February 9, 2019

Crisis: The Surveillance State, Green New Deal, Kidnapping 1000s, Medicare, Capitalism's New Clothes

“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 9, 2019

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, February 9, 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 9, 2019:
1. Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State
2. Ocasio-Cortez & Markey Unveil Sweeping “Green New Deal”

3. Dems Accuse Trump Admin of “State-Sponsored Child Abuse”

4. Everybody Wants ‘Medicare for All’—Except Our Leaders

5. Capitalism’s New Clothes
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. Amazon Builds a Sprawling Surveillance State

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

The National Enquirer has engaged in behavior so lowly and unscrupulous that it created a seemingly impossible storyline: the world’s richest billionaire and a notorious labor abuser, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, as a sympathetic victim.

On Thursday, Bezos published emails in which the Enquirer’s parent company explicitly threatened to publish intimate photographs of Bezos and his mistress, which were apparently exchanged between the two through their iPhones, unless Bezos agreed to a series of demands involving silence about the company’s conduct.

In a perfect world, none of the sexually salacious material the Enquirer was threatening to release would be incriminating or embarrassing to Bezos: it involves consensual sex between adults that is the business of nobody other than those involved and their spouses. But that’s not the world in which we live: few news events generate moralizing interest like sex scandals, especially among the media.

Indeed we do not live (and never lived, and never will live) in ¨a perfect world¨ and also I do not think that ¨sexually salacious material¨ on Bezos (whom I dislike) should be spread around, indeed for a similar reason that I would not like this about myself.

And indeed in the very imperfect world in which we all live,
¨sexually salacious material¨ has been collected since a long time, included the ¨browsing records of porn site and sex chats, of people regarded by the U.S. Government as radical or radicalizing in order to use their online sex habits to destroy their reputations¨ - which has been going on probably for 17 or 18 years now:

Indeed, one of the stories we were able to report using the Snowden documents, one that received less attention that it should have, is an active NSA program to collect the online sex activities, including browsing records of porn site and sex chats, of people regarded by the U.S. Government as radical or radicalizing in order to use their online sex habits to destroy their reputations. This is what and who the NSA, CIA and FBI are and long have been.

Here is some more on Bezos:

If Bezos were the political victim of surveillance state abuses, it would be scandalous and dangerous. It would also be deeply ironic.

That’s because Amazon, the company that has made Bezos the planet’s richest human being, is a critical partner for the U.S. Government in building an ever-more invasive, militarized and sprawling surveillance state. Indeed, one of the largest components of Amazon’s business, and thus one of the most important sources of Bezos’ vast wealth and power, is working with the Pentagon and the NSA to empower the U.S. Government with more potent and more sophisticated weapons, including surveillance weapons.

Precisely (and this is why I dislike Bezos, apart from the facts that he is much too rich, and exploits his workers).

Here is some more:

Bezos’ relationship with the military and intelligence wings of the U.S. Government is hard to overstate. Just last October, his company, Blue Origin, won a $500 million contract from the U.S. Air Force to help develop military rockets and spy satellites. Bezos personally thanked them in a tweet, proclaiming how “proud” he is “to serve the national security space community.”

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

Given how vital the military and spy agencies now are to Amazon’s business, it’s unsurprising that the amount Amazon pays to lobbyists to serve its interests in Washington has exploded: quadrupling since 2013 from $3 million to almost $15 million last year, according to Open Secrets.

Yes, I take it this is a fact. And this article, which contains a lot more than I quoted, is recommended.

2. Ocasio-Cortez & Markey Unveil Sweeping “Green New Deal”

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

After months of anticipation, Democratic New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey introduced a resolution for the Green New Deal Thursday, presenting a sweeping plan to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, make major investments in public transit and federal jobs, fully transition the U.S. electricity off fossil fuels and codify indigenous peoples’ rights to prior consent and approval for decisions that affect them. Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seemed to mock the proposal on Wednesday, referring to it as a “green dream, or whatever they call it.” We speak to journalist Kate Aronoff, a fellow at the Type Media Center and a contributing writer to The Intercept and Jacobin.

Quite so, and I wrote about the Green New Deal before in Nederlog, and am - more or less - a supporter of the idea.

Here is some more:

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: What I introduced today was a resolution, not a bill. A resolution just has to pass the House. And the substance of our resolution is not a plan, it’s the scope of the plan.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: And so, I think, in terms of the scope of the plan, I think—I think we’re going to get there. We launched with over 60 co-sponsors in the House. That is pretty crazy. And so, we were able to launch on day one with 60 co-sponsors. We have more rolling in. And I think we may even get a majority of the Democratic Caucus on board.

I say, which I do (i) because Ocasio-Cortez is correct that a resolution is not a bill and (ii) because what she says seems to imply there may be a majority for it in the House.

