May 11, 2019

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

“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 11, 2019
   B. On writing html

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, May 11, 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 11, 2019:

The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:
1. Silicon Valley Could Care Less About Earth’s Imminent Demise
2. Ralph Nader: The Contented Classes Must Rise Up, Too

3. Just When Did America Go Nuts?

B. On writing html

WYSIWYG is possible on 18.04, thanks to SeaMonkey

1. Silicon Valley Could Care Less About Earth’s Imminent Demise

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

Plenty of people and companies have had a hand in leading the globe down the destructive, possibly irreversible path to climate catastrophe. In his New York Times Best Seller “Falter: Has the Human Game Begun to Play Itself Out?,” Bill McKibben, who has written over a dozen books about the environment and has been called “the world’s best green journalist,” fingers the Koch brothers, the Republican Party and fossil fuel companies worldwide, among countless others. This is humanity’s endgame, after all, and in a matter so serious and wide-reaching, there is plenty of blame to go around.

While each of these actors has played their part in our environmental tragedy, however, there’s another culprit that has largely gone overlooked: Silicon Valley. In the global tech capital, McKibben found megamillionaires who are less interested in saving this planet and more invested in finding a new planet to inhabit.

Yes indeed: I quite agree - and here is some information about Bill McKibben.

Here is some more:

McKibben traces this ideology, prevalent in Silicon Valley as well as other sectors of U.S. society, to such figures as Ronald Reagan, author Ayn Rand and former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who popularized an extremely individualistic worldview about life that reigned for decades.

“That worldview would have been a problem at any time,” McKibben asserts, “but it’s a tragedy at the moment, when we desperately needed government to step in and do something about climate change.”

Scheer maintains that while Republicans and libertarians certainly played a damaging role in this environmental story, Democrats such as Bill Clinton, who not only continued Reagan’s plans but expanded on them, share part of the blame.

Yes, I quite agree again.

And here is some more, that is rather important:

Alarmingly, McKibben, who is credited with bringing climate change to the world’s attention and who helped found the environmental organization, thinks it may be too late to make significant change to the dystopian trajectory the human race is on.

I have to agree with McKibben, indeed for a quite simple reason: I have been following what I shall call politics, but which comprises a lot more, for more than 50 years, and in all of that time I have seen extremely few rational and decent changes.

Instead, nearly all the changes I have seen since the late 1960ies were irrational or indecent. Therefore I am quite pessimistic in my expectations.

Here is the first of two bits from the interview that makes up most of the text in this article:

RS: (..) [W]e’ve got these very smart people out there–first of all, we have one set of, if not smart, at least successful people, the Koch brothers and others, and what is characterized as libertarians, but mostly the kind of wild followers of Ayn Rand and Mises and von Hayek and so forth, the libertarians. And despite being smart, they’re actually willing to help destroy the planet at a faster rate, and they’ve put a lot of money into elections and things. And so there’s a real important alarm bell sounding here about what’s happened to our democratic process. You quote these people basically saying they don’t believe in democracy, want to destroy the system. So the first half of the book is a compelling argument that these people have put the planet at risk, that they’re irresponsible, they’ve used their money that they’ve gained from exploiting the world’s resources, and they’ve used it to destroy this fragile experiment in representative democracy. So very powerful. Then, we go into your shift from the old industry to the new. And we have these people who believe in artificial intelligence, they believe in–but that part I get. But then they also seem to believe in preserving their bodies so that they can come back. And some of them actually think by the year twenty–was it thirty something?–we may have the means of perpetual life, that we’ll have solved all the medical problems.

Yes, that is mostly correct, but I do have to remark something about the smartness of these people (mostly from Silicon Valley), which I do as a psychologist:

While I do not deny many of the leaders of Silicon Valley are smart in some sense, one should realize that (i) there are - at least - many tens and probably more different human talents, of which (ii) nobody has more than two or three in any excessive way - which is to say that even the smartest of men are mostly quite average as regards the vast majority of human talents.

