Why diplomacy?

Why do countries have diplomatic relationships with other countries? It it to maintain peace or does it stand as a beacon that a country has diplomatic relations with as many countries as possible?

Relating to two countries in particular – the United Kingdom and the United States – how is to the benefit of these countries that we have diplomatic countries such as the Russian Federation, North Korea, China, Saudi Arabia and others where the leadership is inherently corrupt and criminal.

How do our politicians excuse the behaviour of these tyrants and criminals? How does it benefit our countries? Does the money paid by these regimes excuse them?

On 25 February 2021, the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a declassified report approved by the Director Avril Haines. The report, “Assessing the Saudi Government’s Role in the Killing of Jamal Khashoggi” stated that, “We assess that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman approved an operation in Istanbul, Turkey to capture or kill Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.”[230]

On 26 February 2021, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Agnès Callamard released a statement urging, “The United States Government should impose sanctions against the Crown Prince, as it has done for the other perpetrators targeting his personal assets but also his international engagements.”[231]

Yet the Biden Administration will take no action against this murderer. How is this right or moral just because Saudi Arabia buys arms from the U.S. and the U.K.? Is selling arms even moral?

This list of murders and corruption in the Russian Federation are numerous but diplomatic relations continue.

The crimes in North Korea have been illustrated numerous times yet Britain, Germany, Russia, China, India, Pakistan all maintain diplomatic relations but not the U.S., France, South Korea or Japan.

The U.K. has allowed London and the U.K. to become a haven for Russian Oligarchs despite the fact that the money these people have has been obtained illegally through the criminal activities of Putin and his KGB cronies. The U.K. Government simply doesn’t care and it is disgraceful.

Facebook’s ban on Australian news triggers greater scrutiny of its vast power – Washington Post

By Cat ZakrzewskiFeb. 18, 2021 at 2:31 p.m.

with Aaron Schaffer

Facebook’s decision to block the posting and sharing of Australian news highlights the platform’s vast influence over the media industry, raising the stakes in global regulators’ efforts to address its power. 

The social network yesterday announced it would prevent users in Australia from viewing or sharing links to news articles, and also prohibit Australian news outlets from sharing news on their Facebook pages. Facebook’s brute force tactics come as it fights a proposed Australian law to force tech giants to pay for the platform to link to their news articles, which tech giants fear could become a precedent for other similar regulation around the globe. 

But in taking that extreme step, the company highlighted how much power it has to sidestep regulations it doesn’t like. And that’s emboldening lawmakers who already believe there’s a case for Facebook to be broken up. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I), who led a 16-month investigation into competition in the tech industry, called the moves “the ultimate admission of monopoly power.

Blocking Australian news undermines the public commitments that Facebook has been making to regulators for years. 

Under intense scrutiny for its privacy practices and potentially anticompetitive behavior, Facebook has responded with ad campaigns, op-eds and congressional testimony in which it repeatedly committed to work collaboratively with legislators on the future of Internet regulation. But its crackdown on news shows the company is only willing to do that when the regulation is on its own terms. 

Experts warn that misinformation could fill the void in the absence of credible news outlets posting their content on Facebook, potentially undermining the social network’s promises to fight falsehoods. 

Facebook has also frequently positioned itself as a defender of free speech, often arguing its preserving that principle when ignoring calls to remove dangerous, false or otherwise problematic content. But observers noted that blocking news directly contradicts that position, and shows the company is willing to adopt extreme tactics for business reasons.

Facebook has previously attempted to position itself as a friend to news publishers.

Facebook has made several moves to bolster its relationships with media companies amid intense scrutiny of the impact tech giants have had on the industry’s revenue. The company in 2019 launched a dedicated “News” tab and paid some publishers for stories that appeared there, including from The Washington Post. The social network that year also made a $300 million commitment to local news organizations. The company has also been investing in partnerships with news outlets such as the Associated Press to fact check content on its site, amid a deluge of criticism for hosting misinformation about elections, public health and more. 

But the action in Australia highlights how dependent publishers are on Facebook to push traffic to their websites – and how little Facebook believes it needs them. In a blog post announcing the news ban, Facebook said news content accounts for less than 4 percent of the content in people’s news feeds. Facebook said it last year generated approximately 5.1 billion free referrals to Australian publishers worth about AU$407 million. 

“Facebook does not care about news or misinformation,” tweeted Emily Bell, a professor at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School. “It cares about perception.”

