from August 10, 2018
This is a
Nederlog of Friday,
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.
moment and since more than two years
problems with the company that is
supposed to take care that my site is visible 
and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and
I shall continue.
2. Crisis Files
five crisis files
that are mostly well worth reading:
A. Selections from August 10, 2018:
1. Are We All ‘Harmless Torturers’ Now?
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:
2. Psychologists’ Group Maintains Ban on Work at Military
3. Europe, Russia and China Defy Trump on Iran Sanctions
4. On the Ambiguity of "Democracy" in America
5. Beware the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship
We All ‘Harmless Torturers’ Now?
This article is by
Paul Bloom and Matthew Jordan on The New York Times. It starts as
No, I am not. I do
Facebook, I do not use Twitter (and never did, and never will),
I never commented on anything
whatsoever since 1996 (when I first did get internet), and I am also
not a sadist,
while I dislike the anonymity that permits the kind of
sadism Bloom and Jordan describe.
is a dial in front of you, and if you turn it, a stranger who is in
mild pain from being shocked will experience a tiny increase in the
amount of the shock, so slight that he doesn’t even notice it. You turn
it and leave. And then hundreds of people go up to the dial and each
also turns it, so that eventually the victim is screaming in agony.
Did you do anything wrong? Derek Parfit, the influential British philosopher who
died in January 2017, called this the case of the Harmless Torturer.
Parfit first considered a simpler scenario in which a thousand
torturers each turn the dial a thousand times on their own victim. This
is plainly terrible. But then he explores a contrasting case where each
of the torturers turns a dial a thousand times — each turn shocking a
different one of the thousand victims. The end result is the same; a
thousand people in agony. And yet morally it feels different, since
nobody, individually, caused any real harm to any single individual.
But the world has changed
since Parfit published his
scenario in 1986. Today, in 2018, the two authors of this article
are Harmless Torturers, and you — regardless of which side of any
particular issue you are on — probably are one, too.
Also, I have my own site, which I maintain myself, and
totally shut up than accept membership in Facebook or Twitter.
Then again, I probably am part of a small or very small minority, for
the large majority seems to indulge themselves in what I
refuse to do.
When we think of the
savagery of social media, we often think of awful individual behavior —
death threats and rape threats; the release of personal information,
including home addresses and the locations of the victim’s children;
vicious lies; and the like. Harmless Torturers never go that far; we
just like, retweet and add the occasional clever remark. But there are
millions of us, and we’re all turning the dial.
Once again: I am not.
Also, while I am still - and since something like 18 years - a member
of several sites for programmers, I have been only twice a member of
other sites, namely Phoenix Rising and something of which I forgot the
name, and I removed myself from the first in 2010, and was kicked from
the other, a few months later.
What this told me is that I absolutely refuse to communicate
anonymous persons who do not have very good reasons to remain
anonymous, and besides, that I detest having to read through
many pages filled with nothing but stupidities by
(about whom one can get no information whatsoever): I think that is
Finally, there is this bullshit in the
article (and Paul Bloom is a
professor of psychology at Yale, while Jordan is a student of his):
But isn’t this death
by a thousand cuts a good thing? If it were Hitler, wouldn’t you be
right to let him have it? Yes — but the problem is that when we are
infused with moral outrage, acting as part of a crowd and operating in
a virtual world with no fixed system of evaluation, law or justice, all
our enemies are Hitler.
Quite possibly if you
Paul Bloom or Matthew Jordan, but not if you are me.
(And indeed they admit they do or did so, for they say ¨we¨,
includes themselves, logically).
Finally: What is to be done about this anonymous abuse of almost
with a deviating opinion on Facebook and Twitter? Force Facebook and Twitter to admit only non-anonymous
persons with real names - after all, the only ones who have
knowledge of who is offending whom are precisely the victims: Facebook,
Twitter and the secret services know all the real names (but do not
Then again, this is most unlikely to happen, I admit.
