May 20, 2019

   Four Crisis Articles

“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 20, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Monday, May 20, 2019.

I bought a computer on May 9 with Ubuntu 18.04 LTS MATE and am for the coming months (at least) "between two computers".  I shall continue - for the time being - to write and upload my files from 16.04 LTS (that is: from the old computer, that I bought in 2012) because that is easier right now and the old computer still works (and may continue to work for another two years or more, although I do not know that).

Well, here is a change I made on May 17:

I did not like 18.04 LTS mostly because quite a few files I have been editing for 20+ years can't be installed any more on that (for incomprehensible reasons also) so I had 18.04 deinstalled and got 16.04 LTS reinstalled on the new computer - but that too is different from the 16.04 LTS on the old computer...

More later.

Also, and in any case, I decided to write less on the crisis (I did review over 10,000 files since 2013), in part because it makes no difference and in part because I am 69.

But I'll continue Nederlog. At present this is in a midway position between the old style (five reviews each day) and some new style, that I do not know yet, and that for the time being I fix on three or four reviews each day (but that may change and probably will).

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 20, 2019:

The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:
1. Donald Trump and the War Against a Free Press
2. You’re Not Alone When You’re on Google

3. GOP congressman triggered by attack on Big Pharma
4. The Most Evil People in the 200K-Year History of Humanity?

1. Donald Trump and the War Against a Free Press

This article is by Jeremy Scahill on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Another alleged whistleblower has been charged with espionage. This week on Intercepted: Donald Trump is set to shatter Barack Obama’s record of prosecuting journalistic sources under the 1917 Espionage Act. Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, talks about the weaponization of this law for use in stopping investigative journalism and the case of Air Force veteran Daniel Hale, who is facing 50 years in prison. Jeremy Scahill tells the story of the prosecution of Socialist leader Eugene Debs in 1918 and its echoes in the modern era. Organizer Bill Fletcher Jr. discusses the Trump administration’s intensifying military threats against Iran, the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela, and offers strategic thoughts on how to view the 2020 Democratic primary field. The anti-choice movement is making its most intense push to abolish Roe v. Wade in years and with Trump’s new Supreme Court justices, the threat could become reality. Dr. Krystal Redman, executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now in Georgia, talks about the spate of new laws being implemented in several states that seek to criminalize abortion and women’s health care providers.

Actually, this is a survey of what's in this article. I shall use only a few bits of it, but I gave you the survey to show you what you miss if you don't read the article (which indeed is good).

Here is the first bit that I quote, which is about the freedom of the press in the USA:

JS: We are at an extremely dangerous moment in the history of this country. Donald Trump is using the same rhetoric used by Nazi officials in the 1930s and 40s to attack the press. He has said that he wants to jail journalists who publish stories he doesn’t like. And he is wielding the Espionage Act like a chainsaw against journalistic sources. What makes it all so much worse is that it was the Constitutional law scholar and Trump predecessor Barack Obama who teed Trump up, who laid the groundwork, who blazed the trail for this extremely deranged and dangerous man currently occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But look at the way these stories are covered in the broader media. With a few notable exceptions, the lack of solidarity or just basic understanding of how dangerous these cases are is just largely absent. Instead there are attacks on the news organizations or the reporters. And for all of the talk of how dangerous Trump is to a free press, why hasn’t the Reality Winner case been covered more extensively? Why is a CNN reporter who lost his credentials a national scandal and threatening alleged whistleblowers with 50 years in prison is a non-story?

Well... I agree with the first bit of the first paragraph, but I do not see why "[w]hat makes it all so much worse is that it was the Constitutional law scholar and Trump predecessor Barack Obama who teed Trump up", for the simple reason that I concluded long ago (in 2009) that Obama was both intelligent and corrupt, and I still think so, and indeed fail to see why Obama is supposed to make "it all so much worse".

As to the second quoted paragraph:

I agree, but then I also explain it by - what I think - is a fact: Many editors and many journalists have been dismissed since 9/11 and those who replaced them were more interested in money for themselves than in writing the truth for the public.

