are unwaveringly committed to the U.S. government and the governments we work with around the world,” Carlson declared at the Aspen Security Forum on July 20 in Colorado.

Carlson’s remarks, largely unreported outside of a mention in a technology trade journal, mark the lengthiest public discussion in recent months of Amazon’s role as a technology provider for military and law enforcement, which has been a source of substantial controversy for the company.

I say. Well... I hate Amazon and never use it and indeed never will: I buy my books at some local bookshop or not at all. So all I have to add to the above is that Ms. Carlson probably earns arouns 350 times as much as her average employees, although I grant I do not know this, but then again, this is the current difference between the 2-5% of the very rich earners and the 95% of all others.

Here is some more:

“Employees need a voice,” said Carlson, regarding the recent criticism. “I can’t speak for any other company, but we want to work with our government,” she added. “We feel compelled. … We believe government should have the same capability — our war fighters out there in the field, our civil servants — should have those same capabilities.” Carlson acknowledged that “you’re always gonna have bad actors,” but went on to laud the positive applications of the software.

When asked by New York Times reporter Cecilia Kang if Amazon has “drawn any red lines, any standards, guidelines, on what you will and you will not do in terms of defense work,” Carlson demurred.

I copied it but this is pure propaganda + pure lies by Carlson. (What she should have said is something like "We feel compelled. We feel compelled to get the highest possible profit, and otherwise nothing matters.")

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

Amazon, known for its web server service and e-commerce business, is quickly moving into the defense and homeland security space, offering an array of machine learning capabilities to the Pentagon and police agencies around the country. The company currently manages a major cloud computing solution for U.S. intelligence agencies, and is bidding on a $10 billion contract to provide similar cloud solutions to the Defense Department.

Leaked emails obtained by The Intercept revealed that Amazon provided “some work loads” on the controversial Project Maven initiative launched by the Defense Department last year. The contract is the Pentagon’s first major effort to integrate Silicon Valley-developed machine learning technology into the military’s capabilities. The initiative applies AI technology to help analysts identify images captured by drones on the battlefield by automatically cataloguing people, buildings, and events.

As I just said: Amazon also sells books. I think that if you buy from Amazon you support the Pentagon, the police agencies and the Defense Department. And this is a recommended article.


2. The Best Chance in More Than a Decade to End the War in Afghanistan

This article is by Murtaza Hussain on The Intercept. I abbeviated the title (I will not print the equivalent of tweets as titles - I am sorry). I starts as follows:

For a brief few days this June, the long-suffering people of Afghanistan had a glimpse of what their country might look like at peace. Out of respect for the Muslim holy day of Eid al-Fitr, the Taliban and the Afghan government announced a historic three-day truce, building on previous temporary ceasefire agreements made by the warring parties. The agreement led to scenes reminiscent of the famous World War I “Christmas Truce,” with Taliban and government fighters — who had just days earlier been trying to kill each other — embracing, taking selfies, and exchanging gifts.

After several decades of nearly unremitting warfare — triggered by the Soviet Union’s invasion of the country in the 1979 and punctuated by civil wars and NATO intervention — many Afghans have clearly had enough. In recent months, a grassroots peace movement emerged, consisting of ordinary people who have held protest marches across the country to demand an end to the violence. While recent ceasefires have not been extended indefinitely, there are indications that the political leadership on both sides, as well as the U.S. military, is taking seriously the idea of negotiating an end to the conflict.
I say, and one reason to do so is that I did not know most of this. Incidentally, a personal note: I spent most of June reading through columns by Kenneth Rexroth, who was a quite interesting and very intelligent American who lived from 1905-1982. The columns cover some 14 years and end in 1975, but I thought quite a few (not: all) interesting. In it there are several columns about Afghanistan and Kabul of the early 1970ies. Well... by Rexroth's words, which I tend to trust, Afghanistan was a haven close to heaven slightly over 40 years ago.

