August 4, 2018

Crisis: Google & China, On Rich & The NYT, Mexican Journalist, U.S. Pensions, Neonicotinoids


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 4, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, August 4, 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 4, 2018:
1. Google Struggles to Contain Employee Uproar Over China Censorship

2. Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”
3. Mexican Journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, Freed from Detention,
     Denounces ICE “Concentration Camps”

4. The Roadblock to Common Sense Pension Reform
5. Trump Reverses Ban on GMOs and Bee-Killing Pesticides in Refuges
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 Struggles to Contain Employee Uproar Over China Censorship Plans

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept. It starts as follows (and here is some background on Google turning totalitarian):

Google bosses were scrambling to contain leaks and internal anger on Wednesday after the company’s confidential plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China was revealed by The Intercept.

Just a few hundred of Google’s massive 88,000-strong workforce had been briefed on the project prior to the revelations, which triggered a wave of disquiet that spread through the internet giant’s offices across the world.

Company managers responded by swiftly trying to shut down employees’ access to any documents that contained information about the China censorship project, according to Google insiders who witnessed the backlash.

“Everyone’s access to documents got turned off, and is being turned on [on a] document-by-document basis,” said one source. “There’s been total radio silence from leadership, which is making a lot of people upset and scared. … Our internal meme site and Google Plus are full of talk, and people are a.n.g.r.y.”

I reviewed this two days ago (here) and now I am a bit glad to report that many of Google´s workers are angry.

I am glad they are angry, because Google - that has as its slogan ¨Do no evil¨ - now wants to help suppress over a billion Chinese by offering the totalitarian Chinese government a version of its search engine (also called Google, that I refuse to use) that will enable the Chinese government to suppress each and every Chinese - more than a billion - who disagrees with the government and says so on the internet (and have them picked out and secretly handed to the Chinese secret police, together with the full dossier Google (China) also compiled on them).

And I am only a bit glad, because I do not think Google´s workers can stop Google´s top of enormously increasing their profits by going in sea with what is effectively the Chinese secret police. In fact, this is shown by Google´s top have retracted access to all relevant documents and refuse to talk.

Here is some more:

Following the disclosure on Wednesday, several new sources inside Google independently confirmed the plans to news organizations, including Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Financial Times, Agency France-Presse, Vice News, and Bloomberg. One source who spoke to Bloomberg characterized the project as a “censorship engine,” which they said they viewed as a betrayal of Google’s values. Bloomberg described a ferocious discussion among Google staffers, with some backing the company’s censored search proposal because they believed that boycotting the country would not “bring any positive change.”

I have got two comments on the just quoted bit:

First, I agree that Google´s top wants to create a “censorship engine”, which functions essentially as the means of China´s secret services to surveil everybody with internet connections in China.

Second, I disagree ¨with some backing the company’s censored search proposal¨ because what they are saying is in effect:

Either we help hunting, shooting or torturing all Chinese dissidents (and who ever cared for Chinese dissidents?) or else the Chinese have to do it themselves - and we are better at it, and also will earn enormous profits by helping to hunt and shoot or torture all Chinese dissidents.¨

And I disagree because this policy would make Google explicitly and massively totalitarian, indeed in this case both in my sense and the Wikipedia´s sense.

Here is some background´s on Google´s efforts to become massively and explicitly totalitarian:

The Dragonfly project was launched in spring 2017. Since then, small teams of Google engineers have been developing a custom Android app, different versions of which have been named “Maotai” and “Longfei.” The app has been designed to filter out content deemed undesirable by China’s ruling Communist Party regime, such as information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest.
Google previously launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but pulled the service out of the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. The planned relaunch would represent a stunning reversal of that decision.

Well... yes and no: The present efforts to support and assure totalitarianism on more than a billion Chinese indeed is not in line with Google´s public propaganda about Google, but I think it is perfectly in line with the real ends of Google´s top, since a long time also, which is simply to become as profitable as possible, no matter who pays them.

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

Human rights groups responded to the revelations with a chorus of condemnation. Amnesty International issued a statement calling on the internet giant to abandon the plan. “It is impossible to see how such a move is compatible with Google’s ‘do the right thing’ motto, and we are calling on the company to change course,” said Amnesty’s Patrick Poon.

