August 2, 2018

Crisis: Google in China, Trump, Facebook & Surveillance, On Manipulation, VIPS on Iran


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 2, 2018
     B. One Extra Bit

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, August 2, 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 August 2, 2018:
1. Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China
2. Afraid? Weak? Egotistical? Attack!
3. A Threat to Global Democracy: Facebook & Surveillance Capitalism
4. Here's How to Tell the Difference Between Persuasion and Manipulation
5. VIPS to Trump:  Intel on Iran Could be CATASTROPHIC
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. Google Plans to Launch Censored Search Engine in China

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Google is planning to launch a censored version of its search engine in China that will blacklist websites and search terms about human rights, democracy, religion, and peaceful protest, The Intercept can reveal.

The project – code-named Dragonfly – has been underway since spring of last year, and accelerated following a December 2017 meeting between Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai and a top Chinese government official, according to internal Google documents and people familiar with the plans.

Teams of programmers and engineers at Google have created a custom Android app, different versions of which have been named “Maotai” and “Longfei.” The app has already been demonstrated to the Chinese government; the finalized version could be launched in the next six to nine months, pending approval from Chinese officials.

The planned move represents a dramatic shift in Google’s policy on China and will mark the first time in almost a decade that the internet giant has operated its search engine in the country.

Google’s search service cannot currently be accessed by most internet users in China because it is blocked by the country’s so-called Great Firewall. The app Google is building for China will comply with the country’s strict censorship laws, restricting access to content that Xi Jinping’s Communist Party regime deems unfavorable.

I say. So Google is indulging in straight and explicit totalitarianism in both senses I know, namely
the extremely colored one that seems to go back to Brzezinski (Carter´s National Security man) and my own, which is in accord with how nearly all writers have used it ever since the 1940ies.

For China is a totalitarian country in Brzezinski´s sense ever since it was created in 1948, and is one of the most totalitarian and one of the biggest countries in the world.

And indeed it also is a very totalitarian country in my sense:

Totalitarian: Ideology or religion that is pretended to have final answers to many important human questions and problems and that is pretended to be thereby justified to persecute persons who do not agree with the ideology or the religion.

although that sense is quite different from Brzezinski´s propagandistic bullshit, that is now being spread as if is the truth by the lying and manipulated Wikipedia.

It is not, for Brzezinski denies there is anything other than states (and specifically: Hitler´s Germany, Stalin´s Soviet Union, and Mao´s China) that can be totalitarian. In his - quite crazy - opinion people, plans, policies, political parties cannot be totalitarian in any sense unless they
are part and parcel of a totalitarian state.

This is utter rot, but it now is The Truth on Wikipedia.

Here is more on China (which indeed is an enormous market) and Google:

The Chinese government blocks information on the internet about political opponents, free speech, sex, news, and academic studies. It bans websites about the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, for instance, and references to “anticommunism” and “dissidents.” Mentions of books that negatively portray authoritarian governments, like George Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm, have been prohibited on Weibo, a Chinese social media website. The country also censors popular Western social media sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, as well as American news organizations such as the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Documents seen by The Intercept, marked “Google confidential,” say that Google’s Chinese search app will automatically identify and filter websites blocked by the Great Firewall. When a person carries out a search, banned websites will be removed from the first page of results, and a disclaimer will be displayed stating that “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements.” Examples cited in the documents of websites that will be subject to the censorship include those of British news broadcaster BBC and the online encyclopedia Wikipedia.

The search app will also “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, the documents state. The censorship will apply across the platform: Google’s image search, automatic spell check and suggested search features will incorporate the blacklists, meaning that they will not recommend people information or photographs the government has banned.

All of which is massively and frighteningly totalitarian, but it also very soon is Google, who apparently for their own profit are willing to help spread totalitarianism on more than a billion Chinese. (And this includes imprisonment and often torture for those who disagree with the Chinese authorities, or indeed with Google, at least in China.)

And incidentally, if you are a Chinese who lives in China and who wants to see the BBC, not only will this be forbidden with the totalitarian message “some results may have been removed due to statutory requirements”, but there certainly also will go a secret message (with your name, address, location, age, education, income and photograph) to the secret services.