That possibly may change with genetical engineering (which is what many in Silicon Valley believe) but so far the situation is as I said in my previous paragraph.

Also, in fact I'd say that most of the political and other beliefs of the leaders of Silicon Valley are not part of the smartness they do excel in (say, coding computers) and are also not a part of the genuine knowledge they do have (again about coding and computers) - which is to say that these beliefs are not based on more smartness or more information than most ordinary people do have.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

BM: (..) I think you’re looking for a kind of level of logic that’s not here. You have to look for the emotional logic. What is it that if you’re a tech baron, what is it that you most want? You want to be left alone by the government. That’s been their, that’s been their cry from the beginning. And you know, I mean, what did Mark Zuckerberg say when he started Facebook? “We’re going to move fast and break things.” And boy, have they!

RS: He also said about privacy, “Get over it.”

BM: Yeah. So they don’t want–what they and the Koch brothers don’t want is society–they don’t want the rest of us in their way. They want to do what they want to do. And we live in a world, unfortunately, where in the crucial 30 or 40 years, that view kind of won out. Beginning with Reagan, the view that government was the problem, not the solution; beginning with Maggie Thatcher, declaring that there is no such thing as society, there are only individuals. You know, that worldview would have been a problem at any time, but it’s a tragedy at the moment when we desperately needed government to step in and do something about climate change.
Yes, I completely agree with McKibben on this. There is a lot more in this article, that is strongly recommended.

2. Ralph Nader: The Contented Classes Must Rise Up, Too

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

For all the rhetoric and all the charities regarding America’s children, the U.S. stands at the very bottom of western nations and some other countries as well, in terms of youth well-being. The U.S.’s exceptionalism is clearest in its cruelty to children. The U.S. has the highest infant mortality rate of comparable OECD countries. Not only that, but 2.5 million American children are homeless and 16.2 million children “lack the means to get enough nutritious food on a regular basis.”

The shamelessness continues as the youngsters increase in age. The Trump regime is cutting the SNAP food program for poor kids. In 2018, fewer children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP than in 2017. To see just how bad Trump’s war on poor American children is getting, go to the web sites of the Children’s Defense Fund  and the Children’s Advocacy Center.

Yes, I quite agree. Here is some more:

For years our country’s political and corporate rulers have saddled college students with breathtaking debt and interest rates. Student debt is now at $1.5 trillion. Both corporations and the federal government are profiting off of America’s young. In no other western country is this allowed, with most nations offering tuition-free higher education.


When you read the stories of impoverished students, squeezed in all directions, you’d think they came out of third-world favelas. At the City University of New York (CUNY), forty eight percent of students had been food insecure in the past 30 days.

Kassandra Montes, a senior at Lehman College, lives in a Harlem homeless shelter. Montes  “works two part-time jobs and budgets only $15 per week for food… [She] usually skips breakfast in order to make sure that her 4-year-old son is eating regularly.” Montes said: “I feel like I’m slowly sinking as I’m trying to grow.”


In a nation whose president and Congress in one year give tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon more than the generals asked for, it is unconscionable that students must rely on leftover food from dining halls and catered events, SNAP benefits, and whatever food pantries can assemble.

I did not know most of the above, but I believe Ralph Nader - and in fact, while I am a quite poor Dutchman, with a less than minimal pension (because I've lived nearly 3 years in Norway), for which reason I am very careful with money, I spend about $15 dollars on food every two days, and could not live for a week on $15 dollars for food.

Here is more, and this relates to the title of this article:

As long as we’re speaking of shame, what about those millions of middle and upper middle class informed, concerned bystanders. They’re all over America trading “tsk tsks” over coffee or other social encounters. They express dismay, disgust, and denunciations at each outrage from giant corporations’ abuses, to the White House and the Congress’ failings. They are particularly numerous in University towns. They know but they do not do.

