July 7, 2018

Crisis: On Trump, On The Supreme Court, On Privacy, On The Rich, On The Surveillance State


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from July 7, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, July 7, 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 mostly well worth reading:

A. Selections from July 7, 2018:
1. 'He’s a Con Man and a Criminal': Rob Reiner Blasts 'Classic Fascist'
     Donald Trump
2. Supreme Court Ignored International Law in Upholding Muslim Ban
3. Americans Deserve Privacy Protection From Big Data
4. Workers or Profits? American Businesses Chose a Long Time Ago.
5. Silicon Valley Will Not Save You from the Surveillance State
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. 'He’s a Con Man and a Criminal': Rob Reiner Blasts 'Classic Fascist' Donald Trump

This article is by Andrew O'Hehir on AlterNet and originally on Salon. This is from near its start:

In the decades since "All in the Family," Reiner has had several different careers: He was an A-list director of Hollywood comedies and dramas in the '80s and '90s, making such major hits as "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Princess Bride" and "When Harry Met Sally..." In this century he has begun to focus more on independent films driven by his obsession with history and politics.

In some respects, Reiner's new movie "Shock and Awe," about the abysmal media failures leading up to the 2003 Iraq war, is a successor to "LBJ" (2016), an ensemble work that re-examines a piece of well-worn recent history in a new light. But "Shock and Awe" is especially relevant now, as Reiner made clear in our conversation, because the media's cowardice during the George W. Bush era helped pave the way for the grotesquely divided media climate of 2018, when liberals and conservatives can't even agree about whose set of facts is actually true.

In case you need some information: This is about Rob Reiner, and this is about "All in the Family". (I like both, but I did not see any of Reiner's movies: I was too ill, usually, the last forty years.)

As to the second of the above two paragraphs: In fact, it is worse, for the media were also driven apart by their own corruption, while the problem about truth is not so much that people cannot agree "whose set of facts is actually true" but that a considerable number of people, both from the "left" and the "right", have given up truth altogether. And this means in fact that they decide what others should think by their own desires and wishful thinking - which is either madness or utter blindness to whatever does not fit their desires.

Here is more by Reiner:

You do have a big chunk of the mainstream media doing their due diligence, and trying to get the truth out, and working very hard. But you have another big block of media -- I refer to Fox News and Breitbart, and then Sinclair and even Alex Jones -- who are dealing with a 180-degree different narrative, and they are basically locking down 40 percent of the country.

For the mainstream media that is pushing out a different narrative, very hard to crack into that 40 percent, and the question that comes out of that is whether or not our democracy will survive. This is something we talk about at the beginning of the film. It's a quote by Bill Morris, which basically says that "If you do not have a free and independent press, you will not have democracy."

Right now democracy is really hanging in the balance, because you have an administration, again, backed up by essentially state-run television, that is calling the more mainstream part of the media the "enemy of the people" and "fake news."
As I said above, this means - in my opinion - that 4 out of 10 of the adult Americans seem too stupid, too ignorant, too conformistic, or too much of wishful thinkers to understand there is factual truth.

I more or less agree with the rest, although Trump's administration doesn't just call "
the more mainstream part of the media the "enemy of the people"" but also the non-mainstrean press.

Then there is this:

He's certainly a con man.

He's a con man and a criminal, and that's what needed to be talked about. Because he's doing it now to the country.

For a con man to be successful, for that kind of a criminal, in your words, to be successful, he has to sell people something that they want. Isn't that part of the problem? Donald Trump is a very skillful con man, because he is pushing a narrative about immigrants, about Muslims, about the nature of the country, and too many people want to believe it.

I completely agree. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

How bad is it?

It's terrible. It's terrible because we're seeing the erosion of democracy from the inside out -- the press, the rule of law, all of these things are being eroded. If we give this possibly illegitimate president, who is under investigation for colluding with a foreign power to take this country, if we give him another seat on the Supreme Court, it could change the way America is for the next 30, 40, 50 years. It's very scary. Women's rights are at stake. Gay rights are at stake. Workers' rights, civil rights, they're on the table now. It's very, very scary. We have to fight. We have to fight hard.

We need the press now more than ever, which is what the movie's about. The press must hold this person accountable and must get the truth out. We say the line in the movie, "When the government says something, you only have one question to ask: Is it true?" That's what the press needs to keep doing. Is this true?

