April 6, 2019

Crisis: White Supremacy, Warren, Climate Catastrophe, Artificial Intelligence, "Socialism"

“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 6, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, April 6, 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 6, 2019:
1. The Only Way White Supremacy Is Defeated
2. Elizabeth Warren Signals Willingness to Kill the Filibuster

3. The Madness Driving Climate Catastrophe

4. Dangers Posed by Artificial Intelligence 'Very Real'

5. Capitalism or Socialism. Which Will it Be?
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 Only Way White Supremacy Is Defeated

This article is by Robert Scheer on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

The election of Donald Trump has emboldened white supremacists across the country. Hate crimes have been on the rise for several years now and racism, ingrained in U.S. institutions since the nation’s founding, has become glaringly apparent even to those who had believed the election of a black president had made it a thing of the past.

“Trump’s election has allowed [white supremacists] to completely go buck wild,” scholar and Black Lives Matter co-founder Melina Abdullah tells Truthdig Editor in Chief Robert Scheer in the latest installment of “Scheer Intelligence.”

Well... I like Robert Scheer, which also is the main reason, next to the title, that I selected this article, but I cannot say I like Melina Abdullah a lot, mostly because she sounds to me too much like many Dutch academics I have known fairly well, who were o so very leftist as long as the Soviet Union existed (which they styled "socialist") and the students had the power in the Dutch universities (from 1971 till 1995), but who turned neo-conservatives in 1991 (after the Soviet Union collapsed).

You may disagree, and perhaps I am unfair in as much as I compare persons who are difficult to compare fairly, if only because Abdullah is black and lives in a much more racist society than the Dutch live, but that is what I thought, which is also the reason you get very little by Abdullah in this excerpt.

Here is Scheer, to start with:

Robert Scheer: Hi, this is Robert Scheer with another edition of “Scheer Intelligence,” where the intelligence comes from my guests. And in this case, it’s Melina Abdullah, who is one of the founders of the Black Lives Matter movement. She’s here in Los Angeles, became a national movement, but L.A. deserves some credit. And she is the chair of Pan-African studies at Cal State L.A. And this is the 50th year anniversary of the origin of black studies, so that would be a good point to start the discussion. How much progress have we made?

My own reply to Scheer's question probably would have been (and I recall 50 years ago very well, since I was 19 then): Very little. But Abdullah thinks differently:
Melina Abdullah: (..) I still think black studies is probably the most enduring victory of the Black Power Movement, right? It’s a part of an institution that never wanted it. And so it means that the struggle is constant, because the institution is always trying to shut us down and kick us out. But it also is kind of a way of taking resources back. An education system that was intended for, you know, the sons and daughters of the wealthy—that scandal that’s plagued the country. Like it’s groundbreaking, it’s something new, right? We always knew it existed. But it’s taking back kind of education and saying, education is—really should be, at its best—about the liberation of people.
I am sorry but I believe little of the above. Also, I dislike Abdullah's thesis that "education is—really should be, at its best—about the liberation of people": No, real education is about getting real scientific knowledge about the world.

Here is some more by Scheer:
RS: (..) You know, the war on Native Americans, I mean, starting obviously before the creation of the country. Throwing Indian, Native American babies into the fire. I mean, killing children. It was like My Lai in Vietnam, but in this country. And so this task of gaining control of history, to some it seems that oh, they’re just arguing about names or politically correct or what have you—we’re really talking about scholarship.
We are part of a scandal that affects Yale and Stanford and Georgetown and a number of other schools, where we learned another story about affirmative action, which maybe is just business as usual, where people use their wealth and privilege to game the system. And in this case, probably committed crimes, but again, that’s not particularly new.
I think both of Scheer's points are valid. Here is some more by him:

RS: So let me ask you, though. I have a feeling we’re regressing on issues of racial equality, opportunity, and what have you. And it has a lot to do with the changes in the employment situation. It has a lot to do with attacks on public education; it costs a lot more money to go to these schools now. And I—I don’t know, maybe just because I am out and about as a reporter a lot, I’m despairing about the deep class and racial divides in America now, and attacks on things like affirmative action. Attacks on any effort to equal the playing field, to be more inclusive, to change the curriculum, to acknowledge reality. The conventional wisdom now is kind of—we did enough, we did too much, and let’s cut it out.

Yes, I agree again with Scheer. Here is some more by him:

RS: And taking like the schools, the services and so forth, if you read, Colin Powell wrote an autobiography. And he made a very interesting point; he was still a Republican then. No—a lot more was done for us back in that post-World War II Bronx than are done for kids now. For all the civil rights movement, and all the things, and not just—I mean, I shouldn’t say “not just.” Yes, people of color—but poor people. Whoever happens to be trapped in the cycle of poverty, for whatever reason. And it’s true. We had great after-school programs, we had terrific public schools, we had a college system where you didn’t even have to pay for textbooks through its early period. And there was certainly no idea of tuition. When I went to City College, if someone had said you have to start paying tuition, there would have been riots continuously. So we actually, while many people walk around with the illusion that we have somehow done a lot for people of color, people who are poor—it’s nonsense. We have actually abandoned them.

