December 6, 2018

Crisis: On Facebook, On Sandberg, On Manafort, On Psychiatry, On Bush Sr.


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from December 6, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, December 6, 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 three 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 December 6, 2018:
1. Facebook Emails Show Its Real Mission: Making Money and Crushing
2. Sheryl Sandberg Needs to Log Off
3. The Media's Manafort Coverage Is a Case Study in Journalistic

4. This psychiatrist explains why we need a 'fitness for duty' exam for all

George H.W. Bush Empowered Atrocity Abroad and Fascists at Home
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. Facebook Emails Show Its Real Mission: Making Money and Crushing Competition

This article is by Kevin Roose on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

British lawmakers on Wednesday gave a gift to every Facebook critic who has argued that the company, while branding itself as a do-gooder enterprise, has actually been acting much like any other profit-seeking behemoth.

That gift was 250 pages’ worth of internal emails, in which Facebook’s executives are shown discussing ways to undermine their competitors, obscure their collection of user data and — above all — ensure that their products kept growing.

The emails, which span 2012 to 2015, were originally sealed as evidence in a lawsuit brought against Facebook by Six4Three, an app developer. They were part of a cache of documents seized by a British parliamentary committee as part of a larger investigation into Facebook’s practices and released to the public on Wednesday.

It should not come as a surprise that Facebook — a giant, for-profit company whose early employees reportedly ended staff meetings by chanting “domination!” — would act in its own interests.

But the internal emails, a rare glimpse into Facebook’s inner workings, show that the image the company promoted for years — as an idealistic enterprise more dedicated to “bringing the world closer together” than increasing its own bottom line — was a carefully cultivated smoke screen.

These emails reveal that in the formative years of Facebook’s growth, the company’s executives were ruthless and unsparing in their ambition to collect more data from users, extract concessions from developers and stamp out possible competitors.

“It shows the degree to which the company knowingly and intentionally prioritized growth at all costs,” said Ashkan Soltani, a privacy researcher and former chief technologist of the Federal Trade Commission.

Yes indeed - and I think Zuckerberg (and Sandberg as well) is one of the greatest and sickest criminals on the internet, for he stole the private mails from over 2 billion users (which was and is a crime for paper mail and should be a crime on the internet as well - and is, in my opinion) and most or all of the rest of their very private information as well. 

Zuckerberg should be in jail, but instead he is making billions upon billions by his dishonesty, his lies, and his postures.

Here is more, but I show only the headlines and not the associated texts:

Here are four revelations from the emails that detail Facebook’s aggressive quest for growth:

1. The company engineered ways to collect Android users’ data without alerting them.
2. Mark Zuckerberg personally approved cutting off a competitor’s data access.
3. Facebook used a privacy app to collect usage data about its competitors.
4. Facebook executives wanted more social sharing, as long as it happened on Facebook.

There is considerably more in the article, which is recommended, and which also has a correct title (for Facebook is interested in ¨making money and crushing the competition¨, and it is not interested in helping to spread true information nor in helping to suppress false information).

2. Sheryl Sandberg Needs to Log Off

This article is by Jacob Bacharach on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

The internet, and social media in particular, has always been far kinder to reactionaries than their insistence they are hemmed in and harassed by omnipotent liberal censors would have you believe. While the Trumpist right has deep roots in the history of American conservativism, there’s no doubt the advent of online has been an enormous boon to the once-lunatic fringe. The sorts of ravings that used to be confined to bar-stool prophets—that terrorists disguised as Guatemalan fieldworkers are sneaking across the border; that mass shootings are false-flag pretexts for gun roundups—are now an indelible part of the mainstream discourse.

The people who run Facebook (and Twitter, for that matter) know their website is full of shit with wild conspiracy theories and scam health and nutrition products—it’s fake news, to coin a phrase. They also don’t care, as long as it drives engagement.

Yes indeed - and see the previous item. Here are two remarks on the above two paragraphs:

The first paragraph is quite correct in fact. My own explanation is mainly that the more than 2 billion users that Facebook gave an htlm-site without their knowing any html are on average even more stupid and/or more ignorant than I thought since the last 50+ years (as you can see not only on Facebook, but from comments everywhere).