Group Maintains Ban on Work at Military Detention Facilities
This article is by
Benedict Carey on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
an escalating debate about the role of psychologists in military
prisons, the American Psychological Association voted on Wednesday to
reject a proposed change in policy that would have allowed members to
treat detainees held at sites that do not comply with international
human rights laws.
proposed change would have reversed a 2015 determination by the
association that prohibited such work, effectively blocking military
psychologists from sites like the military detention facility at
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, maintained by the United States.
decision followed revelations that in the early 2000s the association
had finessed its ethics guidelines so that psychologists could aid
interrogations by suggesting lines of questioning, for example, or
advising when a confrontation had gone too far or not far enough.
Well... I would not have put it like Carey does
would e.g. have said ¨tortures¨ where Carey speaks of ¨interrogations¨)
but this is more or less correct.
Also, two reasons to review this article is that I am
psychologist, and from my ¨education¨ in psychology (with only
A´s in my M.A.), I have also concluded that anyone who has a
¨education¨ as I did is no more capable of helping people in need of
help than anyone else (with an IQ over 115).
Here is some more:
A.P.A. still forbids psychologists from participating in
interrogations. The newly rejected policy change simply would have
permitted psychologists in uniform to provide therapy and counseling to
detainees who asked for it.
association has little direct authority to restrict members’ ability to
practice. But state licensing boards can suspend or revoke a
psychologist’s license for a variety of reasons, including violations
of the ethics code or professional policies.
current policy allows psychologists to work in detainment facilities
deemed in violation of human rights standards only if they represent an
independent organization, like the International Red Cross, or
detainees themselves, not the military.
Again this is not at all how I would have put
above, but I agree with the A.P.A.´s decision to - effectively
its members from helping the American military to torture people.
Here is the last bit I quote from this article:
Well... I know that very few
people except psychologists have much of an - adequate - idea of what
psychology is, so I wonder how almost anybody could have
reasons to trust a psychologist in any special sense for any special
reason (other than prejudice).
of the change saw it as a dangerous retreat on a core ethical issue for
the profession was tainted when some psychologists moved into
interrogation,” and others into torture, said Stephen Soldz, director
of the social justice and human rights program at the Boston Graduate
School of Psychoanalysis.
profession is built on trust,” he added. “How on earth is a detainee
going to have trust when psychologists have been doing and recommending
association’s governing council of representatives voted the proposal
down 105 to 57 after numerous delays and after rejecting a motion to
withdraw the proposal for further discussion.
But in this case I agree with the majority of the A.P.A.
Russia and China Defy Trump on Iran Sanctions
article is by Juan Cole on Truthdig and originally on Informed Comment.
It starts as follows:
A further round of
sanctions by Donald Trump against Iran went into effect Tuesday, but
the president is failing to get buy-in from allies and rivals, who
pledge to keep dealing with Iran.
automakers are flooding into Iran to replace French car companies there.
China has pledged to pay no attention to the Trump threats.
I say, for I did not
know this, and this seems somewhat good news. Here is some more:
This is probably correct.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
European Union has signaled that it may impose substantial
fines on European firms that pull out of Iran deals over fear of
Trump’s unilateral U.S. Treasury Department sanctions.
It is likely that smaller
European companies that trade with Iran but have no relationship with
the U.S. will continue their relationship with the Islamic republic,
using euros and non-U.S. banks. But large firms, such as French oil
giant Total S.A. and Renault, have signaled that they will get out of
Iran to avoid American fines.
Well... in the present
case I agree with ¨Moscow¨. I also think the situation will
change in case Trump (and Pompeo and Bolton) insist on a war with Iran,
but until then it seems to me that the Europeans and the Russians are
doing the right thing. This is a recommended article.
Moscow denounced any
unilateral sanctions that went behind the back of the U.N. Security
Council, especially if they involved third-party sanctions (i.e.,
Russia is upset about the prospect of the U.S. imposing sanctions on
Russian firms investing in Iran, not just on Iran itself).