Here is some more:

AMY GOODMAN: Now, I assume House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is bothered by this whole thing, because one of the first things that Congressmember-elect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez did, before she became congressmember, is protest outside of the House speaker’s office, specifically around this issue. But how significant is it that she was mocking it and saying “this green dream, or whatever this thing is, that everyone’s for”?

KATE ORONOFF: Well, I think it’s really significant because of just how much of an outlier it seems like. You have politicians who, for so long, you know, have fashioned themselves as sort of business-friendly centrists, all of a sudden, in the last year, because of the sort of rising popularity of really progressive ideas, because of Bernie Sanders, because of people like Ocasio-Cortez, coming out and supporting plans for something as ambitious as a Green New Deal. And so I think Pelosi really looks increasingly like an outsider, even when she talks about climate and even when she says, “I am committed to this issue.” Her solutions to it, or, you know, so-called solutions to it, are not just up to the task. And I think more people are seeing that.

I do not know whether Oronoff is correct in these estimates, in part because Pelosi is quite powerful while she will have the support of the mainstream/corporatist media (which are the most popular).

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

KATE ORONOFF:  [W]hat this resolution does is lay out 14 projects and has several principles over which that process can be carried out and to get people to start thinking about it. So, it includes sort of decarbonization of electricity, robust investment in public transit, also things like preventing the abuse of eminent domain, ensuring free, prior informed consent for indigenous folks in seeing infrastructure built on indigenous land. It’s a really sort of sweeping, broad legislation that really puts the meat on the bones of the Green New Deal idea.

I think this is quite correct and this is a recommended article.

3. Dems Accuse Trump Admin of “State-Sponsored Child Abuse”

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! I abbreviated the title. It starts with the following introduction:

Trump administration officials are acknowledging that there may be thousands more missing immigrant children who were separated from their parents than originally reported. This was the focus of a hearing on Thursday of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. We speak to Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU Immigrants’ Rights Project. He is the lead lawyer on the ACLU’s national challenge to the Trump administration’s family separation practice. He testified at the hearing yesterday.

I say! And I do so because it is news for me that "there may be thousands more missing immigrant children who were separated from their parents than originally reported" - which I think is scandalous.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: That is “state-sponsored child abuse” and “kidnapping” of children, said Democratic Congressmember Jan Schakowsky, questioning Commander Jonathan White.

Well, for more, we’re joined by Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU
Immigrants’ Rights Project, lead lawyer on the ACLU’s national challenge to the Trump administration’s family separation practice. He was there yesterday. He testified before Congress.

I have been saying, right from the start of my hearing about Trump's "separating parents and children, that for me this was straight kidnapping. In case you disagree, here is the beginning of the article on kidnapping on the Wikipedia:

In criminal law, kidnapping is the unlawful carrying away (asportation) and confinement of a person against his or her will.
Kidnapping of a child is also known as child abduction, and these are sometimes separate legal categories.

And I am saying so, because this is the first time that I read that others agree this is kidnapping (which seems a better term than "child abduction", but that is an aside).

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: What are we talking about here? At this point, the Trump administration is admitting that there are thousands more children—they don’t even know what happened to them, but were separated from their parents?

LEE GELERNT: So, yeah, these are remarkable developments, one year into the litigation, and we’re still getting bombshells. An internal report by HHS said there may have been thousands more. They can’t put a number on it, because no one has tracked the kids. HHS, at the hearing yesterday, did not dispute that there may be thousands, but says it would take too long to try and find the children, because they’d have to go through individual files, they had no tracking system.

So, they know the kids were given to sponsors. That could mean anything from foster care to a parent to a relative to a distant relative.

Note that (bolding added) "there are thousands more children" kidnapped than the 2700 that ACLU agreed earlier on.

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: How can thousands of children have been taken that no one has records of?

LEE GELERNT: Yeah, I mean, I wish I had an answer for you. That’s the same stunning, you know, thing that—what happened earlier, where they admitted that—they said there were 2,700 kids. They couldn’t track them. The judge said, “The government tracks property better than they track these kids.” We thought it was over with these 2,700 kids. And now it may be that there’s thousands more.

Well, I can give an answer, or in fact two answers, to Goodman's question. Because (i) those who did kidnap the children were totally indifferent to the harm, pain and traumas they caused, basically because (ii) they thought South-American parents are closer to sub-humans than to humans (to formulate it a bit carefully).

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

LEE GELERNT: You know, we have established in court now a standard that can be used. But Commander White was saying, as well, there’s no legislation setting out standards. I think it might be worthwhile for Congress to make clear, so it’s not just the court order, “These are the standards we want you to follow.” He was pointing out that Congress has never set standards. But it would be good if Congress set standards, but that’s no excuse for what happened, because child welfare law in every state has a standard. And the standard is, you leave a child with their parent unless the parent presents a danger to the child. That’s not what the Trump administration was doing. They were taking children away in a hope that it would deter asylum seekers from coming to this country. So, the fact that—

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re suggesting they’re still doing it.