William Easton, managing director of Facebook Australia & New Zealand, argued the proposed law “fundamentally misunderstands the relationship between our platform and publishers who use it to share news content.” Tech giants argued the law would remove their autonomy to develop commercial relationships, and protest that it would use binding arbitration to determine the amount they should pay for news. 

There was significant collateral damage from the Facebook ban. 

Facebook said it would continue to fight misinformation and ensure that key health authorities, like its coronavirus information center, remained online in Australia. But the ban on news pages inadvertently swept up some government websites that posted information about emergencies, fires and weather. (Facebook said it’s working to restore those pages). 

Australian regulators responded with a stark warning to the company. “Facebook’s actions to unfriend Australia today, cutting off essential information services on health and emergency services, were as arrogant as they were disappointing,” said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in a statement. “These actions will only confirm the concerns that an increasing number of countries are expressing about the behavior of Big Tech companies who think they are bigger than governments and that the rules should not apply to them.”

Google took a very different strategy than Facebook – highlighting how the companies value news differently. 

Google is aggressively fighting the proposal in Australia, and previously threatened to shut down its search engine in the country if the legislation passed. But the company instead walked back that statement and sought to broker deals with publishers, including Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp, as my colleague Gerrit De Vynck reported. 

“Google also appears to be more in tune with what the community wants and seems to take social responsibility somewhat more seriously than Facebook,” Johan Lidberg, a media professor at Monash University in Melbourne, told Gerrit. 

Trump’s disgrace

I have been watching the trial in the Senate against Trump and the House Managers have made an impelling case for conviction.

However, with Senate locked in a 50/50 Democrat/Republican split it appears that Trump will not be convicted. This is due to the fact that at least 17 Republicans need to join with the Democrats to make up the two thirds needed to convict.

Three Senators, Cruz, Lee and Graham have already betrayed their oath to be impartial jurors meeting with the defence team in private. In a court of law that would be sufficient for them to be disqualified.

The Republicans may support Trump’s actions which could mean any future impeachments will be less likely. If the actions of Trump are allowed to succeed then the Republic will not be what the Founding Fathers imagined.

Trump will still have to face the law in courts so he won’t be in the clear. However, will any actions be taken against the three Senators who betrayed their oath. They are not worthy of their high office.

I despair of democracy both in the U.S. and the U.K.

Why Boris Johnson is like Trump

From the News Statesman:

Cast your mind back to the febrile autumn of 2019 when, month after month, MPs fought bitterly over Brexit in a deadlocked House of Commons.

Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister, did not incite a mob to invade the legislature, as Donald Trump did last week. But he certainly sought to harness the power of the mob, or what he preferred to call “the will of the people”, to intimidate his political opponents.

He accused them of “betrayal” and “surrender”, just as sycophantic newspapers had earlier denounced them as “saboteurs”, and judges as “enemies of the people”. Remainer MPs had to walk a daily gauntlet of jeering thugs in Parliament Square. They received death threats. Their offices were attacked and defaced. One Brexiteer, James Goddard, received a suspended jail sentence for abusing the former Conservative MP Anna Soubry and calling her a Nazi. Far from denouncing such conduct, the Prime Minister dismissed MPs’ complaints about his inflammatory language as “humbug”. 

Now that Trump is disgraced and defeated, Johnson’s apologists are seeking to play down his relationship with the US president. “Johnson is not Trump’s transatlantic twin” proclaimed the headline on one such article in the Times by James Forsyth, the Spectator’s political editor, who happens to be married to Allegra Stratton, Downing Street’s new press secretary.

Forsyth rightly argued that there are many fundamental differences between the two men, though I would quibble with some of his examples. Unlike Trump, Forsyth contended, Johnson is fundamentally optimistic, craves harmony and believes in evolution not revolution.

He also argued that Johnson’s relationship was with the president’s office, not the man, but on that I do beg to differ. Johnson’s courtship of Trump went far beyond diplomatic and political necessity, his urgent need for a trade deal to offset Brexit notwithstanding. 

As foreign secretary Johnson mocked Europe’s “collective whinge-o-rama” after Trump’s election, saying the incoming president “believes firmly in the values you and I do – freedom and democracy”. He told US diplomats in 2017 that Trump was doing “fantastic stuff” and “making America great again”. He told a private dinner in 2018 that he was “increasingly admiring of Donald Trump” and his uncompromising negotiating style. He facilitated Trump’s excruciating three-day state visit to the UK in 2019. He failed to defend Kim Darroch, Britain’s ambassador in Washington, when his unflattering cables about Trump were leaked. But for the Queen, Trump was the first person the Prime Minister called after recovering from Covid-19 in 2020.

