from December 28, 2018
This is a
Nederlog of Friday,
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 three 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:
A. Selections from December 28, 2018:
1. The Inevitability of Impeachment
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:
2. 5 Takeaways From Facebook’s Leaked
3. Extinction Rates Could Be 10 Times Worse Than We Thought
4. The Party of Ideas
5. The DNC Is Putting Its Thumb in the Right Direction
Inevitability of Impeachment
This article is by Elizabeth
Drew on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
Perhaps, though I do not know.
(But I believe there is enough evidence to impeach Trump).
impeachment process against President Trump now seems inescapable. Unless the president resigns,
the pressure by the public on the Democratic leaders to begin an
impeachment process next year will only increase. Too many people think
in terms of stasis: How things are is how they will remain. They don’t
take into account that opinion moves with events.
or not there’s already enough evidence to impeach Mr. Trump — I think
there is — we will learn what the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has
found, even if his investigation is cut short. A significant number of
Republican candidates didn’t want to run with Mr. Trump in the midterms, and
the results of those elections didn’t exactly strengthen his standing
within his party. His political status, weak for some time, is now
Here is some more:
The midterms were
followed by new revelations in criminal investigations of once-close
advisers as well as new scandals involving Mr. Trump himself. The odor
of personal corruption on the president’s part — perhaps affecting his
foreign policy — grew stronger. Then the events of the past several
days — the president’s precipitous decision to pull American troops out
of Syria, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s abrupt resignation, the
swoon in the stock market, the pointless shutdown of parts of the
government — instilled a new sense of alarm among many Republicans.
Yes, this is all correct,
although it also seems to me that most ordinary people seem to
forget what happened to politicians quite soon.
The word “impeachment” has
been thrown around with abandon. The frivolous impeachment of President
Bill Clinton helped to define it as a form of political revenge. But it
is far more important and serious than that: It has a critical role in
the functioning of our democracy.
Impeachment was the founders’
method of holding a president accountable between elections. Determined
to avoid setting up a king in all but name, they put the decision about
whether a president should be allowed to continue to serve in the hands
of the representatives of the people who elected him.
Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
Yes indeed, although I am not
certain whether "the
would convict Trump, although I agree they may. This is a recommended
in all the discussion about possible lawbreaking by Mr. Trump is the
fact that impeachment wasn’t intended only for crimes. For example, in
1974 the House Judiciary Committee charged Richard
Nixon with, among other things, abusing power by using the I.R.S.
against his political enemies. The committee also held the president
accountable for misdeeds by his aides and for failing to honor the oath
of office’s pledge that a president must “take care that the laws be
current presidential crisis seems to have only two possible outcomes.
If Mr. Trump sees criminal charges coming at him and members of his
family, he may feel trapped. This would leave him the choice of
resigning or trying to fight congressional removal. But the latter is
don’t share the conventional view that if Mr. Trump is impeached by the
House, the Republican-dominated Senate would never muster the necessary
67 votes to convict him.
Takeaways From Facebook’s Leaked Moderation Documents
This article is by
Aodhan Beirne on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
In fact, I kept the
reference to Max Fisher's report in my review because my readers may be
interested in it.
Sometimes an emoji is just an
emoji. Sometimes it may be a threat.
And with only a few seconds
to spare, Facebook moderators have to make the call — even if the text
that accompanies the laughing yellow face is in an unfamiliar language.
To help with those decisions,
Facebook has created a list of guidelines for what its two billion
users should be allowed to say. The rules, which are regularly updated,
are then given to its moderators.
For Facebook, the goal is
clarity. But for the thousands of moderators across the world, faced
with navigating this byzantine maze of rules as they monitor billions
of posts per day in over 100 languages, clarity is hard to come by.
Facebook keeps its rulebooks
and their existence largely secret. But The New York Times acquired
1,400 pages from these guidelines, and found problems not just in how
the rules are drafted but in the way the moderation itself is done.
title="">You can read the report by
Max Fisher here.]
Here are five takeaways from
Here is the first takeaway - and "(...)" indicates where I made cuts:
Yes, this seems to be
correct - and it is my guess that the "young lawyers and engineers" will almost always make those
choices that they think will serve Facebook and Facebook's profits.