In fact, I think the Chinese totalitarian abuse of the internet is the future everywhere, for the simple reason that all governments can by now check all users of the internet, and all governments have strong interests in only allowing their own governmental versions of anything whatsoever:

“I’m against large companies and governments collaborating in the oppression of their people, and feel like transparency around what’s being done is in the public interest,” the source said, adding that they feared “what is done in China will become a template for many other nations.”

Patrick Poon, a Hong Kong-based researcher with human rights group Amnesty International, told The Intercept that Google’s decision to comply with the censorship would be “a big disaster for the information age.”

“This has very serious implications not just for China, but for all of us, for freedom of information and internet freedom,” said Poon.
Yes, I think Mr. Poon is quite right and this is a strongly recommended article, for it sketches the future everywhere, including Europe and the USA for the simple reason that if you can control what people can and cannot know, you can manipulate, deceive and delude them as much as you please: They simply never will get any information that contradicts what their government desires them to believe.

2. Afraid? Weak? Egotistical? Attack!

This article is by Charles Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It is simply not healthy for the country to have a president stuck perpetually in attack mode, fighting enemies real and imagined, pushing a toxic agenda that mixes the exaltation of grievance and the grinding of axes.

The president’s recent rallies have come to resemble orgies for Donald Trump’s ego, spaces in which he can receive endless, unmeasured adulation and in which the crowds can gather for a revival of an anger that registers as near-religious. They can experience a communal affirmation that they are not alone in their intolerance, outrage and regression.

As I have been saying many times now, I am a psychologist and a philosopher (both with excellent academic degrees) who thinks (with at least 70,000 other psychologists) that Trump is insane, and also that Trump is a neofascist (if you check my definition you can easily verify that he satisfies all ten criterions).

He also is a totalitarian, but not according to the present lying Wikipedia. And in any case, I think Blow is correct in saying that Trump´s recent rallies ¨have come to resemble orgies for Donald Trump’s ego, spaces in which he can receive endless, unmeasured adulation¨.

Then there is this on fake news:

In fact, there is no such thing as fake news. If something isn’t true, it isn’t news. Opinions, like mine here, are also not news, even if printed in a newspaper or broadcast by a news station. There may be news in such opinions, but the vehicle is by definition subjective and a reflection of the writer’s or speaker’s worldview.

This “fake news” nonsense isn’t really about the dissemination of false information. If it were, the administration could demand a correction and would receive one from any reputable news outlet.

No, Trump has made a perversion of the word “fake,” particularly among his most ardent supporters, so that it has come to mean news stories he doesn’t like, commentary that is unflattering to him and inadequate coverage of what he views as positive news about him and his administration.

Trump doesn’t want a free press; he wants free propaganda.

Yes, I think that is fundamentally correct, although I may disagree with Blow´s thesis that ¨there is no such thing as fake news¨: I think there is, namely in Trump´s case ¨fake news is news that Trump doesn´t like and doesn´t want to be seen¨.

Otherwise, Blow is correct. Here is more on what Trump is doing:

He is attacking the Robert Mueller investigation as a “witch hunt.”

He is attacking the FBI as a whole.

He is attacking our international allies.

He is attacking celebrities and athletes.

He is attacking immigrants.

He is attacking the press.

He is attacking the truth.

He does none of this because he is brave and strong, but rather precisely because he isn’t. His attacks are a compensatory disguise for his own fear and insecurity.

Trump is weak. Very weak. Unbelievably weak. But he knows now that his weakness is bolstered by the incredible power of the presidency and the overwhelming economic and military power of the country.

Well... yes and no.

First, I happen not to like repeated lists that all start in the same way, sych as ¨He is¨. But that is probably personal. But second, I do deny that ¨Trump is weak. Very weak. Unbelievably weak.¨ (i) because this seems to be a personal (¨subjective¨) opinion of Blow, and (ii) because the man has ¨the incredible power of the presidency and the overwhelming economic and military power of the country¨.

Under these circumstances I don´t think Trump is weak. But this is a recommended article.