A spokesperson for the New York-based group Human Rights in China said that Google had shown willingness to “trade principles and values for access to the Chinese market.” The spokesperson added: “If Google wants to be a credible global technology leader and demonstrate its commitment to core values and responsible corporate citizenship, it has to do better than kneeling before an authoritarian party-state. In the long run, Google will lose more than its own principled employees who refuse to be complicit.”

Yes indeed. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”

This article is by Naomi Klein on The Intercept. She disagrees with Nathaniel Rich´s article on The New York Times that I ¨reviewed¨ yesterday. I write ¨reviewed¨ (with quotes) because I did not like it; I did not like its writing style; and I am just not willing to plow through entire novellas (for it is a long article) when it is 30 C and I am ill. (I did read the beginning.)

It so happens that I don´t like Naomi Klein much either, but we shall see what she has to say. Klein´s article starts as follows:
This Sunday, the entire New York Times Magazine will be composed of just one article on a single subject: the failure to confront the global climate crisis in the 1980s, a time when the science was settled and the politics seemed to align. Written by Nathaniel Rich, this work of history is filled with insider revelations about roads not taken that, on several occasions, made me swear out loud.
The novella-length piece represents the kind of media commitment that the climate crisis has long deserved but almost never received.
Which is why it was so exciting to see the Times throw the full force of its editorial machine behind Rich’s opus — teasing it with a promotional video, kicking it off with a live event at the Times Center, and accompanying educational materials.

That’s also why it is so enraging that the piece is spectacularly wrong in its central thesis.

Well... I don´t know whether the Times is to be congratulated on publishing a long article while it throws ¨the full force of its editorial machine¨ behind that long article if the article itself is ¨spectacularly wrong in its central thesis¨. (But I have a logical mind, and most don´t, I am sorry to say.)

This is about Rich´s central thesis and Klein´s objection to it:

According to Rich, between the years of 1979 and 1989, the basic science of climate change was understood and accepted, the partisan divide over the issue had yet to cleave, the fossil fuel companies hadn’t started their misinformation campaign in earnest, and there was a great deal of global political momentum toward a bold and binding international emissions-reduction agreement. Writing of the key period at the end of the 1980s, Rich says, “The conditions for success could not have been more favorable.”

And yet we blew it — “we” being humans, who apparently are just too shortsighted to safeguard our future. Just in case we missed the point of who and what is to blame for the fact that we are now “losing earth,” Rich’s answer is presented in a full-page callout: “All the facts were known, and nothing stood in our way. Nothing, that is, except ourselves.”

Yep, you and me. Not, according to Rich, the fossil fuel companies who sat in on every major policy meeting described in the piece.
I say! And I do so especially because those who protested indeed protested against the same things I did yesterday:
I don´t like to be accused of things I did not do.
And this is precisely what Rich did do: It were not the rich who misled most people and it also were not the rich capitalists who only care for profits for themselves who created and maintained the conditions that cause climate change: It were the ordinary people who did it - me, and you, and perhaps even Mr Rich. Not those who instituted it. Not those who paid for it. Not those who profited enormously from it.

No, it were the common people who did not institute it, who did not pay for it, and who did not profit from it in any way: They did it.

According to The New York Times and Rich, of course.

There is also this:
This misreading has been pointed out by many climate scientists and historians since the online version of the piece dropped on Wednesday. Others have remarked on the maddening invocations of “human nature” and the use of the royal “we” to describe a screamingly homogenous group of U.S. power players.
I say, again, and do so because I wholly agree (and have been objecting to such vagueries and divisions of responsibilities very many times in Nederlog).

Here is Klein on what she calls ¨
the central premise of the piece¨:
My focus is the central premise of the piece: that the end of the 1980s presented conditions that “could not have been more favorable” to bold climate action. On the contrary, one could scarcely imagine a more inopportune moment in human evolution for our species to come face to face with the hard truth that the conveniences of modern consumer capitalism were steadily eroding the habitability of the planet. Why? Because the late ’80s was the absolute zenith of the neoliberal crusade, a moment of peak ideological ascendency for the economic and social project that deliberately set out to vilify collective action in the name of liberating “free markets” in every aspect of life. Yet Rich makes no mention of this parallel upheaval in economic and political thought.
Yes, I agree and expressed myself on this topic yesterday as follows:
O, come on! The fossil fuel industry knew what was happening - but did not or hardly inform the public. As to the Republican Party: The 1980s were the decade of Reagan (and Thatcher).
And besides there was this, also pointed out yesterday:
Also, Aldous Huxley´s ¨The Human Situation¨ is of 1959, and already contains accurate predictions what would happen to ecology (and was then and is now happening in ecology); Rachel Carson´s 1962 book ¨Silent Spring¨ articulated the dangers in biological terms; by 1968 Paul Ehrlich published ¨The Population Bomb¨; and by 1972 ¨The Limits to Growth¨ had appeared.

