October 13, 2018

Crisis: Google & China, Henrietta Lacks, Trump & China, Capitalism, On Trump´s Powers


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from October 13, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, October 13, 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 October 13, 2018:
1. Google CEO Says That Censored Chinese Search Engine Could Provide
     “Broad Benefits”

2. Johns Hopkins Names Building After Henrietta Lacks
3. Why Trump Paints China as the New U.S. Enemy
4. Capitalism’s Final Solution Is Nothing Less than Complete Ecological

5. Justifiable Anger Fuels Trump's Hold on Power and Democrats Still Don't
     Seem to Get It
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 CEO Says That Censored Chinese Search Engine Could Provide “Broad Benefits”

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

Google CEO Sundar Pichai has refused to answer a list of questions from U.S. lawmakers about the company’s secretive plan for a censored search engine in China.

In a letter newly obtained by The Intercept, Pichai told a bipartisan group of six senators that Google could have “broad benefits inside and outside of China,” but said he could not share details about the censored search engine because it “remains unclear” whether the company “would or could release a search service” in the country.

Pichai’s letter contradicts the company’s search engine chief, Ben Gomes, who informed staff during a private meeting that the company was aiming to release the platform in China between January and April 2019. Gomes told employees working on the Chinese search engine that they should get it ready to be “brought off the shelf and quickly deployed.”

According to sources and confidential Google documents, the search engine for China, codenamed Dragonfly, was designed to comply with the strict censorship regime imposed by China’s ruling Communist Party. It would restrict people’s access to broad categories of information, blacklisting phrases like “human rights,” “student protest,” and “Nobel Prize.”

The Chinese platform was designed to link people’s searches to their phone number, track their location, and then share that data with a Chinese partner company. This would make it easy to track individual users’ searches, raising concerns that any person in China using Google to seek out information banned by the government could be at risk of interrogation or detention if security agencies were to obtain copies of their search records.

Precisely - and Google´s neofascist Sundar Pichai loves his personal profits (of billions upon billions) so much that he is quite capable of helping the totalitarian Chinese Communist Party to terrorize over a billion Chinese, for that seems to be the shortest adequate explanation.

Or maybe here is a shorter one: Extending my billions, Pichai thinks, is far more important than a decent life for a billion Chinese.

Here is how honest Pichai is:

In his letter to the senators, dated August 31, Pichai did not mention the word “censorship” or address human rights concerns. He told the senators that “providing access to information to people around the world is central to our mission,” and said he believed Google’s tools could “help to facilitate an exchange of information and learning.” The company was committed to “promoting access to information, freedom of expression, and user privacy,” he wrote, while also “respecting the laws of jurisdictions in which we operate.”

That is, Pichai oodles out loads of propaganda without answering any questions.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article

Google launched a censored search engine in China in 2006, but stopped operating the service in the country in 2010, citing Chinese government efforts to limit free speech and hack activists’ Gmail accounts. At that time, Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he was “particularly sensitive to the stifling of individual liberties,” due to his family’s experiences in the Soviet Union. Brin told the Wall Street Journal that “with respect to censorship, with respect to surveillance of dissidents,” he saw “earmarks of totalitarianism [in China], and I find that personally quite troubling.”

But then here is Wikipedia on the honest-and-mega-rich Brin:
Remembering his youth and his family's reasons for leaving the Soviet Union, Brin "agonized over Google's decision to appease the Communist government of China by allowing it to censor search engine results", but in the end he felt that the Chinese people would still be better off having Google available.
Or rather, the honest-and-mega-rich Brin knows that helping to terrorize over a billion of Chinese will make him extra billions. For more, see Censorship in China on Wikipedia. And this is a recommended article.

