This starts as follows:
Jean-Luc Mélenchon, an insurgent left-wing candidate for
France’s presidency, is surging. His candidacy, organized under the
newly-established party La France Insoumise (“Unsubmissive France”) has gone from a quixotic bid to a viable challenge in just a few months.
Railing against growing economic inequality, participation in foreign
wars, and political corruption, Mélenchon has skyrocketed in the polls
from distant fourth to within a hair’s breadth of the frontrunners.
(This rise has been accompanied by the release of a web-based video game
called “Fiscal Kombat” where Mélenchon fights corrupt politicians and bankers.)
I like this, because I like Mélenchon's
themes and because I do not expect anything from the conventional
parties (other than continuing inequality and corruption). Then again,
while it probably is true Mélenchon has been surging lately, he is now
at 19% of the vote with someone else, while Le Pen and Macron are at
But it is true Mélenchon gained a lot lately, and there is also this comparison:
Many have drawn comparisons between
Mélenchon and Bernie Sanders. Raquel Garrido, a spokesperson for
Mélenchon’s campaign, told Jacobin Magazine in early April that, like
Sanders, Mélenchon is embracing a populist platform that seeks to speak
to every portion of society, not just the traditional left.
“I think we are similar to Bernie Sanders in that way, who rarely
spoke about ‘the Left,’ but about the people against the 1 percent or
the billionaire class,” she said.
Hm. Sanders also said he was a socialist (which in the USA is still a term that is feared by many), while what he did not say rarely hits the news. (So I am not impressed with this.)
Then again, there is another comparison which is better:
Mélenchon’s supporters have circulated a meme on social media comparing
Le Pen to Trump and Macron to Clinton. “To beat Trump it would have been
necessary to support Sanders,” it reads. “Let’s not make the same
But there is a major difference between Sanders and Mélenchon. The
American chose to run within an existing political party, while the
Frenchman seeks to compete against them. That’s why, unlike Sanders,
Mélenchon is still in the running at this late stage, as the voters are
souring on the candidates of the far-right and co-opted center.
I agree this is a relevant difference, although I don't think it is quite fair - at this stage - to say that "that’s why, unlike Sanders,
Mélenchon is still in the running at this late stage":
Sanders was one of two candidates of the Democrats, and Mélenchon is
one of two candidates (with a fair chance) on the Left (or the "left").
Also, Mélenchon has an additional motive that I agree with:
Yes indeed, and that is also why that system is not democratic. Here is the alternative:
Mélenchon is not only an advocate for left-wing policies like higher
taxation, but also for remaking the French political system itself.
There are many ways countries elect their national parliaments, but
they can be roughly grouped into two categories. There’s the system that
the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and a few other
countries use, which is based on apportioning seats by single-member
constituencies. Each district is winner-takes-all, so theoretically one
party could win 51 percent of the vote in every district, and 100
percent of the parliament.
The alternative is called proportional representation (PR). Under a PR
system, the electorate casts its votes nationwide for whatever political
party they choose, and then seats are distributed by percentage. You
don’t have to win the majority of votes in any one geographically-bound
district to enter the parliament. This allows for the rapid growth of
minority parties, and more political diversity.
This is much
more fair. Anyway... I like Mélenchon, for what I know of him. This is
not very much (I do speak and read French but I don't follow France
very much), and here is a link to Jean-Luc Mélenchon on Wikipedia, for those who want to know more about him).
2. Tech Giants Are Destroying Privacy, Producing Inequality and Undermining Democracy
article is by Don Hazen on Truthdig and originally on AlterNet:
This starts as follows:
Most of us are active on Facebook, use many of Google’s assets (search,
YouTube, calendar) and get Amazon products dropped at our doorsteps. But
have we ever stopped to think about the enormous impact these three
companies have had on our lives and our society?
In fact I have, and that is also why I do
not use the - extremely sick and very stupefying - Facebook; do not
search anything with Google; and never bought
anything sold by Amazon. I do use Youtube, but that's all.
Then there is Jonathan Taplin
(<-Wikipedia), whom I did not know existed, but who is three years
older than I am and who worked for Bob Dylan, The Band, and Martin
Scorcese, and who produced quite a few documentaries and films,
including The Last Waltz (<-Wikipedia).