In case you disagree, I suggest you may be considerably less intelligent than I am. Besides, with - let´s say - at least a billion intellectual utter incompetents now writing and writing on Facebook and Twitter, both of which plug any bullshit as long as it increases their popularity, which gives Zuckerberg and Sandberg (the second in command on Facebook) ever more private and personal billions, which in turn means that utter bullshit and complete lies now are seriously discussed on many places only because bullshit and lies increase the profits of Zuckerberg and Sandberg.

I think this is very serious but then I also have seen education in Holland more than halved in the past 50 years with hardly anybody protesting (in part because almost every Dutchman that I have known, including nearly all academically educated ones, is much more interested in making money than in acquiring scientific knowledge).

Anyway. Here is more:

Even if its direct “influence-elections-through-posting” aspects are almost certainly overblown, Russiagate has drawn scrutiny to the sheer volume of total and utter crap on social media, to the ubiquitous presence of malicious actors and false advertising, and to a policy of deliberate passivity at the highest echelons of the major firms. Although they have made occasional, desultory efforts to clean up their information environments, the plain truth is that Twitter and Facebook don’t mind—and effectively encourage—the proliferation of the vilest political slanders and most despicable confidence schemes.

Yes indeed (and Bacharach seems reasonably informed about Russiagate): ¨Twitter and Facebook¨ (..) ¨effectively encourage"(..)¨the proliferation of the vilest political slanders and most despicable confidence schemes¨ only because spreading this rot increases the private profits their owner(s) make.

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

In the ensuing backlash, Facebook has pursued a scorched-earth campaign against its enemies, real and perceived. “Facebook,” The New York Times reported in November, “employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters, in part by linking them to the liberal financier George Soros. It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.” We have subsequently learned Sandberg herself ordered her own communications team to research Soros.

Yes - and incidentally, Soros is ¨a Jew¨ in roughly the same sense as Zuckerberg (that is, he has the background but lacks the faith), which should show you that he is blackened by Facebook because he is a liberal or a leftist. There is considerably more in this article, that is recommended.

3. The Media's Manafort Coverage Is a Case Study in Journalistic Malpractice

This article is by Alan MacLeod on Truthdig and originally on FAIR. It starts as follows:
In what has been described as potentially the biggest story of the year, the Guardian’s Luke Harding (11/27/18) reported last week that Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, held a series of secret talks with WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange. These meetings were said to have occurred inside the Ecuadorian embassy between 2013 and 2016. The report also mentions that unspecified “Russians” were also among Assange’s visitors. The scoop, according to the newspaper, could “shed new light” on the role of WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic Party emails in the 2016 presidential election.
Yes indeed - except that (as MacLeod knows and explains) it seems to have been composed out of lies and slander, which again does not amaze me, because I have ceased to trust and to read
Luke Harding for something like four years now: I think he is an evident liar.

Here are part of the reasons Harding was lying (as also explaind by Greenwald: see here):

Furthermore, the Ecuadorian embassy is one of the most surveilled buildings in the most surveilled city in the world, and was under 24-hour police guard and monitoring, costing the UK government over £11 million between 2012 and 2015. The embassy also had very tight internal security, with all visitors thoroughly vetted, required to sign in and leave all their electronic devices with security. Is it really possible any figure, let alone Donald Trump’s campaign manager, could walk in for a series of secret meetings without leaving a record with Ecuador, or being seen by the media or police?

For their part, both Manafort and WikiLeaks have strenuously denied the accusation, with the latter announcing, “This is going to be one of the most infamous news disasters since Stern published the Hitler Diaries.” It also declared it was planning to sue the Guardian, setting up a Go Fund Me appeal to help with legal costs.

