August 11, 2018

Crisis: Google Censorship, A Trillion Dollars, Watergate, Haspel, One Question, ME/CFS


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from August 11, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, August 11, 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 11, 2018:
1. Google Censorship Plan Is “Not Right” and “Stupid,” Says Former
     Google Head of Free Expression

2. The Trillion-Dollar Fantasy at the Heart of the Global Economy
3. Why This Watergate Anniversary Says So Much About Donald Trump
4. Cables From Secret CIA Black Site Read Like Gina Haspel's "Torture

5. “What Harm Can There Be in One Little Question?”: How the Horrific
     Grows in Small Steps
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 Censorship Plan Is “Not Right” and “Stupid,” Says Former Google Head of Free Expression

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

Google’s former head of free expression issues in Asia has slammed the internet giant’s plan to launch a censored search engine in China, calling it a stupid move” that would violate widely held human rights principles.

As The Intercept first reported last week, Google has been quietly developing a search platform for China that would remove content that China’s authoritarian government views as sensitive, such as information about political opponents, free speech, democracy, human rights, and peaceful protest. It would “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” at all when people enter certain words or phrases, according to internal Google documents.

Well, in fact I do not know how correct Lokman Tsui (Google’s former head of free expression issues in Asia) is, for the simple reason that I think Google, and Apple, and Microsoft are helping themselves, their own profits, and the secret services from virtually anywhere to acquire full insight into what anyone does on a computer connected to the internet - which in the end will make the whole world totalitarian.

Besides, while I suppose Gallagher correctly reports that ¨internal Google documents¨ show that Google-China will “blacklist sensitive queries” so that “no results will be shown” it is evident that
they leave the rest, such as arresting those who asked these ¨sensitive querie¨ to the Chinese - but Google will find them for the Chinese authorities.

Here is more:

Lokman Tsui, Google’s head of free expression for Asia and the Pacific between 2011 and 2014, read the leaked censorship plans and said he was disturbed by the details. “This is just a really bad idea, a stupid, stupid move,” he told The Intercept in an interview.I feel compelled to speak out and say that this is not right.”

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. Tsui said the situation since 2010 has worsened, with new national security and cybersecurity laws resulting in more government censorship and surveillance of China’s internet.
I can’t see how Google would be able to negotiate any kind of a deal that would be positive. I can’t see a way to operate Google search in China without violating widely held international human rights standards.”
I more or less agree with Tsui - except that (i) I do not know whether this will cost money to Google, and (ii) similar things happen everywhere outside China: If you are on a computer connected with internet, your emails and everything else will be tapped - by most secret services, and by Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook etc.

This is about the past (when Google had less money):
When Google pulled its search engine out of the country in 2010, it was a major rebuke to the Chinese government and its policies. Returning to China and embracing the censorship would send the opposite message, according to Tsui.“Google made a grand statement in 2010. The message was that ‘We care about human rights and we care about free expression, we are the champions of this, we have responsibility, we don’t want to self-censor any more,’” said Tsui. “So for Google to then go back with search — not just any product, but with search — would be giving a green light to every other company.
Yes, I agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
“The current legal environment in China makes it difficult, if not impossible, to operate in a way that would allow Google to protect its users,” said Tsui. “The government would have the legal authority to just seize the data. If it wanted to play hardball, it could raid data centers and grab hard drives. That is the risk.”
Tsui said the app itself could pose more risks from a privacy standpoint than would a desktop version of Google search, because the app may be able to collect other data on people’s devices, such as location data or call records. It wouldn’t be that difficult for the app to keep track of who is searching for what, where, at what time,” he said.
Yes, precisely. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. The Trillion-Dollar Fantasy at the Heart of the Global Economy

This article is by Jacob Bacharach on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
There are approximately 1 trillion stars in the Andromeda Galaxy, one for every dollar in Apple’s current market capitalization. Andromeda is 2.5 million light-years distant from our own Milky Way, however, so by the time any Andromedans read this, Apple will be long gone, melted or drowned like the rest of the artifacts of our Ozymandian civilization.
I guess what I am saying is that this number, 1 trillion, is absurd.

It is also not terribly meaningful, except perhaps as a signpost on the route to the next recession. It is not, for instance, tied to any particular measurement of Apple’s performance as a company. Apple’s total balance-sheet assets are about $375 billion.