All of these are fairly well-known, and while all made mistakes, the theory about the dangers of ecology were well known by the early 1970ies (..)
But neither the rich cared, nor the editors cared, nor the journalists cared, indeed in each case with a few rare exceptions (that again were mostly not reported in the mainstream media).

Here is how Rich argues it is human beings who have nothing to do with the decisions of the oil corporations, nor have any profits from them, nor do they get any information but propaganda from the oil corporations, that are really responsible for climate change and ecological disasters:
Rich concludes, while offering no social or scientific evidence, that something called “human nature” kicked in and messed everything up. “Human beings,” he writes, “whether in global organizations, democracies, industries, political parties or as individuals, are incapable of sacrificing present convenience to forestall a penalty imposed on future generations.” It seems we are wired to “obsess over the present, worry about the medium term and cast the long term out of our minds, as we might spit out a poison.”
I agree this is utter baloney - but I am willing, for a moment, to adopt most of Rich´s premise:

Suppose ¨human nature¨ does not like ¨
sacrificing present convenience¨ to help prevent later disasters. (Insurance tells you this is false, but OK: pretend.)

Then who is responsible: The responsible tops of the oil corporations who knew by the late 1970ies what enormous damages and dangers they were creating, who kept almost all of that knowledge secret, and who profited enormously from their policies, or else any human being who does not belong to an oil corporation, does not know what they know, and profits nothing?

¨We¨ are responsible, Rich and The New York Times cry out, that is, the ordinary human beings
who do not belong to an oil corporation, do not know what they know, and profit nothing. Not the CEOs of the oil corporations. (For these might withdraw their advertisements from the NYT?!?!)

Finally, here is Klein on the late ´80s:
And one thing that becomes very clear when you look back on the late ’80s is that, far from offering “conditions for success [that] could not have been more favorable,” 1988-89 was the worst possible moment for humanity to decide that it was going to get serious about putting planetary health ahead of profits.

I agree (and see above). I also saw that I needed to read little from Rich to understand him, and this is a strongly supported article.

3. Mexican Journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto, Freed from Detention, Denounces ICE “Concentration Camps”

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and his son Oscar have been released from ICE detention after being jailed for seven months. Gutiérrez first sought asylum in the United States in 2008 after receiving death threats for reporting on alleged corruption in the Mexican military. He was detained in December, only weeks after he criticized U.S. asylum policy during a speech at the National Press Club. A federal judge has questioned whether the Trump administration’s detention of Emilio Gutiérrez Soto and his son Oscar violated his First Amendment rights. We speak with Emilio Gutiérrez Soto in El Paso, Texas, shortly after his release.
And here he is:
EMILIO GUTIÉRREZ SOTO: [translated] Well, thank you for this invitation. It’s a little weird, having been seven months and some days at the ICE concentration camp. We feel a bit unusual. The way of life in that concentration camp is extremely harsh. What the immigration authorities seek is to finish you off psychologically. And we’re trying to resume our lives in liberty, in semi-liberty, practically, because we continue to be supervised by the immigration authority—in this case, internal security through ICE.
The conditions in that place are truly denigrating. Day after day, we need to deal with or confront security of officers who are hired by a private company and who lack the basic ethical concepts when it comes to respecting human rights. We have had to confront a situation where there is some presumed food, which was really practically garbage, in addition to being enclosed where the barracks within have sanitary services and the shower, or toilet and shower, which causes constant contamination when it comes to internal development or any thought of pursuing intellectual development or of any sort of mental reflection in these places. These are really places in which there is an effort to totally destroy those who have the misfortune of reaching those places, destroying them both psychologically and physically.
Well... I am willing to agree with Gutiérrez Soto that he was locked up in horrible circumstances, but I am not willing to agree that it was quite a concentration camp.