I think this is also right. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

RS: I think, you know, you have to recognize the main test of any civilization is how do you treat the other. And that’s where America has failed, and dramatically so, for the last 40 years of growing income inequality and racial divide and everything else, you know. And what I find crazy-making is this arrogance to think, hey, we did a lot—“we” being people of power and privilege—we did a lot. No, you didn’t! No, you didn’t, you actually made the schools worse.
And in fact, if you look at the–and I pick out the last 40 years; we’re not talking ancient history here. And I think the main thing we teach at these universities now is selling out. It’s the opposite of the message that informed that San Francisco— I’m mentioning again, we began by talking about 50 years ago at San Francisco State there was this great protest to make the schools more accountable to the needs of ordinary people and oppressed people in the community. That was basically it.

And I think this is also right. And this is a mildly recommended article.

2. Elizabeth Warren Signals Willingness to Kill the Filibuster

This article is by Julia Conley on Truthdig and originally on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Calling on the nation to “wake up to the reality of the United States Senate,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren is set to announce Friday that she supports eliminating the filibuster.

The 2020 presidential candidate is expected to endorse the proposal in a speech at the National Action Network Convention in New York Friday morning.

“When Democrats next have power, we should be bold and clear: We’re done with two sets of rules—one for the Republicans and one for the Democrats,” Warren is expected to say. “And that means when Democrats have the White House again, if Mitch McConnell tries to do what he did to President Obama and puts small-minded partisanship ahead of solving the massive problems facing this country, then we should get rid of the filibuster.”

Well... OK - but what is the filibuster? The answer is in the article, but lower: The filibuster is

the Senate procedure which allows a minority party to delay a vote by drawing out debate and block legislation from passing by requiring a “supermajority” of 60 senators to approve it

Yes, and the last link I gave gives considerably more information. Also, I think I should add that Holland (where I live) has instead of the Senate and the House, the First Chamber and the Second Chamber, where the First Chamber does require a 2/3rds majority for some legal proposals, but not for many, but this is an aside.

Here is some more:

At the NAN Convention, Warren is expected to note that the filibuster has stopped the Senate from passing racial justice legislation for decades, including an anti-lynching bill which was first introduced a century ago but didn’t pass until December 2018.

“It nearly became the law back then. It passed the House in 1922. But it got killed in the Senate—by a filibuster. And then it got killed again. And again. And again,” Warren plans to say. “More than 200 times. An entire century of obstruction because a small group of racists stopped the entire nation from doing what was right.”

This is a fine example of how the filibuster may be abused. Here is some more:

“We can’t sit around for 100 years while the rich and powerful get richer and more powerful and everyone else falls further and further behind,” Warren’s speech reads. “We can’t sit around for 100 years while climate change destroys our planet, while corruption pervades every nook and cranny of Washington, and while too much of a child’s fate in life still rests on the color of their skin. Enough with that.”

Yes, I quite agree. This article ends as follows:

Since announcing her candidacy in January she has called for a tax on the wealth of the richest Americans to combat economic inequality and fund progressive programs, a universal childcare plan, and a breakup of powerful tech giants, among other proposals.

Yes again, and perhaps I should add that I like Warren as well as Sanders, and that at present I think the best Democratic team for the 2020 presidential elections is Sanders + Warren (as vice-president). And this is a recommended article.

3. The Madness Driving Climate Catastrophe

This article is by H. Patricia Hynes, who is a retired professor of environmental health. In fact, it is the review of a book, and it starts as follows:

“Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption”

A book by Simon Pirani

The Great Acceleration: This is the designation given to the last 70 years during which industrial countries and a handful of newly rich developing countries extracted and consumed fossil fuels at a reckless rate. While accurate, the metaphor might suggest progress rather than the ominous atmospheric, terrestrial and oceanic climate trends ensuing.

The 20 hottest years on record have occurred since 1995, almost in tandem with the impotent U.N. climate negotiations begun in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and followed by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, Paris in 2015 and Poland in 2018. Yet, even with near global consensus on the necessity of reducing climate-warming emissions radically by 2030 and (nonbinding) national pledges to do so, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions rose by 2.7 percent in 2018. Moreover, some analysts predict they will rise higher in 2019 due to increasing deforestation, especially in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest. CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere have risen unremittingly to levels not prevailing since hundreds of thousands (and possibly more than 6 million) years ago.

Yes, I think this is mostly true, and I like it that Hynes describes the "U.N. climate negotiations begun in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 and followed by the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, Copenhagen in 2009, Paris in 2015 and Poland in 2018" as "impotent" (which also is about the most sympathetic and true thing I can say about them - and I am following "the environment" (let's say) since 1971.

Here is some more:

In “Burning Up: A Global History of Fossil Fuel Consumption,” Pirani sets out to plumb the political, social and economic causes of the “madness that is producing global warming.” His is a critically needed departure from much climate crisis writing (and activism) that focuses solely on technology, individual consumption and population growth as drivers of climate change.

