August 5, 2018

Crisis: Google & Neofascism, Noam Chomsky, Nomi Prins, Elections in U.S., Health Matters


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 5, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, August 5, 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 5, 2018:
1. Lawmakers Pressure Google Over “Deeply Troubling” China Censorship

2. The Resurgence of Political Authoritarianism: An Interview With Noam

3. We Will Have to Face the Consequences of Donald Trump Getting His
     Hands on the Economy

4. Did left-wing Hillary hate put Trump in the White House?
5. Medical Applications Expose Current Limits of AI
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. Lawmakers Pressure Google Over “Deeply Troubling” China Censorship Project

This article is by Ryan Gallagher on The Intercept, and concerns Google´s - explicit, conscious - decision to become wholly and massively totalitarian, in China, where Google intends to surveil over a billion Chinese, to watch whether they say anything on line that might displease the Chinese government.

There is more in previous Nederlogs (see e.g. here) and the article starts as follows:

A bipartisan group of six U.S. senators is demanding that Google CEO Sundar Pichai explain the company’s plan to launch a censored version of its search engine in China.

Since spring 2017, the internet giant has been developing a censored Android search app to launch in the country as part of a secretive project code-named Dragonfly, The Intercept revealed on Wednesday. The app would manipulate search results in accordance with strict censorship rules in China that are mandated by the ruling Communist Party regime, which restricts people’s access to information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. The censored Google search has been designed to “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to internal Google documents.

Yes indeed - and while nothing is being said here about whether the Chinese who enter these ¨blacklist sensitive queries¨ thereby run the risk of being arrested by Chinese (secret) police and - for example - getting tortured, and while it is logically possible Google left that bit to the Chinese totalitarian authorities, this will happen in China, indeed also if Google withdraws, which I think is highly unlikely.

In any case, if Google does the police work for the totalitarian Chinese government, I will style it ¨the neofascistic, sadistic Google¨ and insist that (i) they make their enormous profits in China by helping to lock up and torture the Chinese who question or object to their totalitarian government, and (ii) they do it because they have given up all morality and all ethics, and only follow their own profits, also if these profits are based on totalitarian tortures.

Here is some more:

In a letter sent to Pichai on Friday, the six lawmakers called the Google plan “deeply troubling” and said that it “risks making Google complicit in human rights abuses related to China’s rigorous censorship regime.” The letter was led by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and also signed by Sens Mark Warner, D-Va., Tom Cotton, R-Ark., Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Cory Gardner, R-Colo., and Robert Menendez, D-N.J.

The senators write: “It is a coup for the Chinese government and Communist Party to force Google—the biggest search engine in the world—to comply with their onerous censorship requirements, and sets a worrying precedent for other companies seeking to do business in China without compromising their core values.”

Well... yes and no. I like it that some Senators protested the deal Google desires to make with the totalitarian Chinese government, but I insist Google was not forced ¨to comply with [the Chinese government´s] onerous censorship requirements¨ but wants to comply with these totaliarian demands because they promise to be hugely profitable to the owners of Google.

Here is a bit more:

They are asking Google to provide answers to multiple questions, such as: “which ‘blacklist’ of censored searches and websites are you using? Are there any phrases or words that Google is refusing to censor?” The senators want to know why Google has reversed its policy on China. In 2006, the company launched a censored search engine in the country, but ceased operating the service in March 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech, block websites, and hack Google’s computer systems. “What has changed since 2010 to make Google comfortable cooperating with the rigorous censorship regime in China?” the senators ask.

I think some of these questions indeed are worth asking, but I think I can answer the Senators on what has changed: Google has eight years after 2010 gathered enormous powers and enormous profits as a search engine, and now wants to extend both its powers and its profits by cooperating with the totalitarian Chinese government and help them implement its totalitarian values and schemes.

And here is a bit from the ending, that shows a typical statement of Google (and Facebook and Microsoft and Apple):

Google has so far declined to address the revelations. The company has issued a boilerplate statement asserting that it does “not comment on speculation about future plans.”
Well... I take it that pretty soon Google will be explicitly totalitarian, which it will be because it is a neofascist corporation that is being led by neofascists. I strongly hope I am mistaken, but I fear I am not.