My main reason is that both my father and my grandfather were locked up in Nazi concentration camps (because they were in the Communist Resistance, both), which murdered my grandfather and kept my father in four German concentration camps for three years, 9 months and 15 days.

I am not going to outline the conditions in German concentration camps, but they were worse than ICE - currently - imposes.

Then again, otherwise I agree with
Gutiérrez Soto. He also is a journalist, who says this on his ideals:

EMILIO GUTIÉRREZ SOTO: I believe that the work of journalists is to speak the truth, to act with the truth, and especially to cast light on the truth for those who listen to us on the radio, those who read us, those who see us or watch us on television. We journalists have a major commitment all around the world to do the best we can, carrying out our job honestly

I agree and this is a recommended article.

4. The Roadblock to Common Sense Pension Reform

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

55 million Americans — about half of the entire private-sector workforce — have no employer-sponsored retirement plan at all. Many work for small businesses in the low-wage service and hospitality sectors. If they don’t save money independently, they will have nothing when they stop working. 

This is very different from four decades ago when most workers retired with a company pension.

The good news is that several states – including Oregon, California, Illinois, Connecticut, and Maryland — now let such workers put money away in state-sponsored retirement plans that allow them to withdraw their accumulated savings, tax free, when they hit retirement.
Incidentally, ¨55 million Americans¨ is over 1/6th of the present American population, while the situation in Holland, at least for people of my age (68), is much different, which I can illustrate from my own case:

I have absolutely never in my life received as much as the legal minimum everyone is supposed to receive, because ¨the legal minimum¨ only applies to people who work full time, and I never did. I did receive for 5 years a loan to study at university, but that was less than 80% of the amount of money people got in the dole, which again was less than
¨the legal minimum¨. When I got into the dole in 1984 firstly I never was declared officially ill (which created enormous problems for me from 1984 till 2011), and secondly I got less than 80% of the money working people (of any kind) received. And when at last I got a minimal pension in 2015, it was again less than the minimum because I had lived more than 2 years in Norway...

But even so, my own present pensioned position (with several thousands in the bank: I have learned to live carefully) is a near paradise compared to the 55 million without a pension in the USA.

And here we have the background: The Republicans wish to feed only the rich:

Republicans in Congress – backed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and a coalition of Wall Street investment firms – are seeking to block states from implementing these plans at all.

And ¨these plans¨ are the plans outlined in the last section of the previous quotation. Here is Reich´s last bit:

Folks, the anger and frustration that led to Trump continues to simmer. If we allow the moneyed interests to block common-sense reforms like this, in future years, America could face an even worse fate than Trump.

I agree and I also can describe the ¨worse fate than Trump¨ quite well: It will be full neofascism (check my definition!) without any free press, and with full surveillance of every American citizen, rather as Google plans in China. And this is a recommended article.

5. Trump Reverses Ban on GMOs and Bee-Killing Pesticides in Refuges

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
While regulators in other regions of the world have recently worked to ban bee-poisoning pesticides called neonicotinoids that scientists have long warned could cause an "ecological armageddon," the Trump administration just reversed an Obama-era policy that had outlawed the use of neonics and genetically modified crops in the nation's wildlife refuges.

Defenders of Wildlife CEO and president Jamie Rappaport Clark, who served as director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) during the Clinton administration, called the move "an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them."

"Industrial agriculture has no place on public lands dedicated to conservation of biological diversity and the protection of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like bumble bees and monarch butterflies," she added.

I have written about neonicotinoids before, basically because without bees there will not be much pollination, and without pollination there will not be much food.

And I grant that the above seems restricted to ¨our national wildlife refuges¨. Even so, it´s a shame (and may promiss worse).

Here is one more bit on neonicotinoids:

Released just ahead of this policy change, a new analysis by California's Department of Pesticide Regulation bolstered a growing mountain of research that has determined common neonics are harmful to bees and other pollinators.

"The more we learn about the toxicity of neonics, the more apparent it is that pretty much any plant with nectar or pollen sprayed with these poisons is unsafe for bees," responded Nathan Donley, a senior scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This important analysis is further proof that it's time to ban all outdoor use of these harmful pesticides on crops."

Indeed. And this is a recommended article.


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

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

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