Seldom, if ever, did Johnson express disapproval of the president’s repellent behaviour. Not after Trump defended white supremacists following a violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. Not after he threatened to unleash the military on peaceful protesters following George Floyd’s brutal killing by police officers last summer. Not when he claimed the 2020 presidential election was rigged. Even after last week’s storming of the US Capitol it took him 24 hours to criticise Trump by name. 

Johnson’s reticence is hardly surprising because he and the president have long worked from the same nationalist populist playbook, even if the conduct of the man Trump dubbed “Britain Trump” has been less extreme.

Fundamentally both are conmen, snake-oil salesmen, unprincipled demagogues who won power by exploiting the grievances of the left-behind with promises they knew they could never keep and remedies they knew would never work (Johnson did, of course, deliver Brexit and end free movement but hardly the sunlit uplands he pledged). 

Trump promised to “make America great again” while Johnson promised to liberate Britain from the suffocating shackles of the EU. Trump promised to “build a wall” to keep out immigrants, while Johnson promised to “take back control” of immigration policy. Trump promised to extricate the US from supranational alliances, while Johnson promised to take the UK out of the EU. Both men promised to raise, not lower, the proverbial drawbridge, and in doing so unleashed the darker, xenophobic and isolationist impulses of their respective countries.

In many ways they have governed similarly too, though again Trump is much more reprehensible.  Both practise tribal politics – the politics of division. Both whip up anger against a political establishment they portray as rotten. Both engage in ugly jingoism and question their opponents’ patriotism. 

Both subvert democratic norms and traditions, and resent checks on their power. Both surround themselves with subservient loyalists regardless of merit or ability. Both reward cronies with jobs, pardons, peerages or lucrative government contracts. Both have scant regard for the law. Both seek to blunt legitimate scrutiny by elected representatives and the mainstream media. Both seek to cow or co-opt supposedly independent institutions.

Both men have low ethical standards, and a diminished sense of right and wrong. Both routinely engage in hyperbole and outright lies. Both are lazy and have short attention spans. Both are showmen who prefer simplistic slogans and headline-grabbing announcements to serious, long-term policymaking. Both care more for power, one suspects, than for the struggling blue-collar workers they profess to champion.

There are other similarities. Johnson and Trump have both turned their respective parties into something not far short of personality cults – purging their moderates, empowering their extremists and upending their traditional conservative values. Both men have brought rancour and turmoil to their nations, and both have caused great damage to their countries’ global reputations.

As Lisa Nandy, the shadow foreign secretary, told the Observer on Sunday, Johnson and his ministers “were so eager to swallow the Trump playbook of how politics should be done that they abandoned British values, interests and their own self-respect”.

Forsyth is not wrong. For all of the above Johnson is not Trump, and there are other important differences worth stressing. Johnson is an egotist, but he is not unhinged, delusional or a borderline sociopath such as Trump. It is hard to imagine that he would ever condone an actual invasion of the Commons, or defy a legitimate election result. Despite Brexit he is not instinctively protectionist or isolationist. He appears to take climate change seriously. He is not as overtly malign, and he possesses both charm and humour, whereas nobody has ever seen Trump laugh.

Yet it remains to be seen which leader has caused greater long-term damage to his country. The enormous harm Trump has inflicted on his country may yet prove to be largely reversible. The immense damage Brexit will cause to the UK’s economy, national cohesion and global influence most probably will not.

Why Trump is not a fascist

An interesting read from the News Statesman:

A number of prominent commentators, including the ­historians Timothy Snyder and Sarah Churchwell, the former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and the Berkeley public policy professor Robert Reich have been arguing for some time that Donald Trump is a fascist. The writer Rebecca Solnit has even called Trump’s ­supporters “Nazis”.

Look at his contempt for democracy, they say; his attacks on the press and the judiciary, his rabble-rousing, his intolerance of all who oppose him, his authoritarianism, his self-identification with foreign dictators and strongmen, his nationalism and “America first” foreign policy. Look at the way he spurns international organisations, treaties and agreements, his racism and encouragement of white supremacist groups, his incitement to violence on the streets of the US.