Yes, Nader is quite right and I have two additional bits of information on the last quotation:

First, it depends how strong you take "being informed" and "being concerned", but from my point of view (based on a lot of reading that is mostly summarized in Nederlogs, especially those of 2012 onwards: see the crisis index) I don't think these are more than 5% of any population of any country. (You may disagree, but it is certain that in any case these "informed, concerned" people must be considerably less than 50%.)

And second, I am personally quite certain (mostly because I am the third generation of a revolutionary and quite intelligent family) that the vast majority of these "informed, concerned" people will do little else than "trading “tsk tsks” over coffee or other social encounters", for that is what I have seen them do for over 50 years. For some more, see above.

Here is some more by Nader:

These informed, concerned people—who don’t have to worry about a living wage, not having health insurance, being gouged by payday loans, and having no savings—were called “the contented classes” in The Culture of Contentment, a book by the late progressive Harvard economist John Kenneth Gailbraith. His main point—until the contented classes wake up and organize for change, history has shown, our country will continue to slide in the wrong direction. He said all this before climate disruption, massive money-corrupting politics, and the corporate crime wave had reached anywhere near their present destructive levels.

Yes, I think Nader and Galbraith probably are right about this. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The question to be asked: Who among the contented classes will unfurl the flag of rebellion against the plutocrats and the autocrats? It can be launched almost anywhere they please. A revolution can start the moment they decide to prioritize the most marginalized people in this country over their comfort.

Well... I can point to Ralph Nader himself as a very prominent example of the very few of  the "informed, concerned" people" who did or may do so. The vast majority of the "informed, concerned" people" will do nothing except "trading “tsk tsks” over coffee or other social encounters", indeed largely because they are financially well of. And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Just When Did America Go Nuts?

This article is by Mike Lofgren on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

At the dawn of my congressional career, after some of us staffers endured a particularly egregious dose of idiocy, one of my colleagues was moved to compare our office to Saint Elizabeth’s, then still functioning as a mental hospital in DC (and now, fittingly, as headquarters of the Department of Homeland Security). “Not quite,” I responded. “Here the lunatics are in charge.”

That exchange, alas, has become a prophecy for the nation at large. It begins, as we are made aware by each daily tweet-storm, at the very top, but this insanity could not persist without broad and intense public support. It has become commonplace to characterize such supporters as haters, but while it would be dangerous to underestimate the role of sheer malice, Trumpism could only sustain itself with tens of millions of people who might not fit the profile of a hater, but are assuredly either borderline imbeciles or not-quite-certifiably insane.

Yes, I mostly quite agree and especially with "Trumpism could only sustain itself with tens of millions of people who might not fit the profile of a hater, but are assuredly either borderline imbeciles or not-quite-certifiably insane".

But I must make a remark as a psychologist: I think there are easily tens of millions "imbeciles" in the USA (indeed more, for half of any large unsorted population has an IQ below 100), but I do not think many of these
"imbeciles" are insane in a psychological or psychiatric sense.

Then again, I agree that the term "insanity" has other senses than a psychological or psychiatric sense.

Here is some more:

Item. One of the “noble lies” undergirding modern society is the myth of the rational actor. So-called enlightened self-interest suffuses economics (although corporations know better, which explains their lavish expenditures on advertising); as well as game theory, which supposedly prevents nuclear war from breaking out; and politics.

Political scientists (and some psychologists) are fond of proving that people “vote their interests” by the simple, circular expedient of defining a subject’s true interests as whatever they opt for. It is time for a sweeping reevaluation of this canard.

Yes, I quite agree - and for more on the myth of "the rational actor" see here and here.

Here is some more:

How in the world did we get here? Journalist Kurt Andersen, writing in his abundantly detailed Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire, believes craziness was baked into the American cake from the moment the Mayflower hove to at Plymouth Rock. Whether the holy man was Cotton Mather, P.T. Barnum, or Deepak Chopra, Americans have been primed to believe with the faith of a five-year-old in Santa Claus. That said, he posits that there were cycles of remission, when rationality was apparently on top, and then outbreaks of fever, when the passion burned with naked flame. The latter applies to an age like this.

