July 4, 2019

Crisis: Cruelty & Neofascism, Facebook's Earnings, On the Democrats, On Political Terms

“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 July 4, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Thursday, July 4, 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 July 4, 2019:
1. It’s the Cruelty, Stupid
2. What your data is really worth to Facebook
3. Democrats, This Isn’t Politics as Usual
4. It's Time to Redefine Left, Right, and Especially "Center" in US
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. It’s the Cruelty, Stupid

This article is by Charles M. Blow on The New York Times. It starts as follows:

There are tanks in the nation’s capital and concentration camps on its border. The slide of this nation into a nearly unrecognizable state continues unabated. Donald Trump is recreating America in his own image: an abominable one.

He brags about trading valentines with the ruthless North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, saying at a political rally in September:

“I was really being tough. And so was he. And we’d go back and forth. And then we fell in love, O.K.? No, really. He wrote me beautiful letters. And they’re great letters. We fell in love. But you know what? Now they’ll say: ‘Donald Trump said they fell in love. How horrible. How horrible is that? So unpresidential.’”

According to Human Rights Watch, North Korea under Kim not only “restricts all civil and political liberties, including freedom of expression, assembly, association and religion,” it systematically extracts “forced, unpaid labor from its citizens,” and “women in North Korea suffer a range of sexual and gender-based abuses” that include “rape and other sexual violence and torture in detention facilities, sexual exploitation, or forced marriage of North Korean women in China, and sexual and gender-based violence and discrimination.”

And this says nothing of the hundreds of people Kim is thought to have had executed since coming to power in 2011.

And this is the man that the president of the United States brags about being in love with.

Yes indeed. Here is some more:

Last month Trump joked with Russia’s Vladimir Putin about getting “rid of journalists.”

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 28 journalists have been killed in Russia since Putin took office in 2000.

Last week in Osaka, Japan, Trump said of the Saudi crown prince: “It’s an honor to be with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, a friend of mine, a man who has really done things in the last five years in terms of opening up Saudi Arabia.”

Let’s be clear: That friend is believed to have ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. And, murder may in fact be too antiseptic a word. Turkish officials claim that after Khashoggi was killed, his body was hacked up with a bone saw, then disposed of.

Not only has Trump never delivered a full-throated condemnation of the Saudi leader, he plans to reward the kingdom with more arms sales unless Congress is able to stop him.

Again I say: Yes indeed. Here is the ending of this article:

Stop thinking that this is only about partisanship or polarization. It’s the cruelty, stupid. It has always been about cruelty: racial cruelty, gender cruelty, religious cruelty. It has always been about bending the rest of America, the rest of reality, really, into subordination to the white supremacist patriarchy.

If the emerging culture of the world has to be put under boot for the established culture to maintain power, so be it. This is the white supremacist mantra; this is the Trump message.

No, I disagree: It is not the cruelty. It is Trump's neofascism - which I was already aware of in 2016 (see the last link, and check out this link: neofascism). In fact, while I also believe - with many psychologists and psychiatrists - that Trump is insane, I am considerably more convinced that he is a neofascist, and the reason is that I know a lot about both fascism and psychiatry, but I am quite sure that my knowledge about fascism is considerably better based than anything I know about either psychology or psychiatry.

Also, in case you disagree: I am sorry. First show that you know a lot about psychiatry (I am a psychologist) and a lot about fascism (which I have been reading about for more than 50 years). Anyway, this is a recommended article, though I think its diagnosis is quite mistaken, indeed not because Trump isn't cruel but because my conclusions are much better founded.

2. What your data is really worth to Facebook

This article is by Robert J. Shapiro on AlterNet and originally on Washington Monthly. It starts as follows:

Americans who use the internet—85.5 percent of us—have made a tacit bargain with Facebook, Google, MasterCard, Verizon, and most other sites and products we use regularly. We get access to these companies’ services, and they get to scoop up, analyze, and sell our personal information. Few people question this setup, perhaps because most of us assume that our data isn’t worth much.

But that assumption is wrong.

In fact, I think this is a quite interesting article, but I do not quite agree with this beginning because I do not think most people make so much as "a tacit bargain with Facebook, Google" etc.

What I think may be summed up in two points:

(i) only a very smal minority of all users of computers are decent programmers, and (ii) in fact, the vast majority of all users of computers knows as much about them as they know about their TVs, their cars, their washing machines etc.: they know how to turn which knobs to get desired results, but about the reasons these things work as they do, they have hardly any decent idea.