Facebook is experimenting
on the fly.
rules are discussed over breakfast every other Tuesday in a conference
room in Menlo Park, Calif. — far from the social unrest that Facebook
has been accused of accelerating.
the company does consult outside groups, the rules are set largely by
young lawyers and engineers, most of whom have no experience in the
regions of the world they are making decisions about. (...)
Here is more:
The rules contain
biases, gaps and errors. (...)
The moderators feel
outsources moderation to companies that hire the thousands of workers
who enforce the rules. In some of these offices, moderators say they
are expected to review many posts within eight to 10 seconds. The work
can be so demanding that many moderators only last a few months. (...)
I removed all the
comments on the second takeaway, in
part because it seems very obvious to me anyway, and in part because I
do not trust Facebook anyway.
Also, eight to ten
seconds is far too little
for a rational judgement on almost any posty, I'd say. (But
again: I don't think Zuckerberg is interested in rational
Here is some more:
Facebook is edging into
is growing more assertive about barring groups and people, as well as
types of speech, that it believes could lead to violence.
countries where the line between extremism and mainstream politics is
blurry, the social network’s power to ban some groups and not others
means that it is, in essence, helping pick political winners and losers.(...)
Yes, I think that is
correct. And besides, there are
two other points:
would the police and the military of
a country be admitted to use violence, but other groups not? I think
this is a quite relevant question, but I will not try to deepen it in
And second, why
would anyone want to be
censored by an organization while the internet at large is not
censored at all except by courts? Especially if that
organization keeps the rules by which it censors people private and
Again, I will not go
deeper with more questions. Here
is the last of the five takeaways Beirne mentioned:
Facebook is taking a
Actually, I think this
point is formulated wrongly: What Facebook is taking is an approach
and Facebook's profits, while also trying to extend the number of its
members - and it does so all with rules it brags about but keeps
Anyway. This is a
Rates Could Be 10 Times Worse Than We Thought
is by Tim Radford on Truthdig and originally on Climate News Network.
It starts as follows:
I say. And while I do not know whether
correct, the key notion these scientists use is one that was very clear
to me in 1972, when I first read about "ecology"/"the
environment"/"climate change" - I am listing some alternatives, mostly
because I am happy with none - namely the idea of feedback (with
which I was then also much interested in, for completely
Two scientists want the
world to think again about the extinction toll, the rate at which
species could vanish as the planet warms. They warn that the
worst fears so far may have been based on underestimates.
Tomorrow’s rates of extinction could be 10 times worse.
That is because the loss of
one or two key species could turn into a cascade that could spell the
end for whole ecosystems. “Primary extinctions driven by environmental
change could be just the tip of an enormous extinction iceberg,” they
In their study, long before
the complete loss of one species, other species locked into the same
ecosystem started to perish. There is no need to worry about the rare
but real hazard of an asteroid impact, or a burst of gamma rays from a
nearby exploding star. The message from the simulators is that global
average warming of between 5° and 6°C above the level for most of
history since the end of the last Ice Age would be enough to wipe out
most life on the hypothetical Earths.
The basic non-mathematical argument is that (i) anything
exists in part because it has usually very many feedback
various things and processes in its environment, while (ii) removing
any thing (by destroying or killing it) will also remove most of the
feedbacks it relied upon to survive, which (iii) are likely to produce
changes if "the thing" that is removed are all or most of a species
I think all of the previous paragraph is still correct - which is one
reason to take the two scientists seriously, indeed without knowing
they are correct.
Here is more:
I think the above
paragraph is more or less obvious, but the next one illustrates my
point about failing feedbacks:
Strona of the European Commission’s joint research centre in
Ispra, Italy and Corey
Bradshaw of Finders University in Adelaide, Australia write in
the journal Scientific
Reports that they turned to computer simulation to resolve an
enduring ecological question: quite what is it that drives biodiversity
species leaves our planet, we lose much more than a name on a list.”
The growth in human
numbers, and the exploitation of the planet’s surface for economic
growth, has destroyed
habitats and disrupted ecosystems on a scale without parallel:
global warming and climate change will make things worse.
I fear this may well be
correct, although I do not know
this, and although I also agree with the last bit that I quote from
And they found that failure
to take into account the complex, entangled interdependencies of living
things led to an underestimate, by 10 times, of the magnitude of mass
extinction by climate change alone. The message is: don’t just save the
giant panda, save the forest.
decision makers need to move fast beyond a species-specific approach,
and look with increasing attention at interaction networks as a
fundamental conservation target,” Dr Strona said.