The Guardian immediately started to walk back its claims, editing the article a number of times, changing its headline from “Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy” to “Manafort Held Secret Talks With Assange in Ecuadorian Embassy, Sources Say.” It inserted qualifiers, denials and words like “hoax” into the text, quietly changing much of the tense of the report to the conditional. Thus, the passage “It is unclear why Manafort wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last meeting is likely to come under scrutiny” was changed to (emphasis added) “It is unclear why Manafort would have wanted to see Assange and what was discussed. But the last apparent meeting is likely to come under scrutiny.” Thus a piece that started as a factual news report was transformed into an allegation—after it went viral and was picked up across international media.

Yes indeed - and please mind that ¨Sources Say¨ aliens have landed and 2+2=22 as well, while you can save almost any lie while continuing to spread them with ¨would have¨ and ¨Sources Say¨ and ¨apparent¨ instead of ¨have¨, named sources, and without ¨apparent¨.

Here is more (and I like it that this writer seems to use bolding more or less as I do, though that is quite incidental):

Harding also has an ongoing and bitter feud with Assange. (He wrote a highly critical biography of the WikiLeaks editor that was subsequently turned into the movie, The Fifth Estate, which Assange described as a “massive propaganda attack” on him.)

He also has a history of publishing deeply inflammatory claims without being able to back them up. His book, Collusion, on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election was a New York Times No. 1 bestseller, and yet he could not give any evidence of collusion when asked in a now-infamous interview with Aaron Maté of The Real News, unable to defend even the title of his book, let alone his thesis. After being pressed harder by Maté, he simply disconnected the interview prematurely.

Therefore, Occam’s razor suggests the most logical explanation is likely that the Guardian published anonymous official sources without checking their claims’ validity.

Quite possibly so, although I certainly do not exclude that The Guardian published what it did not because they are interested in the truth, but because they are interested in spreading the lies their Blatcherist editor likes (but indeed I have no proof, apart from the fact that Luke Harding is an obvious liar in my eyes since 2014, which I think his editor(s) should have seen as well).

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

Unfortunately, the use of anonymous officials in reporting is increasing, and is a worrying trend in modern journalism, as the veteran reporter Robert Fisk once explained:

I’m just looking at a copy of the Toronto Globe and Mail. It’s a story about Al Qaeda in Algeria. And what is the sourcing? “US intelligence officials said,” “a senior US intelligence official said,” “US officials said,” ‘the intelligence official said,” “Algerian officials say,” “national security sources considered,” “European security sources said”…. We might as well name our newspapers “Officials Say.” This is the cancer at the bottom of modern journalism, that we do not challenge power anymore. Why are Americans tolerating these garbage stories with no real sourcing except for very dodgy characters indeed, who won’t give their names?

In this way, anonymous state officials can influence and drive media narratives without even needed to have their name associated with a claim. However, we appear to be entering a new era where unnamed state officials not only influence, but actually write the news themselves (..)
Yes indeed. There is considerably more in this article, that is strongly recommended.

4. This psychiatrist explains why we need a 'fitness for duty' exam for all

This article is by Bandy X. Lee on AlterNet and originally on The Conversation. It starts as follows:

Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency, mental health professionals have come forth in historically unprecedented ways to warn against entrusting the U.S. presidency to someone who exhibits what we have called his “dangerous” signs.

The observed signs have included “grandiosity, impulsivity, hypersensitivity to slights or criticism, and an apparent inability to distinguish between fantasy and reality.”

As a psychiatrist and expert on violence, I worked with my colleagues to put our observations into a book, “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President,” responding to the hunger for understanding on the part of the public.

I was never interested in domestic partisan politics until it coincided with my concerns for public safety as a violence scholar. As a scientist and physician, my training leads naturally to making conclusions that are based not on ideology or personal preference, but on research evidence and medical needs.

Well... I agree that Trump is insane and that something like a fitness for duty exam may be helpful, but I mostly disagree with the rest, and my reasons are those of a philosopher of science, who says that psychiatry is not a science but a pseudoscience, and as a psychologist, who agrees.

Besides, at least in Holland it seems as if the medical expertise of psychiatrists seems to be limited to a bachelor degree in medicine.

Here is something about a test for fitness:

All American military personnel must pass a fitness for duty exam before they serve. Further, those who handle nuclear weapons undergo an especially rigorous screening process that is updated every year.