I think Bacharach is right - which is to say that Apple is currently vastly overvalued. Here are some of Bacharach´s reasons:
The iPhone is more than a decade old and hasn’t improved meaningfully in several generations. Newer iterations have mostly grown more inconvenient, as Apple has turned its innovative energies to selling dongles and otherwise scamming customers into its proprietary peripherals ecosystem to goose revenues. Its last really good device, the iPod, is dead.
I take it that is correct (but I never used Apple, except briefly around 1980 and in the university, and that was also in the 1980ies, and not my machine, and I also never used iPhone, and do not want such a phone that relays everything I do or say to God knows who).

Here is the basic reason for Bacharach´s opinion:

Rather, its market capitalization, a pure reflection of stock price, is a product of speculation. Oh, sure, institutional investors care about quarterly earnings, but no one is really making bets on new products in the pipeline. They’re just watching pigeons fly like augurs in the ancient world. They are not investing in Apple; they are investing in Apple stock, something between a separate emanation and a magical élan vital.

There are plenty of overvalued companies, and Apple is only the most ridiculous because of the combination of the transcendent hugeness of its valuation and the cultish devotion of its most avid consumers, who respond to the company’s ever-blander aesthetic like John Ruskin swooning over 19th-century Venice.
I think this is correct as well (and I absolutely never liked Steve Jobs, in contrast with Steve Wozniak, who designed the early Apples, with which I worked as well, because a good friend bought an Apple II in 1979).

Here is the final bit I copy from this article:
And we should worry as well because companies like Apple, besides making gadgets, have essentially locked up huge libraries of the cultural patrimony of our era—our music and literature and correspondence and movies and television. What happens if one, or several, of these new for-profit Alexandrias starts to burn?
I take it this is about similar things as Google did, which was - supposedly - to copy all books there are, on computers. I always was against this because I thought and think this was and is Google´s way of factually appropriating all the books there are.

I can also report you that the actual copying Google did was horrible and that the associated texts (.txt) with the original pdfs tend to be horrible and hardly readable messes.

And while I admit I do not know whether Apple shared in this, I do know that I strongly dislike Apple, and indeed always did, after Apple II, that is (in the early 1980ies).

3. Why This Watergate Anniversary Says So Much About Donald Trump

This article is by Matthew Rosza on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This starts as follows:

Forty-four years ago as of today, Richard Nixon resigned from the office of President of the United States.

It's pretty amazing that this fact hasn't been brought up by other major media outlets. Right now America is facing a presidential scandal that bears striking similarities to Watergate, the event that ultimately caused Nixon to leave office in disgrace. On both occasions, the scandal occurred because a Republican presidential candidate — Richard Nixon in 1972, Donald Trump in 2016 — used trickery in the hope that doing so would reveal dirt that could undermine the campaign of their Democratic opponent. To the credit of the Democratic nominee from 1972, George McGovern, Nixon's snoops and scoundrels weren't able to find anything about him, forcing them to resort to distorting his progressive ideology; to the discredit of the Democratic nominee from 2016, Hillary Clinton, there was plenty of dirt to be had on her.

In fact, this is from yesterday (August 10: I am always one day behind, in Nederlog), but otherwise it is quite correct. Here is more:

And now we arrive at the main reason why this Watergate anniversary matters more than the forty-three other Watergate anniversaries which came before it.

By this time in Nixon's presidency, the sins of how he was elected to his then-current term had finished catching up with him. He was already reckoning with near-certain impeachment and, to avoid dragging the nation through that trauma and himself through further anguish, he resigned.
And yet Trump is not only still in office. The prospect that he would be impeached, even if he was guilty, is at best remote.
Yes, I agree. Here is more:
If Trump is guilty of breaking the law, this Congress would happily choose not knowing about it over doing the right thing.

The midterm elections are unlikely to change the dynamic either. Even if Democrats overperform to an unprecedented degree, it will be impossible for them to obtain 67 seats in the United States Senate — and that's the minimum they would have to reach in order to be able to remove Trump from office if the House should choose to impeach him. The situation in the House, by the way, is hardly a sure thing for the Democrats either.
This is also correct, I think. Here is the ending of the article:
Irrelevant, it seems, is the question of whether Trump actually colluded with a hostile foreign power in order to steal documents about his opponents in order to win a presidential election.