Yes, I agree. And indeed I also agree that the press needs to keep asking (and answering) the question whether what the government says - and the government is now headed by a criminal, who is lying extremely much (more than anyone I ever knew) - is true. They should not give up on that. And this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Supreme Court Ignored International Law in Upholding Muslim Ban

This article is by Marjorie Cohn on Consortiumnews. It starts as follows:
The Supreme Court’s opinion last month in Trump v. Hawaii, affirming Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, has permitted the United States to act in flagrant violation of international law.

Under the guise of deferring to the president on matters of national security, the 5-4 majority disregarded a litany of Trump’s anti-Muslim statements and held that the ban does not violate the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause, which forbids the government from preferring one religion over another. Neither the majority nor the dissenting opinions even mentioned the U.S.’s legal obligations under international human rights law.

The travel ban violates two treaties to which the United States is a party: the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. It also runs afoul of customary international law.

Both of these treaties and customary international law prohibit the government from discriminating on the basis of religion or national origin. Trump’s Muslim ban does both.
I completely agree. My own conclusion is that it follows that the Supreme Court's opinion is illegal, which follows by simple consistency, but then again I know that this fact - which I think is a fact - will probably make little difference in and for the USA, and especially not with the current administration.

Here is some more:
All of the justices on the Supreme Court ignored significant international law arguments in their majority and dissenting opinions in spite of an amicus brief signed by 81 international law scholars, including this writer, and a dozen non-governmental organizations. The amicus brief drew attention to the travel ban’s violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, both of which the United States has ratified.

Ratification of a treaty not only makes the United States a party to that treaty, its provisions also become part of U.S. domestic law under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, which says treaties “shall be the supreme law of the land.”
I again completely agree and there is a lot more in the article, that is recommended. 3. Americans Deserve Privacy Protection From Big Data

This article is by Ed Markey on Common Dreams and originally on Boston Globe. It starts as follows:
The United States has a privacy problem.

Sensitive consumer data are everywhere, and they are vulnerable. Just this year, we learned that two billion Facebook users’ information was harvested by bad actors. Hundreds of thousands of Delta Airlines travelers’ credit card information was breached. More than 150 million consumers’ data on Under Armour’s MyFitnessPal app were compromised.

In 2018, invasions of privacy are as commonplace as turning on a smartphone or clicking on an app. They are the new normal. It is no surprise that more than 80 percent of American adults online are concerned that their personal data may be stolen.

Privacy is about the safety of your personal information. But it is also about your ownership of that information. In both respects, the rest of the world is moving forward while the United States is falling behind.

This is here because of Ed Markey, who is a prominent American politician (whom I probably don't like, although I don't know much about him, but being a member of Congress for 41 years does sound as if he is a professional politician, which is a type I don't like).

Here is some more:

In May, Europeans began benefitting from a new set of comprehensive privacy rules, the General Data Protection Regulation, or GDPR. Under the European privacy rules, personal data belong to the consumer. Companies must meet strict requirements to use personal information, and they cannot claim to have your permission unless you’ve provided informed and unambiguous consent.

The European standard is “opt-in.” What does that mean? It means companies cannot assume they have permission to use your information. It means a pre-checked box is not adequate. It means the consumer, not the corporation, is in control.

Well... I am a European, and I am well informed about computing, and somewhat about the law. My own opinion about the GDPR is not that of Markey, for I am far less optimistic than he is, but indeed my reasons are too complicated to discuss here and now. I'll merely say that it is less bad than what was the case, but it also is not good at all.

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

The recent failures of social media giants like Facebook to protect users’ data have placed privacy front and center in our national consciousness. The American people want and deserve an online privacy bill of rights, one that institutes an opt-in standard and requires websites to describe in detail all collection, use, and sharing of consumers’ sensitive information. And Internet service providers should also secure permission to use information about what you click and what websites you visit. You should have a right to know whether they are giving that information to advertisers, and you should have the right to tell them to stop.

Now that the European privacy law has taken effect, the American people are left to wonder why they are getting second-class privacy protections. If US companies can afford to protect 500 million Europeans’ privacy, they can afford to do so for 325 million Americans, as well. The European privacy law proves that American companies can provide robust privacy protections, and we all know they should.

I agree, and this is a recommended article.