2. Johns Hopkins Names Building After Henrietta Lacks

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts as follows:
Johns Hopkins University has announced plans to name a new research building after Henrietta Lacks, an African-American woman who permanently changed modern medicine nearly 70 years ago when it was discovered that her cells could live forever. These “immortal cells” have helped scientists produce remedies for numerous diseases, including the first polio vaccine, that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But Lacks’s cells were taken without her consent when she was a patient at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in 1951. For decades, the woman whose cells would transform modern medicine was unknown. Instead, her cells were simply known as “HeLa”—the first two letters of Henrietta Lacks’s first and last name. We speak with Rebecca Skloot, author of the best-selling book “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” and Jeri Lacks Whye, the granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks.
Actually, this article is not properly a part of the crisis series. I wrote on March 10 of this year, in fact referring back to 2013:
I picked this article mostly because of Henrietta Lacks, whom I know of thanks to Adam Curtis´s "Modern Times: The way of all flesh", that I saw in the beginning of 2013, and that impressed me, in part because I thought her name should have been known much better than it is, while it seemed (and seems) to me that an important part of the reasons for the massive ignorance about her has a lot to do with the fact that she was black.
Quite so. And now, 67 years after the death of Henrietta Lacks, at long last her name is being used in the plans to to name a new research building after her.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: This week, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, announced plans to name a new research building after Henrietta Lacks, a former patient of the university hospital who’s become known for her “immortal cells.” Henrietta Lacks was an African-American woman. She permanently changed modern medicine nearly 70 years ago, when it was discovered her cells could live forever. These “immortal cells” have helped scientists produce remedies for numerous diseases, including the first polio vaccine, that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

This is Johns Hopkins University President Ronald Daniels speaking at the ninth annual Henrietta Lacks Memorial Lecture, shortly before announcing the naming of the new building after Henrietta Lacks.

RONALD DANIELS: Now, each year, this day has, of course, been an opportunity afforded us, an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge Henrietta Lacks, who, through her life and through her immortal cells, not only made an immeasurable impact on medical science, but contributed to a profound transformation at our approach to scientific inquiry and ethics and integrity, that must, of course, undergird the entire scientific research enterprise.

AMY GOODMAN: Johns Hopkins says the new Henrietta Lacks campus building will feature courses and activities that promote research ethics and community engagement.

I think that what is quoted by Ronald Daniels is only propaganda, if only because Henrietta Lack´s name has been kept mostly secret - ¨HeLa¨ was the common abbreviation - for something like 60 years.

But here is first Amy Goodman and then Rebecca Skloot explaining how important Lack´s cells were to medical science and more:

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! I want to start with Rebecca, before we talk about the building, to talk about this story, for people to understand how significant Henrietta Lacks’s cells are to the contribution of science, a contribution she did not know she was making at the time.

REBECCA SKLOOT: Yeah, I mean, there isn’t a person out there who hasn’t benefited in numerous ways from the cells. You know, the vaccines that we all get were developed using her cells. They were the first—her genes were some of the first ever sequenced. They went up into space to see what would happen to human cells in zero gravity. In vitro fertilization was developed with the help of her cells. I mean, just the list goes on and on and on.
Quite so. And here is how many of Lack´s cells have been used for science:
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Rebecca Skloot writes, “One scientist estimates that if you could pile all HeLa cells ever grown onto a scale, they’d weigh more than 50 million metric tons—an inconceivable number, given that an individual cell weighs almost nothing. Another scientist calculated that if you could lay all HeLa cells ever grown end-to-end, they’d wrap around the Earth at least three times, spanning more than 350 million feet. In her prime, Henrietta herself stood only a bit over five feet tall.”

There is a lot more in this article, that is recommended (though it has nothing to do with the crisis series).

3. Why Trump Paints China as the New U.S. Enemy

This article is by Sonali Kolhatkar on Truthdig. This starts as follows:

On Sept. 26, 2018, President Donald Trump made an extraordinary accusation against China during his remarks to the United Nations Security Council, saying, “Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration.” He made the claim without offering any evidence, but he did speculate about China’s motivation: “They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”

He added, “We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election.” While Trump’s animosity toward China is long-standing and predates even his presidential campaign, the unsubstantiated claim of election interference is a new low, even for him.

Less than two weeks after Trump accused China, Vice President Mike Pence echoed those claims in a speech to the Hudson Institute, saying, “China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment, leading into the 2020 presidential elections.” He added, “To put it bluntly, President Trump’s leadership is working, and China wants a different American president.”