3. A Threat to Global Democracy: Facebook & Surveillance Capitalism

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
“Black Elevation.” “Mindful Being.” “Resisters.” “Aztlan Warriors.” Those are the names of some of the accounts removed from Facebook and Instagram Tuesday after Facebook uncovered a plot to covertly influence the midterm elections. The tech giant said 32 fake accounts and Facebook pages were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” This announcement comes just days after the company suffered the biggest loss in stock market history: about $119 billion in a single day. This is just the latest in a string of controversies surrounding Facebook’s unprecedented influence on democracy in the United States and around the world, from its pivotal role in an explosion of hate speech inciting violence against Rohingya Muslims in Burma to its use by leaders such as Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in suppressing dissent. Facebook has 2.2 billion users worldwide, and that number is growing. We speak with Siva Vaidhyanathan, author of “Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy.” He is a professor of media studies and director of the Center for Media and Citizenship at the University of Virginia.
Yes indeed - and unlike Vaidhyanathan (who does seem to have written a good book) I am going to disagree with him on one point, for I insist that all the users of Facebook (2.2 billion or more) are either ignorant or else extremely irresponsible, e.g. towards their own family and friends, who in many countries may be arrested if the person themselves are arrested for publishing something Facebook + the government dislikes.

Anyway... here is the first bit of
SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: Facebook was instrumental in the election of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines in 2016. It was instrumental in the Brexit referendum in 2016. In all of these cases, forces, often from other countries, interfered in the democratic process, distributed propaganda, distributed misinformation, created chaos, often funneled campaign support outside of normal channels, and it’s largely because Facebook is so easy to hijack. What we see just this week, as Facebook makes these announcements, is that they’ve managed to identify a handful of sites that, you know, a few hundred thousand people have interacted with. We don’t know if this is 5 percent, 10 percent, 50 percent or 100 percent of the disruptive element going on (..)
I think this is all correct, including the extra-ordinarily vague ¨information¨ Facebook supplies. Incidentally, this will always be the case (unless Zuckerberg has a radical personality change):

The only way a private corporation can - perhaps - be forced to admit a little bit of the actual truth of what they are doing is in front of a judge, if they are prosecuted (for which extremely few will have the money or the patience).

Here is more by
SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: And the fact is, the Trump campaign, the Ted Cruz campaign, and, before that, the Duterte campaign in the Philippines, the Modi campaign in India, they all used Facebook itself to target voters, either to persuade them to vote or dissuade them from voting. Right? This was the basic campaign, because the Facebook advertising platform allows you to target people quite precisely, in groups as small as 20. You can base it on ethnicity and on gender, on interest, on education level, on ZIP code or other location markers. You can base it on people who are interested in certain hobbies, who read certain kinds of books, who have certain professional backgrounds. You can slice and dice an audience so precisely. It’s the reason that Facebook makes as much money as it does, because if you’re selling shoes, you would be a fool not to buy an ad on Facebook, right? And that’s drawing all of this money away from commercially based media and journalism.
Yes indeed. And incidentally, it seems as if Facebook currently has around 660 MB on each and everyone of its 2.2 billion users, most of which it should never have had, because it is utterly private information e.g. from emails (which Facebook should never have had the right to read).

Here is more by Vaidhyanathan:
SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: What they do is they use Facebook and WhatsApp to distribute propaganda about themselves, flooding out all other discussion about what’s going on in politics and government. Secondly, they use the same sort of propaganda machines, very accurately targeted, to undermine their opponents and critics publicly. And then, thirdly, they use WhatsApp and Facebook to generate harassment, the sort of harassment that can put any nongovernment organization, human rights organization, journalist, scholar or political party off its game, because you’re constantly being accused of pedophilia, you’re being accused of rape, or you’re being threatened with rape, threatened with kidnapping, threatened with murder, which makes it impossible to actually perform publicly in a democratic space. This is exactly what Modi mastered in his campaign in 2014, and, in fact, a bit before. And that same playbook was picked up by Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, and it’s being used all over the world by authoritarian and nationalist leaders, to greater or lesser degrees.
Yes indeed again - and Modi is the prime minister of India (which has 1.2 billion inhabitants).

Here is more:
SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: By about 2007, Facebook was starting to build ads into its platform, as well. And because it had so much more rich information on our interests and our connections and our habits, and even, once we put Facebook on our mobile phones, our location—it could trace us to whatever store we went into, whatever church or synagogue or mosque we went into; it could know everything about us—at that point, targeting ads became incredibly efficient and effective. That’s what drove the massive revenues for both Facebook and Google. That’s why Facebook and Google have all the advertising money these days, right? It’s why the traditional public sphere is so impoverished, why it’s so hard to pay reporters a living wage these days, because Facebook and Google is taking all that money—are taking all that money, because they developed something better than the display ad of a newspaper or magazine, frankly.
In fact, I think Facebook does know nearly everything about its members (which in my opinion is itself a major crime). And the rest is again correct.