These two facts also entail there are hardly any "bargains": There is the great majority of computer users who know virtually nothing about computers other than switching a few knobs, and there are Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple etc. who trade on and abuse that ignorance in their own financial interests.

Back to the article:

Earlier this year, my colleague Siddhartha Aneja and I published a deep-dive study into the value of the personal information that every major website sells access to. It’s a complicated problem. Much of the value comes from advertising revenue, disclosed in annual reports and SEC filings by public companies. But we also had to determine how much of that ad revenue is derived specifically from the micro-targeting that user data makes possible, as well as how much the companies spent to gather, analyze, and market user profiles. In the end, we calculated that internet companies earned an average of $202 per American internet user in 2018 from personal data. We believe that’s a conservative estimate.

In fact, the article explains fairly well how it arrived at "an average of $202 per American internet user in 2018" but I skip the explanations but accept the estimate.

Here is some more:

The value reflects the extraordinarily varied and detailed data that companies collect. Google collects not only the personal information you reveal when you use its search engine, but also the data that comes from whatever you do when you visit or use any of its dozens of properties—YouTube, Gmail, Google Maps, the Chrome browser, Google Pay—or apps accessed by logging in through Google. Similarly, Facebook gathers all the data crumbs you leave whenever you visit the site itself or use its Messenger service, plus whatever you do on subsidiaries like Instagram and on apps accessed by logging in through Facebook.
Beyond the major platforms, hundreds of other companies take part in the burgeoning personal data business. Our study also explored the revenues from digital advertising earned by smaller internet services, ranging from Snapchat and Spotify to internet media holding companies such as IAC, which owns, the Daily Beast, and Investopedia.

Yes indeed - and as personal information, I do not use anything of anyone mentioned in the last quotation, except for watching videos on Youtube (which is Google's).

Our personal information is worth so much because the profiles created from it are remarkably probing and detailed. Algorithms track and save data on what we search for, what we write in emails and messages, what we buy, and everything else we do online, whether on our phones or laptops. Not only do the algorithms then build up a basic profile based on gender, age, ethnicity, and so on; they also determine our individual interests, likes and dislikes, family background, political leanings, sexual orientation, and much more. Everything we reveal online is fair game.

Yes indeed - and my own opinion is that no one has a right to that personal information, however they get it.

I also realize that this makes me in fact an opponent of the internet, which is also quite correct, even though that position is very rare, which I am because the set-up just sketched, which amounts to:

Both the governments secret services and quite a few of the very rich know everything or almost everything about you, which they use to make money and/or to influence, propagandize and lie to you to make you behave as they like, while you either do not know anything about what is factually happening with you, your rights, your freedoms etc.

Anyway. There is considerably more in this fine article, which ends as follows:

A straightforward solution is thus to require the companies to share the profits from those operations with users on a fifty-fifty basis. Of course, asking internet companies to write a check to every individual user would be impossibly inefficient. Instead, each company could write a single check to the government, and the government could distribute the proceeds to every household based on the number of its internet users. So, in 2022, a family of four internet users would receive $868 in payment for their personal data. The era of free riding for online companies would be over. Corporations have gotten rich by exploiting our data. It’s time for them to share the wealth.

Well... it is an idea that has the advantage of making Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple and all other sick spies on everyone a bit less rich by their spying, and in that sense I am for it.

But I am not much for it, for the same spying continues, and I think that secret services who know tenthousands or hundredthousands times more about each and everyone than the Gestapo or the KGB knew about some, is the best way towards  neofascism I ever knew.

And this is a strongly recommended article.

3. Democrats, This Isn’t Politics as Usual

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

Imagine an opposition political party in a land being taken over by an oligarchy, headed by a would-be tyrant.

The tyrant and the oligarchy behind him have convinced many voters that the reason they feel powerless and economically insecure isn’t because the oligarchy has taken most of the economic gains and overwhelmed the government with their money. It’s because the country has been taken over by undocumented immigrants, Latinos, African-Americans, and a “deep state” of coastal liberals, intelligence agencies, and mainstream media.

This is rubbish, of course, but the tyrant is masterful at telling big lies, and he is backed by the oligarchy’s big money.

Imagine further that the opposition party will soon face another election in which it could possibly depose the tyrant and overcome the oligarchy. But at the rate they are consolidating power – over the courts, politics, and the media – this could be the opposition’s last chance.

What would it do?

Of course, this is the position of respectively the Republicans and the Democrats in the present USA.

There is more that I skip. Here is the ending:

It would do best with a candidate able to create a multiracial coalition to fight the tyrant and his oligarchy – a coalition combining poor, working class and middle class whites, blacks, and Latinos.