Certainly, these carry strong echoes of fascism. Hitler and Mussolini attacked the free press, poured scorn on the judiciary, urged their followers to attack and kill their opponents, and put a murderous racism at the heart of their ideology. They tore up treaties, abandoned international organisations, undermined and ultimately destroyed parliamentary democracy, and promoted a cult of their own personality that seduced millions of citizens into accepting them as great redeemers.

Fascism and Nazism were the creation of the First World War, which militarised society and – in the minds of their leaders and supporters – discredited liberal democracy by associating it with armed defeat. In Germany, the defeat was catastrophic, entailing large territorial losses, the emasculation of the country as a great power, and the payment of huge financial reparations to the Allies. Italy was on the winning side in 1918, but the expected gains from banding together with Britain, France and the US failed to materialise, and the country left the war with what historians have called “the mentality of a defeated nation”.

What drove fascism and Nazism was the desire to refight the First World War, but this time to win it. Preparing for war, arming for war, educating for war and fighting a war defined fascist theory and praxis. Hitler’s aim of conquering territory was put into effect immediately in 1933, as he rearmed Germany and set it on a path to invade neighbouring countries. By mid-1940, Nazi Germany had conquered Poland, Austria, Czechoslovakia and most of western Europe. The Third Reich lived for war, breathed war and promoted war without limits. Similarly, Mussolini’s central aim was to create a new “Roman empire”, beginning with the conquest of Ethiopia in 1935-36 and continuing with less successful attempts to subjugate countries around the Mediterranean, disastrously in the cases of Yugoslavia, Greece and North Africa.

For all of Trump’s hostility towards countries he perceives as enemies of the US, notably Iran, there is no indication that he sought a war with any foreign power, still less that he has been consumed by a desire for foreign conquest and the creation of an American empire. He is an isolationist, busy withdrawing US troops from foreign adventures, from Syria to Afghanistan. “America first” is not about launching foreign wars but disengaging from them.

Trump’s encouragement of violence against his opponents at home has been unsystematic. He has told his supporters to rough up reporters and suggested during the 2016 election campaign that his followers might like to make use of the Second Amendment of the US constitution (the right to bear arms) against Hillary Clinton. He has also described white supremacists as “good people”. But this bears no comparison to the hundreds of thousands of armed and uniformed stormtroopers and Squadristi that the Nazi and fascist leaders deployed on to the streets daily in the 1920s and early 1930s to intimidate, beat up, arrest, imprison and often kill political opponents.

Hitler and Mussolini sought to transform their countries into perma-war states: a combination of education and propaganda on the one hand, and street-level violence and intimidation on the other, aimed to forge a new kind of citizen, one that was aggressive, regimented, arrogant, decisive, organised and obedient to the dictates of the state. GM Trevelyan poured scorn on Mussolini’s efforts to turn Italians into second-rate Germans, as the historian put it; but even in Germany this endeavour failed, except with a minority of Hitler’s most ardent followers.

The society Hitler wanted was portrayed in the final minutes of Leni Riefenstahl’s Triumph of the Will (1935), with endless serried ranks of uniformed SS troops marching across the screen like well-oiled automata. The reality was different, as the majority of Germans retreated from this dehumanising prospect into their own private lives.

Trump by contrast has encouraged a warped vision of personal freedom: a society in which people aren’t subject to government regulation or supervision, where anarchy and confusion reign, self-restraint is abandoned, violence is unchecked, and self-aggrandising corruption permeates politics.

Trump only has regard for those he ­considers to be “winners”, and cannot bear the idea of defeat. Refusing a visit to a war cemetery in Paris in September 2020, he remarked that soldiers who died for their country on the field of battle were “losers” and “suckers”.

This mentality contrasts strongly with the central role of self-sacrifice in fascist ideology. Hitler regarded himself as a gambler: “I always go for broke,” he told Hermann Goering in 1939. There could be nothing but either total victory or total defeat. Suicide in the event of failure was always an option in his mind. Hitler and his propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels constructed a cult around Nazi “martyrs” such as Horst Wessel, the 22-year-old stormtrooper killed by communists three years before the Nazi seizure of power. They also honoured the men shot dead by police in the beer-hall putsch of 1923, parading the “blood flag” brandished by the would-by putschists at ceremonial commemorations every year.