And here is one bit more from this article:
So is Afghanistan heading towards a new era of peace, free from the nightmare of armed conflict? And is the United States on the precipice of ending its grueling 17-year military occupation of the country? Despite significant challenges, including elites on all sides who have vested interest in the conflict continuing, recent developments may offer the best opportunity for putting an end to the decadeslong violence that has ravaged Afghan society.
Well... it is more than nothing, so it is something, but not much, in my opinion.
3. Noam Chomsky: Survival of Organized Human Life is at Risk

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
At least eight people have died in California as climate change-fueled wildfires rage statewide. In total, firefighters are battling seventeen wildfires blazing across California, engulfing more than 200,000 acres and forcing mass evacuations, including in Yosemite National Park. The fires comes amid a surge of deadly extreme weather worldwide, including in India, where more than 500 people have died as a result of flooding and heavy rains in recent weeks. Scientists have linked increased flooding and rainfall to climate change. For more we speak with world-renowned political dissident, author, and linguist Noam Chomsky. He is a laureate professor in the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he taught for more than 50 years.
I like Democracy Now!'s introductions to their interviews, but I must admit that Chomsky talks about far more general things and possible events:

NOAM CHOMSKY: We can’t overemphasize the fact that we’re in a unique moment of human history. In fact, we have been, ever since 1945. In 1945, human history changed dramatically. In August 1945, humans demonstrated that their vaunted intelligence had created a means to destroy life on Earth. Didn’t quite have it yet at that point, but it was obvious that it was going to extend and expand, as it in fact did.

A couple of years later, 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists established its famous Doomsday Clock. How far are we from midnight, terminal disaster? It was set at seven minutes to midnight. It once reached two minutes to midnight, 1953, when the U.S. and then the Soviet Union detonated thermonuclear weapons, which do have the capacity to essentially destroy life. Then it has oscillated variously. It’s now back at two minutes to midnight—with an addition.

It was not known in 1945 that we were not only entering the nuclear age, but entering a new geological epoch, what geologists call the Anthropocene, an epoch in which human activity is having severe and deleterious effects on the environment in which human and other life can survive. We also entered into what’s now called the sixth extinction, a rapid extinction of species, which is comparable to the fifth extinction 65 million years ago when an asteroid, huge asteroid, hit the Earth, we know.

The World Geological Society finally settled on the end of World War II as the onset of the Anthropocene—sharp escalation and destruction of the environment, not only global warming, carbon dioxide, other greenhouse gases, but also such things as plastics in the ocean, which are predicted to be greater than the weight of fish in the ocean not far in the future.

So we’re destroying the environment for organized human life. We’re threatening a terminal disaster with regular nuclear confrontations. Anybody who has looked at the record, which is shocking, would have to conclude that it’s a miracle that we’ve survived this long.

I agree fully with all of this. And here is Chomsky on Trump:

NOAM CHOMSKY: And it all makes perfect sense on the assumption that he is driven by one overwhelming concern: himself. All of this makes sense for a megalomaniac who wants to make sure that he has power, he has wealth, has to appeal to a number of constituencies to make sure he’s supported.

One constituency is the overwhelmingly hawkish establishment—you know, expand NATO, build up the military system, modernize nuclear weapons and so on. OK, he’s got them in his pocket. The crucial constituency is—and his actual one—are the corporate sector and the super-rich. And he’s just lavishing gifts on them. While he’s prancing in front of the media, and the media are helping him out by focusing on him, his minions in Congress are carrying out sheer robbery. I mean, it’s unbelievable, if you take a look at it point by point. I’ve mentioned a couple of examples before.

Yes, I agree again and indeed Trump is a megalomaniac (English since 1895), for this means more or less the same as the psychiatrese baloney "narcissistic personality disorder", but Wikipedia strongly prefers psychiatrese over proper English, and even completely kicked out the term "megalomania" recently.

Anyway - Trump is insane in my psychologically educated eyes, and this is a strongly recommended article.


