February 3, 2019

Crisis: Age of Surveillance, GOP's Tax Cut, A Wealth Tax, Trump's Failures, The CIA Then and Now

“Nothing in all the world is more dangerous, than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”
  -- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



1. Summary
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from February 3, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Sunday, February 3, 2019.

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 three 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 February 3, 2019:
1. Shoshana Zuboff on the Age of Surveillance Capitalism
2. How the Trump-radical Republican tax cut broke the economy

3. A Wealth Tax Could Raise Trillions — and Save Our Democracy

4. Trump Is the Only Real Anchor Baby in America

5. The CIA Then and Now: Old Wine in New Bottles
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. Shoshana Zuboff on the Age of Surveillance Capitalism

This article is by Sam Biddle on The Intercept. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Shoshana Zuboff’s “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” is already drawing comparisons to seminal socioeconomic investigations like Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Karl Marx’s “Capital.” Zuboff’s book deserves these comparisons and more: Like the former, it’s an alarming exposÚ about how business interests have poisoned our world, and like the latter, it provides a framework to understand and combat that poison. But “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” named for the now-popular term Zuboff herself coined five years ago, is also a masterwork of horror. It’s hard to recall a book that left me as haunted as Zuboff’s, with its descriptions of the gothic algorithmic daemons that follow us at nearly every instant of every hour of every day to suck us dry of metadata. Even those who’ve made an effort to track the technology that tracks us over the last decade or so will be chilled to their core by Zuboff, unable to look at their surroundings the same way.

I say. In fact, I wrote about Shoshana Zuboff and her book before, namely here and I start this review by two quotations from my earlier review. Here is the first:

First, I agree with Zuboff that surveillance capitalism is something quite new, and that indeed it may be defined as capitalism + surveillance of everyone by both the spies of many countries and by the very rich, including Google, Facebook, Apple and Microsoft (all also with very little apt, accurate and sensible legislation).

Also, in case you want more, I strongly recommend you to read my
Crisis: Hypotheses on cf+ss: corporate fascism and the surveillance state which has a similar thesis, that I develop in considerable detail in the last article, that in fact was first published in 2012.

There also is some difference in our positions, but it is good (certainly for non-readers of her book like myself) that there is a bit on Wikipedia on surveillance capitalism, that is attributed to Zuboff.

And second, while I agree that
“if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product” is basically bullshit (a ¨product¨ in what sense?!), I think her “if you’re not paying for it, you’re the abandoned carcass” also is not good.

In any case, I prefer
if you’re not paying for it, you’re its slave”, which also is not always correct, but does describe the basics quite well - and you are a slave in the sense that then you will almost certainly be deprived from all the privacies you thought you had.

And here is the second:

Quite so - and they are acting illegally, at least in my sense of the word, for there is no excuse for setting up e-mails so that all spies and all rich corporations have no trouble reading them:

That is a fundamental betrayal of all privacy (that meanwhile has become part of the law, as in the factually neofascistic ¨European Convention on Human Rights¨) - but it was already foreseen and desired in 1968 (!!) by Zbigniew Brzezinski, who was made Advisor of American National Security by President Carter in 1976. For more, see here:
Crisis: propaganda and Control: Brezezinski 1968.

I recommend especially the last link, for I think this shows that (1) personal computers were - for a good part - invented by American security or American defense, with the explicit purpose, already in 1968 (!!) (2) to know everything that anyone thought or wrote - and they widely succeeeded.

Here is more from this article:

An unavoidable takeaway of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism” is, essentially, that everything is even worse than you thought. Even if you’ve followed the news items and historical trends that gird Zuboff’s analysis, her telling takes what look like privacy overreaches and data blunders, and recasts them as the intentional movements of a global system designed to violate you as a revenue stream. “The result is that both the world and our lives are pervasively rendered as information,” Zuboff writes.
I strongly tend to agree, but I also insist that I was there before, indeed without wanting to start a priority disagreement - but look at this, which is from November/December 2012: Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS.

In fact, this was a half year before I learned about Edward Snowden (whose facts very strongly supported my ideas). Here is more from this article:

Tech’s privacy scandals, which seem to appear with increasing frequency both in private industry and in government, aren’t isolated incidents, but rather brief glimpses at an economic and social logic that’s overtaken the planet while we were enjoying Gmail and Instagram. The cliched refrain that if you’re “not paying for a product, you are the product”? Too weak, says Zuboff. You’re not technically the product, she explains over the course of several hundred tense pages, because you’re something even more degrading: an input for the real product, predictions about your future sold to the highest bidder so that this future can be altered. “Digital connection is now a means to others’ commercial ends,” writes Zuboff. “At its core, surveillance capitalism is parasitic and self-referential. It revives Karl Marx’s old image of capitalism as a vampire that feeds on labor, but with an unexpected turn. Instead of labor, surveillance capitalism feeds on every aspect of every human’s experience.”

