May 10, 2019

Three Crisis Articles + On Writing html (Part a.)

“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 May 10, 2019
   B. On writing html

This is a Nederlog of Friday, May 10, 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

A. Selections from May 10, 2019:

The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:
1. Is Trump a Fascist?
2. Up to a Million Species are at Risk of Extinction Due to Human               

3. It’s Time to Break Up Facebook

B. On writing html

              a. It is made impossible on Linux if you want WYSIWYG (it seems)

1. Is Trump a Fascist?

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

The F-word gets thrown around a lot these days. But with the president fearmongering about immigrants, turning a blind eye to political violence from the far right, and embracing white nationalism, is it time to ask the question in earnest? On a daily basis, Donald Trump can be heard dismissing the legitimacy of judges or the press, praising authoritarians like Kim Jong-un, or trying to undermine congressional oversight of his administration. On this week’s show, Mehdi Hasan speaks with Yale philosophy professor Jason Stanley about the history of fascism and what it can teach us about our current president.

OK - but what is fascism?

I know quite a lot about fascism, mostly because my father survived over 3 years and 9 months of four German concentration camps, where his father was murdered, both because they were communists and in the Dutch resistance, as my mother was, though she was never arrested.

Also, while I am not a communist since 50 years, I do admire my parents and grandparents (my mother's parents were anarchists).

I have rather definite ideas about what fascism is, and the last link gives my definition, that was based on my own rather extensive knowledge of fascism, and also on a study of On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions that I strongly recommend.

It turns out that these ideas are not at all what Jason Stanley thinks.

More below. First, here is Mehdi Hasan:

MH: That’s my guest today, Professor Jason Stanley, Yale University philosopher and author of the much-discussed recent book “How Fascism Works.” So, on today’s show, Donald Trump and the debate over fascism.

Fear-mongering about immigrants and people of color. Turning a blind eye towards and even inciting political violence from the far right. An overt embrace of white nationalism. Dismissing the legitimacy of judges, the media, the rule of law, even the constitution. Is it really any surprise that so many people these days are worried about a seeming drift towards fascism, yes, fascism, in the United States? Yes, I know. The word gets thrown around a lot, and sometimes carelessly. But in the case of Donald Trump, it’s way past time we talked in blunt terms about what we’re actually dealing with and where we’re heading.

Yes, I agree with this and I like to add that in 10 years of extensive readings of very many journalists and public intellectuals, which you can find links to in the crisis index, I must say that I have not found a single decent definition of fascism - which I agree is not easy to define (and see again my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions).

Here is more:

MH: Is there a kind of — we live in a social media age. Everyone wants everything digestible. You’re an academic at Yale, but I’m going to ask you this question. Is there a kind of checklist of criteria, of factors that you have to kind of tick off before you can say this person, this party, this government, this country is fascist?

JS: There are. I break it down into ten points and I can go over those if you want.

In fact, the conversation is not very clear and Hasan's question also is not clear, for neither he nor Stanley even mention the word "definition" but then again what Hasan does say suggests very strongly that he does mean a definition of some kind.

Well, here is my definition of fascism:
Fascism: Fascism is a. A social system that is marked by a government with centralized authority and a dictator, that suppresses the opposition through propaganda, censorship and terror, that propounds an ethics founded on discipline, virility, and collectivism, that has a politics that is totalitarian, anti-liberal, anti-individualist, anti-equality, and anti-Marxist, that is also authoritarian, rightwing and nationalistic, and often racist, and that has a corporative organization of the economy, b. A political philosophy or movement based on or advocating such a social system.
And here are 9 of the 10 criterions that Stanley gives - and I give 9 because I simply could not find the 10th:
1. Mythic past 2. Propaganda 3. Anti-intellectuals 4. Unreality 5. Hierarchy 6. Victimhood 7. How are they victims 8. Sexual anxiety 9. Violence
Except for propaganda, none of the terms in my definition recurs is Stanley's list of criterions, which are offered as a kind of definition, for they are supposed to provide the criterions by which one can decide whether a so-and-so is or is not a fascist.

