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Nederlog

June 26, 2019

Crisis: British Politics, Less than a Millisecond, Facebook + Libra, Breaking Up Big Tech


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






Sections

Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 26, 2019
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, June 26, 2019.

I realize that I did not commemorate the fact that I am writing Crisis files for six years now, since I started to do so after June 10, 2013, which taught me about Snowden.

I am registering it now, and may write about it the coming days, but I am also somewhat worse at present than I was for a long time. (This still continues: I have ME/CFS since 40+ years.)

There will be more about computers and Ubuntu in Nederlog soon, but I am happy to announce that Ubuntu 16.04 LTS, that I installed in 2017, works again as it did before on May 24, and after 24 hours of misery.

And on May 23 I also got a working computer with 18.04 LTS (which is worse than 16.04 LTS because its Firefox also is a menuless horror that I refuse to use, but happily SeaMonkey is not, for it still has it menus and can be installed on 18.04), so I am at present - and after two weeks of struggling - in the possession of two more or less, though not yet quite decently working computers.

So today there is a more or less common Nederlog, where "common" is the style I developed in 2013.

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 four crisis files that are mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from June 26, 2019:
1. A Fanatical Sect Has Hijacked British Politics
2. We Have Less Than a Millisecond Left
3. Facebook May Pose a Greater Danger Than Wall Street
4. Why We Need to Break Up Big Tech
The items 1 - 4 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. A Fanatical Sect Has Hijacked British Politics

This article is by William Davies on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

It seems there is only one voter who matters to British politics right now: a Brexit-obsessed, 50-something white man living in rural southern England.

Why? Because a quirk of Britain’s unwritten constitution is that prime ministers are often appointed by their parties without facing general election. John Major, Gordon Brown and Theresa May all entered office as a result of their predecessor resigning, and then being selected by their party to take charge. Only Mr. Major was ever able to achieve any clear electoral success of his own.

Mrs. May’s resignation last month meant that, once again, a new prime minister will soon be appointed without a democratic mandate. The overwhelming favorite is Boris Johnson, the controversial journalist-turned- politician, with a lifelong weakness for causing offense and then laughing off the consequences. Unless there is a great upset, Mr. Johnson’s appointment will be announced on July 23, leaving this notoriously reckless figure to navigate Britain’s exit from the European Union, which he has committed to delivering by the Oct. 31 deadline.

Yes indeed - and please note that "Britain’s unwritten constitution" is violently anti-democratic , for it imposed no less than three prime ministers in the past 25 years who were not chosen at all by the British voters.

Here is some more:

At a time of deep political and economic anxiety, the contest is producing the surreal experience of something that feels like democracy — an election campaign season, complete with televised debates and policy announcements — but without any public franchise. In this case, the “electorate” consists of a mere 160,000 people, just 0.3 percent of the national electorate, who are significantly older and richer than average.

Well... Mr. Davies may feel that this "feels like democracy" but I don't:

To me it is simply sick totally undemocratic bullshit (and I also would never have chosen either of Major, Brown and May, but then I agree that is personal).

Here is some more:

Mr. Johnson’s appeal to his base rests heavily on his enthusiastic comments about “no deal” Brexit, a kamikaze policy that would devastate Britain’s economy and produce a state of emergency for basic civil infrastructure, such as the supply of medicines.
    (..)
More disturbingly, new polling suggests that Conservative Party members are now so fixated on Brexit that they believe it is worth doing at almost any cost — even if it leads to Northern Ireland or Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, “significant damage to the U.K. economy” or, most strikingly, the destruction of the Conservative Party.

I take it this is correct. Here is the last bit from this article that I review:

Pockets of deep resentment toward governing “elites” are a feature of most liberal democracies today, to which there are a range of possible responses. What’s different in Britain is the collision between its old-fashioned, unwritten constitution and the exceptional drama of Brexit, which has become a Trojan Horse through which nationalist, anti-establishment rage is being channeled directly into the corridors of power. For years, the case for reforming Britain’s constitution, to ensure that parties and parliament are more representative of the public, has been viewed as a somewhat academic topic, never urgent enough to demand much attention.

Hmm... no. Here are my disagreements with this last bit:

First, to quote “elites” is utter bullshit after you have just explained Johnson would be the fourth unelected prime minister within some 25 years.

Second, a country without a written constitution has no constitution, for the simple reason that the only way to know what is and isn't in the constitution is to have a written one. Also, I think it is a shame not to have a written constitution.

Third, the supposedly "academic topic" of an unwritten constitution exists since the 1880s (or earlier) for the simple reason that I have a book by a lawyer from the 19th Century that is about the constitution, except that what is the constitution already then was a matter of opinion, that was not written down nor elected. Since that arrangement lasted some 140 years, I feel quite sure it was and is all intentional.