That United States commanders-in-chief are not put to the same test before they are allowed to lead the troops or to order the use of nuclear weapons is, I believe, a serious omission.

Well... yes, although I should add, I think, that it seems these fitness for duty exams did not preclude serious malfeasance. (But yes, I agree that some sort of test for fitness for dealing with nuclear weapons seems required.)

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

I have been asked to comment on the applicability of the 25th Amendment to Trump in multiple forums, including to members of Congress.

As a forensic psychiatrist, it is of utmost importance that I make the boundaries of my expertise clear. I should not comment outside my area, but within my expertise, I can speak authoritatively.

The removal of a president because of inability is ultimately a political decision, but politicians and the public would to well to proceed in an informed manner.

Disability, incompetence and unfitness are legal and not mental health concepts. Yet no court of law would consider making these determinations without input from medical experts.

No, I am sorry: Psychiatry is for the most part an utter pseudoscience (and I am a psychologist and a philosopher who certainly knows more from philosophy science than Lee does). Also, I do  not think that persons with only a bachelor degree in ¨medical science¨ are valid medical scientists (but I do not know whether this applies to Lee).

Anyway... I agree with psychiatrists who say that Trump is insane not because they are medical experts (and most psychiatrists I have known were not ¨medical experts¨, although they did not object to being regarded as such), and also not because they are psychiatrists (for I don´t think psychiatry is a science: it is a pseudoscience, which is well explained here: DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"), but because the test they use for judging whether someone is or is not a narcissist is based on observational criterions, and because I more or less agree with the criterions because I could verify them.

That is the extent of my agreeing with ¨psychiatrists¨ - which I agree is small, as should be obvious once you know that my ex (also a psychologist) and I have been discriminated by psychiatrists for forty years for having ME/CFS, which they did insist was not a real disease, but a form of madness - that is (in Holland) until March 2018, when at long last it was admitted my ex and I and some 30.000 to 40.000 other persons with ME/CFS have ¨a serious chronic disease¨.

5. George H.W. Bush Empowered Atrocity Abroad and Fascists at Home

This article is by William Rivers Pitt on Truthout. It starts as follows:
The television spent the entire weekend reminding me that George Herbert Walker Bush loved his country, his wife, his children, his grandchildren, his great-grandchildren, his dog, the city of Houston, the town of Kennebunkport, baseball, football, golf and so very much else besides.

Our 41st US president, the talking heads assured me, was a veritable ocean of love. The newspaper folks did their part to paint this picture, as well; stealing a leaf from Jesus of Nazareth over the weekend, Bush Sr. died and rose again on the warm updraft of early 1990s B-roll footage and gushing headlines from all corners of the country.

Yes indeed: I had similar experiences, even though I don´t live in the USA and I also don´t have a TV since 1970 (and will never have one).

In fact, I picked this article because it is quite sensible on Bush Sr. Here is more:

The hagiography festival made a particularly grand to-do about the fact that George H.W. Bush was president when the Cold War ended. What the glowing obituaries obscured, however, was that Bush Sr. was a Cold Warrior of the first order, actively involved in a number of genuine atrocities that spanned the globe.

Most of Bush Sr.’s biography has been well documented for good and ill, but his time at the helm of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is seldom discussed in this hemisphere. He spent only a year in that job, but it was one of the bloodiest years South America has ever known. Fifteen years later, he personally, if inadvertently, opened the door for the proto-fascist takeover of his own party. Those two tales, combined with some other dark chapters of Bush Sr.’s life, frame a career in power and politics that did damage most everywhere it went.

Quite so. And here is more:

Documents that were recently declassified reveal that the “Dirty War” in Argentina, the Augusto Pinochet regime in Chile, Alfredo Stoessner’s dictatorship in Paraguay and other atrocities across the continent were actively supported by the US government. Thousands of leftist peasants, union leaders, teachers, students, priests, and nuns were slaughtered, imprisoned and tortured, and George Herbert Walker Bush went to work every day at CIA headquarters to make sure it happened.

Again quite so. There is considerably more in this article, which is strongly recommended.

[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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