Also, to the extent that I understand Stanley (whose book on fascism I certainly am not going to read) he does not think about social systems, governments, authority, dictators, censorship, totalitarianism,
anti-liberalism, anti-individualism, anti-equality, and anti-Marxism, nor about the rightwing, nationalism, racism or corporatism.

I think Stanley's list of criterions is - frankly - ridiculous. I could stop here, but quote one more bit:

MH: So, I’ve got to ask you the $64,000 question. Is Donald Trump then, according to this 10 criteria that you lay out, a fascist?

JS: So when you say a fascist, you could be talking about different things. There is no question that Mr. Trump is very high on the scale of fascism when it comes to his rhetoric.
In fact, if you say that someone is a fascist, you could mean at least 21 things, as outlined in my On Fascism and Neofascism: Definitions, and in fact there are (of course) even more things you could mean.

But in brief, this is a ridiculous article in my eyes.

2. Up to a Million Species are at Risk of Extinction Due to Human Activity

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

An alarming new report by a panel of leading scientists warns that human activity is causing the disappearance and deterioration of wildlife at a rate that could represent an existential threat to humanity within our lifetimes. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released its conclusions earlier this week, and found that one million plant and animal species could go extinct in the foreseeable future unless current trends are reversed. The study estimates the global extinction rate is “already at least tens to hundreds of times higher than it averaged over the past 10 million years.” It is the largest and most comprehensive global study of biodiversity ever. It took three years to complete and is based on 15,000 scientific papers. The landmark report singled out industrial farming and fishing as major drivers of the crisis and called for “transformative change” to arrest present trends of biodiversity loss and species extinction. We speak with Kate Brauman, one of the coordinating lead authors of the UN report. She is an environmental scientist at the University of Minnesota. And we speak with Ashley Dawson, a professor of post-colonial studies at the City University of New York Graduate Center and College of Staten Island. His books include “Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change” and “Extinction: A Radical History.”

Yes indeed. Here is more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: It is the largest and most comprehensive global study of biodiversity ever. It took three years to complete and is based on 15,000 scientific papers. The landmark report singled out industrial farming and fishing as major drivers of the crisis and called for transformative change to arrest present trends of biodiversity loss and species extinction. The report will be released in full later this year. This is chair of the U.N. panel, Sir Robert Watson.

SIR ROBERT WATSON: We’re losing species at a historical rate. Potentially 500,000 to a million species are threatened with loss. We have lost much of our native forests, much of our native wetlands. And effectively, biodiversity needs to be considered as an equally important issue as climate change. It is not just an environmental issue; it is an economic issue, a development issue, a security issue, a social, moral and ethical issue.

I more or less agree with Watson. Here is more:

KATE BRAUMAN: It is really shocking. What we have done is that a bunch of experts have looked at really what the trends look like for many, many different species, including insects. And looking at those trends, it is quite clear that up to a million species, 25% of all of the animals on earth, are threatened with extinction, many within the next couple of decades, unless we change our activities.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: What most surprised you, Kate, about this report as you were working on the research?

KATE BRAUMAN: The thing to me that is the most shocking is really just what the picture looks like when we bring it all together. So this report is an assessment. It is designed to bring together the incredibly large existing body of research.

Yes, I agree with Brauman. Here is some more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to bring Ashley Dawson into the conversation. Ashley, you have written an entire book on the radical history of extinction. Your response to this report?

ASHLEY DAWSON: Well, the report, I think, is really a landmark report. And it shows that the crisis we face isn’t just one of climate change. In some ways it is comparable to the IPCC report from last October which really sounded a really important alarm about the system that we face and its potential collapse. But what this shows is it’s a crisis of multiple different dimensions and that it’s driven by an economic system which is fundamentally destroying the terrestrial systems that we all depend on.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

NERMEEN SHAIKH: What does that say, Ashley, about the kind of structural transformations that would be required minimally for the economic system that governs at this point large parts of the planet, which is based on endless expansion and consumption by larger and larger numbers of people at greater levels?

