June 6, 2018

Crisis: On Facebook, Dictator Trump, Two-Party Scam, Police Killings, Plastic Pollution


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from June 6, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, June 6, 2018.

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 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.

2. Crisis Files

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

A. Selections from June 6, 2018:
1. Can Facebook Be Cut Down to Size?
2. Going “Full Dictator”? Trump Claims He Has Right to End Mueller
     Investigation or Pardon Himself

3. The Two-Party Scam
4. While Our Police Kill Thousands, Congress Works to Protect the Police
5. As Planet Chokes on Plastic Waste, UN Report Offers Roadmap to Tackle
     Global Crisis
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. Can Facebook Be Cut Down to Size?

This article is by The Editorial Board of The New York Times. It starts as follows:

When the government broke up the telephone system in 1984, the fact that AT&T could count most citizens as customers and that it was arguably the best-run telephone company in the world was not deemed compelling enough to preserve its monopoly power. The breakup would unleash a wave of competition and innovation that ultimately benefited consumers and the economy.

Facebook seems to be in a similar position today — only with far greater global reach than Ma Bell could have imagined. Facebook’s two billion monthly active users, and the way those accounts are linked and viewed by users and by third parties, have made it the most powerful communications and media company in the world, even if its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, insists his is a technology business.

And that power is being abused.
Well... yes and no. Here is why:

First, the title of this article seems mistaken:

Of course, Facebook can be "cut down in size" (though it is indeed a question whether it will be). The question that should have been the title is: Why does Facebook exist? (or a similar question), for the simple reason that Facebook is stealing all the privacies of anyone who becomes a member of it, and these sick thefts are the basis of its enormous riches:

Your private mails, your private photographs, all your friends and acquaintances, in short almost everything Facebook can get from you, including your doctor's ideas on your health, and your own finances, and (almost) everything you try to keep secret, will end up in the secret private dossies Facebook assembles about anyone, and sells to rich advertisers.

From a few reports of fairly normal persons who managed to get rid of Facebook, it seems there is on everyone of its two billion members a - secret - private dossier of on average 660 MB. If you multiply that by 2 billion, you have an idea about what Facebook knows. (Per user 660 MB = about 132 million words: A complete library.)

I think that is deeply criminal. I think that is very sick.

And I also think that is why the internet was designed as it was from the late 1960ies onwards (check the link!):

To spy on everyone; to give the (secret and ordinary) police all informations on anyone; and to get a new kind of society one of the main planners of the late 1960ies, Zbigniew Brzezinski then called "technotronics", although he clearly meant neofascism (in my sense: check the link).

That is what the internet is for and has been designed for: So that the secret police and the rich know everything there is to know about everyone else.

Then again, these are not things that NYT's Editorial Board wishes to accept, I presume because they basically accept that every secret service anywhere can plunder everyone's privacies (and many do so on a larger scale than Facebook, or so it seems), and they basically accept that the very rich have money enough to do the same, especially if they can sell their findings to rich advertisers.

And second, it is for the reasons I just sketched (your complete privacy - that is: everything you are, think, value, earn and everyone you are friends with, to whom the same applies - gets stolen), that AT&T of 1984 is a very bad comparison with the present Facebook.

But indeed Facebook's secret findings are abused by Facebook's owner on a gigantic scale:
As The New York Times reported Tuesday, Facebook shared data with at least four Chinese electronics firms, including one flagged by American officials as a national security threat. We learned earlier this week, thanks to a Times investigation, that it allowed phone and other device makers, including Amazon, Apple, Samsung and Microsoft, to see vast amounts of your personal information without your knowledge. That behavior appears to violate a consent order that Facebook agreed to with the Federal Trade Commission in 2011, after Facebook was found to have made repeated changes to its privacy settings that allowed the company to transfer user data without bothering to inform the users. And it follows the even darker revelation that Facebook allowed a trove of information, including users’ education levels, likes, locations, and religious and political affiliations, to be exploited by the data mining firm Cambridge Analytica to manipulate potential voters for its Republican Party clients.
Quite so. Incidentally, while I do not believe in "Russia-gate" I do believe that Cambridge Analytica + Facebook + Steve Bannon may well have won the elections for Trump (but then it seems Mueller doesn't investigate Cambridge Analytica + Facebook because this is not about "Russia-gate" ...).

Next there is this - and I wish the Editorial Board had the guts to say that Zuckerberg considers his users (in his own words) "dumb fucks who trust him":
Throughout its history, Facebook has adamantly argued that it treats our data, and who has access to it, as a sort of sacred trust, with Zuckerberg & Company being the trustees. Yet at the same time, Facebook has continued to undermine privacy by making it cumbersome to opt out of sharing, trying to convince users that we actually do want to share all of our personal information (and some people actually do) and by leaving the door unlocked for its partners and clients to come in and help themselves.
Yes indeed: Facebook is deeply criminal; it should be totally locked down; and Mark Zuckerberg should be prosecuted for stealing billions upon billions of the most intimate privacies of billions of his users (and their friends, and the friends of their friends).

