April 2, 2019

Crisis: On Struggling, Breaking Up Big Tech, U.K. in Crisis, Trump's Remorse, On the Green New Deal

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from April 2, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

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 April 2, 2019:
1. Only the Struggle Matters
2. How to Think About Breaking Up Big Tech

3. U.K. in Crisis

4. Trump’s Remorse (on April 1)

5. The Green New Deal Could Eradicate Poverty
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at everyorning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Only the Struggle Matters

This article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

What gives life meaning? How are we to live? Why struggle against forces that we can never overcome?

Let me start with saying that in this review I have left out most references to Eugene Delacroix, with whom Hedges starts. This is done to save space; not because I dislike Delacroix.

Next, as to the above three questions:

At least the first two questions are philosophical questions. Since I am also (in terms of academic diplomas and because I spent most of the years 1970-2010 thinking about philosophy, and besides about logic and mathematics) a philosopher, I do have some quite informed opinions on them, namely these:

I think the questions "What gives life meaning? [and] How are we to live?" are extremely difficult to answer in a rational and reasonable fashion, and indeed few persons even try: Most derive their answers from a religion or political ideology they do not know very well (and there are many religions and quite a few political ideologies, all of which tend to be mutually contradictory in several respects).

In fact, this is at present almost unavoidable. What might have been a lot better than it is, namely the degree of rationality and reasonability with which this happens, also is much less than it possibly might have been, although I think this is also mostly unavoidable, for the simple reasons that all sane human beings need some philosophy, ideology or religion to hold on to, but few sane human beings are intelligent enough (and besides: wealthy enough to have the time and opportunity) to make their choices rational and reasonable, rather than irrational and unreasonable.

And I think these are mostly facts (and I do not discuss philosophy with others, unless they know a lot of it). As to the third question, "Why struggle against forces that we can never overcome?":

Again I think there are qute a few different answers, some rational or reasonable, and most not. Then again, there is one answer which, although vague, probably is considerably more correct than its denial, namely that we will (try to) struggle against stronger forces than ourselves (and our associates) if our desires and/or our values are strong enough.

Finally about the above quotation: I have given my answers, quite briefly, but I am aware that these answers may not satisfy many. All I can say in reply is that I have studied both philosophy and psychology, and was always the best or one of the best students.

Anyway... back to Hedges:

Our worth is determined, the painter attempts to show us, not by what we do in life, but by what we do with what life gives us. It is the ferocity and steadfastness of the struggle that exalt us, especially when we comprehend that victory is ultimately impossible. This wisdom would be echoed by Albert Camus almost a century after Delacroix when he wrote that life required us to “être à la hauteur de son désespoir”—rise up to the level of our despair.

No, I am sorry: I do not think so, probably in part from my temperament; in part from my having studied both philosophy and psychology; in part from being ill for more than forty years with a serious chronic disease that was denied to exist until March 2018 (which taught me rather a lot about despair); and also because I think Camus' answer is too literary or too philosophical.

Here is more, this time about facts:

Three Saturdays ago France experienced its 18th consecutive weekend protest by the gilets jaunes, or “yellow vests,” against President Emmanuel Macron’s austerity measures, tax cuts for the wealthy and privatization of public services. Members of the masked and violent Black Bloc had infiltrated the yellow-vest protest on the Champs-Élysées. A few dozen Black Bloc people smashed windows of luxury shops and torched Le Fouquet, one of the city’s best-known restaurants. Police, who inexplicably waited to intervene, eventually used rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons to disperse the protesters. The images of the clashes and property destruction were repeatedly broadcast throughout the following week. The police chief would be fired. Macron, who during the mayhem was skiing in the Pyrenees, would ban protests on the Champs-Élysées and order 6,000 counter-terrorism soldiers deployed outside government buildings.

I take it this is all correct. Here is some more on the Black Bloc:

Revolution is not about catharsis. It is not about joining a masked mob to “get off” on property destruction. That is protest as adolescent narcissism. It celebrates a self-destructive hyper-masculinity that also fuels many in the police and military. It alienates those within the power structures who, if revolution is to succeed, must be pried away from defending the ruling elites. It produces nothing but fleeting protest porn, which Black Bloc activists watch with self-admiration. And the state loves it.

I quite agree, but I also have one difficulty with this:

As I have explained before, both of my parents were communists for 45 years or more, as was a grandfather, and I was a communist until I was 20, and then ceased to be (before becoming an adult, which happened at 21 in the early 1970ies), and I have attended many demonstrations between 1965 and 1970.

What I found was this: I was the only one I know (of the males) who absolutely never threw a stone or anything else to the police (who broke up quite a few of the demonstrations I participated in), for the simple reason that I looked upon the police also as victims of "the system".

I do not know how widespread my own attitude was, or indeed is, but that is how it was in the 1960ies.

Here is some more:

The threat of terrorism, whether from radical jihadists or cliques of Black Bloc activists, is used by France and other states that seek to crush basic civil liberties and dissent in the name of national security. Macron, who is deaf to the plight of the working class and serves as a French instrument for the global social inequality orchestrated by corporate elites, is pushing significant sectors of the population off the streets and into the arms of the neofascist Marine Le Pen, with whom our corporate masters can make an accommodation, just as they have with Donald Trump. What they fear is a popular uprising. What they fear is losing power. If it takes alliances with repugnant neofascists and demagogues to retain control they will make them.