And he produced a book that is published this month that looks quite interesting. Here are its title and summary:
Well, Jonathan Taplin has given it a lot of thought. The result is a breakthrough, must-read book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.
The book tells the tale of how the internet “was hijacked by a small
group of right-wing radicals [led by Trump supporter Peter Thiel] for
whom the ideas of democracy and decentralization were an anathema.”
upshot is that the dominant philosophy of Silicon Valley became heavily
based on the radical libertarian ideology of Ayn Rand. The internet is
not the product of any mythical cooperative notion as the public may
think, shaped by the pervasive, effectively marketed illusion of
goodness symbolized by Google’s tagline: “Don’t Be Evil” (changed to “Do
the Right Thing” in 2015 in Google’s code of conduct).
result: “Not since Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan has there been such a
concentration of wealth and power” in the hands of so few, according to
Taplin’s book. “And the enormous unprecedented fortunes created by the
digital revolution have done much to increase inequality in America.”
Yes, I basically agree, and here is more:
The five largest firms in the world (based upon market valuation) are
Apple, Google (now known as Alphabet), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.
In terms of their monopoly power, Google has an 88 percent market share
in search and search advertising. Google’s Android operating system has
an 80 percent global market share in its category. Amazon has a 70
percent market share in ebooks, and 51 percent of goods purchased online
are from Amazon. Facebook has a 77 percent share on mobile social
media. Google and Facebook have more than one billion customers, and
Amazon has 350 million.
As their “relentless pursuit of efficiency leads these companies to
treat all media as commodity,” according to Taplin, “the real value lies
in the gigabytes of personal data scraped from your profile as you
pursue the latest music video, news article or listicle.”
Yes again - and please note that Google, Android, Amazon and Facebook are in fact monopolists (or nearly so), and that Google and Facebook have more than a billion customers.
The rest is an interview by Don Hazen:
Don Hazen: Do you agree with me that your story about the
dominance of antidemocratic, monopoly-oriented, radical libertarianism
values of the titans of technology is not well known? And if so, why?
Taplan: I totally agree it’s not well known. The reason is because the
tech barons, who are the new robber barons, have done a PR job on
America that has been very successful… The strange thing is that the one
guy who was not a libertarian, Steve Jobs, probably did more to raise
the halo effect of tech than anybody.
I agree the story is not well known, and I
attribute this mainly to (i) stupidity (lack of intelligence) and
ignorance (especially about computing and programming) and to (ii) the
incredible amounts of propaganda and lies produced by the mainstream
media (press, TV and computers).
Also, I think the story is fairly well
known by a minority, but this minority is fairly small, although I do
not have good estimates. 
Then there is this:
DH: Wow, that’s really depressing. Another aspect could be
that most of us use Google and Facebook all the time. We want these
companies to be benign in our lives, right? We don’t want to deal with
the fact that they are both destructive and convenient.
Well, it seems like it has no cost, but that of course isn’t true. It
has many costs. Obviously, fake news could not exist without Google and
Facebook. A kid in Macedonia with a Facebook page and a Google AdSense
account could make $10,000 a week just putting out phony stuff.
I dislike Google and Facebook so much that I never used Google (except for Youtube) the last 5 years and I absolutely never used Facebook (which I detest anyway).
But there was "fake news" - lies, propaganda, deceptions - long before there were computers, and I am not so sure that Macedonian kids earn $10,000 a week, and certainly not without good evidence.
This is much better:
DH: You say the real value in these companies and their
profits lies in the gigabytes of personal data scraped from profiles as
you pursue the latest music video, news article, etc. Can you say more
about that? Are we fundamentally all being victimized? What are the
JT: They are essentially monetizing your
life, your desires, your dreams, whatever, and you’re not really getting
any advantage for that monetization; they are. Certainly the people who
make the content, whether it’s AlterNet or most other content makers,
are not getting much advantage considering the size of your audience…
You are on the bottom end of the food chain in terms of where the
advertising dollars flow.
Yes indeed: (i) Google and Facebook (and other big firms, and the NSA and the secret services) all make most of their money by stealing
gigabytes of personal data that should be wholly private (and
encrypted, and impossible to steal), and (ii) they are monetizing
everyone who uses them, all for their own profits, and without giving
anything to those they steal from except "free advertisements". It is
an utterly sick schema of total abuse of nearly everyone. And indeed it is also true that Google and Facebook as such do
not produce anything other than algorithms that steal private data, or
that promote advertisements.