If he did that, then the needs of justice require Trump meet the same fate as Nixon. The needs of justice, as we have seen, don't seem to matter that much these days.

No, I am sorry: I completely disagree, and I do because I am interested in the truth and not in journalistic agreements on what they consider ¨relevant¨. And it is the same with justice as with truth.

4. Cables From Secret CIA Black Site Read Like Gina Haspel's "Torture Journaling"

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Government cables reported in the New York Times on Friday "read like torture journaling," critics said after reviewing the "loud noise, sleep deprivation, forced nudity, wall-slamming, and waterboarding" that CIA interrogators used on an al-Qaida suspect in 2002 at a secret prison run by Gina Haspel, whom the Senate confirmed as agency chief in May despite widespread outrage over her torturous record.
Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University—which obtained the 11 top secret cables through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit—explained that as chief of the base at the CIA black site, Haspel would have either written or authorized the cables that outline how the CIA tortured Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who remains imprisoned at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba.
In fact, this is new evidence about Haspel´s past as a torturer. And Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is according to the Wikipedia article on him (see last link):
According to Richard Kammen, Nashiri's chief lawyer, psychiatric expert Sondra Crosby believes Nashiri is "one of the most damaged victims of torture" she has ever examined.
Indeed, he may have been tortured for four years. Here is more:

Nashiri's former attorney Richard Kammen—who quit amid allegations that the U.S. government was spying on the defense team's private meetings with the prisoner—told the Times he hopes the full truth about how agents interrogated Nashiri is revealed before his trial, because "ultimately, the public will be horrified by the level of brutality employed by the CIA."

While human rights advocates vocally protested President Donald Trump's appointment of Haspel to run the CIA earlier this year—as well as the "robust" public relations campaign which some said amounted to "domestic propaganda" ahead of her confirmation—they pointed to these newly released cables as further evidence "that she is totally unfit to lead the agency."

Yes, I totally agree. Here is the ending of the article:

Others highlighted the issue that Haspel, as the CIA's acting director, had final say over what was released during her confirmation process—the National Security Archive's request to obtain the secret cables before the Senate's vote was denied—and emphasized that while it is now "too late" to block her nomination, senators should wait for "all relevant documents" before voting on Trump's highly contested U.S. Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh.

Well... yes. And in any case Gina Haspel tortured, and torturers should not be head of the CIA but be prosecuted. This is a recommended article. 

5. “What Harm Can There Be in One Little Question?”: How the Horrific Grows in Small Steps

This article is by Dianne Monroe on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

He asked that they not answer the question. “What harm can there be in one little question?” his colleagues replied.

He argued with them to no avail. In the end they all answered the question. Within the next four years, over 100,000 people were murdered. Because of that one little question.

The man was L. E. Visser. When Nazi Germany invaded Holland on May 10, 1940, he was President of the High Court of Holland. Visser was also Jewish. The people he argued with so forcefully were his fellow High Court Justices. The question was “are you Aryan or non-Aryan?” It was called the Aryan Attestation.

Well... yes and no, and I am Dutch, and both of my parents and one grandparent were part of the Dutch resistance against the Nazis (and my grandfather was murdered by the Nazis).

In any case: It was not precisely ¨Because of that one little question.¨ There are several complicating factors, and one is that all of the other judges in the Supreme Court were not Jewish, and they all signed the ¨harmless little question¨, and effectively collaborated. Another is that most other Dutch judges and most Dutch policemen did the same. And the final complicating factor is that the heads of the Jewish Council, professor David Cohen and Abraham Asscher, actively cooperated with the SS, and personally with the head of the SS Willy Lages, for their own release and the keeping of their - large amounts - of money, which the SS agreed to, and indeed honored.

But these things indeed are not often mentioned in Holland, indeed in part because something like 90% of the Dutch collaborated with the Nazis, although I should add that there were considerable differences in the motives for collaboration, and quite a few may have felt forced to collaborate.

In October of 1940, the Germans distributed their Aryan Attestation. All Civil Servants were to fill one out within 8 days. People (both Jews and Aryans) discussed and agonized over whether or not to answer. What harm would it do to answer? What were the possible penalties if one refused to answer? What were the possible penalties if one was caught lying?

