September 21, 2018

Crisis: For-Profit Prisons, Comfortable Lies, Tax Scam, Missing Reporters, Wall Street Deregulation


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from September 21, 2018

This is a Nederlog of Friday, September 21, 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 21, 2018:
1. American Prison: Shane Bauer Traces History of U.S. For-Profit Prisons
     from Slavery to Today

2. Our Tendency to Believe Comfortable Lies
3. Another Tax Scam for the Rich
4. Hold the Front Page: The Reporters are Missing
5. Deregulation of Wall Street Is Plain and Simple Corruption
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. American Prison: Shane Bauer Traces History of U.S. For-Profit Prisons from Slavery to Today

This article is by Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
“American Prison.” That’s the name of the new book by award-winning journalist Shane Bauer, who dives deep into the profit-earning motives of U.S. prisons, from convict labor in colonial-era settlements all the way to present-day mass incarceration, including Bauer’s own stint as an undercover prison guard at the privately owned Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana. We speak with Shane Bauer in New York City.
Yes. And this is a summary of part of the text of the article:
AMY GOODMAN: Shane Bauer is an award-winning senior reporter at Mother Jones. He first described what he saw in a National Magazine Award-winning article for Mother Jones. This week he published his new book, that draws upon that experience and dives much deeper into the history of making profit from prisons in the United States, starting with convict labor in colonial-era settlements. The book is titled American Prison. And Shane knows well about prison, both working as a prison guard in one and also being imprisoned himself in Iran for over two years.
Well, I had gone undercover in a private prison and wanted to get a really close look at what life is like inside of these corporate-run prisons. And after that, I realized that to really understand the role of profit in the American prison system, we had to go really back.
And I learned that throughout American history, prisons have been run at a profit. Our earliest prisons in the 19th century were for-profit prisons where labor was being contracted out to private companies. After slavery, the entire Southern system was privatized. Prisoners were essentially fulfilling the role that slaves had filled, working in cotton fields, in coal mines for companies like the U.S. Steel company, the world’s first billion-dollar company.
There were people—prisoners were essentially contracted to planters and forced to pick cotton. They were whipped, tortured, had to meet, quote, “labor quotas.” And this system was called convict leasing. This system was actually more deadly than slavery. Every year, between 16 and 25 percent of prisoners would die. It was on par with the death rate of the Soviet Gulags. And eventually, the states actually bought plantations themselves, so instead of sending the prisoners to private businessmen to put them to work in their fields, they would put them to work in their own plantations.
[T]he kind of privatized system of convict leasing, the states kind of became jealous of the profits that the private businessmen were making, and then bought their own plantations. But substantively, there was very little difference. In fact, a lot of them were the same plantations.
This quotation is a bit more complicated than usual, but the two main bits are "And I learned that throughout American history, prisons have been run at a profit. Our earliest prisons in the 19th century were for-profit prisons where labor was being contracted out to private companies. After slavery, the entire Southern system was privatized. Prisoners were essentially fulfilling the role that slaves had filled" and "There were people—prisoners were essentially contracted to planters and forced to pick cotton. They were whipped, tortured, had to meet, quote, “labor quotas.” And this system was called convict leasing. This system was actually more deadly than slavery. Every year, between 16 and 25 percent of prisoners would die. It was on par with the death rate of the Soviet Gulags."

I think this is all quite true, and this is a strongly recommended article.

2. Our Tendency to Believe Comfortable Lies

This article is by Arnold Isaacs on Truthdig and originally on TomDispatch. It starts as follows:

It’s easy — and not wrong — to think that truth is in dire danger in the era of Donald Trump.

His own record of issuing breathtaking falsehoods from the exalted platform of the White House is unprecedented in American history. So is his consistent refusal to back down when a statement is proven false. In Trump’s world, those who expose his lies are the liars and facts that show he was wrong are “fake news.”

In this war on truth, Trump has several important allies. One is the shameful silence of Republican politicians who don’t challenge his misstatements for fear of giving offense to his true-believing base. Another is a media environment far more cluttered and chaotic than in past decades, making it easier for people to find stories that fit their preconceived ideas and screen out those they prefer not to believe.

Yes indeed, but in fact the situation is - considerably - more serious:

A full forty years ago, everybody was told literally by the official introducer of the "University" of Amsterdam, the historian prof. dr. Brandt, the stinking lie that (in translation) according to himself and the "University" of Amsterdam
  • Everybody knows that truth does not exist
I take it Brandt's convictions must have been that "everybody knows" there was no Second World War; there were no concentration camps in Hitler's Germany; and the Jews were quite untroubled by the Nazis, and - more in general - that only fantasies are credible.