Then there is this:
Peter Thiel, who is apparently one of the smartest guys in
the world, seems to worship the Ayn Rand narrative. What is that about?
You know, it mystifies me so much. Paul Ryan and Donald Trump have both
cited Ayn Rand as major influences on their life. My guess is it
appeals to a certain kind of man who believes that he is better than
most people, and he’s not appreciated.
If you look at those Ayn
Rand heroes, they always thought that the average citizen was a total
dunce, and that democracy wasn’t a good idea, and that really things had
to be run by men of iron will who had no sense of responsibility for
other people, just for themselves.
I don't have any evidence that Peter Thiel
is particularly smart, and I must add that it is impossible for me to
believe that you are both particularly smart and a fan of Ayn Rand:
That is simply inconsistent.
And while I guess Tapplin's explanation - those who believe Rand do so because they
think they are (much) better than nearly all others - makes sense, I
have read Rand as well, and she just is too stupid philosophically and
too horrible a writer stylistically to take seriously. (It would be
otherwise if Thiel would display an intelligent interest in Nietzsche (<-Wikipedia)
for he was a great writer. But I do not know of anything like that.)
Here is what the extremely rich men who own Google, Facebook, Amazon, Apple etc. seem to think (as does Trump, or so it seems):
JT: Well, look, I think that they believe capitalism works best when
there’s no rules, and they tend to think that the people who want to try
and make rules for capitalism don’t understand it, and so they’re going
to just screw it up. What Trump is doing right now is trying to get rid
of every regulation, whether it’s environmental or internet privacy or
anything you can imagine. He just wants to get rid of all these
regulations, because he wants Verizon or Google or Exxon or Koch
Industries to be able to just do whatever they want to do and not worry
Of course, I think that’s what leads to things
like the financial crisis in 2008, when the banks had no regulation and
they just went crazy.
I think this is wholly correct (and argued against deregulation in 2015 and before), and indeed I agree also this will lead to another crisis (and the present crisis still persists since 2008 for everyone who is not rich as well).
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this interview:
Yes indeed: I called the system that is rapidly unfolding "corporate fascism" in 2012, and "neofascism" since 2014, and I think both names are good (and I compiled good definitions of both fascism and neofascism) but I agree surveillance capitalism is another good name.
DH: What does it mean, what you describe as the surveillance
marketing business? You say that both Facebook and Google are in this
JT: Their main business is what I’ve begun
to call surveillance capitalism. Basically, it’s a new kind of
capitalism, which means that the greatest value that I hold is the
amount of data that I have been able to sweep up from every possible
realm on you, Don Hazen. I’m going to get it from your mobile phone,
from your shopping online, from your location, from in your home if you
have an Amazon Alexa, with the microphone on. I’m going to vacuum it up
from there. I’m going to basically look for more places where I can grab
The key to doing that of course is to get you to go on
my services, whether it’s YouTube or search or on Facebook, and stay
there as long as possible, and the more you stay there, the more data
I’m grabbing from you. Now, I take that data, and I sell it back to
advertisers in a way of being able to target a very narrow page of just
who I want to get to. And it is not just companies that do that.
Politicians, as we saw in the past election, can do that just as easily.
The reason is that Google and Facebook (and others) are making money by sadistically raping the Fourth Amendment, that makes all their many billions of thefts of private data major crimes, while the NSA (and many other secret services) are sadistically raping the Fourth Amendment - which is this, in case you did not know:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place
to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
to make sure that no one deviates from the ideological norms the US government likes, meanwhile treating everyone of the billions they steal private data from as if they are terrorists or else sub-humans without the least right on any privacy.
And indeed this is "a new kind of
capitalism" for it is based on illegal theft of private information of everybody.
And this is a very fine article that is much recommended and in which there is considerably more than I could quote.
3. Robert Reich: There's Nothing Centrist About Trump's Latest 'Pivot'
This starts as follows:
The third article is by Robert Reich on AlterNet and originally on his site:
With Steve Bannon on the way out, official Washington is jumping for
joy that Gary Cohn—the former president of Goldman Sachs who’s now
running Trump’s National Economic Council, along with Dina Powell,
another influential Goldman Sachs alumnus—seems to be taking over
As CNBC puts it, Cohn will push “more moderate, business-friendly economic policies.” The Washington Post says Cohn is advocating “a centrist vision.” The Post
goes on to describe “The growing strength of Cohn and like-minded
moderates" as revealed in Trump’s endorsement of government subsidies
for exports, and of corporate tax cuts. Says the Post: “The president’s new positions move him much closer to the views of … mainstream Republicans and Democrats.”