AMY GOODMAN: So, do you—

LEE GELERNT: We know they’re still doing it.

I say - so there may again be thousands more than the thousands the ACLU is certain of. And - of course - I completely agree that (i) "the standard is, you leave a child with their parent unless the parent presents a danger to the child" and (ii) "what the Trump administration was doing" was (and is, according to Gelernt, whom I believe) "taking children away in a hope that it would deter asylum seekers from coming to this country". This is a strongly recommended article.

4. Everybody Wants ‘Medicare for All’—Except Our Leaders

This article is by Sonali Kolhatkar on Common Dreams and originally on Truthdig. This is from near its beginning:

Today, right-wing media outlets seem to have moved past denouncing Obamacare to their new obsession against “Medicare for all.” Most Americans know Medicare as a government-run health program for seniors. The name Medicare for all is therefore self-explanatory and quite attractive to anyone who has grappled with unaffordable co-pays and deductibles, rising premiums, narrowly defined coverage or no health insurance at all. So it shouldn’t surprise us that right-wing media wants to kill the conversation before it even starts.

The basic premise of the right-wing argument against Medicare for all is “How can we possibly afford it?”

Yes indeed - and to answer the last question: The question is utter bullshit in a country were half of the tax money is given to the Pentagon to buy more weapons and to modernize nuclear arms.

Here is more (and Kolhatkar seems to agree with the point I just made):
Strangely, the fearmongering and hand-wringing about looming tax increases to pay for programs never seems to enter conservative logic when it comes to questions of paying for tax breaks for the wealthy or the latest F-15 fighter jet.

Setting aside the false affordability arguments against Medicare for all (which Paul Waldman of The Washington Post brilliantly debunked by demonstrating that Medicare for all will cost only $32 trillion over 10 years compared to the $50 trillion we now spend each decade), it ought to be considered a huge victory for proponents of Medicare for all that right-wing media and conservative figures are paying any attention to the issue.

Well... I would not call it "a huge victory" but it seems a bit of a victory, I agree.

Here is more:

Another heartening measure of the progress on Medicare for all is how the so-called liberal media is taking it seriously. Whether or not they get the story right, they are at least exposing Americans to the idea, especially as a litmus test for 2020 Democratic presidential contenders. The New York Times wrote how “Medicare for All Emerges as Early Policy Test for 2020 Democrats.” And while the paper did a poor job of accurately explaining how the program would cost less than what we’re currently paying for health care, it did showcase its popularity among presidential hopefuls and the public, paying particular attention to Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Yes, this seems all quite true to me. Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

To summarize, the right-wing media hates the idea of Medicare for all while liberal mainstream outlets at least acknowledge it is an issue worth discussing. Most importantly, the public really likes the idea, and a new poll showed voters are likely to back candidates who adopt a position in favor of Medicare for all. Even a majority of Republicans are in favor of it. What this means is that the time has finally come—although many decades late—for a serious legislative push to make the popular idea a reality.

Yes, I agree and this is a recommended article.

5. Capitalism’s New Clothes

This article is by Evgeny Morozov on The Baffler. It has a subtitle, which I quote:
Shoshana Zuboff's new book on “surveillance capitalism” emphasizes the former at the expense of the latter
I quoted this because it seems a fair summary of a long article (over 30 pages of text), that I cannot excerpt well in Nederlog. But the above is Evgeny Morozov's opinion (and this was a link to more about him) and he may be correct or more correct than not.

Also, I paid attention to Shoshana Zuboff before in Nederlog and in fact it was my interest in her that motivated my interest in Morozov's article.

As I said, it is impossible to excerpt Morozov's article in Nederlog, but I did read all of it and I consider it interesting and worthwile reading, although I also assume that those who will read all of it probably do have some knowledge of Marxism and of politics and economy.

Anyway. Here is some more:
In a series of remarkably prescient articles, the first of which was published in the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in the summer of 2013, Shoshana Zuboff pointed to an alarming phenomenon: the digitization of everything was giving technology firms immense social power. From the modest beachheads inside our browsers, they conquered, Blitzkrieg-style, our homes, cars, toasters, and even mattresses. Toothbrushes, sneakers, vacuum cleaners: our formerly dumb household subordinates were becoming our “smart” bosses. Their business models turned data into gold, favoring further expansion.

Google and Facebook were restructuring the world, not just solving its problems. The general public, seduced by the tech world’s youthful, hoodie-wearing ambassadors and lobotomized by TED Talks, was clueless. Zuboff saw a logic to this digital mess; tech firms were following rational—and terrifying—imperatives. To attack them for privacy violations was to miss the scale of the transformation—a tragic miscalculation that has plagued much of the current activism against Big Tech.
I take it this is more or less correct, although I do not think that "our formerly dumb household subordinates were becoming our “smart” bosses": That role is reserved for the human beings (billionaires) that lead Google and Facebook, and to those rich folks they sell their findings to, who then decide to manipulate the folks whose findings they are of (who rarely know that much of all their data and their privacies are stolen by many) in all manner of subtle ways.