But this is a recommended article.


2. We Have Less Than a Millisecond Left

This article is by Lee Camp on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

We have less than a millisecond left.

You see, the planet we call home has existed for roughly 4.55 billion years. But numbers that large mean almost nothing to me, nor to most people, so I choose to break it down. If we lay the age of the Earth out over a calendar year, that would amount to 518,264 years per hour or 144 years per second. So if we have 10 or 11 years until the point of no return, as climate scientists have repeatedly told us, that means we have a millisecond left before midnight in which to change our society completely to avoid turning the Earth into a piping hot fajita.

I say?! Well... I agree the political, ethical, economical and natural/environmental situation is very serious, which is also why I have been writing about it more or less systematically now for over 10 years, but the above seems close to hysteria to me, even if it is literally true.

Then again it isn't, or at least not quite, if only because I do have (very probably) a somewhat better comprehension of large numbers than Camp.

Then there is this:

None of us should be thinking about anything other than climate change. We all kind of know it even if we think we don’t know it. Even people who deny climate change exists probably secretly know it. They’re just confusing what they want to be true with what they subconsciously know to be true.

Well... what would Camp say to somebody who replied to him: If we have less than a millisecond left, or possibly a mere ten years until we all turn into "piping hot fajita", then why would we not rather spend the last ten years we have on something nice?

I have no idea, but I disagree with Camp's total concentration on climate change (about which I have been worrying since 1972), especially with an American president like Trump, who at any moment may decide to start an atomic war, that is as certain (if in any way mayor) to be as lethal to mankind and nature as climate change.

Here is some more:

I mean climate change should be ALL we’re thinking about. It should be a major factor in every conversation, every job, every TV show, every humor column, every tweet, every clever T-shirt slogan and every fortune cookie message. Climate change should be everything.

Well... it isn't and it will not be. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

The International Governmental Panel on Climate Change says the point of no return is the year 2030. This obviously doesn’t mean everything spontaneously combusts at the stroke of midnight 2030 (although that would be fascinating to watch). It means that after that point—if we aren’t living vastly different lives—no effort will change the fact that the planet inevitably will become uninhabitable and we humans inevitably will go extinct and there inevitably will be no more skiing (both due to a lack of snow and due to a lack of fleshy beings to ride on skis). The year 2030 is the point of no return. It is the date of our impending, prolonged suicide.

Possibly so (though Camp has three times "inevitably" within 14 words).

Anyway... whatever the truth may be about the future of mankind and of the earth, I do not think this is the way to write about it.


3. Facebook May Pose a Greater Danger Than Wall Street

This article is by Ellen Brown on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

Payments can happen cheaply and easily without banks or credit card companies, as has already been demonstrated—not in the United States but in China. Unlike in the U.S., where numerous firms feast on fees from handling and processing payments, in China most money flows through mobile phones nearly for free. In 2018 these cashless payments totaled a whopping $41.5 trillion; and 90% were through Alipay and WeChat Pay, a pair of digital ecosystems that blend social media, commerce and banking. According to a 2018 article in Bloomberg titled “Why China’s Payment Apps Give U.S. Bankers Nightmares”:

The nightmare for the U.S. financial industry is that a technology company—whether from China or a homegrown juggernaut such as Amazon.com Inc. or Facebook Inc.—replicates the success of Alipay and WeChat in America. The stakes are enormous, potentially carving away billions of dollars in annual revenue from major banks and other firms.

I did not quite know WeChat Pay was as far as the above, but I agree with the quote from the article in Bloomberg. Also, I have written more about this lately, and my own response to Facebook's - which is the property of the digital gangster Zuckerberg - planned enormous extension of its vast income and enormous powers is that it should be forbidden, indeed both, namely both Libra and the fraudulent thieving morally deeply degenerate Facebook.

Then again, I agree these are my opinions and desires, and I am also willing to agree that while some politicians worry about Facebook and its projects, there is far too little worrying about Facebook i.e. Zuckerberg's enormous powers (which are based on fraud and theft).

Here is some more on Libra:

On June 18, Facebook unveiled a white paper outlining ambitious plans to create a new global cryptocurrency called Libra, to be launched in 2020. Facebook reportedly has high hopes that Libra will become the foundation for a new financial system free of control by Wall Street power brokers and central banks.

But apparently Libra will not be competing with Visa or Mastercard. In fact, the Libra Association lists those two giants among its 28 soon-to-be founding members. Others include Paypal, Stripe, Uber, Lyft and eBay. Facebook has reportedly courted dozens of financial institutions and other tech companies to join the Libra Association, an independent foundation that will contribute capital and help govern the digital currency.
Yes, these seem all to be facts. Then again, I have a question (which is not answered by this fine article, and to which I do not know the answer myself): What would prevent the Wall Street Banks from taking part in Libra? If Visa, Mastercard and Paypal are?