And while I don't think for a minute anything like this will happen, I think it should happen. Otherwise the future of everyone will be thoroughly neofascistic.

2. Going “Full Dictator”? Trump Claims He Has Right to End Mueller Investigation or Pardon Himself

This article is by Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
As President Trump celebrated his 500th day in office Monday, many legal experts warned that the country could soon face a constitutional crisis as the president continues to attack special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. On Monday, Trump tweeted, “The appointment of the Special Counsel is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” He also tweeted, “As has been stated by numerous legal scholars, I have the absolute right to PARDON myself.” Over the weekend, The New York Times published a 20-page confidential letter written by Trump’s lawyers to special counsel Robert Mueller, in which his lawyers claim Trump is above the law and thus cannot have illegally obstructed the Mueller investigation. Trump’s attorneys also claim the Constitution gives the president power to terminate the Mueller probe. We speak to Philadelphia Daily News columnist Will Bunch in Philadelphia. His latest column is headlined “The week Trump went full dictator and no one tried to stop him.”
In fact, this is (as usual) a quite good and clear introduction, but the fact is also that Trump - who currently seems to utter at least 30 lies a day - is, as usual, lying as is Guliani: In a state of law everyone is subject to the law. And if the president is not subject to the law, the only reason is that he and his elite form a dictatorship of some kind, which is indeed what both Trump and Giuliani seem to be after.

Here is more:
AMY GOODMAN: Over the weekend, The New York Times published a 20-page confidential letter written by Trump’s lawyers to special counsel Robert Mueller, in which his lawyers claim Trump is above the law and thus cannot have illegally obstructed the Mueller investigation. In the January 29 letter, they claim, quote, “It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.” Trump’s attorneys also claim the Constitution gives the president power to terminate the Mueller probe.
As far as I am concerned Trump might as well have said "if I want to slowly torture a supermodel to death on prime time television, I have the total right to do so for, firstly, I am above the law; and secondly, if I were convicted, I can pardon myself - o, and where is Stormy Daniels?"

Here is Will Bunch:
WILL BUNCH: (..) You know, you mentioned it’s been 500 days of President Trump. And it’s day by day we’ve seen him slowly eroding democratic norms, the rule of law, rules, you know. And when he does that, step by step, he not only erodes our democracy, but he’s taking us on a path from a presidency to some kind of dictatorship, where he’s basically, like you said, declaring—like he said, declaring himself above the law.
And again, we’ve seen it just erode step by step, you know, the fact that he gets away with telling an average of 30 lies a day to the American people and goes unchallenged on that, the—you know, in so many ways.

And, you know, the flip side of that is the Founders always thought that we’d be protected against that, because Congress, the courts, our institutions, the media would step in if somebody was that abusive to our fundamental democracy, and take action. But we have a Congress that’s totally cowed. (...) The media is debating whether to call a lie a lie. And he is really strengthening this hold over our reality in ways that are very dangerous.
Indeed, and I completely agree (and both Congress and the media are fundamentally "cowed" by corruptions, but this is an aside).

Here is more:
WILL BUNCH: And this has just been a hallmark of the Trump administration, you know, just blatant lying. I mean, obviously, Donald Trump is not the first president to lie. You know, we’ve been through LBJ and Vietnam and Watergate and all these other things. But in this case, I mean, the sheer brazenness of it. And, you know, this gets back to the whole issue of democracy versus dictatorship, because what really makes a dictator is the ability to redefine reality, right? So, the more that Trump and his aides, like Sarah Sanders, and his lawyers can come out and just state these blatant untruths, and he’s still—and you wake up the next day, and nothing has really changed, you know, the more dangerous our situation becomes.
Again I completely agree. Here is the last bit I quote from this fine article:
WILL BUNCHAnd now we have a president who’s determined to push this to the outer limit. You know, he’s determined to blow by every tradition, every norm, every rule, and he’s basically challenging us to say, “What are we going to do about this?” You know, he’s challenging Congress. He’s challenging the media. He’s challenging the American people. What are we going to do about it? Are we going to, you know, sit on our couches and watch this on TV every night? Are we going to take to the streets? What are we going to do as he gets more and more brazen? And this is really the question we have to resolve, because if the president can show that he’s above the law, that just erodes the underpinnings of our democracy in so many ways.
Quite so, again. And I must add that - having closely studied politics the last five years, and especially politics in the USA - my expectation is that the vast majority is going to sit on their couches and watch TV. (I hope I am mistaken, but fear the evidence of five years says otherwise.) This is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a lot more.

3. The Two-Party Scam

This article is by Teodrose Fikre on Truthdig. It starts as follows:
They are back at it again. The Democrats are peddling change and hope as they promise a “better deal” if only they are entrusted with power. Nancy Pelosi has been touting the newest Democratic National Committee platform while pretending to be outraged about the excesses of Republicans. She promises to empower voters, strengthen ethics laws and fix campaign finance once she regains the speaker’s gavel.