Actually, I don't know whether Bannon is
on the way out, though I agree he seems to be. Most of the rest of the
quotes are lies, but then that is to be expected. Here is
what the recent changes seem to come down to:
In reality, Cohn, Powell, and other Wall Streeters in the Trump White
House are pushing Trump closer to the views of Wall Street and big
business—views that are reflected in the views of “mainstream”
Republicans and Democrats only to the extent the “mainstream” is
dependent on the Street and big corporations for campaign money.
views aren’t “centrist,” and they’re not sustainable. More tax breaks
for the rich and more subsidies for big corporations aren’t much better
for America than xenophobia.
I basically agree. Here are Reich's alternative ideas:
There’s a better alternative. It’s to make it easy for people who
lose their jobs to get new ones that pay at least as well, through wage
insurance; expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and raise the minimum
wage so every job pays a living wage; invest in great teachers and great
schools, along with a system of lifelong learning, and high-quality
early childhood education; and provide Medicare for all.
for all of this with a 2 percent tax on wealth over $1 million and a
carbon tax. While we’re at it, get big money out of politics.
a “centrist” agenda that big business, Wall Street, and the rest of
America should agree on because it (or something very much like it) is
the only way to move forward without inviting even more inequalities of
income, wealth, and political power—and ever more vicious backlashes
against such inequities.
I agree, but I do not see any chance of realizing them as long as the Republicans have the majority in the House and the Senate and hold the White House.
O, and here is Supreme Court Judge (of quite a while ago) Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.:
4. Groups Decry Trump Plan to Demand Social Media Passwords at US Border
"Taxes are what we pay for civilized society."
The fourth and last article today is by Lauren McCauley on Common Dreams:
This starts as follows:
Raising concern about the violations of privacy occurring in the name of
U.S. border security, a coalition of consumer rights groups on Tuesday
launched a new campaign opposing the Department of Homeland Security's
(DHS) so-called "extreme vetting" practice that requires travelers to
reveal their social media passwords.
Actually, I think "extreme vetting" is a euphemism for neofascistic state terrorism: Persons who are abused like that are effectively treated as if they are sub-humans without the least right on any privacy - and mind you: This sick neofascist practice is very much more intrusive than was the oversight of fascist superintendants (in every block of houses) during the fascist and Nazi years.
"Even if you support 'extreme vetting,' password for entry is an
extremely bad idea that sacrifices privacy and digital security for
political posturing and 'security theater,'" said Nathan White, senior legislative director at Access Now, one of the 29 organizations launching the 'Fly Don't Spy' campaign.
Here is more on the neofascist terrorist practices the American state unleashed on travellers:
Rights groups are particularly concerned about a plan that
would make certain travelers "disclose their social media handles and
passwords and answer questions about ideology as a condition of
admission to the country," Jameel Jaffer, founding director of the
Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, wrote last week.
"The aim," Jaffer continued, "is to empower consular and border
officials to ensure that would-be visitors to the United States embrace
American values, a concept that the Trump administration has not
Possibly so, but in any case these would-be
visitors will be fully known (if they surrender their social media
passwords) to the American government, that - once again, and see item 2 - is sadistically raping the Fourth Amendment.
Here is the last bit that I'll quote from this article:
"Asking people to hand over the passwords to their accounts will make
all of us less safe, not more safe," said Evan Greer, campaign director
at Fight for the Future, another member of the Fly Don't Spy coalition.
"Not only does it undermine our basic right to privacy and have a
chilling effect on free speech," she continued, "but it will inevitably
make our information more vulnerable to hackers, identity thieves, and
stalkers. Targeting people for this type of surveillance based on their
religion or country of origin is clearly a form of discrimination."
Not only that: "Asking people to hand over the passwords to their accounts" is clear and evident (neo)fascist terrorism that debases everyone who is subjected to it to the status of a rightless and privacy-less sub-human.
I really cannot see this as anything different.