2. The Resurgence of Political Authoritarianism: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

This article is by C.J. Polychroniou on Truthout. It starts as follows:
Following the end of World War II, liberal democracy began to flourish in most countries in the Western world, and its institutions and values were aspired to by movements and individuals under authoritarian and oppressive regimes. However, with the rise of neoliberalism, both the institutions and the values of modern democracy came rapidly and continuously under attack in an effort to extend the profit-maximizing logic and practices of capitalism throughout all aspects of economic and social life. Sketched out in broad outlines, this story explains the resurgence of authoritarian political trends in today’s Western societies (..)
Yes, I basically agree. But I want to add two items on ¨neoliberalism¨.

First, here is a fine site that contains a great amount of mostly correct criticisms of neoliberalism: Critiques Of Libertarianism by Mike Huben, which starts with saying:

The subject of this site is libertarianism: in the broad, poorly defined colloquial sense which includes Objectivism, neoliberalism, classical liberalism and a host of other ill-defined variants. All are united by a rhetoric of liberty, bad philosophy and fallacious "free market" claims of various sorts. The Koch brothers and their ilk have been pushing this harmful political theory for around 60 years with vast amounts of money, and have captured the Republican party.

This wiki has roughly 2000 content pages; more are added very frequently.

So indeed this is a large site. I have not read all of it, but I did read a good part of it, and it is a very fine site.

Also, in case you are interested in Huben: Scourge of the Libertarians: Interview with Mike Huben
is a good and fairy long interview with him, from 2015.

Back to the article. I shall only quote Chomsky and delete the questions, but the interview is quite good and quite long and is recommended:

Noam Chomsky: The “political landscape” is indeed ominous. While today’s political and social circumstances are much less dire, still they do call to mind Antonio Gramsci’s warning from Mussolini’s prison cells about the severe crisis of his day, which “consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born [and] in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

One morbid symptom is the resurgence of political authoritarianism, a highly important matter that is properly receiving a great deal of attention in public debate. But “a great deal of public attention” should always be a warning sign: Does the shaping of the issues reflect power interests, which are diverting attention from what may be more significant factors behind the general concerns? In the present case, I think that is so
It’s entirely true that “the institutions and values of liberal democracy are under attack” to an unusual extent, but not only by authoritarian leaders, and not for the first time. I presume all would agree that primary among the values of liberal democracy is that governments should be responsive to voters. If that is not the case, “liberal democracy” is a farce.
Which logically entails - I think - that ¨“liberal democracy” is a farce¨, at least in the present USA. I agree.

Here is more:

It has been well established that it is not the case. Ample work in mainstream political science shows that a majority of voters are not represented by their own elected representatives, who listen to different voices — the voices of the donor class, great wealth and the corporate sector
Furthermore, the penetrating work of Thomas Ferguson reveals that for a long time, elections have been substantially bought, including Congress, continuing right to the present, 2016.

These facts alone show that the furor about alleged Russian interference with our pristine democratic process reveals profound indoctrination — in capitalist, not democratic, values.

Yes, I agree - and you find considerably more references in the original. Here is more:

Putting aside these secondary matters, the major attack on the institutions and values of liberal democracy is by the powerful business classes, intensifying since Reagan as both political parties have drifted toward greater subordination to their interests — the Republicans to such an extreme that by now they barely can be considered a political party. Anyone who finds this surprising must be uninformed about American society and how it functions. By now, as business power has been unleashed by its servants in the Republican Party, the traditional business attack on “the institutions and values of liberal democracy” has reached levels not seen since the Gilded Age, if even then.

Yes, I entirely agree (and in case you need a link to the Gilden Age, that was it). Here is more:

Toward the conservative end, at the same time, the influential “Powell memorandum,” directed to the Chamber of Commerce by corporate lawyer Lewis Powell (later appointed to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon), called for open war by the business world to defend itself from the virtual takeover of the country by radical forces that were destroying “free enterprise” under the leadership of Ralph Nader, Herbert Marcuse and other “dangerous extremists.”

The messages are pretty much the same, but the rhetoric is quite different. The liberal rhetoric is largely reserved, while the business rhetoric reaches the frenzied pitch of a 3-year-old who has all the toys and laments that one might be taken away.