ASHLEY DAWSON: I think it’s the greater levels that’s really key. The report does talk about the issue of population increase, but it also makes it quite clear that it’s inequality and a kind of capitalist system that’s based on constantly ramping up consumption of natural resources that is at fault, and that we need to shift away from that system.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the alternative?

ASHLEY DAWSON: The alternative is a kind of Green New Deal for the planet (..)

I agree again with Dawson. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: And do you see policymakers responding?

KATE BRAUMAN: I think so. One of the things that is so exciting about this is that it is a report of the governments. There are 132 member states who were part of his platform, and they approved this document. This is something that governments say “we think is important.”

I am a lot less optimistic about politicians and governments than Brauman, for quite a few reasons. One of these was the Dutch government's embracement of Kyoto in the 1990ies, that turned out to be almost only propaganda for the government, and I fear it is the same with most current governments. But this is a strongly recommended article.

3. It’s Time to Break Up Facebook

This article is by Chris Hughes, a co-founder of Facebook. He knows Zuckerberg quite well, and has not worked on Facebook the last 10 years. This is from very close to its beginning:

Since [the summer of 2017], Mark’s personal reputation and the reputation of Facebook have taken a nose-dive. The company’s mistakes — the sloppy privacy practices that dropped tens of millions of users’ data into a political consulting firm’s lap; the slow response to Russian agents, violent rhetoric and fake news; and the unbounded drive to capture ever more of our time and attention — dominate the headlines. It’s been 15 years since I co-founded Facebook at Harvard, and I haven’t worked at the company in a decade. But I feel a sense of anger and responsibility.

OK, I accept this and agree with most. Here is more:

Mark’s influence is staggering, far beyond that of anyone else in the private sector or in government. He controls three core communications platforms — Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp — that billions of people use every day. Facebook’s board works more like an advisory committee than an overseer, because Mark controls around 60 percent of voting shares. Mark alone can decide how to configure Facebook’s algorithms to determine what people see in their News Feeds, what privacy settings they can use and even which messages get delivered. He sets the rules for how to distinguish violent and incendiary speech from the merely offensive, and he can choose to shut down a competitor by acquiring, blocking or copying it.

Yes indeed: quite so. Here is more:

We are a nation with a tradition of reining in monopolies, no matter how well intentioned the leaders of these companies may be. Mark’s power is unprecedented and un-American.

It is time to break up Facebook.

We already have the tools we need to check the domination of Facebook. We just seem to have forgotten about them.

America was built on the idea that power should not be concentrated in any one person, because we are all fallible. That’s why the founders created a system of checks and balances. They didn’t need to foresee the rise of Facebook to understand the threat that gargantuan companies would pose to democracy.

Yes, I quite agree. Here is more:

Starting in the 1970s, a small but dedicated group of economists, lawyers and policymakers sowed the seeds of our cynicism. Over the next 40 years, they financed a network of think tanks, journals, social clubs, academic centers and media outlets to teach an emerging generation that private interests should take precedence over public ones. Their gospel was simple: “Free” markets are dynamic and productive, while government is bureaucratic and ineffective. By the mid-1980s, they had largely managed to relegate energetic antitrust enforcement to the history books.

This shift, combined with business-friendly tax and regulatory policy, ushered in a period of mergers and acquisitions that created megacorporations.
Yes, I agree. Here is more:

Over a decade later, Facebook has earned the prize of domination. It is worth half a trillion dollars and commands, by my estimate, more than 80 percent of the world’s social networking revenue. It is a powerful monopoly, eclipsing all of its rivals and erasing competition from the social networking category. This explains why, even during the annus horribilis of 2018, Facebook’s earnings per share increased by an astounding 40 percent compared with the year before. (I liquidated my Facebook shares in 2012, and I don’t invest directly in any social media companies.)