Here is the last bit I quote from this fine article:
SIVA VAIDHYANATHAN: Yeah. Look, any police department, any state security service anywhere in the world that doesn’t infiltrate protest groups or, you know, activist groups that way is foolish, right? It’s so easy. Facebook makes surveillance so easy. My friends who do activism, especially human rights activism, in parts of the world that are authoritarian, the first thing they tell people is get off of Facebook. Use other services to coordinate your activities. Right? Use analog services and technologies. Right? Facebook is the worst possible way to stay out of the gaze of the state.
Precisely. To put it in a slightly different way: Facebook is a very important arm of the secret services. Then again, if you want to escape the secret services while you are on internet, I think you are trying to do something that is impossible for almost everyone, although I agree that Facebook probably has all the information on anyone collected in one bundle.

And this is a strongly recommended article, in which there also is considerably more.

4. Here's How to Tell the Difference Between Persuasion and Manipulation

This article is by Robert Noggle on AlterNet and originally on Aeon. It starts as follows:
Calling someone manipulative is a criticism of that person’s character. Saying that you have been manipulated is a complaint about having been treated badly. Manipulation is dodgy at best, and downright immoral at worst. But why is this? What’s wrong with manipulation? Human beings influence each other all the time, and in all sorts of ways.  But what sets manipulation apart from other influences, and what makes it immoral?
The answer should be immediate: Because manipulation is dishonest. It tries to make you think, feel or value things by excluding bits or large amounts of (probably) true information that might have helped you to judge otherwise than the manipulators desire you to judge.

And manipulation is one of the great forces of the internet, for the internet made manipulations of billions possible:
Advertising manipulates when it encourages the audience to form untrue beliefs, as when we are told to believe that fried chicken is a health food, or faulty associations, as when Marlboro cigarettes are tied to the rugged vigour of the Marlboro Man. Phishing and other scams manipulate their victims through a combination of deception (from outright lies to spoofed phone numbers or URLs) and playing on emotions such as greed, fear or sympathy.
Yes indeed, and incidentally this is why I hate advertising and try - since almost 60 years! - to see or hear as little as possible of it.

Here is more on manipulation (and yes: manipulation is wrong because it harms persons manipulated):
Perhaps manipulation is wrong because it harms the person being manipulated. Certainly, manipulation often harms. If successful, manipulative cigarette ads contribute to disease and death; manipulative phishing and other scams facilitate identity theft and other forms of fraud; manipulative social tactics can support abusive or unhealthy relationships; political manipulation can foment division and weaken democracy.
Precisely. Here is more:
What makes an influence manipulative and what makes it wrong are the same thing: the manipulator attempts to get someone to adopt what the manipulator herself regards as an inappropriate belief, emotion or other mental state. In this way, manipulation resembles lying. What makes a statement a lie and what makes it morally wrong are the same thing – that the speaker tries to get someone to adopt what the speaker herself regards as a false belief. In both cases, the intent is to get another person to make some sort of mistake.
Well... one must distinguish between two kinds of manipulation: Those that try to persuade their victims based on some kind of propaganda or explicit lying, and those that try to persuade their victims based on not giving them probably true information that goes against the interests of the persuaders.

Both often go together, but not always. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
[M]anipulation involves deliberately using such influences to hamper a person’s ability to make the right decision – that is the essential immorality of manipulation.
So, if we are to recognise manipulation, we must look not at the form of influence, but at the intention of the person using it. For it is the intention to degrade another person’s decision-making situation that is both the essence and the essential immorality of manipulation.Aeon counter – do not remove
No, I am sorry: there is a better definition of manipulation.

Manipulation is the use of lies or propaganda to make people believe things one wants them to believe or else (and often also) consists in denying people information that is probably true and that one knows, but which one sees as going against one´s own (the manipulator´s) interests.

But otherwise this is mostly correct and this is a recommended article.