Yes, I quite agree. Here is some more - and I inserted the "SZ"s because these quotations are taken from an interview that Biddle had with Zuboff:
SZ: Let’s say you’re browsing, or you’re on Facebook putting stuff in a post. They’re not taking your words and going into some marketplace and selling your words. Those words, or if they’ve got you walking across the park or whatever, that’s the raw material. They’re just secretly scraping your private experience as raw material, and they’re stockpiling that raw material, constantly flowing through the pipes. They sell prediction products into a new marketplace. What are those guys really buying? They’re buying predictions of what you’re gonna do.
Yes, that is basically correct. Here is more by Zuboff:

SZ: Now we have markets of business customers that are selling and buying predictions of human futures. I believe in the values of human freedom and human autonomy as the necessary elements of a democratic society. As the competition of these prediction products heats up, it’s clear that surveillance capitalists have discovered that the most predictive sources of data are when they come in and intervene in our lives, in our real-time actions, to shape our action in a certain direction that aligns with the kind of outcomes they want to guarantee to their customers. That’s where they’re making their money. These are bald-faced interventions in the exercise of human autonomy, what I call the “right to the future tense.” The very idea that I can decide what I want my future to be and design the actions that get me from here to there, that’s the very material essence of the idea of free will.

Yes, I agree, but wish to stress these involve the three assumptions that (1) democracy is desirable; (2) there is real human freedom, and (3) there ought to be real human autonomy (rather than invisibly manipulated billions of - one example from many - Facebook users).

I agree to all three assumptions. Here is the last bit that I quote from this fine article:

SZ: I write about the Senate committee back in the ’70s that reviewed behavioral modification from the point of view of federal funding, and found behavioral mod a reprehensible threat to the values of human autonomy and democracy. And here we are, these years later, like, La-di-da, please pass the salt. This thing is growing all around us, this new means of behavioral modification, under the auspices of private capital, without constitutional protections, done in secret, specifically designed to keep us ignorant of its operations.

In fact, Zuboff is referring to investigations led by Frank Church. This is from the Wikipedia article about him (minus note numbers):

Daniel Ellsberg quoted Church as speaking of the NSA as follows: "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." More specifically on August 17, 1975 Senator Frank Church stated on NBC's "Meet the Press" without mentioning the name of the NSA about this agency:

In the need to develop a capacity to know what potential enemies are doing, the United States government has perfected a technological capability that enables us to monitor the messages that go through the air. These messages are between ships at sea, they could be between units, military units in the field. We have a very extensive capability of intercepting messages wherever they may be in the airwaves. Now, that is necessary and important to the United States as we look abroad at enemies or potential enemies. We must know, at the same time, that capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left such is the capability to monitor everything—telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn't matter. There would be no place to hide.

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.

Frank Church died in 1984. I feel quite certain that he would have said that the personal computer and the internet have introduced
the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America
and have succeeded in a truly horrible fashion. This is a strongly recommended article, in which there is a lot more than I quoted. 

2. How the Trump-radical Republican tax cut broke the economy

This article is by David Cay Johnston on AlterNet and originally at DC Report. I abbreviated the title. It starts as follows:

Donald Trump’s tax cut for the rich and the corporations they control is turning out to be a bust for the American economy.

It will, however, burden taxpayers with at least $1.5 trillion more federal debt because, instead of boosting tax revenues through increased economic activity as promised, it has caused a sharp drop in revenue.

I say, but I do believe it, in part because it is Johnston who said so, for he seems a reasonable man (I reviewed more articles by him) and he certainly is a specialist on Donald Trump.

Here is some more:

A host of economic indicators show that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act failed to achieve its key promise, a major increase in investments by business that would create more jobs. This is exactly the result that many, including those of us at DCReport, predicted.

We call the 2017 tax law the Trump-Radical Republican tax law because not one Democrat voted for the bill in the House or Senate. It was also passed without a single public hearing. It is a terrible law that benefits the richest among us at the expense of the many—and needs to be fixed.

The Trump-Radical Republican tax law not only cut the corporate tax rate from 35% of profits to 21%. It also allowed corporations to immediately deduct 100% of capital expenditures instead of writing them off on their tax returns over periods from three years to decades.

Again I believe the above is quite correct. Here is more:

Thanks to the Trump-Radical Republican tax cut, millions of families in California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Virginia and other high-tax states will owe thousands to tens of thousands of dollars more in federal income tax for 2018 even if their income was unchanged from 2017.

That is because individuals can deduct no more than $10,000 in state and local taxes, known as SALT, on the tax returns due this Spring, and most homeowners will no longer be able to deduct their mortgage interest.

The number of taxpayers who will be eligible to itemize deductions is expected to fall from about one in three to just one in 20.

