March 18, 2018

Crisis: Trump+Facebook, John Bolton, Corporations As Persons, Facebook Spies, Madman


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 18, 2018.


This is a Nederlog of Sunday, March 18, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

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 two 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.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from March 18, 2018
1. How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions 
2. 6 Reasons We Should All Hope Trump Doesn't Add John Bolton to His

3. New Book Unmasks Hidden History of How U.S. Corporations Gained
     Legal Personhood and Civil Rights

4. Facebook Spies on Its Own Employees via Its ‘Rat-Catching Team’
5. The Mad King
The items 1 - 5 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. How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions

This article is by Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore and Carole Cadwalladr on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 American midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of American voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network’s history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the American electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Trump’s campaign in 2016.

I say, which I do because I think this is important, for 50 million stolen Facebook profiles, themselves mostly stolen from the ¨dumb fucks¨ who trust(ed) Facebook´s owner Mark Zuckerberg (in Zuckerberg´s own words), are a whole lot of (illegally acquired) private data, and also because, while this is important, I have not (yet?) read that Mercer, Bannon and Facebook also are working for Putin, for that is what I have read in the mainstream media since the end of 2016.

Then again, this also seems to be only the beginning of a considerably larger story. Here is some more by a whistleblower on Cambridge Analytica:

Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: “Rules don’t matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it’s all fair.”

“They want to fight a culture war in America,” he added. “Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war.”

Details of Cambridge’s acquisition and use of Facebook data have surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting off a furious debate about the merits of the firm’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm’s emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but still possesses most or all of the trove.

I take this as stated, that is, as the beginnings of a considerably larger story but I do stress the fact that the stolen data were stolen from Facebook, that stole these data, in so far as they are private, from the ¨dumb fucks¨ (Zuckerberg´s words) who ¨trusted¨ him (Zuckerberg´s words), while also, at this point in time, Facebook ¨has not acknowledged¨ the theft of their thefts.

Finally, here is one of Facebook´s professional liars:

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But on Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

“This was a scam — and a fraud,” Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier on Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Mr. Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. “We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties,” Mr. Grewal said.

How a professional liar can mouth an utter and total lie like this one: ¨[Facebook] will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all¨ completely escapes me, because anything that can be copied by a computer can be copied a billion times and hidden anywhere, but presumably he believes that the average user of Facebook doesn´t even realize that (in which he may also be right).

In any case, this is a strongly recommended article in which there is considerably more than I reviewed, while the article is strongly recommended especially because this is the first credible information about how Trump did succeed in winning the elections: Thanks to the theft of 50 million private profiles from as many Americans (originally committed by Facebook).

2. 6 Reasons We Should All Hope Trump Doesn't Add John Bolton to His Cabine

This article is by Jacob Sugarman on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

Earlier this week, Donald Trump tapped a charter member of the Tea Party to lead the State Department and an established torturer to head the CIA. Both appointments were perfectly monstrous, but if there is a governing law of this administration, it's that things can always get worse. Consider the president's rumored replacement for national security adviser H.R. McMaster: According to multiple outlets, Trump has met with John Bolton at the White House and could offer him the position as early as next week. 

That the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations has the president's ear at all should be a cause for concern. Over the course of his checkered career, Bolton has proven himself a hawk of the first order, enthusiastically endorsing the war in Iraq and more recently calling for a first strike on North Korea. He'd almost certainly encourage Trump to flex his military might, and with the president's approval numbers floundering and a wave election looming, there's every reason to believe Trump could take his advice.

Yes indeed: I think this is correct as to the facts while I also happen to agree with the values expressed: I very much dislike John Bolton.

And here are some of my reasons, which I extracted from Sugarman´s text by copying the bold parts and leaving out the non-bold textual elucidations, which I leave to your interests:

Here are six reasons we should all hold our breath Trump doesn't add this real-life version of Jack D. Ripper to his cabinet. 

1. He's itching for a war with North Korea.
2. And for war with Iran.
3. He still defends the Iraq war.
4. He all but advocated for a military strike on Cuba.
5. He has called Russia's election interference a 'false flag operation.'
6. He is a clash-of-civilizations Islamophobe.

I agree and this is a recommended article.