Replace “China” with “Russia,” and reverse the motivation against Trump being president and these accusations sound an awful lot like the Democrats’ theory that Russia attempted in various ways to help Trump win the 2016 election.
Yes, quite so - and Trump was lying, as usual. Here is more on Trump´s lying:
So far there is no evidence that China has actually attempted to interfere in U.S. elections. The Guardian pointed out that Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said recently: “We currently have no indication that a foreign adversary intends to disrupt our election infrastructure.” Several Democratic senators even wrote a letter to Trump asking him to reveal any evidence he might have justifying such claims. Unsurprisingly, Trump has not responded.
Quite so. Here are some more Trumpian lies:

China is a convenient enemy for Trump. He has waged a trade war against it and has effectively cast Chinese economic might as the reason why his supporters are hurting financially. He tweeted earlier this year that China was being “vicious” and “targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S.”

The idea of China as a bogeyman also plays well into the Trump administration’s rampant racism.
There is a lot more in this article, that is recommended.

4. Capitalism’s Final Solution Is Nothing Less than Complete Ecological Collapse

This article is by Ed Simon on AlterNet and originally on History News Network. This is from near its beginning:
[There was] the Monday release of the United Nations Intergovernmental Report on Climate Change. Authored by 91 scientists, representing 40 countries and based on over 6,000 peer-reviewed scientific studies, the conclusions of the commission are horrifying. According to Coral Davenport at the New York Times the climatologists discovered that if “greenhouse gas emissions continue at the current rate, the atmosphere will warm up by as much as 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit” by 2040, radically earlier than had been thought, meaning that most readers of this article will bear witness to “inundating coastlines and intensifying droughts and poverty.”
In fact, I have already repeatedly referred to the IPCC in Nederlog. I do not know whether the IPCC´s conclusions are correct, but I think they probably mostly are. Also, as a personal aside,
in 2040 I will be 90, which is the reason I probably will not be there then, even though it would be nice to see how the Dutch react: Amsterdam and most of the most important parts of Holland are several yards below sea level. (My own supposition: The Dutch will not react, or will react by propaganda.)

Here is more on the IPCC, that also backs up my own supposition:
Alterations to human behavior which might hasten the worst effects of climate change are technically possible, though the study’s authors doubt such change is politically feasible, as it would require direct action on the part of the industrial economies of the world, something with “no documented historic precedent.” Myles Allen of Oxford University explained that “we need to reverse emissions trends and turn the world economy on a dime” if we’re to stave off an ecological apocalypse which we now understand isn’t centuries in the future, but rather mere decades, if not years.
And I think that ¨the study’s authors¨ are quite right that ¨such change¨ is NOT ¨politically feasible¨.

Here is more:

Only capitalism was able to inaugurate a new geological epoch in the Anthropocene; unique is our dominant ideology’s status in being able to obliterate all of humanity. IPCC Co-Chair Debra Roberts said that the report is a “line in the sand and what it says to our species is that this is the moment and we must act now,” but what should disturb us most is the authors’ accurate alarm at the lack of political will to avert catastrophe. In the United States the coal, oil, and gas industries’ obfuscate, high percentages of Americans believe the lie that climate change is a hoax (while record heat affects the Midwest this October), and the Trump administration trashes the Paris Accords.

Noam Chomsky has said that the Republican “party is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life. There is no historical precedent for such a stand,” with modern fascism directly correlated to the increasing chaos of climate change itself.
Actually, while most of this seems quite correct to me, I disagree with Chomsky: I do not think that the Republican Party (bolding added) ¨is dedicated to racing as rapidly as possible to destruction of organized human life¨. In fact, I think they simply do not believe in the vast majority of climate scientists (and besides care far too much for their own profits).