That is, I agree computer
models very probably have weaknesses, and I also insist that there is
very much more to know about biology and natural species
than is known,
as is an elementary consequence from the fact that "the unknown and unnamed
list of creatures is at least 10 times greater than those already
catalogued" - but it seems
a large part of the unknown creatures (and processes) may have been
destroyed before they can be studied. And this is a strongly
Any computer model of
Earth must have its weaknesses, if only because the unknown and unnamed
list of creatures is at least 10 times greater than those already
catalogued in the world’s botanical gardens, zoos and natural history
museums. That is, biologists still don’t know nearly enough about the
diversity of life on Earth.
Party of Ideas
is by Mike Lofgren
on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
I recently attended a
conference at the Niskanen
Center. It was a think tank gabfest at which the participants were
disillusioned conservatives hoping to chart a course toward a saner
political center-right. Jonathan Chait did a near-ecstatic
write-up of the meeting and its promise of a conservative movement
with fewer XYY chromosomes. Jeet Heer was less
What impressed me, however,
was the elegiac note struck even by those thoroughly disenchanted
participants who believed that American conservatism had not been
hijacked by know-nothings, but contained the seeds of its own
They were almost uniformly
nostalgic about the early 1980s, when most of them turned to the
Thirty-five years have given
us plenty of time to test the truth of the main tenets of the
Republican coalition when applied across economics, national security,
social policy, and governance. Several of the most significant ideas
If you do not know
anything about Mike Lofgren, I think you should read up on him. I
think he is interesting and likeable person - interesting, because he
worked for decades for Republicans, and likeable because he has been
reflecting publicly on this since 2011, and I agree with many of his
I will quote a bit more
than usual from this article and start with this, where once again the
occurences of "(...)s" in quoted texts indicate cuts made by me:
As I started saying in this
review, Lofgren has several decades of experience of working
Republican Party, which also is one reason why I am interested in his
ideas. And the above two ideas are quite familiar to me, and I completely
agree with Lofgren
that both are utter nonsense.
As an aside, I also think
Milton Friedman was an utter fraud, but this indeed is an aside,
although I will briefly return to him at the end of this review.
Here is more:
hypothesis. Wall Street must, by a Newtonian law of
nature, allocate capital and risk in the most efficient manner
possible. Therefore, who needs regulations? A glance at the numerous
financial panics throughout history ought to have disproved this idea,
but Federal Reserve board chairman Alan Greenspan embraced it along
with Ayn Rand’s other crank notions. (...)
Yes indeed - and there is no
Newtonian law of the economy in any sense, and indeed all
economists are much divided on what their science is, which
that economy itself is not Newtonian in any sense.
And I suppose Lofgren is
correct on Greenspan and Rand, which - if true - shows both were not
clever people but at best somewhat clever frauds, which I insist is
true of Rand.
Here is more:
Government is the
problem. Uttered by no less than Saint Ronnie, this sentiment
is the leitmotiv of conservative thought. Funny, though, it
somehow excludes the Pentagon, which consumes more than half the
discretionary budget. And it’s rarely practiced by those who preach it
(many of whom have spent entire careers on the federal payroll). (...)
I think this is quite true -
that is, I know this was a sentiment of Reagan, while I agree with
Lofgren this must be almost wholly propaganda,
because the Republicans
rarely practice it, and indeed also never seem to mention the
except to praise it.
Here is more:
The gold standard.
Run government like
a business. This chestnut is rarely questioned, although a
moment’s thought proves it fallacious. Businesses sell products to
customers for profitable revenue. Government is a citizens’ compact to
provide a gamut of services from policing to disease research to
protecting land held in common to national defense, all financed by
taxes. Government officials must obey governmental and constitutional
rules; they are not autocratic CEOs who run their firms as they see
I leave the gold standard to
your interest (the whole article is available here)
and I completely agree with Lofgren's criticisms.
