September 12, 2018

Crisis: Trump & Venezuela, John Bolton, Wall Street = Ponzi Scheme, Known Known, Aquarius


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 12, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, September 12, 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 September 12, 2018:
1. Stay Out of Venezuela, Mr. Trump
2. John Bolton Threatens International Criminal Court Judges for Probing
     U.S. Torture in Afghanistan

3. Wall Street Is the Definition of a Ponzi Scheme (Literally)
4. The Known Known
5. Aquarius Rising
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. Stay Out of Venezuela, Mr. Trump

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

America shouldn’t be in the coup business. Period.

It’s a relief, then, to learn that the Trump administration chose not to aid rebellious leaders in Venezuela seeking to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro. But it’s worrisome to think that President Trump and his advisers made the right call for the wrong reason — lack of confidence in the plotters to succeed in a risky operation rather than principled concern about intervention.

I say, for this seems at least a little mistaken in view of the long list of past interventions by the USA into South-American countries.

Here is more:

Given the turmoil in Venezuela, it is not unreasonable for American diplomats to meet with all factions, including mutinous military officers, to learn their thinking. For instance, who would be in charge in a political transition process? What kind of government do they aim for?

But holding multiple meetings with the plotters begins to look like collaboration. The news was bound to leak out, as it has.

And the rebellious commanders had reasons to hope that the Americans might be sympathetic. Mr. Trump last year declared that the United States had a “military option” for Venezuela. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, also hinted he favored military action. In a series of tweets, he encouraged dissident members of the armed forces to oust their commander in chief.

Yes, and I consider that of doubtful legality, indeed in view of lists like these:

For much of the past century, the United States compiled a sordid history in Latin America, using force and cunning to install and support military regimes and other brutal thugs with little interest in democracy.

Gunboat diplomacy in the early 20th century saw American Marines invading Cuba, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua and elsewhere to set up governments of Washington’s choosing.

During the Cold War, the C.I.A. orchestrated the overthrow of Guatemala’s elected president, Jacobo Árbenz, in 1954; the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba; and the 1964 coup in Brazil. It also helped create the conditions for the 1973 coup in which a military junta overthrew Chile’s democratically elected president, Salvador Allende.

In later years, the United States backed the contra rebels against the Sandinista revolution in Nicaragua (1980s), invaded Grenada (1983) and supported brutal, repressive governments in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.

A vanishing few of these interventions came to anything that could be considered a good end.

Quite so. And this is a recommended article with more.

2. John Bolton Threatens International Criminal Court Judges for Probing U.S. Torture in Afghanistan

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton has threatened U.S. sanctions against International Criminal Court judges if they proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In 2016 an ICC report accused the U.S. military of torturing at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan during the ongoing war. The report also accused the CIA of subjecting at least 27 prisoners to torture, including rape, at CIA prison sites in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania. Bolton said in a speech at the Federalist Society Monday, “We will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us.” We get response from Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program.
To start with, here is a bit of information on the International Criminal Court from Wikipedia:
The International Criminal Court (ICC or ICCt)[2] is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague in the Netherlands. The ICC has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. The ICC is intended to complement existing national judicial systems and it may therefore only exercise its jurisdiction when certain conditions are met, such as when national courts are unwilling or unable to prosecute criminals or when the United Nations Security Council or individual states refer situations to the Court.
Currently, there are 123 states which are party to the Rome Statute and therefore members of the ICC.
So John Bolton "will let the ICC die on its own. After all, for all intents and purposes, the ICC is already dead to us". I say!

Here is more on Bolton:

President Trump’s national security adviser John Bolton has threatened U.S. sanctions against International Criminal Court judges if they proceed with an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In 2016, an ICC report accused the U.S. military of torturing at least 61 prisoners in Afghanistan during the ongoing war. The report also accused the CIA of subjecting at least 27 prisoners to torture, including rape, at CIA prison sites in Afghanistan, Poland, Romania and Lithuania. John Bolton made the comments in a speech at the Federalist Society Monday.

JOHN BOLTON: Today on the eve of September the 11th, I want to deliver a clear and unambiguous message on behalf of the president of the United States. The United States will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecutions by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC, we will provide no assistance to the ICC and we certainly will not join the ICC.