I grant Brandt did not assert these direct consequences of his sick lie, but I do not know what he meant otherwise by insisting that "
Everybody know that truth does not exist" except more lies.

In any case, my ex and I were the only ones not to applaud Brandt, while I was moved into university politics, where I soon learned that 95% of the students likewise believed that truth either did not exist or that they did not care whether or not it existed: All they wanted was the
easiest way to get an M.A. degree

And this has been the case in Holland ever since. Then again, the situation has grown more serious with the internet:

These trends come in the context of a more general loosening of the informal rules that once put some limits on the tone and content of political speech. American politicians have always done plenty of exaggerating, lying by omission, selecting misleading facts, and using slanted language. Typically, though,if not always, they tried to avoid outright, provable lies, which it was commonly assumed would be politically damaging if exposed.

Nowadays, the cost of being caught lying seems less obvious. Some politicians show no apparent embarrassment about lying.
Yes, and here is more:
So, yes, truth is facing a serious crisis in the present moment. But two things are worth remembering. First, that crisis did not begin with Donald Trump. It has a long history. Second, and possibly more sobering, truth may be more fragile and lies more powerful than most of us, journalists included, would like to believe. That means the wounds Trump and his allies have inflicted — on top of earlier ones — may prove harder to heal than we think.
I quite agree but my reasons do not seem to be Isaacs' reasons. My reasons are - especially - these:

(1) Facebook alone has introduced over two billion "writers" on Facebook; (2) the vast majority of these "writers" write without much or any factual knowledge or real education about the topics they do write about; and (3) the vast majority of these "writers" are not interested in real factual truth: they are interested in partisan truth, and primarily believe themselves and their own politics.

And no: I do not know how anyone can educate these over 2 billion "writers" without knowledge, expertise, or interest in the real facts, indeed in considerable part because each and everyone of these over 2 billion "writers" also has opinions, statistics, personal information etc. that are of financial interest to Facebook, for Facebook sells their data to advertisers (and gets considerable parts of its data by offering advertisements of things Facebook members want to their Facebook members).

Here is more by Isaacs:
More than a half century has passed since I learned that lesson, and it’s still sobering: when people like a politician’s lies better than they like the truth, it’s tough to change their minds, and even after lies are proven false, they can remain a powerful force in public life.
Isaacs learned that lesson in 1964 - but now there are over 2 billion members of Facebook who all can write, and whose opinions - whether true or false - are all of financial interest to Facebook.

Here is more by Isaacs:
Attacks on news organizations (most prominently from the right but also from the left) go back at least to the 1960s. Under Trump, however, that assault has become uglier, more intense — and more dangerous.

Calling journalists “enemies of the American people,” for example, doesn’t just raise echoes of past totalitarian regimesIt gives aid and comfort to present-day officials and lawmakers who want to avoid being held publicly accountable for their acts.That applies not just in the United States but internationally. Trump’s anti-media rhetoric abets repressive rulers across the world who suppress independent, critical reporting in their countries.

recent column by the Washington Post‘s Jackson Diehl documented the worldwide impact of Trump’s anti-media assault. He reported that his search for examples “turned up 28 countries where the terms ‘fake news’ or ‘false news’ have been used to attack legitimate journalists and truthful reporting” during Trump’s time in office.
Yes, this seems all true. This is the last bit of Isaacs, and I disagree with it:
There is a large army out there churning out false information, using technology that lets them spread their messages to a mass audience with minimal effort and expense. But the largest threat to truth, I fear, is not from the liars and truth twisters, but from deep in our collective and individual human nature. It’s the same threat I glimpsed all those years ago at George Wallace’s rallies in Maryland and on that factory floor in China: the tendency to believe comfortable lies instead of uncomfortable truths and to trust our own assumptions instead of looking at the evidence.

That widespread and deep-rooted failure of critical thinking in American society today has helped make Trump and his enablers, like other liars before them, successful in the war against truth.
I disagree and I do so for two reasons:

First, there is not merely "a large army out there": There are, merely on Facebook alone, over 2 billion "writers" who can write and tweet as they please. I think this is by far the largest threat to real factual truth.

Second, I am a philosopher and a psychologist, and I am sick of people diving "
deep in our collective and individual human nature", especially while - implicitly, it is true - denying any and all differences in the make-up of intelligent and highly educated persons (always a minority) and the mental make-up of the stupid and the ignorant (of which there always are more, and of whom 2 billions now can and do write on Facebook).

I do not "
believe comfortable lies instead of uncomfortable truths" and I do not "trust" my own "assumptions instead of looking at the evidence", and I am sure that the same holds for the intelligent and highly educated minority to which I belong (also if we do not always agree on which way the evidence points).