Russia observed, “The JCPOA
has completely proved its worth and efficiency. The [International
Atomic Energy Agency] regularly confirms that Iran unfailingly honours
its obligations. The Plan’s verification, control and monitoring
measures are being carried out in full. This itself reliably attests to
the peaceful nature of the Iranian nuclear programme.”
Moscow called on the
international community to prevent the U.S. from subverting the
achievements of multilateral diplomacy, and expressed confidence that
the parties to the treaty can keep it in place.”
the Ambiguity of "Democracy" in America
article is by John Wallace on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Well... I agree
Wallace on Madison and Hamilton. Also, since the briefest more or less
adequate definition of what a democracy is is ¨government by the
people¨ (which is almost a straight translation from the original
Greek), I agree there is not much democracy in the present USA,
and indeed not so much because ¨the people¨ do not govern, but
because the elected representatives of the people, for the
stopped listening to ¨the people¨ they represent and instead listen to
their lobbyists, who offer a lot of money for their actual decisions.
In American public
discourse – articulated by public officials, media outlets, and
ordinary citizens of virtually all political stripes – the United
States is called a democracy. However, this attribution is false
and has been so since the foundation of the republic. Many know this,
but many don’t. And the misuse of the term has become unusually,
politically consequential since November, 2016.
Both James Madison and
Alexander Hamilton argued clearly and directly in their briefs in
1787-1788 for making the Constitution the new framework for the
American political order against "democracy," by which they meant the
relatively direct exercise of power by adult white men in the thirteen
states. They wanted a government led by a small number of
representatives, like themselves, to be responsible for lawmaking. They
feared that if the demos was able to exercise political kratos, it
would threaten property rights and act according to passion, not reason.
Here is more about ¨democracy¨ in the USA:
therefore, hobbled “democracy” in ways that had as much to do anxiety
that democracy would challenge established interests as with the
difference in population and size between modern societies and ancient
Athens, the first democracy. To wit: the apportionment of power in the
Senate by states rather than population; the Electoral College; the
pivotal role of the unelected Supreme Court; the exclusion of women and
the tolerance of slavery and second-class citizenship for African
Americans until the mid-1960s (although there are democratic merits to
a quasi-independent judiciary). And then there are the
shenanigans of gerrymandering at the state level, all of which have
I more or less
Wallace, although I do not know what definition he would use
¨democracy¨. Also, I think you should keep in mind that in the 18th
Century, when the USA was created, there was no democracy of any
And here is Wallace on the influence of money (and power) on those who
did get elected as ¨representatives of the people¨ in
the present USA:
And even if we pay
homage to territory and population size and admit the need for
“representative” vs. “direct” democracy, the “representative” function
in the United States is not a filter for democracy in large-scale
societies but more often than not an obstacle to it. This is
because minority interests in civil society are able to manipulate the
political process in their favor – mostly via the unequal distribution
of money and power. Notably but not surprisingly, and especially since
the Civil War, the dangers to the well-being of the nation have not
sprung from “majority factions” but “minority factions” able to capture
the reins of American political power.
Yes, this is more or less
correct. Here is more on Trump:
One man, along with
a minority faction in the public at large and “representative”
majorities in the House and Senate, have been able to take-over the
institutions of American government and wield them in ways that most
thoughtful Americans find appalling. But there is little to be
done about it, even after the November elections, given the
shamelessness and overwhelming self-regard of the current American
president (trumping Nixon). In any democracy worthy of its name, even
in a Parliamentary system, the man would have been booted out. But
there is no assurance that he will leave office before 2020, and one
wonders about the security of American elections.
Yes, I agree. This is from the
It surely is true
that the United States in many ways is a democracy, in terms of many of
its social and cultural habits and the belief of many of its citizens
in the value of political participation. But this kind of
democratic temperament is under siege and on the ropes. For the
American political system is tipped against it.
The problem is that I do
not know what Wallace understands by ¨democracy¨ - which
I agree is a
difficult question to answer well. Anyway, here is one
way in which I
probably agree with Wallace that the USA is - so far - more
than not: The freedom of the press.