4. Workers or Profits? American Businesses Chose a Long Time Ago.

This article is by Kevin Drum on Mother Jones. It starts as follows - and while the argument is basically about charts and graphics (there are three charts in the article), I decided not to represent them here and just provide the text (and you get all if you click the last link):
A post from Dean Baker prompts me to show you the following chart:
Corporate profits go up and down with the business cycle, but averaged 5-6 percent of GDP on a pretty steady basis through 2002. Then things changed. Since 2002, profits have increased dramatically, and today stand at about 9 percent of GDP. Now take a look at a chart showing median wage income for workers:
It’s a mirror image. Up through 2002, wage income was rising. Not a lot, but the trend was generally upward. Since 2002, however, wages have been dead flat.

Baker estimates that a change in corporate earnings of 4 percentage points is about equal to $4,000 per person in annual earnings. That accounts almost precisely for the change in the trendline. Corporate profits have increased about $600 billion more than the previous trend, while median earnings have increased about $600 billion less than the previous trend. This is not a coincidence.

I deleted the charts but the lesson they teach is obvious: The American rich (about 1% of the American population) appropriated $600 billion, because the American rich succeeded in taking over the government, the House, Congress, and the Supreme Court. And the American non-rich (about 99% of the American population) provided the $600 billion, mostly through taxes and through not raising the incomes of the 99%.

Here is Kevin Drum's explanation:

Now one final chart:
It’s the same inflection point. So here’s the story:

  • Since 2002, corporations have been retaining much higher profits than they used to.
  • They could do this because they stopped giving their employees annual raises.
  • As a result, the number of women joining the labor force began declining. (The number of men in the labor force was already declining, and this trend continued.)
  • Businesses then began complaining that they couldn’t find enough qualified workers.

There are qualified workers out there. At least, there would be if more of them had been given stronger incentives to join or stay in the labor force. But they weren’t because CEOs and shareholders wanted more money for themselves. Now they’re stuck.

Corporate America can either pay its executives more or it can pay its workers more. It’s their choice.

I don't really know whether "[t]here are qualified workers out there", but apart from that Drum is quite right: The corporate rich decided to make themselves a lot richer, by making the 99% a lot poorer. It is as simple as that, and this is a recommended article.

5. Silicon Valley Will Not Save You from the Surveillance State

This article is by David Swanson on Washington's Blog. It starts as follows:

There was something quite odd about the very welcome news that some Google employees were objecting to a military contract, namely all the other Google military contracts. My sense of the oddness of this was heightened by reading Yasha Levine’s new book, Surveillance Valley: The Secret Military History of the Internet.

I invited Levine on my radio show (it will air in the coming weeks) and asked him what he thought was motivating the revolt over at Google.
Levine’s book describes Google and other internet corporations as major military and spy contractors from the beginning. Google partnered with Lockheed Martin on parts of the war on Iraq and is a major partner of the military, the CIA, the NSA, etc. Surveillance Valley goes back to the post-WWII origins of today’s military madness. Military experiments as preparation for war, “field tested” in Vietnam, and supported by President Kennedy as appropriately hi-tech and modern, were actually war and developed into one of the worst wars ever seen. Vietnam was mass-surveilled — or the attempt was made and foiled with bags of urine and other low-tech tricks.Tools developed in Vietnam were immediately applied against U.S. citizens, especially those trying to improve the United States in any way. And the overabundance of data drove the development of computers that could handle it. Spying on everyone is not an enterprise tacked onto the computerized world; it’s why we have a computerized world.
I don't know Levine's book, but I strongly agree with the last statement: "Spying on everyone is not an enterprise tacked onto the computerized world; it’s why we have a computerized world."

In fact, you'll find my own explanation yesterday, in "
The Creator of the World Wide Web Is ‘Devastated’ by What It Has Become" and this has the same conclusion as Levine's and traces it back to 1967. (This is strongly recommended, for it is one of my basic arguments.)

Here is some more:
The internet was not just developed in large part by the military, but also privately for the military. It was privatized without much public debate, an enormous giveaway to which the destruction of net-neutrality is just a final scene. The search and advertising interests of companies like Google have long overlapped almost exactly the surveillance interests of the U.S. government, while so contradicting the public image desired by Google that Google has kept its basic functions tightly secret.
Precisely: the internet was developed by and for the military, which includes the NSA. And it was developed the way it was because this enabled governmental spies to find out everything about anybody, which is an extremely totalitarian and neofascistic ideal (except that the same Brzezinski who designed so much of the internet, already in 1967, also has - false - opinions about totalitarianism, that now have become the norm on Wikipedia...).

Anyway. This is a strongly recommended article (and Levine's book seems quite interesting).


[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 (!!).
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