AMY GOODMAN: John Bolton also threatened to directly target judges at the ICC.
JOHN BOLTON: We will respond against the ICC and its personnel to the extent permitted by U.S. law. We will ban its judges and prosecutors from entering the United States, we will sanction their funds in the U.S. financial system and we will prosecute them in the U.S. criminal system. We will do the same for any company or state that assists an ICC investigation of Americans.
As far as Bolton is concerned, he probably doesn't mind if all the judges of the ICC, representing a mere 123 nations, would be locked up in Guantánamo to learn the mistakes of their ways.

Here is more by Jamil Dakwar:

JAMIL DAKWAR: Unprecedented attack on the rule of law. This is unheard of, that we have a government and a country that has committed acts of torture in another country, and the country itself, the United States, failed to hold any official accountable for acts of torture by the CIA, by the U.S. military, during the armed conflict in Afghanistan. And that happened during the Bush years and then Obama administration failed to take the comprehensive, thorough investigation into those acts and said, “We will look forward, not backward.”

And now we’re seeing the Trump administration doubling down on their assault on international law and human rights and impunity and fighting impunity by saying we will now go against the same body that is a last resort for victims of torture, that is the only international institution recognized as the one that is supposed to investigate and prosecute war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. And the Trump administration is saying, “We will be treating your judges and prosecutors like drug traffickers, like war criminals,” instead of admitting that there was a failure in holding officials accountable.

Precisely. And what Bolton was saying is in effect that the USA is and should be completely free to torture anyone they want without any repercussions or interference from other states.

Here is more:

JAMIL DAKWAR: So we’re in a very—the tipping point where the administration is basically saying, “We’re going to have a frontal attack on judges and prosecutors and personnel.” By the way, there is no legal theory to support that. I don’t understand what is it that, how is it that they would be prosecuting judges for the mere fact of conducting their job and responsibility under international treaty that is recognized, again, and ratified by 123 countries.

What is also concerning and very dangerous is that the threat is not just against the judges and the prosecutors and the personnel of the court, but it’s also against any state or party that is supposed to or willing to assist the ICC in its investigation of U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan.
Again precisely so. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
JAMIL DAKWAR: So we are in a position where we see an escalation in attack on international bodies. This is the same administration that withdrew from the Human Rights Council. This is the same administration that is now changing the rules of engagement with regard to the use of targeted killings. This is the same administration that is pulling out of international treaties, including the issue like the Paris Accord, which you talked about in the previous segment.
Precisely. There is more in the article, that is strongly recommended. 
3. Wall Street Is the Definition of a Ponzi Scheme (Literally)

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

Maybe it makes me unsophisticated, but I don’t think about the stock market that much. I know that many say it’s the central nervous system of our economy. I know its estimated worth is around $30 trillion. And I know that when it tanks, the lives of millions of Americans are wrecked, ruined and upended. I know that when that happens, the powerful millionaires (and billionaires) who caused said destruction generally grab their money and their well-coiffed dogs and run for it. (Sometimes our government has to step in to make sure the elites get all of their money and don’t have to share in the devastation they’ve dispensed to the lower classes.)

But in my day-to-day life, I don’t think much about the stock market. So maybe I shouldn’t care that the entire thing is a gigantic fraud. But I do. I do care. And you should too.

I am in a similar position as Camp is. Here is more:

When you picture buying stock in a company, what do you picture? You probably imagine a company like PepsiCo, and you are an investor in that company. You own a tiny piece of it, and because of that, you get a tiny proportion of the profits, which are called “dividends.” Well, that’s not what a stock is. That’s what stocks used to be, but that was back when top hats were worn by non-magicians, and if a lady showed her knees in public, she was considered a floozy who should die alone.

In modern times, you almost never receive the profits of the business. Dividends are rarely paid out, and they don’t usually amount to much. Plus, the company is not obligated to pay you anything for your stock ever.

Well... I admit that I more or less believed in the outdated schema, but this was probably mostly caused by my refusal to deal in any stocks whatsoever (and indeed by my lacking the money to do so all my life).

Here is what stocks are at present - in effect no more stocks:

Don’t take it from me, take it from someone much smarter than me. Here’s an example about Google from Tan Liu’s book “The Ponzi Factor.”

“A share of Google can trade around $900, but Google explicitly states in writing that the par value of their stock is only 0.001 dollars. Google also says that they do not pay their investors any dividends, and their class C shareholders have no voting rights. So, if you own a share of GOOG, you won’t receive any money from Google, you won’t be allowed to vote on corporate issues, and Google isn’t obligated to pay you anything more than 0.001 dollars for that share you bought for $900.”

So this begs the question, “What the hell do you own?” The gut-wrenching answer is nothing. You own nothing. You own a slip of toilet paper that you might be able to convince someone else to pay you for.