Self-sacrifice for the nation was so central to Nazi ideology that when it became clear at the end of the Second World War that Nazism had been defeated, a wave of suicides swept the entire Nazi establishment, beginning with Hitler, Goebbels, Heinrich Himmler and Goering, and ­cascading down the ranks.

Beyond differences in ideology and temperament are the contrasts in state organisation. In Germany and Italy during the 1930s and 1940s, businesses became helpmeets of the “corporate state”. Unions and labour organisations were crushed, while firms and captains of industry generated vast profits, only so long as what they produced served the party and the army.

Both Hitler and Mussolini ensured a near-total “coordination” of social institutions and voluntary associations, as everything from football clubs to male voice choirs was absorbed into the structures of the fascist state. This social policy was maintained by huge bureaucratic regimes, providing jobs for thousands of their followers hungry for income and status after years of hardship and privation.

During Trump’s disastrous four years in the White House government posts have been left unfilled, senior officials have been routinely fired and the commander-in-chief has spent much of his time playing golf. The kind of hyperactive dynamism that characterised fascist regimes was entirely absent. Congress has prevailed over Trump’s attempts to sideline or undermine it, and judges, including his own Supreme Court appointees, have adhered to and interpreted the law in ways that have sometimes thwarted Trump’s ambitions, notably rejecting his legal challenges to the presidential election. Election officials, among them long-term Republicans, have resisted his attempts to intimidate them, while the mainstream media has refused to broadcast his falsehoods, lies and misleading claims unchecked.

The damage Trump has done to American democracy is considerable, but the past four years of mayhem have demonstrated the resilience of American institutions, the law and the constitution. American democracy is damaged, but it survives.

Democratic culture in the European countries where fascism prevailed after 1918 had shallow roots. The German judiciary was overwhelmingly hostile to the Weimar Republic, and the idea of an unbiased, non-partisan press was too new to establish itself as an accepted feature of political life. The ­legitimacy of the German political ­system in the 1920s and early 1930s was weak, and the corrupt Italian polity was widely discredited.

A substantial portion of the American population – and, indeed, a majority of members of the Republican Party – refuses to accept the election of president-elect Joe Biden. But that does not mean they want the constitution to be overthrown, merely that they don’t think it’s been employed fairly.

The shocking scenes at the Capitol on 6 January, and the spectacle of Trump lauding those who attacked police and trashed Democratic Party congressional offices as patriots, underlined the real threat he and his followers pose to democratic norms and the rule of law. Armed insurrections are threatened by ultra-right groups across the country for Biden’s inauguration.

But 6 January was not an attempted coup. Nor is one likely to occur on 20 January. For all of Trump’s inflammatory rhetoric, the attack on Congress was not a pre-planned attempt to seize the reins of government. Trump is too chaotic and undisciplined to prepare and execute any kind of organised assault on democracy.

The storming of the Capitol has been compared to Hitler’s infamous beer-hall putsch on 9 November 1923. On that occasion, Hitler gathered his armed and uniformed supporters in a beer-hall in Munich, from where they marched towards the city centre. Germany was in crisis: inflation was out of control and the French had occupied the Ruhr earlier that year.

Hitler thought the conditions were favourable for a coup d’état and he proclaimed the formation of a “national dictatorship” headed by himself. But the coup went wrong, the putschists were met by a hail of police bullets, and Hitler was arrested and imprisoned for five years of “fortress confinement” (he only served nine months). The original intention was to seize the government in Munich and, as Mussolini had done in Rome in 1922, march on the capital. But the putsch was confused and chaotic and doomed to failure before it had begun.

Hitler drew two lessons from the debacle. First, seizing power by force in an open and direct confrontation with the government was not going to work; the ballot box not the bullet was the way to power. The second lesson was just as important: the beer-hall putsch was unsuccessful not least because Hitler had failed to secure the support of the political elite, the army, business, the civil service and the police.

He would not make the same mistake again. Between 1932 and 1933, he used his electoral success, which had elevated the Nazis to become the largest party in Germany, as a basis for negotiating with these groups to secure their backing for a coalition government that he would head. A vital factor was the redundancy of the legislature: disrupted by warring factions of uniformed Nazis and Communists, the Reichstag only met on a handful of occasions in 1932, and government legislated by decree. Exploiting this situation and unleashing his violent Brownshirts on to the streets, Hitler transformed the chancellorship into a dictatorship within a matter of months.