3. New Book Unmasks Hidden History of How U.S. Corporations Gained Legal Personhood and Civil Rights

This article is by Steven Rosenfeld om AlterNet. It starts as follows:
American corporate power has never been stronger. It’s not just the Trump administration’s crusade to gut government regulation; the federal courts have increasingly been granting corporations liberty rights once held only by individuals. In his new book, We The Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights, UCLA constitutional law professor Adam Winkler traces the history of how corporate America has successfully waged a civil rights movement on its own behalf since the country’s earliest decades. AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld spoke to Winkler.
Yes indeed. Here is the first bit that I quote from this article.

Steven Rosenfeld: Tell us why you are so interested in informing people about how corporations got their legal rights.

Adam Winkler: In recent years, the Supreme Court has ruled that corporations have freedom of speech, in Citizens United, and religious liberty, in the Hobby Lobby case. I sought to find out: How did corporations win our most fundamental rights? In school, we learn about civil rights, and women’s rights, even state’s rights, but never corporate rights. I was shocked to discover when I looked into it that, like women and minorities, corporations have fought since America’s earliest days to win equal rights under the Constitution. And they use those rights to fight off business regulations designed to protect the public.

Quite so. In fact, while I am not a lawyer, I was not shocked to find that ¨corporations have fought since America’s earliest days to win equal rights under the Constitution¨ and in fact think so at least since 1983, when I first read William Hazlitt´s ¨On Corporate Bodies¨, which in fact dates back to 1822 (at the latest), and which I strongly recommend you read.

But indeed Winkler is quite right. Here is some more:

SR: We hear many stories about how corporations became synonymous with people under the law. Can you shed some light on how that happened? I have a sense it wasn’t a single Supreme Court case. What actually happened?

AW: Right. For all the controversy of [2012 GOP presidential nominee] Mitt Romney saying "Corporations are people," corporate personhood is actually a very longstanding principle of basic business law. And what it means is the corporation has its own independent identity in the eyes of the law—totally separate and apart from the stockholders, the employees and the creditors. That’s why if you slip and fall at Starbucks, you have to sue the company; you can’t sue the individual shareholders. Shareholders have limited liability because they are separate legal persons, in the eyes of the law from the corporation. That idea is a very longstanding one. If you go back to Blackstone and his [legal] commentaries, [written in] 1757, he described corporations as artificial persons designed to carry on the rights of people, when the people themselves may not be able to do so.

Yes indeed. In fact, I would say that (i) corporations were invented precisely to make those who participate in them (¨shareholders¨) have limited liability for the losses, which in fact (in terms of my ethical values, and indeed those of Hazlitt and many others), and that (ii) this makes the ¨shareholders¨ participants in a construction designed to facilitate piracy by the rich and powerful on everybody else.

Also, it should be noted that for Blackstone corporations were ¨artificial persons¨, but since 2010 (at the latest), corporations now are like real persons - except that although they now have the rights of persons they lack most of the real duties of real living persons, for you cannot kill or imprison legal abstractions (even if these abstractions´ spokesmen pretend they are real persons).

And here is another way in which corporations now have far more rights than real living persons:

Do corporations have more rights [than individuals]? In some ways, yes, because to the extent that you need money to defend your rights—to hire the best lawyers, to argue your cases, to take you cases to the Supreme Court in the first place—to the extent the system depends on money to do that, corporations are uniquely situated with their massive resources to take advantage of the courts.

For those who want to avoid a careful lawyer´s prose: Corporations have FAR more rights than real living persons, because corporations may have billions to see to it that their views dominate everyone else´s views - and all of this has been justified (or ¨justified¨) by recent decisions of the Supreme Court.

Finally, here is Winkler´s opinion on giving corporations the same ¨liberty rights¨ as real living persons:

At the same time, the [Supreme] Court has erred in recent years by extending these fundamental liberty rights, like religious freedom and political speech to business corporations. Those are rights that depend on personal conscience and on personal autonomy. Corporations are artificial creatures that are mandated by law to pursue certain kinds of interests, generally thought to be maximizing the shareholders' value. They don’t have the autonomy that some of those basic liberty rights depend on.

I agree with Winkler, but I think I should add that (i) this is his own opinion, while (ii) it would seem to me that both the majority of the Supreme Court and the corporations themselves (qua abstract legal entities that now have been given more rights and also fewer responsibilities than living persons have in the USA) will very probably disagree with Winkler and insist that corporations are real persons and have religious freedom and the right to free speech (which the Supreme Court again extended enormously by insisting that ¨free speech¨ in fact means ¨money¨: the more money you have, the more rights to free speech you have and should have, according to the majority of the Supreme Court).