And while this is a recommended article, it misses the over two billion "writers" Facebook contributes, while it - implicitly - denies any relevant differences between the intelligent and highly educated and the stupid or ignorant.

3. Another Tax Scam for the Rich

This article is by Robert Reich on his site. It starts as follows:
Hard to believe, but the Trump administration is proposing yet another massive tax windfall for the rich.
Yes indeed, and this is about a reduction in capital gains taxes. Here is more:
1. The people who’d get most of the benefits are already richer than ever and pay a lower effective tax rate than they have in decades. An estimated 63 percent of the benefits of this proposal would go to the wealthiest one-tenth of 1 percent of Americans, while the bottom 80 percent of us would get only 1 percent of its benefits, according to a University of Pennsylvania Wharton School analysis.
I believe that is correct. Here is more: 
2. The cost of this change would be a whopping $10 billion a year, for the next 10 years. That’s just about the yearly cost of funding free lunches for 20 million poor kids.
Yes. And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
3. Trump and his administration say they have the power to make this change by themselves without even being authorized to do so by Congress. Rubbish. Congress has already decided that capital gains taxes should not be indexed for inflation.
It’s another big handout to the wealthy, another huge increase in the federal deficit, and it’s illegal. Don’t let Trump and his enablers get away with this tax scam for the rich.
Yes. And this is a recommended article.
4. Hold the Front Page: The Reporters are Missing

This article is by John Pilger on Consortium News. It starts with a subtitle:
So much of mainstream journalism has descended to the level of a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is “perception,” says John Pilger.
Yes indeed - and if you haven't read it, you first should read item 2, because it is relevant.

Here is more:
Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.
Yes, this seems true to me (and I have been reading 35 journalistic sites a day for over five years now), and it also may be good to keep in mind that this is not about the 2 billion "writers" on Facebook, but about the professional journalists who write the mainstream aka corporatist press.

Here is more on the alternatives to
the mainstream aka corporatist press:
With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism sites such as,,,,, and are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.
Yes indeed. Here is more:
In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, The Guardian, Channel 4 News.
I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.
I did not know Media Lens, and the last link is to the Wikipedia article about them.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing. Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to The Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.
Yes, that seems correct to me, and this is a strongly recommended article.

5. Deregulation of Wall Street Is Plain and Simple Corruption

This article is by Lisa Gilbert on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:

Ten years after Wall Street crashed the economy, costing millions of Americans their homes, the jobs and their savings, Wall Street is busily dismantling the safeguards Congress erected to prevent another catastrophe.

This war on regulation, documented in a recent report from the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, has swept across Congress and the banking regulatory agencies.

These attacks stem from the corrupt connection between Wall Street political spending and compliant lawmakers, and from revolving-door regulators who came from—and may well return to—Wall Street jobs.

Every safeguard that is repealed or withdrawn, every standard that goes unenforced, every executive order that rigs the rules and every dedicated public servant replaced by a corporate ideologue is another payback to a regulated industry – usually one that has spent countless millions, or in Wall Street’s case billions, to influence lawmakers and buy special favors.

Yes, quite so. Here is more:

Here’s how Wall Street banks cashed in on their political spending and lobbying dollars over the past two years:

They staffed financial regulatory agencies with Goldman Sachs and other big bank alumni, who then used their positions to back sweeping financial deregulation.

They seated anti-government, anti-consumer radical Mick Mulvaney as the temporary head of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and arranged for one of his loyal foot soldiers, a completely unqualified political hack, to be the next permanent director.

They secured a sweeping retreat in our government’s regulatory enforcement, especially enforcement targeting the financial industry, which is needed to deter and punish corporate crime.

They persuaded Congress to use the Congressional Review Act to repeal the CFPB’s forced arbitration rule, blocking consumers’ access to the courts and allowing banks and credit card companies to rip off customers with impunity.

They pushed half a dozen agencies to commit to weakening the Volcker Rule, which stops banks from recklessly gambling with deposits.

In fact, this is the beginning of a longer list. I believe all of the items on that list are true, but I do not know this.

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

And to top it off, they got Congress to pass a major bank deregulation package rolling back important post-crisis reforms that protected consumers, curtailed lending discrimination and increased oversight of the financial system.

These sweeping attacks on financial and consumer protections won’t make America greater. They’ll make it crater, setting the stage for the next Wall Street crisis and very likely another round of taxpayer-funded bank bailouts.
Major ethics reforms are needed to end the cycle of deregulatory corruption and ensure that lawmakers put Main Street Americans ahead of Wall Street banks.

Yes indeed. And this is a strongly 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 (!!).
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