4. A New Form of Torture in the Age of Xenophobic Cultural Warriors

This article is by Eugene Robinson on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

As of Monday, 711 children who were effectively kidnapped and held hostage by the Trump administration remain in government custody, supposedly “ineligible” to be reunited with their families. What happens to them now? The government won’t say, apparently doesn’t know and evidently doesn’t care.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw, who had ordered that those children and nearly 2,000 others be returned to their loved ones by last week, summed up the administration’s cruel incompetence at a court hearing Friday: “What was lost in the process was the family. The parents didn’t know where the children were, and the children didn’t know where the parents were. And the government didn’t know either.”

That was, of course, the whole point of this sordid and unforgivable exercise. The xenophobic cultural warriors in the administration—President Trump, policy adviser Stephen Miller, Attorney General Jeff Sessions—sent a message to refugees fleeing rampant violence in Central America: If you show up at the border seeking asylum, as is your right, you might have your children taken away and never see them again.

My goodness!! Eugene Robinson is the third person I know of - and I am reading every day 35 sites to remain informed with the news - who uses the entirely justified legal term ¨kidnapping¨:

In criminal law, kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away (asportation) and confinement of a person against his or her will. Thus, it is a composite crime. It can also be defined as false imprisonment by means of abduction, both of which are separate crimes that when committed simultaneously upon the same person merge as the single crime of kidnapping.

So that is what Trump and his government did - and they are still kidnapping 711 children, but yes: Robinson is quite correct.

Here is some more:

The administration knew that child separations would be the inevitable result of a “zero tolerance” policy in which all undocumented border-crossers—most of them accused of nothing more than a misdemeanor offense—were jailed and put on trial. But officials did not care enough to implement a system for keeping track of parents and their children, some still in diapers.

If you have children, imagine how you would feel seeing them taken away like that. Hug your kids. Imagine not knowing where they are or whether you’ll ever get to hug them again.

Now imagine the terror and despair those 711 “ineligible” children must feel. It is monstrous to gratuitously inflict such pain. It is, in a word, torture.

Yes, I completely agree (and I remember my mother´s very great sadness after a younger brother drowned, in 1959): This was - and is - torture by the Trump government:

Torture (from Latin tortus: to twist, to torment) is the act of deliberately inflicting severe physical or psychological suffering on someone by another as a punishment or in order to fulfill some desire of the torturer or force some action from the victim.

And that was the definition of ¨torture¨, that fully applies. Here is more by Robinson:

Human nature binds parents with their children. It shocks and depresses me to have to write this, but I wonder whether Trump and his minions see these Central Americans—brown-skinned, with indigenous features—as fully human.

In 431 cases involving children between 5 and 17, officials reported, the parents have either been deported or have left the country voluntarily. Where are they now? How could the government let this happen? If these parents were going to be denied permission to stay in the United States, what was the big hurry to kick them out? Why couldn’t the administration wait until their children could be brought back from wherever they were being kept?

Well... I simply don´t know about Sessions (he also may be a sadist), but meanwhile I have been convinced that - at least - Trump is a racist, so yes: I assume he looks on brown people as if they are not ¨fully human¨.

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

The government is also still holding 46 children under 5 whom officials cannot or will not give back to their parents. Think of the trauma being inflicted on 2-year-olds—to make a political point. All of this is happening because Trump has no respect for law or due process and no sense of empathy.

Yes, they are sadists (my brother drowned a few days after he got to be 6) and they are also acting grossly illegal. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Why Wages Are Going Nowhere

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

The official rate of unemployment in America has plunged to a remarkably low 3.8%. The Federal Reserve forecasts that the unemployment rate will reach 3.5% by the end of the year.

But the official rate hides more troubling realities: legions of college grads overqualified for their jobs, a growing number of contract workers with no job security, and an army of part-time workers desperate for full-time jobs. Almost 80% of Americans say they live from paycheck to paycheck, many not knowing how big their next one will be.