Here is some more:

JS: Daniel Everett Hale is facing a half a century in prison for his alleged crime of blowing the whistle on a secret assassination program that regularly resulted in the killing of civilians, including an American teenager. None of this is about espionage. And it should be clear to every journalist in this country, to every person of conscience that what this prosecution is about is threatening anyone who even thinks of leaking, say, a Trump tax return. This is about criminalizing journalism. It is about increasing the secrecy and decreasing the transparency. It is an assault on the very idea of a democratic society. At these moments, silence is complicity. Everyone should care about what happened to Reality Winner and what’s happening again to Chelsea Manning and what has happened to Edward Snowden and, yes, Julian Assange. And we should all care what happens to Daniel Everett Hale.

Yes, I totally agree, and I also think that being committed 50 years to prison for "blowing the whistle on a secret assassination program" is utterly ridiculous cruelty: In Holland people may get eight years in prison for murder; in Norway the maximum punishment for anything is twenty years in prison.

Here is some more:
This is a precedent setting moment, not just legally, but morally. Because this is not the end. This is the beginning and they will eventually come for other news organizations. Or they will scare news outlets from doing high stakes national security reporting. It doesn’t matter what you think of any of these individual whistleblowers. It doesn’t matter what you think of The Intercept. But it does matter that we all recognize that this is an attack on our basic rights to information about what the U.S. government does in our names and with our tax dollars. It matters that people who blow the whistle on crimes and war crimes be defended and not abandoned or portrayed as violent criminals or traitors.
Yes, I completely agree again. Here is some more, and "TT" = Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation:

TT: (..) I mean, you really only have to listen to what Trump says. I mean, you know, everybody is furious when Trump starts tweeting about journalists as enemy of the people. But look what he says around that. He talks about how he is furious with leakers. The FBI and [the] Justice Department have figured out that they can use technology to basically track everything that every government employee does. You know, we talk a lot about surveillance of the American people which is incredibly important, but the government is actually surveilling its own employees much more than anybody else.

And when you know, you see these indictments and how they are able to track somebody’s every move, what they looked at, what they printed, cameras following them around. It’s quite scary, especially when we’re dealing with a president as unhinged as Trump

I completely agree with Timm, and in fact I also think that the internet was designed to snoop everything about everyone who is on internet, which makes the internet by far the strongest force for neofascism - and see the links.

Here is some more on the differences between two kinds of leakers:

JS: You know, I also think it’s important to remind people how powerful leakers or powerful people who are sloppy with their “operational security” are treated. I’m thinking specifically of General David Petraeus who as far as we know was showing sensitive and classified material to someone he was having an affair with and, you know, he got off with barely even a slap on the on the wrist and it hasn’t affected his livelihood. Hillary Clinton had a private email server where she had thousands of emails, some of which the government said should have been classified. Nothing, nothing ever happens as a result of that criminally, whatsoever. And then you have Reality Winner doing five years in prison for allegedly leaking one piece of paper about the 2016 elections and attempts by the Russian GRU to probe or cyberattack software systems being used in some states for elections. You have Daniel Hale facing half a century in prison for allegedly blowing the whistle on a global assassination program that existed with a parallel justice system where the president decided who could be killed or who lived on any given day. But that juxtaposition between official leakers, powerful people who do this kind of stuff and then whistleblowers of conscience.

Yes, I completely agree again. Also, there is much more in this article that people should know, and it is strongly recommended.

2. You’re Not Alone When You’re on Google

This article is by Jennifer Senior on The New York Times. This is from near its beginning:
We loathe that our data is mined and scraped, yet still we opt for Google over DuckDuckGo (never mind that Google is tracking our moves like an assassin); still we use Facebook (never mind that it harvests our personal information like so many internal organs); and we click “I agree” when downloading our apps, knowing full well that those apps are talking to other apps, telling them how much we eat and what music we listen to and when we ovulate.
I seem to be forever surrendering my privacy in exchange for some short-term gain, rather than dutifully slogging through the decision tree of the cookie opt-out.
I am sorry, but I am not "we" and I also dislike being written about as if I am:

I do not use Google at all for searching, and only use Youtube to see some films. Otherwise I totally avoid Google, because it is a sadistic, fascistic and morally totally degenerate organization. Also, I never used Facebook, and only visited it twice since 2011 (to read some utterly false accusations of me). And I downloaded very few apps (and use my computer almost only - on the internet - to browse and read mail).

Next, there is this:

Let’s consider, just as an example, why we are forever skating past the internet’s fine print. In 2008 — 2008! before Instagram, before Uber, before WhatsApp! — two of Acquisti’s colleagues at Carnegie Mellon calculated just how long it would take for the average internet user to read the privacy policies of all the websites he or she visited in a single year. Their answer: over 30 workdays, at a national opportunity cost of $781 billion.