I say, and I have two comments.

The first is that - in a sense - for most small buyers of stocks this probably will make little difference, simply because the amounts of stock they own are too few to influence the corporation's policies in any way.

The second comment is that it does remind me of something, namely Nixon's dropping of the gold standard, that dropped all security of paper money.

Here is Lee Camp's conclusion:

So, to rehash, this is a system where you buy into something and the only way you make money is by convincing someone else to buy it. If no one does, then you lose everything. Why does that sound familiar? Oh, I know. It’s the dictionary definition of a Ponzi scheme.

Again, don’t take my word for it. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) defines a Ponzi scheme as “[a]n investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.”

The stock market is a Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme is the stock market.

I say, and I think I agree. There is more in the article that is strongly recommended.

4. The Known Known

This article is by Sue Halpern on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows, and is basically a review of four recent books:

In 1999, when Scott McNealy, the founder and CEO of Sun Microsystems, declared, “You have zero privacy…get over it,” most of us, still new to the World Wide Web, had no idea what he meant. Eleven years later, when Mark Zuckerberg said that “the social norms” of privacy had “evolved” because “people [had] really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” his words expressed what was becoming a common Silicon Valley trope: privacy was obsolete.

By then, Zuckerberg’s invention, Facebook, had 500 million users, was growing 4.5 percent a month, and had recently surpassed its rival, MySpace. Twitter had overcome skepticism that people would be interested in a zippy parade of 140-character posts; at the end of 2010 it had 54 million active users. (It now has 336 million.)
Quite so - and Zuckerberg is one of the most major frauds I know of, and indeed what he is quoted as saying was a total lie and utter propaganda: People did not get comfortable by Facebook's sellings of their privacies of all kinds, and they did not basically because Facebook is and has been frauding them from the start with all manner of lies.

Then again, I add that (i) people were and are responsible as well, but unfortunately as well that (ii) most Americans and indeed most people are more stupid and ignorant than I thought (and I never had a high opinion of the intelligences of the majorities that surrounded me or that I could read).

Then there is this:
As Cyrus Farivar writes in Habeas Data: Privacy vs. the Rise of Surveillance Tech, a lively catalog of privacy-related court cases and laws that have arisen alongside new technologies, “Nowhere in the Bill of Rights, or in the Constitution, is the word ‘privacy’ mentioned. But scholars, lawyers, judges, and others have intuited, or extrapolated, something resembling a privacy right from both documents.” “The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom,” Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas wrote in 1952, echoing the words of Justice Louis Brandeis, who, nearly a quarter-century earlier, wrote in his dissenting opinion in Olmstead v. United States, “The right to be let alone [is] the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men.”
I completely agree with both Douglas and Brandeis - but at present, and since the inntroduction of the internet, every internet-computer you buy, and indeed virtually anything which has a chip inside, has been designed on purpose to spy on absolutely everything you do, in any possible way.

Besides, I am personally totally convinced the whole internet including the computers that run it
was designed by DARPA since the late 1960ies to do exactly that: See here, which was discovered by me in 2012 but dates back to the late 1960ies, before the arrival of the personal computer.

It was all designed. It was all on purpose. It was all designed purposively, since the 1960ies, to destroy all privacies of absolutely everyone for each and every set of national spies, with the additional benefit for the really rich that they can do more or less the same, and come to know the privacies and intimacies of each and everyone who has an internet computer, or indeed bought anything with any modern chip, like a fridge or a phone.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
In Habeas Data, Farivar illustrates how this “someday” is now here, as he examines the privacy issues arising from such relatively new technologies as license plate readers, security cameras, drones, stingrays (devices that mimic cell phone towers in order to intercept calls), stingrays mounted on drones, Doppler radar, facial recognition, and persistent surveillance systems—cameras mounted on airplanes that can see and record what’s happening on the ground. The stories he tells, often about how these technologies are used by the government to spy on its citizens, are all the more chastening because, for the most part, they are legal.
Yes indeed. This also charts the extent to which you can trust "the law" to secure your individual rights, your rights on privacy etc.: not at all. And this is a strongly recommended article.
5. Aquarius Rising

This article is by Jackson Lears on The New York Review of Books. It starts as follows, and is basically a review of nine recent and not so recent books, that have been reprinted:
Certain years acquire an almost numinous quality in collective memory—1789, 1861, 1914. One of the more recent additions to the list is 1968. Its fiftieth anniversary has brought a flood of attempts to recapture it—local, national, and transnational histories, anthologies, memoirs, even performance art and musical theater. Immersion in this literature soon produces a feeling of déjà vu, particularly if one was politically conscious at the time (as I was).
I agree that 1968 was a special year, and indeed I recall it quite well, although I had just turned 18 then: I had many leftist friends; both of my parents were communists; and I went twice to Paris in 1968, in May and in June, to watch the unfolding and then collapsing revolution.