Here is the last bit of this article that I quote:
This is the nightmare logic of scarcity capitalism, the macabre calculus which is content to let millions of people starve in the third world and that will ultimately exterminate refugees who dare to escape a parched landscape, all so that the economic status quo can be maintained before the process kills us all. The puritanism of corporate eco-individualism which configures environmental protection as simply a matter of driving a Prius or taking short showers is moral contrition or personal branding rather than policy, a quasi-theological sacrifice before the altar of the dying Earth. What’s actually required is a massive, international, eco-socialist mobilization of governments and industries that are responsible for this calamity. Because right now capitalism’s final solution is nothing less than complete ecological collapse.
Yes and no, though mostly yes: I agree that ¨What’s actually required is a massive, international, eco-socialist mobilization of governments and industries that are responsible for this calamity¨ but I mostly disagree that ¨right now capitalism’s final solution is nothing less than complete ecological collapse¨ even though that is were it may end, and I disagree because the Republicans - quite falsely, indeed - refuse to believe in the - quite strong - evidence that there will be an ecological collapse. And this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Justifiable Anger Fuels Trump's Hold on Power and Democrats Still Don't Seem to Get It

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Pundits, progressives and the press seem perplexed by Trumpism.  How can a  narcissistic, fascist, incompetent conman—whose White House seems always on the verge of chaos; whose own appointees fear that he’ll do something so insane that they snatch papers off his desk; whose positions mouth populism while serving the ultra-rich; a man so obviously over his head and out of his league it’s painful to watch—how can this man inspire any support, let alone take over a national party, they ask?
Well, there is a short, simple and mostly quite adequate answer to that, except that most people choose to disbelieve it: It is because the majority of American voters is too stupid and/or too ignorant to reason properly.

Then again Atcheson - whom I respect - does not even consider that possibility. Here is part of Atcheson´s answer:

And now, we see a petulant, entitled, serial liar—a man completely devoid of the temperament and character required to be a Supreme Court Justice; a man accused of several sexual assaults; a partisan who, by ethics, customs, and rights should recuse himself from every case involving politics—sailing through the confirmation process, approved by the majority of men and Republicans despite the fact that he should be impeached from his current position, not elevated to the highest court in the land. The collective headsmacks from the sane in the face of this mass insanity can be heard across the land. 

What gives? How did tribalism trump sanity, reality, reason and patriotism for so many, they ask?

Not because so many Americans are stupid or ignorant. O no:

The answer is simple.  People are either angry or cynical and they’ve a right to be. The angry show up to vote and they vote for nihilists and cranks, and many of the cynical, believing that voting doesn’t matter, stay home.

How did we reach this state of affairs? Simple. We the people have been getting screwed for nearly four decades, and it’s been a bipartisan effort.

O, come on! The majority of Americans do not vote (100 millions) or vote Republican because they are as intelligent as I am but are angry or cynical?! Since the lasty forty years, no less?!

Here is more on the Republicans:

Since Reagan, the share of the nation’s wealth has been steadily moving up the income brackets, with a recent report showing that the top 1 percent of families now earns 25 times what the bottom 99 percent does. And Trump’s tax and other fiscal policies will only exacerbate this, with his tariffs raising prices, and his tax cuts funneling even more money and wealth to corporations and the ultra-rich  at the expense of the rest of us.

And now, straight from their decades-old playbook, Republicans are using the inevitable deficit their tax cuts create to justify gutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, as well as other programs that benefit the poor and middle class.  Historically, instead of confronting the Republican’s tax-cuts-for-the rich con job, Democrats offered “grand bargains” in which they traded away programs designed to assure a decent life.
I think this is mostly quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

But the bottom line is, over the past four decades, both parties have presided over a monumental shift of wealth from the poor and middle class to the very top income brackets, and a transfer of power from we-the-people to corporations, kleptocrats and oligarchs.

The press, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the oligarchy, has failed to tell the story of this systematic theft of our freedoms and our well-being by a cadre of the uber-rich and corporations, so the manipulative and false narratives of blame, scapegoating and tribalism conservatives used to obscure this defacto coup have become a dominant force.

Well... but once again: Would this also have happened if the average American had had an IQ over 130 and some degree in a real science? I think not, and that is what I mean. Even so, 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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