November 4, 2018

Crisis: On The Jews, Chomsky On Trump, The Film "Rigged", On Russia-gate, Consumer Privacy


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 4, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, November 4, 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 November 4, 2018:
1. They Are Coming for the Jews
2. Noam Chomsky Calls Trump and Republican Allies "Criminally Insane"
3. 'Rigged' Exposes GOP's 10-Year Effort To Sabotage Democracy
4. 33 Trillion More Reasons Why The New York Times Gets it Wrong on

5. Senator's Bill Would Punish CEOs With Up to 20 Years in Jail for Violating
     Consumer Privacy Rules
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. They Are Coming for the Jews

This article is by Jacob Bacharach on Truthdig. It starts as follows

Back in October, which feels like another geologic era, when the continents took different shapes and the animals were strange, New Yorker writer Adam Davidson observed that whether or not Donald Trump knew that his ritualistic invocation of George Soros as the moneybags puppet-master of the global left was anti-Semitic, “Either way, the President is a mouthpiece for vile anti-Semitism.” (At the time, Trump had insinuated that Soros was paying for protests against Brett Kavanaugh.)

Within a matter of minutes, New York Times writer Nick Confessore had replied: “I don’t think attacking things as Soros-funded is de facto anti-Semitic.”

Adam Davidson is Jewish. Nick Confessore is not.

Less than a month later, a man who believes that Soros is the leader of a secret cabal intent on destroying the white race murdered 11 Jews in a synagogue. Two days later, Trump said again, in an interview, that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Soros were funding a so-called migrant caravan.

The administration of the United States is racist and anti-Semitic. People of color and Jews keep saying so, and reporters and pundits keep telling us not necessarily.

I say. Well... let me make a few remarks, and start with two personal ones.

First, Bacharach is Jewish and I do not know whether I am, that is, in some - vague, often misconstrued - "racial" sense.

The reason for my ignorance is that my father seems to have been Jewish, also in some vague, often misconstrued sense, because his mother, although she was fiercely Protestant, seems to have been Jewish (in the sense of having been a child of a Jewish woman), while I have no idea about my mother's Jewishness.

And the reasons for that are that my father's family - who were all fiercely Protestant - had completely broken with him (except for his brother), while I never asked my mother, mostly because I wasn't interested (I knew I was not a Jew in any religious sense, because I was raised atheistically, and I still am) and because her parents were anarchists and atheists.

It's a bit odd, I grant, but I do not stem from a completely ordinary family (with a father, a mother and a grandfather in the real resistance, and a father and a grandfather arrested and sent to German concentration camps).

Then again, I think I can understand Bacharach. Here is some more:

Jews are now relearning what people of color have been yelling from the rooftops for decades. I am not a great fan of the term “gaslighting,” which has insinuated its way into popular discourse in a way I find annoyingly inexact, little more than a broad synonym for simple lying. Nevertheless, it’s a hard word not to reach for when you feel like you’re constantly being told you are crazy. “Coded anti-Semitism” is, I suppose, a new version of “racial language” or “racially charged.”

Even when it is plainly so, the obscene conventions of mainstream journalism require journalists to say possibly not.
As to gaslighting”, see the last link. Here is the ending of this article:
Now, of course, they are coming for Jews, for my people, coming for us again, after we let ourselves be lulled into a comfortable whiteness because they let us join the country club and go to the Ivy League. They are coming to kill us at the incitement of the elected executive of the government of the United States. And even after the deadliest assault on Jews in American history, I am not convinced that anyone is really listening.
Well... some people are listening. And I agree that in the USA Jews have been discriminated for a long time, though the discrimination of the blacks has been worse. This is a recommended article.

2. Noam Chomsky Calls Trump and Republican Allies "Criminally Insane"

This article is by John Horgan on (I think) the blog of Scientific American. It starts as follows:
I don’t really have heroes, but if I did, Noam Chomsky would be at the top of my list. Who else has achieved such lofty scientific and moral standing? Linus Pauling, perhaps, and Einstein. Chomsky’s arguments about the roots of language, which he first set forth in the late 1950s, triggered a revolution in our modern understanding of the mind. Since the 1960s, when he protested the Vietnam War, Chomsky has also been a ferocious political critic, denouncing abuses of power wherever he sees them. Chomsky, who turns 90 on December 7, remains busy. He spent last month in Brazil speaking out against far-right politician Jair Bolsonaro, and he recently discussed the migrant caravan on the radio show “Democracy Now.” Chomsky, whom I first interviewed in 1990 (see my profile here), has had an enormous influence on my scientific and political views. His statement that we may always "learn more about human life and human personality from novels than from scientific psychology” could serve as an epigraph for my most recent book, Mind-Body Problems. Below he responds to my emailed questions with characteristic clarity and force.
In fact, the above is a signed statement - it is signed šJohn Horganš - which is one of the first times that I see this, in journalism. (But it may be a practice on the blog of Scientific American, which I don't know since I visited this only once or twice earlier.)