Visser argued that to make any distinction among Dutch citizens (based on religion or any other reason) was in conflict with Dutch law and tradition – and thus in violation of the German’s promise that Dutch law would be maintained. What might have happened if the entire Dutch High Court had ruled on the Aryan Attestation in this way?
In November the Germans began dismissing all Jewish Civil Servants – including the President of the High Court, L.E. Visser. In January of 1941, all Jews were required to register (including full Jews, half-Jews and quarter-Jews).

From there followed an increasingly onerous series of restrictions, all designed to separate Jews from the larger Dutch population. Jews could not attend school with non-Jews. Jews were barred from public parks, restaurants, hotels, theaters, beaches, swimming pools, concerts, libraries, museums, and more. Eventually all Jews had to wear the yellow Star of David on their clothes.

Yes - but as I said, all Dutch Supreme Court judges except the Jewish Mr. Visser collaborated, as did most Dutch judges. (Indeed, my father and grandfather were convicted as ¨political terrorists¨ in September 1941 to concentration camp imprisonment by collaborating Dutch judges.)

Also, Cohen and Asscher actively helped the Germans in registering all Jews (and half-Jews, and quarter Jews) as Jews, which very much helped the Germans a little later to round up almost every Jew - but Cohen and Asscher did not even have to face any judge (!) after WW II had ended (and 106,000 Jews had been murdered).

And while Visser succumbed to a heart-attack, his wife was sent to Auschwitz in 1942 and murdered.

Anyway... back to the USA and the article:

As I write this article, the Trump regime wants to add one simple question to the census – Are you a US Citizen? What harm can there be in answering this simple question – if you are living here legally? If you are a citizen?

Our government has already ripped children from the arms of their parents, who come asking for asylum in accordance with US and international law. Our government is already deporting legal residents with minor legal blemishes from decades past. Just Google “legal immigrants deported.”

I don´t think anyone should use Google, and indeed I don´t, though I am willing to agree I am one of the few. And one can do the same by using DuckDuckGo, and the results are both interesting and horrible.

Visser and his fellow High Court Justices had achieved stature and power. They were the final arbiters of Dutch law, which the invading Nazi’s had pledged to respect. What might have happened if all the justices had refused to identify themselves as Aryan or non-Aryan, ruling that this question was contrary to Dutch law? How might the flow of history have been changed? How many of the over 100,000 Dutch Jews who perished in the Holocaust might have been saved?

More importantly – how may learning from this history show us ways we can respond today?

Well... as I explained 90% of all Dutchmen, including all Supreme Court judges other than the Jewish Mr. Visser collaborated. Also, while I have no idea whether a different decision of most judges of the Dutch Supreme Court would have made much of a difference, but Cohen´s and Asscher´s assistance with making all Dutch Jews register as Jews made it a whole lot easier for the Germans to arrest most Dutch Jews, prior to murdering them.

Finally, the parallel with the Dutch in 1940-1941 is far from complete: WW II was going on; Holland had been beaten and was occupied by the Germans; the Germans had full power in Holland, and more.

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. This article is by Frank Twisk on MDPI:
My ex and I both have ME/CFS since January 1979. And it turned out in March of 2018 (!!!) that - in effect, but we will never get any restitution - we have been actively discriminated by 90% of the Dutch doctors, and 99% of the Dutch bureaucracy (that insisted until I was 61 that I was ¨fit to work¨).

Also, I have three comments on this article:

First, I agree with it. I think Twisk is quite correct, and the introduction of yet another name for ME/CFS (namely SEID) will help to trivialize the findings that a few doctors did make between 1980 and 2018.

Second, I am probably going considerably further than Twisk, when I say that I discovered soon after returning to Holland in 1977 (from Norway, where I lived and could have studied), that the whole system of Dutch education that had been pretty well from 1865 till 1965 was being completely destroyed - and current medical people get about half of the education doctors did get between 1865 and 1965, for which they have to pay also vast sums.

Third, both my ex and I succeeded - in spite of the fact that we could not follow lectures - in getting very good M.A.s in psychology. Since I am almost 40 years ill without receiving any help, I expect no help whatsoever, and have totally given up on Dutch medicine (other than for things that I know that they know).

I also expect to be dead before any good cure of ME/CFS arises (which may take another 40 years if it is up to Dutch ¨medicine¨ or Dutch ¨medics¨).


[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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail