November 14, 2018

Crisis: On Nancy Pelosi, Amazon's Degeneracy, Facebook's Idem, Psychiatrist Frank, On China


1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from November 14, 2018


This is a Nederlog of Wednesday, November 14, 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 November 14, 2018:
1. Pelosi Wants to Find “Common Ground” With Donald Trump.
2. Amazon's Billion-Dollar Shakedown of America's Cities
3. Facebook Let Smartphone Companies Access Your Private Data
4. Psychiatrist Justin Frank on Trump’s “God complex”: He is “erotically
     attached to violence”

5. An Inside Look at China's Reeducation Camps
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. Pelosi Wants to Find “Common Ground” With Donald Trump.

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

She just doesn’t get it.

“We will strive for bipartisanship, with fairness on all sides,” announced Nancy Pelosi on the night of November 6. “We must try” to find “common ground” with President Donald Trump and the Republican Party, she told a rally in Washington, D.C. as victory after victory in the midterms confirmed a new Democratic majority in the House of Representatives, adding: “ We’ll have a bipartisan marketplace of ideas that makes our democracy strong.”

My heart sank as I listened to her speak. Did she really believe this platitudinous nonsense? And if so, where has she been the past two years? In a coma?

In fact, forget the past 24 months in which an unhinged president praised Nazisbanned Muslimscaged kids, and obstructed justice. Consider only the events of the past seven days, since Pelosi made her pious pledge.

Well... I think Nancy Pelosi does get it quite well, and I believe she is stating the above bullshit because she is trying to organize another Trump-Clinton presidential election in 2020.

Of course, I do not know this, but it certainly seems a considerably better guess at what Pelosi does want than to assume she may have been in coma or has turned insane. She is not insane; she hasn't been in coma, but she thinks - I think - that she can organize another Trump-Clinton presidential election ("because Clinton is the best choice for the Democrats").

Here is more:

Yet this is the far-right president and party that Pelosi wants to do deals with. This is the motley collection of racists and misogynists, of con artists and conspiracy theorists, that she plans to negotiate “bipartisan” agreements with. She wants to lead a “unifying” Congress, she told CNN’s Chris Cuomo last Thursday, and hopes that Trump will show a new “level of maturity” going forward.

Who is she kidding?

Not me, but possibly Mehdi Hasan, although I am quite willing to agree that the decision for this probably will come later.

Here is more:

Let’s be clear: American democracy is in crisis. America’s minorities are, literally, under fire. If the dishonest, racist, corrupt, anti-democratic Donald Trump isn’t worthy of impeachment, then who is? Pelosi should take a pause from her ongoing media tour and listen to the recent discussion that my colleague Jeremy Scahill hosted on his podcast, Intercepted, with NYU historian Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of “Fascist Modernities” and an expert on Benito Mussolini, and Yale University philosopher Jason Stanley, author of “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.”

“I think right now, we are heading towards, more and more, a one-party state,” Stanley said, explaining Trump’s use of “classic fascist tactics.” Ben-Ghiat said she believed that “we are heading toward … a militarized authoritarian surveillance state,” and “we’re in the middle of a battle for the survival of democracy.”

Got that? A battle for the survival of democracy. Yet the leader of the Democrats in the House wants to talk infrastructure spending and prescription drugs.
Yes, Hasan is correct - I think - about the ongoing battle about the remnants of American democracy, but - I think - is mistaken about Pelosi's motives. I think she wants to engineer another fight betweent Clinton and Trump in 2020, which is an awful idea to me, but seems
to be what the rich Democrats including Pelosi want.

2. Amazon's Billion-Dollar Shakedown of America's Cities

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

If one required reminding of the Democratic Party’s complete capitulation to corporate interests, to say nothing of the country’s as a whole, he or she need only have listened to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s address on Tuesday. “One of the biggest companies on earth next to the biggest public housing development in the United States,” he told reporters during a joint press conference with Gov. Andrew Cuomo. “The synergy is going to be extraordinary.”