In any case, the above quoted bit starts the rest of the interview, from which I quote and review some bits. This is the first (and I take this because I am a philosopher and a psychologist):

Do you take seriously the Singularity, the idea that artificial intelligence and other fields will soon radically transform humanity?

One can certainly imagine how, in principle, systems that can detect patterns with massive data processing might find hitherto unknown ways of constructing theories that surpass those within the reach of human intelligence.  And that could have all sorts of effects.  But among the concerns we face, this doesn’t seem to me to rank high.  Even tasks mastered almost reflexively by infants are far beyond the capacities of contemporary AI.

Yes, I completely agree, indeed also to the extent that to my fairly extensive knowledge there is as yet no program of any kind that mirrors spiders or insects more or less fully.

Then there is this:

Why did you recently call the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in world history”?

Take its leader, who recently applied to the government of Ireland for a permit to build a huge wall to protect his golf course, appealing to the threat of global warming, while at the same time he withdrew from international efforts to address the grim threat and is using every means at his disposal to accelerate it.  Or take his colleagues, the participants in the 2016 Republican primaries.  Without exception, they either denied that what is happening is happening – though any ignorance is self-induced – or said maybe it is but we shouldn’t do anything about it.
In brief, let’s rob while the planet burns, putting poor Nero in the shadows.
There have been many monsters in the past, but it would be hard to find one who was dedicated to undermining the prospects for organized human society, not in the distant future -- in order to put a few more dollars in overstuffed pockets.

I more or less agree (and there is considerably more in the original in answer to this question).

Here is more:

Wasn’t Richard Nixon worse than Donald Trump? 

Nixon had a mixed record.  In some respects, he was the last liberal president: OSHA and EPA for example.  On the other hand, he committed terrible crimes.  Arguably the worst was the bombing of rural Cambodia, a proposed article of impeachment but voted down though it was incomparably more important than the others.  And the article was much too weak, focusing on the secrecy.  There has been little attention to the orders that Nixon delivered, relayed to the Pentagon by his faithful servant Henry Kissinger: “A massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves.” It is not easy to find comparable orders for genocide in the archival record.  But all of Nixon’s crimes pale in comparison with the decision to race towards the precipice of environmental catastrophe.

I don't know (and remember Nixon very well) and I also think this is a difficult question to answer, but I agree with Chomsky that the bombing of rural Cambodia was a horrible crime.

And besides, another complicating factor is that I think - as a psychologist - that Trump is insane, whereas Nixon probably was not.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

My students are pretty gloomy about the future. What can I tell them to cheer them up?

Apart from the truly existential threats of nuclear war and global warming – which can be averted – there have been far more difficult challenges in the past than those young people face today, and they have been overcome by dedicated effort and commitment.  The historical record of struggle and achievement gives ample reason to take to heart the slogan that Gramsci made famous: “pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.”

I agree with Gramsci here, but I remain gloomy. And this is a recommended article. 

3. 'Rigged' Exposes GOP's 10-Year Effort To Sabotage Democracy

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
As the GOP's attacks on voting rights continue across the United States—from Georgia to North Dakota and Kansas—and a massive coalition of progressive groups has formed to break the hold that powerful corporate and wealthy interests have on American democratic institutions, the recently released documentary Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook aims to reveal, "in chilling detail, the dark genius behind the ten-year Republican strategy to reverse the rising demographic tide of minority voters."

Filmed during the 2016 election, Rigged was released just ahead of 2018's highly anticipated midterm elections. The documentary sheds light on strategic efforts by members of the Republican Party at all levels of government, in the wake of former President Barack Obama's historic 2008 win, to make it more difficult for Americans—particularly the young and non-white citizens who helped drive Obama's initial presidential victory—to access their constitutional right to vote.

The full documentary can be screened online for free here.
I say. I quite agree that the voting has been rigged in the USA and while I did not see the film "Rigged" it probably is interesting.

Here is more:
Despite the ongoing voter suppression efforts detailed in the new film, reports of "unprecedented" turnout for early voting are generating cautious hope among progressives that this election could lead to victories that enable Democrats to reverse measures such as voter ID laws enacted by Republicans over the past decade. While record numbers of black, Latino, and youth voters already have headed to the polls, voting rights advocates continue to emphasize the importance of getting to the ballot box Tuesday.
The voting advocates are quite right. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
"I hope Rigged sounds an alarm that wakes America up to what we, as a nation, are losing—government by and for the people," said Jeffrey Wright, award-winning actor and narrator of the new film. "The suppression of American voters is something we thought our country had moved past, and yet here we are in the 21st century still engaged in this battle over fundamental rights—a battle that began centuries ago and that Americans gave their lives fighting. This is a story that needs to be told—and heard."
I agree (and remark you need just to rig the vote for 5% to be more or less certain that you will keep winning) and this is a recommended article.
4. 33 Trillion More Reasons Why The New York Times Gets it Wrong on Russia-gate

This article is by Gareth Porter on Consortium News. It starts as follows:
Even more damning evidence has come to light undermining The New York Times‘ assertion in September that Russia used social media to steal the 2016 election for Donald Trump.  