Yes, and I would indeed include besides "technology, individual consumption and population growth as drivers of climate change" also politics, the economy, and the rich corporations as "drivers of climate change".

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

Pirani’s temporal focus is the 1950s to the present, coinciding with the postwar “great acceleration,” in which the impact of technology and economies on nature has been swift and drastic. Among his most cogent examples of political and economic elite driving climate change is the calculated design of cities for the car, now replicated throughout the world.

Yes. And this is a recommended article.

4. Dangers Posed by Artificial Intelligence 'Very Real'

This article is by Andrea Germanos on Common Dreams. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

A pioneer in the field of artificial intelligence warned that "dangers of abuse" of AI "are very real."

The warning from Canadian computer science professor and leading AI researcher Yoshua Bengio came in a Q&A with the journal Nature published Thursday.

The interview was conducted back in January, before Bengio was named along with two others the latest recipients of the Turing Award, a prize dubbed the "Nobel Prize of Computing."

Bengio told Nature that "we have to raise flags before bad things happen" in terms of irresponsible use of AI.

Unfortunately, "what is most concerning is not happening in broad daylight" but "in military labs, in security organizations, in private companies providing services to governments or the police," he said.

In particular, Bengio said, he is concerned with so-called killer drones—lethal autonomous weapons—and surveillance, which can be abused by authoritarian governments.

AI "can be used by those in power to keep that power, and to increase it," said Bengio, and be used "to worsen gender or racial discrimination."

Some sort of government or international regulatory framework needs to be in place to put a check on AI, added Bengio: "Self-regulation is not going to work."

I agree with all of the above, but I note that ""what is most concerning is not happening in broad daylight" but "in military labs, in security organizations, in private companies providing services to governments or the police"" will very probably keep anybody else who is interested in programming and computing from know anything or much about the evils that are being wrought "in military labs, in security organizations, [and] in private companies".

And this is a recommended article (though I must say I dislike this style were 1 paragraph = 1 statement, mostly because I am not an idiot and dislike being treated as one).

5. Capitalism or Socialism. Which Will it Be?

This article is by Robert Freeman on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

[S]ocialism has lost a lot of its epithetic punch since the days of the Cold War, when the world lived under a nuclear Sword of Damocles. Here are a few reasons, on both sides, why socialism doesn’t sound so scary anymore. You might want to save it to parry the lunatic ravings of your crazy uncle at the next family gathering.

I like Common Dreams, but I do not think that the present article - which I selected because of its title - is worth much, mostly because it is not objective in any sense I can see.

In any case, here are "Ten important things that Capitalism has given us", according to Freeman - and I have deleted all of the text that was not bold in the present list:

  1. Cataclysmic climate change, literally threatening life on earth. 
  2. The Great Depression of the 1930s, where the capitalist system blew itself up (..)
  3. The Great Recession of 2008, where the capitalist system blew itself up again (..)
  4. The greatest economic inequality in the developed world
  5. The highest health care costs in the developed world, by far
  6. Runaway, parasitic military spending
  7. A decimated industrial heartland and a cast-off industrial workforce
  8. Skyrocketing “diseases of despair”
  9. The highest rate of incarceration of its citizenry in the world
  10. $22 trillion of national debt
Well... yes and no, in the sense that nothing positive is mentioned. Here are ten important things Socialism has given us, again according to Freeman, and again with most of the non-bold texts deleted:
  1. China’s economy which is blowing the doors off of the United States. 
  2. Nordic countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark—with the highest self-reported rates of happiness in the world.  All proudly practice democratic socialism.
  3. Recovery from the Great Depression via public programs that employed millions
  4. Recovery from the Great Recession
  5. The internet—yes, it was invented by DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, in 1969, and only later commercialized.
  6. The interstate highway system
  7. National standards for safe drugs, foods, and workplaces
  8. Social Security so that elderly people can retire
  9. Medicare, again, so elderly would not be bankrupted by health care costs.
  10. The global campaign to fix the hole in the ozone layer, caused by chlorofluorocarbons.
I am sorry, but I do not think China is "socialist" in any sense I acknowledge (which is the same judgement as I had about the Soviet Union from 1964 onwards); the Nordic countries are certainly not practising "democratic socialism" but (at best) social democracy; the internet was - in my opinion - designed to bring fascism to the people and the world (see yesterday, on surveillance capitalism); and there are more things in this list that I hardly would count as arguments for socialism.

And here is the ending of this article:

Socialism isn’t fundamentally about public ownership of private resources. It is about collective action in pursuit of common goals, where private action has destroyed or damaged the common good. It is demonized by concentrated private wealth precisely because it is so effective at redressing so many of the problems that concentrated private wealth has inflicted on society and the world.

No, I am sorry:

One of my grandfathers was a socialist; my other two grandparents were anarchists; both of my parents were socialists for 45 years; and all of them, including their friends and very many others - and see:
Crisis: On Socialism - understood by socialism "public ownership of private resources".

So I think most of the above is uninformed bullshit, and I will not recommend it.

[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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