Yes, I mostly agree and I also observe that "the threat of terrorism" has been used quite consciously like this by the holders of governmental power ever since 9/11. And - once again - I point to Goering who also saw this and said so, in 1945:


The only difference is that since 9/11 the governmental keepers of power no longer say that ordinary people are being attacked: they say that ordinary people are being terrorized.

Finally, there is this from the ending of this article:

It is the struggle that matters. Not the outcome. I was where I should have been that Saturday in front of the Paris Opera House. Yes, our cries were not heard. Yes, it may be futile. But the fight is what makes us human. It gives us dignity. It affirms life in the face of death.

No, I am sorry: For me this is much too romantic. Of course you struggle because you like to win. You may feel otherwise, but the chances are that you did not have a communist father who survived more than 3 years and 9 months of 4 German concentration camps, nor a communist grandfather who was murdered in such a camp. Anyway, this is a recommended article.

2. How to Think About Breaking Up Big Tech

This article is by David Dayen on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to break up tech giants Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Apple has given concentrated corporate power its most prominent political platform since the 1912 presidential election — and we’re still nearly a year away from the first round of primary voting. This tracks with the rising awareness of the corrosiveness of monopoly power generally and those tech giants specifically.

Whether such policy boldness means anything in a brand-obsessed political landscape will be determined when ballots are cast. But it is undeniably driving a policy discussion that the next Democratic presidential nominee, no matter who it is, will likely take up. In that context, the debate over Warren’s plan is critical, as it prefigures the trajectory of each and every challenge to corporate dominance.

Yes indeed: I agree. Here is some more:

First, many critiques will come from those with a direct stake in the outcome — in this case, Big Tech-funded individuals or organizations, which are so ubiquitous as to create an echo chamber. Second, the critiques will highlight the “radical” nature of the changes, setting them at odds with American history, even though Warren’s central proposal — to structurally separate business lines in an effort to eliminate anti-competitive conduct and foster competition — has a century-old pedigree. And third, we’ll be assured that the cure is worse than the disease, that Warren’s ideas would destroy everything from online shopping to the smartphone, a perspective that relies on deliberate misinterpretation.

Yes, I agree again. Next, Dayen gives a fairly long list of opponents of Warren's proposal and their reasons, which I completely skip because it is too long and too detailed.

Then again, the following is from the ending of this list of opponents:

These linkages are virtually endless and show an incestuous network of academics, think-tankers, advocacy organizations, and trade groups, all of which happen to agree on every issue important to Big Tech. The money supports extending the prominence and megaphone of these organizations, and with nearly unlimited pocketbooks, it creates the impression of a tsunami of support for the industry.

I fear the above is quite correct. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The core of Warren’s plan, which for now is just a proposal on Medium rather than legislation, involves what is known as “structural separation.” Companies with over $25 billion in annual global revenue that operate platforms — connectors between people, people and advertisers, or people and merchants — would not be allowed to both own the platform and also participate as a seller on that platform. The classic example would be Amazon’s marketplace, where Amazon also operates its own line of Amazon Basics, competing with its third-party sellers. Google’s ad exchange also competes on Google with ad tech companies, and would need to be spun off. The same would go for Google’s local search, which routinely deprioritizes recommendation sites like Yelp.

The idea is that these entities get preferential treatment from the platform they own, giving Basics, Google ad tech, and Google Search an unfair advantage and extending the platform’s dominance. Only the biggest companies would have to structurally separate (..)

I think the above is correct, and I also think it is a sensible plan. There is a whole lot more in this article, that is strongly recommended.

3. U.K. in Crisis

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

With a deadline for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union fast approaching, the British Parliament will vote today on a series of options for Brexit after rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s plan for the third time on Friday. The U.K.'s exit date for leaving the EU is April 12. Among the options on the table are remaining in the EU customs union, a soft Brexit and a second referendum—all ideas May has rejected in the past. We speak with professor Priya Gopal, a university lecturer in the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge. She calls Britain's decision to leave the EU a “deeply neoliberal … free market, disaster-capitalist project.”

I agree with all of the above and only add that I have lived for a while in England in the early 1970ies (before the UK became a member of what is now the EU), and that I presently think that the enormous mess about Brexit is mostly the result of party politics, and that especially by the Tories.

This also means that at present I favor a second referendum, if only to take the parties out of the discussion that they have dominated so long and to such little effect, and to give those who really should decide - the Brits - the right to decide, especially as their representatives have made a major mess of it in the last two years.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show with the ongoing political chaos in the United Kingdom, where Parliament is preparing to vote today on a series of options for exiting the European Union, after rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit plan for the third time Friday. Friday was supposed to be the day the U.K. left the European Union. Now the exit date is set for April 12th. With the deadline fast approaching and still no deal, Parliament is scrambling to come up with a deal backed by a majority. Among the options on the table are remaining in the EU customs union, a soft Brexit and a second referendum—all ideas Prime Minister May has rejected in the past.