The company in question is Amazon, which confirmed earlier that morning that Long Island City, Queens, will become the site of its second headquarters (a third headquarters will be located in northern Virginia). The announcement ends a 13-month pageant that saw 238 cities and their elected officials prostrate themselves to CEO Jeff Bezos, only for the multibillionaire to move his company into two of the wealthiest metropolises in the country (New York and Washington, D.C.) and likely displace countless working people. And for this privilege, the state of New York will reward Amazon with more than $1.5 billion in incentives, while the city provides property-tax abatements for the next 25 years—this as it faces public transportation and affordable-housing crises. Amazon, meanwhile, stands to save upward of $1 billion over the next decade.

Yes indeed: I quite agree with Sugarman. I also agree with the following (although this will not happen before 2020, and is unlikely to happen after it):

As Derek Thompson argues in The Atlantic, moves like these are not merely outrageous. They should be outlawed.

“Every year, American cities and states spend up to $90 billion in tax breaks and cash grants to urge companies to move among states,” he writes. “That’s more than the federal government spends on housing, education, or infrastructure. And since cities and states can’t print money or run steep deficits, these deals take scarce resources from everything local governments would otherwise pay for, such as schools, roads, police, and prisons.”

Quite so, and this is yet another schema in which the very rich profit from the non-rich.

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

So what is the solution? If these corporate behemoths are loyal only to their shareholders, what is to prevent this same travesty from repeating itself in cities across the country? For Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan, the answer is simple: federal regulation.

“The only way for public—you and me and every other taxpayer and city and state government who all have much more pressing things to spend money on than bribes to Fortune 500 companies—to win this game is not to play,” he writes. “Nobody can play. The way to accomplish this is simple: We need a federal law banning these sorts of subsidies. Without a federal law, there will always be an incentive for one desperate city or state to start the bidding wars. By banning this insulting robbery of the public till outright, business will continue building, and investing, and locating, and relocating. They do all those things in order to make more money. Companies create jobs because they need work done in order to make money. They are not charitable activities. They do not need a bribe. They are playing on the desperation of desperate places in order to rip us all off. That should not be legal.”

Read Thompson’s piece at The Atlantic here and Nolan’s piece at Splinter here.

Yes, I agree, although with the qualification I made above: This will not happen before 2020, and is unlikely to happen after it. And this is a recommended article.

3. Facebook Let Smartphone Companies Access Your Private Data

This article is by Ilana Novick on Truthdig. It starts as follows:

In April, the world learned that Cambridge Analytica, the Trump-allied data firm, gained access to data from 50 million Facebook users without their permission. It did so, as Kurt Wagner explains in Recode, through a targeted advertising program that sells advertisers “access to your News Feed, and uses that data to show you specific ads it thinks you’re likely to enjoy or click on.” Such data-sharing, The New York Times reports, wasn’t limited to advertisers and Cambridge Analytica, but extended to the makers of smartphones, which many people use to access Facebook.

The Times reports that lawmakers learned that “Facebook failed to closely monitor device makers after granting them access to the personal data of hundreds of millions of people, according to a previously unreported disclosure to Congress last month.” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., provided the Times with a letter from Facebook explaining the nature of the deals.

I say. When will people grow up enough to clearly state that Facebook=Fascistbook? Apart from that question, I think it must be obvious by now for anyone who knows something about Facebook and is not an ignorant idiot, to conclude that what Facebook is attempting to do is (i) to have everyone anywhere to be completely known to the security services and to the rich corporations including Facebook, and (ii) to profit as much as it can by offering advertisements to its "members" (the slaves of Facebook).

Here is more (and I think this is Facebook's agreed upon policy):

As Wyden told the Times, “Facebook claimed that its data-sharing partnerships with smartphone manufacturers were on the up and up. … But Facebook’s own, handpicked auditors said the company wasn’t monitoring what smartphone manufacturers did with Americans’ personal information, or making sure these manufacturers were following Facebook’s own policies.”