So in fact the American middle class (what remains of it) will be paying (in taxes) most of the blllions that Trump gave to the very rich.

Here is some more on the last quote:

In addition, many American expatriates are being hit hard by Trump and Congress because their tax-deferred retirement savings plans in some countries are now treated as immediately taxable by the United States. That’s because the law did not distinguish between profits siphoned out of the United States by companies like Apple and the normal course of business for many expatriates complying with the laws where they now live.

Congress taxes Americans, and American-based corporations, on their worldwide income. Other major countries tax people only on income earned within their boundaries.

Quite so, and this is a strongly recommended article. 

3. A Wealth Tax Could Raise Trillions — and Save Our Democracy

This article is by Chuck Collins on Common Dreams and originally on The Hill. It starts as follows:

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has jolted the body politic with a bold proposal to tax the concentrated wealth of the richest 75,000 households in the United States. It’s about time someone took up this mantle.

Warren’s proposal would levy an annual 2 percent tax on wealth over $50 million, with the rate rising to 3 percent on wealth over $1 billion. Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest man in the country, would pay $4.1 billion under the new tax.

The United States has a proud tradition of breaking up concentrated wealth. The first federal progressive income and estate taxes date from the first Gilded Age, over a century ago. That’s when President Theodore Roosevelt observed, “Of all forms of tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy.”

I agree with Collins on Warren, and I like Theodore Roosevelt's quotation, although it also seems to me that Collins is more optimistic than I am about the supposed fact that "The United States has a proud tradition of breaking up concentrated wealth": It seems to me this is - at best - true for something like 40 years in the 20th century, namely from (roughly) 1930 to 1970.

Also, concentrated wealth has been consistently improving its wealth and its power since 1980 till 2020, at the costs of the wealth and the power of the non-rich, I would say.

Here is some more from the article:

The wealth tax that Warren proposes would raise substantial revenue — by one estimate almost $3 trillion in the next decade. This would be a substantial boost for spending on green infrastructure, affordable higher education, and other investments that could expand opportunity.

But more fundamentally, the tax would be an investment in protecting democracy from the “tyranny of a plutocracy” that worried Roosevelt. Today’s massive concentrations of wealth also are concentrations of political and economic power, which are disruptive to democracy, social cohesion and economic stability for everyone.

I completely agree with the above. Here is something about the obscene very rich:

In fact, three men — Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — are wealthier than the entire bottom half of the country combined. And while politically active wealth dynasties such as the Walton, Koch and Mars families have seen their wealth skyrocket by over 6,000 percent in recent decades, median American wealth is on the decline — and 1 in 5 of us now has zero or even negative wealth.

I agree, except that I dislike terms like "negative wealth" (and I would have said something like 1 in 5 of all adult Americans has no wealth at all or has debts without any wealth).

Here is the ending of this article:

Most local jurisdictions tax wealth in the form of property, such as real estate and cars, based on their value. Middle-class families pay these taxes all over the country. What’s missing is an annual wealth tax focused on the billions held by those at the top.

Like a century ago, today’s extreme wealth inequality requires a direct tax on wealth. A once-in-a-lifetime estate tax, or a more steeply progressive income tax alone, will not put a sufficient brake on dynastic wealth. Warren’s proposal would galvanize a populist movement that has been pointing out for decades the corrosive impact of concentrated wealth on our body politic.

I completely agree and this is a strongly recommended article.

4. Trump Is the Only Real Anchor Baby in America

This article is by Michael Winship on Common Dreams. It starts as follows:
Donald Trump is the real anchor baby in America – childish yet so outsized and unwieldy that he doesn’t hold the ship of state upright and in position like a good anchor should but causes it to sink like a stone.

Watching him over the last week or so, listening to the anti-immigration rant he delivered in the Rose Garden when he caved and ended his crippling government shutdown, reading his relentless, hallucinatory blitzkrieg of a Twitter feed… each is continuing evidence of what we already, sadly, know too well: that this is a blustering fool so out of touch with reality, so ignorant of facts and lashing out when that ignorance is challenged, that his continued presence as president feels intolerable.

Like the kowtowing minions with whom he surrounds himself, he does not know what he does not know.
I think this is more or less correct, but I have two remarks on this:

First, I think the problem with Trump is more serious than "
a blustering fool": I am a psychologist and I think that Trump is insane - as do quite a few psychologists and psychiatrists.

And second, I think I should explain what's wrong with not knowing what one does not know (also because Rumsfeld made a similar fallacy): In fact, there are many things I do not know that I do not know, and that is the same for each and everyone.

Then again, since I am an intelligent and educated person, I know for more than 50 years of very many things that I do not know, or do not know well enough, and about which I do want to find out more. And this is also true, at least of everybody who is intelligent and educated.