What Pelosi is banking on is that voters are beset by “collective recollection deficit.” Never mind that Democrats had solid majorities in both houses of Congress and did the opposite of what she is now promising.
In brief: The Democrats lie all the time (except for a very few), which makes them just like the Republicans. And both parties are heavily corrupted, by the Wall Street banks in the case of the Democrats, and by oil, weaponry and other rich interests in the case of the Republicans.

Here is more by Fikre:
The duopoly continues to thrive because the media-politico establishment has conditioned us to have short-term outrage and disregard the connective nature of the two-party racket. Both parties are co-opted by corporations and the plutocrat class. They differ on the margins, but at their core, Democrats and Republicans’ primary purpose is to transfer wealth from the masses to the neo-aristocracy.
Yes, I agree, although I would have said "the media-politico establishment" succeeds mostly because they successfully appeal to the stupidity, the ignorance, the conformism and/or the wishful thinking that inspires a considerable majority of all adult Americans. (I know it is not polite, but it is - alas, alas, alas - true.)

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
This two-faction scam works only because establishment voices sheepdog the citizenry to accept a binary view of socio-political issues. We are given limited choices and told to vote for one of two equally malicious parties. There is a reason why over 40 percent of Americans who can otherwise vote refuse to do so. That number seems to go up every election cycle. More and more people are waking up to the ruse and realizing that a ballot limited to two parties is not a republic; it’s a tyranny of false choices.
No, I mostly disagree. It seems to me that the "two-faction scam" works mainly because only the two factions are heavily corrupted by the very rich, and there is hardly any financial support from the rich for any third, fourth etc. political party. But this is a recommended article. 
4. While Our Police Kill Thousands, Congress Works to Protect the Police

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

As you read this, an American police officer will kill someone.

Or at least—statistically speaking—it’s likely that in the next few hours an American police officer will extinguish the life of a fellow American. And it’s an almost certainty that that person will not need to die.

How do I know this? Because our police kill roughly three people per day. American police murder more citizens in an average two-week period than cops in the United Kingdom killed in the entire 20th century.
I say, for I did not know the last fact, which indeed is in part due to the fact that in the UK for a long time (but not anymore, of course) ordinary cops did not have guns.

Here is some more on the comparison between the USA and the UK, this time more or less for the present:
But now the world’s police almost all have guns, and this problem has become exponentially worse in America. At the beginning of May, U.S. police had already killed 400 people in 2018. To give you something to compare that with, in the 12 months preceding April 2016, British cops killed only three people and fired their weapons only seven times. Seven times in a year!
So this really is an enormous difference, indeed also given the fact that there are more than five times as many inhabitants in the USA.

And here is the main reason:

What makes the ongoing slaughter of American people at the hands of our police so troublesome—as if that’s not enough—is how incredibly rare it is for any cop to end up in jail for one of these murders. Of all of the 1,147 police killings in 2017, officers were charged with a crime in only 13—1 percent of all killings by police.

Well over half of all those killings began with police responding to suspected nonviolent offenses or scenarios in which no crime was reported. Think about that for a moment. Half the time police officers murder someone, they weren’t handling a violent crime and often were dealing with no crime at all. Basically, they thrust themselves into somebody’s life, things escalated—as they tend to do when dudes with guns show up—and it ended with a state-sanctioned murder.

I think that is correct and this is a recommended article (but I don't agree with everything in it).

5. As Planet Chokes on Plastic Waste, UN Report Offers Roadmap to Tackle Global Crisis

This article is by Jessica Corbett on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
In what's being called "hope for a better planet on #WorldEnvironmentDay," a United Nations report published Tuesday found "surging momentum in global efforts" to eradicate single-use plastics while also warning that poor enforcement is hindering regulations and bans worldwide.

Single-Use Plastics: A Roadmap to Sustainability (pdf) details "what has worked well, what hasn't, and why" in terms of regulating plastic. The report was released by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) as part of a global effort on Tuesday to raise awareness about initiatives to #BeatPlasticPollution.

Plastic pollution has become "one of our planet's greatest environmental challenges," Erik Solheim, head of UNEP, wrote in the introduction of the report, the first comprehensive review of efforts in more than 60 countries to address the crisis.

I welcome the fact that the UN is doing something against the apparently enormous pollution of plastic, but I fear it will not help much (other than making me have to pay 25 cents for a plastic bag, instead of getting it for free), indeed mostly becayse of "poor enforcement".

Here is just one example:

Just last week, a pilot whale died just off the coast of Thailand. "A necropsy revealed that more than 17 pounds of plastic had clogged up the whale's stomach, making it impossible for it to ingest nutritional food. This waste was in the form of 80 shopping bags and other plastic debris," reported National Geographic.

I can add that similar things have been found on the bottom of the ocean in very small animals: Plastics are polluting everything everywhere. 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 (!!).
       home - index - summaries - mail