Yes, I agree and I admit that I never read what is described as "the internet’s fine print", and not only because I lack the time, but also because this is always written by lawyers in legalistic prose (that tends to be about American laws) that I simply cannot understand as an American lawyer might, possibly.

Here is some more:
Joyce Searls, a privacy activist and consultant in Santa Barbara, Calif., is forever reminding people that we’ve barely begun to understand who and what we are on the internet, in part because it’s a disembodied experience. We think we’re alone while we’re buzzing through the mists of cyberspace — that a Google search is akin to thumbing through the Yellow Pages, because it feels just as solitary. But it isn’t. We are being watched, tracked; we simply don’t realize it, because we can’t see it or feel it.

Which suggests another reason we’re less than conscientious about our online habits: Most of us haven’t paid a humiliating price for being watched and tracked. “We’ve had a massive experience of walking around naked with no perceived consequences,” says Searls. Why bother getting dressed?
Once again: I strongly dislike being called "we" and being treated as if I am a fool.

Besides, finding out "
who and what we are on the internet" is made virtually impossible because, on the one hand, we need all one month a year to read through the legalistic bullshit that come with downloaded apps (and even if "we" read all, "we" very probably will not understand most of it), while on the other hand everyone who follows us, spies on us, takes all our private information, reads our emails, and finds out in general by spying on everybody what we think, feel, desire, value, how much money we have, how well educated we are, etc. etc. including all the photographs "we" put on the internet, is totally beyond any legal complaint, for it seems even e-mails can be read by anyone on the internet (with sufficient money) unlike the post.

Then again, as I said already:
the internet was designed to snoop everything about everyone who is on internet, which makes the internet by far the strongest force for neofascism.

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

So we carry on. Even though everyone is mutely collecting our queries, preferences, fetishes, anxieties.

Google. Amazon. Facebook. YouTube. Pandora. Pinterest. The Weather Channel. Reddit. Wikipedia. Major League Baseball. PornHub. Zillow. Your newspaper. Your bank. Your phone carrier. Everyone.

I agree, but once again: I am not "we". And while this article has been written by a journalist who probably means well, I don't think she can write.
3. GOP congressman triggered by attack on Big Pharma

This article is by Sophia Tesfaye on Salon. I abbreviated the title. This is from near its beginning:

At a House Oversight and Reform Committee hearing this week, Republicans howled in bitter protest after Democrats dared to question the massive profits claimed by leading pharmaceutical companies while millions can’t afford lifesaving medications.

Daniel O’Day, the chairman and CEO of Gilead, was grilled by Democratic lawmakers on Thursday. Although Gilead is the leading US manufacturer of HIV drugs, only about 18% of the 1.1 million people in the U.S. at risk for HIV infections are currently taking its prevention drug Truvada. Democrats contended that that means preventable infections are occurring every day because of Gilead’s business model.

Gilead charged $800 a month for Truvada when it was introduced in 2004. It now costs nearly $2000 a month and has earned Gilead about $36 billion since it was approved in 2004.

Yes indeed. And in fact I could also not pay either $800 or $2000 a month, since my - sub-minimal - pension is about $1000 a month, and I have to eat, pay the rent etc.

Then again, here is the answer why medicines are so expensive in the USA:

Rep. Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., also piled on O’Day. “You’re the CEO of Gilead. Is it true that Gilead made $3 billion in profits from Truvada in 2018?” she asked.

“The current list price is $2,000 a month in the United States, correct?” she continued. “Why is it $8 in Australia?”

Well, the answer is clearly: Because both Daniel O'Dat and his company Gilead want to make as much as possible from their medicines, and do not see any moral reason not to make as much as possible from their medicines, also not if this makes their medicines too expensive to use for anyone who does not earn at least $75,000 a year.

Then there is this:

After another freshman Democrat, Rep. Katie Hill of California, questioned the CEO about the company’s revenue, which she quoted at $22 billion in 2018, and the compensation of its highest-ranking executives, including O’Day’s recent $30 million signing bonus, Republicans lost it.

“I just cannot understand why we are spending time sitting here listening to people lecturing companies about making money. I hope you make a lot of money,” Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in a two-minute outburst.

“But to sit here and attack the capitalistic system that produces and distributes medicine that is saving lives around the world? I mean it is just offensive!”