Then again, I also remember 2008, which was forty years later, and I think that the amount of articles I read then about 1968 was both larger and better informed than those I have read this year. I think this simply is a fact, and in case you read Dutch, you can check out May, 2008.

Here is more - and Paul Goodman is one of the authors I did read in the 1960ies:

Other commentators on the counterculture preferred a more familiar religious idiom. Paul Goodman, who had been lionized by the left for his Growing Up Absurd (1960), recognized toward the end of the decade that what the restless young were seeking was a “New Reformation,” a revival of genuine spiritual experience in the face of a corrupt positivist orthodoxy. What really alienated young white rebels from their affluent society, Goodman wrote, was its “nauseating phoniness, triviality, and wastefulness, the cultural and moral scandal that Luther found when he went to Rome in 1510.” (Young black Americans had more precise and palpable complaints.)

The greatest scandal was that “science, which should have been the wind of truth to clear the air, has polluted the air, helped to brainwash, and provided weapons for war.” Reformation “does not involve destroying the common faith [in science], but to purge and reform it.” What was needed was technical modesty, fittingness—“the ecological wisdom of cooperating with Nature rather than trying to master her.” The crisis of professional authority was part of a larger crisis of modernity; Goodman wanted to salvage the promise of modernity by reforming the professions.

I did read at least four of Goodman's books in the later 1960ies, and I probably would have summarized them differently, but then again I did not read them since, and Lears is right that Goodman protested the corruption of the sciences, in which he was right.

Then there is another writer, who I first read in 1970, namely Theodore Roszak:

Theodore Roszak wanted to go farther. In The Making of a Counterculture
(1969), he coined the term “counterculture” to try to capture the wide-ranging significance of youth rebellion, for which he wanted to find a legitimate lineage, even an intellectual history. He refused to reduce the countercultural ferment to a mishmash of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, dismissing Leary’s eschatological fantasies as a “counterfeit infinity.” At its most profound, Roszak argued, the counterculture arose from a Romantic and existentialist tradition preoccupied with sustaining authentic existence in an inauthentic society—a tradition stretching from Blake and Wordsworth to Martin Buber and Paul Goodman (...)

Yes, and I should add that I only read Roszak's "The Making of a Counterculture" and none of his other books, and that I read it last in 1970, but I did like it then, indeed except for his rather wild idealizations of many of the left in the later 1960ies, which struck me mostly as nonsense (and I was part of the political left then), and namely because I thought the book was rather well-written.

Here is one conclusion by Lears:

Yet despite the caricatures, some political consequences of 1960s radicalism were significant, at least for a while. One of the most hopeful was the growth of popular skepticism of the FBI and the CIA. As revelations of unconstitutional domestic surveillance proliferated in the early 1970s, even Congress began to realize the need for reining in the intelligence agencies. A Senate committee headed by Frank Church (a Democrat from Idaho) explored the vast extent of illegal surveillance and concluded, “Too many people have been spied upon by too many government agencies, and too much information has been collected.” The Church committee also found abundant evidence of CIA crimes abroad, including assassinations of foreign leaders.

Though there was a brief flurry of public concern, the policy outcomes of the investigation remained minimal, and within a few years the intelligence agencies had reasserted their claim on public legitimacy.
Yes indeed - and Frank Church remains interesting, if only because he was quite right. Here is a bit of Church quoted from Wikipedia, which he said in 1975:

If this government ever became a tyranny, if a dictator ever took charge in this country, the technological capacity that the intelligence community has given the government could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back because the most careful effort to combine together in resistance to the government, no matter how privately it was done, is within the reach of the government to know. Such is the capability of this technology.

Now why is this investigation important? I'll tell you why: because I don't want to see this country ever go across the bridge. I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return.
I think Church was quite correct and the USA may be a tyranny any day now, for all the American governments since Church did precisely the opposite of what he - wisely - recommended.

Here is the ending of this article:
Revisiting the Sixties leads to a sobering conclusion: everything has changed, and nothing has changed.

I don't think that is very clear, but I liked this article, in which there is a lot more than I quoted, and that is strongly recommended.


[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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