Then again, this is freedom is getting less and less by ever
monopolization of the various media, and because the current president
of the USA hates the freedom of the press. And this is a
the Slippery Slope of Facebook Censorship
is by Matt Taibbi on Common Dreams and originally on Rolling Stone. It
starts as follows:
You may have seen a story
this week detailing how Facebook shut down a series of
accounts. As noted by Politico,
Facebook claimed these accounts “sought to inflame social and political
tensions in the United States, and said their activity was similar —
and in some cases connected — to that of Russian accounts during the
does “similar” mean?
The death-pit for civil
liberties is usually found in a combination of fringe/unpopular people
or ideas and a national security emergency.
This is where we are with
this unsettling new confab of Facebook, Congress and the Trump
Yes, I thoroughly
agree: If the asserted ¨similarity¨ of American sites and Russian sites
is sufficient ground to shut the American sites, this sounds more like
(except if you use Wikipedia´s intentionally false
definition) than like anything else, for being merely ¨similar¨ to
sites which the present government dislikes, means in effect that
Facebook or the government can shut down any site.
Here is some more on
sites that were banned by Facebook:
Many of the banned pages
look like parodies of some paranoid bureaucrat’s idea of dangerous
A page called “Black
Elevation” shows a picture of Huey Newton and offers readers a job.
“Aztlan Warriors” contains a meme celebrating the likes of Geronimo and
Zapata, giving thanks for their service in the “the 500 year war
This sounds ridiculous
to me, but the following bit does not sound so at all:
“helped” in its efforts to wipe out these dangerous memes by the
Atlantic Council, on
whose board you’ll find confidence-inspiring names like Henry
Kissinger, former CIA chief Michael Hayden, former acting
CIA head Michael Morell and former Bush-era Homeland Security chief
Michael Chertoff. (The latter is the guy who used to bring you the
terror threat level system.)
These people now have their
hands on what is essentially a direct lever over nationwide news
distribution. It’s hard to understate the potential mischief that lurks
behind this union of Internet platforms and would-be government censors.
If you trust Kissinger
and Hayden, all I can say is that you sound crazy or stupid or
But then there is this:
As noted in
Rolling Stone earlier this year, 70 percent of
Americans get their news from just two sources, Facebook and Google. As
that number rises, the power of just a few people to decide what
information does and does not reach the public will amplify
I say! Well... if this
is true (I do not know, but I fear it is) 7
out of 10 Americans are
for that is what you are if you get your ¨news from just two sources, Facebook and
Here is more that is
The First Amendment, after
all, only addresses the government’s power to restrict speech. It
doesn’t address what Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter can do as
private companies, enforcing their terms of service.
Moreover, there is this major difference between Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter on
one hand, and - say - The New York Times, Truthdig and Common Dreams on
the other hand:
That all changed with
digital media. Way back in 1996, when mastodons roamed the earth and
people used dial-up to connect to the Internet, Congress passed the Communications
Decency Act. It contained the following landmark language:
“No provider or user of an
interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or
speaker of any information provided by another information content
Essentially this meant that
Internet providers wouldn’t be treated like news organizations. In the
eyes of the law, they were less like CBS or Random House than they were
bookstores or newsstands.
The rule allowed platforms
to grow exponentially without the same fear of litigation. Companies
like Facebook and Google became all-powerful media distributors, and
were able to profit from InfoWars-style programs without
having to be liable for them.
last bit that I quote from this fine article:
It is already a scandal
that these de facto private media regulators have secret algorithmic
processes that push down some news organizations in favor of others.
Witness the complaints
by outlets like Alternet, Truthdig and others that
big platforms have been de-emphasizing alternative sites in the name of
combating “fake news.”
But this week’s revelation
is worse. When Facebook works with the government and wannabe
star-chamber organizations like the Atlantic Council to delete sites on
national security grounds, using secret methodology, it opens the door
to nightmare possibilities that you’d find in dystopian novels.
Quite so. And this is a
strongly recommended article.
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.
claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie.
They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.
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
from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).
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 (!!).