My own pet theory is that American craziness, while always abundant, was relatively contained until 9/11, which opened a Pandora’s Box of hysterical fear, one of the basic ingredients of irrationality. It was quickly followed by the invasion of Iraq, which unloosed an avalanche of vaunting that we were endowed with special powers to remake the world. Note an essential component of stupidity: we retaliated for 9/11 by invading a country which had nothing to do with it.

I quite agree with Lofgren (and disagree with Andersen, for quite a few reasons).

Here is the ending of this article:

Everything that followed, like the birther mania, was a signal flare that the Republican Party and its assorted hangers-on had devolved from merely being a pack of cynical crooks to full-dress nihilistic cultists.

All of this was supercharged by the Internet, right-wing talk radio, and Fox News – media nonexistent during previous bouts of mania. They acted as an electronic petri dish to purify and amplify the craziness.

We are now seeing the infection of lunacy on full display, like the alien monster in John Carpenter’s The Thing bursting out of its human hosts. Where exactly it will all end is anyone’s guess, but the odds are not good that it will end well.

Yes, I quite agree again. And this is a strongly recommended article.

On writing html

WYSIWYG is possible on 18.04, thanks to SeaMonkey

This continues yesterday's file that started as follows:

I bought a new (though 2nd hand) computer on May 9 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
And I have to give up KompoZer on 18.04 LTS MATE for it refuses to install on that. This may be due to MATE (I had 16.04 GNOME) but I do not know that and anyway the latest KompoZer is from 2008.

Then again I did mention SeaMonkey yesterday, which has fairly decent html editing on my 16.04 LTS, but about which I did not know then whether it installs on 18.04 LTS MATE.

I do know today:

The latest SeaMonkey does install on 18.04 and still does have decent WYSIWYG html editing - which means that I can edit my Dutch site in fairly decent
WYSIWYG. Then again, I probably have to give up my Danish site, for I cannot reach that from 18.04.

Also, while WYSIWYG editing is possible on 18.04 that lacks the Verdana font, which is the font of my site ever since the previous century (and that is present on 16.04).

Oh well... more tomorrow on both aspects. Today I want to say something about html-editors on Linux.

First of all, whereas the only decent WYSIWYG html editors on Linux 16.04 are KompoZer and SeaMonkey, 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 html-editor with a large site - over 500 MB - like mine.

And I completely fail to understand coding in text - with all html-code constantly visible - on Linux, except if (i) you only want to write one or a few short files (but my site has thousands of files) or else if (ii) you are for some strange reason strongly committed to coding in html.

As to (i):

My site has thousands of files and is over 500 MB, all in html and has been nearly all written in WYSIWYG html editors since 1996. I did it that way because it works, and because writing in a
WYSIWYG html editor is much easier than writing it in text + html-coding.

WYSIWYG html editors seem to have been dying out, certainly on Linux, and the reasons have - in my opinion - a lot to do with growing stupefication, for in fact a WYSIWYG html editor is an addition to a non-WYSIWYG html editor (as in KompoZer, where you can write code as much as you like if you really want to), and that seems considerably more difficult to write (as code) than a non-WYSIWYG html editor.

I think that is the main reason there are very few
WYSIWYG html editors on Linux - which I think is a bitter shame, for this means there are less and less sites written in html, and more and more people who are driven to Facebook instead.

As to (ii):

I have been writing html since 1996; I know html pretty well; and I think anyone who insists that my site should have been coded in a
non-WYSIWYG html editor is crazy. I also do not understand the reason for it, except if this is a way of coding that is considerably easier than writing code in C, Pascal, Assembly etc. Well... I do know how to code in these too, but strongly prefer my writing html without having to see the html code.

More later, namely on Verdana (the font of my site since the previous century, that has disappeared onb 18.04) and on my Danish site, that I probably cannot reach from 18.04.

[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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