There is considerably more in the article than I reviewed, and it is recommended.

4. Facebook Spies on Its Own Employees via Its ‘Rat-Catching Team’

This article is by Ethan Baron on AlterNet and originally on San Jose Mercury News. It starts as follows:
Silicon Valley's tech giants are famously secretive — after all their proprietary products and services are worth billions — but a new report alleges that Facebook goes to Orwellian lengths to keep its workers from talking out of turn, even about their working conditions.
Yes indeed - and for more on Facebook see the last link. Here is some more:

Facebook uses online and real-world surveillance and legal threats to prevent and identify leaks that could jeopardize company secrets or involve criminal activity, The Guardian reported.

"However, those same tools are also used to catch employees and contractors who talk publicly, even if it's about their working conditions, misconduct or cultural challenges within the company," according to The Guardian.

A Facebook spokeswoman told the news outlet that companies "routinely use business records in workplace investigations, and we are no exception."

For Facebook, part of the problem is the amount of company information that is shared with employees, and that trust is a double-edged sword, according to the report.

Yes but (i) many of ¨those same tools¨ either should not exist at all, or should not exist in the form in which they are being used, while also (ii) what spokespersons for Facebook call ¨business records¨ in fact seem to consist for a large part from the private information that Facebook itself stole from the ¨dumb fucks that trusted¨ Mark Zuckerberg, in Zuckerberg´s own words.

In Europe, the contract workers hired to spot and block content Facebook prohibits are subjected to extremely intrusive oversight, the report suggested.

"One European Facebook content moderator signed a contract, seen by the Guardian, which granted the company the right to monitor and record his social media activities, including his personal Facebook account, as well as emails, phone calls and internet use," according to the report.

"He also agreed to random personal searches of his belongings including bags, briefcases and car while on company premises. Refusal to allow such searches would be treated as gross misconduct."

First, while I am a European, I do not know whether the above is correct as stated (in part because some of it seems illegal in my eyes - but then again I am not a lawyer).

And second, it seems from this last bit that there are three kinds of persons for Mark Zuckerberg:

(1) the more than 2 billion ¨dumb fucks who trust¨ Zuckerberg in Zuckerberg´s own words, and who are members of Facebook;
(2) the human slaves that work for Facebook; and
(3) those who have not yet been made (1) or (2).

I think Zuckerberg is one of the most dangerous persons alive; I think he intentionally frauded billions of his users; and I think Facebook is one of the most horrible corporations I know of.

5. The Mad King

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

Trump is moving into a new and more dangerous phase.

Before, he was constrained by a few “adults” – Rex Tillerson, Gary Cohn, H.R. McMaster, and John Kelly – whom he appointed because he thought they had some expertise he lacked.

Now he’s either fired or is in the process of removing the adults. He’s replacing them with a Star Wars cantina of toadies and sycophants who will reflect back at him his own glorious view of himself, and help sell it on TV.

Narcissists are dangerous because they think only about themselves. Megalomaniacs are dangerous because they think only about their power and invincibility. A narcissistic megalomaniac who’s unconstrained – and who’s also president of the United States – is about as dangerous as they come.

Well... I agree that Trump is a madman, and in fact did so explicitly since December 2016, and implicitly since March of that year, but you have to realize that my main reason to do so is that
I am a psychologist, while Reich is not.

And because I am a psychologist, I must correct Reich on the ¨narcissistic megalomaniac¨ that he calls Trump. Then again, I am willing to agree that the story of psychiatry since Freud is quite confusing.

Very briefly, the facts are these:

Until 1980, there were at least several hundreds and quite possibly several thousands of psycho- therapies - I shall say - that were given by psychiatrists and clinical psychologists to people without any (or almost any) justification that could have been said to be rational and scientific (in the sense of physics, chemistry or biology, which are real sciences).

In 1980, the American Psychiatric Association (APA), a private organization, published the DSM-III that was almost wholly put together by the psychiatric fraud Robert Spitzer, who pretended it now was ¨a science¨. It was ¨a science¨ according to him because he had reduced the definitions of the supposed mental diseases to observational terms (all without saying what a ¨mental disease¨ or ¨disorder¨ is), while this became ¨a science¨ (according to Spitzer) because of one characteristic he called kappa, which was a measure for the proportion of agreements among anonymous psychiatrists who were members of the APA on the diagnoses they did make.