Blanketing all of this are stagnant wages and vanishing job benefits. The typical American worker now earns around $44,500 a year, not much more than what the typical worker earned in 40 years ago, adjusted for inflation. Although the US economy continues to grow, most of the gains have been going to a relatively few top executives of large companies, financiers, and inventors and owners of digital devices.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

What’s going on? Simply put, the vast majority of American workers have lost just about all their bargaining power. The erosion of that bargaining power is one of the biggest economic stories of the past four decades, yet it’s less about supply and demand than about institutions and politics.

Two fundamental forces have changed the structure of the US economy, directly altering the balance of power between business and labor. The first is the increasing difficulty for workers of joining together in trade unions. The second is the growing ease by which corporations can join together in oligopolies or to form monopolies.

Yes indeed. And here is more:

Over the same period time, antitrust enforcement has gone into remission. The US government has essentially given a green light to companies seeking to gain monopoly power over digital platforms and networks (Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook); wanting to merge into giant oligopolies (pharmaceuticals, health insurers, airlines, seed producers, food processors, military contractors, Wall Street banks, internet service providers); or intent on creating local monopolies (food distributors, waste disposal companies, hospitals).

This means workers are spending more on such goods and services than they would were these markets more competitive. It’s exactly as if their paychecks were cut.
Precisely - and the same things are happening in Holland and in Europe, though indeed less extremely so than in the USA.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In recent years, most of those profits have gone into higher executive pay and higher share prices rather than into new investment or worker pay. Add to this the fact that the richest 10% of Americans own about 80% of all shares of stock (the top 1% owns about 40%), and you get a broader picture of how and why inequality has widened so dramatically.

Yes. And this is a strongly recommended article.


B. One Extra Bit

This is one extra bit that I sometimes insert in the crisis series. And indeed this bit does not belong to the crisis series. It is about ME/CFS - which is a "serious chronic disease" that my ex and I suffer from since 40 years now, and that we only now, since March 2018 "are allowed" (by the Dutch medics) to call a "serious chronic disease" (in Holland, to be sure).

Anyway, we suffer from it for 40 years now and did not get any help whatsoever for ill persons, mostly thanks to 9 out of 10 (and probably more, but I have good evidence for 9 out of 10) of Dutch medics. I concluded from this that 9 out of 10 of the current Dutch medics have a probable IQ of around 115 (the average IQ in the "University" of Amsterdam in 1984, now very probably still lower; I know they have less than half of the medical education that their medical predecessors got, between 1865 and 1965; and I certainly will not admit that more than 1 in 10 of the current Dutch medics are competent, and very probably considerably less.

Back to the article:
In fact, this is about the classification of diseases and disorders (I dislike the term "mental disease") called the ICD that the World Health Organization uses. This is in fact both quite important for patients (it matters a very great lot, as my ex and I found, extremely painfully as well, for something like eight years, whether you are classified as "mentally disordered" aka "psychosomatic" or as ill, and my ex and I - both of whom got very good degrees in psychology while we were ill, without ever attending any lectures, because we could not - were classified by 9 out of 10 of the diplomaed "medical doctors" we saw as insane, although they usually prettified that to "psychosomatic" (which is utter baloney, medically speaking). And that meant that all the bureaucrats classified us as "insane" and refused any and all help. For forty years.

Anyway... here is something Suzy Chapman and Mary Dimmock compiled, and for those who are trying to follow the ICD it is important and helpful:

We continue to see some confusion amongst ME and CFS patients, advocates and commentators around classification systems — what they are used for, whether they are mandatory for WHO member states, which terms are included in which systems and which countries use which versions.

In May, Suzy Chapman (DxRevisionWatch.com) and Mary Dimmock prepared a document to assist stakeholders in navigating the complexities of the disease classification and terminology systems.
(..)
The purpose of this document is to summarize the key classification and terminology systems that are used internationally to capture information about disorders and diseases for the purposes of global mortality and morbidity tracking. These systems are also used for medical records, including EMRs (electronic medical records), in primary and secondary care.

I've read it through and it is helpful, although I personally gave up following the ICD for the simple reason that I am meanwhile 68 and do not expect to be helped by the current medics,
and especially not by Dutch ones.


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.

And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 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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