The Times‘ claim last month that Russian Facebook posts reached nearly as many Americans as actually voted in the 2016 election exaggerated the significance of those numbers by a factor of hundreds of millions, as revealed by further evidence from Facebook’s own Congressional testimony.

Th further research into an earlier Consortium News article shows that a relatively paltry 80,000 posts from the private Russian company Internet Research Agency (IRA) were engulfed in literally trillions of posts on Facebook over a two-year period before and after the 2016 vote.

That was supposed to have thrown the election, according to the paper of record. In its 10,000-word article on Sept. 20, the Times reported that 126 million out of 137 million American voters were exposed to social media posts on Facebook from IRA that somehow had a hand in delivering Trump the presidency.
I say, for I did not know most of the above. Then again, I agree (mostly) with Gareth Porter for a long time, and indeed have been saying that the Russians did try some hacking, but that it very probably was pretty insignificant.

This article supports this, and if you want to read more about my opinions, try the indexes from 2016 onwards with "Russian Hacking" and "Russia-gate".

Here is more:
The newspaper failed to tell their readers that Facebook account holders in the United States had been “served” 33 trillion Facebook posts during that same period — 413 million times more than the 80,000 posts from the Russian company.
I say! Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
And now, according to the further research, the odds that Americans saw any of these IRA ads—let alone were influenced by them—are even more astronomical. In his Oct. 2017 testimony, Stretch said that from 2015 to 2017, “Americans using Facebook were exposed to, or ‘served,’ a total of over 33 trillion stories in their News Feeds.”

To put the 33 trillion figure over two years in perspective, the 80,000 Russian-origin Facebook posts represented just .0000000024 of total Facebook content in that time.
I say, again. This is a recommended article.
5. Senator's Bill Would Punish CEOs With Up to 20 Years in Jail for Violating Consumer Privacy Rules

This article is by Jake Johnson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
At the tail end of a year full of egregious data mining scandals and privacy violations by corporate giants like Facebook, Google, and Equifax—behavior that went virtually unpunished in the United States—Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) introduced a bill on Thursday that would dramatically strengthen internet privacy protections and hit executives who violate the rules with up to 20 years in prison.

"Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information—everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy, and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database. But individual Americans know far too little about how their data is collected, how it's used and how it's shared,"  Wyden said in a statement.

"It's time for some sunshine on this shadowy network of information sharing," the Oregon senator added. "My bill creates radical transparency for consumers, gives them new tools to control their information, and backs it up with tough rules with real teeth to punish companies that abuse Americans' most private information."

I say! And I repeat (because I have been saying this for at least six years now), with boldings added:

"Today's economy is a giant vacuum for your personal information—everything you read, everywhere you go, everything you buy, and everyone you talk to is sucked up in a corporation's database"

And not only that, but also in the database of the national security in the USA, and very probably everywhere else.

Here is more:

The government, Wyden notes, has failed to prevent consumers' sensitive information from being "sold and monetized without their knowledge" and refused to empower internet users to "control companies' use and sharing of their data."

According to a summary (pdf) of the new bill released by Wyden's office on Thursday, the legislation would:

  • Establish minimum privacy and cybersecurity standards;
  • Issue steep fines (up to four percent of annual revenue), on the first offense for companies and 10-20 year criminal penalties for senior executives;
  • Create a national Do Not Track system that lets consumers stop third-party companies from tracking them on the web by sharing data, selling data, or targeting advertisements based on their personal information. It permits companies to charge consumers who want to use their products and services, but don't want their information monetized;
  • Give consumers a way to review what personal information a company has about them, learn with whom it has been shared or sold, and to challenge inaccuracies in it;
  • Hire 175 more staff to police the largely unregulated market for private data;
  • Require companies to assess the algorithms that process consumer data to examine their impact on accuracy, fairness, bias, discrimination, privacy, and security.

While Wyden's legislation is likely to run up against strong opposition from tech giants and the lawmakers who do their bidding, consumer advocacy groups applauded the new bill as a crucial first step in the right direction.

Yes, I agree. Then again, I should add that I think it quite unlikely this proposed law will become law, while Wyden does not seem to try to bind the U.S. national security in any way. But I like the idea, although it is very late in my opinion, and this is a strongly 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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