As I said, I have no ideas about the correct answer. Back to the article:

Economist Nouriel Roubini [wrote], tweeting:

It will start as a private, permissioned, not-trustless, centralized oligopolistic members-only club. So much for calling it "blockchain". Like all "enterprise DLT" it is blockchain in name only and an monopoly to extract massive seignorage from billions of users. A monopoly scam

Another Zero Hedge writer calls Libra “The Dollar’s Killer App,” which threatens “not only the power of central banks but also the government’s money monopoly itself.”

Yes, I agree. Here is how users of Facebook + Libra will be once again be raped, fucked or stolen from:
[The Libra white paper] reveals the profits will indeed be divvied among Facebook’s Libra partners rather than shared with users. At one time, we earned interest on our deposits in government-insured banks. With Libra, we will get no interest on our money, which will be entrusted to uninsured crypto exchanges, which are coming under increasing regulatory pressure due to lack of transparency and operational irregularities.
Yes, I agree. Here is more on Facebook:

Long also predicts that Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be a huge honeypot of data for government officials, since every transaction will be traceable. But other reviewers see this as Libra’s most fatal flaw. Facebook has been called Big Brother, the ultimate government surveillance tool. Conspiracy theorists link it to the CIA and the U.S. Department of Defense. Facebook has already demonstrated that it is an untrustworthy manager of personal data. How then can we trust it with our money?

I agree again (and personally I would not trust Zuckerberg with anything whatsoever).

Here is more on Libra:

Maxine Waters, who heads the Financial Services Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives, asked Facebook to halt its development of Libra until hearings could be held. She said:

This is like starting a bank without having to go through any steps to do it. …  We can’t allow Facebook to go to Switzerland and begin to compete with the dollar without having any regulatory regime that’s dealing with them.

Yes, I completely agree with Waters. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

Jennifer Grygiel writes:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg . . . is declaring that he wants Facebook to become a virtual nation, populated by users, powered by a self-contained economy, and headed by a CEO–Zuckerberg himself– who is not even accountable to his shareholders. . . .

In many ways the company that Mark Zuckerberg is building is beginning to look more like a Roman Empire, now with its own central bank and currency, than a corporation. The only problem is that this new nation-like platform is a controlled company and is run more like a dictatorship than a sovereign country with democratically elected leaders.

Yes indeed: I completely agree with Grygiel, and this is a strongly recommended article. 
4. Why We Need to Break Up Big Tech

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

The combined wealth of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, and Google’s Sergey Brin, and Larry Page is larger than the combined wealth of the bottom half of the American population.  

They are the leaders of a second Gilded Age – ushered in by semiconductors, software and the internet – which has spawned a handful of hi-tech behemoths and crushed competition. 

Facebook, Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft now have the highest market values for all public corporations in America

I take it all of the above is correct, and I also think this is pretty sickening. Here is some background:

America’s first Gilded Age began in the late nineteenth century with a raft of innovations – railroads, steel production, oil extraction – that culminated in mammoth trusts run by “robber barons” like J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, and William Vanderbilt.

The answer then was to break up the railroad, oil, and steel monopolies.

The answer today is the same: Break Up Big Tech.

Yes, I agree, but breaking up big tech will be quite difficult and more difficult than breaking up the Gilded Age, for the simple reason that big tech is much more powerful and has much more money than the rich few in the Gilded Age.

Here is the first of four arguments why big tech - nevertheless - should be broken up:
Yes indeed. (I can assure you that I like DuckDuckGo quite well, and never use Google.)

Here is some more:

Second: Such size also gives these giant corporations political power to get whatever they want, undermining our democracy. 

In 2018, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft spent 70.9 million dollars on lobbying and supporting candidates.

As a result, Amazon – the richest corporation in Americapaid nothing in federal taxes last year. Meanwhile, it held a bidding war to extort billions from states and cities eager to have its second headquarters.

Quite so, and I also think this is obscene. Here is the third argument:
Yes, I agree (and see Reich's article if you want more). Here is the last argument:
I completely agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

Senator Elizabeth Warren has introduced a proposal to do just that. It would force tech giants to open up their platforms to more competition or break up into smaller companies.
    (..)
Let’s be clear: Monopolies aren’t good for anyone except for the monopolists, especially when they can influence our elections and control how Americans receive information. 

In this new Gilded Age, we need to respond to them as forcefully as we did to the monopolies of the first Gilded Age and break them up.

Yes, I agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl 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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