But I agree Trump is not one of the intelligent and educated persons. Here is some more on Trump's vast but unknown ignorance:
Just beyond the innermost circle, though, there are some in government who say things he does not want to hear. When Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, CIA Director Gina Haspel and FBI Director Christopher Wray—all Trump appointees—spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, they sent up a volley of flares warning that the administration’s foreign policy, such as it is, ignores danger signals that run contrary to the president’s egotistical belief that he can do no wrong.

Coats and his colleagues were presenting the Worldwide Threat Assessment, an annual report that indicates dangers to the United States and the rest of the planet; everything from other nations to terrorist groups, pandemic disease and yes, Mr. President, global warming.
I suppose this is all true. And here is the last bit that I quote from this article:
And there’s more. Despite Trump’s insistence that Iran is not complying with the arms agreement from which he withdrew the United States last May, the intelligence report says that despite other hostile activities, Iran continues to live up to the deal’s terms and is not building nuclear weapons. And although the president sent a video victory tweet in December declaring, “We have won against ISIS; we’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly,” thousands of fighters remain in Syria and Iraq and ISIS terror networks are alive and well.
Yes, and this is a recommended article.

5. The CIA Then and Now: Old Wine in New Bottles

This article is by Edward Curtin on The Off-Guardian. It starts as follows:

The Nazis had a name for their propaganda and mind-control operations: weltanschauungskrieg – “world view warfare.” As good students, they had learned many tricks of the trade from their American teachers, including Sigmund Freud’s nephew, Edward Bernays, who had honed his propagandistic skills for the United States during World War I and had subsequently started the public relations industry in New York City, an industry whose raison d’ȇtre from the start was to serve the interests of the elites in manipulating the public mind.

In 1941, U.S. Intelligence translated weltanschauungskrieg as “psychological warfare,” a phrase that fails to grasp the full dimensions of the growing power and penetration of U.S. propaganda, then and now.

Of course, the American propaganda apparatus was just then getting started on an enterprise that has become the epitome of successful world view warfare programs, a colossal beast whose tentacles have spread to every corner of the globe and whose fabrications have nestled deep within the psyches of many hundreds of millions of Americans and people around the world.

Yes indeed. In case you want to know more about Edward Bernays: You'll find his book "Propaganda" on my site under the last link. I put it there in April 2012, briefly before my eyes collapsed, and that is the main reason I did not do much on the Notes I want(ed) to make on this - quite horrible, quite falsifying - book. I still hope to do so later, but then it is 2019 now, and I am almost 69, and while my eyes are much better than they were, they are still not healed.

Here is more:

Since the major revelations of the late sixties and seventies – MKUltra, engineered coups all around the world, assassinations of foreign leaders, spying on Americans, etc. – no major program of propaganda has been exposed in the mainstream media. Revealing books about certain CIA programs have been written – e.g. Douglas Valentine’s important The Phoenix Program being one – and dissenting writers, journalists, researchers, and whistleblowers (Robert Parry, Gary Webb, Julian Assange, James W. Douglass, David Ray Griffin, Edward Snowden, et al.) have connected the U.S. intelligence services to dirty deeds and specific actions, such as the American engineered coup d’Útat in Ukraine in 2013-14, electronic spying, and the attacks of September 11, 2001. But the propaganda has for the most part continued unabated at a powerful and esoteric cultural level, while illegal and criminal actions are carried out throughout the world in the most blatant manner imaginable, as if to say fuck you openly while insidiously infecting the general population through the mass electronic screen culture that has relegated intellectual and literary culture to a tiny minority.

Yes, I mostly agree - and a few of the "illegal and criminal actions" that "are carried out throughout the world in the most blatant manner imaginable, as if to say fuck you openly while insidiously infecting the general population through the mass electronic screen culture" are the fact that nobody's mail is protected in any way (except for the very few who encrypt their mails).

This is a crime, but that crime is the norm of all of the meanwhile tenthousands of corporations and all the security forces that seek information on anyone.

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

Organizations like the CIA are obviously fallible and have made many mistakes and failed to anticipate world events. But they are also very powerful, having great financial backing, and do the bidding of their masters in banking, Wall St., finance, etc. They are the action arm of these financial elites, and are, as Douglass Valentine has written, organized criminals. They have their own military, are joined to all the armed forces, and are deeply involved in the drug trade. They control the politicians. They operate their own propaganda network in conjunction with the private mercenaries they hire for their operations. The corporate mass media take their orders, orders that need not be direct, but sometimes are, because these media are structured to do the bidding of the same elites that formed the CIA and own the media. And while their ostensible raison d’ȇtre is to provide intelligence to the nation’s civilian leaders, this is essentially a cover story for their real work that is propaganda, killing, and conducting coups d’Útats at home and abroad.

Yes, I think I agree with the above. There is a whole lot more in the article, 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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