Is the storming of the Capitol on 6 January, like the beer-hall putsch, a beginning rather than an end? It seems clear that Trumpism as a political force in American life isn’t going away soon. Many of Trump’s supporters will continue to dispute the legitimacy of Biden’s election and to regard Donald Trump as the real president of the US. But there are signs that the events of 6 January have shocked many Republicans into abandoning Trump and his most fanatical supporters. The GOP may split; Trump may become the leader of a hard-right third party run from Mar-a-Lago. Time will tell.

But time is against Trump. Hitler and his followers were young men in 1923. They could afford to wait. Trump is in his seventies and can’t. A successor may emerge, but it seems unlikely that he would match Trump’s crowd appeal. Questions are being asked about the failure of the police to prevent the storming of the Capitol, but there is little evidence that the forces of order – the administrative and legal arms of the state, as well as the military – will prevent a peaceful transfer of power on 20 January. The situation in the US today is more like Munich in 1923 than Berlin ten years later.

To state these obvious facts is not to ­encourage complacency. It means that rather than fighting the demons of the past – ­fascism, Nazism, the militarised politics of Europe’s interwar years – it is necessary to fight the new demons of the present: disinformation, conspiracy theories and the blurring of fact and falsehood.

Banning dangerous and irresponsible figureheads like Trump from social media is a start – they incite violence and purvey misinformation to a degree that makes Goebbels look like George Washington (the first American president, who was said never to tell a lie). Trump’s incessant and false claims that the election was rigged have convinced many Americans that their votes no longer count for anything. This lack of democratic faith, not a violent seizure of power, is the real threat to the American republic.

Whether the US and its citizens succeed in preserving democracy and its institutions depends to a large extent on whether they succeed in identifying what the real threats are and developing appropriate means to defeat them. Imagining that they are ­experiencing a rerun of the fascist ­seizure of power isn’t going to help them very much in this task. You can’t win the political battles of the present if you’re always stuck in the past. 

Richard J Evans’s new book, “The Hitler Conspiracies: The Third Reich and the Paranoid Imagination”, is published by Allen Lane

Richard J Evans is regius professor emeritus of history at Cambridge University, and the author of The Third Reich in History and Memory (Abacus)

Alternatives to Google

There are two major corporations that make their money off their users by selling advertising. One is Facebook and the other is Google.

In Facebook, it is relatively easy to keep your profile free from personal information especially if you use an email address set up solely to capture junk email.

Google has many products to use that if you are signed in to them when you use them, they are capturing everything about you. Your tastes in politics, movies, books etc. That is why their advertising is so effective. As soon as you search for something, the websites you visit subsequently will feature ads aimed at you.

You may like that but of you prefer to remain anonymous, there are alternatives available.

Search Engines: DuckDuck Go is free and effective and does not track you. If you make it your default search engine, you are keeping your privacy in whatever browser you use. Personally I use Ecosia which is similar and trees get planted for every search made.

Browser: Brave is an excellent browser which I have been using for a while. Also Safari is very good and blocks ads and tracking.

Mail: Gmail is everywhere but Google scans all your emails for words that they pickup that they can then advertise to you for. ProtonMail is Swiss and protected by strict privacy laws. If you use ProtonMail to another ProtonMail user the email is fully encrypted. Emails to non-ProtonMail users can be secured by a password. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of ProtonMail users so most of your emails would need to have a password to keep them private. Alternatively, instead of email use chat.
FaceTime is good between Apple users. Signal or Telegram are good and safe.

Maps: Google maps tracks you. Apple Maps do not. Also OSM (Open Street Maps) don’t track you. Microsoft Bing Maps can use Ordnance Survey maps by clicking the Road box at the top right.

YouTube: This one is much harder to do without. It is ubiquitous. There is Vimeo.

Google Drive: There is OneDrive from Microsoft and iCloud from Apple.

Google Calendar: There is ProtonCalendar or Microsoft Calendar.

Personally, I’m a Apple Man and feel very comfortable using Ecosia search with Safari and Brave, Apple Maps, Calendar and Apple Mail. Apple sells hardware and their business model does not include going after your data.

I have friends that use Windows and Outlook and I feel sorry with what they have to deal with.

