This is a
Nederlog of Saturday,
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.
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:
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. The
American Economy Is Rigged
This article is by Joseph
Stiglitz on Scientific American. This is from near its beginning:
The notion of the American
Dream—that, unlike old Europe, we are a land of opportunity—is part of
our essence. Yet the numbers say otherwise. The life prospects of a
young American depend more on the income and education of his or her
parents than in almost any other advanced country. When
poor-boy-makes- good anecdotes get passed around in the media, that is
precisely because such stories are so rare.
Things appear to be getting
worse, partly as a result of forces, such as technology and
globalization, that seem beyond our control, but most disturbingly
because of those within our command. It is not the laws of nature that
have led to this dire situation: it is the laws of humankind. Markets
do not exist in a vacuum: they are shaped by rules and regulations,
which can be designed to favor one group over another. President Donald
Trump was right in saying that the system is rigged—by those in the
inherited plutocracy of which he himself is a member. And he is making
it much, much worse.
Yes, quite so.
Also, this is quoted from a fairly long article in the Scientific
American, while I will quote only from the beginning.
Here is more:
America has long
others in its level of inequality, but in the past 40 years it has
reached new heights. Whereas the income share of the top 0.1 percent
has more than quadrupled and that of the top 1 percent has almost
doubled, that of the bottom 90 percent has declined. Wages at the
bottom, adjusted for inflation, are about the same as they were some 60
years ago! In fact, for those with a high school education or less,
incomes have fallen over recent decades. Males have been particularly
hard hit, as the U.S. has moved away from manufacturing industries into
an economy based on services.
Again quite so -
and here is part of a graphic that quite clearly explains this:
Clicking on the graphic
will lead you to the article
Here is more on
what happens since the mid-1970s (according to Stiglitz):
Since the mid-1970s the
rules of the economic game have been rewritten,
both globally and nationally, in ways that advantage the rich and
disadvantage the rest. And they have been rewritten further in this
perverse direction in the U.S. than in other developed countries—even
though the rules in the U.S. were already less favorable to workers.
From this perspective, increasing inequality is a matter of choice: a
consequence of our policies, laws and regulations.
In the U.S., the market power
of large corporations, which was greater than in most other advanced
countries to begin with, has increased even more than elsewhere. On the
other hand, the market power of workers, which started out less than in
most other advanced countries, has fallen further than elsewhere. This
is not only because of the shift to a service-sector economy—it is
because of the rigged rules of the game, rules set in a political
system that is itself rigged through gerrymandering, voter suppression
and the influence of money. A vicious spiral has formed: economic
inequality translates into political inequality, which leads to rules
that favor the wealthy, which in turn reinforces economic inequality.
Quite so, again. Here is
the last bit that I quote:
Rigged rules also
the impact of globalization may have been worse in the U.S. A concerted
attack on unions has almost halved the fraction of unionized workers in
the nation, to about 11 percent. (In Scandinavia, it is roughly 70
percent.) Weaker unions provide workers less protection against the
efforts of firms to drive down wages or worsen working conditions.
Yes indeed. I agree with
all of this, and do so since a long time, and have written so
in Nederlog, but one reason to quote this is that Stiglitz is a really prominent economist,
whle Scientific American is a really prominent science monthly.
There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.
Scientists aren’t sure how
long it takes for plastic to fully biodegrade—estimates range from 450
years to never, National Geographic reported in its June
issue, which is devoted to the mounting plastic pollution problem.
But we know enough to know that the staggering 9.2
billion metric tons of plastic produced since the 1950s isn’t going
anywhere anytime soon. At this rate, our oceans will contain
more plastic than fish by 2050.
This is from the
beginning of a quite long and quite good article on plastics,
and again I will be quoting only from its beginning because the
article is too long to properly excerpt.
Here is more:
Many now consider ocean
plastic pollution an existential threat on par with climate change, but
it seems like it should be an easy one to fix. Plastic is recyclable,
after all, so why can’t we just recycle it? It turns out it’s not as
simple as it sounds.
Around two-thirds of the
plastic that enters the ocean from rivers is carried by only 20
majority of which are on the Asian continent, where access to waste
collection and recycling is often limited. Even in countries with
established waste management infrastructure, the picture remains bleak:
than 10 percent of the plastic used in the United States is
recycled, according to the most recent Environmental Protection Agency
Quite so, and here
is the last bit that I quote from this article:
To make matters worse,
fluctuating demand for recycled material and consumer confusion about
what is recyclable make it harder for US collection programs to remain
economical. If nothing changes, municipal recycling programs across the
country may be forced to scale back or even shut down—hastening our
collision course with a new paradigm defined by toxic seas.