I think this is also correct, and here is a link to Lewis F. Powell Jr. (whom I have treated many times in Nederlog).

Here is more:

The other side of the coin is the Reagan-Thatcher assault on unions, now advanced by the authorization of right-to-scrounge laws (in Orwellian terminology, “right-to-work” laws) by the most reactionary Supreme Court in over a century. The guiding doctrine is to create a world of isolated individuals at the mercy of concentrated private power in accord with the Thatcherite doctrine that “there is no society,” (..)

Yes indeed, and entirely correct (by my information).

In Europe, the attack on democracy is amplified by the strongly undemocratic institutions of the European Union. Major decisions over policy are made by the unelected Troika — European Commission, International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Central Bank — with the northern banks right at their shoulders. The population has little to say, and knows it — a large reason for the general collapse of the centrist parties that have governed the countries since World War II.

And this seems also quite true (and I have never liked or wanted a European Union, although I strongly dislike Wilders, who happens to agree).

In fact, there is a lot more in the interview. Here is the ending:

What do you think will take to halt the spread of political authoritarianism across the globe?

The familiar advice, easy to state, hard to follow, but if there’s another way, it’s been kept a dark secret: honest, dedicated, courageous and persistent engagement, ranging from education and organization to direct activism, carefully honed for effectiveness under prevailing circumstances. Hard work, necessary work, the kind that has succeeded in the past and can again.

I have to agree, although I have to add that I am not optimistic, especially in view of the fact that everyone with an internet computer is surveilled to the limit by many secret services and by Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. We Will Have to Face the Consequences of Donald Trump Getting His Hands on the Economy

This article is by Nomi Prins on Common Dreams and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

Here we are in the middle of the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency and if there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that the leader of the free world can create an instant reality-TV show on geopolitical steroids at will. True, he’s not polished in his demeanor, but he has an unerring way of instilling the most uncertainty in any situation in the least amount of time.

Whether through executive orders, tweets, cable-news interviews, or rallies, he regularly leaves diplomacy in the dust, while allegedly delivering for a faithful base of supporters who voted for him as the ultimate anti-diplomat. And while he’s at it, he continues to take a wrecking ball to the countless political institutions that litter the Acela Corridor. Amid all the tweeted sound and fury, however, the rest of us are going to have to face the consequences of Donald Trump getting his hands on the economy.

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, entropy is “a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder.” With that in mind, perhaps the best way to predict President Trump’s next action is just to focus on the path of greatest entropy and take it from there.

Let me do just that, while exploring five key economic sallies of the Trump White House since he took office and the bleakness and chaos that may lie ahead as the damage to the economy and our financial future comes into greater focus.

In fact, this is another fine article that is difficult to excerpt. It has five sections, and I give the titles of each and some brief quotations from three of them, but you are recommended to read all of it.

Here is the first section (in small part):

1. Continuous Banking Deregulation

(...) In this fashion, such still-evolving deregulatory actions reflect the way Trump’s anti-establishment election campaign has turned into a full-scale program aimed at increasing the wealth and power of the financial elites, while decreasing their responsibility to us. Don’t expect a financial future along such lines to look pretty. Think entropy.
Well... I agree giving trillions to the few rich and hardly anything to the rest will spell disorder in the lives of the non-rich, but I do think this was and is a firm plan of Trump.

Here is more:

2. Tensions Rise in the Auto Wars

(...) Though President Trump’s threat to slap high tariffs on imported autos and auto parts from the European Union is now in limbo due to a recent announcement of ongoing negotiations, he retains the right if he gets annoyed by... well, anything... to do so. The German auto industry alone employs more than 118,000 people in the U.S. and, if invoked, such taxes would increase its car prices and put domestic jobs instantly at risk.
Yes. And here is more:

3. The Populist Tyranny of the Trump Tax Cuts

President Trump has been particularly happy about his marquee corporate tax “reform” bill, assuring his base that it will provide jobs and growth to American workers, while putting lots of money in their pockets. What it’s actually done, however, is cut the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, providing corporations with tons of extra cash. Their predictable reaction has not been to create jobs and raise wages, but to divert that bonanza to their own coffers via share buybacks in which they purchase their own stock. That provides shareholders with bigger, more valuable pieces of a company, while boosting earnings and CEO bonuses.
As it is, large American companies only pay an average effective tax rate of 18% (a figure that will undoubtedly soon drop further). Last year, they only contributed 9 percent of the tax receipts of the government and that’s likely to drop further to a record low this year, sending the deficit soaring.
Precisely. I just give the titles to the next two sections:

4. Trade Wars, Currency Wars, and the Conflicts to Come

5. Fighting the Fed

And this is the ending of the article:
What we are witnessing is the start of the entropy wars, which will, in turn, hasten the unwinding of the American global experiment. Each arbitrary bit of presidential pique, each tweet and insult, is a predecessor to yet more possible economic upheavals and displacements, ever messier and harder to clean up. Trump’s America could easily morph into a worldwide catch-22. The more trust is destabilized, the greater the economic distress. The weaker the economy, the more disruptable it becomes by the Great Disrupter himself. And so the Trump spiral spins onward, circling down an economic drain of his own making.
Yes, I think this diagnosis is correct. There is a lot more in the article than I quoted, and it is strongly recommended.
4. Did left-wing Hillary hate put Trump in the White House?

This article is by Andrew O´Hehir on Salon. It starts as follows:

If we ask whether hatred of Hillary Clinton, much of it irrational and fueled by decades’ worth of outlandish conspiracy theory, played a role in the outcome of the 2016 presidential election — I mean, that’s not even a question, right?

Many interlocking factors were implicated in the most bizarre and unlikely election result in modern political history: James Comey’s fateful letter to Congress; the disruption caused by fake news and social-media manipulation, some of it apparently by the Russians; the Clinton campaign’s overconfidence and complacency. But the orgiastic, “1984”-style outpouring of lock-her-up Clinton hate, weaponized brilliantly by Donald Trump and his campaign, was surely one of the biggest. To some degree it made all the others possible.

Well... yes and no. I more or less agree with O´Hehir, but he forgets one thing (probably because he is not a European): A mere two effective parties in the USA - in which those elected in Congress and the Senate also for the most part are interested in increasing their own riches rather than in doing what their voters want - is not democratic to start with, in my view (though I agree it may be made worse).

Here is more by O´Hehir:

So Republican voters overwhelmingly showed up to pull the lever for Trump, whatever misgivings they may have felt. Democratic voters didn’t quite do the same for Clinton. That much is beyond dispute. But why did that happen, exactly?

That’s where we come to the chewy, poisoned-nougat underside of the question we started with: It wasn’t just conservatives who despised Hillary Clinton. Did left-wing Clinton hate tip the balance of the 2016 election and put Trump in the White House?
Well... for one thing, nobody knows, for there were some 100 million non-voters. And for another thing, I do not much care, for I think that the whole set-up of having to choose from just two effective parties comes close to engineered non-democracy, and especially in the last 40 years.

Here is some more:

To state the question about Trump and the left in its most extreme form — which is not, alas, an invented form — did Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein, Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald, working as the agents or useful idiots of Vladimir Putin, join forces to torpedo our First Woman President out of some misogynistic, nihilistic, puritanical and America-hating spite?

Put that way, which is only slightly more grandiose than the framing of ardent Democratic loyalists like Neera TandenMalcolm Nance and Daily Kos, the proposition sounds deranged, if not full-on Trumpian.
In fact, I agree, though probably not for O´Hehir´s reasons. Here is the ending of the article:
But the true legacy of the non-anti-Trump left is more complicated than that. Its existence reflects a larger sense of existential doubt that stretches clear across the American political spectrum and to some extent has infected us all. It may also offer the Democratic Party leadership yet another opportunity to blame the left for its extraordinary record of political failure and postpone its day of reckoning

I don´t know about the second statement quoted above, but I guess the third statement may be correct: Because Hillary Clinton is so much paid by the Wall Street banks (both Clintons now own more than $120 million, it seems) and because the Wall Street bankers and others invest a whole lot of money in the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton may yet again be a presidential candidate in 2020.