If you think a real science results from the proportion of agreements of anonymous people from a private organization on a classification of symptoms of invisible goings on in people´s minds, you must be a psychiatrist.

I am not but I am a psychologist and a philosopher of science, and I think the whole process was a fraud from the beginning. Moreover, while in the DSM-II (the predecessor of the DSM-III) there were between 40 and 50 ¨mental diseases¨ (or disorders, or whatever [2]) in the DSM-IV and the DSM 5 (which is the latest) there are now over 450 ¨mental diseases¨ (all of which allow the psychiatrist to prescribe all manner of ¨medicines¨ to their patients - nearly all of which are the latest patentable variant of Prozac, because that is the most profitable).

Next, the psychiatric frauds - see here for fine arguments - also tried to redesign terminology, and it so happens that ¨narcissism¨ was the - they pretend - ¨scientific name¨ (since the late 60-ties, it appears, all on the basis of one or two (!!) purported ¨scientific publications¨ by psychiatrists) for what until then and for nearly a hundred years was called... megalomania.

That term - a rather good proper English term - that was part of the Wikipedia until a few years ago now totally disappeared from the (ever sicker and sicker) Wikipedia, as if psychiatrists also decide what English terms should be used in English and American: If you do not want to use the psychiatric cant term, or do not know it, Wikipedia will not give you the proper English term. Instead they deleted it completely.

And therefore Reich´s term ¨narcissistic megalomaniac¨ is not correct - that is, it is rejected by most psychiatrists as a confusion of the new term and the old term, and also you cannot even find ¨megalomania¨ in the Wikipedia.

And while I agree with Reich on Trump´s insanity, that I prefer to call megalomania because it is English and descriptively more or less correct, Reich´s terms are confused in psychiatric terms, while the psychiatrists (from the APA I assume) even succeeded in having the whole term deleted from Wikipedia.

Here is some of Trump´s madness:

The man who once said he could shoot someone dead on Fifth Avenue and still be elected president now openly boasts of lying to the Canadian Prime Minister, deciding on his own to negotiate mano a mano with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, unilaterally slapping tariffs on imported steel and aluminum, and demanding the death penalty for drug dealers.

For weeks, Trump has been pulling big policy pronouncements out of his derriere and then leaving it up to the White House to improvise explanations and implementation plans.

I agree with Reich. Here is some more on Trump:

Trump has always had faith in his instincts. “I’m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I’ve said a lot of things,” he said on the campaign trail. "I’m a very instinctual person, but my instinct turns out to be right,“ he told Time Magazine last year.

But instincts aren’t facts, logic, or analysis. And it’s one thing for a business tycoon or even a presidential candidate to rely on instincts, quite another for the leader of the free world to rely solely on his gut.

Worse yet, the new Trump believes no one can lay a glove on him. He’s survived this far into his presidency despite lapses that would have done in most other presidents.

Well... let me limit my comments to the business tycoon compared with the president: A business tycoon has responsibilities about his business and to his shareholders, but has no special rights as a person. The president of the USA has responsibilities to everyone who is alive, and has very many special rights, as commander of the army etc. etc.

And Reich is quite right that Trump runs the USA as if he owns it and as a business tycoon, and not as a president, although he formally is.

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

How will this end?

One outcome is Trump becomes irrelevant to the practical business of governing America. He gets all the attention he craves while decision makers in Washington and around the world mainly roll their eyes and ignore him.
But another possible outcome could be far worse.

Trump could become so enraged at anyone who seriously takes him on that he lashes out, with terrible consequences.
The mind boggles. Who knows what a mad king will do when no adults remain to supervise him?

If these are the only two possibilities (which I do not know), I am quite sorry to say that I myself, like tenthousands of psychologists and psychiatrists, have to bet on the second possibility.

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 2 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 (!!).

[2] As to ¨mental diseases, disorders or whatever¨: (i) there is no widely agreed upon definition of the human mind, while (ii) it seems only pretty insane psychiatrists believe they can define what madness is. Most relatively sane psychiatrist deny even that. (And thence ¨disorders or whatever¨: There usually are no physical signs of any damage or illness in people with a psychiatric diagnosis.)

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