This grim reality begs the
question: How can developing markets—which now produce roughly half of
the world’s plastic—hope to establish effective recycling
infrastructures if countries like the US are still unable to get it
right? What’s holding us back from recycling more plastic, and what can
we do to save our oceans before it’s too late?
is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
In 2016 and 2017, media
companies were convinced video content was the wave of the future.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told BuzzFeed News, “We’re entering this
new golden age of video.” Facebook’s vice president for Europe, Nicola
Mendelsohn, concurred, telling a panel at a Fortune conference in 2016:
“We’re seeing a massive increase, as I’ve said, on both pictures and
video. So I think, yeah, if I was having a bet, I would say: Video,
Companies acted accordingly.
Barely two years after hiring multiple writers and editors to focus on
long-form written content, MTV News laid
off many of those much-heralded staffers, saying that while it
was proud of its long-form content, the company was “shifting resources
into short-form video content more in line with young people’s media
Well... I do not own a TV since 1970, and have seen less
TV than almost anybody else who lives in Europe or the United States.
Moreover, my reasons to avoid TV are not religious nor
moral, but are mostly intellectual: I did see TV regularly from
1963 till 1970, but found almost all programs solidly boring,
whereas it was quite clear to me that I had learned hardly anything
from TV in 7 years of regular viewing. This is why I decided to
stop watching TV, for I wanted to do science much rather than be amused
(and that is still the case, nearly 50 years later).
And videos - such as I can see on Youtube, at least - are very
much like TV. Besides, the stress on video strongly corresponds to a
major trend I first saw in Dutch high school and then in a Dutch
university: Everything that
relates to the intellect - schools, universities, reading habits,
intellectual interests, science - has been dumbed
down in major ways
since 1965 (in Holland).
Indeed ¨the new generation¨ seems to read much less than my
generation, and to view more videos (on TV and elsewhere, like
Youtube), which means that - in my opinion, which can be
well-founded but I shall skip that here and now - that the average is less
intelligent than my generation.
And one may ask a quite relevant question about this whole development
of less schooling and less education: To what
extent was this done on purpose?
I shall not answer my question here, but move on to Facebook,
that now is faced by a lawsuit:
A new lawsuit filed this
week by a group of advertisers in California, however, claims that
Facebook knew for years that its data on video was faulty, and, as
Laura Hazard Owen reports in NiemanLab,
“[the lawsuit] argues that Facebook had known about the discrepancy for
at least a year—and behaved
fraudulently by failing
to disclose it.”
Owen reports that the signs
were there even before the layoffs, and quotes a Wall Street Journal
piece from 2016 that said Facebook “vastly overestimated average
viewing time for video ads on its platform for two years by as much as
60 to 80 percent.”
I think this was intentional
on Facebook´s part, although the reasons for this intention may be
Here is more on the
suit against Facebook:
“The suit alleges,” Owens
goes on to explain, “that there was a long lag between the time that
the engineers realized the metrics were faulty and the time that
Facebook corrected them, due to understaffing on the engineering team,”
and, as the suit itself notes:
Even once Facebook
decided to correct the false metrics, it chose not to do so
immediately. Instead, Facebook chose to continue disseminating false
metrics for several more months while it developed and deployed a ‘no
PR’ strategy designed to ‘obfuscate the fact that we screwed up the
math.’ All the while, Facebook continued to reap the benefits from the
And here is more by Laura
What does seem clear now
is that Facebook’s executives’ statements about video should not have
been a factor in news publishers’ decisions to lay off their editorial
staffs. But it’s hard not to conclude that publishers heard that
rhapsodizing about the future and assumed that Facebook knew better
than they did, that Facebook’s data must be more accurate than their
own data was, that Facebook was perceiving something that they could
not. That their own eyes were wrong.
Read Owen’s analysis,
including excerpts from the court documents, here.
is by Michael Brenner on Consortium News. This starts as follows:
A convention of
professional specialists is always revelatory – if not always
intellectually edifying. This is especially true of academic
disciplines in the Liberal Arts. It is a species of social institution
that bears its American birthmark. Now spread throughout the developed
world, it was born in the United States and evolved into its present
form in the post-war decades.
Those were years of earnest
endeavor, an optimistic belief in collective uplift, and abundance of
just about everything. The distinguishing features inherited from that
era are still evident, however qualified by rampant self-promotion,
commercialization and sheer size.
I was reminded of all this by
attending a few sessions of the American Psychological Association
meetings in San Francisco in August. It had been years since I last was
at one of these shindigs. My experience had been mainly with the
American Political Science Association, but the differences are
insignificant. Indeed, the subject matter within the social sciences
I review this article
because I am a psychologist with an extremely good degree who does not
believe psychology is a real science. Again, I shall not
try here and now to make the last statement credible, but I can refer
you to one who does: See Psychology
and Neuroscience by Paul Lutus. (And I do not agree with everything
in it, but leave this also out of consideration.)