Here is more:
responsibility. In the 1980s and 1990s, the GOP styled itself
the Party of Personal Responsibility: “no defining deviancy down!” as
scolds like Bill
Bennett incessantly reminded us. Republican amendments to crime
bills competed to be the toughest on crime, with capital punishment
preferred. Many liberals called it coded racism, but it ultimately
became something even worse: more like the Leninist who-whom principle
whereby something is only a crime depending on the political status of
Yes indeed - and as to "coded
racism", you should realize that blacks in the USA are both a lot
poorer than whites (on average) and are also more subject to police
controls of many kinds.
Here are the last two
significant ideas that Lofgren discusses:
Blame America First/liberals hate America. (...)
It culminated in the common post-9/11 belief that anyone skeptical of
the existence of WMD in Iraq hated America.
I agree again, and I
also would insist both are examples of the meaning of totalitarianism
that I prefer (see the link), which is contradictory to the
totalitarianism that the Wikipedia spreads to billions. Then again, I
will not discuss this in the present review.
Here is the last bit
that I quote from this article:
These are but a few of
crackpot nostrums peddled by conservatives in their supposed
intellectual golden age. While movement eggheads like Milton Friedman
seem like hopelessly unworldly lunatics (he once posited that we
didn’t need a Food and Drug Administration because manufacturers
would ensure safe products out of market efficiency and the goodness of
their hearts – yeah,
sure they would), they prevailed over time.
Yes indeed. As to the
fraud Friedman: Here he is claimed to posit that manufacturers
ensure safe products" out of "the goodness of
their hearts", while he
also got quite well-known with insisting that producers
have to answer
no moral norm whatsoever except that they should
aim at the highest
Anyway... I think this
was an interesting survey of some of "the
crackpot nostrums peddled by conservatives" and it is a strongly recommended article.
DNC Is Putting Its Thumb in the Right Direction
is by Michael Whitney on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It
starts as follows:
Well... yes and no: Yes in
principle, but probably no in practice. My reasons are - and some more
follow below - that I don't trust Perez, I don't trust
I don't trust Nancy Pelosi, and besides I don't
trust many of the
elected Democrats (the majority, in fact) because
they are funded by
Committee Chair Tom Perez is setting a kind of cover charge to get
onstage for the Democratic presidential primary debates, but not
just any money will do. In addition to the usual polling
metrics required to join the debate, candidates will also
have to meet a to-be-determined criteria for “grassroots fundraising.”
fundraising as a necessary element for debate participation would
have two effects. First, it incentivizes candidates to invest —
strategically, financially, and emotionally — in growing a small-donor
base. Second, it will force potential billionaire self-funders like
Michael Bloomberg, Tom Steyer, and Howard Schultz to demonstrate some
level of popular enthusiasm for their campaigns, meaning they can’t
just flash their own cash and buy their way onstage.
This is a remarkable
decision for any political party, and it reflects a growing shift in
how campaigns are run and won. It also previews what will be an
important way to measure the success of candidates in the Democratic
primary: not just looking at how much money candidates raise, but how
much of their money comes from small-dollar donors.
In fact, Michael Whitney agrees with me, at least to an extent:
And in fact, so far "the
Democrats" have not even settled that. Also there is this,
that this proposal, so far at least, has remarkably little success:
A word of caution before
getting too excited about the idea of “grassroots fundraising” being a
new standard for whether Democratic Party sanctions
candidates: The only way it will be a meaningful metric is if the
party defines it as how much of a candidate’s money comes from people
donating $200 or less, which is the federal definition of an
“unitemized,” or small-dollar, contribution.
Quite so, and while there
considerably more in the article, I think the above two facts - no one
has decided how much of the money Democratic contenders gather must be
from people giving small gifts (which is all the large majority can
give), and only four Democrats, so far, "have raised the majority
of their money in the current election cycle from
small-dollar donors" - are
sufficient to show that at present this will hardly work.
It’s not easy raising money
from small-dollar donors. Only
two of the 435 members of the House of Representatives elected in
2018 raised the majority of their money from small dollars: Alexandria
Ocasio-Cortez and John Lewis. Just eight more representatives pulled in
31 percent or more of their money from the grassroots.
Of the potential 2020
contenders who have filed federal fundraising reports, only four —
Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.; Kamala Harris, D-Calif.; Elizabeth Warren,
D-Mass.; and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore. — have raised the majority
of their money in the current election cycle from
I think I will remain quite skeptical of "the Democrats" until
quite certain that the majority gets funded mostly by the many poor
than by the few rich, and this is a recommended article.
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 (!!).