Here is more on Zuboff:

Zuboff’s  pithy term for this regime, “surveillance capitalism,” has caught on. (That this term had been previously used—and in a far more critical manner—by the Marxists at Monthly Review, is a minor genealogical inconvenience for Zuboff.) Her new, much-awaited book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism exhaustively documents its sinister operations. From Pokemon Go to smart cities, from Amazon Echo to smart dolls, surveillance capitalism’s imperatives, as well as its methods—marked by constant lying, concealment, and manipulation—have become ubiquitous.

Yes, I take it this is correct. Here is more:

Zuboff’s book makes clear that the promises of “surveillance capitalists” are as sweet as their lobbying is ruthless. Tech companies, under the pompous cover of disrupting everything for everyone’s benefit, have developed a panoply of rhetorical and political tricks that insulate them from any pressure from below. It helps, of course, that the only pressure coming from below is usually the one directed at the buttons and screens of their data-sucking devices.

Yes, I take it this is also correct - and as far as I know the main reason tnat "the only pressure coming from below" - that is: from the (meanwhile: billions of) people whose data, privacies and e-mails are being stolen - because at most 1 in 50 has any fair idea of programming or of computers.

Here is more:

The worst, though, is still to come, she argues, as tech giants shift from predicting behavior to engineering it. “It is no longer enough to automate information flows about us,” she warns; “the goal now is to automate us.”

This new global infrastructure for engineering behavior produces “instrumentarian power,” as the “panoptical power” of Zuboff’s first book transcends the walls of the factory and penetrates the whole of society. Unlike totalitarian power, it eschews physical violence; inspired by the brute behavioralist insights of B.F. Skinner, it instead herds us towards desired outcomes (think of insurance companies that charge higher premiums to riskier clients). “Computation thus replaces the political life of the community as the basis for governance,” Zuboff concludes.

I have two corrective remarks on the above quoted two paragraphs.

The first remark is that I disagree with Zuboff's statement that “the goal now is to automate us”: I think that the end is to manipulate us in anything that pays, directly or indirectly (and here - as in (it appears) Zuboff's book as also in Morozov's article about it - the security services from everywhere, who likewise plug the cables to get everything passing through it, do hardly occur).

And my second remark is that I also disagree with Zuboff's statement that “Computation thus replaces the political life of the community as the basis for governance”, for it is not computation, as such, which does this, but the billionfold thefts of anything and everything that people do with their computers, while also I do not think (as yet, at least) that these billionfold thefts "replace" "the political life of the community", although indeed they do make the manipulation of everyone a great lot easier (and that manipulation pays for itself by manipulating buyers to spend money on the advertisements they get).

Here is some more:

More than a roll call of the victims of surveillance capitalism, Zuboff’s new book seeks to decode its broader historical meaning. In a single sentence, it’s this: “Google invented and perfected surveillance capitalism in much the same way that a century ago General Motors invented and perfected managerial capitalism.” This phrase does not mean to suggest that what is good for Google is also good for America—even though that proposition would have commanded wide assent among many Obama administration appointees. Rather, Zuboff contends that surveillance capitalism is not the same old capitalism only with extensive surveillance; rather, it’s a new “economic order,” a “market form,” a “logic of accumulation.”

Well... for me, Zuboff's thesis "that surveillance capitalism is not the same old capitalism only with extensive surveillance; rather, it’s a new “economic order”" may be correct, or more correct than not, but I do not know (yet, and indeed also did not read Zuboff's book, so far), indeed mostly because "the customers" of capitalism will be very much more manipulated, deceived, and lied to than they ever were before.

In contrast, it seems Morozov's thesis that Zuboff does have a lot that is worthwile to know about surveillance, but she is mistaken about capitalism. He may be correct as well (but "capitalism" is a vague term).

Here is Morozov's opinion, and this is also the last bit I quote from this article:

As a result, all these theories—of “managerial capitalism,” “advocacy capitalism,” “surveillance capitalism”—have a lot to say about each of the adjectives that qualify them but are silent on matters of capitalism itself, usually reducing it to something relatively banal, like the fact that there are markets, commodities, and occasional social pacts between capitalists and the rest of society. 

And it also happens to be the case that I did make my own analysis of both capitalism and surveillance in November-December of 2012, and published that (for the first time) on Christmas Day of 2012. Here it is: Crisis: Christmas sermon: Hypotheses about CF+SS - and the abbreviations I used stand for Corporate Fascism and the Surveillance State. It is strongly recommended as is the present 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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