Why I have left What’s App

By Shira Ovide, New York Times
There was a backlash to WhatsApp in recent days after it posted what appear to be overhauled privacy policies. Let me try to clarify what happened.
Some people think the messaging app will now force those using it to hand over their personal data to Facebook, which owns WhatsApp.
That’s not quite right.
WhatsApp’s policies changed cosmetically and not in ways that give Facebook more data. The bottom line is that Facebook already collects a lot of information from what people do on WhatsApp.
The confusion was the result of Facebook’s bungled communications, mistrust of the company and America’s broken data-protection laws.
Here’s what changed with WhatsApp, and what didn’t:
Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014, and since 2016, almost everyone using the messaging app has been (usually unknowingly) sharing information about their activity with Facebook.
Facebook knows the phone numbers being used, how often the app is opened, the resolution of the device screen, the location estimated from the internet connection and more, as my colleague Kashmir Hill explained five years ago.
Facebook uses this information to make sure WhatsApp works properly and to help a shoe company show you an ad on Facebook.
Facebook can’t peer at the content of texts or phone calls because WhatsApp communications are scrambled. Facebook also says that it doesn’t keep records on whom people are contacting in WhatsApp, and WhatsApp contacts aren’t shared with Facebook. (This Wired article is also useful.)
WhatsApp has a lot of positives. It’s easy to use, and communications in the app are secure. But yes, WhatsApp is Facebook, a company many don’t trust.
There are alternatives, including Signal and Telegram — both of which have gotten a surge of new users recently. The digital privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation says Signal and WhatsApp are good choices for most people. The Wall Street Journal also ran through the pros and cons of several popular messaging apps.
The reason WhatsApp recently notified app users about revised privacy rules is that Facebook is trying to make WhatsApp a place to chat with an airline about a missed flight, browse for handbags and pay for stuff.
WhatsApp’s policies changed to reflect the possibility of commercial transactions involving the mingling of activity among Facebook apps — a handbag you browse in WhatsApp could pop up later in your Instagram app, for example.
Unfortunately, WhatsApp did a terrible job explaining what was new in its privacy policy. It took me and Kash, a data-privacy rock star, a good amount of reporting to understand.
I also want to touch on deeper reasons for the misunderstandings.
First, this is a hangover of Facebook’s history of being cavalier with our personal data and reckless with how it’s used by the company or its partners. It’s no wonder that people assumed Facebook changed WhatsApp policies in gory wa
Second, people have come to understand that privacy policies are confusing, and we really don’t have power to make companies collect less data.
“This is the problem with the nature of privacy law in the United States,” Kash said. “As long as they tell you that they’re doing it in a policy that you probably don’t read, they can do whatever they want.”
That means digital services including WhatsApp give us an unappealing choice. Either we give up control over what happens to our personal information, or we don’t use the service. That’s it.
Clearing up more WhatsApp confusion
Another false belief floating around about WhatsApp — and again, this is WhatsApp’s fault, not yours — is that the app is just now removing an option for people to refuse to share their WhatsApp data with Facebook.
Not quite right.
Yes, when Facebook made major changes to WhatsApp privacy policies in 2016, there was a brief moment of choice. People could check a box to order Facebook not to use their data from WhatsApp for commercial purposes.
Facebook would still collect the data from WhatsApp users, as I explained above, but the company would not use the data to “improve its ads and product experiences,” like making friend recommendations.
But that option in WhatsApp existed for only 30 days in 2016. That was a lifetime ago in digital years, and approximately four million Facebook data scandals ago.
For anyone who started using WhatsApp since 2016 — and that’s many people — Facebook has been collecting a lot of information without an option to refuse.
“A lot of people didn’t know that until now,” Gennie Gebhart of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told me. And, she said, we are not to blame.
Understanding what happens with our digital data feels as if it requires advanced training in computer science and a law degree. And Facebook, a company with oodles of cash and a stock value of more than $700 billion, didn’t or couldn’t explain what was happening in a way that people could grasp.

Advise and Consent

The United States Constitution gives the Senate the responsibility to Advise and Consent to many Presidential appointments including all Cabinet members.

The Democrats will now control the Senate and so Biden’s selections should have less problems getting approval than if Mitch McConnell was still Majority Leader instead of Chuck Schumer of New York, the new Majority Leader.

However, there are at least two senators who are both lawyers who do not deserve any respect and in my opinion should be thrown out of the Senate. Their callous support for Trump, even now, is so they can inherit Trump’s following at the next Presidential Election in 2024. In other words, personal ambition over the best interests of the country and a continuation of the divisive form of politics.