5. Medical Applications Expose Current Limits of AI

This article is by Martin Müller on Spiegel International. It is mostly not about the crisis but about health, but I put it here because my ex and myself are almost forty (40) years ill with the disease ME/CFS, that we only now - ¨after a mere forty years¨ are ¨allowed¨ by Dutch medics to call a ¨serious chronic disease¨.

Before that we were insane according to 9 out of 10 Dutch doctors, though they usually prettified this to ¨it is psychosomatic¨ (which is unmedical bullshit) but in fact the vast majority of all Dutch doctors thought we were either hallucinating or cheating - for forty years, in which we both got an excellent M.A. in psychology but were to ill to make any money with that. (And I am sorry, but the last 40 years of constant medical discrimination by Dutch doctors have made me extremely skeptical of any and of all Dutch medical doctors.)

Here is the start of the article:

You're in bad shape, very bad shape. And when you arrive at the office, you are faced with a choice: You can be treated by a senior physician who speaks soothingly, is the senior expert in his field and seems to have years of experience. "I've been working as a doctor for 35 years," he says. "We'll find out what's wrong with you."

Do you trust him?

Or would you go with the resident, who has been licensed for three months and has virtually no experience on the job? The young doctor holds a tablet computer under his arm. "It provides me with access to 600 years of experience from chief physicians," he says. "Don't worry, we'll find out what's wrong with you."

In fact, that's not an unrealistic scenario. According to an estimate made by German statutory health insurer AOK, nearly 20,000 people die every year in Germany alone as a result of malpractice. It can take up to half a decade for the correct diagnosis of rare diseases to be found, and in the best-case scenario, the average doctor has only studied around 1,000 out of 30,000 known diseases by the time of his or her final examinations.

This could all change with the help of data and artificial intelligence -- at least that's the promise currently being made in the global health-care industry. Machine medicine, the data-assisted diagnosis and treatment of diseases, is on the verge of revolutionizing medicine more deeply than stethoscopes did in 1816, X-rays in 1895 or cranial MRIs in 1978. It's even fueling a kind of euphoria in speeches, at conferences and in the media. Hopes are high, and so are the financial stakes.

I say! First, I am glad to read that ¨the average doctor has only studied around 1,000 out of 30,000 known diseases by the time of his or her final examinations¨. This is about Germany,
but in Holland education is worse, so this is the upper limit of what doctors know of medicine:
They know 1/30th part of the diseases people may get, and do not know the rest.

This is one major reason why at least 9 out of 10 (probably in fact 999/1000) Dutch doctors were so insistent that my (very intelligent) ex and my (very intelligent) self were lying to them (if we were not hallucinating), even though we both fell ill three months into the first year of our university studies.

So to answer the question: I would certainly not believe the first doctor, for he knows (at best) 1/30th of the diseases I may suffer from, and consulting him (with a rare and undiagnosed disease) is more like gambllng than anything else.

Also, I certainly would not go to the second doctor (and in the case of my ex and myself it took at least 40 years - not ¨half a decade¨ - to arrive at any minimally correct diagnosis), and my reason there is that I know 6 computer languages; have a PC since 1987; and know that virtually any claim I have heard about computing in the last 30+ years of computing was vastly exaggerated.

Here is some more on diagnosing-by-computer:

With its miraculous new weapon, the software giant also wants to revolutionize medicine, a global market worth trillions of dollars, an industry in which hope and disappointment are closely linked. The prospects for the technology are considerable. The product aims to tackle much bigger conditions than colds, aches or pains -- like cancer or ailments with mysterious, unexplainable symptoms.

The approach used by Watson sounds logical: Given that medical knowledge is doubling every three years, no doctor out can keep up with all the research, and each patient can provide an extremely large amount of individual health data. Watson searches these data and findings for relevance to an individual case in ways that no doctor could.

At least in theory.

In fact, it was mostly a vast deception by IBM. At least, that is what the article indicates, and I agree for reasons explained above.

And while I also think that diagnosing-by-computer may be the future (if Trump does not blow up the world), that future has not arrived yet, and will very probably never arrive for me or my ex, since I am 68 and she is 64.

Thank you, Dutch medical doctors: You ruined our lives, you ruined our chances, you ruined our incomes - and all because nearly every Dutch doctor was constititionally incapable of saying ¨I don´t know¨.


[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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