PwC conducted additional assessments, but Facebook largely dictated the scope and terms, a common practice. America doesn’t have general consumer privacy laws, and the FTC consent decrees, however limited, are the only regulatory tool available.

A member of Wyden’s staff told the Times that they don’t believe Facebook ever addressed the issue. Unfortunately for consumers concerned about whether phone manufacturers have access to their private data, “It remains unclear whether Facebook has ever scrutinized how its partner companies handled personal data.” Facebook spokespeople would not answer the Times’ questions about it.

And of course Facebook doesn't want to answer any questions where honest answers would provide some understanding about how Facebook is trying to fuck up the rights to privacies of hundreds of millions or billions of its "members". This is a recommended article.

4. Psychiatrist Justin Frank on Trump’s “God complex”: He is “erotically attached to violence”

This article is by Chauncey DeVega on Salon. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump evidently believes he is above the law. Last week, he fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and replaced him with Matthew Whitaker, a political operative from Iowa whose only apparent qualification is his public opposition to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into the Russia scandal. This is but the most recent example of Trump's apparent efforts to obstruct justice.

Trump's lack of respect for the country's long-standing democratic norms and institutions also extends to America's alliances, security arrangements with its allies and friends, and the international order more broadly. To that end Trump has threatened to remove the U.S. from NATO, hailed the merits of nationalism (while barely pretending that does not mean white nationalism), tried to surrender U.S. security to Russian President Vladimir Putin and proclaimed on numerous occasions that America will now stand (mostly) alone in the world.

Donald Trump is also a habitual liar who is at war with the truth and empirical reality.
I more or less agree with the above, though not with all. Here is more:

Donald Trump is an authoritarian in waiting, who acts as though he believes himself to be God. How does he convince himself that the rules do not apply to him? What is the role of violence in Trump's appeal and power? Is Trump responsible in some ways for the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the other hate crimes and acts of violence which have taken place during his campaign and now presidency? What role does violence play in Donald Trump's cult of personality? How do his apparent mental pathologies help him to manipulate his supporters and the American people at large?

In an effort to answer these questions I recently spoke with Dr. Justin Frank. This is our second conversation for Salon. He is a former clinical professor of psychiatry at the George Washington University Medical Center and a physician with more than 40 years of experience in psychoanalysis.
Well... possibly the questions DeVega asks may have interesting answers that may be possibly true, but they will not come from a psychoanalyst of forty years experience.

First, here is just one bit from Justin Frank:
Donald Trump is the Charles Manson of American politics. It’s very important to see that Trump can have clean hands. He can invite other people to express his destructiveness so he doesn’t have to carry it out. For Trump, words are the equivalent of weapons. Trump does not need a gun. Words are his bullets. He enables other people to buy their own guns and fill the barrels with his tweets and just shoot people. It’s a very disturbing quality.

Manson is not the only person you can use as an example here, but it is a dramatic way to get people to pay attention.

This is pure bullshit made up of a psychoanalyst's dreams, and the rest of Frank is similar.

I want to make a few remarks on psychiatry and psychology:

First, I am a psychologist and Justin Frank is not: He is a psychiatrist, which is something rather different from a psychologist, even though the Wikipedia falsely calls him a psychologist.

Second, while I may agree with a number of the diagnoses psychiatrists arrive at, essentially because they are based on observational characteristics much rather than psychoanalytical surmises, I do not agree with psychiatry or psychoanalysis at all: Both are pseudosciences.

Third, while my term "pseudoscience" is avoided by most Dutch psychologists, most also agree (or agreed, in my time) that neither psychoanalysis nor psychiatry is scientific. And I agree.

Fourth, I have written rather a lot on psychiatry, and the longest and best article is this from 2012:
DSM-5: Question 1 of "The six most essential questions in psychiatric diagnosis"

I still think this is quite good and it does give most of my reasons to say that Justin Frank is a pseudoscientist, who is almost as sensible talking about "the mind" as are Roman Catholic theologians talking about physics (though there are a few Roman Catholics who did also study physics and mathematics, but I leave these very few out).