Well... I think May is clearly incompetent and should go as well. Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: If the British Parliament fails to agree to a Brexit deal by April 12th, the U.K. will crash out of the European Union with no deal—a scenario that would have severe economic and political repercussions.

Yes indeed. Here is more:

PRIYA GOPAL: OK. So, on Friday, pretty much all the options on the table—I think there were eight options—were voted down. So, revoking Article 50 and not leaving the European Union was voted down. Crashing out of the European Union was also voted down. Theresa May’s deal, which she brought back from Brussels, was voted down for the third time; it’s coming back for a fourth time this evening. So that pretty much anything that gives any sort of clarity as to what Britain’s future relationship with the EU might be has been voted down.

Yes indeed. And once again: This means they should take a second referendum, in my opinion. Here is some more:

PRIYA GOPAL: We do know that the Labour Party Conference has agreed that if no version of Brexit passes, then there will be—there is a commitment to a second referendum. But I think currently Jeremy Corbyn is preparing for a general election, and his focus is on getting his version of a Brexit deal through. It’s one that he believes will command agreement within the EU.

I don't think I agree with Corbyn on this (but I grant I know a whole less than he does about Brexit and British politics).

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

AMY GOODMAN: Are you calling for a second referendum?

PRIYA GOPAL: Let me phrase this carefully. I think that any deal that Parliament comes up with today, whether that is a soft Brexit, whether that is no Brexit, whether that is a hard Brexit or whether in fact it is no deal, I think that the decision should be returned to the British people.

Yes, I agree with Gopal, for several reason, the most important of which is that this ought to be the way in a democracy where the political parties and the parliament are unable to solve the problems (they created to start with). There is considerably more in this strongly recommended article.

4. Trump’s Remorse (on April 1)

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:

Today at a Rose Garden ceremony belatedly celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the inauguration of President Richard M. Nixon, President Trump said he regretted that thousands of children were still being held in custody at the U.S.-Mexican border, many without adequate medical care. “It is a tragedy, and I am totally responsible,” he said. He went on to say “I created a crisis at the border solely to fuel my base of supporters, for no reason other than my own political survival.”

After an awkward moment of silence, Mr. Trump said “I have lied again and again to the American people – about voting irregularities in the 2016 election, about the motives of my Democratic critics in Congress, and, yes, about my knowledge of and agreement to Putin’s role in helping me become president.” Wiping his eyes, Mr. Trump then commenced a string of apologies. “I apologize for criticizing the FBI and Justice Department when they were only trying to do their jobs,” he said. “I apologize for calling the press ‘enemies of the people,’” and “I apologize for criticizing judges who I disagreed with but were working honorably within our Constitutional system of checks and balances.”

There is more in this article, but it also very clearly is a spoof. It is recommended, but - unfortunately - Trump does not have the character or the sanity to say anything like the above.

5. The Green New Deal Could Eradicate Poverty

This article is by Alex Kirby on Truthdig and originally on Climate News Network. It starts as follows:

If you haven’t yet heard of the Green New Deal, chances are that you soon will. To its growing band of supporters, it looks like an idea whose time has come.

Just suppose we could see a  way to transform the global economy, society and even the environment so that they met real needs, and promised to go on doing so far into the future. Well, we can. And it’s growing simpler all the time, futurologists say.

The bad news? Inertia and resistance. Too few of us think we really need a transformation. Too many are actively trying to prevent one. No change there then − except that the balance may be starting to shift, thanks largely to science and money − and ordinary people who are refusing to go on as we are.

Supporters of the Green New Deal say we don’t have to look very far ahead for results − no further than about mid-century.

By then, some of them told The New Yorker magazine, much of the world should be able to achieve the goal of zero carbon emissions, a goal for which they say the world already has about 90-95% of the technology it needs.

I say, which I do in part because, while I am a supporter of the Green New Deal (happily written in unabbreviated form), I think the above is very positive.

Here is some more:

The Deal’s supporters are not the first to claim we’re most of the way towards a carbon-free future in 30 years, and possibly well before that. But this Deal, itself a reminder of US President Franklin D Roosevelt’s 1933 New Deal, explores more ambitious territory still, with the prospect of also ensuring a living wage job for everyone who wants one and reducing racial, regional and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth.

Well, while I more or less agree (again), I also think this is a very positive review. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The British economist Ann Pettifor, a fellow of the New Economics Foundation, describes the Green New Deal as “incredibly ambitious . . . a huge advance for green campaigners and, hopefully, for our threatened species.”  Pettifor was co-author of the original Green New Deal Report, published in the UK in 2008, which in many ways prefigured the present US initiative.

Her fellow co-author was Andrew Simms, now co-ordinator of the Rapid Transition Alliance (RTA), an enthusiastic backer of Ocasio-Cortez’ vision.

The RTA says: “Like the UK proposal, [the Deal] seeks to tackle the climate and economic crisis simultaneously and looks at job creation, decarbonising electricity, renovating buildings for energy efficiency and much more.

Yes, I agree with the above and 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 3 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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