Perhaps the worst of these two senators is Ted Cruz of Texas who is the closest thing to Joe McCarthy we have today. McCarthy was chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee who in the 1950’s accused many people of being Communists in a witch hunt. Cruz is cut in the same cloth and has made it clear his Presidential ambitions. This must be stopped to prevent a reoccurrence of Trumpism.

The second Senator, although similar to Cruz in ambition, is a newer senator since 2019 named Josh Hawley of Missouri. A lawyer, he challenged the legitimate election of Biden for the purposes of the meeting the mantle of continuing a form of Trumpism in 2024.

Both of these Senators acted even after the U.S. Supreme Court indicated that the election was fair and lawful.

Maybe there is hope

I write this barely a week into 2021 – a year that will be a slight improvement over 2020 but then what wouldn’t be.

The good news is
1. The U.K. has a sort of a trade deal with the E.U. preventing a much worse outcome of no trade deal at all.
2. There are three new vaccines to combat COVID-19 so maybe we can defeat the nasty pestilence in 2021.
3. The U.S. Senate looks like it will be under the control of the Democrats as the two runoffs in Georgia have gone to the Democrats giving that party and the Republican Party 50 seats each with the breaking vote going to Vice President Kamala Harris.

It remains to be seen how the U.K. will deal with being outside the E.U. but with such an inept Government I don’t see much of a golden sunrise on this issue.

One of the three vaccines approved is British and what distinguishes it is that it is being sold at cost and not for huge profit as the two American vaccines are. Also, logistically, the Oxford-Astra Zeneca vaccine can be stored in a regular refrigerator which is a huge benefit as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has to stored at -70 degrees C which creates its own issues. Let’s be positive though and hope we shall all be able to return to a normal existence soon. I think “normal” will change through as I expect masks will be here to stay the way they are in Japan where anyone with an infection of sorts will wear a mask as routine. I would expect working from home will become far more common too as commuting charges, particularly on trains, are exorbitant in the U.K. compared to other European countries.

The U.S. Senate has been under the control of the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky for some time now and he is almost single handedly responsible for the gridlock in the U.S. He has managed to bring the party of Lincoln into total meltdown by going along with everything that has come about with the Trump Administration. His departure as Majority Leader will allow for more legislation to see the light of day. Among the various blocks McConnell has been responsible for are the advise and consent of the Senate to Obama’s Supreme Nomination of Merrick Garland made 293 days before Obama left office. In comparison, he showed his hypocrisy by rushing the approval of Amy Coney Barrett was completed just a month before the General Election of 2020. McConnell would not consider gun control as he takes money from the National Rifle Association, even after the slaughter of 26 people, 20 of whom were children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 14 December 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. He denies Climate Change too and has given the thumbs up to the U.S. leaving the Paris Accord, the W.H.O. and breaking a treaty with Iran on nuclear matters. Also he has supported splitting young children of immigrants from their parents.

Thus three reasons to be more positive in 2021.

Season’s Greetings

Today is December 23rd – just 9 days until the U.K.’s four year old Suicide pact turns into reality.

According to polls if the Referendum of 2016 was held today, Remain would win by a large margin. People are realising that we shall be worse off. Some people may not have realised this in 2016 because we have some terrible rags that pass for newspapers in the U.K. owned in large part by ex-pat billionaires that editorialise their selfish desires as facts when they are in fact lies.

Coupled with that we have a Government which is totally incompetent led by a lying charlatan who has no convictions at all and by a party with few who will stand up to him. Party first, country second. This will be all too familiar to Americans where its is Trump and the Republican Party first and the Country and the Constitution second.

Both our countries are the worst for dealing with Covid and it is not hard to figure out why.

If there was a gram of sense in the U.K. Government, the fact that we are an island that relies on importing food and drugs from Europe, it does not take too much imagination to have planned on testing haulage drivers for Covid before hand so that the huge queues forming in Kent could have been avoided. Instead the Government changes its mind on almost a daily basis and it has a lot to answer for. One of our motorways has become a lorry (truck) park queuing up to get ferry or train to France.

Already supermarkets are restricting the number of certain items that one can purchase.

At the moment there is no trade deal between the U.K. and the E.U. It might still be possible before 11pm (GMT) December 31, 12.00am (CET) January 1, to get trade deal – time will tell. Regardless, freedom of movement will end and so will cooperation between law enforcement in the U.K. and the E.U. Travelling to Europe will become more difficult – happily not for me as I am an Irish/European citizen.

So 2020 is year I want to forget, but will 2021 be any better in these islands?