Facebook’s monopoly is also visible in its usage statistics. About 70 percent of American adults use social media, and a vast majority are on Facebook products. Over two-thirds use the core site, a third use Instagram, and a fifth use WhatsApp.

I say - and I suppose most of this is correct. Here is some more:

Facebook’s business model is built on capturing as much of our attention as possible to encourage people to create and share more information about who they are and who they want to be. We pay for Facebook with our data and our attention, and by either measure it doesn’t come cheap.

I was on the original News Feed team (my name is on the patent), and that product now gets billions of hours of attention and pulls in unknowable amounts of data each year. The average Facebook user spends an hour a day on the platform; Instagram users spend 53 minutes a day scrolling through pictures and videos. They create immense amounts of data — not just likes and dislikes, but how many seconds they watch a particular video — that Facebook uses to refine its targeted advertising. Facebook also collects data from partner companies and apps, without most users knowing about it, according to testing by The Wall Street Journal.

I say, again and also suppose that most of the above is correct.

I have to add (I think) that I don't use any of Facebook or any of its associated programs and never did, and never will, and that in fact I only visited Facebook twice, and that only because I was slandered on it, but then such is life, and I hate the idea and the practice of Facebook from the very beginning - and see my
On the sham called "Facebook" (written in 2011).

Here is some more:

As if Facebook’s opaque algorithms weren’t enough, last year we learned that Facebook executives had permanently deleted their own messages from the platform, erasing them from the inboxes of recipients; the justification was corporate security concerns.

Possibly so, but I also infer that Facebook's executives clearly think of themselves as supermen, who can do what they like, and do not allow others to do.

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

Just breaking up Facebook is not enough. We need a new agency, empowered by Congress to regulate tech companies. Its first mandate should be to protect privacy.

The Europeans have made headway on privacy with the General Data Protection Regulation, a law that guarantees users a minimal level of protection. A landmark privacy bill in the United States should specify exactly what control Americans have over their digital information, require clearer disclosure to users and provide enough flexibility to the agency to exercise effective oversight over time. The agency should also be charged with guaranteeing basic interoperability across platforms.

Finally, the agency should create guidelines for acceptable speech on social media.

I agree again, and this is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a lot more than I quoted.

On writing html

It is made impossible on Linux if you want WYSIWYG (it seems)

I bought a new (though 2nd hand) computer yesterday and installed it with Linux/Ubuntu 18.04 LTS. It does look considerably better than 16.04 LTS which I have been using for several years and it seems mostly OK - except for two things:
  1. I cannot install KompoZer on it, which I have been using since 2011
  2. There is no other decent html editor on Linux that I found, apart from Seamonkey
As to the first point: KompoZer is in some respects a bad program, but it is also an editor in which you can write in the html as it will also appear on your site (WYSIWYG), and in which you can edit quite a few html files at the same time in one editor.

Its badness resides in the fact that there are several quite irritating mistakes in it, but since I have been using it for 8 years now I am used to them and know how to avoid them for them for the most part.

It goodness resides in two facts:

Firstly, you can write in it in files that look completely as they will look when published, which means that you do not need to see any html-code (though you can do that as well, and
sometimes have to in order to correct mistakes).

Secondly, it is the only html editor on Linux that I know of apart from one in SeaMonkey (which is an alternative to Firefox). and the html that you can write in SeaMonkey, although that is quite decent, is limited to one file at the time (and not 12, as in KompoZer).

Besides, while it does work in the SeaMonkey that I have installed on the computer that runs Linux/Ubuntu 16.04, that SeaMonkey is several years old and I fear that also will not install on the
the computer that runs Linux/Ubuntu 18.04 that I bought yesterday, though I still have to try that.

So for the moment the situation is as follows:

I can write decent html on the old 16.04, while so far I have found no other way to write html on 18.04 except by writing it as text, i.e. with all the html code, which is much more difficult as the html code is quite distracting from the text it conveys and also contains.

There are plenty of html editors on Linux that work in text, and some are reported to be quite good, but I strongly prefer a WYSIWYG editor with a large site like mine.

More later.

[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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