5. VIPS to Trump:  Intel on Iran Could be CATASTROPHIC

This article is by the VIPS on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:

FROM: Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT: Intelligence on Iran Fails the Smell Test

Mr. President:

As the George W. Bush administration revved up to attack Iraq 15 years ago, we could see no compelling reason for war.  We decided, though, to give President Bush the benefit of the doubt on the chance he had been sandbagged by Vice President Dick Cheney and others.  We chose to allow for the possibility that he actually believed the “intelligence” that Colin Powell presented to the UN as providing “irrefutable and undeniable” proof of WMD in Iraq and a “sinister nexus” between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda.

To us in VIPS it was clear, however, that the “intelligence” Powell adduced was bogus.  Thus, that same afternoon (Feb. 5, 2003) we prepared and sent to President Bush a Memorandum like this one, urging him to seek counsel beyond the “circle of those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.”
Yes indeed - and this link gives some more information on VIPS. Here is more:
As drums beat again for a military attack — this time on Iran, we Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and other experienced, objective analysts are, by all appearances, being disregarded again.  And, this time, we fear the consequences will be all-caps CATASTROPHIC — in comparison with the catastrophe of Iraq.
Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Mr. President, we do not know whether a fresh National Intelligence Estimate has been produced on Iran and nuclear weapons — or, if one has been produced, whether it is as honest as the NIE of Nov. 2007, which helped prevent the launch of another unnecessary war the following year.  We stand on our record.  In sum, if you believe that there is credible evidence that Iran has an active secret nuclear weapons program, we believe you have been misled.  And if you base decisions on misleading “intelligence” on Iran, the inevitable result will be a great deal worse than the Bush/Cheney debacle in Iraq.
Quite so. And incidentally, Iran has more than twice as many inhabitants (namely 81 million) as Iraq. This is a strongly recommended article.

B. One Extra Bit

This is an extra bit that belongs more to health or health matters than to the crisis. It is about ME/CFS, which my ex and myself have for almost 40 years now and it is by Admindxrw on Dx revision watch:
It starts as follows:
SNOMED CT is a standardized electronic terminology system for recording and sharing symptoms, diagnoses, clinical findings, procedures etc. in primary and secondary care and across other health care settings.

In SNOMED CT terminology system, disease and disorder terms are not arranged in chapters, as they are in ICD-10 and ICD-11. Instead, terms are arranged within a hierarchical relationship of parent and children concepts (or supertypes and subtypes).

The SNOMED CT Concept term for Chronic fatigue syndrome is SCTID 52702003 Chronic fatigue syndrome (disorder). Benign myalgic encephalomyelitis; and Myalgic encephalomyelitis are included as Synonym terms.

Chronic fatigue syndrome has historically been located under the Parent Concept: Multisystem disorder.

In fact, I am (among other things) a psychologist, as is my ex. And one of the many things I have learned about ¨medicine¨ is that what are called ¨disorders¨ (that is: not diseases) are in fact psychiatric classifications of medical ignorance, notably in the case of ME/CFS:

In order to harm patients with ME/CFS as much as possible, and to prevent almost any medical research into the cause(s) of ME/CFS, the psychiatrists decided in 1980 that anything medicine does not know but that people complain about to their doctors in fact is a psychiatric disorder, as they call it.

And they call it a ¨disorder¨ precisely because there rarely is good evidence in psychiatry, and there almost never is any discernible pathology for almost any so-called ¨psychiatric disorder¨ - of which there are now more than 450 (before 1980: Less than 50).

Once your complaints are classified as ¨psychiatric disorder¨ you can shove it as a patient - as my ex and I have - very painfully - observed for 40 years each: You are not helped; you are not declared ill; and virtually any bureaucrat will both avoid you while harming you, simply because you are crazy, in their minds.

Well, this is one thing that Dx revision watch achieved:

Following a peer review process, the addition of the parent: Disorder of nervous system for Chronic fatigue syndrome was provisionally approved for implementation in the next release, which has been finalized and published.

SCTID: 52702003 Chronic fatigue syndrome (disorder) is now classified under supertype SCTID: 118940003 Disorder of nervous system (disorder) in the July 2018 release of the SNOMED CT International Edition.

That is, it is now not just any ¨disorder¨ but a ¨Disorder of nervous system¨. I suppose it is an improvement, but a real disease is still classified as a (psychiatric) disorder because the cause
of the disease is not known - which I think is an utter shame, precisely because you can classify everything you don´t know medically as a ¨disorder¨ and thus stop almost any and all medical research. Which is what has happened since 1980.


[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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