Anyway... the opinions of Justin Frank can be (and should be) dismissed as pseudoscience, but this does not mean that Trump is not a neofascist (he is, and this is a political judgement) nor does it mean that Trump is not a madman (he is, and in my case that is a psychological but not a psychiatric judgement).

5. An Inside Look at China's Reeducation Camps

This article is by Karin Kuntz on Spiegel International. This is from near its beginning and is by one of the around 1 million Uighurs who have been arrested by the Chinese:
"They tortured us when we made mistakes," he says. "Every morning they forced us to praise Xi Jinping, the Chinese president. We wished for him to live 10,000 years. We sang: China is greater and more developed than all other countries. In the afternoons, we had ideological lessons. The teachers talked about the 19th party congress and China's successes. Then they locked us back up."

Samarkan is a Chinese-born shoe salesman who used to commute between the two countries. "As you know, we Muslims in Xinjiang province have been persecuted for years," he says. "But I didn't think they would start arresting everyone who visits Kazakhstan. On my last trip, Chinese police officers stopped me at a checkpoint. They accused me of having dual citizenship and of betraying my country."

They interrogated him for three days, his limbs stretched out in an iron chair. Samarkan hits the lectern with his hands. "They want to make us Chinese. Millions of Muslims in China are no longer allowed to be people."

I think Samarkan may well be right, and I have said before that Xi Jinping is much more like Mao Zedong than any other Chinese president since Mao.

Here is more:

About 1 million Uighurs, Kazakhs and other Muslim minorities are currently in detention according to research conducted by the United Nations. Beijing's "fight against terror" has led to the construction of likely hundreds of reeducation camps.

DER SPIEGEL spoke with three former prisoners and a dozen families whose relatives are allegedly in indoctrination camps in Xinjian. All of them speak of brainwashing meant to bring the Muslims into line.

For months, Beijing denied that these camps even existed. But because international pressure continued to increase, the government recently changed its strategy. Instead of refuting the camps' existence, it proudly declared them to be an opportunity for "voluntary professional education" with integrated language training.

In fact, this sounds like Mao's attempts to remove intellectuals and anyone who disagreed with his policies by forcing them to live in very primitive circumstances and work hard.

There is a lot more to be said about this, but I refer you to two excellent books:

Simon Leys's "Les habits neufs du président Mao: chronique de la " Révolution culturelle", which certainly has been translated to English, but the English Wikipedia does not give the English title, which should be something like "The new habits of president Mao: Chronicle of the "Cultural Revolution"" (I read it in Dutch), and Liu Binyan's "A Higher Kind of Loyalty". Also see Laogai on the Wikipedia.

Back to the article, which ends as follows after a lot more that I've skipped in this review - and the speaker is a young woman who is in hiding:

"The indoctrination wasn't the worst part," she says, "but they kept us under surveillance the entire time. There were cameras hanging in our cells." She says they even kept an eye on them in the showers. "The guards did to us whatever they wanted. In places where there were no cameras, they would hit us. They even photographed us naked." The young women, she says, were defenseless, and the older ones who had forgotten how to write Chinese characters were beaten with a stick.

The Kazakh man who accompanied Sophia to the hotel wants her to testify before the International Court of Justice in The Hague. He believes her story could move the international community to take action. And that hundreds of thousands of people would be released. But it is unlikely that will happen. Most countries have proven reluctant to take a stance. China is a powerful adversary. Even the Kazakh government has indicated to former prisoners who have left China to refrain from speaking openly about the camps. The ex-detainees aren't even safe in Kazakhstan.

Sophia, the young woman who continues to live in fear, writes to us from where she is hiding in Almaty: "This prison will remain burned into my memory forever. My hands, my eyes, my voice will belong to the police forever."

She still doesn't know where she can go next. But it should be as far from Xinjiang as possible.

Yes, 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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