I say. Well... in my opinion Chip Roy is a fascist terrorist and a complete moral degenerate. (If he wants to persecute me legally he is welcome, but he should know I have been called both "a dirty fascist" and "a terrorist" for 11 years while I was a student in the "University" of Amsterdam because I was not a communist, and not a postmodernist, and was pro real science in a "University" where 95% of the students were pro communists and/or pro postmodernism, and nobody ever cared shit in Holland that I was called these thing for 11 years.)

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

Medical experts, however, appear to disagree.

“I believe that the root cause of low access is the high price of the medication,” testified Dr. Robert Grant, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco.

Well... of course, if medicines that cost $8 dollars in Australia a month (including profits) cost first $800 and now $2000 a month in the USA, to satisfy the sickening greed of Daniel O'Day and Gilead? And the same for many other medicines from other phramaceutical companies? This is a strongly recommended article.
4. The Most Evil People in the 200K-Year History of Humanity?

This article is by Juan Cole on Common Dreams and originally on Informed Comment. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:
Internal ExxonMobil documents show that the company’s scientists predicted in 1982 that by 2020, parts per million of carbon dioxide in earth’s atmosphere would reach 410-420 ppm. For the first time this spring ppm of CO2 exceeded 415.

The memo says in part,
Considerable uncertainty also surrounds the possible impact on society of such a warming trend, should it occur. At the low end of the predicted temperature range there could be some impact on agricultural growth and rainfall patterns which could be beneficial in some regions and detrimental in others.
At the high end, some scientists suggest there could be considerable adverse impact including the flooding of some coastal land masses as a result of a rise in sea level due to melting of the Antarctic ice sheet.
They understood that the full effect of this vast increase in heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere would cause enormous changes, though much of the damage would occur centuries down the line.

The company covered up these memos and staged a multi-million- dollar disinformation campaign to throw doubt on the reality of human-made climate change, to ensure that ExxonMobil could go on making billions in profits each year from selling gasoline.

The scientists nailed it. ExxonMobil nailed it. They can be proud of their scientific prowess and predictive abilities, right?

Wrong. They are evil.

They are the most evil human beings to walk the earth since Homo Sapiens emerged in southern Africa around 200,000 years ago.

Yes indeed - I think this is mostly quite correct, although I do not know about the last statement I quoted, indeed mostly because there are billions of human beings of whom I know only a few well.

But Cole is quite right that ExxonMobil knew what it was doing in 1982, as it happens also quite precisely (which in turn suggests what I have been saying a long time now, in Nederlog: extremely little has been done politically or legally about the environment/the climate in the last 40 years), but they did keep their knowledge silent for 40 years, all so that ExxonMobil and its CEOs could keep earning billions and millions).

Here is more on ExxonMobil:

ExxonMobil has single-handedly been conducting a vast terraforming experiment that will displace hundreds of millions of people. Some two-thirds of Egypt’s 100 million people live in the Nile River delta, which has low elevations and some of which will be submerged even in the current century. Bangladesh isn’t going to be there after a while, displacing 150 million people.

I agree with Cole that this appears to be the future, and that it has been created in part by ExxonMobil.

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

CEOs of ExxonMobil such as Lee Raymond or Rex Tillerson or currently Darren Woods are banal in their evil, as Hannah Arendt would lead us to expect. They probably aren’t even interesting to talk to. They are like wind-up toys, their springs being profit, that can’t change direction, driving toward extinction.

But they are much worse in the practical effect of their evil than Hitler or Pol Pot or any of the other genocidal maniacs we’ve seen in the past century.

They deliberately wrecked a planet to make a few bucks (in Lee Raymond’s case, $400 million of them). Tens of millions of human beings will die so that they can have private planes and huge mansions.

They are Darth Vaders and Thanatoses, they are destroyers of a planet. And they manage in their cupidity and their cunning and their dishonesty to be utterly boring and worthy of no one’s interest as people. They lack a soul.

Well... I somewhat agree with Cole, but I don't think you can fairly compare the chairmen of ExxonMobil (who do appear to me to be bad, greedy liars for their own profits: I agree to that) with "Hitler or Pol Pot" if only because neither Hitler nor Pol Pot could do remotely as much evil as ExxonMobil could (and indeed many other companies who destroyed much of nature over the last 40 yeears).

And this is a strongly 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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