It needs a candidate who can explain how the tyrant uses racism and xenophobia to divide and conquer, turning the majority against each other. A candidate who helps people understand that a necessary part of fighting tyranny is fighting racism, and a requisite for fighting inequality is reversing climate change. A candidate who can unite the country around an agenda of robust democracy and shared prosperity.

This may sound fanciful, but the challenge is real, and America’s Democratic Party must meet it over the next seventeen months.

What may be fanciful is that today’s Democratic Party has the power to select its candidate in the ways I’ve suggested.

Yet the stakes in the 2020 election are larger than any election in living memory. The Democrats’ selection of a candidate therefore is no ordinary thing. In a very real sense, the fates of America and the world depend on it. The question is whether the Democratic Party is up to the task.

I agree basically with Reich, except that I probably am more pessimistic than he is, for I consider it a virtual certainty that the Democratic Party is not up to the task Reich has sketched in this article. This does not necessarily mean that Trump will win the next presidential elections but even so it is not an optimistic future. And this is a recommended article.

4. It's Time to Redefine Left, Right, and Especially "Center" in US Politics

This article is by John Atcheson on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

One of the most persistent—and destructive—myths in politics is that America is a center right country politically.  It is reinforced by both parties, the press, and pundits and it has become generally accepted by much of the public.  This myth explains why folks warn against going too far to the left; about the dangers of embracing—gasp—"socialism," and why most attempts to divine the "electability" of the multitude of candidates in the Democratic race are misguided at best.

For example, from the center right, New York Times columnist and NPR
commentator David Brooks said:

According to a recent Gallup poll, 35 percent of Americans call themselves conservative, 35 percent call themselves moderate and 26 percent call themselves liberal. The candidates at the debates this week fall mostly within the 26 percent. The party seems to think it can win without any of the 35 percent of us in the moderate camp, the ones who actually delivered the 2018 midterm win.

I agree mostly with the first paragraph, but not with the second, and my reason is David Brooks whom I am not reading anymore because he is a sick and degenerate liar. I do not know whom or what he is lying for, but I do know, as a psychologist also, that his personal utterly false attack on Edward Snowden in June 2013 was a major, sick and degenerate utter falsification, which also caused me to decide not to waste any more time on this professional liar.

Anyway - back to the article:

But the fact is, the center of gravity among the inside the beltway crowd simply doesn’t match where the people are. The beltway cognoscenti's center is, in fact, well to the right of the people's center.  What they think of as extreme left wing is, in fact, the center of public opinion.

It's not just the centrists and the center-right who are mischaracterizing the center of American politics, it includes nominally liberal folks as well as corporate-funded liberal organizations like The Third Way and the Center for American Progress. And the debate about whether the Democratic Party is drifting too far to the left was evident in both Democratic debates.

I believe the last quotation is correct, but I do not know it. Then again, I do agree with Atcheson that the understandings of most Americans of the political terms "left", "right", "center", "liberal", "socialism" and more is quite bad.

Here is some more by Atcheson:

Let's get back to that Madison Avenue campaign.  A cabal of rich conservatives—including Richard Scaife, the Koch brothers, Alice and Jim Walton, John Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, and our own Betsy DeVos—in conjunction with corporations, began funding what was essentially a conservative coup designed to make America more corporate-friendly and more conservative. A key part of that involved a skilled messaging campaign designed to discredit the term "liberal" and imbue the term "conservative" with a meaning that had no relationship to the individual policies they were pursuing.  Ronald Reagan was an ideal spokesman, and by the end of his first term, conservatives had effectively branded the term "liberal" as a negative, characterizing them as relatively mindless champions of big government, over-regulation, taxing and profligate spenders on hair-brained ideas.

I again believe that the quotation is probably correct in outline, and Atcheson is right that the campaign of the rich right started with Reagan, and could continue for nearly 40 years, in considerable part because the two Democratic presidents - Clinton and Obama - mostly collaborated.

Anyway, here is the ending of this article:
The problem with this, is that it makes people believe the "electability" myth surrounding candidates like Clinton and Biden, and the presumed unelectability of people like Warren or Sanders. What needs to be pointed out is that this was the very myth that gave us Trump. And—if we don't set the record straight—it could again.

Now is a time that demands leadership. Playing back the results of the latest poll isn't leadership. Tapping into the progressive majority that lies well to the left of either party is.  It's time we redrew the political map around the coordinates defined by the people's values, not the labels purchased by the uber-rich and elites.
Yes, I basically agree with this, though I think it unlikely the Democratic Party is up to it - and see item 3 above. And this is a 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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