And I do not know to what extent Michael Brenner agrees with
me, but he is not a psychologist but a political scientist.
First, here is more about the APA (the American Psychological
Association) and this is in fact a bit of recent history:
missed the main event which occurred on the eve of the convention as
the APA was roiled once again by the aftershocks from the scandal that
arose over the organization’s direct participation in counseling the
CIA and the Pentagon on interrogation techniques. Those included
techniques employed at Guantanamo and the ‘black sites’ scattered
around the globe. Some members had gotten their hands very dirty. The
association’s Executive Council had cashed some rather large government
checks, cast a veil over these dubious dealings, and met accusations
with a barrage of lies – for more than a decade. Skullduggery became
the order of the times.
Rebellious members eventually
mounted a protest that set off something approximating a civil war. It
seemingly was settled in favor of the insurgents when an impartial
investigation was reluctantly agreed by the defendants. Chicago
attorney David H. Hoffman was named to conduct the review. On July 2,
2015, a 542-page report was issued. Its conclusions were that the old
leadership did indeed sin, that it had violated the APA’s own
guidelines (Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct),
that it had been systematically deceitful, and had engaged in a
Quite so. Also, in 2018
the APA tried to turn this back, but lost again to a majority
of ¨rebellious members¨, that is, people who take torture seriously and
do not like to participate in it.
Here is Brenner´s judgement on the social sciences (that
professional associations, including academic ones, are extremely
permeable to whatever is going on in the popular culture. Their elite
self-image of superiority notwithstanding, they are susceptible to high
profile doings out there in the world where the masses play. Their
disciplines, at the same time, place high value on theory, on modeling,
on quantitative analysis – but in ways that are largely disengaged from
the real world of experience. Hence, the social science disciplines are
divided in an unhealthy way. The same holds for economics and – to
somewhat lesser extent – political science.
The academic disciplines of the social sciences are undisciplined.
Scholars are free to write with only selective reference to what has
been said about their topic of interest by others in the past. In
addition, empirical ‘data’ is screened. It’s like conversation and
public discussion – the stress is on affirmation rather than
communication and building collective understanding.
These traits are powerfully reinforced by a reward system that pays
near zero attention to these shortcomings, values quantity of
publication and grants over quality, and encourages self-promotion.
From the vantage point of the hard sciences, this looks like parody. To
a considerable extent it is.
It is a powerful
description of press freedom and the crucial role of the press in a
Here Jefferson sees the
press as “censors”
in the ancient Roman sense: They guard against the abuse of public
authority. And according to a recent USC Dornsife/LA Times Poll,
today’s Americans agree with this Jeffersonian ideal.
reject government restrictions on the press. At the same time and in
ways that reflect our nation’s fragmentation, they are divided about
the sincerity and the impact, even the potentially dangerous impact, of
Trump’s assault on the press.
I say, for I did not
know this. In fact, this is a positive article, so to speak, which
happens to be a rare event in Nederlog these days.
Here is more, for the
above quotation was based on research:
First, the survey elicited
a response that will gratify the news media. We asked survey
respondents to choose between two statements:
“News organizations should
have the freedom to publish or broadcast any stories they choose,
except in very limited cases on topics such as national security” and
“Government officials should have broad authority to limit the
information that news organizations publish or broadcast.”
A mega-majority of
respondents – 85 percent – chose the first statement, including 81
percent of those who describe themselves as tending to agree with
The view that government
should exercise authority over the news media commanded minimal assent
– just 15 percent. And that 15 percent was dominated by groups
who form Trump’s core support: primarily white, male, less educated
and living in rural or suburban locations.
I say, once more, for I
think that is a quite positive result, and 85 percent is higher
than I expected.
Here is more, for there
were other questions in the research:
characterization of the media as “enemies of the people” is at war with
that conception – and the research shows that the Trump assault is
having a corrosive effect.
We were interested in
finding out to what extent the public assumes the president himself
believes that parts of the press are enemies of the people. Or did they
think the president is merely expressing frustration about his own
press coverage – in essence, blowing off steam.
Overall, the public split
55 percent to 45 percent, with the majority thinking the president was
This is less
positive and also less precisely stated, but I report it. Here
is a last result:
In a separate question in
our poll, the public also divided between 44 percent who believe
Trump’s remarks are harmless and 56 percent who believe Trump’s remarks
are dangerous with a potential to incite violence.
I agree with the 56
percent, as would Thomas Jefferson have done - but I think 56 percent
is quite low, unfortunately. Anyway, this is a recommended
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 (!!).